John McGrath’s investment advice – caveat emptor

There are just some people whose advice is best taken with an industrial-sized pinch of sodium chloride. Or, in other cases, not taken at all.

In fact, there are some investment “experts” who have a track record of giving great advice…. to themselves, but utterly disastrous advice to others.

Some examples spring to mind; Dick Fuld, Bernie Madoff, Fred Goodwin and, in Australia, John McGrath.

For those not obsessed with the Australian property market (i.e. the other 7.417bn people living in the rest of the world), you may not of heard of the financial disaster zone who is the self-styled “million dollar agent”, John McGrath, let’s quickly catch you up;

John is an estate agent (“realtor”, in North American speak) with a chain of 90+ franchise offices across the country. He started his business in 1988. There might be something significant about the year which we’ll come back to later.

In a recent opinion piece, John offers sage advice to people who might find themselves somewhat underwater with property that is worth less than they paid for it… that’ll describe anyone who bought property in most Australian cities in the last year, for example.

What is that advice then, is it nuanced for owner-occupiers, amateur investors, those nearing retirement, etc.?

Hold, don’t sell.

What, even someone close to retirement, hoping to maximise the capital available to buy an annuity and worried that they’re exposed to a falling asset?

Hold, don’t sell. I repeat; Hold, don’t sell.

Crikey (in the vernacular), that’s ballsy.

Ok, but he’s a seasoned veteran of 30 years in the industry, he knows what he’s talking about, doesn’t he? He’s seen the cycle multiple times.

What cycle?

Oh, he’s barely experience a recession or significant economic downturn in his adult life, let alone when he managed any material level of financial asset. He started work in 1988 and the last recession was 1992. He probably didn’t notice as he was still living with his parents.

Ok, so what if all he’s ever known is large percentage asset growth, he’s proven himself a canny advisor to assist others to make great investments.

Witness; the share price of his business, the imaginatively-titled McGrath Ltd. since the launch in 2015;

To paraphrase Sesame Street, “today’s chart was brought to you by the words ‘shareholder‘, ‘value‘ and ‘destruction‘”.

Perhaps the fairest thing one can say about John McGrath is that he gives very canny investing advice….. to people named John McGrath.

It’s a fool who says they know what will happen to a particular asset price. But, with a property market that seems to be desperately searching for any good news, and failing to find any, the greater fool is someone who thinks that John McGrath has a Scooby about what’s about to happen next and, if he does, he’s about to tell you the truth.

Bill’s Opinion

If you really want to become a millionaire, take 6 million dollars and invest it in whatever John McGrath tells you to.

A cynic might suggest John would like you all to not flood the market with your firesales until he’s finished the conveyancing on his.

Caveat emptor, indeed. Perhaps he ought to change his name to “the 900 thousand dollar agent, 899, 898, 897…….

Welcome to the Hotel Wagga Wagga

You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave“.

One wonders what the likelihood is of this idea being successfully implemented and being successful in its outcomes;

A Government proposal to mandate immigrants live in regional areas.

For some mysterious reason, known only to a select few people with massive intellects, new immigrants to Australia almost exclusively favour the largest cities as their first choice when selecting an area to move to.

To be more specific, the they favour the two largest cities; Melbourne and Sydney.

This causes significant headaches for politicians as they are required to ensure infrastructure and essential services are in place and planned commensurate to the likely population levels in each area.

There are other headaches to be had for those poor hard-working politicians too. Specifically, the problem that the economies of their regional constituencies are being “hollowed out” as young people increasingly vote with their feet as soon as they are able and leave their rural hometown for life in the busy metropolitan areas (no, we’re not talking about you Adelaide, sit down).

There’s a critical mass problem in regional Australia where there needs to be farmers and farm workers to grow the produce the city slickers want to eat but providing quality infrastructure services, ensuring there’s good medical and dental care, maintaining a public school system, etc. becomes increasingly expensive relative to the economies of scale that can be achieved in higher density areas.

To a certain extent, t’was always thus the world over. Australia has an additional nuance to this due to her physical size and lower density of population distributed outside the main conurbations.

