Sun Tzu and the art of phony war

Recently, we discussed whether or not Australia was under attack by China.

My conclusion was that, regardless of whether or not either party wishes to admit it, in a very real sense we probably are.

If one accepts that hypothesis, there are a range of common sense actions that should follow, at the very least, to prevent the status quo from deteriorating further and to reduce the risk of further hostile actions.

The problem, quite common in western democracies, is the election cycle tends to reward politicians who practice realpolitik, rather than taking a more principled approach to hostile foreign powers.

An example of this can be seen today with many on the Remain side of the Brexit debacle; the evidence is overwhelming that the EU negotiators have not been operating under good faith (an example is the use of the Good Friday Peace Agreement as leverage), yet many of the key players in the British parliament are behaving as if Micawberistic optimism will win the day. To suggest we’ll get a deal after three years of being told non and nien makes something will turn up seem almost pragmatic and sensible.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. Flying back from Munich with worthless pieces of paper only to have to say, “bugger it” and open up the armoury the following year is in the British national DNA. 

Australia’s too, it would seem.

The Lucky Country’s peace for our time moment seems to be playing out currently with barely a day going by without another story emerging about inappropriate Chinese state influence in Australian domestic politics.

Before we continue, there are a couple points to be clarified:

  1. When I refer to “the Chinese”, I’m referring to the state government and its agents, not the ethnic identity.
  2. It’s my belief that there’s very little distinction to be made between the Chinese government and large Chinese corporations. They may be nominally privately-owned and independent but, if you believe that to be true, I’ve a terracotta army I’d like to sell to you. 

I wish to present four pieces of evidence supporting my position that we are not dealing with a good faith actor when we do business at a national or corporate level with the Chinese:

  1. China believed to be behind hack of Australian National University.
  2. “State actor” believed to be behind hack of Australian national parliament computers (ok, it doesn’t name China but we all know who they mean). 
  3. Australian MP bribed by Chinese businessmen.
  4. Ex-pat Chinese government party member, now an Australian MP, can’t recall ever being a member….. for 12 years.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not the fact these things have happened and are continuing to happen, it’s the dog that isn’t barking that is most concerning.

Look at the reporting of the statements coming from the various Australian government officials and opposition party leaders. It’s as if China was a synonym for Voldemort.

The most recent incident, for example; it’s a member of the Australian federal government with deep and enduring links to a foreign power, yet the official response is nothing to see here, move on.

It’s almost as if, I dunno, nobody has the testicular fortitude to mention the name of the government that always seems to be interfering in Australian domestic affairs in case, horror of horrors, they take their money away and spend it elsewhere.

 

Image result for peace in our time

 

 

Like China in your hand

History doesn’t repeat itself but often rhymes…..

Here’s a little potted history lesson for those who are too young to remember:


Once upon a time, there was a large superpower that was, in many ways, the antithesis of what the western democracies stood for, or at least claimed to stand for. The west claimed to stand for values such as the rule of law, property rights, freedom of speech, restricted government powers, open and free elections, free men to be judged in a court of law by their peers, non-coerced contracts, etc.

The west and this superpower weren’t at a state of official war but interaction, particularly trade, was extremely limited. A company in the UK, for example, could import or export goods with this hostile superpower and its representatives could travel to and from its territory but there were caveats and restrictions to this.

At a minimum, the traveller would have a safety briefing. In some cases, the security services might give a briefing and require a post-trip debriefing to glean valuable information.

At the extreme, travellers might be wise to follow an informal form of “Moscow Rules”, even if they weren’t spooks themselves.

Why? Because the hostile superpower was a) hostile, and b) open in its disregard for those values we listed in the paragraph above. If you are visiting a country with a total disregard for the rights of the individual, you’d be a fool to wander around blithely assuming you weren’t always in danger.

That country was Russia and its associated satellite states, of course.

In 2019, we have exponentially more trade with a country that shows a similar disregard for the rule of law, property rights, etc., yet we hop on flights to Shanghai and Beijing without a second thought as to the personal, corporate or national risk we are taking. Why? Because, for most cases, we have not had reason to think they are hostile.

