Monday, March 23, 2009

Snort, Distort


As I've said before, we've veered into hysteria when it comes to child protection. Well, here we go again...

...A friend of mine is a primary school teacher, and was recently involved in an incident where two girls in his late-primary class reported an attempted abuction; claiming a man in a white van had called to them in the playground, telling them to get in. There were doubts over the story from the first, and it transpired that the white van was a government worker on legitimate business in the area. No attempted abduction.

But naturally the school reported the incident to the police immediatley, and then the frenzy began. Parents descended on the school, verbalising teachers for not keeping their children safe. The children became hysterical, each reporting their own white van horror story.

All this is understandable, but then the media circus started. The story caused a local frenzy, including detailed descriptions of the suspected abductor, venues, the van...none of which was ever reported to police (mostly because it never happened, and the children involved did not report these details). My friend was gobsmacked, asking "Where on Earth are they getting this stuff from?". But he was unable to contact the media to refute the stories to report the inaccuracies, in order to protect his own privacy (the same reason I can't elaborate anymore on the details here).

We all knew this stuff already - how the media distorts and just plain makes stuff up to get a story. But to see it second hand is an eye opener. (I am kind of disappointed that those Pauline Hanson photos are fakes).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Old Numbers, Fresh Thinking


If you're nostalgic for the heady days of the 1990s, this really is your time. The Dow Jones is now at it's lowest level since 1997. Last time it was below 7000, Princess Diana was still alive, Chumbawumba still seemed like a fun song and I was still wearing a school uniform*.

We could go into a detailed analysis of why this is happening, or alternatively just blame AIG. American Insurance Group reported the largest quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history, despite receiving $150 billion as part of the corporate bailout.

Who the hell is the CEO at AIG, and can I have their job? I've absolutely no experience in insurance or managing anything more serious that asking the juniors to help with my paperwork. But I'm sure I could lose $62 billion in three months. Heck, I could even lose it in a more fun way. There are 116,000 AIG employees worldwide, so that's over $50,000 each for them all to take luxury vacations.

Maybe it is time to look at how CEOs are nurtured and rise through the ranks. Something has gone very wrong. Maybe we could try elevating ordinary workers to senior corporate positions, a six month trial perhaps. Us schlubs could hardly do worse than what we have at the moment.


* For practical purposes not titillation.