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.

Malthus shrugged

Becoming a parent isn’t necessarily the route to happiness, fulfilment and a sense of self-worth, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests not having children tends to result in late-life regret and disappointment.

It’s my personal view that it’s incumbent on intelligent people to raise more than the 2.1 children required to maintain a population. This isn’t some supremacist or eugenicist argument, simply a matter of recognising an issue of basic statistical distribution; the trend across every country in the world is that, when the population becomes healthier, wealthier and more educated, they stop giving birth.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that, eventually, the trend leads to the smart genes finishing their million year journey to be replaced by the less smart genes.

Consider then, the couples who are making a conscious decision to not have children…. for the sake of the children.

“I feel so sad, it’s such a hard thing to let go of,” says Morgan, who works in logistics. “My conscience says, ‘I can’t give this child what I’ve enjoyed, I can’t give them the certainty of a future where they can be all that they can be … or have the things they should have, like breathable air and drinkable water’.”

She works in logistics. So, every day she sends goods around the country and/or world in trucks, ships and planes. If CO2 emissions are the biggest concern preventing her from starting a family, she seems to have missed a fairly large personal dichotomy staring her in the face during office hours, Monday through Friday…..

Morgan is feeling “pretty damn certain” a baby is off the cards, even though she fears she might regret it. She has at least two close friends in their early 30s, with good partners, who have made the same decision.

Her partner Adam, who works in web development, agrees. “I have a lot of love to give and would love to raise a child … but it doesn’t feel justifiable. The world is heading blindfolded towards catastrophe.”

“Partner”. So, not “husband”? Ok, one doesn’t need to be married to have children, we’re not stuck in some 1950s morality cliché, but it may be an indicator of the level of commitment they have towards each other.

But wait, there’s another anectdata:

In Mackay in Queensland,  community organiser Emma, 32, says she and her partner Mick, 33, were planning to start trying for a family next year but changed their minds after the federal election.

“After the LNP won – with no climate plan – we cried and agreed that the dream of a family wouldn’t be for us,” Emma says. “It’s a terrifying thought for us that the world will be uninhabitable in a few decades if we continue charging ahead with fossil fuels and approving coal mines like Adani.”

Hmm. That sounds sane and rational.

Given that Federal elections happen every three years in Australia and the post of Prime Minister is a job decided by random Jury Service ballot, Emma and Mick may only have to wait to their 35th and 36th birthdays, respectively, to change their minds. Of course, that might be a little too late for Emma, but here’s hoping.

Bill’s Opinion

If I were in my early thirties and wasn’t quite sure whether I’d like to start a family with the woman I’m living with, climate change would seem like a brilliantly-convenient excuse.

Of course, should I find myself single a couple of years later, there’s a good chance I’ll still be capable of fathering a child with a new, younger model whilst my ex will be alternatively browsing the FAQ and pricing pages of fertility clinics and cat rescue charities.

The choices these couples are making seem rational… if the underlying assumption that the world is doomed is 100% accurate. To their credit, they are being internally consistent with the actions they are taking.

Big decisions based on assumptions are always worth constant checking though. What if your assumptions of either the problem and solution are wrong? Even by a few percent?

John McGrath; inside a trade, thing

This amused me today.

We’ve discussed the altruistic character that is John McGrath previously, and how his track record is very clearly to create wealth for people called John McGrath whilst absolutely destroying value for those who invest in his company or, indeed, listen to his advice on the trends in the real estate market.

In fact, without wishing to say, “I told you so”, I will have to say, “I told you so”. As I wrote just under 12 months ago in response to McGrath’s advice for property owners to hold their nerve and not sell as the market will definitely recover quickly:

If you really want to become a millionaire, take 6 million dollars and invest it in whatever John McGrath tells you to.
A cynic might suggest John would like you all to not flood the market with your firesales until he’s finished the conveyancing on his.

What a difference a year makes.

Bill’s Opinion

One can accuse John McGrath of many things; share market con artist, pathologically-addicted gambler on horse races, double-faced spruiker, etc., but he definitely knows more than most about the Australian property market.

