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Saturday, April 30, 2016

First Cologne, Now Sweden: How Left-Wing Apologism Is Fueling Right-Wing Populism

First Cologne, Now Sweden: How Left-Wing Apologism Is Fueling Right-Wing Populism

"All over Europe, merely condemning right-wingers as bigots will neither quell popular fears nor win the argument. Liberals must look in the mirror. And then we must make some concessions.

Since reports of the Cologne attacks emerged over a week ago, accusations of police and government cover-ups have flourished in a kind of perfect storm of liberal conspiracy narratives. Sadly, it’s not hard to see why... an initial police press release claimed the night had “passed off peacefully.” Then, after revelations, days of insistence that there was no evidence for asylum seeker involvement followed, with Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker even branding any suggestion of refugee involvement “impermissible,” an internal police report emerged last Thursday. German magazine Der Spiegel claims to have seen the report and said it revealed that some of the attackers asserted they were Syrian refugees. One reportedly told an officer: “You have to treat me kindly. Mrs. Merkel invited me.” Another apparently ripped up residence papers in front of officers, shouting defiantly: “You can’t do anything to me. I can get a new one tomorrow”...

When political correctness reaches the point in which people are — never mind being afraid to express opinion — afraid to report police memos, then we know sanity has been left behind. This sort of obfuscation is dangerous not just because it makes detection of the actual perpetrators more difficult, but also because it is driving otherwise reasonable people away from the left and all too often into the arms of right-wing populism. Now, German police have publicly confirmed that more than half those questioned so far are indeed asylum seekers, and the right is doing its victory dances. Scroll down any comment thread and amidst the growing calls to leave the EU, you’ll find “Libtards” and “the left” named as the personae non gratae in this whole affair. And for American readers, understand, this is exactly the sort of thing that Trump and his cronies can seize on, a perfect “Europe is being cowed” cautionary tale. In the words of an anti-racist Cologne protester on Saturday: “It’s not good to ‘protect’ us, it just makes the racism worse.”

Frankly, we on the left must wake up and become more willing to describe the world as it is. To confront the fact, for example, that some dangerous undesirables will indeed have found their way into the EU amongst all the decent and deserving refugees. If not, we face the prospect of being ruled for the foreseeable future not only by those on the right who want to “stoke up anti-immigration rhetoric,” but also who will happily dismantle our public services. Right-wing populism finds a perfect ideological punchbag in a woolly liberalism that often fails to stand up for liberal principles... Channel 4 News broadcast an interview with a Tunisian refugee who said with a straight face: “It is not the fault of the refugees — the couple of refugees who were there, who might also be culprits. It’s the fault of the laws and bureaucracy in Germany that say you have to wait six months or one year for the day when you can find a legal job.” I’m sorry, what?

Recently, two activists I know freshly returned from work with migrants and admitted sheepishly to me that their time on the front line had led them to consider — briefly — that perhaps Germany should close its borders. They told me that most of the migrants they had seen were not actually refugees. And then they looked at me as though they expected I would roundly accuse them of being Nazis. Unsurprising, since nuance and pragmatism are frequently becoming trickier in the ideological battle trenches of the digital era. Perhaps because of the constant demand for brevity in tweets and Internet comment pieces, a popular, and often false, thought association ensues: if you think this, then you must also think that. Suppressing debate and dissent within the left itself, this phenomenon has become a kind of digital McCarthyism. And it is driving people away from the very political associations that would protect their public services and democratic rights. Suggest last week that any asylum-seeker sex attackers be deported, for example, and sit back and wait for the Hitler comparisons to be pelted at you faster than you can say “no platform.”"

Links - 30th April 2016

Heavy Mobile Device Use May Interfere With Children's Social, Problem Solving Skills - "while mobile device use by children can provide an educational benefit, the use of these devices to distract children during mundane tasks may be detrimental to the social-emotional development of the child. The researchers ask "If these devices become the predominant method to calm and distract young children, will they be able to develop their own internal mechanisms of self-regulation?""

Loss of Pigmentation Due to Scarring - "Hypopigmentation of areas of the skin often occurs after any sort of inflammation or injury to the skin, SkinSight.com explains. When the skin is damaged, the surrounding area often becomes inflamed as the body attempts to repair the damaged area. The inflammation can damage healthy cells, however, including melanocytes. Damaged melanocytes produce less melanin, which can result in hypopigmentation around any area which has become scarred... Although the hypopigmented skin around a scar may eventually regain its original pigmentation, the actual scar tissue may persist in having a different color than the surrounding skin. This is because scar tissue is different than normal skin and has no melanocytes"

NSA employee spied on nine women without detection, internal memo shows - "A National Security Agency employee was able to secretly intercept the phone calls of nine foreign women for six years without ever being detected by his managers, the agency's internal watchdog has revealed. The unauthorised abuse of the NSA's surveillance tools only came to light after one of the women, who happened to be a US government employee, told a colleague that she suspected the man – with whom she was having a sexual relationship – was listening to her calls. The case is among 12 documented in a letter from the NSA's inspector general to a leading member of Congress, who asked for a breakdown of cases in which the agency's powerful surveillance apparatus was deliberately abused by staff. One relates to a member of the US military who, on the first day he gained access to the surveillance system, used it to spy on six email addresses belonging to former girlfriends... it raises the possibility that there are many more cases that go undetected. In a quarter of the cases, the NSA only found out about the misconduct after the employee confessed... a woman employee of the agency confessed that she had obtained information about the phone of "her foreign-national boyfriend and other foreign nationals". She later told investigators she often used the NSA's surveillance tools to investigate the phone numbers of people she met socially, to ensure they were "not shady characters"."
Privacy is not needed. If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear!

UK sperm bank has just nine registered donors, boss reveals - "Scarcity in demand does not stop families being demanding, Witjens added. “We get asked for six-foot tall donors, when the average height is 5ft 7in in Britain, so you are effectively ruling out 90% of the donors. And they all want doctors or barristers, but the reality is the majority of those professionals have not got time. So you actually get young guys with flexible jobs.” Donors receive just £35 per session but Witjens said better advertising was key, not giving donors more money: “We might get more donors if we paid £50 or £100 per donation. But money corrupts. If you feel you can make £200 a week for four months, you might hide things about your health.”... “We can stop people having to go to Denmark where donors might have 150-200 offspring. Then it’s always a very real fear for the donor-conceived, running into a half-brother or sister.”"

No anonymity means less sperm donation in UK

3:38 - Parents report the man with an Arnold Schwarzenegger cardboard cutout in his window is making them nervous.

Fray Diego de Landa: A Contradiction - "Diego de Landa was tireless in his efforts to walk the entire Yucatán peninsula and spread the Catholic religion. He went where others would not go, and made it his mission to learn as much about the Mayan culture as he possibly could; probably with the motive that it would be easier to later destroy it. He was welcomed and esteemed at first, and the Mayan people showed him some of their sacred writings. But to Diego de Landa, the very fact that these writings existed was evidence of diabolical beliefs. He was relentless in the pursuit of his goal: to convert as many souls as possible and eliminate pagan practices, thereby allowing the Second Coming of Christ to arrive sooner. Many Mayas did not embrace the new religion, and in many cases continued to worship their own gods and idols. Diego de Landa chose a route of physical aggression and abuse, which was seen as excessive by other Catholic Church members. In 1562 he ordered an inquisition in Maní, burning at least 40 Mayan codices. Dozens of Mayan nobles and commoners were put in jail, interrogated, and tortured. The violence was such that many Mayas escaped into the forests to avoid the extreme abuse. Diego de Landa is believed to have said: “We found a large number of books, and as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction.”Fray Diego de Landa is famously known for his book “Relación de las Cosas de Yucatán,” written in 1566. It is speculated that he eventually repented of his cruelty and destruction of the Mayan people and their codices, and decided to write their history himself. The book is widely considered to be a complete and accurate summary of the Mayas and their culture, religion, and way of life. His intimate knowledge of the people and villages allowed him to describe their social organization and daily life in a way that no one else could do... Most ironically, some scholars believe that it is partly because of Fray Diego de Landa’s attempts to destroy Mayan culture that it had the opposite effect, and has survived to this day."

Neandertal–Human Trysts May Be Linked to Modern Depression, Heart Disease - "The researchers suggest that some Neanderthal genetic variants might have provided benefits in modern human populations as they first moved out of Africa thousands of years ago. However, those variants may have later become detrimental in modern, Western environments, the scientists said. One example is Neanderthal DNA that increases blood clotting; while this can help seal wounds and prevent germs from entering the body, it can also increase the risk for stroke, miscarriage and other problems, Capra said."

Parliament: Representation of Singapore's history is objective, says Grace Fu
Hurr hurr

Dating website reveals the age women are most attractive to men - "While the age of men that a woman finds sexually attractive, broadly speaking, increases with her own - a 20-year-old woman is attracted to a 23-year-old man; 30-year-old women are interested in 30-year-old men; and 50-year-old women are attracted to 46-year-old men - there's a change when the genders are flipped. Rudder says: "This isn’t survey data, this is data built from tens of millions of preferences expressed in the act of finding a date, and even from just following along the first few entries, the gist of the table is clear: a woman wants a guy to be roughly as old as she is." When it comes to women that men find sexually attractive, Ruddr's data shows that, while men at 20 go for women of the same age, men at 30 are also interested in women at 20. And at 40, men are interested in women at 21. At 50, the data reveals, men are interested in women of 22."

