The art of the deal. Queen’sland edition

The definitive How To guide for negotiation was originally published in 1987. By any objective measure, it’s long due an update.

Just like with the proliferation of different editions of the board game Monopoly (London, Paris, Harry Potter, S&M Fetish, etc.), we therefore bring you a précis of The Art Of The Deal; Queen’sland Edition.

Chapter One – Understand Your BATNA

The Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement is your backstop. What’s the least you can live with if the other party doesn’t come to the negotiating table?

Some might say, in the example of negotiating a deal to bring The Olympics to your city, the BATNA is to simply walk away. After all, there’s plenty of risk associated with these events, it’s been a long time since one turned a profit and don’t have cost blow outs. The current games is going to cost the Japanese taxpayers at least $1.5bn.

Obviously, the collective brainpower of the Australian state of Queen’sland will ensure this fate doesn’t apply to them.

Fortunately, Premier Anna didn’t need to exercise her BATNA as hosting the Olympics is an excellent boost for the large country town city of Brisbane and there will definitely be no negative consequences during the remainder of term in office, or indeed at all.

Chapter Two – Know Your Opponents

In the case of the bidding process for the 2032 Olympics, this chapter is a short one; Brisbane was the last city standing.

This chapter of the book has a small footnote written in 0.1 size text and white font on a white background. Helpfully, we’ve expanded and darkened the text here:

If you find yourself the only buyer in an auction, consider the possibility the non-bidders have one more data point than you.

Chapter Three – Ink The Deal

This must be done in person. Jump the queue for a vaccine, take an expensive flight, go back on your word to not attend any ceremonies or events and take up a room in hotel quarantine that otherwise would have been wasted on a person who perhaps wanted to say goodbye in person to a dying relative.

Chapter Four – Hearts and Minds

Signing the deal is just the start, now you must sell the benefits to all important stakeholders. It’s probably a good idea to downplay any negatives such as setting Greece up for a terrible GFC or the $2bn loss for the Rio games.

Fortunately, Anna has set herself up for success already by bringing thousands of Australians together in a united cause.

Chapter Five – Two Envelopes

All deals will eventually get into difficulties. Fortunately for Anna, any minor problems such as taking on massive debt will be experienced by her political successor. Perhaps she will give them two envelopes when she leaves office?

Bill’s Opinion

Let’s face it, the Olympics is mainly a bollocks collection of boutique “sports” nobody ever pays to watch ordinarily.

Other than the 100m final, the rugby sevens and the hilarious “female” weightlifting featuring Lauren Hubbard, I won’t be bothering watching.

If my assumption that we are living in the post freedom age is correct, the people of Queen’sland may find themselves holding a very expensive event with no overseas spectators.

Queen’sland; the smart state.

A very mean reversion

A virtual Grand Tour around the various right of centre, libertarian and free market media sites and commentators over the last few years may have resulted in the, not unreasonable, conclusion there is a kind of Anglospheric Exceptionalism. From Roger Scruton, through Douglas Murray, Matt Ridley, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Haight, Lionel Shriver, and many other voices who pop up regularly in each other’s podcasts and on the pages of The Spectator.

The unique Anglo cultural phenomenon is hard to define but likely to include elements of the following (in no particular order); individuality, free speech, free trade, freedom of movement, property rights, rule of law, meritocracy, religious and sexual tolerance, morality, and fairness.

Different versions of this are shown to perhaps apply variously across countries.

Australia, for example, has almost an entire national identity built on the shifting sands foundation of a concept of “fairness”. Everyone who has travelled around the Aussie media, legislation and government services will have encountered the word “fair”, without it ever really being defined. Australian fairness is defined as, to recycle the words of US Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it”.

The USA’s proud boast is based more on free speech, individual responsibility and the creative destruction of free markets.

The UK spends much of its currency of national conversation on expensive angst about how racist and intolerant it is whilst simultaneously being the destination of choice for immigration from almost every ethnicity and religion. UK tolerance is clearly a national trait, as witnessed by the inability of most of its citizens to complain about customer service.

