October 24, 2016

Horse 2180 - The Supreme Court's Ongoing Supreme Statemate

I think that it is pretty well much a fait accompli that Hillary Clinton will be the next President Of The United States. I've been watching poll results for quite some time now and the path through the Electoral College for Donald Trump looks well and truly blocked. I think that from here, it would take some sort of miracle or bizarre twist of fate for him to sit in the Oval Office chair,as he's consistently polling at figures less than 40% to Hillary's 45% and the only way to beat Hillary would be by flipping blue states to red and that ain't happening.

If we take this as lore, then this has implications down ballot and especially for the one unanswered question which has been hanging around like a bad smell in a house of farts. That is the question of what happens with the currently vacant position of the ninth Justice Of The Supreme Court.
I've run the numbers several times and taken averages across four different news sites and have come to this rough guide to what the Congress is going to look like.

House Of Representatives:
Dem - 193
GOP - 228
Ind - 14

Dem - 55
GOP - 45

Firstly this means that Paul Ryan will more than likely retain his job as Speaker Of The House. In many respects he is the unluckiest man in all of American politics because he comes across as being the only sane man in a mad house. As the VP nominee for Mitt Romney in 2012, his own path to the White House became more complicated but that still means that 2020 could be a viable option for him.
The Senate though is where the abundance of insanity really resides and this is where the story of the last Justice Of The Supreme Court takes place.

Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2 of the US Constitution says that:

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.- Article 2, Section 2, Clause 2, US Constitution, 1789

Maybe not a decade ago but probably twenty years ago, this wouldn't have been a problem but in 2015 with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in an increasingly toxic political climate, Senate Republicans refused to give assent to any nomination for the Supreme Court that President Obama was going to make; on the basis that he was a lame duck President and that the appointment should be held over for the incoming President whoever they may be.
The Senate is of course perfectly aware of its power under the Constitution and is perfectly legally allowed to withhold its advice and consent if it desires.
That issue has been thrown onto the back burners and was quietly forgotten about until it became obvious that Donald Trump is so toxic that he's not electable. I think that this is probably an example of one of the biggest sunk cost fallacies in political history being played out and should be a herald as to why both the methods deciding who the party nominees are, and the method for deciding who the President is, is so demonstrably idiotic as to be laughable. Except that this is no joke and it isn't funny. The pot of toxic liquid has boiled and now threatens to boil over.
Senator John McCain, expressed the opinion that any Supreme Court nomination that Hillary Clinton would make, would be sight unseen, unacceptable.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said Monday that if Hillary Clinton is elected, Republicans will unite to block anyone she nominates to the Supreme Court.
Speaking on WPHT-AM radio's "Dom Giordano Program" in Philadelphia, McCain pledged to obstruct any Clinton Supreme Court nomination for the current or any future vacancy.
Sen. John McCain speaks to the media, March 16, shortly after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court. McCain said that the confirmation of the next Justice should occur after the election. Now he vows to block Hillary Clinton's choice if she wins the election.
"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," he declared.
- NPR News, 17th Oct 2016.

This as I see it, leaves only two possible outcomes. Firstly, if Hillary Clinton is elected as President, then whoever she nominates for the Supreme Court will be rejected because Democrats won't have the numbers on the floor of the Senate to give advice and consent. Secondly, if America collectively loses its mind and votes Donald Trump in as President, then the Republicans will find themselves on the receiving end of their own tactics and whoever he nominates for the Supreme Court will be rejected because Republicans won't have the numbers on the floor of the Senate to give advice and consent.
In both scenarios, both side of politics have played the game of obstruction so elegantly, it should come as a surprise to no one that the machine of government has come to a grinding halt. Both sides have come to the conclusion that the other side is worse than hate incarnate and as such, even if someone like Santa Claus or Lady Liberty herself was put forward as the candidate for the last remaining Justice Of The Supreme Court, they still wouldn't be accepted on the advice and consent of the Senate because party politics is overruling good government.
Actually, right there is the reason why Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were ever considered in the Presidential race at all. Both of them purport to represent that great swathe of people who feel as though the Congress isn't capable of doing anything. It would appear that they are right.
I wouldn't be surprised if that last remaining Supreme Court chair ends up being vacant for a considerable amount of time.

Although the justices of the Supreme Court are appointed for life, some of them decide that retirement or resignation is the best decision for them. The worst possible outcome is what happens if any more Supreme Court judges start dying off though.
As it is Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 years old, Anthony Kennedy is 80 years old, Stephen Breyer is 78 years old; with the next oldest being in their late 60s. That means that statistically, there's a fair chance that within the first term of whoever winds up being president, there could be as many as four appointments which have to be made. If obstructionist Republicans refuse to give the advice and consent of the Senate on all appointments that Hillary Clinton might make, then the Supreme Court might shrink to just five judges through natural causes. The last time that the Supreme Court was that small was in 1807.

Considering that these people make decisions which have implications on how the law is interpreted, in some cases for literally more than a century, then playing politics like this from both sides seems incredibly petty; yet another reason why I think that that US Constitution is a melting pot of insanity.

October 21, 2016

Horse 2179 - The Election Won't Be Rigged, That's Way Too Hard

Believe me, despite frequent protestations from a certain orange haired individual, the United States' presidential election isn't rigged and there isn't some sort of massive conspiracy to install Hillary Clinton in the White House by the Russians. The election won't be the biggest disaster in the history of the world and there isn't the amount of voter fraud going on, on anything even approaching the sort of scale required to swing the election. Even if you include the case of Florida in 2000, where the chads either did or didn't fall off, that was caused by electoral incompetence rather than deliberate fraud. Never attribute to malice, that which can be attributed to stupidity.
The amount of election rigging to the degree which is being suggested is simply impossible; if anything, voter suppression is going on, particularly in mostly black communities in the south, through Voter ID laws and by lack of provision of adequate polling equipment. That being said, the reason why I can definitely say that they election isn't being rigged by the Russians or the Chinese, from the other side of the world, without doing any research whatsoever, is because of one tremendously obvious reason that has been forgotten by that orange haired individual and that can be summed up in just one word - America.

One of the keys to understanding how the United States works, or continues not to, is that the United States isn't top down Commonwealth in the same way that the United Kingdom is. The United States in principle is a union of fifty states, who mostly don't like each other and who constantly bicker with each other. Those same fifty states retain what is known as a republican form of government; which as far as I can make out, entitles them to retain whatever rights not ceded to the federal government that they can claim and the eternal responsibility to be right nasty pieces of work to each other. Most of the states in the union impose their own income tax in addition to whatever taxation that the federal government might impose and several Supreme Court rulings including White v Texas 1869, confirm that people are citizens of their respective states in addition to being citizens of the United States Of America.

Because America is made up of fifty states, this means that there is not an election to decide who the President will be. Rather, there are fifty elections to decide who that state's Electoral College members will vote for in the real presidential election. I know that I am being quite pedantic here but there is a very good reason for doing so. Those fifty elections are run by the fifty states and those states as republics within the union, have the right to conduct their election in any way that they see fit. In practice, those fifty elections vary wildly from state to state; to the point where the Hank Green from Crash Course, had to make fifty videos to explain how to register to vote in each of fifty states.
On August 9th this year, we had a practical demonstration as to why electronic voting is a fundamentally bad idea. The Australian Bureau Of Statistics blamed the failure of the census website to foreign hackers but it was probably just caused by inadequate testing and the fact that 23 million people all tried to log on at the same time. It showed why having a single centralised place of service would be easier to hack but America doesn't have a single centralised bureau who is responsible for elections. How do you launch a plan to rig fifty elections all at the same time? The logistics for such a plan would be a nightmare.

This gets right at the crux as to why I think that I can say with absolute confidence that there is no rigging of the election. The problem with people who say such a thing, is that clearly they've totally missed the fact that there is not one election but fifty which need to be rigged. A concerted effort to rig fifty elections in the United States, would mean that the entity wanting to rig those elections would firstly have to understand fifty different sets of voting processes and secondly, invent strategies for hacking into those fifty different sets of voting processes. If we bear in mind that not even the federal government in the United States runs the election, then the required machinery needed to rig fifty elections from outside the United States is going to be pretty obvious. In some states, they literally still use mechanical voting machines which were built in the 1920s; so rigging those machines is going to mean a physical presence in polling stations. Unless you can find a lot of sympathetic Americans who will help you, then it's going to be pretty obvious when Sergei turns up to fiddle with the machines. If there is systemic vote rigging going on, then someone will have noticed somewhere that several thousand Russians all mysteriously arrived a week before election day.

I think that the biggest problem for Trump isn't that the election is or isn't being rigged, but that everything that he has said has made him unacceptable to large portions of the population. You win elections by securing the most votes and ironically, suggesting that the election is rigged might cause less of your own supporters to vote because they'd be less confident of a win. If Trump loses, it will be more to do with his own campaign's ineptitude than anything else.

