Did we stop you beating your wife?

Probably not.

Speaking personally, I was only vaguely aware of The White Ribbon Foundation through seeing a poster in the kitchen area of an office in which I was recently working.

Some male colleagues had signed their names on the poster under statements pledging to not hit their partners and to speak up should they see someone they know committing domestic violence or abuse.

My reaction was to think it was a pointless exercise but also a good scam; trick and bully corporates into paying the White Ribbon “protection fee” to have a representative come in and give a day’s awareness and have the company name added to the online register of organisations that don’t encourage their staff to beat up their spouses.

Domestic violence and abuse is one of those unopposable causes isn’t it? “What, you don’t agree we shouldn’t beat women up? What kind of a monster are you?”.

I’m somewhat surprised therefore by the financial collapse of the charity. Prima facie, this was a business model that should have been simplicity itself to maintain and earn a good living from.

Bill’s Opinion

In recent years, the corporate world has become a target for charity shakedown operations of which the White Ribbon Foundation seems to have been one of the more obvious.

The model seems to work along the lines of;

  1. Define a worthy cause and frame it in terms that are incapable of being opposed without risk of catastrophic publicity,
  2. Offer corporate “training” at an inflated fee,
  3. Request “donations” in return for being named as a partner/ally/supporter.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Examples I can think of operating right now include all our favourite subjects; climate change, LGBTQptanyangkipperbang, indigenous businesses, gender equity, etc.

The credit for the original idea seems to be due to the infamous American race-baiting politician, Jesse Jackson, as described in the book “Shakedown” (the customer reviews are entertaining).

One wonders whether Jackson has ever thought to claim royalties from the numerous copycat charities operating around the world these days? Perhaps that’s a level of chutzpah too far even for him.

Perhaps this is how the Roman Empire ended

Jenna Guillaume lives in Sydney and is paid to write articles such as this one, in which she takes around 300 words to explain to us that she has clicked the “unfollow” button next to an American reality TV star’s name on Twitter.

At the risk of encouraging this rubbish, a delve into her Twitter account allows us to speculate about the reasons why she’s a) unfollowed the Kardashians, and b) wrote about it.

The reason she unfollowed the reality TV people is because it was making her unhappy about her body. Faced with the choice of doing something tangible to lose about 30kg or to use her thumb once on a smart phone, Jenna selected the less strenuous option.

The reason she wrote about it is because she clearly has no other employable skill. Let’s face it, if you’re a freelance writer “formerly” of Buzzfeed (fuck, how shit do you have to be to be let go from Buzzfeed?), employment options aren’t going to be very forthcoming. Uber driving, maybe?

As fun as it might be to pick on Jenna and her psychological issues relating to being a wheezing land whale, that’s not what today’s subject is really about.

We’ve written about this phenomenon previously; Golgafrincham Ark Buzzfeed.

Perhaps Jenna is a symptom of a cultural malaise. We’ve become so successful as a society and culture that we can afford to carry passengers such as the otherwise useless, Jenna Guillaume.

Bill’s Opinion

On the one hand, it’s a sign of how far we’ve come that someone with so little of worth to offer can still carve a living writing about such vacuous subjects as reality TV and “body positivity”.

The flip side to this is an atrophying of the qualities and values that are likely to have been contributing factors to our wealth and civilisation.

In another time or place, someone like Jenna Guillaume would have found her struggle with “body positivity” a long way down the list of priorities of topics for concern. Not dying of an incurable disease, violence or, ironically, a paucity of calories would have been rather more pressing day to day issues.

Somewhere in Syria, a jihadist is reading Jenna’s twitter account and reinforcing his belief that his god truly is on his side not ours.

Keep it simple, stupid

This one is going to be quite uniquely Australian, so apologies in advance if it bores you. If you are reading from a different colony or a Johnny Foreigner location, you might want to persevere simply to assure yourself that, however bad employment regulations are in your country, they’re simplicity itself compared to the Australian version.

Barely a week passes without reports of a new wages underpayment by a large corporate employer. The latest is by the Australian version of GE, Wesfarmers. They’ve discovered and just announced they’ve been underpaying some staff since the early 2000’s and the final bill to put it right is going to be about $15m.

On the face of it, that’s truly scandalous, isn’t it? Particularly coming as it does soon after similar issues with Subway and some fat celebrity chef’s restaurants.

