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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Feminism in the 80s and 90s / The evolution of humour, and offence

"If you can't say anything good about someone, sit right here by me." - Alice Roosevelt Longworth


While replying to a tweet of @msvindicta, I dug up 2 articles from 1997 which make you wonder what (if anything) has changed in 13 years:

Wimmin are from Mars, women are from Venus

"In Britain and continental Europe cracks began to appear in the feminist movement. Scandinavian feminists argued about whether a quota for women in parliament was an innovation or an insult; in Britain, feminists had similar worries about women’s-only book prizes. But it is in the United States, where feminists took their ideas to the most absurd limits, that the movement is most deeply divided. So this article will concentrate on the fierce, indeed bitchy, arguments in America about the future of feminism.

The turning point in America was the defeat in 1982 of the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have made equality of the sexes a constitutional principle. The fight for the ERA had had the effect of keeping the women’s movement together, and when it faltered, splits developed. At a conference on the politics of sexuality at Barnard College in New York a week before the ERA finally died, for instance, things turned ugly when feminists who saw heterosexuality as a form of collusion with the “patriarchy” (in this view, clitoral orgasm is the only authentic expression of “gynocentric sexuality”) had a well-publicised fight with those who did not see orgasm as a political issue.

It was the shape of things to come. In the 1980s feminism became preoccupied with “identity politics”. This meant a woman identifying herself according to certain categories—straight, lesbian, sado-masochist, Marxist, disabled, fat, and so on—as if such labels were sufficient to define a person’s identity, social role and rights. In a not untypical example of the genre, Gloria Anzaldua is described in a collection of essays as “a Chicana tejana dyke-feminist poet, fiction writer, teacher and culture theorist.” Well, fine, but what is this supposed to tell us about Ms Anzaldua?

Big difference

The most intellectually audacious of the feminist “isms” is “difference feminism”, which argues that women have a different, and better, way of thinking, acting and being than men. Difference feminists reckon that women are equal to men (thus the relative shortage of female physicists and auditors is held to be evidence of sexism) except when they are superior (thus the relative shortage of female muggers).

Moreover, according to the difference feminists, men are much worse than is generally recognised. Rape, they say, is the central metaphor for male-female relations and men’s relationship with society, while pornography is a social weapon to subordinate women. Such reasoning led the National Organisation for Women (NOW), America’s largest women’s group, to proclaim in 1992 that American society regarded sexual assault as a cultural norm...

An unwittingly humorous account of the establishment of Rag, a feminist journal at Harvard, reported that the founders “proposed a method of consensus for decision-making and suggested that the positions of facilitator, time keeper and vibes watcher (whose job it was to monitor the tension in the room and notice if people were being silenced) should rotate on a voluntary basis.” In a result that could surprise only an Ivy League-educated radical feminist, this proved an unworkable basis on which to run a publication. Rag was shortly to close.

American women notched up many achievements in the 1980s... A reader would hardly know that from feminist literature, which came to be defined by its excesses. The movement’s least appealing adherents grabbed the most attention, and the feminist establishment—institutions like the National Women’s Studies Association, NOW, Ms magazine, the Fund for a Feminist Majority and various state-funded commissions—failed to restrain them. Supposedly serious feminists argued, to audiences which did not snigger, that Newton’s “Principles of Mechanics” and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony were rape fantasies.

As feminism became associated with humourlessness and hairy legs, the term became a pejorative one. By the early 1990s only a third of college women called themselves feminists—and this at a time when there were more than 600 women’s studies programmes on American campuses. While feminist scholars were producing strikingly creative work in history, medicine, Bible studies and other fields, many women’s studies programmes were explicitly ideological and intellectually vapid.

One syllabus explained a course in feminist theory this way: “We will begin with feminist challenges to the inadequacy of Eurocentric male epistemologies, analytic categories and the masculinist world views which have structured the public world We will initiate our inquiry by demystifying malestream (this is not a misspelling) ‘theory’, ‘reason’, and ‘science’.”

The backlash against backlash

Many feminists attributed the failure of so many women to embrace feminism to base ingratitude or to “backlash”. This is the idea broached in 1991 by Susan Faludi, a favourite theorist of the feminist establishment, that a host of American industries, from lingerie-makers to television producers, were trying to undermine women’s rights. Though the evidence for the backlash hypothesis is dubious—women, remember, had advanced on all fronts—the idea has become a shorthand way for the feminist establishment to dismiss criticism. Anyone who dares to challenge the reality of backlash is accused of participating in it.

In fact, a real backlash is under way, not so much against feminism as against its excesses. The challengers call themselves power feminists, equity feminists or liberal feminists. They are often young, sassy and successful. Ms Faludi dismissively calls them “pod feminists”, suggesting that, like alien pods in a science-fiction film, they are evil invaders of the women’s movement...

Wouldn’t the women’s movement be strengthened if it didn’t shut out the 37% of women who voted for the Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole?

In the past, the answer from the feminist establishment has been no. Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms, once referred to Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a moderate conservative, as a “female impersonator”. Women’s studies departments tend to be Republican-free. This ideological intolerance, say the pods, is a large part of the reason why many women who are sympathetic to feminism are nevertheless unwilling to describe themselves as feminists. The point of feminism, they argue, should not be to impose a set of policy preferences but to broaden the choices that women are able to make. Too bad if some of these choices—to read pornography, for example, or to enter the Miss America pageant—may not meet with NOW’s approval...

