Like being savaged by a dead sheep

Spare a thought for this week’s Australian Prime Minister (it’s a job selected like Jury Service, so we’re not sure whose turn it is at the moment); he or she has just been “lashed” by Headspace’s new “Ambassador”, Georgie (née George) Stone.

Lashed.

Here’s Georgie:

Georgie is 19 years old and is transgender. So, at any other time prior to about 2010, “she” would be a gay boy, in other words.

The Prime Minister’s lashing is a consequence of expressing just the slightest doubt that, just because George claims to be female, despite being the proud owner of a matching set of female penis and testicles, he is female.

For this failure on the part of the leader of a G20 member nation to agree up is down, black is white and gender is a social construct, the impartial journalists in the ever-declining Australian legacy press have written a unsympathetic article about him (sorry for assuming the gender of whoever is in the job these days).

Bill’s Opinion

Ok, full disclosure; I’m vaguely aware the Prime Minister’s name is Scott Morrison. The media hate him because he’s not afraid to admit to being a Christian.

Until about 6 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association, the main body of professional thought on matters mental, classed transgender (A.K.A gender dysphoria) as a mental illness.

Here’s a question for anyone who agrees with the sentiment expressed in the newspaper’s treatment of “Georgie” and “her” pronouns;

Would you prefer that the person who commands a well-armed military, a large Federal police force and has access to the resources of a secret service, to go around agreeing with every unproven claim made by highly confused 19 year olds?

If so, I’ve got a manifesto written by a mentally-ill 16 year old Swedish girl I’d like to sell to you for a couple of thousand dollars-worth of Bitcoin.

Did we stop you beating your wife?

Probably not.

Speaking personally, I was only vaguely aware of The White Ribbon Foundation through seeing a poster in the kitchen area of an office in which I was recently working.

Some male colleagues had signed their names on the poster under statements pledging to not hit their partners and to speak up should they see someone they know committing domestic violence or abuse.

My reaction was to think it was a pointless exercise but also a good scam; trick and bully corporates into paying the White Ribbon “protection fee” to have a representative come in and give a day’s awareness and have the company name added to the online register of organisations that don’t encourage their staff to beat up their spouses.

Domestic violence and abuse is one of those unopposable causes isn’t it? “What, you don’t agree we shouldn’t beat women up? What kind of a monster are you?”.

I’m somewhat surprised therefore by the financial collapse of the charity. Prima facie, this was a business model that should have been simplicity itself to maintain and earn a good living from.

Bill’s Opinion

In recent years, the corporate world has become a target for charity shakedown operations of which the White Ribbon Foundation seems to have been one of the more obvious.

The model seems to work along the lines of;

  1. Define a worthy cause and frame it in terms that are incapable of being opposed without risk of catastrophic publicity,
  2. Offer corporate “training” at an inflated fee,
  3. Request “donations” in return for being named as a partner/ally/supporter.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Examples I can think of operating right now include all our favourite subjects; climate change, LGBTQptanyangkipperbang, indigenous businesses, gender equity, etc.

The credit for the original idea seems to be due to the infamous American race-baiting politician, Jesse Jackson, as described in the book “Shakedown” (the customer reviews are entertaining).

One wonders whether Jackson has ever thought to claim royalties from the numerous copycat charities operating around the world these days? Perhaps that’s a level of chutzpah too far even for him.

Perhaps this is how the Roman Empire ended

Jenna Guillaume lives in Sydney and is paid to write articles such as this one, in which she takes around 300 words to explain to us that she has clicked the “unfollow” button next to an American reality TV star’s name on Twitter.

At the risk of encouraging this rubbish, a delve into her Twitter account allows us to speculate about the reasons why she’s a) unfollowed the Kardashians, and b) wrote about it.

The reason she unfollowed the reality TV people is because it was making her unhappy about her body. Faced with the choice of doing something tangible to lose about 30kg or to use her thumb once on a smart phone, Jenna selected the less strenuous option.

The reason she wrote about it is because she clearly has no other employable skill. Let’s face it, if you’re a freelance writer “formerly” of Buzzfeed (fuck, how shit do you have to be to be let go from Buzzfeed?), employment options aren’t going to be very forthcoming. Uber driving, maybe?

As fun as it might be to pick on Jenna and her psychological issues relating to being a wheezing land whale, that’s not what today’s subject is really about.

We’ve written about this phenomenon previously; Golgafrincham Ark Buzzfeed.

