23 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. Elon Musk has said Tesla’s cars, or at least the ones that are kitted out with the full set of cameras and sonic sensors, will be ready for full autonomous driving in six months. If we double that to 12 months, allow a year to collect data showing it is safer than having humans in control and then allow another 12 months to let it stew, by 2020 some locations may have fully autonomous cars on their roads.

    Assuming it works, that is.

  2. Will impeachment happen before WW III? The odds aren’t good.

    Seriously, I think Trump is doing the same thing he always did in business negotiations: keeps ’em off-balance and so disorientated by his bullying-backflip sucking up-changing it up-bullying-coddling-repeat ad nauseum behaviour, that eventually they cry uncle and just give in to whatever he demands of them. People will sell their house just to get him out of their house.

    In this post-reality world that the Rethuglicans have spent the worse part of two decades constructing for themselves and then inhabiting, they have to ask themselves a simple question: do they have it in them to pull the political trigger on Trump, to admit that this is where there lyin’ and denyin’ was always going to take them, to the extreme of having a dictator in the most powerful seat in the world; or, will they lack the cajones and foolishly let the thug-in-chief cement his power base? We saw the result of the latter behaviour in the 1930’s in Germany, and that didn’t end well for anyone.

    Australia’s government is so pathetic, it doesn’t even realise that there is a global crisis in the making, or that we are currently stapled onto the coattails of the USA, hence will be dragged into any conflagration that the Trumpler gets them into—note, China—through his compulsive confabulations and bullying of people who will not tolerate it. Can you imagine the fallout should Trump shirtfronts the leadership of China? If he humiliates them and mocks them in public?

    Australia currently provides the USA with a drone capability from the southern end of the Asia-pacific region, with a reach that covers SE Asia and parts of China. Do we really think that won’t be noticed by China, should the Trumpeter embroil the USA in a fight with China?

    It’s not just China that is a potential issue either; they are just the most likely early blunder by the Trumpet. He could just as easily blow his blunderbuss in the direction of the EU, or NATO, spraying targets indiscriminately and with no concern for collateral damage.

    If I seem to be showing no respect for the President of the United States of America, it is because I am showing no respect for the fool that is the Dictator of the USA; I’m sorry guys, but he is not fit to govern, and he has demonstrated that in spades. He does not deserve my respect. Believe me when I say Australians speak from recent experience with our domestic politics. We feel your pain.

  3. Trump firing from the hip and missing every target. Incompetent buffoon masquerading as a President. #trumpchump

    This is what I would freit if I had a Fritter account.

  4. @Ikonoclast
    This is a repsonse to your comments regarding the unemployment rate on the “Trumpism in Australia” thread.

    The main lie is in the implicit assumptions and even expressions that 5% unemployment (even on a hugely dishonest under-counting measure) is normal, is the only way to stop inflation and is perfectly acceptable.

    I have seen no evidence that assumptions about “normal” levels of employment, or appropriate methods of unemployment, form any part in the ABS calculation of the unemployment figure. This seems to be a criticism of attitudes to the unemployment figure, rather than the figure itself.

    Similarly, your claim that the ABS figure involves a “hugely dishonest accounting measure” is simply a repeat of your claim that the figure is a lie, without justification.

    From what you’ve said so far, and the links you’ve provided, it seems to me that you have tacitly admitted that the ABS unemployment figure is not actually a lie, and your claim that the figure is a lie is really just emotive hyperbole. It’s not the ABS figure that bothers you, but the overall attitude of policy-makers to unemployment.

  5. The phrase “appropriate methods of unemployment” was meant to say “appropriate methods of tacking inflation”. Sorry.

  6. A few points on this

    1. Back in the 1970s, unemployment measures here and in the UK were based on claims for unemployment benefits. Both the Thatcher and Fraser governments repeatedly adjusted the definition, always getting a lower number. Eventually both switched to the most commonly used international definition, used by the ABS in Australia. They did so at a time when the ABS number was lower than the claimant number, of course, but IIRC, that’s not the case now because of restrictions on UB.

    2. The standard/ABS definition is stringent. It covers people who have done no paid work in the past week, are actively looking for work and ready to start now. The ABS reports, but does not headline, broader measures including “discouraged workers”, that is, people who have given up looking, under-employed workers and so on.

    I think it’s fair to call the repeated adjustments I described in point 1 as “lies”. But given that the ABS definition has been the standard for 30-odd years now, we all have a pretty good idea what 5 or 10 per cent unemployment means. Certainly, a rate like 10 per cent, typical of a recession implies hardship for much more than 10 per cent of the population.

  7. @John Quiggin
    Thankyou – I wasn’t aware of that history.

    The fiddling that occurred in the 1970s or early 1980s probably accounts for the distrust some people have in the current figure (together with the fact that the figure obviously doesn’t tell the whole story regarding underemployment).

