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Saturday, May 07, 2016

The bane of cultural appropriation

The bane of cultural appropriation

"In recent decades, however, the universalist viewpoint has eroded, largely as many of the social movements that embodied that viewpoint have disintegrated. The social space vacated by that disintegration became filled by identity politics.

As the broader struggles for social transformation have faded, people have tended to retreat into their particular faiths or cultures, and to embrace more parochial forms of identity. In this process, the old cultural arguments of the racists have returned, but now rebranded as "antiracist".

But how does creating gated cultures, and preventing others from trespassing upon one's culture without permission, challenge racism or promote social justice?...

The trouble is that in making the case against cultural appropriation, campaigners equally perpetuate stereotypes.

After all, to suggest that it is "authentic" for blacks to wear locks, or for Native Americans to wear a headdress, but not for whites to do so, is itself to stereotype those cultures.

Cultures do not, and cannot, work through notions of "ownership". The history of culture is the history of cultural appropriation - of cultures borrowing, stealing, changing, transforming.

Nor does preventing whites from wearing locks or practising yoga challenge racism in any meaningful way.

What the campaigns against cultural appropriation reveal is the disintegration of the meaning of "anti-racism". Once it meant to struggle for equal treatment for all.

Now it means defining the correct etiquette for a plural society. The campaign against cultural appropriation is about policing manners rather than transforming society...

The very fact of being outraged makes one the arbiter of what is outrageous. The gatekeepers, in other words, define themselves, because they are ones who want to put up the gates.

The debates around Justin Bieber's hair or Beyonce's Bollywood outfit are relatively trivial. But, in other contexts, the creation of gatekeepers has proved highly problematic.

In many European nations, minority groups have come to be seen as distinct communities, each with their own interests, needs and desires, and each with certain so-called "community leaders" acting as their representatives...

Notions of "offence" are often used to police not just what outsiders may say about a particular community, but to shut down debate within those communities - think of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie or the shutting down by Sikh activists of Sikh playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's play Behzti, which explored the role of women within Sikh communities.

The campaign against cultural appropriation is, in other words, part of the broader attempt to police communities and cultures. Those who most suffer from such policing are minority communities themselves, and in particular progressive voices within those communities. The real fight against injustice begins with ridding ourselves of our self-appointed gatekeepers."

Links - 7th May 2016

Cutting the Nose to Save Face - "While Afghans, more interested in saving face than confronting tough realities, quite literally to cut off the nose of a woman to save face, there many others who saw the video for what it is, evidence that theology gives men power to abuse women and get away with it. Given Yeung’s denial of this connection, Westerner liberals unfortunately side with those who betray Afghan women by seeking to protect theology rather than scrutinize it. Yeung’s interview was a rare moment of insight into the connection between religion and misogyny. While, in their struggle for humane treatment, Afghan women are up against the twin power of jihad and theology, men in positions of power deny the truth of violence against women. They use the postmodern theory of cultural relativity to justify violence. They censor and they threaten with rape. Here was a valuable lesson based on undeniable evidence. But instead of using this piece of proof as a starting point for an honest and serious debate, the opposite happened. Yeung launched a defense of religion. Hanafi thanked her by denying he had ever met her while other commentators accused Yeung of being an agent of hatred. These reactions were insightful. They revealed that something strange has happened to us all. They showed that even in the face of hard evidence, we go out of our way to protect religion against the women theology oppresses. They showed that Muslims and their liberal friends resort to the same psychological mechanisms of denial and disbelief when faced with hard evidence. Meanwhile the theologically sanctioned abuse of Afghan women continues without challenge. After all, as liberals, we have chosen to protect the image of Islam as our priority. A priority that, ironically, we share with Islamist fundamentalists."

India says British queen should keep her Koh-i-Noor crown jewel - "India should relinquish its claim to a huge diamond that it has fought for decades to get back from the British, the government told the Supreme Court on Monday (April 18), because the stone was given to its former colonial ruler rather than stolen... The stone has been at the centre of a long-running diplomatic row, with many Indians demanding Britain return the diamond to atone for its colonial past."

The one group unions don’t want getting a minimum wage in California? Union workers - "Unions say it gives them the flexibility to negotiate packages for their workers that supplant wages with health insurance and other benefits. Critics say that it’s a shrewd move by unions to drive up membership dues and ensure that their workers are the cheapest in town. The exemption gives cost-conscious employers little choice but to hire union, and workers who want jobs little choice but to join their local."

Couple thrilled to find rare chunk of whale vomit worth up to $70,000

Study: Why Pot Smokers Are Skinnier - "marijuana somehow works to improve insulin control, regulating body weight and perhaps explaining why marijuana users have a lower incidence of diabetes. Adding to the big questions -- "can weed can treat obesity?" and "marijuana makes you skinny?!" -- is the possibility that marijuana might be useful in helping people to manage their blood sugar."

The Citadel considers first-ever uniform exception: allowing a Muslim hijab - "As word spread on social media, students, alumni and others responded strongly to the idea of an exception being made at an institution where uniformity, discipline and adherence to rules are defining values, where loyalty to the corps is paramount and individual preferences are trivial... 'It’s no secret that you can’t wear what you want when you’re at the Citadel. You’re punished even for wearing what you want when you’re not on campus. But, those who come here are signing up for that, no matter how much they hate it (we do). So it’s not unfair to those people who want to join an organization with the intentions of excluding themselves from the regulations, it’s unfair to those who practice within the realms of those regulations. It’s unfair to the school having to change rules and adjust to the individual'... 'I can’t wear a tshirt around campus that says “I love Jesus”. Why? It’s not because of religious intolerance, it’s because it does not meet uniform requirements that all 2400 of us are held to.'"

