Doing the Decent thing

Tom Decent seems to have decided to not selectively edit today;

GoFundMe’s fine print says the crowdfunding site cannot be used for “campaigns we deem, in our sole discretion, to be in support of, or for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism, or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or sex.”

Here’s my take on his previous attempt to steer the narrative.

Bill’s Opinion

There was a time when journalists used to at least attempt to offer their work as being without bias. I recall a time when they would be referred to as “reporters”. That noun seems to be out of favour now.

It’s absolutely fine to be an “activist”, we all have causes we support, but it’s highly disingenuous to pretend to be a “journalist” at the same time.

Obsessive reporting

The Sydney Morning Herald isn’t coping well with the thought that Israel Folau might have even the slightest chance of winning his legal action against The Australian Rugby Union Rugby Australia.

Reporter Tom Decent and his editors are particularly piqued that quite a few people are putting their money behind Folau in a Go Fund Me campaign:

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to controversial rugby union player Israel Folau will end up in the pockets of Rugby Australia if he loses a protracted legal battle against them.

Well, yes, that’s how legal cost allocation tends to work once cases have been decided.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told Nine News last night she was surprised Folau, one of the highest paid athletes in Australian sport, would ask the general public for financial support.

Where “surprised” is a synonym for “shitting herself“.

“From our perspective [GoFundMe] is a place where sick children get support, so certainly it is not a strategy we thought was appropriate,” Ms Castle said. “They [donors] have seen what the money is going to be used for and they have to make their own decision.”

No, I’m pretty sure it isn’t just for sending bald kids to Orlando, with a huge range of causes from the deadly serious to the frivolous on there.

There’s top level categories for people asking for donations for their weddings and holidays and jokers asking for beer money. For example, I’ve recently been following the progress of a couple who are having a fabulous time circumnavigating in a small yacht who are being funded by donations on the page.

Once Folau’s GoFundMe page was activated just before midnight on Thursday, the money starting rolling in for the exiled Wallabies fullback who pleaded in a viral video for financial support to help stand up for religious freedom.

By 8pm yesterday, more than $410,000 had been sent his way as donors from all over the globe showed their support for an athlete prepared for the “fight of my life”.

That’s quite impressive, but don’t expect any back slapping from the media as it doesn’t fit their narrative. In fact….

However, questions have been raised about the wording of a disclaimer at the bottom of the fundraising page. It read: “In making this contribution I acknowledge that my contributions are made freely as a gift on the basis previously affirmed and that there will be no obligations on Israel Folau to do anything for me in recognition of the gift or to apply the funds in any particular way with respect to his legal action, and that I hold no expectation to receive anything in return for my contribution.”

A basic search of the other requests for donations would show that’s just standard for every request. In fact, every Go Fund Me campaign has the following default disclaimer as part of the platform’s terms and conditions:

All Donations are at your own risk. When you make a Donation through the Services, it is your responsibility to understand how your money will be used. GoFundMe is not responsible for any offers, promises, rewards or promotions made or offered by Charities, Campaigns or Campaign Organisers. We do not and cannot verify the information that Campaign Organisers supply, nor do we represent or guarantee that the Donations will be used in accordance with any fundraising purpose prescribed by a Campaign Organiser or Charity or in accordance with applicable laws.

It might be argued that, by putting the disclaimer on his page, Folau is being more open and honest than everyone else who prefers to let it languish behind a hyperlink.

Still, it’s nice of Tom Decent to draw everyone’s attention to this. Great public service there, Tom; Woodward and Bernstein will be proud of you.

When contacted by the Herald, a spokesperson for Folau declined to comment on the wording of the disclaimer or what the 30-year-old’s plans were if the money raised was surplus to his legal fees.

Frankly, if I were advising the Folau team, I’d suggest they treat any contact from the Sydney Morning Herald as one made in bad faith, based on all the bias they’ve already demonstrated.

Tom is lucky they still answer his calls to even say, “no comment” or something a little more robustly Anglo Saxon.

