Monthly Archives: June 2007

Surprise

Apparently my previous post made it to “Washington Post”.  They have a feed that probably tracks mentions of their articles in blogosphere and it got it.  Frankly, it is even a bit embarrassing that from all the posts that one is getting linked.

A proof that wikiality exists!

Wikiality exists! Apparently Stephen Cobert was right and Wikipedia does construct reality!

Take a look at this quote from today’s Washington Post:

 

“Authorities said Thursday they are trying to determine who altered the entry on the collaborative reference site [Wikipedia] 14 hours before authorities discovered the bodies of the couple and their son.”

Click here for the complete article and i apologize if this post appears too sarcastic.

Artificial scarcity

Oh Joy! Disco Ball!I don’t know how many of you have Facebook, but I do. Here in the US it turned out to be a big thing and at the end of the day it is a nice procrastination tool.

Some time ago Facebook added a gift feature allowing people giving their friends little icons as presents. If you give someone a present, it would show in their profile and they will know whom it came from. So far so good. Now, after a promotion period they started charging $1 per icon and the question is “why?” Why would anyone pay $1 for a 1K image of a toilet paper roll? Apparently people pay for the keep on selling.

But the story doesn’t end here. Now they have a promotion similar to the one you see in the illustration. Indeed, there are limited editions of the icons now! Only 1 million of disco ball gif files are out there! Oops… 1 million and one if you count the one i posted here. And i still keep asking myself “why”… Why would i give someone an artificial disco ball? Why would anyone like to get one? Why would anyone would actually pay for it? And what does the “limited edition” feature add to the value of the icon?

The last one is absolutely beyond my comprehension. What’s the idea of selling an illusion of a limited edition of gif files? I think there is something fundamental i am missing here.

Giuliani’s “sin”

NY Times published an article today about the criticism of Catholic church on Giuliani’s stand towards abortion. His” sin” is that while personally opposing abortion, he does not believe in forcing his personal view on the entire nation.

During the New Hampshire debate he said: “My view on abortion is that it’s wrong, but that ultimately government should not be enforcing that decision on a woman. I consult my religion, I consult my reading of the Constitution, I consult my views of what I think are important in a pluralistic society, and the reality that we have to respect the fact that there are people that are equally as religious, equally as moral that make a different decision about this. And should government put them in jail?”

This stand caused great “frustration” in the circles of Catholic religious leaders. Although, following the rules that prohibit churches from endorsing or denouncing political candidates, they are reluctant to explicitly endorse any particular candidate, they are pretty clear in implicitly criticizing Giuliani. What are the arguments to prove him wrong? Well, there are plenty!!! He “was seen leaving Mass at a church in Washington before the Eucharist”. He “had married a third time without receiving a church annulment for his second marriage”. More important of course is Vatican’s statement that “politicians who voted for abortion rights should “exclude themselves from communion”.”

Sorry for the sarcastic tone of this post. As much as it scares me, the seemingly tightening relations between religion and politics are fascinating. It appears as a convoluted system of interdependent ideologies and interests. On the one hand, the democratic principles endorse religious tolerance and free choice at the same time. On the other hand, the religious conservatism simultaneously denies the same freedom of choice and in many (or shall i say most) cases tolerance towards the “other”. On the top of it of course are the political structures that enjoy and take advantage of religion as a mobilization mechanism (pursuing voters for example), and at the same time allow the religious apparatus taking advantage of the system by utilizing its mechanism for promotion of particular ideology (see for example the attempts of internet regulation in Israel).

What do you think?

 

Online radio silence day

SaveNetRadio.orgIn case you missed that, this Tuesday is the “National Day of Silence” organized by SaveNetRadio “to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase”. The argument of the online radio broadcasters is that the increased fee will lead many of them to actually shutting down the stations. I think this is part of an interesting larger argument about regulation of the media in general and internet in particular. I wonder how does that feed the debate on internet governance at large? Apparently it is not just regulating the pipes, but a seemingly external to the internet regulation of content, which in fact deeply affects the online culture.

