Diplomatic immunity, Mr Riggs

Congratulations to South Africa for outplaying England in the rugby World Cup this weekend.

The Springboks made history on Saturday for two reasons; they were the first team to have lost a match during the pool stage to then go on to win the final. Secondly, they joined only New Zealand in the club of teams to have won it three times.

It’s actually better than that; two of New Zealand’s victories had the home advantage and the first one (1987) was at a time when the rest of the world didn’t pay their players whilst New Zealand only pretended not to.

England were the favourites in most pundits’ minds, so this was a brilliant upset by the Saffas.

However….

If you can bear to look, there is a concerted effort to frame this victory as “1995 redux”.

For those not interested in rugby, the 1995 World Cup victory by Francois Pienaar’s team against the All Blacks was lauded as a unifying moment for the newly-democratised country, not least because Nelson Mandela publicly supported the team by wearing the jersey with the captain’s number.

It was a really great moment in sport but does it really translate to the wider situation in South Africa? Is it going to make a difference?

Bill’s Opinion

Anyone who has visited South Africa in the last, say, fifteen years knows that this “moment for change” narrative is built on sand.

In fact, anyone who’s met a South African recently will also know it’s total bullshit.

Why? Every South African you meet has a tragic home invasion story about either themselves, a close relative or personal friend. This is not something a safe, civilised country with a positive economic and social future experiences.

Since the end of Apartheid, South Africa has simply switched the race of the 1% of the ruling class. Perhaps the Apartheid era rulers were also massively corrupt, but they managed to maintain some level of protection of personal safety and property rights (albeit for a minority of the population all of the time and the rest of the population some of the time) and could at least keep the lights on and drinking water flowing.

Through incompetence, corruption and an undisguised animus for people with the wrong colour skin (there’s a word for that which escapes me), the new ruling class have managed to reduce the size of the minority for whom living conditions are tolerable to an even smaller number than before universal suffrage.

Anyone who thinks 80 minutes of kicking and catching an oddly-shaped football will reverse the inexorable slide towards Zimbabwe V2.0 has not been paying attention or is suffering from cognitive dissonance.

There is a joke the non-ruling class blacks tell each other in South Africa; we wanted freedom but we got democracy instead.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

King Merdeus

…everything he touches turns to shit.

There is a pattern that can be observed occasionally and, as long as you’re not exposed to the consequences, can be quite amusing once you’ve seen it.

Firstly, a British example:

Many years ago, a chap by the name of Derek Wanless was the Chief Executive of Natwest Bank for 7 years during the 1990s. At the commencement of his stewardship, Natwest was one of the four largest “high street” (i.e. retail) banks and was a solid performer, taking customer deposits and issuing mortgages.

Wanless’ entire experience, from leaving school, was in the retail sector, having come up through the ranks of the branches. So, he put this expertise gained in just one sub-sector of banking to another, opening up an investment arm and taking the bank into the USA (a market already awash with investment banking services, one presumes).

Guess what happened next?

Huge losses for Natwest which resulted in his defenestration by the board…with just a 7 figure payout to comfort him. Not long after, the bank was bought in a hostile and hugely embarrassing takeover by a far smaller rival, the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Hot on the heels of this success, he was asked by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. the UK’s Treasurer), Gordon Brown, to review the National Health Service. Ponder that for a moment; his previous experience was, to put it as kindly as possible, to destroy a profitable bank and drive it into the arms of a smaller rival so, obviously, he would have been the perfect candidate to look at the profligate and failing health service. To be fair to Wanless, this wasn’t Gordon Brown’s first or indeed last major failure of judgement, have a look at his record on the UK’s gold reserves to understand what a disaster his tenure was.

Finally, Wanless made a return to banking as an executive director to Northern Rock, overseeing the first UK retail bank to experience a bank run since the Great Depression.

Wanless died 5 years later, fortunately without having accepted any further positions in public life.

What’s the point I’m trying to make here? That Wanless was in “The Club”.

It’s a club you and I aren’t allowed to join. The rules of The Club are varied and changeable, but one rule remains constant; once you’re in The Club, there are very few occasions when consequences will ever catch up with you.