October 20, 2016

Horse 2178 - The Last Of A Dying Breed

One of the things about living in a city which is constantly changing is that the furniture which makes up the civil infrastructure, also changes. Not even a city like Rome which has literally thousand years under the pavement, can claim to remain static for terribly long. Great cities of change like London, Paris and New York do retain airs and graces of the past but they too, change almost imperceptibly. London had a major sweep clean after the Great Fire in 1666 tore through the old city but 450 years later, little if anything remains from that time. New York as a thing has been almost entirely replaced since about 1880 and even Paris' most famous icon, the tower which Eiffel designed for the exposition of 1889, was only supposed to be up for a few years until it was decided that disposing of it was too difficult.

Sydney is a relatively young city and really the only thing which remains from the founding of the city are a few lines on a map which describe where the streets run. Nothing remains of Bennelong's House, nor of the first governor's house and the grandest and oldest of buildings didn't even come about until after there was a gold rush and money started flowing into the colony after it had achieved self government in 1855. So it is with the railway stations as well. The old Sydney Railway Station stands on Regent Street as a kind of forgotten museum piece, the old Rookwood Mortuary Station has been repurposed as a church in Canberra and a lot of the initial railway stations have been torn down and rebuilt. I return to Wynyard Station because of three things which remain from an older time.

Perhaps the most obvious and striking thing left from the original fitout of Wynyard Station are the wooden slat Otis escalators. Apart from two escalators which have not been yet replaced at Town Hall Station (and are slated for destruction in the near future), these are the last deep cut wooden slat escalators left in the world.

Before the refit in the Myer Building on George and Market Streets, there were some cousins in the central escalator chamber in the middle of the building. It used to be fun to clank your way up to the eighth floor and step out into a virtually empty space. The toy department used to sit on the seventh floor but nothing much was up on the eighth except when there was a major store display of something. When those escalators were removed and replaced, it certainly opened up the building and gave it far airier sort of feel but it destroyed the impression that you were in an older style department store which was as permanent a fixture in the social landscape as a bank.

 Myer got rid of its wooden slat escalators, Town Hall Station wants to be rid of its and thus Wynyard Station will be the very last in a world which is moving too quickly to care about where it has been.
There are two more things of note here. The first is the cream and two shades of brown tile work that Wynyard received in the 1960s. As far as I can make out,  Wynyard got this colour scheme after the Cahill Government decided to poke out the eyes of Sydneysiders in an act of willful shortsightedness when the tram lines were pulled out and Wynyard lost platforms numbers 1 and 2 to a car park.
I imagine that Central"s white, green and yellow scheme which it was given, was part of the set with Town Hall and Wynyard.

Eagle eyed observers and people prepared to walk that little bit further (about ten steps) will notice that behind a set of fire doors, are the older set of tiles that Wynyard would have worn when it was opened in 1932.
I'd seen Wynyard's older roundels in black and white photographs only; never in person and never in colour. Since I was a kid, Wynyard has worn black and white roundels, the 1980s multicoloured line signs, and set of corporate boringness in both blue and now orange. The roundels in the style which all stations in the City Circle used to wear proudly and which only Museum and St James wear now (Town Hall had them for a brief period of time before they were ripped away again), were different colours for each of the  various stations around the line. Now I know that Wynyard's roundels were blue and not black.

The surprising thing was that as I was busily snapping away and taking photographs on my phone, I had a member of station staff approach me. I fully expected him to be unhappy but he waxed lyrically about the station and wanted to know if I was from a preservation society or something. It seems that my nerdiness for the built environment is shared by at least some of the general public and he wanted to know if I could get the roundels put back in the station.
He also expressed a lament that the old wooden escalators would be taken away 'soon' but he didn't know when that was going to happen but as he'd already worked out that I was a passenger and not anyone with any power, his lament was more of a good old fashioned whinge.
I'm not some sort of Luddite and automatically think that just because something is old that it must be better (I'm tapping away on an Android device on the train in writing this) but I do think that it is good to keep some old things around because they are aesthetically pleasing. Absolutely I accept the argument that a newer set of escalators would be safer because the combs at either end are smaller and ladies won't get their heels caught in the slats. It is impossible to argue that modern escalators with automatic cut out in case something gets caught in between the slats and the combs is a bad thing. It still doesn't change the fact that these older style escalators, due to their being the last of their kind, are worth preserving and if they continue to do their job, then why not keep them in use? I don't think that the benefits outweigh the expense of replacement when what's currently working, is currently working.

October 19, 2016

Horse 2177 - The House That Smashed Avocado Built

Smashed Avocado inadvertently became the topic of talk-back radio earlier in the week, after a column from the Weekend Australian by demographer Bernard Salt was published. In particular, one of the paragraphs towards the end seems to have attracted a media pile on.

But all of this is mere ephemera. It gets worse. I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle-aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn't they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.
- Weekend Australian, Bernard Salt, 15th Oct 2016.

I know that Bernard Salt's column in the Weekend Australian was supposed to be making fun of both the self righteous sorts who sneer at young people and of young people themselves but it seems that this column has inadvertently struck a raw nerve here. In making fun of the inner city types who might pay $22 for a grilled smashed avocado sandwich, he's exposed the poignant fact that many young people have been priced out of the housing market altogether and no matter how hard they work, they will never afford a house and be condemned to renting forever.

The actual material in the article is mostly grandstanding and given that it is in the magazine and not the newspaper proper, I think that it's supposed to be satire. Indeed, I did a search to see if I could actually find a smashed avocado sandwich for $22 in Sydney and found nothing.
Foolishly, I went to Twitter and asked for suggestions and was bombarded with candidates including The Gourmand Deli and The Grumpy Baker which are both in Vaucluse, Collier's Sandwich Company which is in Woolloomooloo, Republic Sandwiches & Salads in Darlinghurst and Monty's Sandwich Shop in Bondi Junction, and none of them offered any sandwiches for more than about $12. Clearly this article has been written in the land of hyperbole but not in any suburb in Sydney (though maybe Melbourne might have $22 sandwiches).

There's just something very very hollow about an article accusing young people of being spendthrifts and wastrels from someone who happens to be a partner at KPMG and who got their Master of Arts degree from Monash University in the days of Whitlam's free tertiary education and then advises those same young people to stop indulging in something which a) doesn't exist to b) solve a problem which they never caused.

Taken to the only conclusion which can be reached here, maybe if these young people worked harder on developing time travel to 1974 instead of working away in jobs which pay less than at any stage since real wages peaked in 1978, then maybe they could afford houses which have risen in price from four times the yearly average salary to more than ten times the yearly average salary, in the same period.
I mean quite clearly the problem here isn't falling wages, or university education which governments want to raise to the cost of six figures, or the fact that manufacturing has been sent off shore; clearly the problem in Australia is breakfast.

Who are these young people who think that paying $22 for a smashed avocado sandwich is a good idea anyway? It's probably not the sort of young people who have been saddled with student loans, or students for that matter and it's almost certainly not those people who live in the scum western suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne. The young people who are likely to be in the sorts of suburbs where you are going to find a $22 for a smashed avocado sandwich, are the young people who already live there; presumable if they already live there, they're not exactly short of money in the first place.

Economic fortune, especially in spread out cities like Sydney or Melbourne, is one of the biggest self sorting systems that exists. Because people's incomes tend to dictate where they live more than any other factor, it means that places where we live are becoming increasingly filled with similar people who earn roughly the same incomes as we do. If the $22 smashed avocado sandwich exists (which I doubt), then it's going to be sold at a sandwich shop which is frequented with people from roughly the same socioeconomic group that Bernard Salt comes from.
"How can young people afford to eat like this?" Because they come from phenomenally wealthy backgrounds; money isn't an issue for them. "Shouldn't they be economising by eating at home?" Well, why should they? They come from phenomenally wealthy backgrounds; money isn't an issue for them.

The thing that the rest of the media has missed, Including the ABC, is rather obvious fact that this was published in the Weekend Australian, which by demographic has an older readership than all the tabloids and indeed than the Fairfax mastheads of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Mr Salt's column appeared in a publication which is really only being kept alive because it is Rupert's own little baby and therefore the doyenne of News Corp, and because it's read by the political circle in Canberra in lieu of any other proper journalism. The Oz frequently reads like a wish list from the Liberal Party's donors and it basically spends its whole editorial life in singing to the choir on the conservative authoritarian right.

Bernard Salt can afford to sneer at young people because if he's regularly going to a sandwich shop which can put a smashed avocado sandwich on the menu for $22, then obviously he's doing all right; thank you very much. The irony is that the newspaper that he writes for, made a concerted campaign to cut penalty rates on Sundays; which would have reduced the wages of the very people who are bringing him overpriced sandwiches. How can young people afford to eat like this when you want to pay them less?
The lesson here is for young people. Give up bothering to raise the funds to put towards a deposit on a house. All of this is mere ephemera. It gets worse.

