Home > Oz Politics > Cranks, crazies and globalisation – US politics is fair game for Aussies

Cranks, crazies and globalisation – US politics is fair game for Aussies

October 4th, 2012

Wayne Swan’s [remark last month](http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-09-21/swan-attacks-republican-cranks-and-crazies/4273300) that the US Republican Party had been taken over by “cranks and crazies” is notable in two respects.

First, it is true.

Second, it marks a further move towards a globalised politics, in which political arguments routinely transcend national boundaries.

The truth of Swan’s claim is so obvious that few, even in Australia, have bothered to dispute it. The following are just a sample of the lunatic beliefs held by much of the Republican Party base, propounded on its news outlets such as Fox News, and put forward by leading Republican politicians:

* That President Obama is a [foreign-born Muslim](http://www.mediaite.com/online/new-poll-shows-conservative-republicans-increasingly-believe-obama-is-muslim/), a rabid [socialist](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/obama-socialist-claim-history_n_1568470.html) and more [sympathetic to jihadists](http://news.yahoo.com/michele-bachmanns-mccarthy-esque-hunt-islamist-infiltrators-guide-182000777.html) than to the United States.
* That scientific evidence on climate change is the product of a global conspiracy aimed at imposing a UN-dominated [world government](http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,575565,00.html).
* That opinion polls showing Republican candidate Mitt Romney trailing President Obama [have been rigged](http://theweek.com/article/index/234067/the-polls-are-not-rigged–theyre-just-nuanced) in the hope of depressing the turnout of Republican voters.

While not all Republicans believe all of these things, few, if any, have been willing to repudiate these conspiracy theories and their advocates. Mitt Romney, for example, has [equivocated on climate change](http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20127273-503544/mitt-romneys-shifting-views-on-climate-change/), [embraced "birthers"](http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/30/us-usa-campaign-idUSBRE84S19O20120530) such as Donald Trump and, through his campaign organisation, promoted [opinion poll denialism](http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2012/09/can_the_polls_be_believed.html).

The view that the Republican Party has been captured by cranks and crazies is not confined to Democrats or even centrists. Leading conservatives such as [David Frum](http://nymag.com/news/politics/conservatives-david-frum-2011-11/), speechwriter for George W. Bush and [Bruce Bartlett,](http://workingreporter.com/wordpress/?p=1053) domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan have said the same thing, in equally blunt terms.

Even the remaining conservative intellectuals who deny the “crazy” claim do so in a half-hearted fashion. New York Times columnist [Ross Douthat argues](http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-responsible-republicans.html) that Romney’s success in claiming the Republican Presidential nomination, after half a dozen manifestly crazy candidates had held the lead at one time or another, proves that the Republican base is not entirely crazy. Others, such as [Stephen Bainbridge](http://www.professorbainbridge.com/professorbainbridgecom/2011/11/this-country-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket.html), engage in _tu quoque_, picking isolated instance of Democratic silliness to suggest that both sides are crazy. Both approaches have proved unconvincing.

Accurate as Swan’s remarks are, it would have been surprising, until relatively recently to see an Australian leader make such comments about US politics. The etiquette that “politics stops at the water’s edge” precluded both comments on domestic politics while travelling overseas, and on the domestic politics of other countries.

Such niceties have ceased to be relevant in a world of massive and instantaneous communication. For practical purposes, any comment, wherever it is made, is addressed to the world as a whole. More significantly, political debate has been globalised. In particular, the “cranks and crazies” who dominate the US Republican Party, along with the right wing of the Tory party in the UK, inform the thinking of much of the Australian right-wing commentariat.

The Republican conspiracy theory about opinion polls was only days old when it appeared on Australian right-wing blog sites. Writing in Quadrant, once the voice of high-toned intellectual conservatism, Steve Kates [called President Obama](http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/qed/2012/09/america-s-last-hurrah) “a socialist of the most radical leftist kind”. This is an absurd description of a centrist Democrat who wasted much of his first term seeking a “grand bargain” with the Republican party to reduce social welfare expenditures while modestly increasing taxes. And of course, climate conspiracy theories, recycling material derived from the US, are run of the mill material for the Australian right.

Some on the Australian right are more circumspect, in a manner that might be described as “cafeteria crazy”. That is, they accept a full-blown conspiracy theory regarding climate change, in which Obama, and most other world leaders, scientific organisations and so on, are embroiled in a plot to enslave the free peoples of the world. On the other hand, they indignantly reject birtherism, and get uncomfortable when the list of climate change plotters is extended to include the Rothschilds, the Royal Family and so on.

It’s fair to observe that the globalised Republican brand of craziness is not the only one in the market. Most obviously, there is the mirror-image brand of militant Islamism, circulating on websites and mailing lists out of the view of most Australians. At a much lower level, there are silly ideas propagated in some leftwing circles, from 9/11 “trutherism” to the wilder fringes of the environmental movement. But, unlike the case with the Republicans, neither of these brands of crazy has a significant presence in mainstream politics, either here or in the US.

A globalised world produces globalised politics. At one time, criticism from “overseas” (the very term recalls an long-vanished world of sea voyages), would have been largely counterproductive, producing a united reaction against outside interference.

But the US reaction to Swan’s remarks has been on predictably partisan lines. Democratic-leaning bloggers such as Paula Gordon on [The Huffington Post](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paula-gordon/feint-praise_b_1908595.html) have endorsed Swan. The fact that Australian politicians rarely make such remarks has been cited, not as a criticism of Swan, but as evidence that Republican extremism has gone beyond any normal bounds.

Conversely, right-wing US sites have attacked Swan in much the same terms as they do their domestic opponents. Exactly the same responses, with sides reversed, greeted Israeli PM Netanyahu’s attack on Obama, and, going back a few years, George Bush’s criticism of Mark Latham.

In practical terms, the re-election of the Obama Administration, which now seems highly likely, would constitute a substantial win for the Australian Labor Party. And a surprise victory for the Republicans would be a win for Tony Abbott and his Republican-style politics of culture war.

In a globalised world, there is no meaningful “water’s edge” and politics no longer respects national boundaries.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:
  1. SamB
    October 4th, 2012 at 12:29 | #1

    Regardless of how true Swan’s comments are – and they are true – it was both inappropriate and foolhardy for someone in his position to make them.

    The fact is that if Romney was to win (admittedly unlikely, but there is an election every four years), Swan’s position as treasurer would become completely untenable since he could not credibly work with someone he is on the record as describing as “crazy” or a “crank”.

    So, to the extent that he is making these statements, he is really saying that he doesn’t want to be in politics anymore if the Republicans win … and I doubt that this is what he wanted to say.

  2. Michael
    October 4th, 2012 at 12:30 | #2

    Great piece. I wonder what your response to Tom Switzer’s article about Swan’s comments – It’s not about ‘cranks’, it’s about tax rises and high spending?
    Not sure if you have weighed in on Jonathan Haidt’s work. He seems to provide a good account as to where the political tribalism comes from, but it doesn’t explain the extremes the right is going to, tolerating frauds and magical thinking to the extent it is at the moment. Maybe it’s all down to my own bias and affiliation but it’s hard to find relevant mirror extremism on the left being given a similar comfort and acknowledgement. Where is Julia Gillard’s equivalent to Lord Monkton?

  3. Michael
    October 4th, 2012 at 12:34 | #3


    Swan’s position as treasurer would become completely untenable

    Worse things could happen. Swan and Crean have already displayed their unsuitability with their deployment of the nuclear option against Rudd.

  4. MG42
    October 4th, 2012 at 12:53 | #4

    Don’t get me started on the current crop of right-wingers. I used to be one many, many years ago, but now whenever I hear one of their canned black-and-white bumper sticker policy points it makes me seethe. You know, their side works for a living, the other side is all on welfare. The other side is all for communism and we are for capitalism. The others are for high crime and we are for low crime. True dichotomy with no critical thinking or facts allowed.

    In response, they trot out some spiel about a vast “left-wing conspiracy” regarding the usual culprits – the media, unions, tertiary education, the UN, George Soros, multiculturalism, Marxism, etc etc. The astute reader will notice that on the whole the influence of these above institutions on society has been declining as time goes by. It really speaks for the way they are ideologically stuck and their stubborn refusal to accept reality.

