Here come the freedom restriction laws

A good knee-jerk reaction is only worth doing if it’s quick enough, especially in election season (which, to be fair, is every second year in Australia);

Media bosses face jail over sharing content.

Hasty legislation is so very tempting to those in power as they feel under pressure to be seen to be doing something, anything, in the wake of exceptional or unique events.

The Australian government is therefore making noises about introducing legislation enabling the prosecution of the leaders of technology companies on whose platforms the video footage of the Christchurch murderer’s crimes were shared should similar situations occur in the future.

Our confirmation biases trick us into thinking there is merit with this approach. There are multiple problems with what has been proposed in this thought bubble of a policy description however. Let’s list them and see if you agree:

1. Opportunity cost – given finite resources of time, money and personnel, is this the best and most urgent response the legislators and law enforcement authorities can take to minimise the risk similar murderous violence doesn’t re-occur? I say “minimise the risk” because, despite what anyone would like to think, there is no palatable way to completely prevent murders occurring. The shooter was hiding in plain sight on various internet discussion forums, perhaps some more diligence on behalf of those tasked with crime prevention might be the better priority?
2. Legislation requiring innovation – a law that would deliver jail time to the CEO of Facebook Australia for hosting a snuff movie is, in effect, demanding the company either throw thousands of content moderators at the problem 24×7 OR they invent 100% foolproof algorithms to automatically remove the content the moment it is uploaded. Neither of which is particularly likely, which brings us to problem #3….
3. The law of unintended consequences – the CEO will be extremely motivated to remain at liberty and without a criminal record, therefore they will scale back their content and offering to the Australian market. 99.9999% of livestream content breaks no law, yet faced with the risk of jail, an intelligent CEO is going to simply pull that functionality and content from the Australia IP addresses. Worse, the risk to the CEO has still not gone away due to problem #4…..
4. Virtual Private Networks – VPNs are cheap and easily procured. If content is blocked in Australia, it’s likely users could hop on to a VPN and spoof their location to a different geography and see it anyway. Anyone who enjoys using torrent services that are geo-blocked in Australia already knows this. Faced with this risk, perhaps the tech companies would withdraw or scale back their Australian office footprint?
5. Who defines what content is banned? – if we were to legislate against “dangerous” content, hasty legislation would be a mistake. The definition of what is to be banned is going to require significant discussion and debate, followed up with extreme legal scrutiny to ensure the legislation is unambiguous and not simply providing a censor’s charter to a future government.

Bill’s Opinion
In a crisis, people revert to what they know. Politicians know how to announce and create rapid, ambiguous legislation that satisfies the expediency of being seen to act but fails the test of sustainability and desirability over the long term.

Expect more of this.

Also expect legislation to make subscription to a VPN illegal once someone explains their use to the politicians.

If “democracy” is the punchline, what was the joke?

Australians’ cup of democracy runneth over.

Those lucky souls in the lucky country have the opportunity to change Prime Minister in a few short weeks’ time.

The state of New South Wales getS to change their parish council too.

How exciting!

Except, Australians get a new Prime Minister every 18 months anyway, whether they voted for one or not.

Seriously, they do.

Of course, this leads to a surplus of ex-Prime Ministers. By May this year, the list of people who are still alive and claiming the not-insubstantial pension and benefits of the highest office in the land, will probably look like this;

Bob Hawke (run out)

Paul Keating (bowled)

John Howard (bowled)

Kevin Rudd (1st innings run out, 2nd innings bowled)

Julia Gillard (run out)

Tony Abbott (run out)

Malcolm Turnbull (run out)

Scott Morrison (bowled)

That’s a lot of pension payments, allowances for an office and staff and, of course, the free Qantas first class flights for life.

Thank goodness the Australian economy can afford it. Oh, wait…

Voting is compulsory in Australia. Let me repeat that; it’s illegal to not turn up and pretend to cast a vote in elections.

Chances are, you’re reading this in a jurisdiction where voting isn’t mandated, so you might think there’s something to be admired by this system.

Well, consider the probability that a voter of above average intelligence could navigate and make sense of this voting form;

If you choose to number your preferences “above the line”, the candidates then distribute your secondary votes as they see fit, should they not win a majority of primary votes.

If you choose to vote “below the line”, you can distribute your votes to each individual candidate.

Either way, it’s not clear what each person stands for or what commitments they would give to vote in a particular way should they find themselves in office. There’s an awful lot of single-issue candidates in that list, one assumes the well-informed “high information” Australian voters have read each and every manifesto and election promise these people have pledged.

Yeah right.

Bill’s Opinion

Many of the great leaps forward of the human condition involve a critical mass of the population agreeing to believe a man-made concept. The value of money is a great example of this; a dollar has worth because enough people agree it has. When that changes, the value of money collapses very quickly.

