May 29, 2019

Horse 2554 - In Which I Fix The Mazda 3

The funnest car that I have ever owned was a Ford Ka Mk1. It wasn't the biggest; it wasn't the most powerful; it wasn't the most luxurious; most people would say that it wasn't good looking either (I thought it was a little cutie), however it had the wheels right in the corners, had a width to wheelbase length which was just so, was nice and light and so could be thrown into corners with gay abandon, and had a five speed manual gearbox and steering components which came out of Ford's parts bin but felt like they were personally selected by the angels.
I will wax lyrical about the Ka until someone gives me one or I find something better.
I came close.
I wanted a Fiesta but Mrs Rollo wasn't up for that and so we got the last car to come out before the Ford/Mazda divorce - the Mazda 2 DJ. It is an ace little thing and while it isn't as stellar as the Ka, it is seven kinds of joy making. I'm almost prepared to forgive the automatic gearbox because it has a SkyActiv semi-manual shifter, which almost makes up for it. 9.4/10 - would recommend.

I have been watching closely to see what Mazda is going to do post divorce with Ford. Mazda no longer have access to the intellectual property underpinning new Ford cars and so they have had to develop their own platforms if they want new ones. The new Mazda 3 is one of those new things.
After Ford, Holden, and Toyota all upped sticks after being yelled at by Joe Hockey, the three big volume sellers have been the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, and Mitsubishi Triton. Behind them there has been a peloton of makes, which include the Corolla, i30, ASX, and Mazda 3. The new Mazda 3 has a lot to live up to but from what I can gather, it has done a brilliant job at precisely that.

The BL ran from 2008 to 2013 and still shared the common platform with its cousin, the Ford Focus Mk 3. It is by all accounts an excellent car. The BM/BN ran from 2013 to 2019 and was the first '3' to be sitting atop the new SkyActiv platform. It must have been something of an incredibly well kept and difficult to keep secret because I think that when stacked against the contemporary Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, it was better than both of them.
I haven't yet driven a BP but it looks like it is a evolution of the BM rather than a revolution. The platform, and all the underpinnings between the A-pillar and C-pillar are from what I can determine, the same. The SkyActiv engine and drivetrain has carried over too. In theory, these are the ingredients for another class winner.



Except for that gumby looking C-pillar.

I can not believe that that went through the process of pencil, computer, clays, and prototype, without one person saying that it looked naff. I think that the C-pillar on the BP Mazda 3 looks naff than Naff Jack McNaff, the winner of the 2019 Naff Naffman competition.

BMW worked out in the late 1970s that the Bachmann Kurve in the rear window meant that people perceived the car to be more valuable than if it wasn't there. As we've had a series of design trends over the past 20 years, rising belt lines and a more hoopy roof line which is structurally more sound, has meant that we've seen a host of cars with C-pillars where the top has been pinched¹. This has also allowed the so-called floating roof, which looks to be a passing fad which is almost done with.
The new Mazda 3 has I think tried to step away from the trend and march to its own drum beat, which has mostly worked for the rest of the Mazda family. The 2 is a cutie. The 6 looks like it should be a far more expensive car than it actually is. The Miata was and is and still remains the gold standard of what a small convertible should be. The CX-5, CX-5, CX-3, are all SUVs that I still don't want to buy. And the BT-50 has successfully managed to look sufficiently different from all other tradie trucks that it is kind of pulling the styling trends along. I just don't know about the 3.
I had so many doubts about it that I took to it with my mad Paint skillz, yo.

The Mazda 3 is actually part of a longer line of cars than you might think. In Japan, it carries the Familia nameplate and that dates all the way back to 1963. Most of the rest of the world got a the FA4-BJ Familiar as the 323, and in Australia we also got those assembled by Ford Australia as the KA, KC and KH Laser at Homebush and the
I personally think that the KC Laser is possibly the prettiest hatchback ever built and it also answered the design question of what do with the C-pillar nicely.

The problem for the automakers is that they want to produce as few unique parts as possible. If you have a 3 and 5 door variant of the hatchback, a sedan and maybe a wagon variant as well, then if you can produce one set of doors for all of them than that is the best outcome. Quite obviously Mazda has used the same rear doors on both their sedan and hatch and because the sedan already had the Bachmann Kurve as a feature, it sort of left them with nowhere to go. Probably glass is more expensive than metal and so rather than install a window behind the rear door, they gave us this claustrophobic solution.

I know that as someone who isn't going to buy one of these, my opinion is worthless² but if you multiply me by several million people who also aren't going to buy one of these, then that creates a commercial problem. If you can not sell the thing that you are selling then you don't sell the thing and eventually you will need to stop selling the thing that you are selling³.

Mazda as an organisation is sufficiently nimble enough that if it feels that they have suffered, then they will make mid model corrections. For a completely unknown reason to me, Mazda decided to replace their rather sensible noses a while back, with their 'happy bunny' suite of noses. I thought that they looked weird but the market liked them.
This time around, I think that the Mazda 3 BP looks handsome in the front but gh weird as all get out in the back. I hope that it gets corrected but I very much doubt that it's going to be unless the sedan also gets a change too. There's very little chance of that though.

¹The most extreme version of this is that the Toyota CH-R which is vomit inducing if you have little ones in the back because even as a big person I struggle to see out of the rear windows. Wee kiddies have no hope. That's a recipe for a spew festival back there.
²And given that I've been writing blog posts for more than 20 years, you'd think that I would have worked that out by now.
³Go on. Diagram that sentence out. Muah ha ha ha!
⁴Ford's AU Falcon with the original clamshell was so much of a commercial failure that the AUii came out in very quick succession. Likewise the K12 Nissan March which had the 'Poirot' mustache did reasonably well in Japan but had a rest of world restyle mid way through the run.

May 28, 2019

Horse 2553 - ³Hamilton Is The Most Important Single Piece Of Musical Theatre In The Twenty-First Century Thus Far But Ultimately Forgettable.

This piece started out as an aside and then became a footnote before flowering into a whole blog post. 

Back in Horse 2551, I asserted that Hamilton The Musical is possibly the most important single piece of musical theatre in the twenty-first century. The reason for this is that apart from the fact that the ticket waiting list has extended into months, and that when it tours that those ticket waiting lists also extend out, this particular stage production has burned so brightly that people who don't care about musical theatre or about theatre in general, know about it.
Don't get me wrong here, I am not an authority on musical theatre at all. Actually, come to think of it, I am not really an authority on anything and my advice should not be followed¹. Nevertheless, just like Alexander Hamilton who writes day and night like he's running out of time, I will dispense my ill-conceived opinion here.

Hamilton is meh.

I know that this is very much in the land of commenting on things that I haven't seen but I have heard the soundtrack to Hamilton more times than I care about. The hairdresser's shop downstairs which has its loudspeakers affixed to their ceiling, plays music which comes up through the floor where I work and so I have heard the soundtrack to Frozen, Moana, Hamilton, Aladdin and Heathers quite a bit; in some cases in French.
I understand the significance of Hamilton and bringing lots of people to the theatre who wouldn't ordinarily be interested to it. Having said that, I just don't find the style of most of the songs to be pleasant. Lin Manuel Miranda is very obviously hideously talented and on track for completing EGOT² but there's only a few songs that really jump out at me.

King George's Three Songs
I know that he is supposed to be a kind of comic extra and that his three songs (which actually are the same song) only last for about six minutes in total but he is brilliant. The orchestration of these numbers encapsulates King George's madness in a way that no textbook could ever hope to. It is entirely fitting that King George's numbers are the most traditional musical pieces in the production. That's what he is for. You can not have America establishing its independence without an antagonistic foil, as the plot device. I generally think that it was a tax dispute which got out of hand and that had America been more like Canada, then the world would have been a better place.
I reckon that if Lin Manuel Miranda wrote a King George III musical, it would be brilliant. King George is already a character of farce; which thanks to the ravages of time means that it is literally impossible to defame him. There's also a wee little jab at whoever happens to be the president of the day, making use of deliberate abiguity through the vicissitudes of time (there is now a different president to the one who was in charge when the musical first debuted off-Broadway).
Are they going to keep on replacing whoever's in charge? If so, who's next? There's nobody else in their country who looms quite as large? Ah ha ha ha ha, President John Adams?! Good luck.

