Tricky this

File under; “Questions not asked or answered by the journalist“.

As reported, this is a tragic story of disadvantage, abuse and desperation.

As the Grauniad reporter Ben Doherty expects, our natural reaction is one of sympathy for a fellow human being whose entire life has been a series of events of terrible luck.

Can we ask some questions though, please?

First question; when did Said Imasi arrive in Australia and under what circumstances?

He admits to travelling on false passports, he says, because it is impossible for a person without a country to gain one legitimately.

Imasi arrived in Australia – by plane and intending only to pass through – in January 2010.

He got on an international flight with a false passport? Hands up who, in these post-911 days, likes the idea of getting on a plane with someone travelling under a false identity? You sir, Mr. Guardian Reader at the back, would you put your family on that plane?

Ok, next question; to an accuracy level of the nearest year, how old is Said?

He doesn’t know where he was born, or when. He has few documents to demonstrate who he is or where he comes from.

Imasi was born on or about 27 March 1989. He doesn’t know his exact birthdate, nor precisely where he was born.

That’s sad. It would make competing in a junior athletics competition a little tricky too, wouldn’t it? Yet somehow…..

That’s a mighty fine set of biceps and quadriceps the “teenage” Said is sporting there, relative to the weedy kids running next to him. It’s almost as if….. no, we’re imagining things.

Third question; other than for the international crime of travelling on false documentation, why is Said in a detention centre in Australia (well, on the Australian territory of Christmas Island)?

Oh, because he claimed asylum when he arrived in Australia due to fear of persecution. So perhaps the reason he’s not at liberty in Australia is because he’s undergoing the due process required by the Australian state to ensure the validity of the claims made by asylum-seekers?

Penultimate question; given that he’s living at the expense of the the Australian public and has requested they allow him to live among them permanently, is he motivated to help clarify their points of confusion about his background and the legitimacy of his claim?

The government has previously raised doubts Imasi is from Western Sahara and said he has been uncooperative, a claim rejected by the UN working group.

Oh, that’s awkward.

Final question; if his claim to be at risk of persecution were to be found to be valid, is he the type of person Australians would like to have as a neighbour?

From the article we can see that he has admitted to being a member of a criminal gang, drug-running, traveling under stolen or forged passports, violence and rape.

Although many of Australia’s citizens can trace their ancestry back to British and Irish criminals who were transported to the various penal colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries, it is no longer a requirement or, indeed, desirable for new immigrants to be hardened criminals.

Bill’s Opinion

There is no doubt that Said Imasi has lived a difficult life beset with many cruel twists of fate. He has, however, lied like a cheap fake Rolex at every opportunity offered to him to explain his identity, background and any other pertinent facts which might support his claim to asylum.

The people of Australia are well within their rights to detain him away from their society until these uncertainties have been cleared up.

What happens next to Said is entirely down to Said’s choices; he can either come clean about who he is, where he’s been and what he has done prior to arriving in Australia or he can give just enough information to prove that he has been resident of another country long enough to be able to claim asylum elsewhere.

In the meantime, enjoy the free food, high definition TV, internet and Xbox games at the expense of Australia.

On “shitholes”

The Outrage Bus continues to pick up passengers, presumably none of whom have ever visited Lagos, Nigeria.

Bill’s Opinion

Some countries are more pleasant places to live than others.

This is not necessarily a function of climate or geography but often mainly due to culture.

If this were not true, we would see boats full of French, Italian and Greek refugees heading south to the North African coast to claim asylum each summer.

President Oprah

Tim Newman has a fun discussion about the latest hope of those Americans who are still tearfully nursing a heavily-underlined and bookmarked copy of “What Happened?” by Hillary Clinton; Oprah Winfrey is being groomed for a run at the 2020 Presidential election.

Is it possible that the TV show host is exactly the person who can make President Trump join the ignoble ranks of Presidents Carter, Bush Sr and other one termers?

