Sunday, January 27, 2008

Separatist and Insular

I was cruising around at Sean the Blogonaught’s today and came across an interesting discussion concerning the separatist and insular nature of certain christian denominations. I found the following comments interesting because they made me think and question.

First, the comments:

that's the old fundamentalist @ their "best". If you don't go along with what THEY want, you're less holy, less "good", less everything than they are. – This one made me think.

...if you tell someone "No.", that means NO. If they continue to ask/nag/ force you to do "whatever", then they are trying to CONTROL you – and this one made me question.

Here’s what the first one made me think: “well that’s the old moderate christian at their ‘best’. If you don’t go along with what they want, you’re less holy, less good, less everything than they are.”

And here’s what the second one made me ask: “But isn’t that what ALL religion seeks to do?”

Now chuffed as I was at my witty repartee, I used those words only to make a point, not to poke fun at the commenter. The point is that this is not a phenomenon confined to the fundamentalist movement alone. It’s just that it happens to also be a point that this particular comment illustrates quite beautifully, especially considering that the commenter seems to be a caring, intelligent person that thinks quite deeply about the religion they’ve chosen and is prepared to question it. But this example shows perfectly, the effect that religion has, even on the most reasonable of people.

The first thing a religion such as Christianity seeks to do is to control the thoughts and actions of its congregation. There are rules, precepts, concepts and symbols that all denominations and believers have in common everywhere: Jesus, the Sabbath, the breaking of bread, prayer, charity, etc, and there are denominational traditions, trappings, dogmas and teachings: speaking in tongues, the transfiguration, etc and for each denomination, the rest are all quite wrong.

In this way a religion or denomination can separate its congregation from everyone else and stand alone and righteous. But in every instance, whether it be inter-denominational or inter-religious, there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way” to worship, observe, believe or otherwise pay homage, and in every instance also, the result is that “we will go to heaven and you will not”.

This is the condition of religion and it cannot be avoided. Even the most reasonable and moderate of believers know deep down inside that they are right and I am wrong. No justification other than the bible, Talmud or Koran is required for someone that seriously believes that any of what is written there is true. This attitude seems to infect all people of all faiths, albeit in varying degrees from extremely tolerant to extremely violent, and moderate practitioners of religion are no less guilty of it than are the extreme, they just choose to opine in a more congenial manner, that’s all.

But really, when all is said and done, it comes down to control. If a religion does its job, conditioning its congregation to believe that its God is the only true God, then men and women who are “Inspired by God” can continue to control the hearts and minds of those who subscribe to that faith with consummate ease and impunity. All a “man of God” need say is: “we must do it for God” and millions will flock to do his bidding, and that is what makes religion such a frighteningly dangerous beast.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Seneca because it’s as true today as it ever was:

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Thursday, January 24, 2008


From The Age:

The Reserve Bank is expected to respond within a fortnight by raising official interest rates by 0.25 of a percentage point, adding $50 a month to repayments on an average $250,000 home loan.

So here we go again. Inflation is up and the global economy is stuffed, so once again it's time for Mr. Average to foot the bill. Is it just me, or does there seem to be a direct correlation between tax cuts and interest rate rises? And why do banks always have to make $4+ billion? Why can't they just make $1billion? It's still a hell of a profit.

Then I read this:

But they believe an increase is less likely if global sharemarkets resume the falls of recent days.

Now I thought that market crashes were bad. I mean back in the 80's we had people literally jumping out of windows and interest rates that were well over 10%. But being a mortgagee that is not a shareholder, except where I'm forced to be thanks to the advent of compulsory superanuation, it seems perhaps that this is not such a bad thing after all.

But I think Tim Colebatch sums it up quite well in this artice when he says:

And you can see why. Our financial system for decades placed a premium on safety: the system might have been low-yield, but it was secure and transparent. But in the 1990s and 2000s, financial institutions have put a premium on profits: the system is now high-yield, insecure and so opaque that no one knows who owes what.

"financial institutions have put a premium on profits". He puts it so eloquently doesn't he. What he really means to say is "financial institutions are greedy bastards that don't give a rats arse about you or your house, so long as they can squeeze a profit out of you."