I think that Alexander Hamilton is the villain of the musical. In counterpoint, the hero of the story in my opinion is none other than Eliza Hamilton. This is probably the most poignant point of the musical and the point where if it hasn't dawned on the audience, exactly how much of a knavish knave that that knave Alexander Hamilton is.
It is worth pointing out that at the time of the Reynolds Pamphlet being published, Eliza was in fact pregnant with one of Hamilton's children; which makes this whole thing even more justified. Why Alexander wanted to do such a thing as this when he was already under suspicion of embezzlement is beyond me.
I could be wrong but I think that Eliza is the only character in the musical whose default mode is in waltz time. That's noteworthy as the impression that I get from the musical is that she is the one who is primarily responsible for resurrecting Hamilton's legacy.

The Room Where It Happens.
Aaron Burr is supposed to be the villain of the piece. He really isn't though. He has decently established motives for doing things but this is necessary for the plot of the musical, even if it actually doesn't line up with history properly.
There's also a dainty wee reference to Hamilton's demise at the end of this song as well.

Your Obedient Servant.
Hamilton's profuse letter writing is not only the instrument which brings about the collapse of his family and private life but this exchange with Burr, further cements this by using the act of letter writing as a framing device. Again, this is in waltz time which is used as a cover for polite invective.
I will confess to using the ending flourish of "Your Obedient Servant" or "I have the honour to be your obedient servant" in my own correspondence as a result of this song. It has been met with almost complete silence, which is what I would expect; however there was one email chain where a client was asking for something which I thought was borderline illegal and the reply that I got to this was "I shall try not to be intemperate in future".

Mostly the style of the musical, which borrows from rap and hip-hop, I find tedious. Evidently though, lots of people really like it; so hang my opinion. Something which is this commercially successful can quite comfortably ignore my comments from the peanut gallery.
The real test will be after we've all been and gone. 1776 The Musical has all but faded into obscurity. Other political musicals like Call Me Madam have had the odd song escape into the rest of the world long after any relevance - I Like Ike. You'll Never Walk Alone became anthemic in its own right thanks to the greatest endeavour in human history, Liverpool Football Club. The absolute peak of greatness in the realm of musicals is probably either the Pirates Of Penzance or The Mikado; both of those have outlived Gilbert and Sullivan³. I don't think that in 2119 there will be ongoing productions of Hamilton.

Having said all of this, when placed against the light of modern popular music, Hamilton is a very sparkly diamond. There is a general criticism that modern music apart from being far less adventurous in both terms of chord selection and progression, is also less adventurous in terms of the number of instruments used. Hamilton thinks that it is a rap musical but yet it incorporates elements from both rock as well as the orchestra.
This musical employs different instrumentation, time signatures, chord progressions, and I think that it might even switch between different modes on occasion; and that's really getting deep into the weeds of music theory. Its success is well deserved.

- Be nice to people; including when they don't deserve it.
- Pay your flippin' taxes. Put your guns down on my command.
²Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony
³And that infernal nonsense 'Pinafore'.

May 27, 2019

Horse 2552 - Operation Cyan Line - The North West Metro

52 posts ago I proclaimed that I have visited every train station in the Sydney Suburban Rail Network. As someone who rode the North West Metro line from Tallawong to Chatswood on opening day yesterday, that claim remains intact. However, just like the Carlingford Line, I found that getting to the North West Metro line at Tallawong was overly complicated and then compounded with opening day malfunctions.

I live in Marayong, which is on the Richmond Line. In theory, the sensible thing to do would have been to connect the North West Metro line to the rest of the network to allow easy connection at both ends. NOPE. Instead Transport for New South Wales under the direction of the then Minister for Transport and current Premier of NSW, decided to cut the project 2275m short; with all of the land between Tallawong and Schofields stations being Crown Land.
As there has been a road widening project going on at the same time as the North West Metro line was being built, the excuse that this was somehow expedient to the project being built faster just doesn't it with me. Especially when the other end, terminates in the then Minister for Transport and current Premier of NSW's own electorate. This looks and smells like whiskey aged in pork barrels for 8 years.

Marayong Station on a Sunday is dead. Marayong itself on a Sunday is dead. I suspect that the mortuary at Blacktown Hospital is louder than this.

The trip planner at suggested that I take a train from Marayong to Quakers Hill and then get the T72 from Quakers Hill to Tallawong. I really like Quakers Hill station because at night, with its hard steel lined panels, it reminds me of the old style pedestrian border crossings from East to West Berlin.

This is what I find really annoying. I live less than 5km away from the Metro and the public transport connections to it are awful. There are no Sunday bus connections from Schofields to Tallawong. There are some connections from Quakers Hill to Tallawong but they are terrible. There are buses from Blacktown to Rouse Hill via Marayong and Quakers Hill but they are equally terrible.
I found that my bus connection Quakers Hill to Tallawong had left 3 minutes before my train arrived. The next bus was an hour away and seeing as this was an hourly service, my best option would have been to go home and drive to one of the Metro Stations. This is idiotic. If I drive from my house to Rouse Hill Town Centre, or Castle Towers, It sort of makes the whole point of public transport redundant.
The whole point of my journey on opening day was an exploratory run; to see if I could go from my house to Chatswood in 90 minutes. If I could do that, then I have a bunch of options to go from Chatswood to where I work in Mosman. If that first connection is useless, then I gain nothing.
I have gained nothing.

The whole North West Metro line is built in a kind of neofuturist architectural style. I like it very much. We are moving away from the neobrutalist concrete forms, like the sort that you find in Olympic Park and have gone even futher down the road of the sort of architecture which you find on the line to Leppington.

However, a pretty wrapping can not overcome the problems that the system has faced. It was estimated that more than 80,000 people rode on the North West Metro line on the opening day; which is the equivalent of only 40 trains in the old system. That normally shouldn't faze the line but when you have problems with the platform doors either not opening, or trains overshooting the platforms, this results in backing up of passengers which happneed at either end of the line.

Inside, Tallawong station reminds me of a pallet swap of the Leppington line. It looks very smart.

For four kilometres between Kellyville and Rouse Hill, the North West Metro line runs along an elevated viaduct which has the overly fancy name of "skytrain". Really, it's just a viaduct.

To prove the point that "skytrain" is just an an elevated viaduct, Rouse Hill station gave me the impression of being very much like Circular Quay; if the latter had been built in 2019.

Underground though and while the stations are clean and sensible, they are soulless. They all pretty well much share this kind of box in the ground styling; which is reminisicnet of Blacktown Bus Station. I can imagine that this whole place because it would be impossible to wash due to the electric doors, will smell like wee wee in 2039.

Cherrybrook station is an oddity. It looks like one of the box in the ground stations but without the overhead box. You get a chance to appreciate the swoopiness of the thing.

The run from Epping to Chatswood used to be part of the Northern Line and have double deck suburban cars on it and now it does not. I think that that means that they've had to retrofit the existing tunnels with liners for ventilation purposes. At any rate, Epping station looks like an unfinished London Underground station to me.

The trains themselves are Alstom Metropolis six car Electric Multiple Units, running on 4 feet 8½ inch standard gauge (1435mm), fed with 1500 volt DC electricity. If it was in the middle of the day then you could run from one end of the train to the other and because there are no drivers, you could look out of the front or back of the train.

I have no problem in principle with the North West Metro line. It's just that it falls short of being connectable at its western side; which is just where I happen to live. At this end it is like the Carlingford Line; which mysteriously terminates in a nondescript hill in the middle of nowhere; when it should connect to Beecroft.
It should not take from 12:30pm to 16:07pm to get to Chatswood. That's insane.

Also, why did we specifcally have to buy trains from India? What was wrong with Comeng built trains which came from Australia? I also don't understand why it couldn't have been heavy rail all the way. The Chatswood to Epping part of the line used to run regular double deck stock and it was fine.

I am glad that they have built this but I am almost certain, given the glacial rates at which both side of NSW politics moves, that the train from Tallawong to Schofields; which make this connection useful, won't happen until 2049.

May 24, 2019

Horse 2551 - Who Is The Real Villain Of Hamilton?
Sydney has secured the rights to the hit blockbuster musical Hamilton after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian intervened to lure the producers to the Harbour City.
There was an intense battle between Sydney and Melbourne to stage the wildly successful hip-hop musical, which follows the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States.
- ABC News, 22nd May 2019

“Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came, and
The world's gonna know your name. What’s your name, man?”

The announcement was made on Twitter this week by none other than Lin Manuel Miranda himself, that Hamilton the musical would be touring in Sydney in 2021. This is one of those rare occasions when I would actually like to go to the theatre but unless I am able to get an injection of cash, them the only way that I'm ever going to see this thing is to wait for it to be turned into a movie.
In the meantime, I estimate that I have heard the soundtrack at least half as many times as I have heard the soundtrack of Disney's Frozen; which is an awfully large number of times. In both instances, I have heard them coming up through the floor from the hairdresser's shop below where I work; and also in both instances, involuntarily.

