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May 3rd, 2014

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. Midrash
    May 3rd, 2014 at 14:49 | #1

    Why don’t we all admit, left, right, Catholic, Muslim, atheist, that when humans procreate 99 per cent of us would benefit from more children being produced by the intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused than by those exhibiting little of all that? Is it not unfortunate that eugenics was turned into a taboo word by the Nazis so we can’t even talk sensibly about the dysgenic reproductive patterns which have grown up (Protestants two or three generations ahead) in the Western world since the 1870s. Until 1943 when highly placed people became conscious of Hitlers racial homicides John Maynard Keynes (a save-capitalism lefty basically) was Vice President of the Malthusian League).

    Whether we are bright or stupid, materially successful or unsuccessful, old or young, it is prima facie in our interests that more children (and not children postponed till a stupider generation has almost grown up) should be produced by those whose children are most likely – on average of course – to be inventive, entrepreneurial, law-abiding high taxpaying fellow citizens for whatever combination of genetic and environmental causes tends to bring this about?
    And doesn’t it follow that the criticisms made of Tony Abbott’s decidedly sub-optimal scheme (early version) for helping parents were the wrong criticisms? Shouldn’t we particularly want to encourage, let’s say, a couple of 30 year old newly qualified medical specialists to have lots of children and recognise that, as they have just taken on a mortgage and need to employ a nanny it is ridiculous to treat them as rich because they have incomes which would make them very comfortable at 65 with no dependents?
    Doesn’t this line of thinking – setting anything to do with eugenics aside – lead to generosity in concessions for parents of young children right up to their 20s regardless of income? If necessary let them benefit at the expensive of some of the 80 per cent of over 65s who are getting the pension, at least in part, and therefore the heavily subsidised health care and othet voncessions as well?

  2. yuri
    May 3rd, 2014 at 21:08 | #2

    Fascinating isn’t it that none of us usual suspects want to say ANYTHING about this! Embarrassed to agree or disagree and not able to say it is stupid and so obviously wrong that no sensible person shoul demean himself by giving the respectability of serious attention.

    I don’t think I’m breaking the rule of prudent or pious omerta if I speculate that Midrash might be a proud descendant of the Grrman rabbi who wrote “Jewish Eugenics” about a hundred years ago, or wishes that he was.

  3. Ikonoclast
    May 4th, 2014 at 07:47 | #3

    Midrash’s thesis is presented in such confused language it is hard to work out precisely what he is advocating. It sounds like the old complaint that the intelligentsia and economically successful are breeding slower than the proles and so society will be swamped by proles. Rather than attempting eugenics or subsidising babies in an already over-populated world, we should make birth control and early abortion easily available for those who wish to use it. Wanted babies thrive best in every way and statistically are the more socially useful and well adapted group compared to unwanted and neglected children.

  4. May 4th, 2014 at 13:13 | #4

    I skipped over a lot of stuff in the first post on account having a short attention… Oh look, a spider! But filling in the gaps with my imagination, I am assuming he or she is arguing for more social support so no child, not matter what their parents’ social status, does not receive what they need to have the best possible chance for having a great life.

  5. Julie Thomas
    May 4th, 2014 at 13:43 | #5


    “Why don’t we all admit, left, right, Catholic, Muslim, atheist, that when humans procreate 99 per cent of us would benefit from more children being produced by the intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused than by those exhibiting little of all that? ”

    Well I don’t admit it simply because it is stupid and very wrong. But then you haven’t told us whether your IQ is high enough for you to be able to pontificate on these matters.

    Before I take you seriously perhaps you could tell me what your IQ score is? I know mine and I’ll bet you that I can match your score and probably even raise you one standard deviation.

    You do seem to have some very ordinary and old-fashioned ideas about IQ so I’m thinking you are perhaps not familiar with real IQ tests and probably have never even administered any IQ test including those SAT type paper and pencil tests which are ‘not’ in any way a reliable measure of innate ‘intelligence’.

    It really looks like you have missed out on reading about all the evidence that shows how easily influenced by external and internal stimuli people are when they do these paper and pencil tests that the Mensa wanna-be’s use.

    So you’d perhaps not understand how unscientific and how dodgy the ahem -science – is that supports this standard western view of IQ as an adequate proxy for intelligence? And yet you think you can see the pragmatics of the situation. LOL. Definitely Dunning-Kruger.

    Try listening to the stupidity of the IQ fundamentalist who is interviewed on this BBC program – you probably agree with him but listen carefully and you will see he is really stupid and Melvyn Bragg and the other guest scientist are quite kind to his stupidity overall.


  6. Fran Barlow
    May 4th, 2014 at 13:50 | #6


    That’s how I read it. Were I a rightwinger I’d cry social engineering but since I’m not I’m just going to call this offensive cant.

  7. Julie Thomas
    May 4th, 2014 at 17:32 | #7

    @Fran Barlow

    Just ignorance I think. I did post a comment with a link to an awesome BBC interview with Melvyn Bragg about IQ and intelligence, but it has been in moderation for a while now. I don’t know what I said wrong. 🙁

    The interview quite clearly makes the argument – to the frustration of the IQ fundamentalist who was one of the interviewees – that these simplistic ideas about IQ being intelligence and that this, and the other particular human abilities or attributes that this society values are a useful way of ranking people is quite unintelligent.

    The idea that Midrash has seems to be that intelligence is a fixed attribute, sort of like ‘property” that the individual owns and should use to trade their way up the ladder of success.

  8. Ikonoclast
    May 5th, 2014 at 11:16 | #8

    I see Joe Hockey has rushed to assure miners that they will keep their diesel fuel rebate. So Joe Hockey;

    (1) Hates emissions-free wind power;
    (2) Loves giving the fossil fuel rebate to the richest mining corporations; and
    (3) Wants to cut assistance to the poorest people in the community.

    Gee, ain’t he a wonderful treasurer? <- Sarcasm.

    It is so so obvious that Abbott and Hockey are governing only for the rich. If only the populace actually voted in their own self interest. The LNP would get about 10% of the vote in that case.

  9. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    May 5th, 2014 at 11:33 | #9

    Mishmash needs to look up “regression to the mean”.

  10. yuri
    May 5th, 2014 at 17:55 | #10

    I’ll let Midrash speak for himself in answer to those who claim to know lots about IQ and its significance and suggest, contrary to the internal evidence and the reasonable inference that he has probably read rather widely (did you know about Keynes and Malthusianism?). But whether he is right or wrong, relevantly learned or old (?young) fogey he could hardly be described as confusing or unclear.
    Yet again Sir Ikon you speak and think from the heart, from where your heart has been located immovably for a very long time, and you are just unhappy that anyone could believe what most sensible people have always believed (not that it is a criterion for being judged sensible – just a fact about people’s opinions), namely that bright successful people are more likely to have bright successful children (from the non-family fellow citizens point of view meaning children who are net contributors to the public revenue, invent things, start and run successful businesses, win Mabo cases for indigent clients, etc.) than the children of the unemployed and more generally those below average on any formal or informal test you like to think of involving cognitive ability. (And yes, I would support this view and that smaller but similar differences would be found on average between those who can be differentiated by say the difference between what it takes to get a secon class honours degree and those who scrape a pass degree in social work or political science). I presume that you are smart enough to follow Midrash’s reasoning based on undeniable statistical facts (and largely independent of genetics though I would submit that heredity is also important) so it must be that you share God’s love of the poor inferred from his making so many of them… Damn, got that one wrong: I was thinking of Haldane (the lefty not the Lord Chancellor) on God’s love of beatles.

