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Friday, December 16, 2016

Links - 16th December 2016

My quarrel with a proud FGM cutter - "It was their own mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts - the women in their families - who had led them into their painful and degrading initiations. And here I was in Sierra Leone, a country where the majority of women have been cut, sharing pleasantries with a professional and proud cutter... She laughs and grabs my arm, pressing it against hers. "You are different to us," she tells me. "Look, you are yellow in colour, I am black. We are both women but we are not the same. You will never understand." I ask Memunatu what she would do if the government banned the practice. "We would storm the offices of the president," she bellows. "They know this is an important tradition. Many of them are in our secret society.""
If women do it to women, is it still patriarchy? Maybe Third World women are stupid and can't think for themselves

The Only Faces Men Recognize Better Than Women Are Transformers - "“This is the first category of faces where men do better than women,” lead researcher Isabel Gauthier said. All previous research has shown that women are better than men at facial recognition in general, or that there isn’t a difference between genders in how they recognize faces"

'Muslim Suburb' Proposal Has Quebec Politicians In An Uproar - "on-Muslims will be welcome to live there so long as they share the same values. “You don’t drive drunk on the street. If you want to drink alcohol, you drink it in your house,” he told the Post. “There must be some modesty in the way you dress. We don’t want women living there going half-naked down the streets. We don’t like that. … If they want to do that, let them go and live in downtown Montreal.”"

Planet Earth II producers defend brutal snow leopard 'rape' scene, saying they must compete with Game of Thrones - "And we show it… you can’t hide from the reality of animal behaviour and there are certain things that we might suddenly go, ‘oh, that’s not how we behave’ but actually, it’s instinct. And that’s all we can portray really.”

Planet Earth II's snake army killing baby iguanas shocks thousands as some call it 'the stuff of nightmares' - "Baby iguanas were seen fleeing a terrifying army of racer snakes in 'horror' footage as Planet Earth II returned to our screens last night."

Offensive language ruins search for world's worst word - "Oxford Dictionaries launched a service on its website so people could vote for their least favourite words, but it was shut down after "severe misuse". Oxford University Press said a mixture of swear words and "religiously offensive vocabulary" were to blame."

The driverless truck is coming, and it’s going to automate millions of jobs - "Shipping a full truckload from L.A. to New York costs around $4,500 today, with labor representing 75 percent of that cost. But those labor savings aren’t the only gains to be had from the adoption of driverless trucks. Where drivers are restricted by law from driving more than 11 hours per day without taking an 8-hour break, a driverless truck can drive nearly 24 hours per day. That means the technology would effectively double the output of the U.S. transportation network at 25 percent of the cost. And the savings become even more significant when you account for fuel efficiency gains. The optimal cruising speed from a fuel efficiency standpoint is around 45 miles per hour, whereas truckers who are paid by the mile drive much faster. Further fuel efficiencies will be had as the self-driving fleets adopt platooning technologies, like those from Peloton Technology, allowing trucks to draft behind one another in highway trains. Trucking represents a considerable portion of the cost of all the goods we buy, so consumers everywhere will experience this change as lower prices and higher standards of living."

The Stark Contrast Between GOP’s Self-Criticism in 2012 and Democrats’ Blame-Everyone-Else Posture Now - "Democrats have spent the last 10 days flailing around blaming everyone except for themselves, constructing a carousel of villains and scapegoats — from Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin, James Comey, the electoral college, “fake news,” and Facebook, to Susan Sarandon, Jill Stein, millennials, Bernie Sanders, Clinton-critical journalists, and, most of all, insubordinate voters themselves — to blame them for failing to fulfill the responsibility that the Democratic Party, and it alone, bears: to elect Democratic candidates. This Accept-No-Responsibility, Blame-Everyone-Else posture stands in stark contrast to how the Republican National Committee reacted in 2012, after it lost the popular vote for the fifth time in six presidential elections. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called Mitt Romney’s loss “a wake-up call,” and he was scathing about his party’s failures: “There’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement. … So, there’s no one solution: There’s a long list of them.”

Apple (AAPL) screwed up MacBook Pro by removing Escape and Function keys with Touch Bar that developers are turning to Windows PCs

Five myths about cheating - "young men don’t cheat because they have fallen out of love with their partners. Rather, they cheat simply because they desire sex with someone else, even if they want to preserve their relationship. I found that, though 78 percent of the men I interviewed had cheated on their current partner, only a handful said they cheated because they were near the end of their emotional relationships. And women may respond to similar pressures: According to a 1999 study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 68 percent of female undergraduates also cheat. (Whether they cheat for sexual or emotional reasons remains unclear.)... In a 1991 study, sex researcher Shere Hite found that 70 percent of married women have cheated on their partners; a 1993 follow-up study found that 72 percent of married men have as well... Although society cherishes monogamy, the expectation of exclusive sexual activity is unsustainable for most couples. We may need to investigate other relationship models: open arrangements, or what sex columnist Dan Savage calls “monogamish” relationships, in which couples have flings, affairs or threesomes. These ways of loving, along with polyamorous relationships and even singlehood, should be as equally valued in our culture as monogamy. Only when men and women are able to make sexual choices free of stigma will people be honest with their partners about their desires."

Hate Crimes, Hoaxes, and Hyperbole - "When I reported last Friday that there had been "no violent hate-crimewave" happening—emphasis on the word violent—it was to dispel widespread rumors of a post-election surge in physical attacks on gay, transgender, and non-white Americans by emboldened and bigoted Trump supporters. Thankfully, this still holds true. While the public expression of nativist, racist, sexist, or anti-LGBT sentiments may have experienced a post-election upswing, incidents of actual altercations or attacks have still been very rare. Several of the most prominent early reports of Trump-inspired violence against people of color were later admitted to be fabrications or directly contradicted by police statements. Pointing this out seems to really anger people, who assume my intent is discredit all such reports, or to deny that there's any bigotry among Trump supporters. Neither is true. Rather, I saw a lot of distortions being spread and a lot of people who were really scared. I heard from LGBT and Jewish and non-white friends of mine, in private communications and on social media, who honestly believed it was open season on them this week. And I didn't want to see people I care about fearing for their very lives and physical safety because of a massive amount of misinformation floating around... when it comes to physical aggression inspired by this election, we are looking at a little more than a dozen incidents reported, over a 10 day period, in a country of roughly 318.9 million people—none of which resulted in serious injuries. And these incidents vary widely in how much they can be attributed to politics, prejudice, and hate versus tempers, egos, and mental-health issues flaring along with the election results and our collective heightened emotional state."

Sorry Democrats, But Americans Are Remarkably Tolerant People - "No rational person would deny that racists and bigots exist. Believe it or not, as a Jew myself, this election cycle isn’t the first time my background has been attacked. When you start likening contemporary political officials to Nazis, though, I tend to think you’re shortchanging the people who decimated my family back in the Old Country. It’s also undeniable that over the past year some legitimately worrisome voices have found footing with Republicans. Maybe Steve Bannon is going to be bad news. I wasn’t too crazy about Obama nominating someone who claimed her favorite political philosopher was Mao, either. Still, there was no Great Leap Forward. If you believe one side is normalizing extremism, think about this: Rep. Keith Ellison, a guy whose political career was launched as a member the anti-Semitic and racist Nation of Islam, and who is one of the most radically left-wing members of Congress, may soon be running the DNC. Just juxtapose the stories and rhetoric surrounding Bannon and Ellison. Only one is treated as if he’s outside the norm. In the minds of many, the only reason someone could be critical of Ellison is that he’s an African-American Muslim. Democrats have become so fixated on race and identity that they’re unable to imagine anything else could matter. Hannah Arendt once wrote that Western intellectuals had adopted one of Communism’s most effective tactics: they made all debate about motive rather than the merits of the argument. This outlook has consumed the American Left. Is there any contemporary political dispute today that doesn’t come down to accusing conservatives of harboring deep-seated motives about race or sex? Some (and I really, feel uncomfortable calling them “liberals” anymore) have convinced themselves Trump’s victory confirms that half the country is made up of white supremacists — as if voting and governance were that simple. In truth, the reason racism is treated as a grievous social sin is because it is so rare and intolerable in everyday discourse. The Left compensates for this by constantly expanding the description of bigotry to include anyone opposing their policy preferences. When everyone is a racist, no one is."

