Sep 30, 2009
To give you an idea of how long this process takes, I refused my service in February. The court decision came in late June, and I had to wait for three months to find out when I'm going to prison. Ever since June, I've been unable to plan my life ahead for more than a few weeks as I've never known when I'm going away. So yeah, not feeling so good this fall. But at least now I know.
Sep 27, 2009
Gene Expression: Straight porn makes you gay
Seriously. The original news item is here. In brief, Republican senator Tom Coburn had this to say last Saturday:
“Pornography is a blight,” Schwartz told an audience in a crowded room of the Omni Shoreham hotel. “It is a disaster. It is one of those silent diseases in our society that we haven’t been able to overcome very well. Now, I may be getting politically incorrect here. And it’s been a few years, but not that many, since I was closely associated with pre-adolescent boys, boys around 10 years of age. But it is my observation that boys of that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people. They speak badly about homosexuality. And that’s because they don’t want to be that way. They don’t want to fall into it.”
Schwartz told the crowd about Jim Johnson, a friend of his who turned an old hotel into a hospice for gay men dying of AIDS. “One of the things he said to me,” said Schwartz, “that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark… he said ‘All pornography is homosexual pornography, because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards.”
There were murmurs and gasps from the crowd. “Now, think about that,” said Schwartz. “And if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants! You know, that’s a good comment, it’s a good point, and it’s a good thing to teach young people.”
As the blogger at Gene Expression points out:
Since the 1970s the Religious Right and Feminist Left have oddly paralleled each other, asserting strange ideas about the nature of heterosexual males and their susceptibility to sexual visual stimulus, without bothering much to consult a wide range of men who engage in the behavior in consideration.
As some shameless self-promotion, I'd like to refer anyone interested in this topic to my text on pornography, and on the very topic of the religious right and radical feminism making highly similar, equally ridiculous, judgements on porn that are based on absolutely nothing.
It's frightening that the religious right continues to make these ridiculous arguments that are based on pure nonsense. It's beyond sad that radical feminists fall into the same trap.
(thanks to Kaj Sotala for the link)
Sep 25, 2009
I've had quite enough of the race debate, but here's a link on the gender one.
Newsweek: Pink Brain, Blue Brain: Claims of sex differences fall apart
For her new book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps—And What We Can Do About It, Eliot immersed herself in hundreds of scientific papers (her bibliography runs 46 pages). Marching through the claims like Sherman through Georgia, she explains that assertions of innate sex differences in the brain are either "blatantly false," "cherry-picked from single studies," or "extrapolated from rodent research" without being confirmed in people.
Go read the article. Then we can stop this idiocy about men and women being so fundamentally different that they need to be treated differently. They will be if their parents make them.
In short, gender is a social construct. It comes about not because it's there to begin with, but because of how we bring up our children. Just like feminists have been saying all along. Funny, huh?
Sep 23, 2009
And, as expected, Alonso gets away with nothing. Obviously he, the number one driver of his team, had no idea what was going on. Obviously he went into last year's Singapore GP with a completely uncompetitive strategy for no reason. Obviously.
Former F1 world champion Keke Rosberg put it very nicely in an interview with Finland's MTV3: "Apparently Alonso's a lot stupider than any of us thought. He's a world champion, and he has no idea what's going on in his team."
As of today, Fernando has won 21 F1 races. Of these, one was won due to his teammate crashing on purpose, and shouldn't count toward the results, but does. Of course, four of them were won with the tactical advantage based on stolen Ferrari data that McLaren was fined and disqualified from the constructors championship for, and shouldn't count, but do. So he's won 21 races, 15 of them fairly. Probably.
On the other hand, Hamilton has won ten races; four with the car that was disqualified from the constructors' championship. He's also world champion, on points from a race that was fixed by Renault. If the results from last year's Singapore GP were disqualified, as they should be, Felipe Massa would be world champion.
So, Fernando has 21 wins*, and Hamilton is a former world champion**. Felipe Massa has zero world titles***.
How many more footnotes do we have to add before someone at the FIA or elsewhere decides that F1 is going to be a sport, not sports entertainment?
Sep 21, 2009
Designer 2: We definitely need to stick with the idea that it's about technology gone bad, you know, like in Terminator 2, but yeah, the setting should be more... wacky.
