Predictions are notoriously difficult

…especially about the future.

But they are a fun diversion.

Here’s ten of mine for the year 2020. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australian Politics

Politicians of all sides of the aisle increase the warnings against reliance on China. There will be noises made by the Federal government to have closer trade and defence links with the USA (particularly following the USA election).

A Westpac executive is jailed for the AUSTRAC issues. Probably Lynn Cobley.

Global Politics

The UK will reach a WTO+ deal (ie closer to WTO terms than a full trade deal) with the EU and negotiations won’t be extended. Boris will call their bluff.

Congress won’t send the impeachment papers to the Senate. The GOP will make political hay about this all the way to the election.

Zeitgeist

Sentiment turns against Saint Greta. There’s a financial scandal involving her parents or handlers.

A judge in the USA finds a single mother of a transgender child guilty of abuse. The Supreme Court supports this finding on appeal.

Sport

Six Nations table:

1 England

2 Ireland

3 Wales

4 France

5 Scotland

6 Italy

Australia finishes bottom of the Rugby Championship table.

Economy

Gold to temporarily breach all time high ($1,895).

The Dow to breach 30,000.

The Tesco Christmas Card Hoax of 2019

A young girl in the UK allegedly found the following written in one of the Christmas cards she purchased from the supermarket, Tesco:

The factory identified by Tesco as being the source of production denies this, but by using weasel words.

We wrote previously about the ridiculously ineffective Modern Slavery Act and its various international variations, in which the following quote featured:

The BHRCC research, from October 2017, commended Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Unilever, British American Tobacco, Tesco and Vodafone for their work against modern slavery.

It would seem, Prima Facie, Tesco’s statement on a website didn’t do much to counter slavery in the supply chain.

However, our Bullshit Detector is flashing regarding this story.

Firstly, that note has zero spelling or grammatical errors or even any indication in the prose suggesting a non-native English speaker wrote it. Even the best speakers and writers of English as a second language usually give unintentional hints in the written form.

Secondly, it seems all too perfect a coincidence that a small girl would traumatically find the note. Of all the Christmas cards written in the UK, what percentage are written by small children, do we think? I’m going to suggest less than 2%.

Then there’s the interesting career of her father, Ben Widdicombe:

Today’s LinkedIn profile was brought to you by the words “political” and “activist“.

Bill’s Opinion

Two facts can be correct at the same time.

It is highly likely Chinese factories producing Tesco’s Christmas cards are using or have used forced (or at least, “coerced“) prison labour.

It can also be true that a man who has spent his entire life as a political activist wrote the note in the card and put it in a pile for his daughter to write.

I’m no fan of nor apologist for the Chinese government, as polemics such as this and this would attest, but my patented razor suggests the most likely explanation of this story is that it is The Tesco Christmas Card Hoax of 2019 and was perpetrated by Ben Widdicombe.

UPDATE

A correspondent has suggested the note has been translated and the original is not being shown to protect the writer.

Previous reporting of similar notes have stated this translation has occurred but I’ve yet to find reporting of this for this specific case.

Regardless, translated note or otherwise, the strongest indication of this being a hoax is the unlikelihood of the small child of a lifelong political activist finding a note in a card from a Chinese slave labourer.

Update 2: “Handwriting changed

To a woman with a hammer

….the entire world looks like a nail.

Or, put another way:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

With that Upton Sinclair quote in mind, one wonders what the outcome might be of Bristol University’s decision to hire a researcher to investigate whether or not the institution has any residual guilt for its part in the transatlantic slave trade.

Strictly-speaking, my description above is likely to be more specific than the actual job description. The press releases all quote the investigation to be into “slavery”, rather than one specific trade route of the egregious abuse of humans.

If the remit if her job was expanded to look at the impact of any slavery, we could save her some time; of course it has. Everyone alive has.

Slavery has historically been the only route to wealth for 99% of the duration of modern humans as a species. The fact you are alive today, strongly suggests some or many of your ancestors exploited the labour of others to survive.

The degree (pun intended) to which Bristol University benefited from this seems quite a strange choice of investigation. Surely a more useful and interesting area of inquiry would be whether slavery still exists in the world and what form it takes?

