Monday, November 30, 2009

What I Mean When I Say Anarchy

There was a time when like you I thought Anarchy was a concept held by morons, who drew funny looking 'A's on buildings in sharpies and really just enjoyed a masochistic obsession with being beat up by cops at protests.

Like you I would scoff and guffaw at jokes about 'I was talking to this Anarchist and I asked him if I could purchase some video footage he had captured at a demonstration and he said to me "I'll have to run that by the treasurer" an Anarchist with a treasurer.'

But now I think I was wrong, you are wrong and Anarchy is actually a pretty good idea. When I say Anarchy I mean something along the lines of Abraham Lincoln when he says "What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent." or what I mean is what Republicans don't mean when they talk about 'Small Government'.

I believe (but could well be wrong) that its a fallacy to believe that Anarchy is an absence of any form of organisation. I just believe that it is an absence of in-groups and thus by the laws of symmetry an absence of out-groups.

It is for me the observation that I would never shoot my Japanese friends in the face (or back) to protect the interests of a stranger Australian. It is for me the observation that the loss of an Australian's Job that lives up to his eyeballs in debt in a suburban home with Plasma Screen TV's and Playstation 3's solicits no real sympathy in the light that the function he used to perform is now performed more efficiently by someone in another country that for the first time can eat his daily calorie requirement (as opposed to 3 times his recommended intake).

That said, jobs going offshore happens for a reason, and that is to minimise the wage overheads of same said Australian shareholders. To increase profits and set their transfer prices to minimise tax obligations. So I'm not necessarily for 'Globalisation' as such, given it tends to degrade the achievements of the Labor movement.

I simply mean by Anarchy that you achieve 'governance by consent' by removing all the barriers to 'in' and 'out' groups.

'But isn't that democracy tohm?'

Democracy often is dubbed 'governance by the people' but the terms 'the people' are often loosely defined. What you have is a gang in essence that has laid claim to a piece of territory. That gang defines membership, often in the banal and innocuous form of citizenship. Then after that you pick and choose how the gang is governed, hence you can have multiple levels, gangs within gangs but in essence you always have the interests of your members over those of your non-members.

So whilst democracy can (and often isn't) good as a way to resolve issues that concern in entirety the members of the Gang, it is more often than not terrible when it comes to issues that are larger in impact than the members of the Gang.

For example, if Australian Citizens were truly interested in maximising the welfare not only of itself but its neighbours, why not allow parliamentary representation from New Zealand and Indonesia to vote on issues concerning foreign affairs? Particularly issues concerning them, like for example tariffs and subsidies? Invading Iraq? etc. etc.

Or alternatively imagine if in Australia you could elect a local representative to go to the New Zealand parliament to represent your district, even though New Zealand is out of the legal jurisdiction of the Australian territory.

Chances are the issues your local representative would campaign on, would probably not be the issues regarding what the legal driving age should be in Auckland, but rather issues concerning immigration, trade, the environment etc. There would probably be little to no impact rolling out parliamentary representation between New Zealand and Australia (New Zealand would probably just become more conservative) but consider the differences of pacific nations if they had seats in Parliament to vote on the ETS.

For one they probably wouldn't give a shit about the plight of Farmers in Queenslands heartland when their 2020 forecasts have them up to their ankles in seawater. The stance on 'boatpeople' would probably be a lot more sympathetic (and factual) when they are quickly becoming candidates for the worlds first ever environmental refugees.

Consider that if every state of every country in the world had its own senator and congressman in Washington, the Republican party would simply not exist (however there would be some conservative god-fearing party, it just wouldn't be so damn nationalistic).

There! Its really easy to see how things would be better or much improved if the World got to vote on US foreign policy, but it always seems hard to project the same principle on your own back yard.

Perhaps one of the best demonstrations of 'in-group/out-group' policy is the fallout from the Mexican v United States war, where in signing the treaty Mexico gave up almost half of its land. Texas, California, Nevada, Utah and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming. Once these lands where in U.S. Hands they got looked after like U.S. Citizens (presumably the mexican inhabitants were largely pushed back into what remains of (and constitutes present day) Mexico.

If the U.S. Had pushed on and subjugated ALL of Mexico, Mexico would simply be part of 'the South' today, it would be that much harder for a Democrat to get in the white house, and 'Mexicans' would have much, much, much better living standards than they have today, (albeit there probably would have been teething problems long before that). Furthermore the rest of the U.S. would have been changed by extending its membership to Mexico. The Democrats to survive would likely had to have attempted to annex Canada (again) but actually succeed.

Right or wrong of annexation doesn't concern me, so much as illustarting that gangs look after their members. Democracy's only real advantage over tyrany is the scale of the gang, if you took say, China, you would find an 'in-group' being 'the party' that looks after the interests of its own members and widely disregards the interests of the out-group 'the people' except where their welfare gets addressed as a byproduct of in-group interests (i.e. not being killed by the worlds largest mob) or in preference to the outer-group (relative to the out-group) being non Han Chinese or the outer-most group being non-Chinese.

But the outermost group is no more disregarded in consideration than any democracies outer-group which is non-Australians, non-Americans, non-British, non-English etc.

Of course rolling out parliamentary representation to every region of the world is kind of harder than just rolling down the boarders over time. And easier yet again is just adopting a moral universalism, that is to say, treating others as we expect to be treated ourselves.

When I say Anarchy, I mean primarily an equivalent term to 'atheism' only for 'nationalism' but then to all forms of gangs, even extending to family structures. I don't really believe in 'heads of households' as 'heads of state' which doesn't throw out parenting, doesn't throw out law and order.

In exactly the same way that Dawkins will say that nobody has ever needed the bible to teach them to be good, I would say nobody has ever needed the police to teach them not to be civil.

If I say I'm religious, I'm told I can swear an oath on a holy text in a matter of minutes and proceed with my induction to Asio, if not I'm told I would have to go through 3-4 days of paper work signing declarations and substantiating my character. If I'm Japanese I ruise through Japan's customs. If I'm Australian I will be fingerprinted and have my retina scanned.

Neither treatments are universally moral, or even, moral. They serve only to elevate some while degrading others.

So when I say Anarchy, don't assume I'm talking about how I love riots and beating up cops while listening to Pennywise, I'm talking about how I think everyone should have a say in decisions that effect them regardless of where they stand on the world.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chomsky vs Dawkins

As an afterthought to my post of moments ago, I would point out that if I had to choose between Dawkins and Chomsky, 2 of 3 writers whose books I have read and known immediately that they are both much much smarter than I am and probably ever will be, I would choose Chomsky.

Why? Because of the times, the human race hasn't been threatened with extinction by religious dogma in anywhere near the same sphere that it is with a belief in Nations or nationalist dogma.

When Barnaby Joyce or Tony Abbot claim an ETS would result in jobs going overseas to China, they elevate the survival and well-being of Australians over the survival and wellbeing of humanity itself. If you take the 'perils of religion' as a failure for Moslems to identify with Christians and so on and so fourth, the 'Megadeath' that has been available to the human race and all of its dependant species since the realisation of nuclear weapons has been a function of states failing to identify that they are just communities of people that have essentially everything in common.