    Unfortunately, it appears in Australia, like just about everywhere else, the political choice is between the incompetent and the evil.

  5. BilB
    October 4th, 2012 at 14:30 | #5

    Americans are all too aware of scale. So opinions of our treasurer would on the scale of things carry the weight of a US state treasurer, or a little more. So I doubt that anyone other than the crazies in the US would have noticed, and they are going to react as crazy people do. Everybody else is going to agree with Swan and say “he only just noticed?”

    Abbotts ill conceived remarks on the other hand, as he aspires to lead this country (though that is looking less likely to happen by the day), will be noticed and are offensive to Greece and other European countries.

  6. Jim Birch
    October 4th, 2012 at 14:40 | #6

    It seems more that a little hyperbolic to say that Swan’s position would be “completely untenable” on a Romney win. What would Romney do? Tear up the FTA? Random drone strikes in Tasmania? In international relations people just get on with their ideological enemies as needs be – their real competition is domestic.

    This seems like a pretty canny statement from Swan (to the extent that it matters that much.) Anyone who cares to dispute his claim will be publicly aligning themselves with a bunch of patent crazies and the failure to respond to such an unequivocal call by those who occupy the same idea cluster looks like tacit confirmation of a creepy family affliction. Abbott’s pro forma “none of his business” response is a demonstration of this depressed silence and I guess you’ll probably have to imagine Gerard Henderson’s ethical illumination of the matter for yourself.

  7. October 4th, 2012 at 15:00 | #7

    Agree with BilB.

    I feel like the whole word is watching the US election thinking… “They can’t be serious about electing the Republicans…They’re seriously considering electing Romney? REALLY? Wow.”

    The USA is the leader of the entire world, and whilst the rest of the globe might not get to vote on the election, we sure as hell are entitled to have our own elected politicians pass judgement on the quality of theirs.

  8. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    October 4th, 2012 at 15:19 | #8

    When I was taking an Introduction to Politics tutorial on Australia’s political parties a few years ago, I asked the students to volunteer to tell be what the Liberal Party stood for. One of them answered with “Are they like the Republicans?” From the mouths of babes…

  9. BilB
    October 4th, 2012 at 15:23 | #9

    I am going to join Swan by adding the weight of my voice and comment on US politics by suggesting that the US adopt the notion of a universal duty on all imports of goods and services.

    And this is why..

    The flick reaction to tarrifs and duties is that they ultimately cost the economy as much as they collect, or so the theory goes. That argument is made of a simplistic economy without complications. Countries such as The US, and Greece (but not Australia despite what Abbott insists) are not healthy uncomplicated economies. They both have high unemployment and high external government debt.

    So by applying a 3.5% across the board duty on all US imports of goods and services, a figure that is linked to unemployment levels and external debt servicing costs, several thing happen. Firstly there is a small increase in the domestic labour affordability. Secondly there would be a small shift in the currency exchange rate. Thirdly the governmment has a new income stream that does not disadvantage any particular sector of the economy in the way that a tax increase would. Forthly the government is able to service external debt more comfortably and have more flexibility in reorganising the workforce into a recovery position.

    A 3.5% duty on US imports of goods and services would raise sufficient to cover the servicing cost of 5 trillion dollars of debt at the current US bond rate. This is money that the government is having to extract out of its economy in a manner that causes red neck right wingers to go absolutely crazy. (By the way the term red neck relates to the red rash collar chaffe on the necks of those who turn their heads through 360 degrees several times a day, thought you would want to know that).

    So that is my fix for the crazies.

    Of course it requires a serious program to address the core causes of the rising government debt. The duty increases and decreases in response to the unemployment level and the level of government debt, so it is an automatically adjusting correctional factor which works in the same way as a floating exchange rate, but on an entirely different cysle responding to correct triggers that can be caused by a manipulated currency.

  10. BilB
    October 4th, 2012 at 15:32 | #10

    I think, Jim Birch, is what the Romneans would do is try to crash more of their dead satelites on Tasmania. A kind of upside down turkey shoot.

  11. Tim Peterson
    October 4th, 2012 at 15:54 | #11

    What gets me about US politics is the way people of both sides are willing to sacrafice education to ideology. On the right, you havesupporters of ‘intellegent design’ (thinly veiled creationism), which the want to be taught alongside evolution in high schools.

    On the left, we have things like ‘anti racist maths’ – political correctness god mad, where indoctrination is listed ahead of math teaching in the course document.

    We are very lucky that we don’t have this BS in Australia.

  12. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    October 4th, 2012 at 15:55 | #12

    *volunteer to tell me* @8.

  13. Tim Peterson
    October 4th, 2012 at 15:57 | #13

    I meant to say” political correctness gone mad”

  14. Mel
    October 4th, 2012 at 16:35 | #14

    I’m glad you included Catallaxy nutjob, Steve Kates. The nutjob now thinks VP Biden might be trying to throw the election b/c he fears Obama is an out of control lefty who will ‘roon America. There appears to be some type of pissing contest on the right to see who can come up with the wackiest theories.

  15. October 4th, 2012 at 17:51 | #15

    Tim, can you please entertain us by giving us some examples of crazy harm done to kids’ education resulting from anti racist maths? You make it sound like it is equivalent to creationism and so it must be incredibly stupid and so couldn’t just involve stuff like making sure that all the kids in the textbooks aren’t white or not assuming that all kids know how many cards are in a deck.

  16. may
    October 4th, 2012 at 18:42 | #16

    BilB :
    Americans are all too aware of scale. So opinions of our treasurer would on the scale of things carry the weight of a US state treasurer, or a little more. So I doubt that anyone other than the crazies in the US would have noticed, and they are going to react as crazy people do. Everybody else is going to agree with Swan and say “he only just noticed?”
    Abbotts ill conceived remarks on the other hand, as he aspires to lead this country (though
    that is looking less likely to happen by the day), will be noticed and are offensive to Greece and other European countries.

    speaking of noticing things.
    how many of those who voted the current state coalition governments in would now do so if they knew what they had actually voted for?

    noticing the track record of behavioural characteristics on display by the opposition and seeing the kind of respect shown those with whom they,for one reason or another, disagree is a precursor of the kind of behaviour we can look forward to if they do ever get their hands on power.

    the guide to their form shows an inept bunch of ideologues whose main asset seems to be a talent for the mean and tricky.
    the current fed (the most representative fed govt i can remember(i’ve said that before)) could be better(quite a lot better) but compared to the policy free zone that is the alternative it could be a whole lot worse.

    the idea that the policies of the opposition are some kind of present gifted to idiot children(if we’re good)in as short a time as possible before we are supposed to vote on their (maybe) implementation ?
    it’s becoming more and more noticable

  17. Freelander
    October 4th, 2012 at 18:49 | #17


    Swann’s comments may have been inappropriate, that is highly questionable. Is it appropriate to remain courteously silent when faced with such madness?

    But regardless, they will have no bearing on his ability to function as treasurer. And why would anyone imagine they would? Swann has hardly offended the whole of the US, and even if he had. Who cares? Its not as if he has offended the whole of China!

  18. Freelander
    October 4th, 2012 at 18:56 | #18

    @Tim Peterson

    The interesting thing about the US is that inspire of all the careful politically correct, and non-racist speech in the US, the US is still a deeply racist country.

    Sort of demonstrates the value and gains achieved from imposing political correctness. Political correctness simply trains them to be better hypocrites.

  19. ralph
    October 4th, 2012 at 20:04 | #19

    Let’s not forget the complete importation of the concept of “voter fraud” from the right in the USA. The likes of Abetz etc bang on about voter fraud with a complete absence of facts supporting their position. In fact the AEC has rejected the idea and found scant evidence of any fraud. But that didn’t stop the coalition introducing early poll closing, no votes for those in prison etc. Wait for the coalition to have another go if they get the numbers.

  20. Fran Barlow
    October 4th, 2012 at 21:02 | #20


    Regardless of how true Swan’s comments are – and they are true – it was both inappropriate and foolhardy for someone in his position to make them.

    Emperor’s New Clothes comes to mind. It was entirely apt.

    Romney probably won’t win, but even if he did, he didn’t say Romney was crazy. He said that people Romney is pandering to were crazy. He probably thinks that too.

    They’d do a “don’t mention the war” thing and move on.

