Embassies in Jerusalem? Sometimes it’s enough just to observe who it upsets

We aren’t a fan of fallacious arguments round here, we prefer to start with a hypothesis and then observe empirical evidence before refining our views. Sometimes though, a fallacy is a good enough touchstone for a more robust investigation.

What’s the correct name for the fallacy of dismissing an argument because a large number of people who are almost always wrong about most things are upset by a particular argument? It’s not quite ad hominem, perhaps poisoning the well?

Regardless, this is of interest;

This Month’s Australian Prime Minister (c) has announced he will be following Trump’s lead and relocating the Australian Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

It’s a highly political move, not least because there is a critical election currently underway in a constituency with a large Jewish population.

Why this political move surprises anyone is perhaps the great mystery. After all, as Thomas Sowell said;

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems.  They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are No. 1 and No. 2.  Whatever is No. 3 is far behind.

The list of people apoplectic with rage about this announcement is instructive. The entire mainstream media, the government media, academia, celebrities and even bandana-wearing househusbands are united in their view that it is a bad thing.

The Sydney Morning Herald has no fewer than 5 different articles on the decision today. If nothing else, the decision has brought some positives to the lives of those journalists who are paid by the word;

Have you got that, readers; it’s a bad thing.

Out of curiosity, do we think there could be any room in a newspaper with the tagline, “Independent. Always” for just one article with a headline such as, “This was clumsy by the PM but of course the embassy should be in the country’s capital“?

Nah, didn’t think so.

Bill’s Opinion

Is Australia’s decision to relocate her embassy to Jerusalem a bad thing?

Let’s list the reasons offered by the critics;

1. It’s an obscenely politically move in an attempt to win an election.

Well yeah, duh. We refer you back to the Sowell quote; everything politicians do is political. Does that make it the wrong thing to do though?

2. It might upset Indonesia.

The correct response to this is to point out it is a decision by a sovereign nation with regards to its relationship to another sovereign nation. If a third sovereign nation feels it can offer an opinion on this, they should be prepared for similar advice and guidance to be offered on their domestic policies. Mind your own damn business, Indonesia, it’s not as if you are the moral beacon of the world.

3. We are not anti-Semitic, but we are against the state of Israel’s policies and actions with regards to the Palestinians.

Everything before the word “but” is always bullshit. The Palestinians keep electing groups who openly call for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. If you can draw moral equivalence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, you are simply not debating in good faith are you?

Scott Morrison is a politician, which means he is grubby, self-interested and venal. Sometimes, however, even the grubby, self-interested and venal will make a correct decision for incorrect reasons.

Bravo.

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome

noun

Feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim towards a captor.

Fair warning; if you are allergic to the accent demonstrated in the song Valley Girl, this is going to hurt. You may consider soaking a box of Q-tips in bleach in preparation for repairing the aural damage.

This week, as part of my regular reconnaissance of enemy territory, I have subjected myself to the Ezra Klein podcast.
Ezra writes for Vox. On balance, it’s fair to say that Ezra has a great voice for print media. If you didn’t know otherwise, you might be forgiven for thinking Ezra was a 16 year old girl living in the San Fernando Valley.
Ad hominen fun aside, his podcasts are a great insight to a particular media mindset; this one is a doozy.

In it, Ezra interviews Amy Chozik, author of the book “Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling“.

Before you set off with us on the journey of discovery, perhaps have a pencil and paper handy to count the number of redundant times the words “like” and “so” are used. The podcast might have been 15 minutes shorter if precision of language was a concept the pair understood.

In the podcast, our protagonists discuss the reporting of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The overwhelming emotion expressed by these two objective journalists is one of regret and, dare we suggest it, shame.

The pair talk about “bias” a lot but not in terms of any suggestion they were biased towards wishing for a Clinton presidency but that they weren’t biased enough in their reporting.

For example, at 17 minutes in, they discuss the “tragedy” of the result. This is not the language employed by unbiased professional reporters. However, any semblance or artifice that they would describe themselves in those professional terms is shed as the conversation develops.

Ok, so we have two partisan writers discussing an election that didn’t go their way. At least the form of the conversation should be easy listening? They’re paid to write for a living, at least.

