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Valar Qringaomis

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Thursday, July 09, 2015

"The latest SMRT meltdown is symptomatic of a deeper institutional defect in our system."

Respect Singapore:

"The latest SMRT meltdown is symptomatic of a deeper institutional defect in our system.

A public utility company that is government-linked and substantively supported with public funds, land and resources, whose core purpose is to provide an essential, public good. But regularly fails to do so on a satisfactory level, most recently on a catastrophic level.

A public utility provider that is supposed to focus its funds, resources and energy on the overriding purpose of providing the public good. But instead chooses to deviate by bidding to be an operator in the completely unrelated wireless telecommunications sector.

A CEO who is: (a) chosen from a singular, myopic and premature talent selection process; (b) fast-tracked through a scholar/military/civil service merry-go-round career; (c) parachuted into a high-ranking government or government-linked position in a particular sector, even though he has no direct prior experience in such sector; and (d) paid an exorbitant salary for his services, even though he has no direct prior experience in providing such services.

A Minister whose background similarly satisfies factors (a) to (d) above and who is supposed to supervise such CEO. But offers innumerable and perfunctory permutations of the word "concern" when responding to lapses, whether minor or severe, from such public utility provider.

And the usual assortment of ruling party apologists and sycophants. Who dismissively tell us to have perspective as this is nothing close to a catastrophe (as compared to, of course, drought, famine and Armageddon) and by misdirecting us to other irrelevant problems in neighboring countries. Who encourage us to pull together as a nation, not comprehending that this is a man-made fiasco, not some natural disaster. Who tell us not to point fingers, not realizing how rich such a comment is given that they fall over themselves pointing fingers at other man-made fiascos in opposition wards."

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Moral Maze: Islamic State Recruitment

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Islamic State Recruitment

Interview with Tom Holland, Author of In The Shadow of the Sword, "at least partly an account of the origins of Islam"

Michael Buerk: Your thesis as I understand it is that we are misunderstanding - almost wilfully misunderstanding the nature of Islam itself.

Tom Holland: Well, I think that there is a sort of comforting presumption on the part of the government that Islam is like any other religion. It's perfectly compatible with the fundamentals of a liberal, secular 21st century society.

This is the idea that underpins Thought for the Day. That essentially all religions are fine and all of them subscribe to the same liberal nostra.

And that those Muslims who behave so as to cast doubt on this proposition are then cast as extremists.

Now, of course there is a huge amount within British Islam that has added to the quality of this country. Muslims are the highest donators to charity, for instance, of any religious group. But I think that it is evident from what is, the number of people that are going to Syria or Iraq, for instance, that there are also aspects of Islam that are profoundly alien and indeed hostile to liberal democracy...

We need to recognise that essentially there are as many different forms of Islam as there are Muslims.

And we need to get away from the idea that there are right or wrong forms of Islam and we need government ministers to stop saying that extremists are not Muslims and that what the extremists are doing has nothing to do with Islam. Because I think that there is a debate to be had within Islam about the character of Islam that they want.

What can non-Muslims do?

Well, I think that we can apply the kind of skepticism, the kind of analysis, the recognition that Islam is a cultural phenomenon rather than existing as some kind of platonic abstract. Exactly the approach that people have always brought to Christianity, to Judaism and apply it to Islam as well. And at the moment I feel that here is an anxiety to do that. I think that there is a kind of internalised blasphemy taboo. Particularly around the figure of Mohammed...

I don't think it's a coincidence that the rise of what we call Jihadism, I suppose, what the government calls extremism has coincided with the rise of the Internet. I think that technology is having an impact on religious discourse, as with every other kind of discourse and that it's speeding it up.

We would like to think that modern technology would facilitate values and views that we would regard necessarily as modern. I don't think that's necessarily the case...

As I don't need to tell you [Giles Fraser] as a man of the cloth, there is fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam on notions of, say, the law.

One of the reasons why the Irish, even if they were Christian, were able to vote in favour of gay marriage is that the Pauline notion is that the law is written on the heart. And you look into your conscience and if that is what you feel is right then you do it.

In Islam, because nothing is really right or wrong unless God says that it is right or wrong. Everything is defined in terms of the book or the sayings of the Prophet.

Therefore if you have sayings that are canonically attributed to the Prophet in which it says apostates should be killed, or it is legi- the Prophet slept with a 9 year old, then it is incumbent obviously on Muslims to negotiate how they can square that with the standards of 21st century Britain. It's more problematic I think for Muslims than it is for Christians. And indeed, many Muslims would say that that is why Islam is superior to Christianity

Giles Fraser: They were the Ten Commandments not the Ten Suggestions. I mean, you say Christianity is not normative in that way and it's all about individual conscience. But there's a lot of people who wouldn't say that about the Bible at all.

Tom Holland: Well, yes, but I think that one of the ways in which Christianity has evolved actually is into Modern Liberal society. People talk about British values. I think that essentially British values as most people in this country would understand them would be secularised Christian values.

The very idea of a secular state, of dividing, rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, rendering unto God's what is God's is a Christian one. It is more problematic for Muslims to deal with that. That's understandable. The process of negotiating that, though, is clearly going to be a long and complex and intellectually. And indeed it's a spiritually demanding one...

The Old Testament of course is succeeded by the New, and the New Testament tends to be more pacific than the Old. In the Old Testament you have people hammering tent pegs through heads, and in the New Testament you have Jesus telling Peter to put his sword up.

In the Koran you're quite right, there are pacific verses and there are bellicose verses. The problem is that Islam enshrines the notion of abrogation. That earlier verses as they are defined are superceded by later ones.