  21. Jim Rose
    October 4th, 2012 at 21:54 | #21

    for cranks and crazies, the GOP has recovered well from the 2008 election.

    The biggest mistake in politics is to believe your own propaganda and under-estimate your opponent.

    Assuming that your opponents are ignorant and stepped in moral turpitude, preferably both, is comforting but its leaves you open to not taking time to make the best analysis and arguments, including through a fearless inventory of your own arguments and goals.

    Abbott and Reagan both benefited greatly from being under-estimated and dismissed as intellectual lightweights and lacking in appeal to the ordinary voters.

    American politics is littered with, as George Will added eloquently, with the bleached bones of those who underestimated Ronald Reagan.

  22. Ootz
    October 4th, 2012 at 22:17 | #22

    Sooner or later though these eccentric and ill natured people bound up loosely in the tea party culture will also become a dominating force in Australia. The sad thing is all this bellyaching and blind fanaticism distracts from the real faults in the political system. Ironically, all this shouting of ill considered slogans prevents proper analysis and exposing tangible faults of the regime they so hate. And so we too will inherit an unholy polarisation of views in a game wherein ultimately no one wins and everyone looses.

    Micheal Brissenden on 7.30 was reporting tonight from the US (from the transcript)

    “”But there are plenty of others who think the country has pretty much stopped working effectively already. As the two contenders limbered up for their political TV prize fight, some of the country’s other smart minds were gathering on Wall Street to explore ways through the political stagnation.

    We need a different kind of conversation. We need politics as unusual.

    MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: They dubbed it the Non-partisan Unconvention and it’s attracted a cast of big names and big thinkers.

    ROBERT KENNEDY JR, ACTIVIST: And the free market is the most powerful economic engine that’s ever been devised, but it has to be harnessed to a social purpose.

    DAVID STOCKMAN, REAGAN BUDGET DIRECTOR: Our political system comes out of a 1787 constitution that is no longer relevant to the world we live in.

    MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Activists, corporate leaders, Clinton-era Democrats and Reagan-era Republicans all shared the stage to express a common concern that the politics of today, captive of big money and special interests, appears unable to address the problems of the future.

    David Stockman was Ronald Reagan’s budget director. He says K Street that, famous street of lobbyists’ offices in Washington, has become the powerful core of a rotten system.

    DAVID STOCKMAN: Today K Street is this massive machinery of influence pedalling that thoroughly dominates, infects, corrupts, if you will, our entire governance process.

    MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Philip Howard is another one of those who’ve long been campaigning for a broad overhaul of American law and government. He’s the founder of the bipartisan advocacy group Common Good.

    PHILIP K HOWARD, COMMONGOOD.ORG: Obama ran in 2008 on the slogan “Yes we can”. In fact, no we can’t. We have a structure that’s so bureaucratised that a teacher can’t even run the classroom and the President can’t approve a power line, much less solve the debt crisis.

    MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The spend on the presidential and congressional campaigning this year is expected to top $10 billion. The nation is $16 trillion in debt. There are ever-more urgent economic, environmental and social problems. But this presidential debate probably won’t be remembered for bold policy prescriptions. “”

    Who do you think would be in a future Australian cast of big names and big thinkers to participate in our version of Non-partisan Unconvention?

  23. Peter T
    October 4th, 2012 at 22:29 | #23

    I think JQ may be exaggerating the globalising of politics. For us politics junkies it was an interesting statement, but I doubt it raised to many suburban eyebrows. And then, outside the anglosphere, US politics is a TV clownshow except for the very few with some actual immediate stake. And in Varanasi and Chonqing it probably does not make the evening news.

  24. October 4th, 2012 at 22:38 | #24

    This idea of “anti-racist maths” was completely new to me.

    Google is your friend!

    It enjoyed a run thanks to (you’re never going to believe this! Really!) Rupert Murdoch’s Fox TV in the US in 2005. That would be the Rupert Murdoch who has stated publicly that “we must destroy the teacher unions” in order to “save” the children. His compassion has absolutely nothing to do with the neo-cons favourite tool for stripping taxpayer’s funds out of public education and shovelling it into the pockets of those (like, say, Rupert Murdoch) who have commercial interests in privatising as many aspects of that education as they can. Charter schools in the US, Independent Public Schools in Australia. And Murdoch has his eye on providing curriculum material etc..

    But before Murdoch’s Fox wheeled it out it was used by Murdoch’s ideological soulmate Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative Party Conference in 1987 (she is reported to have said: “Children who need to count and multiply are being taught anti-racist mathematics, whatever that may be.”).

    Still a little slow on the uptake, I think it is essentially a racist/imperialist talking point based on projection. I found what looks like lecture notes at ‘Manchester.academia.edu’ under the title “ATTITUDES TO ANTI-RACIST/MULTICULTURAL MATHEMATICS”.

    It’s actually quite interesting to follow the line of arguments (mostly UK) going back through the 60′s and 50′s and even into the 1800′s around this idea that no other culture is ‘smart’ enough to have understood mathematics. I liked this:

    “The imperial experience prepared the students to consider it unthinkable that non-Europeans could produce mathematical knowledge. It fostered the myth that mathematics was a civilizing gift that Europe brought to the colonies, a Promethean spark that in time would enable the backward natives to penetrate the secrets of science and technology and enter the modern world.”

    And this:

    “We owe the foundations of algebra ( an Arabic word), the development of trigonometry (the word “sine” can be traced to the Sanskrit term jya, as explained in Joseph, 1991, pp. 338-9), the discoveryof the Pascal triangle (known in China five hundred years before Pascal,see Joseph, 1991, pp. 197-199) and the numerical and geometric solutions of higher order equations to civilisations outside Europe. It is this “international” dimension that should be stressed wherever appropriate in the teaching of school mathematics. What is being suggested is not detailed historical investigations as part of the processof learning mathematics, except where possibilities exist for projects or investigations directed at specific subjects such as, say, the “History of Pi” or “Egyptian operations with unit fractions” or “Calculus before Newton”.”

    Well there you go!

  25. Freelander
    October 4th, 2012 at 22:41 | #25


    Voter fraud is about the right, and others wishing to de-fraud voters of their vote. As they can motivate so few real voters to vote the idea that there are spontaneous hordes of phantom voters to disallow is ludicrous.

    Taking voting rights away from categories of voters has always been a big business in the US. One innovation we don’t need to import.

  26. Freelander
    October 4th, 2012 at 22:56 | #26


    The critics of non-racist mathematics are typically wrongly motivated. Nevertheless, emphasis on historical errors and the introduction of various other crazy left ideological nonsense does help learners wnd probably makes the learning task unnecessarily more difficult.

    Maths is about ideas and it is unimportant, although interesting, who thought what when or where. Whether Newton, Leibniz or Archimedes or some other dude was the real “father” of calculus.

    The left-loonies pushing their bizarre views are just the mirror image of the “Tory twit”. They ate “Tory twit” anti-particals and, of course, Thatcher and Fox News would promote their ridiculous antics. They are such wonderful and broad targets.

  27. Freelander
    October 4th, 2012 at 23:05 | #27

    What is a little amusing, most of the antics and tricks now practiced by the looney right they learnt from and were originally about the looney left.

  28. Freelander
    October 4th, 2012 at 23:09 | #28

    @Jim Rose

    You are correct. Eisenhower and Nixon being two who thought RR and the associated crazies would never gain influence in the Republican Party. How wrong they were.

  29. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 00:05 | #29

    @Jim Rose

    Abbott and Reagan both benefited greatly from being under-estimated and dismissed as intellectual lightweights and lacking in appeal to the ordinary voters.

    No, they didn’t. Reagan benefited in particular because large swathes of the US population was no sharper than he was, and because Carter was politically inept (despite being Reagan’s intellectual and ethical superior).

    Carter overestimated the intelligence of the population — a fatal conceit — and of course Reagan had the advantages of a skewed voting system, malapportioned states and so forth.

    Reagan did serious damage to the US economy and to equity, but his buddies in big business ran interference very well.