Sure, we know they have “re-education camps” where they have sent thousands of their own citizens in internal exile. Yes, we see the increasing use of “social credit” to bully their citizens into silence and conformity. We watch with interest as man-made islands are created in the South China Sea to secure and expand the country’s maritime territories. We witness the implementation of the One Belt and Road trading route with land purchases and infrastructure. We see huge areas of Africa being bought by Chinese government corporations. We point at strange sights such as Chinese Police-branded cars driving around the streets of Australian cities. Finally, this year we can watch on live-streaming feeds, the protests by residents of Hong Kong against changes to the legal system being met with increasingly authoritarian means, in direct violation of the international treaty promising not to do so.


The evidence is compelling that, whatever you might call the Chinese state; Communist, “post-Communist”, mercantilist, or some other suitable noun, it is far from being a free society as a citizen of a western democracy would know the term.

And yet…. corporations and governments have increased the level of trade and interaction on our behalf with the Chinese state without seemingly any commensurate increase in vigilance or precautions.

Why might that be?

Why might a country, say, Australia, be unwilling to publicly criticise any one of the nefarious activities (and more) described above, particularly in the case of clear hostile activities on Australian soil?

Bill’s Opinion

Much is written about cultural differences and how people in the west should treat other cultures respectfully. The classic is example revolves around the concept of Asian cultures setting a higher value on “face” than we in the west might.


Here’s an idea; that is a truly racist attitude. Why? Because the Chinese are an intelligent people with personal and national “agency”. They can observe our culture as much as we observe theirs. In fact, they do, and they choose to still act the way they do.

Pretending the Chinese leaders are delicate flowers whose feelings might be hurt if we publicly and regularly told them to rein in their activities and act in accordance with international law is the ultimate in weakness.

And that’s another cultural observation; the Chinese don’t respect weakness.

Why would we, therefore, constantly offer this as our response?

Of course, the elephant in the room for Australia is the economic master/servant relationship. China could ruin Australia’s economy for a generation simply by deliberately reducing the Chinese GDP by one or two percentage points and pivoting to African countries to satisfy its demand for minerals and resources. In fact, the land grabs in Africa are presumably part of a strategy to reduce reliance on pesky western economies and their annoying conversations about human rights.

Perhaps it won’t be long before our one reason for not standing up (diplomatically, I’m not suggesting warfare) to China is removed by China anyway?


At which point, we will be simply a weak parody of Neville Chamberlain.

Cheer up!

Switching on the news and browsing the media websites this week is unusually depressing. Without perspective and a wider source of information and analysis, one could be excused for thinking the world is going to hell in a handcart. I’m not going to list the reasons why one might be feeling low, the media do a good enough job of running “if it bleeds, it leads” stories. 

In any case, I’m not convinced it’s true. In fact, I think the reality is almost 180 degrees the other way; there are far more signs things are going well and what we’re being served as news is simply a mixture of confirmation bias and a logical reaction to incentives. A regular browse of the good news stories on Human Progress is a useful counter to the media confirmation bias.

I don’t say this lightly…. I have become convinced, via conversations with friends, family and colleagues that the media business model, what is left of it, has become detrimental to the general mental health of the world.

Technological advances have resulted in a proliferation of volume (24 x 7 updates) and sources (you’re reading a personal blog, but it’s still “a source”) of news. Our old friend, Pareto distribution, drives eyeballs and clicks to those presenting the most compelling new information.

Not much bad stuff happened today” is not a headline we’ll continue to tolerate on consecutive days for very long.  

Let’s lighten the mood a little today then. Because it’s human nature to take pleasure at others’ mild misfortune (after all, that describes the basis for all comedy), today’s blog post is simply a bunch of happy predictions I am prepared to make and the timeframe within which I expect them to occur. 

If you share my optimism and outlook, they might cheer you up immediately. If you don’t, you might experience the even greater pleasure of delayed gratification when the deadline passes and you can return to the comments section and have a chuckle at my expense. 

Either way, I will benefit from a warm feeling of selfless, righteous altruism….

Bill’s Opinion Predictions

Sports

The Bledisloe Cup match this weekend will be won by Australia and, if this prediction transpires, they will go on to draw or win the return match the following weekend and therefore finally win the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in almost a generation. This one is a long shot and is based more on a feeling New Zealand’s team has become fragile and somewhat “woke”.  

