Aspirations? A distant memory for many

Apparently, the previously unannounced “zero covid” strategy is only an aspiration now.

Aspiration is such an ironic word to use, given the utter destruction of the aspirations of so many people by the pursuit of this secret policy.

Some examples leap to mind from personal experience:

The aspirations of school age children to learn and achieve similar or better educational standards of those who preceded them. Any parent who has witnessed the standard of remote teaching delivered by the New South Wales high schools can confirm kids are currently in a bizarre day care on Zoom holding pattern. Any pretence they are learning the curriculum disappeared long ago.

The aspirations of small business owners, particularly those reliant on footfall or seasonal business. They’ve learned a brutal lesson that the government can destroy their livelihoods at the stroke of a pen and an 11am press conference.

The aspirations of people to visit family overseas, for happy or sad reasons. The university graduation ceremony for a child or to attend the funeral of a parent are two personal examples.

Aspirations are hard to measure but you damn well know when they’ve gone.

Let’s remind ourselves of the reason why this juggernaut of destruction has been driven through our aspirations (source):

Bill’s Opinion

As with the financial crisis of 2008, Grandad and Granny have been bailed out by their grandkids. Again.

Nobody was asked, nobody was consulted.

But far worse than that, not a single Opposition MP or “Independent. Always” journalist is asking questions about this ongoing transfer of aspirations from the young to the old at the 11am press conferences.

Speaking truth to power. That may have been a thing once, I recall.

A nation of convicts will always need plenty of jailers

….and it would seem there’s no shortage of volunteers.

Yesterday, at our local park, a woman was furtively photographing primary school age kids enjoying themselves on the skate park, because, in her words, they were “doing the wrong thing”.

Quite what she has since done with the photos is anyone’s guess. If she hasn’t found a suitable “grass on a neighbour” police webpage to upload them to, she could always sell them to those Wokepac customers who can no longer buy images from the Philippines via the online banking systems.

Just one anecdote, you say. Sure, then we have Pirate Pete continuing his multi-decade long sulk with the rugby coach who was mean to him all those years ago, Alan Jones.

Jones has recently had his Sky News rants removed from YouTube because they break “community guidelines”. Everybody is happy about this because, well, it’s Alan Jones and everyone knows he’s a cynical troll spreading misinformation and hate.

First they came for the trolls…

Peter Fitzsimons’ incoherent column today shows us exactly who he is and, frankly, any “part-ay!” he’s attending is one to be avoided. As Konstantin Kisin recently expressed, “we are beginning to learn which side of the barbed wire we’d be on”.

Fitzsimons is cheering the prospect of a vaccine passport to restrict access to travel, sporting events, bars and restaurants to those who are “deniers”. An Ngram chart of his use of “denier” would be an interesting graphic to see; it seems to be wheeled out regularly to close down discussions in which he doesn’t wish to engage.

After a world tour of all the leaders with whom he agrees, as if that somehow constitutes a logical argument, he dismisses suggestions of “authoritarianism” because words that end in “ism” don’t mean anything.

Peter is happy to, as H. L. Mencken put it, preference security over liberty:

Here in Australia, focus on a vaccine passport has so far been mostly for plane travel, the Prime Minister announcing plans for a “digital vaccination authentication” before you’re allowed on board.

Great. That’s a start. But political dynamic that pushes for vaccine passports for planes, must soon apply to everything else, too. The NRL has already announced that from next year no fans will be able to attend its games unless they provide proof of vaccination.

No one is forcing the nutters to get vaccinated against their will. But they, equally, cannot bloody well force the rest of us to stay home in perpetual lockdown. You must stay home. Trade some conspiracy theories in the darkness of your basement to pass the time. The rest of us are going out to part-ay!

Bill’s Opinion

As Jordan Peterson points out, “everyone likes to think they’d be Schindler, the statistics overwhelmingly suggest they’d be the camp guard”.

Take the vaccine, Peter, or don’t take the vaccine, I don’t give a fuck, but keep the hell out of my life and get back in the guardhouse.

Sydney, are you OK with this?

