“Free speech” isn’t just the speech you agree with, Fitzy

An Australian rugby player has annoyed people on social media by posting evangelical Christian beliefs.

An ex-Australian rugby player, now a columnist, has called for his contract to be suspended until he apologises and, in his words not mine, repents.

Slow news days in Australia tend to be like this.

Peter Fiztsimons has a good point; Israel Falau’s contract with the ARU does have restrictions on his public behaviour and speech. In that regard, by signing the contract he has agreed to further limitations, beyond those already on the law books, to his freedom of speech.

This is a matter between employer and employee.

So far, so boring. We all have a range of views on the topic Folau has posted about on social media, some of us have multiple opinions on the same topic depending on the time of day. That’s not really the point.

What’s fascinating here is the use of the term “repent” and the suggestion that Folau’s behaviour is homophobic. To risk bringing the concept of nuance and subtlety to a nation not previously known for its philosophers and intellectuals, could we suggest that there’s actually no proof that Folau is homophobic?

Sure, he’s stated that homosexuals are on their way to hell, but that’s simply repeating a view endorsed by, among others, the Catholic Church, most Anglican denominations and Islam. So, it’s a view shared wholly or at least partially by almost 5 billion people, i.e. more than half of humanity.

It’s worth noting that he’s never stated that he hates homosexuals or that he believes they are deserving of eternal damnation, just that his understanding of scripture suggests that’s where they’re heading.

Again, a subtle point but we do need to try to pull the conversation back to what was said, not what we think was in the mind of the speaker. None of us are mind-readers.

As for Fitzsimon’s call for Folau to repent, it’s not clear what form this would take for it to be acceptable. An apology for breaking the terms of his contract of employment doesn’t seem like it would satisfy Peter. By the use of the verb, repent, he seems to be suggesting a change of opinion is the only acceptable way to seek forgiveness.

In other words, he needs Folau to stop believing something that he, presumably, holds as true as part of the core teaching of his faith.

Bill’s Opinion

I don’t want to know what sports people’s beliefs are on matters of religious doctrine. I really just don’t give a fuck. I don’t share Israel Folau’s views on this or many other philosophical areas of discourse. I do like the way he can catch a ball, sprint and side-step, however.

I also don’t want the world I live in to be one where bandana-wearing columnists get to call for the termination of someone’s employment for having the wrong faith.

There is much whataboutery we could invoke at this point. For example, we could ask for just a single example where Fitzsimons has defended anyone with an opposing opinion to his to hold that opinion without being hounded off social media, out of their employment or other similar consequences.

The easiest job in the world is to defend someone’s right to believe the same things as you.

Imagine there’s no money….

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

Except…..

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

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

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

Bill’s Opinion

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

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

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

Peter Hartcher probably thinks this is objective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Hartcher is international editor.

Bill’s Opinion

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

Independent. Always

Pope Francis, tear down this wall!

The Communist Pope (no, not the Nazi Pope, he’s playing bowls in his retirement slippers) has called border walls immoral.

Anyone who has visited or seen pictures of the Pope’s home will have been struck by the incredible displays of conspicuous wealth around every corner, crevice and niche.

Amazingly, the gold, jewels and priceless art seems to stay firmly in-situ, despite the Pope’s clear desire for open borders and his kum by yah attitude to the hordes of envious visitors each day.

It’s almost as if, oh I dunno, the huge walls, heavy doors, sophisticated locks and an actual private army seem to assist in some way in ensuring the visitors don’t doss down on the floor of St. Peter’s basilica each night and wander off with a few orbs and sceptres on their way out the following morning.

In fact, during WWII, the Vatican actively prevented asylum-seekers from entering the church by use of an ID card system. There were some famous exceptions to this such as Hugh O’Flaherty, but the general rule was “sod off and good luck with the Germans“.

Bill’s Opinion

Our trusty rule of looking at the delta between an expressed vs. revealed opinion helps determine what the truth is in this situation.

Where are the April Fool articles?

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

Where are the April Fools joke articles?

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

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

Please correct me in the comments.

Bill’s Opinion

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

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

New Zealand’s Princess Diana moment

Mass hysteria is an incredible phenomenon to observe.

These women are not Muslim and are living in a western democracy with a thousand year history of the freedoms of Common Law;

As with the public hysteria following Princess Diana’s death, it’s not clear what percentage of the Kiwi population are quietly seething at this virtue signalling compared with those who are playing dress up.

That’s the story the press are not reporting, the “dog that isn’t barking”. It was the same in the weeks following the tragic death of Princess Diana; perhaps 2% of the population of the UK went utterly insane while the other 98% of us quietly got on with our lives hoping our friends and relatives would soon return to normality.

There’s a confirmation bias at play in these situations; you can see the women in headscarves pointing an index finger upwards. What’s less obvious are the thoughts going through the minds of everyone else who isn’t wearing a scarf.

