Special pleaders gonna plead specially

For those not following the Australian economy (and judging by the readership statistics of this blog, that’s most of you), there’s some huge fun to be had in observing the logical knots people are currently tying for themselves.

 

The problem is that the Reserve Bank of Australia has again, not lowered interest rates. The last time the RBA moved rates was in August 2016, down from 1.75 to 1.5%.

 

I have a real job, i.e. I’m not an economist, so whether or not the RBA is taking the correct course of action is not really something I’m qualified to comment on. However, I am able to spot blatant special pleading when I see it:

 

The “Kouk is lining himself up for a job as an advisor in the next Federal government, assuming the current incumbents lose the election. This is likely to be a nice final job before his retirement. An ongoing house price crash in the two biggest cities of Australia will make this semi-retirement gig far more stressful than he’d appreciate.

 

 

The “Doc” was recently the “Chief Economist” (whatever that means; how many do they have to employ to need a chief?) at Domain, the only profitable arm of Fairfax…. until it was sold off. He was fired last year and is now pitching himself as “Chief Economist” of a company called My Property Market. The website of this esteemed company is still under construction, but I’m sure it’ll be finished soon. After all, they’ve got at least one employee now….. 

 

One imagines the Doc is personally very heavily invested in property.

One of the unusual quirks of the Australian property market is that there is a tax incentive to run your investment properties at a slight revenue loss.

There are, of course, two minor problems with this; firstly, you’re accepting an operating loss today in the hope of a capital gain tomorrow, and secondly, the tax benefit only works while you’re drawing a salary or other income at a level that attracts the higher marginal tax rates to offset the negative gearing. Amateur property investors who get fired from their regular job are clobbered with a double whammy, in other words. Ouch.

Bill’s Opinion

 

In the words of Upton Sinclair,

 

 It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

 

Baby Hubris

Let’s hope this young journo doesn’t look back on this piece with regret.

Throughout 2018, I literally had recurring dreams where I would find out I was pregnant. Part of me blames Kylie – I often watch her content before going to sleep. Stormi is ridiculously cute. Part of me also blames my 26-year-old uterus’ own increasingly vocal biological agenda.

Having a baby right now doesn’t square with my career ambitions or financial reality. And, yet, Kylie has somehow hacked my brain into thinking having my own little Stormi right now is exactly what I want.

So far so biology or another woman’s fault. But wait, surely we can blame men for something?

Oh yes:

Patriarchal societies have a vested interest in making motherhood look like the ultimate utopic end goal women should prioritise above all else. This keeps women feeling “bad” if they can’t have or don’t want kids and naturalises their role as “caregivers” in society, thus helping to keep them from accruing the same influence as men in other domains like business, law, politics and culture.

Wait, what?

You’ve just admitted that your uterus is shouting at you to have a baby but somehow that’s duh patriarchy?

Men keep you feeling “bad” for not having a baby? Do women have any agency in this decision?

Bueller? Anyone?

Bill’s Opinion

Listen, Natasha Gillezeau, if your career was so important to you that you’d put your instinctive desires to give birth on hold, one would hope that it would have paid off by now.

As it is, you’re being paid a pretty crappy salary (you are on the books, right, and not just a freelancer?) working for a company that is very much in decline even for an industry that is in decline in general.

Mr Scientist puts it more eloquently:

No Natasha, if you want a baby and you’ve found the right person to have one with, chuck the contraception away and get on with it.

Finally, the financial reason you mention, which I assume will be something along the lines of, “we’re only renting a small apartment“, is just an excuse. Kids don’t give a stuff whether you’ve got a mortgage or a rental contract.

Sequel man

Ghostbusters, Predator, The Karate Kid, a slew of new Star Wars films, Miama Vice, etc…. the 80s remakes just keep on coming.

There’s one we’ve not seen yet, but it surely must be due out soon.

