October 31, 2019

Horse 2615 - Christian Excuses While The Forests Burn?

I want to start out by saying that I endorse people's right to free speech. I think that people should have the right to freely express themselves and that that freedom of expression comes with caveats. I also think that the right to free speech also comes with the right to free expression of religion and the right to be free from the imposition religion.

However, there are times that I question the motives of people who make an expression of speech and religion because humanity has such a chequered past that it makes wonder what the underlying objective is.
This week, following the extinction rebellion protests in both Brisbane and Melbourne (the latter which saw a lady's legs broken when trampled by a police horse¹), the following banner went up in Blacktown:

Now although this looks relatively innocuous, the truth is that I find this kind of thing really disturbing.

My problem here is that this is really vague as to what the intent of the banner is. The splash across the top says 'Bible - Climate Truth' which is an appeal to authority however, there is in fact no direction at all, for how the unnamed entity who put this up wants you to interpret it.
If this is put up with the premise that only those people who already know what the intent of this is, then we have a lovely term for that: Dog Whistling.

When placed back into the context of where this fits into the grand story of the book of Genesis, this particular verse makes far more sense. It fits into the broader story of Noah and the ark. Specifically it comes after a passage in which God, who made everything in the beginning and saw that everything was good, puts mankind into his creation and then mankind sets about deliberately disobeying him, then going on to a trail of lying and murder. By the time of Genesis and the beginning of the flood story, the account reads:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
- Genesis 6:5

I have met some pretty atrocious people. To be fair I probably am a pretty atrocious person in the eyes of others. Nevertheless, I think that it would take an exceedingly atrocious set of circumstances for peoples' wickedness to be so bad that the "thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time".
In context the words which this banner quotes, comes from a broad picture where mankind goes from being the custodians of what God has made, to being so utterly terrible that God regrets having made people in the first place (6:7).

In the flood account, God finds just one person (Noah) and spares his family. If anything, the broad context is about God's sustaining grace and kindness in the face of human sin.
Immediately before the text of the words of this banner, God says:
Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
- 8:21

It goes on to describe God making a covenant with Noah in which God promises not to destroy humanity and all life:
The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
- 9:15

Everything about this says that the text in question is about God's graciously ruling out the possibility of an utterly destructive Noah-like event that wipes out all life on the earth as we know it.

The implications of this banner are idiotic though. Whilst there is nothing necessarily problematic about the premise that God is benevolent, there is something deeply problematic about the supposition that God will look after humanity, no matter what the circumstances and that we should do nothing to mitigate the effects of our own stupidity.

From a spiritual standpoint, I don't see how this is ruling out the possibility that we humans, through our own sin, selfishness, stupidity, deliberate damage and ignorance, can cause serious damage to our world and its inhabitants. The grand story of the Old Testament in which God chooses the people of Israel, repeatedly has sets of circumstances where they tell God to get stuffed.

Right throughout the Old and New Testaments, the bible is replete with instructions not to act with cruelty or act like a bunch of selfish knaves. If you follow the grand narrative of the Old Testament, not only are people kicked out of Eden, but even after being promised a home land, God's chosen people² are eventually kicked out of that place too, because they also fail and continue to act like a bunch of selfish knaves.

"I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable."
- Jeremiah 2:7

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.
- Hosea 4:1-3

I simply find it impossible to believe that just because you can quote a passage from the bible, that that somehow excuses you from the consequences of what you have done³. I don't think that any reading of scripture provides an excuse to mankind to abdicate our responsibility to act rightly towards God's good creation.
Furthermore, I think that people who aren't of faith would look at this and think quite rightly that Christians are using their magical sky daddy as an excuse to perpetrate all kinds of evil.

For about four hundred years, we've brand new methods of burning the forests, clearing the land, putting garbage in the waters and poison in the skies. Is whoever put up this banner really trying to tell us that there are no consequences at all for any of this?

What I find doubly galling about this is how this fits into political discourse. I see this as part of a wider weaponisation of Christians for nothing more than political purposes. That particular tactic worked so very well in the United States because of some very strong mythologising which has taken place over the past forty years. It takes a special kind of knavery to make people actively not care about the most vulnerable of society and also to actively not care about the environment which sustains you.

"The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left."
- Isaiah 24:4-6

Scientists and engineers are pretty cluey people. The same people who sent rockets into space to discover what other planets were like, also ended up discovering the earth. It's only been for the last 50 years or so that we've been able to measure what is going on.
If you had 97% of economists and insurance brokers warning of a contingent risk, you would seriously consider doing something about it. I do not understand why people who claim to be Christian would want to manipulate people into doing nothing about that contingent risk. That seems pretty knavish to me.

¹and then Rita Panahi of the Daily Telegraph endorsed that and claimed that they 'had it coming'
²who aren't chosen because they were brilliant by the way

³The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart.

O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
- Shylock, The Merchant Of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3

October 30, 2019

Horse 2614 - The Impeachment Inquiry May Throw Up A Constitutional Crisis

In the tale of the seemingly neverending dog and pony show that is the increasingly likely impeachment inquiry into the crimes and misdemeanors of the President of the United States, the latest chapter has given us the beginning of a genuine constitutional crisis.

In a move which itself could amount to being an obstruction of justice, Charles Kupperman, a former deputy advisor to the National Security Secretary John Bolton, has been prevented by the White House from appearing at the House Judicial Inquiry into the Impeachment of the President. The White House has declared 'total immunity' from any subpoena that the House Judiciary Committee might issue.

This is massive.

One one hand the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment under the US Constitution. On the other hand, while the inquiry is in fact into the conduct of the President with regards 'high crimes and misdemeanors', there is still an unanswered question of whether or not that extends to those people under the employ of the President.
In addition to this is the secondary question of whether or not an order from the executive as vested in the person of the President constitutes an executive order.
Kupperman's lawyers in the meantime have advised him to ignore any and all subpoenas until this question is resolved; presumably by the Supreme Court who has the power to 'say what the law is' per Madison v Marbury (1803).

The reason why the House Judicial Committee wants to interview Kupperman in particular is because he was privy to certain conversations with regards the NSA, and security surrounding the personal attorney to the President Rudy Guiliani, and his dealings with the Ukraine Government. Specifically he can corroborate existing evidence that very heavily suggests that Mr Trump attempted to set up a kind of shadow foreign diplomatic channel in addition to the official ones, with the purpose of investigating the Bidens.

Before anyone questions the legitimacy of the House's Impeachment Inquiry, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that there will be a vote on the floor of the House by the end of the week, to finally lay out the rules, terms and scope of the impeachment inquiry. Presumably this will also lay out the text of what the House can expect in regards the representation of the President, which he has previously demanded even though he would refuse to appear before the House.

Naturally the President described the whole impeachment inquiry as being political as though it was a pejorative but in reality that is like describing a lion as a big cat. Of course any impeachment proceedings are going to be political because every single major position in all three branches of government, which includes the House, the Senate, the President, and the Supreme Court, are all decided by election or appointment by people who have been elected. How can any inquiry which is conducted by an elected body be anything but political? Furthermore, if an impeachment inquiry is the check into the use of power, then by definition it must be political considering that politics itself is to do with the enactment of policy and the exercise of power.

What ever the outcome is of the impending Supreme Court decision, it will have ramifications to do with the balance of powers between the various branches of the three ring circus that is the US Government, forever.
This case materially pits the power of the executive branch directly against the ability of the legislative branch to conduct its oversight function as spelled out in the Constitution. Whereas previously, the executive branch would not have wanted to test the limits of where the separation of powers lies, this executive is not only prepared to find those limits but forever change them and if necessary, break the norms in order to solidify them for purely short term gain.

Robert Mueller famously did not subpoena the President, citing that the question of whether or not a sitting President could be subpoenaed, was still open. This case of The United States vs Kupperman (2019), still does not go so far as to answer that central question but it would answer a like question. The Executive Branch can claim total congressional immunity but my hope is that the courts strike that off. I personally find the idea that anyone, whether they be the lowest peasant to the king, as being subject to the laws of the land, as the only acceptable and reasonable outcome. If the courts do decide that the President does have the power to declare people as not being subject to the law, then the President is actually a tyrant who is backed by law.

That's not even hyperbole. Although Fox News would paint the picture that this is about overturning the results of an election, it is not. The result of the election is not in dispute. This is about the removal of an individual who thinks and acts as though he is above the law and has used the instrument of government to break it.
In this case, that same individual is also prepared to break the instrument of governments themselves.