Bill’s Opinion

The two universities in England most likely to have been recipients of money made from the transatlantic slave trade are Liverpool and Bristol, because the trade flowed through the ports of those cities.

The risk, 228 years after slavery was made illegal globally by the UK parliament, is to contort oneself and, by extension, our institutions to find some way of making history “right”.

Which takes us back to the who/whom? problem.

But anyway, of course a person paid to find something will find it. Imagine the awkward conversation a year later if she were to submit a report passing a clean bill of health, historically-speaking.

Lifting the veil on the narrative

Consider this tragic story of prejudice and bigotry:

The mood after the race was jubilant. Sixteen-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram, who had just run her best time yet, hugged her high school teammates as they realised they were headed to regionals.

So far, so inspiring.

Then the students went to check their individual times at last Saturday’s Ohio cross-country meeting, Abukaram remembers. It seemed there was a mistake – her 22 minutes 22 seconds was not listed.

Oh no! Why not?

Other team members who’d sat out Abukaram’s race told her what they’d heard: an official at the Ohio High School Athletic Association approached their coach just before the race to say Abukaram needed a waiver to wear her hijab. Without it, she couldn’t compete.

That’s awful. Imagine thinking you’d competed and won fairly only to discover an obscure rule you’d never known previously had disqualified you.

Abukaram had never experienced this type of bureaucratic nonsense over religious clothing before, after all.

Abukaram says she’s watched her older sister come home crying from soccer games, after being told to change out of religious garb like the long pants she wears in addition to a headscarf.

Oh, that’s awkward.

The article then mentions a different, elite-level, athlete with similar problems:

Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first US athlete to compete in the Olympics with a hijab, has described sticking out uncomfortably at competitions and being asked to remove her headscarf for an event ID photo.

Well, unless everyone is forced to wear a headscarf, then I suppose she would look different, wouldn’t she?

As for ID photos requiring an unrestricted image of the competing athlete, I’m sure someone with even the mildest ability to hypothesise could think of how waiving that rule might result in a bad result.

Back to Abukaram’s tragic case. What say the athletics event organisers?

The Ohio High School Athletic Association says it wasn’t singling out Abukaram last weekend, just enforcing its rules. Students need a waiver to run cross-country in “religious headwear”, spokesman Tim Stried told The New York Times, and Abukaram’s school had not requested one.

Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they, the bigots.

Abukaram’s request after Saturday’s race was approved “immediately”, Stried said. That means Abukaram can run this weekend in regionals.

Oh.

For Abukaram, the decision to strike her time was still hurtful. She wants the waiver requirement dropped – something OHSAA is now considering, Stried told the Times.

Quite right too. Everyone should be forced to change because of one person’s inability to ask for a waiver….which was granted immediately when requested.

Bills Opinion

Crybully is an interesting noun which explains much of what we see in cases involving participants in “The Oppression Olympics”.

In the entire article linked above, and the countless clones of it available via a Google search, the word “why” is conspicuously missing.

As in, “why does the Ohio High School Athletic Association ban head coverings unless agreed in advance?

I can’t find the reasons on the association’s website, mainly because the bylaws and general rules pages have been removed. Interestingly, they are proud enough of their transgender policy to leave that up (spoiler alert; it’s a fudge, like Cricket Australia’s).

We’ll have to speculate then.

I imagine the rule was made because, unless they legislated for every possible religious headgear, they had to reserve the right to review each individual case and not be unreasonable in granting the waivers.

How might a general rule allowing headgear be abused?

Well, we could ask why cyclists wear this type of helmet, for example:

Then there might be reasons of safety; headphones are banned because its restricts competitors’ ability to be aware of other runners.

It seems reasonable, therefore, to check each proposed headgear before a race.

But, claiming victim status and throwing accusations of bigotry is rewarded because incentives matter.

The age of Rorschach tests

This is an example of a Rorschach Test image:

Related image

In the movies, psychiatrists show their patients these and try to seek meaning in the answer to the question, “tell me what you see?”.

For the record, in this example I see Lord Lucan recreating the Marty McFly guitar solo part during the cover of Johnny B Goode in the film Easy Rider while Edward G Robinson waves a declaration of cooperation next to an airplane that had recently landed from his meeting with Chancellor Dido.

