On the Green Party’s Curious Strategy Move

While reading the news while eating breakfast this morning, I was surprised to discover that the Green Party is set to hand over many of their parliamentary questions to the opposition National Party.

Speaking from experience, Question Time is a guilty pleasure of many undergraduate students who happen to be at home on Tuesday-Thursday afternoons with nothing better to do. Question time should be all about obtaining information and keeping ministers accountable. It’s also when Parliament is at its most theatrical, mostly due to the antics of Winston Peters (my favourite being an insult directed at Gerry Brownlee in 2012).

One curiosity is that the questions are allocated based upon the number of seats a party has. Given that more than half of MPs form a government, more than half of the questions are allocated to the government. Since the government has all the information at its fingertips and is not interested in holding itself to account, it has no real need for these questions. Subsequently half of Question Time is so-called “patsy” questions where government MPs ask each other softball questions that allow them to talk up the government’s performance.

While I haven’t watched a Question Time session for the new Labour/NZF government, the patsy questions by the National/ACT/UF/MP government were dull and misinforming. The Green Party also sees patsy questions as pointless, as cited for their decision to hand their questions over to the National Party.

While I agree that patsy questions are a waste of time, I have two objections to giving the questions to the National Party:

Firstly, James Shaw was quoted as saying:

“We think patsy questions are a waste of time, and New Zealanders have not put us in Parliament to do that; we’re there to make positive change for our people and our environment.

The National Party will not use these questions to improve peoples’ lives or the environment. They will use them to oppose the Government’s agenda in favour of corporatist, anti-environmentalist conservatism and not for positive change. Shaw has naively assumed that all MPs are as decent, honest, and compassionate as he is.

Secondly, the Green MPs support the government in a confidence and supply deal that allows them considerable freedom to criticise much of the Government’s agenda for not going far enough. For example, the government is betraying its voters by pushing ahead with the terrible CPTPP “trade” deal despite wide opposition from the public. The Greens could use their questions not to ask softballs to their own ministers, but to hold Labour and NZF ministers to account instead.

I suspect the dimwitted mouthpieces in the media will soon praise the Greens for their “maturity”. The vapid blue-greens now have another reason to feel good about themselves while remaining disconnected from reality. Meanwhile, the National Party will have more scope to resist the slight semblances of progress that our “centre-left” government is willing to make.

This abdication of responsibility by the Greens is bad for democracy, bad for the environment, and bad for the quality of life of the New Zealand people. I expected more from the Greens, the logic behind this move beggars belief. The Greens should be using their influence to drag the government further left and not allow the National Party to call the shots. I hope they see sense and call off this ridiculous decision.


Academia Milestones: My First Invite from a Predatory Journal

This post is a follow-up to my similarly titled post Academia Milestones: My First Invite from a Predatory Conference. Here I document another pitfall of academia where predatory companies mislead researchers into paying to publish work in a low-quality journal.

Last year, I was invited to speak at a real conference as part of the young investigator contest. It was a great opportunity to share some of the details of my research with other academics. It also proved to be valuable in the sense that we were able to glean more ideas about future directions that the work may take from the talks given by other researchers. By contrast, my liver is thankful that the conference is over!

There are no proceedings associated with the conference. For any internet user who is interested, the book of abstracts* is publicly available for download. In principle, open access of scholarly work is an excellent initiative in terms of fostering innovation where research is accessible to individuals and organisations regardless of their financial situation. However, it is also important that only high quality work is published in order to maintain public confidence in science. Thus many legitimate open-access publishers will charge publication fees as part of keeping the lights on.

Where things get tricky is that charging researchers for publication changes the dynamics of academia completely. It has been in the best interests of academics to publish as many articles as possible since career progression has been heavily metricised** by the administrative dullards in charge of academic institutions and funding bodies. It is now also in the self-interest of open-access publishers to publish as many articles as possible in order to maximise profits. This is done at the expense of the review process that should ensure all accepted work is of sufficient quality. Legitimate publishers can avoid this temptation since: (1) it is an illegitimate and unethical practice, and (2) they’re already making massive profits. However, there is now room for predatory publishers to step in.

