Here come the freedom restriction laws

A good knee-jerk reaction is only worth doing if it’s quick enough, especially in election season (which, to be fair, is every second year in Australia);

Media bosses face jail over sharing content.

Hasty legislation is so very tempting to those in power as they feel under pressure to be seen to be doing something, anything, in the wake of exceptional or unique events.

The Australian government is therefore making noises about introducing legislation enabling the prosecution of the leaders of technology companies on whose platforms the video footage of the Christchurch murderer’s crimes were shared should similar situations occur in the future.

Our confirmation biases trick us into thinking there is merit with this approach. There are multiple problems with what has been proposed in this thought bubble of a policy description however. Let’s list them and see if you agree:

1. Opportunity cost – given finite resources of time, money and personnel, is this the best and most urgent response the legislators and law enforcement authorities can take to minimise the risk similar murderous violence doesn’t re-occur? I say “minimise the risk” because, despite what anyone would like to think, there is no palatable way to completely prevent murders occurring. The shooter was hiding in plain sight on various internet discussion forums, perhaps some more diligence on behalf of those tasked with crime prevention might be the better priority?
2. Legislation requiring innovation – a law that would deliver jail time to the CEO of Facebook Australia for hosting a snuff movie is, in effect, demanding the company either throw thousands of content moderators at the problem 24×7 OR they invent 100% foolproof algorithms to automatically remove the content the moment it is uploaded. Neither of which is particularly likely, which brings us to problem #3….
3. The law of unintended consequences – the CEO will be extremely motivated to remain at liberty and without a criminal record, therefore they will scale back their content and offering to the Australian market. 99.9999% of livestream content breaks no law, yet faced with the risk of jail, an intelligent CEO is going to simply pull that functionality and content from the Australia IP addresses. Worse, the risk to the CEO has still not gone away due to problem #4…..
4. Virtual Private Networks – VPNs are cheap and easily procured. If content is blocked in Australia, it’s likely users could hop on to a VPN and spoof their location to a different geography and see it anyway. Anyone who enjoys using torrent services that are geo-blocked in Australia already knows this. Faced with this risk, perhaps the tech companies would withdraw or scale back their Australian office footprint?
5. Who defines what content is banned? – if we were to legislate against “dangerous” content, hasty legislation would be a mistake. The definition of what is to be banned is going to require significant discussion and debate, followed up with extreme legal scrutiny to ensure the legislation is unambiguous and not simply providing a censor’s charter to a future government.

Bill’s Opinion
In a crisis, people revert to what they know. Politicians know how to announce and create rapid, ambiguous legislation that satisfies the expediency of being seen to act but fails the test of sustainability and desirability over the long term.

Expect more of this.

Also expect legislation to make subscription to a VPN illegal once someone explains their use to the politicians.

Longbowmanship over Christchurch

As suggested earlier, in the wake of a major atrocity or tragedy, it’s safer to steer well clear of all forms of social media. There’s likely to be some truth available and even some cool heads but finding it amongst the virtue signalling and calls for further limitations to freedom will be nigh on impossible.

Some of the rubbish washes up on the shore regardless of how little time one tries to spend on websites and apps where it lives.

Blame is being directly thrown at a wide range of targets.

Let’s be clear; The person responsible for the decision to murder 50 unarmed men, women and children last week, was the same person who stockpiled the weapons and fired them.

Nobody else.

It’s a shame I feel the need to have to state that axiom, but it seems like a day doesn’t go by without a serious commentator claiming other sources of blame which, utterly coincidentally, reflect their previously-stated biases.

Examples follow;

1. Trump – the go-to blame focus for all that is bad in the world. The shooter’s own manifesto states that he likes Trump because of his ethnicity but can’t stand his policies. On that basis, anyone in the Whitehouse who was white might be blamed. Trump’s actions, words and opinions have been documented in detail for decades, yet there’s nothing we can point to encouraging violence against Muslims. Longbow.

