Thursday, December 16, 2010

Assange and Misogyny

It's difficult for some people to grasp but it is possible to have an opinion on Wikileaks *A*N*D to have an opinion on Julian Assange *A*N*D to have an opinion on the case against him.

Here's a link to a collection of posts on the misogyny of some of Assange's supporters.

Being a tad old-fashioned I always thought that castigating the character of women alleging sexual assault was the preserve of antediluvian neanderthals, high court judges, and Premiership footballers. For a take on this see Attila the Stockbroker's poem Contributory Negligence.

Whatever happened with Assange and these two women, it should be left to a court to decide.

There are dynamics at work in this story that are particularly unpleasant.

Something that has not been discussed is that the case may have progressed as far as it has only because of Julian Assange's celebrity. Imagine, you are a little known prosecutor, and a case involving a celebrity crosses your desk. Taking on the case could be the making, Or even the breaking, of your career. Do you take the case? Some ambitious people would do just that.

There's a good piece on Feministe criticizing Naomi Wolfe.
it is totally possible to support the WikiLeaks project and to think that the international response to Assange and the project is thoroughly fucked up and to think we should withhold judgment on whether or not Assange is actually a rapist and also to think that we should withhold judgment on whether the women are lying, and to not discredit the women involved, and to not create a hostile climate for rape survivors, and to not play into every tired old stereotype about women and rape.

Seriously, we can chew gum and walk at the same time.

Let's have less misogynistic bollocks spoken. There's a time to wait quietly. And that time is now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nepotism in the harmonious state of China

In the current LRB Slavoj Zizek writes about the state of China in a review of The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor
Allen Lane, 302 pp, £25.00, June 2010, ISBN 978 1 84614 173 7.

It seems that the Chinese Communist Party is like a provincial branch of the Freemasons (aka "the mafia of the mediocre") in giving jobs to family and friends of members and contacts.
The irony is that the Party itself, its complex workings hidden from public scrutiny, is the ultimate source of corruption. The inner circle, comprising top Party and state functionaries as well as chiefs of industry, communicate via an exclusive phone network, the ‘Red Machine’ – possessing one of its unlisted numbers is a clear sign of one’s status. A vice-minister tells McGregor that ‘more than half of the calls he received on his “red machine” were requests for favours from senior Party officials, along the lines of: “Can you give my son, daughter, niece, nephew, cousin or good friend and so on, a job?”’
Zizek ends by raising the fragile state of China's much proclaimed "harmony"
Every year, thousands of rebellions by workers, farmers and minorities have to be put down by the police and the army. No wonder official propaganda insists obsessively on the notion of the harmonious society: this very excess bears witness to the opposite, to the threat of chaos and disorder. One should bear in mind the basic rule of Stalinist hermeneutics: since the official media do not openly report trouble, the most reliable way to detect it is to look out for compensatory excesses in state propaganda: the more ‘harmony’ is celebrated, the more chaos and antagonism there is in reality. China is barely under control. It threatens to explode.
Like Littlejohn, Clarkson and Bushell on homosexuality, the Chinese State protests too much.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things and First Principles

Tidying up I found a copy of the Guardian's obit of Tony Judt. I liked this story:
Mixing with the elite at the École Normale began another process of disenchantment, when he observed at firsthand that "cardinal axiom of French intellectual life", as he drily called it, "a radical disjunction between the uninteresting evidence of your own eyes and ears and the incontrovertible conclusions to be derived from first principles".
Deriving facts from first prnciples should, largely, be left to pure mathematics.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

GMB Ballot Paper for Leader of the Labour Party

I'm not a member of the Labour Party but then again I'm not "a supporter of any organisation opposed to it" so according to my GMB ballot paper I can vote for the next leader of the Labour Party.

There is encouragement on the form to vote online as it is
  • immediate
  • secret and secure
  • carbon neutral
  • saves GMB money
  • Fine.

    To vote online you have to enter the Security Code part one and the Security Code part two from your ballot paper. Guess what? My ballot paper has a blank security code part one and a blank security code part two.

    I can't be the only one, can I?

    So my vote is going via Royal Mail.

    The Globe and Hal IV

    Sunday we saw Henry IV Part i at the Globe.

    The seats were nominally priced as they were sold as restricted view, in the corner at the side of the stage. We managed to see most of the action.

    Roger Allam as Falstaff was brilliant. It's only now that I understand Robert Nye's novel Falstaff.

    Art Deco In Eltham

    Saturday we went to see the Art-Deco Eltham Palace.

