MDFF 21 December 2013

Human Rights, Abbott style.
by Ben Saul, From The Age 19 December 2013

The Attorney-General George Brandis is waging an ideological war on human rights while pretending to defend them. His view that human rights have blown off course in Australia is not based on evidence or a coherent understanding of rights. It is also an attempt to divert attention from the government’s own serious rights violations.

Brandis wishes to ”restore the balance” because ”traditional rights, freedoms and privileges” have been ”unnecessarily compromised”. Already he has announced a law reform inquiry and made an unusual appointment as Human Rights Commissioner, by installing Tim Wilson, a former policy director of the free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

Among Brandis’ highest priorities are defending an absolutist idea of free speech (so as even to protect hate speech against minorities) and loosening corporate, environmental and industrial regulations that impair rights.

It is inevitable, and right, that those concerned about human rights should focus on the most harmful abuses. Usually this means speaking out for the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalised, and the powerless. This is why Brandis shows exceptionally poor judgment, and little grasp of the real world of human rights abuses, when he prioritises the right of powerful commentators to be able to say hurtful things about indigenous people, or attacks regulations that impinge on corporate interests. If the government is serious about improving rights, it should focus on eliminating many violations of classic civil and political rights that it created or perpetuates.

Since the Magna Carta 800 years ago, the most important civil right has been freedom from arbitrary executive detention, without charge or effective judicial control. For 20 years, Australian governments have violated this freedom tens of thousands of times. Mandatory immigration detention is a grave human rights abuse, all the more so when it is inflicted on refugees seeking our protection.

It is worse still when detention is indefinite, as for more than 50 refugees detained for four years because of ASIO security assessments. Just a few months ago, the United Nations found that this violates Australia’s civil and political rights treaty obligations.

If the Attorney-General was genuinely concerned about civil rights, he would phone the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to release all asylum seekers detained for, say, more than 30 days. In seconds, he could stop thousands of serious rights violations.

But the Attorney-General allows them to languish. He is more worried about the suffering of columnist Andrew Bolt, who was found guilty of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act over two articles he wrote in 2009.

Brandis is wrong to suggest that civil and political rights have been neglected. They have been deliberately violated. Australia periodically reports to the UN about its implementation of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Australia is often criticised by the UN experts for many violations, yet perpetually complains that it should not have to follow a treaty to which it agreed.

If Brandis is serious about protecting rights, he could start by immediately implementing the UN’s recommendations. He could also listen to his own Human Rights Commission.

For example, the government could wind back the counter-terrorism laws that the Howard government adopted. It could guarantee civil and political rights to marginalised indigenous people, including those who were racially discriminated against by Howard’s intervention and whose representative bodies were abolished.

It could stop violating the right to life, and freedom from torture, by summarily returning Tamil asylum seekers to Sri Lanka. It could refrain from abolishing the ”complementary protection” laws. It could stop disappearing refugees into squalor offshore, dehumanising them.

It could stop driving refugees in indefinite detention to suicide, treatment that the UN has found to be unlawfully cruel, inhuman or degrading. In a century’s time, our refugee gulags will be looked upon like we now look on the Stolen Generations: with disbelief at our cruelty.

If Brandis were serious about rights, his government could adopt a bill of rights. Why allow your rights-trampling colleagues, or future Labor governments, to abuse rights if you can entrust the independent courts to safeguard them?

The government has done none of these things. These are human rights abuses in the real world, not the terrifying perils of regulation in the corporate boardroom. ”Restoring the balance” is another way of saying the government wants to pick and choose whose rights it respects and whose it violates with impunity. This is not a democratic ”rebalancing”. It just gives more power to the powerful, and leaves the powerless with even less. It is perverse, facile and fanatical.

Brandis’ ideological war on human rights is also corroding the institutions set up to protect them. The Human Rights Commission is being shamelessly attacked and politicised. The point of creating a statutory body is to guarantee its independence from politics. This is all the more important where governments threaten rights but there is no bill of rights, the courts lack jurisdiction, the UN is pilloried, and international law is ignored.

It is an obvious point, but the Human Rights Commissioner should be a human rights expert, not an ideological appointee. Why not appoint one of the many Australians who have spent their careers working at the coalface, with victims of violations, in human rights organisations? Or a world-renowned human rights specialist like Professor Hilary Charlesworth or Professor Sarah Joseph? Why wasn’t the position publicly advertised and competitively selected based on merit?

