Monthly Archives: March 2020

Australian Politics 2020-03-31 15:44:00


The Big Brother Purge of Conservative Christians in Australia

A number of them are/were doctors or medical professionals who had become the targets of the Medical Board of Australia. Specifically, the MBA has now actively pursued six different doctors (that we know of) over the last three years all because of their views on things like abortion and/or the homosexual agenda.

Basically, they all have been persecuted for the simple reason that they dare to think independently, and they express their views in their own time on their own social media pages and the like. For having the gall to not run with the PC version of events concerning things like abortion, homosexuality and the trans agenda, they have all fallen afoul of the MBA; several are receiving severe punishments, including mandatory re-education, suspension of their livelihood, etc.

Very much like the recent Israel Folau case, the powers that be have become judge and executioner, punishing those who actually think for themselves and believe they should have the freedom to express their views on their own time on their own social media outlets.

As with any dictatorial or fascist regime, the ruling powers have effectively threatened and blackmailed these individuals, telling them in no uncertain terms that if they want their jobs, they must censor themselves, not speak out, and remove all of their ‘offending’ posts and pages.

This of course is the stuff of North Korea, or Cuba, or Saudi Arabia. We did not expect this was how things operated in the free West. But it sure is. What we not too long ago sent our sons to fight and die for – freedom – is now severely at risk here in Australia.

Let me highlight just one of these appalling cases. A doctor with a wife and two young children has been suspended by the MBA, and has been out of work for nearly eight months now. His crime? Was he caught raping a patient, or stealing medicines, or fiddling with the books?

No, he did something much, much worse in the eyes of the MBA: he dared to post his point of view on his own private Facebook page, and even worse, he actually posted comments on my website, CultureWatch. Yes, several hundred of his comments appeared on my site over the past decade or so.

He said things which we are no longer able to say in Australia it seems, things like: marriage is between a man and a woman; doctors should be saving life, not killing; children have a right to be raised by their own mother and father; and radical political Islam is something we must take seriously.

For saying verboten things like that, the MBA has decided that he is now public enemy No. 1, and he MUST be punished severely. And keep in mind the details of this shocking case. No complaints were ever made by any of his patients or by his colleagues. He was fully professional in his work, and he treated all of his patients with dignity and respect.

But some militant(s) had been trawling both Facebook and my site, and discovered his unforgiveable remarks. This guy (or girl) made a stink, and the MBA immediately started the inquisition. They hired lawyers (and wasted a lot of money to do so) to go through every single one of my articles on my website, coming up with thousands of pages of printed documents with any and all comment he had made. What num nums: I could have given them all that free of charge if they wanted!

Since this doctor’s case is now in the public domain, I refer to Melbourne doctor Jereth Kok. The complaints made against him have been all by anonymous complainants. He does not know how many were made, or who made them, or why. They do not seem to be from any of his patients.

Indeed, as mentioned, he has had no complaints at all in terms of his work, his professionalism, and his ability to deliver quality health care. He seems to have been loved and respected by all his patients. However, for nine months the MBA was investigating Dr Kok, without even telling him! When they finally did tell him, they sent him a ‘please explain’ letter.

As mentioned, they simply trawled through his posts on Facebook and on my website, including issues such as the vote ‘no’ campaign on homosexual marriage. For that the MBA has treated him like a pariah, someone who is no longer able to treat patients!

His views are instead totally verboten. As a result, since August 19, 2019, he has been without work. His wife is a fulltime mother looking after their young children. So they have had no income during this entire period: income that they needed to feed the family and pay the bills.

And a couple hundred regular patients who all had Dr Kok as their preferred doctor are now without his expertise and services. Most of these patients had become quite attached to Dr. Kok. But now they have been left hanging, forced to look for alternate doctors and arrangements.

Again, all this has happened because he has dared to offer his points of view on the public issues of the day. Something that everyone else does all the time. Something that is part of living in a free society. But it seems like we are now no longer very free at all.

When groups like the MBA can destroy the career of a terrific, conscientious and hard-working doctor who has committed no malpractice whatsoever, then you know freedom has been smashed underfoot, and Big Brother groupthink is now in action.

And of course there are so many other bodies and organisations just like this, be they Rugby Australia or most of our major corporations. They have all conspired against freedom of speech, freedom of thought, religious freedom, and independent thinking. That is very scary indeed.

And with people like Dr Kok we have a very real human face to put to all this. This is not just theoretical. Real people with real careers are losing everything, all because secular left thought is now the only accepted form of opinion in so much of Australia.


Private hospitals have signed on to a landmark deal with the federal government to boost the nation’s intensive care capacity

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the federal government had guaranteed the viability of all 657 private hospitals nationwide, meaning a further 34,000 beds and chairs will be made available.

The deal, hatched between hospitals and state and territory governments and the federal government, is based on the assurance that the hospitals will be flexible and retain their staff during the pandemic.

One third of the country’s ICU beds are in private hospitals and they will all now be available to help with COVID-19 cases.

“Today is about, in particular, securing and expanding that capacity,” Mr Hunt said.

“A partnership between the Australian Government, the states and the private hospitals that will bring over 30,000 beds within the hospital system.

“It will bring over 105,000 full and part-time hospital staff, including 57,000 of our amazing nurses and midwives.

