August 24, 2018

Horse 2458 - The Festival Of The Thirsty Knife - 2018 - Knives Drawn At High Noon

Now that the Potato has fired a warning shot across the bow of the Top Hat, and the rest of the Liberal Party runs from side to side like brainless sheep, as the National Party runs around in a little circle, while the house burns down, the myth of Stable Leadership that was sold to the Australian public back in 2016 collapses in a giant heap (as indeed does this tortured set of metaphors). Meanwhile, Bill Shorten must surely be thinking that all he has to do to take his party into government at the next election is simply not to do anything scandalous; which at this stage could probably include everything short of eating a baby on live television.

Today the 24th of August 2018, looks like it will go down in the annals of Australian political history as a day of fame of some sort. Whether or not we have the downfall of a Prime Minister remains to be seen but irrespective of what does happen, war has been declared in all directions inside the Liberal Party and whoever wins, the 25 million of us outside the party room will lose.
Before we explain today and how it is that we got here, we need to explain yesterday.

Apart from a few pieces of ordinarily business of the parliament, the House Leader Christopher Pyne  (who is the manager of operational business on the floor of the chamber but not head of the cabinet) called for a motion to adjourn the House of Representatives for the day. This was passed 70-69 and an otherwise empty chamber, filled up rapidly. What the adjournment did, was to close the House of Representatives before Question Time; which saved the government the twin embarrassments of having questions posed to vacant cabinet positions after the relevant ministers had resigned, and having to fight a vote of no confidence.
It was nominally expected that there would have been a spill motion some time today but the actual business of the government being the government got in the way. The Senate also went about its usual business, being the house of review. There was incidentally a vote of no confidence in the government tabled in the Senate but the government won that and at any rate, it's utterly pointless holding a vote of confidence in the Senate because government isn't formed there.
With the government abandoning the business of governing, parliament was then adjourned until the next sitting scheduled sitting date in September.

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull then held a press conference in the Prime Minister's Courtyard and announced that there will be a spill motion of the Liberal Party at High Noon tomorrow, subject to a string of conditions.

The first thing which has to be put in order is the question of whether or not Peter Dutton is eligible to even sit in the parliament. This related to his family trust owning childcare centres and the legality of them having pecuniary interests from out of the budget of the Commonwealth; this relates to a prohibition arising from Section 44(v).
This is supposedly for the Solicitor General to render some advice on the matter, though this is something of a nonsense because eligibility questions can only be answered by the High Court upon the referral from the relevant chamber. The House of Representatives obviously can not refer the matter to the High Court because it has already been adjourned until September.
I suspect that the reason why Turnbull wanted to refer this to the Solicitor General was because it bought Scott Morrison several hours to be able to canvas for votes for further on in the process. This was still before anyone was in full possession of the facts from this afternoon.

Assuming that Peter Dutton is in fact eligible to even sit in parliament, then there will be the spill motion proper. If the spill motion fails, then the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will go on being Prime Minister and nothing much will change. The parliament will probably continue to run around like brainless sheep until the election or the next spill motion whenever that is.
If on the other hand, the spill motion is successful, then the leadership of the Liberal Party will be available to be contested. If that happens, then several things will follow. Firstly, Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he would quit the parliament, thus forcing a by-election for the seat of Wentworth. This is usually a Liberal voting electorate's but who knows what would happen once Mr Turnbull quits?
Secondly, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison will contest for the leadership of the Liberal Party and hence the position of Prime Minister. Or rather, that's what was going to have happened and will no longer be happening happened. Instead, Julie Bishop has announced that she too will join in the leadership challenge, thus making this a three way tussle between Julie Bishop, Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison.

Today has been an extraordinary day for a number of reasons. Malcolm Turnbull passed Gough Whitlam in terms of the copy of days that he had been serving as the Prime Minister and while that's a natty bit of trivia, there is a much more serious statistic in play. That is that the parliament was adjourned for no other good reason than the Liberal Party is having such an omnishamble spat, that they can't hold themselves together long enough to be able to sit in Question Time. Not even in the revolving door of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd did the Labor Party ever have to close the doors to get their business done. Not even when Paul Keating knifed Bob Hawke in the back, which by the way also happened to coincide with a visit from George HW Bush to the parliament (Hawke waved at Bush Snr. from way up in the bend, on the backbenches), did the Labor Party close the parliament to sort their stuff out. Actually, not even on 11-11-75 amidst the confusion of Kerr sacking the government, the Senate finally passing the Appropriation Bill No.1 1975-76 (which caused the Constitutional Crisis in the first place), or the votes of no confidence on the floor of the House of Representatives in the newly installed Fraser government, was the parliament closed. On that day, it was dissolved by the Governor General and not the parliament itself.
For the record, I have seen parliaments adjourned early but that was at Christmas and people wanted to go home early. This is nothing more than indiscipline running rampant and factionalism openly sneering at peace, order and good government.

If we assume that the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife does claim yet another Prime Minister, then this also has dire implications for the parliament and whoever the replacement is. Malcolm Turnbull has announced that he would immediately resign as the Member for Wentworth; which means that the slender majority that the government holds would be reduced by one; at least for the duration of the vacancy. The numbers would then fall 75-74 and any vote of no confidence on the floor of the chamber would need the vote of the Speaker of the House to break a deadlock. If the Labor Party was really sneaky, they could wait until someone had left the building and would be more than four minutes away; thus forcing a loss of confidence. It could also happen that the people of Wentworth might actually do something that they haven't done since 1909 and vote in someone who wasn't from the conservative side of the aisle. If a Green or forbid, a Labor candidate became Member for Wentworth, then minus the Speaker there would actually be a 75-76 split on the floor of the chamber and it would take someone like Bob Katter  to support the government. All of this would happen after September 10 though; after the House of Representatives resumes sitting.

At least for the moment, whatever happens today, there will still be a Liberal Prime Minister in charge and that's terrible. Admittedly I am biased towards the economic left but my current anger directed towards the government generally, quite apart from the 'hooray' and 'boo' of politics, is that Malcolm Turnbull has been Prime Minister,  Julie Bishop has been Deputy Prime Minister, and both Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have both been Home Affairs Minister, while we have driven vulnerable people to despair, children to immolate themselves and set themselves on fire, people to go on hunger strike and in some cases commit suicide, while they have been seeking asylum.
As a nation we have been cruel and inhumane and all four of the possible candidates who might be Prime Minister by the end of lunchtime are all responsible for this, as either being the direct minister in charge or the first or second in charge of the executive.

Although I find the game of politics somewhat entertaining, I am not so rusted on to one team or another to be that much slighted about who happens to be in charge. Politics and government is ultimately about enacting policy and governing through the exercise of power. Unfortunately the game of politics in this country is being played like the crocodile with a chainsaw: I don't care how they got it and I don't like how they're using it because there is blood being spilled.
Whoever is in charge at the end of the day, I hope that they immediately realise  that their actions have consequences.

August 23, 2018

Horse 2457 - When Will The Next Federal Election Be Held?

I have been asked several times over the course of the last few days about when I think that the next Federal Election will be held. I have also been pressed for my opinion on how this compares to Remembrance Day 1975, when the Governor General John Kerr sacked the sitting government, the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, installed a new government and Prime Minister and immediately dissolved parliament.
It would seem as though there is a lot of mass confusion about many things about the system of government we have and in particular, who can do what.
This then, is me throwing everything at the wall, wishing fortune to us all. Oh ho ho ho ho, hey!

1. When can the Prime Minister call an election?

In practical terms the Prime Minister could go to the Governor General tomorrow and ask for a normal House and Senate election because we have already entered that particular window.
Likewise, the last date that there can be both a House and Senate election, owing to the timetable of fixed terms in the Senate, is Saturday 18th May 2019.
If the government wanted to let the term run out to the last possible date, then there would be a Senate election on or before 18th May 2019 and the last possible date for a House Of Representatives only election is 2nd Nov 2019.

2. Can the Senate force an election?

Kind of, not really.

Under Section 57 of the Constitution, the Governor General can dissolve the parliament if it will not pass a bill, and even then only after six months have elapsed. Currently there are no bills which have been rejected by the Senate thrice and the government doesn't hold any election triggers.

The only absolutely necessary bill that a government must have passed into law in a year is the Appropriation Bill No.1. If a government is unable to secure confidence on the floor of the House of Representatives, then it doesn't get to be the government any more. If a government is unable to secure the supply of money to be able to pay the debts of the Commonwealth as they fall due, then there doesn't get to be a parliament any more and we have a shutdown of all government services. The latter has never technically actually happened. As it currently stands, the government has already passed the Appropriation Bill No.1 2018-19 and so the Senate would only be able to block supply after the next Federal Budget has been handed down; which doesn't happen until 14th May 2019, and then six months beyond that date which is already beyond the last date that a House Of Representatives only election could be held anyway.

3. Will the Prime Minister call an election soon?

Probably not.

