Manchurian OpEds part liǎng

Do you hate your country? Do you despise it’s history? Do you believe it was founded on dishonest principles by people who were evil? Is this loathing so great that you wish to see our enemies thrive and our country decline?

Ridiculous questions, right?

Most, if not almost every citizen of a first world country would not agree with the sentiments above. Sure, your country has a mixed past, with shameful episodes but, judged against its contemporary peers, most people would suggest the balance is tipped towards a favourable report card.

To sustain that level of self-loathing (or loathing of your country) would require a deliberate effort to ignore the relative positive differences between your day to day life and most other places in the world and, almost as importantly, the relative differences between your life and those of every one of your ancestors.

Walter Duranty was one such exception. He deliberately misled the public (and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for it!) about Stalin’s reign of terror. History should judge critically those useful idiots who are prepared to wilfully ignore mass murder and state-sanctioned famine for the vague promises of a future utopia.

A quote, possibly falsely attributed to Duranty but certainly used by other apologists for the Soviets explains, “In order to make an omelette, you have break a few eggs”. The correct response to which, is of course, that offered by George Orwell and Panait Istrati, “Where’s the omelette?”.

Or, more specifically, “where’s the omelette you made by murdering 100,00,000 humans?

We examined in the previous post how a supposedly objective finance newspaper in Australia is prepared to publish, without challenge, several hundred words imploring us to change our institutions and way of life, written by sources highly likely to be under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party.

It gets worse, though. If our problem was just one compromised editorial team on one newspaper, we might not have such a big problem.

The chances are, our universities are riddled with people under direct or indirect influence of the Chinese Communist Party. An obvious Manchurian Candidate would be Professor Golley of the ANU.

The short version of the linked story is she relied heavily on CCP propaganda disguised as independent research to downplay the brutal humanitarian crimes being committed agains the Uighurs. When confronted, she then doubled down on the apologist standpoint.

Let’s pluck some quotes, in her own words, offered as her defence:

So that’s where I used my academic judgement, I’ve spent my whole life peer-reviewing articles. I read it and thought that there many points that make sense to me.

Because the article you referenced was so favourable to the CCP it should have made you consider its source and authenticity. “Inquiry” being the keystone of academia, after all.

“I know more about <the Uighur region> Xinjiang than Pompeo, I don’t want to sound cocky but I know more than what 99 per cent of Australians know about Xinjiang.”

Consider the possibility you don’t know more about morality than 99% of Australians, however.

“There are all sorts of fuzzy lines between what constitutes forced and what constitutes choice – what if 30 per cent of Uighers are choosing to work?”

She really said that out aloud.

Professor Golley said she still did not know the authors of the paper but defended their right to submit the paper to her anonymously via proxies saying they would be “persecuted” if exposed.

No alarm bells were harmed in the receipt of this anonymous report.

When the names come out there will be some Chinese names in the list and people will immediately assume that they’ve been subjected to Beijing’s orders when it might be the case that that’s just how they see the world and then they’ll be persecuted – they’re going to be labelled spies.”

People living in a country with an appalling human rights record tend to be loudly and publicly sympathetic to the regime. This should not be a surprise to someone whose career has been built on detailed knowledge of an authoritarian regime. A curious mind might ask questions, however.

Last year ANU was the victim of a massive data hack, with China considered the culprit. But Golley said she had seen little evidence of any foreign interference at the ANU. “There’s some evidence of it, we don’t know how widespread it is,” she said. “This is another example of needing to be very clear-eyed about the facts.”

Quite right, it was probably Bhutan or Andorra.

She said she had never been paid a single cent by the Chinese Communist Party but that had failed to stem an avalanche of “hate mail” “close to death threats” telling her to “f— off, you communist spy,” and calling her a “shill” for China.

This feels like it could be easily proven by listing the source of all research funding from which she’s benefited, and while we’re at it, the funding for the various international conferences she’s attended. I’ll wait.

“I feel so misjudged, if people knew me, I just want the best for the Uighurs,” she said.

Even those who have benefited from free “family planning services” or the 70% who didn’t choose to work.

She said her motivation for presenting the paper was a concern that academic freedom is being stifled in Australia but she is also concerned that exaggerating China’s human rights abuses could backfire if it emerged they were overstated.

We can all be concerned about academic freedom. Based on the evidence in front of us, she is still able to qualify for research grants and can also have her opinion written in national newspapers, one might conclude Australia isn’t the country stifling free speech. Who can name a country that is? Bueller? Anyone?

She also urged Australians to consider its own genocidal past against Indigenous Australians, saying while it did not justify abuses in Xinjiang it was not “completely irrelevant either”.

