Sometimes it IS less about the argument than the person making it

The UK’s ex-Prime Minister, John Major, has lent his considerable gravitas (where’s the irony font when you need it?) to the punditry around the Brexit negotiations, urging the current Prime Minister to allow MPs a free vote to ratify the final negotiated position.

Around the same time, another ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has suggested that the peace in Ireland was being placed at risk by the Brexit negotiations and their focus around the border arrangements between Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK, for those who live under a rock) and the Republic of Ireland.

This is, of course, sophistry of its purist form by both elder statesmen. Major, for example, is quite aware that the vast majority of MPs of all political hues were in favour and actively campaigned for the Remain option, despite 17 million of their constituents getting out and voting the opposite. How does he feel they will vote when offered a chance to critique the final Brexit negotiation?

Blair also is quite aware that hostilities are not going to reoccur because the UK leave the EU but because the IRA or split-off factions decide to commit violence. One absolutely does not have to follow the other, it’s a choice the erstwhile terrorist will have to make. It would be a very interesting choice too, in these post-911 days.  One suspects NORAID might not be such an efficient fundraiser these days and would most likely attract unwelcome attention from the Homeland Security agencies. Certainly, the first shots in “The Troubles 2 ™” won’t be fired by British or Irish troops or police.

So why the interventions at this stage in their retirements and who exactly are they trying to persuade?

Major, for example, left office as a laughing stock, with a series of failed and insipid policies (motorway traffic cones hotline, anyone?) behind him as he handed over to Blair with a record majority.

Blair’s “New Labour”government started well, aping the economic policies of the Conservatives, managed to broker a peace deal with the IRA (at what cost, we might still ask, however) but then threw his legacy away by blindly following George W Bush into Afghanistan and, more egregiously, Iraq.

The general public in the UK have not forgotten either. In addition, the core membership of the Conservative Party and the Labour Party hold Major and Blair in contempt respectively.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the irony of two elder statesmen calling for the sovereignty of the UK Parliament to be maintained as paramount whilst being opposed to Brexit, a policy which will return much of the power previously handed over to the European Parliament. Deep down they must both understand that their positions have a logical inconsistency, surely?

So, the question remains, who exactly are they hoping to persuade?

Bill’s Opinion

It’s probably a different answer for both.

Major, for example, has no grassroots support from the public or his party’s membership, his party’s MPs are likely ambivalent about him at best (many weren’t adults during his premiership) and has little credible legacy to protect from his time in office. He seems to spend a lot of his retirement at the MCC watching cricket.

It’s most likely that Major is appealing directly to the Prime Minister to allow MPs to vote on the final deal because he hopes they will moderate the extent of a divorce he’s opposed to.

Blair similarly is the recipient of little public love and is openly criticised by his party’s membership and MPs. He has, however, amassed an incredible personal wealth since leaving office from various ventures and positions within the very institutions Brexit is terminating the UK’s relationship with.

It’s most likely that Blair is virtue signalling to his European colleagues that it will be business as usual for his wife and him following Brexit; i.e. he’s reapplying for his current job.

Mexican standoff… in Australia!

A week or so ago, I wrote the following;

And now for some speculation; this will blow up in the Australian Prime Minister’s face as it is highly-unlikely that this will be the final sexual dalliance to be or have been occurring at senior government levels. By writing his moralistic code of conduct, he’s just given a green light for these stories to emerge.

Today a journalist tacitly admitted there’s a battle underway between those who now believe they should be reporting matters sexual in the Australian Federal parliament and those who would keep the status quo code of silence;

Politicians (and men of public stature more generally) are fearful of what past misdeeds might be uncovered next.

Journalists are at internal war over what is in the public interest and what is not.

Note the subtle men of public stature dig there.

Unless all of the latent scandals being prepared for public consumption are about gay sex, presumably there’s a significant ratio of women involved in these rendevous cinq à sept, and not all of whom are Foreign Minister?

