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Friday, January 06, 2017

Has the U.S. Presidency Become a Dictatorship? - Freakonomics

Has the U.S. Presidency Become a Dictatorship? - Freakonomics Freakonomics

"POSNER: like everybody, I have instinctive political reactions, but I try to maintain a distance and try to be objective about things. And often when I think about politics today, I try to think about how someone 100 years from now might think about politics, how a historian looking back — and when we look back, 100 years or 200 years, we often find it very difficult to understand why people seem to get upset about little things that in the end didn’t matter much. And I think it’s important to take that view when thinking about politics today...

“Presidential leadership and the separation of powers.” You argue that the presidents that generally judged as great — Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan, you name — are generally the “presidents who most frequently tread on constitutional norms”...

Well, with the benefit of hindsight, the whole constitutional system seems pretty nutty, and we actually know this because some other countries imitated it, which was a big mistake.

So especially in Latin America, a bunch of countries imitated our system and what happened was the three branches of government in those countries just became gridlocked, nothing could be accomplished, and eventually the president would just effectively declare himself the only ruler. And he would rule by diktat. And these countries were very unstable.

Now, it’s not really clear whether we should blame separations of powers, or these countries had other problems. But most political scientists, I believe, think that parliamentary systems are a lot more sensible. It’s a system that gives the government a great deal of power, but maybe not too much...

[FDR] vastly expanded the power of the federal bureaucracy. And he got Congress to pass laws which were what lawyers call “delegations of power.” Basically, rather than passing a law that says you have to do this or that to ordinary people, the laws say to the President, “you figure out what people should do.”

So, to use an anachronistic example, but an easy one to understand: when environmental law was eventually enacted in the 1970s, Congress didn’t really say, you know, “Here are all the pollutants and this is what you should do about them.” Congress said to the executive branch, “Do something about air pollution. And do something about water pollution.” And the Supreme Court initially struck down these laws, but eventually acquiesced to them. And then it was up to the bureaucracy and the executive branch, ultimately the EPA, to figure out what the rules were.

And then, the final thing of course, is World War II, and of course, you know, for all intents and purposes, during the war, Roosevelt was a dictator who basically decided how things would go, both in terms of how the war was prosecuted and in terms of domestic policy...

Obama is not remotely anomalous in his use of executive orders. George W. Bush, for example, issued 291 executive orders. Bill Clinton? Three hundred and sixty-four. President Obama, with a few months to go, has signed 249. So by sheer number, that isn’t remarkable.

But, Eric Posner argues, Obama has used his power differently.

POSNER: Well, the most distinctive and interesting innovation by President Obama has been to use a power that people don’t talk about much, sometimes called prosecutorial discretion, sometimes called enforcement power...

DUBNER: So I’m trying to square two conflicting narratives here. One is the Obama and Democratic narrative that a Republican-dominated Congress stymied everything that President Obama and the Democrats wanted to do, with your narrative that President Obama got almost everything he wanted by expanding or kind of maximizing presidential power. So can you put those two narratives together for me?

POSNER: Yes. Well, the Democrats are wrong. Obama has accomplished a huge amount, both by obtaining statutes and through his administrative powers... I think if you compare someone like Obama to Carter, Carter’s never going to be considered a great president maybe because he was too scrupulous about the law and about the Constitution"

Links - 6th January 2017

Pimp who ran vice ring offering BDSM services jailed 4 years for an array of crimes - "A 24-year-old man pimped a group of six women to provide sexual services - including bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM), a court heard. The BDSM services included caning, face slapping, trampling on a customer's private parts, torture and getting customers to role-play as dogs. Wong Jun Siang, who is unemployed, even sold soiled sanitary pads, bras, panties and socks belonging to the women, aged between 17 and 22... The offences include: arranging a sham marriage, procuring a woman for the purpose of prostitution, living on the earnings of prostitution, recruiting a child for sexual exploitation, theft, criminal breach of trust, and cheating."
According to the Women's Charter prostitution is defined as: "the act of a female offering her body for sexual penetration for hire, whether in money or in kind". Under Section 140 of the same Charter, "Offences relating to prostitution", "carnal connection" suffices to be an "offence relating to prostitution". Yet, looking at Britain's and other ex-British colonies' laws it looks like carnal connection needs penetration

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 172 - Brian Nosek on "Why science needs openness" - "There has been one experiment that I know about on transparency of peer review. It didn't check about retribution but it did check on if people, when they have to sign their names, are they less critical of the research?... they found no difference in the extent of the critique from transparency or not."

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 169 - Owen Cotton-Barratt on "Thinking About Humanity's Far Future" - "these papers, I think they were by Kahneman and Tversky, but certainly someone in that field. Where they were looking at hiring decisions. And they were comparing our default gut hiring decision where we just use our intuition to decide who's the best candidate, and they compare that to a much more quantitative method. Where we come up with categories that we think are important to a good hire, and we rate people in those categories and then we give them the total score across those categories. That more formalized method did better than the intuitive guessing, the default method. But what did even better than both of them was the method where you use the formal approach to sort of call your attention to things that you haven't been paying attention to before, you haven't been giving weight to. And then after you go through that whole exercise, you then go with your gut -- except now it's an informed gut instead of an uninformed gut"

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 167 - Samuel Arbesman on "Why technology is becoming too complex" - "Vinayak Prasad... co-wrote the book Ending Medical Reversal in which he was talking about all these medical results that were consensus among doctors, and put in practice for years. And then finally the solid gold standard long-term trial was done, and found that, "Oh actually, stents don't have the positive effects on mortality that we thought they did. Oops.” Or “Oh, promoting handwashing in the hospital, or sorry, wearing gloves in hospitals, doesn't have the positive effects we thought it did. Oops." He says he thinks that one reason for this, the reason this keeps happening, is that medical students are taught to think like physicists. Where the human body is this machine, and you can reason about what would happen if you do this thing or that thing. Instead of being taught to think like biologists, where you only really trust results if you have seen that, in fact, the evidence supports it and not just the theory."

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 165 - Robert Frank on "Success and Luck" - "apparently no one had much remarked about [the Mona Lisa] for its entire early history, hundreds of years, until 1911. What happened then? It had been stolen from the Louvre by an Italian maintenance worker. He walked out with it one night. This was the first time that a picture of a painting had appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world as the theft was reported in great detail... we really need to pay attention to the probabilities, to the uncertainty currently looking forward, in whether Donald Trump will in fact win the presidency. Because it's currently, I don't know, 36% or so. If he does win, there will be a ton of think pieces of how this was inevitable and why we “of course could've known from the start that he was going to win.”... and if he doesn't win, there will be all these think pieces about it. “Of course, he was going to lose, because X, Y, Z.” We really need to just call it right now that it is uncertain, head the hindsight bias off at the pass... somebody who's constantly bombarded with a message that says, "Look, you can work hard and be very skillful, you still probably won't win because luck's such a big part of the story," that person's more likely to say, "The hell with it, there's an easy early reward. Why should I study hard to get into a good school, I'll just take the easy reward now." If you really encourage people to think that they're not the captain of their own fate, there could be bad consequences to that... There have been experiments done, trying to probe that. You can prime people to believe either than free will is a thing or that it's not a thing. The people who are primed to believe that there is no freewill, they don't work as long or as assiduously on a hard problem that you give them to work on... one of our recent episodes, it was with Gregg Caruso, who is a philosopher, who argues basically that we have no free will and also that our society would be better off if we acknowledged that we have no freewill -- because, for one thing, we would be able to pursue a justice without retribution, essentially. A justice based on rehabilitation or utilitarian concerns in general"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Gettysburg Address - "Its greatness wasn't immediately clear... The Times of London opined 'Anything more dull and commonplace it would not be easy to produce'. The Times was wrong... Lincon comes to the presidency saying he's definitely not going to do that. He says we're not going to abolish slavery. Under the Constitution, slavery is permitted. We do not have the right under the Constitution to abolish slavery. So he's not an emancipationist when he comes to power...
the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and it's interesting that he references that ahead of the Constitution which is 10 or so years later, because the Declaration of Independence can widely be interpreted and seen as a much more radical document than the Constitution becomes. The Declaration of Independence sets out: all men are created equal. All men have inalienable rights of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution is a much more dry, legalistic document which is really about how you actually manage to organise the states to function as a federal government, and it makes compromises with issues like slavery, in order to keep the United States united. So it allows the states to have representation based on slavery, it allows the states to reopen the Transatlantic Slave Trade until 1808. These are issues that are in the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence is much more sort of raising these lofty ideals and Lincoln is harking back to that original document saying our Founding Fathers, and bizarrely written by Thomas Jefferson who of course was a slave owner. This is the sort of ideal we should be and this is a continuity of what we're doing, and that's why you can in some respects interpret the Civil War as Act 2 of the American Revolution. And that it's continuing and completing things that really should have been done 87 years ago. And that's the link he's making...
[On 'government of the people' etc] in the future going forward, people constantly attribute that to Lincoln... Lincoln borrowed that phrase from other people and people had used it before. The famous Italian Republican Mazzini had used exactly the same phrase and there's lots of Europeans who'd used it before...
Usually during civil wars people avoid the country but America had an in-migration and again it wasn't just the immigrants who'd come and fled their, seeing that this democracy might be something they could realise their dreams, bring them back to Europe. But they continued to come there even during the war. You had the growth, the expansion - as we know, war is very very strongly associated with industrial growth. It wasn't any exception in the United States at the time
Abraham Lincoln was a bigot!

