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Semiformalishmaybe

CEAC 10 July 2012

Usual news:

  • Egypt's new president has hardly entered office before reaching an ugly conflict with the courts and judges; he issued a decree restoring the parliament that the judiciary dismissed, and was in turn overruled by the military, which suspended his decree (after the restored parliament reconvened once). Neither side is likely willing to be seen to have backed down on the issue, but it'll be hard for a solution to be found that will save face for both sides. These unspoken rules of power and leadership that are emergent from human nature play out in our politics...
  • Also in Egypt, the (hardline Islamist, compared to the now-ruling moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood) Salafis have threatened to withdraw from Parliament if Egypt is not declared to be an Islamic state. In my opinion, declaring it to be a civil state would be killing two birds with one stone; Salafists don't belong in politics (pity that excluding the MB too is not possible at this point)
  • More ugliness from Hugo Chavez: He's providing support to Syria now that Russia is turning its back on Assad, and he's warned that his rivals should not campaign in neighbourhoods he considers "his".
  • More schools are splitting boys and girls. I'm theoretically willing to accept this if supported with very good science; while I believe the studies show women and men to be roughly equal in potential in most areas, and I am committed not to paving paths differently for them, I would be willing to accept gender-seperate education if it could be shown that boys and girls develop better when separately educated for reasons that are not fixable (e.g. "teachers tend to call on boys more than girls" is fixable, "boys tend to dominate girls in group projects" might not be), and if it could be shown that the seperate paths don't create difficulties down the line in workplaces. As of now, I am not convinced of these things, and I don't want parents to use their own judgement on these matters; this is a matter best decided with good social science, not people drawing from their prejudices or "common sense".
  • Poetry from the Taliban might be worth picking up; while I believe we are (rightly) committed to removing the power of such groups to challenge Afghan and Pakistani government or impose choices on members of the populations of those countries, and that might practically entail completely defeating and disarming them, it is wise to remember their humanity.
  • Strange news in astronomy; a star-region that had the markings of what's needed for planetary formation seems to have lost it in a surprisingly short time. The result is surprising enough that I wonder if it might be instrument failure of some kind; if not, it's probably some kind of effect that might require us to rethink some parts of astrophysics.
  • Some of the saner Republicans are staying home in party events, expressing disappointment with the current radicalism in Republican politics
  • Disappointed that CMU is using interesting psychology for bad ends; anytime psychologists and marketers get together, we should be pretty grumbly.
  • I was disappointed that the WTO made a ruling against US law requiring labelling of the origin of food products. The ability of the consumer to know about what they eat, particularly moderated by the ability of people to influence law, is worth supporting. If countries acquire a reputation for the quality of certain products (whether positive or negative), that should be considered earned. Interfering with reputation is unacceptable.
  • An interesting way to do advocacy, written about by Ebert.
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