    Rullsenberg enjoyed the Art-Deco world and I enjoyed the happiness on Rullsenberg's face!

    It's a great day out in South London according to English Heritage.

    Thomas Carlyle's House

    After visiting the Red House we wandered through Chelsea, just in time to see the privileged scion leave their privileged schools. Finally we found Thomas Carlyle's House.

    Now Thomas Carlyle is one of hose eminent Victorians that you think you should read, then you read bits and pieces and sum him up as an old racist curmudgeon. There must be more to him than that.

    Samuel Butler, in a letter of 21st November 1884, wrote "It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another and so make only two people miserable instead of four." And that's a good epitaph.

    The Red House

    Just back from a weekend in London with Rullsenberg.

    Visited William Morris's Red House at Bexley Heath. Discovered that much of the refurb and reinstantiation of the original Arts and Crafts features from the 1950's onward was done by Ted and Doris Hollamby. Admirably done.

    According to his obit in the Gruaniad Ted Hollamby also oversaw "refurbishment of the exterior of the bombed-out church of St George's-in-the-East, a gloriously eccentric work by England's greatest architect, Nicholas Hawksmoor."

    One big stain on his career, was the plan for the desolation that is Thamesmead. So the film A Clockwork Orange is connected to William Morris. Nice.

    Sunday, September 05, 2010

    Economics: A Fantasy

    Much of economic theory is abstraction, built upon a foundation of mixed metaphors, that sets a policy agenda that then becomes a way of impoverishing countries.

    Kickitover has a sticker to stick on introductory economics text books. *C*O*R*R*E*C*T*I*O*N

    Economics Warning for textbooks

    And here's two economic theorists doing a rap: Keynes and Hayek.

    Where is a free market? I've yet to see one.

    [ The rap video came via Duncan's Economic Blog.]

    The Earth Shakes

    I get hiccups and the earth quakes in Christchurch, New Zealand.

    Seems it was scary for all involved. Thankfully that's now all over but my hiccups are giving me aftershocks.

    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Street Fighting Mathematics

    Sanjoy Mahajan has written a book on practical mathematics. It sounds good and, even better, it's available for free download under a Creative Commons Edition, see Street Fighting Mathematics here.

    Here's the first example
    1.1 Economics: The power of multinational corporations
    Critics of globalization often make the following comparison [25] to prove the excessive power of multinational corporations: In Nigeria, a relatively economically strong country, the GDP [gross domestic product] is $99 billion. The net worth of Exxon is $119 billion. “When multinationals have a net worth higher than the GDP of the country in which they operate, what kind of power relationship are we talking about?” asks Laura Morosini.
    Before continuing, explore the following question:

    What is the most egregious fault in the comparison between Exxon and Nigeria? The field is competitive, but one fault stands out. It becomes evident after unpacking the meaning of GDP. A GDP of $99 billion is shorthand for a monetary flow of $99 billion per year. A year, which is the time for the earth to travel around the sun, is an astronomical phenomenon that A dimensionally valid comparison would compare like with like: either Nigeria’s GDP with Exxon’s revenues, or Exxon’s net worth with Nigeria’s net worth. Because net worths of countries are not often tabulated, whereas corporate revenues are widely available, try comparing Exxon’s annual revenues with Nigeria’s GDP. By 2006, Exxon had become Exxon Mobil with annual revenues of roughly $350 billion—almost twice Nigeria’s 2006 GDP of $200 billion. This valid comparison is stronger than the flawed one, so retaining the flawed comparison was not even expedient!
    That compared quantities must have identical dimensions is a necessary condition for making valid comparisons, but it is not sufficient.
    Make sure to mind your dimensions and units.
    Go and read it. Recommended.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Family Matters

    In an idle moment I did something I haven't done for a long time, I read Socialist Worker. There's an interesting piece, in that brief, digestible, Readers Digest style the SW has, on hedge funds.

    In the Indian state of Goa mines are being dug with haste and a lack of attention to health and safety for the workers and the villagers. Water is diverted and silt floods houses. The company that owns the mines, Sesa Goa
    gets much of its funding from Hermitage Capital, based in Mayfair.

    Bill Browder, the head of Hermitage, says he fears that governments in the West will deal with the huge bank bailout debts by printing money, instead of taking on the working class and forcing through cuts.

    B[r]owder and his friends are worried this would devalue any financial investments wealthy investors own. So Hermitage is turning to betting on “hard assets” like commodities and land to make money.

    Hermitage’s “Global Fund”, which manages £650 million for the rich, is pushing its money into gold and mining companies.

