Ockham’s first law of activism

As prosperity increases, the supply of injustices fails to meet demand. This results in a tendency to attempt to fight the previous generation’s battles as if they had not already been won.

We’re in a legal mood this week. Yesterday, Sailer’s First Law of Female Journalism, today we have one of our own.

When I was growing up, kids used to read weekly comic books. In England, a popular comic book for boys was “The Victor”, consisting mainly of tales of Allied Forces’ bravery between 39 and 45. It was highly persuasive to a young boy’s brain, I definitely thought the idea of fighting in WW2 was cool.

I’m sure this type of thinking probably guided a mate of mine in his life decisions right up to the moment he suffered PTSD when being evacuated from HMS Sheffield. I also wonder if other friends ever questioned whether Belfast kids chucking rocks at them whilst on patrol along the Falls Road were not quite analogous an experience as shooting at SS officers shouting “Gott in Himmel!” and “achtung Tommy!” as they’d first hoped for when signing up for duty.

Of course, some battles are truly inter-generational in duration; the battle to defeat world poverty, for example, has been with us forever and only now seems to have a possible end in sight, Kung Flu self-induced recessions notwithstanding.

If one views the world through the suggested First Law of Activism filter, the thankless task of trying to make sense of some of the insanity playing out in the media and social media becomes a little easier.

The increasing trend of ascribing to the evils of racism any disparity in outcome or perceived slight becomes far more rational when viewed in the context that these people are actually fighting the problems of their parents’ age. Without a Hitler or an Apartheid to fight, we are faced with the choice of either searching for the next worse problem to solve or we must pretend we’ve not already won.

If you’re pulling on the virtual armour to campaign to rename “Coon Cheese” because, despite it being the surname of the founder, it used to be an offensive noun for black people, you may have been a victim of Ockham’s First Law of Activism. By the way, I’ve personally not heard it used since perhaps the late 1970s, I suspect you’d have to explain the context to most people born since the 1980s.

In the meantime, there’s compelling evidence of an actual genocide taking place in the same longitude as Australia, which one can only assume bothers these people far less than the cheese. We could point to other egregious wrongs to be righted but what’s the point? If your efforts are being focused on the name of a cheese, we’ve either solved all the major human rights issues globally or you’re suffering from a problem of prioritisation.

With this context, let’s look at a current active example:

Background; in Australia, kids get fed “fairy bread” at parties. It’s basically white bread with butter and coloured candy sprinkles.
Don’t judge. It’s been a tradition for decades.

A week or so ago, a petition appeared campaigning to rename it because it’s offensive to, well, fairies, I suppose. Now, one could read that last sentence and roll your eyes whilst sighing about crazy wokistanis getting vicariously offended on behalf of other people (or “vifence” as we call it here). Alternatively, even a cursory investigation would suggest to most people with a IQ above the temperature of a baby’s bath water that this petition is a mildly amusing prank.

One clue is offered by the following post from the petition’s author, who happens to share the same name as a type of locally sold sofa:

A journalist at News.com.au didn’t bother checking though and fell for it. That’s hardly surprising, we’ve not been sending the greatest minds of our generation into that industry for quite some time.

The comments under the petition are perhaps the most illuminating. There’s clearly a huge number of people who got the joke and are playing along with it. However, there’s not an insignificant number who didn’t realise it was a spoof AND agreed with the “injustice” it described (offending fairies by naming sugary bread in their honour) enough to write a comment of support and signing in their own name.

Bill’s Opinion

Comedy is a cultural Rorsach Test.

People not realising the petition was a joke is to be accepted as normal. There are multiple conditions described in the DSM-5 which result in the sufferer being unable to comprehend and engage with humour. Paranoid personality disorder (PPD), for example, affecting up to 2.5% of the population.

Not realising it was a spoof AND agreeing with the seriousness of the “injustice” to the point where you’d sign it and add a comment of support suggests a different type of mental illness altogether.

