Carlsen and the world championship

After a very gruelling 11 rounds of classical chess which produced nine draws and one win for either side, Magnus Carlsen surprised most people by not trying very hard for a win in his final ‘classical’ game with challenger Sergey Karjakin. He was biding his time for the playoff with four games of ‘rapid’ where players get 25 minutes plus several seconds per move. It was his 26th birthday! The first game was a draw. Carsen secured a won game in the second game but couldn’t pull it off. He won the third and then had to draw or win the fourth. The final position was this which as you can see looks rather hazardous. If white doesn’t mate his opponent he’s about to get mated himself. What should Carlsen play?

You can play this and other games here.

Meanwhile other countries take it all rather more seriously!

Posted in Chess | 5 Comments

Little platoons of the left and right

Image result for little platoons burkeThe intimidatingly well informed Brad Delong used the following quote from Rosa Luxemburg to bid “good riddance” to Fidel Castro. I don’t know enough to agree or disagree, but as I read Luxemburg’s words, I wasn’t thinking of communism. I was thinking of managerialism. I’m not seeking to suggest any moral equivalence with the gulags. But there are plenty of systems of tyranny, petty and otherwise, in our lives as the stuffing somehow oozes out of our institutions.

A generation ago academics were a privileged elite jealous of their privileges (and as is the case with privileges, some grew fat and lazy on them.) Ditto bureaucrats including of course the bureaucrats running private companies. Professionals could be directed within professional structures (an engineering firm say). But all such people owned a degree of fiduciary duty to the public and some independence from their bosses. Today managerialism runs rampant over such things and these people are so many lab rats in a Skinner box hitting their KPIs and (of course) learning to manipulate them apace as well as learning to pump out the bullshit in ever increasing quantities.


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Posted in Economics and public policy, History, Political theory | 10 Comments

Where else would they come from?

Minister Dutton says that 2/3 of people recently charged with terrorism in Australia have Lebanese Muslim backgrounds. However, the first rule when considering dramatic statistics should be to think “compared to what”. In this case, where else might we expect Islamic extremists to come from? A quick look at the Australian Census tells us that this statistic is not so exceptional. Now that Islamic terrorism has arisen and spread (in a small way) to Australia, it is not at all surprising that most people involved will be of Lebanese background. This is simply because they are the largest relevant population group in Australia.

Simplifying somewhat, the majority of people seeking to undertake terrorist acts in the name of Islam in Western societies have been young adults (mainly men) who are second or third generation migrants. Moreover, such violent acts are just as much political as religious acts and have been concentrated in the diaspora of countries with on-going political-religious conflict.

The table below shows the self-reported ancestries of young people who were born in Australia and reported Islam as their religion in the 2011 Census. Lebanese was the most common ancestry (about 18,000), followed by Turkish and then Australian. (Up to two responses were permitted, of which Australian was often the second). If we exclude those parts of the world which have not been sources of Islamic terrorism, Lebanese youth make up 47% of the total, followed by Turkish at 26%.

Why have Lebanese, but not Turkish youth, appeared in Dutton’s statistics? The answer is much more likely to be found in the political environment of the home country than in anything inherent to the migrant population in Australia. Despite a range of groups exercising political violence in Turkey, it has not been a country where Islamic violence has focused on Western interests (until very recently, and even then it is probably not ‘home grown’).

Interestingly, if we include Turkey as a non-starter as a source of terrorist recruits, Lebanese youth make up just under 2/3 of the ‘population at risk’ in the table – the same as Dutton’s statistic.


Posted in Immigration and refugees, Politics - national, Race and indigenous, Religion, Society | 6 Comments

From the current issue of the Dunera News

Ruthi, a young girl in internment: by Melinda Mockridge and Ruth Simon

Ruth Simon, née Gottlieb, can still remember what it was like to live in an internment camp, behind barbed wire at Tatura during the Second World War.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 10.58.01 amRuth, now in her late 70s was transported aboard the Queen Mary with her mother and father in September 1940 – one of the ‘Singapore group’ of interned enemy aliens whose lives were so dramatically changed following the outbreak of war. The internment agreement between the British Straits Settlements authorities and the Australian Government allowed for the indefinite detention of those designated ‘enemy aliens’, on Australian soil. Ruth’s family had come to Malaya from Austria and her family had lived there for some years. They had been granted British citizenship and were waiting for their certificates to arrive when the decision was made in 1940 to intern them.

Ruth was 3 years old. For her, the experience made a lasting impression. Interviewed many years later for the current exhibition, Art Behind the Wire, at Duldig Studio, she recalled the trip from Sydney to Tatura:

I remember going on the train and I remember it being dark and you couldn’t look out the windows – I suppose they had shutters and I remember my mother explaining to me it’s because they didn’t want people staring at us; of course it was obvious they didn’t want us looking out.

She recalled her mother Johanna’s first reaction to the newly built (and very basic) camp at Tatura as being one of shock – when she saw the chicken wire ventilation in the huts which would be their accommodation, Ruth recalled that her mother exclaimed, ‘Don’t tell me the blowflies are that big!’.

There were 25 children under 12 sent into internment, and at least two were born
during the time in internment, including Ruth’s brother, Ronny, who was born on
New Year’s Day in 1942 at Waranga Base Hospital. It is believed that this was just
the second time children had been interned in Australia, the first being those
interned outside Canberra at Molonglo during the First World War.

