Showing posts from 2014

Slate and campus sexual assault

Trigger warning: this post and the articles linked to in it discuss rape and sexual violence.

Emily Yoffe at Slate has written an article entitled 'The College Rape Overcorrection'. It contains some material which is genuinely striking and important for anyone who wants to talk about systems for handling rape allegations in universities. But - as you might expect from an article with that title and a teaser paragraph which begins "Sexual assault on campus is a serious problem. But ..." - that material is presented in a way which is harmful and incredibly irresponsible.

What Victoria's state election isn't

I didn't get sent the postal ballot I applied for, so my contribution to the Victorian democratic process for this year will come in the form of a short rant.

There have been a lot of articles in the last week, and will inevitably be more in the next few days, about the contribution of the Abbott government and its unpopularity to this result. A state government in Victoria has not been removed after one term since the 1950s. It happened today; the idea that Denis Napthine and the Victorian Liberal Party were tarred with the federal party's toxic brush is an easy explanation of why. Here is one analysis piece, blaming the Coalition's defeat on "a toxic fusion of state and national politics". Here is a news article saying that the result "will inevitably be interpreted as sending a strong message to Canberra" - as if that interpretation just happens, magically, and not because of articles which say things like that. A very brief and straightforward histo…

Three travesties: this week in Australian government

Here is Joe Hockey, on the BBC, lying baldly.

That may be a bit harsh. Unless he's an extremely good liar, he doesn't seem to show any signs that he knows what he's saying is untrue at all. This is not complicated stuff. I learned in Year 9 geography that Australia was among the largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. That has not changed. You can look at the statistics here.

The Treasurer didn't actually dispute those statistics, of course. He just said they were "misleading", because they failed to take into account some important fact about Australia's economy. He didn't really say what that important fact was: maybe something to do with the cleanness of our coal, or that we have a lot of land. He was most excitable about the fact that Australia exports energy to the region; but that is irrelevant, because the statistics don't count Australian resources used overseas towards Australia's emissions, as Hockey seemed to b…

Referendum day

People have tended to see in the Scottish independence referendum what they wanted to. George Monbiot thinks it is a referendum on corporate influence in English politics. Labour supporters in England often tend to think it's about the Tories, and how best to fight them or be rid of them. Some people from the north of England I have spoken to think that it is a protest against the London-centric nature of Westminster politics, in the same family as their own such complaints.

I doubt that any of these things are right. And it still seems strange to me that people who are not Scottish and do not live in Scotland should have a view on "how they would vote" or "how Scots should vote" in this referendum. Of course they can have views on what the economic or political or constitutional consequences of independence would be. But people who don't live in that country and share in that identity just aren't placed to assess how those considerations should weigh a…

Dawkins, back in the day

I'm writing a piece about intellectuals on Twitter, which has naturally led me to be reading and thinking about Richard Dawkins. In the course of that, I came across this article, 'In Defence of Selfish Genes', written by him and published in the journal Philosophy in 1981. It's a gem, for reasons that couldn't possibly have been clear at the time:
"I have been taken aback by the inexplicable hostility of Mary Midgley's assault.' Some colleagues have advised me that such transparent spite is best ignored, but others warn that the venomous tone of her article may conceal the errors in its content."  "I deplore bad manners as strongly as anyone ..."  "She seems not to understand biology or the way biologists use language. No doubt my ignorance would be just as obvious if I rushed headlong into her field of expertise ..."  "I am not even very directly interested in man ... "  "In fact, of course, to the extent that …

forests, trees, the predictability of Tony Abbott

I don't want to be a know-it-all and I definitely don't want to be the kind of person who refers to previous stuff I've written, but this is relevant. If you took seriously the policy debate (such as it was) that occurred before the last election then you would have a fairly concrete idea - yeah, I hear you, left-wing types, just go with it for a bit - about what the Abbott government was for and what it'd do. If you were the kind of person (more like me) who is quite convinced of their general principled and ideological premises and decided it wasn't worth bothering that much about assessing the specific policy agendas of the main parties, you would also have had an expectation - a much vaguer one, as much as anything characterised by a general feeling of right-wing-ness, maybe accompanied by some instinctive sense of unease / glory and optimism.

Here's the thing though: there are a lot of things you could probably draw out of that general feeling which wouldn…