Go on then, explain how this would work

A ban on gay conversion therapy is the most important thing on the Australian LBGTIQ people’s things to do next list, apparently.

Really?

Some unanswered questions leap to mind about the survey of 2,662 LBGTIQ folks;

  1. Did the interviewees confirm with which of the letters of the LBGTIQ alphabet they identify?
  2. If so, were the survey results adjusted in any way to reflect the ratio of those letters in the general population? The medical phenomenon known as Intersex (the “I”), for example, occurs in about 0.05% of the population whereas male homosexuals make up around 1.9%. Was the intersex person’s opinion weighted to be worth 38 times that of the gay man’s?
  3. Did the survey ask for or offer any suggestions of how such a ban might work?

It’s just that we’re a little sceptical about seeking a unified opinion from such a diverse set of individuals on anything other than matters that impact them universally.

Homosexuality, for example, might have both a genetic and an environmental cause. The reason someone is transgender might also have a genetic and an environmental cause but not necessarily the same ones as the gay man’s. In fact, if we really got into the subject we may find that no two gay men are gay for exactly the same combination of reasons either.

Statistical obfuscation aside, there’s a few outstanding issues with the survey’s conclusion; how would this be written into law and enforced?

Imagine a young man from Adelaide, let’s call him Christopher, a devout Christian with a firm belief in those Christian values. He saved his virginity until he married and is now the proud father of four lovely children.

The problem is, human sexuality is a complex thing and he’s troubled with erotic thoughts about other men. He doesn’t want to be unfaithful to his wife and his religious beliefs strongly inform him that these thoughts are unnatural.

Regardless of whether we believe there’s a moral position to be taken on homosexuality or not, it is his firm desire to overcome these urges.

If he confides in a friend and the friend tells him to focus on his wife, buy her sexy lingerie and increase the romance in their relationship, will this friend now be breaking the new law?

What about if he confides in the family doctor who then refers him to a mental health professional? Are these two doctors acting illegally?

Perhaps even Christopher is in breach of the new anti-gay conversion law by seeking help in the first place? Where is the line drawn?

And the current gay conversion therapists, do they physically force their clients to attend the sessions? Do they use blackmail? Coercion? Surely there are existing laws against that behaviour already?

Bill’s Opinion

This is where Identity Politics leads eventually…… and it should be completely encouraged!

Why? Because the statistical obfuscation required to lump together groups of individuals, survey them for an opinion and then present it back as a unanimously-agreed statement will backfire quickly.

The idea that a man who enjoys having sex with a man, a woman who enjoys having sex with a woman, a man who believes he’s a woman, a woman who believes she’s a man, a person who was born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and whatever it is the other letters of LBGTIQ+ stand for all have the same opinions on anything simply doesn’t stand up to any level of real life scrutiny, as anyone who has met people from these letters can confirm.

Don’t believe me? Invite one of each to a café and ask them what their coffee order is.

The survey is guilty of the same statistical error the USA financial industry made with the blending of sub-prime loans with AAA debt and will end in the same mess.

Carry on please!

The (big) little people can’t be trusted

Obviously it’s pick on Aussie journalists week here at WoO. No, I don’t know why either but it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

The SMH’s “senior economics journalist”, Jessica Irvine was paid today to tell us she’s no longer as overweight as she used to be, she’s now a mother, oh, and to advertise her book about no longer being as overweight as she used to be. Nice work if you can get it.

No, seriously, she knocked out a few hundred words to tell us that the secret to her weight loss was eating less and exercising more but because she’s good at spreadsheets she used a spreadsheet to keep track of it.

Also, she wrote this without a hint of irony, which is quite some feat;

But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: why does a senior economics journalist for some of Australia’s most respected newspapers keep banging on about her butt?

There’s two chuckles to be had there, if one is inclined to look for them.

The headline is most interesting though, and it’s taken directly from the body of the article so it’s not one of those usual editorial decisions to put words into the author’s mouth.

Ponder that statement for a moment.

Just whose damn responsibility is it to shed excess kilograms then? I’ve checked Google Maps and they’ve completely failed to label the locations of the human foie gras farms out in the suburbs.

