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Saturday, February 09, 2019

Links - 9th February 2019

Stop Using Google Trends – Danny Page - "Note how the Washington Post also said: “Plenty of Americans” — What does ‘plenty’ mean here? Remember, Trends is relative. And we can see this with the most recent Google Trends Freaking Outrage (GTFO): The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it
They note that searches about the EU tripled. But how many people is that? Are they voters? Are they eligible to vote? Were they Leave or Remain? Trends doesn’t tell us, all it does is give us a nice graph with a huge peak. More likely, it’s a very small number of people, based on this graph that puts it in context with other searches in the region... it’s giving plenty of people cover to insult the entire country, when it’s likely just a few people searching for something in a way that they always search for something. It makes “The British are frantically Googling what the EU is, hours after voting to leave it” absurdly disingenuous without better numbers. Update: Remy Smith points out this out: The peak was merely ~1000 people! It’s ludicrous that so few people get turned into a massive story, but it underscores the need for context. I’m disappointed that this is how data is being used, and really drives home the need for people to understand the data before they use it incorrectly. Google Trends is an interesting tool, but please do a bit more research before using it. Beware, you can look quite foolish by solely depending on it"

How Donald Trump appeals to men secretly insecure about their manhood - The Washington Post - "Measuring fragile masculinity poses a challenge. We could not simply do a poll of men, who might not honestly answer questions about their deepest insecurities. Instead we relied on Google Trends, which measures the popularity of Google search terms"

Is Google Trends a reliable tool for digital epidemiology? Insights from different clinical settings - "Internet-derived information has been recently recognized as a valuable tool for epidemiological investigation. Google Trends, a Google Inc. portal, generates data on geographical and temporal patterns according to specified keywords. The aim of this study was to compare the reliability of Google Trends in different clinical settings, for both common diseases with lower media coverage, and for less common diseases attracting major media coverage. We carried out a search in Google Trends using the keywords “renal colic”, “epistaxis”, and “mushroom poisoning”, selected on the basis of available and reliable epidemiological data. Besides this search, we carried out a second search for three clinical conditions (i.e., “meningitis”, “Legionella Pneumophila pneumonia”, and “Ebola fever”), which recently received major focus by the Italian media. In our analysis, no correlation was found between data captured from Google Trends and epidemiology of renal colics, epistaxis and mushroom poisoning. Only when searching for the term “mushroom” alone the Google Trends search generated a seasonal pattern which almost overlaps with the epidemiological profile, but this was probably mostly due to searches for harvesting and cooking rather than to for poisoning. The Google Trends data also failed to reflect the geographical and temporary patterns of disease for meningitis, Legionella Pneumophila pneumonia and Ebola fever.The results of our study confirm that Google Trends has modest reliability for defining the epidemiology of relatively common diseases with minor media coverage, or relatively rare diseases with higher audience. Overall, Google Trends seems to be more influenced by the media clamor than by true epidemiological burden."

ATC Memes - Posts - "Southwest gate agent mocks 5-year-old girl's name online. Abcde Redford's mother says the agent made fun of the girl"
Comments: "Her brother DAFUQ was equally upset."
"Mother: "why are you picking on my child?"
Everyone else: You have done that yourself"
"Mom: So honey, what do you want for your 18th birthday?
Abcde: The forms for a legal name change because I'm tired of spending half my life explaining that you were stoned when I was born."
"I am pissed off about the drama I have created in my child's life."
"“Not everyone is nice and not everyone is going to be nice and it's unfortunate.” Fact. As evidenced by your own mother naming you Abcde."