Over the very long term, one can imagine the solution to Kim Stanley-Robinson’s Malthusian Fallacy will be found using technology and scientific breakthroughs to automate agricultural production reduce the reliance on humans performing traditional roles on farms.

Perhaps the problem is only a 10 to 20 year one then, after which everyone can live in in the megacity with hot and cold running soy decaf and kale smoothies on demand.

Nonetheless, there’s a bit of a problem to be solved here; the politicians don’t want to hamstring economic growth. One way to ensure the GDP figures keep rising is to increase the number of productive workers contributing to it. Put bluntly, they have to persuade the existing population to either throw away their birth control pills or accept a constant flow of immigration.

Note, the politicians aren’t offering a third or fourth option to have flat/contracting GDP growth, or economic growth built on a technological solution to productivity. The parameters of the debate are constrained within an Overton Window to “rising GDP is good, immigration is the solution to achieve this“.

Which is, of course, the the reason why the debate has turned to methods to encourage immigrants to live in places the existing population, especially the politicians, don’t want to. Our old friend expressed versus revealed preferences is at work again.

Back to our original question then, what’s the chances it’ll work?

Some categories of Australian immigration visas already mandate and enforce an element of rural living. There is a “working holiday visa” which rewards the holder to a longer duration of stay if they spend a period of their time performing seasonal work on remote farms. So there is precedent.

There’s some not insignificant differences between what is currently in place and what might be proposed however, not least of which is the demographics involved. The seasonal workers tend to be young people, often single and with no dependents. They are here for a good time not a long time.

The new immigrants who will be mandated to live in the regional areas are likely to be older, married and parents of dependent children. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, their prime concern is to going to be less focused on earning enough to spend the weekend partying on MDMA and browsing what’s on offer on Tinder but more about improving the quality of their housing, the education of their children and affording the airfare back to their country of origin every couple of years.

If the employment options, housing, schools, medical care and ability to save money are sub-optimal in Buttfucksville, Queen’sland, they are going to pack up their belongings and move to the city.

How might the government prevent this, do we think? Checkpoints on all the major roads? Random visa checks? Further requirements on employers to perform the role of Immigration Officer?

Perhaps there’s a clue in the incentives for the working holiday visa workers? Perhaps the initial visa granted is temporary and it can only be converted to permanent residence status after a defined and proven period living in the regional area? What might go wrong with that idea?

Bill’s Opinion

Mandating where immigrants live when they have made the huge personal decision to relocate countries feels like a reasonable idea but it relies on so many factors to be aligned to ensure success;

What if there are no job vacancies in the area, what if the available jobs aren’t suitable for the immigrants’ skills or don’t pay enough to make life sustainable to support their families?

What if the education options available can’t cope with the additional demands of children living in households where English isn’t spoken?

These people will, quite reasonably, claim special status and exemptions due to the government not holding up their end of the bargain.

Here’s a prediction worth noting; the Australian government’s proposals, whatever they are, will not result in a significant shift in the location immigrants live and work, ether due to gaming of the system or failure of an arm of government to plan effectively and exemptions being granted as a consequence.

But the most interesting aspect about this debate is what we are not talking about; what is the full range of solutions to the problem of falling productivity and why aren’t we being shown these, if only for the opportunity to agree that immigration is the only solution?

Open the Overton Window!

Independent. Always.

“Hedging” in gambling parlance is the mathematics around minimising the potential loss once the bookie has accepted a bet by placing a bet with a competitor for an opposite result.

It’s a useful strategy if the odds have changed against your position since accepting the bet.

The Sydney Morning Herald must be quite adept at it as it has been frontrunning a campaign against a recent State Government decision to project adverts for a horse race on the “sails” of the Sydney Opera House.

Which horse race?

The “Everest”, i.e. the very one they are showing an advert for on the front page of their website.

Bill’s Opinion

Well, we can’t accuse them of bias on this news item, which makes a nice change. Stopped clocks being correct twice a day, an’ all that.

Oh, in other news, hands up who knows how a significant portion of the funding to build the iconic concert hall was raised?

Awkward.