  11. yuri
    May 5th, 2014 at 18:03 | #11

    @Nevil Kingston-Brown
    I can’t imagine Midrash needs to do any such elementary thing but, since you pose as some kind of expert by your supercilious intervention, I would be interested to know what the expected (I.e average) regression to the mean would be where both parents had IQs of 145 (3 sds on most tests). And please explain the significance of the population that you class them with/in and what population mean you choose for the regression in question.

  12. J-D
    May 5th, 2014 at 18:32 | #12

    If Midrash knows of some quick, simple, cheap, and easy method for dividing the population into those who are ‘intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused’ and those who are not, then I would like to hear about it. I don’t believe there is any such method. Indeed, if Midrash knows of some method for dividing the population into those who are ‘intelligent, energetic, balanced, disciplined and focused’ and those who are not, being a method that is slow, complicated, expensive, and difficult, so long as it is reliable, I would still like to hear about it.

    There’s no effective method for encouraging members of one of those groups to have more children if we have no reliable way of distinguishing them from members of the other in the first place.

  13. J-D
    May 5th, 2014 at 18:35 | #13

    If somebody puts forward an argument and nobody responds to it, one possible explanation is that they have no effective response; but another possible explanation is that they find the argument, or the person advancing it, too boring.

  14. Midrash
    May 6th, 2014 at 00:15 | #14

    @Julie Thomas
    I’m sorry if I sometimes betray my enjoyment of a savage tradition of argument but you really do remind me of a couple of once prodigious sisters I knew whose very sharp brother finally let off “they are the living proof that very high IQ is compatible with great foolishness”. I doubt your “very high IQ” but, anyway, I’ll let you down lightly with “naiveté”. Not a random insult by the way (and don”t you like my Tony Blair/Ed Miliband verbless sentence? Can be tactically useful.). No your naiveté is demonstrated in your own invitation for me to believe whatever you might say about your IQ and the truly ludicrous idea you put forward that I might proffer my latest or maybe highest IQ score (not cribbing by quoting a Cattell score of course) honestly. (Actually some of my friends might notice and say “what are you doing playing round – in a sandpit, how appropriate – with those #@$/&^).

    Did I see you at the last ISIR conference at Swinburne in Melbourne? Not invited? Not invited again this year to the one in Austria? If you’ve got a promising PhD thesis on the go and are not too long in the tooth an airfare might be found for you.
    A moment of modesty to match your immodesty. Of my correspondents in North America I am sure three or four are to use the terminology of the youngest and brashest “Six Sigmas” and it flatters me tha they give me the time of day both in correspondence and in person though I was too slow to point out to the brash one when he described one of the others as dealing with yesterday’s issues that the other was quite famous for being recorded as what might be called a “Seven and a half Sigma” – and very effective in intellectual and political combat to boot.

    I started to open your link, but, really! A half hour with Melvyn Bragg in 1999! Is that where you are up to? I half expected you to quote the egregious (though readable despite being dishonest in the Marxist-Leninist tradition) Stephen Jay Gould or maybe from further back Leon Kamin.
    If you want to be left and honest and well unformed you need to show acquaintance at least with James R.Flynn and at least his “What is Intelligence: Beyond the Flynn Effect” and with recent cogent criticisms – in The American Conservative of all places – of the work of Lynn and Vanhenen, especially “IQ and the wealth of nations”.

    And that’s only the less heavily technical stuff.

    You rashly use the word “stupid” but I’ll let that pass except to say that is your post which seems to exhibit a difficulty in handling complexity and functions with multiple variables and values over a considerable range which require one to be very careful not to be too absolute or black and white, even one has firmly grasped that averages are what one has to talk about, or, with a little more precision probabilities. (And I’m not denying a place for discontinuities; e.g. where Fragile X Syndrome could destroy a great intellectual heritage).

    Where I wonder did you get the idea that I might regard intelligence as some fixed property to be owned and exploited. That, with respect, is something that I might expect to find in someone as apparently isolated from conversation with seriously and energetically intelligent people as I infer you to be. As I have made clear I regard the attributes of brain and mind which correlate strongly with scores on well designed IQ tests as quite highly predictive (as consequently IQ scores are) of what most people regard as success in life in the sense that it is unlikely – very unlikely – that a random sample of 100 people with IQ score 120 (or the equivalent in some other measure of cognitive ability or proxy test of intelligence in a given society will do as well (including pay as much tax) as a similarly chosen group with IQs of 130. Of course life experience and specialist knowledge will count more and more as people age but it is also true, that, from infancy to old age, success tends to build on success. (It is sometimes overlooked that the intelligence of a very young child can have a major effect on its environment, e.g. in being taught all softs of things early because it is so rewarding to (some/most) parents).
    Sorry, got to get the anti-boredom shot or just sleep. Why waste my time with people whose emotions and ideology make them think they know it all when, quite apart from not switching on their powers of observation and cerebration they appear to be innocent of any substantial knowledge of the literature or research. Yes, I mean you: there’s lots of reading and thinking to do for those who are capable.

  15. May 6th, 2014 at 00:52 | #15

    Who left the gate open?

    This knob-head can’t decide when to use commas. He has no idea when he’s opened brackets and might later close them.

    This is what we would get more of if we allowed people who think they have enormous “I.Q.” to decide who should breed. Apparently they inter-breed as a preference.

  16. May 6th, 2014 at 00:54 | #16

    Maybe it’s one of those badly developed word-bots doing A.I.?

    Its “intelligence” is obviously “artificial”.

  17. J-D
    May 6th, 2014 at 08:21 | #17

    You say you’re sorry if you sometimes betray enjoyment of a savage tradition of argument.

    But that’s not true. You’re not sorry at all.

  18. TerjeP
    May 6th, 2014 at 09:54 | #18

    Slightly tangential but it’s the sandpit. IQ is increasing.

    Flynn effect
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Flynn effect is the substantial and long-sustained increase in both fluid and crystallized intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from roughly 1930 to the present day. When intelligence quotient (IQ) tests are initially standardized using a sample of test-takers, by convention the average of the test results is set to 100 and their standard deviation is set to 15 or 16 IQ points. When IQ tests are revised, they are again standardized using a new sample of test-takers, usually born more recently than the first. Again, the average result is set to 100. However, when the new test subjects take the older tests, in almost every case their average scores are significantly above 100.

    Test score increases have been continuous and approximately linear from the earliest years of testing to the present. For the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test, subjects born over a 100-year period were compared in Des Moines, Iowa, and separately in Dumfries, Scotland. Improvements were remarkably consistent across the whole period, in both countries.[1] This effect of an apparent increase in IQ has also been observed in various other parts of the world, though the rates of increase vary.[2]

  19. J-D
    May 6th, 2014 at 17:22 | #19

    According to the Wikipedia article on the Malthusian League, it was dissolved in 1927, so Keynes cannot have been its Vice-President until 1943. Perhaps you have access to more reliable information (or perhaps, let’s face it, you don’t). But in any case it’s irrelevant. Neither the merit of any good arguments offered by the Malthusian League nor the demerit of any bad arguments they offered would be affected, one way or the other, by the status of Keynes (or anybody else) as an adherent. It is said that Newton was an alchemist and astrologer: if true, this would add no credibility to alchemy or astrology, nor would it affect, one way or the other, the merits of Newton’s work as a physicist.

  20. alfred venison
    May 6th, 2014 at 20:03 | #20

    for the record, the director of the former human genome project is a home schooled fundamentalist.

    also, richard wagner co-procreated with franz liszt’s daughter, cosima. their son, siegfried, was a mediocre composer.

    also, mozart’s father wan’t much of a composer, but his son was a genius; as a young boy wolfgang wrote to his mother he had six completed works in his head and only the time on coach trips to write them out. his son, though, was a mediocre composer.

    also, beethoven’s father was a mediocre bass player and a drunk who beat his wife in front of his children and beat his children. mahler’s dad wasn’t very nice either.

    and, johann strauss the second’s father, the famous johann strauss the first, disowned him when he began to compose.

    does this stuff – i.q. primarily via genetic endowment – skip a generation?

    on the other hand, the reasonably talented film composer john corrigliano’s dad was concert master of the new york philharmonic under toscanini and bernstein.

    so maybe its family too. -a.v.