While it is expected Folau will use the cash for his upcoming challenge, the $3 million goal he set far exceeds the usual expectations for such a legal bill. One barrister labelled the price tag “outrageous”.

A barrister so brave that they didn’t want to be named? Surely there’s an opportunity for the shy and anonymous lawyer to get his/her/zher name out there to offer to under-bid the incumbent legal team?

RA chief executive Raelene Castle (right) said she was surprised one of the highest paid athletes in Australian sport would ask the public for financial support.

Well, if he’s being overpaid by so much, who’s fault is that Raelene?

Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses warned that the thousands of individuals who donated anywhere from $5 to as much as $10,000 yesterday might not realise exactly where their money is going.

Again, it’s great that the public are being made aware of the Ts&Cs of the Go Fund Me website all of a sudden. Interesting that Moses wasn’t leading his people across the sea to safety for all other campaigns.

“The issue of crowdfunding and its application to litigation opens up a veritable can of worms for the legal profession and the courts,” Mr Moses said. “This an issue which the legal profession and the courts must grapple with if this practice continues to increase.

Hold the front page; “lawyer finds a problem to be solved by lawyers“.

“A security for costs order is an order that requires a litigant to deposit money into a secured account. This means that if the case is dismissed or the litigation fails, this money would be used to pay legal expenses of the opposing side.

“There are also questions around what occurs with remaining funds if the money is not used in its totality. Is it returned to those who donated or to the person who collected the funds?”

Yes, we’ve covered that already. Read the terms and conditions, Moses.

It’s a donation with no guarantee.

Yet knowing this, people have still freely donated half a million dollars already? That’s got to hurt.

There were also suggestions Folau’s GoFundMe advertisement breached the site’s rules, which states that users may not attempt to raise money for, “for the legal defence of … intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity, or serious disabilities or diseases”.

Suggestions from whom? The Sydney Morning Herald sportsdesk or someone more qualified in analysing the terms of service for a website?

Actually, this is a brilliant example of fake news. The clause partially quoted above is part of a list of inappropriate causes. Have a look at what Tom deliberately cut out and replaced with some dots:

8. campaigns we deem, at our sole discretion, to be in support of, or for the legal defence of alleged crimes associated with hate, violence, harassment, bullying, discrimination, terrorism or intolerance of any kind relating to race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender or gender identity or serious disabilities or diseases;

In other words it’s entirely at the website’s discretion and they are concerned with not getting involved in criminal cases, which this isn’t.

Selective editing, Tom? For shame, Tom Decent, for shame.

Bill’s Opinion

It doesn’t matter which side of the debate you support, there’s no excuse for deliberate selective editing to fraudulently bolster your side.

Also, whipping up a non-story about terms and conditions applicable to every campaign for donations as if they were unique to Folau is a clear form of journalistic fraud.

It must be quite a life burden to have a surname such as “Decent” to live up to.

Offence trolling

The evil and cruel Israel Folau has been up to his old tricks of being mean to people again, like the awful Christian he is:

“Attack”.

Where and when was this “attack“?

Israel Folau has launched another attack on gay people and also criticised young people being allowed to change gender during a sermon at his Sydney church.

Right, so if you didn’t go to his church on that particular Sunday for that particular service, you wouldn’t have heard this recent “attack” then?

It’s so good of the media to give this egregious behaviour the wider publicity it deserves and otherwise wouldn’t have received. I’m sure gay and transgender people are extremely grateful for being offered this service.

What did the hateful Folau preach to his sheep this time?

The former rugby union star described homosexuality as a sin and claimed the devil was behind primary school children being allowed to decide if they wanted to change gender.

Ok, so in line with the teachings of Christianity, Islam and Judaism then, or, in other words, what about two thirds of the world’s population believes?

Not exactly flat earth dogma, is it?

The statements that homosexuality is a sin and the devil is behind primary school age children “transitioning” genders are presented as being equivalent in their logic and level of outrage.

Perhaps we might not agree Lucifer’s hand is to be found behind “Mermaids“, but it doesn’t mean encouraging the proliferation of transgender children is biologically or morally correct either.

