Imagine there’s no money….

Australia has a newly-designed 50 cent coin adorned with 14 indigenous words for “money”.

Except…..

Money, or an object which abstractly represented the value of goods and services, did not exist in Australia before European colonisation. Trade occurred, but it was between items deemed to be of similar worth, for example, pearl shell, quartz, food or songs. With the entry of money into the Indigenous economy, new words were needed to refer to coins and later, notes.
Most Indigenous words for money come from words for “stone”, “rock” or “pebble”, no doubt in reference to the size and shape of coins.

Right. So the new 50c coin has 14 indigenous words for “pebble”.

What’s the Aborginal translation for the adjective “fungible”?

Bill’s Opinion

This epitomises the very modern desire to retro-fit the current definitions of civilisation on a culture that had nothing even close to these features.

Other versions of this delusion include universities offering courses on “Aboriginal science” and primary schools teaching “Aboriginal sports”; what was observed and documented (by Europeans!) might have prima facia appeared to have been similar to science or sport but really had nothing tangible in common with the European definitions of these things.

The concept of the noble savage was a retrospective re-writing of history to salve Western guilt.

Peter Hartcher probably thinks this is objective

Time to fisk, Right Wing Nationalists Are Learning From the UK’s Pointless Ugliness.

Now that Brexit is indisputably established as one of the most monumentally stupid pieces of self-inflicted injury by a developed nation this century, other nations are learning key lessons from its mistakes.

Brexit hasn’t happened yet. In other news, the UK economy’s growth is currently outstripping that of all of its European neighbours, particularly Germany. Sure, the onmishambles that the British are currently suffering in Westminster is a national embarrassment but I’m not seeing much that could be called a “self-inflicted injury”.

The concept behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was that it would recover its sovereignty. On the day that Britons voted by 52 per cent to 48 in favour, its main cheerleader, Nigel Farage, declared it “independence day”. That was nearly three years ago.

Other than padding to hit the word count, I’m not sure what this tells us that anyone not living under a rock doesn’t already know. Three years, you say? Article 50 was always going to be at least a two year process, as advertised during the referendum campaign.

Today the country is a global laughing stock. It’s in an interminable dead-end, neither able to move forwards nor back. It’s lost investment and jobs, political stability, national credibility and, perhaps worst of all, it’s inflicted new anger and division within British society.

Let’s take those statements one at a time, shall we?

The country is a global laughing stock – Maybe. Or perhaps the politicians are the source of amusement. As for Britons caring what others think of them; there are only about 20 countries in the world, i.e. 10%, who we’ve not had a bit of a ruck with in the past. As Millwall fans chant, “Everyone hates us, and we don’t care”.

Dead end? Perhaps, but again, if the politicians can’t pull their fingers out of their arses by 11pm on Friday we’ll be moving one way…. out of the EU.

Lost investment? See the previous comment about the relative strength of the economy. Also, predicting what would have happened to an economy if something hadn’t happened is a mug’s game. QV the Bank of England’s predictions of Armageddon should the vote go the “wrong” way.

Lost jobs? Unemployment is the lowest it’s been for decades.

Political stability? Yes, and as we can see, the politicians have been found wanting. More instability please.

National credibility? This is from a journalist who presumably would claim he comes from a democratic country yet they change Prime Minister every 18 months and government every 36 months. Oh, and they’re in the insalubrious club of nations that enforce voting by law.

Anger and division? Yes, mainly concentrated at those paid to do a job and yet can’t.

Across the other 27 members of the EU, the main lesson learnt is that it’d be a bad idea to follow Britain out the door. In one country after another, the political parties that were inspired by Brexit have dumped their campaigns.

This isn’t quite giving the message Peter thinks it does. Perhaps nobody should wish to be in a club that punishes you for leaving? See also; Islam.

Two years ago, the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was demanding a referendum on whether to leave the EU, a Frexit, as was known. Today she speaks of making the EU work better. Italy’s Matteo Salvini of the League ran a right-wing nationalist campaign to reject the EU common currency, the euro, but now, as deputy prime minister, he has stopped using the hashtag #BastaEuro – enough of the euro. The idea is now effectively moribund. In Austria, the Freedom Party dropped its call for a referendum on dumping the euro and joined a coalition government that favours the status quo.

Again, Peter’s not really giving the message he thinks he is here. Some of us read this as a declaration of hostilities against any population that dares to defy the will of the EU. That’s a club nobody sane should wish to join.

