93 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. @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).

  4. @Midrash

    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.”


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

  6. @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).

  7. @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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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…..

  10. @Megan
    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.”


  13. @Ikonoclast
    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.

  14. @J-D

    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.

  15. @Ikonoclast

    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….

  16. @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

  17. @Megan
    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.

  18. @Megan
    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.

  19. @J-D


    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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. @Megan
    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.

  23. @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.

  24. @J-D

    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).

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. @drsusancalvin

    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.

  28. @kevin1

    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.

  29. @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.

  30. 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).

  31. @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.

  32. @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.]

  33. “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.

  34. @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.

  35. @Megan
    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?

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. @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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