Finally, the pods take issue with what they see as the importance of victimhood in much feminist thinking. Emphasising victimisation, they say, makes women appear permanently inferior. For example, broadening the definition of date rape to include any sex act which the woman later regrets—a definition of which many feminists approve—means that the man becomes responsible for determining whether his lover means “no” even if she is apparently enthusiastic at the time. The implication is that women are not capable of making a sexual choice, communicating it and accepting the consequences—hardly an assertion of equality"

LAUGHING MATTERS: You think that’s funny?

"In general, the less democratic the government, the less developed its leaders’ sense of humour. In North Korea, for example, any kind of satire is banned because everything is perfect in the people’s paradise, so there is nothing to mock. The only person allowed to make jokes is the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, who is, according to officials, “a priceless master of witty remarks”. A news release provides a taste of his wit: “To expect victory in the revolution without the leader is as good as to expect a flower to bloom without the sun.” Another of his Wildean rib-ticklers: “Trust produces loyal subjects but doubt produces traitors.” In a way, perhaps that is funny...

Political correctness is a subtler matter. In most rich countries there is a feeling that it has limited the range of permissible gags. Up to a point, this is true. Stanford University—in, note well, California, the world’s capital of unconscious self-parody—shut down a comedy website for containing too many sexist and racist jokes. The editors of “Kamui Gaiden”, a Japanese comic book for adults set in the 19th century, insisted that the gruff samurai hero refer to a blind person as “me no fujiyu na hito” (visually inconvenienced).

All around the world, jokes that might upset oppressed minorities are being told less often, and in less public places. But this is not necessarily because comedians are afraid of the PC police. The real reason for the change in jokesters’ targets, according to William Cook, a comedy writer, is that audiences’ tastes have changed. Punters are bored of stale anti-immigrant gags. The most popular jokes these days tend to lampoon the strong, rather than the weak...

The legal profession has always attracted its share of derision, but the level of hostile humour has increased noticeably since racist jokes went out of fashion. The sorts of jokes which, in less enlightened times, were directed at ethnic groups are now more commonly aimed at lawyers, particularly in America...

Certain Californian lawyers have tried to have jokes like these restricted as hate speech, and they have a point. Most lawyers—well, some—are splendid people, so it is perhaps unfair to suggest that scientists have decided to experiment on lawyers instead of rats because there are some things even a rat won’t do.

Jokes at the expense of women, notably mothers-in-law, were not so long ago a staple, but today ridiculing men is far safer...

Tell such a joke about women, and you will instantly become a pariah. This is not fair. On the other hand, men do less than half of the work in the world, own 90% of the property, and can wear the same suit every day, which is not fair either.

What to do about jokes at the expense of the stupid? Many avenues have been blocked off by sensitivity. The sorts of jokes that the English used to tell about the Irish, the Americans about the Poles, the Ibos about the Hausas and the Tajiks about the Uzbeks, are now often told about blonds (or, more usually, blondes)...

This anti-blond humour may limp along for a few years more. But no doubt someone, somewhere, is already forming a group with a name like People Opposed to the Oppression of Persons with Hair of European-Aryan Descent...

In the Middle East, where the words “peace process” will reliably raise a wry laugh, the hopeless illogic of the two sides is ever a source of black humour:

A scorpion wanted to cross a river, but could not swim. So he asked a frog to ferry him across on his back. “Certainly not,” said the frog, “If I take you on my back, you’ll sting me.” “No I won’t,” said the scorpion, “because if I do, we’ll both drown.” The frog saw the logic in this, so he let the scorpion hop on, and struck out across the water. Half way across, he felt a terrible pain. The scorpion had stung him. As the two of them sank below the ripples, the frog asked the scorpion: “Why on earth did you do that?” Replied the drowning scorpion, “Because this is the Middle East.”

Like many jokes, that one contains more truth than one would wish. The travails of the Sesame Street gang suggest that organising even light entertainment in this fraught part of the world is not easy. Producers of the beloved American children’s programme were planning to launch an Israeli version that would promote mutual understanding between young Palestinians and Jews. The idea was to have Palestinian and Jewish “muppet” puppets appear in the same show, chatting amiably using a limited vocabulary of words that sound similar in Hebrew and Arabic.

Alas, the Palestinian muppeteers did not want their muppets to live on the same street as the Jewish muppets. Americans tried to act as mediators. If Jewish and Palestinian muppets could not live on the same street, should there not at least be a park where they could play together, they suggested? The Palestinians asked: “Who owns the park, Jews or Arabs?”"

The Limits of Karen Armstrong's Compassion

"Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger." - Franklin P. Jones


The Limits of Karen Armstrong's Compassion

"Karen Armstrong's invitation to the world to begin writing today, a Charter for Compassion, strikes me as well-intentioned silliness at best. At worst it is a more benign form of the same religious arrogance which she decries and which lies at the root of the violence and hatred which religious faith can and does inspire in people of every faith.

Perhaps that response lacks compassion for Ms. Armstrong. But the stakes are simply too high to allow ourselves a Kum-ba-yah moment when what we need is something far more sophisticated and powerful. In a world filled with faith-driven hate and violence, simply appealing to something as amorphous as compassion will not do the job.

Ms. Armstrong's assumption that there is only one definition of compassion and that it is hers is just wrong. I have never met anyone who is opposed to compassion in theory, including people of virtually every faith who are engaged in violence against those who do not share their faith. Such individuals believe in compassion as much as you and I. But they also believe that their faith provides exceptions and exemptions, and therein lays the rub.