October 18, 2016

Horse 2176 - Rethinking Godzilla In The Cold Light Of History

It's hard to believe but it's been a little over 22 years since that rainy Sunday in October when "Gentleman" Jim Richards called the motorsport fans of Australia a "pack of nasties*" after winning the Bathurst 1000 in a car which not less than ten minutes earlier, he'd crashed into a wall. Of course this has to be put into perspective when you realise that:
a) The car which had finished second had actually crossed the finish line instead of crashing into a wall.
b) The car which had finished second was a Ford; which is important in a tribal sport like motor racing.
c) The Nissan GTR was seen as being even more cheatery that the Ford Sierra Cosworth because it was four wheel drive as well as being turbocharged.
d) Jim Richards had defected from the Holden Dealer Team to drive a BMW and then a Nissan; which is kind of extra specially cheatery.
e) Jim Richards was a New Zealander, which just made it all worse.

Let's back the whole thing up a bit and look at this.

In 1984, Australia was running a set of Touring Car regulations which took highly modified production cars and pitted them against each other. The problem was that Ford Motor Company of Australia had stopped selling the V8 Falcon part way through XE and there was no V8 XF Falcon. People who were running Fords complained that there would be a day coming soon when the regulations would render the Holden Commodore as top dog because there was no Ford counterpart to the Holden V8. From what I can gather, Ford competitors met with the Confederation Of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) looked what they could do about the problem and still retain a production based Touring Car category as the premier category of motor sport in Australia; they found it in the FIAs new set of regulations which became known as Group A.
Group A was adopted across Europe and Asia and quickly became the default Touring Car category in the world.

This also allowed Australian competitors to buy cars from overseas; this meant that the Volvo 240T, Jaguar XJS, Rover 3500, BMW 635i and later M3, Ford Mustang and later Sierra, and Nissan Skyline GTS-R started to appear.
Something of a horsepower arms race began with firstly the Rover 3500 and the BMW M3 being the weapons of choice in Europe and then as people learned how to turn the dials of  turbocharging up harder and harder, the Sierra became the absolute capital weapon.

Nissan after running their HR31 Skyline GTS-R to some success but never outright victory in anything, went away and read the rulebook carefully and then designed the R32 Skyline GTR to the letter of what the law would allow. In consequence, unlike the Commodore, Sierra or M3 which were derivations of road cars which went racing, the Skyline GTR was a race car which had had 5000 examples built for the road. It perfectly met the design brief and promptly began winning races around the world; to such a degree that the various motorsport confederations across Europe, Asia and eventually Australia, wrote new rules to exclude the Skyline GTR and it acquired the mystique and the moniker of "Godzilla".
That's the short story of motorsport twenty and a bit years ago but it doesn't quite tell the complete story. The R32 Skyline GTR did win the Bathurst 1000 twice, the Spa 24 Hours once and a record which is always totted out that it won 29 of 29 races in the Japan Touring Car Championship that it was entered in.

I'll speak about Australia first because that's where I live. If you look through the results of the Australian Touring Car Championship for the period, you find that the Skyline GTR had two circuits on which it always consistently failed. The first was Lakeside in Queensland and the other was Amaroo Park in Sydney. Both of these circuits were smaller and tighter than others in the country and the car which consistently beat the Skyline GTR on these circuits was the BMW M3. This was when the M3 was still a 2.5L motor car; which meant that it was physically smaller and therefore nimbler than the competition that it faced. On larger circuits with longer straights, the Skyline GTR could out power other cars and its four wheel drive advantage meant that it could transfer that power to the road better than a Sierra or Commodore could. However, the BMW M3 being a physically smaller thing, could turn tighter and would point more accurately in corners than the Skyline GTR ever could.
For 1992, the Skyline GTR was knobbled with a weight penalty and so it was brought back to the field a little bit but it was still kinder on tyres and as such, won races because tyre performance never dropped off in the same way as it did for other cars.
It's Australian record is that the car arrived in 1990 far too late to have an impact and then when it faced the endurance races, it broke because it was still too new and fragile. In 1991 and 1992 when it won the Australian Touring Car Championship, it was dominant and on the two occasions that it won Bathurst, it was very good but not quite so impregnable that it couldn't be beaten. If the 1992 Bathurst 1000 had gone the distance, then it absolutely would not have won.
In mid 1992, the two big manufacturers in Australia basically conspired to get rid of Godzilla and a set of regulations were developed to kill it off. In 1993 the V8 Supercars regulations came into effect and so the Skyline GTR as far as Australia was concerned was consigned to history.

Therein lies the bigger story. The only place that the Skyline GTR ever faced any real competition was Australia. The European Touring Car Championship was disbanded at the end of 1988; the DTM had changed to a new formula in 1990 and the British Touring Car Championship was run n to a two litre formula from 1991 onwards.

In its native Japan, the R32 Skyline GTR won all 29 of 29 races that it competed in, in the Japanese Touring Car Championship from 1989 to 1993. This very much betrays the fact that it only faced underfunded Ford Sierras in 1989 and the odd one in 1990, and for 1991, 1992 & 1993, it was the only turbocharged car competing; with its opposition being the occasional BMW M3 at 2.5L and 1.6L Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas. If a car which was turbocharged, four wheel drive and not quite double the engine capacity of its competitors couldn't win every single time, then you'd have to assume that there'd been torrential rain.
Actually on that note, when Gibson Motorsport who had run the Skyline GTRs applied to race in the Fuji 500 in 1992, they were denied entry with no explanation given. One can only assume that the Japanese Calsonic team objected because they knew that they be wiped off the floor.

The other record which is waved around is the Skyline GTR's win in the 1991 Spa 24 Hour race. Again, it was the only turbocharged Group A car which had been entered and it's opposition came from some Porsche Carrera 2s, running 3.6L normally aspirated non-turbocharged engines and built to production car Procar Division 4 regulations. There was such a disparity in performance as to be utterly laughable.

The Nissan Skyline GTR R32's record is impressive but when you give it a deeper look, its mainly because the serious competitors which could have faced it, had already left before it arrived. The truest test came in Japan when the R33 came along and eventually as Japan morphed it's premier category into the GT500 class of the Japan Grand Touring Championship, Toyota and Honda both found ways to beat it. It certainly deserves the praise that it gets but as with so many things, context is important.

*not the real word.

October 17, 2016

Horse 2175 - Predicting The Electoral College Result

I am probably so late to the party that people are already filing for the exits and wondering about who's going to drive them home before the headache hits but I'm going to make the most obvious prediction in the world and say that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.
If you set aside everything that Donald Trump has said and done over the last year and a half and also discount the fact that Hillary Clinton is the first female nominee of a major political party in America; even if you ignore both candidates entirely and assume that the election was between a tin of baked beans and a tin of spaghetti, then the way that this election will turn out well be entirely expected.

The way that the United States elects a President is via a method which is so arcane and utterly ridiculous that it has been copied by precisely zero other countries. The Electoral College awards one vote for every seat in the Congress, plus three extra votes for D.C. which it would have had if it had been a state; bringing the total number of Electoral College votes to 538 with 270 being required to win. Those Electoral College votes are then allocated to the states to decide how to apportion them but most states in the union award them on a winner takes all basis; thus for the vast majority of states, polling companies only need know who will win the state and so building predictive maps is relatively easy.

In 2016, without even looking at the map as I write this, most of the blue states are on the east and west coast, with outliers like Colorado and New Mexico also being blue. Most of the states in the middle are red and have been ever since the last seismic shift in American politics, which happened after the Southern Democratic Party imploded. Most of the so called "flyover" states which remain socially conservative, vote Republican and the only truly strangely swinging state is Florida which blinks red and blue like a mad thing.
Thus, if you look at the predictive Electoral College map for the 2016 election, it looks broadly the same as 2012 and 2008, which is when Obama was elected. Usually the next election after  a President has sat two terms is far more open but on this occasion, even if you completely ignore both candidates entirely, what we're left with is an Electoral College map which basically describes the numbers of rusted on voters in America.
These three maps tell the most telling story of all:

- Electoral College Results 2008

- Electoral College Results 2012

- Predicted Electoral College 2016

Really apart from the change that each state gets in terms of Electoral College votes, and the fact that Indiana reverted to being a red state in 2012, then rest of the state of play is unchanged.

The United States doesn't have either compulsory voting nor preferential voting, though some states are beginning to toy with the idea of the latter. This means that from an Australian perspective, the United States' voting system looks like one giant effort to overcome laziness by the major parties to get people out of their houses to vote; rather than the begrudging masses in Australia who must give their consent to whomever wants to rule them.
Consequently, this election which will probably have a far lower turnout than either 2012 or 2008, will more than likely send Hillary Clinton to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue simply because that's the way that the rusted on voters will play out. Donald Trump on the other hand has been so offensive to people even within the party upon whose ticket he is running, that they just won't even bother to show up on polling day.

