Thursday, January 31, 2008

The difference between intelligence and wisdom

There are lots of witty explanations of the difference between intelligence and wisdom. I read a good one a few days ago that I'd never seen before but now I can't remember it. So here's another one - an intelligent person can appreciate a witty saying, a wise person will write it down.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jon Pilger on Suharto (who is dead)

Jon Pilger dishes the usual dirt on Suharto, his attrocities in East-Timor, the complicity of western governments, in particular Australia but pretty much everyone gets a mention. He also includes this fabulous snippet from an interview he did with Alan Clark (British defence minister under Thatcher)

Shortly before he died, I interviewed Alan Clark, who under Thatcher was Britain's minister responsible for supplying Suharto with most of his weapons. I asked him, "Did it bother you personally that you were causing such mayhem and human suffering?"

"No, not in the slightest," he replied. "It never entered my head." "I ask the question because I read you are a vegetarian and are seriously concerned with the way animals are killed."


"Doesn't that concern extend to humans?"

"Curiously not."

Monday, January 28, 2008

All free and still I'll never be able to read them

The A.C.M. has made a bunch of the best/classic computer science books free to read, there's so much stuff I'd love to read and yet I'm not even going to try, I can't even keep up with my New Scientist subscription :(

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk gives a brilliant lecture in Boston on Iraq, US/UK foreign policy and many things in between. He really is a great speaker and watching this makes me feel guilty that his book is still sitting, unread, on my bedside shelf.

There's a fantastic audience participation section where he gets the audience to fill in the blank as he retells the history of the British invasion and occupation of Iraq in the 1920s. I'm really curious whether the current generation of war-mongers know their history and are deliberately copying it or if the same ideas - from "they will greet us with flowers, to "we cannot leave or there will be civil war", to abuse of prisoners are just what comes naturally to imperial powers. The parallels are amazing, right down to the siege of Falujah in retaliation for the killing of invaders.

He also does a great job slagging off the L.A. and N.Y. Times' journalism. Despite the seriousness of the subject, the talk is actually quite funny and entertaining. Sadly he does not like "the Google" :( .

The link above is to Google video's copy (which is downloadable - yay! - it's also available on youtube, not downloadable and butchered into segments of less than 10 minutes - boo!). You can find an MP3 on this page which is the official page hosted by the organisers of the talk.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Guy Kawasaki mocks the blogsphere

At a recent Xerox Parc Forum (lots of good stuff in that archive), Guy Kawasaki talked about starting a website on the cheap. He also spent a fair amount of it taking the piss out of the blogosphere (he got lots of negative feedback about his site Truemors). Anyone with that level of disrespect for the blogosphere is OK by me and his talk was pretty entertaining (the audience found it hysterical, I guess you had to be there). That's why I have bothered to link to his site (which appears to be very very slow).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Media Lens take David Aaronovitch to the cleaners

There's not much more to say. The article has a has quite a lot of condemning material. Particularly silly is Aarononvitch's criticism of the Lancet's studies as "absurd" and referring to them as "based, it was claimed, on standard epidemiological methods". Around the same time, he wrote that there were "three million might have died in the Congo" - this figure was produced by Les Roberts, who was of course the man behind the 2 "absurd" Iraqi studies!

Hardly the man to get the truth out of Blair in his exclusive interview but that's presumably why he got to do it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Media Lens: Guardians of Power

The loveable rogues behind Media Lens have a book out called Guardians of Power. I think I knew this already but I just found a long review of it that I should probably read and I'm ordering the book (I might even get get around to reading it one day). The reviews on Amazon are also extremely positive.

Jon Pilger on Afghanistan

Here's an article by Jon Pilger with a great line in it

Or, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "[the Taliban] are the players most capable of achieving peace in Afghanistan at this moment in history".

The article talks about how the fight for women's rights before 9/11 was undermined by the Clinton administration's desire to do business with the Mullahs and get an oil pipeline for Unocal

It was the consistency of this client relationship that had been a prerequisite of US support, regardless of the Taliban's aversion to human rights. (Asked about this, a state department briefer had predicted that "the Taliban will develop like the Saudis did", with a pro-American economy, no democracy and "lots of sharia law", which meant the legalised persecution of women. "We can live with that," he said.)

Of course once they became the enemy, women's rights became one of the reasons for the invasion. I suppose we should be grateful that women's rights were well established in the west before the advent of high-altitude saturation bombing or we might have had to blow the shit out of ourselves too.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What have the Nazis ever done for us?

Funny article (I found it from the still great on various modern-day brands and their association with the Nazis. Just concentrate on the kittens.

Israel using Arab-Israeli citizens as human shields

Jonathon Cook reported on this before but now The Human Rights Association (who Cook says is a reputable groups) have published a report analysing the siting of soldiers, artillery, tanks, weapons factories etc in Arab villages. In his article Cook talks about the strong correlation between Lebanese rocket strikes in civilian areas and the presence of Israeli military in those areas, although it was not limited to Arab villages.

Particularly interesting is the fact that Arabs may not work in arms factories, so there is no good legitimate reason to build them in Arab towns. Illegitimate reasons could include the appropriation of Arab lands and the use of Arabs as human shields.

Charlie Wilson's War... led to 9/11

This article talks about the arming of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan by the CIA and their use as pawns in the cold war. This is now celebrated in Tom Hanks' new movie Charlie Wilson's War. The plan was to give the USSR it's own Vietnam which sounds like a great idea and apparently damaged the USSR significantly. Of course it's not so much fun for those playing the role of the Vietnamese. Despite receiving training and funding, they weren't too happy to be used in this way and to have their country fucked over. They went on to form Al Qaeda and bomb US embassies and barracks in several locations around the world and finally the World Trade Centre. Doh!

This is described by Charlie Wilson, in the book of the same title, as "And then we fucked up the endgame.", something of an understatement I would have thought.

The film apparently skips all this nastiness because apparently Tom Hanks "just can't deal with this 9/11 thing" (second page). This despite Wilson appearing on Fox News after 9/11 and saying "This was as much my fault as anybody's." (first page of that link).

I'm probably not going to get to see the movie anyway...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I have no interest in baseball but...

This article makes me want to read Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

The article makes an interesting point about free market ideology. The baseball market is extremely competitive and accurate metrics are available and widely publicised yet it was operating so inefficiently that Billy Beane was able to rip it to pieces by being the only rational actor. Why did it take so long? What other "free markets" are in an inefficient equilibrium due to all actors operating irrationally?