Monthly Archive: August 2017

The edges of legality in F1 – the FIA approach evolves and not for the best

An interesting article in Auto Motor Und Sport (WARNING: It is in German) explains how the FIA, in its attempts to crack down on cheating by the top teams in F1, has been relying on complaints or observations submitted by other teams, and as a result, have been tightening regulations and modifying comppliance testing processes.
The article gives some examples from this season:

1. The suspicion that one or more teams (the suspect team was ID’d rapidly as Ferrari) were using engine oil partly as a fuel, diverting some oil into the combustion process. The FIA has reacted in two ways (a) they have reduced the allowable consumption limit per 100km, and (b) they will be fixing the precise specification of oil at the end of the season
2. The use of special airflow devices on the front axle of the Ferrari cars in Baku to increase straight-line speed
3. The excessive deflection observed on the t-wings of some cars early in the season, believed to be an attempt to increase straight-line speed
4. A ban on pre-heating hydraulic suspension actuators in the garage prior to running the car. The practice was designed to ensure that the cars enjoyed a constant ground clearance from the moment that they entered the track.
5. Further evidence of flexing of car floors and underbodies has been countered with a new series of expanded deflection tests.
6. More stringent deflection tests for front wing components, after Red Bull (surprise surprise) was caught with a wing part that was clearly deflecting at speed to reduce drag.

While superficially, the changes seem to be perfectly sensible and smart, there is a point made in the article (my tidy-up of the translation of the article):

The policy of the long leash has been well received by the big teams. They can experiment at the edge of the rules without being disqualified. The smaller teams are annoyed by the new approach of the World Federation. Because they do not have the means to bring risky technology tricks to the car, with the fear that they end up in the dustbin.

In my opinion, the FIA is being way too lenient with the top teams. If teams are violating the regulations, then they should be penalized. The “fix this by the next race or there will be trouble” approach may be non-confrontational and ensures that there are no public rows, but it is the equivalent of a “tsk tsk ” slap on the wrist. This is not going to stop teams from attempting to circumvent the regulations. The objections of the smaller teams are correct. If they cannot afford to try numerous different evasion tactics to circumvent the regulations, they will perpetually be watching the large teams to see what innovations they bring to the race track and what circumventions are allowed or ignored by the FIA. This is not a correct way to enforce technical regulations.


Debates over Confederate statues are stuffed full of irony

There is a spirited debate going on in the USA about what should happen to the hundreds of statues erected over the last 150 years commemorating leaders involved in the US Civil War.
The debate is not entirely based on logic or courtesy, since we live in stressful times, with self-identified nativists, racists and Nazis showing up in public appropriating the Confederate flag.
Or more correctly, what passes these days as the Confederate flag. The flag most commonly used is not the official Confederation states flag, if indeed there ever was one. It was the battle flag of a Confederate Army unit commanded by Ronbert E. Lee, who, after the Civil War was over, disavowed the public display of Confederate symbols, including at his own funeral.
So, the flag that people wave in public, affix to cars and trucks, display on t-shirts etc. is the flag of a defeated army. To use dismissive American vernacular, the symbol of a bunch of losers. Given the sneering way in which people in this country dismiss the idea of “participation trophies”, I find the use of a defeated army’s flag as a symbol to be quite amusing.
But, on to the more interesting irony. The majority of the current statues and monuments erected to commemorate the Civil War do not date from the period immediately following the war, unlike the collections of war memorials in (say) Europe. Instead, they date from periods in the 20th Century, as this article explains
This tells me that the primary purpose of these monuments was not war casualty or war leader commemoration. The people responsible for erecting the monuments were, in many cases, not even alive at the time of the Civil War. These monuments were almost certainly erected for another purpose entirely. And this chart of when the monuments were erected reveals that protesting advances in civil rights for all might be one of the drivers for the erection of those monuments in the 20th century. Josh Marshall provides a summary commentary here.
More interestingly, monuments are still being erected at the present time. As the article explains:

…some continue to be built – USA Today notes that 35 Confederate monuments have been erected in North Carolina since 2000.