There are many examples of the Australian chapter of the The Club but today’s goes by the name of Peter Beattie.

I first learned of Peter during the 2013 Federal Election when he was parachuted into a seat by another member of The Club, Kevin Rudd. Some basic research unearths a disaster zone of a curriculum vitae, not unlike that of Derek Wanless. From a child protection scandal to a health service crisis, through to tying his colours to the mast of a desperate narcissist’s attempt to remain politically-relevant in the federal election, Peter has an enviable track record of mediocrity.

He also seems to either edit his own Wikipedia entry or have a sycophant do it on his behalf. We really must chuckle at the unintentional irony of a statement such as, “As was his style, Beattie faced the crisis head on”, which is then followed by a list of all the ministers who fell on their swords while he survived. As befitting a full member of The Club, the buck stopped just short of Beattie.

The latest chapter in the Peter Beattie show is a forthcoming defenestration from his role as Chairman of Australia’s Rugby League sporting code. The details of his golden parachute have yet to be disclosed but nobody would be surprised to learn of another 7 figure payout as a reward for mediocrity. After all, he’s in The Club.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I don’t really believe The Club exists.

It is far more likely that, once you’re in the circle of people who appoint and are appointed to senior positions on company boards and in government, as long as you can glad-hand the right people and you don’t wipe your snot on your shirt sleeves, you’re in The Club.

Why? You might be completely incompetent and a total narcissist but you’re a known, albeit a bit useless, quantity. Nobody is going to take a risk on someone they don’t know, are they?

A voter exercises their democratic right

…. to vote for the thing we voted for 35 months ago yet still haven’t fucking received.

Why not UKIP? Because the Brexit Party has momentum and no policies other than a WTO terms exit from the EU.

The message offered by a vote for that party should not be interpreted as a “low information vote” or for “we must do a deal at all costs” but an unequivocal, “just leave“.

Just do your damn job, politicians, or move aside and let someone take over who is able and prepared to.

Bill’s Opinion

Democracy is an exercise in mass self-delusion.

The moment those in power make the mistake of allowing us to see behind the curtain, they have put themselves in grave danger.

Political handbrakes

Australia held a Federal election yesterday. They do this every couple of years and also change Prime Minister about halfway through each term, for reasons nobody really remembers. Perhaps this is rather like how the winter and summer Olympics are held 2 years apart to keep everyone interested?

Like many “new” countries, Australia has a written constitution. When one speaks with Australians, they claim theirs is quite analogous and heavily-based upon the USA constitution.

This claim is accurate only to the point that there are States (but also “Territories” which differ to a “State” somehow) that can write local legislation and the Federal government that can write national legislation.

The similarities come to a rather screeching halt there.

The USA Constitution is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most beautiful pieces of written text in the history of the English language, staking the primary claim that the rights of the individual are paramount.

It’s a work of philosophy first, a declaration of nationhood second. It has stood the test of time and is still the envy of everywhere and everyone else in the world. If you are in any doubt about that, Google the statistics on where potential immigrants would prefer to relocate to and from. The jihadi supporters might shout “Death to the USA!” in the streets of Gaza but they individually change their tune the moment there’s a hint of a Green Card being granted.

Interestingly, Liberia was founded on an almost direct copy of the USA constitution, perhaps demonstrating that national, cultural and ethnic differences might be slightly more important and harder to assimilate than the cultural marxists would like to believe.

One of the wonderful consequences of the American system of maintaining separate Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches acting as checks and balances on each other is the constant drag on making radical changes to anything of importance; a “Hitlarian” populist character simply can’t enter the Whitehouse and start jailing his or her enemies. So, despite what the increasingly insane left would like to think about Trump’s motivations, he’d be hamstrung even if he was maliciously-minded.

Let’s just repeat that in another way, for the simple-minded folk who have let their hatred of Trump cloud their judgement; either Trump is Hitler/Maduro/Erdogan/Jong-Un and wants to jail dissenting voices but the system stops him, or he isn’t actually a malicious person after all.

Either way, brilliant news for Americans and the rest of the world!

If you accept that the system prevents dictatorships, consider that this is a design feature, not a bug, of the American system.