That is the real issue of survival of these times, whether it is climate change (which will result in an ice-age) or nuclear winter (which will result in a scorched earth, then an ice-age) the essentialness to recognize a global community transcendant of state interests makes the quibbles of religious groups a comparative luxury problem. (Though admittedly where states are divided along theological lines, it certainly doesn't help the greater cause).

Not so great debates

Today I am focusing on the 'write' point of this blog today. What I'm currently writing (excluding of course this blog post) is a short series of arguments in the vein of 'Conversations with God' which really is just a showcase of how infuriating it is to have an argument with a believer. So really it's just written from a point intended to demonstrate how infuriating a believer claiming to be 'rational' is, particularly since they tend to always be humble, so I simply made the 'believer' one with no reason to be humble, nor to have any excuse to take refuge in ambiguity. So it's far more about how one feels than the 'reason' of the debate.

Anyway, it's pretty easy to write, you simply pose good questions and answer them with 'because.' until somebody has an emotional breakdown.

Anyway, occasionally when I feel the narrative I'm writing is too circular, (which happens a lot), I turned to 'The God Delusion' and 'Letter to a Christian Nation' and other such books that cover some of the well trampled argumentative paths.

Anyway, through the wikipedia entry there's a link to what is so far a terrible 'debate' (most debates though are pretty terrible, given my own experience as a debator and an adjudicator). Anyway, what I find most convincing of God's non-existence is the Christian communities ability to consistently produce champions as poor as Professor John Lennox.

The video resides here.

Now the debate suffers not just from Professor Lennox's poor arguments, but actually the rhythm of the debate gives Lennox a tremendous advantage. Which is each topic is introduced with Richard Dawkins' arguments. Lennox then gets to respond (poorly) to Dawkins' arguments whereupon Lennox himself just makes a bunch of claims about what he thinks Christianity to be. Then Dawkins' has the next topic thrust upon him and no official response is allocated to Dawkins'.

So provided for you is a critique of some of Lennox's 'killer' blows.

1. Faith is blind; science is evidence based.

Lennox makes a few concessions in order to demonstrate that he believes faith to be of a variety. Falling to him to substantiate why his brand of faith is superior, that is not blind. He plays some semantics with the word 'proof' and distinguishes it from evidence, so really the first minute or so is definitions, no real arguments. He doesn't mention directly the 'scientific method' that is to confirm beliefs through replicatable experiments. (wisely perhaps as none exist that can be applied to his own beliefs).
Thus his first argument is the limits of science that firstly it can't tell us if a poem is beautiful, or piece of music or picture. Which is debatable, but on this at least Dawkins isn't the expert, Hoffstader probably is who would have leapt in and pointed out that all that is understood of artificial intelligence thus far would refute this claim, at least that say you couldn't use means entirely mechanical to build the kind of intelligence that would have 'subjective preferences' it may find different things beautiful for entirely different reasons, but this wouldn't be too different from the reason two different people will most often have completely different preferences for what they find 'beautiful'. The existence of universal preferences of beauty would be a more compelling case for the existence of God, like if there was some underlying vertical heirarchy to FHM's 100 sexiest women annual, instead of the wild deviations that occur year to year.
Then he makes the argument that science can't answer the elementary questions of a child 'Who am I?' 'What is the purpose of my existence?' and 'Where am I going?' which I guess if he was making the point of science being 'blind' is a good one, except he doesn't, and implies that religion isn't 'blind' to the answers to these questions.
The first one, could be answered by one of Des Cartes scientific offerings that stands 'I'm thinking therefore I am' as evidence based, if you experience thought it is the defining characteristic of sentience and you conclude that you are a sentient being. As for the purpose of existence, science (from the Darwinian perspective) would say 'you don't have one.' or perhaps more correctly 'I don't know that you have one, and I know of no reliable source that can answer that for you.' and 'where am I going' would depend on the time and context, but I would hazard a guess that a child would be going to bed, or to school in most incidences.
Thus Lennox's argument is the old 'science explains how, religion explains why' which is blind and dangerous because religion has no basis for answering the why questions, it is just speculation - in other words from the view of science it is just making shit up. So the child could ask me the same questions and I could say 'You are a space whale' 'to destroy the Pharmaceuticals lobby' and 'Disneyland!' and these answers would be blind, they would have no basis and serve as ultimately unsatisfactory. The thing is that with religious beliefs in all probability what in modern english we would call 'made up' would be described by a self proclaimed (or popularly proclaimed) prophet as 'divined' and anyone who accepted 'divined' answers as an explanation would be none the wiser when it got passed down a generation that either their prophet knowingly made up the answers, or mistook their own imaginative process as evidence of some external interference.
Lennox surprisingly rejects 'God of the Gaps' which historically speaking has been the result of religion explaining 'why' in scientific fields that didn't really exist yet, such as physics, chemistry, biology, geology, archeology, astronomy, cosmology, psychiatry, economics... and pretty much every scientific field there is, soft or hard.
Lennox makes a good historical argument, that when people saw natural laws in history they saw in it God. Or the 'scientist looked for law in nature because they assumed there was a lawgiver. Izaac Newton was more impressed with God when he discovered that light followed rules (in his crucial experiment) that Al Kindi himself was an Islamic philosopher that was the originator of the scientific method (thanks SBS) and so fourth.
Which Dawkins actually refutes well in his conclusion to the whole debate, that it took until the 19th century for Darwin to actually overcome the natural intuition that anything that works has to have a designer. That an eye can emerge non-randomly from a very long incremental process of evolution with no mind or design to it at all. It was simply a gene that survived because it helped the organisms survival.

2. Science supports atheism, not Christianity.

Lennox follows on from one of Dawkins arguments that 'if geneticists found some scientific proof of Mary's virgin birth, the Christian sphere would not say "Irrelevent science has no bearing on religion"' which Lennox agrees, Christianity is subject to scientific confirmation, but then sidesteps by talking about historical science given that the events of the Bible happened in the past (since the scientific method wasn't developed until after the rise of Islam, Christianities successor in Judeo religions no scriptural evidence is really verifiable).
Lennox's first argument is a rehashing of his concluding statement from the first topic, namely that scientist have 'faith' that the universe is rationally intelligible. Which I understand to be, they believe there to be natural laws, I would call it a stretch to say that expecting things to obey natural laws (like physics) is the equivalent belief to expect there to be a law maker.
Then he claims that if athiests reduce reason to random electrical impulses in the brain (a fallacy, at least in Darwinian theory, which would say that the brain is an evolved organ that helps an organism survive and reproduce via intelligence) then they are 'cutting off the branch the branch they are sitting on' the central flaw being that athiests don't believe intelligence to be random, except in that it is an 'accident' that life looks the way it does (or doesn't).
The reverse argument is probably the better truism, that the assumption that we are intelligent because we are intelligent, or rather the expectation that the universe exists because we exist to observe it existing is more a case of someone pulling themselves out of the ocean by tugging upwards on their own hair.
Which amounts to the 'Anthropic' principle. Which has numerous criticisms as employed by theists, largely for being a truism, and I like to argue that to conclude that our existence in the universe is submissible as proof that 'the designer' intended to have us in it does not elevate human beings above anything they produce as a result of their intelligence, including jump-suits. Or perhaps more crucially, as 'scientific' reason would not support Christianity above and beyond any other religion, as it appears to be from a scientific and historical perspective an product of human intelligence.
Suffice to say, it is a huge license for people to insight the Universal constants as evidence of a supernatural purpose in producing human life. Particularly given the vast quantity of Universe superfluous to life.
He then claims that the notion of the 'Big Bang' was inspired by the Bible. Lennox makes a point (that later contradicts his dumbest, arguably losing argument of the debate) that Genesis overcomes the Aristotlian world view that the Universe had no beginning and was eternal. Dawkins refutes this himself. I would also point out that Genises says with as much confidence that the Universe began as it does that it was completed in 7 days, that the planets existed before light (implying that planets formed before stars, another falacy given that the chemical elements needed to form planets can only be generated from Hydrogen the base element by stars, and with the variety we have, much, much, much bigger stars than our sun).