Nah. Wince as the English language is mangled under our brutal wrestling tag team; “lightning rod-ness” was a particular stand out, as were “stories we pre-wrote” and “pre-writing” whilst discussing the articles they hoped to file after Clinton’s victory. Presumably “pre-writing” is the writing one does before one writes?

See also, “pre-planning“, the planning one does before one plans, and “pre-warning“, the warning one gives before a warning, (to be clear, they don’t use these terms, they’re just two of my pet peeves).

Wonder also at how “gendered” the media coverage of the election was. Other people’s coverage, of course, our two heroes never once made any capital out of the biological differences between Hillary and Bernie or Donald. Oh no sir-ee (or madam/gender fluid person).

Enjoy also the exquisite irony of the use of the phrase, “abdicating our responsibility to think it through“. Spoiler alert; they aren’t talking about why the public didn’t trust Hillary or their reporting of Hillary.

An almost a throwaway line; “Trump’s bashing of the first amendment” was instructive. The fact that there’s no explanation of what is meant by that assertion speaks volumes; Ezra accepts it unquestionably as an axiom we all understand (or should be forced to?). It’s still not clear what he’s done to stop free speech.

Perhaps the best amusement is to had towards the end of the interview where we discover that the abuse directed at journalists was worse from Bernie Sanders’ supporters than anything Trump’s redneck, white-supremacist, misogynist, homophobe, transphobe, Islamaphobes could throw. Really? The left can be more brutal and threatening? Who knew?

Bill’s Opinion

Theres a significant problem with much of what passes as contemporary political discourse; people have lost the ability or desire to understand the opposing view. It is fashionable to write off one’s opponent as acting in bad faith and therefore deserving of whatever sanction we see fit, ranging from “no platforming” to impeachment and prosecution.

Subjecting ourselves to interviews such as this one help us understand how the other side are thinking. The expression “to steel man an argument” is something worth exploring if this is of interest.

A secondary advantage of listening to interviews like this is it is unintentionally fucking hilarious and a wonderful example of the meaning of the word schadenfreude.

Lastly, among his many verbal tics, Ezra frequently uses the expression “I’m curious” to commence a question that could simply have started with “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “why” or “how”.

Ironically, it is apparent to the most casual observer that the one characteristic Klein doesn’t posses is curiosity;

The unexamined life is not worth living.

Socrates

Independent. Always.

“Hedging” in gambling parlance is the mathematics around minimising the potential loss once the bookie has accepted a bet by placing a bet with a competitor for an opposite result.

It’s a useful strategy if the odds have changed against your position since accepting the bet.

The Sydney Morning Herald must be quite adept at it as it has been frontrunning a campaign against a recent State Government decision to project adverts for a horse race on the “sails” of the Sydney Opera House.

Which horse race?

The “Everest”, i.e. the very one they are showing an advert for on the front page of their website.

Bill’s Opinion

Well, we can’t accuse them of bias on this news item, which makes a nice change. Stopped clocks being correct twice a day, an’ all that.

Oh, in other news, hands up who knows how a significant portion of the funding to build the iconic concert hall was raised?

Awkward.

You sir, yes you! You are a murdering rapist!

Six women have been murdered in Australia in the last five days.

Apparently, the Australian men who aren’t currently held in custody on suspicion of committing these violent crimes are also responsible and need to engage with some uncomfortable truths.

Wait, what?

That’s right, you heard correctly; the men who don’t beat up their female partners and relatives, the ones who believe violence and murder is morally-reprehensible, share the blame.

Because…..

All these murders were reported against the backdrop of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, following historic sexual assault allegations, as the most powerful men in the world men thunder about men’s lives being ruined by women speaking about the violence men have allegedly subjected them to.

For the purposes of journalistic integrity, something writers at the Sydney Morning Herald aren’t concerned with, we’ve added the word “allegedly” in the paragraph above.

When moral equivalence can be found across a violent murder in 2018 and a 36 year old uncorroborated, evidence-free allegation of attempted sexual assault, I suppose mere details such as relativity, assessments of credibility and objective reasoning are optional and, frankly, hindering the cause.

