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Saturday, March 02, 2019

Links - 2nd March 2019 (1)

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Automata - "The engineering was extraordinarily in genius... there were increasingly sophisticated devices that enabled these statues to weep. You would use containers of liquid: vinegar, water, enamel, which often had fish in them. As the fish moved, the droplets would appear and course down the faces of the statues. You had, at least from the 1300s, the transference of mechanical wheelwork from clocks to church statues...
These objects were totally commonplace in the Arabic speaking world and in the Greek speaking world but virtually unknown in the sort of Latin Christian West until the very end of the 13th century. And so these objects became known in the Latin Christian West through diplomatic gifts like Harun al-Rashid's clock...
There's a really famous story in German literature by ETA Hoffman, the Sandman, about the Sandman, who, which is a story about a young student who falls in love with an automaton lady. And he goes mad from his love for her because he misinterprets visual data. This is quite interesting, because the automaton is the absolute imitation of perfect human workings. She sings perfectly, she dances perfectly, and it's the human that is malfunctioning. And this is at a time where people like Descartes are writing that the distinguishing feature of humans is reason but in what place does this put us when a human cannot exert its reason? And it's actually destroyed by the deception of an automaton. Where does that put us in comparison to the automaton?...
You couldn't really be sure what you were seeing. And added to that is the fact that oftentimes you would have mechanical birds, for example, that might be displayed alongside actual live birds. And the goal was to make the observer distrust their senses for a second. Is that, is that a bird? I think it's a bird. Oh, it's not a bird...
The only thing Europeans made that the Chinese were remotely interested in buying or getting until way into the 1800s were automata… clocks, above all. And they were called sing songs"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer - "President Hindenburg appoints Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor and an immediate policy goal for the Nazis was to conform all parts of German society to the Nazi Party program. Youth organizations, schools, walking groups, musical groups - everything had to be brought somehow under the gist of the party and conformed to its goals and character. And that was true too of the church. Hitler had grown up a Catholic and had a very clear sense, not least because of the church’s struggle with Bismarck in the 19th century… Hitler had a very clear sense that that needed to be resolved and moved with tremendous efficiency actually to to agree with the Catholic Church something called the Reich Concordat, which had the effect of neutering Catholic opposition. Prior to the Reich Concordat the Catholic Church banned Catholics from becoming members of the Nazi Party. Thereafter they legalized it. And crucially for Hitler, it removed the Catholic Centre Party, which was the only electoral obstacle still in his way… in North Germany, however, where the Protestant churches was strong, he had a sense that he had to do something, but his knowledge of the Protestants churches was was almost non existent. He didn't even know that there were 28 of them. He thought that there was a single national church like there was in the terms, in the Catholic sense...
He always felt instinctively right from the very beginning from early 1933 that this phase of the church struggle would not succeed. He felt that the confessing church didn't actually have the resources of leadership to sustain opposition to the state. And he also thought that opposing Nazism was almost impossible task when the state has at its disposal brownshirt bully boys to duff up any clergyman who opposes them. They have extra judicial internments in Dachau concentration camp. You can't resist the state for long like that. So Bonhoeffer always felt that what the church would have to do was to have sort of, I don't know, Christian Special Forces, if you like. Kind of small monastic communities, dedicated confessing clergy, who would form the nucleus of groups of Christian prepared to stand up to the Nazis, by protecting, particularly by protecting the vulnerable. And as he puts it, in one letter to the point of shedding blood, by which he means not killing others. But by being prepared to be killed, to stand, to defend the most vulnerable in society...
It's thought there might have been as many as 10 to 15 plots to assassinate Hitler over the years"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Is Shakespeare History? The Plantagenets - "Shakespeare’s plays hate children. They love to see horrible snarling… whining little children being killed...
‘[On Henry V] The slaughter of the prisoners in the, in the play itself is down to the killing of the children itself and so on, but no flaws.’
‘Well, I suppose it depends how you interpret that episode, of course, and often it gets left out when the play is performed, which I suppose is telling and certainly, yes, that's the one flaw that tends to be picked up on. And of course, it's led to this modern sense that Henry the Fifth should be regarded as a war criminal. But other historians would argue against that and say that actually the slaughter of the prisoners in that context, there's a French rearguard attack, they're trying to stop the French prisoners joining it. It doesn't actually contravene the contemporary chivalric norms. It wasn't without precedent. Strikingly, the French chroniclers, of whom there were many who commented on Agincourt, did not criticize Henry for this action.’"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Fable of the Bees - "Bernard Mandeville 1670-1733 scandalized the British establishment with his book Fable of the Bees in which he argued that private vices were essential to a healthy economy. Those who strive to make the world virtuous would make it poor he said. Dishonesty supports lawyers who then support their tailors and their cooks. And gambling diverts money from those who don't know its value to those who do and can invest it wisely. Many of our virtues, he wrote, are in fact disguised vices. Mandeville was one of the first to emphasize the role of the consumer in the economy rather than the state and he was to influence ideas from Adam Smith in the 18th century to Keynes and Hayek in the 20th...
[Talking about someone else?] He starts off, as is very popular at the time, adapting Aesop's Fables, either translating them or adding fables of your own and adding a moral at the end that has some kind of political slant. For example, in 1698 there is Aesopash [sp?] Islington which has the story of the Yeoman and the snake. The Yeoman takes in - the honest and kind Yeoman takes in a half starved snake and it recovers and bites him. And the moral is beware of all those Dutch immigrants that are coming in. They leave you with just their clogs, you're doing too much luxury trade and all we're getting is their immigrants... The frogs who wish for a king. They're running themselves but they get a bit bored. He thinks the English are always discontent with their contemporary political situation. They get a bit bored and they pray to Jove for a, for a king. He sends down a crane who starts to eat them. And the moral is: be careful what you ask for and also isn't it great that the English are content not to always change their government"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Free Radicals - "‘Most people now would see free radicals as being a part of aging, but not the driving cause of it. And there's the simple reason for that is that you, you add antioxidants in the hope of interfering with the process and they've never worked. If anything, they tend to be slightly detrimental. And it's partly that-’
‘Not eat your vegetables,’
‘No, you should definitely vegetables, you should probably not take large doses of vitamin C or vitamin E or beta carotene or things like that, because they can distort the balance, the body's natural balance. And you end up kind of suppressing the antioxidant enzymes, the proteins that detoxify these things, you suppress them instead. So everything you do has a kind of a counter effect in terms of physiology, and that means it's very difficult to interfere in these processes. Now, does that mean that free radicals are not relevant to aging, or only just an effect of aging? I don't think so. I still think that there's some some truth in the idea that free radicals are driving aging, but definitely interfering with antioxidants does not work. There's no question about that.’"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Horace - "Horace himself probably called them iambi, which refers to a meter. Iambics. And the associations of this meter were with what we call blame poetry. Insult, obscenity, attack poetry. And he was channeling an archaic Greek poet, Archilochus, who was reputed to have attacked his enemies so virulently that this family committed suicide, they hung themselves. So this was poetry as weapon as, instrument and attack poetry, which would have been appropriate to the period in which he's writing them, period of civil war and civil strife... He did call himself a pig from the herd of Epicurus. So, if he, if he has a philosophical affiliation, it is with the Epicureans and with the idea that pleasure is the end of life, the goal of life. But the important thing is that the things that stand in the way of it, stand in the way of enjoying the pleasure that is available to you. And that is fear of death primarily. So Horace as a lyric poet is appropriately an Epicurean because of their emphasis on the present, the now. And of course you get these tags like Carpe Diem which means really sort of slow things down, savor the day, not snatch it. And focus on the present"