“It guarantees them their future and their support, both during the crisis and beyond, but most importantly it brings their resources to the fight against coronavirus, COVID-19, in Australia.”

He said as of 6am this morning, there were 4359 cases of COVID-19 in Australia and 19 deaths.

Cases in ICU total 50, down from 55 yesterday, with 20 of those are on ventilators.

Mr Hunt said the figures, coupled with the fact that more than 230,000 tests have been completed, indicate “we are at the global forefront”.

“That is the lives lost – and each one is an agonising loss – are below one per cent then that is indicative that the testing regime is capturing the significant reflective data for the country,” he said.

“If those within ICUs, and in particular with ventilators, in the low numbers that we see – and all of these numbers, we know, will climb – but they are reflective again of the numbers.

“And it presents a very different picture to some other countries, where the lives lost represent not 0.5 per cent but 10 per cent of the cases. It means that the case numbers there are not fully reflective of the situation.”


Why ventilators are so crucial in Australia's COVID-19 fight

The Australian Medical Association hopes the Federal Government has "their ducks lined up" as the demand for life-saving ventilators in Australia becomes increasingly urgent.

Like other governments around the world battling the COVID-19 pandemic, Canberra is rushing to double its number of ventilator units, from 2000 to 4000.

But the South Australian AMA president, Dr Chris Moy, has warned ventilators are "just one part of the puzzle" and "it will be a major problem" if Australia is not prepared with robust plans and supplies.

"The bottom line is we need ventilators," Dr Moy said.
"They are going to be critical if the peak happens and intensive care units are deluged."

Dr Moy hoped the government had "geared up" sufficiently for the expected oncoming wave of ICU admissions. "Have they got their ducks lined up?" Dr Moy asked.

"You need the ventilators but you also need other equipment.
"You need personal protective equipment (PPE) and trained staff who can run the machines and monitor patients."

Without ventilators, the lungs of some COVID-19 sufferers fill with pus and patients can die, after a "cascading flow of life-threatening pressures" hits the heart and other vital organs. It is thought 15 to 20 percent of those with coronavirus can fall seriously ill.

Dr Moy said he had held personal discussions with Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, where the issue of ventilators and PPE shortages was addressed.

"I am aware they have got teams on this," he said. "I have no visibility over government orders or stocks or supply lines … but I am hoping the government has got this right. "Because if they haven't, it will be a major problem for us."

Dr Moy said masks, gowns, goggles, hair covers and gloves were in desperately short supply. His GP clinic, staffed by 25 doctors, was recently down to its final box of 50 masks. has previously reported on a major Australian medical supplier running out of PPE and some doctors in Perth hospitals in operating rooms with no masks.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt last month said there was a standing capacity of 2000 ventilators in Australia. "We are looking to double that, using existing arrangements and stock currently available, to 4000," Mr Hunt said.

Australia's Chief Scientist Alan Finkel was in the early stages of scoping out local manufacturers to build 5000 additional respiratory and ventilator units, Mr Hunt said.

In normal circumstances Australia could look to other countries for help with ventilators but all nations need the machines now.

Dr Moy said health authorities in Australia were looking at repurposing old machines, some which had even found their way into veterinary clinics. "My understanding is a lot of the older ones could be incredibly useful because they were built to last."

Why you may need a ventilator if you have COVID-19

Around 15 to 20 per cent of people with COVID-19 will develop a very specific type of pneumonia. With pneumonia, pus will fill your lungs and your lungs will stop working.

When you can't absorb enough oxygen, incredible strain is placed on your heart and other organs. There is a domino effect on your body, and the impact may be so catastrophic it kills you.

A ventilator gets oxygen into your lungs, when you are too tired to breathe. At a certain point your lungs cannot suck in enough oxygen and your body will tire. You'll also suffer dehydration because you are puffing so hard. But the ventilator will breathe for you, pumping high levels of oxygen-enriched air into your lungs.


The provision of early childhood education and care in Australia is broken and the Coronavirus has revealed the extent to which the system is flawed.  The sector is on the brink of collapse

Consider this.

For several weeks there has been uncertainty about how school should be delivered. Will they close? Should students attend? Are teachers safe?

There has been no uncertainty, however, about whether teachers or schools are needed. It’s understood both are, obviously, critical. The manner in which education is to be facilitated, in the short term at least, has been up for discussion but its existence is assured. As it should be.

When it comes to early childhood education & care the questions are the same but the answers are very different. Childcare centres aren’t government-funded like schools. Parents receive subsidies from the government that are passed on to centres and they pay any gap between the subsidy and the daily rate. Those subsidies and fees support the wages of the educators and all the associated operating costs.

But as Lisa Bryant wrote in The Guardian Australia on Monday, parents are currently withdrawing their children from childcare “in droves”.

“They are doing it because they are concerned for their children and because they are told to keep children home if possible. But mostly they are doing it because childcare is expensive. When families lose their income, childcare is an obvious place to cut.”

In these circumstances it isn’t surprising but the impact is potentially devastating. It means that unlike primary and secondary school teachers, who haven’t all been dismissed because students aren’t coming, many early childhood educators have already been let go.

Last week Goodstart Early Learning, one of Australia’s largest providers, had to lay off 4,000 casual educators. These are among the lowest-paid workers in the country so the idea of them being financially equipped to withstand this unexpected job loss is ridiculous.

