Archive for September 2010
A regular occurrence nowadays is hysteria over child porn—often coupled with cries for increased policing, reduced civil rights, Internet blocks, or similar. A disturbing case was the FAQ of the Cologne policee, which dealt at length and almost exclusively with child porn when I visited it about a year ago—at the moment, the contents are far more appropriate and helpful (just possibly because of the email I sent to complain). Even everyday citizens without agendas are obviously influenced by the bogeyman-propaganda. (Cf. e.g. a post where I recently commentede.) This entry is written partially to have an easy link to give to these people.
The scope of the problem is often exaggerated by several orders of magnitude. A previous article of mine puts the absurd claim that there would be 14 million (!) child-porn sites under the loupe of basic reasoning—I have later seen numbers that indicate a true figure somewhere between one and two thousand. (That article discusses several other issues, including the dangers of counting IP addresses as individual people, and the problems caused by an ever expanding definition of what is considered “evil”.)
(As an aside, looking at Operation Ore, digital evidence is not only so easy for the layman to misinterpret, but so exceedingly easy to plant that I would personally recommend strong limitations to its use in courts—including entirely disallowing computers/hard-drives that have been confiscated by the police.)
An issue recurring repeatedly (at least in Sweden and Germany) in recent times is that of Internet blocks, e.g. that ISPs become legally obliged to filter out pages on a governmental blacklist—this despite expert statements and practical experiences indicating that this is an inefficient and intrusive approach. (Source in Germane.)
Say no to abuse of children—and to exaggerated, unfounded, and destructive claims around child-porn.
A very interesting discussion on this topic has arisen on another bloge.
A few issues of note:
A number of commenters feel that it is in order to delete comments that are too rude, lacking in constructiveness, or fall in e.g. the category of racism.
To a part they are correct; however, great caution must be taken to avoid over-interpretation and highly subjective deletes. Deleting based on opinion (e.g. alleged racism) is something that I emphatically advice against (see previous entries); in particular, as this is a highly subjective area and an area where many systematically abuse accusations of e.g. racism or sexism to distort the debate.
As one commenter succinctly expressed it:
Nobody knows the truth. Therefore it’s wrong to disallow any opinions at all. You should debate to reach constructive insights instead of making subjective assumptions about what is right and wrong.
An illustrating quote that shows the common sentiment of “my blog; my rules”:
I delete absolutely any comment that I feel like deleting, and I allow absolutely any comment I feel like allowing, and I don’t feel even slightly, remotely, even a tiny little bit inclined to justify or defend it anytime in any way.
Conversely, I don’t feel that anyone is in any way obligated to post any of my comments to their blogs (including this one). In the same way that you can walk up to me in a bar and start talking to me but I don’t have to listen, and vice versa.
What this overlooks: A comment on a blog is not (generally) a statement made to another person, but to the public. It is, in particular, not something that must be directed at the blog author—often the target is the readers of the blog. By restricting the opportunity others have to express their opinions on the matter, the public suffers. A better analogy would be a speech in a public place: The speaker has his say (the blog entry), invites the world to voice its opinions (the comments)—and when someone has an opinion that is unsuitable, poorly expressed, or similar, a “The world, but not you!” comes from the mouth of the speaker. (Other reasons why this attitude is problematic is discussed through-out this article series.)
As a general rule of life: That one has the formal right to do something does not automatically mean that one has an ethical right to do so—let alone should do so. A blogger should feel free to consider himself an aboslute ruler; however, he should make sure to be a benevolent dictatorw—not an arbitrary tyrant.
The topic of spam comments comes up repeatedly. The need to delete spam, however, is a different issue from deleting “real” comments—sufficiently different that they are likely best off being discussed separately. Consider, in the above analogy, that the speech is ended and someone stands up to say “Beautiful speech! Now that you all are here, I would like to invite you to my store where you can buy glass figurines for only $199.99!”—just a different beast.
I made a few comments myself, including two points that I likely have failed to emphasize enough in this series:
I have spent much time reading various discussions on various topics, including the talk pages on Wikipedia. I have found that it is often the back-and-forth, the contrast between different ideas and opinions, arguments and counter-arguments that best help me build a better understanding of the topic.
