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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Links - 5th December 2018 (2)

Are You Solving the Right Problems? - "Imagine this: You are the owner of an office building, and your tenants are complaining about the elevator. It’s old and slow, and they have to wait a lot. Several tenants are threatening to break their leases if you don’t fix the problem. When asked, most people quickly identify some solutions: replace the lift, install a stronger motor, or perhaps upgrade the algorithm that runs the lift. These suggestions fall into what I call a solution space: a cluster of solutions that share assumptions about what the problem is—in this case, that the elevator is slow... However, when the problem is presented to building managers, they suggest a much more elegant solution: Put up mirrors next to the elevator. This simple measure has proved wonderfully effective in reducing complaints, because people tend to lose track of time when given something utterly fascinating to look at—namely, themselves. The mirror solution is particularly interesting because in fact it is not a solution to the stated problem: It doesn’t make the elevator faster. Instead it proposes a different understanding of the problem.Note that the initial framing of the problem is not necessarily wrong. Installing a new lift would probably work. The point of reframing is not to find the “real” problem but, rather, to see if there is a better one to solve. In fact, the very idea that a single root problem exists may be misleading; problems are typically multicausal and can be addressed in many ways. The elevator issue, for example, could be reframed as a peak demand problem—too many people need the lift at the same time—leading to a solution that focuses on spreading out the demand, such as by staggering people’s lunch breaks."

Labour Party branch 'voted down motion condemning Pittsburgh synagogue attack' - "A local Labour Party branch has refused to pass a motion condemning the antisemitic attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead, according to a party activist. Steve Cooke, the secretary of Norton West branch in the Stockton North constituency, said he was “aghast” that the motion was voted down after members claimed there was too much focus on “antisemitism this, antisemitism that”. Members of the branch reportedly demanded that a reference to antisemitism be removed from the statement... They suggested the text on the synagogue attack should not specifically refer to antisemitism but should instead condemn all racism, which Mr Cooke said it already did. Mr Cooke said previous motions on Islamophobia and anti-migrant rhetoric had not been met with similar demands that they be made less specific and instead refer to all forms of racism... The executive of Stockton North Labour Party had previously voted down Mr Cooke’s attempts to have antisemitism training delivered to members... the Metropolitan Police said it was investigating possible antisemitic hate crimes committed by Labour members, after a dossier of cases was passed to its commissioner, Cressida Dick."
Yet All Lives Matter is racist

Walker’s Corner - Posts - "Superman shouldn't be white"
"The blacks already have a successful superhero can we latinos get superman if you are gonna be changing character races? He technically is an illegal alien anyway."

The European Union’s Neoliberal Dilemma - WSJ - "Those who say the European Union is a neoliberal plot are, of course, largely right. Any single market that allows free movement of capital and people by its very nature pits country against country, region against region and town against town in a competition to attract investment and productive people. The rewards flow to those that offer the best business environment, high-quality infrastructure and the right mix of skills. Those that get it wrong face stagnation or decline. Until the global financial crisis, the EU’s free movement of capital and people appeared to deliver only winners... Many of those countries whose economic models relied upon the free movement of capital—whether to finance corporate investment or government spending—were confronted by a sudden stop in funding that plunged their economies into recession. That in turn led many of their citizens to take advantage of the free movement of people to look for work elsewhere in the single market... Even for countries that haven't succumbed to populist backlash, the challenges of prospering in the single market are formidable. Take Latvia, which has seen more than 15% of its population emigrate in two waves, one after it joined the EU in 2004 and another in the aftermath of a severe financial crash in 2008."

The Real Reason They Hate Trump - WSJ - "Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared... the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable. Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents."

The First Rule of Microsoft Excel—Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Good at It - WSJ - "As an Excel expert, “you become indispensable, and that’s a double-edged sword,” Mr. McIllece said."

