What’s not being said here?

Ellen McArthur, the legendary solo circumnavigator is leading a campaign against plastic pollution in the oceans.

Hopefully she’s not another of these Cultural Marxists who dislike inconvenient facts.

Oh, wait;

 

Is that correct? Did the massive global whaling industry stop because we ran out of whales?

Or… was it made uneconomical in the face of the new advances in refining crude oil? Whale oil became an expensive and smelly product compared to the much cheaper products of Standard Oil.

Yes, that’s right; J. D. Rockefeller should take the credit for saving the whale.

Let’s see what else she’s confused about;

Yes, that’s probably not wasted effort but, does it agree with what our old friend the Pareto distribution tells us? i.e. are we getting the biggest bang for buck, have we targeted the largest sources of pollution first?

The article is silent on this. There’s actually no figures about where the pollution comes from mentioned in the article at all, which seems strange if we’re serious about the desired outcome of preventing the plastic entering the ocean, surely we’d need to know where and who to target first?

In fact, one has to sift through several pages of comments (I wouldn’t recommend this; the Grauniad comments section has its own DSM-5 category) until we find a lone voice of reason…. which everyone else ignores!

Bill’s Opinion

90% of the plastic pollution comes from just 10 rivers. Depending on your definition of what constitutes a major river, there’s about 165 major rivers emptying into the oceans. There’s that Pareto rule again…..

If we are serious about halting the suffocation of the oceans, perhaps we should be working with China, India and the countries of North and West Africa to find ways to reduce their reliance on one-time use plastic. Don’t expect a journalist at the Grauniad to ask difficult questions like that though.

Statistics are fun

More numerical ignorance on Creepbook for Business (TM);

To which my favourite reply is;

The WEF is obviously trying to make a point along the lines of #notallmuslims that our fear of Islamic terrorism is not rational, based on the relative causes of death, and the compliant Katja has bought the idea in full.

Let’s ask some additional questions;

Interestingly, there’s something nearly all of the categories have in common except the terrorism one; there’s a large factor of personal responsibility which could be exercised to avoid demising by each method.

Gun-toting toddlers, for example; why is there an armed weapon within reach of a toddler? In all states, that would be a violation of your gun licence (assuming you have one, of course).

Lightning; electrical storms don’t just appear overhead without warning, so it would be extremely unlikely that you didn’t have several loud and bright clues that seeking safe cover would be a good idea.

Lawnmowers; the words “user error” and “read the fucking manual” come to mind.

Being hit by a bus; don’t jaywalk? Oh, hang on, that prompts another question; where’s the category for automobile accidents? There’s about 37,000 deaths on the road each year. That’s more than all of the categories chosen above combined.

Falling out of bed; really? That’s a medical category on death certificates is it, rather than “elderly and infirm person died from complications following being hospitalised after falling out of bed”, for example? Sniff test failure.

Then lastly, being shot by another American.  At least the WEF is fair-minded enough to only show homicides, as the vast majority of deaths by guns are suicide (2 for every 1 homicide). Being murdered by a gun is terrible, of course, but there are always things one can do to reduce the probability of this occurring. Top of this list would be “not having a criminal record” as various studies suggest 3 out of every 4 gun murders are of people with criminal histories.

Another good avoidance technique might be to keep away from several specific metropolitan areas, such as Washington DC, Baltimore, Puerto Rico in general, etc. and certain specific neighbourhoods in every other metropolitan area. You know, keep away from the bad part of town like Mum and Dad used to tell you, perhaps there was a good reason for that advice.

Also, the statistics tell us that a really good avoidance technique would to not be a black male between the ages of 17 and 24 and to certainly not be in the proximity of anyone involved with crack cocaine. No judgment here, that’s just what the data is telling us.

In contrast to all these sensible methods we can deploy to avoid an early death, terrorism is a little trickier to pre-empt and avoid. I suppose we could steer clear of tall buildings in New York in 2001, travelling in planes or trains, crossing the road in France, attending Christmas markets in Germany, using the underground in London, being a priest in a rural church in France, a concert in Paris or Manchester, a marathon in Boston, etc. etc. etc. Not so easy after all, eh?