In the meantime, have some sympathy for the mental prisons in which poor Vivienne, Janette and Roseanne are existing. If they’ve spotted the joke and are playing along, they’re not very good at humour:

Hot dog, boiling frogs, Albuquerque

We’ve all got different limits.

In the film Falling Down, the main character reaches his after a long and difficult day when a store owner refuses to give change to make a telephone call.

For Britons, perhaps it’s the passing of this law later today, banning “non essential” overseas travel, at almost the precise point the herd/vaccine immunity makes itself clear on the offical statistics.

Sorry. WHAT?

Over the 806 years of Common Law, the principle has been consistent: if something isn’t explicitly banned, it’s allowed. Look at how lightly the current crop of politicians are prepared to flip that on its head.

Previously, if a citizen (synonym; “free man“) wished to travel overseas, they would only be prevented for a small list of reasons such as to flee prosecution for a criminal offence, or there was a reasonable expectation they were intending to commit an offence overseas (child abuse, for example).

In 2021, we now have just ten reasons a citizen can cite to not be detained in domestic captivity.

These reasons are listed below, you’ll read them and think, that’s reasonable.

But you’d be wrong. Dead fucking wrong.

It’s so unreasonable, it justifies outrage. Not violence, we’re not there yet, but we should be doing everything within in our capability to fire the people who thought this was a good day’s work in Westminster and never allow them to hold public office again.

If you’ve committed no crime, have no intention of committing a crime, perhaps you’ve even had the bloody vaccine like you were told to, who the fuck should be able to prevent you from departing the country?

Some wanky bureaucrat making a decision to hand out five grand fines at Dover because their interpretation of your reason to leave the country is that it isn’t good enough? Fuck off. Fuck right off.

Those ten reasons:

Study

Work

Weddings

Legal obligations

Moving, selling or renting property

Childcare or to be present at a birth

Visiting a dying relative

Attending a funeral

Medical appointments

Escaping a risk of harm

Bill’s Opinion

That last reason is a doozy.

It’ll be interesting to review the final wording of the act to look for the opportunity to cite, “taking a mental health break from an authoritarian government, operating for over a decade without a credible opposition, imposing arbitrary and unscientific laws on citizens” as a valid interpretation.

I no longer recognise my country of birth and its supine, compliant, frit citizens.

This is a country who produced someone capable of delivering this speech with a straight face and honest intentions. An iron curtain has indeed fallen across the continent.

Take it away Byron:

“England! with all thy faults I love thee still,”

I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;

I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;

I like the government (but that is not it);

I like the freedom of the press and quill;

I like the Habeas Corpus (when we’ve got it);

I like a parliamentary debate,

Particularly when ’tis not too late;

I like the taxes, when they’re not too many;

I like a seacoal fire, when not too dear;

I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;

Have no objection to a pot of beer;

I like the weather, when it is not rainy,

That is, I like two months of every year,

And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!

Which means that I like all and everything.

Our standing army, and disbanded seamen,

Poor’s rate, Reform, my own, the nation’s debt,

Our little riots just to show we are free men,

Our trifling bankruptcies in the Gazette,

Our cloudy climate, and our chilly women,

All these I can forgive, and those forget,

And greatly venerate our recent glories,

And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

Betteridge’s Law of Wokery

The Buccaneers embody Tampa’s love of pirates. Is that a problem?

No.

But wait, there’s more:

When the National Football League expanded to 28 teams in 1973, the league awarded Tampa an expansion team, prompting a name-the-team contest in 1975. “Buccaneers” won, a reference to the pirates who frequented the coasts of Florida in the 17th and 18th centuries. But team executives wanted the logo to be a “classy” pirate — a cross between Robin Hood, Errol Flynn, the musketeer D’Artagnan and pirate Jean Lafitte. It was a logo the team maintained until 1997 when they switched to a more aggressive, menacing Jolly Roger.

The last time the Jolly Roger was aggressive and menacing rather than a mildly amusing children’s joke, the year started with “18”.

