LABELS AND POST-TRUTHS

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LABELS

“Misogynist. Racist. Human Dreg. Buffoon. Idiot. Pompous. Cheat. Narcissist. Arrogant. Bombastic. Jerk. Stupid. Obnoxious. Disgusting. Bully. Ignorant. Clown. Disgraceful. Axxhole. Idiot. Demagogic. Fake.”

  • These are some of the labels that have been used to describe candidates in the recent USA presidential election.

The word “misogynist” refers to males.

There is of course a female version i.e. “misandrist”.

  • Would there be a “misandrist” or two amongst those who freely used “misogynist” as a catch cry to vent their feelings?

Psychologists suggest that we should “look in the mirror” when we use derogatory words to describe others, to see if we ourselves are perhaps “standing behind the door”.

However unwelcome this suggestion may be…

  • Can one really pigeonhole a person with a single or even a few words?

Some people describe certain animals – including cows and bulls – as sentient beings, i.e. of conscious mind, with the ability to perceive and respond to sensations of whatever kind.

However, the world is now a place where we have become so smart that a complex human being can be categorised in 140 or less characters. World-wide and instantaneously.

Or in a 5-second soundbite.

Or a single word which reflects your (limited) understanding of what “truth” that single word conveys.

Really? A single word?

  • If you consider yourself a rational and complex human being, then what label will the following people attach to you once they see the labels that you so “rationally” attach to other people:
    • Your partner?
    • Your children?
    • Your friends?
    • Your enemies?
  • And which of those labels would you say really describe you?
  • Is it time to look in the mirror?
  • Or are you comfortably standing behind the door?

 

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“Post-truth”

 

The 2016 Word of the Year is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.

Spoiler alert: Human beings are susceptible to feelings, emotion, personal belief, passion, changeable moods, frustration, love and even hatred.

If we dissect this word, we find it concocted of two words that suggest that there has been (political) truth before this moment.

 

  • Which I beg to differ.

 

Are we to say that politicians and CEO’s of large and influential corporations spoke only the truth before the most recent USA presidential election?

And that there has not been any fake news before this?

 

  • The answer is a resounding “NO!” on both counts.

 

Amoral politicians and said CEO’s have been leading whole nations into a dazed maze for generations, not only since 2015 – and with the help of a guilty and an amoral (and sometimes immoral) media.

To quote Bertrand Russell “Politics is largely governed by sententious (i.e. given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner) platitudes which are devoid of truth” (my brackets).

 

Post-truth is a silly word.

We are still living in a Pre-truth world.

And Bertrand Russell’s quote relate to more than politicians only.

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Ageism at Work: “Unfit to be on Campus”

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  • Discrimination is discrimination. And none more so despicable, pathetic and cowardly than when perpetrated against the elderly.

 

Today’s News in Australia:

 

Dr David Goodall – a 102 year old botanist and ecology scientist – has been told to pack up his office with the Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia declaring him unfit to be on campus.

His career spans 70 years resulting in more than 100 research papers, earning him three doctorates and the Order of Australia for his contribution to serving Humanity.

David Goodall is also a Shakespearean actor of note.

Below link will take you to a short article on this 102 year old scientist:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-21/102yo-researcher-told-to-leave-his-edith-cowan-university-job/7769422

 

This will be a death sentence. Most of his social exchanges are at the University.

This man is a scientist. Not a fitness instructor. Why send him home?

 

The Edith Cowan University is a public university, thus taxpayer-funded.

We also fund jails.

  • And this is where they are sending this man who has devoted his life to Humanity.

 

Says Dean of the School of Sciences, Andrew Woodward:

  • “This is not a decision we’ve taken lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.”
  • “We are now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where we really do need to make this change in David’s best interest and our own.” (my accentuation)

 

(George Orwell: Rule # 3 on writing: “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”

Question: Can anyone spot the excess words in the above statements? Or are both statements excessive?)