Democracy is a similar fallacy that works because we say it does.

On March 29th, 17.4 million voters in the UK may discover that fallacy isn’t as robust a concept as they previously thought.

With a system as laughable as this one, the people of Australia may not be far behind in that discovery.

If you wanted Bill Shorten’s recipe for Pavlova, you could have just asked

Apparently, China or Russia “a sophisticated state actor” hacked into the Australian Parliament IT servers last week.

Shocking stuff. We are truly fighting a new Cold War, thank goodness George Lazenby is still alive.

We are also told that it is too early to know the motivation or what information was accessed.

However….. here at William of Ockham, we have a handy little blade that can slice away all that is irrelevant to reveal the most likely explanation.

Let’s quickly dismiss the possibility that a foreign power was hunting for an important secret of state; if there is anyone reading this who believes Australia has any secrets China, Russia, Indonesia or even bloody Swaziland don’t already know, I have a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you. And anyway, there are better IT systems to hack to gain Australia’s secrets.

In addition to Australia’s defence secrets not being worth the candle, how many of them are likely to be divulged to MPs, or even the Defence Minister and Prime Minister? Given that that last role is only ever a casual appointment, it’s doubtful the security services go through the bother of setting up a userid and password for each new appointee.

So what information could possibly be of interest on the parliamentary servers?

The more I think about this question the more certain I become that they will have learned about just one topic: who’s shagging with/has shagged whom?

Bill’s Opinion

There’s a Federal election this year (there’s a 33% chance of that statement being correct at any random time though), which means Australian politics might finally become interesting.

Imagine the fun we may be about to have with Wikileaks drip-feeding prurient tittle tattle about the sordid details of the sex lives of, say, Julie Bishop, Sarah Hanson-Young, Barnaby Joyce or Richard Di Natale?

Maybe chuck in some scandals involving expenses being used to fund lavish lifestyles or questionable morality and perhaps some unparliamentary language on emails referring to voters as sheep or worse.

Finally, an election we might actually enjoy!

Write down the NBN? Write the whole thing off

We’ve spoken before on the utter disaster that is Australia’s National Broadband Network and how it was unlikely to ever achieve its stated goal and also cost significantly more than budgeted.

Well, things just got a whole lot worse for the beleaguered Australian taxpayer as it would seem reality is starting to rudely impose itself on the business model, such that it is: The NBN will need to write off a huge chunk of value, if that’s even possible now.

Crikey (in the vernacular), who ever could have predicted that?

Oh yes, everyone.

From the article:

It is self-evident that you can’t write $20 billion off a $10 billion (or less) equity base.

Ya reckon?

Rue made the point that when people called for a write-down, what they were actually calling for was a dramatic reduction in wholesale prices. It’s a mechanism, not the objective.

There are alternatives to a write-down that could lower wholesale prices, although they would involve heavy costs for government.

Hold on one second, sunshine…. heavy costs for whom?

The government? Nope, don’t think so. The government only has money for one of the following reasons:

1. Taxes paid by citizens (yes, that includes corporation tax – who do you think buys their goods and services?)

2. Borrowing on behalf of the public….which will be repaid by, yep, taxes

Read this with that in mind:

If the federal government were to cash out the $7.4 billion of subscriber payments and buy out the lease agreement, it would effectively inject more than $20 billion of value into NBN Co by carving those payments from its cost base and boosting its cash flows.

The substantial change in its economics would enable NBN Co to pass through the savings to retailers without damaging its ability to generate a positive IRR.

Or, in English; if the government spent more money it would make the NBN company seem like it was less of a turd.

Bill’s Opinion

The lesson every generation of voters always has to learn the hard way is, if you really want to fuck something up, and I mean really fuck something up and stay fucked up for a bloody long time, get the government to do it.

Who in Ireland voted for this?

There is a worrying trend in the West of leaders with absolutely no personal investment in the future driving huge changes to the very fabric of their country.

To illustrate this point, ponder this question, What do the following leaders (or ex-leaders) have in common?

– Angela Merkel

– Theresa May

– Emmanuel Macron

– Julia Gillard

– Nicola Sturgeon

– Leo Varadker

Apart from the obvious point that they all suffer from varying degrees of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, not one of them has any practical experience of changing nappies or dealing with 3am episodes of croup.

For differing reasons, they have no tickets in the genetic future of the species. Yet these are the people who are overseeing seismic changes to their countries, or even the entire European continent.

Today’s focus is the last one on the list, the Prime Minister or ‘Taoiseach’ (bless you, are you going down with a cold?).

His government has recently published a 30 year plan for the country, ‘Ireland 2049‘, which sets out a vision for the population, infrastructure and a wide range of other aspects of Irish life.

Thirty years. It makes the old Soviet Five Year Plans seem positively humble by comparison.

