Buxton Index

January 31st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Dijkstra:

The Buxton Index of an entity, i.e. person or organization, is defined as the length of the period, measured in years, over which the entity makes its plans. For the little grocery shop around the corner it is about 1/2,for the true Christian it is infinity, and for most other entities it is in between: about 4 for the average politician who aims at his re-election, slightly more for most industries, but much less for the managers who have to write quarterly reports. The Buxton Index is an important concept because close co-operation between entities with very different Buxton Indices invariably fails and leads to moral complaints about the partner. The party with the smaller Buxton Index is accused of being superficial and short-sighted, while the party with the larger Buxton Index is accused of neglect of duty, of backing out of its responsibility, of freewheeling, etc.. In addition, each party accuses the other one of being stupid. The great advantage of the Buxton Index is that, as a simple numerical notion, it is morally neutral and lifts the difference above the plane of moral concerns.

Egypt again

January 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Worrying what’s going to happen in Egypt today. Still think that, without anybody for Mubarak to talk to, it’s most likely to end in a really nasty way.

Some people have been suggesting phoning random Egyptian numbers with encouragement. There’s something appealing about that, however much it smells of “let’s you and him fight“. I suspect I’d only do it if I had some longstanding connection with Egypt, but then I’m not a big fan of the phone in the first place

Other than that, I imagine the only useful thing to do is bug our own politicians. Ideally, asking them for something concrete — like threatening specific responses if Mubarak starts seriously shooting people later today.

Anybody else have smarter ideas? Since I imagine any spare attention I have tomorrow will float towards Egypt anyway, I may as well try to do something semi-useful with it.

Egypt: getaway plans

January 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Issandr El Amrani on managing protest:

My own experience is that elite Egyptians tend to think in terms of getaway plans, because they are either deeply in bed with the regime or because they expect an uprising to become a class war

[doh: it’d be interesting to map the world in terms of how much consideration elites give to escape plans. You’d come out with some combination of physical insecurity, political insecurity, and paranoia. Who in Europe has a second passport ‘just in case’? Or realy, really wants one? Almost nobody. But in Egypt? In Israel? In China?]

There has been a dramatic state failure to maintain basic health services and deliver good education. This is perhaps Egypt’s biggest failure. And as in all Arab countries, autocratic political systems have de-intermediated citizens from their rulers. What I mean by this is that the channels to relay popular grievances to governments have been deeply eroded by money and power. This is dangerous, because in the end it blindsides the regimes to the popular mood, and means there are people at the local level who have the moral authority to calm the situation should there be an outburst of anger.

Without leaders, how do you negotiate?

January 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

The organized opposition don’t matter much to the protests in Egypt. Everything is being arranged online, and through informal networks.

Given that — how are they ever going to reach a compromise with the government?

In a movement with leaders, this follows an intuitive pattern. The authorities talk to the leaders, grant some of their demands, and persuade them to call off the protests. If needed, they can add some extra pressure with personal bribes or threats.

Without leaders, this just doesn’t work. The government can offer things to the protesters, but has no way of getting a halt to the protests in return. So any concessions they do make will just encourage the rebels to continue with further demands.

So: either the demonstrations gradually peter out, without being able to force any change. Or the government reacts with violence, terrifies people out of joining the protests. Or, just possibly, things escalate until the government falls, accompanied by who knows how much violence.

But I can’t see how the Jan25 movement — or any movement without an ability to negotiate — can end with some kind of moderate, limited success.

Am I wrong?

Egypt link-dump

January 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I know nothing about Egypt. Or Tunisia. Or Sudan. Or Lebanon. Or Albania. Or — there’s a lot of news happening at the moment, isn’t there?

But here are some of the articles I’ve found about Egypt that get beyond “woo! riots!“:

Al-ahram on the significance of the date:

Police Day [Jan 25] is meant to mark the day when the police forces took to the street in Ismailia to fight the British Occupation.

“The decision may be controversial but I think it was a good choice,” says Essam El Erian, the media spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group. “Six decades ago the police did their patriotic duty and fought the British occupation, now we ask them to also fight against a corrupt government that has rigged the elections.”

