November 15, 2018

Horse 2488 - If Brexit Doesn't Mean A 585 Page Document, We Have No Idea What It Means

Because the world has been looking at the left hand side of the Atlantic at the continuing horrorshow of American politics that results when the people elect an unreality TV star as president, the world has largely been ignoring the horrorshow on the right hand side of the Atlantic that has resulted when the people elected for unreality as economic policy.
Unlike phrases such as "this means war" or "beanz meanz heinz" nobody knew what "Brexit means Brexit" meant before the referendum and the principle players who caused the mess, namely David Cameron, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, have all been conspicuous through absence having to clean it up. Say what you like about Teresa May but the truth is that through sheer dumb luck, Britain ended up with an incredibly competent head of government; with the patience of Job, the wisdom of Solomon and the longsuffering of Paul, being imprisoned in a state of cruel and unusual punishment behind the black door of Number Ten.

The draft agreement between the UK and EU has been finally published and at 585 pages¹ I decided not to print it because it would use more than an entire ream of paper. The short answer to what this monster document contains are as follows.
It decouples the Pound Sterling from the Euro; which is an easier task than had the UK entered the common currency. It undoes a lot of uniform taxation policy and payments towards the maintenance of the common market and it also removes the payments which might have flowed in the other direction. It creates a so-called "hard border" and basically pulls the UK out of both the free movement zone but doesn't have to address the issue of the Schengen Area because both the UK and Ireland always maintained an opt-out. It looks as though there's a single customs territory; which in practical terms means that customs checks are not needed on goods coming from within the EU but given that there are already security checks at both Calais and Folkestone, not much changes.

From what I can gather, the deal looks to be what would have been expected when untangling the mess and I don't really see what else could have been done differently. Nevertheless, there appears to something of a revolt brewing with at least nine cabinet minister, being Liam Fox, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Sajid Javid, Andrea  Leadsom, The Baroness Evans, Chris Grayling and Gavin Williamson the Chief Government Whip, in addition to  David Davis, Boris Johnson and Minister from the 1920's Jacob Rees-Mogg², all expressing their displeasure.

As it stands, under the rules of the Conservative party, a leadership spill can be triggered if 15% of all sitting MPs send a letter of no confidence to the chairperson. From what I can gather, there have been 44 letters which have already been sent; there are 316 Tory MPs in the commons, so that leaves just 4 for Britain to hold its own Festival Of The Thirsty Knife.
This is further complicated by the fact that the Tory party is only help in government because of the support in condfidence and supply by the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland; who might just pull their own levers top bring down the government if they don't like the Brexit deal.

Just to throw another spanner in the works of a machine which at this stage is primarily made entirely from spanners, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had this to say:

Oh dear.

From here, the plan goes to the even bigger sausage machine that is the EU and then back to the House of Commons where there will be a vote. I wouldn't even like to predict how that's going to go because this whole thing has been flying around Whitehall like a hand grenade with the pin taken out that nobody wants to hold for too long.
If the Commons does actually pass this thing, which might not happen because of a Tory revolt or because the DUP decide to switch side, then it goes to the EU who then presumably have their own vote on the floor of the EU parliament. If it falls over either in the House of Commons or the EU parliament then who knows what happens?
Is there a General Election? Is there another redo referendum where Britain can say "Sorry guys, we've got no idea what we're doing"? Does Britain redo the terms of the deal? Or do they just leave with no deal and no idea of what that looks like? I have no idea. I can't find anyone whose written a decent piece on this who has an idea. Dare I say it, the 650 MPs in the House Of Commons also have no idea.

Ms May has at least tried to present an idea; despite not wanting Brexit before the referendum and being left with a problem that she didn't create. I think that it's the best that can be expected in all honesty. Brexit means Brexit, whatever that means; nobody has an idea.