The Canadian, New Zealand and Irish flavours of Anglospheric Exceptionalism are harder to define. They’re three irrelevances on the world cultural stage, taking their cues heavily from their larger neighbours and generally piggybacking on the good stuff whilst pointing at the negatives as if they were a problem of some other.

There’s clearly a place for the theory of Anglospheric Exceptionalism, otherwise so many of the products of these countries, both tangible and philosophical, from iPhones to fundamental legal concepts, wouldn’t be adopted and/or envied by other less happy lands.

Culture must be a factor too, otherwise the success of the USA might perhaps have been replicated to some degree on the west coast of Africa when the newly formed country of Liberia adopted a CTRL C/V version of the USA Constitution. Last time we checked, Liberia wasn’t at the top of the list of countries people were battling to emigrate to.

Some amazing outcomes have been achieved from the children of the anglosphere. As a proxy measure, Cambridge University has produced double the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire country of France. Interestingly, France has produced four times the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire continent of Africa (including the Africans of European ancestry).

Clearly, cultural relativism is a bollocks concept. Not all cultures are equal, as anyone trying to get to the grocery store and home again unharmed in Johannesburg or Durban could tell you right now.

It’s easy to fall into the fantasy that we’ve found some magic civilising incantation, a secret formula to civilise the world and ensure the direction of travel is forward.

Worse, if you’re tempted down the roads of patriotism, ethnic pride and supremacy-thinking, you might believe this has something to do with genetics or another hard to define concept, “race”.

What if we’re wrong? What is history telling us?

It’s easy to ignore the inconvenience of history. Until really very recently, say, until the second quarter of the 20th century, life for everyone was uncertain in duration, brutish and tough.

Freedom of speech, for example, would have been quite a distant thought for most people in the anglosphere when faced with the prospect of having to bury a child every year or two. Freedom of movement and property rights were theoretical for the vast majority, who had only the option to emigrate vast distances with little to no possessions, often to escape religious intolerance, indentured labour and restrictions to their ability to trade freely.

If we’re really being honest with ourselves, these modern miracles about which years’ worth of podcast content and self-congratulatory books have been produced, are a specifically modern phenomenon probably not yet even 100 years old.

The normal scenario was benign rule by king or emperor if we were lucky, but brutal authoritarianism mostly. After all, Marcus Aurelius was only one man in an empire lasting more than a millennium.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps we’ve been living in a dream? Perhaps we’d convinced ourselves the circumstances all but our last four generations found themselves in had been prevented from recurring.

Our ability to choose and find work, travel freely in and out of countries, speak freely in public, make our own health decisions, manage personal risk, protect our wealth and family and to take individual responsibility no longer exists.

Perhaps it never really did. Certainly, the swiftness with which these “rights” were removed indicates the fragile grasp by which we held them.

Le plus ça change, le plus c’est la meme chose, as your great great grandparents probably couldn’t pronounce but understood implicitly.

The reversion to the mean, is indeed very mean.

Are you an artist?

An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some examples:

The threat of mental health impacts.

Position A: we must agree, without question, with children who say they are transgender because otherwise their inevitable negative mental health outcome and possible suicide will be our fault.

Position B: we must keep children off school and away from group sports for months to protect the elderly and chronically unwell. The mental health impacts of this are insignificant.

Climate change

Position A: climate change is the biggest existential threat to humanity, all necessary resources and national finances should be applied to solve it. We must think the unthinkable.

Position B: nuclear energy is too big a danger to use to generate our power.

Election fraud

Position A: Russia hacked the 2016 election resulting in the illegitimate Trump presidency.

Position B: there were no irregularities in the 2020 election. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.

The World Health Organisation

Position A: it’s unfortunate the WHO made several significant mistakes over the efficacy of masks and the possibility the Kung Flu came from the Wuhan lab.

Position B: the WHO is correct that the vaccines are safer for all age and health cohorts than catching the virus.

