The Kouk; troll or fool?

One of the Australian Labor (sic) Party’s advisors on matters economic is a shy and retiring character by the name of Stephen Koukoulas, AKA “The Kouk”.

I don’t tend to waste spend much time on social media these days but, in between large meals and long walks, I came across this provocative tweet by the person who, should Bill Shorten become Australia’s next Prime Minister for the obligatory 18 month term, will be whispering sage advice to the highest office in the land;

If, like me, you aren’t a professional economist, you will be wondering why this claim simultaneously seems to make sense but also seems like it shouldn’t be correct.

We’ll explain why it’s wrong shortly, but first, let’s recall an old brain teaser that used to go around in the school playground in various versions;

Three friends decide to split the bill after a meal at a restaurant. The waiter says the bill is £30, so each guest pays £10.

“Later the waiter realises the bill should only be £25. To rectify this, he takes £5 from the amount to return to the group.

“On the way to the table, the waiter realises that he cannot divide the money equally. As the customers didn’t know the total of the revised bill, the waiter decides to just give each of the three friends £1 and keep £2 for himself.

“Each guest got £1 back: so now each guest only paid £9; bringing the total paid to £27. The waiter has £2. And £27 + £2 = £29 so, if the guests originally handed over £30, what happened to the remaining £1?

If you haven’t come across this puzzle before the explanation is here.

It’s a classic misdirection.

Which is precisely what The Kouk is doing with his tweet.

The explanation as to why his statement is incorrect can be found here in an excellent and highly-recommended free PDF of a classic and easily read lesson on economics for mere mortals such as you and I. Treat yourself to a quick education before opening the next festive bottle.

The mistake or misdirection Koukoulas is guilty of is, helpfully, described in the very first chapter. In it, Hazlitt re-explains Bastiat’s Broken Window Fallacy and the concept of “opportunity cost”.

The explanation is so precise and economic (pun intended) in its use of words that I won’t recreate it here, but hope you follow the link and see it for yourself.

Bill’s Opinion

It is almost inconceivable that a professional “economist” is not aware of this fallacy (the first in the book!).

I can think of three possible explanations; either The Kouk is playing a festive game of trolling OR he’s deliberately misdirecting his followers for some other reason OR he’s not a very competent economist.

Of course, economics is a pseudoscience anyway. For proof of this, one only need look at the history of the so-called “Nobel Prize” for the subject; it was created as an effort to lend the subject some scientific credibility.

That would be what we pay you for then, n’est pas?

The unfortunately named Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, has suggested that Britain would be less safe after a “no deal” Brexit because, well, there would be some more paperwork to complete to extradite suspects from overseas.

To be fair, that’s not quite what she said but it wasn’t far off;

Ms Dick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the UK’s policing co-operation with the EU was based on a framework of “legal instruments” which would have to be replaced after its exit.

While she hoped the two sides would end up with “something very similar”, she accepted that if the UK left without a deal, this would be “very difficult to do short term”.

Newsflash for Ms. Dick; the referendum was in 2016, you’ve had 2 years to plan for a “no deal”. You are surely not suggesting that this planning has only just commenced, or worse, hasn’t yet started, are you?

Also, please could you explain how a delay to an extradition makes the British public less safe? Thinking this through, an extradition request generally requires a crime to have been committed already so, in the case of a violent crime, the victim is already lying in a hospital bed or worse. It matters less that the perpetrator is languishing a little longer on the Costa Del Sol before facing a trial.

Bill’s Opinion

Either mature plans are already underway for the “no deal” option and Ms. Dick is deliberately scaremongering for political purposes, or plans are not in place and she and her colleagues are guilty of extreme professional negligence.

In the meantime, perhaps she could divert resources from investigating hurty tweets and towards the current knife crime crisis.

Sorry for getting caught

Remember the little spot of trouble some Australian cricketers got themselves into earlier this year?

Well, the first of the bans is coming to an end and Cameron Bancroft is doing the obligatory media interviews to rehabilitate his career.

Here’s the transcript where he chucks the pantomime villain, Diddy Davey Warner, under a bus.

There’s some cracking cognitive dissonance going on;

………I take no other responsibility but the responsibility I have on myself and my own actions, because I am not a victim – I had a choice, and I made a massive mistake. And that’s what’s in my control.

Adam Gilchrist: Who was it who asked you to do it?

Cameron Bancroft: At the time, Dave (Warner) suggested to me to carry the action out on the ball, given the situation we were in the game. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know any better because I just wanted to fit in and feel valued, really. Simple as that.

Okaaaaaay.

Being “accountable” seems important to everyone these days;

CB: I actually went in and apologised to the umpires, and I just said, look, I’m really sorry for carrying this out in the game, I’m really ashamed of the actions in itself and it won’t happen again. That’s something that I wanted to do for the game and for, the making up for the mistake – I’m not making up for it, really am I? But I am being accountable for what I did and that was exactly the most important thing for me.

