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.