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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Insight of the day:

Women are irrational, and old women especially so.

Why else do we have old wives tales?
"A man's respect for law and order exists in precise relationship to the size of his paycheck." - Adam Clayton Powell Jr.


Cleaners 'worth more to society' than bankers - study

"The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create £10 of value for every £1 they are paid.

It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy.

They reportedly destroy £7 of value for every £1 they earn. Meanwhile, senior advertising executives are said to "create stress".

The study says they are responsible for campaigns which create dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption.

And tax accountants damage the country by devising schemes to cut the amount of money available to the government, the research suggests."

A: It seems believable that cleaners might make a far larger contribution to society than their pay suggests, and bankers far lesser compared to their own pay, but from what I understand the article to be saying, the real claim underlying the conclusions of the study is rather more dubious than that.

According to the study as reported, bankers destroy £7 of value for every pound they earn; advertising executives, £11; and tax accountants, £47 (as opposed to other occupations which generate value for every pound earned). This means that regardless of their pay, bankers, etc. make a negative net contribution to society. If this conclusion were to be believed, then bankers' compensation would not merely represent a misallocation of resources or the omission of externalities; it would mean that the very fact bankers exist, or that they are paid for their work, is a failure of the market.

Now, the report only calls for "a variety of policy recommendations to align pay more closely with the value of work", whereas no amount of pay adjustment could possibly align compensation with the value of work if the value is negative, as suggested by the phrase "destroy £7 of value for every £1 they earn". I'm thinking that the authors of the report (or perhaps the journalist authoring the article) found it reasonable enough to suggest (especially in the current economic climate) that such industries as banking, advertising and tax accounting had a net adverse effect on the economy, but did not wish to confront its logical conclusion that therefore these industries shouldn't exist in an efficient economy.

(Is it not possible to also deduce that if childcare workers are hired to look after tax accountants' children, thus enabling them to go to work, then the £9.50 of value they generate to society per pound of pay is neutralised by the £47 per pound of negative value the tax accountants generate as a result of being able to work, and therefore that childcare workers are only valuable to society when they work for certain kinds of people, such as cleaners?)

I think the reason why this sounds ludicrous might be because of the flaws inherent in presenting the value a person generates or removes from society in relation to his pay. In the first place, there can be no valid comparison of value if the report doesn't specify, "value generated/lost as compared to what alternative scenario?" If the advertising executive is absent from the economy, perhaps millions of dollars might be lost from company revenues, revenues which go to growing the economy and enhancing social welfare through wages and taxes. Conversely, why does a hospital cleaner create value if his employment is dependent on the existence of a healthcare system the size of which indicates the poor state of health, and thus the lack of welfare, of society? Besides, a dollar earned by a banker may well have a multiplier effect of more than a dollar in value created once the banker spends this dollar.

In any case, the questionable metric of "value generated to society per amount of pay" (what does it mean when a banker generates x amount of value?) seems to be the key problem here, and I think it clouds any analysis of the report's conclusions. I'm not very sure if I've gotten myself confused in the analysis as well, what does everyone think?

Me: Here is the original report for those who wish to read it: http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/bit-rich

It is an atrocious paper, full of rhetoric, low on solid evidence and packed with questionable (to use a charitable word) assumptions. Most of the report is just invective against the rich.

I didn't look at all of the 44 page report, but that was no serious loss.

Here are some of the many problems with the obviously populist study:


- They assume bankers are *totally* responsible for the financial crisis, the recession (and loss in output) and the increase in UK public debt. The role of central banks, governments, developing countries' buying up US government securities and home buyers is ignored. They assume that the business cycle does not exist (i.e. that there would be no recession without bankers).

- They assume that a few thousand UK bankers (naturally, the most highly paid) were responsible for the financial crisis and that the rest of the industry was innocent. Yet, at the same time, only half of value added to the economy and tax payments is attributed to these few thousand bankers. In other words, the "costs" of these bankers are magnified and their "benefits" deflated. The only word to describe these assumptions is "fradulent".

