A faithful Cafe patron, whose name is here withheld, sends the following in an e-mail today to Russ and me:
“Muirgeo” has single-handedly reduced the effectiveness and value of your blog. He has certainly reduced my desire to visit the site as often, or participate in the comments. Which is his aim. And you have both cooperated with him. He has boundless energy to dissipate the goods of your productivity, and the space you have created, and you lend him unending currency to do so.
And you have sanctioned him doing so.
I understand the reason behind your principles, but is there no point where you say “enough?
Russ and I understand the frustration of trying to have a civilized conversation amongst thoughtful people – all of whom have a basic understanding of logic and ordinary rules of argumentation, and many of whom possess at least a rudimentary understanding of economics and history – only to find that conversation frequently disrupted by commenters who have utterly no grasp of such basic things; disrupted by people who mistake their passionate disagreement with the thrust of the conversation for knowledge and insight into the matter at hand, and who, in unreasoned response, fling madly into the conversation any factoid or anecdote or quotation or YouTube clip that they (almost always mistakenly) sense bears relevantly upon the point of the conversation and moves that conversation forward productively.
And we also share the normal human urge to pull our hair out upon encountering people so obviously incapable of clear and independent thought that we realize that nothing – literally no argument or set of facts, regardless of how clearly presented – can penetrate their brains.
But, still, Russ and I will not ban Muirgeo or anyone else from the Cafe for the mere offense of being aggressively and ceaselessly and hopelessly stupid.
Unlike in a physical cafe, Muirgeo cannot harm anyone at the Cafe. He can, and does, annoy – but he can do so only insofar as any of the rest of us read his comments. As I’ve said before, I completely ignore him (save for an occassional check to ensure that he’s writing nothing libelous or vulgar). And so he affects me not one whit.
When I read the comments and see his moniker, I scroll right past.
It’s true that many of his comments trigger other responses. And sometimes these responses are actually very useful: they are often from people more patient than I am in dealing for the millionth-and-first time with arguments that are either incoherent or that have been exposed as flawed countless times before.
Perhaps there’s something that I’m missing (and I don’t concede this possibility rhetorically), but unlike in a physical cafe where he and his ilk certainly would be banned for harassing the customers, here he can be ignored.
Does ignoring him not avoid at least the brunt of the problem?
Having said the above, Russ and I welcome comments about ways that we might pursue (should such be available and practical) to separate commenters interested in rational discussion from commenters not so interested.
Here’s a letter to the Baltimore Sun:
Jim Case argues that NAFTA has been “bad” for the U.S. economy because, since that free(r)-trade pact first took effect in 1994, America’s trade deficits with both Canada and Mexico have increased (Letters, Oct. 10).
Is Mr. Case aware that his evidence for the alleged failure of NAFTA is that Canadians and Mexicans are now investing more in the United States? (Such increased investment is exactly what a rising U.S. trade deficit means: foreigners invest more of their dollars here rather than cash these dollars out immediately on purchases of U.S. exports.) Does Mr. Case realize that the rise in the U.S. trade deficit under NAFTA is exactly the opposite of what protectionists, such as Ross Perot, warned would happen if NAFTA passed, namely, that NAFTA would shift so much investment from high-wage America to, especially, low-wage Mexico that we’d be deafened by a “giant sucking sound” of investment dollars being inhaled by factories and plants across the border?
Protectionists simply cannot be taken seriously as long as they stubbornly cling to the inexcusably backwards myth that a rising U.S. trade deficit is a symptom of the failure of freer trade.
Donald J. Boudreaux
… is from Henry Simons’s brief and scathing review, in July 22, 1936 issue ofThe Christian Century, of Keynes’s General Theory:
Mr. Keynes submits his treatise as a frontal attack upon traditional economic theory. Orthodox economists are rather defenselessly exposed to the charge of making bad applications of their relative-price analysis – of applying carelessly an analysis which abstracts from monetary disturbances in the discussion of practical questions for which monetary problems are crucially important…. But the author attacks, not the bad applications of traditional theory, but the theory itself – with results which will impress only the incompetent.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (07:23 pm)
Purely hypothetical, Perrett says, now that he realises his threat actually increased the leadership instability he was trying to stop:
LABOR MP Graham Perrett has told everyone to stop worrying over a threat he’s made to quit his Brisbane seat and force a byelection should Julia Gillard be toppled as prime minister.
Mr Perrett, whose electorate of Moreton is the most marginal Labor seat in Queensland, insists it’s not a threat because there is no tussle over the leadership.
