April 19, 2014

Horse 1658 - The Ham Fiasco of 1914

Despite Italy's membership in the Triple Alliance with the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, when war broke out in 1914, Italy remained neutral. This however belies a series of quite complex disputes that Italy had with its two confederates and even why Austria-Hungary was drawn into war in the first place.
On the 21st of March 1914, the revolving door of Italian Prime Ministers, opened on Antonio Salandra at the behest of outgoing Prime Minister, Giovanni Giolitti, who was no longer able to hold together his Italian Liberal government.

One hundred years ago today, on the 19th of April 1914, Salandra appointed a diumvirate of generals as head of the Italian Army in climate of impending clouds of war in Europe. General Antonio Salami was in favour of throwing Italy's hat into the ring with the other members of the Triple Alliance and expanding the Kingdom of Italy slice by slice. General "Papa" Giuseppe Mortadella on the other hand, saw problems with enlarging the Kingdom of Italy and was wary of as he put it "black olives of resistance".

Mortadella was especially worried about Italy's stance during the Balkan Wars of 1912. Documents which had been received via channels of intelligence revealed that considerable payments had flowed from Italy to factions in Serbia; this in turn had reduced prices of arms in the region. In particular, Italian funds flowed balsamically through a man called Wulworth Kohl who was head of a group called the Red Hand Society.

"Down down, prices are down. Down down, prices are down."
- Wulworth Kohl, 11th February 1913.

Kohl's aid to Serbian forces considerably contributed to the Balkan League's victory over the Ottoman Empire. At the war's end in 1913, nearly 50,000 Ottoman soldiers lay dead; this caused anxiety to Mortadella who did not want Italian forces to suffer the same fate. Kohl's Red Hand Society would in turn, evolve into the Black Hand Society, of which Gavrilo Princip was a member and who would assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Eventually General "Papa" Giuseppe would move into the Ministry of Food Control and increase Italians dairy rations by "adding a little more cheese". For years following a common phrase was that "everyone loves their Papa".
General Antonio Salami on the other hand was intent on backing the Triple Alliance because he saw it as a way of increasing Italian power and prestige.

Mortadella and Salami would brought together and would never reach agreement; and so Italy dithered and delayed joining the war. They dithered and delayed to such an extent that the whole fiasco was finally cured when Italian Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith signed the London Pact on 26 April 1915, in which Italy was to leave the Triple Alliance and join Triple Entente. Italy would Germany and Austria-Hungary within a month. The London Pact was signed in the suburban district of Ham in south-west London and both Mortadella and Salami would find themselves on the chopping block.

April 17, 2014

Horse 1657 - The Tragedy Of Judas Iscariot

History is pretty harsh on Judas Iscariot and perhaps justifiably so. After all, it is pretty dastardly to sell out your mate to the authorities to be killed and for what? The equivalent of about $2000 today.
However, Judas' subsequent actions indicates that he must have felt a tremendous amount of guilt and this to me is perhaps one of the most tragic stories in all of scripture.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
- Matthew 27:3-10 (NIV)

After realising that he'd sold out his mate, he tries to return the ill-gotten 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and in their self-justifying-rules-before-common-sense-decency-and-people sort of way, they didn't accept their own payment; citing that it was blood money (that in itself seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy).

I don't know if through the repeated notes in the gospels that Judas was the betrayer, whether or not we're supposed to feel some sort of anger or something towards Judas but I can't help but feel really really sorry for him.
This is a man who knows that he's messed up really really badly and reaches a point in his mind where he thinks there is no hope at all. Suicide then opens itself as a way to cut through grief for a mind which clearly isn't functioning well at this point and he knows that he is due some sort of punishment. Suicide here is seen as an answer of someone suffering really deep remorse and anguish and not finding any way out of it.
Can you imagine for a second, what it must have been like to know that you were the one who sold out the Messiah? This is the one who the Jewish nation had been waiting for for hundreds of years and maybe thought would restore their kingdom and overthrow the Romans. If I'd been Judas, I'm sure I would have been filled with a sense of complete and utter abject terror.

The real tragedy of this particular aspect to this story is that had Judas not taken his own life, he would have been forgiven by the very man who he'd sold out. Jesus death and resurrection would have been sufficient to pay the outstanding penalty that sin demands however, Judas never saw any of that. Judas never even lived to see Jesus crucified.
Suppose Judas had seen that Monday. What sort of witness for the gospel would he have made? Remember, Paul who went about actively persecuting Christians, was pretty zealous when it later came to preaching and teaching the gospel. What sort of impact would have Judas have made? To have been the one who had sold out the Messiah and then been forgiven? Sadly, we'll never know.
Instead the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday had the effect of rendering two names which we'd never think of naming out children. One because it is too glorious; the other because it is stained through the whole of history. The truth is that both names at the time were actually pretty common; as common as Jack or Liam today.

Judas is one of the single most tragic figures in the whole bible. The tragedy extends from the results of his deliberate actions but also because he never ever got to appreciate what Jesus was about to do (which was also a result of his deliberate action).

Just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
- Romans 5:6-11

Even after being with Jesus for 3 years, he never got it. He never understood that forgiveness and reconciliation was there for the asking. The sad thing is that Judas was only a mere 3 days away from a story which would have been very very different.
3 days... which may as well have been an eternity.

I live on Pedant Corner which is just off of Persnickety Lane. I have a question with regards this:

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 
- Luke 24:33-34

If you read through the rest of Luke, he's also pretty pedantic and makes sure that he calls Simon Peter, just Peter. John's account in chapter 21 also takes deliberate pains to mention "Simon son of John" or Simon Peter.
So my question is... who is this Simon in Luke 24? Simon the Cyrenian, Simon the Pharisee, Simon the leper in Bethany, Simon Iscariot? Who?
What if it was Simon Iscariot? Would it have made sense that Jesus would visit the grieving father of someone who had committed suicide? I'm afraid that I just don't know the answer to this.

Horse 1656 - Create A New Model T? Viva La Fiesta!

Young people are losing interest in driver’s licenses. Cars have climbed to near-record prices. Increasingly, Americans are looking at alternatives to cars, like public transportation, bike sharing and rides from Uber.
With the auto industry gathered in New York this week for the New York International Auto Show, many people are puzzled over ways to win consumers back. One idea: create a new Model T.
There’s an opportunity for some smart company to build the next car for the masses. There is certainly a precedent for doing so. The original Model T put the car within the reach of the American middle class for the first time, and as cheaper used versions became available, the demographic got pushed down even further to the working class.
- Micheline Maynard, Forbes Magazine, 15th Mar 2014.

Sometimes I read articles in magazines and newspapers where I really question what sort of world the people who wrote them live in. After reading this article, I suspect that it's a world where eithet the internet doesn't exist, where high school arithmetic was too hard and where people simple do not do the research.

The Model T later sold for as little as $260, because Ford passed along the savings from his production innovations.
- media.ford.com, 5th Aug 2013.

At least that's what Ford's propaganda tells you. Henry Ford was a very canny businessman and whilst it is true that he did in fact pay his workers $5 a day when the usual going rate was only $2.25, the only reason that he did it was because he could reduce worker attrition and turnover by doing so.
In paying more than double the average daily rate, Henry demanded that his employees avoided drinking and gambling and even sent round inspectors to people's houses to check in on them. In addition, he was profoundly anti-Semitic and was eventually even awarded the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolf Hitler, a few weeks after the Anschluss. In short, Henry was more than likely not a nice man. He would have only "passed along the savings" if it meant shifting more products and generating higher profits.
That aside, the Model T was able to sell so cheaply in 1927 because by that stage, the entire production facility had already been amortised and the car itself was essentially unchanged since 1908.

Consider the specifications of the Model T, as it rolled off the production line in 1927.
- 2.9L in-line 4 cylinder engine.
- 2 speed manual gearbox.
- Power 20bhp.
- Two wheel Drum Brakes.
- Top Speed 72km/h
- Fuel Economy 11.2L/100km

The asking price of US $260 at an inflation of 5% works out to be US $18,131 today.

Also consider the specifications of the Fiesta, as it rolled off the production line in 2014.
- 1.5L in-line 4 cylinder engine.
- 6 speed manual gearbox.
- Power 110bhp. 
- Four Wheel ABS Disc Brakes
- Traction Control
- Stability Control
- Top Speed 197km/h
- Fuel Economy 5.3L/100km

The 2014 Ford Fiesta has a top speed more than two and a half times as fast, produces more than five times the power and does it whilst using less than half the same amount of petrol AND does it at a list price in the United States of $14,100. Now I love to be pedantic, so bear with me, that's almost a 23% discount for a better piece of machinery; in real terms, cars are cheaper.

