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Sandpit

November 25th, 2016

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

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  1. Greg McKenzie
    November 26th, 2016 at 08:14 | #1

    Negative gearing, as a tax deduction, seems to be too complex for politicians to do anything that would even approach a Pareto optimum position. The entwined issues of rental accomodation and first home buy in thresholds seems to generate inertia. The two issues need to be treated separately if a simple and fair reform of negative gearing tax concessions is to be possible. Rental accomodation can be promoted without sending housing values into hyperinflation. But this means eliminating holiday properties and multiple properties from the negative gearing tax shelter. A limit, to the number of properties one taxpayer can negatively gear, must be set. The twin objectives of equity and fairness must be applied.

  2. NeilinSeattle
  3. NeilinSeattle
    November 26th, 2016 at 16:10 | #3

    sorry, think I messed up the formatting there….

  4. November 26th, 2016 at 16:18 | #4

    @Greg McKenzie I agree it is too complicated. Using taxation as a means of achieving other social objectives – such as encouraging investment is always going to be very expensive to administer both for the taxpayer and for the taxation office. Taxation reform will only come when we make taxation “stand alone” and used to pay for government services. Instead of using taxation as a means of redistributing income let us work out ways to redistribute capital so that we can all live off a combination of returns on capital and payments for services we render. One of the services we render is to “obey the law”, and we should get paid a minimum income while we remain law abiding. Instead of selling off “the commons” let us distribute the Commons so that we can all have our share of the income generated from the Commons.

    This would create a true capitalist society where everyone gets a share in the income from social and physical capital. It is easy to do, but we have to overcome entrenched interests. http://evonomics.com/takes-village-media-business-policy-academic-experts-maintain-dangerous-financial-system/

    Taxation reform can work towards paying a fixed percentage of any money received by any entity for any transaction with no deductions and no exceptions. We could start with something simple like online purchases of electronic services. If Google wants to sell online ads to an Australian entity, then the Australian entity pays the tax directly to the Tax office. It is easy to do and easy to enforce because Google can change their billing operations for Australian entities. It is pretty easy for Google to know if an Australian entity pretends to be an overseas entity to evade the tax and besides the taxation office fines both Google and the Australian entity if they break the law.

  5. bjb
    November 26th, 2016 at 17:25 | #5

    Just came across this, via Hacker News

    https://aeon.co/essays/what-if-jobs-are-not-the-solution-but-the-problem

    Interesting read.

  6. Ivor
    November 27th, 2016 at 07:31 | #6

    Just in case people are not bored to tears with such stuff.

    There is no point dealing with derivatives if you have not defined your terms.

    de/dx = dg/dx +dt/dx + dr/dx is reasonable
    de/dx = dg/dx + dt/dy + dr/dz is unreasonable.
    You should write

    de/dx = dg/dx + dt/dy X dy/dx + dr/dz X dz/dx

    But, no matter what, you have to define your units.

  7. dedalus
    November 27th, 2016 at 08:26 | #7

    Interesting, I agree.

    Who will fix my plugged toilet?

    Only someone who is paid well to, and given ample health and old age security to do so, and who is allowed the majority of their waking hours to so something otherwise. And moreover, someone who gets called “Sir” or “Ma’am” while they’re fixing your toilet, and who you (we) treat with dignity, even homage.</blockquote)

  8. Ikonoclast
    November 27th, 2016 at 09:06 | #8

    It aint that hard to clear plugged toilets and sewer lines but I now draw the line at digging up pipes or buying my own Roto-Rooter machine.

    In my student days, our share house had a sewerage blockage. The landlord brought around a hand-turned roto-rooter set and expected us to help him dig up and assist at the pipe blockage. I was up to my wrists in you-know-what clearing that pipe. I was pleased that the landlord did not notice the cannabis sativa seedlings coming up in our tomato patch. This was inadvertent. Someone had tipped out a baggie with nothing but seeds left. No THC content in the seeds you know.

    For the record, we did not eat tomatoes out of that patch ever again (and the CS seedlings were emoved post-haste when the landlord left. Cheap, capitalist, rentier bast**d that he was.

  9. November 28th, 2016 at 01:41 | #9

    Correction to my comment on the climate good news post.
    Perhaps it should be:
    e = g – t – (1 – t) r.
    The second term is the rate of decrease in energy per unit output, converted to emissions per unit output on the assumption of no change in energy supply.

  10. November 28th, 2016 at 01:47 | #10

    Damn, the mobile posted before I’d finished.

    Expanding, you get
    e = g – t – r + (r*t)
    The last term is negligible for plausible values of r and t like 3%, so it reduces to JQ’s formula.

  11. John Quiggin
    November 28th, 2016 at 03:28 | #11

    @James Wimberley

    I just did the same calculations. As you say, the final term is negligible, and in the limit (which is what you get when you take the derivative) it’s zero.

    @Ivor

    Ivor, the obvious interpretation of the terms I used makes the equation work, units and all. I assumed that any reader who cared could work this out for themselves, and that anyone incapable of doing so would ask politely. My mistake. I’ve spelt it all out in the post now. I await your thanks and apology for rudeness (only joking!).

  12. John Quiggin
    November 28th, 2016 at 06:57 | #12

    Ikonoklast

    There is a kind of courage where people fight, and fight hardest, when they strongly suspect they might be doomed. You seem to be saying most humans don’t have this kind of courage (or desperation) if put to it. I am saying they do.

    That summarises the position, at least for the specific case of climate change. Now, how about the evidence ? My evidence is cited in the OP. As it’s become clear that the problem can be addressed at moderate cost, the world has got serious about solving it.

    As regards evidence for your position, it would be great if you could show me evidence of generally conservative politicians and commentators saying something like “while I find the kinds of policies needed to combat climate change unpalatable, the evidence of impending catastrophe has led me to support an emergency program”. I haven’t noticed many (actually, any) instances of this kind, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

  13. Ikonoclast
    November 28th, 2016 at 08:33 | #13

    @John Quiggin

    Yes, I take your point. The scientific evidence has no effect on conservative politicians and deniers. They have the numbers or at least the power (power being with money and capitalist ownership) to obstruct almost all necessary action. This a fault of the organization of our political economy. The power currently is not with the people. Democracy currently is relative ineffective and nearly inoperative because of the autocratic power of money and ownership, of the oligarchs.

    What could change that is what I call a “salutary catastrophe directly attributable to climate change”. This would probably have to hit the developed world in some region. This catastrophe (unfortunately) will have to be large enough and undeniable enough that conservative politicians and capitalists will have to change, or be changed by the masses. This enforced change of the status and even of the continued existence of said politicians and capitalists I will leave to imagination.

    So I am saying or predicting, in effect, that there will be too little change and it will be too late under the current system. Then the “salutary catastrophes” will commence. Then the revolutions will commence. It won’t be pretty of course. These are the conclusions my kind of hard-nosed realism lead me to. Of course, my predictions could be wrong. But channeling John Mearsheimer (who used this percentage in another context), I maintain that my predictions for this course of events now have about a 75% chance of being proven substantially correct.

