Plastique retards

Today’s blog post is brought to you with the risk of legal action from Tim Newman as he has made his corner of the internet the go to location to laugh at plastic bag bans. I saw this one first, Tim, ok?

In Australia, most states/territories, with the exception of New South Wales, have banned supermarkets from giving away single use plastic bags with shopping.

In response to this, the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths have removed said bags from New South Wales’ stores too. I’m sure this decision was reached for purely environmentally-righteous reasons and not simply because running two different processes and sourcing operations is inefficient.

At roughly the same time as the implementation of this voluntary ban, Coles have introduced a promotion aimed at families where small models of well-known branded goods are given away to kids so they can play “shops” at home.

Apparently, this is a terrible thing. Why? The toys are plastic, of course.

People are understandably outraged that a company such as Coles could be so unthinking as to offer free plastic toys to its customers.

How on earth can this outrageous situation be mitigated? It’s hard to think of a single action any of us could take to solve the problem of unwanted plastic washing up on the pristine Australian beaches.

Well, perhaps we might think of one or two things people could do if this plastic giveaway upsets them so much;

  1. Say, “no thanks” when offered the toys at the checkout.
  2. If (1) is too difficult, say “thank you” but then throw them away in the appropriate recycling bin when your children grow bored.
  3. Don’t give your children any other plastic toys, not just supermarket giveaways. Obviously, this means they will only ever play with expensive hand-made wooden toys and will be ridiculed at school for not having the latest fidget-spinner or whatever the latest fad is but that’s the price they have to pay for saving the oceans.

 

Bill’s Opinion

90% of all plastic in the world’s oceans come from just 10 rivers, none of which are in Australia. If people were truly concerned with cleaning the oceans they would direct their online ire at the governments, corporations and consumers in the African and Asian countries those rivers pass through.

That they don’t but berate an Australian supermarket for offering (i.e. consumers have a choice to decline) some kids toys says more about the perma-offended and their inability to use basic Pareto methods to work out how their efforts are best expended.

Lastly, it’s the weekend and if we are going to be talking about plastic, here’s my favourite type of plastic.

Every city or house divided against itself will not stand

A recent survey suggests that London might not be the swinging epicentre of liberal values that it once was.

How strange.

About 15 years ago, I was delighted to witness the work of the hilariously bipolar close-hand magician and foul-mouthed comedian, Jerry Sadowitz, at the tiny Soho Theatre. One of his throwaway lines was the following;

So anyway, I was drinking in a gay bar just round the corner last night. How did I know it was a gay bar? Well, it’s in fucking London, isn’t it?“.

That this joke is/was funny is testament to the national stereotype London has of being a centre for all manner of non-traditional non-conservative values and lifestyles.

Comedy is built on kernels of commonly-held axioms. In the recent past, London was universally thought to be the home of the freaks, the weirdos, the people on the edge of society. It was a place where one could go and be relatively safe from harm and avoid people who were harshly judgemental.

The survey suggests this is a memory now, not reality.

What might have caused this, do we think?

Two obvious explanations come immediately to mind, either;

1. The population of London has changed its opinion, or

2. The population of London has changed, i.e. there’s been a replacement.

There’s an hilarious clue in the survey’s narrative;

Or, in other words, “if we exclude everyone with a religious opinion from the data, the remaining people are just as tolerant as everyone else“.

Quite.

But apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy your evening at the theatre?”.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that, when a city’s population has a large increase of a particular demographic with conservative religious views, they bring their opinions with them largely unchanged.

When a billionaire slanders you in public…

Do you;

A. Get lawyered up and start making very strong statements about damage to your reputation, safety, longevity in your adopted country, relationships with friends and family, etc. or,

B. Just say legal action is a possibility but you haven’t decided yet.

Bill’s Opinion

Being publicly slandered by a billionaire for something that isn’t true is like holding a wining lottery ticket.

It seems strange not to cash it in immediately.

The answer to the question might not be very welcome

Those readers who find themselves in Sydney at the start of September may consider the following opportunity to “analogue troll” for $45.

Of all the breakout sessions, this one piqued our interest particularly;

Where to start? In the words of Luke Skywalker, “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong“.

Let’s answer the question asked in the session’s title last and pick off the sentences in the description first.

42 billionaires now own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.