The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be won by a northern hemisphere team. My preference would be England but I could probably live with it being Ireland and, after a little introspection and professional counselling, even Wales. The important point is, it’s not going to be New Zealand.

Brexit

Britain will leave the EU on October 31st without a deal. Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister at the time, but will call a General Election in January and will be returned with a clear but not large majority.  

No material changes will occur to the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Britain will not experience significant disruption to trade or travel as a consequence to Brexit. Some luxury or highly-specialised goods or services might have a wobble but will be solved within a few weeks.

EU

As a consequence to the world not ending after Brexit, the EU will double down on their commitment to a European federal una-state, passing laws to ensure a single taxation code, a European military, centralised control of immigration and further adoption of the Euro.

Leo Varadkar will be ousted as Taoiseach by the Dáil before Christmas 2019 as a reward for being played by the EU with regards to Brexit.

USA

The Democrats will nominate Elizabeth Warren as the 2020 presidential candidate. Donald Trump will win a second term with an increased share of both the Electoral College and the popular vote. The presidential debates will comedy gold on a par with the best efforts of Monty Python and Ricky Gervais.

Media

Following the USA elections, there will be some high profile media casualties, with a consolidation or bankruptcy of several high profile brands such as CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and the New York Times.

In other countries, such as Canadia and Australia, several mastheads and broadcasters will be further subsidised or even nationalised.

Global Economy

Despite the continuing call for a global stock market crash, higher highs will be reached on the major indices. Gold and silver will see a 20% increase by the end of 2020.

China will “lose” the trade war with the USA. This will be spun as the opposite to save face but the trade indicators will show a material improvement towards the USA.  

Australian Economy

Flat as a pancake over 2019 and 2020 with a slight uptick in unemployment.

House prices in the two main cities will continue a slow atrophy with the occasional dead cat bounce for a month or two which will be lauded as signifying the “new bottom”. At the end of 2020, prices will be lower than today.

 

“Completely mystified”

The responses below the tweet are priceless, but before you click the link, let’s look at the supporting article.

Apparently, the most likely explanation to the phenomenon of lowering costs for some expenses yet rising costs for others is something I’d not previously heard of; Baumol Cost Disease.

From Bloomberg’s helpful description:

The theory of Baumol cost disease, developed in the 1960s by economist William Baumol, states that some things rise in price even as productivity goes up. When society gets better at making cars, electronics, food and clothing, wages go up. But as wages go up, industries that don’t find ways to use less labor to produce the same service — for example, a string quartet — rise in price as well.

Which, prima facie, sounds reasonable and rational.

However, I would caveat that feeling of reasonableness with the statement that Malthusianism also sounds reasonable and rational when it’s first described, possibly for similar reasons.

What Malthus has been wrong about for the last 291 years is the Industrial Revolution. Or, more specifically, human inventiveness. Oscar Wilde touched on the solution we found to Malthus’ problem with this pithy quote;

Civilization requires slaves. Human slavery is wrong, insecure and demoralizing. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.

As the wags and wits on Twitter were fast to point out, the costs that have experienced the most price inflation are, in a suspicious coincidence, the things that have most benefited from government “help” in terms of regulation and subsidies.

Correlation isn’t causation but there’s clearly something worth further enquiry here.

Bill’s Opinion

The most interesting part of the Baumol description is this:

….industries that don’t find ways to use less labor to produce the same service….

The obvious question that prompts is, “why don’t they find ways to use less labour?”.

Perhaps the range of possible answers are as simple as these two:

  1. Because the work involved is impossible to automate or make any more efficient, and/or
  2. There isn’t a great enough incentive to automate or make more efficient.

Anyone who has ever spent any time working in a government or quasi-government department and the private sector will recognise the critical difference immediately; there is no personal reward for for a manager to find a way to deliver the government service with fewer or with lower-skilled employees.

It is extremely rare for a government minister’s stated desire for improved efficiency to be translated into meaningful incentives down the organisation to a level where they will have any material effect.

As Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it:

Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Or, as an anonymous quote (no, it wasn’t Milton Friedman) goes:

If you put government in charge of the Sahara desert there will be a shortage of sand in five years.

But remember, “economists are completely mystified“.

We’re gonna need a bigger shredder

Back when Jesus was but a young lad, we kicked this organ off with an examination of why reparations for slavery is a tempting idea but utter lunacy.