Girl 'made sex abuse claims' after $1k phone bill scolding - "Soon after he scolded his daughter for racking up a $1,000 mobile phone bill, she alleged he had sexually abused her... The man also testified he underwent penis enlargement surgery in Johor in 2005, 2007 and 2009, due to the state of his sexual relationship with his wife. But after the third procedure, they rarely had sex due to the size of his genitals, he said. Part of the defence's case against the charges is that it was physically impossible for the man to have had sex with his daughter."

I’ve changed my mind on the gay cake row. Here’s why - "Northern Ireland’s laws against discrimination on the grounds of political opinion were framed in the context of decades of conflict. They were designed to heal the sectarian divide by preventing the denial of jobs, housing and services to people because of their politics. There was never an intention that this law should compel people to promote political ideas with which they disagreed. The judge concluded that service providers are required to facilitate any “lawful” message, even if they have a conscientious objection. This raises the question: should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs? If the Ashers verdict stands it could, for example, encourage far-right extremists to demand that bakeries and other service providers facilitate the promotion of anti-migrant and anti-Muslim opinions. It would leave businesses unable to refuse to decorate cakes or print posters with bigoted messages. In my view, it is an infringement of freedom to require businesses to aid the promotion of ideas to which they conscientiously object. Discrimination against people should be unlawful, but not against ideas."
Maybe just as Germaine Greer has been repudiated by modern feminists, Peter Thatchell will likewise be condemned

The End of Identity Liberalism - NYTimes.com - "In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing. One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end... the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country... When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to... Recently I performed a little experiment during a sabbatical in France: For a full year I read only European publications, not American ones. My thought was to try seeing the world as European readers did. But it was far more instructive to return home and realize how the lens of identity has transformed American reporting in recent years. How often, for example, the laziest story in American journalism — about the “first X to do Y” — is told and retold. Fascination with the identity drama has even affected foreign reporting, which is in distressingly short supply. However interesting it may be to read, say, about the fate of transgender people in Egypt, it contributes nothing to educating Americans about the powerful political and religious currents that will determine Egypt’s future, and indirectly, our own. No major news outlet in Europe would think of adopting such a focus. But it is at the level of electoral politics that identity liberalism has failed most spectacularly, as we have just seen. National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality... Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it... (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)"

Jon Stewart slams liberal 'hypocrisy' for branding Donald Trump voters racist - "Former talk show host Jon Stewart slammed the “hypocrisy” of the left for supposedly rejecting stereotypes while painting Donald Trump voters as racist... “In the liberal community, you hate this idea of creating people as a monolith. Don’t look as Muslims as a monolith. They are the individuals and it would be ignorance. But everybody who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That hypocrisy is also real in our country.”"
Stereotypes are good when they're about 'bigots'

Rutgers Professor Taken to NYC Hospital for Psychiatric Evaluation After Tweets Threatening to Kill White People: NYPD - "A Rutgers University professor who created a "politicizing Beyonce" course was taken to a New York City hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after campus police said he made threats to kill white people... One tweet posted on Tuesday showed an American flag being ignited. In another, he said "will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting atrandom white people or no...?"... He also tweeted that students should all participate in a walk-out planned for Rutgers' New Brunswick campus in opposition of Trump's election"

[Serious] People who have met or dealt with Donald Trump in person prior to the race, what was he like? - AskReddit - "I went to school with his daughter Tiffany so I had a few interactions with the Donald and all were positive. The one anecdote that I'll share is from the school plays. Tiffany was involved in the school theatre program and so was my brother so I was usually helping out as an usher for the plays. Donald attended all the plays that were put on despite living across the country from our school in LA. The thing that was most impressive was how here arrived to the plays, he was always late, just 1 minute late. He'd arrive and take his seat in the rear just after the house lights went down so he didn't draw any attention away from the kids. He'd slip out as quietly as he'd arrived, when he was at the school his focus was 100% on his daughter and not himself. Despite living in a pretty solid liberal area most people from that school admit that's it kind of hard to square our experiences with him up with the media's portrayal of him as a brash, egotistical idiot."
"we saw him and some other businessmen walk out of Trump Tower. Someone around us yelled out 'Hey Trump you're fired!' and he looked over and gave us the classic Donald thumbs up and got into a black SUV."
"I worked at one of his golf courses for 3 years as a valet and i also upkept the practice facilities (including driving around the ball picker upper). Every time i dealt with Big Donald he was more than respectful. Also we had an Mexican guy who cleaned carts, Felipé who he personally provided housing for out of his own pocket because he thought Felipé was such a good worker and valuable asset to the course (which he was, the guy was such a nice guy and a crazy good worker). All in all, I had a polar opposite view of who Donald Trump was prior to this election cycle."
"Trump owns a golf resort in Scotland not far from my home, and he was speaking at a chambers of commerce meeting a couple of years ago, catered by students of the local cookery college, of ehich I was one - we did little canapes and nibbles, nothing major, but he popped in and thanked us for our efforts and said he enjoyed the food, which was nice of him."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Links - 14th December 2016

Sweet Cakes By Melissa, Bakery That Denied Lesbian Couple A Wedding Cake, Sees Business Boom - "Sweet Cakes by Melissa owner Aaron Klein is standing by his decision to turn away the same-sex couple, saying he’s received “lots of support” in the days since the case made headlines around the country. "
Even in Oregon, they received support

would burn his own heart to ash - "I just love this quote. It’s so easily overlooked, seen as unimportant, until you see the prequels. Because then you realize how utterly true and heartbreaking that phrase is. “He died about the same time your father did.” Meaning that Obi-Wan, that is, everything that made him who he was, his faith, his joy, his light, was murdered, killed, at the same time that Anakin was lost to the Dark Side. When Anakin became Vader, Obi-Wan became Ben. Anakin and Obi-Wan died together on that planet. Only Vader and Ben left it alive. One full of hate and darkness, the other a broken shell that was merely existing, not even really living. These two men were so deeply entwined, so bonded together in the force, that when one died, so did the other. That is the real definition of true love"

ANZ Bank launches a super deal for female employees - "Rather than talking about helping women progress, ANZ Bank will beat its rival banks and major corporates today by promising an extra $500 a year employer super contribution for its 12,700 female staff in Australia, as part of a raft of benefits aimed mainly at women... ANZ is the first bank in Australia to discriminate positively in favour of women in terms of compulsory super contributions, although actuaries Rice Warner have been giving female staff an extra 2 per cent since 2013 and Unions NSW followed suit about a year ago. The only complication to date is that organisations planning to do so have to get a waiver from the Human Rights Commission to be allowed to discriminate in that way."
So much for equal pay for equal work

Melbourne University advertises female-only jobs in bid to remedy gender imbalance in maths - "The University of Melbourne positions have been advertised using a special measure of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act. "The use of this kind of special measure that we're using has been used with regards to Indigenous employment," Professor Owczarek said. "For this kind of positions, permanent continuing academic positions, I believe it might be the first time it's been used," he added. Discrimination lawyer Rowan Skinner said the Act allows organisations to take actions to promote equality. "The Act specifically permits an organisation to engage in what is overtly a discriminatory act, but for the purposes of ensuring that there is equal opportunity overall," Mr Skinner said."
Do people advertise for male-only jobs to remedy gender imbalances? Maybe in feminist language, equal opportunity means equal results

Brett Caton's Controversial Commentary: Men are not regarded as 'Human' thanks to Feminist legislation in Australia - "I have confirmation, in writing, from the Australian government, that men are NOT protected by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) - equality only applies if it benefit women."

