Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tracking My Traffic

So, after I finally get myself organised with an integrated blog / website at Andean Observer and think about maybe retiring this one, Blogger has introduced a new default interface, with complementary statistical summaries of traffic to the site. Until now, this has been the sort of thing you need to install separate software for. For the first time, I can see where visitors to this blog are from (i.e. by country), how they find it, and what they're looking at. The history only goes back to mid-2009, but it's fascinating nevertheless. The measurement is "page views", which I assume get counted every time someone loads a separate page. Here are some facts about my traffic to date: 

About one third of all visits come from the United States. Around another 15 percent are from New Zealand. Russia (!), Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia, Peru, the United Kingdom and Brazil round out the top 10. Although the US/NZ share seems to be pretty steady, the international traffice varies a bit. For example, this month I've been popular in Latvia, and China and Malaysia make it into the top 10.

Unsurprisingly, Google is the biggest referrer, led by the .com site and then the New Zealand, Peruvian, Canadian, British, French and Australian variants. Easily the most common search term was (and I find this rather endearing) chullo. Interestingly, the next most common was made up of various combinations of "South America" and "cave", most of whom would have ended up at the "Señor Mendoza and the Devil's Cave" page. "Nevado Ampato" was another prominent search term. A number of terms suggest people were specifically searching for this site, while there's also traffic for people searching for links to (that would be Hugo and his offsiders).

The most popular pages are rather an odd collection, although the stats do suggest the bulk of visitors go to the main blog page, so I shouldn't be too worried at the negligible page views for some of what I think are my best and most interesting posts. The post with easily the most page views is "Non-traditional Exports in the Andes", a rather nondescript development-related post from January 2010. This is followed by my post on Mario Vargas Llosa winning the Nobel Prize and then the aforementioned Señor Mendoza post. Posts on Ampato and Salkantay have also been relatively popular, but there are some other odd ones and most of what I consider my better pieces have been roundly ignored.

For the record, a little over 60 percent of site visitors are using Internet Explorer, with another 20 percent using Firefox. Approximately 90 percent of visitors have a Windows-based operating system.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Developed Country Political Economy Rolling Links Edition 5 September 2011

NB: This is a progressively updated post. I've added the date to the post title to dentify the current version.

Recently, I've been reading a lot of versions of a similar general narrative which ties together changes in the political economy of the developed countries (especially the English-speaking ones) over the past 30 years. This time period has seen the wealthiest few percent of society recieve the great majority of gains from increased productivity and economic growth; middle class incomes stagnate; inequality consequently increase; and historical social compacts fray and start to fall apart. The share of GDP going to wages and salaries has fallen, and the the finance sector has become more important and powerful.

A lot of the story is summed up, for the United States at least, by this graphic in the New York Times showing the relationship between productivity and wage increases, income gains for the different groups in society, share of income held by the top 1%, and household debt. These trends are divided up into two periods: the"Great Prosperity" from 1947-79, and the neoliberal era from 1980-2009.

There's a lot of debate about the causes of these changes, their significance, and what to do about them. Paul Krugman in particular has written a lot about the relationship between deregulated finance, economic instability and inequality, as well as the strange and changing social attitudes that accompany the reappearance of plutocracy. But there are lots of other angles too, including thoughts about the consequences this maldistribution will have as resource shortages start to bite. A personal interest is in how the rich countries are increasingly starting to suffer from afflictions historically associated with the Third World. In a way, we're all becoming banana republics. I've made this into a rolling update post, so I can gradually incorporate the best discussions.

Friday, September 02, 2011

US Mainstream Media Eeuurrgghh! Edition

I've previously praised The Good Wife as an intelligent, gripping drama series. Despite standing by that general evaluation, I almost had to boycott it as a result of an incredibly stupid and ultimately offensive plot element in the recent Season 2 episode 22, "Foreign Affairs".

In this episode, Lockhart & Gardner are representing a contractor to a large oil company who has not received payment for drilling work carried out in Venezuela. Negotiations are proceeding, when a celebrity lawyer played by Law & Order actor and former US presidential candidate Fred Thompson appears to announce that as the oil company's Venezuelan interests have just been nationalised and the Venezuelan government has hired his firm to represent it, he will be taking over the case.

At a court hearing the judge advises Lockhart & Gardner that they should merge their case with Thomspon's. "Great" says Will. "Now we have a dictator for a client".

Later, in a conference on the case, the supposed "President Chavez" participates personally. A video link shows a waist-down view of "Chavez" walking around, while a voice speaking obviously Mexican-accented Spanish interjects in proceedings. On several other occasions Chavez is referred to as a "dictator" and when Lockhart & Gardner's client is awarded over the odds damages Will says this is the “standard surcharge for dictators.”

It's kind of boring and annoying to have to state this: whatever his authoritarian "tendencies" or specific instances of executive overreach (and for examples of the latter, see Bush, G W, 2000-2008), Hugo Chavez is not a "dictator" but has been voted in through multiple free and fair elections. Incredibly, mainstream US media institutions that consider themselves serious have no problem in blithely repeating outright falsehoods.

Also completely misleading is the idea that the president can just change laws overnight without reference to Congress. Or that the president himself might be the client and take a direct role in a legal case against an international company. This is kind of like Obama involving himself in Government of the United States vs. Random defendant cases. Surely even virulently anti-Chavez Venezuelans would cringe at the depiction of their country as a tiny, tinpot banana republic which apparently has no institutions and makes no distinction between the State and the current occupant of the Executive?

As an aside, another plot point turned on a document titled "Exit Strategy" being mistranslated as Estrategia de Exito (Success Strategy). While hardly as lame as the Chavez depiction, this is not a mistake a translator would make.