Straight out of the CCP playbook. Can anyone guess which we should consider more urgent, a crime committed 200 years ago by people long dead and crimes being committed right now by living humans?

“Sovereignty was never ceded,” she said of the British settlement of Australia as a penal colony in the late 1700s. “I’m revolted that the Australian War Memorial doesn’t have any memorial for the Frontier Wars.”

But is she revolted about the genocide and continuous human rights abuses by the CCP over the last seventy years to the present day? Not so much.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s almost no point being shocked or disgusted by the treasonous self-loathing of these people. You won’t change their minds.

Professor Golley hates you. She’s hates the country and system in which you live. She would be the first to denounce you to the secret police if the People’s Liberation Army ever marched into Australia.

She knows she is right and you are too stupid to be anything other than wrong.

Keep paying your taxes, as she needs to spend a few more years researching why Common Law and individual freedoms are not as righteous as the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

As for her academic freedom, here’s two recent sources suggesting most of our institutions are riddled with CCP influence; Spectator and Washington Examiner.


Finally, there is a special place in hell reserved for those who try to draw moral equivalence across generations.
People who looked like you did something terrible 200 years ago so how dare you criticise an actual living human for doing something terrible in the present”

Manchurian OpEds

You’d have to be deliberately obtuse to not recognise the nefarious influence China leverages across “western democracies” (for want of a better descriptor).

We wrote about some Australian examples here.

Without any proof whatsoever, I’m going to have a punt that this may be another example. Excuse the photo of the article, but it’s behind a paywall and I’m not prepared to pay:

Fans of Betteridge’s Law might want to consider a related variation resulting in the following answer to the headline’s question; “It won’t, you fool”. Let’s face it, if you believe China is credibly aiming at a carbon net zero scenario by 2060, I’ve got a harbour bridge you may like to buy.

If that also summarises your view on China’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord (our analysis of that devalued document here), you may wish to also focus in on the Hans Christian Andersen chart presented as authoritative:

CO2 production to peak in 9 years time and then fall quicker than a Premier League soccer player in the penalty box? Okaaaaay.

By the way; Source: CAIXIN. This CAIXIN? Excuse me if I express mild scepticism as to their ability to be objective whilst remaining on the preferred side of a Chinese prison wall.

There’s a lot to parse from the article, feel free to invest the time to read every word. Alternatively, here’s my TL:DR version:

The best way to ensure China achieves its international climate change commitments is for the entire global economy to implement a new form or carbon pricing based on my employer’s complicated computer modelling combined with increased public policy and regulatory rules. No, I’m not going to share the computer model nor what regulatory and policy rules should be imposed.

So, who is Peng Wengsheng, what does his employer do and who’s behind them?

Dr Peng Wensheng is managing director, global chief economist and head of research at CITIC Securities….. Dr Peng was born in 1966 in Anhui Province, China. He received a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Nankai University in 1986, and continued to study at the postgraduate school of the People’s Bank of China. He received a Master’s degree in banking and finance and PhD in economics at the University of Birmingham in England in 1988 and 1993 respectively. Dr Peng is an adjunct professor at Tsinghua University and Nankai University, and was voted first and second in the area of macroeconomic research for China by “Asia Money” and “Institutional Investor” consecutively in 2013 and 2014.”

CITIC Securities Co., Ltd. is a Chinese full-service investment bank. It offers services in underwriting, research, brokerage, asset management, wealth management, and investment advisory. CITIC Securities was established in 1995 and it is headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.”

Any other information regarding CITIC? Oh, this:

On August 25, 2015 the Chinese news media announced that several executives within CITIC Securities were under investigation for possible wrongdoing.

Bill’s Opinion

It is entirely possible Dr Peng’s opinions published without examination in The Australian Financial Review are written in good faith. It is also entirely possible his employers, CITIC Securities and the media group CAIXIN are operating freely and without influence from the Chinese Communist Party.

Let’s give a probability to these things shall we?

Your assessment may radically differ from mine but my view is a man who grew up in China, has spent all of his adult life in the pay of Chinese universities and Chinese banks and whose family presumably nearly all still live within the regime…. isn’t an objective commentator.

Similarly, no mater how motivated the CAIXIN media group or CITIC Securities executives are to be independent from the Chinese government, having one’s colleagues investigated would tend to focus the mind somewhat.

I’ll estimate there’s a less than 5% chance this isn’t a Chinese government endorsed, if not written, OpEd.

I actually don’t care that Peng and his employers are stooges. I’m more intrigued as to why the AFR published it without question.

Soccer Shocker

Yeah, I know; “football“. Do I sound like I care?