There’s an opportunity for some smart company to build the next car for the masses. There is certainly a precedent for doing so. The original Model T put the car within the reach of the American middle class for the first time, and as cheaper used versions became available, the demographic got pushed down even further to the working class.

What? Has the author ever stepped outside her front door? Is she suggesting that motoring isn't for the masses in the United States? The last reliable statistic for the number of cars registered that I can find is in 2009 and there were 254,212,610 of them.
I've been stuck in a traffic jam on the I-5 in Los Angeles for 5 hours; moving at less than 10mph. Whilst anecdotal evidence is hardly empirical, I'd tend to think that that's only because the car is within the reach of the American middle class.

Yes, the Ford Model T can lay claim to being the second bestselling single design of car in history but it did so over 19 years. To sell a car in today's market which is 19 years old would be the equivalent of committing market suicide.

One idea: create a new Model T.

Considering that both the Fiesta and the Focus list for less money than the Model T ever did, don't they already fulfil that function and many times better? Maybe someone just has a book to peddle.

April 15, 2014

Horse 1655 - Australia: Not The Clever Country

But perhaps the greatest issue of concern is that ATARs are assigned to courses which do not necessarily reflect the intellectual capacity needed to complete the course. Rather, they simply reflect a supply-and-demand equation that balances the popularity of that degree with the number of places available. The ATAR becomes a virtual ''price'' or ''status ranking'' for the course. Hence the absurd refrain heard regularly amongst HSC students: ''I really want to do med. If I miss that, I'll do law ... or I could always be a vet.'' Three degrees with virtually nothing in common eyed off simply because of their comparative ATARs. 
Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are lawyers. But I can't help thinking how many potentially great scientists, academics and school teachers are lost to law’s siren song every year.
- Adam Spencer, Sydney Morning Herald, 14th Apr 2014

A man much wiser than me once said that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. To be fair this is as equally true for individuals as it is companies and firms as it is for governments. If you want to find out what is important to someone, simply just look at their pocketbook, and follow where the money goes. Equally true is that through the corrective lens of history, we usually have 20/20 vision when it comes to looking at such things.

If we were to step back in history, perhaps a  particular statement made by a Prime Minister might hold out a promise, upon which we can measure where out heart as a nation lies:

No longer content to be just the lucky country, Australia must become the clever country.
To realise that vision I am announcing bold new initiatives today to build on our substantial achievements in education and scientific research – to unleash the skills and talents of our people.
- Prime Minister Bob Hawke, 8th Mar 1990

So then, how did we do?

There is a useful term in economics called the "opportunity cost"; that is, the cost of value forgone in order to decide upon a different set of choices. The opportunity cost of building a car park, might be the loss of that same land to put in a public park or sporting field.

In 1992, the Keating government introduced a compulsory superannuation scheme. The rules governing this scheme have varied somewhat in 22 years in general, superannuation in particular has changed the way markedly that Australia goes about investment.
The rules which govern superannuation in conjunction with rules which relate to things like negative gearing in property and capital gains etc. have meant that more money is being invested in the property market; this in turn has caused something of a 100 year spike in the growth of property prices, which acts as a feedback loop, making property more attractive to invest in.

The thing is though that capital, like water or electricity, tends to follow the path of least resistance. When you force people to be responsible for their own superannuation to such a degree it also means that people are equally as likely to invest in those places which gain the highest returns; especially over the past decade, those returns can be found in the mining sector and in property/financial management.

- ASX 200 by Sector - http://www.asx200list.com/

This is the result since 1992 of where the economic choices and relative opportunity costs forgone have taken us. Personally I think that it's pretty sad that Australia in the 21st Century; 24 years since we were promised by a Prime Minister that policy would to build on our substantial achievements in education and scientific research – to unleash the skills and talents of our people, that Australia has in essence become a nation of number farmers and dirt farmers.
24 years of government and business policy have take us here. It was deliberate and forceful. It is somewhat of a myth to assume that economies simply organise themselves spontaneously. Such a statement would be like saying that it would be obvious to put fire escapes on buildings; the truth is that unless government policy forces something, business couldn't give an insect's iota.

Insect repellent, permanent pleat for fabrics, the microwave landing system for aircraft, Wi-Fi wireless local area network, were all developed by the CSIRO and yet we've heard only this week that it is heading for a funding cut something in the order of $150m. What sort of madness is this?
If governments actually cared about the promise of becoming the clever country, then policy would have been formulated. Increased subsidy for research and development, increased funding in education right across the board from kindergarten to university. I would hope that an investment in the labour stock of the nation would lead to higher rates of productivity and innovation.

But no. We can't become the clever country because an investment in education is like playing the long game. To take a child from kindergarten to university might take as long as 18 years and in that time frame, there'd already have been 6 Federal Elections. Politicians would have moved on, CEOs of corporations would have already gouged out their cut from the ASX 200 and would be living nicely upon the work which other people produced for them.
Heck Australia is so incredibly punch itself in the face stupid, that it can't even make steel for export anymore. BlueScope Steel exited the export market in 2011. Meanwhile BHP Billiton which is the world's third-largest company measured by market capitalization, exports dirt to be made into steel, which is then sold back to Australians as useful products.
How clever is that?

Adam Spencer couldn't help thinking how many potentially great scientists, academics and school teachers are lost to law’s siren song every year but I can't help thinking that their choice is completely rational. What's the point in even bothering with science, if the country has spent the past quarter of a century deliberately arranging the economy to become dirt farmers and number farmers? Why bother in doing science when to do something like buy a Ford Focus just requires the export of a mere 213 tonnes of dirt?
Thankfully with the current government going around signing all these lovely free trade agreements, the nations that turn magically turn our dirt into computers, refrigerators and the like, will simply be able to buy up all our dirt farms for themselves. Heck even they don't that Australia isn't the clever country. Queensland even poked fun at itself with its "The Smart State" number plates.

- Ha ha ha. LOL... no-one else is buying it though.

Possibly thousands of potentially great scientists, academics and school teachers are lost to law, economics and finance every year, not necessarily because of the number of places available but because of the potential rewards that are available at the end. If you're paying tens of thousands a year for a university education, it is rational to do something which will reward you; and in Australia, we've spent 24 years designing an economy based on dirt farming and number farming because it's simply just too hard to...
... become the clever country.

April 14, 2014

Horse 1654 - Everything

The ancient text the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, commissioned by Chinese Emperor Nasi-Goreng in circa 1255, stated that all animals could be divided into 14 categories:
- Those that belong to the emperor
- Embalmed ones
- Those that are trained
- Suckling pigs
- Mermaids (or Sirens)
- Fabulous ones
- Stray dogs
- Those that are included in this classification
- Those that tremble as if they were mad
- Innumerable ones
- Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
- Et cetera
- Those that have just broken the flower vase
- Those that, at a distance, resemble flies

It has generally been accepted that Nasi Goreng and his wife Mie Goreng kept a large private menagerie called Tel Stra on the shores of what is now called Taihu Lake but which was known at the time as the Big Pond.
Their benevolent reign and their willingness to build the Great Wall of China to keep out the rabbits, won them the people's ovation and fame forever. But was their list complete even for the day? Modern research tends to suggest that due to China's limited contact with the rest of the world, that many many animals simply do not fit into these categories. Perhaps other categories need to be included such as:
- Dangerous things
- Those which can not be fenced in
- Those which remain unseen
- Ones facing backwards
- Animals which do not peer into mirrors
- Those that remain indoors during the potato festival
- Other
- Those that only appear in groups of prime numbers
- Selfish ones
- Those that look into the distance, confused
- The boring
- The unrentable
- Those which can be found on shelves
- Brown

If it is true that animals may be classified into categories, what of everything else?
- Moving
- Stolen
- Not delicious
- In a state of disrepair
- Things which can be polished
- Owned by the bank
- Edible
- Strange
- Overly fluffy
- Shiny and or possible new
- Things which can be piled
- Things which other people have and you do not covet
- Miscellaneous
- Expensive

If we were to break those down still further, we might arrive at:
- Copies of a magazine or newspaper, or other packets of papers
- Cars, Buses, mechanical devices and household appliances
- Cups, glasses, octopuses, cuttlefish, boats and slang
- Small animals, insects, demons, fish
- Rivers, train tracks, telephone calls, songs, pencils, books, guitars
- Number of floors, storeys, department stores
- Military units, pieces of chalk, broom handles
- Unused and not applicable
- Mirrors, cutting boards, photographs, cake
- People, except those we are unfriendly with
- Guns, trousers, servings at a restaurant, other cake
- Lines of text, suits of armour, votes
- CPUs, nuclear reactors, suburbs
- Examples, flags, pairs of socks, polite

A man much wiser than myself said that there is no end to the making of books and that excessive study is wearisome. I think that that list of 56 categories pretty well much covers everything and I mean everything. Now that this comprehensive list exists, you can get to and start fitting things into it...
... even Martin Skrtel. He's one of those which can not be fenced in.

