Thursday, March 03, 2011

Writing off the invisible hand that feeds them

[A recent study] surveyed all Harvard University Press titles published (in first edition) between 2000 and well into 2010, making 10+ years of publication, in the subject areas of Business & Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology, as well as a residual of Law titles. A large number of titles were initially removed from the survey because the book title suggested little connection or platform for political ideology. After making these removals, 494 titles remained, and the ideological outlook of each was assessed. The results show that Harvard University Press leans heavily to the left. In fact, over the 10+ years surveyed only eight of the 494 titles, or 2 percent, had an outlook that was conspicuously either classical liberal or conservative.

This is truly appalling — I mean, surely there must be lots and lots of exciting new developments in classical liberalism to write about in this day and age.

But Doctor Easychair gets to the nub of it: “Yet the books themselves are sold on the free market.”

No, don’t laugh — this is serious!


Another hypocrisy of our times: Books like these are sold in paperback editions.

Labels: , ,

I don’t say Andrew Bolt is relentlessly partisan

. . . But, following news that the desalination plant at Wonthaggi, Victoria, looks like becoming a $23.9b “white elephant,” Andrew Bolt has declared it to be:

The problem with Doctor Easychair’s analysis is that the Greens have always opposed the desalination plant as “a loser for the environment, greenhouse gases and the household budget.”

Moreover, as Jeremy Sear notes at Pure Poison,

Friends of the Earth have been long opposed. Likewise the Australian Conservation Foundation, and a coalition of environmental groups operating as “Watershed Victoria” with their Your Water Your Say campaign.

In fact, the Greens and environmental groups were the biggest opponents of the desalination plant. Where the Herald Sun columnist disingenuously pretends that “almost no journalists or academics even questioned this gigantic folly at the time” and concludes that the plant represents “what green madness, unchecked, can lead to”, it is clear looking at the record that there were many, many people campaigning vigorously against the proposal all the way through, and that the Greens and greens in general were those leading the fight.

I try to avoid Doctor Easychair’s writings as far as possible, but from what I’ve seen he’s only opposed desalination plants when his ‘warmist’ bogeyman Tim Flannery advocated for them.

All imarges by Jarcob, January 2008.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Assange guilty of anything and everything

Interviewed recently on ABC radio, computer scientist and author Jaron Lanier pithily observed:

In the United States the reporting about the expulsion of Mubarak in Egypt has been entirely dominated by Google and Facebook, and to a lesser degree Wikileaks, and everyone talks about it as the Facebook revolution, and every headline is about the Facebook revolution in Egypt.

And the problem with that is that I think there’s sort of this orgy of narcissism involved where we’re seeing our own American tech companies as being at the centre of the universe. And I’m concerned that what it really does is it makes us find yet another way not to actually listen to what somebody in Egypt might really be saying. For all our talk about all this openness and connection, I think we’re just using it as a way to look at ourselves, instead of them.

There’s very likely some truth in Lanier’s off-the-cuff remarks. In an interview last August for The Observer, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange related...

. . . the story of the Kenyan 2007 elections when a WikiLeak document “swung the election”.

The leak exposed massive corruption by Daniel Arap Moi, and the Kenyan people sat up and took notice. In the ensuing elections, in which corruption became a major issue, violence swept the country. “1,300 people were eventually killed, and 350,000 were displaced. That was a result of our leak,” says Assange. It’s a chilling statistic, but then he states: “On the other hand, the Kenyan people had a right to that information and 40,000 children a year die of malaria in Kenya. And many more die of money being pulled out of Kenya, and as a result of the Kenyan shilling being debased.”

Assange here quite arguably has overstated WikiLeaks’ contribution to that “chilling statistic”. It’s clearly absurd to suppose that the people of Kenya had no idea, before the WikiLeaks material was published, about the tribal and clan-based corruption that has blighted the country. But apart from all that, much of the 2007 violence was in reaction to disputed election results.

It might more accurately have been said that the WikiLeaks material probably helped, to some significant degree, in bringing the problem of corruption in Kenya more sharply into focus. The extent to which WikiLeaks ‘contributed’ to the 1,300 killed, however, is at best a matter of loose conjecture. To claim otherwise is perhaps a symptom of the narcissism Lanier described above.

When in December Assange burst into the headlines with the Swedish ‘sex charges’, his self-aggrandising claims regarding Kenya allowed motoring writer and blogger Tim Blair to declaim wildly about Assange’s culpability in...

tipping an already-volatile African nation into further mayhem.

Assange’s apparent non sequitir about 40,000 children dying of malaria was readily lampooned by Blair with the throwaway line: “So another 1300 corpses won’t matter much.”