Prophylaxis

Position A: there is no evidence from randomised double blind longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of existing generic pharmaceutical treatments for Kung Flu and anyone suggesting these should be further investigated is a conspiracy theorist.

Position B: a vaccine first produced less than a year ago is completely safe in both the short and long term for all age and health cohorts.

Freedom of speech

Position A: one of the greatest benefits of living in a western democracy is the freedom to criticise government policy without sanction.

Position B: there is no problem with private companies, some of whom have revenue greater than the GDP of many countries, to censor people who spread misinformation as these people are dangerous conspiracy theorists.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps there’s a bit of artistry in us all. It’s not those who have inconsistency who scare me most, but those with certainty.

Take it away boys:

The cruel social experiment continues

In the same week:

Caitlyn Jenner arrives in Sydney.

Katie Hopkins arrives in Sydney.

Queen’sland Premier departs for the Tokyo Olympics after jumping the queue for a vaccine.

The residents of the Sydney suburb of Fairfield are under house arrest.

There’s something for everyone, heh?

If you think putting a bit of lippy on and acting out an autogynephiliac fantasy is stunning and brave, Caitlyn neé Bruce is here for you.

If you like confrontational shock jock politics, Katie is at hand.

If you believe for an Olympic bid to be successful, an authoritarian Premier with more chins than the Hong Kong phone book needs to visit Tokyo rather than use Skype, Anna is going bring gold home for you.

And if you didn’t even know where Fairfield was until last week, but you assumed it was out west and filled with smelly immigrants, the Westies will take one for the team and you.

At what point do people just say, “nah, fuck this”?

Bill’s Opinion

I think the answer to my question above is, not for a long while yet. It’s obvious we can all take a hell of a lot more hypocrisy, removal of freedom and hectoring by our ruling class and media before we decide we’ve had enough.

It’s an interesting social experiment though. I wonder when the result will be published?

Who is paying for this?

New South Wales is entering its third week of lockdown, 18 months after the virus first arrived and was almost eradicated.

For those who believe the vaccinations are a risk worth taking, the vaccination rates are pitifully distant from a level we might consider useful or, sotto voce, herd immunity.

So, back under the duvet for the residents of the biggest economy in the country, because, to paraphrase the head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, “the only alternative to lockdown is more lockdown”.

You may be wondering whether it’s possible to seek a second opinion on that diagnosis and prescription.

The idea of giving up on the tacit “zero covid” strategy was floated in anonymous briefings to the press last week, only to be met with ridicule and accusations of inhumanity but no tangible or executable answer to the question, “the current strategy has clearly failed, so what do we do now?”.

The school holidays finish on Tuesday and thousands of children will be banished to their bedrooms to attend dysfunctional zoom calls with their teachers whilst using the Alt/Tab function to switch back and forth between “class” and Minecraft.

Of course, that describes the kids whose parents are paying attention and haven’t already given up on them. There’s another group, for whom school was probably their last chance of being socialised and staying out of trouble.

Their parents won’t be checking their attendance at virtual class, their internet access and smartphone use will be unrestricted and it’s unlikely they will be prevented from leaving the house during the school day to smoke vapes at the local skate park.

Our local high school suspended more pupils in the term following the last lockdown than they did in the several years prior, combined. The Principal’s hypothesis was that those kids had little to no adult supervision during the lockdown schooling and brought that freedom to misbehave back into the classroom when school returned.

Eventually, and despite the ridiculous Education Department policies aimed at preventing any semblance of consequences for anti-social behaviour, the school sent these kids home either for short term suspensions or, in the extreme cases, they were “invited” to seek an alternate venue for their education.

The impact of this is going to have dire social consequences. Kids who missed significant portions of school life are not only disadvantaged educationally, but have also missed the last safety net between being a normal member of society or living on its periphery, spending increasing amounts of their lives in and out of the criminal justice system.

Bill’s Opinion

You may think these forever lockdowns are the correct response to outbreaks and that we can see the tangible benefit to them in terms of reducing the deaths and hospitalisation of the infected.