I know, because I was once one of those warriors for God. I carried a gun in one hand and a holy book in the other as I set about fulfilling the world of God in the land of Israel. I also considered myself a very compassionate person, but that compassion did not keep me from doing things about which I am anything but proud.

The people, against whom the faithful are at war, do not "deserve" compassion according to the tradition, as understood by these warriors for God. So getting them to commit to compassion is not likely to change anything. The real work involves how each group deals with those who they believe have run afoul of the faith - of those who have offended the faithful.

And so, what we really need is not a charter about how we ought to feel about others, to which all will attach their names and then begin making exceptions. What we need is an agreement about how we understand our own belief, how to practice the kind of modesty which assures that we not seek the destruction of those with whom we have genuine difference.

Before we start engaging people in grand declarations about how they ought to feel, I would settle for a year of teaching the faithful in every community about the sacredness of modesty, humility questioning, and even doubt as expressions of real faith. When people experience that posture as rooted in the depths of the tradition they love, be it a faith, philosophy or politics, fewer people around the world will die in the names of those traditions. That would be more than enough for most of us, I think, at least for now.

His calling out of "compassion" as problematic identifies some of its problems, but again by appealing to the "roots" of tradition for solutions to contemporary manifestations of those same traditions, he does not escape the problem of what happens when that tradition is genuinely problematic.

In other words, you cannot assume that the "roots" of a tradition will solve your problem, since they themselves may be the problem.

Another one from facebookfails

"Men are like waffle; women are like sphagetti."
""Yep. Men are sweet, delicious, and everyone loves to wake up to one in the morning. Women, however, are expensive, take forever to get ready, and inconsistent."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Links - 21st May 2010

"If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it." - Pierre Gallois


Ezra Klein - Why do Harvard kids head to Wall Street? An interview with an ex-Wall Street recruit. - "The impression of the Ivy-to-Wall Street pipeline is that it's all about the money. You're saying that it's actually more that Wall Street has constructed a very intelligent recruiting program that speaks to the anxieties of the students and makes them an offer that there's almost no reason to refuse... A lot of people decide to sacrifice much more time than they normally would because the money is so good, and then they believe they deserve extremely high pay because they're giving up so much time. It's not malicious. But there are a lot of unhappy people who end up in that situation... just like it's wrong for the banker to say they work harder than everyone else and deserve more, it's also dangerous to paint bankers as evil. Lloyd Blankfein isn't out to screw the world. Wall Street's problems are more systemic"

Bruni 'kept Queen waiting while she had sex with Sarkozy' - "Bruni, whose past lovers include Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, shared her sexlife secrets with the US President Barack Obama's wife at a meeting in America, the book says."

How to Use Twitter for Marketing and PR

Keeping up is getting us down - "THE MOST astonishing revelations in Michael Moore's "Sicko" have nothing to do with healthcare. They're about vacation time. French vacation time, to be precise... "The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation... out of 10 full-time American employees, and more than six out of 10 part-time employees, get no vacation. And even among workers with paid vacation benefits, the average number of days enjoyed is a mere 12... The average American man today works 100 more hours a year than he did in the 1970s... This would all be fine if it were what we wanted. But that doesn't seem to be the case... the U.S. economy has set its incentives up so as to systematically underemphasize leisure and overemphasize consumption. Much of what we purchase are called "positional goods"... it's really just a classic failure of collective action"
The most insightful part of this for me was how individual freedom can lead to a worse average outcome. Thus, restricting people's choices can make most (even all?) people better off.

What It's Like To Stand Inside an Imploding Stadium

YouTube - Cat gives a cardiac massage to his injured girlfriend

'Leaving Malaysia a necessity' - "When I fist arrived in Australia in 2007, the job recruitment agent told me that I am are highly skilled and a lot of people will be lining up to hire me. This was just the opposite of what I was told in Malaysia, where people only looked at my weakness and looked for ways to put me down and exploit me the maximum that they could... unless Malaysia is hit by a real tsunami which in turn makes Malaysians think that God created all human equal, then I don't want to be part of a racist country called Malaysia"

How to Make a Girl Show Her Tits on Chatroulette.com

Why Moms Cheat on Their Man the Day After Mother's Day - "Their biggest day of the year for female signups is the day after Valentine's Day, and their third-biggest day is the day after New Year's. Why are holidays like these such turning points for women? Noel Biderman, president and founder of AshleyMadison.com, says, "Because they have expectations -- expectations that their partnership will be celebrated and even romanticized -- but that is often not what transpires ....""

Dog-owners 'lead healthier lives' - "Dog owners tended to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol... an important reason for the improved health of dog-owners was not just the exercise received while taking it for walks, but the opportunity for social contact with other dog-owners"

Videos Posted by MediaCorp Channel 5: THE NOOSE Season 3 Taxi Drivers Learn French EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW - "Taxi Drivers Learn French: With so many condominiums and housing projects adopting French/European sounding names, taxi companies are sending their drivers to learn French to better serve customers."