Perhaps Jenna is a symptom of a cultural malaise. We’ve become so successful as a society and culture that we can afford to carry passengers such as the otherwise useless, Jenna Guillaume.

Bill’s Opinion

On the one hand, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that someone with so little of worth to offer can still carve a living writing about such vacuous subjects as reality TV and “body positivity”.

The flip side to this is an atrophying of the qualities and values that are likely to have been contributing factors to our wealth and civilisation.

In another time or place, someone like Jenna Guillaume would have found her struggle with “body positivity” a long way down the list of priorities of topics for concern. Not dying of an incurable disease, violence or, ironically, a paucity of calories would have been rather more pressing day to day issues.

Somewhere in Syria, a jihadist is reading Jenna’s twitter account and reinforcing his belief that his god truly is on his side not ours.

Keep it simple, stupid

This one is going to be quite uniquely Australian, so apologies in advance if it bores you. If you are reading from a different colony or a Johnny Foreigner location, you might want to persevere simply to assure yourself that, however bad employment regulations are in your country, they’re simplicity itself compared to the Australian version.

Barely a week passes without reports of a new wages underpayment by a large corporate employer. The latest is by the Australian version of GE, Wesfarmers. They’ve discovered and just announced they’ve been underpaying some staff since the early 2000’s and the final bill to put it right is going to be about $15m.

On the face of it, that’s truly scandalous, isn’t it? Particularly coming as it does soon after similar issues with Subway and some fat celebrity chef’s restaurants.

In fact, it takes very little searching to find loads of examples of similar payroll issues across multiple industries and organisations.

This might prompt a question in a curious mind (so nobody employed as a journalist, then); “Are these underpayment issues deliberate or accidental?“.

Speaking from experience as someone who has worked in senior roles in a couple of organisations that have had these issues and being adjacent to the problem (and in one case, responsible for managing the subsequent crisis, despite not having the subject matter expertise…. which was fun), I can categorically state many of these problems are a consequence of incompetence, not mendacity.

The reports of the Wesfarmers problems are instructive; they were discovered following a project to migrate to a new payroll system to achieve compliance to new legislation. Anyone who imagines there’s an individual laughing maniacally after ripping off the workers is clearly deluding themselves.

There’s bound to be a few characters who’ve deliberately chosen to play fast and loose with staff pay but these are most likely to be in smaller companies, probably where they are a significant shareholder. Fat celebrity chefs, perhaps?

In the Wesfarmers’ case, a $15m underpayment over 15 years on a 6,000 person workforce earning about $80k is, what, 0.2%? Small beer.

If we can agree most large organisations are unlikely to choose the utter pain in the arse factor of a future scandal over saving, at most, a couple of percent in staff costs, then we have to question why these otherwise competent organisations keep screwing up payroll?

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid looking at the rules around Australian payroll, you might think all that is involved is a simple calculation of hours worked x hourly rate, minus government deductions such as tax.

Ah, such hope….

Here’s one of the Enterprise Agreements presumably causing problems for Wesfarmers. Scan through it and see if you come to the same pair of conclusions as I do:

  1. It’s paid for the private school fees of the children of several lawyers, and
  2. It assumes every manager is an utter idiot or evil.

Most clauses could be replaced with the words, “we will treat each other like grown ups and we won’t be dickheads“. The ridiculous table of days off allowed for bereavement, for example. Speaking as a manager, I’ve never bothered looking at the policy when someone’s relative died, I just told them to take the time they needed. Perhaps that’s naïve but it’s not bitten me so far; an employee hasn’t taken the piss.

Bill’s Opinion

Australia has possibly the most regulated employment environment outside of North Korea. Minimum wages are defined by the government by industry, role and seniority. All of which are pegged to the actual minimum wage so constantly creep up every time the lowest paid Australian gets a raise.

Enterprise agreements are negotiated by union representatives who make Arthur Scargill look like a fan of compromise and administered by an army of “Fair Work Australia” bureaucrats.

It’s a crazy system and one that some poor IT bastard has to code into SAP, Oracle or some other such system only to learn, 15 years later, that a subjective view was taken about what the agreement said on the subject of, say, superannuation payments on overtime when working on a rostered day off after a bank holiday.

Madness.

Eroding curiosity levels

In the current era of Greta-strophic climate change, our journalistic class seem to have lost all sense of curiosity and inquiry and, instead, serve up re-heated statements without bothering to confirm the source of “facts”.