 

Here is a snip from Dean Andrew Woodward’s public LinkedIn profile:

  • “In my leadership role at ECU, I have a strong commitment to quality teaching, engaged research and a focus on expanding international partnerships. I believe strongly in ECUs values, particularly those of integrity and respect, and make sure that I demonstrate these values in my dealings with others.” (my accentuation).

 

Mr. Andrew Woodward, let me put this in a different context:

  • So, a person can be too black and must move off campus?
  • Or too white?
  • Perhaps too short?
  • Too tall?
  • Bald?
  • Wrong sex”

 

Or Too Old?

 

With modern science you may even be able to change some of the above parameters.

But age?

 

Here is a suggestion:

  • Let us put in place forced retirement of Deans after one year in their job. And move them off campus. For their best interest.

 

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But to paraphrase Andrew Woodward:

  • This is not a suggestion I make lightly, this is something that has been considered over a period of time.
  • I am now of the opinion where the situation is at a point where universities really do need to make this change in their Deans’ best interest.

 

I repeat: Discrimination is discrimination. And none more so despicable, pathetic and cowardly than when perpetrated against the elderly.

 

I would like to close with 6 points on “Remember – Age is Mostly a Number” from my 2nd book “50 PERSEPCTIVES – The Value of Things Unseen”.

 

KEY POINTS

  • How ‘old’ would you be if you didn’t know your birthdate and real age?
  • Ageism is another –ism, and is as offensive as racism and sexism.
  • Some reach mental maturity earlier whilst others are slower and even stagnate.
  • To age is a privilege. It is neither a sin, nor anti-social. Character is what counts.
  • Knowing and understanding things become easier as we age.
  • Ageing is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one with challenges taking on different hues.

 

I note Andrew Woodward was an IT Network Security Manager and Advisor for 10 years of his life. I can relate to that having been in the IT domain for 43 years of my life, and having had IT Network Security Managers work for me….

I can share the passion for acting with Dr. Goodall, having been able to play in numerous student movies and one feature film (at age 68/69) care of Singaporean independent filmmaker, director and producer Tzang Merwyn Tong. And am thankful for that opportunity to do something outside of the IT world…

 

Hence in closing:

 

“You are not old until regrets take the place of dreams” – Adapted from John Barrymore

Dr. Goodall – don’t be bullied. May you be spared for many fruitful years!

 

We all get old. Or die on the way trying to get there.

Dipping My Keyboard Back Into The Ink

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Don’t Await Destiny. Go Create It

 

I have not updated my blog for some time since I was completing my book on credit cards, which is now available on Amaz
on, Kobo, B&N, Scribd and a host of other places.

 

Red Cover
The good news is that my red cover book “Credit Card Debt Freedom – Part One” is FREEBook front page jpegLY downloadable from the above places.

 

 

The black cover “Credit Card Debt Freedom – Full Book” is available for a small price.

 

I want to clear my debt of thanks to Conrad, Danie and Rupert (in alphabetical order) who beta-read my draft and also proposed positive critique of things which I may be able to get into future editions. I, of course, take full responsibility for the published versions.

 

Now on a point of order: During my blog absence there were a number of local and global issues in response to which I had written blogs but did not post them. I thought it wiser to let the blogs cool off for a while. However, on rereading them, I still feel as strongly about some of them now as I did then.

 

So, I may just dip my keyboard in the proverbial ink soon and publish what might divide opinion.

 

I Felt Amputated – And Home on a Sidewalk

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This is a note I wrote on 30 July 2014.

 

This morning I took a train into town to lodge my tax return. Being in semi-retirement with virtually no income for the past 18 months there was not a lot to report – just a few dollars interest and about $1,000 from some casual work. Not enough to last a winter.

The way to the Tax Office lead past an untidy long-haired bearded and shabbily dressed jobless vagrant on the sidewalk, appreciating his luck of a wrapped sandwich – gifted by a person a few steps ahead of me. A cup of coffee was still steaming next to him – another obvious gift. He did not look up, trying to avoid the stares of passersby – a thimble of pride left in him?

