When you can't live without bananas

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mill and Utilitarianism

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Utilitarianism:

"Mill was really raised as a utilitarian baby, to be the perfect utilitarian sage.

And he had a breakdown precisely along the fault lines that Brad was describing earlier, because he was raised to pursue the happiness of everyone, but what did that mean for his own happiness?

And in healing from that breakdown as you say, reading the Romantics and Idealists, he, what he came to realise was missing in Bentham was a distinction between what he came to call the higher and lower pleasures, and the idea was that push-pin is not as good as poetry, which is something that he, Bentham had said...

What Mill said was, well, no. Because we have to think of Utility in terms of our capacity to develop as Human Beings. That we can have these Higher Pleasures of Art and Science and Beauty and Friendship and so on.

And so the Higher Pleasures can only be judged by the person who's actually experienced them... "The permanent interests of man as a progressive being". it was really drawing on these Romantic and Idealist thinkers that gave him the grounds for 'Higher'."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Women and Sponsors at Work

Sponsor Effect: UK

"Sponsors, unlike mentors, put their reputation on the line for their sponsees. They weren’t just counseling in private; they were advocating in public. Like Jenkins’ sponsor, they provided stretch opportunities and high-visibility assignments, so that their peers might see their chosen talent in action. And they didn’t just connect a sponsee to the inner circle, but ensured that, once singled out for scrutiny, she had the support she needed to outshine everybody else...

The UK’s generous flexible work/maternity leave policies are a double-edged sword, notes Kate Grussing, managing director of Sapphire Partners, a UKbased executive search firm that focuses on senior women. By law, companies in the UK must provide six months of ordinary maternity leave and six months of additional maternity leave; many also offer flex-work schemes and, according to Grussing, many returning mothers feel strong peer pressure to work four days a week. Yet in fast-moving industries and challenging economic times, being out of the loop for an extended period of time carries a huge cost...

59 percent of our senior- and executive-level female respondents say that men make better sponsors...

Our female respondents are searching for a professional woman, that is, who has it all, does it all, and can show them how to be superwomen as well. That’s a high bar for a sponsor. According to management expert Elisabeth Kelan and sociologist Alice Mah, “female role models are caught, like women in management in general, in the double bind of combining being an ideal manager, which means being masculine, with being an ideal woman, which means being feminine”...

For at least the beginning stages, life does seem to reward best those who put forth the most. Those who can sit still and pay attention, who study for exams and go the extra mile on papers—these are the students who get the top grades and garner prizes and awards. And nowadays, the star students are mostly female. Study after study shows that girls outperform boys at school. They get better grades. They score better on standardized tests. They are disproportionately represented in universities.

During the early years of most women’s careers, the pattern continues. “You can come into the organization at the very bottom rung and go up two or three rungs absolutely based on merit,” says Bank of Scotland’s Audrey Connolly.

Things change, however, in middle management. “At that point, it’s not just about doing a good job,” Connolly continues. “Doing well begins to include proactively forming good working relationships with key professionals inside and outside your organization. What got you where you are won’t get you where you want to go, and women get stuck because they don’t know that critical fact. They expect that merit thing to keep working and don’t know how to get their head into a different place.” Or as Carnegie Mellon economics professor Linda Babcock puts it, they “expect life to be fair and they often don’t realize that it’s up to them to make sure that it is”...

Ironically, the very gender difference that handicaps women most in the sponsorship game holds the greatest potential to vault them ahead: women tend to be much better than men at relationships. They have more friends and maintain deeper ties to these friends than men do. So why are guys good at professional relationships and women aren’t?

Research in the field suggests that men and women go about friendship— and perceive its value—very differently. For men, every contact they make, at work or outside of it, is potentially useful, even if that potential is never developed beyond the exchange of business cards. Even in their valuation of relationships, the sexes differ: men say they gain advice from friends, whereas women are more likely to say they get support, according to Geoffrey Grief, a University of Maryland professor and the author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships. Perhaps as an outgrowth of boys being more involved with team sports than girls, men learn that playing well, not talking, forges loyalties. According to Grief, men are not after personal relationships; rather, they focus on playing a game where they barter, broker power and make alliances among contacts they barely know in order to win.

Women, on the other hand, are all about emotional connections...

Men are significantly more likely than women to look to friends at work to help them land a job or close a business deal. In sharp contrast, women turn to colleagues as someone to confide in, laugh with, and lean on, but not use. Hence, when it comes to asking for help, more than half of the women surveyed—upward of 57 percent—feel reluctant...

Getting feedback on executive presence becomes particularly important as women ascend to the marzipan-level, where it’s imperative they’re attuned in their dress, speech, and bearing to the leadership culture. Yet here the silence is deafening: men, according to 28 percent of the women we surveyed, are hesitant to criticize their appearance. Even among sponsored women, 33 percent of them say that their male sponsors hesitate to give feedback on their appearance. Why? Senior men tell us they’re scared to, fearful that a woman will “over-rotate” (take a style suggestion as an insult or burst into tears) or, even more seriously, an offended woman will sue them for sexual harassment. So they look the other way...

One of the senior men we interviewed still recalls how he chickened out when he should have given honest feedback to a woman on his team. “She was a very attractive “bottle blonde,” and the unfortunate thing was, the way she dressed and presented herself reinforced the ‘dumb blonde’ cliché. One client actually told me, ‘It doesn’t help to have this trolley-dolly image.’ But I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about her tight blouses or high heels and how these things undermined her authority and impact. I was fearful of her reaction”...

For a fact, senior men find it far easier to advise junior men. A senior male will tell a male subordinate he needs to polish his shoes, get a decent haircut, buy a better suit, lose a few pounds, or even improve his personal hygiene. “Man on man, we can always make it a joke,” says Steve Richardson, president of Diverse Outcomes and a former senior vice president at American Express. “Not that I’m one of your best friends, mate, but your breath’s a bit off today. Might want to take a mint.” So casually, even unconsciously, do men exchange style pointers that some cannot even fathom why the style component of executive presence is such a conundrum for women. “Joining a firm is like joining a football team,” one male Deloitte manager told us. “You’re issued a uniform and, starting on Day One, you wear it”...

