Monday, 28 November 2011

Movie set

The Great Gatsby is currently being filmed in Sydney, starring Leonardo di Caprio. Quite a lot of stuff was being shot around the old White Bay power station site recently, I took these two photos from the ANZAC bridge today - note the big green screen and the line of vintage cars. Sweet.

Just think - those poor buggers rushing past in their cars had no idea what was going on just below them.

Small, pleasing things

Got home this afternoon and:

  • the little kids preferred to spend all their time outside until dark, squirting each other with the hose, playing on the swings, digging in the "mud" (my garden) or just running around like lunatics. I got home to find one quietly colouring in a Peppa Pig stencil, and the other building a scene out of Lego. No interest was expressed in the TV.
  • teenagers did the washing up without a word of protest (and did it very nicely too)
  • one teen looked at the setting sun, looked at their bike, said "I'm off" and shot off for a half hour sunset bike ride - for no other reason than to get some exercise and to photograph a lovely sunset over the water.
  • teens found frozen berries (in the freezer of course) and then fought over who got the blender first. They prefer a fruit smoothie to soft drinks (although the sugar content is probably the same). Mango, banana and orange juice beat a pure berry mix (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mulberries)
  • I started counting the books in the little kids room and gave up when I hit 400. And that was one bookshelf (admittedly, the books are not the same size as say a Harold Robbins opus). Both youngsters get very upset if Dad is too tired to read them at least 2 books each. (Where the hell did all those books come from? Presents from family and friends; hand-me downs; bookstalls at school fetes where you can pick them up for 20c each).

That's a plane up there

There are times when I think this family might just work out OK.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Maintenance day

Riding in the rain isn't that good for bikes. Water gets into everything, along with the odd bit of mud and grit, and that doesn't make for rapid forward motion. I pulled the front wheel off today and gave it a spin - I could feel how gritty the bearings felt. When I pulled the axle apart, about a teaspoon of water ran out of where it shouldn't have. The two "shiny" bearings were on one side, the two muddy ones on the other. I cleaned the whole lot up enough to stop it from seizing up on my next outing, but clearly it's time to go shopping for some new stuff.

I also checked the rim wear by holding a spanner up flush with the rim. It should be flush with the spanner handle, not as concave as a waning moon. I've had rims wear to the point before where they gave up, cracked and then exploded. Thankfully, I was not on the bike at the time - having a rim explode and then getting stuck in your forks would be a recipe for going A over T. With a car, you just replace the disks on the disk brakes rather than the whole wheel - in the case of a bike, the brake disk also happens to be your wheel rim.

I could get the wheel rebuilt with a new rim and new innards in the hub, but I think I'll just replace the whole damned lot. I have replaced the wheels entirely twice before, and had two wheel rebuilds. Did someone once say that cycling was cheap?

And I thought I had a hard time on the road

Bugger me, there are some close calls in this video.

Friday, 25 November 2011

What Italian debt crisis?

Two weeks ago, Jessica Irvine, the SMH's economics writer published this about Italy and its debt:

Italy is the world's eighth largest economy, with government debt of $2.6 trillion, exceeding the debts of all the PIGS combined. The markets seem unimpressed by the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, finally falling on his sword.

On Wednesday night, investors pushed the market interest rate for Italian sovereign debt to 7.48 per cent, crucially above the 7 per cent rate that eventually forced the PIGS to seek bailout funding.

The markets are now trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy, one in which their action of pushing up the cost of Italian borrowing increases the likelihood that their worst fear will come to pass - the Italian government being unable to make payments on its debts.

As usual, that got me thinking - and not in a good way about the quality of the economics degree that Jessica gained.

When I first read it, I got the impression that all Italian government debt is floating rate debt. How else would an increase in interest rates cause the government to be unable to make payments on its debts?

Let's compare it to a household mortgage. You borrow a million bucks to buy a house, signing up when interest rates are 6%. You're paying $60k per year in interest.

Then interest rates just to 9%, and you're now up for $90k per year - a 50% jump in interest payments. Ouch.

However, as we know, when you take out a mortgage these days, you an choose a fixed rate mortgage, a floating rate mortgage, or a mix of the two. You might choose to borrow $500k at fixed rates and $500k at floating. That way, your interest bill would not climb to $90k - it would "only" rise to $75k.

