Deck ‘em, McManus

One of the more high profile union leaders in Australia was somewhat vexed by the recent agreement between the UK and Australia, suggesting it will increase competition for jobs to the detriment of the locals:

It’s unusual for the unions or indeed anyone on the left to say the quiet part about immigration out aloud.

She’s right, of course. It’s not a difficult mental exercise to realise immigration would have a negative impact on employment prospects for the exisiting population and their ability to negotiate wage increases.

But it’s an interesting ideological contortion for someone on the more left of politics to attempt. It’s the side of politics most associated with the open (or at least more open) borders position, and yet here’s McManus pointing out immigration isn’t all upside for existing residents.

She’s not alone in being an immigration sceptic on the left, either. This opinion piece by Kristina Keneally from early on in the pandemic makes a similar point, which McManus also endorsed on social media when published.

So what’s going on? Is it cognitive dissonance or simply the often knee jerk reaction of one team opposing whatever it is the other team say and do? Perhaps there’s a third explanation.

I’ve recently been rereading Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. My first reading was a decade ago and, although I took some interesting insights from it, my reading was more of a skim than in depth. I stuck at it this time and have been rewarded with some absolute gems, of which this is one:

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps Sally and Kristina’s disdain for immigration is driven by concern for Australian workers.

Given that the Australian minimum wage is the second highest in the world, just behind Monaco, and Australians can access comparatively generous unemployment benefits, free medical treatment and subsidised child care, why wouldn’t a socialist want to share this wealth with others?

Because, as Hayek points out, they’ve thought it through to its logical conclusion and realised it is diametrically opposed to their agenda.

A dreamtime story

Sit down and listen to my story.

Once upon a time, a school teacher published some of his works of fiction. They sold well and he decided to continue his career as an author rather than return to teaching snotty kids.

The Australian theme of some of his works found popularity with his domestic audience and, over time, he wrote about Aboriginal matters, highlighting injustices and the egregious way they suffered since the Europeans arrived.

His writing about Aboriginal issues brought him fame and fortune, he was fêted by the media and enjoyed invitations to conferences and events. Life was good.

Over the decades, he felt an increasing affinity with the subjects of his writing. In his mind, fiction and fact mixed and his own creation story became a blurred conglomeration of truth, wishful thinking and false memories. He was becoming Aboriginal.

Maybe it started with just a little dishonesty in an interview with a journalist, a hint of a suggestion of an indigenous ancestor. He was rewarded with even more sycophancy, further publicity, more revenue flowed.

So he continued; the half-truths, the lies, the falsehoods became easier to pile on, the accretive process gained a life of its own.

He became the “go to” commentator about injustice and discrimination against Aboriginals, displacing the voices of those who actually experienced this first hand.

Perhaps, once or twice, he’d catch himself wondering about the morality of the path he’d chosen, whether it was right to allow a false narrative of his genetics and ancestry to promulgate in the public mind. Perhaps he reasoned that the good he was doing by publicising these issues outweighed the small matter of the dishonesty.

And then, one day, someone said, “BULLSHIT”.

Bill’s Opinion

In completely unrelated news, Bruce Pascoe has experienced a brutal takedown by academics who actually study the subject he writes about.

However, in Pascoe’s defence, I suspect there’s a large helping of total bullshit on the other side of the argument too. For example:

In 2017, her work took her to Sturt Creek in the Kimberley, where she was asked to examine burned bone fragments at a place called “the goat yards”, where more than a dozen Aboriginal people were alleged to have been massacred in 1922. The examination found nothing to dispute Aboriginal accounts of the massacre and a “very high likelihood” that the remains were human, based on the intensity of the fire in which they were burned.

If only there was a trusted scientific method of testing whether biological remains were human. CSI: Kimberley? Bueller? Anyone?

It seems to me that the people who make the most money from matters Aboriginal are those with the least Aboriginal ancestry and connection. It’s a self-saucing industry, efficiently siphoning public and charitable funds away from those living in the Red Centre, in what we might refer to as the Indigenous Monetary Complex.

Are any of them studying maths?

Universities will foot the bill for international students to return to NSW within weeks, with 250 students to arrive each fortnight on charter flights before quarantining in special accommodation.