The commission should also be free to expose rights violations and hold governments accountable without constantly fearing political interference. It should not be tamed as the lapdog of an ideologically obsessed government determined to protect its privileged mates, and stamp out criticism of its own extreme policies.

Ben Saul is Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney, an international human rights barrister, and an author of the Oxford Commentary on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


Passive Complicity

Passive Complicity

that millions of Jews and ‘undesirables’ were murdered in the 20thC

Passive Complicity

that males denigrate females reinforcing male domination

Passive Complicity

That we all benefit from the theft of hunter-gatherer land

Passive Complicity

That we blindedly and blindly support the industrial military complex

Passive Complicity

That we still allow Abba to be played ad nauseum

Passive Complicity

With joyous intent, with optimism in our hearts, with raucous laughter and a quizzical smile we pick at the threads that make us whole, as individuals, as communities, as societies.

We will not remain
Passively Complicit 

KPIs, the facile way to manage

by Ross Gittins.  This article was first published in The Age on 18th December 2013.  It adds weight to our contention that Managerialism may be seriously flawed.

You have heard of painting by numbers, but these days the great fad is management by numbers. I call it the metrification of business – although it’s just as prevalent in the public sector. If you know what the initials KPI stand for, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been a bean-counter all my working life, first as an accountant, then as an economic journalist. So I’ve long believed in the importance of measurement, of getting the measurement as accurate as possible and of understanding the strengths and weaknesses of particular measures.

Much of my apprenticeship as an economic journalist was spent making sure I understood how all the economic statistics were put together. But as I’ve watched the enthusiasm for ”key performance indicators” and other ”metrics” grow, I’ve become increasingly sceptical about their usefulness.

The rise of metrification has been built on repetition of the seeming truism that what gets measured gets managed. It follows that what isn’t measured isn’t managed.


It’s certainly true that what we measure affects what we do and the way we think about the phenomenon being measured. So in the drive to hold workers accountable – that is, to increase control over them – and improve their performance, it’s become fashionable among managers – private and public sector – to measure key aspects of an organisation’s performance.

It’s only a small step to setting targets for the performance measures and, often, raising those targets from year to year. You might have targets for the performance of organisations, but also for the performance of individuals. And it’s only another small step to link performance to remuneration. We pay for results – what could be fairer?

The rapid escalation of executive remuneration over the past 20 years has occurred not so much because of the rise in basic salaries as the proliferation of ”performance pay”. A study by Mihir Desai, of the Harvard Business School, found that, in America, the proportion of the total pay of senior managers that is based on share prices rose from 20 per cent in 1990 to 70 per cent in 2007.

But, as The Economist reported last year, Desai found this had warped incentives and fostered malfeasance. Managers had won huge payouts simply because the share market had gone up, regardless of whether they had personally added value.

”They have also gamed the system, sometimes illegally, to hit targets that put fat sums in their pockets,” it said.

The trouble with this measurement approach to accountability and reward is that, as the American psychologist Martin Seligman has said, ”If you don’t measure the right thing, you don’t get the right thing.”

When the push for micro-economic reform was at its height, someone got the bright idea that if you calculated and made public the equivalent of key performance indicators for all the many responsibilities of the state governments, you’d encourage them to compete among themselves to improve their standing in the league tables.

The Productivity Commission has now compiled and published these indicators for many years. But someone who should know warned me they’d become completely unreliable. Why? Because managers in each state had manipulated their results to make them look good against the competition.

In 2005 the website ran a letter from an anonymous public servant reporting their experience with management by KPI.

”Early in June our manager discovered we were a few percentage points away from meeting operational requirements for the financial year. Rather than explain to his boss that staff cannot perform well when there are continual computer problems and weekly changes in procedures and priorities, he instituted a series of ludicrous schemes to improve the statistics,” the person wrote.

”Any work that was already out of time was placed on the backburner, not to be touched until after July 1, when it would be counted in the next year’s statistics. In other words, work that was overdue would not even be looked at for another fortnight.

”For two days staff did nothing but go through their files searching for cases that could be closed without further action or referred to another area. We achieved absolutely nothing in terms of genuine output for those two days, but our percentage of resolved cases sky-rocketed. We then started on the new work, but only worked on simple cases that could be closed well within the acceptable operational time frame…

”On June 30 our manager proudly announced that we had achieved operational requirements.”