  21. May 6th, 2014 at 21:56 | #21

    And also worth mentioning, maybe, is that Ayn Rand (born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum) died penniless in New York in 1982 a drug addict living on social security and using medicare.

    The one perennial aspect of human society is that fascists, sociopaths & psychopaths will always try to ascend and will always, eventually, be driven back to pariah status.

    It’s happening now, thankfully.

  22. alfred venison
    May 6th, 2014 at 22:01 | #22

    don’t count your chickens before the hatch. -a.v.

  23. May 7th, 2014 at 00:33 | #23

    I think the fascists have done just that. And they over-counted.

  24. Terje
    May 7th, 2014 at 04:39 | #24

    Megan – My understanding is that social security was collected for Ayn Rand by those who had power of attorney. And during her life Ayn Rand wrote that it is reasonable for people to collect state entitlements even thought the system of state entitlements isn’t. I don’t know if she died a drug addict but she is said to have been a user of amphetamines (ie speed) for much of her life so it wouldn’t be too big a surprise if she used drugs towards the end of her life. She was also big on nicotine. But using drugs isn’t something that should necessarily be stigmatized. Lots of people use drugs of one form or another for a variety of reasons. Nor is it hypocrisy because she opposed drug prohibition.

    Your implied message that she was a fascist, sociopath or psychopath is rubbish. Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism which is pretty much the complete opposite of what she stood for. But words like “racist” and “fascist” often don’t seem to mean anything anymore having become little more than cursing words used by irate left wingers on blogs to disparage people they don’t agree with. You misogynist you.

  25. Terje
  26. JKUU
    May 7th, 2014 at 08:04 | #26


    As scholarship, Rand’s written works are not taken seriously among English, Economics, Philosophy, or Political Science Departments in Universities, according to Alan Wolfe’s article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 19, 2012).

    When younger, I tried reading her novels. I quit “The Fountainhead,” nauseated, after about 50 pages.

    Let me quote from Wolfe, because I couldn’t say it any better: “Rand’s “thought,” such as it is, boils down to two propositions. One is that selfishness is the highest of moral virtues. The other is that the masses, above all resentful of success, are parasites living off the hard work of capitalists far superior to them in every way.”

  27. Ikonoclast
    May 7th, 2014 at 08:25 | #27


    If IQ’s are increasing, on average globally, then maybe it is due to;

    (a) better nutrition;
    (b) less disease; and
    (c) maybe an effect of more cross-cultural education and multi-langualisim.

    Point (c) would make relatively smaller the pool of people whose intellectual skills were good but not suited to IQ tests.

  28. Ikonoclast
    May 7th, 2014 at 08:29 | #28

    Oops typo! I meant “multi-lingualism”.

    Under the heading of “cognitive ability” in Wikipedia.

    “Bilinguals who are highly proficient in two or more languages are reported to have enhanced executive function and are better at some aspects of language learning compared to monolinguals. Research indicates that a multilingual brain is nimbler, quicker, better able to deal with ambiguities, resolve conflicts, and resist Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia longer.”

  29. Paul Norton
    May 7th, 2014 at 10:56 | #29

    On my own idee fix, in parts of the world it is still the day that Israelis call Independence Day and Palestinians call Nakba Day. A post on a friend’s Facebook wall has brought home to me that one of the difficulties of achieving a resolution of the conflict is that important stakeholders and actors come to it on the basis of completely different and incommensurable metaphysical paradigms.

    From my perspective, the conflict arises from human actions and will be resolved by human actions and human reason, including a recognition that there are two peoples involved, both of whom meet the necessary criteria to be considered nations and therefore both of whom have the right to self-determination in two independent sovereign states. What the borders of those two states are and how they are constituted, among other matters to be resolved, are legitimate subjects for democratic political deliberation, negotiation and, almost certainly if the conflict is to be resolved, compromise.

    However, Mitt Romney (who did not fall far short of becoming the current POTUS), is on record as describing the West Bank as “the lands given to Abraham”. The problem with this sort of thinking, which is obviously not limited to Romney and not limited to any one side of the conflict, is that competing faith-based claims that all of the land in dispute was given by the Deity to one people or another are not amenable to democratic deliberation, negotiation or compromise. Also, these beliefs lend themselves on both sides to what Max Weber described as an “ethic of ultimate ends” and militate against a Weberian “ethic of political responsibility” which is badly needed yet has too often been in short supply on both sides.

  30. J-D
    May 7th, 2014 at 14:44 | #30

    @Paul Norton
    Some people analyse the issue within still a different paradigm, one which is not overtly religious but which treats the issue not as one for resolution by politics or negotiation but as a criminal matter for investigation and prosecution to determine which party is guilty of what crimes and has justly incurred which penalties.

  31. TerjeP
    May 7th, 2014 at 16:50 | #31

    Ikonoclast – I suspect you are right in terms of a) and b). Not convinced about c). But I think the biggest factor is that IQ tends to measure abstract reasoning and our culture now reinforces this ability more so than it used to. Our ancestors were intelligent but less so in ways reflected in IQ scores and more in ways that were practical in their times.

  32. alfred venison
  33. May 8th, 2014 at 00:43 | #33

    “Stanford to divest from coal companies”

    Acting on a recommendation of Stanford’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, the Board of Trustees announced that Stanford will not make direct investments in coal mining companies. The move reflects the availability of alternate energy sources with lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

    The total value of the endowment was $18.7 billion as of Aug. 31, 2013, the close of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

    Nice work, kudos, good for Stanford etc., etc., but…. they have $18.7 billion dollars? Harks back to that recent post about Oz unis trying to pretend to be like these US giants.

  34. JKUU
    May 8th, 2014 at 01:37 | #34


    I think that only Harvard and Yale have higher endowments than Stanford. Several dozen private and public universities in the U.S. have endowments of a billion or more. In the U.K. the Oxbridge pair have endowments of around 5 billion Euros. I was surprised to learn that 4 Australian universities have billion dollar endowments.

    Fund raising for capital campaigns or endowment from corporations, rich alumni, and philanthropies is a major activity at American colleges and universities. Income derived from invested endowment is a good way to maintain or increase institutional “excellence.” I wonder how Australian universities spend their endowment income?

  35. Fran Barlow
    May 8th, 2014 at 10:18 | #35

    Unhappily, when I turned on ABC News last night, I caught part of a story on the shark cull in WA. Speaking as someone who cares for and about animals, I found the footage of sharks on drum lines seriously confronting, and began to experience the physiological responses associated (for me) with outrage and profound sadness. The consequences of the ignorant, bloody minded, self-serving cruelty of it all was in plain view. It was also clear that the program was an utter failure. Not one Great White had been trapped (given it’s a protected species, I am glad of that), and since control of the numbers of this species were the official warrant for this program, by definition, the programs has failed. People are at just as much of a tiny risk of being attacked by a Great White. Barnett is clearly lying in saying the program was a success.

    What is even more galling was that the WA government has tried to prevent activists releasing injured sharks, and likewise demanded that they surrender video footage on pain of being charged with criminal obstruction. Clearly, the Barnett regime, despite its boasting of success, wants, like Morrison on asylum seekers, to hide from the public the pointless cruelty he is inflicting, and to prevent them knowing the depth of commitment and courage some people bear towards the integrity of the marine environment. Those pictures are harming them and apparently, in their view, free speech must yield to regime service.

