Because

Because of a few songs wherein I spoke of their mystery, women have been exceptionally kind to my old age. Leonard Cohen.

That quote has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of this post, I just like it and it commences with “because”.

Conspiracy theorists always look for the “because”. It’s human nature to try to make sense of situations, particularly if they are causing you pain, suffering and anxiety.

It’s a fool’s errand though. The chances of someone affected by an externality to correctly guess the sequence of events leading to it are extremely unlikely.

What probably matters more is correctly observing all the pertinent facts about the present and drawing reasonable conclusions about how they might change in the future.

Some observable facts, then.

Using public health as the justification, despite 18 months of data showing it was, at a population level, a mid-severity flu and is now (with vaccines, regardless of what you may think about their safety), a very mild flu, the following changes have occurred:

  • International and domestic border closures,
  • Legislation and heavy-handed policing restricting freedom of movement, freedom of trade, freedom of association,
  • Curfews and military presence in suburban areas,
  • Legislation mandating quarantine of healthy individuals on the suspicion of infection,
  • Legislation mandating vaccinations for certain professions,
  • Closures of schools, replaced by very sub-optimal online lessons,
  • Vaccination of children against a virus that poses little threat to them,
  • Restriction of travel on several major airlines to those with proof of vaccination,
  • International airfares, for those allowed to travel, outside the budget of most people,
  • Unprecedented (there’s a word for our time!) government borrowing and economic stimulus, in the form of direct payments to business and individuals. In many cases, the government cheque is greater than the wage it replaced,
  • In those countries that have lifted some of the legislated restrictions above, the powers to re-impose them have been retained (the UK, for example).

That’s Australia today.

How might these situations change, do we think?

Borders will reopen and flights resume, but not for the plebeians for a very long time. The competition in international air travel drove prices down to a level where a middle class family could leave Australia once every second or third year. That’s not going to happen again for perhaps a decade. You’ll need a vaccination passport too.

Legislation restricting freedom of movement, trade and association will remain on the books, the powers to arbitrarily invoke the laws will be retained and used based on “cases” or new variants. Look at the decades old laws against terrorism for precedent.

Governments will not be tempted in the slightest to turn off the stimulus fire hoses. The creative destruction of free markets will be seen as a sign of policy failure. Universal Basic Income by another name will be here to stay.

Schools will re-open and close again several times based on “cases”. Masks for school kids, perhaps mandatory vaccinations too. Teachers’ unions will make demands for “safety” usually resulting in pay rises. The quality of the outcomes for pupils will be a distant footnote printed in tiny font.

Court cases will be brought by employees fired over vaccinations. They might win, they might not.

Bill’s Opinion

Don’t look for the because. You’ll drive yourself mad.

On the news every night, some idiot financial journalist will tell you “markets rose 17 points today because of new employment data”, or “fell because of new inflation data”.

Unprovable. All we can prove is markets rose or fell.

Similarly, we can’t be certain about the because of the situation we are living in now.

We can make reasonable extrapolations such as those I’ve offered above, though.

What to do then?

Here’s some suggestions:

  • Find a doctor who will give you a vaccine exemption. It might be accepted by employers, airlines, restaurants and governments for a while,
  • If you are eligible for a passport from another country, apply. Having options is wise. Ask any American male with a Canadian passport during the Vietnam draft era.
  • Consider alternative education models for your children. Take control of their curriculum and hire tutors. If you stay within the current system, focus them on what matters only. STEM.
  • Spread your assets across jurisdictions. Be nimble.
  • Perhaps move away from major population centres, if these are where all the police and army presence is focused.
  • Learn to sail. If you one day find it necessary to steal a yacht from the harbour and sail away, having the skills learned in the Day Skipper qualification would be important.

It’s all a bit tin foil hat, isn’t it?

But then, imagine a conversation between your 2019 self and your present day self.

Of course, once we’ve moved to Central Bank Digital Currencies, there will be nowhere left to hide anyway.

So enjoy your current freedoms.

It’s 2021 ok, there’s a war across the USA

Another year for me and you, another year with nuthin to do. (Apologies to The Stooges).