October 29, 2019

Horse 2613 - We're Not Even Pretending To Be Civil Any More

As I work in a forensic accounting office, my job often means dealing with members of the legal profession. While I understand that the whole legal process by its nature is replete with worry (because the only reason that anyone needs to employ a lawyer to go to court is because of a serious problem relating to the law), I do not understand why the level of urgency that lawyers demand needs to be so sharp.

My boss had gone out to lunch and I took the immediate job of running 'screen', which is one of those delightful terms borrowed from American football and which means to throw bodies in front of the quarterback so that they can do their job unmolested. I am pretty good at this because I take the attitude that if you are at lunch, then I don't care if you are a lawyer, the Prime Minister, the Queen, or Martin Skrtel¹, any problem that you have unless it is immediately life threatening can wait.
The world is already so sufficiently stressful, complex and difficult, that people do not need to be switched on all the time. Lawyers especially like to offload their stress by passing it on to others because they think that sharing is caring?

One lawyer who we deal with on a semi regular basis, wanted to know where my boss was, which I then refused to answer, and then asked me why I wasn't at a dinner thing which was held last week, which my boss was at. I think that that is a strange thing to ask someone but then again, I am under no illusions that manners are the invention of the upper class to make the middle class conform while at the same time they will ignore them. I explained that I had no idea that it was on and I wasn't invited to it either (all while thinking 'why would I be invited to a function which people in the legal profession went to, anyway?).
I then sat patiently on the phone while I was given a lecture about why people like them and people like me shouldn't associate with each other, on the basis that people like me should know our place and that we should be happy to be servants. The problem with society apparently, was that too many people had risen above their station in the natural order of things and that the world was slowly being put right again with the dismantling of the welfare state.
I bit my tongue and remembered the inscription which Vespasian had placed upon the toilets in Ancient Rome "Pecunia non olet" which when translated means "Money does not stink". When I played the recording of the phone call for my boss after he had returned from lunch, he sort of shrugged and said that callousness is on the rise; which on reflection is the awful truth.

I do not see this kind of thing amongst my fellow commuters as we travel forth and back across this swirling conurbation we call Sydney. As commuters, we are literally forced to rub shoulders with each other. The train that I am on while writing this post, smells like sweat and peppermint chewing gum and horrible flavoured potato chips, and farts because these are the smells of a shared humanity. We are all tired, we are all probably just as stressed as the people above us, and many of us will flake on and take a nap on the train.
The people who actually run the world, are not here. I'm not even talking about the political class who occasionally make a show by riding on public transport because they at least have to keep up some kind of pretence that they are part of the people. The people who actually run the world, that is the people who make decisions that matter, either drive themselves or are driven to work, and as I've found out don't want to run into us accidentally².

It is instances like this which I never saw a decade ago, which makes me think that Trump, Johnson, Morrison, Macron, are inevitable. Only last week it was reported that the Berejiklian Government was going to privatise the three remaining areas of Sydney Buses that were still owned and operated by the government. This isn't being done because the Government wants to provide a better and more efficient set of bus services but rather that private parties saw a potential to make private profits and they simply do not care about the people who otherwise might own those things (the good and fair people of NSW). Instances like my experience make me think that we have entered a period of actual vindictiveness by policy; using the mechanics of government as a weapon³.

We now have people who live off the interest of interest and yet ascribe that to their own effort. I find it insane that there has been a 1.1% year on year gain on labour productivity for more than a decade, which is about 12% overall, yet real wages have only risen by about 0.1% and organisations like the Business Council of Australia have convinced governments that a 0.5% rise in superannuation is unaffordable.
Is this what late stage capitalism looks like before saccharine feudalism returns?  Australia likes to pretend that it doesn't have a class system but I am very clearly reminded that it does; especially by those of very substantial means. I wonder if France was like this before the French Revolution. If the peasants have no bread, then let them eat cake?

¹Martin Skrtel can walk into any story he chooses
²though I suspect that they might enjoy running over us deliberately and repeatedly
³it is handy to have government as a weapon in class warfare

October 28, 2019

Horse 2612 - BigWrite¹ Does Not Want To Pay For People To Write Content For Them

A long long time ago, when the internet was still mostly made of people writing code, I was writing a blog. It eventually moved from pure raw code, to a site hosted by Geocities and finally ended up on Blogger; so a few of the first hundred or so posts have been lost.
Of all the people who I knew who kept a blog, I am really the last of anyone who generates things anymore; I think that the reason for that is that writing as a craft does require a certain amount of time and skill and if you don't want to spend effort on those (because your time and effort is valuable, and life happens in the meantime), then you will not.

As with anything, there are always people wanting to make money from the thing. One website (who I shan't name) has tried to monetise the efforts of other people who write for them by charging subscription fees and I do not know to what degree that they are successful. I found it somewhat annoying that they want to charge me money to see my own stuff. Suffice to say, I did not post very much with that website.

There is one particularly knavish media organisation who wants to profit from the efforts of other people writing for them, who I will refer to as BigWrite (because I do not want to be sued), who have now contacted me not once; not twice, but thrice. I haven't yet accepted the offer by BigWrite to write for them, for the rather obvious reason that if anyone is going to profit from my work, then I would like at least one person of that collective anyone to be me. There is a pretty fundamental adage that says that 'the workers deserve their wages' and I do not think it unreasonable to be paid a wage for my own work. I am not a charity and neither is a for-profit media organisation.
I found it really weird last week when BigWrite again asked me to write for them, as yet again they do not seem all that interested in paying for the content which they want me to generate for them. I suspect that I must be on a list somewhere and that they give that list to some newbie in their office; which explains why having previously rejected their request to write for them, they want to ask me again.
As I do not want to embarrass someone who is more than likely an unpaid intern, I have withheld their name and email address. I imagine that being inside a media organisation and not being paid because they want to use the excuse that their 'experience is valuable' is even more torturous than being on the outside, looking in.

Hi Andrew,
We have recently become aware of your blog at rollo75.blogspot.com and would like to take the opportunity to connect, share thoughts, exchange content and develop ideas of mutual interest.
We would like you to submit a piece of no more than 1000 words, for evaluation, so that we can assess if you are an ideal fit for BigWrite Australia.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Jo Banana¹

("Hi" is never a good start. Since I am of an older generation who thinks that there should not be a difference between email and formal letter writing, I find this kind of casualness disturbing).

Dear Jo,
Thank you for your email and taking the time to notice my work. 
I understand that you would like for me to write for you and naturally I would be honoured to do so, however, may I enquire as to what your current rates of pay are for written pieces? How is this structured?
Could you please send a copy of your current pay rates for written pieces?
Thank you,
Andrew Rollason

(This reply is curt but still polite, I think)

Hi Andrew,
During the initial evaluation phase, our writers gain valuable exposure on a high-profile platform in return for stories which are succinct, shareable and satisfying. We are always looking for pieces that are saying what nobody else is saying, or a personal story everyone will relate to.
Please feel free to pitch a piece on any topic you like:

(They attached a form).

Proposed headline. The proposed title for your article (120 characters or less).
Your pitch. A brief summary of your proposed article followed by a final draft (500-1,000 words).
Your name. Your real name.
Your bio. A short personal or professional bio.
Your email address. Your primary contact email address.
Topic. The general topic area you're pitching to: "News", "Impact and Innovation", "Entertainment", "Lifestyle", "Voices".

We look forward to hearing from you,
Jo Banana¹

(There wasn't a direct reply to the questions that I asked; probably because that would mean admitting that they do not want to pay for the work that other people do)

Dear Jo,
Thank you for your swift reply. There is something that I am unclear about. In your email you explained that writers for BigWrite Australia are given "valuable exposure on a high-profile platform in return for stories" but you did not respond with what the rates of pay are for those stories.
Could you please send a copy of your current pay rates for written pieces?
Thank you,
Andrew Rollason

(I already feel that I have wasted my effort at this point)

Hi Andrew,
As we have previously said, during the initial evaluation phase, our writers gain valuable exposure on a high-profile platform in return for stories. 
During the initial evaluation phase, our writers write for us because they want to write it. They write because it is neither out of obligation or paid for. 
Our writers gain access to the massive platform that BigWrite provides and they also gain access to a huge audience. They do not have to pay for, advertise, maintain, or moderate that platform. We hope that you too will be happy to join our network of more than 100,000 writers.
Yours Sincereley,
Jo Banana¹

(They no longer 'look forward to hearing from' me at this point.)