April 13, 2014

Horse 1653 - Aristotle, The Bible, Markets and Slavery

Nature would like to distinguish between the bodies of freemen and slaves, making the one strong for servile labor, the other upright, and although useless for such services, useful for political life in the arts both of war and peace. But the opposite often happens--that some have the souls and others have the bodies of freemen. And doubtless if men differed from one another in the mere forms of their bodies as much as the statues of the Gods do from men, all would acknowledge that the inferior class should be slaves of the superior. And if this is true of the body, how much more just that a similar distinction should exist in the soul? but the beauty of the body is seen, whereas the beauty of the soul is not seen. It is clear, then, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these latter slavery is both expedient and right.
- The Politics, Aristotle (no later than 322BC)

I am currently reading Aristotle's "The Politics" and the first thing that struck me (of course being very early in the discourse) is the a priori stance that Aristotle takes on slavery. The word "politics" itself means "the city" or possibly "the citizens"; either way the polis referred to the way that the Greek city-states were organised and it is to this audience that Aristotle writes. Naturally as you'd expect, being someone who derives his employment from philosophy and who would have had patrons who came to see him talk in the same way that a modern university might have patrons, Aristotle wouldn't have condemned the practice of slavery because the people who commanded slaves, were the same people from which he derived his income.

Writing for that particular society Aristotle arrives at the conclusion that slaves were in such a state because their very souls were faulty. They must have lacked reason and the ability to think for themselves and thus actually required masters to tell them what to do and how to live. As a result slavery must be good for some people, for otherwise, they would be lost and simple unable to function or run their lives properly.

If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this thing today.
And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise. It shall not seem hard to you when you send him away free from you; for he has been worth a double hired servant in serving you six years. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.
- Deuteronomy 15:12-18

Hebrew Law contained provisions for many things which God considered horrible such as Divorce or even the Israelite people having a king. Nevertheless, the law regarding slavery still provided for manumission after seven years and included the proviso that ex-slaves be rewarded when they left; a little like a redundancy payment or stipend I suppose.
Incidentally, tradition held that the value of the three gifts of livestock, wine and grain was to be valued at a months wages. Tradition eventually gave way to standard law which codified this. I'd never thought about this before but the 30 denarii paid by the chief priests to Judas Iscariot was also a month's wages. I'm sure that there is supposed to be a symbolic parallel with regards slavery here, but I haven't quite tied up all the connections here. Still it's, something to think about.

It is into this world of Jewish Law and prevailing Aristotlic thinking that Paul wrote his letters to the fledgling church. I find it curious that Paul doesn't explicit condemn the practice, although given that Christians were already being persecuted and didn't really have the political power to change the Roman Empire in the 50s and 60s, his writings are instructions to change the underlying relationships between slaves and their masters.

Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.
- 1 Corinthians 7:21

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
- Ephesians 6:5-8

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
- Titus 2:9-10

Paul's letter to Philemon also doesn't necessarily address the rightness of the concept of slavery. Technically, Philemon had the power to track down and kill the runaway slave Onesimus; in fact the name Onesimus itselg might be symbolic as the Greek word means "useful". If anything, the letter to Philemon is more a letter of tact and a plea for Onesiums' life than a discourse on the idea of slavery.

Paul's ambiguousness coupled with the Roman Empire's adoption of Christianity as the official state religion, meant that the question of the morality of slavery was never questioned for hundreds of years. Right throughout the dark ages and middle ages, very little if anything was ever done to address the question.
There are suggestions that there may have been provisions in Magna Carta to do with slavery but these may have just have been in consequence, for the barons who held King John to it, were really only concerned with their own power.

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
- Section 39, Magna Carta (1215)

Slavery itself remained sort of on the statute books in the UK and the British Empire and sort of withered on the vine within England as the rise of mercantilists took hold. The next major conflict on the journey would occur with the slave trade from Africa to the Americas. Africans were held to be less than human by many Europeans, which shows that in two-thousand odd years, people hadn't really progressed much beyond Aristotle on their thinking.

People often think that the increases of taxation and the lack of representation were the sole factors in the war of American independence but English Common Law also had its part to play.
James Somerset, an enslaved African, was purchased by Charles Stewart who was a Customs officer in Boston, Massachusetts. As the thirteen American colonies were British possessions, they were also bound by British Common Law. Somerset's case would have a profound effect on America and also probably led in its small way, to America declaring its independence.

The state of slavery is of such a nature that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political, but only by positive law [ statute ], which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasions, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory. It is so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it, but positive law. Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from the decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged.
- Somerset v Stewart (1772)

Slavery in the United States was never properly addressed and would eventually be one of the root causes of the Civil War some 85 years later. In the UK though, key cases such as Knight's Case in 1777 helped to change public opinion.
The Slave Trade Act 1807 saw the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, but not slavery itself and the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 finally saw slavery abolished throughout the British Empire (with certain exceptions which were later eliminated in 1843).
It would also take two world wars for most of the rest of the world to finally abolish slavery officially if they already hadn't done so, with the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights following World War Two.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
- Article 4, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

I wonder though, in the two thousand three hundred years since Aristotle, have we really learned anything? Slavery at least carried with it, the responsibility of masters to look after their slaves. Now that slavery has been abolished and the payment of wages uncouple that responsibility, have people's lives really improved?
When more than 1100 people died as a result of the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh, most of the workers in the building were being paid less than $14 a week. Is that even less care being paid to the working conditions of people than had they been slaves in name? There are reports of people in modern factories being beaten if they do not work or if they demand pay increases.

The sad thing is that I think that having uncoupled wages from responsibility, the very existence of markets interacting with regards market labour price has eroded the standing moral values of society. How long is it before people again see slavery or wage slavery as just a consequence of nature? How long will it be before the operation of the market deems wage slavery as both expedient and right, if it already hasn't done so?

April 12, 2014

Horse 1652 - Why Bother With Hillsborough 25 Years On?

On the 15th of April 1989, almost 25 years ago, 96 fans lost their lives as a result of a crowd crush at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, during an FA Cup Semi-Final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Not surprisingly as fans required medical attention and the barriers were opened up to allowed the crush to fill onto the pitch, the match was abandoned after 6 minutes.

Not even the BBC's Match of The Day coverage really knew how to handle what unfolded in front of them:

The football significance of 15 April 1989 is nil.
The game lasted less than ten minutes before being abandoned. As Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish was later to remark: 'Football is irrelevant now'.
- The FA Cup: The Complete Story, Guy Lloyd & Nick Holt (2005)

The story of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster is complex and nuanced, with the families of the bereaved still demanding justice some 25 years later, the press (particularly The Sun) openly attacking and blaming fans for the event and the later report by Lord Justice Taylor would eventually lead to sweeping changes which would both provide massive increases in safety and ultimately in consequence, drive out a lot of the sorts of people who used to attend matches through equally massive ticket increases.

That report can be found here:

I have heard calls in the past that April 15th has become lionised and that other disasters such as the Bradford Stadium Fire in 1985 or the Heysel Stadium disaster 18 days later aren't given due attention and to some degree that is true; yet it overlooks one very important and vital clue.
What happened at Hillsborough Stadium could happened anywhere.

Norwich City's ground, fifty-eight years old, is the youngest in the First Division.
How could anyone hoped to get away with it? With sixty-thousand plus crowds, all you can do is shut the gates, tell everyone to squash up, and then pray, very hard.
The Ibrox disaster in 1971 was an awful warning that wasn't heeded: there were specific causes for it but ultimately what was responsible was the way we watch football, among crowds that are way too big, in grounds that are way too old.
- Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby (1992)

Actually in 1989 apart from Old Trafford which had had various improvements more or less continuously from 1966 onwards, all grounds had stadia which were pre-war in construction. Even Wembley Stadium which was the home of the FA Cup Final, was at that time 66 years old.

Hillsborough itself was a disaster at least 20 years in the making. As Nick Hornby suggested, improvements in Occupational Health and Safety were desperately needed.
The disaster was set against a backdrop of massive unemployment, factory and manufacturing closures, a climate which as a result of the "sus laws" saw racial profiling (particularly of black people) which resulted in riots in Bristol, Toxteth, Handsworth and Chapelton earlier in the decade and rather than treat football fans like the paying customers that they were, the solution handed down by the rather doublespeak name the Committee of Inquiry into Crowd Safety at Sports Grounds or the the Popplewell inquiry in 1985 was to fence in and pen fans like cattle.