The previous post here attracted some interesting and thought provoking comments. One in particular (thanks Tom) prompted a journey to this Wikipedia page.

The “10 stages of genocide” were developed by Gregory Stanton of the US State Department in the late 1980s as a conceptual model for analyzing the processes of genocide, and for determining preventive measures that might be taken to combat or stop each process.

Of course, it could be used as a roadmap too, if you were that way inclined:

Stage One. Classification. People are divided into “them and us”.

Those who choose to take a vaccine. Those who decline it.

Stage Two. Symbolization “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…”

Vaccine passports.

Stage Three. Discrimination “Law or cultural power excludes groups from full civil rights: segregation or apartheid laws, denial of voting rights”.

Commencing this month, residents of New South Wales who have not received two doses of vaccine will be unable to dine in restaurants, have a haircut, meet other people or leave their homes while those with the vaccine will be allowed these “freedoms”.

Stage Four. Dehumanization “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.”

Consider the language used by the President of the United States, directed at the approximately 41% of the population who have so far declined a vaccine. It’s a stretch to describe frustrated and run out of patience as dehumanising but it is unusual language for an elected official to be using to describe the people who voted for him (there may be a clue here, more on this later).

Stage Five. Organisation “Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed…”.

The army is on the streets of Western Sydney. Sure, they’re not rounding people up but let’s remember the context; we now have to accept a military presence ostensibly to protect us from a respiratory virus with a less than 1% infection fatality rate.

Stage Six. Polarization “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda…”

Consider this comedy sketch parodying a TV advert for the major DIY retailer in Australia. This was created and broadcast by the state broadcaster, The ABC. It conflates those who are hesitant about their personal risks with a new vaccine with those who believe the earth is flat.

Stage Seven. Preparation “Mass killing is planned. Victims are identified and separated because of their ethnic or religious identity…”

Presumably this is a stage one doesn’t get to learn about until after the fact.

The remaining stages are when the real fun starts.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe there’s a secret cabal of Illuminati planning genocide or a new world order.

I do believe there’s a direction events are travelling, however.

A population who have been made fearful can be easily persuaded to accept otherwise not credible positions. “The unvaccinated are putting me at risk”, for example. It is unclear how this statement can be correct.

Once that position has been accepted, mandated vaccinations, exclusion from services and society, and a range of extremely distasteful and frightening subsequent laws can be justified.

Biden’s vaccine mandate announcement is, in my view, a declaration of civil war.

It’s clear that there is a massive correlation across the groups who are hesitant about the vaccines, those who most enthusiastically supported Trump, those who enjoy their Second Amendment rights and those who would never vote Democrat.

The polarisation of the population is undeniable. It’s deliberate and has been undertaken consciously.

Australia is at different stages of the Ten Steps and, as Stanton stated, these steps are not linear.

I don’t believe a quick reversal of this direction is likely. Fear is a very powerful motivator at a population level.

If you concur with this assessment, the next question to answer is, what will you do about it?

Let’s apply the “So what?” test

Many decades ago, a mentor taught me an important lesson in persuasive writing for business; keep asking yourself “so what?”.

For example:

“Sales revenue has remained flat quarter on quarter. So what? This means we’ve lost market share because the market has increased by 10% in that time. So what? We will need to rapidly review our product line and makes changes to improve the situation.”

Sadly, this isn’t taught in Jernalism these days, otherwise this article would have been written very differently.

San Francisco: An unvaccinated, unmasked California primary school teacher who came to school even while visibly sick infected a dozen students with the coronavirus, all too young to be immunised, according to a report published by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

So what?

Most of the students sitting closest to the front of the class were infected. A minority of those sitting at the back of the class were infected. The teacher reportedly read aloud to students while unmasked, despite rules requiring teachers to be masked indoors.

So what?

The teacher’s students began falling ill on May 22. Four parents of children in the class were later infected in the outbreak. Of the infected parents, one was unvaccinated, while three were vaccinated. Vaccinated parents in the outbreak experienced symptoms including fever, chills, cough, headache and loss of smell.

So what?

No one identified in the outbreak required hospitalisation.

Oh.

Bill’s Opinion

Our institutions are no longer fit for purpose. They have been captured by a mob composed of the mendacious, the weak-minded and the cowardly.

