Wasn’t this tried once before in one half of Germany?

That this should come from a German politician’s mouth is somewhat ironic.

Spahn, a conservative heavyweight among Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats who recently lost a contest to become the party’s leader, described a knock-on effect of countries attracting doctors from neighboring countries, as is the case with Switzerland taking in German physicians.

That’ll be the “free movement of labour” thing that the EU is so much in favour of then.

Or is the deal that only low skilled labour should be allowed to move so as to keep a downward pressure on domestic wages?

“That cannot be right. We should therefore think about whether we need to create new regulations on the luring away of people with certain professions within the EU, and without fundamentally calling into question the freedom of movement within Europe,” he was quoted as saying.

Bill’s Opinion

The good news is, the Germans have relatively recent experience and understanding on what the solution is to this.

The bad news is, if Trump gets his budget passed, there’ll be a global shortage of workers with the skills to build it for a year or two;

Have we hit “peak” Sydney Morning Herald?

Quite possibly.

In the past few years, the world has finally started to wake up to the socially constructed ways in which some people are given an easier ride through life than others.

Here we go, which people?

Male privilege acknowledges how being a man means earning a higher wage than women, not being discriminated against because of their gender, and being far less likely to be sexually assaulted. And white privilege recognises the ongoing discriminations faced by people of colour in job opportunities, safety and every other part of life.

Ah, men. White men being the worst.

Those white men who do all the jobs with the high fatality and injury rates?

Yes, those but especially the ones who don’t binge eat;

But what about being thin? Is there an advantage, nay a privilege, associated with being slim in our society? It seems that yes, there is.

Well, we can agree on that. Hence why many of us eat sensibly and exercise.

The “thin” in “thin privilege” is not about being supermodel-skinny but being at a weight that means you are not subjected to judgment and harassment from strangers. It means that you can go into almost any clothes shop and find something that will fit. You can eat a hamburger in public without people clearly judging your decision. You can wear something figure-hugging without people sniggering at you.

You’ve just described the effects, not the cause of being a reasonable weight for your height.

Melbourne academic and body positivity advocate Jenny Lee says that women are especially vulnerable to this type of rhetoric because “women are still valued for their beauty first and are socialised accordingly”.

Ok, “Melbourne academic and body positivity advocate” Jenny Lee and the author of this article, Alana Schetzer, are early contenders for the Steve Sailer First Law of Female Journalisn Award, 2019.

“When I speak about thin privilege, I am talking about the advantages that thin people in Western culture experience, such as being assumed healthy and having a wide array of clothes available, as well as a body that aligns with dominant ideas of what is attractive,” says Dr Lee, who teaches gender and literary studies at Victoria University.

Ok, I admit it, Jenny Lee doesn’t in any way align with my personal idea of what is attractive. Where do I report to be sent to my re-education camp and will I also have to be subjected to gender and literary studies lectures?

“It’s time to acknowledge thin privilege the way the Left has acknowledged white privilege, class privilege or straight privilege. As a white middle-class person, albeit with working-class roots, it is worth noting here that I can’t speak for all fat women, and I have barely been able to touch on the prejudice that fat people of colour experience.”

Ah, that’s a helpful clue about where the morbidly obese sit in the Victim Olympics medal table;

Gold – dark skinned working class fatties

Silver – white working class fatties

Bronze – to be determined, they’re still panting their way around the track.

The conversation around thin privilege got a kick-start when US blogger Cora Harrington wrote a series of tweets explaining what it is and how people can benefit from it, even if they don’t think of themselves as thin.

“No one groans or rolls their eyes when they have to sit next to me on a plane or a bus,” she tweeted in July. “ In fact, no one comments on my body at all. The ability to move through life without people insisting you need to be a smaller size … if you don’t have to think about that, it’s privilege.”

No, it’s just the default position for anyone who has learned to control their calorific intake. That doesn’t make them a Nazi, just a functioning human adult.

