To a woman with a hammer

….the entire world looks like a nail.

Or, put another way:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

With that Upton Sinclair quote in mind, one wonders what the outcome might be of Bristol University’s decision to hire a researcher to investigate whether or not the institution has any residual guilt for its part in the transatlantic slave trade.

Strictly-speaking, my description above is likely to be more specific than the actual job description. The press releases all quote the investigation to be into “slavery”, rather than one specific trade route of the egregious abuse of humans.

If the remit if her job was expanded to look at the impact of any slavery, we could save her some time; of course it has. Everyone alive has.

Slavery has historically been the only route to wealth for 99% of the duration of modern humans as a species. The fact you are alive today, strongly suggests some or many of your ancestors exploited the labour of others to survive.

The degree (pun intended) to which Bristol University benefited from this seems quite a strange choice of investigation. Surely a more useful and interesting area of inquiry would be whether slavery still exists in the world and what form it takes?

Bill’s Opinion

The two universities in England most likely to have been recipients of money made from the transatlantic slave trade are Liverpool and Bristol, because the trade flowed through the ports of those cities.

The risk, 228 years after slavery was made illegal globally by the UK parliament, is to contort oneself and, by extension, our institutions to find some way of making history “right”.

Which takes us back to the who/whom? problem.

But anyway, of course a person paid to find something will find it. Imagine the awkward conversation a year later if she were to submit a report passing a clean bill of health, historically-speaking.

On bush fires and global warming

The human brain, when faced with complex, multi-variable problems requires simple, easy solutions. Sadly, this is rarely feasible.

Take, for example, the huge outbreak of bush fires currently occurring in New South Wales, Australia.

These fires are serious. Tragically, lives have been lost.

Residential properties have been destroyed, with all the concomitant heartbreak that entails, the photos, the documents of memories, the moments in places that have been forever changed or destroyed.

While the fires are still burning, rational people ask what they should do to protect themselves and their families. This describes my current situation, living as I do in an area with a heavily forested area within an easy stone’s throw.

Those not in immediate danger wonder what they might do to help their neighbours.

Then there are those who live in the Australian equivalent of Islington.

Before the bodies of the dead have been recovered, they have already determined the effect, cause and solution.

The effect is obvious; catastrophic fires.

The cause is man made climate change.

The solution is to artificially hamstring the economy in a massive transfer of wealth and power from individuals to the state:

Bill’s Opinion

A more curious mind might read the coverage of the fires and search for answers to questions such as these:

Obviously, to answer these questions one would need a lot of time to undertake research or a competent and non-activist news media to perform this on our behalf.

Instead, we are presented with the simple message that these fires are definitely the result of man made climate change and the only viable solution to the problem is renewables such as solar and wind turbines.

Finally, I challenge you to find a single mention in the Australian media or political discourse of the vaguest possibility of nuclear energy being even a minor part of the solution.

Our media are mendacious, low IQ or a mixture of the two.

Important questions of our age

The great news is, we’ve really solved all the biggest issues facing humanity and the human condition.

We must have done, because otherwise there wouldn’t be time to ask why women don’t want to date a woman masquerading as a man.

The only difference between Lee and a man…Is that Lee has one fewer penis than a man.

It’s such a little difference (well, I’m not speaking for myself here – my nickname at the rugby club was “Tripod”, after all), but one that seems to significantly matter to single women with whom Lee would like to have romantic relationships.

Lee’s complaint seems to be that regardless of whether “he” is honest from the start of the online flirting phase or saves the big (non) reveal for later, once he’s excited the potential partner that he might be a possible mate, the reaction is universal; they decline.

Obviously (?) this confuses Lee and, presumably, the commissioning editor of Vice who published this column.

How can it be, in 2019, that women can be so prejudiced and cruel to just a regular trans man seeking romantic partners? Love is love, after all, is it not?

Bill’s Opinion

If the entire world disagrees with you, particularly in the form of revealed preferences, consider the possibility it’s your world view that’s at fault.

Given that we’ve only decided women can be men and men can be women in the last decade or so, one wonders how long we might need to wait for societal norms to overturn the millions of years of biological expediency that has resulted in our arrival at this point?

In the meantime, our golden rule when reading heartfelt articles about matters trans remains true; look at the picture first, if the person provoked an immediate reaction that they are one of the ugliest men/women you’ve seen, it’s because they aren’t.