Australian Bureau of Statistics to discriminate against hiring men - "EMBATTLED Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs will allow the Australian Bureau of Statistics to discriminate against hiring men partly because they are more likely to commit domestic violence... the move has outraged Conservative Turnbull Government MPs, who have accused the Human Rights Commissioner of reverse sexism and demanded she resign. The plan has also split male workers within the ABS, who questioned why the Government agency would perpetuate stereotypes and not consider an employee’s qualifications and training."
They better not hire lesbians

Women in the Boardroom and Their Impact on Governance and Performance - "We show that female directors have a significant impact on board inputs and firm outcomes. In a sample of US firms, we find that female directors have better attendance records than male directors, male directors have fewer attendance problems the more gender-diverse the board is, and women are more likely to join monitoring committees. These results suggest that gender-diverse boards allocate more effort to monitoring. Accordingly, we find that CEO turnover is more sensitive to stock performance and directors receive more equity-based compensation in firms with more gender-diverse boards. However, the average effect of gender diversity on firm performance is negative. This negative effect is driven by companies with fewer takeover defenses. Our results suggest that mandating gender quotas for directors can reduce firm value for well-governed firms."
This suggests that the oft-trumpeted claim that gender diversity improves corporate performance is spurious correlation

You Are Still Crying Wolf - "the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population... All this stuff about how he’s “the candidate of the KKK” and “the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement” is made up. It’s a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist.

Ex-M1 staff gets 17 months' jail, caning for giving customer details to loansharks - "The court heard that in March 2015, Tay came under pressure from "Alvin", a loanshark he owed money to. Tay agreed to screen a list of NRIC and mobile phone numbers provided by "Alvin" against M1’s customer database, which Tay had access to as a customer service officer for the telco. "Alvin" paid Tay S$5 for each M1 customer whose particulars were provided. In addition, Tay also roped in his friend Mr Choo Kok Leong, who worked for Singtel, to similarly provide details of customers by accessing the Singtel database and searching for customers using the list of NRIC and mobile phone numbers provided by "Alvin". Tay paid Mr Choo S$5 for each Singtel customer whose particulars were provided. Tay, in turn, passed Mr Choo’s information to "Alvin", who paid Tay S$10 for the details of each Singtel customer."

TV5Monde hack: staff accidentally show passwords in report about huge cyber-attack - "Staff at a French TV station accidentally showed off passwords and other personal information during a TV report into a cyber-attack that happened only a day before. While filming interviews about the TV5Monde hack, which saw the station’s channel taken off air and its website made unavailable, staff were filmed in front of a wall that had sheets of paper with sensitive information stuck to it."

Retaliation -- Political Activity - Workplace Fairness - "Unlike many state and federal employees, most employees in America working for private employers do not have any legal protection against discrimination on the basis of political affiliation or activity. (A public employer can, under certain circumstances, be prevented from firing someone based on political speech (because that would constitute the government itself suppressing free speech.)) Only a mere handful of states (California, New York, and Washington, DC) have laws specifically making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of an employee's political activity or affiliation, while two more states (Colorado and North Dakota) prohibit discrimination on the basis of "lawful conduct outside of work.""

Throwing water into someone's face like in K-dramas may leave you with an assault charge

Woman guilty of assault for throwing water - Telegraph - "Speaking with help from an interpreter, Mrs Iqbal said water hit her son, now aged three, which turned his dry skin condition into eczema."

Woman Who Threw Water on Baltimore Mayor Gets Assault Charge - "Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had a large cup of water thrown on her Saturday at a community event at the mall where violence erupted in the city in April. Police have arrested Lacheisa Pailin-Sheffer, 37, of Baltimore and charged her with second-degree assault."

Sally Wen Mao - I've posted this on Twitter, but now I'm going to... - "the Trump supporter got aggressive and told us to go back to Tokyo (!), then called us c**** and whores. At which point I wasn't having it with his racism and misogyny -- I splashed my water across his face... More racist sexist shit poured out of him, "c*** whores," he wasn't very creative. So I splashed another glass of water on his face."
Luckily for Sally Wen Mao, throwing water at someone doesn't seem to count as assault in New York, so liberals can't get upset over her being "persecuted" by a "racist system" for "standing up for minorities". Though of course a few of them are cheering her on for splashing the water (and one said she should've used sriracha instead

You've got junk mail: SingPost says most residents welcome advertising material - "While some residents might complain about their mailbox being clogged up with promotional offers, furniture catalogues and discounts from food establishments, such advertising material is welcomed by most residents, SingPost told Channel NewsAsia. That could explain why only 0.8 per cent of the 1.2 million Singapore households have chosen to opt out of receiving unaddressed advertisements... Recognising that some residents do not like flyers being stuffed randomly, distributor Lim Yuan Hua said that he makes an effort to place the marketing material in the gate hinges and not dirty the surroundings. "I’ll fold the flyers and I will slot them in the gap of the metal gate. For letterboxes, I'll just use my bare hands to do from left to right so as to avoid any scratches on the letterboxes," said the 28-year-old."

How Jiro dreams of sushi turned into nightmare at Jiro - jokuti - "Don’t misinterpret: the sushi place is not a bad one by European standards. But, it is not at all the best in Japan! Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun, we have already seen that the media picks up someone not based on quality and merits, but thanks to an exciting story and strong characters. And Jiro is good at that, (old, 3 Michelin starred sushi chef in an underground passage) as much as the movie itself is good (for those interested in gastronomy and Japan). But the “restaurant” is not quite like that...
Given the strictness and the fastidiousness towards any possible violation of the etiquette, the ambience was anything but comfortable or friendly. I didn’t really feel welcome, and looking at my fellow guests, no one seemed to be at ease, either. And believe me, even if they served the best sushi in the world, you need a relaxed atmosphere to really enjoy it (and not to be rushed: 27 minutes for 21 big nigiris is anything but stress-free).
But the sushi is not the best in the world. It is not even close to perfect. I had so many great experiences in Tokyo on my trip, that it wasn’t simply enough to get nice food. Most of the fish were great, but some pieces seemed low quality or defective. For example, the mantis shrimp had a very strange slushy texture, definitely not the best quality...
Not even the Japanese think this is the best sushi. If you check out Tabelog, a reliable restaurant guide, you won’t see Jiro in the TOP20 in Tokyo, and it’s even lower on the list if we look at the whole country...
Service was not friendly at all - No 2. I was not allowed to take off my jacket!"

Democrats won't be able to block Trump appointments due to rules they imposed - "the Democratic Senate majority — led by Harry Reid (Nev.) — rammed through controversial rules fundamentally changing the way the Senate does business. They unleashed in November 2013 what’s called the “nuclear option” allowing senators to approve by a simple majority all presidential appointments to the executive branch and the judiciary, with a big exception for Supreme Court justices... Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that he opposed the rules change in the first place... Republicans warned at the time that Democrats were making a mistake with what they called a “power grab,” warning they would be sorry about the change when they eventually found themselves in the minority."

Tony Blair Wants To Shape Brexit Deal, Thinks Jeremy Corbyn Is A Nutter

Pence's shaming 'in the room where it happens' is itself a shame - "Broadway made it clear they were “With Her” during the general election, and now the “Hamilton” cast clearly felt it was time for a brave stand. Like those brave statements they made every time Obama's drone strikes killed innocent people of color and Muslims overseas. Those brave statements must just not be up on YouTube yet, I guess."