Government debt is the same - it is a big melting pot of all sorts of debt instruments. You can find out all about Italian bonds here. There are BTPs, BOTs, CTZs, BTP Euro i and CCT.

If you go to the Italian Treasury website, you can see this graph on the historical structure of debt and average life.

What does this graph tell me? Well, the percentage of floating rate debt has decreased from over 60% in 1993 to about 20% today, and the average life of the debt has gone up from about 4 years to 7 years. In other words, the wogs have a lot of medium term, fixed rate debt. The next graph comes from here.

So, how is this going to cause the wogs to default?

Good question.

They have three choices.

Let's say you owe $100,000. The debt is structured so that it is split into 10 tranches of $10,000 each, and each is repayable one year after the next. That is, you have to repay $10k this year, $10k next year, $10k the year after etc. However, as each tranche falls due, you can refinance it if you want to - and up until now, that's what you've been doing. When your $10k payment falls due, you pay it off and immediately borrow another $10k.

Let's also assume that you were able to borrow each tranche at 5%. That is, you're paying $500 per tranche per year, or $5,000 in total.

Then you find that you're about to be slugged with an interest rate hike - when you next refinance, you'll be paying 7%.

So if we choose to rollover our debt, we'll be paying (9 x $500) + (1 x $700) = $5,200.

Not exactly the end of the world, is it?

Now, I said that you have three choices.

When it comes time to refinance, you can:

  1. Pay down some debt, which will reduce your interest bill
  2. Borrow the same amount as before, or
  3. Borrow more 

If the wogs choose option 1, they'll have no worries about defaulting. If they choose option 2, they'll be paying more and more each year as they roll over, but it's not like they'll face a dramatic increase all at once. If they decide to borrow more - well, they'll be in the shit. And deservedly so.

Therefore, when I re-read this statement:

The markets are now trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy, one in which their action of pushing up the cost of Italian borrowing increases the likelihood that their worst fear will come to pass - the Italian government being unable to make payments on its debts.

I think, "No, you bonehead. What the markets are saying is that it is time for you to selection option 1, rather than option 3". The problem that they have is that they are completely incapable of getting their budget under control, and they expect other people to bail them out. Screw that.

I don't think Jessica gets the idea of what a market is. "The markets" might be fronted by a bunch of well paid, well fed wankers in sharp suits, but standing behind them are millions of small investors and pensioners. Brokers are simply managing the aggregated savings of tens of millions of people like you ane me. Are you happy to lend all your superannuation to Italy at 5%, knowing that you might lose 50% of it, or would you prefer to scale back the amount you lend them, and charge them a higher interest rate to guard against the risk of them not paying you back?

And when idiots like Jessica talk about "the banks taking a haircut", what she means is bank shareholders, which includes the superannuation of people like you and me, because our super funds all hold bank shares. So the pain of profligate Italian politicians is sheeted home to us - those that work and save and put something aside for the future.

Critical mess

I see those tools from Critical Mass are out making life a misery for motorists again tonight. I did a ride with them 6 years ago, not long after I bought my bike, but before I started blogging, and I swore to never do it again. I was sure I took photos on the ride, but I have just searched the archive and there are none to be found. Here are my thoughts from that time:

Friday was my first anthrapological expedition for a while.  I didn't exactly don my pith helmet - instead, I donned my bike helmet and took part in a "Critical Mass" ride around the CBD and over the Harbour Bridge.  My reasons for doing so were two fold - first, you only get to cycle over the Bridge once a year, and secondly, I need the exercise to help me sleep.

Let me just say at the start that I have never seen such an enormous crowd of ferals gathered together in one place in my life.  It was like half the township of Nimbin had jumped (or cycled) into the local teleporter and materialised in Hyde Park.  It's not like you see lots of ferals together in one place very often - they're like the homeless. You see the odd mad sod wandering down the street muttering to himself about alien space rays before begging for cash, but it's not like you see a tent city of them in Hyde Park once a month.

Critical Mass, like many things in our society, appears to be an import.  I have heard and read about similar groups overseas.  Funnily enough, all the members appeared to be madly against globalisation, but I doubt they would see the funny side in them being members of a globalised cult.     It would not surprise me to find that this cult started in that fountain of all things evil - the US.

