You gotta know when to Holden

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared Australians will be fuming after Holden allowed its business to “wither away” even as it pocketed $2 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies.

For non-Australian readers, Holden is was the brand name for General Motors in Australia and New Zealand, just like Vauxhall in the UK and Opel in Europe.

And, just like all the other brand names, the build quality of the vehicles was woeful. By which I mean, when compared to the overseas competitors’ products, the vehicles were like British Leyland’s Austin Allegro compared to the Toyota Corolla of the time; expensive, fewer features, less reliable, lower prestige.

Given the choice between a German, Japanese, Korean or even a French or Italian car, nobody with the mental age above a fish would choose to buy a Holden. Those few who did, did so out of some bizarre patriotic pride…. bizarre, because what’s the point of being proud of a shite product built by a foreign company?

Of course, this axiom played out over the decades in the Australian car market while market share declined annually as consumers bought every other vehicle brand rather than those locally-produced.

Politicians being, by their nature and the system within which they operate, incentivised only in the short term, pumped ever greater sums of taxpayers’ money into subsidising a company those same taxpayers (as consumers) were voting against.

Both sides of the political spectrum were guilty of this pointless profligacy, citing various fallacious arguments to justify their buying of votes with other people’s money; “saving Aussie jobs”, “ensuring the survival of adjacent industries”, etc.

Perhaps the most laughable reason was “strategic nationally”, by which people meant, “if China or Indonesia ever decide to invade, we can repurpose the Holden factories to make tanks in time to mount a credible defence”.

Yeah, just as long as the tank drivers had been trained in how to replace a faulty gear box ten minutes after driving out of the barracks.

Bill’s Opinion

Holden lingered on in stasis for at least 25 years longer than it should have been allowed. Every taxpayer dollar pumped into the balance sheet of General Motors or added on to the import cost of a foreign competitor, delayed the inevitable and cost Australians twice; once in tax and again in increased prices for a better quality Mitsubishi or Toyota.

Given a choice, politicians always do what’s expedient rather than what’s right.

Starbucks can go get…..

Fucked.

We’re proud to partner with UK charity Mermaids with a limited edition Mermaids Cookie. With every cookie sold, 50p will go to the charity to support their helpline, providing support for transgender and gender diverse young people and their families.

Available at participating stores, whilst stocks last.

“Mermaids”.

It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? Evoking images of feel-good Disney cartoons, Peter Pan and children’s bedtime books.

In reality, it’s a charity that promotes the castration of young boys.

Let’s repeat that; there is an organisation in the UK, with charitable status, promoting the castration of children.

One supposes the workshop to decide the name quickly moved past “The Eunuch Society” or “Castrato Revival Association” as options.

And Starcunts has chosen this as its cause du jour.

Seriously.

Bill’s Opinion

It’s not as if the world really needed another reason to boycott Starcunts; the quality of their hot beverages is no better than instant coffee, made drinkable only by infusion of vast quantities of flavoured syrup. The food on offer is over-priced and inedible. The saccharine jazz and blues soundtracks polluting their outlets makes a Michael Bublé loop tape seem tolerable.

And now they are donating money to permanently disfigure children in devastatingly life-changing ways.

There is reason for hope, though.

Yesterday, the English High Court ruled that a police investigation into a joke about transgenderism was not only unwarranted and unlawful, but sinister and a very serious over-reach.

In the US, “cisgender girls” (or “girls” in the vernacular) are suing athletics’ organising bodies for allowing boys to compete in female competitions.

Regular people, by which I mean anyone who doesn’t spend their life on Twitter, working in media or attending fringe political meetings, are waking up to the real-life implications of this insane attempt to destroy societal norms without any serious discussion of the long term impacts.

2020 looks to be the year where some adult supervision occurs.

Finally, this movement could probably find a more articulate, less Godwin-invoking spokesman, but this will do as a start:

Lessons children learn

…seem hardest for activists masquerading as journalists.

For example, noting the difference between an expressed and revealed preference.

One such example would be this, where Charlotte Grieve seems confused that, despite loudly banging the climate change drum in public, large pension funds still heavily invest in the industries that make profit pollute the most.

Four of the nation’s biggest industry super funds have billions of dollars invested in coal producers and other fossil fuel companies despite taking a vocal stance on climate change and pledging to support emissions reduction.

Research exclusively obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald also shows support among super funds for shareholder resolutions that would force companies to take tougher action on climate change has fallen.

One must chuckle at the dressing up as “research” the process of browsing the funds’ websites to view the publicly-available information on investment allocations. They must have had a team working round the clock on that.

Of course, such an easily-written piece is the gift that keeps on giving for Charlotte; on its anniversary she can toss up a follow-up describing her horror that, despite the scandalous exposé of the mealy-mouthed funds and their double standards, the general public haven’t all rushed for the door and moved into a virtue-signalling “sustainable” fund.