- Sheffield Wednesday v Norwich City, 1985

- fencing at Elland Road (Leeds United) c. 1986

To be honest, I really don't see why there needed to be that much of an inquiry when it should have been pretty obvious. To keep fans behind fencing as seen above, would have resulted in a crowd crush somewhere, some time. As early as the Victoria Hall disaster in 1883, regulations required that all public entertainment venues to be equipped with doors that open outwards; so it isn't like the problem hadn't previously been noticed.

It is known now that there was a cover up by South Yorkshire Police but what I find really strange is that the Thatcher government, never really bothered to question the evidence. Even after touring Hillsborough Stadium in 1989, did the then Prime Minister even accept that maybe the design or complete lack thereof of stadia may have been a contributing factor

- Ms Thatcher, tours Hillsborough c.1989 (via the Telegraph)

“Liverpool and the 15th... What are you talking about, 'We won't play on the day'. Why can't they?"
My mum died on August 22 but I don’t stay in all day. It’s a significant day in my life but if Arsenal are playing at home I’m happy about it.
Do they play on the date of the Heysel Stadium disaster? How many dates do they not play on?
Do Man United play on the date of Munich? Do Rangers play on the date when all their fans died in that disaster whatever year that was - 1971?”
- Alan Davies, as quoted in The Daily Mirror, 9th Apr 2012

Actually I think that this is a worthwhile question despite everything else wrapped up in it.Why botherto make 15th April a day worth remembering over 11th May (Bradford), 29th May (Heysel), 2nd Jan (Ibrox)?
It's worth considering that in 2014, we remember the 100th anniversary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, being assassinated. The day of remembrance which followed as a result of 4 years of carnage was the result of a small piece of paper being signed in a railway car in Compiègne on the 11th of November 1918.
Admittedly, 15th April carries far far less importance than 11th November but the point remains that 11th of November is the memorial day appointed in many countries to remember the fallen of all conflicts.

I find it strange that the idea of a duty of care, which had long been established in English common law, wasn't seen to apply when it came to football stadia. Hillsborough was the visible tip of the iceberg, statistics aren't usually even reported until there's anything of significance. It was significant that at the same ground just 8 years previous, 38 people were injured in another crowd surge (although no-one was killed).
If the events at Hillsborough Stadium could have happened at literally any stadium in the country at the time, then it seems fitting to me that all matches should begin 7 mins later than usual. The people who stand in relatively safe conditions, with numbered individual seats (including Alan Davies at The Emirates) only do so because it took Hillsborough for the authorities to finally act and do something for the fans who turn up and pay to see matches. 
It still does very little for the families of the 96 people who went to a football match on April 15 1989 and never came home.


April 11, 2014

Horse 1651 - Ten Suburbs. No.20 Clyde 2142

Oops... I think I may have goofed here... I think that everyone may have goofed here.

In this run of Ten Suburbs, I've touched on the idea of what actually constitutes a suburb. The problem with Clyde is that even after looking at several maps, I can't honestly tell if it is one or not.

According to The Geographical Names Board of NSW a "suburb" is a bounded area within the landscape that has an "Urban" Character. This is as opposed to a "township" or "localities" in rural areas.
On the Geographical Names Board of NSW's website, you can do a search to see where a suburb/locality is. The problem is that on one section of the website, it provides a map of an appropriate area and yet on another, it thinks that the entire of Clyde (if it exists) is part of Granville.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that Clyde doesn't appear as a suburb in the Gregory's, UBD or even Google Maps which presumably get there information from... The Geographical Names Board of NSW.

Part of the reason for this whole problem, lies in the fact that The Commissioner of Railways of NSW, Edward Miller Grant Eddy (for whom Eddy Avenue near Sydney Terminal is named), changed the name of Rosehill Junction station to Clyde Junction in 1901 and then the name reverted to Clyde in 1904.
It also doesn't help that Clyde Engineering which is next door built railway locomotives there until 1973. Nor does it help that Clyde railway station itself doesn't lie within the boundaries of the suburb of Clyde, if in fact the suburb even exists in the first place.

One of the odd things about Sydney and its suburban railway network is that a railway station usually accompanies a particular suburb. The suburb of "Sydney" which lies in the postcode of 2000, for instance, has five stations within its boundaries: Wynyard, Town Hall, Circular Quay, St James and Musuem and Sydney Terminal/Central lies in the suburb of Haymarket.
Clyde was even sort of legitimised (if it isn't a suburb) by the existence of the former railway station of Clyburn which was between Clyde and Auburn. Jokingly, it is often said that trains frequently stop at the imaginary stations of Strathbush, Camperbury and Kogadale.
Clyde Junction serves a useful purpose, being the junction between the Carlingford Line and the Western Line but I don't know if even that necessarily makes it a suburb.

Clyde either is a suburb or it isn't. I don't know if it is or not; mapmakers prefer to rule it out rather than in and not even The Geographical Names Board of NSW has a definative answer.
Asking the question of whether Clyde is, is like asking "What Are Birds?"... we just don't know.

April 09, 2014

Horse 1650 - Ten Suburbs. No.19 La Perouse 2036

Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, apart from having a ridiculously overly long and complicated name, lent his name to the suburb at the very very end of Anzac Parade in Sydney's east. What we learn about de Galaup (Lapérouse was the name of a family property that he added to his name) is that if there had been more storms in the world for the previous 36 weeks, Australia would probably be French speaking.

After the famed cantankerous Yorkshireman, James Cook, had published details of his First voyage in 1771, the French Government were equally as keen to sail around the world and steal countries with the cunning use of flags. Just sail around and stick a flag in.
De Galaup would have been successful in sticking a flag in Australia if it weren't for the fact that France didn't actually have an until after the French Revolution and the other rather annoying fact that when his two ships, the Astrolabe and Boussole, arrived in Botany Bay on 24 January 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip already had had 11 ships there for 6 days.
Undaunted, de Galaup pottered up and down the eastern coast for a while and over the next six weeks, 11 visits recorded between the French and English. His ship probably left Australia in March of 1788... he was never seen again.
Except that in 1826 an Irish captain found evidence of shipwrecks on Vanikoro in the the Solomon Islands and in 1964 an actual wreck was confirmed to be that of the Boussole.

The underlying narrative of La Perouse is that of invasion. La Perouse is unique in the story of Sydney in that the Kameygal people are the only people group in Sydney to have retained possession of their lands from European settlement until today.
Governor Arthur Phillip declared that the area immediately around Botany Bay was infertile and in 1812, Governor Lachlan Macquarie prohibited settlement in the area.

Today, La Perouse is marked with overpriced fish and chip shops, a customs tower which was used to spot smugglers and a large amount of really really ugly architecture.
However, La Perouse also has a strong Aboriginal community who have defied Boards of "Protection", survived the Depression and through the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council secured the rights to their land which Cook, Phillip and de Galaup successfully took away from practically everyone else living on this wide brown continent.

As a smug white person, it is all too easy to think of La Perouse as a chance meeting of the British and French in the beginning of the story of Sydney. If anything, it is the Kameygal people who are the heroes of this story. January 26 should be a celebration of Survival Day and a people who despite everything done, have held on.

April 08, 2014

Horse 1649 - Ten Suburbs. No.18 Liberty Grove 2138

Liberty Grove is a quiet and relaxing lifestyle suburb filled with lush greenery and many spots to sit and relax. However, Liberty Grove also has many facilies to keep residents active such as tennis courts, basketball court, bike track, two pools and two large parks.
The serenity and tranquility of Liberty Grove gives nothing away to the fact that it is located only 16 kilometers from the Sydney CBD. Liberty Grove is a place where residents feel that they have escaped from the daily hustle and bustle, and where they have the chance so simply relax.
All Liberty Grove amenities have been created for the exclusive use of residents, so that they have a sense of privacy and can feel at home throughout the whole of the estate.
- from the Liberty Grove website.

The suburb of Liberty Grove was opened in 1998 in the run up to the Sydney Olympic Games. Jammed in between Homebush Bay Drive and the Northern Line railway, it feels exceptionall cramped and sterile. Liberty Grove to look at is kind of like a giant retirement village and as I've found at, shares many aspects with one.

The blanket speed limit in Liberty Grove is 20km/h. What's not immediate obvious though is that this is in fact unenforceable by the Department of  Roads and Maritime Services because all of the roads in Liberty Grove are private. They are technically Private Access Ways and not Public Roads as defined by the Roads Act 1993.
Because of this quirk, it means that the estate itself can set internal by-laws, even if they are technically inenforceable. For this reason (and the fact footpaths tend to be non-existent), the local "Parking and Traffic Sub-Committee" has banned L-Plate drivers from driving within the suburb; a feature shared with Centennial Park.

