Friday Highlights

Good morning.

  1. A linguistic shift noted … and some exercise advice.
  2. Lying or just inconsistent … at the same time calling for a more open internet and clamping down harder.
  3. Yes the violence was a pretext. But no, I don’t think it was a pretext to get the West to do anything, sorry. Apologies by the White House and calls to pull You Tube (see above) videos are feckless and stupid primarily because this wasn’t about insults or disrespect for religion. This was nothing but power consolidation internally by Islamist groups, anything else is pretext. Explain the rational for treating a pretext as the primary reason? When historically was treating with the pretext as cause the better play?
  4. More on that here.
  5. And silly notions on international norms.
  6. While we all ignore stuff like this.
  7. Heh.
  8. Obvious or not?
  9. Waking up lucky.
  10. Data glut.
  11. Flexibility.
  12. Hours as barter.

16 responses to “Friday Highlights

  1. 3.Yes the violence was a pretext. But

    I think in many Middle Eastern countries, protests against the gov’t are not all that easy to do so when an opportunity presents itself to protest the US (or Israel or the UK), the public jumps on it because it’s a way to attend a demonstration ‘safely’ but also protest things that have nothing to do with the US. For example, reports from Egypt indicate that the protestors are also attacking Egypt’s current President. If ever questioned by gov’t police, the citizen can respond that they were simply defending their religion and not protesting those that had power. Those in power have an uneasy relationship with the protests because on one hand they view them as a tool to let the public vent in a way that would be dangerous for their hold on power if they allowed free speech. On the other hand any public protest opens up the possibility of turning into criticism of the regime.

    On the other hand it’s not all about pretext. I remember the nonesense that happened here in the US over The Last Temptation of Christ with movie theatres who weren’t even showing the movie blocked by hundreds of yahoos, death threats coming into ones that were and plenty of disinformation about what was in the movie, and even politicians and spokespeople normally well schooled in the idea of free speech trying to present convoluted legal theories why the movie should be banned (one I recall was that the movie ‘libeled’ Jesus, which I think would require Jesus to come down and file civil suit for damages in a US court but the idea wasn’t well thought out). Given the level of mob insanity that can be achieved in even relatively secular and liberal countries, it’s not surprising it would be much worse in the ME where religion is taken much more seriously.

    As for ‘apologies’, to date no one has apologized for anything and nor should they. I think it’s probably a good idea that YouTube has blocked access to the video from many M.E. countries. I don’t think anything of value will be done by yanking it. The rumor mill has probably already outdid the movie’s actual offensiveness with made up stuff about it.

  2. 8.Obvious or not?

    Not really. IMO the whole idea of teacher pay for performance is one of those ideas that sounds great until you start looking at it carefully.

    NYC recently had to release some analysis it did of grading teachers by their outcomes, which they released after a big court fight with the unions. This was no simple “Teacher A’s class came in with an average of 60 and left with an average of 75″.

    Lots of variables were included to account for things like how did these kids improve in previous classes, their socio-economic status, the school’s overall condition etc. to create an ‘expected value’ that an average teacher would achieve with the kids. At the end of the year if the teacher exceeded that they would be above average, or missed it they would be below.

    This means one teacher could get kids ‘at 80′ and bring them to ’95’ and be deemed below average while another teacher getting a different class ‘at 60′ and leaving them ‘at 66′ could be deemed an exceptional teacher. What was interesting about the discussion was that even the guy who assembled the data admitted that it was an open question whether the assessments were true. Would teachers consistently rated above average actually end up producing kids who could be measured as better educated than ones that are consistently below average? I also think there was a disturbing ‘jumping’ in the data with teachers being rated poor one year, then good the other. That either means teachers vary wildly in quality one year to the next, or the metric isn’t capable of really telling the difference between a good and bad teacher. The guy said that it would probably take another ten years of data collection and tweaking to really see if there was any relationship here.

