TransIndigenous Mediation

Australian author Bruce Pascoe is in a spot of bother. His ancestry has been referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation into his ethnicity.

Ponder that for a moment; in 2020, it’s in the purview of the police to question and, presumably, lay criminal charges as consequence of what they might find regarding someone’s ethnicity.

How on earth did we get here?

In Pascoe’s case, it’s been a lengthy journey and one which, depending on which “team” you are on looks like this chronology listed by Andrew Bolt or the more sympathetic version (presumably written by supporters) in his Wikipedia entry.

What’s apparent from either side of the story is Bruce’s claimed Australian Aboriginal ancestry is not likely to amount to many actual relatives who existed anywhere but his fertile imagination, if any at all.

But how did he manage to get away with this fantasy for so long?

Obviously, the opportunity was created by well-meaning politicians. When trying to rectify centuries of appalling and egregious treatment of the first people of Australia, politicians needed to create a definition against which they could allocate the additional state funding and resources.

That definition is as follows:

An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he (she) lives.

Can any bright students see the problem with that?

Yes, young girl at the back of the class, what’s the answer?

The words identify, accept and community all require definition to remove subjectivity.

If not, there is a situation ripe for exploitation by people who want free money.

As in most situations, where America leads, Australia follows.

Famously, 2020 Presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, was the recipient of a place at law college reserved for a Native American after claiming to be Cherokee.

Cheekier still, Rachel Dolezal claimed to be of African American ancestry to become chapter president of the NAACP without having any black ancestors.

What can we learn from this?

Bill’s Opinion

As always, incentives matter.

In a situation where there’s free value (money, housing, academic places, increased employment prospects, perception of victimhood) and little obvious consequence for lying, there will be fraud.

The fact that this isn’t obvious to legislators says more about their IQs and knowledge of human nature than the dishonesty of the people who claim to be an ethnicity they are not.

Warren and Pascoe and Dolezal (see what I did there?) are at the top end of the fraud town. It’s not beyond imagination to suspect there are likely countless more frauds at the bottom end.

And who can blame them; presumably people already living an underprivileged life have a great incentive to invent a memory of an distant indigenous background like Pascoe’s to get to the front of the queue for housing or free dental care, for example.

What is going to be interesting about Pascoe’s case is to see what the decision might be regarding the potential crime committed. I’m not a lawyer so my research for precedent utilises the same resources as you, i.e. Google.

The best I could find was this campaign, which infers there’s definitely suspected cases of Aboriginal identity fraud but doesn’t describe any consequence.

My suspicion is, the crime rarely, if ever, results in a successful prosecution for two reasons; 1) there would need to be proof of intent rather than a mistaken “family memory”, and 2) until Pascoe, the people committing the crime were already in relatively humble conditions so the authorities took a lenient view.

Of course, like Elizabeth Warren, Pascoe has a low cost and quick remedy to clear his name; take a DNA test with 23 and Me.

We’ll wait, Bruce. We’ll wait.

In the USA, people who fraudulently claim to be military veterans are guilty of the crime of “Stolen Valor” (in the UK, they’re referred to by the name “Walt“).

In Australia, the Aboriginals suffered the pain and trauma of the Stolen Generation.

Now it would seem Bruce Pascoe and others might be accused of Stolen Victimhood.

Again, incentives matter; when victimhood is increasingly seen as having value, don’t be surprised to see fraudulent claims to it.

The Australian bushfire climate crisis – an antidote to the chaos

After a self-imposed digital purdah over the holiday period where I managed to teach myself a lot about methods to replace structural bulkheads and fibreglassing on 30 a year old yacht, normal service has been resumed.

It may have not have come to your attention, but Australia has suffered a bushfire crisis this summer, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria.

While brave people have worked around the clock, mostly as volunteers, and stoical homeowners have watched as their possessions have been destroyed, metropolitan-dwellers such as me have expended terabytes of data explaining what the cause of these fires is and, by obvious extrapolation, the only solution.

There have been several occasions in my life where I’ve been fortunate to have been able to observe a moment of the zeitgeist in which I’m not personally-invested enough to take a side and could therefore watch friends I’ve previously considered sane, make total fools of themselves.

Examples of this include, the death of Princess Diana, the financial crisis of 2008 and the election of Donald Trump.

To offer a mea culpa and to show fallibility, sadly, I made a fool of myself immediately following the 911 attacks. So, my filter is probably as good as anyone else’s.

However, I’m watching the Australian debate on bushfires and climate change from a position of (self-perceived) neutrality. I’ve accepted that a debate about the various scientific aspects of climate change ultimately converts nobody from one side of the argument to the other.

People pick a team and then find justifications for their team. A compelling chart or dataset isn’t going to dent that certainty.

Once one accepts a role of observer, rather than team player, a different perspective can be offered.

Here it is:

The Australian debate over climate change and bushfires is not a scientific debate, it’s a discussion on opportunity cost.

By this, I mean Australia has finite resources to apply to a problem, any problem. It also has a finite range of influence over the global climate. Which problem it chooses to allocate those resources against and how, are the only two questions that should matter to anyone who has any interest in improving the situation.

Yet, the current hysterical debate in the media and pages of Facebook, Twitter, etc. is around the global problem and solutions.

Does anyone see a future where the two sides of that conversation could ever be reconciled?