The idea behind Critical Mass is a bit like those feminist "reclaim the streets" marches that used to happen with regular monotony in the 80's and 90's.  You never seem to hear about them these days.  I just scanned the SMH and there was nothing in there about this ride either.  I guess they are no longer newsworthy events.  Boring.  Give us something new and exciting to report!

Anyway, the original concept was that a group of cyclists would get together once a month and ride as a group slowly around an area blocking traffic at peak hour and "reclaiming the streets" for cyclists.  What started as a radical anti-authoritarian protest movement has metamorphised into your usual well organised boondoogle.  I counted 8 police outriders on motorbikes (with lights flashing and the whole works - I felt like I was the GG being escorted somewhere), half a dozen marked cop cars and most of the cycle cops in town (all on their bikes of course), which numbered 20 or 30.  It was well organised chaos.  The only thing we were missing was a Police chopper, some cops on horses and the dog squad.

The web site said to meet at the Hyde Park fountain at 5.30pm.  I duly saddled up and rode into town expecting to arrive just before 5.30pm and then we'd all join up and ride over the bridge.  Bzzzz - wrong.  I met up with two other blokes on the ANZAC bridge and we rode in together, and then we sat around near the fountain for an hour whilst the ferals got organised.  That was no mean feat.  I was amazed that so many had made it there almost on time, since very few seemed to own a watch.  Keeping time is just so capitalist, man.  Too organised for me.  In fact quite a few didn't seem to own shoes either.  They did however own an impressive collection of haircuts and facial jewellry, and many sported shirts promoting the Greens, or stickers proclaiming that, "No Iraqi died to provide fuel for this bike".  No, but some probably died to supply the diesel for the ship that brought it to this country.

The police were of course all there at 5.30pm, lined up in a neat row, looking on with bemused expressions at this laager of louts.  Those that had been on one of these rides previously were not bothering to look at their watches, as they knew something I didn't - they never start on time (I found this out from chatting to a cop later on who had done a few).  One thing the cop did tell me is that the bike cops don't shave their legs.  They had been taking bets to see if anyone would dare to wax their legs, but none had been game enough to do it yet.

I wrote last year about how I tried to pick the political persuasion of people cycling in from the North Shore, and how I thought most of them probably voted Liberal.  Well, her sample would tell you that most cyclists in Sydney are scruffy, ride bikes with a resale value of between $30 and $60, and ride them because they can't afford to buy a nice second hand 4WD.  My survey of commuters coming over the Harbour Bridge on the other hand tells me that most cyclists are well dressed, well groomed professionals that ride bikes that cost them between $800 and $5000 and they probably own a BMW or an Audi. 

As I was sucking on my Chuppa Chup, a dumpy lesbian asked me if she could use my bike pump.  Oh for crying out loud, who seeks to embark on a ride over the Harbour Bridge with flat tyres!  That about said it all for this crowd as far as I was concerned.  They were so fixated on photocopying the pamphlets for the anti-war teach-in at Sydney Uni the following day (I am not kidding), that they forgot to check and prepare their means of transport.  Frankly, I thought teach-ins died out back in the 20th century - like at the end of the 1960's.  Next thing, they'll be sporting afros and cork shoes.  The really hilarious thing about the bike pump episode is that they dyke did not know how to use a bike pump!  She normally took her bike to the petrol station and filled up there from the air hose.  My pump was no use as her tyres used car type valves, but I spotted a bloke that had the right type of pump and borrowed that on her behalf.  It was the same type of pump that we used as kids - you had to screw a flexy hose into the end and then attach that to the valve.  She had no idea how to do it.  I had to show her how to use the pump, and then pump up her tyres as she had no upper body strength.  Strewth!

Rent-a-crowd really was the best description for this mob.  I am certain that some probably turned up on foot with "save the dolphin" banners and went, "bugger, wrong week, different protest" and walked home.  I did spot a few people wearing lycra like myself (which denotes firstly someone that has a high enough income to spend $250 on lycra shorts and a shirt and secondly denotes someone that cycles far enough to work up a sweat), but the rest were wearing hemp.  Personally, I would not like to ride very far in hemp.  It sounds much too much like a hair shirt to me.  Wearing hemp makes you a "milk and bread" cyclist - ie, someone who rides to the local shop for some milk and bread, and no further.  The idea of doing a round trip commute of say 35 kms would probably be as alien to this mob as eating a T-bone (especially a whale T-bone steak).