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Songs of Innocence and of Experience - "Wordsworth and Coleridge having been educated all the way through, would've been educated in the Classics. Blake was very against the Classics. Very against the reading of Virgil, the study of Latin and so on...
[On The Sick Rose] O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
At one level, that's a poem about a rose.
A rose flowers for only a short time, but a canker in a rose destroys it. But if one starts looking closely at the language, the invisible worm in the night, finding out the bed, the sense of crimson joy, the dark secret love, one sees that this is also a poem about sex and sexuality. There's no doubt that a key aspect of Blake's radicalism as a religious thinker is that he believes, as he says somewhere, that energy is eternal delight. He believes that sexual passion comes from God and is a good thing. And that one of the worst things about the established church is its attitude to sex. In later years after his death, Blake was taken up as an apostle of free love...
This poem reminds us that the idea of sexual delight is something that can be destructive... sometimes Blake is misread as a kind of 1960s hippie before his time. Because actually the imagery here of sort of the loss of virginity and the destruction of the rose and the sense of darkness, the dark secret love, suggests that sexual desire can rebound upon one in a very destructive way"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Plasma - "That can knock out power transmission lines across the earth when those big ejections take place. The most famous event in 1989 when Quebec, the whole of Quebec went out for about 9 hours and 6 million people were out of electricity oweing to the sun. And it also mucks up GPS"

Guys of /r/singapore, what's the biggest hint you missed from a girl? : singapore

Recovering from the Trauma from Sh*tty Sushi-Ordering Software - "We all know that Singapore is suffering from a shortage of wait staff. More and more restaurants it seems are moving towards using technology to allow their customers to order food. Unfortunately, I have been traumatized twice over the past 2 days by the software used by two sushi restaurants -- Itacho Sushi and Sakae Sushi"
Comment: "Pic is crap actually
Just an avenue for vendors to sell crap softwares to sme that doesn't really use them at an inflated price
Really waste money but boost economy"

Man without arms denied housing loan due to inability to provide fingerprints
Related stories on the site: Armless man becomes master in calligraphy with mouth, donates 3 million yuan in 8 years
Society: Armless woman keeps fighting for better life
Armless farmer builds new hands for himself, others
Armless student pursues painting dream

Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura Halal Certification Terms & Conditions
- "All Halal food/raw materials must be physically segregated from non-Halal items during transportation. Cross contamination between the equipments/utensils used for Halal and non-Halal food should be avoided."
So, according to MUIS, Halal and non-Halal items can indeed be transported in the same vehicle

9+ GREAT Health Benefits of Kefir - "Rich in gut-healing probiotics, kefir is a traditional fermented milk drink that is made with kefir “grains” (a fermentation starter). Originating in the Caucasus Mountains, this nutritious drink is made by mixing sheep, goat or cow milk with the specially prepared “grains”. Traditionally, it was stored in skin bags that hung over doorways. Each time someone passed through the door, they would knock the bag around to keep the kefir and milk well mixed."

Auto Unload Tab :: Add-ons for Firefox
Best Firefox tab unloading/suspending add-on

‘NZ is a state of Australia’: Immigration officials detain Kiwi traveller in Kazakhstan - "Ms Phillips-Harris said New Zealand was missing from a map of the world in the room she was interrogated in, which made it impossible for her to convince Kazakhstan immigration officials that her home country really existed. She said she realised too late she probably had to pay her way out of the tricky situation. “Plainclothes policemen got involved, immigration police got involved, airport officials got involved ... and at that stage it was a bit late to bribe my way out, which apparently is what I was supposed to do from the beginning, but being a New Zealander we’re not familiar with that,” Ms Phillips-Harris said... Eventually, with the help of contacts in Kazakhstan, Ms Phillips was able to secure a new visa, a US passport and an exchange of cash that allowed her to escape detention and enter the country, where she ended up staying for six months. “The people I knew in Kazakhstan got me a new type of visa and paid the right people and got me out, that’s probably the easiest explanation,” she said."

Richard Sherman: "All lives matter," doesn't "fully support" Black Lives Matter - ""It's hard to formulate an opinion and generalize because they have several different messages," Sherman told Foxworth. "Some of them are peaceful and understandable and some of them are very radical and hard to support. Any time you see people who are saying, 'Black Lives Matter,' and then saying it's time to kill police, then it is difficult to stand behind that logic. They are generalizing police just like they are asking police not to generalize us. It is very hypocritical. So, in that respect, I find it difficult to fully support that movement." "I stand by what I said that All Lives Matter and that we are human beings," Sherman told Foxworth. "And speaking to police, I want African-Americans and everybody else treated decently. I want them treated like human beings. And I also want the police treated like human beings. I don't want police officers just getting knocked off in the street who haven't done anything wrong"... "I think there is also a mentality that we want to blame someone else for black fathers not being there for all these people having all these kids and nobody raising them. We want to say that's systematic, but when do we stop saying it's systematic and move forward and make a difference?"... "from personal experience, living in the hood, living in the inner city, you deal with things, you deal with people dying," Sherman said. "I dealt with a best friend getting killed. It was two 35-year-old black men. Wasn't no police officer involved, wasn't anybody else involved. I didn't hear anybody shout black lives matter then"
Luckily he's black so at most he'll be called an Uncle Tom

Sexy French Farmers Pose for Shirtless 2017 Calendar

Trump and the Taiwan Call - "Don’t worry about China going to war over a phone call. They understand Trump, in part because they read my blog too. And look at the brilliance of China’s diplomatic response. Their Foreign Minister labelled the phone call, "a shenanigan by the Taiwan side.“ That is exquisite diplomatic framing, Master Persuader-style. You can see why China and Trump respect each other; they both earned it."

Amazon accused of 'dehumanising' staff to deliver gifts in time for Christmas - "Amazon was last night accused of 'dehumanising' its staff battling to deliver gifts to millions of customers in time for Christmas."

Study: Elite scientists can hold back science - "researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a working paper — titled, "Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?" — that puts Planck's principle to the test. Sifting through citations in the PubMed database, they found evidence that when a prominent researcher suddenly dies in an academic subfield, a period of new ideas and innovation follow."

Maria Ladenburger murder - EU official daughter killed by refugee - "Ms Ladenburger reportedly worked in her spare time helping out in refugee homes in Freiburg. But it is unclear whether she ever met her murderer before he took her life. The dead girl's father is Dr. Clemens Ladenburger, a lawyer who works as the right hand man to the legal director of the European Commission."

Islamic State Earns High Marks for Diversity, Liberal Study Finds | Mufti News - "According to a new study released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Islamic State is 2016’s big winner when it comes to setting new standards of diversity and inclusiveness. According to their latest statistics, ISIS boasts representatives of over 76 different nationalities among its ranks, making it among the most diverse organizations in the world... “As bad as ISIS is, it’s at least a good thing that Islam has managed to positively impact ISIS in at least this one respect,” reminds SJWPLC Director of Sensitivity and Coddling, Marvin Harbschmidt. “Even though it has nothing at all to do with Islam and is in no way connected to it, ISIS has incorporated Islam’s amazing penchant for tolerance and inclusion for an amazing variety of people.” In a moment of weakness, we made the mistake of noting to the SJWPLC that some people have voiced concerns about the treatment of ex-Muslims, atheists, Ahmadis, Ba’hais, homosexuals, and other minority groups, both within ISIS and within the greater Muslim world as a whole, and that perhaps these trends might, at a minimum, comprise a counterpoint to (while not detracting from) the labels of “progressive” and “inclusive” that have come to characterize both groups. “I’m sorry, but I don’t engage with Islamophobes,” said Kohn, who immediately got up and ended our interview. “But I would strongly suggest that you check your privilege. Because at the SJWPLC, our deeply rooted sense of self-loathing causes us to believe that all religious beliefs other than our own Judeo-Christian traditions are beautiful, worthy, and equally valid.” “No exceptions,” she added, before calling security."

The Second Shift

Or: why it's unfair for women (and feminists) to blame men for doing less housework - one reason is because women want to do it.

"Many women have higher standards for housekeeping than their male partners. This may lead women to criticize how their male partners perform the tasks and to redo or take over tasks that their male partners aren’t performing to the women's satisfaction (Wiesmann, Boeije, van Doorne-Huiskes, & den Dulk, 2008). Responses like these understandably may discourage men from participating more actively in homemaking. Men may also feel that it‘s not fair for their partners to expect them to comply with housekeeping standards they don’t endorse. Only when couples agree on a standard for housekeeping is it fair to expect both partners to follow that standard."