What it feels like to marry a money addict - "What distinguishes rich bankers or lawyers from you and me is not that they have more money, but that they have less love. What the vastly successful give up for the sake of their bonuses is a basic quality of life and the warmth of authentic relationships... Imagine choosing, year after year, to go to networking drinks, rather than going home to see your child or for supper with friends; to remain chronically sleep-deprived so you’re always the first person at your desk; to choose every single friend you see on the grounds that he or she is a “contact” who can be cultivated for use in future transactions... The vocabulary of friendship and even of love is at last eroded by the subtext, which is always money"
Marry a man poorer than you

Who is Responsible? An Interview With Fred Halliday - "The key issue is not: Is the U.S. intervening? Nor: What are the U.S.’s motives? The key issue is will that intervention plausibly help those people or not?... What Bill [Warren] argued, against dependency theory, and against facile nativism and facile anti-imperialism, was that... historically, capitalism and imperialism had played a progressive role in transforming the world, in creating new classes, in spreading new ideas, in colonizing the Americas. And that imperialism has played a contradictory role, that not everything it did has been bad. It fought fascism in the Second World War, for example. So the mere fact that imperialism was involved in the Kosovo intervention is not a reason to condemn the intervention—you have to have other criteria. It’s not that one is in favor of imperialism, but we have to problematize the issue of imperialism... I feel much happier with a copy of the U.N.D.P. Human Development Report than with the New Left Review... Solidarity should not be taken at face value... In so much “solidarity” work these days, people don't want to know what's actually going on in Third World countries"

Naturopathy and Organic Foods - "The fact is that no matter where you go, or what you decide to eat, your food will contain chemicals, additives, preservatives, and colors. There is no reason to believe that the chemicals that we add to our food are any more harmful or beneficial than those that are naturally occurring. Nature was not designed for human consumption, and there are some nasty things out there that, despite being all-natural, you would not want to eat."

Why are British women's breasts getting bigger? - "The average British bra size has jumped from 34B to 36D... obesity alone doesn't explain the jump in cup size, nor the biggest growth area in bra sales: smaller back size and bigger cup size... there are more slimmer women with larger boobs than ever before. Women are happy about this. Men are happy about this. But no one seems happy to explain why this is happening... As an article entitled "Brassieres: an engineering miracle" from the February 1964 issue of Science and Mechanics journal states: "The challenge of enclosing and supporting a semi-solid mass of variable volume and shape, plus its adjacent mirror image, involves a design effort comparable to that of building a bridge or a cantilevered skyscraper"... there are 31 components in a bra with a DD+ cup, 10 more than are required for smaller sizes"

Rethinking Your (disposable) Coffee Cup - "The scorned Styrofoam cup is in fact the most environmentally friendly choice of disposable cup!"

Why I deleted my facebook account - "Once upon a time I was a happy facebook user. But that was before the dark times, before the Empire... No-one really understands facebook's privacy policy anymore. It has grown in size by nearly 600% since 2005 and now contains more words than the US constitution. That factoid is part of an excellent New York Times article which also points out that there are now 170 different options within the privacy settings"

10 Reasons To Delete Your Facebook Account - "10. Facebook's Terms Of Service are completely one-sided.
9. Facebook's CEO has a documented history of unethical behavior.
8. Facebook has flat out declared war on privacy.
7. Facebook is pulling a classic bait-and-switch.
6. Facebook is a bully.
5. Even your private data is shared with applications.
4. Facebook is not technically competent enough to be trusted.
3. Facebook makes it incredibly difficult to truly delete your account.
2. Facebook doesn't (really) support the Open Web.
1. The Facebook application itself sucks."

DNA tests open way to entitlement claims - "Alan Moldawer's adopted twins, Matt and Andrew, had always thought of themselves as white. But when it came time for them to apply to college last year, Moldawer thought it might be worth investigating the origins of their slightly tan-tinted skin, with a new DNA kit that he had heard could determine genetic ancestry. The results, designating the boys 9 percent Native American and 11 percent northern African, arrived too late for the admissions process. But Moldawer, a business executive in Silver Spring, Maryland, says they could be useful in obtaining financial aid... Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights. One Christian is using the test to claim Jewish genetic ancestry and to demand Israeli citizenship, and Americans of every shade are staking a DNA claim to Native American scholarships, health services and casino money."
Ahh, Affirmative Action and Race-Based Rights!

Teachers' motivation to teach national education in Singapore: a self-determination theory approach - "15.6% of the teachers belonged to a “high amotivation” cluster, 38.0% formed a “high externally regulated” cluster, 19.9% made up a cluster labelled as “low externally regulated”, and the rest (26.5%) had an “intrinsically regulated” profile"

Pork test to bust cheats - "Scientists in mainly Muslim Kazakhstan have come up with an instant test for the presence of pork in food... "It's no secret that some chefs cheat and add pork to beef to make the dish cheaper""

Mogul Saban buys back Power Rangers from Disney - "Media mogul Haim Saban is buying back the fist-pumping, multicolored superheroes known as the Power Rangers from the Walt Disney Co., hoping to launch the enduring franchise into a higher orbit... he's got a distribution deal to show new and old episodes on Viacom Inc.'s Nickelodeon and Nicktoons cable channels. There are also plans to bring a Power Rangers movie back to theaters for the first time in more than a decade... Disney had been scaling back the presence of the Power Rangers, who tend to get in a lot of fights"
It's Morphin' Time!!! And Jonathan Tzachor's producing Season 18

BARRY NORMAN: Why does Hollywood ALWAYS cast English actors as villains?
Too bad they're white too, or they can complain about racism

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another merry-go-round (on Drugs, the Death Penalty for Trafficking, and working towards Goals other than Ideals)

"It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them." - Pierre Beaumarchais


: HT @miyagi ""Drug barons" do not care if their drug mules are hanged or let go after they're caught." (in reference to this post)

A: but they care abt the amt of drugs seized.

