Twenty Nineteen

I’m a great believer in being positive. Not to the exclusion of all reason: I’m a realist before an optimist, but I’m very much an optimist ahead of a pessimist. So with that said, I’m both hopeful and not ever so hopeful about the year ahead for South Africa.

Hopeful because I feel that the vast majority of people here are decent, honest and willing to work towards making this a better place.

Not ever so hopeful because the loony fringes of left and right are out to make any meaningful progress harder than ever.
And to be honest, despite their small numbers, they’re still in the pound seats right now. They have a miserable public to speak to, there’s an election coming up real soon now and a clear lack of leadership at the top of the two leading political parties, while the guy in third place – currently holding 6% of the vote – is happily directing matters via a seemingly sycophantic media hanging on his every rant.
The economy is in tatters, with the promise of more bad news to come in the months ahead, unemployment continues to increase, and the government seems unable or unwilling (maybe both) to do anything about any of it.
Our newspapers and news sites are filled with biased, puerile, inaccurate and sensationalist crap and yet still people read and believe every word. There are a million bandwagons lined up like free Ubers just waiting to be leapt upon and an increasingly depressed and desperate population needing a ride.

But despite all this, I still believe that there is hope. We just need to avoid being dragged down by the really dreadful stuff to the exclusion of all of the good things and good people that there are out there.

Clearly, that won’t happen. But it would be nice if it could.

And let’s also look elsewhere before we bury ourselves in self pity. Not that it improves our situation at all, but it’s not as though we’re alone in having struggled through the frying pan of 2018 only to be shown the fire of 2019.

So I completely accept that things are some distance from rosy as SA heads into 2019, but I don’t think it’s the cataclysmic end that so many people seem to believe it will be.

Unless I’m wrong of course, in which case, we’re completely buggered.

Have a lovely 2019.

 

Traps I Don’t Fall Into

I learned about the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect yesterday. At least, I knew about it before, I just didn’t know that it had a name.

Of course, it makes sense that it has a name, because now I can refer to it by that name, instead of having to explain exactly what I mean all the time.

In fact, I don’t have to explain what I mean at all, because Michael Crichton (yes, that one) has done it for me in this handy quote (Murray, by the way, is physicist Murray Gell-Mann):

I don’t believe anything I read in the media any more. I don’t believe the stuff that I’m told not to believe, and I don’t believe the people who are telling me not to believe that stuff. An example using popular partisan newsrooms: for me, CNN are not “the good guys”, they’re just “the other guys”; and just because FOX News is spewing out nonsense doesn’t mean that what CNN is telling us is the gospel truth.

I’ve noted and overcome the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect with a million different publications which have shared articles on microbiology. And I’ve done it on here with the… ugh… Daily Mail.
And apparently also with Infowars dot com. I don’t really remember writing that post, but it does describe the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect quite nicely:

…when I find that their version of the stuff I know is incorrect, then why should I believe any of the other articles on the site? For all I know, there are knowledgeable people out there ridiculing infowars’ take on 9/11 or the worldwide economic slowdown.

It’s horrible and it’s time-consuming to have to be so cynical, but it’s also sensible given the amount of information (and misinformation) that we are provided with each and every day. I’m lucky, in that researching stuff is in my nature. I really don’t mind following up on stories I read before I choose whether or not to believe them and I’ve done that for years and years now, before I even knew that it was an actual semi-official thing.

I’m now left wondering which of my other traits and practices have names in the field of theoretical psychology.

Sadly, I’d guess that it’s most of them.

Nigel & Julius

I arrived here in the UK just in time to see (not literally) Nigel Farage’s UKIP party win their first seat in the UK Parliament. It was a bit of a cheat, really, given that the the guy who got elected was already the MP for the area, merely for a different party. That said, unlike the situation in SA, he had to be re-elected under the UKIP banner, and he was. They now control 1/650th or about 0.15% of the UK political landscape. But that’s only if you choose to look at the number of MPs. Because even though the traditional main three parties have just held their respective conferences, all I’ve seen on the TV here is Nigel and UKIP. Repeatedly.

And, if this infographic below is true (and I haven’t had time to check on the veracity of it because that’s not what I’m here for), then my viewing experience could well be easily explained.

wpid-wp-1413185711142.jpegQuestion Time being a much-watched and much-debated TV programme here, this is important.

The thing is this: despite their unpleasant policies and lack of any workable plan should they be elected (or maybe actually because of that?), UKIP have shaken the political landscape here and they have become the media darlings because of it. They don’t have a presence in Parliament (save for that one brand new seat), but they are the go-to party for opinion and soundbites which are going to get the viewers to your news programme, paper or website. And coming from SA, that situation seems rather familiar.