Without peer-review, anything could make it into the academic literature, truthfulness be damned! Hence open-access journals produced by predatory publishers are of no academic value due to the uncertainty surrounding the fidelity of the work that they publish. The predatory publishers themselves know this, which is why they make up fake impact factor scores for their “journals”.

In terms of strategies predatory publishers use, I’ve already talked about the OMICS corporation that uses a scatter-gun type approach to snare researchers. But following last year’s conference, I found out that other companies are much more sinister. In my spam filter was an email from David Publishing who were inviting me to publish my talk in one of their “journals”. This one was more convincing as it included the title from the talk that I gave at the conference (view email at this link).

Given the unsolicited nature of the email and the poor grammar, it was still clearly a scam email. But it’s a much more advanced scam than the one OMICS puts out. The attempt at personalising the email makes it much more likely to successfully mislead a researcher. Of course, all the sender would have done was trawl the book of abstracts and sent out emails to everyone who had an abstract in there.

It would have been nice if the conference organisers had emailed all authors to warn against this danger. If any of the work at the conference was published in a low quality journal, the authors would not be able to publish it in a real journal since double submission is frowned upon. That would be a shame.

A cursory search on the Google revealed that David Publishing is a predatory publisher. Amusingly, there was once a message on their front page claiming:

Recently, some authors have been cheated by another company (who told sent the emails in the name of our company but in fact it is not). In case more authors are cheated, please send your paper to us via the submission link as following: …

Understandably they are outraged by another company cheating authors, that’s supposed to be their job!

How do you avoid get sucked in? By doing your research. The very fact that a publisher is emailing you should be a sign of concern. Notice how all of the top journals don’t invite you to submit papers? That’s because they don’t need to. You should check the background of a journal that you are considering submitting to. Ask your supervisor and colleagues what they think. A whole raft of lists exists such as DOAJ, Publons, Think, Check and Submit and Open Access Journal Quality Indicators. Normally I would include Beall’s list, but it has been taken down and I discovered that he holds some un-nuanced views about open access:

Beall published an article arguing against the whole of open access publishing and not just predatory open access, claiming it to be an “anti-corporatist” [sic], “collectivist”, “cooperative” movement which wishes to “replace a free market with an artificial and highly regulated one”.

Beall has it backwards: predatory publishers are the inevitable result of the corporatist free market where self-interested individuals seek enrichment at any cost. Academic publishing is supposed to be cooperative and highly regulated. Articles usually have multiple authors, while peer reviewers voluntarily and anonymously scrutinise articles for quality. Legitimate open-access publishers should and do have these same basic features as closed-access publishers.

So long as predatory publishers are allowed to exist, researchers will continue to get caught out and the public will continue to lose confidence in science. Predatory publishers enable policy makers to use false information to make decisions or to validate their false ideologies. It is critical that all predatory publishers are named, shamed and denied our submissions. Governments and regulatory agencies must decisively try to shut them down for the good of society.

*Unfortunately, an abstract contains nowhere near enough information to give a complete picture of the work, let alone how to replicate it.
**The metrication of research is also responsible for other fraudulent practices like p-hacking, salami slicing, and fake peer reviews.

Aspire Scholarships Represented What is Wrong With Conservatism

The government has announced that the Aspire scholarships scheme is to end. This scheme was set up by the previous administration, where students from low-income backgrounds would have fees paid to attend private schools. National Party apologists have decried the end of the scheme, saying that low income children will be denied opportunities as a consequence.

From the start there is one glaring problem: The assumption that a private education is a viable pathway to improve the circumstances of low-income children. I reject such a concept, for I myself disprove it. My education was done entirely in state schools, yet I am a high achiever: NCEA level 3 with Excellence, a first class honours degree in engineering and postgraduate study to boot. I outclassed most of my privately schooled peers at university. I even worked as an after-school tutor for privately educated students. That’s because private education confers no real academic advantage over state schooling. I had mathematics, chemistry, and physics teachers who had doctorates, and there were plenty of sporting and cultural activities for student participation.