Consider the possibility you are only seeing one side of the balance sheet.

In the UK, for example, it is estimated 7 million people avoided non-covid health appointments since the virus arrived. What percentage of those will result in a later terminal diagnosis that might have been avoided if caught earlier?

5%? 10%?

The official death toll from covid (without questioning the difference between “of” and “with”) is 129,000. If 5% of missed appointments lead to an avoidable death, the covid death count will be less than half of the human cost of “saving the NHS”.

Similarly, the feral kids running around the local area while the middle class kids sit at home in class will become a more visible cost over time. Just because we don’t see the impact now, doesn’t mean you aren’t paying. Remember this in five years time when you have a barbecue discussion about the rise of burglaries, car theft, muggings, drug use, etc.

One can avoid reality but one cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.

Clayton’s zero covid policy

Last week was a watershed moment for Australians in their ongoing battle with the virus. A national cabinet agreed to a “plan” out of the current endless cycle of lockdowns, internal border closures and never visiting or being visited by our loved ones overseas.

Here it is:

One can read further details behind each of those steps at… no, wait, there are no further details. That graphic, using standard Microsoft PowerPoint SmartArt, has taken the Federal and States governments’ combined brain power 15 months to produce.

There’s not even a broad range for the ratio of vaccinated residents that would trigger a move between phases.

Those of us with a job in the productive part of the economy can tell you this is a bollocks plan. The measures should have some element of “SMART” to them to be worthwhile, that is; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

This looks rather similar to those ridiculous international statements we are handed as a fait accomplis from climate conferences, such as the Paris Agreement. The process to produce these documents is the same; a bunch of vested interests get together and drive their own agenda into the document, resulting in an inarticulate mush leaping from the minutiae to the macro between bullet points.

In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the process used to record the final Beatles’ album, Let It Be. A group of hostile collaborators tasked with producing something, anything, pumped out a disappointing product. In the Beatles’ case, an album full of solo efforts. In the Australian national cabinet’s example, a shitty PowerPoint slide a primary school child would score mid-class for.

It’s not all bad news though. We finally learned precisely when Australia switched from “flatten the curve” to “zero covid”. We all instinctively know that strategy change occurred, but nobody I’ve spoken to could point to the moment it happened.

It was July last year.

I don’t know about you, but I totally missed that press conference and the subsequent public discussion of the pros and cons of the various options for dealing with the virus. Not even the partisan hacks on Sky News Australia or The ABC mentioned it or discussed it.

Why? No seriously, why? This was a massive national decision and, if it was even reported, it must have been buried deep in the unread part of the newspaper (just next to Peter Fitzsimons’ column, presumably). Why no reporting of note?

Bill’s Opinion

If ever there was an illustration of the consequence of the political consensus across political parties and mainstream media, this would be it.

We didn’t have a national discussion over whether to go for zero cases of Kung Flu because both parties and the media tacitly agreed with it. Our opinion wasn’t sought.

Just a friendly reminder of the consequences government by consensus gets you:

A war in the Middle East looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, “45 minutes to launch”.

“Temporary” anti-terrorism laws, “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear”.

Taxpayer funded bank bail outs following irresponsible lending mistakes., “we gotta save the economy”.

And now this, the reversal of a decision made quietly and without scrutiny a year ago that has had implications for 24 million people, who were never asked and are now not being asked for the reversal.

Back on the beach, Australia

Ten months ago, I wrote about how Australia was in danger of living out an inverted version of the plot of the 1959 movie, “On the Beach”.

Told ya so.

Around half of the population of Australia are back in the economy-destroying lockdown again because 1 person in a population of 24 million is in ICU with the Kung Flu.

In the meantime, a greater percentage of the adult population have held the position of Prime Minister than have been fully vaccinated.*

Before accusations of hypocrisy arrive, despite what I wrote here, I’m not an anti-vaxxer, quite the contrary; I want all of you to take the shot. I’m just waiting for the trial to finish first.

