I’ll take “things that didn’t happen” for $800, Jussie

Jussie Smollett is an actor and musician. Apparently he is famous for this and also for recently telling everyone about his sexuality.

No, I’d never heard of him either.

Shockingly, he was badly beaten at 2am on Tuesday morning in Chicago. The attackers apparently recognised him, called him a gay and racial slur, beat him, poured a chemical (possibly bleach) on him and wrapped a rope around his neck. The reports didn’t confirm which knot, if any, was used.

Side note of interest; the temperature in Chicago at the time was -14 degrees C.

There’s a breakdown of the reported facts here and a load of screen shots of the reactions of celebrities and politicians who clearly didn’t learn a lesson from the Covington Catholic School lunacy.

Bill’s Opinion

Using our patented razor, we are going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the explanation requiring the least number of assumptions to be correct, and therefore the most likely truth of the situation, is that Jussie is suffering from a mental condition that has resulted in him making the whole thing up.

Alternatively, there really are a pair of racist homophobes living in Chicago who were walking around in the early hours of a weekday morning in arctic conditions carrying bleach and a length of rope on the off-chance they recognise a famous gay black man buying a sandwich.

Let’s hope the Chicago Police investigate the hell out of this.

Golgafrincham “Ark Buzzfeed”

… “I mean, I couldn’t help noticing,” said Ford, also taking a sip, “the bodies. In the hold.”

“Bodies?” said the Captain in surprise.

Ford paused and thought to himself. Never take anything for granted, he thought. Could it be that the Captain doesn’t know he’s got fifteen million dead bodies on his ship?

The Captain was nodding cheerfully at him. He also appeared to be playing with a rubber duck.

Ford looked around. Number Two was staring at him in the mirror, but only for an instant: his eyes were constantly on the move. The first officer was just standing there holding the drinks tray and smiling benignly.

“Bodies?” said the Captain again.

Ford licked his lips.

“Yes,” he said, “All those dead telephone sanitizers and account executives, you know, down in the hold.”

The Captain stared at him. Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.

“Oh they’re not dead,” he said, “Good Lord no, no they’re frozen. They’re going to be revived.”

Ford did something he very rarely did. He blinked.

Arthur seemed to come out of a trance.

“You mean you’ve got a hold full of frozen hairdressers?” he said.

“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “Millions of them. Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants, you name them. We’re going to colonize another planet.”

Ford wobbled very slightly.

“Exciting isn’t it?” said the Captain.

“What, with that lot?” said Arthur.

“Ah, now don’t misunderstand me,” said the Captain, “we’re just one of the ships in the Ark Fleet. We’re the ‘B’ Ark you see. Sorry, could I just ask you to run a bit more hot water for me?”

Arthur obliged, and a cascade of pink frothy water swirled around the bath. The Captain let out a sigh of pleasure.

“Thank you so much my dear fellow. Do help yourselves to more drinks of course.”

Ford tossed down his drink, took the bottle from the first officer’s tray and refilled his glass to the top.

“What,” he said, “is a ‘B’ Ark?”

“This is,” said the Captain, and swished the foamy water around joyfully with the duck.

“Yes,” said Ford, “but …”

“Well what happened you see was,” said the Captain, “our planet, the world from which we have come, was, so to speak, doomed.”

“Doomed?”

“Oh yes. So what everyone thought was, let’s pack the whole population into some giant spaceships and go and settle on another planet.”

Having told this much of his story, he settled back with a satisfied grunt.

“You mean a less doomed one?” prompted Arthur.

“What did you say dear fellow?”

“A less doomed planet. You were going to settle on.”

“Are going to settle on, yes. So it was decided to build three ships, you see, three Arks in Space, and … I’m not boring you am I?”

“No, no,” said Ford firmly, “it’s fascinating.”

“You know it’s delightful,” reflected the Captain, “to have someone else to talk to for a change.”

Number Two’s eyes darted feverishly about the room again and then settled back on the mirror, like a pair of flies briefly distracted from their favourite prey of months old meat.

