“Who Do You Wish You Were?” New TV show on SBS

Apparently, Australians will soon have a new series on their TV screens, a remake of the long-running popular genealogy and ancestry show, Who Do You Think You Are?.

As we’ve seen with Bruce Pascoe, incentives matter. If there’s a benefit to be had by claiming a particular ancestry, regardless of whether or not it’s true, a minority of people will claim it.

The new Australian version has a subtle twist, however. It’s been “Pascoed”, instead of looking for one’s real relatives, the show will invent a family tree based on whatever the relevant incentives reward.

In Bruce’s delightfully entertaining episode, he learns he has 3 Aboriginal parents and 7 Aboriginal grandparents. The researcher even helpfully “discovered” Maori and Aztec great grandparents, thus expanding Bruce’s lucrative future career options.

Completely unrelated (literally and figuratively), last year Australians across the country celebrated the arrival of their first Indigenous neurologist. Despite the pandemic, street parties were held, speeches were given.

Let us hear her story:

Dr Dos Santos grew up in Nambucca Heads on the NSW mid-north coast, also known as Gumbaynggirr country, and her Indigenous heritage stretches back to her great-grandfather.

It must have been tough, growing up in the racist environment that is Australia. We can only imagine the systemic disadvantages she encountered and overcame in her school and subsequent journey to qualifying as a neurologist.

Dr Dos Santos said she lost touch with Indigenous culture after a series of family splits, and because she attended a Christian high school and did not encounter any other students of Aboriginal descent.

Wait, what?

“When I was at university I realised that I’m an Aboriginal person and I should be really trying to reconnect with that,” she says.

I know what you’re thinking, and it makes you a bigot. Of COURSE one doesn’t need to know what race you are to suffer systemic and ongoing racism because something something lived experience, my truth, etc.

For example, whilst being unable to give a single example of being personally discriminated against (otherwise one would assume she’d say so in an interview specifically about the subject), she did witness lots of subtle digs about other people. Which I think we can agree, is analogous to Apartheid and lynchings:

It’s the casual racism and subtle digs that Dr Dos Santos picks up on, often coming from people who don’t know about her Indigenous connections.

“Sure, my skin colour is not the stereotypical Aboriginal skin colour,” she says matter-of-factly.

“So I would hear racial slurs that would be said to me, but not about me. They wouldn’t have said it if they knew that I was Aboriginal.”

Dr. Angela Dos Santos, a proud Gumbaynggirr woman.

Bill’s Opinion

Incentives really do matter, don’t they?

If government largesse, media profiles and employment quotas are distributed on the basis of a concept so poorly-defined as “race”, there will be an increase in the identification of people as that race, regardless of where they sit on the Pascoe Scale.

The problem legislators and the well-meaning have failed to anticipate or grapple with is, at what fraction of ancestry does the negative impacts of systemic racism cease to be measurable?

Bigots might say it’s like a racist version of the sub-prime crisis of 2008, labelling people as 100% Aboriginal despite having only one Aboriginal ancestor 3 generations ago. If your DNA is no greater than 1/8th (perhaps even less if the great grandparent was mixed race), are you Aboriginal like the people living in squalor in Alice Springs or are you, in fact, a CDO bundle of sub-prime claiming to be Triple A?

As Steve Sailer points out:

Since the Bolt decision of 2011, it’s been more or less illegal to joke in the Australian press about all the white people claiming the privileges of diversity.

So, that’s not what I’m doing here. I’m just asking questions.

Aspirations? A distant memory for many

Apparently, the previously unannounced “zero covid” strategy is only an aspiration now.

Aspiration is such an ironic word to use, given the utter destruction of the aspirations of so many people by the pursuit of this secret policy.

Some examples leap to mind from personal experience:

The aspirations of school age children to learn and achieve similar or better educational standards of those who preceded them. Any parent who has witnessed the standard of remote teaching delivered by the New South Wales high schools can confirm kids are currently in a bizarre day care on Zoom holding pattern. Any pretence they are learning the curriculum disappeared long ago.