Soul Man

Plot (from Wikipedia):

Mark Watson, is the pampered son of a rich family who is about to attend Harvard Law School along with his best friend Gordon. Unfortunately, his father’s neurotic psychiatrist talks his patient into having more fun for himself instead of spending money on his son. Faced with the prospect of having to pay for law school by himself, Mark decides to apply for a scholarship, but the only suitable one is for African-Americans only. He decides to cheat by using tanning pills in a larger dose than prescribed to appear as an African-American. Watson then sets out for Harvard, naïvely believing that blacks have no problems at all in American society.

However, once immersed in a black student’s life, Mark finds that people are less lenient than he imagined and more prone to see him as a black person instead of a fellow student. He meets a young African-American student named Sarah Walker, whom he first only flirts with; gradually, however, he genuinely falls in love with her. As it turns out, she was the original candidate for the scholarship which he had usurped, and now she has to work hard as a waitress to support herself and her son George while studying. Slowly, Mark begins to regret his deed, and after a chaotic day—in which Sarah, his parents (who are not aware of his double life) and his classmate Whitney, who is also his landlord’s daughter, make surprise visits at the same time—he drops the charade and openly reveals himself to be white.

Mark declares to his professor that he wishes to pay back the scholarship and do charity work to make amends for his fraud. When asked what he has learned, he says that he realizes that he could have changed back to being white at any time and so does not really know what it means to be black.

Sarah decides to give him another chance, and Mark decides to work his way through college.

Instead of simply copying the story of the movie, perhaps it’s time for a twist. As we’ve read above, the original plot device was that a pampered white kid loses access to the money he needs to get to college. To modernise it, perhaps we could switch the ethnicities and reasons for being unable to attend Harvard?

Mark Wong, is the son of a 2nd generation Asian family who, through hard work and intelligence is about to apply to attend Harvard Law School along with his best friend Gordon. Unfortunately, Harvard has limited the number of places open to his ethnicity in favour of other ethnicities, such as African Americans and Cherokees, even if they have scored lower on against the entry criteria. Faced with the prospect of having to attend an inferior law school, Mark decides to apply, but as an African-American. He decides to cheat by using tanning pills in a larger dose than prescribed to appear as an African-American. Wong then sets out for Harvard, naïvely believing that blacks have no problems at all in American society.

However, once immersed in a black student’s life, Mark finds that people are less lenient than he imagined and more prone to see him as a black person instead of a fellow student. He meets a young African-American named Sarah Walker, whom he first only flirts with; gradually, however, he genuinely falls in love with her. As it turns out, she was the original candidate for the place which he had usurped, and now she has to work in a job to support herself and her son George while studying to achieve better grades with which she intends to re-apply to Harvard. Slowly, Mark begins to regret his deed, and after a chaotic day—in which Sarah, his parents (who are not aware of his double life) and his classmate Whitney, who is also his landlord’s daughter, make surprise visits at the same time—he drops the charade and openly reveals himself to be Asian.

Mark declares to his professor that he wishes to give up his place at Harvard, attend Boondocks University and do charity work to make amends for his fraud. When asked what he has learned, he says that he realizes that he could have changed back to being Asian at any time and so does not really know what it means to be black.

Sarah decides to dox him on social media and Kathy Griffiths retweets this, resulting in a Twitter mob ruining Mark’s life. He decides to jump in front of a subway train.

Bill’s Opinion

Pure fantasy, of course. Nothing like that could ever happen in reality.

The shoe is on the other foot

When you buy a ticket for the Woke Intersectional Express, sometimes you find the train stops at unscheduled stations.

Nike upsets muslims who claim the design of a new show looks a bit like the Arabic script for Allah.

Muslims urge Nike to recall shoes with logo some say resembles word Allah

Saiqa Noreen, who created the Change.org petition demanding that the footwear and apparel brand remove the Nike Air Max 270 from store shelves, said the symbol on the bottom of the shoe “will surely be trampled, kicked and become soiled with mud or even filth.”

