Making sense of complicated decisions. Here in Honduras, it´s just a countdown until Dengue.
Note: everything expressed in this blog comes from my own thoughts and opinions and in no way reflects the policies or opinions of the Peace Corps.
(forced disclaimer, but duh!)
Lost in the “Is it an iPad Killer?” hype is the audacious introduction of the Silk browser. Under the guise of increasing speed (on WiFi; there is no 3G Fire where download speed would be a larger issue), Amazon is performing astonishing jujitsu on Google.
The “split browser” notion is that Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the data-mining implications of the Facebook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web. In essence the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.
And all of this on Google’s dime. They use a back-revved version of Android, not Honeycomb; they don’t use Google’s web browser; they can intermediate user click through on Google search results so Google doesn’t see the actual user behavior. Google’s whole play of promoting Android in order to aggregate user behavior patterns to sell to advertisers is completely subverted by Amazon’s intermediation.
Fire isn’t a noun, it’s a verb, and it’s what Amazon has done in the targeted direction of Google. This is the first shot in the new war for replacing the Internet with a privatized merchant data-aggregation network.
Something to think about.
Also, I can’t believe I understood everything I read just now.
Open letter to our Country Director regarding new policies that severely limit volunteers’ freedom of movement.
Thank you for outlining these policy changes. Although you have probably already heard an outcry of disappointment from other volunteers, I’d like to voice my confusion and disagreement with a number of these changes. While I understand the intent behind many of these new policies, I believe that PC is attempting to change a behavior without addressing the root causes of that behavior. In my opinion, such an approach is bound to fail and cannot produce the long term behavioral changes that PC is hoping for.
I am speaking directly about the new rule of “no large gatherings that aren’t PC/Honduras pre-approved.” Cancelling one holiday (Halloween) due to a rapidly deteriorating security environment in one town (Copan Ruinas) is completely understandable, but it appears that PC has taken a legitimate threat and turned it into a boogyman excuse to limit volunteer’s freedom of movement. The most obvious problems with this new rule are:
The root of my complaint lies in PC’s approach. This policy attempts to change the culture of excessive drinking by simply limiting gatherings and freedom of movement as opposed to investigating the causes/inspirations behind binge drinking behaviors. Although I have been in site less than four months, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that there are individuals who know when to stop and those that don’t. This policy punishes those who are responsible according to the actions of the irresponsible. I am not encouraging a which hunt (and I will not supply names), but at the parties I have attended the individuals who usually binge drink lose control of themselves and bring down others via peer pressure by encouraging others to match their drinking ‘abilities.’ This is a cultural problem that I think would be better addressed if PC were to discuss the problem of binge drinking and the problems of peer pressure particularly because peer pressure becomes amplified in an environment as insulated as the one we volunteers find ourselves in.
As much as I would like to say that all volunteers are strict rule-abiders, experience has proven otherwise. These policy changes will definitely limit security incidences but only because it will keep volunteers locked up and isolated in their sites, not because it will prevent anyone from binge drinking. Those individuals who are heavy drinkers will still find ways to get together, get drunk and put themselves at risk. In my opinion, this policy simply transforms PC Administration into a nanny and returns us to a culture of fear in which volunteers are at the mercy of an every increasing number of rules that substitute personal responsibility for administrative oversight.
My suggestion would be to discard this ‘large gathering’ rule and instead focus in directly on the reasons why volunteers binge drinks, who are the primary abusers of binge drinking, and how can PC strengthen individual volunteer’s resistance to peer pressures that can compromise their safety and security.
That said, I am thrilled to hear that additional site visits are planned and that PC will be placing additional resources in the process of site development. Lack of direction from my counterparts and unfamiliarity on the part of PC as to the needs of my Mancomunidad have resulted in three months of tension and directionless pet projects for me. More resources in site development will greatly improve volunteers’ effectiveness, I believe, by better matching volunteer skills to community needs.
Thank you for your time and your dedication to improving the safety and effectiveness of our volunteer experience. I look forward to hearing how this new policy can be better defined.
La Labor, OcotepequeH-18
Today, “free to choose” has become “free to die.”
I’m referring, as you might guess, to what happened during Monday’s G.O.P. presidential debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, “That’s what freedom is all about — taking your own risks.” Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether “society should just let him die.”
And the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of “Yeah!”
The incident highlighted something that I don’t think most political commentators have fully absorbed: at this point, American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions.
Now, there are two things you should know about the Blitzer-Paul exchange. The first is that after the crowd weighed in, Mr. Paul basically tried to evade the question, asserting that warm-hearted doctors and charitable individuals would always make sure that people received the care they needed — or at least they would if they hadn’t been corrupted by the welfare state. Sorry, but that’s a fantasy. People who can’t afford essential medical care often fail to get it, and always have — and sometimes they die as a result.
The second is that very few of those who die from lack of medical care look like Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical individual who could and should have bought insurance. In reality, most uninsured Americans either have low incomes and cannot afford insurance, or are rejected by insurers because they have chronic conditions.
So would people on the right be willing to let those who are uninsured through no fault of their own die from lack of care? The answer, based on recent history, is a resounding “Yeah!”