Responsible borrowing

Australia is on a bank-bashing roll currently. As the market (and by that we mean property market – really the only important market in the Dutch Diseased country) rose solidly over the previous decades, the national psyche shifted to one where the expectation of continued growth became pervasive.

To a certain extent, that’s a rational position to take; if everybody, lending institutions and central banks included, is predicting a double digit rise next year there’s wisdom in listening to them.

There’s a similar theory about “technical analysis” of stock charts, that it might not be based on any underlying science but, because everybody believes in “support lines” and “double tops”, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, trees don’t grow to the sky and no market moves in a straight line.

More importantly, if you’re going to make a bet, any bet, you better bloody well know that you can live with the wrong result should it occur.

Westpac has been hit with the first class action against one of the big four since the banking royal commission’s final report earlier this month.

Lead plaintiff Michelle Tate told a media conference in Brisbane on Thursday she and her husband Ian were ruined after the bank lent them more than $1.8 million across five properties, despite the family having just one income.

Ms Tate said Westpac trusted a loan broker who provided information about her family’s financial position, and did not independently verify the situation. She said her family would now lose all of their properties save for a block of land.

Wait, what?

They bought their first home in 2008 but decided to invest in a further three in 2013 and 2014 while Mrs Tate was a full-time mum, all funded through Westpac loans they locked in as interest only and secured against their first property.

Are you insane?

Maurice Blackburn Principal lawyer Ben Slade said Westpac was “required to comply with strict obligations which are specifically designed to protect consumers from irresponsible lending and the risk of financial hardship”.

“This case will seek to prove that Westpac failed to comply with these obligations and that this failure caused substantial losses for many consumers,” he said.

That highlighted claim reminds me of the regrettable line we all mistakenly say once in our lives;

“Honey, does this dress make my bum look fat?”

“No dear, your bum makes your bum look fat”.

Bill’s Opinion

Michelle Tate and her husband knew exactly what they were doing when then went all in on property. It was a one way bet they couldn’t lose.

Blaming the bank that lent you the money in the hope of compensation is an understandable tactic and a common coping mechanism rather than coming to terms with one’s own stupidity and greed.

But you were still stupid and greedy and you absolutely knew what you were doing.

Bitchin’

More nonsense on my Creepbook For Business timeline. This one is about “Like minded bitches drinking wine“.

A networking club which excludes people on the basis of gender? I thought we’d moved on from those anachronisms ages ago?

Oh, it’s a networking club exclusively for women. Ah, I see. It’s like the difference between Spinal Tap’s album cover being sexy or sexist…..

The comments under the post underline the rule of our time, never read the comments under articles. They are basically a bunch of sycophants saying, “you go girl!” or people wondering why anyone trying to portray themselves as professional would use the noun, bitch.

Anyway, Jane Lu is fighting the good fight for equality equity.

Here’s a photo of her team at Showpo;

Gender diversity is clearly very important to Jane.

Bill’s Opinion

Jane is simply responding to the incentives offered to her. She’s self-promoting and benefiting from the congratulations and social rewards due to those who loudly proclaim the correct messages.

It’s devoid of dignity though, which doesn’t seem to be completely aligned with the point of feminism.

Not all heroes are Geoff Capes

Two boys won gold and silver in the Connecticut State girls indoor track competition.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The Washington Times article is hilarious, especially if you read it out aloud in a sarcastic and sceptical tone:

Yearwood, a 17-year-old junior at Cromwell High School, is one of two transgender high school sprinters in Connecticut, transitioning to female.

She recently finished second in the 55-meter dash at the state open indoor track championships. The winner, Terry Miller of Bloomfield High, is also transgender and set a girls state indoor record of 6.95 seconds. Yearwood finished in 7.01 seconds and the third-place competitor, who is female not transgender, finished in 7.23 seconds.

…..Critics say their gender identity amounts to an unfair advantage, expressing a familiar argument in a complex debate for transgender athletes as they break barriers across sports around the world from high school to the pros.

…..“I have learned a lot about myself and about other people through this transition. I always try to focus most on all of the positive encouragement that I have received from family, friends and supporters,” Yearwood said. “I use the negativity to fuel myself to run faster.”

Well yes, that and a lifetime of physical development using male hormones.

Yearwood acknowledges she is stronger than many of her cisgender competitors, but says girls who are not transgender may have other advantages.