'I will not participate in dressing the next First Lady': Is fashion being hypocritical with its cold shoulder attitude to Melania Trump? - "For Sophie Theallet - one of Obama's favourite designers - the answer is a resounding yes. French-born, New York-based Theallet is the first fashion designer to come out publicly saying that she won't be dressing Melania Trump. “As one who celebrates and strives for diversity, individual freedom, and respect for all lifestyles, I will not participate in dressing or associating in any way with the next First Lady," she wrote in an open letter on Twitter. "The rhetoric of racism, sexism, and xenophobia unleashed by her husband’s presidential campaign are incompatible with the shared values we live by.”... Because with her poker-straight bronde hair, love of Louboutins, lashings of lip gloss, permatan and "done" face (yes, of course, she has denied ever having had surgery or Botox), Melania's glamazon vibe is the antithesis of many designers' ideal - and the natural, accessible look which has made Obama so appealing... one can almost imagine Melania vindictively ordering a batch of Theallet dresses as a two-fingers to her public statement... The irony is that as a former model Trump knows how to wear clothes - and to many women she will represent the epitome of aspirational polish. Indeed, that Gucci shirt sold out on Net-A-Porter within hours of Trump being seen wearing it. And no doubt we will see a similar phenomenon happen to the tightly fitted sheath dresses, power coats and waist-cinching silhouettes she'll bring to the White House from January... some designers believe that by boycotting Trump, they could be going against the very values which they claim to be defending."

Designer Sophie Theallet Says She Won't Dress Melania Trump - "the swipe at Melania Trump is pre-emptive, and it’s clear Ms. Theallet has every desire to draw conclusions about Mrs. Trump before actually meeting her. She also seems to forget that Mrs. Trump is both an immigrant, and not responsible for her husband’s Presidential policies... at least one designer, Marcus Wainwright of the label Rag + Bone, said he’d definitely consider the opportunity. “It would be hypocritical to say no to dressing a Trump,” Wainwright told NYT. “If we say we are about inclusivity and making American manufacturing great again, then we have to put that before personal political beliefs.”"

The US Supreme Court

BBC Radio 4 - The Battle for the US Constitution

"Gay marriage is probably not something the authors of the 14th amendment, like radical 1860s congressman John Bingham had in mind. But Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the gay marriage decision last year, argued that it still may be faithful to their broader intentions...

The protected status, the protected classes that are there are all but religion are an immutable characteristic. What race, sex. Religion was the only one that wasn't an immutable characteristic, and that's specifically protected in the Constitution.

So they got it right in the Civil Rights Act and then went on down the line and we've watched this thing that transitioned to what others will say is an evolution and I would say is a digression of our society when we began to protect the mutable characteristics that society has.

An immutable characteristic is one that can be independently verified and cannot be wilfully changed. Age is one, we added age to Civil Rights. That's fine. Disability is another one. If it truly is a disability, it can't be changed and it can be independently verified.

But the balance of this, they've changed now the word sex, which is independently verifiable and can't be wilfully changed, to gender, which is something now that is only in the person's head that's on their way to the bathroom...

'Let's say you and I decided to buy a beach house. The law is very clear: the government cannot seize that property from us without just compensation. Now let's say you and I as friends decided to come together and buy it together. Maybe we should create a corporation just so we can spell out our rights. Repairs are necessary, how we're going to fund it. Without this idea of corporate personhood, the government could go seize that beach house from the corporation. There's nothing protecting the seizure of that.'

But if a corporation is a person, it is entitled under the Fourteenth Amendment, so the courts have decided, to the equal protection of the laws...

The irony is that it's generally liberals who make the argument that the constitution evolves. So you can use the Fourteenth Amendment to allow gay marriage... but in this case, liberals think the courts have betrayed the original meaning of the Amendment by choosing to regard corporations as people"

BBC World Service - The Documentary, Court in the Centre

"There is very little in American life that doesn't come at some time before the United States Supreme Court...

Since Bork's nomination was rejected by the Senate, the political significance of each appointment has been endlessly parsed and assessed and today the process has come to a complete standstill...

We have a Supreme Court that is, has become increasingly political. Has ventured increasingly into very political waters. Waters that don't belong in the judicial branch of government.

And so it shouldn't be surprising to those on the left that at some point, those of us who are conservatives are going to push back and say that ok, if you want them to play this political role, if you're going to cheer them on every time they play this political role and in fact you're going to try to intimidate them into playing that increasingly political role, we're going to exercise our rights within our political system to stop it'...

As a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff's name became a byword for corruption, and he spent time prison as a result. But he's out now campaigning for good governance, and he worries that in a few recent decisions, the court has showed that it doesn't really understand how corruption works. Perhaps because, for the first time in its history, nobody on the court has ever been elected to public office...

I spoke to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens... I asked him if the court was political, legal or both.

'Sometimes cases present issues that have political ramifications, there's no doubt about that, but it's a judicial body, it's a court. It does not initiate its own business. It decides cases that are initiated by litigants and there're a lot of issues that they might like to decide but if they are not presented to them in a judicial way, they can't decide them. Their business is to decide cases and controversies... It had been the tradition before every argument session that the judges do shake hands with one another and it's also a tradition that they have lunch together regularly, but during lunches they don't talk business. They're social gatherings and the social aspects and the business aspects of the court are really quite separate"

Monday, December 12, 2016

Links - 12th December 2016

Spotify is writing massive amounts of junk data to storage drives - "For almost five months—possibly longer—the Spotify music streaming app has been assaulting users' storage devices with enough data to potentially take years off their expected lifespans. Reports of tens or in some cases hundreds of gigabytes being written in an hour aren't uncommon, and occasionally the recorded amounts are measured in terabytes. The overload happens even when Spotify is idle and isn't storing any songs locally."

Disturbing legal implications - Brave New World - "what is really disturbing is the fact that a fatwa, which is after all merely an opinion, can carry the weight of law even without going through the legislative process of debate and voting. This in effect means that one person’s words suddenly become akin to a law for we cannot challenge it and if we do we can face a fine and jail. This is frightfully undemocratic and can lead to some horrific scenarios. What if a mufti passes a fatwa saying that any sort of dissension against the civil government is wrong? According to the Federal Territories law, any challenge of fatwa can be punished. What kind of democracy are we living in if a person’s statement by itself can have such authority?"
Malaysia Boleh

China Discovers the Price of Global Power: Soldiers Returning in Caskets - WSJ - "His mother, Yang Bin, asked before he deployed if the work would be dangerous. “China is so powerful, who can bully us Chinese people?” her son replied, she recalled as she sat on a threadbare sofa in her rundown concrete home. “So our minds were set at ease.”... And there was a terrible irony: According to several U.N. officials, Cpl. Li may have been killed by a Chinese-made weapon, the likes of which China has sold to developing countries including South Sudan for years under its export-driven economic policy... Adding to the soul-searching in China, the U.N. investigation also found that Chinese troops abandoned defensive positions at least twice and refused to intervene to stop Western aid workers being raped. China’s foreign ministry called that finding “irresponsible criticism” and urged better protection for peacekeepers."

The equation of dual citizenship - "in the US (which began passing laws tolerating dual citizenship in the 1950s), the numbers show that Latin American immigrants who become dual citizens have greater employment gains and lower welfare use than those who become US citizens but let go of their first citizenship, indicating economic assimilation. In addition, these immigrants give birth to fewer children than their counterparts, possibly indicating cultural assimilation. Moreover, some governments have found ways to directly benefit from dual citizenship. Italy used dual nationality as a way to fight its declining population in the 1990s. The current law grants birthright citizenship to anyone with a parent, a grandfather or a great grandfather who held Italian citizenship"

Baldness Can Be a Powerful Business Advantage -- Study - WSJ - "Men with shaved heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant and, in some cases, to have greater leadership potential than those with longer locks or with thinning hair... Mr. Landau, now CEO of Drybar, a chain of blow-dry salons, says the bald look "makes me more confident and more strong, which probably makes people respect me more." Plus, in the hair business, he says, "people remember the bald guy.""