The last Ipsos Poll has the two parties on a two preferred basis with the Coalition on 45% and Labor on 55%.
By my back of the envelope calculations, that would equate to a parliament after an immediate election of:
90 - Labor
56 - Coalition
5 - Other

If the Prime Minister were to call an immediate election, it would be political suicide and a net 20 Coalition members would lose their seats. Even if there is the possibility that Malcolm Turnbull might lose the premiership to Peter Dutton or some other third candidate, not even he would be that spiteful to have his own party thrown out of government. If anything, it would make more sense to weather out the storm and let all of this pass, or let his replacement decide to call an election and let them take responsibility for the damage.

4. When do you think that the election will be called?

If you had asked me this a month ago, I would have said in October 2018 because the two party preferred polls were closer and invariably after an election has been called, then tighten. At the moment though, I think that it would be idiotic for the Liberal Party to call an election soon because they would suffer electoral wipeout.

It is in the Prime Minister's best interest to let the current turmoil blow over. It is also in the Prime Minister's best interest to wait until the ramifications of Peter Dutton's ownership of a family trust which runs childcare facilities and has an ongoing income from the Commonwealth, thus triggering a possible conflict under Section 44(v) and possibly his eligibility to even sit in the parliament, are worked out and maybe pass through the High Court. It is also in Peter Dutton's best interest to see what happens in this regard because if he launches a leadership challenge and is then deemed to be ineligible to sit in parliament, being chucked out of office while being the Prime Minister is probably the extinction of his political career.
Assuming that there is never a Section 44 issue and Peter Dutton does become Prime Minister, then I no idea if that's good or bad at all. There is usually a honeymoon period for a new Prime Minister in the polls but because Peter Dutton has been the minister in charge of sending asylum seekers to a tropical gulag, then his actual political capital might very well be minus. He would need several months to turn around his personal reputation and that means holding an election later rather than sooner.

There is also the issue of the Federal Budget. If there is going to be both a House and Senate election, then the power of the purse will be handed to whoever wins the election irrespective of when the election is held. The last date for both a House and Senate election is 18th May 2019; which means that the parliament would be dissolved six weeks earlier and that puts the normal date for handing down the budget within that window. The first item of business would be the writing of the Appropriation Bill No.1 2019-20. If the election is held before 11th May 2019, then of course whoever is in government would get to write the budget bill.

If however we get an uncoupled Senate election and no House Of Representatives election, then the budget could be handed down by the coalition and pass the House but would then have to face a very hostile Senate. Whoever the Prime Minister is at that date could merrily run down the clock all the way down to 2nd Nov 2019, safe in the knowledge that the statutory date that the parliament must be dissolved by would come before the date that a Senate could refuse to pass the budget for six months, by.

I think that based on all of this, were probably facing either an election on 9th Mar 2019 or 18th May 2019. The first responsibility of a government is to keep the lights on in the house and pay the bills of the Commonwealth when they fall due. The first responsibility of a Member of Parliament should be to represent their constituents but we all know that their first priority is actually to be reelected.


I refuse to believe that the Prime Minister should either declare an election just because of a leadership challenge or by the same token, be held to the calendar of the election cycle. I have heard people, especially on Twitter, saying that they want a say in voting for the Prime Minister.

Firstly, we never get a say in who the Prime Minister is. Secondly, the position of the Prime Minister isn't mentioned in the Constitution, let alone whether there even needs to be one. I can imagine a setup of co-captains, or a triumvirate, or even a cabinet of equals. It's all fine.
The Prime Minister's turn in office should end the second that either the public votes in a change of government, or when the party decides that they have had enough. The public gets to decide at an election and if the party changes its mind part way through a cycle, then so be it. The government itself is built out of a majority of members on the floor of the House; we never get a say in how that majority is actually built, let alone who forms either the executive or who the leader of that executive is. All y'all need to get over it.

August 21, 2018

Horse 2456 - Why Free Speech Shouldn't Be Absolutely Free

Thoughts? Surely there is a line which can be crossed and that should be clarified/ specified in law. I don't like "all or nothing" ...there are always shades in between which are better.
- Question posed via Facebook, 21st Aug 2018.

The newspapers attacking me are not newspapers in the ordinary sense. They are engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal vices, personal likes and dislikes of the two men. What are their methods? Their methods are direct falsehoods, misrepresentation, half-truths, the alteration of the speaker's meaning by publishing a sentence apart from the context...What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.
- Stanley Baldwin, 17th Mar 1931

Th' abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.
- Brutus, Act II Sc2, Julius Caesar

When people call for an unfettered right to free speech, what they are giving their tacit approval to is an unfettered right to not be held responsible for their speech. They might not like to admit that but what they are asking for is that someone who has the unfettered right to free speech should not be held responsible for the damage they inflict.
This is kind of like giving a ten year old child a hammer and then letting them loose in a car park. You can almost guarantee that a nasty ten year old child will absolutely use it to do damage to cars. If you don't believe me, then use the people who are the most vociferous free speech advocates and ask yourself the question of whether or not you would have given the ten year old version of them a hammer and letting them loose in our imaginary car park. In general, the people who most want to call for  an unfettered right to free speech, want it because they intend to deliberately cause damage.

Someone once said that "Laws exist for the regulation, standardisation and protection of society"¹ and the principle of not giving a ten year old child a hammer and then letting them loose in a car park, has the more formal epithet of "the harm principle". The idea of the harm principle probably found its first legal expression in the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789, following on from the storming of the Bastille, the abolition of privileges and feudalism, and much discussion during the National Constituent Assembly during the French Revolution.
The Declaration had its initial drafts written by General Lafayette, Honoré Mirabeau and Thomas Jefferson; the latter who would take his spirit of fighting with words back across the Atlantic to America in the drafting of her own constitution.

La liberté consiste à pouvoir faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas à autrui : ainsi, l'exercice des droits naturels de chaque homme n'a de bornes que celles qui assurent aux autres membres de la société la jouissance de ces mêmes droits. Ces bornes ne peuvent être déterminées que par la loi.
- Article 4, Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen, 27th Aug 1789²

Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.
- Article 4, Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen, 27th Aug 1789²

This would later find a voice in John Stuart Mill's philosophical work On Liberty:
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)

It is worth pointing out though that Mill was very much in favour of free speech. His argument is basically that free speech and open discourse is necessary for both social progress and for the advancement of intellectual ideas. His general position is that bad ideas and statements of falsehood should be allowed to be aired because people should be allowed to evaluate and abandon ideas.
Mill didn't think that offence or abuse should be limited because he didn't consider either of those things to constitute harm.

I think that he was wrong.

I think that it is absolutely possible to harm someone. I think that it is absolutely possible to destroy someone's life. I think that it is absolutely possible to destory someone's self-esteem; to the point that they will commit suicide. I think that John Stuart Mills proposition that bad ideas and statements of falsehood will be contested and evaluated in the arena of ideas is itself utterly false.
Furthermore, I think that offence and abuse should be limited because both of those things absolutely constitute harm.

Because the arena of ideas is not an equal playing field. The people who contribute to it have different levels of power and control and to deny that is to deny the very fabric of society itself.
The reason why I expect that John Stuart Mill would make such a basic error, is due to the very real fact of confirmation bias. Quite likely, the kinds of people that he regularly interacted with as a civil servant, political economist, and philosopher, would have shared with him, his three most basic qualities: He was English. He was white. He was a male. Those three things, in the context of the 1850s and 1860s, place him in the group of quite literally the most powerful people on the face of the planet.
It is interesting to see though, that while he was a Member of the British Parliament for the constituency of the City and Westminster, his ideas began to change. In 1869 he published an essay called The Subjection of Women, and as a member of the Liberal Party (which was so named because it was liberal in the classical sense), he was also the first Member of Parliament to call for women's suffrage. This means that even Mill in his own lifetime, began to recognise that different people who contribute to the arena of ideas have different levels of power.

Given that people do have different levels of power in the arena of ideas, and people have the very real ability to cause damage to each other and each other's lives, it therefore makes perfectly logical sense to restrain that power. The question then becomes one of to what degree should the restraints hold power back? Again, the harm principle is instructive:
- everything which injures no one else
- to prevent harm to others

This was also brought out by one of my favourite rulings on the subject, in James v Commonwealth:
A good draftsman would realize that the mere generality of the word must compel limitation in its interpretation. “ Free ” in itself is vague and indeterminate. It must take its colour from the context. Compare, for instance, its use in free speech, free love, free dinner and free trade. Free speech does not mean free speech ; it means speech hedged in by all the laws against defamation, blasphemy, sedition and so forth ; it means freedom governed by law as was pointed out in McArthur's Case.
- James v Commonwealth (1936) 55CLR1³

Freedom should be governed by law. The aim of the law is the regulation, standardisation and protection of society. The harm principle dictates that it is the last of that triad which is the thing we're going for when it comes to the issue of placing restraints on speech. Again, where do you draw those lines?
Consider what is now arguably the most famous free speech restraint in Australia; Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

The only reason that anyone cares about this was because of the 2011 Federal Court of Australia case of Eatock v Bolt, where Pat Eatock, a woman of Aboriginal descent, brought proceedings against Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun because of an article which had been published in 2009 entitled "White Fellas In The Black", and the court found against Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun.