Marc Lynch on the Arabic media:

During the key period when the protests were picking up steam, Al Jazeera aired a documentary cultural program on a very nice seeming Egyptian novelist and musical groups, and then to sports. Now (10:30am EST) it is finally covering the protests in depth, but its early lack of coverage may hurt its credibility. I can’t remember another case of Al Jazeera simply punting on a major story in a political space which it has owned.

Simon Tisdall on protest tactics — how this is what happens when you don’t go through the same ritual demonstrations:

Egyptians have been here before. The so-called Cairo spring of 2005 briefly lifted hopes of peaceful reform and open elections
….
But Tuesday’s large-scale protests were different in significant ways, sending unsettling signals to a regime that has made complacency a way of life. “Day of Rage” demonstrators in Cairo did not merely stand and shout in small groups, as is usual. They did not remain in one place. They joined together – and they marched. And in some cases, the police could not, or would not, stop them.
….
an ad hoc coalition of students, unemployed youths, industrial workers, intellectuals, football fans and women, connected by social media such as Twitter and Facebook, instigated a series of fast-moving, rapidly shifting demos across half a dozen or more Egyptian cities. The police could not keep up – and predictably, resorted to violence.

And, since they seem to be mentioned almost nowhere else, Global voices lists the demonstrators’ demands

  • To raise the minimum wage limit to LE 1200 and to get an unemployment aid.
  • To cancel the emergency status in the country , to dismiss Habib El-Adly and to release all detainees without court orders.
  • Disbanding the current parliament , to have a new free election and to amend the constitution in order to have two presidential limits only.

Also, Anonymous are in the thick of it. Again. They’ve apparently turned LOIC on Egyptian government websites. This is after Tunisia, where they were about the first outside group to get involved. Meanwhile in Spain, having contributed to the December protests which prevented passage of an anti-download law, they’re back at it as the government takes another shot at it.

It’s like the gang of bored teenagers on the street corner has turned into a politicised mob.

Obligatory riot porn: Stopping a water cannon, Tiananmen-style. And something less violent

Egypt link-dump

January 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

I know nothing about Egypt. Or Tunisia. Or Sudan. Or Lebanon. Or Albania. Or — there’s a lot of news happening at the moment, isn’t there?

But here are some of the articles I’ve found about Egypt that get beyond “woo! riots!“:

Al-ahram on the significance of the date:

Police Day [Jan 25] is meant to mark the day when the police forces took to the street in Ismailia to fight the British Occupation.

“The decision may be controversial but I think it was a good choice,” says Essam El Erian, the media spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group. “Six decades ago the police did their patriotic duty and fought the British occupation, now we ask them to also fight against a corrupt government that has rigged the elections.”

Marc Lynch on the Arabic media:

During the key period when the protests were picking up steam, Al Jazeera aired a documentary cultural program on a very nice seeming Egyptian novelist and musical groups, and then to sports. Now (10:30am EST) it is finally covering the protests in depth, but its early lack of coverage may hurt its credibility. I can’t remember another case of Al Jazeera simply punting on a major story in a political space which it has owned.

Simon Tisdall in the Guardian

Egyptians have been here before. The so-called Cairo spring of 2005 briefly lifted hopes of peaceful reform and open elections
….
But Tuesday’s large-scale protests were different in significant ways, sending unsettling signals to a regime that has made complacency a way of life. “Day of Rage” demonstrators in Cairo did not merely stand and shout in small groups, as is usual. They did not remain in one place. They joined together – and they marched. And in some cases, the police could not, or would not, stop them.
….
an ad hoc coalition of students, unemployed youths, industrial workers, intellectuals, football fans and women, connected by social media such as Twitter and Facebook, instigated a series of fast-moving, rapidly shifting demos across half a dozen or more Egyptian cities. The police could not keep up – and predictably, resorted to violence. an ad hoc coalition of students, unemployed youths, industrial workers, intellectuals, football fans and women, connected by social media such as Twitter and Facebook, instigated a series of fast-moving, rapidly shifting demos across half a dozen or more Egyptian cities. The police could not keep up – and predictably, resorted to violence.