The aspirations of small business owners, particularly those reliant on footfall or seasonal business. They’ve learned a brutal lesson that the government can destroy their livelihoods at the stroke of a pen and an 11am press conference.

The aspirations of people to visit family overseas, for happy or sad reasons. The university graduation ceremony for a child or to attend the funeral of a parent are two personal examples.

Aspirations are hard to measure but you damn well know when they’ve gone.

Let’s remind ourselves of the reason why this juggernaut of destruction has been driven through our aspirations (source):

Bill’s Opinion

As with the financial crisis of 2008, Grandad and Granny have been bailed out by their grandkids. Again.

Nobody was asked, nobody was consulted.

But far worse than that, not a single Opposition MP or “Independent. Always” journalist is asking questions about this ongoing transfer of aspirations from the young to the old at the 11am press conferences.

Speaking truth to power. That may have been a thing once, I recall.

A very mean reversion

A virtual Grand Tour around the various right of centre, libertarian and free market media sites and commentators over the last few years may have resulted in the, not unreasonable, conclusion there is a kind of Anglospheric Exceptionalism. From Roger Scruton, through Douglas Murray, Matt Ridley, Ben Shapiro, Jonathan Haight, Lionel Shriver, and many other voices who pop up regularly in each other’s podcasts and on the pages of The Spectator.

The unique Anglo cultural phenomenon is hard to define but likely to include elements of the following (in no particular order); individuality, free speech, free trade, freedom of movement, property rights, rule of law, meritocracy, religious and sexual tolerance, morality, and fairness.

Different versions of this are shown to perhaps apply variously across countries.

Australia, for example, has almost an entire national identity built on the shifting sands foundation of a concept of “fairness”. Everyone who has travelled around the Aussie media, legislation and government services will have encountered the word “fair”, without it ever really being defined. Australian fairness is defined as, to recycle the words of US Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it”.

The USA’s proud boast is based more on free speech, individual responsibility and the creative destruction of free markets.

The UK spends much of its currency of national conversation on expensive angst about how racist and intolerant it is whilst simultaneously being the destination of choice for immigration from almost every ethnicity and religion. UK tolerance is clearly a national trait, as witnessed by the inability of most of its citizens to complain about customer service.

The Canadian, New Zealand and Irish flavours of Anglospheric Exceptionalism are harder to define. They’re three irrelevances on the world cultural stage, taking their cues heavily from their larger neighbours and generally piggybacking on the good stuff whilst pointing at the negatives as if they were a problem of some other.

There’s clearly a place for the theory of Anglospheric Exceptionalism, otherwise so many of the products of these countries, both tangible and philosophical, from iPhones to fundamental legal concepts, wouldn’t be adopted and/or envied by other less happy lands.

Culture must be a factor too, otherwise the success of the USA might perhaps have been replicated to some degree on the west coast of Africa when the newly formed country of Liberia adopted a CTRL C/V version of the USA Constitution. Last time we checked, Liberia wasn’t at the top of the list of countries people were battling to emigrate to.

Some amazing outcomes have been achieved from the children of the anglosphere. As a proxy measure, Cambridge University has produced double the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire country of France. Interestingly, France has produced four times the number of Nobel Laureates than the entire continent of Africa (including the Africans of European ancestry).

Clearly, cultural relativism is a bollocks concept. Not all cultures are equal, as anyone trying to get to the grocery store and home again unharmed in Johannesburg or Durban could tell you right now.

It’s easy to fall into the fantasy that we’ve found some magic civilising incantation, a secret formula to civilise the world and ensure the direction of travel is forward.

Worse, if you’re tempted down the roads of patriotism, ethnic pride and supremacy-thinking, you might believe this has something to do with genetics or another hard to define concept, “race”.

What if we’re wrong? What is history telling us?

It’s easy to ignore the inconvenience of history. Until really very recently, say, until the second quarter of the 20th century, life for everyone was uncertain in duration, brutish and tough.

Freedom of speech, for example, would have been quite a distant thought for most people in the anglosphere when faced with the prospect of having to bury a child every year or two. Freedom of movement and property rights were theoretical for the vast majority, who had only the option to emigrate vast distances with little to no possessions, often to escape religious intolerance, indentured labour and restrictions to their ability to trade freely.