“Trouble with a long journey like this,” continued the Captain,”is that you end up just talking to yourself a lot, which gets terribly boring because half the time you know what you’re going to say next.”

“Only half the time?” asked Arthur in surprise.

The Captain thought for a moment.

“Yes, about half I’d say. Anyway – where’s the soap?” He fished around and found it.

“Yes, so anyway,” he resumed, “the idea was that into the first ship, the ‘A’ ship, would go all the brilliant leaders, the scientists, the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or ‘C’ ship, would go all the people who did the actual work, who made things and did things, and then into the `B’ ship – that’s us – would go everyone else, the middlemen you see.”

He smiled happily at them.

“And we were sent off first,” he concluded, and hummed a little bathing tune.

The little bathing tune, which had been composed for him by one of his world’s most exciting and prolific jingle writer (who was currently asleep in hold thirty-six some nine hundred yards behind them) covered what would otherwise have been an awkward moment of silence. Ford and Arthur shuffled their feet and furiously avoided each other’s eyes.

“Er …” said Arthur after a moment, “what exactly was it that was wrong with your planet then?”

“Oh, it was doomed, as I said,” said the Captain, “Apparently it was going to crash into the sun or something. Or maybe it was that the moon was going to crash into us. Something of the kind. Absolutely terrifying prospect whatever it was.”

“Oh,” said the first officer suddenly, “I thought it was that the planet was going to be invaded by a gigantic swarm of twelve foot piranha bees. Wasn’t that it?”

Number Two span around, eyes ablaze with a cold hard light that only comes with the amount of practise he was prepared to put in.

“That’s not what I was told!” he hissed, “My commanding officer told me that the entire planet was in imminent danger of being eaten by an enormous mutant star goat!”

“Oh really …” said Ford Prefect.

“Yes! A monstrous creature from the pit of hell with scything teeth ten thousand miles long, breath that would boil oceans, claws that could tear continents from their roots, a thousand eyes that burned like the sun, slavering jaws a million miles across, a monster such as you have never … never … ever …”

“And they made sure they sent you lot off first did they?” inquired Arthur.

“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “well everyone said, very nicely I thought, that it was very important for morale to feel that they would be arriving on a planet where they could be sure of a good haircut and where the phones were clean.”

“Oh yes,” agreed Ford, “I can see that would be very important. And the other ships, er … they followed on after you did they?”

For a moment the Captain did not answer. He twisted round in his bath and gazed backwards over the huge bulk of the ship towards the bright galactic centre. He squinted into the inconceivable distance.

“Ah. Well it’s funny you should say that,” he said and allowed himself a slight frown at Ford Prefect, “because curiously enough we haven’t heard a peep out of them since we left five years ago … but they must be behind us somewhere.”

He peered off into the distance again.

Ford peered with him and gave a thoughtful frown.

“Unless of course,” he said softly, “they were eaten by the goat …”

“Ah yes …” said the Captain with a slight hesitancy creeping into his voice, “the goat …” His eyes passed over the solid shapes of the instruments and computers that lined the bridge. They winked away innocently at him. He stared out at the stars, but none of them said a word. He glanced at his first and second officers, but they seemed lost in their own thoughts for a moment. He glanced at Ford Prefect who raised his eyebrows at him.

“It’s a funny thing you know,” said the Captain at last, “but now that I actually come to tell the story to someone else …”

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Bill’s Opinion

It’s still not safe to click any links on the internet, but this is a start.

Australian banks’ dichotomy

This is not a trick question, but what is the primary purpose of a retail (AKA commercial) bank?

 

Assuming it’s not been nationalised, like RBS and other 2008 basket cases, presumably the main function of a bank is to make money for its owners, i.e. the shareholders. Sure, the corporate mission statement might waffle on about helping customers through the key milestones on their life journey, blah, blah, blah, but if they don’t increase the shareholder’s value, they’re dead.