And the life of Mohammed as it has been constructed and put together serves to illustrate the order in which these verses appeared. And unfortunately the more tolerant pacific ones appear early. The more bellicose ones according to the canonical account of Mohammed's life appear later.

Which means the bellicose ones abrogate the more pacific ones.

So in a sense the order in the Bible is reversed in the Koran...

Melanie Phillips: The point about Ahmed Masroor - he is defeatist. Because he is cutting from under their knee, he's cutting the knees off from Muslim reformers, because if there is nothing wrong with Islam then what are all these Muslim reformers who are pious Muslims who want to reform their religion, what are they doing?

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Links - 7th July 2015

Muslim protest mob attacks tourists in Turkey over China's Ramadan ban - "Turkish nationalists shouting "Allahu Akbar" accidentally attacked the group of innnocent Korean tourists – after mistaking them for Chinese nationals during the demonstration... A popular Chinese restaurant in Istanbul also had its windows smashed by protesters who did not realise the chef was Muslim."

Servcorp Malaysia apologizes for 'confusing' wombat advert - "Servcorp Malaysia today, apologizes to Malaysians for the confusion that arose with the company’s official mascot, a wombat, which some mistook for a pig... “Servcorp would like to extend its sincerest apologies for any confusion caused due to the use of a wombat in a recent digital advertisement in Kuala Lumpur... “As an international business it is not Servcorp’s intention to offend any race nor religion and indeed, there have been no prior issues globally with the use of our mascot inclusive of Servcorp’s many Middle Eastern and Saudi Arabian offices,” based on the the company’s statement. Servcorp explained that the advertisement which was displayed on electronic billboards around the capital city had in fact been approved beforehand by the Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL)... Images and videos of the misidentified wombat made rounds on social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as a number of blogs prompting Malaysians to presume that the advertisement was seditious in nature."
Apparently Muslims in the Middle East are not as easily confused as those in Malaysia

Informative Report:Issues on Homosexuality - "In an APA publication, The Psychological Bulletin, there appeared a 31-page article entitled "A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Students." The article, by three men from prestigious universities, was an analysis of 59 studies of childhood sexual abuse. The authors' argue that childhood sexual experiences are not necessarily harmful; they could even be quite positive. The idea that it "causes intense harm, regardless of gender," is not true. They allege that the "negative potential of CSA [childhood sexual abuse] for most individuals who have experienced it is overstated." ...is the most damaging form of CSA is a "well-ingrained prejudice . . . unsupported by research." The study's three authors publicly lament: "Classifying a behavior as abuse simply because it is generally viewed as immoral or defined as illegal is problematic. . . .""

A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples - "Many lay persons and professionals believe that child sexual abuse (CSA) causes intense harm, regardless of gender, pervasively in the general population. The authors examined this belief by reviewing 59 studies based on college samples. Meta-analyses revealed that students with CSA were, on average, slightly less well adjusted than controls. However, this poorer adjustment could not be attributed to CSA because family environment (FE) was consistently confounded with CSA, FE explained considerably more adjustment variance than CSA, and CSA-adjustment relations generally became nonsignificant when studies controlled for FE. Self-reported reactions to and effects from CSA indicated that negative effects were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women. The college data were completely consistent with data from national samples. Basic beliefs about CSA in the general population were not supported."

Pedophiles want same rights as homosexuals - "Using the same tactics used by “gay” rights activists, pedophiles have begun to seek similar status arguing their desire for children is a sexual orientation no different than heterosexual or homosexuals. Critics of the homosexual lifestyle have long claimed that once it became acceptable to identify homosexuality as simply an “alternative lifestyle” or sexual orientation, logically nothing would be off limits. “Gay” advocates have taken offense at such a position insisting this would never happen. However, psychiatrists are now beginning to advocate redefining pedophilia in the same way homosexuality was redefined several years ago."

The slippery slope of gay marriage has begun - "The federal court decision this month that struck down most of Utah’s anti-polygamy law as unconstitutional is yet another reminder that slippery-slope arguments, so frequently ridiculed, deserve more respect than they get. “Conservatives foresaw polygamy ruling,” was the headline in The Washington Times last week. It cited the “we-told-you-so” reactions of several longtime opponents of same-sex marriage, who have long argued that the radical transformation of marriage wouldn’t end with gay wedlock... polygamy has now been effectively decriminalized in Utah — a state admitted to the union on the condition that it forever ban the practice of polygamy... When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2003 that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry, the majority opinion dismissed such concerns. “Plaintiffs seek only to be married, not to undermine the institution of civil marriage,” Chief Justice Margaret Marshall wrote. “They do not attack the binary nature of marriage, the consanguinity provisions, or any of the other gate-keeping provisions of the marriage licensing law.” But ideas have consequences — often, unintended consequences. That is particularly true in a legal system that places so much emphasis on precedent and analogy. In 1989, as Massachusetts lawmakers were about to enact a law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the Boston Globe assured its readers that the bill wouldn’t legalize gay marriage or confer on same-sex couples the right to marriage-like civil unions. “Nor does passage of the bill put Massachusetts on a ‘slippery slope’ toward such rights.” Yet when the SJC ruled that same-sex couples could not be barred from marrying, as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has noted, “part of its reasoning rested on the Legislature’s decision to ban sexual orientation discrimination.” That slope was slippery, after all. This happens frequently in the law. The US Supreme Court ruled in the 1965 case of Griswold v. Connecticut that married couples had a constitutional right to privacy that encompassed the freedom to use contraceptives. During oral argument, Justice Hugo Black wondered whether the court’s logic could lead to “invalidat[ing] all laws that punish people for bringing about abortions.” The suggestion was dismissed, as slippery-slope arguments so often are, as groundless"

Adam4d.com - Who’s the bigot? - "Bigotry is 'stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.'"