I have read a pretty good biography of Alexander Hamilton and have encountered him throughout many tomes on the subject of American history but the place where I have read his own voice the most, is through the Federalist Papers, of which he wrote 51 of 85. I have also incidentally read through that infamous packet of papers called the Reynolds Pamphlet, in which he is both being blackmailed and responding to that blackmail over an affair that he was carrying on.
Armed with both the musical and the words which flowed from the end of his own pen, I have come to the conclusion that the villain of Hamilton, both the musical and the life upon which it is based, is Alexander Hamilton himself. He was his own worst enemy and he actively sabotages himself. Thus, Hamilton the musical should be properly viewed as a classical tradgedy, in that although Hamilton was indeed shot by Aaron Burr, it was Hamilton who not only did not take the necessary steps to prevent his own downfall but actually provoked Burr into doing it.

For all the talk about the intent of the founding fathers in the writing of the US Constitution, if you bother to map out the Federalist Papers to the final document, you find that the prime author was probably Alexander Hamilton himself. I have to say though, that I think that the US Constitution is a rubbish bit of legislation and that Hamilton probably wasn't thinking much beyond getting his mate Washington into power. I reckon that as the Junior Delegate for New York to the Constitutional Convention, he probably ranted like a moron, grandstanded like a charlatan, and was given the job of writing the majority of the document because everyone else grew listless of him and tired of his hectoring.

We know a great deal about what the man thought because of his prolific letter writing. We know that he was hideously hawkish and wanted to use military power to settle disputes. I suspect that just as he'd hectored the Constitutional Convention to give him his preferred mode of government, that he'd probably also hectored Washington into giving him a military command 15 years earlier.
Hamilton rises from sprog on an outpost, to working as a clerk, then being in the military and then being a lawyer.
I bet that if they'd let him, Hamilton would have also liked the idea of making George Washington the King of the United States, since that was the expected model of government. I guess that he was also probably stumping for the equivalent of patronage, if indeed that's possible in a republic¹.

The big problem that Hamilton had politically was that he was a total knave and that everyone knew it. John Adams succeeded Washington, mostly because he was quite a peaceable fellow, who was still passionate about the unfolding project of the experiment in democracy. Hamilton on the other hand is openly saddened by Washington's stepping out of the office and I suspect that had he had a tilt at the White House himself, he probably would have wanted to be dictator/president/king for life.

Then there's Hamilton's use of people for his immediate purposes and nothing more. The musical doesn't delve much into it but while in the musical Hamilton respects Lafayette, history reports that when France approached the fledgling America for help in its own military engagement, Hamilton was as much for not going to war alongside France as he was for France going to war alongside America.

If as Sir Humphrey in Yes, Minster suggested, that governmental departments' power is measured by the budget and staff that it controls, then Hamilton was a borderline power crazed maniac. His staff at the Department of Treasury spilled into the hundreds; while Jefferson had 12 members of staff at Justice; while the rest of the US Government at the time was administered by departments of single and barely double digits of staff.
He was an uncontrollable power maniac. His department was twice as large (staff wise) as the rest of the government. With Hundreds of members on his staff (while Jefferson had 10 and Knox had 6) he gave the impression that he was attempting to make his authority as large as possible and ultimately control the Government.

The whole second act kind of tells of how Hamilton's use of people for his own purposes where expedient, spills into his personal life. I don't know to what degree he had a thing for Angelica Schuyler but it makes for an interesting plot device. We absolutely know of his affair with Maria Reynolds because he published the letters in various New York Newspapers; though truth in point, the vast majority of the letters are in fact his to the editors of newspapers in which he is trying to defend his fiscal fidelity rather than his actual marital fidelity, which has already failed. Suffice to say that he was found guilty in the court of public opinion and was forced to resign his position at the US Department of Treasury.
If anyone is the hero of Hamilton The Musical then in my not very well paid opinion, it is Eliza Hamilton. Apart from forgiving him and accepting him back, she spent the rest of her life in more acute public service; and was instrumental in establishing the first proper orphanage in America, as well as joining the abolitionist movement. Eliza Hamilton spent more of her time after Alexander's death, trying to clean up the consequences of his failure to address critical things while he was alive.

The set of circumstances that drove Aaron Burr to fight him in a duel with pistols, is completely glossed over. The truth was that Hamilton had insulted Burr in front of prominent businessmen who might have funded Burr's 1804 run for the Governorship of the State of New York. Duelling is an idiotic pass time to begin with² but it was made all the more possible by the US Constitution which Hamilton was largely influential in writing. If the Second Amendment hadn't been included, then all sort of evils would have never have happened at all.

Granted that Hamilton was pretty important in the beginning of the nation of the United States but had he not had a musical, he would have probably faded into as much apathetic obscurity as John Adams.
I think that Hamilton The Musical is possibly the most important single piece of musical theatre in the twenty-first century³ but even so, it still carries that strange tension that its eponymous character is probably the villain of the piece; hidden in plain sight.

¹This is subtly different from pork barrelling.
²If there had been a Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue in the 1800s, it might have advised kids not to go Duelling.
³Aside: Horse 2552

May 23, 2019

Horse 2550 - How Can I Tell If The Bus Exists, When I Can't Get On It?

From what I am led to believe through looking at the signs, reading the indicator board, reading the timetable, and even the physical manifestation of something absurdly like it, there is supposed to be a thing called the B1 bus to Wynyard of an evening, from Spit Junction.

You can see it, touch it, and perhaps even be run over by it but if you try to get on it, then you will be consistently told that it is full and you will not be allowed on. Owing to the fact that I am a snark filled eejit who writes for comedic effect, I have been tallying all of the B1 buses which have deceived me and have turned out not to have existed. In the past fortnight, I have not successfully managed to get on a B1 bus and have been left behind by 13 of them in the past fortnight. This is curious as I have successfully managed to get on exactly 10 in the past fortnight of the B1 bus' cousin which goes the other way to Mona Vale, in the morning.
Instead, I have caught the 168, 174 and 180 all going to the City in place of the B1 bus; which I estimate thus far, not to exist.

Back in Year 11 and 12 Physics class, a friend of mine called David, came up with the theory of Davidtron. The theory is that that if you aren't able to observe an object, then it is made of small Chihuahua shaped particles called Davidtron. I love this theory because it is impossible to disprove. The instant that you observe the thing, then it immediately stops being made of Davidtron and is made of whatever it is normally observed to be made of.
I love this theory because it is like the rather famous piece of philosophical paraphernalia of Bertrand Russell's Teapot², which totally exists somewhere between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter and is also impossible to disprove the non-existence of therein.
I suspect that the B1 bus is perhaps made out of some eerily similar philosophical substance to Davidtron because although I think that I observe the B1 bus to the City, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't exist because if it did, I would be able to get on it. The fact that I can not get on the B1 bus to the City leads me to believe that my observations, such as looking at it or touching it, must be faulty. If I am being diesel-lighted¹ by a bus, then I will be pretty mad about it because making me question the nature of my own reality is pretty serious stuff.

If the nature of reality is pure subjective fantasy and space and time and here and now are only in my mind, then I am in the land of the Society Of The Perpetually Bewildered again. Moreover I have started dancing into the land of solipsism and am starting to question whether or not I exist. I have to bring into question whether or not my own thoughts are even real since not only can the outside world not be verified without some observance but the things which are doing the observance are probably part of the outside world.

Forget René Descartes' philosophical proposition of "Cogito, ergo sum" when translated into English is usually rendered as "I think, therefore I am"; the 'therefore' can't logically be made to follow if 'I think' can not be verified. To actually verify whether or not 'I think' is valid, must invariably require some outside entity, and I suspect that the category of outside also happens to include my own brain, since I think that my mind and brain are two separate things.
What must follow is that any and all observations that I make, must at some point be unreliable. I think that it is easier to make the leap from an unreliable set of observations to the point where you doubt the existence of a thing, than it is to say that a thing exists which is impossible to verify.

All of my existential knavery will of course be proven to be a complete load of bunk if I somehow manage to actually get on the B1 Bus to the City. We famously had one of those moments in science when science first denied the existence of the black swan and then when white people showed up in Western Australia, they found loads of the little black squawking eejits. Naturally, owing to some obscure swan law which meant that all swans were owned by the monarch, the discovery of the black swan was then helpfully able to be proved to exist by the Royal Society; I bet they were delicious.
The invention of the black swan, was presumably in the late 1700s, thought to nothing more than the dreaming of someone's mind; I'm not sure if anyone actually thought that they genuinely existed. I suspect that the B1 Bus to the City is the mass delusional dreaming of lots of people who have collectively been convinced of its existence. We can all describe it because we have seen other double decker buses like the 607X to Castle Hill; so we have a pretty good idea of what the B1 Bus to the City is like but it can only be at best, speculation. Should I actually be allowed to get on the B1 Bus to the City, then my dreaming will have been been made as redundant as a 1700s imaginary black swan. So far, that hasn't happened yet.

