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Recommended Reading

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Top Billing! Dr. David Ucko and Carl Prine’s  Point -COINterpoint debate:

PRISM Counterinsurgency After Afghanistan: A Concept in Crisis (Ucko)

LoD Ucko is Wrong (Mostly)  (Prine)

KoW Prine is Wrong (Mostly): A Reply to a Critic (Ucko)

LoD Ucko Attacks! (Prine)

KoWPrine Attacks! (Again) (Ucko)

Can’t really summarize this much prose, so a short quote from each gentleman:

PRINE: Ucko’s obvious intelligence can’t compensate for a Prism essay that lacks a rudimentary understanding of recent Iraqi history, a grasp on guerrilla strategies employed there during the occupation and the political realignments that followed in the wake of the rebellions.  It devolves into the same sort of scholarship about counter-insurgency ginned up five decades ago during an age of nationalist and communist revolt throughout the Third World, which surprised me because Ucko is an exceptionally well-read analyst….

UCKO: My crime, apparently, is writing a book on counterinsurgency that included a two-page foreword written by arch-nemesis John Nagl. This is sufficient for Prine to misinterpret the rest of my work as surge propaganda, even when my position is not so far removed from his own. For example, Prine seems to concede that local factors along with US inputs accounted for the decline in Iraqi casualties in 2006-2008, but when I say the same, he reads it as ‘COIN porn’. 

CTOvision.comCarrier IQ invades privacy ( Bryan Halfpap)

The application collects the following data:

  • Phone Keypad Presses
  • Website URLS (regardless of https encryption)
  • Home/Properties/Back/Search button presses
  • Battery State Changes
  • Location

And requests access to many hardware and system resources in Android, including “services that cost you money” and “personal information”.

Admittedly, the collection of location on its own may not be a big deal to many people, but the fact that it is collecting URLs which should be encrypted is a problem. This could expose sensitive user credentials. Collecting phone call key presses is even worse because it can easily collect banking PINs, credit card numbers, passwords, and more. The application even has access to sound and recording functionalities, which means it could be turned into an all-in-one surveillance device.

There is absolutely no reason for a diagnostic application to collect the amount of data it is collecting. There is no reason for a diagnostic application to record key-presses or any other user action when crash reports are readily available from the phones operating system. This should not have happened.

SWJ – Toward a Gentler, Kinder German Reich (Dr. Tony Corn)

Corn on the emerging play by Berlin for an economic Festung Europa.

In the past two years, German elites have taken up the Rahm Emanuel doctrine (“never let a serious crisis go to waste”) all the more eagerly that Washington, in the process of rebalancing away from the Greater Middle East to the Asia-Pacific region, is less interested than ever in following intra-EU affairs.

For the third time in less than twenty years, Germany is trying to force down the throat of Europe a federal “political union” which, in the eyes of too many European observers, eerily resembles a gentler, kinder Anschluss.  While Europeans were able to push back against the first two attempts, the two-year long financial crisis has created within Europe a “German unipolar moment” and provided the kind of leverage that had eluded Germany earlier. With the German Chancellor as a de facto “EU Chancellor,” German elites are leveraging the crisis by playing a game of chicken in order to make their federal vision prevail.

Maggie’s Farm – Jews confront the Gentlemen’s agreement on campuses  (Bruce Kesler)

Kesler looks at the de facto alliance between tenured leftists and pro-Palestinian student extremists on university campuses to promote antisemitic activities and even violence and the response of Jewish student organizations:

….In March 2011, the US Office of Civil Rights finally opened an investigation into Rossman-Benjamin’s Title VI complaint. There’s also a pending legal complaint against UC Berkeley for allowing harassment of Jewish students, and a weak court sentence, later further reduced, was levied against UC Irvine and UC Riverside students who illegally disrupted Israel Ambassador Oren’s speech at UC Irvine. Other legal challenges to colleges in other states allowing across-the-line infringements on laws and academic freedom are in process or development. Fear of threats and violent or illegal actions by pro-Palestinian activists on campuses continue to silence many pro-Israel speakers from being allowed a peaceful campus stage. Freedom of speech is being violated, in contradiction to tenets of academic freedom. 

SLATE – “Narco Economics” (Ray Fisman) 

“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” Al Pacino’s classic line from The Godfathernicely sums up the economics profession’s basic view of human enterprise, criminal and otherwise: Human beings make decisions based on rational cost-benefit calculations, not passion or emotion. And it captures the approach employed by MIT Ph.D. student Melissa Dell in her recent work, which strips the seemingly senseless violence of the Mexican Drug War to its cold, rational essentials. Viewing Mexico’s drug cartels as calculating, profit-maximizing business operations, Dell’s model provides a framework for understanding how traffickers have adjusted their operations in response to President Felipe Calderón’s war on the drug trade. According to Dell, the cartels have behaved like textbook economic actors, shifting their trafficking routes in predictable ways to circumvent towns where the government has cracked down and raiding towns where competing cartels have been weakened by government efforts. By providing a basis for analyzing how traffickers react to government efforts, Dell’s work might help Calderón’s administration design a better strategy for defeating Mexico’s drug lords.

Hat tip to Feral Jundi

Dr. VonGaming in Education 

….For example, the most prominent conclusion of this body of evidence is that teachers are very important, that there’s a big difference between effective and ineffective teachers, and that whatever is responsible for all this variation is very difficult to measure (see hereherehere and here). These analyses use test scores not as judge and jury, but as a reasonable substitute for “real learning,” with which one might draw inferences about the overall distribution of “real teacher effects.”

And then there are all the peripheral contributions to understanding that this line of work has made, including (but not limited to):

Prior to the proliferation of growth models, most of these conclusions were already known to teachers and to education researchers, but research in this field has helped to validate and elaborate on them. That’s what good social science is supposed to do.

Conversely, however, what this body of research does not show is that it’s a good idea to use value-added and other growth model estimates as heavily-weighted components in teacher evaluations or other personnel-related systems. There is, to my knowledge, not a shred of evidence that doing so will improve either teaching or learning, and anyone who says otherwise is misinformed. It’s an open question.*

That’s it.

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Sunday, December 4th, 2011

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Sunday, December 4th, 2011


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Sunday, December 4th, 2011

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