Smashing the personal responsibility framework means acknowledging that most people aren’t maths whizzes and won’t follow the diet I’ve just outlined, particularly not those in lower socio-economic groups among whom obesity is most prevalent.

Sure, it’s about educating individuals to make better food and exercise choices. But fundamentally it’s about redesigning the obesogenic environment we’ve created, by governments stepping in to improve the availability of cheap, nutritious food and opportunities for regular exercise and activity.

Ah, it’s the government’s job to make the stupid masses lose weight because they aren’t as clever as Jessica Smarty(large)pants.

No, really, she wrote that.

Bill’s Opinion

There is nothing quite as obscene as a desire to control other people disguised as altruism.

Jessica doesn’t give a damn about the size of the guts of the people living in the areas of Australia she only ever drives past on the way to the airport or flies over on the way to her foreign holidays.

What Jessica wants is “people like us” to be in charge of what those people can and can’t eat and how they exercise.

And this, by the way, is someone with some level of qualification in that most suspicious of disciplines, economics, a subject with such an inferiority complex it had to invent a fake Nobel Prize for itself in an attempt to gain missing gravitas.

One assumes Jessica played truant in the local McDonalds and Burger King when the lecturers explained the Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman parts of the syllabus.

Long form conversation is the new soundbite

That traditional media is dying a painful and not so slow death is hard to dispute. The body count is rising everywhere one looks, in the last couple of years we’ve seen various mastheads either close down or be reduced to a shadow of their former selves. Examples include the UK’s The Independent (just a website now), the UK’s The Guardian (asking for “charitable” donations at the bottom of every online article), the New York Daily News (half the staff were fired last month) and Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald (bought by a domestic TV station for a fraction of its previous valuation).

Perhaps for a real time illustration of what might be the problem we should have a look at today’s version of the Sydney Morning Herald’s website;

The main story of the day is a feel good piece by Julie Clun about a man who raises money for a cancer charity. Ok, lovely, but it’s not exactly the “news” topic one would expect is it, especially in these febrile days of North Korea, Iran, Brexit, deadly forest fires in Greece, domestic banking scandals, and difficult times for the domestic Federal government, etc.?

Second on the website is our old friend Clementine “the other gift that keeps on giving” Ford, whining on about men not doing enough domestic chores in relationships, especially in the first few years after the first child is born. This might be true and the researchers may well have been justified in spending their grant money on undertaking the study but perhaps the “problem” is multi-dimensional and those men have felt the pressure to work longer hours and harder (and let’s face it, more dangerous) jobs to cover their increased financial responsibilities? Clementine doesn’t seem to be curious about this, and more importantly, the sub-editor didn’t wonder whether her entire article wasn’t just some massive exercise in personal projection.

Third on the website is an astoundingly naive article about a man diagnosed with mental health issues (which the article admits includes the risk of self harm or even suicide) who found it difficult to buy travel insurance. Not “couldn’t buy travel insurance“, but he had to ring around a bit and pay more when he found a company that would cover him. News flash for Rachel Clun, THAT’S HOW INSURANCE WORKS; they asses the risk that you will make a claim and price the policy accordingly.

Next, article number four is probably the best example of “reporting of news” as we’ll get today; Deborah Snow and Nick O’Malley wrote about a breaking political scandal.

Fifth on the list is the story of an airline employee who got so drunk on a layover between flights that he had to spend a night in hospital at the airline’s expense and was unable to perform his scheduled duties on the return flight. The tone of Anna Perry’s piece on this presumably open and shut case of employee dismissal is that the airline is being somewhat harsh by firing him. Anna doesn’t find the space to ponder whether we would like to get on flights staffed by half-drunk staff or pay higher prices for tickets that include the $20,000 hospital bill for their big nights out in the Big Apple.

The sixth article is a fun look at some drug smugglers who were involved in a boat chase before being caught dumping 600kg of cocaine in the sea. Some actual reporting there by Tracey Ferrier, well done.

The last article is a formulaic hand-wringing climate change article by the SMH’s resident “weather is climate” writer, Peter Hannam, with great use of our old friend “could”, as in “if it doesn’t rain soon, we could have to finally switch on the desalination plant we built ages ago and that has cost half a million dollars a day to sit idle ever since“.