“It is outrageous and appalling of Nike to allow the name of God on a shoe. This is disrespectful and extremely offensive to Muslims and insulting to Islam. Islam teaches compassion, kindness and fairness towards all,” he continued.

Ok, I’m pretty sure I can find some verses of the Koran that contradict that last assertion but please do tell me more about your reasonable demands.

It urges Nike to review the rest of its product line too, and to recall any merchandise with logos that resemble the word Allah.

“We also request stricter scrutiny of products before they enter the market,” the petition read.

Who gets to decide what “resembles” means?

Some of the petition’s signatories included their personal reasons for signing — with most saying they thought the Nike design was “disrespectful” and “offensive” toward their religion, and that they are owed an apology from the sportswear giant.  

How does an apology to the believers help? It’s Allah who’s apparently been slighted, surely?

In fact if you’re a follower of Allah, recall that “Islam” means “submission” or “surrender“. It would seem a bit late in the process to be looking for apologies once you’ve agreed to submission.

Nike did not return CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment.

Strange…. one would have thought the team who came up with the Colin Kaepernick campaign would be all over this like a cheap suit, surely?

Ibrahim Hooper, director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, declined to take a position on the issue, saying that the organization is in ongoing discussions with Nike.

“It’s obvious that some people perceive it as a slight. Whether is actually is or not, that still doesn’t get rid of the perception of some people,” Hooper told CBS MoneyWatch.

In other words, “oh fucking hell, how are we ever going to convince everyone we aren’t loons and murderous psychos when idiots get upset about a squiggly line on sports shoes?

He suspects that any offense caused by Nike was inadvertent.

Ya reckon?

As opposed to what, a bunch of marketing execs sitting in a room whiteboarding ways to piss off the jihadis?

Bill’s Opinion

Compare and contrast the media response to the occasional reports of poor Catholic peasants who discover the face of Jesus on burnt toast or half an orange.

Ridicule? Pity at best, as this example illustrates.

One wonders how those brave Buzzfeed journalists battling the forces of evil are reporting this latest “Allah on a shoe” rubbish?

Well, we will keep wondering as there’s nothing on their website when one searches for the story.

Voltaire didn’t say this, an actual neo-Nazi (as opposed to just someone who didn’t vote for Hillary) did, but it’s quite pertinent nonetheless;

To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?

Westpac’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer writes…

…about banking and house prices. One wonders how that got past the Corporate Affairs twinkies.

Obviously we’re being facetious, Brian isn’t really the Head of LGBTQI123& non-TERF Advocacy (not that you’d know it to look at what he seems to spend most of his time focusing on).

No, he’s the CEO of Westpac

Which means, on balance, the article is even more worrying.

Why?

Ask yourself a question; when the CEO of the 2nd biggest bank decides to write a blog post explaining that the property market isn’t crashing, that the bank is sound and they are still open for business, does that make you feel great comfort and security?

Or, do you think to yourself, “why is he telling me this, why wouldn’t everything be fine, what does he know that I don’t?

Bill’s Opinion

The lady doth protest too much, methinks

It’s highly unlikely any of the major Australian banks are going to be in trouble any time soon. However, the prime candidate if one does hit hard times would be the one with the largest exposure to interest only investment loans and a top of the market (2007) acquisition of a competitor that they never got round to integrating and realising economies of scale….

I’ll take “things that didn’t happen” for $800, Jussie

Jussie Smollett is an actor and musician. Apparently he is famous for this and also for recently telling everyone about his sexuality.

No, I’d never heard of him either.

Shockingly, he was badly beaten at 2am on Tuesday morning in Chicago. The attackers apparently recognised him, called him a gay and racial slur, beat him, poured a chemical (possibly bleach) on him and wrapped a rope around his neck. The reports didn’t confirm which knot, if any, was used.

Side note of interest; the temperature in Chicago at the time was -14 degrees C.

There’s a breakdown of the reported facts here and a load of screen shots of the reactions of celebrities and politicians who clearly didn’t learn a lesson from the Covington Catholic School lunacy.

