Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Clamour to Cringe

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  • Kracklite,

    Interesting podcast that may be pertinent to the Iran issue.

    It was part of a series of seminars on long term thinking by The Long Now Foundation

    Psychologist Philip Tetlock decided to start grading pundits and think tanks on the accuracy of their intelligence and predictions. Try here and scroll down to just above 2006. Blog summary here.

    Instead of saying, “I evidently had the wrong theory,” the
    experts declare, “It almost went my way,” or “It was the right
    mistake to make under the circumstances,” or “I’ll be proved right
    later,” or “The evilness of the enemy is still the main event here.”

    Tetlock’s summary: “Partisans across the opinion spectrum are
    vulnerable to occasional bouts of ideologically induced insanity.”
    He determined to figure out a way to keep score on expert political
    forecasts, even though it is a notoriously subjective domain
    (compared to, say, medical advice), and “there are no control groups
    in history.”

    Heh.

    In a nutshell, the narrower one's terms of reference, the less likely you are to be right. It was not a case of liberals or conservatives proving to be right, rather those who tended to be contrarian against their own inclinations and to qualify achieved better results overall. Simplistic, ideologically-driven assessments tended to be right only in the sense that a stopped clock is right eventually.

    The CIA's caution and the Bush administration's certainty now is discussed, and compared with that of the more rabid cold warriors when the Soviet Union neared its collapse.

    The whole series of seminars, and the Foundation's intent, I think many will agree, is fascinating in its own right.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 972 posts Report Reply

  • James Bremner,

    While the Iranian regime, Iraq and the US are the big winners from the new NIE, the big losers are the Iranian people who will have to continue to suffer under a brutal regime that over the last 27 years has killed 4,000 people, solely because they were gay, amongst a litany of other brutal acts and oppression against Iranians.

    After the fiascos of not just missing 9/11 and then the Iraqi wmd NIE estimates, but missing Pakistan and India's nuke bomb programs, you would hope that the CIA etc really got their act together for this NIE on Iran. I read that the latest NIE was the product of over 1,000 pieces of reporting and intelligence, not just one or several items of inteligence, so one lives in hope.

    And..

    "Fuck!!" (in Persian of course)

    Iranians speak Farsi redneck...

    I'm no expert on the topic, but at least according to Wikipedia you should check things out before you open your mouth. Particularly if you're going to be y'know, rude about it. Farsi and Persian seems to mean the same thing.

    Cheers Kyle!!

    NOLA • Since Nov 2006 • 341 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Cheers Kracklite - I've listened to a few of the long now seminars (mostly the singularity ones) but missed that one. Downloading it now . . .

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 901 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I had a quick look at the Long Now site (only quick so the following observations could be wrong).

    It seems to be a sort of psychological/political equivalent of the Slow Food movement. Which is something I'd support. But a few of questions.

    Is this anything new? The idea that there are trade-offs between the short-term and long-term is hardly new. A lot of the conflicts in politics revolve around this issue and it's not because politicians are unfamiliar with this that problems arise, it's more that it's always a difficult dilemma to solve. Health funding is a classic example - the split between longer term prevention programmes and the need to deal with sickness now.

    And, how does this help with dealing with the remaining authoritarian regimes? If all nations were democracies than a Long Now form of diplomacy would make sense - and is in fact the sort of thing that goes on between democracies. But is it really something that can translate to dealing with people like Mugabe in every circumstance?

    It's not like the conflict that sparked this discusion is between the US and France or Australia and NZ.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The NIE report wasn't that much of a surprise ...

    **US report confirms Iran 'no imminent danger': IAEA official**
    A US intelligence report saying Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme four years ago confirms the UN atomic watchdog's assessment that Tehran represents "no imminent danger", a senior IAEA official said Tuesday.

    The report "validates the (International Atomic Energy Agency's) statements over the last years that inspectors have found no concrete evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons programme in Iran," said the official, who declined to be identified.

    The report also validates IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei's assessment "that he has not seen an imminent danger and that there is ample time for negotiations," the official added.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18718 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    While the Iranian regime, Iraq and the US are the big winners from the new NIE, the big losers are the Iranian people who will have to continue to suffer under a brutal regime that over the last 27 years has killed 4,000 people, solely because they were gay, amongst a litany of other brutal acts and oppression against Iranians.

    I'm not sure about the 4000 claim -- it's an unverified 1996 estimate by one group, often repeated -- but there is no doubting the people ultimately in charge of the place are ogres.

    But even the Bush cultists weren't actually talking about overthrowing the regime: just conducting bombing raids on specific targets. So the NIE estimate just doesn't imply what you suggest.

    Look at the justifications for the Iraq invasion then consider the impact: 600,000 dead, four million refugees, the destruction of civil society (in large part in favour of tribalism and Islamic extremism) and then consider the wisdom of war.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18718 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    So if there's no concrete evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons programme. how will the US know where to bomb?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    So if there's no concrete evidence of an undeclared nuclear weapons programme. how will the US know where to bomb?

