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How many more EU-skeptics can one squeeze in a selfie?

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Last week a 31yo Austrian Sebastian Kurz swept to power in Austria with a strong anti-EU bias. Following the growing strength in nationalist parties in The Netherlands, France, Germany, Catalonia, Britain, Hungary, Italy, Poland it seems that the Czech Republic may be the next country to say, “who do you think you are kidding Mr Juncker

Tomio Okamura (far left in the picture) of the Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy Party (SPD) has experienced a huge surge in popularity in the polls on the eve of the vote suggesting he could secure 10% and form part of the governing coalition of which the center-right Ano Party is set to win.

He said that “Over the last couple of years, the EU has shown itself to be un-reformable… The elites are incapable of showing the flexibility needed to react to current and crucial problems such as terrorism and the migration of Muslim-African colonisers to Europe.

So where have we heard that before? Once again regardless of whether a growing number of people in Europe are viewed as unsympathetic, racist or bigoted towards refugees they are ‘still’ voting for these nationalist parties which can only be seen as another vote of no confidence in the EU project. How could it be anything else?

As to the anti-EU selfie, they may need a drone camera to squeeze them all in next time.

Equal pay for equal work

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Australian Channel 9 TV Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson has quit the station after pay negotiations broke down. Her request to have her salary matched to that of her male side kick Karl Stefanovic was knocked back. Stefanovic is reportedly on a $6mn three year deal, contracted when he was about to quit and join another station. Call it unfair or whatever you will but Wilkinson was still paid ($1.1mn) but appeared on fewer shows than Stefanovic .The network upped it to $1.8mn (with the potential it would cause retrenchments) but it was not accepted by her. She walked to defend the gender pay gap to join a new show where she is paid 3x the salary of the male host. So the gender pay crusader is ok with earning more for equal work. How soon we forget that the station being pilloried for not paying fairly made Jana Wendt the top paid announcer 30 years ago. Commercial decision.

MotoGP is a great example of why equal pay for equal work isn’t always so simple. The Ducati Factory Team has two riders – a newly signed €25m 2-yr contract former 5x world champ Jorge Lorenzo and a €1.5mn pa 1x world champ Andrea Dovisioso. Now Dovi is in shooting distance of his first ever MotoGP crown while his overpaid team mate is ranked 8th with patchy performance. While no doubt the pay gap for the same work (riding a motorcycle as fast as possible and not crashing) will be addressed somewhat, satellite team rider Scott Redding has to “pay” for his seat. Not get paid, but pay. So much for equal pay! Yet Redding has made a conscious choice on the basis he performs and his fortunes change. He hasn’t demanded a €25mn deal because he’d be laughed at even if technically fair. Yes, the reality is that “performance” matters. If you’re a better rider, TV cameras are zoomed in on your sponsors for more of the race. That’s why the pay gap exists. Sponsors get their lick. Same job, unequal pay.

We heard similar arguments around the pay differences between the male and female national US soccer teams. The point was made that the women were more successful than the men (true) so it was absurd they were paid less.  The realities were simple. The women were paid healthy salaries whether they played or sat on the sidelines – win, lose or draw. The men were geared to pay on performance and those who were dropped on playing badly didn’t get a dime. Once again, as professional sports goes, male sports tend to be much better paid because of the revenues they attract (which is a reflection of commerciality). Lionel Messi earns 40mn euro a year. Is he worth 100x that of the highest paid female player, Alex Morgan. Well if you paid Messi $400k he probably wouldn’t play. It’s just the world of professional sports. Perhaps all players should be on $40m per year after all equal work, equal pay right? How would losing teams be able to attract superstars to help them win championships (they’re not in it to lose) if they paid them the same wage? They’d remain at the bottom of second division and go out of business because they couldn’t afford equal pay.

To turn the argument on its head, perhaps male models should have the right to protest that female supermodels absolutely trounce them for pay. Only three male models earn over $1mn while 5 times as many supermodels earn it. In the lower echelons female models get paid much more than the men. Probably because the companies that wish to advertise think their brands get more impact by using women! No problem – a commercial choice.