In fact, it takes very little searching to find loads of examples of similar payroll issues across multiple industries and organisations.

This might prompt a question in a curious mind (so nobody employed as a journalist, then); “Are these underpayment issues deliberate or accidental?“.

Speaking from experience as someone who has worked in senior roles in a couple of organisations that have had these issues and being adjacent to the problem (and in one case, responsible for managing the subsequent crisis, despite not having the subject matter expertise…. which was fun), I can categorically state many of these problems are a consequence of incompetence, not mendacity.

The reports of the Wesfarmers problems are instructive; they were discovered following a project to migrate to a new payroll system to achieve compliance to new legislation. Anyone who imagines there’s an individual laughing maniacally after ripping off the workers is clearly deluding themselves.

There’s bound to be a few characters who’ve deliberately chosen to play fast and loose with staff pay but these are most likely to be in smaller companies, probably where they are a significant shareholder. Fat celebrity chefs, perhaps?

In the Wesfarmers’ case, a $15m underpayment over 15 years on a 6,000 person workforce earning about $80k is, what, 0.2%? Small beer.

If we can agree most large organisations are unlikely to choose the utter pain in the arse factor of a future scandal over saving, at most, a couple of percent in staff costs, then we have to question why these otherwise competent organisations keep screwing up payroll?

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid looking at the rules around Australian payroll, you might think all that is involved is a simple calculation of hours worked x hourly rate, minus government deductions such as tax.

Ah, such hope….

Here’s one of the Enterprise Agreements presumably causing problems for Wesfarmers. Scan through it and see if you come to the same pair of conclusions as I do:

  1. It’s paid for the private school fees of the children of several lawyers, and
  2. It assumes every manager is an utter idiot or evil.

Most clauses could be replaced with the words, “we will treat each other like grown ups and we won’t be dickheads“. The ridiculous table of days off allowed for bereavement, for example. Speaking as a manager, I’ve never bothered looking at the policy when someone’s relative died, I just told them to take the time they needed. Perhaps that’s naïve but it’s not bitten me so far; an employee hasn’t taken the piss.

Bill’s Opinion

Australia has possibly the most regulated employment environment outside of North Korea. Minimum wages are defined by the government by industry, role and seniority. All of which are pegged to the actual minimum wage so constantly creep up every time the lowest paid Australian gets a raise.

Enterprise agreements are negotiated by union representatives who make Arthur Scargill look like a fan of compromise and administered by an army of “Fair Work Australia” bureaucrats.

It’s a crazy system and one that some poor IT bastard has to code into SAP, Oracle or some other such system only to learn, 15 years later, that a subjective view was taken about what the agreement said on the subject of, say, superannuation payments on overtime when working on a rostered day off after a bank holiday.

Madness.

Eroding curiosity levels

In the current era of Greta-strophic climate change, our journalistic class seem to have lost all sense of curiosity and inquiry and, instead, serve up re-heated statements without bothering to confirm the source of “facts”.

This is classic case; surf life saving club building under threat from climate change.

At Inverloch south east of Melbourne, locals are desperately trying to defend the local surf life-saving club from erosion that has pushed the shore line back a remarkable 50 metres in seven years.

Since January alone, the ocean has encroached 20 metres more on the beach, as truckloads of imported sand and a “wet” sand fence have failed to hold back the tides.

Gosh, that’s really bad. I hadn’t realised the ocean had risen so quickly. 

Because, according to even the IPCC’s data, the problem is one of the future not the present:

Anyone who has ever had to read a graph for a living will take one look at that, fold their arms, suck their teeth and wonder what the presenter is trying to sell them. 

I’m not saying the chart doesn’t prove the sea level is just about to start rising dramatically, but it’s some helluva coincidence that all the bad stuff happens….. tomorrow.

Back to the article. Recall, the headline and article state categorically that the building by the beach is about to be washed away due to climate change of the catastrophic, man made variety, no less. Yet….

While erosion is part of the natural cycle of shifting sand at the mouth of the Anderson Inlet, the Bass Coast shire is in no doubt the extent of change is due in part to climate change and rising seas.

“Our council accepts that climate change is a real thing,” says Bass Coast mayor Brett Tessari. “The impact in our municipality is horrific in some areas. The surf club is in danger.”

Rightie ho.

