32 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. If we’re are heading towards a situation where gasoline is unusable because of cost/climate impact, along with cheap solar power, then what becomes the “fuel” of the future? Fewer cars in general as people move into denser areas? Electric cars? Cheap electricity converted into something else, then burned in cars?

  2. Immediately after the Charlie Hebdo shootings the establishment media repeatedly screened video footage taken from a rooftop of the terrrrsts shooting dead the wounded policeman. At first, and on several of the international news services relayed on SBS, the footage was shown ‘raw’ but was soon pixelated – presumably because it was graphic, or out of respect.

    There was almost immediately commentary on social media and non-establishment media raising questions about what was shown. I’m no expert and have no opinion, but it was to do with what would be expected to be seen in that scenario compared with what the video appeared to show.

    Jonathan Cook has written a good piece about the video, its apparent burying and the role of the media. He predicted in his first paragraph that he would be attacked for even discussing the issue. Sure enough he has been attacked and labelled a crazy “conspiracy theorist”.

    The article can be found on “informationclearinghouse” or at “jonathan-cook.net/blog/”.

    He doesn’t posit any “theory”, he simply raises some issues and asks questions – especially about the role of establishment journalism.

    An extract:

    … I am not actually suggesting that I know anything positive about what took place outside Charlie Hebdo. Rather, I am suggesting that no one else who has watched the unedited video, apart presumably from a few ballistics experts, does either. That includes the journalists.

    The journalists have taken the authorities’ word for it that Merabet was shot in the head, and we in turn are taking the journalists’ word for it. It’s all an act of faith. And it’s the basis of how most news is created and disseminated most of the time. We have to trust that the officials haven’t lied to the journalists, and that the journalists haven’t misled us.

    And yet there are no grounds for that trust apart from blind faith that our officials are honest and not self-interested, and that our journalists are competent and independent-minded.

    Among the millions of people who watch this video, a significant proportion will be suddenly stripped of that trust. The official narrative does not look right, though, as I concede, it may be. People want answers. And now that the video is going viral, the journalists even have an excuse to raise these questions and possibly find plausible answers by interviewing experts like those trained in ballistics.

    And yet what invariably happens in such cases is the authorities and the journalists close ranks. The incident is sealed away, like a body in a morgue, and anyone who tries to open it up again for public inspection is immediately dismissed as a conspiracy theorist.

    This refusal to be accountable to the public in even a most basic sense contributes to distrust in official sources (which is healthy) but it also means, denied a convincing official narrative, we become all too ready to accept any analysis (which is unhealthy). If there are lots of explanations of the seemingly inexplicable, we are left clueless about what is true and what is false, what happened and what didn’t. We are without a compass. …

    Too often we are invited, seduced, forced or tricked into taking the “official” story, as propagated by the establishment media, as fact without question. If some of us don’t we are abused as “conspiracy theorists” – end of discussion.

    He makes good points. It seems to me that often in a crisis, on a “hotbutton issue” or apparent emergency a lot of people automatically defer to authority and blindly lash out at anyone questioning whether that is necessarily a good idea.

  3. @Megan

    The footage is “analysed” by the guy from “stormclouds gathering” who has how much credibility? None, I would say. Is he a ballistics expert? I think not. The victim was already hit IIRC. He could have bled out before help arrived. The bullet fired may or may not have hit the head. It can still hit the pavement after hitting the head. The resolution is low, it may have been a full metal jacket bullet, there may have been little splatter etc. (Sorry to be gory.) The person airing this video (the guy from”stormclouds gathering”) may have doctored the video himself. The pavement puff actually looks dodgy to me. Did he add it in? How do we know that hasn’t happened? I mean if you are going to suspect everyone then you have suspect EVERYONE. Conspiracy sir? Would you like paranoia with that? There are many possibilities. Let’s just wait for the coroner’s report shall we?

    I grow tired of conspiracy theorists airing every ridiculous possibility and who knows maybe even faking their own so-called “evidence”. What are authorities meant to be covering up here? Does this go wider? Are they trying to claim a false-flag attack? I don’t think our (Western) authorities need to conduct false flag attacks now in their homelands (if they ever have). They have quite successfully stirred up enemies to do the work of stirring up the gullible among us.

  4. @Brett

    One would hope we move to electric personal transport and electric mass transit. That seems eminently feasible on land.

    And on sea sailing cargo ships may make a comeback. It is not as farfetched as it sounds. First, consider this.

    “The world’s largest cargo ships are travelling at lower speeds today than sailing clippers such as the Cutty Sark did more than 130 years ago.

