December 13, 2012

The ITU’s latest attempt to hijack the internet

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 14:09

David Gewirtz has the details:

According to The Weekly Standard, the chairman of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) decided to try an end-run around the U.S., Europe, and most freedom-loving nations by conducting a survey of nations and putting forth a resolution that gives governments control over Internet policy, which includes everything you and I send across the pipes.

Apparently, this wasn’t a binding policy, but it’s a political gambit designed to get the UN to continue the process of trying to wrest control of the Internet from those interested in freedom to those interested in control of freedoms.

I’m a strong believer in a global Internet, but I’m starting to think countries like China and Russia and Cuba and the various regressive Middle Eastern states are more trouble than they’re worth. Maybe it’s just time we pulled the Internet plug on them*.

Sweden’s other export: migrant workers

Filed under: Economics, Europe — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:25

A fascinating story of a small-but-rich country importing workers from Sweden:

As an American, it is bizarre to think of modern Sweden, so often lauded as a paragon of social and economic stability, as coughing up migrant workers. Stranger still is that the Swedes migrate to Norway, which has always been regarded as Sweden’s little brother. Often at war, Sweden forced Norway into an uneven union for most of the 19th century. Though politically independent of Sweden for over one hundred years, Norway has remained culturally subordinate to its larger, more-established neighbor. Norwegians watch Swedish television, listen to Swedish music, and read Swedish books. Before the Norwegian translation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was released, the original Swedish version was the best-selling book in Norway. But in the last 25 years, Norway has added workers to the list of things it imports from Sweden.

In the eighties, Norway became rich off of oil. Its sovereign wealth fund is currently valued at about 600 billion dollars. From 1999-2009, average Norwegian family saw an increase of almost 100,000 NOK, or about $17,000. With its population of only five million, Norway needed to import laborers and service workers for its exploding economy. I once hitched a ride from a retired sailor, and after running out of ways to compliment his RV, I asked him how Norway had changed over the years. He thought Norway had it too good now. As a young man, he’d been at sea for over a year at a time, whereas “the young people today don’t want to work at all. It’s good that we have the Swedes.”

Current estimates of the number of Swedes living and working in Norway hover between 80,000 and 100,000. In Oslo alone, it’s thought that there are 50,000 Swedes, which is about 10 percent of the city’s population. Most of these are service workers. Indeed, the Swede-as-service worker has become something of a stereotype in Norway. The 2010 rap hit “Partysvenske” is an extended mockery of male Swedish migrant workers, who are portrayed as effete drunks who invade Oslo’s nightlife. At one point, the rappers — Jaa9 & Onklp — chide, “Make a mojito, do what you do well.” The condescension towards Swedish migrant workers was prevalent enough for Norwegian television to produce a mocumentary series titled Swedes Are People. There’s a weird power dynamic at play, with both groups exhibiting a sort of passive aggressive bitterness towards the other. For their part, Norwegians seem eager to buck Swedish cultural influence and assert their economic dominance. Speaking to the New York Times in 2007, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo put it rather well:

“When I was young, Swedes had whiter teeth, clearer skin, Abba, and Bjorn Borg. We had lots of fish, and not much more. Today, Swedes have been cut down to size. And I would say that many Norwegians enjoy the fact that so many Swedes are here doing menial jobs.”

When the Norwegian cross-country skier Petter Northug beat his Swedish rival across the line at the 2011 World Championships, he used opportunity to taunt Sweden about the low value of the Swedish currency. The Swedish media, on the other hand, laments the fact that Swedes are reduced to literally peeling bananas in Norway — albeit for about $23 an hour.

H/T to Tim Harford for the link.

You can’t have a free society when you also have “official truth” enforced by law

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, Media, WW2 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:03

At sp!ked, Angus Kennedy explains why open debate and free speech is a far better solution to holocaust denial than hate speech laws and officially sanctioned “truth”:

Firstly, I think that genocide denial has always been something of a shrill brand rather a real force in the world. It had it’s heyday in 1970s France with Robert Faurisson, a rather lame literary critic in the south of France who denied the Holocaust, and was taken apart by, among other people, the French classicist and structuralist Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who was also a left-winger. Vidal-Naquet did not call for the legal prohibition of denial; instead he argued that contempt is a much more effective weapon. Similarly, Deborah Lipstadt, the author of History on Trial: My Day In Court With David Irving (2005), rails against genocide denial but is still opposed to criminalising it, shuddering at the thought ‘that politicians might be given the power to legislate on history’. I think that is a useful point to bear in mind.

The decision of whether or not to criminalise genocide denial is, in a way, the key free speech issue, the fundamental taboo. In that sense, it’s interesting that there continue to be movements by governments to make genocide denial illegal. France will probably try to push through the genocide denial law, despite it being overturned by its constitutional court, and argue for restrictions on what the French can and cannot say.

To make it clear, I’m completely opposed to criminalisation of speech or, to be more accurate, criminalisation of an idea — because that’s what this is. This is governments saying that a certain idea — genocide denial — should be illegal. I don’t think history is a matter for judges; it’s a matter for historians. I think that the completely unrestricted and absolute right to free speech is simply the best method we’ve got for getting closer to historical truth with a capital ‘T’. We should not be criminalising ideas; we should never be pragmatic about where we extend tolerance — it is a principal to be defended at all costs.

US Army study confirms what every NCO already knows

Filed under: Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:28

The US Army recently conducted a study on the effectiveness of their officer corps:

Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno announced today the results of an Army-wide study on company and field-grade leadership, which showed Majors are far more dangerous to soldiers than Second Lieutenants.

“While this was something we suspected for a long time,” Odierno said, “this study confirms it and provides the scientific background so we can appropriately react.”

[. . .]

After several pie-chart-rich slides, Bond summarized, “While we all know 2LTs have no experience and practically no training to mitigate that, no one expects anything more than marginal performance from them and no one gives them any real responsibility. That rests with their platoon sergeants.”

“Majors, on the other hand,” Bond explained, “with around 10 years’ experience in the Army are expected to actually know something and can be given positions of pretty significant authority. With that authority, bosses expect these majors to perform. Unlike when they were lieutenants, these majors seriously think they can succeed without a senior NCO carrying the weight for them.”

Odierno admitted that this was a problem he has had his eye on for a while. “Remember I was there once. When I was a 2LT, I had a Platoon Sergeant looking after me. When I made major I was the battalion S3, Ops Officer, and suddenly the Battalion Commander had expectations. Fortunately they were low expectations. At least I didn’t lose two vehicles like the major in supply. Of course Dennis recovered and he’s the Commanding General at Army Material Command now. Our boss just kept reminding us we were really lucky he graded on a curve.”

H/T to John Donovan for the link.

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