93 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. @Julie Thomas
    Thanks Julie. In seriousness, I think the problem is not just that I am a bit outspoken or tactless sometimes – though I know I can be – but also that pointing out the taken for granted is often considered bad manners (emperor’s new clothes fable).

    Which makes Fran’s comments about etiquette a bit difficult on blogs. I was in the precise situation Fran uses as a metaphor the other day – I was having dinner in someone’s home and the conversation took a turn that I as a feminist really didn’t like. There were all sorts of good reasons for me to leave early, so I bit my tongue and was polite. However, had in had more time, and had I drunk two glasses of wine instead of half a glass, I might have challenged them. The friendship involved is very longstanding, so it might have all been friendly in the end, but I also might have offended them.

    My guess is that our host, professor Quiggin, doesn’t actually want us to be so polite that we avoid all controversial subjects.

    @Watkin Tench
    Speaking of being offended, I have a Muslim son-in-law, and I am pretty concerned about the tone of some of your comments. What are you actually saying about Muslims? Do you realise that some of the allegations made about the white invaders of Australia are just as bad or worse?

  2. @Watkin Tench

    The answer to the question ‘what is the fraction of terrorist attacks that are perpetrated by Muslims?’ is of less significance than the answer to the question ‘what fraction of Muslims have been involved in the perpetration of terrorist attacks?’ To an order of magnitude, my first guess at an answer would be one in one hundred thousand. If one in every hundred thousand Muslims has been involved in the perpetration of terrorist attacks, that is nowhere near adequate justification for a general ban on Muslim immigration. If the figure were, say, nine in ten, I suppose my answer might be different — but clearly that’s not the case.

  3. Watkin Tench does not understand that much non-state terrorist activity is a response by people to being attacked by other states. As a first step, we (the West) should stop attacking, bombing and drone striking people in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan. All of this is state sponsored terrorism carried out by our own states. We should demand this cease as the first big step in stopping deaths from terrorism world wide.

    I would also like to point out how hysterically absurd Watkin Tench is about the danger of terrorism in the West.

    “Comparing US CDC (mortality) numbers to terrorism deaths shows:

    – You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack.

    – You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack.

    – You are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error than a terrorist attack.

    – You are 4,706 times more likely to drink yourself to death than die from a terrorist attack.

    – You are 1,904 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack.”

    – from the washingtonsblog.

    This presumes “you” to be an “average” US citizen in every way.

  4. @Val

    These outcomes are the result of automoderation, over which I have no control, and which I don’t understand, except to say that links are likely to trigger it, as are words the kind of products sold by spammers. Amusingly, the word so-c*alis-m used to trigger it, because the central string is the name of a pharmaceutical product.

    My own moderation efforts are bit erratic – I do this in my spare time, so I miss some things, often coming in only when they are already out of hand. And, of course, I’m human and variable (not the automod robot is any better).

  5. @Val

    Which makes Fran’s comments about etiquette a bit difficult on blogs. I was in the precise situation Fran uses as a metaphor the other day – I was having dinner in someone’s home and the conversation took a turn that I as a feminist really didn’t like. There were all sorts of good reasons for me to leave early, so I bit my tongue and was polite. However, had I had more time, and had I drunk two glasses of wine instead of half a glass, I might have challenged them. The friendship involved is very longstanding, so it might have all been friendly in the end, but I also might have offended them.

    There’s no good general rule on this. You need to treat it as a risk trade — weighing the important of the controversial challenge you might raise against the costs of the distress you can reasonably anticipate. You might approach the subject delicately, perhaps in a Socratic manner, in which, rather than challenging their claims directly, you tease out the logic and sweep of what they are claiming.

    Sometimes this is the best way to explore matters, particularly with those you regard as longstanding friends and who, presumably, you regard as ethical, thoughtful folk who would speak in good faith to a matter they might see as of concern to you. Sometimes that approach can clarify misunderstandings you had entertained, foreclosing the need to bite your tongue. Equally, it’s possible that they will grasp the problems you’ve identitified and begin to see it more from your perspective in circumstances where they don’t feel so defensive and painted into a cultural corner.

    Even if neither of these things occurs, you will at least have a better foundation for deciding where you’d prefer to take risks in challenging directly or continuing to bite your tongue.

    At least, that’s how I often approach matters in such settings.