Me: This is about the death penalty for drug trafficking, not stepping up efforts to catch them in the first place

A: yea i know. and many ppl are arguing tt the death penalty doesn't deter drug trafficking.. while i'm against the death penalty.. i must still pt out tt drug barons do care abt their mules being caught 'coz it means their drugs are seized.

and some economist should factor in the demand and supply of drug mules, not to mention the cost and effort to recruit and train them.

It's too simplistic to say tt drug barons do not care.

B: they care about their mules being caught, yes, for the reasons you give. But they don't care if the mules are hanged or simply imprisoned after they are caught because it makes no diff to their drugs seized anymore.

Me: If your drug mule goes to prison for 20 years, you still lose him

Hell, if your drug mule goes to prison for 1 year, you also lose him (Would you reuse a drug mule who'd already gotten caught? Would you wait for your drug mule for a year, or just get another fresh-faced one? Drug mules are cheap)

Do you think it's very hard to train a drug mule? The only training I can think of is how to hide the drugs, and that can't take very long.

A: how do you know that drug mules are cheap? have you tried recruiting one before? ask around and see if anyone wants to be a drug mule if not because of extreme conditions (extreme greed, dire circumstances, or low IQ). Takes effort to create/ find such matches.

And why do we like to stereotype drug barons? It's the same type of stereotyping we see for terrorists, sexual minorities, gangsters and hooligans, feminists (in Gabriel's case) tt they are uncaring, self-centered egoistic power-hungry freaks who only care abt themselves.

My pt is not abt the death penalty. It is abt otherising and stereotyping those we deem to be social misfits

Me: >how do you know that drug mules are cheap?

Poverty Provides Growing Number of 'Drug Mules'
"According to the histories of detainees taken by the anti-drug police at the airport, the going rate paid by drug traffickers to couriers who swallow cocaine packets and are sent to Brazil or Argentina is about 1,000 dollars.

If they are sent to the United States, Europe or Asia, where the drugs have higher value, payment can be between 2,000 and 3,000 dollars"

>ask around and see if anyone wants to be a drug mule if not because of extreme conditions (extreme greed, dire circumstances, or low IQ).

That's why most drug mules are poor and from developing countries. I didn't say drug mules were cheap in Singapore. Or even from Developed Countries

>Takes effort to create/ find such matches.

"Law enforcement agencies across the globe are observing a worrying upward trend of vulnerable persons being recruited as drug mules or couriers into the international drug trade. Regionally this trend has reached epic proportions, with many Africans serving long sentences in prisons across the world. The promise of easy money and a holiday in exotic locations such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Mumbai or Hong Kong, in exchange for carrying drugs, is hard to resist."

>And why do we like to stereotype drug barons?

Stereotypes persist and endure because they are often true.

"In a sample of 100 known drug dealers... drug dealers exhibit lifestyle profiles that differ from those of the normative and other non-criminal samples but approximate those observed in samples of known criminals."

And since when did I say feminists were uncaring, self-centered egoistic power-hungry freaks who only care abt themselves. Just because they're crazy doesn't mean they're those things.

>My pt is not abt the death penalty. It is abt otherising and stereotyping those we deem to be social misfits.

Criminals are usually misfits for a reason.

A: And you've just proven tt death penalty probably makes it more expensive to recruit drug mules. Easy money/ exotic holidays in exchange for long sentences versus death. Long sentences in a prison with meals might not sound tt bad if i don't even have meals now to begin with.

"Using 'mules' is a cheap method for them, because losing half a ton or one ton of cocaine in a big shipment is worse than losing one kilo when a 'mule' is caught"

So wouldn't the elimination of mules allow the focused attention such big shipments?

"Criminals are usually misfits for a reason."

Then why not focus on this 'reason' to eliminate crimes instead of debating the death penalty? Unfortunately, most ppl only want the easy way out. Why do I want to address the root of social ills when I can simply enact a law to criminalize them?

Of coz, some might say tt it's not really tt more expensive since a quick death might not be tt bad compared to a slow starving death.

Oh well. I don't really have answers. All i have are questions.

Me: The death penalty undoubtedly does make mules more expensive to recruit. However, the issue here is whether the expense affects drug barons' operations

The first 4 mule examples I got off Google:

Columbian Cocaine with a street value of $3.5 million. The payment to the mule? $12,000
Even if we assume that the death penalty premium is 100%, that just raises the cost of the shipment by $12,000, which against the street value of the drugs is a paltry 0.34%

$2.28 million of Cocaine

$20.8 million of ecstasy

$1 million of heroin for a payment of ~$4,000. Again this is 0.4% of the value of the shipment.

>So wouldn't the elimination of mules allow the focused attention such big shipments?


The death penalty for drug mules doesn't make drag barons switch to big shipments. It makes them recruit more mules.

>Then why not focus on this 'reason' to eliminate crimes instead of debating the death penalty? Unfortunately, most ppl only want the easy way out. Why do I want to address the root of social ills when I can simply enact a law to criminalize them?

That is a broader public policy question, but how is that relevant here? Why can't we debate the death penalty at the same time as focusing on the root causes of crime? The perfect is the enemy of the good.

And that is not to say that we (either as individuals or as governments) are focusing exclusively on law and order without tackling the reasons why people turn to crime. Education, progressive taxation, social welfare and the creation of jobs all serve to lower the crime rate.

In any case, we will never be able to completely eliminate crime, so there will always be a room for a criminal justice system.

A: crime is only a crime if it's criminalized under existing legal framework. If there's no law, there's no crime. Legalize the drug market then and believe in the invisible hand.

