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.

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?

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.

Like being savaged by a dead sheep

Spare a thought for this week’s Australian Prime Minister (it’s a job selected like Jury Service, so we’re not sure whose turn it is at the moment); he or she has just been “lashed” by Headspace’s new “Ambassador”, Georgie (née George) Stone.

Lashed.

Here’s Georgie:

Georgie is 19 years old and is transgender. So, at any other time prior to about 2010, “she” would be a gay boy, in other words.

The Prime Minister’s lashing is a consequence of expressing just the slightest doubt that, just because George claims to be female, despite being the proud owner of a matching set of female penis and testicles, he is female.

For this failure on the part of the leader of a G20 member nation to agree up is down, black is white and gender is a social construct, the impartial journalists in the ever-declining Australian legacy press have written a unsympathetic article about him (sorry for assuming the gender of whoever is in the job these days).

Bill’s Opinion

Ok, full disclosure; I’m vaguely aware the Prime Minister’s name is Scott Morrison. The media hate him because he’s not afraid to admit to being a Christian.

Until about 6 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association, the main body of professional thought on matters mental, classed transgender (A.K.A gender dysphoria) as a mental illness.

Here’s a question for anyone who agrees with the sentiment expressed in the newspaper’s treatment of “Georgie” and “her” pronouns;

Would you prefer that the person who commands a well-armed military, a large Federal police force and has access to the resources of a secret service, to go around agreeing with every unproven claim made by highly confused 19 year olds?

If so, I’ve got a manifesto written by a mentally-ill 16 year old Swedish girl I’d like to sell to you for a couple of thousand dollars-worth of Bitcoin.

Did we stop you beating your wife?

Probably not.

Speaking personally, I was only vaguely aware of The White Ribbon Foundation through seeing a poster in the kitchen area of an office in which I was recently working.

Some male colleagues had signed their names on the poster under statements pledging to not hit their partners and to speak up should they see someone they know committing domestic violence or abuse.

My reaction was to think it was a pointless exercise but also a good scam; trick and bully corporates into paying the White Ribbon “protection fee” to have a representative come in and give a day’s awareness and have the company name added to the online register of organisations that don’t encourage their staff to beat up their spouses.

Domestic violence and abuse is one of those unopposable causes isn’t it? “What, you don’t agree we shouldn’t beat women up? What kind of a monster are you?”.

I’m somewhat surprised therefore by the financial collapse of the charity. Prima facie, this was a business model that should have been simplicity itself to maintain and earn a good living from.

Bill’s Opinion

In recent years, the corporate world has become a target for charity shakedown operations of which the White Ribbon Foundation seems to have been one of the more obvious.

The model seems to work along the lines of;

  1. Define a worthy cause and frame it in terms that are incapable of being opposed without risk of catastrophic publicity,
  2. Offer corporate “training” at an inflated fee,
  3. Request “donations” in return for being named as a partner/ally/supporter.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Examples I can think of operating right now include all our favourite subjects; climate change, LGBTQptanyangkipperbang, indigenous businesses, gender equity, etc.

The credit for the original idea seems to be due to the infamous American race-baiting politician, Jesse Jackson, as described in the book “Shakedown” (the customer reviews are entertaining).

One wonders whether Jackson has ever thought to claim royalties from the numerous copycat charities operating around the world these days? Perhaps that’s a level of chutzpah too far even for him.

Perhaps this is how the Roman Empire ended

Jenna Guillaume lives in Sydney and is paid to write articles such as this one, in which she takes around 300 words to explain to us that she has clicked the “unfollow” button next to an American reality TV star’s name on Twitter.

At the risk of encouraging this rubbish, a delve into her Twitter account allows us to speculate about the reasons why she’s a) unfollowed the Kardashians, and b) wrote about it.

The reason she unfollowed the reality TV people is because it was making her unhappy about her body. Faced with the choice of doing something tangible to lose about 30kg or to use her thumb once on a smart phone, Jenna selected the less strenuous option.

