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Sandpit

March 17th, 2013

I closed the last sandpit because it had collapsed into a string of personal attacks – if I get time I’ll go through and delete them. I’m opening a new one, but restating the need for civil discussion, which includes a requirement for no personal attacks on other posters. I’m going to be enforcing this more stringently from now on.

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  1. Jim Rose
    March 17th, 2013 at 14:15 | #1

    I gather that the Syrian opposition forces are funded by some of the other states in the Middle East except for Iran. The media never ask why?
    • Why would Turkey want war and anarchy next door?
    • Why would the Middle-east and Gulf autocrats want the Arab spring to last longer? They could be next?

  2. Sancho
    March 17th, 2013 at 14:41 | #2

    I recommend the CPAC coverage from Daily Kos blogger Hunter: http://www.dailykos.com/news/cpac%202013

    The crux:

    I have no idea how conservatives do it. The sheer number of things that require absolute panic—the fast-moving, rock-strewn river of things that are about to cause the imminent destruction of America or of the Good Conservatives within it, is uncountable, and the effort it must take is enormous. Conservative dogma requires multiple exclamation points of alarm over the United Nations, all of government, Democrats, liberals, communists, atheists, Muslims, insufficiently Christian Christians, Christians of dubious sects, the media, Hollywood, Obamacare, brown people, immigrants, sex, homosexuals, uppity women, all of Europe (both as entity and as abstract concept), everywhere that is not Europe, climate scientists, biologists, environmentalists, economists, college professors, bilingual people, urban dwellers, campaign finance advocates, community organizers, several American cities and certain unpleasant history books.

    No wonder people like Wayne LaPierre imagine that an American collapse and dystopia is just around the corner; all of modern civilization is apparently etherial, or ephemeral, or a cruel plot. We are always one health insurance law away from government-sponsored camps, or one overly-tanned immigrant away from genetic or cultural Armageddon.

  3. Ikonoclast
    March 17th, 2013 at 15:51 | #3

    Well, I wonder who has been and who is currently selling both the Syrian government and the Syrian opposition weapons. It never cease to amaze me that these desperately poor countries (for the most part) in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) are nevertheless awash with weapons and war materiel. Where is it coming from, who is paying for it and who is peddling it?

    Anyone know some verifiable facts on this? This report might be a good place to start.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ACT30/117/2011/en/049fdeee-66fe-4b13-a90e-6d7773d6a546/act301172011en.pdf

    It seems Europe (including UK and Russia) and the USA are the main culprits. This is a clear example (even clearer than the tobacco industry) that profits depend, in many cases, on inflicting systematic death in other corners of the globe.

  4. Jordan
    March 17th, 2013 at 22:52 | #4

    This is the best description of MMT yet and consequences of it in the present world. Comments bellow are as good as they come, too.

  5. March 19th, 2013 at 01:41 | #5

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  6. Chris Warren
    March 19th, 2013 at 08:14 | #6

    Jordan :This is the best description of MMT yet and consequences of it in the present world.

    MMT is a shallow rationalisation. Its core thesis:

    Under the gold standard, and largely because of the gold standard, the capitalist world endured eight different deflationary slumps severe enough to be called “depressions.” Since the gold standard was abolished, there have been none – and, as we shall see, this is anything but coincidental.

    The great virtue of modern, fiat money is that it can be managed flexibly enough to prevent *both* deflation and also any truly damaging level of inflation – that is, a situation where prices are rising faster than wages,

    is false under capitalism.

    Under capitalism, with everything else staying the same, prices must always rise faster than wages. This is the only way the same rate of profit can be maintained as capital accumulates.

    Things are more complex in reality because workers share can fall, capital can concentrate and markets can expand due to population growth, but in principle, prices must rise faster than wages because final consumption revenues must rise further than costs because capitalists demand a constant rate of return on their ever increasing accumulating Capital.

    End of story.

  7. Tim Peterson
    March 19th, 2013 at 09:55 | #7

    Chris Warren :

    Jordan :This is the best description of MMT yet and consequences of it in the present world.

    MMT is a shallow rationalisation. Its core thesis:

    Under the gold standard, and largely because of the gold standard, the capitalist world endured eight different deflationary slumps severe enough to be called “depressions.” Since the gold standard was abolished, there have been none – and, as we shall see, this is anything but coincidental.
    The great virtue of modern, fiat money is that it can be managed flexibly enough to prevent *both* deflation and also any truly damaging level of inflation – that is, a situation where prices are rising faster than wages,

    is false under capitalism.
    Under capitalism, with everything else staying the same, prices must always rise faster than wages. This is the only way the same rate of profit can be maintained as capital accumulates.
    Things are more complex in reality because workers share can fall, capital can concentrate and markets can expand due to population growth, but in principle, prices must rise faster than wages because final consumption revenues must rise further than costs because capitalists demand a constant rate of return on their ever increasing accumulating Capital.
    End of story.

    There you go again, assiming that capital yields no surplus over deprectaion! We have been through this before with the lawnmower eample; are you seriously siggesting that the added productivity of using a lawnmower over clipeers exactly equals the depreciation on the lawn mower. Three more points:

    a) if capital had zero productivity then the optimal capital stock would be zero.
    b) if the profit maximising markup was k% before invesment in unproductive capital, it would not go up to more that k% after the investment in said capital (ie Marx’s transformation problem has no solution)
    and (c) real wages have increased dramatically since Marx’s time.

  8. Paul Norton
    March 19th, 2013 at 11:44 | #8

    I have come across two comments by Professor Aynsley Kellow, my old colleague and well-known climate contrarian, on a blog thread published immediately prior to the 2012 US Presidential election. Due to recent policy changes at this blog, I cannot name the blog at which Aynsley Kellow’s comments were posted. However, the comments were sceptical of poll predictions that Obama would will the election, and specifically criticised Nate Silver, stating that Silver’s predictive methods suffered from the same problems as climate models that predict global warming. It is not known whether Professor Kellow revised his views on this point after the election.

  9. David Irving (no relation)
    March 19th, 2013 at 12:00 | #9

    @Paul Norton
    Probably not. He’ll be insisting that the Tea Party elect a new people …

  10. Fran Barlow
    March 19th, 2013 at 12:47 | #10

    @Paul Norton

    Due to recent policy changes at this blog, I cannot name the blog at which Aynsley Kellow’s comments were posted.

    That’s not my interpretation of the rules. As stated in “Peace Breaks Out …”

    The rules are
    (1) No personal references to Catallaxy bloggers, except identifying them as the author of some piece I (or commenters) might want to respond to
    (2) No general statements about Catallaxy as a blog.

    Assuming, purely for the sake of argument, that the unnamed blog were Catallaxy, nothing you’ve said above meets either of these tests IMO, although I suppose calling him an “old colleague” or “well known climate contrarian” might be personal references. You might simply have said “Professor Aynsley Kellow, over at Catallaxy, asserts as follows: {…}” and you’d surely have passed muster.

  11. Jim Rose
    March 19th, 2013 at 18:01 | #11

    @Paul Norton the prediction markets got 50 states out of 50 right in 2012.

  12. Mel
    March 19th, 2013 at 23:45 | #12

    As Steven Pinker demonstrates, we’ve never known so much peace. Hitherto, from the primitive communism of the hunter-gatherer to the early years of the industrial revolution, life has been brutal and short. But now, we in the bosom of secular democratic capitalism are many times more likely to die from boredom or gluttony than from villainy or want.

    This from a Guardian review of Pinker’s scholarship on historical levels of violence:

    “So what has made human beings less violent? Pinker organises his history through six trends. First is the “pacification process”: the shift from hunting and gathering to the first agricultural civilisations, bringing a fivefold decrease in violent death. Next is the “civilising process”, starting in the late middle ages. Then comes the “humanitarian revolution” of the 15th to 18th centuries, gradually reducing despotism, judicial torture and duelling. Finally there’s the “long peace” following the second world war and the “new peace” after the fall of communism: both periods are notable for their championing of human rights and a growing disapproval of everyday aggression. We’re hardly angels yet but we have become a far less brutally cruel and more peace-loving species.”

    Is it any wonder that the working class in the advanced capitalist nations loves capitalism as a mother loves her newborn babe but hates the communists with a passion worthy of the devil.

    Herewith endeth the Sermon. Peace be upon ye.

  13. rog
    March 20th, 2013 at 03:38 | #13

    And yet centrally planned societies, like those of Scandinavia and Singapore, enjoy greater and wider levels of comfort and achievement than do those that attempt to represent capitalism eg USA

  14. Julie Thomas
    March 20th, 2013 at 07:06 | #14

    Mel, “Is it any wonder that the working class in the advanced capitalist nations loves capitalism as a mother loves her newborn babe but hates the communists with a passion worthy of the devil.”

    What is a wonder, I think is how you know this.

    What ‘working class’ do you hang out with Mel? The rural agrarians out in the regional areas that I talk to are not all that anti socialism at all. Many of the dairy farmers, in particular,
    have had to become ‘workers’ in town and quite clearly and very emphatically, they hate capitalism, as represented by the coles woolies duopoly and they seem to be realising that it is the profit at all costs attitude and the requirement to compete without compassion, that capitalism has forced on us and our children, our society and our government, that is the real problem.