What makes a classic RPG? Everything! - "There has been a fantastic array of different role-playing games through the years, and the critical questions of how to build them have never answered. It's clear that there's no one best way to build a classic RPG. It's also clear that this is the most diverse genre in video game history."

'Cinema ninjas' to silence naughty film-goers - "staff at London's Prince Charles cinema - perhaps most famous for hosting occasional singalong screenings of films like The Sound of Music - have come up with the idea of employing "ninjas" to stamp out audience members' bad behaviour during regular screenings. Volunteer Catherine Small is one of the team of unpaid ninjas who dress up in anonymous black body suits and monitor screenings at the cinema."

Prostitution: The hidden cost of Greece's economic crisis - "According to the National Centre for Social Research (EKKE), the rate of prostitution in the country has soared by 150 per cent during the economic crisis... Over the past four years, Greece has seen a 200 per cent rise in cases of HIV... Women, jostling for a finite quantity of clients, are forced to charge less and less. And, of course, clients have vastly reduced spending power due to the financial crsis. The result is an average fee of about €15 (£11)."

SO WHAT I’VE DONE WITH TWITTER is just to log out for now. - "Basically, there are two problems with Twitter for me. One is that they don’t support their users — they pretty clearly suspend, ban, etc. using a political double standard even though they claim they don’t. But the other problem with Twitter is that it’s the crystal meth of social media: Addictive, but unsatisfying. I’ve been spending a lot of time on it even though it doesn’t make me any money, and even though I kind of doubt it has much of an impact on anything. As I said a while back: “I think Twitter is overrated. It’s a good way to chatter with the chattering classes, but (1) it doesn’t drive traffic; (2) its impact outside the chattering classes is basically nil; and (3) it encourages people to think they’re being ‘activists’ when they’re really just tweeting to a few hundred people... if I, a tenured professor whose university just admitted that his tweets are protected by the First Amendment, have concerns about this, I have to wonder why anyone whose job is less secure would stay on Twitter.”

UPDATED! In Defense of Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, Suspended from Twitter for Suggesting Motorists "Run Down" Charlotte Protesters - "Whatever you think of the tastefulness of his suggestion regarding the protesters in Charlotte, the idea that he is seriously inciting any sort of actual or real threat is risible"

Whoohoo censorship! Free-speech advocate and well-known Conservative @Instapundit suspended on Twitter - "Because you know, it makes more sense to sit in your car and wait for the angry “protesters” to beat you to death and steal your car. Sure... There are accounts literally championing the harm of police officers openly on Twitter, and yet they felt it made more sense to ban the guy telling people to defend themselves."

Hate Speech on Campus | American Civil Liberties Union - "Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech -- not less -- is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted...
Q: I have the impression that the ACLU spends more time and money defending the rights of bigots than supporting the victims of bigotry!!??...
A: Defending First Amendment rights for the enemies of civil liberties and civil rights means defending it for you and me.
Q: Aren't speech codes on college campuses an effective way to combat bias against people of color, women and gays?
A: As one African American educator observed: "I have always felt as a minority person that we have to protect the rights of all because if we infringe on the rights of any persons, we'll be next.""
One day soon the ACLU will be labelled bigots and part of the alt-right

Oregon official who bullied Christian bakery owners loses election - "Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian was defeated by Republican Dennis Richardson in his bid to be Secretary of State. It's the first time a Republican has been elected to a statewide office in Oregon since 2002. So consider this – Avakian was too liberal for what is arguably one of the most liberal states in the country."

Tuberculosis and the Vampire Myth - "When people died from consumption and other members of their household soon sickened as well, it was believed that the dead family member was visiting the house at night as a vampire and slowly sucking their lives away. Because tuberculosis patients were slowly being “consumed” by the disease, it was assumed that vampires were feeding off of their blood. If multiple family members began to fall ill after a consumption death and vampirism was expected, communities took a nontraditional approach to treating the disease, beginning with exhuming the body and removing its heart. If the heart contained “fresh” blood (an effect of decomposition, but believed to be blood the vampire had sucked out of the living), the heart would be burned and the ashes fed to sick family members as a cure, or a stake would be driven through the heart, a practice still associated with vampire myths today."

Why Skin Wrinkles in Water - "The full explanation of how and why our fingers wrinkle in wet environments is still the subject of some debate. What we know is that the physiological mechanisms causing this phenomenon are the result of our veins constricting (vasoconstriction) in your hands and feet. One might notice this occurs even in warm water, when we otherwise would assume blood vessels should dilate instead of constrict. This suggests an evolutionary benefit to wrinkling digits. One such advantaged recently demonstrated by two studies showed that wrinkled fingers provide us with better grip in wet environments... The most damning evidence that osmosis is not the cause of finger wrinkling is that if you cut the sympathetic nerve fibers (those that respond to your fight or flight response) to a person’s fingers, they will no longer wrinkle in water."

Spooning Is a Physical and Ideological Travesty. It Must End Now. - "Big spoons are manly and will take care of you (provided you let them use you to take care of themselves); little spoons are fragile, passive creatures that need to be held and kept safe. This, of course, is fundamentally a sexist arrangement, one that casts the big spoon as “the man” and the little spoon as “the woman.” To say that this power imbalance is built into all acts of spooning—whichever the sexes engaged—is not, I think, an overstatement. Indeed, I would argue that spooning is always already a power play, a perverse strategy by which we nightly enact the unjust relations of “big” and “little” privilege that plague our society on every level."
"Thanks to political correctness and social justice types who are offended by just about everything, I cannot tell if the author means this piece to be satirical, or if he really is a hypersensitive wet blanket who takes spooning way too seriously. I suggest some forking to help him mellow out."

2 homeless men from Saskatchewan given one-way bus tickets to B.C. - "two young First Nations men were each given one-way bus tickets from North Battleford to Vancouver and Victoria. They told the newspaper they were denied provincial funding to stay overnight at the North Battleford Lighthouse homeless shelter and that is when the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services paid for the two bus tickets. Charles Neil-Curly, 23, and Jeremy Roy, 21, arrived at Vancouver’s bus station on Wednesday afternoon. Asked if he was happy to be in B.C., Neil-Curly replied: “Yeah, I guess. I don’t have to sleep in a snowbank.”... Governments have offered people help to leave a province before. Former Alberta premier Ralph Klein cut welfare rates in the 1990s and offered one-way bus tickets to B.C. In 1995, the Ontario government offered up to $1,500 in travel expenses to welfare recipients to move to B.C. if they could prove they had roots in the province."

Blog: People in Blue States seek psychiatric help 50% more often than in Red States.

Affirmative Consent Laws: 'State-Mandated Dirty Talk'? - "Writing in the California Law Review, Harvard Law School professors Jeannie Suk and Jacob Gersen note that “Today we have an elaborate and growing federal bureaucratic structure that in effect regulates sex.” This is largely the result of pressure from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, where I used to work. OCR also has told colleges like the University of Montana and University of New Mexico to classify all “unwelcome” sexual conduct or speech as “sexual harassment.” It did so even though this violates free speech, and even though courts have never defined sexual harassment that broadly. The Obama administration expects colleges to massively meddle in students’ romantic lives, even off campus. It has told colleges to investigate students for sexual harassment or assault even when their allegedly victimized partner does not want any investigation... By pressuring colleges to vastly increase their regulation of students’ sex lives, and demanding investigations students don’t want, the Obama Education Department has fueled vast expansions of college bureaucracies. There are now thousands of staffers responsible for enforcing Title IX sexual conduct mandates... If you expect colleges to police “remarks about physical appearance” made during a relationship with an ex-partner, and treat it as “violence,” you will end up with vastly more investigations (and need a vastly larger and more costly administrative apparatus)... when the co-sponsor of California’s 2014 “affirmative consent” law was asked how an innocent person could prove “affirmative” consent, she said, “Your guess is as good as mine.” Yet California state legislators expect colleges to enforce such rules for them (a number of colleges are now being sued by expelled students). As Gersen and Suk note, very little actual consent qualifies as “affirmative consent” under the extremely narrow definition of “consent” contained in many campus “affirmative consent” policies... Even if you liked being kissed, a college may deem it sexual assault if there was no explicit discussion beforehand between you and your partner to establish the existence of “affirmative consent”... Professors Suk and Gersen (and others) have argued that requiring students to do this sort of thing raises serious constitutional privacy issues under Supreme Court decisions like Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down Texas’s sodomy law as a violation of privacy rights"