Eventually, the mob left Hyde Park and rode straight into the normal peak hour traffic jam near David Jones.  We sat in traffic for a good ten minutes before getting to the point where we could do a lap around Town Hall and then on to the Bridge.  The Town Hall lap was interesting, as we stopped at the intersection outside the Town Hall (which is a major intersection) and we stopped there for a good 10 minutes.  Many bemused pedestrians pulled out cameras and camera phones and took photos of this mass of hemp clad, cheering maniacs in the square in front of them.  Most of the mob got an enormous kick out of all the attention.  Personally, I thought it was like be a gladiator in front of a baying mob and I was waiting for someone to release the lions from the QVB building.  My favourite bit in the traffic jam was when one of the cycle cops spotted a bloke in a car yapping on his mobile - he was right next to me.  He rode over, stuck his head in the window and said something like, "That's a really dumb idea mate", and I swear the motorist just about pooped himself there and then.  The look on his face was a sight to behold.  He got away without a ticket though - lucky sod.

First point about protests - many are doing it for the kicks.  There is a bit of a thrill being the focus of attention of so many people, including the odd older guy in a suit who took exception to people on two wheels and who yelled abuse about, "people who want to get home".  From what I could see, most of the people in town couldn't care less about getting home.  After all, it was Friday night.  Most wanted to get to the pub, and then worry about getting home.  I guess the heckler has an evil wife waiting at home who will make his life difficult unless he is home by 6.30pm on the dot.  We blocked traffic for quite a while, which didn't seem to bother too many car drivers.  Since the cross city tunnel opened, traffic through the city has been a nightmare, and I reckon many didn't even notice the impact of our ride.  It was just another horror Friday night in Sydney traffic for them.

After Town Hall, we meandered up past Parliament House and then onto the Bridge.  All traffic going north had been shutdown, so we rode across the Cahill Expressway with no cars, and then onto a car free bridge (at least the four western lanes were car free).  Traffic was banked up for miles, and most drivers had given up and gotten out of their cars to have a look.  Some tooted and waved in a friendly manner, but one Guido got grumpy and shook his fist and said a few choice words.  We just rang our bells and tooted our horns and laughed at him.  Poor sod.  I look at these Guidos in their flash cars and wonder how much they owe on them, and how long it will be before they are repossessed and end up back in a car yard on Parramatta Road waiting for the next idiot with small balls to come by.

Note about greenies that don't cycle much - they might be skinny, but mung beans are not good for fitness or speed.  They rode at a stately 6-10 km/h, which is slower than I walk.  I nearly fell over a few times (I saw one courier who did in fact fall over - they never travel at under about 50 km/h, especially when they are on the footpath).  Once we hit open road, I put my feet down and made it to the middle of the bridge right behind the cops on motor bikes.  At that point we stopped and waved at people above us doing the Bridgeclimb, and waited for the rest of the pack to catch up.  I looked back down the bridge at several thousand tree huggers that filled all four lanes and stretched all the way from the middle of the bridge back to the expressway.  I don't know where these people live, but there were a lot of them.  It was like watching fleas climbing up a dogs back.

There were three hippies in particular that stuck out.  One had a face like the Elephant Man.  He was a very wierd looking guy.  His jaw was about six inches longer than normal and his teeth stuck out in all directions.  Ick.  Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fans may remember the name of the character that Arthur Dent kept on killing, and the description of how his fangs stuck out all over the place when they finally met and he tried to kill Arthur.  That was this guy. 

Another guy had what looked like a shopping trolley attached to the front of his bike, and by the look of it, it contained all his worldy possessions.  He looked like a homeless guy that also had a bike insread of a shopping trolley or enormous collection of garbage bags.  The last guy was clearly retarded.  I guess he rode a bike because he did not have the brain power to drive a car.  He was also riding a BMX type bike, which is not the best thing for riding any distance. 

Here I was thinking that cycling would introduce me to a world of elite athletes, and instead I end up with a bunch of soy drinking, tree hugging, hemp wearing, bearded, homeless dykes and wierdos.  To cap it off, we visited some relatives on the weekend and I passed a pack of Accenture guys out for a ride.  Now that is what I expected - to be grooving with a bunch of fit, highly paid, globetrotting MBA-type consultants.  In future, I will have to read the fine print on these bike ride brochures more closely.