Here’s a fun thought experiment;

You’ve got tickets to see the last ever Rolling Stones’ concert and your babysitter just cancelled. It’s too late to ask any friends or family but both sets of neighbours have said they would help out. Do you ask the Folaus or the Salkilds?

By the way, a quick stalk through Emma’s social media suggests she’s pulled back a little on the “my son is a girl” bullshit and, in fact seems to have completely ceased from boasting mentioning it. Almost as if, I dunno, it was a phase she projected on the poor fucker. One assumes the lad and his dad are somewhat relieved no genitals were mutilated in the meanwhile.

Bills Opinion

It’s obvious that Israel Folau has been found guilty of wrongthink and, from now on, will be subject to this type of offence trolling.

Literally nobody would have known about the content of his sermon last weekend if the media hadn’t sought it out and presented it to the world. I’ve not been to Folau’s church but I suspect it doesn’t meet in a football stadium.

If a gay or transgender person is feeling any negative emotions today as a result of reading the reporting of his sermon, who is to blame?

Folau is being consistent to his beliefs. These beliefs are shared by billions of other people. If you agree he should be hounded out of his employment and to continue to be subject to scrutiny over the details of his religion, perhaps you should also consider where this leads and who the spotlight shines on next.

(We tried to contact Peter Fitzsimons for comment but he was unavailable)

Giving no quarter

This is a curious little report.

The United States has rejected more than 300 refugees under the Australia-US refugee deal, leaving the men in Australia’s offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru.

That’s fair enough; I suppose, their borders, their border entry requirements.

What sort of percentage of these previously slam dunk new American residents were rejected?

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the target of resettling 1250 refugees was not going to be met, hampering the Coalition’s goal of closing down the detention centres.

Crikey, that’s nearly a 25% rejection rate.

“I don’t think we’ll get there,” he said. “There’s been over 300 that have been rejected by the United States for various reasons. They will make decisions about who they will bring under their migration program.”

Various reasons“.

Any chance we, the taxpayer who funds these rejected applicants, could learn what those reasons might be?

Mr Dutton said there were 95 people who have either withdrawn from consideration or rejected an offer, 295 who were in the pipeline for approval and 531 who had been re-settled.

Withdrawn or rejected an offer of resettlement to the USA…. after an expensive and perilous journey across 2 continents and half an ocean followed by several years on an island in the middle of nowhere?

Is anyone else wondering why? A quick scan of the rest of the article would suggest that nobody else is interested in the details.

This is interesting though:

Under the deal, Australia would reportedly accept dozens of Central American refugees in exchange for those in the Australian offshore detention centres, but Mr Dutton said only two Rwandans accused of mass murder by the US had been re-settled in Australia. 

The pair were taken to the US more than a decade ago and charged with murdering eight people in a brutal 1999 machete attack in Uganda.

Wait, what?

“We don’t have plans to bring any others from America at this stage,” Mr Dutton told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

Oh, that’s ok then. Just the two accused of genocide then. Could someone please let me know what postcode they were relocated to?

He said the historical perspective and circumstances of the allegations needed to be taken into account as well as what has happened in the intervening period.

What does that even mean, do we think?

Because Australia doesn’t have many Tutsi these two accused murderers are not so likely to repeat their actions?

Or, over time, a mass murder event becomes less serious?

If you’re confused by Dutton’s statement, you’re not alone.

“That’s a different situation from someone who just sexually assaulted a girl on Manus in the last 12 months,” he said.”We aren’t bringing in people posing a risk.”

Excuse me if I’m unconvinced by that word salad.

In fact, I’m sure I read something similar from the Argentinian authorities in 1960 after Albert Eichman was captured.

Mr Dutton said the Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and international partners would continue to vet asylum seekers and Australians returning from war-zones in Syria.

“They’re complex cases. We’ll look at them compassionately but realistically,” he said.

Right, but back to the arrangement with the USA; it would seem something came up in their vetting that didn’t in ours. Comparatively quickly too, given that these asylum seekers were on Nauru and Manus, under Australian Federal care for 4 or 5 years.