This does require a receptive reader and it does require reasoning and knowledgeable debaters; however, when it works, it works extremely well—far better than a one-man pulpit.
We should, as bloggers, have the humility to recognize that we have something to learn from our commenters. Disabling comments increases the risk (emails notwithstanding) that we miss what they have to teach.
The topic of eBooks is common in the blogosphere—often as a discussion of whether eBooks are better or worse than regular books, which has the better future, or similar. (An examplee.)
This is all fine and dandy. What disturbs me, however, are the many incorrect assumptions made about eBooks. Typical mistakes include believing that eBooks are read on a Kindle (or a similar device), have a particular format, or are DRM infected.
If Amazon and its likes had their way, this might be the case; however, an eBook is simply a book in an electronic format—no more, no less. An HTML or plain-text file can also be an eBook, eBooks are regularly read on normal computers, and there are many, many eBooks that are free from DRM restrictions. Notably, a very sizable part of the classic literature is available free-of-charge on websites like Project Gutenberge.
Make sure to not confuse eBooks in general with the heavily restricted and user-unfriendly eBooks that make out a sizable part of the commercial volume.
Take advantage of the many user-friendly, DRM-free, and free-of-charge eBooks that are available. Yes, if you want to (legally) read the latest Stephenie Meyer, you may have to shell out money; but, as a counter-weight, everything up to and including (most of) the Victorian era is in the public domain—as are many works of the 20th century and even a few of the 21st. (Including works dealing with vampires, fairies, and romance—and works that have stood the passage of time, where Meyer may be a mayfly.)
When you do buy eBooks try to stay away from those that are DRM-infested or in non-standard formats (safe alternatives: plain-text, HTML, PDF) to the degree possible. If sufficiently many do so, there is a chance that the industry will see the light.
One of the most common propaganda tricks from feminists is the claim that women only earn x cents/öre/pence/whatnot for every dollar/krona/pound/whatnot a man earns—in a US context, 77 cents is the most common number. (See also my article on the infamous Anna Ardin for a related example.) This highly misleading claim is either given alone, without context, or made into a direct lie by adding claims about equal pay for equal work. The hitch is that the measurement used compares apples and oranges—it shows unequal pay for unequal work: Women already have equal pay for equal work. (In many advanced countries, including Sweden, the US, and Germany. Indeed, I have heard some claim that women earn more than men in Sweden.)
If we were to alter things so that women, by this twisted measurement, earned a dollar on the dollar, then men would be severely discriminated against. The claim for equal pay amounts to “All employees are equal, but some are more equal than others.” and wanting to eat the cake and keep it too.
The 77 cents arise from a misleading comparison, ignoring factors like hours worked per week, educational level, area of work (including factors such as physical dangers and qualifications needed), and time with the company.
For two very good articles on the subject, see Do Women and Men Earn Equal Pay in 2007?e and 77 cents on the dollar? The truth about the gender wage gape.
A particular interesting partial explanation is simply prioritisations and risk-taking when choosing jobs and negotiating salaries: Men have a higher unemployment than women (incidentally, something which does not bring the feminists to the barricades…) and it is quite possible that men are simply more prone to pick unemployment over a low-paid job, to go through temporary unemployment while looking for the right position with the right company for the right pay, or to make a negotiating gambit for a higher pay (with the risk of not getting the position). Any individual woman could chose to take the same risk for the same chance at the same gain, and those who do not have to live with their choice—just like the men who make the gamble and lose…
For that matter, making a comparison of pay without factoring in involuntary unemployment is inherently misleading.
“But discrimination is real! I have seen it myself!”