 

Australian retail banks have performed this task very well over the years. CBA’s share price and dividend history is shown below as an example, the other 3 major banks are not dissimilar;

 

 

That the dividends barely missed a beat following the minor difficulties in the banking world in 2008 is amazing. Of course, this masks a slightly inconvenient fact that they were supported by an implicit government guarantee of a bail out should one be required, allowing investors to remain calm and not rush for the exit like in other jurisdictions.

 

Gifts rarely come without an expectation of a quid pro quo, however. In the Australian case, the banks are expected to “do the right thing” by the public, by which we mean, “help the government”.

 

On the way up, when values are increasing and there’s a wealth effect to the public, or at least those exposed to the upside of property ownership, these two purposes (shareholder value and public service) are reasonably well-aligned.

On the way down, as property values decrease and regular members of the public start to experience financial pressure, the two purposes diverge. If the government of the day would like the bank CEOs to show some forbearance to those in distress or even take a haircut on the margin between borrowing and lending costs, the bank shareholders are going to suffer.

 

What might this mean in the short to medium term?

 

There’s a few factors at play currently which may provide us with an indication of how the next year or two might play out.

 

  1. The Royal Commission in to the financial sector has unearthed some unpleasantness by most major institutions. There will be ramifications for the sector in terms of increased oversight and regulation.
  2. Macroprudential restrictions on lending has resulted in a cooling of the housing market with prices down around 10% from the 2017 peak and perhaps, conservatively, 1 in 10 owner occupier mortgages being in negative equity (more, according to some sources).
  3. A likely change of government in May and the possibility of the removal of some tax breaks for new owners of investment properties.
  4. Costs of borrowing from overseas sources (currently about 60% of mortgage funding) has increased and looks likely to continue to do so, albeit mildly, during 2019.
  5. A halving of the number of foreign (by which we mean Chinese) property investors buying in Australia since the peak in 2014.

 

Predictions are notoriously difficult, especially about the future, but this combination of factors suggest that the decline in values is unlikely to halt during the next 12 months.

Whichever flavour of government is in power, and let’s face it, there’s little difference between the two parties other than one group is more competent at being corrupt than the other, won’t really matter; neither of the major parties are going to enjoy governing during a -15% or perhaps -20% property crash.

The calls to “do something, do anything” are going to become deafening.

The professional economic troll, Stephen Koukoulas, and the “Chief Economist” of My Property Market (i.e. the only employee), Dr. Andrew Wilson, are already flooding social media with pathetic begging of the Reserve Bank to cut rates.

God only knows how many more vested interests will come out of the woodwork over the coming months. 

 

Bill’s Opinion

 

Obviously, the government is going to call in the favours owed. At the very least, banks are going to have to take a hit on margins. The banking regulator, APRA, may find itself under political pressure to ease the responsible lending restrictions that have been put in place and then banks will be “encouraged” to open the spigots again. Friendly State Governments may be under pressure to reverse restrictions on overseas ownership.

 

None, some or all of this might “work”. 

 

Regardless though, shareholders of the banks are going to take one in the chops.

 

“People are annoyed….”

That a beauty treatment is being advertised with the inference that some people might need a beauty treatment to be more beautiful.

Which people?

Well, Jemeela Jamil, for a start.

No, I hadn’t heard of her before either. Apparently, she was an English radio DJ and TV presenter who moved to the USA to be a writer but, erm, carried on with her career of being easy on the eye relying on her looks instead for reasons that must be something to do with duh patriarchy.

This screen shot from her Twitter profile indicates she’s a perfectly reasonable, rational person with no mental hang-ups whatsoever:

Someone called Janey Godley piled in as well. Janey has a blue tick on Twitter, presumably because she’s that rarity, a Scottish comedian not called Billy Connelly.

A top beauty tip for Janey might be to consider not cutting her own hair in the dark as a quicker route to improved physical attractiveness rather than putting some cream on her legs.

If you make the mistake of going on a Google research fieldtrip on Janey in particular, see if you can find anything she has written or said that falls into the broad category of “comedy”. She seems most famous for wandering around in public with a piece of cardboard with the words “Tump is a cunt” in letters coloured in with a child’s felt tip pen set and posting drunken anti-Brexit rants on YouTube.