  15. Chris Warren
    March 20th, 2013 at 08:07 | #15

    @Julie Thomas

    Ignore mel, it is just trolling and deliberately injecting psywar concepts such as “hate”. This is not normal behaviour.

    In fact only mel is ‘hate’.

    As during Enclosures and Dickensesque industrialisation, and as in the receiving end of colonial slavery, people have learned to truly hate capitalism like no other, even more so as they watch their children in the Third World forced out of school to spend their days scavenging on huge piles of urban waste looking for recyclables.

    As they loose their jobs, their houses and cash, as they see the climate destroyed purely by capitalist demands for fossil fuel, more people will learn to ‘hate’ capitalism.

    Maybe we all need to learn to ‘hate’ mel.

  16. Julie Thomas
    March 20th, 2013 at 08:33 | #16

    Chris I managed to ignore the ‘nasty, brutal and short’ silliness but it really is interesting how openly how people in my small community – old tree changers of various ‘classes’, are pooling their experiences and finding that the real ’cause’ is neo-liberal capitalism. There are people who worked hard all their lives to be self-supporting, became mum and dad investors and then lost so much of that wealth are meeting up at the craft co-op where I work – amazing how many people out here are ‘into’ that word ‘co-op’ these days – with the dairy farmers and others of us who think that a co-operative community is the best way to survive the slow collapse and re-organisation that is happening, and working out what has happened to our values and our character over the past decades.

    Mel gets very bad back pain I think and can’t get proper pain relief so he gets cranky but he’s not ‘that’ bad, for an old fart. I think he has redeeming features but then I think almost everyone has 🙂

  17. Julie Thomas
    March 20th, 2013 at 08:33 | #17

    oops a bit incoherent but I’m on my way to work sorry

  18. Ernestine Gross
    March 20th, 2013 at 09:08 | #18

    Ikonoclast,

    Yes, in principle I agree with the EU bailout conditions for Cyprus. Given the information available to me, the EU is prepared to provide about Euro 10 billion on the condition that the beneficiaries of the Cyprus financial sector (banks and their clients) make a contribution of about Euro 5.8 billion in the form of a once only levy on deposits.

    The initial proposal was to levy a little less than 10% on accounts above Euro 100,000 and a little more than 6% but less than 7% on accounts less than Euro 100,000.

    By last week-end the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (major German newspaper not classified as a sensationalist tabloid) reported that it was the EU finance official, Schulz, (not the Cyprus government) who proposed to exclude “small” deposits. I have no information on whether or not the EU wants 10% instead of a little less than 10% on very big deposits. (I suspect they would want that).

    In the meantime it transpired from the local (Sydney) press that Russian oligarchs and the Russian state has deposits in Cyprus banks (confirmed in the Sueddeutsche Monday local time edition) and ex-comrad Putin is not pleased. One figure banded around is the Russians could ‘lose’ about Euro 2 billion if the levy is imposed (with deposits up to Euro 20000 being levy free).

    Isn’t it obvious that the Russians wouldn’t ‘lose’ anything if they had used their apparently Euro20 billion for productive investment (or social services) in Russia instead of getting high (higher than in Germany) interest in Euros??

    Today I read a Cyprus official has flown to Moscow to get more loans. Well, well, this is where ‘political economy’ starts. Consider the location of Cyprus, NATO, the EU and Cyprus’ history.

    Do Cyprus people and their politicians really believe they can have the ECB underwrite loans from Moscow??

    I don’t believe it is fair to simultaneously treat people as equal but not when they are in a lender-borrower relationship. There is a distinction in my mind between helping out borrowers when they have struck bad luck and the apparent demand that it is the lenders’ fault when the borrower goes bust. I’d accept the latter only for juveniles.

    Nothing in my foregoing paragraph contradicts anything I’ve ever said or written regarding the proverbial Wall Street bankers.

    The various attacks on the ECB play into the hands of the proverbial Wall Street bankers.

    The notion of austerity in many EURO countries is not the same as that contained in an article by a US economist that was taken to shreds by our host. The term austerity in many EURO countries (eg Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, France, Italy excluding bunga bunga), Austria is more akin to the behaviour of Australian borrowers as of the onset of the GFC, namely to try to live a bit more economical and pay off debt faster.

    The MMT idea that a sovereign country can issue its own money is neither new nor interesting. As is apparent from the behaviour of the Cyprus official going to Moscow, he or she has no confidence in a hypothetical own currency – they want a line of credit from a big brother first.

    The Cyprus government (with the support of its population) is playing a geo-political game. The international financial markets aren’t fooled by it nor the EU governments; only some journos (and possibly some MMT supporters) are.

  19. Chris Warren
    March 20th, 2013 at 09:20 | #19

    @Julie Thomas

    Co-operatives are part of the solution. They need to be promoted strongly – they can be a structural mechanism for differentiating between normal profits and capitalism while also enhancing local economic democracy.

  20. Ikonoclast
    March 20th, 2013 at 10:37 | #20

    @Ernestine Gross

    That’s an interesting and very orthodox construction (IMO). We are going to have to agree in parts and disagree in parts.

    First on Cyprus;

    1. Cyprus like most modern mini-nations (Singapore is an exception) is not viable under any system. It will always need propping up. Mini-nations suffer from dis-economies of small scale. What natural resources and natural advantages does Cyprus have? Very few I can guess without even checking. Is the landscape already exhausted soil-wise, vegetation-wise etc. from millenia of human and domestic animal oppcupation? Again, my safe guess is yes without even checking. Also, I suspect the local Mediterranean waters are largely fished out.

    2. Cyprus opted to become a tax haven. This is the route often taken now by small island nations with relatively little else going for them. Tax haven status is a form of quasi-legal, quasi-crooked financial chicanery. This strategy works while the world financial bubble keeps growing. As soon as the bubble starts collapsing, places that put all their eggs into the shonky end of the financial sector basket collapse with it.

    3. Local Cypriots now have two choices apart from emigration. These are to live on their own meagre recources or live on transfers. Being a tax haven engineered transfers of monies, capital and income to Cyprus. These are still transfers. The other ways to live on transfers are to recieve aid or amalgamate with a larger, more prosperous nation state and receive vertical fiscal transfers from that state’s federal government.

    4. The choices are to be independent, proud and poor or to join a larger, viable nation, accept a form of federated statehood and accept transfer payments. In return, Cyprus no doubt has strategic value from its location. That is its bargaining chip.

    Second, on the ECU;

    5. Supporting ECU policy is tantamount to supporting an already obvious loser. Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Potugal, Ireland and perhaps soon Italy are already in a Great Depression. This is the result of the austerity policies and single currency zone of the ECU. This is the result of creating the opposite of an “Optimal Currency Area” i.e. a “Dysfunctional Currency Area” (dysfunctional for political, ideological and demographic inequality reasons).

    6. MMT theorists like Bill Mitchell have been consistently predicting the EU will plunge further into trouble under current policies. They also offer explanations which appear logically consistent with the facts. The MMT theorists have been consistently proved correct. So far, the empirical facts support MMT on this matter. I will go with the empirical facts until something dramatic happens to dis-prove the MMT theory (in the Popperian sense).

  21. Tim Macknay
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:37 | #21

    @Mel

    As Steven Pinker demonstrates, we’ve never known so much peace.

    I think the word you’re looking for is “opines”. Steven Pinker ain’t “demonstrated” nuthin’.

  22. Mel
    March 20th, 2013 at 15:43 | #22

    Tim M,

    Pinker marshals an impressive body of evidence to support his argument. I haven’t seen anyone land a killer blow on his argument but if you have any links to well argued counter-arguments I’d like to see them.

  23. Nick
  24. derrida derider
    March 20th, 2013 at 16:51 | #24

    I see some people above have tried to get something going on MMT and in response some Austrian has replied.

    If we’re not very careful we will soon move on to fiat versus commodity money, and fiat money is like Israel/Palestine in the blogosphere – for some reason quite impossible to have a civilised discussion about. In fact the Blog Which Must Not Be Named once had a famous thread of doom on it. John may be kept very busy enforcing his new rules if it goes there.

  25. derrida derider
    March 20th, 2013 at 17:05 | #25

    @Ikonoclast , its hardly just MMT people who predicted the Euro problems – economists ranging from the far right (Mundell, Feldstein) all the way to the far left (Bill Mitchell, sundry Marxists) did so. I don’t think you can claim vindication explicitly for MMT people here – they’re hardly the only ones familiar with the term “optimal currency area”.

    At the risk of igniting the war I feared in my earlier comment the Euro looks rather similar to the sort of problems the Gold Standard was prone to, and for similar reasons ….

  26. Jordan
    March 20th, 2013 at 17:28 | #26

    Chris Warren at #6

    MMT policies have a redistributive effect by employing unwmployed and proposes as everyone sle on how to invest in the future.
    That redistributive effect has inflationary effect on the wealth and debt of non wealthy. It is a counter to normal distribution upward you have described.

    Just as 1930-1970 period was capitalist, it was very succesfull due to high marginal tax and rising inflation which have strong enough redistributive effect to counter distribution upward of capitalist order. Unions held those redistributive policy alive and well.