Ah, those halcyon days of early 2017 before the world as we knew it went absolutely insane.

Since then, the USA Democratic Party has continued down the road of investigating whether reparations make sense, debating it in Washington.

As we predicted, they are now running into huge issues which are unlikely to be ever resolved. The idea of generational guilt seems to be making a comeback, for example, with Senator Mitch McConnell being asked to “please explain” why two of his relatives five generations ago owned slaves?

To repeat, an apparently otherwise fully-functioning sentient member of the human race just asked someone to comment on the actions 150 years ago of someone with whom they share about 6.25% of DNA…..

Yes, that’s the road we’re on. And it gets worse from here, go back and read my original post on the subject to get an idea of what further lunacy we’ll have to endure. Sometimes slippery slopes have to slide a long way down before they achieve fallacy status.

To McConnell’s credit, he responded perfectly; pointing out the previous President was in the same genetic fix. 

It’s clear this is a bad idea that is going to hang around for sometime to come. The question sensible people should ask now is, what’s the risk to me and where’s the opportunity?

Bill’s Opinion

If you are an American reading this, it’s highly unlikely you currently know whether or not your ancestry passes the slavery purity test. It’s a risk and one which, if it transpires, will certainly cause difficulties for you should you work in politics.

Depending on how long this runs before it’s universally agreed to be daft, there’s a risk that regular people may take a hit (likely financial) if they are found to have had slave owner ancestors.

Actually, let’s clarify that last sentence; EVERYONE ALIVE TODAY has slave owning ancestors. Until William Wilberforce, it was the primary source of cheap labour across every continent throughout human history; if you won a battle against your enemies, you enslaved them. It was just the rule for hundreds of generations.

The amazing thing was that it was ever made illegal at all. Thank you, Christianity and the industrial revolution…..

Of course, the difference between my non-American slave-owning relatives and yours is that mine owned slaves before written records were widely kept. Lucky me.

In fact, it could be argued that people like me, the undocumented slave owning descendants, are the really evil ones because we are hiding in plain sight… No, let’s not give the radical left any more stupid ideas.

There is a silver lining though; there’s a business opportunity here. Every person of ambition who suspects there may be a skeleton in their cupboard from 150 years ago is likely to suddenly be in need of a “cleanskin” service. That is, every electronic and paper record from that era needs to magically disappear like an Epstein flight manifest.

So, this is a call for expressions of interest for funds for my new business venture, Slave Ownership Records Removal Instantly, or SORRI for short.

Our initial start up seed money will be spent on flame-throwers (for the libraries), large degaussing equipment (for data centres) and to pay the salaries of some hairy-arsed mercenaries to undertake the cleansing activities.

 

 

 

 

Shite sports you don’t usually watch

Otherwise known as “The Olympics”.

No, seriously. If you really consider what the Olympic Games has become, it is mainly a collection of events you wouldn’t ordinarily switch the TV channel over to watch and certainly wouldn’t pay an entrance fee to attend.

Sure, the track and field events can pull a crowd outside of the four year cycle, and some swimming and cycling events have support but our friend Pareto then produces a very low and long tail of barely-supported sport for the rest.

Follow this link to the full list and count how many of the categories you’ve physically attended in the last decade. If the answer is more than 4 and you aren’t employed by Sky Sports or aren’t the parent of a very athletic child, I will be amazed.

Nobody in the history of the planet has ever said to their significant other, “Hey, there’s a rhythmic gymnastic competition on Saturday and an indoor climbing event on Sunday. That’s our weekend sorted then“.

Pierre de Coubertin’s re-imagining of the Olympic Games adopted “Citius, Altius, Fortius” as its motto. Or, for those of you who didn’t have a classical education, “Faster, Higher, Stronger“. I’m not sure which of those three categories Artistic Swimming falls under.

A side note, I’m scratching my head as to why the motto is in Latin, not Greek.

Grigorótera, Psilá, Ischyróteri“, for example.

But I digress.

You and I vote with our wallets and feet on non-Olympic years. We don’t attend, watch or have anything to do with most events deigned by the Olympics organising committee to be worthy of time and resources at their games. I would guess that perhaps 95% of the sports don’t have any significant number of spectators who aren’t relatives of the competitors outside the four year festival.

