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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Links - 2nd August 2015

1904 The Gay Apocalypse: The July Crisis, and Remoter Causes of the First World War | The History Network - "There are some 30,000 books written in English alone on the First World War and its causes. It follows that there must be a variety of opinion regarding not just the causes but also the responsibilities. Each of the belligerents needed to promulgate their exculpatory version of the causes in an effort to win neutral opinion and possible allies. Thus History has its History."

Sim Lim cheating cases: Jover Chew, accomplice face additional charges - "Chew, 33, now faces a total of 28 charges. The two fresh charges involve one count of cheating and one count of insulting behaviour. He is accused of making a customer from China, Ms Zou Jing Tong, pick up coins amounting to S$547 from the floor of Chew's now-defunct shop, Mobile Air, at Sim Lim Square. The refund was given to satisfy an order made by the Small Claims Tribunal."
Insulting behavior?!

Who’s Really Responsible for the Killing of Zimbabwe’s Lions and Other Wildlife? - "Zimbabwe was once celebrated as the “breadbasket of Africa,” whose fertile earth supplied the world with abundant tobacco, corn and wheat. Today, 76% of its rural population lives in abject poverty, dependent on foreign food aid and desperate measures — like the poaching of the wildlife that inhabits its otherwise barren lands, or rendering assistance to those who want to hunt or poach... Many conservationists believe allowing the community to reap the benefits of wildlife management — by, ironically, running the sorts of safaris on which Palmer shot his lion — will help curb illegal poaching. But it is impossible to have that debate while the world brays for the ruin of a lone Minnesotan dentist, and fails to criticize a regime whose policies were responsible for the almost complete extinction of Zimbabwean wildlife in the first place."

What Are Artificial Flavors? | DNews | TestTube - "The very flavors and scents of packaged food we buy-whether it's natural or not-are often manipulated by scientists. "Flavorists" play a huge role in the food industry and they work hard to mix chemicals that produce just the right flavor effect. An almond biscotti, for instance, often gets that almond flavor from apricot pits"

Beaver Butts Emit Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring - "Beaver butts secrete a goo called castoreum, which the animals use to mark their territory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum as a “generally regarded as safe” additive, and manufacturers have been using it extensively in perfumes and foods for at least 80 years... Castoreum is a chemical compound that mostly comes from a beaver’s castor sacs, which are located between the pelvis and the base of the tail. Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine"

Single Maria Ozawa looking for boyfriend, open to dating bachelor PNoy - "The Japanese actress also admitted that it's hard to be in a stable relationship in Japan. “It's really hard. In Japan, it's really hard to find a decent people, decent man that would really travel with me. It's really hard to get a boyfriend.”"

Answer to Are girls treated well in all IITs? - Quora - "Let me tell you the most honest answer .
NO . Girls are not treated well in IITs , they are treated WAY BETTER than well...
2. Partiality in placements and internships
Inorder to maintain gender ratio , certain big companies hire girls even though there are boys with better achievements ready to join them ."

Appear Younger… By Smelling Like Grapefruit - "According to a study by the Smell and Taste Institute in Chicago, men perceive women to be up to six years younger than they actually are when they catch the scent of the citrus fruit"

The Use of Randomized Evaluations in Microfinance - "Dean Karlan, Professor of Economics at Yale University, has used randomized trial methodology to examine the impact of microcredit. He concluded that “the canonical case for microcredit– that access increases profits, business scale, and household consumption– is not supported on average.” Notwithstanding, in his research in the Philippines he found what he considers to be a valuable “social component” of microfinance, noting “(t)hat microloans increase ability to cope with risk, strengthen community ties, and increase access to informal credit. Thus, microcredit here may work, but through channels different from those often hypothesized by its proponents.”"

India's micro-finance suicide epidemic

Microcredit 'death trap' for Bangladesh's poor - "Repayments are generally due on loans from the first week after they are taken out, which does not give the borrower enough time to establish any form of income-earning enterprise. To cover those first payments, people often resort to taking out a further loan from a different company."

Danger! Daft health and safety laws under inspection - Telegraph - "the idea that he cannot live in a cave because it has no fire exits simply defies belief. It is one of those stories that over the years has had us all shaking our heads in bewilderment and asking how, and why, we have become so preposterously risk-averse. As Lord Young of Graffham, the former Tory chairman who has been asked to carry out a review of health and safety laws, says, they have become a joke and a rich source of material for the "you couldn't make it up" school of journalism... how did legislation that over the decades was directed at protecting those seen as most vulnerable, and which helped introduce safe practices for all workers, become an all-encompassing regime that stops people who change clocks from climbing ladders, requires Christmas trees to be kept behind barriers and prevents pantomime performers from throwing sweets to children in the audience?... Employers have to look at every activity in which they are involved and judge the potential dangers. Get it wrong and they face being fined by the HSE or sued by an employee or a member of the public. Yet many of these rules, unlike those that protected miners or construction workers, often have no obvious benefit. But the boxes must be ticked... This "health and safety" culture has even led to the creation of a ladder-awareness course, which costs over £200, a sum paid by the taxpayer or the consumer depending on whether the ladder user works in the public or private sector. Meanwhile, there is an army of inspectors who carry out checks to ensure ladders are safe; notes of the inspection have to be documented, and the paperwork has to be kept for three months. Something that had been commonsensical has morphed into something bureaucratic, expensive and time-consuming that treats grown-ups like children... Young people who cannot use Blu-Tack without wearing goggles, as pupils at one school were told, indulge in terrifying new crazes such as free-running and building-jumping. Did we really intend to produce a world in which an actor playing Nelson during a Battle of Trafalgar commemoration should be required to wear a life-jacket over his costume?"

Philosophical discussions boost pupils' maths and literacy progress, study finds

How to Detect Sarcasm in Writing: 5 Steps (with Pictures)

Uncovering the 'game against England' - "One of the enduring secrets of World War II is how German intelligence tricked the British into parachuting more than 50 Dutch agents into the hands of the Nazis... In the past year or so, the British Government has released more of its secret files on what the Germans called the "Englandspiel" - the game against England. But historians remain deeply divided over whether this was merely a tragic series of blunders by the SOE, or part of an elaborate strategy of deception by London - a "double-bluff"."

Marriott Won't Block Guest Wi-Fi Devices After All - "Marriott and the American Hospitality and Lodging Association filed a petition with the FCC, asking that the commission to allow hotels to remotely disable the smartphones, tablets and other devices that some patrons use to tether their computers to the internet via 3G or 4G cellular service."

Argument between two brothers over fasting leads to death - "Suspicion whether his sibling was observing his Fast in Ramadan, led to fatal consequences."
Malaysia Boleh!

Does Sex Offender Registration Deter Crime? - "One study did find that requiring sex offenders to register with police can significantly reduce the chance that they will re-offend. But the same study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Columbia University, found that making that same information available to the public can backfire... the reason public notification encourages recidivism is because the offenders may feel they have nothing else to lose... A broader study, conducted by a researcher at the University of Chicago, found no evidence that sex offender registries increase public safety. The study found that registries do not reduce crime trends, recidivism or local sex crime rates... those who did not have to register had slightly less recidivism rates."

Why does the Earth have only one moon? - "Outside of the orbit of Mars, the temperature was low enough, that there were not only flakes of metal and chunks of rock, but also many small pieces of ice. There was therefore more 'seeds' to form planets of. This caused the planetesimals to grow quickly, and to become large enough that their gravity could capture hydrogen and helium which was very abundant in the protoplanetery disk. The protoplanets captured so much gas, that they became 'tiny solar systems'"

Why Democracy

BBC Radio 4 - Today, 20/01/2015, The Public Philosopher: Why Democracy?

On Entitled Young People who don't vote and then complain they are being disenfranchised (a result of statistical inequality being taken as evidence of oppression):

Toni: I am Toni, I'm from London and I work for the National Union of Students...

Only 44% of young people voted in the last General Elections. We have a systematic problem with our political system when less than half of young people vote, when black people are much less likely to vote than white people, when people from... they don't [vote] because they are being disenfranchised from the system.

They are, because they are being disenfranchised by you. I think that young people, they don't get a political education, they don't understand how democracy works. They don't understand how their MPs get elected or what they do all day, or all week, and we have to invest in making sure that people actually understand how the system works and not just say, "you should vote because you can". And I spend my whole life trying to get people to engage in politics... democratic systems

Woman: Birmingham University's in my constituency. You're from their NUS. I throw out a challenge to you. The changes of legislation mean that universities are no longer as a whole registering students. They're not registering and you know why? Because a third of them only comes to being asked for their national insurance numbers, they can't be bothered to find it.

