I was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley during the heydey of political correctness. Everyone in the dorms was urged to attend DARE seminars - not "Drug Abuse Resistance Education" but "Diversity Awareness Through Resources and Education." The goal, quite plainly, was to create a one-sided educational culture so the next generation would accept the self-styled awareness raisers' agenda as gospel. Political correctness isn't just hypersensitivity; it's hypersensitivity designed to place a permanent stamp on impressionable young minds.
From this perspective, political correctness isn't essentially leftist. Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, leftist political correctness hasn't been all that effective. The full-blown triumph of political correctness, of hypersensitivity plus one-sided education, is patriotism.
Not so long ago, as Eugen Weber observes, most people were only dimly aware of what nation they "belonged" to. They took little offense at insults to their country, its people, or their flag, because they just didn't much identify with their country, its people, or their flag. Then came the patriots, descending upon their nations' schools like locusts. They taught children a litany of bizarre nonsense. They urged them to love millions of complete strangers who happened to live inside a Magic Line (a.k.a. "the border"), and loathe those who snickered during the Pledge of Allegiance or improperly folded the flag.
And despite the justified indifference and puzzlement of older generations, the patriots won. There's no need to speculate about what a politically correct world would look like. We're already in one.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:37
Kevin Carson - When I hear someone say that soldiers “defend our freedom,” my immediate response is to gag. I think the last time American soldiers actually fought for the freedom of Americans was probably the Revolutionary War — or maybe the War of 1812, if you want to be generous. Every war since then has been for nothing but to uphold a system of power, and to make the rich folks even richer.
But I can think of one exception.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:24
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Intriguingly, across the world the main social groups which practice polygyny do not consume alcohol. We investigate whether there is a correlation between alcohol consumption and polygynous/monogamous arrangements, both over time and across cultures. Historically, we find a correlation between the shift from polygyny to monogamy and the growth of alcohol consumption. Cross-culturally we also find that monogamous societies consume more alcohol than polygynous societies in the preindustrial world. We provide a series of possible explanations to explain the positive correlation between monogamy and alcohol consumption over time and across societies.[via Marginal Revolution]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:12
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Eu não faço a mínima ideia de quem tem razão no diferendo "comercial" entre a Ensitel e Maria João Nogueira; mas no diferendo sobre o direito de publicar no seu blogue as queixas que tinha da empresa, creio que a razão está toda do lado de Mª J. Nogueira.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 19:48
Publicada por CN em 08:40
Publicada por CN em 08:35
Monday, December 27, 2010
N'O Insurgente, Ricardo Francisco escreve "A pergunta que continua a ter de ser respondida (...) é se os resultados do combate ao AG compensam toda a liberdade retirada e recursos necessários para esse combate".
Não é preciso retirar liberdade nenhuma para combater o aquecimento global - é só reduzir as emissões de gases de estufa, ou através de um imposto sobre a poluição, ou através de um sistema de cap-and-trade atribuido por leilão, e usar as receitas para reduzir os outros impostos (como defende, p.ex., Gregory Mankiw), que não há redução nenhuma de liberdade (a intervenção do Estado na sociedade mantêm-se no mesmo nivel, muda é as áreas onde se exerce).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:11
Proponho um desafio aos que dizem que os factos não comprovam que a Terra esteja a aquecer (parece-me ser o caso de pelo menos alguns "insurgentes", p.ex.).
A NASA publica uma lista de temperaturas médias no planeta (que é o que interessa para a questão do aquecimento global, não se há arrefecimento local em Londres ou aquecimento local no meu sofá quando o Pantufa lá dorme), medida em centésimos de grau Celsius acima da temperatura média entre 1951 e 1980.
Em Maio do ano passado, a temperatura média global era de 64 (isto é, mais 0,64 ºC do que a temperatura média entre 1951 e 1980). Entre 1998 e 2010, a temperatura média em Maio foi de 49 (ou 48 virgula qualquer coisa).
Que desafio proponho? Uma espécia de aposta: se em Maio de 2011 (dados que devem estar disponíveis em Junho) a temperatura média anunciada no site da NASA foi maior que 64 (isto é, a temperatura deste ano), ganho eu; se for menor que 49 (a média de 1998 a 2010), ganham os meus oponentes (seja lá quem forem, já que esta aposta é dirigida "a incertos"); se for entre 49 e 64 (acima da média, mas abaixo da deste ano), teremos um empate.
E qual o objecto da aposta? Simplesmente o (ou os) derrotado publicar um post a dizer que perdeu a aposta, a recapitualar os termos da aposta e a linkar para os vencedores. Se assim o entender, o vencedor poderá também publicar um post a dizer que ganhou (em caso de empate, ninguém terá que publicar post nenhum, mas também poderão publicar um post a dizer que houve empate).
Note-se que isto não implicaria alguém ter que mudar de posição sobre a questão "a Terra está a aquecer?"; afinal, um mês pode perfeitamente ser um outlier (além de que a questão que se discute não é apenas se a Terra está a aquecer, mas também quais as causas disso, possiveis efeitos, etc.); isto pretende ser apenas uma experiência, nada mais.
- Porquê o mes de Maio? Porque é suficiente longe do momento presente para haver um certo "vêu de ignorância" e suficientemente perto para eu não me esquecer da aposta; alêm disso, sendo um mês de Primavera/Outono, evita discussões do género "contas feitas em meses de Verão/Inverno não contam - a diferença entre temperaturas máximas e minimas são muito grandes / a volatilidade é muita / etc."; e, fianlmente, porque eu gosto do mês de Maio...