New Zealand’s “nuclear moment” *

* Spoiler alert; not really.

True to the idiom she has made all of her own, Jacinda Adern, the Mayor of New Zealand, has signalled her virtue on climate change by committing her country’s economy to being hamstrung until someone with a brain takes over her job.

If you’re interested in the details, click the link above. Be prepared, however, to be left wanting more tangible details on how this promise of carbon virtue will be achieved and funded.

That’s not the topic of this post today, however. We’re more interested in the total irony resulting in this quote and headline:

The irony is, of course, that nuclear energy does not form part of the strategy.

Bill’s Opinion

There are in life, some very useful heuristics we can use to save time when forming opinions. These are not infallible but are more often correct than not.

On climate change, if the person you are discussing the problem with fails to mention even the possibility of nuclear energy being part of the solution, you can be fairly sure they are calling for some kind of transfer of political and economic power first, solving environmental problems a far distant second.

Nobody named Brian is ever competent

It’s an uncomfortable but unconscious truth that some first names are not associated with success. Those which immediately spring to mind include; Wayne, Kevin, and Nigel.

Brian is another example. Yes, the guitarist from Queen is highly competent in the fields of music and astrophysics, but he’s the exception, like Farage is amongst all the Nigels.

Australia has a classic “incompetent Brian” running (ruining?) the bank, Wokepac.

Luckily for Brian, he’s a member of The Club, which is handy because this time next year he’ll need to find a new job.

Why?

Two reasons:

Firstly, he’s been at the helm during the latter phases of the multi-decade ongoing decline of the weakest of Australia’s “big four” banks, culminating in the apologetic letter (from page 10) in the annual report.

Secondly, he’s got to find $8m cash in his personal bank account between now and March next year.

Now, I’ve no doubt Brian’s personal wealth easily exceeds that; he earns over half of that a year in the salary component of his package alone, notwithstanding his generous decision to waive his performance bonus.

The more pertinent question is whether or not he has enough personal belief in the future of Wokepac, the Australian banking industry and the Australian economy in general, to cash in $8m of his investments and personal wealth and transfer it to shares in the dog of the banking sector?

Bills Opinion

Since joining The Club, Brian has feathered his nest nicely whilst virtue signalling, using shareholder’s money, on matters LGBTQ+, Aboriginal, diversity and every other cause célèbre.

The time has come to see quite how committed he is to this as a future business strategy. Chicken or pig, Brian?

Diplomatic immunity, Mr Riggs

Congratulations to South Africa for outplaying England in the rugby World Cup this weekend.

The Springboks made history on Saturday for two reasons; they were the first team to have lost a match during the pool stage to then go on to win the final. Secondly, they joined only New Zealand in the club of teams to have won it three times.

It’s actually better than that; two of New Zealand’s victories had the home advantage and the first one (1987) was at a time when the rest of the world didn’t pay their players whilst New Zealand only pretended not to.

England were the favourites in most pundits’ minds, so this was a brilliant upset by the Saffas.

However….

If you can bear to look, there is a concerted effort to frame this victory as “1995 redux”.

For those not interested in rugby, the 1995 World Cup victory by Francois Pienaar’s team against the All Blacks was lauded as a unifying moment for the newly-democratised country, not least because Nelson Mandela publicly supported the team by wearing the jersey with the captain’s number.

It was a really great moment in sport but does it really translate to the wider situation in South Africa? Is it going to make a difference?

Bill’s Opinion

Anyone who has visited South Africa in the last, say, fifteen years knows that this “moment for change” narrative is built on sand.

In fact, anyone who’s met a South African recently will also know it’s total bullshit.

Why? Every South African you meet has a tragic home invasion story about either themselves, a close relative or personal friend. This is not something a safe, civilised country with a positive economic and social future experiences.

Since the end of Apartheid, South Africa has simply switched the race of the 1% of the ruling class. Perhaps the Apartheid era rulers were also massively corrupt, but they managed to maintain some level of protection of personal safety and property rights (albeit for a minority of the population all of the time and the rest of the population some of the time) and could at least keep the lights on and drinking water flowing.

Through incompetence, corruption and an undisguised animus for people with the wrong colour skin (there’s a word for that which escapes me), the new ruling class have managed to reduce the size of the minority for whom living conditions are tolerable to an even smaller number than before universal suffrage.

