Book ‘em Danno; First Degree Statistics Crime

Here’s a example of the modern malaise of innumeracy:

Drought hits Sydney

Whilst it’s clear there’s been a paucity of rainfall in the state of New South Wales, the article is riddled with unasked questions.

Sydneysiders are using higher than average amounts of water and face the prospect of four more years of restrictions and a hike in bills from next July if the drought does not break.

Higher than average.

Per person? Per household? In total and therefore compared to previous years?

Has the denominator changed, such as an increase in population, for example?

We aren’t told.

Instead, we have a late entry for the 2019 Stating the Bleeding Obvious Prize:

Although a typical household bill would be 2.5 per cent higher under the latest submission, customers could cut bills by saving water.

We do get a clue to the answers to the earlier questions though:

But despite a recent increase in usage, the Berejiklian government says Sydneysiders are using less water per person each day than they were during the Millennium drought.

Ok, that suggests a population increase has occurred. Funny the article doesn’t spell that out though.

That dreaded noun, “average”, makes yet another appearance:

It says rainfall across the catchments over the past two years was “below to very much below average” and the Bureau of Meteorology predicts a dryer and warmer than average summer.

Below to very much below.

Well, that clears things up for us….

Bill’s Opinion

Either the journalist writing this article is completely innumerate, not curious, blindly regurgitating a press release or trying to drive an agenda.

If the first explanation, perhaps they should read Factfulness.

The climate of crazy ideas

The former Australian rugby player, Israel Folau, is in the news again today (not really; he’s only in the Sydney Morning Herald).

Yesterday, he gave a sermon at his church where he suggested the recent bushfires in Australia were a direct result of the godlessness of the country’s population.

Of course, the ever-declining business masquerading as a news outlet has inferred because of this, Folau is a religious nutcase.

Picking on the religious beliefs of others is always a fun pastime, mainly due to the low cost to oneself; a religious belief, by its definition, is one that not capable of being disproven using the scientific method.

I must admit to having never entered the auspicious offices of The Sydney Morning Herald in Pyrmont, but if I did, I would be unsurprised to discover the following demographic boxes and beliefs ticked by the vast majority, if not all editorial employees;

  1. Politically left
  2. Accepting of the concept that the west is a toxic patriarchy
  3. Accepting of the concept that the west is systemically racist
  4. Accepting of the concept of gender fluidity
  5. The concept of Judeo-Christian values or worth is to be dismissed as morally-inferior
  6. Acceptance of every report issued by the IPCC as being accurate, including every prediction and solution

If you are or know someone who is employed in that department and don’t tick one or several of those statements, please do correct me below.

Bills Opinion

We all hold unprovable beliefs.

Sit on a bus or a train and look around you. Do you know even a fraction of the thoughts appearing in your fellow travellers’ minds?

Of course not.

Does it matter?

Not if they aren’t harming you in any way.

Israel Folau isn’t attempting to dip into my bank account, restrict my ability to heat/cool my home, drive a car or take overseas holidays.

Izzy can believe whatever utter garbage he wishes.

Super, smashing, great

Mark McVeigh, a 24-year-old environmental scientist from Australia, won’t be able to access his retirement savings until 2055. But, concerned about what the world may look like then, he’s taking action now, suing his A$57 billion ($39 billion) pension fund for not adequately disclosing or assessing the impact of climate change on its investments.

Cue picture of stereotypical ponytailed unshaven millennial affecting zher best serious face:

Is that shirt available in “ironed”, son?

Before launching the legal action, McVeigh asked Retail Employees Superannuation Trust, or Rest, how it was ensuring his savings were future proofed against rising world temperatures. Its response didn’t satisfy him and he ended up engaging specialist climate change law firm, Equity Generation Lawyers.

Readers outside Australia might not know this, but the legislation around Superannuation is excellent in terms of portability and choice for the consumer. If you don’t like how your fund is invested or administered, switching to another provider is relatively simple. In most cases it’s a quick and easy online process using an industry standard reference number.

So, our faux gravitas-faced soy boy could log on to the laptop pictured in front of him and switch to this fund, for example.

That he has, instead, chosen to engage an activist legal firm (who are hopefully acting pro-bono) to sue his existing fund requires some explanation, then.

Given that portability of funds, and the availability of real alternatives, it’s not unreasonable for observers to wonder at Mark’s motivation in this.

