No male Bonding

Actress Lashana Lynch will take on the iconic spy role of 007 in Bond 25, according to reports.

Not really; the click bait headline tricks you into learning she’s just been given his code name after James Bond has “retired”.

Putting aside the ridiculous journalistic contortions required to rely on “reports” as a source of news, and who the hell is Lashana Lynch anyway… who cares?

But seriously, who gives a stuff whether Bond is played by a man, woman, Indian, Eskimo or African? It’s a fictional character in a film, a make believe story with people pretending to be someone they aren’t.

If people watch the movie and judge it to be fun and/or credible, they’ll tell other people who will then pay money to watch it. If it stinks, everyone who sees it will loudly say so at every opportunity.

Unlike, say the appointment of a diversity hire CEO of bank, movies have quite a rapid feedback mechanism. The studio accountants will know within weeks of the premiere whether or not a break from the standard formula has worked with the ticket-buying public.

Bill’s Opinion

The next James Bond could be played by a wheelchair-bound gay Native American amputee with a pet squirrel for all I care.

James Bond is not some sacred religious figure who can only be played by a macho white English alpha male. If fact, Daniel Craig is only the 2nd Englishman to have played the part (3rd if you count the David Niven spoof).

If a Bond movie with a non “traditional” actor gets good reviews from sources I trust, I’ll pay to see it. If it gets Ghostbuster-esque reviews (Guardian – 4 stars vs everyone else who doesn’t write for a Woke media outlet – very few stars) I won’t.

Ghostbusters could only reach 22nd place on a list of 2016 films by revenue, by the way.

1984 wasn’t meant as an instruction manual

Just because Australia is close to China, doesn’t mean we should emulate the place….

No, really.

New South Wales transport minister Andrew Constance has revealed plans to roll out facial recognition technology across the transport network as an alternative to Opal cards.

“In the transport space we’ll use facial recognition technology to scan customers who’ve ‘opted in’ and linked their Opal account,” Constance said in a speech at the Sydney Institute on Tuesday night.

“No more personal freedom gate barriers. Just a smooth journey,” he said.

Andrew Constance? Where have we heard that name before?

Oh yeah, the chap who instigated an Uber “levy” to bail out speculative taxi “plate” purchasers. In case you’re wondering, “levy” is the name Australian governments use for a tax when they don’t have the courage of their convictions to say “tax”.

The irony is he is from the political party most associated with the economic right, rather than socialism. The party is the Liberal Party and was probably named with the English “classical liberal” definition in mind. Political dogma has changed a lot since, clearly.

That “levy” is probably all an outside observer needs to know to understand the Australian voters’ regular insipid choice between socialism and corporatism.

So, to Constance’s latest big idea; biometric ticket authorisation. In his own words:

“This will read someone’s face, retina, breath, gait or voice to enable next level authorisation and access. Think truly contactless payments – entry to buildings, onto planes, at banks and hotels.”

Call me an old scaredy cat and a cynic but this seems to have all the upside for people who might have bad intentions and a considerable risk of significant downside for everyone else.

What’s the corollary to “entry to buildings, onto planes, at banks and hotels“? No entry.

Currently, entry to those locations and services are managed by the local entity. Constance is hinting at a centrally-managed power providing the yes/no decision based on whether or not your face is in the database of acceptable people.

Who gets the job of running and updating that database? I’d like to offer an early application for this God-like position of power.

And there’s this:

The capability could also be used to detect if someone on a train or bus was ill, Constance claimed.

Well, excuse me if that doesn’t exactly give me a cosy warm feeling like a freshly soiled wetsuit.

It may be cold comfort to predict that, based on a previous history of glacial-speed implementation and incompetence, the New South Wales’ transport network is highly unlikely to be the first wide-scale implementation of facial recognition to have its limitations and scope tested in the law courts and court of public opinion.

The exisiting “Opal” card electronic ticketing system is the same as Hong Kong’s Octopus (launched 1997) and London’s Oyster (launched 2003). Following various delays due to political lethargy and systemic organisational corruption and incompetence in the Transport department, Opal was finally launched in 2012.

Presumably, the NSW government wanted to be absolutely certain there were no teething problems to be ironed out with the fifteen year old Hong Kong version before hastily rushing to follow.

In addition to the fifteen year delay to get around to the project, the State Government rolled out 3.7 million cards and the required retail infrastructure to sell and top up the stored credit when the technology already supported use of contactless debit cards. i.e. that thing 99.9% of people already had in their wallets.