There’s more from Mr. Dutton:

“If we’re bringing teenagers back, for example, who may have been listening to the propaganda rhetoric, having watched horrific circumstances, bodies being mutilated, over a long period of time, what threat those individuals may pose to our country if they’re returned”

What, as opposed to two people accused of doing the killing?

Anyway, these two potential mass murderers aside, what about the nearly 25% rejected applicants? Why might the USA quickly deem them to be not the type of person to be admitted to their country?

Here’s another data point you might not be aware of or have forgotten, certainly the news report seems to have omitted it; the deal wasn’t contingent on the applicants being genuine asylum seekers under the UN definition, they only had to pass a basic safety vetting.

Bill’s Opinion

Why might someone sitting for years on Nauru or Manus withdraw from a chance to be relocated in America?

The Guardian suggests it’s because America is horrid to Muslims, because that’s what several of the asylum seekers told them. More horrid than half a decade on an isolated Pacific Island?

We seem to be missing quite a lot of relevant information here.

Why would the USA be able to determine someone isn’t suitable to be relocated in their country when Australia has been happy to keep that person housed, fed and Xbox’d to their heart’s content for years?

Again, we seem to be missing quite a lot of relevant information.

Incentives matter. The urgency to investigate and adjudicate on an asylum seeker’s case when they are living outside of the country to which they are applying is not as great as when they are potentially about to arrive on your shores.

As for withdrawing an apparently slam dunk application to America because of “Islamophobia“? Our razor suggests that’s unlikely to be the real reason; an explanation requiring fewer assumptions to be correct is that there is something in one’s past that, if or perhaps when discovered by the American authorities, would require you to answer a bunch of difficult questions.

We couldn’t car less

Uber will be launching a flying car service, with Melbourne, Australia, chosen as the first trial location.

Wow! We really are living in the age of the Jetsons.

Imagine the convenience of being able to step out of one’s office, hail a taxi and then sit back in luxury as its electric-powered motors glide you up noiselessly and smoothly up in the air to your destination anywhere in the city under the control of the auto pilot.

Ok, you won’t be able to hail it from your office, you’ll have to got to a designated helipad.

Ok, you can’t go exactly anywhere, it’ll just be to the main airport and back.

Ok, it won’t be powered by electric batteries but aviation fuel.

And they’ll be an expensively-trained and qualified pilot at the controls.

But it definitely flies!

All right, as you were people: Uber has bought a helicopter and are entering the executive city to airport transfer market. We haven’t just stepped in to an episode of Buck Rogers after all.

What is it about using the word “car” as a suffix that makes us suspend our normal analytical skills?

Other examples include electric cars, i.e. coal-fired cars, unless the national grid has gone 100% renewable, and self-driving cars, which have about as much chance of being approved today in most jurisdictions as single malt whisky would be if alcohol was a new drug and needed to apply for a licence

Yet here we are, with gushing news articles telling us about the revolutionary future we are entering because, I dunno, boats amphibious cars have just been invented or some such drivel.

Bill’s Opinion

The only revolution that will make any tangible dent in the current economics of public or private transport is the realisation of the autonomous vehicle dream.

Every other potential change involves the same quantum of input costs as the current version. Flying “cars” that still need a qualified pilot are going to be affordable to exactly the same people who currently use helicopters.

A car that uses battery power still requires the same amount of energy to overcome friction. Unless we’ve found a new source of energy, electric vehicles are simply an incremental change. And whatever we do, let’s not mention nuclear energy, by the way…. Green narratives need to be respected after all.

Autonomous vehicles, on the other hand, would remove the requirement for an expensive, error prone, wet computer in the driving seat.

Ironically, that’s the change we’re furthest from experiencing.

Sheep are concerned by the dimensions of the pasture, wolves aren’t

Oh, this is just exquisite:

Australians are among the world’s most likely to share dodgy articles online at a time when almost half of Generation Z uses social media as their main news source and Google’s YouTube surges in popularity.

Says who?

Oh, The Digital News Report by the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre.

The University of Canberra has a News and Media Research Centre?