This is not commemoration of war events, leaders or casualties. This is a different kind of commemoration or virtue signalling. The people pushing for these monuments were either not interested in Civil War history, or chose to ignore it. In my opinion, they were protesting the outcome for a collection of reasons, some of which had to do with racism, some to do with regional solidarity and dislike of all forms of central government. But anybody who tries to convince me that any monument erected since 1900 was for Civil War commemorative purposes is going to have an uphill struggle.
The focus on leaders is also instructive. The real losers in any mass war are common people, who are pressed into service in large numbers and used as expendable cannon-fodder by military and political leaders. If there is any type of memorial that should be erected, it is to the people who lost their lives. In the UK, most World War II memorials are not statues of leaders, although there are a small number of statues of key figures in World War II, such as Winston Churchill and Gen. Bernard Montgomery. Most of the memorials are to war casualties. This is not the case with the Civil War memorials in the USA. When you start to erect statues of wartime leaders, you always ignite controversy, since many of those leaders issued orders that sent numerous people into battle, and many then lost their lives. The controversy in the UK over memorials to Air Marshal Harris is an example of this. He ordered the firebombing raids on Hamburg and Dresden that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians, and as a result, commemorating him has become a lightning rod subject. Ditto the exploits of the 503rd Composite Group in the US Air force, the unit, led by Brigadier General Paul W. Tibbets, that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Controversy over how that effort should be memorialized has been going on for decades. The fact that these statues were apparently erected without any discussion of the war casualty dimension tells me, once again, that this was not about the war itself. It is defiant symbolism.
I therefore find the complaints that removal of the statues is “erasing history” to be both intellectually bankrupt and ironic. The complaints are unserious because removing a statue does not “Erase history”. It merely removes a symbol from public view. People in the UK would still know all about World War II even if every symbol and monument was removed.
If you subtract the whining about erasing history, you are therefore left staring at the irony that most of the proponents of the memorials are ignorant of history. They need to go learn some history first.


If I Ruled The World, F1 Style…

Revenue Distribution
1. All current distorting “legacy” payments that do not form part of the constructors performance prize money system to be scrapped
2. System shall reward teams for positions in constructors championship in a transparent and consistent manner, with no teams enjoying special prize money increases due to “legacy” or other status
3. A special bonus of $5m shall be given to the team that wins the Drivers championship

Technical and Sporting Regulations
1. All significant technical regulation changes to be stable for 10 years, after an adjustment period at the end of year 1. No constructor is allowed any preferential input or veto on any aspect of the F1 technical regulations.
2. Allow underbody ground-effect downforce once more
3. Severely limit size and shape of front wings
4. Limit the size and downforce generation from rear wings
5. All components not considered to be the source of competitive advantage such as wheel hubs, uprights, differentials will be standardised and provided from a common supplier to all constructors.
6. Introduce an engine formula based on limited development avenues, but with no token system and less onerous engine life requirements
7. Minimum weight of the car to be reduced.
8. Weight limits on car/driver combinations to be measured in a way that does not penalize taller and heavier drivers, while still allowing for movement of ballast to strictly defined areas of the car
9. DRS to be converted to a limited-use push to pass tool
10. Penalties for engine usage or regulation infractions and car regulation conformance infractions to be levied as constructor points and fines, instead of car starting grid penalties, unless significant performance advantage can be proven, in which case disqualification, up to the entire team for a race event, is an option
11. Driver penalty point system to be abolished. Initial driver infractions to be dealt with by putting a driver on probation for a set number of races. Further infractions will result in the driver being immediately suspended for one or more race weekends.
12. Appeal management – if an appeal by a driver or a team is deemed to be frivolous, the FIA shall, at its discretion, have the ability to (a) immediately impose the penalty, (b) increase the penalty or suspension by up to a further 50% as a penalty for the waste of governing body resources.

Broadcasting and Media relations
1. Teams to be required to make most telemetry data available to broadcasters in real-time, with some more sensitive data (such as fuel usage and engine modes) available on time delay.
2. Teams to be required to perform a minimum number of media functions every race weekend with both drivers present


The challenge with hiding toxic beliefs from the public…

…is that sooner or later, the mask slips.
When you work for a volatile, capricious narcissist, and that starts to happen multiple times, you have a tough decision to make.
Do you continue to work for said person, and risk zeroing your credibility? Or do you move on?
These are not easy decisions to make. People have mortgages to pay and families to raise. However, when history is written, enablers will not be venerated.