Dolphins hold secret of how to keep boats barnacle-free - Telegraph - "HIGHLY toxic paints that coat ships' hulls to stop them being fouled by marine organisms could soon be replaced with an environmentally friendly alternative copied from dolphin skin."

Are outdoor smoking bans scientifically justified? - "At distances larger than 2 m, levels near single cigarettes were generally close to background"

The Power of 'Good Enough' - "If you ever aren't sure if you attended the very best party or bought the very best computer, just settle for "good enough." People who do this are called "satisficers," and they're consistently happier, he's found, than are "maximizers," people who feel that they must choose the very best possible option. Maximizers earn more, Schwartz has found, but they're also less satisfied with their jobs. In fact, they're more likely to be clinically depressed in general. The reason this happens, as Schwartz explained in a paper with his Swarthmore colleague Andrew Ward, is that as life circumstances improve, expectations rise"
The downsides of perfectionism and never settling for less than perfect

How Singapore is fixing its meritocracy - "These policies may start to free up the institutional rigidities that hinder social mobility and restore a public sphere disenchanted by elitism, mistrust and envy. The polarization of the public sphere in the United States has to some extent been the result of such disenchantment. A much smaller and younger country, Singapore cannot afford to be paralyzed by permanent cleavages."

'Mental block' against Singapore food impossible to overcome: Violet Oon - "“The way that the hawker would actually survive, honestly, is maybe if they go to London, Paris or New York. Because there, they're judging as a dish compared to other dishes that they're used to paying for. They'll just judge it as a lovely dish.” Chef Violet Oon’s philosophy is that Singapore food – whether it’s hawker food, family recipes or well-loved landmark dishes – should be among cuisines at the top of the food chain. Singapore cuisine, said Oon, deserves the best treatment, environment and respect. For her, the recently-opened National Kitchen by Violet Oon at the National Gallery is a reflection of this...
Bharati Jagdish: Now we're in an era where half the world is bemoaning the loss of heritage food in Singapore. Everything from, say, rojak to char kway teow. And some of your fellow food aficionados have written books about this. What is your stance on it though?
Violet Oon: I actually try do it and not write about it. Let's say, I'm serving rojak in my restaurant. We're doing it the way it should be done, the way a lot of hawkers cannot afford to do. For example, our dried chilli, we actually soak it and grind it ourselves. A lot of hawkers have to buy it from the supplier. Now there are preservatives in that.
Bharati Jagdish: And why do hawkers have to do that? Because people are not willing to fork out money for hawker food, even for good hawker food and the hawker has to keep his costs down."

Priest holes, the secret rooms that were custom-built to hide your Catholic priest during the Protestant Reformation - "Secret rooms and hidden doors are generally considered features of haunted houses, but in 16th-century England, they were integral in keeping Catholic priests, and Catholicism itself, alive. With the Protestant Reformation ramping up and Catholicism under attack, a system of safe houses equipped with cleverly hidden “priest holes” kept fugitive clergymen safe from persecution."

Singapore women spend more than $200k on shoes in their lifetime: Survey - "a third of women in Singapore buy shoes to celebrate a success, while 49 per cent admit to rushing out to buy a pair when their pay cheque arrives. The size of the heels also speaks volumes about the image being portayed. While nearly one in three women in Singapore wear up to a two-inch heel, 44 per cent go higher for a job interview and more than 40 per cent increase their height to supermodel proportions for a date. It may be worth considering, since nearly a third of respondents (27 per cent) admit to forming their first impression of someone based on their shoes."

A Study on Fats That Doesn’t Fit the Story Line - NYTimes.com - "There was a lot of news this week about a study, published in the medical journal BMJ, that looked at how diet affects heart health. The results were unexpected because they challenged the conventional thinking on saturated fats. And the data were very old, from the late 1960s and early 1970s. This has led many to wonder why they weren’t published previously. It has also added to the growing concern that when it comes to nutrition, personal beliefs often trump science... more people died on the linoleic-acid-rich diets, although the results were not statistically significant. Even in a sensitivity analysis, which included more studies, no mortality benefit could be found with a diet lower in saturated fats."

Unexpected Honey Study Shows Woes of Nutrition Research - The New York Times - "Almost everything we “know” is based on small, flawed studies. The conclusions that can be drawn from them are limited, but often oversold by researchers and the news media. This is true not only of the newer work that we see, but also the older research that forms the basis for much of what we already believe to be true. I’m not ignoring blockbuster studies because I don’t agree with their findings; I’m usually just underwhelmed by what I can meaningfully conclude from them... The reason that we have to rely on small, poorly designed trials is because that’s often all we can get. Study after study has shown that people, even those trying to lose weight, cannot stick to diets for long periods of time. And that’s the research looking at highly motivated people who have taken it upon themselves to change what they eat. If they can’t stick to a certain regimen, how can we expect study participants, who aren’t as invested, to follow strict instructions for months at a time?... some of the most powerful research on nutrition comes from prisons or mental hospitals, where we can control what people eat more directly. But this comes with its own ethical concerns... The study on honey I discussed earlier was funded by the National Honey Board, and I’m guessing they weren’t thrilled with the result. When industry does fund research, people tend to view it with great skepticism anyway, making it a losing proposition."

The Ferguson Effect / Malay 'Oppression' in Malaysia

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, Black Lives Matter

"Our members don't have any aggression towards any race or ethnicity... Our members have aggression towards crime.

Some of the worst neighbourhoods in our country are a stone's throw from where we are right now. He's worried that Black Lives Matter fuels something that's been called the Ferguson effect. That's where officers, scared of being accused of racism, don't pursue the bad guys. The result: unsafe streets and higher crime...

[On Chugra {sp?} a band in Kuala Lumpur] Their email address contains the word 'Antichrist' and the numbers 666. The guitarist's T-shirt is covered with axes and a slogan about National Socialism. The lead singer's Facebook page is an odd mix of nostalgia for the pre-colonial sultantes, Holocaust denial and posts about Japan's glorious role in World War II. There are 14th century weapons and state flags with the logo 88. That's code in far right circles for "Heil Hitler", since H is the 8th letter of the alphabet. And for good measure there are some Malay Pride stickers decorated with swastikas.

Why though would young Malays want to take on the trappings of European Neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups from the US?

Jugra's [sp?] songs 'The Rise of our Race', 'Blood and Honour' and 'Snatch Back Our Rule' provide some clues.

'We're not treated with respect' says the vocalist Andika [sp?]. The others nod in agreement. What does that mean in practice? They fall silent for a moment, then talk of gangs of Indian men trying to pick fights at petrol stations or of being exploited by Chinese bosses. Ethnic Malays are the majority here, around 60% of the population... yet some Malays act as if they are a minority under siege. The mustachioed guitarist says he's worked for a long time as a bedroom furniture designer at a Chinese-owned company, but he's never got a salary rise. 90% of promotions go to their people first, he says...

[On the Bumiputra policy] this supposedly temporary measure is still going strong nearly 50 years later, but Andika isn't grateful. The stupid government just created more problems, he says. When you have special treatment, then people look down on you. They don't believe you can make it on your own.

Zairil Khir Johari one of Malaysia's youngest opposition politicians, believes what we calls a perverse inferiority complex has ingrained itself in the Malay psyche. Perverse, says Zairil, because it not only contradicts the sense of entitlement in the nationalist slogan Ketuanan Melayu or Malay Supremacy, but also because of the Malays' demographic dominance and their constitutionally enshrined privileges."

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bosnia and Memory / Gun Culture in America

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, A Man Dies Twice

"In Višegrad, it's as if the recent past never happened at all.

At the Muslim cemetery the local authority used an angle grinder to remove the word 'genocide' from the memorial to the dead. They also want to demolish a house where more than 60 people were burned alive by Serb militiamen.

The International War Crimes judge who sentenced 2 of the massacre leaders to life in prison remarked: "In all the long, sad and wretched history of man's inhumanity to man, Pionirska Street and Bikavac fires must rank high".

But when the international community carved out a peace deal in Bosnia, the Serbs were handed Višegrad and with it the right to control memory. The town now wishes to be seen as a tourist destination...

You would think, reading the news about guns in America, that everyone over here is locked and loaded at all times.

But even though there are just about as many privately owned guns as there are Americans, most Americans do not own a gun. Not even close. The best estimates are that only about a quarter of Americans own guns. It's not surprising then: the overwhelming majority of Americans tell pollsters they favor increased regulation of guns.

For instance, if I were to go to my local gun store to buy a gun, I'd have to produce identification and wait for a background check to make sure, among other things, I do not have a criminal record. Or, I could go to a gun show and buy one from a private citizen. No background check required.

Most Americans favor background checks for all gun sales. You would think, with that kind of overwhelming public support, such changes to gun laws would be an easy matter. But then, you don't understand how important money is in making laws in America.