Is he genuinely concerned about how his investments are being made? Complete an online form and switch funds then.

Or, is this an attempt to set a legal precedent restricting the choice of the rest of us?

Bill’s Opinion

We can’t read Mark’s mind, but his actions suggest less concern about his personal investments and more a desire to interfere with ours.

The problem he will face is that the prime objective, written in law, of superannuation funds is to increase the wealth of the savers.

It won’t be hard for the Defence lawyers to argue that, compared to a pathetic 1.2% annualised performance, his current fund is performing their legal duties far more diligently then the virtue signalling “ethical” fund.

It won’t have entered Mark’s mind, given the incontrovertible truth that, starting about 20 years before his birth, the world has witnessed nothing short of a miracle in the reduction of human suffering as a result of economic freedom to trade and invest:

But sure, go ahead Mark, tell us all how we should spend our own money, because you’ve worked it all out for us in your 24 years of existence.

On bush fires and global warming

The human brain, when faced with complex, multi-variable problems requires simple, easy solutions. Sadly, this is rarely feasible.

Take, for example, the huge outbreak of bush fires currently occurring in New South Wales, Australia.

These fires are serious. Tragically, lives have been lost.

Residential properties have been destroyed, with all the concomitant heartbreak that entails, the photos, the documents of memories, the moments in places that have been forever changed or destroyed.

While the fires are still burning, rational people ask what they should do to protect themselves and their families. This describes my current situation, living as I do in an area with a heavily forested area within an easy stone’s throw.

Those not in immediate danger wonder what they might do to help their neighbours.

Then there are those who live in the Australian equivalent of Islington.

Before the bodies of the dead have been recovered, they have already determined the effect, cause and solution.

The effect is obvious; catastrophic fires.

The cause is man made climate change.

The solution is to artificially hamstring the economy in a massive transfer of wealth and power from individuals to the state:

Bill’s Opinion

A more curious mind might read the coverage of the fires and search for answers to questions such as these:

Obviously, to answer these questions one would need a lot of time to undertake research or a competent and non-activist news media to perform this on our behalf.

Instead, we are presented with the simple message that these fires are definitely the result of man made climate change and the only viable solution to the problem is renewables such as solar and wind turbines.

Finally, I challenge you to find a single mention in the Australian media or political discourse of the vaguest possibility of nuclear energy being even a minor part of the solution.

Our media are mendacious, low IQ or a mixture of the two.

New Zealand’s “nuclear moment” *

* Spoiler alert; not really.

True to the idiom she has made all of her own, Jacinda Adern, the Mayor of New Zealand, has signalled her virtue on climate change by committing her country’s economy to being hamstrung until someone with a brain takes over her job.

If you’re interested in the details, click the link above. Be prepared, however, to be left wanting more tangible details on how this promise of carbon virtue will be achieved and funded.

That’s not the topic of this post today, however. We’re more interested in the total irony resulting in this quote and headline:

The irony is, of course, that nuclear energy does not form part of the strategy.

Bill’s Opinion

There are in life, some very useful heuristics we can use to save time when forming opinions. These are not infallible but are more often correct than not.

On climate change, if the person you are discussing the problem with fails to mention even the possibility of nuclear energy being part of the solution, you can be fairly sure they are calling for some kind of transfer of political and economic power first, solving environmental problems a far distant second.

Peter Hannam isn’t even trying now

Anyone who has worked in a job where the presentation of data is an important factor, such as manufacturing, finance, IT, HR, retail, government, education, etc., will know that there are several underhand tricks one can play to persuade the viewer of the opinion you’re trying to sell.

Canny observers are sensitive to these and quickly challenge the presenter or, in sales situations where they have an alternative, simply dismiss the sales pitch and move to a more truthful competitor.

Consider then, this latest chart crime from Peter “weather is climate” Hannam in the ever-declining organ, the Sydney Morning Herald.

If you’ve never seen a graph before, the fact that this one is showing the Indian Ocean Dipole ratio trending above 2.0 for the first time ever may send you off into a public mental decline á la Mx. Thunberg.

Everyone else with a brain looks at the X-axis and immediately asks themselves two questions;

  1. What happened in all the years before 2015? and,
  2. What is Peter Hannan’s agenda for not showing it to us?

Hannam can’t quite bring himself to completely lie by omission though, so leaves a clue in the article (highlighting mine):

Scientists caution that reliable observation data only goes back a couple of decades but it is clear this year’s positive-IOD is already one of the strongest of record. So-called “reanalysis” using a combination of observations and modelling suggests the event is also notable over the past 150 years.