Civil activism

Recently i blogged about the pending law for internet censorship in Israel. Gladly, I am not alone arguing against it. There is a lot of buzz in the blogosphere against this law proposal. You can the see many banners (like those i am using here) and numerous blog posts calling to reject it. I personally joined the protest and contact all the MKs who supported the law in preliminary reading.

Here are their names (in HE alphabetical order :) :

  • David Azoulay (Shas)
  • Itshac Galantee (Gil Pensioners Party)
  • Majalli Whbee (Kadima)
  • Sofa Landver (Israel Beitenu)
  • Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor-Meimad)
  • Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) – future pretended for the Prime Minister Office
  • Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas)
  • Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism)
  • Colette Avital (Labor-Meimad) – former candidate for Presidency
  • Uri Yehuda Ariel (Ichud Leumi – Mafdal)
  • Gideon Sa`ar (Likud)
  • Yuval Steinitz (Likud)
  • Yitzhak Levy (Ichud Leumi – Mafdal)
  • Moshe Kahlon (Likud)
  • Robert Ilatov (Israel Beitenu)
  • I sent an email to each one of them arguing against the absurd of this proposal. It is particularly disappointing to see names of people who can be potential Prime Minister and who ran for Presidency of the State, supporting this law. If people holding views that support total censorship of the internet and monitoring of the citizens are running for those high positions with actual chances to win, i am worried about the future of Israel.

    So far (it’s been over 2 weeks since i sent the emails), I got two responses. The first one was from MK Gidon Saar. He wrote that he does not intend to support the law in its current form in the future and that he continues studying the topic. I would like to hope that it is a positive sign, even though Saar’s reply leaves him all the room in the world to change his opinion and remain apparently consistent. We’ll see. The fact that Saar personally responded already speaks in my eyes in his favor.

    The other response was sad and funny at the same time. It came from an assistant of MK Galantee. She wrote that she is surprised to hear that the MK supported that law because he is actually against the censorship of internet. But it didn’t stop there. She tried to explain the inconsistency by suggesting that there might have been a technical malfunction in the Knesset, or (I hope you are sitting) the MK made a mistake while voting(!!!). Telling the truth, after a reply like that I am actually more worried for i was convinced that voting is a heavy enough responsibility for MKs actually to pay attention to what they are voting for.

    Ironically, it seems like the only thing left in this situation is to pray :) To pray for MKs being more responsible and to study the subject before they are making a decision. But on a bit more serious note, i would like to urge you to discuss the topic, blog about it, email the MKs, etc. I am worried that the web-monitoring law proposal and the recent law (EN1, EN2) proposals against gay parades are two sides of the same coin. I will probably continue blogging about it.

    Comments and reflections are more than welcome :)

    Go identify yourself!

    Originally from: http://effifuks.blogli.co.il/archives/296

    Do no evil, but do lobby

    Here is an interesting article about Google lobbying efforts in Washington DC.  They are taking it seriously and in seemingly innovative fashion (see their blog for example, looks like an interesting read).

    Reading this article I keep on thinking about the corporate involvement in policy making, sort of a corporate public policy making.  It reminded me again of the last conversation with Tarleton and the importance of making this part of my dissertation.  Indeed, the testimonies of Google executives and the Googalization of congress (see in the article the part about Google tutorials for “congressional aides that will teach them how to use Google’s search engine better and faster”) hint, pretty boldly, on the corporate involvement in regulation processes.  Of course Google is not alone there, and that makes the whole thing even more fascinating.

    The Big Brother syndrome

    Here are some trivia questions:

    – What country has the world’s highest percentage of engineers?

    – What country has the highest number of medical doctors per capita in the world?

    – What country has high technology and technology-rich products accounting for some 70% of its exports?

    – What country invests 2.2% of its gross domestic product in R&D (the third highest level in the world, after Japan and Sweden and on a par with Germany)?

    – What country has about 100 companies trading in the U.S., mainly on the NASDAQ market, representing the second-largest number of foreign firms appearing on the U.S. stock markets (after Canada) with some 80% of these companies develop and manufacture advanced technological products?