Imagine the pain and suffering Jane Gilmore must feel when she realised the following word salad can be described with the sexist noun, “strawman“;

Imagine this: Six women are murdered by men in five days. Men all over the nation are filled with rage. They organise rapidly on social media, amplified by mainstream media reporting of their activism. Protest marches spring up in every major city in the country. Tens of thousands of men rally. They stay up for hours the night before, painting signs and placards, calling all their male friends and family so they can meet and go to the rallies together. No man is left behind. Men uncomfortable in crowds are supported by gentle friends.

Men feeling triggered and shaky are held in loving male arms, told to cry and hold on to the men who feel their pain and carry their grief. Men with a long history of activism against male violence are chosen to speak at the rallies. They share their stories. They cry for the lost women. Rage against the cruelty of lives ripped apart. Comfort each other and vow to never stop fighting until women are safe.

As the rallies end and the crowds of men slowly disperse, they separate off into small groups. Men sit together in bars, cafes and parks because they cannot bear to be alone after collectively draining all that pain and knowing there’s still so much more under the surface. Men sit with each other unable to stop their tears because they’ve been to so many rallies before and know they will have to do it again.

It probably doesn’t occur to Jane that the 99.9995% of Australian men who don’t murder anyone each year likely have other more pressing things on their minds such as caring for and loving their wives, girlfriends, children, etc. than to waste time virtue signalling to the murderers.

By the way, that percentage quoted above is based on government published statistics showing the murder rate per 100,000 people is currently around 2.2 victims per year (which is a 9% fall over the previous 20 years).

Let’s face it, Jane’s rather passive aggressive suggestion that anyone with a penis should be organising community marches to prevent murders of women somewhat misses the point that, if someone is prepared to break the most serious societal taboo of taking another person’s life, a bunch of placard-waving beardy beta males singing out of tune John Lennon songs in the town centre is going to be about as an effective form of persuasion as holding a Linda McCartney quorn burger in front of a hungry Great White Shark.

Bill’s Opinion

This is the ultimate in identity politics. This is where it leads when we attempt to treat individuals as members of a group for the purpose of effecting meaningful change.

Let’s flip the argument around somewhat and see how it sounds for other versions of the idea; a study in Arizona found that “American Indians” (is that the correct term these days?) were statistically more likely to cause fatal car crashes. Is Jane Gilmore calling for the various indigenous tribes of rural Arizona to hold candlelit vigils urging their brothers and sisters to hand in their car keys and commit to taking public transport?

Individuals are responsible for their own actions. Western civilisation works better than all previously-tried versions because it has a societal contract that group punishment based on immutable natural characteristics such as race, gender, sexuality, etc. is morally-bankrupt and, more importantly, not pragmatic or effective.

If Jane Gilmore finds this contemporary legal principle unacceptable, perhaps she might consider reverting to the more ancient “Code of Hammurabi“, where group punishments and varying levels of punishments relative to social status were mandated?

Lastly, Jane might be advised to read Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention before writing any more of this bollocks.

Peter Hannam is either mendacious or stupid

Peter “weather equals climate” Hannam has been fighting the good fight with more intensity recently, with many words written bemoaning Trump’s disdain for the Paris Agreement, despite it making no logical sense to anyone who cares to examine the facts.

One of his recent pieces of work is interesting;

Australia’s driest September on record“?

That’s quite a claim and it would certainly indicate a major problem with the environment if true.

Firstly, let’s just mention that nature doesn’t really have a concept of what a “September” is. No, really it doesn’t; think about it for a moment.

Let’s have a look at Peter’s opinion piece kwality jernalism and see if we can find the factual basis for that headline;

Australia has notched its driest September on record, with less than a third of the usual rainfall for the month, extending the dry spell that has farmers and firefighters increasingly desperate for rain.

Yes, you’ve said that in the headline already (but thanks for confirming it wasn’t an editorial decision to make up a headline). What’s the data source?

Victoria posted its second driest September, also collecting just a third of its typical September rain.

Ok, so a large portion of the country was dry but not as dry as it has been before. That’s not supporting the headline though, is it?

Also, as with a “September“, Mother Nature doesn’t really understand the concept of “the Australian State of Victoria“.

NSW also had another dry month, with less than half the normal rain, bringing the state’s year-to-date tally lower than any year but 1902 and 1965, according to Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Nope, still not hearing any data supporting the “driest ever” claim.