“It’s not a threat, there’s no coup - chill out, there’s nothing to worry about,” he told Network Ten today.
In fact, the safer a Prime Minister is, the more likely you’ll get a backbencher threatening to quit if they’re sacked.
So now he’s weakened Gillard, while also withdrawing the threat that could make a challenger think twice. Smart work.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (07:18 pm)
A senior Age journalist tweets a suggestion:
Woke to more leadership chatter. We really need to stop talking about Kevin.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (09:48 am)
Either the Gillard Government is the smartest in the world, or the rest of the world wouldn’t make the same mistake:
A report by the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) makes the claim based on the amount of money being spent on the national network, saying such expenditure is linked to greater government intervention in owning and operating broadband networks, thereby reducing competition.
Australia’s NBN was the “outstanding example of extreme government intervention” because authorities had taken control to develop and operate a fibre-to-the-home network, it said in the 80-page quarterly report on worldwide broadband plans....
Australia’s plan was also the most expensive in the world to implement, with the cost of providing broadband per household at $3455, followed by Gulf state of Qatar at $2299 and Greece at $1167.
Good line from Turnbull:
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said Australia’s NBN was the “telecommunication’s version of Cuba” due to its reliance on the government to provide the necessary infrastructure.
(Thanks to reader Craig.)
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (06:07 am)
Well, this is an interesting piece of blackmail - or high principle:
A GOVERNMENT MP clinging to the most marginal Labor seat in Queensland says he will quit politics and force a byelection should Julia Gillard be dumped as prime minister.
In a threat which has the potential to bring down the government, Graham Perrett told the Herald Labor was wrong to remove a prime minister last year and he would not be a party to such an act again.
Despite holding his Brisbane seat of Moreton by 1.1 per cent, meaning he would be wiped out if the polls did not improve, Mr Perrett said dumping Kevin Rudd had been a breach of faith with his voters.
‘’I will not be breaking faith with the people of Moreton. I did it in 2010 and I’ve been constantly reminded by my voters that I did that,’’ he said.
If there were another leadership change, Mr Perrett said he would quit politics.
‘’The consequence will be a byelection in Moreton.
‘’This is not about loyalty to Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd, it’s about loyalty to the people of Moreton. This is about me keeping faith with the people who put me in office,’’ Mr Perrett said.
But what if his electorate would prefer Rudd back in charge - as I suspect? And if Perrett wants to keep faith with his electorate, shouldn’t he also vote against the carbon dioxide tax that Gillard at the election promises to never introduce?
Still, a very potent threat.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (05:54 am)
Niki Savva sets Opposition leader Tony Abbott a challenge - to show he has a vision the Government lacks:
Abbott will also get the chance to show his tax cred on Friday, when he addresses a special roundtable organised by the Menzies Research Centre, timed to follow the government’s summit.
Abbott will be rightly condemned if he allows Labor’s leadership battle to distract him from his other essential task of building up his policy arsenal.
He’d better have something worthwhile to say, to draw a distinction between the virtual nothing the government produced (a pledge of a tax cut maybe sometime if circumstances permit) and what he proposes.
It may still be too early, though, and the polls don’t tell me Abbott needs to do anything dramatically different just yet. But at some stage, the audience might respond well to a bit of hope…
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (05:45 am)
Is this the most moronic union tactic yet, to warns buyers away from a business employing thousands of its own members?
UNIONS have warned travellers not to buy tickets from Qantas between now and Christmas in a dramatic escalation of a campaign designed to cause maximum disruption to the airline…
“I would think that by October the 28th when the Qantas AGM takes place, you’re likely to see full-day stoppages,” said Steve Purvinas, the federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.
“If I was a person considering travel over the period up until Christmas, I’d probably be looking at airlines other than Qantas,” he said. “If I was a passenger, I wouldn’t be purchasing a ticket with them at this stage.”
If Purvinas accurately relects the attitude of his own members to the company that employs them, I’d say Qantas should hire itself another workforce. Where do these silly people think their wages come from?
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (05:35 am)
Bruce Hawker was for a couple of years the best-known and most on-message of Labor spinners. But his piece today sounds as if written by a man with a broken heart and shattered hopes:
FEDERAL Labor’s present troubles have encouraged a spate of articles predicting the Gillard government’s almost certain demise.
What is most galling about them, particularly those from former Labor powerbrokers, is that there is barely a word of advice about how the government can improve its position.
That may be because this Government cannot now be salvaged, and certainly not under this leader.
In part, the government’s poor polling comes from being wedged by the Greens and the Coalition on the carbon tax and refugees.