Yet, while this celebration of piracy seems like innocent fun and pride in a local culture, there is danger in romanticizing ruthless cutthroats who created a crisis in world trade when they captured and plundered thousands of ships on Atlantic trade routes between the Americas, Africa and Great Britain.

Stop right there. Just stop.

Why? Because it takes these murderous thieves who did terrible things — like locking women and children in a burning church — and makes them a symbol of freedom and adventure, erasing their wicked deeds from historical memory. These were men (and women) who willingly participated in murder, torture and the brutal enslavement of Africans and Indigenous peoples.

Ok, there we go. You’re a racist. We’re all racist.

Is there a Microsoft Word macro thingy to run to automatically churn this formulaic bollocks out?

Start Menu/Setttings/System Updates/Install Microsoft Word Wokerator Plug-in.

There then follows a potted summary of some selected elements of nautical history, utterly irrelevant to a game of American Football.

Perhaps time has dulled us to the atrocities committed by these 17th and 18th century outlaws. Or perhaps it’s the fact that if pirates of the Golden Age were bloodthirsty, so too were the nations who opposed them. They willingly and purposefully massacred millions of African and Indigenous peoples in the name of colonization. Pirates, then, are seen as romantic heroes — the underdogs fighting the establishment — whom historian Marcus Rediker refers to as proto-democratic, egalitarian and multicultural.

Should we celebrate their complicated legacy? It’s a question Tampa Bay has to contend with as we collectively contemplate other major sports mascots with dubious legacies, like their Super Bowl rivals in Kansas City.

Bill’s Opinion

Don’t invite Jamie H. Goodall to a Superbowl Party and for fucksake don’t ask for her opinion about Halloween.

Mostly peaceful

The online world is a bit of a dumpster fire this week, with everyone with an opinion feeling uninhibited enough to let us know their hot take on the situation, with the added not insignificant bonus of publicly demonstrating their virtue.

Careful observers with memories longer than a few months might spot some slight inconsistencies in these public opinions, however.

For example, those who are loudly proclaiming on their soshal mejia accounts the Trump supporters breaking into The Capitol was an attempted coup yet didn’t speak up against any of the following:

  • The four year campaign to impeach the President on the basis of an election “hacked” by Russia which, after an expensive taxpayer funded investigation, turned out to be a big nothingburger,
  • The nightly Antifa riots in Portland, the destruction of the city centre and the implementation of a lawless “autonomous zone”,
  • The nightly attacks on the Portland courthouse,
  • The invasion of the Senate by anti-Brett Kavanaugh protesters,
  • The riots across the USA and looting of department stores in the name of BLM,
  • BLM and Antifa threatening diners in restaurants and suburban residents in their homes.

Given time and motivation, we could continue to list multiple examples of illegal and violent protest over the last four years, and undertake the offence archeology on the accounts of those who were silent then, vocal now. People are doing this for high profile names such as Alexandria Occasionally Correct with amusing results.

But for the average person, you, for example, what’s the standard you’ve demonstrated? Have you applied the same principles when your team screwed up as when the other side did?

If you didn’t, what does that make you?

Bill’s Opinion

In the few jurisdictions where it still exists, your freedom of speech should be unaffected by your record of subjective and partisan commentary.

That statement notwithstanding, your inability to apply objective standards and principles and your lack of courage to do so in public massively reduces your credibility.

You may exercise your freedom of speech to attempt to persuade us that, despite the long history of coup attempts and successful coups around the world, an unarmed raggle taggle bunch of cosplay Davy Crockets entering a building is a clear and present danger to the world’s most powerful military force. We, however, will judge those twitterings in the context of your previously demonstrated commitment to consistency.

My view on the events in The Capitol are that it was illegal and the rule of law must be maintained. That was also my view on the looting during the summer of BLM, the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, and all of the other illegal acts we witnessed last year but were given a free pass by many for reasons of political expediency.