It is also crushing to consider that, like primary and secondary teachers, educators and carers have been thrust unwillingly on to the front line of a highly contagious virus for weeks.

Centres and preschools haven’t been closed and while most other Australians have been told the safest thing to do is stay home, these employees have been told to keep turning up to work. Usually for a very basic wage with no loading for the health risk (or the value provided).

At least primary and secondary teachers haven’t needed to fret over their employment status while also panicking about the virus: early childhood educators and carers should be so lucky.

To lose their jobs after weeks of putting themselves at risk is incredibly insulting. As well as highly problematic.

Many childcare centres and operators in Australia may close for good because of the Coronavirus. That will be a disaster. For children, for educators and for parents.

When health workers can’t turn up to their jobs because they have no one to look after their children there will be an uproar - but it’ll be too late

Whatever happens now school won’t collapse, that much is clear. Early education and care shouldn’t either. It’s a critical function in society: it is a fundamental part of a child’s education and development and the best investment any country can make in its future.

And, yes, it is also important in an economic sense in that it facilitates the combination of paid work with family responsibilities.

There are, literally, millions of reasons that a nation cannot function without an early education system.

If there was ever definitive proof that Australia’s early childhood education and care system was broken, the idea that a virus could bring this vital sector totally to its knees is it.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

Will You Get a Tax Credit Rebate Under the CARES Act?

Person holding fan of U.S. dollars banknotes - Source: Unsplash, Sharon McCutcheon -

On Friday, 27 March 2020, following a week of mindlessly partisan political shenanigans and multiple needless delays in the U.S. Congress as Americans lost incomes because of government-mandated businesses closures and stay-at-home orders meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, President Trump signed the CARES Act of 2020 into law, which may provide a tax credit/rebate to American households that qualify for it.

Will your household qualify to get a tax credit rebate check from the U.S. government? And if you do, how much money will you get?

Our latest tool can help you answer these two questions! Enter your information, or a hypothetical scenario, in the tool below, and we'll do the math! If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version of the tool.

Will You Get A Tax Credit Rebate Check Under The CARES Act?
Input Data Values
Have you filed an income tax return for either 2018 or 2019?
What is the adjusted gross income from your most recently filed income tax return?
What was your tax filing status on your most recently filed tax return?
How many child dependents did you claim who were under Age 17 on 31 December 2019?

Your CARES Act Tax Credit Rebate
Calculated Results Values
Does your household qualify to receive a tax credit rebate?
How much money will you receive?

Under the CARES Act, the IRS will automatically provide what it is calling a stimulus payment check to eligible households that have filed their Form 1040 income tax returns for either the 2018 or 2019 tax years. If you didn't file an income tax return for 2018 and if you haven't yet filed a return for the 2019 tax year, you will not be eligible to receive a tax rebate check until you do. At this writing, the IRS has extended the deadline to file your 2019 income tax return from 15 April 2020 to 15 July 2020.

Even though the IRS will automatically send out tax credit rebate checks to eligible tax-filing households, it may take until 31 December 2020 to do so.

The amount of your coronavirus tax rebate check depends upon whether you have qualifying dependent children in your household and the amount of your household's adjusted gross income, where if that income exceeds $75,000 if your tax filing status is single, $112,500 if you file as head of household, or $150,000 if you file as married, the amount of your stimulus payment check will be reduced by 5% for every dollar your income exceeds those qualifying thresholds.

If you would like to find out more about the CARES Act of 2020, both the nonpartisan Tax Foundation and tax expert Tony Nitti have excellent articles describing how it may impact your personal income taxes.

Image Credit: unsplash-logoSharon McCutcheon

Australian Politics 2020-03-30 14:48:00


Coronavirus: Lockdown a blunt instrument with no guarantees

The Canberra Gallery has been caught in the grip of Labor’s cynicism, turning the Prime Minister’s daily press briefings nastier and more distracting than they should be.

The situation is fluid, and evidence-based economic modelling is in short supply. There is no precedent to follow, no off-the-peg solution and the antidote may be more than a year away. It is a time when wiser heads hedge their bets and prepare to alter their judgments as the facts alter, sometimes by the hour.

The noisier participants, however, have headed quickly in the opposite direction, seeking comfort in the certainty of fresh dogma. The word “lockdown” is their latest totem, just as “Gonski” and “Stop Adani” were not long ago. Once again they’ve responded to a complex challenge with a flight to simplicity, chaining themselves to a gate that long ago seemed to be coming off its hinges.

The lockdown non-solution is social distancing on steroids. We don’t yet know how good it is at separating people from stray coronavirus cells, and the evidence from locked-down nations like Italy, Spain and France looks worse by the day.

We do know that it separates people from jobs and businesses from customers to a far greater extent than intended. The interdependency of the global economy has passed beyond the point where it can be mapped. When you start pulling one thread out of the economy, the rest of it unravels.

On Friday, 17 days after 16 million people were locked down in northern Italy, the country recorded its highest number of deaths in a single day — 919.

Even allowing for the different circumstances in Australia, it is hard to imagine that an Italian-style nationwide lockdown heavily enforced would reduce the spread fast enough to stop our medical services being swamped.

This should come as no surprise to older practitioners in the field of public health.

The sharp reduction in the number of toddlers drowning in backyards in the 1980s and 1990s wasn’t achieved by banning domestic swimming pools.