For Australia, the breakdown of sports’ attendance was helpfully recorded by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2010. The following summary table is interesting:

Obviously Australia has its own unique code of football which hasn’t penetrated much in the rest of the world, possibly due to a slight marketing problem with the name, but horse racing and motor sports are popular elsewhere.

So why no Olympic V8 car event?

Because it needs expensive equipment? Go visit a boat show and examine the prices of the various categories of Olympic class racing vessels….

My hypothesis stated in the title seems robust, especially given the ridiculous news that breakdancing is likely to be an Olympic sport.

Breakdancing. Is. A. Sport.

Bill’s Opinion

One feels the Olympics may have been just a little guilty of overreach over the years. When League of Legends is made an Olympic sport, the shark will have been truly jumped, altius.

Oh, and for those curious why I was reading the Philadelphia Inquirer, I was sent there from David Thompson’s place to read this. It isn’t a parody.

Foresight Battle Royale

This is hilarious; Australia’s over budget, late, poor quality National Broadband Network can’t cope with the demand from a bunch of teenagers playing video games.

Unexpectedly high levels of downloads can cause sluggish connections for all customers using broadband, not just those downloading game updates.

Some games companies release their updates, which can be tens of gigabytes worth of data and are known as “patches”, without much notification or the ability to download in advance of the release.

Hang on, that’s not what we signed up for. Back in those halcyon days of 2009 we were told we’d get 100Mbs over which we’d be able to run all sorts of society-changing services.

Here’s the original 2009 press release, just for the record.

Ah, promises made, not honoured. Just $43 billion over 8 years, eh? And the suckers believed them.

The NBN really has stood the test of time in the 24 carat lies department hasn’t it, right up there with, “the cheque’s in the post”, “yes, I love you too” and “of course I won’t come in your mouth”.

Gaming was baked in to the capacity according to the original “business case” (we use that term loosely; it doesn’t bear much resemblance to any I’ve seen in my career). Here’s the document, page 26 has the mention of gaming.

You’d think a modern, highly technical and, most importantly, centrally planned telecommunications network would be able to either cope with a few spotty kids playing shoot ’em up games OR be capable of prioritising other traffic.

After all, the UK are planning to block porn sites unless people have registered to have them unblocked (nobody’s told the government nanny state about VPNs), so it must surely be simplicity itself to block or throttle a single games company?

Yet here we are, begging Epic Games for details of their forthcoming updates and promotions.

How utterly embarrassing.

Bill’s Opinion

Australians are no different to many other nationalities in their belief that the government can magically deliver major programmes of work on time, to quality and on budget… despite all the evidence to the contrary.

I still have conversations with people who believe the plan was poorly executed because their political opponents’ duplicity and/or incompetence.

The reality is, a simple further deregulation of the telecoms industry would have done the same job quicker, cheaper and more suitable to the demand.

The government could have concentrated on making some provisions for the 3% of the population who don’t live in the metropolitan areas. Posting them porn DVDs each week, for example.

This is a knavery of them….

So said Bottom.

There’s another bottom around, apparently:

Sydney’s biggest correction in house prices since the 1980s should be over by year’s end but there is no sign of a return to boom times, according to new forecasts.

Ok. I’m sceptical but let’s hear their reasoning behind this.

Domain’s property price forecast for June 2019, released on Wednesday, expects median house prices in Sydney to bottom out at just about $1 million and median unit prices to dip just below $700,000 in spring.

I don’t want to play the man not the ball here but isn’t Domain’s entire raison d’être to sell property?

The market is tipped see a modest turnaround next year, a forecast supported by low interest rates, strong population growth and ongoing low unemployment. 

House prices are expected to increase by 3 to 5 per cent over next year, while unit prices are forecast to rise by 2 to 4 per cent.

The thing about predictions, as the American mathematician Stanislaw M. Ulam famously said, is they are notoriously difficult, especially about the future.

Domain economist Trent Wiltshire said the trifecta of an interest rate cut, the Coalition’s election win and potential lending rule changes helped the market bottom out sooner than expected.

Yes, all three of these are potentially good news for property prices. I suppose the missing question and answer is, are any of these actually the most important factor driving rises and falls in the asset class?