The largest pro-gun group here is the National Rifle Association. Forget for a moment that overwhelming majorities even of its membership favor universal background checks. The NRA leadership staunchly opposes those or any other restrictions on gun owners. And they have the money to back it up. In the last 2 years the NRA has spent nearly $30 million lobbying lawmakers and contributing to their political campaigns. The money is spent telling gun owners that the government wants to take their guns away, and it works. Lawmakers are terrified of getting on the wrong side of the NRA. They've all seen candidates who got on the wrong side of the NRA and were defeated.

To give you some comparison about how effective the gun lobby is, consider this. In 1960 in America, guns killed about 16,000 people. Traffic accidents, on the other hand, killed more than twice that many. Through the 1970s and the 1980s, traffic deaths kept rising, reaching 50,000 a year. Americans were alarmed at that vehicular carnage and, over the strenuous objection of auto makers, one of America's signature industries, tough safety standards were enacted. Airbags, stronger frames, lower speed limits and more. And it worked. Even though the population has increased, the number of traffic deaths is lower than in the 1960s. Gun deaths, meanwhile, have almost doubled.

Guns now kill more Americans than traffic accidents. But so far, regulating guns has resisted similar legislative efforts, with Republicans, who are staunch NRA allies, firmly in control of both houses of Congress, any sort of meaningful tightening of gun laws seems unlikely. It's all about money.

If America were to limit the role money plays in electing public officials, a wide array of issues with wide public support would be dealt with. Anything from climate change, to healthcare, to guns"

Links - 29th April 2016

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, The Showdown Summit - "Successive British Prime Ministers have been openly dismissive, disparaging, even hostile at EU summits, playing to their Euroskeptic gallery at home, EU suits say knowingly, sotto voce, with a nod and a wink. But then in meeting rooms behind the garish stage curtains, we really do value you British, Spain's former minister for the EU told me. You have humour, a no-nonsense approach and you think outside of the boxes, he added, whispering that these virtues were not always so frequently found amongst other EU colleagues. We see Britain as a mother or a father figure in Europe, a politician in Angela Merkels' CDU party explained to me last week, and we can't imagine you leaving the family. Even though you're always clamouring for extrawurst he said. Extra sausage, you know. I think you call it cherry-picking . The UK always has to be the most special among EU equals"

My Name Got Me a Job! - "Research on the name pronunciation effect from the Journal of Experiential Social Psychology shows that easy-to-pronounce names are judged more positively than difficult-to-pronounce names... The popularity of a name also has an effect on how that person is perceived. A study by Marquette University found people with common names were more likely to be hired compared to those with unique or unusual names. Separate research by Mehrabian, A. & Piercy, M. (1993) also identified names that were unusual or that had unconventional spelling (e.g. Nicky as Nikki) were perceived by hiring managers as being less successful, less popular and even less cheerful than their traditional counterparts."
Given that minorities have less popular names (sometimes on purpose) and harder to pronounce names...

Burma’s Rohingya Muslims Targeted By Buddhist Mob Violence - "Paradoxically, democratic reforms have fed the jingoistic chorus. Over the past year, Burma’s new government has dialed back the heavy press and Internet censorship of the previous military regime, allowing journalists greater independence and web users nearly limitless access to sites. But freedom of speech has unleashed pent-up prejudices. Online forums contain rafts of posts referring to the Rohingya in expletive-filled terms, and Burmese newspapers have shown the Rohingya no quarter. Eleven, one of Burma’s largest-circulation newspapers, has focused its coverage of Rakhine State on slamming the Rohingya. Ho Than Hlaing, their correspondent in Sittwe, says the “Bengalis” living in relief camps are quarrelsome freeloaders who receive better care than displaced Buddhists—in fact, conditions in camps for the much smaller number of displaced Buddhists are markedly better than those in Rohingya camps, some of which are blocked by authorities from receiving international aid. The rhetoric has carried over into daily life. A recently launched campaign urges Burmese to only patronize shops that display “969” signs—a code referring to Buddhist teaching—in their storefronts"
When one Burmese person (who was condemning racism in Singapore) was asked what he thought about the plight of the Rohingya, he said: "the rohingya issue started with them demanding voting rights even though they are migrant refugees..it was denied..I'm sure you won't allow foreigners to vote here too..
The situation got worse when a girl was raped and murdered by a group of rohingyas in rural burma..the family of the murdered girl tracked down the group (notice only the perps yeah?) And gave them some mob justice..i understand 1 or 2 of the group died from their injuries..but of course the rohingya community started to say that they are targeted based on theit race/religion and incited others to take revenge..and that's where we are now..perhaps if you've been in the country for 21 years like I've been in singapore, you might know a little more of what ur talking abt... they are migrant refugees and at any point of time are subject to be sent back..sure the ruling junta is fucked up towards them..but they're fucked up towards burmese citizens too..at the end of the day, the girl is talking abt how she is treated by local population in general rather than the policies the govt imposes on her...don't get those 2 mixed up..if a rohingya was to say that they get less food at a shop, or get racial slurs used on them then sure we have a similar situation..otherwise don't mix up policies set in place by the corrupted govt and the way people treat each other.."

When Self-Censorship Norms Backfire: The Manufacturing of Positive Communication and Its Ironic Consequences for the Perceptions of Groups - "Do norms compelling self-censorship of negative communication work? An attributional analysis suggests that awareness of self-censorship norms causes people to be suspicious of other people’s positive communications about groups, thus causing the norms to backfire. Three studies tested this informational contamination hypothesis. Participants read stories in which they imagined that some friends’ conversations painted a particular fraternity in a good light. Results from all three studies revealed that when participants were exposed to a cue encouraging self-censorship—the presence of a member of the talked-about fraternity—this self-censorship norm backfired, instead leading them to talk disparagingly about the fraternity in a different context... Counterintuitively, those very things that are intended to discourage negative stereotypes can in fact end up leading to their increase. Just as the direct command of a business authority figure to engage in a consensual behavior can lead people to reject the behavior (Conway & Schaller, 2005), self-censorship cues can ultimately lead to more communication of the censored belief... it may help us better understand why social movements like political correctness do not appear to be entirely succeeding"
Self-censorship to prevent offence doesn't work

North Carolina governor wants to change 'anti-gay' law - "Major companies such as Bank of America and Apple have criticised the law and others vowed to curtail their businesses in the state because of it.
The fallout included:
Pay Pal dropped plans to open an operations centre in the state that would have employed about 400 people
Deutsche Bank stopped plans to add 250 jobs to the state
Rock singer Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro
A TV production for the streaming service Hulu relocated to Canada
Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau said five groups have cancelled conventions with 16 others considering"
Should companies boycott countries that are anti-gay? If boycotting anti-gay institutions is alright, how about boycotting pro-gay ones?

Why can’t world leaders ever admit they were wrong? - "when political leaders admit error, however, that’s a moment that can cause even pure partisans to doubt their loyalties. And although opponents of that political leader might be happy to see that kind of candor, they are not going to switch their vote just because a president they dislike acknowledged being wrong. So from a political perspective, even if a leader knows that he or she is wrong, a public admission of error generates zero political upside and risks alienating one’s base. But what about someone like Putin, who operates in a more authoritarian political system? Actually, the incentive not to admit error is even stronger in these countries. Authoritarian or semi-authoritarian leaders always have to worry about civil uprisings, and will go to great lengths to communicate that all is well and that they are super-competent leaders. That is part and parcel of how they stay in power and demoralize any opposition into believing that resistance is futile. Even memes that mock authoritarian leaders can be viewed as a political threat."

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Pornography and the Internet - "[On pornography normalising certain sexual behaviors] Is it the case then that these young people are completely living in a bubble? Because it seems to me that young people could look at, for example, the beheadings of people on the internet and they could go: Oh. it's normal to go around beheading people, I must go and do that. They could look at a whole range of violent imagery and say: Oh, I'm going to go and shoot everyone. Oh look everyone's taking heroin, I'll take it...
[On the idea that the Sun should not have Page 3 because of the message it sends to kids] On my way to Broadcasting House this evening... I saw a number of women wearing miniskirts or T-shirts, whatever. I'm sure if I was a 13 or 14 year old boy I would have looked at those women - reasonably scantily clad - and it would have formed certain thoughts in my mind in terms of my own desire, in terms possibly the availability of women, in terms possibly the message those women were subliminally sending me about their own status. Is that an argument for saying that women should cover themselves up?... if there's a harm associated with it, if it's leading young men to misunderstand, to think women are sex objects?"
Ahh, the monkey see monkey do theory of human behavior

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Food and Nostalgia - "90% of what we call taste is really smell. So for instance if you hold your nose and eat chocolate, it tastes just like chocolate has no taste at all. If you hold your nose and eat and an apple and onion or carrot and potato, they taste the same... the quickest way to induce recall of a pianist (?) quicker than with any other sensory modality, is with smell, because the part of the brain that we think smell or the olfactory lobe is actually part of the limbic system or the emotional brain. So you smell a smell and you need to decide: I like it or I don't like it. And then you figure out what it is... which is totally different than all the other sensory spheres. For instance you see a picture of a cow or tree or horse, you identify t, and then you decide if you like it or not. With smell it's the exact opposite. It's a pure affect of our emotional sense. And hence when you have memories for food, emotions are laid down concurrent with those memories. So when you're eating food you're not just eating food that you're tasting or smelling at that time, you're eating all the memories that are associated with that food... What odours made people nostalgic for their childhood. We looked at 989 people from 49 states and 39 countries. We found the Number One odour that made people nostalgic for their childhood was that of baked goods but after that it depended upon where you grew up and when you grew up. So if you grew up in the East Coast of the United States, the smell of flowers... in the South, it was the smell of fresh air. In the Midwest it was the smell of farm animals. In the West Coast it was the smell of meat cooking or meat barbequing. And it depended on your country of origin as well. from England, they described fish and chips. From Africa, many people described the smell of maize. From Scandinavia, herring. From Canada, from Quebec, something called tourtière, a meat pie like substance. So what we found is that your nostalgia for childhood... is so often the food you're exposed to as a child."