    A combination of the recession and growing awareness in the shipping industry about climate change emissions encouraged many ship owners to adopt “slow steaming” to save fuel two years ago. This lowered speeds from the standard 25 knots to 20 knots, but many major companies have now taken this a stage further by adopting “super-slow steaming” at speeds of 12 knots (about 14mph).

    Travel times between the US and China, or between Australia and Europe, are now comparable to those of the great age of sail in the 19th century. American clippers reached 14 to 17 knots in the 1850s, with the fastest recording speeds of 22 knots or more.” – The Guardian Jul 24, 2010.

    Admittedly this is a little dated with oil prices (temporarily?) lower again.

    Other stories;

    “A Norwegian engineer has designed a ingenious ship whose towering aerodynamic hull functions as a giant sail, saving 60 percent of the fuel that would be used in a normal cargo vessel.” – The Local, Norway’s News in English.

    Look up


  5. @Ikonoclast

    This will sound rude, but did you read the article?

    A few points:

    1. I saw the full video (raw and pixelated) on several establishment TV media broadcasts at the time. From memory it is the same video, it MAY have been doctored in some finer details as you suggest – offering several “theories” of your own, ironically;

    2. Now I can’t find it anywhere online. As Jonathan Cook says: “Nor does the video’s removal from most websites prove that there is some sort of massive cover-up going on”, so I’d be more than pleased to know where else it is other than some “conspiracy” site. Please let us know if you can find it on a more credible site;

    3. In the haste to behave toward the “official” narrative in exactly the manner Cook discusses, perhaps some might miss his first paragraph:

    I am well aware that I’m stepping into a hornet’s nest by posting this video, which is going viral. Those who wish to silence all debate have an easy card to play here, accusing me of buying into a conspiracy theory. There’s only one problem: unlike the video-maker, I have few conclusions to draw about what the significance of this video is in relation to the official story. That is not why I am posting it.

    You “grow tired of conspiracy theorists” and I grow tired of the credulous fools who accepted the lies about WMD, Tonkin etc.. and who now “know” that the narrative they are being fed is absolute truth – this time.

  6. PS: For the VERY official narrative, from Rupert, no less, including statements of certainty viewers can go the “highly credible” Sky.

  7. @Megan

    I did read the article. I really could not get what the writer was on about. What was his theory exactly? One struggles to find a coherent theory. He hedges his theory so much that it is 99% wild speculation. Well, one can speculate wildly about anything.

    The first allegation seems to be “that he bled to death on the pavement because of official incompetence.” First we have to define “official” and “incompetence”. If the ambulance dispatcher was slow or incompetent is that “official” incompetence. If the ambulance staff could not or would not enter the scene while two man with automatic weapons were still on the loose is this “incompetence” or a show of sensible precaution?

    Where and at what level is this “incompetence” supposed to have occurred and of what is it constituted? I am sure you are aware that those who have ultimate command and control develop strategies, tactics and plans (doctrine) for general situations but that operational staff be they field commanders or field operatives actually give the orders and execute on the ground. Do you think actually executing moves in a situation like this is easy?

    Otherwise, is the writer alleging a “journalism” conspiracy to hide the facts? A conspiracy where they agree with the authorities somehow and then hide facts or else self-censor. In this case, he as a journalist needs to do his work properly and find the evidence and expose it. A hypothetical piece making large, vague acusations just does not cut it.

    I am not naive. I knew the WMD case was a put-up false case from the start. I said it to colleagues at work at the time. Several of them agreed and had come up with that conclusion independently. One did not have to be all that clever to see through it.

    On the other hand, the notion that the trade centre buildings were mined from the inside and the whole thing, including the Pentagon hit, was a false flag act is ridiculous. None of the empirical physical evidence (e.g. pancake collapse of the buildings) supports this. Such conspiracy theorists illustrate their ignorance of physics and structural engineering among other things.

    I mention these things because blind conspiracy theorising (compared to gaining facts and proving real conspiracies like the WMD evidence conspiracy) is an own goal. A great loss of credibility comes when buying into every conspiracy under the sun with vastly inadequate evidence.

    On the other hand, there is still much to answer about the flight shot down over Ukraine and the Sydney seige for instance. Most conspiracies tend to be about covering up evidence of incompetence and mistakes or fabricating new stories to cover things. But Jonathon Cook is just making unfounded speculations so far. He needs to find some real facts. He has gone off badly half-cocked. Maybe he has a gut instinct and maybe sometimes his journalistic gut instinct is right. But he needs to act professionally and get some real evidence first before going into print with half-baked (no, completely unbaked) theories.

  8. Footnote: If you have read my posts over time, you will know that I am far from credulous that the establishment narratives I am being fed with are absolute truth. So why jump to this conclusion as soon as I disagee with you on one case? Even on this case I am “agnostic”. Simply because I don’t buy Cook’s theory yet (I think he needs some real evidence) it doesn’t mean I believe the official narrative is credible.