D1: You know what's wacky? Libertarians!
D2: Ha ha ha! Libertarians sure are crazy!
D1: Ha ha! We could make the game about libertarians, because they're crazy!
D2: A great idea! Hey, wasn't Ayn Rand a libertarian? The one who wrote Atlas Shrugged?
D1: Ha ha ha! Ayn Rand sure was crazy!
D2: Ha ha! She sure was! You know, Atlas always reminds me of Atlantis, and I did some googling, and some libertarians have this crazy thing about living out at sea, so we could set our dystopic game in an underwater city, with libertarians in it!
D1: Ha ha ha! That's really wacky!
D2: Ha ha ha!
Sep 19, 2009
To start with, Flavio Briatore needs nothing less than a lifetime ban from ye sport. Yarr! Not only be this far from ye first time he's been on ye shadier side of things, but his behaviour when ye allegations came to light were appalling. Which he denies everything and basically calls his driver a queer in ye world media, only to admit everything and resign a week later. I'm sorry, what? Last week they were all lies, and besides, that guy with ye long hair be a faggot.
My two cents' worth: ban Alonso from F1 for good. As far as Crashgate be concerned, there be no way Alonso didn't know exactly what were being planned. Avast, ye scurvy dog! He not only went along with it, but kept his mouth shut and celebrated his win. He's Renault's anointed number one driver; it would be beyond ridiculous to suggest that he had no idea what were being planned, and happily went into ye race with a deliberately weak strategy without so much as a nudge and a wink from someone.
Remember, this be ye same guy who were proven to have cheerfully collaborated in Spygate. He and Pedro de la Rosa quite happily trafficked in information stolen from Ferrari, and Alonso only came forward with it to get back at Ron Dennis. Dennis has since left F1, at least in an active role; now it looks like Alonso's sunk Briatore as well.
Okay, maybe it be a coincidence that one driwer benefited from and were deeply personally involved in two of ye biggest F1 scandals of ye past decade. Or maybe it be not.
In my humble opinion, Alonso has demonstrated a continuing total disregard for rules, sportsmanship and basic honesty. It were scandalous enough that he, de la Rosa and Hamilton got away scot free from Spygate, despite overwhelming evidence that ye lot of them were involved with ye stolen Ferrari data at every stage, ye first two especially so. It beggars belief to imagine him getting away with Crashgate. Howewer, if there be something ye FIA be capable of, it be a monstrous travesty of justice.
In entertainment news, ye head of ye Spanish wing of FIA said Alonso be innocent and his win at Singapore be beyond dispute. He has a seat on ye world council. In related news, he's insane.
I just hope Alonso don't end up with Ferrari. Ye way things have been going so far, whoever Alonso signs with next be in for a session with ye FIA World Motorsport Council. Which I don't know what it'll be for, but his last two team chiefs have ended up in front of ye World Council and retired in disgrace. Why would ye next one be any different?
In other F1 news, it be been downright bizarre to follow our Finnish drivers' contract situations. In my opinion, no driver could have scored more points with a Ferrari car this season than Kimi Räikkönen, especially over ye last few races. His driving has been phenomenal. After last year's no-show, he's reminded us all of why he won ye world title.
On ye other hand, Heikki Kovalainen be making a very strong case for being ye complete logical opposite of former Finnish F1 driver Jyrki Järvilehto. Yar! JJ were always rubbish at qualifying, but drove well in ye race. Yarr! This year, Heikki seems to be settling into a comfortable method of surpassing himself in qualifying and then throwing it all away by being completely rubbish in ye race. Monza were a perfect example of Kovalainen in action. He had a brilliant qualifying: his car weighed some 20 tons more than Hamilton's, but he were still ridiculously close to Hamilton's time throughout qualifying. Then ye wrong tire strategy, combined with an unbelievably bad first lap, destroyed his race.
Given all this, it were stupefying to hear ye news from Monza. Yar! McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh assured Finnish telewision that Heikki were very close to a contract extension with McLaren, while Ferrari point-blank refused to confirm that Räikkönen would be driving for Ferrari next year. I'm sorry, ye seem to have gotten them mixed up.