Some people see a butterfly.

I digress.

These strange situations where people report wildly different experiences when seeing or hearing the same situation are not as rare as one might think.

Recall the “viral” dress that was either blue and black or white and gold?

It’s not limited to visual experiences; here’s “yanni or laurel”.

It’s unsurprising then, to find these differences between our perception of reality elsewhere in life. Some examples we can find by simply watching the news;

– Some people believe there are only two genders and this situation is fixed by the facts of biology. On the other hand, some people believe there are more than two genders and a person can choose to transition between them with the help of surgery and hormones or simply by stating it verbally.

– Some people think it’s highly unlikely an individual or group of individuals can collect and analyse enough data to successfully manage to a national economy. Some other people disagree with this, despite 200 million dead bodies in the ground during the 20th century, and are certain the best three people to undertake this task are called Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott.

Perhaps the pinnacle of this phenomenon of people having wildly divergent views of the same situation are the reactions to Donald Trump’s presidency.

The British have an expression that describes the differing reactions to Trump; like marmite.

Marmite is a salty yeast extract paste (similar to Vegemite in Australia). Nobody is ambivalent about its taste, you either love it or would rather chew your own fingernails off than eat it. A fact the marketing department used to their advantage a few years ago.

Similarly, I’ve yet to meet an American who metaphorically shrugs their shoulders and suggests Trump is neither terrible or the second coming of the Messiah.

Recently, I had a coffee with an American acquaintance and, towards the end of the meeting, she made a comment about how insane her home country was currently under the evil President.

Being an argumentative bugger, I thought I’d probe this opinion further, “ok, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but can you give me your three strongest reasons to persuade me he’s worse than any other previous president?

In order, here they are and the counter points I offered:

  1. He said the Nazis who murdered a woman in Charlottesville were “fine people”. – no, he didn’t. CNN selectivity edited the quote.
  2. He paid off a woman he had extra-marital sex with before he was president. – is that worse than getting the most junior staff member to give him oral sex in the Oval Office?
  3. He’s a dangerous warmonger. – perhaps, but pulling troops out of several current theatres of war and declining the option to bomb Iran suggests otherwise. He’s also running far behind the rate set by Obama.
  4. (She offered a 4th) He’s separating families at the Mexican border. – This has been policy for years and occurs until it can be ascertained the children are actually related to the adults and aren’t kidnapping victims.

Bills Opinion

It’s a difficult task to find a person who can express a nuanced view on President Trump, a view that suggests he’s neither the worst or the best holder of that office.

Why?

It’s my opinion that most people take their opinions verbatim from their selected news source.

Why aren’t the news sources presenting this nuance then? Perhaps it’s not in their interests.

The best explanation I’ve heard so far was expressed by Brett Weinstein on this podcast (go straight to the 1 hour mark and listen for about 4 minutes).

It’s an interesting theory that everyone knows the ideas of the last 10 years are insane but it’s not in anyone’s interests to say so publicly, so the madness remains. Weinstein articulates this far better than I, though.

In the meantime, my pronouns are zhe, zher and zhers:

Like being savaged by a dead sheep

Spare a thought for this week’s Australian Prime Minister (it’s a job selected like Jury Service, so we’re not sure whose turn it is at the moment); he or she has just been “lashed” by Headspace’s new “Ambassador”, Georgie (née George) Stone.

Lashed.

Here’s Georgie:

Georgie is 19 years old and is transgender. So, at any other time prior to about 2010, “she” would be a gay boy, in other words.

The Prime Minister’s lashing is a consequence of expressing just the slightest doubt that, just because George claims to be female, despite being the proud owner of a matching set of female penis and testicles, he is female.

For this failure on the part of the leader of a G20 member nation to agree up is down, black is white and gender is a social construct, the impartial journalists in the ever-declining Australian legacy press have written a unsympathetic article about him (sorry for assuming the gender of whoever is in the job these days).

Bill’s Opinion

Ok, full disclosure; I’m vaguely aware the Prime Minister’s name is Scott Morrison. The media hate him because he’s not afraid to admit to being a Christian.

Until about 6 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association, the main body of professional thought on matters mental, classed transgender (A.K.A gender dysphoria) as a mental illness.