  6. Nevil Kingston-Brown,

    You’ve missed the point entirely. My point was restricted to the peculiar and unwarranted fascination with the 0.01% synthetic pesticide residue and the Sgt Schultz “I see nothing!” attitude to 99.99% of pesticides that are a natural part of our fruit and veg.

    You might like to read this to gain a better understanding.

    As the above article states, many of our staple fruit and veg would be pulled off the shelves if they were assessed in the same way as synthetic products.

    The synthetic/natural apartheid system is a product of Green Left ideology, the type of ideology that idealises pre-industrial food production. It has nothing to do with reality or science.

    BTW, the study you cite is a stand alone epidemiological study. Such studies are notorious for producing bizarre results and generally don’t carry much weight until they are backed up by further studies.

  7. Just after 9/11, plenty of people warned that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were tantamount to torture, waterboarding being the stand-out example (although most people didn’t appreciate at the time just how bad it is); now, we finally have an admission that the CIA crossed a line and tortured some folks. Plenty of experts warned that torture would seldom yield any intel, and forget about the “terrorist who knows about the location of the ticking time bomb” scenario so often paraded as a valid reason for such extreme techniques of interrogation. Given that some of these techniques go on for days and weeks, the ticking time bomb scenario diminishes in validity; fantasy, even.

    Unfortunately, the whole panoply of excuses for torture are being trotted out and aired, as if this is some kind of defence. Even the “we didn’t know (it was torture) at the time” excuse has popped up here and there. The worst protective defence of all is the “they are patriots” also gets an airing.

  8. @Watkin Tench

    This is just nonsense: “The synthetic/natural apartheid system is a product of Green Left ideology, the type of ideology that idealises pre-industrial food production. It has nothing to do with reality or science.”

    Really Watkins you just made that up, didn’t you? The irrational thinking that leads some people to worry about not natural things is due to human nature not to the devil lefties. People have always harked back to the past for some direction to take when uncertain about the future.

    I think it is called conservatism.

  9. @Donald Oats

    And Obama is quoted as saying of the torturers that “we shouldn’t judge them too harshly”.

    Torturers and murderers (including Obama with his “Tuesday Kill Lists”) should be judged as harshly as possible – i.e. condemned absolutely.

  10. when people hark to the past for some direction to take when uncertain about the future has also been called nationalism. -a.v.

  11. @John Quiggin
    Thanks ProfQ. I realised afterwards that my comment fitted a typical pattern of spam: brief comment blah blah website link (usually irrelevant, though not in this case) so not surprising it got picked up by auto-mod.

    One of my later comments also was held up briefly, can’t work out what set that off, maybe it was “M-slim”? A strange thing that happens sometimes on this site is that, when it asks me to log in again after my iPad has been shut down, it also sometimes asks me to go through the test for being a human, copying letters and numbers, which are almost invariably extremely difficult to read on an iPad. That in turn sometimes sets off odd things like a “flare”. Anyway I usually end up getting through. It’s not serious but just interesting, I guess.

  12. @alfred venison
    However if you don’t accept the progressive view of history (the march of progress), you might accept that some things were actually better in the past. For example, income inequality in many countries decreased after the Second World War until about the 1980s, since when it has been rising.

    Similarly, human beings used to live in a way that was compatible with a stable eco- system. Now we are destroying it.

    The trick is to work out what is actually better now, and combine it with what was actually better in the past. If I may do a little self promotion, I did a blog post on a very similar topic just after I’d been to Kenya, thinking about life in rich and poor countries.

  13. even an internal link with the wrong word. irony is that “samsung double door refrigerator price in kolkata” got a comment with link posted on the Stafford by-election thread and he really is spam. 😉 have a great day. -a.v.

  14. As I understand it, Obama’s background is as a “community organiser”, which largely means bringing people together, getting them each to admit to themselves what they did wrong^W^Wshould have done differently, and agreeing to work together see each others perspectives and sing kumbayah around the fireplace.

    Which I think you see reflected in his attitude and approach to problem-solving.

    It’s the right approach… for someone with no effective coercive power. Is the president of the US in that sort of position? quite possibly, yes: the US’s structural problems are pretty severe.

  15. @Collin Street

    Saul Alinsky is credited with coining the expression ‘community organizer’ and is still quoted by organizers. Somebody who wrote ‘The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition’ and ‘In war, the end justifies almost any means’ probably didn’t have much time for singing Kumbayah.

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