Me: I support decriminalisation of drugs, but that's an entirely separate issue

One can be against the death penalty for drug trafficking and for drug decriminalisation at the same time

A: How can they be entirely separate issues? With or without a death penalty, as long as you're advocating some forms of penalty for drug trafficking, decriminalization of drugs cannot take place. Any compromise is against decriminalization.

Unless of course you are against death penalty AND all other penalties for drug trafficking.

Me: The world is more complicated than that.

Just because you're against the death penalty for drug trafficking does not mean you are for a penalty for drug trafficking.

Operationally, you can even advocate some penalties for drug trafficking as a second-best compromise to decriminalisation (the need for popular support and all that), or as an interim step towards decriminalisation.

An example of the latter is the reduction of the term of National Slavery from 30 months to 24 months - it was done in stages, with a reduction first to 28 months and then to 26 months.

One could have supported the reduction in the term of Slavery to 24 months while still pushing for this transition period.

Another example is gay marriage in the US. Most Americans oppose gay marriage but are for allowing civil unions. Even if I support gay marriage, I can operationally campaign only for civil unions, since I recognise that an overly aggressive push on my part will lead to a backlash and gay marriage being outlawed (as has happened in many states).

I also note that drug decriminalisation as it is practised today is not the same as drug legalisation. Decriminalisation is typically for small amounts of drugs, and is a grey zone - you're not doing something legal, you just won't be punished (or at least not too much). Penalties typically range from confiscation of the drugs to a fine IIRC.

A: Pragmatic. But it leads to a crass kind of pluralism. What works for you may not work for others.

My concern is whether half truths can still be considered truths. And we've reached a quandary

Me: You don't have to consider something to be a total truth in order to work towards it

A: Of course you can. But there are ethical concerns. What if it turns out to be untruth? Do I not have some moral obligations?

: Now we move into the realm of philosophy

If you are a consequentialist, your moral obligation will be to do what leads to the best outcome.

Addendum: I would also note that when you work towards a goal, you do not have to claim that it is an ideal. So just because you're campaigning against the death penalty for drug trafficking does not mean that you're telling people that you're only against the death penalty for drug trafficking (i.e. that you support other penalties for drug trafficking).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Peace Dividend

"Of the Amerindian peoples who came to settle in the Caribbean, the Arawaks and the Caribs were the most important. There were many similarities in their ways of life, although the Arawaks were a more gentle and peace-loving people, while the Caribs were proud and warlike.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to arrive in the Caribbean region at the end of the fifteenth century. The Spanish were seeking gold and other precious metals. They treated the Ainerindians with terrible cruelty and within 150 years the whole of the Arawak population had been wiped out."

--- English for Life / Cecil Gray

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mac Sucks - 17th May 2010

"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet." - William Gibson


I realise that over the last few weeks there have been an exceptional number of Mac sucks links.

To tidy everything up, I have removed all such links (since March) from their posts and am consolidating them in a new one (with 2 new ones immediately below)

Also, this week's Foxtrot:

"I want to start leaving fake iPhone prototypes on bar stools for tech bloggers to find. If history is any guide, this will send the entire internet into a frenzy of foaming-at-the-mouth analysis and debate.

The first one I'm making will use a car battery and weigh 30 pounds. It'll have those big rabbit ear antennas they used to put on top of TV sets. No sane person will want this phone.

Watching Apple fanboys defend it will be the funniest thing ever!"

New links:

Steve Jobs Still Parking In Handicapped Spaces — The Pictures | Cult of Mac - "Jobs, of course, has a long history of parking in handicapped parking spaces at Apple. The reports go back years, and have recently been documented on Flickr. Since 2006, Jobs’ car has been snapped in handicapped parking spaces at Apple at least five times"

After the Ellen DeGeneres iPhone dust-up, does Apple need to lighten up? - "Earlier this week, Ellen DeGeneres aired a short spot gently poking gentle fun at the Apple iPhone. Emphasis on gentle... On yesterday's episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Ellen explained to viewers that she had been contacted by worried brass at Apple HQ... But Apple, which clearly hoped to win a publicity coup, only succeeded in triggering a backlash. Around the blogosphere today, many critics urged the suddenly-stuffy Apple to chill out. "The recent events make one wonder if Apple needs to get its hands back on the public's pulse... It might help the company's image if someone over in Cupertino reminds everybody to lighten up. Apple sells products that are supposed to be fun and hip""

Previously posted:

The real reason why Steve Jobs hates Flash - "The App Store and the iTunes Store have taught Steve Jobs that ownership of the sales channel is vital. Even if he's reduced to giving the machines away, as long as he can charge rent for access to data (or apps) he's got a business model. He can also maintain quality (whatever that is), exclude malware, and beat off rivals. A well-cultivated app store is actually a customer draw. It's also a powerful tool for promoting the operating system the apps run on. Operating system, hardware platform, and apps define an ecosystem... Any threat to the growth of the app store software platform is going to be resisted, vigorously, at this stage. Steve Jobs undoubtedly believes what he (or an assistant) wrote in his thoughts on flash: "Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe's goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps." And he really does not want cross-platform apps that might divert attention and energy away from his application ecosystem"
Jobs in 1984: "It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?"