This has severe implications down ballot, with the Republicans fearing that apathy will rage so fiercely that Democrats will win races for both the House and Senate and thus take control of both. If this is the case then the passage of bills through the Congress will be far easier than the obstructionist "Do Nothing" Congress has been for the past eight years; which is ironic considering that a technocratic Hillary Clinton will have got more done than Obama who had a broader vision about what he wanted to achieve. Therein lies the problem.
With factions within the Republican Party splintering off such as the Tea Party, coupled with the total chaos which the global financial crisis wrought, this opened the door wide for a demagogue like Trump to waltz on in and hijack the nomination; which is precisely what happened. Trump represents a disaffected America but is personally a liability; so the resulting Electoral College map will basically be made up of all the states which the parties would have naturally won anyway, with no states being inspired enough to flip from blue to red. Thus the map looks kind of like it has done since 2008.
Presumably if someone like Marco Rubio or Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had won the nomination, then the trajectory from the end of the party convention would have been to try and broaden the voting base. Trump's strategy, if there is indeed such a thing (which I seriously doubt), has been about suring up the existing core of voters who would have voted for him anyway. He might very well pick up 48% of the vote nationwide but he has done nothing about flipping over those states which he needs to go from blue to red in order to swing the Electoral College; from the perspective of an election strategist, that's pure idiocy.

I think that the polls have more or less solidified at this stage and barring the Republican National Committee finding some clause to eject Trump from the ticket, or Trump resigning in a pique of rage, then I think that the results will remain identical to how they stand now.

Clinton 343 def. Trump 195.

October 14, 2016

Horse 2174 - Tales of The Unthinking Unmannered

Dear Manspreaders,
You know who you are and what you are doing. As a fellow owner of similar equipment, I can tell you from personal experience that unless you have some sort of medical problem, there is no need for this course of action. Nor is there really any need for extreme protection such as heat shielding or physical impact guards because the likelihood of encountering either welding flames or fast moving objects like cricket balls doing ninety miles per hour, is so close to nil as to be negligible. This is the 06:52 train to the City and the North Shore; not a train carrying molten steel from Port Kembla, nor does it pass through Silly Mid-On at the SCG.

I happened to be stuck between two behemoths engaging in manspreading on the morning train to the city and I honestly felt as if I'd accidentally sat in the middle of some sort of gravitational rip in the cosmos. It was as though my internal organs were occupying hammer space and my knees were being clamped together in a workbench vice. I think that I was close to having both of my knees shatter due to compression stress and most of my internal organs spontaneously liquify.
Meanwhile the two cousins of Goliath were blissfully unaware that their manspreading was playing havoc with the local laws of the space time continuum and that we were seriously in danger of causing a temporal rift in the fabric of the universe. I suspect that this phenomenon could be harnessed in some way and could form the basis of intergalactic travel in Star Trek because I'm sure that this must be something similar to a warp drive.

Maybe on those older style seats which are just benches, there is an excuse for manspreading but on a newer style seat, there are three clearly demarcated spaces. Just like when you are at Aldi and get to slam down the divisional marker to show where your shopping ends, nobody else should let their person invade your territory. In biblical times there were admonitions not to move ancient boundary stones and likewise, the boundaries between people's space on a train are clearly delineated. As far as I'm concerned, there is no real excuse for unilateral annexation of the most serene independent republic of commuter space.

To some degree I can forgive the accidental noise pollution which spills out from people's headphones and mobile phone conversations. In a quiet place like a train, there will invariably be some bleed of sound going on; that also entitles other passengers to listen in on those conversations. That also means that I will suffer the chorus of "all the single lettuce" for what has to be at least the thousandth time in two years but the sensation of having my knees clash because people on both sides are trying to point on knee at Queensland and the other at Victoria is both unpleasant and disturbing.

What's so valuable about these people's equipment that they need that sort of ventilation anyway? It's not like the next heir of the British Crown will hail from their loins; nor is it likely that their offspring will be the future President Of The United States, so if not, what then, and whyfor?


Dear Queuers,

I know that y'all are in a hurry to get on the bus or train but d'ya really need to be literally that pushy about it?
At Wynyard Station of an afternoon when a million people all want to leave the city simultaneously, as soon as those doors open, the platforms resemble something akin to what you might see at Myer on the morning of the Boxing Day sales. As soon as those doors open, great hordes of impatient commuters all try to barge their way on, as if the defences of a ship of the line have been breached. A weak point in a wall opens up and the charge of the Platform 3 Army begins.

I was in Mosman the other day and just about to get on the bus. The door had opened and I could see that someone with a pram was trying to get off and so, like a sane person, I stood to the side. Almost immediately, I felt two hands in my back, pushing me forwards in an effort to get me to move forward. I looked behind me and saw that it was an older lady who had pushed me. Of all the people in the world who I would expect, someone with a pension card and purple hair isn't one of them.
Or maybe I should.

There is apparently an age where you no longer think that manners apply to you any more. At some point, after a lifetime of being told to respect your elders and make way for them, you then stop running out of elders and so I guess that a sense of entitlement must creep in. Unless being nice to people has become a habit, I can only assume that the pretense of being nice must just fall by the wayside and that old people are just children who have been around a really long time.

The thing about a normal bus, is that because they don't have raised platforms in the same way that a train or tram might do, then the distance from the door to the pavement can often be quite large. That's not a problem for a spritely and tallish gent like myself but if you happen to be an elderly person who is trying to get off the bus, hence the reason why I stood to the side in the first place, then this poses a very real and present danger of falling. That might not be a problem for a four year old, a teenager, a chap of a few decades advanced like myself but having a fall is a serious problem for elderly people who are more fragile and brittle.

That's what I find so utterly bizarre about this. I imagine that elderly people might have developed sympathy or at very least a degree of imagination to predict that someone like them has similar issues to them. Maybe it's precisely because I am a white male aged 25-65 that I'm perceived as being thoughtless but clearly that's not actually the case if I'm standing to the side to allow others to alight the bus.


I'm increasingly becoming aware that the very rich in society don't care about manners because they don't see other people as being worthy; the poorest people in society don't seem to care about manners because let's be honest, life's hard enough without having to worry about that sort of thing, or it could be that they simply don't care; which leaves the only people who do care about manners and being nice and respectful to other people, as the middle class who are trying to push upwards and or don't want to be seen as being common.

I don't expect people to say 'please' and 'thank you' because I think that that is a stretch beyond most people's ability to grease the machinery of social interaction these days and so I have to concede that maybe my expectation that people at least allow others to move through space, is probably also increasingly archaic. Maybe I should just accept the fact that we now live in a world of unthinking unmannered brutes, who can either be clad in a blue singlet or blue rinse.