2. Candace Owens – anyone who took the shooter’s claims that she was his greatest influence at face value is clearly not paying attention and has not read or listened to her opinions. The shooter is trolling the media and they’ve taken the bait. Longbow.

3. CNN – on a recent podcast, Scott Adams suggested CNN have contributed to the misinformation by focusing on race and identity. Longbow.

4. Facebook, Twitter, etc. – various political figures are stating the platforms are responsible because live-streaming functionality enabled the shooter to have a far wider audience. Do we think he wouldn’t have murdered anyone if he was unable to live-stream? Longbow.

5. Gun laws – The NZ parliament is bound to pass stronger gun legislation in the next few weeks. New Zealand’s gun laws are far looser than Australia’s, however, despite there being far more guns in circulation per capita, the ratio of guns deaths was (prior to this incident) about the same. Do we really think the legalities of gun ownership are a factor in a murderous extremist’s decision to slaughter 50 people. Longbow and, unless there is a massive search and confiscate programme, pointless virtue signalling.

6. “Islamophobic” comments by politicians – Waleed Aly seems to conflate criticism of a violent interpretation of Islam with taking a gun to kill unarmed citizens. Longbow.

And then there’s this;

Internet service providers and mobile phone network operators took the decision to block a group of websites, ranging from a financial discussion forum (Zerohedge) to the home of those crazy 4Channers. Curiously, the ISPs all decided to do this together at the same time, almost as if they were instructed to do so.

As the screenshot above points out, these smaller players had a minimal percentage of the traffic of the killer’s video compared to Facebook or YouTube, yet these didn’t get banned.

I checked this for myself and can confirm that, for a while, the block was in place but could be bypassed by use of a VPN. The block has since been lifted.

In other more ridiculous news, there’s a push to rename the local rugby team, the Canterbury Crusaders, to something less offensive to the residents of the holy land circa 1095 to 1492. May I suggest The Canterbury Cucks?

Perhaps while they’re at it should they rename Saracens to something less offensive to people living in Spain in the 12th century and the Barbarians to a name that won’t upset the residents of Rome living there in the year 410?

Bill’s Opinion

Shutting down speech, particularly the blocking of internet discussion forums (I want to write “fora” but I know that makes me pretentious) is not a road we should travel any farther along.

The New Zealand government has already been tacitly involved in the de-platforming of Stefan Molyneaux and Lauren Southern and the Kiwi media were clearly incredibly biased in their interviews.

The Australian government has had three positions in as many weeks on whether or not Milo Yiannopolous would be granted a visa, despite allowing him to visit 2 years ago and, as far as I am aware, he’s not committed any criminal offences in the meantime.

Gavin McInnes and Tommy Robinson remained banned.

You don’t have to agree with anything these people say to question whether it’s a smart move to prevent the people who would want to listen to their views from doing so on Australian or Kiwi soil. They can still consume their output via the internet.

Blocking the websites where these views can be read or heard is impractical, as proven by use of a cheap VPN last week.

But, if you wanted to disprove the widely-held belief of the crazies that there’s a global conspiracy against them, private companies blocking websites would be about the worst possible action you could take.

I want these violent crazies to have a public forum to spout their views, for two clear reasons:

1. People who are sane can argue with them and show the insanity of their claims, and

2. If they’re speaking this shite in public we at least know who they are.

The alternative is that they go deeper down their rabbit holes and end up communicating via in game messages on Fortnite, private Whatsapp groups or a range of similar covert technology solutions. The conspiracy would be easily-believed by newcomers if that were to occur.

Finally, in all this blame-chucking, I’ve yet to see a single suggestion that there has been a failure of the domestic intelligence services. The killer was apparently prolific on the various Internet forums and platforms, what monitoring is in place to alert the security services of the threat? For fuck’s sake, it was all there in plain sight to anyone with a computer, they didn’t even need the police state internet snooping legislation of recent years to view it.

If “democracy” is the punchline, what was the joke?

Australians’ cup of democracy runneth over.

