The ballad of Israel Folau

We’ve been following the petty story of Israel closely for some time now. It was obvious it wasn’t going to end well for Rugby Australia and, lo it came to pass.

They’ve settled with him before the court case, probably because of the minor difficulty that they forgot to insist on a social media clause when his contract was renewed 10 months ago.

I’d guess that mistake is worth about 5 years’ of his salary, so somewhere between $7m and $8m.

The missing social media restriction clause would have been no more than 50 words. So, about $150k a word.

Even Ed Sheeran doesn’t get paid at that rate.

In the main, the commentators on this organ knew what was going on; this was the latest skirmish in the Great Culture War of 2019. Obviously, ever the contrarian, Bardon decided Folau wouldn’t win the case.

If he’d gone to court, perhaps he wouldn’t. But, as we say in our house, “if me mam had wheels she’d be a trolley“.

I daren’t look at Pirate Pete’s opinion piece on the settlement. I genuinely haven’t read it but I imagine it will contain virtue signalling to the diverse (but not religious brown people), wokescolding against the religious bigots (but only one type), and soft criticism of Rugby Australia for signing inadequate contracts of employment.

Bill’s Opinion

As I have said repeatedly on this subject, I don’t care nor want to know what an athlete’s views are on theology.

I also would prefer to live in a world where those views, as long as they don’t call for violence, don’t result in them losing their job either.

Finally, the heuristic remains; if you need to quickly determine what is correct or to predict the future, check what Peter Fitzsimons has preached and assume the 180 degree position.

Compare and contrast

Same testimony, different takes:

Left wing.

Right wing.

Bill’s Opinion

Is it just me or is anyone else utterly bored by activism and opinion masquerading as “news”?

Perhaps it’s an unreliable memory, but I have a vague idea there was a time when journalists and editors genuinely aspired to report facts as objectively as they could in order to allow their readers to form their own opinions.

It seems to me that, as politics continues to bifurcate, the journalist class increasingly views the public as unable to form an accurate opinion. We therefore require our opinions to be ascribed to us.

Thanks.

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself.

Book ‘em Danno; First Degree Statistics Crime

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

Drought hits Sydney

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

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

Higher than average.

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

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

We aren’t told.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below to very much below.

Well, that clears things up for us….

Bill’s Opinion

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

If the first explanation, perhaps they should read Factfulness.

The climate of crazy ideas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bills Opinion

We all hold unprovable beliefs.

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

Of course not.

Does it matter?

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

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

Izzy can believe whatever utter garbage he wishes.

On bush fires and global warming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The effect is obvious; catastrophic fires.

The cause is man made climate change.

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

Bill’s Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Word of the day; kayfabe

Perhaps there never was a time where we could really trust the news media to present straight facts without an agenda, but in these days of interconnectedness, we can immediately test the integrity of our journalist class for ourselves.

This story in the ever declining Sydney Morning Herald is an interesting case in point. Some facts are presented but an agenda is subtley slipped in:

New York: Chaotic scenes have broken out in Washington as Republican politicians stormed a restricted area on Capitol Hill, disrupting the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

So far, factual reporting.

The “sit in” by around 20 Republican members of Congress delayed planned testimony on Wednesday local time (Thursday AEDT) from a senior Pentagon official responsible for Ukraine policy.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Laura Cooper was due to speak in a closed-door session at 10am local time. But four hours later the Republican protest was still underway and the hearings had not started.

All of the Republicans eventually left by 3pm.

The Republicans, who chanted “Let us in! Let us in!”, refused orders to leave and had pizza delivered to the secure, underground area of the Capitol to sustain them during the action.

Some brought phones into the area, which is strictly forbidden.

Still factual. This is what we want from our news media.

But here comes the “problematic” part (underlining, mine):

The protest followed damning testimony the previous day by the top US diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor.

“Damning” why? By whose standard?

We are offered this next paragraph by way of explanation:

He said the Trump administration had endangered Ukrainian lives by withholding $US$391 million ($571 million) in military aid to pressure the country to announce an investigation into Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Do you know who else withheld military aid to the Ukraine?

Vice President Joe Biden.

The remainder of the article continues to report facts about the “sit in”, none of which are particularly interesting.

There’s this footnote, however:

The closed door hearings are aimed at deterring witnesses from co-ordinating their testimony and to discourage grandstanding by members of the committee.

Much of the most dramatic testimony, however, is quickly leaked to the press.

Bills Opinion

The main and only piece of information that matters in the entire story is whether anything material has been revealed to confirm the Democrats’ claim of illegal behaviour by Trump.

That we are offered nothing but a description of a standard operating procedure of the Office of President when dealing with foreign powers (temporarily delaying transfers of aid), suggests we are dealing with a big nothingburger (as our ex-colonial cousins might say).

That the reporter couldn’t bring himself to mention the known fact that Biden did the same thing to the same country when he was in office, tells us everything we need to know about the reporter’s motivation.

Today’s word of the day is kayfabe.

Peter Hannam isn’t even trying now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill’s Opinion

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

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

Image result for happiness of a turkey chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.