Dashboard cam captures elderly man flinging himself onto car hood at Tampines industrial park

Why Game Publishers Aren’t Interested In Your Game Idea - "Over the past three decades, many people have told me that they had an idea for a game and wanted to know if a publisher would be interested in it, and each time I’ve had to give them an unwelcome dose of reality. Most ideas are not unique, which is one reason why publishers will not accept unsolicited game proposals — the idea may coincidentally be similar to a game the publisher is already be developing. When I had my own company, I opened up a bulky piece of mail to discover that it was an unsolicited game proposal, along with a letter from the author saying that he sent another copy of the proposal to his lawyer — an implied warning that he’d sue me if I stole the idea he had sent me. It so happened that his proposal was very similar to a game my partners had discussed developing, but fortunately we decided not to proceed with it. Even original game ideas are not that valuable. It’s not all that hard to come up with an idea for a game... Implementation is everything in business. As this chart from CD Baby founder Derek Silvers indicates, ideas — even brilliant ideas — have very little value by themselves. It’s the execution of ideas that matters, and ideas are just a multiplier for the worth of that execution. Poor or mediocre execution of even the most brilliant idea is worth very little."

Multimillionaire gives up all his assets to move to rural village and marry simple farmer

Hillary's Equal Pay Hypocrisy - "The Left’s champion of women has a long history of paying her female employees less than their male counterparts — something Hillary Clinton left out of her Equal Pay Day speech"

Powys mum banned from naming daughter Cyanide by court - "She said Cyanide was a "lovely, pretty name" with positive connotations as it was taken by Hitler... The mother said Cyanide was linked with flowers and plants and was "responsible for killing Hitler and Goebbels and I consider that this was a good thing"."


Too many universities teach pointless degrees that offer nothing to their students or society - "There’s no doubt that doctors and lawyers earn a bomb; no doubt that an Oxbridge degree opens many gilded doors. But studying urban dance at Peckham University or media studies at the University of Scunthorpe is another story entirely... Most arts degrees are pretty worthless. While studying hard does seem to pay off, with a 2:1 leading to higher pay than a 2:2, remarkably, the researchers found no fewer than 23 universities whose average male graduate earns less than those who had not been to university at all. Had any of these students borrowed heavily to attend, it would be a calamitous investment... Nor is it true, as David Cameron claimed earlier this year, that the top universities somehow discriminate against ethnic minorities. The Prime Minister made headlines declaring that “if you’re a young black man, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university”. I have since established, via a Freedom of Information request, that his claim is a result of his own bungled maths (he read PPE). If you look at university ages - 18, 19 and 20 - then black men are more than twice as likely to be at a top (ie, Russell Group) university than in prison. Include black women, and university is five times more likely than jail. In fact, of all the ethnic groups in Britain, university entry rates are lowest for whites... he should ask why students will soon be emerging with up to £60,000 of debt, yet up to half of them are stuck in non-graduate jobs long after leaving university... A third of students say that they would have chosen a different course, had they had know what things would be like. About the same proportion describe their fees as very poor, or poor, value for money. Behind such statistics are tens of thousands of young people, who have been lured deep into debt and are unable to escape... If the data is published then every student can see whether or not their course leads to higher pay. Money, of course, is not everything: many courses offer wonderful facilities, luscious campuses and cheap beer - but are they worth £9,000 a year?
Curiously, whites are the least likely racial demographic to go to university. White Privilege!

15 Funny Dutch Words

Man accidentally 'deletes his entire company' with one line of bad code - "Mr Marsala confirmed that the code had even deleted all of the backups that he had taken in case of catastrophe. Because the drives that were backing up the computers were mounted to it, the computer managed to wipe all of those, too."

Ohio State Turns the Concept of 'Safe Space' Against Student Protesters - "“The employees who work past five o’clock left early this evening. Do you know why? Because they were scared you were going to do something”... In my work defending free speech, I’ve repeatedly noted how speech codes implemented in the late 1980s and early 90s with the intention of protecting black students were ultimately used to charge and punish more black students than white students."
A horde of protestors is more scary than someone using a politically incorrect word

Don't be fooled - Elon Musk's electric cars aren't about to save the planet - "All of the world’s electric cars sold so far have soaked up £9 billion in subsidies, yet will only save 3.3 million tonnes of CO₂. This will reduce world temperatures by 0.00001°C in 2100 – the equivalent of postponing global warming by about 30 minutes at the end of the century. Electric cars will be a good idea, once they can compete – which will probably be by 2032. But it is daft to waste billions of pounds of public money on rich people’s playthings that kill more people through air pollution while barely affecting carbon emissions. The Tesla 3 is indeed a “zero emissions” marvel – but that is only because it does not yet exist."

Dyson Airblades 'spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels' - "Dyson Airblade hand-driers spread 60 times more germs than standard air dryers, and 1,300 times more than standard paper towels, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology."

Airport sniffer dogs find cheese and sausages – but fail to spot drugs

Indonesia's Aceh province canes non-Muslim for selling booze - "Though the law once only applied to Muslims, a bylaw that took effect late last year allowed sharia regulations to be applied to non-Muslims in certain situations"

An experimental eating regime may slow aging and stave off disease–if you can stand it - "Fasting this way could, they say, start a regenerative process that will lead to improved health and longer life. If the theory stands, I could enjoy a lower risk of cancer, a strengthened immune system, improved cognitive ability and little to no chance of contracting diabetes. The science is based on years of experimentation with yeast, worms, flies, mice–and studies of Ecuadorians with a form of dwarfism."