The Chinese Want Their Art Back - NYTimes.comPerhaps the greatest enigma in Chinese art today is a little-reported crime wave in Europe that, since 2010, has targeted antiquities that were looted from the Old Summer Palace or from Beijing’s Forbidden City in the early 20th century"... “A certain type of Chinese collector would be far less shy about purchasing a knowingly stolen artwork than a Western collector would. Chinese collectors could purchase stolen Chinese art and still have the pride of display, perhaps with the rationale that, whether or not the object was stolen, it should be in China, and therefore the collector was somehow aiding its liberation.” As Paul Harris, a leading British dealer of Chinese art, wrote in a blog post in March: “The general feeling in intelligence circles is that this was ‘an ordered job’ carried out by local French professional criminals acting as agents for a third party. That third party is almost certainly abroad, well away from French jurisdiction and, according to one intelligence expert, ‘The smart money is on the artifacts being on the way to the People’s Republic of China.’ ”"

Why I Am Not a Humanist - "I do not believe that moral values are derived from human desires. I believe moral values are derived from desires, period. To focus on human desires and ignore all other desires in the universe is blatant speciesism."
Humanism is speciesism!

BioEdge: Peter Singer ‘disinvited’ from German philosophy festival - "NZZ: If you were standing in front of a burning house with 200 pigs and one child inside, and you could choose to save either the animals or the child, what would you do?
PS: At a certain point, the animals' suffering becomes so great that one should choose to save the animals over the child. Whether this point occurs at 200 or two million animals, I don't know. But one cannot let an infinite number of animals burn to save the life of one child…
NZZ: Would you go as far as to torture a baby if this were to bring about permanent happiness for the whole of mankind?
PS: This question is from Dostoevsky's "The brothers Karamazov"; Ivan poses it to his brother Alyosha. I may not be capable of doing it, as it is in my evolutionarily developed nature to protect children from harm. But it would be the right thing to do. Because if I didn't, thousands of children would be tortured in the future."
As a utilitarian who believes that sentience (with a central nervous system) is the necessary and sufficient reason to value animal life as much as human life, Singer is being hypocritical (if instrumentally prudent, knowing the uproar) in not committing to valuing 200 pigs over 1 human baby

Man arrested for pouring syrup on sidewalk

Lip Piercing Can Lead to Receding Gums

Tattoos and MRI Scans - Are You at Risk? - "Some MRI patients who have had tattoos that dated back far enough to have received ink that contained metal bits have reported slight discomfort to severe pain during an MRI scan."

Tight ties could damage eyesight - "In an article in the Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers write: "A tight necktie can be considered a risk factor in men who prefer to wear tight neckties, men with thick necks, and white collar professionals.""

Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to wed Singapore-based Elaine Andriejanssen in July - "Page Six, an entertainment website, had reported on Tuesday that Mr Saverin was going to marry Miss Singapore Universe 2009 Rachel Kum on the French Riviera on June 27. He had also apparently invested in Ms Kum's makeup company, Rachel K Cosmetics... The website later corrected its story, and quoted a spokesman for Mr Saverin as saying: "He has never dated Miss Singapore, and never invested in her company. He is not marrying her.""
So much for cosmetics...

Maple syrup urine disease

Why Asparagus Makes Your Urine Smell

Before Mating, the Female Giraffe Will First Urinate in the Male's Mouth - "This is known as the “Flehmen sequence”, where the male giraffe will approach the female and then rub against her backside until she pees. When/if she does, he’ll taste it to tell whether she’s in heat or not"

The world is not running out of resources after all, says new report - "“The No Breakfast Fallacy: Why the Club of Rome was wrong about us running out of resources” argues that outcries over resource availability from environmentalist groups are based on a misinterpretation of numbers and a misunderstanding of what mineral resources actually are. The monograph, written by Adam Smith Institute Senior Fellow and rare earths expert Tim Worstall, says that groups that have warned about the world running out of rare mineral resources, such as The Club of Rome, have been using the wrong sets of data, mistaking the exhaustion of mineral reserves for the exhaustion of mineral resources. Mineral reserves, the monograph explains, are simply the minerals that have been prepared for use for the next few decades; they are minerals that can be mined with current technology at current prices. Some reserves are going to run out in the near future, but this is a normal process. Every generation runs out of mineral reserves... The reserves for minerals used in fertilizers may exhaust in the next few hundred years, but the exhaustion of resources is not estimated to occur for 1,400 years for phosphate and 7,300 years for potassium. The report concludes that efforts to conserve and/or recycle mineral resources are wasteful and often end up being net harms to society, by diverting economic activity from more productive uses."

China bans 36 more anime, manga titles in continuing crackdown - "In April, the ministry released a list of 62 manga comics that were to be banned in the China, including the entire Sailor Moon series, 500 editions of Case Closed (originally Meitantei Conan) and 600 editions of the Naruto series."

The Appeal of Hard Rock

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Friday's business with Simon Jack:

Peter Mensch: Hard Rock used to appeal essentially to your average 15 year old male.

He had bad skin, he didn't like his parents, he couldn't go out- girls didn't like him, and he was an angry kid... frustrated. Frustrated *something*

And lo and behold, there were 10,000 other frustrated people, like yourself.

The problem is, interestingly in hard rock, is we ask this all the time: where is the new Metallica?

Please, anybody out there who's in a Hard Rock Band under the age of 25, call me, we need you

Monday, July 06, 2015

"我很委屈"

我跟我的女朋友吵架。

她说, “我很委屈,你知道吗? 我很委屈”

然后,我看我手机。

然后,她都跑了。

我说,“你去哪儿?”