You sir, yes you! You are a murdering rapist!

Six women have been murdered in Australia in the last five days.

Apparently, the Australian men who aren’t currently held in custody on suspicion of committing these violent crimes are also responsible and need to engage with some uncomfortable truths.

Wait, what?

That’s right, you heard correctly; the men who don’t beat up their female partners and relatives, the ones who believe violence and murder is morally-reprehensible, share the blame.

Because…..

All these murders were reported against the backdrop of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, following historic sexual assault allegations, as the most powerful men in the world men thunder about men’s lives being ruined by women speaking about the violence men have allegedly subjected them to.

For the purposes of journalistic integrity, something writers at the Sydney Morning Herald aren’t concerned with, we’ve added the word “allegedly” in the paragraph above.

When moral equivalence can be found across a violent murder in 2018 and a 36 year old uncorroborated, evidence-free allegation of attempted sexual assault, I suppose mere details such as relativity, assessments of credibility and objective reasoning are optional and, frankly, hindering the cause.

Imagine the pain and suffering Jane Gilmore must feel when she realised the following word salad can be described with the sexist noun, “strawman“;

Imagine this: Six women are murdered by men in five days. Men all over the nation are filled with rage. They organise rapidly on social media, amplified by mainstream media reporting of their activism. Protest marches spring up in every major city in the country. Tens of thousands of men rally. They stay up for hours the night before, painting signs and placards, calling all their male friends and family so they can meet and go to the rallies together. No man is left behind. Men uncomfortable in crowds are supported by gentle friends.

Men feeling triggered and shaky are held in loving male arms, told to cry and hold on to the men who feel their pain and carry their grief. Men with a long history of activism against male violence are chosen to speak at the rallies. They share their stories. They cry for the lost women. Rage against the cruelty of lives ripped apart. Comfort each other and vow to never stop fighting until women are safe.

As the rallies end and the crowds of men slowly disperse, they separate off into small groups. Men sit together in bars, cafes and parks because they cannot bear to be alone after collectively draining all that pain and knowing there’s still so much more under the surface. Men sit with each other unable to stop their tears because they’ve been to so many rallies before and know they will have to do it again.

It probably doesn’t occur to Jane that the 99.9995% of Australian men who don’t murder anyone each year likely have other more pressing things on their minds such as caring for and loving their wives, girlfriends, children, etc. than to waste time virtue signalling to the murderers.

By the way, that percentage quoted above is based on government published statistics showing the murder rate per 100,000 people is currently around 2.2 victims per year (which is a 9% fall over the previous 20 years).

Let’s face it, Jane’s rather passive aggressive suggestion that anyone with a penis should be organising community marches to prevent murders of women somewhat misses the point that, if someone is prepared to break the most serious societal taboo of taking another person’s life, a bunch of placard-waving beardy beta males singing out of tune John Lennon songs in the town centre is going to be about as an effective form of persuasion as holding a Linda McCartney quorn burger in front of a hungry Great White Shark.

Bill’s Opinion

This is the ultimate in identity politics. This is where it leads when we attempt to treat individuals as members of a group for the purpose of effecting meaningful change.

Let’s flip the argument around somewhat and see how it sounds for other versions of the idea; a study in Arizona found that “American Indians” (is that the correct term these days?) were statistically more likely to cause fatal car crashes. Is Jane Gilmore calling for the various indigenous tribes of rural Arizona to hold candlelit vigils urging their brothers and sisters to hand in their car keys and commit to taking public transport?

Individuals are responsible for their own actions. Western civilisation works better than all previously-tried versions because it has a societal contract that group punishment based on immutable natural characteristics such as race, gender, sexuality, etc. is morally-bankrupt and, more importantly, not pragmatic or effective.

If Jane Gilmore finds this contemporary legal principle unacceptable, perhaps she might consider reverting to the more ancient “Code of Hammurabi“, where group punishments and varying levels of punishments relative to social status were mandated?

Lastly, Jane might be advised to read Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention before writing any more of this bollocks.

