Trump and Selling a Scam

Watching the shit-show around the Trump campaign (and now adminstration) reminded me of every dodgy sales process I have ever been witness to.

The Scam Sales Process

When they first start talking to you they are your best friend. They are smiles and helpful and ultra-friendly. The thing they are selling you is amazing. It is great and will do everything you need. Nothing to worry about. Just say yes, and it will be smooth sailing, easy, and you will be so happy about it all.

You decide to give it a try, and you enter phase 2 of the process, the actual purchasing. This is where the truth starts to come out a bit more lucidly. In order to part with your money, you might find out that the quoted price didn’t include some tax or other. Or that they failed to mention some ongoing fee, or some extra cost for some peripheral service not part of the actual package/product etc. The salesman is still your best friend of course, but you can start to see the cracks in what they had been telling you. But they’ve done a good enough job, and you think you really want the product/service, so you continue because it will still be worth it. It does, after all, do everything. Solve everything. It will make you so happy. Your new best friend promised it would.

As soon as you purchase, you enter phase 3. The salesperson bids you farewell, and you never hear from that person again.

Now, you have to deal with customer relations officers, and they never seem to be quite so friendly or helpful as the salesman. When the product doesn’t perform as expected and you complain about it, they insist that it was never meant to do that thing the salesperson said it would. Or at least, that you think the sales person said. Did they say it? Or did you just think they did? Maybe it is your fault for assuming what they meant. You should have clarified.

Depending on what you have purchased, phase 3 can be quick: “This new peeler broke within a week of buying it”. Or it can be drawn out and painful. “This holiday package deal I purchased continues to reveal problems and new charges”.

A personal experience I had recently was that I was stupid enough to purchase a caribbean cruise packaged deal in the USA through Grand Celebration Cruises. After agreeing to purchase, but before our cruise, the slow drip stream of disappointments was amazing. We slowly found out about new charges which were very clearly omitted in the original sales pitch. The super friendly sales process had changed into a cold “What do you want now?” customer service system which clearly didn’t want to do anything to help ensure we actually enjoyed our vacation. Customising the package to our needs was painful.

Before going on the holiday, several hundred dollars in fees, taxes and other expenses were added to our costs for this ‘all inclusive, premium, VIP service’ package which we purchased. When we arrived, it only got worse. We ended up spending more than $600 USD in levies, room fees, taxes, service charges, and other unexpected costs which in every other travel experience I have had would all be included in the upfront fee.

We were already pushing our budget to the limit taking this holiday, so this constant stream of new expenses was a constant source of stress for us throughout the entire holiday. We really struggled to enjoy ourselves at all.

The point is, that the reality of the holiday was so very much worse than the sales pitch made it seem.

The Media and Politics

Watching the media covering Trump feels a lot like this process to me.

Sure, in the beginning there was a lot of mockery of Trump. No one took it seriously and most made fun of him. Shocked at what he said, the media just constantly covered him.

With all of that coverage though, I can easily imagine plenty of people falling for his words. He appealed to primal emotional states. I can imagine how he seemed like a friendly guy. He was there to help them out, personally. He was there to solve their problems. Trump told everyone that he knew what was wrong, and he would solve it.

And enough people bought it.

He won the election, and phase 2 began. He started to retract some of the things he had said. He talked about how “Drain the swamp” had “played well” and that he never really liked the phrase himself. Some of the things which people thought he was just saying for effect, he doubled down on, saying, no, he was really going to do those things.

We hasn’t president yet, but people were starting to see that they were conned. They hoped it wasn’t true, but the cracks were beginning to show.

Then, he was sworn in, and phase 3 began. No longer could his actions hide behind his words. There was no sweet talking away the actions which were now playing out.

The actions are real, and they have consequences. People are slowly waking up to the fact that they have been scammed by a conman. The bad deal is revealing itself, and people are having buyers remorse.Trump Remorse immigration block twitter tweet

It is only going to get worse.

Click here to see what Trump did in his first week in office.

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The Seven Questions of Basic Income Implementation

From the first meeting of our Implementing a Basic Income in Australia group, I presented my outline of what I think are the fundamental questions which need to be answered before a Basic Income can actually be implemented.

In order to answer these questions we want to organise a range of experts on social and economic issues into working groups so that they can discuss the consequences of each decision and how it will be beneficial or detrimental to society, economics, welfare, well-being, employment, power imbalance, freedoms, etc.