But don't worry to much. Financial institutions will continue to make their obscene profits. They have to, "the shareholders demand it!" And besides, now that they've shifted the cost of their silly mistakes to Mr. Average, and now that they've got 3 million Mr. Averages to give them an extra $50 a month (do the math) whenever they cock it up, they're not likely to ever make a loss themselves, are they? A "downturn" (maybe only $3.9billion) is about as bad as it gets these days...

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The spirit of Cricket

It’s a difficult thing to define. But although it’s difficult to articulate just exactly what “the spirit of cricket” is, we all seem to know when that spirit is lacking. Hence the term "It's just not circket", I guess.

Take Jardine for instance. He and in particular Harold Larwood, did nothing outside the rules of the game during the “Bodyline” series. Jardine’s idea was to bowl a fast short length delivery that targeted the body and not the stumps. He also stacked the field on the leg side so that any attempt to fend the ball off would result in the batsman being caught. A perfectly legal delivery and field, but at the time none of Jardine’s “chums” at the Marylebone CC would do it because it “wasn’t within the spirit of the game”. Larwood however, was a poor Yorkshire coal miner who did what the “gentleman” told him to do if he wanted to keep his position in the team.

The tactic, when it was employed against Australia in the summer of 1932-33 against the Australian batsmen, and in particular Don Bradman himself, shocked not only the Australians, but the British as well. One man was knocked unconscious, one ended up with a fractured skull (Bert Oldfield - that's him after the offending ball in the image above, although he always maintained it was his own poor footwork that caused it) and plenty of others took some very nasty blows. Bill Woodfull, hit a number of times and once over his heart that nearly felled him (that's him after the offending ball in the image below), was reported to have said to the English manager, “Plum” Warner when he came to the Australian dressing rooms to apologise, “I don’t want to see you Mr. Warner. There are two sides out there. One is trying to play cricket, one is not. The game is too good to be spoilt. It is time some people got out of it.” Harsh words indeed, for their day.

So what is it about the game and in particular, how it’s played, that gets people so riled up. Sportsmanship, honour, integrity, it’s all those things and more. In short, it is a game that “is too good to be spoilt,” as Mr. Woodfull said, all those years ago. The concept of “sportsmanship” is so integral to the game in fact that back in 1933, the chiefs of the MCC were called to Downing street to explain themselves, an event which overshadowed Hitler’s dissolution of the Reichstag in the London papers, and Canberra took the Australian Board of Control to task over its accusations of “unsportsmanlike behaviour”, which actually threatened international relations with England. As Allen said at the time, “Nobody calls an Englishman unsporting and gets away with it.”

I bring all this up because recently, or so it seems, the Australian cricket team has been guilty of unsportsmanlike behaviour itself. Worse than that, it was our captain that made the worst exhibition of it that I’ve ever seen in an Australian cricket team.

Dismissed, he stood his ground and was given not out, then spat the dummy when he was given out erroneously, some 30 runs later. Not only did he throw a tantrum on the field which continued into the dressing room long after his dismissal, he and others indulged themselves in an appalling display, saying “UP YOURS” to all and sundry when they finally won the game with just 9 minutes to spare. Then to add insult to injury, he didn’t bother to shake the hand of the opposing captain at the end of the game. It’s unfortunate that his shame for that action reflects on the nation as a whole, but that’s the nature of cricket in this country. He’s not THE captain, he’s OUR Captain.

For that by itself, Ponting should be censured, suffer at least a one match (Test) suspension and be fined. There is no other gesture, on the field or off, that more embodies “the spirit of the game”, win lose or draw. It was good enough for Bradman to shake Jardine’s hand after all and it is England, not India, that is our arch nemesis (with New Zealand a very close second) in this sport.

I also think that Symonds is quite wrong when he says that you get good decisions and bad decisions, it all works out in the end so stand your ground. That’s all very well and good for the pyjama game (one day and 20twenty) but what he should do during a test is cop the bad decisions on the chin, umpires are only human after all, and walk when he knows he is out. That would be the honourable thing to do and the only way in which to gain an honourable victory, or to be defeated with honour, is to play with honour.