After the rest of the mung bean powered mob arrived near the middle of the bridge, we continued on our merry way and rode up through North Sydney to where the the Friday night noodle markets are supposed to be held.  However, as a sign of intensely good organisation, we arrived on the one Friday night when there were no noodle markets.  That meant hopping back on the bike before the speeches about no blood for oil started (and before my sweat started freezing) and zipping back home.  It took me a good two hours or more to make it to North Sydney and about 45 minutes to get home.  Never ride with Greenies.  They can't shut up, and if they ride too fast, they can't talk about their latest workshop based around recycling sheep toenail clippings, so they dawdle.  On the other hand, they can't be too poor, as most had a fairly expensive digital camera lurking in one of their hemp shirt pockets (and hemp shirts are not that cheap).  I like to call it disaffected hippyism.

There was one other point that I almost forgot - the intense religiousity of the whole thing.  Apart from Mr and Ms Mungbean getting an almost sexual thrill out of the attention that they were recieving, they were also all totally manic about their passions regarding War, oil, cars, trees, hemp and other things on the Green agenda.  I have never been exposed to such a manic, committed mob.  They were as fervent a crowd as you could ever hope to meet.  I could suddenly see where suicide bombers come from, along with the members of the Spanish Inquisition.  For this mob, it was all black and white.  Unlike us cynics, who see plenty of gray and don't get wound up about much, this lot were fanatics.  They had that mindset - that light in the eyes, that makes them very, very dangerous.

That's why they should all be conscripted into the Foreign Legion and shipped off to fight in Syria.  If they can be indoctrinated so well with the Green agenda, it shouldn't be too hard to turn them into gung-ho types.

The wet that was

Bloody hell, it's been a sodden week. Not many photos this week as the camera has been living in a plastic bag to stop it seizing up (again). The good thing about wet weather is that the pedestrian traffic plummets by about 90%, so although the risk of crashing through sliding into something in the wet goes up, the risk of crashing into an idiot wandering along on the wrong side of the path whilst they adjust their iPod settings goes way down.

Cycling numbers also drop quite a bit in this sort of weather - it sorts out the girls from the hard nuts.

It's not like we're going to dissolve or drown in a bit of rain. It's just bloody water!

I did have one close call this week though - a bloody idiot taxi driver swerved from his lane into mine (without indicating) and then slammed on the brakes in order to pick up a fare. I had a choice of going into the back of him or around him. I'm glad I didn't try to go around him, as I would have been cleaned up by a bus in the lane next door. As it was, I pulled up about an inch off his bumper, fuming and shaking at how close a call it had been. What infuriated me the most is that I couldn't get around the side of his car to yell at him because there was a whole line of buses going past. Why he didn't wait for me to pass and then pull over is beyond me. Maybe he saw a taxi coming up behind me, and just had to jump across or lose the fare?


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Fascinating search result

I went to the SMH and typed "climategate" into their search engine.

Last story on this subject was published a month ago. The most recent three stories were:

  • Chilling news for climate sceptics
  • Majority report: why consensus is all the rage
  • Climate-change scientist cleared in US over emails
Yep, that's fair and balanced reporting alright.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Who are the 1%? Part two

You can slice the population up in numerous ways when it comes to determining who is in the top 1% and who isn't. (Can a grammar nazi let me know if that should be "who" or "whom").

I prefer to look at the entire population, and then calculate the top 1%.

Others prefer to look at just those paying income tax, which reduces the pool quite considerably - especially now that the lowest income tax threshold is being raised considerably.

You can also use families to do your calculations.

I've used individuals because of the language being used in this debate. Take this quote from Wikipedia:

The protesters' slogan We are the 99% refers to the growing difference in wealth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. 

Note the last 5 words - "the rest of the population". When you say, "the rest of the population", to me, that means everyone. It means my kids, who are too young to be working (and earning). It means my parents in law, who are retired and on the pension. It means my sister in law, who was a stay at home mum for a few years after her kids were born, and therefore wasn't earning. It means a relative, who went gallivanting off overseas for a few years, doing the hippy thing and existing on the sniff of an oily rag. The quote does not say, "all those earning over $20,000 per year".