A twinge of empathy seeped itself into me. Winter. No fixed abode. A set of fraying and dirty clothes. Cement sidewalk for a chair – and bed.

As I sat waiting for the Tax Office to open, increasing larger pockets of people murmured by – well-heeled, chatting – some holding expensive brand name drinks and donuts. A thin layer of envy spread over me. Something was amiss.

I started to feel amputated.

The Tax Office doors opened and accorded an escape from myself. The soulless authoritarian Tax Officer and I disengaged as quickly as I could. And I then stepped into a food-court to sit down and gather my thoughts. Around me people sat at small round tables, doing what people do around small round tables.

Yes, I missed the dignity of work and what comes with it.

The way back to the train station became a lonely upstream weave against a flood of workers. The smell of freshly cooked chips wafted out of a shop.

I boarded an empty train home. Opened the plastic lunchbox with fried rice that my wife prepared for the journey. A few shelled peanuts rounded off my lunch – eating them one at a time. A minimalistic frame of mind was engaging me faster than I liked. Even the single paper serviette seemed to have more value than its one time use…

The only difference between me and the jobless “bum” seemed to be that I had a few more earthly things but in reality both of us were amputated.

There is no dignity in being poor, jobless, of pensionable age with nothing to do.

 

Postscript

And then it struck me: Amputated as I might have felt, I was going back to a house I can call a home. With running water and a toilet. A warm bed and clean clothes tomorrow. And hot soup on the stove.

I know where I sleep at night.

And I know where the Ministers of Health and Employment and Social Services sleep at night.

 

Quo Vadis?

But where do our homeless go at night?

 

Conclusion

Don’t underestimate the dignity and value of a job.

 

30 July 2014

 

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Auto-renewal of Car/House-relate Premiums on Credit Cards

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(This is an extract from my forthcoming book on Credit Cards)

 

  • Many insurance companies will now auto-renew your annual car / house-related premiums. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but also not necessarily a good thing.

 

Unexpected or Inconvenient Time

Unless you keep close track of this it may cause you an “unexpected” problem or at minimum a surprise at an often inconvenient time.

My recent experience is that:

(a) it is difficult to get real bricks and mortar car/house-related insurance offices to visit in Australia

(b) the auto-renewal stunt is pulled after they have recorded your credit card number during the sales conversation, and normally also in a much more matter-of-fact oh-by-the-way remark-like way.

 

“The Way We Do Business”

I had that experience recently and even though I asked for the auto-renewal to be removed, I was told that it is the way the company does business.

Check in your country if there is an authority that can give you more advice on this. In Australia the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has taken up this matter and six of the insurers informed that it is part of their business model. Of course you do not have to abide by this and can call them before the policy renewal date or even afterwards to cancel and get a pro-rata return.

  • One way to stop auto-payments is to not give your credit card number and insist that you will pay the premium at the Post Office or through an internet transfer (such as BPAY).
  • Another option is to buy a pre-filled temporary credit card which you can dispose of afterwards. These cards are normally also available at Post Offices. And the insurer (or whomever they are) cannot get their hands on your real credit card number. The ball is, however, now in your court to remember your premium payment’s date to ensure you do not become uninsured.

 

Reversal of Premium

You should be able to get a cancelled premium reversed though and that is often another bone of contention: trying to get them to reverse the debit in time for you to use your card to pay for a better deal.

I just went through that process and though the money is normally taken off your card immediately, it takes 5 – 7 business days for the card company to reverse the money back into your credit card account.

 

Cancel Your Card

  • There is another way to stop insurance companies and it is to cancel your credit card and get your bank to issue a new card. This is however a real hassle and it may cause issues with other transactions such as pre-paid flight tickets where you often have to present the card you bought the tickets with months earlier. But it is one way to protect yourself from such companies.

I also think you should be able to cancel and if the insurer auto-renews without permission then you should be able to take them to court for at least theft, but the law is an ass at the moment.

 

Shop Around at Renewal Time

The benefit and argument that the insurance companies use is that it keeps you insured. However, the decision should still be yours because near the end of the period you may want to (in fact perhaps SHOULD) shop around for a better premium.