--- Gendered Lives / Julia T. Wood

Attitudes Toward Housework and Child Care and the Gendered Division of Labor

"Research on the division of household labor has typically examined the role of time availability, relative resources, and gender ideology. We explore the gendered meaning of domestic work by examining the role of men's and women's attitudes toward household labor. Using data from the Dutch Time Competition Survey (N = 732), we find that women have more favorable attitudes toward cleaning, cooking, and child care than do men: Women enjoy it more, set higher standards for it, and feel more responsible for it. Furthermore, women's favorable and men's unfavorable attitudes are associated with women's greater contribution to household labor. Effects are stronger for housework than child care, own attitudes matter more than partner's, and men's attitudes are more influential than women's...

One puzzling paradox in the literature on housework is that women consider the unequal division of household labor be fair (sic), even though they do most of the domestic work." [Ed: Fair != statistically identical]

Sharing housework can be healthy: cultural and psychological factors influencing men’s involvement in household maintenance

"A study by Holter et al. (2009) showed that, among cohabitating couples in Norway, tidiness standards are among the possible reasons for the unequal distribution of household duties among partners. More women than men agreed with the statement that they often think the home is too untidy, while only half as many men agreed (Holter et al., 2009). Women would even rather wash clothes themselves so that they know it is done properly (58% of women think so in contrast to only 8% of men) (Holter et al., 2009). Hence, the standards for cleanliness in the house are maintained by mostly women; 60% of both men and women agree that it is the female partner who decides what is clean enough in the house. Holter et al. (2009) claimed that, as women adopt different tidiness standards than men, they view their contributions as lower and less valuable than men’s declared contributions.

As women are already positioned as experts in household duties who know best in these matters, they tend to put their partners in the role of student (Żadkowska, 2011). Women often dictate to men what, when, and how they should do chores around the house, depriving them of responsibility for domestic duties (Sikorska, 2009). As a result, men’s entry into domestic work can be also limited by female gatekeeping, or women exerting control over household duties (Allen & Hawkins, 1999; Connell, 2005). Thus, men do not engage fully in domestic duties because for women, it might mean losing their bastion of power (Titkow, Duch-Krzystoszek, & Budrowska, 2004; Żadkowska, 2011)."

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Links - 5th January 2016

MRT API by Kevin Chu - "MRTAPI.com provides live train arrival timings on all platforms in a MRT station in Singapore"

It’s the Law Too — the Laws of Logarithms - "Before pocket calculators—only three decades ago, but in “student years” that’s the age of dinosaurs—the answer was simple. You needed logs to compute most powers and roots with fair accuracy; even multiplying and dividing most numbers were easier with logs. Every decent algebra books had pages and pages of log tables at the back. The invention of logs in the early 1600s fueled the scientific revolution. Back then scientists, astronomers especially, used to spend huge amounts of time crunching numbers on paper. By cutting the time they spent doing arithmetic, logarithms effectively gave them a longer productive life. The slide rule, once almost a cartoon trademark of a scientist, was nothing more than a device built for doing various computations quickly, using logarithms. See Eli Maor’s e: The Story of a Number for more on this."

Uses of the logarithm transformation in regression and forecasting - "There are three kinds of logarithms in standard use: the base-2 logarithm (predominantly used in computer science and music theory), the base-10 logarithm (predominantly used in engineering), and the natural logarithm (predominantly used in mathematics and physics and in economics and business). In the natural log function, the base number is the transcendental number “e” whose deciminal expansion is 2.718282…, so the natural log function and the exponential function (ex) are inverses of each other. The only differences between these three logarithm functions are multiplicative scaling factors, so logically they are equivalent for purposes of modeling, but the choice of base is important for reasons of convenience and convention, according to the setting... Logging a series often has an effect very similar to deflating: it straightens out exponential growth patterns and reduces heteroscedasticity (i.e., stabilizes variance). Logging is therefore a "poor man's deflator" which does not require any external data (or any head-scratching about which price index to use). Logging is not exactly the same as deflating--it does not eliminate an upward trend in the data--but it can straighten the trend out so that it can be better fitted by a linear model. Deflation by itself will not straighten out an exponential growth curve if the growth is partly real and only partly due to inflation."

Adblock Plus wins its 6th court case, brought by Der Spiegel - "Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes Adblock Plus, has been through no fewer than six court cases by publishers who say blocking online ads violates German law. The ad-blocking company has now won all of its cases at the district level, and one case has been through an appeal. Other cases continue through the German appeals courts... Eyeo requires payment from large companies to have their ads white-listed, and it also insists the "acceptable ads" must conform to certain criteria. Typically, the payment is about 30 percent of the revenue generated by Adblock Plus users viewing the acceptable ads. According to Williams, the fact that Eyeo has such a revenue stream is what enables it to take on legal battles that benefit all ad-blockers."

Charges Dropped In Facebook Spy Vs. Spy Case - "The FBI last Friday arrested David Voelkert, 38, largely on the basis of messages the South Bend man recently exchanged with a purported 17-year-old Facebook friend named “Jessica Studebaker.” In fact, the “Studebaker” account was created last month by Voelkert’s ex-wife Angela, 29, in an apparent bid to extract information she could use against him in an ongoing child custody fight... Angela Voelkert sought to use the Facebook exchanges against her ex-husband. In a June 1 Superior Court application for a restraining order against him, Voelkert attached several pages of Facebook messages exchanged between “Studebaker” and David Voelkert. The messages showed her ex-husband telling “Studebaker” about the tracking device, as well as his concern the teenager could “get arrested as an accessory to all this.” Voelkert spent four days in custody until federal prosecutors moved yesterday to drop charges against him. He was freed after proving to investigators that he knew all along that his ex-wife was the one sending him messages from the “Studebaker” account. Voelkert explained that he played along with the ruse so that he could use his ex-spouse’s machinations against her in their custody case. To support this contention, Voelkert provided FBI agents with a May 25 notarized affidavit"

Dear TNP Diehard ... | The New Paper - "In the 80s, founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew felt a need for such a newspaper to serve those less inclined to read the more sober broadsheets. The intended audience: Blue collar, the young, the bochap."
Everything in Singapore can be traced to Lee Kuan Yew

Most People Prefer Human Interactions in Customer Service - "Almost half (45 percent) of consumers say they are willing to pay more for goods and services if it ensures a higher level of customer service. Physical or in-store experiences are also highly valued among consumers. Sixty-five percent agree that in-store service is the best channel for getting a tailored experience, and 46 percent say they are more willing to be sold new or upgraded products when receiving service in person than online."

Japan's virgins: Why are 40% of millennials virgins? - "Japanese millennials just aren't having sex. That's according to a government survey published last week, claiming that 42% of men and 44.2% of women -- almost half of Japan's millennial singles aged between 18 to 34 -- are virgins... White Hands, a Tokyo-based non-profit offers regular nude art classes, where mostly middle-aged men sketch naked female models. The classes, complete with textbooks, also try to help people feel more comfortable with their sexuality... White Hands offers a course and textbook on how to graduate from virginity"

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 163 - Gregg Caruso on "Free Will and Moral Responsibility" - "I'm thinking here of a famous essay by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, in which he talks about something called “moral luck,” which is very similar to moral responsibility, and he breaks it down into 4 types.
The first type he calls resultant moral responsibility and this is basically the question of, how do your choices turn out? Which can be a function of things totally beyond your control. If both Bob and Alice drink, become drunk, and then drive, and then a child runs across the road where Bob was driving and Bob ends up killing the child, their choices turned out very differently. That's resultant moral luck at work there.
Then the second category Nagel points at is circumstantial moral responsibility which is getting at the question of, how does your moral responsibility depend on the circumstances in which you find yourself? If Bob and Alice grew up in two different societies or cultures, and Bob's culture has a norm of people drinking a lot in the evenings, then he has much greater opportunity to do something like drive drunk and end up killing a child than Alice does.
Then the third category is constitutive moral responsibility which is getting at the question of how does your character, your personality, your identity determine how morally responsible you are for your choices? Much of that constitution is not under your control. It's determined by things like genetics or the environment you grew up in. Maybe Bob was born with a predisposition towards less self control or he grew up in an environment in which no one really helped him develop that self control, et cetera, and so he's more likely to drive drunk.
Then the final category of moral responsibility is causal and that's basically: if Bob makes a conscious choice to get drunk and then drive can he still be said to be morally responsible for that, given that the universe is determinist? Given that his choice was determined by all the previous states of the universe before that. This is the classic question of free will."