While there is no doubt that pay equality for the same work is fair in theory, the idea that women are deliberately discriminated against from a pure economic standpoint is irrational. If companies could hire women to do the same work as men for 25% less, why would any business hire men? If you work at Starbucks or as a bank clerk, on the same seniority, hours, effectiveness and efficiency then absolutely the pay should be equal .

For jobs that have equal output from equal time then absolutely equal pay is warranted. However workplace discrimination is an evil in almost every firm. Do we have half yearly evaluations where everyone gets the same grade and same bonus? Or do firms try to keep the best performers by incentivizing them to keep bringing in more dollars. For the record my top salesperson (female) in my former career was the best paid of all – gender irrelevant – output relevant. No complaints.

So we can howl at the gender pay gap but let’s get real with what is unfair and what isn’t. There is an idea that all have a right to equal pay but I will defend every woman who earns more than me if she legitimately beats my results – wait a minute I already did.

Await the witch hunts from #METOO

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Perhaps the saddest side effects of the METOO campaign will be the witch hunts that ensue. Already we are seeing such a movement in Australia to out the sexual predators in our own entertainment ranks. We don’t need to labour the point that sexual (or physical for that matter) harassment or assault is abhorrent and true offenders should be dealt with according to the law.  Sadly with a witch hunt some of the claims will be unsubstantiated, knowingly consensual but cause otherwise innocent people to defend things that aren’t true. Im sorry but if you are accused by an ambulance chaser seeking a payout making up about things that never happened then careers could be ruined in the process even if the defendant wins. It’s dangerous ground.

I made the point the other day that people that have PTSD from such sexual crimes do not need campaigns, especially started by Hollywood stars who knew full well the predators in the midst but chose to put career, fame and fortune ahead of other’s misery. It demeans them. Each person who has suffered a serious traumatic event in their life  has to deal with demons in their own way. There is no set manual to coping. To think that ‘raising awareness’ for something that some people have spent a life time trying to suppress or at the very least contain do not need to have the spotlight. Shame is perhaps one of the strongest emotions for sufferers among anguish, anxiety, anger, despair, hopelessness and suicide so putting Me Too in neon lights does them no good at all. You’ll find that most PTSD sufferers have problems with elevated risk taking whether alcohol, sexual or drug addiction, extreme sports activities (motorcycling, skydiving, off piste skiing etc) and so on. Yet someone had the nerve to say “How f*cking dare I?” In all honesty she speaks volumes about the victimhood industry, that I, an innocent casualty  of a sick mind, am told to shove it in order that someone who suffered at the hands of a wolf whistler somehow deserves equal outrage.

There is no issue with people who wish to come out and tell stories of things that happened in the past. However people need to be allowed to come out with their issues at a time that suits them, Indeed different things affect different people in different ways but this Me Too (if you honestly read the majority of posts) looks little more than unbridled activism which sets out to achieve something yet gets diluted by the people making petty claims they personally dismissed 20 years ago who now get a free kick on a social media platform so they can receive oodles of attention, likes and soothing words about bravery. To many of those that sought attention through Me Too, there is a likelihood the stated issue never really bothered you more than a day or two. Think of how someone bothered for decades views a cry for attention?

I have made this comment till I am blue in the face – the real sufferers are the ones who want the least exposure and least attention drawn to them. It is hard enough to cope, We aren’t reaching out for hand holding or singing songs by a campfire. We are in need of understanding, not sympathy or empathy.

So to the witch hunts that are surely coming. I pity the poor (majority of) males who will be unfairly dragged before courts (or out of court settlements) to defend something that never happened. Do not mistake this with an absolute desire to punish real offenders that break laws. What this activism will do is dilute the cause. Just like we saw with the witch hunts encouraged by the Australian Human RIghts Commission, even innocent students can have their lives ruined by people claiming utter falsehoods. Why should we expect anything less in the quest of some disgruntled people to use Me Too to destroy the lives of people that they willingly consented to be in a position to come in sexual contact? That to me is a sickening way to turn a cause that was supposed to help the innocent turn into one that unfairly frames the truly not guilty. But, how f*cking dare I?