October 11, 2016

Horse 2173 - The Town Hall Debate Where Ordinary People Talk To The Candidates

I'm sorry America but you've convinced that you shouldn't be allowed to have a democracy any more. Not only have you selected someone who is in reality sixty ferrets in a man costume as the "conservative" candidate but you've also picked someone who thinks that dealing with registered terrorist organisations is somehow good for the security of the world. One of these two contenders will have their finger on the nuclear button and I think that is more dangerous than who you selected at the opening of the century, who was someone so inept that they couldn't even say the word "nuclear". Four years ago, the Town Hall debate which has traditionally been the second of three, was probably the undoing of Mitt Romney when he dithered on policy. From the governor we never heard any specifics beyond Big Bird and the proposed defunding of PBS. When you place politicians in front of real people, it becomes very apparent very quickly that the barbs and political bombs thrown by the public have far bigger potential to ruin campaigns than anything that choreographed media can invent. This time around, the public's barbs were mostly innocuous compared with the suits of thorns that both candidates were already wearing. The thing that people have said about Donald Trump that they like is that he is prepared to speak his mind. The problem is that he is prepared to speak his mind; even when there's nothing in it and worse, when there is something in it. If Donald Trump had been running along side John C Calhoun in the days of open racism, slavery and when things like Twitter, Facebook, Television, Radio, Telegraph and even daily newspapers weren't a thing, then maybe we might have been speaking about him as a horrible person from the past and not a horrible person in the present. On the other hand, all that Hillary Clinton has had to do in order to put up a credible alternative to the man whose hair looks like it was made from plastidip, is stand still and look normal. In a presidential cycle where common sense isn't, she hasn't really been probed or faced serious scrutiny since Bernie Sanders and the DNC back in June. I think that it is generally accepted that Hillary won the Town Hall debate but that's mainly because Trump had to spend most of the time defending himself against things that he'd actually said in the past. When it came to issues like foreign policy or labour issues, they all played second fiddle to the ongoing hurricane that is Donald Trump. The Republican National Committee at this point doesn't really know what to do and the impression that I get from news media at the moment is that they've pretty well much written off 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as an option, and that they're busily thinking about down ballot races and trying to stop the Democrats from sweeping through both houses with a brand new broom. I know that this is awful but William Hill was running a book on the likelihood of President Trump being assassinated as early as June. It didn't take long for the market to tighten and the odds being offered on Trump being assassinated were shorter than Obama, even in July. This is most likely money for jam (or old rope; depending on how you like to spend your frivolous mad money) but the mere fact that this exists is cause for concern. As little as two days ago I'd had both candidates counting at about 240 Electoral College votes a piece but increasingly it appears as though the path for Donald Trump is bleak. This year's October surprise unbelievably isn't Hurricane Matthew and the implications surrounding voter registrations but simply the aftermath and destruction of Donald Trump's words against himself. In many respects the Town Hall debate was always going to be a spring loaded trap for Trump. The mere existence of recordings which confirm his misogyny don't help his cause in the slightest. Admittedly, Hillary should have faced the very real question of the issue of her keeping a private email server and the deletion of more than 33,000 emails, which has immensely serious national security issues but her apology is more readily accepted by the media than Trump's explanation of something from more than five years ago. Trump pointed to the existence of ISIS as being the fault of Hillary and Obama but he couldn't make this stick because questions were then asked of him about his statements about refugees and immigrants. A hard line will play very well in the Republican primaries but not in the general election and the refusal of both Trump and the Republican Party to properly play together has left Trump heavily exposed. On issues of taxation, Hillary talked about imposing extra levies on people with incomes of over a million dollars and Trump spoke of things like the carried interest provisions which actually have nothing to do with interest. In speaking the words of business, Trump might very well be speaking truth but it doesn't play with the average voter. There was also the highly obfuscatory question about the vacancy in the Supreme Court. As it stands, Republicans in the Senate have unilaterally taken it upon themselves to block Obama's nominee and the court has only had eight judges for months. Both Trump and Hillary accused the other of potentially making a bad choice for the appointment and appealed to voters on the basis of perceived damage that the other could do. This late in the piece, these debates do nothing for swinging opinion towards candidates. Especially in this cycle where name recognition was well over 98% before the primaries began and where acid and bile has been spat profusely, these debates will have the opposite effect where in a system where voting is optional, people will choose to opt out in an act of protest (which I think is actually civic laziness writ large) and the number of votes will shrink rather than expand. Maybe in previous years there may have been undecided voters but in 2016, I think that that is impossible.

October 07, 2016

Horse 2172 - Ford Exits Left, Pursued By A Bear

We have arrived at the 7th of October 2016, which means that some time today, the last Falcon ever produced will leave the factory at Broadmeadows and then the doors will be shut on Ford manufacturing cars in Australia. Why this isn't the cause of national outrage is totally beyond me because while governments talk about Australia being the clever country or becoming an innovation nation, business has demonstrated that it's perfectly happy to take our money but doesn't think enough of Australians to give them jobs.

The argument put forward by Ford is that it isn't economical to build cars in Australia but when you're receiving government subsidy payments which exceed your entire operating expenses and are then sending 100% of your profits overseas to take advantage of taxation rules, then forgive me if I think that this, in the words of Henry Ford himself "is bunk". Ford Australia never made a profit because all revenue was consolidated to head office and then there were charge backs to Ford Australia in things like management fees which ensured that they would always be assessed at a tax loss in Australia.
Ford had made applications to Detroit to build the Focus in Australia and I suspect that had they been allowed to do so, it would have benefitted from the pounding that Australian engineers would have put it through; just like the Cruze did over at Holden. The Focus would have undergone the same torture as the Falcon did at You Yangs and it would have resulted in a car which would have been the best in the world. Australians being a parochial and tribal people, would have pit the Focus against the Cruze in the same way as the Falcon and Commodore have been but instead, both Ford and GM have consigned both to market irrelevancy.
The truth is that if they wanted to, Ford could have built the Focus, Ranger, Ikon or any number of other cars in their lineup in Australia but the reason that they didn't wasn't that Ford Australia wasn't profitable but that it wasn't profitable enough. As an importer, they will still pay zero tax in Australia but now they won't really incur any expenses either. Of course, virtually all of the auto makers operate like this and so the eventual departure of Ford, Toyota and General Motors is as inevitable as every other company that manufactures things in Australia.

What I find particularly galling is that what has replaced the Falcon in the Australian lineup, is the  Mondeo which is more expensive but for less car, and the Ranger which replaces the Ute and is also more expensive for less car and coupled with the added bonus of being smaller and worse quality. The Falcon has spent 53 years being engineered for Australian conditions which includes vast unbroken stretches of dirt roads but the Mondeo is a motorway burner which is scared of leaving the black top and the Ranger is a pickup truck which looks like it's only capable of being a tradesperson's vehicle and not a farm car. The Ute was famously invented by Ford in Geelong after a lady wrote a letter and asked for a car which she could drive to church on Sunday and take the pigs to market on Monday.

It isn't just the car manufacturing plant itself which will shut down but all of the incidental industries which surround it which will also fade away. There are the manufacturers of things like gearboxes, electrical units, air conditioning systems, auto glass makers and all of the companies which make all of the little things like light globes, filters, hoses and fittings, clamps, pumps, brake pads and fluids which also all suffer. The evidence that all of these things also go away is obvious every time that I go to work on the train in Sydney, because the site of the old Ford factory in Homebush is now just another housing estate. The place where Cortinas, Escorts, Meteors and Lasers were built, is now just another nondescript bit of road. None of the associated industries are in the area and there is really no need for them to be there either.
I expect that what will happen to the Broadmeadows factory is that rather than someone buying it and making actual stuff, it will be sold off to housing developers who will turn it into housing which will be built on the cheap and the people who own it, will never have to live there. Like the rest of the Australian economy, the only machine that will make any money on the site will be property and the profits will go to the rentier class.
In the broader scheme of things, from this time next year, Australia will be the only country in the G20 which will not produce a car and I've even heard this as an argument that we should change which side of the road that we drive on but really that just seems to me to be a proxy by the motor manufacturers to foist even worse quality cars upon us for the same or more money.

I will confess that I used to have a Ford Ka and it was the best car that I have ever driven and so in this whole automotive holy war, I want to see Henry's signature staring up at me from the centre of my steering wheel, but this is straining the relationship. We currently have a Mazda which is nice but I wanted a Ford Fiesta. Now that Ford have decided to just become an importer like almost everyone else, their star in the automotive constellation will fade in Australia. In my mind, Ford have lost a notch of bias and so they kind of cease to be an automatic contender for my consideration I don't think that I'm so strange as to be atypical in my fads and fancies and if this holds true for me then multiply that by the entire market and Ford Australia has just driven themselves down on road to Irrelevancy Town and I don't know if they have the money to afford the petrol to get back home again.

October 05, 2016

Horse 2171 - The Presidential Debates Are Debateable

I have spent a fair amount of time recently, listening to debates from past presidential elections. The first presidential debate was in 1960, even though in theory there could have been debates as early as 1932 on the radio. What I find singularly interesting is just how pedestrian and dull most of them were; with the most mind numbing of all being the square off between Bush and Gore in 2000 which would eventually result in Bush being elected after the chads fell off in Florida.

If you go all the way back to 1960 and listen to the debate between Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy, it's pretty obvious that the art of politeness was still in fashion even though the two candidates were obviously seething. Questions in the 1960 debates were constantly being raised about Kennedy's supposed lack of experience despite the fact that both he and Nixon had both entered the Congress in 1948. Questions were also asked about Nixon and his virtual disendorsement by President Eisenhower. That is more easily explained by Eisenhower's lack of care for politics, having become President almost against his wishes, after having previously been a military commander.

If you want to start someone who really knew how to play the game of television debates, then the 1980 debates between Carter and Reagan are things of beauty. Jimmy Carter was about as popular as a cat poo on the kitchen floor and basically all Reagan had to do to win, was show up. Ronald Reagan though was an actor, and as someone who had spoken as a staunch conservative in the disastrous Goldwater campaign of 1964, he also had a long and well defined history from which to sell his platform. Carter looked like a rabbit who had been caught in a car's headlights and Reagan was supremely confident. These debates were practically walkovers for Reagan.
Fast forward to 1984 and the debates between Reagan and Dukakis are also interesting to follow. Again, President Reagan had four years of experience in the Oval Office chair and Walter Mondale looked like a schoolboy who had turned up to class without his homework. Although he spoke perfect sense about Reagan's policies on taxation being woefully inadequate to improve net revenue, Mondale really needn't have bothered.
Four years later when Reagan's veep George HW Bush stood for President, it was almost as if Michael Dukakis doubled down on sheer incompetence and Bush looked quite seasoned, having already been in two Vice Presidential debates of his own.