Which is perhaps why it’s called “terrorism” rather than “an avoidable accident” or simply “a murder“.

Bill’s Opinion

This relativism using statistics is fun but deliberately misses the main point about terrorism, that is, it is intentionally unpredictable and difficult to defend against because the entire point is to terrorise the surviving population.

In the future, historians may look back at apologists like Katja and WEF and diagnose a form of Stockholm Syndrome as the cause.

Sustainability or fame, journalists must choose

H/t to Dominic Frisby for the core of this idea which he summarised on a recent James Delingpole podcast.

Journalism will likely go down in history as the profession most-ironically least-aware of its impending doom. By this, I mean that it is the profession which is paid to report on, erm, new and interesting developments.

So the irony is that this same profession completely missed the invention of the internet, cheap mobile data, smart phones and social media, the combination of which has all but destroyed what was previously a solid and respectable career from school leaver to retirement age.

Before technology overtook journalists, the supply/demand curve was balanced enough to keep everyone employed, even with the various government-sponsored news sources providing the same service “for free”, such as the UK’s BBC, Canada’s CBC or Australia’s ABC.

This all changed when we could select various news websites on our phone rather than waiting for the 9pm news or the paper boy to do his rounds in the morning.

The industry has been hurting since with many famous old brands closing shop or downsizing to shadows of their former selves.

In recent times however, some brands are beginning to turn a profit again. The Times Group (The Times and The Sunday Times) in London made a profit in 2014 for the first time in 13 years. In 2016, The Times Group made £11m while in contrast, Guardian Media Group, owner of The Guardian, lost £69m.

The Times implemented a “hard” paywall in 2010.

The Guardian does not have a paywall, just a passive-aggressive begging letter at the bottom of every webpage.

There is another huge difference between the paywall and non-paywall media companies; you will know the names of the journalists employed by The Guardian, you are unlikely to recall any for The Times.

As a journalist, it’s fantastic for your public exposure if you are employed by a non-paywall newspaper in a way that those behind the paywall can only dream of. People can read your content for free, resulting in more publicity and other side projects and TV/radio appearances, while your employer continues to pay your salary at a flat rate.

Those behind the paywall must continually write quality and engaging journalism that chimes with their readership. If not, they will be replaced by someone else who can.

The free content johnnies, on the other hand, are working for clicks alone. It apparently makes no difference whether or not they are monetised in any way.

Think Giles Coren versus Owen Jones.

One model boosts a few egos whilst murdering shareholder value, the other demands quality and delivers increased shareholder value.

Bill’s Opinion

Paywalls are inevitable for non-state funded news organisations. Cost cutting is a healthy discipline but there comes a point where the quality suffers and consumers choose to pay for a better product. The results of this experiment are now in.

Organisations such as the UK’s Guardian Media Group or Australia’s Fairfax are currently staring down few choices, none of which are palatable; charge for all content, find a new business model or close down.

The journalists have a starker choice; write content people are willing to pay for or find another job.

The next two or three years will be interesting times watching the non-paywallers.

Your taxpayer rupees paid for this

I’m still in India, Calcutta to be precise, one of the best cities in the country for many varied reasons.

Newspaper subscribers in the city were greeted by this paid front page on one of their main broadsheets (if you’re not familiar with Indian numerical terms, 1 lakh = 100,000, 1 crore = 10,000,000);

I’m not going to poke fun at the Indian version of English deployed within the infomercial, there’s more speakers of the language here than in any other country so it’s as much their language as ours after all.

I will, however, examine the insidious way the reader is encouraged towards gratitude for the efforts of a certain publicity-shy state minister over the last couple of years in his job of spending their money.

Picking out a few example statements;

Free Power to Agriculture“; someone is paying for it, just not the farmers.

