October 09, 2015

Horse 2003 - St Bogan's Day: October 30th

In the weeks leading up to October 30 every year, more than $10 billion will be spent by Australians in decorating their houses in black and blue in preparation for St Bogan's Day.
St Bogan is the patron saint of scabbing off your neighbours and not returning items of garden equipment that you have borrowed throughout the year. If goods are not claimed before midnight on St Bogan's Day, the ownership legally reverts to the person who has borrowed them; which is both a source of annoyance for those poor souls who find that they no longer own some important stuff and a source of joy for those pilfering scabs who no longer feel bad about not returning anything.

Research shows that there were most probably bogans on the First Fleet. Obviously Captain Arthur Phillip was not a bogan because he was a toff but James Cook who had sailed a ship around the world and sticking a flag into any one bit of dirt that he liked, was certainly a forerunner to the modern bogan. Cook's descendants are probably modern day Chavs who live on British council estates and collect benefits. Cook who was a Yorkshireman probably uttered the first words that might be considered to be sort of English when in 1770 he uttered the immortal "This place ent like Yorkshire. It's well rubbish" before sticking the Union Jack in the ground, claiming the continent for Britain and then refusing to return it to its original inhabitants. Owing to the fact that native people didn't claim back their lands before St Bogan's Day, under the doctrine of Terra Nah-your-loss, those lands became the legal property of the British until the population of non bogan people in Australia overtook that of bogans.

It is not known exactly who St Bogan was, or even if there was a St Bogan. The original bogans were first identified in Melbourne's western suburbs like Spotswood and Tottenham but it was soon pretty clear that bogans existed in all mainland capital cities, many rural areas and had undergone damage due to mould whilst living in Tasmania.
Apart from Cook's initial act of boganism in 1770 and Phillip's second act of boganism in 1788 by rocking up and plonking a colony down in Sydney with no intent to return anything, the majority of the First Fleet had been transported to Australia for excessive boganimity or sheilaness. Most were sentenced to death but had this commuted to transportation and especially public transportation because as we all know from the extensive research by that well known historian Joseph Hockey, poor people don't own cars.

Much like the legend of Santa Claus, the origins of St Bogan are shrouded in mystery; with the most likely explanation being that after the first account was written, St Bogan borrowed the first copy and never returned it.
Most versions of the St Bogan story involve the tale of a man who had stolen one of the King's best oxen. St Bogan had some ploughing that he needed to do and borrowed the oxen. When the king sent around his sherrifs to recover the stolen oxen, they were not on the lands of this particular man but in St Bogan's barn and thus could not be found. The man escaped the penalty of death for poaching the king's oxen and he was eternally grateful. St Bogan did not return the oxen.
St Bogan was soon canonised as a saint after three miracles were attributed to him. He turned dirt into mud, he turned water into mud and he made a deaf man blind after a lengthy sermon on the subject of not returning a herd of sheep.
A statue stands above St Bogan's Railway Station in Sydney, where he can be seen holding a copy of the newspaper which he borrowed and has no intention of returning. A brass plaque used to be affixed to the front of the statue but that too has been borrowed with no intention of return.

- Statue of St Bogan above St Bogan's Railway Station

The traditional celebrations on St Bogan's Day involve sending one children round to your neighbours' houses and getting them to ask to borrow no end of useful and valuable items; safe in the knowledge that at the stroke of midnight, all of the stuff that has been borrowed does not have to be returned.
The traditional response to all of these children showing up at the door is to buy them off with cheap sweets because children neither show guile nor skill when it comes to the negotiation for items. Mostly, children who walk away from people's houses having failed to procure either sweets, biscuits, chocolate,  garden furniture, power gardening tools, white goods or small computer equipment, will retaliate by throwing eggs at houses, slashing tyres and throwing excessive amounts of toilet paper over cars and roofs.

Okay. All of this is a lie and there is no St Bogan. However, this is still a culturally more accurate description of the 31st of August on Halloween, when parents send their children out to scab off of their neighbours. The whole iconography of pumpkins also makes no sense because in Australia, it is spring time and the evenings are getting lighter and longer; not darker and colder.
Yes, I am a curmudgeon whose hair has started to grey and whose days are probably fewer ahead than behind but someone more important needs those chocolates and sweets - me!
It would be really really weird if I came round to your house and demanded stuff on the 30th of October. Why is it acceptable for you to send your kids round to mine a day later and do likewise?

I still want to borrow your hedge trimmer forever; with no intent of returning it though. It's the right thing to do on St Bogan's Day.

October 08, 2015

Horse 2002 - Repatriation, Reparations and The Crown

Last week British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Jamaica and Grenada, to engage in trade talks which among other things involved the building of a prison to hold 1500 inmates at the cost of £25m, and the repatriation of prisoners back to Jamaica without the need for their consent to be transferred.
Cameron made the first trip to the Caribbean by a British PM in fourteen years since Tony Blair in 2001, made a similar trip which involved talks and the training of several hundred police officers. Previous to that, it was also 14 years earlier that Margaret Thatcher visited the Caribbean but that had more to do with a Cold War context. Three trips in 28 years by a British PM to the Caribbean seems a little paltry to me; considering the mark that Britain has left on that part of the world.

Investigations were made into David Cameron's family history and it was discovered that General Sir James Duff who Cameron is related to on his father's side of the family, was compensated £4101/0/1 by the Crown after the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.
It seems rather a bit rich to me, that when compensation was paid out by the British Government in the 1830s, it wasn't paid to the people who were often kidnapped, made to work against their will and beaten and killed if they did not, stolen from their homelands and deposited in a place where they neither knew the language nor kith nor kin, but rather monies were paid to the capitalists who treated people as chattel and who made profits on the blood and bones of the people they oppressed.
Even 180 years later, that should be the cause of scorn, shame and a lot of inward looking but sadly, none of this seems to have occurred at all.
At the 200th anniversary of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair did say that "slavery was a thing of the past" but stopped short of an apology. The real message which came out of that is that even if you commit crimes against humanity as a nation, you can not be held responsible and that you do not feel as though you need to apologise. "Bigger gun diplomacy" is as alive in the 21st century as it was in the 19th century.

In an open letter which was published in the Jamaica Observer, historian Sir Hilary Beckles wrote to David Cameron to "contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal"
Exactly what such a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal would entail I don't know exactly but at very least, I think that it should employ at least some level of apology.

Most telling, Beckles' letter reminds Cameron of what Britain has done in the world:
I speak, Sir, of the legacies of slavery that continue to derail, undermine and haunt our best efforts at sustainable economic development and the psychological and cultural rehabilitation of our people from the ravishes of the crimes against humanity committed by your British State and its citizens in the form of chattel slavery and native genocide.
In this regard, I urge you to be aware that the issue of reparatory justice for these crimes is now before our respective nations, and the wider world. It is not an issue that can be further ignored, remain under the rug, or placed on back burners, as your minister who recently visited us so aptly described your agenda for Jamaica and the Caribbean.
It will generate the greatest global political movement of our time unless respected and resolved by you, the leader of the State that extracted more wealth from our enslavement than any other.
-   Sir Hilary Beckles, Jamaica Observer, 28th Sep 2015.

Intriguingly, Beckles says that "we ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation".

There's an interesting thought. Handouts are one thing but where actual damages have been caused, there is usually a case for compensation. I don't think that it would be difficult to prove a case which for many people is still ongoing, of pain and suffering and emotional distress, which stems from the results of slavery and empire.
People like Dr Shashi Tharoor who is a member of the Lok Sabha, the "House of The People" in the Indian Paliament (the lower house in a bicameral system), thinks that the case to be made that Britian does owe reparations should be made:

The real problem with reparations is the question of who pays and who should be liable. In the case where private profits were extracted from empire as a result of slavery, should the descendants 180 years later be held liable for the actions of people they have never even met? Maybe there are vast estates which still exist as a result of 180 year old profits but is that enough to make someone pay for the actions of someone they might disagree with?
There is a case to be made that the eternal person of the Crown should be held liable for the damages caused by slavery and empire but again, that's a complicated subject.

The obvious question is "Who is the Crown?" Fortunately, that question is answered fairly easily:
Corporation - a body which is recognised by law as having a separate legal personality, distinct
from those of its members. A corporation may, for example, generally hold property, and may
sue and be sued, in its own name.