- Porquê ter como comparação a média de 1998 a 2010, em vez de, digamos, 1997 a 2010, ou 1999 a 2010? Porque alguns críticos da teoria aquecimento global têm um fetiche pelo o ano de 1998.
Para aceitar a aposta (ou propor uma reformulação dos termos), inscrevam-se na caixa de comentários do post que publiquei no Vias de Facto (e de preferência publiquem também um post); na primeira semana de 2011, publicarei uma lista de "concorrentes" (não que eu tenha nada contra quem não tenha blogs, mas face aos termos da aposta, só faz sentido ser aceita por alguém que tenha blog, site ou afim).
[Post publicado no Vias de Facto; podem comentar lá se quiserem]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 11:14
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Nos últimos dias tem-se falado das agências de rating terem voltado a descer a classificação de Portugal, com uns a dizerem "estão a ver como temos que fazer mais sacrificios?" e outros "continua a chantagem dos mercados sobre os estados soberanos" (provavelmente ninguém disse isto textualmente, mas muita gente terá expressado pensamentos equivalentes.
Mas, afinal, o que é que as tais agências dizem que pode correr mal na economia portuguesa?
Vamos lá ver a Moody's (via Finantial Times):
(1) Uncertainties about Portugal’s longer-term economic vitality, which will be exacerbated by the impact of fiscal austerity;
(3) Concerns about the possible impact on the government’s debt metrics of further support for the banking sector, which may be needed for the banks to regain access to the private capital markets.E a Fitch (também via FT):
“A sizeable fiscal shock against a backdrop of relative macroeconomic and structural weaknesses has reduced Portugal’s creditworthiness,” said Douglas Renwick, Associate Director in Fitch’s Sovereign team…Ou seja, parece que os problemas que as tais agências de rating vêm na economia portuguesa até não têm a ver principalmente com "despesa pública excessiva" (nomeadamente no "Estado Social"), como se poderia pensar pelo que dizem os comentadores que costumam aparecer na televisão.
The downgrade reflects significant budgetary underperformance in 2009. The general government deficit in that year was 9.3% of GDP, versus 6.5% of GDP forecast by Fitch last September…
The Negative Outlook reflects Fitch’s concern about the potential impact of the global economic crisis on Portugal’s economy and public finances over the medium term, given the country’s existing structural weaknesses and high indebtedness across all sectors of the economy. Portugal’s GDP per capita and trend growth are significantly below the ‘AA’ median, which reduces debt tolerance relative to other high-grade sovereigns.
Fitch considers the government’s recently-announced consolidation plans to be broadly credible, incorporating a high level of detail underpinning a largely expenditure-based adjustment and reasonable macroeconomic assumptions. It builds on a track record of public wage bill reduction over 2005-2008 and significant achievements in public pension reform.
However, the planned deficit adjustment is back-loaded and the risk of macroeconomic disappointment (with knock-on effects to the deficit) is significant, particularly in the latter years of the government’s projections (2012-13). Further fiscal and/or economic underperformance in 2010 and 2011 could lead to another downgrade…
Pelos vistos, os problemas são:
- Possibilidade de agravamento da recessão (e portanto redução da receita em impostos), perigo esse que está a ser aumentado pelas politicas de austeridade
- Possibilidade de o Estado ter que gastar ainda mais dinheiro em apoios à banca
- Aumento dos juros que o Estado paga pela dívida (diga-se que este aspecto é largamente circular - se o aumento dos juros está a por em causa as contas públicas, é também a ideia que o país corre risco de bancarrota que está a fazer subir os juros; ou seja, quando as agências de rating baixam o rating dum Estado dizendo que a sua situação vai piorar devido ao aumento dos juros estão a fazer uma profecia auto-cumprida: em grande medida é exactamente essa descida do rating que vai provocar a subida dos juros)
[post publicado no Vias de Facto, podem comentar lá]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 00:04
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The Great Libertarian Critic of Psychiatry (via LRCblog)
Publicada por CN em 08:45
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 10:12
João Miranda escreve que "E também não interessa muito se os custos do salário mínimo se diluem no resto dos custos da empresa. Não é assim que os gestores raciocinam. Um gestor está interessado em saber se um trabalhador específico produz acima do salário que lhe é pago. Se o trabalhador dá lucro. Se o trabalhador não dá lucro, não é contratado."
Creio que nem eu nem o João Miranda somos gestores, e trabalhando ambos (creio) para instituições públicas teremos pouca familiaridade directa com a forma de raciocinio dos gestores das empresas privadas. No entanto, duvido que em grande parte das empresas os gestores façam o género de raciocinio que JM refere, pelo simples facto que grande parte dos trabalhadores estão integrados em empresas em que não faz sentido falar em produção específica de cada trabalhador (logo, não faz sentido comparar o que cada trabalhador produz com o salário que iria receber); p.ex., quanto é a produção (no sentido de valor que produz para a empresa) de um repositor do Modelo? A partir do momento em que uma empresa deixa de ser um conjunto de individuos trabalhando em paralelo para ser um organização com tarefas diferenciadas e integradas, não há tal coisa como a produção de um posto de trabalho especifico - o que há é o conjunto da produção de uma unidade de produção (composta por vários postos de trabalho). Assim, creio que só faz sentido o aumento do salário mínimo nesses casos aumentar o desemprego se fazer o conjunto da unidade de produção não rentável.