Dear Jo,
As I currently understand the situation, you would like me to submit pieces for BigWrite, however you are not willing to pay me for said pieces. Have I understood the situation correctly?
Thank you,
Andrew Rollason

(I have tried to express annoyance here. I am wondering what the name for a question to which you already know the answer is called)

Hi Andrew,
Many of the writers who write for BigWrite do so because they can see the benefits in being exposed to a worldwide audience of many readers. We hope that you too, will see that benefit and choose to join us.
Thank you,
Jo Banana¹

(This is beginning to sound a bit like a cult)

Dear Jo,
Thank you for submitting your request. I regret to inform you that it does not suit our present needs.
Thank you,
Andrew Rollason

(I expect that this reference will completely go over Jo's head. I hope so. Snoopy received a stack of these form rejection letters c.1972)

I should point out that I am 100% absolutely prepared to 'sell out'. I am not in any way a purist who thinks that writing is an art form for art's sake; quite the contrary. All artists who work hard deserve to be paid for their craft. If someone wants to pay me to write, then I will happily do so for the most part. What I find annoying is that very big media companies think that they can get away with offering 'exposure' as some kind of magic trophy.
Exposure does not pay the bills. Exposure does not put food on the table. Exposure does not keep the rent collectors at bay.

Offence² but if your company is so successful, why can't you afford to pay people? Artists are not there to be taken advantage of. Writers are not there to be taken advantage of. Bloggers are not there to be taken advantage of. If you are an openly commercial operation, then you should be paying people for the services they provide.

I have one more reply.

Dear BigWrite,
Whilst I write because I want to, and like to, that desire does not extend to writing for you for free. 'Exposure' has a monetary value of nil; you have backed that up with the amount that you are prepared to pay to provide it.
You wouldn't ask your mechanic to work for free. You wouldn't ask your doctor to work for free. You wouldn't ask your plumber to work for free. Why ask writers to? 

I have the honour to be your obedient servant.

¹Not their real name.
²not 'no offence but' because I hope that I cause some

October 26, 2019

Horse 2611 - Very Local Journalism

When I was on my way home on Thursday, I came across the following:

This is a silver Ford Falcon BA that is in a pretty sorry state.

Naturally being a good citizen and recognising the very obvious traffic hazard, I phoned the police on 131444 (only use 000 for emergencies) and gave them as many details as I could which included make, model, number plate, location, and description of the accident.

The reason why I thought about doing that apart from the fact that there is a traffic island further up the street and this car's presence creates a contingent possibility of a further accident, is that the circumstances of this are really really weird.

If you look at the angle of the front right wheel, it is readily apparent that it should not be facing at right angles relative to the direction of travel. That can only have happened if it has broken a tie rod or the end, or broken the connection between the wheel and the tie rod. That is not normal.
It is so unbelievably not normal that the only explanation is that something not normal has happened. When you have something not normal, then that demands further investigation.

Behind the vehicle is a skid mark which indicates that it came to an abnormal stop. I know roughly what the distance of the skid is, and the weight of the vehicle. From here using basic high school physics equations at bare minimum the car must have been travelling at 18m/s or 65km/h; which is already above the posted speed limit of 60km/h. I would estimate that a bunch of kinetic energy has been dissipated by both the brakes and the friction of the sideways tyre over the road. I would suggest that the vehicle was moving at least 70km/h.
This would at least explain why the vehicle has been simply abandoned. It is also here where I confess that I tampered with the crime scene (making sure that I didn't leave any fingerprints), by opening the rear left hand side passenger door.

What I find particularly telling is a complete lack of broken pieces of car at the scene. This indicates to me that this happened in isolation and that no other cars were involved in the accident.
Knowing this to be true, then I can begin to posit a theory to fit the facts but can not know for certain if I am even close to making a decent guess.

Here it goes:

On 24th of October 2019, person or persons unknown were travelling in a southbound direction on Davis Rd Marayong, travelling at at least 70km/h when they struck the kerb on the other side of the road (which would explain why the tyre has broken free of the tie rod and why there is deformation of the front right quarter panel), when the car came skidding back across the road to a stop.

If the car has been stolen, then I am sure that the registered keeper of the vehicle would like to have their property as intact as possible. If on the other hand this vehicle has been taken out by the registered keeper of the vehicle, then they have some explaining to do.

Whatever the outcome is, I feel sorry for the Falcon. I am prepared to forget the red/blue Holden/Ford argument and accept all Commodores and Falcons as special and part of the cultural fabric of this country. Whoever was driving this vehicle was an idiot. Notwithstanding that they may have endangered other people's life and limb but they have hurt this Falcon.
I imagine that nobody in the vehicle was hurt and due to the nature of the complete lack of detritus left behind, I imagine that nobody else was hurt but I can not help but feel sorry for this Falcon that has had to endure idiots. I am worried that it might not be considered valuable enough to be repaired
(and I secretly want it).

October 22, 2019

Horse 2610 - But We're Actually Okay At Naming Things... Not Really.

By way of background, please watch this short film:

The main thrust of this video by Name Explain is the rather eloquent observation that "Australia Sucks At Naming Things". While I suppose that as an Australian I should by rights take exception to someone besmirching my country, the only reason that I would feel slighted is because it is so obviously true that I am too dog stupid to have thought of it first.

Immediately in my local area, there is Richmond Road which goes to Richmond, the Great Western Highway which is the big road that goes west¹, Main Street which is the main street of that suburb, and Railway Road which is the road next to the railway.
Further afield we have the Blue Mountains which are named because they look a bit blue, which in turn are part of the Great Dividing Range which are named because they divide the strip of land in the east from the vast interior, the Great Sandy Desert² which is a... you get the point.

If you are prepared to look at the names which are around the place, you very quickly find that we actually have some names with really tragic histories.
Even the rather mundane journey from my home to work, yields a small mine full of nuggets of interest. The first few train stations on that journey are:

Usually when you see a 'gong' in the Eora and Dharuk language groups, this means a river, however the 'yong' at the end of the word here, just means a 'place'.
Marayong means 'place of the emus'; which it must be said is actually pretty boring anyway.

This is awful. Blacktown is kind of early in the history of settlement by the British and it should come as no surprise to anyone that a name like this is tragic.
There were a series of conflicts in the 1790's between the New South Wales Corps who were in charge, the convicts who had escaped in many cases, and the local people who prior to 1788 had been quietly going about their business. Maybe. The colonial invaders arrived at a time when the various groups in the east of what is now Sydney were engaged in a blood feud and when they got out west, they cleared the land by axe and rifle.
Blacktown is simply the name of the place where the 'blacks' were rounded up and put into. It is hard to find out much about which people groups that they were exactly.

Seven Hills.
This is supposedly named after the seven hills of Rome but I have no idea where those hills are. That might be because I haven't been weaned by a she-wolf; nor have I ever attempted augury for major purposes. The augury which I regularly engage in is to track the movements of magpies but that's because they all have me and I do not enjoy my head becoming a crimson fountain of blood after they have swooped me.

The third settlement in the country used to propagandise itself as being named after the Tugugal people. That etymology quickly breaks down but what we find is that it is a Tugugal word which means 'meeting of the waters'.

Pendle Hill.
There are many pieces of missing history here. This is named after Pendle Hill in Lancashire and that place is famous for the witch trials during the reign of James I; where women who were found guilty of being a witch, were burned alive at the stake on pyres on the hill.
What I have never been able to determine is if there were women who were burned alive here, as there is the possibility that women may have been convicted of prostitution in the early colony of New South Wales and this is what would have happened to them. Certainly there was punishment by execution right through the history of the penal colony and beyond self-government and federation.

In 1813 after a number of failed attempts to find a trafficable road across the Blue Mountains, the Surveyor General of New South Wales sent the explorers of Blaxland, Lawson, and Wentworth on a journey to follow the ridges.
My guess is that this was where Wentworth had his land holding.

Westmead and Northmead are either both west and north of the model farm which Governor Phillip had set up after the crops which the British colonists had tried to get going, consistently failed, or they are both west and north of a brewery. The Woolpack Hotel in Parramatta claims to be the oldest licenced premises in Australia and I suppose that their beer had to have come from somewhere.

Parramatta is named for the bend in the river where the water was sufficiently shallow enough to allow first peoples to get reliable catches of eels. That bend is in what is now Parramatta Park and next to Parramatta Stadium.
Parramatta means the 'place where the eels lie down'; which is also why the Parramatta Rugby League team is called the Parramatta Eels. It is apt that their stadium is near that bend in the river as Parramatta Stadium is also a place where the Eels lie down³.