3. Design is dead; otherwise one must explain who designed the designer.

Lennox in my view whilst not making a good case thus far, loses the argument completely, on what he describes as 'the schoolboys question' which is 'who designed the designer?' and Lennox (who just minutes earlier explained Genesis as superior to Aristotle's take on science because it described the universe as created), he actually argues that God is not created, he is eternal and was always there.
This is exactly the argument that God is unscientific, because he doesn't work as an explanation, or rather it is a completely 'unsatisfying' explanation, which Dawkins supports by explaining it as an explanation in mathematical terms, that is the Universe or 'Big Bang' has a very complex mathematical model of how a singularity can explode, heating and cooling over gajillions of years to form a Universe. Which is simple compared to explaining an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient eternal designing agent.
The concept of 'simple' and 'simplicity' vs. 'complexity' is something that evades Lennox, suggesting that when he read Dawkins' books (which he suggests he has read) he was reading it with a mind to refute any claim he could latch onto. Dawkins refutes this well himself.

4. Christianity is dangerous.

Lennox's first argument is a popular logical fallacy known as I believe a 'definitional retreat' or perhaps even 'affirming the consequent' where he makes the argument essentially that 'Christianity is not dangerous > because when Christians have done bad things (Crusades, conquistadors, the holocaust) they were not following the teachings of Christ > thus they weren't Christians). Which doesn't address Dawkins conclusion that such belief fosters an environment were it can be employed dangerously. It is in essence arguing that Christianity is not dangerous because anything dangerous arising from it is not Christianity.
Which is self defeating because it gives Christianity no ability to make the world a better or worse place through the extension of its membership or preaching of its teachings, if you acknowledge that it's members will simply be reclassified based on what they do because of their interpretation of the beliefs.
It may be an argument, but it ultimately hurts Lennox's cause. Because it reduces again the realm of Christianity to have any worthwhile effect upon the world.
Historically speaking, I would actually agree with the notion that most attrocities committed by Church leaders weren't 'Christians' because from sociological perspectives the oldest trick in the book to is manipulate the masses by preaching something you yourself don't believe in (their in creating your base of power, free trade being a modern day example). This is known as 'lip service' by the leadership.
It really as an argument reinforces Dawkins' concluding point, that the dangers of Christianity are that it encourages faith as a virtue, faith being the opposite of sceptecism, which it does, undeniably because faith is precisely not doubting God's existence.
The arguments about Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Hitler are well trod and bad ones, because they are athiests. The quickest route to refuting these is to seize upon the Marxist regimes as they are the certifiably athiest states, where one would should be seized that Marxism doesn't preclude the creation of a 'police state' with an absolute ruler that then terrorizes people regardless of class to sustain the lavish lifestyles of an even smaller elite.
The second obvious refutation, is that athiests aren't a community, an athiest is spontaneous where members of various religious sects are the product of a system that produces them. Athiests simply don't believe in God, because their reason tells them not to, and they trust their reason. Dawkins in his book and in the debate further refutes these as following 'religious' social structures, in the book he refers to the 'athiest' regimes as 'personality cults' in other words, religious figures are simply replaced with Mao or Stalin as the new dieties, nothing Jesus didn't do himself on exactly as much evidence.

5. No one needs God to be moral.

Lennox comparison, is between DNA and a rock. Certainly because they are both devoid of sentience, however DNA works in an incredibly complicated environment of self replicating sequences that from them arize varius degrees of sentience. That is mechanical organisms like trees that will happily expunge the life from their own 'kin' in competition for sunlight, no single thought undertaken, to dolphins, humans and elephants that have central nervous systems, the ability to forecast, predict, learn, emote etc. Some better than others.
Therefore Lennox chooses to interpret the mechanical process of DNA as somehow denying the complex organisms it produces from having free will, or even arguably behaviour. Thus, whilst the quotation he bases his entire argument around is interpreted in such a way as to deny humans their intelligence, which is untrue, what is true is to say that our intelligence is the non random accidental product of an essentially mechanical process arising from 'natural selection' vis-a-vis the battle of survival. So you can just throw out the majority of speech he makes.

He doesn't then do anything to refute the perfectly relevant points about the shared morals between all peoples (which establishes a base-line morality) that obviously, can be observed as arising without the need of any specific instructional scripture. He also doesn't address the 'shifting moral zeitgeist' argument. Which I admit Dawkins doesn't do justice by calling it 'something in the air' and I was half expecting Lennox to make the claim that that 'something in the air' had to therefore be a God. But nevertheless it establishes that 'age-old' scriptures and the Gods they supposedly service have nothing to do with the social norms of morality (or at least are not directly responsible for) what we call morality because it can be demonstrated that the bible comes out both for and against slavery, (or rather, as Sam Harris notes, Martin Luther King draws inspiration from the bible in his civil rights campaign, just as Confederate states drew inspiration from the bible to defend the practice of slavery).
Then he tries to make a point of Dostoevsky's quote 'if God does not exist, everything is permitted' which is stupid because it's a prime example of the mentality that Dawkins saw fit to address in the book 'God Delusion', that is that everything is permitted, the only real tangible reinforcements of morality, come from a community expunging people who break this law from their society. For example, God didn't strike down Hitler with an impressive bolt of lightning the moment he committed his first atrocity, or abort his fetus before he had a chance to be Evil. Instead the European community, and in a limited sense the global community fought to expunge him from existence. Almost like a manifestation of 'Darwinian' drives to favor our own Gene's selections over his. It works down to a micro scale too where whilst 'evil' is permitted in a physical sense, like killing your wife to take her money is physically possible, society does a lot better than scripture at removing these 'evils' from the community in order to protect itself.