Well, it very much depends on which of the reasons offered in “What Happened?” You feel contributed most to Hillary’s shock defeat, or indeed, whether there are reasons not listed which may be the root of the problem.

In case you’ve not consulted Hillary’s definitive assessment of the 2016 election recently, here’s a quick recap of the reasons she offered for losing having the election stolen from her;

  • James Comey
  • Vladimir Putin
  • Barrack Obama
  • Mitch McConnell
  • The New York Times
  • The media in general
  • Bernie Sanders
  • Jill Stein
  • Sexism
  • Racist white people
  • Deplorables, and
  • Hillary Clinton

Most of the above will be completely irrelevant in the 2020 election but Candidate Oprah may still have to deal with the Washington Post, the rest of the media, sexism, racists and those inconvenient deplorables.

Which of the reasons from this residual list might we deduce is the biggest challenge facing Oprah Winfrey for the 2020 race?

Yes, you there at the back?

What’s that? Sexism, racism and people who were labelled deplorable?

Top prize.

Now, if we were to produce a Venn Diagram of those three demographics, how large do we feel the common subset would be between all three?

10% of the total? 20%? More?

Next question; what would Hillary Clinton or Oprah Winfrey answer?

Bill’s Opinion

The answer to that question is why Winfrey stands little to no chance of beating Trump.

Privately, it’s possible Winfrey believes there is close to a 100% correlation between those deplorables who elected Trump and and America’s racists and sexists and for this reason, and this reason alone, her campaign will be unlikely to change the minds of the disaffected voters who perhaps objected to the label “deplorable” in 2016 and may still not enjoy that inference in 2 years’ time.

For those who are that way inclined, Sportsbet are offering 3.5 for a Trump 2nd term.

Perspective is relative

Melbourne, Australia has a problem with gangs of young African men committing violent crimes. It’s been occurring for a while now, this example is from just under a year ago and there plenty more similar reports in the media.

The relative size of the problem can be debated and crime statistics are available to point to this particular ethnic group’s contribution to the total number of incidents and, indeed, the ratio of that group who are arrested and/or convicted of violent crime compared to other ethnicities.

On this basis, the Australian Race Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, has called for less “panic, more perspective” over the issue, going on to claim that perhaps there are mitigating excuses for the crimes, such as “social and economic disadvantage”. He urges us to not reduce the issue to race and ethnicity.

We’ll address the debunked Cultural Marxist theory that poverty produces crime shortly. His request that we shouldn’t reduce the issue to race and ethnicity piques our interest primarily.

The chutzpah of Tim’s request is admirable; this from a department and a Commissioner with a recent track record of Identity Politics. Tim, for example, rushes to the assumption of racism for anyone who struggles to pronounce an unfamiliar 4 syllable name. It’s an overused sentiment  but really, this kind of hectoring and haste to label everything as racist and everyone as bigots “is why we got Trump“.

Tim requests that we don’t revert to labeling these crimes by the ethnicity of the perpetrators. He has a point, justice should indeed be blind. People in fear of being physically attacked are usually not blind, however, so is there perhaps some rationality to their response?

Consider the fact that people of an African appearance (no, not this type of African) are extremely rare in Australia, 92% of the population is European in origin, is it surprising that an uptick in crime from an easily identifiable ethnic group receives more attention than say a crime wave where the perpetrators are from a Scottish or French ethnic background?

In fact, does it not make logical sense that, if there’s a set of identifiable features (for example; males, between the ages of 15 and 25, African appearance, congregated in a group of 3 or more) linking a series of crimes that the police have a duty to focus their investigations on those sharing these features (without diluting the legal duties such as the presumption of innocence)?

In the same way that we would condemn the counter terrorism agencies for allocating resources to investigating potential violent Buddhists and Jihadists in equal measure, why would anyone question profiling groups of young African men if there have been multiple recent cases of violence reported at the hands of that demographic?