Well, that escalated quickly. The army are “assisting” with enforcing compliance of the increasingly authoritarian laws in Sydney.

In addition, helicopters are flying around western Sydney with sirens and loud hailers to “encourage” people to stay indoors and certainly not protest against these impositions.

The laws around this current lockdown have been strengthened and extended.

What type of laws? How about wearing a mask even when outdoors?

I’m sure there’s solid scientific evidence behind that massive dilution of civil liberties, it’s just not been presented yet. Erm….

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, though. After all, the precedent has been set for us as the UK and the USA went through this a year before Australia’s unofficial “zero covid” strategy fell apart in an embarrassing mess. Governments, local authorities and police forces the world over have shown exactly how little regard they have for individual rights.

Some of those rights we took for granted which we no longer enjoy include:

Freedom of speech – social media is removing and banning dissenting voices. Look at the history of the lab leak hypothesis and what happened to those who suggested it. That the censor isn’t a government makes no difference if they are achieving the same outcome.

Freedom of movement – in Sydney, you will be fined for leaving a 10km radius of your home.

Freedom of association – protesters in Sydney are being fined. Private citizens cannot visit each other’s homes.

Freedom to work and earn – tradesmen were banned from going to work last month, and any business relying on footfall or seasonal trade has already been destroyed.

And the process of removing these rights is being “assisted” by the army. That should surely ring a few alarm bells?

Perhaps then, the only question worth asking is, “Are you ok with this?”.

If your answer is “yes”, I have a supplemental question for you.

“What, then, would it take for you to become concerned?”

Bill’s Opinion

The framing of these changes is that they are “to keep us safe”. If one assumes good faith on behalf of the law givers, there’s a line of logic we can see behind some of the laws. The debate, which we’ve obviously lost, is whether the price is worth it.

Personally, I believe we are now paying far too high a price in terms of dangerous precedent for the safety we are benefiting from. That ship has sailed though.

However, it’s hard to accept a good faith argument with regards to some of these measures. Outdoor mask wearing, for example, appears to make no logical sense.

We know that. They know that. And they know we know that.

Yet, why then?

In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control.
Theodore Dalrymple

Brothers with ovaries

Somebody died of ovarian cancer and YOU are a bigot because something something language.

The linked article is about transgender waffle, so we recommend a strong cup of coffee and the expectation of having to re-read it a few times to work out what is going on while the nouns and pronouns we’ve accepted as settled for thousands of years are wrestled in to new meaning.

The TL:DR version is, man’s sister decided she was a man, lived that way for a long while, didn’t have medical checks appropriate to her biology, died of ovarian cancer. As a consequence, YOU must change the way you use language to prevent this ever happening again.

Putting the tragedy of the death aside, there’s some unintentional hilarity to be had in the article, such as:

But monitoring requires trans people, in the first instance, to engage with parts of their former self. “For those less-seen cancers there can be that real bodily disconnect and not wanting to psychologically engage with that part of the body,” says Dr Berner.

Which is a diplomatic way of saying, “you can pretend you are something you are not but reality doesn’t care”.

This statement is interesting:

“So some of the national screenings aren’t picked up: cervical screening in trans men – they’re not called. GPs are encouraged to make their own register for those patients. But that doesn’t always happen. Some GPs are not aware of the risk. It involves education on both sides and building a culture of greater trust in the healthcare profession.”

Imagine being a GP with a trans person on your patient list. It’s time for a regular, age-based check up for testicular or ovarian cancer. Do you, A. Call them in and risk this type of reaction or, B. Go to the next person on the list?

As for the “education” needed, one imagines a possible cause of the problem may lie in the fact the trans people demanded their medical records are amended to say the opposite gender to the one they are, biologically-speaking.

To prevent this confusion ever happening again, a charity has been set up. The work it’s doing is vital, really making a massive difference to humanity:

Following extensive work with trans and non-binary groups, the task was to find language and images that would be inclusive of those whose bodies might not fit into typical ideas of chests or breasts. The two charities opted to use pictures of fruit as a guide for what to look out for: changes in size, shape, skin texture, lumps or nipple discharge.