Bill’s Opinion

Using our patented razor, we are going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the explanation requiring the least number of assumptions to be correct, and therefore the most likely truth of the situation, is that Jussie is suffering from a mental condition that has resulted in him making the whole thing up.

Alternatively, there really are a pair of racist homophobes living in Chicago who were walking around in the early hours of a weekday morning in arctic conditions carrying bleach and a length of rope on the off-chance they recognise a famous gay black man buying a sandwich.

Let’s hope the Chicago Police investigate the hell out of this.

Golgafrincham “Ark Buzzfeed”

… “I mean, I couldn’t help noticing,” said Ford, also taking a sip, “the bodies. In the hold.”

“Bodies?” said the Captain in surprise.

Ford paused and thought to himself. Never take anything for granted, he thought. Could it be that the Captain doesn’t know he’s got fifteen million dead bodies on his ship?

The Captain was nodding cheerfully at him. He also appeared to be playing with a rubber duck.

Ford looked around. Number Two was staring at him in the mirror, but only for an instant: his eyes were constantly on the move. The first officer was just standing there holding the drinks tray and smiling benignly.

“Bodies?” said the Captain again.

Ford licked his lips.

“Yes,” he said, “All those dead telephone sanitizers and account executives, you know, down in the hold.”

The Captain stared at him. Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.

“Oh they’re not dead,” he said, “Good Lord no, no they’re frozen. They’re going to be revived.”

Ford did something he very rarely did. He blinked.

Arthur seemed to come out of a trance.

“You mean you’ve got a hold full of frozen hairdressers?” he said.

“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “Millions of them. Hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, management consultants, you name them. We’re going to colonize another planet.”

Ford wobbled very slightly.

“Exciting isn’t it?” said the Captain.

“What, with that lot?” said Arthur.

“Ah, now don’t misunderstand me,” said the Captain, “we’re just one of the ships in the Ark Fleet. We’re the ‘B’ Ark you see. Sorry, could I just ask you to run a bit more hot water for me?”

Arthur obliged, and a cascade of pink frothy water swirled around the bath. The Captain let out a sigh of pleasure.

“Thank you so much my dear fellow. Do help yourselves to more drinks of course.”

Ford tossed down his drink, took the bottle from the first officer’s tray and refilled his glass to the top.

“What,” he said, “is a ‘B’ Ark?”

“This is,” said the Captain, and swished the foamy water around joyfully with the duck.

“Yes,” said Ford, “but …”

“Well what happened you see was,” said the Captain, “our planet, the world from which we have come, was, so to speak, doomed.”

“Doomed?”

“Oh yes. So what everyone thought was, let’s pack the whole population into some giant spaceships and go and settle on another planet.”

Having told this much of his story, he settled back with a satisfied grunt.

“You mean a less doomed one?” prompted Arthur.

“What did you say dear fellow?”

“A less doomed planet. You were going to settle on.”

“Are going to settle on, yes. So it was decided to build three ships, you see, three Arks in Space, and … I’m not boring you am I?”

“No, no,” said Ford firmly, “it’s fascinating.”

“You know it’s delightful,” reflected the Captain, “to have someone else to talk to for a change.”

Number Two’s eyes darted feverishly about the room again and then settled back on the mirror, like a pair of flies briefly distracted from their favourite prey of months old meat.

“Trouble with a long journey like this,” continued the Captain,”is that you end up just talking to yourself a lot, which gets terribly boring because half the time you know what you’re going to say next.”

“Only half the time?” asked Arthur in surprise.

The Captain thought for a moment.

“Yes, about half I’d say. Anyway – where’s the soap?” He fished around and found it.

“Yes, so anyway,” he resumed, “the idea was that into the first ship, the ‘A’ ship, would go all the brilliant leaders, the scientists, the great artists, you know, all the achievers; and into the third, or ‘C’ ship, would go all the people who did the actual work, who made things and did things, and then into the `B’ ship – that’s us – would go everyone else, the middlemen you see.”