Furthermore, the scholarship makes no difference on a nationwide level. A select few get to go to private schools and penetrate the pervasive networks that have more influence than they should; everybody else left behind in low decile schools can go hang as far as the National Party is concerned. Only up to 250 students per year were funded when there are currently about 300,000 students at high school. What about the many dedicated, hard working, high achieving school students that will never get a dollar in scholarship money (I was one of them)? A stable, cohesive society requires that opportunities are available for us too.

In brief, the Aspire scholarships are based on insulting assumptions about the alleged superiority of private schools, benefit a small number of students and cost twice as much per child as state schooling. Why then are right-wingers so upset about their cessation? Because this is their way of virtue-signalling out of both sides of their mouth. To ordinary voters they use the policy to claim that they care about those on low incomes, and to their swivel-eyed base they show their distaste for state schooling and teaching unions. Education outcomes be damned, it is always about politics for National.

This posturing is so valuable that the National government was prepared to waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money on Aspire scholarships, and the obscene charter schools. Fortunately, that time has come to an end. Public education has its problems (many caused by the National Party), the solution is to make class sizes smaller, train/pay teachers better, and to foster a culture of sceptical inquiry and academic freedom. Siphoning top achievers into elitist institutions will not make New Zealand a better place to live. Right wingers: get over your precious scholarships and learn to make the best of our state schools, it certainly didn’t do me any harm!

Elite Dangerous Engineers Revamp: Many Steps in the Right Direction

Beta testing is now open (and free for all Horizons owners) for the first update in the Elite Dangerous: Beyond series. For me, the headline feature of this update was a revision of the much maligned Engineers which wasted player time with insulting random changes to module performance. I have had the chance to do some testing of the new system, and I am generally very positive about it. The changes are as follows:

Module Generation

When a module is modified at a certain grade, the negative effects are only added on the first roll, while the positive effect is still randomly generated. Subsequent rolls compound on the previous result until you reach the maximum positive effect possible. There is also the option to progress to a higher grade modification once the positive effect is large enough. Typically, one would need to only do a few rolls at each level.

The user experience was very different compared to the old mode. All you see is a blue ring gradually filling up, the oscillating sliders are gone. One could argue that this has removed any sense of occasion from using the Engineers. And they’d be right: going out to the casino for an evening of debauchery is a much grander affair than putting money in a vending machine, selecting a chocolate bar and picking it out from the tray at the bottom*. I don’t see this as a problem, after all Engineers is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself.


The new system has received criticism since it is now mandatory to progress through all of the grades. One starts engineering a fresh module at Grade 1 and must have achieved most of the possible effect before progressing to Grade 2 and so on. For the second beta test, I engineered some 3A enhanced thrusters (for an 880 m/s Imperial Courier) starting at Grade 2. It took 11 rolls to reach Grade 5. I think this is a reasonable progression that’s not instant, but achievable with a small amount of work.

Secondary Effects

These used to cut both ways; a roll could be further improved, or the roll could be ruined by random secondary effects. Now secondary effects have been decoupled from the modifications. They may be obtained by additional materials.

I see two main uses for secondary effects: (1) Additional gain to a specific aspect of module performance, (2) Reducing the mass of modules for a higher jump range. And now that they’re a bolt-on feature, players won’t need to waste so many materials trying to get the perfect roll.

Materials Trading and Storage

These features are very useful, instead of storing a maximum of 1000 materials and 500 data (which fill up very quickly), each item has a limit of 100. Players can now collect and stockpile materials without agonising over whether they should pick one thing up and discard another.

If a particular material is hard to get, then players may use material traders to swap items they have for items they want. I have found this to be quite useful, particularly since I have no interest in grinding on the beta which is going to be wiped in a few days. The buy:sell ratios are a bit excessive and don’t scale the same if you are selling high grade items or buying low grade items (kind of like how the buy and sell prices for foreign currency aren’t the same). I think a ratio of 3:1 between adjacent grades in both directions would be ideal.