Here we have an obvious case of a mismatch in power. Andrew Bolt who is a well known journalist and serial protagonist, has a platform in the Herald-Sun, Daily Telegraph, Adelaide Advertiser, the Courier-Mail, as well as on Sky News, formerly Network Ten, as well as on radio 2GB and 3AW. Pat Eatock, being a woman of Aboriginal descent, already has to contend with racism on a daily basis; in a country which has a very long and dark history of racism.

The words of 18C in question are:
(1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
- Section 18C, Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Firstly, an action in four daily newspapers which have combined circulation of 3 million, is hardly in private. Secondly, the material tests are twofold. There is a "reasonable likeliness" test; which has common law origins to at least the 1870s with the prototypical "man on the Clapham omnibus" who is deemed to be a reasonable person who would have acted based upon what they would have foreseen.
The fact that it is, suggests that the section is at least primarily directed to serve public and not private purposes: Coleman at [179]. That suggests that the section is concerned with consequences it regards as more serious than mere personal hurt, harm or fear. It seems to me that s18C is concerned with mischief that extends to the public dimension. A mischief that is not merely injurious to the individual, but is injurious to the public interest and relevantly, the public’s interest in a socially cohesive society.
- Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103, Bromberg J 2011

It is for those reasons that I would respectfully agree with the conclusion reached by other judges of this Court, that the conduct caught by s 18C(1)(a) will be conduct which has “profound and serious effects, not to be likened to mere slights
- Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103, Bromberg J 2011

It's pretty obvious that the courts have long since reached the opinion that free speech does have limits but that those limits don't extend all the way to mere personal insult. There have been cases where just using vulgar language to a policeman have gone by completely untouched by courts; on the basis that just swearing and random abuse doesn't of itself amount to tantamount damage. This is the harm principle in full swing.
It is worth noting that similar provisions exist in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, as indeed are the provisions that "a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated"  but Section 85 points out that unless there is an express provision, just because something is unlawful, doesn't make it an offence at law.
All of this brings me to the actual video in question, in which Rowan Atkison delivers a speech as part of the Defend Free Speech campaign and in particular "Reform Section 5", which relates to Section 5 of the UK's Public Order Act 1986.

It should be pointed out that the Public Order Act 1986 came immediately after a turbulent period of racial tensions in the UK, and a series of race riots across Bristol, Brixton in South London,  Toxteth in Liverpool, Handsworth in  Birmingham and Chapeltown in Leeds.

The then House of Commons Sub-Committee on Race Relations  reccommended on the basis that there had been abuses by police basedon the existing structure of the so-called "sus law" in which anyone who was "suspect", which were mainly black people, Indian and Pakistani and other south asian people, and other ethnic minorities, were stopped and arrested on sight.

The aim of the Public Order Act 1986 as specified in the preamble was:
An Act to abolish the common law offences of riot, rout, unlawful assembly and affray and certain statutory offences relating to public order; to create new offences relating to public order; to control public processions and assemblies; to control the stirring up of racial hatred; to provide for the exclusion of certain offenders from sporting events
- Preamble, Public Order Act 1986

Specifically Section 5 said:
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—
(a)uses threatening [or abusive] words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening [or abusive],within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

(2)An offence under this section may be committed in a public or a private place, except that no offence is committed where the words or behaviour are used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation is displayed, by a person inside a dwelling and the other person is also inside that or another dwelling.

(3)It is a defence for the accused to prove—
(a)that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress, or
(b)that he was inside a dwelling and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that or any other dwelling, or
(c)that his conduct was reasonable.

This act was set against a society where racial tensions were running high. Even the policeman in the comedy sketch that Rowan Atkinson refers to, was a demonstration of the abuse of this power. The comedy program Not the Nine O'Clock News was shown on BBC2 from 1979 to 1982; which was right at the height of the race riots across Britain.

I think that this is the very same thing that John Stuart Mill was suffering from, a case of confirmation bias. Rowan Atkinson of course realises that he has a place of privilege, however there is still a world of difference between a joke in a comedy sketch and even a vulgar one, and someone in a position of power exercising that power to deliberately inflict harm on other people.

I think that whatever right to free speech exists, should always be tempered with the expectations that a reasonable person who happens to be on the end of that might suffer harm. That harm might be on an individual basis or in the case of systemic racism, a case of harm which affects an entire group of people from a particular race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. You might very well have the ability to inflict mere slights upon someone, but when that line is crossed into causing harm, then we have a problem.
The other big point about having laws like the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, or Britain's Public Order Act 1986, is that they provide avenues for remedy once someone has been injured. That in itself is somewhat problematic because you might end up with vexatious litigants, but again the reasonableness test and the point of view of the "man on the Clapham omnibus" is a long established metric by which to judge that.

Free speech should exist but not absolutely.
There should be limits.
Those limits should be tempered by the possible harm which can be done.
There should be avenues for remedy.
It's reasonable to expect reasonableness.


Horse 2455 - The Festival Of The Thirsty Knife - 2018 edition

One of the glorious things about Australian politics is the incredibly quick turnover of the executive of the nation. If for arguments' sake we assume that Malcolm Turnbull gets rolled in the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife,  then he will be the seventh Prime Minister in a decade. This must look completely hatstand absurd to our American friends across the waves, who usually have only two or three Presidents in any given ten year period, where fixed terms usually means that there will be one person in the role of chief executive for eight years at a go. When it comes to Australian Prime Ministers even surviving eight years, I can only think of three that have managed to achieve that.

The benefits of such a flexible system are obvious. One of the chief questions to ask of power is 'how can we get rid of you?' if the person doesn't live up to the task; in Australia that's remarkably easy but in the United States, even if the President is completely unsuited and unsuitable to the job, so much so that they are themselves a cause for national security concerns, the method of removal is so difficult that it has never been successfully completed in 229 years. It is actually easier to shoot and kill a US President than it is to impeach them.

Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid, Deakin, Fisher,  Deakin, Fisher - 8
In the early period of Australian politics, you should have expected from the outset that there would be a period of volatility. The Commonwealth had just newly federated and MPs were being sent to Melbourne on primarily state issues. The national party machines hadn't yet been put together and so this is why you end up with someone like George Reid from the Free Soil Party as Prime Minister. With no-one really able to establish solid coalitions, rapid turnover was more or less baked into the system. During the early years, Australia's Federal parliament looked quite a lot like a current German Bundestag with parties kind of flying in the same direction but leaving and rejoining the flock.
It also wasn't helped by the fact that John Hope, 7th Earl of Hopetoun as Governor-General, appointed Edmund Barton before the first election; on the presumption that he would be able to form government. This was only after he'd already appointed William Lyne who was Premier of New South Wales, who couldn't persuade members from other states to join his government; this decision is commonly known as the "Hopetoun Blunder".

Lyons, Page, Menzies, Fadden, Curtin, Forde, Chifley - 7
The next period of volatility happened during the end of the depression and during the Second World War. This mostly had to do with the former party of Robert Menzies, the United Australia Party, imploding and tearing itself apart. It is during this period where you get Menzies quitting to eventually found the Liberal Party, Lyons and Fadden both inheriting the premiership because someone had to be in charge, the crossbench deciding that they were sick to the back teeth with that kind of nonsense and switching confidence and supply to the Labor Party through the power of a £1 variation budget, and this was given another twist when John Curtin died of stress in the office of being the chief executive in a time of war (which also happened to FDR in America) and Frankie Forde only hanging around as a caretaker for eight days.

Menzies, Holt, McEwen, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser - 7
Australia didn't suffer another period of rapid turnover of the Prime Minister until after a period of ridiculously boring stability. Menzies sat in the big chair with virtually no opposition from the Labor Party from 1949-1966 and then the Liberal Party went back to its regularly scheduled imploding and tearing itself apart. This is how we end up with Gorton and McMahon as Prime Minister after Harold Holt went for a swim one day and never came back.
After a brief period where Gough Whitlam actually bothered to step up and provide a vision of the future but had literally no idea how to pay for it,
Australia reverted to mostly stable government.

Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull - 6
The period following the last continent of stability has had the premierships of a visionary like Whitlam who had no idea how to pay for it (and was by rumour a difficult person to work with), a technocrat who was personally attacked by a narcissist Opposition Leader, that same narcissist Opposition Leader who never worked out how to be a Prime Minister, and now a well meaning pastor of a broad church where the parishioners aren't playing with the same text. To be frank, I don't think that Dutton actually does represent a strong faction of the Liberal Party, its just that the party is doing badly in the polls because its policies are bordering on stupid and actually engaging in cruelty with respect to refugees, and rather than change policies, the Liberal Party would rather change leaders.

In this particular episode of the Festival Of The Thirsty Knife, Malcolm Turnbull has actually done nothing implicitly wrong that would warrant his removal. His Premiership has looked almost exactly identical to Tony Abbott's and I suspect that from a policy perspective, a future Peter Dutton premiership would also look almost exactly identical. If the Labor Party is like the Borg which assimilates MPs into the collective and slightly leftist touchy feely hive mind, then the Liberal Party is like the Black Pearl where MPs become part of the ship and the National Party are no more than barnacles which become stuck on the outside as helpless and sometimes unwilling travelers.