Can the Pedestrian Be at Fault in a Car-Pedestrian Accident? - AllLaw.com - "imagine a driver was operating a vehicle while intoxicated. A pedestrian, who has a "Walk" signal, enters an intersection while texting. The driver’s vehicle hits the pedestrian, causing injuries. The pedestrian sues the driver, and the jury determines that the driver was 75% at fault for the accident while the pedestrian was 25% at fault (because an alert pedestrian could have seen the driver coming and avoided the accident). The pedestrian's total damages (medical bills, lost income, etc.) amount to $10,000. In states that follow a "pure comparative negligence" rule, the pedestrian's damages award would be reduced to $7,500, or the total award minus 25%, which accounts for the pedestrian's share of the fault."
Victim blaming!

Thomas Friedman's answer to What should be done to promote peace in Middle East? - Quora - "I wish I could tell you I see any way, but other than in Tunisia I really don't... right now, other than Tunisia, it seems that, as an Israeli analyst once pointed out, there are now just two governing paradigms in the regime: SISI and ISIS. Sisi or the Islamic State."

Cafe owner ordered to remove extractor fan in case smell of frying bacon offends passing Muslims - "Planning bosses acted against Beverley Akciecek, 49, after being told her next-door neighbour's Muslim friends had felt 'physically sick' due to the 'foul odour'. Councillors at Stockport Council in Greater Manchester say the smell from the fan is 'unacceptable on the grounds of residential amenity'."

Pedestrians with right of way 'must still share responsibility' - "Even if the lights are in their favour, pedestrians still have to check for oncoming traffic. This was held in a rare 2-1 Court of Appeal decision in which the Chief Justice dissented. Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice Quentin Loh, who were in the majority, explained their reasoning by highlighting a Highway Code rule that requires pedestrians to be on the alert. "Pedestrians should take charge of their own safety," the court said in judgment grounds issued on Thursday, and decided the injured victim in the case before it was 15 per cent to blame despite having the right of way."
Singapore has a car accident culture! Victim blaming!

Film and race: How racially skewed are the Oscars? | The Economist - "as our analysis of film casts and awards shows, the number of black actors winning Oscars in this century has been pretty much in line with the size of America's overall black population. But this does not mean Hollywood has no problems of prejudice. As the data show, it clearly does... The numbers indicate that, whereas the film industry most certainly fails to represent America’s diversity, the whitewashing occurs not behind the closed doors of the Academy, but in drama schools (shown in the SAG membership) and casting offices. For most of the past 15 years, the Academy has largely judged what has been put in front of them: minority actors land 15% of top roles, 15% of nominations and 17% of wins. Once up for top roles, black actors do well, converting 9% of top roles into 10% of best-actor nominations and 15% of the coveted golden statuettes, a bit above their share of the general population."

Transgendered people and National Service

Transgender woman facing military service as a man can stay in UK

"A transgender woman has been granted sanctuary in the UK to protect her from doing compulsory military service as a man in Singapore.

In the first case of its kind, two judges ruled that she should not be forcibly returned to her home country, where she would be forced to do two weeks of military service a year for the next eight years...

She completed military service as a man in Singapore between December 2001 and June 2004 and has said she felt uncomfortable when serving with men.

Women in Singapore, including transgender women who have undergone reassignment surgery, are not expected to participate in military service. The student has been living as a woman for the past 10 years but has decided against having the full gender reassignment procedure and would therefore face calls to serve."

There was a trans gendered person in my camp. The person was PES E and got to stay out.

They give gay guys PES C and they get to stay out too - for similar reasons.

This is to protect transgendered and gay men from the other soldiers, rather than vice versa.

Interesting question: would it be good to make gay men do full NS? Today gay men are not downgraded unless they declare that they are gay, so gay men actually have the best of both worlds.

"She completed military service as a man in Singapore between December 2001 and June 2004 and has said she felt uncomfortable when serving with men"

If I am uncomfortable when serving with Malays, or uncomfortable sharing a toilet with a transgendered person, what would people say?

A Doctor who has served in the SAF: There are several factors involved.

There is some evidence that in all-male fighting units, the presence of a homosexual has a negative effect on unit morale. This directly affects combat effectiveness.

Further, as noted, a lot of them suffer from social rejection which leads to a much higher risk of psychological issues. A risky proposition for people handling weaponry.

As Gabriel noted, there is also significant risk of teasing. Not only might this lead to psychological distress, it might also result in the dreaded Complaint Letter or even Parents' Complaint Letter


Previously, a lower court had ruled (regarding this person) that there was no evidence of systematic discrimination against LGBTs in Singapore.

The later judgment seemed to revolve around national service - not the environment for LGBTs in general in Singapore.

No UK asylum for cross-dressing Singaporean

"It was noted that since 2004, he had presented himself, behaved and socialised as a female in Britain. In 2009, the man, who considers himself a "transgendered lesbian", changed his name by a legal deed poll to a female one, which he used in his most recent 2012 Singapore passport...

He had argued that under Singapore law, he could not officially change his gender to female because he had not undergone a sex change and did not plan to.

And that could subject him to "inhumane and degrading treatment", as he would not be able to live openly as a woman because his identity documents would show he is male. He would also have to serve his reservist obligations, despite finding his national service (NS) between 2001 and 2004 very distressing.

The Singaporean produced a "legal opinion" by lawyer M. Ravi which painted Singapore as "a comparatively conservative country"...

Judge White, while agreeing that the appellant would be unable to live officially as a woman in Singapore, said there were laws here to protect the person from harassment.

He pointed out that no direct evidence of the Singaporean's friends being abused or assaulted because of gender bias, or of any systematic discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in general, was presented.

He also noted that there was a possible gradual change in attitudes in Singapore towards the LGBT community, which was "not entirely underground".

As for the man's claim that he would not be able to marry as a female to another woman, Judge White pointed out that "many, if not most, of the countries in the world do not give official recognition to same-sex unions".

Judge White accepted the Singaporean's problems with NS and that the two weeks of reservist training each year would also be "distressing and difficult".

On the other hand, the man had given evidence of how some of his own friends and acquaintances were able to "stick it out" during reservist training.

"It had not, in other words, been so harsh for them as to be unendurable," said Judge White.

He ruled that the man failed to show he was at risk of such a level of harm or prejudice that would entitle him to asylum in Britain."

Joshua Chiang critiques Privilege Theory

Via Joshua Chiang - Because she was oppressed by facts. Not sure if... (I do not think the other person's comments are very interesting and anyway you can tell what they are by Joshua's responses):

"I have always, even before she came on the scene, made it clear there is Chinese hegemony which whether intentionally or not makes the system benefit Chinese people more. In fact when I was CE of TOC I felt it was an important angle to write about and had - though unsuccessfully - tried to rope in Malay and Indian writers to write about their experiences. What I had disagreed right from the start is the rhetoric of privilege and the obnoxious white-knighting ways in which Adeline Koh came along and told everyone else to shush - which reflects the very problem of privilege rhetoric in that its proponents find it very easy to deflect any valid crictisms as people speaking from a privileged position. Without realising they are using their scholarly 'privilege' to shut discourse.

Two - just because we are having this conversation, and only because I give a shit, doesn't mean that a lot of people are. What they are discussing however is how obnoxious Sangeetha is. I'm sorry to say that if she had any issues and agenda to champion, she has pretty much derailed it and made it only about her."

""A critical change is whether the issue is being discussed or not at all - and right now, more people are starting to try and understand what the fuss is all about. This, believe it or not, is progress."

Just like how Sept 11 got everyone talking about terrorism and the West's culpability in meddling in the Middle East?"

"My main objection has always been on using 'privilege' theory as a form of advocacy and Sangeetha being a terrible advocate. You think her style has led to some progress even in the discourse, I beg to differ. If anything she is totally unreliable as someone you can trust or work with; the penchant of her judging who should be her 'allies' and then turning against them is the stuff of legend among civil society circles now.

And again, you make the assumptions that we know very little of the 'unknown-knowns', since TOC days, we've already known how thick skulls are with regards to stubborn resistance to change on a whole range of issues. The whole of Singapore is NOT ready to abolish DP. It is NOT ready for LGBTQ rights. It is NOT ready for Migrant Workers' right. Heck it is NOT even ready to consider a day without the PAP.