We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men – not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular”. Edward R. Murrow

The banality of evil

Australia is going to start vaccinating 12 year olds.

The UK will be vaccinating the same age group, most likely when they return to school next month. For the purposes of consent, 12 year olds have been deemed to have Gillick Competence, so are judged legally able to agree without their parents’ knowledge (for details on this plan, listen to the Daily Telegraph Planet Normal 26th August podcast from the 10 minute mark).

I will attempt to “steel man” the argument in favour of vaccinating 12 year olds.:

Argument 1 – this will protect the young from serious harm from the virus.

Argument 2 – this will increase the wider community safety through reduced transmission.

I believe I have repeated in good faith the two main arguments for the policy.

What’s the data say?

Argument 1 doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. CDC data summarised by the Spectator here shows a 0.002% chance of kids dying from the virus. That’s significantly lower than the regular seasonal flu, against which we don’t currently vaccinate kids.

Argument 2 relies on an incorrect assumption the vaccines prevent, or at least massively reduce transmission. This is not borne out by data from heavily vaccinated countries.

Israel, for example:

Bill’s Opinion

They know of this data, of course they do. It’s freely available and reported by reputable media and government departments.

Yet they are forging ahead with the unethical and pointless policy of vaccinating young people with minimum risk from the virus in the false promise it will protect the elderly. As Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group states, herd immunity is not possible.

So why?

One can now only conclude this is a tragic example of the Banality of Evil.

We are now living in the terrifying reality of the bio-security Fascistic state.

Suppose They Gave a Law and Nobody Came

Day one of the ridiculous mandatory outdoor mask law in New South Wales.

An equally unscientific poll whilst driving around the local area suggests two thirds of the population don’t know about the new law or know about it and are ignoring it for the petty authoritarianism it is.

Mick Fuller and Gladys Berejiklian, it’s your move.

Bill’s Opinion

There must be nothing quite as terrifying for a State Premier and a Chief of Police than going through the process of creating a new law, publicising it and then trying to police it only to be met with the collective middle fingers of two thirds of the citizens.

What would you do at that point? A blitz of fines? Apologise and repeal it?

On balance, I think I’d try for a face-saving approach; “The medical advice has changed and we’re always following der science, innit”.

Australian police, who pays your salary?

There is long tradition in England of the concept of “policing by consent”. How long a tradition? It was documented by the founder of the modern police force, Sir Robert Peel in 1829. The nine principles describe how a police force can be accepted by the public only if they understand the concept of “policing by consent”.

The corollary of this is losing the support of the public and having to choose between political orders or the public will.

It would seem this choice is rapidly approaching Mick Fuller, the Commissioner of the NSW police force.

In the last two weeks he has demanded additional, unprecedented powers….which were granted within the day. He has also informed his staff he will be taking no disciplinary action should they be over-zealous in their interpretation of these authoritarian powers.

That’s nice. More powers, fewer controls, checks and balances. Accountability is clearly not a priority. Who wouldn’t want a job description like that?

This weekend, however, things have been kicking off a little. A violent protest in Sydney yesterday and, today, a pop up protest on the border with Queen’sland. I particularly enjoyed the report of the protestor asking the police who they thought they worked for.

All this is just before the new law kicks in requiring people to wear masks outside. What percentage of the population is going to ignore that unscientific restriction, do we think? Not insignificant, I suspect.

That will pose a conundrum for Mick. Quite how many arrests and fines will he and his police force be prepared to hand out before it becomes apparent they’ve lost the consent of the public?

If you’re not policing by consent, what type of police force are you, Mick? For a clue, have a look at some of the shittier places in the world, particularly the ones with the colour green on their flag.

Bill’s Opinion

The case count in the two major states of Australia are growing greater by the day. New South Wales will hit 1,000 a day by the end of next week.

Good.

Let me repeat that, good. It’s great news.

Why? Because the faster this outbreak gets out of reach of the authoritarians and petty rule makers, the sooner they will be forced to come to terms with the concept of trade offs and individual risk management.

We are in desperate need of some light relief in these scary times at the end of the western experiment with civilisation.

