"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Links - 15th April 2016

Liberals and Conservatives Solve Problems Differently - "While the number of problems that liberals and conservatives solved was roughly the same, their strategies were different. Conservatives tended to be more gradual and analytical while liberals relied on insight, arriving at solutions after experiencing those “Aha!” moments... At first these results may seem surprising and even the reverse of what would be expected. Conservatives are often the ones thought of as relying on intuition and “gut instinct,” where liberals are thought of as operating according to reason and logic. However, if you think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense. Conservatives like to avoid risks and play things safe. Careful and methodical thinking ensures that problems are handled in a manner that’s tried and true. On the other hand, insight involves creative solutions and outside-the-box thinking. This cognitive style could help explain why liberals are more in favor of science and technology, which offer more innovative and experimental solutions to problems."

Antisemitism has no place on the left. It is time to confront it - "I have challenged dodgy pronouncements from people who profess to advocate Palestinian justice.Jewish people are sometimes told that antisemitism is caused by Israel’s actions, for example. These are the same people who would never dream of victim-blaming members of other minorities, or claim that anybody was at fault other than the bigot themselves. Others play linguistic games: how can it be antisemitism, they say, when Palestinians are also “Semites” – members of a group of people originally of the ancient Middle East that includes Jews and Arabs – even though “antisemitism” has meant “anti-Jewish hatred” for generations. (This is like saying, “I’m not homophobic because I’m not scared of gays.”) There are those who imply that Jewish people are somehow synonymous with the Israeli government (a slur echoed by some uncritical cheerleaders of Israeli state policy). And some use terms like “Jewish lobby”, a classic antisemitic trope suggesting there is an organised Jewish cabal exercising behind-the-scenes influence worldwide. And so on."

Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe? - "Valls is deliberate and—unusual for a French politician of the left—blunt in identifying the main culprits in the proliferation of anti-Jewish violence and harassment: Islamist ideologues whose anti-Semitic and anti-Western calumnies have penetrated the banlieues. But he goes further: France’s “new anti-Semitism” is also the product of what he understands to be a malicious sleight of hand on the part of Israel’s enemies to repackage anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism. “It is legitimate to criticize the policies of Israel,” Valls said. “This criticism exists in Israel itself. But this is not what we are talking about in France. This is radical criticism of the very existence of Israel, which is anti-Semitic. There is an incontestable link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Behind anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.” Frequently, Valls said, anti-Zionists let the mask slip. It is impossible, he said, to ascribe the attacks on synagogues—at least eight were targeted in France last summer—to anger over Israel’s Gaza policy. The demonstrators who chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” at rallies in Germany last year clearly have more on their minds than Israel’s West Bank settlement policy—but evidently not everyone in authority believes that attacks on synagogues are axiomatically anti-Semitic: in early February, a German court ruled that the firebombing of a synagogue in the city of Wuppertal last year was motivated not by anti-Semitism but by a desire to bring “attention to the Gaza conflict”... Marine Le Pen is positioning herself as something of a philo-Semite. She is not under the illusion that she will sway large numbers of Jews to her side; in any case, the Jewish vote in France is minuscule. But people who follow her rise say she understands that one pathway to mainstream acceptance runs through the Jews: if she could neutralize the perception that the National Front is a fascist party by winning some measure of Jewish acceptance, she could help smooth her way to the presidency."

An Anti-Semitism of the Left - The New York Times - "Last month, a co-chairman of the Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, quit in protest at what he described as rampant anti-Semitism among members. A “large proportion” of the club “and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews,” he said in a statement. Chalmers referred to members of the executive committee “throwing around the term ‘Zio’” — an insult used by the Ku Klux Klan; high-level expressions of “solidarity with Hamas” and explicit defense of “their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians”; and the dismissal of any concern about anti-Semitism as “just the Zionists crying wolf”... A recent Oberlin alumna, Isabel Storch Sherrell, wrote in a Facebook post of the students she’d heard dismissing the Holocaust as mere “white on white crime.”"

