Capitalism and democratic choices are a distant memory in Australia

Remember how, back in the mists of time there used to be a clear choice for voters; a party of the free markets and less government spending versus a party representing the working class and unions?

Perhaps we’re looking back with rose tinted glasses and t’was always thus. Nonetheless, Australians were given a very clear glimpse of what lies ahead should the economy take more than a minor dip over the coming months and years; the federal government becomes lender of last resort to crap businesses.

No. Really.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash will announce the small business funding policy on Wednesday, promoting the soon-to-be-established Australian Business Securitisation Fund as a way to overcome banks typically only lending to the self-employed when they pledge their personal home as collateral.

To summarise the announcement; “if the banks looked at your business and decided it was a poor bet and you didn’t have enough skin in the game, we’ve just decided the Australian taxpayer and their superannuation funds will lend you the money anyway“.

It’s very easy to be generous with other people’s money, isn’t it?

This is bound to end well.

The irony is that this policy wasn’t announced by either of the openly Socialist parties but by one of the two parties that historically claimed to be champions of free markets and minimal government intervention.

At a state level, similar disconnects have been shown between expressed and revealed preferences. Here’s a “free markets” politician bailing out rent-seeking taxi medallion speculators.

The $2bn fund to lend money to businesses judged by commercial lenders to be poor risks is an interesting development though, coming as it does so soon in to the worst housing crash in a generation, but particularly after this little legislative gem was snuck through onto the statute books with hardly any media coverage or explanation; insolvent banks can be rescued by confiscating deposits.

Bill’s Opinion

Will a “bail-in” of superannuation funds or bank deposits ever happen in Australia?

Unlikely, but not impossible. The risk isn’t zero.

There’s a great and often quoted dialogue in Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises;

‘How did you go bankrupt?’ Bill asked.

‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’

Perhaps this is the “gradually” part for Australian depositors. If so, it might be an idea to know how quickly you could act to not be caught out by the “suddenly“.

Special pleading to commence in 5, 4, 3…..

Australia’s stellar run of property price inflation has come to an end.

The current decline is already the worst in modern history;

So what? Markets are cyclical, trees don’t grow to the sky, etc. The current decline comes after many years of incredible capital gains for those exposed to the asset class. These single digit percentage falls should be of no concern to anyone except those who speculatively bought in the last two or three years or who have taken on extreme levels of debt.

Everyone with a brain and access to standard economics textbooks should have been able to predict that, eventually, there would have been a correction, either minor and slow or major and quick. One way or another, the fact that the double digit percentage increases would not have continued forever should have been news to nobody, not least those paid large sums of money to navigate these markets.

Our old friend Brian “admire my signals of virtue at shareholder expense” Hartzer seems to have been slightly startled by reality, however;

Westpac’s profits flatline, which, to be fair, still means they’ve made a truckload. However, trends are important.

What’s also important is that throwaway line above; “the country’s biggest lender to landlords“.

Let’s pose a question here for Westpac shareholders –

Q. In a falling market, which categories of mortgage debt are least likely to perform well?

If you answered, “the most heavily-leveraged and properties that are not the primary residence of the mortgagee“, give yourself a pat on the back.

Elsewhere Stephen Koukoulas has smashed the glass to get at the emergency alarm button; The next rate move by the RBA should be down.

An RBA rate cut is not about housing – it’s about exports and investment

Many people misunderstand my concern about falling house prices and the coincident call for the Reserve Bank to cut official interest rates.

Well sure, but given that your call for rate cuts conveniently occurred at the point it became obvious these price falls weren’t a blip and, in fact, show many signs of being the new normal for the next year or two, allow us a few moments to consider quite how unbiased your views are.

As for this claim;

The house price declines in the current downturn are much what I was forecasting a year ago.

Are you sure about that? This interview from 14 months ago suggests otherwise;

He’s talking specifically about Sydney prices there. If by “flat” he meant negative 7.5%, then fair enough but that would seem a generous retrospective reading.

Other commentators with an even worse track record are pleading to higher authorities now too.

From the same article, our friend “Doctor” Andrew Wilson (he’s a doctor of property! No, really!) making a prediction so accurate that he got it almost exactly 100% wrong;

So much for a doctorate in property economics. Where was it from, the University of Baghdad, studying under Professor Comical Ali?

Based on that stunning example of incompetence in his core area of expertise, perhaps we might also be allowed to ponder the altruism behind his current pleading for rate cuts;

Economics-wise, that’s just all over the place. Explain please, how lowering rates improves savings rates, for example…..

