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.

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.

Dick by name….

Australia is home to a gentleman called Dick Smith. He owns an eponymous chain of electronics’ stores where one can purchase all manner of flat screen TVs, music systems, white goods and other devices.

To the best of our knowledge, practically none of these devices are manufactured domestically. Like most western economies, Australia used to manufacture TVs and radios but the availability of cheaper and better quality imports from its northern neighbours in Asia hastened the decline of the industry.

Dick Smith has personally benefited greatly from this destruction of the local industry.

Imagine our surprise therefore that he feels the need to berate an overseas supermarket chain from copying his successful model but in the grocery sector.

Apparently, the management of Aldi are morally reprehensible for providing good quality imported food products at a lower price than can be produced domestically.

Ponder that for a moment. Now look at the brand of phone, tablet or PC on which you are reading this. Where was it made? Korea?

Now look at the label in your shirt or dress. Was it tailored domestically? Unlikely.

What should be done about this?

Bill’s Opinion

Dick Smith is typical of most Australian “entrepreneurs” in as much that, once he has made his fortune, he sees no reason to feel shame about lobbying and making public statements to pull the ladder up and prevent others from following his example.

His competitor, Gerry Harvey, is another example of this syndrome, campaigning for the federal government to impose the 10% General Sales Tax on low value overseas internet purchases, despite the fact that this will incur a net cost to the taxpayer.

“Capitalism” is a much maligned noun these days but consider whether there really is that much of it about. Certainly the people who often are pointed at as being “capitalist” are no such thing. Dick and Gerry have more in common with the mercantilists of the 16th century than Adam Smith or Ayn Rand.

It’s definitely the rental agency’s fault

In Victoria, Australia, a place where corrupt unions and progressive politicians rule the roost, a young girl was murdered at a private party.

Of course, the political instinct in response to this is never to let the judicial process run its course; prosecuting the suspected murderer by a fair trial, sentencing them to prison if found guilty, letting them go free if found innocent.

Nope, in Victoria, the answer is to look to increase regulation.

Wait, what?

What new regulation is required in a murder case?

Regulation against AirBnB.

Seriously…… why? Because the apartment where she was murdered was a short term lease through the rentals website service, so, in the lefty logic, AirBnB must somehow be partially responsible.

Maybe the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, has a point. Let’s step through some counter arguments to our instinctive position that it was 100% the murderer’s fault that she died;

Devil’s Advocate Position 1

If AirBnB hadn’t let the apartment to a bunch of teenagers, they wouldn’t have thrown a party which got out of hand and a murderer wouldn’t have murdered her.

Let’s face it, who amongst us hasn’t had the urge to violently murder someone at a party in a short term rental apartment? None of us? Hmmm, maybe that’s not Daniel Andrews’ greatest argument then.

Devil’s Advocate Position 2

If AirBnB hadn’t rented the apartment, the party wouldn’t have happened and a violent murderer wouldn’t have murdered the girl.

Because teenage parties were only invented after AirBnB was established? Because murders never occurred before AirBnB was established?

Devil’s Advocate Position 3

AirBnB have a duty of care to all visitors of their rental properties. Therefore there should have been some protective measures in place to prevent a murderer from murdering in the property.

By this logic, your rental car company should prevent you from crashing the car or hitting pedestrians.

Bill’s Opinion

If you are a legislator in a country with Common Law, consider the possibility that, 803 years after Magna Carta, there may already be appropriate legislation to cover most major crimes. How likely is it, after all those years and hundreds of thousands of man days spent considering legislative responses to public policy questions, that you’ve just landed on the best solution to a pre-existing problem?

Murderers are responsible for their crimes, not the owner or letting company of the room in which the crime was committed.

Noah more racism

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian currently earning big bucks in the USA as the darling of the left-leaning media (but I repeat myself).

Not being much of a TV viewer, especially not of programmes filled with virtue signalling, my only previous exposure to Trevor’s work was when he appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s Netflix show, “Comedians in cars getting coffee”, which, incidentally, would be more grammatically-pleasing if it were renamed “buying” or “drinking” coffee.

Actually, the shows title is often misleading in other ways; Sarah Jessica Parker, for example, is a mediocre actress who may have also once or twice said something funny but she completely failed to repeat the experience on camera throughout the entirety of her episode.

But we digress.

On Noah’s episode, he seemed to make great store by referencing his experiences living under the oppressive Apartheid system.

For the record, Noah was born in 1984. Apartheid was overturned and democratic majority rule was implemented in 1994.

Perhaps Noah has vivid pre-pubescent memories of institutional racism and segregation or perhaps he is playing the race card to inveigle himself with a sympathetic but naive American audience.

Anyway, it turns out that even people with melanin in their skin can still be racist. Footage of Noah has surfaced of him saying mean things about Australian Aborignal women.

Wait, what?

Bill’s Opinion

This must be very confusing for people, how can a dark-skinned person be racist?

Using our patented razor of logic, we can easily clear this up;

People familiar with the ethnic demographics of South Africa will realise that Trevor Noah is what is/was referred to there as “Coloured”, that is, mixed race.

Somewhere in his ancestry Trevor has a European ancestor, presumably a horrid oppressive rapist white person (but I repeat myself).

Clearly it’s these genes that are responsible for Trevor’s vile comments that Australian Aboriginal women are not attractive and not the fact that people of all ethnic backgrounds can be racist dickheads.

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.

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.

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.