Take your medicine, proles

Critical thinking is such an overrated and redundant skill. They’ve clearly phased it out at Notre Dame University, Australia, as this fisk demonstrates:

Our best hope for ending the COVID-19 pandemic is a safe and effective vaccine, but faced with polls suggesting a large number of people will refuse to be immunised, governments must consider making it mandatory.

Our best hope?

Epidemiologist Martin Kuldorff suggests herd immunity is the most likely scenario ($ subscription required), either by accepting the young will get it or by eventually finding a vaccine. He’s sceptical a vaccine will be found any time soon though.

It’s not just card-carrying anti-vaxxers that will refuse. Surveys in the United States and France indicate about one in four adults would refuse a vaccine, and one in six in Britain.

Let’s give Chesterton’s Fence another run out. It’s incumbent on the supporters of a yet to be developed vaccine to prove its usefulness and safety.

Maybe survey the “anti-vaxxers” again at that point?

Given the incredibly high costs of unnecessarily extending the COVID-19 crisis, it seems reasonable to consider whether governments should make vaccinations mandatory. In recent months, we have come to accept extraordinary government restrictions that would ordinarily be unconscionable in liberal democracies. If you think − as most of us do − that these constraints are an acceptable price to pay to help curb the pandemic’s damage, then a mandatory vaccination policy deserves serious consideration.

Most of us?

DeTocqueville’s tyranny of the majority, much?

This proposal might strike you as outrageous, but it’s not without precedent. In 1905, inhabitants of Cambridge, Massachusetts were required to be vaccinated against smallpox. Only last year, New York City required anyone over six months of age (in certain parts of the city) to be vaccinated against measles. Since March this year, Germany has required all parents to have their children vaccinated against measles. In all these cases, if an individual were to refuse they would be fined.

By 1905, the smallpox vaccine was over a hundred years old and it was clear what the benefits vs side effects were.

Not quite the same as a yet to be developed vaccine, is it?

Although lockdown conditions reduce your wellbeing, the personal benefits ultimately outweigh the personal costs. If you accept this, then you should also accept mandatory vaccinations, since your chances of being infected will lower dramatically if the vaccine has wide and quick uptake.

The personal benefits ultimately outweigh the personal costs.

That’s a bold statement of fact with absolutely no supporting evidence. It’s also probably about two to three years too early to be certain; have you counted the cost of undetected cancers, for example?

According to a more altruistic justification, a lockdown, and all its associated costs, is acceptable because we have a moral obligation to put others’ wellbeing ahead of our own − especially when the threat to others is as serious as death and the costs to oneself are much smaller. If you accept this, then you should also accept mandatory vaccinations.

Non sequitur.

Giving up one’s freedom to choose whether to be vaccinated is just another way of making a relatively small sacrifice from one’s stock of personal liberties out of altruistic concern for others.

Mandatory vaccinations aren’t exactly “giving up” freedom, more taking it. Nice flip of language, though.

All vaccinations carry some risk and these might be higher in the case of a quickly developed vaccine for a novel virus. But a mandatory vaccine policy can manage such risks sensibly, for instance by allowing exemptions for high-risk individuals. Once we do this, it’s not obvious that mandatory vaccinations run a greater risk of unintentional harm than lockdown, factoring in the long-lasting economic, social, domestic, and psychological consequences of lockdowns.

Who gets to decide? It doesn’t sound like those high-risk individuals get to choose.

Were such a policy to be implemented, we would need to think carefully about how to respond to citizens who outright refuse to comply. But this problem faces mandatory lockdown policies, too, and has proved surmountable.

As with lockdown, some uses of state force are acceptable − such as fines − and some are unacceptable − such as welding doors shut. As with lockdown, some exemptions are appropriate, perhaps for individuals who have serious moral objections to the ingredients or manufacturing conditions of a vaccine.

And there we have it. It’s a call to use the State’s monopoly on violence for the author’s preferred strategy.