More than half (52 percent) of our female survey respondents (and 47 percent of men) at large companies believe that if female managers were to commit at least one of the following, it would be an EP blunder: their waistlines bulge, their fingernails or hair are unkempt, they wear too much or too little makeup, their skirts are too tight, or their necklines dip dangerously low. Women whose look is sexual or provocative are at particular risk of being struck off the list of those with leadership potential. In the words of Patricia Fili-Krushel, executive vice president at NBCUniversal, they will find themselves in men’s offices “for all the wrong reasons.”

Our respondents are also certain that toeing a conservative line is a far safer strategy than pushing the limits of self-expression. Fifty percent of women (and 41 percent of men) feel that aspiring female execs should observe at least one of the following rules: conservative suit jackets, coiffed hair, well-puttogether accessories, and subtle make-up. In other words, make the mistake of looking too glamorous and you’re seen as a siren; make the mistake of looking too relaxed or casual, and you’re seen as a P.A. or administrative assistant. There are all kinds of ways to get it wrong.

For women of color, figuring out the right look can be especially treacherous. One African-Caribbean female lawyer told us in a focus group that she always dressed in designer suits, despite the office-casual dress code, because when she first started at the firm other employees mistook her for a secretary. She also noted that since she was a black woman, no one would dare approach her with any honest feedback on either her appearance or her performance, for fear of sounding racist...

Some 38 percent of senior men at the level of vice president and above tell us they’re reluctant to have one-on-one meetings with junior women—and 26 percent of junior women say they’re likewise hesitant to initiate such contact. The fact that male-to-male relationships are far less fraught than male-to-female relationships certainly helps explain why men are 25 percent more likely than women to have sponsors...

Survey after survey points to a strong likelihood of an office fling: 60 percent is the average statistic, a figure that has held steady since 2004. According to a recent CareerBuilder.co.uk survey, 43 percent of respondents said they had dated someone above them in the company hierarchy, and 26 percent admitted to dating their boss. Certainly quite a few employees know someone who is sleeping with the boss: Our own research reveals that 45 percent of women and 44 percent of men can “name names”...

At least half (48 percent of men, 52 percent of women) of UK respondents believe that if a senior male at their company so much as socializes one-on-one with a junior woman, he will be the target of office gossip...

If senior male executives in the UK (31 percent) hesitate to spend one-on-one time with female junior staffers because they fear their motives will be misconstrued, and 26 percent of junior women avoid one-on-one time with senior males, a culture of sponsorship may not take root—at least organically...

In the US, sponsorship between high-potential junior women and senior men slams all too often into the barrier of sexual politics. A majority—64 percent— of male executives in the US say they hesitate to spend one-on-one time with a junior woman because of the potential for gossip or lawsuits. For identical reasons, 50 percent of US high-potential junior women avoid one-on-one time with senior males—the pool of target sponsors.

Interestingly, the issue in the UK is less incendiary. Although innuendo is rife— UK women are 40 percent and UK men are 43 percent more likely than their US counterparts to gossip if a senior man socializes with a junior woman— sexual liaisons between a male supervisor and a female subordinate just don’t seem to get in the way of getting work done. Only 38 percent of senior men and 26 percent of junior women say they hesitate to have one-on-one contact of this sort."

You can't get something for nothing: making it easy for women to accuse employers of sexual harassment (It is not a coincidence that the US is more lawsuit-happy than the UK) results in less mentorship of women by men (ditto for the racism worry).

Proclaiming that it is inappropriate for men to comment on women's physical appearance at work means they don't make such comments even when necessary.

Generous maternity benefits means women are held back at work (as in the Nordics).

Also, under the protection of anonymity, it seems senior male executives share Tim Hunt's concerns about women bursting into tears.

Links - 23rd June 2015

As Mary Portas reveals her brother's the biological father of her son - "the fashion guru, who is proud to be part of one of Britain’s most high-profile lesbian marriages, changed her name to Portas following her marriage to a man in 1990. That marriage — which she has previously described as a happy one — produced two children who are now grown-up. She became a lesbian only in her 40s, when she met Melanie and fell for her... Until that point, Portas had never considered a relationship with a woman — ‘I certainly wasn’t a suppressed lesbian,’ she later reflected"
Is it wrong for a woman to have a son whose father is her brother?
Also, yet another woman whose sexual orientation changes (and becomes lesbian)

In China: Honesty is not the best policy - China - "After nearly a year of living and reporting here, I’ve come to realise that honesty doesn’t rank high on the list of virtues in China... Dishonesty starts young too. According to a poll of 250 students, parents and agents conducted in 2011 by Zinch China – a consultancy that advises United States colleges and universities about China – about 90 per cent of them submitted false recommendations... Chinese scholars and friends tell me that deceit is not widely frowned upon in China as it is sometimes seen as a means to survival in a society without clear rules – or at least without a culture of abiding by them. Said sociologist Hu Xingdou: “People realise that it doesn’t pay to be honest as not telling the truth may even yield benefits while being honest could even reap repercussions”... Another reason, said Mr Hu, is the society’s view that being kind (shan in Mandarin) is more important than being real (zhen). One factor could be the Confucian teachings that virtues like honesty can be subjugated for greater good like family peace and community unity, he added... I have to confess that I have become more wary here than in Singapore of strangers, including even acquaintances and shops that I frequent regularly."