Australia broadly speaking will elect economic and culturally conservative governments into power by default. They will also remove governments if they feel they've been there too long. Those governments though, are mostly made of factions which fly in different directions.
A Prime Minister's term in Australia is not and should not be characterised by the ticking clock of the election cycle. We have consistently proven that a Prime Minister's term in Australia lasts exactly as long as either the public or the factions which hold up their numbers in parliament, stick together. It is a bit like building a table but instead of legs, you're using 76 cats as the base - don't put a full cup of tea on the table because if the cats move, you'll have a spill.

This morning's leadership spill went:
Turnbull - 48
Dutton - 35
Abstain - 2

The National Party stood outside the caucus room as helpless and unwilling travelers and had no say in the spill whatsoever. Had they been allowed, they could have very well titled the results. As it is, Turnbull remains as Prime Minister and as far as we know, the cabinet will return to exactly the same state that it was before.

This morning's Festival Of The Thirsty Knife returned nothing at all. The Knife wasn't as thirsty as we first thought and no blood has been spilled. Mr Turnbull must surely be looking over his shoulder there because the question being asked of power of 'how can we get rid of you?' still remains and infinite possibilities lie in the realm of the unfinished.

August 20, 2018

Horse 2454 - Welcome To Australia: The Land Of Sentient Manure

sniff sniff... do you smell that?
It's Australia.

People have been throwing around so much manure, that it has now become sentient. Call me an idiot if you like but I am beginning to see a trend.

On the 8th of July, Channel 7's Sunday Night program, ran a story by Alex Cullen about imagined "African gangs" running wild in Melbourne. I eventually saw this and thought that it was nothing more than stupid race baiting by a dying media outlet who was desperate for ratings and TV advertising. As far as actual journalism, it was rubbish and divisive.

On the 3rd of August, Andrew Bolt's column which ran in the Daily Telegraph, Herald-Sun, the Courier-Mail and the Adelaide Advertiser, accused “a tidal wave of immigrants” of refusing to assimilate (whatever the hell that means) and treating Australia as some kind of hotel, which itself is nonsensical as by definition, immigrants are people who have set up home in a new country. He stated that “immigration was becoming colonisation” which again is nonsensical as colonisation would imply a sending of people from one place and clearly that's not true.

On the 5th of August, Sky News admits held a Harry-Handpass interview with Blair Cottrell from the United Patriots Front, on the Adam Giles Show in which none of his views were questioned, which by the way happens to include serious contempt for Muslims, and being found guiltly for same. Sky News later apologised profusely for the interview but only after Metro Trains in Melbourne pulled Sky News from the screens at railway stations and several advertisers withdrew their advertising revenues.

On the 7th of August, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott spoke to Ray Hadlee on radio
2GB in Sydney about his perceived problems with African immigrants; in what was a very thinly veiled suggestion about a return to a codified race-based immigration policy.

On the 13th of August, Mark Ritson of the Australian, which is the doyenne of News Corp and Uncy Rupey's little baby, published this in the broadsheet:
First, and most important, unless your show appears on the History Channel it is unacceptable to feature anyone professing even a fleeting appreciation for Adolf Hitler. Even if your intention is to argue against their case, giving the former leader of the far-right United ­Patriots Front airtime on national television provides an aura of legitimacy that must be avoided at all costs.
- Mark Ritson, The Australian 13th August 2018.

Is it little wonder then that on the 14th of August, Fraser Anning's maiden speech to parliament was in open praise of predominantly white European immigration on the basis of race and the open condemnation of people on the basis of race and religion; particularly people from Africa and Muslims?
We know the value of their British origin. We know that we represent a race … for the purposes of settling new colonies, which never had its equal on the face of the earth. The crimson thread of kinship runs through us all. The founding father of our Federation knew that it was not simply a bounteous land that makes a nation, but the common threads of inherited identity that unite its people. And what he was telling delegates and, through them, us today was that a great nation can only be the consequence of the people it comprises.
A key part of this great pre-Whitlam consensus was bipartisan support from both Liberal and Labor for a European based immigration program. The great Labor statesmen Ben Chifley, John Curtin and Arthur Calwell all strongly supported an immigration program that actively discriminated in favour of Europeans.
A majority of Muslims in Australia of working age do not work and live on welfare. Muslims in New South Wales and Victoria are three times more likely than other groups to be convicted of crimes. We have black African Muslim gangs terrorising Melbourne. We have ISIS-sympathising Muslims trying to go overseas to fight for ISIS and, while all Muslims are not terrorists, certainly all terrorists these days are Muslims. So why would anyone want to bring more of them here?
- Senator Fraser Anning, from SBS News, 15th Aug 2018.

What the heck is wrong with Australia? This isn't an isolated problem, this is a continuing ongoing piece of constant dialogue. The only lack of assimilation and refusal to become part of Australia that I see, is from white middle-aged men, who appear to be scared that the world has changed around them and rather than accepting it, they're actively trying to burn down every single piece of civil society.
I absolutely agree that we need to have a talk about race in this country. We need to line up all the white men and deport them. Clearly there's something seriously wrong with them if they continue to act like a bunch of spoiled man-children. Grow up. Of course that does mean that I would need to be deported but considering that people like me omitted the original sin of this nation of stealing the country by sticking a flag in and then declaring that there was nobody living here in the doctrine of terra nullius, I think that that's fair.

I would like to blame the internet for this sort of thing but sadly that isn't the case. The 7th act passed by the Australian parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 which is commonly know as the White Australia Policy; because of the sneaky Section 8 which was basically licence to keep out anyone who looked a bit funny.
Any person who is not a British subject either natural-born or naturalized under a law of the United Kingdom or of the Commonwealth or of a State, and who is convicted of any crime of violence against the person, small be liable, upon the expiration of any term of imprisonment imposed on him therefore, to be required to write out at dictation and sign in the presence of an officer a passage of fifty words in length in an European language directed by the officer, and if he fails to do so shall be deemed to be a prohibited immigrant and shall be deported from the Commonwealth pursuant to any order of the Minister
- Section 8, Immigration Restriction Act 1901.

The final remnants of the White Australia Policy weren't properly cleaned up until the mid 1970s.
In 1973 the Whitlam Labor government took three further steps in the gradual process to remove race as a factor in Australia's immigration policies.
These were to:
- legislate that all migrants, of whatever origin, be eligible to obtain citizenship after three years of permanent residence
- issue policy instructions to overseas posts to totally disregard race as a factor in the selection of migrants
- ratify all international agreements relating to immigration and race.
-Fact sheet – Abolition of the 'White Australia' Policy, Dept of Home Affairs, as at 19th Aug 2018

This means to say that people like me were the first generation who lived in a nation where race wasn't official grounds for discrimination by government. This was extended in 1975 with the Racial Discrimination Act; which was made all the more famous when previously mentioned Andrew Bolt, fell foul of it.
This doesn't mean though, that the issue of racial discrimination has been quashed as the recent evidence above would prove. Rather, it is still and ongoing problem. It isn't a dialogue however, as people who want to indulge in publishing manure and chucking it from the floor of the parliament, simply refuse to listen to reason and completely lack any sort of empathy towards the people on the other end of it.

This is the path we are currently walking on, Australia. I'd like to say that we are sleepwalking over cliff but that would be somewhat kind under the circumstances. Nope, we are best friends with the bully of the world and we are that grotty little kid who is actively flinging poo at people.
I'd like to say that we are better as a nation but we are not. We consistently prove that we are not. We are a manure nation with a manure government, whose native language is manure. It's a good thing that that's exactly where we are walking towards because it is apt.

August 17, 2018

Horse 2453 - The Most Ethical Parts Of Speech (An Opinion By An Unqualified Ignoramus)

A question posed at the very beginning of last week's The Minefield on ABC Radio National hosted by Scott Stevens and Dr Waleed Aly, was to do with the most ethical parts of speech; specifically the functions of various words. Now I am obviously not a moral philosopher nor an academic ethicist, so that means that any opinions that I might have on the subject are going to be ill-conceived and half-baked at best and hopelessly wrong at worst but being a blogger who realises that words are cheap, I can afford to burn through many of them at little expense of brain power.
Also, because I have a brain that wants to by nature, assign values to things as though this were a competition, I'm going to arrive at which is the most ethical part of speech by assigning ratings out of ten and based on nothing more than capriciousness, whim, and fads and fancies. Thus I will attempt to give solidity to the wind, tie a snowflake down, and break a butterfly upon a wheel.
Or so it goes...

Person, place, or thing. There can't be anything particularly troublesome here, right? Wrong! Right off the bat we can immediately start hitting pop fly shots into the deep deep weeds.
There is absolutely nothing problematic about simple nouns for simple objects. Words like table, chair, car, bus, pencil, ocean, and telephone, are all functional and generally don't carry any moral hazard at all. However, consider the words egg, monkey, ape, cat, dog, goose, and snake. While those words of themselves are innocent enough, it isn't hard to think of contexts where they are made to carry vitriol and acidic harm. Those words can be turned into weapons which are designed to insult someone on the basis of race, intelligence and moral character.

Then there are the ten words which are generally unbroadcastable before the 9pm watershed on television. Of those, nine are nouns and the other is mostly a verb. There are perfectly useful and scientific words to describe these things but it would appear that just the notion of bodily function is enough to put those words into the land of taboo, that and the fact that as a society, we have kind of come to a sort of general agreement that these words are all naughty. I think that we actually like having naughty words because they fulfill a kind of specific function; where being rude is in fact the point.