6. Christian claims about the person of Jesus are not true; his alleged miracles violate the laws of nature.

Lennox makes probably his second worst argument here, that is that is that anything that obeys the laws of nature isn't a 'miracle' because it is expected. And that (much like 'being eternal' is a central property of God) the ability to intercede and break the laws of nature as a demonstration of his omnipotence are a central property of God.
In other words, if 'Miracles' can happen that violate the natural laws (namely physics) they would teach humanity one thing and one thing only - that we cant trust our senses. This happens to select individuals in our society who experience 'miracles' in exactly this way, people who can't trust their senses are labelled commonly as schizophrenic, and accuratly as 'insane', that is they have lost their ability to rationally interact with the world around them.
Miracles would be useful in one instance only, where they could help determine a rhyme or reason to the will of god, they would then be subject to the scientific method. You could for example set up a huge oxytorch, and march people through it that you have taken an extensive background check on. Those that pass through the flame unharmed you could deam 'righteous' and run a differential on the various decisions they have made in their life to determine 'righteous' behaviour, those that die in agonising pain you could reject as 'unrighteous' and also use as a control group in your differential.
Of course such experiments don't work, have never worked, and are highly unethical. If you were particularly dogmatic you could say that such an experiment would never work because it is inherantly unrighteous, and those conducting the experiment would not be permitted by God to know his will, of course there exist ethical alternatives like the 'Great Prayer' experiment that if anything showed that if God does exist, he really hates when people pray for the sick, because he seems to kill the patients out of spite. (cited in the God Delusion).

To be honest, after topic 4, Dawkins starts refuting the essential arguments of Lennox himself, tellingly he is willing to stick to his time limits and sacrifice introducing material.

The reason I don't refute any of Dawkins arguments is that Lennox refutes them thoroughly (and poorly) for himself from the get-go. The second reason is because there aren't, not ones I can see. Dawkins follows the rules of logic and knows the science. He may not know the Bible inside or out, but the Bible is neither scientific, internally consistent, interesting or particularly instructive.

The debate is in all honesty an dead chicken versus an alligator in intellectual terms. I'm sure Lennox is good at Maths, but not debate, physics etc. In fact the only thing preventing Lennox from drowning is because he A) really, really believes his own arguments are convincing. B) Dawkins is structurally denied the right of reply to many of the worst arguments Lennox makes.

Thus it remains the only debate that remains impressive to me is that between Noam Chomsky vs William F Buckley Jr. which is like a gigantic alligator versus a buffalo.

Please don't post me links to 'The Battle of Kruger' which was a three way battle anyway, where the Buffalo only 'win' in the sense that they avoid a loss also by ganging up (as Christians often do), resulting in a zero sum game.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Memes and Genes Collide

Many who actually spend any face time with me, would know that I've had involvement with the Henry George League aka Earthsharing aka Geonomics and various other yet to be effective mantels.
I've been over it before and the theory is fundamentally sound in its stated aims and purposes. If you tax 'inputs' like resources, from land to coal to the electro magnetic spectrum, you get a much better, fairer, equitable and productive system than when you tax 'outputs' like profits, wages etc.
I mean it is pretty much the profit model itself, minimise costs and maximise revenues to create the biggest profits, and yet the tax incentives work counter to this notion, such that accountants try to write up as many expenses possible and shunt profits around the world to minimise profitability (and thus tax liabilities).

But my crises of faith comes from that Keynsian notion, not from any Keynsian theory as such, but from his practice of observing what actually happens.

For example, there is no way Universities will ever be allowed to have a fair and equitable system that identifies actual intelligence when offering places. The wealthy would never allow a system that would judge their progeny on their merits.

In just the same way, I somewhat fatalistically am entertaining the notion that the economy that will blindly survive is one that protects and reinforces the priveledges of the priveledged and not one that actually maximises wellbeing.

It just seems from an evolutionary perspective, that there will always be somewhat of a 'ruling class', and in that light the fact that wealth is becomming more tightly concentrated (something like 56% of the worlds resources are commanded by 1% of its population) would just show that the system is becoming more efficient. A good thing from a cold objective point of view.

'The colony' has less queens and more workers. Genetically at least, it's just a continuation of the same march that first created social behaviours that gave birth to 'leaders'.

Take the common term 'landlord' it's derived from feudal serfdom, where the 'Lord' protected your miserable life from the relatively more miserable life of being pillaged and raped by some neighbouring chief/lord/frenchman. So in turn for maintaining this community security force, you worked not just your own lands but his. A pretty good deal, until they just all became his lands and you worked them, then regional stability came through so he barely even protected you from anything anymore, until present day where a landlord has a right to a share of your income whilst not contributing any actual value at all (or value worth the provision of housing).

Dawkins has a vast number of examples of 'the selfish gene' and how animals that are entirely parasitic (like the Cuckoo) can survive at an evolutionarily stable mass. Too many parasites and the system starves, too few and well... everybody wins except presumably the parasites, but if you have just the right amount both species, parasites and hosts can live on in a stable manner.

These 'facts of life' thus would point to a stable evolution process whereby you can have a parasitical ruling class that eats free lunches, and then everyone else who is glad to be part of a great system that holds up these great parasites.

Now, I don't want to sound like some communist or whatever, but its hard to put such a system of ours into terms that are flattering, though many have tried. You could call it capitalists, entre preneurs, captains of industry etc. Except hopefully we are in a day and age where we can see (certainly with the bail-outs of the financial institutions in the US) that the parasitical behaviour is pretty self evident.

Home owners aren't bailed out, the banks are. Or as Chomsky would put it 'privatised profits and public liabilities'.

My question is, where did the ruling class, the natural aristocracy go wrong?

I think nowadays, that if I were a ruling elite that could order popular nationalist movements by strangled in the cradle, that social reforms be stillborn all to protect my 'vital interests' that from what I've learned, I would be more concerned with rearing my memetic descendants than my genetic ones.

This is because history and genetics tells us that their is no surer way to drive a dynasty, organisation or empire into the ground than by 'keeping it in the family'. Your son is 1/2 of you genetically, your son's son is 1/4, your great grandson is an 1/8th, and after that they are to all effects about as close as a complete stranger, which I'd wager your cousins cousin is to you.

I mean your cousins are only 1/4 genetically similar to you and I'd bet you see big differences between yourself and them. In this day and age, in all probability they will think act and believe completely differently to you.

But genetics and evolution also teaches us, that at least for the early part of human development as a species, genes that tend to look after their offspring tended to be genes that survived. Whereas genes that abandon their young in infancy don't tend to do as well. At least not for a species like homo sapiens.

And that's what I mean by the 'leading' or 'ruling class' going wrong. Yesterday I talked about Xerxes I the great, son of Darius I the great, I have reason to believe that Xerxes was in fact nowhere near as great as his father, at least on the political shrewdness scale, but as history stands is probably one of the better progenys of a great man. Within two generations of Cosimo di Medici, you already had Lorenzo who basically squandered away the family fortune and the dynasty never really recovered (although that fortune was quite immense and served to buy us the renaissance).

But throughout history, the ruling class has been a memetic family much more than a genetic dynasty. One's genetic descendants are predictable, one's memetic descendants can crop up anywhere.

What are memes? Memes are 'self replicating ideas' coined and proposed by Richard Dawkins. So if a descendant is someone who bears in common a set of identical genes, a memetic descendant is going to be someone with a set of identical ideas.