I suppose that Liberty Grove is similar to a gated community or a retirement village in that it employs its own security staff. It has only got a single shop and no transport links within its borders (features it shares with Dharruk) but it is less than a mile away from Rhodes Shopping Centre and Rhodes railway station; so it isn't like it is far away from everything. It is also a short walk from Bicentennial Park and you could even be at the Olympic stadium within 20 minutes if you walked.

Liberty Grove is the sort of thing that pulls into question what a suburb actually is. The word suburb comes from the Latin "suburbium" and the two parts sub+urbae; which means "under the city". This was due to the fact that in Rome, wealthy citizens often have villas in the higher parts whilst the plebs tended to live in the lower parts.
I find in Cicero's "In Defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria" (c.80BC) that he referred to the large walled estates and villas as "suburbia". Liberty Grove I think, meets Cicero's criteria quite nicely.

Australia has only a few actual gated communities and I suppose that a lot of issues don't quite apply but this piece from America's NPR was interesting.
I do wonder what creating a spatial enclave like this actually does for the residents though. Does it add to a sense of security because outsiders can be easily identified or does it make residents more paranoid? Is Liberty Grove an social experiment to find to the answer? I don't know.

April 06, 2014

Horse 1648 - All Stations To Everywhere Via Everywhere Else

I was wondering what to do on Easter Monday that might be different to simply going to the mountains or the beach or something and wandering around. Since doing this Ten Suburbs project, I've again thought of Sydney's Trains Network and how vast it is.

There are 176 stations in the Sydney Trains Network and what I was wondering is, is it possible to visit all 176 stations in a day and if so, how quickly could you do it? The criteria would be that the train would have to stop at the station; maybe get out and take a photo of the station sign to prove you'd been there.
After playing with physical timetables and the sydneytrains.info website, the answer is that it is possible to visit all 176 stations but not something that you'd want to attempt unless you were going for a record.

The problem is that Sydney has lots of spurs in the network. The whole of the Richmond line or the Cronulla spur off of the Illawarra line must be either traveled along up and back unless you'd chosen one of them as your starting point. Then there's the annoying split on the Bankstown line where there is a teardrop at one end but two loose ends at the other.
One thing I found much improved was the Carlingford line. It has been vastly improved now that it mainly operates as a shuttle service. There used to be only a few services during the morning and afternoon peak periods; which meant that if you wanted to travel at lunchtime or late, you were stuck.

Actually this whole thing is really a topological exercise which is in the realm of combinatorial graph theory. The Sydney Trains Network is non-Euleran and so there will be double-backs and cross overs. This is sort of reminiscent of the Chinese Postman Problem or the Travelling Salesman Problem. It is overlaid with issues such as timetabling and connection problems and even then, I couldn't get around the real world problems of a replacement bus service and a short walk in one instance.
I tried to make the changes between trains tolerable; taking into account things like the time it would take to walk between them and to allow for late running. The longest wait anywhere is at Macarthur of 22 minutes.
Euler himself laid the foundations of this branch of mathematics with his Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem, which he eventually proved was impossible in 1735.

If anyone does really want to press me and do this hideous task (which I think is probably as arduous as cleaning the Augean stables), then I might consider it... might. If not, then have a glance at this map and have a go at solving this problem yourself:

Dep 06:17 - Richmond
Arr 07:22 - Lidcombe

Dep 07:32 - Lidcombe
Arr 08:26 - Town Hall

Dep 08:34 - Town Hall
Arr 09:20 - Sutherland

Replacement Bus - Route T41 Sutherland; All Stations to Waterfall, then return (allow 40 mins)
Dep UNK - Sutherland
Arr 10:00 - Sutherland

Dep 10:10 - Sutherland
Arr 10:26 - Cronulla

Dep 10:32 - Cronulla
Arr 11:36 - Bondi Junction

Dep 11:38 - Bondi Junction
Arr 11:49 - Town Hall

Dep 11:54 - Town Hall
Arr 12:40 - Riverwood

Dep 12:50 - Riverwood
Arr 13:28 - Macarthur

Dep 13:50 - Macarthur
Arr 14:09 - Glenfield

Dep 14:18 - Glenfield
Arr 15:04 - Strathfield

Dep 15:11 - Strathfield
Arr 15:13 - Homebush

Dep 15:21 - Homebush
Arr 15:48 - Central

Dep 15:58 - Central
Arr 17:07 - Berowra

Dep 17:16 - Berowra
Arr 17:30 - Hornsby

Dep 17:40 - Hornsby
Arr 18:11 - Chatswood

Dep 18:28 - Chatswood
Arr 19:28 - Epping

Dep 19:44 - Epping
Arr 19:57 - Strathfield

Dep 20:05 - Strathfield
Arr 20:11 - Lidcombe

Dep 20:20 - Lidcombe
Arr 20:25 - Olympic Park

Dep 20:28 - Olympic Park
Arr 20:34 - Lidcombe

Dep 20:41 - Lidcombe
Arr 20:47 - Clyde

Dep 20:52 - Clyde
Arr 21:06 - Carlingford

Dep 21:12 - Carlingford
Arr 21:26 - Clyde

Walk to Granville station < 15 Mins.

Dep 21:49 - Granville
Arr 21:55 - Lidcombe

Dep 22:02 - Lidcombe
Arr 22:12 - Birrong

Dep 22:20 - Birrong
Arr 22:41 - Liverpool

Dep 22:56 - Liverpool
Arr 23:19 - Granville

Dep 23:20 - Granville
Arr 00:01 - Penrith

Dep 00:13 - Penrith
Arr 00:16 - Emu Plains

Total Time: 18hrs 1min.

What I find disappointing about this is that the record for the Tube Challenge in London is 16 hours, 20 minutes and the Underground has 270 stations, or the New York City Subway Challenge which is 22 hours, 52 minutes and has 468 stations.

Now you can see why I don't really want to undertake such a project. As much as I like traveling on trains, 18hrs is roughly the same as travelling to Paris; riding the Metro just seems more appealing to me anyway.

April 03, 2014

Horse 1647 - Good Night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero (MH370)

01:07:55 (MAS 370) Malaysian... three seven zero maintaining level three five zero.
01:08:00 (ATC) Malaysian three seven zero.
01:19:24 (ATC) Malaysian three seven zero contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal nine. Good night.
01:19:29 (MAS 370) Good night, Malaysian three seven zero
The last transmission from the plane's communication transponder is at 1:21 am, and it vanishes from ATC radar at 1:30am.
- via ABC News, 2 Apr 2014

It's simply not all that common for an aircraft to just disappear is it? It turns out that yes. It's incredibly common for aircraft to just disappear. In fact lots and lots of aircraft disappear every single day.
When MH370 left the Air Traffic Control (ATC) area of Kuala Lumpur, it probably passed into the Flight Information Region of Jakarta and then FIR Melbourne*. No doubt that neither FIR Jakarta nor FIR Melbourne were expecting MH370 and as such, were never alerted to the need to track it.
But even when regular scheduled flights, say from Sydney to Auckland which is a distance of 1340 miles, for almost 940 miles of that journey, no scheduled flight is tracked to that level of scrutiny. Once a plane leaves an ATC area, it's pretty well much on its own until it enters another ATC area.

So then, what do I think happened to MH370? Not much really.

Authorities say the plane didn't send any emergency signals, though some analysts say it's still unclear whether the pilots tried but weren't able to communicate because of a catastrophic failure.
The official, who is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN that the area the plane flew in after the turn is a heavily trafficked air corridor and that flying at 12,000 feet would have kept the jet well out of the way of that traffic.
- CNN, 24th Mar 2014.

Aircraft use what is know as a Pitot-static system which determines useful data such as airspeed, altitude changes etc. A Pitot-static system has a system of pressure tubes, pipes and diaphragms which then give these statistics. The problem with such a system is that they can be physically blocked, iced up, or even give faulty readings. Problems with the Pitot-static system have been cited as a contributing factor in the crash of Air France Flight 447 which had left Rio de Janeiro–Galeão Airport bound for Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and crashed into the South Atlantic Ocean.

I think that with MH370, the principle of Occam's razor is probably the correct one. The theory with the fewest assumptions is most likely to be the correct one. So then what do we know?

1. MH370 upon leaving the Kuala Lumpur ATC seemed perfectly normal.
2. MH370 didn't send out any emergency signals.
3. MH370 which should have been at about 36,000 feet, was possibly found at 12,000 feet after turning.