    Truly, there is no profanity which lies beyond the whim of contemporary governance.

  36. Fran Barlow
    May 8th, 2014 at 14:50 | #36

    In the topic A Rose by any other name a short while back, PrQ opined that we Greens ought to back the Abbott levy on the basis that it comported with our support for a more progressive tax system. I objected on a number of grounds, the most important of which was the question of good process. Absent good process, there simply was no reason for thinking this was a reasonable first step towards a more equitable settling of the burdens and benefits of the tax and transfer system. And of course, the ‘process’ attending this leaked proposal was about as bad as it could conceivably be.

    In the time since this post I’ve had some time to mull over these issues with fellow Greens and supporters and it does seem that my views on this are broadly reflective of what I’d call a straw poll. Reportedly — and I don’t know if this is true — Christine Milne called the ‘deficit levy’ Abbott’s ‘Juliar moment’. I’ve also since heard it speculated that a new threshold of $150k is being mooted for the levy, which, if true would make the levy worth a lot less than the $2.5bn being talked about initially. I haven’t done the modelling, but it seems likely that the MRRT might raise as much in a mediocre year for commodities. What this also means is that the levy would fall almost exclusively on wealthy Liberal voters, probably living in blue ribbon coalition seats.

    This sudden shift underlines what I said about good process, and why there really was nothing in practice to support. Had we backed the first kite, we would have looked mighty silly right now. I doubt we will back this one either. That said, it might be fun if the opposition agreed to pass it subject to a change in the name of the bill to: The Abbott Surprises, Excuses and Total Lies Tax Bill.

    They could argue that they don’t want to stop the government raising money if it feels this is urgent to address a problem they have, but that it should only be passed with a name that properly acknowledges the duplicity the government has brought to the process. That might well be the kind of compromise we Greens might think worth the trade.

  37. May 9th, 2014 at 00:40 | #37

    Wondering why suddenly the Thai “justice” system has decided to act against ‘Yingluck’?

    You win a stuffed teddy-bear if you correctly guessed: “Um, it couldn’t have been the corruption or greed, did she piss off the U.S.?”

    Rice subsidies[edit]

    Rice production in Thailand employs approximately two-thirds of the population, causing friction over US rice subsidies
    Since the 1980s, US farm subsidies for rice, along with copyright and patent issues, have constituted the “major problems in U.S.-Thai trade ties”.[24] The rice subsidy was one of the primary obstacles to the negotiation of a bilateral FTA.[25] Approximately two-thirds of Thailand’s population are rice farmers, and the U.S. subsidy “severely strains U.S.-Thai relations as Bangkok finds itself unable to explain the income lost to its 35 million rice farmers”.[24] USDA-funded research to produce variants of Jasmine rice capable of growing in the US are viewed as biopiracy by many Thai rice farmers.[26] In 2005, Thai rice farmers gathered outside the US embassy to chant a “traditional ritual to bring misfortune to enemies”.[26] Farmer protests also occurred outside the US embassy during the 2001 WTO ministerial meeting in Doha.[27]

    Thai officials “sharply criticized” the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, and retaliated by joining two WTO dispute resolution cases against the US: one against anti-dumping subsidy offsets, and the Shrimp-Turtle Case.[28] According to Oxfam, the US spends $1.3 billion on rice subsidies annually for a crop that costs $1.8 billion to grow, allowing the US to become the second largest global rice exporter (after Thailand) and dump rice at 34% below the cost of production.[26] Following the election of Obama and the 2008 global financial crisis, there are Thai fears of renewed US protectionism.[22]

    Thanks Wikipedia.

  38. May 9th, 2014 at 14:53 | #38

    another great year for SOEs in NZ

    $20 billion in state owned enterprises equity
    $20 million in net returns to the taxpayer.

    a net rate of return of 0.2%

  39. Daniel
    May 9th, 2014 at 16:53 | #39

    An interesting article, a good point is made about being cautious in introducing a levy for the wealthy (normally a good thing) at a time when the government is reducing its spending and spending in general is decrease, a kind of austerity measure, instead of Labor’s strong Keynesian implementations https://theconversation.com/the-state-of-australia-the-economy-26230

  40. Ivor
    May 9th, 2014 at 17:14 | #40

    @Fran Barlow

    Taxing the rich, over a threshold, should be supported by every fair-minded individual.

    Nit-picking ‘the process’ misses the point.

  41. May 9th, 2014 at 18:45 | #41

    @Ivor is not taxing the rich, over a threshold, not contrary to rawls’ conception of distributive justice?

    Rawls lent qualified support to the idea of a flat-rate consumption tax (see A Theory of Justice, pp. 278-79). He said that:

    A proportional expenditure tax may be part of the best scheme [and that adding such tax] can contain all the usual exemptions.

    The reason why Rawls lent qualified support to the idea of a flat-rate consumption tax was because these taxes:

    impose a levy according to how much a person takes out of the common store of goods and not according to how much he contributes.

    A simple way to have a progressive consumption tax is to exempt all savings from taxation. Taxable consumption is income minus savings minus a large standard deduction.

  42. Hermit
    May 9th, 2014 at 22:27 | #42

    Fuel excise vs carbon tax. The latter stands at $24.15 per tonne of CO2 unless exempted. The excise on road use petrol and diesel is 38.1 c per litre. That litre of petrol burns to produce 2.5kg of CO2 along with water vapour and other combustion products. Thus we’d need 400 L of petrol to get a tonne of CO2 for which the excise would be 400 X $0.381 = $152.40. That’s carbon tax on steroids.

    The excise on jet fuel is 9.8c per litre which we recall was blamed for the woes of Qantas. My understanding is that farmers and miners got a 50% excise rebate (ie 19c) for some years as they claimed they were not using public roads. That rebate went to 100% under the Gillard government.

    Google ATO Legal Database Excise Tariff for more info. During the heyday of the now defunct Oil Drum website (30,000 hits per day) some claimed retail petrol prices would hit an affordability ceiling probably under $3/L. That is we wouldn’t pay more we just wouldn’t drive. That day nudges ever closer.

  43. Ivor
    May 9th, 2014 at 23:57 | #43

    @Jim Rose

    Distributive justice demands being contrary to Rawl’s conception of a flat consumption tax in a society where:

    1) there is a prior maldistribution of goods or opportunities, or where

    2) much consumption is supplied by private entities or under exclusive contracts.

    Progressive taxation is “to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society”. This is more consistent with Rawls.

  44. May 10th, 2014 at 01:04 | #44

    If there’s a Weekend thread I’ll flesh this out more there, otherwise I’ll come back here.

    There are alleged to be some girls kidnapped in Nigeria. Anyone on Twitter would probably have seen #BringOurGirlsBack by now.

    In a nutshell: This Is BS!

    It is a US psy-ops under AFRICOM to excuse ‘Regime Change’ in Nigeria (for some weird reason apparently Mr Jonathon is not to their liking, or maybe they just need to bomb hell out of his country – not sure which).

    This is #KONY all over again. I’m still surprised people fall for it.

    Good old Gareth Evans is one of the world leaders of the fascist/US-imperialist ‘Responsibility 2 Protect’ (R2P) doctrine that results in destroying villages to save them.

    If this was really genuine it wouldn’t require so much obvious PR and deliberate dishonesty.

    For example: the three most re-tweeted images of “kidnapped” girls were actually filmed in Guinea in 2000 (about 1000 miles from Nigeria) and they are still happily living in Guinea. The pix were used without attribution because they obviously looked good. There is a piece on NYT about it along with an interview with the, very displeased, photographer.

