This is fibber country

After using our patented razor, we were somewhat sceptical of Jussie Smollett’s allegations of an attack in Chicago last month.

Let’s get an update from that unbiased and objective news source, CNN:

Oh, that’s awkward.

The men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”

Interesting.

The sources told CNN the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Which translates to something along the lines of, “police threatened to throw the book at them unless they confessed fully. This they’ve done and Smollett is toast“.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.

The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago.

Two Nigerian brothers he just happens to know from his work.

Bill’s Opinion

When fighting in the Culture Wars, if a story emerges that supports your side and it seems perfect, the truth will certainly be 180 degrees reversed.

Write down the NBN? Write the whole thing off

We’ve spoken before on the utter disaster that is Australia’s National Broadband Network and how it was unlikely to ever achieve its stated goal and also cost significantly more than budgeted.

Well, things just got a whole lot worse for the beleaguered Australian taxpayer as it would seem reality is starting to rudely impose itself on the business model, such that it is: The NBN will need to write off a huge chunk of value, if that’s even possible now.

Crikey (in the vernacular), who ever could have predicted that?

Oh yes, everyone.

From the article:

It is self-evident that you can’t write $20 billion off a $10 billion (or less) equity base.

Ya reckon?

Rue made the point that when people called for a write-down, what they were actually calling for was a dramatic reduction in wholesale prices. It’s a mechanism, not the objective.

There are alternatives to a write-down that could lower wholesale prices, although they would involve heavy costs for government.

Hold on one second, sunshine…. heavy costs for whom?

The government? Nope, don’t think so. The government only has money for one of the following reasons:

1. Taxes paid by citizens (yes, that includes corporation tax – who do you think buys their goods and services?)

2. Borrowing on behalf of the public….which will be repaid by, yep, taxes

Read this with that in mind:

If the federal government were to cash out the $7.4 billion of subscriber payments and buy out the lease agreement, it would effectively inject more than $20 billion of value into NBN Co by carving those payments from its cost base and boosting its cash flows.

The substantial change in its economics would enable NBN Co to pass through the savings to retailers without damaging its ability to generate a positive IRR.

Or, in English; if the government spent more money it would make the NBN company seem like it was less of a turd.

Bill’s Opinion

The lesson every generation of voters always has to learn the hard way is, if you really want to fuck something up, and I mean really fuck something up and stay fucked up for a bloody long time, get the government to do it.

Because of/despite Brexit (delete where appropriate)

From the BBC (Brexit Blocking Corporation), comes this tale of woe and personal disasters.

British nationals who have retired to EU countries may no longer have their healthcare costs covered by the NHS in the event of a no-deal Brexit and many are considering returning home, reports Vishala Sri-Pathma.

Why’s that?

Currently expat pensioners can get treatment reimbursed by the NHS under an EU-wide deal

Ah, yes that would be a problem.

How does it currently work?

Pensioners who have paid in to the UK’s national insurance system for the qualifying number of years benefit from the S1 reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in EU/EEA countries or Switzerland.

What’s the revenue flow for that arrangement, one wonders? How much is charged each way, who runs the deficit?

The system currently saves the NHS about £450m a year. In 2017, a senior health department official told a parliamentary select committee that Spain charges an average of £2,300 for every pensioner it treats, compared with £4,500 charged by the NHS.

I though the NHS was “the envy of the world“? Are we now saying it’s twice as expensive for the same outcome?

Why on earth hasn’t Britain started running hospital tourism cruises to Santander and saved a fortune?

Yet there are no guarantees that this arrangement will continue under the Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals to protect the rights of EU citizens, including the 1.2 million Britons living elsewhere in the EU.

Frankly, nobody has a clue what bloody deal will be implemented on March 29th, least of all the incompetent idiots negotiating it.

The UK government is currently advising expat Brits in the EU to register for access to healthcare in the EU/EEA country they live in, as some residents may need to be a long-term resident or to pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare.

Good advice.

