2021 surely can’t be any worse?

Gonna sleep down in the parlor

And relive my dreams

I’ll close my eyes and I wonder

If everything is as hollow as it seems

When you think that you’ve lost everything

You find out you can always lose a little more

I been to Sugar Town, I shook the sugar down

Now I’m trying to get to heaven before they close the door

Bob Dylan

Last year’s predictions weren’t too far off the mark, with the minor exception of missing a global pandemic and subsequent complete overreaction by practically every national government…..

“Other than that, Mr Waite, how was your holiday in Beirut?”

On to this year’s predictions then:

Australian Politics

Internal borders will continue to open and close like a hooker’s legs throughout the year. The two week quarantine for international travellers will remain all year.

An Australian university will threaten to declare bankruptcy and will be bailed out by the federal or a state government.

An interviewee will point out to a Sky News Australia talking head that they can’t simultaneously berate Dan Andrews for his response to Kung Flu whilst complaining the rest of the world are overreacting to a virus with a 99.93% survival rate.

Global Politics

Kamala Harris will take over the presidency from a medically-impaired Joe Biden. For this selfless act of bravery, she will will receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

A proxy war between China and the western powers will be fought in SE Asia.

The USA will return to the Iran nuclear deal. Somewhat related, mysterious explosions will continue to occur at various locations in Iran followed by an innocent face and shrug of the shoulders in Jerusalem.

The UK will have a new Prime Minister, most likely Dishy Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss.

An EU-sceptic party will win an election outright or by enough to form a coalition government in one of the 27 states.

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell will result in weasely apologies and withdrawal from public life of several high profile figures.

A Black Lives Matter leader will be arrested for embezzlement and fraud.

Zeitgeist

The new “Trump TV” internet channel will overtake CNN’s viewing figures within a week of being launched.

As crowds return to sports matches, nobody will kneel before kick off for fear of ridicule.

A new hedonistic and illegal music/dance/drugs genre will emerge as teenagers and twentysomethings kick out against the societal restrictions. It will be inspirational for about as long as the northern hemisphere summer lasts and then it will crash and burn.

Alec Baldwin launches a charity with Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King to help sufferers of the newly identified condition, TransEthnic.

Harry and Megan Windsor-Markle’s podcasts and Netflix output is quietly dropped due to awful listening/viewing figures.

Sport

England wins the Grand Slam in the Six Nations.

The British and Irish Lions tour will go ahead in empty stadia and will be won 2-1 by South Africa.

The Olympics will also go ahead but will be a dull collection of the sports you wouldn’t normally pay to watch, as always.

Economy

Gold will reach new highs and stay above $2,100 an ounce all year.

Bitcoin will reach $35,000 and also fall to $18,000 and back again.

Tesla will reach a market capitalisation of $1 trillion but you still won’t personally know anyone who owns one.

All major stock indices will have and maintain major rises.

Several major airlines will be nationalised.

Bill’s Opinion

Some serious, some jokingly serious.

On verra, on verra.

So what’s the point of the vaccine then?

WHO’s chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told a virtual press conference that there was no evidence yet that people who had been vaccinated could enter countries such as Australia without the risk of spreading the disease.

I have questions…..

Asked by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age what this would mean for Australia’s quarantine program, Swaminathan said “I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from actually getting the infection and therefore being able to pass it on”.

I have more questions…..

Dr David Heymann from London’s School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene went further.

“No matter what we’ve done to date, it will continue to spread, despite vaccines, despite therapeutics, despite diagnostic tests,” he said of the virus. “We have to learn to live with this and use the tools that we can in the best way possible.”

He likened the current pandemic to smallpox and the use of the “imperfect vaccine” to control and eventually eradicate the disease.

Smallpox? That disease with a 30% infection fatality rate?

We’re comparing smallpox with a virus from which 99.35% of people infected recover (and that percentage rapidly improves for those under 75)?

How is that useful?

Bill’s Opinion

Several of my friends are convinced the pandemic is a global conspiracy. I constantly argue against this from my experience of dealing with large organisations and governments, where I have learned hive minds are incapable of such efficiency.

Generally, if you want something really fucked up and not achieving the stated outcome, ask a government department to do it.

However, it’s hard to not sympathise with my tin foil hat friends given we’ve just spent the best part of a year cowering in our spare rooms waiting for the miracle to come, then we were told multiple vaccines with 90+% efficacy rates had been produced and now, as they’re being rolled out, we are told cool your jets, you’ll still need to spend two weeks in quarantine when you travel.

The chances of me voluntary taking a vaccine in such circumstances just became significantly less likely. What would be the point?

Jenna hates… fireworks

It has become obvious to me we need a new category here; Jenna hates…

Unfortunately, the Sydney Morning Herald’s readership has declined in recent years so the original opinion pieces by Jenna Price don’t receive the widespread acknowledgment they deserve. We hope to rectify this by providing a summary here to give her the audience she so richly deserves.