Whether he needed to cash in his assets for reasons of expediency due to crippling gambling debts or not, we might never know, but there’s a big flashing sign for anyone who believes the personal stock trading of company directors is a good indication of whether or not to buy their shares.

In the meantime, this is yet another example of the delta between expressed and revealed preferences.

The war is won, go back to your farms and families

Let’s pick an arbitrary moment in history; the OJ Simpson car chase, perhaps. People who are old enough to remember that event are of an age where they will have also witnessed a huge change in society from that time to the present day.

If you were old enough to be aware of the OJ Simpson case in 1994, you’ll also remember how it was still considered a massive problem to be openly gay in many areas of public life.

Some obvious examples:

Freddie Mercury – it wasn’t until just before his death of AIDS in 1992 that his sexuality was publicly acknowledged. 

Liberace – also not publicly acknowledged as being gay until after his death in 1987, despite some fairly obvious clues.

Rock Hudson – same story, died in 1984.

It seems ridiculous now to think that homosexuality would be in any way a bar to career success, particularly in the entertainment industry, in 2019. In addition, most western countries have laws explicitly banning discrimination against someone based on their sexual orientation and recognising same sex marriage as equal in law as that between men and women.

 

Similarly, someone who grew up in  the 1970s and 80s would have seen a large change in the attitudes of the media and the general public towards the acceptability of racism.

Examples from the UK:

The Black and White Minstrel Show – a “light entertainment” show on the BBC featuring singers and dancers in blackface that ran for 20 years until 1978…. and continued on stage in London until 1988.

The Goodies – the Pythonesque comedy show regularly used offensive racial terms in the show, including at least one reference of the “N word”.

Jim Davidson, Bernard Manning, most mainstream TV stand-up comics – many relied heavily on racial stereotypes in their humour. Even the black comedian, Lenny Henry, had a rasta character of which he is probably somewhat embarrassed these days.

 

The same is true with the western societies’ attitudes to women in the workplace. At the highest level of office, many countries have elected female leaders, with New Zealand and the UK having had two (albeit with mixed results). There have been huge shifts in the numbers of women having successful corporate and governmental careers.

On a personal note, the majority of my corporate bosses over the 2nd half of my career have been female, completely the opposite of the previous half.

 

When one considers where we’ve come from to where we have arrived today, the improvements have been overwhelmingly positive. Someone uttering a racist, sexist or homophobic comment in society today would be, rightly, quickly criticised.

Perhaps we have an altogether different problem now……

If I had to give the problem a name, I’d offer something like, “the asymmetry of lobbyists and issues“.

To understand what I mean by this, consider the following thought experiment; 

If you could plot two lines on a graph over time, where one line measures the organisation size (by staff or perhaps revenue) of a campaign group against racism, sexism or homophobia and the other line measures the size of the problem they are campaigning to solve, which directions would each line be traveling?

That is, do you think homophobia is getting better or worse and do you think, say, Stonewall, has become larger or smaller (not to particularly pick on Stonewall)?

Bill’s Opinion

There comes a moment in every war where the combatants must decide whether the fight has been won or lost and what their plans will be as a consequence.

In the example of a “real” war, one fought with bullets and bombs, once it has been won the armies generally begin the process of de-mobilisation, go home to their loved ones and continue with their lives, “turning swords into ploughshares”, as the phrase has it.

It doesn’t seem obvious that anything similar is likely to happen with culture wars such as the ones described above as, obviously, the organisations have been created and are not motivated to dismantle themselves under a banner saying “Mission Accomplished”. 

The alternative is what we see today; scope creep. People who make their salaries from finding a problem and solving a problem will continue to find problems, regardless of whether those problems are material or even real.

 

Ring the bells that still can ring

…forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

The word “hurt” does yeoman’s work in this article in our favourite woke legacy news source.

The national anthem of Australia needs to be amended to reduce the harm the current version is inflicting on certain Australian citizens, apparently.

The good news is only one word of the three verses need be changed; from “we are young” to the proposed “we are one”:

Verse one of the proposed new anthem is the traditional verse with one minimal change – adding the single word “one” to replace the outmoded, and for many Australians the exclusionary and hurtful word, “young”.

There’s quite a lot of accusations being made against what people may have previously thought was an anodyne five letter adjective indicating relative age or maturity.