Science gives us a good viewpoint, there's heaps of memetic ancestors, Des Cartes gave birth to a bunch of scientists that bore the 'light as particle' memes, Newton gave birth to a bunch of scientists that bore the 'light as wave' memes. The two competing families of memes fought like the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons, until Einstein revealed the mutated meme 'light is like a particle and a wave' or 'photon' meme. (disclaimer, you shouldn't come to me for physics advice, it's been a long time since I studied it).

So too could you say loosely that Ceaser Augustus was a memetic descendant of Darius the Great, or Alexander the Great, and Genghis Khan was a memetic ancestor of them. (except you probably couldn't because there was no meme connection that I'm aware of between the Mongolian Steps and the Meditaranean seas).

The point being that where one's memetic descendants will crop up is entirely random. Hence if you are a member of the ruling class, trying to errect a barrier whether it be a fortress of ancient times or the IMF and World Bank of the Modern era to lock any new members out, you inevitably will be handing the keys to the 'great beasts' you've been trying to keep out in the form of your genetically similar but memetically still born kid (George W Bush being a fine example) whilst locking out your rightful memetic heir who then becomes a disgruntled competitor.

I could suggest that those fighting against the 'ruling class' most effectively and passionatley are doing so because they are denied their opportunity to take their 'rightful place' but somehow I don't think that suggesting Noam Chomsky or Arundhati Roy are doing what they do because they have been denied the lavish lifestyles of the priveledged few doesn't really ring true.

What I'd be suggesting is the seemingly constant ability of random pockets of destitute oppressed to produce charismatic leaders that lead rebellions and revolutions against the ruling classes with varying degrees of success. Google may be taken as Microsofts memetic heir that succeeded in supplanting their canabalistic patriarch.

But where the whole 'ruling class' really goes wrong is that when painted into a corner, the memetic ancestors ruin the party by spoiling the punchline. They go and expose the secrets of rule to the great beast in a pyrrhic victory.

In time, if technology and information keep flowing, it will become increasingly hard to conceal the markets crimes from itself. Something that had it's hey day in the early 20th century, where south americans could be up to their ankles in mercury purifying silver and gold, and the pretty women that wore it half a world away had no idea, the jewellery untarnished by the inhumanity of its production. When one put a diamond ring on a finger half a century ago, one didn't get the hand amputated from a congalese slave by their warlord's gangsters taking a lead from their belgian forefathers.

As recently as a few years ago, chocolate lovers the world over were ignorant that cocoa was still harvested using slave labour. In other words it is hard to take the exploited amss known as the 'middle class' and employ them in propping up the upper class by using them to help drive the exploitation of the 'lower class' since now thanks to the internet and whatnot, we relatively all live on eachothers doorstop.

Which brings me full circle. The clash of memes and genes is what makes the ruling class fall short of 'the perfect crime' because their memetic heirs may crop up in the cradle of the mindless herd they have been most exploiting. The walls they erected to protect their genetic heirs cuts their progeny off from the vary world that stimulated their own memetic development.

What they want is not a system that I would tacitly suggest is designed so that their genetic heirs actually believe the memetic lies employed to curry popular opinion and secure their own rule, but one that provides the least resistance for their memetic heirs to supplant their genetic ones and inherit their command of resources. This is probably why the richest institutions in the world are private corporations and have generally been more successful as surviving as dynasties longer than many of the great family houses of history.

But it needs to go broader than the private sector, and thats way, in light of their being a ruling class, and from an ammoral perspective the system of rule (our currently flawed economics system) works well in concentrating wealth in the ruling classes hands, a fair and equitable system would most importantly provide what has always appealed to me about Henry George's crank theories, and that is equality of opportunity. A minimum of friction for those that want to take charge, because the smart have a bad habit of being stupid and handing the keys over to their kids, or turning to government to preserve a market for their product long after it stopped being of value to the human race.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Class Action 300

After many years of apathy I wound up watching 300. I didn't have the dilemma many people had on seeing the film, which was they left confused as to whether they had seen an awesome film or a terrible one. At the time it probably was both, but I'd seen it after the South Park parody - 'Lesbos' and thus could not take the movie seriously.

It is I feel characteristic of Frank Miller's work - the man has an incredible knack for visual storytelling and yet is one of worst writers of dialogue etc. Even his best works like Sin City and Batman: Year One had this failing, the dialogue seeing horribly predictable and cliche. It's tolerable in the comics when you don't have actors like Gerard Butler, David Wenham and even Benecio Del Toro hamming it up, but barely.

So yeah, while 300 is well visually stylized, the plot (which is embellished from the comic) is one of the worst takes on history ever.

I think though that while 300 isn't news, given how long its taken me to see it, it is an important illustration of how embellished our view of history can be. I suspect modern day Persian heartlanders (being Iranian) have enough sources of hostility with the world, but if you are a Zoroastrian at the very least, you could be incredibly pissed off at 300 flattering portrayal of Spartans standing for freedom?? versus Xerxes I and the Persian army.

The Spartans presided as tyrannical rulers as the minority ruling class of the region with 80% of the population being made up of the agrarian Helots. When Leonidus derides the Athenians as 'boy lovers' he conveniently glosses over the Spartan practice of pederasty, which expected boys to find an older lover by age 12 or so.

By comparison the persian empire was the first to practice freedom of religion and had a prohibition against slavery, most notably freeing the Byzantine Jewish community. Their capital was built by paid labour and the Persian Empire, the first world empire represented the most civilzed people on earth.

Sure Xerxes marching an Army to Greece the size of 200,000 had its practical drawbacks, namely being way too large to keep well fed logistically, but the '300' spartans were accompanied by around 7,000 other troops. Furthermore the notion of 'victory' is one of those that is ambiguous in history as well.

The stand was bold, brave and costly by the Spartans, but ultimately they were wiped out, which Xerxes seemed to conclude, had made his point. Then Athens was raised to the ground by his forces, Xerxes in a 'Bush-esque' fashion declared victory and went home. A much reduced force was then defeated by the Greeks, who indeed won their freedom, but it was the Athenians who were the founders of democracy, Spartans were a parasitical tyranny, the Helots at least would have stood as much better off under Persian rule.

And that's as much as we can tell. But portraying Xerxes as a 7 foot lesbian, the Spartans noble upholders of democracy and the Persian army as an incompetent, duplicitous travelling freak show does an injustice to the complexity of human civilization and our derived historical identity.

The benefits of either side winning are debatable, Greece after all was absorbed by the Roman empire that engulfed most of Europe in a sophisticated form of military dictatorship, Europe then became a haven for absolute monarchs for what is known in the west as the 'Dark Ages' and in the Middle East as 'the Islamic Golden Age' and somehow through some cruel twist of fate, the situations now seem somewhat reversed, though I'm sure what remains of the future probably belongs to the athiests.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do the Work

Robert Downey Junior when asked about beating his drug addiction, or alcohol or whatever it was that kept him out of choice roles and away from Oscar consideration for so long aparantly said 'Doing it was quite easy, the hard part was deciding I wanted to.'

Likewise after hovering between 83 and 84 kg since march, in the past two weeks I've dropped down to 81kg and have managed to stay there, despite my kidney stones scare giving me a hiatus on further cross training.