  • It is known that insurance companies increase your 2nd year policy sometimes out of proportion since they know that they have already taken the money off your card.
  • And it is also known that insurers entice new customers with cheaper initial rates. Loyal customers pay the price to lure new clients instead of being rewarded for their loyalty.

 

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How Do Credit Card Companies Make Their Money?

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Credit card companies make money and line their pockets via at least 10 ways (and I am sure there are more) to generate untold billions of dollars per year.

We all have bills to pay and we all shop on a regular basis. How we make payments makes a difference. Most people will use a payment card (credit or debit) or cash. Few of us will, or for that matter, can live a truly cash life. And banks / credit card companies know and like that, because we remain loyal revenue-generating customers.

Credit card companies add significantly to the cost of living and which is considered by some as an unnecessary social cost, especially to the poor and those who do not or are not in a position to use credit cards. This is due to the 2%-4% merchant fees that are imposed on companies who accept credit cards as a mode of payment, which they configure into the prices they charge – and other merchants who then synchronize their prices with those who accept cards.

 

  1. Transaction fees

You often get charged a transaction fee for credit card transactions. I was in a book shop recently and a client wanted to buy something using a credit card. She was told that a transaction fee of 5% would apply at which point she left without buying anything from the shop. This connects in tandem with my next point. Note the prospective client was going to be charged 5%.

 

  1. Merchant fees

Merchants are normally charged a transaction fee of between 2% and 4% for every credit card transaction. This leads to several outcomes, some of which are considered anti-social:

Merchants normally put their prices up to cover for this fee – but do not tell us about it, since they consider it (and calculate it) as part of their operational costs. This means that we actually pay 2% to 4% more for things that we buy at places that accept credit cards. This is a huge cost to bear. The USA’s center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion calculates the average expenditure for a low-cost meal plan for a family of 4 to be $786 worth of food a month.

Do the sums: $786 x 12 = $9,432 per annum. At 2% or 4% means you pay $188 or $377 per year more for food due to merchant fees.

Even if you do not use a credit card to buy your food, you still bear this cost.

  • There are those who say that they use their cards to buy everything, collect whatever benefits they can and then pay off the card in full every month.
  • There are others who say that we should be given a discount of 2-4% when we pay either cash or with our own debit cards (equivalent to cash).

I am in this latter corner, since my wife and I use our credit cards only for such things as flight tickets (or buying books on the internet – the only internet shopping we do).

Credit card companies also offer numerous benefits such as “points / airline miles / present” which are priced into high interest rates thus adding to the social impact of credit cards on society.

  • Nothing in life is free. Someone pays for it.

 

  1. Product branding / Co-branding.

You help with branding the credit card companies’ products to merchants and other people. They colour their cards blue, red, back, gold, platinum and all colours of the rainbow to show the elitist use of some of their products. And compete with each other in terms of benefits as part of their brand.

Further, co-branded cards i.e. cards that are offered by a credit card company which is jointly sponsored by both the bank and a retail merchant can normally be issued cheaper than a normal privately labelled card AND – here is the clincher – it is normally designed to give the issuing bank access to the retailer’s customer base – i.e. YOU.

 

  1. Your information.

Your information is used for advertisement purposes. Regardless of what organizations say about guarding your private information, it does get into the hands of advertisers. They have little boxes on their forms to tick if you do not want to receive advertisement information but how come I get advertisements from wine cellars etcetera? And by the way this is also a huge problem with utility providers. I still get calls not only throughout the day but almost on the bell at midnight – may I ask from where and how they got hold of my home telephone number?

 

  1. Annual fees.

I was recently charged $30 for annual card fees, which I protested and had reversed by letting the person know that I have been a loyal card carrying revenue generator for 28 years. The fee was waived.

  • You should do the same.

 

Credit card interest rates (generally 18-21%) are exorbitant, especially when compared to the interest you get paid when you save your money with a bank (2 – 3%).