Interesting use of language there; bottom half. I think they mean poorest half if we’re trying to not be judgemental or insulting. Anyway, the relevant question to ask about that statement might be, how does this situation compare against previous periods in human history? Is the trend improving or worsening?

Pick your data source and point in time for comparison but it has been estimated that for most of human history, the average daily income was the equivalent of $1.

At the time of Croesus, the world’s population was approximately 115 million.

Comparing averages is dangerous statistical activity, as is comparing net wealth with income, but let’s assume half of the people alive with Croesus had an income of $1 a day in modern terms. Let’s also assume that they had no real savings to speak of and were living hand to mouth. So, do we think Croesus’ net wealth was less than $57.5m, i.e. half of the population multiplied by a dollar a day?

Similar examples might be made with Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, several of the Emperors of China, the Pharaohs of Egypt, various Indian emperors, etc.

What about any number of other historical figures who concentrated massive wealth and land? Do we think their wealth was above or below about $57.5m in modern terms? If above, we’ve just dismissed the first statement of our Sydney Socialist friends as being irrelevant.

Let’s look at the next assertion;

In a world that’s never been richer, hundreds of millions remain trapped in poverty, facing starvation and disease, especially in the so-called “third world”.

Well, the world has indeed never been richer. This is an interesting chart from The Atlantic (a publication not known for blindly supporting free market capitalism) showing GDP per capita over the last few hundred years;

Gosh, I wonder what might have caused that huge improvement since 1800 in Western Europe and the USA? Sure, that’s about the time Marx and Engels wrote their envious little book but, in the real world, something was happening in England that was changing the level of wealth and finally breaking the Malthusian model.

The statement about hundreds of millions remaining trapped in poverty is less accurate and, in fact, increasingly wrong as time proceeds. Don’t believe us? Ask the UN. The target of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty was achieved 5 years early.

Again, why do we think that happened?

The last sentence is a question, which we’ve already shown to be asked from a false position;

What has led to this obscene situation, and who is to blame?

Bill’s Opinion

The answer to the question, “Why is the third world so poor?” could be as simple as “Collectivism, i.e. Socialism”.

Perhaps the better question to ask is, “Why is the third world being lifted out of poverty so rapidly?

To which we would offer the answer, “An embracing by the general population of free markets, international trade and the individual desire for self-improvement”.

Capitalism, in other words.

Before the industrial revolution, people were living in abject poverty in hand to mouth existences. Marx and Engels could have watched the starving farm workers being buried in the ground if they had visited rural England. Instead, they went to the concentrations of populations gathered around the new factories. The conditions they saw were also terrible but, and this is the elephant in the conference room at the Sydney Socialism event, it was better than the rural alternative. That’s why the farm workers voluntarily moved to the cities in the first place.

Let’s just leave this chart here and ask ourselves whether the Sydney Socialists really have the answer to the problem;

Nobody could have predicted a negative outcome

A woman walked into a shop and started swinging an axe at people.

Well, when we say “woman“…..

Ah.

So, in summary and using clarity of language that everyone would have understood 10 years ago;

A man with a history of severe mental illness was prescribed female hormones, operated on to remove his penis and testicles, create a “vagina” (that will require constant “maintenance”to prevent it from healing up) and is then referred to by a female name yet, somehow, “she” still has underlying severe mental illness?

It’s almost as if, I dunno, and I’m just putting this out there, it’s almost as if pretending that someone with an inherent serious mental illness just has a physical problem that can be fixed with a knife and hormones, actually doesn’t work.

Bill’s Opinion

As we’ve discussed previously, the outcomes for post-surgery transgender people is no better than for those who have yet to have the surgery.

Mental illnesses are highly unlikely to be cured by gender surgery and hormones therapy.

In the future, many fortunes will be made by lawyers challenging decisions taken by psychologists, doctors and public officials that have not helped and likely severely harmed transgender people and members of the public, such as the victims of this axe attack.

Sleeping the sleep of the righteous

This is a disturbing example of two academics apparently not understanding the age old lesson that correlation does not necessarily equate to causation; the more gender equality in a country, the better night’s sleep everyone gets.

Let’s have a look at the study shall we? Actually, we can’t because it’s a paid article and we’re cheap.

However, here’s some questions that we may or may not be able to answer;

What was the sample size? About 615 couple per country, across 23 countries.