她说, “我们吵架,你看你手机。”

我说,“我不知道‘委屈’是什么意思!!"

(via Freakonomics » Is It Okay for Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees? A New Freakonomics Radio Episode)

Links - 6th July 2015

Ad featuring wombat in songkok retracted after Muslims mistake it for a pig - "News portal Mynewshub said the billboard by Australia-based company Servcorp, a serviced office and virtual office provider, that featured a Selamat Hari Raya greeting by the company’s mascot, Sydney the Wombat, could “confuse” Muslims even though the animal featured was not a pig... Some Facebook users also slammed Servcorp Malaysia on its Facebook page, with one called Ajoy Yusof saying: “do you know that pig is haram (forbidden) to Malay/Muslim....please change it or we will report your company to authority and sue your company for making fun of the Muslim and Malays”... The Friends of BN — Barisan Nasional Facebook page said today that the Servcorp billboard was “disrespectful” to Muslims and posted that the advertisement has been retracted."

NDP Parade Commander practises by shouting in car

Re: The “Privileged” should “Shut Up” - "isn’t there a strange tension between the statement “no member of a majority group can ever have anything valuable to say about minority issues” and the assumption that I think we both share: “it is always wrong to assume to know something about an individual or group based on a set of narrow characteristics”?... The second reason I object to Prof. Koh’s note, and the more egregious error in her writing (to my mind), is her angry claim that members of minority groups should never be asked by members of majority groups to “justify their thoughts and for facts, statistics, data, argument.” This is completely unacceptable. It should go without saying that it is one thing to ask for lower burdens of proof because of existing inability to procure such proof (e.g. difficulties involved in accusing a court system of racism if none of the judges appears willing to explicitly invoke racist statements in their written judgments) or to argue that the way in which evidence is assessed is unfavorable to minority groups (e.g. feminist groups which believe that methodologies in various academic fields could use improvement to incorporate the viewpoints of women), and another thing altogether to hysterically demand complete exemption from the basic duty of civilized discourse — the need to be able to back up what you are saying... no evidence at all, no logic, no argument, nothing — is required to prove a point made, as long as it comes from a member of a minority group... Perhaps one is an academic, teaching a class about feminist perspectives on Shakespeare. Would one be justified in telling a male student who is interested in offering his view on the depiction of women’s rights in The Taming of the Shrew to “shut up”, because he is a male, cannot have anything worthwhile to say about the issue, and therefore should instead “listen” to his female friends? If Prof. Koh was teaching that class, would she tell that student that “your point of view is not important?” Would male students be barred from taking the course altogether, since it is a class about women’s issues? I hope that Prof. Koh would agree that such conduct would be disgraceful coming from any academic deserving of the name."
Sadly he is a Chinese Male, so he will get scornfully dismissed

The sad state of English in Malaysia - "We have also met Malaysian diplomats who cannot carry a proper conversation in flawless English and we know some of them even shy away from social functions, which is a shame as these are where they can pick up nuggets of information for their intelligence reports. A few generations are paying the price - inability to speak and write in proper English - because of our education system. At best, they may have some semblance of communication in English but without proper foundation in grammar, many are unable to even string a sentence together correctly. Because English is just a subject, there is hardly any opportunity to use and practise the language on a regular and extensive basis within the school system. That is how low we have sunk. Forget about the occasional use of Latin words to make the language more refined, if not, more classy. Getting through the basics is tough enough."
Some might say that Malaysian non-standard English is as valid as "Standard" English, which anyway is an outdated colonial construct

Chinese Companies With No Heir Apparent - "Many of China's first-generation entrepreneurs are influenced by their experience of China's mid-century upheavals, prior to the country's shift towards a market economy. The worldview of the fuerdai, by contrast, has been shaped by wealth, privilege, and, quite often, overseas education that lends them a different perspective on the Chinese economy. In China, it's common to meet young Chinese who reject a life in business because they "don't like dealing with the government" - a thin euphemism for the graft that many Chinese entrepreneurs price into their transactions. Elsewhere in the world, family-owned businesses deal with these kinds of succession problems by seeking out professional management. But that's an unlikely option in China, where scepticism of outsiders is firmly rooted in the culture's business traditions. (The Harvard Business Review recently reported that nearly three-quarters of all companies in Taiwan, and 69 per cent in Hong Kong, pass down to family heirs.) It doesn't help matters that China has a serious dearth of well-trained professional managers."

Race Traitor | Journal of the New Abolitionism - "The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a predictor of behavior will lead to its collapse.
ACE TRAITOR aims to serve as an intellectual center for those seeking to abolish the white race. It will encourage dissent from the conformity that maintains it and popularize examples of defection from its ranks, analyze the forces that hold it together and those that promise to tear it apart. Part of its task will be to promote debate among abolitionists. When possible, it will support practical measures, guided by the principle, Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity."
Wut. And why does he put up a cartoon exposing systemic hypocrisy that he has his job at Harvard, when someone saying one should abolish the black race wouldn't?