Or in other words, this has always been an erosion hot spot but the mayor absolutely knows that it’s significantly worse because of climate change. 

Go on then, Mayor Tessari, how much worse? 5%? 90%? The journalists obviously forgot to ask such an awkward follow-up question.

Up the coast, climate change has resulted in the easiest type of generosity. 

What’s the easiest type of generosity, I hear you ask?

The type where you give away someone else’s money.

If you have more than 10 halogen down-lights installed in your house, the NSW government has generously offered to use money taken from ratepayers who don’t have 10 or more halogen down-lights to pay for every such light in your house to be replaced.

Let’s just pose a question here for a moment; which type of property has tastefully-installed down-lights installed rather than nasty dangling light bulbs?

Bill’s Opinion

Every way one turns, there’s yet another example of a politician using man made climate change as an excuse to dip into someone else’s wallet to buy votes.

Perhaps man made catastrophic climate change is real. Perhaps it’s not. What is absolutely certain, however, it is a wicked way to exercise power over others whilst claiming righteousness.

Climate change is, in many ways, indistinguishable from a massive confidence trick. 

Like the time Hannah Gadsby was booked at the Townsville RSL

Busy day today, so no serious rant on matters vital.

Instead, I’d like to test a gag out on the audience of this organ as it fell very flat when I cracked it in real life:

What a great win by the Uruguayan rugby team this week. Presumably they’ll celebrate with a big dinner of roast flanker.

Bill’s Opinion

Either my delivery is poor or not many people know about this plane crash.

Good news and real news doesn’t sell

There was an interesting dataset presented in the news recently on the changing causes of death over time in Australia.

For those who are unfamiliar with Australia, it may come as a surprise to learn attacks from snakes, spiders, sharks, dingos and dropbears don’t account for statistically material numbers of fatalities.

Our regular source of amusement (for all the wrong reasons), the once proud newspaper now in managed decline, The Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the study.

It’s worth reading their entire article as it contains interesting nuggets and confirms suspicions you may already have had, such as the rapid decline of lung cancer.

The most interesting element of the reporting, however, is the absolute numerical illiteracy and lack of curiosity of the journalists. Nowhere in the article is there reference to the absolute number of deaths or any type of relative measure (e.g. # of deaths per 100,000 people) we might use to learn whether or not we’re improving or have a crisis.

The data is out there though. Here’s a source, for example, showing the absolute death rate was around 600 deaths a year per 100,000 people in the late 1960s and has reduced to about 180 deaths a year per 100,000 people at the current time.

Read that again. If that isn’t bloody good news, I’d like to know what is.

Obviously, I don’t know how intelligent the journalists, Craig Butt and Soren Frederiksen are, but the omission of the information showing that the real rate of death has declined by two thirds is a major oversight. 

We have to assume one of two things are going on when a data point as material to the story as that is left out. Either:

  1. It was a deliberate omission made consciously for an unknown reason, or
  2. Both Craig Butt and Soren Frederiksen are as thick as mince.

Now, this is the Sydney Morning Herald we’re talking about here, so Hanlon’s Razor, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity“, should obviously be kept front of mind. It is, indeed, entirely plausible that Craig Butt and Soren Frederiksen have IQs barely above room temperature, otherwise why else would they be happy to be employed on just above minimum wage to re-purpose press releases as journalism?

Hanlon’s Razor is a good life rule to apply, particularly when faced with conspiracy theories. I wonder if something else is at play here though?

If they knew they were omitting the information, Craig and Soren would also know the information they missed out is a good news story. Without pretending to know what was in their minds, we might guess at a possible reason.

This is just a theory but one we can test every day by observation:

The news industry is in crisis. People have realised content is now virtually free and, instead of receiving their daily news from just three sources at pre-defined times in the day (the morning physical newspaper, their favourite radio channel and their preferred TV channel), they source the information from websites, mobile phone apps, social media, podcasts, amateur blogs, amateur comments on amateur blogs, etc.

Those journalists remaining in paid employment have seen a commensurate shift in the consumption of their product. Although they previously knew how well a particular day’s edition of the newspaper sold, they had little to no insight into which parts of that newspaper were consumed the most or least.

The opposite is true today. Now, the digital editor can tell, in real time, which headline, which stub, which article receives the most traffic and which are abandoned after just a few sentences.