To be fair, most of the names given to places in Australia are named for the obvious because those names are obvious. Even the names given to places by Aboriginal peoples are obvious because those names are obvious. They only sound exotic because we don't know the local language (and being invader colonists, never bothered to learn the local language).
By the time that the nation started to get some sense that there may have been people before the new people arrived, everything was already named. The names for places and things whicn persist, do so because there wasn't anything in the invader language that could describe what was already here.

If I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else, then I would make an effort to change the very boring names of the states.
Western Australia was originally called the Swan River Colony because of the black swans that they found in the Swan River (more boring names), but calling the whole state Swan, sounds kind of cool to me. I would rename South Australia the state of Bradman after that state's favourite adopted son. I would rename the Northern Territory Nappanerica which means 'the big red', which adequately describes the vast expanse of that place.

While I am at it, I would rename the Governor General of Australia the Grand Poobah (and Lord High Everything Else). I keep on using this name as a recurring trope because I like that it sounds impotent, delusional, and daft. It comes from the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Mikado" and is given to a character who is equally as impotent, delusional, and daft. It is a perfect fit for that position.

Name Explain's allegation that we have "boring" names of places and things is completely apt. I don't know if we're more or less guilty of this than other countries though.

¹life is peaceful there
²which should be named after Olivia Newton-John's character in Grease and her dyslexic sweet dinner course
³Go Sharks. How good is Australia? Hur, hur, hur. 

October 21, 2019

Horse 2609 - Who's Afraid Of The Rain? NASCAR

I like watching motor racing. Though as someone living in Australia, where the rights to just about every sporting code have been locked up behind a Murdoch pay-wall, motor racing is not necessarily a friend to me anymore. For instance, I find it crazy making that there were more Australian Touring Car races shown live on free to air television on the ABC in 1983 than Supercars races shown on free to air television in 2019.
However over the past few years, NASCAR has decided to go with the option of posting entire races on YouTube after the race has already been broadcast on Fox Sports and NBCSN (usually about four days later).

The last NASCAR race at Talledega Motor Speedway was delayed after being delayed by rain. The race which was started on Sunday 13th was completed on Monday 14th. In any other racing series, they would have either called the race short or more sensibly, put on rain tyres.

Those of us out here in the real world, regularly drive on treaded tyres because we can not afford several sets but cars on racing circuits will usually run on smooth slick tyres so that the contact patch of rubber on the road is maximised and they will have better traction.
NASCAR in its wisdom doesn't even have wet weather tyres and when I posited the suggestion on a forum that  the   mess at Talledega could have been sorted out if they had a set of working wet weather tyre compounds for a Superspeedway, I was met with confusion and derision.

If an engineer was able to figure out a tire compound, to be able to displace water in such time, that keeps the car not only to grip the road and remain stable enough to keep grip to the road, prevent it from hydroplaning, and last long enough to run a 500 mile event?

Now admittedly, I don't actually work for a tyre company but It appears to me that in principle, this should be a solvable problem with basic maths.
I am not an engineer and so I can easily be accused of blowing tyre smoke but an engineer is someone who can imagine the world without having to suffer the horribleness of actually going there and unlike a theoretical physicist, they have the superpower of being able to turn their imaginings into genuine actual real world stuff.

The problem appears to me to be resolvable to where forces go. A force is a vector quantity; which means that it has both magnitude and direction. If you have directions, then you can add them all together and do basic trigonometry on them. Ha! This looks more like a problem which I can deal with because as an accountant, dealing with numbers is not a lot different except that dollars and percents are scalar quantities and not vectored.

The normal force of a car going through a corner is always perpendicular to the surface (which is pretty obvious because as the wheels push down, the surface pushes back). If you resolve for that then the equation for the ideal velocity of a car going around a banked track is:

v = √rg(tan∅°)   (I know that ∅ is not a theta but it will have to do)

v = velocity
r = radius of curve
g = force due to gravity

∅ = the angle of the banking

Note that in that equation, there are no force parameters; which says that any forces which do exist are either friction with the surface or unaligned shear forces. We already know that under dry conditions,those unaligned shear forces are already calculated and managed by virtue of there already being tyres which currently accommodate for them.

If you ignore friction with the surface or unaligned shear forces (because they're not actually contained within the equation), then I figure that the theoretical ideal velocity of a car going around the two big speedways is thus:

Datyona Motor Speedway - 31°,radius 1000ft - is 239.8mph
Talledega Motor Speedway -33°, radius1100ft- is 271.5mph

Tyres on the cars currently fall well short of those speeds; which means to say that there will in fact be shear forces which exist as cars turn and slide across the surface.

If cars already have to go around a superspeedway and they already make tyres to do that job, then in principle I do not see it as much of a stretch to develop tyres to do a similar job in the rain.
The question for me then is, can a tyre company invent a tyre compound to displace 60L/sec assuming a contact area of 240cm², for a car which weighs about 1500kg and which will do 350km/h (to exceed the operating specifications)?
To which I was told.

It's stupid. It's illogical. It's impossible.

I do not believe this.
Impossible sounds like it might be a thing but considering that tyres already exist on similarly sized cars which already solve for the rain problem, that simple does not hold water.
Illogical sounds like it is not a thing at all considering that I have already walked through the logic (see above).
Stupid might very well be a thing but coming back on Monday sounds even more stupid. Motor racing drivers are skilled employees and while Ido think that efforts should be made to improve safety, they are not so unskilled as to be unable to drive in the rain. A lot of them came from dirt track racing; many of them probably drove back to their hotels in the rain.

A tyre in NASCAR is made to the specifications of 300/54R15 where as a Supercar tyre is 300/32R17. As the front surface is in both cases square and the Supercar wet tyres are already made by specification to displace 80L/sec at 350km/h,then they are already up to the task.

The tyres in the Supercars Championship more than adequately solve the aquaplaning problem and as for the durability problem, tyres in NASCAR already do not go 500 miles so that claim was either just a little bit spurious or hyperbole.

The only real issues that I can see are those unresolved shear forces, which given thicker sidewalls, should be easily overcome. Dissipating heat is not really a problem as rain tyres run on wet roads and the challenge is often to bring the tyres up to temperature. The technical problem of channeling water away has already been solved by similar spec tyres and asforthe question of running on a superspeedway, the meat bag with a bioelectric computer on board (ie. the human) who drives the thing, should be reasonably adept at working out how to get around in the rain.

I do not think that engineers are not up to the task. In my experience engineers are all pretty cluey and between engineers and production and service people, 95% of all the value of everything in the world is produced. That only leaves sales and management as the ones in the way.

It ain't happening, and no one is going to waste time and money on Oval Rain tires.

They might do if asked to.

NASCAR in its list of proposed changes for Gen-7 in 2021, will be switching from 15 inch rims to 18 inch rims; which is possibly similar to the Supercars Championship which may go from 17 to 18inch rims. It will be curious to see what the next steps are going forward.

Second Aside:
I had a chat with one of our clients who works for Pirelli. He thought that the problem of aquaplaning showed itself more when a car was braking because the loads through the car tended to push forwards which mean that the front tyres have to work harder. We already know that you should put new tyres on the rear of a car because better traction at the rear prevents spins but seeing as cars in NASCAR already have a big rear wing and on a superspeedway the angle easily exceeds the upper limit of 4% crossfall that you would find on normal roads, it means that you shouldn't get as much standing water on the road surface. He thought the design question would actually be easier.

October 17, 2019

Horse 2608 - My Phone Is Amazing But Other People Don't Think So

Largely because I am a forty year old male who in theory has a higher amount of disposable income because of the benefits of the patriarchy, and because I like Top Gear, Mythbusters, Scandi Crime dramas, documentaries, and the like, the algorithms which tell the streaming television services who is watching, seem to think that I will buy expensive cars and the latest technological dooverwackery and lots of them. SBS On Demand in particular, wants to sell me the new iPhone 11 with the trypophobic three cameras.
Don't get me wrong, I like advertising. Advertising is part of the necessary contract which means that I get to watch stuff that other people have made and that other people have paid for (the advertisers). What I don't think that the advertisers get though, is that I am not likely to throw down a lot of coin for the latest tech. I suspect that I am the kind of person who tech companies hate. Although I like the idea of new technology, I am so far towards the back of the tech upgrading queue that by the time I get around to replacing anything, every improvement is always light years ahead of what I previously had.