Moral clarity in Gaza - "Apologists for Hamas attribute the blood lust to the Israeli occupation and blockade. Occupation? Does no one remember anything? It was less than 10 years ago that worldwide television showed the Israeli army pulling die-hard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza as Israel uprooted its settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza. And there was no blockade. On the contrary. Israel wanted this new Palestinian state to succeed. To help the Gaza economy, Israel gave the Palestinians its 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. It opened border crossings and encouraged commerce... And how did the Gaza Palestinians react to being granted by the Israelis what no previous ruler, neither Egyptian, nor British, nor Turkish, had ever given them — an independent territory? First, they demolished the greenhouses. Then they elected Hamas. Then, instead of building a state with its attendant political and economic institutions, they spent the better part of a decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with terror weapons, to make ceaseless war on Israel."

Israel thwarts ‘drone smuggling attempt’ inside truck carrying toys to Gaza

Hundreds of smuggling attempts to Gaza intercepted in 2015 - "Among the confiscated items were chemical solutions used to make rockets, GoPro cameras which can be used to spy on IDF forces near the border, laser markers for weaponry, electrodes that can be used to make rockets and explosive devices, pipes and tin boards used to manufacture rockets, firecrackers hidden behind flowers that could be used by rioters during protests at the border fence, industrial coal, also used in rocket production, liquids to produce rocket propellant fuel which were hidden inside paint thinners and dishwashing liquid, soldering coils for rocket production hidden inside blow heaters, and disassembled motorcycles and trucks"

Black Woman Who Accused White Man With Dreadlocks Of Cultural Appropriation Has Received Death Threats - "who knows! Perhaps he'll come forward and say that he has, in fact, experienced further suffering — more criticism of his hair or appearance. That would be fitting. After all, the real appropriation in all this story, as it seems to me, is that Goldstein and the media have conveniently borrowed a narrative of oppression. She criticized his hair, and someone threatened to kill her for it, but somehow, he's the oppressed party? Now that's offensive."
Comments: "There is a mechanism among SJW thinking that says: If you get internet death threats then that legitimizes your cause and actions regardless of the logic behind them. Example: Anita Sarkeesian"
"Live by the personal attack, "die" by the personal attack. Not that I want her physically hurt, but she does maybe need to think twice before challenging other peoples' right to look the way they want to and as long as it doesn't go beyond the verbal . . . ."
"Let's look at the good side of this. When I was their age a real racist wore a Klansman's hood. Now a white guy in dreadlocks is a racist? At last! Free at last! Or at least a darn good start in that direction."
"2 wrongs don't make a right; she was still wrong to assault the guy and if hadn't been caught on camera than maybe next time she and her accomplice would have done something worse."

Friday, May 06, 2016

Links - 6th May 2016

Independents Are Souring on Hillary Clinton - WSJ - "While declining favorability ratings are common for presidential candidates as voters learn more about them, the striking decline in independents’ view of Mrs. Clinton is indicative of the popularity of Mr. Sanders, who served in the Senate as an independent before running for president as a Democrat... Mr. Trump’s standing among independents is even worse than that of his would-be general-election rival. Just 19% of independents viewed Mr. Trump favorably in the latest poll, while 67% had a negative opinion"
Maybe she'll lose to Trump thanks to Bernie!

Icelandic PM called to quit as protestors pelt eggs, yoghurts and bananas at parliament

Chinese Market Concerns Led To "Doctor Strange's" Ancient One Changes - "“The thing about the Ancient One is it is Marvel's Kobayashi Maru," Cargill explains. "There is no other character in Marvel history that is such a cultural land mine, that is absolutely unwinnable. I’ve been reading a bunch of people talking about it, and the really frustrating thing about it this week is that most of the people who have thoughts on it haven’t thought it all the way through, and they go, 'Why didn’t they just do this?' And it’s like, I could tell you why. I could tell you why every single decision that involves the Ancient One is a bad one, and just like the Kobayashi Maru, it all comes down on which way you're willing to lose"... "He originates from Tibet, so if you acknowledge that Tibet is a place and that he's Tibetan, you risk alienating one billion people who think that that’s bullshit and risk the Chinese government going, 'Hey, you know one of the biggest film-watching countries in the world? We’re not going to show your movie because you decided to get political.' If we decide to go the other way and cater to China in particular and have him be in Tibet… if you think it’s a good idea to cast a Chinese actress as a Tibetan character, you are out of your damn fool mind and have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about." China is a major part of Marvel's international plan, as it is for ever major Hollywood studio. "Avengers: Age of Ultron" earned $240 million in the country last year, and even the more modestly-budgeted "Ant-Man" raked in over $100 in China
Perhaps one or two SJWs will be led to reflect that they've basically been bitching about First World Problems and that real people are suffering real oppresion

Doctor Strange writer says he knew the trailer would upset “social justice warriors” - "Casting an actor of a different Asian background—say Japanese or Indian—would be seen as “disrespecting the original ethnicity” of the character. Regardless, having the Ancient One be an Asian character at all would further perpetuate the “white hero” narrative in which a white protagonist learns a skill from an Asian character only to surpass all of the Asian characters in that skill (i.e. The Last Samurai). And to simply remove the Ancient One altogether, he argues, would be seen as eradicating a character due to his race... '“There’s no real way to win this so let’s use this as an opportunity to cast an amazing actress in a male role.” And sure enough, there’s not a lot of talk about, “Aww man, they took away the job from a guy and gave it to a woman.” Everyone kind of pats us on the back for that and then decides to scold us for her not being Tibetan. And that’s just the way it’s gonna go... The social justice warriors were gonna get mad at us for something this week. They were just gonna do it, there was no way to avoid it. So the hill Scott decided to die on was the one of feminism.'"