    So here are the issues boiled down:

    1. The personal trainer problem: A personal trainer is typically not paid by performance but by session. If you join a gym the factor that says the most about how much your shape improves is not the quality of your trainer but the amount of time and effort you put into it. A very good personal trainer would unfairly be deemed a failure if measured based on your performance. The real magic question here then to what degree do ‘great teachers’ matter? Are ‘great teachers’ really objective to begin with? My impression is that one kid’s great teacher is another kid’s ok teacher. Different kids find it easier to relate to different types of teachers.

    2. Cherry picking: If you can figure out the alogorithm and if you’re ‘in the trenches’ you can probably figure out ways to game it. Perhaps you’ll see some troubled kids and realize that they aren’t as bad as they seem so getting them from 60-66 will actually be kind of easy. So you’ll use your influence to get assigned that class and next thing you know you’re getting bonsus and respect as a ‘hero teacher’. I’m not at all confident the metric can outpace ways to game it. If compensation is tied to the metric, then you have a gaming incentive. If it isn’t then the metric is probably safer.

    3. Inexplicable BS: You’re a great teacher, you find the kids master the content well. They love you, the parents love you, the administration loves you. Yet the metric says the kids should have went to 95 anyway so their score of 94 means you’re actually below average and a ‘bad teacher’. When you demand to know how you can be a bad teacher when the guy next door has a class getting only 70 you’re told that two dozen variables regressed against a million point data set say so.

    I’ll note that service professionals have always been notoriously difficult to turn into metrics. On an assembly line it’s easy to compute how many rivets worker A does per minute error free. A typist can be measured on how many words a minute she types. It’s not so easy to construct metris for others like admins., lawyers, doctors etc. that are really objectively clear. Even big companies usually end up relying on evaluations and the hunches of superiors. If tracking performance by outcome was so easy why are so few actually doing it?

  3. 2.Lying or just inconsistent … at the same time calling for a more open internet and clamping down harder.

    The link takes you to a WSJ editorial (90% locked behind a paid subscription barrier) complaining about a ‘planned’ executive order. Sorry we can discuss whether or not the executive order is consistent or inconsistent with an open internet when it is actually produced and we can see what’s in the details.

    As for open vs security…it’s interesting that you can have both. Consider credit card transactions. Before credit cards you had cash and check. Wanted to buy something mail/phone/Internet? You had to either mail a check to the company or do COD…which might be ok for Amazon.com but not for iTunes where no one is actually bringing a product to your door in a carboard box. So plastic has radically opened up transaction potential.

    But it’s also radically increased security. We have no idea what Abe Lincoln spent 99% of his money on. With plastic it’s now possible to construct day by day even hour by hour logs of what people do and where they are. Historians a century from now will have more data on their subjects than ever before. In the here and now plenty of people have been caught and convicted of crimes by their digital credit card trails.

  4. http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/09/mitt-romney-condemns-anti-muslim-film-echoing-white-house-position.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

    Wow, Romney has now apologized for the film (at least using the Romney definition of apologize). This reminds me of his version of the Cretan’s Paradox when he said in a single breath that the US will never apologize, if it does something wrong it will say it’s sorry. If you treat that as a campaign promise he has managed to both break and not break it without even being elected!

  5. Boonton,

    I think in many Middle Eastern countries, protests against the gov’t are not all that easy to do so when an opportunity presents itself to protest the US (or Israel or the UK), the public jumps on it because it’s a way to attend a demonstration ‘safely’ but also protest things that have nothing to do with the US.

    I don’t think that’s a motive. I think that groups stir up anti-US protests as a pretext to shift attention from their own failings and to create solidarity for their movement. This has little to nothing to do with the actual pretext. Note, the video in question was posted 3 months ago, yet suddenly it’s a problem. Your comparison with Last Temptation or Goddard’s Hail Mary (I personally walked through not-ironic Catholic protesters to watch that movie, if they had a clue about what they were protesting they’d have quit).

    This isn’t about ‘religion’ being taken seriously.

    As for ‘apologies’, to date no one has apologized for anything and nor should they.