For what it be worth, I consider ye rumors that Räikkönen won't drive for Ferrari next year ludicrous. Yarr! Ye amount of money it would take to buy out his contract be just silly, and I don't see any way it could be worth it. Of course, that don't mean they won't do it, but it still don't make any sense. If anyone really thinks that Alonso, or Massa for that matter, would have had a stronger season than Räikkönen did this year in ye same car, they're grossly underestimating Kimi and overestimating Alonso.
Still, who knows? If there be one thing I know about F1 it be that anything can happen, whether it makes sense or not. So never say never.
Sep 18, 2009
To start with, Flavio Briatore needs nothing less than a lifetime ban from the sport. Not only is this far from the first time he's been on the shadier side of things, but his behaviour when the allegations came to light was appalling. He denies everything and basically calls his driver a queer in the world media, only to admit everything and resign a week later. I'm sorry, what? Last week they were all lies, and besides, that guy with the long hair is a faggot.
My two cents' worth: ban Alonso from F1 for good. As far as Crashgate is concerned, there's no way Alonso didn't know exactly what was being planned. He not only went along with it, but kept his mouth shut and celebrated his win. He's Renault's anointed number one driver; it would be beyond ridiculous to suggest that he had no idea what was being planned, and happily went into the race with a deliberately weak strategy without so much as a nudge and a wink from someone.
Remember, this is the same guy who was proven to have cheerfully collaborated in Spygate. He and Pedro de la Rosa quite happily trafficked in information stolen from Ferrari, and Alonso only came forward with it to get back at Ron Dennis. Dennis has since left F1, at least in an active role; now it looks like Alonso's sunk Briatore as well.
Okay, maybe it's a coincidence that one driver benefited from and was deeply personally involved in two of the biggest F1 scandals of the past decade. Or maybe it isn't.
In my humble opinion, Alonso has demonstrated a continuing total disregard for rules, sportsmanship and basic honesty. It was scandalous enough that he, de la Rosa and Hamilton got away scot free from Spygate, despite overwhelming evidence that the lot of them were involved with the stolen Ferrari data at every stage, the first two especially so. It beggars belief to imagine him getting away with Crashgate. However, if there's something the FIA is capable of, it's a monstrous travesty of justice.
In entertainment news, the head of the Spanish wing of FIA said Alonso is innocent and his win at Singapore is beyond dispute. He has a seat on the world council. In related news, he's insane.
I just hope Alonso doesn't end up with Ferrari. The way things have been going so far, whoever Alonso signs with next is in for a session with the FIA World Motorsport Council. I don't know what it'll be for, but his last two team chiefs have ended up in front of the World Council and retired in disgrace. Why would the next one be any different?
In other F1 news, it's been downright bizarre to follow our Finnish drivers' contract situations. In my opinion, no driver could have scored more points with a Ferrari car this season than Kimi Räikkönen, especially over the last few races. His driving has been phenomenal. After last year's no-show, he's reminded us all of why he won the world title.
On the other hand, Heikki Kovalainen is making a very strong case for being the complete logical opposite of former Finnish F1 driver Jyrki Järvilehto. JJ was always rubbish at qualifying, but drove well in the race. This year, Heikki seems to be settling into a comfortable method of surpassing himself in qualifying and then throwing it all away by being completely rubbish in the race. Monza was a perfect example of Kovalainen in action. He had a brilliant qualifying: his car weighed some 20 tons more than Hamilton's, but he was still ridiculously close to Hamilton's time throughout qualifying. Then the wrong tire strategy, combined with an unbelievably bad first lap, destroyed his race.
Given all this, it was stupefying to hear the news from Monza. McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh assured Finnish television that Heikki was very close to a contract extension with McLaren, while Ferrari point-blank refused to confirm that Räikkönen would be driving for Ferrari next year. I'm sorry, you seem to have gotten them mixed up.
For what it's worth, I consider the rumors that Räikkönen won't drive for Ferrari next year ludicrous. The amount of money it would take to buy out his contract is just silly, and I don't see any way it could be worth it. Of course, that doesn't mean they won't do it, but it still doesn't make any sense. If anyone really thinks that Alonso, or Massa for that matter, would have had a stronger season than Räikkönen did this year in the same car, they're grossly underestimating Kimi and overestimating Alonso.