Britain’s experience with Brexit has shown the world such pointless ugliness that it has boosted support for the EU to its highest in 35 years. Specifically, according to a Eurobarometer survey last year, two-thirds of Europeans say that their country has benefited from EU membership.

A survey commissioned by the EU found the EU was good? That’s some high kwality journalisming there, Peter. Bravo.

In Canada, Brexit is being used as an object lesson for secessionists in the French-speaking province of Quebec: “It has given us a picture of what actual attempts to withdraw from a long-established legislative union, as opposed to fantasies, look like,” says the National Post’s Andrew Coyne. “In particular, it has permanently discredited once-common claims that secession from Canada would be a quick and relatively painless affair.”

The Quebecois want to secede from Canada? Really, when did this shocking development occur and please explain to me again the subtle reason why nearly every Canadian Prime Minister always seems to have to come from Montreal?

This point carries particular force for any Australian thinking of voting for Clive Palmer, who is running candidates across the country for the federal election in a shameless attempted comeback even as his creditors try to recover hundreds of millions from his collapsed Queensland Nickel.

Palmer proposes that North Queensland break away and form a separate, new state. Ironic, perhaps, for his so-called United Australia Party. Palmer has learnt nothing from Brexit. He is either a buffoon or an irresponsible populist.

That’s the sound of Peter jumping a shark. Clive Palmer has three fifths of fuck all support from the Australian population, he’s lucky to get a majority of support in his own family. Brexit, on the other hand won a majority in the biggest democratic turn out in British history.

And this is the first lesson that Australia, like countries everywhere, should learn from Brexit. Populists offer emotional appeals that lead to dead ends, just as Farage led Britain to Brexit.

An alternate lesson might be, voting for anything the ruling class don’t like is a futile gesture. Better to let the politicians and journalists make all the difficult decisions and you lot can go back to watching Married at First Sight.

There are many definitions of populism. The one I prefer is that populism offers unworkably simple solutions to complex problems. Palmer is not the only populist on the ballot paper at the federal election. One Nation is another standout. Single-issue parties are no better.

….unworkably simple solutions to complex problems”. I think you’ve just described every opinion column and editorial in your publication, Peter.

Brexit has been described as a crisis of many types. A crisis of national identity, a crisis of leadership, a crisis of the Tory party, a crisis of British politics, a crisis of democracy, a constitutional crisis, and so on. And you can make a solid case for each of these claims. But, at its broadest, the Brexit dead end is a crisis of overpoliticisation. That is, every realistic and practical element of the national interest is lost to a self-interested free-for-all, like hyenas preying on the body politic.

Brexit has also been described as the British people doing what the British people do very well; holding the ruling class to account occasionally. The alternative approach, as demonstrated in “less happy lands” (to quote The Bard), is violent revolution.

The triumph of Farage’s populist “Leave” campaign dealt Britain a jolting blow to the head, disorienting the political system and signalling to the politicians that it was time to let their inner hyenas out. Overpoliticisation is not simply where a government can’t get its way in an uncooperative parliament. That is standard in a democracy. It will often occur for perfectly legitimate reasons of difference over principle or policy. It often happens that the Australian Senate, which was designed to represent a different priority of interests to the House, will block legislation that has passed the lower house.

Brexit is not overpoliticisation; it’s 17.4 million people explaining to about 400 MPs that they have an opinion that’s 180 degrees different to theirs and, lest you forget, we pay your salaries.

As the chaos of the British parliament demonstrates, overpoliticisation is where there is a breakdown of any goodwill or discipline within the parties themselves. It can’t happen here? It already has. In Australia’s case, it was not as all-encompassing as Brexit. But the pathetic tale of climate change and energy policy in Australia over the last decade is a clear case of overpoliticisation. The net result so far is a policy dead end, where a government of six years is about to go to an election without an energy policy.

Brexit and Australia’s woeful energy policy are linked? That’s a bloody long bow to draw.

Electricity prices have soared, companies are being put out of business, Australia’s carbon emissions commitment is in doubt, and the entire power grid is approaching collapse. As the Australian Energy Market Commission reported last week, “the grid is holding up but only because the energy market operator is intervening on a daily basis to keep the lights on”. And this in a country that is an energy superpower.

This national failure didn’t happen because of the routine operation of Australia’s political system. First a Labor government, and then Coalition ones, proved unable to cohere around a policy. The parties fractured within. Labor struck down its own prime minister over an emissions trading system, pitching the Rudd and Gillard governments into a disarray that neither recovered from.

