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Archive for November, 2008

Following on from my recently-announced plans to establish some regular features on this site – which I have begun to unveil with my inaugural posting of (hopefully) useful free stuff – I want to ask for some input about what you’d like to see.

In particular, I want to start writing some regular posts that make direct use of my actual knowledge and skills. Broadly speaking, my background is in the behavioural and social sciences, combined with some legal studies. I want to start posting some regular reporting, evaluation and application of research and theory from those areas. I have written a bit about political psychology on here before, and I’ve talked about issues to do with cognitive biases, communication strategies, etc. I haven’t tended to present any of my own research or statistical analyses, but my understanding of those issues has fed into some of my commentary.

Starting with that vague outline of the boundaries of my expertise, does anyone have suggestions about what you might like to see me write about? I gave some thought to applying my scientific training to talking more generally about science that affects political decisions (e.g., climate science), but that’s stretching outside my area and is already done very well on several other web sites (and poorly on several others).

I would welcome any suggestions, either in the comments here or by e-mail. You might have some general ideas, or even some specific questions about political behaviour, communication, statistics, etc. that you would like answered. In fact, one of the ideas I am considering is opening a weekly thread for readers to post questions – I could pick one, and prepare an answer to be posted at the end of the week. But I could use some brainstorming to get the ball rolling.

P.S. As an aside, this seems an appropriate time to make a comment about my pseudonymity, which I’ve never really addressed before. Although I have seen some people associate posting under a fake name with cowardice or an unwillingness to own one’s opinions, I disagree with that view. In my case, I choose to blog under a pseudonym because my employer has some fairly detailed and rigid policies about making public statements – if I attached my identity to my online writings then I would have to indicate when I am speaking based on my professional expertise, disclaim when my views do not reflect the opinions of my employer, etc. In a practical sense, it is just easier to leave my name off my writings and get on with saying what I think. This means that I don’t have any grave concerns about what would happen if I was “outed” – but this is why you won’t see my real name on this site, or the others I contribute to. But you also won’t see me write under any other pseudonym, so all of my opinions are still out there to be scrutinised.

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Song for a Sunday

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People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw winged monkeys

tim describing A-Loew:

for an audience eager to skim shallow views on fashionable issues.

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Dying for a bargain

And then, amongst all the horrific news of deaths due to terrorism and disease, there are these deaths.

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The horror of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai is still not over. There has been a lot of excellent reporting, both professional and amateur, about the situation on the ground as well as the people and issues driving the attacks. But there are a couple of threads of reductionist reporting that disappoint me:

  • The filtering of these attacks through the prism of Islam vs The West. I have already said more about this at TBBWP.
  • The tendency to focus on reporting about how many of “our people” are affected. It is terrible that Australians have been killed and wounded, and I am sorry for the loss their friends and families have suffered. But many others have been killed – and the emphasis on Australian or Western casualties feeds into my previous concern. Yes, there is reason to think that the terrorists targeted Westerners. But current reports suggest that of the more than 150 confirmed dead, a little over 20 are foreigners; many Indians have been killed.

And while our attention is focused on these awful attacks, I would also note that these deaths are tragic, as are these ones.

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Vote early, vote often

It’s Victorian council election day. The Poll Bludger had a preview a couple of weeks back; no sign of coverage yet on the ABC Elections page; official info should come through on the VEC site.

UPDATE: Ben Raue at The Tally Room will be tracking the results.

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Apparently, he can sit on the shelf for a few more years.

P.S. It’s good that we have Peter van Onselen around – both to read the mind of the electorate (“MOST Australians would be feeling more comfortable right now if Peter Costello were still running the economy”), and to counterbalance the evil horde of socialist academics and school teachers who want to indoctrinate our kids.

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Birthday Boy

Happy 46th to Jon Stewart – here’s one of his finest moments:

UPDATE: I feel the need to include another one:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Honeymoon over

The fortnightly Morgan poll shows the 2PP at 59.5-40.5, with the ALP’s primary vote breaking the 50% barrier. Discussion at The Poll Bludger.

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Operation Iraqi Freedom

It is pleasing that the 1,000th post on this blog is about political progress in Iraq (although it’s a dreadful shame that the news is overshadowed by events in India). While today’s achievement is not quite a match for this fictional New York Times headline, it’s still a step in the right direction:

With a substantial majority, the Iraqi Parliament on Thursday ratified a sweeping security agreement that sets the course for an end to the United States’ role in the war and marks the beginning of a new relationship between the countries.

The pact, which still must be approved by Iraq’s three-person presidency council, a move expected in the next few days, sets the end of 2011 as the date by which the last American troops must leave the country.

Apart from anything else, the passage of the agreement demonstrates that achieving political agreement across the sectarian groups in Iraq’s parliament is possible; of course, it remains to be seen whether the spirit of cooperation will apply for issues less unifying than the desire to see the American occupation end.

The New York Times has the full text of the agreement. FP Passport notes that the agreement provides for a referendum to be held by next July, which might see the Iraqi people overrule parliament and reject the agreement if they want American troops gone sooner. In addition to the upcoming referendum, the agreement eliminates immunity for American troops and gives Iraqi courts some jurisdiction over them, so this is a big step forward in terms of granting Iraq autonomy and imposing accountability on the United States for their actions.

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