Yesterday a minister, Michaela Cash, made some unsubtle hints about two senior opposition MPs which she was then pressured into retracting. But, of course, the inferred allegation they were both adulterers is now out there permanently.

Shots have been fired, it will be interesting to see if the response is a return volley.

Bill’s Opinion

This is pure Game Theory being played out in public;

Journalists are contemplating whether or not they can claim a public interest angle to publishing details of politicians’ sexual dalliances.

Politicians are using parliamentary privilege to make allegations about their opponents.

As both groups have individuals break ranks and start letting the information flow into the public domain, there will be less reason for others to maintain their silence.

In other news, Australian popcorn futures have suddenly doubled in value.

Is Socialism a result of human genetics?

John McDonnell, Deputy Leader of the UK Labour Party told those who would listen at Davos that the problems Venezuela is currently experiencing are a consequence of an incomplete implementation of Socialism, rather than a design fault with the ideology itself.

Ponder that for a moment; Not Socialist enough.

Today’s thoughts are not meant as a persuasion attempt to argue that Socialism is a catastrophically bad system due to a hard-coded flaw in the dogma.

If you don’t believe that the millions of deaths in the 20th Century in places as diverse in culture, history, environment and natural resources as Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea, Bulgaria, Romania and Ethiopia are directly attributable to a design fault with Socialism then you may wish to find something else to read today.

Correlation isn’t causation, but when we start reaching the levels of murders that are uncountable (pick a source; 100 million? 200 million?), the on the ground buried in the ground evidence is just too compelling. How many more deaths under Socialist governments would it take to convince you? Half a trillion? More?

I’m suggesting a hypothesis that undeniably really bad ideas that refuse to die in the face of overwhelming evidence must be somehow genetically hard-coded.

Malthusianism and collectivism are two examples.

Malthus has been wrong with regards to humans now for almost 300 years yet the basic idea is still attractive to those who discover it, from the supporters of eugenics, through The Club of Rome to the religiosity of Al Gore and his supporters.

Collectivism has killed several hundred million and counting but dreamers like McDonnell still pine for the opportunity to finally implement the correct working version.

Let’s pause for a moment and count the ways McDonnell is suffering from cognitive dissonance;

  1. Denial of the overwhelming evidence across multiple geographies and points in time that collectivism finishes in tyranny, poverty and mass murder.
  2. Denial of the overwhelming evidence that trade and commerce between individuals has resulted in the most incredible fall in absolute poverty on a global scale.
  3. Dunning Kruger-ism at the improbability that he, and his closest cohorts, with their almost non-existent experience of managing anything more complicated than a local political party sub-branch, could measure and manage a national economy to deliver sustainable improvements to the lives of all its citizens.

Note that in point #2 above, I use absolute poverty rather than relative poverty as the true measure of success. Put crudely, if we’re all equally scratching around killing pet rabbits for food, being equally poor is little comfort. If I can afford to eat, clothe myself and heat my home, the worry that Jeff Bezos is richer than Croesus is a luxury I can only afford because I am not dirt poor.

PJ O’Rourke said that Communism DOES work and is an absolutely perfect system inside his family home; he brings in the income and his wife and children distribute it according to their needs. The problem is that it just doesn’t scale any wider than the border of his property.

People like McDonnell are trying to scale to the macro what only works at the micro level. Perhaps a clue is to be had there.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not credible to believe that the “if only we could implement Socialism properly” crowd are unaware of the brutal legacy of bloodshed of Socialism.

Its also hard to believe that, being aware of these mass murders in the name of their preferred dogma, they don’t care.

There must be something deeper, more fundamental to the human psyche that is the root cause of this refusal to give up on what is so clearly a bad idea.

Perhaps human evolution, so heavily-dependent on cooperation and self-organisation by specialities (at its simplest, the hunter goes off to hunt while the gatherer stays home to gather) has resulted in an instinct that teaches the positive value of collecting and distributing resources at a group level.

At the small scale of tribal/extended family, this would have been a very successful strategy.