November 11, 2018

Horse 2487 - The Armistice

100 years ago today, the Allied supreme commander and Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch, the First Sea Lord Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss, MP for Biberach in the Reichstag Matthias Erzberger, a representative from the German Foreign Ministry Count Alfred von Oberndorff, Army Major General Detlof von Winterfeldt and Naval Captain Ernst Vanselow, all met in Ferdinand Foch's personal railway carriage which was in the Forest of Compiègne, and signed off on the Armistice which brough four and a bit years of pointless bloody slaughter to an end.

And for what? In some cases the border didn't move more than a few miles and within a generation it would all be on again. Probably as many as 40 million people were killed as a result of a series of disputes which started out as a bunch of cousins having a diplomatic spat and the the shooting of an archduke by a terrorist. Prior to 1914 nobody knew what an archduke was and afterwards most people still didn't know, except that if you shot one, a war would break out.
Kaiser Bill abdicated on November 9, Austria-Hungary ended on the 11th and snapped into several bits, Italy changed sides so many times that it didn't know what side it was on anymore, France remained being France, Britain remained being Britain, and the United States who joined the war late and mostly for their own amusement, decided to boss everyone around afterwards.

Did we as a world learn anything from the First World War? Not really. The words Generationshass and Erbfeindschaft, roughly describe a condition which was fought constantly between France and Germany; in which the next generation would inherit the anger of the previous. To that end after the 1756  Seven Years' War, there were the the Revolutionary Wars with a war in 1812, the great 1848 war of everyone versus everyone, the Franco–Prussian War in 1870, the First World War in 1914 and the Second World War in 1939. Only then did Europe decide that it was all pointless and the advent of the European Coal and Steel Community which later became the EEC and then EU, has meant that the wars of 1975 and 2005 never happened. World War 1 in context was a time which nothing was learned.
In fact nothing was learned to such a bloody degree that the Treaty of Versailles contained the provision that Germany was to "accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" and this was written into Article 231; when assessed was worth 132 billion marks, which was utterly stupid and helped sow the seeds of the Second World War. The Arimistice was the end to the war but the Allies lost the ensuing peace.

Governments would return little pieces of metal with ribbons attached, in place of the sons and brothers and fathers who were now corpses in ditches across Europe. Sometimes they would attach little pieces of metal with ribbons to the still living sons and brothers and fathers, who were now somewhat damaged; if not physically then mentally. There were some women sent to be nurses and caregivers but they generally weren't turned into the sorts of cuts of meat that would be found in a butcher's window in anything like the same numbers. Mostly the mothers and wives were left with holes in their hearts; for which governments never truly compensated them for.
Some men (always men), congratulated themselves for their heroism in commanding troops in the field; even if they were miles away from front and being lubricated with sherry and port. They invariably won even more bits of metal with ribbons attached, and some of them won the right to put letters after their name. Sometimes the men in the muddy trenches won the right to put letters like GC and VC after their name but usually after they were already dead; which is kind of irrelevant to them.

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh day of the Eleventh month, is a date in history which should have never have happened because the preceding four should also have never have happened. 11-11-1918 is the end of a conflict in which the coin of the realm of the battlefield, which is people's lives, was spent needlessly, for no real net benefit. The Colonel Blimps of the world gladly spent a currency which they themselves would never be liable to pay.
This is a lesson which leaders today who want to go into the world to make war should learn. The coin of the battlefield is a very precious and terrible thing to spend and while we like to dress all of this up in colours of heroism, patriotism and national fervour, it still doesn't change the fact that those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, did so on the altar of men's pride and mostly pointlessly. If the 37 days in 1914 had played out as a game of actual diplomacy instead of total diplomatic failure, then 11-11-18 would have just passed into history as a boring cold autumn day in Europe. The war ended not because of some brilliant military breakthrough or strategy but because everyone agreed to stop. This is the greatest day of the First World War for that reason.

Lest We Forget.

November 04, 2018

Horse 2486 - Watch Me Make Wrong Election Predictions Again!