Arthur Chu keeping it classy - "Former Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu isn’t too happy about Donald Trump becoming president. Here is something he tweeted in response to the Trump win:
I hate America, I hate white people, I hate you, personally, and the only motivation I have is to spite you. There’s your healing"

Stanford Students Want Western Civilization Studies Back as the PC Backlash Begins - "In 1988, the Rev. Jesse Jackson—then a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination—joined students at Stanford in chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!” With that spectacle, the university promptly dropped required courses in Western Civilization. Fifteen texts—a “core list” that included Plato, Voltaire, St. Augustine, and Marx and Engels—were replaced by a more diverse canon. It was the beginning of a wave of protests against Western culture on college campuses in the 1990s that, today, has seen a resurgence in the form of trigger warnings on syllabi, safe spaces, and policed speech. At Stanford, a backlash against this censorious student culture is taking shape in the form of a petition to reinstate the university’s Western Civilization curriculum."

More Japanese are marrying friends and acquaintances because they don’t want to bother with dating - "many Japanese are choosing to marry friends and acquaintances to save on time and financial commitments that come with dating. Others appear to believe that marrying someone you aren’t dating isn’t just an acceptable last resort, it’s actually better that way, eliminating the emotional exchanges of dating and allowing people to cut straight to the point."

Concerns growing over ‘gaming’ in university rankings - "Universities determined to rise up international rankings are increasingly ‘playing’ the methodology, Shaun Curtis of the University of Exeter in the UK told the “Worldviews 2013” conference last week. One way is to seek support from colleagues in other institutions who are answering rankings questionnaires, and another is to game the data... “I was amazed to see an advert from an Australian university that was looking to employ rankings managers on incredibly high salaries. And why did they want to do that? Basically, you can play the rankings game. “Perhaps a university can rise up the rankings because they have world-class data crunchers.”"

In Praise of Maintenance - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "I started out with the assumption that technological change in the household, mainly the electrification of the households, had reduced women’s labor so much that they could enter the workforce — married women’s labor — and entered the workforce. And it took me about three years to discover that I was wrong. ... there are two components of work and one is time, but the other is what we might call metabolic labor. And most of the new technologies saved metabolic labor... housewives began to spend more time doing their chores. In the standard routine for underwear was that you slept in it and you changed it maybe a couple times a year. So in the modern, let’s say post-WWII standard household, vastly more wash gets done than in any previous time in history."

BBC World Service - The World This Week, The Talking Stops - "Even winning a referendum on paper can be portrayed as a defeat underline divisions in society over which leaders would prefer to draw a veil. Viktor Orban's call for Hungary to reject the EU's refugee quotas was approved by nearly everyone who voted, but a majority of Hungarians stayed at home"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, The Plan for Mosul - "So, Tokyo's budget has gone through the roof, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. No Olympics since 1960 has kept to the original figures, although a 4 fold increase to a figure nudging 30 billion dollars is startling"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, Mosul: The Problem of Victory - "[On the earthquake] Italy, almost more than any other country I've ever worked in, is built on its art, on its legacy of culture. Wherever you go, and you drive around these windy roads, you see villages on hillsides, they'll all have their small churches. Those churches will have frescoes"

Ten Signs You Might Be a Libertarian - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "As much as the Republican Party may turn off some potentially like-minded voters, the same could be said about the Libertarian Party. It has its share of misfits, ideologues and, well, oddballs. At this year’s convention one candidate for party chairman, James Weeks, used his allotted time on stage to perform a striptease. To be fair, the audience didn’t approve. Nor did it approve, however, when during a debate Gary Johnson said it’s a good idea to require a driver’s license for people who want to operate a motor vehicle...
TAYLOR: Libertarians have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy since 1970 promoting their ideas, and yet, there’s no indication that libertarian sentiment in this country is any larger today than it was then. There is no real clear evidence that libertarian ideas are penetrating an academia amongst intellectuals to any greater extent than they ever have been in the past. The reality is that in politics, libertarianism has faced a market test and lost repeatedly. And I think this is an important bit of an information for libertarians who believe in markets and the functionality of markets — to face up to the fact that libertarian ideas have failed two very important market tests: a political market test and an intellectual market test. So either there is something wrong with the salesman of libertarian ideas, or there is something wrong with the product they’re selling, and I suspect that it’s a chunk of both... unfortunately a lot of libertarians are rather dogmatic about their ideas and rather absolutist and that they’re not really necessarily in the persuasion business as much as they might need to be. And they’re more in the “this I shall believe” and “Christ on a cross” kind of business"

Why Are We Still Using Cash? - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "According to a recent report by the Boston Consulting Group and Google, in developed countries, cash “contributed to just 20-25 percent of overall consumer payments.” In India, that number is 78 percent... we interviewed 1,000 Swedes that were a representative sample of the entire population of Sweden. And there, two-thirds said that they think that cash is a human right. So there was very strong sentimental feeling towards cash"

This Is Your Brain on Podcasts - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "One of the problems you have in MRI experiments is oftentimes they are very boring. If you put somebody in an MRI scanner, which is a very uncomfortable place to be, and then you flash a word at them every five seconds for an hour, they get bored out of their skull. These stories are very interesting. You just lie in the magnet. You listen to these people telling these stories. You get lost in the stories. It’s the best MRI experiment ever. And in fact, this is the only MRI experiment we’ve ever done where we didn’t have to pay people to be in the study. They were just happy to lie there and listen to the stories"

Race in the UK and Discussing It

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Britain's 'pockets of monoculture'

"Britain is becoming older, more liberal, more equal and more secular. But among British Muslims the trend is the opposite: younger, more socially conservative, more religious. That's according to Dame Louise Casey's report published today...

After hearing from more than 800 people during her investigation, not one person said there wasn't a problem to solve. As part of her report, she says that in some parts of the country, those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds live in segregation...

I have seen in the last 12, 18 months, I have listened to, I only last Thursday was in a community where women who've lived here for years are not allowed out of their house without their men's permission. Now you can get as many right on people on the radio as you want today, you can get as many community leaders saying I'm wrong, but they cannot deny an uncomfortable truth, which is that inequality within certain communities in these highly segregated areas is getting worse not better.

In the very local authority where your chap was talking earlier in Oldham about it's all equal, you had the women on saying it's all equal, in that local authority it points as being almost impossible for a Muslim woman to stand as a local authority councilor because the men in that community push them away. I didn't find that isolated examples, I found it in these areas regularly...

Public institutions need to be much much better at talking about these sorts of issues and not worrying about being called racist or Islamophobic. We have to be able to talk about the fact that if you're from a Pakistani heritage community in some areas of the north, you're less likely to speak English than your male counterparts, you're less likely to be out getting a job, you're more likely in the home and not necessarily in my view by choice. Those are the sorts of leadership issues. The fact that we're on the programme today talking about the uncomfortable truths of what is happening in Britain today is the starting point. What flows from that has to be an integration strategy...

Last year or the year before, there are a bunch of people out there, I think from the trade unions saying how appalling it was that the government thought everybody in the public sector should speak English.

We've lost our sense really sometimes of kind of, common sense needs to dictate that if everybody speaks English. A woman that can't speak English is less likely to know how to get through the system if she's suffering domestic violence than me"

(related to the above) Migrants should swear an oath to live in Britain, government report demands

"Among her proposals is a demand for all new migrants to Britain to take an oath of allegiance where they promise to embrace liberal values before arriving. Dame Louise said ghettos have formed because the pace and scale of immigration has been 'too much' and some towns and cities have been transformed 'out of all recognition', it says. She said successive governments have 'ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices, for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic'...

Muslim enclaves are concentrated in northern areas such as Bradford, Birmingham and Blackburn, where MailOnline revealed last month there is a halal butcher who has never served a white customer...

Dame Louise's report criticises the rise of 'Sharia councils', which have been allowed to run unhindered and in some cases support extremist values, wife beating and forced marriage and marital rape"

Listen to Today: Trevor Phillips discusses racial attitudes - Omny personal radio

"I think that we've seen in recent months the cost of not being able to have a straight conversation about whether there are differences between groups of people because of their race or religion and what those differences might be. We've seen that in Rotherham and Rochdale.

Further back, one of the things that most concerned me and to some extent changed my view about these, the Victoria Climbié incident where the inquiry showed that people who were, who could've saved this little girl who died because of abuse by her family were reluctant to talk about some or to deal with some of the issues because they thought that they would be regarded as insensitive towards black families...

'We are too shy to talk about some of the real issues. So take a recent example, which you covered here actually. Benedict Cumberbatch. Who didn't need to do this'

'He talked about coloured people'

'He wanted to say very important about the fact that black actors were not being employed at the levels that he thought they should...He used the word coloured, which in the old days was a polite word. In the United States when people use the term people of colour, that is an accepted word... and everyone went bonkers about it.

And my point about it is that Ben Cumberbatch said something very important and very valuable. It got buried because he used that word.

I think part of the fault is here. It's us in the media. Part of it is politics...

If you look at the coverage for example of the Cumberbatch story, how much was devoted to his original point and how much was devoted to the so-called storm about his use of this word?...

We took an originally important thing, which is recognition of diversity, understanding difference and so on and in some cases, I think, we have turned it into something which is a negative. And to the disadvantage by the way of minorities...

'Children can no longer talk about... Baa Baa Black Sheep as part of a nursery rhyme, for instance'...

