Women Pilots

by Kieran Healy on April 1, 2006

Commenting on a story about “female pilots”:http://www.dawn.com/2006/03/31/top1.htm in the Pakistani Air Force, “Lindsay Beyerstein”:http://majikthise.typepad.com/majikthise_/2006/04/first_female_pi.html asks “Are American servicewomen allowed to fly planes in combat?”

The answer is yes. Lt. Col. “Martha McSally”:http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/mcsally.html was one of the first seven female jet pilots in the USAF, and I think in 1995 was the first woman to fly a combat sortie, while she was on a tour of duty in Kuwait. In 2004 she became the “first woman to command a fighter squadron”:http://www.azstarnet.com/dailystar/relatedarticles/30666.php. She “recently returned”:http://www.azstarnet.com/dailystar/115123.php from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, where she led her squadron of “A-10 warthogs”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A-10_Thunderbolt_II. In December of 2001 McSally “sued the Pentagon”:http://www.rutherford.org/about/cases.asp because a regulation forced her (and all other women in the military) to wear a Muslim abaya (covering her from head-to-toe) while she was stationed in Saudi Arabia, and also forbade her from leaving the base without a male chaperone. Amongst other objections, McSally pointed out that servicemen were actually prohibited from wearing Muslim garb. She won her case.

Commenters with more knowledge of the U.S. Air Force than I are free to correct me, but I think it’s no surprise that McSally (who, like most women pioneers of her type, is by all accounts outstandingly qualified) should fly an A-10. It’s pretty much the lowest-status fighter combat aircraft in service. (One joke is that its airspeed indicator is a calendar.) Which isn’t to say I would want to see one bearing down on me with “one of these fuckers”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAU-8_Avenger blazing away. One of the reasons I know any of this, incidentally, is that McSally’s squadron is based at “Davis-Monthan AFB”:http://www.dm.af.mil/ here in Tucson. A-10s (and other jets) fly sorties out from Davis-Monthan to the “Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range”:http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/goldwater.htm (no, really) a couple of times a day, and the flight path runs over my office. You understand the meaning of the phrase “air superiority” when you see a couple of those things go overhead.

FT on Walt/Mearsheimer

by Henry on April 1, 2006

The _Financial Times_ “editorializes”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/8ed824fc-c11b-11da-9419-0000779e2340.html on the aftermath of the Walt/Mearsheimer paper.

bq. On various counts, this is a shame and a self-inflicted wound no society built on freedom should allow. Honest and informed debate is the foundation of freedom and progress and a precondition of sound policy. It is, to say the least, odd when dissent in such a central area of policy is forced offshore or reduced to the status of samizdat. Some of Israel’s loudest cheerleaders, moreover, are often divorced by their extremism from the mainstream of American Jewish opinion and the vigorous debate that takes place inside Israel. As Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, remarked in Haaretz about the Walt-Mearsheimer controversy: “It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported over there [the US].”

bq. Nothing, moreover, is more damaging to US interests than the inability to have a proper debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how Washington should use its influence to resolve it, and how best America can advance freedom and stability in the region as a whole. Bullying Americans into a consensus on Israeli policy is bad for Israel and makes it impossible for America to articulate its own national interest.

This seems to me to draw a good and important analogy. The internal Israeli debate, for all its faults, is vigorous and real. There’s no similar debate happening in the US, nor is there likely to be one anytime soon if the response to the Mearsheimer/Walt piece tells us anything. Some of the critiques of the piece seemed to me to be useful (and indeed sound); but they’ve effectively been drowned out by diatribes like “this one”:http://www.adl.org/Israel/mearsheimer_walt.asp from the Anti-Defamation League which accuses Mearsheimer and Walt of engaging in “classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis.”

I’m opening this up to comments – but on the condition that these comments remain civil, respectful of opposing viewpoints and on-topic (and I’ll vigorously delete comments which fail to measure up to my doubtless idiosyncratic definitions of these terms).

Update: Matt articulates what should become known as “Yglesias’ Law”:http://www.tpmcafe.com/node/28465.

bq. any conversation that starts with the question of America’s Israel policy all-but-inevitably turns into a conversation about Israel’s Palestinian policy.

April Fool’s

by Eszter Hargittai on April 1, 2006

In 2002, Google brought us PigeonRank.

Today, Ask brings us RhymeRank. Check out the results for Crooked Timber (right-hand side of the screen) or try the service on your favorite search term. [UPDATE 4/2/06: As of April 2nd this is no longer available.]

Yahoo! went a bit too geeky on this judging from reactions to my various past posts by making their April Fool’s all about Web 2.0 and calling it “All Your Web 2.0 Are Belong To Us”. After all, if you don’t know what Web 2.0 is then you’re certainly not going to find that post amusing. In any case, it’s just a blog post on their Search Blog, it’s not as though they introduced a whole new service.

What other April Fool’s have you come across today? No, they do not have to be search related.

A matching problem

by Eszter Hargittai on April 1, 2006

This year’s Google April Fool’s joke is Google Romance, a service that will help you find your romantic match. It’s sort of cute, although I think some of their past jokes have been better.

The site does bring up something I have been meaning to blog about so I’ll take this opportunity. It concerns the paradox of matching services such as dating Web sites or job search sites. I haven’t thought about this issue too much, but enough to blog about it. (What’s the threshold for blogability, by the way?:)

Services such as dating and job search sites promise the user to find a perfect match, whether in the realm of romance or the labor market. But deep down, is it really in the interest of these sites to work well? After all, if they do a good job then the seekers are no longer relevant customers and the sites lose their subscribers.

One way to deal with this is to offer additional services that go beyond the matching process. For example, the match-making site eHarmony now has a service for married couples. It is an interesting idea. It seems like a reasonable way to expand their user (subscription!) base so they are not dependent on keeping matchless those whom they promise to connect. Moreover, I can see that they may have quite a loyal user base in those whom they helped find their matches. Job sites can also offer services that go beyond the initial match. Nonetheless, I think there is an interesting tension in all this.

On a not completely unrelated note: Happy Birthday to GMail! Fortunately, that was not an April Fool’s two years ago. I came across the Google Romance notice on Google’s homepage, because I saw the GMail birthday icon and wanted to see if they had it in bigger on the Google homepage (a page I never visit otherwise, because why would I in the age of search toolbars). The birthday image is not reproduced there, but I did see the Romance link. (Yes, I’m obsessed with knowing how people end up on various sites and I’m projecting here by assuming that anyone else cares.)