Brown Students Shut Down Trans Activist’s Speech—Because Israel - "One might assume this cohort was virulently homophobic or transphobic to discourage the transgender activist from serving as the keynote speaker selected by Moral Voices—a group whose mission for this academic year was to raise awareness about “violence against LGBTQ+ individuals and communities,” according to a statement by one of its co-chairwomen... That the event was not about Israel or the Middle East, or that its sponsorship by other progressive groups on campus—including the Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center, Sexual Assault Peer Educators, Office of the Chaplains, and the Rhode Island School of Design’s Office of Intercultural Student Engagement—didn’t sway these students from arguing that Mock’s appearance would be implicit support for… some Zionist conspiracy?... Way to go, student activists at Brown! You succeeded in creating a hostile environment that led to a trans woman of color being discouraged from sharing her voice and opinions. This all helped the Palestinian people how, exactly?... pinkwashing is too often invoked when it is convenient for critics of Israel—the same ones rarely point out that many of Israel’s neighbors jail people for being gay—there’s an unhelpful, forced quality to tying all social movements together. “If you support X, then you must support Y” doesn’t always work, especially with nuanced social issues. For example, last year, students at New York’s Barnard College argued that full sexual-assault advocacy necessitated holding SJP’s highly critical view of Israel. As The Daily Beast’s Lizzie Crocker wrote, “The implication is that to be anti-sexual assault at Columbia, one must also be anti-Israel. Conflating those issues under a larger umbrella of oppression waters them both down individually.”"

The Problem With Sexual Arousal Studies - "the problem I’ve long had with the arousal studies is this: The vagina is not the homologue to the penis. The penis's homologue is the clitoris. The vagina comes from different embryological tissue altogether, so why should we expect it to behave in a way that is comparable to the penis? The reason the clitoris gets an erection when a woman is sexually excited, the reason most women don't reach orgasm via their vaginas, is because the clitoris is the organ that corresponds to the penis. So why study the vaginal response and not the clitoral response when doing a study comparing the arousal patterns of males and females?... “[T]he inverse relationship between VPA [the vaginal response] and CBV [the clitoral response] at moments of high sexual arousal suggests that VPA may be a more automatic, preparatory response rather than a measure of genital arousal per se.” In other words, their results suggest that, sure enough, women’s arousal patterns may be a lot more specific—more like men’s—than the vaginal measurements reveal. A woman’s vagina may indeed lubricate to sexual signals from both Jif and Joe, and even Jif's monkey and Joe's dog, but her clitoris might reveal that she is, in fact, much more aroused by Jif than any other option. And if she’s in an environment that allows her a choice of sex partner, that differential arousal may well matter to evolutionary history."

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 151 - Maria Konnikova on "Why everyone falls for con artists" - "I think that what the data show is that actually it's good not to see the world quite as it is, be it in terms of self-deception where you see yourself in a slightly rosier light. That's actually really healthy. It's psychologically healthy. We don't want to know what we really are like. Those people have a name, they're called the clinically depressed. That's the only subset of the population as far as we know that lacks an optimism bias completely and that just is able to see themselves and accurately answer questions about themselves. Obviously, they suffer from clinical depression, so you can see by its absence just what a psychological benefit that self-deception ends up having"

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 150 - Elizabeth Loftus on "The malleability of human memory" - "We did some studies where we showed that we could make people believe that as children they got sick eating particular foods, like eggs or pickles or strawberry ice cream. We found they didn't want to eat the foods as much. Then we found if we planted a warm fuzzy memory about a healthy food, like asparagus, people wanted to eat more asparagus. I started thinking, "Boy, we can manipulate people's nutritional food selections. Maybe we can make a dent in the obesity problem in this society... We also did a study with alcohol where we planted a false memory that you got sick on a vodka drink and you're not so interested in vodka drinks anymore. So this seems to have a lot of potential for ... In fact, the New York Times even called this the “false memory diet.”"