    No it's OK. They have smart bombs. They'll know where to explode.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Terence Wood,

    You really ought to be making a request to Al Qaeda and Moqti et al terrorists & insurgents etc. to make a video on You Tube to apologize for the all the homicide bombings and murder and mayhem that they inflicted on Iraqis over the last few years. They killed, deliberately, a hell of a lot more people, and are thus responsible for the displacement etc, than the MNF killed, and any civilians the MNF killed, were killed by accident. There is no moral relativity there at all.

    And I for one would like to thank you James for your tireless work in providing us with tidy, succinct summaries of the conservative talking points of the day. It saves me from having to surf over that side of the fence and for this I am grateful.

    As for the "dead Iraqis, well that ain't our fault, that was the terrirists" argument, that's just plane silly. For a start, according to most reliable stats, a significant proportion of the dead have been killed by our weapons (and if you believe all of this was accidental then honestly I don't know where to begin). Secondly, we created the conditions that caused all this killing. This doesn't exculpate Al Qadea etc for their acts but at the same time surely it leaves some of the blood on our hands.

    We poured the petrol. We lit the match. And you want to blame the flames.

    Now, given the outcome of the invasion of Iraq, tell me again do you really think that invading Iran will make things better for the people there. And that if it doesn't, if we go ahead and invade knowing what we know and it turns to hell, that we won't deserve some of the blame.

    Since Nov 2006 • 148 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    To hark right back to the beginning - couldn't agree more with this sentiment. I am so sick of hearing John Key/National/NZ Herald comparing us to Australia.

    My point, Luke, was more that if you're stuck in a poorly resourced school with a barely competent teacher, it's pretty cold comfort to say "well, its worse in Australia." That may well be true - and I'm not saying looking at overseas successes and failures is a bad thing, as long as you don't think you can just pick up something that plays well in Broken Bottle, WA, drop it on Whykickamoocow High and expect to instantly get the same result. But I'd rather not see kids who don't get a second go at an education being used as lab rats, or reduced to a data point in a research paper.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11874 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    to be sure, but given that this latest NIE on Iran is substantially different to that in 2005 it does suggest they have based this on what they believe to be good new intelligence.

    Or to be quite cynical, Neil, Captiol Hill is also substantially different from what it was in 2005. And I have fairly reliable intelligence there will also be a new tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in just over a year.

    You can argue that if US intelligence agencies were half as good at intelligence as they are at domestic politiciking and prosecuting turf wars they'd be truly formidable.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11874 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    James, you may not have grasped my point. You said things aren't going so bad in Iraq. My point was that your observation depends entirely on whether you are the one who got killed, or had their family killed or kidnapped or bombed or any number of totally shit things which are daily life in Iraq, or whether you are sitting behind a keyboard in New Orleans not giving a shit. I suggest you are in the latter category, and that if you went to Iraq and tried to tell people that things weren't so bad, it would make fun viewing on YouTube. In fact, I suggest that if you did video it, Al Qaeda would do everything in their power to get that footage to air. It might seem rather gruesome to your relatives, they might get a wee taste of what your idea of "It's not so bad" is like.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8323 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Kennedy,

    "Iran is inhabited by cute pink fluffy bunnies"

    This calls for the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch ... or does that only work with white ones?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 218 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Smith,

    The situation in Iraq is obviously getting. There are a number of more hopeful signs coming from there, including this BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7089168.stm. Yes, it's hard to tell people who have lost loved ones, but if this positveness there continues, it's got to be good news for the region. Whether you agree or disagree with the way it has come about.

    As for Iran, the latest NIE Report stated that they halted their nuclear weapons programme in 2003. This after Iran saying they never had one in the first place. So Ahmadinejad has been telling untruths for years.

    Since Jan 2007 • 150 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    Or to be quite cynical...

    from such a distance it's pretty hard not to be but I still think that one can sift thru the various more reliable info sources and get an impression of what's going on.

    The LA Times has Anatomy of an about-face on Iran which appears to be a straight analysis. Of course the spooks could still be wrong and there is definitely an attempt to make up for past mistakes - which even such fierce critics of Bush as Simon Tisdall think might turn out to swingin to far the other way.

    But it does look like the Buch admin accepts the NIE assesment at face value - it may turn out ot be wrong - but it looks like setting up a situation for more negotiation. If it is wrong then that will most likely playout in the next presidency and then the possiblity of millitary action will be much higher.

    Interestingly the Guardian in British spy station played role in US U-turn on Iran reports

    ...contrary to the speculation among bloggers about mutiny by the intelligence community, the president retains control over whether and when the estimates are published.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Nat Torkington,

    I'm not saying looking at overseas successes and failures is a bad thing, as long as you don't think you can just pick up something that plays well in Broken Bottle, WA, drop it on Whykickamoocow High and expect to instantly get the same result. But I'd rather not see kids who don't get a second go at an education being used as lab rats, or reduced to a data point in a research paper.

    I'm not sure where this was suggested. The story was that NZ has pretty good test scores. Somehow that became "don't turn our kids into lab rats!".

    I'd love to know how you'd reform the education system. What would be the first policies in place should the Craig Ranapia First party be elected in 2008?