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not racist to report that there have been violent crimes committed by gangs of young men of South Sudanese origin. It’s also not racist for the police to focus on that demographic during their investigations and efforts to prevent further such crimes. It makes perfect sense and the police would be in derogation of their duties, in fact.

Lastly, poverty does not result in crime; crime results in poverty. If the South Sudanese have a culture which tolerates criminal behaviour, that culture will trump most efforts to integrate them into a law-abiding culture.

By the way, Australian taxpayers, you are paying Tim Soutphommasane’s salary for him to tell you how awful you are. If that’s not the definition of an abusive relationship, I’d be interested in hearing what is.

 

What’s not being said here?

Ellen McArthur, the legendary solo circumnavigator is leading a campaign against plastic pollution in the oceans.

Hopefully she’s not another of these Cultural Marxists who dislike inconvenient facts.

Oh, wait;

 

Is that correct? Did the massive global whaling industry stop because we ran out of whales?

Or… was it made uneconomical in the face of the new advances in refining crude oil? Whale oil became an expensive and smelly product compared to the much cheaper products of Standard Oil.

Yes, that’s right; J. D. Rockefeller should take the credit for saving the whale.

Let’s see what else she’s confused about;

Yes, that’s probably not wasted effort but, does it agree with what our old friend the Pareto distribution tells us? i.e. are we getting the biggest bang for buck, have we targeted the largest sources of pollution first?

The article is silent on this. There’s actually no figures about where the pollution comes from mentioned in the article at all, which seems strange if we’re serious about the desired outcome of preventing the plastic entering the ocean, surely we’d need to know where and who to target first?

In fact, one has to sift through several pages of comments (I wouldn’t recommend this; the Grauniad comments section has its own DSM-5 category) until we find a lone voice of reason…. which everyone else ignores!

Bill’s Opinion

90% of the plastic pollution comes from just 10 rivers. Depending on your definition of what constitutes a major river, there’s about 165 major rivers emptying into the oceans. There’s that Pareto rule again…..

If we are serious about halting the suffocation of the oceans, perhaps we should be working with China, India and the countries of North and West Africa to find ways to reduce their reliance on one-time use plastic. Don’t expect a journalist at the Grauniad to ask difficult questions like that though.

Statistics are fun

More numerical ignorance on Creepbook for Business (TM);

To which my favourite reply is;

The WEF is obviously trying to make a point along the lines of #notallmuslims that our fear of Islamic terrorism is not rational, based on the relative causes of death, and the compliant Katja has bought the idea in full.

Let’s ask some additional questions;

Interestingly, there’s something nearly all of the categories have in common except the terrorism one; there’s a large factor of personal responsibility which could be exercised to avoid demising by each method.

Gun-toting toddlers, for example; why is there an armed weapon within reach of a toddler? In all states, that would be a violation of your gun licence (assuming you have one, of course).

Lightning; electrical storms don’t just appear overhead without warning, so it would be extremely unlikely that you didn’t have several loud and bright clues that seeking safe cover would be a good idea.

Lawnmowers; the words “user error” and “read the fucking manual” come to mind.

Being hit by a bus; don’t jaywalk? Oh, hang on, that prompts another question; where’s the category for automobile accidents? There’s about 37,000 deaths on the road each year. That’s more than all of the categories chosen above combined.

Falling out of bed; really? That’s a medical category on death certificates is it, rather than “elderly and infirm person died from complications following being hospitalised after falling out of bed”, for example? Sniff test failure.

Then lastly, being shot by another American.  At least the WEF is fair-minded enough to only show homicides, as the vast majority of deaths by guns are suicide (2 for every 1 homicide). Being murdered by a gun is terrible, of course, but there are always things one can do to reduce the probability of this occurring. Top of this list would be “not having a criminal record” as various studies suggest 3 out of every 4 gun murders are of people with criminal histories.

