January 31, 2011

QotD: A hopeful view of Egypt’s way forward

Filed under: Liberty, Middle East, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 17:32

The Old Media — not to mention Hillary Clinton’s comic relief State Department — apparently don’t have a clue what’s really going on. Conservative talk radio already assumes that the whole thing has been orchestrated by militant “Islamists”, in particular, the 80-year-old Muslim Brotherhood. Whenever you see that word, mentally remove the first R to get a clearer picture if what they’re really up to.

The Botherhood of Man is gonna gitcha if you don’t look out.

But I digress.

America’s home grown would-be dictators clearly believe “It can’t happen here”, as demonstrated by their reactions — dazed at first, then hysterical — to the far gentler rise of the Tea Parties and the results of the 2010 election, which they are trying to believe never happened. They’ve spent all of their time since, not changing so that they won’t be despised any more, but trying to shut their critics up by destroying talk radio and requiring individuals to have Internet permits.

[. . .]

Out of sheer habit, if nothing else, it is very difficult not make the same mistake as the pundits and politicians. As Robert A. Heinlein observed, every revolution is a freak. By definition there can be no rules to govern or even understand them, and we must avoid thinking collectively about them. There are as many reasons to rebel as there are rebels, and that’s the only important truth we’ll ever glean from them.

It’s also very difficult to say from what we know now, and I could easily be wrong (I have been before), but it seems to me that this is not a fundamentalist uprising like we saw in Iran a generation ago — although the fundamentalists are desperately trying to coopt it — but an essentially secular revolt by the productive class against both fundamentalism and the fascist management states that dominate the region.

L. Neil Smith, “Egyptian Tea Party”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2011-01-30

Showing their true colours?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Law, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:42

To mark the Egyptian government’s shutdown of cellphone and internet access to their angry citizenry, the US government wants to have the power to do the same. Subtle, eh?

Legislation granting the president internet-killing powers is to be re-introduced soon to a Senate committee, the proposal’s chief sponsor told Wired.com on Friday.

The resurgence of the so-called “kill switch” legislation came the same day Egyptians faced an internet blackout designed to counter massive demonstrations in that country.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, is being floated by Sen. Susan Collins, the Republican ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The proposed legislation, which Collins said would not give the president the same power Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is exercising to quell dissent, sailed through the Homeland Security Committee in December but expired with the new Congress weeks later.

The bill is designed to protect against “significant” cyber threats before they cause damage, Collins said.

Got to admire the balls of brass required to introduce legislation to do something in America at exactly the same time the US government is demanding that Egypt restore their citizens’ internet access. Breathtaking hypocrisy.

Update: By way of American Digest, a most appropriate image:

Study implies that “traditional” parenting roles may be better for children

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:22

Cue the outrage:

Despite the long push for more equality in parenting duties, new research suggests that mothers and fathers may actually get along better when parenting roles are divided along more traditional lines — that is, when fathers back off caregiving duties, such as feeding and bathing, and put more effort into playtime.

[. . .]

Families in which fathers were more involved in play activities had more of what researchers called supportive interaction between the two parents.

In contrast, more of what is described by researchers as “undermining behaviour” was seen among families in which fathers do more of the caregiving.

[. . .]

It is unclear why the study yielded the results it did, but Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor of family science at Ohio State University and one of the study’s co-authors, suggested parents may be subconsciously bothered when parenting roles conflict with their pre-conceived ideas.

From the mother’s point of view, it could be a function of “maternal gatekeeping,” she said. “For mothers, maybe, it’s hard to give up some control to the father. That could be a total social effect, but there could some sort of biological underpinning to it.”

It’s a single study, so the results are hardly conclusive, but the general tenor of the study will not be popular in certain academic and political circles.

Smartphone release cycles speed up

Filed under: Economics, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:05

It’s tough to always have the newest electronic wonder, and (at least in the smartphone world) getting harder all the time:

If you bought a smartphone within the past year, you might already have noticed that your once-cool superdevice is feeling outdated.

There’s a reason for that: “Android’s law.”

Smartphones are continually outdueling one another in terms of performance, and they’re coming to market at a breakneck speed.

For instance, if you picked up the Motorola (MMI) Droid when it went on sale in November 2009, you had the best Android device on the market. But then the twice-as-fast Nexus One went on sale in January 2010. Then the HTC Droid Incredible hit the market in April. Then in June, the Evo 4G put the Droid Incredible to shame. The Samsung Galaxy S came out later that month. Then the Nexus S … You get the point.