    In the 1990s the company made money investing in the newly opened up markets of Russia. Hermitage’s London officers have a modest exterior. But it is rumoured that the interior is modelled on the St Petersburg palace in Russia that it shares a name with.
    A bit of internet searching reveals that this caricature of a cigar chomping capitalist is the grandson of a former head of the CPUSA, Earl Russell Browder.

    Here's a video of Earl Russell Browder

    Sunday, July 04, 2010

    Talk on Development and Statistics

    A worthy and not dull talk on development and statistics by Hans Rosling.

    For more interesting, informative and sometimes world changing talks look at TED.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010


    It's a truth universally acknowledged that there is no underestimating the intelligence of management.

    Video of BP management in action.

    Okay. It's a skit.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    International Brigade memorial at Nottingham County Hall - redux

    Last year I wrote about the Tory vandalism to the International Brigade Memorial at Nottinghamshire County Hall.

    On Saturday 17th July there is a rededication ceremony.
    The re-dedication is an opportunity to remember those who went to Spain to fight fascism and also to counter the blatant attempts to bury the memorial's still radical political content.

    The event will be held at County Hall, West Bridgford, Nottingham, Saturday July 17, from 10.30am - 12 noon. There will be speakers from the Trades Council, International Brigades Memorial Trust, Labour Party, LibDems and the Spanish Embassy have been invited.

    Entertainment will be provided by Nottingham Clarion Choir.

    [Starting the next week] the city council will be hosting a display organised by the International Brigades Memorial Trust which is touring the country.

    The exhibition called "Antifascista!" is about British and Irish volunteers in the civil war and will be on display in the Council House, Market Square from 12 noon Tuesday July 20 - Saturday 31 July.
    As one of the plaques says:
    In honour of the volunteers who left Nottinghamshire to fight in the International Brigade Spain 1936 - 1939.

    They fought alongside the Spanish people to stop Fascism and save Liberty and Peace for all

    They went because their open eyes could see no other way.


    Tuesday, June 01, 2010

    Eyeless In Gaza

    There is justified anger at the Israeli attack on boats in international waters. That anger is much discussed elsewhere.

    I have just discovered that Henning Mankell, the author of the Wallander books, is sitting in an Israeli gaol.

    It's always good to see an author beliving in the power of the word and the deed.

    Friday, May 07, 2010

    No Deportations

    There was at least one good thing about the Icelandic volcano eruption that closed Eurpean airspace and that was, it temporarily, stopped deportations from the UK.

    Now an Iranian woman gets a welcome reprieve from deportation to Iran.
    [Bita] Ghaedi has spoken out against sharia law, forced marriage and human rights abuses in Iran. She has also criticised the regime on TV channels widely available across the Middle East. These actions, along with her public support of the PMOI (People's Mujahedin of Iran), which is opposed to the Iranian regime, are enough to put her life in danger if she is deported, according to Zadshir and her lawyer.

    In his ruling, Mr Justice Nicol said that given the "very considerable amount of further information which has been supplied, concerning (in particular) the claimant's association with Iranian opposition groups and the subsequent publicity given thereto", the court should hear her renewed application for judicial review.
    Now to get the deportation permanently stopped.

    Monday, May 03, 2010

    Dave C

    I looked up cameron in the dictionary

    As Caitlin Moran reportedly said, "Dave Cameron looks like C3Po made of ham". Close your eyes and the image is there. Now, how do I get rid of it?

    Vote Labour - if only to keep out the Tories

    Thanks to Will I have rediscovered this post from the last election.

    Life under a Labour administration is bearable as it gives something to campaign against.
    Life under a Tory administration would be so vile that life is despairing for those caught in its binds.

    Vote Labour. They're not as depressing as the Tories.
    That's my motivation.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Goldman Sachs Conviction Buy List

    There was I looking for news on the Goldman Sachs fraud case and I find this Goldman Sachs Conviction Buy List.

    Is it about convicted bankers? Is it about bankers accused of fraud? Nope. It's about Goldman Sachs' tips of companies expected to outperform the market.

    As Richard Adams put it, the fraud was all about selling fire insurance to arsonists.

    Or as the chair of the US Congress hearings into the credit crunch said when questioning Goldman Sachs' own Lloyd Blankfein the bank was "selling a used car with faulty brakes and then buying an insurance policy on those cars".

    Crooked. Crooked. Crooked. And unethical to boot. And that's how capitalism works.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    It's Absolutely True

    Because I read it in the Daily Mail.

    Dan and Dan's Daily Mail Song.