And;

I think, in hindsight, the thing that I was actually proud of in that moment was the fact that Steve and I wanted to be accountable and I guess, really honest about our actions.

Except, this is awkward;

AG: Just on that, you weren’t sure how wide-ranging this was going to be, is that what led you to say in the press that it was the tape instead of (sandpaper), with a bit of dirt on it?

CB: That’s actually really interesting that, because I obviously, … I lied about it, which is the truth, but for me, the whole issue I felt got forgotten about. The issue was actually the fact that I went out with an intentional decision to tamper the ball and I felt like that was forgotten a little bit because people cared what I used on the ball more than the actual reason behind why I was using it.

Bill’s Opinion

No, Cameron, people were upset that;

1. You did it, and

2. When caught on camera, you still didn’t confess to the full crime.

The interview is a tedious bunch of psychobabble and touchy-feely bollocks, but such is a lot of Australian elite sport these days; screw up, forget about trying to be a decent human being and, after the scandal, claim redemption to save your career.

It would have been a more honest interview if he’d have simply said, “Look, I was the junior in the team and was too weak to say no and, then when I was caught, I thought I could lie about how bad it was“.

It’ll be fun to see how this plays out for Warner though. Cricket Australia should definitely let him play the Edgbaston test against England next year; 20,000 drunk Brummies are going to utterly destroy him with songs and jeering.

Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat

….except when there’s a chance you’ve made the establishment look stupid.

The couple wrongly accused of the Gatwick drone chaos have spoken out about their treatment at the hands of Sussex Police, saying they feel “completely violated”.

Paul Gait, 47, and Elaine Kirk, 54, criticised the way officers searched their home and revealed that they are receiving medical care after being arrested late on Friday evening.

Just to be clear of the order of events here;

1. Reports of a drone “buzzing” the runway and control tower of Gatport Chavwick resulted in the UK’s 2nd busiest airport being shut down for 2 days and thousands of shaven-headed, heavily-tattooed Sarf Lahdahners having their Christmas getaways disrupted.

2. Police investigated, the army were called in, more reports were received of drone activity.

3. Eventually drone reports stopped, the airport was reopened.

4. The police notified the press that two arrests had been made and, remarkably, the media managed to work out who the suspects were.

5. An army of media researchers and curious internet folk investigated everything in the public domain that the couple had ever done, including interviewing friends, family, employers and anyone else with half an opinion.

6. The couple were released without charge after 36 hours in custody which, coincidently, is the exact length of the first extension the UK police can request from a judge for serious crimes.

Bill’s Opinion

Our Legacy Media (c) have lost their moral compass, if indeed they ever had such a thing. The UK police too.

Being arrested for a crime is not the same as being convicted of a crime or even having a body of evidence suggesting you had any relationship to the crime.

Somehow, the names of the couple arrested with regards to the drone activity at the airport were discovered by the press and were published, along with an amazingly detailed level of detail about their lives.

Contrast this with the reluctance to name the “Australian entertainer” arrested on suspicion of sexual abuse some years ago.

It is a dangerous game to play when we accept the “outing” of mere suspects of a crime, particularly in this age of social media and highly-interconnectedness. Within minutes, the world knew intimate details of the couple’s lives, such as Paul’s military record and the identity of his ex-partner and their child.

Be prepared to learn of some unrelated crime or socially-disapproved aspect of their lives in the coming days and weeks. After all, in the words of Lavrentiy Beria, Stalin’s security administrator, “Show me the man and I will show you the crime“.

Finally, one doesn’t need a drone to see that every cloud has a silver lining; I flew into Gatport Chavwick two days later and, thanks to the disruption to the car hire companies’ fleets, was handed the keys to an upgraded car several levels above the one booked and paid for.

Merry Christmas!

That’s funny

Kathy Griffin has criticised the lack of women on Forbes magazine’s latest list of the world’s best-paid comedians.

The Emmy Award-winning comedian tweeted the top 10 of Forbes’ list along with the words: “No Women.”

Here’s the list;

She’s quite accurate in her observation; none of the 10 highest earning comedians in 2018 were women (or even, to comply with the modern parlance, “men with vaginas“).

The responses to her tweet were quite amusing and seem to fall into two distinct camps;

1. This is outrageous and damning proof of an oppressive patriarchy operating in the comedy industry, or

2. It’s a list of the comedians people choose to spend their own money on, the ten most competent comedians active in 2018, in other words, you unfunny and stupid woman.

Only one of those world views can be correct.

Bill’s Opinion

Comedy is a brutal job to choose. Nobody makes it to the top of the tree without learning their craft through thousands of hours of effort, failure, perseverance and continuous improvement.