Corporation sole - a corporation consisting of one person and his or her successors in a
particular office or station. Examples include the Crown, government ministers, and bishops.
- The Law Commission, The Execution Of Deeds And Documents By Or On Behalf Of Bodies Corporate - (Mar 2005)

For all practical intents and purposes, the Crown is like a trustee corporation. The Crown is a different person at law to the monarch and whereas the monarch dies (the King/Queen is dead, long live the King/Queen) the legal person that is the Crown survives into perpetuity. Nations like the United States who don't have the person of the Crown for obvious reasons, are more explicit about who their equivalent person is. The United States has Incorporated and Unincorporated Territories which are held in possession by either the individual states or the federal nation state - the Republic.
Parliaments themselves in acting on behalf of the person of the Crown, do so in the same manner as a board of directors and they are elected by the stakeholders who are the electorate. Of course, this still means that Parliaments who act in the capacity of a board of directors, will still act against the wishes and will of the electorate but in the case of Australia for instance, where this is proscribed by the Section 51 condition in the Constitution that governments should act for "good government", this has never ever been tested at law.

The Crown is also a different person, that is a different Corporation sole depending on which jurisdiction you happen to be talking about, and that was confirmed in 2005:

 9.  The instruction in issue in this case was given to the Commissioner (who was required to direct the Director) by the Secretary of State. He was not of course acting on his own behalf but on behalf of the Crown, from which his authority derived. But it is now clear, whatever may once have been thought, that the Crown is not one and indivisible: R v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Ex p Indian Association of Alberta [1982] QB 892, 911, 916-917, 920-921, 928. The Queen is as much the Queen of New South Wales (In re Bateman's Trust (1873) 15 Eq 355, 361) and Mauritius (R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex p Bhurosah [1968] 1 QB 266, 284) and other territories acknowledging her as head of state as she is of England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. Thus the Secretary of State as a servant of the Crown exercises executive power on behalf of the Crown in whatever is, for purposes of that exercise of executive power, the relevant capacity of the Crown. The question which divides the parties is: by what test is the relevant capacity of the Crown to be ascertained?
- Lords of Appeal:
Regina v. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Appellant) ex parte Quark Fishing Limited (Respondents), 13th Oct 2005

If the Crown in New South Wales is a different person to the Crown in Queensland for instance, are those persons jointly, severally or perhaps even both, liable for damages. In the case of India, the person of the Crown who held the Dominion of India no longer exists and if they are liable, to what extent does that bind the person of the British Crown? Similar sorts of questions can be asked about the Crown who held possessions in the Caribbean. The Crown in Jamaica is a different person to the Crown in Grenada, Barbados and Antigua. All of them inherited the same powers as the dominions were granted as a result of the Statute of Westminster 1933 upon gaining their independence; so does that mean that the person of the Crown in Jamaica would sue the person of the Crown in Great Britain?

Of course there is the unpopular problem of what extent a country's problems are its own. India has been a republic since 1948 and whilst it might like to recover monies that it loaned Britain during the First and Second World Wars (which is fair and reasonable and can be easily ascertained by looking at a set of accounts), the question remains as to what current part of India's problems are India's fault and current part of India's problems are Britain's?
A country like South Korea which arguably had the worst economy in the world in 1955, slowly dug itself out of a hole. Has India done that job for itself and to what degree? With ex-colonies in the Caribbean who only won their independence after the Second World War, as Britain pulled its hands back from the economic tiller, what sort of directions did these ships of state sail?
I don't know the answers to those questions and because I am a white male (and therefore in the eyes of many, the chief case of every problem in the world) living in Australia, which has its own terrible history when it comes to the treatment of its first peoples, I'm mostly ignorant about what it's like to live with the effects of oppression, having never experienced it myself. To what extent should I be held liable for the crimes and damages perpetrated by my people, who stole countries and whom I've never met?

There is an interesting passage in Dr Tharoor's speech above:
Britain made all the profits, controlled the technology, supplied all the equipment and absolutely all these benefits came as British private enterprise at Indian public risk. 

If you were to think of something more recent like the 2008 Financial Crisis where £500 billion was thrown at the banks (primarily Lloyd's TSB and The Royal Bank of Scotland), public risk was again on the line as benefits were paid to private enterprise.
Assuming that even was possible, if the British public was made to pay damages, then the people who would actually be paying for those damages to be paid as reparations would most likely be the poor and the old, who would see cuts to services as a result of new budgetary requirements. The same sorts of people who won their fortunes on the backs of slaves 180 years ago, are the sorts of people who would like to throw all the poor people off the scepter'd isle today; or would like to the the Great British public liable, whilst they get away scot free.

I have none of the answers here; in fact, I'm quite sure that I don't even grasp the nuances of the question but I do know that the experience of former PM Kevin Rudd in Australia who made an apology from the floor of the Parliament to the "Stolen Generations" was both symbolic and cathartic - it also cost the Crown zero dollars. I don't know what sort of things would need to be included in an apology from Britain for slavery and empire but I do know that acknowledgement of the damage is necessary; as yet, no British Prime Minister has even looked like making that acknowledgement. How hard is it to say sorry?

October 07, 2015

Horse 2001 - A Flag Odyssey

One one forum that I find quite entertaining, there was a link to and organisation called "Flag For Liverpool" which, not surprisingly, wants to give the City of Liverpool a flag because they currently don't have one.
I thought that the question of what the flag of Liverpool should be was more or less a fait accompli and so I submitted a design which I thought was so obvious that even Blind Freddie could see it - and that design was this:

Intriguingly, the reply I got back was a rejection. Immediately I felt like like a certain famous beagle who got told by various publishers that his manuscript did not suit their present needs. That rejection email is below:

Dear Andrew,
Thank you for submitting a design to Flag For Liverpool. We have reviewed it, and although it is a technically acceptable design we  cannot include it on the site for the following reasons:
1. It is too similar to the flag for the City of London https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_City_of_London
2. We are looking for a flag where all of the design elements represent Liverpool, your design is the flag of England with only a  small part of the design representing Liverpool.
We will be happy to welcome and review any other designs you may have.
 - flagforliverpool.org, 3rd Oct 2015

This rejection email cuts straight to the quick when it comes to flag design. Flag design is one of those thing which has a few design rules as well. The organisation called Ausflag which would like to change the flag of Australia has helpfully "borrowed" the short leaflet from the North American Vexillological Association; which lists the five principles of good flag design¹. They are as follows:
1. Keep it simple
2. Use meaningful symbolism
3. Use two to three basic colors
4. No lettering or seals of any kind.
5. Be distinctive

Flag For Liverpool has rejected my flag on the basis of Point 5 "Be distinctive" in that it is too similar to the flag for the City of London.
I think that there should be a sixth rule similar that of George Orwell's 5 Rules for Effective Writing in his 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language"; which is:
6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous².

Equally, there should be some catch-all rule of flag design which allows you to break the rules of flag design because if you are trying to create a cohesive set of things, be they flags, motor cars, appliances, furniture, anything where you want the things to sit together, I think that they should share a common design language.

Consider the set of United States' State Flags³. Although there are some excellent individual efforts such as Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico, Texas, Ohio and the flag which is so shockingly horrible that it crosses the line twice for Maryland, taken together they are an incoherent mess. Some are horrible seals on blue fields, they're different aspect ratios and even the good ones bear no relationship to each other.

Now consider the flags of Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. They all use what is known as a Nordic Cross* for their flags and although they are similar, they all fit together as a group. Likewise if you look at the set of Australian state flags, because they are all a circular seal which defaces the British Blue Ensign**, they all fit together and look like they belong together. I also think that for this reason, whilst a common argument is that Australia and New Zealand's flags are too similar, I think that they both work because even though Australia thinks that New Zealand is a little annoying brother and New Zealand thinks that Australia  is a big stupid brother with a massive backyard, the two countries have cultural ties which go back more than a century.

I will readily admit that the flag of London is a defaced cross of St George but I think that it should be; as should all of Britain's principle cities. The flags of Manchester, Liverpool, York, Birmingham, Leeds, London et al, would look better if they shared a common design language.

London's flag currently looks like this:

It would make sense if Lancaster, which is the ceremonial county city of Lancashire had a flag like this:

Likewise, the city of Manchester has on it's coat of arms a ship which celebrates the Manchester Ship Canal. So important is this to the cultural identity of the city that it is also commemorated on the logos of both of Manchester's great football clubs:

Of course they look similar. That is the very point. A flag is about conveying a message as quickly as you possibly can via the medium of a waving bit of fabric.