Society has long determined that overweight people are not only flawed but also fully responsible for their weight gain. That being “fat” is simply deemed to be a failure caused by nothing but greed and gluttony, a byword for laziness, being undisciplined, greedy and unintelligent.

Let me correct that for you;

Society Nature has long determined that overweight people are not only flawed….

If you were too heavy to chase dinner on the plains, the rest of the tribe would view you as a liability. There is a very simple evolutionary reason for “society’s” judgement on obesity and it probably pre-dates language.

Another take on the label is that it’s not so much that thin privilege exists but that “fat inconvenience” does – a sort of social tax that bigger bodies have to pay, whether it’s the lack of choice in shops to buy clothes, or nasty stares and under-the-breath comments from airplane neighbours for taking up too much space.

Let’s remind ourselves the author is writing for a media outlet with a default position that any problem can be solved by the government taxing it. It would seem you can’t have it both ways (yes, I was going to write “cake and eat it” but just caught myself); either the “fat tax” of society’s disapproval and inconvenience works or it doesn’t.

Whatever you want to call it, there is undoubtedly a series of hardships that bigger people face, most of which are socially constructed as a way to control and belittle them. If we can create it, then we can unmake it.

Are far higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems and early mortality also “socially constructed”?

Bill’s Opinion

Obviously it’s our fault that Alana has an eating disorder.

How do I know she has an eating disorder?

Well, according to her Twitter feed, she’s a single female who owns a cat. You rarely get those two without the third.

Oh, here’s her blog at The Huffington Post.

Over the past year, I knew I had put on weight. Dresses and pants that used to fit comfortably now squished against my growing belly and left nasty red lines against my skin.

Whenever I was upset, I would skip dinner and instead plunge into a family-sized bag of Doritos, and the only exercise I was getting was waddling to the fridge and back to the lounge room, where I would read.

And here’s the explanation behind most of her journalistic output;

Sailer’s Law of Female Journalism;

The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

This is a heartwarming tale of consumer power to save a dying brand from bygone times; a small group of dedicated enthusiasts are keeping the traditional New South Wales’ beer, Resch’s alive by maintaining a Facebook page informing people where it can be purchased.

Admirable stuff.

Ah, those halcyon days of yore when the working man would drink a simple yet honest schooner of Resch’s beer.

Not for these enthusiasts the cynical corporate machine pumping out gigalitres of tasteless piss. Oh no, they’re fighting for the little guy, the artisan brewery doing it tough amidst a market dominated by a duopoly that has taken nearly all of the market share. Bravo!

One of the beer’s younger fans, 22 year old Amelia McGuire, was introduced to Resch’s when she was in year 12 by some male friends. To her, the beer feels part of the local community (although it is owned by Carlton United Breweries).

Wait, what?

Oh, Resch’s is just another of the myriad brands of beers brewed by Carlton United (really, AB-InBev) who, along with Lion Nathan (really, Kirin Holdings), brew and sell 98 of every 100 pints of beers drunk in Australia.

See also, Little Creatures, Four Pines, and every other “craft” beer you’ve drunk in recent years.

Bill’s Opinion

Beer is the second oldest recipe in human history (bread is the first… which resulted in the discovery of beer). Maintaining a diverse range of choices of this ancient beverage is surely a good thing.

In the early 1970s, British beer diversity started to improve thanks to the work of CAMRA.

Similarly, massive improvements have occurred in the USA in the last twenty years with a thriving independent brewing sector producing interesting and award-winning beers after the pissy “Bud” decades.

Australia however, is stuck in the 1970s with their duopoly masquerading as a “craft beer” industry.

So much so, that some silly old farts have formed a society celebrating, in effect, a recipe that’s been bought by Coca Cola.

In the words of Ray Davies;

We are the Draught Beer Preservation Society

God save Mrs. Mopp and good old Mother Riley

Preserving the old ways from being abused

Protecting the new ways, for me and for you

What more can we do?

To which the answer is, “more, but not this”.