We are living in an age of complexity where an ability to navigate with critical thinking and acceptance of nuance is paramount.

Unfortunately, some kind of negative feedback loop has been in operation in politics and journalism over the last several decades resulting in the situation we find ourselves today; woefully inadequate and unskilled leaders and partisan reporters with a pathological lack of curiosity.

The two most serious consequences of this are that grown up conversations about the strategy and tactics for handling the virus are not had in public and a destructive battle of blame-shifting is playing out between the states’ and federal governments.

The result of this institutional retardation is what Australians are currently facing; neither a vaccinated population nor a “Great Barrington” community immunity approach while protecting the vulnerable.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world seems to be emerging, blinking, out of their homes and back into the football stadia, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.

Bill’s Opinion

How ironic the country that gave us Steven Bradbury now finds itself the fallen leader as the rest of the world closes in on the finish line.

*Politico.com have fact checked this and have concluded it is incorrect and was a clumsy attempt at humour. But, there have been a ridiculous number of incompetent PMs in the last two decades and an embarrassingly low number of vaccines rolled out.

Thank you for your service

Have you been “jabbed” yet? If not, are you angry at the tardiness of the vaccine roll out or are you unconvinced of its long term safety?

Your answers to these questions have become the new line of division within Australia. How you answer identifies you as part of the “in group” or the “out group”.

The in group have decided the vaccine is both effective and safe, or at least, safe enough. The out group are unconvinced.

And, without throwing lots of links to various medical studies, statistics on the at risk age groups of death by covid, or the current logged instances of reported complications with the various vaccines, the schism is right there.

Full disclosure; I am in the out group. Everyone has their own personal reasons for taking or declining the vaccine. Mine are as follows:

  1. My age and underlying health suggests I would not have a severe outcome should I catch Covid
  2. I’m unconvinced by the evidence so far presented that the vaccines have been tested to an acceptable standard
  3. I’m unconvinced the inevitable cases of side effects are being reported to the correct authority to be collated and assessed
  4. In New South Wales, there is fewer than 1 case for every 100,000 people
  5. There is no evidence from countries ahead of Australia in rolling out vaccines that international travel will resume any time soon – one of the key promises made by our leaders
  6. Game Theory – I can still benefit from a vaccine without having to take an additional risk by taking it if enough of you lot do first

Even more helpfully, Australia’s favourite virtue signaller, Peter Fitzsimons, has been loudly and somewhat threateningly writing in his grammatically-challenged Sydney Morning Herald column about how it is our civic duty to take the cure. His latest offering is sub-headlined “Don’t forget where this pain in the arse disaster came from”.

I suspect he wants you to think, “the Liberal state government” in response to that prompter, whereas most people will racistly think, “erm, ‘Peter Daszek’s gain of function laboratory in Wuhan, China“.

But I am grateful to Pirate Pete for holding an opinion on this as it saves us all time from having to think too hard about it, as my handy decision tree below illustrates:

Bill’s Opinion

My decision is to not take the vaccine for probably another 2 years until I’ve seen enough evidence on the severity and distribution of side effects and the effectiveness of other prophylactic and therapeutic treatments of Covid.

The more people such as Fitzsimons label me as a “denier” or”anti-vaxxer”, the more entrenched in that view I am likely to become.

When it comes to other vaccines that have undertaken full scale clinical trials, I’ve had an arm full of them. Previously, before the Covid Curtain fell across our international departure gates, I had travelled to a full and diverse range of shithole countries (nearly all of which have the colour green on their flag, which may or may not be a coincidence), so had to take more precautions. I bet I own one more Yellow Fever certificate than most people reading this.

I’ll take the vaccine once my evaluation of the risk/reward ratio suggests it’s a good idea for me personally. In the meantime, I will respond as follows to people who loudly proclaim their righteous virtue and membership of the vaccine in group:

“Thank you for your selfless service by agreeing to participate in the trial, the results of which I eagerly anticipate reading in 2023”.