So how? Scream and shout oppression at every damn thing? Do you see an LGBTQ advocate going around scolding straight people for 'het privilege'?"

"Dude. Don't assume. Because I can get started on your non-colorblind privilege. And then we can compete on who experiences more oppression on a daily level... Do not even assume I am not offended by your constant assumptions of my experiences... The moment u start talkimg about pain, u begin to assume I have never experienced some form of daily "oppression"... Also do not forget your experiences even if they are a result of institutionalized racism is not a universal experience - I've spoken to minorities who don't feel the way you do. So how? It doesn't mean institutionalized racism doesnt exist but we can't take your pain as a yardstick to action. And when u start making your pain the most important thing in this discussion and start going into things like oh go and be academic with people who lost a child, you are being offensive to my experiences of losing someone and knowing what it is to lose someone. I seldom bring these up because we are talking about ideas and whether this and that work. Not our own subjective pain."

"i think u need to a) check ur binary thinking b) stop mansplaining what is privilege as if I never did my research (you on the other hand appear not to know any of the criticisms against privilege theory) and c) find a safe space if you think discussing on an academic level is very triggering."

"You also need to check the microaggression. Don't forget i am technically disabled because of my color blindness."

"the only reason why you can't even address my points on grounds of logic IS because privilege theory and rhetoric has no legs to stand on. At the end the only position you can take is that of righteous outrage based on some assumed 'victim/oppressor' relationship we have and claiming my moral inferiority to yours based on the 'privilege' I have in making statements you claim offence at, claiming some pain in the unique position you know I cannot reasonably say to experience but at best approximate because hey, I am HUMAN and I know what it is like to feel hurt, rejected, insulted etc.

THAT is the shaky ground in which privilege theory has made you stand on. This chasm that I have been trying to build a bridge across but you steadfastly refuse to close because you want to claim the moral high ground that privilege theory offers you.

It's bullshit and I am sick of it.

And I'm OFFENDED. I'm offended because folks like us, we do our best to right the wrongs which we had no part in, but we're never good enough. Boy did we listen, did we listen hard, but fuck. You're just not happy unless you get some bleeding confession of guilt some fucking pound of flesh. And guess what? At the end, we folks will stand up for you - and do not presume there is no personal cost in sticking our necks out, sometimes further than what you do for yourself, and yet you'll still call us oppressors by virtue of the color of our skin, unless we acknowledge to some intellectually bankrupt theory.

But I don't think you know how that feels. This pain. Even though I'm pretty sure you know what being wronged feels like. Because hey, you're a minority. You cannot feel what I feel, right?

And since according to the same theory and reasoning, anger is a legit response, then here's my most legit response. FUCK YOU. FUCKING FUCK YOU."

"my exasperation has nothing to do with my race or yours. When we have a discourse, the only tools we bring to the table are our knowledge and our brains. Whatever class, race, gender advantage you or I have over each other, that exists in the real world, they have an impact on our lives, that's true, I have never denied that. But here, my IQ, yours, my knowledge, yours, it is not coloured by race. It should not even be coloured by experience. A discussion on a theory based in social science, however hard to empirically study compared to physical science, need necessarily be based also on more or less logical principles.

I lay it on the table, why I think privilege theory is a very bad articulation of social facts that we can agree on. You did not address the issue. You did not give me reasons why you think it is a good theory, or better than a lot of existing theories out there that studies the power relationships between groups of people, e.g. Foucault's theory of hegemony.

Instead you keep bringing the privilege card whenever you can. And then you think it's some kind of truimph when I let loose my exasperation and you're like 'hey that is exactly how we feel everyday in a racist world!" Wow. Breaking news. Like none of us have ever done thought experiments before. Like you cannot bloody see the reason why we want to make things better is because we know this anger this injustice and it is unconsciensable. But see where this goes? Nowhere. I keep saying, I see your point, I feel your burn. Do you see mine? Do you recognise the frustration of being judged everyday as some oppressor merely by the color of our skin? Maybe the injury you suffer from is a left hook to the face. The one I get is punch to the stomach. Different places, same hurt.

So we do have things in common. Pain. And the desire to improve things. But all I'm getting from you is - NO HEAR ME ROAR HEAR MY PAIN MY PAIN IS MOST IMPORTANT. Well, then where were you when I was standing alone against the police and MCYS officers taking a real risk of being arrested for getting in the way of police procedures because they want to evict a group of homeless Malays and Indians - OPPRESSED MINORITIES - from the beach?"

"you simply have no end goal, because privilege theory doesn't propose any. It's just this fuzzy thing that you think describes your situation, from your perspective, without consideration of the perspective of those you frame 'oppressors'. And instead of seeing how we can bridge that gap with those who want to, you just stand on your pedestal and shout "you won't understand one!" "

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Being Racist by Pointing Out Racism

So-called anti-racism activists like to incredulously complain that pointing out racism is considered racist.

Well, there's a racist way to point out racism, and a non-racist way to point out racism.

Consider the two following examples:

Person A: "I applied for a job requiring you to speak Chinese. I am a Malay who speaks Chinese. I was rejected because I am Malay. Singaporean Chinese are all racist scum. They are all immigrants who should go home anyway. Better yet, they should all be sent to the gas chamber!"

Person B: "I applied for a job requiring you to speak Chinese. I am a Malay who speaks Chinese. I was rejected because I am Malay. I was a victim of racism. I am not the only non-Chinese person to which this has happened"

Person A and Person B are both pointing out racism, but clearly one is racist and the other is not (unless you adopt the whole "racism = power + privilege" doublespeak, but that's another story).

Links - 28th April 2016

Belgian intensive care doctors back involuntary euthanasia - "The Society also says that intensive care doctors should inform relatives of a decision to euthanase a patient, but it does not instruct them to ask for the relatives’ permission. The policy applies to both adults and children. Furthermore, patients do not have to be suffering; “Shortening the dying process” can actually enhance death, the statement says. The statement concludes by reassuring intensive care doctors that what they are doing is “not be interpreted as killing but as a humane act to accompany the patient at the end of his/her life... doctors need to be able to give lethal injections to shorten lives which are no longer worth living, even if the patients have not given their consent. “The first purpose of medicine is to restore or maintain health, that is, the well-being of the individual, not life at all costs,” he wrote. ”
The slippery slope has already slipped

Belgian Doctors Are Euthanizing Patients Without Their Consent - "A study published this month in the Journal of Medical Ethics examined the “deliberate” euthanasia of patients in Belgium without their explicit, voluntary consent as required by law. The study’s author, Raphael Cohen-Almagor, a professor of philosophy and ethics at the United Kingdom's Hull University, found that life-ending drugs were used “with the intention to shorten life and without explicit request” in 1.7 percent of all deaths in Belgium in 2013. In 52.7 percent of these cases, the patients were 80 years of age or older. The decision to euthanize was not discussed with the patient in 77.9 percent of the cases because he/she was comatose, had dementia, or “because discussion would have been harmful to the patient’s best interest,” according to the study... A 2010 research study conducted in Flanders revealed that only one out of every two euthanasia cases was reported to Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee because most non-reporting physicians did not view the active hastening of their patients’ deaths as euthanasia. Unreported cases were also generally handled less carefully than reported cases and “the lethal drugs were often administered by a nurse alone, not by a physician,” the study noted. “Whether deliberately or not, the physicians were disguising the end-of-life decision as a normal medical practice,” Cohen-Almagor pointed out."

Your Brain on Sugar - "Is sugar worse for you than, say, cocaine? According to a 2012 article in the journal Nature, it's a toxic substance that should be regulated like tobacco and alcohol."

Sugar is 'addictive and the most dangerous drug of the times' - Telegraph - "Paul van der Velpen, the head of Amsterdam's health service, the Dutch capital city where the sale of cannabis is legalised, wants to see sugar tightly regulated. "Just like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is actually a drug. There is an important role for government. The use of sugar should be discouraged. And users should be made aware of the dangers," he wrote on an official public health website. "This may seem exaggerated and far-fetched, but sugar is the most dangerous drug of the times and can still be easily acquired everywhere.""

Sugar Cravings Can Be Treated—Because Sugar Addiction Is Like Any Other Drug Addiction - "If you feel bad because you simply can't help eating that next cookie, don't. Scientists have found that drugs used to treat nicotine addiction could also be used to treat sugar addiction. By treating sugar cravings as we treat other drug addictions, we can reduce sugar consumption significantly. Viewed this way, trying to quit cake and soft drinks unsupported seems as ridiculous as quitting cigarettes or alcohol by going cold turkey. A new study from the Queensland University of Technology used varenicline to treat sugar addiction. Varenicline is usually used to treat nicotine addiction, and is sold under the brand names Chantix and Champix. It does this by stimulating the body's nicotine receptors, but more weakly than nicotine. The Queensland team found that it also works to reduce sugar cravings."