Another good avoidance technique might be to keep away from several specific metropolitan areas, such as Washington DC, Baltimore, Puerto Rico in general, etc. and certain specific neighbourhoods in every other metropolitan area. You know, keep away from the bad part of town like Mum and Dad used to tell you, perhaps there was a good reason for that advice.

Also, the statistics tell us that a really good avoidance technique would to not be a black male between the ages of 17 and 24 and to certainly not be in the proximity of anyone involved with crack cocaine. No judgment here, that’s just what the data is telling us.

In contrast to all these sensible methods we can deploy to avoid an early death, terrorism is a little trickier to pre-empt and avoid. I suppose we could steer clear of tall buildings in New York in 2001, travelling in planes or trains, crossing the road in France, attending Christmas markets in Germany, using the underground in London, being a priest in a rural church in France, a concert in Paris or Manchester, a marathon in Boston, etc. etc. etc. Not so easy after all, eh?

Which is perhaps why it’s called “terrorism” rather than “an avoidable accident” or simply “a murder“.

Bill’s Opinion

This relativism using statistics is fun but deliberately misses the main point about terrorism, that is, it is intentionally unpredictable and difficult to defend against because the entire point is to terrorise the surviving population.

In the future, historians may look back at apologists like Katja and WEF and diagnose a form of Stockholm Syndrome as the cause.

Sustainability or fame, journalists must choose

H/t to Dominic Frisby for the core of this idea which he summarised on a recent James Delingpole podcast.

Journalism will likely go down in history as the profession most-ironically least-aware of its impending doom. By this, I mean that it is the profession which is paid to report on, erm, new and interesting developments.

So the irony is that this same profession completely missed the invention of the internet, cheap mobile data, smart phones and social media, the combination of which has all but destroyed what was previously a solid and respectable career from school leaver to retirement age.

Before technology overtook journalists, the supply/demand curve was balanced enough to keep everyone employed, even with the various government-sponsored news sources providing the same service “for free”, such as the UK’s BBC, Canada’s CBC or Australia’s ABC.

This all changed when we could select various news websites on our phone rather than waiting for the 9pm news or the paper boy to do his rounds in the morning.

The industry has been hurting since with many famous old brands closing shop or downsizing to shadows of their former selves.

In recent times however, some brands are beginning to turn a profit again. The Times Group (The Times and The Sunday Times) in London made a profit in 2014 for the first time in 13 years. In 2016, The Times Group made £11m while in contrast, Guardian Media Group, owner of The Guardian, lost £69m.

The Times implemented a “hard” paywall in 2010.

The Guardian does not have a paywall, just a passive-aggressive begging letter at the bottom of every webpage.

There is another huge difference between the paywall and non-paywall media companies; you will know the names of the journalists employed by The Guardian, you are unlikely to recall any for The Times.

As a journalist, it’s fantastic for your public exposure if you are employed by a non-paywall newspaper in a way that those behind the paywall can only dream of. People can read your content for free, resulting in more publicity and other side projects and TV/radio appearances, while your employer continues to pay your salary at a flat rate.

Those behind the paywall must continually write quality and engaging journalism that chimes with their readership. If not, they will be replaced by someone else who can.

The free content johnnies, on the other hand, are working for clicks alone. It apparently makes no difference whether or not they are monetised in any way.

Think Giles Coren versus Owen Jones.

One model boosts a few egos whilst murdering shareholder value, the other demands quality and delivers increased shareholder value.

Bill’s Opinion

Paywalls are inevitable for non-state funded news organisations. Cost cutting is a healthy discipline but there comes a point where the quality suffers and consumers choose to pay for a better product. The results of this experiment are now in.

Organisations such as the UK’s Guardian Media Group or Australia’s Fairfax are currently staring down few choices, none of which are palatable; charge for all content, find a new business model or close down.

The journalists have a starker choice; write content people are willing to pay for or find another job.

The next two or three years will be interesting times watching the non-paywallers.

Your taxpayer rupees paid for this

I’m still in India, Calcutta to be precise, one of the best cities in the country for many varied reasons.