If the first four rules of keeping a flag simple, meaningful, retaining only a few colours and not using lettering or seals are followed, then it makes perfect sense that the flags of major English cities should look English. It also makes sense that the flags of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Derbyshire are all saint's crosses because they fit together as a set.

The thing that bothers me is this line from the email that Flag For Liverpool sent me: "We are looking for a flag where all of the design elements represent Liverpool." When ever you hear "all of the design elements" you just know that something hideous is going to spew forth like the flag of Milwaukee because of compromises and the need to include everyone's opinions. It leads to a horrorshow like this:

The fact of the matter is that the use of the Liver Bird dates well before the 1350s. It's on the coat of arms of Liverpool, both of the towers of the Royal Liver Building, it's on practically all of the dustbins in the city and of most of the drains and bollards as well as on the stationery of the Liverpool City Council which was one the great corporations reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835 and Liverpool gained city status in 1880, which was a whole 12 years before it was used by the famous football club. I would wager that the Liver Bird is the only design element that a flag needs; coupled with the cross of St George, it needs nought else; if Flag For Liverpool think it does, then maybe they're off their trolleys or some such.

If Flag for Liverpool looks for various design elements, they very quickly run into the possibility that to keep everyone happy, they surrender the principles of good design in the first place; if that happens, then they'll violate Rule 1: Keep it simple. 


October 06, 2015

Horse 2000 - Wittgenstein's Beetle

I think that 2000 is an arbitrary number. I think that the Base-10 system is mostly stupid (see Horse 1109), and most of the first 211 posts which were hosted on Geocities have long since disappeared down the memory hole of the internet. Whoever controls the past controls the future; whoever controls the present controls the past.
And now...

Horse 2000

I have in my life broken bones, tendons and cartilage; so much so that when making trips to the A&E department at the hospital that when they ask for my Medicare card, I'm almost half-expecting them to tell me that I've won an all expenses paid trip to the Islets of Langerhans because I've accrued so many frequent dier points.

Every single time that you're taken beyond the green door and find out exactly what that secret they're keeping is (believe me when I tell you that there is no old piano and they ain't playing it hot back there), at some point you'll be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to ten, or if they're feeling playful 11.
The problem with trying to convey pain in words is that no one else in the world can ever feel the sort of pain that you're feeling. In fact, due to our cosmic loneliness, not only can no one else in the world ever see the world through our eyes but we can also never see the world through someone else's eyes.
It is a vexed problem because pain is a 'qualia'; that is a private, individual, subjective and conscious experience. No only can we never convey what we are feeling adequately, other people's ability to even accurately perceive that same feeling is impossible.

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein proposed a thought experiment in which everyone in a small neighbourhood carried around a small box with a 'beetle' inside. No one is allowed to look into anyone else's box, no one is allowed to show anyone else the 'beetle' in the box and everyone in the neighbourhood can only say that they know what a 'beetle' is anyway by looking into their own box.
If the word 'beetle' could mean anything to these people in the neighbourhood, then it couldn't very well be the name of something because it's possible that the 'beetle' in everyone's box was entirely different. To an Australian who lived in Albury, the 'beetle' might be a small black Christmas Beetle or Anoplognathus. To someone from England, the 'beetle' might be a Four Spot Ladybird. If it had been me, the 'beetle' might be a Volkswagen 1500 Standard or 1600 Special. To my day, the 'beetle' might be either John, Paul, George or Ringo. The box could also be empty for all anyone knows.

The analogy is to say that one can not experience someone else's subjective experiences and that all we have to talk about is what can be established and learned through public experience and shared language. What is actually inside the box, is in fact irrelevant.
The weird thing is that because pain is a thing which we can carry and experience but can only experience in private, individual and subjective terms, then we can't really teach anyone else about this sort of thing because like the 'beetle' in the box, we can't show, we can't look and we can't really even get at it at all.

I make mention of this because as I'm typing this on a rainy morning in September, I have a head cold and a sinus headache that feels as though the M40 bus to Chatswood has just driven straight through my head and violated all sorts of traffic rules.
I have known for a very very very very long time that I see the world differently to most people. I don't just mean in some physical way (because I'm red-green colourblind; which itself is ironic because I like Liverpool FC) but in some fundamental philosophical way that not even I can get at. For me, this is like my 'beetle' in the box, in that I can't show, you can't look and I can't really even get at it at all.
Someone once upon a time even came up with a word to describe this; being 'rolloesque' which is also about as useful as the 'beetle' in the box because the '-esque' suffix merely denotes something that is 'in the manner of' and since I live as Rollo, that's kind of like a subjective pile of nonsense. I would like to think that I've conveyed some shread of meaning but that would depend on whether you think that meaning is derived or received; I have no idea.

I hope that I've been able to bring some sort of light into your darkened lives, or joy into sadness, or anger into ennui, or annoyance into complacency, or even wisdom into whimsy and whimsy into wisdom. I also hope that the quality has improved. I've looked back over 11 years of posts here and have been shocked at what I've found - yuk, hurl, vomit, argh!

October 05, 2015

Horse 1999 - Australia's Prime Ministers - No 25 - John Howard

XXV - John Howard

John Howard was elected to the seat of Bennelong in the 1974 election whilst Gough Whitlam was still Prime Minister and was part of the faction which backed Malcolm Fraser over Billy Snedden. After being Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, he was then appointed as Treasurer in 1977; which he held until 1983 when Hawke came to power.
Following a brief spell of Andrew Peacock as Leader of the Opposition, Howard held the position of Opposition during the unsuccessful 1987 election campaign.

Politicians generally have one of two broad reactions to losing an election, they either never try again or they go away and learn and by the time of their next tilt, they come back better. Howard was of the latter of the two and following Dr John Hewson who tried to introduce a 15% GST at the 1990 election and an eight month stint by Alexander Downer which came to nothing, in January 1995 Howard was again made party leader and was rewarded with a comprehensive victory in the 1996 election, winning 94 seats.

Howard's first challenge as Prime Minister would happen when a gunman went on a killing spree at Tasmania's historic Port Arthur prison, killing 35 people and injuring 23. The Howard Government acte quickly and almost without opposition from the other side of the chamber, the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996 was passed and restricted the ownership of many automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

A further series of complications arose for the Howard Government following the High Court's desision in Wik Peoples v Queensland which held that native title rights could co-exist with pastoral leases. In response to this, native title legislation eventually took more than two years to rattle through the parliament; with more than 200 amendments being made as the bill was passed back and forth between the two houses.

It is on the economic front that Howard is most remembered though because under his premiership, the taxation system of Australia was fundamentally changed.
In Howard's first term as Prime Minister, his government undertook some highly unpopular spending cuts and made changes to industrial relations regulations which deeply angered those on the left. In conjunction with these spending cuts came the partial sale of government telecommunications company Telstra; which would eventually lead to its full privatisation.
Having previously promised that a Goods and Services Tax (the GST) would "never ever" be part of Coalition policy following the supposedly "unwinnable election which previous PM Paul Keating somehow won, Howard called a snap election on 3rd October 1998. Although the Coalition lost the popular vote by a narrow margin and 14 seats, they still retained 80 seats to Labour's 67 and took that as a mandate to pass the GST legislation.
Again, months of negotiations followed including the last significant thing that the Australian Democrats ever did and wrangle that fresh food would be exempt of GST. The "A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999" or GST act, was passed in mid 1999 and came into operation in July 2000.

Howard's government probably would have faced difficulty in the 2001 election if it wasn't for the events on 11th September 2001, when two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York City and one into the Pentagon in Washington DC.
Following an incident when they Norwegian freighter MV Tampa was refused landing in Australia because it was carrying 438 rescued refugees (who were mostly Hazaras of Afghanistan), this changed the public's view of the Howard Government and suddenly it was seen to be strong.
Howard promised military support to the United States with the War in Afghanistan and the subsequent "War on Terror" as it came to be known, when Australian troops were also sent to help in the US-led "Multinational force in Iraq".

With the Afghanistani and Iraqi wars still in swing, Howard's Government was rewarded with a fourth term in the 2004 election but it would be the last. From 2006 and onwards, with the change in the Senate, the Coalition won control of both houses of parliament and the new sets of industrial relations changes which collectively came to be called "WorkChoices" which sent industrial disputes through the new Workplace Authority rather than the old Australian Industrial Relations Commission which became largely impotent.