My challenge to you is, my challenge to you is, how many students will register to vote? Can you be bothered to sign on to register to vote? Cause if you can't be don't say you're disenfranchised. You've made a choice

Toni: ... This is why they don't get involved. Because this the way that they're treated when they say that here's a problem. They get shouted at and told that it's their fault...

Woman: That is not fair. If I respond to the charge of that you're disenfranchised, that I then say the challenge is, make sure you register and you vote, so you're not disenfranchised if you don't even register to vote.

Toni: But it has to go back to education and for you to feel included in that political system. And that it's not something that you are excluded from, that your opinion doesn't count. And I think if young people felt that their opinions were listened to more carefully then they probably would register and they would vote.

Tom McNally, member of the House of Lords: A lot of this conversation is the usual beating ourselves up. I first came in this place 50 years ago, I've worked in various capacities and in various parties.

But to suggest that the system has not carried through revolutionary changes by peaceful and democratic ways is to ignore the social changes that have taken place in our country over the last 50 years.

My father was a labourer. He never failed to vote, although he always voted in a heavily Conservative constituency, because he thought it was part of his social contract, that he participated in the democracy that protected all his rights, and to hear young people saying, "Oh, well, we're not educated enough". Or "we're not told enough". You go out and find out. You participate. You're not chicks in a nest waiting to be fed. You're citizens in an active democracy and if you want to change things, get out and change things, but don't just sit there complaining.

Levant from London: I'm no longer what's called very young, I'm in my 50s, but I'm very disappointed in what the young people have to say because I grew up in a poor working class area in London. Still poor, I'm still living in that area of London, but when I was 18 my parents told me that I had to vote. I was told by my parents that it was my right to vote and from that time I voted.

It's your moral responsibility as far as I'm concerned and it's my moral responsibility to vote on the issues of today, to pay attention to what is going on in this country...

On traditional democracy, money and popular legitimacy:

John Redwood: The phenomenon on the continent of Europe, I think, is fascinating and easy to understand. We see there that the traditional centre left and centre right dominant parties are in a state of decline and in many cases collapse.

In Greece at the moment they command about 35% of the vote in the opinion polls in Spain about 50% and even in Germany the centre left and centre right major parties have had to come together to form a government. And I think we see that collapse because they are simply not meeting the aspirations of the captive people in Euroland with very high unemployment, very poor performance and austerity policies that are doing a lot of damage.

United Kingdom has a less extreme version of this collapse of the two main parties. It certainly shows that money doesn't count because these main establishment parties have dominated in fundraising but they have been torn apart in Europe by bad policies...

On revitalising democracy:

Alex from Manchester: When you talked about, y'know our side not voting, young people not voting. You said well, my father. Your father probably lived through a war. Y'know, he really held on to his democracy.

The idea was that there is a lot more to consider and there is that social contract which has declined. We don't care about democracy because it hasn't been threatened. I mean now we're seeing threats and freedom of speech is picking up again.

I think people are going to be more engaged-

I think if the system is going to adapt I think things like Prime Minister's Questions, shouting across at each other, it's childish. And I genuinely believe it's retarded. I think wehn people, I think normal people in Britain, I think we're quite polite. I think there is that notion I think we are quite multicultural. If you look at Britain it's just old white people shouting at each other.

And I don't think; I would never speak like that to my mother, I would never speak like that to my enemy. It's just rude. And I think, I think if you look at the statistics... you'll see that most of the public agree. That y'know you're not debating things that are really y'know entitled to our daily lives. People say what's TI... there's no debate of that. It's just that someone shouts at David Cameron and he says, well you know, don't worry about it, it's not a problem. It's just this, it's just this idea.

And you have these preppy leaders as well. You have these preppy leaders because of the social media, you're very scared to be yourselves. I think you can look at UKIP and you can see. I think a lot of older people write for Nigel Farage... he's got the notion of, y'know I'm not a politician. And the problem with politics, you take these preppy people with nothing wrong with them, so they'll say, they'll toe the party line, so they don't say anything...

Michael Sandel: A second way of conceiving democracy, not only as a process, but in a way as a project.

Democracy as a project is about trying to revive the terms of public discourse so that they will be about things people care about.

Democracy as a project really I suppose is about a way of living together that makes us, if it works, that makes us better than we would be if we simply minded our own business and took no part in public affairs.

Democracy as a project isn't only about voting. It's about reasoning together, arguing together, about big questions, and some people feel that contemporary democratic politics isn't enough like that.

Democracy as a project involves contending with disagreements, cultivating the art of listening, especially listening to people with whom we disagree, hence the frustration with the shouting matches that we've heard referred to.

Democracy is a project when it goes well, is about cultivating the habits of civility, of mutual respect, of political engagement. It's about coming, ultimately, coming to care for the common good.

Radical Transparency

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Public Interest and the Press:

Claire Fox: I think that the drive at the moment towards transparency and the right to know is driven often by a real cyncism about what's going on behind closed doors, it's always assumed it's malevolent and evil.

What I'm suggesting is that I don't think that open transparency is actually the right thing to do, and I've tried to argue, I don't think that I will have a better understanding of the magazine that you work for it I know every single nook and cranny, but I'm sure that there are things to hide. People have things to hide...

I've seen the way freedom of information requests, transparency culture has paralyzed a lot of organisations, who are stymied from thinking out loud.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Links - 30th July 2015

Standing at Attention: Women in the Singaporean Armed Forces | Peatix - "The armed forces have traditionally been stereotyped with some of the following images: camouflage, top-down sergeant-corporate relations, guns and men with cropped hair. Despite the occasional women on posters and promotional videos, there is little overall coverage of life in the armed forces as a female. In salute to Singaporean women’s service, Singapore Committee for UN Women will be holding a panel with amazing female servicewomen. Join us as they share their experiences and narratives having paved their way in the Singaporean armed forces. The recognition of these inspirational women and their success in traditionally male dominated fields is a step to combat gender stereotypes and end structural violence as part of our Help Anna campaign."
Amused that "structural violence" can be ended by celebrating violence. I guess anything is alright to combat stereotypes

Florida Man Arrested for Having Sex with an Alligator - "Police responded after a man out of a nature hike happened to walk by Darwin’s house and saw Darwin having sex with the alligator in his backyard. The witness heard Darwin say, “next time you try to kill a man, you best get the job done. Now you’re my bitch forever.” “It was the damn strangest thing I’ve ever seen,” the witness told police. “The gator didn’t even move. It was like it didn’t give a s**t that man was having sex with it”...
Excerpt from Darwin’s police statement:
The gator tried to eat me and this was revenge, pure and simple. I don’t have no sexual attraction to gators, but I wanted to teach this bitch a lesson. I could have just killed her, but that would have been too easy. She was getting what she deserved.
Darwin also told police he had planned to chop off the alligator’s tail and pull her teeth as part of his revenge scheme and had even considered performing noise torture on the reptile by playing what Darwin described as “nigger music” over and over."
Why do people like to waste taxpayers' money and report these cases to the police?

Who's Happier: Europeans or Americans? - "Americans really do love to work, it seems, while Europeans are much happier if they skip burning the midnight oil in favor of leisure. That's according to a new study finding longer work hours make Europeans unhappy while Americans get a very slight (albeit not statistically significant) bliss boost from the extra grind... as income increases, so does a person’s overall satisfaction with life. However, that money lift didn't mean more moment-to-moment enjoyment of those days, which instead depended more on social and physical factors, such as whether a person smoked or spent the day alone."

Why social mobility could be bad for your health - Telegraph - "We find that the psychologically successful adolescents, those with high self-control, have cells that are biologically old, relative to their chronological age"

The social mobility myth - "It is probable that both those unquestioned political assumptions—that social mobility has stalled and that education is the answer—are mistaken. In an important recent study, the doyen of social mobility, John Goldthorpe, a professor at Nuffield College, Oxford, has argued that these are both half-truths at best, and myths at worst. Goldthorpe argues that “no decline in mobility, either absolute or relative, occurred in the late 20th century.” The rate of relative social mobility, which measures the chances of a given person escaping their class origins, have not changed for a century. In his 2012 paper, “Understanding—and misunderstanding—social mobility in Britain,” Goldthorpe points out that John Braine is still the best analyst of what has really happened: social mobility in Britain has been a case of more room being found at the top... If Britain creates more professional jobs then more people will be able to make a class journey during their lives. Relative social mobility, however, has a major political deficiency. No politician will make an appeal to the electorate based on the desire that the children of the middle class should do less well than they do now. However, in order for relative social mobility to be possible, downward movement is critical. What Gore Vidal said about friendship is also true of social mobility: “it is not enough to succeed. Others must fail”... The truth is that politicians will probably continue to talk about the easy version of social mobility, in which everyone rises but nobody falls."