Today’s quick thought

As we watch the slowly unfolding spectacle of a clueless narcissist attempting to occupy the job of President of the United States, there is an uncomfortable reality that we have to confront as a nation.
We tend to tolerate, and in some cases, enthusiastically embrace people who, in many respects, behave like assholes.
In business, politics, and athletics, and showbusiness, it is easy to find examples of top practitioners who, while respected and revered for their achievements, were defective (in some cases horribly defective) as people. Some of them were weapons-grade assholes.
Adding to the problem in the USA is the fascination with celebrity. When showbiz people regularly run and get elected to political office, that tells me something about how easily voters can be persuaded to support celebrities when they try their hand at politics.
Donald Trump is not some one-off outlier. He is merely the latest in a long line of celebrities to try his hand at being elected to political office.
There is a conceited assumption driving many successful people that they can be successful at Anything they turn their attention to. They believe it, those around them validate that belief, but the ultimate validation is if they get elected to office.
We are complicit in all of this at several levels.
Firstly, we allow assholes to rise to positions of power. Very rarely is an asshole told to STFU and learn to treat people better on the way up. Instead rationalizations abound like “he may be an asshole but he gets shit done”. We make excuses, and by doing so we enable the behavior.
Secondly, we venerate the assholes at the top as “Stars”, even while understanding partially that they are deeply flawed people. It is deemed to be impolite to point out the asshole tendency. At least until the person topples from grace, at which time it is like feeding time at the shark tank, and suddenly they are torn to pieces.
Thirdly, we cement the veneration by accepting blithely that the part-time celebrity with asshole tendencies can do Anything. When Ross Perot tried to run for President in 1992, hardly anybody had the bravery to point out that a country is not like a business, only bigger, which was the conceit driving Perot. He thought that he could run USA Inc. just like EDS. (He would have been severely disappointed).


Arguments about condemnations miss the point

There has been a lot of Light Heat and Sound expended over the last 2 days over whether Donald Trump did or did not adequately condemn the events in Charlottesville.
Whatever you think about what Trump did or did not say (I happen to believe that on this topic, as with many other topics involving his extreme fringe supporters, Trump behaved like a duplicitous shitweasel), the discussions miss the point.
In these kinds of situations, most people remember only the initial event or statement. Any subsequent modification gets a fraction of the publicity and attention. This is the origin of the famous quotation that a lie will be halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.
Politicians know this of course, which is why authoritarian shitweasels routinely utter nonsensically inflammatory statements in public. When challenged on them, they first “double down”, repeating the original statement, perhaps in a slightly different form, while professing surprise that it should be at all contentious. If that fails to damp down outrage, their next tactic is either to issue a Notpology, or to qualify the original statement in some way to address the outrage.
both the Notpology and the qualification are not aimed at the politician’s core supporters, who tend to remember the original statement anyway, and will regard the later weasel words as window-dressing for snowflakes who Cannot Handle The Truth. (One also sees the usual whining about “political correctness fascism” or similar).
So, circling back round to Donald Trump, his original weaselling equivocation is now firmly etched in history. There is no real point in anybody demanding that he change his position, since even if he does, most people will only remember the original statement


So what will the NFL teams do now?

So, after a currently unanimous decision by all 32 NFL teams to not employ Colin Kaepernick because he sat or kneeled for the National Anthem, despite the fact that numerous other players also sat or kneeled that season, what do we have here?
Three more prominent players all declining to stand for the National Anthem.
I don’t think I will be holding my breath until the teams of the players suspend or sit them for this action. That is probably not allowed under the CBA, especially since SCOTUS has ruled that nobody can be forced to stand for the National Anthem.
However, their employing teams could terminate their contracts to put them into the same place as Colin Kaepernick.
They won’t do that. Marshawn Lynch is the Oakland Raiders’ local talisman, the local boy made good, returning to this hometown, where the Raiders are playing out two seasons before relocating to Las Vegas. The other players are articulate team leaders. Their teams are going to do somewhere between diddly and squat.
Which leaves us with the scenario where the originator of the protests is kicking his heels waiting for a job offer, despite having taken one team to the Superbowl.
The NFL teams, collectively, do not seem to know the First Law Of Holes.


Incoherence in argument

In the past 24 hours I have observed the following on social media:

1. Different commenters describing the opposition by IBM to the Texas “bathroom bill” as “political communism” and “fascism”.
2. A commenter on LInkedIn declaring that the campaign to force BenchMark Capital to divest their investment in Uber (following the scandals that led to the departure of the previous CEO Travis Kalanick) is the revenge of “the PC Lib stranglehold”
3. An assertion that I am “biased” because I posted a couple of rather pointed messages to Facebook about the demonstration in Charlottesville (which, I have to remind readers, featured a drive-at-a-crowd murder by a man who seems to have been on the same side as the original demonstrators).