“Below average rainfall covered almost the entire country” last month, Dr Trewin said, adding that it pipped 1957 as the driest September, and trailed only April 1902 as the driest for any month.

Still not “driest ever” though, is it?

Melbourne posted its fifth-driest September on record, with no days recording more than 5 millimetres of rain – only the second time that’s happened for that month in records going back to 1855.

Yawn. There’s a pattern emerging here, dry but not “driest ever“.

Sydney’s rainfall was less extreme, coming in about one-quarter below average.

Snore.

A lack of rain has been a standout feature of much of eastern Australia this year, drying out soils and forests. All of NSW has been declared in drought, while the fire season has started early and is forecast to be an active one.

For the rest of the year, the bureau’s outlook suggests odds particularly favour drier than average conditions in Victoria, southern South Australia and Tasmania.

Still not “driest ever” though?

“The signal in the outlook [for October to December] that’s really strong is warmth,” Dr Trewin said, noting that almost all of the country has an 80 per cent chance of warmer than usual maximum and minimum temperatures.

For September, daytime temperatures were 1.41 degrees above the average for the 1961-90 period.

The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s food bowl, had its driest January-September since 1902 – the end of the Federation Drought – Dr Trewin said.

Warm but not “driest ever“?

And then, almost as if these things are driven by some kind of natural cycle, the dry weather is replaced by, erm, wet weather;

Note the tagline for Cassandra’s article; “Weather“.

Peter, however, is the real Cassandra in the Greek sense with his default; “Extreme Weather“.

Bill’s Opinion

In addition to Occam’s Razor, there is another shaving device that is useful when analysing people’s public statements and acts; Hanlon’s Razor.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

As much as we would like to use this principle with Peter Hannam, he makes it bloody hard to not draw the conclusion that he is acting in bad faith.

He is a veteran journalist who will have been taught the wisdom of concise, factual writing, critical thinking and use of source data.

So why, therefore, does the headline and opening paragraph make a claim that is not substantiated anywhere within the body of the article?

We suggest one of the following explanations for this discrepancy;

  1. After all these years to hone his craft, Peter made a genuine mistake, forgetting to add the all-important sentence or paragraph that would have corroborated his claim.
  2. Peter is incompetent and has been languishing in the role of serious journalist for several years without being in possession of the requisite skills and experience to perform the role.
  3. He knew that there was no supporting evidence for the claim of “driest ever” but went ahead with the assertion, both as a headline and in the body of the article.

Our suggestion is that, based on his extensive public record of writing, (3) is the most likely explanation.

If you accept this explanation that Peter is deliberately trying to deceive the reader, we perhaps should ask ourselves, why?

Actually, perhaps we should ask Peter that?

Hi Peter Hannam, are you a fool or a knave and, if the latter, to what purpose?

If someone on Twitter could ask him, we would be most grateful – @p_hannam
In the meantime, let’s just remind ourselves of Mencken’s quote;

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

Didn’t Darwin have something to say about catfish?

Or perhaps it was finches…..

Those of us who spend most of our lives in a reality, not fantasy existence, might not be aware that “catfishing” is a thing.

Apparently it’s a form of social engineering when someone is fooled into a relationship with another person who doesn’t actually exist or many aspects of their supposed life is a fabrication. A situation one imagines is a bit like the experience of being Christopher Pyne’s wife.

It would seem some of these relationships are very intense and, to the victim, quite real.

Here’s an example;

The article then goes on to explain a situation where a woman spent six years believing she was in a relationship with a man and then had a revelation and realised it was a hoax.

What was the cause of revelation, the “cruel way” as the headline suggests?

Erm, she told someone that she’d never actually met the person she called “boyfriend”.

No, really. Six years of being girlfriend and boyfriend and they’d never been in the same room at the same time.

Six years. Not days or even weeks. Years.

The unfortunate woman is an F-list celebrity, apparently, called Casey Donovan.

In addition to the couple of hundred words published in the Sunday supplements, she’s got a book for sale which presumably devotes a significant proportion of the chapters to this episode, given that it lasted for about half her adult life.

Here’s a picture of Casey;

Casey’s 15 minutes of fame came after she won a TV singing talent show.