White Hot Harlots: Manspreading: the rise of broken windows liberalism - "Of all the conflagrations of online outrage that have burst forward these past couple years, few have elicited as much long-lasting passion as the concerns over “manspreading"... What engendered this anger, this meanness? In order to understand where the ire comes from, we have to look at a means of analysis that’s common throughout lazy writing and has recently, sadly entered into a lot of social justice commentary. It’s based around taking erstwhile inoffensive or mildly offensive actions, embusing them with a pervasive secret meaning indicative of some kind of hatred, and then getting mad not at the action itself, but the evil subconscious mindsets that underlie it. Hence, manspreaders aren’t spreading for any material reasons—not because they’re tired or there’s plenty of space or even because they are fat and physically have to take up more room. They spread only because of their hidden ideology. They secretly believe themselves superior to women, which is why they want to take up space. Basically, your posture says more about your ideology than your actual ideology does. That’s the sort of logic that’s so stupid it has an air of infallibility to it"

The Ideological-Conflict Hypothesis - "Decades of research in social and political psychology have demonstrated that political conservatives appear more intolerant toward a variety of groups than do political liberals. Recent work from our three independent labs has challenged this conventional wisdom by suggesting that some of the psychological underpinnings of intolerance are not exclusive to people on either end of the political spectrum. These studies have demonstrated that liberals and conservatives express similar levels of intolerance toward ideologically dissimilar and threatening groups... one open question is whether an ideological commitment to tolerance in the abstract translates into actual expressions of tolerance toward ideological out-groups."

List of Campus Disinvitation Attempts, 2000–2014 - FIRE
2000: 6 disinvitations attempts
2001: 4
2002: 10
2003: 10
2004: 7
2005: 13
2006: 10
2007: 9
2008: 13
2009: 23
2010: 16
2011: 19
2012: 17
2013: 29
2014: 16
2014 only has 5 months of data so do note that corrected for the full year figures one would assume there were 38 disinvitations in 2014 - truly a record

Disinvitation Report 2014: A Disturbing 15-Year Trend - FIRE - "Our research on disinvitations over the past 15 years identifies five trends:
1. The number of “disinvitation incidents”—i.e., efforts to prevent invited speakers from conveying their message on campus—has risen dramatically.
2. The number of “successful” disinvitations where a speaker ultimately does not speak as a result of a concerted effort to prevent them from doing so has increased as well.
3. Speakers are much more likely to be targeted for disinvitation for holding or expressing viewpoints perceived as conservative by faculty or students.
4. Disinvitation incidents occur with nearly equal frequency among public, private, and sectarian schools, demonstrating that disinvitations are not isolated to any particular type of university.
5. Institutions that have seen the highest number of disinvitation incidents also maintain severely speech-restrictive policies."

New FIRE Report: ‘Disinvitations’ Skyrocketing - FIRE - "The top three reasons behind disinvitation incidents were disagreements with a speaker’s perceived views on gay rights (21), followed by abortion (18) and the “War on Terror” (18)."

Freakonomics » The Maddest Men of All Full Transcript - "the honest employees tested better on just about every performance metric, which you mind find heartening, the idea that honesty really is a valuable trait. But there was one metric for which honesty was not correlated with better performance: sales."

Transgender Man and Woman Both Identify as Opposite Sex, Conceive Two Kids Together - "The "mom", Bianca, is a man who identifies as a woman.
The "dad", Nick, is a woman who identifies as a man.
The thing that I don't understand is the fact that instead of adopting, they had kids naturally which requires the "woman" of the relationship to stick her penis in the "man" of the relationship.
The "dad" said that her pregnancy and the process of getting pregnant was a horrible experience (5:00), yet they also apparently have sex "the same way everyone does" (4:10). And oh yeah, the "husband" basically said at 4:25 that she doesn't view her "wife" as a man even when her "wife" is fucking her in the vagina with his dick."

Eurisko, The Computer With A Mind Of Its Own - "In 1981, Eurisko, a computer program that arguably displays the rudiments of such skills, easily won the Traveller tournament, becoming the top-ranked player in the United States and an honorary Admiral in the Traveller navy. Eurisko had designed its fleet according to principles it discovered itself -with some help from its inventor, Douglas B. Lenat, an assistant professor in Stanford University's artificial-intelligence program... After weeks of experimentation, and some 10,000 two-to-thirty-minute battles, Eurisko came up with what would be the winning fleet. To the humans in the tournament, the program's solution to Traveller must have seemed bizarre. Most of the contestants squandered their trillion-credit budgets on fancy weaponry, designing agile fleets of about twenty lightly armored ships, each armed with one enormous gun and numerous beam weapons. Eurisko, however, had judged that defense was more important than offense, that many cheap, invulnerable ships would outlast fleets consisting of a few high-priced, sophisticated vessels. There were ninety-six ships in Eurisko's fleet, most of which were slow and clumsy because of their heavy armor. Rather than arming them with a few big, expensive guns, Eurisko chose to use many small weapons."

Now Russia makes transgender driving a criminal offence
Comment: "1. This is a resolution by the government, not a law. It's their opinion, nothing more.
2. The resolution refers to people with mental illnesses, not specifically transgendered people. For example, it also applies to people with OCD.
3. The implication for transgendered people comes from the resolution using a list of mental issues being taken from the ICD-10, a list of mental illnesses recognised by the World Health Organisation.
4. The resolution refers to cases where the mental illness is 'harmful'.
5. The resolution doesn't apply to people who already have driving licenses.
6. The resolution means that when you are applying for a driving license, if you are exhibiting behaviour that suggests you might be dangerous on the road, you can be denied your license."

5 Reasons For Why Animal Rights Are A Feminist Issue — Everyday Feminism - "1. Animal Bodies Are Objectified, Too
2. Animal Bodies Are Used to Normalize Rape Culture
3. Domestic Violence Harms Animals
4. Intersectionality Must Include All Oppressed Groups
5. Our Society Spreads Lies About Animals, Too"

23 Words Mispronounced By Singaporeans Their Whole Lives

Chris Rock Stopped Playing Colleges Because They're 'Too Conservative' - "Not in their political views -- not like they’re voting Republican -- but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive."

The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States - "We estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds and 6.3–22.3 billion mammals annually. Un-owned cats, as opposed to owned pets, cause the majority of this mortality. Our findings suggest that free-ranging cats cause substantially greater wildlife mortality than previously thought and are likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals"

Iran bans ‘devil-worshipping’ spiky haircuts and male eyebrow plucking - "Excessive hair gel and male eyebrow plucking also were on the 2010 list of no-no's, as they have been in the past. Authorities apparently had some outdated ideas of current Western styles: They also banned mullets."