The Washington Times is using “cisgender” instead of “girl“. Thats the official end of that newspaper then.

“One high jumper could be taller and have longer legs than another, but the other could have perfect form, and then do better,” she said. “One sprinter could have parents who spend so much money on personal training for their child, which in turn, would cause that child to run faster.”

Quite right, and one child might pretend to be a girl and win every fucking competition.

The Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which governs high school sports in Connecticut, says its policy follows a state anti-discrimination law that says students must be treated in school by the gender with which they identify.

“This is about someone’s right to compete,” executive director Glenn Lungarini said. “I don’t think this is that different from other classes of people, who, in the not too distant past, were not allowed to compete. I think it’s going to take education and understanding to get to that point on this issue.”

Fuck me, so boys running in girls’ races is the same as Rosa Parkes riding the bus now, is it?

Yearwood is hoping to qualify for this year’s National Scholastic Athletics Foundation national championships in March. The group recently adopted new rules allowing pre-pubescent girls to participate with their affirmed gender, though no ages are specified.

What the Washington Times means when it says, “pre-pubescent girls” is actually “pre-pubescent boys“, such is the upside down clownworld they are inhabiting.

Bill’s Opinion

Lunacy encouraged by mendacious media.

Connecting the dots

Unfalsifiable hypotheses are always a bit silly, and this blog generally tries to steer clear of falling for that trap but, hey, it’s Friday and salacious gossip is fun.

Sometime ago, we brought you the Canberra insider news that has never made it into the mainstream; Julie Bishop enjoys/has enjoyed a full and busy private life and sent a fairly unsubtle shot across the bows of the free press to not go prying into MPs’ private lives.

This week, we learn that China a foreign power power has hacked into the parliamentary computer systems (by which they probably mean the email server).

And now Julie Bishop has announced an end to what was a promising political career that, by any objective view, probably still had greater heights to reach.

Curious.

Ok, let’s suspend our usual reliance on logic, reason and requirement for evidence and just have a complete punt at what’s going on….

There’s plenty of embarrassing personal information on everyone’s email history, none of us would appreciate it being opened up to the public, that’s why we don’t share our passwords.

A prominent politician is no different, particularly if they’ve been a little indiscreet in the past.

If you had evidence that your email was one of the hacked ones and you had something to hide, or at least feel a little regretful about, a simple solution might be to drop out of the public eye. It doesn’t completely prevent the leaked information making it into the news but yours wouldn’t be the most pressing for the media to report on at that point.

Bill’s Opinion

China seems a little less-enamoured with Australia these days. The best we can hope for is a Wikileaks type data drop of all the naughty little secrets about politicians’ petty personal lives.

Unfortunately, blackmail and coercion is more likely.

If you wanted Bill Shorten’s recipe for Pavlova, you could have just asked

Apparently, China or Russia “a sophisticated state actor” hacked into the Australian Parliament IT servers last week.

Shocking stuff. We are truly fighting a new Cold War, thank goodness George Lazenby is still alive.

We are also told that it is too early to know the motivation or what information was accessed.

However….. here at William of Ockham, we have a handy little blade that can slice away all that is irrelevant to reveal the most likely explanation.

Let’s quickly dismiss the possibility that a foreign power was hunting for an important secret of state; if there is anyone reading this who believes Australia has any secrets China, Russia, Indonesia or even bloody Swaziland don’t already know, I have a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you. And anyway, there are better IT systems to hack to gain Australia’s secrets.

In addition to Australia’s defence secrets not being worth the candle, how many of them are likely to be divulged to MPs, or even the Defence Minister and Prime Minister? Given that that last role is only ever a casual appointment, it’s doubtful the security services go through the bother of setting up a userid and password for each new appointee.

So what information could possibly be of interest on the parliamentary servers?

The more I think about this question the more certain I become that they will have learned about just one topic: who’s shagging with/has shagged whom?

Bill’s Opinion

There’s a Federal election this year (there’s a 33% chance of that statement being correct at any random time though), which means Australian politics might finally become interesting.

Imagine the fun we may be about to have with Wikileaks drip-feeding prurient tittle tattle about the sordid details of the sex lives of, say, Julie Bishop, Sarah Hanson-Young, Barnaby Joyce or Richard Di Natale?

Maybe chuck in some scandals involving expenses being used to fund lavish lifestyles or questionable morality and perhaps some unparliamentary language on emails referring to voters as sheep or worse.