[Sim, em teoria, mesmo numa organização haverá a "receita do produto marginal" de cada trabalhador, só contratando a empresa esse trabalhador se o seu vencimento for inferior à receita do produto marginal; mas duvido que no mundo real as empresas se entretenham a calcular o produto marginal de cada trabalhador]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:50
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The State Department has put out a press release announcing that it has approved spending $3.36 million next year to "train" foreign judges and other law enforcement officials about "intellectual property." There are 15 different projects, which all come down to various training programs for judges, police, law enforcement in how to kowtow to American industry in dealing with infringement of copyrights, trademarks and patents. Given the way our government seems to think that whatever the industry says is accurate -- no matter how many times it's been disproved -- you have to imagine that any "training" is going to be laughably one-sided. For example, I note that one of the projects is:
Latin American Online Piracy $142,944Except, last I checked, those countries had their own copyright laws, and didn't need to obey US specific laws. In the case of Brazil, for example, it's been contemplating new copyright laws that would be much more respectful of fair use and the public domain. Yet, given the way the State Department has acted in the past on these issues, why do I get the feeling that "fair use" isn't a part of the training campaign?
Training for judges from Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay on combating digital/online copyright piracy crimes.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Agora mais em pormenor:
The allegations centre on a 10-day period after Assange flew into Stockholm on Wednesday 11 August. One of the women, named in court as Miss A, told police that she had arranged Assange's trip to Sweden, and let him stay in her flat because she was due to be away. She returned early, on Friday 13 August, after which the pair went for a meal and then returned to her flat.
Her account to police, which Assange disputes, stated that he began stroking her leg as they drank tea, before he pulled off her clothes and snapped a necklace that she was wearing. According to her statement she "tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again". Miss A told police that she didn't want to go any further "but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far", and so she allowed him to undress her.
According to the statement, Miss A then realised he was trying to have unprotected sex with her. She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs. The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom, but she told the police that at some stage Assange had "done something" with the condom that resulted in it becoming ripped, and ejaculated without withdrawing.
When he was later interviewed by police in Stockholm, Assange agreed that he had had sex with Miss A but said he did not tear the condom, and that he was not aware that it had been torn. He told police that he had continued to sleep in Miss A's bed for the following week and she had never mentioned a torn condom.
On the following morning, Saturday 14 August, Assange spoke at a seminar organised by Miss A. A second woman, Miss W, had contacted Miss A to ask if she could attend. Both women joined Assange, the co-ordinator of the Swedish WikiLeaks group, whom we will call "Harold", and a few others for lunch.
Assange left the lunch with Miss W. She told the police she and Assange had visited the place where she worked and had then gone to a cinema where they had moved to the back row. He had kissed her and put his hands inside her clothing, she said.
That evening, Miss A held a party at her flat. One of her friends, "Monica", later told police that during the party Miss A had told her about the ripped condom and unprotected sex. Another friend told police that during the evening Miss A told her she had had "the worst sex ever" with Assange: "Not only had it been the world's worst screw, it had also been violent."
Assange's supporters point out that, despite her complaints against him, Miss A held a party for him on that evening and continued to allow him to stay in her flat.
On Sunday 15 August, Monica told police, Miss A told her that she thought Assange had torn the condom on purpose. According to Monica, Miss A said Assange was still staying in her flat but they were not having sex because he had "exceeded the limits of what she felt she could accept" and she did not feel safe.
The following day, Miss W phoned Assange and arranged to meet him late in the evening, according to her statement. The pair went back to her flat in Enkoping, near Stockholm. Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom".
Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. "According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' " but "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before."
The police record of the interview with Assange in Stockhom deals only with the complaint made by Miss A. However, Assange and his lawyers have repeatedly stressed that he denies any kind of wrongdoing in relation to Miss W.
In submissions to the Swedish courts, they have argued that Miss W took the initiative in contacting Assange, that on her own account she willingly engaged in sexual activity in a cinema and voluntarily took him to her flat where, she agrees, they had consensual sex. They say that she never indicated to Assange that she did not want to have sex with him. They also say that in a text message to a friend, she never suggested she had been raped and claimed only to have been "half asleep".
Police spoke to Miss W's ex-boyfriend, who told them that in two and a half years they had never had sex without a condom because it was "unthinkable" for her. Miss W told police she went to a chemist to buy a morning-after pill and also went to hospital to be tested for STDs. Police statements record her contacting Assange to ask him to get a test and his refusing on the grounds that he did not have the time.
On Wednesday 18 August, according to police records, Miss A told Harold and a friend that Assange would not leave her flat and was sleeping in her bed, although she was not having sex with him and he spent most of the night sitting with his computer. Harold told police he had asked Assange why he was refusing to leave the flat and that Assange had said he was very surprised, because Miss A had not asked him to leave. Miss A says she spent Wednesday night on a mattress and then moved to a friend's flat so she did not have to be near him. She told police that Assange had continued to make sexual advances to her every day after they slept together and on Wednesday 18 August had approached her, naked from the waist down, and rubbed himself against her.
The following day, Harold told police, Miss A called him and for the first time gave him a full account of her complaints about Assange. Harold told police he regarded her as "very, very credible" and he confronted Assange, who said he was completely shocked by the claims and denied all of them. By Friday 20 August, Miss W had texted Miss A looking for help in finding Assange. The two women met and compared stories.
Harold has independently told the Guardian Miss A made a series of calls to him asking him to persuade Assange to take an STD test to reassure Miss W, and that Assange refused. Miss A then warned if Assange did not take a test, Miss W would go to the police. Assange had rejected this as blackmail, Harold told police.
Assange told police that Miss A spoke to him directly and complained to him that he had torn their condom, something that he regarded as false.