Of course, even better advice is; whenever you reside in a new country long enough to qualify for citizenship, seriously consider it as an option, given that taxation and immigration are the most frequently amended laws.

Residents of Spain, take note.

Another consideration is to plan for changes in laws. The European reciprocal arrangement for healthcare has only been in existence for about 15 years. Anyone emigrating for a retirement in Asia from Europe would budget for healthcare insurance, in contrast.

Another blow to the British in Spain has been the falling value of the pound. “It’s (Brexit) costing me great amounts of money in my pocket,” one bowler says as he lines up the balls for the next game. “I’d like to sees the exchange rate to go back to what it was six years ago – but that’s wishful thinking.”

Let’s fact check that shall we?

How long has the pound been in decline and is it really due to Brexit?

It’s currently sitting around $1.29, so unless the Forex markets knew about the Brexit vote result back in 2010, there’s not much about the exchange rate one can blame on Brexit.

If your retirement financial plan is underwater after a negative 10% exchange rate change, consider the possibility you weren’t ready to retire.

But possibly the best quote in the whole article is this:

“When I voted to leave I didn’t think it would change anything,” says Yvonne Stone

Good grief.

Bill’s Opinion

On verra. On verra.

Australia discovers the internet

There’s an Australian government body, the ACCC, that regulates commercial competition, ostensibly new behalf of the consumer but, as we will discover, perhaps not.

Firstly though, let’s crack that old joke, “why is there only one anti-monopoly agency?”.

The ACCC has recently discovered that people aren’t getting so many newspapers delivered to their houses these days.

No, really.

The ironically-named “competition tsar”, Rod Sims says;

“I was getting the response of people saying ‘isn’t this just creative destruction? You know, classic Schumpeter, the way the world works?” he said in an interview ahead of the speech. “Well… it isn’t. This isn’t just like the car taking over from the horse and buggy, or more recently, Uber taking over from the taxi”.

What is it then?

The internet has been accessible to the majority of Australians since the mid 1990s. Therefore the value destruction of print media and journalists’ careers has been one of the most signalled disruptive industry changes in several generations, yet somehow the media organisations failed to adapt.

The ACCC estimates that the number of journalists employed in the print sector fell by 20 per cent in the three years to 2017; while between 2006 and 2016 the number of journalists employed by traditional publishers fell 26 per cent.

Let’s remind ourselves what those employed in news media are supposed to do every day they come to work…

The harsh reality is their real job description was, “produce interesting content that captures an audience for advertising”.

Perhaps the journalists would prefer something more worthy like, “identify and investigate important changes in the status quo and inform their customers”.

Either way, they’ve failed spectacularly.

Bill’s Opinion

From the mid 1990s, traditional news media failed to spot the impact the internet, cheap mobile phone data and smart/camera phones would have on their profession.

Which is a bit of a problem if your job is called “the news“.

Please don’t make us pay to keep this rubbish alive any longer than it needs to be.

Don’t be evil (please define evil)

If you are ever in any doubt how bad an idea it is to simply accept the moderation and policing of content by large technology companies, compare and contrast their willingness to “deplatform” those who have the wrong opinions against this; Google and Apple have an app to help prevent Saudi women running away from home.

Nice.

In his recent interview with Joe Rogan, Jack Dorsey struggled to articulate Twitter’s policies on censorship.

On one hand, that’s an embarrassing admission for the CEO that he’s not across what is arguably the most controversial current issue facing his organisation. On the other, perhaps it’s an indication that the policy is more along the lines of, “whatever we decide it is at the time”.

Ultimately, the big technology companies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are private companies, nobody is forced to use their product and their terms of service are whatever they want them to be.

If Google wants to assist the Chinese government in monitoring its citizens, that’s Google’s business decision. Likewise, if Google and Apple are happy to host apps used by Saudi men to monitor their wives and daughters, fair enough. Obviously, we can judge them accordingly.

