What’s the secret soy sauce?

The Spectator’s Cindy Yu hosted an interesting podcast this week; Has China really beaten coronavirus? in which she interviewed a correspondent in China who pointed out life has been back to normal since about May. Domestic flights are full, about one in ten people are wearing masks in public (which is a rational decision for anyone worried about pollution there) and nightclubs are operating as they did in 2019 with no social distancing restrictions.

That’s quite a turnaround from the situations we were seeing on the news, YouTube and social media back in January and February.

Do you remember? People were being welded shut inside their homes, others were collapsing on the street, including this man who died and whose photographed corpse made it on the Grauniad’s coverage on January 30th 2020:

Compare and contrast with practically every other country in the world and the varying levels of incursions into centuries’ old freedoms they have imposed. Going nightclubbing must see like a distant memory to New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians.

So what’s going on? What’s the secret to China’s success?

That’s got to be the question of late 2020, surely?

As documented in the media in the early months of 2020, China enforced city-wide lockdowns, including the infamous door-welding.

But so did many other countries and cities. Why is it that, say, London is still moving in and out of lockdown on an almost weekly basis while the disco twinkies in Guangzhou can boogie the night away inside a steamy nightclub?

From the dead body in the pages of the Grauniad and the nightclubs being open was barely 4 months. How is it that New York, Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Sydney have nobody in their nightclubs?

Indeed, that famous Churchillian libertarian and free market advocate, Boris Johnson, is considering stopping Britons from going to the pub on Christmas Eve, something that wasn’t even implemented during both world wars.

So what on earth is going on?

Bill’s Opinion

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why 1.3bn citizens in an authoritarian regime like China have, prima facie, greater personal freedom than the heirs to Magna Carta.

All I have is a blunt razor that suggests (not proves) the explanation requiring the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the cause.

I’d love for people to offer alternate suggestions in the comments but my current view is the other countries are now dealing with a problem of fearful and incompetent leadership. They are fearful that the initial reaction was justified on the available data but, with what is known now, would be judged far too extreme. They are also incompetent at explaining the trade-offs required to be accepted for us to return to normal life.

Is it an international conspiracy of the Illuminati? Of course not.

It doesn’t really matter though; the impact is indistinguishable.

William of Ockham’s First Law of NSW Politics

All NSW political careers end suddenly with a difficult conversation at an anti-corruption hearing about property development.

Don’t blame me, I only observed the pattern;

Exhibit 1 – Eddie Obeid

Exhibit 2 – Ian McDonald

Exhibit 3 – Eric Roozendaal

Exhibit 4 – Barry O’Farrell

Exhibit 5 – Gladys Berejiklian (pending)

Exhibit 6 – Rod Staples (pending)

That’s just a small, hastily-collated sample, of course. Readers with a better grasp of history will no doubt be able to furnish us with multiple examples from all political hues, as this is a problem that crosses the ideological divide.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not that these politicians are more or less corrupt than any other group of politicians, they aren’t particularly smarter or dumber either.

It’s just that Australia’s economy is so heavily skewed towards property as the only reliable way to make capital gains that the inevitable subset of corrupt politicians will top up their salaries almost exclusively in that sector.

Who can blame them though, when the executives managing the nation’s pension funds are shameless in their contempt for their customers by switching their own funds to avoid losses whilst letting the regular punters take the hit.

Of course, any reasonable “civilian” would look at that behaviour, conclude the deck is stacked against them ever seeing useful capital gains and that their pension fund is simply a forced deposit account. They logically conclude that the only safe place for their savings is in bricks and mortar.

Which brings us back to the incentives for politicians to take a dip; it’s not going to stop, ever.

Rinse. Repeat.

Douglas Bader is cancelled

Two legs good, no legs better….

Imagine being named after the wife of William Shakespeare and having a 21 year career as a Hollywood actress and yet not understanding the meaning of the verb, “acting“?

Anne Hathaway seems not to know that three-fingered witches capable of magic aren’t real;

Bill’s Opinion

Of course she knows witches aren’t real and that acting is pretending to be someone/thing you aren’t.

She’s signalling, “please don’t hurt me” to a very small group of people on social media, intoxicated by the power to make famous people do and say things when threatened.

The correct response, particularly when one is a multi-millionaire capable of living comfortably without having to work for the remainder of one’s life, is “oh do fuck off; nobody is really offended and, even if they were, it’s a great life lesson to toughen the fuck up or never engage with the outside world again”.

They used to hate us for our Freedom

Thousands of NSW businesses have less than two weeks to implement digital registration systems to record customers’ contact details before authorities will start issuing fines.
Businesses required to comply include hospitality venues, entertainment venues, public swimming pools, beauty salons, zoos and strip clubs.