He smiled happily at them.

“And we were sent off first,” he concluded, and hummed a little bathing tune.

The little bathing tune, which had been composed for him by one of his world’s most exciting and prolific jingle writer (who was currently asleep in hold thirty-six some nine hundred yards behind them) covered what would otherwise have been an awkward moment of silence. Ford and Arthur shuffled their feet and furiously avoided each other’s eyes.

“Er …” said Arthur after a moment, “what exactly was it that was wrong with your planet then?”

“Oh, it was doomed, as I said,” said the Captain, “Apparently it was going to crash into the sun or something. Or maybe it was that the moon was going to crash into us. Something of the kind. Absolutely terrifying prospect whatever it was.”

“Oh,” said the first officer suddenly, “I thought it was that the planet was going to be invaded by a gigantic swarm of twelve foot piranha bees. Wasn’t that it?”

Number Two span around, eyes ablaze with a cold hard light that only comes with the amount of practise he was prepared to put in.

“That’s not what I was told!” he hissed, “My commanding officer told me that the entire planet was in imminent danger of being eaten by an enormous mutant star goat!”

“Oh really …” said Ford Prefect.

“Yes! A monstrous creature from the pit of hell with scything teeth ten thousand miles long, breath that would boil oceans, claws that could tear continents from their roots, a thousand eyes that burned like the sun, slavering jaws a million miles across, a monster such as you have never … never … ever …”

“And they made sure they sent you lot off first did they?” inquired Arthur.

“Oh yes,” said the Captain, “well everyone said, very nicely I thought, that it was very important for morale to feel that they would be arriving on a planet where they could be sure of a good haircut and where the phones were clean.”

“Oh yes,” agreed Ford, “I can see that would be very important. And the other ships, er … they followed on after you did they?”

For a moment the Captain did not answer. He twisted round in his bath and gazed backwards over the huge bulk of the ship towards the bright galactic centre. He squinted into the inconceivable distance.

“Ah. Well it’s funny you should say that,” he said and allowed himself a slight frown at Ford Prefect, “because curiously enough we haven’t heard a peep out of them since we left five years ago … but they must be behind us somewhere.”

He peered off into the distance again.

Ford peered with him and gave a thoughtful frown.

“Unless of course,” he said softly, “they were eaten by the goat …”

“Ah yes …” said the Captain with a slight hesitancy creeping into his voice, “the goat …” His eyes passed over the solid shapes of the instruments and computers that lined the bridge. They winked away innocently at him. He stared out at the stars, but none of them said a word. He glanced at his first and second officers, but they seemed lost in their own thoughts for a moment. He glanced at Ford Prefect who raised his eyebrows at him.

“It’s a funny thing you know,” said the Captain at last, “but now that I actually come to tell the story to someone else …”

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Bill’s Opinion

It’s still not safe to click any links on the internet, but this is a start.

Australian banks’ dichotomy

This is not a trick question, but what is the primary purpose of a retail (AKA commercial) bank?

 

Assuming it’s not been nationalised, like RBS and other 2008 basket cases, presumably the main function of a bank is to make money for its owners, i.e. the shareholders. Sure, the corporate mission statement might waffle on about helping customers through the key milestones on their life journey, blah, blah, blah, but if they don’t increase the shareholder’s value, they’re dead.

 

Australian retail banks have performed this task very well over the years. CBA’s share price and dividend history is shown below as an example, the other 3 major banks are not dissimilar;

 

 

That the dividends barely missed a beat following the minor difficulties in the banking world in 2008 is amazing. Of course, this masks a slightly inconvenient fact that they were supported by an implicit government guarantee of a bail out should one be required, allowing investors to remain calm and not rush for the exit like in other jurisdictions.

 

Gifts rarely come without an expectation of a quid pro quo, however. In the Australian case, the banks are expected to “do the right thing” by the public, by which we mean, “help the government”.