No such designed constitutional devices exist in Australia. The constitution is, in effect, the result of a few months of horse trading and pork barrelling by the rich and powerful at the turn of the last century. There’s even a clause in there explicitly allowing laws to be passed discriminating against racial groups, despite there being no legal definition of what a “race” is in English Common Law. Oh, and there’s the classic “New Zealand can become Australia if they ask nicely” clause.

Did you hear that, Jacinda? You could get those gnashers finally fixed up on Medicare. It’s a shame Uncle Helen Clark didn’t realise that, eh?

However, Australians are a canny bunch. They don’t need a high fallutin’ philosophically-based document to define their nation. They can find more practical ways to slow shit down.

This latest Federal election is a fantastic example of this phenomenon.

Spoiler alert; the incumbent party, the Liberal/National Coalition (ie a left wing party but not the extreme left wing party) won but without a workable majority. The amusing part is that the Labor Party (yes, they deliberately use the American, not Australian, spelling for some bizarre reason) were supposed to win in a landslide.

Turns out people lied to the pollsters. Now where have we seen that before?

This is now the 3rd minority Australian government since 2010 and is likely to remain so for the next three years. At which point, 8 out of 11 years will be under zombie governments.

Why has Australia suddenly started to emulate Italy?

My hypothesis is this is due to a combination of two almost uniquely Australian factors:

1. Compulsory voting. Everyone, even the completely politically disengaged, have to turn up to the local school on a Saturday and write on a form. Many people, me included, resent this forced “right” and either spoil their votes or decide to not vote for the major parties.

2. “Preferences”. If your preferred first choice doesn’t win an outright victory and has no chance of being elected, your vote is recycled to the political party your candidate has nominated. You have no say in this. Democratic?

The experienced consequence has been that the system has incentivised a proliferation of micro-sized single issue parties, usually staffed with people with zero political experience and often little useful experience of anything much at all. QV The Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

Bill’s Opinion

Great! By a complete accident, Australian has landed on a system that makes large scale radical change highly unlikely.

Given that the economy is showing signs of slowing, it’s possible that Australia might recover more quickly than if a “strong” government were in power with a sizeable majority and an instinct to meddle (politicians of all persuasions seem to have this in their DNA).

Why?

The 1920/21 Depression offers a clue.

A voter exercises his democratic right

…to treat politicians with the utter contempt they deserve.

The problem with legally-compelled voting is the elected politicians can convince themselves they have a mandate.

The additional major problem with the Australian version of compelled voting is that one needs a PhD in Confusopoly to comprehend it. Frankly, you stand more chance of accurately comparing a Telstra mobile phone “dollar” with the Optus version than navigate this form;

(Excuse my handwriting; I am a medical doctor).

Here’s a scanned version for clarity, in case you are voting in New South Wales and wish to become more acquainted with the various policies on offer;

Bill’s Opinion

Changing government every 3 years and Prime Minister (by bloodless coup) every 18 months whilst fining those who choose not to engage in the voting process is not democracy.

Convince me otherwise and maybe you’ll get my vote next time…… Be ready to demonstrate that you’ve achieved something in the real world other than organising a union or working for a law firm, you useless and entitled twats.

The batsman is Holding, the bowler’s Willey

There’s a great tradition of spoof obituaries in England. The oldest international cricket rivalry, The Ashes, takes its name from one published in 1882 for example.

This one has a more serious subtext however;

UK Democracy on 29th March 2019, aged 312. It was with sad regret that Democracy died quietly in her sleep at 11pm, on the 29th March 2019. The cause of death was by foul play and the culprits have yet to be brought to justice. Democracy campaigned for the rule of law, human rights and free elections. She listened to everyone and favoured the majority in all her decisions. She will be sorely missed. God have mercy on her soul.

This is in response to the decision, if indeed one can call it that, of the UK Government and the House of Commons to not follow through on their previous majority decision that, absent a negotiated settlement with the EU, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar would leave the EU at 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019.

The can has subsequently been kicked twice more down the road to 11pm, October 31st 2019. There’s little consensus on what, if anything, might change between now and then to break the impasse.