Why Japan Is Still Not Sorry Enough - "A lot of people died in Indonesia, Vietnam, and elsewhere, too. But Southeast Asians have been generally willing to forgive the Japanese. And the Japanese were in Taiwan even longer than in Korea, but anti-Japanese attitudes there are weak or non-existent. To my mind, the key difference is how modern nationalism was created in those countries. Chinese and Korean nationalism is in many ways defined itself against Japan. In contrast, the national identity of most Southeast Asian countries was defined in opposition to their old colonial masters. In Indonesia, the focus was the Dutch, in Malaysia it was the British, and in the Philippines it was the United States. Taiwan is also instructive here, since the pro-democratic movement focused its resentment against domination by mainland China, first under the Nationalists and more recently against the PRC."

Artist Paints Canvases With Her Own Menstrual Blood - ""It's short fast and hard, you know?" Lani Beloso says about her period. She's a gorgeous 42-year-old with a license in nuclear medicine and a condition called menorrhagia: her periods are 3x heavier than normal, and horribly painful... She wasn't making a statement-she was just wanted to make the pain worth something."

The most efficient government in the world has been announced... and it's Qatar - "It is an autocracy where women are discriminated against, migrant workers are exploited and free speech is curtailed. But according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Qatar is a model of efficient government... WEF researchers used data taken from the group’s most recent Global Competitiveness Report. Measures such as wasteful spending, the burden of regulation on business and the transparency of policymaking were considered to calculate the overall efficiency of each country’s rulers... Dr David Roberts, an expert in Gulf international relations and security at King’s College London who lived in Qatar for more than four years, said the country’s strong showing in the table was “hard to fathom” even if its questionable human rights record was set aside. “I don’t know what they were trying to measure, but in no meaningful sense have they derived a sensible conclusion that Qatar is the most efficient government in the world. I don’t care how solid their methodology is, most people who work in Qatar would not recognise this study’s findings.” He added that when he lived in Qatar he dealt with government officials who suffered from a “general lack of capability” and were “plagued” with bureaucracy. “I’m not one of these people who puts the boot into Qatar – it’s just a young state which doesn’t have the right procedures in place.”"
Malaysia was #8, so

Taiwanese Guy's Russian Girlfriend Encourages Single Chinese Men - chinaSMACK - "Owing to a severe gender imbalance in Russia, over 10 million Russian girls can’t find men to marry, so international marriages are extremely trendy amongst Russian girls and furthermore, Russian girls’ demands in a perfect man (shown at the end) aren’t high either. So guys who can’t find girls, what are you waiting for? Go find a Russian girl, both pretty and strong, able to catch thieves and beat up hooligans, no need to fear others bullying you ever again!"

Does Pornography Consumption Increase Participation in Friends with Benefits Relationships?

Sushi shop in Tokyo has no name, passes savings on to you with 10-yen sushi! - "In Yoyogi, Tokyo, there stands an unnamed sushi shop which sells impressively crafted sushi at rock-bottom prices. It’s a fairly new restaurant, known to locals as “The Sushi Shop With No Name” or “That Sushi Shop That Still Doesn’t Have A Name.” To us, it became known as “The Place That Serves Yellowtail Sushi For Only 10 Yen (US$0.08) A Piece!” Granted, that’s not the catchiest of names, especially with the conversion to US dollars, but it’s definitely enticing."

Darrell Francis's answer to Why is Sweden so feminist? - Quora - "When I studied in Sweden, I read a paper called Feminist Geography and the Rural Idyll. Being an undergrad at the time, I had never spent much time thinking about gender issues and the title just seemed ridiculous. I would joke about Sweden being so feminist they even discussed in geography class. However, I always remember this paper because, to me as an outsider, it actually explained quite a bit about Swedish culture and gender relations... historically Sweden had been a very poor country. During a time when agriculture was the primary source of income, Swedish soil was poor and its winters were long. The paucity of the land meant there was little surplus, so there was relatively little division of labor. Peasant communities couldn't afford to tie women to housework, they had to be out in field with the men producing food. Since the women where in the fields during the day, little housework was done, so women and men would do housework together when they returned home in the evening. In areas where food was more abundant, they could afford to have just the men work in the fields while the women did housework. This created a patriarchal system wherein the men brought back the food and money the family needed to survive while women managed the household. Whereas in Sweden, since women and men worked together, the relationship was much more egalitarian... the lack of a food surplus meant that there were very few wealth landowners. This is important because when people own property, they want to find ways to protect their property and one of ways of doing that in the past was through marriages. Marriages were used to secure alliances and inheritance. Women essentially became commodities, bargaining chips used to secure property or gain more property. The low productivity of Swedish land meant that ownership of agricultural land was organized much differently"

The Surprising Countries With More Women in Corporate Leadership Than the U.S.—Or Even Scandinavia - "The irony is that “highly-developed” countries that have also implemented corporate gender quotas perform similarly to the Nordic countries. Spain (22 percent), Germany (14 percent), and Switzerland (13 percent) have some of the lowest proportions of women in senior management roles in the world, despite their own domestic policies addressing this issue."

Why are people so upset about the killing of Cecil the lion?

Gabriel Seah's answer to Why are people so upset about the killing of Cecil the lion? - Quora

Most anti-hunting sentiment is due to a combination of:

- romanticisation of charismatic megafauna
- thinly-disguised bashing of rich people
- generalised online misanthropy

The reaction to the killing of Cecil the Lion is no exception, and is similar to past reactions when Ian Gibson was trampled to death by an elephant (Game Hunter Trampled To Death By Elephant), Rebecca Francis killed a giraffe (This woman smiled after shooting a giraffe, and the Internet is outraged) and Kendall Jones posted pictures of herself smiling beside dead African game (Uproar over cheerleader’s ‘trophy hunts’ posted on Facebook).

Perhaps there was some slight increase in outrage due to the hunt being illegal and Cecil being famous, but really how many non-Zimbabweans had heard of Cecil before his killing, and why does legal hunting also upset people?

Let us look at some of the reasons typically given to justify outrage at this kind of hunting and hunter: conservation, animal cruelty and sportsmanship.


Cecil was a member of the species Panthera leo, the African Lion, which is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Panthera leo (African Lion, Lion)).

That might sound worrying, but Gadus morhua (Atlantic Cod) is also Vulnerable (Gadus morhua (Atlantic Cod, Cod, Codling, Haberdine, Kil'din Cod)) and most people have no problems with eating it. Ditto with lots of other species of seafood (10 Fish You're Eating That Are Endangered Species).

The Giant Gippsland Earthworm - Endangered on the IUCN Red List (i.e. more endangered than the African lion) and the poster child of no conservation campaigns

Furthermore, hunting for sport can in many cases actually be *good* for threatened species.

Hunters  spend a lot of money, which stimulates local economies, and encourages  locals to conserve wildlife so hunters can come and shoot animals.

Indeed,  the legalisation of white rhino hunting in South Africa was responsible  for the population exploding from less than 100 to more than 11,000 (Can trophy hunting actually help conservation? - Conservation). Elephants in Zimbabwe have also benefited from hunting.

Animal cruelty

The vast majority of those against hunting for sport happily eat meat, and factory farming is far more cruel (Farm Animal Cruelty) - it's just that you don't see or imagine it, so it's out of sight, out of mind.

If  it's alright for countless animals to suffer their entire lives just to  give you some momentary pleasure from their meat, what is the suffering  of a few animals to give a hunter his own pleasure?

What is the moral difference between the pleasure of eating meat (which is not necessary for human survival) and the pleasure of hunting which makes the former acceptable but not the latter?

Hens in a cage. Battery hens live in these for an average of 18 months, almost 329 times as long as the 40 hours Cecil the lion took to die

Unsportsmanship-like behavior

This is a somewhat more interesting objection.

This  objection to hunting goes along the lines of it being "unfair" for  people armed with modern weaponry and other technology (and usually with  support staff) to go up against animals only equipped with teeth and  claws.

And thus it is not a sport.

One might question what fair play might involve.

Should the hunter arm himself with a rifle without scopes and/or night vision devices?
Should the hunter not camouflage himself?
Should the hunter arm himself with a spear - no firearms?
Should the hunter only use his bare hands?

