“Lying” and Cowardice

May 20th, 2014

Everyone knows that politicians will break promises. In fact, there are plenty of times when it’s actually the right thing to do. The word “lying” or “liar” has been so abused that people don’t really understand it anymore. If you break a promise, you’re not a liar. If you change your mind, you’re not a liar. Lying is deliberately telling an untruth with the intent to deceive.

This isn’t about the Abbott Government’s treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers. They told us exactly what they were going to do and they did it. Australia voted for “towing back the boats”. Australia voted for keeping children in concentration camps. Shame on us and many of us may not like it, but the Abbott government was honest about it, and did what they said they would do.

This isn’t about Climate Change. They dismantled the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and have taken every step they can to remove the Carbon Tax and any shred of real action on Climate Change. Many of us may not like it, and it may end up being be the single stupidest act in Australia’s history, but the Abbott government was honest about it, and did what they said they would do.

On a range of other issues, the Abbott government was honest, and did what they said they would do.

But this Budget (2014) is different.

The Charter of Budget Honesty introduced by Peter Costello meant that incumbent governments could no longer claim that finances were better than they actually were, but also that incoming governments could no longer claim that they were worse than they actually were. The end of the predictable “Budget Black Hole” that allowed incoming governments to have an excuse for breaking a bunch of their promises (“core” vs “non-core”) was no more.

So everyone knew the size of government debt, the size of the deficit, and we could have an honest exchange of views that was based on reality. At least we thought we were having an honest exchange of views.

This is not about whether or not you think the size of the deficit is a problem or not, or even whether or not you think that the size of government debt is a problem or not, nor is it about the rate at which you think needs to be reduced. There will always be disagreement on those things, and that’s why we have elections.

The magnitude of the budget deficit and net public debt have not changed since before the election, except due to decisions made by the Abbott government since the election, and those decisions haven’t made a significant change to either. So the circumstances haven’t changed.

This means that so many promises made by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey before the election were lies. They never intended to keep those promises. They made them with the clear intent to deceive. The circumstances have not changed. There is no foundation for this complete reversal of their policy platform. They were banging on about the need to reduce debt and the deficit before the election and that continues to be their mantra. That part is perfectly fine. But now we find that the actions they want to take to address that deficit and debt are completely the opposite of what they told the Australian public before the election.

So why then have all those promises been broken? Because they never intended to keep them in the first place. No new taxes, no cuts to Education, no cuts to health, no changes to the Aged pension, no cuts to the ABC or SBS, no changes to foreign aid. It was all pure bullshit.

Why couldn’t they have had the courage to take their true policy platform to the election? This was their plan all along, they just didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand behind it before the election, pretending they would do something else until they were safely on the government benches.

This is not so much about WHAT the Abbott Government has done, this is about HOW they have done it. We’ve always known their conservative position on a number of issues. That’s why a lot of people vote for them. But I guess they knew if they told the whole truth, there would be a certain segment of the voting public that wouldn’t vote for them: the swinging voters. Those who actually decide the election outcome. They aren’t rusted on to either end of the political spectrum, and make their decision each time they vote, based on the performance of the government and what the opposition says they’ll do if they are elected.

The Abbott government is a bunch of gutless wonders. They don’t have the courage of their convictions. They actually lied to their own supporters! And now they’re lying about the lies, in true Orwellian style, by saying they didn’t break any promises. At least Julia Gillard admitted that she broke her promise on the carbon tax.

The Abbott Government is a pack of cowards.

Desert Island Art

June 8th, 2013

I’ve often joked with my computer geek friends that if I was stuck on a desert island and could have only one program, it would be Microsoft Excel. Which is amusing on a number of levels: I have a long history of Microsoft bashing; Excel is not very well known for anything other than number crunching; Real Programmers™ tend to pooh-pooh VBA (the programming language in Excel).

But Excel is incredibly versatile. You can use it as a word processor, the formatting is great, the built in formula language is great, using VBA lets you turn spreadsheets into applications, and more. I even used it to design the kitchen and bathroom tiling for the Electron Workshop.