Newspaper subscribers in the city were greeted by this paid front page on one of their main broadsheets (if you’re not familiar with Indian numerical terms, 1 lakh = 100,000, 1 crore = 10,000,000);

I’m not going to poke fun at the Indian version of English deployed within the infomercial, there’s more speakers of the language here than in any other country so it’s as much their language as ours after all.

I will, however, examine the insidious way the reader is encouraged towards gratitude for the efforts of a certain publicity-shy state minister over the last couple of years in his job of spending their money.

Picking out a few example statements;

Free Power to Agriculture“; someone is paying for it, just not the farmers.

Telangana exceeds national per capita consumption“; is that a good thing? Interesting difference between India and a western country where the former might see increased usage as a key metric of modernisation. In the west, we’d just feel bad about it.

This is the most instructive part though;

One assumes reliable and cheap electricity supply is the requirement most rate/taxpayers would express, not employment, promotions, changes to employment status, etc.?

This is how India differs from most other Anglosphere countries however.

India is an amazing country. Firstly, it never should have been a country in the first place; the British conquered, bribed or annexed a lot of disparate kingdoms (none of which were anything close to a democracy) into what then became lumped together and known as “India”. The mutiny in 1857 is now referred to in India as the First War of Independence, but in reality, it was no such thing, if the British had lost there would have been an inter-regnum which would have seen various Maharajas competing for top dog status, the population wouldn’t have been consulted or considered. The Partition of 1947 was a disaster that was perhaps waiting to happen as a consequence of this unnatural joining of many different kingdoms.

India is amazing also because it is simultaneously the epitome of a capitalist economy and also a centrally-planned state. You’re probably wondering why and how this can be.

The vast majority of transactions,  95% in fact, in India are cash. As a consequence it’s hard to get a breakdown of the values but one could reasonably assume most of the volume is below US $10 in value. The important point is that the Government doesn’t have much opportunity to be involved in these transactions. This is why a paper cup of masala chai still costs roughly what it did 20 years ago (10 rupees), a shave at a barbers’ still costs about 60 rupees and an autorickshaw journey of a few kilometres is still less than 100 rupees. The input costs are the major factor in the price, not the government overheads, and these have remained flat or reduced over time.

On the macro level, however, the taxes paid in a country of a billion or more people still total a very large number. As with politicians the world over, this money is then diverted to pork-barrel projects that buy short term votes; dams, electricity distribution projects, highways, border skirmishes with Pakistan, etc.. However, because of the 95% cash transaction issue, the politicians usually steer well-clear of the full Communist central planning drive for utopia as it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that the oppressive infrastructure just isn’t in place to enforce it. It’s a nice halfway house really; the politicians can get comfortably wealthy through the usual methods but are happy enough to let most people simply get on with commerce. And commerce works; the middle class here has grown 20 fold in 25 years.

Bill’s Opinion

One of the main brakes slowing India from becoming a centrally-planned disaster is the inability of a government to intervene in the minutia of the population’s lives. Unmonitored transactions is a key foundation to this freedom.

As the American Founding Fathers and Hayek’s Road to Serfdom warned us, concentrations of power and information in the hands of government officials always leads to abuse. Just because  your guy got voted in and used the additional power in a relatively useful way, there’s no guarantee the next guy will be benign with the increased reach.

It’s for this reason, I hope cash, gold and cryptocurrencies have a long life ahead of them. Imagine a world were every single transaction is tracked electronically and then consider what that information would be worth to a malicious leader.

Oh, and irony of the day; Calcutta isn’t even in the state of Telangana.

You have a faith in something? What if you’re wrong?

Today’s investigation is on location from Varanasi, Benares, or at least three other names the place has been called over the centuries. This is the 2nd last stop during a pleasant holiday visit to India.

The city is built at the point the holy river Ganges pauses its south easterly direction to take a diversion north, making it the most auspicious part of the most auspicious river in India. Bathing here absolves one of sin. Dying here guarantees instant Moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth).