American Law Institute rejects affirmative consent standard in defining sexual assault - "A group of 120 members wrote a public letter denouncing the proposal, arguing affirmative consent improperly shifts the burden of proof onto the accused when charges of sexual assault are levied. By forcing the accused to prove the near-impossible — that a sexual encounter was vocally agreed upon at each stage — affirmative consent standards deny the accused due process rights, the letter said.
The American Law Institute is presumably made up of rapists, since they reject Affirmative Consent

State-mandated dirty talk in California: Governor signs unconstitutional SB 967 - "There are lots of things in this world that I like, and view as consensual, that I never “agree” to, such as when my daughter suddenly hugs me without asking for permission, or my co-workers surprise me by leaving a snack on my desk. “Agreements” are for dry legal contracts, not warm, spontaneous human interactions. But now, you have to reach on “agreement” on everything, which could lead to some very uncomfortable conversations in the bedroom... Such explicit discussion can be more discomfiting even than an unwanted touching. One of my female relatives experienced sexual abuse as a minor, and is especially uncomfortable with graphic sexual talk in the bedroom as a result... Such “state-mandated dirty talk” should also be recognized as violating the First Amendment freedom from compelled speech, recognized in the Supreme Court’s 1977 Wooley v. Maynard decision. SB 967 could also lead to violations of the Fourteenth Amendment ban on sexual harassment by state governments, recognized in federal appeals court rulings like Bator v. State of Hawaii and Hayut v. State University of New York, which forbid the government, and state officials, from creating a sexually hostile environment. It could create a sexually-hostile educational environment for both men and women. It could do so for men, judging from the admissions of its supporters like Ezra Klein, by “creating a haze of fear and confusion” and “cold spike of fear” for men... Such sexual harassment and intimidation violate the civil rights laws — even when the victims are male"

Researchers say many students still struggle with affirmative consent - "Research by two California scholars, however, suggests that students’ understanding of consent is not in line with the new policies and laws. Instead, students often obtain sexual permission through a variety of verbal and nonverbal cues, both nuanced and overt, that do not always meet a strict definition of affirmative consent... many affirmative consent policies treat students as though they have “just hatched out of an egg,” rather than arriving on a campus with 18 years of socialization about sexuality and consent. A policy that assumes students are overtly asking someone to have sex with them is one that may privilege students who are extroverts, for example, while not providing a framework for introverted students who are less likely to talk openly about any issue, consent or otherwise. More broadly, the researchers said, students are taught from a young age that sex is not something meant to be talked about."
Even college students don't do affirmative consent, unsurprisingly enough

What the Anglophone reaction to the PISA test results tells us

What the Anglophone reaction to the Pisa test results tells us

"The results of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test were released about a week ago, and the usual media hype has followed.

A litany of analyses has been written and the conventional narrative is about how the East Asian nations are top again in Maths and Science. The somewhat predictable discussion is often framed around the purpose of such testing, as well as whether the Western world ought to be emulating practices that have worked so well for students in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

What is never mentioned is this: Singapore is ranked top in Reading, in English, the medium of instruction in all its schools. It outperformed Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and any other nation with “native speakers” of English. Nor is this the first time this has happened.

Singapore ranked fifth in 2009 and third in 2012 for Reading, the highest-placed country where English is the medium of instruction.

So why has the dominant narrative always been what the West might learn about teaching Maths and Science from East Asia? Why have commentators in the Anglo-world not written about looking to Singapore as a model for teaching English?

The answer, I believe, lies in how most people and nation states in the world today continue to link biological heritage and phenotype with cultural and linguistic practice.

That is, one’s proficiency in and supposed affiliation to a language is tied up with one’s race, ethnicity or nationality. This idea is translated into racialised (even racist) discourses in our daily interactions, the advertisements we see, government policies and even interpretations of Pisa test scores.

In 1998, sociolinguist Thiru Kandiah wrote a politically-charged piece regarding the hierarchical status amongst English-users in the world.

He gives the example of an advertisement published in The Straits Times. On July 12, the advertisement read: “Established private school urgently requires native speaking expatriate English teachers for foreign students.”

On July 14, the same advertisement had been altered: “Established private school urgently requires native speaking Caucasian English teachers for foreign students.”

To Prof Kandiah, such discourse immediately pointed to the marginalisation of “an upstart bunch of English users across the world, who had been taught the language so well by their ‘native speaking’ teachers that they now entertained the delusion that they were reliable and valid users, interpreters and judges of the language”.

Things have not changed much since 1998. A friend recently shared an advertisement in a Hong Kong university, where the same associations between “native speaker of English” and particular nationalities were made.

In the UK, its Border Agency stipulates that all international students applying for visas must provide academic proof of proficiency in English, unless one is a national of countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.

These examples all show that racialised discourses regarding the status of so-called “native/non-native speakers of English” are very much alive and prevalent today.

In other words, even if Singapore is ranked best in the world for reading English, such discourses suggest that we will still not be considered “reliable and valid users” able to judge, evaluate or take ownership of how English ought to be spoken/written.

The Anglophone silence regarding Singapore’s proficiency in English might be attributed to plain ignorance (not knowing Singapore’s education system) or racism (unable to accept that Asians might have anything to offer about teaching the language).

Both stem from essentialist and ethnocentric attitudes. People from East Asia and who look Asian are assumed not to speak or write English well. Stranger still if they should claim English as their mother tongue.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been complimented on my “accentless” and good English while living in the UK and travelling in Europe.

As long as these attitudes persist, the global status of Singaporean or any “non-native” English-speakers will never change.


Luke Lu is a Singaporean PhD candidate at the Centre for Language, Discourse and Communication, King’s College London. He taught General Paper in a Singapore junior college for four years."

As an Anglophone Singaporean I know the standard of English in Singapore is poor, and that Singaporeans don't speak it very well (though their standard of written English is indeed better).

Also, most Singaporeans don't consider themselves native English speakers - if even Singaporeans don't consider themselves such, should foreigners?

I note too that these "essentialist and ethnocentric attitudes" are not unique to the Anglophone world. Indeed Singaporean Chinese fervently hold them too (e.g. "You are Chinese, so you must speak Chinese").

And I also note that in other contexts, many people who happily share this would be bashing the folly and uselessness of standardised tests. Yet in sharing and endorsing this they are implicitly endorsing them.

Best of all - this is quite funny considering that before today I had literally not seen anyone comment on PISA reading (in fact I didn't even know that it was a component). PISA is clearly seen as a science/mathematics test (though the OECD itself says it focuses "on science, with reading, mathematics and collaborative problem solving as minor areas of assessment"). So if people don't even know that PISA measures reading how can you slam them for ignoring Singapore's reading performance?

Comparison with international English indices is also telling.

Education First's EPI (billed as "the world's largest ranking of countries by English skills", ranks Singapore as 6th out of 72 countries in English proficiency. The countries above it? The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland.

Meanwhile in a review of TOEFL scores in 2010, the Netherlands and Denmark beat Singapore (which tied with Austria).