¹kind of like being gaslighted but with diesel power³.
²you can buy Russell's Teapot from philosophical hardware store. Price £17.29
³blows your mind drastically, fantastically.

May 22, 2019

Horse 2549 - What Went Wrong For The Labor Party?

Actually nothing. It's just that nothing actually happened.

The 2019 Federal Election has been a veritable boon for the owners of the Liberal Party, News Corporation. I think that we have seen a brilliantly stage managed sense of panic, which has been translated into a dramatic win; so that they can then paint their political wing as underdogs and heroes. Scott Morrison has more than likely been returned as Prime Minister because unless there is an all out coalition of chaos which by their powers combined, pull together to support the Labor Party which is currently leaderless, the chances of a not Morrison Government now are in the hundredths of a percent.
I kind of feel that the public have been played for fools. I'm openly wondering if News Corporation was playing a long game all along.

The 2019 Federal Election looks for the most part, largely the same as the 2019 NSW State Election; which was painted as a possible Labor victory in the last few weeks of that campaign too. Instead, the NSW Election turned out to be one of the most boring election nights in living memory.
What we saw in New South Wales was almost nothing, happening slowly. Apart from a few rural constituencies which moved from the Liberal Party to the Shooters and Fishers, the NSW result everywhere else was practically identical to the previous election.
What we've just witnessed federally is a similar story. The difference at the national level though is that the minor parties votes didn't equate to seats.

After the redistricting of seats, South Australia lost one, and the ACT and Queensland both got an extra. The nationwide result looks like it will be a mutual swap of seats between Labor and the Liberals in Victoria, the net geographic transfer of seats from South Australia to the ACT, a mutual swap of seats between Independents and the Liberals in New South Wales, and the net winning of rural seats in Queensland, for the LNP from Labor.
The story of this election really does come down to nothing happening anywhere except for rural Queensland.

Queensland has quietly been drifting to the right for about 20 years and nobody has seemed to care much. The Sydney-centric and Mel-centric media, which which mostly doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of anything outside of the inner suburbs of their two cities, has no idea that Brisbane is a one newspaper town, that the Courier-Mail is the biggest and only major newspaper for millions of square kilometres, and that 4BC and it's affiliates is the biggest driver of political opinion in Queensland. The ABC whilst it is everywhere is insanely political neutral, and the online presence of The Guardian may as well not exist. The three free to air television networks have for the most part abandoned serious journalism and their news collection seems to be restricted to ambulance chasing. Nevertheless, their contribution to the election campaign was to provide a platform for a former marketing manager to do some marketing, and for a union rep to look all serious. It turns out that even in a democracy, the people will still willingly choose a salesman over an engineer.

As Queensland drifted off to the right, the wedge parties in Queensland became One Nation and the United Australia Party. That is literally inconceivable to people of the inner suburbs of the big cities and especially Sydney and Melbourne. Not only is the thought that Queensland more nativist than the rest of the country repulsive to the progressive voters in the cities, but the thought that people might vote for the hope of a job in the short term over the long term cost of the environment is also repulsive. There is a kind of othering going on here, which has been exploited beautifully at the ballot box.
The other thing to remember about Queensland is that the LNP isn't really a Liberal/National coalition but rather the National Party with fancy funding from Sydney and Melbourne (and loads of help in kind from News Corporation and Macquarie Radio). People tend to have short memories but it was the National Party who ruled in Queensland without being in coalition with the Liberal Party for many years. The Liberal Party in Queensland had to come crawling on its hands and knees for formal absorption after the 1998 Queensland State Election when it suffered political extinction. The LNP in Queensland is almost exclusively the old National Party but with the Liberal's cash. This is quite effective.
What we've seen in Queensland is the LNP tracking in the low 40s, with Labor on about 30 and One Nation and the UAP both making up a shade over 20% combined. The preferences of those two sets of voters are tending to the LNP and time and time again, Queensland rural seats are being won on second preferences. People vote for their respective angry loud party as a protest and then put the LNP in as Number 2. Preferential voting is working exactly as intended because with one person one vote, even on second preferences the winning candidate still has won the approval of the electorate.

What went wrong for the Labor Party? The answer is ludicrously simple. They forgot that they are the Labor Party. Remember, the Labor Party was founded in rural Queensland and first started to win elections because it campaigned on the fundamental issue that people need to be paid a decent wage for doing a decent job. It gained support during the twentieth century by also arguing that it decent for decent people to have decent stuff like electricity, water, education and health care.
The 2019 campaign and the 2016 campaign before it, have been kind of a devil's dilemma for the Labor Party. They can't argue about issues like the environment if at the same time this runs counter to people being employed. Any campaign to raise taxation from any source will be met with hellfire from News Corporation and Macquarie Radio who actually are the biggest influencers of older people. As much as this is going to annoy people, identity politics is actually only worth about 0.5% of the vote. The same-sex marriage debate, evolved into precisely one seat changing hands ever and even then it was because the local member had been there for 25 years.
At the same time, the Liberal Party has benefited from the nativism and lunacy of the hard right. The hard right will naturally vote for someone promising to act tough towards foreigners even if that means voting against their own financial advantages and interests.

Now that we're a couple of days out from the election, we actually have the honest, dinky-di, bonzer real life for reals statistics, rather than trying to look into the future and read tea leaves. What do we actually find? Very little.
After all of the hoo-ha, it has come to pass that roughly eleven million Australians voted exactly the same way that they did in 2016.
Apart from Warringah and Wentworth which are anomalies, in Western Sydney there were two seats which flipped and cancelled each other out; which means that there were only three meaningfully different results in the country. There was one seat in Tasmania, one in Queensland and one in New South Wales.
Nothing in Victoria happened. Nothing in the ACT happened. Nothing in South Australia happened. Nothing in the Northern Territory happened. Nothing in Western Australia happened.

Throughout the campaign, the three big polls of Newspoll, Ipsos, and Galaxy, all had the Labor Party tracking at about 52% of the primary vote for about 18 months. Had that translated into a nationwide result, then the Labor Party would be looking at about 80 seats. Instead they polled at figures which were mostly identical to the Liberal Party, except in Queensland where they ran at a primary vote of about 36%.
Therein lies the story of the election and why the three polling companies can  basically be considered as unreliable from now on. If the polling companies spend money but still can not produce accurate data, then what they have made is nothing more than beautiful garbage.
I find it incredible that the big polling companies predicted that something would happen when the final result was that almost nothing did at all. For all three big polling companies to get the prediction so hideously wrong either suggests that there is something wrong with their data collection methods or that they have misunderstood how the mechanics of the House of Representatives works. National polls simply do not drill down into uniform swings nicely. Did any of the polling companies actually send out boots on the ground to rural Queensland? I doubt it.

There is one measure which has predicted the result of every election going back to 1996; that is the endorsements of the daily newspapers. While newspapers don't have the same hold on the news cycle that they used to, News Corp, Nine Entertainment which now owns what is left of Fairfax, and Seven West Media are all integrated with a television network to some degree.
If you assign a simple +1:-1 to the ten biggest newspapers in the country, then you get:

With the exception of 2010, this blunt instrument has predicted the result every time. In 2010, it still predicted the popular vote but with an exactly split hung parliament, couldn't predict what would happen inside the corridors inside the house in the hill.
That's why I'm openly wondering if we've been had. Newspoll in particular is probably a good measure when there are literally zero stakes and nothing to be won. I bet that the next Newspoll will still show that the Morrison Government is unpopular. What the polls don't tell you is that the voters were voting in the way that they were told to by the media; and for the ninth time in a row.

Labor wasn't punished for running a bad campaign and the Liberal/National Coalition weren't exactly rewarded either.
As bizarre as this sounds, on first preferences, the Labor Party has gone from 4,702,296 to 5,170,950; which is an increase of more that 460,000 votes since 2016. The Liberal/National Coalition has gone from 5,693,605 down to 5,396,030; which is a loss of 297,000 votes since 2016.
Nothing has necessarily gone wrong here, expect perhaps for the polling data; which appears to be completely unreliable now.