The negotiations have been ongoing for two and a half years and yet there has been a complete failure to discover a comprise win-win solution acceptable to both the EU unelected officials and the British Parliament.

This indicates one of three possibilities;

1. Such a compromise is not possible, or

2. The negotiating team or teams are not competent enough to reach one, or

3. One party has not been negotiating in good faith.

If we accept as true that, in the words of one ex-Brexit Minister, “If the UK thrives after a negotiated exit, it’s bad for the EU. If the UK thrives after a no-deal Brexit, it’s the end of the EU“, the UK should have been able to have negotiated a deal acceptable to Parliament, assuming Parliament wanted such a thing.

Using our patented razor, we’re going to have to assume it’s the British Parliament that’s the problem then. If they wanted to leave, they would have left by now.

How the hell did the mother of all parliaments become so timid and forgetful of their mandate.

One of the main justifications being wheeled out against simply leaving is the economic impact.

Here’s one such argument in the house from Hansard:

….how cautious should we be of incurring a loss of such magnitude, that the whole revenue of the country may be too little to make it good. l am aware that those who maintain this last opinion have alledged, that compensation may be demanded for voluntary and exaggerated losses, and for a sacrifice of extravagantly computed prospective profits.

Actually, that wasn’t an argument against Brexit, that was Mr. George Hibbert, MP for Seaford, arguing against the abolition of slavery in 1807.

The vast majority of his colleagues took the opposite view that not only was it the morally correct thing to do but the majority of the electorate agreed with the motion to leave and accept the economic consequences and make the egregious slave trade illegal.

And so, the British Parliament became the first to legislate against slavery, a practice that had been present in almost every culture globally for the entire history of humanity (not that you’d realise that by reading the news today; it would seem the current prevailing view is that the British invented the trade… that the Arabs had been profiting from for centuries prior and after the British copied them).

The irony shouldn’t be lost that some of the arguments against the abolition of the international slave trade are eerily similiar to those deployed against implementing the result of the largest democratic vote in British history, particularly the concerns about the economic consequences.

In fact, the British people were asked twice to confirm they wanted to go ahead with Brexit; both the Conservative and Labour parties campaigned in the 2017 general election on manifestos promising to implement the result of the previous year’s referendum. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, offered voters another referendum to confirm the result of the first. They were utterly destroyed in the election.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s time to clean out this Augean stable. In the words of Oliver Cromwell:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place,

which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

Peter Hartcher probably thinks this is objective

Time to fisk, Right Wing Nationalists Are Learning From the UK’s Pointless Ugliness.

Now that Brexit is indisputably established as one of the most monumentally stupid pieces of self-inflicted injury by a developed nation this century, other nations are learning key lessons from its mistakes.

Brexit hasn’t happened yet. In other news, the UK economy’s growth is currently outstripping that of all of its European neighbours, particularly Germany. Sure, the onmishambles that the British are currently suffering in Westminster is a national embarrassment but I’m not seeing much that could be called a “self-inflicted injury”.

The concept behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was that it would recover its sovereignty. On the day that Britons voted by 52 per cent to 48 in favour, its main cheerleader, Nigel Farage, declared it “independence day”. That was nearly three years ago.

Other than padding to hit the word count, I’m not sure what this tells us that anyone not living under a rock doesn’t already know. Three years, you say? Article 50 was always going to be at least a two year process, as advertised during the referendum campaign.

Today the country is a global laughing stock. It’s in an interminable dead-end, neither able to move forwards nor back. It’s lost investment and jobs, political stability, national credibility and, perhaps worst of all, it’s inflicted new anger and division within British society.

Let’s take those statements one at a time, shall we?

The country is a global laughing stock – Maybe. Or perhaps the politicians are the source of amusement. As for Britons caring what others think of them; there are only about 20 countries in the world, i.e. 10%, who we’ve not had a bit of a ruck with in the past. As Millwall fans chant, “Everyone hates us, and we don’t care”.

Dead end? Perhaps, but again, if the politicians can’t pull their fingers out of their arses by 11pm on Friday we’ll be moving one way…. out of the EU.