If we’re really being honest with ourselves, these modern miracles about which years’ worth of podcast content and self-congratulatory books have been produced, are a specifically modern phenomenon probably not yet even 100 years old.

The normal scenario was benign rule by king or emperor if we were lucky, but brutal authoritarianism mostly. After all, Marcus Aurelius was only one man in an empire lasting more than a millennium.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps we’ve been living in a dream? Perhaps we’d convinced ourselves the circumstances all but our last four generations found themselves in had been prevented from recurring.

Our ability to choose and find work, travel freely in and out of countries, speak freely in public, make our own health decisions, manage personal risk, protect our wealth and family and to take individual responsibility no longer exists.

Perhaps it never really did. Certainly, the swiftness with which these “rights” were removed indicates the fragile grasp by which we held them.

Le plus ça change, le plus c’est la meme chose, as your great great grandparents probably couldn’t pronounce but understood implicitly.

The reversion to the mean, is indeed very mean.

Are you an artist?

An artist is someone who can hold two opposing viewpoints and still remain fully functional.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Some examples:

The threat of mental health impacts.

Position A: we must agree, without question, with children who say they are transgender because otherwise their inevitable negative mental health outcome and possible suicide will be our fault.

Position B: we must keep children off school and away from group sports for months to protect the elderly and chronically unwell. The mental health impacts of this are insignificant.

Climate change

Position A: climate change is the biggest existential threat to humanity, all necessary resources and national finances should be applied to solve it. We must think the unthinkable.

Position B: nuclear energy is too big a danger to use to generate our power.

Election fraud

Position A: Russia hacked the 2016 election resulting in the illegitimate Trump presidency.

Position B: there were no irregularities in the 2020 election. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.

The World Health Organisation

Position A: it’s unfortunate the WHO made several significant mistakes over the efficacy of masks and the possibility the Kung Flu came from the Wuhan lab.

Position B: the WHO is correct that the vaccines are safer for all age and health cohorts than catching the virus.

Prophylaxis

Position A: there is no evidence from randomised double blind longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of existing generic pharmaceutical treatments for Kung Flu and anyone suggesting these should be further investigated is a conspiracy theorist.

Position B: a vaccine first produced less than a year ago is completely safe in both the short and long term for all age and health cohorts.

Freedom of speech

Position A: one of the greatest benefits of living in a western democracy is the freedom to criticise government policy without sanction.

Position B: there is no problem with private companies, some of whom have revenue greater than the GDP of many countries, to censor people who spread misinformation as these people are dangerous conspiracy theorists.

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps there’s a bit of artistry in us all. It’s not those who have inconsistency who scare me most, but those with certainty.

Take it away boys:

Who is paying for this?

New South Wales is entering its third week of lockdown, 18 months after the virus first arrived and was almost eradicated.

For those who believe the vaccinations are a risk worth taking, the vaccination rates are pitifully distant from a level we might consider useful or, sotto voce, herd immunity.

So, back under the duvet for the residents of the biggest economy in the country, because, to paraphrase the head of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, “the only alternative to lockdown is more lockdown”.

You may be wondering whether it’s possible to seek a second opinion on that diagnosis and prescription.

The idea of giving up on the tacit “zero covid” strategy was floated in anonymous briefings to the press last week, only to be met with ridicule and accusations of inhumanity but no tangible or executable answer to the question, “the current strategy has clearly failed, so what do we do now?”.

The school holidays finish on Tuesday and thousands of children will be banished to their bedrooms to attend dysfunctional zoom calls with their teachers whilst using the Alt/Tab function to switch back and forth between “class” and Minecraft.

Of course, that describes the kids whose parents are paying attention and haven’t already given up on them. There’s another group, for whom school was probably their last chance of being socialised and staying out of trouble.

Their parents won’t be checking their attendance at virtual class, their internet access and smartphone use will be unrestricted and it’s unlikely they will be prevented from leaving the house during the school day to smoke vapes at the local skate park.