Without wishing to be overly-harsh in our judgement of Casey, perhaps the fairest thing we could say is that, before and during her period of fame she had some not insignificant unresolved personal issues.

Question; if you have responsibility for a reality TV show or a newspaper Sunday supplement, what duty of care do you have when providing brittle personalities with a public platform?

Bill’s Opinion

Much of what passes for entertainment on TV is a direct descendent of the Victorian-era freak shows, putting those on the mental and physical margins of the population on our screens nightly for our voyeuristic curiosity.

When their time in the sun is over, if they are lucky they can return to the task of overcoming whatever challenges they had previously but with the additional burden of any new issues as a consequence of their brief fame.

Such as an imaginary boyfriend.

Apparently Casey is currently driving for Uber, which is a more productive use of her time with the added bonus that she will actually get to meet real humans.

The world “Could” needs our sympathy again

Could” and his/her/zher’s synonyms are doing all the work in an article about climate change again, the poor things.

By 2050 the average Australian snow season could be between 20 and 55 days shorter under a low risk scenario modelled by the CSIRO.

It’s always good to throw in a graph or chart showing how the trend is pointing to us all going to hell in a handbasket;

Ok, that looks bad. What’s the source, how was it collected and for what purpose? And why does it only start in 1955?

Here it is.

The data was collected by the Snowy Hydro project to keep track of what the likely water flow will be during spring each year.

There’s a handy disclaimer on the website about how much scientific credibility should be given to the data set;

Snow Depths Disclaimer

Snowy Hydro undertakes snow depth readings as required for operational purposes during the snow season. Updates on our website may be made on an irregular basis. For the latest information on snow conditions, we suggest that you visit the appropriate ski resort website.

Snowy Hydro supplies this information in good faith for the benefit of the public. The information was accurate at the time of recording. However, Snowy Hydro advises that the information now posted should not be relied upon, and therefore cannot incur liability for any loss or damage to third parties arising from how the information may be interpreted or used.

Ok. So an employee of the hydro plant goes out each month and shoves a measuring pole into the snow to estimate how much water will flow through the turbines later in the year.

On this basis, we’ve extrapolated that the Australian ski season will be half as long in 30 years’ time.

One might be excused for not putting one’s boots, poles and skis on eBay.com.au just yet then. As David Camacho points out, measuring snow depths in ski fields is not without its challenges too;

David Camacho

One of the biggest reasons for lower snow depths and shorter seasons is increased skier numbers and increased descents/day, carving away the snow which is not totally overcome by piste grooming machines.

Every time a skier descends, they carve away some snow. This is most extreme on warm sunny days. But also important after fresh snowfalls on thin bases. Especially if the season opens before a firm natural base has developed.

Data should be limited to stations where no skiers affect the snowbase, as then you have eliminated an enormous variable from data.

Just like quadrupling the size of resort villages creates an urban heat island effect….

Unfortunately for Eryk Bagshaw (and presumably his boss, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam) his own article suggests that the public aren’t buying this Chicken Little-ism. Expressed preferences versus revealed preferences are most apparent in the price of property in ski fields;

But there have never been more skiers or snowboarders heading to Perisher, Thredbo or Falls Creek.

Houses prices in Jindabyne and Cooma have grown by 42 per cent since 2008, below the 65 per cent average for the rest of regional NSW.

Victorian alpine areas have been more fortunate, mostly due to their closer proximity to Melbourne, according to Domain data scientist Nicola Powell. Bright has seen Sydney levels of price growth, up 122 per cent over the past decade.

Bill’s Opinion

It would be interesting to seek legal opinion on the likelihood of success of a compensation claim for an owner of a ski-field property in Australia who sold on the back of Erik’s advice and subsequently lost money when the big thaw never happened.

What are the consequences of predictions such as these based on highly-questionable scientific methods?

Oh, and we’ll just leave this little gem from today here;

Awkward.

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.

Logical inconsistency boomerangs

Today’s amusement is at the expense of the regressive progressive Legacy Press (c) and their take on the Commonwealth Games, currently taking place on the Gold Coast of Australia.

For those unfamiliar with the Commonwealth Games, think of them as the Special Olympics for countries that were colonised by Great Britain with the exception of the USA and basket case countries like Zimbabwe (although Myanmar is still competing).