In the lull between now and the scheduled start of The 2nd American Civil War (due once the jury are back in the Derek Chauvin trial), we can enjoy the light entertainment resulting from a group of English, Spanish and Italian soccerball clubs deciding to form an elite and exclusive breakaway super league.

Before I explain my absolute delight at this, some personal background is required and a quick description of what’s being proposed.

I’m originally English, I grew up in a city with a team that sometimes made it to the top level of wendyball, sometimes it struggled to stay afloat two divisions below. I couldn’t care less as soccerball bored the living daylights out of me. My winter sport was rugby, both to play and to watch. The thought of paying the equivalent of about a day’s wages to watch 22 millionaires in nylon shirts roll around on the floor every few minutes pretending to have been shot by a sniper, and then, after an hour and a half, for there to have been no actual result or often even any goals scored by either team, seemed a somewhat perverse way to spend one’s Saturday afternoons. Football is dull. It’s fine as a way to get nerdy kids to do some exercise in primary school but, as something grown ups should spend time and money on, there are many better activities.

Obviously, that puts me in the minority of English sports fans but I think I’ll cope with the social stigma somehow.

Over in Europe, a group of the best teams (and Tottenham) have come together with a proposal to form a breakaway league. It would seem the proposal doesn’t seek contributions from taxpayers, isn’t requiring a change in any legislation, doesn’t break any existing laws, won’t require any special treatment and is, frankly, a bunch of private entities exercising their rights to do business with each other. Fair enough, it’ll either succeed or it won’t and we’re not impacted either way. The employees of the clubs also have a free right to continue working for their club or seek employment elsewhere.

I’ll look at the English reaction specifically, mainly because my Spanish and Italian comprehension is not much use outside of a restaurant menu. Some context about those six English clubs and the league they’ve been playing in for 20 years; it’s called the Premier League (or the English Premier League or EPL) and was formed in February 2001….. following a hostile split from the previous established league. So these clubs have form, they’ve simply decided to ditch half their partners in elopement from two decades ago. The reason for the previous schism? To enable a more focused split of the revenue from TV rights negotiations.

Let’s focus in on one of the English clubs (chosen at random); Liverpool. Of the 29 players in the first team squad, it looks like 8 or 9 would be eligible to play for England. The remainder are ex-pats from various footballing nations such as Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands, some African countries and, erm, Switzerland. Of the 8 English players, I counted two who were actually from the city of Liverpool.

For reasons so far not adequately described to us, the proposal to form a new league has made many people livid. Which people?

  • Both sides of politics; both Boris and Keith have made public statements condemning it and promising to find ways to prevent it,
  • All of the clubs who weren’t invited,
  • The existing leagues and governing bodies,
  • Current sports commentators,
  • Ex-players,
  • Some fans.

Ok, so why are they upset?

An easy motivation to understand for many of the list above to object to the new league is, as Upton Sinclair might say, their salaries. If the answer to the question, “How do I get paid?” isn’t “From the new super league“, then we can be fairly certain the uninvited clubs, leagues, governing bodies, commentators and ex-players aren’t providing us quite the objective analysis they would like us to believe. Someone with more time on their hands might want to trawl back twenty years and check what loud voices such as Gary Linekar were saying about the schism resulting in the Premier League, for example. They’ve probably forgotten, so it’s going to be delicious as these historic hot takes are unearthed.

The politicians are currently providing the richest source of comedy on this, regardless of how irrelevant their opinion on who kicks a ball to whom is:

The British Prime Minister, Boris, has followed up his wonderful year of libertarianism and championing of the free market by suggesting he’s looking for ways to prevent 6 privately-owned companies and 80 employees from choosing to do business with other similar organisations and exporting English services to the EU.

The Leader of the Opposition (in name only, based on his “more lockdown, and sooner” tactics), Keith, has similarly come out with messages of sympathy for the working class and national sport of football, demanding something is done to prevent those 80 multi-millionaire athletes from changing employers.

In theory, the fans should be the only voice of authority worth listening to. What is it they’re saying? Again, if they’re fans of the clubs who’ve been left behind they’re really pissed off. The themes I’ve seen tend to be complaining about the greed of the 6 clubs and their players. Others are complaining about the damage it will do to the sport at a national level but I’ve yet to hear a coherent explanation as to why this might be the case, particularly as the English national wendyball team has been unable to beat their way out of a wet paper bag in every competition they’ve played in since 1966.

Regardless of where one stands on the desirability or not of the proposed new league, what chance do the objectors have of preventing it and how might they score this goalpoint (see, I know all the technical lingo)?

It would seem the only way clubs could be prevented would be via heavy-handed and targeted legislation at a national level. Even that might be avoided by relocating to a different jurisdiction, these clubs are not without a few quid after all.