During that time, your pay very closely matches your success rate at making people laugh. It’s a reasonably efficient market, in other words.

There is another interesting distinguishing factor between the comedians on the list above and many of the names suggested by the nutters in the “its duh patriarchy” camp, such as Amy Schumer, Samantha Bee, Lesley Jones, and Sarah Silverman; their recent material has deprioritised the comedic quality of their work in favour of attacking Trump supporters or men. That’s their choice but they perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that men and Trump supporters don’t choose to pay money for that type of act.

But, yes; “no funny women”, eh, Kathy;

What did the Romans ever do for us?

UOW academics, including visiting fellow Sarah Keenan who handed in her resignation, woke on Monday to news the university had signed a deal with the Ramsay Centre to establish the country’s first degree in Western Civilisation.

Under a deal signed on Friday and made public on Monday, The Ramsay Centre will pay for 10 academics to teach the three-year degree, and give 30 students a year more than $27,000 each towards their living expenses while they study.

The background to this is that part of the fortune of the late Paul Ramsay was bequeathed to setting up a course on “Western Civilisation”. It’s caused several universities more than a little heartache; on the one hand, funding for a degree course in 2019 is very welcome, particularly in the current funding climate. On the other hand, universities have gone down the rat hole of SJW lunacy and are hostage to utter nutters with the title, “Professor”, as we have seen previously.

As with all of these political minefields, the people shouting the loudest are usually the ones operating with a low resolution view of the underlying facts.

In all of the coverage of the conflicts between activist academics and the Ramsay Centre, not one column inch has been dedicated to explaining which part of the proposed curriculum they take most offence from.

To assist the readership of his organ, here is the proposed curriculum;

Shocking stuff, eh?

Personally, I’m outraged that Malthus, Marx, Engels, Rousseau and Foucault are given the oxygen of publicity on a course supposedly on the subject of “civilisation”. I assume that’s the position of the offended academics too?

Bill’s Opinion

The proposed curriculum looks like an extremely interesting and balanced course. The reading material doesn’t, Prima Facie, scream “white supremacy”, does it? In fact, it even includes the godawful 60s French nutters, which we’d all be better off forgetting, frankly.

As for those who object to the course, we only need look at what they do for a living;

Dr Keenan, who is based at the Birkbeck School of Law, resigned as a visiting fellow at the university’s Legal Intersections Research Centre  because she would not support an institution that leant its name to the Ramsay Centre.

This is the LIRC’s work;

And this is Dr. Keenan;

In fact, one need only look at that joyless face to know that anything she dislikes is probably going to be a lot of fun.

To hell with your intersectional law.

Brexit BATNA

The suggestion that Brexit negotiations are going poorly for the UK is a difficult one to refute.

By any objective measure, the “deal” Theresa May has been touting as the best possible outcome clearly doesn’t implement what the voters demanded she implement; The United Kingdom would still be subject to the majority of rules and regulations of the EU institutions but without the current ability to influence (albeit fractionally) the creation and amendment of said rules.

Negotiation is a very specific skill requiring a thoughtful strategy, access to as many relevant data points as possible and the maturity and strength of character to compromise or hold to key principles.

Many professionals earn a good living from undertaking the role of negotiator on behalf of clients; depending on the transaction one is undertaking, a lawyer, for example, is acting as your negotiator.

However, the one aspect a professional negotiator or, in the case of Brexit, a huge army of negotiators, can’t control is the competence and moral character of the “client”.

Imagine, for example, if the Prime Minister and cabinet were firmly of the opinion that the British public had chosen the correct option in the referendum and that the EU was a corrupt den of anti-democratic authoritarians who couldn’t be trusted to negotiate in good faith. The Brexit negotiations’ timeline might have looked something like this;

– 24th June 2016 – Article 50 delivered to the EU along with a telephone number printed on a business card with the words, “Your call is important to us. Please do let us know if you have an offer which you feel may be of interest to the people of the United Kingdom. Please note, this number will only be staffed between 2pm and 3pm on the first Tuesday of each month“.

– 24th June 2016 – The “Direct Debit” arrangements from all UK government bank accounts to the EU are cancelled.

– 24th June 2016 – The responsibility for the detailed planning for a move to WTO rules on 24th June 2018 is delegated to the relevant agencies and peak industry bodies. Note; delegated not micro-managed, as this is what they get paid for.

– That’s it. If the EU offered any deal that improves on WTO arrangements whilst still resulting in the UK leaving, a separate team would be tasked with reviewing and comparing it. However, work on the WTO option would continue at full speed.

That this, or a version thereof, wasn’t the approach tells us (and, more importantly, told the EU negotiation team) one crucial fact. The UK government has never had a credible BATNA. There was no palatable Plan B ready in case the EU negotiated in bad faith, nor was one even contemplated.