These two other test results complicate the picture; EPI includes both reading and listening (and is thus a somewhat more holistic measure of English proficiency than PISA's reading test). TOEFL meanwhile assesses all 4 linguistic domains - Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

[Addendum: Another perspective comes from IELTS scores.

For General Training (Academic results for Singapore are unavailable probably because Singaporeans would be exempted from the IELTS for university admission),

- Singapore is tied for second for listening (Ireland is better and just 0.1 ahead)
- ties with the US for top for reading
- is fourth for writing (6.8 - 0.3 behind third place South Africa and 0.5 behind joint top USA and Ireland)
- is distinctly behind for speaking ability (7.4 - 0.8 behind third place South Africa and 1.1 behind Ireland which comes on top)

We can see that Singaporeans are distinctly behind in their speaking ability, though fourth place isn't too shabby.

However IELTS exemptions also apply to some people from traditionally English speaking countries (e.g. for international doctors working in the UK you get IELTS exemption if you recently graduated and were taught in English), so there is some selection effect there too, i.e. we would expect traditionally English speaking countries to do better than the results reflect.]

It is thus notable that Singapore is not top on either test - instead ceding this position to countries which don't even have English as a first language.

Sure, supposed English-speaking countries may do worse on these same tests, but all these facts at least complicate the original Today article's message of "Anglophones are racist because they assume Singaporeans aren't good in English even though they rank top in PISA's reading test" (I'm sure no one would consider the Dutch native English speakers either).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Links - 11th December 2016

Thank Zordon,the Power Rangers movie features the original theme song - "it is glorious. I don’t think there’s anything more 90s than the Power Ranger intro, a glorious headbanging gateway drug to metal and sick solos that most ikely inspired Dragonforce to be awesome. It’s a signature tune alright, on of hope and fun. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that such an iconic theme would be absent from the grittier and more grounded Power Rangers reboot hitting cinemas next week."

How to Break an Illusion - "He has lots of levers. Expect him to push one lever after another until the monster framing cracks. By summer the story will be that he’s the most flexible and centrist president in our history... Watch for Trump to save some kittens – as many as necessary – until you can’t hold in your mind the frame that he’s a monster. Enjoy the show. The Master Persuader is just getting started."

The Cognitive Dissonance Cluster Bomb - "One option is to accept that if half the public doesn’t see Trump as a dangerous monster, perhaps he isn’t. But that would conflict with a person’s self-image as being smart and well-informed in the first place. When you violate a person’s self-image, it triggers cognitive dissonance to explain-away the discrepancy. So how do you explain-away Trump’s election if you think you are smart and you think you are well-informed and you think Trump is OBVIOUSLY a monster? You solve for that incongruity by hallucinating – literally – that Trump supporters KNOW Trump is a monster and they PREFER the monster. In this hallucination, the KKK is not a nutty fringe group but rather a symbol of how all Trump supporters must feel. (They don’t. Not even close.) In a rational world it would be obvious that Trump supporters include lots of brilliant and well-informed people. That fact – as obvious as it would seem – is invisible to the folks who can’t even imagine a world in which their powers of perception could be so wrong. To reconcile their world, they have to imagine all Trump supporters as defective in some moral or cognitive way, or both."

Research says there are ways to reduce racial bias. Calling people racist isn’t one of them. - "In talking with researchers and looking at the studies on this, I found that it is possible to reduce people’s racial anxiety and prejudices. And the canvassing idea was regarded as very promising. But, researchers cautioned, the process of reducing people’s racism will take time and, crucially, empathy. This is the direct opposite of the kind of culture the internet has fostered — typically focused on calling out racists and shaming them in public... when they hear politicians and journalists call them racist or remind them about their privilege, they feel like elites are trying to distract from the serious problems in their lives and grant advantages to other groups of people. When Hillary Clinton called half of Trump voters “deplorable,” she made this message explicit... People don’t want to be immediately dismissed because they might have a view that you consider wrong or even vile; they want to feel heard. And once that happens, it’s a lot easier for them to make mental space to understand other people’s problems."

Donald Trump voters - Important political issues - "I voted for Donald Trump because he will deport illegal immigrants more than Clinton. As a legal immigrant who had to wait 13 years for an immigration visa approval and pass two health screens and an English language proficiency exam prior to entering the United States, I consider it an insult to to cater to criminals who disobeyed immigration laws and cut in front of all law-abiding immigration applicants waiting patiently to be approved. I have never received any government assistance, nor is it my goal to do so. My dignity disallows such a thought. To witness some illegal immigrants gaming the welfare system boils my blood."
"He had tapped into what the everyday Joe — and Jane — were feeling but had become PC-shamed from expressing. As Trump cleared each hurdle during the campaign, and I saw how the media, the establishment and celebrities tried to derail him, my hope began to grow that I would be able to witness their collective heads explode when he was successful. Tuesday night was beyond satisfying to watch unfold"
"I am white, I am a woman, I am pro-choice, I am educated, and I voted for Donald Trump"
"My entire family — five Muslim immigrants from Turkey — voted for Donald Trump in Florida because of the Democratic Party’s pandering to Islamism. As people who have actually experienced Islamism in its purest form, back in Turkey, we supported the candidate who promised to help us fight that issue, regardless of any of his other policies. For us, the people of the Middle East, this election was just too important to hand over to someone such as Hillary Clinton."
"As I watched, I got the impression that voting was a mere formality. The commentary was all about how Hillary Clinton was set to get down to business once the pesky election was over. It was obvious watching the election returns on several networks that not one of them prepared for the possibility of Donald Trump triumphing. Why was that? My vote was my only way to say: I am here and I count"
"The lies never stopped. Then came the Clinton Foundation, foreign donations and the emails. I have 100 percent Clinton Fatigue"
"The Constitution is a social contract, not a poem to be variously interpreted. If people want to permit gay marriage or abortion for any reason, then make both legal through the legislature, not via an unelected oligarchy rewriting the Constitution."
" I don’t need my president to be nice to everyone and to give them a warm, fuzzy feeling. Get a bathrobe for that"
"I am a gay millennial woman and I voted for Donald Trump because I oppose the political correctness movement, which has become a fascist ideology of silence and ignorance. After months of going back and forth, I decided to listen to him directly and not through minced and filtered quotes from the mainstream media"
"As a retired federal employee with a security clearance, I have protected classified information. Failure to do so has resulted in prison for many, and rightly so"

Glenn Greenwald: Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them. - "Blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office, and drowning in partisan loyalties at the expense of political principles, Democrats consecrated this framework with their acquiescence and, often, their explicit approval... Obama’s approach to executive power flipped so quickly and diametrically that it is impossible to say if he ever believed his campaign-era professions of restraint. As early as May 2009, Jack Goldsmith, a Justice Department official under George W. Bush, celebrated Obama’s abandonment of his promises to rein in these authorities... Liberals vehemently denounced these abuses during the Bush presidency... But after Obama took office, many liberals often tolerated — and even praised — his aggressive assertions of executive authority... According to a 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats and 67 percent of moderate or conservative ones now supported keeping Guantanamo Bay open. After just three years of the Obama presidency, liberals sanctioned a system that allowed the president to imprison people without any trial or an ounce of due process."

'Tolerant' educators exile Trump voters from campus: Glenn Reynolds - "The response to the shock has been to turn campuses into kindergarten. The University of Michigan Law School announced a ”post-election self-care” event with “food" and "play,” including “coloring sheets, play dough (sic), positive card-making, Legos and bubbles with your fellow law students.” (Embarrassed by the attention, UM Law scrubbed the announcement from its website, perhaps concerned that people would wonder whether its graduates would require Legos and bubbles in the event of stressful litigation.) Stanford emailed its students and faculty that psychological counseling was available for those experiencing “uncertainty, anger, anxiety and/or fear” following the election. So did the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. Meanwhile, even the Ivy League wasn’t immune, with the University of Pennsylvania (Trump’s alma mater) creating a post-election safe space with puppies and coloring books... At Cornell, The Fix reported, students held a "cry in."... Yale had a ”group scream.” At Tufts, the university offered arts and crafts, while the University of Kansas reminded students that there were plenty of “therapy dogs” available. At other schools, exams were canceled and professors expressed their sympathy to traumatized students. It’s easy to mock this as juvenile silliness — because, well, it is juvenile silliness of the sort documented in Frank Furedi’s What's Happened To The University? But that’s not all it is. It’s also exactly what these schools purport to abhor: an effort to marginalize and silence part of the university community."