As you’d expect from a country that has a thousand year history of fiercely fighting for its independence from the neighbouring colonial power yet handed it over to Brussels in a heartbeat, the report has all the usual cause célèbre du jour boxes ticked such as climate change, diversity and gender pronouns for left-handed penguins.

This little gem seems to have slipped past without question however;

Wait, what?

The current population is 4.74m, the aged demographic is increasing and the young demographic is decreasing yet in 20 years’ time the population with have increased by a fifth?

Has Ireland invented cloning?

Of course not, they’re going to invite a million people from the rest of the world in.

Fair enough, that’s their right as a sovereign nation if that’s what the voters want.

However, is that what the voters want? Have they been asked at all?

Browsing the Irish press, there seems to be scant discussion on the immigration point, instead, the debate seems to be more about pork barrelling for infrastructure investment for various geographies.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s curious that people don’t question the fact that our children’s future is being heavily influenced by people with absolutely no skin in the game.

It’s also strange the assumption isn’t being challenged that Ireland must replace such a significant proportion of her population over the next 20 years.

Why does Ireland need to grow the number of citizens?

I can think of only three reasons:

1. To care for the aging population.

2. To maintain the pension Ponzi scheme.

3. Pursuit of a Cultural Marxist agenda.

Is there another reason?

What are the Swiss and Japanese doing? One assumes automation will factor into their plans rather than importing an additional fifth of the country from places with little cultural similarities.

If the Ireland 2040 plan continues, what’s the chances that the real number of immigrants will be more or less than one million?

Update: maths corrected.

Three cheers for Jeremy Corbyn!

The slow moving car crash that is Brexit continued last night with the government losing the vote to ratify the deal made with the EU by a unprecedented margin as predicted by everyone…… including most of Theresa May’s cabinet.

The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, had several options in front of him at that point. He chose to call for a vote of no confidence, which, if lost by the government, will result in a General Election.

We don’t really do predictions here but we’ll make an exception in this case – there is more chance Halle Berry will turn up at my house tomorrow evening wearing sexy lingerie and holding a bottle of Krug, a box of Godiva chocolates and a Barry White playlist on her iPhone than Jeremy Corbyn winning today’s vote.

To have called for a vote that he so clearly won’t win (the rebel Conservative MPs hate Theresa May’s deal but they aren’t going to allow the Labour Party have an early chance at government either – turkeys don’t vote for Christmas) shows a depressing lack of imagination.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Corbin’s history. He used to be my MP for a while during my years in London (no, I didn’t vote for him), during which time I learned enough about him to realise he fits the “useful idiot” description perfectly. His deputy, John McDonnell, in the other hand, would be truly terrifying if he got close to the reigns of power.

Corbyn has, in effect, been wrong and proven wrong about nearly everything for nearly all his adult life. His fundamental belief is that socialism is the ideal form of political and societal organisation and that we just need to implement it correctly this time. The 200 million or more dead bodies in the 20th century are simply a statistical side note during the experiments to find the right version.

No surprise then, that a pointless gesture would be his first choice tactic. But what were his other options last night when responding to Theresa May?

Here’s a few this non-political professional can think of;

1. Commiserate Theresa May and offer to form an emergency cross-party cabinet to thrash out a counter offer to take to the EU next week.

2. Commiserate Theresa May and thank her for her efforts to negotiate in good faith with the EU but state that this has clearly been a one way street. The EU have not intended to find a mutually acceptable compromise from the start of the process and, therefore, Labour recommend the government pivot to the assumption that they are dealing with a hostile foreign power and commence planning accordingly. Labour will fully support the government in a bipartisan approach during this period of national crisis.

3. Commiserate Theresa May and ask her to return to the house within 24 hours with an outline of her revised approach to ensure an orderly exit from the EU on March 29th. The house should be offered a vote of confidence on this approach and, if lost, she will resign as Prime Minister or a general election will be called (pick one).

4. Commiserate Theresa May and then read a prepared statement which sets out, in simple language, Labour’s alternatives to the contentious elements of the bill. Offer to support the government to pass the re-submitted bill if these amendments were made.

There are probably loads more versions of these suggestions that Corbyn could have taken last night. That he took the one least likely to succeed is in character but still confusing. He suffers greatly from cognitive dissonance but this takes it to a new level.

Bill’s Opinion

What’s going on?

I can think of a few possible explanations and, frankly, I’ve not settled on which one is most probable;

1. Everything is as it appears; we have an incompetent Prime Minister, an even more incompetent Leader of the Opposition and a foreign power acting in bad faith.

2. Losing the vote was a deliberate negotiation tactic by the Prime Minister, enabling her to put the EU under pressure to improve the terms of the deal or risk the “no deal” option. The Leader of the Opposition is incompetent and the EU are acting in bad faith.