In the words of the Daily Express tagline, all human life is here. The tiny backstreets behind the Ghats (steps) down to the river are the Indian equivalent of a Victorian circus freak show with lepers, cripples, the accidentally-maimed (and some deliberate, either self-inflicted or by relatives looking for an income), Hirjas (transsexuals), more wandering cows than one can possibly imagine and all of their subsequent manure, piles of rubbish, human waste and pretty much anything else you can think of.

Most of the Ghats are used for bathing and offerings but several are “burning Ghats” where a constant activity continues to cremate those lucky enough to have died here. Everything is on show, nothing is left to the imagination.

Around 18km north of Benares is the smaller city of Sarnath, location of the Deer Park, where Gautam Buddha first preached to his followers after reaching enlightenment two and a half thousand years ago.

The location is also significant to Jainism, a religion with much in common with Buddhism and of a similar age, as one of their main prophets spent significant time here.

Buddhists from all over the world congregate here in temples built by Nepalese, Tibetan, Thai, Chinese and many other nationalities.

This is a holy place. In addition to to the Indians making their way to the Ghats, many westerners can be seen seeking enlightenment from the gurus. One can tell those seeking spiritual guidance from the tourists by their lack of hygiene and the fact that they dress even more embarrassingly than the overweight Americans in supermarket denim with elasticated waists.

In the main, the hippies are are just playing at this exotic religion thing though; beyond a silly haircut, mildly regrettable tattoo and several months of their life wasted on bhang (marijuana), they can still have a shave and a shower and go home to a corporate job and the comforts of modern life.

There are many more in the world and in history who make much greater commitments to their faith though, from the ascetics who perform bizarre physical feats such as keeping one arm aloft for decades or Simon Stylites sitting on top of a pillar for 37 years, acts of abstinence like vegetarians, celibate priests, teetotal muslims, acts of violence such as the Crusaders or Jihadists or simply routine drudgery like attending an Anglican Communion service every Sunday.

The question in the title stands; what if they are wrong? In addition to the three religions listed in Varanasi above, there are Christian and Muslim populations. Logically, at least four out of these five religions must be completely wrong about most of their dogma.

Back to the question; Seriously? All that effort, all those hours of contemplation and prayer, the money spent on donations for buildings, pilgrimages, tatty plastic icons (manufactured in poor conditions in Chinese factories), votive offerings, the offspring you indoctrinated?

Where’s the tangible evidence that any of it, not even the majority of it, but ANY of it was for a correct and truthful concept? Where’s the evidence that it made even the slightest positive difference (even as a placebo) to the human condition, even if it wasn’t yours?

If you’re reading this and feeling warmly smug and self-righteous about your atheism, let’s ask the question a different way; do you hold any beliefs to be true for which you cannot demonstrate incontrovertible supporting evidence?

Look deep, is there perhaps an underlying belief that, if only we’d implement the correct version of Socialism, abject poverty, corruption and tyranny wouldn’t eventually follow like it has all those countless times before?

Maybe you have no relevant qualifications or domain experience but you firmly believe that the world will warm to catastrophic levels and by simply pulling a lever and halting the economy, humans can prevent it?

Or perhaps somewhere inside your heart there’s a suspicion that the world can’t support any more people, despite the evidence to the contrary that millions upon millions of people are living healthier, longer lives than ever before and we are producing exponentially more food?

Bill’s Opinion

A few years after The Buddha died, Aristotle possibly said, “the life unexamined is not worth living“.

He also was one of the first philosophers to examine what is now known as empiricism, a search for truth by putting great reliance on that which can be observed.

Don’t waste your life, resources or emotion on that which cannot be proven to be correct. A working hypothesis is fine as long as we drop the idea once it has been proved incorrect or unlikely. Kill bad ideas quickly, it’s better to have a question mark than the wrong answer.

Namaste!