Bill’s Opinion

Anyone who buys Andrew Constance’s claim that implementing biometric recognition for public transport ticketing would be a universal good hasn’t been paying attention to the trend of recent years.

Because a bunch of insane Saudis hijacked planes in the USA on September 11th, 2001, your government has usurped huge powers of surveillance, implemented CCTV camera networks throughout most public spaces, eavesdrops on electronic communications, restricted internet access, further regulated banking and the ability to transfer money, changed centuries old laws about detention without trial and due process, and all in the name of “temporary measures” to make us safer.

If you hope and believe these powers will one day be walked back and revoked because the threat of terrorism has been defeated, I’ve got a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you.

Such a throwaway line by Andrew Constance should scare the crap out of anyone who has read the history of what happens when the power to interfere in the day to day lives of others is concentrated centrally.

The counter argument always made to this is, “no, no, when we centralise the power we will use it for the benefit of everyone“. Well, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 100 million times, shame on me.

Imagine an average day in the life of a citizen of New South Wales a century ago. How many interactions would they have had with an organ of government? Perhaps they would have sent their child to a state school in the morning, posted a letter in the state run postal service, perhaps said hello to the policeman on the high street.

Now think about the answer to the same question for 2019.

We’re gonna need a bigger shredder

Back when Jesus was but a young lad, we kicked this organ off with an examination of why reparations for slavery is a tempting idea but utter lunacy.

Ah, those halcyon days of early 2017 before the world as we knew it went absolutely insane.

Since then, the USA Democratic Party has continued down the road of investigating whether reparations make sense, debating it in Washington.

As we predicted, they are now running into huge issues which are unlikely to be ever resolved. The idea of generational guilt seems to be making a comeback, for example, with Senator Mitch McConnell being asked to “please explain” why two of his relatives five generations ago owned slaves?

To repeat, an apparently otherwise fully-functioning sentient member of the human race just asked someone to comment on the actions 150 years ago of someone with whom they share about 6.25% of DNA…..

Yes, that’s the road we’re on. And it gets worse from here, go back and read my original post on the subject to get an idea of what further lunacy we’ll have to endure. Sometimes slippery slopes have to slide a long way down before they achieve fallacy status.

To McConnell’s credit, he responded perfectly; pointing out the previous President was in the same genetic fix. 

It’s clear this is a bad idea that is going to hang around for sometime to come. The question sensible people should ask now is, what’s the risk to me and where’s the opportunity?

Bill’s Opinion

If you are an American reading this, it’s highly unlikely you currently know whether or not your ancestry passes the slavery purity test. It’s a risk and one which, if it transpires, will certainly cause difficulties for you should you work in politics.

Depending on how long this runs before it’s universally agreed to be daft, there’s a risk that regular people may take a hit (likely financial) if they are found to have had slave owner ancestors.

Actually, let’s clarify that last sentence; EVERYONE ALIVE TODAY has slave owning ancestors. Until William Wilberforce, it was the primary source of cheap labour across every continent throughout human history; if you won a battle against your enemies, you enslaved them. It was just the rule for hundreds of generations.

The amazing thing was that it was ever made illegal at all. Thank you, Christianity and the industrial revolution…..

Of course, the difference between my non-American slave-owning relatives and yours is that mine owned slaves before written records were widely kept. Lucky me.

In fact, it could be argued that people like me, the undocumented slave owning descendants, are the really evil ones because we are hiding in plain sight… No, let’s not give the radical left any more stupid ideas.

There is a silver lining though; there’s a business opportunity here. Every person of ambition who suspects there may be a skeleton in their cupboard from 150 years ago is likely to suddenly be in need of a “cleanskin” service. That is, every electronic and paper record from that era needs to magically disappear like an Epstein flight manifest.

So, this is a call for expressions of interest for funds for my new business venture, Slave Ownership Records Removal Instantly, or SORRI for short.

Our initial start up seed money will be spent on flame-throwers (for the libraries), large degaussing equipment (for data centres) and to pay the salaries of some hairy-arsed mercenaries to undertake the cleansing activities.

 

 

 

 

Crikey! Where fallacies live

Australia has two “new media” organisations of note; Quillette and Crikey.

They could hardly be more different. The stated aim of Quillette is to publish “heterodox” ideas and be “where free speech lives“. A grand and quite brave claim for a website hosted in Australia, a country where the right to not be offended has been invented and given higher priority than the right to speak.