'We are reluctant to say this, this kinda thing, for a simple reason: we worry that if we say, for example, Chinese children are systematically and routinely better performers at school... I can tell you that one of the, when we did the data on that, one of the struggles that I had when I was at the Commission with government and others was putting that in a report because people say that if you say that, you are stigmatising others... I have this argument all the time with academics. I have it actually by the way with journalists who say you can't say that because it's not true...

[About Cumberbatch] Where we end up with is that the next time a white person wants to say: look, I think there's an issue here about, you know, the employment of black people for example, we've done some work about the paucity of leading figures in the FTSE 100 and business.

The next time a white business leader wants to say we should do something about this, he or she I think will think twice because they will not, not because they don't want to say it but because they will say to themselves: if I say this, will I say it in the wrong way and will I make the situation worse rather than better?...

The big educational success story of the last 10 years has been London, which used to be at the bottom... of the league tables. Today they are at the top. Now there is an argument going on about whether or not, what that's about. Is it about bureaucratic changes? Is it policy and so on?

Or is it, as the Professor of Economics at Bristol University has demonstrated, I think, rather elegantly in an academic paper, that the high performing academic minority groups: Chinese, Indian, African by the way and Polish have exploded in numbers whereas the poor performing groups: whites, poor whites, and African-Caribbeans have gone down in numbers, and that accounts for the change.

Now, if we know that is the case, why is it that we don't think to ourselves: let's learn why these successful groups are successful and apply those lessons to the ones, to the groups that are less successful?

Now the fact that we actually have to have an academic debate about whether you can have that discussion says to me that we are really not moving on to the next stage in thinking about how we do best as a diverse society'"

Political correctness kills
The Bristol professor is Simon Burgess

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

A Testimony of Working with Migrants in Italy

"My husband is Italian. We were in the middle of it for several years - trying to help immigrants integrate. Don't even get me started on the futility of this Sisyphus endeavor.

First, they didn't want to integrate. Second, they arrive not knowing many of the simplest things - like how to utilize modern plumbing, personal grooming expectations, or common social exchanges. Third were larger issues like the expectations that Europe is Disneyland where everything is given to them, heavy-handed patriarchal social structures, unwillingness to learn Italian, contempt / disregard for public cleanliness / buildings. Essentially, they brought the ghetto with them, and rapidly transformed their areas into new ghettos. To the point where - and this is silly but typical - they would rip the tubs out of the bathrooms and place them on the balconies in full sight, where the women would fill the tubs by hand and everyone bathes out of doors. Garbage thrown everywhere, buildings somehow were torn and beaten - this was a mystery, but quite out of character for Italy where buildings are at least semi-permanent and cared for.
Hardest of all was that the concept of integration was incomprehensible to most. Their mentality is that of survival - lives focused only on living and eating for a day. Discussion about how to change or improve themselves just didn't register.
We developed a test to determine who we could best help: Here's one euro. It's yours. If you give it back to me you can come back tomorrow and I'll give you ten euros - no questions. Or you can keep the one today and I won't give you ten tomorrow. Only 8/100 elected the ten euro deal. We learned that this usually meant that survival mechanisms were so engrained in their mindset that they were beyond our limited ability to aid. If one can't conceive of tomorrow, one can't make plans and informed decisions. It was a distressing process.

Most fascinating is that the UN officials are well aware of this. Yet they keep declaring that this mass immigration must continue unabated. No ideology - not even postmodernism - can account for ignoring the level of destruction this is going to bring. It's difficult not to assume that most top EU politicians are paid agents of a foreign enemy - they cannot possibly be this ignorant.

Meanwhile all the papers write about is the abused immigrants, the bigoted citizens, etc ad nauseous."

Links - 4th January 2016

Cologne police defend New Year′s Eve security tactics - "Police Chief Jürgen Mathies admitted that yes, officers had specifically targeted men who appeared to be of North African extraction to undergo police checks, but said that "for the vast majority, there was a clear threat of criminal activity present." He also stressed that the security checks had not only targeted people of North African appearance... Standing by the practice of blatant racial profiling, Mathies said "we had groups of people who were comparably aggressive," to the men who had carried out the attacks last year"
If they hadn't targeted certain demographics and Cologne 2016 had repeated, they'd have been slammed too

Why Trump Won And Why It Will Work Out Great For Democrats - "We are being fed everything from “racial identity” to “Whitelash” to “Americans hate women” to “rural vs. city.” Oh, and my new favorite: “fake news” (as if true news exists). Can you imagine the sheer chutzpah required to offer your political commentary (with nary a hint of irony) after being wrong for over a year and a half? Let that sink in: they were wrong for over a year and a half. If you were wrong at your job for six months, you’d be fired... May I propose a simpler explanation? Trump won because he was the better candidate and he ran the better campaign. Novel, right? Think of it as the Occam’s Razor version of 2016. Many people simply cannot accept the simplest explanation because it requires admitting that Donald Trump is smart. Well, Donald Trump isn’t just smart, he’s a genius... policy-wise, Trump is a Democrat’s best friend. He doesn’t believe in ANY of the things you hate about the GOP: taxes, gay marriage, wars and abortion. Don’t take it from me, listen to conservatives like Ben Shapiro who are lamenting that Trump is going to destroy conservative values. Or, if that doesn’t work, try to imagine (without LAUGHING) Ted Cruz on stage at a rally uncomfortably holding a rainbow flag."

Chris Butler - damn I just realised calling the only black spice... - "damn I just realised calling the only black spice girl scary spice is just about the most explicitly racist shit i've ever heard."
"Whatever the black one was called was gonna be racist.
Sporty? So black girls don't go to college?
Baby? Black girls just get called baby? Ain't your baby motherfucker.
Posh? Are you taking the piss?
Ginger? Is that a FUCKING ANAGRAM?"

Abdul Razak Ali Artan: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know - "A refugee from Somalia stabbed multiple people before being shot dead by police at Ohio State University on November 28... In the August 25 edition of the Ohio State Lantern, Artan was featured in the “Humans of Ohio State” feature. During his interview, Artan bemoaned the lack of pray facilities at OSU. He stresses in the piece that he needs to pray five times a day. Artan adds, “I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think.” He concludes that he doesn’t blame people for judging him. “It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re just going to have and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now [of praying in public]. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed”... Artan was a refugee from Somalia. According to NBC’s Pete Williams, Artan was admitted to the U.S. in 2014 having previously lived in Pakistan since 2007... Speaking to NBC News, the president of the Somali Community Association of Ohio, Hassan Omar, said:
'Every Somali person has been calling me, and everybody is crying. This is a shock. As a Somali community here, we are in a state of shock. In Columbus, we live in a very peaceful community. This is gonna affect the life of everybody. We are American and we don’t want somebody to create this problem.'... investigators are looking into a “declaration” that was posted on Artan’s Facebook page. The rant reads, according to Levine, “I am sick and tired of seeing [Muslims] killed & tortured EVERYWHERE.” It adds, “I can’t take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that.” The post also mentions New Mexico-born terrorist recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki. According to ABC News, in one posting, Artan referred to the terrorist as a “hero.”"
Was the attack due to Islamophobia? Are those who are skeptical about accepting refugees still bigots?
Is it better that 100,000 refugees escape war and persecution than that 100 of your own people die?

Student Protesters Claim Police Went Too Far in Shooting Ohio State University Attacker - "Since October, the Coalition for Black Liberation at Ohio State University has been keeping a list of people of color killed by law enforcement. Now the group added a new name: Abdul Razak Ali Artan. That should sound familiar. He’s the student who went on a stabbing rampage at the school in late November, injuring eleven. A campus police officer shot and killed him, and the group says it’s actually an example of law enforcement going too far. That’s why they held a rally on Wednesday."

Ohio State student: 'After terrorist attack I've learned Left's more scared of Trump than ISIS' - "“After this terrorist attack I’ve truly learned that the left is more scared of conservatism and Trump and Republicans than they are of ISIS and terrorists,” Mackenzie told Hannity. “Because after this terror attack I haven’t heard anything about, you know, ‘We’re praying for the victims’ or this and that. I’ve heard things about how we need to understand Islam, the vibrant Somali community we have here, how we need to embrace them even though this is the third attack by a Somali in the last year here in Columbus, and all this stuff about, you know, Muslim sensitivity.” “That’s all they care about,” she continued, “and they are more scared of the Right and Trump than they are of this terrorist attack that just happened on our campus. It’s sickening to me because I feel like they are gambling with my life in order to reach this multiculturalism lie that they worship in all of my classes — and it’s crazy. Compare that with the hysterical reaction on campus after Trump was elected. “After the election, my professors went crazy,” Mackenzie said. “I remember calling my mom and saying ‘You would think Hitler just got elected and massacred half the country’... It’s not unheard of for a campus community to mourn its terrorist-inspired attacker. Last year, after Faisal Mohammad went on a similar knife attack at UC Merced, injuring four before being shot and killed by a campus police officer, the campus community mourned Mohammad, and called for understanding. Some professors blamed toxic masculinity for the attack and ignored how Mohammad was found with an image of the ISIS flag, a handwritten manifesto with instructions on how to behead someone, and reminders to pray to Allah."

