Why Bucharest’s Internet is so fast

Bernie SandersHere’s my latest article on the FEE website, on Internet in Romania.

The editor asked me to write a piece on this topic, because of Bernie Sanders’ tweet that Internet speeds in Bucharest are faster than the average speed in the US (which is true). I was flattered by the request and started researching the article right away. I joked to my friends that if you wanted to know about Internet in Romania, obviously I was the person to come to.

What I learned about the ad hoc networks in Romania’s major cities was fascinating; they have lots of competition, while we’re lucky to have a choice between the government-franchised cable company and the government-franchised phone company. The headline writer chose to play on the irony of Sanders’ endorsing a free-market solution, though I thought the solution itself was the really fascinating part. Mentioning Sanders draws more readers than mentioning Bucharest, I suppose. :)

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How to deal with “hater” haters

“I’m right, because my feelings say so!” is passé. The new, “progressive” argument is “You’re wrong, because I say so about your feelings!” Their opponents are wrong because they’re motivated by “hate.” The people who try to shout Trump down don’t say he’s trying to gain absolute power, or that he’d take away our liberties; they say he’s motivated by “hate.” As they’re screaming to drown him out, of course, they have no hostile feelings at all in their own minds. By claiming emotional superiority, they try to convince us their opposition to free speech is good and his is bad.

The classic argument from emotion is about the speaker’s own emotions: “I feel very strongly about this, so it must be true.” “Let your heart be your guide.” The argument from “hate” uses projection. When its users say, “You’re a hater,” they mean “I hate you.” When they say “Hate speech should be banned,” they mean “Speech which I hate should be banned.” Projecting the negative emotion onto their target lets them feel superior.
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Indonesia’s ban on gay emoji

My latest article on the FEE website, “The War on Emoji,” is now available. The Indonesian authorities demanded that Facebook and the Japanese social network Line block certain “gay” emoji, such as 👬 and 👨‍❤️‍💋‍👨, or be blocked throughout the country. I wrote the story a bit over a month ago, but I still haven’t been able to find out whether Facebook complied or not. In the US, using 🔫 is dangerous, especially if you’re a 12-year-old kid. That bit was a late addition to the article, written just hours before it was published.

For the technically inclined, I explain the difference between emoji and emoticons. The words have no etymological connection. Emoji is Japanese for “picture characters.”

I’m expecting a bigger article of mine, also related to techno-liberty, to appear on fee.org next week.

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North Carolina’s restroom law

restroom signSeveral people I know now can’t legally use the restroom that’s appropriate for them in North Carolina. They look like women or like men and everyone considers them that, but their birth certificate says the reverse, so the law says they have to outrage everyone by going into the wrong restroom. Effectively, they’ve been banned from using restrooms in the state. It may not be the most outrageous law on the books, but it’s close to the top in sheer creepiness.

This could be a serious problem for science fiction conventions, which attract a higher than average proportion of trans people, in North Carolina. Maybe such people will just stay away, “solving” the problem. If they do go, I think this is one of the clearest cases for civil disobedience. It’s not as if cops are going to stand at the restroom entrance and ask you for documentation.
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The forgotten story of eugenics

'White' and 'colored' drinking fountainsWhen I was in college, a professor maintained that the racial hostilities of the time (around 1970) were carried over from slavery and Reconstruction, still fresh a century later. That never seemed like a sufficient explanation to me, and recently I’ve been learning more about an important piece of the history. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, bad science tried to put “race” on a scientific basis gave new life to the idea that some racial groups were superior to others. The Foundation for Economic Education has run a number of articles on the subject lately, such as “How States Sterilized 60,000 Americans – And Got Away with It”. I’ve also been reading a library book, Race Unmasked: Biology and Race in the 20th Century by Michael Yudell.

The terms “moron” and “imbecile” are just insults today, but to the eugenics movement they were precise terms, used to justify practices like forced sterilization. The weak-minded needed to be kept from breeding. The idea had roots in a misapplication of Darwinian theory, using imprecise methods that couldn’t distinguish lack of education from defective genes. Not surprisingly, this led to the conclusion that the groups that were denied access to education had genetically weaker brains.
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The “first programmer”? Don’t insult her

In some circles it’s become an article of dogma that Ada Lovelace was the first computer programmer, and those who dispute it are denounced as “sexist.” When disagreement with a claim becomes heresy, that makes it worth looking into, if only to find out what’s stirring up such passion. Having looked into it, I have to conclude that not only is the claim false, but it trivializes her actual accomplishments. (Here’s an example, whose author says she was coding a mere “adding machine.”)
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“Code of conduct” of the day

In the Koha Community code of conduct we find that the following are defined as “harassment,” are prohibited, and can get you kicked out of events:

Verbal, graphic or written comments related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race or religion

Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior

Not only is it deemed harassment to talk about gender, gender identity, etc., it’s harassment even to say they should be talking about those things!

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