Bill’s Opinion

Predictions are a fool’s errand on something as complex as an economic system.

We can, however, provide a conditional prediction here today of which we are extremely confident;

Should the decline in Australian property values continue, the current low whine of calls by vested interests to lower interest rates will become a defeating cacophony as they claim it’s in the best interests of the entire country, not just themselves as they are staring down the barrel of large paper, possibly soon to be realised, losses.

The pips will squeak.

Some competitions are not worth winning

It is unlikely Rebel Wilson has ever experienced winning anything athletic or academic during her school years.

She’s coming third in a competition nobody sane actually wants to win, however.

Bill’s Opinion

First ‘plus sized’ girl to lead a ‘Rom Com‘” isn’t exactly “first woman to sail solo around the world” or “first man on the moon”.

Let’s give her a participation award.

You may be an accessory to murder, m’lud

This makes sense at first glance, but is there a deeper truth being ignored?

An Australian Supreme Court Judge has released a violent Muslim criminal in order for him to emigrate to Lebanon.

Fair enough, eh? A nasty violent man rejects the core principles of western civilisation so requests permission to remove himself and move to a country whose values are more in line with his personal philosophy.

Justice Des Fagan further urged authorities to assist violent career criminal Mohamed Naaman to realise his dream of leaving the country to live in Lebanon as “it would appear to suit all parties”.

Quite right, Judge Des Fagan, let him go and good riddance.

But wait, what’s this?

It was claimed Naaman was preoccupied with Islamic State and once told a Queensland parole officer that he “would go to Syria and become a suicide bomber, then stated he was joking”.

Boom tish! As punchlines go, that’s better than anything in evidence on Saturday Night Live these days.

How did that go down with the esteemed judge?

“He has espoused his adherence to Islam over many years. He has shown himself to be an Islamic bigot, expressing contempt and hatred for anyone who does not accept the Koran, being the overwhelming majority of Australians,” Justice Fagan said.

And there’s this;

Forensic psychiatrist Kerri Eagle said Naaman, a long-term illicit drug user with signs of chronic paranoid schizophrenia, would be highly likely to keep committing violent crimes upon his release from custody.

Oh great. What does the judge think about that?

Justice Fagan agreed, saying: “The only mitigating consideration with respect to this bleak forecast is that the defendant’s past violence has not been of a high level and has not been premeditated.”

Oh, well that’s all right then; he’s not managed to make a bomb yet so he’s mostly harmless. Until that changes. Let’s hope it doesn’t.

The judge seems to need help with basic logic, though;

During the hearing, the court heard Naaman wanted to renounce his Australian citizenship and return to Lebanon, prompting Justice Fagan to ask why he shouldn’t be allowed to do so.

“If somebody wishes to immigrate from Australia … why wouldn’t the state wish to facilitate it if it’s possible?” he said.

Yeah, if he wants to go and we don’t want him here why can’t he be allowed to leave?

There is a reason and fortunately the prosecutor managed to articulate it;

Mr Agius said Australia had obligations to help prevent terrorist acts overseas.

“If he returns to Syria to fight the Syrian government and to kill infidels as he said he wishes to do, under Australian law that would be a serious terrorism offence,” he said.

Yeah, that.

Bill’s Opinion

Whilst no sane citizen of a western democracy would want to share a planet, let alone a country or city, with someone as mad and dangerous as Mohammed Naaman, there is a wider consideration here;

Namely, we are not the fucking recruitment department of Islamic State, shipping future terrorists over to Syria to be brutalised and trained to kill without remorse.

As Sam Harris says, we should judge these people by their words, we should listen when they tell us they want to kill us in the name of Islam and we ought to believe them.

As expensive as it will be for Mohammed to be walking around Brisbane on a curfew with a monitoring ankle bracelet or, better still, bored to tears reading the Koran cover to cover in jail, at least the police know where he is and what he’s doing.

If they wave goodbye to him at the airport, who knows what he’s going to get up to over the next few years? At best, he’ll be blown up by a drone before he’s done anything too heinous. However, other possibilities include furthering the murderous cause of Islamic State, attacking our allies or, worse, our troops or citizens in the region or coming back to a western country but now filled with significant training and even more motivation to do us harm.

Should any of those negative outcomes occur, the families of those hurt or killed would have a solid moral case to make against Judge Des Fagan.

Des Fagan, j’accuse.

Academic rigour

The researchers at the University of New South Wales have released a study suggesting the marsupial “lion” died out as a result of climate change, not because of competition with humans.