    The real issue here is the making of heroes out of the Charlie Hedbo racists. Their murder was a crime. This does make them free speech heroes. Their magazine had no social or artistic merit in or to support its “satire”. It should have been shut down as hate speech. Freedom of speech is not freedom to crudely abuse people.

  9. Good interview with Professor Will Steffen in The Guardian today

    ““Some people say we can adapt due to technology, but that’s a belief system, it’s not based on fact. There is no convincing evidence that a large mammal, with a core body temperature of 37C, will be able to evolve that quickly. Insects can, but humans can’t and that’s a problem.”

    Steffen said the research showed the economic system was “fundamentally flawed” as it ignored critically important life support systems.

    “It’s clear the economic system is driving us towards an unsustainable future and people of my daughter’s generation will find it increasingly hard to survive,” he said. “History has shown that civilisations have risen, stuck to their core values and then collapsed because they didn’t change. That’s where we are today.”


  10. @Ikonoclast

    Maybe you read the piece with a jaundiced eye or a prejudice against someone you consider a “conspiracy theorist”.

    One struggles to find a coherent theory.

    That is because, as Cook makes clear, he doesn’t propose one.

    In the early stages and days of such incidents as Paris as Sydney a “narrative” develops. The establishment media and authorities work together (“police sources say…”) to manage the narrative.

    That isn’t necessarily a bad thing (“police are warning residents to stay away from…”), but it can also work very powerfully as propaganda (“the gunman killed two hostages forcing police to storm the cafe…”, “the gunman executes the officer in cold blood with a military style single shot to the head with his AK-47…”).

    On further examination the original, powerful, narrative may turn out to be not quite as correct and certain as it was first presented. Sometimes this could be harmless (quite often the exact ages, genders or numbers of victims is mistakenly reported) and then later the details are corrected.

    I take Cook’s point to be that the original video – widely, repeatedly broadcast and distributed on the web – has now virtually disappeared, even though it appears to show something at odds with the original official narrative. He repeatedly says that he isn’t putting forward or endorsing a theory.

    This is a case where the video was originally used to powerfully and very effectively illustrate the narrative but now the video has effectively disappeared while the narrative remains unchanged.

    Cook finishes his original piece – which is really about the establishment media, not a “theory”:

    …they simply regurgitated an official story that does not seem to fit the available evidence.

    That is a cause for deep concern. Because if the media are acting as a collective mouth-piece for a dubious official narrative on this occasion, on a story of huge significance that one assumes is being carefully scrutinised for news angles, what are they doing the rest of the time?

    The lesson is that we as news consumers must create our own critical distance from the “news” because we cannot trust our corporate media to do that work for us. They are far too close to power. In fact, they are power.

    Official narratives are inherently suspect because power always looks out for itself. This appears to be a good example – whether what it shows is relatively harmless or sinister – to remind us of that fact.

    The questions he raises are not vague hypotheticals, they should be undisputed fact: The video was everywhere and now it’s nowhere but the establishment media narrative remains constant.

    Rather than being grounds for an attack on the person making that observation it could/should be dealt with on its merits and any ideas as to why this is the case, and indeed whether it even matters, weighed objectively for plausibility.

  11. “Steffen said the research showed the economic system was “fundamentally flawed” as it ignored critically important life support systems.” Source: the guardian article referenced by ZM.

    What Prof Steffen identifies as the “critically important life support system”, the natural environment, is outside ‘the market’ (ultimately defined as ‘a price system’, or ‘price mechanism’). There are no prices for the elements of the critically important life support system. ‘The market is incomplete’ (in the language of the axiomatic part of economic theory). Therefore ‘the market’ cannot solve the problem it creates due to over-usage of the natural environment (which is implicitly valued at zero price).

    Prof Steffen (and others) provides natural science based content to interpret the importance of the theoretical result that economies with incomplete markets are generically Pareto inefficient (at least 25 years old).

    An economic system, characterised by an institutional environment where the rules of the game are based on the belief that ‘the market’ works, is fundamentally flawed – to put it mildly. It is a case where the ideology of ‘freedom of choice’ does not quite suffice when one takes the theoretical research results in Economics into account. It becomes metaphysical dogma in the light of scientific evidence. It is outside Economics concerned with the material welfare of humans.

    It is one thing to say we wish to live in a liberal society, it is another to pretend laissez-faire ideology is actually consistent with the physical properties of the world and then, to make matters worse, ignore the minimum wealth condition (wealth distribution), which ensures that the notion of ‘freedom of choice’ makes any sense at all.