Neither did we bring HIV/AIDS under control by placing advertisements in The Australian Women’s Weekly. It was controlled with a targeted, scary campaign, the memory of which causes many who watched in their teens and 20s to break out in a cold sweat even today.

Australia stopped toddlers drowning by enforcing the installation of fences and childproof gate locks combined with a strong public health message.

The approach that works, in other words, is to focus on saving the vulnerable, none of whom want to end up in a crowded intensive care unit facing a lonely death.

A poll on the weekend by Roy Morgan demonstrates that voluntary self-isolation is a feasible strategy, avoiding the need for the authoritarian approach some appear to prefer.

In the poll, 84 per cent of those over 65 years of age said they were already self-isolating. Pictures of a crowded beach, then, are an inadequate guide to public behaviour in this crisis.

Most people are relying on their own common sense. With clearer advice from public health officials and some assistance and community goodwill, we can ensure that most of those at risk sit out this pandemic in the comfort of their own homes.

Nobody knows if a full lockdown, the indiscriminate stopping of almost all human activity outside the home, will end the pandemic or how long these draconian measures will have to stay in place. We do know, however, that such measures will come at an enormous cost to employment, welfare and families.

We know, too, that some of the countries doing better in the face of the pandemic, such as Switzerland, Belgium and South Korea, have slowed the rate of infection and death to manageable levels while expressly rejecting this blunt-edged strategy. Circumstances vary so much between nations, however, that we are unlikely to find a universal policy solution until we get a vaccine.

In the meantime, Australia must devise its own solution, informed by the epidemiological data now emerging from the worst-hit countries, and tempered by our knowledge of what happens when sections of our interlocking economy shut down and the human misery that follows.

It seems the total lockdown strategy would damage the economy beyond all recognition if kept in place for very long. The price would be paid not just in jobs and wages, but in loneliness, mental illness, family violence and perhaps even suicide.

In a situation like this, the least-worse solution will always be the one that takes account of the welfare of people. We cannot yet say with any confidence when it will be safe for the elderly to leave their homes. We do know, however, that the view from the worst window of the worst home in Australia is better than the view of the ceiling seen through a ventilator.


Coronavirus crisis: Food supplies in Australia

Australia is a major food-exporting country so there should be no overall shortage.  You might have to buyTasty cheese instead of Jarlsberg but you will survive

Authorities have moved to reassure Australians the country won't run short on food, despite the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on supply chains here and abroad.

Experts say food in Australia is in steady supply for now, but there are warnings that the longer-term supply chain will be affected as the COVID-19 lockdown continues.

Ports Australia says it will take all necessary measures to keep supply chains running while ensuring the protection of maritime workers.

"From ships arriving to unload at our ports, right through to trucks delivering much needed food and goods to the people stacking shelves at retail shops, an unbroken supply chain is critical for community confidence at this time," a spokesman said.

So far, no port staff member has been diagnosed with COVID-19 - a crucial concern for authorities in keeping trade flowing.

According to Dr Giovanni Di Lieto, from the Monash Business School, there will inevitably be an impact on products.

"I don't think essentials will be missing in Australia, even in the worst case scenario of a long-term lockdown, but having said that we need to consider that imports will be severely impacted," he told SBS News.

The impacts could ripple out and affect the supply of other critical goods like medical products, forcing authorities here to fire-up some neglected local industries.

"The silver lining will be that some new opportunities will arise in manufacturing industries that were once abandoned in Australia," Dr Di Lieto said.

As panic buying finally shows signs of abating in our supermarket aisles, Australians have been told they have nothing to fear when it comes to the supply of fresh produce.

But AusVeg communications manager Shaun Lindhe said he anticipates there could be short-term price hikes until supplies reach a level where they fully meet demand.

"We grow a vast majority of our fresh produce in many different growing regions so we are very fortunate that we are not at risk of running out of fresh produce," he said.


CATHOLIC schools across Australia have committed to extending school fee relief for families facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic

National Catholic Education executive director Jacinta Collins said Catholic schools have a long tradition of offering school fee relief and assistance to families facing financial difficulties.

“Catholic schools keep their fees as affordable as possible, but we know many families will be facing serious financial difficulties during this challenging time,” Ms Collins said.

“In each state and territory we are looking at ways to expand on the substantial fee relief arrangements already in place, to ease the financial strain on families, and to determine appropriate measures to best support the needs of families across the country.

“We saw recently through the bushfire season and ongoing drought, that some families are more affected than others, so we need to ensure that the right support and assistance goes to where it is most needed,” she said.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission’s executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry urged families to come forward.

“Catholic schools are acutely aware of the hardships being experienced right across the community and are doing all they can to facilitate the ongoing education of all students,” Dr Perry said.

“I urge any family facing difficulty with tuition fees to contact their school to discuss their situation.”

Ms Collins said financial relief is immediately available to families impacted by the pandemic.

“If families are affected by job losses, business closures or other impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge them to speak to their school as quickly as possible, to get immediate relief and determine the level of assistance needed ,” she said.

“We appreciate how difficult it is for parents to come forward with financial concerns, but our schools will ensure each case is handled with care and discretion.

“We understand that many families are already under great pressure and strain, and we do not want them to be further burdened by school fee payments.”