The Philosopher's Beard: Does Peter Singer's 'Utilitarian' Argument for Vegetarianism Add Up? - "Singer's book has influenced many people,including myself. Yet, reading and rereading it, I have come to wonder whether it is really good philosophy. Its rhetorical effectiveness relies on pathos - an appeal to the sentiments of the audience. Despite multiple revised editions, Singer's official argument, his logos, is far from clear or compelling... Singer is trying to make a practical argument here about how to bring about a better world, but it glides frictionlessly and uselessly from desire to conclusion. Without consideration of the social logistics of collective action problems - "elementary economics" - it amounts to no more than wishful thinking... who will notice that you are boycotting meat and stock less? Is it the same people who notice when you go on holiday, or when someone dies?... The utilitarian calculus developed by Bentham – his famous ‘Greatest Happiness Principle' - counts both the pain and the pleasure of each individual and then ranks different possible states of the world in terms of the sum total of pleasure minus pain they contain. Singer appears to retain the hedonic focus of Bentham while asserting that the only thing we should count is suffering... it is not clear to me why we should follow Singer in only taking human induced suffering seriously. Utilitarianism as a doctrine is supposed to be focused on realising the state of the world one considers best, without consideration of how that state is brought about... Singer's disinterest in wild suffering or that indirectly produced by cereal agriculture seems to reflect widely shared but non-utilitarian intuitions about a moral hierarchy of means... The irony of this reading of Singer is that, if he does consider suffering deliberately caused by "the tyranny of human over nonhuman animals" to be of special moral significance, that undermines his central claim about the equality of suffering as well as his credibility as a utilitarian... Singer denies that plants have interests because, like stones, if they don't feel pain then there is nothing there to have them. But this seems a distinctly circular - arbitrary - way to draw a categorical distinction between those whose lives matter equally and those whose lives matter not at all... The charge of spinism comes from this arbitrariness, which closely resembles that of the speciesists whom Singer criticises so sharply for excluding non-human animals from moral consideration. Singer supposes that the problem to overcome is that humans have tended to draw the categorical distinction the wrong place, but he insists that the only solution is to draw it in the right place. He refuses to consider that moral significance can be gradualist and multi-dimensional rather than binary...
Is it wrong to act from sentiment rather than reason? Yes, if you are a utilitarian or a Kantian. No, if you are something else, like a virtue ethicist... Most people are natural virtue ethicists, even if they don't know it, because it more or less reflects our commonsense understanding of moral psychology. It was central to scholarly work on moral philosophy for a very long time, up until the rationalism of the Enlightenment – the influence of thinkers like Kant and Bentham – made its lack of rigour unfashionable."

Vegetarians and vegans - a philosophical look into whether they can rightfully adopt a moral high-ground. • A Tippling Philosopher - " to claim the ethical high ground in being a vegetarian, it begs the question of why stop at this ethical decision, why not go further? Why not think about where every single product that you buy is bought and change your shopping habits accordingly? Why not ensure that your electricity provider gives you green tariffs, or that you bank with the Co-Op Bank? However, the logical conclusion of this is to end up something like a Jain who sweeps the road in front of them so as not to tread on an ant. This, though, is where a vegetarian should end up unless they draw an arbitrary line somewhere in their decision making. Yet this is an entirely subjective and effectively random line if not followed through to its logical Jainist conclusion... a Jain takes into account the value of life right down to an ant. But even then, what is to separate an ant (philosophically) from an amoeba or a bacterium? And a plant?... Driving along the road in a car in the Summer months, the vegetarian accepts collateral deaths of hundreds of flies and insects hitting the car and windscreen as par for the course"

The double captivity of ‘Chinese privilege’

Note: This was excerpted from Links - 6th July 2015 in order to classify it under the label "sangeetha"

The double captivity of ‘Chinese privilege’ - "Koh and Thanapal are dependent on external sources for the formulation of the term Chinese privilege while at the same time they criticize Singapore for its ‘White is better’ mindset. So we have the captive talking to the captive in a conversation framed by assumptions and illusions of its emancipatory and mobilizatory potential, not to mention originality. This is what is meant by double captivity... Koh and Thanapal prefer to discuss Singapore Chinese privilege in connection to white privilege rather than Malay privilege right next door in Malaysia which, paradoxically, has produced a class of successful minority Chinese Malaysians who are, at the same time, victims of institutional discrimination. To bring Malaysia into the discussion might have been more meaningful politically, socially and academically because Malaysia provides the opportunity to study the intersectional effects of privilege that Singaporeans should closely engage with considering Singapore and Malaysia’s shared border, similar ethnic composition and common historical past... Forty-one years have gone by since Alatas’ Captive Mind thesis, but Koh and Thanapal have shown us that we are still in the era of the captive mind, one that seems much harder to emancipate because not only is it unconscious of its own captivity, it is also unconscious of the captivity of its captor. As Singapore turns fifty this year, double captivity invites us to interrogate the real nature of Singapore’s presumed intellectual and creative independence."

Luckily she is a non-Chinese female, and the daughter of a famous sociologist to boot, so she is (largely) insulated from ad hominem cries about 'privilege'

Abraham Lincoln - the Unsung Racist

Judge leaders by the standards of their time

Abraham Lincoln pondered greatly what to do about Negroes, as they were called in the 19th century.

In the 1850s and 1860s, before and during Lincoln’s presidency and the Civil War, race issues tore the United States apart. Lincoln understood that slavery was morally wrong, but still he believed whites and Negroes would always have difficulty living together. Negroes, he felt, were less capable than whites.

Lincoln wondered if some other place outside the United States could be found for Negroes who wanted to leave. He wrote about the idea and discussed it with Negro delegations who visited him in the White House, but Negro colonies never happened the way he thought they should.

Lincoln turned out to be the Great Emancipator, but his views of African-Americans, as Negroes are now called, could never be called progressive. He freed the slaves but he did not free himself, let alone his country, from certain prejudices.

Should these attitudes be held against Lincoln now? Should he be judged today by yesterday’s standards? And what about his treatment of America’s Indians?