    I see. You lie by shifting what you mean by “apology”. If you look at your former remarks defending the US as being able to make whatever statements it wants and your initial take on the situation, “non-apology” stands in stark contrast to your defense of the apologetic remarks about the US never standing for or countenancing insulting any religion, which alas was untrue. Now to walk that back the statement was never made. Interesting how you bend things.

    Wow, Romney has now apologized for the film

    So? It remains a pretext … and you’ve not countered with any historical precedent where addressing the pretext as cause was a good idea.

  6. Boonton,

    Wow, Romney has now apologized for the film …

    Well. Clearly he’s not getting advice from me.

  7. I don’t think that’s a motive. I think that groups stir up anti-US protests as a pretext to shift attention from their own failings and to create solidarity for their movement.

    As a motive I think this is too sophisticated. The protests are essentially riots and it’s not easy to get a mob to ‘play act’ a riot. I think it’s less about solidarity as a combination of a few factors:

    1. You have large populations of young males. Riots are, in some ways, fun so if you have lots of teen and 20-something men in your population relative to other people you’ll get some ‘any excuse for a riot and I’m in!’ mentality.

    2. Individual groups are in competition with each other, which means they have an incentive to prove themselves by demonstrating they are more outraged than other groups. For example, some of the Egyptian protests turned into anti-gov’t protests by groups who think the President is too soft (despite being the Muslim Brotherhood guy). They aren’t excusing their failings as they do not have power.

    Note, the video in question was posted 3 months ago, yet suddenly it’s a problem. Your comparison with Last Temptation or Goddard’s Hail Mary (I personally walked through not-ironic Catholic protesters to watch that movie, if they had a clue about what they were protesting they’d have quit).

    Riots are not rational, but they do have sparks. The video had recently been dubbed in Arabic and sent to a contact list of Egyptian journalists by an activist who thought it would be a good idea. If it was all staged would not the stage managers have choosen a more plausible ‘incitement’ such as a more recent anti-Muslim rant or video? Certainly they can’t be that hard to find on the Internet.

    As for religion’s role, I think #2 plays greatly into it although it’s not required to have religion. You can, for example, sometimes see the same thing with intense nationalism. One area where religions is esp. unhelpful, though, is the general friendliness it has for anti-blasphomy laws. Not too long ago Coptic Christians were trying to get the Egyptian gov’t to ban a relatively mild dramatic film about Coptics who converted to Islam so they could take advantage of divorce to escape unhappy marriages on the grounds that it violated some Egyptian law against offending religions. If the norm is that it’s illegal to offend, let alone outright mock, a major religion it is going to be harder to explain why such stuff is legal in places like the US. It’s no accident that years ago people like Pat Buchannan bashed Western support for Salmon Rushdie. Many would trade violating free speech to protect Islam from harsh criticism if they could get some like protections for their own favorite faiths.

    BTW are there “ironic Catholic Protesters’?

    I see. You lie by shifting what you mean by “apology”. If you look at your former remarks defending the US as being able to make whatever statements it wants and your initial take on the situation, “non-apology” stands in stark contrast to your defense of the apologetic remarks about the US never standing for or countenancing insulting any religion, which alas was untrue

    I’m not clear what you’re saying here. An apology is making a statement that someone is responsible for something bad and they regret it. A statement that you find something deplorable cannot be taken to be an apology for that something unless:

    1. It’s something you yourself did. (i.e. “I find my previous comment deplorable”)

    2. It’s something you explicitly assume responsibility for (i.e. “I find Mark’s blog deplorable, I apologize on behalf of all Internet connected netizens!” or “My kid trashing your house was deplorable, I apologize for it”)

    Being that both during the riot and after the embassy made it expicitly clear they had no connection to the film simply saying they didn’t like it could not be considered an apology. Nor could it be construed as an ‘apology on behalf of’ type of form when it responded to question tweets by asserting it neither disagreed with the right of the filmmaker to speech nor did was it apologizing as ‘we have done nothing wrong”

    So? It remains a pretext … and you’ve not countered with any historical precedent where addressing the pretext as cause was a good idea.