Late that Friday afternoon, Harold told police, Assange agreed to take a test, but the clinics had closed for the weekend. Miss A phoned Harold to say that she and Miss W had been to the police, who had told them that they couldn't simply tell Assange to take a test, that their statements must be passed to the prosecutor. That night, the story leaked to the Swedish newspaper Expressen.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:37
So, on January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made up story and sent it back to his HQ in Washington. Here's what they concocted:
XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore's documentary, "Sicko," as being subversive. Although the film's intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, he said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.
Sounds convincing, eh?! There's only one problem -- 'Sicko' had just been playing in Cuban theaters. Then the entire nation of Cuba was shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008! The Cubans embraced the film so much so it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of 'Sicko' were set up in towns all across the country.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:48
Robin Hanson, em parte a respeito disto, refere um estudo feito comparando a proximidade entre as várias disciplinas académicas (penso que através de citações mútuas em artigos da especialidade e métodos afins):
Por um lado, é curioso como, pelos vistos, a matemática e as "ciências da computação", se estão próximas da física e da engenharia, estão também próximas das ciências sociais e das "humanidades", estanto longe da medicina e afins. Mas já há mais de 80 anos que o psiquiatra alemão Ernst Kretschmer escrevia sobre a "rarity of a simultaneous propensity for medicine and mathematics (...) [w]hile, on the other hand the double disposition for mathematics and philosophy is quite common" (bem, suponho que ele tenha escrito isso em alemão...).
Mas, por outro lado, talvez toda essa construção não seja muito sólida - afinal, como um comentador de Hanson escreve «one weak link between CS and the social “sciences” keeps this graph from being a straight up spectrum of hard to soft science» (no entanto, no tal estudo são propostos mapas alternativos, mudando um bocadinho o método de classificação, que apresentam um formato parecido mesmo sem a ligação directa "ciências da computação - ciências sociais").
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:43
Friday, December 17, 2010
Over the past week, fierce forest fires have devastated large swathes of Israel, killing 42 people – including the country’s most senior female police officer. So you could be forgiven for thinking that the emergency services needed all the help they could lay their hands on.
It is not hard to imagine the firefighters’ anger – and disbelief – on discovering that the country’s interior minister, Eli Yishai, had rejected an offer by a Christian charity in North America to donate some fire engines. Given that the country often struggles to provide adequate cover during such emergencies, the proposal by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews could have made a vital contribution to the attempts to bring the fires under control.
But Mr Yishai, who represents the ultra-Orthodox Shas party in the ruling coalition, had other ideas. Shas, which speaks for Israel’s burgeoning ultra-Orthodox community, is deeply suspicious of non-Jewish organisations, even those that are committed to Israel’s well-being. Many of its supporters fear any help offered by Christian groups is part of some sinister plot to convert the Jews.
So Mr Yishai vetoed the American charity’s offer – and in doing so, further inflamed tensions between more secular-minded Israelis, who form the majority of the population, and the religious hardliners whose growing influence over government policy is a source of mounting friction between the communities. The anger only grew when Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, publicly declared that the fires were divine retribution for the failure of secular Israelis to observe the Sabbath.[Via Secular Right]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:19
Nos últimos dias estive lendo um livro (O Pregador Atormentado, de Thomas Hardy) que desconfio que (tirando alguns detelhes que não afectam o essencial) desconfio que o meu co-blogger CN e alguns leitores (regulares ou ocasionais) como o Rui Botelho Rodrigues, o Filipe Abrantes, a Elisabete Joaquim, o A.A.Alves e o Miguel Noronha eram capazes de gostar.
Eu li o livro em português e em carbono, mas quem o queira ler em inglês e em silício, pode ir aqui (ou aqui).
Diga-se que nas versões online não aparece a nota que o autor escreveu em 1912 (cerca de 3 décadas depois da publicação original), em que este diz que a parte final do conto (a parte a partir de "Certo dia, dois anos após a partida..."/"One day, two years after the parting...") só lá está porque "tinha que estar", face aos padrões literários da época, e em que descreve um final alternativo para a história mais ao gosto dele.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 08:51
Thursday, December 16, 2010
This is a story about a new era—one where, in the words of the security specialist Bruce Schneier, "the government is learning what the music and movie industries were forced to learn years ago: it's easy to copy and distribute digital files." If WikiLeaks shut its doors tomorrow, disgruntled soldiers or secretaries or bankers or bureaucrats or cops or managers or their nosy spouses could still send secret documents to Cryptome instead. Or perhaps to OpenLeaks, a forthcoming site in the same genre. Or to any of the other operations of this sort that may appear in the coming years. Or they could just release the information directly to the world, emailing items anonymously to the media or releasing big chunks of data as a torrent.
If you have access to secrets you'd like to share, you no longer need to persuade Bob Woodward or Seymour Hersh to be your intermediary. And the larger the institution with secrets to keep, the more opportunities for leaking there will be.
How will those big institutions react to this leaky new era? One theory says they'll keep fewer secrets and behave with greater care. Forced into the sunshine, they'll revise their behavior; if they're more likely to be caught misbehaving, then they'll be less likely to misbehave.
A rival theory says they'll just try harder not to be caught. Closed hierarchies will close themselves further in a desperate attempt to stop the flow of information. Assange himself suggested this would happen in an essay he wrote in 2006, which the blogger Aaron Bady exhumed and explored in a widely cited post last month. In Bady's words, "the more opaque [an organization] becomes to itself (as a defense against the outside gaze), the less able it will be to 'think' as a system, to communicate with itself. The more conspiratorial it becomes, in a certain sense, the less effective it will be as a conspiracy." Under the sunshine of WikiLeaks, an authoritarian organization "will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire."