France has a population of 66.9m so that’s around 0.0009% of the population that was tested.

How was sleep duration and quality measured? This was determined by the responses to the questions posed in the European Social Survey, the name of which alone should be ringing loud alarms bells in any mind capable of critical thought. People were asked about their sleep quality – they didn’t undertake any objective testing such as a sleep study.

How are countries ranked by gender equality? Without paying for the report and reading their methodology, we can’t say, obviously. However, there’s a few ready-made league tables produced already and detailed here. Given the laziness demonstrated by the “academics” by drawing conclusions from a questionnaire not written specifically for the purpose of their study’s subject, it’s probably safe to assume they didn’t go and do their own research to perform the order ranking of countries and used one of those.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s a sorry indictment as to the state of academic rigor that conclusions are offered linking sleep quality by country after putting the results of a subjectively-answered survey of a miniscule of a percent of the population into Excel, adding a nominal order ranking of countries by some manufactured “gender equality” metric, clicking “Insert Pivot Table” and then writing an academic paper and several newspaper articles on the result.

Here’s an idea that will greatly improve the quality of sleep of taxpayers all over Europe; defund the humanities in universities and shut down the ESS. After all “All participating countries are required to contribute to the central coordination costs of the ESS ERIC.“, (emphasis mine), which is, frankly, just another example of people being charged a fee to be told how awful they are.

God only knows what I’d be without Zhou/Zhe/They

Picking holes in the belief systems of the religious is a fun but ultimately unsatisfying exercise.

By definition, faith doesn’t require empirical evidence. Therefore anyone with an enquiring mind can use the Socratic method to dismiss claims of the reality of reincarnation, prophets flying to the moon on winged horses or all animal life descending from ancestors saved from a flood on a boat.

We couldn’t let this pass, however; Episcopal Church considers making God gender neutral.

The headline is, in itself, amusing. Presumably God might have an opinion that should be considered by the committee, given that he/she/zhe will have to live with their decision?

I’m sure the church committee wouldn’t have phrased the headline in the same way so we won’t dwell too long on it.

Obviously the motivation behind this investigation is erm, something, something, blah, blah, diversity and inclusion.

One wonders whether there’s a a risk of a guest appearance by our old friend the law of unintended consequences, however?

Why?

Let’s look at the uneasy relationship the Christian faith has had with science, particularly evolutionary biology over the previous 159 years. There has been a cautious dance undertaken by people of faith to accomodate the increasing evidence that all life today is a result of millions of years of evolution and, therefore, the planet and all the beasties crawling on it wasn’t actually created in 6 days a few thousand years ago.

Somehow, otherwise intelligent senior members of the church have managed to negotiate a position whereby God still exists but the parts of the bible that seem to describe particular biological or geological situations that conflict with observed reality are to be taken as symbolism not “gospel truth”.

So, a gender neutral God, what’s the problem?

Firstly, perhaps we should remind ourselves of the evolutionary history and purpose of there being any genders at all. Put simply, having 2 distinct genders enables genes to be more effectively passed on to the next generation as new combinations will find evolutionary advantages that neither parent might have exploited with theirs.

Gender, therefore, is a function of reproduction.

A discussion about the gender of the creator of the universe and all life therein should also seek to answer what purpose the gender (or not) serves?

Does God reproduce sexually? If so, with whom? Mrs. God?

If God doesn’t need to reproduce sexually, then there’s no obvious use for a gender for God. Presumably this is going to be the crucial question the church committee pondering God’s gender has to get to grips with.

A supplemental question might be, “if God has a neutral gender, how might he/she/zhe reproduce?”. Presumably reproduction does occur by God as humans were made in their image (Genesis 1:27).

Bill’s Opinion

It might seem like a smart move to decree that the Christian God is gender neutral, but it risks opening up a much wider set of questions for which the church may struggle to find comforting answers.

Ultimately, the dogma behind most religions (probably all religions but I’ve not investigated every one) require a suspension of the use of logic and empirical evidence. Exposing logical fallacies with religion is therefore the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel.

Biology is unfair

It’s been a busy week here at Chez Ockham, so our usual pastime of laughing at the news has taken a back seat.

This did pop up on the radar however, from the keyboard of our favourite Australian feminist; Clementine Ford has spotted that childbirth is painful and risky.