 

On the way up, when values are increasing and there’s a wealth effect to the public, or at least those exposed to the upside of property ownership, these two purposes (shareholder value and public service) are reasonably well-aligned.

On the way down, as property values decrease and regular members of the public start to experience financial pressure, the two purposes diverge. If the government of the day would like the bank CEOs to show some forbearance to those in distress or even take a haircut on the margin between borrowing and lending costs, the bank shareholders are going to suffer.

 

What might this mean in the short to medium term?

 

There’s a few factors at play currently which may provide us with an indication of how the next year or two might play out.

 

  1. The Royal Commission in to the financial sector has unearthed some unpleasantness by most major institutions. There will be ramifications for the sector in terms of increased oversight and regulation.
  2. Macroprudential restrictions on lending has resulted in a cooling of the housing market with prices down around 10% from the 2017 peak and perhaps, conservatively, 1 in 10 owner occupier mortgages being in negative equity (more, according to some sources).
  3. A likely change of government in May and the possibility of the removal of some tax breaks for new owners of investment properties.
  4. Costs of borrowing from overseas sources (currently about 60% of mortgage funding) has increased and looks likely to continue to do so, albeit mildly, during 2019.
  5. A halving of the number of foreign (by which we mean Chinese) property investors buying in Australia since the peak in 2014.

 

Predictions are notoriously difficult, especially about the future, but this combination of factors suggest that the decline in values is unlikely to halt during the next 12 months.

Whichever flavour of government is in power, and let’s face it, there’s little difference between the two parties other than one group is more competent at being corrupt than the other, won’t really matter; neither of the major parties are going to enjoy governing during a -15% or perhaps -20% property crash.

The calls to “do something, do anything” are going to become deafening.

The professional economic troll, Stephen Koukoulas, and the “Chief Economist” of My Property Market (i.e. the only employee), Dr. Andrew Wilson, are already flooding social media with pathetic begging of the Reserve Bank to cut rates.

God only knows how many more vested interests will come out of the woodwork over the coming months. 

 

Bill’s Opinion

 

Obviously, the government is going to call in the favours owed. At the very least, banks are going to have to take a hit on margins. The banking regulator, APRA, may find itself under political pressure to ease the responsible lending restrictions that have been put in place and then banks will be “encouraged” to open the spigots again. Friendly State Governments may be under pressure to reverse restrictions on overseas ownership.

 

None, some or all of this might “work”. 

 

Regardless though, shareholders of the banks are going to take one in the chops.

 

“People are annoyed….”

That a beauty treatment is being advertised with the inference that some people might need a beauty treatment to be more beautiful.

Which people?

Well, Jemeela Jamil, for a start.

No, I hadn’t heard of her before either. Apparently, she was an English radio DJ and TV presenter who moved to the USA to be a writer but, erm, carried on with her career of being easy on the eye relying on her looks instead for reasons that must be something to do with duh patriarchy.

This screen shot from her Twitter profile indicates she’s a perfectly reasonable, rational person with no mental hang-ups whatsoever:

Someone called Janey Godley piled in as well. Janey has a blue tick on Twitter, presumably because she’s that rarity, a Scottish comedian not called Billy Connelly.

A top beauty tip for Janey might be to consider not cutting her own hair in the dark as a quicker route to improved physical attractiveness rather than putting some cream on her legs.

If you make the mistake of going on a Google research fieldtrip on Janey in particular, see if you can find anything she has written or said that falls into the broad category of “comedy”. She seems most famous for wandering around in public with a piece of cardboard with the words “Tump is a cunt” in letters coloured in with a child’s felt tip pen set and posting drunken anti-Brexit rants on YouTube.

Bill’s Opinion

When advertising a product, it’s often important to identify the potential buyer’s need or desire that would be satisfied if they bought it.

In the case of beauty treatments, the inference is, if you agree you need it, you are also admitting to the possibility that your physical beauty is not currently optimal and can be improved.

In Jameela and Janey’s case however, no amount of physical improvements can change the truth that they both have repulsively ugly characters.