My theory. What if, like Air France Flight 447, MH370 Pitot-static system had become faulty either through encountering an ice blast, or some other effect? What about ash from Mount Merapi which had erupted on 26th Feb or Sakurukjima in Kyushu which had erupted on 7th Mar.
I remember a documentary by BBC Radio 4 about British Airways Flight 9, which was a Boeing 747 flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, which thanks to volcanic ash, lost all four engines. That flight fell from 37,000 to 12,000 feet (also within FIR Jakarta) and thankfully, one of the engines restarted; which was enough to safely land at Jakarta.

What if MH370 also suffered a similar fate? If volcanic ash had rendered the Pitot-static system, then the crew might have had no idea that they were even in a technical stall. If the planehad lost sudden altitude, then maybe once the engines had reasserted itself, the autopilot simply set itself for deal level flight until it ran out of fuel.
Ultimately I live everyone else at this stage have no idea what happened and a picture won't be established until the flight recorders are retrieved but I don't suspect foul play or terrorists for the simple reason that I don't believe that any terrorist organisation could keep this quite for this long.
Occam's razor suggests that obviously something major has happened. If the pilots were unconscious, then maybe the autopilot, with no input, merely took over and awaited instructions which never came. The fact that there was no emergency reported, suggests to me that there was no-one conscious to report an emergency.

Until we do find out... Good night, Malaysian three seven zero... Vale

April 02, 2014

Horse 1646 - Ten Suburbs. No.17 Wahroonga 2076

When I go on Skype and talk to people in the United States in real time, I'm reminded of just how far in the future we actually are living. The ability to speak to and see someone in real time, is the sort of thing which would have seem distant in the era when The Jetsons or Star Trek was first broadcast on television. Even the mobile phone I have in my pocket, which looks a little like the tricorders from Star Trek, contains more computing power than the entire Apollo Space Program.

Yet even the Apollo moon landings which were seen on television, or even the Australian Cricket tour to England which was broadcast on ABC Radio 31 years before that, must have looked so far in the future to the event which took place in 1918 which a small monument commemorates.

I have just returned from a visit to the battlefields where the glorious valour and dash of the Australian troops saved Amiens and forced back the legions of the enemy, filled with greater admiration than ever for these glorious men and more convinced than ever that it is the duty of their fellow-citizens to keep these magnificent battalions up to their full strength. W.M. Hughes, Prime Minister.
- 22nd Sep 1918, 13:15

Royal Australian Navy is magnificently bearing its part in the great struggle. Spirit of sailors and soldiers alike is beyond praise. Recent hard fighting brilliantly successful but makes reinforcements imperative. Australia hardly realises the wonderful reputation which our men have won. Every effort being constantly made here to dispose of Australia's surplus products. Joseph Cook, Minister for Navy
- 22nd Sep 1918, 13:25

"Officially" these were the first two wireless messages received from the UK in Australia. In practice, German wireless transmissions were received by stations in Papua New Guinea as early as 1917.
These two messages were sent by the Marconi station MUU at Carnarvon in Wales and the person at the Australian end who received them was a Sir Ernest Fisk, who was the Managing Director of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd. (AWA) at his house in Wahroonga.
I have done some research into land sales in the area and it seems that a lot of what is now an obviously established and respectable suburb, was just an idea and a few arbitrary lines drawn on a land survey back then. The streets which exist now, in some cases didn't even exist back then, or if they did, were dirt tracks through the bush.

During the First World War, correspondents from the battlefield could send news back to places like Paris or London by courier or carrier pigeon and have reports appear in the newspaper the next day. Australia though would have to either rely on telephone or the mails which often took far longer.
This little forgotten and unassuming monument in Wahroonga isn't a so much a monument to a specific event which happened but to the world becoming a little bit smaller and Australia itself, not being quite so isolated.

April 01, 2014

Horse 1645 - Ten Suburbs. No.16 Tregear 2770

The postcode of 2770 made headlines on 8th February 1997 when the Daily Telegraph accused students from Mount Druitt High School as being "an abject overwhelming failure" after the entire Year 12 had failed to get one student above the TER ranking of 50. As a result of this, Mount Druitt High School was threatened with having its funding cut unless it did better and nearby Whalan High School was closed before the new school year in 1997 in a "consolidation drive".

These events though, seem to be about the only thing that the entire collection of suburbs within 2770 have ever newsworthy of. 2770 encompasses suburbs like Shalvey, Emerton, Hebersham, Whalan, Dharruk which is a suburb with absolutely no shops within its boundaries and Tregear. Tregear is so forlorn that it only has  two sets of traffic lights within its boundaries.
You could almost be forgiven for completely being unaware that these suburbs even exist; Tregear itself is Sydney's cheapest suburb when it comes to housing and so it isn't exactly winning any accolades on that front, in this property obsessed city.

What you do notice about Tregear as compared with say Mosman (Horse 1328) is that the cars are roughly the same size; but instead of being Audis and BMWs, they're old Falcons and Commodores that have seen days. The houses themselves which are often owned by the Housing Commission are more often than not, fibro and the people are more likely to shop at KMart, Big W, Best & Less than shops with fancy Italian and Spanish names.

What else is immediately obvious, is that Tregear is a suburb whose residents have virtually no control over what happens to them. They are more likely to be working in retail jobs, in shops which are managed and owned by people in other suburbs; they are more likely to be paying rent to people who live in other suburbs and if they're living in Housing Commission owned houses, they'll have little to no say over what happens to them if the government decides to sell the land from under them.

The fact that public transport chooses to skirt around the edge of places like Tregear and Dharruk, that there aren't really very many shops and that there are virtually no local jobs at all, are expressions of economic power and control living somewhere else.
It's almost as if the people of Tregear and surrounding suburbs have been thrown off the cart and left to fend for themselves. It's all very well to accuse people of living off of handouts but when there aren't any jobs or even any shops in the local area, then what? How can you tell people to lift themselves up by their bootstraps when they don't even have bootstraps?
I suppose that the state government is at least paying a token of attention by at least in name acknowledging that Western Sydney exists with the appointment of a relevant minister but would the Minister for Western Sydney really be able to point out where places like Tregear are on a map?
I wouldn't think so.

March 30, 2014

Horse 1644 - Ten Suburbs. No.15 Beverley Hills 2209

The suburb was originally named Dumbleton after a farm which had been established in the 1830s but as you'd expect, residents scarcely like the name very much at all. The name was changed to Beverley Hills in the 1940s during the so-called "golden age of Hollywood" but suburb in Sydney really had very little to do with a world of movie stars. I will admit though that 70 years later, Sydney's Beverley Hills is a far nicer place than Los Angeles' which can look pretty trashy in some areas.

Beverley Hills would have remained a relatively dull had it not been for the Department of Main Road's decision to connect Canary's Road and Dumbleton Road in 1962 and rename the new route King Georges Road as part of Ring Road 3. Thus a quiet suburb would have a six lane arterial road slice in in twain in 1964. A lot of the shop fronts on King Georges Road have a sort of late art deco look which were built during that time.

Also and as a result of the post-war immigration boom, Beverley Hills became home to a lot of Italan and Eastern European migrants arrive; which changed the area from mainly Protestant to mainly Catholic. One of the results of this was the very fine Regina Coeli church which stands on the highest point in the suburb and may been seen for many miles.
Regina Coeli Roman Catholic Church is the only "war memorial church" in Australia. Regina Coeli was opened on Coral Sea Sunday, May 5, 1963, 21 years after the aircraft carrier battle of World War Two. It was partly funded by an Australian-US veterans' alliance and commemoration masses are held every year on that weekend.

Ironically, if you look for something that Beverley Hills is noted for, it is its local cinema. Even though it looks like any other local suburban cinema, look inside and... it still looks like any other local suburban cinema. The local cinema actually appears to be a thing of note in this suburb; that is noteworthy. Beverley Hills is a blob of normality among a sea of mediocrity.
Although Beverley Hills was named after a land of swimming pools and movie stars, it is a land of red brick houses and medium density housing as far as the eye can see, where there is the odd swimming pool but no movie stars. Beverley Hills is a land of the national average. A land where Toyota Corollas live in the streets, where people make almost exactly bang on the national average and where it really is difficult to find anything interesting about it at all.
Beverley Hills is almost a living snapshot of what all of Australia currently is, in miniature. It is the perfect representative sample, all by itself.

March 29, 2014

Horse 1643 - Ten Suburbs. No.14 Golden Grove 2008/2042

In my 1932 Gregory's Street Directory, the idea of definite boundaries for where suburbs lie, isn't marked. I imagine that in 1932 that street which could have been run from Parramatta to Harris Park, might very well accept mail labelled either.
In my 1967 Gregory's Street Directory, Golden Grove is a definite suburb and marked with the postcode of 2006 which it shared with Sydney University but in my 2009 Gregory's Street Directory, Golden Grove as a suburb just doesn't exist at all; with all of its former environs being claimed by either Newtown or Darlington.