Yet, hunted animals are physically stronger, probably faster and definitely better equipped with natural weapons than humans.

Just what should hunters do to give animals a sporting chance?

Similarly, is it sporting for athletes from developed countries,
- benefiting from nutrition and sport science
- who can afford to train full-time
- train at high altitudes to increase their red blood cell count
- using the latest aerodynamic bodysuits (Under Armour’s secret Olympic mission: Build a faster speedskating suit) and
- who have expensive personal trainers and coaches

to go up against athletes from developing countries who
- have day jobs
- train barefoot on dirt tracks
- are malnourished and
- compete in simple jerseys?

Really,  all this fuss about hunters being unsporting is moot since we don't get  upset when people are unsporting in other areas.

Did Lance Armstrong get death threats for being unsporting and doping?

Indeed,  it seems to me that the only ones getting death threats in those  instances were the ones who contributed to Armstrong's fall from grace (Is Lance Armstrong’s Fate Really Worth Making Death Threats?). So people were upset at those seeking to maintain the purity of the sport (such as it is) more than Armstrong, who broke the rules.

In other words, what upsets people isn't really that hunters are unsporting.

Romanticisation of charismatic megafauna

Rebecca Francis, who posed for a photo with a dead giraffe and got a barrage of death threats after Ricky Gervais condemned her (Huntress becomes 'the hunted' after barrage of death threats over kill selfies), noted that

the animals I have taken with a bow include: a 10 1/2 ft. brown bear,  black bear, shiras moose, alaskan moose,  dall sheep, stone sheep,  desert bighorn ram, rocky mountain bighorn ram, mule deer, whitetail  deer, elk, mountain goat, antelope, arapawa ram, kudu, zebra, black  wildebeest, giraffe, springbuck, blesbuck, lynx, badger, and squirrel
(Rebecca Francis giraffe photo causes storm -

Yet, it seems that what got the most attention was the giraffe, which is telling.

Gervais's tweet is also revealing:

What must've happened to you in your life to make you want to kill a beautiful animal & then lie next to it smiling?

At least some of the hate, then, comes from the animal being "beautiful".

Thinly-disguised bashing of rich people

The rich are one of the seemingly few groups that it is okay to hate nowadays, and it is clear from the subtext of many of the comments that this sentiment is present.

One clear example is the journalist Piers Morgan who said that,

I  will sell tickets for $50,000 to anyone who wants to come with me and  track down fat, greedy, selfish, murderous businessmen like Dr Palmer in  their natural habit.
(Piers:I’d love to hunt with Walter Palmer so I can stuff and mount him)

Nevermind that Palmer is not fat. Nor is he a businessman. And there doesn't seem to be any evidence that he is greedy, selfish or murderous (by definition you can't "murder" an animal).

He is a hunter, so he must be a corporate fatcat!

Similarly, the ban on fox hunting in England is at least as much about class as protecting foxes from cruelty (Fox hunts thrive in Britain, but class-tinged controversy won't go away).

Generalised online misanthropy

By now if you're not living under a rock you must have heard about at least one Internet witch hunt.

The glee expressed by many people as they fantasise about torturing Walter Palmer is really disturbing. For example:

Truly. I'd put a cross bow bolt through Walter Palmer then track him  from 40 hrs, shoot him, behead him, skin him and sleep peacefully.
(People Are Flooding This Dentist's Facebook After He Was Named As The Hunter Who Killed Cecil The Lion)

Even if they don't want to kill him, they certainly want him ruined.

Sharon Osbourne tweeted of her hope that he “loses his home, his  practice & his money” (before noting: “He has already lost his  soul”).
(Who's Really Killing the Lions of Zimbabwe?)

As a New York Times article observed,

Perhaps she had now come to understand that her shaming wasn’t really  about her at all. Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate  our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her  tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by  bit, and so they continued to do so. Their motivation was much the same  as Sacco’s own — a bid for the attention of strangers — as she milled  about Heathrow, hoping to amuse people she couldn’t see
(How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life)

Basically, people are just looking for targets to bash and hate, especially in the Internet age where hating on people is something of a performance art.


To some constituencies, Walter Palmer is a hero.

By shooting Cecil the Lion he saved  the lives of about 250 antelope Cecil would've eaten over his life.

Cecilia the Lion killing an antelope

As well as any cubs Cecil would've killed if he'd taken over a pride (Why killing infants can benefit animals).

Meanwhile, humans die all the time but this rarely attracts attention (People are upset over the reaction to the deaths of a human in Calais and a lion).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"You message contains words that are not allowed. Please change it."


Pixel PAdang avatar creation:

"Vive l'Internationale communiste, le guide des masses travailleuses du monde entier ! Vive la révolution prolétarienne mondiale !

You message contains words that are not allowed. Please change it."

The Swiss and Money

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, A Turkish Mosaic:

"The Swiss worry about their image, but all images arise from some basic truths.

If you want to understand their attitude to money, you have to go back centuries, one young student reminded me.

The Swiss were Europe's mercenaries. They fought for whoever paid, nevermind the cause. And if they discovered the other side paid more they switched camps overnight.

And then there is that often misunderstood concept: banking secrecy. It arose originally not out of a desire to attract corrupt money, but out of a very Swiss conviction that the State should not interfere in individuals' financial affairs and that citizens can be trusted. So it's not considered polite to ask someone what they earn here, that's a private matter. Everyone pays their own taxes, nothing is deducted at source. Every year we all groan at the bureaucracy, but everyone I know does do it.

Add the long Swiss tradition of hundreds of little sporting associations. From ski clubs to hiking groups. Every village has them. Newcomers are expected to join. But the laws governing them are astonishingly lax. And until very recently the same laws applied to institutions like FIFA, whose current bank balance by the way stands at almost a billion pounds. No meaningful oversight, no requirement for transparent book-keeping, and a good few tax breaks.

Put all that tradition in a pot: the mercenaries, the banking secrecy and the village club laws, mix for a couple of centuries and what do you get?

An opportunistic financial sector which has made billions for Switzerland, partly through attracting the case of despots, drug barons and tax dodgers, and a cozy home for bloated multi-million pound businesses masquerading as not-for-profit sporting associations.

And in the figure of Sett Blatter, a man brought up in a small Swiss village where it wasn't considered polite to discuss money."

Links - 29th July 2015

BBC World Service - The World This Week, How Africans Brought 'Africa's Pinochet' To Book - "Robert Lacey: Until the middle of 1939, all of Britain wanted a peace deal with Hitler. And when Chamberlain came back from Munich with that disgusting agreement as we now saw it, the whole country was cheering and so for the Royal Family to go along with that, it seems to me, is not exceptional... Look at America. Where they have, theoretically, a marvelous democracy. What do they do? They immediately try and create royal people. Clintons. Bushes. Kennedies. We're dealing with a basic human need here, to have a human element at the heart of government. And that's what our monarchy is."

Goodbye Sweden | THE SWEDEN REPORT - "When I was a child, Sweden was a dull yet very safe place to live. Yes, there was a heavy blanket of socialism and collectivist values covering everything, but there was a core of pragmatism beneath the redness. The intention and goal was always to benefit the citizens, even though they went about things in a backwards manner. Today, it’s as if the inmates are running the asylum. The politicians are participating in a chicken race of “goodness” where everybody tries to one-up each other in caring for the citizens of OTHER countries while Swedish retirees, school children, handicapped and other vulnerable categories of people are thorougly ignored. Violence is exploding. Jihadist Trojan horses are flowing through the porous border along with the tens of thousands ID-less refugees. But what makes me the most pessimistic about Sweden’s future is how the social fabric itself has been undermined... There simply is no possible way to absorb and assimilate such volumes of people, period. Then you are merely creating ethnic enclaves, which due to incompatible language, culture and job skills become ghettos, which in turns brews crime, misery and extremism. Once the inflow has exceeded the capacity for absorbtion, further immigration only makes the problem worse. It’s like someone having read that a cup of green tea per day is healthy, so they make it a policy to chug four gallons per day, every day. It’s a good thing overdone to the extreme until it becomes toxic. Then you have the Swedish school system. There really is no nice way to put it; it’s a complete disaster. The minister of education is a man-boy who spends his time making Youtube-videos showing heart-signs with his hands to boost school results, while university-level students can’t read and comprehend the course literature. Since there is a delay in the changes in the school system, it is only in recent years the full impact of the knowledge-averse “progressive” school system is starting to be felt. Hard facts are largely irrelevant; the important thing is to sit in a group and discuss things until a consensus is reached. But with no hard facts to base the conclusions on, it becomes an exercise in futility because it’s all random assumptions and opinions. As a university-level history student (!) was quoted as saying in newspaper Svenska Dagbladet the other day: “Why would all these dates matter? Who cares in what order things happened?”"