May 21, 2019

Horse 2548 - To Defeat Noah Webster, I Must Become Noah Webster - Silence The Silent E

One of my enemies in history for the most pettiest of reasons is Noah Webster. The reason why this rogue has gained my ire is that this prize knave decided to deliberately muck with the English Language by first publishing his 'Blue Backed Speller" and then his dictionary; which is the primary root cause of why American English is spelled differently to proper English English as determined by the clever dicks at Oxford who know all that's to be known.
Webster's dictionary was openly designed as 'a new language for a new people' which explains why he was openly prescriptive about how words should be spelled, as opposed to the Oxford English Dictionary when it finally came along which was supposed to be a description of 'English how she is spoken'. I think that if you are going to invent a dictionary then defining words how they are actually used is more useful to the reader than trying to impose a set of rules upon them, as English is already a vulture of a language which steals from everywhere and is constantly vomiting up new usages and abusages¹.

One of Webster's crimes (or triumphs depending on your point of view) was that he changed a lot of the spelling of words because he wanted more uniform rules. He saw the sometimes labyrinthine avenues of the English language and quite rightly judged that it was often stupid and confusing. The reason why he is my very petty enemy is because his shadow still casts long over things like word processors and autocorrect today and as a speaker of that unruly child, Australian English, my text is often either shown up with red wiggly lines or worse, autocorrected.
Moreover, he is my petty enemy of history because I am like him.

Today's annoyance comes from having just watched a television series from Germany. If there's one thing that you can say about the German people, it is that they confirm our stereotypes about them with ruthless efficiency. If you want a system designed or a thing to be built, which works properly and efficiently, get the Germans to build it. Including when the Germans are cheating, such as in Volkswagen's emissions scandal, they do so having meticulously thought about the problem and designed a very fine system.
The same is also true of the German Language. They may retain the idiocy of assigning gender to things but when it comes to grammar and spelling, they are the über example.

English has this almost unnecessary quirk of the silent e. We have accepted this in English because we are resigned to living with this unruly child and we know that it takes colossal shifts to change it. I would like to have English steal the umlaut from German because it neatly solves one of my annoyances with English.
Words that would be improved include, läk, bïk, vacüm, lëk, fäc, döm, höm, and myriad more. Yes, I will readily admit that they all look scary and strange but as spelling reform has worked in other countries (I am also thinking of Germany here) then we already have proof that this uneasiness dissipates. Actually, we already have proof of this in the English language because that's exactly what Noah Webster decided to do.

I had to write an email last week to someone who told me that their name was spelled like I thought it was. The problem was that I had no idea how to spell their name. I tried 'Leak' but that failed. I tried 'Leek' and that also failed. I tried 'Leke' and 'Leake' and both of them also failed. Eventually I had to phone them because their correspondence to us only contained their first name. Their surname and hence how their email address was derived was 'Leike'.
All of this could have been solved if their name was Lëk because there wouldn't have been any confusion on my part. What made this even more annoying was that they said that it was their little joke. I can only assume that little referred to how unfunny it was².

The Germans' use of the umlaut is a brilliant example of how to solve a problem elegantly. English clumsily assigns a bunch of vowel sounds to only five glyphs, which is not only unfair on the poor wee ickle things but is very confusing for the users of the language. I might lament the stream of hideously poor spelling in emails (especially from law firms who I would expect to have a better standard of English than the great uncountable masses) but this is tempered by the fact that I feel some sympathy for people who are bad at spelling because English is often without good reason for spelling things in the way that it does.
There's no good reason why 'mat' and 'mar' have different a-sounds and yet we're making the a work very hard.
I find it as likely as holding an ice hockey match upon the surface of the sun that we're ever going to do anything about the problem and so my expectations are exactly nil but even so, I can hope can't I? While I'm at it, can I put in an order for the letters thorn, eth, yvern, aesh and check to be put back in the English Language? If that's not possible, can we have umlauts instead of this strange relic of silent e?

¹Such as right there. One of the delights of the English language is that you can invent new words very easily and have them instantly accepted. I have never seen the word "abusages' before but you and I and everyone can instantly know what it means.
²I am not just Mayor of Unfunny Town, I have created an entire city-state of unfunniness. I am King Unfunny.

May 20, 2019

Horse 2547 - Please Don't Hamstring The Mustang

We've witnessed something of a demolition in this years' Supercars championship.  So far the brand new Mustang has won 11 of 12 races, with  DJR Team Penske's Scott McLaughlin winning 8. Naturally this has caused outrage, particularly by rivals at Triple Eight Race Engineering but Scott McLaughlin did win the championship last year, was 2nd the year before that and 3rd the year before that; so it could all just be that it is him who has peaked.
It could also be that the Mustang is just miles ahead; and that could be a problem which is all just a little bit of history repeating.

The 1993 Australian Touring Car Championship was the first year of the Australian Group 3A Touring Car category which replaced the FIA Group A touring car category. The reason why Group 3A rules replaced the FIA's Group A rules, was that the local manufacturers of Ford and Holden, had their butts firmly kicked by the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth and the Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32); the latter being designed from scratch with the express purpose of winning Group A racing; which it comprehensively did.
However, in 1992 the dominance of the Nissan GT-R wasn't exact; throughout the season wins were chalked up by the Ford Sierra, BMW M3, and Holden Commodore VL Group A. If you want to demolition of a season by a marque, you need to look at 1988 where with the exception of the Oran Park 250 and the F1 Australian Grand Prix support race where the big teams couldn't be bothered to show up, the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth ruled the roost; winning every round of the Australian Touring Car Championship as well as the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000.
In the 2019 Supercars Championship which is the current iteration of the Australian Touring Car Championship, we are witnessing a demolition not seen since 1988.

In fact we are seeing so much of a demolition that the Supercars organisation has had to claw back the advantage of the brand new Mustang and the people at DJR Team Penske and Ford Performance are spitting chips.
"The Mustang is an advanced, state-of-the-art Supercar, designed and built within the rules of the series," said Mark Rushbrook, Global Director of Motorsport, Ford Performance.
"We are disappointed that we have had to make changes to the cars, however we respect the Supercars technical department and will comply."

Those changes have to do with the aero package at the rear of the cars, including making the rear wing end plates smaller, running a smaller and lower Gurney flap, and rejigging the
 front undertray extension.
This is after another change which adjusted the centre of gravity after tests showed further disparities between the Mustang, Commodore and Altima.

What Mark Rushbrook from Ford Performance said was 100% true and accurate. The
Mustang IS an advanced, state-of-the-art Supercar, designed and built within the rules of the series. What the Mustang is not, is a touring car but a bespoke bit of kit.
Part of the problem is that the root IP for the Mustang Supercar is owned by DJR Team Penske, as the Ford homologation team. This is just one step down the road from Triple Eight Race Engineering who own the IP for the ZB Commodore, and two steps down the road from Kelly Racing who don't own the IP for the Altima but who had to modify an existing bodyshell which came off the production line. The Triple Eight built chassis were almost bespoke bits of kit but the sides of the cars at least started out as production line pieces. There is nothing whatsoever from the Mustang roadcar which goes into the production of the Mustang Supercar.
Irrespective of whether or not representative's from three competing manufacturers of vehicle, signed off on the Mustang for the 2019 competition, it still doesn't change the basic underlying fact that the Mustang is a purpose built bespoke race car which is near enough to be a prototype as makes no difference.
We are back at 1992 all over again.

The Supercars Championship is currently suffering from a crisis of its own manufacturing. After it knew that the death of the Australian motor industry was confirmed on 13th Dec 2013, it has deliberately made a series of decisions which might have made short term profits at the expense of the long term viability of the category.
Volvo and Mercedes-Benz both came and went after building a competitive vehicle in a category designed for dinosaurs proved too hard. Nissan have found limited success and thought quite rightly that their development money is better put towards the Class One merge of the DTM and Super GT. Holden practically held the category to ransom to get its ZB Commodore homologated. Now Ford have looked at the rules carefully and have built the best expression of those rules and smacked all and sundry to the weeds.
On top of that, the category chose to put itself behind a paywall at Fox Sports, runs a closed shop; to the point where we've now got only 24 entrants, has made a control chassis which is so cumbersome that no car in the world can fit with it, and it doesn't seem to offer the ability to run unbranded customer engines.