‘Doctor Strange’ Writer Explains Casting of Tilda Swinton as Tibetan - The New York Times - "Mr. Cargill also drew a parallel, saying that the only thornier situation he could envision was if Dr. Strange’s origin story had involved him going to Palestine in the 1930s and studying under a Palestinian mentor... “The Ancient One is a title that is not exclusively held by any one character, but rather a moniker passed down through time, and in this particular film the embodiment is Celtic”"

Why is Hollywood Pandering to Chinese Censors? - "When Transformers 4 came out, pan-democratic protesters were planning on occupying the streets to protest for universal suffrage. The scene where Beijing sends fighter jets to the rescue functioned as a fantasy of what the Beijing central government thinks of Hong Kong. Hong Kongese pan-democrats, meanwhile, think that local government kowtows to their masters in Beijing, who have an outsized role in controlling the elections. If anything, they argue, the central government would be out there to save the local officials from the wrath of the people. “When that part came on, nearly everyone in the theatre with me laughed out loud,” South China Morning Post blogger Jeremy Blum, who watched the movie in Hong Kong, wrote. Craig Detweiler of Patheos went so far as to say that Transformers director Michael Bay “shill[s] for China”... China still punishes rather than promotes some of its own best filmmakers. The 2013 independent film A Touch of Sin, by Chinese director Jia Zhangke, won best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival, best film editing at the Taiwan Golden Horse Film Festival, and earned a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was banned in China. How can China ever spread cultural power if it stifles its best artists?"

China responds to Singapore diplomats' remarks on South China Sea - "Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last Saturday announced a four-point consensus with Brunei, Laos and Cambodia on the South China Sea, including that territorial disputes in the sea were "not an issue between China and Asean as a whole". Former Asean secretary-general and Singapore's Ambassador-at- Large Ong Keng Yong criticised the move as tantamount to China "meddling" in Asean's internal affairs. Mr Bilahari Kausikan, policy adviser to Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the consensus can be seen as a means to divide Asean ahead of an international ruling on a petition against China's claims in the South China Sea brought by the Philippines."
China is not meddling in other people's internal affairs, because the whole world belongs to China

In Asia, govts struggle to deal with a worsening water crisis - "Asia’s water woes are worsening. Already the world’s driest continent in per capita terms, Asia now faces a severe drought that has parched a vast region extending from southern Vietnam to central India. This has exacerbated political tensions, because it has highlighted the impact of China’s dam-building policy on the environment and on water flows to the dozen countries located downstream... The main culprit in this regard is China, which has heavily dammed the Mekong, South-east Asia’s lifeline. In the current lean season, which will last until the monsoon rains arrive in June, the lower Mekong is, according to a recent United Nations report, running at “its lowest level since records began nearly 100 years ago.” China is now trying to play saviour, by releasing an unspecified quantity of water from one of its six upstream mega-dams to “accommodate the concerns” of drought-stricken countries. China’s rulers have touted the move as underscoring the effectiveness of upstream “water facilities” in addressing droughts and containing floods. Of course, in reality, all of this simply highlights the newfound reliance of downriver countries on Chinese goodwill, a dependence that is set to deepen as China builds 14 more dams on the Mekong."
Perhaps according to China apologists, this is the fault of the US

UBC student Brooklyn Fink explains why she burned the pride flag on campus - "The University of B.C. student charged with mischief for allegedly burning a rainbow LGBT pride flag at the university last February says she did it to protest what she considers an "offensive" symbol. Brooklyn Marie Fink, 31, who describes herself as transsexual, talked about the flag burning after her first court appearance in Richmond on Tuesday. "As a media artist, I intended in burning the flag only to illustrate my displeasure at the university's failure to come to an agreement on the fact of the flag's offensiveness"... When it was discovered burned Feb. 9, the act was viewed as a possible hate crime, prompting extra security precautions and the cancellation of a parade in support of transgender people. Fink told CBC she does not feel included in the LGBT label — an abbreviation used to cover a range of non-gender-conforming identities, which often stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender... Fink said the rising awareness about transgender people has made life more difficult for her, something she finds "really emotional, really stressful" to talk about. "Ten, 12 years ago I was just a tall woman and nobody thought anything of it," she said. "But because these gender nonconformers are being so loud and proud ... now everybody looks and they can see oh, that tall woman with a deep voice, maybe she's a dude"... However inclusive rainbow flag-wavers might intend to be — the reality can be more complex, said transgender-rights activist Morgane Oger."
Is it hate speech to burn a hateful symbol?; this just shows that many SJWs just want attention and want to hate something
Comment elsewhere: "Nothing will ever be inclusive, diverse, and tolerant enough. Why fucking bother? They'll hate me anyways for being white, male, cisgendered, etc."
Addendum: Ahh, burning the gay/rainbow flag because it's not inclusive enough!