History also shows that Labor should not enter into formal agreements with the Greens… The reality is that the Gillard government does not need to be in a formal agreement with the Greens.
Is Brown really going to throw his party’s support behind Tony “Climate change is crap” Abbott?.
Yet a formal agreement with the Greens is indeed what Gillard signed, and - worse - it included Gillard’s fatal promise to break her promise on a carbon dioxide tax. This monumental blunder killed the Government and suggests Gillard’s judgment is fatally flawed.
And the government’s “achievements” are half-completed and bureaucratic stodge, with little practical good to point to:
Two areas where Labor can readily distinguish itself from its opponents are education and health. However, it is difficult to identify the iconic Labor policies the government can point to and say to the electorate, “Whatever your concerns about asylum-seekers, look at these great initiatives in health and education. These far outweigh your anxieties about boatpeople.”
In office, Labor has produced and implemented some excellent policies.
However, when we look at health and education, the two main initiatives have been a restructuring of the commonwealth-state health arrangements and the web-based information service My School. Campaigning on these issues is nigh on impossible.
No wonder Hawker is in despair.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (05:23 am)
The problem is that Barack Obama was elected for his symbolism, but is now rated on his performance:
A majority of Americans now oppose giving President Obama a second term, reflecting the country’s continued weak economic performance, according to the latest IBD/TIPP survey released Monday.
By 51%-41%, respondents in October picked “someone new deserves a chance” over Obama “deserves to be re-elected.”
But as I said on Sunday, the one thing that could save Obama is the Republican candidate - or lack of one.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (05:18 am)
It’s closing on this government:
A POLICE strike force investigating accusations embattled Labor MP Craig Thomson took secret commissions has been informed the MP was given a credit card by a union supplier.
NSW police have been told by American Express in the US that Mr Thomson and Health Services Union boss Michael Williamson were both supplied with credit cards by John Gilleland.
Communigraphix, a graphic design business run by Mr Gilleland, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the HSU newsletter, Health Standard.
Senior police sources said Mr Thomson - who would be forced to resign from parliament if charged and found guilty of an offence- had use of the American Express card for two years.
Under NSW law, persons found guilty of receiving an inducement to behave in a certain way could face a jail sentence of up to seven years.
At the very least, here’s one seat Labor would lose at the next election. At the worst, here’s the seat that will drive Labor to that election.
(No comments for legal reasons.)
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (05:13 am)
Sorry to post this again, but I’m hoping that this cool advice from scientists on Julia Gillard’s warming hype gets a wide audience. Please pass it on, since it’s so rare that sceptical scientists are allowed onto television.
Andrew Bolt – Tuesday, October 11, 11 (04:49 am)
Last week was described by some Canberra commentators as the best for Labor in a long time. The public barely noticed or cared:
After a series of policy announcements and national meetings in the past three weeks, Labor’s primary vote has lifted from its all-time low of 26 per cent to 29 per cent, according to the latest Newspoll survey conducted exclusively for The Australian at the weekend…
Despite Labor’s rise, the Coalition’s primary vote lifted from 48 per cent to 49 per cent as the Greens’ vote dropped one point to 12 per cent…
Based on preference flows at the last election, the Coalition still commands a sweeping election-winning lead on a two-party-preferred basis of 57 per cent to Labor’s 43 per cent.
It is now clear voters have no faith in this government in a political or policy sense and the Prime Minister cannot claim positive attention.
For the first time, the Coalition is either statistically equal to Labor or well in front on every key electoral issue.
In fact - the Coalition is now ahead even on the one issue that Labor has invested more time and capital than any other:
But the latest Newspoll survey of important electoral issues, conducted exclusively for The Australian last weekend, reveals the Coalition has edged in front of Labor as the party judged better able to handle climate change for the first time on record, 31 per cent to 28 per cent.
That finding is utterly devastating. Labor MPs are rightly speculating on Gillard’s tactical nous:
LABOR MPs have begun questioning Julia Gillard’s tactical acumen, with tomorrow’s expected approval for her carbon tax set to be overshadowed by likely defeat of her border security legislation…Labor sources said they could not understand why Ms Gillard was pursuing the asylum-seeker legislation knowing the Greens would reject it in the Senate anyway.
“The tactics don’t make sense,” one Labor MP said yesterday. “The legislation won’t get up, so why are we going through the angst?
Let’s sum up: even when Gillard has a good week, Labor’s vote stays at catastrophic lows. Even on the one issue she thinks she can win, she’s losing. And when she tries some new tactic, she betrays the same lack of judgment.