The two theories aren't really mutually exclusive. Different institutions will react in different ways to the new environment, and as the consequences of each approach become clear the world will haphazardly evolve.
In the longer term, the paramount issue is that those limits won't even work. I remember when the record companies were filled with men and women who thought the key to stopping online filesharing was to shut down a company called Napster. I remember when a teenaged programmer named Shawn Fanning was attracting the sort of press that Julian Assange is getting today. In 2010, the average 14-year-old probably doesn't know who Fanning is. He might not even recognize the name Napster. But he knows how to download music for free.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:59
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I’m still a couch potato, box of tissues close at hand. So I’m watching stuff my Tivo thought I might want to see, which happened to include the old Bond film Thunderball.
And I found myself thinking about inequality.
You see, there’s a scene early in the movie when the minions of SPECTRE, the evil conspiracy, are shown reporting on their profits from dastardly activities. And the numbers are … ludicrously small. I know that’s a running gag in Austin Powers, But it’s true, it’s true!
Even the big one — demanding a ransom for two stolen nuclear warheads — is 100 million pounds, $280 million. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $2 billion — or one-eighth of the Goldman Sachs bonus pool.
It’s just an indicator of how huge top incomes have become that what were once viewed as impressive numbers, the kind of thing only arch-villains might demand, now look trivial. Or maybe the other way to look at it is that we have a lot more arch-villains around than we used to.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:51
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Twin brothers Raymon and Richard Miller are the father and uncle to a 3-year-old little girl. The problem is, they don't know which is which. Or who is who.[Via Gene Expression]
The identical Missouri twins say they were unknowingly having sex with the same woman. And according to the woman's testimony, she had sex with each man on the same day. Within hours of each other.
When the woman in question, Holly Marie Adams, got pregnant, she named Raymon the father, but he contested and demanded a paternity test, bringing his own brother Richard to court.
But a paternity test in this case could not help. The test showed that both brothers have over a 99.9 percent probability of being the daddy— and neither one wants to pay the child support. The result of the test has not only brought to light the limits of DNA evidence, it has also led to a three-year legal battle, a Miller family feud and a little girl who may never know who her real father is.
It seems, however, that the Millers and the courts will never know the true father.
"With identical twins, even if you sequenced their whole genome you wouldn't find difference…they're clones," said Dr. Bob Gaensslen, a forensic scientist at Orchid Cellmark labs in Texas. "There are a few things in science that are cut and dried and this is one of them."
Dr. Bob Giles, a paternity testing expert, agrees. "There is simply no test that explains the difference between two identical twins," he said.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:15
Monday, December 13, 2010
Há uns anos atrás, foi a uma entrevista para um emprego no BCP.
Inicialmente, o senhor do banco explicou a emprego para que estavamos a concorrer - era para trabalhar nuns balcões que o banco ia instalar nuns supermercados, e que parte do trabalho seria falar com as pessoas que estavam na fila para o peixe a apresentar-lhes os produtos do banco.
Depois dessa apresentação, fizerem entrevistas individuais com cada candidato, em que eu disse logo algo como "Vou ser franco consigo; acho que não tenho jeito para esse trabalho", acabando aí a entrevista.
O que eu devia ter dito - "Sabe este meu endereço de mail, firstname.lastname@example.org? Baseia-se no meu nome de código dos tempos da quarta classe"; aproveitando a conversa ter incidido sobre a minha infância, tentava saltar daí para algumas séries que gostava de ver na televisão nesses anos, talvez divagasse um pouco sobre as virtudes do sumo de limão, e (sobretudo se tivesse tido o bom senso de levar uma gabardine em vez de um casaco de fato à entrevista) provavelmente teria sido logo recrutado (não para vender produtos bancários junto ao peixe, claro; estou a pensar mais em assessor directo da administração para operações sensíveis no Médio Oriente).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 23:01
In the press reports and police statements surrounding what happened in Parliament Square on Thursday, we’re often told that “violent extremists” ruined it for “peaceful protestors”.
But the prepared troublemakers were a very small tiny minority. And yet the images you have seen of the riot in Parliament Square show police battling with thousands of protestors. So what happened?
Quite simply, ordinary people joined in. As I was not on the front row of the protest – or riot, as it quickly became – I stayed clear of the violence. But I’ll be honest: I was swept up along with the enthusiasm of the situation just like the thousands around me. Very quickly it became us versus them; the ordinary people dressed in plain clothes taking batons to the head and facing horse charges, and the masked riot police trying to get at and hurt people like us.
So how and why did the situation deteriorate so quickly? Because it was exhilarating to be part of it.
Insincere apologies for breaking the taboo, but this is a brute truth the pious po-faced tut-tutters of the media and political power dishonestly deny to be the case. Riots happen because they are exciting, because they are fun, because ordinary people who did not come for any violence or trouble suddenly find themselves in the fray and simply do not want to leave. The shackles of society are off, and the animal thrill of conflict is pumping through everybody’s system. And whilst fear and the instinct to run can get the upper hand – like when the horses charge you – adrenaline for the most part takes over. And hence people stand, and they fight.
Those who would now dismiss me as a mindless thug should be aware that this equally applies to the police on the other side. It is simply obvious to anybody who’s seen riot police in action that they enjoy the ruck every bit as much as those they are fighting. And why should that be a surprise? They are only human too; ruled by the same passions and suddenly unleashed animal instincts as the rest of us.
It is true that at 2pm on Thursday 9th November, the anti-cuts demonstration could be accurately divided into violent extremists waiting to strike, and peaceful protestors only there to march and sing. But by 3.30pm, after the batons and the horse charges, the flares and the missiles, such a distinction was spurious. The riot had started, there was violence on both sides, and we were suddenly all in it together.