Alitalia – what is it with airlines and government support?

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Last Friday Italy extended a bridge loan for Alitalia, which is in special administration as plans for it are determined by the state.  Italy’s cabinet has  passed an emergency decree to add a further 300 million euros on top of the 600 million euros it made to the ailing airline in May. It has extended the deadline for the repayment of the loan from November 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018.

Airlines are perhaps one of the worst industries as an investment one can find. High fixed costs, variable fuel prices, volatile economic cycles and intense competition. Yet with all of this, governments see them as national icons. Losing the flag carrier is viewed by some governments as a sign of economic impotence.

Several years ago, Japan Airlines went through a state-funded rehabilitation where the airline was able to overhaul its fleet while its legitimately profitable and unassisted competitor All Nippon Airways (ANA) got nothing. In the reverse poor old ANA was effectively taxed as its biggest rival got free kick after free kick from the government.

Qantas reported a $235 million loss in the last half of 2013 and cut 5000 employees to save the company $2 billion. The government was pressured to give state aid to prop up the airline but then PM Tony Abbott said, “because we do not want to be in the business of subsidising any single enterprise. It’s not sustainable in the long term”. So Qantas didn’t get help in 2014 and the airline has since rebounded and recently compensated its CEO Alan Joyce over $24mn as the shares have stormed 6x since the lows of 3 years ago. Most of the 5,000 let go have been recovered.

Which begs the question of state subsidies. When looking at Australia once again the state spent billions over decades to defend a bloated, inefficient and uncompetitive car industry. Nissan, Mitsubishi Motors, Toyota, GM Holden and Ford all closed local auto making opps. When businesses are subsidized, the necessity to reform is numbed. There is less need to get fit and look for efficiencies to get off the taxpayers’ teat. So even after 20 years and $12 billion spent to protect 45,000 jobs, all makers packed up and went home. Would have been better to write each worker a $250,000 cheque.

Of course some will argue that protecting jobs is a noble quest. Nobody likes seeing people unemployed. However if the rest of the world can make the same products cheaper and more efficiently why should consumers and taxpayers be forced to prop up those who won’t make the effort to reform.

Alitalia is yet another one of these businesses that is in the citizen’s pockets. If KLM and Air France can pair, Lufthansa and Swissair can join why shouldn’t Etihad back the initial investment it made in Italy’s national carrier. Another Loan is Time-warped, All Logic Is Abandoned.

4 more years

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Start laughing. It is ok. It is the same thing heard time and time again since forecasting it back in mid-2015. Yes, at this rate he is staring at another 4 years should his health hold out. This week capped off yet another mad push for so called ‘progressive’ (regressive) values will only drive the wedge of division ever deeper. People are growing sick and tired of being told how they must think. When liberal TV host Bill Maher admits openly that “Democrats, this movement to childproof the world has made Republicans the party of freedom and Democrats the party of poopers.” you know they are in trouble. Yet they can’t help being victims. Have you already forgotten how the liberals turned on Rachel Maddow over the tax returns? Yet one can guess they won’t run a more centrist candidate like Bill Clinton in 2020 but one pushing the thresholds of the identity kit. If they can find a genderless Dreamer who was raised by a North Korean Muslim lesbian couple they’ll have their ‘person’.

Sure liberals can celebrate the admission of girls into the Boy Scouts. It will probably become Scouts of America where tying knots will be replaced with wearing a rainbow scarf, learning gender fluidity while being banned from rubbing two sticks together to make fire because it is harmful to the environment.  No doubt they’ll learn the correct use of genderless pronouns which in reality will be of high value because the State of California would sooner jail citizens for incorrect use of language than properly vetting illegal immigrants. By the way how silent has the media been now that the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 to approve the revised travel ban? No matter how one might hate it or view its insensitivity, many of those that voted for him will happily chalk it up as a win. He ran that as part of his election campaign. Get over it.