Obligatory riot porn: Stopping a water cannon, Tiananmen-style. And something less violent

And, since they seem to be mentioned almost nowhere else, Global voices lists the demonstrators’ demands

  • To raise the minimum wage limit to LE 1200 and to get an unemployment aid.
  • To cancel the emergency status in the country , to dismiss Habib El-Adly and to release all detainees without court orders.
  • Disbanding the current parliament , to have a new free election and to amend the constitution in order to have two presidential limits only.

Also, Anonymous are in the thick of it. Again. They’ve apparently turned LOIC on Egyptian government websites. This is after Tunisia, where they were about the first outside group to get involved. Meanwhile in Spain, having contributed to the December protests which prevented passage of an anti-download law, they’re back at it as the government takes another shot at it.

It’s like the gang of bored teenagers on the street corner has turned into a politicised mob.

Women, Men, and Music: the XY Factor, Part 1 | Bad Reputation

January 25th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Rhian @ bad reputation:

I intellectually analyse the music I love, scouring its lyrical content and its social and cultural context for meaning to enhance my enjoyment of it, but not necessarily to justify my enjoying it in the first place. I am equally interested simply in experiencing its rhythm, its flow, its grind, its melody, the way it makes me want to move as well as the mechanics of how it achieves that, its impact on my body as well as my brain. I attach as much weight to a physical and emotional response as to a cerebral anatomising of music.

Yes, yes, yes! Probably I place far more weight on interpretation compared to Rhian, but the way she phrases things:)

Palin schoss mit!

January 23rd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Reading about the connection of the Bild to Rudi Dutschke’s shooting, I can’t help thinking about the parallels to the Gifford shooting in the US. The anti-Springer slogan in ’68 was “Bild schoss mit!”. Perhaps now we need ‘Palin schoss mit’?

origin of the fourth estate

January 22nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Where the term Fourth Estate comes from:

The idea of the press as a “Fourth Estate” came to prominence during the nineteenth century. In 1837 Robert Carlyle referred to “A Fourth Estate of Noble Editors” in The French Revolution: A History, and in On Heroes and Hero Worship (1841) stated that “Burke said there were Three Estates in parliament; but in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all”. Carlyle continued: “Literature is our Parliament too. Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy. Invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable.”

Informational Hygiene

January 21st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

‘Informational Hygiene’ is a concept dreamt up by Neal Stephenson in his classic cyberpunk novel ‘Snow Crash’. Stephenson riffs on the idea of memes as mind viruses; his conceit is that memes exist with the power not only to propagate themselves and convey ideology as a side-effect, but to destroy the minds which play host to them. Ancient cultures, plagued by these mind viruses, developed forms of cultural protection against them:

Monocultures, like a field of corn, are susceptible to infections, but genetically diverse cultures, like a prairie, are extremely robust. After a few thousand years, one new language developed – Hebrew – that possessed exceptional flexibility and power. The deuteronomists, a group of radical monotheists in the sixth and seventh centuries B.C., were the first to take advantage of it. They lived in a time of extreme nationalism and xenophobia, which made it easier for them to reject foreign ideas like Asherah worship. They formalized their old stories into the Torah and implanted within it a law that insured its propagation throughout history – a law that said, in effect, ‘make an exact copy of me and read it every day.’ And they encouraged a sort of informational hygiene, a belief in copying things strictly and taking great care with information, which as they understood, is potentially dangerous. They made data a controlled substance.

Information hygiene has developed a life beyond the pages of this book. [it’s not the only concept to do so — Snow Crash is also the book that inspired Google Earth]. It has a slighty creepy feel, but the principle is sound. The processes inside your head depend on what you put into it. So you should be careful about what you read, for example — an idea, even one you consciously disagree with, will have mental side-effects.

You could take informational hygiene as an injunction not to read, say, racist or sexist rants. I’m not so bothered about that side of things; I believe you can reject such id