Lost investment? See the previous comment about the relative strength of the economy. Also, predicting what would have happened to an economy if something hadn’t happened is a mug’s game. QV the Bank of England’s predictions of Armageddon should the vote go the “wrong” way.

Lost jobs? Unemployment is the lowest it’s been for decades.

Political stability? Yes, and as we can see, the politicians have been found wanting. More instability please.

National credibility? This is from a journalist who presumably would claim he comes from a democratic country yet they change Prime Minister every 18 months and government every 36 months. Oh, and they’re in the insalubrious club of nations that enforce voting by law.

Anger and division? Yes, mainly concentrated at those paid to do a job and yet can’t.

Across the other 27 members of the EU, the main lesson learnt is that it’d be a bad idea to follow Britain out the door. In one country after another, the political parties that were inspired by Brexit have dumped their campaigns.

This isn’t quite giving the message Peter thinks it does. Perhaps nobody should wish to be in a club that punishes you for leaving? See also; Islam.

Two years ago, the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was demanding a referendum on whether to leave the EU, a Frexit, as was known. Today she speaks of making the EU work better. Italy’s Matteo Salvini of the League ran a right-wing nationalist campaign to reject the EU common currency, the euro, but now, as deputy prime minister, he has stopped using the hashtag #BastaEuro – enough of the euro. The idea is now effectively moribund. In Austria, the Freedom Party dropped its call for a referendum on dumping the euro and joined a coalition government that favours the status quo.

Again, Peter’s not really giving the message he thinks he is here. Some of us read this as a declaration of hostilities against any population that dares to defy the will of the EU. That’s a club nobody sane should wish to join.

Britain’s experience with Brexit has shown the world such pointless ugliness that it has boosted support for the EU to its highest in 35 years. Specifically, according to a Eurobarometer survey last year, two-thirds of Europeans say that their country has benefited from EU membership.

A survey commissioned by the EU found the EU was good? That’s some high kwality journalisming there, Peter. Bravo.

In Canada, Brexit is being used as an object lesson for secessionists in the French-speaking province of Quebec: “It has given us a picture of what actual attempts to withdraw from a long-established legislative union, as opposed to fantasies, look like,” says the National Post’s Andrew Coyne. “In particular, it has permanently discredited once-common claims that secession from Canada would be a quick and relatively painless affair.”

The Quebecois want to secede from Canada? Really, when did this shocking development occur and please explain to me again the subtle reason why nearly every Canadian Prime Minister always seems to have to come from Montreal?

This point carries particular force for any Australian thinking of voting for Clive Palmer, who is running candidates across the country for the federal election in a shameless attempted comeback even as his creditors try to recover hundreds of millions from his collapsed Queensland Nickel.

Palmer proposes that North Queensland break away and form a separate, new state. Ironic, perhaps, for his so-called United Australia Party. Palmer has learnt nothing from Brexit. He is either a buffoon or an irresponsible populist.

That’s the sound of Peter jumping a shark. Clive Palmer has three fifths of fuck all support from the Australian population, he’s lucky to get a majority of support in his own family. Brexit, on the other hand won a majority in the biggest democratic turn out in British history.

And this is the first lesson that Australia, like countries everywhere, should learn from Brexit. Populists offer emotional appeals that lead to dead ends, just as Farage led Britain to Brexit.

An alternate lesson might be, voting for anything the ruling class don’t like is a futile gesture. Better to let the politicians and journalists make all the difficult decisions and you lot can go back to watching Married at First Sight.

There are many definitions of populism. The one I prefer is that populism offers unworkably simple solutions to complex problems. Palmer is not the only populist on the ballot paper at the federal election. One Nation is another standout. Single-issue parties are no better.

….unworkably simple solutions to complex problems”. I think you’ve just described every opinion column and editorial in your publication, Peter.

Brexit has been described as a crisis of many types. A crisis of national identity, a crisis of leadership, a crisis of the Tory party, a crisis of British politics, a crisis of democracy, a constitutional crisis, and so on. And you can make a solid case for each of these claims. But, at its broadest, the Brexit dead end is a crisis of overpoliticisation. That is, every realistic and practical element of the national interest is lost to a self-interested free-for-all, like hyenas preying on the body politic.