The evidence is in that it results in tragedy at the scale of national populations.

How then, do we teach ourselves to let go of ideas when they cease to work for the circumstances with which we are faced?

“Not diverse enough”

Have a guess what today’s headline is describing. Go on, give it your best shot.

We’ll start you off with a few options;

  • An exclusive golf club with an outdated dress code,
  • A 200 year old London gentlemen’s club,
  • The executive team running a FTSE100 company,
  • The government cabinet of ministers,
  • The shadow government cabinet of ministers,
  • The board of a charity with somewhat “progressive” credentials,
  • The nominees for a prestigious movie awards event,
  • Henry, the mild mannered janitor?

Nope, it’s the awfully-right wing London Pride carnival.

A quick history lesson for the younger readers; London’s “Pride” was originally “Gay Pride”, and started in 1972 on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York. The riots were a response to Police brutality during a raid on a gay bar and are seen as a key pivot point for gay rights.

Language and definitions are useful milestones on the journey here. From the Wiki page on the Stonewall Riots (emphasis added);

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. At the time, the Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons and was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth.

All of those groups in italics were comfortable enough to be grouped as “gay” for the purposes of the subsequent civil rights activism which resulted in discriminatory laws to be repealed. i.e. the LGBTQI movement of today would have just the one one letter, “G”, back then and the “LBTQ and I” folk would have willingly got right behind it.

Bill’s Opinion

What started out as a civil rights movement in the 1970s has been incredibly successful. When the gay rights movement is compared with other civil rights struggles (Blacks in the USA, Catholics in Northern Ireland, for example), it’s clear that the key goals of the movement have been achieved in a remarkably short time period.

When many individuals can agree on a common goal, they naturally self-identify within a group; that’s the “gay” part of gay pride, an individual’s sub-category of gayness is less important whilst the main shared goal is still being pursued.

Perhaps though, when the shared goal has been attained and the consensus can’t agree on a compelling replacement, the group will fracture back down to the individual level. At the lowest level of analysis, we are all ultimately sitting in our own unique subset at the intersection of a myriad of Venn Diagram circles. Finding critical common unaddressed needs, gripes and complaints across very diverse individuals is actually quite rare in most circumstances.

The current trend is for this fracturing of previously large groups into much more tightly-defined smaller groups, hence the continued proliferation of letters each year on the LBGTQI continuum.

This should be actively encouraged by any sane individual who loathes identity politics because the natural end of the road for this trend is that we are all considered a minority; the individual is the world’s smallest minority.

Teach your sons well

Apologies, but we’re sticking with Australia and Australian politics today because, well, it’s such a rich seam to mine.

As we’ve discussed previously, the scandal surrounding the Deputy Prime Minister is, like herpes, the gift that keeps on giving. Nobody, with perhaps the exception of his estranged wife and daughters, are coming out of this situation with the ability to hold their heads high.

A quick recap;

  • Deputy PM has a history of pontificating on moral matters, especially “family values”.
  • He has an affair with a member of staff.
  • She falls pregnant, he’s kicked out the family home.
  • He finds a new job for her on the taxpayer’s coin.
  • They accept a gift of a rent-free apartment.
  • The scandal breaks, he refuses to resign.
  • The PM refuses to fire him but introduces a new code of conduct which would mean the next minister caught shagging a staff member would be fired.

Since then the Deputy PM has made a few public statements. This one, for example;

Subsequently, there has been a very tame interview with the new couple in their “very ‘umble” apartment where the general theme is that, somehow, they are the victims in all of this.

Bill’s Opinion

What follows is not a moral judgement on the Australian Deputy PM’s sexual dalliance but an assessment of how he has since responded to its publicity.

Barnarby Joyce’s unborn child is a boy. Barnarby clearly needs to quickly gain some experience in raising sons.