This week’s insight into the mind of a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and a regular columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald won’t disappoint:

There is no justification for having New Year’s Eve fireworks, none. Not this year, not any year.

I agree, utter waste of taxpayers’ money.

Years ago, I felt differently. I would take my children down to the nearest view of soaring Catherine wheels, of sparkling flowers and hearts. One year, we even ventured down to the Rocks. It was awful. Drunken brawling, men catcalling my not-yet-teenage daughters, all for the best possible view of six million bucks going up in smoke.

Why on earth would you take kids younger than 13 to a location where people do pub crawls on stag nights… at midnight? Talk me through the thought process resulting in that parental decision.

Not that we mere mortals ever get the best possible view. That’s reserved, this year more than others, for those with real estate privilege: Green Zoners, those who live or have a reservation in the CBD or the lower north shore of Sydney (that bit’s not too far from plague central also known as Avalon) will have access to city venues with “valid passes”; Yellow Zoners, those who live a little further out, can go hell-for-leather, untethered, unmasked, unsurveilled and a danger to all. Pyrmont Park and Potts Point will each have to be renamed Peril Park.

Envy is the ugliest of emotions.

This is what real estate privilege does for you; Gaia knows who has those reservations to swanky harbourview restaurants and berths in CBD boltholes but my money is on some of Daryl’s mates or similar, developers of one kind or another, various tollroad builders, airport establishers, G8way to heaven, United World Enterprises, icare or some other bit of dodgery.

Real estate privilege.

165 million Bangladeshis would like to have a word with you about your real estate privilege, Jenna.

Good move to cancel the acknowledgment of frontline workers with a front-row seat at the fireworks. Let’s acknowledge them the best way possible. Give them a bloody pay rise, all of them.

Beautiful virtue signal there; pay other people more of other people’s money.

The recent behaviour of those in Sydney during COVID-19 times has confirmed for me that the government should cancel the fireworks this year. It’s Christmas Day at Bronte Beach and idiots are cavorting in board shorts and Santa caps, chanting at the top of their lungs as if we don’t potentially have the plague on every breath. The Sydney Fish markets attempted to pull itself together on Christmas Eve by taking temperatures and enforcing QR check-ins, but it didn’t insist on masks. Attending police tried to persuade but weren’t wearing masks themselves. My favourite fishmonger didn’t even have staff wearing masks. Not too many masks at the Hillsong light display in Bella Vista, even fewer at Westfield Parramatta.

There were seven cases in NSW yesterday after over 300,000 have been tested this week.

7/300,000 x 100 = 0.0023% of the people who thought they might have the virus. As a percentage of the population of the state, that’s 0.00009% with a virus that 99.97% of people fully recover from.

Perhaps people see those odds and feel it’s an acceptable risk, Jenna?

But while it is true that we have many excellent citizens who had had their swabs, that’s more of an “ohmigod, I might be sick and I should really get that checked out” action as opposed to the more purely selfless behaviour of those who wear masks at the shops and on public transport. Of which there is not enough.

Not enough? I was one of only three in the local supermarket not wearing a mask yesterday. I don’t wear a mask because I understand probabilities; the car journey to the supermarket is more dangerous than the virus.

Not enough? What’s your proposal to solve that, Jenna?

Which brings me back to the fireworks. Yes, they are lovely and exhilarating. Soaring, popping, being in large groups of people all aahing and oohing at once, as if they’ve rehearsed for months. But last year was a warning. As Australia burned, fireworks snipped and snizzled across our land. We had a few reflective thoughts about whether we should add more to our already poisoned air, whether we should heap particulate on particulate, but mostly went ahead anyhow, even as people were losing their families, both human and animal, and their homes. The spectacle mattered much more than our consideration of others.

Got a climate change reference in there. That’ll please your colleague Peter weather is climate Hannan.

This year, just broadcast the fireworks on various platforms. And next year, ditch them altogether.

Actually, this is a perfectly reasonable position to take if you’re being asked to pay for the fireworks.

Remember how we celebrated Earth Hour?

Yes! We have an annual tradition; we run a competition to see how quickly we can make the little dial on the electricity meter spin, by getting the kids to rush around the house switching on every electrical device they can find.

We give off so much heat and light for that hour, astronauts on the ISS can probably see Chez Ockham from space.

Switching off all the lights, watching the stars and contemplating how lucky we are, how lucky to be alive.

Oh, that’s not what we do. Are we misunderstanding Earth Hour?

Bill’s Opinion

As with the previous target for Jenna’s hatred, golf, I agree somewhat with Jenna about the fireworks.

My view is they are overrated but, if people want to use their money to fund them, fill yer boots. A subscription service or GoFundMe campaign would work. Just don’t use my taxes to fire 6 million bucks of gunpowder up in the air.

As with most of Jenna’s opinion pieces though, this one tells us more about her emotional state than the specific subject itself.

Jenna has more issues than Vogue. It’s nice of the Sydney Morning Herald to allow her to share the details of her ongoing therapy with us.

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.

2020: the most monogamous year ever?