Of course celebrating  Columbus Day 2017 was yet another chance to bash colonialists for things that modern day descendants had nothing to do with.  The City of Detroit wants to replace it with Indigenous People’s Day. Well truth be told that Michiganites born in America are indeed indigenous. We had this debate in Australia this year where socialist and Greens city councils in the Marxist state of Victoria went beyond their remit of collecting rubbish and keeping park amenities clean by announcing they would be scrapping Australia Day. Instead of asking their 240,000 residents for their opinion they rigged a poll by asking 80 activists and even then couldn’t muster more than 60% in favour of their preferred name of ‘Invasion Day’. Talk of pathetic when they can’t even get all of the victims onside. Yet the mayor of one of the councils decided to speak down to those who couldn’t accept it by telling them they lacked ‘education’. The irony was that many prominent aborigines are in favour of Australia Day because it celebrates togetherness and how far the nation has come rather than rake over coals that happened  230 years ago. Yet the socialists made out that calling it Australia Day for aborigines was the equivalent to the Jews as Germans celebrating ‘Holocaust Day’. Seriously?

This year statues of former Confederate generals like Robert E Lee sparked outrage when nary we heard a peep beforehand. Even people like basketball legend Charles Barkley said he has never driven past any statues and associated them with any excuse to grieve today. So once again Australia copied suit. Calling for the removal of statues of Captain James Cook, Governors Phillip and Macquarie, because they weren’t discoverers and settlers but ‘invaders’. Yet liberals will happily find this as another excuse to play the victim by erasing the history they don’t like. Get rid of the statues and it won’t be long before the next victim case arrives in the in-tray to protest over. Once again, people are tired of the lectures. Sick of being told they should feel guilty for things they had no control over because they weren’t even born at the time. How can we possibly move forward if they’re forever wanting people not responsible for things to apologize and be wracked with guilt? Move on!

Then we have had the NFL saga. The original BLM protest started by Kaepernick kneeling has been so diluted from its original purpose that the controversial quarterback promises to stand during the anthem if he can have a multi million dollar contract again. The initial shirt fronting bluster of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has turned into a 180 degree retreat after Trump tweeted about considering cutting the generous tax breaks the league receives. Money talks greater than protests in the end. Fans were sick of the in their face protests when they wanted to unwind in front of the ball game. While progressives scream the right to ‘freedom of speech’, fans merely exercised freedom of consumption – burning memorabilia and season tickets. The very money that pays the multi million dollar salaries of the players have a right to get what they handed over their hard earned dollars for. Even if they want to draw attention to a worthy cause do fans require it drilled into them every game? This is the problem with the left. It bangs on incessantly that it ends turning people off. I have not heard of fans complaining of any players protesting on their own time. Whether we like it or not, NFL players are employees. If any of us took a knee to our boss who told us to manage a difficult account you shouldn’t be surprised if you’re demoted or worse. It is not a violation of free speech. It is dissent – pure and simple. Just like those openly using tax-payer funded websites to vilify their boss. Once again, send a mail to your boss cc-ing the firm and tell him or her what a complete jerk they are and see how long you last.

Now we have Weinstein. Liberal celebrities are trying to cover up their own impropriety (Affleck, Kimmel et al) post the exposure of ‘one of their own’ by turning on POTUS. There has been tweet and post after post on Trump’s ‘p*ssy grab’ tape (which by the way he was elected in full knowledge of voters) being just as bad as Weinstein. While once can cry foul that these are double standards to OK the president but vilify Weinstein for disrespecting women, his legion of followers have more of an issue with Hollywood hypocrites try to push their heightened sense of values on them when they so blatantly hid a monster that served their lavish lives. The deplorables are sick of these liberals lecturing them. It is not a question of who is worse – Trump or Weinstein- but having actors talk down to them in such sanctimonious fashion.