Were entire communities to refuse a vaccine, as may occur in places such as Mullumbimby with a high concentration of anti-vaxxers, it may be appropriate to have more stringent social restrictions in place for a time in these communities.

It may sound draconian, but a mandatory vaccination policy enjoys solid prudential and moral justification. And it may be our only way of ending the COVID-19 crisis.

It may sound draconian.

Ya reckon? Forcing people to accept a vaccination yet to be developed rushed through in record time without the benefit of the full due diligence normally undertaken to ensure the cure isn’t worse than the disease; draconian? Yeah, just a teeny bit.

Tim Smartt is a lecturer in moral philosophy at the Institute for Ethics and Society, University of Notre Dame Australia.

I’m guessing logical fallacies aren’t on the curriculum he teaches.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m also not in a hurry to be injected with any substance that hasn’t had the benefit of the massive due diligence, testing and peer review processes every other vaccine is subject to before being approved for use.

Despite what a lecturer in ethics at a 3rd rate regional university might say, perhaps a little medical evidence might be the more appropriate guide on how to proceed.

There is a war….

There is a war between the rich and poor,

A war between the man and the woman.

There is a war between the ones who say there is a war

And the ones who say there isn’t.

Why don’t you come on back to the war, that’s right, get in it,

Why don’t you come on back to the war, it’s just beginning.

Leonard Cohen 1974

Modern wars are funny beasts; they happen all the time but very rarely does anyone ever bother to formally declare it.

In the USA, Congress has the Constitutional duty/sole prerogative to declare war. Did you know that? How many times do you think they’ve done so since, say, 1942?

That part of the USA Constitution was broken once intercontinental ballistic missiles were capable of delivering nuclear warheads and a 3 minute warning was not long enough to hold a vote.

To Marxists, the real war used to be between the workers and the owners of capital. Since the Soviets lost the argument, many Marxists pivoted to looking for wars between ethnicities and gender, resulting in much of the lunacy in which this organ finds hilarity.

In the meantime, a massive war is playing out, hiding in plain sight, as illustrated by our Hierarchy of Kung Flu:

Where do you sit on this scale? Have you been Instagramming pictures of inedible home-baked sourdough and stodgy cakes?

Chances are you’re currently on the winning side of the war.

Now flip all of those statements upside down and put yourself in the shoes of that person. Obviously, the lower levels regarding health are universal, they could happen to all of us.

The real point of bifurcation between the combatants is the level 3rd from top; “I am a keyboard warrior; my income is unaffected“.

Depending on whether this is true for you is the difference between this period being a relaxing skive on your sofa, consisting of lazy mornings, online yoga, perfecting your barista technique on your Gaggia, chatting with your colleagues on Zoom, baking sourdough like an 18th century crofter, some online shopping, an early start on the Briar Ridge rosé and a pleasant evening with the significant other binge watching a streaming series OR absolute desperation as you deplete your sparse savings and watch your livelihood destroyed in just a few days by the stroke of a ministerial pen.

At its bluntest level, this is war between white-collar and blue-collar workers. Sure, it’s a fuzzy line; there are previously well-paid office workers who are now unemployed and wondering why they took out such large mortgages and there are blue collar workers who are still building and billing for their time.

In general though, the metropolitan types are having a lovely war, the people in the ‘burbs are staring down the barrel of destitution.

Magnify that out from your comfortable 1st world reality and look at the less developed countries.

India has hit “CTRL C/V” on the western world’s approach to COVID19 and enforced a 21 day lock down. Millions of the lowest paid workers have been told to somehow travel back to their home villages and have no additional source of income.

The human cost to this, in terms of malnutrition, riots, suicides, murders, etc. will clearly not be zero. Quite the opposite, in fact, it is probable there will be an appalling increase in harm to the population.

It puts the current 1st world problems into context but they are versions of the same issue.