In South Australia, families in Catholic diocesan schools who have lost significant income due to COVID-19 will receive a total school fee remission effective immediately, for an initial period of three months.

Catholic Education South Australia director Dr Neil McGoran said for the state’s regional and rural communities, the COVID-19 pandemic comes amidst a range of other challenges such as bushfires, drought, loss of key industries and increasing unemployment.

“Amongst all the worries that we have at this time – worrying about the payment of school fees should not be one of those things,” Dr McGoran said.

“All Catholic schools in SA are providing fee remissions to families financially impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue to monitor and respond to the impact on our families and our schools.”

Catholic Schools New South Wales chief executive officer Dallas McInerney said it was critical for families in the state’s nearly 600 schools to have certainty.

“Now, more than ever, our families need certainty and support,” Mr McInerney said.

“Catholic Schools NSW is actively considering how best to financially support our families at this time.”

“We are firmly of the view that no child should miss out on a Catholic education because of financial stress; this includes families seeking enrolment for their children for the 2021 school year.”

Helping education: “All Catholic schools in SA are providing fee remissions to families financially impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue to monitor and respond to the impact on our families and our schools.” Photo: Flickr.
In Western Australia, Catholic schools families on a health care card will receive automatic fee concessions, and immediate support would also be available for those who do not qualify for a health care card.

“The health care card discount applies to all year levels from Kindergarten to Year 12, and additional financial considerations are also available depending on each family’s circumstance,” said Catholic Education Western Australia executive director Dr Debra Sayce.

“For parents who do not qualify for the health care card discount, but who are experiencing financial difficulties, arrangements can be made to provide immediate support to assist with tuition costs.”

Ms Collins said Catholic schools would offer a blend of onsite and remote learning arrangements next term.

“Subject to government advice, we anticipate that, by Term 2, Catholic schools will be offering a combination of onsite schooling for the children of essential service workers and remote learning for students at home.”

Nationally, Catholic schools educate more than 764,000 students – or one in five Australian students – in 1,746 schools, the vast majority of which are low-fee schools.


Coronavirus: Qatar Airways increases flights to Australia

Qatar Airways is bucking the global air travel shutdown by increasing flights to Australia despite the coronavirus showing no sign of ending.

The Middle Eastern airline announced it has added 28 additional flights to Australia, equivalent to 48,000 additional seats, and launched its first route between Doha and Brisbane.

The carrier is now operating three flights a day from Doha to Sydney, two into Melbourne, two into Perth and one daily flight into Brisbane. Its Adelaide and Canberra routes remain suspended.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the airline was continuing to serve Australians aiming to return home from overseas. "We know there are many people who want to be with their families and loved ones during this difficult time," he said. "We are thankful to the Australian Government, airports and staff for their support in helping us to add additional flights to get people home, and in particular, to bring flights to Brisbane.

Qatar said from March 1 to March 22, it flew 13,458 Australians home. Last week, the airline said it had flown more than 100,000 passengers, with 72 per cent of those flying on March 24 returning to their country of origin.

The Federal Government banned all international visitors from entering the country and all Australian citizens arriving must go into quarantine.

Qantas and Virgin Australia have suspended all international flights and slashed domestic capacity amid the pandemic.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

S&P 500 Rises And Falls On Fed Stimulus, Fiscal Relief Speculation

We've reached an interesting juncture for the S&P 500. Thanks to some monumental stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve and other global central banks, along with the promise of trillions in fiscal relief for U.S. businesses from the U.S. government, stock prices rebounded over where they closed in the previous week.

That's the good news. The bad news is both actions have come too late for U.S. firms to avoid having to cut their dividends, which saw continued deterioration over the past week. The following chart shows the level to which the expectations for future S&P 500 quarterly dividends per share deteriorated by the end of trading on Friday, 27 March 2020.

Past and Projected S&P 500 Quarterly Dividends per Share, 2019-Q2 through 2021-Q2, Snapshot on 27 March 2020

That makes the S&P 500's current level look quite a lot like a speculative bubble with respect to where the dividend futures-based model would set them based on the S&P 500's projected fundamentals.

As such, we see the S&P 500 as rising and falling based mostly on speculation, which suggests continued volatility coupled with downward momentum in the near future.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q1 and 2020Q2 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 27 Mar 2020

The flow of new information during the past week provides the context behind the market's various surges and retreats, where partisan politics emanating from the U.S. House of Representatives that needlessly delayed fiscal relief for American households and businesses negatively impacted by the numerous statewide economic shutdowns that were ordered during the past week to cope with the spreading coronavirus epidemic in the U.S.

Monday, 23 March 2020
Tuesday, 24 March 2020
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
Thursday, 26 March 2020
Friday, 27 March 2020

What else happened during the week that was? Barry Ritholtz succinctly summarized the positives and negatives he found in the past week's economics and market-related news.

As for what will happen this week, if you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please be sure to check in on the original version of this article as it appears on our site for daily updates, which we'll continue until the market's volatility settles.

Stimulus Speculation Continues Powering S&P 500

Update 30 March 2020 6:00 PM Eastern: After the U.S. took the lead in the global stimulus charge last week, Japan followed that lead at the beginning of this week in announcing an absolutely massive stimulus effort. Combined with a recognition the Fed can and will need to continue expanding its monetary stimulus efforts, which is starting to show some signs of traction, the S&P 500 powered higher in response, rising 3.35% to close at 2,626.65. Looking at the influence of last week's passage of the U.S.'s latest relief package, health care firms did particularly well on the day.