  14. Ivor
    November 28th, 2016 at 09:29 | #14

    @John Quiggin

    UNfortunately you have only made matters worse.

    I quote:

    r is the reduction in emissions per unit of energy

    This is “mass / energy”.

    IN your rework you have used:

    R (for reduction) = W/E (watt/tonne CO2)

    This is “energy / mass”

    Not only this but watts are not a measurement of energy.

    There is no sense in taking logs if the original equation is gibberish.

    Your:

    “log (E) = log (G) – log (T) – log (R)” is only correct IF

    E = G / (T*R)

    But you have not balanced the equation as required.

    This is a strict, no nonsense requirement well before any trickery such as converting to indexes, using %, differentiating or taking logs etc.

    Energy is joules or “watts by seconds”.

    All you need to do is refer to basic dimension standards here:

    SI units

    and use them.

    It is a cardinal rule that you cannot subtract metres from kilograms or square metres from cube metres.

    If you do not define your terms – how will you be able to insert data into your equation.

  15. Ivor
    November 28th, 2016 at 09:59 | #15

    James Wimberley :
    Damn, the mobile posted before I’d finished.
    Expanding, you get
    e = g – t – r + (r*t)
    The last term is negligible for plausible values of r and t like 3%, so it reduces to JQ’s formula.

    What are your units?

    When I do a SI dimensions analysis (MKS system) it does not balance.

    It cannot be correct.

  16. Troy Prideaux
    November 28th, 2016 at 10:02 | #16

    @Greg McKenzie
    IMHO Labor got the policy right on NGing. Encourage new dwelling construction and general investment (which is critical) and discourage speculative investment in driving up existing housing. Maybe also wind back Howard’s capital gains concessions.

  17. Ikonoclast
    November 28th, 2016 at 10:09 | #17

    “1 Joule (J) is the MKS unit of energy, equal to the force of one Newton acting through one meter. 1 Watt is the power of a Joule of energy per second ” – Energy Units and Conversions by Dennis Silverman U. C. Irvine, Physics and Astronomy.

    Now, correct me please if I get anything wrong below

    Therefore, from the second definition above;

    1 W = 1 J / 1 second
    1 J = 1 W x 1 second.

    Ivor is correct in this on its own. Whether this has any bearing on the overall argument, I have not “thunk” out.

  18. John Quiggin
    November 28th, 2016 at 10:15 | #18

    Quite right, it shoud be Joules. Fixed now.

  19. November 28th, 2016 at 11:04 | #19

    @Ikonoclast
    What is your evidence that ostrich thinking is a particular feature of capitalism? Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” on failed societies suggests that it’s widespread across a range if cultures and economic systems. An additional example is the response of the rulers of Tibet (Buddhist monks) to the Younghusband military expedition of the British Raj. They refused to negotiate, tried an obviously ineffective military resistance, and spun up the prayer wheels.

    Capitalist greed encourages clear thinking of a narrow sort. It does have a strong bias to short-termism, especially in its financialised form – less so in the patrimonial. (Think of the patience shown by patrimonial IKEA and Auchan in building retail operations in Russia.) Failure to recognise and price externalities is common across types of economic organisation, see the environmental disasters of the Soviet Union like the drying up of the Aral Sea from irrigated cotton growing.

  20. J-D
    November 28th, 2016 at 11:30 | #20

    ‘What is your evidence that ostrich thinking is a particular feature of capitalism?’

    Evidence? Cato the Elder didn’t need evidence for Delenda Carthago.

  21. Ivor
    November 28th, 2016 at 11:59 | #21

    @Ikonoclast

    Ok I will do your “thunking” at least so you can check;

    E = G / (T*R)

    It is complex so there could be an error, however…

    E is given as “rate of growth of emissions”.

    Emissions is tonnes per year. Growth is some smaller proportion of tonnes per year per year.

    UNits are kg sec[-2] {zero is permissible]

    *******

    G is given as “rate of growth of output,”

    Output is $ per year. Growth is some smaller proportion of $ per year per year.

    Units are $ sec[-2] {zero is permissible]

    *******

    T is given as “the ratio of energy use to output”.

    A ratio is vague and energy is an output. So just assume the thought is that technology makes things cheaper, so ratio is joules per $.

    UNits are J $[-1] {Note Joules are m[2] kg sec[-2]}

    ********

    R is given as “reduction in emissions per unit of energy” Simply kg per Joule

    Units are kg J[-1].

    ********

    So when you determine the LHS you get:

    kg sec[-2]

    When you determine the RHS you get:

    $ sec[-1] / (j sec[-1] * kg j[-1])

    This equals

    $ sec[-1] sec[1] kg[-1] {note joules cancel out]

    or

    $ kg[-1]

    So LHS (kg per sec per sec) cannot equal RHS ($ per kg).

  22. John Quiggin
    November 28th, 2016 at 20:40 | #22
  23. John Quiggin
    November 28th, 2016 at 20:49 | #23

    @Ivor

    Check and you’ll see that
    (a) $ cancel out also.
    (b) You have R the wrong way around

    There are some more errors, I think, but I’m tired of dealing with you

  24. D
    November 28th, 2016 at 21:33 | #24

    Changing the minds of “conservative” politicians about the science is irrelevant.

    Serious policy action requires serious pressure from enough citizens. Complacency (which will be fostered by ‘it’s all going to be OK’ narratives) kills that pressure.

    Nixon was considered very conservative and is reported to have despised environmentalists but his legislative record includes:

    National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
    Created the EPA in 1970
    Clean Air Act Extension of 1970
    Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972
    Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974
    Endangered Species Act of 1973

    His administration did those things because they were forced to by mass popular concern.

    We are – still – very much in extremely dangerous territory regarding climate change. The type of very serious action required will need enormous non-partisan/bi-partisan political pressure on all politicians.

  25. Collin Street
    November 28th, 2016 at 22:36 | #25

    Maybe also wind back Howard’s capital gains concessions.

    We actually have the paperwork/record-keeping capacity distributed widely-enough through the community that allowing people to shuffle their income for tax purposes over multiple years is reasonably achievable: you could use this to get appropriate tax treatment of superannuation and capital-gain income. Also covers farmers and people working on huge-but-infrequent payoffs such as certain sportspeople/artists/brokers.

    But capital gains discounts are preferable to many because they’re, mumble, “more narrowly targetted”.

  26. James Wimberley
    November 29th, 2016 at 05:53 | #26

    @J-D
    Cato wasn’t an ostrich but a vengeful superhawk. Destroying defeated Carthage was a crime, but it wasn’t against the interests of Rome.

  27. Ivor
    November 29th, 2016 at 07:14 | #27

    @John Quiggin

    Yes there was a glitch.

    In T the unit is $[-1]

    In G the unit is $

    In the equation the partial term is G/T so $ terms do not cancel out. They form $[2].

    R is not the wrong way around if R is defined as “emissions per unit of energy” ie kg/J.

    I have used kg/J.

    Whether my quick working had any error is not the point. I indicated this could have been so. The point is that the equation as defined does not balance and cannot be correct.

    No-one can balance this equation.