This is classic case; surf life saving club building under threat from climate change.

At Inverloch south east of Melbourne, locals are desperately trying to defend the local surf life-saving club from erosion that has pushed the shore line back a remarkable 50 metres in seven years.

Since January alone, the ocean has encroached 20 metres more on the beach, as truckloads of imported sand and a “wet” sand fence have failed to hold back the tides.

Gosh, that’s really bad. I hadn’t realised the ocean had risen so quickly. 

Because, according to even the IPCC’s data, the problem is one of the future not the present:

Anyone who has ever had to read a graph for a living will take one look at that, fold their arms, suck their teeth and wonder what the presenter is trying to sell them. 

I’m not saying the chart doesn’t prove the sea level is just about to start rising dramatically, but it’s some helluva coincidence that all the bad stuff happens….. tomorrow.

Back to the article. Recall, the headline and article state categorically that the building by the beach is about to be washed away due to climate change of the catastrophic, man made variety, no less. Yet….

While erosion is part of the natural cycle of shifting sand at the mouth of the Anderson Inlet, the Bass Coast shire is in no doubt the extent of change is due in part to climate change and rising seas.

“Our council accepts that climate change is a real thing,” says Bass Coast mayor Brett Tessari. “The impact in our municipality is horrific in some areas. The surf club is in danger.”

Rightie ho.

Or in other words, this has always been an erosion hot spot but the mayor absolutely knows that it’s significantly worse because of climate change. 

Go on then, Mayor Tessari, how much worse? 5%? 90%? The journalists obviously forgot to ask such an awkward follow-up question.

Up the coast, climate change has resulted in the easiest type of generosity. 

What’s the easiest type of generosity, I hear you ask?

The type where you give away someone else’s money.

If you have more than 10 halogen down-lights installed in your house, the NSW government has generously offered to use money taken from ratepayers who don’t have 10 or more halogen down-lights to pay for every such light in your house to be replaced.

Let’s just pose a question here for a moment; which type of property has tastefully-installed down-lights installed rather than nasty dangling light bulbs?

Bill’s Opinion

Every way one turns, there’s yet another example of a politician using man made climate change as an excuse to dip into someone else’s wallet to buy votes.

Perhaps man made catastrophic climate change is real. Perhaps it’s not. What is absolutely certain, however, it is a wicked way to exercise power over others whilst claiming righteousness.

Climate change is, in many ways, indistinguishable from a massive confidence trick. 

Like the time Hannah Gadsby was booked at the Townsville RSL

Busy day today, so no serious rant on matters vital.

Instead, I’d like to test a gag out on the audience of this organ as it fell very flat when I cracked it in real life:

What a great win by the Uruguayan rugby team this week. Presumably they’ll celebrate with a big dinner of roast flanker.

Bill’s Opinion

Either my delivery is poor or not many people know about this plane crash.

Good news and real news doesn’t sell

There was an interesting dataset presented in the news recently on the changing causes of death over time in Australia.

For those who are unfamiliar with Australia, it may come as a surprise to learn attacks from snakes, spiders, sharks, dingos and dropbears don’t account for statistically material numbers of fatalities.

Our regular source of amusement (for all the wrong reasons), the once proud newspaper now in managed decline, The Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the study.

It’s worth reading their entire article as it contains interesting nuggets and confirms suspicions you may already have had, such as the rapid decline of lung cancer.

The most interesting element of the reporting, however, is the absolute numerical illiteracy and lack of curiosity of the journalists. Nowhere in the article is there reference to the absolute number of deaths or any type of relative measure (e.g. # of deaths per 100,000 people) we might use to learn whether or not we’re improving or have a crisis.

The data is out there though. Here’s a source, for example, showing the absolute death rate was around 600 deaths a year per 100,000 people in the late 1960s and has reduced to about 180 deaths a year per 100,000 people at the current time.

Read that again. If that isn’t bloody good news, I’d like to know what is.

Obviously, I don’t know how intelligent the journalists, Craig Butt and Soren Frederiksen are, but the omission of the information showing that the real rate of death has declined by two thirds is a major oversight. 

We have to assume one of two things are going on when a data point as material to the story as that is left out. Either:

  1. It was a deliberate omission made consciously for an unknown reason, or
  2. Both Craig Butt and Soren Frederiksen are as thick as mince.