Over on the social media platforms, I see people who haven't been paid brag posting about their new Samsung Galaxy iPhone Nokia Sony S14 with 512-bit waffle iron computing, 4 cameras with 20.7 megapixels, and USB 4.2 Lightning or whatever and I think that that's all fine but I ain't ever gonna need it.
I am someone who had a black and white analogue television until the signals stopped, who had a valve amplifier with quatravox until it finally died, and a microwave oven from the late 1970s which is still in perfectly good working order. If a device works then as far as I am concerned, it doesn't necessarily need replacing. I am a big fan of the proverb that the fastest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
The phone that I do have (because I am not a complete troglodyte) is a Samsung GT-S5511T and I am amazed that it has a camera and a colour screen. That's already more than sufficient for me because my only requirements for a phone are that it makes phone calls and can send and receive text messages. As for my phone itself, it has been dropped a lot, is covered in scratches but keeps on keeping on.

What I find amazing is that people are amazed that I have such an 'old' phone. Speaking as someone who has had four phones this century, I already find that to be scandalous and think that that's morally already three phones too many. The truth is that I am more than content with the technical wizardry going on inside my pocket and I survive quite nicely without needing anything better. Good enough is good enough. Not only that but good enough exceeds my expectations many many times over.
It happened recently that I had to take a telephone call during another meeting because our email server had gone down. I took my phone out of my pocket, sent a text message and then put it back in my pocket. Someone wanted to look at the phone after the meeting and I think that I could see an almost puzzled look upon their face as they couldn't believe that I have a phone which would have been pretty amazing in 2006 but is old hat now. I still think that the entire concept of a mobile telephone is pretty amazing and I wonder at the age that we live in. I live in the world that 2001 A Space Oddessy and Star Trek predicted; so I don't know how one can be that complacent. We walk around with the future in our pocket and we're bored with it.

It is with a great deal of irony that I type this on a 7 inch tablet which cost less than eighty dollars. I mention this because already have a device which does everything that I ask of it and which is bigger than the iPhone 11. I can use Wi-Fi on it but because it doesn't have any telephony circuitry, I can not make phone calls or use the device to ride on the mobile phone carrier networks. Likewise, I can not go on the internet with my phone and that's fair enough. The two devices serve separate functions that that's perfectly acceptable.
Most people on the train will have their mobile phone which they can access the internet with and where they will get adverts for the new iPhone on a phone which they already have and probably doesn't need upgrading, I have a phone which is so old that I can not receive the adverts to upgrade my phone despite me being the one person on the train who would probably benefit the most from upgrading it.
I am not anti technology but as someone who has the least technologically advanced phone out of anyone I can immediately think of, it might look that way.

Within my pocket I have more computing power than what took twelve clowns to the moon. My 7 inch tablet has a touch screen and enough space to hold hundreds of hours of music and/or many hours of video. It is mind bending to think that after I have finished writing this piece, I will probably be watching motor racing on my tablet. It is more mind bending to think that people are surprised that I don't really want to spend $1900 on a device, which doesn't really provide any conceivable benefits that my existing devices already cover more than brilliantly. I do not know under what circumstances I would consider buying a new device that I really do not need, which costs more than a cheap second hand car. For the same amount of money, I could buy an old Astra and drive around Australia. Still, people think I need a new phone. Why?

October 16, 2019

Horse 2607 - The Bathurst 1000 And Team Orders

This year's Bathurst 1000 was won by Scott MacLaughlin and Alexander Premat in a DJR Penske Mustang fairly convincingly. The car with MacLaughlin at the wheel took the lap record, qualified on pole position and then won the race on Sunday. This is in the context of a season in which Scott MacLaughlin will probably also be the Supercars Champion for 2019 and DJR Penske will take the teams championship.
While winning a championship is good, winning the Bathurst 1000 is special. Winning a championship allows you to put the number 1 on the car for the next season. Winning Bathurst on the other hand, allows you to put your name into legend. Alan Moffat once said that the rest of the touring car championship was just a warm up for Bathurst.
With all that by way of background, what we saw at Bathurst on Lap 135 of 161 starts to look a bit sinister; and the Supercars organisation also saw it as looking sinister.

Fabian Coulthard who was driving the #12 DJR Penske Mustang, held the field back some thirteen seconds behind the leaders, during a late safety car period. At the time the crew chief cited that the car was having overheating problems and that holding it back would let cool air to pass through the radiator and dissipate the heat. Naturally the Supercars organisation saw this as a ruse and said that they would investigate this after the race.

Holding back the #12 Mustang just happened to have the benefit of letting the #17 Mustang time to pit, get a new set of tyres and fuel; so that it didn't have to worry about stopping before the end of the race. What DJR Penske didn't want was the second of their cars coming in directly behind the first one and wasting time by just sitting around waiting in pit lane.
Of course this also applied to the Triple Eight Engineering team who also would have had the same problem but because they weren't responsible for the infringement, they will walk away from this in complete impunity.

The Supercars organisation eventually cited an infringement of Rule D24¹ which states:

D24.1 Team Orders
24.1.1 Means an instruction to a Driver or Team member, either verbal or otherwise the effect of
which may interfere with a race result.
24.1.2 It is not permitted for any sponsor, supplier, entity or related entity, including an Automobile
manufacturer, importer or their representative to impose or seek to impose Team orders,
on any Team. 

In addition, there is the supplemental rule¹:
14.2.5 Any post-race Penalty imposed for breaches of the Rules during the race, other than the
penalty of a monetary fine, will be imposed on both Drivers in that Car.

I am a firm believer that as motor racing already is a team sport, that the team owners should have the right to order anything that they like. Since banning team orders invariably leads to secret codes being used, just so that the officials can not pin down that there were any team orders, then it makes sense to me to just drop the whole pretense and just admit that it is rampant. In principle I have nothing against DJR Penske declaring any weird team orders that they want.
The problem that I do have with DJR Penske is that they ordered Fabian Coulthard to hold the field up; deliberately, to create enough space on pit row to prevent double stacking of their two cars.

Already I find the idea of double stacking ludicrous. I rather like the idea that NASCAR has where you have dedicated crews in dedicated spaces for the cars. Teams in NASCAR seem to survive perfectly well with the further restriction of only having six people allowed over the pit wall at once as well. Supercars already take up voluminous amounts of space across double and triple garages; so I really can not see why if a NASCAR operation which might be running as many as four cars should find it easy to bring all four cars in at once and yet Supercars teams can not.
In addition to this, I find the reason given by DJR Penske for holding back the #12 car of Fabian Coulthard, as flimsy as if you built a cruise ship out of tissue paper. It floats for a while but there is no way that it holds water or stands up to testing.

If I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else then I would have called DJR Penske's bluff and black flagged their car on the next lap of the race and then cited their own reasoning for holding the field up. By their own admission, they had a car which wasn't capable of holding speed; and if they wanted to fight the case, then I would have then black flagged the car for deliberately holding the field up. I would have then held the car in the pits for 15 seconds as a penalty.

Unfortunately, the Supercars organisation didn't enforce any penalty at the time, which is silly to me; so now they have to go through some sort of arbitration committee meeting.
Supercars will probably cite rule D24 in the technical manual for car #12 rather than stripping the #17 car of Scott MacLaughlin and Alexander Premat of their win (which the Daily Telegraph is crying all kinds of coloured murder about) and add a penalty of 90 seconds of time to the race result of the #12 car. Thus, it will be pushed back to about 106 seconds behind the winner and be credited with a corrected result of 13th. DJR Penske will probably also have to pay some monetary fine for their deliberate knavery.

I have heard argument that even if the #17 car suffers no penalty and is allowed to keep their win (because that car wasn't actually the car which infringed upon the rules) then their win win be tarnished. I say nay. History doesn't really work that way². The long view of history writes things into the past as a point of academia and discussion. Unless the organisers actually decide to strip the victory away, then history will be kinder in the long run, than the media which needs to stir up intrigue in the short term to sell copy.

²Sometimes it even adds to the legend of the result, like in 1992.

I think that 26 cars in what is supposed to be the biggest motorsport event in the country is an unfunny joke. There are 36 double garages at Bathurst; which means that pit lane can accommodate as many as 72 cars. Back in the old days before Supercars decided to close the shop with their Racing Entitlement Contracts, there were as many as 56 cars at Bathurst. The event now is far more corporatised and when you are at the track, it is far more fan unfriendly and restrictive (unless you have money).

Considering that Super 2 was already there and running a 250km race on the Saturday, I think that there is a good case to be made to allow Super 2 into the Bathurst 1000. The cars are older spec and in every single case, were ex-Super 1 cars (assuming that the Supercars Championship wants to give those cars a number). Those extra 16 cars would give more drivers a chance to have a go.

As for the argument that Super 2 or even Super 3 would be too slow, I reject that entirely. If you applied the FIA's 107% rule, then that would have given you a cut off time of 2m 11secs and the entire Super 2 field was within that.