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 149 - Susan Gelman on "How essentialism shapes our thinking" - "Susan Gelman: I think that's a mismatch between what the philosopher is trying to do, what they see is their calling is to make things precise and logical and mathematical, but they're talking about concepts that are embedded in language which is a human phenomenon, which doesn't work that way at all. In fact, we see ... I've been really interested in this side issue that is a way that I think people express essentialist beliefs a lot which is using generic language. Saying things like "Dogs are four-legged." Instead of "These dogs are four-legged" or "All dogs are four-legged" or "67% of dogs are four-legged."
Julia Galef: It's an interesting contrast between "All dogs are four-legged" and "Dogs are four-legged"... It's seemingly expressing the same concept, but the feel is definitely different.
Susan Gelman: It's very different and the thing is, there's a long tradition in philosophy and linguistics of trying to figure out just precisely what the semantics of these expressions that can be expressed with predicate logic. If you were going to take a statement like "All dogs are four-legged" and apply predicate logic to it, it would be nice and simple and easy. You try to do it with "Dogs are four-legged" and the whole- It just doesn't work because there are no hard and fast rules. We say "Birds lay eggs." Well, only female birds lay eggs. But we don't say "Birds are female." There are more birds that are female that lay eggs because baby female birds don't lay eggs. It gets really hairy very quickly...
Julia Galef: Yeah. It's been pretty interesting to read the history of slurs, of racial slurs, which often started out as completely neutral or an attempt at a positive ... An attempt to get rid of a previous negative word. But then because they were used in contexts and by people with negative intent, they adopted negative connotations, and now they feel inherently like negative words
Susan Gelman: Right. I think that's the same sort of thing. It gets back to your question about is language influencing thought, or is thought influencing language. I think it shows that it's going in both directions."
I should throw this against those who use the straw stereotype

Episode 21: The Hock Lee Bus Litmus Test - "By 1950, Singapore was back to where it had been in 1939 – the glittering economic capital of Southeast Asia, one of the most prosperous cities in the British Empire, the most important commercial, transportation, and communications centre in the Far East. This rich, wealthy metropolis had a per capita income of about $1,200, higher than nearly any other country in Asia. The famous economist Thomas Silcock noted in 1959 that Singapore was ‘almost certainly the only place in Asia where there is really a substantial middle class’. More than New York, London or Calcutta, it was the twentieth century’s first truly global city, ‘a city of infinite ethnic fractions’."
More on the fishing village Singapore used to be

Episode 22: de Tocqueville in Singapore - "And of course, Lee Kuan Yew hated being the junior partner in the coalition. He asked Lim and Nair not to stand for re-election to the PAP Central Executive Committee at its first anniversary in 1955. They agreed, to keep Lee happy, but also possibly because the unions mattered much more than the political party. They didn’t need the party. The party needed them. Unsurprisingly, secret British correspondence notes that Lee was already dropping hints to colonial officials that they should curtail Lim and Nair’s ‘extremist’ policies. This is November 1955, and the British are still firmly in power, and Lee is already sabotaging his comrades."

Authorities couldn't stop Belgium attacks despite presence of extremists writes MICHAEL BURLEIGH - "Discussing Abdeslam’s eventual capture last week, a French anti-terrorism judge said: ‘Either he is very clever or the Belgian services are rubbish – which seems more likely’... These security failings are a damning indictment of a nation whose capital is home to both the European Commission and Nato HQ. How ironic, considering recent events, that the city prides itself on having the nickname ‘Spy Central’... the Belgian intelligence services don’t always share information with their police colleagues. Often, the latter only find out information from their British counterparts, who have been told by MI5 – who have got the details from Belgian security officers!"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Simone de Beauvoir - "She certainly wasn't interested in becoming a creator of philosophical systems in the way that he was... but she was always within philosophy but she said 'I don't have to invent a philosophical system to feel myself Sartre's equal, or independent'... Second Sex was a huge feminist statement. Whether she would've said in the 30s that she was a feminist would be very unlikely. She like Sartre were not very interested in politics. They were very much more interested in themselves...
"They write to each other at great length about their relationships with other people. About the nights they pass with them. It was very intimate, it was very detailed. There was a level of shock... suddenly they became the kinds of heroes of Liasisons Dangereuses... manipulating, at the centre of a web"
"They wrote in their letters... that they took the virginity of young girls. They passed girls one to another and so on"
"People were definitely shocked. And felt that the kind of intimate details that they were writing about was inappropriate"
"Well, what they were doing was inappropriate. Writing about it was a secondary activity"
"They weren't taking people's virginity and passing it around all the time. That was... one example of that... otherwise, they were quite serious relationships, but they were multiple"
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