Of course, Julius Malema and his EFF have a few seats in the SA Parliament. But it’s still a tiny presence. And yet their vocal, no holds barred, sabre-rattling approach to everything has repeatedly made them headline news. But they’ve actually achieved nothing through it. Has Jacob Zuma paid the Nkandla money back? No. Has Baleka Mbete resigned? No. And yet, the EFF still get the headlines, despite not actually adding anything positive to the parliamentary mix.

OMG! They shouted! They chanted! Floyd stuck up his middle finger! They walked out of parliament again!
So did they get all their demands satisfied?
Er…. no.

There’s a common thread here, despite the vastly differing politics of Nigel and Julius: people are very unhappy with their incumbent government and the incumbent government seems to be doing nothing to remedy that situation. Suddenly, there’s a power vacuum and that’s something that these populist, radical parties have stepped in to exploit. And they’re exploiting it well, because while they’re not in power they can make a lot of noise and a lot of promises without actually having to back any of it up or be taken to account. They can react quickly to individual incidents, switch polices and respond with no comeback, save for the mainstream political parties (who would try to shout them down anyway, and who no-one is listening to anyway, of course) the media (who love the devil-may-care attitude because it brings them more readers or viewers).

The next general election for both countries is going to leave a very different political landscape. And that’s fine, because that’s how democracy works. But, much like that Trevor Mallach letter, it would be better if we went into these things making decisions based on facts and not on what the media spin. Right now, the EFF and UKIP are getting all the positive press coverage while having to do nothing to back it up. Would either of them actually be able to successfully run a country (or even an opposition party) given the chance?

I can’t see it, personally – although the media might want me to think differently.

Street Spirit (Fade Out) Jetpack Youtube test post

UPDATE: In answer to my own question posed at the bottom of this post, I have decided to deactivate the JetPack shortcode option. That’s why things might look a bit odd on this post.

As I mentioned yesterday, I (with no little assistance from The (long-suffering) Guru) am playing with some of the settings behind the scenes of 6000 miles… 

I’ve installed the JetPack plugin which comes highly recommended and now I’m trying to ensure some degree of compatibility, specifically with reference to the media (flickr, youtube, vimeo and soundcloud) stuff, on posts.

Currently, historical posts featuring:

  • Soundcloud – seem to be working, despite an initial conflict.
  • Youtube – will only work if I keep the existing plugin activated.
  • Vimeo – are dead.
  • Flickr – are also dead.

Work in progress, then.

Allegedly, now that JetPack is up and running, I should just be able to drop a YouTube url in here and it should display it. Streamlinetastic.
So let’s see what happens when we lob in a bit of Radiohead.

And there we go, but a bit small, no? Let’s try adding some dimensions:

 

Much better. The only awkward bit being the fact that the coding required to make it the correct size is actually more laborious than the current plugin I’m using for this purpose.

So now the big decision: to move the media over onto JetPack’s tidier, less bulky, all-in-one solution or to stick with what I’ve got?

When R4,000 isn’t R4,000

Until we actually have hard facts instead of supposition and rumour, I’m steering well clear of the whole Lonmin/Marikana issue. However, if like me, you’re searching for those hard facts, it seems that the mainstream media isn’t the place to be looking.
There’s a surprise.

Whichever side you’re on, you surely can’t help but feel some pity for the rock drillers who – as we’ve been told here, here, here, here and here – earn just R4,000 per month. How one can survive, let alone support a family, on that amount is beyond me.

Except that Politicsweb has now alleged that the oft quoted R4,000 per month figure is actually some distance from the true amount earned by the Marikana rock drillers:

It was left, not to a journalist, but to Solidarity deputy general secretary Gideon du Plessis to go and find out the actual figures. In a statement issued on Monday he reported “The adjusted total cost package of a Lonmin rock drill operator is approximately R10 500 a month, excluding bonuses.”

In response to a separate query from Politicsweb Lonmin’s Mark Munroe Executive Vice President of Mining, basically confirmed these amounts. He stated: “Lonmin’s Rock Drill Operators earn in the region of R10,000 per month without bonuses and over R11,000 including bonuses. These levels are in line with those of our competitors and are before the wage hike of some 9% which will come into effect on 1 October 2012.”

If this increase applies to the whole compensation package it would push gross earnings – with and without bonuses – to between R11 000 and R12 000 per month. The net income of rock drill operators may well be considerably less than this – after deductions – but this is the cost to company.

If these figures are correct, it makes it even more bewildering, bizarre and tragic that so many lives were lost in search of what amounts to a R500 per month increase.

As the Politicsweb piece states:

One has to ask why no-one in the world’s media appear seem to have bothered to verify the R4 000 figure… Given the critical nature of this information for any analysis of the strikers demands it seems like a very basic mistake.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s news24.com seems to have evidence (via Al-Jazeera) that police were indeed fired upon before opening fire upon the protestors. The video is worth a watch.

I’ll leave the decisions as to whether R10,000 per month plus bonuses is an acceptable wage or whether the two shots apparently fired at police merited their response up to you. But wouldn’t it be nice if the journalists paid to report facts, actually reported facts?