I suggest this is a time for a long look in the mirror in case the Nietzsche quote applies to you:

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

England, for all thy faults I love thee still

“I said at Calais, and have not forgot it”

But, bloody hell:

One front page, two moments of utter disconnect with the country I thought I had left versus what it seems to have become.

The first point of astonishment is with the fact that a Conservative government is instructing citizens to inform the police if their neighbours are meeting with more than 5 people.

Is that what the English have become, a nation of cowering dibber dobbers hiding behind their curtains furtively whispering down the phone to Plod because some people are freely associating with each other?

Then we look at the picture to the right of that news item and see a rugby club kneeling á la BLM to commemorate a murdered police officer. Fuck me, there’s a lot going on in that photo, none of it having any semblance of internal logical consistency however.

Bill’s Opinion

The UK is suffering terribly with Covid19 in all ways except medically.

As for bidding farewell to a murdered team mate by assuming the symbolism of a self-declared Marxist racist American organisation; perhaps the most charitable thing we can say about East Grinstead RFC is they are poorly-informed utter twats.

“On the beach” in Australia and New Zealand

Here is the plot summary of a 1959 film you may not have watched or indeed heard of. It has a stellar cast, including Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins.

I have a vague memory of watching this on BBC 2 one rainy Sunday afternoon in the late 1970s.

On The Beach

In early 1964, in the months following World War III, the conflict has devastated the entirety of the Northern Hemisphere, killing all humans after polluting the atmosphere with nuclear fallout. Air currents are slowly carrying the fallout south; the only areas still habitable are in the far reaches of the Southern Hemisphere.

….The Australian government arranges for its citizens to receive suicide pills or prepared injections so they may end their lives quickly before there is prolonged suffering from radiation sickness.

…..Within a few days, the last pockets of humanity are dead. The empty, windblown streets of Melbourne are punctuated by the rise of dramatic, strident music over a single powerful image of a previously seen Salvation Army street banner: “There is still time…Brother”.

“How, pray tell, does this have any relevance today?”, you may ask.

Well, the movie is based on a time disparity between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres in terms of their consequences from the nuclear war. It’s happened up north and they’ve taken the pain, whilst the south is watching and waiting for the inevitable impact to arrive.

At the time of writing, Australia’s official death toll from Covid19 is 208 and New Zealand has had just 22 deaths. The USA, meanwhile, is 157,000.

Well done Antipodeans, eh?

Hmm. Depends, doesn’t it.

The first point to note is ALL data on Covid19 is utterly unreliable for the purpose of comparison. Not only are deaths reported differently across countries, but rates of testing is nowhere nearly equal, and local circumstances are wildly different too.

The USA numbers with New York removed are very similar to other countries with good health care systems. What happened in New York? Only the minor issue of old people being relocated from hospital to aged care facilities without being confirmed as free from infection.

Imagine the movie On The Beach with a slightly changed plot where the north didn’t get wiped out but took a bad (say about 200,000 deaths) and immediate hit and then the south were told they would have to suffer the same relative fate (so, about 5,500 deaths in Australia and about 1,200 for New Zealand) BUT must decide when they would take it.

What would Australia and New Zealand decide?

Bill’s Opinion

A friend of mine recently posted the economic data from Sweden on social media, claiming that people who were happy to kill off the old and infirm for the sake of the economy had been proved wrong.

That’s the false dichotomy fallacy. I’ve never met anyone who wants to sacrifice members of the community for the sake of the economy.

I’m aware, therefore, my question above asking what Australia and New Zealand might do if told they’d have to accept 5,500 and 1,200 deaths respectively is also a fake dichotomy. By delaying the pain, both countries have learned lessons from Governor Andrew Cuomo other countries and could now make a third choice of re-opening their economies with very specific and targeted actions to protect the vulnerable.

However, we aren’t seeing this level of nuanced discussion being had in either country. Instead, we are still acting as if a tacit target of zero infections exists. It is my opinion this is delaying the inevitable.