Bill’s Opinion

The modern global economy has a complexity that is beyond the reach of current human understanding. Dismantling it at the stroke of a government pen has unintended consequences. It is not yet obvious from the available data which is worse; the effects of the virus or the consequences of the lockdowns.

It’s possibly a false dichotomy anyway. The choice isn’t and shouldn’t be framed as binary. Shutting down India as if it had an economy and society that operates like Switzerland seems like a regrettably poor choice.

Similarly, shutting down an economy in a consistent way across an entire national geography without reference to the multiple differentiating factors between regions isn’t logical.

The result is highly likely to be a continuation of the decades-old wealth transfer from the poorest to the richest. If you think you’re in the second category, I would warn against complacency; this trend is coming for you and yours.

Have a look at your luxury car, 2nd home, children’s private school, photos from expensive overseas holidays, etc. and take a moment to appreciate what might prove to be a view of the past during the “Roaring 2,000s“.

Inviting the kids into the candy store

“What did you learn in school today, kids?”

“I learned you’re a cisgendered bigot, Mummy”.

Remember, you’re the bigot:

“You just know that the people pretending to be livid that a drag queen read a book in a school are also the people who run out to buy their kids the latest Grand Theft Auto on release day.

“Your homophobia is transparent.”

That’s Mhairi Black, SNP MP tweeting at you.

Here she is sitting at the table to the right of Cruella DeVille.

When we drop our children off at primary school every morning, what are our expectations of what will and won’t happen to them during their day?

Well, obviously a collection of educational outcomes; they will be better able to read, write and count than they were yesterday, for example.

Perhaps also some level of improvement to their ability to function socially, learning how to behave reasonably around others.

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that they will be kept safe, both physically but also mentally. We shouldn’t be setting them up for nightmares.

Erm:

Bill’s Opinion

Does it need to be said?

Men who perform sexualised acts in nightclubs whilst dressed as women should not be allowed in our children’s schools.

When did we forget this?

For fucksake, these people shouldn’t be allowed within 500 metres of a school.

In other news, the Scottish education system is going backwards in its most basic responsibility; teaching kids to read, write and count.

Keep voting SNP, Scots. I’m sure they’ll improve things for you eventually.

UPDATE

A rather clever Twitter thread on the subject here.

Periodic fable

More dispatches from the ABC’s correspondent in ClownWorld;

The backlash to inclusivity was real

Last year, Ms Harrison ran a handful of focus groups in her community to hear more about peoples’ experiences with menstrual taboos and stigma.

She wanted to be inclusive of the fact that not everyone who menstruated was a woman.

Wait, what?

“I put a callout asking for anyone who menstruates to come along and I was very surprised by the responses,” she said

As one does.

“People definitely put up a wall and made it very clear that they thought only women can menstruate and that if you don’t menstruate, you’re not a woman; this idea that that’s what defines an individual as a woman.

Your post-menopausal grandmother might have something to say about that. But, as a general rule, it’s a good indicator.

“Considering the spectrum of gender identities, this is a very narrow way of looking at things. Your femininity and your identity is so much more than whether you do or do not bleed.”

I’m starting to wonder whether Ms Harrison is really that interested in helping people with toiletries or just has a weird obsession with periods?

The backlash has not stopped Ms Harrison from working to make her movement more inclusive, starting with the language she uses to describe periods and the people who get them.

Backlash“, or as 99.9% of the world calls it, “biological reality“.

Who is highly likely to experience homelessness?

Generally, I’d take a guess that those with severe mental illness make up a large ratio.

There are currently no reliable figures on the number of trans and non-binary people in Australia, according to Australian Research Centre for Sex Health and Society researcher Jennifer Power.

No shit? Given that, about five minutes ago, we were told self-identification is reality and the alphabet people’s categories expand annually (Q? Plus sign?). Jazz hands up who’s surprised nobody can accurately measure who fits in which demographic?

“We just don’t have that population-level data in Australia for transgender people or for people of different sexual identities.”

Dr Power says this means we cannot know how many trans or non-binary people experience menstruation.

