Reagan, journalists and weed

This is Ronald Reagan’s quip on the attitude governments have to business;

If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

With this axiom, we can be certain the end has come for the once never noble profession of journalism.

Philanthropist Judith Neilson to fund a $100m institute for journalism in Sydney. Note the irony of the Gruaniad having to get the begging bowl out at the bottom of that article.

She’s a billionaire, so $100m is just the loose change down the back of the sofa, but seriously? $100m to train people in a job that produces a product nobody trusts and therefore doesn’t want to pay for any more? This is surely the epitome of the concept of “having more money than sense”.

At least the money being pissed up the wall is her own. Over in Canadia, the country that used to be home to people who were tough enough to thrive in a climate even polar bears find depressing but is now the world’s epicentre of thumb-sucking social justice, the government of Justin Trudeau have spunked $600m to help their preferred news outlets to survive a little longer.

The temptation with these two stories of insanity is to point to industries that don’t need subsidies to survive but, when one starts to look for them, they are very thin on the ground.

Here in Australia, through combinations of direct financial subsidies, tax breaks or artificially high barriers to entry, one could make the case that almost every industry sector benefits from government largesse. Examples that would immediately appear on a Google search would include banking, (the late) car manufacturers, mining, fossil fuel energy, green energy, farming (try buying an imported banana), real estate, electronics retail, childcare, taxis and even national sports.

Probably the only sectors not benefiting from welfare for business are the illegal ones. Coincidentally, the price of marijuana has not increased with CPI and, in fact, has fallen.

Bill’s Opinion

Nobody wants any more journalists. If rich individuals want to waste their money subsidising journalism, so be it, but keep your damn hand out of my wallet.

Oh, and I’m out of Rizlas.

I identify as ethnically grumpy

Australia has a new Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt. It is being widely reported that Ken is the first minister in this role with an Aboriginal heritage which, to be fair, is somewhat surprising given that the role has existed since 1968.

Regardless of whatever political persuasion you gravitate to, the fact that neither the left or the faux right have been able to find someone from that community to make decisions on behalf of them is not a great look, is it? Just to pick on one previous Prime Minister (but the same goes for all the others), Kevin Rudd could tearfully say sorry for something he wasn’t responsible for that happened before he was born but he couldn’t find an Aboriginal to be Minister for Aboriginals?

Little wonder why people are cynical about the motivation of politicians….

Back to Ken, though. Let’s be gauche and point out the obvious; he doesn’t look very Aboriginal.

That statement is not offered in bad faith, but as a lead to a discussion about what ethnicity means and whether it does or perhaps should have any place in decisions about the allocation of employment, particularly those that wield power?

What exactly does it mean to be Aboriginal in Australia in 2019? How is it defined? What difference does it make?

There are three components to the official government definition of who is considered to be Aboriginal;

  1. A person who has Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent; who also
  2. Identifies as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person; and
  3. Is accepted as such by the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community in which they live (or come from).

#3 seems to be the most critical of these; if you can show other “official” Aboriginal people agree you are one of them, you’re one of them. Cynically, this might be considered as somewhat analogous to the Medieval Relic Trade, where a nail from the True Cross could be rubbed on a brand new nail and, lo! the new nail was imbued with the magical qualities of the original.

Yes, I know, I’m sure nobody is deliberately defrauding the public purse with false claims of ethnicity in Australia, I’m just saying the possibility of mendacity is there if someone was so motivated…..

But ethnicity is a funny concept, isn’t it? I have a friend, let’s call him Rupert, who was born to two sub-Saharan African parents. His skin tone is extremely dark and has the facial features one would expect from someone with a long heritage of ancestors from, say, Kenya. Rupert was privately-educated in very expensive schools in England, and consequently speaks and has mannerism like Hugh Grant. If you spoke to him on the telephone, you wouldn’t correctly guess his ethnicity. Culturally, he’s about as English as it gets. We’ve spent many pleasant afternoons together drinking beer watching sports matches at Twickenham and Lords. So, can he really claim to be African?

Similarly, in addition to his Aboriginal ancestors, Ken Wyatt has ancestors from England, Ireland and India. That’s a lot of non-Aboriginal genes.

It’s entirely possible that there are more people alive who are officially recognised as Aboriginal in Australia today than there were when Captain Cook arrived. The British “genocide” of the indigenous people was, frankly, bloody incompetent by that metric.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s great that, finally after 50 years, someone from the Aboriginal community is now in the office responsible for making decisions on their behalf.