Curious readers might wonder whether this campaign is perhaps not addressing the root cause of the problem but the symptoms instead?

If confirmation were needed, there’s an interesting small detail in the article suggesting denial of discomforting reality is a family trait:

The Duncans do not stage funerals – they don’t believe in them – and so Sean did not have one either. Instead, Duncan is left considering the loss of his big brother. “What could there have been?” he asks. “I’ve never indulged myself in [thinking about] that because that’s where the genuine sadness lies – the missing years. It’s difficult. Grief is indeed the price you pay for love.”

Bill’s Opinion

I have huge sympathy for people who are uncomfortable with their body, it must be a terrible daily struggle to find an acceptable way of existing.

My sympathy ends, however at the point you demand I change my life, including the meaning of language I and millions of others have tacitly agreed to since language existed.

Going along with a pretence you are something you are not may be a kindness we can offer trans people. Extending that pretence into the realms of the medical however, is irresponsible and, ultimately, cruel.

Your inability to engage with reality has consequences, some of which may cause you avoidable harm.

The art of the deal. Queen’sland edition

The definitive How To guide for negotiation was originally published in 1987. By any objective measure, it’s long due an update.

Just like with the proliferation of different editions of the board game Monopoly (London, Paris, Harry Potter, S&M Fetish, etc.), we therefore bring you a précis of The Art Of The Deal; Queen’sland Edition.

Chapter One – Understand Your BATNA

The Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement is your backstop. What’s the least you can live with if the other party doesn’t come to the negotiating table?

Some might say, in the example of negotiating a deal to bring The Olympics to your city, the BATNA is to simply walk away. After all, there’s plenty of risk associated with these events, it’s been a long time since one turned a profit and don’t have cost blow outs. The current games is going to cost the Japanese taxpayers at least $1.5bn.

Obviously, the collective brainpower of the Australian state of Queen’sland will ensure this fate doesn’t apply to them.

Fortunately, Premier Anna didn’t need to exercise her BATNA as hosting the Olympics is an excellent boost for the large country town city of Brisbane and there will definitely be no negative consequences during the remainder of term in office, or indeed at all.

Chapter Two – Know Your Opponents

In the case of the bidding process for the 2032 Olympics, this chapter is a short one; Brisbane was the last city standing.

This chapter of the book has a small footnote written in 0.1 size text and white font on a white background. Helpfully, we’ve expanded and darkened the text here:

If you find yourself the only buyer in an auction, consider the possibility the non-bidders have one more data point than you.

Chapter Three – Ink The Deal

This must be done in person. Jump the queue for a vaccine, take an expensive flight, go back on your word to not attend any ceremonies or events and take up a room in hotel quarantine that otherwise would have been wasted on a person who perhaps wanted to say goodbye in person to a dying relative.

Chapter Four – Hearts and Minds

Signing the deal is just the start, now you must sell the benefits to all important stakeholders. It’s probably a good idea to downplay any negatives such as setting Greece up for a terrible GFC or the $2bn loss for the Rio games.

Fortunately, Anna has set herself up for success already by bringing thousands of Australians together in a united cause.

Chapter Five – Two Envelopes

All deals will eventually get into difficulties. Fortunately for Anna, any minor problems such as taking on massive debt will be experienced by her political successor. Perhaps she will give them two envelopes when she leaves office?

Bill’s Opinion

Let’s face it, the Olympics is mainly a bollocks collection of boutique “sports” nobody ever pays to watch ordinarily.

Other than the 100m final, the rugby sevens and the hilarious “female” weightlifting featuring Lauren Hubbard, I won’t be bothering watching.

If my assumption that we are living in the post freedom age is correct, the people of Queen’sland may find themselves holding a very expensive event with no overseas spectators.

Queen’sland; the smart state.

A very mean reversion

A virtual Grand Tour around the various right of centre, libertarian and free market media sites and commentators over the last few years may have resulted in the, not unreasonable, conclusion there is a kind of Anglospheric Exceptionalism. From Roger Scruton, through Douglas Murray, Matt Ridley, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Haight, Lionel Shriver, and many other voices who pop up regularly in each other’s podcasts and on the pages of The Spectator.