- The main "value" of the bankers is their "Average annual contribution of the City to UK economic activity, as measured by gross value added". Presumably this doesn't include the benefits of a well-lubricated financial system (if the failure of the world financial system screwed up the world economy, the corollary is that a well-functioning financial system leads to a well-functioning world economy).

- The time of measurement for the "social loss" due to bankers. If they had made measurements before late 2007, they would have come up with very different results for the value to society of bankers. If you had used their analysis to measure, after World War II, the "cost" of militaries, you'd have come up with a figure at least equally as shocking.


- They claim that advertising is responsible for "the costs to UK society of obesity, anxiety-related mental health problems and indebtedness" as well as "the substantial environmental costs from climate change and resource depletion", which is grossly unfair. Industry estimates of the impact of advertising are used, but obviously these are inflated by the industry (and probably half-plucked from thin air, like the methodology of this report)

- An even more fundamental issue - the baseline for "excess consumption" is the "Minimum Income Standard" (the level of income people think is needed to afford a socially acceptable standard of living in the UK today, and to participate in society). While this is not the poverty line by any means, there is a reason the word MINIMUM is used. Furthermore, some of the assumptions are questionable - it assumes a Single working adult "needs" to spend 4.49 pounds a week on alcohol and 30.95 pounds on "Social and cultural participation" (presumably, going to the cinema with your chums is a 'need' and not a 'want'). You can learn more about this MINIMUM standard at: http://www.minimumincomestandard.org/

Hospital cleaners

- They assume that hospital cleaners' value is due to a "reduction in Hospital Acquired Infections" (which is totally attributed to hospital cleaners, ignoring the roles of people like doctors, government policy, the advertising executives who came up with awareness campaigns and the bankers whose efforts have helped finance the expansion of the NHS ever since Labour came to power) and "the contribution of cleaners to the wider social value created by the hospital" (they don't even reveal what percentage they attribute, so I cannot judge if it is reasonable)

More fundamental issues

- The study looks as the average "cost" and the average "benefit" of the various professions to determine if we pay them "fairly". However, as economists we know that a more sensible way of paying people is to look at marginal benefit and marginal cost. We should pay people where the Marginal Benefit of employing them equals their Marginal Cost - NOT where the Average Benefit equals the Average Cost (which would lead to either over- or under-employment, not to mention a loss in Consumer and Producer surplus). This is related to the diamonds and water paradox.

- They assume that tax revenue is automatically good for society. Is tax money used to pay for MP expenses necessarily better for the UK economy than a tycoon spending his avoided tax money on High Street? How about taxes which are used for military spending (a liberal bugbear)? In which case avoiding tax would presumably be considered a good thing by the authors of this report.

- They claim tax avoidance is the same as tax fraud. Does this mean that if you can pay more in taxes you should? Are we morally obliged to find ways to increase our tax burden? This is nonsense.

The report is filled with lots more simplistic logic. Like saying GDP per person in Sweden is higher than in the UK although taxes there are higher. Ipso facto, "economic performance or prosperity is not adversely affected simply because of higher taxes". This is an epic FAIL in economic (or even normal) logic.

Although it is more economic than the so-called "Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics" (HOME), it still has many serious problems.

B: I'm not going to defend the study as precise - it's obviously intended to be provocative and full of "big ideas" rather than exact calculations. I certainly agree with A that the alternative scenarios for comparing value are (at best) imprecisely defined.


1. I think Gabriel's first few criticisms of the study on bankers amount to the same thing, that it's not fair to attribute the financial crisis to the richest bankers without attributing more value created to them.

It's not clear that the most well-paid bankers necessarily did much to contribute to a "well-lubricated financial system" which helped a "well-functioning world economy". One could assume 1) that those bankers which carried out the most financially innovative, high-risk-high-return transactions which produced all that illusory value which vanished off the balance sheets (to the tune of the GDP of several nations, I might add) were the most highly paid, while those who contributed to the prosaic purposes of administering savings and conventional loans and overdrafts and ATM machines were not, and 2) that it is those innovative, risky transactions that are responsible for much of the magnitude of the financial crisis.