The pilot program is expected to start within six weeks and will be scaled up by the end of the year to 500 students each fortnight.

As we discussed recently, in a normal year, Australia brings in about 650,000 students on the “pretend to study for a degree to get permanent residency” scheme.

So, at 250 students a fortnight, the university sector will be back to full capacity in about /checks calculator/ ten years. Five years if they got to the 500 a fortnight rate quickly. Assuming none of those students graduate in the meantime, obviously.

UPDATE: Yeah, my maths was shite today too. The point remains though, it’s lipstick on a pig.

Which is probably a fair assumption given they’re not really spending the money for the quality of the education, but the sticker in the passport.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m willing to bet there was recently a conversation along these lines:

University Chancellors: You’ve got to do something, we’re dying on our arses here. Where our bail out?

State Treasurer: Ok, if you foot the bill for the quarantine accommodation, you can bring in as manly as you want. Roughly how many would that be?

University Chancellors: (stares at shoes, awkwardly).

(By the way, apologies for the lack of verbosity here recently; I’ve been a little distracted. Normal service will be resumed now).

Brian the size of a planet

Former CEO of Wokepac and reliable content generator for this organ, Brian Hartzer, is on the publicity milk round for his new book, The Leadership Star. He keeps popping up on the Creepbook for Business timeline grinning in selfies with various people at book signings and coffee meetings to tout his wares like a truckstop hooker at 2am.

Occasionally he scores a wider audience such as a guest appearance on a podcast, as he does on this one:

I took the time to listen to this and regular readers may be surprised by my reaction…. I thought Brian came across as extremely knowledgeable about the banking industry.

Less frequent readers might be forgiven for thinking, “well duh, one doesn’t get to be CEO of a major bank if you don’t know banking inside out”.

Somewhere between those two points of view lies a question; if Brian is such a banking industry subject matter expert, how come he made such a custard of running one?

Before we answer that, I do need to comment on a couple of points he made in the interview.

Firstly, he talks about improving customer experience to increase market share. This is a medium-sized elephant in the room; there are four main banks in Australia and a large gap between 4th and 5th place. I can’t find figures on customer attrition rates in Australia, but my assumption is it is low compared to other jurisdictions. He doesn’t go into details in the interview either which, if it were a great factor would be presumably data rich.

My hypothesis is customers don’t move banks much in Australia, which explains why the customer service is so shite.

The second comment I’d like to pick him up on is where he mentions his duty to constantly reduce operating costs. When he took over from Gail Kelly, he chose to not integrate the wholly-owned subsidiary, St George, keeping its duplicate infrastructure, staff, products and premises. Go to any high street in Australia and there will likely be two Westpac branches not far from each other, one with a red logo, the other with a dragon. Cost cutting, me arse.

To be fair to Brian, he does talk about lessons learned. Taking more interest in compliance reports and making individuals explicitly accountable being two very relevant lessons he’s clearly taken on board. He actually sounds quite contrite and, ironically, rather like the theory that the safest time to fly is immediately after a major plane crash, he’d probably make a better bank CEO now.

Bill’s Opinion

Brian isn’t stupid, in fact, he obviously got his last job on merit. Yet he still fucked up royally. Why?

My hypotheses is he allowed his focus to drift to the ESG/woke stuff. There are only so many hours in the day and it’s a foolish person who doesn’t concentrate on his or her core objectives for 99% of those waking hours.

Oh well, at least he’s got plenty of time to spend on his hobbies now.

AstraZeneca jab reduces the risk of blood clots!

Of course not. There’s no evidence for this at all.

There’s plenty of evidence very few journalists have any useful level of competence at mathematics though (Jess Irvine included).

A classic example presents itself here; a nurse in Queen’sland experienced a DVT (or blood clot) shortly after having her first “jab” of the AZ vaccine.

This was front page news, despite no evidence linking the DVT with the injection.

Sure, there’s no evidence not linking them either, which is presumably the “public interest” reason for the reporting.

The reporting misses some critical questions and answers, of course. It would be setting expectations far too high for us to hope for competent reporting from our media in 2021.

Anyone capable of basic maths, specifically being able to calculate ratios, fractions, or percentages might ask questions such as:

How many DVTs normally occur in a population?

What is the current rate of DVTs in the recently vaccinated cohort?