It does raise some questions about whether or not we really need people to be selected for jobs simply because of inherent factors like gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. Of those, ethnicity seems the most difficult to define at the margins.

We risk dividing people along lines that are subjective to the point of farce if we take this approach much further along its current course.

Personally, I have no issue with Ken’s “identification” as Aboriginal (and I’m sure he’s going to sleep more easily tonight with the knowledge of my approval); he grew up in an institutional home for Aboriginal children so, even if he was 100% ethnic Faroe Islander, he’ll have a better understanding of Aboriginal issues than most other candidates for his current job.

However, here’s an idea; why not remove the position of Minister for Indigenous People completely, and, while we’re at it, repeal any laws that legislate differently for different ethnicities (of which, there are a few). Finally, enforce existing laws equally; if you physically abuse a child in a remote community, the investigation, trial and punishment should be no different to the same offence committed in a metropolitan area and regardless of “ethnicity” and “culture”.

Ring the bells that still can ring

….forget your perfect offering,

There is a crack, a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.

To borrow an over-used adjective from the good Doctor Wilson (he’s a doctor of property! No, really!), predictably, the various completely unbiased non-vested interests have called the bottom of the Sydney housing price crash.

Everywhere one looks there are gushing articles about the green shoots of recovery in the clearance (successfully sold) rate at auctions, or the simply wonderful news that the Reserve Bank of Australia, RBA, is so bullish about the economy that they may consider lowering interest rates from the current historical lows and now the sniff of a suggestion of a hint that the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, APRA, may ease the current safety checks on lenders that ensure loans can still be repaid if rates were to rise to above 7%.

In the words of Winston Wolfe, “let’s not go sucking each other’s dicks just yet, boys“. Let’s have a sober look at the facts, shall we?

Auctions – sure, the published rate is creeping above 50% but look at the volumes; half of the previous year. Also, the auction clearance data is about the most easily-manipulated and therefore least believable of all housing data points in Australia.

 The RBA – haven’t actually lowered rates yet and anyway, if they did lower the cost of borrowing, does that signify confidence in the economic trend or perhaps the opposite? Also, how much of these banks’ mortgage funding is procured at domestic rates versus the (rising) international rate? Anyone? Bueller?

APRA – haven’t changed their policy yet. They simply are considering it.

Bill’s Opinion

Sentiment is difficult to measure. In fact, given that most of the data points for sentiment are likely to be heavily skewed by the vested interests of those reporting them, I’d suggest completely avoiding any newspaper or similar media commentary.

In this internet age, we can become our own data analysts with very little effort. Transactions such as lending volumes (a lead indicator) and house prices relative to previous levels (a lag indicator) are published frequently and have methodologies we can apply a reasonable level of trust to.

These two metrics are about as solid and tangible as we need to determine when that mythical beast, the market top or bottom has arrived.

What, therefore, is our updated “Are we there yet, Mum” index telling us this month?

Hmmm.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Update;

This just popped up on my Creepbook for Business timeline, just to prove my point;

Thanks Elvis, is that financial advice you’re offering?

Man made pollution

Peter “weather is climate” Hannan is back on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald with the shocking news that Sydney is enveloped in smoke this week.

The smoke is a result of preventative burning by the State Government department responsible for managing the risk of dangerous bush fires. It’s an annual occurrence everyone who’s lived there is completely used to.

Consider then, the headline and stub offered; 

Yes, technically a deliberately-lit fire in the bush is a bushfire, but it’s not the same as an out of control, random event destroying lives and property. As for the ambient temperature in Sydney right now…. near-record warmth isn’t the most persuasive language that could be employed, is it Mr. Hannan?

Apparently, Peter Hannan was nearly an Olympic sprinter, nearly a more successful rock musician than Keith Richards and nearly a respected journalist writing about science.

There’s more language obfuscation fun to be had in his column, as is his idiom; 

Almost eight degrees above the May average. Students of statistics might wish to comment on what, if any, conclusions can be drawn from the information that a data point is higher or lower than the average of a range of data points (clue: the only conclusion that can be drawn is that you need to see more contextual data about the data range and standard deviations before you can draw a conclusion).

It was also the second warmest day this late in year season (sic) on record for Sydney, exceeded only by the 28 degree reading on May, 225, 1994.

We could read that as good news, couldn’t we? In 25 years, we’ve still not beaten the highest recorded temperature. Trend much?