It Seems the New Atheist-Bashers Were Wrong About the Chapel Hill Shooter's Motive - "Almost immediately after news broke last month that 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks allegedly shot and killed three Muslim students from the University of North Carolina, critics of Islam found themselves being implicated. That's because Hicks' Facebook page was peppered with atheistic posts and criticisms of religion, including Islam. Even though police said at the time the murders appeared motivated by a parking dispute, this was dismissed out of hand by Islam's defenders, who jumped to the tenuous and absurd conclusion that New Atheist "Islamophobes" were responsible because they supposedly incite anti-Muslim hatred... Hicks supported the so-called Ground Zero mosque and said he would be "ok" with having a Muslim president, seem to lend credence to the parking dispute as a motive, while also putting a damper on the claim he hated Muslims... The sad thing is that even if it's discovered beyond all doubt that Hicks killed the three students over a parking spot, the aforementioned traducers will continue living with their delusion. And certainly, no apology will be forthcoming for their downright defamatory non sequiturs."

'2 in 100' Syrian refugees may be IS members, Cameron told - "A Lebanese official warned British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday that the Islamic State is sending trained fighters posing as Syrian refugees to attack Western targets. Education Minister Elias Bousaab told Cameron during the British leader’s one-day trip to the region that two in every 100 Syrians entering Europe are Islamic State-trained fanatics... The Pope also warned Monday of the danger of infiltration by extremists posing as refugees. “It’s true that 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Sicily, there is an exceedingly cruel terrorist guerrilla group, and it’s true there’s the danger of infiltration,” Francis told Portuguese Catholic radio station Renascenca, in an apparent reference to Islamic State extremists."

Germany's Major Firms Have Hired Fewer Than 100 of Its 1m Refugees - "Merkel, fighting for her political life over her open-door policy, has summoned the bosses of some of Germany’s biggest companies to Berlin to account for their lack of action and exchange ideas about how they can do better. Many of the companies say a lack of German-language skills, the inability of most refugees to prove any qualifications, and uncertainty about their permission to stay in the country mean there is little they can do in the short term. A survey by Reuters of the 30 companies in Germany’s DAX stock market index found they could point to just 63 refugee hires in total. Several of the 26 firms who responded said they considered it discriminatory to ask about applicants’ migration history, so they did not know whether they employed refugees or how many... What is clear is that early optimism that the wave of migrants could boost economic growth and help ease a skills shortage in Germany — where the working-age population is projected to shrink by 6 million people by 2030 — is evaporating... Others among Germany’s top listed companies, mainly in the financial or airline sectors, say it is practically impossible for them to take on refugees at all. They cite regulatory reasons such as the need for detailed background checks on staff."

Is Power Rangers Still Worth Watching? - "With the finale of Dino Super Charge behind us, I can confidently say Power Rangers has run out of excuses. For the better part of ten years, fans have repeated these four excuses over and over in an attempt to rationalize why the show wasn't reaching its full potential.
1. Rushed production.
2. The Sentai.
3. Bad leadership.
4. It’s a kid’s show...
The show can be better. It has been better. Seasons like Zeo, In Space, and Dino Thunder prove this franchise can be really fun, engaging, and have some great science fiction for kids"

Lee Kwan Yew, Singapore and the Power of Filial Piety - "He fulfilled, spectacularly, the Confucian obligations a father has for his children, even as those children matured into economic adulthood. In an uncertain, shape-shifting world threatened by disorder, Lee Kwan Yew offered stability, the platform on which progress is constructed. The Chinese, individually and societally ambitious, cherish progress. As he created order from chaos, the Singaporean people forged national success. On Facebook, a co-worker posted a final tribute written by his young son: “I am grateful for the many things you have done for Singapore such as building our nation and making us independent. You also created jobs for people. I am proud to be Singaporean.” Pride, independence and security are the gifts a self-sacrificing father provides to his family. In return, the younger generation offers filial piety, loyalty and love that transcend time... Western-style representative democracy is not the probably not the way forward for this city-state, the prosperity of which is more fragile — and the social fabric more traditionally Chinese — than outsiders realize. No matter how Singapore develops, however, its citizens’ love for a modest man with a lion’s heart will stand the test of time."
Maybe it's a filial obligation to vote for your father

Thanks To 'Fight For $15' Minimum Wage, McDonald's Unveils Job-Replacing Self-Service Kiosks Nationwide - "Eatsa, a fully-automated restaurant concept, now has five locations—all in cities or states that have embraced a $15 minimum wage. And in a scene stolen from The Jetsons, the Starship delivery robot is now navigating the streets of San Francisco with groceries and other consumer goods. The company’s founder pointed to a rising minimum wage as a key factor driving the growth of his automated delivery business. Of course, not all businesses have the capital necessary to shift from full-service to self-service. And that brings me to my next correct prediction–that a $15 minimum wage would force many small businesses to lay off staff, seek less-costly locations, or close altogether. Tragically, these stories—in California in particular–are too numerous to cite in detail here... the Fight for $15 was always more a creation of the left-wing Service Employees International Union (SEIU) rather than a legitimate grassroots effort. Reuters reported last year that, based on federal filings, the SEIU had spent anywhere from $24 million to $50 million on the its Fight for $15 campaign, and the number has surely increased since then."

What Should The Minimum Wage Be? What Trump, Fight for $15, Economists Have To Say - "A 1993 study on the effects of a minimum wage increase in New Jersey comparing the changes in employment there to those of Pennsylvania, which kept its minimum flat, found a 13 percent increase in employment in the Garden State over that of its neighbor. “How can this be? There are several answers, but the most important is probably that the market for labor isn’t like the market for, say, wheat, because workers are people,” New York Times economist Paul Krugman wrote about the study in a column last year. “And because they’re people, there are important benefits, even to the employer, from paying them more: better morale, lower turnover, increased productivity.”"

Minimum wage: Updated research roundup on the effects of increasing pay - Journalist's Resource Journalist's Resource - "Among the extended primers worth considering is the 2014 book “What Does the Minimum Wage Do?” by Dale Belman of Michigan State University and Paul Wolfson of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. That work synthesizes some 200 papers. In their conclusion, they write: 'Evidence leads us to conclude that moderate increases in the minimum wage are a useful means of raising wages in the lower part of the wage distribution that has little or no effect on employment and hours. This is what one seeks in a policy tool, solid benefits with small costs. That said, current research does not speak to whether the same results would hold for large increases in the minimum wage'... The research generally supports the idea that raising the minimum wage would have varying effects across U.S. regions and industries, even if on the whole it doesn’t produce massive negative effects... It’s worth keeping in mind that low wages impact more than just workers. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is, in effect, a wage subsidy, and consequently paid for by taxpayers, not private firms. A 2013 study from U.C. Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry,” found that workers at McDonalds and other major restaurant chains use federal and state programs at far higher rates than other workers — costs that are again picked up by society. A raise in the minimum wage might, in theory, shift some of the burden back to private companies, something that some labor economists see as being only fair."

The Truth About Myanmar’s Rohingya Issue - "In even a cursory survey of Rohingya history, it is clear that the Rohingya are not an ethnic, but rather a political construction. There is evidence that Muslims have been living in Rakhine state (at the time under the Arakan kingdom) since the 9th century, but a significant number of Muslims from across the bay of Bengal (at the time a part of India, now Bangladesh) immigrated to British Burma with the colonialists in the 20th century. They are, as defined by Benedict Rogers (himself a prominent critic of the military regime’s persecution), “Muslims of Bengali ethnic origin.” The group referred to as “Rohingya” by contemporary Rohingya scholars (and most of the international community) today actually display huge diversity of ethnic origins and social backgrounds, and, as Leider argues, the existence of a “single identity” is difficult to pinpoint. This is not to deny the Rohingya’s claims for citizenship. This is, however, to point out that claims to legitimacy are much more complicated than is currently understood... in New York Times coverage of the tensions between Muslim and Buddhist Burmese, very few Rakhine Buddhist voices were heard. When asked why, Kristoff replies, “The problem is the trade-offs with length… we didn’t want to exceed 10 minutes for fear of losing viewers.” This careless portrayal of the Rohingya’s claims to legitimacy is not just a matter of academic nit-picking. It has real implications for humanitarian aid."