    Those who believe they can complete ‘the market’ by an ever increasing number of types of financial securities are living in fool’s paradise (quite profitably so far for them at the financial expense of others). They can at most ‘span the pay-off space of existing primary securities’.

    Those who believe by making the ‘market economy’ (ie that part for which there are prices) more ‘efficient’ by increasing ‘competitiveness’ and monetary profits, also live in fool’s paradise. They speed up the misallocation of resources.

    It is not easy to turn the ship around. It seems to me to be easier to start with reducing wealth inequality while tightening environmental regulations. A total review and revision of corporate law seems to be necessary. Corporations are legal inventions without a moral compass regarding resource allocation. On paper, they could be outlawed by a stroke of the pen. But the consequences of a stroke of the pen would be, IMO, horrific for just about everybody except traditional tribal societies.

    Democratic societies have a lot to think about. Times are getting interesting again.

  12. @Ernestine Gross

    I agree with everything you say there so far as I understand it. I think I undertand everything you say very well except for your reference to Pareto efficiency (indirectly via reference to the “Pareto inefficient”). I kind of half-understand the concept of Pareto efficiency after reading a few English language definitions. However, I think one would need developed examples to fully understand the concept. Indeed, I suspect one might even have learn and do the maths (just a bit) to get a full handle on the concept.

    To summarise, I firmly believe I undertand you except for my “Pareto” wobblyness. However, I won’t expound upon why I agree with you because this rapidly ends in mutual misundertanding. Clearly, I don’t understand your frame of reference for these issues. As you said, we sometimes seem to arrive a like positions (in some ways) but from very different data and reference frames.

    I would like you to recommend a book for me to read that would help me understand your reference frame for political economy or institutional economics or whatever you would prefer to term this subject area. This book can be technical so long as explanations are in English. Even the most dense and technical English will be fine for me. However, I will not be able to understand a book full of Ph.D. mathematical formulae. I wonder if there is a book you can recommend?

  13. @Megan

    Who knows. But if the original video stayed around, you would have all the conspiracy theorists looking for inconsistencies. Just look at 9/11. And JFK.

    But I didn’t believe WMD, mainly because the “evidence” seemed dodgy, and because it seemed that a decision to invade had been made, and WMD was only being used as an excuse. And finally because Andrew Wilkie blew the whistle. I must admit to still being swayed by the propaganda, but essentially I didn’t believe it.

  14. @Megan

    Actually, I just had a look, and pretty easily came across the uncensored video. If the authorities are trying to cover it up they aren’t doing a good job. Anyway, I tend to agree with you that it is inconclusive as to whether he died from that shot. He certainly stopped moving. In the absence of any other evidence, I’ll draw the obvious conclusion – the gunman shot him and he died. The slightly less obvious conclusion is that the gunman tried to shoot him, but missed, and he died anyway. After that, it is, I’m afraid, tinfoil hat territory.

  15. @John Brookes

    You might not be able to post a full link, but maybe the suffix with the “www” removed?

    I couldn’t find it when I was searching yesterday.

    I tend to agree with you that it is inconclusive…

    You’re not agreeing with me, as I said I’m no expert and have no opinion on what the video does or doesn’t show either way. I was saying that Cook’s column about the trustworthiness of media/authority is a good read.

    FWIW, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the policeman didn’t die that day, the nuance is around the way the video was portrayed compared with what might be a less spectacular, but still tragic, reality.

    As an exercise, I’d bet that if you asked 20 “people at the pub” how many hostages the Sydney gunman killed and how many the police killed – most of them would think it was 2 & 0, which was the initial narrative even though it later appeared that may not be the case. I don’t know the latest figures but I remember that a huge percentage of Americans at one time believed Sadam Hussein was involved in 9/11.

    I can’t agree with the idea that the original video should be buried just in case people speculate about it.

  16. @John Brookes

    I followed Gulf War 1 and the ensuing sanctions and inspections against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. From that history I basically had a high level of confidence that the 2002-2003 claims about nuclear WMD were baseless. It was clear that Iraq’s attempts to build nuclear weapons were first heavily set back in 1981, with Israel’s raid on the Osirak Reactor.

    Gulf War 1 (1991) compounded that damage and did massive to Iraq, its economy, its military and its chemical and nuclear WMD sites.

    “After the Persian Gulf War (Gulf War 1 – 1991), the United Nations (UNSCOM) located and destroyed large quantities of Iraqi chemical weapons and related equipment and materials throughout the early 1990s, with varying degrees of Iraqi cooperation and obstruction.”- Wikipedia.

    Now for another quote from the Council on Foreign Relations

    “What were the ground rules for the 1990s inspections?