Apple vs. Gizmodo: Was the 1984 ad a prediction of the Apple to come? - "There are times I admire Apple and there are times when I wonder if the folks there have lost their collective minds... every company I've ever watched get massive power has misused that power... Steve Jobs has always had power issues. You may recall he was fired from his own company for trying to misuse his power to remove a CEO improperly. He misused his power again in having his options backdated and was the only CEO I'm aware of that kept his job and one of the few who didn't go to jail... [Apple's marketing is like] getting [dogs] ravenous by holding raw meat in front of their faces and then punishing them when they broke the fence down... In general, when you are in Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, HP, AT&T's class the only real danger is yourself"

Apple Gestapo: How Apple Hunts Down Leaks - Apple Worldwide Loyalty Team - "They call themselves the Worldwide Loyalty Team. Among some employees, they are known as the Apple Gestapo, a group of moles always spying in headquarters and stores, reporting directly to Jobs and Oppenheimer... It felt like a description of the Gestapo, without the torture and killing part... it makes me realize how much Apple has changed. From a happy hippie company, to a company that does KGB-style lockdowns and Gestapo interrogations that end in suicides"

The Competition: iPhone OS 4.0 vs webOS in depth - "Apple’s found themselves playing catch-up for the first time since revealing the iPhone more than three years ago, and it shows... Oh, and you can change the home screen wallpaper now. Exciting times, eh?"

Apple Gets Sneaky In Blocking Flash From iPhone - "In the iPhone 4.0 SDK beta unveiled Thursday, Apple changed the terms of its iPhone Developer Program license agreement to prohibit cross-compilers, which allow developers to write iPhone apps using languages other than Apple's Objective-C... "Looks like it's Apple's way or the highway," said Scott Stanfield, CEO of Richmond, Calif.-based Microsoft partner Vertigo Software. "If Microsoft did this, people would be screaming bloody murder." This is an aggressive move on Apple's part and one that effectively requires developers to buy Macs in order to write apps for the iPhone and iPad... "Adobe is lazy. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it's because of Flash," Jobs reportedly said at an Apple town hall meeting in January"
A: Hmm, I dun remember Windows ever crashing because of flash...
B: the real reason why apple doesn't want flash on the iphone is so that people will have to buy/write apps, instead of just playing flash games. apps are controllable via itunes, and apple gets a share of the profits; with flash games or widgets apple gets nothing... a fair number [of apps are shallow copies of what you'd get on a webpage with flash], and you have to wonder whether it's worth cluttering up a phone with all these wasteful 'apps'.

The Flash Blog » Apple Slaps Developers In The Face - "This is a frightening move that has no rational defense other than wanting tyrannical control over developers and more importantly, wanting to use developers as pawns in their crusade against Adobe... Apple employees are forbidden from blogging, posting to social networks, or other things that we at companies with an open culture take for granted... We are not looking to abuse our loyal users and make them pawns for the sake of trying to hurt another company. What is clear is that Apple most definitely would do that sort of thing as is evidenced by their recent behavior... Go screw yourself Apple.
Comments disabled as I’m not interested in hearing from the Cupertino Comment SPAM bots."]

I'm Really Worried About What Apple Is Trying To Do With The iPad - "Apps are more closed, contained, controlling. That, again, is why media companies like them. But they don’t interoperate — they don’t play well — with other apps and with the web itself; they are hostile to links and search... The mobile (that is to say, constantly connected) war will be won on apps. Google is competing with openness, Apple with control... Though many commercial brands — from Amazon to Bank of America to Fandango — have written for both Apple and Android, many media brands — most notable The New York Times and my Guardian — have written only for Apple and they now are devoting much resource to recreating apps for the iPad"
Emphasis mine, e.g. See above

Pwn2Own 2010: Google Chrome is the last man standing - "Pwn2Own 2010 is under way, and after day one of the annual security showdown the results are darn near an exact replica of last year's. Safari was the first to fall, followed by Internet Explorer 8 on Windows 7. Firefox on Windows 7 x64 was also taken down, as was the iPhone's mobile Safari. Google Chrome, however, has yet to succumb... Gotta love security by obscurity -- am I right, Apple fans?"
Safari is even less secure than Internet Explorer 8. Hurr hurr

Mac security expert: "OS X is safer, but less secure." - "After he hacked a Mac in seconds, famed Mac security analyst Charlie Miller is ready to do it again: he intends to disclose the method he used to find up to twenty zero day security holes in Apple’s Mac OS X at this year’s CanSecWest... “Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town.”"

The New App Store Rules: No Swimsuits, No Skin, And No Innuendo - "Developer Jon Atherton, who is behind the popular application Wobble... spoke to an Apple employee... 'No skin (he seriously said this) (I asked if a Burqa was OK, and the Apple guy got angry)'... These moves are pretty ridiculous given the fact that the iPhone offers a full set of parental controls... After making around $30,000 last year from the App Store, he’s essentially lost his income. And Wobble’s company, which was pulling in around $500 a day, is now making less than $10. Apple gave these developers the green light to build “sexy” apps, and now that they’ve built businesses around them, it’s tossing them aside without so much as an apology. To Apple, they’re expendable."

Daring Fireball: This Apple-HTC Patent Thing - "'A lot of companies (Microsoft, for example) have been granted large numbers of preposterously over-broad patents, but they keep them mainly for defensive purposes. Like nuclear weapons, the main role of big companies’ patent portfolios is to threaten anyone who attacks them with a counter-suit'... 'If Apple becomes a company that uses its might to quash competition instead of using its brains, it’s going to find the brainiest people will slowly stop working there. You know this, you watched it happen at Microsoft'... 'Apple is inching ever closer to evil, and I worry that there’s no one within the company who can stand up to Jobs and tell him so'"

Macau - Day 3, Part 1

"CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn't want to give up power." - Arthur C. Clarke


Day 3 - 28th February - Macau in the Early Morning
(Part 1)

This morning I set off at 7+ to enjoy the city before the tourists came out in their numbers.