Describing the ends but not the means

The sheltered workshop and tax dodging former newspaper, The Guardian, ran an opinion piece about science by a writer whose entire qualification seems to be that he writes a genre of fiction with the word “science” in the category description.

Science fiction writer Kim Stanley-Robinson wants to save the planet.

Of course, the usual Malthusian Fallacy is the main theme of the opinion piece. No surprises there and the consistent formula is employed;

1. Define an unverifiable looming catastrophe,

2. Define an untestable solution,

3. As a consequence, demand resources and behavioural changes from the population.

What’s quite interesting in this article is the use of gentle language to describe what would require severely authoritarian measures to implement.

Some examples follow;

The tendency of people to move to cities, either out of desire or perceived necessity, creates a great opportunity. If we managed urbanisation properly, we could nearly remove ourselves from a considerable percentage of the the planet’s surface.

Just a mild “if we managed urbanisation” there, you might say. Of course, everything hinges on one’s definition of “managed“.

It could be said that Hugo Chavez managed the distribution of food in Venezuela, for example…..

Many villages now have populations of under a thousand, and continue to shrink as most of the young people leave. If these places were redefined (and repriced) as becoming usefully empty, there would be caretaker work for some, gamekeeper work for others, and the rest could go to the cities and get into the main swing of things.

Redefined and repriced? Sure, by whom, when, to what price and how?

If we recall, Robert Mugabe redefined and repriced the fertile farmland of Zimbabwe….

So emptying half the Earth of its humans wouldn’t have to be imposed: it’s happening anyway. It would be more a matter of managing how we made the move, and what kind of arrangement we left behind. One important factor here would be to avoid extremes and absolutes of definition and practice, and any sense of idealistic purity. We are mongrel creatures on a mongrel planet, and we have to be flexible to survive.

Quite right; people have been self-selecting and moving to urban centres since the Industrial Revolution. Urban living overtook rural living over a decade ago.

So what’s Kim’s call to action here, if we’re doing this by free will already?

Ah, he wants to lock the gate once we’ve left so it’s harder to return.

We will have to have decarbonised transport and energy production, white roofs, gardens in every empty lot, full-capture recycling, and all the rest of the technologies of sustainability we are already developing. That includes technologies we call law and justice – the system software, so to speak. Yes, justice: robust women’s rights stabilise families and population. Income adequacy and progressive taxation keep the poorest and richest from damaging the biosphere in the ways that extreme poverty or wealth do. Peace, justice, equality and the rule of law are all necessary survival strategies.

That’s quite a word salad which can perhaps be summarised as “people like me need to rewrite the law“, such as;

….because we will be safest if we can get the CO2 level in the atmosphere back down to 350 parts per million.

Says who? If I’m living in a violent urban neighbourhood in Lagos, Nigeria, I might question Kim’s assertion about precisely what actions might keep me safest.

All these working landscapes should exist alongside that so-called empty land (though really it’s only almost empty – empty of people – most of the time). Those areas will be working for us in their own way, as part of the health-giving context of any sustainable civilisation. And all the land has to be surrounded by oceans that, similarly, are left partly unfished.

Which is fine until we get around to talking about how we are planning to keep the people off the land and stop them dropping a net in the water.

All this can be done. All this needs to be done if we are to make it through the emergency centuries we face and create a civilised permaculture, something we can pass along to the future generations as a good home. There is no alternative way; there is no planet B. We have only this planet, and have to fit our species into the energy flows of its biosphere. That’s our project now. That’s the meaning of life, in case you were looking for a meaning.

There is no alternative way? Is that like, “the science is settled“?

Bill’s Opinion

Comparing expressed preferences with revealed preferences is always an interesting exercise.

Kim Stanley-Robinson is urging us to move to large conurbations and then for armed police (no really, how else is he proposing we enforce it?) to close the gates to the newly-vacant countryside.

Out of curiosity, Kimbo, where’s your primary residence? Where exactly is Chez Stanley-Robinson?

The high-density sprawling metropolis of Davis California (pop. 65,622).

Just to illustrate the hypocrisy, this is the satellite view of Davis;

With a strong right arm, one could probably throw a frisbee the entire length of the town in one shot. Although, it sounds like the sort of place where Ultimate Frisbee has no social shame so there’s a good chance it might be intercepted.