FACT CHECK: Did Sgt. Al Powell Stop a Terrorist Attack at Nakatomi Plaza? - "This isn’t the first time that a piece of pop culture has been repurposed as jape to spread misinformation on the internet"
Snopes is a joke - they're "fact checking" memes

Symbolic laws | Prospect Magazine - "Many people feel uneasy about the idea of symbolic legislation—and clearly there are potential problems, especially if it leads to political interference into how zealously or otherwise laws are applied. But symbolism is an intrinsic part of the law and one could argue that all legislation is at least partly symbolic. Legislation that is mostly symbolic prompts us to re-examine the law as a trigger for, and shaper of, political debate and a creator of constituencies. Symbolic legislation, one could argue, contributes positively to the making of political society.Some argue that symbolic legislation fails because in most cases it cannot achieve its own objectives—either because legislation is the wrong instrument for the job or because the legislation does not reassure as it is supposed to. But legislating often has multiple aims, and while the stated or perceived primary aims of a law may not always be fully achieved, the legislation may have important secondary impacts. The controversial Brady (gun) law in the US, introduced in 1993, is a good example of this. Because the law was perceived by some people as the long-awaited gun regulation that would lead directly to a drop in gun-related crimes, its detractors were able to portray it as a failure: it was easily circumvented and statistics showed that whatever caused the drop in gun crime, it was not attributable to Brady. Not so, its framers replied: Brady was not intended as comprehensive legislation, but merely to prevent prohibited purchasers from buying guns in retail outlets. Moreover, Brady was also intended to show gun control advocates that they could break the stranglehold that the National Rifle Association had on congress. Symbolic legislation such as Brady can break a deadlock and pave the way for increasingly effective legislation.Other symbolic bills are useful because they deal with what the American legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin has referred to as “checkerboard statutes”—statutes elaborated for specific constituencies resulting in inconsistent treatment across groups. The religious hatred bill redresses such a situation by affording Muslims a protection that is already enjoyed by Sikhs and Jews through race legislation... Partly because policing and enforcement elude us in increasingly borderless situations, the trend, and not just in law, is away from sanction and punishment towards changing attitudes and modifying behaviour. Governments are warming to the notion that it is in part through moral persuasion and debate created by legislation that attitudes and behaviour will change."

Do social psychologists have an ideological aversion to evolutionary psychology? - "A new survey of beliefs held by social psychologists (335 mostly US-based members of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology) has confirmed previous reports that the field is overwhelmingly populated by researchers of a left-wing, liberal bent. What’s more, David Buss and William von Hippel – the evolutionary psychologists who conducted and analysed the survey – say their findings, published open-access in Archives of Scientific Psychology, suggest that some social psychologists may be opposed, for ideological reasons, to insights rooted in evolutionary psychology. Buss and von Hippel add that compounding matters is an irony – the desire of some researchers to signal their ideological stance and commitment to others who share their political views, which is a manifestation of the evolved human adaptation to form coalitions. “Part of this virtue signalling entails rejecting a caricature of evolutionary psychology that no scientist actually holds”... As a case in point, Buss and von Hippel highlight the recent book Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds by psychologist Cordelia Fine – a text that argues against biological differences between the sexes (and in favour of sociological explanations) and which won wide praise from journalists and left-leaning scientists around the globe, while at the same time receiving scathing criticism from evolutionary biologists and psychologists with relevant expertise in evolutionary science... Critically, Buss and von Hippel make the point that recognising our evolved psychological adaptations and predilections will actually lead to more effective efforts toward social justice (on the other hand, denying the biological roots of human nature will surely blind researchers from understanding some of the important factors at play in the social injustices that they seek to address)... “Not a single degree-granting institution in the United States, to our knowledge, requires even a single course in evolutionary biology as part of a degree in psychology,” they write, adding that this is “an astonishing educational gap that disconnects psychology from the rest of the life sciences.”... In the UK, undergrad psychology degrees must follow the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education’s benchmark statement for psychology, which lists evolutionary psychology as an example topic within the compulsory subject area of Biological Psychology"