In 2012, Mitt Romney and Obama talked past each other and it was obvious that both of them saw the debate as a necessary step on the road to the White House. Legend has it that Romney had held sixteen practice debates on mock stages, where attention was paid to even small details like the position of camera angles and when to wipe the sweat from one's brow. It kind of helped both candidates that they had a slower than normal delivery rate for the number of words that they spoke, and this is something which they probably both trained for.
Obama should have been a president who made sweeping reforms but he had been obstructed by a Congress which was even less productive than Truman's "Do Nothing" Congress. Romney could have capitalised on this (even though he was part of that obstructive Congress) but he never cashed in on any of the moral tokens that he collected. Instead, Romney kept on dragging discussions into areas of taxation and this cost him the debates.

In 2008, and just weeks after the implosion of financial markets, Obama was able to trade on hope and optimism and his opposite number John McCain was just unfortunate in his timing in the great wheels of history. Although having said that, McCain's running mate Sarah Palin brought the first wave of Republican wingnuttery to the debate stage and it can very easily be argued that what we're now seeing with Donald Trump is just the long game of eight years writ large.

The most obvious problem with trying to make any sort of analysis of either the 2016 election campaign or the debates is that Donald Trump is a populist candidate who is devoid of any notion of playing by the established rules of conduct or common sense. Hillary Clinton is very much an established career politician who is mostly a technocrat. She's been on the inside of the political machine and knows how it operates. Trump is an anti establishment showman who has played the game of politics brilliantly. He's still as mad as a cut snake in a bucket of salt but if you're riding the wave of populism, then the ends seemingly justify all means; no matter how insane the speech that goes along with it sounds.

The one thing to remember is that if you say something often enough, it doesn't matter if it's true or not, people will absorb it. That's primarily how advertising works and how I know that a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play. It also doesn't matter if there is decent fact checking going on either because the people who mostly care about fact checking in politics are political junkies anyway and the people who don't care about fact checking, tend not to have their minds changed when presented with the facts anyway. It doesn't matter if 85% of what Donald Trump is saying is wrong or that Hillary Clinton as Secretary of Defence actually was dealing with rebels and nefarious people in Libya, of that she has destroyed the paper trail behind her.

Instead what the people of America have to choose from as their commander in chief, is the choice between two different kinds of badness. My grand hope is that whomever wins, faces an even more Do Nothing Congress than the last three Do Nothing Congresses that we've had, which did even less than Truman's Do Nothing Congress. That will be safer for the world I think.

In the meantime the Presidential debates have basically been a spectacle of watching how deep of a hole of madness that Trump can dig, and watching Hillary stand back and wait for the mud to fly. The polls are such that the Electoral College could swing either way, or mostly one way or the other and nobody has even the slightest clue how to read it. It makes me almost wish for the days when Al Gore wittered on in monotones and George W Bush struggled to put a string of words together.
It's certainly a very far cry from when Kennedy said that he respected Nixon and thought that Nixon would make a good President but wanted to take America in another direction.

October 04, 2016

Horse 2170 - One-Two At Bathurst

Although the Festival Of The Boot is a firm favourite on the sporting calendar, for me the weekend after where people thrash machines for a thousand kilometers on a mountain is far more impressive.
As far as I can make out, there have been five 1-2 finishes; I think that this is possibly one of the hardest feats in motorsport because it means that a team has to keep two cars going to the finish and beat the rest.

This then, is a short summary of the five greatest feats in Australian motorsport.

The 1967 race was probably the first actual edition that saw the realisation of the struggle between the General's boys and Henry's lads. Before this time, the racetrack at Mount Panorama had been seen as an equaliser, with horsepower being dominant on the three long straights and the nimbleness of smaller cars having a distinct advantage across the top. Minis had taken out the top nine positions in 1966 but this was eventually shown to be the result of British Motor Corporation's professionalism rather than the inherent advantage of the car itself. 

Ford Motor Company was going through one of its many waves of interest in motorsport, after having been snubbed by Enzo Ferrari to buy out the Italian Scuderio, and so they threw as much money as they possibly could at building cars for Le Man's, engines for Formula One and touring car racing around the world. Their previous winner in the Cortina, was only a 1.6L motor car and Ford Australia wanted to promote what they hoped would be their volume seller in the Falcon (hence the reason why it was the Falcon which became the racing standard in Australia and not the Mustang). 

General Motors hadn't bothered to turn up for 1967 and so apart from the BMC Works Team and a spritied effort from a couple of Alfa Romeo 1600 GTVs, Ford's Harry Firth and Fred Gibson, and Ian & Leo Geoghegan thundered around all day virtually unopposed. 

By 1970 Ford had secured the services of a bespectacled Canadian, Allan Moffat. The image that he projected was one of coolness to the media and this naturally fostered a love/hate relationship with the public. Moffat had run a respectable 4th in 1969 but in 1970, Ford was determined to take the crown. Along with Bruce McPhee and Fred Gibson, the three Falcons qualified 1-2-3 and probably would have ended that way if Gibson's car hadn't clagged.

This was almost a repeat performance of three year's previous as Holden had virtually gifted Ford the win on a plate. Holden's Torana even in GTR XU-1 guise was hopelessly outclassed and in 1971, Ford could have repeated the performance if they weren't competing against other GT-HO Falcons.

After the so called "supercar scare" of the 1970s, Ford kind of lost interest in motor racing as is often the case in the history of Ford. In 1974, John Goss had won in a privateer Falcon and this was followed by Peter Brock and Bob Morris who had also won in privateer entries. In the meantime, Moffat had seen how the Holden Dealer Team had gone directly to the dealer's to ask for funding rather than the head office and so set up his own Moffat Ford Dealers organisation.  It had basically failed in 1975, improved slightly in 1976 but in 1977, it was finally up to speed.

He secured the services of ex Holden Dealer Team driver Colin Bond along with Alan Hamilton, and somehow also managed to lure Belgian driver Jacky Ickx, of whom it must be said was probably one of the greatest endurance drivers that there has ever been.

Ickx learned the track and put in lap times which were comparable to that of Moffat and he was incredibly sympathetic to the XC Falcon Coupe and it's probably due to Ickx's driving even more than Moffat's, that the No.1 Falcon even made it all the way to the flag at all. The car still had plenty of power at the end of 1000km but was not so lucky in the brakes department, and so that last lap which famously sees the two cars moving into position for a form finish, relied more on the restraint of Colin Bond to stay behind because he had the better car, that late into the race.

The 1984 edition of the Bathurst 1000, was the last race under the old Group C regulations. Peter Brock had won five races out of six, after the famous 1-2 that Moffat had achieved in 1977; mainly because Ford's interest in motor racing had become so anaemic that there were only privateers left to fly the flag of the blue oval. In the interim, Moffat had joined Mazda and there were serious campaigns from Nissan and BMW but none of them ran cars with enough torque or power to properly fight the 5.0L V8 Commodore. 

From what I can gather, Brock's 1983 Bathurst winner had been sold off and the car which he campaigned during the touring car championship in 1984 became the No.25 car for Bathurst; to be run by John Harvey and David Parsons. Brock's car was specially built for Sandown and Bathurst and so if was basically a pristine car, being run by the then best driver in Australia. The 05 car practically had no choice but to win.

It is the story of the 25 car which is interesting because it had an adventure in a sand trap in the morning and so spent most of the day kind of marking off the laps. It wasn't until late in the day when Dick Johnson's green XF Falcon broke a universal joint that they realised that a 1-2 was even on the cards and it joined the race for second place, while being two laps down on 05. 

Australia waited for more than a quarter of a century for the next 1-2 result to happen, for in the meantime, Australia had joined Group A and invited the rest of the world to play and then been embarrassed when Nissan built the R32 Skyline GTR to take full advantage of the rules and it blew everything it raced against to the weeds. Australia then adopted the current V8 formula and along with the rise of full professionalism, the gap between first and last is now nowhere near as massive as it once was.

Even so, the Holden Racing Team asserted dominance for a while, then Stone Brothers Racing but neither of them could get two cars to run the 1000km as a sprint race and get them to both shine. It is a monumental task and only 888 Racing have managed to achieve the feat.

In 2010, they split Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowdnes because Bathurst was now part of the championship and then it became a matter of finding two co-drivers who are up to the job. They found Mark Skaife and Steve Owen and their 2010 win probably ranks as even more difficult as any other which came before it. 

I think it really sad that the Falcon has ended production and that by Bathurst time next year, the last Commodore will have already left the body shop. It means that the battle which has been raging for 50 years will probably come to an end and once Henry and the General become just importers like everyone else, they're going to lose their special places in Australia's heart. 