Even with net debt which was cut to less than zero in 2007, this came largely on the back of a commodity boom as a result of the growth of Chinese demands for minerals. Had the Howard Government not embraced a program of asset sales, this would have never have happened. Howard's Government during this time also made five sets of income tax cuts in six taxation years.

In the November 2007 election, Howard's term came to an end; having been Prime Minister for 11 years and having been in Parliament for 33 years. After his time in parliament, the Australian and New Zealand cricket boards unsuccessfully nominated him as their candidate  for president of the International Cricket Council, in 2008 he was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) and in 2012 he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit (OM) by Queen Elizabeth. He has subsequenty published several books.

October 03, 2015

Horse 1998 - One Day In September: Saturday, 33rd September 2015.

I must admit that I feel somewhat strange today. Today is October the 3rd; yet owing to a result of several programming errors, the Australian Rules Grand Final is on today. I think it quite odd that the "One Day In September" this year is in October. Also, with this weekend being the Labour Day long weekend, which celebrates the eight hour working day (which nobody has worked, for a very long time), it should be the weekend of the Bathurst 1000 but it isn't owing to a dispute between multiple parties almost twenty years ago.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Hawthorn has made another Grand Final and thus the flag winning glory trail continues... unless it doesn't.

For years in Australia, the Spring calendar followed a familiar pattern. The New South Wales Rugby League Grand Final was held on the second last Saturday in September. The VFL Australian Rules football Grand Final was held on the last Saturday in September. The 1000km motor race at Bathurst was held on the first Sunday in October; which is the same weekend as Labour Day in NSW. This meant that sometimes, people could watch the Australian Rules final at the MCG on Saturday and then had to make a mad dash up the Hume and Olympic Highways before arriving at Bathurst for the Sunday.
This should be one of those immutable things, like the Indianapolis 500 which is held on the Memorial Day weekend in the United States or the Melbourne Cup horse race which is held on the first Tuesday in November.
Something awry happened somewhere. This year the Australian Rules Final is held on the first Saturday in October, the Rugby League final will be held tomorrow which is the first Sunday in October and the 1000km motor race at Bathurst will be held on the second Sunday in October. Has the world gone mad?

As with so many things, you can largely blame this on television. Television, that thing that used to be a harmless little box in the corner which has now grown into a wall panel and which once upon a time was content to give you a window on the world, has now become a vehicle to "monetise" the audience. No longer content with showing us lovely things to watch, including live sport, television companies now want to extract ever increasing amounts of money from your wallets and if you don't hand over a small fortune to the licensed bandits with their fancy picture palaces, they promise to take away what used to be free to watch and they'll muck with the calendar as well.

In the case of Rugby League, News Corporation and Optus fought so hard over TV broadcast rights (hoping to sell subscription services to customers) that they mucked about with the sport so badly that after two full years of legal wrangling the competition was snapped into two for the 1997 season.
News Corporation again stuck its nose into  Australian rules football and whilst it realised that it could bully about the AFL Commission as easily as it did the Australian Rugby League, this still resulted in the Fox Footy channel on pay-TV.
Mostly it is because of the demands of television that what should have been two dates fixed on the calendar as legendary, they have both been thrown aside and stomped on.

Whilst News Corporation has recently bought the rights to premier motor racing broadcasting in Australia which includes the V8 Supercars and Formula One, and is currently setting about destroying the viability of both just so it can feather its nest, the reason for the change of date for the Bathurst 1000 has nothing to do with them.
That is as a result of a previous argument over television involving the Seven Network, Network Ten, the Australian Racing Drivers' Club and the organisation now known as V8Supercars and formerly called the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company (AVESCO). Again for a couple of years there were two 1000km races which were held at Bathurst before one of them collapsed; leaving the current race not being held on its traditional Labour Day weekend.

Suiffice to say, I hate the rampant monetisation of sport because the story which happens again and again is that greed becomes the driver and the whole thing is killed. Formula One is currently undergoing something of a crisis to that end, with long time Grands Prix being struck off the calendar because event organisers aren't prepared to stump up the ever increasing amounts of cash demanded to host an event. We have already lost the French, German, Argentine, Sammarinese, Portuguese, Dutch Grands Prix and even the new Korean Grand for precisely that reason.

As I watch the 2015 Australian Rules final and hope that Hawthorn as it attempts to become only the fifth side to win three flags in a row, I remember that this is the weirdest last Saturday in September of all because it's actually in October.

Hawthorn 16.11 (107) def. West Coast Eagles 8.13 (61)

Following Carlton, Collingwood, Melbourne (twice) and Brisbane, Hawthorn is now the fifth team to win three premierships in a row.

Sometimes, everything is glorious and nothing hurts.

October 02, 2015

Horse 1997 - Big Brother Is Tracking You (With GPS)

This morning I am/was making/made (in the future past present tense) a count of all the surveillance cameras that I've been watched over by. Including cameras at train stations, on trains and the bus, as well as cameras facing George Street in the city, I have been lovingly watched over by no less than 14 cameras. In theory these cameras are there for our security and safety but in reality, they have been placed there to identify perpetrators of crimes after the event so that people who suffer damages can sue.

The M30 bus in particular is GPS tracked which means that if you have an iDevice, you can follow the bus on an app; which I imagine is jolly good fun if you like playing with that sort of thing.
My tablet which also comes with some sort of GPS thingy, has this feature where it will display your position on Google Maps. Your position is marked on the map with a little triangle and you can even set it up to record where you've been by leaving a trail. This is incredibly amusing because the arrowhead reminds me of the opening of the BBC comedy Dad's Army and it makes me want to start humming "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler?"

All of this sounded fine and lovely until I saw this on the top of a pizza box:

Domino's now also has an app which allows you to follow your order from their shop directly to your door. Again, this sounds like a marvel of the age but I wonder what else is going on. Fast food companies aren't generally renowned for their excellent pay and conditions; so why would they suddenly care about the safety of their drivers. As always, the devil is in the detail and you have to ask what the monetary benefit is in tracking their drivers.

Speed Tracking and Driver Alerts look to me as though Domino's are looking for ways to get out of any possible insurance claims that may arise as a result of drivers doing their jobs. By tracking speed they can get out of having to pay any claims that might happen of they can prove that the driver was speeding. I'm not exactly sure how following sudden braking would invalidate an insurance claim but I'm sure that they'd have their lawyers working on it. If there was cause for sudden braking, that immediately allows a lawyer to cast doubt on the case and ask the question of why the delivery driver was braking.
By keeping tabs on 'Unplanned Stops' the local manager can also keep track of any slacking off that the driver might do. I'm sure that it must happen that a delivery driver would visit their friends either because they were making a delivery to them or because they happened to drop by along the way. Granted there is a case to be made that delivery drivers are doing a semi dangerous job because they are out late at night and they are dealing with the general public but if you were to look at the balance of who and what a firm cares for, is it more likely to be a lower paid employee or the bottom line on a Profit and Loss Statement?

This phenomenon isn't unique among service industries though. GPS technology which keeps track of how someone is driving (I assume that's how this works) can also be fitted to the cars of the general public.

QBE's Insurance Box claims to offer savings on the basis that someone is a 'good driver'. Really? Please forgive my suspicion but since when did an insurance company start caring about how well someone drives? Insurance by definition is a monetary hedge against a bad thing from happening and so it stands to reason that an insurance company would want to avoid paying out when that bad thing happens. If the Insurance Box is keeping track of speed and braking then there's a very strong possibility that they can avoid paying out on claims if they have the proof that the driver was speeding at the time of an incident or if they can cast doubt on the case.

I was once in an "accident" in which I supposedly ran into the back of a Toyota Camry coming home from work. The chap's insurance company AAMI claimed that I had left the scene of the "accident" without giving the driver my details. I had come over the brow of a hill and saw him stopped and so I did come to a screeching halt but fell short by almost thirty feet. This chap then must've taken down my number plate details because the first thing I knew about it was that I was being phoned up by AAMI who had contacted my insurance company.
Even though my little Ford Ka was completely unmarked, because AAMI had already made repairs on his Camry, I was unable to prove that I wasn't in the "accident"; so my insurer was on the hook for an accident which I didn't even have.

Given this, my opinion of insurance companies in general is lower than a snake's belly and so when I see things like GPS trackers in cars and buses, I have to wonder in whose favour the game is being rigged.
Whose safety are these firms really concerned for? Is it the fate of their employees or of their golden children who all share the name Dollar?