We can perhaps have a chuckle at the consternation this announcement will have induced in the NSW Union of Stripclub Owners when considering the impact on their businesses when punters have to sign in digitally and be logged on a database every time they attend their premises.

Today is November 12th. Australia has had almost a week of no locally-acquired cases of Kung Flu. The peak of known cases of the virus in Australia was in April.

Curious minds might ask why, seven months later, we now need intrusive data collection mandated by law (and its inferred monopoly on violence)?

More curious minds might also wonder why the commentariat and public voices in the media are not asking the same question?

Bill’s Opinion

As I wrote in April, the rush to further legislate into the day to day minutiae of regular people going about their everyday lives is disproportionate and very certainly not temporary, as our “war on terror” lessons have shown.

Almost all of this legislation will never be wound back. Freedoms are rarely expanded, particularly when they were initially removed “for the public good“.

I, for one, am not OK with this, at all.

Are you?

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.
H. L. Mencken.

What we have here is a failure of imagination

If the bookies are a good indicator, it’s President Kamala Harris Joe Biden for the next term.

There will be much celebration and gnashing of teeth depending on people’s preferences and biases, obviously.

Despite the probable win, the fact the election was so close will not be a comfort to the Democrats. After all, if nearly half the vote went to this “literally Hitler” orange man, what does that say about the Democrats’ persuasiveness that theirs was the morally-correct path?

Commentators have spotted this, for example this Daily Mirror opinion piece wondering why 17% of black voters couldn’t spot Trump’s racism.

This one is amusing too;

Until about five minutes ago, Emma was a high profile journalist. That she is unable to understand the possible motivation of almost half the voting population, probably goes quite some way to explaining the reason behind her recent sudden change of career.

Bill’s Opinion

One of the key requirements for a journalist must surely be an ability to empathise, or at least know of the major reasons behind other people’s opinions. Not to agree with, but at least to form a good understanding of their key grievances and motivations.

That so many professional commentators are clearly and publicly incapable of this basic human characteristic, suggests a life lived exclusively in one hermetically sealed opinion echo chamber.

Check whether this applies to you; if you’re of the left, try to list the five best arguments in favour of free markets and, if you’re a free market kinda person, do the same for the left.

See? Easy isn’t it? You don’t have to agree with the other opinion to understand it. In fact, it’s necessary to make every effort in order for us to live peacefully together.

Being incapable of that simple act of empathy indicates a total failure of imagination.

Let’s hope that’s not a skill one needs in the role of “Chief Strategy Government Relations & Communications” for an insurance aggregator website company, otherwise Emma will be making a custard of that job too, despite it being a bit of a bullshit job reliant almost entirely on who you know, not what you know.

Everything is racist – Kiwi edition

As there’s nothing else of interest going on in the world, here’s the news from the Asia-Pacific capital of wokeness and virtual signalling; don’t like facial tattoos? Then you can’t sell your book here.

We know the drill these days, it happens the same way every time; someone says or tweets something, about three people take offence, they then contact an employer/advertiser/retailer and suggest they take action against the individual, pour encourager les autres.

Reading the history of the Maori “moko” or female chin tattoo, it seems to have gone through a similar cycle as the Australian observance of Anzac Day. It was not particularly popular and was likely to die out as a tradition but got a shot in the arm towards the end of the 20th century.

It’s unclear whether this was also as a result of a resurgence of national populism like John Howard’s hyping of what was really the backup version of Remembrance Day for his own political purposes.

Anyway, to the new foreign minister, putting facial tattoos aside, how qualified is she for the prestigious and demanding Foreign Affairs ministerial role? How about this for damning with faint praise;

Mahuta is the first woman to hold the position of foreign affairs minister and has been praised as articulate and competent.

Bill’s Opinion

Jump on to social media and describe a high profile African American politician as articulate and competent and see how that goes for you.

As for cancelling the sale of a book for the author’s non-criminal tweet, well, that’s a standard you’ll end up living up to yourself one day. Some wags have already pointed out the book website will happily sell Oswald Mosley’s autobiography.

He was a National Socialist, after all though, defending the indigenous culture of a small island nation and encouraging collectivism and big government.

My final opinion on this is that the words, “regrettable tattoo” are a tautology.

William of Ockham’s First Law of Government Projects

To the casual observer, corruption and incompetence are indistinguishable.

I’ve been asked to troubleshoot a failing government project.

How badly failing?

It has taken twice as long as originally planned to deliver a fraction of the benefits at three times the original budget. There is a further year of work to go and it would seem there will be a further blow out of cost to achieve that. It’s not clear the planned benefits will ever be achieved to more than perhaps half of those first planned.

“So what?” you might say, “this is how government projects always go”.

You’d be right, of course; the dictionary definition of a unicorn should probably include the words “government project delivered on time, budget and to scope“.

But, putting the low expectations aside, let’s run a little thought experiment….