“The big factors contributing to prices bottoming out is what has happened in the past few weeks … it turned around the market’s thoughts,” Mr Wiltshire said. “People will be able to borrow more and that should follow through.”

Quite, Mr. River for a Firstname, County for a Lastname, “economist” for a property services website.

Perhaps people are able to borrow more, having the resultant flow on for prices as demand increases. It doesn’t necessarily follow they will borrow more though.

More on that later.

By the way, who knew that a market was a sentient being with thoughts? Hello Skynet.

Meanwhile;

Sydney’s auction clearance rate is at its highest in more than a year.

Don’t, whatever you do, mention that volumes are half of what they were at the peak and those few properties that do sell at auction (rather than sold privately earlier and then added to the highly-fictitious figures) are sold because they are being greatly-discounted to meet the market.

ANZ senior economist Felicity Emmett said the forecasts were in line with her expectations.

There’s a prediction we will return to in a year or so then.

Economist Stephen Koukoulas said it was more likely for property prices to see zero or negative growth than a dramatic turnaround next year.

Nice to see The Kouk has stopped trolling and returned to reasonable market commentary now he’s come to terms with not landing a plum government advisory job for the duration of this Federal term.

One has to love the use of “negative growth” there, if only there was a shorter, more commonly used synonym in the vernacular. I don’t know, something that rhymes with tall and is a homonym for autumn in American-ese….

Anyway, back to that minor factor impacting property prices; lending.

For reasons of incompetence or mendacity, most commentators talk about supply and demand as if the latter is simply a function of sentiment.

In a real world where most purchases are leveraged through borrowing, demand is less about what one would like to buy and more about what the bank will lend me in order to buy.

So, the RBA’s lending figures have been published for calendar month May. What’s the data saying?

Oh dear, that wasn’t supposed to be story.

Here’s the updated Are We There Yet, Mum? Index;

Now, obviously I’m not as educated and clever as someone employed as the “senior economist” for ANZ or “economist” for Domain but it would seem to me one of two things need to be true for property prices to stop falling and then begin to rise, either;

  1. The blue line on that chart needs to reach the 0.4% hurdle and stay there or above for at least a couple of months, but probably much longer, or
  2. A new magical source of funding is found that doesn’t involve domestic banks.

As you were, people, as you were.

There seems to be an obvious solution waiting to be found

The new oppressed class living amongst us is, apparently, single people.

No, don’t laugh. It’s true; The Sydney Morning Herald managed to find space between the Folau-dering to published an article about it, so it must be correct.

Grab a coffee, settle back and let’s try not to laugh too loudly as we witness mental illness given a public forum yet again in Sydney’s premier progressive organ:

Ok, you were warned. Here’s one of the oppressed;

Lucy Bloom says everyday household expenses such as rent, utilities, insurance and buying food or furniture can be twice as expensive if you’re single.

You may find this to believe but Marilyn, sorry, Lucy is single. Hardly credible, is it?

Now that you’ve got over that shock, here’s some barely believable maths for you to come to terms with;

A one-person household can spend $2835 per month on living costs – 27 per cent more than couples, who spend a combined $4118 per month.
Lucy Bloom can attest to the fact the singles tax is alive and well in Sydney, too.

If, like me, you’re struggling with the underlying equation resulting a statement that $2,835 is 27% greater than $4,118, consider inserting the words “per person” somewhere in the sentence. Sub-editing going well?

Lucy is a financial giant amongst us pygmies, however;

“So many things cost the same whether you’re a single or a couple, so it’s effectively twice the price to be on your own,” the management consultant says.

She’s a “management consultant”? Let that one sink in for a moment. 

It gets better;

“If I had a live-in partner, the only cost that would change would be food, but there would be two incomes to play with,” she says.

And if my mother had wheels, she’d be a trolley.

Actually, Lucy, if you had a live-in partner with another income, you’d have two incomes to play with.

But regardless of language semantics, she’s doing it tough. She barely knows where next month’s hair dye is coming from; 

“The only way I make it work is by renting out my spare rooms on Airbnb, which covers my mortgage.”

“Living by one of the best beaches in Sydney certainly helps my occupancy rate,” she says.

“On the upside, I have my personal freedom and an asset that has increased in value by $600,000 since 2017,” Ms Bloom says.