The Education Crisis | Swedish Surveyor - "As the OECD noted no other country has experienced a steeper decline in student performance than Sweden in the past decade and in this very same decade the majority of the population growth has been a direct result of lax immigration policies... The only country whereas immigrant students do better than native students is Australia; a country that cherry picks individuals who are well-educated and have the skills required for the Australian labour market. This stands in stark contrast to Sweden which has prioritized immigration from the third world and some groups such as Somalis are, to a great extent, analfabetic."

Born this way? Society, sexuality and the search for the 'gay gene' - "Scientists are asking whether homosexuality is natural when we can’t even agree exactly what homosexuality is. Homosexuality, as with all sexualities, is a social construction... This picture of sexuality is where we stand today: our sexual desires help construct our social identity, one which we believe tells a fundamental truth about who we are... whilst almost all of the focus of research into the gay gene has focused on gay men, research into female sexual desires has continued as well. In 2006 for example, Linda Garnets and Anne Peplau presented research they described as a “paradigm shift” into female sexuality. Their research found that women’s sexual orientation is potentially fluid, shaped by life experiences and can change over the course of a life span. Of particular importance they found that female sexual orientation is “shaped by such social and cultural factors as women’s education, social status and power, economic opportunities, and attitudes about women’s roles”... Homosexuality therefore is not due to genes, but develops, as Julie Bindel says, due to “a mix of opportunity, luck, chance, and, quite frankly, bravery”... While gay gene arguments may seem like a way to push the rights agenda forward it can actually have the opposite effect — limiting the debate solely to those traits and behaviours seen as genetic. There is no genetic evidence for much of our behaviour. Does that mean, even when we are not creating harm, we have less of a right to engage in those acts than others?"

Are Some Men Born Pedophiles? New Science Says Yes, But Sexologists Say Not So Fast - "“Whatever the chain of events is, the chain begins before birth,” said James M. Cantor, a University of Toronto professor of psychiatry whose research team has made a series of startling correlations finding that pedophiles are likely to share physical attributes, such as slightly lower IQs, shorter body height, left-handedness and less brain tissue. “There is no way to explain the findings that we get for pedophelia without mentioning or without including biology”"

Short stint in jail for woman who killed partner by cutting off his penis - "A WOMAN who chopped off her ex partner's penis to stop him impregnating other women will serve less than four years in jail. Jian Chen was this morning sentenced to a minimum of three years and nine months in jail after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of her ex partner Xian Peng at her North Ryde home in February 2011. The court accepted the guilty plea to the lesser charge, and withdrew the murder charge, because Chen was suffering from an "abnormality of the mind" due to mental illness and the belief Peng was going to take their child to China. Chen believed her husband was "a conman" who wanted to impregnate wealthy woman to get money off them, the court heard."

Christian Man Denied Service By THIRTEEN Gay Bakeries After Requesting Pro-Traditional Marriage Cake - "when decided to call thirteen pro-gay bakeries and ask for the words “Gay Marriage Is Wrong”, they were met with insults and hatred. In short, they were met with the same intolerance that the people wanting “Support Gay Marriage” cakes were met with at Christian bakeries… yet these pro-gay bakeries had no backlash against them. Yet, as asked, it is curious what the reaction would be had the callers asked for “Support Polygamy” or “Polygamy is Wrong” cakes.. because we’re betting the slogans would be considered opinions, would be considered free speech. We’re also betting that the bakeries would have made the cakes."

'Sweden's integration debate skewed by political correctness' - "On August 19th, local politician and human rights activist Robert Hannah came out of the closet in dramatic fashion by publishing an article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper with the headline "From now on I will be myself". The article made waves as it was not only a personal story about his decision to come out as a homosexual, but also a public denouncement of the honour culture still prevalent in some parts of the Assyrian immigrant culture in which he was raised. Since then, the waves have become stronger as both support for and the attacks on Hannah have grown in intensity. His article exposed Sweden's sensitive nerve of political correctness for what it really is: a self-imposed straight jacket. Since he went public and shared his experiences as a gay man living under the moral oppression of the Assyrian honour culture, it seems the strongest criticism he has faced has come from within the ranks of Sweden's left-wing progressives. He has been accused of feeding xenophobia, abusing rhetorical techniques to "win a debate" and of using his own personal experiences as scientifically unsound evidence for making generic statements about immigrants. In short he has been accused of playing straight into the hands of the extreme right."
Is it worse to be "homophobic" or to be "racist"?

Of bare breasts and now vaginas: Will Swedish PC madness ever end? - "the Social Democratic Deputy Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Susanne Eberstein, ordered the removal of a baroque painting featuring a (barely) naked woman -- see the picture in the article here -- from the parliamentary dining room where it had been hanging for 30 years. That was on the grounds that a pair of baroque breasts could cause offence to women in general and visiting Muslim dignitaries in particular. But if bare breasts are too much for grown men and women, vagina art is apparently perfectly ok for school kids."

Swedish political correctness goes into reverse as black teacher is excluded from "black film" class - ""A Swedish trainee teacher was asked to leave the classroom because the pupils were about to discuss a film with black actors, and her presence could "inhibit the debate". The school's "logic" was framed in terms of a deeply-held belief in Swedish officialdom that racial, religious and cultural groups think in terms of the groups to which they belong, rather than in terms of any given item that they are asked to talk about. The teaching student, from Malmo University, has filed an official complaint to Sweden's discrimination ombudsman. She said that the film had focused on criminality among young black boys. After it had been shown, the class teacher threw her out so that the students could discuss the matter without her presence getting in the way of the discussion."
This is like whites or men in US colleges being barred from ethnic studies/gender studies classes

Pork Politics: Why Some Danes Want Pig Meat Required On Menus - "Over the summer, the Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet undertook a survey of public institutions and found that "at least 30" day cares had dropped pork from their menus so that children from different ethnic and religious backgrounds (primarily Muslim) would not have to queue up in different lunch lines. But 844 comments later, it became clear that many Danes thought this was a bad idea... the idea of a "pork quota" was something given fairly serious consideration at a recent national party meeting. That is, a requirement that the menu at public institutions for the young and old contain at least 20 percent pig. "People should have the freedom to live according to Islamic law," says Mikkel Dencker, the man behind the dream. "It's also fine with us that they don't want to eat pork. But there should be meatballs in day care centers, and on those days they can eat more potatoes or side dishes.""

Science minister doubts Darwin: God created Earth - "Esben Lunde Larsen – the new minister for education and research, who will be responsible for scientific research in Denmark – is making headlines due to his scientific scepticism and belief that God created the Earth."

Not having the patience for others

A popular quote from José Micard Teixeira that is attributed to Meryl Streep:

I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.

This is a very interesting quote.

Let's unpack it.

I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me
I want to be comfortable. I don't want to learn any more. I don't want to challenge myself.

I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature
I like mindless positive speak. I do not wish to have myself, my ideas or my projects critically examined.

I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me.
I no longer follow the Golden Rule. My love and niceness is no longer unconditional, but now cynically (SPOING!) premised upon reciprocation.

I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise.
I no longer can function in society with its polite, white lies and social lubrication. Even though I am condemning everyone I am almost certainly not as perfect as I expect others to be and am thus guilty of the very same sins I deplore in others.

I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance.
I dismiss what I am unwilling and/or unable to understand and am happy to wallow in my ignorance.

I hate conflict and comparisons.
Despite condemning a lot of people and comparing them to some Platonic ideal of what a proper person should be, I pretend that I hate "conflict" and "comparisons".

I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities.
I have a Manichean, rigid view of the world without subtlety and yet declaim "rigid and inflexible" people.

In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal.
I expect my friends to agree with me all the time. If they have their own mind, they are scum.

Exaggerations bore me
I don't realise the irony of claiming exaggerations bore me when my whole spiel is one big exaggeration.

I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals.
I supposedly love animals (though I probably eat them anyway) but hate humans.

I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.
I am insufferably self-entitled, sanctimonious and judgmental, and go around condemning people I don't like as unworthy of me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Links - 28th July 2015

Singapore Seen | Brave guy stands up to old man who shouted at and threatened teen who wore offensive shirt on train - "the T-shirt said: "I'm F--king Special”
In an email to Stomp she wrote:
"A teen was being insulted by a man because of what his T-shirt said. "It was not a good day for everyone due to the MRT breakdown and the train was very packed. "Suddenly, a man in blue shirt came in the train shouted and threatened teen asking if he wanted to fight." She added that the teen just kept quiet and did not respond to the man. From the video she sent in, the aggressive man even threatened to throw the teen out of the train when it reached Ang Mo Kio MRT station."