  28. J-D
    November 29th, 2016 at 11:07 | #28

    @James Wimberley
    Sorry, my point wasn’t clear.

    I have observed previously that Ikonoclast has a tedious tendency to make substantially the same response to a wide range of issues: ‘There is no hope of any improvement until the capitalist system can be got rid of.’ (Tedious? Well, it is to me.) It is for this reason that I suggest that there is about as much point in asking for evidence as there would have been in asking Cato the Elder for evidence to support his Delenda Carthago.

  29. may
    November 29th, 2016 at 13:54 | #29

    here we go again, poor old icono,the old one, two (or more) personal nips and jabs instead of addressing the subject.

    he must be doing something right.

    maybe the same thing being said is because it keeps applying?

    note that the commenters agreement in what he says is not always a given.

  30. hc
    November 29th, 2016 at 21:32 | #30

    I have heard that Paul Frijters who has quit UQ is going to LSE. The episode surrounding his resignation from UQ seems worthy of comment – I probably missed earlier discussions As one of the best younger economists in the country (and one of the most research-productive) he seems to me to have done nothing more than to analyse important questions of public interest in a way that made a lot of sense. If he is going to LSE it is a loss to economics in Australia.

    There seem to be serious failures here on the part of UQ.

    It is now not so much an argument for supporting Paul – I definitely do support him but that issue now seems somewhat settled given that he has quit – but it remains worth thinking about what Australian universities are coming to stand for. Can we learn lessons from this episode?

    There was this old-fashioned idea of “academic freedom” that I believe academics and university bureaucrats used to adhere to. It is pointless adhering to the principle in abstract if it is not supported on the particular occasions where it seems to have been violated.

    .

  31. hc
  32. Ivor
    November 29th, 2016 at 22:30 | #32

    @J-D

    I am sorry you find grown up issues tedious. I suppose they exceed your attention span.

    When children winge like this I usually put them to bed.

  33. John Quiggin
    November 30th, 2016 at 02:53 | #33

    @Ivor

    I’m sick of wasting time on you in general, and your last comment is a clear violation of the comments policy. You’re permanently banned.

  34. James Wimberley
    November 30th, 2016 at 03:19 | #34

    @John Quiggin
    We do not know what Henry V said to his badly outnumbered and exhausted army before Agincourt. We can be pretty sure it was not written by soulmates of Ivor and Ikonoklast. It must have been much closer to the spirit of Shakespeare’s great pep talk. There was probably more God in it than in the Bard’s version. John Keegan observes, in his fascinating attempt in The Face of Battle to evoke Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme as experienced by the common soldiers who fought them, that these men were pretty religious in the first and last, but not those at Waterloo.

  35. Julie Thomas
    November 30th, 2016 at 06:35 | #35

    @hc

    “in a way that made a lot of sense.”

    From my point of view I’d say he does what he does in a way that creates antipathy and a reluctance to consider any of his opinions as those of a rational person.

  36. IKonoclast
    November 30th, 2016 at 08:03 | #36

    In reply to a couple of criticisms of me and the points I have made.

    Yes, a dissenting view can become tedious. Dissent always has to flag itself and it always has to restate the basis for dissent. Assenting to a standard point of view by contrast is easier. Underlying assumptions, beliefs and ideologies can all be passed over in silence. Thus the task of someone who argues within a given paradigm without questioning it is much easier. A whole set of assumptions are taken as unquestioned givens and can be passed over in silence.

    There is little point in my trying to say more on my current machine and keyboard. This is my wife’s iPad. It has taken me 20 minutes to type this. What an infuriating and useless machine it is… IMO only. Keboard works in a really strange way. Ugh!

  37. Troy Prideaux
    November 30th, 2016 at 08:43 | #37

    @IKonoclast
    Indeed, I can totally see an IPad would not be the ideal device for your typical web interaction 🙂
    Fantastic for browsing, games, reading and lots of other stuff that doesn’t require much typing though.

  38. hc
    November 30th, 2016 at 08:49 | #38

    @Julie Thomas

    I consider Paul’s opinions and I consider myself a rational person. Some of Paul’s views – for example on climate – I disagree with. Some of his empirical work on interest groups I agree with. The universities have many people with strong personalities. The advantage of having people like Paul is that he is an intellectual livewire who is, at the same time, very productive. Maybe I missed something but UQ’s actions seem to me disgraceful.

  39. Crispin Bennett
    November 30th, 2016 at 09:55 | #39

    @IKonoclast
    iPads don’t provide great input facilities for most people (though my 40wpm touch typing on one shows it’s possible, at least for strange people). But should you find yourself having to type on one again, here’s a couple of tips:

    (1) Foreswear the keyboard: hit the little microphone icon to the left of the space bar and dictate. It works pretty well.

    (2) Then go back and edit, for which purpose it’s useful to know you can manipulate the cursor quickly by dragging two fingers directly on the onscreen keyboard (using it like a touchpad).

  40. Crispin Bennett
    November 30th, 2016 at 10:26 | #40

    @hc

    Maybe I missed something but UQ’s actions seem to me disgraceful.

    That would be quite characteristic. My experience with UQ was the nastiest I have had with any organisation or person, essentially losing 3 years of my life and ending up with a large HECS debt for nothing, on the whim of a superstitious Dean. It put me off having anything to do with large rigid hierarchies, and I never have since.

  41. Donald Oats
    November 30th, 2016 at 16:08 | #41

    Murder?
    Manslaughter?
    Benign neglect?
    Or, officially sanctioned Australian policy?

  42. Jordan from Croatia
    November 30th, 2016 at 20:01 | #42

    I would like to note a historic moment when one very important economist admited what MMT tried for so long to show. This is from S. Wren-Lewis:

    “The situation is completely different for governments that can create the currency that the debt they sell is denominated in. They will never be forced to default, because they can always pay back debt due with created money. That in turn means that lenders do not need to worry about forced defaults, or what other lenders may think, so this kind of self fulfilling default will not happen.”

    “If a government —-cannot create the currency that it borrows in, —–then the risk of default is very real. Typically a large amount of debt will periodically be rolled over (new debt sold to replace debt that is due to be paid back). If that debt cannot be rolled over, then the government will probably be forced to default. Knowing that, potential lenders will worry that other potential lenders will not lend, allowing self fulfilling beliefs to cause default even if the public finances are pretty sound.”

    https://mainlymacro.blogspot.hr/2016/11/whatever-happened-to-government-debt.html#comment-form

  43. J-D
    December 1st, 2016 at 06:17 | #43

    @IKonoclast

    Yes, a dissenting view can become tedious. Dissent always has to flag itself and it always has to restate the basis for dissent.

    If your dissenting conclusion is ‘There is no hope of any improvement until the capitalist system can be got rid of’, then you’ve never demonstrated an adequate basis for it. Repetition of an assertion does not constitute evidence for it. The argumentum ad nauseam is tedious, but I acknowledge that it seems to have worked for Cato the Elder.

  44. Julie Thomas
    December 1st, 2016 at 07:51 | #44

    @hc

    “The universities have many people with strong personalities.”