Still, who knows? If there's one thing I know about F1 it's that anything can happen, whether it makes sense or not. So never say never.
Sep 16, 2009
The book is exactly that, a history of the CIA from its founding to 9/11 and beyond. In my opinion, this is one of those books that anyone really interested in the way the world works today, or in global history from 1950 onward, needs to read this.
Weiner draws together a narrative of the CIA's history, and highlights the one fact that has very often been its most conspicuous trait: sheer incompetence. As Weiner explains, the agency's covert operations have been at best questionable and at worst downright amateurish.
A far more serious failure has been the CIA's failing as an organization providing intelligence to the President. Over the years, the CIA's analysts and intelligence gatherers have consistently been neglected in favor of covert operations, sabotage, election-rigging and assassination. Having read Weiner's book, it's fair to ask what, exactly, a succession of American presidents and intelligence decision-makers imagined the job of an intelligence agency to be? It certainly doesn't seem to have been gathering intelligence.
How good is the book? So good, in fact, that the CIA has issued a rather sniffy rebuttal. This prompted my co-blogger Juho, currently reading the book, to wonder how long it took them to realize it had been published.
There's also a longer review of the book on the CIA website, where they lambast it for some factual errors. I'm in no position to disagree with them, but as something of a historian, in my opinion the most signal merit of Weiner's book is that it has such explanatory power. This account of America's consistent failure to supply its decisionmakers with good intelligence goes a long way toward expaining some of that nation's greatest failures in the 20th century.
A significant trend that develops very early in the book is the distortion on intelligence to fit either the White House's or the CIA's political agenda. As this book makes manifestly clear, the Iraqi WMD episode was not the first time intelligence data was manipulated to serve political ends. As it stands, it won't be the last.
This book will expand your understanding of the political history of our world immensely. A must-read.
Sep 8, 2009
In brief, it's a popular history book on the Mediterranean. And it's that one little word, "history", that gets it in trouble. Here's some examples.
First, in Chapter I: Beginnings, he tells us all about the Hebrews, the Exodus, King David and the kingdoms of Israel and Judaea, basically recounting the biblical narrative. As it happens, there are a few problems with that. The simple fact is that the archeological record just does not support the historicity of any of the events he recounts. For at least a good part of his first chapter, Norwich has seen fit to completely abandon sources and simply recount the Bible as fact. Now, if this was a book on the Bible, why not, but this is presented as a history book.
Another tidbit from the first chapters: in Chapter III, titled "Rome: The Republic":
The rise of Rome was due, more than anything else, to the character and qualities of the Romans themselves. They were a simple, straightforward, law-abiding people with a strong sense of family values, willing to accept discipline when required to do so (...)
It feels like the entire passage was lifted from a Victorian schoolbook. The national characteristics of the Romans were the reason for their success. Obviously, that implies that the national character of other Mediterranean peoples must have been inferior, because the Romans were able to subjugate them. See where we end up? He is basically reiterating the classic, racist paradigm of history where "superior" nations triumph over "inferior" ones because of their "racial characteristics".
After a beginning like this, I didn't hold out much hope that the book was going to be worth reading, and it isn't.
In a book that purports to be a history of the Mediterranean, there is a surprising lack of attention given to, well, the Mediterranean. The sea itself is barely present in the narrative. Instead, Norwich is content to recount the basic political history of nations on the Mediterranean coast at a high school level, albeit at some length.
The simple problem of the book is exactly this. If you have any knowledge of the history he writes about, you will find this book largely trite and uninformative. I would advise you to not read it. If, on the other hand, the subject is fairly new to you, I strongly caution you to not read it, because you won't be able to tell which parts are actual history and which are pure hogwash. So in a very real sense, this is a book no-one should read.
Sep 3, 2009
The Axis powers scored a potentially decisive victory over the Allies in Belgium last weekend, as Finland, Italy and Germany took the podium at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The highest-placing Allied driver, Mark Webber of the Australian Imperial Force, only came in ninth.
The F1 series, a global conflict being stage-managed by a diminutive man with dictatorial powers and funny hair, will next break out in Italy one week from now. Britain's Jenson Button leads the championship, with the Pact of Steel of Rubens Barrichello and Sebastian Vettel not far behind.