Why many rape victims don’t fight or yell - "In the midst of sexual assault, the brain’s fear circuitry dominates. The prefrontal cortex can be severely impaired, and all that’s left may be reflexes and habits."
Comment: "It's one thing to describe freezing in reaction to a physical assault; it's another thing to describe freezing in reaction to a date with whom you've been making out, making naturally progressive moves to home base, so to speak... Equating verbal pressure with sexual assault, or calling drunk sex sexual assault makes it ridiculous"

Women trained to resist sexual assault far less likely to be raped: study - "One year later, those who took the EAAA had experienced 46 per cent fewer completed rapes (5.2 per cent versus 9.8 per cent) and 63 per cent fewer attempted rapes (3.4 per cent versus 9.3 per cent) than the control group."

How Ironic: America's Rent-Controlled Cities Are Its Least Affordable - "There are multiple factors for why these cities are expensive, including other regulations that mirror rent control’s arbitrariness. They all have zoning regulations that limit the housing supply, even as demand remains high. And the housing that is built undergoes lengthy approval processes, placing costs on developers that get passed down onto consumers. But a lot of it is because of rent controls that cause market distortions... “Before rent stabilization arrived on the scene in 1969, New York built 35,000 dwellings a year on average. In the early seventies, the rate dropped to 20,000 a year, and a decade later, to 10,000”... In San Francisco, a combination of rent control and strict eviction laws force many landlords to accommodate long-time tenants who pay well below market rate, leaving little revenue available to cover expenses. This has caused landlords to abandon an estimated 31,000 units—or one-twelfth of the city’s stock"

I’m Gay, And I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage - "The big secret in the LGBT community is that there are a significant number of gays and lesbians who oppose same-sex marriage, and an even larger number who are ambivalent. You don’t hear us speak out because gay rights activists (most of whom are straight) have a history of viciously stamping out any trace of individualism within the gay community. I asked to publish this article under a pseudonym, not because I fear harassment from Christian conservatives, but because I know this article will make me a target of the Gaystapo."

How Big are Psychological Sex Differences? - "evolutionary psychologists expect the sex who has lower levels of obligatory parental investment (in humans, males) to be higher in “sociosexuality” (i.e., willingness to engage in sex without heavy commitment). Human sex differences in sociosexuality have been demonstrated as culturally universal in a study of 48 nations (Schmitt, 2005) and again in a study of 53 nations (Lippa, 2008), with both studies finding the exact same size of worldwide sex differences with men being higher than women, d = +0.74. This is larger than any of the sex differences in the recent study by Zell et al. (2015), but it was not considered and has not been subjected to a “meta-analysis” as it is a largely uncontentious empirical finding (see also here). Sexual diversity associated with sociosexuality is just one example of the dozens of psychological sex differences expected from theories within evolutionary psychology. Ellis (2011a, 2011b) used his evolutionary neuroandrogenic theory as a guide to examine psychological sex differences and amassed evidence of 65 apparently universal sex differences. These sex differences were shown to be universal across cultures, with not a single replication failure across 10 studies (probably too tough a criterion leading to an under-reporting of actual psychological sex differences). Using evolutionary theory to guide researchers how to look for sex differences versus when to expect no differences (i.e., domains where ancestral men and women have not faced different adaptive problems) yields a very different conclusion from the atheoretical view that men and women are largely indistinguishable overall."

Pursuing 'efficiency' in the public sector: why privatisation is not necessarily the answer - "Public services are provided mainly in areas where standard competitive market conditions do not apply. For example, distributional outcomes are often important: public services are generally thought best to follow need rather than willingness or capacity to pay (like justice or disability services), and minimum service levels are often desired even if they are high cost (like services to rural and remote communities). Outsourcing also creates a “principal-agent” situation, which is where an individual or organisation (an agent) is carrying out work on behalf of someone else (the principal), and where there is a tendency for the work to produce outputs that are suited to the needs of the agent rather than the principal. Furthermore, many fields of public activity involve networks and scale efficiencies (roads, statistical collection, meteorology services, and so on) and these are most efficiently delivered as single public systems. A review of 129 reports and case studies undertaken by Graeme Hodge found that outsourcing works well in some cases and badly in others. And it is worth noting that many studies that found benefits did not take into account the broader economic and social costs of outsourcing. For example, outsourcing frequently results in significant job cuts, and the welfare costs of increased unemployment may exceed any savings... Public and private hospitals show similar efficiency levels once their different roles are taken into account. Public and private schools show similar levels of attainment once the demographic profile of the students is factored in."

Fly fighter jets - Be a fighter pilot for a day - "Flying fighter jets is not an impossible dream anymore. You can be a fighter pilot for a day, flying Russian fighters in Russia, L39 Albatros in France or in the USA, as well as other military aircrafts around the world. Fighter jets are amazing machines, capable of getting you to the edge of space, to break the sound barrier and to get you feel up to 7Gs."

Jiaozi, Gyoza, Mandu … histoire de raviolis asiatiques - "Le Jiaozi ne devrait pas être confondu avec le wonton : le Jiaozi, en forme de demi-lune, a une peau plus épaisse et plus caoutchouteuse. Il est habituellement mangé « nature » avec un mélange sauce soja-vinaigre. Les wontons ont une peau plus mince, plus transparente et sont habituellement servis en bouillon... D’un premier coup d’œil, le Gyoza pourrait être confondu avec le Jiaozi, son homologue chinois. Toute la différence est dans le goût et la texture de la pâte. Les Gyoza sont généralement plus riches en ail et plus discrets au niveau des épices, notamment le sel. La pâte du Gyoza est également plus fine et moins caoutchouteuse."

Do Strong Religious Beliefs Stifle Innovation? - Real Time Economics - WSJ - "Countries that are intensely religious are typically less innovative than those that aren’t... The relationship broadly holds up when the authors make adjustments for differences in gross domestic product, rates of higher education, population and other variables. So it’s not simply a matter of more religious countries being poorer or having fewer resources... “We focus on one key determinant of growth–science and innovation–but religion also ties into many others: general literacy, thrift, social norms, civil peace or strife, etc.,” the paper said. “Moreover, our model highlights how conflicts between new scientific knowledge and prevailing religious beliefs can lead not only to repression of the former or erosion of the latter, but also to their coexistence.” One last note: The authors focus on traditional religion but also suggest that any overly rigid ideology can impede science. As an example, they cite the Soviet Union from the 1930s through the 1960s, when “Inquisition-like methods (forced denunciations, imprisonments, executions) were used to repress ‘bourgeois’ scientific knowledge and methodology in evolutionary biology and agronomy, with adverse spillovers onto many other areas.”"

FGM: Vaginal piercing to be recorded as female genital mutilation - Telegraph - "Women with vaginal piercings will now be classed as victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), under new NHS rules. FGM is an illegal practice where women and girls’ genitalia are cut or mutilated in the name of tradition, religion and culture. But now any woman whose clitoris or labia has been pierced – even if it was entirely her own decision - will be seen as an act of FGM... A home affairs select committee released a report that said: “We cannot tell communities in Sierra Leone and Somalia to stop a practice which is freely permitted on Harley Street.” The MPs want a 2003 FGM law to be changed so that it specifically outlaws cosmetic surgery such as labiaplasty - where a woman's labia are trimmed for aesthetic purposes - as "a criminal offence"."
Women, like children, cannot make decisions about their own bodies

When bread has race - "Recently, a Facebook group has urged Malaysian bread lovers to add race and politics to their list of preferences. Started around a month ago, the online campaign called for a boycott of Gardenia bread because it is allegedly owned by a “crony company”... Datuk Marimuthu Nadeson of Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) says he is stunned that food has been politicised so. “If even bread can be equated to race and politics, I don't know which God will help us,” he says... After the race riots of May 13, 1969, non-Malays boycotted durians as they were associated with the Malays"

Non-Muslims Carried Out More than 90% of All Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil

Sung patriotically for 32 years - "His Malay lyrics were so simple that anyone over the age of five, unless mentally retarded, had no difficulty singing the anthem. All Singaporean children of kindergarten age have not only had no difficulty memorising the words but have for decades sung it every morning with "strong feelings and emotion"."