The Japan Auto Federation which runs Super GT, allows new teams to build a car as though it were a GT3 car but waves the FIA certification. It also provides new teams with both a 'mother chassis' and/or a debranded V8 engine that looks suspiciously like Nissan's VK45 but totally isn't (hint hint). This is in addition to running GT3 cars. Consequently, Super GT has all kinds of cars, including crazy bonkers things.
The Supercars could be like that if they wanted to be that way. It could be possible to allow someone to run Chevrolet V8 powered Kia Stingers if the category allowed it but somehow I don't think that they are willing to. They could open up the big races like Sandown and Bathurst to Super 2 and Super 3 cars provided they qualified within 107% but I don't think that they are willing to.
Instead we've got an argument over a new car which is very obviously better than enough everything else because the rulemakers allowed it to be and now they need to backpedal.
In addition to this, we have teams like DJR Penske and Walkinshaw Andretti eyeing off what kind of data that they can get in preparation for the Generation 7 set of rules in NASCAR where the Cup cars are possibly being downsized from 358cid to 306cid.

The really big dilemma facing Supercars is what they want to do with themselves. The question is who they want to be. This question has been answered by other motor racing series quite adequately.
NASCAR faced this in the 1980s and decided that it is a very tightly regulated spec formula. The DTM abandoned its touring car roots and became a prototype series in the 1990s. The JGTC evolved into Super GT and embraced diversity and crazy-go-nuts as a principle. The BTCC downsized all their cars in the early 1990s and did what Super did.
The way I see it, Supercars can either go down the route of being a prototype series like the DTM or the GT500 category of Super GT, or it can become a highly regulated spec series like NASCAR. My personal suggestion would be for the Supercars and NASCAR rules to converge into a Gen7/CoTF hybrid thing:

I honestly think that the solution should be to become a highly regulated spec series like NASCAR and adopt a standard set of templates, where only the front and back facias are cosmetically altered. If I was Grand Poohbah and Lord High Everything Else then I would allow the Mustang to stand as is and give concessions to the other marques. Mark Rushbrook's statement about the Mustang being a
state-of-the-art Supercar, designed and built within the rules of the series, is essentially correct. They looked at the rules and came up with the best solution and expression of them. If the people at Holden and Nissan or anyone else want to beat them, then they should build a better car.
... which is what Nissan did with their GT-R in 1989.
... which is what Ford did with their Sierra Cosworth in 1983.

May 17, 2019

Horse 2546 - Hey Christians, Run Your Vote Through The Filter Of James' Letter.

Dear Christians,
I know that when you get to the ballot box tommorrow, you want to make a difference and vote in godly people to parliament. I know that there are political parties who purport to be Christian but if you scratch the surface, even just a little bit, you find that just by reciting the magic words of "abortion", "euthanasia", "sharia" and "freedom of religion", those same political parties begin to look like front companies for really abhorrent positions. I don't know why "freedom of religion" necessarily has to be weaponised in the fight for nativism and its close cousin, racism.

After having been a spectator of American politics for a long time, after having been a spectator of British politics for a long time, and having been a spectator of Australian politics for a long time, I can tell you that although they have different theatrics, the substance which is being broadcasted is remarkably similar.
All three nations have an almost psychotic and deeply narcissistic view of the rich and an open disdain of the elderly, the poor, the disabled and the refugee. We all like to reframe the argument so these people are bludgers, or violent (even if the evidence doesn't really support it), and all three nations would prefer it if the problem just went away, so that we can lie prostrate and grovel before the feet of the rich and powerful in an effort to get them to notice us (which by the way, they won't).

The media likes to find examples of the odd person who has misbehaved and thanks to the telescoping of vision and the amplification of tiny noises, we can turn the vulnerable and different into idols of hell incarnate.
I want you to stop and properly consider the lists of political policies before you and run them through the filter of common sense and common decency. Are the people who are being made out to be demons, really that way? Are they perhaps people who are deserving of dignity and who need help?

There was this itinerant rabbi called Jesus (you may have heard of him), who was the son of a tradie and who decided to walk around the place with 12 of him mates, and tell people of a new way of looking at the world. He wasn't concerned with ethnicity or race and he hung around with such people as prostitutes, and soldiers of an occupying army.
He told a bunch of stories which we might do well to reimagine as the story of the good ISIS fighter, he gave praise to the good Iranian guard, and told off the politicians who said all the right words. This Jesus bloke who came from the podunk, really got up the nose of the establishment.
He laid out his manifesto, which you'll find in Matthew 5-7, and has gone away for a bit. His brother James upon rereading the manifesto, wondered how you actually go about doing it all and he wrote out a treatise, which we've labelled as a letter.
I suggest that you read Jimmy's letter first; then come back to this.

Jimmy's letter, or rather his treatise on actually carrying out policy, is a very good yardstick to measure political policy against. If you think that the government shouldn't be doing the job of charity, then you need to have a good hard look at the world because voluntary charity is rubbish at actually doing the job of caring for people. Here in the merry old land of Oz, charitable giving accounts for just 1.1% of GDP or 1.8% of GDP if you include the combined revenue of all churches in the country. The Old Age pension costs 7% of GDP. If you can square those two things, then tell me about it. If not, your argument is invalid three and a half times over.
Since we are talking about what we expect government to do, through the lens of what Jimmy wrote, it might be a good idea to run through his basic position statements.

Jimmy's words can be applied to a number of policy areas and one of them is the practical care of people. Since we're one day out from an election, then it's worth thinking about how we expect government to do that practically. It stands to reason that the people who most need help, are those people of limited means.

According to the book of James the poor (yes, I've just used that ugly word) are:
-those in humble circumstances (1:9)
-those without a welfare safety net (1:27)
-the destitute (2:2,15)
-those who are discriminated against (2:3-4,6,9)
-workers defrauded of wages (5:4)
-the suffering who cry out (5:4)

I ask you, in not quite two millennia have really changed? Our country is still arguing about the edges of the rates of Newstart, the Old Age Pension, Disability Support Pensions, and whether or not we properly fund the NDIS. Are you going to call these people bludgers?
We actively lock up people who are refugees in tropical prisons like Nauru and Manus Island and have thought about reopening Christmas Island Detention Centre. Those policies are dovetailed nicely with media reports that they might all have terrorist connections and are dangerous.
We've found neat ways to paint migrants from African countries who have fled their country because of civil war as lawless. Again, is this genuinely true? Why is it that I can walk through Blacktown of a night time and nothing will happen to me?
Why have we found ways of short changing people out of penalty rates on Sunday? When we have people who have actually had their wages stolen off them by unscrupulous employers, why do we then blame the ones who were defrauded? Is it really people who have recently come to this country who have undercut wages, or could it be the fault of employers who are just as prepared to send jobs overseas or put automated machines in businesses, or simply just withheld wages?

If you run the policies of your chosen political party through those kinds questions, do they really reflect the grand manifesto of that tradie from the podunk town?

It also stands to reason that the people who least need our help are those people who are doing quite well. Let's not kid ourselves, Australia is fantastically wealthy and most of us, even in relatively humble circumstances, live better than kings and queens from most of history. Even so, there are people who own ten, a hundred, and a thousand times the wealth and income of everyone else and they're usually the ones who own the media to tell you what to think.

James says the rich are those people who:
-experience privilege, even if they go to church (2:3)
-oppress the poor and drag them into court (2:6)
-defraud workers fair wages (5:4)
-live in luxury and self-indulgence while others suffer (5:5)
-promote economic policies that condemn & kill the poor (5:6)

During the last seven weeks we have had people complain about a policy which is a "retiree tax", when it is actually about making some people who pay no tax at all, pay something. Dividends and Imputation Credits are is very heavily skewed towards those people who already had a lot. It came out in the ATO's statistics that 95% of all Imputation Credits went to the top two deciles of wealth and this is further skewed that 85% of all Imputation Credits went to the top decile.
This sounds like the rich trying to protect their own. It wasn't that long ago that we might have classified excessive greed as a vice, instead of turning it into some kind of twisted virtue that hardly any of us will achieve.

I saw a piece on ABC1's 7.30 about a hairdresser who owns thirty salons and was complaining about a possible 1% pay increase that they'd have to pay their staff if certain legislation went through. Now I know that the employer/employee relationship is already unequal and fraught but the question is, do your workers deserve their wages? If not, why not? And if you're worrying about wages increases eating into your profits (which might be a valid concern depending on how tight you run the margins) then maybe you shouldn't be in business at all.

Our friend Jimmy also has to say a few words about the powerful who ignore the poor. Of these people:
-commit blasphemy (2:7)
-should weep & wail for the miseries coming upon them (5:1)
-their riches will rot (5:2)
-gold & silver will corrode & corrosion will "eat your flesh like fire" (5:3)
-fatten themselves for slaughter (5:5)

Now if all of this sounds like hyperbole, remember that we actually had a politician make allusions to the Nazi Holocaust in parliament during this last term. We've had a mine approved without consultation with either the traditional owners of the land or the farmers and people who live in the area, and given the mine unlimited use of all the water that it can take from the Great Artesian Basin until 2079. We have locked people up in prisons on islands and left them to suffer without basic medical treatment for more than five years in some cases, for their arrival as asylum seekers, which by the way isn't even a crime. We had politicians calling for gun laws to be freed up after 50 people were destroyed by an Australian citizen in Christchurch, NZ.
I could go on but that might labour the point.