[oh, and I resisted the temptation to make fun of Ms. McGuire but feel free in the comments]

What’s that definition of insanity….

….that Einstein probably never said?

Real estate agents are starting earlier this year.

Shame. You’ll be telling us next that divorce lawyers, journalists and politicians are having a hard time, and then we’ll really have to get the tissues out.

Falling prices, tighter credit and uncertainty ahead of a federal election and the final report of the banking royal commission mean a busier year for agents on the country’s eastern seaboard as they sell an increasing stock of homes on the market.

I’m not sure that statement is completely accurate; perhaps replace “busier” with “tougher”?

As several commentators on here have pointed out, in a falling market most sellers will rethink whether they really need to move. There’s a high degree of emotion attached to the perceived value of one’s house and the attitude that “it’s worth $x and I won’t take a penny less” can be deeply ingrained.

So therefore we may well see far fewer properties up for sale this year. Those who have to sell due to death, divorce or unsustainable debt will be the exceptions.

Something else will need to change too, although Eliza McGrath hasn’t spotted it yet;

Our first open [day] is on 19 January. Then we’re extending it to be a five-week campaign with the first auction on 16 February.

Given that fewer than 1 in 2 properties are selling at auction, it seems somewhat poor advice to her clients to chuck a bunch of cash at a marketing campaign and planning for an event that has a higher probability of disappointment than ever before in living memory.

Finance is getting harder to get,” McGrath says. “So getting a five-week campaign is more standard. Some people are asking for six weeks. They know from trying to buy themselves how hard it is to get pre-approval.

She’s not getting the hint, is she? The auction favours the seller only in a rising market, that power dynamic reverses on the way down.

A search for her on Google Images explains why. She looks like she is barely 30 years old. The last time the market was like this she wouldn’t have been potty trained.

Ren Hor Wong seems to have a better idea, however;

“Given the current market condition and low auction clearance rate, vendors’ confidence is low when it comes to selling,” chief executive Ren Hor Wong said.

“We see a surge in listings activity, but majority of them would not go to auction, and some probably don’t even want to go for a marketing campaign.”

Quite.

This is interesting too;

“So it’s imperative for agents to have a database of finance-ready buyers”

He might regret dropping that gem into the interview. He’s just told his competitors a good tip on how to survive this year, if they are clever enough to listen.

He’s got some other intelligent insights too;

Going off market also allows the seller to save marketing costs, a key for vendors at this low point in the market, Wong adds.

“When you can’t ask for a higher price in the market, next thing you want to do is to save money,” he says.

Smart thinking; drop the price and lower your sales costs.

Meanwhile, on Planet Millennial, reality hasn’t arrived yet;

McGrath isn’t sure what will come. The year is likely to start well, but it is hard to see further beyond, she says.

We’ll have a strong start to 2019, like 2018 did, but it’s hard to say what’s after the first quarter, with the election coming up and the royal commission [final report],” she says.

I bet you won’t, Eliza, I bet you won’t.

Bill’s Opinion

For some time now, being an estate agent on the east coast of Australia required nothing more challenging than possession of a cheap suit, a driving licence and pulse.

Things have changed this year. There will be significant consolidation of agencies and a huge reduction in the number of agents employed.

The question is, what does one do as an alternative job if all your previous work experience consisted of handing out leaflets at open houses for the last decade?

The price of Uber journeys and dog waking services in Melbourne and Sydney are likely to reduce significantly.

So what you’re saying is…

….Japanese men compete hardest when there is more cultural “face” to lose, particularly when competing against women?

Here’s an insight from the economic heavyweight that is the Sydney Morning Herald’s Economics Editor, Ross Gittins.

To be fair, he’s achieved one requirement of journalisming; to inform. I, for one, had never heard of this Japanese sport before;

He also explains that there is a vast database of to be mined about how men and women compete in single sex and mixed sex races, both in terms of results and penalties for aggressive fouls.

What does this data tell us?