The players will have to balance the pay rise (or perhaps even avoiding the pay cut of staying in the new domestic competition) against an inability to play for their national team, as FIFA have stated they will be barred in future. However, anyone who believes FIFA will hold the line and do the right thing, has clearly not read any news about FIFA officials for many decades. After all, he who pays the FIFA, calls the tune….

None of these genius plans seem like particularly watertight tactics to prevent Soccxit ™.

Bill’s Opinion

Just like Brexit, this upsets nearly all the right people and exposes the logical inconsistencies in their reasoning. Hopefully it’s going to be as drawn out as Brexit with a similar end result, i.e. our “betters” get a bloody nose.

The arguments against a breakaway league from a league that started life as a breakaway league are, of course ridiculous.

The complaints of corporate greed are similarly stupid, particularly when made by people who see nothing wrong with three figure ticket prices for “dead rubber” fixtures and who also said nothing when the clubs issued their third change of official shirt in a 12 month period in a blatant cash grab from the punters for another 80 quid for a thin nylon shirt with a cost price of less than a tenner.

The argument that any English soccer player will give a flying fuck about not being able to play for the English national team makes sense in theory, but in practice there’s barely any eligible players at the six clubs today and the performances of the national side over the lifetime of most people reading this would suggest it’s not considered the career peak most regular fans might hope. I suspect for years many top level English players have secretly considered the Premiership or FA Cup as much more attractive competitions than a world cup. The pay cheque for those is still massive and the likelihood of achieving it is far greater.

Finally, the people who seem most exercised by this foray into Europe by those 6 English clubs are quite closely correlated with those who were least able to accept the democratic vote to leave the EU. My advice is buy a wheelbarrow full of popcorn and enjoy the spectacle of them trying to prevent the free movement of labour, capital and trade across European borders in an ever closer union.

Desperately seeking alpha

WilliamofOckham.com content generator and great friend of this organ, Jess Irvine has written another informative Facebook post on her child’s nursery chat group.

Before we get into it, let’s have a quick reminder of an important phenomenon; the Dunning Kruger Effect. This has been summarised thus:

“.…If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent … The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.

With that context in mind, let’s have a look at Jess’ genius Mumsnet story.

Jess tells us she’s knocking on the door of her 40th year and has never invested in stocks outside of her Superannuation fund, which presumably is managed by somebody else. I’m not sure this is the sort of admission a “Senior Economics Writer” should make in public. One would be sceptical of a surgeon who admitted to never actually holding a scalpel, after all.

But still, not one to be worried by inconveniences such as competence, capability or knowledge, Jess has announced she’s going to be sharing her top stock picks over the near future.

I may need to write a “Jess Irvine piss take bot” to cover these announcements.

The secret to Jess’s investing success starts, as with all of Jess’s advice, with a spreadsheet. To a man with a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

So, with the spreadsheet, she has categorised the stocks in the ASX into her own unique budget labels: housing, household, utilities, transport, food, health, education, appearance, lifestyle and professional fees.

Curious minds might wonder at this point, why Jess’s investing strategy is limited to the Australian exchange, especially as most major tech companies are on the NASDAQ and the world’s major corporations are listed in London or New York? Keep wondering, as we aren’t told. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with a lack of knowledge and experience.

If you’re paging down the column looking for the first stock pick, don’t bother, we’re being made to wait. After all, Jess doesn’t want to rashly splash her $10,000 on just any old crap.

Wait, didn’t I mention this entire column is to tell us that one day, sometime in the future, Jess may buy up to $10,000 worth of shares?

That’s not strictly true, she does manage to get a mention in about her astute purchase, at the last market peak, of a tiny Sydney apartment, which she now owns is renting from a bank and, that she’s got nearly $300,000 in her pension, which suggests she’s made three fifths of fuck all alpha on the principle over the 20 years she’s been paying in.

The only missing components of a classic Jess Irvine’s Mumsnet post are mention of her coming last in a marathon and having a baby. Plenty of time for that when the stock picks are shared though.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s no real way to confirm this but I’m going to wildly speculate about Jess Irvine, Senior Economics Writer at the Sydney Morning Herald:

  1. The only reason she has that job title is because of her gender. She could not, surely, have been the most qualified business and economics writer available to that newspaper.
  2. The ongoing requirement for the news desk to maintain diversity quotas has emboldened her to push this kind of pointless and, frankly, embarrassing writing on the editors and, being spineless, they roll over and publish it.
  3. All of Jess’s stock picks will rise at least 10% in value over the next year. This will be hailed as genius (self-assessed). proof of her financial acumen and mastery of a pivot table.