Israeli Rights Group Releases Video of Army Medic Executing Wounded Palestinian Suspect - "Several Palestinian and Israeli observers were struck by the fact that no one around the soldier who fired the shot seemed to treat the incident as unusual — suggesting that such extrajudicial killings of suspected attackers have now become “routine,” as critics have charged."

Majority of Palestinians Support Knife Attacks, Unless The Attacker Is a Young Girl - "Two-thirds of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip support the current spate of knife attacks against Israelis on the streets of Israel and the Palestinian territories—but almost three-quarters disapprove of young girls doing the stabbing, according to a new poll released on Tuesday."

Why Abbas turned Biden down - "There was a good reason Netanyahu's conditions against the return of Palestinian refugees and for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state came up during the conversation with the vice president. These momentous issues have enormous opposition among the Palestinian public, including within the Fatah movement. If in the past, one could have perhaps overcome them with creative solutions, now, in Abbas' current political reality, there’s no chance that these Israeli demands would be met with understanding by the Palestinians — even if this would guarantee a Palestinian state"

Syrian refugees flee to Palestinian Gaza: 'World's largest open air prison' unlikely sanctuary for Syria's dispossessed - "Palestinians and those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause describe Gaza as "the world's largest open air prison" – despite this, Syrian refugees are breaking in... Other Syrians have quickly got established in Gaza, setting up businesses and starting families. Wafeef, 35, had a horrific ordeal in Turkish refugee camps before getting to Gaza, where he has now set up his own fast-food restaurant – the Syriana – and married a local woman, Maha... the situation for Syrians became hard by the way we were treated, as part of the policy from the Turkish government," he said. "A friend told me that he could find a better life in Gaza. I loved it because it was Palestine. The only obstacle was how to actually get there.""

Abbas Admits Rejecting Two-State Peace Plan With Israel in 2008 - "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly admitted for the first time that he turned down a chance for a two-state peace deal with Israel in 2008 that would have given him nearly all the land the Palestinians wanted. The offer by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert included a near-total Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and a land link to the Gaza Strip. The Old City of East Jerusalem, home to Jewish and Arab holy sites, would have been under international control."

Understanding What Hamas Wants - "The goal of Hamas—the actual, overarching goal—is to terrorize the Jews of Israel, through mass murder, into abandoning their country. If generations of Palestinians have to be sacrificed to that goal, well, Hamas believes such sacrifices are theologically justified... President Obama himself has spoken strongly about Israel's right to self-defense. Here is what he said Wednesday: "As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people. There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets... The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the institution that cares for Palestinians but whose actual raison d'être is the perpetuation of the stateless status of the descendants of refugees from 1948, recently tweeted this thought to its followers: “Palestinian children in #Gaza are experiencing severe trauma for the 3rd time in 5 years. The effects are lasting.” Entirely, miserably, true. An alternative to this current horrible reality presented itself in 2005, when the Israeli government—after years of foolish and destructive colonization—expelled thousands of Jewish settlers from Gaza and then withdrew its army. The Palestinian leadership could have taken the opportunity created by the Israeli withdrawal to build the nucleus of a state. Instead, Gaza was converted into a rocket-manufacturing and -launching facility... Some commentators, like the excellent Shlomo Avineri, believe that even Palestinian moderates such as Abbas are incapable of making final-status compromises, because they are "genuinely uninterested in a solution of two states for two peoples because they’re unwilling to grant legitimacy to the Jewish right of self-determination." I don't disagree that many, many Palestinians fall into this category"

Pres. Clinton: Arafat Turned Down Major Last-Minute Israeli Concessions in 2000 - "Arafat insisted that a narrow strip of land on the Temple Mount be included in the deal, and walked away when Israel refused to add that to the other far-reaching concessions it was prepared to make... The former president expressed sympathy for the Israeli position, saying, ““if you got in, you could do mayhem to the ruins of the temples.” Arafat subsequently launched the second intifada a few months later."

Hamas Acknowledges Its Forces Fired Rockets at Israel From Civilian Areas

PA salaries to terrorists - "In April 2011, the Palestinian Authority Registry published a Government Resolution granting all Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israel for security and terror-related offenses a monthly salary from the PA (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 15, 2011). This new resolution, called PA Government Resolution of 2010, numbers 21 and 23, formalized what has long been a PA practice."

The history of consumerism and Chinese philosophy

The history of consumerism and Chinese philosophy | Podcast | History Extra

"The sheer volume and the consequences of consumption on the environment, on people's well-being, on society and politics. But at the same time this debate is very focused on the present, as if this is a phenomenon that really only got going after the Second World War in the era of high growth. And I think that's wrong. Factually wrong and also politically and socially a little bit irresponsible. And we need to get to grips with this much longer history...

A very simple view that many people carry about history and the past... today we are a society blessed or cursed by affluence and that consequently people in the past must have been poor and lived miserable lives. So there's a very characteristic idea, popular, not just the social sciences but many commentators which contrasts our current society where we have a lot of discretionary income, we can spend on frivolities if we want or luxuries, to compare that with earlier societies which are marked to be traditional societies where people just are pre-occupied with satisfying their needs. So putting food on the table and having a roof over the head. That's of course a very very simple and naive view of history and the historical process. So in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern period, we already have - not just very rich people but also artisans spending on items that are not strictly speaking necessary. So, musical instruments, paintings, books, ornaments, fine tableware, comfortable bedding and things like that. So traditional society is really a misnomer. In the sense that we see the desire for material possessions much much earlier...