Bill’s Opinion

Back burning is a good idea if you’d like people to not die from bush fires (most of which are deliberately set by arsonists or accidents, by the way, somewhat ruining Peter’s usual assertion that climate change causes bush fires).

Warm weather that doesn’t break records isn’t news.

Stop playing truant, Greta fucking Thunberg.

From clogs to clogs is three generations

The title is a saying common in the north of England.

It refers to the phenomenon of generationally-wasted family wealth, i.e. the grandparent builds a successful business, their children manage it reasonably well, the grandchildren blow the fortune.

Consider this, then:

Tesco are launching a “no touch” packaging product range of ready-diced meat to tip into a saucepan because….

…..shoppers, particularly younger ones, were “quite scared of touching raw meat

What does this have to do with clogs and apocryphal stories of indolence and profligacy in the third generation?

Well, perhaps wealth can be considered as not merely financial. A tradition where self-sufficiency, fortitude and stoicism are seen as virtues might be viewed as inherited wealth.

The current crop of squeamish and picky eaters are deserving of extreme and frequent ridicule. It would be almost admirable if they actually had the stubborn discipline and bloody-mindedness to maintain a vegan diet and lifestyle but to resort to “no touch” pre-diced meat is the epitome of pathetic.

At a similar age, their grandparents and great-grandparents were taking the beaches of Normandy, suffering the privations of Ypres, sweeping up the post-Blitz rubble in London and making armaments in factories in the Midlands.

Bill’s Opinion

The title The Greatest Generation has already been taken, unfortunately.

Perhaps this lot will settle for The Coddled Generation?

Better suggestions in the comments, please.

A voter exercises their democratic right

…. to vote for the thing we voted for 35 months ago yet still haven’t fucking received.

Why not UKIP? Because the Brexit Party has momentum and no policies other than a WTO terms exit from the EU.

The message offered by a vote for that party should not be interpreted as a “low information vote” or for “we must do a deal at all costs” but an unequivocal, “just leave“.

Just do your damn job, politicians, or move aside and let someone take over who is able and prepared to.

Bill’s Opinion

Democracy is an exercise in mass self-delusion.

The moment those in power make the mistake of allowing us to see behind the curtain, they have put themselves in grave danger.

Et tu, Tony?

It’s quite amazing this took so long:

It’s an utter non-story. Don’t take my word for it though, follow the link and judge for yourself.

What’s important is that the #MeToo movement is coming after Tony Robbins. Whether they are successful or not will be instructive, mainly because there were so many reasons to have taken Robbins down in the past, if this one is his nemesis, we now know where the power sits.

Let’s face it, the man has made an absolute fortune selling evangelical Christianity without the Christianity part. We’ve all met someone who’s got the religion at one of his $8,000 conferences and tried to make some massive change in their life… and usually failed.

He’s a snake oil salesman and has been for decades. If he was untouchable all that time but is taken down by an old video with few off-colour comments at a paid for conference, that’s very instructive.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not clear what Robbins has done to become the next target. If you think the controversy is about the comments on the video, you’re being somewhat naive.

First they came for, ah fuck it.

Political handbrakes

Australia held a Federal election yesterday. They do this every couple of years and also change Prime Minister about halfway through each term, for reasons nobody really remembers. Perhaps this is rather like how the winter and summer Olympics are held 2 years apart to keep everyone interested?

Like many “new” countries, Australia has a written constitution. When one speaks with Australians, they claim theirs is quite analogous and heavily-based upon the USA constitution.

This claim is accurate only to the point that there are States (but also “Territories” which differ to a “State” somehow) that can write local legislation and the Federal government that can write national legislation.

The similarities come to a rather screeching halt there.

The USA Constitution is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most beautiful pieces of written text in the history of the English language, staking the primary claim that the rights of the individual are paramount.

It’s a work of philosophy first, a declaration of nationhood second. It has stood the test of time and is still the envy of everywhere and everyone else in the world. If you are in any doubt about that, Google the statistics on where potential immigrants would prefer to relocate to and from. The jihadi supporters might shout “Death to the USA!” in the streets of Gaza but they individually change their tune the moment there’s a hint of a Green Card being granted.

Interestingly, Liberia was founded on an almost direct copy of the USA constitution, perhaps demonstrating that national, cultural and ethnic differences might be slightly more important and harder to assimilate than the cultural marxists would like to believe.