After warming us up with that seemingly benign statement explaining that we’ve got about 20 years of observations and then just modelled the rest using a completely un-disprovable simulation, he then goes on to show us the “missing” part of the chart:

Tip for new chart readers; that small print below the graph, explaining the data collection method is where the real news lies (pun intended).

Then comes the obligatory explanations of the data by scientists paid to research the subject of which we are being persuaded is important:

While researchers are yet to settle on how much of a role climate change is already playing in big El Ninos or IODs, “we’re seeing extreme events become more common”, Abram says.

Go on then, define “extreme” and “more common”. We’ll wait….

England says that while IODs can act independently of the Pacific, the connections remain important. For instance, the so-called Indonesian Throughflow – where warm water from the Pacific funnels its way to the Indian Ocean – could change.

…and if my mother had wheels we could use her as wheelbarrow.

“The predictions are for that to weaken,” he says. “If it does, that would be a double whammy of more El Ninos plus more positive-IODs.”

The potentially huge consequences from such complex interactions are a reminder that researchers can’t rest.

Those poor researchers, unable to rest. Thank goodness there’s an infinite supply of tax-slaves to fund their unending Heraklean endeavours.

Bill’s Opinion

In all areas of life, beware of people brandishing suspicious charts. Question not only the data collection methodology but the start and end points of both the x and y axis and whether or not a logarithmic scale is more appropriate.

After all, I might have presented the x axis of this chart completing at November 25th:

Image result for happiness of a turkey chart

One of the scientists offered this word salad in the interview:

“We are perturbing the atmosphere in a profound way with greenhouse gases,” England says. “How this changes our modes of variability is uncertain.”

There’s a key point being made here; the driving forces resulting in the Indian Ocean Dipole ratio over the last 100 years and into the future are, wait for it, multi-variable, as in an almost infinite number of variables.

Anyone claims to be able to accurately predict, or even directionally-predict a multi-variable equation such as the ratio of sea temperatures between the western and eastern sides of an ocean is either a fool or a knave.

Peter Hannam has enough of a back catalogue of presenting this sort of mendacity as fact that we feel certain his motivation is to lie to us to push forward a personal agenda.

J’accuse, Peter Hannam. You are a liar.

On Extinction Rebellion and other doomsday cults

With the news this week of a family of cloggy Kaas Kops living in the basement of a farm for nine years waiting for the end of the world, perhaps we can poke some fun at the various Bedlamites living amongst us.

There’s plenty of examples to point at, they’ve been around for as long as humans have been around.

Millenarianism and apocalypticism are versions of this and students of history will pluck examples from thousands of years ago in all corners of the globe through to the present day.

Let’s start with the infamous Manson “family”.

Their beliefs were that Charles Manson was the reincarnation of Jesus and there was a forthcoming race war. The cult ended with the Waverley Drive murders, internecine murders and the trial and conviction of Manson.

Except it didn’t; murders were still committed by the “family” until the mid-70s. The cult members really had drunk deep from the well of Manson’s Kool-Aid.

Speaking of Kool-Aid, next we have the Reverend Jim Jones. For his first couple of decades of adult life, he led various churches which had increasingly cult-like qualities. The beliefs he promulgated were a mixture of socialism, nuclear apocalyptic prophesies and, eventually “transition” to another planet after suicide.

As investigations began to close in on his activities, he took nearly a thousand followers to “Jonestown” in Guyana and eventually persuaded many to commit suicide by ingesting cyanide mixed in the aforementioned Kool-Aid (where the expression “drinking the Kool-Aid” originates) or murder each other, including the children. Jones shot himself.

Over in Japan, Aum Shinryko was established by Shoko Ashara. The YouTuber Count Dankula has an amusing video on this group here, which is well worth a viewing.

Their beliefs were a hotchpotch of Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism with a spicy nuclear apocalyptic theme.

After a long history of extortion, violence and murders, they released the nerve gas, sarin, on the Tokyo underground with devastating effects.

Shoko was eventually hanged in 2018.