Does Golden Grove even belong in Ten Suburbs? Absolutely. Golden Grove brings into question, what our notion of place actually is and the fact that I remember that it once was, means that it probably still might exist in the minds of other people too.

Golden Grove was named after one of the eleven ships which trudged its way across the ocean in the First Fleet, to dump convicts on a bit of land which the British had declared terra nullius or "empty land"; despite there being very obvious evidence to the contrary. Australia was yet another example of the British Empire stealing land by the cunning use of flags by sailing round the world and sticking a flag in something. 

I suspect that being an inner city sort of suburb, Golden Grove probably acquired something of a bad reputation at some point. The area which was once Golden Grove is built a bit like inner parts of London which terrace houses and lanes running behind the houses. This being Australia, they quickly acquired the distinctly Aussie nickname of "dunny lanes" after the night carts which would remove people's poo before the installation of proper sewerage. Maybe Golden Grove which was noted being something of a slum which is why people would rather suggest that they came from either Newtown or Darlington - I really don't know.
It could also have something to do with Sydney University gradually acquiring property in the area and extending outside its own 2006 postcode. Without houses to call its own, Golden Grove just might not have been viable as a specific locality.

Today, all that is left of Golden Grove are a few reminders of it ever having even existed including a retreat centre owned by St Andrew's Cathedral, a Bed and Breakfast hotel and the eponymous street which humiliatingly is split in twain and depending on which side of the street you're on, you're either in Newtown or Darlington.

March 28, 2014

Horse 1642 - Why Repeal 18C?

I love asking the question of 'why'? 'Why' is a good question because it is often used to discover the motives for doing something. I'm not going to argue the relative benefits or disadvantages of the act, but it is worth while to see why the call has been made to repeal 18C.

Firstly the act itself:
Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:
(a) causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or
(b) is done in a public place; or
(c) is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.

(3) In this section: “public place” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Section 18C

The only real reason that I've been able to ascertain as to why an act which remained relatively dormant should ever come to light was because of a case heard in the Federal Court between an Aboriginal person Ms Pat Eatock and Herald-Sun journalist Andrew Bolt, who had published a series of articles which had questioned fair-skinned Aboriginal people's right to claim their Aboriginality.
On 28th September 2011, Justice Bromberg handed down a decision which prohibited the republication of the newspaper articles but there were damages awarded and no apology demanded.
The full text of the decision can be found here:

So then, what is going on here and why was there a call to repeal 18C? To look at that reason, merely requires peeling back the layers of this onion.

If we look at the most vociferous voice calling for the repeal of 18C, what do we find?

Freedom of speech in Australia is under attack.
Andrew Bolt was hauled before the courts because articles he wrote “offended” a group of people. Julia Gillard said that a critical media company she doesn’t like has “questions to answer” and set up a media inquiry to try to force them to give those answers. And Bob Brown wants governments to “licence” journalists.
It is this section of the legislation which silenced Andrew Bolt. And it could silence you.
But freedom of speech sometimes means people will be offended. The right not to be offended should never trump the right to express your views.
Federal parliament must repeal these laws before more Australians have their free speech trampled on.
And we need your voice to make it happen.

This is a curious thing. It's our old friends the IPA and immediately the layers of the onion begin to emerge.
The IPA was founded in 1943 by a group of businessmen which included Sir Keith Murdoch. Probably not coincidentally, the IPA and Sir Keith were part of the first conference in Canberra in 1944 which founded the Liberal Party of Australia.
The IPA is unashamedly a partisan lobby group who works very closely with the Liberal Party; so is it little wonder that when The Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd had one of its journalists hauled before the courts, it made noises until the IPA made noises, which in turn made the Liberal Party make noises. Mysteriously, at once the Liberal Party won government, at the first opportunity it had, it introduced legislation to repeal 18C.
The repeal of 18C is then, basically the outworkings of a political Matryoshka doll.

Is it really about "free speech" or is it politically motivated because Andrew Bolt and the Herald-Sun got stung for breaking the law?
Those of us looking from the outside look from Bolt; to Herald-Sun; to IPA; to Liberal Party and already it is impossible to say which is which.

March 24, 2014

Horse 1641 - Ten Suburbs. No.13 North Epping 2121

Being a commuter, my working knowledge of Sydney is biased towards those suburbs which either lie on a railway line, or a bus route; it also helps if there are major roads running through them. North Epping has neither a railway station; nor even a through road and the only bus route which run through the suburb is the 295 which runs back to Epping.
Surrounded by three sides by creeks and the Lane Cove National Park and on the fourth by the M2 motorway, North Epping is a giant cul-de-sac. The whole suburb is connected to Sydney (including that bus route) via a single artery, Norfolk Road.
Perhaps as a direct result of its isolation, North Epping has decided to have no fast food chains, no major chain petrol stations and no major supermarkets within its borders.

- Stolen from Google Maps https://www.google.com.au/maps/

It would be easy to pass off North Epping as a little twee (and maybe it does begin to parody itself) but there's a certain charm about the place. There tends to be more children playing in North Epping's parks than other suburbs and there are more people out walking in the cool of an evening and motorists need to be a little bit more careful and mindful of cyclists.
Of course being physically surrounded by a National Park probably does encourage people to to get out and walk and explore more; which is in stark contrast to a suburb like Blacktown where the biggest participation sport of a Saturday appears to be walking around a shopping mall, buying $9 trinkets and excessive amounts of burgers and chips.

Maybe as a result of this perceived isolation, North Epping families have on average 2.9 children which is more than the national average. This in turn means that you're more likely to see 6 and 7 seven seat cars on the road like the Honda Odyssey, Mistubishi Grandis and Toyota Kluger on the roads. Also, because household income is higher on average, you'll probably find screens in the back of seats more often. I find it a little ironic that kiddiewinks might be watching Dora The Explorer but these sorts of vehicles never do any exploring.
North Epping normally has some of the lowest rates of crime in the entire of Sydney (except for one particularly famous incident) and I would wager that if a measure of Gross National Happiness were adopted in Sydney, as it is in Bhutan, then North Epping would be among the richest in this city of four and a half million.

North Epping through a geographical quirk is a virtually unknown pearl and as obvious on a map as North Adelaide 5006.

March 23, 2014

Horse 1640 - Ten Suburbs. No.12 Chatswood 2067

I imagine that once upon a time, Chatswood would have been similar to Roseville in character but those days are long gone. Chatswood is a far more vibrant and lively place than Roseville could even hope to be.
Legend has it that the name Chatswood derives from the then Mayor of Willoughby, Richard Harnett, who named the suburb after his wife Charlotte. Charlotte was known as "Chattie" and thus the area was named Chattie's Wood, which was later shortened to Chatswood.

At some point probably during the 1970s because of a plan to decentralise government services, Chatswood was picked upon as the new location of several departments including the then Department of Construction and Housing and the Australian Taxation Office.
As the area grew in importance, several shopping centres would begin to occupy the area including the Wallaceway, Chatswood Chase and the Mandarin Centre but looming to one side of Victoria Avenue and opening in 1986 was Westfield. This massive behemoth temple to the great god Dollar, has so far managed to eat one city block, jump another, infect two more with its tentacle car parks and if it is allowed to go unopposed, will continue to devour everything in its path.
Not content with just Westfield, the Interchange Arcade which once connected Chatswood Railway Stattion to Victoria Avenue, has been equally voracious. The new Chatswood Transport Interchange which was opened in 2008 following the construction of the Epping-Chatswood rail link, devoured Orchard Road and was only halted by the pedestrian mall of Victoria Avenue.

- Stolen from Google Maps https://www.google.com.au/maps/

Chatswood though, unlike Roseville is far more multicultural. Chatswood which is far more business oriented than sleepy little Roseville, became a place where lots of cultures blend together in the name of selling things. Almost two-thirds of people living in Chatswood were born overseas and a little over a quarter of the population speaks either Mandarin or Cantonese as their first language. The Chinese Cultural Centre is now 15 years old and is an active member of the life of the suburb.

Chatswood still does manage to retain some of its older character though. Chatswood Oval and Beauchamp Oval are examples of quaint little fields which wouldn't be out of place in an English village. Architecturally, there are a wide number of styles when it comes to public buildings and churches and the interior of Our Lady Of Dolours church is simply stunning.

Unlike a suburb like Parramatta though, Chatswood goes to sleep at about 6pm. After about that time, when Westfield closes and the shops on Victoria Avenue shut their doors, it can be a bit of a ghost town and is a wee bit scary. Maybe if Chatswood Oval hosted an A-League team of something, there'd be a reason for Chatswood to stay awake but I suppose that even though it has a cinema complex, it just has never reached that sort of critical mass yet.