(1( and (2) are excellent examples of attempted argument by cutting and pasting slogans. This is about on a par with attempting to argue using memes, which for some reason people seem to think is an effective method of persuasion on social media.
Here’s the problem. Cutting and pasting slogans and memes is not making an argument. It simply demonstrates that the commenter can cut and paste. It is analagous to plagiarizing content for your high school essay and expecting the teacher to give you a good grade. Most teachers, if the determine that the content is cut and pasted, will give a failing grade, because absolutely no original thought went into the process. Ditto arguing in slogans and memes. That’s not your voice. It’s the voice of a sloganeer, who in all probability did not have a cogent argument in the first place, hence they used slogans. I cannot take this form of communication seriously. it is fundamentally lazy and unserious. It also tends to show that the commenter is confused or incoherent, as in calling IBM “communist” and “fascist” simultaneously.
3 is interesting. So, I am biased.
We all have biases. This is not revelatory, nor is it an argument.
On one level it is a statement of the obvious. On another level, however, it is a form of indirect speech. It is an attempt at a shut-down of the conversation, as in “I am not taking you seriously because you are biased”. It is, in some respects, a form of the ad hominem fallacy.
If somebody wants to be taken seriously in discussion, they need to stay away from rhetorical tricks like this one, and, you know, construct an argunent that contains a proposition for which they offer evidence.


The Excited States of America – beware persecution from all points

A collection of nativists and racists, some of them wearing Nazi-themed clothing items, have just demonstrated in Charlottesville VA.
A guy driving a car also murdered a counter-demonstrator, and injured a number of other people.
All of us who dislike authoritarianism and racism are pissed off. These events tell us a lot about the pathology of many US citizens, and it is not a pretty pathology.
Being pissed off is OK.
What is not OK is for people opposed to the nativists and racists to try organizing the same persecution against them for their beliefs that they would probably attempt in a heartbeat if they were allowed to. That would be Un-American, and would also be descending below their level.
It is not a crime to be a racist or a fascist, or a Sovereign Citizen, or a Marxist, or an anarchist, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Everybody is entitled to their views, no matter how weird, wacky, unpleasant or repugnant, and they are also entitled to express them.
Whether they get to express those views without consequences depends on time, place and context. The First Amendment mostly only applies to government bodies, so if, for example, an employer in an “at will” state discovers that one of their employees was wearing Nazi regalia and yelling slogans, and they decide to fire that employee, they can probably do that. Whether it is a reasonable action may become a matter of debate. Personally I am against punitive actions against individuals based merely on constitutionally protected actions, since it tends to convert the individuals into martyrs, and can lend their actions a gravitas and credibility that they would not otherwise attain.
If these racists and nativists start to actively organize to subvert the democratic process, or start engaging in violent or illegal acts, then I hope that law enforcement throws the book at them. I hold the same opinion about Antifa and other anarchist organizations. Until they do engage in illegal acts, however, we need to combat their ideas and proposals peacefully, and not start to engage in petty harrassment and persecution.


Dear supporters of Donald Trump, time to either speak up or zero your credibility

One of the characteristics of fascists is their contempt for democratic processes and institutions. They regard their party and leaders as the only legitimate group capable of governing, and the opposition are demonized and derided as unpatriotic and subversive.
They also, sooner or later, attempt to subvert and destroy the democratic process, usually by the tactic of claiming that the process is illegitimate because it is biased or rigged against them. Their reaction to suggestions that Donald Trump may have committed enough malfeasance to justify his removal from office (using the checks and balances in the Constitution and the legal system) is instructive, and backs up my conclusion that their worldview is profoundly contemptuous of democratic process and norms.
This pathology is alive and well amongst many of those partisans who supported Donald Trump in 2016, and Trump’s active and passive enablers in the Republican Party. There are also numerous supporters of that worldview in the media and on the internet.
JJ MacNab’s tweet summarizes the pathology on display this weekend quite well.

As far as I am concerned, we are reaching the point where the people who supported Donald Trump in 2016 have a fundamental decision to make. Whether they like it, or even want to accept it, they were enabling the pathology that we see surfacing in Charlottesville this weekend when they voted for Trump in 2016. Trump, throughout his campaign, issued both subtle and unsubtle messages to nativists and fascists that he was sympathetic to their worldview. He has populated his ranks of advisors with nativists and fascist sympathizers.
The people who voted for Donald Trump can claim that they didn’t know what they were going to get. They damn well should know now.
Trump voters have to decide whether they want to speak up against the sort of racist, fascist groups who are marching today, or keep quiet. If they speak up, they may well be forgiven and gain back credibility. if they keep quiet, their credibility simply leaches away, like water in dry soil.

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