This is what we failed to do in the last test I think, so let’s see if we can put our differences aside and finish playing this series in the spirit the game is meant to be played. I for one shall be seriously annoyed if India go home and I don’t get to see Ganguly, Laxman or Tendulkar bat again this season.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Sunday, January 6, 2008


I was arguing with a friend about this just the other day. The argument concerned the cost of water and in particular, recycled water.

A 25,000 litre truck can be filled with recycled water for about $25. If I wanted that water to be delivered to my house, it’ll cost me in excess of $2000. I know this because I watched a short article not long ago about a water carter and it seems to be true enough with my enquiry to fill a 1000lt tank resulting in a cost estimate of about $100. When they asked him why he charged so much for the water, he said “People pay it if they want the water” which translates to “because I can”. At that point I wanted to take a gun and shoot the fool.

I mentioned this to my mate and he said “So what’s wrong with that?” I tried to point out that it offers a disincentive to which he said “Bullshit!”. I damn near fell off my bike, but you can’t argue with that kind of logic, so I didn’t.

The markup here is about 8000%. That, in anyone’s language (except my mate’s) is profiteering on a grandiose scale, and he can do it because there are no laws to prevent it. The thing that really irked me about this bloke was that he was quite happy to charge up to $3000 for 25,000 litres of recycled water to fill a pool, but was prepared to drop it to $2500 if you are trying to grow food or own a business that needs it and don’t have a tap yet. Big hearted of him I thought.

Not long after, my brother in law was around for a barby and told the story of his mate. This bloke had recently had an 85,000 litre pool installed. Of course, he didn’t have the $8000 needed to do the right thing and fill it with recycled water, so he rang the water company and told them an engineer had just told him he had to fill the pool or it would collapse, but he couldn’t afford the recycled water. So without so much as a “can we see the engineer’s report please”, they told him to turn the tap on. $80 later he had an 85,000 litre pool full of beautiful, clear, sparkling, pristine drinking water.

Now in a state that’s having serious water issues, with stage 3a water restrictions in force, which means we not allowed to fill pools, no matter the size, we can’t water lawns or gardens at all, trees can only have a bucket twice a week, etc, I think that deceiving the water company like that is probably a bit rude, so shame on him. But double shame on the carter for making it prohibitively expensive NOT to deceive the water company.

But once again, this is the problem and the result of our “profit at all costs!” society. Profits soar as prices rise and the economy booms and we have good times. Then slowly it creeps up, because in the final analysis, one man’s gain is another man’s loss, and then it hits and a wave of home buyers go bust. Usually it’s because they’ve over extended themselves, but where was the check to make sure they didn’t, or the check to stop the unscrupulous mortgage broker? Well they’ve been removed because they interfere with profit.

We seem to talk a lot about silly people buying things they can’t afford and somehow manage to almost completely avoid talking about the smart people who convinced them to do it and these days, that's business. It no longer has anything to do with the usefulness or value of a product, but everything to do with whether you and I can be convinced to buy it. Why we do that I don’t know. It seems all ass about to me but then I’m not profit driven, except where my employer is concerned and that’s only because I’ve seen the workplace change so drastically over the years. There was a time I was treated like a person, now I’m treated like a commodity so I’ll do my best to act like one.

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Damn Banks!

The NAB recently announced that it would raise its mortgage rate by 0.12% with business to pay an extra 0.15%. Why did this happen? Did the Reserve Bank raise official interest rates? No. They’ve cited “higher funding costs” as the reason.

Last year, the NAB made $4.4 billion in cash earnings. Lending increased to $394.7 billion and deposits to $268.4 billion. Ok then, that 4.4 is pure cash earnings, separate from “assets”, which according to that statement are clawing their way back from record lows and “cash earnings” are interest generated. The bank sells money and reaps the profit via interest charged. It’s a simple equation really. So I’d like to know how the market influences that particular figure. It doesn’t seem to me that it can, so I’m inclined to say that it’s more likely that if the banks do well then the market MUST do well, not the other way around.