Having said all this, if everyone was forced to compulsorily carry black box recorders in their motor cars, I'm pretty sure that the standard of driving would increase by loads as people realised that their insurance claims weren't being paid out.

October 01, 2015

Horse 1996 - Some Modern Life Hacks For Overworked People

Here at Horse, which is a publication of the University of The Absurd and the School of Half-Baked Ideas, we are often asked by the general public (and by often, I mean never) to come up with tips and life hacks to make your dreary little lives better. Of course, being an astute publication whose readership extends all the way into the tens (not of thousands, just tens) I simply had to address this issue and write a post about practical tips that you can use to make your life better and easier:

Rich People:
Let's face it, being rich is a burden; I am prepared to shoulder that burden however massive and since charity begins at home, why shouldn't it start at my home? Why not send you outrageous fortune to me?

Potato Crisp Buyers:
If you want to buy crisps that no one else likes, buy salt and vinegar crisps.
If you want to buy crisps that everyone likes, buy cheese and onion. Everyone likes cheese and onion.

Sticky Rice:
Nobody likes their rice sticking together and becoming gluggy when they don't want it to. The way to stop rice from sticking together when you want it to is to boil each grain of rice separately and individually set them aside for later use.

Don't throw out that old toothpaste tube. Simply refill it with a new tube.

Formula One Teams:
Are you like McLaren and spending a fortune for not much reward? Have you got very few points even after throwing millions into development?  Why not simply rebrand yourself every few years? It worked for Tyrell/BAR/Honda/Brawn/Mercedes-Benz.

Poor People:
It seems to me that the reason for your poverty is a lack of money. Why not simply get more money?

If there is an elephant in the room which your wish to avoid, stop holding meetings at the zoo.

Spectacle Wearers:
If you want to avoid excessive wear and tear on your glasses, just take them off when you're not looking at anything.

Collingwood Supporters:
Stop it. It's silly. That is all.

University Students:
If you want to stop those horrible and nasty smells coming from the kitchen, how about cooking something nice for a change?

Home Heating:
If you live in a house that gets cold during the winter, just put up a poster of Fiji on the wall. Its always nice and warm in Fiji.

If you're having trouble applying for a Visa, try applying for a MasterCard instead.

Job Seekers:
The best way to make a good impression at an interview is to practice speaking before you get to the interview room. Try impersonating Mathias Cormann, most people can make a good impression of him.

If you have rowdy children who constantly demand to be entertained, give them a jigsaw to play with. Just remember to switch it on and leave it running first.

Never make eye contact with anyone. Never speak to anyone. Put earphones in your ears, even if you aren't listening to anything. Stare down at your tablet and try to avoid humanity at all costs.
Or smile at someone. You migt even cheer up their deary day.

Horrible Man In the Grey Suit On Platform 3 at Wynyard:
Stop pretending to read the newspaper. Everyone in the whole station can see that you're leering and checking out that lady. Stop it. Walk away.

Claim that your bags have been tampered with when you arrive at immigration control at the airport. Customs staff will be so surprised by your honesty that whilst they try to reassure you that all is well, they won't notice the contraband that you're trying to smuggle in.

Four Cylinder Car Drivers:
Loud exhausts don't convince anyone that you have a performance car. Fit amusing whistles in your exhaust so that everyone will think you're driving a clown car. Either that or just stop pretending that you have a performance car.

Salsa Chip Dippers:
Double dipping is not allowed under most circumstances except if you're the only one eating chips and salsa. In most cases, if a chip breaks and is stuck in the salsa, it must only be retrieved by use of a new chip. Otherwise, said chip must remain in the salsa forever.

British People:
If you find a foreigner or are in a foreign land and want someone to understand you, speak to them in English and only English. If they still don't understand, speak to them louder and louder and louder until they do. If they still don't understand, stick the Union Jack in the ground and claim their land for Britain. This policy has worked in all previous cases such as India, Australia, Canada, America etc. and the consequences often take years to sort out.

Rich People:
Being rich is expensive but I can save you money. Don't throw out that expensive silverware. Simply wash it and you can even reuse it. If you polish it up, it's as good as new. Better yet, get some servants to wash and polish it for you instead of throwing it all into the streets for the street urchins to find.

September 30, 2015

Horse 1995 - Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn - Poles Apart and yet Still Alike

The almost unavoidable circus that is American politics and the race for the Presidency which concludes with the election some fourteen months away, has thrown up a potential candidate who is either so appalling as to be ludicrous, so self aggrandising as to be laughable but so very rich as to be unbuyable. That is of course Donald Trump and he himself is trading on that political currency that he is so rich that he can not be bought by either the political machines or by Wall Street.

Across the pond, another equally unbuyable leader has emerged as leader of the Labour Party in Jeremy Corbyn. This is a man who is rumoured to have fallen out with his previous wife over sending their children to a private school but I don't know if that's just part of the convenient narrative which has been spun, or if it is genuinely true, or whether it is a half-truth wrapped in a palatable and tasty lie. Corbyn like Trump is presumed to be unbuyable, not because he is rich but because he is so far to the economic left that money is irrelevant.

Although we in Australia like to be egocentric and think that we matter, in the grand scheme of things, the world leaders who actually wield the most power are those of China, the US, the UK, Germany, Russia and then countries like France, Italy, South Korea, India, Japan and Australia always seem to end up in orbit around them. The US-UK relationship is far more important than the United States' relationship with Australia and that couldn't have been any more obvious than when Barack Obama promised PM Rudd that he was going to visit Australia after becoming President and then proceeded not to for a long time.
Those US-UK relationship pairs are usually most visible in times of shared war, such as Roosevelt & Churchill and Bush & Blair but also show up when economic policies align such as Reagan & Thatcher.

This brings me back to the combination of Trump and Corbyn; which I think will never happen for machinations surrounding the dates of elections but it's worth thinking about*. Trump and Corbyn couldn't occupy economic positions further apart, if they tried. Trump would probably privatise government itself if he could; whilst Corbyn has already made rumblings that he'd like to renationalise the railways and the electricity companies as well as open some of the mines that Thatcher had closed.
Yet there's something almost familiarly similar about them. In the winner takes all system of democracy; which has been copied by precisely zero other countries in the world, which the United States uses, Donald Trump is trying to win firstly the Republican nomination and then the presidency in a method which seems almost to fight the party itself. In the winner takes all by winning 36% of the popular vote which translates into 50.7% of the seats in parliament which then gives you 100% control, Corbyn has been handed the reigns to a party which has lost and lost badly.

Jeremy Corbyn is curious among modern politicians in that he actually stands for something. Although he has a history of being anti-Thatcher, he did so whilst being a critic of social inequality and poverty and arguing that the state has the power to change people's outcomes. He is also a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Amnesty International and Stop The War.
Trump on the other hand whose policies appear to be whatever comes of out his mouth at any given moment; coupled with an attitude which is mainly ad hoc, says what he thinks precisely because he can not be bought. Like most Republicans he looks like he favours tax cuts for the rich and like a select few Republicans he wants to change the rules about who can become a US citizen and he wants to ask serious questions about the welfare state. In particular he has made mention that he'd like to deport as many as 11 million people back across the border to Mexico and I don't know if this is pandering to the Republican right but again, this policy is mostly unplanned as to the nature of its implementation.
Corbyn on the other hand has won the leadership of a party which found itself in the wilderness following the end of the Blair and Brown premierships and then found itself untrusted by an electorate which punished the Liberal-Democrats and which rewarded the Scottish National Party but returned the Tories to an even bigger majority in the Commons, which kept Labour outside in the cold. Corbyn is from the left of a party which moved right and then tore at its patches as it moved left again.
The question is what exactly that Trump and Corbyn can teach their respective parties and about what the electorate has to say about it.

If nothing else, even though Trump is as wacky as a box of ferrets and could very well be 109 ferrets in a man suit trying to pass of as human (now that I've said it, you can't unthink it), and even though in practical terms Corbyn stands as much chance at bringing any of his sweeping goals to fruition as I do in winning the upcoming by-election in North Sydney for the Banana Party, both Corbyn and Trump bring a genuineness that's not been seen in politicians for maybe two decades. In what might be seen as either extreme or at least very different politics to what we've seen for two twenty years, if nothing else both of them are going to make the parties reassess what they stand for if indeed it is anything.