    But as we can see, organized capitalist had more perseverance and capital to winn against those redistributive policies that kept capitalism in check. Since that outcome will repeat again if the world ever returns to Keynesian policies i prefer change to more cooperative system that does not have such distributive effect upward in its core.
    MMT is just Keynes without gold standard effects that allow for new and more exotic policies.

  27. Jim Rose
    March 20th, 2013 at 17:35 | #27

    on “its hardly just MMT people who predicted the Euro problems” , Milton Friedman predicted that the euro would not survive its first major recession saying that “it’s hard to believe that it’s going to be a stable system for a long time” and “It’s only a year old. Give it time to develop its troubles” and ” It would exacerbate political tensions by converting divergent shocks that could have been readily accommodated by exchange rate changes into divisive political issues”

    HT: http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-euro–monetary-unity-to-political-disunity#eAckTegoHOyBEsWT.99

  28. alfred venison
    March 20th, 2013 at 17:52 | #28

    thanks Nick, weighing in at 55 pages on my word processor that looks like a seriously substantial review by someone i respect. looking forward to reading it. -a.v.@Nick

  29. rog
    March 20th, 2013 at 18:03 | #29

    @Mel I would think the continued success of People’s Republic of China woud be sufficient.

  30. Chris Warren
    March 20th, 2013 at 18:06 | #30

    @Tim Peterson

    As I said previously…

    In a society where the socially necessary amount of labour is determined by shears, then someone who has a lawnmower saves labour that bears no relation to the total amount of labour used to manufacture the lawnmower (minus the cost of the shears).

    However when all of society uses lawnmowers, the fee charged by lawnmower owners, per hr, is practically the same it was when shears were used (plus extra or less depreciation).

    Hopefully the new technology will save work hours – which then belong to workers, and that can go into leisure or additional productive activity.

    It takes a bit of thought to step through this issue.

    Anyone using a lawn mover in the same market as everyone else uses shears will gain a competitive advantage. Capital obtains this so-called “return” in the short-term. But this is competed away and this return is a transfer from the market share of others.

    Capital has obvious productivity – it increases the product per hour of workers. But still, assuming a free market, this is only the normal wage at equilibrium.

    To be specific – assuming:

    – hand cut grass is the same as machine cut grass.
    – That anyone can sell cut grass services using a machine,
    – that numerous grass cutters switch to machines, and
    – everyone knows the prices being sought/offered for grass cutting.

    A rational lawn mower worker will continue to supply lawn mowing provided they cover a wage and depreciation. If they demand anything more, they will tend to supply less, and at higher prices. This forces the market to operate inefficiently because, if the demand for grass cutting is downward sloping, there is a preferable, greater consumption quantity at lower prices.

    It is possible to complicate this story, for example if a worker borrows a machine and pays rent. But then this confused Steve Keen no end, so I wait to see whether Keen confusion is really behind your concerns.

  31. Jordan
    March 20th, 2013 at 18:11 | #31

    @derrida derider
    Difference in MMT and others who described problems of eurozone as “optimal currency area” is in description of the mechanisms of predicted problems.

    Can you find any present country as “optimal currency area”. Is Australia an “optimal currency area”? Any country has permanent defficit and surplus areas so that is not an optimal currency area. Every city has permanent surplus and deficit areas. Every subdivision has permanent deficit and surplus areas, even families have permanent deficit and surplus areas.

    What you described as “optimal currency area” is just an area that has transfer mechanism to acomodate for out of ballance payment without tribal antagonisms.
    Any less developed state in Australia is in permanent defficit but as a part of a federal system has transfer mechanisms that enbles permanent circulation.

    Federal transfer mechanisms for “optimal currency area” are united health and retirement system, intentional higher military production investments into deficit areas, Purposefull federal investments, and so on.
    This transfer mechanisms into permanent deficit areas has the same affect and relation as redistribution effect i described in the earlier post. Lack of transfer mechanism toward permanent deficit areas in eurozone which is existing in any federal system is what MMT describes as the problem. Not the fact that there are permanent deficit and surplus areas as others “predicted”. MMT says that permanent deficit and surplus areas is a normal state of any currency areas and gives solutions, while others say that existance of permanent deficit and surplus is the problem and it should somehow be removed, which is acctually impossible in any single currency area.

    Permanent imbalance in any single currency area is reality, whether between members of the familly, between areas in towns, between cities, regions, states in a federation, countries within eurozone or currencies tied by gold standard or euro standard (pegged to the euro or dollar) or between wealthy and poor. There is a natural tendency for distribution upward.
    This is the fact and extremely rarely can be changed but it can be amelieted by transfer mechanisms.

    MMT describes movement of money within a currency area while classical economists prefer to deal only in real values and talk about money, debt and banks is heresy.
    This circulation of money between permanent surplus and deficit factors helped by transfer mechanisms i like to call Nominal Surplus Circulation.

  32. Tim Macknay
    March 20th, 2013 at 18:12 | #32

    @Mel

    Pinker marshals an impressive body of evidence to support his argument. I haven’t seen anyone land a killer blow on his argument but if you have any links to well argued counter-arguments I’d like to see them.

    Mel, I don’t even necessarily disagree with Pinker, in fact I think his thesis has some plausibility, but to claim he has “demonstrated” his thesis, is far too strong a statement. He does marshal a lot of information to support his arguments but, like all, essentially sociological theories of this kind, most of his argument is based on interpretations of historical and archeological material. He’s not exactly dropping cannonballs from the leaning tower of Pisa. Because they have a relatively low level of certainty compared with, say, physical experiments, interpretations of this kind, however persuasive, can never be proven in anything like a conclusive way, and are always open to challenge.

    Because of that, I don’t think anybody needs to have landed a “killer blow” (whatever that means) to refute the notion that Pinker has demonstrated the thesis (as opposed to having simply put forward a plausible hypothesis). All that’s required is to cast doubt and offer counter-interpretations of the historical data. It’s actually debatable whether it’s even possible at all to “demonstrate” the truth of a broad sociological thesis about the overall history of humanity.

  33. Jordan
    March 20th, 2013 at 18:16 | #33
  34. Mel
    March 20th, 2013 at 18:45 | #34

    @Tim Macknay

    I actually disagree with much of what Pinker says and I think he underestimates the deaths from various recent conflicts but I do accept the broad brush claim about the violent nature of hunter-gatherer and horticultural and feudal societies cf. the present.

    To some extent, my original post on this thread was a reaction to the crude and hyperventilating criticisms of capitalism as it manifests itself in the West that we see on this blog.

  35. Mel
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:04 | #35

    @Nick

    The authors of the piece you link to include Edward Herman, who was of course a notorious apologist for Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge. As you are undoubtedly aware, he claimed the first hand accounts victims who survived the Khmer Rouge were unreliable.

    More recently, Herman has rewritten the history of Rwandan genocide and the wars in the former Yugoslavia and in this latest article, Herman and friend claims the US is currently encircling and threatening China among a laundry list of other misdeeds.

    George Monbiot on Herman and co.

  36. rog
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:25 | #36

    @Mel In crude retreat you fail to mention that Pinker has been soundly refuted by the evidence and you fail to demonstrate how criticisms of capitalism, irrespective of their validity, are “crude and hyperventilating”.

  37. alfred venison
    March 20th, 2013 at 19:37 | #37

    as herman & peterson advance a critique along the historical & political front, douglas p. fry is an anthropologist who disagrees with piker’s claim:-
    http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/018_04/8575
    a.v.

  38. Mel
    March 20th, 2013 at 20:24 | #38

    @Nick

    The authors of the piece you link to include Edward Herman, who was of course a notorious apologist for P0l Pot’s Khmer Rouge. As you are undoubtedly aware, he claimed the first hand accounts of victims who survived the Khmer Rouge were unreliable.
    encircling and threatening China among a laundry list of other misdeeds and that the Khmer Rouge was in many ways just what progressives had been hoping for.

  39. Mel
    March 20th, 2013 at 20:30 | #39

    George Monbiot on Herman and Peterson’s fabrication of history:

    ” I consulted four of the world’s leading genocide scholars: Martin Shaw, Adam Jones, Linda Melvern and Marko Attila Hoare. I asked them each to write a brief response to the claims the two men made on Znet. Their statements, which I have also posted on my website, are devastating(8,9,10,11). They accuse Herman and Peterson of obfuscating, distorting and misrepresenting the evidence, and of engaging in genocide denial.”

  40. Mel
    March 20th, 2013 at 20:32 | #40

    Sorry. Misedit of #38. Should read:

    The authors of the piece you link to include Edward Herman, who was of course a notorious apologist for P0l Pot’s Khmer Rouge. As you are undoubtedly aware, he claimed the first hand accounts of victims who survived the Khmer Rouge were unreliable and that the Khmer Rouge was in many ways just what progressives had been hoping for.

  41. Chris Warren
    March 20th, 2013 at 21:31 | #41

    Pinker claims “we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence.” So in this peaceful era (!?) we witness this:

    http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ (an under estimate)

    and Yankee drones raining death amongst the villages of faraway lands echoing possible chemical war in Syria.