I’ve been around long enough to know that measurement can be a trap. People can be mesmerised by numbers. Because they’re objective, people take them to be infallible. They forget (if they ever knew) the assumptions and other limitations on which they’re based, they take them to be measuring something they’re not and they forget how easily others can manipulate them for their own purposes.

It’s easy to measure quantity, but much harder to measure quality. Most jobs are multi-dimensional, but you can’t have a KPI covering every dimension. In which case, I can always meet my KPIs by cannibalising some dimension – some aspect of quality – not covered by a KPI.

Einstein said ”not everything that counts can be counted”. The modern preoccupation with metrics is an attempt to over-simplify the managerial task by confusing quantity with quality.

Sorry, life wasn’t meant to be that easy.

Read more:

The University Common Room

Why an Ulster university common room is worth fighting for
Students occupying Ulster University’s common room are defending higher education against creeping corporatisation
by Terry Eagleton First published in, Thursday 12 December 2013

Common rooms are vital places in universities. In today’s corporate-minded, technocratic colleges, where professors are senior managers, junior staff dogsbodies and students consumers, they represent a dim memory of a time when higher education was a rather more collegiate affair. The senior common room in the University of Ulster at Coleraine, run jointly by staff and students on a non-profit basis, is one of the few such places left in the UK. During the years of the Northern Irish Troubles, it provided a safe haven in which Catholics and Protestants could speak to each other across the sectarian divide. Today it represents the sole remaining public space on the Coleraine campus, apart from a dingy entrance hall that looks like a Ryanair departure lounge. It is also one of the only centres open to the general public on a campus that has become increasingly privatised and off-limits to them. Town events have been staged there and local people taking evening classes use it for recreation, as do a host of clubs and societies. In a part of the world where commonality is at a premium, the Coleraine common room has kept alive a notion of the university as a place of dialogue, criticism and open-ended debate, and has recently acquired learned society status.

All this will soon be ancient history if the Coleraine administration has its way. Some time ago, they announced they were appropriating the common room as a corporate dining area. In a magnanimous gesture, however, they offered to replace the room with one containing a kettle and a microwave. Coleraine students, stemming as they do from a deeply conservative region of the world, are hardly noted for their political militancy, but a group of them occupied their common room last week and are set to stay. Some of them are sporting T-shirts reading “Ulster Says Know”, an Ulster enlightenment variant on the Paisleyite slogan. They have had messages of support from such diverse sources as Alec Baldwin and the university rugby club, while supportive academics and stout-hearted mums have baked them brownies and made them soup.

While negotiations for the executive dining room were afoot, the university bosses steadfastly ignored expressions of student alarm, along with a number of requests to meet with them. Now they have been forced to put out a statement declaring that they intend to convert the common room into teaching suites, an idea they seem to have plucked from thin air. Even if this is true, which no student or staff member I’ve spoken to believes for a moment, it will still mean the destruction of a precious space.

I gave a talk to the occupying students last week, and the vice-chancellor was invited to attend so we could hold a public debate. He didn’t show up, but 10 minutes into my talk three senior officials from the university physical resources department barged in threatening to have protestors removed by the police. Since the protesting students are occupying a room that’s theirs to sit and talk in anyway, it is hard to see what law they are breaking.

A good many universities these days breed a climate of bullying and intimidation. The student occupation took place around the time of the national strike called by the Universities and Colleges union, an event that spurred the Coleraine administration to send an email to its staff reminding them of the dire effect this exercise of their democratic right might have. Since Coleraine has scarcely any tradition of student militancy, the students who are determined to hang on to their common room deserve special congratulations for their courage. It is they, not the technocrats – who understand nothing but measurable outcomes – who are standing up for the true idea of a university.

Weekly Wrap 16 December 2013

Apropos nothing in particular we offer the following Errol Flynn quote:
I live polygamously, but I am fascinated by people who appear to live happily monogamously.  from ‘My wicked wicked ways” by Errol Flynn 1959.  (Thanks to Ira Maine for bringing this obscure quote to our attention.)