Wait for it; men are more aggressive than women, even more so when they are competing with women.

Which surprises no-one who has a passing knowledge of Asian culture.

There is then a whole bunch of word salad about something called “gender identity“. 

Bill’s Opinion

Japanese men in competitive sport don’t like losing.

Japanese men in competitive sport really don’t like losing to women.

Japanese women in competitive sport take fewer risks than men.

This research and Ross Gittins’ subsequent regurgitating of it is analogous to the discovery of the double helix by Watson and Crick in it’s importance to the human species. 

It’s possible that blog posts here may reduce in frequency soon, depending on how successful I am in my application for a 3 year research grant to investigate why men and women tend to urinate standing up and sitting down, respectively, and the influence of the cis-heteronormative patriarchy on the cultural appropriation of gender norms in the use of toilets.

In related news, if you want to understand how completely arrogant and boorish Gittins is, risk your mental health by listening to this podcast where he is interviewed by our friend Jess I can use a spreadsheet to diet, and you proles can’t Irvine

Gittins may be hugely qualified in his profession but, my goodness, when speaking he sounds an awful lot like every old bloke in the office you’ve ever met who’s close to retirement and wants to give you unsolicited advice at each opportunity that seems more about explaining how smart he is than being of any practical use to you.

 

 

Climate change maths salad

Like cooking, journalisming has its best results when using seasonal ingredients. January wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory look at all the weather records that were broken the previous calendar year. Here’s the Sydney Morning Herald’s effort, under the tagline “extreme weather” (“climate change” seemingly out of favour recently, suggesting some bet hedging is going on).

Unfortunately, the climate team’s intern, Nicole Hasham, was given the task of assembling the maths salad and, as we will see, is really not as competent at the task as her senior colleague, Peter “weather is climate” Hannam.

Regurgitating Quoting a Bureau of Meteorology report, Nicole starts off poorly;

Where to start?

Well, perhaps the first point to make is that averages, by their very definition need some values above and some values below. It would be remarkable if no temperatures were experienced above average during a long enough timescale.

It seems somewhat depressing to have to explain this to a senior climatologist (now there’s a job title of our time) and an environment and energy correspondent. At least one of them will have studied statistics in high school, not that you’d be able to guess it from the statement above.

The second point, and it seems somewhat obvious, is that the climate has no concept of a state or territory.

Finally, does Nicole understand, or expect her readers to understand, what “second warmest on record for daily high temperatures” means?

Or perhaps the only important words she wants us to read are “second warmest“?

Next up is a bunch of rainfall maths salad;

We dealt with this at the time.

Subsequently, the rain came along but just a little delayed.

To be fair to Nicole, she did regurgitate quote the report on this. It probably proves something significant and negative in her mind though;

“Respite”.

It’s almost as if, I dunno, the climate is a complex system that doesn’t drop a consistent volume of rain during a man made time interval known by the English noun, “month”.

This would be amusing if the Australian taxpayer weren’t picking up the bill for this so called “science”;

“Increasingly influenced by global warming”.

Really. Do tell us whose fault this is;

“Can only be explained by human influence”? Well, there’s the Scientific Method dispensed with in just 7 words. One can imagine the reception a researcher would get if they tried to apply for a grant to investigate the influence of solar cycles on global temperature.

Finally, we get to the chart that reveals Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures;

That looks shocking, especially with all that red on the chart.

Let’s look a little closer at the scale and labels though….

The Y-axis is interesting; why set the zero point as the average of 1961 to 1990? Why not take the average of the entire time range? What would that chart look like? Sadly, we don’t know because, as far as I can tell, they haven’t published the data behind the chart. Here’s the link to the original report, where we learn that the chart is showing the anomaly; Anomaly is the departure from the long-term (1961–1990) average. We also discover that the chart above shows, Mean temperature anomalies averaged over Australia, again, calculated against the 1960-91 average for some unknown reason.

Wait, averaged over Australia“? WHAT???? 