3. It’s all kayfabe. What we are witnessing is a public play between the EU and UK government to give an impression of conflict and subsequent resolution while the terms of exit have already been agreed and the strategy to achieve approval has been meticulously planned. Jeremy Corbyn is still incompetent.

4. As (3) but Jeremy Corbyn is in on the secret too.

(1) and (2) don’t concern me; we will either see a “no deal” exit (i.e. WTO terms) or a reasonable but not perfect deal.

(3) and (4) are truly scary but, to be true, using our razor, have the most unproven assumptions.

Have I missed any potential explanations?

Which do you think is most likely?

What this war needs is a futile gesture….

Well, that’s a clear choice then

The democratically-elected joint Presidents of the EU have written to Theresa May with assurances that are apparently meant to help her convince parliament to vote for the recently negotiated deal.

The letter in full is here.

Parliament has the “meaningful vote” this evening around 19.00 UK time. It’s not looking likely that the deal will be ratified, but in these febrile times, who knows?

The great thing about the letter, if one chooses to read it carefully, is that it clearly signals to the UK that the EU has not, nor has any intention of in the future, negotiating in good faith.

That’s quite a bold statement, why am I so sure?

Theresa May’s biggest problem (of which she has many) is that she relies on the Northern Ireland party, the DUP, to have any chance of winning the vote.

The DUP’s prime concern is that Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK and not be become a vassal state of the Republic of Ireland and the EU.

In fact that should also be the prime concern of any resident of Britain who enjoys only having Islamic terrorism to contend with these days.

So, if you were the EU president and you wanted to give that assurance to Theresa May to pass on to the DUP, all it would take would be an extra clause in the agreement giving the UK the unilateral ability to exit the so-called “backstop”. What, maybe 2 sentences with no more that 40 words in total?

That it’s not offered in that letter and, instead, there are vague and nebulous statements about “best endeavours” signals they aren’t interested in compromising.

This is the paragraph that tells you they aren’t budging;

The European Council also said that, if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided, and that the European Union, in such a case, would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop, and would expect the same of the United Kingdom, so that the backstop would only be in place for as long as strictly necessary.

In other words, “you’ve had our best offer, take it or leave it”.

Bill’s Opinion

Whatever happens, democracy in the UK will never be the same after this evening.

It’s anyone’s guess what comes next; riots on the street, quiet resignation of rule by elites or perhaps even the recognition that MPs are voted in to office to do as they are told?

Regardless, unless parliament can agree on a new bill to alter the current withdrawal bill or the Cabinet triggers a constitutional crisis by extending Article 50, the UK leaves the EU at 11pm, March 29th.

Deal or no deal.

Incentives matter, #7538

How on earth will I manage to find something to be cynical about this?

Greece has awarded citizenship to three migrant fishermen – two Egyptians and an Albanian – who rescued Greeks from a devastating fire near Athens last July.

At a ceremony the Greek President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, thanked the fishermen for showing “solidarity and humanity” by rescuing dozens of people.

“You are now European citizens too, and so you can teach all our partners who don’t realise the values of Europe, to do what they ought to do,” he said.

Bills Opinion

The three men did a great thing and deserved a reward.

The problem is, the Greeks have just indicated to the market that the price of a European passport is to heroically save a life from a fire.

Most illegal immigrants won’t do anything malicious based on this price signal.

There will be some who will, however. My prediction is that there will be at least one fire set simply to enable an illegal immigrant so “save” a life. Let’s hope nobody dies as a consequence.

French virtue signalling

Seen today whilst passing through Gare de Lyon;

Look closely; the chaps who are recharging their mobile phones are having to pedal for the electricity.

Bear in mind the following;

– France has the lowest priced electricity in Europe at €0.15 per kilowatt because they heavily rely on the very sensible method (if you don’t like carbon) of generating energy: nuclear, and

– It takes about 1 kilowatt to fully charge an iPhone, and

– A static exercise bike costs about €200, probably triple that once it’s been integrated into a seat, table and charge station, and there are three of them, and

– The maintenance costs are likely to be the equivalent of a couple of hours of labour a month plus parts, so perhaps €100.

Therefore (and if someone can check my calculations, I’d be grateful), over 12,000 phones would need to be charged a year for this station to make economic sense. So, an average of 33 a day, including Christmas.

Except… an efficient bike generator produces about 100 watts an hour, so there’s absolutely no way these three machines would get even close to a 10% ROI, even if they were fully-utilised around the clock.

Bill’s Opinion

Dear railway travellers of France; the Gare de Lyon station management think you’re a bunch of fat lazy bastards and are therefore happy to spend money in a completely inefficient way to make you change your ways.

Oh, and to the bloke wearing sunglasses indoors at 4pm on a January afternoon; you’re a twat.