The unique Anglo cultural phenomenon is hard to define but likely to include elements of the following (in no particular order); individuality, free speech, free trade, freedom of movement, property rights, rule of law, meritocracy, religious and sexual tolerance, morality, and fairness.

Different versions of this are shown to perhaps apply variously across countries.

Australia, for example, has almost an entire national identity built on the shifting sands foundation of a concept of “fairness”. Everyone who has travelled around the Aussie media, legislation and government services will have encountered the word “fair”, without it ever really being defined. Australian fairness is defined as, to recycle the words of US Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it”.

The USA’s proud boast is based more on free speech, individual responsibility and the creative destruction of free markets.

The UK spends much of its currency of national conversation on expensive angst about how racist and intolerant it is whilst simultaneously being the destination of choice for immigration from almost every ethnicity and religion. UK tolerance is clearly a national trait, as witnessed by the inability of most of its citizens to complain about customer service.

The Canadian, New Zealand and Irish flavours of Anglospheric Exceptionalism are harder to define. They’re three irrelevances on the world cultural stage, taking their cues heavily from their larger neighbours and generally piggybacking on the good stuff whilst pointing at the negatives as if they were a problem of some other.

There’s clearly a place for the theory of Anglospheric Exceptionalism, otherwise so many of the products of these countries, both tangible and philosophical, from iPhones to fundamental legal concepts, wouldn’t be adopted and/or envied by other less happy lands.

Culture must be a factor too, otherwise the success of the USA might perhaps have been replicated to some degree on the west coast of Africa when the newly formed country of Liberia adopted a CTRL C/V version of the USA Constitution. Last time we checked, Liberia wasn’t at the top of the list of countries people were battling to emigrate to.

Some amazing outcomes have been achieved from the children of the anglosphere. As a proxy measure, Cambridge University has produced double the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire country of France. Interestingly, France has produced four times the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire continent of Africa (including the Africans of European ancestry).

Clearly, cultural relativism is a bollocks concept. Not all cultures are equal, as anyone trying to get to the grocery store and home again unharmed in Johannesburg or Durban could tell you right now.

It’s easy to fall into the fantasy that we’ve found some magic civilising incantation, a secret formula to civilise the world and ensure the direction of travel is forward.

Worse, if you’re tempted down the roads of patriotism, ethnic pride and supremacy-thinking, you might believe this has something to do with genetics or another hard to define concept, “race”.

What if we’re wrong? What is history telling us?

It’s easy to ignore the inconvenience of history. Until really very recently, say, until the second quarter of the 20th century, life for everyone was uncertain in duration, brutish and tough.

Freedom of speech, for example, would have been quite a distant thought for most people in the anglosphere when faced with the prospect of having to bury a child every year or two. Freedom of movement and property rights were theoretical for the vast majority, who had only the option to emigrate vast distances with little to no possessions, often to escape religious intolerance, indentured labour and restrictions to their ability to trade freely.

If we’re really being honest with ourselves, these modern miracles about which years’ worth of podcast content and self-congratulatory books have been produced, are a specifically modern phenomenon probably not yet even 100 years old.

The normal scenario was benign rule by king or emperor if we were lucky, but brutal authoritarianism mostly. After all, Marcus Aurelius was only one man in an empire lasting more than a millennium.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps we’ve been living in a dream? Perhaps we’d convinced ourselves the circumstances all but our last four generations found themselves in had been prevented from recurring.

Our ability to choose and find work, travel freely in and out of countries, speak freely in public, make our own health decisions, manage personal risk, protect our wealth and family and to take individual responsibility no longer exists.

Perhaps it never really did. Certainly, the swiftness with which these “rights” were removed indicates the fragile grasp by which we held them.

Le plus ça change, le plus c’est la meme chose, as your great great grandparents probably couldn’t pronounce but understood implicitly.

The reversion to the mean, is indeed very mean.

Are you an artist?

An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some examples:

The threat of mental health impacts.

Position A: we must agree, without question, with children who say they are transgender because otherwise their inevitable negative mental health outcome and possible suicide will be our fault.