Surprisingly it wasn't hard to do. just deciding to actually dedicate some of my time to exercise was the hard part. Just starting. Starting is always the hardest part for me.

I've reached a point, I'm glad to say where after an incredibly trying both emotionally and mentally year of trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my remaining 60 years, I have emerged from it now equipped with a luxurious accessory few would be willing to outlay as much income as I have to obtain.

That is to say, my accessory is a mental one, too exclusive to be recognized on the street but with a solid and dedicated user group. It is the revelation (or evolution) that makes me realise I am less afraid of failing than I am of just not trying.

Which puts me in good stead to enter a 'scalable' or 'winner takes all' profession, like the artistic or creative ones. Where I face the very real possibility of simply never succeeding. Never finding a market, or acclaim, or connections that will open doors to it actually being viable. And further, being able to say that if people won't pay me for my output, I deserve to starve, be spurned by women, left childless, homeless and forgotten on the wayside. Just as I deserve if I can create and contribute genuine value, a menagerie of fauning devotees that hang on my every word, snap up my every produce before it even reaches a wider market and stop even doubting my ability to produce.

But that luxurious success walks hand in hand with total and catastrophic failure. The die is also loaded, there's one side with 6 pips, and 5 with 1. (actually my odds are probably worse than that). But there is one thing that typically loads up the odds in favor of failure and that is that success requires that you actually decide to do the work.

This is the one characteristic shared by all viable artists in this day and age, it is the overshadowing fallability of the 'fallback' degree or career. I look at the relatively comfortable position of Bryce (in that even with out his full time profession, could probably eek out a quite comfortable living directing musical productions) because he has been doing the work since he was 12, maybe younger.

Or the oversupply of 'Street Artists' or 'Guerilla Artists' of which there are only a couple of hundred that succeed in completely saturating the entire global graffiti market, whom have been willing to go out and break the law since the were 14 or 16, learning the motions, the terrain, the equipment and giving themselves a highly risky, self-education that was far more likely to result in jail-time than than a lucrative career like Banksy.

All successful artists have this one trait in common, that they do the work at the end of the day, they sit down and actually produce something.

In the coming weeks I'm going to buy me a scanner, and this blog will hopefully become a 'sketch-a-day' type post. I'll also still be running, and writing (though I probably won't share my fiction writing here) and lest I end up on my back guzzling litres of water trying to 'pass' kidney stones for a week, I'll keep you posted on those efforts as well.

That's all for now. I have work to do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Once a week now, I get up put on my running gear, ride 8-9 km to Princes Park in Carlton, then I do a run 3.2km round the park and then I get on my bike ride through the CBD and back home via the Yarra Boulevard approx 15km or so.

Why? Why not run around the parks in my hometown burb of Kew? Simple, Kew is hilly, Brunswick is flat.

I would love to see the 7 degree olympic events, where the athletics track from bend to bend is situated on a 7 degree incline. That would actually probably be the only way 800m could be made worse.

But the point is that even though in my adult years, I have the seemingly ability to run any long distance I decide to, which I couldn't do as an adolescent, the endurance is far more mental than physical which consists of just plodding along for 1 hour, 2 hours etc. My body needs a lot of retraining and rebuilding just to run fast, at some kind of pace.

The other difference from adolescence is that I used to run between March to September, and take the whole summer off any formal notion of running, and do no cycling at all.

So trying to run with my non-athletes body at some kind of respectible pace in hotter, dryer conditions than I ever opted into in Ballarat is proving interesting. A whole new experience.

I can now mentally push myself up to a pace where getting overtaken around the park is rare, and if it happened I would expect that the person would be in the last 100-50m of their total distance doing the strong finish.

But I don't feel like an athlete. My legs don't do the work for me, mentally I have to be on top of my back muscles to keep me in proper posture not slouching. But running on the flat allows me to actually experience all the muscles at work and give me a sense of progress, where running on Kew's hills whilst I'm sure is good for mental resilliance and fitness is a confusing array of shifting postures and stride lengths. Destroying rythm as you hit the seeming walls and seeming freefalls of the steep inclines and downhill slopes.

Then heres the interesting part to doing a middle distance like 3km as it relates to the 800m, pushing my self to run hard over 3km is how I train for my 'off' distance in the 800m, yes, so if I do a hard first or second lap, this middle distance pace is the relaxed aerobic pace you use to give you a rolling start or 'comfortable' finish.

As yet, both my aerobic and anaerobic fitness are lacking, and particularly my legs muscles structure aren't fully transformed for running vs. cycling, so I have a ways to go.

One thing I can say about commuting to a better park for exercise is that it proves just how reliable kevlar-puncture proof road tires are. I haven't had to face a flat induced 9km walk home yet.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Retrain the Horse

Surely the most frustrating thing as a taxpayer, is corporate welfare. Seeing companies that can't generate enough value in the marketplace to turn their own profits needing subsidies to survive.
To me while their are merits to protectionism and subsidies for starting a new industry, there is none in finishing it, save to disguise unemployment and deny a source of labour to entrepreneurial ventures.

I am a firm believer in product for the market, not market for the product.

As Peter Drucker said in one of his many pearls of wisdom:

'If their was a ministry of Transport in 1900 we would still be riding in handsom cabs with an expensive program to "retrain the horse"'

So too with the arts it seems. I have to hand it to the ABC it has started its long overdue move from a reinforcer of Australia's British cultural identity to become more multicultural and multi-generational. Its probably still my strongest criticism of the station but to me it is still moving in the right direction.

An organisation I had never heard of called the Australian Council however is making no progress at all.

This was on a post Bryce had plugged by Marcus Westbury. Marcus appears to be much more informed than I am of the issues of arts funding and engaged in a number of active debates.

I would just say that when I saw this I was staggered by how skewed the funding is. If you asked me for another how much I would estimate the takings of various orchestras to be, I would assume that there would be markets for it in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and would have optimistically estimated their net income to be around $12 million combined.

I don't know, every time I've seen a symphony orchestra it has been free, but I assume there are some elderly people that would pay $600 for a season pass. Furthermore I would have predicted that these exorbitant prices would result in break even economics given the massive overheads. Same deal with Opera which at least in mainstream press has been regurly attacked as a shamozzle.

So the figure of 63 million sounds like propping up pretty much the entire Australian Orchestral music scene. Which is to say, it seems sadly that all this money is used to make music that cannot attract audiences of sufficient quality and quantity to pay what it costs for the music to be brought to them.

It frankly makes me angry, as someone who draws comics that nobody reads I understand the importance of being able to perform/create art regardless of its popularity or market viability. The difference being that I take responsibility that as yet, nobody is willing to pay me for what I'm currently doing.

If you want to play the tuba or violin and even have a passion for it, or become a conductor, yes it may take a lot of work, expensive tuition and upkeep of instruments and costumes.

But just because you have a passion for something, and strive for excellence in it, doesn't mean the world owes you a living from it. If you can, good for you, if not you should suck it up.