Ideology trumps science once again: Daphna Joel and Cordelia Fine deny the notion of “male vs. female brains” « Why Evolution Is True - "what are Joel and Fine talking about?It turns out that their article is slippery in two ways. First, it conflates average differences between the sexes in behavior, emotions, and mentation with whether an individual can be diagnosed as male or female. So while Joel and Fine admit (grudgingly) that there are differences between men and women in both brain structure and behavior, they harp relentlessly on whether a single person can, from inspecting that individual’s behaviors and brain, be put neatly into the “male” or “female” class. Actually (see below), we’re already close to that.But that’s a bogus problem, for the general claim about male/female differences rests on averages, not whether an individual can be diagnosed with 100% accuracy... We all know that there are average height differences between men and women, with men being about 7-9% taller than women in nearly every country in the world, yet you can’t tell from the height of a single individual whether it was male or female. I’m a short male (5 feet 8 inches), and there are plenty of women taller than I. I could claim, as do Joel and Fine, that “the notion of fundamentally female and male heights is a misconception,” and I’d be right. But that would be missing the real difference, which is hugely significant and, of course, raises scientific questions... By conflating average differences—which could be substantial, and important in explaining, say, male versus female preferences and differences in sexual behavior—with diagnosability of single individuals, they are somehow conveying the message that there aren’t differences between men and women’s brains and behavior. They are blank slate-ists, and they know what they’re doing. But they’re doing it for the wrong reasons: their motivation seems to be that the admission of some differences between men and women’s brains and behaviors will somehow justify sexism. This becomes clear at the end when they describe their social program... Joel and Fine’s tendentious piece reminds me of those people who deny genetic differences between ethnic groups because there are not single diagnostic differences that can tell you your ancestry. But their are small differences among many genes, and taking them all together you can discern someone’s genetic background with remarkable accuracy... multivariate analyses are actually quite good at discriminating male and female brains into two groups. (I can’t find a reply by Joel et al. to these critiques, but one may exist.) Joel and Fine do not mention these credible criticisms of their paper; they just pretend that their statement stands clear and unrefuted. I find that a sleazy way to behave, and had I vetted the editorial for the NYT, I would have insisted that Joel and Fine at least point it out."
On 'Can We Finally Stop Talking About 'Male' and 'Female' Brains?'

Open borders, wages, and economists - "Clemens and Kennan generally concede the possibility of some small depressive effect but argues that it would be temporary and/or could be compensated for at a policy level by suitable taxes and transfers. This is a radically different story from that told by, for example, Ha-Joon Chang, in his book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism . Chang’s third “thing”, “Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be” contains a parable of two bus drivers, Ram in India and Sven in Sweden. They do similar jobs, but if anything Ram’s requires more skill as he “has to negotiate his way almost every minute of his driving though bullock carts, rickshaws and bicyles stacked three metres high with crates.”(25) Yet Sven is paid 50 times more than Ram is (and it would be easy to find examples where the pay divergence is much larger, perhaps as much as 1000 times between unskilled labourers in poor and wealthy countries). Chang things it implausible that Sven embodies more human capital than Ram does as a result of education and training, since most of his Swedish education is irrelevant to what he does on the job. So if Chang is right, an open border policy would have a massive depressive effect on the earnings of non-migrant workers in wealthy countries since other people would be happy to take unskilled or low-skilled jobs for much less than the current wage (but more than they could get at home)."