In Kim’s own words, from his wiki page (emphasis mine);

Politically, Robinson describes himself as a democratic socialist, going on to say that libertarianism has never “[made] any sense to me, nor sounds attractive as a principle.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Peter Hannam is either mendacious or stupid

Peter “weather equals climate” Hannam has been fighting the good fight with more intensity recently, with many words written bemoaning Trump’s disdain for the Paris Agreement, despite it making no logical sense to anyone who cares to examine the facts.

One of his recent pieces of work is interesting;

Australia’s driest September on record“?

That’s quite a claim and it would certainly indicate a major problem with the environment if true.

Firstly, let’s just mention that nature doesn’t really have a concept of what a “September” is. No, really it doesn’t; think about it for a moment.

Let’s have a look at Peter’s opinion piece kwality jernalism and see if we can find the factual basis for that headline;

Australia has notched its driest September on record, with less than a third of the usual rainfall for the month, extending the dry spell that has farmers and firefighters increasingly desperate for rain.

Yes, you’ve said that in the headline already (but thanks for confirming it wasn’t an editorial decision to make up a headline). What’s the data source?

Victoria posted its second driest September, also collecting just a third of its typical September rain.

Ok, so a large portion of the country was dry but not as dry as it has been before. That’s not supporting the headline though, is it?

Also, as with a “September“, Mother Nature doesn’t really understand the concept of “the Australian State of Victoria“.

NSW also had another dry month, with less than half the normal rain, bringing the state’s year-to-date tally lower than any year but 1902 and 1965, according to Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Nope, still not hearing any data supporting the “driest ever” claim.

“Below average rainfall covered almost the entire country” last month, Dr Trewin said, adding that it pipped 1957 as the driest September, and trailed only April 1902 as the driest for any month.

Still not “driest ever” though, is it?

Melbourne posted its fifth-driest September on record, with no days recording more than 5 millimetres of rain – only the second time that’s happened for that month in records going back to 1855.

Yawn. There’s a pattern emerging here, dry but not “driest ever“.

Sydney’s rainfall was less extreme, coming in about one-quarter below average.

Snore.

A lack of rain has been a standout feature of much of eastern Australia this year, drying out soils and forests. All of NSW has been declared in drought, while the fire season has started early and is forecast to be an active one.

For the rest of the year, the bureau’s outlook suggests odds particularly favour drier than average conditions in Victoria, southern South Australia and Tasmania.

Still not “driest ever” though?

“The signal in the outlook [for October to December] that’s really strong is warmth,” Dr Trewin said, noting that almost all of the country has an 80 per cent chance of warmer than usual maximum and minimum temperatures.

For September, daytime temperatures were 1.41 degrees above the average for the 1961-90 period.

The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s food bowl, had its driest January-September since 1902 – the end of the Federation Drought – Dr Trewin said.

Warm but not “driest ever“?

And then, almost as if these things are driven by some kind of natural cycle, the dry weather is replaced by, erm, wet weather;

Note the tagline for Cassandra’s article; “Weather“.

Peter, however, is the real Cassandra in the Greek sense with his default; “Extreme Weather“.

Bill’s Opinion

In addition to Occam’s Razor, there is another shaving device that is useful when analysing people’s public statements and acts; Hanlon’s Razor.

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

As much as we would like to use this principle with Peter Hannam, he makes it bloody hard to not draw the conclusion that he is acting in bad faith.

He is a veteran journalist who will have been taught the wisdom of concise, factual writing, critical thinking and use of source data.

So why, therefore, does the headline and opening paragraph make a claim that is not substantiated anywhere within the body of the article?

We suggest one of the following explanations for this discrepancy;

  1. After all these years to hone his craft, Peter made a genuine mistake, forgetting to add the all-important sentence or paragraph that would have corroborated his claim.
  2. Peter is incompetent and has been languishing in the role of serious journalist for several years without being in possession of the requisite skills and experience to perform the role.
  3. He knew that there was no supporting evidence for the claim of “driest ever” but went ahead with the assertion, both as a headline and in the body of the article.