A document that has been quoted as a distant source for all this discontent is this CBO report on trends in household income. It's worth a read. Here's some points:

  • Due to the IT revolution starting in the 1990s, workers with better educations and skills earned a lot more money than those with poor educations and low skills
  • An increase in foreign born workers has put downward pressure on the wages of low skilled work
  • The entry of women into the workforce has increased the inequality between families. It's obvious that if both parents are working in one family, and only one is working in another, then there will be inequality between the two.
  • Well educated, highly skilled people tend to marry the same type of person. If both of them work, they will make a lot more money than a poorly educated, lowly skilled couple.
  • For those at the top, a lot of their income came in the form of capital gains during the stock market boom. ie, those that invested their money made more money. Those that invested nothing made nothing. 
  • Changes in the media and sports industries saw a boom in payments to actors and athletes - but there's not as many of them as you might think
  • employees in the financial and legal professions made up a larger share of the highest earners than people in those other groups. The authors concluded that their findings are most consistent with the theories that technical changes have enhanced the value of certain skills and that the increasing scale of corporate and financial activity has raised the value of corporate executives and financial professionals, rather than that weak corporate governance has led to excessive compensation.
  • An alternative study found that nonfinancial executives, managers, and supervisors made up the largest subgroup of the highest-income households, accounting for 31 percent of the top percentile. Medical professionals were the second largest occupational category, making up 16 percent, while financial professionals accounted for 14 percent and lawyers for 8 percent.
What do I make of all this?

Get a job at Macquarie Bank and invest your money. Marry someone else who works at Macquarie Bank.

But ignoring the bankers for a second, let's think about the sorts of people who have climbed into the 1%. They're just as likely to be people who started early at Google and Apple, the engineers who took a punt on working for Skype, the Dilberts who came up with the idea for Angry Birds and Twitter and a whole host of IT gadgets and software. They're the doctors who invented new surgical tools and techniques, like better knees and hips and pacemakers and hearing aids.

Do you really think that the people who invented Angry Birds, who are now probably in the top 0.01%, are really that evil and nasty? Are they to blame for the calamities of the world? And why do you want to take their money off them? If you want to some cash, invent your own stupid game and take it to market.

Lots of US students doing useless degrees

One reason the Occupy Wall Street swampies are so angry is the amount of student debt many of them have racked up, which they now can't pay off because they can't get the sort of job they thought they'd get when they started uni.

Carpe Diem has a great table showing the sorts of degrees that were awarded in the US in 2009.

Out of 1.7 million graduating students:

  • 21,000 studied "family and consumer sciences" (whatever the hell that is)
  • 94,000 studied psychology (is there really a demand for so many psych graduates?)
  • 9,000 did "area, ethnic, cultural and gender studies" - good luck to any of them getting a job
  • 83,000 studied "communication and communication technologies", which is probably a new term for media studies with the addition of Twatter
  • 89,000 did "visual and performing arts" - there might be one John Malkovic in there. The other 88,999 will all be serving our coffees.
  • 31,000 did "parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies" - I'm stuck for comment here
  • 500,000 did what I would term "fairly useful" degrees - health, education, law (yes, I almost choked on that one) English language and literature, liberal arts, maths, architecture, science, IT and engineering. 
In other words, 500,000 graduated with a good chance of employment and paying off the debt they piled up during their studies.

1.2 million graduated with a worthless fly swatter.

I wouldn't mind if our expanded higher education system was producing more nurses, better teachers and well trained engineers, scientists, agronomists, geologists and doctors; plus a good wodge of classically educated liberals arts types.

Instead, it's pretty clear that the explosive growth in higher education has mainly been in largely worthless fields. The sooner we close half the faculties, the better.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Who are the Australian 1%?

You're probably thinking that the 1% is made up of squillionaires like Twiggy Forrest and Nathan Tinkler and Gina Reinhart and that fat moron who is the Collingwood president - what's his name? Eddie Maguire.

Well, think again.

There are 22 million Australians. So the 1% are the 220,000 top earners.

We have a good idea what those at the very top make - the likes of James Packer and so on. But what about the person that is the 210,000th top earner, or the 220,000th top earner?

I once found, and copied, a tax table from the Henry Tax Review. I have never been able to find it again. It broke down the number of tax payers in every income bracket from $20,000 and below to $300,000 and above. From $20k to $80k, it slices the taxpayers into $5,000 increments. Above that, it's $10,000 increments, and above $200k, it uses $25,000 increments.