I saw schoolgirls (again, no schoolboys) walking around in uniform at 7:30am. Seeing that this was Sunday, this was extremely sad.

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St Paul's, finally empty (almost - a few others had the same idea of coming early)

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Sketch of St Paul facade: the facade is divided into the Militant Church (Levels 1 and 2) and the Triumphant Church (Levels 3, 4 and the Pediment).

"1st Row: This college This chunch like Houses of 900 and like Fortre of faith
2nd Row: Glorification of society of Jesus [Jesuits]
3rd Row: Triumph of Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Mother of God, intercessor between men and God
4th Row: Christ The Redeemer, Saviour of the World
Pediment: Holy Ghost showing mercy"

Starting out early also meant that it was cooler. This day was also cooler than the other 2 days that I was in Macau. Those factors notwithstanding, I was already very sticky by the time I hiked up to St Paul's. Someone told me that he likes humidity because when he feels himself sweating, he knows that he's been exercising. This is like saying that you should feel depressed in your job so you know you've been working.

Actually in some ways cold humidity is worse than hot humidity - it will take longer for your sweat to evaporate.

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One of two remnants of the old City Walls, beside St Paul's

Strolling in Macau:

"Like many of Macau's earliest fortifications, this section of wall is built of chunambo, also known as taipa, a mixture of clay, straw, sand, crushed limestone, and oyster shells tightly compacted in layers between strips of wood. Although this concoction sounds flimsy, one account claims that demolishing a 460-foot (140 m) section of wall required 1,800 pounds (816 kg) of gunpowder"

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Ruins of St Paul's Jesuit College, beside St Paul's, the first Western university in Asia.

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Stair. Like much of Macau it looks like it's been abandoned to the elements.

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"Lar Nossa Senhora Da Misericordia, 1925"

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A better-maintained starcase

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St Anthony's Church, and roundabout

I then went to see what sounded like the nicest park, the Jardin Luis de Camoes.

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Praça de Luis de Camoes.

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Jardin Luis de Camoes. In honour of the Portuguese poet Luís Vaz de Camões, who also lived in Macau for a while.

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"Legenda Das Dez Gravuras". This seems to be sketches of each Canto of the Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads) - de Camões's most famous work.

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Taichi, and their version of Sun Salutations

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Luis de Camoes grotto

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Homage to the poet. As you can see, it's in Portuguese, Chinese and French - but not English. Blame the "Organisation Mondial (sic) des Poètes", which can't even spell its name properly (it's the "Organisation Mondiale des Poètes").

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Sonnet to Macau (reconstructed with the aid of Macao, the holy city : the gem of the Orient earth):

"Gem of the orient earth and open sea,
Macao! that in thy lap and on thy breast
Hast gathered beauties all the loveliest
Which the sun smiles in this majesty!

The very clouds that top each mountain's crest
Seem to repose there, lingering lovingly
How full of grace the green cathayon tree
Bends to the breeze and now thy sands are prest

With gentlest waves which over and anon
Break their awakened furies on thy shore
Were these the scenes that poet looked upon
Whose lyre though known to fame knew misery more

They have their glories and earth's diadems
Have naught so bright as genius gilded gems

--- Dr. Hourin"

There is something lacking in either the original, the translation or both.

The rest of the garden was more Chinese.

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This pavilion, for example. I had to hike up some steps and slopes to get here, which afforded me a view of the city.

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As you can see, it was nothing worth climbing up for, being a view of more slums.

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Addendum: Thanks to PPBI for providing me with the missing character, "处"

Translation: "Keeping the surroundings clean is everyone's duty.
Please do not piss and shit anywhere you like"

I didn't know PRCs liked to visit the garden.

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Precarious-seeming rocks

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Rocks and water

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Statue of St. Andrew Kim, the first Korean Priest. He was "tortured and beheaded", but I can't find more gory details about his martyrdom.

I then visited a small temple complex linked to the gardens.

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Rocks with words: "One thread sky" and "White *some type of bird* *something"
The first rock formation flanks the staircase down to the complex from the gardens.

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One of the temples

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"Shrine to the Earth God"

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Threshold of another temple: “國泰民安” ("The country is peaceful and the people are safe"). I didn't think this should be there, but rather something more related to the temple (e.g. its name?) - but what do I know.
Strangely enough I couldn't find the first character in my Microsoft IME, even though it assuredly exists in the Traditional Chinese character set.

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Altar inside

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Assorted sights outside

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Another temple

Visiting Chinese temples, especially these, one word comes to mind: Yokoso. Most of the things the Japanese took from the Chinese, they improved (most of what the Taiwanese took from the Japanese, they mangled, but that's another story). Even the incense seems less obtrusive in Japan.

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Of course, the most important god of all was also worshipped in the grounds of the complex - the Fortune God.

The complex also had its animals:

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Dog which got permed

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Evil cats

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"門口地土財神" ("Fortune God of the Ground and the Door")
This was in front and just slightly to the side of someone's door. Even though there is no offering this reinforces the fact that this is the most important god of all.

I'd tried exiting the temple onto a street but soon realised that to get to where I wanted to go, it made more sense to go back up through the gardens.

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Prohibited in the park: cycling, spitting (or talking with too much spittle), plucking flowers, stepping onto nails (or the grass), hanging your laundry to dry (or camping), blasting loud music, littering, graffiti
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