At the same time, the outlook for dividend futures deteriorated sharply for 2020-Q2, 2020-Q3, and 2020-Q4, shown on the first chart below, while the trajectory of the S&P 500 moved up while the alternative futures based on those expectations for future dividends continue to point downward, shown on the second chart below.

Past and Projected Quarterly Dividends Futures for the S&P 500, 2019-Q2 through 2021-Q2, Snapshot on 30 March 2020
Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q1 and 2020Q2 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 30 March 2020

It is highly likely that firms receiving relief via the U.S. government's relief package signed into law last week will be suspending their dividends to preserve their cash flow, which may account for the deterioration in the expectations for future dividends. That this negative change in expectations for fundamentals was accompanied by rising stock prices perhaps suggests an unstable speculative bubble based on promises of central bank and government relief and stimulus is inflating the stock market at this time.

The Worst First Quarter Ever?

Update 31 March 2020 5:30 PM Eastern: Normally, we look to ZeroHedge to cover doom and gloom in the U.S. stock market. But today, professional market cheerleader CNBC confirmed that the first quarter of 2020 was the worst ever in the 135 year history of the Dow!

But wait, that's not the worst of what happened today. Expectations for S&P 500 dividends in 2020-Q3 and 2020-Q4 continued down their very pessimistic paths, with both continuing their trends of notable deterioration. By contrast, the S&P 500 closed down 1.6% to 2,584.59, which though down for the day, was positively bubbly compared to the thrashing that dividend futures saw.

Past and Projected Quarterly Dividends Futures for the S&P 500, 2019-Q2 through 2021-Q2, Snapshot on 31 March 2020
Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q1 and 2020Q2 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 31 March 2020

There was an upside in that expectations for dividends in 2020-Q2 rebounded from the pessimism that drove them down yesterday, but that's a small consolation considering the decoupling we're observing between dividend futures and the S&P 500 during the current disruptive event the markets are experiencing as order is being left behind.

President Trump began pitching a $2.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill, which we think is likely contributing to the speculation sustaining the S&P 500 at the level it is. How long that might last remains to be seen, but the one thing we can say for certain is 2020-Q1 is best considered in the rear-view mirror.

Stock Prices Start Deflating from Bubbly Speculation Levels

Update 1 April 2020 5:00 PM Eastern: No April Fool's Day jokes here. Quarterly dividend futures continued to go haywire in a very thinly traded market, with expectations for 2020-Q2 rising, but apparent expectations dropping significantly for 2020-Q3 and 2020-Q4 again, before suddenly rebounding strongly in 2021-Q1. Let's just say that there looks like a pricing error in the underlying dividend futures contracts, where a futures-savvy investor may have the opportunity to figuratively pick money up off the sidewalk if they can tell in which direction the errors are being made.

Meanwhile, some of the bubbly speculation that has been fueling the S&P 500 appears to have deflated, with the index falling 4.41% to close at 2,470.50.

Past and Projected Quarterly Dividends Futures for the S&P 500, 2019-Q2 through 2021-Q2, Snapshot on 1 April 2020
Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q1 and 2020Q2 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 1 April 2020

We'll be depressing everyone tomorrow with a report on dividend cuts in March 2020 and in 2020-Q1.

Trump-Negotiated Truce in Saudi-Russian Oil Price War Boosts S&P 500

Update 2 April 2020 6:30 PM Eastern: President Trump's apparent negotiated truce in Saudi Arabia's and Russia's oil price war boosted the S&P 500, despite the news that over 6 million Americans had filed for unemployment as a result of all the state and local government-ordered business closures and stay-at-home orders that have been imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. The S&P 500 closed up 2.28% to close the day at 2,526.90.

At the same time, some sense of sanity looks to have returned to the dividend futures market, which saw boosts across the board, thanks to the Trump-negotiated deal's effect on the future outlook for oil and gas company dividends.

Past and Projected Quarterly Dividends Futures for the S&P 500, 2019-Q2 through 2021-Q2, Snapshot on 2 April 2020
Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q1 and 2020Q2 - Standard Model - Snapshot on 2 April 2020

We're also wondering if we need to revisit the empirically-determined 'constant' amplification factor we have typically used in our dividend futures-based model. It occurs to us that the market has experienced a regime change with the introduction of such a massive amount of stimulus since 23 March 2020, both fiscal and monetary, where the amplification factor constant that we have been using for the past 10+ years may no longer consistent with how investors are currently valuing stock prices.

We've been playing with that idea behind the scenes, where if say the amplification factor constant has shrunk from 5 to 2, the outlook for stock prices would be better than what the alternative futures chart above indicates. Then again, the amplification factor is how the model absorbs the effect of speculative noise, so that possibility would also still exist.

Either way, the change may only be temporary, so it's just another thing to watch. Regardless, the near term trend for stock prices would be downward.

Australian Politics 2020-03-29 14:47:00


Australia's coronavirus response is reasonable

While it is far too soon to get excited and there is still a long way to go, in the three days to Friday the increase in the number of new cases seemed to have slowed – although community transmission is still a major concern.