The Vienese group Mnozil Brass were commissioned by the City of Bayreuth to write and perform a work to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth.  We, as enthusiastic appreciators of brass,  published an account of their deliberations here.  Listen to their rendition of the William Tell Overture here

Poet/songwriter Andy White joined our pages with “Oh god let me die after bono” – “so that he will not deliver
a filmed tribute
upon my demise”

Cecil Poole discussed Jonathon Franzen’s book “The Kraus Project”, in which Franzen now and Kraus a century ago show “commitment to challenging the techno-social orthodoxies of our day.”  Read on here.

Thank god we have people of the calibre of Quentin Cockburn providing creative solutions for our ailing – dying – motor industry.  His rescue plan, carefully considers the full gamut of variables, whilst offering a rich future.  Send his plan on to your Federal member, and help make this rescue happen.   The plan can be accessed at this link

“For what it is worth I  would not even consider associating the blog with these people.” Ira Maine took exception to Poole’s piece on Franzen and Kraus.  His detailed arguments (to be fully refuted in due course are found here.

Our Musical Dispatch featured a piece from Frank Hardy’s important work on the Wave Hill walk off and strike, the genesis of Aboriginal Land Rights, “The Unlucky Australians”

Then to Poetry Sunday where our Poetry Editor Ira Maine gave us an introduction to John Donne – “a courtier, a superb poet, and a famous seducer” and his poem ‘The Rising Sun’.

Good reading, join the conversation.

Cecil Poole

Mandela, hypocrites and apologists

by Seumas Milne.  First published in The Guardian, Thursday 12 December 2013

We have now had a week of unrelenting beatification of Nelson Mandela by exactly the kind of people who stood behind his jailers under apartheid. Mandela was without question a towering historical figure and an outstanding hero of South Africa’s liberation struggle. So it would be tempting to imagine they had been won over by the scale of his achievement, courage and endurance.

For some, that may be true. For many others, in the western world in particular, it reeks of the rankest hypocrisy. It is after all Mandela’s global moral authority, and the manifest depravity of the system he and the African National Congress brought to an end, that now makes the hostility of an earlier time impossible to defend.

So history has had to be comprehensively rewritten, Mandela and the ANC appropriated and sanitised, and inconvenient facts minimised or ignored. The whitewashed narrative has been such a success that the former ANC leader has been reinvented and embraced as an all-purpose Kumbaya figure by politicians across the spectrum and ageing celebrities alike.

But it’s a fiction that turns the world on its head and obscures the reality of global power then and now. In this fantasy, the racist apartheid tyranny was a weird aberration that came from nowhere, unconnected to the colonial system it grew out of or the world powers that kept it in place for decades.

In real life, it wasn’t just Margaret Thatcher who branded Mandela a terrorist and resisted sanctions, or David Cameron who went on pro-apartheid lobby junkets. Almost the entire western establishment effectively backed the South African regime until the bitter end. Ronald Reagan described it as “essential to the free world”. The CIA gave South African security the tipoff that led to Mandela’s arrest and imprisonment for 27 years. Harold Wilson’s government was still selling arms to the racist regime in the 1960s, and Mandela wasn’t removed from the US terrorism watch list until 2008.

Airbrushed out of the Mandela media story has been the man who launched a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been closed; who declared in his 1964 speech from the dock that the only social system he was tied to was socialism; who was reported by the ANC-allied South African Communist party this week to have been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest; and whose main international supporters for 30 years were the Soviet Union and Cuba.

It has barely been mentioned in the past few days, but Mandela supported the ANC’s armed campaign of sabotage, bombings and attacks on police and military targets throughout his time in prison. Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC’s armed wing, emphasise that the military campaign was always subordinate to the political struggle and that civilians were never targeted (though there were civilian casualties).

But as Ronnie Kasrils, MK’s former intelligence chief, told me on Wednesday, Mandela continued to back it after his release in 1990 when Kasrils was running arms into South Africa to defend ANC supporters against violent attacks. And there’s no doubt that under today’s US and British law, he and other ANC leaders would have been jailed as terrorists for supporting such a campaign.

One of the lessons of Mandela and the ANC’s real history is that the cold war wasn’t just about capitalism and communism – or freedom and dictatorship, as is now often claimed – but also about colonialism and national liberation, in which the west was unmistakably on the wrong side.

South Africa wasn’t an anomaly. The brutal truth is that the US and its allies backed dictatorships from Argentina and Greece to Saudi Arabia, while Soviet support allowed peoples from Vietnam to Angola to win national independence. Cuban military action against South African and US-backed forces at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1988 gave a vital impetus to the fall of the racist regime in Pretoria.