    UNSCOM was to handle the hunt for biological and chemical weapons; it partnered with the IAEA to tackle the Iraqi nuclear program. Iraq and the United Nations agreed that U.N. inspectors would have unrestricted authority to inspect any Iraqi site, copy documents, take photographs, install monitoring equipment, and travel from, to, and within Iraq–all without having to seek prior notice or approval. Iraq said it would disclose all its unconventional weapons programs and guarantee the safety of international inspectors.
    Did the inspectors find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

    Yes–and they destroyed more of them than the U.S.-led coalition did during the Gulf War. Among other things, U.N. inspectors located hundreds of tons of chemical weapons agents and thousands more tons of the chemicals used to make them; a major biological weapons production facility; machines for separating out radioactive isotopes that could be used to fuel a nuclear bomb; and dozens of missiles, launching pads, and missile warheads for both conventional and chemical munitions. Inspectors were stunned by the volume of information and material they found, and surprised that Iraq’s weapons programs were much more advanced than they had expected.” – Council on Foreign Relations.

    Clearly they found a great deal and destroyed a great deal and further set back WMD programs. Some like Scott Ritter said 90% to 95% had been destroyed and that technical verification of 100% was probably impeded because the Iraqis destroyed some and then denied it.

    The period 1998 – 2002 was a non-inspection, non-compliance period but Iraq remained under heavy sanctions. It is highly doubtful they could have substantially reconstituted programs with heavily damaged infrastructure and sanctions which meant no significant materials or technology could come into the country.

    That is why I was highly confident at the time that 2002-2003 claims about WMD in Iraq were a fabrication. If you had followed the history and then watched the way the claims were orchestrated and used as a pretext for war it became a near certainty they were fabricated. No special knowledge was needed. All the available debunking evidence was on the public record. One just needed to have followed the history for about a decade or to research it a little.

  17. @Ikonoclast

    Do you remember how you received/perceived the following stories at the time?:

    Jessica Lynch;

    Pat Tillman;

    Mamdouh Habib;

    David Hicks;

    Dr Mohammed Haneef;

    The Bin Laden “capture or kill” mission.

    My immediate reactions ranged from “sounds a bit sus” (e.g. Lynch, Tillman) to outright “this must be B.S.” (e.g. Hicks, Haneef). But the establishment narrative in each case at the time was widely accepted as “The Truth”, and those who questioned it were labelled “tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists” – including all of us who questioned the WMD story.

  18. As we sit here, the refugees in Australia’s concentration camp on Manus Island are again being attacked by private “security” goons.

    Some refugees have apparently already been injured. There may be more deaths, like last February. There already is, belatedly, a narrative being constructed. The new minister, Peter Dutton, denied there was any trouble a few days ago and then admitted there was.

    The ALP put these refugees on Manus to prove how “tough” they were and the LNP said “Thanks! Politically, we couldn’t have done that. But now you’ve set it up, we’ll happily keep it going.”

  19. Speaking of WMD “doubters” reminded me of this (from the establishment media ‘The Age’), in August 2003 still pushing the US propaganda:

    Armitage vows to find Iraq’s WMDs

    By Tony Parkinson
    International Editor
    August 14, 2003

    America’s armed forces would not leave Iraq until they had found and destroyed all of the former regime’s weapons of mass destruction, visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said yesterday.

    In a lunch address to the Asia Society in Sydney, Mr Armitage sought to address rising concern in the US, Britain and Australia about the failure so far to produce tangible evidence to support one of the main justifications for war in Iraq.

    “We have not yet found enough evidence of Saddam Hussein’s programs to develop weapons of mass destruction,” Mr Armitage admitted. “But we will. I am absolutely confident of that.

    “The fact it has taken so long to find the evidence is a chilling reminder that these programs are far too easily moved and, I believe, far too easy to hide.”

    Amid reports the Bush Administration is planning a major statement on Iraq’s weapons by mid-September, Mr Armitage urged doubters to await the findings of a new inspection team that has been scouring Iraq in recent weeks, led by former UNSCOM scientist Dr David Kay.

    “He is making solid progress,” Mr Armitage said. “He is also finding deception and concealment were an extensive and embedded part of the program, perfected over the course of two decades.

    “It’s going to take some time to find not just the weapons, but the equipment, the people and the materials.”

    Casting the search for WMD in Iraq as part of a US campaign for a tougher international approach to preventing the spread of WMD technology to rogue states and terrorist groups, Mr Armitage said: “President Bush has made it crystal clear we do not intend to stay in Iraq longer than necessary. But let me also make this crystal-clear: we are not going to leave until we find and destroy Iraq’s capability to produce biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.”