Here’s a few lessons that may be useful;

  1. Take ownership of decisions you make and their consequences. Flying on airplanes doesn’t generally result in people cheating on their spouses by playing “hide the snag” with junior members of staff. You chose to do that and the quicker you accept and own the consequences the sooner everyone can move out of crisis mode.
  2. Rushing to claim victim status is never the correct behaviour for men. It’s not a particularly good idea for women either but it’s especially castrating for the male of the species. Barnaby Joyce is not the victim here and, even if he were, the correct approach is to quietly accept the misfortune and move on.
  3. In the words of Jordan Peterson, one of the best pieces of advice you can give a son is to “tell the truth and carry a heavy load“. The first step is to tell the truth to oneself and expand from there.
  4. The worst example you can show a son is to tell lies and claim victimhood. Barnaby needs to fix this problem as soon as possible before his son learns by example.

Lastly, given the reputations of Boris “come upstairs and let me read Ovid’s Art of Love to you in the original Latin” Johnson and Julie “#PolliePedal” Bishop, this seems like a photo in need of a caption;

Shark jumping is a new Olympic sport

Elite sports teams should be mixed gender, according to “a rising star” in the current Australian government.

Linda Reynolds would like a parliamentary debate on the subject, paid for by the Australian taxpayer.

Presumably she’s already solved the problems of national policy on cheap energy generation and security, the complexities of the tax code, affordable health care, the creeping pension Ponzi and updating the school curriculum to ensure a future-ready workforce so has got time to spare for this important topic?

Perhaps we can help shorten the debate with a couple of pertinent pictures;

Exhibit A, the largest elite Australian female rugby player, Violeta Tupuola.

Violeta weighs in at a solid 99kg.

Exhibit B, her likely opponent next time she plays against England, Kyle Sinkler;

Kyle has been cutting back on the pastries recently and has trimmed down to an anorexic 124kg, over 25% heavier than his new Australian opponent. That will make for an “interesting” contest at scrum time.

Let’s give a little more context. Here is the lightest man on the current England squad, Danny Care;

Danny currently weighs in at 88kg, or just 11% lighter than the biggest Australian female player. They play in very different positions on the field, Violeta is selected for her power and bulk, Danny for his nimbleness and speed.

What other facts could we bring to the debate?

How about looking at the delta between some of the current men’s and women’s world records;

100m sprint – 0.91 seconds

1,500m – 24.07 seconds

Raw deadlift – 155kg

Long jump – 1.43m

That trend continues for every world record. There is no Olympic sport where women outperform men, including air rifle shooting, an event where it isn’t obvious that a larger body or greater aerobic capacity would be an advantage.

It’s almost as if human beings are, I dunno, a dimorphic species selected over an incredibly long time by natural selection to perform different tasks…..

To return to the article;

However Marnee McKay, a lecturer in musculoskeletal physiotherapy at the University of Sydney, doubted mixed gender teams would suit contact sports.

She said her researched showed that from 12 years of age, “males and females are fundamentally physically different in terms of speed, power and coordination and balance”.

She said tests demonstrated males were stronger than women but females were better at tasks that required fine motor skills. Dr McKay said mixed gender teams could work for sports like lawn bowls.

“But rugby league? No. I cannot see male and female professional athletes competing across all sports as a blanket rule.”

Dr. McKay is risking the Twitter mob pile on by bringing such inconvenience irrelevancies like scientific facts into the debate.

Bill’s Opinion

If there is a parliamentary debate on this proposal, Australian taxpayers should all send an invoice to Linda Reynolds totalling the consequent wasted salaries and building power expended during such a pointless exercise.

“Methinks the lady doth…..”

The Australian Foreign Minister sure does get around a bit. One day in Canberra, London the next.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has stopped short of throwing her direct support behind a ban on ministers having sex with staff.

Curious.

She goes on to give some advice to the press on their job descriptions;

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has warned the media not to take it upon themselves to police the Turnbull government’s new sex ban, saying it is a matter of personal responsibility for ministers to abide by their expanded code of conduct.

That’s fairly unsubtle; “keep your prying noses out of our private lives”.