There are also nouns which are just outright slurs on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, nationality, socioeconomic status etc. I don't need to publish them because you brain can already fill in those gaps but the point to be made here is that nouns are often used to label people and judge people. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the vast majority of words which are used to denigrate and deliberately injure are nouns. When you call someone a name, you are by definition using a noun because the name of a person, place, or thing, is a noun.

As a class of words, nouns aren't all villains though. If there are words that can be used to tear people down, there words and that can build them up as well.
Consider the words champion, legend, star, diamond, lion, trooper, survivor, saint, angel etc. There are nouns which can be used as labels which emphasise the moral goodness and rightness of someone's character. These nouns are in my experience used when someone wants to express virtues like gratitude, congratulations and praise.
When you call someone a thing, then you mean to impart the quality of the thing on that person; that means that nouns end up doing a lot of the moral and ethical lifting work. Nouns are the tools by which language gets most of the job done and just like a hammer in the hands of a skilled carpenter can build a house, in the hands of a reckless nine year old child in the fine china and tableware section of a department store they can be used for considerable damage.

I give nouns 5/10.

Let's go back to elementary school and all say together: a verb is a doing word. If a thing wants doing and you need a word to do the doing, then a verb is the thing which does the doing. Verbs are so fundamental to language that in most languages, you can not even build a sentence if it does not contain a verb. There are some arguments across languages about where the verb should go in a sentence and even some disputes about tense, that is when the thing that wants doing is to be done in time, but from Latin's myriad of tenses to Japanese's post positional verbs, to German where the verb might come after a compound noun that takes ages to roll through, no language that I know of gets rid of them altogether.
To tell you the truth, I don't care much about verbing nouns and nouning verbs because if someone is understood then it doesn't really matter. The fact that they've fashioned language to make it do what they want, means that the ends justifies the means. This piece is not going to be a proscriptive diatribe about the degradation of language.
What I will say is that I think that verbs carry little to no moral weight in a sentence; on the face of it, that is shocking.

Let's make some verbs our playthings for a while and see where the moral burden is being carried. My first test is going to be those ten words which can not be broadcasted before the media watershed.
Nominally all of them are nouns, with the usual sole exception being a vulgar word for the most intimate of acts. The thing is that it is possible to construct a set of conditions where the most intimate of acts, performed in the most intimate of circumstances, is done gently and within perfectly proper and normal conditions. You can very easily make the case that although the word is still vulgar, it no longer carries the weight of moral turpitude on top of it. This it turns out, is actually quite instructive. What this means is that it is the subjects of the sentence which carries the moral weight of a sentence, rather than the predicates.
Verbs are the play-by-play commentators in the sports broadcast. Verbs faithfully report what is happening and eve though the act might be terrible, it is still the actors doing the act, rather than the actions, which is where the moral work is done in a sentence. If a sentence was a crime scene, then the verbs are the means, but they do not have any motive of themselves and therefore can not be in possession of a guilty mind. If we return to our hammer being wielded by a nine year old in the fine dining section of the department store, it would be utterly stupid to convict the hammer for smashing several thousand dollars worth of Waterford Crystal even though it was very much present in the act.

Consider the word 'kill', the verb to mean ending something's life. It changes in intensity depending on context. I killed the tomato plant. I had twenty minutes to kill. Pol Pot killed 1.7 million people. I killed your daughter.
The first two instances of the word 'kill' are pretty benign. The third is a crime against humanity and yet we're kind of removed from it. However, if I was to announce that 'I killed your daughter', that would be quite righteously rage producing. (Don't worry. I have no intention to kill anyone's daughter, ever.) Again it is the actors and the subjects of the sentence, rather than the verbs which carry the moral weight. The verb can only describe the action as though it was a newspaper article; it is nothing like actually being there.

Even if one were to use a verb like 'rape' which is the worst violation of a person that I can think of, the word can still be used for purposes which carry less moral weight than the most intimate violation of a person that is possible. A wordsmith might talk about 'raping the earth' or 'raping the public's wallet' and these are going to carry that same sense of violation but those turns of phrase are supposed to drive us to concern about the subjects. Again, it is the subjects rather than the predicates, the nouns rather than the verbs doing the moral lifting work.

I give verbs 2/10.

Conjunctions are deceptive. They appear to carry no moral weight at all but their function is to be the glue which holds other parts of sentences together. They hold together nouns and verbs and clauses and ideas. They keep on doing their job almost going unnoticed and keep on working and working and working. Sometimes the beginning of a sentence is perfectly reasonable but the second half makes the first half into one big lie.

I give conjunctions 1/10.

Verbs might very well be doing words but adverbs are 'how doing' words. There is a world of difference between an expertly written article about an arcane subject and a poorly written article or badly written article. The first will probably grab your attention, the second will more than likely not, and the third might misinform you. Adverbs are kind of like the derivative of verbs, which although they will not tell you what was being done they will tell you about the shape of what was being done.

Adverbs carry value judgments about the actions which are being done. There could be a moral difference between someone who has been clinically murdered as opposed to brutally murdered. The first might express care and humanity while the second clearly does not; even though the outcome is identical and there's a dead person who no longer has any agency.
Someone working methodically might look from the outside to be identical to someone working slowly, working lazily or obsessively. As the reader of language, we are being directed how to think about a given situation or draw value judgments about a particular person. A writer has absolutely made choices about how to paint the scene with words; so there's no question about whether or not we are being manipulated. Language is so powerful that it is almost impossible not to think about the thing you have just read.

One adjective which has entered the public lexicon recently is the word 'bigly'. At first it appeared during the rants of a madman but it has escaped into the world and has taken a life of its own and that's majorly  weird.
Someone can be grossly negligent, fabulously attired, softly spoken and incredibly lucky - all at the same time; though I struggle to think of what kind of story could fit those adverbs.

I give adverbs 8/10.

This is where the real moral weight lies in a sentence. The concepts of morality, and ethics, both have to do with the expression of values and adjectives which are the descriptions of the qualities of objects, live almost entirely in this realm. There are adjectives which appear not to do very much, such as those which describe things like colour, direction, and number but they very quickdirection  descriptors for more than just simple concepts because humans as very efficient comparison machines, have a tendency to wrap layers of story over all kinds of things.

The word 'red' can in different circumstances represent the way ideology of free market capitalism enmeshed with authoritarian leanings and a vague whiff of Christian rhetoric, from collective unionism and democratic socialism, to full on soviet communism. Likewise, the word 'blue' can mean a kind of upper class leaning, to capitalist tendencies, to egalitarianism and libertarianism.
The left/right scale in politics as has been used to mean everything from the elite/proletariat divide, to the scale used to differentiate the state owning everything to owning nothing, to a weird authoritarian/libertarian divide as expressed in American politics. The terms 'left' and 'right' are often so poorly understood by the person who is using them that not even they know what they are trying to say. 'The left' as used by Miranda Devine  in the Daily Telegraph is nothing more than a synonym for anyone who she doesn't like on that particular day and is subject to change. The term 'alt-right' appears to be a way of legitimising  what used to be called the 'far right' which is based in nativism, racism, and authoritarian force.

Adjectives do far more than merely indicating political direction though. Words like cruel, dangerous, scary, lovely, wonderful, kind, diligent, comprehensive, loud, cold, hilarious... describe qualities of the world in a myriad of ways. If nouns' function are to describe the 'what' in the world and verbs' function are to describe 'how', then adjectives describe the 'why', 'where' and 'when'. Adjectives are the colour which is applied to the painting made from a thousand words; rather than just the pencil sketches underneath.
Adjectives have a tendency to amplify the reaction to a thing. The greatest event of all, the worst thing to have happened, the easiest examination, the hardest trial - these are all superlatives and they are all adjectives.

These are the words that do most of the work of informing us who is us and who is other. We can describe people's actions and indeed people themselves as evil, illegal, un-Australian, ethnic, and foreign. One of the recurring narratives going on in this country is surrounding the racial and cultural makeup of the country (both adjectives), and sections of the media and increasingly loud groups often use adjectives. People who are in many cases have risked peril to flee their own country for reasons of safety, are described as illegal immigrants despite it not actually being able illegal to seek asylum.
Once people have arrived, it is those adjectival differences which become the elements of the prosecution of trial by media. We hear of 'African' gangs in Melbourne despite there not being any; we have had commentators speak about 'no-go' zones and the apparent loss of culture despite the culture always being in constant flux and change. Blame and derision might use nouns as labels but the colour of the conversation is always adjectival.

