Independent. Always. (Part 3,256)

The Sydney Morning Herald’s political correspondent in London filed a “proof of life” article this weekend, in a futile attempt to convince her editor she wasn’t spending all her time lounging around in Shoreditch bars and Brick Lane curry houses:

She probably could have stopped at the headline. Maybe she could have made it a little clearer, perhaps; “Opposition Party Opposes Government Position”.

Somehow though, she manages to fry up a couple of hundred words of absolute nothing burger on the theme:

London: Britain’s opposition is demanding Prime Minister Boris Johnson boycott Australia’s campaign to have Mathias Cormann installed as the next head of the OECD saying the former cabinet minister’s denialist climate change record makes him unfit for the job.

“Denialist”?

That’s a thoroughly modern adjective with really one main usage; to discredit an individual who expresses any level of scepticism with the climate change narrative.

How modern is this word? Here’s how many times it’s appeared in published books in the last couple of hundred years:

Labour’s spokeswoman for trade, Emily Thornberry has written to the British Prime Minister, demanding he guarantee that Britain will not back Cormann, who was instrumental in twice removing Malcolm Turnbull has Liberal party leader, over his record on climate policy. Australia’s Labor Party has backed Cormann’s OECD bid.

I’m confused, is UK Labour saying Cormann is a bad person for rolling a Prime Minister from the other side of the political spectrum? Or is the journalist making that assertion?

Also, Emily Thornbury, (also known as Lady Nugee); oh dear…. go to YouTube and look at her greatest hits. Fortunately for Emily, Dianne Abbott and Richard Burgon are still MPs so the Westminster Village Idiot position has an incumbent and succession plan.

Former Labor premier Mike Rann, who was replaced by the Abbott government just one year into his term as Australia’s high commissioner to Britain in 2014, added to the criticism.

Man who got the sack has an axe to grind.

Shocking.

But Cristina Talacko who chairs of the Coalition for Conservation said Cormann was not a climate change sceptic.

“Mathias is certainly not a climate denialist and that he will be very well placed to help the OECD member countries to achieve net zero given his experience on negotiations, his knowledge on how to apply the best methodologies and his fiscally responsible mind.

Woman from the same side of politics likes her side of politics.

Shocking.

British Labour’s opposition to Cormann’s candidacy is significant in the context of the UK-Australia bilateral relationship, particularly given the Australian Labor Party has endorsed Cormann’s candidacy.

So what? Do the UK Labour and Australian Labor (sic) Parties need to be in lock step about every issue? Who is Bourke trying to lobby here?

Number 10 declined to comment.

Number 10 might have a little more on their plate to deal with in 2020 than responding to Latika Bourke’s latest stating the bleedinobvious article.

Bill’s Opinion

The content of Bourke’s column is only relevant if you have the prior assumption Cormann’s stated position on climate change is incorrect at best, possibly mendacious.

It would have been written completely differently if the author was seeking to maintain a perception of journalistic objectivity.

There’s no law requiring the Sydney Morning Herald to be non-partisan, but their tagline is “Independent. Always“, after all.

Finally, the amusing, “Number 10 declined to comment” reminded me of this classic:

Where’s the marketing Anzac spirit?

Well, this is disappointing:

No, not that the Australian vaccine is a failure, but the reaction by Australian marketing teams to not take this news as a personal challenge in that legendary Aussie battler spirit.

Come on, all you hairy MarComs teams sitting on beanbags in loft offices in the suburbs of Glebe, St Kilda and /struggles to name a hipster suburb of Brisbogan/, where’s your Anzac spirit?

Surely there must be a gun marketing team out there ready to accept the challenge of promoting a vaccine that “cures covid with just a mild case of AIDS as a side effect”?

Somewhere in Australia is a team of professionals who are earning a good salary from convincing people to put Jägermeister-based drinks into their bodies.

If not the Jägermeister team, how about the people tasked with selling anything in the genre, ABC comedy, to the unwitting public? Those people could sell fridges to Eskimos (are we allowed to call them Eskimos in 2020? It’s hard to stay current in these things).

Bill’s Opinion

Fans of Game Theory will recognise the question of whether or not to take a fast-tracked vaccine for Kung Flu as being a classic example of the Nash Equilibrium.

My personal strategy is to loudly proclaim my desire to take the vaccine, lie when asked and say I’ve had it once it’s available, wait a year or so to see whether my fellow citizens develop debilitating side effects and then, maybe, take the damn thing if they haven’t.