    Not really sure you can find an example where it isn’t a good idea either. A riot will run its course no matter what over the short run but I think a coherent statement of the US’s innocence and consistency works better in the long run to make the case to non-rioters that the US is in the right here and the Islamists are in the wrong. I think a Romneyish assertion of “we don’t apologize so suck it if you don’t like the crap our ding dongs put on youtube” would be counter productive.

    Well. Clearly he’s not getting advice from me.

    Well if it helps by my definition no one has apologized for anything…which would make Romney simply a liar which would probably be an improvement over the total incoherency we have with Romney now.

  8. Boonton,
    It was ironic that they were protesting that film. Jean Luc Godard was (is?) a famous filmmaker, he was a atheist Maoist. Then as he got old he started wondering about God and such. He is an artist and a film-maker and consequently when he “thinks” about something … he does that by making a movie. He made a movie in which he wondered about Mary and the Nativity. In part he put the story in a context that he could understand in the framework of his methods of film and ideas. It is quite ironic that Catholics made a fuss over a movie in which a famous atheist decided to try to take the nativity story as centered initially on Mary, which is quite the sort of thing they do. Maybe it follows from the “immaculate conception” (heresy?) but I lent a recording of the film to a member of our (Orthodox) parish’s film club and he enjoyed it. Or perhaps its just that people who like films see cinematic art differently than those prompted by protesters.

    As for religion’s role, I think #2 plays greatly into it although it’s not required to have religion

    There’s a problem with your religion as motivation thing. See this map, the more heavily Muslim countries did not protest.

    I think too many people assume other people are stupid. A decade or so I was on a job for ultimately almost two months in the Philippines. You’d be surprised how up-to-date and connected people on what we would think of a subsistence living are. I recall talking with a cabbie (making an average of $8 a day with a not-small family) he knew more about the Chicago Bulls than I did … and this was well into the post Jordan era. This film came out three months ago. Why protest now? Perhaps some people were out looking for a spark and this was all they could find. Guess what, if they didn’t find this, they’d find something else.

    One area where religions is esp. unhelpful, though, is the general friendliness it has for anti-blasphomy laws.

    I think a possible explanation is that people who live in totalitarian regimes have difficulty imagining people doing things without checking if it’s “OK” first.

    Not really sure you can find an example where it isn’t a good idea either.

    That’s because you haven’t considered seriously that this is just a pretext. When you’re kids are touchy, irritable and screaming treating the pretext (my sister hit me) instead of the cause (the kids are all hungry, tired, or getting sick … doesn’t work. In medicine we treat the cause not the pretext, but people often take “symptom” suppressants instead of treating the cause (and that makes sense if the disease is a virus and no drugs will help, so ameliorating the symptoms (analogous to pretexts) makes sense. So … why do you think the riots are like viruses? Is that racism? You think these people are “untreatable?” Mr Bush rejected that hypothesis. Perhaps you don’t agree.

  9. There’s a problem with your religion as motivation thing. See this map, the more heavily Muslim countries did not protest.

    Noticeably established gov’ts didn’t have as many protests. If it was all a manufactured pretext to divert attention from failures, notice many of the worst protests are in the countries with the newest gov’ts. Since many of them haven’t even been in office a year. Failures doesn’t explain it as much IMO as different groups trying to one up each other to demonstrate they are the most zealous in defending the faith.

    I think too many people assume other people are stupid.

    And too many people assume riots are democracy. Riots have always been engaged by a minority of the population always heavily concentrated in the early 20-something male demographic.

    I think a possible explanation is that people who live in totalitarian regimes have difficulty imagining people doing things without checking if it’s “OK” first.

    Notice the Russian Orthodox Church has championed not only convictions for their version of hate speech laws but also compulsory licensing of ‘foreign’ missionaries. It’s more about power and the ability to use the state to your will. During the Last Temptation silliness, more than a few protestors wanted some legal tool to stop the movie. The concept of free speech does not come naturally to people, even when you have a long history in a country that follows the ACLU model of free speech.