If you are a current or former employee of the media company formerly known as Fairfax (publisher of the SMH) here’s a direct message to you; Aristotle said, “the life unexamined is not worth living“. Perhaps you should have a good look at yourself and wonder why people didn’t want to pay money for your work.

It pains me to mention this but there is also a glaring statistic to be found looking at those 7 top articles; of the 8 writers, 6 are women.

I’m not suggesting that this is the reason the newspaper is making its final circle around the toilet bowl, I’m sure women can report on news and write just as articulately as men, but it might be a symptom not a cause of the greater problem; one struggles to believe that Clementine Ford, for example, is the main bread-winner in her household. Perhaps the job of opinion-writer on gender politics (or however it is she would describe her idiom) doesn’t command a particularly stellar salary because, well, people don’t want to read the bloody tosh she writes? Perhaps that’s the case with most of the remaining jobs at the Herald and many of the employees are bringing in the 2nd income in their house, supplementing a primary wage-earner?

The business model of companies such as the Sydney Morning Herald is broken and broken beyond repair. We won’t pay for their output any longer.

H. L. Mencken may (or may not, it’s hard to confirm) have said, “No one in this world, so far as I know … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people“.

I like much of Mencken’s work but I hope he didn’t say that because I challenge its accuracy.

Why?

Podcasts.

It turns out that this relatively new method of sharing information is hugely popular. The podcasts insights website suggests that half of all US households listen to podcasts on a weekly basis. Comedy being the most popular category but closely followed by education and news.

Anyone who has listened to a podcast will have realised that it differs from the traditional media of newspapers, TV and radio in one significant factor; they are LONG.

How long? The Joe Rogan Experience is in the top 5 of downloaded podcasts and he rarely releases an episode shorter than 3 hours. His average listener numbers per episode? 3 million.

Dan Carlin regularly drops 2 to 3 hour conversations about history that get higher listener numbers than CNN gets viewers. Let me repeat that; Conversations about history.

People such as Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Sam Harris, etc. are having lengthy, detailed and nuanced discussions about, well, all sorts of subjects that wouldn’t get more than 600 words in the pages of the Wall Street Journal or the Sydney Morning Herald. In this format, highly-nuanced points can be made, clarified, challenged and refined in a way we’ve never been able to consume previously. This has also resulted in a move away from the problem with formats such as the CNN panel discussion where each participant is simply waiting to shout a pithy one-liner (or even a one-worder) over their “opponents” rather than listening and responding intelligently.

Now look at our soon to be unemployed SMH journalists; imagine if Clementine Ford was asked to produce a coherent discussion about her apparent area of expertise for three hours a week, how many people would choose to listen to it, do we think? How articulate would it be, how well-thought through and defendable would her arguments be?

Quite.

The lesson from podcasts is that huge numbers of people are crying out for long form discussions that take their knowledge of a subject, any subject, forward and don’t just leave them with the executive summary of the revision notes.

Of course, it hasn’t escaped me that you are reading this rather than listening to it but that’s mainly a function of the fact that I don’t have expertise in any subject that covers 3 hours of conversation and that I have the perfect voice for the written, not spoken, word.

“Could” is doing a lot of heavy lifting these days

Another day, another taxpayer-funded study predicting the dire future consequences of climate change.

This one suggests rising sea levels will succeed where Kim Kardashian failed, and break the internet.

No, really; if the climate is changing as rapidly as they claim, and if this change will result in the polar ice caps melting, then rising sea levels will flood lots of the telecoms and data centre infrastructure of the internet.

Regular readers will realise there’s good deal of scepticism in this organ when reading claims such as these.

Two data sources are responsible for this cynicism towards claims the world is about to look like the set of a rubbish Kevin Costner movie;

1. The accuracy of their previous predictions, and

2. The historic data and trend line of sea levels.

Choose your own source to confirm what we were told/sold in the past about how quickly we would need to learn to swim but a quick search on the internet will produce quite a large range of predicted sea level rises and due by dates.

The one connecting factor all of these predictions will have is that they didn’t come true. The bad outcomes were never anywhere near as bad as predicted.

So what? People have been making wrong predictions about stuff forever. What does the actual observed data tell us?

So, rather than seeing those predicted metres of increased sea levels, we’ve seen about 20cm per century and the rate of the rise hasn’t accelerated either.