Bill’s Opinion

Morality is a moving target over time and geography. What was considered acceptable in 1909 or even 1969 is quite different in 2019. Just ask the US politicians who are being berated for costumes and comments being unearthed in their school year books by Offence Archaeologists.

Similarly, social attitudes in Saudi Arabia differ considerably with those elsewhere in the world.

The technology companies have to navigate these border differences. As individuals we also have the added risk over time; who knows today whether an anodyne social media post this year might be regretted if re-published in twenty years’ time? It’s tricky.

The technology companies seem to simultaneously want to pretend that they are simply dumb platforms, like the postal service or telephone carriers, yet kick off those deemed to be holding incorrect opinions. With such questionable views on what constitutes ethical behaviour, these platforms might not be the best places to store one’s data or express opinions that are outside of the norm.

Special pleaders gonna plead specially

For those not following the Australian economy (and judging by the readership statistics of this blog, that’s most of you), there’s some huge fun to be had in observing the logical knots people are currently tying for themselves.

 

The problem is that the Reserve Bank of Australia has again, not lowered interest rates. The last time the RBA moved rates was in August 2016, down from 1.75 to 1.5%.

 

I have a real job, i.e. I’m not an economist, so whether or not the RBA is taking the correct course of action is not really something I’m qualified to comment on. However, I am able to spot blatant special pleading when I see it:

 

The “Kouk is lining himself up for a job as an advisor in the next Federal government, assuming the current incumbents lose the election. This is likely to be a nice final job before his retirement. An ongoing house price crash in the two biggest cities of Australia will make this semi-retirement gig far more stressful than he’d appreciate.

 

 

The “Doc” was recently the “Chief Economist” (whatever that means; how many do they have to employ to need a chief?) at Domain, the only profitable arm of Fairfax…. until it was sold off. He was fired last year and is now pitching himself as “Chief Economist” of a company called My Property Market. The website of this esteemed company is still under construction, but I’m sure it’ll be finished soon. After all, they’ve got at least one employee now….. 

 

One imagines the Doc is personally very heavily invested in property.

One of the unusual quirks of the Australian property market is that there is a tax incentive to run your investment properties at a slight revenue loss.

There are, of course, two minor problems with this; firstly, you’re accepting an operating loss today in the hope of a capital gain tomorrow, and secondly, the tax benefit only works while you’re drawing a salary or other income at a level that attracts the higher marginal tax rates to offset the negative gearing. Amateur property investors who get fired from their regular job are clobbered with a double whammy, in other words. Ouch.

Bill’s Opinion

 

In the words of Upton Sinclair,

 

 It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

 

Baby Hubris

Let’s hope this young journo doesn’t look back on this piece with regret.

Throughout 2018, I literally had recurring dreams where I would find out I was pregnant. Part of me blames Kylie – I often watch her content before going to sleep. Stormi is ridiculously cute. Part of me also blames my 26-year-old uterus’ own increasingly vocal biological agenda.

Having a baby right now doesn’t square with my career ambitions or financial reality. And, yet, Kylie has somehow hacked my brain into thinking having my own little Stormi right now is exactly what I want.

So far so biology or another woman’s fault. But wait, surely we can blame men for something?

Oh yes:

Patriarchal societies have a vested interest in making motherhood look like the ultimate utopic end goal women should prioritise above all else. This keeps women feeling “bad” if they can’t have or don’t want kids and naturalises their role as “caregivers” in society, thus helping to keep them from accruing the same influence as men in other domains like business, law, politics and culture.

Wait, what?

You’ve just admitted that your uterus is shouting at you to have a baby but somehow that’s duh patriarchy?

Men keep you feeling “bad” for not having a baby? Do women have any agency in this decision?

Bueller? Anyone?

Bill’s Opinion

Listen, Natasha Gillezeau, if your career was so important to you that you’d put your instinctive desires to give birth on hold, one would hope that it would have paid off by now.

As it is, you’re being paid a pretty crappy salary (you are on the books, right, and not just a freelancer?) working for a company that is very much in decline even for an industry that is in decline in general.