    As someone once said: "I wouldn't wipe my arse with it".

    And as Jo Caulfield said about the Express: "she's still dead".

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Somethings are Better Revisited

    Scary Mary Poppins, the recut.

    [ Via Three Wise Men ]

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    On the importance of knowing stuff

    I was reading an old Joel on Software article on software, for the day job, and saw this peach of a quote.

    People who only know one world get really smarmy, and every time they hear about the complications in the other world, it makes them think that their world doesn't have complications. But they do. You've just moved beyond them because you are proficient in them. These worlds are just too big and complicated to compare any more. Lord Palmerston: "The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it."
    That's similar to the tale of Arthur Eddington.
    [Eddington] was an early apologist of Einstein's General Relativity, and an interesting anecdote well illustrates his personal intellectual investment: Ludwig Silberstein approached Eddington at the Royal Society's (November 6) 1919 meeting wherein he had defended Einstein's Relativity with his Brazil-Principe Solar Eclipse calculations with some degree of skepticality and ruefully charged Arthur as one who claimed to be one of three men who actually understood the theory. When Eddington refrained from replying, he insisted Arthur not be "so shy", whereupon Eddington replied, "Oh, no! I was wondering who the third one might be!"
    That's all for today.

    Monday, March 08, 2010

    Royal mail Stamps

    At the moment I am reading the Martin Beck Police Mysteries by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. The series was wriiten in the 1960s and 1970s by a couple of Marxists who used detective fiction to reveal the state of Swedish society under capitalism.

    The book I am currently reading is "The Abominable Man". On page 96 of the Vintage Crime/Black Lizard edition (2009) there is this quote:
    Then he looked suspiciously at the stamp. It was rather pretty, with a picture of a bird. It belonged to a series of newly released stamps which, if he understood the thing correctly, guaranteed that letters bearing them would be conveyed with special sluggishness. The kind of sublety so typical of the post office.
    That speaks as much of early 1970s Sweden as it does of The UK's Royal Mail in 2010.

    Royal Mail: Stand and Deliver

    Recently the Royal Mail has been criticised for failing to deliver one in four first class letters on time. See this Torygraph report.

    In the last quarter of 2009 less than 80 per cent of first class letters arrived the next day, this compared badly to the first quarter when 94 percent arrived the next day.

    This report being in the Torygraph it stresses that the strikes, together with management failure to plan for the disruption, were to blame for the performance failure.

    During October's dispute almost 60 million parcels, packets and letters clogged up sorting offices.

    Nigel Woods, of Consumer Focus, said: "Whether or not these results are down to industrial action, consumers were let down by Royal Mail last autumn.

    "The figures are similar to those recorded during the industrial action of 2007-8 and show how important it is for Royal Mail to resolve their industrial relations problems once and for all.

    "It also shows that Royal Mail's contingency plans have not stopped severe service disruptions from taking place during strike action.
    So, to summarise, the stike caused the disruption which wouldn't have been as bad if management had arranged a massive scabbing operation.

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    No Redemption

    Life goes on. Things happen. Terrible things happen. Good things happen. Terrible things happen. Good things happen. And so it goes. And then it stops. Mr D comes in and out goes that last breath of life. But before then there is life.

    Sometimes the media, in the UK, acts as if everyone is immortal and appears shocked when someone is told that they are going to die. Let me let you into a secret: you are going to die. Very few people know when they will die but everyone will die. There is no deus ex machina to prevent it. There is no redemption. Bob Marley may have a redemption song but redemption is rare.

    Anyway Pere Ubu are back on tour with a version of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi. The album is called "Long Live Pere Ubu" and the stage show is called "Long Live Pere Ubu - The Spectacle". As David Thomas said
    "Long Live Père Ubu!" is the album of songs that was the genesis of the entire mess. It is a great leap forward in our pursuit of hyper-naturalistic recording techniques by which we replace microphones in the studio with wooden boxes, junked radio speakers, metal horns, and electrically charged window panes. Sound itself becomes the narrative. Everyone is going to hate it. We know that. The story, though satiric and comedic, is utterly bleak, lacking charm (the usual counter-weight to the band's noire tendencies) and devoid of redemption. Few people have ever read Ubu Roi, fewer heard of it. Wonderful. Altogether two years of work. Père Ubu, the character, ruined Jarry's life. And now he's ruined our career. This thing is our Waterloo, our Bridge Too Far, our Pickett's Charge.

    Well, somebody had to do it.
    Those things that people do that make the world a better, more interesting place. See more here at Pere Ubu's place. For dates see the calendar page.