What is the rate of hospitalisations for dog bites per capita?

The answer to the first question can be found via the USA’s CDC; 0.25%.

The answer to the second question can be calculated from the article; 1.8m jabs delivered in Australia so far and 18 related DVT cases. So 0.001%. If we assume a DVT caused by the jab will occur with a month whereas the CDC figure is annualised, we should multiply that by 30 days, so 0.03%.

The number of dog bite-related hospital referrals can be found here; 0.016%.

Bill’s Opinion

We can draw several clear conclusions from this data:

1. Statistically, the AstraZeneca jab protects people from DVTs. Ok, it doesn’t really but if we’re playing Numberwang, we may as well say it does.

2. Statistically, the AstraZeneca jab is twice as dangerous as walking your dog.

3. Journalists are fucking innumerate twats.

Jenna Hates….. buying leaving drinks

And her exit party might not be far away as the long term career prospects for a lecturer in Humanities in an Australian university can’t be particularly secure.

Today’s whine is on the subject of the financial viability of the university sector, after a year of massively reduced revenue.

In a moment of exquisite irony and demonstrating a profound lack of introspection, Janna Hates discusses critical thinking and freedom of speech. Obviously, she then follows that up by not addressing any of the huge pachyderm-shaped objects in the refectory.

Please bear in mind Jenna teaches journalism, and then wonder about the quality standards we will be subjected to from her students.

The university system in this country is dying. The government used the pandemic to destroy the places for critical conversations; and university management mostly rolled over.

The second sentence both presumes motives, mind reading in other words, and demonstrates a keen grasp of irony when suggesting the Australian academe isn’t an ideological echo chamber.

Mass redundancies, both voluntary and forced across the sector, have left big gaps in teaching staff. In some places that led to decisions to close down subjects, courses, departments. Right now, nearly every university is considering merging faculties.

Which departments are merging, do we think? Physics with Mathematics? Medicine with Engineering? Or maybe Gender Studies with Sociology? Go on, have a guess.

She continues with a complaint over the availability of the government furlough scheme to private but not public universities. Prima facie, that sounds quite damning. Of course, the critical thinkers amongst us might wish to investigate further.

It turns out, some private universities qualified for the furlough schemes due to having a lower turnover and assistance was made available to all universities based on a per capita payment for domestic students.

What two hypotheses might we consider based on those facts?

How about, (1) for reasons unknown, publicly funded universities are significantly larger in financial turnover than private universities and (2) they’d all be a lot better off right now if they didn’t rely heavily on overseas students.

Or, to put it another way, Jenna Hates is complaining because your taxes aren’t being used to bail out the educational infrastructure for overseas students.

Let’s go full reductio ad absurdum; Jenna Hates wants the income tax paid by an Australian worker stacking supermarket shelves on the night shift to be used to subsidise the immigration scam education of Chinese kids with rich parents.

The rest of the article follows the usual modus operandi, wandering all over the place accusing “the government” of being negligent at best but most likely mendacious. Don’t waste your time on it unless you’ve really got nothing better to do. Maybe page to the bottom to spot where she can’t resist having a dig at a man who has been accused without proof, by a dead person, of rape and, because of this, should resign.

Let’s return to the original problem. Australian universities are haemorrhaging cash and are having to cut costs to survive.

That’s interesting, isn’t it. Because, as far as one can tell, Australian high schools are still pumping out kids with all the correct qualifications to go on to higher education. The student loan industry is still active and the economy is going gangbusters.

So why the big problems?

Well

617,000 overseas students? What’s that as a percentage of all university students in a normal year? About 44%.

How does that compare with another English-speaking country? The UK usually takes about half a million overseas students, or about 20% of the total.

There isn’t a pandemic every year, of course, but even so, a sector which is ostensibly designed to educate a country’s population yet relies on the revenue generated from almost one overseas students for every domestic student was perhaps always built on risky business model.

It’s even worse than that; fees paid by overseas students are often as much as double those paid by domestic students. The first class passengers are subsidising the economy class travellers.

Or, more accurately, they’re not this year. Hence the subject of Jenna Hates’ current cause célèbre.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m really sorry anyone lost their job as a result of the governmental response to the virus. However, the reality is some sectors of the economy were already unsustainable before the pandemic.