The questions are:

  1. How Much / How Often?
    $1 – $10,000+ / Paid daily – Paid annually
  2. What scale is it implemented on? Where?
    Small town? Council? City? State? National.
  3. Who gets it?
    Everyone? Citizens? Residents? 18+? Based on tax return submission? etc
  4. How is it funded?
    Local government? Federal Govt? Increased taxes? New (resource?) taxes? Debt? Transaction tax? Charity? Crowd funding? New money straight to the people?
  5. How long will it run for?
    2 years? 10 years? Indefinitely? 5 years on, 5 years off, etc?
  6. What does it replace?
    Replace all welfare? Just unemployment benefit? Nothing? Minimum wage? Wait and see?
  7. Will there be a transitional period? What will it look like?
    Instant implementation, or gradual implementation over time?

(Have I missed any? Please leave a comment below if I have!)

The answers to each of these questions often influences the answers to others. For example, if you want a National (Q2) Basic Income, it will be virtually impossible to fund that through Charity of Crowd sourcing (Q4), but there is a chance that you could fund a Partial Basic Income (Q1) for 2 years (Q5) in a small remote town (Q2) via charity (Q4).

Of course, a partial income in a small remote town isn’t the ultimate goal, so then we’re talking about a first step implementation. A trial, or a demonstration of value, hoping that it will grow to other towns or else convince enough of the population to enact a nationwide Basic Income. In this case, we’d have to design the best “initial test case implementation” and then a second “Ultimate goal implementation” and perhaps even design the strategy which will take us from the initial test to the ultimate goal.

Whether we want a small test case first or not is still to be answered. I don’t believe the NHS, medicare, welfare etc had incremental steps to implementation, so perhaps it is an error to think that a Basic Income would need it. Perhaps we should instead be focusing on the best possible design for Australia, and then fight for grassroots support of that system while lobbying political parties and getting the support of influential think tanks.

This is all just a first step. We still need to reach out to existing Basic Income organisations (BIEN, QUT, Utrecht University (BIParty NL) etc) to see what information, research and conclusions they are able to share with us which will help inform our answers to these questions.

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Some Thoughts About a Basic Income in Australia

I only heard about the concept of a basic income for the first time in the last year but immediately loved the idea. I especially loved the overwhelming successes which each trial of it seemed to return. Nonetheless I hadn’t taken the time to consider exactly how such a thing would be funded until today.

First of all – what is a Basic income? It is the idea of replacing a welfare system (which only helps people who are in dire need of it) with a guaranteed basic income for all people regardless of whether they need it or not. This overcomes a number of the problems of welfare (the fact that welfare disincentivizes getting low paying jobs for example). But I won’y waste your time explaining the intricacies of the concept or arguing for it here – it has already been well done elsewhere:

And one final point which sticks in my mind whenever I think of Basic income, is the results of a recent study which found the best way to help people in poverty is actually to just give them cash and let them do with it whatever they want: What Happens When You Just Give Money to Poor People?

Australian Budget, Welfare and Basic Income Cost

There is a lot of attention on the Australian budget atm in Australia and it has motivated me to look into our numbers recently. I found this fantastic breakdown of last years budget: Budget 2013. It tells us that last year we spent just under $400 billion dollars. And roughly $138 billion of that went to Welfare.

A fortnightly payment on Newstart (our jobseeker payment system) is worth about $510. If we take the idea that someone is meant to be able to live on Newstart (and that is debatable), then we’re looking at roughly $255 per week.

If we then pay that amount of money to every single person in the country (22.68m) each week, that will cost the government about $5.8 billion per week, or $300 billion per annum. Nearly the entire yearly budget of Australia, and more than twice as much as the current spending on welfare.

It is a bit more complicated than that of course, because usual basic income systems don’t give the full amount to children, so not everyone would get the entire amount. And there would be some level of overhead – but it would be insignificantly small since there would be very little work involved to ensure the payments are made.

Is It Possible for Australia to Have a Basic Income?

Looking at the numbers as they currently stand, clearly we can’t afford it. I mean, there simply isn’t any way we could cut other expenses nearly enough to be able to afford the $300 billion (minimum) of a basic income. BUT, economics is of course more complicated than that. There are of course ways of increasing government revenue. And there are other ways of keeping the overall cost of the basic income down. As I said above, children would receive less for instance.

One idea which came to mind for cutting the cost is to not actually make it universal, but make it universal for lower income earners. As soon as your income (total including the basic income) reaches a certain threshhold ($60,000 pa? $100,000 pa?) your basic income starts to be incrementally decreased. This in effect acts as a steep tax for higher income earners at a specific level, but the real negative of this system would be that it would probably create more overhead and the need to administer the system. A more reasonable approach would be to leave the basic income as a universal system, but simply increase the tax rate of higher income earners overall. So this no longer makes an ‘effective tax’ out of losing the payment, but just increases the amount taxed in our existing taxation system. This method would also be applied more fairly and universally across all higher income earners than just people at a specific threshhold income.