    As wars rage all around us today, it is entirely expected that a Monkton would step up to exploit the situation. However Pinker (Monkton Mk II) is easily dispensed with as Nick provided above [ie Herman & Peterson]. It would appear that capitalism has waged almost continuous war against many others, from the smallest of nations, Guatemala and Grenada, to decades of region-wide bombing campaigns in the Middle East. If you follow the violence from only the United States, you see after WWII almost perpetual war, whether in Korea, Vietnam, Chile, Afghanistan, the Middle East or Bosnia. In such circumstances America needs a Monkton or a Windschuttle.

    Herman & Peterson find that Pinker makes extremely silly assertions – reflects gross political bias – displays staggering naiveté – presents overwhelmingly ideological work, with biases that reveal themselves at every level and on all topics – presents rhetoric saturated with political bias, straw persons, and literal errors – a blatant display of internalized Cold War ideology – Orwellian inversion of real history – a remarkable inversion of reality – Panglossian nonsense grounded in ideological thinking – dodging of the facts – a stream of pro-war apologetics – pure assertion – the uncritical acceptance of official and implausible claims – a refusal to report inconvenient evidence – selecting his sources on the basis of their congenial findings – accepting methodologies that are often laughable – engages in multi-leveled deception – ignores state terrorism – follows a party-line invidiously – seriously misrepresents past and current events – suppresses facts that conflict with his beliefs – echos the work of other researchers closely aligned with a decades-old U.S. and Western agenda – parrots the State Department’s designation of who engages in “terrorism,” – writes beyond the preferential method of research – a classic of misrepresentation – takes the Western media’s headlines and choruses of moral outrage as unbiased unlike serious analysts or scholars – is underpinned by racism – gross misrepresentations of history – conspicuously displays racist biases – establishment ideology – rewrites history to accommodate establishment perspective – averts his eyes from inconvenient facts – contains outlandish moments – is extreme fanaticism masquerading as scholarship – contains definitional sleights-of-hand – disingenuous arguments – suppresses inconvenient examples – presents figures that fail to teach the lessons that Pinker claims they do – uses bravado to disguise lack of substance – deals with data with a cavalier attitude – uses cherry-picked data – presents a “trite Hobbesian message” – fails spectacularly – inflates death tolls from the past and minimises those in the modern period – massages numbers – plots data on logarithmic scale to reduce the apparent scale of recent atrocities – makes remarkably deceptive claims – implores readers to ignore major pieces of evidence – and whose scholarly apparatus is but a misleading façade.

    Herman & Peterson conclude –

    Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is a terrible book, both as a technical work of scholarship and as a moral tract and guide. But it is extremely well-attuned to the demands of U.S. and Western elites at the start of the 21st century…

    Noteworthy is the fact that so many liberals and leftists have been taken-in by Better Angels. The British philosopher Simon Blackburn praised the “riveting and myth-destroying” book, with its “positive history of humanity” and its “wealth of historical, anthropological and geographical data.” The British political scientist David Runciman called it a “brilliant, mind-altering book,” and swallowed “Pinker’s careful, compelling account of why the 20th century does not invalidate his thesis that violence is in a long decline”—because the “violence of the 20th century is best understood as a series of random spasms,” according to Runciman, and because the “two world wars were essentially freak events, driven by contingency and in some cases lunacy.” Both reviewers display the same inability or unwillingness to engage in serious institutional analysis as does Pinker.

    In the final analysis, The Better Angels of Our Nature is an inflated political tract that misuses data and rewrites history in accord with its author’s clear ideological biases, while finding ideology at work only in the actions of his opponents.

  42. Ikonoclast
  43. Ernestine Gross
    March 21st, 2013 at 10:23 | #43

    @Ikonoclast

    Cyprus. There are a few empirical details you might wish to consider.
    a) Since posting last on this topic, I learned from the EU(Euro) press that the offer from the EU(Euro) countries is even more generous than what I knew at the time of my first post. In exchange for the once only levy on Cyrpian bank deposits (as detailed before), the depositors are offered shares in the banks. In Finance one calls this a debt/equity swap.
    b) Cyprus has a small population (size of Adelaide), highly educated, with a mean income of about US$28,000 p.c.
    c) Its history is long and bloody. Throughout the mid-20th century there was acute conflict between the Turkish minority and the Greek majority. The disagreement among the Cypriots are bigger than those within EU countries on many issues, including on international treaties (eg with Israel).
    d) Cyprus has extensive natural resoures: Its climate (hence tourism and gastronomy – expats from the North of the EU), fishing and, natural gas reserves. There is also agriculture and trade.
    e) Cyprus has a long history in geo-politics. It has now income from several UK military posts.
    f) Cyprus joined the EU only in 2004 and adopted the EURO in January 2008. I’d like to note that by January 2008 there was ample evidence the international financial system is on the brink (look up JQ’s post from mid August 2007), even though the extent of the disaster wasn’t known even among people knowledgeable in this area.
    g) Interviews of financial consultants from Cyrpus, reported in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, revealed the Cypriot banks hold extensive deposits from Russian abnd Greek ‘investors’ and these banks lent to Greece. (I’d like to recall there is a recognised tax collection problem in Greece – surely this will enduce a few thoughts on was going on there.)
    h) As for other countries, there are extensive transfer (development) programs within the EU and the EURO countries in particular. However, these programs are not outsourced to tax minimisers and other get rich fast merchants (some, I suppose, could be called ‘oligarchs’, but I leave the name calling to others).

    It seems to me ‘theoreticians’ and their followers who argue against ‘capitalism’ (without ever specifying what it means) and against the EU project as well as the EURO are not familiar with the methodology of checking for the logical consistency of their theories.

    The EU project rests not only on what governments do but also on the populations everywhere learning about a social-ecological-market economy – which I call a contemproary version of social-democracy. There is no room for a tax haven for obvious reasons.

    The post by Jordan regarding wealth distribution and transfer within geo-politically defined countries is, IMO, valid and apt.

    I leave it to you to work out whose interests the Cyprian parliament represented.

    Mundell, the originator of the notion of ‘optimal currency area’, did not show up at the 2011 Lindau meeting of economists.

    A reference to an ‘optimal currency area’ would presuppose a reworking of the idea within the context of a ‘global economy’ that is linked by multinational corporations and financial institutions. The contemporary international institutional environment is very different from that at the time when Mundell wrote on this topic.

    I am puzzled to note that the origin of the GFC has already been forgotten. Spain and Ireland (but not Greece) problems were made in the board rooms of the proverbial Wall Street banks and their friends, the rating agencies, and not in Brussel. Greece’s problems were made in the offices of creative accountants – overseen by governments. My information on Portugal is very limited (they had problems with the EU specified sizes of oranges – but this cannot be all of it). So, the stereotypical arguments (naive macro-economics) regarding the EU may apply in some offices in Newcastle but are difficult to identify anywhere else.

  44. Tim Peterson
    March 21st, 2013 at 11:01 | #44

    Chris Warren :@Tim Peterson
    As I said previously…

    In a society where the socially necessary amount of labour is determined by shears, then someone who has a lawnmower saves labour that bears no relation to the total amount of labour used to manufacture the lawnmower (minus the cost of the shears).
    However when all of society uses lawnmowers, the fee charged by lawnmower owners, per hr, is practically the same it was when shears were used (plus extra or less depreciation).
    Hopefully the new technology will save work hours – which then belong to workers, and that can go into leisure or additional productive activity.

    It takes a bit of thought to step through this issue.
    Anyone using a lawn mover in the same market as everyone else uses shears will gain a competitive advantage. Capital obtains this so-called “return” in the short-term. But this is competed away and this return is a transfer from the market share of others.
    Capital has obvious productivity – it increases the product per hour of workers. But still, assuming a free market, this is only the normal wage at equilibrium.
    To be specific – assuming:
    – hand cut grass is the same as machine cut grass.- That anyone can sell cut grass services using a machine,- that numerous grass cutters switch to machines, and- everyone knows the prices being sought/offered for grass cutting.
    A rational lawn mower worker will continue to supply lawn mowing provided they cover a wage and depreciation. If they demand anything more, they will tend to supply less, and at higher prices. This forces the market to operate inefficiently because, if the demand for grass cutting is downward sloping, there is a preferable, greater consumption quantity at lower prices.
    It is possible to complicate this story, for example if a worker borrows a machine and pays rent. But then this confused Steve Keen no end, so I wait to see whether Keen confusion is really behind your concerns.

    If this were so, there would be no tendancy for prices to grow faster than wages!!!

    Capital is costly; producers need to make enough to cover their interest payments/return on equity. This isn’t to say that the rate of return on capital is written in stone. Neocassical growth theories explains how the rate of return on capital will fall as the capital stock deepens (ie more capital per worker) until it stabilizes a lower level as the economy converges to steady state growth. Again, there is no tendancy in this deterministic model for prices to rise more than wages (although you could introduce shocks that had this effect temporarily).

  45. Nick
    March 21st, 2013 at 11:27 | #45

    Mel, I’m not all that interested in what Monbiot has to say, and neither should you be. He dismisses the authors as “genocide denialists” because they cite evidence of lower figures for Tutsis slaughtered, and higher figures for Hutus slaughtered, than he or the experts who agree with him are prepared to accept.