Our suggestion is that, based on his extensive public record of writing, (3) is the most likely explanation.

If you accept this explanation that Peter is deliberately trying to deceive the reader, we perhaps should ask ourselves, why?

Actually, perhaps we should ask Peter that?

Hi Peter Hannam, are you a fool or a knave and, if the latter, to what purpose?

If someone on Twitter could ask him, we would be most grateful – @p_hannam
In the meantime, let’s just remind ourselves of Mencken’s quote;

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.

Checkmate by the patriarchy

Yifan Hou is the 87th ranked chess player in the world.

What is the difference between Yifan and the 86 chess players higher up the ranking?

Yifan is female.

If ever there was an illustration of the pernicious and mendacious nature of the patriarchy, this must be it.

Where is the diversity in the world of chess? What on earth is FIDE planning to do about this egregious imbalance between the genders? A disparity as shocking as this makes the gender pay gap pale into insignificance.

Bill’s Opinion

The next time you hear a discussion about the patriarchy, gender pay gaps or gender bias, ask the protagonist for their opinion on the fact that the highest ranking female chess player is languishing down in the 80s on the world ranking.

Ask them, for example, whether this is explained by one or several of the following possible reasons;

  1. The rules of chess are, in some way not yet obvious, biased towards men or against women,
  2. Parents and teachers are deliberately or unconsciously dissuading girls from taking up the board game,
  3. Girls are put off by the masculine and aggressive toxic male culture surrounding an ancient board game consisting of moving 32 pieces around a grid.
  4. The male and female brain differs slightly such that, at the extreme ends of the statistical distribution, an obvious divergence occurs.
  5. Another reason which you haven’t yet thought of but would be very open to hearing about.

Reason 4 seems the most likely contributor to the objective and observable fact that, at the elite level, the best chess players are men.

Could Yifan finish you or I off in half a dozen moves on a chess board? Without a doubt.

Could she beat the number one ranked man? Not a chance.

In other news, the vast majority of prisoners convicted of violent crime are men as are most firefighters. That’s probably something to do with duh patriarchy too, no doubt.

Clementine Ford’s son replies

The gift that keeps on giving, Clementine Ford, wrote a letter to her son.

Given that this organ has significantly more experience of being raised and raising male children, we’ve taken the liberty to reply on behalf of the young lad;

To my darling boy

Did you just assume my gender just because I have a penis????

Seriously though, thanks for noticing.

The first thing you need to know is that I love you. My love for you is a constantly evolving creature. It has made its home in my heart, but it travels through every part of my body finding new places to set down roots. Every night, I think to myself that it’s impossible for me to love you anymore than I already do; that my body is so full of love for you that it simply can’t fit a shred more in. And every morning I wake up and realise that, just like you, it’s grown just a little bit more in the dark.

I love you too, Mum. Can I have a Nerf gun for my birthday please?

At first, I didn’t know how to have a boy. I know how cruel the world can be to girls, and that this cruelty in turn affects the boys who don’t conform to what it is people expect them to be. I knew that no matter what kind of boy you turned out to be (if indeed you turned out to be a boy at all),

I’m sorry, what does “if indeed you turned out to be a boy at all” mean? And can I have a Nerf gun? One of those with the red light sights would be great.

it wasn’t guaranteed you would be treated kindly for it. To be girlish as a boy is to be deficient in some way. To do things ‘like a girl’ is to be embarrassingly lacking in skills and ability, a shameful waste of all the promise your masculinity is supposed to deliver on. The boys perceived to be ‘too feminine’ by a society terrified of what soft, gentle masculinity might mean are frequently subjected to the twin tyrannies of homophobia and misogyny. We will always provide shelter for you from other people’s fear and bigotry, but not every boy is so lucky.

What’s a “homophobia” or a “misogyny”? Is it like the Zombie Blaster that Jaxson at Pre-School got for his birthday? That’s a cool gun.

You’re only little now, and you probably think I have the answers to everything. But by the time you read this, you’ll be old enough to realise that I’m just as confused about life as you are.