The original article links to this in support of its claim that sea levels are rising. Note that the linked article doesn’t present any observed data as evidence but yet more predictions without reference to observed data.

Now that we’ve spotted the use of “could” in the first article, have a look at the second one and see where the “could” pops up.

If the acceleration of ice melt were to continue, it could potentially cascade, leading to runaway ice melt and rapid sea level rise.

And if my mother had wheels instead of legs she’d be a trolley.

Bill’s Opinion

The Climate Change “military industrial complex” is a layer cake of beliefs which are increasingly more difficult to prove using the scientific method, which has helped us find the truth so well in recent centuries;

Layer 1. It’s possible that the climate is changing. In fact, given what we know from geological records, it’s almost impossible that the climate isn’t changing.

Layer 2. It’s possible that human activity has started to influence the change.

Layer 3. It’s also possible that human activity has influenced the changes in the climate at a rate that is worse than humans can cope with and poses an existential threat.

Layer 4. It might be possible that humans can find technological solutions to halt or even reverse the change (which also infers we can agree on what the “optimal” climate should be) without sentencing billions of the least wealthy to remain in poverty and suffer early deaths.

Layer 5. It may even be possible that, once these technological solutions are found and proven to be effective without disastrous side effects, the major economies of the world can agree to organise themselves in a way never previously witnessed in human history to implement the solution.

Layer 6. Or we could just move the fucking data centres up a hill and lay some new telecommunications cables.

Incentives matter

A Kurdish Iranian man on Manus Island has published a book about his “incarceration” which he wrote entirely over Whatsapp on his mobile phone.

It’s not clear from any of the copious words on the Guardian/Fairfax/ABC articles gushing over Boochani why he had to write it over his mobile phone, especially given that the centre has computer word processing facilities for the inhabitants (section 4 here).

That Boochani is a genuine refugee in fear of his life is not disputed; a Kurdish journalist in Iran must have a life expectancy best measured in hours.

What is worth investigating however is the use of language such as “prisoner” in all of the hand-wringing articles and also the route he took to arrive on Manus Island.

As we’ve discussed previously, the inhabitants could claim asylum and leave to remain from PNG. That they don’t, suggests that they are holding out for a bigger prize such as a policy change by a new Australian government, for example.

How did Boochani come to find himself on this little island in the Pacific, such a long way from his home?

This article suggests that he travelled by land and sea to Indonesia, where he paid a people smuggler for passage on a boat to Christmas Island (an Australian territory).

Have a look at the map below and ponder the possible route options;

Assuming he didn’t sail any other huge distances, at a minimum there must have been 7 countries he traversed to arrive on Christmas Island, several of which are considered so safe and pleasant that many people reading this will have fond holiday memories from them.

Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, for example. Sure, it may be a challenge to learn the language but if you were fleeing Iran in fear of your life, asking Thailand to accept you as a refugee, settling down there and making a new life must surely be a pretty good option?

For the sake of balance, it must be stated that many of those countries are not signatories to the 1957 UN resolution on refugees, but then, places such as Iran, Afghanistan and a whole bunch of places you wouldn’t want to visit have signed it so quite what that means, is anyone’s guess.

Bill’s Opinion

The left are, as is often the case, guilty of overreach when championing the cases of genuine refugees (and even more so for purely economic migrants) who have crossed half a dozen borders and paid for an expensive sea passage in attempt to gain asylum in the “prestige” destinations such as Australia.

Why?

Because, if they were genuinely concerned with providing good outcomes for the majority of refugees, they would be far less interested in the (relatively) rich migrants who chose not to stop in the first safe country they arrived in but, instead, put themselves and others (such as the seamen sent to rescue them) at risk by attempting dangerous sea crossings to win the jackpot in a country with generous public housing, welfare benefits and healthcare.

The result of this is counter to their claimed desires; people are sceptical of the motivation of those hand-wringing and campaigning for man with enough resources to travel across 7+ countries and then pay between $2,000 and $10,000 for a boat journey, whilst Whatsapping on an iPhone. This scepticism naturally then contaminates their opinions when asked by the same organisations to agree to take in more refugees from camps by the borders of the countries they are fleeing.