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Links - 7th February 2019

Immigration: Survey Shows Alarming Lack of Integration in Germany - "Of all the immigrant groups in Germany, the southern Europeans from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, who made up the first wave of so-called "guest workers" who came to Germany after World War II, have done best in terms of integrating themselves.The so-called Aussiedler, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, most of whom who came to Germany in the 1990s, are the biggest single group of immigrants, and they have also done relatively well. Their sons and daughters are making good use of the education system and the proportion of them with higher education degrees is greater than that of the general German population. But immigrants from Turkey, the second biggest immigrant group in Germany making up almost 3 million people, are very poorly integrated. They come last in the Berlin Institute's integration ranking and the difference between them and the Germans is greatest -- they are worse educated, worse paid and have a higher rate of unemployment. And it doesn't make much difference how long they've been living in Germany... There are two sides to integration. In the ideal case there's a majority that welcomes the immigrants and the minority that wants to become part of its new homeland.But many Turks who came to Germany as guest workers decades ago didn't want to become part of German society, they wanted to earn money there and return home after a few years. That didn't happen, though. The Turks stayed on, but it seems that their original attitude hasn't changed. They formed ghettos and didn't establish much contact with Germans, and all that made it harder for their children to find a place in German society. According to one recent survey, two-thirds of immigrant children still can't read adequately at the end of their fourth year in school... Author Serap Cileli, herself the victim of a forced marriage, says: "Faith plays a major role in the failed integration of Turks."... Bassam Tibi, co-founder of the Arabian Organization for Human Rights, says it's impossible for Muslim immigrants ever to truly integrate under these conditions. "No democracy can allow the inferiorization of women""
This suggests that cultural similarity improves the outcomes of immigrants, so ideally you would have more such immigrants
And that despite all the headlines about how immigrants contribute more to their host countries than locals, some immigrant demographics actually do worse

FACT CHECK: Did Al Gore Predict Earth's Ice Caps Would Melt by 2014?
Even Snopes agrees that Al Gore sexed up his claims

Al Gore's 'nine Inconvenient Untruths' - "Al Gore's environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth contains nine key scientific errors, a High Court judge ruled yesterday. The judge declined to ban the Academy Award-winning film from British schools, but ruled that it can only be shown with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination."

Al Gore's Predictions Of Doom Scramble His Message - "For one thing, I thought sea levels would have risen 20 feet by now thanks to the melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland. Al Gore claimed that this would happen in the "near future," but thankfully, we've been spared so far. In fact, sea levels seem to be rising at maybe three millimetres per year. Twenty feet is over six thousand millimetres, so at this rate, we wouldn't even be halfway by the year 3017... "The Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea level rises of seven metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus" and would only happen "after, and over, millennia."... The judge had other problems with the film's claims. For instance, the film speaks of global warming "shutting down the Ocean Conveyor," by which the Gulf Stream is carried over the North Atlantic to Western Europe, among other things. But the judge said it was "very unlikely" that the Ocean Conveyor would shut down, although it might slow down, based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Again, though, so far so good, as NASA found in 2010 that there had been no significant slowing over the previous 15 years, and in fact that the Ocean Conveyor "may have even sped up slightly in the recent past."... None of this is to say that climate change is not an issue worth addressing, that it won't require adaptation and innovation in the coming decades. It is and it will. But is it an impending catastrophe? Is it a concern that should outweigh, for instance, efforts to help the poorest parts of the world rise out of crushing poverty through the use of cheap and efficient fossil fuels? In trying to answer these kinds of questions, we need reliable information of likely costs and benefits. "Misrepresentations of research," which Al Gore seems all too fond of, are the opposite of helpful."

UN Climate Panel: Emissions Must Fall Rapidly by 2030 to Prevent Catastrophic Climate Change
I've set a calendar reminder for 2030. But in 2030 the year will have been pushed out, just like the timeline for nuclear fusion

People Made to Pay More Money Forget About Climate Change - "Global-warming activists predicted that Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate change would claim innocent lives. Trump pulled out over a year ago, and the death toll from the American snub stands at zero. In France, however, violent protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s efforts to mitigate climate change have killed one person and injured 227... people—not just Americans—care deeply about melting ice caps and rising sea levels only under specific circumstances. Namely, when they can be blamed on the greed and stupidity of their political enemies. They find that they suddenly care a lot less when addressing climate change means shelling out a few extra euro cents... “We no longer know what kind of car to buy, petrol, diesel, electric, who knows?” said one protester interviewed by the Guardian. “I have a little diesel van, and I don’t have the money to buy a new one, especially as I’m about to retire. We have the feeling those from the countryside are forgotten.”... The protestors, known as gilets jaunes, for their signature yellow vests, enjoy 79-percent support among the French working class"