Position B: we must keep children off school and away from group sports for months to protect the elderly and chronically unwell. The mental health impacts of this are insignificant.

Climate change

Position A: climate change is the biggest existential threat to humanity, all necessary resources and national finances should be applied to solve it. We must think the unthinkable.

Position B: nuclear energy is too big a danger to use to generate our power.

Election fraud

Position A: Russia hacked the 2016 election resulting in the illegitimate Trump presidency.

Position B: there were no irregularities in the 2020 election. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.

The World Health Organisation

Position A: it’s unfortunate the WHO made several significant mistakes over the efficacy of masks and the possibility the Kung Flu came from the Wuhan lab.

Position B: the WHO is correct that the vaccines are safer for all age and health cohorts than catching the virus.

Prophylaxis

Position A: there is no evidence from randomised double blind longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of existing generic pharmaceutical treatments for Kung Flu and anyone suggesting these should be further investigated is a conspiracy theorist.

Position B: a vaccine first produced less than a year ago is completely safe in both the short and long term for all age and health cohorts.

Freedom of speech

Position A: one of the greatest benefits of living in a western democracy is the freedom to criticise government policy without sanction.

Position B: there is no problem with private companies, some of whom have revenue greater than the GDP of many countries, to censor people who spread misinformation as these people are dangerous conspiracy theorists.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps there’s a bit of artistry in us all. It’s not those who have inconsistency who scare me most, but those with certainty.

Take it away boys:

The cruel social experiment continues

In the same week:

Caitlyn Jenner arrives in Sydney.

Katie Hopkins arrives in Sydney.

Queen’sland Premier departs for the Tokyo Olympics after jumping the queue for a vaccine.

The residents of the Sydney suburb of Fairfield are under house arrest.

There’s something for everyone, heh?

If you think putting a bit of lippy on and acting out an autogynephiliac fantasy is stunning and brave, Caitlyn neé Bruce is here for you.

If you like confrontational shock jock politics, Katie is at hand.

If you believe for an Olympic bid to be successful, an authoritarian Premier with more chins than the Hong Kong phone book needs to visit Tokyo rather than use Skype, Anna is going bring gold home for you.

And if you didn’t even know where Fairfield was until last week, but you assumed it was out west and filled with smelly immigrants, the Westies will take one for the team and you.

At what point do people just say, “nah, fuck this”?

Bill’s Opinion

I think the answer to my question above is, not for a long while yet. It’s obvious we can all take a hell of a lot more hypocrisy, removal of freedom and hectoring by our ruling class and media before we decide we’ve had enough.

It’s an interesting social experiment though. I wonder when the result will be published?

Who is paying for this?

New South Wales is entering its third week of lockdown, 18 months after the virus first arrived and was almost eradicated.

For those who believe the vaccinations are a risk worth taking, the vaccination rates are pitifully distant from a level we might consider useful or, sotto voce, herd immunity.

So, back under the duvet for the residents of the biggest economy in the country, because, to paraphrase the head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, “the only alternative to lockdown is more lockdown”.

You may be wondering whether it’s possible to seek a second opinion on that diagnosis and prescription.

The idea of giving up on the tacit “zero covid” strategy was floated in anonymous briefings to the press last week, only to be met with ridicule and accusations of inhumanity but no tangible or executable answer to the question, “the current strategy has clearly failed, so what do we do now?”.

The school holidays finish on Tuesday and thousands of children will be banished to their bedrooms to attend dysfunctional zoom calls with their teachers whilst using the Alt/Tab function to switch back and forth between “class” and Minecraft.

Of course, that describes the kids whose parents are paying attention and haven’t already given up on them. There’s another group, for whom school was probably their last chance of being socialised and staying out of trouble.

Their parents won’t be checking their attendance at virtual class, their internet access and smartphone use will be unrestricted and it’s unlikely they will be prevented from leaving the house during the school day to smoke vapes at the local skate park.

Our local high school suspended more pupils in the term following the last lockdown than they did in the several years prior, combined. The Principal’s hypothesis was that those kids had little to no adult supervision during the lockdown schooling and brought that freedom to misbehave back into the classroom when school returned.