Commentators and people who think about these questions haven't been exposed to history... Germans tend to be seen as extremely clean and tidy people but one generation ago, men and women only changed their underwear every 2 or 3 days...

[On Chinese philosophy] It wouldn't even have been on talent, it would have been on hard work and effort, like how much you studied. In fact, the last philosopher in the book, Shunzi, was explicitly about not about assuming that everything is natural but everything can be worked on, including yourself and your own capabilities. So the exams, the exam system in China really was a measure of how hard you worked at studying to prepare for the exam... it was about testing how well you can sense certain different ethical situations. But basically how good a human being you were at understanding that there's no sort of black and white set of rules that, or an ethical code of conduct that everyone must follow. But that life is complex and human relationships are complex. And that the best bureaucrat is someone who can sense all this and work with it in an effective way...

'Buddhism and mindfulness, which is very popular now, they really are about this doctrine of no self, and yet in the West it's often been appropriated in the service of the self. In the service of finding yourself. And our book, the message of our book is explicitly against the modern day mantra to find yourself and look within and be true to yourself because for these Chinese philosophers that would have been the very opposite of what you needed to do to become a human being who's growing and cultivating yourself and becoming a better person all the time'

'And do you think in a way that Buddhism that perhaps many of us might know in the West is really a product of Western culture in the post-war period rather than actually of India 2.5 thousand years ago?'

'I think it very much is. I think there's also a sort of dangerous tendency to romanticise a lot of aspects of non-Western cultures and especially Buddhism has been exoticised and romanticised in a way as sort of, it's seen as a sort of antidote to the avaricious West. And that's not really seeing it as what it is or what it was. Of course we can adapt philosophies but we have to know, I think, we're doing that. We have to know what we're working with and not pass it off as something true to what the original ideas were'

So much for the Marxist conceit of Late Capitalism

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Links - 1st May 2016

Some Hong Kong women would rather die alone than date Hong Kong men - "In recent years, the fearful message has spread: Hong Kong is running out of men! So ladies, if you don’t want to end up as an old maid and die alone, you must hurry and “get real.” Don’t be picky and only go after men who have a “good package.” Cure your “princess syndrome” and stop being a spoiled brat. Don’t become one of those gold-digging, delusional Kong nui (a derogatory term for Hong Kong women) or a successful career woman. This stigma toward single women has become the central narrative of Hong Kong’s dating culture. The message to women is clear: Lower your expectations, even though you might deserve better... Hong Kong women have long been accused of being materialistic and eyeing money, but there is a reason for it. According to Fan Lai, a professional counselor who deals with relationship problems and family issues, few Hong Kong women are looking to marry a scion of a property tycoon. But, she added, many do aim for a man with a monthly income somewhere between HK$80,000 and HK$100,000 (roughly US$10,300 to US$12,900). That’s because they want a man who is financially independent and won’t turn around asking them for money or take advantage of them. “They are women who have a great education, a successful career, and a pretty face and just don’t want to settle for less,” Lai said... “Kong men are not gentlemen at all,” said Lung. “If you go on a date, you pick up the girl, open the door for her, pick up the bill, and send her home. That’s very basic. And yet I’ve never seen a Kong man who has done it. But Western men do. I’m an international man eater, so I aim at a global market.” Twenty-year-old university student Diana Lam described Kong men at her age as “toxic”... Kong men may also have little to offer in the bedroom. According to a 2014 survey released by the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, nearly 60% of the 2,100 women aged between 21 and 40 reported at least one sexual problem that lasted over three months to one year—which could be attributed to a partners’ lack of expertise. Nearly 32% said they had no desire. A similar percentage said they had problems getting aroused. Some 40% said they fail to attain orgasm."
No wonder Hong Kong men go for foreign women

George Osborne's national living wage is a 'con job', says Tim Farron - "George Osborne’s ‘national living wage’ is a “con job” that will leave people at least £8,700 worse off by 2020 than they would have been under the ‘real’ living wage, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has claimed. Mr Farron said that research carried out by his party meant the living wage, as defined by the Government, was “utter fantasy”."

Chinese father hires virtual hitman to 'kill' son in online games - so he will get a job - "in his 25 years experience he had come across players who dedicated up to 14 hours a day gaming. But he said it only has a detrimental affect if it impacts on their work or family life."

Wi-Fi won't travel through your house? It might be the wire in the walls - "Plaster-and-lath walls - specifically when the lath (or base structure) of the wall is chicken wire or similar corrugated wire, to which the plaster is added to create the wall. Such walls are sometimes internal, often external, but always death to Wi-Fi signals because the wire acts as a Faraday cage, killing the signal."

Woman disguised as man 'betrayed victim's trust' - ""I didn't suspect at all. When Zunika was menstruating, she told me it was because she had a stomach tumour. She was also taking a lot of hormone pills but she told me those were to control the growth of her beard," she said... Zunika's two "wives" also found out her real gender. Till then, Zunika, who had a fake Indonesian passport under the identity of a man, had told them that they must not touch or see her private parts - for superstitious reasons - while performing sex acts."