Now, this is the Sydney Morning Herald we’re talking about here, so Hanlon’s Razor, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity“, should obviously be kept front of mind. It is, indeed, entirely plausible that Craig Butt and Soren Frederiksen have IQs barely above room temperature, otherwise why else would they be happy to be employed on just above minimum wage to re-purpose press releases as journalism?

Hanlon’s Razor is a good life rule to apply, particularly when faced with conspiracy theories. I wonder if something else is at play here though?

If they knew they were omitting the information, Craig and Soren would also know the information they missed out is a good news story. Without pretending to know what was in their minds, we might guess at a possible reason.

This is just a theory but one we can test every day by observation:

The news industry is in crisis. People have realised content is now virtually free and, instead of receiving their daily news from just three sources at pre-defined times in the day (the morning physical newspaper, their favourite radio channel and their preferred TV channel), they source the information from websites, mobile phone apps, social media, podcasts, amateur blogs, amateur comments on amateur blogs, etc.

Those journalists remaining in paid employment have seen a commensurate shift in the consumption of their product. Although they previously knew how well a particular day’s edition of the newspaper sold, they had little to no insight into which parts of that newspaper were consumed the most or least.

The opposite is true today. Now, the digital editor can tell, in real time, which headline, which stub, which article receives the most traffic and which are abandoned after just a few sentences.

Imagine that’s your job. Every day , you read a series of analytical views of your employer’s products and examine which were successful and which failed. What’s the logical response to that data?

Do more of the former and less of the latter.

Bill’s Opinion

Our theory describes a basic Pareto distribution. Successful traits and behaviours increase, unsuccessful traits and behaviours are killed off. With more granular data points, that distribution is exaggerated.

If, like our commenter View from Northcote, you see increasing volumes of not news articles being dressed up as important and vital, such as Ivanka Trump visiting the hair salon, this would be a possible confirmation of the theory.

The bad news is, if true, don’t expect it to improve any time soon. The incentives are set for the opposite to occur.

Little Forethought by the Sea

From the book of faces:

This follows on from the Sydney suburbs of Leichardt and Haberfield being renamed to “Little Italy”.

What a great idea and an utterly genius way to improve the social cohesion between various ethnicities living in the melting pot of Australia.

Let’s step through some versions of the possible logic behind this decision:

  1. Everyone is envious of Chinatown having a name other than “the southern part of Sussex Street”, so we should let everyone else name their place accordingly, or
  2. We love multiculturalism so much, although we can’t really explain what it means but it feels like it’s a warm and lovely version of that 1971 advert for Coca Cola, or
  3. There’s a majority of a particular ethnic group in my constituency and this locks their vote in for me next election.

As with all political decisions, the implications of this are only considered when they directly impact the next election cycle.

More curious minds might ask whether naming areas of a city after the majority ethnic groups residing there is a sound long term strategy?

Where might this lead?

Slippery slope fallacies are to be avoided but, if we now have three areas named in such a way, there’s obviously some level of trend to be observed.

It’s not hard to imagine a situation in the near future where tensions are inflamed because of a perception that this is “our area” and a particular ethnicity isn’t welcome.

It probably happens already to a certain extent but now such an attitude has a perception of legitimacy through Council decree.

Bill’s Opinion

Where might this end? Here’s some suggestions for future naming changes:

Lakemba: Little Lebanon

Glebe: Big Lesbos

Mascot: Little Guangzhou

S’nives: Little Jo’burg

Point Piper: Little Taxation

Paramatta Road: Little Hope And Maintenance

Gosford: Little Dentistry

Mosman: Little Empathy On Sea

Canberra: Little Accountability

Bondi: The Irish and the Jewish communities will have to fight it out for naming rights. The clever money is betting Mossad will beat Continuity Backpackers by a cricket score.

As fun as this is, there’s a couple of versions of the future that could be reasonably envisioned. They are both probably unrealistic, but I suspect only one was ever in the minds of the people behind this push to rename suburbs:

Only bad people like you can be sexist

It’s unclear precisely when the facts changed but, at some point during the previous decade, the received opinion in the group of people who know these things is that it is not possible to be racist if you are not white.

The “logic” behind this repurposing of language is that racism=power+evil, or some similar daft equation.

So, for example, if you’re a black man shouting abuse at “crackers” you aren’t racist as long as the subject of your opprobrium is richer or more powerful in some other way than you. Actually, even that doesn’t matter; you could be a rich black person abusing a poor white person and still not be racist because four generations ago people who looked like you were enslaved by people who looked like the other person.