However, it can be said that income tax has a negative affect on the economy (I would argue that the benefits of removing poverty and the lower class and replacing it with a strong guaranteed middle class) would more than compensate for the cost of a higher taxation – but nonetheless, let us accept that higher income tax may have negative affects. So one suggestion is to implement/increase land tax.

And Finally, it is possible for Australia to over spend and go into debt to fund this. Australia currently has the second lowest debt of all of the OECD countries. Our debt is about 60% of our yearly budget, compared to the UK debt which is almost twice their yearly budget, and the US debt which is roughly 4x their annual budget. Of course debt for debts sake isn’t great – but debt to fund an investment can be the most powerful debt possible. Especially when your debt is charged the sort of interest rate that government debt is charged. (To make this point more sound, if you could borrow or at 5% and lend at 10% – would you rather borrow nothing, $100 or $1 billion? If you answered anything other than $1 billion, then you don’t understand maths.)

Why Do it?

If we’re going to have to increase taxes to be able to do this, it better be worth it right? Well, I think the destruction of poverty in a country is a pretty powerful reason alone to do this. This not only affects the lives of those in poverty, but of everyone in society as there would be less crime (less theft out of desperation) and a general improvement of society as more people have the luxury of attending school/college/university or pursuing their dreams rather than feeling trapped by their circumstances.

The benefits of a basic income are numerous, and the long term returns would be immense. I expect most of the article linked to above have already covered that though. So I might just leave it here. It is late. I might proof read this tomorrow or something…. 🙂 Goodnight.


(looking at my last few blog posts, it is no wonder my blog will never become popular – who else is interested in economics, drug policy, vaccination, non-monogamy, religion…etc.)

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To the Incredible Year Ahead

2012 is either going to be the best year of my life, or possibly a very difficult one. But I’m leaning towards far and away the best. So many things happening, so much potential within those things.

So straight up I have about 2 months left in Australia, and in that time I need to finalise some of the design elements of Immortal Outdoors in time to launch it publicly, and start organising events and meetings with key people in order to get it all off the ground in Australia. Simultaneously, I need to work with Elizabeth (my partner for The Traveller’s Trade) to re-record much of the video tutorials we did for TTT and rebuild the website (deisgn and development), setting up all of the necessary elements to create a successful online ecommerce business (as automated as possible) – also all within the next two months (though this timeframe is less crucial, and moreso a desire so that TTT can start producing an income sooner, while I need it more).

So the heat is on right now, and it is exciting, and terrifying and all that good stuff.

Oh, and of course, the fact that I have to be in Chile by around Mid March means that while I am working on those two projects, I also need to be making sure everything is in order to set up my life in Chile. So that involves getting visas, booking flights, finding accomodation, learning spanish (yeah, seriously, we’re learning spanish from scratch via audio cd’s etc) and all that usual stuff that goes with planning an indefinitely long trip overseas…

Once in Chile though, well, I have no idea how much pressure I will be under. Obviously I will want to get as much done as possible, but going through this process of getting Immortal Outdoors off the ground has made me realise moreso just how big a project this all is, and what I really need in order to make it all happen as I want it to. I have finally caved in to the idea that I am probably going to need some real investors, and I am going to need my own in house CTO. So I now have a new objective for my time in Start-Up Chile – Find the right investors (without putting too much thought in to it (too soon to do that properly), probably something like 1 or 2 million dollars worth of investment) and meet the right CTO partner.

Maybe I don’t “need” that – but what I want Immortal Outdoors to do, it probably will need that major amount of funding and a seriously good inhouse development team to rebuild everything from the ground up again, on a bunch of servers, with all of the stops out in order to really get what I want. The mobile platforms, the social network plugins, the seemless user interfaces, and all of the clever little automatic systems which are so easy to think of, but so challenging to make work smoothly… It will take time, and a lot of development from some great coders. And that is the new Start-Up Chile goal.

And that should take me through to about December. At which time the goal is to have a chance to head back over to the UK for Christmas with Vanessa’s family (and ideally mine too if we can afford it), and then NYE in London.

How is that not the best year ever?

PS: I forgot to mention, I contacted Sydney Skydivers today too – I am finally getting back in to sky diving, and after a quick refresher course, I should be starting on my B license… So of course, that needs to fit in to this final two month period in Sydney too…

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Australia vs England – Price Comparison

A common conversation I have had since I arrived in England a little over a month ago, is how surprised I am at the fact that nearly everything here is significantly cheaper than in Australia (except transport costs- public transport and fuel). When it comes to groceries though – necessities and treats, my experience of prices so far are so very strongly in the UK’s favour, that it is becoming very hard for me to justify living in Australia any more.