    In medicine we treat the cause not the pretext, but people often take “symptom” suppressants instead of treating the cause ….

    I think this assumes teen and 20 year old males are haning on every subtly as statements and speeches from a foreign country’s embassy, Sec. of State and President come over through the translation.

    So … why do you think the riots are like viruses? Is that racism? You think these people are “untreatable?” Mr Bush rejected that hypothesis.

    A nice case of the fallacy of reasoning by analogy….esp. reasoning by very weak analogy. I’m a doctor not a miracle worker. There’s nothing I can do for this patient Jim!

    More importantly why are you focusing on the riots to treat? No fancy words in English will stop rioters in this case, the individual countries have to deploy their police forces and inside our embassies we have to beef up security in case some get in. In terms of the longer argument/discussion with non-rioters the battle has mostly been won already. Every relevant gov’t has deplored the violence. If you could ask the average opinion of the ‘man on the street’ it would probably be something like “this film is very bad but it’s wrong to blame the American gov’t for it”. Which is pretty much what one would reasonably want to see no?

    Still interested to hear your take on what exactly you mean by ‘apologies’….perhaps that was a dead end in your argument?

  10. Boonton,

    No fancy words in English will stop rioters in this case, the individual countries have to deploy their police forces and inside our embassies we have to beef up security in case some get in. In terms of the longer argument/discussion with non-rioters the battle has mostly been won already. Every relevant gov’t has deplored the violence.

    I agree. No fancy words will stop it. Indeed, no YouTube video (or fancy words) started it.

    Still interested to hear your take on what exactly you mean by ‘apologies’….perhaps that was a dead end in your argument?

    I’m uninterested in apology or not. Apology, or in your words, “fancy words in English” will not make a difference. So, to repeat, why treat with the pretext?

    Noticeably established gov’ts didn’t have as many protests. If it was all a manufactured pretext to divert attention from failures, notice many of the worst protests are in the countries with the newest gov’ts.

    Which supports the point that the riots are a pretext to align people with hatred against the US in order to shore up their regime. Established regimes don’t need this.

    And too many people assume riots are democracy.

    ??? Where have I assumed that. I’m suggesting that organizers worked to find a pretext and trigger a anti-US riot. Democracy … is not my suggestion.

  11. I’m uninterested in apology or not.

    You can’t be that disinterested in it given you accused me of shifting the word’s meaning and began your post by repeating the assertion that the White House apologized for the video when it did not.

  12. Boonton,
    I suppose an quasi apology would be OK if a bunch of smokey back room instigators woke up dead in a week or so in just a few countries. That would fit with a “walk softly and carry a big stick” foreign policy. Otherwise, I’m still waiting to hear why addressing the pretext is OK when American’s were tortured and killed.

  13. You’re dodging the main problem, no one has apologized here so what the hell are you and Romney talking about?

    As for ‘addressing pretext’, I would say dismissing a pretext is indeed addressing it. But I do disagree with your implication that ‘pretext’ means it’s all simply made up. I would say if the video was never made, or if it was never purposefully distributed to Arab media by our own US ‘instigators’ the riots/protests wouldn’t be happening now. The Libyian attack may have been planned so perhaps it would have taken a different form if protests weren’t there to serve as a distraction and it may have been a month from now some other video or speech or incident would have been the ‘pretext’ but the idea that mobs can be so effectively managed doesn’t pan out IMO.

  14. Boonton,

    I would say dismissing a pretext is indeed addressing it.

    Mr Obama did not “dismiss” the pretext, he arrested the guy who posted the YouTube video and tried to muscle Google into dropping it. Sounds like an apology of wrong doing to me.

  15. He arrested no one. The guy who posted the videos violated his probation. If you’re on probation and ordered not to leave the state and your probation officer sees you on camera at an NFL game on the other side of the country, you can’t blame your arrest on the media or the President. Sorry dude, no one ever said the 15 minutes of fame we all get don’t have bad consquences.

  16. Still waiting to hear what, if any, apology has been made by anyone for anything in this manner or how I have supposedly ‘redefined’ what an apology is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>