Half a million refugees gather in Libya to attempt perilous crossing to Europe - "The passengers on some of the overcrowded boats are thought to have been told to scupper them as soon as they see a rescue ship, to ensure they will be saved, even though many of them cannot swim... One government official said: “The more the traffickers see that people are being resettled, the greater the incentive there is for them.”"
People respond to incentives

Sinclair C5 voted biggest innovation disaster - Telegraph

Rethinking the Plight of Conservatives in Higher Education - "right-leaning students are far more likely to select “practical” majors that are less likely to lead to advanced degrees. Their emphasis on vocational fields such as business and criminal justice permits them to move directly into the workforce. In contrast, left-leaning students are more apt to pursue majors in the liberal arts, such as sociology and philosophy, which, absent additional graduate training, provide fewer career opportunities immediately on graduation. Even within a major like political science, college seniors of different political leanings have different expectations with regard to their forthcoming careers. Whereas students on both the left and the right place a premium on securing a comfortable salary and having the time to raise a family, conservative students consistently rate these priorities as more important than do liberal students... April was fond of reminding me that “students aren’t sponges.” By the age of eighteen, she argued, most people are already set in their ways. Sure enough, our research indicated she was right... A journal referee’s propensity to fixate on seemingly trivial methodological flaws seems to increase dramatically if my conclusions undermine a leftist policy position... Focusing on the 494 books with an ideological thesis, the researchers found that only 2 percent of Harvard University Press publications had conservative or classically liberal perspectives"

The call of monkhood: Princeton degree, dating brought no joy - "Growing up, Ms Ruby Pan wanted to be a writer. In her teens, she fell in love with the theatre and dreamt of being a playwright. She won a Public Service Commission teaching scholarship to study English literature at Princeton University in the United States, where she bagged prizes for a play and a collection of short stories she wrote. She even got to perform a monologue she wrote at a show produced by the famous Royal Shakespeare Company in England. She thought she had done everything that was artistically fulfilling, but when she graduated in 2006, she felt no joy. She says: "Instead, I felt burnt out, like I had run a very long race for no reason." Ms Pan, 31, who now goes by her ordained name, Thubten Damcho, was speaking over the telephone from Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastry in a forested area in Washington in the United States, where she now lives... she was jealous of her then boyfriend's ex-girlfriend, whom she did not even know. Conversely, she saw how the abbess was always joyous and equanimous regardless of the situation, the "fruit of decades of spiritual practice as a monastic"."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Links - 22nd June 2015

Can Changing Economic Factors Explain the Rise in Obesity? - "A growing literature examines the effects of economic variables on obesity, typically focusing on only one or a few factors at a time. We build a more comprehensive economic model of body weight, combining the 1990-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System with 27 state-level variables related to general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking. Controlling for demographic characteristics and state and year fixed effects, changes in these economic variables collectively explain 37% of the rise in BMI, 43% of the rise in obesity, and 59% of the rise in class II/III obesity. Quantile regressions also point to large effects among the heaviest individuals, with half the rise in the 90th percentile of BMI explained by economic factors. Variables related to calorie intake – particularly restaurant and supercenter/warehouse club densities – are the primary drivers of the results."
Too many restaurants and warehouse clubs = obesity

McDonald’s “New Policy” Bans Customers From Buying Food For Homeless - "When questioned again by the media, McDonalds has continued to insist that this is not an official policy at any of their stores."

Bolivia – The First Latin-American Country to Close All McDonald’s Restaurants - "Everything indicates that “fast food” is literally the opposite of a Bolivian’s conception of how to prepare a meal. In Bolivia, the food to be good requires, in addition to taste, care, and hygiene, a lot of preparation time. This is how a consumer values the quality of what goes into the stomach, also by the amount of time it took to make the meal. Fast food is not for these people, the Americans concluded."
Apparently it returned in April 2015 after 13 years

After 13 years of burger banishment, McDonald's opens new location in Bolivia - "According to food researchers, it's not that Bolivians don't like burgers – they actually love them, but they just prefer to buy them from the thousands of indigenous women selling on the streets than from a global company... "They look on these foreign entities with suspicion — and rightly so. They prefer to purchase from, to have a relationship with, people from their own country or community or family." Bolivia now leaves the short list of countries – North Korea, Libya, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Vatican City – without the Golden Arches. Even Bolivia's political ideological ally, Venezuela, the country of the late Hugo Chávez, has 148 places to get a Big Mac and fries."

After exercise, fast food helps you recover just as well as sports supplements

Mother Posts India’s First Gay Marriage Advert to Seek Groom for Her Son - “Last week, she asked me a question any mom would ask her 36-year-old son: ‘Are you dating someone? Are you fond of someone?’ And when my answer was in the negative, my mom did what any Indian mother would do — she decided to place an ad in a newspaper.”

Robotic chef can cook Michelin star food in your kitchen by mimicking world's best cooks - "Moley Robotics hopes the robot chef will go on sale to the general public in 2017 and it is aiming to charge £10,000. This may sound a lot for a kitchen gadget but, given the system includes the over, hob, sink, work surface and storage, the price is not as steep as it may first seem. A recent survey carried out by The Times newspaper found almost half of Britons paid between £5,000 and £20,000 for their kitchen."

Assimilation’s Failure, Terrorism’s Rise - NYTimes.com - "The real question is not how people like Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, came to be radicalized, but why so many young men, who by all accounts are intelligent, articulate and integrated, come to find this violent, reactionary ideology so attractive. To answer it, we need to look not at extremist preachers or university lecturers but also at public policy, and in particular the failed policy of multiculturalism... The British government developed a new political framework for engaging with minority groups. Britain was now in effect divided into a number of ethnic boxes — Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, African, Caribbean and so on. The claims of minorities upon society were defined less by the social and political needs of individuals than by the box to which they belonged. Political power and financial resources were distributed by ethnicity. The new policy did not empower individuals; instead, it enhanced the authority of so-called community leaders, often the most conservative voices, who owed their positions and influence largely to their relationship with the state... Politicians effectively abandoned their responsibility to engage directly with minorities, subcontracting it out to often reactionary “leaders”... More progressive movements became sidelined. Today “radical” in an Islamic context means someone who is a religious fundamentalist. Thirty years ago it meant the opposite: a secularist who challenged both racism in the streets and the power of the mosques. Secularism was once strong within Muslim communities, but it has been squeezed out by the new relationship between the state and religious leaders"