    In the case of Abbott, it wasn’t that he was “underestimated” — that’s his spin — but again, the ALP was basically spineless and cynical. They allowed him to dump on their programs — like HIP and BER. They failed to press their advantages. They allowed him to be their referee on asylum seekers. They kicked the ETS can down the policy road. They handed him easy victories and then sacked their leader just months before an election. They made Abbott into an icon of the right and handed him a cause and an opposition leader to run against. Then the ALP allowed him to troll them on “the lie”.

    Really, who needs friends with an “enemy” like that?

    Abbott is a buffoon, but he has been astonishingly lucky in his enemies. I still don’t see him winning though.

  30. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 00:29 | #30

    Swan’s comments especially in that venue were clearly carefully calculated and almost certainly approved. One worrying aspect is that the comments suggest great concern about the US’s risk to the world economy. This maybe a memorable October with Helicopter Bernanke’s grand and reckless experiment finally ensuring his name lives on in infamy. Nothing’ss certain, but maybe now is the time to be scared, very scared.

  31. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 00:37 | #31

    Yes. Reagan was simply a charming folksy knuckle dragger. Abbott is smarter. He too is a knuckle dragger, but clever enough to protect those dragging knuckles by wearing boxing gloves. But, Abbott is a towering intellectual when placed beside the likes of Ordinal Pell, our beloved RC prelate. (Pell, he’s innumerate, but for him, rank matters.)

  32. BilB
    October 5th, 2012 at 06:42 | #32

    Abbott also has great friends in the media. The ABC is this morning starting to work on Abbott’s image with female voters. This sort of assistance to an opposition leader is totally unprecedented.

    That is another failing of Labour, the being too nice to get into this organisation and rebalance it. There are so many tactics that the Journalists use to frame the story to suit their objective.

    The leading question which requires a narrow answer
    *Interview order
    *Freeze frame images
    *Placement – an example of this was in last night’s Drum where in a split fram they placed the Coalition male interviewee above the female Labour interviewee and gave the Coalition MP commentary lead.
    *Technical difficulties- during some of the hottest political exchanges I was taking note of how often the audio feed seemed to fail on Labour speakers but not Colaition Speakers.
    *Interview content
    *Reporter to reporter “discussion” of issues (breakfast show style).
    *Selection of “panel” personalities

    And there are plenty more which I will have to start taking notes on.

    By far the most damaging technique is the “long leading question” in which the Journalist tells the story as they want it to be heard giving the interviewee a brief moment to respond. It is always a pleasure when the interviewee says “no that is completely wrong”. But the damage is usually done as the reporter gets the first say and gets to frame the language of the issue.

  33. BilB
    October 5th, 2012 at 06:48 | #33

    ….and they are really stepping up the Putin treatment of Abbott. I wonder how long it will be before we see him wrestling a crocodile (which will ultimately turn out to be an aging tame pet).

  34. Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy
    October 5th, 2012 at 07:00 | #34

    Reagan’s presidency would have expired amidst the ignominy of the Iran-Contra scandal had it not been for the fortunate historical accident that Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform and peace initiatives really gathered momentum during the last two years of Reagan’s second term. Of course credit is due to Reagan for his positive responses to Gorbachev’s initiatives, but this doesn’t alter the fact that for Reagan – and indeed the world – Gorbachev’s accession to the Soviet leadership was a stroke of amazing good luck.

  35. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 08:51 | #35


    It is always a pleasure when the interviewee says “no that is completely wrong”. But the damage is usually done as the reporter gets the first say and gets to frame the language of the issue.

    Better would be:

    A moment or two ago in your question to me you calimed {….}. What’s your basis for that claim?

    Interviewers are not usually comfortable being interviewed by their intended subjects. If the politician is insistent on getting answers and the interviewer starts resisting, the guest simply says “you’ve raised some contentious points that one sees in the popular press, and in my opinion it’s worth exploring where these ideas come from, don’t you agree?”

    This puts the politician back in charge and forces the interview to return to substantive matters.

    If the question is about polls and leadership, the guest says: “what makes you ask that question?” “Is that really an important question, and if so why?” “If you were to rank the questions that people interested in policy might ask me, where would that one rate?”

    Again, you can force the interviewer onto the defensive — self-justifying and making him or her seem like an activist rather than someone just asking questions. Guests have a lot more power than they use.

  36. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 09:07 | #36

    @Bring back Birdy at Catallaxy

    Gorbachev’s accession to the Soviet leadership was a stroke of amazing good luck.

    Well I don’t believe in luck. The USSR was in a state of progressive dissolution, greatly accelerated by its intrervention in Afghanistan. I suppose you could describe being President of the US at the time that was happening as a helpful event over which Reagan had no control — “luck” in layman’s language. The ouster of the Shah of Iran in 1978 and the subsequent hostage crisis almost certainly helped Reagan too. Carter’s failure to reposition America around the new reality and his bizarre high stakes gamble to free the hostages underlined his weakness at a time when America’s rulers were seeking to recover from “the Vietnam Syndrome” and Watergate. Carter failed to get that. That might be called “lucky”.

    I prefer the term “coincidence”. These events were predisposed by the strcutures of governance in the US, Iran and the USSR and their histories. Reagan’s appearance was a happy coincidence. The failure of the attempted assassination of Reagan was also something he couldn’t have controlled.

    I’m not sure I want to import metaphysical analysis into it though.

  37. BilB
    October 5th, 2012 at 09:37 | #37

    Very good point, Fran, and i just might make a series of calls to MP’s offices on tha point. Of course you never know whether they here what you actually say, but it is worth a go.

    There is definitely a war underway here and tactics mean everything. Labour has got to stop being a victim and go on the offense. Julia Gillard is moving in that direction, but they really have got to move it up a quotum notch.

  38. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 10:26 | #38

    There can be broad forces at work determining what happens, but the influence of small differences, some individual decisions,luck good and bad, often play a large role in what happens. Views that what happens is all the time strongly determined by immutable forces are difficult to support in theory and practice. The breakup of the Soviet empire, ex post, looks like it was inevitable, but it was not. The GFC, ex post, looks like it too was inevitable but it was not. Some stituations are extremely volatile and in those situations some individuals can have great influence on the course of events, whether they intend to or not.

    Take the trigger for the GFC, the situation was critical. Bad paper, backed by credit default swaps had be flicked all around the world. Some key players in the US needed to be bailed out and if they weren’t global markets would freeze up. The US secretary to the treasury decided to go hairy chested, follow some dumb right wing libertarian ideology and let one firm fail in the hardest way possible. Suddenly not only did markets find out that triple A paper who knows who was holding was really junk grade, but that government was going to do nothing to attempt to repair the situation. Hence the panic. Contrast what happened here, dramatic action by government protected our banks from panic, and the stimulus countered the spending contraction, and Australia, relatively, is still doing wonderfully.

    Small differenced can make big differences. Press a button a bomb explodes. A bomb or bullet hits a certain target, can be a big deal indeed. Look at the JFK assassination or the assassination that contributed to the start of WWII.

  39. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 10:28 | #39

    WWI, obviously.

  40. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 11:28 | #40


    The breakup of the Soviet empire, ex post, looks like it was inevitable, but it was not. The GFC, ex post, looks like it too was inevitable but it was not.

    I disagree. Perhaps the word “inevitable” is too strong, but at a certain point, the confluence of predisposing forces will compel an outcome. We rarely know when that is in real time, but with the benefit of hindsight we can get a very good idea.

    Looking back, from about 2003 onwards it was clear that something very much like the GFC was going to occur — exactly when was not clear but certainly before the decade was out, absent some pretty radical intervention to abate the drivers of those exotic credit instruments. The political consensus was never going to favour that and by May of that year the Bush Administration was entirely bound up with re-electing itself by using the Iraq War as “wag the dog”. The massive expenditures in that was — at one point about $10bn per month — almost certainly accelerated the crisis. By late 2007 the advent of such a crisis was being talked about as if it were a done deal. Even the lawyer and Howard treasurer Peter Costello was talking about a coming “tsunami”.

    It’s quite possible that had the USSR changed course and sought modernisation, China-style in the late-60s — say prior to the Prague Spring it might well have managed a transition to a regime something like that of China by the turn of the millennium. Even then though, Comecon and the Warsaw Pact would almost certainly have broken up and so in that sense the USSR would have collapsed. That’s probably why it was never tried. Those that were privileged weren’t bothered with their legacies. They would sooner take them with them to the grave. Consequently, the USSR simply began to stagnate before that one last foolhardy adventure — the costly intervention in Aghanistan — and the even more foolhardy attempt to stay with the US in an arms race, forced an early resolution. It never occurred to me post-1980 that the USSR would see out the new millennium — and indeed I wondered during the Solidarnosc events if we were not within a couple of years of collapse.