To underline the purpose of the games, the original name in 1930 was The British Empire Games. Basically, it’s a way for all the athletes who would normally do “a Brian Jones” (i.e. not exit the pools) in the Olympics to get a medal. Which is pretty sad really, given the fact the Olympic Games itself is just a convenient way to bundle into a single event a collection of sports nobody normally pays to watch.

If the Olympics and Commonwealth Games’ actual sporting events are relatively pathetic spectacles, the opening ceremonies are even more tedious. It’s as if the event organisers sat around the planning table and said to each other, “I know what’ll liven up the prospect of a couple of weeks of synchronised diving and rhythmic gymnastics; a West End musical-style opening ceremony! Someone get Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John on the phone, stat!“.

The problem is, of course, if you have signed up to the entire list of left-wing “correct” positions to take on everything, yesterday’s opening ceremony at the Commonwealth Games puts you into a tight spot, logically.

Why?

The Aboriginals; yesterday’s song and dance show was heavily-influenced by Australian Aboriginal dancing, music and ceremony.

On the one hand, commentators such as Phil Lutton want to underline the message that it’s time for Australia to ditch the historic links with the UK, that a constitutional monarchy is an anachronism in the 21st century, and that things were altogether better before Australia was colonised. On that theme, many of his colleagues from his newspaper have campaigned vociferously to change the date of the national day, Australia Day, from its current date of January 26th (the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet) to show solidarity with the oppressed first people.

On the other hand, many of those Aboriginal people willingly took place in the opening ceremony of an event which celebrates Australia’s history as a member of the British Empire and, latterly, the British Commonwealth, and yet there was a small group protesting outside the stadium.

What is the correct position to take without destroying one’s progressive credentials? It’s a fine line to tread and one for which Phil has our deepest sympathies, after all, he desperately wouldn’t want to express the “wrong” sentiment and incur the wrath of the Twitter pile-on crowd.

What results, of course, is an article brimming with cognitive dissonance, probably not helped by the late evening hour that he had to file his copy and the, presumably, free-flowing Aussie beer in the press room;

He starts in rambling, grammatically-clunky style, desperately trying to keep the representation of the para-athletes in parity with the able-bodied, and doesn’t improve much from there;

Surely, this is not the time for jingoism in our fragile sporting climate.

A statement he then quickly goes on to disprove, of course, dismissing the link to England as an anachronism whilst cheering the kilted Scots. News flash for Phil, it was called the “British Empire” for a reason; many of the more successful colonial masters weren’t actually English; Hong Kong’s Jardine (Scottish), Australia’s Macquarie (Scottish), New Zealand’s Hobson (Irish), for example. Further evidence might be found by perusing the place names of countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where there will be plenty of instances of Aberdeen, Hamilton and Perth. The monarch of the empire may have been German English, but a large proportion of their subjects probably only stepped foot in England to travel to a port of emigration.

Then we get an anthropological history lesson, which is a nice touch from the Sydney Morning Herald’s sports correspondent;

….but, if we agree that the first people to arrive in Australia landed 65,000 years ago, they’d have done very well to have settled 2,700km away within the same year. Oh well, it’s a sports journalist we’re reading here, after all.

The article continues by celebrating the beaches of the Gold Coast and a cursory nod at some local government corruption in the 1980s, which is, well, obscure and not relevant.

At least we can all agree that Prince Charles and his wife did look out of place. Well, overdressed compared to the dancers at least. Actually, overdressed compared to any resident of the Gold Coast of Australia, a place where “singlet” is considered appropriate wardrobe regardless of the social appointment; beach, bar, court appearance, state funeral, etc…..

Bill’s Opinion

Sometimes a sporting event is just a sporting event and doesn’t really need to be used as a cultural guilt weapon, especially as very few Australians are even related to anyone who has ever oppressed an Aboriginal, let alone actually been personally responsible for such oppression.

Also, regardless of how one feels about the relevance of the role of a monarch in 21st century Australia, surely the one person who looks least out of place at the British Empire Commonwealth Games is a member of the British monarchy?

Lastly, could someone also please have a word with the Aboriginal people of Australia and get them to agree on whether the Commonwealth Games are a good or a bad thing so that we can all virtue signal in the correct manner, please?