Those lucky souls in the lucky country have the opportunity to change Prime Minister in a few short weeks’ time.

The state of New South Wales getS to change their parish council too.

How exciting!

Except, Australians get a new Prime Minister every 18 months anyway, whether they voted for one or not.

Seriously, they do.

Of course, this leads to a surplus of ex-Prime Ministers. By May this year, the list of people who are still alive and claiming the not-insubstantial pension and benefits of the highest office in the land, will probably look like this;

Bob Hawke (run out)

Paul Keating (bowled)

John Howard (bowled)

Kevin Rudd (1st innings run out, 2nd innings bowled)

Julia Gillard (run out)

Tony Abbott (run out)

Malcolm Turnbull (run out)

Scott Morrison (bowled)

That’s a lot of pension payments, allowances for an office and staff and, of course, the free Qantas first class flights for life.

Thank goodness the Australian economy can afford it. Oh, wait…

Voting is compulsory in Australia. Let me repeat that; it’s illegal to not turn up and pretend to cast a vote in elections.

Chances are, you’re reading this in a jurisdiction where voting isn’t mandated, so you might think there’s something to be admired by this system.

Well, consider the probability that a voter of above average intelligence could navigate and make sense of this voting form;

If you choose to number your preferences “above the line”, the candidates then distribute your secondary votes as they see fit, should they not win a majority of primary votes.

If you choose to vote “below the line”, you can distribute your votes to each individual candidate.

Either way, it’s not clear what each person stands for or what commitments they would give to vote in a particular way should they find themselves in office. There’s an awful lot of single-issue candidates in that list, one assumes the well-informed “high information” Australian voters have read each and every manifesto and election promise these people have pledged.

Yeah right.

Bill’s Opinion

Many of the great leaps forward of the human condition involve a critical mass of the population agreeing to believe a man-made concept. The value of money is a great example of this; a dollar has worth because enough people agree it has. When that changes, the value of money collapses very quickly.

Democracy is a similar fallacy that works because we say it does.

On March 29th, 17.4 million voters in the UK may discover that fallacy isn’t as robust a concept as they previously thought.

With a system as laughable as this one, the people of Australia may not be far behind in that discovery.

Lies, damn lies and pointless statistics

new “experimental analytical index” uses census data to measure relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage for households in very small areas

An early contender for this week’s most pointless news article and even more pointless research has emerged from the crowd.

Disparities in social advantage within Sydney suburbs have been revealed by data that shows a pocket of about 80 households in the northern suburb of Frenchs Forest is the city’s most well-off locality.

Six of the 10 most advantaged suburban enclaves are located in the city’s north-west, but none are in the east, the Australian Bureau of Statistics new Index of Household Advantage and Disadvantage (IHAD) shows.

The second most advantaged neighbourhood was a cluster of just over 100 homes not far from Taronga Zoo within the harbourside suburb of Mosman.

Or put another way, “areas everyone already knew were affluent, are affluent“.

No, seriously.

If you have five minutes spare and fancy a chuckle, read the methodology here.

According to the calculation, if your mortgage payment exceeds $2,800 a month, you are “advantaged”. Lucky you!

In total, there are over 50 variables that have been shaken together in this advantaged/disadvantaged cocktail to provide the lovely colour-coded map reproduced in the news article.

When all the data has been crunched, what did we learn?

The people living in expensive areas with new German cars on the driveways of large houses with swimming pools are, in the main, “advantaged”.

Bill’s Opinion

When the employees of the Australian Bureau of Statistics go home on a Friday evening, do you think they tell themselves they’ve moved the human condition forward at all?

The same question applies to “churnalists” such Matt Wade and Nigel Gladstone.

The secret to becoming a millionaire in Australia

….is to invest three million dollars into a business built by a real estate “entrepreneur”.

Exhibit 1 McGrath Estate Agents

John “Million Dollar Agent” McGrath has presided over one of the most classic examples of wealth destruction of our time. I think the people we should feel most sorry for are those who bought into the bull traps in 2016 and 2017. It must have been like that exhilarating feeling a surfer gets as they catch a large wave but then realise they’ve got the angle wrong and are shooting to the bottom rather than gracefully gliding across the face of the wave.