That may be. However, individual cases mean comparatively little for numbers like these and, while individual cases need correction, they are not a support for claims of a systematic problem of this alleged size. Further, many cases that are called discrimination are, in fact, not: Different people, be they men or women, earn differently based on a number of factors, including education, experience, dedication to the employer, self-presentation skills, etc., and any one individual woman earning less than any one individual man (or vice versa) is not an indication of discrimination—no matter what propagandists may want us believe. Further yet, unfair pay is nowhere near being the reserve of women, and it is quite possible that even an objectively unfair pay to a woman is not discrimination: A man in the same position in the same company, likely the one in the cubicle next to hers, stands a high risk of being equally unfairly paid.
For a good example of how not to do it, see e.g. the blog entry which prompted this article to be writtene. (If visiting it, also note the flawed reasoning and ad hominem take by the blog author in the comments, and beware that she kept my first two comments unpublished—including my pointing out that the “women are not worthless” slogan is a straw-man attack: The implicit claim that even a sizable part of the population would consider women worthless is grossly incorrect.)
I note that she has subsequently deleted all comments and also “closed” the comments. Unethical and cowardly, if you ask me.
As was easy to predict, the politically correct in Sweden have been outraged over Sverigedemokraterna’s (SD) gaining a representation, including many bloggers making “I am ashamed […]” statements similar to those heard from the US after the re-election of Bush. (Annoyingly, these statements often come from the more hypocritical, unreasoned or uninformed, and intellectually dishonest bloggers—the kettles calling the pot black.)
There have been four particularly egregious cases, however:
Someone has broken into a database kept by the SD containing data on people who have requested information on the party—and published this list on the Internet as a list of supporters of SD.
Not only is this a gross violation of the rights of the involved individuals and SD, but also, in very many cases, direct libel: To request information does not imply support. Indeed, when I was politically active in my youth, I read more material from the political opponents (including the communist party) than I did from “my own”. (This for two reasons: Firstly, it is a good idea to know the enemy. Secondly, it pays to know other perspectives—in particular, before presuming to criticize those perspectives. Sadly, the latter reason is something that appears lost on most politically active, who attack perspectives and opinions that they mostly know in a distorted version told by their own party.) Unsurprisingly, this list contains many entries that have nothing to do with support, including people wanting to learn SD’s perspective, find out how to fairly criticize them, or similar—and a fair number of fake entries of a joking or insulting character (presumably, the data was originally gathered through a form on the Internet).
The message (be it intended or not): Have anything to do with SD and you will be publicly denounced. Similarly, I have, myself, repeatedly been called an SD supporter/voter, a xenophobe, or similar—just because I stand up for SD’s right to a fair debate.
There is currently a discussion among the established parties to change the procedure for creating (common and influential) parliamentary committees in order to exclude SD from them—while allowing the other parties to be represented. This may be within the realms of what they can legally do, but it is certainly contrary to democratic principles.
News sources have seen it fit to complain that SD (as a result of local elections in parallel to the parliamentary) will be able to supply more lay-judgesw. Apparently, SD’s stance on immigration issues will increase the danger that biased judgements are made—while the same risk is not present when e.g. communists are involved.
A large-scale Facebook campaign is under way, where users post the explicit message that anyone who voted for SD has to “unfriend” them. Apart from being a disproportionate reaction based on a lack of thought of what can have moved someone to vote for SD, this is also a violation of the spirit behind the secret ballot.
Some related earlier discussions:
The news reporting after the election showed the many typical and predictable articles, including one that is typically Swedish: As the second headline at Sweden’s largest morning paper (DN), I found an article highlighting that the proportion of women in parliament had sunke—and that this was caused by Sverigedemokraterna/SD (cf. the two previous entries).
We have an election that brought potentially very far-going changes to the political landscape (cf. the previous entry; in addition, some speculate on an end to Sweden as a leftist nation), and what is put in the spotlight? A minor change in the proportion of women…
One quote of the article well summarized the one-sided attitude of Swedish media:
Att skapa en jämnare fördelning mellan könen i Sverige riksdag har varit en långsam process under de sista hundra åren och först under sista 15 åren har kvinnornas andel av antalet riksdagsledamöter hamnat på en någorlunda jämn fördelning.
(To create a more equal distribution between the sexes in Sweden [sic] parliament has been a slow process during the last hundred years and only in the last 15 years has the women’s share of the number of MPs landed on a relatively even distribution.)