Anyone who thinks 80 minutes of kicking and catching an oddly-shaped football will reverse the inexorable slide towards Zimbabwe V2.0 has not been paying attention or is suffering from cognitive dissonance.

There is a joke the non-ruling class blacks tell each other in South Africa; we wanted freedom but we got democracy instead.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

Lifting the veil on the narrative

Consider this tragic story of prejudice and bigotry:

The mood after the race was jubilant. Sixteen-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram, who had just run her best time yet, hugged her high school teammates as they realised they were headed to regionals.

So far, so inspiring.

Then the students went to check their individual times at last Saturday’s Ohio cross-country meeting, Abukaram remembers. It seemed there was a mistake – her 22 minutes 22 seconds was not listed.

Oh no! Why not?

Other team members who’d sat out Abukaram’s race told her what they’d heard: an official at the Ohio High School Athletic Association approached their coach just before the race to say Abukaram needed a waiver to wear her hijab. Without it, she couldn’t compete.

That’s awful. Imagine thinking you’d competed and won fairly only to discover an obscure rule you’d never known previously had disqualified you.

Abukaram had never experienced this type of bureaucratic nonsense over religious clothing before, after all.

Abukaram says she’s watched her older sister come home crying from soccer games, after being told to change out of religious garb like the long pants she wears in addition to a headscarf.

Oh, that’s awkward.

The article then mentions a different, elite-level, athlete with similar problems:

Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first US athlete to compete in the Olympics with a hijab, has described sticking out uncomfortably at competitions and being asked to remove her headscarf for an event ID photo.

Well, unless everyone is forced to wear a headscarf, then I suppose she would look different, wouldn’t she?

As for ID photos requiring an unrestricted image of the competing athlete, I’m sure someone with even the mildest ability to hypothesise could think of how waiving that rule might result in a bad result.

Back to Abukaram’s tragic case. What say the athletics event organisers?

The Ohio High School Athletic Association says it wasn’t singling out Abukaram last weekend, just enforcing its rules. Students need a waiver to run cross-country in “religious headwear”, spokesman Tim Stried told The New York Times, and Abukaram’s school had not requested one.

Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they, the bigots.

Abukaram’s request after Saturday’s race was approved “immediately”, Stried said. That means Abukaram can run this weekend in regionals.

Oh.

For Abukaram, the decision to strike her time was still hurtful. She wants the waiver requirement dropped – something OHSAA is now considering, Stried told the Times.

Quite right too. Everyone should be forced to change because of one person’s inability to ask for a waiver….which was granted immediately when requested.

Bills Opinion

Crybully is an interesting noun which explains much of what we see in cases involving participants in “The Oppression Olympics”.

In the entire article linked above, and the countless clones of it available via a Google search, the word “why” is conspicuously missing.

As in, “why does the Ohio High School Athletic Association ban head coverings unless agreed in advance?

I can’t find the reasons on the association’s website, mainly because the bylaws and general rules pages have been removed. Interestingly, they are proud enough of their transgender policy to leave that up (spoiler alert; it’s a fudge, like Cricket Australia’s).

We’ll have to speculate then.

I imagine the rule was made because, unless they legislated for every possible religious headgear, they had to reserve the right to review each individual case and not be unreasonable in granting the waivers.

How might a general rule allowing headgear be abused?

Well, we could ask why cyclists wear this type of helmet, for example:

Then there might be reasons of safety; headphones are banned because its restricts competitors’ ability to be aware of other runners.

It seems reasonable, therefore, to check each proposed headgear before a race.

But, claiming victim status and throwing accusations of bigotry is rewarded because incentives matter.

Word of the day; kayfabe

Perhaps there never was a time where we could really trust the news media to present straight facts without an agenda, but in these days of interconnectedness, we can immediately test the integrity of our journalist class for ourselves.

This story in the ever declining Sydney Morning Herald is an interesting case in point. Some facts are presented but an agenda is subtley slipped in:

New York: Chaotic scenes have broken out in Washington as Republican politicians stormed a restricted area on Capitol Hill, disrupting the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

So far, factual reporting.