On the other side of the coin, when we want to uphold things as good, noble, lovely, excellent, praiseworthy, and virtuous, these are also adjectival in nature. Speech and debate is said to be free, institutions are held up when they are democratic and incorruptible, we like it when goods and services are cheap and good value for money,  we also like it when the trains run on time, when people are respectful and when the country runs in peace, order and calm.
Adjectives are the things that really run the world of ethics and virtue in language because adjectives are the carriers of value. Literally everything in the world that has ever existed has value because people want it and/or have a story about it. Actors and sportspeople are paid many millions of dollarpounds  because we collectively buy into the story which is put up. There isn't really a sensible answer as to why I know about the name of Seb Brown who played for AFC Wimbledon and who saved two penalties against Luton Town to send AFC Wimbledon into the football league, but I don't know the name of the Australian Hockeyroos goalkeeper, except because of the story. There also isn't a good reason as to why a fourth tier English football goalkeeper should be paid more than the Australian national hockey goalkeeper other than to say that the story was valued more. Nouns are the things and verbs are what happens to the things and adverbs give colour and clarity to the verbs but adjectives carry the value of the story of the things.

I give adjectives 9/10.

Because I don't really know what the parameters of the question are, it is easy to give an answer and easy to be completely wrong. I would say though, after having spent the best part of ten hours playing with this, that even if my conclusion is a mess, it is a complete mess. It is better to have a complete mess than a badly thought out and hastily thrown together mess. I hope that through trial by example that I've reached a sensible conclusion.

Of course all of this rests on the functions of the words and not the substance. I absolutely concede that adjectives might be doing the ethical and moral work but that the substance being carried by the nouns and verbs is just flat out lies. The inherent truthiness of a piece of writing is a different subject of inquiry and not in the scope of this blog post.

August 10, 2018

Horse 2452 - Boomers Ruined Everything And Millennials Are All Self-Entitled: Or Why Generational Stereotypes Are In Fact Useful

Boomers Ruined Everything And Millennials Are All Self-Entitled: Or Why Generational Stereotypes Are In Fact Useful

One of the recurring themes of novels that I read, particularly those from the earlier half of the nineteenth century, is a desire of parents to make sure that their daughters are successfully married off so that they will be looked after. There are of course whole societal norms and expectations which have subsequently passed away but the desire of parents that their children will leave and be functional members of society very much remains.

There is also a secondary trope which even has the German label of the bildungsroman, where you have some protagonist who is usually a boy who strikes out on their own and in the process learns something about themselves and about life in general.

The fact that these two tropes are so heavily featured in literature must surely reflect something about how human society operates. There is of course a natural desire that all things will eventually grow up and mature but that is also coupled with the internal tensions that that poses.

If a human lifespan is about four score and seven years for a particularly good innings, then one lifetime ago puts us bang in the middle of the Great Depression. Two lifetimes ago is during the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign and during the Presidency of James K Polk. Three lifetimes ago and you end up in the middle of the eighteenth century and well before there are the republics of Germany, France, Italy or any sense that the United States could even be a thing.

From antiquity to about the beginning of the industrial revolution, the world pretty well much looked the same as it had done in people's grandparents' and great-great grandparents' day. Since then, the world has changed so many times over that the world looks unrecognisable to older people.
We move from a world where computers, motor cars, and electricity are so commonplace as to be completely mundane; to one where factories are only starting to be equipped with steam engines and where clean safe running water isn't even available to royalty; to one three lifetimes ago where if you didn't live in a city, then you either worked the land or inherited a trade, and the chances are that you never travelled more than twenty miles in your whole lifetime unless you were called away to fight in a war. When the world changes that much, it is reasonable to want to compare different periods of time.

With the rise of better statistics, people began to notice that there were differences between generations, let alone people separated by entire lifetimes, and this was absolutely accelerated during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when technology changed rapidly and major world events such as two world wars and the depression, very severely marked off differences between children and their parents.
This really became obvious during the 1950s and 1960s, when demographers, governments, and marketers, realised that they needed to plan for the differences and could sell different things to different people.
Beginning in the 1950s, we see the invention of the teenager, the beginning of the recognition that the children born in the post-war baby boom would be markedly different from their parents who had lived through the war and the solidification of labels to describe generational differences.
For the purposes of making the case, I'm first going to have to establish what the various generations actually are:

1885- 1900 - The Lost Generation
1901 – 1924 - The G.I. Generation
1925 - 1945 - The Silent Generation
1946 - 1964 - The Baby Boomers
1965 - 1980 - Generation X
1981 - 1995 - Generation Y
1996 - 2010 - Generation Z
2011 - 2025 - Generation Alpha

Already we can see that there are some distinct problems. The generations themselves aren't the same length but determined by a common set of experiences; this is fine when you have distinctive catastrophes such as wars and the depression but the relative calm that has been deliberately cultivated following the Second World War has tended to blur the edges of later generations.
It's also of note that these labels almost exclusively apply to Anglosphere countries. Quite a number of countries which were behind the dismal side of the Iron Curtain have their independence as a distinct marker, Germany has reunification as a very strong marker, countries in Africa tend to use their independence and civil wars as demographic divisions, and China uses things like the Cultural Revolution and the May 35 incident in Tiananmen Square as theirs.

If you were to take a survey of all of the major important drivers of social change in the world, in the latter half of the twentieth century (because the Baby Boomers weren't even alive until 1945)  if you look at Britain's NHS (1948) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the International Political Covenant 1951, the International Refugee Covenant 1951, the United States' Interstate System (1955), the rise of Unions and the beginning of equal pay across the sexes, the social upheavals such as the civil rights movement of the 1960's and the Civil Rights Act 1965, the Aboriginal Referendum 1967, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 et cetera, what we see is a great string of social and structural improvements which all happened or were implemented either while the Baby Boomers were children or before they had a meaningful impact in parliaments.

There is also the rather curious fact that for most of the history of the world, the rate of return on capital outstripped that of the rate of wages growth. For a very brief period of time following the Second World War and the hideous destruction of both capital and people, for about thirty years, the period which is known in France as Les Trente Glorieuses, the rate of return on labour actually managed to be greater than the rate of return on capital. The net result of that was wages rising in real terms and income inequality actually falling. Right across the OECD, real wages peaked towards the end of the 1970s and in the case of Australia in particular, real wages peaked in Q3 of 1979.

What do we see which immediately follows this? There is the election of Margaret Thatcher's Tory Government in 1979, the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the election of the Hawke Labor Government in Australia. These three governments are emblematic of the kinds of policies which were undertaken across the anglosphere in the 1980s and 1990s. Reagan's administration kind of smashed the ability of labour unions in the United States to ever have any real ability to do very much again; in some cases, most famously the air traffic controllers, his administration actively sacked people. Thatcher's Tory Government went about privatising everything that it possibly could, thus leaving the newly private industries with the task of destroying the power of unions. The Hawke  Government in Australia when faced with the remnants of high real wages, actively kneecapped the unions and was able through the Accords to render them lame. The latter half of Hawke's time as Prime Minister and the beginning of Keating's is marked by a similar program of privatisations to Thatcher's in Britain.

The various governments which followed, HW Bush, Clinton, W Bush, Major, Blair and Brown, Keating and Howard, all continued on that same path of privatisation and after having finished that task, when there was practically nothing left to sell off, set about fundamentally altering both the tax base and the relationship of the state to its obligations with regards to people's retirement. In Australia, it is now possible for monies in a superannuation fund to enter, live inside, and exit, completely tax free. This might not sound particularly damaging but it legally enshrines the reassertion of capital, so that the rate of return on capital once again outstrips the growth in wages.
I will almost certainly be accused of conflating the actions of government to the people but ultimately governments are elected and empowered by the people to enact policy. From 1979 the Baby Boomers for the first time became a majority of voters, and this was the case until 2013. As far as representation in parliaments go, Baby Boomers were the majority of sitting members in the US Congress from 1984 - 2016, in Australia from 1983 - 2016, and in the UK from 1983 - 2017.

The current make up of the Australian Parliament is:
1 - Silent Generation
99 - Baby Boomers
110 - Generation X
16 - Generation Y
The fact is that virtually all of the senior positions in the Government are held by Baby Boomers. Whatever current beefs that you happen to have with the current government, for the most part are still with member of that particular generation who are enacting policy.

It is either a mistake or incredibly short sighted to say that government as a thing controls most of the governance of a nation. If we use the size of government compared to GDP as a measure of actual governance, since controlling wealth and money is the instrument through which power is exacted in an economy, then government is only responsible for about 25% at most.

It is still the case that the majority of dollars in Australia that are not immediately spent in the hideously selfish act of keeping in one's self clothed and fed, are owned by the Baby Boomers. Other measures such as who owns property and who owns investment property are even more skewed towards the Baby Boomers. Still other measures such as who controls payrolls and the management of companies which are larger than twenty employees are still even further skewed towards the Baby Boomers.