Bill’s Opinion

When advertising a product, it’s often important to identify the potential buyer’s need or desire that would be satisfied if they bought it.

In the case of beauty treatments, the inference is, if you agree you need it, you are also admitting to the possibility that your physical beauty is not currently optimal and can be improved.

In Jameela and Janey’s case however, no amount of physical improvements can change the truth that they both have repulsively ugly characters.

Who in Ireland voted for this?

There is a worrying trend in the West of leaders with absolutely no personal investment in the future driving huge changes to the very fabric of their country.

To illustrate this point, ponder this question, What do the following leaders (or ex-leaders) have in common?

– Angela Merkel

– Theresa May

– Emmanuel Macron

– Julia Gillard

– Nicola Sturgeon

– Leo Varadker

Apart from the obvious point that they all suffer from varying degrees of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, not one of them has any practical experience of changing nappies or dealing with 3am episodes of croup.

For differing reasons, they have no tickets in the genetic future of the species. Yet these are the people who are overseeing seismic changes to their countries, or even the entire European continent.

Today’s focus is the last one on the list, the Prime Minister or ‘Taoiseach’ (bless you, are you going down with a cold?).

His government has recently published a 30 year plan for the country, ‘Ireland 2049‘, which sets out a vision for the population, infrastructure and a wide range of other aspects of Irish life.

Thirty years. It makes the old Soviet Five Year Plans seem positively humble by comparison.

As you’d expect from a country that has a thousand year history of fiercely fighting for its independence from the neighbouring colonial power yet handed it over to Brussels in a heartbeat, the report has all the usual cause célèbre du jour boxes ticked such as climate change, diversity and gender pronouns for left-handed penguins.

This little gem seems to have slipped past without question however;

Wait, what?

The current population is 4.74m, the aged demographic is increasing and the young demographic is decreasing yet in 20 years’ time the population with have increased by a fifth?

Has Ireland invented cloning?

Of course not, they’re going to invite a million people from the rest of the world in.

Fair enough, that’s their right as a sovereign nation if that’s what the voters want.

However, is that what the voters want? Have they been asked at all?

Browsing the Irish press, there seems to be scant discussion on the immigration point, instead, the debate seems to be more about pork barrelling for infrastructure investment for various geographies.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s curious that people don’t question the fact that our children’s future is being heavily influenced by people with absolutely no skin in the game.

It’s also strange the assumption isn’t being challenged that Ireland must replace such a significant proportion of her population over the next 20 years.

Why does Ireland need to grow the number of citizens?

I can think of only three reasons:

1. To care for the aging population.

2. To maintain the pension Ponzi scheme.

3. Pursuit of a Cultural Marxist agenda.

Is there another reason?

What are the Swiss and Japanese doing? One assumes automation will factor into their plans rather than importing an additional fifth of the country from places with little cultural similarities.

If the Ireland 2040 plan continues, what’s the chances that the real number of immigrants will be more or less than one million?

Update: maths corrected.

“All we are saying, is give pills a chance”

The infamous Sydney pirate, Peter Fitzsimons, jumps the shark today with this classic long bow to draw:

Not testing illegal drugs at music festivals is like the Vietnam War.

It’s not a parody. He starts by quoting John Kerry’s famous 1971 appearance before the Senate;

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

And then makes the comparison with young people taking illegal drugs whilst dancing to music;

How do we ask another festival-goer to die for want of instituting the very policy advocated by most of those on the front-line – the police, doctors, and emergency workers?

Of course, this is written in a left wing newspaper so the claim that most professionals back drug testing doesn’t need to be qualified or supported with data.

We’ve written about this previously and the false dichotomy being presented for political purposes.

Do your own research to discover quite how effective drug testing at festivals has been in other countries and, indeed, whether the news that the pill one has just purchased is going to be bad for you has much effect on people’s intention to consume it.

The nearest he gets to a nuanced argument is that, although drug testing isn’t that accurate currently, it will be one day so we should do it now so that we’re ready. Ok, Pete.