Arakan massacres in 1942 - "Aye Chan, a historian at the Kanda University, has written that as a consequence of acquiring arms from the British during World War II, Rohingyas tried to destroy the Arakanese villages instead of resisting the Japanese. On 28 March 1942, around 5,000 Muslims in Minbya and Mrohaung Townships were killed by Rakhine nationalists and Karenni. Rohingya Muslims from Northern Rakhine State killed around 20,000 Arakanese, including the Deputy Commissioner U Oo Kyaw Khaing, who was killed while trying to settle the dispute."
Historical context on the Rohingya

Rakhine in Myanmar's Sittwe tell of renewed attacks - "Three thousand Buddhist Rakhine are believed to have fled their homes after a series of attacks on the border police in Maungdaw township, a predominantly Muslim area on Myanmar's northwestern border where the majority of the population belong to the stateless Rohingya minority. Nine officers were killed by a group of men, said to number 250, who fled the bloody scene with a hoard of weapons stolen from the police armoury... With the government short of answers, the displaced Rakhine have had to draw their own dangerous conclusions. They say this is not the work of an isolated group but the start of another bloody, sectarian conflict. "Almost all the people there are Muslim and they hate Rakhine people. If we return, we will all become victims by their hand," says Khine Soe Nwe... "The NGOs only support the Bengali people," says Rakhine camp chairman U Soe Naing, referring to the Rohingya with a term used to imply they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. "If their IDPs get WFP rations, why don't we." Similar accusations are echoed only a few kilometres away in the camps populated by the Rohingya. "We are dying because we are not getting our food rations … The government is starving us by blocking our aid," says Kyaw Tin."

Men, women and rationality

More evidence that women are more intuitive and less analytical (which could be described as women being more irrational) than men

Cognitive Reflection Test: Whom, how, when

"The Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) was first proposed by Frederick (2005) and since then has been extensively used in the Experimental Economics and Psychology literature. Frederick proposed the CRT based on a dual-system theory (e.g. Epstein 1994, Sloman 1996, Stanovich and West 2000, Kahneman and Frederick 2002) made up of two cognitive processes: System 1, executed quickly without much reflection and System 2, more deliberate and requiring conscious thought and effort. The questions in the CRT have an immediate (intuitive) incorrect response (System 1). However, the correct response requires some deliberation, i.e. the activation of System 2.

Frederick (2005) showed that individuals with high CRT scores are more patient and more willing to gamble in the domain of gains. He also provided evidence that the CRT scores are highly correlated with some other tests of analytic thinking (e.g. ACT, NFC, SAT and WPT) and that the test has a (male) gender bias. Toplak et al. (2011) claim that the CRT can be viewed as a combination of cognitive capacity, disposition for judgement and decision making. They argue that the CRT captures important characteristics of rational thinking that are not measured in other intelligence tests...

Since Frederick (2005), several researchers have adopted the CRT as a measure of cognitive abilities and used it to study its predictive power in decision making (e.g. Oeschler et al 2009, Campitelli and Labollita 2010, Hoppe and Kusterer 2011, Besedes et al 2012, Andersson et al 2013, Moritz et al 2013 etc.). Oechssler et al (2009) investigate whether behavioral biases are related to cognitive abilities. Replicating the results of Frederick (2005), they find that participants with low scores on the CRT are more likely to be subject to the conjunction fallacy and to conservatism in updating probabilities (also see Liberali et al 2012, Alós-Ferrer and Hügelschäfer 2014)...

There is also evidence regarding the relationship between behavioral biases and cognitive reflection in the literature on behavioral finance and experimental asset markets (e.g. Cheung et al 2014, Noussair et al 2014, Corgnet et al 2014, Bosch-Rosa et al 2015, Holt et al 2015 etc.). Corgnet et al (2014) find that high CRT subjects earned significantly more on average than the initial value of their portfolio while low CRT subjects earned less. Interestingly, subjects with low CRT scores were net purchasers (sellers) of shares when the price was above (below) fundamental value while the opposite was true for subjects with high CRT scores...

Males generally score significantly higher on the CRT than females (e.g. Frederick 2005, Hoppe and Kusterer 2011, Cueva-Herrero et al 2015, Holt et al 2015 etc.). It has been well documented in the experimental literature that in general males have higher mathematical abilities and score higher than females on math tests (e.g. Benbow and Stanley 1980, Aiken 1986-1987, Benbow et al. 2000, Mau and Lynn 2010 etc.). We test for whether the hypothesis regarding the reported gender differences holds in a large sample comprising of very different studies (e.g. different locations, lab based, incentivized, non-student samples etc.)...

Frederick (2005) (N = 3,428) showed that males perform better in the CRT (also see Oechssler et al. 2009, Hoppe and Kusterer 2011, Cueva-Herrero et al 2015, Holt et al 2015, etc.). We obtain similar results (N = 44,558; females 52.76%) (Figure 3). We find that: (i) males perform better in every single question, (ii) females are more likely to answer none of the questions correctly, and (iii) males are more likely to answer all three questions correctly. Importantly, gender differences persist even when we control for test characteristics (e.g. monetary incentives, computerized, student samples, positioning of the experiment etc.)"

Some research suggests that women score worse than men in the CRT because they are less numerate, and that when numeracy effects are accounted for the male lead becomes less significant.

Other research suggests the CRT just measures numeracy.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Contempt for New Media

"[On printing] A surprising number of writers in the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and even nineteenth centuries thought this new invention, despite all it did for their writings, was a setback for humankind. In other words, there was something about print too in its early centuries that prompted the eminent “to strike many illiberal attitudes.” They came down, it might be said, not on Thoth’s side but on King Thamus’s.

In the history of communication that side has usually been crowded. The point is that television is far from the only young form of communication to have inspired dismay. Indeed, it is in good company.

The hostility that greeted new approaches to painting has been often noted, with impressionism the classic but far from only example. However, bursts of hostility have also been aimed at what seem today to have been more clearly useful and less overtly rebellious new arrivals: paper, for example. When Europeans finally encountered this improved writing surface, many responded by disparaging it as fake and fragile. In 1231 the Holy Roman emperor, Frederick II, prohibited the recording of public acts on paper rather than reliable old parchment.

An even harsher and longer-lived hostility greeted Arabic numerals when they began to replace the traditional Roman numerals in Europe at about the same time. In some places our positional ten- digit system for writing numbers was banned. Its crime, in part, was introducing an alien and disturbing concept: the zero.

Indeed, most of the inventions, techniques or art forms we now hold dear were once dismissed as useless or even evil. Opera? In eighteenth-century England many intellectuals reviled it as a senseless, mind-numbing spectacle of sight and sound—“chromatic tortures.” The theater? For the young Ralph Waldo Emerson it was “the sewer in which the rebellious vices exhaust themselves.” Henry David Thoreau was one of the more vehement and consistent critics of the new. In 1854 he famously dismissed the telegraph lines that were just beginning to traverse the country by suggesting that “Maine and Texas. . . have nothing important to communicate.” Thoreau professed having no use for any such “pretty toys”: “Improved means to an unimproved end,” he harrumphed.

In 1877 the New York Times fulminated against the “atrocious nature” of Alexander Graham Bell’s improved version of the telegraph: the telephone. Invasion of privacy was the charge. Twenty years later, the indictment stood: “We shall soon be nothing but transparent heaps of jelly to each other,” one writer predicted. Another early complaint against the telephone was that it deprives us of the opportunity “to cut a man off by a look or a gesture.”

In 1893 the Notion lamented the increasing use of photographs, or “cuts,” in newspapers: “The ‘cuts’ will in their turn have to be supplemented by something more infantile still. The reader will demand and have to get a rattle or a colored India-rubber balloon, or a bright ball of worsted, or a jack-in-the-box, with each year’s subscription.”

A new medium’s strength, particularly its ability to divert the masses, is routinely turned against it. Radio, Will Irwin stated in 1936, has access to “the magic inherent in the human voice.” But this led him to conclude that it “has means of appealing to the lower newe centers and of creating emotions which the bearer mistakes for thoughts.”

We rarely trust the imposition of a new magic on our lives, and we rarely fail to work up nostalgia for the older magic it replaces. Over time, in other words, one person’s new “toy” becomes another’s tried and true method. At the beginning of this century, pencils with erasers were attacked and occasionally even excluded from classrooms based on the following logic: “It might almost be laid down as a general law, that the easier errors may be corrected, the more errors will be made.” Yet by 1938 the New York Times was honoring the pencil with an editorial, which noted that “living must have been more laborious before the pencil age.” What had changed?

The pencil itself was now threatened: “The universal typewriter,” this editorial lamented, “may swallow all.” Thoreau, the great scourge of technological improvements, maintained a soft spot for at least one technology, one his father crafted, one he himself tried to improve: an early incarnation of the pencil.

It is clear where our soft spot lies in the age of the image: Even the least faithful lover of words these days can romanticize print. Most of us are rarely as satisfied with ourselves as when we crack a book. Television programs have ended with plugs for related novels or histories. Oprah Winfrey attempts to transform installments of her weepy TV talk show into a reading group. We try everything from bribes to punishments to induce our children to read half a chapter between Friends and bed. “If I came upon Junior engrossed in the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom,” PJ. O’Rourke has written, “my reaction would probably be, ‘He’s reading!’” According to the Gallup Poll, 61 percent of us proclaim reading “more rewarding” than watching television; 73 percent lament that we spend too little time reading books; and 92 percent of us attest that reading is a “good use” of our time.

While he was working for President Reagan, the late Lee Atwater, according to a New York Times story, assigned an aide to read and summarize books for him. Atwater would then brag that he read three books a week. Who today brags, legitimately or not, of having watched television?