As is her idiom, La Ford jumps around several topics never quite finishing a thought or driving to a conclusion. However, the column is worth a fisk in the context of the use (or lack thereof) of critical thinking;

July 1 to July 8 is Australian Birth Trauma Awareness Week, and it’s probably more relevant to you and any birth parents you know than you might think. According to the Australasian Birth Trauma Association, “one in three women identify their births as traumatic” and “one in four first-time mothers suffer major physical damage”.

Firstly; what is a “birth parent”?

This is probably another one of Clementine’s land grabs to redefine language; it is possible that, rather than using the universally-accepted noun, “mother”, she’s positing the idea that a transgender person who calls themselves male but has a uterus is not a female.

Ok, Clementine, you are free to use language as you see fit but we are also free to ignore your attempt to redefine the meaning of words we all previously understood.

Trauma and physical damage can occur regardless of what kind of birth you have, whether it’s vaginal or caesarean and with or without planned intervention. As part of Birth Trauma Awareness Week, the ABTA are asking women and birth parents to share their stories either in a recorded video or a written narrative. Survivors of birth trauma are also encouraged to use the hashtags “#ABTA2018” and “#yourstorymatters”.

This second hashtag is particularly powerful because birth trauma is all too often minimised or dismissed entirely as self-indulgent whining from women who are just looking for something to complain about. Scan the comments section of any online article discussing birth trauma (or women’s complaints with the birth system in general) and you’ll find significant numbers of people snapping that “these bloody women” just need to get on with things and stop “seeking attention.” “Birth isn’t hard! Women do it every day! Get over it!”

There’s a few things to unpack there….

Quite how “powerful” are hashtags do we think? Ask anyone who doesn’t live their life on Twitter (i.e. 95.6% of the global population) what #yourstorymatters means to them for a quick indication.

As for using the comments section of online news articles as any kind of information data point, well, best of luck. Seek and ye shall find (whatever extreme view it is you’re looking for).

People do indeed give birth every day. In Australia, we’re lucky that the maternal mortality rate associated with birth here is far lower than many other countries. But something being common isn’t the same as something being safe, and the fact remains that childbirth is still one of the most dangerous things a person can go through.

“People” give birth? Oh, we’re really trying to avoid saying “women” aren’t we? Desperately trying, in fact.

Apart from the elevated risk of post-birth incontinence (at my first maternal health appointment, I was handed a leaflet titled One in Three Women Wet Themselves After Birth), roughly half of all those who birth vaginally will experience some kind of pelvic organ prolapse in their lifetime.

Nature has indeed, made mammalian live birth a physically-intense and potentially damaging act. I blame the patriarchy of the bloody therapsids.

The use of forceps presents a particular risk for pelvic floor avulsion (when the pelvic muscle tears away from the bone, leading to irreversible damage), yet a lack of education around birth options and “what’s best” means it’s still often considered preferable to emergency caesarean intervention.

Foreceps’ deliveries account for less than 5% of all births in Australia. Presumably the medical profession don’t rush into this procedure without defensible reasons?

The lack of space available to those of us who’ve given birth to tell our stories honestly and without apology is significant. It’s been almost two years since I gave birth to my son, but it’s only been in recent months that I’ve started to process what we both experienced that day, having previously always spoken about it matter-of-factly.

Hands up those who believe Clementine Ford suffers a lack of space to air her opinions? You sir, at the back? Oh, you were scratching your head.

I knew that birth trauma was a reality for many women who had given birth, but I was lucky to have escaped it. I was induced, labour lasted 18 hours, he was born, we were fine. The End.

She said “women”! Fire the sub-editor!

Or so I thought.

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend about the kinds of scars (both physical and emotional) that are commonly accumulated during labour and childbirth. As I told her about my own experience, I suddenly began to cry. Huge, wracking sobs. I realised I had spent the first two years of my son’s life repressing trauma in order to protect us both, but it was, at last, finding its way to the surface.

Clementine might be describing post-natal depression. She might also be describing the symptoms of a pre-existing mental illness. Just putting that out there.