An education sector which had grown to provide as many places to people from countries with recognised high quality universities as it does for its domestic customers was one such sector.

If it wasn’t the 2020 pandemic that caught it napping, it would have been the next financial crisis or cooling of international diplomacy.

There is another inconvenient fact our Lecturer in Journalism, Jenna Hates, fails to address; the overseas student visa has been primarily a fast track to residency for many students, with the academic achievement being a far distant second.

Perhaps a shrunken university sector might serve the Australian student population better as it would have to focus on the quality of the teaching of “hard” subjects with, y’know, actual careers waiting for them once they’ve graduated?

Think critically about that for a moment, Jenna Hates.

Australian politicians and the N word

Some words are simply SO taboo that even saying them brings catastrophe to the speaker.

In the UK, it’s widely accepted that the NHS is the political “third rail”, i.e. any politician touching it will be electrocuted.

Australia has a different political N word. Let’s see if you can guess which it is before getting to the end of this page.

Some background first.

This week saw the Australia media panjandrums pop on a jaunty little face mask, head to their local airport and fly off to Canberra for the Australian ceremonial version of Changing of the Guard, the Federal Budget.

The first question in many minds might be why? As in, “why, after 2020, is anyone still languishing under the illusion the Federal government has any power or influence?”. But I suppose the chance of a night away from home with the corporate credit card is too tempting for those few souls toiling in the dog days of the news industry.

The ritual regarding the release of the details of the budget to the press is somewhat ridiculous too. The press corps are locked in a room without communications to the outside world to pour over an early glimpse of the details. Ah, if only that room could be of greater capacity and the locks made more permanent…. we can but dream.

What then were the interesting or amusing highlights of this year’s flavour of returning a portion of our taxes to us in a magnanimous grand gesture of altruism?

One which grabbed my attention was the $100m splurge of my taxes into three 10 megawatt power stations. That’s a good thing, I suppose, given the third world power cuts parts of the country experienced in recent years due to the sun and wind being inconveniently unavailable at times when people in South Australia wanted to run their fridge or boil a kettle.

What type of power station can be built these days without the moong dal crunchers becoming upset? Turns out hydrogen is acceptable as it is a zero carbon energy source.

Ring the church bells! We have found a source of “clean energy”, rejoice!

A wander around the various media sources will reinforce the article linked above, explaining to their readers that generating electricity from hydrogen doesn’t emit carbon.

By the way, when did “carbon” become the approved shorthand for “carbon dioxide”? I suppose we shorten amphetamine sulphate to amphetamine or even speed so we have form on this.

Curious minds might ask a question or two about this new wonder fuel, however. For example, where does all the hydrogen come from?

The wiki page answers the question in an unintentionally hilarious way (bold highlighting is mine):

Hydrogen fuel is a zero carbon fuel burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It has begun to be used in commercial fuel cell vehicles, such as passenger cars, and has been used in fuel cell buses for many years. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.

As of 2018, the majority of hydrogen (95%) is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming or partial oxidation of methane and coal gasification with only a small quantity by alternative routes such as biomass gasification or electrolysis of water or solar thermochemistry, a solar fuel with no carbon emissions.

“Zero carbon” seems a somewhat fluid and forgiving definition, as anyone who proudly drives a coal-powered Tesla will virtue signal to you.

Is it accurate then to summarise hydrogen cell energy generation as “zero carbon when the energy used to extract hydrogen was generated using zero carbon energy but almost all of the time it isn’t”?

To be fair to those pushing hydrogen-based energy projects, there is a clearly a “build it and they will come” desire to see the hydrogen extraction become based on wind and solar. It’s just they haven’t come yet.

Back to the politics of it all, because everything about climate change is politics, after all; are we missing any key pieces of information?

Of course we are. Firstly, let’s remind ourselves who the biggest polluter is by a country mile. China now produces more CO2 than all of the western economies combined. Good luck if you think Australia’s actions could change the global climate either positively or negatively by comparison.

Secondly, did you know Australia has some of the largest deposits of uranium in the world?

Did you guess the N word before that sentence?

Bill’s Opinion

Australia, like most countries, has a national narrative it likes to tell itself. One such example is regarding the events at Gallipoli in the First World War.