  8. Tim Macknay Are you living in any real world sort of place? Do you think that only statistics count?
    Does the real world ever intrude?
    The man over the road runs a coffee shop which is run entirely by students and graduates
    Tne McDonalds owner who has 3 arts graduates working for him
    The 504 applicants for 3 ticketing jobs
    My daughter after 14 years of casual part time jobs one degree and one diploma has finally got a real job( where she gets to repay her hecs debt)
    The next door neighbour who is looking for PHD lab assistant and gets 50 applicants
    The kids in wealthy families who are at home all day (gaming) and don’t qualify for any benefit
    With all due respects…. Please get out more

  9. @chrisl
    I’m not sure what your point is chrisl, but it seems to be an emotive diatribe. Could you explain your point a little more cogently?

  10. From the ABS website:

    “6.15 People who only looked in newspapers or read job advertisements on the internet are seen as passively, rather than actively, looking for work and so are not considered unemployed. The ABS view is that ‘only looked in newspapers’ does not meet the active search criterion, nor does simply looking at job advertisements on the Internet. It is impossible to obtain work by looking at a job advertisement without some additional, active, job search step (for example, contacting the employer).”


    So if you check the internet and newspaper for jobs but there are no jobs that you have a realistic chance of getting, and you don’t send off an application, the ABS deems you to be NOT actively looking for work and thus NOT unemployed! Tim, that might make sense to you but it doesn’t to me.

    And remember the ABS classifies you as employed if you work just a couple hours per week even if you really want full time work. The welfare system now also forces young unemployed people into pointless training courses for jobs markets that are already flooded (hairdressing etc). Other folk want to work but are not actively looking because they know they have no chance of getting work, so the ABS does not classify the as unemployed.

    Plenty of young people, including my own children, don’t even bother with Centrelink because of the stigma, hassle and delays. Instead they do cash in hand work for as little as $8 an hour. This is normal in rural areas, such as where we live.

    I suspect that if you add up the unemployed (as currently measured), grossly underemployed, discouraged job seekers, youngsters in bogus training programs etc you would end with a true unemployment/ underemployment rate closer to 15% to 20%.

    Maybe another 2% to 5% of workers are getting paid below minimum wage. I personally know at least a dozen folk in that situation. The 7/11 saga was just the tip of the iceberg.

    My question is why hasn’t some hard Left group seized on the discontent and challenged the main parties? Why have we left populist politics to the Right? Do we need a Left wing Messiah? Can John Quiggin be the charismatic yet intelligent man we need to set fire to the kindling of discontent? 😉

  11. @Monty
    Well Monty, the ABS does explain why it doesn’t count people such as the one you’ve described in the ‘unemployed’ statistics, and I think the explanation does make sense in terms of the ABS’s own scheme of how it derives the figure. The Morgan survey Ikonoclast linked to on the other thread uses a different methodology and does capture the sort of people who fit your example, but of course that method has drawbacks as well as advantages, just like the ABS one does.

    But to be honest, I think I and the people who have been arguing with me are having different conversations. I wasn’t trying to claim that ABS unemployment statistic is a complete or perfect measure of unemployment or underemployment, or that the figure means that everything is hunky-dory so no need to worry about unemployment or underemployment.

    I was simply reacting to the claim that the statistic is a lie, which I regard as an example of the kind of emotive, non-factual and slightly conspiratorial discourse that seems to plague our political discussion and helps get people like Hanson and Trump elected. As far as I’m concerned, based on the information Ikon and Prof Q have provided in addition to what I already knew, the ABS unemployment figure is clearly not a lie, whatever else may be wrong with it. The ABS clearly explains why it measures unemployment the way it does, and the explanation makes sense, and it’s been using this method consistently for decades. The fact that the method has drawbacks, and that there are alternative ways of deriving unemployment figures, and that many people may refer the alternative methods, does not make the ABS method a lie.

    it seems to me that it ought to be possible to say that the ABS headline unemployment statistic is a very limited piece of information, and other sources of data are necessary to shed more light on the overall employment situation, without getting all conspiracy theory and ‘alternative fact’ about it.

  12. Is this purely a discussion of semantics, a “lie” or a “falsehood” when a politician quotes an employment rate, often to score off against an opposing party in the past, that may have little relevance to reality? It is a fact that the ratio of full time employment to part time has fallen, reported by the ABS but not reflected in the most commonly quoted statistic, the employment rate? To someone who is struggling to achieve a sustainable wage and failing it is a “lie”. The methodology behind it may have been used for decades however because of the changing nature of employment it’s value as “barometer” of the state of employment is dwindling. My initial point was that does not represent the true state, a provocative falsehood or lie to a percentage of voters who are experiencing employment instability.@Tim Macknay

  13. @poselequestion
    As I said to Monty above, we seem to be having different conversations. If a politician misuses a statistic for political reasons, it is the politician who is lying, not the agency that produced the statistic. I agree that it’s value as a barometer of the state of employment is limited, but that doesn’t make it a lie. To say that it’s a ‘provocative falsehood or lie to a percentage of voters who are experiencing employment instability’ seems to me to be a complete non-sequitur. A statistic doesn’t become a lie because of how people feel about it. Calling the statistic a lie is to imply that the ABS is deliberately misleading the public by knowingly publishing falsehoods. That is essentially a Trumpism. The ABS’s own published material shows that it is not the case.