    – Where do academics publish more scientific papers in international journals (110 for every 10,000 persons) than any other country in the world?

    – Where in the world about 21 percent of all undergraduate students and 50 percent of all Ph.D. candidates specializing in the sciences or medicine, and another 13 percent of all undergraduate students and 8 percent of all graduate students specialize in engineering and architecture?

    Apparently the answer to all of those is “Israel” (i am surprised myself about some of them) and there are more examples of economic and intellectual development of Israel as a country. However, there are few more question to add to the trivia:

    – What country has a pending law aimed at blocking websites with sexual and violent content requiring those who want to consume this content to have a biometric identification device?

    – What country has a pending law allowing municipalities to prohibit gay parades “just because”?

    Unfortunately the answer to these questions is also “Israel”. Indeed the country proud of its high-tech industry, technological progressiveness, innovation, non-standard thinking, etc. finds itself in a process of being fed by exactly an opposite sentiment. Leaving the gay parade topic for a different post (actually i wrote about it once before), i would like to spend a few lines here addressing the internet censorship topic (thus the emphasis on technology in the trivia section).

    I assume that many may not know that in the beginning of the year the Knesset passed, in a preliminary hearing, a law proposal aimed at regulating the internet content. The proposal was generated by MK Amnon Kohen from Shas who proposed requiring all ISPs to block websites with sex and violent content in order to, supposedly, protect the youth. If a person would like to gain access to this type of content they will have to register and identify themselves each time they log on using a biometric device.

    Seemingly, it looks like a noble goal – protecting the youth from the dangers of virtual world, but is this the way to do that? To start with the current proposal does not define what sexual or violent contents are. Is a website discussing sexual identity considered to carry sexual content? Is a website about Capoeira considered to be violent? Who will decide what gets filtered? Based on what criteria? Are we facing another instute for kashrut AHIFA, but this time for online content?

    But going beyond that is the question if this is the role of the state to regulate its citizens online behavior, especially when it includes monitoring the browsing patterns of the entire country. What about privacy? What about the fundamental differences between the uses and utilization of the internet compared to the mainstream media? What kind of future acts this law would prepare the soil for? Will the next step be preventing people from surfing to sites that question the religious principles of Judaism or trying to convert them into other religions? Or maybe blocking websites that tolerate inter-religious marriage? I would assume that from the point of view of Shas these things are as dangerous as sex and violence. Will I, as a citizen, have to maintain a list of websites that i am allowed to visit? And what is next? Monitoring everybody’s email in order to prevent distribution of sex and violence by alternative methods? I can understand the need to fight the crime, but does it justify jailing and monitoring the entire normative population of a country? What about educational efforts for example? What is feasibility of this monitoring/blocking initiative? Today, the ISPs offer software that allow parents monitoring their children access, so why should it be centralized ad can it be effectively done that way?

    This last point actually bring me to the last point i will try to make here. It seems to me that this attempt goes beyond pure care to the mental health of youth. It appears more as a social group (minority) trying to impose its world view and its values to another social group (mind you majority). And doing that they are entering a domain that they know very little about and hardly understand the cultural dynamics of it.

    In general, it seems like the religious community has problems with the new technology. Another law proposal, that failed, was about forbidding busineses providing youngsters with Internet access. In other words, as you have to show your ID when you buy alcohol, you would have to show one in order to use services of an internet cafe. According to that proposal any business owner breaking this law, i.e. allowing people younger than 18 using internet in their business, is subject to 6 months in prison. The funny/sad part of it that MK Avraham Ravitz, who proposed the law, has never been into an internet cafe! Not only that, but the modern communication technology and the entire coffee shops culture, where people are coming to study and work in this public areas, is foreign to the world that Ravitz and the religious community have created for themselves. So, what puts him (and others) in position to regulate cultural routines he has little or no knowledge about?