In a democracy where we still have the principle of one person one vote, and the safeguard against weaponising apathy and helplessness by asking everyone to vote, we still get a say in what we want the country to be. Political parties who are literally vying for power will often say anything that they can get away with in order to secure your vote.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- Jimmy 2:14-17

Hold the rich and powerful to account. Or don't. Don't believe the truth. Give your vote to someone saying magic words. I'm sure that yelling "keep warm and well fed" at people "without clothes and daily food" is going to make a difference.
That's what we've been doing as a nation for a long time. 

May 16, 2019

Horse 2545 - Australia's Political Parties Need Better Logos

This Saturday, millions of Australians will go to the polls. If the legitimacy of the government is only derived from the will of the people, then in my opinion the only properly derived legitimacy comes from actually asking all of the people. For that reason I think that having voting defined as a duty and not as a right, is the best way to frame this in a democracy.
Australia by dint of accident, also happens to have both preferential voting and proportional representation; so if we do end up with bad government and legislation, it is because of the dark art of politics rather than the system of voting.
It was only recently that the Australian Electoral Commission decided to put logos of the various political parties on the ballot papers. Again, I think that this is excellent because if you have a slew of candidates like we do in this year's race for the Senate in New South Wales, with 105 candidates from 35 parties, then logos are an excellent idea to help voters.
What happens if you are a massive nation like India? India's elections are roughly 40 times as big, with more than 20,000 candidates and 700 million voters; many of whom are illiterate. You print ballot papers with logos on them.

-I kid you not, these are genuine Indian political logos. 

The electoral commission in India, has lists of various items which can be used as logos for the election; which without context look downright idiotic. Often common household objects are used by candidates as their official logo and they will travel during their campaign with that object to show to the voters.
It is entirely commonplace for a bunch of candidates at a town square type meeting, to stand in a line at the end of their debate and hold up their respective objects for the voters to look at. You might have candidates holding up a pot plant, a garden rake, a pair of scissors, an eggplant, a vacuum cleaner, a cabbage and a toaster; and when an illiterate voter dips their finger in ink, they might select the vacuum cleaner as their vote. Thus, Ashwin Rajesh might be selected in Rajasthan as the local member of the Indian Parliament, after having appeared in several lineups that look like they could have been on The Price Is Right.

I was watching a clip on the BBC News website, where there was a parade of people walking through the streets of a tiny town, and all of them were holding aloft a leek, while singing. Without context, it would be possible to think that this was some kind of cultural thing but it was actually a political rally. I don't know what the name of the candidate was or which political party he was running for, but the symbol of a parade of people walking through the town with leeks, wasn't lost on me. Had I been an illiterate voter in that town (and let's be honest as someone who doesn't speak the language that these people were singing in, the analogue is excellent), then I might have been persuaded to put my mark next to the leek on the ballot paper.

This got me thinking about the democracy sausage which has become part of the cultural fabric of Australian elections. Thanks to the internet, the idea of having a sausage sizzle which supports the local P&C, PTA, Scout group, Lion's Club or other charitable organisation, has four more fame than just inside our wide brown land. It has even become part of the Twitter iconography; whereas other countries might have a check box with a tick in it for their election hashtags, we have a sausage. Without context, that's really weird. If I was an Indian citizen, I might think that a democracy sausage was the logo for a political party.

This also got me thinking about just how terrible Australia's political logos actually are. Unlike the United States which has a Republican elephant, the Democratic D inside a circle, or the United Kingdom's Conservative Party which has a scribbly tree, or the Labor Party which has an English rose, Australia's big political parties are behind the times. Apart from the Greens who have that triangle, the other major parties are anonymous.
I have no idea what the National Party's logo is. The Liberal Party traditionally had that L thing but shy away from using it and Labor have some kind of folded over thingy. Nick Xenophon at least tried to make an effort with his big X, and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party (amep) had the best logo of all with Ricky Muir's beardy face.
I think that we can learn from India. India has logos which need to be immediately recognisable because they need to do what all logos do and that is communicate an identity in the most efficient way possible.

Labor probably wants to steer away from the hammer and sickle but you have to admit that it was an unbelievably brilliant way to communicate that this was the workers' party. Labor probably needs a fist holding aloft a hammer because I can't think of a better way to symbolise work. The Liberal Party definitely needs a lion. The National Party needs to have one of those funky windmills that you see throughout the outback. The Greens can keep their dorky looking triangle.

If I am setting up a political party tomorrow though, I want number 17 from that list. Who seriously wouldn't vote for a political party whose logo was a bottle of barbecue gas?

May 15, 2019

Horse 2544 - Where I Stand In The ABC's Vote Compass

I was asked by someone who I hadn't seen in a very long time about where I sit on the ABC's Vote Compass website.
For the record - here it is:

Of course as a long time obsessive of the dark arts of poltical science, I had taken the test and not surprisingly I ended up roughly where I thought I would. My poltical home is on the economic left and I'm almost deliciously ambivalent about the cultural scale. What I find curious is why the ABC thinks that I run to the right of the Greens economically.

The ABC Vote Compass can be found here:
This is rather like an existing website called The Political Compass, except that the cultural scale is upside down:
On that website, I end up as -10.00 and -2.56 which is as economically left as possible but still north of the greens on the cultural scale¹.

I have always been the most leftist person that I know for as long as I can remember. I think that that's as a result of the study of economics and spending far too long thinking about how and what the state is for and how and what it can do. That is tempered by my base assumption about the world that people are horrible and the very long history of evidence which says that the same kinds of people will be horrible irrespective of whether they work for the state or private enterprise. Actual governance has to do with the exercise of power and horrible people are always drawn towards it.

The biggest reason for my liking of the state as a thing, is that it is ultimately answerable to the people. The British Member of Parliament for Bristol South East, Tony Benn (and who is my political hero) had five questions to ask of power.
1. What Power Have You Got?
2. Where Did You Get It From?
3. In Whose Interests Do You Exercise It?
4. To Whom Are You Accountable?
5. How Can We Get Rid Of You?

Only a democracy gives us the right to ask those questions and act in the proper exercise in answering the last two questions. Australians go to the polls on May 18; and all indications seem to indicate that the people of Australia are probably going to answer Question 5 quite emphatically. That is a really scary prospect if you are actually answerable to the people because they might get rid of you. It also means that the state which has the responsibility of governing the nation, also has both the ability and responsibility to show to show familial kindness to the cititzenry of the nation. Of course the power of the state always has to be reminded that people are rational actors who should have the right to self determination.
Corporations on the other hand have responsibility to show to show familial kindness to the cititzenry of the nation and unless they are forced to by law, they do not. That's not to say that private enterprise is terrible though, as most technology, food, consumer goods, durable goods are made by the private sector and there is a lot to be said for the power of the profit motive to push development along.
To that end I think that the domains of government and the private sector should leave well alone. I don't think that either of them do a particularly good job at providing the goods and services that the other is eminently suited to.

The state as an economic entity has the distinct advantage of being able to borrow money at lower rates interest because it has a lower risk of collapse. The existential risk of the complete malfunction of the state is far far lower than corporations and individuals; as a result sovereign risk must almost always be lower. It follows then that governments who can borrow money at lower rates of interest, are better poised to be able to deliver very big ticket items. Very big ticket items also tend to be the things that we expect as a society to be available to explain everyone without fear or favour.

Those things include:
Hospitals, Schools, Universities, Roads, Railways, Telephony, Internet, Water, Gas, Electric, Police, Judiciary, Gaols, Regulatory Oversight, Parks, National Parks, Defence, Transfer Payments, and the ownership of the necessary assets to be able to deliver these things.
I will go on to say that I abhor any and all privatisation in any of these things. The only reason that the private sector wants to provide these things is to either spin a profit (which is the prime reason of existence for every corporation ever) and/or because the people who provide these things deliberately want to exclude people of lesser economic means from getting them. I don't budge on this as a position.