So, in summary, you took ALL of the mean temperatures recorded across the entire continent of Australia, averaged them and then compared that against a similar average between the years 1960-91 on a chart starting at 1900?

What insight, pray tell, was this exercise supposed to result in?

 

Bill’s Opinion

To answer my final question above, this chart that is supposed to reveal Australia’s record-breaking run of rising temperatures does nothing of the sort. What it shows is a sliced, diced, mixed together, re-diced and re-sliced set of data and then selectively colour-coded to scare people who don’t understand statistics.

By which, I mean Sydney Morning Herald environment correspondents. Well, either Nicole doesn’t understand statistics or she’s blatantly pushing a political agenda and pushing it with lies.

Which is it Nicole?

Let’s face it, this is the climate science equivalent of a collateral debt obligation, and we all know where that led.

UPDATE; I made an error regarding means vs. median in the original post. That sentence has been deleted.


Stop giggling at the back

One would have to have a heart of stone to not find this amusing.

The unannounced move by the US State Department, which has not previously been reported, downgraded the EU delegation’s diplomatic status in Washington from member state to international organization.

Excellent.

“We don’t exactly know when they did it, because they conveniently forgot to notify us,” an EU official who is familiar with the matter told DW in an interview.

“I can confirm that this has not been well received in Brussels,” the person said, adding that the issue and an official EU response was still being discussed. Meanwhile EU officials in Brussels said on Tuesday that per protocol, the diplomatic rank of David O’Sullivan, the EU’s ambassador to Washington, had been reinstated.  

Not well received in Brussels” must be one of the least intimidating phrases known in the English language.

It reminds me of that classic line from Dennis Healey, “I must say that part of his speech was rather like being savaged by a dead sheep.”

‘Forgot to notify us’

A Washington-based diplomat of an EU member state also confirmed the downgrade, and denounced the move.

“This is clearly not simply a protocol issue, but this is something that has a very obvious political motive,” the person said. The diplomat added that the negative view of the EU mission downgrade was shared by the majority of member states.

After discovering the downgrade, EU diplomats in Washington reached out to the State Department, which is responsible for diplomatic affairs, for clarification. “They have told us that they forgot to notify us and that this is a decision they have taken because that is apparently what the chief of protocol thinks is the proper thing to do,” the person said.

That’s the thing about invites, surely; you don’t tend to get notified when they are not offered.

Bill’s Opinion

Once I was a young man

All I thought I had to do was smile

While you are still a young girl

And you bought everything in style

So once you think you’re in you’re out

‘Cause you don’t mean a single thing without

The handbags and the gladrags

That your poor old Granddad had to sweat to buy you

We’ve always been at war with the Eurasia Group

The usually sound Ambrose Evans Pritchard regurgitates a press release from the Eurasia Group risk report in the Telegraph (Sydney Morning Herald paywall avoidable version here);

The answer to questions like this in headlines is almost always, “No, you’re just trying to get eyeballs“.

Oh, that’s worrying.

By that I mean, it’s worrying that the UN isn’t also in the list of global institutions past their sell-by dates that are in crisis. In the words of Saint Augustine, “Oh Lord! Make me pure, but not yet!“.

Bloody hell, we’re almost on the brink of another world war? There’s no way the government will allow that, just think what it would do to their plans for annual skiing holidays and the values of their Caribbean villas.

It all sounds very worrying though, whatever might be the cause?

Ah, it’s just another #OrangeManBad #LiterallyHitler article.

One of these political thinktank pieces isn’t compete without an economic prediction, of course;

Sure, the EU is going to have a few challenges ahead, especially if the UK is lucky enough to exit without a deal and gets to keep the £39bn ransom, but we’re heading for deflation, are we?

Given that the USA inflation figures for 2018 were 2.54% and projected to be ~2.44% this year, I wouldn’t go holding one’s breath for it to turn negative. Something like a meteor strike would have to happen in 2019 to turn that into deflation.