After analysing the chemical structure of fossil teeth, the researchers concluded thylacoleo carnifex was a highly specialised apex predator, hunting primarily in forests and unlikely to be capable of competing in more open geography.

Therefore, they conclude, the climate change that impacted the Australian landscape significantly during the “lion’s” nearly 2 million year reign on the continent was responsible for its extinction, not the humans who just happened to have arrived about 15,000 years before its demise.

We’re not in a position to challenge the chemical analysis of the teeth, this isn’t a scientific blog after all. But there are some significant questions that jump out at us;

1. How big was the sample size used and how geographically diverse were the locations they were discovered?

The newsdesk report doesn’t say and the actual study isn’t available to us yet but I have a memory of a previous report about the “lion” that suggests around 65 individuals have been found to date (if anyone can correct this, please do so below).

2. What’s the time line of the known existence of the “lion” against ice ages and human arrival?

The marsupial was around for about 2 million years, dying out 35 to 40 thousand years ago.

There have been many glacial and interglacial periods during the current ice age (yes, we are currently in an ice age), during which the flora of Australia was significantly impacted.

Humans first arrived around 60 thousand years ago.

Coincidentally, the Australian megafauna mainly died out 15 thousand years after the humans arrived.

Bill’s Opinion

Prima facie, this looks like some solid scientific research followed by blatant propaganda and over-reach.

The analysis of the fossils is probably solid; the animals likely did live and hunt in forests.

Claiming that as the reason for their extinction because the climate started changing 350,000 years ago seems an extremely long bow to draw.

For example, why then did it take 305,000 years of climate change to kill them off, along with all of the other major fauna and, coincidently, this was just 15,000 years after a new apex predator had arrived replete with mechanical hunting advantages and “fire stick” land clearance techniques?

Occam’s Razor works on the principle that the answer that relies on the fewest assumptions is likely to be the correct one.

An assumption that humans arrived and out-competed with the previous apex predator beats the dual assumptions that they co-existed but the animals failed to evolve to gradually-changing conditions over several thousand years.

There’s another point in favour of the “humans killed them off” theory; researchers try to find a “climate change” hook to all their research because that’s where the money flows.

What does “sorry” even mean

Another day, another national apology on behalf of someone else;

This month’s Prime Minister of Australia (c) apologised to victims of institutional sexual abuse.

As we’ve seen previously, Sorry is a very easy word to say when there are only positive consequences for the speaker.

These national vicarious apologies on behalf of perpetrators who are long dead or languishing in jail would be amusing if it weren’t for the seriousness of the situations they are describing.

Politicians who make these public statements seem to have missed the fact that “sorry” has two meanings;

The first is an expression of contrition and regret for an action you personally were responsible for undertaking. “I’m so sorry I ran over your cat on my driveway“.

The second is an expression of sympathy. “I’m so sorry you have been diagnosed with cancer, that must be devastating for you“.

These national apologies seem to fall into the second category whilst pretending to be the first.

Where might this all lead, do we think?

If we have a duty to apologise for historical crimes for which we have no responsibility but just have some vague connection to the criminal such as nationality, ethnicity or ancestry, what other crimes should we ask the jury to take into consideration?

Bill’s Opinion

Some time ago, I submitted my DNA to Ancestry.com to understand my ancestral heritage.

The summarised results are shown below;

it’s fairly clear to even the casual observer that, at a minimum, I should apologise for the following historic crimes;

– The Jallianwala Bagh massacre

– The Battle of Stamford Bridge

– The tyranny of the Danelaw

– The Reconquista

– The First World War

– The Second World War

– Child labour in the factories during the Industrial Revolution

– The reign of King John and the subsequent War of Independence

– Brexit

– James Corden

I’m so, so sorry*.

*not sorry

Embassies in Jerusalem? Sometimes it’s enough just to observe who it upsets

We aren’t a fan of fallacious arguments round here, we prefer to start with a hypothesis and then observe empirical evidence before refining our views. Sometimes though, a fallacy is a good enough touchstone for a more robust investigation.

What’s the correct name for the fallacy of dismissing an argument because a large number of people who are almost always wrong about most things are upset by a particular argument? It’s not quite ad hominem, perhaps poisoning the well?

Regardless, this is of interest;

This Month’s Australian Prime Minister (c) has announced he will be following Trump’s lead and relocating the Australian Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

It’s a highly political move, not least because there is a critical election currently underway in a constituency with a large Jewish population.