The “sit in” by around 20 Republican members of Congress delayed planned testimony on Wednesday local time (Thursday AEDT) from a senior Pentagon official responsible for Ukraine policy.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Laura Cooper was due to speak in a closed-door session at 10am local time. But four hours later the Republican protest was still underway and the hearings had not started.

All of the Republicans eventually left by 3pm.

The Republicans, who chanted “Let us in! Let us in!”, refused orders to leave and had pizza delivered to the secure, underground area of the Capitol to sustain them during the action.

Some brought phones into the area, which is strictly forbidden.

Still factual. This is what we want from our news media.

But here comes the “problematic” part (underlining, mine):

The protest followed damning testimony the previous day by the top US diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor.

“Damning” why? By whose standard?

We are offered this next paragraph by way of explanation:

He said the Trump administration had endangered Ukrainian lives by withholding $US$391 million ($571 million) in military aid to pressure the country to announce an investigation into Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Do you know who else withheld military aid to the Ukraine?

Vice President Joe Biden.

The remainder of the article continues to report facts about the “sit in”, none of which are particularly interesting.

There’s this footnote, however:

The closed door hearings are aimed at deterring witnesses from co-ordinating their testimony and to discourage grandstanding by members of the committee.

Much of the most dramatic testimony, however, is quickly leaked to the press.

Bills Opinion

The main and only piece of information that matters in the entire story is whether anything material has been revealed to confirm the Democrats’ claim of illegal behaviour by Trump.

That we are offered nothing but a description of a standard operating procedure of the Office of President when dealing with foreign powers (temporarily delaying transfers of aid), suggests we are dealing with a big nothingburger (as our ex-colonial cousins might say).

That the reporter couldn’t bring himself to mention the known fact that Biden did the same thing to the same country when he was in office, tells us everything we need to know about the reporter’s motivation.

Today’s word of the day is kayfabe.

Peter Hannam isn’t even trying now

Anyone who has worked in a job where the presentation of data is an important factor, such as manufacturing, finance, IT, HR, retail, government, education, etc., will know that there are several underhand tricks one can play to persuade the viewer of the opinion you’re trying to sell.

Canny observers are sensitive to these and quickly challenge the presenter or, in sales situations where they have an alternative, simply dismiss the sales pitch and move to a more truthful competitor.

Consider then, this latest chart crime from Peter “weather is climate” Hannam in the ever-declining organ, the Sydney Morning Herald.

If you’ve never seen a graph before, the fact that this one is showing the Indian Ocean Dipole ratio trending above 2.0 for the first time ever may send you off into a public mental decline á la Mx. Thunberg.

Everyone else with a brain looks at the X-axis and immediately asks themselves two questions;

  1. What happened in all the years before 2015? and,
  2. What is Peter Hannan’s agenda for not showing it to us?

Hannam can’t quite bring himself to completely lie by omission though, so leaves a clue in the article (highlighting mine):

Scientists caution that reliable observation data only goes back a couple of decades but it is clear this year’s positive-IOD is already one of the strongest of record. So-called “reanalysis” using a combination of observations and modelling suggests the event is also notable over the past 150 years.

After warming us up with that seemingly benign statement explaining that we’ve got about 20 years of observations and then just modelled the rest using a completely un-disprovable simulation, he then goes on to show us the “missing” part of the chart:

Tip for new chart readers; that small print below the graph, explaining the data collection method is where the real news lies (pun intended).

Then comes the obligatory explanations of the data by scientists paid to research the subject of which we are being persuaded is important:

While researchers are yet to settle on how much of a role climate change is already playing in big El Ninos or IODs, “we’re seeing extreme events become more common”, Abram says.

Go on then, define “extreme” and “more common”. We’ll wait….

England says that while IODs can act independently of the Pacific, the connections remain important. For instance, the so-called Indonesian Throughflow – where warm water from the Pacific funnels its way to the Indian Ocean – could change.

…and if my mother had wheels we could use her as wheelbarrow.

“The predictions are for that to weaken,” he says. “If it does, that would be a double whammy of more El Ninos plus more positive-IODs.”

The potentially huge consequences from such complex interactions are a reminder that researchers can’t rest.

Those poor researchers, unable to rest. Thank goodness there’s an infinite supply of tax-slaves to fund their unending Heraklean endeavours.

Bill’s Opinion

In all areas of life, beware of people brandishing suspicious charts. Question not only the data collection methodology but the start and end points of both the x and y axis and whether or not a logarithmic scale is more appropriate.