Crikey is a left of centre website with a focus on Australian politics.

Australian politics is not a hugely interesting subject, being mainly a real life case study of the Dunning-Kruger effect and venal opportunism in an extremely small fish pond. It’s like Lord of the Flies re-imagined with middle-aged characters and less violence.

Hence I tend to read more articles published by Quillette than Crikey.

This one by Guy Rundle has done nothing to change that.

He’s written about the Israel Folau saga….. because what the world really needs right now is yet more partisan speculation on that case, right?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his article is the style of rhetoric he employs for the argument he is trying to make.

Thinking about the subject matter, one could probably write in a choice of styles that might look something like the following list (or a combination of it):

  • Factual; straight reporting of who said what, known relevant legal precedent and process, likely next steps and timelines.
  • Reactions; reporting how a range of stakeholders claim to feel and have responded to the case.
  • Measured opinion; based on the case, here’s my personal view of the morality of each stakeholder and my prediction for the future.
  • Sketch; poking fun at those involved in a way designed to amuse the reader.

The first two are what we’d hope objective news media would produce, the latter two are classed as “OpEd” and are, by definition, subjective. Here’s the rub though, if you claim to be a serious professional, even a subjective opinion requires the underpinning discipline of accuracy.

I’ve read and re-read Rundle’s article several times. It takes a while to understand what’s being presented to the reader on the page. What follows is an attempt at deciphering The Rundle Code (tm) :

First paragraph;

How is the right’s push on religious freedom going? Terribly! It’s really great to watch — a bright spot in an otherwise bleak political landscape. There’s no way it can end well for them, and whatever happens will in someway benefit the left. As an added bonus, they are actively damaging previous successes they had in securing the autonomy of religious institutions in hiring practices. I’m loving every installment of this.

Ok. Ignore the two spelling mistakes… He’s correctly framing the case as a culture war battleground and he’s chosen his team.

Second paragraph;

Let’s do a quick recap. During the same-sex marriage plebiscite, one of the right’s more desperate tactics was to allege that a “yes” vote would be an assault on religious freedom in this country, for reasons they couldn’t explain. Discrimination on the basis of sexuality was already outlawed — same-sex marriage simply added one more area in which they couldn’t be discriminated against.

People did explain. You rejected their explanations. Here’s mine at the time, for example, and a subsequent follow up confirming my concerns were correct.

Third paragraph…. where Rundle claims to be able to read the minds of two other people;

The “religious freedom” scare came from a section of the conservative right identified with both elite Catholics like Paul Kelly — who see religion as a glue to bind society together whatever their real attachment to belief in God — and Protestant politico-cultural hysterics like Andrew Bolt, who believe the pagan endtimes are upon us. 

Quite what the definition of a politico-cultural hysteric is remains a mystery Rundle doesn’t help solve. I think it means he disagrees with something the person said.

 Fourth paragraph;

This gang has rode out before, in the great 18C debacle — remember 18C? — and had their arses handed to them by Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party, petrified of the reaction from Big Multiculturalism. They lost on 18C, and they had a lot better material to work with. The best they could come up with on religious expression was Israel Folau.

Nice use of the vernacular there. What a Big Multiculturalism is goes unexplained.

Do we detect a hint of sarcasm in the line, “the best they could come up with”? What’s the inference? That Folau isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer? Ah, the bigotry of low expectations.

Are all Pacific Islanders stupid, Mr. Rundle, or just this one? To quote Ali G, “is it ‘cos he is black?

Fifth paragraph;

Personally I don’t think sports people should have to trade away their citizenship freedoms to do what they’re good at. But Folau appears to have flouted a contract he knowingly signed and it’s a far-from-ideal rallying point. Luckily for the right, the cultural left has come to their rescue, turning Folau’s childish just-so story pronouncements of “burning in hell” into potent political statements, by constructing them as potent hate speech.

Ignore the missing comma. Right then, which clause in Folau’s contract are you referring to? Oh, you haven’t seen the contract? Ah….

And we’ve decided stupid, brown Folau is childish now? Keep digging, son.

Paragraphs six, seven, eight and nine attempt to delve into the nature of rights. It’s safe to say these are not going to be challenging the USA Federalist Papers for intellectual robustness any time soon.

Rights that Rundle rejects are labelled content-based junk rights. It’s interesting that Rundle puts forward a strawman argument that there is a movement to legislate a right to Religious Freedom. I’m not aware of this, unless he’s referring to the removal of existing restrictions.