Surrounded by adults, ‘everyone was uncle and aunty’, she recalled the difficulties
of living in such close proximity, the lack of privacy and water, the memory of playing
with friends, and the freedom of being able to roam the camp and the friendliness of
the camp guards.

Special thanks to Ruth Simon, and Tatura Museum for permission to reproduce
material from the collection of Mr Helmut Seefeld.

Posted in History | 1 Comment

Michelle Guthrie and the ABC

Image result for michelle guthrieLast Friday I attended a speech by the new ABC CEO Michelle Guthrie put on by the New News conference which is always good value and a tribute to the forward-looking energy of Margaret Simons – Melbourne Uni professor of Journalism and frequently practising journalism. Simons wrote a piece on Guthrie in the Monthly. Unusually for her, it had very little content but went on for thousands of words. Guthrie wouldn’t give her an interview.

Why? Well Guthrie has a view of her role which is not all that simpatico with the culture of modern mainstream journalism. As I understand it she offered simultaneous interviews to a range of journals but this created tensions and several – including the Monthly – did not participate on the grounds that their interview would not be ‘exclusive’. Then they came back and asked for an interview and Guthrie said that, at this stage, she had nothing more to say.

The resulting Simons article was a strange beast on account of its lack of content. Here’s a representative passage:

Everyone likes her. She is, it is unanimously agreed, smart, personable and even charismatic. But she has some people worried. … Guthrie has yet to build a public profile, but she seems to speak with less care [than her forebears]. It would be wrong to describe the things she says as thought bubbles. She is pursuing similar messages in her so far limited public appearances and within the organisation. She is consistent, and clearly means what she says.

Margaret interviewed Guthrie after her talk. She said that when she heard Guthrie say that no program was sacrosanct, only the mission, she assumed that meant that Lateline would not be on next year. Guthrie declined to give Margaret the satisfaction of a confirmation or denial. But she explained her meaning by referring to Foreign Correspondent. She said the purpose of Foreign Correspondent was to inform Australians about what’s going on overseas from an Australian perspective rather than in itself to be a TV program – though her implication was expansive – not that Foreign Correspondent would be downgraded to a website. Simons asked again. Did that mean that Lateline wouldn’t be on the tele next year. But like Mick Jagger, Simons couldn’t get no satisfaction. I was sitting in the front row, and said audibly and in disapproval of Simons’ questioning ‘gotcha’. Continue reading

Posted in Cultural Critique, Films and TV, Media | 8 Comments

Google Calendar and Time Zones

Image result for time zonesSetting appointments I’ll be attending in London next week on Google Calendar has reminded me of a problem that online calendars haven’t sorted out – at least to my satisfaction (or perhaps knowledge); how to handle appointments when there are differences between time zones. In this case, when I make an appointment for 3.00 pm, I select 3.00 pm on my calendar (which is displaying Australian time) and write the details of the booking into the calendar at the end of which process I go to ‘time zone’ and set it to London time. Then the appointment disappears to some unexpected place in the middle of the night Australian time.


Of course when I arrive in London my computer will magically realise where it is and reset its clock and all the appointments will be at the right time (if I’ve put them in right). But the problem is that these bookings are useless if I’m looking at them in Australia. If I’m speaking to someone and they say “are you free at 1.30 pm on Wed in London” there is presumably a way to snap my calendar to display London time, but I don’t know what it is. What I’d like is to make a booking that was time zone invariant. It would be disastrous to do this if one were arranging a phone hookup between time zones, but for travelling it can keep things a lot simpler.

Does anyone know a way to do it?

Posted in Geeky Musings, IT and Internet | 6 Comments

Dispatch no. 2 from the epistemic swamp

Trump SupporterI’ve just posted the first version of the introduction to this post on the first dispatch from the epistemic swamp, but I thought I’d open up the discussion again on a new thread. The tweet above surely highlights different ideas of truth and authenticity. Of course, Trump is the most ‘dishonest’ presidential candidate there’s ever been as measured by the literal meaning of what he says – by a considerable margin.

On the other hand, he’s less manipulative of the press. Of course, I can hear the guffaws of those who are thinking that he’s spent his whole life making himself news. But that’s a little different. It’s been obvious that it’s not in Trump’s interests to traduce his accusers – for instance, the women whose ‘pussies’ he’s been groping and the gold star family he defamed. He responds to every slight and gives his audience at his rallies a stream of his own consciousness. In that sense he’s not ‘on message’ and his every word is NOT a manipulation. 1

And it’s precisely the sense that most politicians are on message all the time that people hate. It’s one of the things that they hate about Hilary (and why they didn’t hate Bill because he was so good at dressing up his being on message as actual heartfelt communication). What I’m suggesting was implicitly (and ineptly) acknowledged by the Gillard campaign in 2010 when it said that we would now see the ‘real Julia’. People had a viscerally negative reaction to the inauthenticity of Julia who had mysteriously morphed from a feisty, forensically intelligent Deputy Leader with authentiness to a talking points zombie.

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  1. It may well be that this is because he is so undisciplined and so narcissistic, so thin-skinned that he can’t help himself, but that’s beside my point here. Trump’s rallies are an authentic window on what the guy is thinking, what’s on his mind.
Posted in Cultural Critique, Political theory, Politics - international | Leave a comment