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Monthly Archives: September 2005


The Minister glosses
a point from the Chair.
He is on form, selling dummies;
splitting the opposition
with unexpected tangents.
He manages the language
without effort. His smile
is simply the place in his face
where the bone shows through.
By a programming fluke
the whole nation is watching.
The boom-mike dips
into the fidgety audience,
and, just this once
the woman in the third row
does not try to say everything;
does not panic, or glance
at the notes in her lap.
It just so happens
that small corners
of the vast fields of knowledge,
rhetoric and experience
overlap with such precision,
such economy,
in this one person, that it occurs to her,
off the top of her head,
to speak a sequence of sentences
which not only render
the Minister’s immediate remarks
laughable and shabby,
but expose the first principles
of his reason, proving
as a necessary truth
the structural conspiracy
of maintained advantage
which intends his policies.
In the moments before
the Chair restores normality
with “You should be in politics, Madam”,
there is a functioning democracy,
and the Viewers at Home
blink, and partially rise from their sofas.

Alan Dewar

Links for 25th of September 2005

pull a string, a puppet moves

each man must realize
that it can all disappear very
the cat, the woman, the job,
the front tire,
the bed, the walls, the
room; all our necessities
including love,
rest on foundations of sand –
and any given cause,
no matter how unrelated:
the death of a boy in Hong Kong
or a blizzard in Omaha …
can serve as your undoing.
all your chinaware crashing to the
kitchen floor, your girl will enter
and you’ll be standing, drunk,
in the center of it and she’ll ask:
my god, what’s the matter?
and you’ll answer: I don’t know,
I don’t know …

charles bukowski

Word bowl app

I’m looking for an app that will display random lines from from a .txt file in a pretty way – something like a screensaver, or a webpage which I can customise with my own text file. The text file will be around 20,000 lines long. I like to imagine the sentences swimming across the screen. Maybe the smaller ones float nearer the top, the longest ones crawling along the bottom. Or maybe not. I don’t really care as long as at any one time some of the lines are disappearing and some are appearing, so that you are visited with a cloud or swarm of a selection of all the possible lines at any one time.

I’m sure there must be such an app out there. I don’t really want to have to learn flash to getting it working and looking nice. Surely someone has done the work for me. Can anyone provide any pointers please?

links for 17th september 2005

What next for Elsevier?

DSEi finishes today. We’ve had some successes in the campaign to get it stopped. I’m still thinking about the Elsevier angle, and what the next step is for academics who’d like Elsevier to stop involving them in the arms trade (thanks everyone who provided feedback on this, here, at CT, and in person).

I think academics are well placed to persuade Elsevier to stop organising arms fairs. As a group, we’re generally easily convinced of the morality of the affair (‘What? These guys publish medical journals but also assist in the sale of cluster bombs and illegal torture equipment?!‘), and also we fill, review, edit and purchase their journals. Question is, of course, how do we persuade them? After discussion and thought, here’s what i think the answer is: We’re going to ask them. That’s right, i suspected i was a liberal, now i’m certain of it. Elsevier have a reputation (and a customer base) to lose. Even if they believed their own arguments that it isn’t immoral to organise these arms fairs, there’s no reason why they need to keep organising them.

I think the two main things to do next are:

1. Raise awareness of Elsevier’s links to the arms trade
2. Encourage individuals and organisations to contact Elsevier about this

It’s not just university academics who can be reached either. There’s all the medics (Elsevier publish nearly 800 medical journals); the teacher’s (which use Elsevier products in the classes – I wonder what the AUT would think of all this?); the Lawyers (who use an Elsevier product, Lexis Nexis, to access case law); the social workers (there’s a flagship journal for social workers ‘Community Care’ published by Elsevier). And then there’s the librarians. Bless the librarians. If the librarians are against you, you’ve really got problems.