Our local high school suspended more pupils in the term following the last lockdown than they did in the several years prior, combined. The Principal’s hypothesis was that those kids had little to no adult supervision during the lockdown schooling and brought that freedom to misbehave back into the classroom when school returned.

Eventually, and despite the ridiculous Education Department policies aimed at preventing any semblance of consequences for anti-social behaviour, the school sent these kids home either for short term suspensions or, in the extreme cases, they were “invited” to seek an alternate venue for their education.

The impact of this is going to have dire social consequences. Kids who missed significant portions of school life are not only disadvantaged educationally, but have also missed the last safety net between being a normal member of society or living on its periphery, spending increasing amounts of their lives in and out of the criminal justice system.

Bill’s Opinion

You may think these forever lockdowns are the correct response to outbreaks and that we can see the tangible benefit to them in terms of reducing the deaths and hospitalisation of the infected.

Consider the possibility you are only seeing one side of the balance sheet.

In the UK, for example, it is estimated 7 million people avoided non-covid health appointments since the virus arrived. What percentage of those will result in a later terminal diagnosis that might have been avoided if caught earlier?

5%? 10%?

The official death toll from covid (without questioning the difference between “of” and “with”) is 129,000. If 5% of missed appointments lead to an avoidable death, the covid death count will be less than half of the human cost of “saving the NHS”.

Similarly, the feral kids running around the local area while the middle class kids sit at home in class will become a more visible cost over time. Just because we don’t see the impact now, doesn’t mean you aren’t paying. Remember this in five years time when you have a barbecue discussion about the rise of burglaries, car theft, muggings, drug use, etc.

One can avoid reality but one cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.

Thank you for your service

Have you been “jabbed” yet? If not, are you angry at the tardiness of the vaccine roll out or are you unconvinced of its long term safety?

Your answers to these questions have become the new line of division within Australia. How you answer identifies you as part of the “in group” or the “out group”.

The in group have decided the vaccine is both effective and safe, or at least, safe enough. The out group are unconvinced.

And, without throwing lots of links to various medical studies, statistics on the at risk age groups of death by covid, or the current logged instances of reported complications with the various vaccines, the schism is right there.

Full disclosure; I am in the out group. Everyone has their own personal reasons for taking or declining the vaccine. Mine are as follows:

  1. My age and underlying health suggests I would not have a severe outcome should I catch Covid
  2. I’m unconvinced by the evidence so far presented that the vaccines have been tested to an acceptable standard
  3. I’m unconvinced the inevitable cases of side effects are being reported to the correct authority to be collated and assessed
  4. In New South Wales, there is fewer than 1 case for every 100,000 people
  5. There is no evidence from countries ahead of Australia in rolling out vaccines that international travel will resume any time soon – one of the key promises made by our leaders
  6. Game Theory – I can still benefit from a vaccine without having to take an additional risk by taking it if enough of you lot do first

Even more helpfully, Australia’s favourite virtue signaller, Peter Fitzsimons, has been loudly and somewhat threateningly writing in his grammatically-challenged Sydney Morning Herald column about how it is our civic duty to take the cure. His latest offering is sub-headlined “Don’t forget where this pain in the arse disaster came from”.

I suspect he wants you to think, “the Liberal state government” in response to that prompter, whereas most people will racistly think, “erm, ‘Peter Daszek’s gain of function laboratory in Wuhan, China“.

But I am grateful to Pirate Pete for holding an opinion on this as it saves us all time from having to think too hard about it, as my handy decision tree below illustrates:

Bill’s Opinion

My decision is to not take the vaccine for probably another 2 years until I’ve seen enough evidence on the severity and distribution of side effects and the effectiveness of other prophylactic and therapeutic treatments of Covid.

The more people such as Fitzsimons label me as a “denier” or”anti-vaxxer”, the more entrenched in that view I am likely to become.

When it comes to other vaccines that have undertaken full scale clinical trials, I’ve had an arm full of them. Previously, before the Covid Curtain fell across our international departure gates, I had travelled to a full and diverse range of shithole countries (nearly all of which have the colour green on their flag, which may or may not be a coincidence), so had to take more precautions. I bet I own one more Yellow Fever certificate than most people reading this.