The reason she wrote about it is because she clearly has no other employable skill. Let’s face it, if you’re a freelance writer “formerly” of Buzzfeed (fuck, how shit do you have to be to be let go from Buzzfeed?), employment options aren’t going to be very forthcoming. Uber driving, maybe?

As fun as it might be to pick on Jenna and her psychological issues relating to being a wheezing land whale, that’s not what today’s subject is really about.

We’ve written about this phenomenon previously; Golgafrincham Ark Buzzfeed.

Perhaps Jenna is a symptom of a cultural malaise. We’ve become so successful as a society and culture that we can afford to carry passengers such as the otherwise useless, Jenna Guillaume.

Bill’s Opinion

On the one hand, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that someone with so little of worth to offer can still carve a living writing about such vacuous subjects as reality TV and “body positivity”.

The flip side to this is an atrophying of the qualities and values that are likely to have been contributing factors to our wealth and civilisation.

In another time or place, someone like Jenna Guillaume would have found her struggle with “body positivity” a long way down the list of priorities of topics for concern. Not dying of an incurable disease, violence or, ironically, a paucity of calories would have been rather more pressing day to day issues.

Somewhere in Syria, a jihadist is reading Jenna’s twitter account and reinforcing his belief that his god truly is on his side not ours.

Keep it simple, stupid

This one is going to be quite uniquely Australian, so apologies in advance if it bores you. If you are reading from a different colony or a Johnny Foreigner location, you might want to persevere simply to assure yourself that, however bad employment regulations are in your country, they’re simplicity itself compared to the Australian version.

Barely a week passes without reports of a new wages underpayment by a large corporate employer. The latest is by the Australian version of GE, Wesfarmers. They’ve discovered and just announced they’ve been underpaying some staff since the early 2000’s and the final bill to put it right is going to be about $15m.

On the face of it, that’s truly scandalous, isn’t it? Particularly coming as it does soon after similar issues with Subway and some fat celebrity chef’s restaurants.

In fact, it takes very little searching to find loads of examples of similar payroll issues across multiple industries and organisations.

This might prompt a question in a curious mind (so nobody employed as a journalist, then); “Are these underpayment issues deliberate or accidental?“.

Speaking from experience as someone who has worked in senior roles in a couple of organisations that have had these issues and being adjacent to the problem (and in one case, responsible for managing the subsequent crisis, despite not having the subject matter expertise…. which was fun), I can categorically state many of these problems are a consequence of incompetence, not mendacity.

The reports of the Wesfarmers problems are instructive; they were discovered following a project to migrate to a new payroll system to achieve compliance to new legislation. Anyone who imagines there’s an individual laughing maniacally after ripping off the workers is clearly deluding themselves.

There’s bound to be a few characters who’ve deliberately chosen to play fast and loose with staff pay but these are most likely to be in smaller companies, probably where they are a significant shareholder. Fat celebrity chefs, perhaps?

In the Wesfarmers’ case, a $15m underpayment over 15 years on a 6,000 person workforce earning about $80k is, what, 0.2%? Small beer.

If we can agree most large organisations are unlikely to choose the utter pain in the arse factor of a future scandal over saving, at most, a couple of percent in staff costs, then we have to question why these otherwise competent organisations keep screwing up payroll?

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid looking at the rules around Australian payroll, you might think all that is involved is a simple calculation of hours worked x hourly rate, minus government deductions such as tax.

Ah, such hope….

Here’s one of the Enterprise Agreements presumably causing problems for Wesfarmers. Scan through it and see if you come to the same pair of conclusions as I do:

  1. It’s paid for the private school fees of the children of several lawyers, and
  2. It assumes every manager is an utter idiot or evil.