The reason the banks give for this anomaly is that credit card debt is unsecured debt and they lose part or all of the debts that people owe when people declare bankruptcy or negotiate a settlement on outstanding debt or in fact become delinquent and the debt is written off.

Well, card companies are often to blame themselves for this predicament. I have been at the receiving end of cards that arrived at my doorstep without even applying for them (especially in some countries) and they often do very sparse vetting – in an attempt to grab market share / to satisfy KPI’s in order to get annual bonuses.

 

  1. Late fees.

This can be an expensive mistake of between $10 and $35 depending on the bank / card company you are dealing with. In a recent class action against a bank in Australia late fees were found to be illegal but the bank challenged the ruling in the Full Federal Court and the ruling was overturned, meaning that it is legal to charge someone $35 for paying late.

Is the cost of the outstanding amount to the bank $35? What would be fair?

  • I believe the late fee should be calculated as the product of the outstanding amount, the number of days outstanding and a certain % interest rate.

 

  1. Cash advance fees.

Cash advance fees are just one of the increasing fees by way of which card companies make money. Over the counter (OTC) this can range from $2.50 to 2% of the transaction amount (whichever is greater).

 

  1. Cash withdrawals at ATM’s

Fees for cash withdrawal from credit cards are comparable to cash over the counter fees and is again just one of the fees by way of which card companies make money. This can again range from $2.50 to 2% of the transaction amount (whichever is greater).

 

  1. Balance transfer fees.

Most credit card companies now offer credit cards (multiple) debts consolidation with them onto one ZERO % card, meaning that you will not pay any interest on the outstanding balance until (a) a specified time has elapsed – normally 1 to 2 years (b) the amount is paid off OR (c) you use the ZERO % card to make a purchase – at which time the normal high (in most cases 18% – 21%) rate kicks in.

  • Be very aware of this third condition. It can all of a sudden become expensive since the interest rate is then calculated on your outstanding balance plus the new purchase.

But in addition to that, the bank normally also charge you a balance transfer fee.

  • Please ask a pertinent question about this if ever you consider transferring your debt to a ZERO % card.

 

In summary

 

Tread carefully with credit cards. You can land in a lot of financial trouble with them – at any age.

Credit cards comes at a social cost to society – all of us indeed whether you have / use one or not since we all pay more for goods at merchants who accept cards. And even those who do not accept cards (are there any left?) synchronize their prices with those who accept cards. This adds a huge social cost to society.

Credit cards will not go away. So you will have to learn with them and their impact to society.

 

 

 

US – OR “THEM”

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It is often said that what we do and say defines us.

 

I beg to differ:

  • Is it not the other way around?
  • Is it not who and what we are that defines our actions and words?
  • Is it not our inner feelings, emotions, thoughts – and sometimes our logic – that drive us to do what we manifest?

 

The answer is “Yes”.

 

And I put logic last since it is more than often not the thing that drives us.

  • Think back in your own life. Are you where you are because of logic? Did you get involved with your partner because of logic? Do you have 3 kids because of logic? Do you work where you work and do what you do because of some flurry of logic?

 

The answer is “No”.

 

As much as we would like to think we are the pinnacle, the top of the tree – The Bee, never mind the bees knees – we are far from it.

 

It has been said that humans use less than 5% of their brain capacity.

 

I believe that it is far less than that. I don’t think we use even 0.5% of our brain capacity. And we are constructed that way. We do not have the physical, mental, psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual make-up to use even that tiny fraction of what we carry in our cranium.

 

And I am not going to buy into some genetic, biological or sociological gumpf here (done enough study in sociology, psychology and criminology in my time) that absolve us from our actions or non-actions. Such as “I had a terrible life as a child, Your Honour. And I was under the influence of drugs Your Honour. That is why I did this and that. So please humor me and give me a pass on this deed”.

 

We have been given this Life. For which we are responsible in all aspects. Our job is to develop it. Maintain it. Respect it. Use it for the good.

 

So let this then be the year in which our words and deeds be defined by who we are. Not the other way around.

 

Welcome to 2016.