No, that’s wrong, we can solve that numerical question for you; it’s all the trans people who have “female” on their birth certificate who aren’t taking testosterone and haven’t experienced the menopause yet. You’re fucking welcome.

But the most comprehensive available data on trans homelessness rates in the country, in 2016, reported 22 per cent of trans people aged 14-25 had experienced either accommodation issues or homelessness.

See the comment above about mental illness.

Speaking from his lived experience as a trans person who has periods, Mx Blundell said menstruation itself could distress trans and non-binary people.

“Trans people can be really terrified of getting their periods. For me, it meant that puberty had started and that my body was no longer in my control.”

Really terrified“, or in other words, “reminded of biological reality“. Oh, and if you think you are in full control of your body before puberty, you might want to read about a thing called “disease”.

“Even the idea of opening a pad or a tampon packet and that being heard by people [in the men’s toilet], there’s an added anxiety,” Mx Blundell said.

{note to readers: if you’re feeling disoriented at this point, don’t panic, it’s the ABC that’s insane, not you}

“And sanitary bins are often limited to women-only spaces.”

Oh just fuck off.

But there’s more. Christ, there’s always more:

What can we do to erase the gender-based stigma surrounding periods?

Hands up who, until just now, didn’t realise there was a gender-based stigma surrounding periods?

To start, Mx Blundell says we need to get the language around periods right in the first place, whether they are being discussed in schools or on the labels of period products — but not for the reasons you might think.

We need to get the language around periods right“. Oh, we do, do we?

Do we get to express an opinion on this language change, the like of which hasn’t been seen since The Great Vowel Shift?

No? We just have to fall in line, right?

Yes, ma’am sir. What else should we change, pray tell?

“It’s not just about including people, it’s about being factually accurate,” he said.

“If you’re talking about a cervix, call it a cervix, if you’re talking about ovaries, say ovaries rather than ‘the female reproductive system’.

“And if you’re [using the phrase] feminine hygiene products, just call them pads and tampons.”

This may come a surprise, but the number of occasions I’ve found myself speaking about any of those nouns in the last 12 months is about zero. I have spoken about my (female) wife’s periods however, and subsequently picked up a packet of tampons for her whilst I was doing the weekly shopping.

Guess what? I managed to buy them without stigma too. Stunning and brave.

The stream of consciousness from the Bedlamite continues;

The companies behind period products have a role to play too, he said.

“The images used of bodies on packaging are often thin, hyper-feminine-looking bodies. Maybe go for some diversity there.”

What, like a builder in a dress waving a box of Tampax around at his colleagues on the construction site? Maybe to a Motörhead soundtrack?

Mx Blundell has a great future career ahead of zher in the advertising industry, clearly.

And then there is the wall of pink packaging in chemists and supermarkets.

“I personally love pink, but we’ve got to stop linking periods so explicitly to womanhood,” he said.

Yes. Quite right. We should probably do more to link periods to crop rotation in the 16th century or the pentatonic musical scale. What were we thinking, with our insensitivity linking periods to womanhood. Madness.

Mx Blundell explained using the right language and having the right imagery was important because calling and depicting things as they are would help break down society’s gendered notions of periods, making menstruation itself less likely to distress trans and non-binary people.

“.…calling and depicting things as they are“.

Yes, I think we can all agree that’s important.

From there, Mx Blundell said talking to trans people about their needs when it came to periods was paramount.

Paramount (adjective): more important than anything else; supreme.

We’ve solved all the other big issues in the world then, phew.

I’m getting bored now. One more quote:

There are some things that should happen regardless of location though, he added, such as ensuring access to specialised bins for period products in all bathrooms.

How many public bathrooms do we think there are in Australia? Maybe somewhere between 1 and 2 million?

Let’s say a quarter of those are gender neutral. Let’s estimate a tampon disposal bin costs $100.