Imagine that’s your job. Every day , you read a series of analytical views of your employer’s products and examine which were successful and which failed. What’s the logical response to that data?

Do more of the former and less of the latter.

Bill’s Opinion

Our theory describes a basic Pareto distribution. Successful traits and behaviours increase, unsuccessful traits and behaviours are killed off. With more granular data points, that distribution is exaggerated.

If, like our commenter View from Northcote, you see increasing volumes of not news articles being dressed up as important and vital, such as Ivanka Trump visiting the hair salon, this would be a possible confirmation of the theory.

The bad news is, if true, don’t expect it to improve any time soon. The incentives are set for the opposite to occur.

Little Forethought by the Sea

From the book of faces:

This follows on from the Sydney suburbs of Leichardt and Haberfield being renamed to “Little Italy”.

What a great idea and an utterly genius way to improve the social cohesion between various ethnicities living in the melting pot of Australia.

Let’s step through some versions of the possible logic behind this decision:

  1. Everyone is envious of Chinatown having a name other than “the southern part of Sussex Street”, so we should let everyone else name their place accordingly, or
  2. We love multiculturalism so much, although we can’t really explain what it means but it feels like it’s a warm and lovely version of that 1971 advert for Coca Cola, or
  3. There’s a majority of a particular ethnic group in my constituency and this locks their vote in for me next election.

As with all political decisions, the implications of this are only considered when they directly impact the next election cycle.

More curious minds might ask whether naming areas of a city after the majority ethnic groups residing there is a sound long term strategy?

Where might this lead?

Slippery slope fallacies are to be avoided but, if we now have three areas named in such a way, there’s obviously some level of trend to be observed.

It’s not hard to imagine a situation in the near future where tensions are inflamed because of a perception that this is “our area” and a particular ethnicity isn’t welcome.

It probably happens already to a certain extent but now such an attitude has a perception of legitimacy through Council decree.

Bill’s Opinion

Where might this end? Here’s some suggestions for future naming changes:

Lakemba: Little Lebanon

Glebe: Big Lesbos

Mascot: Little Guangzhou

S’nives: Little Jo’burg

Point Piper: Little Taxation

Paramatta Road: Little Hope And Maintenance

Gosford: Little Dentistry

Mosman: Little Empathy On Sea

Canberra: Little Accountability

Bondi: The Irish and the Jewish communities will have to fight it out for naming rights. The clever money is betting Mossad will beat Continuity Backpackers by a cricket score.

As fun as this is, there’s a couple of versions of the future that could be reasonably envisioned. They are both probably unrealistic, but I suspect only one was ever in the minds of the people behind this push to rename suburbs:

Malthus shrugged

Becoming a parent isn’t necessarily the route to happiness, fulfilment and a sense of self-worth, but plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests not having children tends to result in late-life regret and disappointment.

It’s my personal view that it’s incumbent on intelligent people to raise more than the 2.1 children required to maintain a population. This isn’t some supremacist or eugenicist argument, simply a matter of recognising an issue of basic statistical distribution; the trend across every country in the world is that, when the population becomes healthier, wealthier and more educated, they stop giving birth.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that, eventually, the trend leads to the smart genes finishing their million year journey to be replaced by the less smart genes.

Consider then, the couples who are making a conscious decision to not have children…. for the sake of the children.

“I feel so sad, it’s such a hard thing to let go of,” says Morgan, who works in logistics. “My conscience says, ‘I can’t give this child what I’ve enjoyed, I can’t give them the certainty of a future where they can be all that they can be … or have the things they should have, like breathable air and drinkable water’.”

She works in logistics. So, every day she sends goods around the country and/or world in trucks, ships and planes. If CO2 emissions are the biggest concern preventing her from starting a family, she seems to have missed a fairly large personal dichotomy staring her in the face during office hours, Monday through Friday…..

Morgan is feeling “pretty damn certain” a baby is off the cards, even though she fears she might regret it. She has at least two close friends in their early 30s, with good partners, who have made the same decision.

Her partner Adam, who works in web development, agrees. “I have a lot of love to give and would love to raise a child … but it doesn’t feel justifiable. The world is heading blindfolded towards catastrophe.”

“Partner”. So, not “husband”? Ok, one doesn’t need to be married to have children, we’re not stuck in some 1950s morality cliché, but it may be an indicator of the level of commitment they have towards each other.