In the meantime, nearly everything on the ASX will rise 10% too, what else can it do in an era of central banks hitting CTRL P to infinity?

My advice is don’t take slimming advice from an overweight person and don’t take stock tips from the shoe shine girl.

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:

Hanlon a minute

Hanlon’s razor is a principle or rule of thumb that states “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

This describes my default position whenever I try to parse the statements of politicians. Only their words however, not their actions; the motivation behind these are usually painfully obvious as the trusty revealed versus expressed preferences test explains.

Politicians’ words are often a tricky minefield to navigate though. For example, should the public be wearing masks to combat the virus? Well, no AND yes and you’ll be fined if you don’t keep up with the changes.

Experience has taught me to use Hanlon’s Razor as a safe heuristic to quickly make sense of a politician’s pontificating. For a single statement made by a single politician, it’s rarely wrong. They’re all dumber than bag of hammers and usually a one off statement is simply that lack of intellect revealing itself in verbal form.

When several, seemingly unconnected, politicians make similar or even identical statements, we should probably consider being a little more sceptical of relying on Robert Hanlon’s shaving device.

For example; in the same 24 hour period, Boris Johnson claims lockdowns, not the world’s 2nd largest per capita vaccinated population, reduced deaths and Greg Hunt’s suggestion that, even if Australia ever got its shit together and vaccinated the population, we won’t be leaving the country for several years.

Well, aren’t we just living in a very connected world, eh? Two senior government officials on different sides of the globe decide to downplay the effectiveness of vaccines, one of whom has spent the previous 6 months reminding his country on a daily basis that “normality” would return once enough people had done their civic duty and had the vaccine.

Coincidence? Conspiracy? Collective incompetence? Cowardice?

Your guess is a good as mine.

The one thing we can probably bet the house on is we will not be getting on a plane to an overseas holiday or be welcoming friends and relatives from overseas any time soon, regardless of vaccination status, vaccination passports or any other factor.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s been too many of these coincidences to be ignored. From the lockstep changes over last year of every national leader’s position on masks, school closures, lockdowns, herd immunity, not overwhelming the hospitals and now the effectiveness of vaccinations, the pattern has become too obvious to be ignored.

Hanlon’s Razor suggests we should consider a kinder explanation before assuming bad intentions. My view on these frequent coincidences is now not that we have incompetent leaders, I’ve always assumed that, but they compound their stupidity with cowardice.

No democratic leader is going to risk being accused of having “blood on their hands” by returning those freedoms we used to believe were rights while there is a risk of a single death by this virus. Regardless of any other cost.

Lastly, if your income relies on incoming tourism or overseas visitors such as students, what would the rational response be to Greg Hunt’s latest statement?

Yep, close up and go do something, anything, else.

“I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if a million Australian hospitality workers cried out and were suddenly silenced

We sleep soundly at night…. redux

……because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.

Winston Churchill

Today is a lazy repost of this entry.

Why? Well if journalists are able to reprint the same story with new pictures but no additional evidence of war crimes, I’m allowed to recycle my response to their bullshit too.

Pretend fellatio in a bar describes pretty much every senior grade footy club everywhere in the world after 9pm on a Saturday night. If that’s a war crime, please send a postcard to my new address in The Hague.

I really have no idea what goes on in bars the SAS drink in after a day out on patrol being shot at with live ammunition but, unless they actually commit a crime in said bar, it’s their business and I thank them for their service.

So, feel free to re-read “We sleep soundly at night….”:

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith was photographed cheering on an American soldier drinking from the prosthetic leg of a suspected Afghan militant whose death is now the subject of a war crimes investigation into the war hero.

The world is divided in to exactly three types of people;

  1. Those who see the photo above and think, “so what?”,
  2. Those who see the photo above and think, “that’s disgusting, get the lawyers in The Hague on the blower”, and
  3. Those who see the photo above and think, “the infidel dogs in the west must die”.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have obtained two photographs that show Mr Roberts-Smith, the country’s most decorated living soldier, posing with the prosthetic leg which was used as a novelty drinking vessel.

Obtained” or, in English; “paid top dollar for“.

The photographs appear at odds with claims made by Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyer in the Federal Court last year that the war hero was utterly disgusted by the use of the leg as a drinking vessel. Lawyer Bruce McClintock stressed Mr Roberts-Smith “never drank from that thing … Because he thought it was disgusting to souvenir a body part, albeit an artificial one from someone who had been killed in action.”

He’s not drinking from it. He’s next to a person drinking from it, neither of whom probably realised that, years after risking their lives on our behalf, investigative journalists would be frothing up a story where front line soldiers in Afghanistan are judged by standards applicable to wine bars in Glebe.