If you speak to most Australians about it, you will likely hear a version of the following; Nasty Winston Churchill sent the Australian troops to a certain defeat because they were expendable, unlike the English. Also, an Australian bloke called Simpson bravely carried wounded soldiers on a donkey. It’s all a bit more complicated than that, of course; the English lost about four times as many Anzacs and Simpson was an English deserter, most likely using the donkey as an excuse to keep away from being permanently on the front line.

Just like the Gallipoli story, Australia has told itself a story about nuclear energy, such that it is political suicide to even mention its name.

For decades now, no Australian politician, or indeed political commentator, has seriously mentioned the possibility of using our vast stores of uranium to produce cheap and truly zero carbon electricity.

It’s not even a topic to be named and then dismissed after a brief discussion. It’s as if we’ve put the words “nuclear energy” in a locked box, thrown away the key and buried the box deep in a snake infested cave.

And that’s how we get to a national delusion that our three new hydrogen power plants are, by any stretch of the imagination, “green”.

Manchurian OpEds part liǎng

Do you hate your country? Do you despise it’s history? Do you believe it was founded on dishonest principles by people who were evil? Is this loathing so great that you wish to see our enemies thrive and our country decline?

Ridiculous questions, right?

Most, if not almost every citizen of a first world country would not agree with the sentiments above. Sure, your country has a mixed past, with shameful episodes but, judged against its contemporary peers, most people would suggest the balance is tipped towards a favourable report card.

To sustain that level of self-loathing (or loathing of your country) would require a deliberate effort to ignore the relative positive differences between your day to day life and most other places in the world and, almost as importantly, the relative differences between your life and those of every one of your ancestors.

Walter Duranty was one such exception. He deliberately misled the public (and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for it!) about Stalin’s reign of terror. History should judge critically those useful idiots who are prepared to wilfully ignore mass murder and state-sanctioned famine for the vague promises of a future utopia.

A quote, possibly falsely attributed to Duranty but certainly used by other apologists for the Soviets explains, “In order to make an omelette, you have break a few eggs”. The correct response to which, is of course, that offered by George Orwell and Panait Istrati, “Where’s the omelette?”.

Or, more specifically, “where’s the omelette you made by murdering 100,00,000 humans?

We examined in the previous post how a supposedly objective finance newspaper in Australia is prepared to publish, without challenge, several hundred words imploring us to change our institutions and way of life, written by sources highly likely to be under the direct control of the Chinese Communist Party.

It gets worse, though. If our problem was just one compromised editorial team on one newspaper, we might not have such a big problem.

The chances are, our universities are riddled with people under direct or indirect influence of the Chinese Communist Party. An obvious Manchurian Candidate would be Professor Golley of the ANU.

The short version of the linked story is she relied heavily on CCP propaganda disguised as independent research to downplay the brutal humanitarian crimes being committed agains the Uighurs. When confronted, she then doubled down on the apologist standpoint.

Let’s pluck some quotes, in her own words, offered as her defence:

So that’s where I used my academic judgement, I’ve spent my whole life peer-reviewing articles. I read it and thought that there many points that make sense to me.

Because the article you referenced was so favourable to the CCP it should have made you consider its source and authenticity. “Inquiry” being the keystone of academia, after all.

“I know more about <the Uighur region> Xinjiang than Pompeo, I don’t want to sound cocky but I know more than what 99 per cent of Australians know about Xinjiang.”

Consider the possibility you don’t know more about morality than 99% of Australians, however.

“There are all sorts of fuzzy lines between what constitutes forced and what constitutes choice – what if 30 per cent of Uighers are choosing to work?”

She really said that out aloud.

Professor Golley said she still did not know the authors of the paper but defended their right to submit the paper to her anonymously via proxies saying they would be “persecuted” if exposed.

No alarm bells were harmed in the receipt of this anonymous report.

When the names come out there will be some Chinese names in the list and people will immediately assume that they’ve been subjected to Beijing’s orders when it might be the case that that’s just how they see the world and then they’ll be persecuted – they’re going to be labelled spies.”

People living in a country with an appalling human rights record tend to be loudly and publicly sympathetic to the regime. This should not be a surprise to someone whose career has been built on detailed knowledge of an authoritarian regime. A curious mind might ask questions, however.