    It seems to me that the real concern of you, Ikon and chrisl is that the problem of unemployment (and the hardship faced by unemployed and underemployed people) isn’t taken seriously enough, and there is a sense among policy makers that the existing level of unemployment is OK. That is an entirely legitimate concern, but it doesn’t make the ABS statistic a lie. Attacking the ABS statistic for that reason is a bit like One Nation voters blaming their problems on halal.

  14. I hold to the view that the ABS method(s) even if technical truths given their definitions are, in spirit, though not in letter, lies. I don’t accuse ABS managers or staff of being liars. They are doing the technical job they are instructed to do. I do call our politicians, the capitalists and their apologists deliberate liars and mus-reprenseters who have developed many creative ways to disguise and misrepresent the truth. They do this deliberately and systemically. Them I accuse and despise, rejecting their machinations at all levels. The system, via its architects and managers (capitalists and their bought and suborned politicians), is designed to deceive, oppress and exploit the poor be they unemployed or working poor.

    The misleading stats are part of this picture. If they (the pollies and the capies) wanted to show a somewhat truer picture of unemployment they would use a pro rata calculation based on hours worked. Thus if a person works 1 hour in a given week then that would be calculated in the figures as 1/35th of an employed person (if 35 hrs per week is the accepted base for full-time employment. The fact they can’t even make this easy concession to a truer figure shows the full spirit and intention to deceive and lie. Yes, it is a conspiracy against the people. One tiny part of a multi-part, multi-faceted, engineered system designed to work consistetly against the poor and vulnerable in detail and to give rich people as a many advantages, both large and incremental, as possible. The whole system is duplicitously rigged, in overall design and in detail right through the system.

  15. @Ikonoclast
    Fair enough. It confirms what I thought – that I you don’t really think the ABS unemployment figure is a lie, but you dislike, on ideological grounds, the use to which the figures are put by politicians and big business. Calling it a ‘lie’ is just rhetoric. I think we now understand where we are both coming from.

  16. @Tim Macknay

    Well, it is still a lie in a sense. But it’s a lie set up by the politicians who give the ABS its brief. If one tells a truth but it’s not the whole truth then that is still a lie or a partial lie by omission. The ABS figures are not the whole truth and they are designed by the politicians to not be the whole truth. And if the politicians don’t headline every major pertinent fact of the whole truth then they still lie by omission.

    I never hear politicians saying, “Yes, well we have unemployment down to 5% on the standard measure but that under-counts unemployment in various ways. Let me explain… Meanwhile, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high at 15% on the same measures, also an under-count of course, so we are failing badly there. We cannot fail our youth like this and we commit ourselves to finding answers.”

    It is not so naive to now expect politicians to start telling these truths. People are so sick of the lies and cover-ups they would welcome (I believe) a party that told the truth even when that truth pasted mud on themselves as well as mud on the previous incumbents. A party that said, “Well they failed and they lied about it and still lie about it. We have failed so far but we are telling the truth about this now even if it reflects badly on us as well. But we commit ourselves to telling the real truth from now on and trying to find real answers and real measures that work, not the same tired old failed policies of bi-partisan cover-up politics based on lies, damned lies and rigged statistics.”

  17. @Ikonoclast
    I don’t really agree with your first sentence, because I don’t think the ABS reporting on employment ‘doesn’t tell the whole truth’ or is deliberately designed not to do that. The headline unemployment figure doesn’t, but it’s a single statistic, so of course it doesn’t. I think you’re expecting more from a headline statistic than it’s capable of delivering.

    I’m in complete agreement, though, that the pervasiveness of political lying is corrosive to the operation of democracy. I’d like to believe that people would politically reward politicians for telling the truth, although the resurgence of parties like One Nation is not particularly encouraging on that front (!).

  18. Capitalism – the saving of wealth or capital for security reserves , trading and employment potential and useful (i.e. profitable) investment – is the subject matter John Quiggin advised to discuss on the sandpit, when Ikonoclast stated “No one can escape it (capitalism) now, unless by mass revolution or its collapse” (“Working, or working less?”, 7th of Feb.).

    I hope there is lively discussion on that, because as a misleading and confusing Marxist legacy the basic economic activity of capitalism as above is still widely defined as “the (actually mixed) economic system based on private property and private enterprise” –

    resulting in the widely believed untruth, as if a socialist economy is not also capitalism (as a state monopoly) and – regardless of ideology – subject to exactly the same laws of physics on wealth creation and sustainability, as private enterprise capitalism.

    As life without capitalism is possible only at a primitive “hand-to-mouth” existence as predominant in the animal kingdom, capitalism will cease only with humans reverting to pre stone-age primitivity.

    It can temporarily collapse only partly when practiced at too high a rate of bank overdraft credit that is not being repaid.

    A revolution cannot eliminate capitalism, unless it kills everyone, including the revolutionaries, which raises the question:

    What might be the most fair and effective application of capitalism in the most egalitarian way ?

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