Finally, an election we might actually enjoy!

This is fibber country

After using our patented razor, we were somewhat sceptical of Jussie Smollett’s allegations of an attack in Chicago last month.

Let’s get an update from that unbiased and objective news source, CNN:

Oh, that’s awkward.

The men, who are brothers, were arrested Wednesday but released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.”

Interesting.

The sources told CNN the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Which translates to something along the lines of, “police threatened to throw the book at them unless they confessed fully. This they’ve done and Smollett is toast“.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.

The sources told CNN there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around Smollett’s neck at a hardware store in Chicago.

Two Nigerian brothers he just happens to know from his work.

Bill’s Opinion

When fighting in the Culture Wars, if a story emerges that supports your side and it seems perfect, the truth will certainly be 180 degrees reversed.

Write down the NBN? Write the whole thing off

We’ve spoken before on the utter disaster that is Australia’s National Broadband Network and how it was unlikely to ever achieve its stated goal and also cost significantly more than budgeted.

Well, things just got a whole lot worse for the beleaguered Australian taxpayer as it would seem reality is starting to rudely impose itself on the business model, such that it is: The NBN will need to write off a huge chunk of value, if that’s even possible now.

Crikey (in the vernacular), who ever could have predicted that?

Oh yes, everyone.

From the article:

It is self-evident that you can’t write $20 billion off a $10 billion (or less) equity base.

Ya reckon?

Rue made the point that when people called for a write-down, what they were actually calling for was a dramatic reduction in wholesale prices. It’s a mechanism, not the objective.

There are alternatives to a write-down that could lower wholesale prices, although they would involve heavy costs for government.

Hold on one second, sunshine…. heavy costs for whom?

The government? Nope, don’t think so. The government only has money for one of the following reasons:

1. Taxes paid by citizens (yes, that includes corporation tax – who do you think buys their goods and services?)

2. Borrowing on behalf of the public….which will be repaid by, yep, taxes

Read this with that in mind:

If the federal government were to cash out the $7.4 billion of subscriber payments and buy out the lease agreement, it would effectively inject more than $20 billion of value into NBN Co by carving those payments from its cost base and boosting its cash flows.

The substantial change in its economics would enable NBN Co to pass through the savings to retailers without damaging its ability to generate a positive IRR.

Or, in English; if the government spent more money it would make the NBN company seem like it was less of a turd.

Bill’s Opinion

The lesson every generation of voters always has to learn the hard way is, if you really want to fuck something up, and I mean really fuck something up and stay fucked up for a bloody long time, get the government to do it.

Because of/despite Brexit (delete where appropriate)

From the BBC (Brexit Blocking Corporation), comes this tale of woe and personal disasters.

British nationals who have retired to EU countries may no longer have their healthcare costs covered by the NHS in the event of a no-deal Brexit and many are considering returning home, reports Vishala Sri-Pathma.

Why’s that?

Currently expat pensioners can get treatment reimbursed by the NHS under an EU-wide deal

Ah, yes that would be a problem.

How does it currently work?

Pensioners who have paid in to the UK’s national insurance system for the qualifying number of years benefit from the S1 reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in EU/EEA countries or Switzerland.

What’s the revenue flow for that arrangement, one wonders? How much is charged each way, who runs the deficit?

The system currently saves the NHS about £450m a year. In 2017, a senior health department official told a parliamentary select committee that Spain charges an average of £2,300 for every pensioner it treats, compared with £4,500 charged by the NHS.

I though the NHS was “the envy of the world“? Are we now saying it’s twice as expensive for the same outcome?

Why on earth hasn’t Britain started running hospital tourism cruises to Santander and saved a fortune?

Yet there are no guarantees that this arrangement will continue under the Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals to protect the rights of EU citizens, including the 1.2 million Britons living elsewhere in the EU.

Frankly, nobody has a clue what bloody deal will be implemented on March 29th, least of all the incompetent idiots negotiating it.

The UK government is currently advising expat Brits in the EU to register for access to healthcare in the EU/EEA country they live in, as some residents may need to be a long-term resident or to pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare.

Good advice.

Of course, even better advice is; whenever you reside in a new country long enough to qualify for citizenship, seriously consider it as an option, given that taxation and immigration are the most frequently amended laws.

Residents of Spain, take note.

Another consideration is to plan for changes in laws. The European reciprocal arrangement for healthcare has only been in existence for about 15 years. Anyone emigrating for a retirement in Asia from Europe would budget for healthcare insurance, in contrast.