These assumptions also address A's point that the conclusion of the report seems to imply that bankers shouldn't exist, or shouldn't be paid for what they do. It might well imply this for parts of the banking industry as it exists at present. I'm not sure this implication is so outrageous.

2. Gabriel is simultaneously criticising the use of a minimum standard of living for measuring excessive consumption (implying one should use a higher standard) and criticising that minimum standard itself for being too generous by including a modest amount of socialising.

This confuses me, if no one else. Obviously if one objects to the very concept of identifying a minimum amount necessary for basic comfort and ordinary social participation, the whole exercise may seem strange, but having embarked upon it then we must needs come up with a notional idea of what's ordinary social participation, not what's the bare bones for survival. As someone who lives in the exotic land that is England, I can confirm from direct ethnographic observation that a pint in the pub on a Friday night and going for a curry and the cinema are typically regarded as fairly ordinary entertainments round these parts.

3. I don't think using advertisers' own inflated, self-promoting figures to produce a case against them is unfair. Actually, I positively relish it. No, relish is not objective. (Tasty though, especially with some mustard and a hotdog.)

Me: 1. The financial crisis was due to many people, from the people who came up with faulty models to the people in banks' risk management who failed to assess the risk of their banks' portfolios correctly to bank officers who approved housing loans to NINJAs (No Income, No Jobs/Assets) to Chinese officials who bought US securities to government regulators to people who took out housing loans they couldn't afford to pressure to allow more minorities to qualify for housing (i.e. giving minorities loans when they would otherwise not qualify).

To lay it all on the laps of the bankers is unfair.

2. My point with regard to this was that the "Minimum Income Standard" is drawn up with questionable methodology and/or assumptions, not that it is deflated or inflated.

Obviously we can argue over what is a "need" vs a "want", and a mendicant Buddhist monk's answer would differ from an Upper Middle Class organic food-eating, fairtrade coffee-drinking, pub-hopping, Ryanair-holidaying chap, but the point is that the idea of "overconsumption" is contestable (and perhaps not even intelligible).

3. I would not convict a man based on idle boasting of his exploits in a pub. Though I might rib him about it.

Here are some studies that show advertising has no effect on consumption.

B: On a footnote, I didn't recall seeing any parts where the report was "just invective against the rich", let alone this material amounting to "most of the report". Where is this "invective"? I would like to borrow some for future use.

Do you refer perhaps to the slightly mocking tone of the faked-up job adverts (all three paragraphs of them amongst 44 pages of text)? I have trouble finding anything else that could even vaguely qualify.

Or is it simply that having the temerity to argue robustly against myths about 'the deserving rich' constitutes the use of 'invective'?

On which note perhaps Pastor Martin Niemöller is turning in his grave:


Me: Invective does not necessarily involve abuse - it can also be denunciation. And the report is certainly full of it.

A few specific examples:

i) "these City bankers are being handsomely rewarded for bringing the global financial system to the brink of collapse"

-> Many of the so-loathed bankers responsible for this debacle have left, and other bemused bankers have been working overtime to clean up the mess. Blaming all bankers for what some of them did [and not entirely knowingly] is like blaming your favourite minority for the crimes [and we all know the brickbats THAT will get you]

ii) "The wealthiest do not pay their fair share of tax and the very wealthy may pay none at all"

-> The "fair" level of tax is not defined (or even discussed) Presumably what is "fair" is paying the maximum that one can under the tax regime, and tax avoidance/optimisation is trying to escape your "fair" tax burden. But this begs the question of what level is "fair", and what forms of tax avoidance/optimisation are "fair" and which are "unfair".

For example, if I go to the trouble of filling up forms for VAT refunds when I leave a foreign land, this is a form of tax avoidance - am I paying my "fair" level of taxes? Are all forms of accountant-based tax avoidance necessarily "unfair"?

I would also be very interested in finding the very wealthy people who pay no tax at all. Obviously I need to change my tax accountant soon.