Paragraph ten, wherein Rundle goes full ad hominin on two people he doesn’t agree with;

In The Australian, Katrina Grace Kelly — her name at time of writing — noted that Folau’s claims were unlikely to succeed given the lean towards employers in such laws, but that if they did, they’d reset employment law entirely. The Institute of Public Affairs’ John Roskam is running a little dog ‘n’ pony show around the right (word is still out on whether Roskam is pony or dog), and Freedom Boy Tim Wilson made a cute little comment on the push by getting sworn in on a copy of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom

That first dig is a reference to the fact that Ms. Kelly recently changed her name from the one she was given when she was adopted. The inference Rundle is offering is this won’t be her final name change. I’m not sure how that is in any way relevant to the Folau case, so will have to conclude he’s just being mean because he’s a misogynist (see what I did there?).

As for the line about Roskam being a dog or a pony, that tells us more about Rundle’s character than Roskam’s.

The final two paragraphs go on to predict Folau will lose and the right will whine.

Bill’s Opinion

I spotted the following fallacies used by Rundle, see if you can find any more; ad hominin, strawman, slippery slope, tu quoque, cherry picking.

However, this article is extremely informative, actually because of its form not it’s argument. Rundle has acknowledged this is the battleground for the culture war and, through an astounding inability to argue his side’s case without reverting to use of fallacies, has demonstrated his concerns about the weakness of his team’s position.

Better still, professional journalist Guy Rundle had to revert to the bigotry of low expectations, racism and misogyny to make his arguments.

How fun!

Publish and be damned

This might be nothing or it might be quite significant. I’ll defer to our regular legal expert for the definitive opinion in the comments.

A defamation case has just concluded in Australia where the judge found in favour of the plaintiff’s claim that Creepbook page owners are liable for comments made under their content.

There is a very lengthy but highly-informative Twitter thread here with a detailed breakdown of why Creepbook page owners are simply unable to comply with the ruling. In summary, the tools aren’t made available to control the content and it is currently impossible to switch off comments…. wait for it… unless you are a pharmaceutical company.

No, really….. go to the bottom of that Twitter thread to find that gem and shake your head.

The ruling seems to hold a page “owner” liable for anything anyone posts in reply. Unfortunately, Creepbook doesn’t provide the ability to disable comments on pages (“groups” have this function though) and the keyword blocking function is far from watertight.

There’s much debate currently in the USA about whether the social media giants have become the de facto “public square” and therefore should be subject to the First Amendment or they are publishers curating content and therefore have liability for anything which breaks a law or incurs libel cases.

The general position of the tech companies is that they are common carriers like the postal system or a phone company. Except there’s a major inconsistency with their actions; the phone company doesn’t cut you off if you say something it disagrees with.

Somewhere between these three positions the US courts will eventually rule. Many other commentators have written and spoken extensively on this dichotomy and have speculated on how it might land. My voice isn’t going add much either way.

In the meantime, it looks like an Australian judge may have hurried things along a little.

Bill’s Opinion

It might be argued this ruling has restricted free speech in Australia. However, regular readers will likely concur that ship sailed from Australian shores a long time ago.

My personal position is one of free speech near absolutism; with the exception of calling for violence, I’m generally ok with people saying whatever the hell they want.

That’s not to say they can say it without consequence, public opinion and libel laws are useful moderators.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean the right to an audience though. If social media giants “de-platform” voices they dislike, that’s fine. Those voices will find a way to be heard, particularly if what they are saying resonates with others as being virtuous and true. We should have faith in our fellow humans in being able to discern mendacity from honesty.

This Australian case might result in changes to Creepbook globally, it might result in changes only to the way Australian companies engage on Creepbook, or it might result in very little change at all. Anyone who claims to know is deluding themselves and you.

Creepbook and its page owners might be liable for what’s written by others or they can remove opinions they dislike. I don’t care either way, I’m not on Creepbook so was unlikely to read it anyway.

Yet somehow I manage to keep myself informed of a diverse range of opinions. It’s almost as if, I dunno, there’s an entire world outside of Creepbook.

Nobler than your average savage

The Budj Bim Aboriginal site in Australia has been granted “World Heritage” status. 

Budj Bim is the site of an Aboriginal aquaculture farm, where the inhabitants farmed eels and used ditches and nets to provide year round protein. This enabled permanent settlement and stone huts were built in the area. Estimates are that this practice commenced several thousand years ago.