If you consider that the full-time drivers are supposed to be better, then it should be expected that they would have the necessary skills to pick their way through traffic. I refuse to believe that in the days when you had a Ford Sierra which was doing 307km/h at peak and it came across a Toyota Corolla, that the Corolla driver wouldn't have had a very real and serious sense of self-preservation and wouldn't have wanted to get out of the way. At any rate, we had Chaz Mostert try to throw his Mustang into a space that it didn't fit, going into the Chase, which says to me that the amount of professional bravado which exists will still cause accidents among full-time front line drivers.

October 10, 2019

Horse 2606 - The White House's Eight Page Letter Of Nonsense

In a glorious piece of knavery, the Counsel to the President Pat A Cipollone has written an eight page rejection letter with regards the legitimacy of the House's decision to commence impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
The eight page argument is so badly constructed that if it was presented in a Constitutional Law 101 class, it would have to be be graded as an F, for failing to actually address the words of the Constitution itself.
The document comes off to me, as though it were written by someone who has never read the Constitution and even if they have, they certainly haven't understood what it says.

The document is split into three parts, which are all a unique kind of idiocy; which I can only assume are designed to throw sufficiently enough smoke into the air so that the general public is distracted. Mostly the general public also has not read the Constitution and neither has the majority of the commentariat who will report the news of this; so this letter doesn't need to be particularly grounded in the facts.

In the first part it tries to undermine the legitimacy of the impeachment proceedings, citing 'due process' and 'separation of powers' problems, which themselves are irrelevant because of the text of the Constitution (which I shall cite later).
In the second part it claims that the impeachment proceedings are designed to 'Reverse the Election of 2016' which is an outright lie, and 'To Influence the Election of 2020' which is a statement of fact but given that this is a political process contained within the Constitution and every impeachment proceeding is by its very nature political, that is like objecting to water being wet.
The third part tries to argue the basis of the impeachment, despite the fact that the appropriate time and place for that is if and when the impeachment indictment is brought to the Senate if it gets that far.

The letter either deliberately misunderstands how the impeachment process works or is just so woefully incompetent that it arrives at that same place.

Granted, that I am not a lawyer and am not qualified to stand at the bar and deliver addresses but at least I have read the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers and read enough law to know my way around the document with a fair degree of competency. I have also spent the better part of two decades in and around the law as either a direct employee of law courts or in the offices of a forensic accounting firm, to have more than an elementary idea of how to read law.
At this juncture, even I can see that this is the equivalent of spray painting a pig and calling it a guide dog. That isn't a very funny joke and doesn't prevent the blind from falling into an open elevator shaft.

For the record, the link to the eight page letter in question is immediately below. I will be quoting this verbatim where necessary. Suffice to say, I think that the letter is fraught with problems.

- White-House Letter to Speaker Pelosi Et Al, 8th October 2019

For example, you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. You have conducted your proceedings in secret. You have violated civil liberties and the separation of powers by threatening Executive Branch officials, claiming that you will seek to punish those who exercise fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives. All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and eve1y past precedent. Never before in our history has the House of Representatives-under the control of either political party-taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue.
- Page 1

That first sentence, shows that the counsel advising the President is either a moron or is lying. It might very well be possible to have a "right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans" if impeachment was in fact a court case but it isn't.

Impeachment is the process by which the Congress presses charges against an official; in this case the President. It is only at the end of an impeachment process which the charges have formally been drawn up, that someone has a formal chance to answer them and to formulate a defence. As for the statements that the President has been denied "right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans", every single one of those issues is nonsensical considering that impeachment is not a formal trial and those things only happen within a formal trial. As impeachment is not the trial, then saying that the President has been denied something which doesn't actually exist at this point in the process, is monumentally stupid; and if that is the advice of Mr Cipollone, then he should seriously give up lawyering because he fails at even the most basic of skills.

Of itself, impeachment doesn't remove an official from office. In principle, the impeachment process is akin to the investigation and drafting of charges by the relevant criminal prosecution service and as such, it is the process which produces the statement of charges which will then have to be answered for. The authority that actually has that function to measure and test the charges and where the rights to "right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans" would be applicable, would be in the Senate Hearings and not the House.

The House of Representatives as per the US Constitution has the sole power of impeachment as per Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the US Constitution.

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.
- Article I, Section 2, Clause 5

If the House then has the sole power of impeachment, the obvious question of how they are to conduct their process is completely open. There is in fact no set of instructions or limits on how they are able or allowed to go about doing it. The House is basically conducting an investigation to see if there are any charges and how they might be written, similarly to how the police go about their investigations in a criminal matter. Then based upon the evidence that they have collected in the process of discovery; which may involve subpoenaing documents and transcripts (or audio tape as was the case with Nixon in 1974), they will come to a decision which usually involves a simple majority of members of the House (218 of 435) and as they are the House of Representatives with that legal capacity to decide whether or not to indict as a sitting President, they act in effect as the grandest of Grand Juries.

It should be pointed out that there isn't a right conferred on the President to discover where the information that the House has found, not to unmask the whistleblower during the investigation stage and neither should there be. A criminal does not have the right to see the documents that the police have in charging them, unless they are actually brought out in material evidence in the trial. The House is perfectly allowed to conduct its investigations in secret and arguably it should do, so as to not pollute the evidence which may be brought forth. Furthermore, if the President did have the right to cross examine witnesses then they might not be so forthright in coming forward in the first place.
It is then and only then, that these things, the "right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans" becomes relevant because it is the Senate who has the power to try impeachments.

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present.
Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment, trial, judgment and punishment, according to law.
- Article I, Section 3, Clauses 6 & 7

It is the Senate who can call witnesses &c. and it is then that the President actually has those rights to do those things that the complaint that Counsellor Pat A Cipollone becomes relevant. If anything, this letter itself actually forms part of an obstruction of justice by the President; which notably the Mueller report found ten alleged instances of potential obstruction. While the House Judiciary Committee did open an investigation of those allegations, nothing of import arose from them.

As for the objections raised by Counsel Cipollone:

Your inquiry is constitutionally invalid and a violation of due process. In the history of our Nation, the House of Representatives has never attempted to launch an impeachment inquiry against the President without a majority of the House taking political accountability for that decision by voting to authorize such a dramatic constitutional step.
- Page 2

There are no rules in the Constitution for determining the nature or the mechanism by which an impeachment proceeding has to take place. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say exactly how witnesses are to be questioned or what kind of legal representation they are entitled to, if any. This is a stupid objection.

These due process rights are not a matter of discretion for the Committees to dispense with at will. To the contrary, they are constitutional requirements. The Supreme Court has recognized that due process protections apply to all congressional investigations.
- Page 3

Granted, SCOTUS has decided that the Congress is in fact limited in conducting investigations within the scope of the law and cases like Watkins v. United States (1957) which states that the Congress does not have the the authority to expose the private affairs of individuals; the duty of the Congress and ability to secure "needed information has long been treated as an attribute of the power to legislate. It was so regarded in the British Parliament and in the colonial Legislatures before the American Revolution, and a like view has prevailed and been carried into effect in both houses of Congress and in most of the state Legislatures" per Quinn v. United States (1955).

To comply with the Constitution's demands, appropriate procedures would include-at a minimum-the right to see all evidence, to present evidence, to call witnesses, to have counsel present at all hearings, to cross-examine all witnesses, to make objections relating to the examination of witnesses or the admissibility of testimony and evidence, and to respond to evidence and testimony.
- Page 4

Notwithstanding the fact that the right "to see evidence, to call witnesses, to have counsel present, to cross-examine witnesses, to make objections" &c. happens as part of the due process of the impeachment case being tried in the Senate, I am wondering exactly what sort of things that Mr Trump expects to do during the collection phase of the impeachment process. The letter already states on page 2 that the President rejects the process and then goes on to state that he cannot participate in the inquiry. How exactly do you propose to participate in a process which you have already refused to participate in?

Furthermore, when you consider that this already hinges around a piece of evidence which the President refuses to submit, and that the most valid witness to the phone call to Zelenskyy is Mr Trump himself, then does he propose to call himself as a witness and then refuse to answer his own questions put to him by himself? That right there is some ouroboros snake eating its own tail kind of stuff.

There is also an extraordinary piece of insanity on page 7, which I simply cannot follow within the framework of the Constitution.