So it seems to me that this is purely an exercise in profit garnering. No-one’s bothered to mention how much funding costs have risen or whether it would cause significant losses if they didn’t raise rates, and considering that the NAB has a record of high “cash earning” results along with being first to raise interest rates, I’m of the opinion that they could probably have waited for quite a while before it caused the bank any real problem. The problem is though that the banks and I have a different idea as to what constitutes a loss.

To me, a loss means I didn’t make a profit, period. To a bank, $4.3 billion in cash profit instead of $4.4 billion in cash profit means they’ve made a loss and that they must do something about it because the shareholders will demand it. This ridiculous idea isn’t exclusive to banks either. I was first introduced to it when I worked for an asset management firm when during one quarter, we made a massive company record of $110 million and in the next we only made the standard $90 million. In response, our budgets were slashed, required upgrades had to be put on hold and the mailroom lost a staff member. Now to me, that’s laughable. It wasn’t like we didn’t make a hugely massive and disgusting profit or anything. I did manage to get some value out of it though when I was working on the CEO’s PC one day. He snidely complained about the performance so I pointed out that it wasn’t my idea to slash our budget. I also pointed out that his PC needed to take a lower priority because it’s the traders and fund managers that are actually making the money, so they should come first in a profit oriented firm, yes? Guess what? They had to wait so Maurice could have his new PC, laptop and phone, all paid for out of our (IT’s) budget with no expense at all, not even responsibility for the ongoing phone bill, falling to Maurice himself. Laughable in the extreme.

Shareholders are another problem. They always complain and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think it’s because most of them have nothing better to do. But I don’t own any shares at all except what my super fund may own, and that will most likely be largely eaten by fees and taxes by the time I get it anyway, so I don’t really give a toss about that. What I do care about is that my bank will soon follow with their 0.12%. Yes, I’ll still be able to make the payments so it doesn’t concern me too much. But that extra $20 a month has added up to quite a bit over the last 12 months or so. On top of that, energy has just risen by 17%, public transport by about 3%, then there’s petrol, meat, milk, veggies, etc. Herein lies the real problem and is exactly what big business and business oriented government has seriously dropped the ball on. Over time, the checks and balances that prevented profiteering have been eroded and because of it, we’ve created our own version of a “working poor”.
I’m not doing to badly, but… I don’t get CPI increases and EDS is extremely poor at giving anyone except management (above the middle level) the “performance based” increases they promise, unless you get promoted. I’ve had one promotion that netted me very little, so for the last 6 years my wage has pretty much remained static. This practice is perfectly legal and works well as a cost reducer over time. They don’t have to lay anyone off if they can save the price of a wage over the period of a year or two as job market values rise with the CPI. So people leave to find better compensation and EDS continually have their little think tanks to try and work out why they have such a high staff turnover. No, they never manage to find the answer, I kid you not.

Yet prices rise and interest rates rise and I’m already at the point where I rarely manage to save. I don’t know how long it will be, but I can see that there will come a time, probably sooner rather than later, when I will reach the point of no return and will need to find better pay. No, not a better job, just better pay. I don’t care about the job or “career” anymore, only the money I can make, that’s the corporate attitude, isn’t it? My job has a “market value” and I’m expected to make my company a profit. In that case, my skills and services are sold to the highest bidder with the best conditions. Consequently, I’m no longer and never again will be loyal to the company I work for, only ever to the pay packet they see fit to give me.

The underlying problem to all this as I see it, is that our society has simply become to profit driven. The shareholders always demand that this year’s profit is better than last year’s so companies and corporations must find a way to show an increase. Lay people off, skimp on safety and services, close the crèche, increase the profit margins and in short, generally help inflation along and make it difficult for me.

It’s time to wake up to the fact that higher profits and lower wages don't mix well. You need to pick one or the other. Higher profits mean more expensive products while lower wages mean more expensive products become unaffordable, which in turn effects profits. See the problem? The wheel turns and one man’s gain is another man’s loss and in the final analysis, that simple fact cannot be avoided, only put off for a while.

You know, when I started in the work force as a salesman all those years ago, the standard markup was 30%. That bought the stock, paid the rent and wages and made Ben Douglas (Douglas Hi-Fi) a multi millionaire with just 2 shops. These days the average markup is anywhere between 50 and 80% and in the case of slower moving items, 100% or more. That much profit isn’t really necessary and excuses like “because I can get away with” or “because the shareholders demand it” simply aren’t good enough…

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hey Fatso!!