Telangana exceeds national per capita consumption“; is that a good thing? Interesting difference between India and a western country where the former might see increased usage as a key metric of modernisation. In the west, we’d just feel bad about it.

This is the most instructive part though;

One assumes reliable and cheap electricity supply is the requirement most rate/taxpayers would express, not employment, promotions, changes to employment status, etc.?

This is how India differs from most other Anglosphere countries however.

India is an amazing country. Firstly, it never should have been a country in the first place; the British conquered, bribed or annexed a lot of disparate kingdoms (none of which were anything close to a democracy) into what then became lumped together and known as “India”. The mutiny in 1857 is now referred to in India as the First War of Independence, but in reality, it was no such thing, if the British had lost there would have been an inter-regnum which would have seen various Maharajas competing for top dog status, the population wouldn’t have been consulted or considered. The Partition of 1947 was a disaster that was perhaps waiting to happen as a consequence of this unnatural joining of many different kingdoms.

India is amazing also because it is simultaneously the epitome of a capitalist economy and also a centrally-planned state. You’re probably wondering why and how this can be.

The vast majority of transactions,  95% in fact, in India are cash. As a consequence it’s hard to get a breakdown of the values but one could reasonably assume most of the volume is below US $10 in value. The important point is that the Government doesn’t have much opportunity to be involved in these transactions. This is why a paper cup of masala chai still costs roughly what it did 20 years ago (10 rupees), a shave at a barbers’ still costs about 60 rupees and an autorickshaw journey of a few kilometres is still less than 100 rupees. The input costs are the major factor in the price, not the government overheads, and these have remained flat or reduced over time.

On the macro level, however, the taxes paid in a country of a billion or more people still total a very large number. As with politicians the world over, this money is then diverted to pork-barrel projects that buy short term votes; dams, electricity distribution projects, highways, border skirmishes with Pakistan, etc.. However, because of the 95% cash transaction issue, the politicians usually steer well-clear of the full Communist central planning drive for utopia as it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that the oppressive infrastructure just isn’t in place to enforce it. It’s a nice halfway house really; the politicians can get comfortably wealthy through the usual methods but are happy enough to let most people simply get on with commerce. And commerce works; the middle class here has grown 20 fold in 25 years.

Bill’s Opinion

One of the main brakes slowing India from becoming a centrally-planned disaster is the inability of a government to intervene in the minutia of the population’s lives. Unmonitored transactions is a key foundation to this freedom.

As the American Founding Fathers and Hayek’s Road to Serfdom warned us, concentrations of power and information in the hands of government officials always leads to abuse. Just because  your guy got voted in and used the additional power in a relatively useful way, there’s no guarantee the next guy will be benign with the increased reach.

It’s for this reason, I hope cash, gold and cryptocurrencies have a long life ahead of them. Imagine a world were every single transaction is tracked electronically and then consider what that information would be worth to a malicious leader.

Oh, and irony of the day; Calcutta isn’t even in the state of Telangana.

You have a faith in something? What if you’re wrong?

Today’s investigation is on location from Varanasi, Benares, or at least three other names the place has been called over the centuries. This is the 2nd last stop during a pleasant holiday visit to India.

The city is built at the point the holy river Ganges pauses its south easterly direction to take a diversion north, making it the most auspicious part of the most auspicious river in India. Bathing here absolves one of sin. Dying here guarantees instant Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth).

In the words of the Daily Express tagline, all human life is here. The tiny backstreets behind the Ghats (steps) down to the river are the Indian equivalent of a Victorian circus freak show with lepers, cripples, the accidentally-maimed (and some deliberate, either self-inflicted or by relatives looking for an income), Hirjas (transsexuals), more wandering cows than one can possibly imagine and all of their subsequent manure, piles of rubbish, human waste and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Most of the Ghats are used for bathing and offerings but several are “burning Ghats” where a constant activity continues to cremate those lucky enough to have died here. Everything is on show, nothing is left to the imagination.