One of the wonderful consequences of the American system of maintaining separate Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches acting as checks and balances on each other is the constant drag on making radical changes to anything of importance; a “Hitlarian” populist character simply can’t enter the Whitehouse and start jailing his or her enemies. So, despite what the increasingly insane left would like to think about Trump’s motivations, he’d be hamstrung even if he was maliciously-minded.

Let’s just repeat that in another way, for the simple-minded folk who have let their hatred of Trump cloud their judgement; either Trump is Hitler/Maduro/Erdogan/Jong-Un and wants to jail dissenting voices but the system stops him, or he isn’t actually a malicious person after all.

Either way, brilliant news for Americans and the rest of the world!

If you accept that the system prevents dictatorships, consider that this is a design feature, not a bug, of the American system.

No such designed constitutional devices exist in Australia. The constitution is, in effect, the result of a few months of horse trading and pork barrelling by the rich and powerful at the turn of the last century. There’s even a clause in there explicitly allowing laws to be passed discriminating against racial groups, despite there being no legal definition of what a “race” is in English Common Law. Oh, and there’s the classic “New Zealand can become Australia if they ask nicely” clause.

Did you hear that, Jacinda? You could get those gnashers finally fixed up on Medicare. It’s a shame Uncle Helen Clark didn’t realise that, eh?

However, Australians are a canny bunch. They don’t need a high fallutin’ philosophically-based document to define their nation. They can find more practical ways to slow shit down.

This latest Federal election is a fantastic example of this phenomenon.

Spoiler alert; the incumbent party, the Liberal/National Coalition (ie a left wing party but not the extreme left wing party) won but without a workable majority. The amusing part is that the Labor Party (yes, they deliberately use the American, not Australian, spelling for some bizarre reason) were supposed to win in a landslide.

Turns out people lied to the pollsters. Now where have we seen that before?

This is now the 3rd minority Australian government since 2010 and is likely to remain so for the next three years. At which point, 8 out of 11 years will be under zombie governments.

Why has Australia suddenly started to emulate Italy?

My hypothesis is this is due to a combination of two almost uniquely Australian factors:

1. Compulsory voting. Everyone, even the completely politically disengaged, have to turn up to the local school on a Saturday and write on a form. Many people, me included, resent this forced “right” and either spoil their votes or decide to not vote for the major parties.

2. “Preferences”. If your preferred first choice doesn’t win an outright victory and has no chance of being elected, your vote is recycled to the political party your candidate has nominated. You have no say in this. Democratic?

The experienced consequence has been that the system has incentivised a proliferation of micro-sized single issue parties, usually staffed with people with zero political experience and often little useful experience of anything much at all. QV The Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

Bill’s Opinion

Great! By a complete accident, Australian has landed on a system that makes large scale radical change highly unlikely.

Given that the economy is showing signs of slowing, it’s possible that Australia might recover more quickly than if a “strong” government were in power with a sizeable majority and an instinct to meddle (politicians of all persuasions seem to have this in their DNA).

Why?

The 1920/21 Depression offers a clue.

Bill Pulver’s letter to Raelene Castle – exclusive

(from an anonymous source in the ARU)

Dear Raelene,

Kia-Sportage bro, as you and Jacinda say in the vernacular.

I hope you’re having fun in the not so new gig and the daily drive out to Olympic Park isn’t too tiresome. Strewth, it is truly a godawful place to have to work from, thank goodness the Wobblies only play there once or twice a year. I can understand why the fans prefer to stay at home and watch it on their sofas. Well, that and the fact that they can do something else with their time in the second half of the match, once the result has been decided.

Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to drop you a quick note to wish you the best of luck in the forthcoming World Cup in Japan and send my best wishes for the preparations. Hopefully Chek has got a great esprit des corps in the changing room now, with all of those unique characters working well together. I can just imagine the larrikins Quadey and Pocock must get up to, surely they will be great room mates in Tokyo.

I wanted to mention something I missed in the handover documents. In addition to the two envelopes, I thought you might want to consider some changes to the player contracts in the next round of contract extensions.

Increasingly, and as a result of our strategy to stop funding grass roots rugby and simply poach the better mungoes from Rugby League, you’ll need to have a strategy to deal with the God-botherers.

Obviously, the majority of these are Westies with apostrophes in their names, so any successful strategy is going to have to be reasonably unsubtle and articulated mainly in monosyllables. Try to pitch it at a level that an ABC for Kids viewer could comprehend.