The Many Wives of Oei Tiong Ham - " I came across a biography—nay, a hagiography—ofOei Tiong Ham, the “world’s sugar king” and “richest man from Semarang.” (Raja Gula Dunia, Orang Terkaya Dari Semarang) who died in Singapore in 1924. Now it turns out that Oei is not really useful for my purposes, but the book is a fun read. It is full of interesting tidbits like “Tiong Ham liked to party” (gemar berpesta), as well as this complete list of his many wives and children. Note: this list of 8 wives does not include concubines. The book details that Oei had 18 concubines that he acknowledged, and there were rumors of as many as 50. We also see here that his first wives was the prettiest of the 16 children of an elite Chinese family in Semarang, the Goeis. Alas, this isn’t really a serious source, but I’d be interested to know if the concubines were more likely to be Javanese than Chinese."

What is it about the Singapore/Malaya merger and Operation Coldstore? - "Singapore’s PAP won the 1959 elections and formed the government. But the leadership’s inexperience showed, and they made a lot of mistakes in their first year. They moved away from the progressive platform on which they had been elected, failing to fulfil a number of election promises. To compound this, they refused to admit their mistakes, and acted in a very arrogant and smug manner. Thus, the British and the PAP’s backbenchers grew very frustrated with the government, and the popularity of the PAP government declined heavily from 1959-60... To win the next election, Lee needed an achievement he could campaign on. The only popular desire he could deliver quickly was the achievement of merger. The British already wanted merger, but the Tunku didn’t. Thus, to get the Tunku on board, they told the Tunku that the PAP’s unpopularity was a sign that the island would soon be taken over by communists, and only the Tunku could save the island by taking it over. The British also urged the Tunku to accept merger, and offered the inclusion of North Borneo and Sarawak. This would dilute the influence of Singapore’s Chinese in Federation politics, as well as give the Federation access to Borneo’s vast natural resources. Eventually, after much persuading, pleading, and bargaining, the Tunku agreed to merge... The original Operation Coldstore collapsed when, at the last minute, Lee Kuan Yew inserted fifteen extra names of his political opponents into the arrest list... The primary purpose of merger was for political gain, not to reunify a divided nation... if the Federation’s and PAP’s rationale for merger and the creation of Malaysia was to neutralise Singapore’s political opposition, then once the opposition was gone, what was the rationale for both parties to stay together?"

How to Spot a Narcissist Online - "Online, people are very good at gaining relationships, but they don’t fall off naturally. If you’re incredibly annoying, they just ignore you, and even then it might be worth it for entertainment value. There’s a reason why, on reality TV, you find high levels of narcissism. It’s entertaining"

Shock the Puppy! - "When Stanley Milgram published the results of his obedience experiment in 1963, it sent shockwaves through the scientific community. Other researchers found it hard to believe that people could be so easily manipulated, and they searched for any mistakes Milgram might have made. Charles Sheridan and Richard King theorized that perhaps Milgram's subjects had merely played along with the experiment because they realized the victim was faking his cries of pain. To test this possibility, Sheridan and King decided to repeat Milgram's experiment, introducing one significant difference. Instead of using an actor, they would use an actual victim who would really get shocked. Obviously they couldn't use a human for this purpose, so they used the next best thing — a cute, fluffy puppy... Intriguingly, the six students who refused to go on were all men. All thirteen women who participated in the experiment obeyed right up until the end"
This is linked to Psychologists Find that Nice People Are More Likely to Hurt You

Tushar Ismail - No. No. No. "In other words, regardless of... - ""In other words, regardless of whether you receive a text like “Hi dear, :)”, or a chain of messages asking about you, it is harassment as long as you are not comfortable with it."
A million times no. What in the actual fuck. By that logic, I can accuse the journalist of harassment because I'm not "comfortable" with his article?... The day that a single, "Hi Dear, :)" becomes harassment is day these people need to pull their heads out of their asses and look in a dictionary..."
Feminist 'harassment', isn't

The Cost of Saving Face in Singapore - "The fact that there is even a website dedicated to wedding ang bao rates demonstrates the amount of effort we put in to save our face and preserve our honour. Assuming we go to four weddings a year and stuff an average of S$150 into our red packets, that’s S$600 annually. The average cost of a typical face-saving banquet wedding in Singapore would probably be around S$1,500 per table including extraneous costs. Since you need to invite all your relatives, you’ll need 30 tables. That would add up to S$45,000. If you managed to recoup half of your costs (and this is a big if), you’re still spending more than S$22,000 on something that could have been better spent on an appreciating asset such as your house... The next time you’re grappling with a decision that involves saving face or saving money, always ask yourself this: will the face I’ve saved throughout my life help me out when the banks or creditors come knocking?"

Malay voters look for Islamic credentials in future PM, survey shows - "Most Malay voters feel that the number one criterion a prime minister of Malaysia must have is "Islamic credentials", with the majority preferring it over qualities such as "hardworking" and "economic and management skills"... Asked to pick the top two qualities they were looking for in a prime minister, 35.8% of Malays chose "Islamic credentials", while just 24.3% chose "tough stand on corruption"... Meanwhile, most of the Chinese interviewed in the survey preferred a prime minister with economic and management skills, with 28.5% choosing it as one of their top two criteria, followed by "tough stand on corruption" (27.2%) and "fair to all races" (18.5%). Indian voters were more concerned about a prime minister who is fair to all races (38.2%) and hardworking (17.6%)"

I'm a Devout Atheist — Here's What I Love About Religion - "The power of community is invaluable.
People need a strong sense of purpose to live well.
Prayer is an essential tool for modern life.
Holiday rituals offer people a unique kind of meaning and joy."

Psychology Journal Bans Significance Testing - "the p-value was never meant to be the sole measure of whether or not a particular hypothesis is true. Rather it was meant only as a measure of whether or not the data should be taken seriously. Further, the p-value is widely misunderstood... published p-values cluster suspiciously around this 0.05 level, suggesting that some degree of p-hacking is going on."

