Out of control IOs

by Henry Farrell on February 12, 2007

Putin’s speech on the evils of US unipolarity has gotten a lot of chewing over in the press and blogosphere, but one “part of his argument”:http://www.kommersant.com/p741749/r_527/Munich_Speech_Vladimir_Putin/ hasn’t gotten much attention.

Finally the president turned his attention to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has always gotten a strong response from him. “They are trying to transform the OSCE into a vulgar instrument designed to promote the foreign policy interests of one or a group of countries. And this task is also being accomplished by the OSCE’s bureaucratic apparatus, which is absolutely not connected with the state founders in any way. Decision-making procedures and the involvement of so-called nongovernmental organizations are tailored for this task. These organizations are formally independent but they are purposefully financed and therefore under control.”

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Embodied energy, Professor McLuhan?

by Daniel on February 12, 2007

Alex at “The Yorkshire Ranter” has a go at the concept of “embodied energy“, which is currently quite fashionable in the “Environment” section of my newspaper. I have to say I agree with him.

Anyone who has ever got close even to the very fringes of Sraffian economics or the labour theory of value is bound to be suspicious of attempts to assign a “fundamental, objective” number to a physical object based on adding up dated inputs over the history of the process that produced it. Casting an eye over the research on embodied energy confirms me in this view to some extent; I get exactly the same bilious feeling as layer after layer of complexity gets added to the same basically insoluble problem.
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Open Democracy matching fundraiser

by Maria on February 12, 2007

openDemocracy is doing a week long fundraising drive where donations received will be matched by, amongst others, John le Carre. Here‘s where they explain why openDemocracy is worth supporting. openDemocracy creates “a public space that is exemplary in its democratic virtues: open, participative, jointly created, high quality. This means not only continuing with the news magazine-style offering and forums, but also augmenting it with new options that will create high-quality joint creation on which we all can make a claim.” Now openDemocracy is making a claim in its readers.

Like they say; “Everything on openDemocracy is free to read and free to share. It’s not free to produce.” I read openDemocracy all the time. Time was, I’d stuff copies of the Economist into younger siblings’ backpacks. Recently, a younger sister who’s travelling around the world asked how she might become more informed about global politics. I didn’t hesitate in recommending openDemocracy. It presents a variety of views on the main issues of the day, and also from and about people and places you don’t hear of too often. So if you don’t read it already, take a look. And if you do read it, see if you can dig your hand into your pocket.

The Good Childhood in Madison

by Harry on February 12, 2007

Just a reminder to Madisonians that the second installment of our discussions of The Good Childhood takes place tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Central Library in Madison at 7. This week’s topic will be “The Good Childhood: Does it Exist?” Please come along if you can.
For interested non-Madisonians, a 2-hour long mp3 of the previous discussion is available here (I haven’t listened, because listening to myself talk when I’m not actually talking is very hard!), the text of Sally Schrag’s presentation is here. My presentation is not yet available online, but when it is it will be here. In a week or so I’ll try to present my thoughts here more formally.

Solidarity Forever

by Scott McLemee on February 12, 2007

Responding to my interview with Danny Postel about Reading “Legitimation Crisis” in Tehran: Iran and the Future of Liberalism, Lindsay Waters writes in an email note (quoted here by permission):

The situation he talks about is same one I know from talking to people about Rawls in US/UK versus the Maghreb and China. For my friends in West, Rawls is as evil as Bush. I don’t buy it, because I have talked to people who live under totally unliberal regimes.

(Yeah, well, never underestimate the lingering appeal in some quarters of the doctrine of social fascism, which led to such exciting results in 1933.)
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Warning the Czar

by John Q on February 12, 2007

Australian news rarely makes it out of the sporting pages internationally (and we’re not looking too good there just now) so it’s pretty exciting for us to make into New York Times coverage of the presidential election campaign. The occasion is a statement by our prime minister, John Howard, to the effect that a vote for the Democrats, and in particular for Barack Obama, would be a vote for Al Qaeda*.

This is not the first time an Australian political leader has commented on the choices available to US electors. A few years ago, then Opposition leader Mark Latham described Bush as ‘incompetent and dangerous’, but this accurate observation did not seem to have much effect in the 2004 US election campaign and probably contributed to Latham’s defeat in the Australian election the same year.

Latham was well known as a loose cannon, and this kind of remark was in character, but Howard has generally been seen as the embodiment of cautious solidity. As far as US politics go, he’s generally been seen as an advocate of unconditional support for US policy, regardless of the political colour of the Administration. He’s been very happy to cash in on his close relationship with Bush, but he was quite keen enough for photo-ops with Clinton. So what possessed him to take a high-risk, low return line like this

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Newsnight, Newsmorning, Newsmidafternoon

by Maria on February 12, 2007

Hurray for BBC! The Beeb has lovingly created a downloadable version of Newsnight reports, interviews and discussions that can be watched for free. Reports are indexed by the following topics; domestic, world, business and economics, culture and entertainment, politics, and science and technology. The list of interviews is pretty mouth-watering, at least for someone like me who doesn’t own a television. And the discussions cover recent issues such as the anniversary of the Act of Union with Scotland, to a panel talking about the interview of Diana, Princess of Wales’ by Martin Bashir back in 1996. (Watching clips of that interview now, it’s hard to feel the sympathy I once did towards the manipulative gurnings of the Queen of Hearts.) It’s all Paxman, all the time. Heaven.

While I’m at it, there are endless downloadable goodies from BBC, including of course The Today Programme, which is celebrating John Humphreys’ 20 years by presenting a set of clips. This year’s Reith Lecturer is Jeffrey Sachs.

Although it’s a far from perfect institution, the BBC seems to take its public service obligations seriously. It’s really embraced downloading of its non externally copyrighted material. I would love to see the material fully searchable, rather than simply indexed. And it’s about time the BBC started putting its back catalogue of documentaries and dramas online. Surely, back in the days before expensive co-productions with HBO, the rights issues should have been trivial? If the BBC wants to win the argument for an increase in the licence fee next time around, opening up its archives would strengthen the case.

(Oh, and to any wing nuts who wish to comment along the lines of ‘hnnh, bbc, root of all evil’; go away and read a book.)