Meanwhile, let’s just have a minute’s silence for the 58,220 dead American men who probably would have much preferred to have gone to a music festival instead.

Bill’s Opinion

The great value Peter Fitzsimons brings to society is that, for any issue other than sports-induced head injuries, if you can’t be bothered to spend the time to work out what the best position is to take, take the opposite of Peter’s.

I bet we’re not

Perhaps Donald Trump has done something that’s ground for impeachment, maybe he hasn’t. I don’t know and nor do you.

One thing’s for certain, our generation’s Woodward and Bernstein are unlikely to be currently writing listicles for Buzzfeed.

A report in BuzzFeed alleges that Donald Trump instructed his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen to mislead Congress about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a claim that has been denied by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Got any documents or other evidence to support that then?

The latest developments have stunned the political class in Washington D.C and provoked broad agreement that this is one of the biggest and most damaging news stories for Trump since Mueller’s investigation began.

Well, that’s not a high hurdle to leap, is it? Meuller has been dry-humping this investigation for longer than some of Trump’s marriages and has so far failed to find a smoking gun, or even a gun that’s recently given up smoking and is now weaning itself off vaping.

In a story attributing its reporting to two unnamed law enforcement officials, BuzzFeed reported late on Thursday night local time that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations.

The authors of the story have broken some of the most significant stories on the Trump-Russia beat, and their reporting has later been backed up by the courts.

Right, and those stories amounted to what, exactly? Excuse our cynicism but the Russia collusion story hasn’t rocked the world yet has it?

If the BuzzFeed story is correct, we are not only at another level, we are at impeachment.

The word “if” seems to be doing all the hard work there.

Bill’s Opinion

Trump may be guilty of something illegal.

Evidence would be nice though. You know, how investigative journalism used to work.

UPDATE: The impeachment excitement barely lasted half a day this time before being extinguished.

Is there a single journalist alive today who can describe the meaning of “confirmation bias”? Anyone?

Eat the rich

The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brings together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.

The Commission is delivering the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.

Right, so you’re going to tell everyone in the world what to eat. Ok. Good luck.

Why is the EAT-Lancet Commission needed?

Erm, I suppose the answer isn’t, “to give 22 full time staff and 30 affiliated scientists salaries and access to more research grants”?

Why is the EAT-Lancet Commission needed?

Food systems are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. They are the main user of fresh water, a leading driver of biodiversity loss, land-use change and cause eutrophication or dead zones in lakes and coastal areas. Simultaneously, unhealthy diets are the leading risk factor for disease worldwide, causing rapidly growing rates of Non-communicable-Diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Vast global undernutrition is adding mounting pressure to these challenges. In other words, how we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food is hurting both people and planet.

That paragraph started and ended with concern about the planet, with a little sliver of concerns about people as the meat in the sandwich.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement targets to reduce carbon emissions means urgently and fundamentally changing the way we eat and produce food. But key questions remain unanswered and a lack of scientific consensus is slowing down governments, businesses and civil society actors who want to take action

Right, so it’s less about what the best diet is for me and my family and more about how I can change my diet to achieve the godawful wealth transfer for no tangible outcome that is the Paris Agreement.

• We don’t have a scientific consensus to define what is a healthy diet for all humans.

• We don’t have a comprehensive review of how food production must change to be sustainable.

• We don’t have clear, science-based guidelines telling all actors how we can provide humans with healthy diets from a sustainable food system.

Yes, understood; it’s about the planet more than my health.

In fact, if you really have any interest in reducing malnutrition you’d be spending all your time and effort trying to continue this trend;

Seriously; something has gone very seriously right in the fight against global malnutrition. Work out what it was and do more of it and NOW.

Bill’s Opinion

When I want advice on what changes to my diet I should make, I will ask a medical professional, not a climate scientist, and the opinion I will seek will be specific, not general.

The 22 staff of the Eat Forum team are paid a salary from money donated by The Stordalen Foundation, The Stockholm Resilience Centre, and The Wellcome Trust, the first two of which have “climate” as their prime concerns.