Two (Totally Opposite) Ways to Save the Planet (Ep. 346) - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "DUBNER: William Vogt predicted, specifically, personally, he predicted famine, which as you write, hasn’t come true. So in the 1940’s, the global famine death rate was about 785 people per 100,000 — so, call 800 per 100,000. It’s now 3 per 100,000...
So, The Economist has said that you have “an unshakeable belief that human ingenuity will sort everything out.” What’s that belief based on? Other than history?
MYHRVOLD: Well, historical experience. What do you mean, “other than history?” Our species has faced many, many great challenges. And when we face a great challenge, one of the things that we fall back on is technology. And frankly, that is what distinguishes us from other creatures. Most animals have to undergo biological evolution. They can’t learn and undergo a cultural evolution. When we went from being hunters and gatherers to being agriculturalists, that wasn’t because we evolved new kinds of limbs meant for agriculture. What it meant was we learned how to sow crops and harvest them and build a civilization that could stay in one place because we had a regular food supply. Every time we have a really powerful technology that really changes the world, well of course there’s problems that come up. And you can blame technology, but I think the constant in that equation is humans. So, of course we will over-exploit things, of course we will do a set of things that is very much human nature, but for most problems, we wind up realizing it eventually and we fix it... People get extreme, some people anyway, get extremely angry, and they say, “Oh, technology got us in this problem, why are using technology to get us out?” And that’s where I come to think of saying, “Well, okay so are you sincere about worrying about global warming? Or are you using global warming as a stalking horse for your political agenda?...
I am skeptical that we will solve it by just doing the right thing. And I mean that somewhat facetiously. To give an example, there was a little book that was popular a few years ago called 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Well, those are 50 simple things that you can do to feel self-righteous and none of them are going to save the world. And I think that approach, and that attitude, fundamentally mistakes what the problem is, and it creates a situation where people can feel good about themselves. “Oh, I unplugged my iPhone charger while I was away today.” And yet, no matter, even if all of us did that, it would not materially change what’s going to happen to global warming. We have to make actually very painful cuts, which our society isn’t very good at doing...
ROBINSON: We need to be careful about how we will move rapidly to having renewable energy in developing countries. Developing countries have become very ambitious to get renewable energy. We’re learning that there are human-rights abuses occurring where clean energy is being put into a country in the wrong way. And the wrong way tends to be mega projects that don’t have any concern for land rights or water rights or indigenous people’s rights to consent locally...
MYHRVOLD: The United States got scared of nuclear starting in the 1970’s and through the 1990’s. Then-Vice President Gore presided over the announcement of killing the last nuclear plant in the United States because we were going to build safe coal plants. Now we realize, inconveniently, that global warming is a threat."