Around 18km north of Benares is the smaller city of Sarnath, location of the Deer Park, where Gautam Buddha first preached to his followers after reaching enlightenment two and a half thousand years ago.

The location is also significant to Jainism, a religion with much in common with Buddhism and of a similar age, as one of their main prophets spent significant time here.

Buddhists from all over the world congregate here in temples built by Nepalese, Tibetan, Thai, Chinese and many other nationalities.

This is a holy place. In addition to to the Indians making their way to the Ghats, many westerners can be seen seeking enlightenment from the gurus. One can tell those seeking spiritual guidance from the tourists by their lack of hygiene and the fact that they dress even more embarrassingly than the overweight Americans in supermarket denim with elasticated waists.

In the main, the hippies are are just playing at this exotic religion thing though; beyond a silly haircut, mildly regrettable tattoo and several months of their life wasted on bhang (marijuana), they can still have a shave and a shower and go home to a corporate job and the comforts of modern life.

There are many more in the world and in history who make much greater commitments to their faith though, from the ascetics who perform bizarre physical feats such as keeping one arm aloft for decades or Simon Stylites sitting on top of a pillar for 37 years, acts of abstinence like vegetarians, celibate priests, teetotal muslims, acts of violence such as the Crusaders or Jihadists or simply routine drudgery like attending an Anglican Communion service every Sunday.

The question in the title stands; what if they are wrong? In addition to the three religions listed in Varanasi above, there are Christian and Muslim populations. Logically, at least four out of these five religions must be completely wrong about most of their dogma.

Back to the question; Seriously? All that effort, all those hours of contemplation and prayer, the money spent on donations for buildings, pilgrimages, tatty plastic icons (manufactured in poor conditions in Chinese factories), votive offerings, the offspring you indoctrinated?

Where’s the tangible evidence that any of it, not even the majority of it, but ANY of it was for a correct and truthful concept? Where’s the evidence that it made even the slightest positive difference (even as a placebo) to the human condition, even if it wasn’t yours?

If you’re reading this and feeling warmly smug and self-righteous about your atheism, let’s ask the question a different way; do you hold any beliefs to be true for which you cannot demonstrate incontrovertible supporting evidence?

Look deep, is there perhaps an underlying belief that, if only we’d implement the correct version of Socialism, abject poverty, corruption and tyranny wouldn’t eventually follow like it has all those countless times before?

Maybe you have no relevant qualifications or domain experience but you firmly believe that the world will warm to catastrophic levels and by simply pulling a lever and halting the economy, humans can prevent it?

Or perhaps somewhere inside your heart there’s a suspicion that the world can’t support any more people, despite the evidence to the contrary that millions upon millions of people are living healthier, longer lives than ever before and we are producing exponentially more food?

Bill’s Opinion

A few years after The Buddha died, Aristotle possibly said, “the life unexamined is not worth living“.

He also was one of the first philosophers to examine what is now known as empiricism, a search for truth by putting great reliance on that which can be observed.

Don’t waste your life, resources or emotion on that which cannot be proven to be correct. A working hypothesis is fine as long as we drop the idea once it has been proved incorrect or unlikely. Kill bad ideas quickly, it’s better to have a question mark than the wrong answer.

Namaste!

Finally; a pop star who’s actually read the job description

Following on from our boredom at Pink and Lorde’s kak-handed attempt at geo-political and social commentary, we have a belated Christmas present;

Taylor Swift refuses to be drawn into commenting on Trump, Charlottesville, climate change, gender choices of bathrooms, the quinoa vs kale debate, copper bracelets for rheumatism, the correct end to open soft boiled eggs, which wine matches duck a l’orange, or Russian hacking and simply concentrated on being a pop star.

Or, an alternate headline in this crazy contemporary version of reality; Taylor Swift faces criticism for saying she enjoyed 2017.

Yep, that sums up 2017 neatly.