Following Blair’s post, Andrew Bolt posted on his blog this brief item:

Tim Blair says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is claiming credit ... for inspiring the murder of 1700 Kenyans.

(Yep, Bolt inflated the 1,300 figure by about 30 per cent, but perhaps in his paranoid make-believe world, another 400 fictitious corpses don’t matter much.)

While Bolt seems to have taken (Blair’s claims about) Assange’s claims at face value, obviously because it suited his ideological position against Assange, Blair in the above instance seemed to view it all with some scepticism, presumably because he wanted to portray Assange as unreliable and given to exaggerated claims such as “attempting to take credit for the Climategate scandal.”

Blair is probably quite correct to be sceptical about WikiLeaks purported role in the Kenya violence, but when it suits him he’s quite comfortable about exploiting the factoid of Assange’s culpability for those 1,300 deaths, such as in a later post in which he juxtaposed Assange’s Kenya claim with the following more recent statement:

WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed.

Neither Blair nor Bolt had anything to say, of course, on the crucial point of whether people in Kenya “had a right” to the leaked information. As far as they’re concerned, it’s all about Assange — and, of course, themselves.

If the people of “already-volatile” Kenya are permitted in the picture at all, it’s as hapless victims of Assange’s wicked meddling and volatility-tipping. And the brave resistance by many Kenyans during the 2007 crisis is reduced to being merely an outbreak of “further mayhem” whose only meaning is resolved as an indictment of Assange.

Assange will by now be well acquainted with the perils of being a ‘mover-and-shaker’. It may even occur to him what an easier gig it would be to just shout from the sidelines.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Comment hexed

Below the fold (click READ MORE if you’re on this blog’s front page) is a comment by Caz that disappeared from this thread soon after she posted it there. I’ve tried to repost the comment several times, but then those reposts soon disappear again.

I’m re-posting Caz’s comment here partly ‘for the record’ because it’s worth reading, and partly to see what happens. I’ve taken the precaution, however, of enclosing it in a meme-proof layer... just in case...

Posted by Caz to Applied Hermeneutics at 27/2/11 3:20 PM

See also his footnote:

"There are people from the Wikileaks community who became uncomfortable with Julian Assange, and are attempting to rev up alternative leak sites. Some of these experiments might turn out well, and I might become an enthusiast for them."

Utterly inconsistent, or rather, a point that is unsupportable from whatever argument Lanier thinks he has presented in his article (and I'm still not even sure what he thinks he has said, although commenters seem to believe he has made a sharp and compelling point of some kind ... I'm still digging to find it).

How is one publication site, or recipient site for leaked material better than another?

Will Openleaks (or whatever their name is) offer documents for publication received from China or North Korea? Do they have a bunch of academically qualified translators on hand to know what is and isn't valuable, what should or doesn't need to be redacted?

That's one of the big problems with every recent critique of Wikileaks during the last 12 mths: it has become all about America, and the leaks from other countries that lead to real reforms, having exposed corruptions, are now in a waste basket, utterly ignored.

That's the problem of the US and everyone else treating the US as if they're the centre of the universe. If it's not about them, it's unimportant. Which is utter bullshit.

Assange has a sharp intellect, but he contributed to the current obsession by declaring the US a particular target, as if America is somehow worse than any other country - they're bigger, so on a scale, they are, but scale isn't the point, and Assange used to know that. He decided he needed more exposure, of his little hobby, he was tired of doing good, but not getting the kudos and the media coverage, so he went for the biggest target in town. Worse, he has continued to nominate the US as his pet target, despite holding onto goodness knows what documents from other countries, or relating to matters of import to a broader public. Assange dug the hole all by himself. It's so dumb and so obvious, but like some idiot politician or bastard CEO, Assange won't let it go.

Lanier, ostensibly an intelligent man, has been suckered into believing that Wikileaks is all about attaching the US - despite prior years of evidence that it isn't, and regardless of the obvious limitations of any site accepting leaked material: they're at the mercy of access (more access in Western and most European countries, therefore, leaks will come from predominately English speaking countries), and language and political understanding (even if leaks come from a brutalised country, the material will not be in English, and few people in the world would understand the import of the content, even when translated).

Labels: ,

Sunday, February 27, 2011

999,999th time I've seen this ad

But godammit I was hoping to be the exclusiv price winner of a ƒυςќing iPod !

UPDATE: Just now received the following sms message, from number +27718898213:

CONGRATULATIONS: Congratulations your mobile have won US$9.8M for World Bank Award. To claim contact Mrs Hahn Doyle via

Please feel free to email Mrs Doyle if you’re feeling lucky.