Right. Not exactly walking 20km barefoot to the well to collect drinking water each day, are we?

That last sentence in the quote is almost “Peak Sydney”; I’m sad and lonely and need to seek attention by dying my hair bright pink and whining about my life in a national newspaper but at least I’m an economic genius when it comes to investing in property. 

Let’s hope nobody bursts her bubble by showing her the CoreLogic indices relating to apartments in the Eastern Suburbs any time soon.

The best is saved for last though. Apparently, the oppressed singletons have one significant expense the privileged couples don’t;

One in four Australians spend $100 or more on pre-date preparation, including new clothes, shoes, hair and makeup and a further $79 on the first date.

They didn’t mention the additional costs associated with veterinary bills for cats, strangely.

Bill’s Opinion

This seems to align closely with Sailer’s First Law of Female Journalism;

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

Great news for the global economy!

Kevin Rudd is predicting economic doom.

There are very few certainties in life beyond death and taxes but one can make a solid fortune by betting against any economic prediction offered by the former Australian Prime Minister.

No, not that former Prime Minister, or that one, or that one, or that one, or that one, this one just died, but this one who was fired from the job…..hilariously twice.

We can’t be certain that his woeful predictions are due to incompetence or whether he’s got the McGrath-Bouris merdeus touch (everything they touch turns to shit) of being able to pull suckers in to their scheme of handing over wealth.

After all, this is the Prime Minister who had such a poor understanding of basic supply and demand that he unintentionally opened up an entire murderous business opportunity for Indonesian people smugglers to sell unseaworthy end of life fishing boats to Africans make a perilous thousand mile journey.

He also oversaw the Australian response to the 2008 global financial crisis which, arguably postponed what could have been a minor domestic recession to something with the potential to be much worse in the near future. But hey, people got a new TV and some house insulation out of it.

Reading Rudd’s opinion piece today reminds us of the gaping intellectual hole that has been left in Australian political life by his quiet and statesmanlike retirement;

This time last month, I was having breakfast with a Chinese friend in Chengdu, the prosperous provincial capital of Sichuan, discussing the increasingly toxic US-China relationship.

Not just a friend, but a Chinese friend, because he’s Kevin Rudd, Mandarin-speaker extraordinaire.

As for the increasingly-toxic US-China relationship, relative to what? Pre-Nixon in China, days? The years immediately following Tiananmen Square?

Well, if things are toxic now, viva toxicity because the two countries are fairly deeply linked these days.

Rudd can’t help himself by chucking in a little bitterness at his opponents;

Mysteriously these also happened to be the headlines in every newspaper in China that day. I hadn’t seen such editorial discipline since Murdoch’s coverage of the Australian elections.

This is worth looking at in more detail for a quick diversion. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the NewsCorp (Murdoch) titles don’t attract as many eyes as the Sydney Morning Herald. And that’s before we count the various media outlets of the ABC, the Guardian, and most other media outlets landing to the left.

Frankly, any left of centre Prime Ministerial candidate who fails to win an election when the majority of the media is on their side ought to have a good long look at themselves in the mirror. Being a famous narcissist, Rudd looks in the mirror more than most, yet struggles with self-awareness.

Back to Rudd’s panic about the trade war…

His hypothesis is that China has reached the end of their patience and will not offer anything more in negotiations:

My prediction is that the Osaka G20 Summit will see a “reboot” to the negotiating process. And after Osaka, Trump will yield on the first two of China’s new red lines. And Xi will increase the quantum of the proposed Chinese purchasing agreement from China’s previous offer, although not by as much as Trump has demanded. That way, enough face will be saved all around.

Bill’s Opinion

Kevin Rudd knows a lot about China, he has a greater Mandarin vocabulary and speaks with a better dialect than anyone I know who isn’t ethnically Chinese.

His knowledge and understanding of negotiation, supply and demand and matters commercial have been demonstrated, at Australian taxpayers’ chagrin and expense, to be disastrous, however.

Fortunately, few of our failures cost lives. Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd’s poor grasp of basic human nature and economics has cost millions of dollars and hundreds of lives.

Maybe China will back down, maybe they won’t. It’s more likely they will though since Mr. Rudd is convinced otherwise.

The Australian 26th and 28th Prime Minister, brought to you by Dunning and Kruger.