Another blow to the British in Spain has been the falling value of the pound. “It’s (Brexit) costing me great amounts of money in my pocket,” one bowler says as he lines up the balls for the next game. “I’d like to sees the exchange rate to go back to what it was six years ago – but that’s wishful thinking.”

Let’s fact check that shall we?

How long has the pound been in decline and is it really due to Brexit?

It’s currently sitting around $1.29, so unless the Forex markets knew about the Brexit vote result back in 2010, there’s not much about the exchange rate one can blame on Brexit.

If your retirement financial plan is underwater after a negative 10% exchange rate change, consider the possibility you weren’t ready to retire.

But possibly the best quote in the whole article is this:

“When I voted to leave I didn’t think it would change anything,” says Yvonne Stone

Good grief.

Bill’s Opinion

On verra. On verra.

Australia discovers the internet

There’s an Australian government body, the ACCC, that regulates commercial competition, ostensibly new behalf of the consumer but, as we will discover, perhaps not.

Firstly though, let’s crack that old joke, “why is there only one anti-monopoly agency?”.

The ACCC has recently discovered that people aren’t getting so many newspapers delivered to their houses these days.

No, really.

The ironically-named “competition tsar”, Rod Sims says;

“I was getting the response of people saying ‘isn’t this just creative destruction? You know, classic Schumpeter, the way the world works?” he said in an interview ahead of the speech. “Well… it isn’t. This isn’t just like the car taking over from the horse and buggy, or more recently, Uber taking over from the taxi”.

What is it then?

The internet has been accessible to the majority of Australians since the mid 1990s. Therefore the value destruction of print media and journalists’ careers has been one of the most signalled disruptive industry changes in several generations, yet somehow the media organisations failed to adapt.

The ACCC estimates that the number of journalists employed in the print sector fell by 20 per cent in the three years to 2017; while between 2006 and 2016 the number of journalists employed by traditional publishers fell 26 per cent.

Let’s remind ourselves what those employed in news media are supposed to do every day they come to work…

The harsh reality is their real job description was, “produce interesting content that captures an audience for advertising”.

Perhaps the journalists would prefer something more worthy like, “identify and investigate important changes in the status quo and inform their customers”.

Either way, they’ve failed spectacularly.

Bill’s Opinion

From the mid 1990s, traditional news media failed to spot the impact the internet, cheap mobile phone data and smart/camera phones would have on their profession.

Which is a bit of a problem if your job is called “the news“.

Please don’t make us pay to keep this rubbish alive any longer than it needs to be.

Don’t be evil (please define evil)

If you are ever in any doubt how bad an idea it is to simply accept the moderation and policing of content by large technology companies, compare and contrast their willingness to “deplatform” those who have the wrong opinions against this; Google and Apple have an app to help prevent Saudi women running away from home.

Nice.

In his recent interview with Joe Rogan, Jack Dorsey struggled to articulate Twitter’s policies on censorship.

On one hand, that’s an embarrassing admission for the CEO that he’s not across what is arguably the most controversial current issue facing his organisation. On the other, perhaps it’s an indication that the policy is more along the lines of, “whatever we decide it is at the time”.

Ultimately, the big technology companies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are private companies, nobody is forced to use their product and their terms of service are whatever they want them to be.

If Google wants to assist the Chinese government in monitoring its citizens, that’s Google’s business decision. Likewise, if Google and Apple are happy to host apps used by Saudi men to monitor their wives and daughters, fair enough. Obviously, we can judge them accordingly.

Bill’s Opinion

Morality is a moving target over time and geography. What was considered acceptable in 1909 or even 1969 is quite different in 2019. Just ask the US politicians who are being berated for costumes and comments being unearthed in their school year books by Offence Archaeologists.

Similarly, social attitudes in Saudi Arabia differ considerably with those elsewhere in the world.

The technology companies have to navigate these border differences. As individuals we also have the added risk over time; who knows today whether an anodyne social media post this year might be regretted if re-published in twenty years’ time? It’s tricky.

The technology companies seem to simultaneously want to pretend that they are simply dumb platforms, like the postal service or telephone carriers, yet kick off those deemed to be holding incorrect opinions. With such questionable views on what constitutes ethical behaviour, these platforms might not be the best places to store one’s data or express opinions that are outside of the norm.