New data shows US hate crimes continued to rise in 2017 - "there appears to be a correlation between the rise in targeted racially divisive social media ads and a near contemporaneous rise in hate crime"
Interestingly in 2016 there were more than twice as many hate crimes against Muslims than Jews. And whites were the third most targeted victims
Presumably "targeted racially divisive social media ads" are wrong but stirring grievances with identity politics is a good thing

‘Lean In’ Has Been Discredited For Good - "Barbara Ehrenreich tweeted: “Thanks to Sheryl Sandburg, this is the end of corporate feminism. Whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.” ... America has started to sour on tech’s empty idealism in all its forms. Silicon Valley executives shield their own kids from the very products earning them billions, while the underclass they promised to connect keep clicking... Conservatives trumpeted Kellyanne Conway for being the first female to successfully run a presidential campaign, and Cindy Hyde-Smith, recently in the news for making a public hanging joke, for her potential as the first woman to represent Mississippi in either chamber of Congress. When critics skewered Gina Haspel for her record on torture, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, tweeted, “There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30+ year CIA veteran Gina Haspel. Any Democrat who claims to support women’s empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite.”"
Among other things, liberals are unhappy when the feminist playbook is used to support women they don't like, i.e. feminism isn't even about advancing women - just some women

Do Parents Make a Difference? A Public Debate in London - "Plomin made it clear he wasn’t claiming genetic differences accounted for all the differences in how children turn out. He estimated that genes explain about half the variance when it comes to the Big Five personality traits, with the environment accounting for the other half. However, that doesn’t mean nurture is as important as nature. The salient environmental inputs are not those things we normally think of as “nurture,” such as parents and schools. Rather, what matters, according to Plomin, are random, serendipitous events—what he refers to as the “non-shared” environment and which are, by definition, non-systematic... Parenting matters in the sense that how parents behave affects their children’s well-being in the moment, if not over the course of their lifetimes, and we have a duty to look after our children and make sure they’re happy, at least while they’re under our care. It also matters in the sense that it affects what will be among the most important relationships of our lives. Finally, he acknowledged that parents have an important role to play in helping children discover and cultivate those talents that they’ve been genetically endowed with... Terrible parents—those guilty of extreme neglect or abuse—can have a long term, negative impact on their children... The research showing large epigenetic effects in humans, particularly that relating to transgenerational inheritance, is pretty sketchy and more work needs to be done before any conclusions can be drawn. (There’s a Twitter account called @EpigeneticsBs that monitors some of the more outlandish claims made on behalf of epigenetics.) In general, he said, the behavioral genetics studies showing that parenting effects are small are based on large samples, have been replicated numerous times and are being corroborated by work being done in molecular genetics. The parenting studies in developmental psychology, by contrast, are, for the most part, based on small samples, confounded by genetics and have proved hard to replicate"