So I logged in to two supermarket giants here in the UK, and compared prices with Coles and Woolworths, and this is what I got:


Item Tesco Asda Woolworths Coles
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $4.35 $2.63 $4.97 $5.48
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $4.50 $4.18 $11.96 $10.48
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $1.49 $1.46 $1.88 $2.48
Bacon (best / kg) $8.73 $8.73 $9.90 $8.01
Chicken Breast $11.12 $11.12 $15.50 $10.90
Lamb Leg (roast) $12.04 $15.03 $13.48 $14.00
750-775g CornFlakes $3.73 $3.01 $5.36 $5.34
Coke 2L $2.68 $2.68 $3.92 $3.91
Cheapest pasta (kg) $0.96 $0.96 $1.20 $1.20

From this small sample, it is immediately clear how badly australia is competing, and it would be easy to continue comparing prices like this and continue the trend. I was even trying to pick products which Australia should fare better with – meats and grain based products should be abundant in our giant agricultural country! And yet the UK was cheaper on every front.

Here is the averaged results:

Actual Exchange Rate
Item UK Average Aus Average
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $3.49 $5.23
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $4.34 $11.22
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $1.47 $2.18
Bacon (best / kg) $8.73 $8.96
Chicken Breast $11.12 $13.20
Lamb Leg (roast) $13.53 $13.74
750-775g CornFlakes $3.37 $5.35
Coke 2L $2.68 $3.92
Cheapest pasta (kg) $0.96 $1.20
$49.70 $64.99

You can also see the current exchange rate used to calculate the AUD value of the GBP purchase price (from The UK is cheaper, often times significantly, in every single product compared.

To be fair, the AUD is at the strongest it has ever been. It has doubled in value compared to the UK over the past 10 years and if we were to use an exchange rate of 3.0 dollars to the pound, then we would have all but one of the above products cheaper in Australia (mushrooms are way over priced in Aus!). So to give the benfit of the doubt, and assume that our grocery prices are simply on a delay with respect to our dollars value, lets compare the prices with an assume dexchange rate of 2.5 and 2.0:

Rate 2.5 Rate 2
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $5.80 $5.23 $4.64 $5.23
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $7.21 $11.22 $5.77 $11.22
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $2.45 $2.18 $1.96 $2.18
Bacon (best / kg) $14.50 $8.96 $11.60 $8.96
Chicken Breast $18.48 $13.20 $14.78 $13.20
Lamb Leg (roast) $22.49 $13.74 $17.99 $13.74
750-775g CornFlakes $5.60 $5.35 $4.48 $5.35
Coke 2L $4.45 $3.92 $3.56 $3.92
Cheapest pasta (kg) $1.60 $1.20 $1.28 $1.20
$82.58 $64.99 $66.06 $64.99

2.5 is probably an acceptable average value for the AUD to GBP, and hovered around that value for quite a long time – but hasn’t really been there for the past four years or so. While 2 was seen about 2 years ago as the value surged straight past it to our current 1.5 position. When you accept the value of 2, then we get costs more in line with what you would expect – Meat and grain products are still cheaper in Aus, but other things are cheaper in the UK.

OK, I have managed to do, what I so often do when trying to research ideas – managed to investigate far enough to disprove my own position. Yay.

Let me explain. My thoughts were that Australia was ripping us all off, charging way too much for every day products etc, when they should be much cheaper – and simply comparing the prices in the UK vs the AUS prices ‘clearly shows that’ – BUT, when you take the time to consider that the AUD has only been at 1.50 very recently, and only for the last couple of years, you cannot expect all of our grocery prices to be set so as to reflect this strength! It takes time for the benefits of a strong currency to somehow filter through to the farmers, the transporters and the other involved businesses so that they can lower their prices (or perhaps more accurately, so that the rest of the worlds prices can catch up with our new value).

Basically, what I am really noticing is that “The AUD is strong at the moment – now is a good time to take advantage of that”. No shit huh? If the dollar was to retrace back to an exchange of 2.0, then suddenly my whole perspective of “Australia is expensive” would be completely unsupportable – yet the prices would probably be the same.

Let this be an important lesson to me to remember that the rapid fluctuations of international currency markets can not be used to immediately label the regular prices of daily living “Expensive” and “Cheap”.

I wonder if the recent study which found Sydney to be the 6th most expensive city in the world made the same mistake I did?

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