Given that your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections, the Executive Branch carmot be expected to participate in it. Because participating in this inquiry under the current unconstitutional posture would inflict lasting institutional harm on the Executive Branch and lasting damage to the separation of powers, you have left the President no choice.
- Page 7

Firstly, the House obviously does have the sole power of impeachment as already explained here; so to assert that it doesn't have any 'legitimate constitutional foundation' is an outright lie. Secondly, the questions of 'fairness' and 'due process protections' are both a question for when the case is tried in the Senate which is not the House; so to accuse the House of violating conditions placed on another legislative chamber is a nonsense.

Thirdly, it is asserted that the inquiry would 'inflict lasting institutional harm on the Executive Branch and lasting damage to the separation of powers'. Okay, how? How exactly does that happen?

This administration has been a shambles almost from day one. I do not know how holding this administration to account for the things it has done, should put any future administration in any 'institutional harm' at all. Previous impeachment proceedings have done no such thing. The impeachment proceedings of Richard Nixon may have cast a shadow over the administration of Gerald Ford and may have even contributed to the election of Jimmy Carter but by 1980 there wasn't any hint at all of 'institutional harm' caused by the impeachment inquiry of Nixon. It is a stupid thing to suggest that the impeachment proceedings relating to Mr Trump will have any shadows beyond 2024.

It is also inconceivable to me exactly how there is a 'separation of powers' question here, much less how there is any hint that this impeachment proceeding is going to cause lasting damage to them.
Impeachment is the formal process of writing an indictment, which is then passed to the Senate for trial and to be tested. This mechanism is specifically stated in the Constitution. It doesn't attempt to run the daily business of the nation which is the constitutional duty of the Executive Branch and it doesn't attempt to hold court on the interpretation of the law which is the constitutional duty of the Legal Branch.
I have no idea of what kind of 'separation of powers' violation is imagined here. This is probably supposed to be so utterly buckwild that of course it cannot be argued with. It is really difficult to form a coherent argument against nonsense.

Consistent with the duties of the President of the United States, and in particular his obligation to preserve the rights of future occupants of his office, President Trump cannot permit his Administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under these circumstances.
- Page 7

As was pointed out to me by a QC yesterday, impeachment proceedings do not even require the President to participate in the inquiry. If the police have an unhelpful person which they suspect may have committed a crime, which is after all the entire point of the impeachment process, then there isn't an obligation for that person to to say anything, but it may harm their defence if they do not mention something which when questioned about later on, which they rely on in court. While anything that the suspect does present or say may be given in evidence, the people who then go on to judge the case may wonder why they did not tell the investigators what happened when they were asked.
In American law, these particular principles have their basis in the case of  Miranda v Arizona (1966) and although there can not be an inference of guilt which is drawn from a defendant's refusal to testify in his own defense as per Griffin v California (1965), that still doesn't mean that the President is required to say anything.

I will also point out that the President himself has said that he will "plead the Fifth" which is also kind of a nonsense considering the that the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution which opens:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury...
- Amendment V

...also doesn't actually apply because the presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury (in this case the House is the Grand Jury), isn't tried in the House.

Beyond those points of objection most of the eight pages of the letter issued by Counsellor Pat A Cipollone are materially worthless. Most of the footnotes of the objection aren't even based in legal argument or opinion that are relevant.

Ultimately this eight page letter is an attempt at subterfuge and not a very good one either. It is little more than a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.

October 09, 2019

Horse 2605 - Fragments XI: Not The President Of China

EN14 - No, Australia Is Not Based On Enlightenment Principles

It has to be said that the colonies which were first set up on the Australian continent were not remotely based on the principles of the enlightenment. Granted that the voyages of discovery under Captain James Cook in the late 1760s and 1770s were started as a scientific mission, but the voyage of the eleven ships of the First Fleet in 1787/8 was definitely not. Australia was seen as a viable dumping ground for the criminal convicts of Britain, after the avenue to dumping them in the American colonies had well and truly been closed.
The colony of New South Wales was started as an autocratic military entity; with no hint of representative government until 1843, with responsible government not being conferred upon it until 1855, and with the franchise only being extended to landholders of more than £200 or rent payers who paid more than £20 per year. The trigger for responsible government was also not due to the enlightenment but the more vulgar reason of money; with payable gold being discovered in 1851.


GH32 - Where Are All The Boring Ghosts?

How come every ghost is really interesting? Not even once have I heard a tale about there being the ghost of an old lady who just wanted to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, or a ghost of a man doing the lawn mowing. Why are there no ghosts of kangaroos, or pigeons, or cows? Shouldn't there be billions upon billions of ghost insects and bacteria? Where are all of those ghosts?


JQ11 - We Are Bigger Together Than The Mes

I'm not even going to clothe this in the finery of civility. If you think that society is nothing more than a series of transactions which make up the economy; instead of a whole host of nested and complex interactions and social obligations, which should be underpinned by human decency and value, then you are a trash monster.

I will readily admit that I have a pretty dim view of humanity (partly based upon the experience of being one) and I do not subscribe to the theory that people are basically good with patches of frustration that leak out. I think that people are mostly rationally selfish and that everyone is trying to get along in the world.
I also think that society is built and should be built out of the distinctly unnatural desire to build a collective project which is bigger than the rationally selfish individuals which make it up.

The big ideas of public education, the public health service, justice systems, public works and infrastructure, have a greater reach and are more efficient when they are held by and owned by the public at large, because even if you take the assumption that government is always inefficient (which itself is a lie), then those inefficiencies still add up to less than the inefficiencies caused by selfish individuals creating feedback loops while trying to steal from each other.


PT6 - Health Care Protests

What do we want?
A single government owned and operated health care system, which is non exclusionary, which takes advantage of economies of scale and better negotiating power, which answers the basic insurance question of spreading risk while most accurately reflecting the systemic risk of the general population of insurable items (ie. people's lives and their health outcomes), all while eliminating the profit motive.
When do we want it?
Before the end of 1954.


ZZ12 - I Won't Take My 'Items'

I don't have a problem with the voice at the self checkout being happy, at all. Although the machine is otherwise an impersonal interaction, it hasn't done anything to warrant being angry at it. There are good reasons for being mad at the firm for employing the machine instead of a meatbag human but that isn't the fault of the machine which only costs cents per hour to run instead of many dollars.
My problem is with the words that someone wanted to put into the mouth of the voiceover lady who became the voice of the machine. The phrase "please take your items" might very well be grammatically correct but the plural of "items" sounds as weird as all get out. The uncountable plural of "shopping", as in "please take your shopping" is less grammatically correct but also less weird. It also covers the very real possibility that the shopper only has one thing. I am loathe use the word 'item' unless it appears on a list and while I will concede that people have both shopping lists and that the receipt contains a list of all the items which have been bought, those things do not remain 'items' but become the uncountable 'shopping', the second that you have paid for it.
You never bring in your items once you get home. No. You bring the shopping in from the car. While you might leave one or two items in the car, the whole thing is a brand new collective.


WM98 - RUOK Day Is Cruel To Those Who R Not OK.

I think that there's something almost sad about RUOK Day. If you are sufficiently connected that someone is going to ask you the question, then it almost feels rhetorical in that the question answers itself. Of course you are part way okay if someone cares enough about you to ask the question of you. But what if that's not the case?
Suppose for whatever reason that you are in a place of chronic loneliness. Almost by very definition you are not okay and nobody will ask you the question of whether or not you are in fact okay.

There is a really cruel stunt that reality likes to play that the people whom society deems are the weirdest, the strangest, the most unlovable, are also the ones most likely to be lonely; thus confirming their suspicions and fears that the world is at best ambivalent and at worst actively hates them. In a world where 20% of the population will suffer some kind of mental illness in their lives, it seems really unfair to me that the cosmos will reward those people who already have sparkling personalities with the benefits therein and punish those who do not. RUOK Day is a societal reminder to those people who are already maligned that they are things rather than people worthy enough to care about for the other 364 days of the year, in they are asked the question at all.

Before you go worrying yourself, I am okay. I think that I was work hardened by life a long time ago, to be pretty robust. I am already fully aware that the world is cruel and that I am a prime candidate to be punched by the cosmos. I do not break.


KE56 - (Addenda To A Post That Got Way Out Of Hand)

¹And while we're at it...
I don't really care for the hanging announcements on Sydney Trains which start with the address of 'Customers'.

'Customers' are people who visit a firm with their custom. Now I know that this is incredibly archaic but that should properly apply to someone buying goods from a shop and preferably on a regular basis. The word for people buying train tickets is...
'Clients' are people that buy services. The conveyance of real property from one place to another is clearly a service because you have nothing specifically tangible to show for it afterwards. You can not hold in your hands, the passage of someone for 50 kilometers. On top of that, the more proper word for people who are transported by vehicular means is...
'Passengers' are a very specific kind of clients who make use of the service provided by planes, trains, ships, automobiles, rickshaws &c.