Is that why you visit “Auntie” Jane and what you talk about at her clinic every Wednesday?

I can only tell you what I’ve learned along the way. Here’s what I know.

Your kindness and empathy are valuable. You have both of these things in spades, and you must hold on to them. If you trust what they tell you, they’ll help you to make the right choices.

Mum, I’m two years old. How on earth at this stage can you know how much empathy and kindness I’m going to have?

If I do prove you right though, can I have that Nerf gun?

Power is not gained by taking something from another person. Don’t use women as a way to reckon with your own feelings of inadequacy or anger. We are not the conduits for male pain.

Why would I feel inadequate or pain (other than because all my mates have Nerf guns and I don’t)? Who said I was going do that to women, why would you assume it’s an option, aren’t you going to bring me up to be a nice boy?

Violence is not the way to solve your problems. You’ll meet people along the way who think it’s normal for boys to scrap with each other, to use their fists to settle disagreements and try to come out the winner. These people are wrong. Violence is ugly and brutal, and you are neither of these things.

Jaxson punched me at pre-school last week because I took his pencil. I punched him back. What should I have done instead, Mum?

We all need to be held sometimes. Homophobia is such a destructive force in men’s life. It teaches you to avoid each other’s touch and to shield yourselves from platonic male affection. It’s okay to hug another man. It’s okay to cry in front of each other. It’s okay to say you love each other. Be stronger than the message that tells you sharing basic human emotions with another man makes you somehow less of one.

What’s a “homophobia”?

Respect women. Unless we succeed in radically changing the world in the next twenty years, understand that women have legitimate reasons to be afraid of you sometimes. This isn’t a reflection on your behaviour (I hope) but a response to the realities of the world they live in. Instead of getting upset about how it makes you feel, work with them to help make it different.

Seek intimacy. Sex should be a conversation between consenting adults. You are not owed anything by anybody. Recognise that there is infinite pleasure to be had in making sure your partner or partners are enjoying themselves, and exploring your mutual desires together. They can say no at any stage. So can you.

Why are you assuming my default position is that rape is ok? 99.9% of men don’t rape women, why do you, my mother, think I would be one of the 0.1%?

If I’m not a rapist, can I have a Nerf gun now?

Embrace sensitivity. Don’t let a world that’s frightened of soft men succeed in breaking you. We have too many broken men. We need men like you, men whose strength comes from being gentle. Have faith in this.

Cool.

Jaxson has invited me to a play date at his house. If the weather is good we will play Nerf guns in the garden otherwise his older brother will let us play Call of Duty on the Xbox.

Can I go please?

Remember, your life is no more valuable than anyone else’s. But you can live in a way that brings value to everybody.

These are the things I’m trying to teach you.

Ok Mum. Oh look, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles is on TV.

I want this world to be different for you. I want you to have more choices about the kind of boy you want to be. Boys will be boys, but we have so far collectively failed to let you all be anything other than the most rigid, damaging and reductive form of boy that we possibly can. What if we tried to do things differently?

I don’t understand. What are you asking me to do?

Boys will be sensitive. Boys will be soft. Boys will be kind. Boys will be gentle. Boys will respect girls. Boys will be accountable for their actions. Boys will be expressive. Boys will be loving. Boys will be nurturing.

Who says I have to be all of those things?

What if I’m not?

Boys will be different from everything the world has so far told them they have to be in order to be a man.

Okaaaaay. Is there a manual I can read? Oh, please don’t point to those boxes of unsold copies of your book that we’re using as a coffee table.

To my darling son, my light and my life. I will not be the one who hands you the knife and shows you how to carve out the parts of yourself that don’t fit. To the sons of my friends, to my nephews. To the boys who want butterflies painted on their cheeks, the boys who twirl in dresses and the boys who always pick the sparkly shoes: we can do this together.

I didn’t ask you for any of these things. I just want a Nerf gun. Oh, and can I play rugby league with Jaxson next season?

Are you ready?

For a Nerf gun fight? Hell yeah!

Bill’s Opinion

The extreme left, the Cultural Marxists, do very little other than project, don’t they?