Last year ANU was the victim of a massive data hack, with China considered the culprit. But Golley said she had seen little evidence of any foreign interference at the ANU. “There’s some evidence of it, we don’t know how widespread it is,” she said. “This is another example of needing to be very clear-eyed about the facts.”

Quite right, it was probably Bhutan or Andorra.

She said she had never been paid a single cent by the Chinese Communist Party but that had failed to stem an avalanche of “hate mail” “close to death threats” telling her to “f— off, you communist spy,” and calling her a “shill” for China.

This feels like it could be easily proven by listing the source of all research funding from which she’s benefited, and while we’re at it, the funding for the various international conferences she’s attended. I’ll wait.

“I feel so misjudged, if people knew me, I just want the best for the Uighurs,” she said.

Even those who have benefited from free “family planning services” or the 70% who didn’t choose to work.

She said her motivation for presenting the paper was a concern that academic freedom is being stifled in Australia but she is also concerned that exaggerating China’s human rights abuses could backfire if it emerged they were overstated.

We can all be concerned about academic freedom. Based on the evidence in front of us, she is still able to qualify for research grants and can also have her opinion written in national newspapers, one might conclude Australia isn’t the country stifling free speech. Who can name a country that is? Bueller? Anyone?

She also urged Australians to consider its own genocidal past against Indigenous Australians, saying while it did not justify abuses in Xinjiang it was not “completely irrelevant either”.

Straight out of the CCP playbook. Can anyone guess which we should consider more urgent, a crime committed 200 years ago by people long dead and crimes being committed right now by living humans?

“Sovereignty was never ceded,” she said of the British settlement of Australia as a penal colony in the late 1700s. “I’m revolted that the Australian War Memorial doesn’t have any memorial for the Frontier Wars.”

But is she revolted about the genocide and continuous human rights abuses by the CCP over the last seventy years to the present day? Not so much.

Bill’s Opinion

There’s almost no point being shocked or disgusted by the treasonous self-loathing of these people. You won’t change their minds.

Professor Golley hates you. She’s hates the country and system in which you live. She would be the first to denounce you to the secret police if the People’s Liberation Army ever marched into Australia.

She knows she is right and you are too stupid to be anything other than wrong.

Keep paying your taxes, as she needs to spend a few more years researching why Common Law and individual freedoms are not as righteous as the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

As for her academic freedom, here’s two recent sources suggesting most of our institutions are riddled with CCP influence; Spectator and Washington Examiner.


Finally, there is a special place in hell reserved for those who try to draw moral equivalence across generations.
People who looked like you did something terrible 200 years ago so how dare you criticise an actual living human for doing something terrible in the present”

Manchurian OpEds

You’d have to be deliberately obtuse to not recognise the nefarious influence China leverages across “western democracies” (for want of a better descriptor).

We wrote about some Australian examples here.

Without any proof whatsoever, I’m going to have a punt that this may be another example. Excuse the photo of the article, but it’s behind a paywall and I’m not prepared to pay:

Fans of Betteridge’s Law might want to consider a related variation resulting in the following answer to the headline’s question; “It won’t, you fool”. Let’s face it, if you believe China is credibly aiming at a carbon net zero scenario by 2060, I’ve got a harbour bridge you may like to buy.

If that also summarises your view on China’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord (our analysis of that devalued document here), you may wish to also focus in on the Hans Christian Andersen chart presented as authoritative:

CO2 production to peak in 9 years time and then fall quicker than a Premier League soccer player in the penalty box? Okaaaaay.

By the way; Source: CAIXIN. This CAIXIN? Excuse me if I express mild scepticism as to their ability to be objective whilst remaining on the preferred side of a Chinese prison wall.

There’s a lot to parse from the article, feel free to invest the time to read every word. Alternatively, here’s my TL:DR version:

The best way to ensure China achieves its international climate change commitments is for the entire global economy to implement a new form or carbon pricing based on my employer’s complicated computer modelling combined with increased public policy and regulatory rules. No, I’m not going to share the computer model nor what regulatory and policy rules should be imposed.

So, who is Peng Wengsheng, what does his employer do and who’s behind them?

