March 5, 2012

New TV shows to “glamourize” archaeology

Filed under: History, Media, Science, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 14:26

This sounds particularly dire, on multiple levels:

On 20 March, Spike TV will premiere a new show called American Digger, while a show called Diggers on the National Geographic Channel made its debut 28 February. Both shows “promote and glorify the looting and destruction of archaeological sites,” Society for American Archaeology (SAA) President William F. Limp wrote in a message posted earlier this week to the SAA listserv.

The premise of American Digger, which is being hosted by a former professional wrestler, was laid out in a recent announcement by Spike TV. A team of “diggers” will “scour target-rich areas, such as battlefields and historic sites, in hopes of striking it rich by unearthing and selling rare pieces of American history.” Similar locales are featured in National Geographic’s Diggers. In the second episode, set in South Carolina, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 buttons, bullets, and coins were recovered at a former plantation.

After viewing the first two episodes of Diggers, Iowa’s State archaeologist John Doershuk posted a review to the American Cultural Resources Association listserv, in which he lamented: “The most damaging thing, I think, about this show is that no effort was made to document where anything came from or discussion of associations — each discovered item was handled piece-meal.”

H/T to A Blog About History for the link.

The European Court of Human “Rights”

Filed under: Europe, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:41

Luke Samuel thinks it’s time for people to declare themselves to be “human rights sceptics“:

You don’t have to be a little Englander, or even right wing, to recognise that it is an affront to democracy that unelected and completely unaccountable judges, who have absolutely no democratic mandate, are able to override the decisions of elected representatives. It is appalling that European judges can make significant political decisions over a body of citizens across Europe to whom they will never have to answer.

But there is a more fundamental reason that liberals should be sceptical of human-rights law: because it makes us all less free. Human rights are not ‘rights’ in a liberal sense at all. They bear no resemblance to the ‘rights’ fought for by the radical liberals of the English Civil War, or the French and American revolutions, which sought to limit the power of the state and protect the autonomy of citizens. Instead, human rights treat people as fundamentally vulnerable and in need of state protection. This view of human vulnerability, in the eyes of the human-rights lobby, justifies the granting of absolute power to the state to set the boundaries of freedom.

Take, for example, the ‘right to a private and family life’ protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The courts will not consider a claim under Article 8 unless it is convinced in the courtroom that you have a ‘family life’ worth protecting. How the courts have defined ‘family life’ for the purposes of Article 8 is laughably antiquated. In 2002, the courts ruled that ‘family life’ does not exist where a relationship between parents and their grown-up children is ‘only emotional’, in that the children are no longer economically dependent on their parents. Neither are unmarried parents likely to be considered a family, unless they maintain sufficient levels of contact with their children. How can any ‘liberal’ support the idea that your family life is only worthwhile if it conforms to what the state decides a family should look like?

Or take Article 10, which purports to protect our freedom of expression. Of course, the very concept of ‘freedom of expression’ owes its existence to radical liberals like John Stuart Mill and Voltaire, who argued that there can be no exceptions to free speech, otherwise you do not have free speech at all. But human-rights lawyers will tell you that Article 10, along with most other human rights, is a ‘qualified right’ because there is a long list of conditions under which the state can interfere with it. This list includes where it is necessary in the ‘interests of public safety’ or for the ‘protection of health or morals’. Such broad qualifications mean that as a means of limiting state power, ‘qualified’ human rights are all but useless.

US Army to retire the M-2 Bradley IFV

Filed under: Middle East, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:05

The M-2 was the primary infantry fighting vehicle for the US Army intended to replace the Vietnam-era M-113 armoured personnel carrier. It was designed to protect infantry in a high-intensity battlefield from bullets and shrapnel. It wasn’t designed to protect them against mines and improvised explosive devices:

One of the little-known casualties of the Iraq war was the American M-2 Bradley IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle). Five years ago, the U.S. Army stopped using the M-2 in combat. By then it was clear that the enemy was intent on using mines and roadside bombs in a big way, and the M-1 tank, Stryker and MRAP vehicles were much better able to handle these blast weapons than the M-2.

This was a hard decision to make, because up until then it was believed that the M-2 could be made competitive with upgrades. For example, the BUSK (Bradley Urban Survival Kit) has been applied to about 600 M-2s. [. . .]

All this added about three tons to the weight of the vehicle. Because of his, a major upgrade of the M-2 was planned, to include a more powerful (800 versus 600 horsepower) engine, a more powerful gun (30 or 40mm) and lighter armor (or protection systems that shoot down anti-tank missiles and RPGs). Improved sensors were planned, plus vidcams to give people inside the vehicle a 360 degree view of what’s outside.) More electronics, including one that would allow variable power, and fuel consumption, from the engine were in the works. More safety features were planned as well, including an improved fire extinguisher system. The new version was not expected to show up until 2012. It did not happen, mainly because there was no way of getting around the M-2’s vulnerability to roadside bombs. The M-1 was too heavy (60 tons) to be hurt by bombs or mines, and Stryker and MRAPs were designed to cope with the close range explosions.

Tim Worstall: “Neoliberal” has a meaning

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:55

He’s ticked off at an article at the Guardian, blaming “neoliberals” for the Greek crisis:

In what paranoid fantasy is what is happening in Greece neoliberal?

The actual neoliberal position (recently affirmed at our meeting in the underground secret headquarters under the volcano that sank Atlantis) is that the euro itself was and is a bad idea as it’s not an optimal currency area. And if there is to be a euro then Greece should not be a part of it. Since it is, and it’s bust, then it should default and devalue.

In short, the neoliberal solution is the Icelandic one, not the Irish, Greek or Portuguese.

So how come we neoliberals (as you know, the modern incarnation of the Green Lizards, Rosicrucians and Illuminati all rolled into one) are getting blamed for the entire fuck up that is happening precisely because no one will follow the prescriptions of neoliberal economics?

The failure of wind power

Matt Ridley on the inability of wind power advocates to distort reality:

To the nearest whole number, the percentage of the world’s energy that comes from wind turbines today is: zero. Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine — despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.

If wind power was going to work, it would have done so by now. The people of Britain see this quite clearly, though politicians are often wilfully deaf. The good news though is that if you look closely, you can see David Cameron’s government coming to its senses about the whole fiasco. The biggest investors in offshore wind — Mitsubishi, Gamesa and Siemens — are starting to worry that the government’s heart is not in wind energy any more. Vestas, which has plans for a factory in Kent, wants reassurance from the Prime Minister that there is the political will to put up turbines before it builds its factory.

It’s a lesson we still need the Ontario government to learn: our electricity prices are scheduled to go up substantially to finance the massive wind farm investment the McGuinty government has signed up for. Much more of our landscape will look like this in future:

Even in a boom, wind farms would have been unaffordable — with their economic and ecological rationale blown away. In an era of austerity, the policy is doomed, though so many contracts have been signed that the expansion of wind farms may continue, for a while. But the scam has ended. And as we survey the economic and environmental damage, the obvious question is how the delusion was maintained for so long. There has been no mystery about wind’s futility as a source of affordable and abundant electricity — so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?

One answer is money. There were too many people with snouts in the trough. Not just the manufacturers, operators and landlords of the wind farms, but financiers: wind-farm venture capital trusts were all the rage a few years ago — guaranteed income streams are what capitalists like best; they even get paid to switch the monsters off on very windy days so as not to overload the grid. Even the military took the money. Wind companies are paying for a new £20 million military radar at Brizlee Wood in Northumberland so as to enable the Ministry of Defence to lift its objection to the 48-turbine Fallago Rig wind farm in Berwickshire.

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