Bill’s Opinion

She’s young, blonde, pretty, can presumably hold a tune (let’s give her the benefit of the doubt even though autotune is ubiquitous these days) and is making good coin singing bubblegum songs about shaking something off. Why on earth would anyone look to her for commentary on anything deeper than clothes, lipstick, the actor from the BBC John Le Carré series or songs in the key of G, as if she was this generation’s Gore Vidal or Norman Mailer?

At least she’s smart enough to work out that she will alienate fewer potential customers by keeping her personal opinions to herself rather than taking a position on any of this rubbish.

Very best wishes to her for that.

Doing the Lorde’s work

Whenever we are unsure of the correct stance to take on a complex geopolitical issue, what better oracle of wisdom to consult than a 21 year old pop singer from the civilised world’s most in-bred isolated country?

The New Zealand singer, Lorde (no, I’ve never heard any of her work either) has just cancelled (or “canceleld” in New Zealand Herald Kiwinese) her Tel Aviv concert after a fan tweeted her.

Apparently, Lorde is “learning all the time too”. Hopefully un-abbreviated English will be next on the curriculum;

The Wiki page for her tour was quickly updated, presumably by someone who is against the BDSM movement but not one who can actually spell either, unless the protests really were over lexicology and syntax;

Bill’s Opinion

Israel is the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East. Every opportunity for the Palestinians to sign an agreement which would have guaranteed a sovereign Palestinian state has been rejected and has then preceded unprovoked terrorist first strikes. For a handy timeline, Ben Shapiro’s recent podcast has a summary here (just after the intro).

The Palestinian authorities prefer to bury their children in the hope that Israel will be destroyed in the future.

Lorde is just the latest weak-willed and weak-minded vacuous pop star to fall victim to the BDSM bullies. Australian Nick Cave (the Poor Man’s Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits) being a notable exception.

She’s in fine company though; only last week the UK government signed a Yemenese motion to criticise Trump’s decision to relocate the USA embassy to Jerusalem, the country’s capital.

Ponder that for a second;

The UK government just decided to sign a pointless UN motion tabled by that country with an exemplary human rights’ record, Yemen and criticise two of its most important allies over a decision that is entirely their business to make.

Wow, Prime Minister Theresa May must be sitting on a huge majority and groundswell of popular support. Oh, hang on.

And lastly, can people please learn how to fucking use English correctly?

How interesting, but what’s the “right” answer?

Article here.

New Gallup research has found that 55% of Americans now say that if they had a new position, and it was up to them to pick a manager, they would have “no preference” in terms of their boss’s gender.

This is a far cry from the first time Gallup posed this question to respondents in 1953. Back then, 66% of Americans wanted to report to a male boss, a tiny 5% favored a female boss, and 25% didn’t mind, either way.

We are not our grandparents and therefore do not have the same socially-nurtured attitudes of our grandparents.

Perhaps this is neither good nor bad, perhaps it just “is”?

The more intriguing question is what do we think the answer will be when we’ve reached the perfect society?

That’s a leading question, of course, it infers that we have all agreed that a perfect society is a possibility and we are moving towards one.

Some might suggest theoretical perfection will have been achieved when 100% of potential employees express no preference as to the gender of their next manager.

But is that desirable or even possible? If not, why not?

Bill’s Opinion

The theoretical point of perfection in this survey is not possible while the human species is dimorphic. The physical differences between men and women are partially-responsible for personality differences.

Males and female differ both physically and psychologically. Sure, there will be outliers, an exceedingly muscular woman or a highly-empathetic man, but on a statistical basis the differences are self-evident. If this statement is incorrect and there is no difference between the sexes, why did we need a woman President of the USA and why do so many corporates operate public 50:50 Women in Leadership policies?

The survey seems pointless. Why not check to see how many people would want a Scottish boss or an alcoholic boss (but I repeat myself) as well?

What if the results never get above, say, 65% of people being happy with female bosses? Would that suggest a fault with “people” or female bosses? Would we be able to have an objective discussion around that, if so?

Pink “speaks” out

It is possible that Pink is simultaneously the least articulate and least self-aware mother alive today.