Brexit has also been described as the British people doing what the British people do very well; holding the ruling class to account occasionally. The alternative approach, as demonstrated in “less happy lands” (to quote The Bard), is violent revolution.

The triumph of Farage’s populist “Leave” campaign dealt Britain a jolting blow to the head, disorienting the political system and signalling to the politicians that it was time to let their inner hyenas out. Overpoliticisation is not simply where a government can’t get its way in an uncooperative parliament. That is standard in a democracy. It will often occur for perfectly legitimate reasons of difference over principle or policy. It often happens that the Australian Senate, which was designed to represent a different priority of interests to the House, will block legislation that has passed the lower house.

Brexit is not overpoliticisation; it’s 17.4 million people explaining to about 400 MPs that they have an opinion that’s 180 degrees different to theirs and, lest you forget, we pay your salaries.

As the chaos of the British parliament demonstrates, overpoliticisation is where there is a breakdown of any goodwill or discipline within the parties themselves. It can’t happen here? It already has. In Australia’s case, it was not as all-encompassing as Brexit. But the pathetic tale of climate change and energy policy in Australia over the last decade is a clear case of overpoliticisation. The net result so far is a policy dead end, where a government of six years is about to go to an election without an energy policy.

Brexit and Australia’s woeful energy policy are linked? That’s a bloody long bow to draw.

Electricity prices have soared, companies are being put out of business, Australia’s carbon emissions commitment is in doubt, and the entire power grid is approaching collapse. As the Australian Energy Market Commission reported last week, “the grid is holding up but only because the energy market operator is intervening on a daily basis to keep the lights on”. And this in a country that is an energy superpower.

This national failure didn’t happen because of the routine operation of Australia’s political system. First a Labor government, and then Coalition ones, proved unable to cohere around a policy. The parties fractured within. Labor struck down its own prime minister over an emissions trading system, pitching the Rudd and Gillard governments into a disarray that neither recovered from.

Then it was the Coalition’s turn. Even after Malcolm Turnbull got his National Energy Guarantee through the Liberal party room, a revolt detonated the policy and destroyed the prime minister.

In the cases of Labor and Liberal, it was a free-for-all, without the party discipline that a Westminster system requires or the goodwill to agree on a compromise. No democracy can function without compromise.

The hyenas fed amid the chaos in a frenzy of self-interest and self-indulgence, and the Australian electorate was disgusted. Labor paid the price, and now it seems the Coalition will pay the same price at next month’s election.

All of which can be summarised as, “Australian politicians pushed an agenda that was directly against the wishes of the electorate and now they are struggling to explain why a country rich in coal and uranium has the most expensive electricity in the world”.

Britain’s madness is broader, deeper and more intractable, but Australia has shown over the last decade that it, too, is capable of ruinous over-politicisation. No matter how bad the tragi-comedy of Brexit, Australia cannot be smug.

Peter Hartcher is international editor.

Bill’s Opinion

Peter Hartcher is lacking self-awareness, an ability for introspection and is probably of the opinion that he is objective.

Independent. Always

Here come the freedom restriction laws

A good knee-jerk reaction is only worth doing if it’s quick enough, especially in election season (which, to be fair, is every second year in Australia);

Media bosses face jail over sharing content.

Hasty legislation is so very tempting to those in power as they feel under pressure to be seen to be doing something, anything, in the wake of exceptional or unique events.

The Australian government is therefore making noises about introducing legislation enabling the prosecution of the leaders of technology companies on whose platforms the video footage of the Christchurch murderer’s crimes were shared should similar situations occur in the future.