*The next Presidential Election is November 2016 and the term runs from January 2017 until January 2021. The next British General Election is in 2020. Together this means that even if Trump wins the 2016 election that the initial overlap would only be during 2020 and January of 2021. If for some insane reason that Trump not only wins the 2016 election and the 2020 election, then the Trump-Corbyn pair would last until January of 2025. This is of course assuming that Corbyn even survives as party leader until the 2020 election, which itself is highly unlikely.

September 29, 2015

Horse 1994 - What Kind Of People Are You?

English is a language which is the bastard child of Germanic tongues, Viking tongues and then got infected with Norman and later French tongues. This unruly child with a penchant for theft, then proceeded to steal words from just about every language it came in contact with and every language it could find. Thus the phrase "I'm watching kangaroos on television whilst in my pyjamas and eating potato chips" contains words which have roots in at least eight languages.
To cope with this penchant for theft, larceny and stealing, it helps that English uses the Roman script. Admittedly neither J or U appeared in Roman but that's a very big story which I'm not concerned about here.

Chinese though, which is as diverse a group of languages as the set of Romance languages, uses a standard set of  logograms which are called 'Hanzi' in standard Chinese. Being logograms though, the ability of the script to absorb new words is not as flexible as in English; which leads to some strange sort of results.
I thought it interesting when I was looking at the front page of the Australian Chinese Daily and saw a picture of David Cameron (presumably about that story about Lord Ashcroft's book) and noticed that he was described as being 英国人. I knew what those last two characters were but had to look up the first. The results were surprising and they made me think about how Chinese people might think about everyone else in the world.

Chinese - 中国人 - "Middle Country" people
This is obvious. If you look at a map of the world published in Australia, then Australia is in the centre. An American map of the world has America at the centre and the English even went so far as to send the Prime Meridian through the Greenwich Observatory. 0º passes right through London.
It is natural that Chinese people see themselves as the Middle Country. Humans are an egocentric lot and Chinese people are no different.

Japanese - 日本人 "Origin Of The Day" people
Having studied Japanese, I know many 'kanji'. Kanji literally means 'Han characters' and they presumably date from the time when Japan was a puppet state of China. Japan calls itself 'Nihon' which means the 'origin of the sun' and even their flag is commonly called 'Hinomaru' which means the 'circle of the sun'. The Land Of The Rising Sun is nominally the first Asian country to see daylight;' so it makes sense that the characters reflect that.

Korean - 朝鲜人 "Towards Freshness" people
Yeah... I'm struggling with this one. I'm hoping that I've made a hideous translation error because this is just crazy bonkers cloud cuckoo land stuff. 

Indian - 印度人 - "Print Degree" people
Again because I don't speak a word of Chinese, I'm really struggling with this. I always thought that China was the land that invented paper but maybe Indian paper was just really renowned. Indian documents in the Kharosthi language have been discovered from as far back as the 4th century BC and I do know that India was the source of many pigments for ink - hence why it picked up the eponymous 'India Ink', I suppose.

Mongols - 蒙古人 "Ancient Illiterate" people
This does not surprise me at all. It's worth noting that the barbarian neighbours to the north succeed under the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, in crushing the existing ruling Song dynasty and setting up the Yuan dynasty in 1279. That 'great' wall suddenly isn't looking so great any more.

Italian - 意大利人 - "Meaning Big Profits" people
Marco Polo certainly wasn't the first European to visit China but he was the first to write detailed accounts about his trip there. If the story is true, Marco Polo was welcomed into the courts of Kublai Khan and probably made a great deal of money through trade. Does this mean that the Chinese saw the Italians as patsies from whom easy profits could be extracted? More than likely it's just 'I-da-li-ya' that has been transliterated.

American - 美国人 "Nice" country people
French - 法国人 "Law" country people
German - 德国人 "Moral" country people
These three epithets I find intriguing. Are Chinese people trying to bestow honour upon other people in the world? These sorts of descriptions are the kind of thing I'd be looking for if I wanted my own special logogram. Who doesn't want to be called 'moral', 'lawful' or 'nice'?

English - 英国人 "Hero" country people
I don't know if this was applied to the English before or after the Opium Wars but if it is after, maybe this is a piece of sarcasm. "Yeah English people, you think you're heroes don't you? Real smart". 

Australian - 澳大利亚人 - "Proud Big Profits Inferior" people
Admittedly Australia is probably too new a country to have its own logogram and so like the name 'Tangbao' for Malcolm Turnbull, Australia gets something that sounds similar "Ao-da-li-ya'. It's kind of unfortunate that the set of characters which describes Australia when transliterated, also describes Australia pretty well. We are the country full of inferior boorish people from whom big profits can be made. Dig up our dirt and then make it into stuff before selling it back to us. Big, dumb and stupid - that's also how New Zealand sees us as well.

Our new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been nicknamed 'Tangbao' 汤包 in Standard Chinese, which is a rough interpretation of how his surname sounds. Tangbao are either sweet custard filled buns or gelatinous soup filled buns. The literal meaning of 汤包 as far as I can make out means 'soup package'.
This very much reminds me of JFK's "I am a doughnut" speech on  June 26, 1963 when he said "Ich bin ein Berliner". Is a soup bun better than a doughnut though?

September 28, 2015

Horse 1993 - Chris Brown Denied A Visa

The Federal Government has followed through on its threat to block US R 'n' B singer Chris Brown from entering the country because of his history of domestic violence.
In 2009, Brown was convicted of assault and threatening to kill his then girlfriend, singer Rihanna.
He was sentenced to five years' probation.
- ABC News, 27th Sep 2015


I have no real idea of who Chris Brown is exactly and I'm pretty sure that R 'n' B is not the same Rhythm and Blues that Fats Domino, Johnny Otis and Bo Diddly might have played. In short, I have no idea of who this person is and I'm pretty sure that I probably wouldn't like the sort of music that this person plays. I do know that if the Federal Government has denied Chris Brown a visa, on the grounds that he has a history of domestic violence which includes assault and death threats, then I'm in agreement with the Federal Government. That sort of thing is unacceptable. Story. End of.

I have never tried to apply for a visa into Australia for obvious reasons but I have gone to the United States under their Visa Waiver Program. On the I-94W document, which people wanting to visit the United States must fill in under the program, it asks the question:
Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or been controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?

'Moral turpitude' is one of those really daft sounding things at law which just leaves you scratching your head. This probably explains why so many people look dazed as they enter passport control upon entry into the United States (or that they've just spent 14 hours on a plane).

Helpfully the US State Department has this to say about 'moral turpitude':
9 FAM 40.21(a) N2.2 Defining “Moral Turpitude”
 A conviction for a statutory offense will involve moral turpitude if one or more of the elements of that offense have been determined to involve moral turpitude. The most common elements involving moral turpitude are:
(1) Fraud;
(2) Larceny; and
(3) Intent to harm persons or things.
- U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9, 22nd Aug 2014

Crimes of moral turpitude have been defined by US law as those crimes which are committed against someone's person, family relationship, and crimes relating to sexual morality.

According to Black's Law Dictionary, assault is a crime of moral turpitude and is defined thusly:
Assault (this crime is broken down into several categories, which involve moral turpitude):
- Assault with intent to kill, commit rape, commit robbery or commit serious bodily harm
- Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon
Assault (simple) (any assault, which does not require an evil intent or depraved motive, although it may involve the use of a weapon, which is neither dangerous nor deadly)
- Black's Law Dictionary 9th Ed. (2009)

Whilst it's very easy to get bogged down in legal definitions, this makes it pretty clear I think. This Chris Brown person, would most likely have not been allowed to enter the United States under the I-94W Visa Waiver Program and I suspect also would not have been given a Visa to enter the United States without the waiver. If he would not be allowed to enter the United States, why are people surprised that he isn't allowed to enter Australia?

It was the new Minister for Women Michaelia Cash who stated quite clearly why she thought that the Minister for Immigration would deny a visa, all the way back on Thursday of last week:
"People need to understand, if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world there are going to be countries that say to you, 'You cannot come in because you are not of the character that we expect in Australia'."
- Minister for Women Michaelia Cash, as quoted ABC News 27th Sep 2015


I must admit though, then we get comments from Miranda Devine in today's Sunday Telegraph, which I'm sure are deliberately designed to rile people up.