Paris attacks: Visiting Molenbeek, the police no-go zone that was home to two of the gunmen - "Molenbeek has been connected to almost all of Belgium’s terrorism-related incidents in recent years... Brice De Ruyver, who spent eight years as security adviser to then-Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, said Molenbeek suffers from a cocktail of problems. “Youths are poorly educated, attracted by petty crime, have run-ins with police, and then there is a vicious circle, which leads to recruitment by radical groups,” he said, adding that the problems are now so serious, that it is hard to find police willing to bother tackling them. “We don’t officially have no-go zones in Brussels, but in reality, there are, and they are in Molenbeek.”"
Perhaps no-go zones are myths only in that they don't officially exist

Muslim ‘No-Go Zones’ In Europe? - "A motorcyclist and a truck then zipped ahead of us and boxed us in on a nearby highway. Sitting in the car’s front passenger seat, I was accosted and threatened by four young thugs. The city rep pleaded with them, telling them I was a visiting sociologist. They responded first with threatening comments and then by throwing a piece of concrete the size of a football through the back window. Luckily no on was injured, and they let us leave after the intimidating incident had concluded. I provided the mayor’s office with audio, video, and still photographs of the thugs and their license plates. I have kept quiet about this incident for ten months in the hopes that the French judicial system would function. As of today, however no one has been apprehended, no charges have been filed, and to my knowledge, no real investigation ever took place. This incident was the great exception to my 28 other visits to predominantly Muslim areas in Australia, North America, and Western Europe. In all of these places – call them ZUS (French: Zones Urbaines Sensibles, or Sensitive Urban Zones): I “went” without problems, traveling sometimes alone, sometimes not, in an anonymousrental car during daylight hours wearing normal Western casual male clothing – not in a police uniform, a priest’s habit, skimpy clothing, or with a kippa... I earlier strolled through Rinkeby, a notorious district of Stockholm, on a November 2014 afternoon without encountering so much as a hostile stare; yet a local policeman has testified in reference to Rinkeby that, “If we’re in pursuit of a vehicle, it can evade us by driving to certain neighborhoods where a lone patrol car simply cannot follow because we’ll get pelted by rocks and even face riots. These are no-go zones. We simply can’t go there.” How to reconcile these experiences? My visits establish that non-Muslim civilians can usually enter majority-Muslim areas without fear. But things look very different from the governmental point of view. On a routine basis, firefighters, ambulance workers, and even social workers meet with hostility and violence. For example, days after I visited the Marseille slum, its residents shot at police preparing for a visit by the prime minister of France. Thus does it and its ilk represent a no-go zone for police, a place which government representatives enter only when heavily armed, in convoys, temporarily, and with a specific mission... Whether or not Molenbeek, Rinkeby, and the Marseilles slum are no-go zones, then, depends on what aspect one choses to emphasize – their acessibility to ordinary visitors at ordinary times or their inaccessibility to government officials in times of tension. There are also no-go gradations, some places where attacks are more frequent and violent, others less so. However one sums up this complex situation – maybe partial-no-go zones? – they represent a great danger."

Why few child prodigies grow up to be geniuses - "Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn't suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted - as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee. What holds them back is that they don't learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make new... The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule. Creativity may be hard to nurture, but it's easy to thwart. By limiting rules, parents encouraged their children to think for themselves. They tended to "place emphasis on moral values, rather than on specific rules", Harvard psychologist Teresa Amabile reports. Even then, though, parents didn't shove their values down their children's throats... Top concert pianists didn't have elite teachers from the time they could walk; their first lessons came from instructors who happened to live nearby and made learning fun. Mozart showed interest in music before taking lessons, not the other way around. Mary Lou Williams learnt to play the piano on her own; Itzhak Perlman began teaching himself the violin after being rejected from music school. Even the best athletes didn't start out any better than their peers... Since Malcolm Gladwell popularised the "10,000-hour rule" suggesting that success depends on the time we spend in deliberate practice, debate has raged about how the number of hours necessary to become an expert varies by field and person. In arguing about that, we've overlooked two questions that matter just as much. First, can't practice itself blind us to ways to improve our area of study? Research reveals that the more we practise, the more we become entrenched - trapped in familiar ways of thinking. Expert bridge players struggled more than novices to adapt when the rules were changed; expert accountants were worse than novices at applying a new tax law. Second, what motivates people to practise a skill for thousands of hours? The most reliable answer is passion - discovered through natural curiosity or nurtured through early enjoyable experiences with an activity or many activities... Relative to typical scientists, Nobel Prize winners are 22 times more likely to perform as actors, dancers or magicians; 12 times more likely to write poetry, plays or novels; seven times more likely to dabble in arts and crafts; and twice as likely to play an instrument or compose music... "Love is a better teacher than a sense of duty," [Einstein] said."

Do heads of government age more quickly? Observational study comparing mortality between elected leaders and runners-up in national elections of 17 countries- "Election to head of government is associated with a substantial increase in mortality risk compared with candidates in national elections who never served."

Studies Suggest Men Handle Pain Better - "Study after study has shown that men have a higher tolerance for pain than women... "The gender-sexual-male macho thing is clearly not the only explanation for sex differences in pain," he says, because even motivated women are not better equipped to deal with pain. "If gender is playing a major role it may not be based on motivation (like the need to protect the male image.) There may be another path"... sex hormones like estrogen play a big part in how we react to pain. That finding helps explain how women, the so-called weaker sex, can deal with the excruciating pain of childbirth"

Maternity Leave: How much time off is healthiest for babies and mothers? - "very long leaves have an economic and professional downside for women, and at best a neutral effect on children. So it’s not simply that more time off is better. Rather, certain amounts of leave may give the biggest bang, while longer periods of leave may yield diminishing returns, at best... paid leave of about 40 weeks saved the most lives. (After that point, according to Ruhm, “there may even be some partial reversal of those gains”)... One study tracked Norwegian children who were born after 1977, when that country increased its paid leave from zero to four months and its unpaid leave from three to 12 months, and found that the kids born after the change had lower high school dropout rates. Military draft data, moreover, tied lengthened leaves to increases in male IQ (and height, too)."

‘Game of Thrones’ Creators Explain Why Queen Elizabeth Refused the Iron Throne - "“No, she’s not allowed to,” explained Benioff on Wednesday’s Late Night with Seth Meyers. “Apparently, the Queen of England is not allowed to sit on a foreign throne, so this is an esoteric rule we didn’t know about until that moment. It looks like we’re saying, ‘Don’t touch, Queen’”... the creators also joked about how nervous their cast members are when they call them on the phone—you know, given the show’s penchant for knocking people off willy-nilly. “The call of death is always a mutual thing,” said Weiss. “If it’s David or Dan they might be OK, and if it’s David and Dan, it’s not good.” “Sometimes we’re just calling to say, ‘Hey, do you guys want to come out for dinner?’ but as soon as they get that phone call they think we’re calling to say, ‘You’re dead,’ like it’s the Grim Reaper on the line,” added Benioff."

ST’s decision not to publish Lee Wei Ling’s commentary escalates into family feud - "If “HL” is who we think LWL is referring to, it is probably the first time that someone has criticised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as a “dishonorable son”."

Stanford research: Political animosity exceeds racial hostility - "Democrats and Republicans are increasingly polar opposites – their political biases spill over into their social lives. Along party lines and ideology, more than even race or religion, Americans are distrustful of those who are not politically similar... "We were particularly surprised at the extent to which party politics has become a litmus test for interpersonal relations. Marriage across party lines is extremely rare"... negative stereotypes of the other party have intensified and that political affiliation is now a relevant cue for non-political decisions. Partisans are much more likely today to express reservations over the prospect of a son or daughter marrying across party lines, the study noted. Evidence from online dating sites demonstrates that even though people are far from transparent about their politics, ideology is nonetheless a powerful predictor of the dating decision... Both Democrats and Republicans selected their in-party scholarship candidate about 80 percent of the time even when the candidate from the other party had stronger academic credentials. In another study, the researchers asked 800 people to play a "trust" game, in which player 1 is given some money and told that she can give some, all, or none of it to player 2. The researchers found that race didn't matter – but party affiliation did. People gave significantly larger amounts when they were playing with someone who shared their party group identity. Iyengar suggested that – unlike race, gender or other social divides where attitudes and behavior are constrained by social norms of civility and tolerance – there are no similar pressures to temper disapproval of political opponents. People feel free to say bad things about their political opponents, he said. "If anything, the rhetoric and actions of political leaders demonstrate that hostility directed at the opposition is acceptable, even appropriate"... He said he believes that increasing political collegiality will require significant social interventions that enhance the political heterogeneity of neighborhoods and friendship groups. "What we need is greater personal contact between Republicans and Democrats""
And yet some people are still so obsessed by racism instead of what truly divides people. And continue to mercilessly and mindlessly bash "bigots", thus showing themselves to be the true bigots

Divining Sangeetha Thanapal's Motivations

A post that's been removed from Wake Up, Singapore:

"Dear Sangeetha, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.


As a self-proclaimed 'Anti Racism Social Media Activist', it is truly astounding how you turn away the very people who can remedy the situation you endlessly expound upon.

Sangeetha and her rants have been making their rounds around social media these days quite often. Yes, racism snd does exist to an extent it may even be institutionalised, but that is no excuse for slamming the majority - especially those like the person in the exchange below who is seeking to do their bit to remedy the situation.