Of course, that would be fine if that’s where the reporting ended; ancient and important historical and cultural location, preserved for future generations. Great.

It’s too much to hope that would be it. Predictably, we have to replay the “in harmony with nature” trope for yet another tedious outing.

Right on cue:

This, combined with the use of basalt rock formations to build small rock dwellings with thatched roofs would provide “a counter-narrative to this idea that Aboriginal people didn’t have any form of settlement and that they continually moved”, Mr Jennings said.

Correct. The small rock dwellings prove that some Aboriginal people settled in a place. Anyone who claims every Aboriginal throughout time was peripatetic would be wrong. 

Let’s keep this in perspective, however; there are only two known permanent settlements on mainland Australia, suggesting everywhere else was more suited to nomadic or semi-nomadic existence.

This isn’t a negative judgement on the ancient indigenous peoples; human developments at the time and the native flora and fauna were likely the major inhibitors. After all, complex agriculture only developed independently in perhaps 11 locations globally.   

Mr Jennings said the most important aspect of the World Heritage listing was recognising the sensitive way in which the Gunditjmara people had lived in harmony with the landscape, while adapting it to their needs.

Here we go… “sensitive“.

When people were farming eels several thousand years ago in order to feed their families and keep their loved ones alive, one suspects any translation of the adjective “sensitive” was not heavily employed. Not having to bury yet another of your children would presumably be somewhat higher up the priority list than the long term welfare of individual eels or even the species as a whole.     

Most thought of the landscape in this part of western Victoria as being changed by pastoralists who came from Europe and removed rocks to create vast tracts of grazing land. But the Gunditjmara people demonstrated at Budj Bim that manipulation of the landscape was possible in an entirely more sympathetic way.

Sympathetic“, now?

I doubt there’s even a local translation of that word.

If a herd of oxen were handed over to the Gunditjmara people ten thousand years ago and they had been taught how to use them to provide meat and milk, and as beasts of burden, do you really think they would have eschewed the opportunity to produce more food over matters Gaia?

“This was manipulating it by using the landscape’s form to cultivate aquaculture, and to live in that landscape in harmony with it, rather than completely modify it to change its land use,” Mr Jennings said

And, ding ding, “harmony” gets us a full house of noble savage references. It presumably never crossed Mr. Jennings’ mind that the landscape wasn’t modified because the ability and technology required hadn’t been developed. 

Bill’s Opinion

Hobbes famously suggested human life throughout nearly all of history was defined by the terrible qualities of being, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

One highly doubts Australian life 10,000 years ago was more communal, wealthy, pleasant, kind and longer than anywhere else in the world at the time. They had it just as shit as every other human on the planet and were motivated by exactly the same needs and desires. Any semblance of “harmony” would look suspiciously like a population that was limited (i.e. died from hunger) by the available resources.  

Living at one with nature would lose its romance about 30 seconds after you broke a tooth on a bone in the raw meat you had to track and hunt all day for dinner. 

If you are still unconvinced about whether or not Aboriginal Australians manipulated the land to suit their needs rather than being “harmonious”, here’s a painting of Mount Eccles from the time of the arrival of the Europeans;

Image result for mount eccles painting

Today, the same location looks a little more overgrown:

Image result for mount eccles

It’s almost as if someone had regularly burned the trees to corral animals into clearings to hunt them….

Also, I wonder what happened to the Australian megafauna?

 

Give me that old time religion

There’s a brutal civil war being waged within veganism, apparently.

Stop laughing at the back.

The battle is one between the highly-committed vegans and those who take a more casual attitude to it.

Of course, it’s all relative (as they say in East Anglia); to describe a lifestyle decision to cut meat and all animal products out of your life as “casual” is to minimise the contortions they must endure.

Nonetheless, the vegans are eating their own.

As an advert for the lifestyle, vegans are rarely attractive poster material, both visually but also psychologically. The “Vegan Comedy” Netflix category is not trending high in the charts for good reason.

Complete lack of humour aside, a simple skip through the article indicates underlying psychological issues with each of the adherents to this lifestyle;

Around his late 30s, however, Faulkner’s health began declining. He developed severe back pain and crippling haemorrhoids. He had so little energy that he was struggling to do his job as a primary school teacher. Worse still, he had erectile dysfunction, and was “even looking at using Viagra”. One day he was searching the internet for answers when he came across an Australian vegan YouTuber called Freelee The Banana Girl. Freelee, whose real name is Leanne Ratcliffe, is a former cocaine- and speed-using bulimic from Queensland who found fame in 2014 by spruiking a raw vegan diet that consisted of up to 51 bananas a day.