The average time smartphones spend on the market is now just six to nine months, according to HTC. But it wasn’t always this way: Average shelf time was about three years prior to 2007, HTC estimates.

US Army to keep MRAP, speed up development of JLTV

Filed under: Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:48

For your morning dose of military acronyms, here’s a report from Strategy Page on a recent change in US Army planning caused by field experience in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The U.S. Army has decided that the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) should be a permanent part of their vehicle fleet. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Four years ago, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps were in the midst of spending $20 billion to buy over 20,000 MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles. Shortly thereafter, the terrorist resistance in Iraq collapsed, and so did the need for MRAPs. This resulted in about a quarter of the MRAP orders being cancelled, and others changed to designs more suitable for use in Afghanistan, which had far fewer roads to use them on.

While the troops appreciated the MRAPs, some of the generals saw serious problems in the future. In Iraq and Afghanistan, people in these bomb resistant vehicles were much less likely to be killed or injured if they encountered a roadside bomb. But MRAPs are basically armored trucks (weighing 8-23 tons) that are hardened to survive bombs and mines, and cost about five to ten times more than an armored hummer.

As you can see, the MRAP isn’t a dainty sort of vehicle (this one has the recent overhead wire kit attached):

But now, thousands of those MRAPs will stay in service after the war in Afghanistan has ended. They will be considered armored combat vehicles, not transport, like the hummer and army trucks, and not used on a daily basis. This will keep down the operating expenses, as MRAPs consume a lot of fuel.

In addition to keeping thousands of the MRAPS, the army is developing a heavier replacement for the hummer, using a design with lots of MRAP features. This is the JLTV(Joint Light Tactical Vehicle), which is arriving a little ahead of schedule, as part of a program to massively upgrade army vehicles every few decades.

The JLTV competition is still underway, with three vehicles being tested:

Image from Wikipedia.

In addition to being built to better survive mines and roadside bombs, the JLTV will be able to generate 30 KW of electricity (for operating all the new electronic gear, and recharging batteries), have an automatic fire extinguishing system and jam-resistant doors. Like the hummer, JLTV will be easy to reconfigure, for everything from a four seat, armed scout vehicle, to an ambulance, command vehicle or cargo or troop transport. The hummer will continue to be used outside of the combat zone, where most troops spend most of their time. But the JLTV will be built to better handle the beating vehicles take in the combat zone, including a design that enables troops to quickly slide in armor and Kevlar panels to make the vehicles bullet and blast proof.

Shock! Horror! Wikipedia contributors are disproportionally male!

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:24

Don’t worry, kids, the New York Times is on the case:

In 10 short years, Wikipedia has accomplished some remarkable goals. More than 3.5 million articles in English? Done. More than 250 languages? Sure.

But another number has proved to be an intractable obstacle for the online encyclopedia: surveys suggest that less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.

About a year ago, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that runs Wikipedia, collaborated on a study of Wikipedia’s contributor base and discovered that it was barely 13 percent women; the average age of a contributor was in the mid-20s, according to the study by a joint center of the United Nations University and Maastricht University.

And this is clearly evidence of neo-patriarchal oppression, right? If so, the mechanism by which this form of oppression is accomplished is a bit less than crystalline: anyone can sign up to contribute to Wikipedia. If the NYT thinks that this is really a problem, then we can’t have that many serious problems.

With so many subjects represented — most everything has an article on Wikipedia — the gender disparity often shows up in terms of emphasis. A topic generally restricted to teenage girls, like friendship bracelets, can seem short at four paragraphs when compared with lengthy articles on something boys might favor, like, toy soldiers or baseball cards, whose voluminous entry includes a detailed chronological history of the subject.

Even the most famous fashion designers — Manolo Blahnik or Jimmy Choo — get but a handful of paragraphs. And consider the disparity between two popular series on HBO: The entry on “Sex and the City” includes only a brief summary of every episode, sometimes two or three sentences; the one on “The Sopranos” includes lengthy, detailed articles on each episode.

Is a category with five Mexican feminist writers impressive, or embarrassing when compared with the 45 articles on characters in “The Simpsons”?

Isn’t it normally considered positive that women are not as inclined to obsessive monomania as men are? Doesn’t this evidence rather support the notion that (some) men devote disproportional effort to topics of interest that (most) women would consider unhealthy?

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