The EU haven’t played this particularly well, they didn’t need to, the UK negotiators were hamstrung from the start by a clear requirement from the “client” that a deal must be done at all cost…… which is the equivalent of trying to negotiate the price of an ice-cream while you have a crying child with you.

Bill’s Opinion

In years to come, Theresa May’s incompetent handling of the negotiations will be seen as a case study in what not to do.

That statement assumes, of course, that she really did intend to implement an exit from the EU, its rules, regulations and institutions.

Many observers might question that assumption.

For whom the pell tolls

There is an active press suppression order in Australia, courtesy of the Victorian courts.

A prominent Australian has been convicted of a serious crime but the press are restricted from reporting on which (in)famous Australian in staring at some time in the big house.

Australian twitter is all over this like a cheap suit, bleating on about freedom of the press and the lunacy of a court order that can be sidestepped with about 10 seconds of work on Google.

However, before all the brave Australian journalists give themselves the Woodward and Bernstien Award for bravery under fire, let’s just remind them of their previous finest hour;

First up, the Sydney Morning Herald, tagline (without a hint of irony); “Independent. Always“.

To be balanced, here’s the News Corp version of the same headline;

Once you’ve Googled the name of the Victorian kiddy-fiddler, go back and search for how your most trusted news source reported this previous case. The ABC, the commercial TV news channels, all papers, etc. were similarly taciturn on precisely which ex-pat Australian was helping British police with their enquiries.

For those of you who don’t recall this episode in the long and painful death of Australian journalism, the “entertainer” wasn’t Barry Humphries or Clive James, but Rolf Harris. There wasn’t a court order preventing the press from naming him, they were just scared.

In fact, it was only when the British tabloid, The Sun (a newspaper that the other newspapers sneer at snobbishly), broke ranks and named him that the other organisations followed suit. Even then, several of our brave members of the Fourth Estate ended up reporting on The Sun reporting his name, in a pathetic attempt to head off a court case in the event they’d screwed up in a legal way.

Bill’s Opinion

Maybe there was a time when journalists deserved our respect, trust and, in times of repression by courts and governments, sympathy.

This would not be that time.

 

 

Oh Canada

For decades, Canadians were the butt of many cruel jokes about how pathetic and effeminate their nation was, with a vague notion that they were the indolent, slightly retarded younger sibling of the successful USA, smoking weed in their underwear and playing video games whilst the older brother was pulling double shifts at work.

In 2015, Canadians thought long and hard about how to deal with this unfair criticism and came to the collective conclusion that the best plan of attack would be to elect a former ski instructor, gap year backpacker and professional trustafarian, Justin Trudeau, as their leader.

As a consequence, they’ve deservedly got legislation such as this gem;

Canadian government nationalises journalism.

Actually, that should probably read “Canadian government further nationalises journalism” as they already annually spunk half a billion Canadian dollars (about $75.43 US and a couple of Tim Horton donuts) on the CBC. One supposes an addition $120m a year isn’t going to be that noticeable, therefore.

Anyone with the mildest knowledge of history and just the slightest tendency toward cynicism will find the language used to announce this “innovation” (yes, that’s how one likely recipient of taxpayer largesse described it) has creepy echoes from a previous time;

An independent panel comprised of members of the news and journalism industry will flesh out the application of the moves announced in Wednesday’s fall economic statement. In particular, the group will decide which journalism jobs and which news organizations are eligible for the new funding.

Independently deciding who amongst them will receive free money? Yes, that sounds fine, I’m sure.

Oh, and it’s not an across the board subsidy then? Not every news outlet and journalist will benefit?

The government said the package will aim to help “trusted” news organizations, but will leave it to the media industry to define the application of the new initiatives.

Trust is a difficult thing to define, isn’t it? It’s almost easier to define the conditions where one doesn’t have it. After all, as the man said, “there’s only two men I trust in this world; I’m one and you ain’t the other one“.

Bill’s Opinion

As with so many issues facing us on a daily basis, it is a dangerous mistake to assume a single cause. The legislation has an underlying assumption that there is only one major cause to the economic decline of the traditional media sector; that digital media has broken the business model.

That may well be a major contributing factor but what hasn’t been considered is that there may be another cause of similar importance. Amusingly, there’s a clue in the press release; Canadians are no longer prepared to pay for traditional media because the speed of delivery and far wider choice of digital sources has opened their eyes to quite how biased and limited the traditional media has been. They’ve lost trust, in other words.

So now they have the worst of both worlds; Canadians are going to pay for journalism they don’t want to read……forever.

Forever?

Yes; ask yourself, under what circumstances will a Canadian government ever be able to announce a closing of this funding source once it has been embedded for a couple of years?

The independent media will wail and moan from the highest steeples and undermine any political party that so much as hints that the time has come to stop subsidising journalism that nobody reads.