    Just now on ABC online I see a story about a nice young girl who has started a “Change.Org” petition. There is a picture of her and her mother, lots of syrupy stuff about “caring” and so on. Unless I’m mistaken, her mother works for the AMWU. That could be an inconsequential detail not worthy of mention, or it could be integral to the real story.

    If the “West” is going to bomb hell out of yet another country under the false pretext of protecting people, I want ALL the dirty details up front rather than after the event.

  45. Fran Barlow
    May 10th, 2014 at 06:51 | #45


    I’m nitpicking you say? Process doesn’t matter. The way humans interact with each other is a mere ‘nit’ to be picked. Empowerment should be zero-rated, culturally. The base upon which progress stands is immaterial.

    So much is implied in so few words. I’d congratulate you for your brevity, but your phrase is utterly trite, and a substitute for thought. It marks you as an indolent friend of the status quo.

  46. Fran Barlow
    May 10th, 2014 at 07:33 | #46

    It was May 8 the other day. This was the 69th anniversary of the collapse of the Nazi regime. I tweeted as follows:

    It’s now 69 years since the Nazi regime collapsed. Let’s recall the blood lust of unfettered capitalism & the courage of those who fought it.

    Admittedly, the language is florid and a tweet such as that is unlikely to issue from anyone who isn’t an avowing lefty, but really, it wasn’t, to my mind, at least, controversial. There’s little controversy amongst serious folk that the Nazi regime was capitalist, at least in the sense that the German capitalist class of the time supported it in preference to the other options at the time, or that they profited mightily from its policy, at least until they were ruined by the losing war. Companies like Daimler Benz used slave labour. The phrase ‘unfettered capitalism’ seems apt.

    As it goes, a fellow known to this blog ad Sinclair Davidson retweeted it, releasing whole hordes of figurative flying monkeys, who were not slow in venting their angst. People self-describing as “conservative” “libertarian” “patriot” “vet” “Texan” “republican” sporting images of themselves in front of US flags holding guns variously assailed me for what they took to be my poisonous impact on children, my ignorance of History, my unfitness to teach and so on.

    The most commonly advanced objection was that the Nazis were really soc!alists, and hadn’t I noticed that the word was in the name of the party? Many of them must have thought they were the first to think of this stunning objection. It may even be so that some imagined I hadn’t been aware of this and had never wondered how this might be so. It was amusing, initially, though ultimately, more than a little sad.

    Others objected that capitalists had fought the Nazis, having failed to think through the implication of Bolsheviks splitting with Mensheviks over the question of taking a side in imperialist wars. Again, coming from folk who accused me of not knowing my History, it was breathtaking.

    Still others complained that capitalists were fettered in Germany because they couldn’t do free trade, or cited H!tler condemning proletarian emancipation as the most brutal form of capitalism, again without seeing that this really didn’t help their case for Nazis as soc!alists at all. Some cited him saying capitalism knew no national boundaries forgetting that every capitalist country asserts them under the rubric of sovereignty. Again, this was breathtaking.

    One self-described libertarian asserted that teachers like me were a compelling argument for privatising education — presumably on the basis that this measure would offer a more robust Cordon sanitaire for children Against intellectual or cultural deviance. Again, the irony was lost on him.

    You never know what you will find on Twitter. Many of the objectors had fewer than 20 tweets, indicating perhaps that they had set these accounts up merely to troll me, and impress me with how many folk were violently offended by my apparent assertion that bloodlust was part and parcel with capitalism.

    I resist the inference that US capitalism has disproportionately damaged the minds of Americans, relative to capitalism in other jurisdictions, but episodes like this do incline me to this view. The outpouring of bile, ignorance and angst that this fairly uncontroversial claim provoked from people overwhelmingly identifying with the most barbaric of human impulses is hard to ignore.

  47. Hermit
    May 10th, 2014 at 08:22 | #47

    Clarification on excise and jet fuel; the excise was increased by 5.6c per litre which is equivalent to a carbon tax on jet exhaust. However a Qantas publicity campaign said carbon tax specifically was costing them $106m a year which they were unable to fully pass on. Their website urges flyers to buy offsets to enjoy a clear conscience. Somehow saving the bilby reduces CO2 in the atmosphere. Flying in a fully occupied Boeing 737 is said to be as CO2 intensive per kilometre as driving a 4WD as the sole occupant.

    Therefore a component of jet fuel excise is now earmarked for the role of carbon tax but this is not the case for petrol used in cars.

  48. Ivor
    May 10th, 2014 at 10:02 | #48

    @Fran Barlow
    Ok I will nit-pick.

    There is a difference between:

    Nit-picking ‘the process’ misses the point.



    Process doesn’t matter.


    Are you a Trotskyite?

  49. alfred venison
    May 10th, 2014 at 10:24 | #49

    Ernest Mandel (author of the acclaimed Late Capitalism) outlines his view that the war was in fact a combination of several distinct struggles and a battle between rival imperialisms for world hegemony

    i read mandel’s book “the meaning of ww2” when i was a student & was impressed. i read it again this year & i’m still impressed. its the best book i’ve read on ww2. if someone asked me to recommend a good book about ww2, i urge them to read mandel’s first. -a.v.

  50. Fran Barlow
    May 10th, 2014 at 10:48 | #50


    If you have a formal objection, you will need to make it more explicit than that. For the record, I haven’t been self describing as a Trotskyist for nearly a decade. I would now regard myself as a left social democrat.

  51. Ron E Joggles
    May 10th, 2014 at 10:56 | #51

    Megan :
    There are alleged to be some girls kidnapped in Nigeria. Anyone on Twitter would probably have seen #BringOurGirlsBack by now.
    In a nutshell: This Is BS!

    Megan, this is an extraordinary claim – can you support it with evidence, rather than anti-US hysteria?

  52. Donald Oats
    May 10th, 2014 at 13:25 | #52

    If the government were serious about ensuring that people with a disability and have a capacity to work actually get suitable work, then there would be some plan for building a bridge back from employers and their notion of what constitutes an acceptable employee, back to the disabled person. I see no such sign of that so far, and in any case, it needs to be preceded with a fairly major discussion about our current preconceptions, especially the idea that only the most efficient and productive worker is suitable for a given job. Many disabled people cannot possibly jump that high a hurdle; in fact, by its very nature, most people cannot. Putting genuinely disabled people into the workforce really needs serious thinking about just how it would work in practice. Pushing people off of disability pensions is not an incentive: if it happens, it is simply perverse.

    Finally, if someone is rejected by a doctor as not “disabled” per the disability pension, it does not necessarily follow that they are not actually disabled! The problem is that the word “disabled” is being loaded with two quite distinct meanings, meanings that are potentially far apart.

  53. May 10th, 2014 at 15:58 | #53

    @Ron E Joggles

    The “BS” part was a separate paragraph: I.e. the “campaign” on Twitter is BS.

    From the NYT interview with the photographer (Ami Vitale):

    This is about misrepresentation.

    These photos have nothing to do with those girls who were kidnapped. These girls are from Guinea-Bissau, and the story I did was about something completely different. They have nothing to do with the terrible kidnappings. Can you imagine having your daughter’s image spread throughout the world as the face of sexual trafficking? These girls have never been abducted, never been sexually trafficked.

    This is misrepresentation.

    On May 6th In Gamboru Ngala, 3 1/2 hours away from Chibok, 336 people were killed.

    Silence from western media and the “concernosphere”.

    The details of the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok on 14 or 15 April are still vague with numbers ranging from about 80 to over 300.

    As the US/Nigerian writer Teju Cole put it:

    “Boko Haram killed more human beings yesterday than the total number of girls they kidnapped three weeks ago. Horrifying, and unhashtagable.”