When you get the call to evacuate Planet Golgafrincham, be very worried if you’re assigned a berth on the same Ark as anyone from that faculty.

This quote by Dr. Fisher is unintentionally hilarious:

“But consistently over the five years it also very much does depend on the source of news you use and those who rely on traditional – offline platforms, TV, newspapers – they have higher trust in news generally than people who rely on online sources,” she said. “That hasn’t shifted.”

Admittedly, without bothering to look at the same data as Dr. Fisher, I’d like to offer an alternate assessment and conclusion:

People who actively seek out information from diverse sources become very cynical towards the uniform reporting of the legacy media.

Bill’s Opinion

One wonders whether the good Doctor Fisher and her students have ever heard of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?

Wouldn’t it be just so beautifully ironic if they hadn’t?

Free speech for me, but not for thee

Those readers not familiar with Australia’s iteration of Common Law might be surprised freedom of speech is not enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

Precedent case law is not particularly helpful either to those believing we should be free to say what’s on our mind, limited only by the restriction of not inciting violence.

In fact, Federal legislation takes things even further in the opposite direction, with clause 18.C of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act legislating against “offensive behaviour” based on “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”. Note, religion isn’t currently in that list.

There are further restrictions in State laws, this being the NSW example. The term “vilify” is used a lot in these versions of free speech restrictive laws.

“Vilify” isn’t a verb we tend to use much in our everyday lives, so our common understanding of its definition might be a little shaky. The Victorian version of free speech restriction law defines it as conduct that ‘incites hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule’.

…which is, frankly, a blank cheque for any politically-motivated judge presiding over a case. “Severe ridicule“, for example, could be used to describe most comedy, particularly political satire. And what’s the standard separating “severe” from simply “mild” ridicule?

Note also how the standard for the definition is the reaction in other people. Most laws have a punishment for your direct actions, yet this legislation punishes for possible future actions of others as a reaction to your action.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Further evidence that this is not the place to look for brave defence and defenders of the freedom of speech is depressingly simple to find. Examples;

Queen’sland University students hounded by the press for Facebook comments they didn’t write.

Foreign entertainers Milo Yianopolous, Gavin McInnes and political activist Tommy Robinson banned from entering the country because of their speech.

Clearly we are playing in a different ball game to the USA’s First Amendment. A different sport on a different planet, in fact.

However, our brave journalistic class are currently twisting their pinafores in angst and distress over a recent raid of the state broadcaster by the Federal police following publication of leaked classified information.

Let me just run that by you again; the government police are investigating the government news agency.

Oh look, a squirrel!

Here were are though, in 2019, finally seeing our brave media types getting behind a moral cause they are prepared to die in a ditch defending.

Slow hand clapWell played sir, well played”.

Geoffrey Robinson probably makes the best fist of explaining why the raid was on shaky moral ground, why it wouldn’t happen in the USA and UK and a defence of the media’s right to publish military secrets but, frankly, he completely fails to mention all the reasons we’ve arrived here in the first place, such as the media and legal professions’ failure to defend the little erosions of free speech over the years.

By trying to invent a right to “not be offended”, we’ve reduced the right of free speech, the consequences of which are playing out every day as hate speech laws are subjectively enforced. How else can they be enforced but subjectively, when the definition of “offence” is such a personal one?

Bill’s Opinion

Defending free speech is pretty virtueless if you only ever defend the speech with which you agree.

There is no Morality Olympics Gold Medal for only speaking up when your team is attacked. Nobel Peace Prizes aren’t usually as easy as Obama’s was to attain.

I have two questions to all those in the media who suddenly think free speech is important;

1. Where the fuck have you been for the last few decades? And,

2. Do you really think fighting for your right to publish illegally-leaked military secrets is going to be the best test case to take to appeal to reverse free speech restrictions, compared to say, defending some camp clown who writes hurty tweets on the internet?

Reagan, journalists and weed

This is Ronald Reagan’s quip on the attitude governments have to business;

If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

With this axiom, we can be certain the end has come for the once never noble profession of journalism.