Lincoln volunteered, but barely saw action, in the 1832 Black Hawk War against the Sioux in upper Illinois and what became the Wisconsin and Michigan territories. As president, he authorized the collective hanging of 38 Sioux after Union armies put down the Sioux rebellion in 1862 in a particularly violent fashion in the new state of Minnesota. More than 300 names had been forwarded to him for execution; he authorized the deaths of 38.

Pressures were placed on Lincoln – as great pressure was put on Sir John A. Macdonald in Canada after the trial of Louis Riel – to hang them all, pardon them all or something in between. No decision would please everyone; any decision would inflame many.

Lincoln believed the Indian way of life to be doomed. The government had a duty to move them toward the “arts of civilization” through “moral training” that would “confer upon them the elevated and sanctifying influences, the hopes and consolations, of the Christian faith,” he said.

Indians needed to become farmers. “Pale-faced people are numerous and prosperous because they cultivate the earth, produce bread and depend upon the products of the earth,” he wrote, “rather than wild game for subsistence.”

By the standards of the time, Lincoln, was not as bloodthirsty as others toward Indians, which is damning with faint praise. He, like Macdonald, wanted to change them for what they considered high-minded reasons, principal being their own welfare. He and Macdonald, flawed by today’s standards, were men of their time.

Today, native American polemicists and historians have little good to say about the most revered U.S. president. The same can be said of aboriginal writers, and present-day advocates of Canadian aboriginal causes in the universities and beyond, about Macdonald, whose 200th birthday we celebrate this week. He was a contemporary of Lincoln’s until the president’s assassination.

Lincoln preserved the union of his country; Macdonald created and built a country. Obviously, they did not accomplish these mighty tasks alone. Lincoln had to forge a “team of rivals” within his own party. Macdonald had to negotiate compromises among conflicting political factions, especially between English- and French-speakers.

Without them, the United States and Canada might not exist today in their contemporary forms. By the standards of history, their accomplishments lie in the fact that their countries endured. More than that, their countries became two of the most successful in the world.

Each man was flawed, and these flaws have been extensively noted. To judge them through the prism of their flaws is to deliberately minimize their accomplishments and engage in historical “presentism,” the application of today’s standards to those that prevailed long ago.

“Presentism” always deforms history because it reads back today’s mores and beliefs and assumptions into a time in which we did not live. It presumes that today’s decisions should take into account how the world would want and expect such decisions to be taken a century or more from now.

This approach is always popular with those for whom history is a stick with which to beat today’s drums of injustice and to read their particular narratives into the past.

Fortunately, the country-building visions of Lincoln and Macdonald remain as enduring today as they were in their time. We understand their weaknesses, but we appreciate more their strengths.


Keywords: judging contemporary standards, historical chauvinism

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Dickens on the Follies of Mountaineering

"Now what, one asks, is the inducement which leads to the essaying of these perilous feats? One would gladly find a reasonable motive ; but none is either found or offered. A late secretary to the Alpine Club leaves unanswered the very natural question, "What is the use of scaling precipitous rocks, and being for half an hour at the top of the terrestrial globe?" alleging that these are questions of sentiment, and do not admit of conclusive arguments on either side. But if it once be conceded that life is risked for no earthly use whatever, most people will think that the admission settles the matter most conclusively.

What is the motive of foolhardiness ? We have said before, and again say, that the only one discoverable is brag. The common-place sport of steeple-chasing is eclipsed and extinguished by pinnacle-chasing. But it is time to be instant in urging that the first ascent of an unclimbed peak, in which only a single life (whether of guide or friend) is lost, confers, not fame, but a painful notoriety, which is a punishment instead of a reward of the exploit.

We shall be told that " mountaineering" is a manly exercise. It is so, inasmuch as it is not womanly. But it is not noblemanly when it is selfish. Is it manly to expose a parent, a brother, or a wife, to the chance of quite un- called-for sorrow ? To lead them into danger perhaps for the satisfaction of recovering our remains ? To tempt hardworking guides, mostly family men, to expose their lives for no adequate object; bringing them, for our amusement, to the condition of Roman gladiators, who might exclaim, " Morituri te salutamus," " We take off our caps to you, on our way to destruction ?"

Is gambling manly ? A gambler, for the sake of temporary excitement, takes his chance of worldly ruin ; but he is led on by the expectation that he will one day make his fortune- perhaps that very day or night. Reckless mountaineering is greater folly than gambling ; because, for the sake of overstrained emotions, it risks all, with nothing to win but an empty boast.

When Alpine Clubbists hold that it is "a question of sentiment," we may ask whether it be not rather a question of duty. The great argument against' suicide urged by moralists is, that a man has not the right to dispose of his life as he pleases. Life is a precious gift, not to be lightly thrown away. It is not a man's own, but a trust conferred upon him by his Maker, to employ to the best of his ability. Has, then, a man the right to cause the wanton sacrifice (even in his own proper person) of a useful member of society, by the snapping of a rope, the slipping of a stone, the failure of a grapnel, or the imperfect freezing of a bridge of snow?

When sensible people discover that they are on a wrong track, they confess it, and retrace their steps. Our climbing enthusiasts may do the same, without exposing themselves to the slightest reproach as to want of courage. Nobody will say or believe that our countrymen (whether Irish, Scotch, or English) are afraid to face danger. But danger should be nobly faced. Compare the man who ascends Mount Cervin, "prepared to conquer the mountain or die," as reported in the newspapers, with him who braves the cholera, or visits typhus patients."

--- All the Year Round, No. 327 July 1865, after tragedy on the Matterhorn in 1865Dickens on the Follies of Mountaineering:

"Now what, one asks, is the inducement which leads to the essaying of these perilous feats? One would gladly find a reasonable motive ; but none is either found or offered. A late secretary to the Alpine Club leaves unanswered the very natural question, "What is the use of scaling precipitous rocks, and being for half an hour at the top of the terrestrial globe?" alleging that these are questions of sentiment, and do not admit of conclusive arguments on either side. But if it once be conceded that life is risked for no earthly use whatever, most people will think that the admission settles the matter most conclusively.