The upwards-pointing index finger in the picture above is interesting too. One wonders whether much research and contemplation had gone into these ladies’ decision to perform what is, in effect, the gang hand signal of choice of the murderous beheading jihadis?

When ISIS militants hold up a single index finger on their right hands, they are alluding to the tawhid, the belief in the oneness of God and a key component of the Muslim religion. The tawhid comprises the first half of the shahada, which is an affirmation of faith, one of the five pillars of Islam, and a component of daily prayers: “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” 

Perhaps no thought went into it at all.

Bill’s Opinion

If you wanted to convince murderous white supremacist crazies that western democracy and freedom isn’t currently experiencing an existential threat which justifies taking up an armed response in defence, this would be about the absolute worst method of persuasion.

Similarly, if you think pulling Jordan Peterson’s book out of bookstores is going to help, consider the possibility that your analysis is deeply flawed and you don’t understand human nature at all.

Fortunately, we have a word which adequately describes what is occurring in New Zealand:

Dhimmitude

Sporty Spice has let herself go a little

Addiction is no laughing matter, so apologies to “Lauren” if she feels this is targeted at her.

The actual target is the (either) stupidity or mendacity of people like Paul McNamara;

I can’t comment on the cause of the other hundreds of deaths of homeless people, but I’m willing to bet my home on the fact that Lauren’s partner, Dean, didn’t die of homelessness. He died because he miscalculated how much (presumably) opiate he injected into his blood stream.

Paul McNamara either knows this and is tweeting his hashtags in bad faith or he’s a bit simple.

I’d like to assume McNamara is tweeting in good faith and is just a little naïve, but when one looks into the subject it becomes obvious here’s some significant obfuscation going on. In a trend that seems to be common to every area of public discourse these days, the definition of terms one would have previously assumed were universally-agreed has been subverted.

In this example, the term “homelessness” seems to no longer mean that someone is living on the street, in a doorway in the cold, but more like “living in short term accommodation”, which, although not ideal, is very definitely not the same as being exposed to the extremes of the climate and random violence.

In fact, finding reliable statistics on the previous definition of homelessness requires a search for terms like, “sleeping rough”. At which point, this research is found.

Its findings? The reason 50% of the people in the UK who sleep on the streets are not in safe accommodation is because they have mental health issues. The second largest cause at 43% is drug and alcohol addiction.

Bill’s Opinion

Claiming homelessness is the cause of deaths on the street is like claiming gravity is the cause of death of mountaineers.

Forget due process, let’s convict on da feelz

Australia’s top Left Footer, Cardinal George Pell, was convicted of kiddy fiddling last week.

Actually, he was convicted weeks ago but a suppression order was in place preventing reporting. The hilarity of a situation where a judge believes the secret can be maintained after a verdict was given in open court shouldn’t be lost on us. Presumably nobody has pointed out the invention of “an interweb” since he/she finished law school?

Also, suppression orders didn’t seem to be of much interest to Australian judges during the Spycatcher debacle. What’s good for the goose….

So, the most poorly-kept secret since Rolf Harris is out now and a million column inches are able to be devoted to “whither the Catholic Church?” discussions such as this:

To be fair to Amanda Vanstone, she didn’t write the headline, nor anything near that sentiment in her opinion piece. Quite illustrative though, isn’t it, that the editorial folk decided that the readership’s feelings about the possible outcome of a legal appeal are of relevance to the case?

Helpfully, other writers have advice for Australian Catholic Church on how to stop kiddy fiddling problems arising in the future, such as this by Linda Morris, where she strongly suggests what’s needed is more women in senior leadership positions in the church.

Maybe that’s correct, or maybe it’s a call by an interest group to link a scandal to their single issue campaign. Certainly, a skip through Ms Morris’ twitter timeline doesn’t suggest any previous concerns for the health of the Catholic Church. Climate change, yes, things left footed, no.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s worth questioning the motivation behind angsty opinion pieces about a religious institution most journalists secretly despise. They might be written in good faith but they may also be cynical attempts to further their own desires for cultural revolution.

At the risk of whataboutery, has the journalist written similar opinions calling for a moderation of Wahhabism, for example?

Is Pell guilty and going to lose his appeal? I don’t know and neither do you, so how you feel about it is completely irrelevant.

The patriarchy of board and card games

This piqued my interest this weekend:

Wait, what?

Geir Helgemo, who is Norwegian but represents Monaco in bridge events, tested positive for synthetic testosterone and the female fertility drug clomifene at a World Bridge Series event in Orlando in September.

Now I’m really confused, but probably not as confused as Geir sounds.

We could wander down the well-worn path of laughing at the logical knots the Cultural Marxists tie themselves into trying to square mental illness as normal, but we’ve been there enough times recently.

What’s more interesting is looking at the inconvenient facts that undermine the claims that gender is a social construct.

If that were the case, and that a “male brain” can exist in a female body and vice versa, we might expect competence to be reasonably well-distributed across human endeavours not requiring the physical advantages of a male body.