    The ones I have had some contact with have also have a lack of respect for fellow humans and an unrealistic assessment of their own abilities and value to the community and are very unhappy in their personal lives. Hence the interest in love and economics.

    Insight therapy could help but these people so often have the type of cognitive and emotional dysfunction that is diagnosed as a personality disorder and is not amenable to any therapy.

    I suspect that you Harry still believe in the myth of the tortured genius. And perhaps you value quantity over quality?

    I have only a passing interest in the issues and am happy to agree that UQ has behaved badly in this case and many others. Hierarchies, as Crispin has pointed out are not good things.

  45. GrueBleen
    December 1st, 2016 at 09:42 | #45

    @J-D
    Your #43

    Well said again, J-D (and no frivolity this time).

    As to Cato, surely Carthage’s tendency to keep starting Punic Wars despite being repeatedly beaten, and occasionally inflicting serious insults (eg Cannae) amounts to more than sufficient justification for Carthago delenda est (with or without Latin future passive feminine gerundives).

  46. hc
    December 1st, 2016 at 17:19 | #46

    There are economies of scope and scale in Australia Post (in sorting mail, in collection and distribution) that make it a natural monopoly. Hence I would ordinarily not see it as a candidate for complete privatization. But the way it is being managed – particularly with worker compensation payments averaging $3832 for 38% of its 36,743 employees – suggests a real problem. These are the claims of a whistleblower but CEO Fahour has a case to answer. Without these payments AP would be making a handsome profit and not need moan about ts diminishing snail mail market.

    http://www.afr.com/news/policy/industrial-relations/australia-post-workers-comp-is-giant-rort-says-whistleblower-20161128-gsyyt9

  47. may
    December 2nd, 2016 at 16:00 | #47

    oz post has an outlet in every town in the country flogging all sorts of el cheapo “stuff”and can’t cover costs but we have a “Postmaster General” driving a maserati.

    can’t understand it.

  48. GrueBleen
    December 2nd, 2016 at 16:49 | #48

    @J-D

    J-D, you may find this post entertaining if you haven’t seen it already:

    Site: Understanding Society
    Post: DeLanda on historical ontology
    Wednesday, November 30, 2016

  49. GrueBleen
    December 2nd, 2016 at 16:51 | #49

    @may
    Your #47

    It’s called “privatisation by stealth”.

  50. Ikonoclast
    December 3rd, 2016 at 08:02 | #50

    @GrueBleen

    I am not sure that calling “complex systems” “assembleges” advances analysis in any way. This is unless “assemblage” has a clear technical definition which defines an “assemblage” as a clear type or subset of complex systems; and this definition must be logically and empirically supportable.

  51. David Allen
    December 3rd, 2016 at 08:55 | #51

    @may

    PO’s shouldn’t have to ‘cover costs’. Just like footpaths, they are a service that’s paid for from taxation. And yes, the CEO (ffs) is an overpaid douchebag.

  52. Julie Thomas
    December 3rd, 2016 at 11:07 | #52

    @hc

    Good grief Harry, we agree on something. 🙂

  53. Julie Thomas
    December 3rd, 2016 at 11:29 | #53

    This book is a good start for understanding complex systems.

    “The study of complex systems in a unified framework has become recognized in recent years as a new scientific discipline, the ultimate of interdisciplinary fields. Breaking down the barriers between physics, chemistry and biology and the so-called soft sciences of psychology, sociology, economics, and anthropology, this text explores the universal physical and mathematical principles that govern the emergence of complex systems from simple components.

    “Dynamics of Complex Systems is the first text describing the modern unified study of complex systems. It is designed for upper-undergraduate/beginning graduate-level students, and covers a wide range of applications in a wide array of disciplines. A central goal of this text is to develop models and modeling techniques that are useful when applied to all complex systems. This is done by adopting both analytic tools, from statistical mechanics to stochastic dynamics, and computer simulation techniques, such as cellular automata and Monte Carlo.

    “In four sets of paired, self-contained chapters, Yaneer Bar-Yam discusses complex systems in the context of neural networks, protein folding, living organisms, and finally, human civilization itself. He explores fundamental questions about the structure, dynamics, evolution, development and quantitative complexity that apply to all complex systems. In the first chapter, mathematical foundations such as iterative maps and chaos, probability theory and random walks, thermodynamics, information and computation theory, fractals and scaling, are reviewed to enable the text to be read by students and researchers with a variety of backgrounds.”

    There is a free downloadable pdf and the place to start is with the Overview.

    “http://necsi.edu/publications/dcs/DCSchapter0.pdf

  54. GrueBleen
    December 3rd, 2016 at 13:00 | #54

    @GrueBleen
    Your #50

    Yeah, and I guess that’s why I described it as “entertaining” rather than “interesting” or “informative”. I’m trying to see if I can develop a sense of humour in J-D 🙂

  55. GrueBleen
    December 3rd, 2016 at 13:02 | #55

    @Ikonoclast
    Your #50

    Ooops, missed by one – the above (#54) was for you, Ikono.

  56. GrueBleen
    December 3rd, 2016 at 13:22 | #56

    Oh yeah, those “complex systems”.

    So now we have Yaneer Bar-Yam and the New England Complex Systems Institute. Whatever happened to the Santa Fe Institute – wasn’t it going to solve all the “complex systems” problems ?

    Besides, when I read – as the first sentence of the overview – that “The study of complex systems in a unified framework has become recognized in recent years as a new scientific discipline, the ultimate of interdisciplinary fields.” then I know we are in the midst of pseudo-academic hubris.

    Besides, it didn’t mention ‘consciousness’ even once.

  57. December 3rd, 2016 at 19:57 | #57

    @James Wimberley

    You can have a very successful society. Then something happens that can’t be tackled with the normal way of thinking in that society. And the society can’t think differently to fix the problem. As soon as anyone does think differently, they will have contravened the rules that led to the success of the society, and will be shouted down. After all, if the exact conditions for success aren’t known, then removing any one of them might cause disaster – who can say?

    We will run up against that problem when physical expansion is no longer an option. Its been so fundamental to our thinking for so long that we can’t handle the idea of having to do without it. And I guess the proper pricing of externalities is the start of this, and its so threatening to some that they will fight incredibly hard against it.

  58. Julie Thomas
    December 3rd, 2016 at 22:20 | #58

    Assemblages? Probably belong in an art gallery along side an installation.

  59. rog
    December 4th, 2016 at 04:55 | #59

    It would seem that the Federal govt is considering giving $1B of taxpayers money to Adani for their rail line.

    Leaving aside environmental and governance considerations, what would be the financial return on such an investment?

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-03/adani-carmichael-rail-line-closer-to-federal-loan/8089790

  60. David Allen
    December 4th, 2016 at 06:37 | #60

    I’m wondering if the federal government will lend me $1bn to put a railroad to a large pile of used tyres I have. I plan to set them alight. There’s no profit in it. It’s for the lols. If Adani can get the money then I should get it too.

  61. Ernestine Gross
    December 4th, 2016 at 09:11 | #61

    @IKonoclast

    Your #36

    ‘There is no hope of any improvement until the capitalist system can be got rid of’ is indeed a version of the same argument which you write in the context of many topics.

