April 22, 2012

Protecting the Turkish identity should not include ignoring history

Filed under: Education, History, Liberty, Middle East, WW1 — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:11

Ayşe Kadıoğlu is a Turk who went to university in the United States. Part of the experience was meeting Armenian-American students in Boston and learning about events in Turkish history that have been rigorously suppressed in aid of bolstering “Turkishness”:

I grew up in Turkey, where the prevailing education system still conceals certain historical facts in primary and secondary school curricula lest they harm the “indivisibility of the state with its country and nation”, an expression that is used several times in the current Turkish constitution. Perhaps the fear about deeds that can harm the unity of the state and nation is best symbolised in the Turkish national anthem, which begins with the lyrics “Do not fear”.

When fears nurture and sustain taboos, the ability to retain experiences declines. Enduring an education that is laden with either false historical facts or an eerie silence makes it impossible for people to exit the state of self-imposed immaturity.

[. . .]

There are many taboos in Turkey that mainly concern the protection of the “indivisibility of the state and nation”. There are also many laws that make it a crime to break these taboos. When taboos are sustained by law, the minds (and, many times, bodies) of citizens end up being imprisoned. One such taboo involves the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In Turkey, it is a crime to insult his memory and harm his statutes. Another taboo involves the sacredness of the armed forces. This is sustained by a law against discouraging people from performing their compulsory military service.

[. . .]

Taboos, enforced by law, are fetters in front of the ability to reason. It is possible to be released from the spell of taboos and strengthen the ethos of democracy by upholding the realm of public debate and deliberation. Therefore, yes, I agree with Free Speech Debate’s fourth draft principle, “We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge”, because we try not to be trapped in a state of immaturity and want to do our utmost to fulfil our capacities as reasonable human beings.

Danish Dutch design helps rescue the US Coast Guard from further embarrassment

Filed under: Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:01

Strategy Page on the US Coast Guard’s latest cutters:

The U.S. Coast Guard recently commissioned the first of 58 “Fast Response Cutters.” These are 46.8 meter (154 feet) long, 353 ton vessels equipped with a 8 meter (25 foot) rigid hull boat launched and recovered internally from a ramp in the stern (rear) of the ship. Armament of the cutter (as seagoing coast guard ships are called) consists of a remotely controlled 25mm autocannon and four 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine-guns, plus small arms. Top speed is 52 kilometers an hour and the crew of 22 has sleeping and eating facilities on board so the ship can be at sea five days at a time (and 2,500 hours, or over 100 days, a year at sea). The Fast Response Cutter is basically a slightly larger version of the Danish Dutch Damen Stan 4207 patrol vessel.

The Danish Dutch design was selected four years ago because, a year before the Coast Guard was finally forced to admit defeat in its effort to build an earlier design for 58 new patrol ships (Fast Response Cutters.) The ship builders (Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman) screwed up, big time. While the Coast Guard shares some of the blame, for coming up with new concepts that didn’t work out, the shipbuilders are the primary culprits because they are, well, the shipbuilding professionals, and signed off on the Coast Guard concepts. Under intense pressure from media, politicians and the shame of it all the Coast Guard promptly went looking for an existing (off-the-shelf) design, and in a hurry. That’s become urgent because of an earlier screw up.

Six years ago, the Coast Guard discovered that a ship upgrade program made the modified ships structurally unsound and subject to breaking up in heavy seas

Update: Thanks to eagle-eyed commenter Guan Yang who pointed out that the design is actually Dutch, not Danish. I’ve modified the quoted text to match the correct information.

For the defence

Filed under: Europe, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

Paul Mendelle explains why the Breivik trial in Norway seems so strange to those used to British or American court practice:

It’s the dinner party question that every barrister gets regularly asked — how do you defend people guilty of such terrible crimes as murder, rape and paedophilia? It’s a simple enough question, and one I expect to hear often now that the Anders Breivik trial is under way, but there’s not a simple answer. The query raises issues that go far beyond mere problems of professional ethics. It touches upon matters of fundamental constitutional importance to us all.

The shortest answer is to say that we don’t defend people who are guilty of these crimes; we defend people who are accused of them and who tell us they are not guilty. Contrary to just about every drama series on TV, barristers do not provide their clients with defences. It’s the other way around: clients give us their instructions, and we are bound to act strictly upon them. The joke among barristers is that if we were in the business of providing our clients with defences, we’d come up with something a damn sight better than they do.

[. . .]

But while we are obliged to take our clients’ cases and to act on their instructions, we are certainly not obliged to act as their mouthpiece. Quite the contrary, the court is not to be used as a soapbox from which the defendant spouts political views. We are obliged to defend the man accused of racially motivated crime if he is adamant he is not guilty, but not if he wants to use us to justify his racist views. And if we did, the judge would stop us.