There’s quite a lot to unpack there…

Firstly, if Faulkner didn’t have back pain, haemorrhoids, and erectile dysfunction for the first 40 years of his (carnivorous) life, it seems less than logical to seek banana remedies from bulimic ex-junkies on YouTube rather than, say, medical professionals.

There’s more;

Freelee’s then boyfriend, Durian Rider (real name: Harley Johnstone), is also an avid vegan whose “fruitarian” diet allowed him to become an endurance cyclist.

Perhaps the least controversial thing one can say about endurance athletes is that they are an “outlier”. It takes a certain kind of mind to be motivated to train for events that require hours (or even days) of constant intense exercise.

There then follows a description of Faulkner’s Damascene conversion and transformation into a vegan activist. Once you’ve accepted as true one or two assertions, the logic takes you to several subsequent actions;

Call yourself an animal lover? If you’re not a vegan, you can’t be an animal lover. Call yourself an environmentalist? Animal agriculture causes up to 18 per cent of global greenhouse emissions – so unless you’re a vegan, you can’t be an environmentalist.

Here’s an interesting revelation though;

After leaving teaching, Faulkner started a business holding discos for primary school kids, but has now reduced his school visits from four a week to one per week. “I don’t have any children, so it’s enough for me to survive on.”

Hmm. More on that later.

Once you’re in the activist trench, you’re in deep;

Right now, his preferred form of activism is the Cube of Truth.

Originally developed in Melbourne, a Cube of Truth involves activists standing in a square, facing outward, holding signs or, in tonight’s case, TV monitors. The monitors, which are powered by a portable generator, play a constant loop of what is possibly the most confronting footage I have ever seen, including piglets in holding pens drowning in their own excrement, cows having their necks sliced open, and live baby male chicks being fed into a macerator, where they are ground up into pet food. ”

Here’s Andy Faulkner on a Cube of Truth event;

Strictly speaking, it’s a square not a cube, unless people are standing on people’s shoulders.

Bill’s Opinion

Muslims who murder non-believers in order to enter paradise are acting in a manner that is entirely consistent with their religion. It’s all there in their sacred texts, there’s no point criticising them for misinterpreting “kill the infidels“.

An argument with a jihadi on the basis of interpretation is a strategy bound to fail. The problem is far earlier in the logical sequence; the basis of the revelation is not sound. Mohammed didn’t have a direct line to Allah and therefore anything he wrote is false.

You know where I’m going with this….

Jihadis, in the West especially, are almost exclusively socially-awkward males who have been unsuccessful in many areas of their lives, be it career, romance, social, etc. By accepting one false premise, they then trace a subsequently highly consistent path resulting in their tragic actions.

Let’s return to the radical vegan, Andy Faulkner. It would seem from the article, the pinnacle of his career was being a Primary School teacher, yet he has no children of his own (is he single? We aren’t told). He seeks health advice from ex-junkies with eating disorders and endurance athletes on YouTube. He requires the rest of society to make a radical change to his chosen lifestyle….so we can all be as happy and joyous as him.

I have a question for Andy Faulkner; how tidy is your room?

Shite sports you don’t usually watch

Otherwise known as “The Olympics”.

No, seriously. If you really consider what the Olympic Games has become, it is mainly a collection of events you wouldn’t ordinarily switch the TV channel over to watch and certainly wouldn’t pay an entrance fee to attend.

Sure, the track and field events can pull a crowd outside of the four year cycle, and some swimming and cycling events have support but our friend Pareto then produces a very low and long tail of barely-supported sport for the rest.

Follow this link to the full list and count how many of the categories you’ve physically attended in the last decade. If the answer is more than 4 and you aren’t employed by Sky Sports or aren’t the parent of a very athletic child, I will be amazed.

Nobody in the history of the planet has ever said to their significant other, “Hey, there’s a rhythmic gymnastic competition on Saturday and an indoor climbing event on Sunday. That’s our weekend sorted then“.

Pierre de Coubertin’s re-imagining of the Olympic Games adopted “Citius, Altius, Fortius” as its motto. Or, for those of you who didn’t have a classical education, “Faster, Higher, Stronger“. I’m not sure which of those three categories Artistic Swimming falls under.