    Monbiot reports 800,000 Tutsi deaths. Herman and Davidson assert that, based on Rwandan census figures from 1991, it could only have been 300-000-500,000. Their argument is straightforward – either the census figures were out by several hundred thousand, or the claims of 800,000 Tutsi deaths are out by several hundred thousand. I fail to see why raising this should invite accusations of “genocide denial”.

    The figures they cite for Hutu deaths – which sent Monbiot into paroxysms of indignation and outrage – also clearly include those in the Congo in the immediate aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, where, according to Amnesty International figures, in 3 months alone, the US-backed invading Rwandan Defence Forces rounded up and slaughtered some 200,000 Hutu refugees.

    In 2004, Monbiot, doing a pretty good impression of a Bush Doctrinist, would seek to justify this mass-slaughter of refugees:

    http://www.monbiot.com/2004/12/14/a-deadly-reversal/

    “Rwanda has already invaded the DRC (or Zaire, as it used to be called), twice. In both cases it appeared to have justification. The Interahamwe militias who had killed 800,000 Rwandans fled there after the genocide in 1994. They were sheltered first by President Mobutu, then by President Kabila. They wanted to reinvade Rwanda and resume the genocide.

    However, he concedes in the same article:

    “But after moving into the eastern DRC for the second time, in 1998, Rwanda more or less forgot about the genocidaires. It had found something more interesting: minerals.”

    Which begs more questions than Monbiot is prepared to answer. He is willing to hold the Rwandan Defence Forces accountable for 3.8 million deaths in the Congo – but derides as “loony” anyone who might dare to question what took place just a few short years earlier in Rwanda.

  46. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 12:35 | #46

    @Tim Peterson

    If this were so, there would be no tendancy for prices to grow faster than wages!!!

    Yes – Hallelujah – you got it kiddo!

    The rest of your post was capitalist theory. Capitalists need to to cover their interest payments/return on equity and these deductions are corrupted by capitalism.

    All this is rather complex, but there is a difference between market socialist “interest” and capitalist “interest”. An additional return on capital, at equilibrium in a free market, is impossible – it will always be competed away.

  47. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 14:45 | #47

    @Nick

    I’m not that interested in what Monbiot says either, but I am interested in what the professional researchers who publish in the peer reviewed literature have to say. Monbiot contacted four of them (see my quote), none of whom are right wingers, and each of them provided compelling arguments for why we should regard Herman, Peterson et al as cranks.

    Call me old fashioned if you will, but unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, I give extra weight to the opinions and arguments of experienced peer reviewed researchers in less weight to the opinions of amateur keyboard sleuths and cause-pushers like Herman.

    If you wish to believe Herman and Peterson, fine, that is your right, but I see no point in engaging with you further if you don’t at least read the arguments that peer reviewed scholars on genocide, such as Jones, Caplan, Hoare, Shaw and Malvern use to dismiss them as serial fraudsters.

  48. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 14:54 | #48

    Oops- Melvern is only a journo. My bad.

  49. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 15:13 | #49

    As we all know, if Mel pushes a barrow, it quickly falls apart.

    It appears that Monbiot’s exercise was itself a camouflage, and Marko Attila Hoare is a disreputable source.

    http://www.srebrenica-project.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=156

  50. Jim Rose
    March 21st, 2013 at 15:56 | #50

    RUDD bottled it. Keating was happy to win by 7 votes.

    Abbott should form a draft rudd movement.

    A new kevin needed to make one mistake and the old kevin would have taken labor below 30%

  51. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 15:57 | #51

    Chris Warren,

    as you well know, the Srebenica Historical Project is a genocide denial organisation that is funded by Republika Srpska.

    It is certainly interesting to see how in recent years denial of the Tutsi, Bosniak and even at times the Shoah genocides have become respectable in certain left wing circles. That resident communist Chris Warren travels in such circles is sad but not surprising.

  52. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 16:36 | #52

    Mel :Oops- Melvern is only a journo. My bad.

    Well, not quite, Melvern is a troublemaker who was exposed and ridiculed by the refereed literature.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14623528.2011.567846

  53. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 16:37 | #53

    @Mel :Oops- Melvern is only a journo. My bad.

    Well, not quite, Melvern is a troublemaker who was exposed and ridiculed by the refereed literature.

    http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/14623528.2011.567846

  54. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 16:46 | #54

    @Mel

    Pure incompetent falsification. I have never made any comment whatsoever on

    Tutsi, Bosniak and Shoah … genocides

    Mel is resorting to disgusting, false, innuendo, and needs to be exposed as such.

  55. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 16:53 | #55

    Chris Warren,

    The sole purpose of the Srebenica Historical Project, as you well know, is to deny the Bosniak genocide.

    I’ve caught you out using a genocide denial website to smear a respected academic.

    Shameful, but a typical communist tactic.

  56. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 18:03 | #56

    @Mel

    You may call it a denial website, but if this is your view, the truth must be otherwise.

    In fact, I respect the view of impartial, competent, authorities such as UN’s Corwin.

    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/phillip-corwin/dubious-mandate/

    Obviously massive civilian deaths occurred, but sensible people need to look at all sides in understanding these issues. This includes the Serbs.

    It appears that those crying “denial” are the deniers.

  57. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 18:36 | #57

    Interesting to see whether Mels labelling a site as denialist is impartial or even sensible.

    As a test, lets see if they “deny” the finding UN appointed expert Corwin?

    Google:

    site:www.srebrenica-project.com corwin

    Apparently Mel thinks “denialism” is disagreeing with Mel!!?

  58. Jordan
    March 21st, 2013 at 19:17 | #58

    @Chris Warren
    Sorry Chris, but Corwin is writing totally one sided, with information from Serbs only. Those are half truths that Corwin writes. There are doubts on numbers of civilian deaths or soldier deaths of muslims, but that is all that is questionable in usual descriptions.

    I was there in Croatia and Bosnia when it all started.

  59. Jordan
    March 21st, 2013 at 20:20 | #59

    @Chris Warren
    If i could only find a translated Miloševi?’s speech from Kosovo polje in 1989 you could easily find message of how Serbs are opressed and his promise that he will defend them and only he can save them from other nationalist fascists (that existed but had no institutional or militarised power, non, nada, no power at all, which is totaly opposite from hegemonist and nationalist Serbs who had institutional and military power)

    I view the other nationalist movements as a naive resistance against Serbian institutional control and Serbs as protectors of their institutional control.
    This Miloševi? speech gave serbian criminals unconditional apologetic protector by the whole serbian nation. Any time a criminal that is serb commited a white collar crime, they could not be prosecuted under the law by any court since it was inducing the revolt by the whole nation. This created an institutional protection of any crime commited by a Serb that escalated into the war which by mid 1991 formed clear division of institutional protection of citizens in separate republics against federal protection of serb criminals which also controlled the federal army.

    When full blown war developed in the second part of 1991 in Croatia, Serbs understood their rights to be unlimited since it was supported by whole army and any Serb could do any crime unpunished if he wore a uniform. Any excuse or lie was good enough defense against criminal prosecution and military commanders were deciding on the spot. That grew into institutionalized crimes against non-serbs by military commanders. This is reflected in their unified defense that Serbs were only defending demselves, they did no crime. That is what they believe even today.

    It is about institutionalised tribal divisions backed by whole army against civilian, non-serbs.
    I believe i gave only an inside view of any civil war in the world.

    This is also description how bankers tribe going unpunished for their obvious crimes can develop into institutional protection with tribal ties against other civilian institutions.
    How Bush administration enjoys institutional tribal protection after obvious crimes go unprosecuted. It can develop into more radical protections if this wound is left to fester.

    Sreberenica massacre happened within this institutional crime regime so Serbs even today believe that they only deffended themselves with intellegence agencies providing them with manufactured facts excuses. these intelligence agencies that is under full controll by Serbs who got rich by commiting crimes in banking systems first then by looting wast areas under their controll and using monopolistic power over any trade under their controll are still in power. This wealth ammassed under protection of intelligence agencies is still thriving under present Serbian government and will do anything to protect themselves. They orchestrated assasinaton of Premier ?in?i? when he tried to get the country out of under controll of intelligence agencies.

    This story resembles ever present strugle inside USA government and its Congressional-Military-industrial complex lead by inteligence agencies.

  60. Chris Warren
    March 21st, 2013 at 21:30 | #60

    @Jordan

    The details are not the real point. The point is whether or not it is reasonable to tag those with different views as “denialists” and then arbitrarily dismiss anything they say. This is Mel’s project.

    That war crimes, stirred up by nationalism, occurred on all sides is not disputed.

    Franjo Tudman (at times protected by Tito) also has accusations of later economic corruption etc.

    In civil wars everyone argues that others produce one-sided reports and UN observers can be caught in this net. However given Corwin’s position and role, surely he cannot be placed in the bin of “denialism” even if you disagree with him.

    Any understanding of these situations has to start with critical analysis of evidence from all sides and not introducing concepts of denialism.