But reading and writing—as Plato’s tale demonstrates—once took their share of abuse. Plato’s soft spot instead is for “discourse which is inscribed with genuine knowledge in the soul of the learner.” Discourse—spoken language—still seemed more attractive to Thomas Aquinas more than sixteen hundred years later: “It was fitting that Christ did not commit His doctrine to writing,” he concluded, “for the more excellent the teacher, the more excellent should be his manner of teaching.”

When printing began to replace handwritten manuscripts in the fifteenth century, producing books the slow, old-fashioned way occasionally took on that familiar, romantic glow. “Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices,” asserted the abbot and bibliographer Trithemius of Sponheim in 1492. He gave a “simple reason”: Scribes displayed “more diligence and industry” than printers.

The Florentine book merchant Vespasiano da Bisticci’s paean to the duke of Urbino’s library, written late in the fifteenth century, noted that “all the books are superlatively good, and written with the pen, and had there been one printed volume it would have been ashamed in such company.” (Vespasiano was not an unbiased source, as he sold only handwritten manuscripts. However, most of those who publish criticism of television today are likewise vulnerable to charges of conflict of interest.)

A few decades after the printing press arrived in Venice there was a call for it to be banished. And the press was severely restricted in most of the countries of the world at one time or another over the following five centuries. The object, we now conclude, was to limit the flow of ideas. But at the time many of those who did the restricting saw themselves as grappling with a dangerous and destabilizing new machine.

On Europe’s southern flanks, Moslem societies had been using paper and block printing much earlier than their Christian neighbors, but they resisted the letter press. “According to their view,” a traveler reported after a visit to Istanbul in 1560, “the scriptures, their holy letters, once printed would cease to be scriptures.” A press with Arabic type was not established in Istanbul until the eighteenth century, and even then it was not allowed to print the Koran or other religious books.

In 1671 Virginia’s longtime governor, Sir William Berkeley, thanked God for the absence of printing presses in his colony. Men of letters at the time were hardly petitioning God for their spread. In 1680 the philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz suggested that a “fall back into barbarism” might result from “that horrible mass of books which keeps on growing.”

And then there is the case of Alexander Pope. Pope was the sort of cultured, clever intellectual who today would be expected to have little patience for television, except for the occasional PBS show. But Pope came of age in the early eighteenth century; the medium he had little patience for was print.

In 1728 Pope published a satirical epic, the Dunciad, in which he took swipes at many of the published writers of his time, whom he dismissed as “dunces.” (The term, deriving from the name of the medieval scholastic philosopher John Duns Scotus, originally meant “hair splitter” or “pedant” more than “dullard.”) Riots broke out as Pope’s poem was sold: “A Crowd of Authors besieg’d the shop,” a contemporary reported; “Entreaties, Advices, threats of Law, and Battery, nay Cries of Treason were all employ’d, to hinder the coming out of the Dunciad. " The battles over this poem gained a name: the “War of the Dunces.”

In the preface to a later edition of his epic, Pope (referring to himself in the third person) explained “the occasion and the cause which moved our poet to this particular work”:

He lived in those days, when (after Providence had permitted the invention of Printing as a scourge for the sins of the learned) Paper also became so cheap, and printers so numerous, that a deluge of Authors covered the land: Whereby not only the peace of the honest unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful demands were made of his applause, yea of his money, by such as would neither earn the one, nor deserve the other.

Pope’s sortie against the products of the press was, typically, mounted in defense of the products of an older medium. Along with many of his fellow Augustans, he was outraged by those of his contemporaries who failed to realize they were unworthy of sharing bookshelves with such classical writers as Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Virgil, Horace and Cicero. These works from the great age a millennium and a half or more before Gutenberg were, as one of Pope’s fellow supporters of the “Ancients” protested, being “dispossessed of their Place and Room” by the deluge of awful printed works by “Moderns.”

Understanding why Pope was so desperate to repulse this particular threat is no easy task for us more than two and a half centuries later. Although some of the works his contemporaries published were indeed mediocre or worse, they were books. Nevertheless, Pope and the other Augustans saw great danger in them. “It is a melancholy thing,” Joseph Addison wrote in the Spectator in 1714, “to consider that the Art of Printing, which might be the greatest Blessing to Mankind, should prove detrimental to us, and that it should be made use of to scatter Prejudice and Ignorance through a People.”

Before their descendants lined up against television, many generations of intellectuals joined this crusade against the press and its degradations. For example, as Leo Tolstoy was letting loose his philosophy on page 1441 of War and Peace, he maintained that the “most powerful of ignorance’s weapons” is “the dissemination of printed matter.”

Even in those days before the “couch potato,” print’s eminent critics did not lack a name for the new medium’s victims: “Instead of Man Thinking, we have,” Emerson muttered, “the bookworm"—“meek young men [who] grow up in libraries.” Emerson feared that “original talent” was being “oppressed under the load of books.” The young Abraham Lincoln’s neighbors reportedly thought he was lazy because he spent so many hours buried in his books. When Lincoln arrived in Congress his fellow congressmen, by one account, dismissed him as a “bookworm.” (Ah, to be labeled a bookworm today!)

As many of the perpetrators of contemporary television have demonstrated, those who work in an upstart medium are perfectly capable of expressing antipathy toward that medium. Plato’s Phaedrus was written; Pope's Dunciad was printed; and Cervantes, the first great practitioner of what for us is among the most sublime of forms, was also the first great satiric critic of that form. The cause of Don Quixote’s having “lost his wits” was his having “passed the nights in reading from sunset to sunrise.” Cervantes describes his hero’s reading matter as “books of knight-errantry”—in other words, chivalric fiction, early precursors of the novel.

Novels have a secure place on the long list of amusements to which right-thinking folk have considered it unwise to have too much exposure. They offended by focusing on the particular, when the classical ideal had been to aim for the general and universal; they offended by inventing mundane plots and circumstances, instead of borrowing tested, distinguished plots and circumstances. In 1778 the Reverend Vicessimus Knox, master of Tonbridge School in England, concluded: “lf it be true, that the present age is more corrupt than the preceding, the great multiplication of Novels has probably contributed to its degeneracy.... The reserved graces of the chaste matron Truth pass unobserved amidst the gaudy and painted decorations of fiction.”

This last charge, beneath the flowery imagery, is similar to Neil Postman’s major objection to television. The fact is that few of the criticisms directed against television are original. Is the “boob tube” overrun with “junk,” with “pablum”? In the 1790s a book reviewer characterized contemporary fiction as “a horrible mass of hurtful insignificance.” Has television, as occasional Democrats and many Republicans charge, contributed to a kind of moral decay? That was a widespread complaint against printed fiction in eighteenth-century England: “‘Tis NOVEL most beguiles the Female Heart,” George Colman declared in the prologue to his play Polly Honeycombe in 1760. “Miss reads—She melts—She sighs—Love steals upon her- And then—Alas, poor Girl!—good night, poor Honour!”

Has television turned politics into show business? In the late eighteenth century, when newspaper reporters in England first began covering Parliament, one of its members fumed that politicians were being treated like “actors.” Has television chopped information into segments that are too short to allow “education or entertainment” to be “absorbed”? That was the accusation one newspaper leveled against “the present style in radio programs” in 1925, though the segments in question then were considerably longer: five minutes. Indeed, a similar critique of “the constant diffusion of statements in snippets” was made against newspapers in 1889—the age of the telegraph.

What about teIevision’s role in the reported explosion of youth violence in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s? In 1948, when commercial television was just leaving the womb in the United States, a study in Collier's magazine warned that “juvenile crime is on the increase in almost every locality in this country” and pinned the blame squarely on the comic book. Its effect, the study concluded, “is definitely and completely harmful.”

My personal grievances against television turn out to be equally unoriginal. I find it, to begin with, devilishly addictive. When not doing research on television, I turn one on less often than the average American. In part this is because when I do turn on a television set, I have a great deal of difficulty turning it off: If I decide to take a peek at the evening news, for instance, too often I’ll end up, six hours later, watching Late Night with Conan O’Brien. But didn’t Don Quixote have a similar, though somewhat larger, problem with "books of knight-errantry”? They would keep him in their grip until dawn.

At the end of such long evenings with the tube I often find myself —and this is my major complaint—feeling empty and dull. Television seems to deplete, rather than replenish, my store of creative energy. But a similar charge was leveled against newspapers more than one hundred years ago: “The mental powers grow stagnant,” complained an 1886 edition of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. I do sometimes wonder if, after a few of these sessions, my brain hasn’t tumed into “a pulpy, spongy mass”—exactly the result that magazine attributed to reading newspapers.

Even the language in which such attacks are phrased is sometimes the same. In nineteenth-centuty America, a critic stated that cheap novels, “offering neither savor nor nutriment,” are “the chewing gum of literature.”"

--- The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word / Mitchell Stephens

Keywords: valorise, valorised print, paper digital, manuscripts, scrolls
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