Most clauses could be replaced with the words, “we will treat each other like grown ups and we won’t be dickheads“. The ridiculous table of days off allowed for bereavement, for example. Speaking as a manager, I’ve never bothered looking at the policy when someone’s relative died, I just told them to take the time they needed. Perhaps that’s naïve but it’s not bitten me so far; an employee hasn’t taken the piss.

Bill’s Opinion

Australia has possibly the most regulated employment environment outside of North Korea. Minimum wages are defined by the government by industry, role and seniority. All of which are pegged to the actual minimum wage so constantly creep up every time the lowest paid Australian gets a raise.

Enterprise agreements are negotiated by union representatives who make Arthur Scargill look like a fan of compromise and administered by an army of “Fair Work Australia” bureaucrats.

It’s a crazy system and one that some poor IT bastard has to code into SAP, Oracle or some other such system only to learn, 15 years later, that a subjective view was taken about what the agreement said on the subject of, say, superannuation payments on overtime when working on a rostered day off after a bank holiday.

Madness.

Eroding curiosity levels

In the current era of Greta-strophic climate change, our journalistic class seem to have lost all sense of curiosity and inquiry and, instead, serve up re-heated statements without bothering to confirm the source of “facts”.

This is classic case; surf life saving club building under threat from climate change.

At Inverloch south east of Melbourne, locals are desperately trying to defend the local surf life-saving club from erosion that has pushed the shore line back a remarkable 50 metres in seven years.

Since January alone, the ocean has encroached 20 metres more on the beach, as truckloads of imported sand and a “wet” sand fence have failed to hold back the tides.

Gosh, that’s really bad. I hadn’t realised the ocean had risen so quickly. 

Because, according to even the IPCC’s data, the problem is one of the future not the present:

Anyone who has ever had to read a graph for a living will take one look at that, fold their arms, suck their teeth and wonder what the presenter is trying to sell them. 

I’m not saying the chart doesn’t prove the sea level is just about to start rising dramatically, but it’s some helluva coincidence that all the bad stuff happens….. tomorrow.

Back to the article. Recall, the headline and article state categorically that the building by the beach is about to be washed away due to climate change of the catastrophic, man made variety, no less. Yet….

While erosion is part of the natural cycle of shifting sand at the mouth of the Anderson Inlet, the Bass Coast shire is in no doubt the extent of change is due in part to climate change and rising seas.

“Our council accepts that climate change is a real thing,” says Bass Coast mayor Brett Tessari. “The impact in our municipality is horrific in some areas. The surf club is in danger.”

Rightie ho.

Or in other words, this has always been an erosion hot spot but the mayor absolutely knows that it’s significantly worse because of climate change. 

Go on then, Mayor Tessari, how much worse? 5%? 90%? The journalists obviously forgot to ask such an awkward follow-up question.

Up the coast, climate change has resulted in the easiest type of generosity. 

What’s the easiest type of generosity, I hear you ask?

The type where you give away someone else’s money.

If you have more than 10 halogen down-lights installed in your house, the NSW government has generously offered to use money taken from ratepayers who don’t have 10 or more halogen down-lights to pay for every such light in your house to be replaced.

Let’s just pose a question here for a moment; which type of property has tastefully-installed down-lights installed rather than nasty dangling light bulbs?

Bill’s Opinion

Every way one turns, there’s yet another example of a politician using man made climate change as an excuse to dip into someone else’s wallet to buy votes.

Perhaps man made catastrophic climate change is real. Perhaps it’s not. What is absolutely certain, however, it is a wicked way to exercise power over others whilst claiming righteousness.

Climate change is, in many ways, indistinguishable from a massive confidence trick. 

Like the time Hannah Gadsby was booked at the Townsville RSL

Busy day today, so no serious rant on matters vital.

Instead, I’d like to test a gag out on the audience of this organ as it fell very flat when I cracked it in real life:

What a great win by the Uruguayan rugby team this week. Presumably they’ll celebrate with a big dinner of roast flanker.

Bill’s Opinion

Either my delivery is poor or not many people know about this plane crash.