Mr Scientist puts it more eloquently:

No Natasha, if you want a baby and you’ve found the right person to have one with, chuck the contraception away and get on with it.

Finally, the financial reason you mention, which I assume will be something along the lines of, “we’re only renting a small apartment“, is just an excuse. Kids don’t give a stuff whether you’ve got a mortgage or a rental contract.

Sequel man

Ghostbusters, Predator, The Karate Kid, a slew of new Star Wars films, Miama Vice, etc…. the 80s remakes just keep on coming.

There’s one we’ve not seen yet, but it surely must be due out soon.

Soul Man

Plot (from Wikipedia):

Mark Watson, is the pampered son of a rich family who is about to attend Harvard Law School along with his best friend Gordon. Unfortunately, his father’s neurotic psychiatrist talks his patient into having more fun for himself instead of spending money on his son. Faced with the prospect of having to pay for law school by himself, Mark decides to apply for a scholarship, but the only suitable one is for African-Americans only. He decides to cheat by using tanning pills in a larger dose than prescribed to appear as an African-American. Watson then sets out for Harvard, naïvely believing that blacks have no problems at all in American society.

However, once immersed in a black student’s life, Mark finds that people are less lenient than he imagined and more prone to see him as a black person instead of a fellow student. He meets a young African-American student named Sarah Walker, whom he first only flirts with; gradually, however, he genuinely falls in love with her. As it turns out, she was the original candidate for the scholarship which he had usurped, and now she has to work hard as a waitress to support herself and her son George while studying. Slowly, Mark begins to regret his deed, and after a chaotic day—in which Sarah, his parents (who are not aware of his double life) and his classmate Whitney, who is also his landlord’s daughter, make surprise visits at the same time—he drops the charade and openly reveals himself to be white.

Mark declares to his professor that he wishes to pay back the scholarship and do charity work to make amends for his fraud. When asked what he has learned, he says that he realizes that he could have changed back to being white at any time and so does not really know what it means to be black.

Sarah decides to give him another chance, and Mark decides to work his way through college.

Instead of simply copying the story of the movie, perhaps it’s time for a twist. As we’ve read above, the original plot device was that a pampered white kid loses access to the money he needs to get to college. To modernise it, perhaps we could switch the ethnicities and reasons for being unable to attend Harvard?

Mark Wong, is the son of a 2nd generation Asian family who, through hard work and intelligence is about to apply to attend Harvard Law School along with his best friend Gordon. Unfortunately, Harvard has limited the number of places open to his ethnicity in favour of other ethnicities, such as African Americans and Cherokees, even if they have scored lower on against the entry criteria. Faced with the prospect of having to attend an inferior law school, Mark decides to apply, but as an African-American. He decides to cheat by using tanning pills in a larger dose than prescribed to appear as an African-American. Wong then sets out for Harvard, naïvely believing that blacks have no problems at all in American society.

However, once immersed in a black student’s life, Mark finds that people are less lenient than he imagined and more prone to see him as a black person instead of a fellow student. He meets a young African-American named Sarah Walker, whom he first only flirts with; gradually, however, he genuinely falls in love with her. As it turns out, she was the original candidate for the place which he had usurped, and now she has to work in a job to support herself and her son George while studying to achieve better grades with which she intends to re-apply to Harvard. Slowly, Mark begins to regret his deed, and after a chaotic day—in which Sarah, his parents (who are not aware of his double life) and his classmate Whitney, who is also his landlord’s daughter, make surprise visits at the same time—he drops the charade and openly reveals himself to be Asian.

Mark declares to his professor that he wishes to give up his place at Harvard, attend Boondocks University and do charity work to make amends for his fraud. When asked what he has learned, he says that he realizes that he could have changed back to being Asian at any time and so does not really know what it means to be black.

Sarah decides to dox him on social media and Kathy Griffiths retweets this, resulting in a Twitter mob ruining Mark’s life. He decides to jump in front of a subway train.