The Bias Response Team Is Watching - WSJ - "
‘The most important indication of bias is your own feelings,” the University of Michigan advises students. It then urges them to report on their peers, anonymously if they prefer, “and to encourage others to report if they have been the target or witness of a bias incident.” The Bias Response Team is there, ready to investigate and mete out justice. More than 200 American campuses have established similar administrative offices to handle alleged acts of “bias” that violate no law... Adjunct professor Mike Jensen had asked his students to read Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s “The Coddling of the American Mind” and debate controversial subjects, including gay marriage and transgender issues. According to the team’s report, a student who “identifies as a transwomen [sic]” told the Bias Response Team she was “very offended and hurt by this,” according to the bias incident report. A university official, Marshall Parks, warned Mr. Jensen that if he discussed such subjects again, he could face scrutiny by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as Title IX and Title VII investigations. “So if the topic’s worth that, it’s your call,” Mr. Parks said. Mr. Jensen secretly recorded the conversation. “I felt that I had no academic freedom,” he later said... Records from numerous universities show that even obviously silly or trivial incidents are taken seriously by Bias Response Teams. Back at Michigan, a residence hall director reported a phallic snow sculpture as a bias incident... One explanation for such absurdity is that Bias Response Teams are often composed of administrators whose jobs depend on the assumption that bias is widespread. When the University of Michigan was hiring a “bias incident and prevention and response coordinator,” it sought someone who could “enact cultural appropriation initiatives” and “partner with other campus and divisional social justice initiatives.” This makes Bias Response Team members bad cops with everything to lose, creating a bias toward finding bias."

Why the Left Is Consumed With Hate - WSJ - "For many on the left a hateful anti-Americanism has become a self-congratulatory lifestyle. “America was never that great,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said. For radical groups like Black Lives Matter, hatred of America is a theme of identity, a display of racial pride... How did the American left—conceived to bring more compassion and justice to the world—become so given to hate? It began in the 1960s, when America finally accepted that slavery and segregation were profound moral failings. That acceptance changed America forever. It imposed a new moral imperative: America would have to show itself redeemed of these immoralities in order to stand as a legitimate democracy. The genius of the left in the ’60s was simply to perceive the new moral imperative, and then to identify itself with it... for the left to wield this power, there had to be a great menace to fight against—a tenacious menace that kept America uncertain of its legitimacy, afraid for its good name.
This amounted to a formula for power: The greater the menace to the nation’s moral legitimacy, the more power redounded to the left. And the ’60s handed the left a laundry list of menaces to be defeated. If racism was necessarily at the top of the list, it was quickly followed by a litany of bigotries ending in “ism” and “phobia.”... the left’s success has plunged it into its greatest crisis since the ’60s. The Achilles’ heel of the left has been its dependence on menace for power. Think of all the things it can ask for in the name of fighting menaces like “systemic racism” and “structural inequality.” But what happens when the evils that menace us begin to fade, and then keep fading? ... White-on-black shootings evoke America’s history of racism and so carry an iconic payload of menace. Black-on-black shootings carry no such payload, although they are truly menacing to the black community. They evoke only despair. And the left gets power from fighting white evil, not black despair... For Martin Luther King Jr., hatred was not necessary as a means to power. The actual details of oppression were enough. Power came to him because he rejected hate as a method of resisting menace. He called on blacks not to be defined by what menaced them. Today, because menace provides moral empowerment, blacks and their ostensible allies indulge in it. The menace of black victimization becomes the unarguable truth of the black identity. And here we are again, forever victims"

The Secret to Surviving Military Service: Moisturizer, Foam Cleanser, Cucumber Face Mask - WSJ - "South Korea is a force in the global beauty industry and its carefully groomed pop idols have become global stars. And for many guys here, the gateway to face serums and 10-step skin-care regimens is their time as military conscripts... The average man in South Korea spends more than twice as much on skin care as men in any other country, according to market-research firm Euromonitor. South Korean men use an average of 13.3 cosmetics products each month... A poll of draftees this year by the South Korean Defense Ministry’s daily newspaper found that the two most popular products in the commissary were a snail-extract cream and a hydration cream... Amorepacific Corp. , a cosmetics maker that is one of South Korea’s biggest companies, pioneered a camouflage cream seven years ago that was easier on the pores. “Extreme Power Camo Cream,” with a formula that includes green tea, charcoal and red pine extracts, sold more than 50,000 units in its first six months... Even during joint U.S.-South Korean exercises, when the 23-year-old had to sleep and eat in simulated battle conditions, he managed to pack his skin-care essentials. “There aren’t any rules against skin care, so I kept up the routine even during training”"

