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More adventurous than the average bear

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Links - 1st November 2011

"You don't need to take drugs to hallucinate; improper language can fill your world with phantoms and spooks of many kinds." - Robert A. Wilson


Globally Isolated and Economically Crippled: Why Hamas is Losing Gaza - ""wasta." That's Arabic for connections, and in Gaza it symbolized everything that was wrong with the old administration, everything Hamas claimed to oppose... Hamas has little to offer beyond its jihadist credentials — and the promise of clean government. So it's hardly surprising that the party has been rapidly losing ground... more than 60% of Gazans age 18 to 27 said they too would support public demonstrations demanding regime change. Soon after that poll, 10,000 turned out at a rally to voice a more modest demand — that Hamas end the bloody rift with Fatah, the secular party it bested six years ago. Hamas sent thugs to break up the demonstration... Gazans reliably side with Hamas over Israel. But they are less forgiving of Hamas for Gaza's international isolation... "Because they believe in God, they don't think a lot about the future... You won't find someone in Hamas who is thinking about 2045. They say, 'Oh, God will provide.'" Or Iran will... No one knows for sure: the Hamas government doesn't publish a budget. Hamas did itself no favors with its response to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. in September. The effort was led by Palestinian Authority President — and Fatah chief — Mahmoud Abbas. Irked that it was not consulted beforehand, Hamas banned demonstrations supporting it, casting itself as one more hurdle, along with the U.S. and Israel, to statehood"
This won't stop those who insist it's all Israel's fault

Fukushima 'hot spots' raise radiation fears : Nature News - "Experts say that there is no threat from the small spots of increased radioactivity now being discovered in large-scale surveys... "No matter where you go in the world, if you take a radiation instrument with you and look around, you'll eventually stumble across something that's above what the background for that area normally is""

Trio of women arrested in connection with alleged sperm harvesting ring claim to be just hard-working prostitutes - "Reports in Zimbabwe have described the alarming trend of male hitchhikers being offered lifts, but then being drugged and driven to secluded spots by female attackers. The men are then forced into sex with the women, sometimes unprotected and at gunpoint, before the female rapists collect their semen and dump victims by the roadside"

Mr. Insensitivity meets the academy - "Turning everything into an issue of ethnic identity contributes nothing but bad feeling: All heat, no light. It’s a gift to right-wing hysterics portraying Obama as a Muslim extremist, a Socialist one-worlder, etc. It also appears to be Professor Harris-Perry’s stock in trade, about which more later. Maybe academia isn’t the only place in American life where it’s possible to call people bigots and expect them to prove their innocence. But it’s definitely one of a very few."

Black President, Double Standard: Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama - "The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors"
Meanwhile Cornel West calls Obama "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats" and says that he "has a certain fear of free black men". Too bad accusations of racism and bigotry don't win you elections

How Radical Feminists Justify Cheating : WTF - "When I did want to have sex again, I made the political decision to engage with men outside of the marriage, as well as the husband. If I was going to engage in (the oppressive act of) sex, then I would have it how I wanted it and with whomever I wanted it with, so as to expand the boundaries inherent in the system of non-consent"

Wouldn’t It Be Cool if Shakespeare Wasn’t Shakespeare? - - "Real life lacks narrative tension; that’s why people go to the movies. Shakespeare himself never hesitated to alter the details in his own history plays if he thought the change would improve a scene... “How could a semiliterate country boy have composed works of such power?” Their snobbery is the surest sign of their ignorance. Many of the greatest English writers emerged from the middle or lower classes. Dickens worked in a shoe-polish factory as a child. Keats was attacked for belonging to the “cockney school”... antielitism is haunting every large intellectual question today. We hear politicians opine on their theories about climate change and evolution as a way of displaying how little they know. When Rick Perry compared climate-change skeptics like himself to Galileo in a Republican debate, I dearly wished that the next question had been “Can you explain Galileo’s theory of falling bodies?”... Healthy skepticism about elites has devolved into an absence of basic literacy... The wider public, which has no reason to be familiar with questions of either Renaissance chronology or climate science, assumes that if there are arguments, there must be reasons for those arguments. Along with a right-wing antielitism, an unthinking left-wing open-mindedness and relativism have also given lunatic ideas soil to grow in. Our politeness has actually led us to believe that everybody deserves a say. The problem is that not everybody does deserve a say. Just because an opinion exists does not mean that the opinion is worthy of respect. Some people deserve to be marginalized and excluded. There are many questions in this world over which rational people can have sensible confrontations: whether lower taxes stimulate or stagnate growth; whether abortion is immoral; whether the ’60s were an achievement or a disaster; whether the universe is motivated by a force for benevolence; whether the Fonz jumping on water skis over a shark was cool or lame. Whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare is not one"