One Way of Being An Independent Woman You Should Avoid With Guys - "I remember going out on a date with a girl who at first appeared soft and kind. When we walked into a bar, I said “Let’s sit there”, to which she responded “No, let’s seat on the other side”. I followed her without assuming based on just one instance that she was that kind who would do the opposite just for the sake of doing the opposite. However, after a few more episodes of that behavior on the same date, I had to ask her whether she was refusing to do what I asked on purpose. She proudly admitted that she was on purpose acting that way, because “no one can order her around” and because I was not her dad. Considering that this kind of attitude is one personal pet peeve of mine, I cut the date short a few minutes later. I have not done my research yet, but I am pretty sure that many other guys will find that kind of “independent woman” attitude a major red flag, and a sure sign of ultra-feminism to stay away from. When your actions are governed by the desire to prove that you are free and independent, rather than by the actual freedom itself, that’s exactly the point where you show very clearly that you are not at all free or independent. A truly free and independent woman does not need to prove anything to anyone, just like a truly confident guy doesn’t have to prove anything to any woman he is dealing with."

Toilet fees flushed: New bill blocks airplane lavatory charge - "A new bill has been introduced in Congress that hopes to prohibit airlines from charging passengers to use the on-flight toilet. Though the facility is taken for granted by many, it is actually not guaranteed by law... Such charges were first considered by European low fares airline Ryanair in 2009 when the idea was floated that passengers be charged £1 ($1.51) to use the toilet on flights of less than one hour duration"

Skinny jeans and other hidden health risks in your wardrobe - BBC Newsbeat - "Skinny jeans have been given a health warning after a 35-year-old woman had to be cut out of a pair because her calves "ballooned in size"... A study of zip injuries over eight years showed that among adult men, zips were the most frequent cause of penis injuries... One small study suggested that men who wear ties too tightly could be at a greater risk of Glaucoma. It's thought this is because they are restricting blood flow to the brain. Tight ties can also restrict movement, causing tension in the muscles of the back according to a study of workers in a South Korean Journal... Aside from the danger of wearing earrings while playing sport (they can catch and cause your earlobes to tear) wearing heavy earrings can cause ear lobes to sag over time... G-string underwear can damage the skin and cause infections. If you wear pants that are too tight or that are badly-stitched the friction can cause genital irritation and lead to infections."

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Mary Magdalene - "In the order of Christian sanctity, a forgiven sinner, especially a spectacular sinner, is a more fascinating figure than somebody who's been good all the time. One of the energies that drives the cult of Mary Magdalene in history is her contrast and her similarity to the Virgin Mary. If you had to choose the two female figures who are closest to Jesus, it's those two, and in Western tradition, the imaginative power of the idea that someboy who had been a sexual sinner could get pretty well as close to Jesus as someone who was virginal: that's a very powerful notion imaginatively...
[On the Gospel of Philip] It's a (sic) early 2nd century text that is coming from an oral tradition. And still very connected wit the Church in Palestine in fact, and is conscious of different ideas and is countering different iedas and one of these different ideas is that Mary Magdalene should be marginalised and in this text, she is the closest person to Jesus and that the other, the male disciplines feel they don't have that special relationship. The kissing... is not necessarily as we would configure it as some sort of sexual or marital kiss in terms of the Gospel of Philip it is about intimacy, a spiritual intimacy with Christ. And... that is also quite historically accurate because we know when Jesus was betrayed he was betrayed with a kiss from his close disciple Judas and no one is suggesting that Judas and Jesus had an intimate relationship. It just indicates that among his close followers, they had a very touchy-feely, kissy kind of relationship. In fact when in the story of the Repentent Sinner, Jesus says to the Pharisee: 'Well, you didn't kiss me when I came into my house, but look at her: she's kissing me'. So he was encouraging people to kiss... I don't think the New Testament attempts to marginalise Mary. When Mary goes to the disciples and tells them that Jesus is written (sic), they don't believe her. And the Evangelist tells us that. He's not, he believes her, but the disciples don't. One doesn't need the sort of Dan Brown world to have an image of genuine, I think, historical image of this woman who had an extraordinary closeness to Jesus"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Eleanor of Aquitaine - "Like all marriages it was annulled on the grounds of consanguinity. So they were closely related to one another... all aristocratic marriages at this time were in theory annulable because it was very difficult to find marriage partners who weren't in some way related to one another... She is really at this stage, she's sort of a walking title deed. She is the jackpot that they're all after. They want these rich lands of Southern France and Henry marries her a matter of weeks of her divorce from Louis"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Behavioural Ecology - "Every biologist has got a certain sense of shame that they can't do maths and game theory was a way of getting round that... HIV, the AIDS virus... that's foraging for prey. We're the prey. So it has to... alter its behavior insofar as viruses behave, to ensure that it has a chance to move on to the next prey once it's depleted the resources of the first prey. Now, since the epidemic began, when there was for a time confined to homosexuals, there was of course a lot of promiscuity, people weren't aware of this and the virus was extremely lethal. In the last 5-10 years, it's gotten much less lethal, because it - we, because people are aware of the dangers, people are much more careful about their behavior. So the virus can't afford just to take the maximum out of its first victim in the assurance that it's going to get another one. It has to be kinder to its victims. So here we see exactly that analogy of hunting behavior in birds seen in a medical context. So it is actually quite a powerful way of thinking... The idea that everything is driven by simple kinship is wrong. But like everything in biology, unlike in physics, it's not pure, it's not simple"

Suicide Bomber Funeral Ends In Catastrophic Explosion As Explosive Belt Detonates [Graphic Video] - "The catastrophic detonation happened in the midst of a large crowd of his supporters, killing and maiming multiple individuals in the process. The cheers of the crowd quickly changed to chants of “Allahu Akbar” as disoriented people wandered about in the devastation, searching for friends and relatives. The entire video was captured on a low resolution video and contains graphic images resulting from the devastation. According to Live Leak, the suicide bomber was shot by Israeli forces and died from his wounds. His Muslim brothers took his body and prepared it for a funeral procession where hundreds of his supporters gathered to lay his body to rest. Unknown to the supporters, the individuals that prepared his body for the funeral forgot to remove his suicide belt. As the body was carried toward his final resting place, the belt exploded, killing multiple individuals and harming many more."