Eventually, and despite the ridiculous Education Department policies aimed at preventing any semblance of consequences for anti-social behaviour, the school sent these kids home either for short term suspensions or, in the extreme cases, they were “invited” to seek an alternate venue for their education.

The impact of this is going to have dire social consequences. Kids who missed significant portions of school life are not only disadvantaged educationally, but have also missed the last safety net between being a normal member of society or living on its periphery, spending increasing amounts of their lives in and out of the criminal justice system.

Bill’s Opinion

You may think these forever lockdowns are the correct response to outbreaks and that we can see the tangible benefit to them in terms of reducing the deaths and hospitalisation of the infected.

Consider the possibility you are only seeing one side of the balance sheet.

In the UK, for example, it is estimated 7 million people avoided non-covid health appointments since the virus arrived. What percentage of those will result in a later terminal diagnosis that might have been avoided if caught earlier?

5%? 10%?

The official death toll from covid (without questioning the difference between “of” and “with”) is 129,000. If 5% of missed appointments lead to an avoidable death, the covid death count will be less than half of the human cost of “saving the NHS”.

Similarly, the feral kids running around the local area while the middle class kids sit at home in class will become a more visible cost over time. Just because we don’t see the impact now, doesn’t mean you aren’t paying. Remember this in five years time when you have a barbecue discussion about the rise of burglaries, car theft, muggings, drug use, etc.

One can avoid reality but one cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.

Clayton’s zero covid policy

Last week was a watershed moment for Australians in their ongoing battle with the virus. A national cabinet agreed to a “plan” out of the current endless cycle of lockdowns, internal border closures and never visiting or being visited by our loved ones overseas.

Here it is:

One can read further details behind each of those steps at… no, wait, there are no further details. That graphic, using standard Microsoft PowerPoint SmartArt, has taken the Federal and States governments’ combined brain power 15 months to produce.

There’s not even a broad range for the ratio of vaccinated residents that would trigger a move between phases.

Those of us with a job in the productive part of the economy can tell you this is a bollocks plan. The measures should have some element of “SMART” to them to be worthwhile, that is; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

This looks rather similar to those ridiculous international statements we are handed as a fait accomplis from climate conferences, such as the Paris Agreement. The process to produce these documents is the same; a bunch of vested interests get together and drive their own agenda into the document, resulting in an inarticulate mush leaping from the minutiae to the macro between bullet points.

In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the process used to record the final Beatles’ album, Let It Be. A group of hostile collaborators tasked with producing something, anything, pumped out a disappointing product. In the Beatles’ case, an album full of solo efforts. In the Australian national cabinet’s example, a shitty PowerPoint slide a primary school child would score mid-class for.

It’s not all bad news though. We finally learned precisely when Australia switched from “flatten the curve” to “zero covid”. We all instinctively know that strategy change occurred, but nobody I’ve spoken to could point to the moment it happened.

It was July last year.

I don’t know about you, but I totally missed that press conference and the subsequent public discussion of the pros and cons of the various options for dealing with the virus. Not even the partisan hacks on Sky News Australia or The ABC mentioned it or discussed it.

Why? No seriously, why? This was a massive national decision and, if it was even reported, it must have been buried deep in the unread part of the newspaper (just next to Peter Fitzsimons’ column, presumably). Why no reporting of note?

Bill’s Opinion

If ever there was an illustration of the consequence of the political consensus across political parties and mainstream media, this would be it.

We didn’t have a national discussion over whether to go for zero cases of Kung Flu because both parties and the media tacitly agreed with it. Our opinion wasn’t sought.

Just a friendly reminder of the consequences government by consensus gets you:

A war in the Middle East looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, “45 minutes to launch”.

“Temporary” anti-terrorism laws, “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear”.

Taxpayer funded bank bail outs following irresponsible lending mistakes., “we gotta save the economy”.

And now this, the reversal of a decision made quietly and without scrutiny a year ago that has had implications for 24 million people, who were never asked and are now not being asked for the reversal.