    Ti Point • Since Nov 2006 • 100 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Andrew, progress is still progress. If you can forget the past then even tiny little improvements that put you only 2 decades behind where you were a few years ago, seem like wonders.

    I imagine inmates in Guantanamo bay are extremely relieved the days they're allowed to, say, stand up, or not get waterboarded. That must seem like progress. And I accept that it is progress, but I will not forget that they shouldn't be in there in the first place, or that they have put up with years of hell.

    Nor will I forget that Iraq used to have a lot more people in it. I will not forget that this came about through a bunch of lies taken from intelligence, willfully misconstrued by Bush & Cronies. Especially not right now, when more intelligence comes out, which could be just as much lies and probably will be willfully misconstrued, in the hopes of doing to Iran what I'm supposed to forget happened to Iraq, because 20 less people got killed in sectarian violence in November, or whatever amazing signs of progress we are supposed to thank Bush & Cronies for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8323 posts Report Reply

  • robbery,

    their little campaign to have New Zealanders send a bottle of a favourite flavour to distant friends

    I thought the favourite liquid gift from kiwis to overseas people was kiwi fruit liqueur.

    Can't count the number of times I've visiting overseas people with tenuous nz connections, who bring out an untouched bottle of the stuff received as a gift, hoping that an actual kiwi might want to drink the stuff.
    There must be dusty warehouses of the stuff waiting for the big break through in style and taste change.

    new zealand • Since May 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'd love to know how you'd reform the education system. What would be the first policies in place should the Craig Ranapia First party be elected in 2008?

    If anyone was stupid enough to make me Prime Minister, that would be pretty conclusive evidence that public education is a total waste of time. But a good start would be if every education policy debate wasn't framed as Apocalypse Now(-ish). It might also help detox things a bit if the Education Ministry, NZQA etc. required senior management and spokesmen to speak and write plain English rather than managerial gobbledeygook. Perhaps I'm an old crank, but Yes, Minister is a sublime politcal satire not a staff training video.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11874 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Russell a while ago was discussing facebook advertising. I can't find the original post, so I'm going off topic.

    This was in my facebook feed this morning:

    eToro is A revolutionary platform that makes it faster and easier than ever to execute traders

    It seemed like a strange advert to me until I actually followed the link and realised that the advert had added an extra 'r' in the last word. 'Trades' made much more advertising sense, if less attractive to a lot of people I'm sure.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    If anyone was stupid enough to make me Prime Minister, that would be pretty conclusive evidence that public education is a total waste of time. But a good start would be if every education policy debate wasn't framed as Apocalypse Now(-ish). It might also help detox things a bit if the Education Ministry, NZQA etc. required senior management and spokesmen to speak and write plain English rather than managerial gobbledeygook. Perhaps I'm an old crank, but Yes, Minister is a sublime politcal satire not a staff training video.

    I was entertained Craig how your response followed what I find to be a standard National Party line, particularly in the Key reign. "Intelligent debate", "less bureaucracy", "no hip hop tours" etc, but not actually any policy, when that's what was asked for.

    Apparently policy talk trickles down, even if the benefits of new right restructuring never did.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6162 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Kyle, you don't get it. It is not intelligent to debate policy. That is what bureaucrats do. Politicians pick on something isolated and silly, like hip hop tours are when they're taken out of all context. That is intelligent.

    I'd feel a whole lot safer if National just said they were going to leave all policy to the bureaucrats, and spend their time in government intelligently debating hip hop tours. But I have a sneaky suspicion it ain't so.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8323 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    In light of this statement

    A retired Israeli diplomat said secrecy was key. For high-risk missions like a long-range bombing run, he said, "it would be unwise to check in, even with our closest allies, ahead of time".

    from the Harold this morning. I get the impression that we can expect the bombs to start falling on Christmas day. Think about it.
    When Geo Bush says

    "In August, I think it was [US intelligence chief] Mike McConnell came in and said, 'We have some new information.' He didn't tell me what the information was."

    it is yet even more of a worry.
    It's bad enough when someone has an imaginary Friend in the sky but when they have imaginary enemies it's a bigger worry.

    As for big white guys with beards that claim to know whether you've been bad or good the last time I saw one I sat on his knee and he tried to touch my cock.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4704 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I was entertained Craig how your response followed what I find to be a standard National Party line, particularly in the Key reign. "Intelligent debate", "less bureaucracy", "no hip hop tours" etc, but not actually any policy, when that's what was asked for.

    Oh and how delightfully predictable that was, Kyle. Just for the record, can I engage in a discussion without having a detailed manifesto to hand? And could you in future shit-can the dopey innendo that I 'follow a standard National Party line' rather than expressing my own views in good faith?

    To take a relatively mind example, could you make any sense of what the Education Ministry spokeswoman on Close Up last night was going on about? I find it very hard to engage with any policy debate - especially one as complex as education - when one side is having a fit of hysterical vapours, and the other is speaking utter gibberish.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11874 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Oh, and there might well be a few PAS readers who know more about the sector than I do, and would have more informed and insightful ideas to put out there. I can live with that.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11874 posts Report Reply

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