In my grand history of picking elections, I am going to make yet another prediction which I fully expect will be wrong but because it is based on data, will be accurately wrong.
As Nate Silver's website FiveThirtyEight¹ proved in 2016, all of the best statistical data in the world is no match for the utter bewildermouse that is the general public. I don't have access to anything like the statistical dumpster fire of data that he does and so I used far more crude tools.

In Australia and Britain,  electoral swing analysis works by adding one party's increase in share of the vote to another party's decrease in share of the vote and then by dividing the total by two. In Australia it gets a little bit more complex because we have multi party elections but generally speaking where you have two party politics, the system is simple enough to calculate.
After looking through the polls, you then look at the margin of votes in all seats and line them up. Having done that, you simply point your marker at the seat that corresponds to that swing value and then count the number of seats.
There are of course several major assumptions which are of course wrong. Firstly, it assumed that the swing across the country is uniform. Secondly, it assumes that all seats behave according to that same uniform swing. Thirdly, it assumes that all demographics will act according to predicable models. These assumptions are wrong but we'll proceed anyway.

I have been throwing results into a very big spreadsheet and compared poll results² to the actual results of the 2016 election. Wikipedia is lovely and has recorded every single congressional district and so there are results for all 435 voting members. From here, generated a standardised predicted swing for the country; which at the moment has closed at 6.02%.

A 6.02% swing would produce a House as follows:
229 - Democrats
206 - Republicans
This would mean that the House would again be Democrat controlled.

If you look at the Senate, in the available seats that are on offer, a 6.02% swing would produce a result as follows:
48 - Democrats
2 - Indpendents
50 - Republicans
This would mean that the Senate would remain Republican controlled.

As for the very big question about the impeachment of the 45th President, the House could set the terms of impeachment because all it requires is a simple majority of those present but the Senate requires a two-thirds super majority. There is no way in any possible scenario, even if the Democrats won all 435 House seats and all of the available seats in the Senate that they would get close because 42 Republicans are not up for reelection this time around.

Based on the above results and extrapolating the results for the electoral college, we get the following results:

Plugging all of the available data into 270 to Win³ (even accounting for winner-takes-all states and split votes), then the hypothetical 2018 Presidential Election would mean that a Democrat would get 279 votes to Republican Donald Trump's 259 and assuming that he somehow won the Republican primary.
These are my predictions for the 2018 US mid-term elections and for a presidential election which doesn't even exist. Watch as on Tuesday in America, I am proved wrong by the real world not conforming to predicted data, yet again.


November 03, 2018

Horse 2485 - Is 888 Short of $$$?

In clear violation of Betteridge's law of headlines which states that "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'NO'", the answer to this question is a solid 'maybe?'. When you have a money raising exercise it is either because you are in fact short of a shilling or hard up for space in your house. Personally I think that it is the former and that 888's woes are totemic of a far larger problem.

I think that the V8 Supercars is in real trouble when it comes to its long term future. Not only has Australia suffered the loss of its automotive manufacturing industry but the great Australian public have responded by dropping Ford and Holden like a plate of cold vomit. Firstly Mercedes Benz severed their ties with Erebus Motorsports, Volvo had a public bust up with Garry Rogers Motorsport, Nissan have withdrawn their factory support from Kelly Racing and in 2019 will run their left over Altimas as orphans like the Ford teams have been doing with the Falcon, Penske are scrambling to build the Mustang, and now 888 Motorsport who owns the intellectual property which underpins the racing version of the ZB Commodore are having a fire sale.

Based on Whincup’s 2013 Supercars title-winning VF Commodore, the car was built with minor modifications including a paddle shift-version of the Albins transaxle.