    With North Korea another key focus of Washington’s concern over WMD proliferation, Mr Armitage said US forces would participate in Australian-hosted naval interdiction exercises in the Coral Sea next month. He expected Italy, Japan and Germany might also take part.

    Mr Armitage acknowledged there were question marks over the legality of boarding suspect ships at sea, but insisted “the international community needs to come up with a workable, muscular diplomatic answer to such challenges”.

    In response to the bleak assessment by ASIO director-general Dennis Richardson that it was only a matter of time before terrorists unleashed a “catastrophic” attack with WMD, Mr Armitage was unwilling to concede a mega-terror strike was “a foregone conclusion”.

    “I think many of your citizens and mine spend their days and nights trying to make that not happen,” he said. “The difficulty is we have to be right 100 per cent of the time. The terrorist only has to be right once.”

    It would be hilarious….if not for the millions of dead and displaced as a result of these lies, and those of us who accepted those lies – or were a bit “agnostic” about them.

    Some of those displaced might be about to die. Tonight. In Australia’s ALP/LNP concentration camps.

    Of course, they might not be bashed to death. Let’s just wait and see how it works out.

  20. @Megan

    I remember some of those stories. Anything the US said and says about the Middle East or related issues I view as propaganda.

    However, to prove such propaganda conspiracies a real story still has to be broken somewhere. Jonathon Cook hasn’t broken a real story on this issue yet to my knowledge. I just hope you can understand my point that we must have a higher standard for proof and regard for truth than those we argue against.

  21. @Megan
    Not seen the Hebdo footage Megan but I was struck by media reports into the Lindt siege that Ms Dawson was killed by a “stray” police round. Naturally wonder where that word would have originated let alone the idea that trained police marksmen shoot ‘strays’. Later accounts spoke of a “ricochet” being the cause of the fatal shot. Presumably the formal inquiry will elaborate but I won’t be surprised if the ‘s’ word is deleted, perhaps replaced by the ‘r’ word.

  22. As I said in relation to the Lindt siege at the time, the original account of almost any event of this general kind is wrong and nearly always in a way that shows the authorities in a better light than later versions. You don’t need a conspiracy to explain the observation: simply assume that everyone involved is pursuing a CYA strategy and the outcome is predictable. But I don’t know that you can infer much more from this than from the observation that people usually look better on Facebook than In Real Life.

    As Ikonoklast says, the WMD case is one where there was a concerted attempt to maintain an important falsehood over a long period. That’s about as close to a conspiracy as you are likely to get. Even in that case, there was no meeting where the parties got together to plan a strategy. Rather the system worked to ensure that Bush and Blair were presented with the (purported) evidence they had made it clear they needed

  23. @Ikonoclast
    That was pretty much my recollection, too. Furthermore, Iraq had invested heavily in a bruising war against Iran, further straining their finances for WMD (especially nuclear and biological). By the time we got to 2001, Iraq was not in a position to have nuclear capability, nor biological WMD (excepting the odd experimental vat somewhere).

    I just can’t help wondering how different the world might be, if instead of holding back forces for an invasion of Iraq, the US had simply focussed all effort on catching bin Laden and his high ranking leaders and left it at that. An ISIL surge out of Syria and into Iraq would have been met with fierce resistance from Hussein’s Iraqi army, and they would have had air power and heavy conventional weaponry with which to repel ISIL. Iraq would also have been a counter-balancing force against Iran. Instead, by invading Iraq, we have left it impoverished and weakened, ready for big parts of it to be subjugated by a small army, as has occurred. The coalition of the swilling really opened the gates of Hell, creating the very thing they claimed to be defeating.

    Even worse, the Iraq Invasion 2003 was so obviously an idiocy of the first order that it shouldn’t have been done. Bush, Blair, and Howard own that but escape censure for it. However, this time it isn’t as simple a decision to be made: who knows what dangers lie in simply allowing ISIL to run its course? Will they create a whole state from which to harass other countries? Will they settle down and get bogged down in the details of running the state they’ve tried to establish? Will they be eventually defeated by neighbouring countries? Or will citizens of western democracies begin insurgent activities within their own countries, as a gesture of solidarity with ISIL?

    Some of this rests on whether we consider holding the borders of Iraq as they are, or not. Given the colonial history behind the modern states in the middle east, that’s a question of significance. Finally, are we prepared to watch rapacious killers raze great tracts of once peaceful civilisations, or do we think we should do something about it? In Africa, our answer (to the victims of Bappears to be SFW. In the middle east, I suspect our leaders will soon decide SFW as well.

  24. This is another area in which the right to privacy is being tramelled to dust: full blown drug searches of employees—all employees—flying in to their workplaces, under mining FIFO contracts. The searches of airport luggage and passengers on their way to mining sites is over the top. There was no good intelligence that anyone was in possession of illicit substances, as far as I can see, and yet they conducted a blanket search.