Philanthropist Judith Neilson to fund a $100m institute for journalism in Sydney. Note the irony of the Gruaniad having to get the begging bowl out at the bottom of that article.

She’s a billionaire, so $100m is just the loose change down the back of the sofa, but seriously? $100m to train people in a job that produces a product nobody trusts and therefore doesn’t want to pay for any more? This is surely the epitome of the concept of “having more money than sense”.

At least the money being pissed up the wall is her own. Over in Canadia, the country that used to be home to people who were tough enough to thrive in a climate even polar bears find depressing but is now the world’s epicentre of thumb-sucking social justice, the government of Justin Trudeau have spunked $600m to help their preferred news outlets to survive a little longer.

The temptation with these two stories of insanity is to point to industries that don’t need subsidies to survive but, when one starts to look for them, they are very thin on the ground.

Here in Australia, through combinations of direct financial subsidies, tax breaks or artificially high barriers to entry, one could make the case that almost every industry sector benefits from government largesse. Examples that would immediately appear on a Google search would include banking, (the late) car manufacturers, mining, fossil fuel energy, green energy, farming (try buying an imported banana), real estate, electronics retail, childcare, taxis and even national sports.

Probably the only sectors not benefiting from welfare for business are the illegal ones. Coincidentally, the price of marijuana has not increased with CPI and, in fact, has fallen.

Bill’s Opinion

Nobody wants any more journalists. If rich individuals want to waste their money subsidising journalism, so be it, but keep your damn hand out of my wallet.

Oh, and I’m out of Rizlas.

Man made pollution

Peter “weather is climate” Hannan is back on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald with the shocking news that Sydney is enveloped in smoke this week.

The smoke is a result of preventative burning by the State Government department responsible for managing the risk of dangerous bush fires. It’s an annual occurrence everyone who’s lived there is completely used to.

Consider then, the headline and stub offered; 

Yes, technically a deliberately-lit fire in the bush is a bushfire, but it’s not the same as an out of control, random event destroying lives and property. As for the ambient temperature in Sydney right now…. near-record warmth isn’t the most persuasive language that could be employed, is it Mr. Hannan?

Apparently, Peter Hannan was nearly an Olympic sprinter, nearly a more successful rock musician than Keith Richards and nearly a respected journalist writing about science.

There’s more language obfuscation fun to be had in his column, as is his idiom; 

Almost eight degrees above the May average. Students of statistics might wish to comment on what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from the information that a data point is higher or lower than the average of a range of data points (clue: the only conclusion that can be drawn is that you need to see more contextual data about the data range and standard deviations before you can draw a conclusion).

It was also the second warmest day this late in year season (sic) on record for Sydney, exceeded only by the 28 degree reading on May, 225, 1994.

We could read that as good news, couldn’t we? In 25 years, we’ve still not beaten the highest recorded temperature. Trend much?

Bill’s Opinion

Back burning is a good idea if you’d like people to not die from bush fires (most of which are deliberately set by arsonists or accidents, by the way, somewhat ruining Peter’s usual assertion that climate change causes bush fires).

Warm weather that doesn’t break records isn’t news.

Stop playing truant, Greta fucking Thunberg.

Hey BBC, we’re not on the Julian Calendar either

We can all thank the British taxpayers for funding both the Meteorology Office that wrote this press release and the BBC that published it without engaging their brain (or perhaps they were knowingly participating in obfuscation):

It shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but it seems we must;

According to the Metonic cycle, the Paschal Full Moon falls on a recurring sequence of 19 dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. Since Easter happens on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon, it can fall on any date between March 22 and April 25 (years 1753-2400).

Therefore, Easter Monday this year is only 2 days earlier than the latest possible date it could be. In the northern hemisphere, this means it’s up to four weeks closer to summer than many of the previous occurrences.

Presumably there are other news articles hiding from a Google search bemoaning the record cold in the Southern Hemisphere this Easter Monday?

Bill’s Opinion

These people are either fools or knaves.

As Carl Benjamin pointed out at his hilarious press conference last week, the BBC has a one star rating for trust on the TrustPilot review site. One can’t think why.