Death in Finance

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, Between Life and Death

On the Chicago Board of Trade:

"One day a trader died of a heart attack in a pit.

He was held upright for the remaining 20 minutes of trading by the press of the other participants before the bell went for the end of the session.

Nobody noticed until the shouting stopped and the other traders walked away"

Drag = Blackface

Drag = Blackface

"The consensus that blackface performance is intolerably racist is of relatively recent vintage. Before that, analyses of blackface minstrelsy-even those that conceded its racism -concentrated on the meaning of the performance to the performers and the audience, ignoring or discounting its meaning to, and impact on, the people being portrayed.

That is the current state of scholarship about performance in drag. Why hasn't our understanding that blackface is insulting extended itself to drag? In this Essay, I hope to begin that extension, suggesting that the same arguments that forged the cultural consensus against blackface should forge a consensus against drag. We retain a salutary sense of shock when the BBC replaces James Earl Jones as Othello with a white actor in blackface. What will it take to develop that sense of shock when a man plays Lady Bracknell?

In this Essay, "drag" means men dressing as women in public, especially in performance. I argue that a whole range of activities, from vaudeville "illusionists" to the pantomime dame, from Mrs. Doubtfire to La Cage aux Folles, from cross-dresser balls in Harlem to Hasty Pudding theatricals at Harvard, represent institutionalized male hostility to women on a spectrum running from prescription of desired behavior to simple ridicule. These performances may be glamorous or comic, and presented by gay men or straight men. Nonetheless, all of them represent a continuing insult to women, as is apparent from the parallels between these performances and those of white performers of blackface minstrelsy.

My definition of drag excludes private transvestism precisely on the grounds of its privacy, though I invoke the arguments made for public acceptance of transvestism as examples of bad reasoning in support of drag. The definition also excludes women dressing up as men, for reasons that will become clear.

Drag and blackface in American culture are similar in a number of respects. First, each is a masquerade in which powerful or privileged people dress up as less powerful or less privileged people...

Drag and blackface originated when the impersonated people were excluded from the stage; however, each outlasted that original excuse for its practice. That is, audiences were curious to see Africans and African-Americans on the stage long before they were permitted to appear, and plots required the inclusion of women long before women were permitted on the English-speaking stage. But even after African-Americans gained access to the minstrel stage, white performers continued to impersonate them. Similarly, long after women were permitted on the stage-to this day, in fact-men continue to appear as women.

These practices led to expectations of what the impersonated person ought to look like. For instance, the convention of white performers impersonating African-Americans was so powerful that black performers were required to wear blackface. It seems ludicrous now that black performers had to "black up" to play themselves-that is, black people. But this is no different from women having their breasts enlarged so they will be sufficiently feminine...

Drag and blackface show the person(s) being impersonated in a restricted range of behaviors, characterized by exaggeration that is at least interpretable as insult. African- Americans were shown singing, dancing, being foolish, or longing for the old plantation; women are shown primping, nagging, or longing for male protection...

Blackface presents its exaggerations through two standard "types," Zip Coon (an urban dandy out of his depth) and Sambo (a shuffling rural fool). The first makes fun of black people for being free while the second ridicules them for being slaves. Drag has a pair of "types" of its own, the glamour girl and the pantomime dame (an elderly harridan). The first makes fun of women because of their sexuality and the second for their lack of it. This commonality-in which the aspirations of African-Americans and the sexuality of women are either exaggerated or ignored -suggests the parallel nature of the practices.

Both pairs of tropes are deeply reactionary, and both assert that the people imitated need controlling. Zip Coon is out of control, a menace loose in the city; Sambo is simply incapable of caring for himself. The glamour girl is either predatory or helpless; the pantomime dame is either an idiot or a harpy. One and all, they are people who cannot-or cannot be permitted to-care for themselves. And people who do not care for themselves do not get to represent themselves. If people are incompetent to represent themselves, in the political as well as artistic sense, they have to be represented -which is to say governed-by others...

Even those who defend drag as a valuable or privileged public expression are easily able to articulate the central objection to it. Journalist Holly Brubach, author of a sympathetic portrait of drag queens (men both gay and straight "who dress as women in public, on social occasions"), prefaces her book by saying, "What impressed me about drag.., was that it articulates men's idea of women ....[T ]he men I found who dress in drag most often became babes if not outright bimbos, bearing little resemblance to the ideal most women have set for themselves"...

More insidiously, to the extent that there was a resemblance between Sambo-who resists work, tells lies, and fails to take seriously matters of great concern to the master-and any actual African-Americans in a condition of captivity or dependence, that resemblance was attributable not to black people but to slavery...

Likewise, to the extent that there is a resemblance between male "pantomime dames" or "glamour girls" and actual women, that resemblance is an indictment of the conditions in which real women struggle rather than a justification of the practice of performance. In this light, the current popularity of drag seems ominous. It means that men become more insistent on displaying the traditional roles of women as many women challenge them: "No, no, you don't get it, being a woman looks like this."

Fourth, the forms of drag and blackface perform the same function: to ease the minds of an audience threatened by change (whether this pertains to the coming of abolition or the advent of sexual equality) by presenting the agents of that change as ridiculous rather than frightening. Precisely because the performances are about change, what they "mean" is not a fixed thing but changes over time. T. D. "Daddy" Rice, the man whose minstrel turn as "Jim Crow" lends its name to every aspect of American racism, intended and imagined himself as a respectful interpreter of the exotic culture of African-Americans. Even that original intention could not and should not have saved blackface from its critics. At a certain point white audiences had to acknowledge that it was unfair for black people to bear the burden of being misrepresented for the purpose, mostly, of other people's comfort. It is about time to acknowledge the same thing about women.

Clearly, the forms are not identical, and the parallels between oppression based on race and oppression based on gender are inexact. Because gender cross-dressing is also associated with anxiety about sexuality (as blackface is not, at least in any obvious way), drag carries multiple meanings in a way that blackface does not. These multiple meanings contribute to the most striking way in which blackface and drag are not alike: the continued, unapologetic practice of drag...

When Ted Danson blacked up for a public performance in 1993, he and his long-time lover Whoopi Goldberg imagined that his nonracist credentials ("lover of a black woman") would protect him from objections." They were wrong. If the insult is simply to believe that the culture and experience of black people is trivial enough to be put on like a costume, the intentions of the performer are not relevant. The content of the performance may be respectful, but the very fact of the performance is disrespectful.

Most people understand this point well enough to be appalled on re-reading Norman Mailer's essay The White Negro, in which he posits African-Americans as the repository of authenticity from whom white people must learn. "Only by cultivating his 'dark, romantic, and yet undeniably dynamic view of existence' can the white man reconnect with the primitive, vital 'Negro' within himself, and thereby recapture his own vaunted 'individuality.""

This is an embarrassment to read today-get in touch with your inner Negro?-but how is it any different from announcements by male cross-dressers of every stripe (from straight transvestites to gay drag queens to Dustin Hoffman in the movie Tootsie) that wearing women's clothing enables them to get in touch with their authentic inner woman, their feminine side? Taking this claim at face value, one sees the whole problem: drag enables men to decide, and then to claim, what is "feminine"; and it permits men to ascribe certain characteristics to women and certain others to men, and then regard the remaining characteristics as problematic if they happen to show up in a member of the wrong gender.

The culture and experience of women is not a costume. Everything I do is feminine, by definition, because I am female, while any decree about what is feminine restricts my range of options. When RuPaul says, "we're born naked and the rest is drag," he is wrong. He is in drag because he is a man, and he can stop being a woman whenever it becomes inconvenient. When being a woman is inconvenient for me, I need to remove the inconvenience. Male ideas of "femininity" are a major inconvenience to those of us who are actually women and have to live our lives in that state.

Is drag the most important aspect of male discrimination against women? No, probably not; nor was the eradication of the big-lipped Gold Dust Twins the most important victory of the civil rights struggle. But images do matter; we learn to see and understand people according to what we have been told about them. The more white people portray black people, the less room there is for black people to speak for themselves. The more men portray women, the harder it is for women to be understood for themselves.

The parallels between drag and blackface are so obvious that it seems bizarre that the intellectual consensus against blackface has not formed against drag. Instead, defenses of the practice continue to appear. All four of the principal defenses are, in my opinion, false. Drag is not a liberating challenge to gender stereotypes, nor is it a timeless statement of gay pride, nor is it legitimated by female crossdressing, a practice separate and unequal. Nor is it funny.