So the other person is the racist by genetics or, if they aren’t related to a slave owner and you aren’t the descendant of slaves, osmosis.

I think I’ve got that about right. Please correct me in the comments if not.

Similarly, being sexist is a crime exclusively committed by people who are bad people. Put another way, if you are a good person, you cannot be sexist.

Sounds a bit of a circular argument? Let me offer a worked example:

Let’s say your name is Arwa and you are a good person. You write a column in the Guardian, a newspaper that only publishes the thoughts of good people. Let’s say the article is full of opinions that, if written by a man who isn’t a good person (but I repeat myself) would be considered highly sexist because it explicitly states a woman’s worth is directly proportional to her beauty and appearance.

Therefore the completely objective assessment of the article is that it can’t be sexist and YOU are the sexist for thinking it might be sexist.

I hope that clears things up for you all.

In completely unrelated news, here’s an excellent article by Arwa Mahdarwi that doesn’t at all malign another woman as a completely brainless bimbo who is manipulated like a rag doll by those around her.

It is possible Trump just felt like cutting her hair. But if the Trumps care about anything, it is image; I wouldn’t dismiss the idea that Trump’s new cut is an attempt to get us to take her politicking more seriously. Women’s hair, after all, is tangled up in traditional ideas of femininity. There is a reason so many female politicians sport a short style known as the political bob (pob): it is less “feminine”, which makes them seem more powerful. So be afraid, be very afraid: Trump’s new do may well signify that she has ramped up her political ambitions. God help us all if she goes brunette.

Bill’s Opinion

If it wasn’t for double standards, the woke brigade would have no standards at all.

Imagine if anyone else had written that Guardian article explaining why Ivanka Trump has no personal agency and is, in fact, a tabula rasa to be written on by the men in her life.

Mad mothers of mermaids

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, otherwise known as Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (FDIA):

…..is a condition where a caregiver creates the appearance of health problems in another person, typically their child. This may include injuring the child or altering test samples. They then present the person as being sick or injured. This occurs without a specific benefit to the caregiver. Permanent injury or death of the child may occur.

Consider then:

A proud mum of one of Britain’s youngest transgender children said she ‘grieved’ letting her little boy go.

Luna Schofield, born biologically male, has identified as female since the age of three.

“Since the age of three”.

Right.

She said: “Luna was asking when she could be a girl soon after her third birthday. I brushed it off as a phase and told her to stop being silly.

Good option. My experience of and, as a consequence, advice for dealing with unreasonable or dangerous requests from three year children is to ignore them and, if they continue, misdirect. “Oh look, Peppa Pig is on TV”.

Is that what Jeneen did, perhaps?

Of course not.

“But she kept asking. My family felt she was too young to make the decision to be a girl, but I didn’t want to tell her how she felt and knew this wasn’t going away.”

Jeneen’s family sound sensible. Shame the genes were only partially shared with Jeneen.

It’s interesting to learn the job titles of the medical professionals consulted on this issue:

Social psychologist Dr David Canter said: “No one should be assigned the label transgender before puberty. If the child is unhappy then the reasons should be explored without assigning labels.”

Consultant psychiatrist and TV doc Raj Persaud added: “A careful medical assessment is needed to understand what is going on. Only then can decisions be reached.”

So psychologists and psychiatrists. It’s almost as if we’re dealing with, erm, I dunno, a mental problem.

It’s also interesting to observe that, just like Emma Salkild and Charlize Theron, the mother of this transgender child no longer has the father in her life.

Bill’s Opinion

One of the great things about bringing up my children with their mother is, when one of us has a questionable idea or is acting unreasonably, the other parent takes them to one side and quietly tells them to stop being so fucking stupid.

It’s an imperfect system but the evidence from our household and millions of examples throughout history is that it probably works better than the alternatives. Expecting a single parent to make good decisions 100% of the time seems unrealistic, yet that’s what is inevitably required to happen.

Without wishing to pretend to be a mind-reader, it would seem like there’s more than a hint of attention-seeking on the part of the mothers in these cases. In each of these examples of pre-pubescent “mermaids”, there’s a large streak of mental illness on display, but it’s probably not the child who is demonstrating it.

“Luna” is probably fucked up for life already.

It will be interesting to read the subsequent court cases in 15 years time as zhe joins the massive class action against the UK’s NHS. My commiserations in advance to UK taxpayers.