Why this political move surprises anyone is perhaps the great mystery. After all, as Thomas Sowell said;

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems.  They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are No. 1 and No. 2.  Whatever is No. 3 is far behind.

The list of people apoplectic with rage about this announcement is instructive. The entire mainstream media, the government media, academia, celebrities and even bandana-wearing househusbands are united in their view that it is a bad thing.

The Sydney Morning Herald has no fewer than 5 different articles on the decision today. If nothing else, the decision has brought some positives to the lives of those journalists who are paid by the word;

Have you got that, readers; it’s a bad thing.

Out of curiosity, do we think there could be any room in a newspaper with the tagline, “Independent. Always” for just one article with a headline such as, “This was clumsy by the PM but of course the embassy should be in the country’s capital“?

Nah, didn’t think so.

Bill’s Opinion

Is Australia’s decision to relocate her embassy to Jerusalem a bad thing?

Let’s list the reasons offered by the critics;

1. It’s an obscenely politically move in an attempt to win an election.

Well yeah, duh. We refer you back to the Sowell quote; everything politicians do is political. Does that make it the wrong thing to do though?

2. It might upset Indonesia.

The correct response to this is to point out it is a decision by a sovereign nation with regards to its relationship to another sovereign nation. If a third sovereign nation feels it can offer an opinion on this, they should be prepared for similar advice and guidance to be offered on their domestic policies. Mind your own damn business, Indonesia, it’s not as if you are the moral beacon of the world.

3. We are not anti-Semitic, but we are against the state of Israel’s policies and actions with regards to the Palestinians.

Everything before the word “but” is always bullshit. The Palestinians keep electing groups who openly call for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. If you can draw moral equivalence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, you are simply not debating in good faith are you?

Scott Morrison is a politician, which means he is grubby, self-interested and venal. Sometimes, however, even the grubby, self-interested and venal will make a correct decision for incorrect reasons.

Bravo.

The madness of Queen Shebah

Mischievous readers in Australia could have some fun, if they were that way inclined.

Shebah is a ride share service like Uber and Ola. It differs in one significant way, however; the drivers and passengers are female.

Fine“, we might say, “it’s perfectly reasonable for female passengers and drivers to want this additional safety measure. Men can call an Uber“.

If that was the policy, there’d be no opportunity for fun and this blog post wouldn’t need to be written.

Of course, we are living on Planet Insanity so the Shebah folks have tied themselves into logical knots by trying to be more woke than you and I.

Sit back and enjoy our little ride into madness courtesy of the FAQ section of their website (additional questions in bold are ours);

Who can drive or ride with the service?

Ok, only women or children, including boys under 18.

So, the teenage Said Imasi would have been ok to ride on his own then? Here’s a picture of him when he was “fourteen” (he’s the fully grown man on the right);

What about trans people?

Great, so in your “intersectionally feminist” opinion, “Hannah” Mouncey is ok to drive and ride;

As is the serial rapist, “Karen” White.

Okaaaay.

Discrimination is definitely not a thing you condone?

When you say you don’t discriminate, are there any limits?

That’s quite a complex set of restrictions and exceptions. It feels like it could be better illustrated with a decision tree/flow chart diagram along the lines of, “do you have a penis but you are accompanied by a woman and very small child?

Speaking of discrimination, how do you prevent a man or a “woman” with a penis from registering as a driver? What checks are there?

You’ll need to upload photos of all of the following – legally, they must be current so make sure they’re always up to date!

 Your gorgeous face

 Your car: front, back and side view

 The front of your drivers licence

 The back of your drivers licence (with current home address if changed)

 Your car registration

 A roadworthy certificate that is less than 12 months old

 Current rideshare insurance for the car you’ll be driving*

 A Passenger Transport Licence Code from Services NSW (formerly the Department of Roads and Maritime Services)

 A Working With Children Check valid for paid work

Not much in that list to prevent someone like “Hannah” Mouncey from registering to drive then. “Karen” White might struggle with the Working With Children Check, of course.

Bill’s Opinion

Male Australians wishing to have some fun might register for the Shebah service, wear a wig and hail a cab.

They could then claim discrimination if their custom is refused on the grounds of their gender.

Why? Well, if you say you’re a woman, you’re a woman, according to Shebah. It’s right there in their policies and terms of service. If you took Shebah to the various state anti-discrimination ombudsperson, a strong case could be made that the logical inconsistencies of their policy negate any claim of a valid exception to the anti-discrimination laws.

For the sake of clarity, let’s list the inconsistencies;

1. We don’t discriminate. However…. no male drivers, no male passengers under 13, or over 18 unless accompanied by a woman and a baby.