    It can be annoying. IMO, it is annoying not because it is a dissenting view (as you seem to assume) but because you fail to characterise ‘capitalist system’ sufficiently (not at all it seems to me), which makes your statement lacking content.

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no precise theoretical model of ‘capitalism’. Hence I don’t know what ‘the system’ is that you maintain has to be changed. On specific issues, your point of view is, IMO, not as dissenting as you seem to assume.

  62. Ikonoclast
    December 4th, 2016 at 11:21 | #62

    @Ernestine Gross

    I have offered definitions of capitalism many times on this blog; both my definitions and those of various writers and theorists. However, I have not been able to satisfy anyone here that I have offered definitions. I am continually taken to task for using the word “capitalism”. I have not noticed myself being taken to task for using words like “democracy” or “corporatism”. One would these words are as hard to define and as impossible to mathematise as complete phenomena.

    I can only wonder at the strange blind spot which makes the word “capitalism” so hard to understand for so many people. Methinks they protest too much. however, it is pointless me using the word or concept or any related concepts on this blog. I will try to avoid it.

  63. Ikonoclast
    December 4th, 2016 at 11:23 | #63

    THe above came out about as well as anything I type on an iPad. :s

  64. Julie Thomas
    December 4th, 2016 at 11:35 | #64

    “I think it important, for instance, in the era of the Anthropocene, to see the close links between neoliberal economic politics and a system of disenfranchisements and exclusion of entire layers of both the human population and the non-human agents of our planet.

    “The way to handle these issues is to start from the project of composing a “we” that is grounded, accountable and active. This is the collective praxis of affirmative politics, which Spinoza encourages us to embrace against the toxic negativity of the social context.

    “In the midst of our technologically mediated social relations and in response to the paranoid rhetoric of our post-truth democratic leaders, how can we labor together to construct affirmative ethical and political practices?

    “How can we work towards socially sustainable horizons of hope through resistance? What tools can we use to resist nihilism, escape consumeristic individualism and get immunized against xenophobia? The answer is in the doing, in the praxis of composing alliances, transversal connections and in engaging in difficult conversations on what troubles us. “We” need to re-radicalize ourselves.

    “And it is high time that the Left – or what is left of the Left – listens respectfully and seriously to the thought and the practices of feminists, the LBGTQ community, anti-racists and trans-national justice movements. It is time to re-radicalize also the politicians on the Left, by making them understand the enduring effects of their own sexism and their violent dismissal of feminist affirmative politics.”

    http://conversations.e-flux.com/t/rosi-braidotti-don-t-agonize-organize/5294

  65. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 12:54 | #65

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #58

    The Flying Spaghetti-assemblage Monster ?

  66. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 13:06 | #66

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #64

    Hmmm. So does this mean that “feminists, the LBGTQ community, anti-racists and trans-national justice movements” are not OF the Left but are mere petitioners of the the Left ?

    Not that I’m disagreeing – back when I was young enough to notice, females weren’t considered to be a real part of the “revolution” (but they could be allowed to make the tea and sandwiches for the radical revolutionary meetings). As to LBGTQs, anti-racists and trans-national justice movementeers, well … at least they came way ahead of females. Until bed-time, that is.

    Has anything changed ?

  67. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 13:25 | #67

    @Ikonoclast
    Your #62

    Well when even Ernestine is not into it, I can only suggest that your efforts are not noticeably successful, Ikono. This is one of the problems of not having a site of your own – if you did, you could post your various definitions and subsequently just point to them. Not that this would be any more effective – for most “definitions” – or even just “descriptions” – of something so variably vague but personal and emotionally powerful as “capitalism”, there never will be an effective definition. Any more than there can be an effective definition of “game” as Wittgenstein so “definitively” showed us all.

    But as to “democracy” and “corporatism”, well … “democracy” is just that system which comprises government by elected direct and indirect representatives voted on by a broad constituency in which any representative who is ‘dis-elected’ stays dis-elected (even if they are John Winston Howard or Stanley Melbourne Bruce). And that’s all I need to know about “democracy”. And “corporatism” ? well that’s all about the rights, privileges and malpractices of (large scale) corporations – which is again all I need to know.

    But one thing I have learned, Ikono, is that “truth” can wear many, many repetitions – something that those who propagate lies know only too well. So say on, give us your “definition” of “capitalism” again (and again and …). We might even agree with you in the end.

  68. Julie Thomas
    December 4th, 2016 at 13:46 | #68

    @GrueBleen

    It is difficult to tell when you are disagreeing or being disagreeable and I don’t want to be warned by JQ again so I’m dubious about responding to you. I think he did misunderstand the last time that we were not actually being snippy enough to deserve to be chastised but whatever, it’s his blog. So could you try not to be funny in your idiosyncratic way that confuses me.

    I do think things are changing but things are always changing – things are changing in a way that I think is for the better and my evidence for this is that I see it happening in a small way in my small community.

    We are self-organising to start with on the basis of a shared goal which is simple enough for everyone to agree is the right thing to do the aim without any overt policy statement is to provide the best we can for each and every child in town.

    It’s the young mothers and the husbands and/or men (like my sons) who are not wanting to be alpha males, who do want to be partners with women rather than the boss, have taken a chance and moved out here away from the city and the aspirational life.

    Left and right has never been an adequate way to categorise people and their politics and preferences. The futile attempts to define things and people as a way of solving problem is agonising.

  69. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 14:36 | #69

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #68

    So could you try not way that confuses me.

    Ok, well I’ll do my very best, however, I am grateful that you do understand that I try “to be funny in [my]idiosyncratic way”. Quite a few other people seem to have no idea of this at all.

    As to ProfQ, well, no I don’t think he quite appreciates the nature of our (yours and mine) interaction, but I have never been particularly concerned by either what you’ve said, or how you’ve said it – which may appear as trivialisation, but at least I don’t react to you as others have.

    But I kind of get ProfQ’s point: if we just carry on in a generally less than well mannered way, he may think that this gives a false impression to others as to what is acceptable in what you quite rightly point out is his blog. Even though many others quite frequently display worse behaviours, IMHO, than you or I. But then he did finally ban Ivor permanently, for possibly the most obvious example.

    But the main point, from ProfQ’s position, as best I can understand it, is that he sees this blog as a place of rational debate about substance, and not a therapeutic theater for us lot, so posts that “degenerate” into mostly/purely “personal interactions” are contrary to his intents and purposes.

    Or so I think.

    Otherwise, yes, there is some progress I sincerely hope, but it often seems so glacially paced as to be non-existent. What little I understand about ‘feminism’ I learned from Betty Friedan’s ‘Feminine Mystique’ back in the late 1960s – despite having read quite a bit of Simone de Beauvoir – especially ‘The Second Sex’ some years earlier. Somehow, I never got a sense of ‘feminism’ from de Beauvoir and had to wait to get it from Friedan.

    It all just seems that, as Gisela Kaplan says, it’s been way too meagre a harvest so far with only the very easy targets pursued (which doesn’t even include remuneration equity !).