That’s about $75,000,000 we’ll need to find from public coffers to install a new sanitary bin in every male toilet in the country to satisfy the demands of perhaps 1,260 people in Australia.

You read that number correctly. The 2016 census found 1,260 “non binary” people.

Let’s assume that number is too low by a factor of ten. We’re still expected to spend $6,000 (not including labour and administrative costs) on for each “non binary” person to put a new bin in every male toilet, to help them not feel stigma. Probably double that, if we assume only half are women people who menstruate.

Bill’s Opinion

Here’s a thought experiment for you to try:

Imagine you had a time machine and a universal translation device. Go back to various points in human (and even pre-human) natural history and ask the question, “who has periods?”.

When would be the first time someone answered the translated equivalent of anything other than “women“?

Probably about 2012, right?

This is a bizarre social experiment, isn’t it, the aim of which is something like; throw away all language and definitions of everything we rely on to navigate around life without serious daily conflict, and see what happens.

In fact, if you read the works of Rousseau and Foucault, that’s exactly what this is. It’s an attempt to destroy “constructs” to enable the tabula rasa to be re-written upon.

It’s my strong suspicion there are three broad categories of people pushing this crap;

1. Those who know what it is, or at least suspect, and are enjoying the destruction and their new super power to get people to act as they please. Mx Blundell, for example.

2. Those who just want to be kind and haven’t worked out what’s really going on and the likely highly-negative consequences. “Useful idiots”, in other words. Ms. Harrison, most likely.

3. Those who are utterly petrified of expressing an impure thought and having the mob completely destroy them forever. The journalist Yasmin Jeffrey, would seem to fall neatly into this description.

Perhaps there’s a quiet 4th category; the 99.9% of the population who are reading this in utter despair and rage.

Defund the ABC, it’s long past its sell-by date.

Bravely fighting last century’s battles

The alphabet people have been feeling “more distressed” since the law changed to allow same sex marriage.

Spoiler alert; questions not asked in the article include, “measured how?” and “are all LGBTQ+ people equally distressed?“.

Those missing questions do seem somewhat pertinent, however.

How “distress” might be objectively measured would be fascinating to learn. Sadly, the Social Sciences haven’t made this breakthrough yet, and simply fudged the issue with a questionnaire on SurveyMonkey.

A slight digression and a useful heuristic; if your chosen academic discipline has the word “science” in the title, it probably isn’t. See also, “Centre of Excellence”.

The more interesting unasked question is how this fuzzy “distress” is broken down by the letters and symbols. Are gay men more or less distressed than the plus sign people? And if so, what is the favoured explanatory hypothesis?

The SMH article offers the example of Mitchell (photo below) as an illustration.

Mitchell is so distressed and concerned about the general public’s reaction that he has to hide his true self from the world, and daren’t let others know he’s not a heterosexual man.

Oh, wait.

Bill’s Opinion

This is the year 2020. Why are we still fighting the battles of the 1970s?

Is there really anyone left who seriously gives a shit about who other people choose to have sex with?

In an earlier generation, Mitchell might well have been an extremely repressed man living a daily lie. He may even have been stuck in a passionless marriage of convenience to avoid scrutiny and reduce the risk of imprisonment by the authorities.

In 2020, presumably he doesn’t feel so distressed that he can’t walk the streets of Darlinghurst sporting green hair and lipstick in constant fear of being physically or verbally attacked.

It’s seems to me this is a massive improvement, exponentially so, in fact.

This is not to deny there aren’t places or individuals who are victimising others on the basis on their sexuality, but that’s not the situation where the vast majority of us live and work.

Actually, most residents of those places where homophobic attacks are common, when given a choice and a travel visa, choose to move here, regardless of whether they are gay or straight.

In the real world, the non-Twitter, non-media bubble world, most of us haven’t heard an anti-gay statement or a disparaging joke said with unkind sentiments since disco died.

So why are we still being berated in hand-wringing articles like the one in the Sydney Morning Herald about our falling short as “silent allies“?