The 10 Worst Things You Can Do In A Negotiation | James Altucher

Why one science journal wants to publish negative studies - "The issue is so severe right now that some have wondered whether negative results are disappearing entirely from some countries and fields of science. Now, one journal is trying to correct publication bias: PLoS One this week launched its "Missing Pieces" collection of negative, null, and inconclusive studies — in other words, a celebration of the seamier side of botched and boring experiments that usually never sees the light of day"

The limits of anti-racism

Antiracism: vague politics about an nearly indescribable thing

"The contemporary discourse of “antiracism” is focused much more on taxonomy than politics. It emphasizes the name by which we should call some strains of inequality—whether they should be broadly recognized as evidence of “racism”— over specifying the mechanisms that produce them or even the steps that can be taken to combat them. And, no, neither “overcoming racism” nor “rejecting whiteness” qualifies as such a step any more than does waiting for the “revolution” or urging God’s heavenly intervention. If organizing a rally against racism seems at present to be a more substantive political act than attending a prayer vigil for world peace, that’s only because contemporary antiracist activists understand themselves to be employing the same tactics and pursuing the same ends as their predecessors in the period of high insurgency in the struggle against racial segregation.

This view, however, is mistaken. The postwar activism that reached its crescendo in the South as the “civil rights movement” wasn’t a movement against a generic “racism;” it was specifically and explicitly directed toward full citizenship rights for black Americans and against the system of racial segregation that defined a specific regime of explicitly racial subordination in the South. The 1940s March on Washington Movement was also directed against specific targets, like employment discrimination in defense production. Black Power era and post-Black Power era struggles similarly focused on combating specific inequalities and pursuing specific goals like the effective exercise of voting rights and specific programs of redistribution.

Whether or not one considers those goals correct or appropriate, they were clear and strategic in a way that “antiracism” simply is not. Sure, those earlier struggles relied on a discourse of racial justice, but their targets were concrete and strategic. It is only in a period of political demobilization that the historical specificities of those struggles have become smoothed out of sight in a romantic idealism that homogenizes them into timeless abstractions like “the black liberation movement”—an entity that, like Brigadoon, sporadically appears and returns impelled by its own logic.

Ironically, as the basis for a politics, antiracism seems to reflect, several generations downstream, the victory of the postwar psychologists in depoliticizing the critique of racial injustice by shifting its focus from the social structures that generate and reproduce racial inequality to an ultimately individual, and ahistorical, domain of “prejudice” or “intolerance”...

All too often, “racism” is the subject of sentences that imply intentional activity or is characterized as an autonomous “force.” In this kind of formulation, “racism,” a conceptual abstraction, is imagined as a material entity. Abstractions can be useful, but they shouldn’t be given independent life.

I can appreciate such formulations as transient political rhetoric; hyperbolic claims made in order to draw attention and galvanize opinion against some particular injustice. But as the basis for social interpretation, and particularly interpretation directed toward strategic political action, they are useless. Their principal function is to feel good and tastily righteous in the mouths of those who propound them. People do things that reproduce patterns of racialized inequality, sometimes with self-consciously bigoted motives, sometimes not. Properly speaking, however, “racism” itself doesn’t do anything more than the Easter Bunny does.

Yes, racism exists, as a conceptual condensation of practices and ideas that reproduce, or seek to reproduce, hierarchy along lines defined by race. Apostles of antiracism frequently can’t hear this sort of statement, because in their exceedingly simplistic version of the nexus of race and injustice there can be only the Manichean dichotomy of those who admit racism’s existence and those who deny it...

of course racism persists, in all the disparate, often unrelated kinds of social relations and “attitudes” that are characteristically lumped together under that rubric, but from the standpoint of trying to figure out how to combat even what most of us would agree is racial inequality and injustice, that acknowledgement and $2.25 will get me a ride on the subway. It doesn’t lend itself to any particular action except more taxonomic argument about what counts as racism.

And here’s a practical catch-22. In the logic of antiracism, exposure of the racial element of an instance of wrongdoing will lead to recognition of injustice, which in turn will lead to remedial action—though not much attention seems ever given to how this part is supposed to work. I suspect this is because the exposure part, which feels so righteously yet undemandingly good, is the real focus. But this exposure convinces only those who are already disposed to recognize...

My point is that it’s more effective politically to challenge the inequality and injustice directly and bypass the debate over whether it should be called “racism.”

I do recognize that, partly because of the terms on which the civil rights movement’s victories have been achieved, there is a strong practical imperative for stressing the racially invidious aspects of injustices: they have legal remedies. Race is one of the legal classes protected by anti-discrimination law; poverty, for instance, is not. But this makes identifying “racism” a technical requirement for pursuing certain grievances, not the basis of an overall political strategy for pursuit of racial justice, or, as I believe is a clearer left formulation, racial equality as an essential component of a program of social justice.

I’ve been struck by the level of visceral and vitriolic anti-Marxism I’ve seen from this strain of defenders of antiracism as a politics. It’s not clear to me what drives it because it takes the form of snide dismissals than direct arguments. Moreover, the dismissals typically include empty acknowledgment that “of course we should oppose capitalism,” whatever that might mean...

What the political scientist Preston Smith calls “racial democracy” came gradually to replace social democracy as a political goal—the redress of grievances that could be construed as specifically racial took precedence over the redistribution of wealth, and an individualized psychology replaced notions of reworking the material sphere. This dynamic intensified with the combination of popular demobilization in black politics and emergence of the post-segregation black political class in the 1970s and 1980s.

We live under a regime now that is capable simultaneously of including black people and Latinos, even celebrating that inclusion as a fulfillment of democracy, while excluding poor people without a whimper of opposition. Of course, those most visible in the excluded class are disproportionately black and Latino, and that fact gives the lie to the celebration. Or does it really? From the standpoint of a neoliberal ideal of equality, in which classification by race, gender, sexual orientation or any other recognized ascriptive status (that is, status based on what one allegedly is rather than what one does) does not impose explicit, intrinsic or necessary limitations on one’s participation and aspirations in the society, this celebration of inclusion of blacks, Latinos and others is warranted...