  70. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 14:38 | #70

    @Julie Thomas

    Hmm, dunno what happened to that block-quote, but it was meant to be:

    could you try not to be funny in your idiosyncratic way that confuses me.

  71. Julie Thomas
    December 4th, 2016 at 16:55 | #71

    Hmmm I’m not really that into feminism, Grue Bleen.

    The point of the article that I was impressed by was the “organise not agonise” bit; if people really want to make a better world they should do it, do something different.

    It’s just more of the same patriarchal bs to sit at home or in an office and pontificate, fondly imagining that a definition can ever be ‘true’ or is ever going to make a real difference to real people.

    But assemblages? Now they are interesting. It seems that it is an art form that has been happening for decades.

    “In the 1950s and 1960s assemblage became widely used. Artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg adopted an apparently anti-aesthetic approach to making art, using scrappy materials and found objects alongside messily applied paint to create expressionist reliefs and sculptures (earning them the name neo-dada).

    “While artists of the arte povera movement, such as Mario Merz, made artworks using an assemblage of throwaway natural and everyday materials including, soil, rags and twigs in order to challenge and disrupt the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system.”

    http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/a/assemblage

    There are some wonderful assemblages to look at in the link above.

    Actually Mondrian said something profound if only I could remember it properly but the gist of it was that one day all life will be art. I’m working for that day.

  72. hc
    December 4th, 2016 at 19:27 | #72

    Why is this section of the John’s blog called a “sandpit”?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandpit

  73. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 19:51 | #73

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #71

    I’m not really that into feminism, Grue Bleen.

    Yeah, it seems you have a lot of fellow travellers in that. Probably all sympathise with Gloria Steinem when she said: “I look forward to the day when we no longer need a special word for women’s humanity.” Or summat like that.

    the “organise not agonise” bit

    Yep, it’s all the old formula, isn’t it: “give me liberty or give me death“. Malala would understand that totally.

    fondly imagining that a definition can ever be ‘true’ or is ever going to make a real difference to real people.

    So basically anybody for whom a definition makes a difference is just fooling themselves. For instance, the difference between the definitions of “christian” to Martin Luther and to the Pope were never of any relevance to “real people”.

    assemblages

    Ah yes, a modern variant on the ‘objet trouve’ variety of art made famous by Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ back in 1917. Let me see; ok yes: “Marcel Duchamp is thought to have perfected the concept several years later when he made a series of ready-mades, consisting of completely unaltered everyday objects selected by Duchamp and designated as art.” And then of course there are the composite sculptures made from various lumps of driftwood.

    But maybe the “assemblages” transcend all of that. Ok, yes, I’ve followed your link and some of them are “interesting” and may even go on to be “classics” once the artistic foundation has moved on again. To what, I know not, only that it will, sooner if not later.

    in order to challenge and disrupt the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system.

    Yep, that’s exactly what Duchamp said back in 1917. Do you think he succeeded ? Do you think the assemblagers will ? Let me see what Wikipedia says about ‘objet trouve’ art: “The idea of dignifying commonplace objects in this way was originally a shocking challenge to the accepted distinction between what was considered art as opposed to not art. Although it may now be accepted in the art world as a viable practice, it continues to arouse questioning, as with the Tate Gallery’s Turner Prize exhibition of Tracey Emin’s My Bed, which consisted literally of her unmade and disheveled bed. In this sense the artist gives the audience time and a stage to contemplate an object. Appreciation of found objects in this way can prompt philosophical reflection in the observer.

    Says it all, dunnit.

    Actually Mondrian said something profound

    From a not too diligent search, all I could find was this: “If the universal is the essential, then it is the basis of all life and art. Recognizing and uniting with the universal therefore gives us the greatest aesthetic satisfaction, the greatest emotion of beauty.

    Hmmm. And what do you think of the works of Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude ?

  74. GrueBleen
    December 4th, 2016 at 19:56 | #74

    @hc

    I dunno, mate … maybe because he didn’t want to call it a Skinner Box.

  75. Tim Macknay
    December 4th, 2016 at 22:18 | #75

    @hc
    I think the idea was that when two (or more) people got involved in an off-topic dispute on a regular thread that threatened to derail it, they could be given the metaphorical instruction to ‘go and play in the sandpit while the adults are talking’.

  76. Julie Thomas
    December 5th, 2016 at 06:26 | #76

    From CT

    “Among the many problems of comments threads, here and on other blogs, is the tendency for them to devolve into long debates between two, or a few, commenters. That often kills off any possibility of new comments coming in. On the other hand, people may want to continue these discussions, but get stopped when the thread is closed.

    At my personal blog, one response I’ve tried, with some success, is the Sandpit, a post open to ” for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on”. Anyone who feels that they have something to write that fits these categories is welcome to post here. I’ll also invite participants in long side discussions on my posts to move them here.

    There isn’t a general CT policy on this, it’s just an idea of mine, so we will see how it goes.

    Remember that the rest of the comments policy applies. Particularly, in the context of debates with one other person, please be civil and avoid personal attacks.”

  77. Julie Thomas
    December 5th, 2016 at 07:16 | #77

    @GrueBleen

    “So basically anybody for whom a definition makes a difference is just fooling themselves. For instance, the difference between the definitions of “christian” to Martin Luther and to the Pope were never of any relevance to “real people”.”

    No, more like anybody who fondly imagines that *the*definition will make a difference for anybody in the real world is just fooling themselves or …… they could be making art – performance art perhaps – and it is as relevant to real people as Tracey Emin’s bed.

    And about that bed and the sharks in formaldahyde, only capitalism could create a space and a market for that sort of art.

    Surely it was not arguments over the definition of ‘christian’ that caused the problems for the ordinary people? The real story, the real dynamics that created problems for ordinary people came from the machinations of people seeking power and privilege who believed that their definition was better than the other definition and used this belief to justify their personal ambitions.

    Spinoza said that to see the truth, you need to have no opinion; it is a mistake to set up what you like against what you dislike; is a disease of the mind.

  78. GrueBleen
    December 5th, 2016 at 08:18 | #78

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #76

    … long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on”. Anyone who feels that they have something to write that fits these categories…

    That just about covers everything for everybody. Spinoza aside, doesn’t just about everybody have “idees fixes” about pretty much everything.

    But I would say that, even in the “Sandpit” ProfQ is envisioning rational discussion about “substance” and not just therapeutic theatre.

  79. rog
    December 5th, 2016 at 08:32 | #79

    After cost blowouts due to various hasty and improper cost benefit analyses the NSW Govt wants to flog off the Lands Title Office. Again, an efficient and profitable enterprise is to be sacrificed at the altar of neoliberalism.

    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/law-council-of-australia-speaks-out-against-baird-governments-land-titles-registry-sale-20161202-gt2gl9.html

  80. Julie Thomas
    December 5th, 2016 at 08:39 | #80

    Lol and you imagine that you are rational and I am not? That is a disease of the mind that keeps you searching for the word or definition that will be the truth to end all irrationality?