“Outmoded”, “exclusionary” and “hurtful” to many Australians?

Okaaaaaay.

So, let’s say there’s a nationwide debate on the subject and the conclusion is everyone agrees to drop the “young” bit, acknowledging the Aboriginal population’s arrival here tens of thousands of years ago. Would that result in this “oneness” we are encouraging, would everyone suddenly find a love of the anthem that previously was missing?

Doubtful.

Bill’s Opinion

There is a subset of people who will never be happy with the lyrics of the Australian national anthem. I have no proof but it’s my suspicion this subset correlates greatly with the people who claim the word “young” is the cause of “hurt” and, if so, wouldn’t suddenly transform into flag-waving patriots cheering on the national sports teams or whatever other measure one chooses as a proxy of national pride.

Of course, people who are on the look out for the dog that isn’t barking, might wonder why these people are focusing on a single word of a song they’d never countenance singing while the infant mortality rate of indigenous children is double that of every other ethnic group in the country?

Show me on the doll where the word “young” hurt you….

Rights without responsibilities

If you’ve been living under a rock, been busy, aren’t interested in Australian politics or, frankly (and ironically), have a life, you might not have heard there’s an abortion debate going on in New South Wales.

Obviously, the first casualty in this type of debate is the truth. For the record, the legal status quo looks like this (where New South Wales is in green):

Keep that in mind before we look at the reporting on this issue.

In summary, a pregnant woman can have an abortion in NSW for several reasons, often quoted by pro-abortion lobbyists as the most valid arguments for terminating an unborn child’s life.

The one reason for an abortion not allowed in NSW is as a method of contraception. There’s a couple of big howevers to that; the woman could drive across the state border to the Australian Capital Territory and access abortion on demand there or find a doctor who is willing to prescribe abortion for reasons of mental health.

In other words, abortion in NSW is safe, legal, rare and, wink wink, not to be allowed for contraception.

That isn’t acceptable in these modern times though. Abortion on demand is a woman’s “right”, according to, well, the usual people we find ourselves regularly observing with incredulity here.

As the NSW government tears itself inside out trying to change the law whilst not losing the slim parliamentary majority it has, cue hand-wringing articles in our favourite woke organs of record.

This one, for example, which lists lots of terrible events which might lead to the agonising decision of a woman to kill her unborn child…. all of which are legal already and aren’t under threat of being criminalised.

Then there’s this article, which also describes an agonising choice made by a pregnant woman that is, wait for it, also not under threat of being made illegal.

What I’ve yet to find (please correct me in the comments if you’ve seen it) is an article explaining the current legislation and what impact the proposed changes will have if passed. i.e. will the categories of valid reasons be increased or decreased, will the time limit be decreased or increased, will abortion be available to be used as a form of contraception?

Bill’s Opinion

As I’ve stated earlier, my opinion on abortion has hardened the further away in time I have become from being likely to benefit from it.

The reporting on the current debate is actually activism not journalism. Cases on the margins are being cited as arguments for the change in legislation without explanation that these are already allowed.

If you are pro-abortion, I would suggest that, if your view is without nuance that it is completely the right of the pregnant woman to decide whether or not to continue the pregnancy, you are practicing a form of self-delusion.

If you believe the media reporting on the issue is balanced and impartial, I’d further suggest you may have a form of cognitive or mental deficiency. Perhaps I’ve only seen the worst examples though, so do post links to balanced reporting if you know of any.

There is a moral choice to be made with regards to abortion, but it is not the one many lobbyists might think. The choice to take an otherwise viable human life by abortion is actually the final choice in a long series of choices. In chronological order, those are:

  1. Abstain from having sex.
  2. Abstain from having sex with someone you know you don’t want to be be with for the rest of your life.
  3. If you wish to have sex with someone who isn’t an obvious life partner, diligently and responsibly use contraception. Be aware that there will still be a residual risk of pregnancy.
  4. If an “accident” happens, carry the baby to term and decide whether you can cope with parenthood after it’s born.
  5. Offer the child up for adoption to one of the desperate couples who can’t conceive naturally.
  6. Kill the damn thing like a virus.