I’ll take the vaccine once my evaluation of the risk/reward ratio suggests it’s a good idea for me personally. In the meantime, I will respond as follows to people who loudly proclaim their righteous virtue and membership of the vaccine in group:

“Thank you for your selfless service by agreeing to participate in the trial, the results of which I eagerly anticipate reading in 2023”.

Deck ‘em, McManus

One of the more high profile union leaders in Australia was somewhat vexed by the recent agreement between the UK and Australia, suggesting it will increase competition for jobs to the detriment of the locals:

It’s unusual for the unions or indeed anyone on the left to say the quiet part about immigration out aloud.

She’s right, of course. It’s not a difficult mental exercise to realise immigration would have a negative impact on employment prospects for the exisiting population and their ability to negotiate wage increases.

But it’s an interesting ideological contortion for someone on the more left of politics to attempt. It’s the side of politics most associated with the open (or at least more open) borders position, and yet here’s McManus pointing out immigration isn’t all upside for existing residents.

She’s not alone in being an immigration sceptic on the left, either. This opinion piece by Kristina Keneally from early on in the pandemic makes a similar point, which McManus also endorsed on social media when published.

So what’s going on? Is it cognitive dissonance or simply the often knee jerk reaction of one team opposing whatever it is the other team say and do? Perhaps there’s a third explanation.

I’ve recently been rereading Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. My first reading was a decade ago and, although I took some interesting insights from it, my reading was more of a skim than in depth. I stuck at it this time and have been rewarded with some absolute gems, of which this is one:

Bill’s Opinion

Perhaps Sally and Kristina’s disdain for immigration is driven by concern for Australian workers.

Given that the Australian minimum wage is the second highest in the world, just behind Monaco, and Australians can access comparatively generous unemployment benefits, free medical treatment and subsidised child care, why wouldn’t a socialist want to share this wealth with others?

Because, as Hayek points out, they’ve thought it through to its logical conclusion and realised it is diametrically opposed to their agenda.

A dreamtime story

Sit down and listen to my story.

Once upon a time, a school teacher published some of his works of fiction. They sold well and he decided to continue his career as an author rather than return to teaching snotty kids.

The Australian theme of some of his works found popularity with his domestic audience and, over time, he wrote about Aboriginal matters, highlighting injustices and the egregious way they suffered since the Europeans arrived.

His writing about Aboriginal issues brought him fame and fortune, he was fêted by the media and enjoyed invitations to conferences and events. Life was good.

Over the decades, he felt an increasing affinity with the subjects of his writing. In his mind, fiction and fact mixed and his own creation story became a blurred conglomeration of truth, wishful thinking and false memories. He was becoming Aboriginal.

Maybe it started with just a little dishonesty in an interview with a journalist, a hint of a suggestion of an indigenous ancestor. He was rewarded with even more sycophancy, further publicity, more revenue flowed.

So he continued; the half-truths, the lies, the falsehoods became easier to pile on, the accretive process gained a life of its own.

He became the “go to” commentator about injustice and discrimination against Aboriginals, displacing the voices of those who actually experienced this first hand.

Perhaps, once or twice, he’d catch himself wondering about the morality of the path he’d chosen, whether it was right to allow a false narrative of his genetics and ancestry to promulgate in the public mind. Perhaps he reasoned that the good he was doing by publicising these issues outweighed the small matter of the dishonesty.

And then, one day, someone said, “BULLSHIT”.

Bill’s Opinion

In completely unrelated news, Bruce Pascoe has experienced a brutal takedown by academics who actually study the subject he writes about.

However, in Pascoe’s defence, I suspect there’s a large helping of total bullshit on the other side of the argument too. For example:

In 2017, her work took her to Sturt Creek in the Kimberley, where she was asked to examine burned bone fragments at a place called “the goat yards”, where more than a dozen Aboriginal people were alleged to have been massacred in 1922. The examination found nothing to dispute Aboriginal accounts of the massacre and a “very high likelihood” that the remains were human, based on the intensity of the fire in which they were burned.