That’s why the Breivik trial seems so strange to the eyes of an English lawyer: because what is being proffered by Breivik does not appear in any legal sense to amount to self-defence. No individual has the right to resort to mass murder to defend his country, as he claimed when he concluded his ludicrous evidence. The court does indeed seem to being used by him as a platform for him to express his twisted views and while it has had the very good sense to impose a broadcast blackout, I cannot imagine that an English court would allow the defendant to give that evidence, or to call the sort of witnesses he plans to call. I hope I never have the occasion to be proved right.

PC Gamer reviews Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:52

Chris Thursten recounts the early beta experience with both the good and the not-so-good, including some personal preferences in the character creation process:

As someone who likes MMOs — and who isn’t necessarily convinced they need saving — I’m treating my uninterrupted weekend with the game as an opportunity to see how far it can deliver on its big ideas. If it can convince me that we really have been doing everything wrong since World of Warcraft, then ArenaNet could be on to something.

I opt to play a female human warrior. My choice of race is down to the fact that the human starting area — lush farmland under attack by roaming centaur warbands — is the most frequently cited example of GW2’s evolving ‘events’ system, where quests are thrown out in favour of dynamic objectives based on the independent actions of players, monsters and friendly NPCs. I become a mail-clad warrior, meanwhile, because I want my character to put some bloody clothes on. The land of Tyria is populated by clear-faced underwear models, and it’s an uphill struggle to make a female character who doesn’t look 15 years old. The best I can do is a kind of Disney Joan of Arc, a waif-thin airbrushed beauty wielding a sword bigger than she is. I avoid spellcasters entirely because there’s only so much Renaissance-themed fetish gear I can handle.

It’s not all aesthetic hell, however:

Guild Wars 2’s events system is starting to make sense. “Events are very visual,” Flannum says. “They don’t require a lot of explanation. You run into a city and there are centaurs attacking everyone – you kind of know what to do, right?”

[. . .]

We cooperated wordlessly, matching the capabilities of our characters to the present need without any planning or leadership. When the behemoth fell, a cheer went up. It dropped a glimmering treasure chest, from which everyone received a boon of item upgrades and general purpose loot. My gold-ranked contribution to the fight earned me half a level and filled me with genuine pride. What was remarkable about this encounter is that it provided top tier thrills with none of the set-up, none of the stress. This is exactly what ArenaNet are aiming for, Eric Flannum says. “One of the things that we really wanted to avoid was this feeling that the game doesn’t really start until max level.”

What was remarkable about my time with GW2 as a whole is that situations like this one — impromptu mass cooperation, with a real sense of a collective experience — came about several times. I have questions about how events will operate when zones are either over or under-populated, but if nothing else my time proves one thing: the system works.

Earth Day: 42 years of crying “wolf”

Peter Foster piles on the scorn for the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day:

For more than 40 years, Earth Day has both reflected genuine environmental concern and mirrored the UN’s attempted eco power grab. Sunday’s Earth Day comes two months ahead of the vast, but significantly brief, UN Rio+20 conference. Both are pale reflections of their original radical aspirations. Earth Day is still celebrated, but 42 years of crying wolf have inevitably had an effect. The event has also been corporatized, greenwashed and taken over by such announcements as that of the “50 sexiest environmentalists.” Rio+20 will represent the graveyard of aspirations for all prospective — and inevitably less sexy — Captains of Spaceship Earth, Global Saviours, and High Priests of Gaia.

That Earth Day has gone Happy Face, and Rio+20 will be a farce, reflects the fact that their apocalyptic assumptions have turned out to be so wrong. In Canada, as in other developed countries, we can celebrate significant improvements in air quality, and success in coping with industrial impacts on water. The Great Lakes have been cleaned up, forest cover has been maintained, and the amount of “protected” land doubled. The use of toxic chemicals in industrial production has been slashed. Some credit must obviously go to activism, but the more radical end of the movement has always had a lot more than just the environment in mind.

[. . .]

That misunderstandings and misrepresentations were at the root of radical environmental thinking was exemplifed by an “equation-of-doom” hatched in the 1970s by two prominent radicals, Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren (President Obama’s current senior science and technology advisor). The equation was I=P x A x T: Human Impact (I) equals Population (P) times Affluence (A) times Technology (T). The formula was vague, but it clearly suggested that population, wealth and technology were all “bad” for Mother Earth.

Such thinking was based on a primitive, static, zero-sum view of economic development and a demonization of business. Since resources were “finite,” all development was claimed by definition to be “unsustainable.” Advancing technology merely chewed up resources faster and accelerated us down the road to exhaustion. All this came with biblical overtones. On the first Earth Day, Prof. Ehrlich thundered that “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.”

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