Our confirmation biases trick us into thinking there is merit with this approach. There are multiple problems with what has been proposed in this thought bubble of a policy description however. Let’s list them and see if you agree:

1. Opportunity cost – given finite resources of time, money and personnel, is this the best and most urgent response the legislators and law enforcement authorities can take to minimise the risk similar murderous violence doesn’t re-occur? I say “minimise the risk” because, despite what anyone would like to think, there is no palatable way to completely prevent murders occurring. The shooter was hiding in plain sight on various internet discussion forums, perhaps some more diligence on behalf of those tasked with crime prevention might be the better priority?
2. Legislation requiring innovation – a law that would deliver jail time to the CEO of Facebook Australia for hosting a snuff movie is, in effect, demanding the company either throw thousands of content moderators at the problem 24×7 OR they invent 100% foolproof algorithms to automatically remove the content the moment it is uploaded. Neither of which is particularly likely, which brings us to problem #3….
3. The law of unintended consequences – the CEO will be extremely motivated to remain at liberty and without a criminal record, therefore they will scale back their content and offering to the Australian market. 99.9999% of livestream content breaks no law, yet faced with the risk of jail, an intelligent CEO is going to simply pull that functionality and content from the Australia IP addresses. Worse, the risk to the CEO has still not gone away due to problem #4…..
4. Virtual Private Networks – VPNs are cheap and easily procured. If content is blocked in Australia, it’s likely users could hop on to a VPN and spoof their location to a different geography and see it anyway. Anyone who enjoys using torrent services that are geo-blocked in Australia already knows this. Faced with this risk, perhaps the tech companies would withdraw or scale back their Australian office footprint?
5. Who defines what content is banned? – if we were to legislate against “dangerous” content, hasty legislation would be a mistake. The definition of what is to be banned is going to require significant discussion and debate, followed up with extreme legal scrutiny to ensure the legislation is unambiguous and not simply providing a censor’s charter to a future government.

Bill’s Opinion
In a crisis, people revert to what they know. Politicians know how to announce and create rapid, ambiguous legislation that satisfies the expediency of being seen to act but fails the test of sustainability and desirability over the long term.

Expect more of this.

Also expect legislation to make subscription to a VPN illegal once someone explains their use to the politicians.

Longbowmanship over Christchurch

As suggested earlier, in the wake of a major atrocity or tragedy, it’s safer to steer well clear of all forms of social media. There’s likely to be some truth available and even some cool heads but finding it amongst the virtue signalling and calls for further limitations to freedom will be nigh on impossible.

Some of the rubbish washes up on the shore regardless of how little time one tries to spend on websites and apps where it lives.

Blame is being directly thrown at a wide range of targets.

Let’s be clear; The person responsible for the decision to murder 50 unarmed men, women and children last week, was the same person who stockpiled the weapons and fired them.

Nobody else.

It’s a shame I feel the need to have to state that axiom, but it seems like a day doesn’t go by without a serious commentator claiming other sources of blame which, utterly coincidentally, reflect their previously-stated biases.

Examples follow;

1. Trump – the go-to blame focus for all that is bad in the world. The shooter’s own manifesto states that he likes Trump because of his ethnicity but can’t stand his policies. On that basis, anyone in the Whitehouse who was white might be blamed. Trump’s actions, words and opinions have been documented in detail for decades, yet there’s nothing we can point to encouraging violence against Muslims. Longbow.

2. Candace Owens – anyone who took the shooter’s claims that she was his greatest influence at face value is clearly not paying attention and has not read or listened to her opinions. The shooter is trolling the media and they’ve taken the bait. Longbow.

3. CNN – on a recent podcast, Scott Adams suggested CNN have contributed to the misinformation by focusing on race and identity. Longbow.

4. Facebook, Twitter, etc. – various political figures are stating the platforms are responsible because live-streaming functionality enabled the shooter to have a far wider audience. Do we think he wouldn’t have murdered anyone if he was unable to live-stream? Longbow.

5. Gun laws – The NZ parliament is bound to pass stronger gun legislation in the next few weeks. New Zealand’s gun laws are far looser than Australia’s, however, despite there being far more guns in circulation per capita, the ratio of guns deaths was (prior to this incident) about the same. Do we really think the legalities of gun ownership are a factor in a murderous extremist’s decision to slaughter 50 people. Longbow and, unless there is a massive search and confiscate programme, pointless virtue signalling.

6. “Islamophobic” comments by politicians – Waleed Aly seems to conflate criticism of a violent interpretation of Islam with taking a gun to kill unarmed citizens. Longbow.