²And while we're at it...
A 'note' is a sum specified that someone promises to pay, or that there is a sum specified which is backed by the ongoing credit of the entity which issued it. Generally speaking a promissory note is issued by a private entity while a bank note is issued by a bank which can either be public or private.
A 'cheque' is an instruction to pay a sum specified from a bank of funds; which usually implies a deposit taking institution but can also be the central bank
A 'bill' is a demand for a sum specified to be paid.

³And while we're at it...
This is something that I find maddening about American English. Those three words mean exactly what they mean in a legal sense but not out in the real world.
People ask for the 'cheque' from a restaurant; which is insane when you consider that in the olden days before credit cards, people would pull out their cheque book to pay for their delicious meal. In Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the person who is in charge of writing all of the big cheques that Her Majesty's Government wants to pay. They write the cheque for all of the delicious meals that the government pays for.
People also call that green bit of paper with George Washington's face on it a 'bill' despite the fact that it has the words 'Treasury Note' written on it. A US Dollar bill is not a demand for a sum specified but rather a promise that the US Treasury is good for the ongoing credit of that amount of One Dollar.

October 05, 2019

Horse 2604 - Holden's Slide To Irrelevancy Continues

September 2019 sales (from VFACTS).
3364 - Toyota HiLux
3116 - Ford Ranger
3001 - Mitsubishi Triton
2447 - Hyundai i30
2419 - Mitsubishi ASX
2355 - Mazda CX-5
2219 - Toyota Corolla
2022 - Kia Cerato
1769 - Nissan X-Trail
1731 - Mitsubishi Outlander

Both Holden and Ford have continued their paths to irrelevancy; with Ford having only their Ranger in the top ten car sales and Holden having no cars in the top ten of monthly car sales figures for the first time since 1948.

That in itself is significant. Ford have sort of transitioned to their new position of being just another import car company by at least trying to stay somewhat relevant with the Mustang, their ST and RS lines and the venerable Ranger but General Motors have not.
People have dumped Holden like a plate of cold sick after the brand which had built itself as quintessentially Australian is now about as Australian as Baseball, Kimchi, Bróckelwurst, and Chevrolet. As I write this post while heading southbound across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, my highly unscientific sample of 200 cars includes precisely zero Holdens.
I have said in a previous blog post that I as a consumer hold part of the collective responsibility for the downfall of what once was a cultural institution in that I personally have never owned a Holden because I lived on the blue side of the holy war and I went out and bought a Japanese car, from a factory in a Japanese city which had a nuclear bomb dropped on it.

It is a pity as there is nothing inherently bad about the Opel built Astra or ZB Commodore; thee Arcadia is just plain anonymous, and the Colorado is just short of being mediocre.
The ZB Commodore hits pretty close to the same price points as the VF that it replaced, though there is a little bit of rejink if you want to buy the 3.6L V6 engine option.
The LGX from what I can determine is actually the same engine as the LFX but rotated through ninety degrees and driving the front wheels rather than the rear wheels. I am sure that if Holden was allowed to play with the car, they would have shoehorned the LS3 V8 into the front of it but Detroit having taken away all manufacturing from Australia seems intent on making us suffer. There is also no ute option and the Colorado comes with a shorter tray bed and a weaker choice of engines but manages to play the amazing trick of being less capable but more expensive that the Commodore Ute that it replaced (replacement by default; not by class).

If you look at the volume sellers in Australia, the top ten is made up of two broad kinds of cars - the tradies' trucks, which are almost always being bought by businesses and being put through the books of private companies (which means that you and I as taxpayers are subsidising them); and smallish hatchback/wagon things. We have managed to collectively rebrand jacked up wagons as SUVs but they do not in reality offer that much extra utility than a wagon would do.
Ford have their Focus and Escape in that general market but Holden have the Astra and Arcadia which are all pretty anonymous in the market. Holden will eventually suffer the future indignance of losing the Astra because Opel who makes the car has been sold to PSA Group. As far as I know, General Motors have no plans to release a replacement small car in Australia.

It is little wonder then that Holden should suffer the worst sales month in the brand's history as it slides towards irrelevancy. It is pretty clear that General Motors have no long term game plan whatsoever and that as Australia is a very small and competitive market, they simply do not care.
It is curious when you consider that Holden still maintain headline sponsorship of Triple Eight Racing in the Supercars Championship, even though they are now shifting less cars in a month than ever before. Triple Eight Engineering own the proprietary intellectual property which underpins the race car; so I suspect that the ZB Commodore will become a legacy property just like the Falcon did and the Nissan Altima is currently. I have no idea what if anything is going to replace it in the future.
My further suspicion is that Holden is still a convenient label to put on top of anything that General Motors want to sell. There was some speculation about whether or not the badge would be going away but I think that the brand presence is sufficient to close out any notion that there would be Chevrolet bowties or the Cadillac label on cars in the future.

October 02, 2019

Horse 2603 - Kek Lol. Go Home Traffic Lights, You Are Drunk.

On September 2nd, a witch's hat appeared on top of the traffic lights on the pedestrian island in the junction of Military and Spit Roads. My first reaction because this is now the twenty first century and we've all been taught by the internet, on Instaface and Twitgram, that memes are funny, was 'Kek lol. Go home traffic lights, you are drunk.' Smiley face. Heart. Like. On reflection though, this was a really puerile idea and I didn't post it until now.
A month later and the witch's hat is still there and I have seen no effort by the council, nor any traffic authority, to get it down. Seeing as it harms nobody, why would someone waste the time and effort to retrieve it? The net reward of having one traffic cone is less than nil. The traffic cone remains.

I thought about trying to write some really profound blog post about the power of persistence of the witch's hat but this is more about apathy in action. I had a hundred and seven words written about the witch's hat quietly ironically failing in its only function by being noticed but not warning anybody of anything but that too seemed like a sad waste of time.
I tried to imagine what it would be like to be the traffic cone but that took me to equally boring places. I thought about its personality but that meant endowing the traffic cone with a gender and that had problematic consequences no matter which direction the blog post went.

At every turn, the witch's hat/traffic cone, demands to be written about but because it is so obvious, it defies any sensible description. Ever since the beginning of time, every single joke in the history of the world, be it literary. verbal, or physical, lies in the positional substitution of semantics in logic.
Every joke has some kind of patter which forms the setup in expectations and then the punch line is some variation in the subversion of the logic which has been setup. This witch's hat is itself the punch line by virtue of it being in an unexpected place; where the expectation of place is the implied patter to the setup of the joke.
I actually can not improve upon 'Kek lol. Go home traffic lights, you are drunk.' because it is really economical in execution. It also endows the witch's hat with a personality albeit one which is not even one dimensional.

'Kek lol. Go home traffic lights, you are drunk.' is also amusing in that the traffic lights are always home and it wouldn't need to go anywhere, even if they sobered up and took the witch's hat off of its head.  This also illustrates the inherent problem with analysing a joke; in that once you have picked apart the logic, all you are left with is a bunch of illogical parts. Don't explain the joke, ever.

There's also something quite beautiful in this. Thousands of cars and thousands of people pass through here in a week and while it is amusing to see for the first or second time, it very quickly becomes just a part of the furniture of the built environment.
As the sun beats down, the rain slaps against it, and the plastic degrades, the witch's hat gets one day closer to its eventual removal; either deliberately or just because it will eventually fall off due to lack of structural integrity.

I should open a can of Memento Mori here and empty the contents into the bowl of the three hounds of Hades, Sheol, and Abaddon, where feeding time is all the time but I am not sure if they necessarily like the taste of traffic cone (I do not think it is like the taste of ice cream cone). The big problem with a dead witch's hat is that as it is made from plastic, it degrades but does not break down into anything that nature finds useful. If the Earth had a personality it would probably think that the atoms of the witch's hat were just its own but slightly rearranged but that is what happens if your time frame is longer than all of the living things upon it.
Just like the thousands of cars and people who move through the intersection, this to shall pass. When it finally does go, unless you remember that it was ever here, it may as well have never existed. Possibly apart this blog post, it will not be memorialised and its place will remember it not.

Perhaps 'Kek lol. Go home traffic lights, you are drunk.' is about the best that can be hoped for here. It isn't a very amusing joke but neither is putting a witch's hat on top of the traffic lights world class comedy. Nobody is taking home a Perrier Award or packing out the Plesence at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with this humour. My sides remain very much unsplit. The joke dividend here is non zero but trivial. Yet as I pass through for yet another day, the traffic done remains.