Anyway, so i think i’m clear on what i’d like to do now. It’s just the doing it. Enter period of letter writing, union motions, publicity chasing etc. If you’d like to help, or you know of any group with an interest in Elsevier please get in touch. tom [at] idiolect [dot] org [dot] uk

DSEi round up

The Lancet letter, and the accompanying editorial (my post about this, full text, on indymedia) got good coverage: The New York Times, Today programme, ABC (Aus), Ottawa Sun (Ca), Pravda (Ru), The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Independent, BBC News Online, The Statesman, The Times, Vancouver Sun, Associated Press Newswires and The Guardian (that i know of)

The march on tuesday was successful for what it was. BBC coverage. Direct action today and yesterday has caused lots of disruption, amid a typically overwhelming police response – indymedia. And in the news today: BAE systems has been funding Pinochet, which seems in character.

links for sept 11th 2005

Elsevier and The Lancet

In the latest edition of the Lancet an editorial calls for their publisher, Reed Elsevier, to cut its ties with the arms trade.

There’s a letter in the same issue (signed by me amongst others) saying the same thing, and a response letter from Elsevier. They say what they’ve said to me previously, although they left out the bit about respecting my right to think they are immoral profiteers and they’ll keep doing what they want thank you very much (i paraphrase).

I was asked by a journalist what I thought of their response. Here’s what I said (and this applies to both their response published in the Lancet and their response to me personally which I put up on the blog):

Running this kind of arms fair may be legal, but it isn’t moral and it certainly isn’t appropriate for a scientific and medical publisher. I suspect that the majority of scientists and medics would not want to be associated with this aspect of Reed Elsevier’s activities – the Editors of the Lancet certainly don’t.

Secondly, the defense industry may be vital to democracy and humanitarian missions, but the way the arms trade currently conducts itself is notoriously poorly regulated, unaccountable and secretive. The history of the sale of illegal technologies, of unethical technologies (such as the cluster bombs the Lancet editors make mention of) and sale of weapons to countries with poor human rights records exemplifies this. These abuses will continue at DSEi 2005, and Elsevier makes itself complicit in them.

Elsevier is putting profit above humanitarian values – just like the arms trade as a whole.

The story is covered by The Guardian

Academics and Elsevier

I’ve been corresponding with the publishers Reed Elsevier about their involvement in the arms trade. Reed Elsevier is an academic publisher, which also has a subsidary company, Spearhead Exhibitions, which hosts DSEi – the world’s largest arms fair. You can see what I’ve written to Reed Elsevier, and what they’ve written back, elsewhere on this blog (one, two, three, four).

I believe that the DSEi arms fairs are immoral, geopolitically reckless, sometimes illegal (e.g.) and improperly regulated (e.g.). Beyond this, I resent that a publisher which profits from the hard (and publicly funded) work of academics uses those profits to support the sale to undemocratic & repressive governments of such things as depleted uranium shells, cluster bombs, missile technology and small arms. The arms fairs Spearhead organises (yes, DSEi isn’t the only one) are a measly amount of Elsevier’s business, but it is a part that makes academics complicit in the deaths of civilians, in torture and in political repression around the world.

What can academics do to pressure Elsevier to drop this part of their business? What should we do? Here’s some possibilities. Feedback very welcome – which of these, if any, are reasonable, feasible and might be effective?

1. Write to the Chairman of Elsevier, Jan Hommen, and ask him to reconsider his position: Jan Hommen, Reed Elsevier PLC, 1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5JR.

2. Contact your union, and/or support any motions which express disaproval of Reed Elsevier.

3. If you are member of a scientific society which produces a journal, find out who the publisher is. If it is Elsevier, find out when the contract renewal date is, and the procedure for society members to influence the decision of who that contract goes to.

4. If you write journal papers, bear in the mind the publisher when submitting papers. Obviously you aren’t going to withhold submitting a paper just because the journal is Elsevier, but if you are faced with a choice of journals, one of which is Elsevier, you could cross that journal off your list first?

5. For your papers published in Elsevier journals, insert a line in the acknowledgements along the lines of “The author(s) note with disappointment the involvement of Elsevier with the international trade in arms”

6. When reviewing papers bear in mind the publisher of the journal. Put those for the Elsevier journals to the bottom of the pile.

Any more?

Update – Manual Trackback: Crooked Timber

Letters on Katrina

Letters in the Guardian on the situation in New Orleans, here. Including this one:

Donald Rumsfeld declared the looting in Iraq following “liberation” to be the consequence of “the pent-up feelings that result from decades of oppression”. We await his wisdom on New Orleans.
Chris Mazeika