One hypothesis, and the one this organ considers most likely is, “projection” on the part of the authors of this fantasy.

The rest of us just don’t care who other people shag. We really don’t.

Starbucks can go get…..

Fucked.

We’re proud to partner with UK charity Mermaids with a limited edition Mermaids Cookie. With every cookie sold, 50p will go to the charity to support their helpline, providing support for transgender and gender diverse young people and their families.

Available at participating stores, whilst stocks last.

“Mermaids”.

It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? Evoking images of feel-good Disney cartoons, Peter Pan and children’s bedtime books.

In reality, it’s a charity that promotes the castration of young boys.

Let’s repeat that; there is an organisation in the UK, with charitable status, promoting the castration of children.

One supposes the workshop to decide the name quickly moved past “The Eunuch Society” or “Castrato Revival Association” as options.

And Starcunts has chosen this as its cause du jour.

Seriously.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not as if the world really needed another reason to boycott Starcunts; the quality of their hot beverages is no better than instant coffee, made drinkable only by infusion of vast quantities of flavoured syrup. The food on offer is over-priced and inedible. The saccharine jazz and blues soundtracks polluting their outlets makes a Michael Bublé loop tape seem tolerable.

And now they are donating money to permanently disfigure children in devastatingly life-changing ways.

There is reason for hope, though.

Yesterday, the English High Court ruled that a police investigation into a joke about transgenderism was not only unwarranted and unlawful, but sinister and a very serious over-reach.

In the US, “cisgender girls” (or “girls” in the vernacular) are suing athletics’ organising bodies for allowing boys to compete in female competitions.

Regular people, by which I mean anyone who doesn’t spend their life on Twitter, working in media or attending fringe political meetings, are waking up to the real-life implications of this insane attempt to destroy societal norms without any serious discussion of the long term impacts.

2020 looks to be the year where some adult supervision occurs.

Finally, this movement could probably find a more articulate, less Godwin-invoking spokesman, but this will do as a start:

Losing faith in the Police

Well, most of us did ages ago, ever since Regatta de Blanc.

Anyway, it turns out most people in the UK have realised the cops can’t do their job.

Clearance rates are falling and the study shows the public are not blind to this.

Statistics like this are hard to hide after a while:

Of course, victims of crime in the garden of England (that’s Kent, in case you didn’t know) are not the only ones to realise there’s less than a 19/20ths chance of not being charged for a crime; the criminals know it too.

It becomes a vicious self-reinforcing cycle.

Historically, the public and the police have had a unique relationship, markedly different to most otherwise similar countries. This is often described as “policing by consent”, and that phrase is often referenced.

In fact, it’s worth reproducing the original wording of the 9 point instructions….

…..devised by the first Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis (Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne). The principles which were set out in the ‘General Instructions’ that were issued to every new police officer from 1829 were:

1 To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2 To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3 To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4 To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5 To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6 To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7 To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8 To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9 To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Consider then, how this type of statement on the West Yorkshire Police website aligns with those well-meaning statements of intent (italics mine):

What is a Hate Incident?

A Hate Incident is any non-crime incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity or perceived disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Examples include:

Verbal or online abuse, insults or harassment, such as taunting, offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace.

A hate incident doesn’t mean that we won’t take it seriously if someone reports it.

Of course, it’s not even legally correct; dumping rubbish through letter boxes certainly is illegal already in West Yorkshire.

But what an interesting comparison to make; the West Yorkshire police force have time to investigate a non-crime that has been perceived to be offensive to anybody yet are managing to charge fewer than 7 out of 100 actual crimes.

It feels like there may be just a slight mis-allocation of resources going on oop north.

Bill’s Opinion

A police force that allocates more than zero expensively-trained uniformed coppers on an investigation into a case of hurty tweets yet has a clearance rate for real crime (those crimes with actual victims) of less than one in ten cases should have the entire managerial level replaced immediately and their pensions cancelled.

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.