  81. GrueBleen
    December 5th, 2016 at 09:17 | #81

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #80

    Why on Earth do you still imagine that everything I say is about you ? Hardly anything I say is ever about you, and in this case it was about its obvious subject matter: ProfQ and his intent for the Sandpit and his blog in general.

  82. Julie Thomas
    December 5th, 2016 at 12:04 | #82

    @GrueBleen

    I guess I made that mistake because the comment had my name at the top. lol again.

  83. D
    December 5th, 2016 at 12:57 | #83

    John Pilger’s latest film “The Coming War On China” will be streamed live on RT at various times on 9, 10 and 11 December.

    It won’t be available “on demand” so best to check the live schedule for screening times on those dates.

  84. Tim Macknay
    December 5th, 2016 at 13:26 | #84

    @D
    Wow, that was fast work. Six months ago Pilger was predicting WWIII with Russia under Hillary Clinton. Presumably with Trump about to become President and reputedly approved of by Putin, that’s no longer sufficiently plausible, so it’s China instead. Mind you a decade ago Pilger was predicting WWIII with Iran. I guess it makes good fodder for his target audience, who will neither notice or care that the prediction doesn’t pan out, but will move, goldfish-like, on to the next topic.

  85. GrueBleen
    December 5th, 2016 at 13:54 | #85

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #82

    Aah, I see your problem: perennial confusion between “to” and “about”. You really need to pay much more attention to the extensional definition of English words so that you too can be a disinterested participant in the Spinoza mould. lol.

  86. GrueBleen
    December 5th, 2016 at 14:02 | #86

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #84

    Something that mystifies me about this “war with China” trope is, if it isn’t going to be remote nuclear via missiles, where would a “hot war” with China be fought ? Can anyone point to anywhere that both China and America occupy so that they can engage in military engagements ?

    Or will it be a purely naval engagement all around and about the South China Sea islands ? Or is any nation(s) up for proxy war ? Will the Chinese get the North Koreans to maybe invade Australia ? Or maybe the Phillipinos if the North Koreans are too weak from starvation ?

    I look forwaard to Pilger’s solution of this consuming problem.

  87. GrueBleen
    December 5th, 2016 at 14:32 | #87

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #77

    anybody who fondly imagines that *the*definition will make a difference for anybody in the real world is just fooling themselves or …

    Hmm, well this “fooling themselves” idea is just a little strange – it means that we can lie to ourselves. But how then is that possible when we are ourselves ?

    they could be making art – performance art perhaps

    Oh yes, “Life of Brian” perhaps, or “Fawlty Towers” maybe ? Or even “The Annual General Meeting of the Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things”.

    only capitalism could create a space and a market for that sort of art.

    Then all praise to capitalism (I hope Ikono isn’t reading this) for being our primary source of the Art of the Absurd.

    came from the machinations of people seeking power and privilege who believed that their definition was better than the other definition and used this belief to justify their personal ambitions.

    Ah yes, lots of “self-interested overreach” I guess.

    Spinoza said that to see the truth, you need to have no opinion;

    Well, you can tell Spinoza from me next time you see him that he’s an ass.

    it is a mistake to set up what you like against what you dislike

    Goodo, then you have neither like nor dislike for Tracey Emin’s bed, but you will seek the one true definition of art.

  88. D
    December 5th, 2016 at 15:25 | #88

    Actually, Pilger has been working on this film for over a year. He considered both Clinton and Trump to be dangerous on confrontation with and aggression against, particularly, China and Russia. And there have been numerous acts of war committed against Iran in the last decade (e.g. assassinations, cyber-war with Stuxnet, attacks on military installations, economic warfare with sanctions etc..).

    It might be better for critics to see the film themselves and then point out any factual errors afterwards.

  89. Tim Macknay
    December 5th, 2016 at 16:29 | #89

    @D
    I was being facetious about the timeframe. Obviously it usually takes more than six months to make a documentary.

    And there have been numerous acts of war committed against Iran in the last decade (e.g. assassinations, cyber-war with Stuxnet, attacks on military installations, economic warfare with sanctions etc..).

    This is playing word games, and pretty much reinforces my point that Pilger’s target audience doesn’t really care whether it’s true or not. That it “feels” true is what matters.

    It might be better for critics to see the film themselves and then point out any factual errors afterwards.

    It depends what one is trying to achieve. If the aim is to understand some complex factual issue (such as the likelihood of war with China, for example), my recommendation would be to avoid documentaries and audiovisual media entirely, whether made by Pilger or anyone else. Audiovisual media don’t really lend themselves to dispassionate analysis. But if you want to watch Pilger’s doco, knock yourself out.

  90. D
    December 5th, 2016 at 17:20 | #90

    Word games?

    Facetious or not, your point required a quick about-face by Pilger (i.e. since 8 November) in order to support your dig at him.

    Presumably with Trump about to become President and reputedly approved of by Putin, that’s no longer sufficiently plausible, so it’s China instead.

    As for word games about war on Iran: The point is that there is, and has been for much more than a decade, a very strong lobby for war on Iran. Perhaps you don’t accept that as true, but there have also been several acts of aggression against Iran (which you don’t appear to deny), and many in the period since the Pilger wrote the piece you lampooned.

    Of course a documentary isn’t in-depth study material for any topic. Presumably that statement of the obvious wasn’t intended to be facetious, too. The best documentaries present facts in context in order to educate and inform a general audience about a topic or issue.

    You attack Pilger’s entire body of work as being untrue and his audience as ignorant fools.

    That “feels” like an outsized reaction to the mere mention of a new film coming out.

  91. Tim Macknay
    December 5th, 2016 at 18:41 | #91

    @D

    Facetious or not, your point required a quick about-face by Pilger (i.e. since 8 November) in order to support your dig at him.

    I’ll concede that the dig was facetious as well. I don’t really believe that Pilger has done an “about face” – I imagine his views about the probablity of war with both Russia and China predate Trump’s election. But I do think his claims about wars with Russia and China are exaggerated, and I think he probably knows it, too.

    The point is that there is, and has been for much more than a decade, a very strong lobby for war on Iran. Perhaps you don’t accept that as true, but there have also been several acts of aggression against Iran (which you don’t appear to deny), and many in the period since the Pilger wrote the piece you lampooned.

    I disagree that the point was about the Iran war lobby. That point could have been made without claiming that large-scale war was imminent. I note that you’re being rather non-specific about the ‘acts of aggression’. The reason I said you were using ‘word games’, was because, as I suspect you know, most of the various unfriendly activities that have gone on between the US and Iran (and Israel) in the past decade don’t remotely resemble the claims of a large-scale attack and possible annexation of the oil-rich portion of Iran that were foreshadowed by Pilger and a number of other commentators a decade ago. Whether or not various acts undertaken by any of the parties (including Iran) constitute “aggression” or “acts of war” is debatable. The Israeli assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists perhaps comes closest.

    The best documentaries present facts in context in order to educate and inform a general audience about a topic or issue.

