I’ve commented on ‘roundism’ before – our tendency to assign special importance to round numbers. Why is a 40th birthday such a big deal? Why do we delight in seeing a car’s odometer click over to 100,000? Why do we bring out the brass bands and bunting for centenaries?
Well, the first 100 days of a political leader’s being in power holds the same magic for us. Donald Trump has just attained this milestone, which he himself declared would mark a period of tremendous achievement.
It’s certainly been a period of tremendous excitement – a roller-coaster ride for the President’s friends and foes alike, and especially for people like President Putin who started as a friend and has now been re-categorised.
I don’t intend to add to the great wave of commentary triggered by the 100-day milestone, but I’d like to relay a pithy comment from my old friend Ron Allan when the Trump presidency was a mere 74 days old:
“I’m pondering what will happen when his frustration level builds. He has his list of things to do. So far the record is this:
- What he has authority to do on his own, the supreme court is blocking.
- What he has to do through the legislature, the legislature is blocking (in spite of both houses and the presidency being of the same stripe).
“If this keeps going, he could resign in frustration. “America does not deserve to have me. I’m not wasting my time any more. etc etc.”
“It is hard to see him lasting. He got the job with the megalomaniac notion that only he can (and will) drain the swamp. If he fails he will not stay. So it’s a race. Which comes first, Resignation or Impeachment? I think the risk of Assassination is receding.”
Or do they? Here is a listing of the junk mail I received today, as filtered by Hotmail:
I have never expressed, in thought word or deed, online or offline, the slightest interest in building a boat, gardening, extreme dieting, getting pregnant, learning the piano or keeping chickens (whether for fun, for profit or for deviant sexual purposes).
If that’s an indication of what Big Brother’s algorithms have worked out about my life, I am relieved.
On the other hand, since I am relying on those algorithms to steer people who are interested in robots, artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial colonisation towards my books (The Eeks Trilogy published in a single e-volume ‘Goldiloxians’), I am distressed. Are my potential readers being directed to cricketers’ autobiographies and railway timetables?! Rather more efficient invasion of privacy is called for, I think.
We’ve had a rash of news stories about employees being paid less than the legal minimum wage. In the most extreme cases it has not been an oversight or a one-off try-on, but a business model that works like this:
- A small-time businessperson buys a franchise from a big company, such as Seven-Eleven.
- The cost and conditions of the franchise make it impossible to pay legal wages and make a profit.
- So the franchisee employs foreign students and pays them a fraction of the legal wage. The big company (the franchisor) may give a nod and a wink, or even informally explain how to do it.
- People on a student visa are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week to help finance their studies, but they are induced to work 40 or more hours per week for 20 hours’ pay. How are they able to do this and study effectively as well? The likely answer is, “They can’t.”.
- Timesheets are falsified to make the books look right, and the students don’t complain because they are as culpable as their employers: they are breaking the terms of their visas and could be deported.
In revelations of this law-breaking on TV most of the students and most of the franchisees appear to be of South Asian origin. None (that I have seen) appear to be of Anglo-Celtic origin. This observation sent me to my bookshelves to find an old publication called ‘Australia: Official Handbook’. It is dated January 1945 and it was sent by the Repatriation Commission to a new immigrant. The following passage is interesting:
“At the outset it may clear away misconceptions to give a brief outline of the immigration policy that is generally known as the “White Australia” policy.
“To the principle of “White Australia” all political parties in the Commonwealth subscribe, for the economic reason that the white man’s standard of living would be endangered by the introduction of coloured labourers who would be prepared to accept wages and to work and live under conditions that are not acceptable to a white workman.”
I share this without editorial comment.