Infectious diseases physician and microbiologist Peter Collignon, a professor at the ANU Medical School, observed on Friday night: “Still early but epidemic curve looks like it’s falling. Hopefully that fall will continue and what we are doing now will cause it to keep on falling.”

Unfortunately the rates ticked back up again on Saturday but this is not a disaster as long as the increase can be kept in check and doesn’t explode exponentially as it did in the early days and weeks. This is known as flattening the curve and flattening the curve has been the government’s strategy all along.

University of Melbourne professor of epidemiology Tony Blakely has been explaining this process very clearly for days now – that the whole point is to slow the spread of the virus to manageable levels, not stop it altogether. That requires patience and calm, two qualities sorely lacking in the social media age.

“You don't go in too hard because you actually want the infection rate to pick up a bit and then hold,” he told the ABC.

Or as he explained it to the far funkier readers of “If we are going to ‘flatten the curve’ then we need to chill a bit.”

That’s a pretty simple message on the biggest news site in Australia from one of the top experts in the country. And yet panic merchants are still squealing that we need to shut everything down now because it’s trending on Twitter.

You also have to wonder how many of those calling for total and immediate nationwide lockdowns are spending their own in leafy suburban homes or stately Victorian terraces instead of sharehouses and studio apartments. You have to wonder if it’s their jobs that will be instantly terminated.

Because it’s easy to wish for a recession when you’re rich enough to ride it out. It’s not so easy when you’re a waiter who’s been wiped out or an aircraft engineer now stacking shelves at Woollies.

Of course everyone has the right to voice their opinion – and some of the contrarian views come from very smart minds.

But for others so sure that everything we’re doing is wrong here are two simple questions they might wish to ask themselves to bring the issue into sharp relief:

1. Am I as smart as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer?

2. Am I going to lose my job?

The hard truth is we are facing both a health crisis and an economic one. We have to do whatever it takes to stop the coronavirus from crashing our hospital system but we also have to do whatever it takes to stop it from crashing our economic system, because if the economy crashes, society crashes.

The cruellest part is that the restrictive approach needed to save our hospitals is the opposite of the expansive approach needed to save our economy. This is the great corona paradox.

We are balancing thousands of lives against hundreds of thousands of livelihoods and the threat of even further loss of life in the future as poverty and unemployment cuts people down. Every decision we take has to be measured against the impact it will have not just across society today but in the months and years ahead – and all of this with infinite uncertainty as to what that impact will be. It is an all but impossible needle to thread.

And so for my two cents, I reckon having graduated restrictions that can be escalated or eased as the situation requires – as opposed to the sledgehammer of universal lockdowns based on no medical evidence – seems like a pretty sensible way to go. And most of the people in charge seem to think that too because that’s exactly what we’re doing.

And if anyone thinks they have a better idea to stop a global pandemic while solving the most crippling economic crisis since the Great Depression then perhaps they should put it in an email.


Rights groups in Australia alarmed at new coronavirus police powers

Rights groups have voiced concern about Australia's rollout of COVID-19 restrictions and how these are being policed.

This week, a number of states announced they were issuing on-the-spot fines for individuals and businesses flouting new COVID-19 rules.

Fines will be issued for not quarantining for 14 days after returning from overseas, attending or organising mass gatherings, and disobeying other government directions such as wedding and funeral sizes.

Depending on the state, individuals face $1,000-$13,345 fines and businesses can be fined up to $66,672.50.

While agreeing the crisis necessitates a strong government response to protect the community, rights groups said these heavy fines should be a "very last resort".

"Police should be trying to promote understanding of the new regulations and new restrictions and doing everything they can to get voluntary compliance," spokesperson for the NSW Council for Civil Liberties Stephen Blanks told SBS News.

"It shouldn't be a revenue-raising exercise for the government," Mr Blanks said.

"And it's so important that when restrictions are imposed, that proper notice is given to a community, that restrictions are clearly available on government websites. So people can see what it is that they are allowed and not allowed to do."

But he said in this instance, officials "have been struggling to achieve clarity". "This confusion makes it hard for members of the public to know what they are allowed to do," he said.

The Federal Government also announced the army has been brought in to make sure returned travellers isolate for 14 days.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stressed on Friday that defence personnel would not have the power to issue fines, but would assist state and territory authorities.

Mr Blanks said the military's presence could add to the tension. "It's not a situation where you want to see members of the army on the streets with weapons."

The Human Rights Law Centre said civil liberties should not be forgotten in a crisis.

"As governments across Australia adopt emergency powers to lead us out of this crisis it is important that any response is transparent and proportionate," a spokesperson told SBS News in a statement.

"Any emergency powers or legislation passed in this time of crisis must be clearly expressed, narrowly confined to deal with the immediate public health issues, time limited, and independently reviewed on a continuing basis.

"This crisis must not be seen as an opportunity to advance the infringement of our democratic freedoms. We cannot allow a situation in which Australians emerge from this over-policed and under state surveillance with their democratic rights curtailed."

Associate professor of law at Flinders University Marinella Marmo researches human rights issues. With family members in virus-hit Italy, she is well-aware of how important a government response is to COVID-19. "Obviously, I am anxious but I also think that human rights are here to stay and we need to fight for them every single day," she said.

"Emergency measures [are] introduced quickly and this does not allow for a healthy debate on if and how they infringe civil liberties. Unfortunately, in the eye of the storm we lose track of these matters, but we need to remain vigilant.