But a 70+ year old Japanese artist has taken it to an entirely new level: Using Microsoft Excel to create art.





Much more at: http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2013/05/28/tatsuo-horiuchi-excel-spreadsheet-artist/


Design Notes: iPad editions of websites

April 24th, 2012

A short note to designers of websites with “iPad editions”:

Please stop.

Design Notes: Numbers and other user input

April 13th, 2012

I’m starting a new blog section on design for the web. I’ve been using the web and creating websites for almost 20 years now (hands up those who knew it’s been around that long), and have learnt a thing or two. But it bugs me that web designers are still overlooking some pretty basic design issues. And by design, I don’t mean graphic design. I mean design in the sense of how something is constructed, with a view to how it’s used.

If you’re a programmer and don’t think you’re a web designer, think again. You are the one implementing the design and so you are essential to making things work for the user.

So, today: numbers.

Many websites that require input of numbers have all sorts of validation rules that:

1) make the page fail to work in simple cases where it should work, and/or

2) send the page back to the user to fix input “errors” that the programmer could fix themselves.

A good example that combines the two of these is handling numbers. Bank account numbers, phone numbers, etc.

I get an email with bank account numbers, they are usually written it like this:
BSB: 012 345
Account Number: 123 456 789

Leaving aside the fact that spaces make it easier to read but copying more difficult (and if you’re reading them instead of copying-and-pasting, then you have a problem), we copy them and then attempt to paste them into, say, our internet banking program, where you usually end up with this:

The designer has helpfully made the box quite large but unhelpfully set the maximum lenth at 9 characters, because hey, that’s the maximum length of an account number.

Design Error.

Why create a long field and only allow half of it to be used? That’s just teasing. And if you don’t want anything other than numbers, just filter the input to take out anything other than a number.

Another couple of examples:

Enter Amount:

Enter Phone Number:

Often these bounce back with an “error” saying “Enter the amount in the format 1234.00″, or “Please enter your phone number in the format “0312345678” without any dashes or spaces”.


Programmer, if you want the numbers in a specific format, just do it yourself. It takes one or two lines of code, and you’re not unnecessarily annoying the hundreds, thousands or even millions of people who use your website. Why aren’t you doing everything you possibly can to make it easy for your users?

Carbon Tax for Dummies

August 3rd, 2011

Listening to the tenor of the debate over our upcoming Carbon Tax is a bit depressing. Nobody seems to want to explain it in simple terms. Allow me.

Up until now, anyone can spew out pollution into the air we breathe at zero cost to them. Whether or not you believe climate change is real*, polluting the air is no good. Economists call this an “Externality”. This is a fancy word for a cost that a business doesn’t pay. Cost to mining company of polluting waterways and land in third-world country? Zero. Externality. Cost to cigarette companies of smoking-related disease or litter? Zero. Externality. Cost to coal-burning power station of the CO2 and other gases belched into the air? Zero. Externality. Of course all of these things will have to be paid for later, by society as a whole (and maybe our species in the end). So it’s not that these things have no cost, it’s just that the cost is pushed onto someone else.

Let’s say we have two electricity retailers: Green Energy and Dirty Power. Green Energy uses Hydro, Wind and Solar and has almost no emissions. Electricity from them costs $105. Dirty Power has a coal-fired power station and plenty of emissions. Electricity from them costs $100. So most people buy electricity from Dirty Power.

The Carbon tax comes in at $10 and now electricty from Dirty Power costs $110. Electricity from Green Energy still costs $105. With the $10 the government has collected, $5 is given back to consumers so they can now buy electricity from Green Energy, leaving the consumer no worse off. The other $5 goes to creating and improving clean energy production. So now more people will buy their energy from Green Energy because it’s cheaper, and less from Dirty Power because they’re more expensive (and polluting).

And the managers of Dirty Power will start investing in clean energy because if they want to stay in business and remain competitive, they need to lower their emissions so their product is cheaper.

* If you don’t believe climate change is real, please stop being an idiot and do some research.