Irrational Playerbase Responses

There are two main ways to play Engineers: (1) briefly, where you do a few Grade 5 rolls (having ranked up to this level beforehand) and accept whatever results you get; or (2) obsessively, where you keep rolling until you get an amazing modification. Users may roll hundreds of times to achieve this. I’m somewhere in the middle, I want a powerful roll, but I refuse to collect enough materials to do hundreds of rolls. I would typically do 20 at the most before running out of materials and giving up in exasperation.

Group 1 are upset that they may need to do more rolls by having to start from Grade 1 for all new modules. Now players need to do 10-15 rolls to get to a full Grade 5 modification for every module, where they may have only chose to do one or two in the old system. I don’t agree with this assessment since low grade rolls were required in the old system to build reputation to reach Grade 5 in the first place. The clearer outcomes may encourage such players to get more involved than in the past if uncertainty was a big disincentive to use the Engineers.

Meanwhile, some who fit the category of Group 2 are affronted that their misguided past efforts are going to be supplanted by the availability of better modifications for less work. These players can go take a running jump. The RNG based system is incredibly unfair and puts optimal results out of the reach of casual players. I for one, am glad to see the back of it.

Power Creep

By changing the system to become deterministic while preserving outcomes from the old system, it is necessary to ensure that old modifications don’t have an advantage that is unobtainable under the new system. Hence the maximum effects in beta 2 are quite a bit higher than in the old system.

While power creep is viewed by some as a distortion, as an explorer I see it as positive and necessary. There are still systems that are inaccessible due to the distance between systems exceeding the jump ranges achievable. Sooner or later, there will have to be some mechanic to enable access to these systems (dockable megaships that can jump up to 550 LY are already available but not currently used for this purpose). Power creep means more opportunities for explorers** and thus should be encouraged.


Ship statistics are still missing. This was most problematic when I was deciding between the increased FSD range modification secondary effects. Would a higher max fuel per jump or extra optimised mass give a higher jump range?*** There is no in-game display for this information before the modification is applied, which is unconscionable when third party websites such as E:D shipyard and Coriolis.io are able to provide ship stats for any hypothetical ship build.

The progress made in reaching the upper limit of a modification is still dictated by RNG. Sometimes the gain made during a roll may be marginal, which is as much of an insult to the player as the old system which would waste materials on poor modifications. A minimum gain should be achieved by a roll that is substantial enough that players don’t get discouraged.


The revised engineers system is a great deal fairer and more accessible than the old system. A clear path towards optimal results makes the grind for materials worthwhile and the new storage and trading helps address RNG-based difficulties associated with spawning materials. The power creep should be viewed positively as it will allow for better ship performance.

It’s a bit disconcerting to see a roll sometimes give minuscule gains, I think this should be tweaked. There is also still no way to tell in-game how the ship performance is altered prior to applying modifications. Presenting this information is not difficult, it should be in the game.

I have always seen the Engineers as a means to an end; enjoyment should come from the improved experience of having a fast ship, or a longer jump range, or more powerful weapons. The changes made by Frontier serve to make engineers better suited to this purpose (although I don’t think this is their intent). The game will be more enjoyable because of these changes for the better.

*assuming it doesn’t get stuck on the end of the rack!
**Better exploration mechanics are part of the Q4 update and are desperately needed.
***More fuel is better for class 4 FSDs and lower, more optimised mass is better for class 5 FSDs and higher, as outlined by a superb forum post.

Science Journalism Hits a New Low

“I don’t believe it!” was the exasperated catchphrase of Victor Meldrew, played by Richard Wilson in the television show One Foot in the Grave. While I didn’t find the show particularly funny, Father Ted brilliantly mocked Wilson’s distaste towards the catchphrase in The Mainland, thus cementing the catchphrase’s place in pop-culture history.

I found myself shouting “I don’t believe it!” earlier today when I clicked on a Fairfax “news” article about a “study” that claims men overeat in the presence of competitive environments. I could see where this was going straight away, I was not surprised to discover that the study was from none other than Brian Wansink‘s group at Cornell University.

Why was I not surprised? Because Wansink has form: It all started in 2016, he published a horrific post extolling the praises of a graduate student who was able to churn out 5 papers(!) from some data about restaurant eating habits. Furthermore, he derided a post-doc who refused to have any part in the whole affair for wasting too much time on “Facebook, Twitter, [and] Game of Thrones”.