    The conundrum humans face is that although we have choices, and sometimes those choices might well make a measurable difference to what happens, we can never be sure that they will. One can never be sure if the choice being made has been made too late. It’s a bit like that in realtion to climate change. Is it already too late to foreclose a catastrophic break down in ecosystem services and therewith, misery on a scale to put the wars of the 20th century into the shade? It’s plausible. I read today that a 30,000 year-old woolly mammoth carcass had been uncovered in the Arctic tundra by some 11-year-old. That permafrost is breaking up and there is no obvious effort being made to prevent the gigatonnes of methane underlying it from being released. In that scenario even more robust efforts to abate CO2 than our government are likely to undertake right now are likely to be seriously undermined. We may well be getting 5-6DegC by 2100 even if we try a lot harder not to. I see nothing to suggest we are going to try a lot harder soon either. Ironically, if most people thought it was too late, they might simply swap the reason for doing zip from “there’s no big problem” to “what ‘ya gonna do?” and “do we owe people born in 2075 anything anyway?”

    I digress, but my general point is that while responses can alter the course of events and their timing, at some point a certain outcome really is inevitable regardless of human choice. Reagan’s rise was probably driven by factors endogenous to US culture and governance that meshed nicely (for him and his fellow spivs) in the way that sometimes weird coincidences occur. Life on Earth is a weird coincidence — as far as we know, it exists no place else in the universe, but the universe is a very big place and has existed for so long — that one can think that even the most bizarre coincidence must be nearly certain to occur at least for a short space of time — and 600 million years in one tiny speck of a planet is a tiny fraction of the temporal and physical existence of the universe.

    So I’m not surprised that Reagan fluked his way to power. The system predisposes such outcomes and the fact that it mapped to other plausible outcomes elsewhere isn’t anywhere near as freakish a confluence as life itself.

  41. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 11:54 | #41

    Well we’ll have to disagree. The breakup so inevitable that you, and the rest predicted it. Am always amused by the certainity with which people “know” things, especially about countries, it blocks of countries few know much about. But we do live in the era of the wiki scholar so omniscience is but a click away. Or is it simply knowledge by divine revelation?

  42. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 11:56 | #42

    A certain capacity and style of thinking is bliss.

  43. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 12:08 | #43

    Tiananmen Square (the crackdown) was not inevitable, but may have been an excellent move by the Chinese leadership to nip trouble in the bud. We will never know. Sorry, simply speaking for myself as I am sure plenty are certain they know.

  44. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 12:17 | #44

    I’m not surprised that Reagan “fluked” into power, but his winning that election was not inevitable. The UK and US involvement in Afghanistan during the ’80s was not inevitable, star wars under Reagan not inevitable, Soviet collapse not inevitable, first gulf war not inevitable, second gulf war, 911, not inevitable …

    But then maybe I would “see” if I was considerably smarter.

  45. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 12:26 | #45

    GW Bush being elected by the Supreme Court in 2000, just possibly, might I suggest, not inevitable?

  46. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 12:57 | #46

    I noticed PrQ that you made a reference on Twitter to the persistence of the “single vote counts for nothing” idea in public life. I took the trouble to read the article, over at Reason — a blog that seems to be part of the Gary Johnson (RW libertarian) fan club.

    What I found interesting is that at least some of the arguments put wwere some I’ve hitherto put myself, sometimes in strikingly similar language. I seem to recall proposing the idea at this blog some time before the last election though as this site is not really searchable I haven’t bothered dragging it out.

    Purely as a thought experiment, I think the case put was an amusing exercise. Really the “one vote means (nearly) nothing” (where meaning something = changing the course of an election) is a form of the Sorites Paradox. The argument reduces the vote to its measurable marginal utility. Since hardly any elections are decided by one vote you can declare all voting pointless. The advocates at Reason also went on to make other arguments (politicans not carrying out their promises, ignorance about policy amongst voters etc) but this was the nub of their claim.

    Of course — and here’s where the Sorites Paradox breaks down, if one vote makes zero difference then everyone should not vote. Of course then the first person to vote would make a difference, proving that the first person to break ranks had a vote that counted. The Reason people say that one should adjust the paradigm so that one votes when the possibility of making a difference reaches sufficient marginal utility. So what one does is to advocate against voting so that the numbers fall and your vote can then make a difference of sufficient gravity to warrant casting it. Presumably you say to other people that there is no point in them voting because after you’ve voted the threshhold of utility is too low for others to bother. You want to preserve your advantage. That’s an interesting collective action problem. IMO, it would fail the Golden Rule test.

    By coincidence, over at Climate Crocks, I came across the claim that 160,000 people had signed a petition asking Jim Lehrer who was moderating the Obama-Romney show to put a question to the candidates on climate change. They were AIUI, non-specific on what he should ask and didn’t seek policy commitments or expenditure of money. They just wanted a question on the matter put because in their view, it had not yet entered the contest. Jim Lehrer failed to put a question, and neither candidate commented directly on Climate Change.

    One might say that this proved that even 160,000 “votes” makes no difference. Even the votes of 160,000 people on a matter of global significance to which Obama (and in the past, Romney) paid lipservice and in which at least Obama had a notional chance at pressing an advantage, couldn’t provoke the most trivial of changes in the composition of the Obama-Romney show. If even 160,000 votes count for so little when the stakes are so low, one might think the conclusion that one vote’s marginal value in an election is indeed, vanishingly small.

  47. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 13:15 | #47

    Voting has public good, or probably more accurately club good aspects. I will have to read the Reason article.

  48. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 13:21 | #48


    GW Bush being elected by the Supreme Court in 2000, just possibly, might I suggest, not inevitable?

    It’s not my contention that all things are inevitable. It’s also not typically clear when things that become inevitable become so. Some things have longer timelines than others.

    Al Gore’s impulses — not to be seen as disrupting the integrity of the US election system, presumably out of fear for the consequences, almost certainly threw the advantage Bush’s way. The SCOTUS was and is a largely conservative body and at the time was dominated by conservatives — though interestingly, even the more “liberal” judges sided with the majority on the 14th Amendment objection to continuing the recount.

    I wouldn’t put this into the “inevitable” category — but merely the highly likely one.

  49. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 13:23 | #49

    Always amuses me that libertarians feel the need to “clothe” themselves with words like reason, independent, objective, and of course, freedom and liberty (mom and apple pie anyone?)

    Of course, without those words we’d all be shocked by their nakedness.

  50. Jim Rose
    October 5th, 2012 at 15:59 | #50

    Fran, a question on climate change was not included because only questions of interest to the general public were put to the candidates.

    The candidates did not comment directly on Climate Change because it is not an important issue anymore to those who will decide the election:
    • The 2008 Republican Party presidential nominee supported cap-and-trade.
    • By January 2010, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to rank the importance of twenty-one issues. Climate change came in last.
    • After winning the fight over health care, another issue for which polling showed lukewarm support on climate change, Obama moved on safer issues.
    • Many including McCain soften or reversed positions as voter support waned.

    CO reduction action will be limited to modest reductions of a largely token character.

    There are many expressive voting concerns that politicians must balance to stay in office and the environment is but one of these. Once climate change policies start to actually become costly, expressive voting support for these policies will fall away.

    p.s. there were 5 republican senators who would have voted for cap and trade in April 2010: Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Scott Brown, and George LeMieux. Obama could have fought harder to get a Bill though but he did not. Blame Obama, no one else. He is supposed to make change happen. He lacked the political skills to build the coalitions even within his own party to deliver on the great moral issue of our time.

  51. MG42
    October 5th, 2012 at 17:26 | #51

    And don’t be too quick to call it for Obama, John. Despite virtually everything falling out of Romney’s mouth last night being at best a misrepresentation and at worst in direct opposition for his party platform over the past few months (examples of his policy last night were no tax cuts for millionaires, investing in green energy, investing in education which are DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE to the fringe-loony bumper-sticker economic policy the nutbars have been touting for the past couple of decades), me, being intellectually honest, can say Romney won because he carried himself better and wasn’t seriously challenged by Obama. Carry yourself like an arrogant bully, smirk a lot, recite a couple of zingers (“trickle down government”, whatever the hell that means) and you win regardless of the content.