The fake limb gained further notoriety earlier this month when photos of soldiers and non-commissioned officers drinking from it were leaked to The Guardian. The photos supplied to The Guardian did not include any images of Mr Roberts-Smith posing with the leg.

In other news, I visited Dallas once but the authorities are still struggling with collecting the evidence necessary to convict me of assassinating JFK.

The Guardian story, written by freelance journalist Rory Callinan, included photos of two soldiers with faces blurred posing with the boot. The story claimed “rank-and-file” soldiers believe they have been unfairly criticised by the Brereton report and suggest that drinking from the boot could be classified as the war crime of pillaging because the leg was property taken without the consent of its owner.

Rory Callinan’s Twitter feed is to be found here. It is fair to say he posts little else other than allegations of Australian war crimes and the reporting of the investigations. That’s fair enough, he can be a single issue journalist if he wants. Readers may wish to bear this obsession in mind when reading his output, however.

“…drinking from the boot could be classified as the war crime of pillaging“. Perhaps this is technically correct, but when detailing the backlog of various breaches of the Geneva Convention to be prosecuted and in what order, this may be close on the list to the whole of class detention your child got last week because two other kids were misbehaving. Collective punishment is a war crime under the 4th Geneva Convention, after all.

Perhaps it’s time for a comment from an adult:

Australian Defence Association chief executive Neil James wrote on Friday that, “to our national detriment, much of the public discussion on war crimes alleged to have been committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan is focusing on secondary, peripheral or irrelevant issues.”

Quite.

Bill’s Opinion

Unfortunately, I’ve no doubt war crimes have been committed in my name. I am certain, at times, armed forces acting for my country have shot first, asked questions later. After the fog of war has lifted, it’s correct to investigate these incidents and take appropriate action against the individual and to examine whether it indicates a culture that should be addressed.

However….I don’t give a flying fuck about our “rough men” drinking out of a dead Taliban’s false leg. In fact, send me the GoFundMe page link and I’ll chuck a few quid in to buy a round of beers for them.

My suspicion is this is the view of most people outside of the ABC, Sydney Morning Herald and Grauniad’s news rooms.

Whither Australia’s Federal Government?

If you observe Australian Federal politics for a short while, you may draw the conclusion the current Prime Minister provides about as much national utility as a chocolate teapot. However, should you be masochistic enough to observe Australian Federal politics for a longer time, you will realise this “as useful as tits on a bull” characteristic is common to ALL of the modern era Prime Ministers. It’s a feature of the system, not a bug.

It is possible you are unaware of the, cough, subtleties of the political system in Australia. I certainly was prior to moving here. If this doesn’t describe you, save time and skip the following 3 paragraphs.

Australia has a federated system of states, similar to, yet different from, the USA. This is documented in a rambling and confused constitution which reads like a bunch of vested interests wanted to copy the American version but without any of the annoying parts describing the rights of individuals, inalienable freedoms and primacy of self-determination. Frankly, it’s a dog’s breakfast of a document, although it does perfectly demonstrate the nation’s ongoing struggle with English prose.

The important part is that it is a federated system of quasi-sovereign states, where state governments have far more power than someone from most European counties would intuit.

If that wasn’t obvious prior to 2020, it became painfully clear during the response to the pandemic as state premiers opened and closed domestic borders in a spirit suggesting they felt Queensland and New South Wales had no more in common than Spain and Gibraltar. Meanwhile, the powerless Prime Minister and his ministers mouthed silently like fish washed up on the shore.

The “lived experience” of this system is a confused mess of inconsistent laws and competing regulations (up to 11 versions) for a population similar to that of London and the Home Counties.

Practical examples of this include;

There are countless examples such as these. It’s analogous to the American version of states within a republic but without the justification which comes from the sheer size of population. Both versions probably made huge sense before easy transport and communications, but only one still works as an effective ongoing experiment to test new legislation in a limited jurisdiction. Australia’s federated system of states seems to add unnecessary friction and cost to day to day life when one can travel faster than a horse and communicate quicker than a letter.

These annoyances and inefficiencies impacted Australians infrequently and not greatly enough to become a political movement prior to 2020. From March 2020, the various and differing state responses to the global pandemic starkly exposed the flaws in the system.

We could spend much time here discussing the seemingly random, unconnected and different state laws Australians were subject to during the previous 12 months, pointing out the illogical border closures seemingly dependent on whether the neighbouring state was governed by your fellow political travellers rather than location and number of cases.