> Or is it simply that having the temerity to argue robustly against myths
> about 'the deserving rich' constitutes the use of 'invective'?
> On which note perhaps Pastor Martin Niemöller is turning in his grave:
> http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/12/17/first-they-came-the-rightwing-remix/

I fail to see the relevance of this.

Lumping together those who are against rich-bashing with the most puzzling members of the right-wing is like condemning all those who work for social justice as Marxist Conspirators.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff." - Frank Zappa


Alcohol Advertising

"Advertising increases alcohol consumption, which increases alcohol abuse....right? WRONG. There is no solid evidence from either scientific research or practical experience that this theory of advertising is correct.

A study by the Federal Trade Commission found that there is "no reliable basis to conclude that alcohol advertising significantly affects consumption, let alone abuse...

The definitive review of research from around the world found that advertising has virtually no influence on consumption and has no impact whatsoever on either experimentation with alcohol or its abuse. This is consistent with other reviews of the research...

If advertising doesn't increase consumption, why bother to advertise? The answer is simple: to increase market share...

A widely reported "fact" is that by the age of 18, the typical young person will have seen 100,000 beer commercials. However, to see that many such commercials, it appears that a person would have to view television for about 161,290 hours or 18.4 years. Thus, a person would have to begin watching TV 24 hours a day, each and every day, from birth until after age 18.

In reality, viewers are much more likely to see alcohol portrayed during TV programs than during commercials. For example, an analysis of prime time TV found that alcohol commercials appeared at the rate of 0.2 per hour while drinking portrayals during programs occured 25 times more frequently, at five times per hour.

Perhaps those who want to reduce the presence of alcohol on television should propose eliminating the programming and let children watch commercials instead...

One of the main arguments against alcohol beverage ads on television is that they "normalize" drinking in the minds of young viewers. To the extent that this is true, the ads may be performing a positive role.

The commonplace nature of alcohol ads on TV serves not to glamorize the products, as some critics suggest, but to cast them as mundane consumer products, right alongside aspirin, cookies, and alkaline batteries. That's a constructive way for young people to view them.

On the other hand, if we treat beverage alcohol as a dangerous substance to be avoided and not even advertised, we inadvertently raise it up from the ordinary into the realm of the powerful, the tantalizing, and the desirable Big Deal. In so doing, we slip into the familiar, failed pattern of demonizing the substance of alcohol rather than discouraging irresponsible behavior...

In spite of all the colorful rhetoric and emotional anecdotes, alcohol commercials do not cause young people to drink. The greatest influence of their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors are from their parents."


The macroeconomic relationship between advertising and consumption

"Profit-maximizing firms advertise in order to increase the demand for the goods they produce. Hence, we would expect increases in a firm's advertising to be associated with increases in consumption of the firm's goods, ceteris paribus. The increased demand for the firm's goods may be associated with decreased demand of their rivals' goods. At the market level, increases in advertising by the industry may not be accompanied by increased consumption of the industry's output. This is because changes in the levels of advertising among firms in a particular industry could merely rearrange market shares. If this is true then, in that industry, a firm which increases its advertising relative to its rivals will gain sales at the rivals' expense; advertising in this case is a zero-sum game.

When we aggregate across markets to consider advertising at the national level, the question of the effect of advertising upon consumption has still different implications. If increased advertising levels for the economy are associated with increased consumption, this suggests that consumers are increasing current consumption at the expense of future consumption (i.e., savings). If this is true, then advertising affects aggregate consumption and the business cycle...

Most previous empirical studies of the causal relationship between aggregate advertising and aggregate consumption reject the hypothesis that advertising affects consumption... The results of Ashley, Granger, and Schmalensee suggest that consumption might affect advertising but that aggregate advertising does not seem to affect aggregate consumption"

This study found a causal relationship, but I hate matrices so I zoned out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London


From Boston.com's 2009 in photos (part 2 of 3) - The Big Picture:

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
"Palestinian civilians and medics run to safety during an Israeli strike over a UN school in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip early on January 17, 2009"

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"A Palestinian demonstrator uses a tennis racket to return an empty tear gas canister at Israeli soldiers during a protest against the controversial Israeli barrier in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah October 23, 2009"

(naturally, they are much contested in the comments)

Parts 1 and 3 also make for worthwhile viewing
"Today, my boyfriend of over a year told me that he will never marry me because we are different ethnicities and his parents don't approve. I was of course very upset and crying. His way to comfort me was by saying, "Don't worry, I will always cheat on my wife with you." FML"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." - G. K. Chesterton


While Singaporean English frequently has horrible constructions, there are also usages that are wrongly flagged out as incorrect.