That’s one reason why Mandela was a progressive nationalist, and Raul Castro, the Cuban president, spoke at Tuesday’s celebration of Mandela’s life in Soweto, not David Cameron. And why the man Barack Obama called the “last great liberator of the 20th century” was outspoken in his opposition to US and British wars of intervention and occupation, from Kosovo to Iraq – damning the US as a “threat to world peace”, guilty of “unspeakable atrocities”.

Such statements have barely figured in media tributes to Mandela this week, of course. The enthusiasm with which Mandela has been embraced in the western world is not only about the racial reconciliation he led, which was a remarkable achievement, but the extent of the ANC’s accommodation with corporate South Africa and global finance, which has held back development and deepened inequality.

There have been important social advances since the democratic transformation of the early 1990s, from water and power supply to housing and education. And in the global climate of the early 90s, it’s perhaps not surprising that the ANC bent to the neoliberal flood tide, putting its Freedom Charter calls for public ownership and redistribution of land on the back burner. But the price has been to entrench racial economic division, unemployment and corruption, while failing to attract the expected direct foreign investment.

The baleful grip of neoliberal capitalism, and the growing pressure to break with it, is a challenge that goes far beyond South Africa, of course. But along with the struggle for social justice and national liberation, the right to resist tyranny and occupation, and profound opposition to racism and imperial power, that is part of the real legacy of Nelson Mandela.

Poetry Sunday 15 December 2013

The Sun Rising
by John Donne

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late schoolboys, and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long:
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me
Whether both the’Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear: ‘All here in one bed lay.’

She’is all states, and all princes I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compar’d to this,
All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy’as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy centre is, these walls, thy sphere.

In this present poem, it is the morning after. As the girl slumbers on, Donne catches the ‘Sunne’ peeping through the curtains. (The great conceit of this poem is that the poet addresses the sun throughout this poem as if it were human).

‘Busy old fool! Unruly Sunne!…Why must thou thus, through windows and through curtains call on us…?’

Gloriously, Donne begins by accusing the sun of being a Peeping Tom!

‘…why must thou thus…’

In other words, haven’t you anything better to do? Do you not realize that lover’s seasons are none of your business?
The lover tells the sun, who is most definitely a ‘…sawcy (for being a Peeping Tom) pedantique (a tedious clock-watching pedant) wretch…’ to bugger off and to take his wake-up call (the morning) with him. His niggling insistence that people should be up and about is for others,  like ‘…late school boys and sour apprentices…’ certainly not for these lovers.

‘…Go tell the… huntsmen that the King will ride
,Call country ants to harvest offices;…’

This is the sun’s particular function, the humdrum, the mundane, the endless, never changing pattern of the seasons.
But love ‘…no season knows, nor clyme…’
Time-keeping, hours, days, minutes and months mean nothing to those in love, and are qualities therefore, which are, by contrast, ‘…the rags of time…’.

The poet points out that, should the sun get too cocky, merely by closing his eyes he could make the sun cease to exist. He is not prepared to do this because’…I would not lose her sight so long…’

However, he tells the sun;  ‘…if her eyes have not blinded thine…’ (if the beauty of her eyes have not blinded the sun!!) have a look on your 24hr travels and see if  India and the Kings you saw there yesterday  are still there.

The poet insists they won’t be because’…all here in one bed lay…’. In other words the world is contracted to the size of their room and nothing else exists.

‘…She is all states and Princes I,

Nothing else is…’

By this is meant that she is every country in the world and he is ‘all Princes…’

Nothing else exists.

Position, honour and wealth are, (compared to the lover’s state) mere alchemy, worthless trifles

So, cheekily he tells the sun ‘…thine age asks ease…’  (he is treating the sun like an old pensioner!) He gives the sun permission to slow down! If it’s duty is ‘…to warm the world…’ then simply by shining on the two lovers it is fulfilling its obligations!

‘…This bed thy centre is, these walls thy sphere…’

If you are still with me, and I hope you are, then you will understand that this is not only a brilliantly conceived intellectual exercise but an equally brilliant poem about being in love. That I might have stumbled in this attempt to explain it’s complexities to you will I am sure, attract deserved brickbats. I shall invest in a defensive umbrella!