Dr Peng Wensheng is managing director, global chief economist and head of research at CITIC Securities….. Dr Peng was born in 1966 in Anhui Province, China. He received a Bachelor’s degree in economics from Nankai University in 1986, and continued to study at the postgraduate school of the People’s Bank of China. He received a Master’s degree in banking and finance and PhD in economics at the University of Birmingham in England in 1988 and 1993 respectively. Dr Peng is an adjunct professor at Tsinghua University and Nankai University, and was voted first and second in the area of macroeconomic research for China by “Asia Money” and “Institutional Investor” consecutively in 2013 and 2014.”

CITIC Securities Co., Ltd. is a Chinese full-service investment bank. It offers services in underwriting, research, brokerage, asset management, wealth management, and investment advisory. CITIC Securities was established in 1995 and it is headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province.”

Any other information regarding CITIC? Oh, this:

On August 25, 2015 the Chinese news media announced that several executives within CITIC Securities were under investigation for possible wrongdoing.

Bill’s Opinion

It is entirely possible Dr Peng’s opinions published without examination in The Australian Financial Review are written in good faith. It is also entirely possible his employers, CITIC Securities and the media group CAIXIN are operating freely and without influence from the Chinese Communist Party.

Let’s give a probability to these things shall we?

Your assessment may radically differ from mine but my view is a man who grew up in China, has spent all of his adult life in the pay of Chinese universities and Chinese banks and whose family presumably nearly all still live within the regime…. isn’t an objective commentator.

Similarly, no mater how motivated the CAIXIN media group or CITIC Securities executives are to be independent from the Chinese government, having one’s colleagues investigated would tend to focus the mind somewhat.

I’ll estimate there’s a less than 5% chance this isn’t a Chinese government endorsed, if not written, OpEd.

I actually don’t care that Peng and his employers are stooges. I’m more intrigued as to why the AFR published it without question.

Soccer Shocker

Yeah, I know; “football“. Do I sound like I care?

In the lull between now and the scheduled start of The 2nd American Civil War (due once the jury are back in the Derek Chauvin trial), we can enjoy the light entertainment resulting from a group of English, Spanish and Italian soccerball clubs deciding to form an elite and exclusive breakaway super league.

Before I explain my absolute delight at this, some personal background is required and a quick description of what’s being proposed.

I’m originally English, I grew up in a city with a team that sometimes made it to the top level of wendyball, sometimes it struggled to stay afloat two divisions below. I couldn’t care less as soccerball bored the living daylights out of me. My winter sport was rugby, both to play and to watch. The thought of paying the equivalent of about a day’s wages to watch 22 millionaires in nylon shirts roll around on the floor every few minutes pretending to have been shot by a sniper, and then, after an hour and a half, for there to have been no actual result or often even any goals scored by either team, seemed a somewhat perverse way to spend one’s Saturday afternoons. Football is dull. It’s fine as a way to get nerdy kids to do some exercise in primary school but, as something grown ups should spend time and money on, there are many better activities.

Obviously, that puts me in the minority of English sports fans but I think I’ll cope with the social stigma somehow.

Over in Europe, a group of the best teams (and Tottenham) have come together with a proposal to form a breakaway league. It would seem the proposal doesn’t seek contributions from taxpayers, isn’t requiring a change in any legislation, doesn’t break any existing laws, won’t require any special treatment and is, frankly, a bunch of private entities exercising their rights to do business with each other. Fair enough, it’ll either succeed or it won’t and we’re not impacted either way. The employees of the clubs also have a free right to continue working for their club or seek employment elsewhere.

I’ll look at the English reaction specifically, mainly because my Spanish and Italian comprehension is not much use outside of a restaurant menu. Some context about those six English clubs and the league they’ve been playing in for 20 years; it’s called the Premier League (or the English Premier League or EPL) and was formed in February 2001….. following a hostile split from the previous established league. So these clubs have form, they’ve simply decided to ditch half their partners in elopement from two decades ago. The reason for the previous schism? To enable a more focused split of the revenue from TV rights negotiations.

Let’s focus in on one of the English clubs (chosen at random); Liverpool. Of the 29 players in the first team squad, it looks like 8 or 9 would be eligible to play for England. The remainder are ex-pats from various footballing nations such as Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands, some African countries and, erm, Switzerland. Of the 8 English players, I counted two who were actually from the city of Liverpool.