Cultural Borrowing Is Great; The Problem Is Disrespect - WSJ - "the fluidity of power can make it tricky to establish who’s got the upper hand. How should we assess the power dynamic when black American performers help themselves to sartorial signage from Japan, one of the richest nations on the planet? Consider, for that matter, how eager India’s ruling elite has been to assert yoga as a national possession... Baba Ramdev does a terrific downward-facing-dog—he says it triggers hair growth—but in India, Hindu nationalists like him are the top dogs. Swami Ramdev himself controls a multibillion-dollar corporation. So try explaining to a low-caste Dalit or a Muslim in the subcontinent that the people they consider their overlords are really an oppressed, marginalized and subordinated group. “One person’s center is another’s periphery,” as the scholar of Hinduism Wendy Doniger has observed... The real problem is that ownership is the wrong model. The arts flourished in the world’s traditional cultures without being conceptualized as “intellectual property,” and the traditional products and practices of a group—its songs and stories, even its secrets—are not made more useful by being tethered to their supposed origins. But vigorous corporate lobbying has helped the idea of intellectual property to conquer the world. To accept the notion of cultural appropriation is ultimately to buy into a regime where corporate entities, acting as cultural guardians, “own” a treasury of intellectual property and extract a toll when others make use of it... People who parse such transgressions in terms of ownership have accepted a commercial system that is alien to the traditions they aim to protect. Yoga turns out to be an illuminating case study here. The religious-studies scholar Andrea Jain has looked at how major figures in the establishment of modern yoga, like K. Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, sought to emphasize its putatively ancient roots, while also claiming biomedical authority. (Today, Swami Ramdev says yoga can cure cancer; also, homosexuality.) In reality, what most people know today as yoga—postures, breathing exercises—has little precedent in premodern sources... the scholar Mark Singleton has detailed specific similarities between yoga and a Danish gymnastics system that was taken up in the early years of the 20th century by the British and others... Well-meaning Westerners can thus find themselves colluding with right-wing Hindu nationalists who are intent on claiming ownership over complex, dynamic and adaptive practices. A little wokeness is a dangerous thing."

The Man Who Discovered ‘Culture Wars’ - WSJ - "For much of American history, the most salient cultural fault lines were between religious groups. Hostility between Protestants and Catholics prompted bitter battles over school curricula in the mid-19th century, and the fight over Prohibition pitted mostly Protestant “drys” against mostly Catholic “wets.” But by the 1960s cross-denominational conflicts had begun to fade. As America became more culturally diverse, the Protestant consensus gave way to a Christian consensus, and later a “Judeo-Christian” one. Yet social peace did not arrive. Quite the opposite. A new set of issues emerged out of the sexual revolution and identity politics: not merely abortion, Mr. Hunter says, but everything from “condoms in schools” to “Christopher Columbus, is he a villain or a hero?” These questions didn’t track with traditional left-right economic debates, he continues; nor did they seem to put believers of different denominations in opposition. Instead, the new divide was within religious groups, with orthodox believers within Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism on one side and their progressive wings and secularists on the other. This “new axis” of conflict redefined left and right. It was the basis of Mr. Hunter’s 1991 book, “Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America,” which first brought the term to the forefront of popular discourse... Mr. Buchanan was on to something, Mr. Hunter suggests, when he tied the culture wars to the end of the Cold War: “Identity is formed not only by our affirmations but by our negations. The Soviet Union—communism generally—was an enemy against which we could define ourselves.” When the Berlin Wall fell, “that need for an enemy became internal to the United States.” Perhaps the discrediting of the economic left by the collapse of communism made culture a more salient source of domestic conflict... mass prosperity reduced the urgency of other social problems. In that sense, Mr. Hunter says, America’s culture war is “the kind of conflict that societies can go through when nothing else is at stake.”... outside government, progressives have a clear cultural advantage in major institutions, from universities to movie studios to publishing houses to advertising agencies. Such institutions matter because “culture is not only a system of meaning” but also an “economy”... As elite institutions increasingly repudiated the values of the masses, the culture wars took on what Mr. Hunter calls a “Nietzschean” quality: The stakes began to seem so high that coalitions would “abandon their values and ideals in order to sustain power.” Upper-class culture professes cosmopolitan openness, but “cultures are not, by their very nature, tolerant of much plurality,” he says. “So the Harvard Law School prides itself on its diversity, but it’s a diversity in which basically everyone views the world the exact same way.”... One challenge of the Enlightenment he says, is that “reason gave us the power to doubt and to question everything, including reason itself.” That “throws us back upon our own subjectivity. . . . You have your truth, I have mine.”"
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