MDFF 14 December 2013

This dispatch is from Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (2006).  This book covers the Aboriginal Stockmen’s strike at Wave Hill in the late 1960s and early 70s.  This strike lead directly to recognition of Aboriginal land rights.  (This was written at the time and published posthumously)

His attitude (Jack Meaney, a war time (WWII) friend of Hardy’s, living at Adelaide River, just over 100km south of Darwin, NT, Australia) to the Aborigines is excellent and he tells many moving stories of their plight, their humour and their culture.  He has got into a lot of arguments as a ‘nigger-lover’ which he has more than once settled with the bunch of fives.

“Years ago Jack employed an Aborigine droving.  A Welfare Officer came to him and demanded he take out a licence to employ the Aborigine under the Wards Employment Ordinance.  Jack replied: “I don’t take out a licence for a man like he was a dog, just because his skin is black.  I pay him white men’s wages and treat him as a white man”

One time, during the war, Jack was cook in charge of a CCC Camp and gave hospitality to an Army Officer and his aboriginal batmen.  After their first meal together, the officer said he didn’t want to sit at the same meal-table as the Aborigine – bad for discipline.  When serving the next meal, Jack sat the Aborigine at the table with himself and his co-workers and put the officer at a box in a corner of the hut.  When the officer complained, Jack told him: You said you wanted to sit at a different table to the Aborigine.  Well, I fixed it for you.”

His program for the Aborigines: “Trust them, that’s the first thing.  And treat them like human beings.  give them equal pay and a decent education.  They can be the greatest bloody citizens we’ve got.”  Then he’d say, “But they won’t give him a go.  they think the old abo is an easy mark but they might find out otherwise with this strike at Newcastle Waters (a relatively small Cattle Station, where a strike was underway prior to the main strike at Wave Hill)

We talked about the disgraceful conditions of the Aborigines on the cattle stations which he knew intimately, he said, “And the white pastoral workers don’t exactly live like kings, either.  Bad conditions, long hours without proper overtime and the lowest wages of any white worker in Australia”………  “I’ve told them many a time: You blokes’ll never get anywhere while you allow the bosses to treat the Aborigines like dogs.  While there’s cheap aboriginal labour available, you’ll work for low pay and bad conditions yourselves.”

“While black men are in chains no white man can be free” I quoted from Karl Marx

“He’s bloody right, too, but you can’t tell these boneheads who work on the cattle stations.  I never met one of ‘em yet who ever had a Union ticket.  They all fancy themselves as Yankee cowboys.  If petrified goat  shit was imported from America they’d eat it for lollies”.


Oh, Dear!

Ira Maine has taken the long handle to yesterday’s piece.  His comments, at least those of his we can publish, follow.

I have never heard of Winer, Kraus or Franz.

(The author) obviously searched very hard to find a positive review of this book. At the end of this search he finds the Winer review which happens to coincide with his own. He tells us that Kraus and Franz are very concerned about the effect modern technology is having on us all; 

“…the most impressive thing about Kraus…how clearly…he recognises the divergence of technological progress from moral and spiritual progress…’

If this is the general drift of the book then we are dealing with ill-informed, pseudo intellectual nonsense.

We do not have ‘…moral and spiritual progress…’ What we do have, in the West, is a world created as a reaction to hundreds of years of murder, exploitation, and genocide.
‘…moral and spiritual progress…’ suggests that we are struggling to grow up morally and spiritually. This is arrant nonsense. We are born with these qualities (or learn them from our parents) because we know that these qualities both created our society and are essential to its survival.

The pretence that a world of moral and spiritual progress  exists and is being undermined by technology is straight out of American  Redneck religious lunacy.

Any real sense of decency, honour and compassion that we possess is in our hearts and souls from the moment we are born and no IPhone or IPad or computer will alter that.

If there’s a real threat in technology it comes from that technology’s capacity to be manipulated by a paranoid minority who will settle for nothing less than a police state.

The way of life we have now was not gifted to us. Humanity had to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of it. Arrayed against our achieving it were some of the most reactionary forces on the planet. These same forces never ever sleep and would have us serfs again in an instant.

For what it is worth I  would not even consider associating the blog with these people. This ‘…most hated writer in America…’ business seems to me like a ploy to draw in the unwary.
Surely, before doing anything at all, or offering any sort of opinion, the book itself should be read and reviewed by us. If ’twere down to me, I’d believe the many critics who’ve already said the book is not worth considering and move on to something else.