Then it was only a few weeks back that Michelle Obama was bludgeoning American women for obeying their husbands at the polling booth and abandoning the ‘sisters’. Does Mrs Obama honestly believe she will sway female Trump voters back to being Democrats by calling out their supposed lack of intelligence. What a slap in the face to all women to have her patronize them. I do not recall her making those sweeping statements to get a woman in the Oval Office when Hillary ran against her husband in 2008?

So the only message to liberals is that if they want to get rid of the President then they ought to pay attention to all of the things which cost them the election in 2016. If anything they’ve amplified the noise which turned people away in droves. One can see the 2020 election campaign by the Democrats. It will crank up victimhood, identity politics and focus on trying to get people married to the state. Isn’t it telling that Trump said if politicians don’t want to overhaul Obamacare then they can switch from a bountiful taxpayer healthcare plan to the system they are resisting  change – how silent they’ve become…then again how many from both sides of the house are on the payroll of big pharmaceutical companies…? This is the thing – it is no longer GOP vs Democrats – both are not behind POTUS. If he ran as an independent he’d win.

The way the liberals can win is to encourage open, rational debate (like the Trump rally which gave their stage to BLM protestors to wonderfully unify them on many levels), allow conservatives to speak on campus on issues without causing trigger warnings, micro aggression and safe spaces and to refrain from shoving every political issue in the electorate’s face at every opportunity.  Failure to do so will practically guarantee a return of the incumbent in 2020. All the signs point to an even bigger defeat. Keep up the good work. The only fear is that any the rate your expending grievances you may run out of things to moan about when the next 4 years eventually arrive.

Shocking state of suicide

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The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists the top 10 categories of causes of death in America in 2015 as above. Heart disease was the highest cause leading to over 633,800 deaths. Cancer was slightly under 600,000. Respiratory disease came in 3rd at 155,000. Homicide, while not listed in the Top 10, was around 14,000. Total drug related deaths were around 50,000, equivalent to deaths from car accidents and murder combined. Death from heroin and illicit opioid overdoses exceeded 20,000.

F4BB85AF-601B-44CD-8232-83590DB4455E.jpegSadly suicides in the US totaled a shocking 44,193 in 2015, most prevalent in younger age groups. Over the last 15 years we can see that suicides per head of US population has continued to climb.

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In 15 years, the incidence of female suicides has climbed 45% per head of population. While male suicide outnumbers female suicides per head of population by almost 4x the relative increase in 15 years has been 16.3%. In aggregate total suicides have grown 20.4%, an awful statistic. Half of the suicides were the result of self inflicted gunshot wounds. 1/3rd of women tended to commit suicide by taking poison versus 10% by males.

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The detrimental economic impacts are also quite heavy, The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Suicides cost around $51bn annually while homicide is around $26bn.

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Perhaps the most alarming part of the NIMH study was the 1.1mn people that made proper attempts to take their own life. Almost 10mn contemplated it.

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In Australia, suicide rates are also at a decade high of 12.6 people per 100,000 or almost identical to those rates in the US. 3,000 took their life in 2015. According to Beyondblue 3 million Australians suffer from anxiety or depression.

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The suicide rate in Northern Ireland has increased dramatically over the last 30 years – the male rate has increased by 82% in this time. Male rates remain consistently higher than female suicide rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland – most notably 5 times higher in Republic of Ireland and around 3 times in the UK.

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Since 2007, suicides in the UK have started to mildly trend back upwards from 10,8/100,000 to 10.9.

China accounts for 26% of the world’s suicides. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the country saw c.500 by women per day taking their own lives in 2009 or around 183,000 a year. At that rate some 1.5 million Chinese women have taken their own lives in the past eight years.

Japan is approximately down to 19.5 suicides per 100,000 but South Korea remains persistently high at 28.5.

It is a point worth reflecting on. There have been six people from my own high school year who have taken their own life. Seemingly happy and healthy on the outside, matters have taken a turn that not even friends could have detected until it is too late.