    The US recently built a drone base in Nigeria. The Nigerian military summarily and extrajudicially executes people, including over 600 in March.

    The US & UK are sending “help” – it is vaguely described but certainly includes ‘special force’ type military.

    Nigeria has, from memory, the third largest oil reserves in the world. On February 20th Goodluck Jonathan sacked the central-bank governor, Mr Lamido Sanusi, two weeks after Sanusi presented evidence to parliament that $20 billion had gone missing from the state oil company.

    Nigeria’s problems are many and complex and only certain to get much more deadly for Nigerians if a bogus twitter campaign provides the excuse for the US to “help” (which translates to: invade/bomb/change regime).

  54. Julie Thomas
    May 10th, 2014 at 17:16 | #54


    lol The Melvyn Bragg interview is very awesome and despite being old is still relevant as there is no more recent evidence for your viewpoint, despite all the searching from the people who want a way to judge and rank people.

    Humans are not horses you know. Breeding is not the most important thing in developing a human mind that functions as well as it can; unless you consider breeding to include the way a child is raised as this is how intelligence develops.

    Fancy doubting my claim to have an IQ score over 2 standard deviations from the mean last time it was measured. Dude why would anyone lie about that? The point was I have a really high IQ but I’ve not been very successful at all in this neo-liberal society so obviously there is a problem and it isn’t me lying. lol

    Intelligence is social; not something that resides in the individual.

    Boyd, Richerson and Henrich, “argue that humans may be smarter than other creatures, but none of us is nearly smart enough to acquire all of the information necessary to survive in any single habitat.

    In even the simplest foraging societies, people depend on a vast array of tools, detailed bodies of local knowledge, and complex social arrangements and often do not understand why these tools, beliefs, and behaviors are adaptive.

    We owe our success to our uniquely developed ability to learn from others.”


  55. alfred venison
    May 10th, 2014 at 17:32 | #55

    nigeria is no 11 in oil reserves, if its exact rank matters to your case. -a.v.

  56. Megan
    May 10th, 2014 at 18:26 | #56

    @alfred venison

    Thanks. The point was only important to the extent that Nigeria has lots of oil (sweet light) and vast amounts of gas.

  57. Ron E Joggles
    May 10th, 2014 at 20:03 | #57

    @Megan Thank you for the clarification – and for the additional information. Very concerning.

  58. Ikonoclast
    May 10th, 2014 at 20:18 | #58

    @alfred venison

    I looked at the reserve figures in Wikipedia. These reserve figures are highly dubious IMO. You will notice that Venezeula heads it and that V’s reserve figures have gone up massively recently. Govts make these figures up pretty much. And much of heavy oil and tar sand reserves are likely to be unrecoverable for all sorts of practical reasons. In short, reserve figures are total bulldust. Look at oil production. If countries have got oil and can produce it they are producing it. The oil industry is a mature industry and most of the world is prospected. Production now is a good proxy for future production capability (allowing for peak oil and subsequent decline of course).

  59. Megan
    May 10th, 2014 at 21:46 | #59

    @Ron E Joggles

    I should clarify further.

    The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was probably not originally bogus (although I have some reservations about that. The phrase was taken from a speech by the World Bank’s Nigerian representative at an event declaring a Nigerian city to be the ‘best’ World City by some criteria or other, I’d have to look up the details again. A Nigerian lawyer first tweeted it with the hashtag, and although he is connected to the Christian Association of Nigeria, it seems to have been genuinely aimed at getting their government to pay attention.)

    However, a week or so later it was taken up by US ‘NGOs’ as well as other groups who – I believe – have less altruistic motivations and it has run from there. There was even a bit of an online scuffle when some US person (a name like “Mayflower” from memory??) went on the TV rounds claiming they had started the hashtag.

    The school is described as “Government” but is actually run by the Christian Association of Nigeria. The Terrrrsts are – predictably – described as drooling savages who hate our values and freedoms etc, etc, ‘TM’ & so on.

    It is telling that Hillary Clinton joined in tweeting that terrrrsts must be stopped and little girls must be allowed to get a (christian) education. Reminded me immediately of excuse 3 or 4 for the US devastations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  60. alfred venison
    May 10th, 2014 at 22:38 | #60

    ok, same source, same caveats: by oil production nigeria’s number thirteen. my point was its not number three, whatever measure, whatever source.

    i agree that countries ,massage stated reserve estimates for political reasons, but i’ll say this for venuzuela, at the start of the 21st century & using state of the art technology, at least they have surveyed their oil producing territory within living memory. i am told by personal communication the survey’s used today to calculate reserves of oil & gas in places like azerbaijan were conducted by the soviet union before the 1970s. -a.v.

  61. May 11th, 2014 at 01:24 | #61

    And the not entirely hopeless EIA says that Nigerian reserves are probably under-estimated because they haven’t been updated for a while.

    As I said, my flying guess at its placement in ‘reserves’ was not really the point. The point is that this has more to do with oil than it does with concern over school girls. That stands.

    In fact, I see ABC now has another story about Michelle Obama taking the unusual step of filling in for the president to do his weekly radio show – she is talking about how we must free the little girls (I’m guessing this is at least partly due to the internet backlash featuring comments such as: “Your husband has killed more women and girls with drones than these guys have kidnapped”. Ouch, good point though.)

    What else is happening in Nigeria at the moment:

    LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria should break up its long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to speed its passage through parliament, Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke said on Friday.

    The big piece of legislation aims to reform oil taxes and licences and overhaul the structure of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

    It has been more than five years in the making and has not passed because of political wrangling over its many clauses. Oil majors are also unhappy about proposed fiscal terms.

    Uncertainty while it is being debated has held up billions of dollars worth of exploration and production. President Goodluck Jonathan sent the latest draft of the bill to lawmakers almost two years ago.

    “I think that it (PIB) should actually be broken up at this point in time if that will allow it to move forward,” Alison-Madueke said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Abuja, Nigeria.

    “We have been pondering for some time now. Of course that’s something we have to look at alongside the National Assembly,” she said.

    Most onshore oil production has been ‘shut in’ because the locals seem to have issues with being left out of the big oil-wealth party that’s been going on since about 1977, and they have been making life tricky for the foreign majors.

    If only someone could find a way to free up that million bpd…..

  62. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 03:37 | #62

    The story that the kidnapping of the girls in Nigeria is only US psy-ops is itself a psy-ops story. Don’t believe everything you read.

  63. Ikonoclast
    May 11th, 2014 at 06:53 | #63

    I am beginning to think the US is intent on destabilising countries along the Russian border. There seems to be a pattern emerging more generally of Middle East and Russian border state destabilisation. I wonder if the US has (unfortunately) realised its strong suit: not conquest, not re-construction, not democratisation (the last two being fibs of course) but simply destruction and destabilisation.

  64. Julie Thomas
    May 11th, 2014 at 07:24 | #64

    My comment to Midrash is still in moderation. Commenting here is very ‘Zen’ sometimes; like a koan, the moving mind wonders for a while what meaning there could be behind the message, and then having thought moves on to other ways of knowing.

    I’ll try again since I’m here and provide a ‘better’, more up to date reference that may challenge the idea that IQ is genetic and can be ‘bred’ and impress Midrash.

    ” the Bates team found………….IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised. The explanation is that IQ is influenced by education. Historically, absolute IQ scores have risen substantially as we’ve changed our environment so that more people go to school longer.

    Richer children have similarly good educational opportunities, so genetic differences among them become more apparent. And since richer children have more educational choice, they (or their parents) can choose environments that accentuate and amplify their particular skills. A child who has genetic abilities that make her just slightly better at math may be more likely to take a math class, so she becomes even better at math.