The paradox of the new elite - "It's a puzzle: One dispossessed group after another - blacks, women, Hispanics and gays - has been gradually accepted in the United States, granted equal rights and brought into the mainstream. At the same time, in economic terms, the US has gone from being a comparatively egalitarian society to one of the most unequal democracies in the world... It's a surprising contradiction. Is the confluence of these two movements a mere historical accident? Or are the two trends related?"

Rational Irrationality: Where Is the New Keynes? - "1. Finance matters
2. Credit busts are different from ordinary recessions
3. Positive feedback and multiple equilibria have to be taken seriously
4. Especially in financial markets, self-regarding rational behavior isn’t necessarily socially optimal
5. Monetary policy doesn’t always work very well
6. Fiscal stimulus programs don’t provide a panacea for deep recessions, but the alternatives—do-nothing policies or austerity—are much worse...
Looking at this list, anyone familiar with Keynes will quickly realize that almost all of the points on it can be found in his writings, at least in embryo form. If economics is about building internally consistent models of toy economies from first principles, he wasn’t a great economist. If it is about providing telling insights into how real economies function and malfunction, he still has few rivals. That is why he never goes away"

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world - "An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy... Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core's tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable... Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), warns that the analysis assumes ownership equates to control, which is not always true"

Why computer voices are mostly female - "Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women's voices more pleasing than men's. "It's much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes," said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of "The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships." "It's a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices"... BMW was forced to recall a female-voiced navigation system on its 5 Series cars in the late 1990s after being flooded with calls from German men saying they refused to take directions from a woman... transit systems such as the San Francisco Area's BART often use higher-pitched voices because they are easier to hear over the clatter of the train cars"
Men like women, women like women...

Astronomy professor suggests zodiac signs are wrong - "The Earth's wobbly orbit means it is no longer aligned to the stars in the same way as when the signs of the zodiac were first conceived."

Hanged or Hung - Writing - English Rules - "Pictures can be hung, but people are always hanged. It’s an odd quirk of the English language"
Comment: "The issue really has to do with changes in the declension of regular and irregular English verbs over time. Old Anglo-Saxon words commonly were strong and therefore would change their past tense forms. (“To run” becoming “ran” is an easy example.) French influence helped bring about the passive ending “-ed” for the past tense. (“To walk” becomes “walked” of course.) Over centuries and millions of speakers, the regular forms begin to take precedence over the irregular. This can be seen in the old fashioned “learnt” vs. our more common “learned.” It’s the same with “burnt/burned” or “dove/dived.” Some forms are in more flux than others. The argument is that in hundreds of years English speakers will say “runned” instead of “ran” no matter how horrendous it sounds to us now. What the Usage Panel decides on this business is, I suppose, their purview, but there’s no stopping the changes to a living language that is now being learned by so many second speakers the world over."

Study: More Than Half Of Women Are Attracted To... Other Women - "over half of the 484 straight women questioned, had been attracted to another female at some point in their lives – with a further 45 per cent admitting to kissing a woman and 50 per cent confessing to enjoying fantasies about other ladies. “Women are encouraged to be emotionally close to each other. That provides an opportunity for intimacy and romantic feelings to develop”... A previous study found that the chances of a woman being attracted to other women increases as she get older... Of the women she questioned, many of them changed their sexual preference from heterosexual to ‘unlabelled'"
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