Some of us may have previously been of the opinion that the press were a necessary part of the checks and balances applied to those who wish to wield political power over us.

And she suggested the ban should be read in the context of the wider purpose of the code, to prevent conflicts of interest, misuse of public money or undue influence.

That’s a helpful interpretation for us all there; “it’s a code of conduct to prevent probity issues so don’t go publicising promiscuity and extra-marital affairs unless you can prove corruption”.

One almost gets the impression La Bishop is becoming concerned about something personal.

“It’s certainly not open season for the media,” Julie Bishop said.

Quite right, we wouldn’t want an open season and all the concomitant erm, openness that would bring.

Ms Bishop said there were aspects of politicians’ lives that were private and should be kept private.

Oh, do tell us more about which aspects you’re thinking about specifically….

Bill’s Opinion

What politicians do in their or other people’s bedrooms is their business and should remain that way. There might be three exceptions to this rule however;

  1. Where there is evidence of probity or conflict of interest issues arising from private relationships.
  2. Where there is a perception of probity or conflict of interest issues arising from private relationships.
  3. Where the behaviour contradicts previously-stated public positions by the individual.

And now for some speculation; this will blow up in the Australian Prime Minister’s face as it is highly-unlikely that this will be the final sexual dalliance to be or have been occurring at senior government levels. By writing his moralistic code of conduct, he’s just given a green light for these stories to emerge.

Of course, he could have just fired the Deputy Prime Minister immediately and watched the news cycle move on to the latest Donald Trump tweet. But that would have required vertebral fortitude.

When critical thinking ends, self-hate begins

This briefly leapt into my Creepbook for Business timeline yesterday before I judiciously hit the “unfollow” button on the twat who thought this was appropriate to my professional life.

If that’s not bad enough, the comments should ruin any remaining hope you have for post-Renaissance Western civilisation. With very few exceptions, every response is a variant on virtue signalling, self- loathing, identity politics and really poor quality (if at all) critical thinking.

Obviously the flow chart is meant as a commentary on the fact that the most recent USA school shooter is a young white male.

It’s hard to think that anything good at all can result from these tragedies but at the very least we can identify who among us are absolute fools.

99% of the commentators on the above post, for example.

Bill’s Opinion

We could play the identity politics game and run a Pareto of numbers of gun crimes and murders by ethnicity of the perpetrator (first prize African American) or we could wave a finger at Virginia Tech, but we won’t.

Why? Because the reason we are in this shitty hole is mainly due to identity politics.

Oh, and the irony should not be lost that Ian Bremner’s employer is “Eurasia Group”, as in “we’ve always been at war with Eurasia“.

Useful Idiot.

That’s the thing with concepts….

Apparently, cryptocurrencies make no sense.

The author offers the following qualities as being important for a currency;

  • facilitating transactions;
  • a store of value;
  • lending of last resort.

And then goes on to explain why cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin, fail to tick any of those three qualities.

Tellingly though, he hints at the reason why our current currencies do provide those features;

Bill’s Opinion

Fiat currency passes his three tests not because “the government guarantees it” but because we believe that guarantee.

Money is fungible, a unit of measure and a store of value because we have bought into the idea*. When enough of us cease to believe in a concept, it stops being real.

Some examples of this include; the 12 gods of classical Greek religion, purgatory, the noble savage, copper bracelets for arthritis and the Bermuda triangle.

Sure, cyptocurrencies are a million miles away from being trusted stores of value or tools to transact exchange today. However, should enough people find that they trust the concept enough to use it in a limited way, there is nothing to distinguish “Billy Occam Coin” from good old greenbacks.

In the meantime, if you distrust those central bankers but don’t want to buy a cryptocurrency that fluctuates 10% up or down daily, gold seems to have passed the test of time as a value store. You might find your local bartender reticent to give you change from an ounce of it when you order a beer, though.

*I disagree about the “lender of last resort” requirement – many of our economic issues today would have been avoided without this “public service”. Let failed banks die and new ones fill the space.