Bill’s Opinion

People generally act rationally and in their own interests. This neatly explains making loud public noises suggesting concern over climate change whilst also investing in assets that produce a reasonable return on one’s investment.

As we’ve explored previously, the difference between a “green” fund and a regular fund is the latter has a reasonable chance of being an providing an income in retirement. The green fund doesn’t even track inflation.

Watch what people do, Charlotte, don’t listen to what they say.

Losing faith in the Police

Well, most of us did ages ago, ever since Regatta de Blanc.

Anyway, it turns out most people in the UK have realised the cops can’t do their job.

Clearance rates are falling and the study shows the public are not blind to this.

Statistics like this are hard to hide after a while:

Of course, victims of crime in the garden of England (that’s Kent, in case you didn’t know) are not the only ones to realise there’s less than a 19/20ths chance of not being charged for a crime; the criminals know it too.

It becomes a vicious self-reinforcing cycle.

Historically, the public and the police have had a unique relationship, markedly different to most otherwise similar countries. This is often described as “policing by consent”, and that phrase is often referenced.

In fact, it’s worth reproducing the original wording of the 9 point instructions….

…..devised by the first Commissioners of Police of the Metropolis (Charles Rowan and Richard Mayne). The principles which were set out in the ‘General Instructions’ that were issued to every new police officer from 1829 were:

1 To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

2 To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

3 To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

4 To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

5 To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

6 To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

7 To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

8 To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

9 To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

Consider then, how this type of statement on the West Yorkshire Police website aligns with those well-meaning statements of intent (italics mine):

What is a Hate Incident?

A Hate Incident is any non-crime incident which is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity or perceived disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Examples include:

Verbal or online abuse, insults or harassment, such as taunting, offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, dumping of rubbish outside homes or through letterboxes, and bullying at school or in the workplace.

A hate incident doesn’t mean that we won’t take it seriously if someone reports it.

Of course, it’s not even legally correct; dumping rubbish through letter boxes certainly is illegal already in West Yorkshire.

But what an interesting comparison to make; the West Yorkshire police force have time to investigate a non-crime that has been perceived to be offensive to anybody yet are managing to charge fewer than 7 out of 100 actual crimes.

It feels like there may be just a slight mis-allocation of resources going on oop north.

Bill’s Opinion

A police force that allocates more than zero expensively-trained uniformed coppers on an investigation into a case of hurty tweets yet has a clearance rate for real crime (those crimes with actual victims) of less than one in ten cases should have the entire managerial level replaced immediately and their pensions cancelled.

Australia’s coal powered cars

In an amazing piece of good news for the planet, Australia has seen a massive rise in the number of electric vehicles sold.

New figures from the Electric Vehicle Council show 6718 electric cars, including hybrid plug-ins, were sold nationwide last year, up from 2216 in 2018.

That’s a tripling of the number sold in the previous year. Hurrah for Australians!

Oh, hang on:

Australia trails the world in the take-up of electric vehicles, with the plug-in market about 0.6 per cent of the total market, compared to Norway’s 56 per cent, Iceland’s 25 per cent, the Netherlands’ 15 per cent and China’s 4.7 per cent.
Oh. 0.6%? A bit of work to do then, and unlikely to be the biggest contributor to Tesla’s share price leap this week.

Also, there’s the awkward and inconvenient truth about how electricity is generated in Australia:

Only 16% “renewables”.

Bills Opinion

If you drive an electric vehicle in Australia, you’re an idiot.

Not only is the infrastructure not in place outside of the mung bean munching inner metro suburbs, but the electricity is generated by coal.

You’re simply signalling your virtue, disposable income and the obvious fact that you don’t visit anywhere more than a couple of hundred kilometres away from home unless you fly.

Finally, and on a related note;

A YEAR, GODDAMN IT!

England! With all thy faults I love thee still!

England! with all thy faults I love thee still!’

I said at Calais, and have not forgot it;

I like to speak and lucubrate my fill;

I like the Government (but that is not it);

I like the freedom of the press and quill;

I like the Hapeas Corpus (when we’ve got it);

I like a parliamentary debate,

Particularly when ’tis not too late;

I like the taxes, when they’re not too many;

I like a sea-coal fire, when not too dear;

I like a beef-steak, too, as well as any;

Have no objection to a pot of beer;

I like the weather–when it is not rainy–

That is, I like two months of every Year;

And so God save the Regent, Church, and King!

Which means that I like all and every thing.

Our standing Army, and disbanded Seamen,

Poor’s rate, Reform, my own, the nation’s debt,

Our little Riots just to show we’re free men,

Our trifling Bankruptcies in the Gazette,

Our cloudy Climate, and our chilly Women;

All these I can forgive, and those forget,

And greatly venerate our recent glories,

And wish they were not owing to the Tories.

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.