For reasons so far not adequately described to us, the proposal to form a new league has made many people livid. Which people?

  • Both sides of politics; both Boris and Keith have made public statements condemning it and promising to find ways to prevent it,
  • All of the clubs who weren’t invited,
  • The existing leagues and governing bodies,
  • Current sports commentators,
  • Ex-players,
  • Some fans.

Ok, so why are they upset?

An easy motivation to understand for many of the list above to object to the new league is, as Upton Sinclair might say, their salaries. If the answer to the question, “How do I get paid?” isn’t “From the new super league“, then we can be fairly certain the uninvited clubs, leagues, governing bodies, commentators and ex-players aren’t providing us quite the objective analysis they would like us to believe. Someone with more time on their hands might want to trawl back twenty years and check what loud voices such as Gary Linekar were saying about the schism resulting in the Premier League, for example. They’ve probably forgotten, so it’s going to be delicious as these historic hot takes are unearthed.

The politicians are currently providing the richest source of comedy on this, regardless of how irrelevant their opinion on who kicks a ball to whom is:

The British Prime Minister, Boris, has followed up his wonderful year of libertarianism and championing of the free market by suggesting he’s looking for ways to prevent 6 privately-owned companies and 80 employees from choosing to do business with other similar organisations and exporting English services to the EU.

The Leader of the Opposition (in name only, based on his “more lockdown, and sooner” tactics), Keith, has similarly come out with messages of sympathy for the working class and national sport of football, demanding something is done to prevent those 80 multi-millionaire athletes from changing employers.

In theory, the fans should be the only voice of authority worth listening to. What is it they’re saying? Again, if they’re fans of the clubs who’ve been left behind they’re really pissed off. The themes I’ve seen tend to be complaining about the greed of the 6 clubs and their players. Others are complaining about the damage it will do to the sport at a national level but I’ve yet to hear a coherent explanation as to why this might be the case, particularly as the English national wendyball team has been unable to beat their way out of a wet paper bag in every competition they’ve played in since 1966.

Regardless of where one stands on the desirability or not of the proposed new league, what chance do the objectors have of preventing it and how might they score this goalpoint (see, I know all the technical lingo)?

It would seem the only way clubs could be prevented would be via heavy-handed and targeted legislation at a national level. Even that might be avoided by relocating to a different jurisdiction, these clubs are not without a few quid after all.

The players will have to balance the pay rise (or perhaps even avoiding the pay cut of staying in the new domestic competition) against an inability to play for their national team, as FIFA have stated they will be barred in future. However, anyone who believes FIFA will hold the line and do the right thing, has clearly not read any news about FIFA officials for many decades. After all, he who pays the FIFA, calls the tune….

None of these genius plans seem like particularly watertight tactics to prevent Soccxit ™.

Bill’s Opinion

Just like Brexit, this upsets nearly all the right people and exposes the logical inconsistencies in their reasoning. Hopefully it’s going to be as drawn out as Brexit with a similar end result, i.e. our “betters” get a bloody nose.

The arguments against a breakaway league from a league that started life as a breakaway league are, of course ridiculous.

The complaints of corporate greed are similarly stupid, particularly when made by people who see nothing wrong with three figure ticket prices for “dead rubber” fixtures and who also said nothing when the clubs issued their third change of official shirt in a 12 month period in a blatant cash grab from the punters for another 80 quid for a thin nylon shirt with a cost price of less than a tenner.

The argument that any English soccer player will give a flying fuck about not being able to play for the English national team makes sense in theory, but in practice there’s barely any eligible players at the six clubs today and the performances of the national side over the lifetime of most people reading this would suggest it’s not considered the career peak most regular fans might hope. I suspect for years many top level English players have secretly considered the Premiership or FA Cup as much more attractive competitions than a world cup. The pay cheque for those is still massive and the likelihood of achieving it is far greater.

Finally, the people who seem most exercised by this foray into Europe by those 6 English clubs are quite closely correlated with those who were least able to accept the democratic vote to leave the EU. My advice is buy a wheelbarrow full of popcorn and enjoy the spectacle of them trying to prevent the free movement of labour, capital and trade across European borders in an ever closer union.