Then it was the Coalition’s turn. Even after Malcolm Turnbull got his National Energy Guarantee through the Liberal party room, a revolt detonated the policy and destroyed the prime minister.

In the cases of Labor and Liberal, it was a free-for-all, without the party discipline that a Westminster system requires or the goodwill to agree on a compromise. No democracy can function without compromise.

The hyenas fed amid the chaos in a frenzy of self-interest and self-indulgence, and the Australian electorate was disgusted. Labor paid the price, and now it seems the Coalition will pay the same price at next month’s election.

All of which can be summarised as, “Australian politicians pushed an agenda that was directly against the wishes of the electorate and now they are struggling to explain why a country rich in coal and uranium has the most expensive electricity in the world”.

Britain’s madness is broader, deeper and more intractable, but Australia has shown over the last decade that it, too, is capable of ruinous over-politicisation. No matter how bad the tragi-comedy of Brexit, Australia cannot be smug.

Peter Hartcher is international editor.

Bill’s Opinion

Peter Hartcher is lacking self-awareness, an ability for introspection and is probably of the opinion that he is objective.

Independent. Always

Bouris Con-son

Mike Winnet (a pseudonym) coined the phrase “contreprenuer” to describe those who flog snake oil on social media, such as Creepbook for Business.

Examples we’ve touched on previously include Brigette and Oleg.

Australians have a few home-grown versions too, such as the very scarily-toothed Adam Hudson and our all-time favourite, Mark Bouris.

Here’s one from Mark that popped up on my timeline this morning:

So, in summary Mark, you’re flying somewhere on the weekend to flog your special brand of inspirational speaking and it became obvious that you’d get a bigger audience if the event was scheduled outside of regular working hours because…… good question, because why, Mark?

Bill’s Opinion
The reason Mark’s inspirational speaking has a bigger audience on a weekend than during regular working hours is because the people who attend aren’t entrepreneurs slogging away at their own business, they are office drones, salary slaves and the sort of people who believe that paying to hear Mark parrot out context-free quotations such as “work smart, not hard” is somehow going to be the inspiration and advice they need to make it on their own and become Australia’s Jeff Bezos.

This is the equivalent of the morbidly-obese and indolent signing up for a gym membership. It’s not the unavailability of exercise equipment that keeps you fat, it’s your innate flaws. There is no quick fix to systemic problems.

As Winnet points out, most of these snake oil salesmen have no credible track record to emulate other than an ability to trick people in to paying $197 (the fee always ends in a 7) to attend an event and receive a free “Amazon best-selling” book.

To be fair to Bouris, he has made a load of money in the past. However, if he were to be really honest about the secret to his success, it would be summed up in the following advice to others:

Firstly, be a ruthless broker between cheap global money and greedy investors during the biggest real estate bubble Australia has ever witnessed. Secondly, take your company public just as the bubble bursts”.

Right plebs, now conquer your fear and break that wooden block with a karate chop and walk barefoot across these barbeque briquettes.

In the words of Mike Winnet,

You have the same number of hours in the day as the world’s most successful people. What you lack is their drive, work ethic and talent. That’s why they are more successful than you.

Sometimes the deck chairs on the Titanic analogy *is* appropriate

Or perhaps we could remind ourselves of the apocryphal story of the English high court judge who asked the defence barrister “what are ‘The Beatles‘?”.

The Australian government is considering enforcing larger quotas on radio stations to ensure more Australian music is played.

No, not just the multiple government radio stations of ABC and SBS but commercial radio stations. ie private-owned businesses.

Let me repeat that; The government of Australia is seriously considering increasing a quota forcing what music can be played on radio stations.

No, not Cuba or Venezuela. Australia.

Check the date. No, it’s April 3rd, not the 1st.

Bill’s Opinion

Podcasts

Spotify

Apple Music

Google Play

Slacker

Tidal

Amazon Music

Who the hell listens to the radio in 2019?

Where are the April Fool articles?

Stop reading this. Open a new browser window and go to your favourite news source (I’m talking about Australia here).

Where are the April Fools joke articles?

Traditionally, editors have a bit of fun on this day, publishing articles on Italian spaghetti trees or the Olympics creating a backwards 100m event.

Perhaps I’ve not looked hard enough but there seems to be nothing that qualifies as an April Fool on the main Australian news sites. I’m not dismissing the possibility that I’ve been gullible and walked past one and assumed it was true.

Please correct me in the comments.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps we are in a “post humour” era where every joke offends someone, somewhere and, because of this, all jokes must be silenced.

Oh wait, we’re saved; The Sydney Morning Herald have one;

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.