    The story suggests that there were 20 dog indications of drugs, but searches of those 20 passengers didn’t reveal any drugs. These 20 dog indications are not evidence of anything beyond the fact that for regular FIFO passengers, their luggage may come in contact with contaminants on the carousel, something that can and does happen. And, the dogs can detect other odours which yield false positives. It is difficult to know just how often false positives occur, because drugs might have been present at one time, or not.

    This sort of search procedure presumes existence of a guilty party prior to the search being conducted. Every time we allow a blanket search of this nature, we perpetuate and strengthen the culture of presume guilt, establish innocence; every new procedure allowed is further erosion of our rights, and of what should be a right to be left alone if not actively transgressing the rights of others.

    If companies are concerned about employees not being in a fit state to work, then they should bear the cost and the effort within their workplace of ensuring this doesn’t happen; if it does happen, there are remedies such as firing the offending employee. Getting the cops to do your own dirty work is, as amply demonstrated in the article I cite at the beginning, a complete waste of taxpayer’s money, and a serious intrusion into leaving us alone when on our private time.

  25. @Donald Oats

    I agree with what you say. Damaging Iraq so heavily has just strengthened, at least relatively, Iran and various insurgencies in the Middle East. Turkey is strengthed too but then also perhaps the Kurds and Peshmerga so that is a mixed bag for the Turks.

    My solution would be to completely walk away and leave the mess we have made. Of course that is morally wrong but since any further “help” from us will only worsen the mess it is the “least worst” thing we could do. If there was any way or ways to provide humanitarian help to the region without affecting the balance of power and various struggles then we could do that. However, I suspect even humanitarian help would be (and is now) funneled, diverted and corrupted in many, many ways.

    The Realpolitik of it is that oil and Israel will never be abandoned by the West (and other countries) while oil and Israel exist and are of use. Once we stop using oil (via exhaustion or AGW concerns) will the M.E. retain any geopolitical importance? I would suggest only if they can export solar energy in some way. And if the M.E. loses its strategic importance what practical raison d’etre remains for defending and supporting Israel? Would the “moral imperative” to support Israel, as seen by say the pro-Jewish USA, be strong enough on its own?

  26. @Ikonoclast

    I don’t have a book in my private library which would suit your specifications. Perhaps the following suffices.

    Pareto efficiency [PE] (also known as Pareto optimality) refers to a criterion for assessing the state of a system. In the most general terms, a state of a system is said to be PE if no improvement is possible. The relevant system in question is an economy, a social system of ‘resource allocation’. A so-called ‘market economy’ is a social system because, even the simplest example of a ‘market economy’ requires at least two humans who interact with each other through production and exchange or only exchange of ‘things’.

    I am going to use concepts from a theoretical model that correspond to those from the theoretical model for which the generic PE inefficiency result was obtained. Specifically, these models are identical in their description of ‘the economy’, relevant for the definition of PE, except that one assumes ‘markets are complete’, while the other one assumes ‘markets are incomplete’. These theoretical models belong to the class where there is no government or any other non-market institution (ie only ‘price system’). Furthermore, all ‘agents’ (decision makers) are ‘competitive’ in the sense that they behave as ‘price takers’.

    With reference to your football game argument on another thread, you may appreciate it is a little difficult to find the boundary for what I need to introduce to provide more than a string of words which fail to convey the concept of PE.

    I now state the ‘definition’ of PE and then say a few words about terminology which I consider essential to make sense of it.

    PE: The feasible allocation A is PE for ‘the economy E’ if there does not exist a feasible allocation B such that at least one individual is ‘better off’ with the allocation B without anyone else being made ‘worse off’.

    Economy ‘E’: There is a finite number of people (at least 2. The larger the number the more plausible is the assumption of price taking behaviour). The purely economic aspects of persons is characterised by each individual having ‘preferences’ (ranking of alternatives) and each individual having an ‘endowment’ (‘things’ which they own) such that ‘the minimum wealth constraint’ is met. ‘Things’ include ‘commodities’ and ownership shares of firms (called producers, characterised by a production technology). Preferences are defined on commodities (think of consumption). A ‘commodity’ is defined by its physical properties, time of availability and location of availability. The minimum wealth constraint means each individual’s wealth (sum of the list of price weighted things owned) is such that the individual can buy at least a little bit of all commodities in the economy. The number of commodities is finite even for an economy that lasts for a long time.

    ‘An allocation’ is a list of (consumption) bundles of commodities, one bundle for each individual (a matrix, with as many rows as the number of individuals and as many columns as the number of commodities).