  52. Tim Peterson
    October 5th, 2012 at 18:17 | #52

    Ronald Brak: the maths component of anti racist maths puts an emphasis on enthnomathematics; teaching the maths of other cultures. This sort of thing is of great interest to anthropologists and little use to anyone else. The important pieces of maths that are derived from other cultures (eg algebra) are already taught in schools.

    But anti-racist mathts goes further and incorpotates a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with mathematics. The Newton, Mass. high school maths curriculum document says:

    “Respect for Human Differences – students will live out the system wide core of ‘Respect for Human Differences’ by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors.” It continues, “Students will: Consistently analyze their experiences and the curriculum for bias and discrimination; Take effective anti-bias action when bias or discrimination is identified; Work with people of different backgrounds and tell how the experience affected them; Demonstrate how their membership in different groups has advantages and disadvantages that affect how they see the world and the way they are perceived by others…”

    (note that mathematics can be used to analyse human differences; this is the science of psychometrics. However this is (a) way too advanced to teach in high school and (b) roundly loathed by the PC crowd like Stephen J Gould.)

    Megan: just because anti-racist maths is an easy target for Fox News doesn’t mean that it is worthwhite! Yes it is true that much maths that we use was invented in India, China and Arabia (this can certainly be mentioned in class without the sort of rubbish documented above).

    Freelander: spot on! The concepts of mathematics are more important than their origin!

  53. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 19:01 | #53

    @Tim Peterson

    Stephen J Gould had a lot of good points beyond simply PC. Properly done measurement is important and those who believe in blank slates and no differences are simply nuts. However to do measurement properly is not easy, and very clever people can easily make errors in measurement and interpretation. Therefore,thoughtful and reasoned debate about potential sources of error and potentially mistaken interpretation of measurements is vital. Not all the discussion is reasoned, unfortunately, and to often driven by ideologies and that is a reference to those on the right and the left.

  54. Fran Barlow
    October 5th, 2012 at 19:09 | #54

    @Jim Rose

    Blame Obama, no one else. He is supposed to make change happen. He lacked the political skills to build the coalitions even within his own party to deliver on the great moral issue of our time.

    I do blame Obama Jim — but on different grounds. The claims about his leftist sympathies from the right notwithstanding, he was probably no more liberal than Clinton or even Carter. Instead of playing hardball from the get go with the Repugs, he welcomed them back into the family without even a sincere apology from them. Inept. He could have seized the high ground even before the election, but he squibbed it and wasted the crisis.

    More generally though with the US currently in the worst drought in its recorded history and Romney all over the place and trying to work both sides of the street, you’d have thought there would have been at least one question. AIUI, about 72% think congress should act:

    FLATOW: I’m just looking at the abstract of your study, and some of these numbers are amazing. Seventy-two percent, 72 of all Americans think that global warming should be a very high or medium or a priority for the president and the Congress. That crosses all party lines.

    LEISEROWITZ: It does. It includes 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans. So yes, there is this difference between Democrats and Republicans. But nonetheless, a majority of Republicans do think that global warming should be a priority for our elected officials.

    IAE, it does underline the pointv I was making — if 160,000 people don’t count for anything even when there’s nothing at stake — how can one vote — which aims at something more impressive than a question to a candidat at a public event — make a difference?

  55. October 5th, 2012 at 19:14 | #55

    Thanks for that, Tim. But while once could certainly argue that time spent “demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviours” would take time away from actually learning maths, I don’t see how apart from that it would actually harm children’s ability to learn mathmatics, unlike creationism that says that biology is wrong, geology is wrong, physics is wrong, chemistry is wrong, and history is wrong.

  56. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 20:33 | #56

    The way the nonsence does take away from learning in maths is providing a set of excuses for non-performance. Humans, regardless of ethnicity, are prone to accumulate handy excuses, real and imagined. Excuses, valid or invalid, can retard performance. There is no doubt, for example, that the so-called “first Australian” have suffered immense discrimination in the past and continuing discrimination today. However, other than a variety of issues, domestic violence, fetal alcohol syndrome, and others,which the sad history has had more than a small part in creating, the fact of historical and continuing discrimination is hampering many from grasping the opportunities they have because that discrimination provides a ready made excuse for bad behavior and failure.

    Few manage to overcome that type of burden. In the US, for example, Martin Luther King, and in South Africa, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandala.

    And that is why I think incorporating all that nonsense into a math curriculum is worse than unhelpful.

  57. October 5th, 2012 at 20:46 | #57


    Actually, going back to my earlier research mentioned above, the idea is not some loopy-liberal-pinko-commie conspiracy at all. The idea is to better engage school children in learning mathematics.

    The reason I found Murdoch and Thatcher’s links to this denigration of the ‘anti-racist mathematics’ strawman interesting was because of their (and ultra-conservatives in general) hatred for the idea of school teachers fostering critical analysis rather than simple rote-learning.

    Ideologically, neocons don’t want a populace of thinking workers, they want an unthinking population of order-takers who neither have, nor wish to exercise, independent judgment but simply “do”.

    Here is another excerpt from that paper (remembering that this is from an education academic):

    ” There is a practical limit to how much of a child’s own experiencecan be drawn on in learning mathematics. But cultural heritage is a different matter and, if used imaginatively, is an exciting way of learning mathematics. Children are given opportunities to see the development of mathematics as a pan-cultural endeavour. Modern mathematics evolved to its present form as a result of centuries of cross-fertilisation of ideas from different cultures.

    The story of the spread of what is now the universal system of numeration is a fascinating one. Our number system grew out of the work on the Indian sub-continent about two thousand years ago, transmitted south as far as Indonesia, east as far as Cambodia, north as far as Mongolia and west as far as British Isles during the next twelve centuries (Joseph, 1991, pp. 239-241; pp. 311-316). Manipulations and representations of algebraic quantities, the distinction between rational and irrational numbers and the evolution of concepts of zero and infinity excited the imaginations of Greek, Indian, Mayan and Chinese mathematicians.”

    “Critical Analysis” is almost by definition unknown to those who use a Murdoch outlet such as News Of The World, The Sun or Fox as their sources of information.

    I am genuinely puzzled by the number of people who still accept something coming out of a Murdoch organ with anything other than suspicion. Confirmation bias probably goes some way to explaining it.

  58. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 20:47 | #58

    @Fran Barlow

    Obama is a disappointment (to those who ever had faith in him). If he thought it would ensure him the Presidency, I’m sure he’d drop an A-bomb on London tomorrow. But then, I would expect as much from most of the presidential hopefuls.Teheran must be concerned that they may yet have a few untimely bumps in the night simply to provide a timely bump in the polls.

  59. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 21:48 | #59

    As it is, the timing of the Iranian currency crisis, precipitated by US actions, is fitting snuggly into the American electoral cycle.

    Is the world of a great power full of timely and pleasant coincidences.

    Or for the believers, God helps those who help themselves. And indeed, if there s is a God, a just rather than capricious God, then it is “God help those who help themselves”.

  60. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 21:51 | #60


    Research by looney liberal Pinko …

    Research Jim. But not as you know it!

  61. Freelander
    October 5th, 2012 at 21:55 | #61

    Note. Neither Murdoch, nor Thatcher are neocons.

  62. TerjeP
    October 5th, 2012 at 22:34 | #62

    Politics may be going global but in NSW apparently 40% can’t name our State Premier. At a guess more could name the US President but I suspect most people remain broadly disengaged from politics and mostly don’t give a stuff. They’ll pay whatever they are made to and grab whatever is offered. They know what sounds nice and what sounds nasty and vote accordingly. But most will never put more than a moments thought into “the system” and how it ought to be.


  63. October 5th, 2012 at 23:29 | #63

    Speaking of Rupert Murdoch:

    “The Weekly Standard is an American neoconservative[2][3][4][5] opinion magazine[6] published 48 times per year.