Deck ‘em, McManus

One of the more high profile union leaders in Australia was somewhat vexed by the recent agreement between the UK and Australia, suggesting it will increase competition for jobs to the detriment of the locals:

It’s unusual for the unions or indeed anyone on the left to say the quiet part about immigration out aloud.

She’s right, of course. It’s not a difficult mental exercise to realise immigration would have a negative impact on employment prospects for the exisiting population and their ability to negotiate wage increases.

But it’s an interesting ideological contortion for someone on the more left of politics to attempt. It’s the side of politics most associated with the open (or at least more open) borders position, and yet here’s McManus pointing out immigration isn’t all upside for existing residents.

She’s not alone in being an immigration sceptic on the left, either. This opinion piece by Kristina Keneally from early on in the pandemic makes a similar point, which McManus also endorsed on social media when published.

So what’s going on? Is it cognitive dissonance or simply the often knee jerk reaction of one team opposing whatever it is the other team say and do? Perhaps there’s a third explanation.

I’ve recently been rereading Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. My first reading was a decade ago and, although I took some interesting insights from it, my reading was more of a skim than in depth. I stuck at it this time and have been rewarded with some absolute gems, of which this is one:

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps Sally and Kristina’s disdain for immigration is driven by concern for Australian workers.

Given that the Australian minimum wage is the second highest in the world, just behind Monaco, and Australians can access comparatively generous unemployment benefits, free medical treatment and subsidised child care, why wouldn’t a socialist want to share this wealth with others?

Because, as Hayek points out, they’ve thought it through to its logical conclusion and realised it is diametrically opposed to their agenda.

A dreamtime story

Sit down and listen to my story.

Once upon a time, a school teacher published some of his works of fiction. They sold well and he decided to continue his career as an author rather than return to teaching snotty kids.

The Australian theme of some of his works found popularity with his domestic audience and, over time, he wrote about Aboriginal matters, highlighting injustices and the egregious way they suffered since the Europeans arrived.

His writing about Aboriginal issues brought him fame and fortune, he was fêted by the media and enjoyed invitations to conferences and events. Life was good.

Over the decades, he felt an increasing affinity with the subjects of his writing. In his mind, fiction and fact mixed and his own creation story became a blurred conglomeration of truth, wishful thinking and false memories. He was becoming Aboriginal.

Maybe it started with just a little dishonesty in an interview with a journalist, a hint of a suggestion of an indigenous ancestor. He was rewarded with even more sycophancy, further publicity, more revenue flowed.

So he continued; the half-truths, the lies, the falsehoods became easier to pile on, the accretive process gained a life of its own.

He became the “go to” commentator about injustice and discrimination against Aboriginals, displacing the voices of those who actually experienced this first hand.

Perhaps, once or twice, he’d catch himself wondering about the morality of the path he’d chosen, whether it was right to allow a false narrative of his genetics and ancestry to promulgate in the public mind. Perhaps he reasoned that the good he was doing by publicising these issues outweighed the small matter of the dishonesty.

And then, one day, someone said, “BULLSHIT”.

Bill’s Opinion

In completely unrelated news, Bruce Pascoe has experienced a brutal takedown by academics who actually study the subject he writes about.

However, in Pascoe’s defence, I suspect there’s a large helping of total bullshit on the other side of the argument too. For example:

In 2017, her work took her to Sturt Creek in the Kimberley, where she was asked to examine burned bone fragments at a place called “the goat yards”, where more than a dozen Aboriginal people were alleged to have been massacred in 1922. The examination found nothing to dispute Aboriginal accounts of the massacre and a “very high likelihood” that the remains were human, based on the intensity of the fire in which they were burned.

If only there was a trusted scientific method of testing whether biological remains were human. CSI: Kimberley? Bueller? Anyone?

It seems to me that the people who make the most money from matters Aboriginal are those with the least Aboriginal ancestry and connection. It’s a self-saucing industry, efficiently siphoning public and charitable funds away from those living in the Red Centre, in what we might refer to as the Indigenous Monetary Complex.