2. We are a female service for females. However…. see (1) regarding male passengers. Also, if a man says he’s a woman we accept him/her at his/her word.

3. We take our drivers’ safety very seriously. However…. see (2), we aren’t going to perform a Crocodile Dundee genital cup to check whether the trans driver still has his/her boy’s bits or not.

Hands up who’s prepared to be the test case for Sanity vs. Shebah 2018?

Reefer madness

The Climate Council (no, not a shite Paul Weller band) quoted a UN official recently;

The inference being, of course, if you care about the Great Barrier Reef, you need to care about climate change because that’s the biggest cause of damage to said reef.

Obviously these scientists know what they’re talking and in no way are they obfuscating or trying to mislead.

Oh, this is awkward.

The overarching consensus is:
Key Great Barrier Reef ecosystems continue to be in poor condition. This is largely due to the collective impact of land run-off associated with past and ongoing catchment development, coastal development activities, extreme weather events and climate change impacts such as the 2016 and 2017 coral bleaching events.

Current initiatives will not meet the water quality targets. To accelerate the change in on-ground management, improvements to governance, program design, delivery and evaluation systems are urgently needed. This will require greater incorporation of social and economic factors, better targeting and prioritisation, exploration of alternative management options and increased support and resources.

The evidence base supporting this consensus is provided in a series of four supporting chapters. The main conclusions were:

1 The decline of marine water quality associated with land-based run-off from the adjacent catchments is a major cause of the current poor state of many of the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef. Water quality improvement has an important role in ecosystem resilience.

2 The main source of the primary pollutants (nutrients, fine sediments and pesticides) from Great Barrier Reef catchments is diffuse source pollution from agriculture. These pollutants pose a risk to Great Barrier Reef coastal and marine ecosystems.

3 Progress towards the water quality targets has been slow and the present trajectory suggests these targets will not be met.

4 Greater effort to improve water quality is urgently required to progress substantial pollutant reductions using an expanded scope of tailored and innovative solutions. Climate change adaptation and mitigation, cumulative impact assessment for major projects and better policy coordination are also required to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

5 There is an urgent need for greater investment in voluntary practice change programs, the use of regulatory tools and other policy mechanisms to accelerate the adoption of practice change, and robust monitoring and evaluation programs to measure the rate and effectiveness of adoption.

6 Strengthened and more effective coordination of Australian and Queensland government policies and programs, further collaboration with farmers and other stakeholders, and strong evaluation systems are critical to the success of Great Barrier Reef water quality initiatives.

7 Priorities for reducing pollutant loads are now established at a catchment scale, based on the exposure of coastal and marine ecosystems to land-based pollutants, and should be used to guide investment.

8 A greater focus on experimentation, prioritisation and evaluation at different scales, coupled with the use of modelling and other approaches to understand future scenarios, could further improve water quality programs.

Hang on, the biggest problem is water quality, primarily due to agricultural run-off?

How curious.

Why then, would the Climate Council of Australia suggest climate change is the biggest enemy?

Bill’s Opinion

Follow the money (highlights mine);

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change and solutions based on the most up-to-date science available.

We’re made up of some of the country’s leading climate scientists, health, renewable energy and policy experts, as well as a team of staff, and a huge community of volunteers and supporters who power our work. As an independent voice on climate change, we get climate stories into the media, produce hard-hitting reports, call out misinformation as we see it and promote climate solutions such as the transition to renewables.

The Climate Council was founded in 2013 by tens of thousands of Australians to create a new, an independent and 100% community-funded organisation in response to the abolition of the Australian Climate Commission.

Please keep donating money so that we can all keep our jobs“, in other words.

There is an uncomfortable axiom about charities and not for profit organisations; they have an ecosystem (no pun intended) around simply existing that keeps many people employed and feeling important.

That the initial facts justifying the creation of the charity/NFP may have changed, are no longer compelling or worse, are proven false, can be of little interest to the organisation when so many people rely on its existence for their day to day subsistence.

A recent example of this is the UK’s Kids Company. Similarly, there were cases of US polio eradication charities that struggled with the existential threat following the success of the vaccination programme and, in a few cases, resorted to changing their mission and committing fraud.

Obviously, one hesitates to accuse the Climate Council of fraud so there must be some other reason that they would have forgotten to mention the significant role of agricultural run off in the damage inflicted to the reef.

In other news, the head of the Climate Council is Tim Flannery, a man with a stellar track record of science-based predictions.