Exhibit 2 – Yellow Brick Road

It would seem others have been paying attention to Mr. Bouris too:

ASX suspension? What ASX suspension?! Yellow Brick Road’s Mark Bouris has spent the week since the business failed to lodge first-half accounts doing what he does best. That is, self-promotion.

Ah, self-promotion. That’s a common factor, isn’t it?

Those who’ve spent some time in the UK might recognise the type:

Bill’s Opinion

Australia entered a per capita recession this week. Property prices have been on the slide since September 2017.

The two examples above are both completely reliant on the health of the real estate market to return a profit. Which direction do we feel these share charts are going in the near to mid-term? At the time of writing, Yellow Brick Road shares are on their 4th business day of suspension.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “just when you think you’ve lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more“.

Forget due process, let’s convict on da feelz

Australia’s top Left Footer, Cardinal George Pell, was convicted of kiddy fiddling last week.

Actually, he was convicted weeks ago but a suppression order was in place preventing reporting. The hilarity of a situation where a judge believes the secret can be maintained after a verdict was given in open court shouldn’t be lost on us. Presumably nobody has pointed out the invention of “an interweb” since he/she finished law school?

Also, suppression orders didn’t seem to be of much interest to Australian judges during the Spycatcher debacle. What’s good for the goose….

So, the most poorly-kept secret since Rolf Harris is out now and a million column inches are able to be devoted to “whither the Catholic Church?” discussions such as this:

To be fair to Amanda Vanstone, she didn’t write the headline, nor anything near that sentiment in her opinion piece. Quite illustrative though, isn’t it, that the editorial folk decided that the readership’s feelings about the possible outcome of a legal appeal are of relevance to the case?

Helpfully, other writers have advice for Australian Catholic Church on how to stop kiddy fiddling problems arising in the future, such as this by Linda Morris, where she strongly suggests what’s needed is more women in senior leadership positions in the church.

Maybe that’s correct, or maybe it’s a call by an interest group to link a scandal to their single issue campaign. Certainly, a skip through Ms Morris’ twitter timeline doesn’t suggest any previous concerns for the health of the Catholic Church. Climate change, yes, things left footed, no.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s worth questioning the motivation behind angsty opinion pieces about a religious institution most journalists secretly despise. They might be written in good faith but they may also be cynical attempts to further their own desires for cultural revolution.

At the risk of whataboutery, has the journalist written similar opinions calling for a moderation of Wahhabism, for example?

Is Pell guilty and going to lose his appeal? I don’t know and neither do you, so how you feel about it is completely irrelevant.

Connecting the dots V2

Remembering our speculation from last week, well, it looks like it’s getting legs;

Bill’s Opinion

It must be remembered that Christopher Pyne is a happily married, heterosexual man who absolutely will have no embarrassing secrets to hide buried in his parliamentary email history which may or may not have been hacked recently.

We cannot confirm whether or not he enjoys show tunes…..

When the tide goes out we learn who has been swimming without clothes

The Lucky Country tends to lack the entrepreneurial spirit.

The reasons behind this are many, my personal view is that it’s a function of the incentives in the economy; for four decades, Australians have been rewarded by investing in property or working in industries relating to it.

The corollary to this is that there’s been few reasons and rewards for investing one’s cash or pension into stocks, shares, bonds and non-property assets.

Some people have won bigly in this environment. Fair play to them, they followed the cues and were rewarded accordingly.

Mark Bouris is one such big winner. In the 1990s he made his fortune in the mortgage finance business and has continued to go from strength to strength ever since.

The danger of viewing this type of success from a distance is believing that it is a) due to the unique and mercurial skills of the winner and, b) that it is repeatable across industries and markets or indeed, time.