We can have a simplistic discourse about “violent extremists” and “peaceful protestors”, if we want; an easy narrative in which the Bad Guys ruined it for the Good. But if we stay at that level we’ll never get beyond inaccurate platitudes, and never understand the dynamics of riots as they actually happen in practice. If the police are serious about stopping this sort of thing in future they’ll take this brute truth on board. But that is to assume that they really are interested in stopping this sort of thing in future – and there’s all sorts of reasons to doubt that.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 10:35
In The Transparent Society, David Brin argued that developments in surveillance technology were leading us to a world where everything you did would be observed, recordable, and searchable. That outcome could not, in his view, be prevented. The best we could hope for was transparency in both directions, a world where the cops can watch us but we can also watch them.
Early evidence that he might be right appeared in incidents where police officers made the mistake of misbehaving when someone had a video camera—more recently a cell phone—pointed at them. Thinking about the WikiLeaks case, it occurred to me that it was a further development in the same direction.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:39
"Philosophers are the smartest humanists, physicists the smartest scientists, economists the smartest social scientists"É curiosa a referência, nos comentários, a pessoas irem para Biologia para fugir à matemática (em Portugal, quem quer fugir à matemática vai logo para Humanísticas no 10º ano, mas imagino que o sistema escolar norte-americano seja muito diferente do nosso).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:06
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Este post do Rui Botelho Rodrigues fez me pensar que se não tivesse havido a diaspora judia e eles tivessem tido sempre o seu território, os judeus seriam quase tão famosos e teriam tido tanta influência na cultura e na civilização como os samaritanos, os mandeus e os yazidis.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 22:43
Quem só ia comprar um quilo vai comprar três.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 22:02
Parece que um grupo de activistas da WikiLeaks entrou em ruptura com Assange e vai criar uma nova organização.
Na verdade, a longo prazo creio que isso vai tornar ainda mais difícil às organizações poderosas guardar segredos, já que assim quem queira denunciar alguma coisa tem dois sites para onde pode mandar documentos (quase duplicando, portanto, a probabilidade de algum deles decidir publicá-los).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 03:16
Thursday, December 09, 2010
I would love to see Dinesh D’Souza and all the other right-wing hysterics who are hawking the idea of Obama’s scary Otherness explain how these diplomatic cables contribute in any way to their thesis. I would love to see them nominate their favorite dispatches that demonstrate Obama’s efforts to undermine American power and to elevate socialism, Third World radicalism, and anti-colonialism over traditional American interests. To the contrary, the cables demonstrate a continuity of American foreign policy and discourse from the Bush to the Obama administrations. The Obama-era dispatches show the same assumptions about the need to maintain American supremacy as have been harbored by every previous administration. And I doubt whether Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld would have deplored the idea of gathering biometric or other identity information on fellow diplomats.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 21:00
With the beginning of the extradition proceedings against Julian Assange, we finally get to see exactly what the allegations against him are.Uma auto-crítica - pelo menos algumas destas acusações são mais sérias do que eu referi há uns dias como sendo as acusações contra Assange.
Gemma Lindfield, for the Swedish authorities, told the court Assange was wanted in connection with four allegations.
1. Miss A said she was victim of “unlawful coercion” on the night of 14 August in Stockholm. The court heard Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.
2. She alleged Assange “sexually molested” Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her “express wish” one should be used.
3. She claimed Assange “deliberately molested” Miss A on 18 August “in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity”.
4. She accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on 17 August without a condom while she was asleep at her Stockholm home.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 20:34
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Nesta altura do ano, algumas empresas de dimensão nacional (bem, pelo menos uma...) têm o hábito de organizar jantares de natal a nível nacional (estilo, um jantar em Lisboa para todos os funcionários) e encarregar os chefes locais de arregimentar/pressionar os trabalhadores a lá irem.
Há primeira vista (e à segunda) isto parece o cúmulo da irracionalidade económica, porque todos perdem - os trabalhadores, mesmo tendo jantar e transporte à borla, perdem várias horas de tempo livre (provavelmente mais valiosas que o custo de um jantar); aliás, o facto de muitos trabalhadores terem que ser mais ou menos pressionados a ir (com argumentos do género "se calhar vão fazer reduções de pessoal e é bom que o nosso serviço esteja bem visto") indica que isso representa um custo para eles.
Já os proprietários da empresa, à partida, também perdem, pelo simples facto de a empresa estar a gastar dinheiro em jantares e a fretar transportes.
Então, como se pode explicar isso?
A única explicação que vejo terá com a velha teoria, que esteve na moda nos anos 60, foi largamente esquecida nos 80/90, e voltou outra vez à moda com a recente crise, de que os gestores formam um grupo à parte, com interesses distintos, tanto dos trabalhadores como dos capitalistas: um gestor organizar um mega-jantar é sinal que ele consegue motivar (seja com o pau ou com a cenoura) a irem a esse jantar, o que será um sinal da sua "capacidade de liderança", e valorizando-o no "mercado dos gestores".