    Its founding publisher, News Corporation, debuted the title September 18, 1995. Currently edited by founder William Kristol and Fred Barnes, the Standard has been described as a “redoubt of neoconservatism” and as “the neo-con bible”.[7][8] Since it was founded in 1995, the Weekly Standard has never been profitable, and has remained in business through subsidies from wealthy conservative benefactors such as former owner Rupert Murdoch.[9] Many of the magazine’s articles are written by members of conservative think tanks located in Washington, D.C.: the American Enterprise Institute, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Hudson Institute.

    Some individuals that have written for the magazine include Elliott Abrams, Peter Berkowitz, John R. Bolton, Ellen Bork, Ed Gillespie, Roger Kimball, Harvey Mansfield, Joe Queenan, Wesley J. Smith, David Brooks and John Yoo. The magazine’s website blog, titled the “Daily Standard”, is edited by John McCormack and Daniel Halper and produces daily articles and commentary.”

  64. October 6th, 2012 at 00:06 | #64

    And the man who has oten been referred to as “Rupert’s Brain”, Irwin Steltzer, compiled ‘The Neo-Con Reader’ which proudly trumpeted Lady Margaret Thatcher’s contribution.

    A synopsis:

    Neoconservatism isn’t new. Neocon policies have deep roots in early American history, the ideas of welfare and crime reduction originating with Victorian reformers, while the theory of a preemptive military policy dates back to Theodore Roosevelt. Yet the term is widely misapplied, and neoconservative foreign and domestic policies are little understood. The Neocon Reader gathers the most prominent thinkers, columnists, and politicians to give a comprehensive overview of neoconservative ideology in a bold collection of classic and original essays written especially for this book.

    Author Max Boot passionately refutes many of the charges made against neoconservatives, arguing that neocons “place their faith not in pieces of paper, but in power, specifically U.S. power.” William Kristol and Robert Kagan discuss how neocons do not rely exclusively on military muscle to defend American interests but also on a lively engagement of intellectual discussion. Lady Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s former prime minister, argues that America must deal with rogue states directly, through preemptive means. Also included are pieces from George Will, Condoleezza Rice, David Brooks, and many more.

    Edited by Irwin Stelzer, The Neocon Reader provides a collection of the ideas that are exerting enormous influence on American foreign and defense policy, and serves as an important reminder of how a loose-knit band of intellectuals and politicians thought, wrote, and preached their way into the halls of power.

  65. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 04:44 | #65

    I bow to a wiki scholar, not. Neither are or were neocons. Suppose we’ll have to disagree.

  66. conrad
    October 6th, 2012 at 06:15 | #66

    Looks like you can add Jack Welch to your list.


    and perhaps not buy a Ford, not that many people would want to buy one anyway.

  67. October 6th, 2012 at 07:52 | #67

    So to sum up, creationism is basically the opposite of education, while anti-racist mathematics is thought by some to spend too much time on the history of maths? Lies on one side versus an arguement over the best way to teach maths on the other? They don’t really seem equivalent. While I’m sure one could find people who say two minus two doesn’t equal zero because some cultures don’t have a concept of zero, I don’t think those people have any actual effect on the teaching of maths in schools while creationists do have a negative effect on education in India, Turkey, Pakistan, the USA and even Australia.

  68. Fran Barlow
    October 6th, 2012 at 08:03 | #68


    If {Obama} thought it would ensure him the Presidency, I’m sure he’d drop an A-bomb on London tomorrow.

    After his performance in that sideshow in Denver earlier this week, where he seemed unwilling to use the material he had to hand against Romney to put him off his stride, that claim looks hard to sustain. “538″ has him with an 87.5% chance of winning a second term. Maybe that’s near enough to avoid extravagant gestures like arguing your case energetically, much less bombing London.

  69. Tim Peterson
    October 6th, 2012 at 12:17 | #69


    I suspect that what kids learn in anti-racist maths is to mindlessly regurgitate PC ideology, NOT critical thinking. This is certainly what happens in a lot of university womens studies courses.

  70. Tim Peterson
    October 6th, 2012 at 12:20 | #70

    Ronald Brak/Freedlander,

    Anti racist maths takes away from maths teaching because if kids who hate maths can pass by doing the non-math component of the course, they will do so instead of learning the maths.

  71. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 13:16 | #71

    @Fran Barlow

    We will never know, simply because there is no guaranteed win from an A-bomb on London. As for the Iranians, that bombing them might look like to cynically calculated to win votes is what is saving their lives, that and the prospect that vote winning regime change might happen in October anyway, due to the currency collapsing regime change.

  72. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 13:30 | #72

    @Ronald Brak

    Re-read what I said.
    The history they are trying to teach them is bunk anyway, as evidenced by the “not as we know it” “research” being quoted by Megan.

    To reiterate. There are two problems with this nonsense. First, time spent on bogus maths history during maths teaching time is time not spent learning maths. And second, the nonsense provides a ready made excuse for those who cannot be bothered putting in the effort to learn, what for some, is a difficult subject. The excuse “discrimination” or “I’m not be taught culturally appropriately”.

    To this, Tim has added a third. That scoring on the PC nonsense components of the course will result in nonsense grades.

  73. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 13:39 | #73

    Arguably, the teaching of creation is worse. But only arguably. Having good skills in the basics of maths is far more important than knowing, we, chimps, gorillas, pond scum,and Tony Abbott share a common ancestory.

  74. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 13:58 | #74

    That people can be crazy enough to believe in creation is more than a little annoying, but does not seem to stop some of those crazies gaining advanced degrees in physics, chemistry, and maths. Not learning the basics in maths definitely would stop those achievements. Note, this is not my supporting creation it creationism. Simply being fair (and balanced). As for creationists, I’d ankle bracelet the lot of them and subject them to heavier taxation. For their own good of course. The mild persecution would help them earn golden bricks in heaven, and if their loving god didn’t approve he,she, or it (common contraction sh-t) could simply strike the bad people down. Ad everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

  75. Katz
    October 6th, 2012 at 14:25 | #75

    Is it possible for flat-earthers to believe in globalism?

    Republicans appear to be at a disadvantage in this matter.

  76. Patrickb
    October 6th, 2012 at 16:55 | #76

    Is Freelander really some kind of programmed assertion generator, some kind of Turing like state machine? Is it possible for a human to produce so much unsubstantiated rubb.. ahem … output and be convinced that it is all absolutely, without doubt, correct?

  77. October 6th, 2012 at 18:31 | #77

    The name of the “bogus” mathematics is “Connected Mathematics” and plenty of “research” has proven that it works. The students who get taught using this method have better results than those who don’t.

    One (and there are plenty more on the Michigan State University website) is summarised:

    “This independent efficacy research study, conducted by Dr. Rebecca Eddy of Claremont Graduate University’s Institute of Organizational and Program Evaluation Research, reported that CMP2 students demonstrated significantly greater gains in problem-solving, math communication, and math reasoning strategies than their peers using other math programs as evidenced by performance on the Balanced Assessment of Mathematics (BAM).

    In addition, CMP2 students demonstrated significant improvement from pretest to posttest in the areas of concepts and problems, estimation, and computations as evidenced by performance on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). The difference in achievement between Latino students and Caucasian students on the BAM assessment was significantly smaller than the difference between Caucasian and Latino students who used other math programs.”

    So we come back again to the, baseless, criticism from ultra-conservatives feigning concern for “the children”. Is it that they don’t want anyone to understand the exponential function as it applies to the real world? Maybe they just can’t stand critical analysis.

  78. Katz
    October 6th, 2012 at 18:34 | #78

    @Freelander Depends on what you mean by “important”, Old Sport.

    Many species can count:


    But only humans have the capability to construct a complex taxonomy that expresses the relationship between Tony Abbott and pond scum.

    Recognition and manipulation of these abstract relationships is the sine qua non of human intelligence.

  79. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 20:11 | #79


    Plenty of research has shown that God created the world in seven days. If you want to discuss this further maybe you could request a sandpit as its way off topic.

  80. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 20:14 | #80


    I wonder myself.

  81. October 6th, 2012 at 20:29 | #81

    I haven’t seen any research along those lines.

    The title of the thread is self evident.

    Someone popped up and threw about a term I had never come across – ‘anti-racist math’. I looked into it and found that it has an interesting history.

    Apparently my rather benign observations have hit a nerve somewhere.