But nothing will convince me the ABC could produce anything remotely resembling comedy. Not even if I’d chugged a bottle of neat Jägermeister.

Toilet paper shortage in Noosa!

Residents of Noosa, QLD, are beginning to suspect a link between the arrival of their new neighbours and a sudden shortage of toilet paper for the second time this year.

Coincidentally, the local hospital has seen an exponential increase in emergency admissions for the rare condition of priapism.

What might be the cause, do we think?

Ah, the extremely rare but surprisingly well-documented (by himself) phenomenon of Accidental Rudd Relevance Syndrome (medical abbreviation; ARRS):

According to recent academic research from the Grievance Studies Department of Washington State’s Evergreen College, confirmed occurrences of ARRS are infrequent and closely correlate to the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, so Australian observers should savour this once in 50 generations opportunity to witness it first hand.

Bill’s Opinion

As we’ve observed before, the only subject Kevin Rudd likes to talk about more than himself, is China.

The virus was a tricky topic for him to publicly navigate as it inevitably requires reaching a conclusion which results in a loss of “face” for Rudd’s highfalutin mates in the Chinese administration.

The recent escalation in diplomatic tensions offer a much safer opportunity of personal relevance therefore, launching a dozen interviews on TV and radio and hundreds of column inches penetrating into sympathetic newspapers.

Hence the potential toilet paper shortage and erectile dysfunctional medical issues no doubt plaguing the normal domestic bliss, Chez Rudd, as he risks serious onanismic injury from the excitement.

Lubricate and hydrate, Kevin. Lubricate and hydrate.

A fool and their money

In news that can’t have improved their experience of 2020, it would seem some less than diligent Australians have discovered they’d been “investing” with a female Bernie Madoff.

In the words of Leonard Cohen when he discovered his manager had walked off with much of his wealth, “that can tend to take the shine off your day“.

Whenever one reads of these Ponzi schemes, the depths of gullibility always astound. This one is no exception; statements of investment accounts that were simply the CBA bank logo cut and pasted on to a fake statement and not even the correct number of digits in the bank accounts.

The inference being, none of these “investors” could have ever logged on to their accounts to confirm the balance.

That’s a level of trust bordering on insane.

Speaking of trust, if you believe her husband knew nothing about the fraud, I’ve got a bridge across the river Thames you might like to buy:

You’re not in trouble“. Riiight.

What was the inflight service like on the private jet to the month long holiday in Aspen, Anthony?

Anthony’s professional life seems to consist of not much activity for several years as a “music producer“. The more cynical and cruel amongst you might suspect he’s been spending a lot more time assisting his wife with her “business” than making shitty bleep bleep music.

Anyway, as we start to run out of new content on Netflix and the cinema while the 2020 break in production flows through to us, this case will be a welcome distraction.

See also, the recent arrest of Joe Anderson and Derek Hatton in the UK’s capital of grief and victimhood, Liverpool. Now that’s a Christmas present worth savouring.

Bill’s Opinion

Stupid and mendacious investments will always find willing suckers and, as long as we don’t fall for them, we get to enjoy the schadenfreude.

However, sometimes one just needs to accept the irrationality and embrace the opportunity. After all, a Ponzi scheme still makes money for some of the initial investors.

Which brings us to this prediction; 2021 will see asset bubbles springing up all over the place. All that easy money being hosed at everything that moves will find a home.

Which asset classes do I think are about to take off?

Gold, silver, the NASDAQ, energy stocks and residential property.

We may as well learn to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Career opportunities

From the unbiased and proudly independent Australian government news agency;

Curious minds might find a series of important questions not asked by Toby Mann and wires. Incidentally, I believe I saw Toby Mann And Wires supporting Shakespeare’s Sister at The Garage, Highbury in 1992.

Sweden’s failed coronavirus herd immunity gamble came at a high cost of lives and the country could still have to implement a lockdown to tackle the spread, experts say.

Failed? As the ambassador from post-revolutionary China reportedly replied when asked about his opinion on the success of the French Revolution, “It’s too early to tell“.

Also, experts. Anyone who thinks, in late 2020, an appeal to experts is persuasive really needs to pay more attention. Perhaps the most polite reaction the majority of people have when they see the noun, experts, is, “Sigh, really? Let me guess; and they’ve got a fucking computer model too?“.

Sweden’s approach to dealing with coronavirus was flawed from the start, according to Professor David Goldsmith, the lead author of a paper published by the UK’s Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Ok, let’s see his evidence for that view then:

In it, Professor Goldsmith examined what went wrong with Sweden’s policy and why its case mortality rate is about triple that of its Scandinavian neighbours.