    The website mel denounced as denialist actually states:

    With regard to the unfortunate events around Srebrenica in July of 1995, we fully recognize that a terrible massacre of prisoners of war took place there, and that it was contrary to the laws and customs of war. We do not challenge that. (It was) an act of revenge [which we do not support], but certainly not a step in a plan to exterminate the Moslem community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    In fact so far I have found nothing that deserves the tag “denialist” with this website. But this is not to say it represents everything correctly either. Everyone has the right to read Corwin without prejudice. Each reader can make up their minds whether it is one-sided in the knowledge that one-sided presentations are pretty common – eg Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN and supporting documents from UK’s Iraq Dossier (2003).

    It was Mel who raised the rag of denialism.

  61. Jordan
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:07 | #61

    You are right about the denialism accusation from Mel, but on the other hand, taking sides with side that has total power over victims as it happened in Srebrenica is cruel and incoherent.

    Serbs have had all the millitary power against police and special police forces in Croatia that slowly grew ower time and had to cope with defending and replacing civilians while fighting with overwhelming military force.
    What Corwin writes about Croatian forces in Operation storm 4 years later is blatant lies by Serbian side still believing in that they only defended themselves. There was no ethnic cleansing by Croatians. The orders to abandon Croatia came from Miloševi? even before that operation started. It stated, “When attack starts, you have to hold defence at least for 10 days when international powers will stop Croatian advance. If you see that you can not hold defensive positions, order evacuation”. That order to evacuate by regional comanders came the first day of attack at 4pm. Those that were not evacuated by the end of Operation Storm, both civilians and military were given option to stay or leave. Almost all chose to leave.

    They started the war by saying that they will rather die then live under Croatian flag and shield. That is the reason they left too.
    In the recent War Crime case against Croatian generals that directed the Operation storm which lasted only 4 days, the prosecution proved only 44 dead civilians in months after the operation ended. There were thousands of burned houses and around 488 dead bodies found in total after the operation, but those were also military and colateral deaths that could not be proven as war crimes, which had no indication of executions. Those generals were freed few months ago, after 10 years being locked up while trial lasted. ICTY does not give out wrongfull imprisonment compensation.

    Prosecution tried to prove organized ethnic cleansing by arguing that there was excessive shelling of the main towns which acctually lasted only first day and around 750 were proven to hit populated areas. Under the assumption that excessive shelling got civilians into panic even tough there were writen orders presented as counterarguments. First trial sentenced those two generals to 24, and to 17 years imprisonment while appelate court cleared them. Outrageous.
    Serbs still want to revenge their evacuation orders and betrial and they promote such views in project-srebrenica.

    In Croatia, there was at least police institutions that were protecting civilians and organized defence, in Bosnia Serbs organized destruction of police organizations even before any fight started and destroyed hevier weaponry in hands of police. In the first days, Sarajevo was defended mostly by weapons provided by organized crime weapon traders. Other areas had not even that, there was slaughter in many places that had no defence against full blown military forces long before Srebrenica happened.

    Please do not defend those that have full millitary power over barely armed defenders. Ever.
    Numbers might be skewed and exagerated but that is all. Instead of 8000 there is proven 5000 dead bodies that were found in the area after the massacre. Sure many were cought in attempt to break trough, but bigger numbers were surrendered to Mladi? by UN.

    Please do not defend those that have full millitary power over barely armed defenders. Ever.

  62. Jordan
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:17 | #62

    Another important fact about Operation Storm was that Croatian forces found two times amount of weaponry and amunition in teritory that Serbs held under then all croatian forces had when they started the operation.
    Some of the Serbian forces were busy with attempting to do to Biha? enklave same as they did to Srebrenica as Operation Storm started. My friened who was inside Biha? was saying that there was not even a week of fight left in them if it wasn’t for Croatian army succes of the Storm. They would have the same outcome as Srebrenica did. My friend would not be alive today if it was not for Operation Storm.

  63. Jordan
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:25 | #63

    Corwin’s writing is a crock of sjite, well payed by Serbs intelligence agencies and for their further controll of Serbian state.

  64. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:51 | #64

    Megan today: “He [Mel] deliberately misrepresented me – my argument was with the fact that the miraculous joys of flouridation were so beyond the abilities of comprehension of Qld citizens that the Bligh government needed to impose it without any shred of a mandate or even a pretend ‘public consultation’.”

    Here is one of the false claims Megan has made about fluoride on this very site:

    “The benefits of fluoride when included as a supplement in the diet of growing children is that it undoubtedly reduces tooth decay. That benefit does not apply to adults. In adults with long exposure to fluoride it seems that a side-effect is weaker teeth leading to an increase in incidence of breakage.”

  65. Mel
    March 21st, 2013 at 23:52 | #65

    Megan has also used to own blog to write some seriously disturbed rants about fluoride. Here is one of my favourites:

    “Flouride is a harmless and non-existent chemical which isn’t added to Queenslanders’ taxes every year as an off-book expense. Weirdos, conspiracy theorists and ignorant journalists with crazy agendae often confuse flouride with the various molecular manifestations of the 9th element on the periodic table, fluoride … The peak body for advocating the fluoridisation of SEQ water, the “Fluoride Users Coalition Knowledge Yes-men Obfuscation Unit” (F.U.C.K.Y.O.U.), released a press release from an unsourced source attributing the leak of information to a faulty component of their failsafe PR department.”

    Megan has also published a range of potty anti-fluoride tirades by third parties, including one that claims Bligh’s plan to add fluoride to QLD water violated the Nuremberg Code and against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    Of course anti-fluoride politics has its etiology in far right anti-communist movements that saw fluoride as the vanguard of socialised medicine, like the John Birch Society in the USA and the League of Rights in Australia. Unsurprisingly, the incoming conservative government in Qld gave in to the Far Right in its own party and supporter base, devolved the issue to local government and as a result many Queenslanders will not be getting fluoridated water.

    Yipeeeee! The dummies win again!

  66. March 22nd, 2013 at 00:31 | #66

    Thanks for the memories!

    Some of my favourites from the same page (apparently Mel takes all this very seriously and uses it to bolster his arguments):

    “Ponds Institute Breeds Glow In The Dark Politicians”

    “Climate Change To Kill Lucrative Gold Coast Ski Industry”

    “Policeman Bites Dog, Dog Tasers Policeman”

    “Queensland Offers A Set Of Steak Knives With State Assets”

    and of course, Mel’s piece de resistance:

    “Flouride Spelling Blunder Outrage”

    Not referring to anyone in particular but might I just say the word: Clown?

  67. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 00:51 | #67

    Golden Rice is currently being grown in trial plots in the Philipines. See this NPR article.

    When first developed, golden rice was grown in a grenade-proof compound outside Zurich to withstand Greenpeace vandalism.

    Naturally, Greenpeace is taking legal action to stop the Filipino trials …

  68. John Quiggin
    March 22nd, 2013 at 00:58 | #68

    This dispute would be better pursued elsewhere.

  69. March 22nd, 2013 at 01:19 | #69

    By all means.

    But, not sure you should allow one poster (with a pretty long history of angry) to say of another: “seriously disturbed” – without allowing the target a reply.

    I’m happy to stop here – on the proviso that if Mel sledges me further on this blog any reasonable response (as determined by the moderator) can also get posted.

    This isn’t just an issue about brawling. I have been serially and seriously misrepresented by Mel on Fluoride (note correct spelling) and he has gotten away with it.

    Thanks.

  70. Chris Warren
    March 22nd, 2013 at 07:47 | #70

    @Megan

    Megan is right. Yet again Mel has proved itself a blatant rightwing nutter, completely unable to read text, and completely unable comprehend simple English.

    Poor Mel, it doesn’t even realise that there is no such thing as: “flouride”.

    It needs to apologise.

    Kudos to Megan, although inadvertantly, her “Flouride Scourge Outrage: Fury” has shown mel to be a right old Clown of the first order.

    Yet again – whatever Mel claims – in every case, the opposite is reality.

    There is no dispute over “fluoride” so nothing to be pursued elsewhere.

    Its only voices in mels head.

  71. Ikonoclast
    March 22nd, 2013 at 08:03 | #71

    I’m with Megan and Chris on this one. I too have been serially abused, sledged and misrepresented by Mel. It seems that only after people like us defend ourselves and our positions is everyone asked to take it to the sandpit. Mel, as the initiator, ought to be reined in by the host IMO.

  72. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 12:47 | #72

    Ikonoclast:

    “I’m with Megan and Chris on this one. I too have been serially abused, sledged and misrepresented by Mel.”

    You were called out for making shrill and hysterical claims about AGW that go well beyond what the latest IPCC report and a reasonable reading of the peer reviewed literature would allow and thus you turned the issue into vaudeville.

    On each issue of science discussed here- fluoridated water, AGW and GMO agriculture, I’ve defended the mainstream science against the fringe, be that the Lunar Left or the Rabid Right. I don’t resile from that.

    It wasn’t that long ago that being pro-science was a respectable position on the Left. Maybe I’m old fashioned for hoping those days will soon return.