The post aroused suspicion within the scientific community. Wansink’s work was subjected to further scrutiny, where it was discovered that Wansink was practicing P-hacking. P-hacking is where one tests a data set looking for the slightest correlations between any sets of variables. By convention, a statistical significance (P) below 0.05 is deemed to confirm a hypothesis. The trouble with P-hacking is that no hypothesis exists to motivate the design of an experiment, or to collect data.

Even worse, researchers found that Wansink’s statistical analysis was atrociously poor and that some of his work was self-plagiarised. It comes as no surprise that the retractions are starting to rack up.

The paper that the article was referring to* was one produced by the P-hacking effort outlined in Wansink’s brag post and has had to be corrected. Was any of this reported in the Fairfax article? Of course not, Wansink’s claims were simply parroted by the journalist. There wasn’t even a link to the paper that the article is supposed to be about! That the study was the result of academic misconduct is an important piece of information that readers should know about. More importantly, the poor quality of Wansink’s research means we can’t be sure that the competitive overeating phenomenon he claims exists is even true!

So we have an badly written article about a study so poor that it doesn’t warrant being written about. Why does this happen? The corporate media’s insatiable demand for ad revenue would be my guess. P-hacked studies that claim ridiculous sounding correlations between variables are typical clickbait that draws the attention of the non-scientific masses. Real science articles are usually less folksy and only appeal to a limited audience, hence don’t feature in mainstream news.

This approach is bad for science. The media is the only interface between scientists and much of the population. Superficial reports about dodgy studies presented as fact create a picture of scientists as bumbling, grant-hungry fools; whose findings are either bloody obvious, or obviously rubbish. The dumbarse comments below the offending Fairfax article prove my point.

While scientists such as Wansink are incompetent and their findings are ridiculous, most scientists are highly knowledgeable and produce robust work. But the public doesn’t get to see these people because their work isn’t “sexy” enough. Other fields of science such as climate change and vaccine research are then attacked by charlatans who are only too happy to exploit the public’s distrust in science to further their own agenda. The media has created the unbelievable situation where the public are lied to and then won’t believe the scientists who try to set the record straight.

It is absurd that the media these days is about profit first and disseminating information second. It is absurd that Fairfax think it is acceptable to publish claims by a fraudulent academic without letting it’s readers know that the claims are supported by shoddy research. It is absurd that our society has to suffer because confidence in science is undermined by media only interested in its bottom line. Down with this sort of thing.

*The paper was published in March 2016! What in the name of bloody hell are Fairfax doing reporting about it in January 2018?

BallisticNG: My Impressions

As a latecomer to the WipEout franchise of anti-gravity racing video games, I was born too late to play the earlier games. To my surprise, it may not be too late since BallisticNG by Neognosis is available on Steam.

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Lining up at the back of the grid at Marina Rush. From here, the only way is up. The spectators get a great view from the glass-clad art gallery, or the viewing pods.

BallisticNG bears a strong resemblance to Wip3out in terms of graphics and gameplay. It is developed by a small group of enthusiastic developers. It was originally free to play, but the increasing workload of development meant that it has transitioned to a paid game (only $6.29 NZD). I can understand the motivation for doing this and I was only too happy to re-purchase the game to support the developers.

Let’s start with the positives:

  • Despite the similarities to Wip3out, the ships and tracks are original and satisfying to race in their own special way. My favourite track is Arrivon XI (video by developer Vonsnake), which has a very fast, twisty downhill, followed by a sharp turn with a narrow exit. It’s very rewarding to get this bit right. My favourite ship is the Nexus, which is essentially a fast FEISAR.
  • The pick-up items have some great features, such as firing missiles backwards, and a shield that deploys automatically if you are attacked while carrying a shield pick-up. The autopilot also includes a shield and will stay engaged during corners so it won’t timeout in an awkward position.
  • The BNG modding scene is very healthy, there are lots of great fan-made ships and tracks that have been added to the Steam workshop. These include ports of WipEout ships. And nary a microtransaction or loot box in sight!
  • The unique soundtrack is great and adds to the atmosphere.
  • The game loads very quickly and my computer runs very quietly when the game is running, in part because the graphical processing requirements are quite low.
  • The custom races are highly adaptable. There are a range of speed classes to challenge all types of player, different levels of AI difficulty. I especially like the ability to set extra AI, and extra laps. Two different physics models are available: 2159 which is like the older games, while 2280 is reminiscent of WipEout Pure and WipEout Pulse. There’s something for everyone.
  • The drag ships and tracks are a creative addition where ships race at supersonic speeds around large open circuits (with great sonic boom sound effects). I prefer to do drag mode with 2280 physics since wall contacts are much softer, but there is the risk of falling off the track.

BallisticNG 9_01_2018 8_48_18 PM

Going for a supersonic stroll through the Lujiazui Park track in Shanghai. The buildings in the background are (L to R): Shanghai Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center, Jin Mao Tower.

Speaking of walls, here are my criticisms:

  • Wall contacts are very unforgiving with 2159 physics. You can scrape along the walls with no problem, except for the awful sound it makes, however collisions send the ship ricocheting between the barriers, eating away precious shield strength. This problem is infuriating in the drag ships and needs to be corrected.
  • The 2280 physics mode includes more forgiving wall collisions, but this is outweighed by being able to go through walls and fall off the track. The ship is stationary when it respawns; I would prefer that ships respawn at speed so that you can carry on without losing too much time. Even better, make it so that the ship CAN’T GO THROUGH FUCKING WALLS!
  • The campaign includes mirrored tracks. I can’t stand mirrored or reversed tracks!  It’s really confusing to learn a track one way, only to have to race it in another way.
  • Energy walls launched by opponents are really frustrating and disrupt the fast flow of the game, I would prefer them to be removed from the game.
  • The AI in the Campaign mode are all over the place. In the knockout modes, the AI is far too powerful and I’m unable to complete these challenges in hard mode.
  • For the 1 lap 1v1 races, I’ve found that you need to get in front very quickly and the AI will fall behind you. If you don’t, then it rockets ahead into the distance. Use the shield draining speed boost at the start to get the upper hand. Be prepared to restart these challenges a lot.
  • In the endurance races, the AI is unbeatable for the first 5-6 laps, but you can then reel them in the last few laps. While this is a very nice turtle/rabbit story, it’s quite unrealistic. If I can maintain a steady pace for 10 laps, why shouldn’t the AI?
  • For 2159 physics,  you get a boosted start if the throttle is at ~75% when you start the race. Since the AI get this automatically, I think the boosted start should be standard.

While there are a lot of criticisms (mostly to do with the campaign mode, and wall contacts (or the lack of them in some cases)), BNG is still an enjoyable game when you set it up to your liking. It’s still in early access, so there are still changes that will be made. In particular, wall collisions need to be made more forgiving. If you’re adept with the WipEout games, interested in AG racing on the PC, and looking for something that’s quick to load up and get racing, then I can highly recommend BallisticNG to you.

Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis: My Impressions

A while back, I had dinner with an old friend who works in the Wellington beltway. He had recently gained a small amount of publicity for a study into the then government’s 90 day “fire at will” employment policy. The Tories sold this to the public under the guise that it would create jobs by encouraging employers to take a chance on people.

My friend’s research showed that the policy failed to increase the hiring of workers. We then joked about how then Prime Minister John Key tried to dismiss his findings by  using anecdotal evidence!

I also remarked that it was fascinating that academic economic research tended to support many left-wing policy viewpoints in contrast to the right-wing framing of concepts presented at the level of ECON101. I saw it as a sign of the validity of the political left, much to the amusement of my friend who would never deal in such broad generalities.

This attitude explains my interest in Yanis Varoufakis, the academic economist-turned Greek Minister of Finance following the 2015 election victory of the left-wing SYRIZA party. In principle, having an academic as a government minister to implement evidence-based policy is ideal. Varoufakis’ 2017 book, titled Adults in the Room explores his time as Minister of Finance, and reveals that things aren’t so simple.