If only there was a trusted scientific method of testing whether biological remains were human. CSI: Kimberley? Bueller? Anyone?

It seems to me that the people who make the most money from matters Aboriginal are those with the least Aboriginal ancestry and connection. It’s a self-saucing industry, efficiently siphoning public and charitable funds away from those living in the Red Centre, in what we might refer to as the Indigenous Monetary Complex.

Are any of them studying maths?

Universities will foot the bill for international students to return to NSW within weeks, with 250 students to arrive each fortnight on charter flights before quarantining in special accommodation.

The pilot program is expected to start within six weeks and will be scaled up by the end of the year to 500 students each fortnight.

As we discussed recently, in a normal year, Australia brings in about 650,000 students on the “pretend to study for a degree to get permanent residency” scheme.

So, at 250 students a fortnight, the university sector will be back to full capacity in about /checks calculator/ ten years. Five years if they got to the 500 a fortnight rate quickly. Assuming none of those students graduate in the meantime, obviously.

UPDATE: Yeah, my maths was shite today too. The point remains though, it’s lipstick on a pig.

Which is probably a fair assumption given they’re not really spending the money for the quality of the education, but the sticker in the passport.

Bill’s Opinion

I’m willing to bet there was recently a conversation along these lines:

University Chancellors: You’ve got to do something, we’re dying on our arses here. Where our bail out?

State Treasurer: Ok, if you foot the bill for the quarantine accommodation, you can bring in as manly as you want. Roughly how many would that be?

University Chancellors: (stares at shoes, awkwardly).

(By the way, apologies for the lack of verbosity here recently; I’ve been a little distracted. Normal service will be resumed now).

Brian the size of a planet

Former CEO of Wokepac and reliable content generator for this organ, Brian Hartzer, is on the publicity milk round for his new book, The Leadership Star. He keeps popping up on the Creepbook for Business timeline grinning in selfies with various people at book signings and coffee meetings to tout his wares like a truckstop hooker at 2am.

Occasionally he scores a wider audience such as a guest appearance on a podcast, as he does on this one:

I took the time to listen to this and regular readers may be surprised by my reaction…. I thought Brian came across as extremely knowledgeable about the banking industry.

Less frequent readers might be forgiven for thinking, “well duh, one doesn’t get to be CEO of a major bank if you don’t know banking inside out”.

Somewhere between those two points of view lies a question; if Brian is such a banking industry subject matter expert, how come he made such a custard of running one?

Before we answer that, I do need to comment on a couple of points he made in the interview.

Firstly, he talks about improving customer experience to increase market share. This is a medium-sized elephant in the room; there are four main banks in Australia and a large gap between 4th and 5th place. I can’t find figures on customer attrition rates in Australia, but my assumption is it is low compared to other jurisdictions. He doesn’t go into details in the interview either which, if it were a great factor would be presumably data rich.

My hypothesis is customers don’t move banks much in Australia, which explains why the customer service is so shite.

The second comment I’d like to pick him up on is where he mentions his duty to constantly reduce operating costs. When he took over from Gail Kelly, he chose to not integrate the wholly-owned subsidiary, St George, keeping its duplicate infrastructure, staff, products and premises. Go to any high street in Australia and there will likely be two Westpac branches not far from each other, one with a red logo, the other with a dragon. Cost cutting, me arse.

To be fair to Brian, he does talk about lessons learned. Taking more interest in compliance reports and making individuals explicitly accountable being two very relevant lessons he’s clearly taken on board. He actually sounds quite contrite and, ironically, rather like the theory that the safest time to fly is immediately after a major plane crash, he’d probably make a better bank CEO now.

Bill’s Opinion

Brian isn’t stupid, in fact, he obviously got his last job on merit. Yet he still fucked up royally. Why?

My hypotheses is he allowed his focus to drift to the ESG/woke stuff. There are only so many hours in the day and it’s a foolish person who doesn’t concentrate on his or her core objectives for 99% of those waking hours.

Oh well, at least he’s got plenty of time to spend on his hobbies now.