  73. Ikonoclast
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:11 | #73

    Mel,

    And you were called out for ignoring substantial evidence posted by myself and others that supported the validity of my claims. You ignored this evidence and continued to personally abuse people, sledge and misrepresent them.

    Many on this blog consider you have abusiveness and anger issues. You should take a good hard look at yourself. You are arrogant, abusive, dismissive and rigidly close-minded. I doubt you have any real understanding of science or logic or philosophy. If you had any such understanding you would not display such blind, rigid arrogance and contempt of others. You disgust me.

  74. Ikonoclast
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:20 | #74

    For J.Q. , I feel it is highly unlikely I could continue to read or post on a blog where someone like Mel is tolerated. Of course, that’s what he wants to do. Drive people away.

  75. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:23 | #75

    Ikonoclast,

    Our host opened the thread with this statement:

    “I closed the last sandpit because it had collapsed into a string of personal attacks – if I get time I’ll go through and delete them. I’m opening a new one, but restating the need for civil discussion, which includes a requirement for no personal attacks on other posters.”

    How about respecting the wishes of our host?

  76. Nick
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:25 | #76

    (Sorry, correction from my previous comment – “Herman and Peterson”, not “Herman and Davidson”)

    Mel: “I see no point in engaging with you further if you don’t at least read the arguments that peer reviewed scholars on genocide, such as Jones, Caplan, Hoare, Shaw and Malvern use to dismiss them as serial fraudsters.”

    I read their responses. They presented no arguments, except to accuse Herman and Peterson of heavily basing their contention on evidence presented by the legal team of the accused genocidists. This is demonstrably false.

    There is the census data, which Alison Des Forges (is she peer-reviewed enough?) also cites in “Leave None To Tell The Story”, and based on survivor numbers, estimates the figure of Tutsis slaughtered at 500,000:

    http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/rwanda/Geno1-3-04.htm#P95_39230

    ie. within the bounds estimated by Herman and Peterson – and significantly less than the 800,000 figure Monbiot puts to print.

  77. Nick
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:25 | #77

    There is the declassified US Department of State memorandum:

    http://www.rwandahumanrights.org/docs/UNHR-US-STATE-DEPT-REPRISAL-KILLINGS-RWA.pdf

    “The September 17, 1994 debriefing of members of a UNHCR team that spent July and August, 1994 in Rwanda revealed that the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), has engaged in a pattern of systematic killing of Hutu civilians in the south and southeast of Rwanda.

    […]

    The team established that the RPA and Tutsi civilian surrogates had killed 10,000 or more Hutu civilians per month, with the RPA accounting for 95% of the killings.”

    […]

    The UNHCR team speculated that the purpose of the killing was a campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to clear certain areas in the south of Rwanda for Tutsi habitation. The killings also served to reduce the population of Hutu males and discouraged refugees from returning to claim their lands.”

  78. Nick
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:29 | #78

    And there is the Stam and Davidson working paper:

    https://bc.sas.upenn.edu/system/files/Stam_03.26.09.pdf

    Published in a journal or not, it has been extensively peer-reviewed, is cited by countless other papers, and a quick googling shows it appears in NYU’s genocide studies syllabus.

    It presents not easily dismissible evidence that Hutu deaths at the hands of both the RFP and the ruling Hutu regime, easily numbered in excess of 100,000. Des Forges recognises Hutu deaths of at least 60,000. The memorandum linked above suggests ongoing killing at a rate 10,000 a month. In excess of 100,000 is hardly an outlandish claim.

    I don’t “believe” there were more Hutu deaths than Tutsi in that first 100 days.

    I simply recognise that all of the evidence Herman and Peterson cite in support of their contention (which was not limited to 100 days) does in fact exist. In short, their sources check out. The critiques by Monbiot’s experts were not devastating. Herman and Peterson did not falsify anything. They are not serial fraudsters.

    And that in the longer run, including reprisal killings within Rwanda, and Rwanda’s subsequent invasions of the DRC, ‘more Hutus slaughtered that Tutsis’ becomes much less controversial to contend anyway.

    None of this has any bearing on their rebuttal of Pinker – it makes no difference to Pinker’s case how many Hutus or Tutsis were killed. Nobody disputes the total dead was at least 800,000, and over 5 million in the wars which ensued afterwards. Nor does it matter what Herman and Peterson’s political and personal beliefs are in relation to the motivations behind the genocide.

  79. Chris Warren
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:32 | #79

    @Nick

    Mel’s project is not to contribute to things, but to use false provocations to wage war against
    those not of its ilk.

    This is a precursor to the degenerated democracy we see in many capitalist regimes in SE Asia.

  80. Ikonoclast
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:35 | #80

    Mel is one of those absurd characters so igonorant of history, especially economic history, that he is unaware of how far the Overton Window has moved to the extreme right since 1970. Because he has only moved 3/4 as far to the right as the Overton Window, he imagines this makes him “left” on the political spectrum. Mel wouldn’t know social democratic policies if he tripped over them.

  81. Ikonoclast
    March 22nd, 2013 at 13:49 | #81

    For the record, I have no position on the fluoridation of water.

    My own (anecdotal) evidence is this. My siblings and I were given fluoride tablets as children (water supply un-fluoridated), ate the same diet and followed the same parentally enforced teeth cleaning rituals. My teeth turned out abysmal (full of dental caries), one of my siblings’ teeth turned out invulnerable to dental caries and the others fell in between.

    My wife and her siblings (when young) had no fluoride tablets, un-fluoridated water, ate the same diet and turned out with an equal range invulnerability to vulnerability to dental caries. My wife’s teeth are well-nigh invulnerable but one of her siblings has bad teeth like me. Both my offspring have invulnerable teeth like their mother including one who hardly ever cleans his teeth.

    Conclusion? Fluoride is relatively inconsequential in teeth health outcomes. Genetic inheritance plays a huge role as does avoiding sugary foods and especially sugary drinks when young. End of story. Mel should stop hyperventilating about fluroide arguments.Fluoride is not that important compared to other factors.

  82. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 14:01 | #82

    @Nick

    “None of this has any bearing on their rebuttal of Pinker – it makes no difference to Pinker’s case how many Hutus or Tutsis were killed.”

    Obviously so.

    Much of what Herman/Peterson article say doesn’t address the core of Pinker’s thesis and violent deaths in previous historical epochs is completely ignored. Chris Warren first linked to the Herman/Peterson article, presumably without having read the thing.

    You link to a Human Rights Watch document. I’m not sure if you read the Herman/Peterson article thoroughly but if did you’d be aware that Human Rights Watch is a contaminated source according to same. They say in footnotes:

    ” For a critique of Human Rights Watch’s systematic apologetics for U.S. wars, see Edward S. Herman, David Peterson, and George Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in Service to the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007.”

    I make this point only because the peer reviewed researchers who accept the mainstream narrative re the Tutsi and Bosniak genocides accuse Herman/Peterson of relying on only a small number of sources, misrepresenting many of those sources and studiously ignoring for various reasons the vast bulk of research, including pretty much the entire peer reviewed literature.

  83. March 22nd, 2013 at 14:20 | #83

    @Ikonoclast

    My argument with Qld fluoridation (and to GM labelling to some extent) is one of politics and governance.

    Secret deals involving large amounts of public money without consultation or even mounting a case – in Beattie’s words (re: Traveston Dam) “the deal is done”.

    No way to run a democracy. Unsurprisingly, people take exception to being treated that way. It is bound to raise questions such as “why?” and “cui bono?”, some people might think such questions are unreasonable – I don’t.

  84. John Quiggin
    March 22nd, 2013 at 14:31 | #84

    OK, everyone has had their say for and against Mel. I’m now going to ban Mel if he (I assume) makes any personal criticism of Megan, Chris or Ikonoklast, and vice versa. This policy is in effect immediately and permanently.

  85. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 14:55 | #85

    @Megan

    “My argument with Qld fluoridation (and to GM labelling to some extent) is one of politics and governance.”

    No it isn’t.

    You said this: “In adults with long exposure to fluoride it seems that a side-effect is weaker teeth leading to an increase in incidence of breakage.”

    If you no longer believe fluoride weakens and breaks adult teeth, say so.

    Fluoridated water is recommended by the World Health Organisation and the US Centre for Disease Control lists it as one of the ten most important health programs of the twenty-first century. Numerous studies have established teh benefits of fluoridated water.

    An example of a recent study involving a sample of 3,800 done in Australia:

    “A study published online in the Journal of Dental Research showed that adults who spent more than 75 percent of their lifetime living in fluoridated communities had 30 percent less tooth decay compared to adults who had lived less than 25 percent of their lifetime in fluoridated communities.

    “It was once thought that fluoridated drinking water only benefited children who consumed it from birth,” explained Dr. Gary Slade, the John W. Stamm Distinguished Professor and director of the oral epidemiology Ph.D. program at UNC. “Now we show that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood. In public health terms, it means that more people benefit from water fluoridation than previously thought.”

    The above study was published this month in the Journal of Dental Research.

    Ikonoclast’s claim: “Fluoride is relatively inconsequential in teeth health outcomes.” is a falsehood.

    In the interests of reasonableness, I acknowledge the falsehood is a product of ignorance and a misunderstanding of the difference between science and anecdote and not deception.