The topic of this post is not “Whither Australia’s State Governments?” however. Today, we are wondering what exactly is the bloody point of all the various sociopaths, incompetents, rent-seekers and clock-watchers we are paying for in Canberra? A shorter version of that question is, “what’s the point of the Feds?”.

From what we’ve learned this year, the main duties of the Federal Government seem to be limited to the following:

  • National defence,
  • International Diplomacy (with the caveat some states have been running side campaigns in this area),
  • Immigration,
  • Central banking and the national economy,
  • Collecting income tax and distributing much of it to the states,
  • Erm, that’s about it.

So why then, for example, would the Federal Department of Health need 4,000 full time employees? The department “oversees” the state health departments, doesn’t have any hospitals, and probably doesn’t even employ more than a few dozen medical professionals.

It also failed spectacularly to secure enough vaccines from a diverse selection of pharmaceutical suppliers, despite having been given a 12 month grace period whilst we’ve been locked in a quarantined country. A luxury most other countries did not have. The words, “you had one job” seem somewhat appropriate.

There’s also a Department of Social Services with 1,887 souls desperately doing something, anything, every working day to justify their salary and pension, despite all of the actual governmental social services being delivered at a state level.

Rinse and repeat this question for every federal department listed here, with a particular curiosity for the 107 employees overseeing the $21m spent each year on Food Standards New Zealand.

It’s become painfully obvious over the last year that, regardless of which party is in power, the Federal Government isn’t fit for purpose. If you are unconvinced, let’s try a thought experiment to imagine what Australian life might look like in a version of reality where the Federal Government was fit for purpose.

Obviously, a centrally procured and “needle ready” national vaccine programme, would seem to be a desirable outcome. Also, perhaps it wouldn’t have taken over 12 months to negotiate a standard national policy to determine why and when lockdowns and internal border closures would be enforced.

What about in a regular, non-pandemic year?

How about a national standard for all medical qualifications? Followed by a national standard for any other profession which doesn’t have a specific regional flavour to it?

Or perhaps a joined up immigration system where infrastructure such as roads, housing, health and education capacity were planned and implemented in sync with the new arrivals?

We might expect a fit for purpose Federal Government brokering agreements to standardise rail gauges and facilitate inter-city rail links capable of speeds greater than Stephenson’s Rocket.

The outcomes we can observe in non-pandemic years should be evidence enough of the pointlessness of the Federal Government in its current form. What we experienced during the pandemic simply made it all the more obvious.

Bill’s Opinion

It won’t surprise regular readers of my minarchist instincts. The less opportunity an unelected bureaucrat has to interfere in my life, the happier I am. So, obviously I was in favour of immediately firing as many of them as possible anyway, even before making the observations above.

The post-2020 difference though, is I now have a very clear idea of which career politicians should be given their marching orders first; everyone in Canberra. Raze the buildings, salt the earth, remove the place name from the maps. Replace it with something a fraction of its current size and, while we’re at it, distribute it around the country. There’s a reason why Canberra has the best restaurants in Australia….because you’re picking up the bill for the food and wine every night.

It would seem to me that, based on the dog’s breakfast of a constitution and 120 years of legal precedence, the role of the ideal Federal Government can be summed up in one noun, “diplomacy”.

All we actually need from the Feds is to maintain appropriate relations with other countries (including “muscular” diplomacy, where required) and to use the same diplomacy skills to broker frictionless relations between Australian states and territories.

I’m not even convinced we necessarily benefit by the setting of interest rates and collection of income taxes to be undertaken at a Federal level. Perhaps what’s good economically for Sydney isn’t the same as that which would benefit Launceston, and the ability for their respective state governments to independently course-adjust would be more optimal?

Ultimately, my ramblings on this subject were just an exercise in complaining; there’s zero chance the Canberra political-industrial complex will countenance a change and, unless the people of Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane* decide to march on the ACT with pitchforks and singing La Marseilles, nothing will change any time soon.

*sorry Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart, but you’re not relevant. As for Perth; go on, we dare you to declare UDI; we’ll invade and take over those mines within 15 minutes…to save them from China.

Intersectional Boolean Logic

I’m sure most of us have played Cluedo (or “Clue” if you speak ‘Murican) before; there’s been a murder, Dr. Black shuffled off this mortal coil and your job is to determine the murderer, weapon and scene of the crime using a series of observations, eliminations and a final deduction.

It’s a process of elimination as you rank order sort the suspects, weapons and location then remove them from your investigation.

Well, another clue just dropped in the Intersectionality version of Waddington’s classic. We may be about to learn which racial group has more Wokémon points than another if this continues much longer:

Jamie Chung accessorises with a “Stop Asian Hate” handbag.