A side note, I’m scratching my head as to why the motto is in Latin, not Greek.

Grigorótera, Psilá, Ischyróteri“, for example.

But I digress.

You and I vote with our wallets and feet on non-Olympic years. We don’t attend, watch or have anything to do with most events deigned by the Olympics organising committee to be worthy of time and resources at their games. I would guess that perhaps 95% of the sports don’t have any significant number of spectators who aren’t relatives of the competitors outside the four year festival.

For Australia, the breakdown of sports’ attendance was helpfully recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2010. The following summary table is interesting:

Obviously Australia has its own unique code of football which hasn’t penetrated much in the rest of the world, possibly due to a slight marketing problem with the name, but horse racing and motor sports are popular elsewhere.

So why no Olympic V8 car event?

Because it needs expensive equipment? Go visit a boat show and examine the prices of the various categories of Olympic class racing vessels….

My hypothesis stated in the title seems robust, especially given the ridiculous news that breakdancing is likely to be an Olympic sport.

Breakdancing. Is. A. Sport.

Bill’s Opinion

One feels the Olympics may have been just a little guilty of overreach over the years. When League of Legends is made an Olympic sport, the shark will have been truly jumped, altius.

Oh, and for those curious why I was reading the Philadelphia Inquirer, I was sent there from David Thompson’s place to read this. It isn’t a parody.

Foresight Battle Royale

This is hilarious; Australia’s over budget, late, poor quality National Broadband Network can’t cope with the demand from a bunch of teenagers playing video games.

Unexpectedly high levels of downloads can cause sluggish connections for all customers using broadband, not just those downloading game updates.

Some games companies release their updates, which can be tens of gigabytes worth of data and are known as “patches”, without much notification or the ability to download in advance of the release.

Hang on, that’s not what we signed up for. Back in those halcyon days of 2009 we were told we’d get 100Mbs over which we’d be able to run all sorts of society-changing services.

Here’s the original 2009 press release, just for the record.

Ah, promises made, not honoured. Just $43 billion over 8 years, eh? And the suckers believed them.

The NBN really has stood the test of time in the 24 carat lies department hasn’t it, right up there with, “the cheque’s in the post”, “yes, I love you too” and “of course I won’t come in your mouth”.

Gaming was baked in to the capacity according to the original “business case” (we use that term loosely; it doesn’t bear much resemblance to any I’ve seen in my career). Here’s the document, page 26 has the mention of gaming.

You’d think a modern, highly technical and, most importantly, centrally planned telecommunications network would be able to either cope with a few spotty kids playing shoot ’em up games OR be capable of prioritising other traffic.

After all, the UK are planning to block porn sites unless people have registered to have them unblocked (nobody’s told the government nanny state about VPNs), so it must surely be simplicity itself to block or throttle a single games company?

Yet here we are, begging Epic Games for details of their forthcoming updates and promotions.

How utterly embarrassing.

Bill’s Opinion

Australians are no different to many other nationalities in their belief that the government can magically deliver major programmes of work on time, to quality and on budget… despite all the evidence to the contrary.

I still have conversations with people who believe the plan was poorly executed because their political opponents’ duplicity and/or incompetence.

The reality is, a simple further deregulation of the telecoms industry would have done the same job quicker, cheaper and more suitable to the demand.

The government could have concentrated on making some provisions for the 3% of the population who don’t live in the metropolitan areas. Posting them porn DVDs each week, for example.

A rose by any other name?

It’s too easy to point at this kind of thinking, shake our heads and mutter, “…and this is why you got Brexit and Trump”. The thing is with clichés is that they are obviously based on an observable phenomenon other people can see as clearly as the person offering it. Whether or not the pithy cliché is completely accurate or not isn’t the point; there’s something true within the theme.

Witness this outstanding article by Brandon Ambrosino;

The invention of ‘heterosexuality’.

Before you click that link, a warning; it’s a 3,000+ word essay, so have a comfortable seat and a hot beverage ready if you’re planning on reading it.

A good rule to apply before reading anything on any subject is to consider the motivation of the writer when creating the content. This rule is particularly relevant to articles about sex in “news” media. My personal view is that these can be broken down into broad categories of;

1. Designed for prurient titillation – most stories about the sex lives of celebrities fall into this bucket,
2. Medical/informative – a new treatment for an STD, for example. There can be quite an overlap with category (1) at the same time, though, and
3. Persuasive – this is a variation on Sailer’s First Law of Female Journalism. Put simply, “you normies are doing it wrong and, if only you would find me hot, you’d be so much happier and a better person”. Hence the current swathe of opinion pieces explaining how straight men are being transphobic for not getting aroused by men in dresses.

