Posts by Bart Janssen

  • Hard News: Shots Fired,

    There was a really good long read (somewhere, but damned if I can remember) about Portugal's experience. Really clear that they were desperate to find a better way than having people dying on then streets. Really honest about what they got right and more importantly what they didn't get right and would like to change.

    I think that's a really important part of this - we really need a system that allows for change as we figure out what works well in NZ and what doesn't. Too often we establish a law and then leave no ability to modify it as we learn.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Reassure Me: cannabis,…, in reply to Dennis Frank,

    The larger the population sample the more representative of the community it becomes

    That isn't entirely true you actually don't need that large a sample before you accurately model public opinion. More importantly what you describe is a large sample of uninformed opinion.

    The idea of Iceland's system is that because the public are usually uninformed or ill informed on any particular topic the assembly must spend time listening to expert opinion with the intention that they become informed.

    At that point they make a recommendation informed by expert input but modulated by societal input.

    The key feature is to get both informed opinion and a representation of society's needs/wants/feelings.

    It's an interesting approach.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Miles on the Clock, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    hearing from the government departments soon


    It's an OIA request nothing about them happens "soon"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Feed: World of Food 7: Anguilla – Jerk chicken,

    My experiences with jerk chicken also look pretty unappealing - it's just one of those homey dishes that taste better than they look.

    I don't think you need scotch bonnets - yes if you eat chili peppers a lot you get habituated to the heat, habeneros would be fine and give the same flavour. I don't think birds eye chilies have the same flavour, they have the heat though so you could mix and match.

    Freezing chili works fine, they also last quite a long time in the fridge BUT beware they build up capsaicin in the fridge and can get a LOT hotter than when used fresh or dried.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: They want to blow it all up,

    And now we see the utter horror of Pinker's complacency - because for women in the USA there is every chance that Abortion will now become illegal.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: They want to blow it all up, in reply to Neil,

    miss completely engaging with Gould’s ideas

    I don't think our ideas are that far apart.

    But I find the willingness of old men in suits to pontificate and create theories of everything that explain the entirety of human social history to be ... well ... utter crap.

    Inevitably the theories of everything rely on limited data, either because the authors cherry pick (Pinker) or because the data just isn't there at all. You pretend to know why a tribe moved 1000 kilometers west and made new tools, or why a political entity a thousand years ago chose this or that course of action?

    And then the theories exclude the possibility that it's just complex, because that would make for a terrible book and an even worse speaking tour.

    And don't get me started on people who pretend to apply evolutionary theory to social development. Let me be clear our understanding of evolutionary biology is so bad now that applying evolution to social systems is insane (or a PhD project).

    All of which would be just fine and dandy if all we did was waffle about it over drinks. But this shit is being used to justify genuine harm to people. People take Gould's and Dawkin's and Pinker's theories and use them to justify policies and actions that demonstrably harm people.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: They want to blow it all up, in reply to Neil,

    I think it would be a reasonable thing to say – if we continue advances in public health then overall the health of the population will improve. That’s been shown with vaccinations, fresh water supply etc.

    Those were all the result of concerted action and application of liberal ideals

    I agree to some degree that things have improved. I'd argue strongly that many of those changes in public health derive from socialist ideals and not liberal ideals - although that may depend on your definition of liberal and/or socialist.

    However the point is that much of the improvements Pinker likes to cite come about from huge gains made at the very poor end. It doesn't take much of a change to reduce child mortality in sub-saharan Africa, essentially clean water is enough. That change has a massive impact of the averages because the number of humans affected is large.

    But that averaging says nothing about the lives of say Sth Auckland Pacifica where very little of the benefits associated with Pinker's optimism have much impact today.

    Instead Pinker's theses are used to support a neo-liberal economic setting that demonstrably harms poorer sections of our society while allowing Remuera tractor drivers to pat each other on the backs and congratulate each other on how well their ideology is working.

    I know Pinker is more nuanced than that but that's how his theories are being used and he does not own that responsibility.

    So no I don't accept the thesis that things can only get better and I have little patience for Pinker and his ilk because frankly, whether he intends it or not, his ideas are being used to justify harm.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: They want to blow it all up, in reply to Neil,

    I think his argument has a lot of merit - the success of liberal values has made life better for a great number of people. Vastly lower mortality rates in child birth for example.

    The problem is one of averaging. It hides a multitude on sins.

    Yes on average health has improved but for black men in the US health has declined.

    Pinker argues "don't worry about it" but that's just an excuse to ignore real problems experienced by real humans not data points on a graph.

    The other problem with Pinker is interpolation and extrapolation. He both assumes data in between actual measurements and he assumes that because a graph has a trend that the trend will continue. Now that's fine if you are dealing with maths but when you are dealing with people there really is no fundamental reason to believe that a trend will continue.

    In Pinker's world the GFC had no effect on people. In Pinker's world droughts in Syria did not cause an uprising and there are no refugees.

    I don't mind the reminder that some things have improved but I do mind the implication that we should just ignore the atrocities - because trends-on-a-graph.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: They want to blow it all up,

    It's depressing.

    Someone recently asked "what are you most afraid of globally?", meaning climate change, nuclear war, plague, antibiotic resistance etc.
    What terrifies me is social collapse.

    We think our social rules are robust, the basic social contracts we have with our neighbours, with the police, with businesses, with doctors, nurses, teachers ...

    What Trump has demonstrated is those social rules are fragile and can be destroyed remarkably quickly.
    But it isn't just Trump, it's essentially the entire US political system that is allowing/instigating this destruction of a society.

    The question I'm unsure about is who benefits?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The miserable archive, in reply to Steve Withers,

    If it was found to be unsafe

    But it was never unsafe. Never ever ever. Not a single piece of data showing harm or even potential harm. Just a misused and misunderstood number.

    There should have been no remediation costs because remediation was utterly unnecessary.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4427 posts Report Reply

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