What is the motive of foolhardiness ? We have said before, and again say, that the only one discoverable is brag. The common-place sport of steeple-chasing is eclipsed and extinguished by pinnacle-chasing. But it is time to be instant in urging that the first ascent of an unclimbed peak, in which only a single life (whether of guide or friend) is lost, confers, not fame, but a painful notoriety, which is a punishment instead of a reward of the exploit.

We shall be told that " mountaineering" is a manly exercise. It is so, inasmuch as it is not womanly. But it is not noblemanly when it is selfish. Is it manly to expose a parent, a brother, or a wife, to the chance of quite un- called-for sorrow ? To lead them into danger perhaps for the satisfaction of recovering our remains ? To tempt hardworking guides, mostly family men, to expose their lives for no adequate object; bringing them, for our amusement, to the condition of Roman gladiators, who might exclaim, " Morituri te salutamus," " We take off our caps to you, on our way to destruction ?"

Is gambling manly ? A gambler, for the sake of temporary excitement, takes his chance of worldly ruin ; but he is led on by the expectation that he will one day make his fortune- perhaps that very day or night. Reckless mountaineering is greater folly than gambling ; because, for the sake of overstrained emotions, it risks all, with nothing to win but an empty boast.

When Alpine Clubbists hold that it is "a question of sentiment," we may ask whether it be not rather a question of duty. The great argument against' suicide urged by moralists is, that a man has not the right to dispose of his life as he pleases. Life is a precious gift, not to be lightly thrown away. It is not a man's own, but a trust conferred upon him by his Maker, to employ to the best of his ability. Has, then, a man the right to cause the wanton sacrifice (even in his own proper person) of a useful member of society, by the snapping of a rope, the slipping of a stone, the failure of a grapnel, or the imperfect freezing of a bridge of snow?

When sensible people discover that they are on a wrong track, they confess it, and retrace their steps. Our climbing enthusiasts may do the same, without exposing themselves to the slightest reproach as to want of courage. Nobody will say or believe that our countrymen (whether Irish, Scotch, or English) are afraid to face danger. But danger should be nobly faced. Compare the man who ascends Mount Cervin, "prepared to conquer the mountain or die," as reported in the newspapers, with him who braves the cholera, or visits typhus patients."

--- All the Year Round, No. 327 July 1865, after tragedy on the Matterhorn in 1865

Links - 5th July 2015

40 Tourist Scams to Avoid This Summer

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - "Meat is murder. Vegetarianism is genocide."

'Game of Thrones' star defends the show's female violence scenes - "“I’ve always been quite clear about my attitude toward gender equality and female empowerment.” Christie said. “And a lot of this show is inspired by actual historical events, and that’s what’s occurring with the women. Women have been treated appalling in history. Men have too. Human beings have. What this show is doing is shining a light on women and has an exploration of female characters that has rarely been approached before—and I applaud that. Yes, those scenes are difficult, and they should be difficult. They should further illuminate human consciousness about how we interact as human beings.” There is also, Christie noted, some broader context for the most debated events in the show"

'Game of Thrones' star Maisie Williams speaks: The ultimate Arya interview - "Rule number one is to not read what people think about you on the Internet, because it makes you sad...
Thrones fans can be super intense. What was your weirdest encounter?
People love asking me to say the [list of characters Arya wants to kill] with their name in it. It’s quite creepy. It’ll be like “Joffrey, Cersei, Alan…” Just, like, a strange suburban dad’s name in the middle. Then they’re recording it and they’re just like, “Thank you.”"

Why the right side of your brain doesn't like Arabic - "If you've ever struggled to learn Arabic or felt overwhelmed just looking its symbols, now you can blame science. Researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel say intricacies in Arabic script are so complex that the right hemispheres of learners' brains don't even bother getting involved. The university's department of psychology and the Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities conducted a series of studies on why Arabic might be more difficult to learn than other languages. Some Arabic characters look exactly like others but with different meanings and sounds -- and with only slight variations such as lines or dots, the university said. To add to the confusion, some sounds are represented by a variety of different symbols."

Cosplay Gone Wrong: Fat Chicks Dressed Like Yuna! - "no videogame or anime character has been more frightening in the cosplay world than Yuna from Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2."

Brewing For Success: How KOI Cafe broke through competition

Freakonomics » How Many Doctors Does It Take to Start a Healthcare Revolution? Full Transcript - "medical training bypassed the Enlightenment almost altogether. So if you look back in the roots of medicine as training, as a pedagogy, it goes back to Greek tradition. And in that Greek tradition it was a lot of memorization, and it was fealty to authority. It was a tradition that was passed down through the generations. It was almost like a priesthood. And med school is really like being inducted into a priesthood of power, money and influence. And the Enlightenment was really about self-critical thinking, and about use of rational thought and the scientific method to prove and disprove things in an objective way. And very few physicians really understand the scientific method. So you don’t necessarily have a science degree to go to med school. And when you’re in med school, most of med school is just memorization. So you know, if you look at how medicine is taught, the first two years are mostly memorization. And then the second two years are rounding on patients with senior physicians in a very steep hierarchy where you learn to do what you’re told and you don’t challenge or embarrass the senior physicians... the most dangerous thing in America is an empty hospital bed... you better worry if you go to one of those emergency rooms, because the chances of being admitted to the hospital when there are empty beds upstairs that they need to fill are going to be much, much higher than when all the beds are full–whether there’s medical necessity or you need it or not. So I’d be very worried if you live in Princeton that there are now two $1 billion hospitals waiting to be filled by you."