There are 40,000 people earning over $300,000. So that bracket ranges from those pulling in hundreds of millions per year down to $300,000. They are the top 0.18%.

There are 60,000 people making between $250,000 and $300,000. So we are now up to 100,000 people out of our 220,000 1 percenters.

Another 50,000 make between $200,000 and $250,000. We are now up to 150,000 people.

25,000 make between $180k and $200k. That's 175,000 in total.

40,000 make between $170k and $180k. We're now up to 215,000 in total - pretty close to 1%.

55,000 make between $160k and $170k. If we include them, we're up to 270,000 people, and we're up to 1.23% of the population. So let's draw the line at just under $170,000.

What sort of people earn over $170,000?

Academics for starters. Every university has a number of well paid staffers. Monash (page 78) for instance has one earning $390k and another on $810k. Interestingly, in 2009, the top bod at Monash made $1.2 million. La Trobe (page 60) uni, home to Robert Manne, paid 3 Council members between $240k and $600k. An additional 33 Executive Officers at La Trobe made over $170k.

Plenty of politicians are in the top 1% too - especially Premiers and Ministers. The base pay of a Federal parliamentarian is $140k, but that's topped up with an electoral allowance of between $32k and $48k and $19.5k for a vehicle, plus travel allowances etc, so even saintly Bob Brown and his pack of Greentards are in the 1%.

Just about every local, state and federal department will have at least one manager in the 1%. Consider the Department of Climate Change - it has 50 managers earning over $170k! Fifty! The top person there earns $429k.

NSW Dept of Education - the Director General (page 95) is on $488k, the BER dude is on $427k (gee, wasn't he good value for money?) and there are 26 other managers making between $250k and $350k. There are another 46-55 SES officers possibly making over $170k (can't tell from the report - it's not detailed enough).

Same with Health - the DG for Health (page 205) in NSW makes $435k and her various minions are all scraping by on well over $170k. And that of course doesn't include any of the Doctors and Specialists making well over that amount. Got a cancerous lump that needs removing? Well, if you think those in the 1% are paid too much, I suggest you tell your surgeon and anaesthetist and radiologist that they are overpaid oafs who should be given a compulsory financial haircut when you're lying on the operating table about to go under.

Then there are entertainers, actors and sports stars - too numerous to mention really. And then there are the lawyers at the big end of town - especially QCs. Plus architects and accountants.

Don't forget union officials, who are really on the gravy train - like Michael Williamson at the HSU, pocketing $350,000 per year. It's hard to tell what other union officials are making, because their annual reports are so opaque. For instance, the RTBU (Victoria) paid a total of $732k to its officials last year, but the report does not list who those officials are and how much each was paid.

I could go on and on for hours here, but it's a hot day and I feel like a swim.

I just wanted to make the point that the top 1% is not made up of fat cats in large financial institutions grinding the faces of the poor. The 1% is not made up of plutocrats swanning around in private jets and swimming in champagne.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Friday photos

Is it Christmas already? Can I open my presents tomorrow?

Once again, I notice that the Sydney City Council has gone with an insipid non-Christian theme for its Christmas banners. It's not like I'm a churchy God-botherer, but even I recognise the religious significance of the date. Memo to Council - the Myer and David Jones department stores were not around 2000 years ago. It's not all about shopping.

After a few days of rain, we had a misty morning for once. This photo doesn't do it justice, but I could barely see the bridge at the end of the Bay. For around here, that's misty.

The rain kept 95% of the walkers and runners in doors, so they were out in force this morning after being cooped up inside for a few days.

I love how relaxed recumbents look, but jeez I worry about being squashed on one.

More mist - the pillars of the ANZAC bridge in the morning foggy stuff. OK, it's not San Francisco, but it's as good as it gets.

Heavily loaded.

Could barely see the Harbour Bridge either.

A closer view - you can just see a vague grey coat hanger in the middle of the photo.


Queuing up to get home.

And now for some light reading - Man vs machine. A cool article for lovers of bikes and motor bikes.
Got given a few boxes of liquor chocolates a month or so ago. Didn't pay any attention to how they were stored.

Had a few stinking hot days - the liquor has evaporated from the centres and the chocolates have imploded.