    Perhaps, but whether or not they achieve that aim is open to debate. Documentaries, even good ones, use cinematic techniques to engender emotional reactions in the audience. Audiovisual media are particularly effective for this purpose – far more so than text. When the subject matter is politically charged, this tendency inhibits the educational aims of the communication. Documentarians often distort or ignore facts because they get in the way of the storytelling aspect of the process. Even good documentarians do this (good documentarians are good storytellers).

    You attack Pilger’s entire body of work as being untrue and his audience as ignorant fools.
    That “feels” like an outsized reaction to the mere mention of a new film coming out.

    Well, I think your characterisation of my comment is a rather outsized reaction itself, to be honest. 😉

    I didn’t “attack Pilger’s entire body of work as being untrue”. I pointed out that he has a record of making claims about imminent wars that have turned out to be false (and were recognisably exaggerated at the time they were made, IMHO). Numerous other commentators have made similar exaggerated predictions of that kind and I tend to be impatient with those as well, not just Pilger (Paul Craig Roberts springs to mind).

    FWIW, I think Pilger’s work in drawing attention to the plight of various marginalised groups of people who are generally ignored in mainstream discourse (such as the Chagos Islanders) is valuable, although I do think that (like many documentarians) he puts communicating the theme ahead of factual accuracy. That’s hardly unique to Pilger but, as I said before, I think it makes documentaries an unreliable source of information on complex and contentious subjects.

    I also didn’t characterise Pilger’s audience as “ignorant fools” (OK – “goldfish-like” was pretty dismissive 😉 ). I did say that Pilger’s audience were essentially indifferent to whether or not his prognostications turned out to be true, and would treat each new prognostication as valid without taking into account the fate of previous prognostications. As far as I’m concerned, you yourself have demonstrated that I am correct on this. But I don’t think you are an “ignorant fool”. I think this tendency is due not to ignorance, but to a determination to make the facts fit within a particular worldview. Whether or not that is “foolish” is a matter of perspective, I suppose. We all have biases and we’re all “foolish” to some degree. I am no exception.

  92. hc
    December 5th, 2016 at 19:27 | #92

    @Tim Macknay

    I am so glad it is metaphorical.

  93. D
    December 5th, 2016 at 21:43 | #93

    To be fair to Pilger (assuming we are talking about his column from 10 February 2006) he qualified the “prospect of a American attack on Iran” being, in February 2006, real and “imminent” with: “probably”.

    At that time, “probably” was a pretty fair assessment.

    He didn’t anywhere state it as inevitable. And context is important. His piece was responsive to Blair’s comments a week prior in the House of Commons using the same language as was used to preface the (real) Iraq war less than 3 years before, about (this time) Iran.

    I’ll concede the headline was dead wrong: “Iran: The Next War”

    They should have at least used a question mark. The “next” wars were against Somalia, Uganda, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq again, and a few others depending on how you define “war”.

    Your criticism of Pilger, by extension from your view of his audience is, put simply, untruthfulness. That’s not a fair criticism because you present (in this case) a 2006 view of “prospects” and “probability” of war as a rock-solid prediction, which it wasn’t.

  94. D
    December 5th, 2016 at 21:44 | #94

    To be fair to Pilger (assuming we are talking about his column from 10 February 2006) he qualified the “prospect of a American attack on Iran” being, in February 2006, real and “imminent” with: “probably”.

    At that time, “probably” was a pretty fair assessment.

    He didn’t anywhere state it as inevitable. And context is important. His piece was responsive to Blair’s comments a week prior in the House of Commons using the same language as was used to preface the (real) Iraq war less than 3 years before, about (this time) Iran.

    I’ll concede the headline was dead wrong: “Iran: The Next War”

    They should have at least used a question mark. The “next” wars were against African Countries like Uganda, and Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq again, and a few others depending on how you define “war”.

    Your criticism of Pilger, by extension from your view of his audience is, put simply, untruthfulness. That’s not a fair criticism because you present (in this case) a 2006 view of “prospects” and “probability” of war as a rock-solid prediction, which it wasn’t.

  95. D
    December 5th, 2016 at 23:07 | #95

    Pilger does have a habit of getting these things wrong, at least to some extent.

    In a piece from April 2002 he wrote:

    The next American attack is likely to be against S o m a l i a, a deeply impoverished country in the Horn of Africa.

    Liar!

    The next war was of course Iraq. So ma li a came a few years later.

    But, he did say “likely” not “definitely”.

  96. Tim Macknay
    December 5th, 2016 at 23:15 | #96

    @D
    No, I reject the accusation of untruthfulness. I think the most you could say is that I obviously regard his articles about an imminent attack on Iran as exaggerations of the risk, and you think that they were reasonable. But I think my characterisation of him as having predicted an imminent attack on Iran is a perfectly fair interpretation of his articles on the subject from a decade ago. For example, his article of 1 Feb 2007 entitled “Iran: a War is Coming”, begins with the sentence “The United States is planning what will be a catastrophic attack on Iran”. Talking about a ‘rock solid’ prediction versus ‘probabilities’ is more word games, IMHO.

    There also seems to be something of a marked shift from your earlier comment in which you appeared to be arguing that Pilger was essentially correct and that the US has, in fact, gone to war with Iran in the last decade. Now you seem to be saying that the US didn’t go to war against Iran after all but against Uganda, Libya etc and at Pilger wasn’t making any kind of prediction but was just talking about probabilities. Why the shift?

  97. Tim Macknay
    December 5th, 2016 at 23:38 | #97

    @D
    Your #94 – I’m glad you can concede that Pilger does have a habit of getting these things wrong. But you still want to preserve him as a useful source of information on these kind of topics. To me, the habit of repeatedly making predictions (or whatever you prefer to call them) of this kind and getting them wrong pretty much disqualifies the predictor from being treated as a reliable source. And yet treated as a reliable source they are. Hence the eye-rolling tone of my comment back up at #84.

  98. D
    December 6th, 2016 at 00:45 | #98

    No shift. I said it depends on how you define “war”. These days the US president kills a bunch of kids every week on his Tuesday death list in faraway countries that Americans haven’t heard of. I consider that “war” but the US Congress hasn’t declared a war for ages, so technically the US hasn’t been in a war since WWII.

    We may be getting down to the nitty-gritty here, which might be a good thing. But I doubt we’re going to agree on anything about this anyway.

    The US has not just “planned” an attack on Iran in any recent year but has a history of actually attacking Iran. And has done so in the last decade (see examples above).

    I’ll stand to be corrected, but I strongly suspect that there was truth to the statement that the US was planning an attack on Iran in 2007, it would be an unusual year if the US wasn’t.

    My concession about Pilger getting “these things wrong” was facetious (obvious, when you see that what I was pointing out was that his “next” US war was out of order, not wrong about the war itself).

    Anyway, I’ll watch the doco and perhaps you won’t.

  99. Tim Macknay
    December 6th, 2016 at 08:32 | #99

    @D
    So more word games then (you haven’t actually given any examples of the US attacking Iran in the past decade at all, btw). Suit yourself.

  100. GrueBleen
    December 6th, 2016 at 09:55 | #100

    @Tim Macknay
    Your #98

    It’s a post-fact world now, Tim. We gotta get used to it..

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