  82. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 20:55 | #82


    I’ve seen plenty of creation research by people with great qualifications in hard science. Research, of course, but not as you know it. The type of research you get when you start with the conclusion and it is very important to provve that conclusion even when that conclusion is totally wrong.

    That is the problem with research conducted by those with a strong religious or ideological stake. We need to keep this nonsense out of the classroom. As Tim suggests, this sort of teaching is the antithesis of teaching and promoting critical thinking. On blogs and elsewhere we see far to many graduates of this uncritical, appeal to authority (or some dubious link on the web) school of education.

  83. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 20:59 | #83

    To use the word “observations” indicates a disturbing lack of precision in your thinking.

  84. Ernestine Gross
    October 6th, 2012 at 21:19 | #84

    “Is it possible for flat earthers to believe in globalism”? [Katz, @25 above].

    I’ve got an idea how Freelander and Tom Peterson might answer this question, using their education in mathematcs, and, I suspect, they would require only 1 or 2 lines.

    How would Megan answer this question, using ‘connected mathematics’ and ‘critical analysis’?

  85. October 6th, 2012 at 21:29 | #85

    @Ernestine Gross

    As it was rhetorical, I wouldn’t.

    I took it to be a rather clever, and gently mocking, play on words.

  86. Ernestine Gross
    October 6th, 2012 at 21:34 | #86


    What is your answer to Katz’s question, using ‘connected mathematics’ and ‘critical analysis’?

  87. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 21:37 | #87

    The internet is a garbage heap indexed by search engines where everyone is able to readily conduct their (uncritical) “research”.


    Yes, Jim. But not as we know it.

  88. paul walter
    October 6th, 2012 at 22:26 | #88

    Fran Barlow raises what is the $64 question for me also. How is it that Blairite politicians are always so lethargic once in government? Their economics, legal and security advisers seem to have them comatose and inert, subject to policy initiatives completely alien to platforms proposed to a given electorate and what that electorate clearly voted in preference of.
    Where DOES it start to go wrong, once they are in office?

  89. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 22:35 | #89

    Blair’s new Labour was old Thatcher. Blair was asperational. For him and so many others Labour just a ladder to reach a Tory Nirvana. Where God was also waiting for him.

  90. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 22:37 | #90

    Obama, integrity in the Blair mold.

  91. Katz
    October 6th, 2012 at 22:41 | #91

    EG and M, my little globalisation quip may cause to explode the heads of some high-performing asberger syndrome sufferers.

    I don’t know whether it may endanger certain discussants on this thread.

  92. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 22:59 | #92

    How might one render a bit of maths history in a fair (and balanced and non-bunk) way:

    “The modern way of representing numbers, adopted by the West, has its origins two thousand years ago in India. Before adoption by the West, that system of representation was developed further by the Arabs… Nevertheless, the type of decimal representation we now take for granted had been developed, quite independently, in China even earlier than in India.

    Importantly, although this modern system of representation originated in India two thousand years ago, mathematics did not originate so recently, and did not originate in any single easily discernable place. For example, familiarity with numbers and many of their basic properties is quite ancient, in particular, the properties of addition, subtraction,multiplication and division have been know, apparently, for tens of thousands of years. And many other properties had been discovered before the common era. The Greeks, for example, had proven the existence of irrational numbers well before the common era. And other, more cumbersome systems, than the Hindu-Arabic system for representing numbers, have been around for many thousands, probably tens of those of years, and maybe even longer.”

  93. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 23:05 | #93

    Despite enclosure in quotation marks do not expect to find this elsewhere through search engine scholarship. I just wrote it. If I could be bothered, I could provide references for all assertions. But would it be worth that effort?

    “those” should of course be thousands.

  94. paul walter
    October 6th, 2012 at 23:38 | #94

    Katz, yes. Missed that one earlier…very, very good. I think they’d even be suspicious about your bona fides as to “supporting our troops”, after that. You might even get run out of town. They don’t LIKE “clever easterners” down south, your probable bruises would be the testament.
    FFS, Freelander, not even we are as shallow as that.

  95. Freelander
    October 6th, 2012 at 23:44 | #95

    @paul walter

    The mistake is to start with the assumption that a politician, especially one feigning a heart and compassion, is other than a completely self-obsessed hypocrite who see lying as a handy means to a strongly desired end.

    The Blairs and Obamas of the world are not saintly innocents corrupted by evil advisors. If anything, frequently it is the advisor that is corrupted by getting to close to a font of evil.

  96. paul walter
    October 7th, 2012 at 00:03 | #96

    No, there is something definitely wrong with things at the moment.
    Hey; got to listen Julian Assange’s mum, Christine at a FOWL forum in Adelaide today. Amazing lady; methodically and exponentially reemed an idiot blathering about Ecuador inside out at one stage without having to raise her voice.

  97. Freelander
    October 7th, 2012 at 01:16 | #97

    @paul walter

    Well done Christine!

    What is being done to Assange is outrageous. What is possibly more outrageous is the lack of concern about him, and about the threat his treatment represents to each of us. If JA can be treated thus what can each of us expect if we fail to bow to the great American power, supplicate ourselves to their every whim? 

    There was outrage in the ’60s and early ’70s over many things nowhere as bad. Ellsberg was not crushed by the American government. The My Lai massacre caused universal outrage, and many Americans felt great shame over the event. Wikileaks released videos of similar by American troops taking place today, but no outrage, no shame, no widespread condemnation, those video documented events not even worthy of investigation.

    What sort of anarchy, or divided and conquered degradation have we descended into?

  98. Freelander
    October 7th, 2012 at 01:26 | #98

    The crime is no longer the many evil things; the real crime is to talk about or worse still to expose the commission of and existence of those many evils things.

    Good that so many now avoid sin by keeping silent. To even talk about these things can be so costly, career-wise. In the West people sellout for such paltry sums.

  99. BilB
    October 7th, 2012 at 07:05 | #99

    Come on Freelander,

    Assange is just a not so petty crook. To give support to him is to give support to all of the other hackers who steel peoples indentity information and raid people’s bank accounts. For all we know Assange heads up those rings, but just does not tell you about it.

  100. Freelander
    October 7th, 2012 at 08:48 | #100

    Assange is not being chased for what you allege. In fact there aren’t even those allegations being made against him except by you.

    Too many, like you, just sell him out and do so while talking nonsense.

    Assange and Wikileaks provided a conduit for whistle-blowers to blow the whistle on activities various people including governments don’t want us to know.  Most importantly those secrets so-called that the US thought so secret that three million had access to them. They were not categorized secret for any other reason than protect those responsible from public scrutiny for their actions and lack of actions. The purported justification for the information being secret has been shown to be a pack of lies.

    As Ellsberg has indicated the situation is analogous to his release of the Pentagon Papers. The public has a right to know.

    Assange may be no saint. He may have numerous flaws; he may have done these Wikileak things for various bad reasons.  But that is irrelevant. What he did was good, and he should be rewarded, not punished for his actions.

    We live in a world of twisted moral migits. People of such small moral stature and so wrapped up in the burden of their own many deformities that they cannot even work together for their own good. Even when clearly for their own good. Just like a bunch of rats crippled by the density of their living conditions.

    We also live in a world ruled by incredible hypocrisy. Where the word migit is banned from Google’s spell checker because its use is not PC. And where various other quaint PC stuff flourishes. But where Google provides a platform for disseminating much dangerous filth, and provides the means for facilitating crime because that brings in dollars and they can claim their activities as promoting freedom of speech. The most recent Google activity, not excising migit from their spell checker, but disseminating a film attacking the Muslim religion, a film with the clear and now realised intent of inciting conflict and violence, nothing else.

    And why is this done? All for money. In Google’s case advertising revenue. Inciting conflict more generally, usually in the interests of weapons manufacturers to sell weapons. Or simply to help someone steal something that isn’t rightfully theirs. And why secrets? Because if we knew we might stop their mischief!

    Someone does something that is in our interests and we turn on him like a bunch of rats. Rather than attempt to assist him, in our own misery at our own pathetic lives and gross inadequacies we revel in his pain. What gross pathology?

    As it has been for thousands of years, bread and circuses; this is how the overlords keep the lower and middle class scvm from organising and getting their rightful share. And they are scvm because they are kept down so easily.

    Maybe the overlords are right to push your faces in the dirt?

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