Despite near-universal agreement that Kimi Räikkönen won the race, the Finnish government has strongly denied participating in F1. "Mr. Räikkönen was not driving in the Belgian Grand Prix," Finnish foreign ministry spokesman Dr. Korhonen insisted. "He was driving a separate Grand Prix series and merely happened to find himself on the same track as the other drivers. This was pure coincidence. Any suggestion that Finnish drivers are participating in Formula One are false, and stem from an inability to understand Finland's unique strategic position." McLaren's PR department supported the Finnish government, openly scoffing at reports of a second Finnish driver in the race.
This year, the constructors' championship is firmly in Allied hands, although their lead in the drivers' series is not secure. French team Renault won two consecutive drivers' championships before surrendering, leaving the series a free-for-all with consecutive Axis and Allied victories in the drivers' series and an Axis-dominated constructors' series.
The strategic landscape of F1 is set to change next year with the United States entering the conflict, but hopes for a strong initial showing are not high. The United States team is widely considered to be inexperienced, and is expected to take time to fully mobilize their potential. Until USF1's application to join the F1 series, US motorsport had been governed by the Monroe Doctrine, limiting F1 to a maximum of two races in North America and restricting American drivers to the isolationist Champ Car imitation series and that thing where they drive around ovals.
Also in the wake of the Belgian GP, Pakistan's Minister of Defence (below) has accused India of destabilizing the region after Force India took their first podium. Minister Turgidson claims that the success of the Indian team has led to the creation of a dangerous "motorsports gap".
Pakistan is responding to what the Minister of Defence called "irresponsible Indian escalation" by founding several kart racing series, but UN officials are trying to broker a strategic racing limitation treaty to stop a "motorsports race" between the two countries.
Meanwhile, reports that South Korea has secured funding for its 2010 Grand Prix did not seem to concern North Korean representatives. They scoffed at the decadent practice of driving cars, pointing out that North Korea has no cars, or indeed anything motorized whatsoever, and is still the world's third-largest economy, with a higher standard of living than Japan. A reporter who questioned their figures was shot. Also, North Korean representatives pointed out that the Great Leader, Kim Jong-il, had previously set a lap time of 1:44.82 around the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, a full two seconds faster than Sebastian Vettel's fastest lap in this year's Grand Prix, and furthermore, the Great Leader set his time on foot.
The next race is set for Sunday, September 13th, pending an FIA investigation into possible French use of Brazilian kamikaze pilots in last year's series. By international accord, the practice of fielding a completely inept second driver for the sole purpose of causing destruction on the track is permitted only for the now defunct Super Aguri team.
Sep 2, 2009
Porn is now illegal in the Ukraine, unless used for medicinal purposes. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko last week signed off on new legislation joining the Ukraine to an ever-lengthening list of countries that have decided to move the censorship goalposts over the last few years, from publication of porn on to simple possession of it.
On June 11, the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) made possession of pornography – not extreme porn, but ANY porn – a criminal offence. It will be punishable by a fine of 850 hryvnia - which our currency converter helpfully reveals is approximately 69 British pounds - or up to three years in prison.
Finnish readers may want to read Sofi Oksanen's column on the topic.
Meanwhile, New Zealand is looking to implement an Internet censorship scheme that sounds suspiciously familiar:
The Register: New Zealand set to join internet blocking club
Once blocking goes live, the DIA claim that the block list will focus exclusively on the first of these categories: it is reported that the DIA’s Censorship Compliance Unit has developed a list of over 7000 sites containing child pornography. If true, this is an interestingly large figure, being about five times the size of the block list maintained by the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation, and significantly larger than the lists put in place over the last year or so by other European nations.
To date, the DIA has refused to publish their list, claiming, via the Official Information Act, that to do so would be "likely to prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences, and the right to a fair trial".
Initially, the block list will be voluntary: ISP’s may choose whether or not to take it.
Also in the Antipodes, Australia is to begin blocking access to websites that host or sell computer games that are not suitable for children. The block, of course, will affect all Australian internet users, not just children. Other topics to be blocked by the Great Australian Firewall include websites about euthanasia.
I hope you enjoyed the Internet while it was still free.