The most common symptoms that lead to suicide are due to depression or anxiety onset by

-substance abuse
-incarceration
-family history of suicide
-poor job security or low levels of job satisfaction
-financial insecurity
-history of being abused or witnessing continuous abuse
-being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, such as cancer or HIV
-being socially isolated or a victim of bullying
-being exposed to suicidal behavior

Worsening economic conditions are undoubtedly pushing more people toward suicide. Greece, which does not have a high suicide rate (8.8) compared to other EU countries (average of 11.6 people per 100,000), saw tough financial austerity measures leading to a 35% jump in suicide rates in a little less than 2 years, not dissimilar to Russia between 1989-1994. Each 1 percentage point rise of unemployment rates in men aged 20 to 59 was associated with a 0.19/100,000 population rise in suicide. Spain saw 20% higher suicides in 2015 vs 2008.

This is the mark of suicide prevention. Note that most countries have suicide prevention hotlines.

America

Australia

UK

Help is at hand.

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Try taxing the bullets if guns won’t be banned

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Sensless acts of violence as we saw several days ago in Las Vegas once again sent out calls to ban guns. The latest stats from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) can be seen here. There has been a huge shift in gun manufacture since GFC. Over 9mn guns of all types were made in the US in 2014 ( the latest figs to hand), Twice the level of 2008. Less than 5% are exported. One can see the proliferation in weapons sales by type below. Banning guns in the US is a taboo subject because there are many “responsible” gun owners as they like to view themselves. Comedian Chris Rock had perhaps the best solution if guns couldn’t be banned  – to tax bullets to exorbitant levels that the cost per shot would limit such atrocities. To be sure if Paddock went to a gun smith asking for $100,000 worth of bullets then surely that would be a red flag in itself!

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60 deaths and 500 wounded people is no laughing matter but we should ask ourselves why have weapons manufacture/purchase skyrocketed like they have? If less than 5% of guns are going overseas then the home market is the only place they are ending up. Note these stats only include civilian and police purchases not military.

While 2014 sales were down from the peak of 10.5mn ownership is still estimated by the ATF to be around 35% of households down from 50% in the 1970s.

Smith & Wesson and Ruger shares have soared as demand has fueled earnings since GFC. Since 2017 the shares have slackened off for both companies. Is this because there is a feeling of economic hope and a lower level of uncertainty? Or could it be the risk of a ban on weapons was greatly reduced when Trump took office. The latter seems most plausible.

Do we deduce that the rebound in gun sales since GFC has been driven by the fear of a lack of security? The concern that localized theft, car jackings and break & enter would rise pushing the need for self protection? The FBI stats (below) show the prevalence of crime has been in a long term decline per head of population for almost 25 years  in 2015 there has been a small bump but relatively inconsequential.

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Perceptions can often be far removed from reality however the purchase stats speak for themselves. Economically the value of crime in a recession should fall as the access to black markets is curtailed and the “bang for the buck” per stolen item is likely less meaning the risk-reward ratio is more acute.

Reading through the newsfeeds on who Paddock was, which political affiliation he had or those host of other conspiracy theories the fact remains innocent people were slaughtered. Parents, children, relatives and friends must surely carry a psychological burden which is unfathomable.

After the Port Arthur Massacre in Australia in 1996 the federal government had an amnesty where the state bought back guns. In Australia there was nowhere near the scale on an absolute or relative basis versus the US. Will the US amend the second amendment? It is unlikely but Rock’s suggestion of an exorbitant bullet tax would certainly limit the extent of damage and flag irrational purchase orders.

The other question lies in the black market. If one wants to get a gun, provided they have the financial ammunition there is little to stop such atrocities even if guns were banned. Yes Australia hasn’t seen a massacre since yet there was never a big problem in the first place. 661,000 firearms were removed from circulation. Or 1 gun for every 33 people. In the US it is c.1 gun for every person in circulation. Even if a third of households have them we are looking at 1 gun per 3 people in the US.

The Aussie government offered $500/gun average. If Trump ran the same programme (albeit 21 years later) and taking into account inflation then conservatively at $1,000 a gun he would be looking at a cost of $320bn. To put that in perspective the annual US military budget is around $680bn. So a combined spend of $1 trillion.