Sangeetha, you argue that the majority of Singaporeans are racist. From your actions over the past years, I think you are no less racist then those who you accuse. It's simply ridiculous how you claim to be a 'social media activist' yet you expose your incredibly thin-skin whenever critics arise.

I don't know if what you want to achieve by shutting the conversation is simply some 'safe spaces' and/or circlejerk. If that's the case, you shouldn't be fronting these heated issues in the first place. If anything, you're a radical for not wanting to engage naysayers, not an activist.

Sangeetha, you're the epitome of a paradoxical creature. I thank you for raising some of these issues (although I highly doubt your claims that you were the first to surface them) but I think right now, you're doing way more harm then good for the cause. Ideally, you should be encouraging debates and not building echo chambers.

And, by the way, twisting facts won't get you anywhere too. (http://gssq.blogspot.sg/…/fact-checking-sangeetha-thanapals…)

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And don't forget to take your SJW antics along with you on your way out too."

This was a response to a public thread on Sangeetha's Facebook.

And it is very telling:

Chee Siong Zhixiang: "what can be done about it?"

Sangeetha Thanapal: "Not coming here derailing and expecting minorities to come up with solutions for a problem u and ur ancestors created would be one way.

Like seriously, what kind of a person sees a minority expressing their pain and exhaustion at living here, and thinks THIS is a good time to parrot some bullshit about action. A person lacking in basic decency and compassion, that's who. This isn't a space for Chinese pple to come and mouth off. This is a space for minorities. If you don't know how to support us, shush and leave us alone."

A Chinese asks how he can help, and in return he gets flamed.

The allegedly racist state has now somehow become the fault of individual Chinese and their "ancestors". Since Sangeetha presumably doesn't know anything about Chee Siong Zhixiang (much less about his ancestors), it is telling that she is blaming him and his ancestors for everything that is wrong with this world. This certainly qualifies as racism on her part.

And given that Chee seems to be sympathetic to Sangeetha and wants to combat Chinese "racism" in Singapore, yet immediately gets tarred with this marvelously broad brush, this is a good example of the Contempt in which "Allies" are held by "Minorities".

Curiously, we note that for a self-proclaimed "Writer & Anti Racism Social Media Activist-Scholar engaged in anti-racism work in Singapore", she doesn't seem to want to do much activism or scholarship, and proclaims that "action" is "bullshit", instead preferring to wallow in her "pain".

Unsurprisingly, we see in this a perfect mirror of the Yale student who said that "I don't want to debate. I want to talk about my pain".

Sangeetha, like many SJWs (Social Justice Warriors), doesn't really want to change anything.

Instead, she just wants to revel in her victimhood and feel self-righteous and oppressed, with people cheering her along all the way. The dangerous allure of victim politics is an easy way to get into a cycle of self-indulgent emotional masturbation in a vacuum.

The original post also outlines Sangeetha's strategy for minorities:

"I have gotten to the point where I truly believe there is absolutely no point for any minority who isn't rich and desperate to assimilate into Chineseness to remain in Singapore. Minorities should be spending all their time, energy and effort on leaving.

It is the only option left for any of us who want to have any real shot at self-determination."

For a start, this betrays her political illiteracy for as Cornell advises us, self-determination is "the legal right of people to decide their own destiny in the international order".

So unless she sees "minorities" in Singapore as people who deserve their own states, she is (again) talking rubbish.

One possibility is that she is referring to the psychological theory of motivation which is "concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways", but it would take a very charitable (and pro-active) reader to draw that link from her Facebook post which is ranting about political oppression and says little (at best) about healthy personal behavior.

Anyhow, we can see that Sangeetha doesn't believe in the ideal of Singapore as a multiracial state.

Interestingly, she is implicitly conceding that it should be a Chinese supremacist state (or at least that no one should bother trying to work against that).

Ironically, here she has much in common with the (possibly imaginary) Chinese supremacists that she so hates.

Finally, this is good news for other Singaporeans, since it looks like Singapore will be losing one of its most hateful, poisonous people in the near future.

PS: Adeline Koh likes Sangeetha's "bravery"

When an accusatory post on Facebook (and presumably accompanying comments trashing everyone you don't like) qualifies as "bravery", you know that we as a society are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

PPS: Someone approvingly talks about affirmative action in India and recommends it as "a good tool of empowerment of the marginalised people", perhaps not realising how disastrous it has been.

PPPS: "all those times they said we were family, they didn't mean you. They meant the Chinese and the Ang Moh, and even the token Malay, but not you"

I think this is called "inter-sectionality". And I suspect Alfian Sa'at might disagree.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Links - 26th April 2016

The Office Workers Left Behind by the Casual Dress Revolution - "Despite relaxed dress code standards across a variety of fields, the jeans and t-shirt lifestyle never infiltrated such professional industries as accounting and banking. Dress-down days first popped up in the '90s and became an "everyday thing" by the end of the decade—but only for a certain set of office workers. For the last 15 years, the chunk of employers that allow casual dress has hovered steady at around 62 percent, according to yearly surveys by the Society of Human Resources... only 36 percent of employers offer casual dress opportunities more than one day a week. Client-service-heavy fields such as accounting and consulting have held out, in part because of the nature of the work. "The overwhelming majority [of people] that are coming in to get your guidance on taxes—they look at you, and if you're wearing an $800 dollar suit, they think: She must know something,"said Edward Yost, a human relations business partner at SHRM. Like many perks, the freedom to wear jeans is a recruiting play. Crowe boasts that it's the only accounting firm in the top 10 that has gone casual. The firm plans to showcase its video at recruitment fairs on college campuses... Higher-ups were advised to embrace the policy to set an example. "I showed up in blue jeans the first day," said Cama. "If you wear it, they will"... Crowe's employees like having the option to wear jeans more than they like wearing them in actuality. They describe it as liberating... Some senior employees at Crowe still think workers should dress formally every day, said Cama. Messages have gone out to partners emphasizing the importance of accepting the policy. "You can't make people feel bad if they don't wear a suit," said Cama. Some people believe that how workers dress affects their output, and some evidence supports that view. While one study found that those who wore doctor's lab coats performed better on a test than those who didn't, it's not clear that this confers advantages on those working in a suit in front of a computer. Another study found that wearing a suit makes people think more expansively, rather than paying too much attention to detail—not necessarily a good thing for number crunchers"

Small French Town Resistant to Change Name From ‘Death to Jews’ - "A Jewish group has petitioned to change the name of La-mort-aux-Juifs... the deputy mayor of Courtemaux, the village of 289 people that oversees the contested hamlet, is resistant to a name change, arguing that the tradition should be respected. “It’s ridiculous. This name has always existed,” Marie-Elizabeth Secretand told AFP. “No one has anything against the Jews, of course. It doesn’t surprise me that this is coming up again. Why change a name that goes back to the Middle Ages or even further? We should respect these old names.”... a Spanish town called Castrillo Matajudios (Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers) changed its name to Mota de Judios (Hill of the Jews)."

Venezuela is switching to a 3-day weekend in a desperate bid to save electricity - "Friday will be a holiday for all public sector employees for the duration of April and May... critics of the three-day weekend say enforcing a day off work – along with a not-too-subtle implication to raise productivity levels to make up for the 'holiday' shortfall – doesn't make sense"

ADF Celebrity Muslim Mona Shindy wants a PA, media advisor, a diary manager, more "high impact" speaking gigs and much more - "Mona now needs:
extra security,
an investigation to find the people who are saying nasty things about her,
the RAN to give her legal advice about her rights to take action against people she doesn't like,
more public speaking gigs
a Comms Strategy (as discussed with the Chief of Navy)
a Mona-Shindy dedicated media/communications savvy personal assistant (as discussed with the Chief of Navy)
help in selecting high-impact speaking engagements for Mona's Message
assistance with speech writing and effective messaging
help managing her diary to balance work commitments and Mona's personal well-being
protection for Mona's personal and professional interests when it comes to managing Mona as a "commodity"
help addressing the inevitable "vitriol" that comes with being Mona"

Muslim Navy officer Captain Mona Shindy silenced after controversial tweets - "A senior Muslim navy officer has been counselled and her Twitter account shut down after she tweeted controversial views concerning Islamic extremism and then prime minister Tony Abbott."

Sikhism Religion of the Sikh People - "What is Jhatka Meat and Why?
Jhatka meat is meat in which the animal has been killed quickly without suffering or religious ritual.
Sikhism, A Complete Introduction, Dr. H.S.Singha & Satwant Kaur, Hemkunt Press
We must give the rationale behind prescribing jhatka meat as the approved food for the Sikhs. According to the ancient Aryan Hindu tradition, only such meat as is obtained from an animal which is killed with one stroke of the weapon causing instantaneous death is fit for human consumption. However, with the coming of Islam into India and the Muslim political hegemony, it became a state policy not to permit slaughter of animals for food, in any other manner, except as laid down in the Quran - the kosher meat prepared by slowly severing the main blood artery of the throat of the animal while reciting verses from the Quran. It is done to make slaughter a sacrifice to God and to expiate the sins of the slaughter. Guru Gobind Singh took a rather serious view of this aspect of the whole matter. He, therefore, while permitting flesh to be taken as food repudiated the whole theory of this expiatory sacrifice and the right of ruling Muslims to impose iton the non-Muslims. Accordingly, he made jhatka meat obligatory for those Sikhs who may be interested in taking meat as a part of their food.
Sikhs and Sikhism, Dr. I.J.Singh, Manohar Publishers.
And one semitic practice clearly rejected in the Sikh code of conduct is eating flesh of an animal cooked in ritualistic manner; this would mean kosher and halal meat. The reason again does not lie in religious tenet but in the view that killing an animal with a prayer is not going to enoble the flesh. No ritual, whoever conducts it, is going to do any good either to the animal or to the diner. Let man do what he must to assuage his hunger. If what he gets, he puts to good use and shares with the needy, then it is well used and well spent, otherwise not."

