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Valar Qringaomis

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Links - 27th October 2014

Malala – the girl who hates Britain - "So while in the West we wish Malala to be a courageous fighter for western liberalism, maybe it’s Marxism that inspires her courage and determination; Marxists are often the bravest fighters in the struggles against dreadful regimes precisely because Marxism is a sort of quasi-religion. Alas liberalism is not quite so muscular and people are reluctant to go out of their way to die for it; on a state v state basis liberal democracies win because their economies are far more effective and they can adapt better, not being led by paranoid lunatics, but on the ground it’s not something people are often willing to die for. Religious extremism is the number one threat in the 21st century, and we should treat secular movements, however dangerous they may once have been, as potential allies against the Taliban or al-Qaeda. But we should at least give Marxists credit where it’s due, especially in the area of women’s education"

MIT students predict Mars One colonists will suffocate in 68 days - "The Mars One plan calls for the habitats to be within the same space as the crops are grown. This saves weight on the trip and simplifies the design of the habitats. At about 68 days, the first wheat crop will reach maturity and the level of oxygen will spike. To avoid a huge fire hazard, the oxygen will need to be vented, but there is not yet a reliable way to preferentially vent oxygen without also venting the nitrogen used to maintain pressure. Thus, the colony will run out of nitrogen almost immediately. The end result, says the paper, is suffocation due to low air pressure. Well, that or the habitat explodes and the survivors suffocate outside"

Matters of the Brain: Why Men and Women Are So Different - "A prevalent understanding, particularly in the 1980s, was that boys and girls are born cognitively the same. It was the way parents and society treated them that made them different. Since then, a preponderance of research has called this belief into question. The majority of today's psychologists agree that some of the differences exhibited by male and female brains are innate. "We do socialize our boys and girls differently, but the contribution of biology is not zero," said Diane Halpern, a professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College in California, who has been studyingcognitive gender differences for 25 years. Halpern was a keynote speaker at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference here last Thursday (April 19). How much, rather than whether, biology contributes is where the unusually heated debate is now focused, she said... Some of the many gender differences that float in popular consciousness have more support than others. The ones that have been consistently found across cultures, life spans and even across species are the most likely — but by no means guaranteed — to have some biological underpinning. Across age groups, species and nations, males tend to be better at various spatial skills... Females, on the other hand, tend to have more verbal fluency and greater memory for objects... In more gender-equal societies, "the male advantage in math virtually disappears," Halpern said, but other differences grow. When given more equal encouragement and access to education, on average, girls become even better at reading than boys and boys further outstrip girls in visual-spatial tasks."

On the Mechanics of Defamation : Sam Harris - "Both Greenwald and Aslan know that those words do not mean what they appear to mean. Given the amount of correspondence we’ve had on these topics, and given that I have repeatedly bored audiences by clarifying that statement (in response to this kind of treatment), the chance that either writer thinks he is exposing the truth about my views—or that I’m really a “genocidal fascist maniac”—is zero. Aslan and Greenwald—a famous “scholar” and a famous “journalist”—are engaged in a campaign of pure defamation. They are consciously misleading their readers and increasing my security concerns in the process... Aslan and Greenwald know that nowhere in my work do I suggest that we kill harmless people for thought crimes. And yet they (along with several of their colleagues) are doing their best to spread this lie about me. Nearly every other comment they’ve made about my work is similarly misleading. Both Aslan and Greenwald are debasing our public discourse and making honest discussion of important ideas increasingly unpleasant—even personally dangerous. Why are they doing this? Please ask them and those who publish them"

Hiding the Words Doesn’t Make the Problem Go Away - "I talk about language use because I think it’s important and because I think some words should be used with care, but I don’t think these words should be eradicated. In fact, I think they should be preserved, not just in conversations about their meaning but in general usage, because if we try to wipe them off the slate, we do ourselves, and our history, a tremendous disservice. Not talking about these words would mean that people wouldn’t have a framework of understanding and a starting point for talking about the ideas behind them; ‘racism’ carries more impact when you link it with racial slurs, for example. Explaining why ableism is an issue is a lot easier when I can point to a book with a disabled protagonist who gets called ‘r#tarded’ by other characters... we all know that for progressives, the worst thing ever is to be accused of being -ist. So it’s better not to talk about it at all, to pretend that it isn’t happening and never happened. To erase the -ist parts of history, literally, in the case of books altered to remove key aspects of their content. Because if you make the word go away, that means there’s no idea left, right?"

The N-word belongs in “Huckleberry Finn” - "The book, which deals directly with racism, is not better served by erasing the racial slur. The only purpose is to ease the tension that is felt by parents and teachers of students who would read it. To pretend this is for some higher good is to insult the intelligence of the American public... America talks about race like scared parents talk with their kids about sex. We’re vague, sometimes terribly misleading and on occasion leave out huge aspects of the situation that would allow kids to make better decisions about how they conduct themselves. If we continue with our horrendously skewed and willfully ignorant interpretations of history, we will find ourselves with a generation that’s woefully misinformed and it will be completely our fault."

Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself? : Sam Harris - "Affleck was gunning for me from the start. What many viewers probably don’t realize is that the mid-show interview is supposed be a protected five-to-seven-minute conversation between Maher and the new guest—and all the panelists know this. To ignore this structure and encroach on this space is a little rude; to jump in with criticism, as Affleck did, is pretty hostile. He tried to land his first blow a mere 90 seconds after I took my seat, before the topic of Islam even came up... imagine that the year is 1970, and I said: “Communism is the Mother lode of bad ideas.” How reasonable would it be to attack me as a “racist” or as someone who harbors an irrational hatred of Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, etc. This is precisely the situation I am in. My criticism of Islam is a criticism of beliefs and their consequences—but my fellow liberals reflexively view it as an expression of intolerance toward people... Kristof made the point that there are brave Muslims who are risking their lives to condemn “extremism” in the Muslim community. Of course there are, and I celebrate these people too. But he seemed completely unaware that he was making my point for me—the point being, of course, that these people are now risking their lives by advocating for basic human rights in the Muslim world... I don’t know how many times one must deny that one is referring to an entire group, or cite specific poll results to justify the percentages one is talking about, but no amount of clarification appears sufficient to forestall charges of bigotry and lack of “nuance.” One of the most depressing things in the aftermath of this exchange is the way Affleck is now being lauded for having exposed my and Maher’s “racism,” “bigotry,” and “hatred of Muslims.” This is yet another sign that simply accusing someone of these sins, however illogically, is sufficient to establish them as facts in the minds of many viewers. It certainly does not help that unscrupulous people like Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald have been spinning the conversation this way... Rather than trust poll results and the testimony of jihadists and Islamists, they trust the feeling that they get from the dozens of Muslims they have known personally. As a method of gauging Muslim opinion worldwide, this preference is obviously crazy... what we need is honest talk about the link between belief and behavior. And no one is suffering the consequences of what Muslim “extremists” believe more than other Muslims are. The civil war between Sunni and Shia, the murder of apostates, the oppression of women—these evils have nothing to do with U.S. bombs or Israeli settlements... To say that we should have left Saddam Hussein alone says some very depressing things about the Muslim world"

The Disruption Machine - "Disruptive innovation as a theory of change is meant to serve both as a chronicle of the past (this has happened) and as a model for the future (it will keep happening). The strength of a prediction made from a model depends on the quality of the historical evidence and on the reliability of the methods used to gather and interpret it. Historical analysis proceeds from certain conditions regarding proof. None of these conditions have been met."

How Moore, Burchill and Featherstone all had a lovely bitch fight - "One of these days, not too far away, the entire bourgeois bien-pensant left will self-immolate entirely leaving behind nothing but a thin skein of smoke smelling slightly of goji berries. Please let that day come quickly. In the meantime let us simply enjoy ourselves watching them tear each other to pieces, mired in their competing victimhoods, seething with acquired sensitivity, with inchoate rage and fury, inventing more and more hate crimes with which they might punish people who are not themselves... she was cissexist. Now there’s a term. Have you heard it before? I hadn’t. It is a wonderful day when we can stumble across a new hate crime of which we might all one day be accused: cissexism is the suspicion that transsexual people’s ‘identified gender’ is somehow less genuine than that of people born to the gender in which they remain. Are you guilty of cissexism? You bastard... the government got involved. No, it really did. Its most idiotic minister, the Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone — again utilising that conduit for the shriekingly self-obsessed and vapid, Twitter — described Burchill’s article as ‘bigoted vomit’ and suggested that both she and the editor of the Observer, a man called John Mulholland, should be sacked immediately. Should government ministers do that sort of thing, demand the sacking of newspaper editors? Even if they are incalculably stupid ministers with a track record of saying incalculably stupid things? She is the minister for International Development these days, Featherstone, so it is not even part of her brief. Although I suppose it is part of her brief as a non-cissexist heterosexual woman, in a very real sense... the metro-left is filled with loathing — self-loathing and a loathing it disperses to anyone who might even mildly offend its sensibilities"

It saddens me that supporting freedom makes me an opponent of equality - "The wrath of the transgender community has been insane. They say I haven't apologised enough and I probably haven't. No one has apologised to me for saying that I should be decapitated and I support the English Defence League... I feel increasingly freakish because I believe in freedom, which is easier to say than to achieve and makes me wonder if I am even of "the left" any more. I am a freak because I question certain words: cis, date rape, Islamofascist, for instance. I am a freak because I believe in sexual liberation, which is not the same as equality. And I am serious about freedom of speech. If Lynne Featherstone can call for a journalist and an editor to be sacked, this does not bode well for having politicians and lawyers running the press, does it? Do you actually want to be governed by humourless, authoritarian morons? Don't answer that, I may be offended... How has the left ceded the word "freedom" to the right? It maddens me. We can argue about sexuality and gender till the sacred cows come home. Obviously my politics come out of feminism and did I need to say that I have never personally condoned the murder of a single woman, Brazilian, trans or otherwise? Nor did I make up stuff; I merely reported what is actually happening in Brazil. According to an Associated Press report: "The trans-models have a proverbial leg up on their female colleagues. Unlike even the thinnest of women, without cellulite and stretch marks ... once they've lasered away facial and body hair, they can look more feminine than models who were born female." This description has as much to do with the average transgender person as I do with Naomi Campbell, but the artificiality of femininity is something I often write about. Is this hatred to say so?"
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