After all, I might have presented the x axis of this chart completing at Day 99 instead of 100:

Image result for happiness of a turkey chart

One of the scientists offered this word salad in the interview:

“We are perturbing the atmosphere in a profound way with greenhouse gases,” England says. “How this changes our modes of variability is uncertain.”

There’s a key point being made here; the driving forces resulting in the Indian Ocean Dipole ratio over the last 100 years and into the future are, wait for it, multi-variable, as in an almost infinite number of variables.

Anyone claims to be able to accurately predict, or even directionally-predict a multi-variable equation such as the ratio of sea temperatures between the western and eastern sides of an ocean is either a fool or a knave.

Peter Hannam has enough of a back catalogue of presenting this sort of mendacity as fact that we feel certain his motivation is to lie to us to push forward a personal agenda.

J’accuse, Peter Hannam. You are a liar.

On Extinction Rebellion and other doomsday cults

With the news this week of a family of cloggy Kaas Kops living in the basement of a farm for nine years waiting for the end of the world, perhaps we can poke some fun at the various Bedlamites living amongst us.

There’s plenty of examples to point at, they’ve been around for as long as humans have been around.

Millenarianism and apocalypticism are versions of this and students of history will pluck examples from thousands of years ago in all corners of the globe through to the present day.

Let’s start with the infamous Manson “family”.

Their beliefs were that Charles Manson was the reincarnation of Jesus and there was a forthcoming race war. The cult ended with the Waverley Drive murders, internecine murders and the trial and conviction of Manson.

Except it didn’t; murders were still committed by the “family” until the mid-70s. The cult members really had drunk deep from the well of Manson’s Kool-Aid.

Speaking of Kool-Aid, next we have the Reverend Jim Jones. For his first couple of decades of adult life, he led various churches which had increasingly cult-like qualities. The beliefs he promulgated were a mixture of socialism, nuclear apocalyptic prophesies and, eventually “transition” to another planet after suicide.

As investigations began to close in on his activities, he took nearly a thousand followers to “Jonestown” in Guyana and eventually persuaded many to commit suicide by ingesting cyanide mixed in the aforementioned Kool-Aid (where the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” originates) or murder each other, including the children. Jones shot himself.

Over in Japan, Aum Shinryko was established by Shoko Ashara. The YouTuber Count Dankula has an amusing video on this group here, which is well worth a viewing.

Their beliefs were a hotchpotch of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism with a spicy nuclear apocalyptic theme.

After a long history of extortion, violence and murders, they released the nerve gas, sarin, on the Tokyo underground with devastating effects.

Shoko was eventually hanged in 2018.

An interesting fact about the death penalty in Japan is that, once convicted, you aren’t given a date of when the execution will occur. You go to bed every night unsure if this is your last. If you’re still in your cell about an hour after breakfast, chances are you’ve got another day on the planet.

I can’t work out whether I think that’s “cruel and unusual punishment” or fitting for the crime.

Our next cult is the comet-hopping Heaven’s Gate. According to Wikipedia, they were/are (there’s still a couple of them around, apparently) a “UFO religious, New religious movement”, which as classifications go, surely can’t be a particularly large club.

Their belief system was based on the premise that the planet would be wiped clean and they had to leave to avoid being caught up in this global spring clean.

Have a read of their Wiki page and chuckle at how the beliefs had to be modified based on the inconvenient evidence of one of their key members dying rather than hitching a ride on a spaceship.

This change of belief resulted in a mass suicide to coincide with the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet. The mass suicide was preceded by 8 of them voluntarily castrating themselves in 1997.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s probably fine if your religious belief involves an unprovable premise. After all, a synonym of that might be “hypothesis”.

However, if your religious belief requires you to murder others, mutilate the genitals of children or commit suicide, consider the possibility you’ve drunk the modern equivalent of Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid.

There seems to have been a bit of a theme running through all these cults where they are reacting to a catastrophic threat, be it religious, nuclear or alien, resulting in escalating extreme actions by the adherents.

So, all that said, what might history make of those crazy kids at Extinction Rebellion and the Swedish Cabbage Patch Doll, Greta Thunberg?

And whose fault do we think it might be that they have managed to wind themselves up into such a frenzy of fear?

History suggests one possible destination for some of the more gullible members.