There’s likely to a bit of a clash of cultures with that LBTQI+ptangyangkipperbang thing you and David Pocock committed the sport to in your pitch to the Board. Those happy-clappy types aren’t so keen on the shirt-lifters so you’ll need to reign them in on the old interweb thingy. Apparently, some of them have suggested that Caitlyn Jenner might not be completely female.

I know, madness, eh!

Some sort of contractual clause about not expressing religious or political views should do the trick.

The alternative is to do what the ABC do when one of their vastly more intelligent journalists tweet some extreme left wing opinion (i.e. always); state that their views outside of work are their own and they have the right to express them without any consequences to their livelihood of providing unbiased and objective reporting.

You’ll have to pick one of these approaches though otherwise you’ll be left in a terribly difficult and probably expensive no-man (or gender non-specific) land the first time one of them gets an injection of the Ol’ Time Religion one Sunday morning.

Actually, thinking about it, maybe you’ll be in such a mess if you don’t that you’d make my CEO term look halfway competent, which, let’s face it, would have been unthinkable a year or two ago.

On second thoughts, I think I won’t bother sending this letter after all.

Yours, in rugby,

Bill Pulver

Bill (Ockham’s) Opinion

It’s a funny old world when the European colonialists spend 200+ years telling Pacific Islanders, often at the end of a gun barrel, about the salvation of Jesus Christ and then sack them from their jobs for believing the message.

Imaginary Australian infrastructure

One has to feel sorry for the Australian taxpayers; they get the worst of both worlds. On the one hand they hand over one of the highest rates of income tax in the world to their governments (Federal and State), but meanwhile they get very little in return for it.

Some recent examples include:

The National Broadband Network – the federal government (of both political hues) has pissed billions into digging up the pavements and roads to install internet cables to the 97% of the population who live in metropolitan areas, rather than letting the free market do its job. The government might have saved the vast majority of the expense by focusing on the 3% of the country living away from the cities and towns. Australians have paid double and have waited twice as long as promised to receive an outcome that is, by the government’s own targets, significantly sub-standard.

The State of Victoria’s non-existent East/West road link – the commercial genius that is Premier Dan Andrews (who’s never had a proper job in his life, completely coincidentally) cancelled the construction contract the previous government had signed, costing the Victorian taxpayers $1.1bn to not receive a much-needed new road.

But, if we think these boondoggles are excessive, wait until you hear about the latest promise to piss away other people’s money…..

If Labor (sic) win next week’s election, they will spend $1bn on a high speed train line between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Really? That seems awfully cheap for such a nation-building piece of infrastructure.

Well, if you  don’t read much further than the Sydney Morning Herald’s headline, you might think Australia is about to join the rest of the world with such convenient and efficient transport;

Labor to spend $1b on bullet train route from Melbourne to Brisbane via Sydney

Great. Finally, people will have a better option than shlecking their way to the airport which, in the case of Melbourne, involves a traffic jam of Delhi-esque proportions at most hours of the day or night.

But wait, what is it you’re getting for your $1bn (or about $100 per adult)?

Labor has promised to spend $1 billion buying land between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane to build a future high-speed rail link.

Oh, right. So $1bn gets you a half a kilometre strip of farmland down the east coast and a diversion inland to Canberra. Oh what a fucking bargain.

Bill’s Opinion

Milton Friedman’s four ways to spend money is yet again proven correct. The easiest thing in the world is to spend someone else’s money on someone else; you don’t give a shit about the cost OR the quality of the outcome.

It’s shocking that, despite being populated by Union members with a barely-concealed authoritarian streak and lawyers fully-versed in the powers of the State, Labor (sic) haven’t spotted that they can simply use existing compulsory purchase legislation to grab this land once they actually have a budgeted rail development approved.

Or perhaps they already know this and simply decided that $1bn of other people’s money is a cheap price to pay for a pre-election headline stating they will build the long-awaited Australian high speed rail network.

My personal opinion is that it makes complete sense to build a high speed railway between the 4 major cities on the east coast of Australia, especially given the fact that so much of the land between these cities is undeveloped. However, experience has shown that developments of such a large scale in Australia are always utter disasters for the public purse and very rarely even deliver the promised outcome despite the tripling (if you’re lucky) of the cost.

Here’s a prediction one can confidently offer; if you’re planning on coming on holiday to Australia in the next fifty years and want to travel between Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney or Brisbane, set your expectations that you’ll be flying or driving. There’s more chance of the Wallabies winning the Bledisloe Cup in that time than ground being broken on the high speed rail link.