Furthermore councils and funding bodies need to put their dollars between the strong performers, not the weak performers. Keeping symphonies and other orchestras afloat comes at the expense of all those other listed art forms. Who is to argue that any of those people are any less passionate or dedicated, or that their artforms are any more or less culturally relevant.

The point being that even if you adopt the rational that say, theatre is still relatively popular than orchestral music, and literature certainly is quite the viable business. But that just means that a dollar invested in the stage or a book will go much further and stronger than a dollar sunk in some regional center's orchestra.

Furthermore you run the risk of creating a nest egg mentality, where the culture of management behind these arts becomes reliant on hand feeding and no longer feels accountable to its audience.

I'm no fan of Andre Reiu but I would note, that he managed to bring an orchestra out, play terrible music and come home with $100 million or more AU dollars without any government funding. In many cases it was funded by nana's (like mine) that would never bother to go see the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

So you have all this money dissappearing down a black hole, and all you preserve is the worst of classical music, the dogmatists that believe music should be regimented like the army and find the use of electricity sinful. The pretentious wankers at any party. I can't abide pretention, but at least if I meet a pretentious playwright, I can feel like he actually makes his own money and attracts his own audience.

Teach Girls they have a meaningful role in society and the bitchiness will go away

I remember watching like a 60 minutes special on 'bullying' approximately ten years ago where a girl in the audience pointed out 'if guys have a problem with eachother they just settle it with their fists. Girls use psychological attacks' or something, I'm paraphrasing.
On insight tonight, which was a repeat of an episode on 'Why girls are so mean?' which actually spent way more time on looking at 'how girls are so mean' vis-a-vis describing the behaviour rather than looking at the causes. But interestingly a 20-30 year old woman talking about the office politics amongst women made a comment 'It's - I think with men if they've got a problem, you know, you can just confront it or you punch it out. Whereas with girls, it's the whole kind of like ostracism and the sneaking around and the whispering and the emails to each other and you know –'

Which I couldn't help but notice was more or less the exact same observation that was made 10 or more years ago. It could very well have been the same girl.

But I think the Insight show did deliver some insight with the 'Queen Bees and Wannabes' author their to provide insight, but there was far more description of symptoms than exploration of causes. Particularly since if you are doing a show on why Girls are mean to eachother then the premise you have to assume is that when girls get mean it is a distinct phenomena from the male equivalent.

I think the office is a good place to start, because the gender divide is perhaps perplexing in every dimension except social-anthropological ones (these words are too big for me).

As in, in the modern era in a country even as backwards as Australia, it is generally acknowledged from the base stock of intelligence, social skills, street-smarts etc women and men don't differ in any significant way. Yet men are clearly more successful in corporate careers than women are. There still isn't pay parity, and although the proportion of women in executive roles has increased, it still isn't anywhere near 50-50 or even 60-40.

Yet it's not as simple as saying that most companies are controlled by a boys-club that looks after its own interests. I say that because Business is one of those things that is still on the evolutionary front-lines, and in many industries a single performer can actually still overcome a politically savvy group (in other words, people do things in business primarily because it makes money, so if you are a woman and make the company exceptional money, it will be hard for even the tightest conspiracy to do you serious damage. Alternatively if you are Michael Moore and you write an expose on Rupert Murdoch, Ruport Murdoch will himself publish it he believes it will make him money).

I put it to you that starving people fight more viciously for crumbs than well fed people fight for a rack of lamb.

Based on personal experience and observation, Men in corporate settings compete in objective business dimensions and metrics. Who has the most customers, who has the biggest revenue generating accounts, who has the best productivity, who has the most directs. Furthermore it is impersonal much of the time. Like a footrace, men charge in parralal lines at the same finish line trying to outmuscle eachother.

Furthermore, from what I've observed, if men aren't competing in the same event they will be cheering other men on.

That's probably the best metaphore I can/wish to offer. Women in the workplace, I noticed and overheard compete over shit that perplexes me in their insignificance. Many points of contention had nothing to do with work at all. The admin politics were far more cut-throat than the National Sales Managers ever were (predominately female and predominantly male respectively).

Whats funny is that before watching insight I was coming back from a run with my dog and whilst waiting to cross the road noticed a kitted out Japanese import car passby and caught the eye of the token asian girl in the passenger seat and thought quite instantaneously 'that girl is an accessory' or may have even initially thought 'she is fluffy dice'. The flip side of the equation is that while the girl may be a car accessory, the guy is as they say in Japan 'Mr Legs' or basically the girls chauffer service. It's better being single than being an idiot.

But I think much of the girls seemingly 'hard-wired' behaviour has a simple explanation:

They aren't important.

As always I can't be bothered doing any hard research to substantiate this observation, I just put to you that it makes sense because I think we can accept that:

1. There are still clearly definable differences between social conditioning for boys and social conditioning for girls.

2. Education and Corporate structures in many cases still have their ideological foundations in assumptions made prior to any feminist movements.

3. Historically speaking, women have generally been excluded from any social leadership roles.

The basic function of a woman in human society historically speaking was as a baby making factory for a male. Particularly keeping in mind that the atomic family unit erroneously known as the 'traditional family' is a relatively recent phenomena, historically speaking again the most traditional family structure was one man with a harem of many women.

In that context you have a bifurcation of society, or perhaps it is best put as saying that Men lived in their own society and thus their own world and women lived in a different society and thus their own world.

Rather than calling the two worlds 'male' and 'female' worlds, I prefer to call them 'important' and 'unimportant' because thats more offensive, and offensive ideas generally being wantonly rejected my argument is actually better served if you reading this want to reject it.

I would attempt to objectively qualify calling the men's sphere 'important' by pointing out that the political games and executive decisions men made would result in things like this:

The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies and chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth and see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses and clasp to your bosom their wives and daughters.
- Genghis Khan

Who was a male and made the kind of decisions that could see whole communities wiped out of existence.

Thus in a harem style family, you had men competing against the whole world trying to dominate eachother and the resources at their disposal, establishing heirarchies with practical repurcussions fought out in objective terms - the actual strength and intelligence to dominate and command. In recent times the skillset of mobilising warriors to raid, pillage and conquer has shifted in favour of a skillset to mobilise public opinion.

Men have a tendancy to read books on strategy written by Sun Tzu, Machievelli and Musashi Miyamoto. What do women have? 'Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office'.

For women your traditional highest aspiration was to be 'first wife' or matriach of a household, your competition were only ever other women so effectively were you sidelined from the important decision making world. Physical violence against the other wives or concubines it would make sense to be prohibited on account of the dangers of being caught damaging the stable of wombs of any dominant male.

Thus you had I guess the ability to produce sons, attractiveness and physical allure and psychological attacks being the limit of your repertoir. This went on for thousands of years, poorly documented because apart from rare circumstances (Medea comes to mind) the two worlds probably didn't collide.
Memoirs of a Geisha was a hit afterall, a fictitious book devoured by modern day women about the political contests of women who had virtually no power over their own destinies.

Another divide I would point out is my general observation that women will factor the expected earning of their partner into their financial goals where I don't know any men that do. By that I mean, if a man dreams of having a million dollar home he dreams of having a million dollar income. When women dream of having a million dollar home at best they dream of having a million dollar income AND a million dollar earning husband.