And then there’s this;

Internet service providers and mobile phone network operators took the decision to block a group of websites, ranging from a financial discussion forum (Zerohedge) to the home of those crazy 4Channers. Curiously, the ISPs all decided to do this together at the same time, almost as if they were instructed to do so.

As the screenshot above points out, these smaller players had a minimal percentage of the traffic of the killer’s video compared to Facebook or YouTube, yet these didn’t get banned.

I checked this for myself and can confirm that, for a while, the block was in place but could be bypassed by use of a VPN. The block has since been lifted.

In other more ridiculous news, there’s a push to rename the local rugby team, the Canterbury Crusaders, to something less offensive to the residents of the holy land circa 1095 to 1492. May I suggest The Canterbury Cucks?

Perhaps while they’re at it should they rename Saracens to something less offensive to people living in Spain in the 12th century and the Barbarians to a name that won’t upset the residents of Rome living there in the year 410?

Bill’s Opinion

Shutting down speech, particularly the blocking of internet discussion forums (I want to write “fora” but I know that makes me pretentious) is not a road we should travel any farther along.

The New Zealand government has already been tacitly involved in the de-platforming of Stefan Molyneaux and Lauren Southern and the Kiwi media were clearly incredibly biased in their interviews.

The Australian government has had three positions in as many weeks on whether or not Milo Yiannopolous would be granted a visa, despite allowing him to visit 2 years ago and, as far as I am aware, he’s not committed any criminal offences in the meantime.

Gavin McInnes and Tommy Robinson remained banned.

You don’t have to agree with anything these people say to question whether it’s a smart move to prevent the people who would want to listen to their views from doing so on Australian or Kiwi soil. They can still consume their output via the internet.

Blocking the websites where these views can be read or heard is impractical, as proven by use of a cheap VPN last week.

But, if you wanted to disprove the widely-held belief of the crazies that there’s a global conspiracy against them, private companies blocking websites would be about the worst possible action you could take.

I want these violent crazies to have a public forum to spout their views, for two clear reasons:

1. People who are sane can argue with them and show the insanity of their claims, and

2. If they’re speaking this shite in public we at least know who they are.

The alternative is that they go deeper down their rabbit holes and end up communicating via in game messages on Fortnite, private Whatsapp groups or a range of similar covert technology solutions. The conspiracy would be easily-believed by newcomers if that were to occur.

Finally, in all this blame-chucking, I’ve yet to see a single suggestion that there has been a failure of the domestic intelligence services. The killer was apparently prolific on the various Internet forums and platforms, what monitoring is in place to alert the security services of the threat? For fuck’s sake, it was all there in plain sight to anyone with a computer, they didn’t even need the police state internet snooping legislation of recent years to view it.

Connecting the dots

Unfalsifiable hypotheses are always a bit silly, and this blog generally tries to steer clear of falling for that trap but, hey, it’s Friday and salacious gossip is fun.

Sometime ago, we brought you the Canberra insider news that has never made it into the mainstream; Julie Bishop enjoys/has enjoyed a full and busy private life and sent a fairly unsubtle shot across the bows of the free press to not go prying into MPs’ private lives.

This week, we learn that China a foreign power power has hacked into the parliamentary computer systems (by which they probably mean the email server).

And now Julie Bishop has announced an end to what was a promising political career that, by any objective view, probably still had greater heights to reach.

Curious.

Ok, let’s suspend our usual reliance on logic, reason and requirement for evidence and just have a complete punt at what’s going on….

There’s plenty of embarrassing personal information on everyone’s email history, none of us would appreciate it being opened up to the public, that’s why we don’t share our passwords.

A prominent politician is no different, particularly if they’ve been a little indiscreet in the past.

If you had evidence that your email was one of the hacked ones and you had something to hide, or at least feel a little regretful about, a simple solution might be to drop out of the public eye. It doesn’t completely prevent the leaked information making it into the news but yours wouldn’t be the most pressing for the media to report on at that point.

Bill’s Opinion

China seems a little less-enamoured with Australia these days. The best we can hope for is a Wikileaks type data drop of all the naughty little secrets about politicians’ petty personal lives.

Unfortunately, blackmail and coercion is more likely.