Oh goodeee, another article telling us the reason why we voted to leave the EU.

Personally, it was Magna Carta, 800+ years of Common Law, legislative sovereignty, the right to determine our own immigration laws and the fact that calling 73 MEPs for a population of 67m “democracy” seems like a sicker joke than anything Louis CK could come up with. But no, Eurasia Group, do tell us why we voted Brexit.

As for the problems between China and the USA, yes sure China is not running as hot as before (-16% sales of smartphones was an interesting recent data point), however, Xi looks to be trying to rapidly build bridges with Trump. It’s almost as if, I dunno, Trump’s strategy is working. Perish the thought.

So, after you’ve scared us half to death, what’s the chances of any of this happening?

“Muddle through”.

We do like a good old fashioned muddle.

Bill’s Opinion

As you were, platoon. We’ll be just fine.

Sometimes “free” is more expensive in the long term

On my Creepbook for Business feed, the following paid content appeared today;

This piqued my interest because I’ve long suspected that, if species preservation of the “big five” in Africa was agreed to be an important aim (excuse the pun), then making hunting an efficient and sustainable industry would be the most probable route to success.

Certainly, if observable results were something one took seriously, nearly every alternative that had been tried so far hasn’t worked effectively

Similarly, if we wanted to significantly reduce the impact of poaching of elephants and rhino for ivory, flooding the market with cheaper farmed ivory might well be the only solution.

I suppose there are two other alternatives; either raise the standard of living in sub-Saharan Africa to a level where there were plenty of other employment opportunities that didn’t involve killing elephants or persuade a billion Chinese people that ivory powder doesn’t cure bone tumours.

Ockham’s Razor suggests farming is the most likely solution.

I’m not an expert on the complexities of African hunting economics, politics and species protection so I’ll defer to others with more insight.

However, the link to ENergise REsources was intriguing. Firstly, that’s a really annoying capitalisation of the 2nd letters and secondly, who are they what are they all about?

From their website;

Ok, on the one hand it’s admirable that they are offering services pro bono to charities. On the other hand, they are clearly quite choosy about which charities they are going to help.

Which charities?

Basically, any that work in the fields of the Guardian’s favourite cause célèbres.

Exhibit A;

Exhibit B;

Exhibit C;

The website shows a list and the profiles of the current members (about 25 of them) and, frankly, there’s nary a single private sector worker amongst them. If you were a charity looking for some pro bono advice from an IT professional with exactly the same ideas and experience as every other IT professional who’s ever worked for you, you’ve come to the right place.

What’s really amusing though, is the unthinking acceptance of the Guardian/BBC/NY Times prioritisation of issues to be solved. If you hadn’t read the previous paragraphs on this page and I had asked you to write a list of the top 10 priorities for left wing charities, I imagine you’d have repeated nearly all the content on their website.

This is an alternative approach that they have not considered however;

Bjorn Lømborg’s Copenhagen Consensus.

Bill’s Opinion

The refreshing thing about the Copenhagen Consensus is their recognition that, when talking about about finite resources, environmentalists almost always forget that economic resources and human hours are also finite; a dollar spent on the solution to a problem cannot be spent on another problem. Similarly, an hour of your time spent on one solution can’t be re-spent somewhere else.

In fact, it’s worse than that; there are a myriad of potential solutions to the same problem, and logic states these should be prioritised by likely success and impact.

In effect, what the Copenhagen Consensus recognises that few others in the field do, or choose to ignore, is the concept of opportunity cost.

Once you apply that economic lens, our old friend Vilfredo Pareto can bring his ruler into play and measure which activities we should do first and which we should drop because they only feel nice rather than doing any good.

But if you really want to confirm that Lømborg is an outcome-driven, facts don’t care about your feelings sort of chap, sign up to the website; when you’re asked to select a country of residence, they list USA first, not Afghanistan.

This is a group that logical thinkers can get behind without having to suffer the ideological crap.

How refreshing.