On the other hand, governments are generally ill-advised and incompetent at delivering things which the private sector is very obviously suited to. Where is the border of those two domains? I think that it generally has to do with with the optimal sharing group of the items.
Governments can do things like make consumer and durable goods but they almost always shouldn't. Government has in the past produced white goods, cars and food to some reasonable standards but they tend not to have an extremely close up view of the world, which is where the minutea of private business excels. People will point to Soviet Communism as proof of some imagined evil but the actual quality of a car like a ZaZ or an East German Praktika camera, was easily as good as the equivalent in the west. What the Soviets never really understood is that people like the unnecessary quality of luxury and if the market has a gap in which a profit can be spun, the private sector is incentivised to produce the thing.

Most things that Renton in Trainspotting mentioned is something that private enterprise excels at producing.
Jobs, Career, big televisions, washing machines, cars, compact disc players, electrical tin openers, fixed-interest mortgage repayments, leisure wear and matching luggage, three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fabrics, DIY, mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, junk food, heroin.
That also goes for the production of entertainment; which is where we move into a very grey area.
There are some things which private enterprise is perfectly capable of doing but refuses to. There are also some things which both the state and the private sector are capable of producing and should both produce.
In this category I put:
Art Galleries, The Performing Arts, Public Broadcasting, Sporting Grounds, Public Housing.
There is a good argument to be made both ways for both the public and private sectors to provide various components of these things as part of the ongoing cultural life of the nation.

On most standard political science tests, I come out massively on the left because I advocate hard boundaries of what government should own and operate. In the 40 years that I have been alive, the Anglosphere has generally moved to the right; while I as a student of history, politics, and economics, look back over the past 300 years or so and have arrived at my position after seeing what did and didn't work and why.
I will close this section with my assertion that the greatest drivers of human happiness in the history of economics have been the provision of public sanitation and waste water services, and mass literacy. Not dying of cholera and dysentery is an exceptional outcome, and being able to read and write has untold multipliers on happiness and productivity.

I have far less to say about the cultural scale because I mostly don't care about it. I find discussions which are complex, and which relate to things which can't not be generally measured, to be more about deliberative processes than about outcomes.
So much within the cultural scale has to do with the tension that people should generally be free to do whatever they like but that everyone is also a selfish dingus (including myself). The whole Authoritarian/Libertarian scale is to do with what chains we should place upon the beast that shouts "I" at the heart of the world.

Most people will generally agree that we should be able to do whatever we like provided that it doesn't interfere with the liberty of someone else. Not taking things which don't belong to you, is a good principle. I reject the absoluteness of the Harm Principle of John Stuart Mill which says that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against their will, is to prevent harm to others; because quite frankly the authority vested in the state is a collective and familial one. I also reject the notion that someone's own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant for the state to act because it might very well be. I am well aware of my own internal conflicts with utilitarianism here.

The biggest conflicts which exist on the cultural scale have to do with the discussion of the sacred (such as marriage and abortion), and the imposition of people's expression over each other. I think that there should be remedy for injury; which means that I quite like pieces of legislation such as the Sex Discrimination and Racial Discrimination Acts but as for the issues where the state has some vested interest in the sacred, then that's a collective decision and I would prefer to step out of the way and accept the prevailing rules of society. Of course I do that knowing full well that as a straight white male, I have an incredible amount of historic unstated power; so I am fully aware of my own rank hypocrisy here.
I like everyone else am a mass of contradictions, political hypocrisies and inconsistencies. I suggest that this is part of the human condition. The biggest questions for me in the political realm though are "Have you made people's lives better?", "Have you been kind?" and I find that I can confuse both the left and the right of politics with those questions.

I think that where I stand politically is nominally to the left of everyone I know because the world has shifted to the right. I would have been fine within the British Labour Party of 1945², I would have been fine within the Australian Labour Party of 1946; I probably would have been fine with Menzies in 1949. By 1966 I wouldn't have voted for the Liberal Party; so 1975 was way out of the question. While I might have thought about voting for the Labour Party in 1983, by 1992 I would have been politically homless. This is the political climate I finally was unleashed into.
I still don't understand why ABC thinks that I stand the right of the Greens economically.


May 14, 2019

Horse 2543 - Facebook Is Perfectly Entitled To Ban Whatever It Likes

I won't link to the article which appeared in the Murdoch-Propagandrag this morning but suffice to say it was about the deplatforming of Alex Jones and Infowars, Milo Yianoppolous and the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the supposed free speech implications therein.
Now obviously this is about the Murdoch-Propagandrag trying to protect its own patch because they themselves have suffered a massive loss of advertising revenue over the past decade or so and so doing a hit piece on a commercial rival seems perfectly rational to me but they do this from a place of rank hypocrisy.
However this piece isn't to rail against the Murdoch-Propagandrag because I think that they are rationally self-interested and entitled to be hypocrites in this domain. The reason why I think this has to do with the contextual architecture of so-called free speech and the implications which follow.

Firstly it must be said that the Murdoch-Propagandrag engages in exactly the same sort of thing as Facebook. As a daily newspaper with full editorial control over what goes to print, it exercises that control with an iron fist, a velvet glove and a sock filled with custard.
The Murdoch-Propagandrag almost never publishes letters to the editor which are voices of dissent with its orthodoxy, it will occasionally publish people who represent the enemy of its political wing but only as evidence that they are right in whatever they've suggested or as the spark for more propagandising, as well as its usual grandstanding. This is in addition to the normal stream of Two Minutes Hate segments from various Murdoch-Propagandrags on Sky News and the increasingly Soviet-era Pravda like Sky News After Dark. The conceit that it is a news organisation is kind of looking a bit empty these days.
And yet having said all of that, I think that they are perfectly entitled to go on their merry way.

The difference between the Murdoch-Propagandrag and Facebook is that the former generates its own content while the latter does not. As a result of the latter not generating its own content, its business model relies upon its users doing that for them. As a result of that, some truly hideous stuff has been posted on Facebook, including hate speech, nudity, sexual content and indeed rape, as well as the live broadcast of an act of terrorism in Christchurch.
Faced with that, Facebook quite rightly realises that irrespective of what the law actually says, it has at least a societal duty of care towards the people who use the platform; and that that duty of care is governed by its own community standards, which might be more strict than the law.
Since the sheer volume of traffic of information is beyond the ability of any meatbag human to police, that function has to be automated; which means that the algorithms which are stupid because they are machines, can only do any policing on the basis of what they have been told by meatbag human users of the platform.
When those same meatbag human users demand that Facebook does more with regards policing, it responds. Regardless of what you happen to think about the moral implications of the context of the content posted by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, you can not avoid the fact that it looks a lot like the kind of content which Facebook has been told to police elsewhere.

There are several grand issues here.
Firstly we have the problem that so-called free speech never is. The philosopher Karl Popper wrote about the paradox of tolerance; where if you tolerate everything then only the intolerant will have the floor. Freedom in order to be able to function as anything useful, actually requires that it is hedged in by reasonable law. There will of course be argument surrounding what is and what isn't reasonable, which is exactly where this whole discussion sits but the fact remains that if you let all the monsters out to play in the field, then after some time you will only have monsters left as they will have eaten everyone else. The right to free speech can not and should not be absolute.
Secondly there is the easily forgotten fact that just like the Murdoch-Propagandrag, Facebook is a private entity. Private entities are almost never bound by common carrier regulations. Common carriers are bound by law to allow free passage through the system. This kind of concept started to be talked about when people started sending letters to each other in the mail. The question of whether or not the postal service is a common carrier is in most jurisdictions around the world, settled in that it is not. We trust that the postal service isn't going to open our mail but it still needs to be able to because nefarious people sometimes have habits of posting anthrax through the mail. Just like the Murdoch-Propagandrag which also isn't a common carrier, Facebook is allowed to set the terms of service and deny service to people who violate it. Is that a free speech issue? Absolutely. Guess what? See previous.
Thirdly and I know that I'm going to offend lots of people by saying this but users of a platform, ought to be able to follow the rules of that platform. I can only guess that Alex Jones and Infowars have violated the rules because in all honesty when I listened to the only episode of the Infowars podcast that I have ever listened to, I thought that it was indistinguishable from satire. My guess is that Milo Yianoppolous must have violated the rules because having heard what he has said in the past and his longish record on this sort of thing, he almost certainly violated the rules. As for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and you openly admit that what you are posting has nudity, then irrespective of the context or the intent, if you know that you are going to fall foul of the rules then don't post the thing. That might sound harsh and even stupid but the rules exist because the users of the platform demanded it. Is that a free speech issue? Absolutely. Guess what? See previous.

Despite what the Murdoch-Propagandrag says, free speech can never be absolutely free and they are a fine object lesson in proving why. I support their ongoing fight to exclude voices of dissent from their publications as much as I do Facebook's ongoing responsibility to police their own rules.