Watching mediocre career politicians such as Dan Andrews, Gladys Berejiklian, Scott Morrison et al having to come face to face with their failed strategies and brutal tactics is going to be a very pleasant diversion over the next few weeks.

As for Mick Fuller, Sir Robert Peel is turning in his grave.

What is measured is managed

Just as the UK’s “envy of the world”, National Health Service became the National Covid Service in 2020, failing to keep millions of potentially life-saving appointments, the Australian media-political class has become a single issue organisation.

If a better example can be found than this, I’d love to see it; yesterday, a 15 year old boy tragically died in hospital.

What did he die of?

Meningitis.

What was the narrative in the media and politics?

Covid.

A little later in the morning, the sub headline was added which at least mentions the mild and irrelevant condition the poor kid also had whilst he was suffering with Kung Flu.

They can’t help themselves though. In the body of the report, this quote stands out:

“It is unclear exactly when Osama contracted Covid-19.”

The article has been re-written from earlier today, making it clearer the cause of death wasn’t Covid but the initial impact of the headline and article was that a 15 year old died of/with Covid.

Nowhere in the earlier or later version of the report was a statement or even speculation of the cause of his meningitis. Mere details, one supposes, compared to a seasonal respiratory virus he otherwise would have had a 0.002% chance of dying from.

What, then, should parents of teenage kids in Sydney be more concerned about; Covid or meningitis?

Bill’s Opinion

The media and our politicians are not fit for purpose. They probably haven’t been for decades but this is really the moment we need to realise it.

“Why is this lying bastard lying to me?”

Famously, this question was Jeremy Paxman’s inspiration when he had to interview politicians.

It’s a great starting point, regardless of jurisdiction or political hue.

For example, this statement today by NSW’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant (bold highlighting mine):

Vaccination is part of the solution. It helps us because if the person is vaccinated, there is less chance that they get the disease particularly if they have had two doses. And therefore, it means are less likely to pass it to others. And also less likely to need hospital care and admission to intensive care.”

Really? It’s just that the reports coming from the almost completely vaccinated Israel, Iceland and Gibraltar seem to totally contradict that.

Mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors is another questionable imposition.

According to the USA’s CDC, there’s little to no evidence of outdoor transmission.

While we’re referencing the CDC, what do they say about the evidence of transmission from surface contact? You know, the reason behind all the billions of gallons of hand sanitiser being poured in to the water cycle?

In their own report, it’s low risk. If the CDC state it’s low risk, I think it’s a safe assumption the chances of catching it from a door knob or shopping trolley handle are trending close to zero.

We could devote pages of this blog to listing all the statements made during this epoch of incredulity we now know to be lies; quarantine is racist, masks don’t work, it didn’t leak from a lab, flatten the curve, herd immunity, lockdowns work, vaccine passports won’t be required, vaccines won’t be mandated, etc.

The laundry list of lies is not really the point, is it?

The question we aren’t seeing anyone in the media ask is why the fuck are we still listening to these liars?

Bill’s Opinion

Never before in the history of humankind has The Gell Mann Amnesia Effect done so much heavy lifting.

We learn almost daily that we’ve been lied to and yet, the following day, we unquestioningly accept more statements as fact from the very same lying liars.

Fool me one time, shame on you. Fool me two times, shame on me.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

“Who Do You Wish You Were?” New TV show on SBS

Apparently, Australians will soon have a new series on their TV screens, a remake of the long-running popular genealogy and ancestry show, Who Do You Think You Are?.

As we’ve seen with Bruce Pascoe, incentives matter. If there’s a benefit to be had by claiming a particular ancestry, regardless of whether or not it’s true, a minority of people will claim it.

The new Australian version has a subtle twist, however. It’s been “Pascoed”, instead of looking for one’s real relatives, the show will invent a family tree based on whatever the relevant incentives reward.

In Bruce’s delightfully entertaining episode, he learns he has 3 Aboriginal parents and 7 Aboriginal grandparents. The researcher even helpfully “discovered” Maori and Aztec great grandparents, thus expanding Bruce’s lucrative future career options.