Demonising men, and pouring taxpayer money into permanent meddling bureaucracies, will do nothing to alleviate domestic tragedy.
It just increases government’s role in our lives, and further disempowers vulnerable men.
Worse, the underlying narrative is about disrespecting men.
Turnbull claimed: “one in four young men think it’s OK to slap a girl when you’ve been drinking”.
- Miranda Devine, The Sunday Telegraph, 27th Sep 2009

In the time that I spent as a court recorder which did involve going to Bourke, Bathurst and (shock horror) Parramatta, I saw plenty of cases in various courts in which domestic violence had occurred. Let's get this absolutely clear - the number of women that I saw who were on trial for perpetrating domestic violence was nil. Zero.
I really do not know which so called "vulnerable" men are being disempowered here. Granted that domestic tragedy occurs within the four walls of a household, where the reach of government should for the most part stay outside of but common consensus says that the first duty of government is the protection of its citizenry; if that means calling for active protection of half its citizenry then that's a good thing.

Let's bring back shame. Shame is one of those concepts which seems to have fallen out of favour because society feels uncomfortable about it but in this case, that's all the more reason to being back shame. Shame is the voice of the conscious of either an individual or all of us collectively, expressing regret for wrongs we have done. A little bit of shame before an event, just might temper society and hopefully prevent domestic violence from happening in the first place. Actions should have consequences.

Say what you like about Malcolm Turnbull politically but less than a fortnight into the job as Prime Minister, he's already said something which is important and should be obvious to all:

Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women. We, as leaders, as a government, must make it and we will make it a clear national objective of ours to ensure that Australia is more respecting of women. Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level. At home, at the workplace, wherever. And I'd say that as parents, one of the most important things we must do is ensure that our sons respect their mothers and their sisters.
Because that is where this begins. It begins - violence against women begins with disrespecting women. And so this is a big cultural shift.
- PM Malcolm Turnbull, 24th Sep 2015

Maybe the apostle Paul in his letter to the Colossians said it in even more economical terms:
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
- Colossians 3:19

How do you love someone if you're assaulting and threatening to kill them? Okay, so maybe Chris Brown isn't being judged by the standards of scripture but it seems that he is being judged by the standards of several nation's law (Oz, NZ and the UK):

In June 2010 Brown was refused permission to enter the UK on the grounds of being guilty of a serious criminal offence.
Yesterday, Immigration New Zealand confirmed Brown's rejection from the UK meant he could not enter New Zealand.
- New Zealand Herald, 18th Sep 2015.

I for one like the fact that we're being shown some leadership from the top. Even if denying Chris Brown a visa doesn't of itself achieve a lot, it does start the national dialogue on what we as a nation are prepared to accept. What Mr Turnbull said is worth repeating:
Women must be respected. Disrespecting women is unacceptable. It is unacceptable at every level.

September 26, 2015

Horse 1992 - The Little Voices

One of the projects that I've worked on recently was writing a Purimspiel (Purim play). Our church is making a pass through of several of the smaller books of the Bible and I happened to notice that the weekend after we finish the book of Esther, will be the thirteenth day of the twelfth month which is numerically the day on the Jewish calendar which Jewish people celebrate the festival of Purim, which commemorates the liberation of the Jews from the plot of Haman. The nation of Israel uses a different calendar to us and Purim usually falls sometime in March but it was still an interesting coincidence and one that warranted running the idea of  Purimspiel up the flagpole.
The reason that I make mention of this is because Mrs Rollo is currently reading a Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Dickens once remarked that he heard little voices in his head for all the characters he was writing; knowing the sort of showman that he was, I don't know if this implies schizophrenia or if this was just for emphasis. Rest assured that I don't hear little voices in my head other than my own internal monologue; which is entirely my own creation but I can attest to the sentiment that when writing, you tend to want to imagine the voices of your characters in your mind as you play with them in an imaginary theatre.

Esther is one of those books of the Bible which lends itself to dramatisation because its structure resembles that of a comic farce. It has an idiot king, a mad bad villain and the hero of Esther is the only sane person in the story. It also contains the elements of a tragedy, with Haman setting up the conditions which lead to his own downfall. As a piece of literature to use as a base from which to work from, it is excellent.
Now probably because I have listened to so much comedy and drama on the radio over manu years, in writing the script for this Purimspiel, I have a whole cast of pretend voices in my head for everyone. King Xerxes for instance sounds like a deranged Richard III or perhaps like Marcus Brigstocke as King Stupid, whilst scheming Haman has a slippery sort of voice like Valentine Dyall from Dracula, and Esther sounds more like X in Anna Karenina (she also played X in Outnumbered). I am quite quite sure that if a production is put on of this, then my preconceptions will be instantly shattered like a sledgehammer passing through a pane of glass and all the little pretend voices that I've assigned in my head with instantly disappear.

I suffer from this sort of thing all the time. To illustrate this, merely writing the phrase "Good news everyone" instantly recalls the voice of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama in my mind. Give me an epic classic with a cast of hundreds of characters and in my mind, I will have crafted distinct and different voices for all of them. I don't know if other people also do this but I wonder if that's one of the reasons that when a movie is made of a book, people are frequently disappointed. Almost always, the book will be better than the film and I suspect that is because that on some level, the silver screen can never hope to match the richness of vision that our mind's eye has imagined into existence. I will confess though that the obvious exception for me was Tolkien's "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy because I find Tolkien's writing so incredibly tedious that even bashing my head with the book is a better experience than reading it; so of course the movie would be better than the book in such circumstances.

Probably because Dickens's work as a court attendant had brought him into the world of so many different characters, he could bring a small distillation of them to life in his prose. Tolstoy was also able to do likewise because in the cold Russian winters when everyone was kept indoors, it allowed people's minds to engage with the written word far more easily. As a hack writer who blasts forward in 1300 word bursts of noise and confusion, I don't have that sort of fluidity to be able to make those sorts of characters appear on stage in the theatres of people's minds; nor can I make them dance like macabre marionettes and so I'm perfectly aware of my place. That would be the pinnacle of writing though.

I did find though that in vomiting hundreds of words of dialogue at a time though, that as I was writing, the characters would almost want to interject and be as annoying as possible. On the first draft, King Xerxes assumed a more regal kind of role who was unaware of his own power but this just seemed too lifeless to me. By the third draft, I'd turned him into a a self-aware fool in my mind and this made things far easier as well. By also imagining how I wanted this to be staged, with only three microphones and a hidden area, I was also able to play with the issues that might arise with having a very large cast. Also, by imagining the whole thing as a radio play, I could also play with the way that characters interacted with each other and in the process have dramatically slashed the necessary budget needed to put on such a thing.

I think that when writing a script especially, you need to have a degree of imagination for the voices that you want to give your characters. People is the real world have their own tone, metre, pitch and vocabulary; so I don't see why a set of made up characters shouldn't also have likewise. The first reader of any document is the person engaged in writing it and in my case, if the voice doesn't sound believable, then I doubt if a consequent reader or listener will find it believable either.
Even when I'm writing a blog post such as this, I usually do so in silence or with some slow music playing (like the Windows chimes at 8000 times slower) because my brain simply can not process my own internal monologue and another voice at the same time. I think that it would be impossible for me to write something whilst listening to a podcast for that reason.

I don't know if what I've said is true for any other writer. I might very well be the only one in the world who makes up internal voices for all the characters that I either read or write and if I am, I think that I must be one of the luckiest people in the world because everything is like a stage play for me. All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players- so dance for me, my pretties!

September 25, 2015

Horse 1991 - New Zealand Goes To The Polls To Select The WRONG Flag.

Here are the four flag designs that eligible voters will rank in the first binding postal referendum this year, between 20 November and 11 December.
From the 10,292 alternative designs suggested to the Panel, four have been selected to be ranked by New Zealand in the first binding referendum this year.
- The four alternatives, The NZ Government Te Kawanatanga o Aotearoa

These are the four flags (with the possible addition of one more) which are to be put to the people of New Zealand in a referendum to change the national flag. Now I'm not saying that of themselves they aren't lovely but I am suggesting that due to meddling on high, they are all the wrong flag which should be submitted. I would have thought that to everyone in the world who has more than half a dozen working brain cells that the only option which should be put in the referendum is this:

Look, the way I see it, the New Zealand flag committee had one job and that was to faff about for a while and then submit a black flag with a silver fern on it. That was it. Guard New Zealand's triple star from the from the shafts of strife and war, whatever. Story. End of. Referendum. Done.