An interesting fact about the death penalty in Japan is that, once convicted, you aren’t given a date of when the execution will occur. You go to bed every night unsure if this is your last. If you’re still in your cell about an hour after breakfast, chances are you’ve got another day on the planet.

I can’t work out whether I think that’s “cruel and unusual punishment” or fitting for the crime.

Our next cult is the comet-hopping Heaven’s Gate. According to Wikipedia, they were/are (there’s still a couple of them around, apparently) a “UFO religious, New religious movement”, which as classifications go, surely can’t be a particularly large club.

Their belief system was based on the premise that the planet would be wiped clean and they had to leave to avoid being caught up in this global spring clean.

Have a read of their Wiki page and chuckle at how the beliefs had to be modified based on the inconvenient evidence of one of their key members dying rather than hitching a ride on a spaceship.

This change of belief resulted in a mass suicide to coincide with the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet. The mass suicide was preceded by 8 of them voluntarily castrating themselves in 1997.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s probably fine if your religious belief involves an unprovable premise. After all, a synonym of that might be “hypothesis”.

However, if your religious belief requires you to murder others, mutilate the genitals of children or commit suicide, consider the possibility you’ve drunk the modern equivalent of Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid.

There seems to have been a bit of a theme running through all these cults where they are reacting to a catastrophic threat, be it religious, nuclear or alien, resulting in escalating extreme actions by the adherents.

So, all that said, what might history make of those crazy kids at Extinction Rebellion and the Swedish Cabbage Patch Doll, Greta Thunberg?

And whose fault do we think it might be that they have managed to wind themselves up into such a frenzy of fear?

History suggests one possible destination for some of the more gullible members.

Eroding curiosity levels

In the current era of Greta-strophic climate change, our journalistic class seem to have lost all sense of curiosity and inquiry and, instead, serve up re-heated statements without bothering to confirm the source of “facts”.

This is classic case; surf life saving club building under threat from climate change.

At Inverloch south east of Melbourne, locals are desperately trying to defend the local surf life-saving club from erosion that has pushed the shore line back a remarkable 50 metres in seven years.

Since January alone, the ocean has encroached 20 metres more on the beach, as truckloads of imported sand and a “wet” sand fence have failed to hold back the tides.

Gosh, that’s really bad. I hadn’t realised the ocean had risen so quickly. 

Because, according to even the IPCC’s data, the problem is one of the future not the present:

Anyone who has ever had to read a graph for a living will take one look at that, fold their arms, suck their teeth and wonder what the presenter is trying to sell them. 

I’m not saying the chart doesn’t prove the sea level is just about to start rising dramatically, but it’s some helluva coincidence that all the bad stuff happens….. tomorrow.

Back to the article. Recall, the headline and article state categorically that the building by the beach is about to be washed away due to climate change of the catastrophic, man made variety, no less. Yet….

While erosion is part of the natural cycle of shifting sand at the mouth of the Anderson Inlet, the Bass Coast shire is in no doubt the extent of change is due in part to climate change and rising seas.

“Our council accepts that climate change is a real thing,” says Bass Coast mayor Brett Tessari. “The impact in our municipality is horrific in some areas. The surf club is in danger.”

Rightie ho.

Or in other words, this has always been an erosion hot spot but the mayor absolutely knows that it’s significantly worse because of climate change. 

Go on then, Mayor Tessari, how much worse? 5%? 90%? The journalists obviously forgot to ask such an awkward follow-up question.

Up the coast, climate change has resulted in the easiest type of generosity. 

What’s the easiest type of generosity, I hear you ask?

The type where you give away someone else’s money.

If you have more than 10 halogen down-lights installed in your house, the NSW government has generously offered to use money taken from ratepayers who don’t have 10 or more halogen down-lights to pay for every such light in your house to be replaced.

Let’s just pose a question here for a moment; which type of property has tastefully-installed down-lights installed rather than nasty dangling light bulbs?

Bill’s Opinion

Every way one turns, there’s yet another example of a politician using man made climate change as an excuse to dip into someone else’s wallet to buy votes.

Perhaps man made catastrophic climate change is real. Perhaps it’s not. What is absolutely certain, however, it is a wicked way to exercise power over others whilst claiming righteousness.

Climate change is, in many ways, indistinguishable from a massive confidence trick. 

Malthus shrugged

Becoming a parent isn’t necessarily the route to happiness, fulfilment and a sense of self-worth, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests not having children tends to result in late-life regret and disappointment.