Is there any chance someone could call Social Services and get them to initiate an intervention in that poor boy’s life?

Freedom 2018

Freedom House, an “independent watchdog” has released a study which listed the most free countries in the world.

At least that’s the claim. Others might suggest the report proves something very different. For example, one possible conclusion that could be drawn from the report is that the authors are suffering from deep psychological issues of self-loathing perhaps bordering on Stockholm Syndrome.

Why?

Because the report claims the USA has slipped significantly in the levels of freedom available to its citizens.

Has it? What’s happened in the last 12 months?

Oh, President Trump said some mean words and passed Executive Orders halting immigration from countries with poor anti-terrorism vetting procedures;

The president has also lambasted and threatened the media—including sharp jabs at individual journalists—for challenging his routinely false statements, spoken disdainfully of judges who blocked his decisions, and attacked the professional staff of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. He signals contempt for Muslims and Latin American immigrants and singles out some African Americans for vitriolic criticism. He pardoned a sheriff convicted of ignoring federal court orders to halt racially discriminatory policies and issued an executive order restricting travel to the United States from a group of Muslim-majority countries after making a campaign promise to ban all foreign Muslims from the United States.

Ok, we get that “more than 130 in-house and external analysts and advisers from academia, think tanks, and human rights institutions” didn’t vote Republican in 2016 but has the USA really slipped back to the days of King John’s authoritarian rule?

If only there was an independent data set that showed what the population of the world thought and the subsequent individual choices they were making?

We’ll have to wait for an update to this survey but what’s the likelihood that the results have changed significantly in a year?

By the way, if you look closely, you’ll see Vilfredo Pareto’s observation proven correct again.

Bill’s Opinion

Is there any area of academia and the media in 2018 not tainted with confirmation bias?

The fact that Trump is President and tweets mean things about your friends is not the same thing as a South American dictatorship “disappearing” political opponents and beating the soles of their feet with electrical cable in the basement of the Secret Police building or Putin’s supporters killing journalists.

It just isn’t. Grow up.

Pax Kiwi

The Gladiator bloke did much to perpetuate the cross-Tasman rivalry this week by suggesting that Australia and New Zealand should unite as a single country under the leadership of Jacinda Ahern, the Kiwi version of Justin Trudeau, except without testosterone (but I repeat myself);

At first blush, this looks like another case of an uniformed lefty Luvvie (again, I repeat myself) projecting their utopian world view on a reality that is incompatible.

But wait, there might be something in this combined Australasian Über Country…..

A casual reading of the Australian Constitution reveals the following clauses;

Australian Constitution, section 6: Definitions;

The Commonwealth shall mean the Commonwealth of Australia as established under this Act.

The States shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called a State.

Curious. So, according to the Australian Constitution, New Zealand is already defined as a State of Australia.

Really? How do the Kiwis feel about this?

More importantly, what does it mean and what relevant precedents are there?

Well…. Western Australia was not an original member of the Commonwealth, joining 3 weeks after Federation following a state-wide referendum. Interestingly, the time lag between the west and east of Australia has since grown, with Perth now preparing fireworks to celebrate seeing in the Millennium next December 31st.

Interestingly, from my research, it would seem the process for WA to join the rest of Australia was a referendum; by voting “Yes”, the State was granted automatic membership in the newly-federated country. If any students of history can confirm this, I’d be grateful, but it would seem the national parliament didn’t have a subsequent vote to confirm/reject the application.

This has a significant implications for the citizens of New Zealand….

Bill’s Opinion

If New Zealand were to hold a referendum and the majority of Kiwis vote to join Australia, there isn’t a damn thing the Aussies can do to prevent them from joining the federation.

Why would they do this?

Let’s answer that question with another question; hey Kiwis, how would you like a heated pool in your backyards, a speedboat and a new German SUV….. and get the Aussies to pay for them?

Clauses 105 and 105a allow for the Commonwealth to take over States’ debts. So, rack up the credit cards, hold a vote and then ask the neighbours to pay the bill.

Lastly, Clause 25 is, erm, interesting….