The current actions by the banks, the ASX 200 and the vast majority of Pty Ltd companies (because according to ASIC the average date of birth of a Pty Ltd company owner is 1957) are majority Baby Boomer controlled. When you think about it, that makes a degree of sense because in order to run a business successfully it helps if you have a pool of working capital behind you; the only way to build up a decent pool of capital is to have money left over as savings and if you're on comparatively worse wages and are more likely to live a hand to mouth existence, that is impossible. It probably also follows that there is a time lag in owning a company, just as there is representation in parliament, for the same reasons.
Companies are separate legal persons from their owners but the actions of companies are the result of real people making decisions. The decision to pay falling real wages is absolutely the result of someone making that choice and if we consider that date of 1983 to be valid, then that choice has been made by the Baby Boomers.
The very beginning of Generation X nominally entered the workforce in 1983 when they turned 18 years old, which was 4 years after real wages had peaked and at about the same time when the shift from the Silent Generation to the Baby Boomers being in control of the economic life of the world happened. Generation Y entered the workforce in 2003, which was well after the modern system of superannuation had been implemented, and Generation Z entered the workforce at the height of the Global Financial Crisis where they found themselves competing directly with the Baby Boomers who had always been at the bottom end of wages.
The decision to kneecap labour and the rewards due to labour through wages, and the decision to engineer the economy through taxation legislation to reward superannuants was absolutely made by the Baby Boomers. The effect of entrenching economic privilege after someone has retired was a welcome bonus. Of course this does have the unfortunate side effect of carrying forward; so we should expect to see current economic inequality carry forward into retirement forever, if indeed poorer people will ever be able to retire at all. Our taxation system is being set up nicely so that richer people will be able to spend their twilight years in relative comfort and I think that we're going to witness the reestablishment of poorer people reaching the end of their working life and then dying abruptly as the support systems of healthcare and the old age pension will progressively be deliberately destroyed.

From what I have seen of Generation X, they (we (I?)) haven't exactly rolled themselves in glory and certainly not really made any attempt to unruin the world. Those people who control wealth and power are quite content with their lot in life and can see no reason why they should deign to help those less fortunate. When it comes to serious issues such as unruining the education system, they also seem content to perpetuate the inequality in educational outcomes.
As for Generation Y, they have only just begun to be represented in power but fact remains that just like the tail end of Generation X, they've lived in a world of real falling incomes for their whole life. The very beginning of Generation Z is only just now beginning to conflate acquire the franchise, and Generation Alpha is still in primary school or in the newest of cases has spent nine months in a warm wet place and has now recently found that the world is scary, but can only respond by screaming and pooping their pants. Generations Y, Z, and Alpha haven't yet had the power to ruin anything except their parents’ sanity and sleep.

If anything I'd say that the Baby Boomers have unreservedly and by every known metric ruined the world. Some of them have created better toys for us to play with but on the whole, when we it comes to matter of designing society, there is really no argument by which you can say that they haven't.
When it comes to Generation X who aren't really millennials, and Generations Y & Z supposedly having a sense of entitlement, I'd suggest that they are fighting the good fight to try to reclaim some sense of a better society which the Baby Boomers smashed. They demonstrably do not have a sense of entitlement because they have never been entitled to much of anything. Generations Y & Z find themselves suffering from ever increasingly more terrible and difficult work environments, zero hours contracts, the woeful undervaluing of their labour (and even suffering from having to give it away for free if you include unpaid internships) as well as mounting debt from undertaking higher education; which the Baby Boomers will openly boast that they got for free.
The complaint that Generations Y & Z and presumably Alpha (though the oldest of those is only 8 years old), is founded on the very real problem that the members of Generations Y & Z saw the benefits that the Baby Boomers and established, and had it all taken away in front of them. It is incredibly churlish to accuse someone of being self-entitled when your actions mean that they are not entitled to anything. Say what you like about the toys that Generations Y & Z might have, it solves nothings of the problems that they paycheques don’t extend far enough to pay for housing and living expenses and they are increasingly likely to never own a house in the first place.

In my experience which is entirely subjective and therefore demonstrative for the purposes of this next part of the discussion, people tend to only view the world through the prisms of their own experience. In fact, to a very large degree, people can only view the world through the prism of their own experience because it is literally impossible to view the world through anyone else's. Because we all have a one point perspective upon the world, there is a massive tendency to assume that everyone else must also see the world precisely the way that we do. It's an incredibly limited way of thinking but to actually bother to imagine the world complexly requires both effort and empathy and those things are not necessarily natural to a selfish brain contained in a single point perspective meat bag.
What this means is that we end up inventing useful fictions about the world in order to explain to ourselves how the kosmos actually works. If the system of the entire kosmos is literally too massive for a single mind to conceive, then we end up making wee little models instead. The problem with building models of the kosmos and especially when the kosmos has changed, is that our models will invariably be wrong. Older generations will naturally conclude that either the world that is broadly the same, or will complain that the world has changed, and younger generations who weren't even in existence can not conceive of how the kosmos actually was without any actual lived experience.

August 06, 2018

Horse 2451 - The $1,000,000,000,000 Apple

Last Thursday, 2nd August 2018, Apple became the first US company to be worth one trillion dollars by market capitalisation. This is in the land of brain melting numbers as one trillion dollars is beyond the realms of most people's imagination and to write out the value $1,000,000,000,000 looks almost nonsensical.
This is the kind of thing which is noteworthy but not unexpected because anyone following the financial pages of a daily newspaper would have seen this with the rolling inevitability of the all stations train arriving at the next scheduled stop. The only real mystery in this financial guessing game was who would get there first, as both Wal-Mart and Amazon were close to the number which only has any significance because of our base ten number system.
While there is a kind of hoo-haa to be made about this, this isn't the first company to get to that number. The appropriately named Chinese petrochemical company Petro-China, reached the one trillion US Dollar mark back in 2007 but the Chinese government stripped back a lot of the value and it fell back to 260 million dollars by mid 2008.

The list of the companies to hit the various numerical milestones in corporate history is a short but interesting jaunt through how the US economy has changed. A man much wiser than I once said that where your treasure lies, there your heart will lie also, and the story of these milestones absolutely reflects what the US economy has valued by attaching actual values to those companies.

$1B - 1901 - US Steel ($98.37bn adj)
When you adjust for inflation, it ends up being Rockefeller who is the richest man who ever lived. Even King Solomon with a stated income of 666 talents of gold in a year is eclipsed by that top group of players in the English Premier League in terms of annual incomes. In the case of Rockefeller, he and his family just happened to really closely hold Standard Oil.
US Steel though was a slightly different story. It was a fairly broadly held share and in 1901 was the biggest producer of the new fangled and highly useful metal. The things that drove the demand for steel were then as now, the demand to build machinery and buildings. The invention of the skyscraper was only made possible because steel could be made in sufficient quantities and it was the former railway bridge builders who applied their skills from the horizontal to the vertical.
What US Steel represents is a nation which was building itself into the industrial powerhouse of the twentieth century. Before the skyscraper, the highest height that buildings would normally go to was about ten stories. With bones of steel instead of stone, they almost trebled in height within a generation.

$10B - 1955 - General Motors ($118.33bn adj)
The world had just been through two world wars and the machines of industry which had formerly turned out weapons of war were now turning out consumerist weapons of peace. General Motors which had been coagulating and acquiring smaller motor manufacturers, found itself in a unique place.
The former CEO of General Motors, Charles Erwin Wilson, had been newly appointed as the US Defense Secretary. Starting in 1955, the US Government embarked upon the biggest public infrastructure project in the history of the world in the Eisenhower Interstate Defense Highway System.
I don't think it coincidence that the former CEO of GM should be in charge of implementing a program which would benefit GM. That in no way reeks of corruption and grift. It's just that General Motors ended up with all of these lovely roads all over the United States that they could sell cars which could be driven on them.

What's good for the country is good for general motors, and vice versa.
- Charles Erwin Wilson

$100B - 1985 - IBM ($364.83bn adj)
"Big Blue" had previously been a producer of typewriters, then mainframe computers and then became the default standard when it introduced the IBM 5150 Personal Computer in 1981. This more or less marks the beginning of proper computers in people's homes; instead of the television based consoles that existed in the late '70s and early '80s. Within the decade, I knew of several people who had computers in their house and DOS 1.0 was very quickly eclipsed by DOS 2.0 and Dos 3.3
I suspect that the reason why IBM arrived at the centre of the computer business was because of the things that they invented which helped business. The arrival of the hard disk drive and DRAM basically meant that you didn't have to rely on magnetic tape and computers could live in self-contained boxes, and magnetic stripe cards and the UPC bar code basically run the world of consumer money and inventory tracking. If you bought something today and didn't use cash, then you will have used a card and the goods will have been barcoded - both of which were invented by IBM.

$500B - 1999 - Microsoft ($1053.42bn adj)
After the revolution which saw IBM put computers everywhere, Microsoft's financial empire was built on making them useful to the office. Microsoft's operating systems, firstly with DOS and then Windows, was then given a suite of programs which people found useful; primarily the Office Suite. Word, Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint, and Access, primarily changed offices from places where people pushed paper, to places where paper became secondary.
Particuarly the way in which Word, Excel, and Outlook, work together, is the bulk of the reason why Microsoft of why Bill Gates' vision of "A computer on every desk and in every home” was kind of realised. It also explains why Microsoft as a company had a tangible end to its empire.
That figure of $1053.42bn is bigger when you adjust for inflation, than Apple's $1000.00bn which it reached last week.

On that note, Apple might have hit the magical $1 trillion mark but it is still a minnow when compared to the mega-über-super-psycho-massive companies which were given monopoly trading powers over whole nations and continents in the past.
The truth is that the Dutch East India Company was valued at 78 million Dutch Guilders, which translates to a mind-numblingly insane $7.9 trillion when adjusted for inflation, the Mississippi Company which was started in France to control Louisiana was worth $6.5 trillion, and the South Sea Company was worth the equivalent of $4.3 trillion adjusted for inflation.
Apple is massive but it's not even close to the biggest company in either recent or all time history. A trillion dollars is nothing to be sneezed at though.