Meanwhile, a new report in Science Magazine suggests T cell immunity to coronavirus already exists in many people and therefore the “herd immunity” (remember that policy?) could be far lower than previously thought.

So, while Head Girl Jacinda and Property Scotty vacillate on how to break bad news, please don’t gas yourself in the garage with your sports car.

Every problem has a solution

The culture war has come for England rugby supporters; calls to ban “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” as it is cultural appropriation.

Bill’s Opinion

This former frequenter of Twickenham Stadium does not appreciate being “told” to do or not do things.

You can try politely asking me, of course.

In the meantime, even if you aren’t a rugby fan, it might be worth tuning in to the next fixture just to watch how precisely they think they’ll enforce this ban, particularly when the fans could legitimately wear these to cover their mouths:

Cradle to grave

It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be REDUCED to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours?… Was he, then, ALONE in the possession of a memory?

Some of are us may be old enough to remember, all those long years ago, when the official line was the following:

Bill’s Opinion

If 2020 has no other positive consequences than a massive realisation that the government isn’t your Mum or Dad, perhaps that’s enough.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Faulty maps have brought the earth to a halt

Caught between the twisted stars the plotted lines the faulty map that brought Columbus to New York

Betwixt between the East and west he calls on her wearing a leather vest, the earth squeals and shudders to a halt.

“Romeo had Juliette” Lou Reed

The Drake Equation was created by Dr. Frank Drake. From wiki:

The Drake equation is a probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.

The equation relies on 7 variables to produce the answer to the question, how many alien civilisations are there out there?

The 7 variables are:

R∗ = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy.

fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets.

ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets.

fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point.

fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations).

fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

Depending on the estimated values of each of these variables, we find that the number of alien civilisations in the universe sits somewhere in a range between zero and 50 million.

Let me repeat that. Between zero to 50 million.

So, the Drake Equation is an interesting intellectual exercise but of absolutely no use in determining any kind of tangible action to be taken. We’re not going to start sending Matthew McConaughay out light years away to make contact. Similarly, it’s probably a waste of time and resources building global defences against invading Martians.

Which brings us to the infamous Imperial College computer model used to produce the report which the UK and many other world governments relied on to determine their response to the China Flu.

Spoiler alert; the model is shit.

You didn’t need a programming expert to tell you that though, the evidence is flooding in from around the globe.

The model’s predictions are falling apart wherever we look. Hospitals are not overwhelmed anywhere. No, not even in New York City.

Awkwardly, Sweden seems to have magically saved tens of thousands of predicted fatalities despite ignoring the report’s recommended actions.

The holy church of the UK’s National Health Service is being applauded every Thursday evening like an inverse Emmanuel Goldstein whilst having barely any of the predicted volume of patients.

What’s going on? Well, one possible explanation is that we’ve made the biggest peacetime policy decision ever, based on shit maths.

How shit? Really fucking shit.

But it’s ok though, no need worry, the UK government have a plan out of this mess. Boris Johnson is basing his decisions to release the public and economy on the “R number”.

Great!

Curious minds might have one or two questions perhaps, such as:

What is the R number currently, and how is it measured?

To which the answers are, dunno and using guesswork.

Bill’s Opinion

The infamous pederast, John Maynard Keynes, said, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?“.

My current opinion is that the initial responses to close borders and enforce some restrictions on public gatherings was correct and rational behaviour in the face of a new virus that has reached pandemic status.

However, the justification given for these suspensions of freedom was that we couldn’t afford to overwhelm our hospitals.

Tick. We didn’t overwhelm the hospitals.

It is not at all clear how using the R number as a reason to release restrictions can be reconciled to that original justification.

If we have managed to flatten the curve (remember when that phrase was fashionable?), it doesn’t mean the area beneath the curve has reduced. To be clear; the same number of infections and deaths occur under every model where hospitals are not overwhelmed.

Has any politician had the cojones to come out and say that yet? Of course not.