Bridge being one such example. Chess and Scrabble are others.

Bridge then; we’ve just ascertained that the top player in the world is male, albeit a little confused about things.

Full disclosure; I have no idea about the game of bridge and I must also report that the world ranking system seems equally as impenetrable to the outside observer.
However, it would seem that there isn’t a female in any of the 21 players listed as the best of the best.
Chess rankings are a little easier to decipher, fortunately. We can categorically state that Hou Yifan is the 59th best player in the world and the best female player.

Here’s the Scrabble player world rankings

They don’t state a gender and some of the names are a bit ambiguous but, helpfully, there are profile pictures. 
The first woman on the list? Lisa Odum at #64.
What does this all mean?
Bill’s Opinion
I suppose there are multiple explanations that might help us understand what’s going on here; the first is the Cultural Marxist go-to answer that there’s no difference between men and women (the tabla rasa argument) AND that a pernicious patriarchal conspiracy has and is preventing any and all women from moving 16 chess pieces across an 8×8 playing board better than men.
The alternate explanation is that men and women have innate differences which manifest themselves at the extremes of the distribution.
Our razor suggests the fewest assumptions point the way……

Oh, if you aren’t convinced, go to the Twin Galaxies leaderboard for any arcade game hi-score and see if you can find a female name.

I’ll wait.

I looked over Jordan, what did I see?

A suitable air gap exists now between the much-hyped appearance of Jordan B. Peterson on Australia’s “QandA” TV panel show for us to review it without being trampled in the rush.

Our woke friends at the Sydney Morning Herald were exceptionally quick off the mark, publishing this review so soon after the show that a cynic might wonder whether the body of the article was already written so that a couple of specific details just needed to be added.

Certainly, the almost predictable template was adhered to; Peterson is an arrogant quack offering clichés as advice using pseudo-science as evidence, none of which I will try to refute.

Plus ça change.

Before I start my review, full disclosure; I don’t normally watch the programme. Actually, because it’s all such utter drivel, I don’t normally watch Australian terrestrial TV and was pleasantly surprised that our TV could be tuned to receive content that wasn’t over the ChromeCast dongle (this is only a slight exaggeration). 

My reasons for not normally watching QandA are as follows;
1. The format is shit. Too many people on a panel, too little time to answer a question beyond throwing in a pithy soundbite.
2. The host, Tony Jones, is an arrogant, self-aggrandising, biased fool. His body language alone (head and body leaning to one side, elbow out, hand on hip) speaks volumes.
3. The audience seems to be consistently of the opinion that, whatever the problem, the government must do something to solve it. To be fair to the ABC, I’m not accusing the channel of bias, they don’t need to manufacture this opinion; it’s pervasive in Australia.
So, 90 minutes of my life that I will never get back this week;
The already flawed format was worsened by the enforcement of a 1 minute per answer rule. Yet the questions posed were of the “is there a God?” type (seriously, that was asked!). 
The overall impression one gets is that Australians are quite star-struck by Americans (yes, I know he’s a Canuck, but that’s just another name for a quieter American). The panel were not only star-struck but also somewhat fearful of Peterson, the two politicians in particular, in the way people who make a living from obfuscating often are when confronted by those with less of a filter on expressing their opinions.
From left to right of the TV screen, here’s my summary of each person’s performance;
Tranny pensioner – agreed with much of what Peterson said, there’s never much to disagree with though, unless you’ve decided that penises can be female and zhe didn’t try that line. However, zhe mainly just rambled on as if zhey were some kind of national treasure like Australia’s version of Joanna Lumley.
Jordan B. Peterson – tried to smile a lot more than usual, got justifiably grumpy at an angry fat girl in the audience and the left wing politician (unironically) sat to his left and was interrupted with “time’s up, Mr. Peterson” every time he was about to start his second sentence. It seemed pointless him being there, frankly.
Left wing politician – presented well and was clearly scared by Peterson. Steered away from throwing too many local political rocks, which was commendable at least. She’s swallowed the equity=equality kool aid, though.
Tony Jones – he probably thinks he’s an objective journalist. Dunning and Kruger wrote a report about his problem.
Right wing politician – prepared for the performance by standing in a forest presumably, judging by his wooden demeanor. Kept talking about things we can’t talk about, which was confusing. 
Fat angry twitter woman – was fat, angry and unable to let anyone else speak more than 5 words before interrupting with sarcasm. If she isn’t single and surrounded by smelly cats, something is seriously wrong in the world.
Guest appearance – Milo Yiannopolis on a pre-recorded question.
Somebody should have cracked the old favourite:
Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Milo.
Milo who?
That’s showbusiness!
Bill’s Opinion
If you wanted to waste 90 minutes of your life for no reason and without seeing a result, consider watching a soccer match instead.
The terrestrial TV function of our TV is in little danger of being used again this year.