Guess which category Brandon’s BBC essay fall into?

An early clue can be found as to the motivation of the article;

“Sex has no history,” writes queer theorist David Halperin at the University of Michigan, because it’s “grounded in the functioning of the body.” Sexuality, on the other hand, precisely because it’s a “cultural production,” does have a history. In other words, while sex is something that appears hardwired into most species, the naming and categorising of those acts, and those who practise those acts, is a historical phenomenon, and can and should be studied as such.

It’s fascinating, isn’t it? The “queer theorist’s” statement that sexuality is a “cultural production” is accepted as fact and remains completely unchallenged for the remainder of the article.

Everything that then follows is built upon that foundation;

Or put another way: there have always been sexual instincts throughout the animal world (sex). But at a specific point in time, humans attached meaning to these instincts (sexuality). When humans talk about heterosexuality, we’re talking about the second thing.

We then have a potted history about the invention of the terms “heterosexual” and “homosexual”, chucking in reference to another term invented at the same time, “heterogenit”, which was a synonym for bestiality. Because shagging animals is such a normal part of life’s rich tapestry that it needs a less pejorative term, doesn’t it?

One could be excused for wondering at this point whether the article’s headline could be amended to “The invention of the word ‘heterosexuality’’ and result in a much shorter opinion piece?

But of course, we know where this is going….

“Normal” is a loaded word, of course, and it has been misused throughout history. Hierarchical ordering leading to slavery was at one time accepted as normal, as was a geocentric cosmology. It was only by questioning the foundations of the consensus view that “normal” phenomena were dethroned from their privileged positions.

Normal” in my world describes the frequent naturally-occurring version of something. I’m not aware of a radically-different meaning universally-accepted by English speakers. If that makes the adjective “loaded”, we’ve not got much common ground on which we can converse.

Subsequent paragraphs continue to convince us that commonly-understood nouns and adjectives have a different meaning to those we previously thought. Everything you hold as true is wrong, is a theme we are being told, for example;

Socially, too, heterosexuality is losing its “high ground,” as it were. If there was a time when homosexual indiscretions were the scandals du jour, we’ve since moved on to another world, one riddled with the heterosexual affairs of politicians and celebrities, complete with pictures, text messages, and more than a few video tapes. Popular culture is replete with images of dysfunctional straight relationships and marriages. Further, between 1960 and 1980, Katz notes, the divorce rate rose 90%. And while it’s dropped considerably over the past three decades, it hasn’t recovered so much that anyone can claim “relationship instability” is something exclusive to homosexuality, as Katz shrewdly notes.

Sure, being outed as gay was a scandal in the past…..perhaps because it was illegal?
Heterosexual affairs by the rich and famous are scandals….. perhaps because the participants are rich and famous?
Affairs, in general, are scandalous…..perhaps because they are evidence of a failure of trust and human nature is to be shocked by this?

Let’s cut to the main message, found in the final paragraph. Clearly this isn’t a category 1 or 2 article about sex, it’s a “please find me hot” category 3. What is it the writer is trying to convince us to do that we currently frustrate him by refusing to?

The line between heterosexuality and homosexuality isn’t just blurry, as some take Kinsey’s research to imply – it’s an invention, a myth, and an outdated one. Men and women will continue to have different-genital sex with each other until the human species is no more. But heterosexuality – as a social marker, as a way of life, as an identity – may well die out long before then.

Bill’s Opinion

This article was paid for by the British taxpayer. They have paid for someone to explain to them that they are having the wrong kind of sex.

The reason they are having the wrong kind of sex is because, according to Critical Theory, as hinted at by the “queer theorist”, we are born with no inherent qualities. Everything we desire and act upon is a result of societal factors. We are empty vessels, tabula rasa, and if only we could start again, we could build a utopia where everyone would be happy to stick their bits into anyone or anything.

You can believe that to be true.

I don’t believe it to be true and my evidence is my existence; an inherent desire to put their bits into members of the opposite sex for thousands of preceding generations, predating language and recognisable societal groups has resulted in my birth. If that innate desire didn’t exist and was simply a result of a social construct, how did the society come into existence in the first place?