They still taste alright - but lack the kick that they would have had originally.

Note to self - in future, scoff chocolate as soon as you get it. Don't put it away for a rainy day.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Obama's visit - where were all the demonstrators?

The last time a sitting US President visited Australia, there was a great deal of fuss about the security precautions (and how heavy handed they'd be) and there were quite a few demonstrations. I even went to one just to see what it was all about.

I haven't digested a lot of media lately, but the small amount that I have read didn't mention a single demonstration against President Obama.  Hmm - why would that be?

We also didn't have any local politicians bagging the President, like we had last time.

Troops out, Hicks home: protesters
March 17, 2007

Around 400 protesters have marched through central Sydney to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war.

The rally, organised by Stop the War Coalition, was one of many around Australia and the world this weekend.

Police escorted the banner-waving marchers down George Street, which was briefly closed to traffic as protesters made their way down to Belmore Park.

The demonstrators called for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the federal government to bring Australian terror suspect David Hicks home from US detention at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Before the march, federal Greens senator Kerry Nettle reminded the crowd assembled at Town Hall that she and party leader Bob Brown had been ejected from parliament in 2003.

The Greens duo made loud interjections about Iraq and wore shirts referring to Hicks during US President George Bush's address to a joint sitting of the two houses.

"Four years on, how things have changed," Senator Nettle said.

"The issue of Iraq is the disaster we all said it would be.

"The predictions have not only come true - it's worse."

President of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties David Burnie told protesters that Hicks' detention for so long without charge was an issue that had implications for all Australians.

Mr Burnie claimed the Guantanamo Bay facility was not a detention centre but a "torture centre".

"It's setting up a precedent which devalues human rights across the world," Mr Burnie said.

Odd - Guantanamo is still open for business (although Hicks has been released). Iraq doesn't seem to be going to badly these days, and we still  have troops in Afghanistan. So - where the hell are the Greens and the protesters? Normally, Bob Brown is a human headline at times like these - but all he did was fawn over the President.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lazy bowel syndrome

I've heard of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but I am now witnessing Lazy Bowel Syndrome in action.

Whenever we ask Teenager to do something, the response is, "I've got to go to the toilet!"

"Clean you room".

"I need to crap!"

"Hang up your clothes"

"I'm busting!"

"Mow the lawn"

"I need to go - right now!"

He then hangs around in the toilet until he thinks the coast is clear - ie, we have forgotten about the task at hand. Unfortunately for him, we cottoned onto this behaviour some time ago, and we just hang around chuckling at him until he emerges - and then he's put back on task.

The hilarious thing is that he thinks he's getting away with it.

Being a Dickhead's Cool

Thank you Guido - this is a great video.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Michael Moore - definitely part of the 1%

Poor Michael Moore - it's tough being in the 1%, but trying to act like you're not.

Check out his vacation home. Not a bad little pile.

Moore made his money fair and square - I don't begrudge the fat bastard any of it. He should either accept that he's very rich and successful, or give 99% of his wealth away and go and live quietly in the suburbs like the rest of us. His hypocrisy is what drives me nuts.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Bugger me, what a day. It was as steamy as a sauna this morning - the photo below really doesn't do the mist any justice. And then it just poured down on the way home - a ripper of a storm came through. I was having trouble seeing where I was going due to the volume of water pouring off my head and into my eyes. Still, it was a nice cool ride home after a stinkingly humid day. Only downside was the lightning bolt that crashed to earth about a hundred yards to my right as I came off the ANZAC Bridge - caused me to jump about a foot to the left. As long as it doesn't start hailing, I don't care.

The pussies at work on the other hand.... they refused to leave the office because it was raining, and they had to walk across 10 feet of uncovered pavement on the way to the train station. Sheesh!

Monday, 7 November 2011

I hope I am not this slack when it comes to packing Xmas parcels for the troops

Geez, if it wasn't for Kae, I don't know what I'd do.

The deadline for sending Christmas packages to the troops is 9 December - read all about it here.

Now - get cracking and get packing.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wednesday photos

Geez, I like the above photo. Not for the bike - because the light and colour seems to crisp. Must have remembered to wipe the sweat off the camera lens before heading out.

Got no idea what these guys were filming, but there appeared to be a bike following this rig!

Rowers in the murky morning light. Good thing these shells have lights on them these days.