Completely unrelated (literally and figuratively), last year Australians across the country celebrated the arrival of their first Indigenous neurologist. Despite the pandemic, street parties were held, speeches were given.

Let us hear her story:

Dr Dos Santos grew up in Nambucca Heads on the NSW mid-north coast, also known as Gumbaynggirr country, and her Indigenous heritage stretches back to her great-grandfather.

It must have been tough, growing up in the racist environment that is Australia. We can only imagine the systemic disadvantages she encountered and overcame in her school and subsequent journey to qualifying as a neurologist.

Dr Dos Santos said she lost touch with Indigenous culture after a series of family splits, and because she attended a Christian high school and did not encounter any other students of Aboriginal descent.

Wait, what?

“When I was at university I realised that I’m an Aboriginal person and I should be really trying to reconnect with that,” she says.

I know what you’re thinking, and it makes you a bigot. Of COURSE one doesn’t need to know what race you are to suffer systemic and ongoing racism because something something lived experience, my truth, etc.

For example, whilst being unable to give a single example of being personally discriminated against (otherwise one would assume she’d say so in an interview specifically about the subject), she did witness lots of subtle digs about other people. Which I think we can agree, is analogous to Apartheid and lynchings:

It’s the casual racism and subtle digs that Dr Dos Santos picks up on, often coming from people who don’t know about her Indigenous connections.

“Sure, my skin colour is not the stereotypical Aboriginal skin colour,” she says matter-of-factly.

“So I would hear racial slurs that would be said to me, but not about me. They wouldn’t have said it if they knew that I was Aboriginal.”

Dr. Angela Dos Santos, a proud Gumbaynggirr woman.

Bill’s Opinion

Incentives really do matter, don’t they?

If government largesse, media profiles and employment quotas are distributed on the basis of a concept so poorly-defined as “race”, there will be an increase in the identification of people as that race, regardless of where they sit on the Pascoe Scale.

The problem legislators and the well-meaning have failed to anticipate or grapple with is, at what fraction of ancestry does the negative impacts of systemic racism cease to be measurable?

Bigots might say it’s like a racist version of the sub-prime crisis of 2008, labelling people as 100% Aboriginal despite having only one Aboriginal ancestor 3 generations ago. If your DNA is no greater than 1/8th (perhaps even less if the great grandparent was mixed race), are you Aboriginal like the people living in squalor in Alice Springs or are you, in fact, a CDO bundle of sub-prime claiming to be Triple A?

As Steve Sailer points out:

Since the Bolt decision of 2011, it’s been more or less illegal to joke in the Australian press about all the white people claiming the privileges of diversity.

So, that’s not what I’m doing here. I’m just asking questions.

Can Robert Cialdini please come to the office?

….we’ve got a situation, Mr. Cialdini.

Mr. Cialdini famously wrote in his work, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, of the six main principles behind persuading other humans.

They are summarised here:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Authority
  5. Liking
  6. Scarcity

Which of these do we think Georgia is hoping to leverage?

Reciprocity? Nah; it’s a very long bow to draw to hope that, because she took a hit for the team, we need to all run out and get jabbed.

Commitment and Consistency? Nope; if we’ve not already taken the jab, we’ve not committed so don’t feel the need to double down.

Social Proof? Possibly. There’s a chance that young Georgia thinks because she’s got a blue tick, we’ll do as she says. Good luck with that.

Authority? She’s a journalist. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on it.

Liking? I repeat; she’s a journalist.

Scarcity? They’re vaccinating newborns and long dead pets these days, I think the scarcity ship has already sailed.

Bill’s Opinion

It has been quite some time since I last read Cialdini but I’m fairly certain there’s nothing in the book which might suggest a selfie from a hospital bed describing life-threatening side effects of a vaccine would be an effective persuasion technique to encourage others to follow suit.

If Georgia were to read my opinion, I would recommend she do more research on persuasion techniques, starting with Cialdini.

However, it’s apparent the 27 year old is not a big fan of research, else she might have taken this data into consideration:

Pericarditis usually impacts 27.7 people per 100,000 and has a 30% recurrence rate (so not quite the “usually doesn’t lead to complications” Georgia claims).

Journalists; they’re like regular people but with the maths part removed.