Archive for the 'For quick reference' Category

Future shock becomes second nature

Scott McLemee has an interesting discussion here on succumbing to new technology that quickly is new no more, but everywhere, changing, in small immessurable steps how we live.

The salient point…  is that something I probably first read about in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine in 1978 is about to become part of the texture of everyday life. It bears recognizing this now, before the familiarity takes over.

I should also get an e-reader.


“Nothing that would stand in court”

A good, but painful illustration of where we are with the war in Afghanistan.

From Sandy Levinson at Balkinization.

I respectfully agree

It is a couple of years back, but most definitely worth a read. More than that; it is a necessary read.

Management is a job

I have often said to myself, myself I have said: “I do not believe in leadership. And I don’t believe in management either.” That is, leadership or management as some skill-in-itself, outside of some concrete knowledge of and experience within the area that someone is supposed to lead and manage.

In discussions on this, I tend to relativise the statement, of course, from an absolute to a more fluffy one. Something like: “It seems to me that in many cases the financial cost of management and leadership in an organisation does not measure up to the value added from management and leadership.”

“But management is most definitely a skill in itself”, my interlocutors will say… “just look at Manager Leaderman who turned the Highly Sophisticated Tech Company around in five years without knowing the first thing about the industry”.The problem for me then is the more pragmatic one that there certainly are good managers out there, they are just too expensive for most universities. And if they are sufficiently low-cost, chances are that they have most of their leadership experience from an area that works differently from an academic institution: In a university it is not a good thing for a manager to think of the faculty as workers in a factory, but for starters a necessity I think to view them as a diverse group of very proud subcontractors.

It seems that I am not alone in being a management skeptic. Harry Brighouse, in a recent post, gives two reasons that academics are perhaps more skeptical towards management:

I suspect that there are two (respectable) reasons for this. One is that academic managers are drawn from the ranks of academics and given little if any training. This narrow pool has already selected out a lot of people who might actually be good at it, and as a result academics rarely get to experience good management directly. Second, management is something that is much easier to recognise as a real and important skill if you have seen some good examples of it than if you have only seen bad or indifferent examples. (I think of it as a bit like my experience with dental work; the first time I had work done with a good anaesthetic it was something I couldn’t possibly have imagined before).

Brighouse then links to this article by Aaron Schwarz which makes the case that management is a job. The article, as Eszther Hargittai argues in the Crooked Timber discussion, in some ways posits an ideal model of management that is not easily applicable to academia. But while it may translate neither directly nor fully into academic institutions, I think the list is useful for being precise about what is so good or bad about the management that you have to work with.

John Quiggin weighs in, focusing not on what the skill of management consists of (the aim of Schwarz’s post), but instead on whether people recruited for Management are likely or unlikely to possess management skills. He says:

There is a skill of management, but:
(1) It’s not much related to what’s taught in MBA courses and similar
(2) It’s not much selected for as people rise in organizational hierarchies
(3) It’s not necessarily transferrable from one environment to another

Climate change is real

This is just for quick reference. A piece by a member of the International Panel on Climate Change who was also part of the Copenhagen Consensus project, writes the following:

In late 2009, the world’s top climate scientists, environmental officials and business and NGO leaders will converge on Copenhagen to negotiate a solution to climate change. It will be a meeting with global repercussions, and its participants will be united by a common belief in the need for a comprehensive solution to this common threat.

The need for such a solution is supported by the best science available, including the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2007 and of which I was a member. The IPCC’s message is clear: climate change is real, compelling and urgent – and we need a concerted, comprehensive and immediate effort to confront it.

But in the midst of this momentum and clarity, one voice has stood out as a persistent naysayer.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Sceptical Environmentalist, makes headlines around the world by arguing that capping carbon dioxide emissions is a waste of resources. He recently published a piece in the Guardian in which he dismissed efforts to craft a global carbon cap as “constant outbidding by frantic campaigners” to “get the public to accept their civilisation-changing proposals”.

To support his argument, Lomborg often cites the Copenhagen Consensus project, a 2008 effort intended to inform climate negotiators. But there’s just one problem: as one of the authors of the Copenhagen Consensus Project’s principal climate paper, I can say with certainty that Lomborg is misrepresenting our findings thanks to a highly selective memory.

Lomborg claims that our “bottom line is that benefits from global warming right now outweigh the costs” and that “[g]lobal warming will continue to be a net benefit until about 2070.” This is a deliberate distortion of our conclusions.

We did find that climate change will result in some benefits for developed countries, but only for modest climate change (up to global temperature increases of 2C – not the 4 degrees that Lomborg is discussing in his piece). But developed countries are relatively prepared to handle climate change’s effects – they tend to be in colder areas, and they have the infrastructure to mitigate severe depletion of resources like fresh water and arable land.

That is precisely why our analysis concluded – and Lomborg ignores – that climate change will cause immediate losses for developing countries and the planet’s most vulnerable, millions of whom are already facing challenges that climate change will exacerbate.

Eisenhower’s farewell address

I thought this was important to save here. From Legal History Blog and Balkinization:

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

A dull file…

"Politics is a dull file which cuts gradually and slowly arrives at its end.” (Montesquieu)

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