The book makes clear the horror of the debt repayment/austerity regime imposed by the EC/ECB/IMF troika. Austerity has eliminated Greece’s ability to repay its debts, and despite the sacrifices made by the Greek people, the repayment bill keeps growing. As Minister of Finance, Varoufakis seeks to reverse this disastrous course of action. But he has an almighty struggle ahead against intransigent EU functionaries.

Perhaps Compromise isn’t so Bad After All…

Moderation and compromise formed the backbone of Varoufakis’ negotiation strategy with the troika. However, he was clear to highlight the difference between compromise and being compromised. When the troika refused to budge, the answer was not to make more concessions, but to be prepared to proceed with a deterrent preferable to staying in the debtor’s prison.

This approach simultaneously confirms and challenges my uncompromising attitude to politics. I now appreciate that compromises may be necessary as part of reaching a very specific end goal. Similarly, I felt vindicated in my belief that genuine compromise with authoritarians is impossible since total acquiescence is what they are looking for. Credible threats against their own interests are required to progress.

Varoufakis knew this and had a strategy in place to haircut SMP bonds held by the ECB, a move that would have legal ramifications for the ECB in its attempt to save the Euro by purchasing debt. A parallel currency would also be introduced to buy time should Greek banks close. Varoufakis has a great capacity for self-reflection and even identified when he should have put this plan into action (following the teleconference ambush on 24 February 2015).

We Haven’t had Enough of Experts!

The strength of having an academic as Minister of Finance was evident in some of the innovative plans that Varoufakis drew up to counter tax evasion, contingencies in the event of Grexit and reassuring Chinese investment in the Port of Piraeus.

If Varoufakis represents one side of the expertise coin, then the other Eurogroup ministers, the ECB, and the IMF belong on the other side. As I see it, these functionaries were able to mask their lack of expertise by stonewalling, or by instantly dismissing all of Varoufakis’ proposals.

Some interesting examples of troika incompetence include the German double act of Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble. Schäuble is impervious to reason, sees Grexit as inevitable, and ultimately wants the troika in France. Merkel is more focused on progress being seen to be made and makes disjointed interventions for the sake of seeing progress. She was able to win the confidence of Prime Minister Tsipras, which eventually caused SYRIZA to surrender to the troika.

Varoufakis relays one instance which beggars belief. The troika used the outputs from an economic model to justify their demands for austerity (in this case increasing VAT). The problem was that they failed to account for price elasticities. A superior model was developed by Varoufakis’ team that incorporated this assumption, arguing that VAT should be reduced to discourage tax evasion. Of course, it’s not enough to be correct when you are arguing with the troika and Greece was imposed with a VAT rate that made its tourism sector less competitive at a time where tourism revenues are crucial to the Greek economy.

Whose Side is the Troika on?

The demands that Greece should prioritise debt repayments over pension payments to it’s citizens, and the Bank of Greece engineering a bank run in anticipation of SYRIZA’s election win were just two examples to show that the troika was not on the side of the Greek people. The troika’s loyalites are made clear when one spectacular act of economic self harm was committed following Varoufakis’ resignation:

To combat the endemic tax evasion that was hindering Greece’s recovery, Varoufakis introduced a scheme where electronic transactions were analysed to flag up undeclared income. Following Varoufakis’ resignation, the MoU for a third bailout loan included the elimination of the algorithmic hunt for evasion, which was about to net billions in revenue for the Greek government.

Hanlon’s razor comes to mind: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. Given that the counterproductive actions of the troika always benefit the Greek oligarchy at the expense of European citizens, it is fair to describe the troika as not only incompetent, but also malicious.

Summarising Thoughts

Even though Varoufakis is no longer an MP, he is still campaigning to bring about constructive change as a co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25, which regular commenter Old Deuteronomy has mentioned before). Opposing the ascendant far-right does not require alignment with an uncaring establishment, instead left-leaning collectives such as DiEM25 offer a participatory approach for citizens to reclaim the dignity of all their European compatriots. Adults in the Room perfectly illustrates the need to take action to secure economic and social justice for Europe.