It’s my personal view that it’s incumbent on intelligent people to raise more than the 2.1 children required to maintain a population. This isn’t some supremacist or eugenicist argument, simply a matter of recognising an issue of basic statistical distribution; the trend across every country in the world is that, when the population becomes healthier, wealthier and more educated, they stop giving birth.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that, eventually, the trend leads to the smart genes finishing their million year journey to be replaced by the less smart genes.

Consider then, the couples who are making a conscious decision to not have children…. for the sake of the children.

“I feel so sad, it’s such a hard thing to let go of,” says Morgan, who works in logistics. “My conscience says, ‘I can’t give this child what I’ve enjoyed, I can’t give them the certainty of a future where they can be all that they can be … or have the things they should have, like breathable air and drinkable water’.”

She works in logistics. So, every day she sends goods around the country and/or world in trucks, ships and planes. If CO2 emissions are the biggest concern preventing her from starting a family, she seems to have missed a fairly large personal dichotomy staring her in the face during office hours, Monday through Friday…..

Morgan is feeling “pretty damn certain” a baby is off the cards, even though she fears she might regret it. She has at least two close friends in their early 30s, with good partners, who have made the same decision.

Her partner Adam, who works in web development, agrees. “I have a lot of love to give and would love to raise a child … but it doesn’t feel justifiable. The world is heading blindfolded towards catastrophe.”

“Partner”. So, not “husband”? Ok, one doesn’t need to be married to have children, we’re not stuck in some 1950s morality cliché, but it may be an indicator of the level of commitment they have towards each other.

But wait, there’s another anectdata:

In Mackay in Queensland,  community organiser Emma, 32, says she and her partner Mick, 33, were planning to start trying for a family next year but changed their minds after the federal election.

“After the LNP won – with no climate plan – we cried and agreed that the dream of a family wouldn’t be for us,” Emma says. “It’s a terrifying thought for us that the world will be uninhabitable in a few decades if we continue charging ahead with fossil fuels and approving coal mines like Adani.”

Hmm. That sounds sane and rational.

Given that Federal elections happen every three years in Australia and the post of Prime Minister is a job decided by random Jury Service ballot, Emma and Mick may only have to wait to their 35th and 36th birthdays, respectively, to change their minds. Of course, that might be a little too late for Emma, but here’s hoping.

Bill’s Opinion

If I were in my early thirties and wasn’t quite sure whether I’d like to start a family with the woman I’m living with, climate change would seem like a brilliantly-convenient excuse.

Of course, should I find myself single a couple of years later, there’s a good chance I’ll still be capable of fathering a child with a new, younger model whilst my ex will be alternatively browsing the FAQ and pricing pages of fertility clinics and cat rescue charities.

The choices these couples are making seem rational… if the underlying assumption that the world is doomed is 100% accurate. To their credit, they are being internally consistent with the actions they are taking.

Big decisions based on assumptions are always worth constant checking though. What if your assumptions of either the problem and solution are wrong? Even by a few percent?

Flash! Flash, I love you…..

….but we only have 14 hours to save the earth.

We have good news and bad news.

Bad news; it’s no longer 12 years to save the planet, but 18 months.

Good news; by January 2021, we can finally stop reading how long we will have to save the planet as it will be too late.

Unless you’re utterly bored today, don’t bother clicking the link to the article on the BBC website as it’s clearly been written by their AI Climate Bot (tm).

Artificial Intelligence journalism articles are often indistinguishable from human-generated pieces but there are tell-tale signs to be found if one looks hard enough.

An intelligent human, for example, even one who was massively ideologically biased, would never write a statement such as,

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

…without at least a little introspection on how many times a deadline had been previously given that had subsequently been passed without obvious consequence.

As a persuasive technique, it’s a terrible strategy to ask the question, do you remember when we only had 12 years left, as it prompts several unhelpful answers in the mind of the reader.

Such as;

Bill’s Opinion

Depending on your age, health, genetics and lifestyle, you probably have somewhere between zero and seventy years left.

I strongly suspect the earth, humanity and most of the other species will still be getting along just fine long after you’re gone.

Claims of this being our “last chance” are, at best, delusional, but more likely motivated by a desire for a combination of wealth, power, fame and attention.

That our media agree to publish this spoonfed nonsense without critical analysis tells you everything you need to know about how much else of their content can be trusted.