Stay at home mums are still commonplace and socially acceptable, I still see little to no hope for the stay at home dad becoming commonplace.

Thus I say the solution (without any actually helpful or constructive suggestions) is to bring the two worlds together. Teach women when they are growing up that if they want to be important they can't marry importance and you'll slowly break the behaviours that make being mean and nasty useful.

Women have wombs as much as men have testes. Both are needed to make children. Men seem to find 'the choice' between career and children very easy. Furthermore it is admittedly also fairly easy for a successful man to have both. (a child often serving as incentive to be more devoted to a career), where women again are probably throwing back to anthropologically hard-wired, or childhood socially conditioned notions that they should live vicareously through their children. (you can't be important but your son can, sort of thing).

If women are let into the world of making decisions about commanding and dominating physical resources, they will come into the objective realities that make men's social heirarchies straightforward (and relatively pleasent) compared to womens infighting over who has in far too many cases the best access to someone actually important.

I think we are on the right track, I would also observe that in the country I think the problem is smaller, you come across more 'champion' women (whom I find generally more attractive) because I suppose in the older agrarian and hunter-gatherer lifestyles women play a far more active role in running the business, infact quite often the family is the business.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

First Home Buyers Grant

Steve Keen will walk to Mt Kosciusko because he lost a bet. A bet I would have bet on too, which is that the Australian housing bubble would burst sometime this year. It seems it has been perpetually on the cusp of a 6 month bust for the past 2 years now, and I for one also stick by my analogy of a drunk behind the wheel of a lamborghini, you know he is going to crash but you can't say when.

What confuses and upsets me, is the amount of people my age, that I generally credit with being intelligent being suckered into the property market now of all times.

I would argue that the conventional wisdom that brings you such idiocy as "Buy land they aren't making any more of it" and "Location, Location, Location" and "Put your money in bricks and mortar" doesn't give you the conventional wisdom of:

"A house is worth as much as the banks are willing to lend for it." such that when the government announces an additional $7 grand you would be expecting first home buyers to Groan and throw their arms up in despair.

In fact rather than the press dutifully reporting the opinions of realtors on the matter, many honestly and candidly denounced the boost to the first home buyers grant.

And still it seems people rushed to take it up. Such that when I looked in the Herald Sun yesterday, they had an article on how Melbourne property prices had soared 22%.

Which is bad news, because I was expecting the median house prices to increase by $7 grand, which is like 2.5% or less. How could housing become even less affordable? Then I put it together with this little piece by Steve Keen, from his blog post 'It's Leverage Stupid' and I think if you are young, you need to read and understand this:

So how has a mere $1.2 billion injection of government money driven the average house price up by 8% in six months? By the “magic” of leverage: the typical First Home Buyer (FHB) took that $7,000 to the bank and leveraged it up to another $40-50,000, which then was handed over to the First Home Vendor (FHV) as cold, hard cash.

The FHV then took that extra $40-50,000 and leveraged it to an additional $200,000-$250,000, which meant that that new place which had been just out of reach prior to the FHOB was now well within range. Competing with other lucky recipients of government and bank largesse, he drove up the price of that middle to upper tier house by an additional $100,000 or more.

The aggregate impact of this government enticement into private debt was that Australian households reversed the deleveraging process that had begun in late 2008, and as a result the mortgage debt to GDP ratio, which had been falling, began to rise once more. The FHOB has led to Australians taking on an additional $50 billion of mortgage debt.

So in my own naivety I'd always thought that when people got the First Home Buyers Grant that it was taken off the total loan sort of after the price had been established, like you would be all 'I can afford $250k, but with the FHBG, I can afford an extra 25Gs, so I can bid up to $275k.' and that was how the vendor ended up with all the 'buyers' grant.

But no apparently you take it to the bank, and the bank acts as if that's real savings. And then they lend you $40-50k. so $7 crappy grand results in $50k more debt. It seems criminally stupid on the banks part to treat a government handout as collatoral to lend someone with literally no financial qualification of higher confidence more money.

Which as a property is worth as much as a bank is willing to lend - you just ran up your debt beyond affordability.


Investing is simply understood as buying low and selling high. That is how amateurs try to play the stock market. WHy then do you amateur, buy in to the Australian housing market at its historic peak?

BONUS SECTION: Conventional Wisdom Debunked:

1. Buy land they aren't making any more of it = buy oil you moron, not only aren't they making any more of it, billions of people are actively destroying what we have every day.

2. Put your money in Bricks and Mortar = do that moron, buy a stack of bricks and some bags of mortar and put it in storage, see how much they are worth in 10 years. I wager the same or less. (and definitely less when adjusted for inflation).

3. Location, location, location = is actually the only conventional wisdom that actually makes sense, yes you aren't buying a house or a home, you are buying access rights to infrastructure and/or natural resources, which presumably somebody actually productive (ie earns an income by creating actual value) will want access to that site at some point for income generating purposes. With your monopoly you can extort as much money as a bank is willing to lend. (except even with monopolys there is a right price to buy at and a wrong price).

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

But I don't think of you

So I'm back training for the 800m, finally. It would be easier if I didn't also weigh 800kg, but I'm working on that and should with dedication get down to a respectable 79ish kgs in the next few weeks.

One thing that I feel demonstrates how completely miserable and hard the 800m is, is that I can beat my dog. My dog is pretty fit, dogs on the whole are pretty fit. My dog could probably beat Usain Bolt in the 100m, I don't know I never timed her. But she has low wind resistance, four legs and is built for chasing down rabbits and shit.

But my dog sucks at the 800m and infact cheats a lot. I run the outside of the oval at 80% (which is still incredibly hard, particularly in my current shape) and she runs about 30m inside of that track and still comes up about 50m behind me to finish.

Sure she doesn't know the competitive nature of the race, but to me it highlights the sheer unnaturalness of the distance. Nothing, ever, in history, has been naturally selected by an ability to cover 800m quickly.

You have cheetah's, springbok, deer, wolves etc that have survived thanks to the ability to run short distances at up to 120km/h. Then you have a bunch of birds that have survived by being able to migrate vast distances to safe breeding grounds where lizards don't eat their young. fucking lizards. But nowhere do you have an animal that has survived by the ability to run the knife edge between anerobic and aerobic exercise.

So while I'm not taking Holdaway lightly, particularly given my current heavysetness, I worry that the fool may have never actually tried to run 800m and doesn't understand the crucial differences between being able to run say 400m fast and being able to run 10km pretty fast that even if you can do both, you may find yourself physically unable to actually run 800m.

Yes, paradoxical I know. And just in case this is John's experience, it is not enough that I beat him by default. I must demolish him.

'Beneath contempt' I believe is the saying, and even if I lap the guy, if I turn around at the finish line (which if by some miracle someone ever lapped anyone in the 800m would probably be pretty near the only place a lapping could occur) and feel even the slightest piece of contempt for him, I know I will have failed.

It must be like crushing an ant underfoot, such that I was not even aware the ant and I were competing against eachother.