    But for poor children, haphazard differences in educational opportunity swamp genetic differences. Ending up in a terrible school or one a bit better can make a big difference. And poor children have fewer opportunities to tailor their education to their particular strengths.”


  65. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 08:08 | #65

    Instability has been a recurrent phenomenon in countries in all parts of the world for as long as I know about, and does not require US action to explain it.

  66. Ikonoclast
    May 11th, 2014 at 09:40 | #66


    Some considerable instability had been a recurrent phenomenon. But surely we know enough to know now that the US (CIA and Army) has teams all over 3/4 of the world deliberately destabilising places non-stop. It is their modus operandi par excellence.

  67. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 09:54 | #67

    No, I don’t know that the US has teams all over three-quarters of the world deliberately destabilising places non-stop.

  68. Megan
    May 11th, 2014 at 11:08 | #68


    John Stockwell (ex-CIA) put it at about 1/3 – but that was in the ’80s so it could well be up to 3/4 now.

    An extract from a speech:

    Nicaragua. What’s happening in Nicaragua today is covert action. It’s a classic de-stabilization program. In November 16, 1981, President Reagan allocated 19 million dollars to form an army, a force of contras, they’re called, ex-Somoza national guards, the monsters who were doing the torture and terror in Nicaragua that made the Nicaraguan people rise up and throw out the dictator, and throw out the guard. We went back to create an army of these people. We are killing, and killing, and terrorizing people. Not only in Nicaragua but the Congress has leaked to the press – reported in the New York Times, that there are 50 covert actions going around the world today, CIA covert actions going on around the world today.

    You have to be asking yourself, why are we destabilizing 50 corners of the troubled world? Why are we about to go to war in Nicaragua, the Central American war? It is the function, I suggest, of the CIA, with its 50 de-stabilization programs going around the world today, to keep the world unstable, and to propagandize the American people to hate, so we will let the establishment spend any amount of money on arms….

  69. drsusancalvin
    May 11th, 2014 at 12:44 | #69

    @Julie Thomas I know what my IQ is. Of course it’s 3 figures: 67.8

  70. kevin1
    May 11th, 2014 at 12:50 | #70

    @Fran Barlow
    An unpleasant experience no doubt;the Twittersphere doesn’t seem to offer much as a thoughtful forum.

    Sounds like a high American presence within the respondents and the “unfettered capitalism” comment might have set them off despite the great Richard Hofstadter quote “it has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one”. Not realising there are alternative frameworks is part of the ideological view I suppose.

    Something I found fascinating on this is It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States by Lipset and Marks, Chapter 1 available online at newyorktimes.com

  71. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 14:33 | #71

    If it was one-third in the 1980s, it could have gone up to three-quarters by now–or it could have gone down to nil. One-third, three-quarters–you can throw around whatever numbers you like, but don’t expect me just to take your word for their accuracy–or John Stockwell’s word either.

  72. May 11th, 2014 at 15:28 | #72


    I’ve learned not to expect anything of you. I was addressing Ikon’s comment.

  73. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 16:19 | #73

    It’s good that you have learned not to expect me to rely on your unsupported word, but it would be better if you generalised the lesson and learned not to expect anybody to rely on your unsupported word.

  74. May 11th, 2014 at 16:39 | #74



    Except by this guy:

    Stockwell was a CIA paramilitary intelligence case officer in three wars: the Congo Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the Angolan War of Independence. His military rank is Major. Beginning his career in 1964, Stockwell spent six years in Africa, Chief of Base in the Katanga during the Bob Denard invasion in 1968, then Chief of Station in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1970, before being transferred to Vietnam to oversee intelligence operations in the Tay Ninh province and was awarded the CIA Medal of Merit for keeping his post open until the last days of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

    In December 1976, he resigned from the CIA, citing deep concerns for the methods and results of CIA paramilitary operations in Third World countries and testified before Congressional committees. Two years later, he wrote the exposé In Search of Enemies, about that experience and its broader implications. He claimed that the CIA was counterproductive to national security, and that its “secret wars” provided no benefit for the United States. The CIA, he stated, had singled out the MPLA to be an enemy in Angola despite the fact that the MPLA wanted relations with the United States and had not committed a single act of aggression against the United States. In 1978 he appeared on the popular American television program 60 Minutes, claiming that CIA Director William Colby and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had systematically lied to Congress about the CIA’s operations.

    Unsupported, apart from the word of a guy who has been there and who the CIA attempted to silence.

    However, I do not ‘expect’ anything of you, as I said.

  75. Hermit
    May 11th, 2014 at 17:01 | #75

    Nation building now road building. The Treasurer has announced a plan to spend $80bn on new roads. I thought the whole point of the NBN was that we’d communicate more and drive less, not a bad idea since world crude oil production peaked in 2005.

    As I said earlier only about 6c per litre of fuel excise is equivalent to carbon tax. The next excise hike will pay for bigger and better roads except fuel will be more expensive so we’ll probably drive less anyway. LNP logic at its finest.

  76. Paul Norton
    May 11th, 2014 at 17:35 | #76

    J-D, I’ve only just seen your post @30. If we accept that paradigm, how does it translate into an achievable political program that will advance the national and democratic rights of the peoples concerned.

  77. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 18:29 | #77

    When John Stockwell attests to US efforts to destabilise the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, his evidence is not unsupported; it is extensively corroborated. When John Stockwell attests to US efforts to destabilise the MPLA regime in Angola, his evidence is not unsupported; it is extensively corroborated.

    Conversely, I cannot see where John Stockwell’s evidence corroborates any guess you or Ikonoclast might want to make about how many (or which) countries are currently the targets of US destabilisation efforts or about the relative importance to current global instability of active US destabilisation efforts as compared to other causes. The past crimes of the CIA are evidence of what the organisation is capable of but they are not direct corroborative evidence for any specific new charge against the CIA. There are historical instances of instability fomented by the CIA, but this by itself is insufficient basis for concluding that any current instance of instability has been fomented by the CIA, because there are also historical instances of instability independent of the CIA and indeed before the CIA or even the USA existed.

  78. J-D
    May 11th, 2014 at 18:31 | #78

    @Paul Norton
    It doesn’t. It’s a politically unconstructive paradigm. That’s why it’s important to reject it, and in turn that’s why it’s important to recognise instances of its adoption.

  79. Megan
    May 11th, 2014 at 19:35 | #79


    there are also historical instances of instability independent of the CIA

    That stands to reason.

    But please list, say, the top five most recent of those that you have in mind (by “top” I mean by any degree of instability equal to or greater than the ones fomented by the CIA).

  80. Patrickb
    May 12th, 2014 at 00:12 | #80

    Coming in a bit late but … does anyone else think that Midrash sounds like David Flint? There can’t be two pompous asses of that order of magnitude.

  81. Paul Norton
    May 12th, 2014 at 06:55 | #81

    J-D @27, thanks. As it happens I had an example of that paradigm put to me by a Facebook friend on Saturday, who unfriended me basically because I didn’t accept it.

  82. Julie Thomas
    May 12th, 2014 at 07:28 | #82


    Three numbers is good. Before I was tested and amazingly passed with flying colours, I thought ‘mine’ was lower than my shoe size.

    I hadn’t done well at school – I think it was because I always wanted to set the teachers straight about things they didn’t know or something socially wrong like that – and I spent lots of time standing outside the door dreading the headmaster walking by and seeing me.

    They don’t do that at schools any more, do they?

    The first time I did a WAIS was in the psych hospital where I lived for a while after my first suicide attempt at 16. They started out with the adolescent WAIS but I nuked the vocab test and they moved on to the adult one.