Here’s a question for anyone who agrees with the sentiment expressed in the newspaper’s treatment of “Georgie” and “her” pronouns;

Would you prefer that the person who commands a well-armed military, a large Federal police force and has access to the resources of a secret service, to go around agreeing with every unproven claim made by highly confused 19 year olds?

If so, I’ve got a manifesto written by a mentally-ill 16 year old Swedish girl I’d like to sell to you for a couple of thousand dollars-worth of Bitcoin.

Did we stop you beating your wife?

Probably not.

Speaking personally, I was only vaguely aware of The White Ribbon Foundation through seeing a poster in the kitchen area of an office in which I was recently working.

Some male colleagues had signed their names on the poster under statements pledging to not hit their partners and to speak up should they see someone they know committing domestic violence or abuse.

My reaction was to think it was a pointless exercise but also a good scam; trick and bully corporates into paying the White Ribbon “protection fee” to have a representative come in and give a day’s awareness and have the company name added to the online register of organisations that don’t encourage their staff to beat up their spouses.

Domestic violence and abuse is one of those unopposable causes isn’t it? “What, you don’t agree we shouldn’t beat women up? What kind of a monster are you?”.

I’m somewhat surprised therefore by the financial collapse of the charity. Prima facie, this was a business model that should have been simplicity itself to maintain and earn a good living from.

Bill’s Opinion

In recent years, the corporate world has become a target for charity shakedown operations of which the White Ribbon Foundation seems to have been one of the more obvious.

The model seems to work along the lines of;

  1. Define a worthy cause and frame it in terms that are incapable of being opposed without risk of catastrophic publicity,
  2. Offer corporate “training” at an inflated fee,
  3. Request “donations” in return for being named as a partner/ally/supporter.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Examples I can think of operating right now include all our favourite subjects; climate change, LGBTQptanyangkipperbang, indigenous businesses, gender equity, etc.

The credit for the original idea seems to be due to the infamous American race-baiting politician, Jesse Jackson, as described in the book “Shakedown” (the customer reviews are entertaining).

One wonders whether Jackson has ever thought to claim royalties from the numerous copycat charities operating around the world these days? Perhaps that’s a level of chutzpah too far even for him.

Perhaps this is how the Roman Empire ended

Jenna Guillaume lives in Sydney and is paid to write articles such as this one, in which she takes around 300 words to explain to us that she has clicked the “unfollow” button next to an American reality TV star’s name on Twitter.

At the risk of encouraging this rubbish, a delve into her Twitter account allows us to speculate about the reasons why she’s a) unfollowed the Kardashians, and b) wrote about it.

The reason she unfollowed the reality TV people is because it was making her unhappy about her body. Faced with the choice of doing something tangible to lose about 30kg or to use her thumb once on a smart phone, Jenna selected the less strenuous option.

The reason she wrote about it is because she clearly has no other employable skill. Let’s face it, if you’re a freelance writer “formerly” of Buzzfeed (fuck, how shit do you have to be to be let go from Buzzfeed?), employment options aren’t going to be very forthcoming. Uber driving, maybe?

As fun as it might be to pick on Jenna and her psychological issues relating to being a wheezing land whale, that’s not what today’s subject is really about.

We’ve written about this phenomenon previously; Golgafrincham Ark Buzzfeed.

Perhaps Jenna is a symptom of a cultural malaise. We’ve become so successful as a society and culture that we can afford to carry passengers such as the otherwise useless, Jenna Guillaume.

Bill’s Opinion

On the one hand, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that someone with so little of worth to offer can still carve a living writing about such vacuous subjects as reality TV and “body positivity”.

The flip side to this is an atrophying of the qualities and values that are likely to have been contributing factors to our wealth and civilisation.

In another time or place, someone like Jenna Guillaume would have found her struggle with “body positivity” a long way down the list of priorities of topics for concern. Not dying of an incurable disease, violence or, ironically, a paucity of calories would have been rather more pressing day to day issues.

Somewhere in Syria, a jihadist is reading Jenna’s twitter account and reinforcing his belief that his god truly is on his side not ours.

Little Forethought by the Sea

From the book of faces:

This follows on from the Sydney suburbs of Leichardt and Haberfield being renamed to “Little Italy”.