In other words, just because Mark made a large fortune from real estate in a market where everyone made small fortune from real estate, it doesn’t necessarily follow that he can continue to make money in different areas or even in his area of expertise.

Today will be interesting, therefore; Yellow Brick Road shares suspended after trading close.

Bill’s Opinion

In a rising market, everyone is a genius.

Mark Bouris’ Yellow Brick Road might be having some innocent difficulties with the regular filing requirements.

On the other hand, 18 months into a property price downturn and an environment of tighter lending, one company has to be the first major casualty.

On verra.

I looked over Jordan, what did I see?

A suitable air gap exists now between the much-hyped appearance of Jordan B. Peterson on Australia’s “QandA” TV panel show for us to review it without being trampled in the rush.

Our woke friends at the Sydney Morning Herald were exceptionally quick off the mark, publishing this review so soon after the show that a cynic might wonder whether the body of the article was already written so that a couple of specific details just needed to be added.

Certainly, the almost predictable template was adhered to; Peterson is an arrogant quack offering clichés as advice using pseudo-science as evidence, none of which I will try to refute.

Plus ça change.

Before I start my review, full disclosure; I don’t normally watch the programme. Actually, because it’s all such utter drivel, I don’t normally watch Australian terrestrial TV and was pleasantly surprised that our TV could be tuned to receive content that wasn’t over the ChromeCast dongle (this is only a slight exaggeration). 

My reasons for not normally watching QandA are as follows;
1. The format is shit. Too many people on a panel, too little time to answer a question beyond throwing in a pithy soundbite.
2. The host, Tony Jones, is an arrogant, self-aggrandising, biased fool. His body language alone (head and body leaning to one side, elbow out, hand on hip) speaks volumes.
3. The audience seems to be consistently of the opinion that, whatever the problem, the government must do something to solve it. To be fair to the ABC, I’m not accusing the channel of bias, they don’t need to manufacture this opinion; it’s pervasive in Australia.
So, 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back this week;
The already flawed format was worsened by the enforcement of a 1 minute per answer rule. Yet the questions posed were of the “is there a God?” type (seriously, that was asked!). 
The overall impression one gets is that Australians are quite star-struck by Americans (yes, I know he’s a Canuck, but that’s just another name for a quieter American). The panel were not only star-struck but also somewhat fearful of Peterson, the two politicians in particular, in the way people who make a living from obfuscating often are when confronted by those with less of a filter on expressing their opinions.
From left to right of the TV screen, here’s my summary of each person’s performance;
Tranny pensioner – agreed with much of what Peterson said, there’s never much to disagree with though, unless you’ve decided that penises can be female and zhe didn’t try that line. However, zhe mainly just rambled on as if zhey were some kind of national treasure like Australia’s version of Joanna Lumley.
Jordan B. Peterson – tried to smile a lot more than usual, got justifiably grumpy at an angry fat girl in the audience and the left wing politician (unironically) sat to his left and was interrupted with “time’s up, Mr. Peterson” every time he was about to start his second sentence. It seemed pointless him being there, frankly.
Left wing politician – presented well and was clearly scared by Peterson. Steered away from throwing too many local political rocks, which was commendable at least. She’s swallowed the equity=equality kool aid, though.
Tony Jones – he probably thinks he’s an objective journalist. Dunning and Kruger wrote a report about his problem.
Right wing politician – prepared for the performance by standing in a forest presumably, judging by his wooden demeanor. Kept talking about things we can’t talk about, which was confusing. 
Fat angry twitter woman – was fat, angry and unable to let anyone else speak more than 5 words before interrupting with sarcasm. If she isn’t single and surrounded by smelly cats, something is seriously wrong in the world.
Guest appearance – Milo Yiannopolis on a pre-recorded question.
Somebody should have cracked the old favourite:
Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Milo.
Milo who?
That’s showbusiness!
Bill’s Opinion
If you wanted to waste 90 minutes of your life for no reason and without seeing a result, consider watching a soccer match instead.
The terrestrial TV function of our TV is in little danger of being used again this year.