[Publicação cruzada no Vias de Facto; podem comentar lá se quiserem]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 23:46
C. Bradley Thompson, a political science professor at Clemson University, has recently teamed up with Yaron Brook to write Neoconservatism: An Obiturary for an Idea, a classical-liberal critique of the neoconservative movement. The book systematically examines the economic, political, and cultural underpinnings of neoconservatism, exploring its relationship to the philosophy of Leo Strauss and its influential and menacing ideas about warfare. I put six questions to Thompson about the book[Via Andrew Sullivan]
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 22:09
Post has attempted to clarify some of the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28 forced removal of President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may have committed illegalities and may have even violated the constitution. There is equally no doubt from our perspective that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was illegitimate. Nevertheless, it is also evident that the constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by the President and resolving conflicts between the branches of government.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:16
Monday, December 06, 2010
Let me start by suggesting that the politicians and pundits calling for Julian Assange's head are playing into his hands. As all eyes track the international albino of mystery, the human and physical infrastructure of a much larger, more distributed movement continues to expand and consolidate far beyond the spotlight. If Mr Assange is murdered tomorrow, if WikiLeaks' servers are cut off for a few hours, or a few days, or forever, nothing fundamental is really changed. With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.(...)
Consider what young Bradley Manning is alleged to have accomplished with a USB key on a military network. It was impossible 30 years ago to just waltz out of an office building with hundreds of thousands of sensitive files. The mountain of boxes would have weighed tons. Today, there are millions upon millions of government and corporate employees capable of downloading massive amounts of data onto tiny devices. The only way WikiLeaks-like exposés will stop is if those with the permissions necessary to access and copy sensitive data refuse to do so. But as long as some of those people retain a sense of right and wrong—even if it is only a tiny minority—these leaks and these scandals will continue.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:37
Men at work: hoes, ploughs, and steel, por Razib Khan e The Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough [pdf], por Alberto Alesina, Paola Giuliano e Nathan Nunn.
A tese central desses artigos - as sociedades que tradicionalmente usavam a enxada na agricultura tendem a ter mais igualdade entre os sexos das que usavam o arado (já que o arado requererá mais força muscular, logo nas sociedades-arado é maior a tendência para as mulheres ficarem em casa e os homens irem trabalhar nos campos, enquanto nas sociedades-enxada tanto homens e mulheres vão para o campo) e essa diferença tende a subsistir (pelo menos algumas gerações) mesmo fora da agricultura (os autores do segundo texto concluem que nas regiões da India onde predomina o uso da enxada, as mulheres participam mais na força de trabalho, não apenas na agricultura, mas também na indústria e nos serviços).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 09:00
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
The alien embargo and other follies, por Razib Khan:
Já agora, a minha opinião sobre o assunto - para os especialistas uma bactéria que pode usar arsénio no lugar do fósforo deve ser uma revelação surpreendente e importantíssima (pelo menos dei uma olhado sobre alguns sites sobre ciência e estava tudo maravilhado); para um completo leigo, a reacção natural será "E...?"; para um leigo que tenha um conhecimento superficial sobre bicharocos, a reacção será algo como "E...? Se há bactérias que produzem enxofre a partir do ácido sulfídrico (H2S) como as plantas produzem oxigénio a partir da água, qual é a grande novidade de algures uma bactéria substituir um elemento por outro?".
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 17:10
Friday, December 03, 2010
But then Interpol launched its manhunt, rendering Assange a cross-border fugitive. So it seemed the "sex charges" might be more serious than initially thought.
But what are they?
They're not "rape," everyone agrees--because the sex was consensual. They also aren't unspecified "molestation."
What they appear to be is a violation of a Swedish law against "having sex without a condom."
Interestingly, even that charge doesn't appear to precisely apply in this case.
A condom was apparently used--initially. But it broke. So the dispute is about whether it broke "accidentally" (he said) or it broke "on purpose" (she said).
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 13:38
Thursday, December 02, 2010
The Unite trade union has proposed a general strike in opposition to the Government’s economic programme and in support of an alternative strategy.Adenda: o "orçamento alternativo" (introdução - documento [pdf] - anexo [pdf]) proposto pelo "Unite"
The union has also proposed a campaign of civil disobedience including the non-payment of any water or property taxes introduced in the forthcoming budget.
Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said the union would be putting its proposals for national strike to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the weeks ahead.
Mr Kelly comments came as Unite published what it descried as a viable alternative budgetary strategy.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:29
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Discussão nos comentários d' O Insurgente:
imagine-se uma economia com pescadores, agricultores e construtores navais. Imagine-se que os pescadores não vão sempre à pesca porque têm pouca clientela.CN:
Agora imagine-se que alguém decide gastar umas moedas de ouro que tinha guardado no sotão para fazer uma grande festa e paga a um pescador (que em principio não estava a pensar ir ao mar) para lhe ir apanhar uns polvos e uns sargos.
[Q]ue redução do investimento houve aqui[?] – o dinheiro gasto para pagar os polvos e os sargos não é dinheiro que de outra maneira teria sido gasto para construir mais um barco (é dinheiro que de outra maneira teria ficado guardado à espera de uma melhor oportunidade para ser gasto). A mim parece-me que o aumento da procura originou um aumento da produção (foram pescados polvos e sargos que não teriam sido pescados de outra maneira).
Tirar dinheiro do sótão (aumentar a quantidade de dinheiro em circulação) faz aumentar os preços, colocar dinheiro no sótão (diminuir a quantidade de dinheiro em circulação) faz diminuir os preços.Creio que toda a discussão sobre a correcção ou não do keynesianismo pode-se resumir a três questões:
A relação entre consumo e investimento guiada pela taxa de juro livremente fixada não tem de se alterar por causa disso. As pessoas podem passar a usar mais moeda, mas a proporção entre consumo e investimento manter-se (agora, a preços mais elevados).
A - é expectável que num mercado livre haja alterações rápidas e significativas da procura total de moeda?
B - se houver um aumento da procura de moeda (ou uma redução da oferta), isso originará uma redução mais ou menos equivalente dos preços, ou essa tal redução dos preços levará anos a se consumar?