UMich Law School Cancels Trump Trauma Play-Doh Event After Mass Ridicule - "In a speech, the school’s president Mark Schlissel praised the protests and noted – to loud applause – that 90% of students had voted “in favor of a candidate other than Trump.” Schlissel went on to say that those who did vote for Trump voted in support of “hate” and “fractiousness.”"

Donald Trump holds high the flag for gay equality - "the moment was barely reported by the media despite the fact it happened in front of the traveling press corps accompanying Mr. Trump. Political reporters, not unsurprising, largely failed to write on the moment where a Republican challenged their negative media stereotype."

Why Trump Doesn’t Scare Me - "You know how Trump is always saying inappropriate and violent-sounding things? Most people see that type of language as offensive and even dangerous. The exception is people who grew up in New York. We see it as “talking.”... Trump has been consistent for decades in his practice of making an aggressive first offer and negotiating down to something reasonable. He talks about it in his book, The Art of the Deal. So when Trump announced he would deport 11 million people, I saw that as an aggressive opening offer, consistent with his history, and nothing worthy of fear. Most of the world saw it as a final offer... if you think Trump is a racist, you were probably offended that he referred to Judge Curiel as “Mexican.” But if you do not think Trump is racist, you might notice that Americans with Italian heritage refer to themselves as Italian. And Americans with Irish backgrounds often call themselves Irish. Even Americans with Mexican heritage call themselves Mexicans. It’s just a shorthand way of talking. Every single one of us talks the way Trump does... My perception is that what people see as Trump’s racism is actually their own confirmation bias. That doesn’t mean I’m right. But keep in mind that I am trained to spot confirmation bias in others, and this is the cleanest case I have ever seen."

'You Have No Place Here' – Grubhub CEO Demands Pro-Trump Employees Resign - "Maloney’s critics aren’t even all Trump supporters; it seems anyone with even half a sense of decency knows what the CEO says is just plain wrong."

Mike Rowe weighs in on the results of the election, and offers a bit of sanity - "despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them. Last week, three old friends – people I’ve known for years – each requested to be “unfriended” by anyone who planned on voting for Trump. Honestly, that was disheartening. Who tosses away a friendship over an election? Are my friends turning into those mind-numbingly arrogant celebrities who threaten to move to another country if their candidate doesn’t win? Are my friends now convinced that people they’ve known for years who happen to disagree with them politically are not merely mistaken – but evil, and no longer worthy of their friendship?"

Stop Funding Hate are fascists - "Stop Funding Hate are a lefty Social Justice Warrior (SJW) organisation seeking to censor non left wing views in the British Press. You will find them on Twitter as @StopFundingHate and on Facebook as https://www.facebook.com/stopfundinghate/ . Their tactic is to hit the income of certain newspapers by political action against the advertisers in these newspapers. Their Twitter profile says: “Don’t hate the media – change the media. Help us take on the divisive hate campaigns of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express”. You can see quite clearly that they are specifically targeting the non lefty press. Divisive hate campaigns are OK in the Guardian (who are regularly accused of anti Semitism) and the Mirror. Because what Stop Funding Hate mean by “hate campaigns” are anything that THEY disagree with. Basically this is blackmail. Newspapers are being held to ransom by extreme left wing activists who are saying to them that if they oppose socialism they will be hurt financially... socialist George Orwell, prescient as always, said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. Obviously authors are brighter than ex soccer players... all of us should go out and buy the Sun, Mail and Express out of solidarity with these bastions of our rights and freedoms."

City University students vote for campus ban on Sun, Mail and Express - "The motion, while largely symbolic, is embarrassing for the university, which runs one of the UK’s top journalism programmes... “The students in the class I was teaching today were furious and understandably so at gesture politics from a fraction of the student body,” he said. “They understand that the answer to journalism that you may not like is to do the journalism better.” During the meeting, another motion titled “why is my curriculum white?” was passed attacking the university as the “primary motor in reproducing this ideology of whiteness”. The union has resolved to take an active role in “decolonising” the curriculum and “start asking where are our black lecturers”. The student union’s move follows the high profile campaigning group Stop Funding Hate pressuring businesses to drop their commercial relationships with the same three newspapers because they run “divisive hate campaigns”... online publication Spiked released its latest free speech rankings for universities, finding that 90% of institutions were carrying out some form of censorship, up from 80% a year earlier... almost two-thirds of UK students back the National Union of Students’ no platforming policy"

What Do You Do When Someone Travels Around The World To Copy You - "Everything from the exact location, composition of the shot, processing, clothing, and sometimes even the caption! At that point, it's not just copying, it's creepy."
Addendum: Something's really amiss about the claims of this blogger who was being 'stalked around the world'

LOL doodles found in high school textbooks from around the world will help the healing…

Why Uber Is an Economist’s Dream

Why Uber Is an Economist’s Dream - Freakonomics Freakonomics

"LEVITT: I love New York because it has amazing Pokémon Go stops and great creatures everywhere... Yeah, I love Pokémon Go.

DUBNER: Tell me why you love it so much.

LEVITT: I like it because it’s a lot like fishing, but then you don’t actually have to kill any animals and take the hook out after you catch them...

Economists don’t mind [the raising of prices before a hurricane] at all. Because what actually happens when a hurricane is coming is the hardware stores run out of batteries and flashlights, because they’re not allowed to raise prices, there is a run on the stores, people buy lots of flashlights and batteries, and then there are none left. And that, to an economist, is a failure, because what markets are supposed to do is to use prices to allocate things like flashlights and batteries to the people who are willing to pay the most for the flashlights and batteries.

So what happens in disaster situations, where there is a limited supply and no real way to get extra flashlights and batteries is that I go to the store and I buy way more flashlights and way more batteries than I really want or need just to be on a safe side. But then you, Dubner, you show up an hour later and they’re all gone. And you really need that first flashlight and you really need the batteries and they aren’t there for you. So that’s a breakdown of markets.

The other reason that you want prices to rise when there is lots of demand, let’s say a hurricane is coming. And it’s conceivable, that you and I, Dubner, as entrepreneurs and knowing that hurricane is coming, could start in New York, fill up our car with flashlights and batteries and we would drive to New Orleans with the hope that we could sell our flashlights and our batteries at a higher price. That’s great because the flashlights and the batteries are worth a lot more in New Orleans right before the hurricane than they are in New York. And if we were willing to take that trouble, it would be great for the people of New Orleans, even though they’d have to pay a higher price...

One of my economist friends Judd Cramer has written a paper, and using pretty simple economics, his conclusion is that the taxi cab drivers really haven’t been helped or hurt very much, which makes a lot of sense because essentially, there’s always been free entry to be a taxi cab driver. And with Uber, now there is another option for a taxicab driver. That if they have their own car or want to rent a car, they can drive Uber.

But the people who, without a doubt, are being absolutely crushed by Uber are the people who own the taxicab medallions. And there is just no way to get around that. They are the losers and that is the nature of a market economy is that when a new technology comes in that turns out to be a lot better for matching customers to vehicles to drive them around and that breaks the monopoly, that those people will lose and they will lose badly. And of course they will be very loud. Nobody likes to be the one who loses, but I think in this case, it’s really inevitable. It’s very hard to see any other future path other than medallions not being worth very much."
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