I have a circuit breaker for Australia which I offer free to any Prime Minister (it’s a job filled in the same way jury service works, ensuring a new one every 18 months) smart enough to use it. This is copyright free, open source:

(For immediate release)

From the Office of The Prime Minister of Australia:

Fellow Australians, the terrible consequences of the bushfire crisis this summer has convinced many of us, myself included, that climate change is real and poses an existential threat to our planet.

With our unique flora and fauna and naturally dry conditions, Australia is particularly at risk from an increase in global temperatures,

The debate now is not about whether climate change real; the science is settled. The debate is about what we as a relatively small economic power can do in response to it?

This is not a question that can be answered by ideology or one specific scientific discipline; it is now a question for all aspects of daily life, from agriculture to economics, energy production, health, land-use, planning and so much more.

This is why this government is seeking input and answers from all relevant experts. Today, I announce a Royal Commission on the Climate Emergency with the aim of determining Australia’s response.

The terms of the Royal Commission are to include the following non-negotiable considerations:

  • We will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable in our society if we deliberately hamstring the economy, therefore any proposed solutions will be fully-costed and, in total, will not exceed 1% of GDP (benchmarked at 2020 levels).

  • Although Australia is well-respected internationally and is seen by many as a progressive thought leader, our relative ability to influence the global climate is low, therefore any proposed solutions should assume no international collaboration. We will lead by example but not be reliant on others.

  • To protect the weakest and most vulnerable, Australia needs low cost energy. The balance between ensuring this and preventing climate change needs to be clearly examined, therefore the Royal Commision will undertake a full cost/benefit analysis of all possible replacement energy sources, regardless of ideology and factoring in existing government subsidies, tariffs, tax allowances, etc. It is time to reconsider every aspect of energy generation.

I look forward to the full support of the leaders of all major parties in this, our biggest challenge since Gallipoli and the Bodyline Tour.

Bill’s Opinion

If you are 100% certain of what the primary cause of a multi-variable problem is, consider the possibility you’re suffering from cognitive dissonance.

To frame a Royal Commission around the terms above removes the dumb ideology from either side of the fight and concentrates on the opportunity cost to find the best pragmatic use of Australia’s money, time and effort.

The current narrative is one where we are allowing scientists to not only describe the problem but to also the solution when that solution is economic and societal, ie far wider than physics and chemistry. At the risk of going full Godwin, surely we had enough of scientists driving policy in the 20th century?

It has the added benefit of flushing out everyone’s indefensible ideological thoughts, such as the underlying Malthusianism and Millernariasm which, in my view, seems to be the motivation behind most of the louder commentary.

It’s all about me

Jessica (big) “smarty pants” Irvine was allowed another vanity column again this week:

I’ve lost loads of weight because I’m more intelligent than you“.

This continues along the same boastful theme she lectured us with 18 months ago, wherein she helpfully explained how, if you eat fewer calories than you expend in exercise, there’s a good chance you might lose weight over time.

Quite why it took most of her adult life to learn something most people have worked out by the time they’ve reached puberty, she doesn’t explain.

The entire column is barely more than a lengthy Facebook post that most people unfortunate to be connected to her would either skip past or consider justification for muting further updates from her.

That the editorial team at the Sydney Morning Herald let this get as far as publication speaks volumes for the rate of decline of the masthead.

There’s not much else to be said about this utter vanity effort except perhaps a data point for Jessica (well, she claims to be good with numbers) in response to her featured Instagram post:

A six hour marathon?

That’s the cut-off limit of that race.

Bill’s Opinion

Actually, the official results show Jess “ran” the race in 6 hours and 9 minutes.

So they were clearly packing everything up and heading home when she crossed the finish line.

There were only 39 people behind her. Her finish time is on the last page of those who completed the course.

Perhaps Jess’ New Year’s resolution for 2020 should involve developing some level of self-awareness and undertaking a little more introspection.

As for the Sydney Morning Herald editorial team, it might be worth going on to Google Maps and plotting a scenic route to your nearest Centrelink office for later in the year. If you get in the habit of collecting your dole money by foot, you too can become as fit and healthy as Jess Irvine.

Predictions are notoriously difficult

…especially about the future.

But they are a fun diversion.

Here’s ten of mine for the year 2020. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Australian Politics

Politicians of all sides of the aisle increase the warnings against reliance on China. There will be noises made by the Federal government to have closer trade and defence links with the USA (particularly following the USA election).

A Westpac executive is jailed for the AUSTRAC issues. Probably Lynn Cobley.

Global Politics

The UK will reach a WTO+ deal (ie closer to WTO terms than a full trade deal) with the EU and negotiations won’t be extended. Boris will call their bluff.

Congress won’t send the impeachment papers to the Senate. The GOP will make political hay about this all the way to the election.

Zeitgeist

Sentiment turns against Saint Greta. There’s a financial scandal involving her parents or handlers.

A judge in the USA finds a single mother of a transgender child guilty of abuse. The Supreme Court supports this finding on appeal.

Sport

Six Nations table:

1 England

2 Ireland

3 Wales

4 France

5 Scotland

6 Italy

Australia finishes bottom of the Rugby Championship table.

Economy

Gold to temporarily breach all time high ($1,895).

The Dow to breach 30,000.