    I worked all this out after I did a couple of psych degrees many years later, and after working with a colleague doing her PhD in ‘Intelligence’. I participated in several of her research projects as a participant and a ‘tester’ and learned a lot by sharing and co-operating with fellow PhD candidates.

    The thing I clearly understood from looking back at the actual experience of test taking in my adolescence, was that no person can administer an IQ test ‘rationally’ or respond to the test ‘rationally’; we are all to some extent easily distracted by what we ‘like’ and just as importantly what we don’t like to do.

    One example I can provide of this lack of proper administration of IQ tests is during the block test, a sub-test of the WAIS, the psych who was administering the test totally violated the rules of test taking by telling me I had done one of the tests ‘better’ than anyone she had ever tested before or heard of.

    That was quite disturbing to me at the time and not at all reassuring, as she probably thought it would be.

    High IQ does not make a person more intelligent or a ‘better’ person. High IQ is a burden unless one has social intelligence and/or is properly ‘socialised’ to value all the diverse intelligences that the human brain is capable of achieving.

    And Patrickb, what about Gerald Henderson or Prattling Polonious – as Loonpond calls him? I’d say he scores well on the pomposity scale.

  83. Fran Barlow
    May 12th, 2014 at 07:47 | #83


    An unpleasant experience no doubt;the Twittersphere doesn’t seem to offer much as a thoughtful forum.

    Trolls aside, I doubt anyone enjoys drawing obloquy. On the bright side, if one must endure it, that it comes from those inviting the inference that they are dupes, spivs or barbarians is a form of affirmation.

    Sounds like a high American presence within the respondents and the “unfettered capitalism” comment might have set them off despite the great Richard Hofstadter quote “it has been our fate as a nation not to have ideologies but to be one”. Not realising there are alternative frameworks is part of the ideological view I suppose.

    Indeed. Ironically, my inclusion of the qualifier “unfettered” was intended to soften my challenge, to say that capitalism did not lead inevitably to barbarism, though I suppose it was a stick in the eye of RW libertarians who see want of fetters on capitalism as a virtue, however improbable that is.

    Not the least irony in their challenge was to attempt to prove to me that I was wrong by arguing that “unfettered capitalism” fought the Nazis, despite the fact that their fellow travellers have for years condemned FDR and the New Deal as soc!alism or at the very least, big government. From the early 1930s to about 1980, the top marginal tax rate stayed above 70%. Throughout the war, the economy unashamedly turned to war production. On their analysis, it was “soc!alism” that fought the Nazis.

    As to Twitter, it’s less a forum for discussing ideas than a place to exchange brief notes with likeminded people, so I’m not entirely surprised at what happened when hordes of jingoistic reactionaries picked up my tweet.

  84. Ikonoclast
    May 12th, 2014 at 08:55 | #84

    @Fran Barlow

    You make glad I don’t tweet (and never will). “Hordes of jingoistic reactionaries” is the right phrase for much of the population sadly. Tilting at the hordes is like tilting at windmills. One can never change a closed mind. The thing is to train new young minds is critical, open and comparative thinking plus empiricism of course.

  85. Paul Norton
    May 12th, 2014 at 09:02 | #85

    Further to my previous comments on this thread, it has been my experience that if, like most people, you hold a position on the Israel-Palestine issue that questions the justice and necessity of the policies of the right-wing parties in Israel (including those in the current government) while also questioning the justice and feasibility of the maximum program of jihadists and ultra-nationalists on the Palestinian side, you run the risk of simultaneously being denounced as a Zionist and as an antisemite (as happened to me during a meeting I attended in 1984).

  86. Ikonoclast
    May 12th, 2014 at 10:03 | #86

    @Paul Norton

    For sure, pointing out that both sides are in the wrong (to varying extents) makes you no friends at all. It’s probably best to remain silent. Nothing we can say, as outsiders, can have any effect on the conflict. Whether we can even effect the policies of our (Western I assume) countries is doubtful. Moral thinkers have long pointed out that an eye for eye just leads to an escalating blood fued. But very few pay attention to those thinkers.

  87. Collin Street
    May 12th, 2014 at 10:30 | #87

    @Paul Norton: “questioning the justice and necessity of [israeli right]” and “questioning the justice and necessity of [palestinian right]” are pretty different in effect, because of the differences in what-they-can-do between the israeli right and the palestinian right, such that discussing them together is essentially never useful.

    [for essentially the same reasons you can’t compare — or even discuss at the same time — the actions of the modern-day israeli right and the german right circa 1935.]

  88. May 12th, 2014 at 17:24 | #88

    “csmonitor.com” has a good piece about a meme being rolled around by the establishment media.

    No link, but the title is: ‘Boko Haram’ doesn’t really mean ‘Western education is a sin’

    ‘Haram’ is “bad” as opposed to ‘Halal’ (“good”). Boko has many meanings but it stems from British imperialism when they were attempting to crush Islam, especially through trying to ban Islamic schooling.

    Some snippets that caught the eye:

    Wikipedia’s entry on Boko Haram likewise carried the falsehood for at least a year and a half until it was partially corrected at the end of last month, though allowing a falsehood to persist on equal footing with the truth…
    And it doesn’t stop there. Newman found the US National Counterterrorism Center started passing along the “book” claim circa 2011 (it still is), and cites nine other instances in works by academics and polemicists like the anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller. The press is an even bigger megaphone.

    Newman writes that “boko” has a variety of meanings focused around denoting “things or actions having to do with fraudulence, sham, or inauthenticity” or deception. He says the false linkage to the English word “book” was first made in a 1934 Hausa dictionary by a Western scholar that listed 11 meanings for the word – ten of them about fraudulent things and the final one asserting the connection to “book.” An incorrect assertion, says Newman.

    A deliberate deception to assist the PR around planned action, apparently.

  89. alfred venison
    May 12th, 2014 at 18:51 | #89

    @Julie Thomas
    thanks for sharing “Prattling Polonious”. good as far as it goes, but it misses the pertinent point that polonious invariably prattles when it is someone else’s turn to talk.

    he is, in invariably doing that, the rudest australian “intellectual” on t.v.

    and, further, i think he does it deliberately, simply to disrupt people from the left, when it is their turn to talk.

    and in my opinion he is massively overrated as an intellectual. -a.v.

  90. J-D
    May 13th, 2014 at 14:36 | #90

    Why? What possible constructive purpose could be served by such an exercise? If you think it’s important or useful to have such a list, why don’t you produce it yourself?

  91. May 17th, 2014 at 03:58 | #91

    Thx for your post. I want to write my opinion that the cost of car insurance differs from one plan to another, simply because there are so many different facets which bring about the overall cost. As an example, the brand name of the automobile will have an enormous bearing on the price tag. A reliable outdated family automobile will have an inexpensive premium when compared to a flashy expensive car.

  92. Fran Barlow
    May 17th, 2014 at 11:08 | #92

    Interesting renewable energy idea that seems to overcome intermittency objections. This is one Ikono should like. 😉


    It might also double as desalination in some locations.

  93. Hermit
    May 17th, 2014 at 12:15 | #93

    @Fran Barlow
    This is a ‘downdraft’ tower whereas Ikonoclast has been arguing for an ‘updraft’ tower on which see the Wikipedia article. One of the latter was proposed for Mildura area if I recall and there was a working prototype built in Spain. It’s a bit troubling when experiments need over $1bn in seed money to adequately prove the concept.

    There is a working solar desalination greenhouse Sundrop Farm in Pt Augusta SA. No word on how they will fare after renewable funding cutbacks. SA is also the testbed for dry rock geothermal which got a fair bit of public and private funding (~$300m I think) but has so far failed to deliver grid electricity. I think we should no longer expect technology miracles just incremental improvements that may or may not be economic at certain sites.

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