I remain curious why the “debate” over antiracism as a politics takes such indirect and evasive forms—like the analogizing and guilt by association, moralistic bombast in lieu of concrete argument—and why it persists in establishing, even often while denying the move, the terms of debate as race vs. class. I’m increasingly convinced that a likely reason is that the race line is itself a class line, one that is entirely consistent with the neoliberal redefinition of equality and democracy. It reflects the social position of those positioned to benefit from the view that the market is a just, effective, or even acceptable system for rewarding talent and virtue and punishing their opposites and that, therefore, removal of “artificial” impediments to its functioning like race and gender will make it even more efficient and just.

From this perspective even the “left” antiracist line that we must fight both economic inequality and racial inequality, which seems always in practice to give priority to “fighting racism” (often theorized as a necessary precondition for doing anything else), looks suspiciously like only another version of the evasive “we’ll come back for you” (after we do all the business-friendly stuff) politics that the Democrats have so successfully employed to avoid addressing economic injustice."

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Allez chier, Allez chier

"Allez chier, Allez chier
Moi j'me côlisse ben qui fasse frette
Allez chier.. Décrissez
Vous n'êtes pas dans mes Bobette
Lâchez-moi.. Astie ch't'écoeurée
Mangez toute ma raie"

Links - 21st June 2015

You Think You’re So Funny—If You’re a Man, You Might Be Right - "we did find that, on average, men were funnier than women, though the differences are not huge. Regardless of the actual sexdifferences in humor ability, it seems that men are perceived as funnier, and now we have the science to back it up... the current study replicated the findings in my own study, where both the male and female raters found men to be, on average, funnier than women. The effects were smaller that what I have found, but nonetheless significant (it is possible that the relatively small sample size in the current study, more than 12 times smaller than my own, is responsible for the small effect)"
Men are indeed funnier than women

Loving bonobos have a carnivorous dark side - "Don't be fooled by their reputation for altruism and free love - bonobos hunt and kill monkeys just like their more vicious chimpanzees cousins, according to new research. "Bonobos are merciless," says Gottfried Hohmann, a behavioural ecologist at Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He witnessed several monkey hunts among bonobos living in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and says, "they catch it and start eating it. They don't bother to kill it"."

Limits in the Seas No. 143. China: Maritime Claims in the South China Sea - "China’s own Declaration on its territorial sea of 1958 states:
This provision [a 12-nm territorial sea] applies to all territories of the People’s Republic of China, including the Chinese mainland and its coastal islands, as well as Taiwan and its surrounding islands, the Penghu Islands and all other islands belonging to China which are separated from the mainland and its coastal islands by the high seas [emphasis added].
The reference to “high seas”—maritime space under no country’s jurisdiction—separating China’s mainland and coastal islands from “all other islands belonging to China” indicates that in 1958 China made no claim to the entirety of the ocean space within the dashed line"
Keywords: China renounce sea claims, south china sea

Bro Bash - "the brohavior he’s observing isn’t just butch etiquette or aggro nerdery, but rather the very use of data itself. Bady’s quips are only a small part of a troubling new trend in younger leftist circles: the reduction of feminist critique to the Fear of The Bro and His Insidious Patriarchal Methodologies. This line of thinking insinuates a sort of “men like facts and women have feelings” essentialism... Pop quants don’t speak to you authoritatively, like the economist of a political administration. They’re not dad — they’re brothers. Maybe they did well in math class, but the impression is that they’re mostly just privy to a few simple facts you have yet to learn. They’re not “numbers men,” they’re “guys who know a little something about numbers,” and they get away with flattening, distorting, and obfuscating reality because they’re brilliantly adept at hiding their condescension behind ingratiatory populism... since the nineties, anti-elitism has been the battle hymn of the most progressive academics. Online social justice culture is heavily enmeshed in the academy (whether they admit it or not), and its inheritance of anti-elitism has simply morphed into the more colloquial anti-broism... It’s fair to say the front lines of my generation are not endangered by overconfidence in either our intellectual convictions or our expertise. In fact, the only thing we do seem to be sure of is our condemnation of injustice and the overconfidence of our predecessors, the dick-swinging bros that came before us"

Giddyup, Trigger - "Ovid tells his story, and a number of other equally appalling ones, in the Metamorphoses, a text continually read and immensely loved since Ovid’s own day. Ovid is omnipresent in Dante, and Shakespeare, and… everywhere, really; or at least was, until the the fashion came in for illiterate writers. Mean old Ovid, however, is too strong for the stomachs of certain sensitive souls at Columbia University... I feel very grateful to have bailed out of Academe when I did. My idea of a classroom is one in which nobody ever feels safe — least of all, the teacher. The piece linked above deploys just about every buzzword associated with the current cult of hysterical hypersensitivity: safe, self-preservation, triggered, survivor, share, concerns, offensive, marginalize, identity, intervention, transgression (this one not at all in a good sense, but an unambiguously bad one); insensitive, traumatize, silence, facilitate, support, training, best practice, framing, engage, effective, feedback, addressing (‘issues’, not letters). The only one missing is ‘inappropriate’. In general, the impression one receives is that Columbia undergraduates are hagridden, traumatized, oppressed, disadvantaged, suffering souls, shying from a trigger a minute like a skittish pony in rattlesnake country; easily intimidated and silenced, and so distressed by the coarseness of their teachers that they can barely force themselves through the classroom door. "