A slur is a knife - You don’t get to decide how sharp it is but the person at its tip - "somewhere along the way, people were using these terms with an intention to hurt. How a word was said with a knowing sneer or spat out with contempt... There’s a simple rule actually. If someone who is not from your community thinks that a word is a slur, then stop using it, no matter if some other person from that community claims otherwise. Ask yourself why it is necessary for you to use such a tarnished and contentious word when other words with much less baggage are available. A slur is a knife—if you’re the one holding the handle, you don’t get to decide how sharp it is—this is the sole and sovereign right of the person at its tip."
Looks like we can't call homosexual men gay because at some point in history that word was a slur, and that as long as one person from a community says a word is a slur, no one can use it; this is even more powerful than the veto one EU nation can use to block something the other 26 want done - one person in a community of one billion has the power to censor everyone else

The Impact of Divorce Laws on Marriage - "after the adoption of unilateral divorce, marriage rates declined significantly and permanently in adopting states. This decline accounts for half of the initial gap in marriage rates between adopting and non-adopting states. The effect of unilateral divorce law is greatest for marriage rates amongst younger age cohorts, those marrying for the first time, and whites. The duration of marriages that take place under unilateral divorce is also found to be significantly greater than those that occur under mutual consent. Taken together the results suggest unilateral divorce law reduces incentives to marry, but those couples that do marry are better matched than under mutual consent. This is argued to be consistent with a model of search in marriage markets, where individuals learn the true gains of marriage over divorce before and during marriage"
People respond to incentives

The dating gap: why the odds are stacked against female graduates - "there is still a stigma, says Genevieve Zawada, who runs a matchmaking service, particularly for women over 40. She says a potential partner’s education level is “usually the first thing any woman specifies. I think people think that if someone is not educated to the same standards they are, they won’t have anything in common, which is absolute nonsense. People think, ‘I’ve dedicated my life to my career and I’m not going to settle for anything less than I am’. Funnily enough, men hardly ever discuss it.”"

Bhutan PM casts doubts over Gross National Happiness - "The concept is overused and masks problems with corruption and low standards of living... recently some critics have taken to referring to GNH as "Government Needs Help"."

Daisy Ridley Just Nailed A Problem With #NoFilter #NoMakeup - "As a person scampering around in the world, seeing all these beautiful people with #NoMakeup can be quite daunting. In fact, all these “filtered, most carefully chosen and cleverly edited moments of their lives,” can make us all—even beautiful celebs such as Ridley—scared to share the reality with the Internet. Thank her for having the guts to raise her hand and admit that it happens to her."
Be the change you want to see in the world. Post lots of pictures of yourself looking awful

Former surgeon general calls for marijuana legalization - "Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders told CNN Sunday she supports legalizing marijuana... "We have the highest number of people in the world being criminalized, many for non-violent crimes related to marijuana""

You may hate Donald Trump. But do you want Facebook to rig the election against him?

Face Swapping With Ancient Statues Makes Museums Fun Again

Use This Website to Make Obama Say Anything You Want - "Have you ever wondered how those clever YouTubers get Obama to sing and rap entire songs? They usually spend countless hours carefully splicing together individual words taken from footage of the president, but you can now do the same thing in just seconds with a new website called Talk Obama To Me."

Islamic terrorism and Western foreign policy

Me: If Islamic terrorism is a response to Western foreign policy, why did they attack Jakarta?

D: Because Indonesia is a western stooge.

C: they hate indonesia's freedom, their way of life and their democracy!!!

B: Saying "blame Western foreign policy" is a platitude.

There is no singular "foreign policy" that is agreed across all Western countries, nor across different regimes within them. Go from Lisbon or Copenhagen and their policies towards various external matters will be different from the US. Even within the US, the foreign policies do change over time and across administrations.

A: That's why people like Noam Chomsky is so way off base in their analysis. In his zeal to blame everything on US imperialism, he actually is what exhibiting signs of bigotry (only white guys have the ability to screw up the world so badly!)

B: Chomsky has made a reputation for a brilliant linguist.

He should have stayed there, and out of geopolitics.

I completely agree with you A - in Chomsky's worldwide, everyone is a passive entity except the US; that the whole world would be in perpetual and sublime peace if it wasn't for the West/USA constantly poking it with a big imperialist stick.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticise the US for what it does do/ fails to do around the world; he often forgets that there are other powerful actors which have their own, sometimes converging, sometimes contrary, interests.

Two perfect illustrations of that is how Russia has (1) basically outflanked the USA in its annexation of Ukraine, and (2) and in its support of Assad which allowed the Syrian civil war to continue, and then vetoed the UN when the US tried to have Assad referred to the ICC.

Of course, there are those on the internet that say that the CIA is behind both the annexation of Crimea (and shot down the Malaysian airline), and the Syrian civil war.

Geopolitics is super complex because there are always so many actors involved, and not many of them make their ultimate goals or intentions publicly known.

For many, it is simpler and easier to accept an omniscient and omnipotent USA as the root cause of ALL global problem because the reality is so much more complex and quite depressing.
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