"We now know that most emergency measures quickly introduced in the past by different governments around the world have not been withdrawn or completely withdrawn, see terrorist measures, for example.

"Any kind of COVID-19 emergency measure needs to be considered in light of ethical standards and human rights. And if now is not the time, as dismissively we may be told, then soon after the emergency is over."

In laying out the new measures, authorities have stressed that enforcing the rules will save lives.

On Saturday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said giving police the new powers was very important as cases continue to rise in the state. "Everyone's got to take this seriously," he said.

Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said "we sincerely hope that Victoria Police does not have to issue one of these fines, and people do the right thing".

While NSW Police Minister David Elliott told reporters on Saturday that "everything we have done over the course of the last couple of weeks has been to save lives". "Whether it be closing Bondi Beach, whether it be closing our pubs, these are there to stop people from transmitting disease.

"These rules and regulations are not there to punish anybody. They are not there to issue intermittent justice. They are there to protect lives, they are there to save lives."


Australian Reporter Rita Panahi Takes the WHO, Chinese Regime to Task Over Coronavirus Lies

Australian reporter Rita Panahi slammed China's Communist Regime and the World Health Organization for their failures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. China was so worried about making sure they weren't blamed for the virus that they did everything in their power to keep whistleblowers quiet. Instead of sounding the alarm about the Wuhan coronavirus, the WHO parroted the regime's talking points, saying the virus wasn't transmitted through person-to-person contact. The organization also failed to recommend travel bans to China.

"I want to talk about China's culpability and conduct throughout the coronavirus crisis that began in Wuhan wet market. The Chinese Communist regime not only lied, destroyed evidence and allowed the virus to spread, but it arrested doctors who, back in December, tried to warn the world about what was happening in Wuhan," she explained. "Some of the whistleblowers arrested and accused of fabricating, disseminating, and spreading rumors have since died. Other domestic critics, from a property tycoon to video bloggers have vanished."

"China is not a regime that tolerates dissent," Panahi explained. "China's initial cover-up included destroying lab samples that established, in December, the cause of unexplained viral infections in the Hubei province. How many lives would have been saved if China had listened to experts instead of silencing them?"

A study carried out by the University of South Hampton showed that China could have prevented 95 percent of Wuhan coronavirus infections "if it would have implemented tough measures just three weeks earlier." Instead of being proactive, the regime waited another month before taking action.

"What's just as shocking is the World Health Organization's complicity in this global pandemic," she said. "From the start, the WHO has unequivocally praised China's response and pushed its absurd narratives while ignoring the regime's dishonesty and recklessness."

Panahi reminded viewers that back in January, the WHO shared a tweet citing Chinese health official's who claimed there was no evidence the virus transmitted through human-to-human contact.

"[The WHO] refused to declare a pandemic until March 11th. And, as late as February, it was parroting China in criticizing travel restrictions," she said. "Don't forget that when Scott Morrison and Donald Trump implemented travel bans against China in late January, they did so against WHO's advice."

Both China and the WHO deserve to be held accountable for this pandemic. They could have kept the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading around the world had they admitted the virus began in China and was being transmitted through human-to-human contact. Instead of giving other countries the heads up so they could prepare or make decisions to protect their citizens, China was radio silent and they punished those who spoke out.

Instead of calling it the World Health Organization, we should call it the Chinese Health Organization. At the end of the day, the organization is only concerned about how the Chinese regime looks to the rest of the world.


Australian schools: Digital equity needed for success

For millions of young Australians, it’s home schooling from now on. As well as getting their heads around months of staying inside – often in small apartments with no easy access to big, green spaces – families urgently need to work out how to carry on with learning.

The Prime Minister and other leaders rightly point to the risks facing the educational progress of young Australians as the nation locks down. Given the data showing that many students are already up to three years behind their international peers in reading, mathematics and science, they cannot afford to miss a beat as they watch a very strange school year unfold.

The first of Australia’s two national goals for schooling refers to ‘excellence and equity’.  Excellence in education is already the subject of much debate, but the Covid-19 emergency will exacerbate equity issues, with no guarantee that all young learners can simply switch to high-quality online learning.

And school closures are happening at the same time as most businesses and organisations ramp up their technological capability to keep things going. This is potentially the greatest test of the $50+ billion national broadband network. Our average speeds have improved, but other countries are doing better, and this was probably a major factor for Japan and Hong Kong in their early decision to close all schools.

Ideally, for at least some part of each day, Australian students should be able to see and hear their teachers as well as their classmates. Schools will want to keep students connected and maintain a sense of belonging, otherwise motivation and achievement will go out the window.

But some schools are advising parents that live streaming of lessons cannot occur because of the variation in household internet services and devices.

Every child will need the right device and the necessary software. As in some universities, this might mean offering financial support to students who would otherwise depend on school computers, who cannot afford internet connection or who have a disability.

Enabling equitable access to smart digital technology would be an encouraging sign of the effectiveness of state and territory policies and funding strategies

Australia’s education ministers own Education Services Australia, a national company that claims a “unique combination of education and technology expertise to create and deliver solutions that can be used to improve student outcomes and enhance performance across all education sectors.” ESA built the Australian Curriculum website, among many other projects.

Never has there been a better time for that organisation to show what it can do.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here