I’m going to rant about the obesity “problem” that we’re told we have. So first I’d best apologise up front to anyone reading this that has one of the very few genuine medical conditions that may cause clinical obesity. No, an addiction (if you can call it that) to eating doesn’t count!

It’s true, I used to be fat. I wouldn’t have called myself obese, but measured by today’s standards I would have been, and quite seriously so. I didn’t really want to lose the weight, l didn’t consider myself to be unhealthily fat after all and besides, I was lazy. But I did and there was a very good reason for it.

Back in the day, there were no anti discrimination laws concerning fat lard-asses like I was, so most places I went, I copped it. Sometimes I copped it pretty hard, but the fact of the matter was that I was a fat lard-ass, so I also copped it sweet. Eventually however, I got sick of being called “lard-ass” and worse so I lost a bit of weight. About 4 stone in fact. I’ll let the whipper-snappers out there work out what that is in kilos, I don’t care because I don’t know how much a kilo weighs. I do know however, what an ounce weighs in my hand and that there’s 16 of them in a pound, 14 of which you’ll need to make a stone. So there! Oh yeah, my misspent youth taught me that there’s 28 grams to an ounce. That should help.

Anyway, I digress
From The Age:

OVERWEIGHT people should be rewarded by private health funds with frequent flyer points and gym vouchers if they successfully undertake a monitored diet and exercise program, a leading health economist has said.

A health economist? What the hell is that? Someone that’s fat, unhealthy and suitably embarrassed? Alas no, it’s just a glorified insurance salesman, which is a pity really, it’s a catchy title.

But what I’d really like to know is why the lard asses of this world should be offered any incentive other than a sound beating with a stout stick, metaphorical or otherwise. It worked for me and it worked good. I lost the weight in my 20’s and am now in my 40’s, still slim and still able to ride my push bike 100 miles (160km. I know that one because my odometer does both…:)) or more if I feel like it.

But wait, there’s more:

In Britain, health insurers have reportedly slashed premiums, offering discounts of up to 75% for members who go to the gym and watch their weight.

75% eh? Not bad. Hopefully they’ll do the same over here. I’ll watch my weight all the way to a 75% discount, even if I have to go to a gym to do it, mark my words. It ain’t that bad being fat and I love to eat!


Australian legislation prohibits using premiums to discriminate in this way under the community rating system, but health funds could still provide incentives, Paul Gross, director of the Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment, said yesterday.

Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment? Damn! This get’s more complicated the more I read. Which technology needs to be assessed for fat? Kitchen technology? I guess there are some pretty wiz-bang appliances out there these days and you might do yourself an injury.

But there goes my cheap insurance. A gym membership I can live without but if I was big enough to have to buy two tickets, then I guess the points might come in handy.

But seriously, all this is complete bullshit because as I said, the only incentive needed here is the stout stick of public disapproval. Remove the fat clause from the anti-discrimination laws and make it legal once again to insult fat people in various and amusing ways, just for being the gluttons that they are and that I was. Or perhaps we should think about NOT offering them health insurance. Offering someone an incentive like that just doesn’t work. I’d fatten myself all the way to my 75% discount and stay there so I could keep it. It’s easy for me, I have a slow metabolism. More exercise just means more food and even though I can’t find any info about when they stop the incentive I reckon I could keep my 75% discount for life, no worries.

And no. I didn’t have a thyroid problem or any other medical issue that caused it and neither do the vast majority of fat people out there. But if you are seriously overweight, and my 4 stone was enough to cause it, then it’ll be adult onset diabetes for you unless you do something about it. When that happens, as it will, you’ll either have to observe a very strict diet or inject insulin daily, you’ll slowly lose your eyesight, your feet will turn numb and eventually become useless, leaving you in a wheelchair, your organs will slowly fail, one by one and you will die a young and very uncomfortable death. I ask you, do you really need any other incentive than that?

Excellent stuff! Gimme more...

© Blogger Templates | Tech Blog