It was originally fitted with a standard Supercars engine, before an upgrade saw a 5.6-litre V8 engine making more than 700 horsepower go into the car.
- 16th Oct 2018

The story of this chassis is weird. The car was originally built as a standard VF racing chassis with the normal 5L V8. It was then recruited to be the official test mule for the twin turbo 3.6L V6 LFX but that project appears to have stalled. 888 Motorsport have decided to sell the car with a 5.6L V8 which comes from I don't know where; thus making sure that whatever IP that they had tied up in the car is ungettable.
This is a brilliant move on the part of 888 Motorsport. As the car is not built on a standard chassis, it isn't GT3 compliant. Also because the engine isn't a derivative of something that was on the road, it wouldn't be JAF or GT300 compliant either. This means that this Sandman is more than likely not eligible to be raced in any category anywhere in the world; which would suit 888 to a T. They wouldn't be shown up because someone entered it in the Bathurst 12 Hours or the Spa 24 Hours but it might be eligible to run as an invitational car in Garage 56 at the Le Mans 24 Hours because the ACO can do whatever it jolly well likes.
The real question for me that came from this was why 888 want to sell this off. If it was simply to clear the warehouse then this would look perfectly normal but other events have conspired.

888 Motorsport made all kinds of bell ringing announcements that Jamie Whincup has bought 15% of the team. This is always a bad sign. This story played out when Allan Moffat was unceremoniously dumped by Ford even after he'd delivered what still remains the most famous 1-2 victory at Bathurst,  and it played out again in 1987 when Peter Brock started Advantage Motorsport and he very publicly had a dust up with Holden. It even happened when the Holden Racing Team were in trouble, which led to both Kelly Racing and Walkinshaw Racing as ongoing concerns.
The cover being used is that Team Principal Roland Dane is making succession plans but if that were the case, then surely it would make more sense to find someone who builds cars and actually knows how to run a team, rather than a driver. In the two cases above, Allan Moffat already had extensive experience in running and building a race car before he joined Ford and afterwards he ran a reasonably successful operation which ran Mazda RX-7s and later, Ford Sierras, but Peter Brock's own team was nowhere near as well run and he reverted to becoming an employee at the earliest available opportunity. I don't know what kind of management experience that Jamie Whincup has but I suspect that it is approaching zero.
For Jamie Whincup to buy 15% of 888 Motorsport when in theory they are the only team with factory backing, looks more suspicious than a cat covered in cream, leaving a dairy.

Various pundits in the media have tried to guess what's going on here but I put it that the Australian media is somewhat myopic and that the answer comes from farther afield. 888 Motorsport in Australia started out as the Australian subsidiary of 888 Motorsport in the UK. The team ran what effectively amounted to being the works Vauxhall team from 1996 until 2009 when General Motors was generally in trouble and scaled back all unnecessary operations. 888 were left floundering and continued to run the Vectras and then Insignias¹ before they eventually found backing from MG and ran their works team. When MG left at the end of 2017, 888 hasn't run a car in the British Touring Car Championship since and I suspect that they still have some residual debts.
What I think has happened is that 888 in the UK has avoided administration and lent on 888 in Australia for some cash to resolve their debt issues and the way that they were able to get that cash was by selling 15% of the proprietorship to Jamie Whincup. Of course this means that they're able to make an announcement about management which is absolutely true but if you pull back the curtain, you can see who is pulling the strings. Again this is pure speculation and wild mass guessing but it's the best guess that I can come up with. When given a series of data points, this is a good line of best fit.

More generally this speaks of underlying issues with the Supercars. What this demonstrates is that Holden's backing of 888 Motorsport is more flimsy than what I previously thought. Ford don't officially have a factory team, Nissan have pulled out and both Mercedes Benz and Volvo are gone. Walkinshaw Racing is currently treading a very fine line which is subject to General Motors' approval to run the Camaro and this process looks fraught. The truth is that the Supercars regulations were written while Australia had a manufacturing industry and were written with four door saloons in mind. The age of both of those things has rapidly passed and now nobody new wants to join in the category because it acts a lot like a closed shop.

The fact that this car is for sale doesn't on the face of it look suspicious. One data point isn't enough to make a conclusion but when you have sufficient data points you can begin to build a picture in the same way that Georges Seurat² did with "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" in 1884.

¹A real irony now is that the ZB Commodore is nothing more than a rebadged Vauxhall Insignia B.
²How many other motorsport writers would include a reference to French post-Impressionist painting, I ask you?