Bill’s Opinion

Pure fantasy, of course. Nothing like that could ever happen in reality.

The shoe is on the other foot

When you buy a ticket for the Woke Intersectional Express, sometimes you find the train stops at unscheduled stations.

Nike upsets muslims who claim the design of a new show looks a bit like the Arabic script for Allah.

Muslims urge Nike to recall shoes with logo some say resembles word Allah

Saiqa Noreen, who created the Change.org petition demanding that the footwear and apparel brand remove the Nike Air Max 270 from store shelves, said the symbol on the bottom of the shoe “will surely be trampled, kicked and become soiled with mud or even filth.”

“It is outrageous and appalling of Nike to allow the name of God on a shoe. This is disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslims and insulting to Islam. Islam teaches compassion, kindness and fairness towards all,” he continued.

Ok, I’m pretty sure I can find some verses of the Koran that contradict that last assertion but please do tell me more about your reasonable demands.

It urges Nike to review the rest of its product line too, and to recall any merchandise with logos that resemble the word Allah.

“We also request stricter scrutiny of products before they enter the market,” the petition read.

Who gets to decide what “resembles” means?

Some of the petition’s signatories included their personal reasons for signing — with most saying they thought the Nike design was “disrespectful” and “offensive” toward their religion, and that they are owed an apology from the sportswear giant.  

How does an apology to the believers help? It’s Allah who’s apparently been slighted, surely?

In fact if you’re a follower of Allah, recall that “Islam” means “submission” or “surrender“. It would seem a bit late in the process to be looking for apologies once you’ve agreed to submission.

Nike did not return CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment.

Strange…. one would have thought the team who came up with the Colin Kaepernick campaign would be all over this like a cheap suit, surely?

Ibrahim Hooper, director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, declined to take a position on the issue, saying that the organization is in ongoing discussions with Nike.

“It’s obvious that some people perceive it as a slight. Whether is actually is or not, that still doesn’t get rid of the perception of some people,” Hooper told CBS MoneyWatch.

In other words, “oh fucking hell, how are we ever going to convince everyone we aren’t loons and murderous psychos when idiots get upset about a squiggly line on sports shoes?

He suspects that any offense caused by Nike was inadvertent.

Ya reckon?

As opposed to what, a bunch of marketing execs sitting in a room whiteboarding ways to piss off the jihadis?

Bill’s Opinion

Compare and contrast the media response to the occasional reports of poor Catholic peasants who discover the face of Jesus on burnt toast or half an orange.

Ridicule? Pity at best, as this example illustrates.

One wonders how those brave Buzzfeed journalists battling the forces of evil are reporting this latest “Allah on a shoe” rubbish?

Well, we will keep wondering as there’s nothing on their website when one searches for the story.

Voltaire didn’t say this, an actual neo-Nazi (as opposed to just someone who didn’t vote for Hillary) did, but it’s quite pertinent nonetheless;

To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?

Westpac’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer writes…

…about banking and house prices. One wonders how that got past the Corporate Affairs twinkies.

Obviously we’re being facetious, Brian isn’t really the Head of LGBTQI123& non-TERF Advocacy (not that you’d know it to look at what he seems to spend most of his time focusing on).

No, he’s the CEO of Westpac

Which means, on balance, the article is even more worrying.

Why?

Ask yourself a question; when the CEO of the 2nd biggest bank decides to write a blog post explaining that the property market isn’t crashing, that the bank is sound and they are still open for business, does that make you feel great comfort and security?

Or, do you think to yourself, “why is he telling me this, why wouldn’t everything be fine, what does he know that I don’t?

Bill’s Opinion

The lady doth protest too much, methinks

It’s highly unlikely any of the major Australian banks are going to be in trouble any time soon. However, the prime candidate if one does hit hard times would be the one with the largest exposure to interest only investment loans and a top of the market (2007) acquisition of a competitor that they never got round to integrating and realising economies of scale….