Case mortality rate? That’s our metric of choice for this argument is it?

Case mortality rate is a function of two numbers; the number of dead, which is relatively easy to count, and the number of people who have tested positive for the virus. That second measure is really not comparable across different countries, is it? Testing more people reduces the CFR but doesn’t mean the disease is any more or less dangerous.

And with a severe second wave presently moving through the country, he believes drastic measures need to be undertaken to control the spread.

“Sweden, unfortunately, have done the wrong thing in the wrong way,” Professor Goldsmith told the ABC.

“They thought they were going to get this herd immunity nonsense.”

“Herd immunity” is a term used by epidemiologists to describe the effect of a population that has grown immune to a virus either by catching it and recovering from it or by vaccination. Professor David Goldsmith’s expertise is not in virology, which might explain this mistake.

It doesn’t stop him from giving those Swedes a stern telling off;

“Nobody has ever tried to control a pandemic or an epidemic by inducing herd immunity.

Excuse me for a moment while I just check I’m up to date on my vaccinations agains the Black Death and Spanish Flu…..oh, hang on.

A measure of antibodies taken in June and July from people in Stockholm, the epicentre of Sweden’s first wave, found only about 15 per cent of the population had them.

Around this time, the country’s case and death rates were dropping.

From what rate to what new rate? We’re not told, obviously it’s not important.

Also unimportant are questions like, how bad was Sweden’s 2019 and 2018 flu season compared to the countries they are now being compared to? If the flu took more frail and sick in a particular country than another in those years, it seems logical Covid19 would take fewer during 2020.

Similarly, this time last year, much of Australia was in flames. This week, not so much. It’s almost as if something happened to the dry tinder…..

“What was it about the Swedes that would simply mean they could sit there and expect not to have a second wave of such severity?” he said.

“It astonishes me. I think they were caught up in their own bullshit.”

Some dispassionate, sober and scientific language there by Professor Goldsmith.

Standby, here comes a further demonstration that Australian universities are not sending their brightest and best to intern at The ABC;

Some of the results of this approach are borne out in simple numbers.

Simple numbers? Cool bananas, we can handle simple numbers. Give it your best shot, Toby Mann And Wires, play us a medley of your greatest hits:

There have been 225,560 cases of coronavirus in Sweden, a country of 10 million, and 6,500 people have died.

Ok, so forgetting the case numbers because, as we’ve said, that’s just a function of how many you test; the total fatality rate for the entire country is currently 0.065%.

With where else shall we compare the European country with 4 land borders?

Oh yes, the island nation of Australia, with its nearest neighbouring foreign major airport (not you, Auckland; sit down) an 8 hour flight away:

For comparison, there have been 27,854 cases and 907 deaths in Australia, which has a population of 25 million.

That comparison is the classic apples with pears.

Against numbers from large countries like the US, India or Brazil, Sweden’s tallies don’t seem too bad.

….not that Toby Mann And Wires is going to give you those comparisons though.

The professor has a co-author who is an actual epidemiologist;

Chair in Epidemiology at Deakin University, Professor Catherine Bennett, said Sweden’s case fatality rate was about 3 per cent, compared to about 1 per cent across the rest of Scandinavia.

“That’s an extraordinary death rate,” she told the ABC.

Case fatality rate. See what she did there?

Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll per capita is more than 10 times Norway’s and nearly five times that of Denmark.

How bad were Norway and Denmark’s 2018/19 flu seasons? Nah, not important.

Perhaps we get a hint at why certain people are so exercised and motivated to prove Sweden’s approach has been a disaster:

Rather than imposing lockdowns like many other countries, Sweden focused on voluntary measures aimed at promoting social distancing and good hygiene, such as working from home if possible, and avoiding public transport and crowded indoor activities.

Sweden had a lockdown of sorts, they just didn’t need over-zealous cops fining dog walkers, arresting beach-goers and flying drones over hikers.

Bill’s Opinion

There are obvious flaws in both the report and the subsequent news article. Hanlon’s Razor suggests we should just write these off as genuine mistakes.

It’s 2020 though. It’s probably long past the time for us to listen to Hanlon or any other expert or unbiased journalist.

These people are not fit to undertake these jobs, or at least not to the standards of the job description most people would expect of them.

Find another job, you mendacious activist bastards.

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.

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.

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.

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.