    A feasible allocation is an allocation which is technologically possible, budget feasible for each individual (affordable, given the prices and the individual’s wealth) and the aggregate is total ‘resource feasible’ (for each commodity, the sum of the individuals’ consumptions is less than or equal to the total amount available).

    ‘Better off’ and ‘worse off’ relates to each individual’s subjective valuation (preferences), constrained by their respective wealth and total resources in the economy.

  27. @Ernestine Gross

    Thank you, I do understand that explanation. Of course, my level of understanding of PE is now just very basic but as good as anyone could teach me in a blog, so thanks again.

    One thought that occurs to me is as follows. First, bear in mind that I come from a conceptual angle where I understand how game matrix problems (like chess) are solved but the most maths I ever did was Grade 12 Maths I and Maths II in the old days (1971 to be precise) and most of that has now gone rusty being unutilised ever since.

    If I were to attempt to solve a mathematical matrix problem of the type that you illustrate for P.E. I would do this. My method would be to regard it as a tree-search problem so the key would be a tree-search algorithm of the type used in computerising mathematical matrix games like chess. The computations would be extensive so they would have to be computer programmed. I wonder if this is how mathematical economists solve these problems?

    You say: “An allocation’ is a list of (consumption) bundles of commodities, one bundle for each individual (a matrix, with as many rows as the number of individuals and as many columns as the number of commodities).”

    I assume that this is (at this level anyway) a two dimensional array problem. Array combinations need to be examined such that every “legal” set of combinations is analysed, i.e is “tree-searched” and evaluated by a “position evalutation function”.

    Chess programs for example consist of four basic modules. First there must be an input-ouput or I/O module. This is of trivial interest for our purposes here. The guts of a chess program consist of;

    (A) A legal move generator (LMG);
    (B) A tree-search algorithm (TSA) (ideally the alphabeta tree search algorithm);
    (C) A position evaluation function (PEV).

    I refer to your statement:

    “A feasible allocation is an allocation which is technologically possible, budget feasible for each individual (affordable, given the prices and the individual’s wealth) and the aggregate is total ‘resource feasible’ (for each commodity, the sum of the individuals’ consumptions is less than or equal to the total amount available).”

    This amounts to parameters or specifications for a Legal Move Generator. Feasible allocations = Legal Moves.

    A looping alphabeta tree-search algorithm would commence, “intending” to loop through every possible combination. The Legal Move Generator problem for PE is somewhat different from the LMG issue for chess. In chess all the legal moves are known in advance before the tree-search commences. In this PE problem some or many or all legal moves may not be known until some looping computations have already been done (I am guessing here). Thus, the alphabeta tree search algorithm could be used to truncate searches which have led to an illegal position. The alphabeta tree search algorithm can also be used to truncate searches that lead into legal positions worse than an already found solution. Truncating bad searches saves computation time.

    (Note: There will be a lot of “devil in the detail” here with regard to my claims in the last three sentences above. It might or might not be possible to use the alphabeta algorithm in this manner i.e. to truncate searches to save computation time in this PE model case where the legality or illegality of the “moves” (as matrix combinations) only becomes apparent at various depths in the search).

    Your other key statement:

    “The feasible allocation A is PE for ‘the economy E’ if there does not exist a feasible allocation B such that at least one individual is ‘better off’ with the allocation B without anyone else being made ‘worse off’.”

    This amounts to the specification for the PEV (Position Evaluation Function). At the end of each interation of the full tree-search each position must be evaluated on this basis. What this would again entail in detail I cannot quite envisage as the problem is a mathematical matrix problem like chess is but its legal rule set and its goals are rather different and possibly evolve and manifest at different points in the iterated search.

    To cut a long post short, are matrix calculations of some form used along with computerised tree-searches and final position evaluations to solve these problems, at least sometimes?

  28. Footnote for Geraldine: The above was badly written and rushed.

    For example the statement “In chess all the legal moves are known in advance before the tree-search commences.” is very misleading.

    It should actually say “In chess all the legal moves for a given legal position can be derived from the legal move generator (LMG). Also, as the tree-search algorithm advances through the move-tree, each new position generated shows the same characteristic, namely that all the legal moves for that given legal position can be derived from the legal move generator (LMG)”.

    However, the PE “move-tree” or rather possibility-tree might show somewhat different characteristics. Namely that, “legal moves” (feasible allocations) might not be determinable until the algorithm has run through each hypothetical allocation until feasible allocation has been exceeded for that attempt or until the matrix has been completed generating a feasible allocation. This means the strategies for search truncations (to save computer calculations) of (a) unfeasible or (b) “worse than the already discovered” allocations (moving away from P.E.) might not be the same as for the chess (or draughts or Noughts & Crosses) alphabeta algorithm.

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