If I run a government project and double the payments to the third party supplier for no increase in scope, you’d assume I’m in their pocket, right?

However, if I run the same project and descope half the functionality but hold the milestone payments at the same amount….. you just assume blah blah blah unforeseen complex technical issues.

The outcome is almost the same for the supplier though; maximised margin. The second scenario might even be considered worse for the taxpayer; they receive less of the value planned in the “business case”, whereas a cost blow out might have still delivered tangible benefits.

Let’s consider an example of a new pedestrian bridge across a busy highway. The original project was justified on the basis that there would be steps for the fit and active, a ramp for cyclists and a lift for the infirm or parents with children in buggies.

Over the course of the build, various issues are discovered which make the lift difficult to install, perhaps the government architect designed the lift shaft too small, and a decision is made to drop the requirement for the lift.

Perhaps there’s a dispute about the access to the piece of land where the ramp is to be built. The requirement for this is also dropped.

In the meantime, the supplier argues they bid on good faith, incurred considerable costs in preparing to install the lift and ramp and should therefore not suffer reduced fees.

The project continues, the bridge is built and the supplier is paid. Immediately following the official bridge opening ceremony, mothers with buggies, kids on bikes and elderly people with walking sticks are faced with the choice of a difficult stair climb or taking their chances crossing the road between gaps in the traffic.

Why did this happen?

If incompetence, then we would find a thoughtless architect, a useless contract drafter and a government project manager who was unable to plan and track critical activities.

If corruption, we might find many of the same layers of incompetence but perhaps one of the people in a key role was somewhat more deliberate in their lack of diligence.

Bill’s Opinion

For those of you who have been paying attention, this is a follow on revelation from this situation.

As the applause dies down…

A few short months ago, people all across the UK were coerced by peer pressure to stand outside their homes one evening a week and give a round of applause “for the NHS”.

For those of you unfamiliar with those three letters in that order; National Health Service, the UK’s biggest employer, the state run, centralised health service.

Everyone from the Prime Minister to babes in arms were out there every Thursday doing impressions of performing circus seals to celebrate a massive bureaucracy overseeing a clinical negligence bill that is increasing at a worrying rate (doubling over the previous four years).

And then there’s this:

What’s the likely consequence of that, do we think?

Bill’s Opinion

The Cancer Research charity estimates 350,000 urgent cancer appointments were missed or delayed. They speculate this might translate to 35,000 additional deaths.

That speculation is obviously as scientific and as credible as the original Imperial College model that got everyone into this mess, of course; can a subsequent cancer death really be proven to have been avoidable or was it just earlier than might have been reasonably predicted?

But nonetheless, the absolute number of increased deaths from cancer isn’t zero.

Repeat that for all manner of treatable diseases and conditions.

Then close your eyes and repeat the mantra, “we cannot make trade offs, one life lost to covid is one too many” until you forget all the inconvenient evidence to the contrary.

WHO could’ve known?

The World Health Organisation has amended its advice to governments over the efficacy of quarantine lockdowns.

“We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr Nabarro told The Spectator.

“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

This is the WHO’s latest volte face (a better term than “back flip”, surely; back flips result in you facing the same direction). Some of us are old enough to remember that “the situation in Wuhan is contained”, there was “no community transmission” and that “masks aren’t effective”.

Let’s add those to the list of statements not to be believed, along with, “the cheque is in the post”, “of course I love you” and, “no, I definitely promise to pull out before it’s too late”.

Anyway, this is not exactly helping the various leaders around the globe who score high on the “authoritarian” end of this quiz, which, until the start of this year, we wouldn’t have thought included people like that Churchillian libertarian, Boris Johnson.

Some awkward press conferences await Jacinda and Dan, for example. Well, there would if we had the remnants of a functioning press.

Bill’s Opinion

Just stop pretending. We all overestimated the risk back in March.

Just admit it and we can all get on with our lives and doing the things that make our short time on the planet tolerable; visiting family, playing sport, taking holidays.

Enough. Enough.

Banana splits

Perhaps this is the best illustration of how bifurcated the perception of the world is on some of the most important issues facing humanity:

Depending on your source of news, the names on this list are either worthy recipients of the prize or a combination of the incompetent and mendacious.

It’s such a mix of opposites, one almost expects some names to disappear off the page as they cancel each other out, as if when matter and anti-matter combine.

The latter part of the list has more than a hint of trolling to it; one struggles to think what Erdogan and Putin have done to progress peace, love and understanding, for example.

Obviously, we can all get behind the campaign to vote Piers “I never hacked a phone” Morgan as this year’s Peace Prize winner, if only to ensure the end of the Nobel Committee.

Bill’s Opinion

Regardless of your opinion on who should win it, this list tells us everting we need to know about why the world is currently the way it is.