For example, "alarmed" and "marketing" (which respectively can mean "fitted with an alarm" and "going to the market").

The word I will highlight today:

(as in "please revert [to this e-mail]")

Yet, we find that:

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"revert, v

6. a. To go back, to recur, to a former subject of discourse.

1587 M. GROVE Pelops & Hipp. (1878) 49 But leaue we them..And reuert to the Pallace, where no wight doeth idle stand. 1632 LITHGOW Trav. I. 26 This much in general.., and so I reuert to mine itinerary relation. 1660 F. BROOKE tr. Le Blanc's Trav. 246 Now I will revert to the Town of Barua, which I left for this short digression.

a1817 JANE AUSTEN The Watsons (1879) 359 His attention was so totally engaged in the business,..as never to revert to what he had been saying before. 1844 H. H. WILSON Brit. India III. 31 In the mean time, it will be convenient to revert to the more recent occurrences on the confines of Chittagong. 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) V. 70 Plato takes occasion to revert to his old proposal of the use of wine."

Even if you ignore the fact that language evolves, the fact that these "wrong" usages appear in our favourite dictionary should be enough to convince you that they are not wrong.

What other examples of wrongly condemned word usage can you think of?
"Saying what we think gives us a wider conversational range than saying what we know." - Cullen Hightower


Who Should Own the World's Antiquities?

"In stressing the multiple meanings—aesthetic, textual, political, ritual—that an object may have, these contributors oppose the claim that art divorced from its archaeological setting is a cosa morta ("dead thing"), as an Italian cultural official described the Euphronios krater to de Montebello. "Few, I expect who have marveled at the scale and majesty of the Euphronios krater and the precision and elegance of line and its poignant depiction of a Homeric epic of the death of Sarpedon would concede that it is a cosa morta," de Montebello writes...

At the Art Institute of Chicago we may discover an exquisite ivory box that was used as a Christian reliquary in thirteenth-century Sicily, yet features an Arabic inscription; it was made from an elephant's tusk likely found in southern Africa and brought to Sicily by "Muslim traders from the Swahili coast." Such a work may in turn remind us of pieces in neighboring rooms—a carved ivory tusk from the nineteenth-century court of Benin, perhaps; or a fourteenth-century German monstrance—another kind of reliquary—consisting of gilt silver around a translucent vessel, the holder for the relic, that "was originally a perfume bottle made in Fatimid—Muslim—Egypt."...

Cuno worries that cultural property laws have given some states vast powers over world art. The Italian government, for example, may forbid an Italian citizen from taking a Matisse or even a Jackson Pollock out of the country...

Cuno lays much of the responsibility for the accelerating destruction of archaeological sites to such nations. In the absence of legitimate ways to acquire antiquities, their categorical and unenforceable prohibitions have simply made the looting worse. And where they have succeeded in preserving sites and monuments, he maintains, their laws have just as often caused a "perversion" of cultural heritage for the purposes of national identity and parochial politics.

Thus, instead of encyclopedic museums dedicated to gathering and furthering knowledge about objects from many different parts of the world, most archaeological countries have "national" museums, whose mission, Cuno suggests, is to use artifacts found within their own modern boundaries to fill out a spurious national mythology: Etruscan pots (more often than not manufactured in Athens) are used to define Italianness; Sumerian sculptures to define Iraqiness, Hittite jewelry to define Turkishness, and so on. In many such cases, he argues, the modern populations have no historical connections with the ancient cultures whose objects are being collected.