August 04, 2018

Horse 2450 - Fragments VIII: The Great Grape Eight

MM44 - Other People's Money
According to Milton Freedman the economist, there are only four ways to spend money.
1. You spending money on You.
2. You spending money on Other People.
3. Other People spending money on You.
4. Other People spending money on Other People.

Most people, including you and me, prefer money spent in the following order.
3, 1, 4, 2.

This is a natural extension of the basic principle of economics that Adam Smith starts his Theory Of Moral Sentiments with, that mankind is assumed to be selfish. He talks about rational self-interest however, given what I know and have experienced about human nature, I highly doubt the premise that people are remotely rational. People would rather have money spent on them, or spend their own money on themselves, than having to spend their money on other people; they are indifferent about other people doing anything. The illustration comes into closest focus for me on the second Wednesday in May when the budget has been handed down and people ring me up that morning to find out what they "get" from the budget. When it comes to lodging people's tax returns, the discussion always invariably revolves around what kind of tax deductions that people can get (see number 2 in the list) and what kind of refund that people can get (which I think that they think is 3 but actually is 1).

One of the best illustrations that I've ever heard is the parable of the invention of Zero. It goes something like this:
There was a Punjabi trader in a marketplace who was looking at all of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4... and said "none of these are amounts that I want to pay". Then, looking at a sleeping snake which was lying in a coil on the ground next to its charmer, he saw the perfection of serenity and that ring became Zero. When Islamic mathematicians found out about this, they immediately saw its usefulness and hence the reason why it is called the Hindu-Arabic Numeral System.

I like this tale because not only does it explain how we got a zero but it also displays that most common of human desires; which is to pay nothing for anything if we can get away with it. Yet again we arrive right back at human selfishness and taken to its logical extreme, it explains both slavery and most of the issues surrounding government welfare. Essentially they are driven by the same motivations; slavery is based on the premise that by owning people, you only have to pay for their upkeep and the narrative around government welfare is that everyone who receives any benefit for any reason is a loafer and a bludger and there is a moral reason not to pay them.


CL888 - Caffeinated Lasagna
I have it on good authority that Monday is either cured by a dose of Tuesday or of extreme apathy. I also happen to know that intermittent sadness can be cured by cheesy, tomatoy, pasta products, and by excessive amounts of coffee. I know this because a syndicated orange cat which was named after the President of the United States, James A Garfield, has made these pronouncements in repeated propaganda for the last forty years in various newspapers.
Caffeinated Lasagna, however impractical is therefore the only rational and natural choice to cure one of the more debilitating effects of Monday. Quite what the scientific reason for this connection is, is completely unknown to me but when has ignorance of reality ever stopped someone from hawking the newest and greatest sensation of all time.


GK21 - England In The World Cup Final Is Proof That Reality Is Broken
The only reason why we are here at this point in time where England is in a World Cup Final is because something is fundamentally wrong with the universe. We must be living in some alternate version of history like 1985A in Back To The Future Part II or possibly something like Counterpoint where there has been a portal opened to a parallel dimension and this squad of 23 England players has been brought through passport control. The Gareth Southgate that I remember missed that penalty but this one is a bizarre über kind version that is actually displaying competence.
I assume that the universe will right itself though and France will end up winning for the simple reason that like all the other former colonial powers of Europe, France has a very strong undercurrent of racism running through it. The same country which used to write "Liberté, Liberty, Egalité" on its coins before it adopted le Euro, also very nearly ended up with Marrine  La Pen as President. This means that most of the French squad is French when they win but generic African when they lose.

My prediction for the final is either:
France 3 - England 1 (assuming that the universe corrects itself and decides that even that reality is simply unbelievable across all parallel dimensions) or:
France 1 - England 2 (if we assume that Football really is coming home and remembered where its passport is).

(Footnote: This was never published because reality decided that England being in a World Cup Final was simply too buckwild and weird to explain.
God had a chat to Reality and said "First Leicester City winning the Premier League, then Trump being elected as President, then another Trudeau as Prime Minister of Canada, and now England in a Cup Final. Go home, Reality. You are drunk.")


LL19 - The Ontology Of Lasagne
This really gets to the heart of the ontological question of what a lasagne is. The mere existence of sheets of pasta is not enough because there are a myriad of pasta shapes which are all competing for pasta shape supremacy. A lasagne is clearly a layered pasta dish with layers of red sauce and cheese which are separated. You can have things like meat or spinach as well but they are not the defining features of a lasagne.
This immediately leads me to the next point in my interrogation. What would happen if you were to put one lasagne on top of another? The base definition of what a lasagne is, is still intact. You still have various layers of red sauce and cheese which are separated by sheets of pasta. It's just that by putting one lasagne on top of another, you end up with more layers. My suspicion is that if you were to give this thing to a third party who never witnessed the process of putting one lasagne on top of another, they would be none the wiser and assume that the thing in front of them was only a single lasagne.
My conclusion therefore is that the above appears to be true and that because you can put one lasagne on top of another and you still functionally fulfill the ontological question of what a lasagne is, then you can do it ad infinitum and ad nauseum. Ten million lasagnes stacked on top of each other would also fulfill the definition of what a lasagne is and would also become just a lasagne in the singular; no matter how daft or ridiculous your giant tower of lasagne looks.
Mathematically, lasagne is insanity where 1+1=1 and 1-1=2 because even if you were to slice the giant lasagne tower in twain, the bottom half isn't suddenly not a lasagne and in addition, the new section is it's own new lasagne.


BMW5 - Why Can't BMW Drivers Ever Use Their Indicators?
I know for a fact that BMWs have indicator lights because I do see them flashing on and then off when they are stopped at a set of traffic lights. If I know that they have indicators, then presumably everyone else on the road also knows that BMWs have indicator lights. How is it then, when traffic is doing 70 clicks down the Warringah Expressway that BMW drivers are completely unaware that their cars are equipped with indicator lights? The number of BMWs that cut through the bus lane without indicating is significant and what makes it truly terrifying is that a big thing like a bus has more inertia than a little thing like a Yaris, which means that they will take more time to come to a halt if someone has pulled out in front of them without indicating.
Mercedes-Benz drivers appear to have a sense of self preservation and a sense of the value of their motor vehicle. Likewise, Audi drivers also appear to sense that actions have consequences and that a big thing which has run into them, is likely to do a lot of damage which costs real money.
The only thing that I can assume is that BMW drivers are either so ignorant, arrogant, or ambivalent about their own car that they don't care what happens to it. This is probably because their cars are owned through a company and are being used as a tax write off. This might also be because despite using the slogan "the ultimate driving machine", BMWs are actually pretty uninspiring to drive. You don't get anything like the aura of class from a Mercedes-Benz, the sense of craftsmanship of an Audi or Porsche, or the pervasive feeling that you'll break down without notice that you get in an Alfa Romeo. A BMW is an appliance to these people and they care too little about them to use their indicators when changing lanes.


FO - Australia Is So Australian That Mr Bolt Doesn't Recognise It
I flatly reject Mr Bolt's premise that people who look different to him should be assimilated into the culture of Australia because quite frankly, we've always been a nation of immigrants and so the culture itself has never been a crystalised thing. With the sole exception of Aboriginal people groups who were systematically driven from their lands and home (and in many cases simply butchered or massacred if they dared to object), every new people group has arrived and altered the culture (whatever the deuce that even is), in some small way.

When agent provocateur and infant terrible Lauren Southern arrived in Lakemba to give the locals a blood nose for no good reason, not only did she try to prosecute a non existent case but she misread the culture on the ground. Apart from arriving with a camera crew to annoy the locals, she then asked where the mosque was and the wanted to know where the nearest British pub was, presumably to prove that white oppression was going on. Never mind the fact that the mosque was more than a mile and a half away and would be too hard for the camera operator to schlep to, the nearest pub was the Lakemba Hotel which was actually within eyesight and at any rate it is very Australian and not British. Plastered around its awnings are adverts for Victoria Bitter; which has a marketing campaign which is so distinctively Australian that it is a pastiche of itself.

There is a street in a suburb that I whizz past on the train every morning that has a string of shop fronts with signs in: Vietnamese, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Urdu, Thai, Turkish, and then Chinese again. I am willing to bet that the children of the proprietors of these shops probably all go to the same school and speak with an Australian accent which is more Australian than mine. I am also willing to bet that their children would be likely marry each other and that the children of those children wouldn't be able to speak the language of their grandparents.

Mr Bolt's complaint is essentially that he has looked down the street and has found people who don't look like him and he is terribly confused by it. The concept of multiculturalism which he is railing against is more of less the default setting of society as cultures absorb and steal elements from each other, synthesize them and then constantly create and build upon what was. If Mr Bolt was for instance to go to a British pub in Britain, it wouldn't be difficult for him to find a curry on the menu which never even existed in India; in fact a poll by the great and powerful Times of London to determine what the most quintessential British dish was, turned up Chicken Tikka Masala as the winner.