Mara offers 50% discount on study loans for students who failed - "Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) announced a 50% discount to Mara Education Loan borrowers who failed to make the grade in their respective fields, said its chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa. Annuar said the offer was given to students who fail to complete their studies for whatever reason, including those facing legal action in court, regarding the loan."
People respond to incentives. Malaysia Boleh!

Mp3tag - the universal Tag Editor (ID3v2, MP4, OGG, FLAC, ...) - "Mp3tag v2.75 cannot be used in a military domain or in a similar domain (Weapon creation, armament, etc.)."

Ho Ching’s Korea holiday Facebook posts are veritable poetry

Is Singapore A Racist Country? — Iwani - "Prejudice is when old men think it's appropriate to ask if you're a 'negro like Michelle Obama.'
Prejudice is when you realise that the grumpy and rude auntie serving you is perfectly pleasant to everyone else before and after you.
Prejudice is in the slip of the tongue, when even the friendliest of faces equate blackness to violence, theft, corruption and crude behaviour.
Prejudice is when complete strangers see you as a novelty, and poke you and prod you and pull your hair on the MRT without ever asking.
Prejudice is when 'You're not that type of black ah. You're the good kind of black,' is meant as a compliment."
What if a Singaporean SJW told someone 'You're not that type of Chinese. You're the good kind of Chinese'?

George Orwell, the prophet of political correctness, does not belong to the Left – Telegraph Blogs - "the BBC has blocked a statue of Orwell on the grounds that he was too “Left-wing”... Orwell came to accurately foresee the prevailing mode of thinking, a set of ideas that is generally called “political correctness”. PC, for want of a better expression, describes a set of acceptable beliefs, outside of which it is not permitted to step – and that has been a very significant development. As Orwell wrote in 1984: ‘The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.’ One only has to look at how words such as “elitist” or “discrimination” have been altered since Orwell’s death to see how changing the meaning of a word can make the terrain of debate very difficult for one side... That’s why today Orwell, and in particular his final work, is quoted far more by the Right than the Left, and why you’ll find few objections to a statue from conservatives. Perhaps that's not the real reason, and the Beeb are just saving the spot for Antonio Gramsci."

How my disabled son has changed my mind about political correctness - "I have just tried an experiment. I wondered whether I could write down some of these terms, but I found myself more or less physically incapable of doing so. The thought that the keyboard at my fingers could utter those words made me feel slightly sick."
Freedom is Slavery

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 153 - Dr. Vinay Prasad on "Why so much of what we 'know' about medicine is wrong" - "probably about a third of practices were really based on robust evidence. They found about 15% of what we were doing has really been contradicted, but yet we haven't abandoned it. They found about 50% of what we're doing, there's just no data for... not many people have really looked at the effects of rationality training yet even to the extent that it has been studied. We did one small RCT a couple of years ago where we had 20 people come to our workshop and 20 people, a statistically identical control group, not come to the workshop. Then, we tested them before and then a year later where the treatment group had come to the workshop and the control group didn't. We looked at a bunch of outcomes to see if they were different. You might look at, say, money. Does learning rationality make you more effective at earning money? You might think that should be related. It seems like it should be probably, but we found no effect... even 7, 8 years afterwards, people were citing the original '81 beta carotene paper at very high rates. And he looked through those citations, and it's not cited to say, "Hey, look how we got it wrong." It's cited to say, "Look, beta carotene still remains promising." There is a lag time. It's probably around a decade... Many things that do work also we have very little idea how they even work at all. For instance, inhaled gases for anesthesia. Even to this day, we really don't know why they knock people out, yet many of cancer drugs are very intelligently designed. The more you study medical history, you just keep seeing the role serendipity plays, in terms of a drug that you thought interrupted one protein. It was given randomly to a bunch of patients, and some other people responded. Then later they started to look, like, "Well, what was it about them that responded?" Then, they discovered a different protein that actually worked on."

France declared war on prostitution, but not on prostitutes - "in the wake of Wednesday's decision, there was a protest against the law outside the National Assembly -- a protest by French prostitutes themselves... The protest highlighted something subtle but unavoidable: the quiet but permanent awkwardness -- some would say hypocrisy -- behind the French government's morality crusade against prostitution. If the current administration would like sex workers to disappear, the inconvenient truth for its members is that they will have to legislate and police the entirety of French cultural history, a terrain in which the courtesan is a celebrated, even vaunted, figure. In real life, there was Madam du Barry, the mistress of Louis XV ultimately sent to the guillotine in 1793: today, any objet d'art whose provenance can be traced from her private collection immensely increases its value... These figures are so ubiquitous that the Musée d'Orsay, one of the nation's premier museums a few blocks from the National Assembly, just closed in January 2016 "the first major show on the subject of prostitution." The Musée d'Orsay is a national museum, and thus it would seem that the prostitute is an important piece of French national heritage. Will this new law apply retroactively to Madame du Barry?"

A historical perspective on the word 'Keling' - "none of these examples of the use of the word or references to 'kelings' - from the Sejarah Melayu in the 16th century down to the British travelogues of the 19th century - were in any way used in any derogatory sense or intended as racial slurs. It was simply a word to describe the people of South India or their descendants in the Peninsula. I personally would hate to see a word that has come down to us over the centuries and used in the epics of Malay literature to be suddenly struck out of our vocabulary in classic Orwellian 'new-speak' style - just because some people might think it is a quick-fix solution to address racism towards Malaysians of Indian descent. I realize myself that many people do use the word 'keling' in a derogatory manner and I deplore the use of terms such as 'keling mabuk todi' or 'keling karam' - but I doubt if 'India mabuk todi' or 'India karam' would be deemed less of a racial slur. Banning a word is futile if you don't address the racism - institutional or otherwise - behind its derogatory use. And that is by far a more challenging task than striking a word out of our dictionary."

FRENCH FOOTPRINTS: The Sinister Clog-Makers of Bethmale - "When the Saracens invaded the south of France and the Pyrénées in the 9th century, during their occupation of the village of Bethmale the son of the invaders' chief fell in love with a local maiden named Esclarlys, which means 'luminous white lily'. Despite being engaged to a local boy named Danert, the girl welcomed the attentions of her new suitor. The young men of the village took to the mountains plotting revenge on the invaders. But while they fashioned weapons, Darnert carved clogs with long thin spiky toes. The other men mocked him, but Darnert just kept whittling away. One night the villagers swooped down and attacked the sleeping Saracens. Next morning Darnert was walking around in his strange footwear. Each spike was embellished with something red and shiny wet. On his left clog dripped the heart of the faithless luminous white lily, and on the right the heart of the chief's son. It's been a custom ever since for Bethmale's young men to give their lady loves at Christmas a pair of spiky-toed clogs decorated with a heart made from golden nail-heads"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Memories of Murder - "This was not fighting. This was ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing. was not a term coined by the foreign media. It is the phrase the Bosnian Serbs themselves used to describe what they were doing...
[On a HK private kitchen] There's always an element of competition between tables. As one of Susan friend noted, on any given day, there is only one best crab"

The United States of Cory Booker - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "I’m so proud that I’ve got bills and amendments passed with everybody from Ted Cruz to Chairman Inhofe, the Republican chairman of the EPW committee who famously brought a snowball to the Senate floor. I’ve found friendships in unexpected places, a genuine goodness in folks that I would not have discovered if I labeled them as Tea-Party or Republican, but I found that common ground and it’s resulted in some good things."

The Christian militia fighting IS - "And then the man himself arrives with a small entourage, most of them in suits but one young man with a wispy beard is in military clothing. I'm not sure how seriously to take Kildani. The militias have persuaded the central government to cover their expenses and as a result they are, taken altogether, receiving about $1.4bn (£1bn) a year. For a militia leader like Kildani it's more than $600 (£450) per man per month. Good money. There are stories about people renting a house in Baghdad, gathering a few people together, announcing they have formed a militia and going to the government to apply for the funds"

Yes, the American Economy Is in a Funk — But Not for the Reasons You Think - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "GORDON: We had virtually no progress in human life between the Roman Empire and the late Middle Ages. Studies of England, where they have some of the best data and statistics, show that over 400 years between 1300 and 1700, economic growth was only at a rate of 0.2 percent a year. And to put that into concrete terms, something growing that slowly, at 0.2 percent, requires 350 years to double."
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