She also commended a school she had seen for having gender-neutral toilets.

“The bathroom outside the kindergarten said, ‘Gender Neutral – anybody’, and it was a drawing of many different shapes,” she said. “I took a picture of it and wrote, ‘Progress’. I thought that was awesome. I love that kids are having this conversation.”

“And I said to her, ‘Do you see me growing my hair?’ She said, ‘No, Mama.’ I said, ‘Do you see me changing my body?’ ‘No, Mama.’ ‘Do you see me changing the way I present myself to the world?’ ‘No, Mama.’ ‘Do you see me selling out arenas all over the world?’ ‘Yes, Mama.’ ‘Okay! So, baby girl. We don’t change. We take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. And we help other people to change so they can see more kinds of beauty.'”

Bill’s Opinion

Kids of five years old aren’t having this conversation, Cultural Marxist adults are and are projecting on to kids.

Why does Pink’s daughter get to be gender neutral while Pink is still “Mama” rather than a gender neutral noun?

Speaking of gender neutral nouns for parents, perhaps we could combine the two traditional names? Here’s some options;

Dummy – “Dad” added to “Mummy”

Mad – “Mum” combined with “Dad”

What if the Bitcoin boom was a conspiracy?

Conspiracy theories are for the birds, never ascribe to mendacity that which can be explained by incompetence, but they can be fun nonetheless.

Bitcoin is currently going through the mania phase of the classic chart of the bubble.

Articles about the cryptocurrency are everywhere on social media and, regardless of whichever Legacy Media ™ newspaper website you view, there will be a daily quotient of about three articles posted.

It’s the new big thing. If you bought some 5 years ago you’re minted, if you didn’t, there’s a thousand opinions on whether there’s still time.

This one, for example, written by the suspiciously 1930’s Film Noir named Spencer Bogart, in which he gives 3 reasons why the Bitcoin valuation is about right.

Strangely, none of his three reasons are “because people are hoping to sell it later for more than they bought it”.

As Warren Buffet may or may not have said, there are only two types of assets, those with an income stream and those that you hope like hell someone will buy off you later for more money.

Of course Bitcoin is a bubble.

The interesting question is not whether it’s a bubble but whether there was any intent or design behind the instigation of the bubble?

Is there a puppeteer pulling the strings or did this come about by the magic of human interaction at a speed never seen before.

Please note, the use of the word “magic” is not meant sarcastically there; humans trading in markets are responsible for wonderful things (you and I being alive and with a better chance of living longer than any of our ancestors, for example). This is a kind of magic.

But is Bitcoin multiplying by 25 times (or whatever it is currently) its value in a year a result of some effort to by an unknown party? If so, who, why, how?

In our investigation of this possible global conspiracy, let’s examine motive; who would most benefit from a bubble in the cryptocurrency?

Anyone holding it, obviously, but also anyone who wished to see it discredited. There are are only two things we know about bubbles; they crash and you can’t predict when. If you wished to discredit Bitcoin, instigating a bubble and the subsequent wringing of hands after the crash might work.

So who doesn’t want this cryptocurrency to work? Well, people invested in other cryptocurrencies and traditional currencies.

Ah, you’ve worked out where this conspiracy theory is going….

What if Central Banks such as the Federal Reserve instigated this bubble to prevent an alternate currency from destroying its stakeholders’ grip on the world’s economy? Would anyone doubt that they would if they could?

How then might this be achieved? Simply by buying the damn thing and watching the price increase!

Bill’s Opinion

The concept and the underpinning technology of Bitcoin seem sound, it’s just that there’s a wave of very basic human emotion riding it currently.

Whether or not there’s a Central Banker’s hand giving the surfboard a helpful shove or not we may never know. It’s not completely beyond the realms of possibility though.

In 2014 the World Bank produces a report with the conclusion that Bitcoin was not a deliberate Ponzi scheme. To misquote the words of the recently deceased Christine Keeler, “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?“.