What a great idea and an utterly genius way to improve the social cohesion between various ethnicities living in the melting pot of Australia.

Let’s step through some versions of the possible logic behind this decision:

  1. Everyone is envious of Chinatown having a name other than “the southern part of Sussex Street”, so we should let everyone else name their place accordingly, or
  2. We love multiculturalism so much, although we can’t really explain what it means but it feels like it’s a warm and lovely version of that 1971 advert for Coca Cola, or
  3. There’s a majority of a particular ethnic group in my constituency and this locks their vote in for me next election.

As with all political decisions, the implications of this are only considered when they directly impact the next election cycle.

More curious minds might ask whether naming areas of a city after the majority ethnic groups residing there is a sound long term strategy?

Where might this lead?

Slippery slope fallacies are to be avoided but, if we now have three areas named in such a way, there’s obviously some level of trend to be observed.

It’s not hard to imagine a situation in the near future where tensions are inflamed because of a perception that this is “our area” and a particular ethnicity isn’t welcome.

It probably happens already to a certain extent but now such an attitude has a perception of legitimacy through Council decree.

Bill’s Opinion

Where might this end? Here’s some suggestions for future naming changes:

Lakemba: Little Lebanon

Glebe: Big Lesbos

Mascot: Little Guangzhou

S’nives: Little Jo’burg

Point Piper: Little Taxation

Paramatta Road: Little Hope And Maintenance

Gosford: Little Dentistry

Mosman: Little Empathy On Sea

Canberra: Little Accountability

Bondi: The Irish and the Jewish communities will have to fight it out for naming rights. The clever money is betting Mossad will beat Continuity Backpackers by a cricket score.

As fun as this is, there’s a couple of versions of the future that could be reasonably envisioned. They are both probably unrealistic, but I suspect only one was ever in the minds of the people behind this push to rename suburbs:

Only bad people like you can be sexist

It’s unclear precisely when the facts changed but, at some point during the previous decade, the received opinion in the group of people who know these things is that it is not possible to be racist if you are not white.

The “logic” behind this repurposing of language is that racism=power+evil, or some similar daft equation.

So, for example, if you’re a black man shouting abuse at “crackers” you aren’t racist as long as the subject of your opprobrium is richer or more powerful in some other way than you. Actually, even that doesn’t matter; you could be a rich black person abusing a poor white person and still not be racist because four generations ago people who looked like you were enslaved by people who looked like the other person.

So the other person is the racist by genetics or, if they aren’t related to a slave owner and you aren’t the descendant of slaves, osmosis.

I think I’ve got that about right. Please correct me in the comments if not.

Similarly, being sexist is a crime exclusively committed by people who are bad people. Put another way, if you are a good person, you cannot be sexist.

Sounds a bit of a circular argument? Let me offer a worked example:

Let’s say your name is Arwa and you are a good person. You write a column in the Guardian, a newspaper that only publishes the thoughts of good people. Let’s say the article is full of opinions that, if written by a man who isn’t a good person (but I repeat myself) would be considered highly sexist because it explicitly states a woman’s worth is directly proportional to her beauty and appearance.

Therefore the completely objective assessment of the article is that it can’t be sexist and YOU are the sexist for thinking it might be sexist.

I hope that clears things up for you all.

In completely unrelated news, here’s an excellent article by Arwa Mahdarwi that doesn’t at all malign another woman as a completely brainless bimbo who is manipulated like a rag doll by those around her.

It is possible Trump just felt like cutting her hair. But if the Trumps care about anything, it is image; I wouldn’t dismiss the idea that Trump’s new cut is an attempt to get us to take her politicking more seriously. Women’s hair, after all, is tangled up in traditional ideas of femininity. There is a reason so many female politicians sport a short style known as the political bob (pob): it is less “feminine”, which makes them seem more powerful. So be afraid, be very afraid: Trump’s new do may well signify that she has ramped up her political ambitions. God help us all if she goes brunette.

Bill’s Opinion

If it wasn’t for double standards, the woke brigade would have no standards at all.

Imagine if anyone else had written that Guardian article explaining why Ivanka Trump has no personal agency and is, in fact, a tabula rasa to be written on by the men in her life.