  86. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 14:57 | #86

    Sorry PrQ- didn’t see your comment. Delete my reply to M and I if you wish.

  87. Nick
    March 22nd, 2013 at 15:13 | #87

    Mel, yes I’m aware of all of that. That’s why I chose to introduce Des Forges’ work into the discussion, and thought it important to note her estimates were in fact (still) closer to Herman and Peterson’s, not Monbiot’s – and that, in sharp contrast to Monbiot’s rhetoric, Des Forges is of course willing to grant large degrees of uncertainty and inconclusiveness.

    “relying on only a small number of sources”

    Herman and Peterson heavily based their contention on the Stam and Davidson paper linked to above, which used all databases available at the time to arrive at its results. ie. it was not based on only a small number of sources.

    You can of course read it, and form your own evaluation of its findings, and the weight you think they should or should not carry, or not.

    I would also be happy to read specific criticisms of its methodology and findings from any of the peer-reviewed scholars you mention.

    The best I could find is Caplan who states “the methodology employed to arrive at such an Orwellian assertion has been totally discredited”, but fails to provide any source for when this occurred, and who by. He also accuses the authors of “gleefully drinking each other’s putrid bath water”. Forgive me if I don’t regard that as evidence of anything.

  88. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 17:04 | #88

    I imagine the mainstream peer reviewed researchers treat Herman as a leper because he has been playing the same game for 35 odd years now. As you may be aware he co-authored articles and books with Noam Chomsky about the Khmer Rouge that relied on the works of KR sympathizers and dismissed practically every negative commentator as a propagandist.

    This account of that episode seems reasonably even handed, at least by internet standards.

    Who knows, maybe Herman is right about his Propaganda Model; maybe the mainstream peer reviewed literature is corrupted; maybe Herman knows more about Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia than the professional academic researchers.

    A problem with these types of debates is that us punters don’t have direct access to the peer reviewed, or when we do we have to pay an outlandish fee to download an article. It costs $179 to download a single issue of the Journal of Genocide Research! Another problem is that many academics eschew public debate.

    Alternatively, the fringe dwellers who exist outside the tent, be it Herman on genocide or Jo Nova on AGW, have the zeal of born again Christians and an audience that eagerly wants to believe the message …

    It is about time the Left took on Big Journal. As Monbiot etc have noted, these guys are running a racket and making exorbitant profits.

  89. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 20:36 | #89

    Fluoridated water is recommended by the World Health Organisation and the US Centre for Disease Control lists it as one of the ten most important public health programs for the twenty-first century.

    Numerous studies have established the benefits of fluoridated water, including this study published earlier this year in Journal of Dental Research.:

    “A study published online in the Journal of Dental Research showed that adults who spent more than 75 percent of their lifetime living in fluoridated communities had 30 percent less tooth decay compared to adults who had lived less than 25 percent of their lifetime in fluoridated communities.

    “It was once thought that fluoridated drinking water only benefited children who consumed it from birth,” explained Dr. Gary Slade, the John W. Stamm Distinguished Professor and director of the oral epidemiology Ph.D. program at UNC. “Now we show that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood. In public health terms, it means that more people benefit from water fluoridation than previously thought.”

    Claims that fluoride doesn’t work or makes your teeth fall out is rightist propaganda.

  90. March 22nd, 2013 at 21:54 | #90

    Fascinating. Doesn’t address the argument about why it had to, literally, be shoved down Qlders’ throats without consultation or adult discussion.

    Since we’re talking about “UNC”:

    2. Dental fluorosis- For more than half a century, fluoridated drinking water has benefited public health by protecting against tooth decay. Recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the top 10 public health measures ever initiated, fluoridation has contributed to a decline in tooth decay in North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States over the last 25 years. Concurrent with the decline in tooth decay has been an increase in dental fluorosis, a developmental condition of tooth enamel. A strong correlation has been repeatedly demonstrated between the amount of fluoride consumed and the incidence of dental fluorosis. Only recently have we begun to appreciate how an individual’s genetic background influences fluorosis susceptibility and resistance. In addition to the environmental component, genetic determinants that play a role in enamel formation also influence fluorosis susceptibility or resistance. A gap of knowledge exists in understanding the molecular mechanisms of fluoride action on tooth and bone development. Using inbred strains of mice, the Everett lab has embarked on quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping as a means to identify fluorosis susceptibility and resistance genes.

    Ikon – seems you are on the money!

    http://genomics.unc.edu/faculty/webpages/everett.html

  91. March 22nd, 2013 at 23:53 | #91

    @Mel

    Ahem. Compare #14 with scientific facts in #39.

    Next!

  92. Mel
    March 22nd, 2013 at 23:56 | #92

    UK NHS on dental fluorosis:

    However, a condition called dental fluorosis can occur if a child’s teeth are exposed to too much fluoride when they are developing. This can occur if fluoride supplements are taken by children under seven years of age who live in areas where the water supply is fluoridated.

    Mild dental fluorosis can be seen as very fine pearly white lines or flecking on the surface of the teeth. It can often only be identified by a dental expert. Severe fluorosis can cause the tooth’s enamel to become pitted or discoloured. However, this is rare in the UK.

    wwwDOTnhsDOTuk/conditions/Fluoride/Pages/Introduction.aspx

    From WebMD:

    Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that affects the teeth. It’s caused by overexposure to fluoride during the first eight years of life. This is the time when most permanent teeth are being formed.

    Fluorosis first attracted attention in the early 20th century. Researchers were surprised by the high prevalence of what was called “Colorado Brown Stain” on the teeth of native-born residents of Colorado Springs. The stains were caused by high levels of fluoride in the local water supply. People with these stains also had an unusually high resistance to dental cavities. This sparked a movement to introduce fluoride into public water supplies at a level that could prevent cavities but without causing fluorosis.

    Although fluorosis is not a disease, its effects can be psychologically distressing and difficult to treat. Parental vigilance can play an important role in preventing fluorosis.

    A major cause of fluorosis the inappropriate use of fluoride-containing dental products such as toothpaste and mouth rinses. Sometimes, children enjoy the taste of fluoridated toothpaste so much that they swallow it instead of spitting it out.

    childrenDOTwebmdDOTcom/fluorosis-symptoms-causes-treatments

    It is precisely because of fluorosis, “Colorado Brown Stain”, that we first learnt that fluoride protects teeth against cavities.

    To put it in a nutshell, the fluorosis bogey is to fluoridated water as the autism bogey is to childhood vaccination.

  93. March 23rd, 2013 at 00:21 | #93
  94. Mel
    March 23rd, 2013 at 00:28 | #94

    Now I’m beside myself with fear.

    Dental fluorosis- For more than half a century, fluoridated drinking water has benefited public health by protecting against tooth decay. Recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the top 10 public health measures ever initiated, fluoridation has contributed to a decline in tooth decay in North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States over the last 25 years.

    http://genomics.unc.edu/faculty/webpages/everett.html

    Dental fluorosis can be a many splendid thing …

  95. March 23rd, 2013 at 00:42 | #95

    Don’t be afraid. Knowledge will set you free.

    As an honest contributor, I included the whole paragraph.

    I can’t speak for your motivation in leaving out the next bit:

    Concurrent with the decline in tooth decay has been an increase in dental fluorosis, a developmental condition of tooth enamel. A strong correlation has been repeatedly demonstrated between the amount of fluoride consumed and the incidence of dental fluorosis.

    Maybe you didn’t see that bit.

  96. Mel
    March 23rd, 2013 at 00:54 | #96

    Dental fluorosis protects us from tooth decay. I have it myself. I love it.

    If I didn’t have the barely detectable dental fluorosis sometimes associated with fluoridated water I’d be very cross.

  97. March 23rd, 2013 at 01:07 | #97

    Can’t have you getting cross!

    Enjoy your fluorisis. No, really.

    Now, back to the original point: why not get a mandate – or at least make it a ‘policy’ at an election – before imposing it on the citizens of Queensland without notice?

  98. March 23rd, 2013 at 01:09 | #98

    Oh, and PS: stay away from crunchy foods and wholegrains – you might get a nasty, and expensive, surprise.

  99. Mel
    March 23rd, 2013 at 01:26 | #99

    I do enjoy my fluorosis very much. It was love at first site.

    The answer to your question is simple; the public is highly suspectible to fear campaigns. Note for instance how public concern about AGW dropped like a stone after demagogues on the Right started their campaign of attacks on mainstream scientists.

    Representative democracy sucks in many ways but it is the best system we currently have.

    The death penalty would’ve been reintroduced in at least some Australian states in the 1990s according to Roy Morgan polls if public opinion decided the issue. http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2009/08/28/our-changing-views-on-the-death-penalty/

    Would you agree to the reintroduction of the death penalty if public opinion supported it? I know I wouldn’t.

    Now I must go beddy byes. Good night.

  100. Jim Rose
    March 23rd, 2013 at 07:54 | #100

    @Mel correct. Most socially progressive laws led public opinion.

    The idea of 3 year parliaments is leaders can pursuade the public that initially unpopular laws were justified and worked.

    The members of parliament are not agents, they are trustees subject to replacement

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