    I haven’t read the actual study mentioned here, but according to the article the youths are savvy and critical about the new media, to a degree that they are aware of the dangers of the Internet. This is to say that internet does not presents more danger that the physical world, but instead offers outlets blocked in other domains. I would argue that education, which is a slower, more expansive and demanding process, is more likely to protect the youths. And i am not alone. Karin Barzilai-Nahon wrote about it in Ynet and also just a few days ago Washington Post had an article with a similar point. At the same time constant monitoring and state censorship may quickly prove themselves as counter productive, also spilling over and widening the divide between the secular and religious communities in Israel.

    I tihnk I should stop here for this post is alrady too long and i am afraid nobody will even reach this point. But there is more to say on the subject and i will do that in the next few days. In the meantime, you are welcome to leave your comments and let me know what you think about this issue.

    Give them a finger

    The text on the icon says something like: “Give them a finger, they will require the entire hand: Opposingthe law of biometry-based blocking of websites” (very bad translation of mine).

    Boycotting for peace?

    About a month ago another academic boycott was declared on Israeli academia by British University and College Union. The boycott “might involve refusing to work with journals published by Israeli companies or collaborate on research contracts with Israeli academics.” I have posted some thoughts on boycotting in my old blog about a year ago, but recently i read an interview with one of the Israeli initiators of the current boycott, Prof. Haim Bresheeth, who in the past headed the communication department in Sapir College, which is near Gaza. Today he is teaching at the University of East London. There is an EN version of the interview but it has an absolutely different emphasis. Actually the EN version is more of an article and is lacking many of the arguments found in the HE version, which is more of an interview.

    According to the interview (at least the HE version), Bresheeth‘s basic argument for the boycott is if the Palestinians are suffering, Israelis should suffer too, and thus is the initiative. So, my question is: “and then what?” It reminded me an old joke about a granddaughter of a Decembrist revolt activists. On the eve of the October revolution, she hears some noise outside and asks her maid what is going on.

    “There is a revolution, m’am,” the maid answers.

    “Wow,” the granddaughter replies. “Just as my grandfather fought for! And what do they want?”

    “They want to eliminate the rich,” answers the maid.

    “Really?” asks a surprised granddaughter, “That is weird. My grandfather fought to eliminate the poverty.”

    And that joke brings me back to Galtung’s definition of peace, as lack of structural violence. Deborah Du Nann Winter and Dana Leighton on their website, nicely summarized structural violence in the following terms: “whenever people are denied access to society’s resources, physical and psychological violence exists.” And then also referred to Galtung who “originally framed the term structural violence to refer to any constraint on human potential due to economic and political structures. Unequal access to resources, to political power, to education, to health care, or to legal standing, are forms of structural violence.” In other words, as long as there are people excluded from an equal participation in society, we are in the state of structural violence.

    My reading of Galtung suggests inclusion as a pivotal principle of peace. I mean, an action aimed to promote peace is necessarily an action of inclusion. One cannot promote peace by arguing for exclusion. If we get back to the joke above and agree that being “rich” is more desirable than being “poor”, then acting to reduce poverty is an act of inclusion as opposed to elimination of the rich, or in other words an act promoting peace as opposed to an act promoting violence.

    In a similar logic I think the idea of boycott is based on exclusion, which in turn is counterproductive for peace processes. Leaving aside the political and logistical complexities of carrying such an act, the mere logic behind it counterproductive to what the action aims to achieve. Unless of course, the idea is mere “punishment” of Israeli academics and not promotion of a constructive action (in that case i think it is even less legitimate, but that is a different story).

    What are the alternatives? I think that if the British academics wish to act and influence through the channels they “control” instead of boycotting why not examine option of increased cooperation? Why not to get Palestinian scholars more involved in the academic debate, whether it is on the conflict, or even more productive in my view on the scholarly subjects? Why instead of further separating the two parties, create more opportunities for the two to work together? I can see how these activities can bring more understanding and motivation to work towards a mutually acceptable solution, but i fail to see how the boycott can contribute to those.

    What do you think?

    ______________

    If you are interested, for additional readings:

    Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, peace and peace research. Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), 167-191.

    Lonely CNN

    Gladly i am in a good company with the amusement by the fact that Paris Hilton’s return to jail took so much air time and media attention.

    (i couldn’t figure out why WordPress wouldn’t let me embed the video…hmm)