A number of scholars argue that drag contributes to women's liberation by subverting gender stereotypes, revealing the constructed nature of most gender-linked behavior. At its most extreme, this argument disputes the reality of gender itself...

The argument that all gender is performative begins soundly enough with the observation that lots of things women "can't" do are actually merely things that women are not permitted to do, and that therefore it is wise to be skeptical of many essentialist claims. But it is quite a leap from there to saying that there is no such thing as a "woman," and therefore one may claim "womanhood" on any basis, including the possession of an evening gown. This latter argument means that cross-dressing eradicates women entirely. If anyone who puts on women's clothing is a woman, and many of those people do not have a problem with unequal pay or a lack of reproductive rights, then there must not be a problem...

We need to challenge the most public ways in which men specify women's conduct so we can overcome even their more subtle dictates. The acceptance of drag is one of those "most public ways," such an obvious imposition of male preference on female decision that it is practically invisible. Just as African-Americans were taught by blacked-up white minstrels that they ought to shuffle-and, more important, white people were taught to expect African-Americans to shuffle-women are taught by dolled-up male glamour girls and pantomime dames to be hyper-sexual, and shown that failure to do so renders them repulsive and superfluous. Again more important, men are taught the same lesson.

Erika Munk dismissed the claims for drag's subversive status in a few pungent paragraphs in the Village Voice:

At the moment, most men in drag are no more subversive than whites in blackface were when minstrel shows were America's most popular form of entertainment.... The more women fight for autonomy, the less helpful become restatements of stereotype which have lost their critical edge and turned into means of putting women down and aside. Drag may be liberating when it's part of a wave of iconoclastic revolt, but when the culture is rigid and conformist, taking on feminine personae while edging women from the stage is rigid and conformist too. It doesn't have to be so-the radical possibilities remain -but it is.

... Straight men who cross-dress generally describe doing so as a compulsion. If it is, then its victims should receive sympathy, not public approbation. Some people who have Tourette's syndrome feel compelled to curse; that is not an argument for generalized public acceptance of profanity.

In The Man in the Red Velvet Dress, J. J. Allen, a private crossdresser, makes an argument that he shares with those who affect or defend performance drag. He argues that women have a privilegeto wear satin evening gowns-from which men are unfairly barred...

This is total sophistry. First, the women's movement "had its roots" in a demand for justice; the "artifacts ... of masculinity" were secondary. Second, men are not "equal" with women, they are privileged over them. Men who want to wear women's clothing simply cannot do it in the street without being stared at. This seems like a very small price to pay, hardly comparable to being unable to join the professions...

Allen borrows from academic theorists of gender-bending to argue that recognizing some clothes as "women's" and other clothes as "men's" reinforces the oppressiveness of traditional categories. In fact, though, those categories are precisely the point to a crossdresser. If these were not specifically women's garments, he would not be interested in them...

"Professional drag queens are... professional homosexuals; they represent the stigma of the gay world," announces Esther Newton in her seminal study of drag, Mother Camp. "Not all gay people want to wear drag, but drag symbolizes gayness. The drag queen symbolizes an open declaration, even celebration, of homosexuality." She continues: "[D]rag questions the 'naturalness' of the sexrole system in toto; if sex-role behavior can be achieved by the 'wrong' sex, it logically follows that it is in reality also achieved, not 'inherited,' by the 'right' sex."

This is received wisdom, to the extent anything can be in the contentious world of gender studies; but it is, at best, a half-truth. The only way to argue that drag is gay is to exclude from its definition a whole range of activities in which men dress as women, including not only private cross-dressing but the lion's share of comic drag performance...

There seems little doubt that most comic drag performers (like most people) are straight. To argue that drag is a "queer practice[]" whose "radical specificity" protects it from objection, as Butler does," is both ahistorical and unprincipled, resembling the argument that clitoridectomy is acceptable because it is practiced by Africans oppressed by colonialism-or that blackface was acceptable because it was practiced on stage largely by Jews...

Vaudeville female impersonation owed its popularity to the notion that the differences between men and women were so enormous that a man who could pass for a woman was essentially a magician. Thus, it was about putting people-specifically women-in their deeply conventional places...

Once dressing in drag was "recognized" as gay (and then banned), it is not surprising that the gay community would claim appearing in drag as one of the privileges of being liberated, especially when drag queens featured so prominently as fighters in the pivotal Stonewall riot. Like use of the word "nigger" in the African-American community, dressing in drag can be seen as an effort to transform a stigma into a badge of pride. But clearly being gay and being effeminate are not the same, and neither of them requires dressing in drag. The connection between drag and gay men is at best vestigial, like the appendix, and thus can be removed. Moreover, once we acknowledge the fluidity of drag's meaning-that it suggests different things to different audiences at different timeswe must also acknowledge the claim of women to decide what it means today. No prior claim of meaning can possibly take priority over that of the subject/object of the practice...

Drag is misogynistic, no matter who performs it. The relevant fact about gay men dressing as women is that they are men dressing as women...

Drag is not about sexuality at all, but about gender, its images and stereotypes-and those always mean things that privilege men and injure women...

This is the conventional defense of drag: that it enables us to transcend restrictions imposed by gender, which is, after all, just a social invention. But I do not have a "genderless human psyche"-I have a woman's psyche, formed by my experience of being morphologically, biologically, sexually, and socially a woman. As Pat Schroeder said when asked if she were running for President "as a woman,". "'Do I have an option?"' To impersonate gender is not to eradicate it but to reinforce it, to reify it and, more important, the power relations attached to it.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but do not tell that to anyone whose work has been plagiarized. Drag performers-gay or straight-plagiarize the appearance and behavior of women, just as minstrels plagiarized the appearance and behavior (or some facsimile) of African-Americans...

Some scholars suggest that dressing across gender lines is an equal-opportunity sport because there is a tradition of women dressing as men (as there is not of black people masquerading as white people). Unless you ignore the power differential between men and women in society, this is nonsense...

Women who dress as men are dressing up, seeking power, privilege, or even just protective camouflage from male violence; while men dressing as women are dressing down...

[Janice] Raymond adds,

Gender bending is gender identity condensed to the point of little or no feminist or lesbian politics.... The new gender outlaw is the old gender conformist, only this time we have men conforming to femininity and women conforming to masculinity.... What good is a gender outlaw who is still abiding by the law of gender?

But of course it is not the arguments of feminist or gay scholars that make drag acceptable to the wider public. Scholars in general, and feminist and gay scholars in particular, are held in low regard in American society. To the extent that their arguments have currency, it is because they serve the interests of those who are more powerful. The people keeping drag alive are the people who benefit somehow from the argument that being a woman is something you can just put on and take off. Their claim is very simple: drag is funny...

There was ridicule of black people. No one rationalized blackface by suggesting that the very contrast between the (white) performer and the (black) performed was funny or interesting in and of itself. No, what was funny or interesting was the glimpse blackface purported to offer into the world of African-Americans...

Men who dress up as women and adopt stereotyped feminine behaviors are comical because of their stereotyped behavior, and the inference they encourage the audience to draw is not that stereotypes are comical but that women are; not that social restrictions are foolish but that the people restricted are. It would be hard to imagine as clear an example of blaming the victim-if blackface had not already provided us with one...

The point of glamour drag is not to tell jokes but to perform the feminine. The only reason to hire a man for this purpose-when there are plenty of women available, by definition more experienced and better qualified-is to give men the continued right and privilege to determine the content of the feminine. Just as white people in blackface announced and established the limits of African-Americans' behavior, men in dresses announce, establish, and enforce the limits of what will be expected of, and tolerated from, women.

Minstrel performances of cake-walking took the dance out of its compulsory context to present African-Americans as feckless and jolly in servitude. Similarly, glamour drag takes glamour out of its context, which is the need women have to use sexual attractiveness to secure male protection in a society that punishes women who are without it. And if even those sober-faced performances are funny, it must be because women themselves are a joke. "Look at how vain and foolish they are!" "Look how self-absorbed!" "Look how trivial!" "Aren't women funny when they want sex?" "And aren't they hilarious when they don't?"

Thus, drag's humor depends entirely on the audience's willingness to believe that women are rightfully the butt of every joke...

The drag queen is a symbol of everything women reject in men's thinking about gender, and the relish of drag performance by performer and audience alike -is every woman's gall"

Naturally, we have the "power" argument which results in sexism (treating people of different sexes doing the same thing being evaluated differently).

Drag survives and is socially acceptable because it is associated with homosexuality, you can't criticse it without being "homophobic".

This writer is probably also "transphobic" since she doesn't believe that gender is purely determined by individual belief.
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