▶ This Ain't Ghostbusters XXX-trailer - YouTube

England football stars photo tells up about race in Britain today - "in Britain at least, does part of the reason lie in multiculturalism? This fashionable dogma is obsessed with instilling respect for diversity and celebrating different groups’ beliefs and traditions. The result has been not, as was hoped, a society in which people of various backgrounds mix freely but one made up too often of separate communities. Could it be that in the process of respecting the differences between us all, we are — inadvertently — quietly reinforcing cultural barriers which separate black and white? That, in my view, is what we are seeing in the football pictures; the result of multiculturalism in microcosm, allied to the natural human impulse to gravitate towards what is familiar and therefore reassuring."

Freakonomics » Diamonds Are a Marriage Counselor’s Best Friend Full Transcript - "You know, everyone has seen Mad Men on television. Well they were a hundred times better than Mad Men. They actually understood that what a woman wanted was a tangible measure of love. So they made the diamond into the tangible symbol. They also introduced diamonds into Hollywood. They opened an office in Hollywood to put them in films. And its entire business was creating a liaison between movie producers and De Beers. Songs like Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” you know, didn’t come out of thin air."

Freakonomics » Making Sex Offenders Pay — and Pay and Pay and Pay Full Transcript - "DUBNER: Joseph is bothered by this notion. She points out that some people who might be offended by the notion of “rewiring” say, homosexuals, might firmly believe that a sex offender’s sexual urges can be fundamentally changed.
JOSEPH: I think it is a contradiction. I’m one of those believers that… without getting into some big, political discussion about this that if you’re born gay, you’re gay. You can’t and shouldn’t be rewired to think a different way. Well, if we can’t rewire our sexuality, why do we think we can rewire the sexuality of a child predator, or a man who is aroused by being violent with women? Why do we think we can?... the irony of the [sex offender] registry is that by making the information so public, it probably, potentially, maybe it doesn’t, it depends, it might reduce the amount of recidivism. But one thing it does for sure is it raises a level of fear, and so much of the costs of crime are the fear, not the fear of the actual victims or the pain of the victims, but it’s the fear of everyone who imagines they might be a victim. And the registry does exactly the wrong thing in that regard, in making everyone feel like they’re constantly under threat... I’ve known guys in prison who said I had a 15-year-old girlfriend when I was 19, and I really would have been better off if I had just killed her instead of having sex with her. Because then I would have done, you know, 15 or 20 years and I would have gotten out and gotten to move on with my life. But being labeled a sex offender, I will permanently be punished by all of these laws."

There Goes the Neighborhood? Estimates of the Impact of Crime Risk on Property Values From Megan's Laws - "Houses within a one-tenth mile area around the home of a sex offender fall by 4 percent on average (about $5,500). We also find evidence that the effect varies with distance within this range -- houses next to an offender sell for about 12 percent less while those a tenth of a mile away or more show no decline. We combine our willingness-to-pay estimates with data on sexual crimes against neighbors to estimate the costs to victims of sexual offenses. We estimate costs of over $1 million per victim -- far in excess of estimates taken from the criminal justice literature. However, we cannot reject the alternative hypotheses that individuals overestimate the risk posed by offenders or view living near an offender as having costs exclusive of crime risk."

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Islamic State Recruitment
Amusingly the first witness is okay with people going off to join ISIS because this supposedly doesn't threaten Britain or its allies' interests, despite ISIS proclaiming that it wants to conquer the world in the name of the Islamic Caliphate. And when grilled he starts ranting about Israel

ISIS and the Spanish Civil War - "The Spanish Civil War, however, does offer a lot of problems when it comes to comparisons. For starters, with whom do we compare IS? It was the anti-fascist side, the Republicans, who attracted the swarms of foreign volunteers. Apart from that single fact, it’s hard to compare the Republicans and IS. The Republicans were a loose coalition of leftists and anarchists, receiving some support from Stalin’s Soviet Union. They were barely united and sometimes fell to fighting (and purging) one another. At the same time, unlike IS, they did not look to expand beyond the borders of Spain, merely to stop the fascists from winning the civil war... But what really makes the Spanish Civil War so relevant in comparison with IS isn’t the details related to troop dispositions or the national origin of the soldiers on either side: it’s the symbolism of the war, the perception at the time (and still today, almost 80 years later) that it was a symbol, a metaphor, for the forces gathering to fight the Second World War. It was a place where fascism might have been stopped if the democracies hadn’t been in the throes of appeasement. It was a stage upon which the first act of a huge, enormously destructive war was played out. And that, surely, is what makes it comparable with the Islamic State of today"

Barack Obama says the N-word in Marc Maron's podcast - ""I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you've lived through being a black man in the 1950s or '60s or '70s. It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours"... The White House released a statement saying that this is not the first time the President has used the N-word. "Truth is he uses the term about a dozen times in Dreams from my Father," White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said."
If you need to issue a press release about the usage of the word "Nigger", it's clear people have the wrong priorities

Remember the Professor Who Said ‘White Males’ Are ‘the Problem’? Take a Look at What She Was Doing Online in 2007 - "She’s already gained national media attention for her fiery rhetoric, having tweeted that:
- “white college males” are a “problem population” and “white masculinity” is “THE problem for America’s colleges.”
- “Deal with your white s***, white people. slavery is a *YALL* thing.”
- “Every MLK week I commit myself to not spending a dime in white-owned businesses. And every year I find it nearly impossible.”
Meanwhile Tim Hunt gets fired for making a joke
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