Thursday, April 21, 2016


Writer and the former editor of Popular Woodworking magazine Christopher Schwarz is an interesting, although at times, an idiosyncratic writer. I've read some of his work and he seems knowledgable, if opinionated, about his subjects.

Here, he relates a tale from his days as an editor at a large publisher :

A few weeks before the summit, Japan had been rocked by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Like many other companies, we’d helped the relief effort by donating a portion of all sales during a special corporate-wide event.

We were briefed on how much money went to relief efforts – plus how revenue had increased dramatically overall as a result of the additional sales in our online stores. Then the highest-ranking person in the room made a proposal, and that’s when the floor fell out below my chair.

“We should find one natural disaster per financial quarter and run a similar promotion corporate-wide,” he said.

My head spun and I started saying stupid things. I remember asking how many people would have to die for it to be counted as significant enough to hold a special promotion. Would domestic disasters be better than international ones? I’m not sure what else I said, but I should have kept my mouth shut.

in the comments he explains :

Lost Art Press says:
March 25, 2016 at 9:25 am
The reason to run the disaster promotion was to increase revenue, not to help people.

Chris deserves credit for being willing to admit that he opposed and mocked the idea raising money for people in need because, while the publisher did raise money for a good cause, the publisher had insufficiently pure motives. I'm sure people suffering from a disaster would rather go without than accept money raised by a publisher knowing that the publisher had also taken in additional revenue.

I suppose one solution to that would simply have been not to tell the suffering that the publisher had increased sales... but oh well. 

Hopefully, he isn't really a sadist and doesn't really hate the poor, the imperiled and the suffering. I suspect it is a case of hating someone (the boss) or something (the corporation) that overwhelmed his ability to consider other factors.

Friday, March 18, 2016

flashing light

A Yarra councillor wants to see more ‘green and red lady’ pedestrian signals installed across the inner city to promote gender equality. 
Yarra Council and VicRoads announced yesterday the silhouette of a woman would be installed at a new pedestrian crossing in Richmond. 
 Crossing the street shouldn’t be a problem. By the looks of her, she’s from an era that predates cars. Those skilled in the dark arts of photoshop are invited to submit a more modern design.

My submission : 
I figure if the light flashes it'll get people's attention (if it were animated it'd be even better).

Friday, March 11, 2016

How Orwellian : the censor censoring the censor

An old article (1986) from the days of Sandinistas running Nicaragua about their censor/ propagandist Nelba Blandon

On Jan. 21, 1986, we [opposition newspaper La Prensa] received an interview with Nelba Blandon on censorship, by an AP correspondent named Eloy A. Aguilar. We tried to publish it under the headline: "Blandon Comments on Censorship," but the censor's decision was: "DO NOT PUBLISH." On Aguilar's next visit he asked Blandon why the interview, which he considered accurate, was not published. The censor answered: "Because the statements I made were for publication abroad, not for publication in Nicaragua."
As an aside I would point to this previous article from 1983 where Nelba Blandon admits that the Sandinistas censored newspaper coverage of Poland or the Soviet war in Afghanistan and she says :

''Now we are determined to let them say what they want, except about military matters or questions of product shortages, two themes that could cause panic in the country if not handled carefully,'' Lieutenant Blandon said in an interview." 

Apparently, having the censor being a military member, who by 1986 had been promoted to Captain, makes the censor's conversations a "military matter" and therefore censorable. And this :

Nicaragua's press censor is Lieut. Nelba Blandon, a 24-year-old lawyer whose wit and intelligence serve to soften the image given by the military uniform she wears to work and the pistol she carries on her hip. 
I must admit that I am surprised that the NY Times would describe a gun toting military censor of the press in such flattering terms.

Also interesting is the idea that the censor demands that people being censored pretend the censorship doesn't exist :

Along with photocopies of every page of the paper we send the censor two pages of material that we call "stuffing" -- articles that can be substituted for censored stories. La Prensa has been unable to publish on 40 occasions because the censor could not find adequate material to substitute for censored stories. It is prohibited to leave any blank space on a page or in any other way give the impression that the paper has been censored.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How Orwellian : Julian Assange's "confinement"

The PR statement from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
The Working Group considered that Mr. Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy.  Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr. Assange.  The Working Group found that this detention is in violation of Articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the ICCPR, and falls within category III as defined in its Methods of Work
Getting arrested while having a warrant filed is being arbitrarily detained? Then he was let out on bail with terms requiring he have a permanent address is not the same as house arrest and not the same as being arbitrarily detained.  The euphemism "his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy" to describe the claim of arbitrary detention elides that he confined himself there. Pity all the fugitives from justice who can't move freely without fear of being arrested.

The full report including the dissent is here (.docx file)

Who is the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention?
Members of the Working GroupMr. Seong-Phil Hong
Republic of Korea, since 2014
Mr. José Guevara
(Mexico), since 2014
(First Vice-Chair)
Mr. Sètondji Adjovi
(Benin), since 2014
(Second Vice-Chair)
Ms. Leigh Toomey
(Australia), since 2015
Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky
(Ukraine), since 2010
A five member group with the majority of the group having a variation of the title "chair." Presumably, the other two have to stand.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Obama on the space program, 2016 "Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there."

Obama on the USA losing its AAA credit rating, 2011 : "Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America.  No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country. "

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Erasing the Past : North Korean TV News

From the documentary movie "The Propaganda Game"

Narrator : "When we went to the North Korean  TV to get  archive footage, they told us they needed to erase the traitor Jang Song-thaek first."