As a result, we have arrived at a situation in which ancient heritage is "divided up and claimed by modern nation-states as theirs, the property of only some of the world's people, made by their alleged ancestors for them and deprived of its rich diversity of sources and evidence of cultural influences." From here, it is only a small further step to argue, as Cuno does, that cultural property laws may reinforce the worst tendencies of nationalism:

I do recognize that nationalistic feelings have bred beautiful music, poetry, and works of visual art.... But all too often they have also hardened into ideologies with roots in fear and hatred of the Other, often with racist affinities. They then become dangerous as rep- rehensible means of oppressing others, sources of vicious, even barbaric sectarian violence, persuading colossal numbers of people to lay down their own lives in an effort to kill others.

... in contrast to the multiethnic Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey, apart from its Kurdish population, which is continually discriminated against, is overwhelmingly homogeneous: "Turkey and Istanbul," Cuno observes, "have become almost only Turkish and Muslim, when once both included large populations of Arabs, Christians, and Jews."

As a result, Turkey has developed a narrowly "nationalistic" approach to cultural property—denying, for example, the Kurdish minority control over its rich Kurdish heritage—even as it claims a diverse Ottoman past: it maintains an absolute prohibition on the circulation of antiquities found within its own present-day borders, because of their perceived importance to Turkish identity. Yet Turkish museums are filled with pieces like the Alexander Sarcophagus that were recovered from other former territories of the vast Ottoman Empire—objects, Cuno writes, that "could rightly be considered important to the cultural heritage and national identities of the modern states occupying those lands today."...

By the time of Saddam Hussein, archaeological finds had become subject to what Cuno describes as "political manipulation" aimed at serving "the ends of the Ba'thist Party." Yet he does not mention that such state interest—however questionable its aims—also meant that, until the economic crisis of the 1990s, Iraq had almost no looting, and foreign archaeologists considered its antiquities administration one of the best-funded and most professional in the Middle East...

The recent emphasis on repatriation as a solution to antiquities disputes is unfortunate: tracking down unprovenanced artifacts that may have left a country years earlier does little to address contemporary looting problems, and it rarely makes the objects in question more meaningful to archaeologists or accessible to the public than they were in a foreign museum...

Antiquities are ancient artifacts of times and cultures long preceding the history of the modern nation-state. And in all but a very few cases, they have no obvious relation to that state other than the accident of geography: they happen to be found within its modern borders.

... Archaeological countries must recognize that national ownership laws have often been a disastrous failure. Such policies—which were often accompanied by strict limits on antiquities loans to foreign institutions—succeeded only in driving the trade further underground; and museums ultimately had to face the prospect of criminal prosecution for collecting ancient art. Even as these countries fight to reclaim works, some of them, including Italy, have begun to acknowledge the flaws of prohibition."

Incidentally, even in their countries of origin, archaeological objects are cosa morta since they are almost never displayed on-site.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"The only sure thing about luck is that it will change." - Bret Harte


Seah Chiang Nee:

"One of the things I have learned in my 40 years of reporting is not to discuss current affairs with Singaporeans I don't know. It is often futile.

I have rarely succeeded in eliciting a spontaneous viewpoint about politics from them that is not straight out of a newspaper's headline.

This is quite unlike in other countries where I had been assigned to cover, including communist China, where people would often just open up to you.

The people of my generation were — and remain — a reticent, apolitical lot who were more concerned about good food than bad politics.

Most had no personal views or were afraid to express them, especially when it comes to a controversial government policy.

As tough times intensified, however, I have detected a whiff of change in the heartland...

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong... suggested a 24-hour "cooling-off" period after the campaigning and before Polling Day...

"(Elections) here are already devoid of any heat. Any more cooling and the elections will go into deep freeze, sending voters into hibernation," the Singapore Democratic Party cynically observed...

In recent weeks amidst the debate about foreigners "taking away" local jobs, I have encountered heated discussions in coffee-shops and hawkers centres, the like of which I had rarely seen before...

[One critic] expects more disgruntled people to vote to put more opposition candidates into Parliament"

Let's just say that we've experienced this time and time again, and each time the excitement about the imminent downfall of the ancien régime ends with its romping victory.