Robert Higgs - MEMO TO: U.S. Representative Alexandria... - "TO: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
FROM: Robert Higgs, Economist
Noticing that pretty much everything you say about economic matters is mistaken, I would like to offer you some advice about how you can avoid such errors. The first thing you should learn is called "opportunity cost." This is explained in the first chapter of any economics textbook. With an understanding of this concept under your belt, you can eliminate a large part of your errors. There are other important ideas you should master, but unless you gain a command of the concept of opportunity cost, you are destined to make a fool of yourself almost any time you talk about economic matters.
Incidentally, you might consider suing for malpractice the people responsible for awarding you a degree in economics at Boston University."

Vice: The right wing media is obsessed with Alexandria [Ocasio-Cortez].
Also Vice: let’s write 2962 articles on Trump. 🤷🏽‍♀️

Calls For Ethics Investigation Into Ocasio-Cortez After She Threatens Donald Trump Jr. - "Commenters pointed out that the act of threatening to use the power of Congress against other Americans for partisan gain is prohibited by ethics rules."

Charlie Kirk on Twitter - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‏: "Joy to the World! Merry Christmas everyone - here’s to a holiday filled with happiness, family, and love for all people. (Including refugee babies in mangers + their parents.)"
"Joseph and Mary were LEGAL citizens under King Herod governed under the Roman Empire - they traveled to Bethlehem as part of a census, a legal counting of people"

Ocasio Cortez Melts Down Over ‘100% False’ News That She’s Capitol Hill Mean Girl - "To mainstream media journalists, so protective of their craft, Ocasio-Cortez's criticism sounded an awful lot like President Donald Trump's refrain against leakers and anonymous sources (an inevitable loophole of journalism that he himself, it should be noted, had been happy to exploit). "This sounds a bit like the defense Donald Trump uses," tweeted CBS reporter Grace Segers. "If it contains anonymous sources, it is therefore 'fake news'."

'It Is More Important To Be Morally Right Than Factually Correct,' Says Woman Who Is Neither | The Babylon Bee

Ocasio-Cortez: People Too Concerned With Being 'Factually' Accurate. Fact Checker Smacks Her. - ""If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they're missing the forest for the trees," Ocasio-Cortez said after Cooper highlighted how The Washington Post has repeatedly called out her false claims. "I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right." Ocasio-Cortez's assertion that the fact checkers are just blowing up "one figure here or one word there," is not accurate. She has repeatedly shown a lack of understanding on many important issues, including how she plans to pay for the $40 trillion in far-left big government programs she supports, which she failed to answer during the interview.Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler weighed in on her comment, writing: "Sorry, not the right answer.""
I'm sure those who angst about post-truth will still support her

ALTERNATIVE FACTS? Pelosi to Homeland Security Secretary: ‘I Reject Your Facts’ - "In a tense meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the U.S.-Mexico border — in which Nielsen was spieling out a slew of facts (the non-fungible kind) — Pelosi interrupted to declare: “I reject your facts.”"

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance video spurs false media claims of conservative outrage - "Perhaps the most overblown example was published by Newsweek, which wrote that “Conservatives mock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for college dancing video, everyone else thinks it’s adorable,” while not citing any "conservatives" beyond the original anonymous Twitter account"
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