Apart from further support for the observation that Swedish journalists are poor writers:
The quote presupposes that an even distribution is better or fairer than an uneven one. There is, however, not one shred of evidence for this being so. On the contrary, there are strong signs that equal numbers only arise when women are given a leg up. (Reasons include typical priorities of men and women, e.g. career vs. family; the distribution of ability in the high-end of the spectrum; and who is at all interested in doing what.)
It creates the impression that a deliberate attempt at change has taken a full century. In truth, deliberate attempts have only been present in the last two decades (or so)—which corresponds conspicuously to the 15 years of near sameness.
Among the more factual claims of the article, we have that Sweden is currently the nation with the second highest proportion of women in parliament, after Rwanda (!)—but will now fall to fifth or sixth roughly on par with Iceland and Cuba. (As can be seen, a high proportion of women is not the same as success and enlightenment…) In numbers, the drop is from 46.4 % to 43–44 %—which I would consider worthy of a single line of text together with other information about the overall numbers.
I note that the high number of women is largely due to the left, which has brought women to the top even when they were entirely unsuitable, including disasters like the Social-Democratic PM candidate, Mona Sahlinw (abuse of government expense accounts, tax evasion, parking tickets galore, failure as a business woman, low “confidence ratings” even among the party’s supporters), and the former leader of the once-communist party, Gudrun Schymanw (severe drinking problems, tax fraud, out-of-touch-with-reality feminism).
The change is ascribed to SD in a neutral manner (far from a given), but it should be noted that there have been attempts to focus on them as a party of angry young men, with common allegations of sexism and misogynism—indeed, that the typical voter is a young man, low in education, and often unemployed, is explicitly mentioned). As a counter-point, a few numbers taken from a Swedish blog on similar topicse: 5 % of the men and 3 % of the women voted for SD, leaving plenty of room for angry young women. Further, there were almost three times as many women who voted for SD as for Feministiskt Initiativ (a radical feminist party led by the aforementioned Schyman)—so much for misogynism.
The preliminary numbers are in (finals will be available in a few days time). There are several interesting observations to make:
The centre-right alliance increased its percentage of the vote from 48.2 in the last election (2006) to 49.3—but loses its majority in parliament, because …
… Sverigedemokraterna received 5.7 %, which is above the 4 % limit for representation. (To be compared with 2.9 % in the previous election.) This is the first new entry since 1991—and they actually moved ahead of Kristdemokraterna and the former Communist Party, which both landed at 5.6.
While not myself a supporter, I am mildly positive to the result for three reasons: Firstly, this is the one party that clearly distances itself from the evils and irrationality of gender-feminism. Secondly, there are issues concerning themes like immigration where pre-conceived opinions rule and no room for discussion is present. Irrespective of who is ultimately right or wrong (and I do not say that Sverigedemokraterna are right), their mere presence will challenge the orthodoxy—which is positive. Thirdly, it proves that undemocratic methods (including throwing eggs, threatening candidates, media refusing to publish election commercials, and similar) need not prevent democracy.
The controversy around Sverigedemokraterna has been discussed earlier.
There will now be eight (!) parties with parliamentary representation, which starts to seem excessive. Notably, six of the eight are at or below 7.2 %, making most of them satellites to the two major parties:
Socialdemokraterna reached a “mere” 30.9 % in their worst election since 1914. At the all-time high (in 1940), they reached 53.8 %; and had 45.3 % as late as 1994. They, just barely, remain the largest party, however.
Moderaterna reached an all-time high of 30.0 %—the highest non-Socialdemokraterna percentage since 1914. (Notably, the numbers from the first three elections, in 1911 and the spring and autumn of 1914, have a different character from 1917 and onwards, gradual later changes notwithstanding.)
Overall, the alliance will likely remain in government, but with the vågmästare scenario of the previous entry. (As for me: I did not vote, but feel that the lesser, by a considerable margin, of two evils won. A majority victory would have been preferable, obviously.)
All numbers are taken from the Swedish Wikipediaw:sv.