Don’t take dietary advice from people who’s agenda is to save the planet before saving individual humans and who, in fact, view humans populations as an exercise in statistics.

Three cheers for Jeremy Corbyn!

The slow moving car crash that is Brexit continued last night with the government losing the vote to ratify the deal made with the EU by a unprecedented margin as predicted by everyone…… including most of Theresa May’s cabinet.

The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, had several options in front of him at that point. He chose to call for a vote of no confidence, which, if lost by the government, will result in a General Election.

We don’t really do predictions here but we’ll make an exception in this case – there is more chance Halle Berry will turn up at my house tomorrow evening wearing sexy lingerie and holding a bottle of Krug, a box of Godiva chocolates and a Barry White playlist on her iPhone than Jeremy Corbyn winning today’s vote.

To have called for a vote that he so clearly won’t win (the rebel Conservative MPs hate Theresa May’s deal but they aren’t going to allow the Labour Party have an early chance at government either – turkeys don’t vote for Christmas) shows a depressing lack of imagination.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with more than a passing familiarity with Corbin’s history. He used to be my MP for a while during my years in London (no, I didn’t vote for him), during which time I learned enough about him to realise he fits the “useful idiot” description perfectly. His deputy, John McDonnell, in the other hand, would be truly terrifying if he got close to the reigns of power.

Corbyn has, in effect, been wrong and proven wrong about nearly everything for nearly all his adult life. His fundamental belief is that socialism is the ideal form of political and societal organisation and that we just need to implement it correctly this time. The 200 million or more dead bodies in the 20th century are simply a statistical side note during the experiments to find the right version.

No surprise then, that a pointless gesture would be his first choice tactic. But what were his other options last night when responding to Theresa May?

Here’s a few this non-political professional can think of;

1. Commiserate Theresa May and offer to form an emergency cross-party cabinet to thrash out a counter offer to take to the EU next week.

2. Commiserate Theresa May and thank her for her efforts to negotiate in good faith with the EU but state that this has clearly been a one way street. The EU have not intended to find a mutually acceptable compromise from the start of the process and, therefore, Labour recommend the government pivot to the assumption that they are dealing with a hostile foreign power and commence planning accordingly. Labour will fully support the government in a bipartisan approach during this period of national crisis.

3. Commiserate Theresa May and ask her to return to the house within 24 hours with an outline of her revised approach to ensure an orderly exit from the EU on March 29th. The house should be offered a vote of confidence on this approach and, if lost, she will resign as Prime Minister or a general election will be called (pick one).

4. Commiserate Theresa May and then read a prepared statement which sets out, in simple language, Labour’s alternatives to the contentious elements of the bill. Offer to support the government to pass the re-submitted bill if these amendments were made.

There are probably loads more versions of these suggestions that Corbyn could have taken last night. That he took the one least likely to succeed is in character but still confusing. He suffers greatly from cognitive dissonance but this takes it to a new level.

Bill’s Opinion

What’s going on?

I can think of a few possible explanations and, frankly, I’ve not settled on which one is most probable;

1. Everything is as it appears; we have an incompetent Prime Minister, an even more incompetent Leader of the Opposition and a foreign power acting in bad faith.

2. Losing the vote was a deliberate negotiation tactic by the Prime Minister, enabling her to put the EU under pressure to improve the terms of the deal or risk the “no deal” option. The Leader of the Opposition is incompetent and the EU are acting in bad faith.

3. It’s all kayfabe. What we are witnessing is a public play between the EU and UK government to give an impression of conflict and subsequent resolution while the terms of exit have already been agreed and the strategy to achieve approval has been meticulously planned. Jeremy Corbyn is still incompetent.

4. As (3) but Jeremy Corbyn is in on the secret too.

(1) and (2) don’t concern me; we will either see a “no deal” exit (i.e. WTO terms) or a reasonable but not perfect deal.

(3) and (4) are truly scary but, to be true, using our razor, have the most unproven assumptions.

Have I missed any potential explanations?

Which do you think is most likely?

What this war needs is a futile gesture….