September 28, 2016

Horse 2169 - Fragments IV: My Mind Is Going; I Can Feel It


I had a rather strange experience yesterday when I came downstairs to collect a stack of documents and the chap who handed them over to us asked if my kind was capable of doing the work required. When my boss tried to clarify what "my kind" was exactly, I was asked where I lived, and was met with the rather tart answer that it was rare that people like me ventured into the eastern side of Sydney. This chap's wife then said without any hint of irony or humour that it was a good thing that the M4 extension would be tolled as that would keep the rabble from disturbing the tranquility of the east. Of course I said nothing and politely took my leave but it left me with the impression that I was not welcome to even be in this couple's presence.
The thing about groups which we freely associate with, things like churches, sporting groups, clubs, circles of friends and acquaintances, is that they mainly come from socioeconomic backgrounds which are broadly similar to our own. Apart from connections in the workplace and possibly family, most of the people who we voluntarily meet with live reasonably locally to us. The rise of the Internet has meant that people's contact circles have grown very large tentacles but broadly speaking, people who we have real world contact with are likely to be broadly similar when it comes to the sorts of housing and lifestyle to our own.
What I've come up against here is not uncommon and I have seen this on several occasions before but it seems to me that as time goes on, the frequency that I'm running into this sort of thing is increasing and the amount of ambivalent callousness which is displayed is becoming more blatant.
Someone far more intelligent than me said that classism was an advanced form of racism where people discriminate between members of their own race. I don't know to what extent that is true but I do know that as people become very rich indeed, the degree to which they have any empathy for the rest of society decreases.



The Constitution of Australia has proven difficult to change. Of the 44 referenda which have been put forward, just eight have passed. Mostly this is due to the operation of rather famous section 128 which requires that in order to change the Constitution, a referendum needs to pass with a majority of voters and in a majority of states. The former is to prevent the smaller states from bullying the big ones and the latter is to prevent the bigger States from bullying the smaller ones.
So far, no new states have come into existence as a result of other provisions of the Constitution but even if they did, they would need to exist before any constitutional amendment was proposed. If there was going to be several questions put forward on the same day, such as recognition of aboriginal peoples and the creation of new states (say North Queensland and New England), then the constitutional amendment would need to be passed by 4 of 6 states which existed at the time that the question was posed and not 5 of 8 states as those two extra states would not exist until the change was officially given assent by the Governor General.



This election more than any other has well known candidates for President. Even twelve months ago, the name recognition levels of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was easily +98%. Both of them have been in the public eye for at least two decades and that level of recognition extends deep into the Anglosphere. If you are an English speaker and have had access to a television, radio or even that new fangled internet thing and haven't heard of either Trump or Hillary, then maybe you are living in the apartment directly underneath Dwayne Johnson.
Donald Trump is the physical embodiment of Thanksgiving. Not in the sense that he is thankful for his creator's provision or for a celebration of the harvest, but in the sensem that he resembles that racist drunken uncle who says things and is unencumbered by the thought process and indeed any sense of tact.



Despite the fact that Juggernium would be extremely massive, its chemical properties would be fairly easy to guess. As it would be a Group 1 element with only one electron in its outermost shell, it would be quite conducive to forming ionic compounds and specifically salts. It would want to lose its outermost electron to attain a shell which is like Nihonium (118) and that electron would be free to go and join up with a halogen like Chlorine or Bromine. JCl would be stable chemical compound like NaCl is but it would face the problem of the Juggernium spontaneously falling to pieces. I don't know how long the half life of Juggernium would be but I don't expect that it would be terribly long. The theoretical chemistry of such a massive beast is sound, even if the actual real world stability of something which would only exist because it was deliberately created would not be sound at all.



One of the remarkable things about the 243 bus is that it appears to have cornered the market in weirdos. There is a chap sitting at the front of the bus (who I'm afraid to take a photograph of, in case weird things happen to me), who is wearing a clown outfit of the sort that would have appeared in 17th century comedy del arts. This person is a modern day Punchinello, Pierrot or Harlequin. If you think that those pictures of sad clowns in opportunity shops are sad and creepy, try sitting ten feet away from one in real life.
Not only this but the 243 bus would otherwise be a uniquely depressing experience if it wasn't for the presence of a weird clown, because of all the bus routes that I've been on, this one uniquely goes from nowhere in particular to nowhere in particular and via a patch of suburbia which would make Stepford look like a hip and happening place. This is a land of 3 Series, A4s and C-Classes, with recycling bins full of empty Cab Sav bottles, and completely devoid of any visible signs of life. If the Curiosity Rover has accidentally landed in Cremorne and not Mars, it might have come to the conclusion that it too was a cold, lifeless rock but one that was better furnished and with the occasional clown passing through.



I'm kind of sad to see Paramatta Golf Course fall into chronic disrepair like this; not because I happen to play a lot of golf but because I like the idea that people are playing golf. Say what you like about golf being a snobby game, the truth is that most if not all the courses out in the real world are open to Johnny Schmuck and Jill Schmoe.
Paramatta Golf Course in particular was where I played the two greatest holes in my miniscule and obscure golfing career. One was a shot on a Par 3 which I played with a 7 Iron and landed less than four inches away from the cup; the other was a serious hook which somehow managed to pass in between a rubbish bin and a tree and landed about two yards away from the hole on  Par 5, thus giving me a short putt for an albatross.



The presidential debates from 2000 between George W Bush and Al Gore look positively pedestrian now. Al Gore who had been Vice President was hoping to step up into the top job and he tried to project a calm image. He not only excelled at projecting a calm image, he did so to such a degree par excellence that he managed to appear as though he was the calmest and most boring man in the world. In contrast, W (who as far as I know is the only President to have become synonymous with just a single letter) managed to display a remarkable amount of competence in those debates. I suspect that history won't be terribly kind to W but it doesn't change the fact that even though he traded on the image of being somewhat bumbling, he very much he sat square in the middle of his party's policies and provided he didn't stray too far from party position, he remained acceptable to both the majority of his party and indeed to a majority of voters in places that mattered.
Even if the chads hadn't fallen off in Florida and Gore had been elected President, then the events of ten months after the election wouldn't have played out much differently at all. There was only one voice of dissent to the legislation which has subsequently enabled at least four different military engagements, the most obvious being in Afghanistan and Iraq, and because most of the advisors from the military would have been the same, then the only real difference would have been the tone by which the war was prosecuted.



In addition to Thorn and Eth, some of the other letters of the alphabet need to a better job. X for example should be pressganged into making the "ch" sound and not the "cs" which it currently does. Words like taksi, bokses, foks, look pretty obvious. K can easily do the job which it already does, which would leave C free to take on the "sh" sound.
Silent e needs to die. If a vowel needs to be changed, then change it. German has no problem with this and adds umlauts above letters.

Wë këp xikens in þhe ced. 

September 27, 2016

Horse 2168 - Wynyard Walkway To Barangaroo - A Step To The Future

Ever since I was a wee lad, I have always been fascinated with the built environment. Whether that meant roads, railways, dams, canals etc. the things which ferry people and goods fro and to were always fun to look at. That also includes things like bridges, viaducts, pipes and tunnels and especially train stations. I think that it's pretty easy to say that the physical infrastructure of a city is one of the things that imparts character onto that city. Infrastructure and public works, along with arts and culture, are part of the clothing of civilisation and infrastructure and public works in particular are like the skeleton thereof because even after the people have long since gone, they are what remains. 

Customers of the Sydney Trains network (and I hate to use the word "commuter" since they ceased commuting our fares to a lower rate), will have noticed that the wraps have finally come off of Wynyard Railway Station and I have to admit, I think that it's rather a bit pretty. 
Other adventures in architecture in this city have resulted in some of the most hideous things that I have seen. Many housing developments obviously look as though they have been designed on a computer and copied and pasted a million times over. This new station hall and walk through to Barangaroo, looks like a veritable temple to the future; which is something that always looks good in railway station architecture.

At the far end of the walkway is a large vaulted canopy, which covers a set of stairs and escalators. Travellers then plunge into a vast tunnel, which is large enough to drive a bus through. At the other end of Wynyard Station is the Hunter Connection and although the walkway through that is probably as equally wide, the ceiling is far lower and feels kind of claustrophobic. With this walkway, they've created a space which is tall enough to feel airy and bright and that makes it pleasant to travel through.

There is a set of strip lights which run along the ceiling and these are hinted at with a set of tilework below. There are fitted wall panels which must have some sort of snap fitting and these line the sides of the tunnel. I don't know which street we pass under but we soon arrive at another set of stairs and escalators, accompanied by an elevator in a glass container.

The distance from base of the stairs to the very top of this particular chamber, must easily be about three storeys and with shiny panelling and lights that are seemingly off in the heavens somewhere, the place feels massive and grand. The whole thing tightens up again as you pass the sign to the station proper and the entrance hall itself.

I don't know if it's deliberate on the part of the designers but by separating the station Hall from the walkway visually, it has created moments of distinct transition. To me that has the same effect as passing through an art gallery or a large house, when you pass from room to room. I think that's kind of fun in something a functional as a walkway because it gives you moments of transition between the various spaces. I think that it's always fun to pass from one place into another where the transition opens up and gives you a sense of vastness. 