Celui qui ne vivra pas après la Révolution ne connaîtra pas la douceur de vivre et ne pourra imaginer ce qu'il pourra y avoir de bonheur dans la vie

"Dance like it hurts,
Love like you need money,
Work when people are watching." - Scott Adams


Hadouken! 14 Street Fighter Poses IRL

VULVA Original - "VULVA Original is not a perfume. It is a vaginal scent which is purely a substance for your own sensual pleasure. The vaginal scent stimulates and complements erotic fantasies"

Men dont like leggy women - "Most of the women surveyed thought men lusted after longer legs despite the researching finding that men preferred women of average height where their legs accounted for half of their overall height. The findings back up research earlier this year that showed men preferred the shape of ordinary women, equivalent to dress size 14, than fashion models and Playboy centrefolds... men and women had very differing ideas of what was hot and what was not... clothes interfered with a woman's leg-to-body ratio, changing how attractive they were to men."

Married Sex - "Husbands often complain about too little sex... reduced sex might come from wives respecting husbands less than before, from seeing overly willing wives as lower in status, or from withholding sex to gain bargaining power on other issues... when better sex increased her unconscious fear of losing power, her unconscious pulled her away to regain that power. Marriage is a deal men enter into part to get sex, but a time-inconsistency problem haunts this deal. Most parts of the deal, such as who earns and spends how much, who does what chores, where they live, and so on, become entrenched in stable habits, which are hard to change from day to day. But due to complex female sexuality, the man is supposed to accept the sex part of the deal fluctuating from day to day and year to year for unknown and unexplained reasons. So the wife is less committed to her sex part of the deal than the husband is to most of his parts... Presumably overall this problem makes men less, and women more, willing to marry... I see two general ways to avoid this time-inconsistency problem: 1. Obligatory Sex... 2. Nonobligatory Other – remove something wives want lots from the usual set of stable husband contributions"

Ukrainian chemistry student killed by exploding bubble gum - "[He] accidentally dipped his chewing gum into explosives he was using for his studies, police spokeswoman Elvira Biganova told The Associated Press. She said the 25-year-old mistook the powder for citric acid, which he often added to prolong the gum's taste."

Bleeding Heart Tightwads - "Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates... The upshot is that Democrats, who speak passionately about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans — the ones who try to cut health insurance for children... as individuals, Europeans are far less charitable than Americans... religion is the essential reason conservatives give more... liberal donations frequently sustain art museums, symphonies, schools and universities that cater to the well-off... some research suggests that donations to education actually increase inequality because they go mostly to elite institutions attended by the wealthy... People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer for good causes, and conservatives give blood more often"

Not so fair trade - "By guaranteeing a minimum price, Fairtrade also encourages market oversupply, which depresses global commodity prices. This locks Fairtrade farmers into greater Fairtrade dependency and further impoverishes farmers outside the Fairtrade umbrella... Coffee farms must not be more than 12 acres in size and they are not allowed to employ any full-time workers. This means that during harvest season migrant workers must be employed on short-term contracts. These rural poor are therefore expressly excluded from the stability of long-term employment by Fairtrade rules"

Internet rules and laws: the top 10 - "Poe’s Law: “Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.”
Pommer’s Law: “A person’s mind can be changed by reading information on the internet. The nature of this change will be from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion.”"

John Schneider - "Cooter" Says Fellow Hazzard Castmates Victims Of P.C. "Vigilantes" - "A performance by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra featuring John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who appeared in the 1979-85 series The Dukes of Hazzard was canceled after complaints that the series had "racist overtones"... Jones particularly criticized the NAACP for endorsing the cancellation. "I'm a life member of the NAACP and proud of it," he said. "Denying an artist an opportunity to entertain an audience because of somebody's wrongheaded political viewpoint is just plain un-American. I have fought for equal rights all of my life, and that is why I am speaking out on this.""