The truth is, the birth of my son was traumatic. It was traumatic for all the normal, common reasons birth is traumatic. The intense physical pain made worse by synthetic drugs designed to bring on labour, the fear and anxiety about the health of my baby as labour progressed, the impact of vaginal birth itself…

But it was traumatic too because a lot of shit went wrong in ways that were potentially life-threatening. As my son emerged, it was with a slick of meconium over him (a sign a baby is in distress during labour and has defecated in-utero). I was given the briefest of glimpses of him before they whisked him away to a resuscitation table to make sure he hadn’t inhaled any of the fecal matter, which can lead to an extremely serious case of meconium aspiration. Thankfully, he was fine – but as they brought him back to me to hold, it became apparent that I was not. My tired, worn out uterus had stopped contracting which meant I was continuing to bleed.

As I tried to hold a wriggling newborn on my chest, the midwife furiously palpated my stomach to try and stimulate contractions, but it had given up completely. I was told I’d need to spend the next few hours on a low dose of syntocinin (the drug used in inductions) to help prevent post-partum haemorrhage (one of the leading causes of maternal mortality). By the time I was able to properly hold my baby, it had been at least a few hours since he was born.

It’s all about me, I am the first woman in history to give birth. Why are you not more interested?

This is a common story. But as I said earlier, being common isn’t the same as being safe or risk-free. Heart surgery is also common, but no-one would tell someone to get over that. The feminised nature of pregnancy and childbirth is what establishes it as some kind of “niche” concern in a sexist, patriarchal world. Women are expected to swallow our trauma because, as we’re repeatedly told, “the only thing that matters is a healthy child”.

A guest appearance for duh patriarchy there. We were wondering when it would be our fault.

Australian Birth Trauma Week is about reclaiming control over the horrendous, traumatising narratives that often rest uneasily alongside the powerful, transformative love we feel for our children. We are allowed to tell those stories. Our stories matter.

Lovely. And what tangible actions are we taking to improve the situation other than hashtags that nobody is looking at (2 days after publishing, the most daily uses of that hashtag was 20)?

Bill’s Opinion

Global maternal mortality fell by half between 1995 and 2015. There is obviously much more to be done to improve on that situation but the trend is very promising.

However, evolution has handed humans, and mammals in general, a dangerous method of reproduction compared to other animals as a compromise which allows for the post-birth development of larger brains. Until duh patriarchy finds a way to improve on that, childbirth will incur risk.

Surfism

Clementine “the other gift that keeps on giving” Ford directs her ire at professional surfing this week.

Obviously she doesn’t feel the need to write about this week’s survey that lists the worst countries to live in if one was female, Saudi Arabia’s recent relaxation of the laws banning female drivers or, I dunno, any other actual tangible, physical, systemic, legal abuse of women anywhere in the world other than western countries.

Nope, the worst thing in the world of wimmin this week was that there is a 100% differential between the prize money for male surfers and female surfers.

It’s a fact, there is.

Using our razor we might investigate the possible reasons behind this.

A material piece of evidence might be found by looking at the viewing figures for various surfing competitions. Helpfully, direct comparisons between the popularity of male vs female competitions can be seen in real time by simply looking at the ASP World Tour YouTube channel.

The contests are helpfully separated on the channel and by looking at the viewing figures below it’s obvious to anybody with a mind open to the possibility that not everything is sexist that the girls are getting a fraction of the eyeballs than the boys.

No, really. It’s about a tenth of the viewing figures for nearly every comparison made.

How might we explain this anomaly? After all, as La Ford points out, they’re surfing the same waves.

Perhaps the majority of viewers are women and they like to ogle at the chiselled and highly-skilled men? Well, no, this study suggests not.

So, if men make up most YouTube viewers and dominate the viewing figures for sport, why aren’t they watching the athletic, toned girl surfers?

This must surely be the mystery of our age.

Bill’s Opinion

The total consistency of a performance delta in Olympic records (and any other objective sporting test you might use) between men and women would suggest that, as with everything else, elite males are more competent at surfing than elite females.

The professional surfing bodies pay their staff accordingly.

Clementine Ford dislikes the reality of this situation and claims it is due to sexism.

Actually it is due to the biological fact that humans are a dimorphic species.

Facts don’t care about Clementine’s feelings.

Uber 1 – London’s Mayor 0

Uber has won its battle with London’s Socialist Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and can continue to provide great value services to Londoners.

As we pointed out earlier, the decision to terminate their licence was purely political and not underpinned by any factual basis.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s nice to see the rule of law still sometimes works in London.

Perhaps the London ratepayers should send the legal bill to Mr. Khan.