And this is the problem; going into lockdown was easy by comparison with the political courage required to end it.

As the Chinese (oh, the irony) proverb says:

He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount.

Risky business

Over the last few decades, there has been a proliferation and expansion of career categories and roles within large organisations, many of which add dubious value to their stakeholders.

Examples might include the exponential growth of the previously named “Personnel” department; the size of the Human Resources’ departments as a ratio of the entire company has generally expanded exponentially since, say, the 1980s.

This spawned the utterly pointless diversity military industrial complex, based mainly on a ridiculous 1989 essay by Peggy McIntosh.

Another example, perhaps less obvious, is the Risk department.

Financial institutions in particular, have an increasing footprint of staff with “Risk” in their job title. For those who have been lucky enough to not work with these people, “risk” is a code for “no responsibilities“.

Being a “risk professional” means never having to be accountable for anything.

That might sound like an inflammatory statement but it’s easily empirically-checked; there have been plenty of documented failure in organisations’ risk management over the last few years. Examples include Wokepac’s Paedophile Enablement Programme, CBA’s Mafia Laundry Scheme, and dozens of leaks of personal data by private and public sector organisations.

How many of those resulted in the resignation or firing of the most senior risk officer? Perhaps you could let us know in the comments if any “risk professional” lost their job as a consequence.

The Audit team, at least, serve a useful purpose of checking compliance occurred as required for critical activities. By contrast, the Risk team are generally worse than useless as they advise on avoiding things that might happen. Proving they have helped is an impossible task as it is like proving a negative; the car didn’t crash because we took the keys from you.

Risk is one of those departments capable of parthenogenesis. Decades ago, risk was mainly a safety or financial function; what can we do to not kill workers or how do we hedge against this financial transaction going to shit?

These days though, all sorts of risks are documented in Excel spreadsheets or expensive software products that are just glorified versions of spreadsheets. Risk “professionals” in a crappy mediocre retail bank pretend they can somehow quantity geopolitical risks or mitigate for earthquakes in Indonesia by facilititing post-it note workshops and acting like over-promoted junior police officers bullying and pestering those people whose job it is to actually generate revenue.

The science behind risk management is complete bollocks. Depending on which source you select, you’ll be shown a complicated methodology which pretends it can somehow grade probability and impact to provide a credibility-lite relative score of the risks to the organisation.

Of course, with all models, the input parameters and assumptions behind the calculations are critical to the likely accuracy of the result they give. GIGO – garbage in, garbage out.

The people in these risk roles are never impressive individuals either. As with any kind of critic, they are most likely providing feedback on people whose job they simply couldn’t do themselves.

Those who can, do.

Those who can’t, teach.

Those who can’t even teach, measure risk”.

An classic example comes to mind from my recent experience in an Australian bank. My interlocutor was a chap who seemingly had made a career out of being deeply unpleasant.

In one of those frequent coincidences with ugly personalities, he was also physically repulsive; no chin, terrible dentistry, a lopsided face (think Thom York without the talent). Better still, he suffered from extreme rhoticism; he pronounced “th” as “f” or “v” and “r” as “w”.

Hi, I’m ve genewal manager of wisk and I fink we must gwade vese wisks“.

We once had an illuminating conversation over a corporate slide deck; there was wholesome picture of a young child on scooter. The kid was wearing a helmet and open-toed shoes. We had an argument about which was the greater problem.

My view; it’s almost certain the kid will rip her foot whilst scooting.

His view; if she bangs her head she might suffer a brain injury.

He seemed somewhat offended when I asked him how many children he had (spoiler alert; none, and little chance of that changing).

So how did it go for us, corporately and in government, with this massive army of risk managers keeping us safe?

Bill’s Opinion

Just as the lawyers of the world mainly missed writing the word “pandemic” in their definition of Force Majeure, the Risk team in most organisations have completely failed to do their job.

Of course, the most likely response to this will be to hire more, not fewer/better risk managers.

Wince and wepeat.