No, I’d never heard of her previously either, but she made it in the news with the massive activist work she has undertaken with, erm, some words on a purse. Our generation’s Rosa Parkes, indeed.

“Asian Hate” then, what is it and, assuming we can agree on the definition of “Asian”, who is guilty of it?

The answer to that second question is where those who have leaned a little too far over their logical skis are going to find discomfort. If one has a fixed world view where racism and race-based violence flows exclusively from one group, the Stop Asian Hate campaign might introduce you to a feeling of cognitive dissonance.

Why? Well, this 2019 reprint of a 2010 San Francisco Chronicle report might give us a clue. Turns out the victim is often Mrs Kim, the weapon was an unregistered pistol, the crime scene was a Korean convenience store and the murderer was Dr. Black.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s probably only three ways this campaign is going to go.

The first is an honest data-driven discussion in the media about the actual perpetrators of the majority of this particular crime category. Unlikely, based on everything we’ve learned over the last few years.

The second is a misdirection by pretending the reason Robert Long killed 8 and injured one Asian massage parlour employees and other bystanders was a deeply-felt racial hatred despite his obvious previous strenuous efforts to overcome this by paying to have sex with them on a regular basis.

The third and most likely outcome is the hashtag will quietly atrophy as newsrooms quickly spike the results of their investigations into the ethnicity of the main perpetrators.

In the meantime, given there have been millions of global sales of the game of Cluedo, let’s assume each game is played once every couple of years, why is nobody outraged about the genocide of hundreds of millions of Dr. Blacks? Could they have made it any more obvious, perhaps the weapon was a noose and the murderer was a lynch mob?

Hey, hey it’s offence archeology

It’s a slow news week in Australia. Nothing much worth reporting about; the flood waters have subsided, Federal parliament is on holiday from their rapey calendar, the number of covid cases is back down to zero, and we’re not due a new Prime Minister for weeks yet.

To pass the time, the Sydney Morning Herald news room has borrowed a silver DeLorien, revved it up to 88mph down a deserted George St. and has discovered an important crime against humanity to report upon.

The serious and sober investigative journalist Andrew “Deep Throat” Hornery, kicks us off.

Broede Carmody, who looks like he was yet to be conceived when the show last aired, also piles on….and, just to ensure he got the roadkill, he reversed back over it again.

Rebecca Shaw offers us more of the same.

Someone who reads the news off an autocue at SBS gets in on the act.

Finally, back to the SMH with Julia Baird adding to the canon with this one.

When I say “finally”, obviously I don’t mean that’s the end of it; the former news outlet has clearly found a safe target with which the journos can contrast their prescience and righteousness and will continue to ejaculate column inches until the data analytics team point out nobody is actually reading them.

So, what is this sordid story of evil racism and what lessons can we learn?

Well, you may wish to sit down before you read any further as I have some disturbing news for you….

You won’t believe this but a light entertainment TV show made in the 1980s doesn’t, upon review, pass the 2021 Reinheitsgebot.

No, seriously; some of the jokes relied on crude racial stereotypes, sexist and gauche humour which, by today’s standards, are unacceptable.

Shocking, isn’t it. What a marvellous public service the brave and selfless staff at the Sydney Morning Herald have performed to inform us of this.

Andrew Hornery, for example, had to decline a cushy ex-pat posting to Basra in order to bring us the important and vital revelations that a 40 year old TV show didn’t age well.

This truly is the work of a future Pulitzer Prize winner. One can easily envision Mr Hornery being called in to news studios during the twilight of his career to be asked for his opinion, à la Bob Woodward, on the latest scandal. And, as with Woodward, nobody will be interested in a damn word he says until he delivers the moneyshot, which, instead of “worse than Watergate“, will be, “worse than Hey Hey, It’s Saturday“. Bang! Mic drop.

Bill’s Opinion

The previous post here was a defence of some aspects of “cancel culture”.

The problem is, of course, lazy journalists take the admirable theme of reviewing the past to learn by our mistakes as an excuse to churn out hundreds of column inches pointing out the bleedin’ obvious: we were all different back then.

What I’ve yet to read is an explanation why the show (which I’ve never seen, by the way) was cancelled? Could it be the ratings had fallen because it was out of touch with the mood of the audience?

What would that say about the discerning Australian public? That they rejected cheap humour based on lazy stereotypes?

That would be inconvenient to the narrative, wouldn’t it?

In the meantime, can someone send a few DVD box sets over to the SMH with the back catalogue of Til Death Do Us Part, On the Buses, The Goodies, The Dukes of Hazzard and, heaven forbid, The Black and White Minstrel Show?

That should keep them busy right up until the point the newspaper is finally closed down.