March 22, 2014

Horse 1639 - Ten Suburbs. No.11 Roseville 2069

If for a second, we enter the realm of fantasy and quietly delude ourselves that politicians are bought with the ballot box and not the cheque book, then a small section of Roseville in the east are among the richest in Australia, for their local members of state and federal parliament are The Premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell and the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. I think that this might be the first time in Australian political history that such a thing has happened (more research is required).
If we snap out of our fantasy and delusion, we find that the average income is $133,000 per year, which would suggest that Roseville is also more likely to be able to buy opinion with their cheque books too,

The median house price in Roseville is about $1.6 million, though it isn't uncommon for detached residences to change hands for $2-$3 million.
As little as 30 years ago, there was a class of residents in Roseville who were referred to as the "poor-rich". These people either bought property or inherited to live in in the mid-1940s and 1950s and although the value of their land shot up amazingly during the 1970s and 1980s, they were in effect asset rich but relatively income poor. For this reason, Roseville tends to have a lot of untouched older style housing, which gives it a sort of old-fashioned look.

- Stolen from Google Maps https://www.google.com.au/maps/

The high street of Roseville appears to be stuck in 1963. Although people walk about with the latest gadgetry such as iDevices and eWhatevers (thus proving that evolution is a lie because if anything we must be all descended from moths - ooh look at the pretty lights), it still has a butcher a greengrocer, a florist, a milk bar and newsagent. I bet that apart from the cars on the street, Roseville probably looks pretty well much the same as when Khrushchev was threatening the free world by sending bleeping tin balls into space. Maybe in a few years time, the newspapers here, might carry the headline that Neil Armstrong has kicked the surface of the moon.

That brings me to another odd thing. Looking through the census, Roseville appears to be among the whitest in the country. I fully expect Mrs Marsh to jump out from behind a BMW X5 (because although everyone is an individual, they all think and buy exactly the same) and explain the evils of letting coloured things get into white chalk. Her "ring of confidence" in Roseville is that no-one with a funny surname is getting anywhere near there at all.
Thankfully the local MPs have enacted discompassionate policies of stopping the boats by turning them all back and stopping the bogans by allowing the spread of toll roads everywhere. No bogans, oafs, oiks or foreign types are getting into Roseville. Hurrah؟

For the first ten suburbs, see Horse 1328 - Horse 1337

March 17, 2014

Horse 1638 - NorthConnex: 68 Years Late and Corporate Welfare to BOOT.

- via Twitter, Jamie Briggs, Federal Member for Mayo and Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.

At the weekend, the member for Mayo, Jamie Briggs; the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and the Premier of New South Wales, Barry O'Farrel, all congratulated themselves for concluding a deal to complete the M1 extension to the M2, and have it opened by the year 2019.

The NSW Government's website was also showing itself off like a peacock, to display how incredibly pleased the Government was with itself:
The NSW Government has reached an agreement with Transurban and the Westlink M7 shareholders to deliver the NorthConnex motorway – twin nine kilometre tunnels to link the M1 and M2 under busy Pennant Hills Road.
In March 2012, the NSW Government received an unsolicited proposal from Transurban and the Westlink M7 shareholders to design, build, operate, maintain and finance NorthConnex.

On 30 May 2013 the NSW Government announced the proposal had progressed to Stage 3 of the unsolicited proposals process, which would include a competitive tender to select a design and construction contractor.
The $3 billion project, consisting of a construction budget of $2.65 billion in addition to land and project delivery costs, will be funded through toll charges with a contribution from the NSW and Australian Governments of up to $405 million each. Car and truck tolls for NorthConnex will be aligned with the M2, which currently are $6.11 for cars and $18.32 for trucks.
- NSW Government website, published 16th Mar 2014.

How lovely.
Assuming that this piece of infrastructure is completed at the 2019 delivery date, it will have been only 68 years after the original County of Cumberland plan was first announced in 1951. To put that in perspective, that plan was announced during the Premiership of Joseph Cahill who was also responsible for destroying the then biggest tram network in the world and naming a very poxy little "expressway" after himself.
It was also before any of the men in that photograph were even born.

Don't believe me? Have look at this:

The Federal Government re-fused to contribute towards the cost of putting the plan into operation, but the State Government decided to share the cost with local government.
Primary intention of the plan is to improve the living and working conditions of the 1,850,000
people in the 1,630 square miles of the County of Cumberland, which is bounded almost entirely
by the ocean and the Hawkesbury-Nepean Rivers.

In the 11,000 factories within this area are employed more than 250,000 men and women-a third
of Australia's industrial labour force.
The council's planners estimate that in 25 years immigration and natural increase will have brought
the county's population to 2,250,000, of whom 950,000 will be workers.
They say that radical changes are essential to remedy the county's worst faults, congested employment and living areas, inadequate housing and recreational space, slums, and snarled traffic.
The plan provides for: 
More express highways which will case traffic congestion.
- Page 2, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Jul 1951

One of those expressways mentioned in the 1951 County of Cumberland plan was the Lane Cove Valley freeway and remarkably, some of it was even completed. This photo of a proposed plan from the Ozroads website, gives an idea of where the expressway might have run:

Fig Tree Bridge is the next bridge north on Australia's second ever expressway. The Cahill Expressway was opened in 1958 but the section around the Gladesville Bridge which was opened in 1965, makes up just under 3km of the Lane Cove Valley freeway; with the rest never being completed.

So then, you might think that I'd be happy that an expressway coming in at 68 years behind schedule is finally being completed (although I will admit that it just happens to run through the middle of the Premier's own electorate of Ku-ring-gai) but I'm not really.
There are two statements which are included on the NSW Government's website which make me livid.

Firstly that:
Car and truck tolls for NorthConnex will be aligned with the M2, which currently are $6.11 for cars and $18.32 for trucks.

But more importantly that:

The $3 billion project, consisting of a construction budget of $2.65 billion in addition to land and project delivery costs, will be funded through toll charges with a contribution from the NSW and Australian Governments.
but curiously:
In March 2012, the NSW Government received an unsolicited proposal from Transurban and the Westlink M7 shareholders to design, build, operate, maintain and finance NorthConnex.

Let me make this abundantly clear. The road will be funded by taxpayers but the road itself will send profits to Transurban and Westlink M7.
Privatising profits but yet making debt public. In the olden days we might have called that Lemon socialism, Crony capitalism or perhaps Corporate welfare.

But there's a problem. The Treasurer Joe Hockey who presumably is the chap in charge of the public purse of Australia, went on the attack of what he called "the age of entitlement"

So, ultimately the fiscal impact of popular programs must be brought to account no matter what the political values of the government are or how popular a spending program may be. 
Let me put it to you this way: The Age of Entitlement is over. 
We should not take this as cause for despair. It is our market based economies which have forced this change on unwilling participants.
- Joe Hockey, Address To The Institute Of Economic Affairs, 17 April 2012

Only this year he said that it was clear that taxpayer handouts are under "tough restrictions".

Treasurer Joe Hockey has warned that the age of entitlement is over and it was time for all Australians to do their fair share of heavy lifting.
Making clear taxpayer hand-outs are now under tough restrictions, Mr Hockey told ABC Radio that the age of personal responsibility has begun.
-The Daily Telegraph, 3rd Feb 2014

Yet when I tweeted the Premier, asking what the actual purpose of paying road taxes are, for a road which because I don't have an e-toll account, I'm for all intents and purposes barred from I get told:
Choice? Choice? What choice is this? I get no choice as to how my road taxes are allotted. I get no choice as to how my income taxes are allotted. What choice do I have? Buckleys? None?

If the "age of entitlement" is over, then why are my road taxes and income taxes being used to fund private profits? The Federal Government has already made it abundantly clear with Holden, SPC and Qantas that it isn't going to. Why then does the principle not apply to a toll road?

If this really is a piece of infrastructure, then why isn't it free and open to all who pay taxes? Why was it good enough to build a road like the Hume Highway and make that free and open but not this? Why in principle should any road have a toll on it, if it isn't for the feathering of Mr O'Farrells nest once he leaves politics? Remember, former Premier Bob Carr landed himself a cushy job at Macquarie Bank after committing the NSW to so-called "public private partnerships".
It's a little bit hypocritical that the same MP who called for a judicial inquiry into the privatisation of NSW's state's electricity assets in 2010 would then approve the same of same just two years later. I suppose that he's just getting the jump early with this by privatising the profits on the M1 extension before the process starts.

North Connex is a project which is running 68 years behind schedule and has a side order of Corporate welfare to go with it.
Don't frame it as a "choice".