C - se a resposta a A for a segunda (demorar anos), é expectável que o Estado/banco central/cooperativa de crédito consigam mais ou menos "adivinhar" o aumento da oferta de moeda e/ou do consumo público necessária para reequilibrar a economia, ou os mais provável é que (devido à imperfeição do conhecimento humano em geral, e do das organizações centralizadas em particular) se enganem no tipo e quantidade de "remédio" a aplicar, aumentando ainda mais e confusão e agravando a crise?
Se as respostas forem
A - sim
B - levará anos
C - o Estado/banco central é capaz de descobrir (ou andar lá perto) a quantidade de "estimulo" necessário
o keynesianismo estará correcto
A - sim
B - levará anos
C - é quase impossível saber qual a politica correcta no momento correcto
O keynesianismo estará correcto acerca das crises económicas, mas errado na solução proposta
A - [tanto faz]
B - os preços ajustam-se quase em tempo real
C - [irrelevante]
o keynesianismo estará errado (penso que é mais ou menos essa a posição das "expectativas racionais", dos "ciclos económicos reais" e de Milton Friedman desde os anos 70)
A - não
B - levará anos
C - é quase impossível saber qual a politica correcta no momento correcto
o keynesianismo também estará errado (creio que era mais ou menos essa a posição de Milton Friedman nos anos 50/60, e a "escola austríaca" também só me parece fazer sentido se adoptar uma posição destas).
A minha opinião pessoal - o ponto fraco do keynesianismo parece-me ser exactamente o C.
The Irish “program” solves exactly nothing – it simply kicks the can down the road. A public debt that will now top out at around 130 per cent of GDP has not been reduced by a single cent. The interest payments that the Irish sovereign will have to make have not been reduced by a single cent, given the rate of 5.8% on the international loan. After a couple of years, not just interest but also principal is supposed to begin to be repaid. Ireland will be transferring nearly 10 per cent of its national income as reparations to the bondholders, year after painful year.
This is not politically sustainable, as anyone who remembers Germany’s own experience with World War I reparations should know. A populist backlash is inevitable. The Commission, the ECB and the German Government have set the stage for a situation where Ireland’s new government, once formed early next year, rejects the budget negotiated by its predecessor. Do Mr. Trichet and Mrs. Merkel have a contingency plan for this?
Nor is the situation economically sustainable. Ireland is told to reduce wages and costs. It must engage in “internal devaluation” because the traditional option of external devaluation is not available to a country that lacks its own national currency. But the more successful it is at reducing wages and costs, the heavier its inherited debt load becomes. Public spending then has to be cut even deeper. Taxes have to rise even higher to service the debt of the government and of wards of the state like the banks.
This in turn implies the need for yet more internal devaluation, which further heightens the burden of the debt in a vicious spiral. This is the phenomenon of “debt deflation” about which the Yale economist Irving Fisher wrote in a famous article at the nadir of the Great Depression.
For internal devaluation to work, therefore, the value of debts, expressed in euros, has to be reduced. This would have been particularly easy in the Irish case. A bright red line could have been drawn between the third of the government debt that guarantees the obligations of the banks, on the one hand, and the rest of the government’s debt, on the other. The third representing the debts of the Irish banking system could have been restructured. Bondholders could have been offered 20 cents on the euro, assuming that the Irish banks still have some residual economic value. If those banks are insolvent, the bondholders could – and should – have been wiped out.
Irish public debt would then have topped out at maybe 100% of GDP. And the Irish program would have had a hope of working. As it is, the program will have to be revisited, perhaps as soon as next year. Investors know this, which is why Irish spreads have barely budged.
In fact, this is exactly what the IMF, which at least knows how to add, has been pushing for over the last week. But the Fund was unable to overcome the objections of the Commission, the ECB and the German government.
One can interpret the intransigence of the German government and its EU allies in two ways. First, they understand neither economics nor politics. As Tallyrand said of the Bourbons, “They have learned nothing, and they have forgotten nothing.”
Alternatively, policy makers in Germany – and in France and Britain – are scared to death over what Ireland restructuring its bank debt would do to their own banking systems. If so, the appropriate response is not to lend to Ireland – to pile yet more debt on the country’s existing debt – but to properly capitalize their own banking systems so that the latter can withstand the inevitable Irish restructuring.
But European officials are scared to death not just by their banks but by their publics, who don’t want to hear that public money is required for bank recapitalization. It’s safer, in their view, to kick the can down the road in the hope that something good will turn up – to rely on “the luck of the Irish.”
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 15:43
Optimal currency zones are places where the markets are tightly integrated--i.e., everyone using the same currency is on the same business cycle. The US, incidentally, is not really an optimal currency zone--but we have a number of factors which let us get away with this. With automatic fiscal stabilizers, and emergency assistance to the states, we naturally transfer money from booming regions to those which are underperforming; this considerably eases the strains of mismatched business cycles. We also have very high rates of labor mobility. While there is a narrow educated elite that moves around Europe quite a lot, compared to Americans, most Europeans don't even move around that much in their own country, much less across borders.
This has contributed greatly to the current problems: Ireland's economy was overheating even as Italy's was stagnating. Now that the crash has come, monetary policy is wildly too tight for Ireland, which has contributed to the fiscal death spiral.
The EU can save the euro by tighter integration, both to help synchronize the business cycles, and to enable fiscal transfers when they diverge. The Irish bailout is a move towards this sort of thing, but as Paul Krugman has pointed out, it's probably not going to work. And the project of ever-closer union, already struggling, seems to have been killed dead (or at least, knocked into a deep coma), by the current crisis.
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 01:04