Animated GIF of the Day: Twilight: A Synopsis

YouTube - "Censored Sprite Ad" Is Fake (But Fun)
"By the time we've made it, we've had it." - Malcolm Forbes


Human behavior and psychology is often divided into the rational and the irrational, but one area that is sometimes neglected is the non-rational.

One example is emotion. While emotions can be irrational, and can lead people to do irrational things, in and of themselves they are not necessarily irrational.

If I love someone, this may be emotionally driven and be a non-rational decision, but it is not irrational unless it leads to irrational thoughts or behavior.

Taking a larger view, emotions are a kind of preference. For example, if I prefer chocolate to vanilla ice cream, this has nothing to do with rationality (unless I prefer the taste of vanilla to chocolate, and there is no reason why my preferences would be reversed for ice cream).

We see a similar false dichotomy in morality, where moral and immoral are labels that are often thrown about, but the amoral (what is neither morally good or bad) is often neglected.

What, then, would qualify as irrational behavior or thinking?

One example would be a violation of transitivity. If I prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla ice cream, and vanilla ice cream to strawberry ice cream, I should prefer chocolate ice cream to strawberry ice cream.

Another would be a violation of means-end rationality. If I want to get to the next town which is 100km away and I have $20, it would be rational for me to take the bus rather than walk (unless I have a lot of time, am stingy etc).

At first glance this restrictive definition of irrationality would seem to discount most of what seems irrational, but you will probably find that a lot of behavior we commonly label irrational can be shown to be such - if you dig deep enough. However, most of us have better things to do (which is why we don't represent arguments in formal logic unless we're in Philosophy Academia).


Or, quoting Hume:

"Reason alone can never be a motive to any action of the will...

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them...

A passion can never, in any sense, be called unreasonable, but when founded on a false supposition, or when it chuses means insufficient for the designed end"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn't be religious people." - Doris Egan


AP: Tiger Woods Is Racist - He Only Cheats With White Women

"[AP] labeled the golfer racist not only for "declin[ing] to identify himself as black," but also because of "the race of the women" he's involved with.

On top of this, the AP made the case that America's fascination with Woods's philandering is only because he's cheating with white women...

Little attention has been given to the race of the women linked with the world's greatest golfer.

Except in the black community... Woods has declined to identify himself as black, and famously chose the term "Cablinasian" (Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian) to describe the racial mixture he inherited from his African-American father and Thai mother.

So Woods is wrong for not considering himself black even though he is one quarter Chinese, one quarter Thai, one quarter African-American, one eighth American Indian, and one eighth Dutch?

But there was yet more racial absurdity in this piece... blacks have historically fought against "white racist opponents of mixed marriage":

"But at the same time we still see him as a black man with a white woman, and it makes a difference," said Johnson Cooper, a 26-year-old African-American from New York City. "There's just this preservation thing we have among one another. We like to see each other with each other."

Wow! So, on the one hand, blacks have fought against "white racist opponents of mixed marriage." BUT, they're against black men marrying white women.

Not only did the AP miss this hypocrisy, it actually defended it:

The color of one's companion has long been a major measure of "blackness" — which is a big reason why the biracial Barack Obama was able to fend off early questions about his black authenticity.

"Had Barack had a white wife, I would have thought twice about voting for him," Johnson Cooper said.


So if Michelle Obama was white, blacks wouldn't have voted for her husband?

Somehow the AP missed this racist hypocrisy as well.

Add it all up, and Woods is racist for cheating with white women, Americans are racist because they wouldn't be interested in this story if his mistresses were black, and it's okay for blacks to resent black men that are involved with white women.

Any questions?"

The original article doesn't actually level the implied accusations, but certainly it fails (or doesn't try very hard) to point out all the hypocrisies when blacks are slammed for not behaving or identifying as black.
"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority." - Thomas H. Huxley


From Storm, by Tim Minchin:

"If you must watch telly, you should watch Scooby Doo.
That show was so cool...
Because every time there was a church with a ghoul,
Or a ghost in a school,
They looked beneath the mask, and what was inside?
The fucking janitor or the dude who ran the water slide!

Because throughout history,
Every mystery ever solved,
Has turned out to be...
Not magic!"

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