The New 'McCarthyism' Exists, but It Has Nothing to Do with Ted Cruz - "if Arthur Miller were writing The Crucible today he would likely be less interested in effusive senators from Texas and more interested in the more modern pathologies that the Cruzes of the world tend typically to disdain. Presumably, Miller would look at our universities and our media, at our malleable “speech codes,” our self-indulgent “safe spaces,” our preference for “narrative” over truth, and at our pathetic appeasement of what is little more than good old-fashioned illiberalism, and he would despair. Ted Cruz, frankly, wouldn’t enter into his thinking... You will note, perhaps, that it is not Ted Cruz who is causing these problems. Quite the opposite, in fact... Judith Shulevitz offers up a bizarre story about a Brown University senior named Kathryn Byron who sought to involve the university’s authorities when she thought she might have to hear arguments that contradicted her beliefs... observers began nervously to suggest that the details [of the Rolling Stone rape story] didn’t quite add up, and to ask skeptical questions of the sourcing and its corroboration. For their trouble, they were accused of being “rape apologists.” Next, a number of conscientious reporters looked into the question, and they did not like what they found. For this diligence, they were slammed as “idiots” and “misogynists”...
what is important here is that we do not permit reality to “invalidate people’s experiences.” At its root, The Crucible is such a terrifying and illuminating piece of work not because it involves witches and because witches do not exist, but because it depicts the gradual victory of delirium over reason and of passion over truth"

Watch: CNN’ers having a hard time coming to terms with implosion of Rolling Stone’s rape story - "For CNN contributor Sunny Hostin, what is really important in this case is the Greater Cosmic Truth that exists independent of objective truth. She found it next to impossible to abandon the preconception to which she declared unflinching fealty all those months ago"

White Hot Harlots: A personal account of how call out culture has harmed teaching - "This isn’t an issue of hypocrisy. This is a matter of real, palpable fear. Saying anything that goes against liberal orthodoxy is now grounds for a firin’. Even if you make a reasonable and respectful case, if you so much as cause your liberal students a second of complication or doubt you face the risk of demonstrations, public call-outs, and severe professional consequences. My friends and colleagues might well agree that the student-teacher relationship ban is misguided, but they’re not allowed to say as much in public... Personally, liberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction. The same cannot be said of liberal students. All it takes is one slip—not even an outright challenging of their beliefs, but even momentarily exposing them to any uncomfortable thought or imagery—and that’s it, your classroom is triggering, you are insensitive, kids are bringing mattresses to your office hours and there’s a twitter petition out demanding you chop off your hand in repentance... we reasonably do not take any risks vis-a-vis momentarily upsetting liberal students. And so we leave upsetting truths unspoken, uncomfortable texts unread... This is what call out culture has begot. An academic climate where teachers are afraid to make students think, and where academics themselves are afraid to say a single word that bucks the status quo. Congrats, guys. You’ve won."

Why Northwestern investigated a professor for writing an essay about "sexual panic" - "Kipnis was cleared of wrongdoing. But by fusing the legal power of Title IX with the emotional debate over the campus culture wars, her experience brought together several trends that are troubling to many professors, free speech advocates, and others. The debate over her essays didn't end with petitions and protests, but extended to potential legal consequences. The fact that those consequences didn't materialize doesn't mean the debate is over."

The Man Who Has Eaten At Every Michelin 3-Star Restaurant Says The 'Jiro Dreams Of Sushi' Spot Is Not Worth The Hype - "While there’s no question that diners are eating some of the freshest and most perfectly prepared fish available, the meal is often rushed. The Michelin Tokyo Guide warns “don’t be surprised to be finished within 30 minutes.” That’s the equivalent of spending 1,000 Japanese Yen — or $10 — per minute... some people claim the service itself can be hit or miss at Sukiyabashi Jiro depending on who you are and who you’re with. Foreigners who don’t speak Japanese, known as gaijin, have a hard time getting a reservation at Sukiybashi Jiro in the first place and an even harder time being served. Since Chef Ono doesn’t speak English and his son speaks very little, their explanations and any diner questions or requests are often completely lost in translation. Bringing along a friend or guide who speaks fluent Japanese is not only highly recommended by every reviewer, but often necessary. Some reviewers even describe a hostile relationship between Chef Ono and foreigners, with some going so far as to claim discrimination"

How much longer can they satay? | The Economist - "The main problem is that Singaporeans have grown used to paying prices that the market can no longer bear. When the government moved the first generation of hawkers off the streets and into fixed locations with electricity, clean running water and regular hygiene inspections, it kept rents artificially low as an incentive. Roughly half of the 6,258 government-managed stalls pay rents as low as S$160 ($120.80) a month. The other half, however, must pay market rates, which can exceed S$4,100 a month. These stallholders must compete with each other on price. People will not pay S$8 for a bowl of fishball noodles that they can get for S$3 two stalls away. Some newer hawkers have turned to branding across multiple centres. This works well for foods such as fishballs and chicken rice that can be made in a central kitchen and then delivered to multiple stalls. It works less well for dishes such as char kway teow—Singapore’s hot mess of fat rice noodles, sausage, cockles and bean sprouts—that need a master at a wok. Some chefs have gone upscale: pasta, for baffling reasons, commands higher prices than Asian noodles. Others treat stalls as incubators, trying out their talents before taking the plunge and opening a restaurant... In 20 years’ time, a S$3 bowl of Teochew minced-meat noodles could be as hard to find as a free table at lunchtime."

Rola Misaki sex slave scandal: Japanese adult star denies deal with Chinese businessman - "The half-Russian half-Japanese adult video star achieved high popularity in China and was often compared to another former adult actress, Sola Aoi. At present, Rola Takizawa is a staff member at a high-end "delivery health" out-call establishment in Tokyo."

Roswell hoax: UFO researcher admits 'dead alien' picture was the mummified body of child - "Researcher Floren Cabrera de Teresa identified the images as those of a three or four-year-old mummified child kept at the Smithsonian Museum. He accused an unknown party of doctoring the images: "There are deep questions to ask of those who dare derail our search for the real disclosure of the existence of extraterrestrials," he told Mirror Online."
It's a coverup!


Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS118 - Live From Baruch College With Dr. Steven Novella:

"I had a friend of a friend who was kind of a professional, a troll for good, if you will.

And he spent, I don't know, at least a couple weeks hanging out with the 9/11 truther crowd, saying that he was making a documentary about how the 9/11 truther movement was created by the government to draw attention away from the actual conspiracy.

And he kept wanting to interview them.

They were like: "No no no. No. There isn't, we're not part of a conspiracy. They're the conspiracy". He was like, "That's exactly what you'd say. Duh!"

It drove them crazy."
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