But wait, there’s another anectdata:

In Mackay in Queensland,  community organiser Emma, 32, says she and her partner Mick, 33, were planning to start trying for a family next year but changed their minds after the federal election.

“After the LNP won – with no climate plan – we cried and agreed that the dream of a family wouldn’t be for us,” Emma says. “It’s a terrifying thought for us that the world will be uninhabitable in a few decades if we continue charging ahead with fossil fuels and approving coal mines like Adani.”

Hmm. That sounds sane and rational.

Given that Federal elections happen every three years in Australia and the post of Prime Minister is a job decided by random Jury Service ballot, Emma and Mick may only have to wait to their 35th and 36th birthdays, respectively, to change their minds. Of course, that might be a little too late for Emma, but here’s hoping.

Bill’s Opinion

If I were in my early thirties and wasn’t quite sure whether I’d like to start a family with the woman I’m living with, climate change would seem like a brilliantly-convenient excuse.

Of course, should I find myself single a couple of years later, there’s a good chance I’ll still be capable of fathering a child with a new, younger model whilst my ex will be alternatively browsing the FAQ and pricing pages of fertility clinics and cat rescue charities.

The choices these couples are making seem rational… if the underlying assumption that the world is doomed is 100% accurate. To their credit, they are being internally consistent with the actions they are taking.

Big decisions based on assumptions are always worth constant checking though. What if your assumptions of either the problem and solution are wrong? Even by a few percent?

John McGrath; inside a trade, thing

This amused me today.

We’ve discussed the altruistic character that is John McGrath previously, and how his track record is very clearly to create wealth for people called John McGrath whilst absolutely destroying value for those who invest in his company or, indeed, listen to his advice on the trends in the real estate market.

In fact, without wishing to say, “I told you so”, I will have to say, “I told you so”. As I wrote just under 12 months ago in response to McGrath’s advice for property owners to hold their nerve and not sell as the market will definitely recover quickly:

If you really want to become a millionaire, take 6 million dollars and invest it in whatever John McGrath tells you to.
A cynic might suggest John would like you all to not flood the market with your firesales until he’s finished the conveyancing on his.

What a difference a year makes.

Bill’s Opinion

One can accuse John McGrath of many things; share market con artist, pathologically-addicted gambler on horse races, double-faced spruiker, etc., but he definitely knows more than most about the Australian property market.

Whether he needed to cash in his assets for reasons of expediency due to crippling gambling debts or not, we might never know, but there’s a big flashing sign for anyone who believes the personal stock trading of company directors is a good indication of whether or not to buy their shares.

In the meantime, this is yet another example of the delta between expressed and revealed preferences.

Ring the bells that still can ring

…forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

The word “hurt” does yeoman’s work in this article in our favourite woke legacy news source.

The national anthem of Australia needs to be amended to reduce the harm the current version is inflicting on certain Australian citizens, apparently.

The good news is only one word of the three verses need be changed; from “we are young” to the proposed “we are one”:

Verse one of the proposed new anthem is the traditional verse with one minimal change – adding the single word “one” to replace the outmoded, and for many Australians the exclusionary and hurtful word, “young”.

There’s quite a lot of accusations being made against what people may have previously thought was an anodyne five letter adjective indicating relative age or maturity.

“Outmoded”, “exclusionary” and “hurtful” to many Australians?

Okaaaaaay.

So, let’s say there’s a nationwide debate on the subject and the conclusion is everyone agrees to drop the “young” bit, acknowledging the Aboriginal population’s arrival here tens of thousands of years ago. Would that result in this “oneness” we are encouraging, would everyone suddenly find a love of the anthem that previously was missing?

Doubtful.

Bill’s Opinion

There is a subset of people who will never be happy with the lyrics of the Australian national anthem. I have no proof but it’s my suspicion this subset correlates greatly with the people who claim the word “young” is the cause of “hurt” and, if so, wouldn’t suddenly transform into flag-waving patriots cheering on the national sports teams or whatever other measure one chooses as a proxy of national pride.

Of course, people who are on the look out for the dog that isn’t barking, might wonder why these people are focusing on a single word of a song they’d never countenance singing while the infant mortality rate of indigenous children is double that of every other ethnic group in the country?

Show me on the doll where the word “young” hurt you….