As you move into the station hall, the ceiling in this section is made up of thousands of strips, and the services such as electric, fire extinguisher lines and other bits of plumbing and conduit are kind of hidden if you want ignore them but accessible enough should maintenance staff need to repair something. I think that it's fine but will look incredibly dated within a decade. It works in a place like the QV building in Melbourne where the whole thing is playing on an industrialist vibe and although it isn't ugly, I'm still not sure that it fits in with the rest of the design cues that they've given us.

Beyond the automated gates where fares are collected via the Opal system, the basic infrastructure of Wynyard Station from 1932 is still kind of evident. Obviously they couldn't just rip out the whole station and build it anew but they have tried to clad the ceilings and the main concrete support pillars in a new skin and I'm not entirely convinced. If you look upwards, especially in stairwells, you can still see the wooden boards that have been in place for more than eighty years and I don't know about you but that doesn't fill me with confidence.
I kind of liked the old brick booking booths and the older brown colour scheme but they've done away with all of that. Any concession to the past has been obliterated as we look towards a glorious shiny future.

I do like that if you are on the main entrance level to the station, that you can see long sweeping views through it. This has meant that the station has the illusion of appearing bigger than it used to despite being in exactly the same space.

Upstairs and downstairs; on the platforms, the renovations haven't yet been fully realised. The tile work on the floors has been finished, with that same grey slate replacing the older brown bricks that used to be there. What hasn't been updated yet, are the pillars which hold the ceilings up, and the station furniture. I imagine that the pillars will eventually be clad in a similar sort of white panelling as the walls of the rest of the station and I expect that the station signage will get that same sort of orange and black theme as Town Hall has got. Town Hall recently was fitted with a few roundels in the style that would have adorned the station when it opened in the 1930s but they have been stripped off again and I don't hold any hope whatsoever that Wynyard will receive any roundels of its own. In an attempt to speed forward into the future, the past has been treated as a station to which trains no longer stop at. The thing is though, the London Underground and the Paris Metro both prove that provided you keep a corporate identity, you can embrace futurism, art deco, brutalism, gothic revival and a whole host of different architectural styles and still make everything work together. Sydney Trains appear to have settled on a sort of anti identity and their stations look like they could be anywhere.

The new walkway through to Barangaroo looks really cool and I like it very much and I think that the renovations to Wynyard Railway Station are very sleek and pretty indeed but neither of them look like they particularly belong to anywhere. I hope that someone is eventually given a proper graphic design job to tie together the network in a cohesive design language. At the moment, there are blank canvasses just waiting for someone to come along and give it that little spark which starts a fire.

September 24, 2016

Section 127 - to be added to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.

(i) The rights of  the aboriginal peoples and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Australia are hereby recognized and affirmed.

(ii) In this Act, "aboriginal peoples of Australia" includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

(iii) For greater certainty, in subsection (i) "treaty rights" includes rights that now exist by way of land claims agreements and rights that may be so acquired.

(iv) The aboriginal peoples are hereby recognized and affirmed as the original inhabitants and custodians of the land.

(v) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the aboriginal and treaty rights referred to in subsection (i) are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

(vi) The government of Australia and the State governments are committed to the principal that, before any amendment is made to this section 127 that a constitutional conference that includes in its agenda an item relating to the proposed amendment, that the Governor-General will invite representatives of the aboriginal peoples of Australia and representatives of the Federal Executive Council to participate in the discussions on that item.


Referendum please.

September 21, 2016

Horse 2167 - Objections To A Treaty Are Flimsy

A common argument which is thrown up against the idea of a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islands peoples is that the idea itself is invalid because a sovereign nation can only make treaties with other sovereign nations. I think that this is bunk.
As it is usually understood at law, a treaty is an agreement between two entities which are legally binding on both of them. In the case of treaties between nation states, treaties are most often made at the end of hostilities or at the beginnings of other formal endeavours. The Treaty Of Paris is an example of the former and the Treaty Of Rome an example of the latter. As well as peace treaties which end wars, defensive and other military treaties commit nations to the aid of other nations in the event that they find themselves in conflict. Treaties like NATO and ANZUS are examples of this.
It is worth remembering that in New Zealand, the Treaty Of Waitangi came about because the Maori collectively rose up against the British in open hostility; which resulted in armed conflict. What's different about the first peoples of Australia is that they were not one people, nor did they rise as a single entity against an invading foe, nor did they have a common language. Had    circumstances been different and they had had a common language, then a treaty might have arisen. As it was, at one of the Constitutional Conventions, one of the reasons cited as to why New Zealand would eventually not become the seventh state of Australia is that the then Governor Of New Zealand feared an Aboriginal uprising and didn't want a war in Australia in the same way that it had occurred in New Zealand.

They were many, and the white settlers were few, and when our hearts were not softened by the missionary, we were controlled by the thought of the Maoris' numbers, and of their rifles. Therefore we recognised their right to their own land, and instead of confiscating it we admitted their claim to its full possession, administration, and disposal. 
- Hon Captain William Russell, Constitutional Convention (1890)

I don't know if this is a tacit admission that there was or could have been a state of war which existed between white people and the first peoples of the land but it does at least indicate one of the reasons why there is no existing treaty. It could be argued that just like the Korean War which hasn't officially come to a conclusion and therefore no peace treaty can exist, that the initial conflict between the Commonwealth and the first peoples of the land hasn't been officially concluded; if that's true then it makes sense that there's no treaty. I can only assume that the people who are opposed to the writing of a treaty must either be in denial that a state of conflict and injury exists or perhaps more troubling, that they like the idea of being at war with the first peoples of the land due to unadmitted issues of racism.

What I reject though is the underlying motive which would drive someone to try and halt discussion at that point. What this says in principle is that the nation should be held accountable or responsible for any past injustices and injuries which may have been called and that there endeth the matter. The argument that no treaty with first people should be made, is basically a refusal to admit that actions have consequences and is in my opinion, little more than repackaged racism which has been wrapped in a thin layer of legalese.
If this be true and people want to argue this in the theatre of legal language, then the best response is to couch a counter proposal in a different set of legal language. If you can't get in through the door, then climb in through the window.

The suggestion that entities such as governments can not enter into agreements and contracts with things that aren't governments, is bunk. Governments regularly enter into things like leasing agreements, contracts with businesses to build things like infrastructure, contracts with utility companies, as well as with individuals in the form of labour contracts which might be negotiated with the aid of unions which themselves might be free associations. The suggestion that governments can not enter into legally binding contracts and agreements with smaller entities including to the most atomic of entities, individuals, is repeatedly and demonstrably untrue.
Something that I've found deliciously hilarious while reading through the series of arguments which created the Commonwealth Of Australia, through the instrument of the Constitution, is that the idea of an agreement is continually reinforced. Not only does the preamble mention that the Constitution itself is an agreement between the people of the six states but the word that keeps on repeating to describe the nature of the thing which is to be created is the word "federal". The word "federal" is derived from the Latin fœdus, which was an agreement between the Roman state and various vassals, clients and individuals. When the word was reapplied for use in the setting up of nations such as the United States, Switzerland, Canada and Germany, all of which were seen as different sorts of models of federation, they all referred to an agreement between either the various states which founded them or perhaps most famously in the case of the United States, "We the people". Logically if an agreement can arise between things which aren't nations as we understand them, or as a mass agreement between the people themselves, which literally create the nation state out of nothing, then the idea that a nation state can not enter into an agreement with various people, is in my opinion bunk.

I don't claim to know what sort of thing at law that such an agreement might take but I do know that there are brilliant enough legal minds in Australia who can work this out. The agreement might take the form of a compact, which is similar to the arrangements between entities like Palau, Guam and the Federated States of Micronesia have with the United States. They have a Compact of Free Association which is not a treaty because they aren't really sovereign states but they're not really independent either.
Whether the instrument is called a treaty, a compact, a covenant or some other legal agreement is more or less irrelevant to me; what is important is what it intends to do and how the various people groups join it. The argument that the various Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island groups are not a single cohesive bloc and therefore any attempt to begin a multi party agreement is futile, is in my opinion totally bunk.

The European Coal and Steel Union developed into the European Economic Community and then later the European Union proper. Countries have been joining it and it has changed and gradually grown in import. A theoretical agreement between the Commonwealth Of Australia and the first peoples of the land, might take the form of something similar as each individual people group considered the significance of it to them. It also need not be static in the way that say existing treaties have a tendency to be but be a living document as the various groups and the Commonwealth think about how they relate to each other.
Probably English would be the default language of said document but I think that it would be singularly excellent it as each people group ratified it, that copies should be issued in each new language and some gallery kept, preferably within Parliament House itself, of all the copies in the various languages.

Okay, the thing might not be a treaty but that surely is only a matter of legal pedantry. The agreement, whatever you want to call it, should be the end goal and that surely is what's important. The document isn't even the most important thing here either. What is of greatest import is having the Commonwealth Of Australia as an entity, take responsibility for its actions and make a plan for action and peace with its first peoples. The hardest part of this process is making the Commonwealth realise that it has acted beastly in the past and that it needs to take action as a result.