The whole point of having a national flag originally was to mark your ships, armies and territory so that it could easily been seen at a distance. Flags began life as identifiers so that an army didn't accidentally kill their comrades. All of that changed quite some time ago and camouflage on the modern battlefield basically ensures that no one has any idea who anyone else is. This means that the only use of flags in a modern context is either for diplomatic ends, or reasons of national pride or propaganda. Politicians love to conduct interviews whilst standing in front of as many flags as they possibly can and a national flag can indicate that some diplomat is staying somewhere.
This means that the only common use of flags is one of national pride and this usually happens, not on the battlefield but the sporting field. To this end, New Zealand which as a little nation who sensibly doesn't fight in many wars that aren't its concern, punches well above its weight. If it wasn't for the rugby, cricket and netball teams and maybe the odd appearance in the Olympics and in other endeavours like motor racing, New Zealand would be happily hidden under its long white cloud, going to the dairy and buying a packet of pineapple lumps, and the rest of the world would be totally oblivious to its existence. Because these four flags don't really scream 'New Zealand!' as loudly as the black flag with the silver fern, although they might display all the qualities of good flag design, they are less than useless.

Had that gone to a referendum it would have been game over. Instead, the NZRU have claimed copyright on it and have made a right pig's breakfast of the whole thing. What the NZRU should have done is stand aside and admit that the silver fern on black transcends rugby and just admitted that even they are too small to control the fate and destiny of a nation but no, they had to go and ruin it all for everyone. Thank you New Zealand Rugby, I'm about to confer the worst insult that I can possibly think of upon you - you behaved like a pack of Australians.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key also showed that he has the spine of a jellyfish when he said that he was happier that the black flag wasn't chosen because it resembled ISIS. Guess what, John Key? The terrorists have won. Yes ISIS is, as our now deposed PM Tony Abbott said with alarming frequency, a 'death cult' but they will pass.
New Zealand as an independent dominion has been around for 108 years and the existing flag has been around longer than even Australia's. ISIS will probably not be around beyond the end of the decade because of internal squabbles and splintering. The All Blacks have been part of the story of the land of the long white cloud since 1905 their New Zealandiness has shaped the character of the nation, no matter how much they complain about their right to copyright now. As PM, the Key Government could have told the NZRU to stand aside and told ISIS that New Zealand is not afraid but instead, we've just been given whimpering on a grand scale.

These other four flags are okay I suppose but are they the best possible flag for the nation? No. They are as I suspect, flags chosen by a committee because they have in mind, the purpose of losing the referendum. Now I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories by given the level of acrimony, bile, acid and gall which was thrown about in the Canadian Parliament before they finally settled on the correct flag for Canada, I wonder if when faced with the problem that the flag committee wasn't allowed to pick the correct and proper flag for New Zealand, whether or not they haven't just decided to throw all the toys out of the pram and chuck a tantrum. If any of the four designs proposed actually gets up against the current national flag, then I don't see another flag referendum coming up for a very long time; if they happen to win, then the new New Zealand flag will be the subject of well deserved derision forever.

The only proper and sensible choice for the New Zealand flag is the Silver Fern on a black background and that's it.

Unless New Zealand decides to go with another flag which is so utterly and delightfully bonkers that it broke the space-time continuum, just like this link - http://a/%%30%30

Deranged cat raking its garden
Designed by: Jeong Hyuk Fidan from Canterbury

Who doesn't love a cat that rakes its own garden?


September 24, 2015

Horse 1990 - Reforming The Senate Voting System

I think that the number of different voices that we have in the Senate, that is the upper house of the Australian Parliament, even if they are completely bonkers is one of the best features of the Senate. One of the problems with the method of elections in the Senate is that  because we have proportional representation and group ticket voting, candidates from micro parties are elected because of deals made behind closed doors; which the electorate is almost entirely oblivious to. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with micro parties but something is wrong with a system that allows candidates with only 0.2% of the popular vote to be elected to the house on the hill.

In voting for the Senate, we use a single transferrable voting system with proportional representation. A candidate needs a certain quota of the votes before they are elected; which I think in theory should make sense but in practice is something of a logistical nightmare. The problem is that when you have a ballot paper which is usually more than a metre long, which voters are trying to fill in with a stubby little pencil, in a cardboard voting booth which is only 60cm wide, and then you expect then to number a great deal more than a hundred boxes; with labels that are so small that for some elections voters have had to be supplied with magnifying glasses, you can hardly expect the average voter who finds filling in a tax return a chore to be able to fill in a ballot paper.
From a practical standpoint, this forced the advent of ticket voting above the line in 1984 but in the thirty years that have followed, this has resulted in creative election strategists who work to carve out deals underlying that magical 1 above the line. Number every box below and you decide where every single one of your preferences goes but number one box above the line and those preferences then fall under the control of the group ticket writer.
It is in that space that strategists work to secure preference deals which has resulted in some truly bonkers candidates being elected by an unwitting electorate. This might have been initially fine in the days when there weren't that many micro parties but as time has gone on, it appears that the micro parties have got better at gaming the system; which is always going to be an inevitable outcome of any system which is put in place.
In the 2013 Senate election for instance, David Leyonhjelm who is a prime exponent of gaming deals, was probably both a member of his own Liberal Democratic Party and the Stop The Greens Party which also appeared on the Senate ballot paper in New South Wales. He was probably elected on the basis of a combination of back-door deals and the donkey vote because he appeared in the first column and the first box on a very very big ballot paper, rather than actually being popular and campaigning.

I think that the solution is as obvious as the nose on my face. If I was Grand Poobah and Lord High Everything Else, my solution would be to do away with numbering one box above the line only. Ticket voting is fine but I would have it such that all of the boxes above the line would be numbered and the preferences which flowed on as a result would only apply to the individual groups.
Suppose a voter wanted to vote for the Banana Party, the Insane Jackhammer Party, Eclipse Party, Regressive Party and Burn The Forests Party in that order; and that for the purposes of this example each of the parties were fielding seven candidates. They would then number:
1 - Banana; and the preferences would flow 1-7,
2 - Jackhammer; and the preferences would flow 8-14,
3 - Eclipse; and the preferences would flow 15-21 and so forth.
I would even allow provisions that where an voter has put down a few preferences, say from 1-11 on the ballot paper, then the preferences would still flow in order but starting from 12; with already numbered candidates not included again in the list.
This might result in fewer candidates from totally bonkers micro parties being elected but it would probably help to decrease the level in informal voting. Of course over time it would naturally result in a totally new set of behind the scenes voting game chicanery being played but at least it hands a further degree of control back to the voter.

The major parties' biggest problem with the micro parties appears to be that they hold the balance of power in the Senate. In the days of a purely two party system, complaints were hurled at the fact that on most occasions the Senate was hostile and that a party which forms government thinks that it has a mandate to rule as it sees fit.
Ever since Australia moved from a broad system of appointment of Senators by the States to the infinitely more democratic method of appointment that we have now (which was implemented in 1949), the level and noise of complaints by the major parties has only increased. In 1984 which saw the addition of extra Senators from ten to twelve per state, it meant that suddenly there was six senators being elected at a half-Senate election and the numbers play in such a way that when you get down to the actual arguments in the ballot box over that last 16% of the vote (assuming that the other 84% already resulted in the appointment of major party candidates), that the minor parties have a field day.
From the 1970s to the 1990s this 16% was almost the exclusive domain of the Democrats whose job according to leader Don Chipp at the time was to "keep the bastards honest". Their last piece of lasting influence on legislation was in the debate over the GST and it must be said that in the late 1990s that politics was generally far more conciliatory than it is now. Even Paul Keating who threw so much mud in the parliament that one would think that the national colours of Australia were three shades of brown, probably won the 'unwinnable' 1993 election because of his reasonableness with his statement that if Dr John Hewson's Liberal Party was swept to government, that Labor would respect the mandate and pass the legislation through the Senate. Now in the days where political discourse has been reduced to that of a perpetual Celtic/Rangers Old Firm derby and where the balance of power is held by the fruits and nuts, the two majors are more inclined to blame the system rather than their own toxic politics.

In Westminster democracies, Party Politics more or less began in the 1830s. By 1901 and the Federation of the Australian colonies into the Commonwealth, politics had already coagulated into distinct globs. The micro parties because they are so chaotic, are kind of a return to the sorts of politics which existed before the 1830s and this scares the majors. From a practical standpoint, when voters mostly have no idea where their preferences are flowing, this is bad for democracy.
I as always will continue to vote below the line. My preferences are valuable.