There are plenty of studies detailing the rise of divorces following the varying levels of lockdowns in different locations. Here’s one from September suggesting a 34% rise of divorces in the USA from a similar period the year before.

It’s hardly surprising, of course; after spending 24 hours a day in each other’s company, perhaps for the first time in decades, many couples might re-assess whether their relationship is really what they wanted it to be.

Spare a thought, however, for those relationships that might not have been quite so publicly declared.

We’re talking infidelity, obviously.

It’s not easily measured and the rate changes by location and culture, but perhaps 50% of marriages experience at least one case of infidelity.

Well, that statistic will have taken a massive hit this year.

All those road warriors who would normally spend weeks or even months away from the family home each year have been grounded since March.

Of course, not all of those travellers or their partners stuck at home would have used the opportunity to misbehave, but a significant percentage definitely did, as anyone who’s observed the prevalence of 2nd or even 3rd marriages in the sales team would attest.

Worse, for much of this year the significant wage earner was probably not even leaving the house to travel to their office.

That’s going to have put a real dent in the freedom of either party to engage in “Ugandan Relations” outside the restraints of their wedding vows.

Bill’s Opinion

There probably hasn’t been a year as monogamous as 2020 for decades, perhaps even centuries.

This is excellent news for those who, like me, have married a spouse significantly above their level of attractiveness.

A word of advice for when business travel finally resumes; don’t take an early flight home as a pleasant surprise for your partner. Some knowledge is best unknown.

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.

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.

What’s the secret soy sauce?

The Spectator’s Cindy Yu hosted an interesting podcast this week; Has China really beaten coronavirus? in which she interviewed a correspondent in China who pointed out life has been back to normal since about May. Domestic flights are full, about one in ten people are wearing masks in public (which is a rational decision for anyone worried about pollution there) and nightclubs are operating as they did in 2019 with no social distancing restrictions.

That’s quite a turnaround from the situations we were seeing on the news, YouTube and social media back in January and February.

Do you remember? People were being welded shut inside their homes, others were collapsing on the street, including this man who died and whose photographed corpse made it on the Grauniad’s coverage on January 30th 2020:

Compare and contrast with practically every other country in the world and the varying levels of incursions into centuries’ old freedoms they have imposed. Going nightclubbing must see like a distant memory to New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians.

So what’s going on? What’s the secret to China’s success?

That’s got to be the question of late 2020, surely?

As documented in the media in the early months of 2020, China enforced city-wide lockdowns, including the infamous door-welding.

But so did many other countries and cities. Why is it that, say, London is still moving in and out of lockdown on an almost weekly basis while the disco twinkies in Guangzhou can boogie the night away inside a steamy nightclub?

From the dead body in the pages of the Grauniad and the nightclubs being open was barely 4 months. How is it that New York, Paris, Milan, Barcelona and Sydney have nobody in their nightclubs?

Indeed, that famous Churchillian libertarian and free market advocate, Boris Johnson, is considering stopping Britons from going to the pub on Christmas Eve, something that wasn’t even implemented during both world wars.

So what on earth is going on?

Bill’s Opinion

I don’t know. I honestly don’t know why 1.3bn citizens in an authoritarian regime like China have, prima facie, greater personal freedom than the heirs to Magna Carta.

All I have is a blunt razor that suggests (not proves) the explanation requiring the fewest number of assumptions to be correct is likely to be the cause.

I’d love for people to offer alternate suggestions in the comments but my current view is the other countries are now dealing with a problem of fearful and incompetent leadership. They are fearful that the initial reaction was justified on the available data but, with what is known now, would be judged far too extreme. They are also incompetent at explaining the trade-offs required to be accepted for us to return to normal life.

Is it an international conspiracy of the Illuminati? Of course not.

It doesn’t really matter though; the impact is indistinguishable.

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.

As the applause dies down…

A few short months ago, people all across the UK were coerced by peer pressure to stand outside their homes one evening a week and give a round of applause “for the NHS”.

For those of you unfamiliar with those three letters in that order; National Health Service, the UK’s biggest employer, the state run, centralised health service.

Everyone from the Prime Minister to babes in arms were out there every Thursday doing impressions of performing circus seals to celebrate a massive bureaucracy overseeing a clinical negligence bill that is increasing at a worrying rate (doubling over the previous four years).

And then there’s this:

What’s the likely consequence of that, do we think?

Bill’s Opinion

The Cancer Research charity estimates 350,000 urgent cancer appointments were missed or delayed. They speculate this might translate to 35,000 additional deaths.

That speculation is obviously as scientific and as credible as the original Imperial College model that got everyone into this mess, of course; can a subsequent cancer death really be proven to have been avoidable or was it just earlier than might have been reasonably predicted?

But nonetheless, the absolute number of increased deaths from cancer isn’t zero.

Repeat that for all manner of treatable diseases and conditions.

Then close your eyes and repeat the mantra, “we cannot make trade offs, one life lost to covid is one too many” until you forget all the inconvenient evidence to the contrary.