News Flash: Jews Are 'Apes And Pigs.' So Why Is Egypt's Morsi The Elephant In America's Newsrooms? - "the sitting president of Egypt -- the world's 15th most populous nation -- was exposed for calling Jews "apes and pigs." And he did it in a TV interview (in Arabic) in 2010, less than two years before he took office.Needless to say, this was HUGE NEWS for American mass media! Only it wasn't. (Knock, knock, New York Times? Anybody home?) In fact, to be fair to the paper of record, not a single major outlet has covered it. Not AP or Reuters. Not CBS News or CNN. Not Time magazine or U.S. News & World Report. Not the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Etcetera. And therein lies a story, which this column can only begin to skin open here... Surely, if the president of virtually any other country in the world had defamed an entire people in such a way -- only a couple years before they got the top job, to boot -- it would have at least gotten a few column-inches. Yet Morsi gets a free pass... The New York Times rarely touches this stuff. In fact, a harshly critical mega-report about the newspaper’s Middle East coverage was recently released by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). The Times can't be too happy about it. "The failure of the New York Times to cover the hate indoctrination leads the pack, in a way," CAMERA's head Andrea Levin told me yesterday. "The fact that they deem it to be so unimportant helps to lay down that news decision for others as well. And, to us, it's one of the greatest derelictions in current news coverage of the conflict." Most would agree that, even in the internet age, the Times is still the leading agenda-setter for major media. It is, after all, the best paper around, a true wonder-of-the-world. But it does seem to avoid covering Islamist incitement against Jews (and Christians) like the plagues... "Well-meaning journalists have told me that exposing this kind of stuff is serving the enemies of peace. I think quite the contrary. You don't serve peace by cover-ups. Only by exposure.""
Presumably fetishising about all of Israel's alleged and trivial wrongs doesn't serve the enemies of peace

The Economics and Policy of Illegal Immigration in the United States - "Illegal immigration benefits employers and unauthorized immigrants while it puts downward pressure on U.S. wages. However, according to this report by University of California, San Diego Professor of Economics Gordon Hanson, illegal immigration’s overall impact on the U.S. economy is small. The modest net gain that remains after subtracting U.S. workers’ losses from U.S. employers’ gains is tiny; and if one accounts for the small fiscal burden that unauthorized immigrants impose, the overall economic benefit is close enough to zero to be essentially a wash"
Conflating legal and illegal immigration to claim that illegal immigration is good is sneaky

National Union of Students 'Will Go Bankrupt by April' - "The National Union of Students held crisis talks last night as internal documents reveal the organisation is set to go bankrupt within five months. Their £500,000 overdraft facility provided by the Co-Op expired on 5th November and is “this is not being renewed”. In the context of a damning internal review of short-term cash flow, the NUS held a “Strategic Conference” where suggestions raised included making up to a third of staff redundant, putting restrictions on travel and subsistence, and doing away with full time student officers... Student officers have responded to the proposed fiscal restraints by mounting anti-austerity campaigns to prevent cuts, or any reduction in scope of the organisation, and have begun referring to the organisation’s £3 million deficit as “alleged.”"
When you think feelings are reality

Net migration to the UK - misleading numbers on EU vs non-EU migrants

A common claim about migration in the United Kingdom, especially in relation to Brexit, is that net migration to the UK from outside the EU exceeds that from the EU.

A chart from Full Fact:

As such, one (presumed) reason for Brexit - to reduce net migration into the UK - is, we are told, a delusion.

Yet, even if we ignore the doubts that Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, has about the numbers, that "Other data sources do not support the idea that non-EU citizens are currently contributing so much to net migration", a closer look at the statistics is instructive.

If we look at the Office for National Statistics's (ONS's) Provisional Long-Term International Migration estimates, we get breakdowns of migration by reason: Work Related (Definite job/Looking for work), Accompany/Join (presumably family reunification), Formal study, Going home to live, Other and No Reason Stated.

One thing that stands out is that 2-4 times as many non-EU as EU migrants go to the UK to study, which will certainly bias the migration numbers. After all, while they are officially counted in the migration numbers, students are not the sort of 'migration' that Brexiters (or indeed, the UK public in general) wants to reduce.

After all, (bona fide) students are not drains on public funds, nor do they compete with locals for jobs. Indeed, non-EU students are especially welcome as they pay higher school fees.

So to have a better idea about migration to the UK that Brexiteers care about (and how the numbers can be reduced), we need to remove students from the total.

The ONS notes that:

"Care should be taken when comparing inflow and outflow by main reason for migration. Returning migrants are asked their reason for returning, not their original reason for migrating. A former immigrant's main reason for leaving the UK may well differ from their previous main reason for immigrating into the UK. Because of this, no balance estimates are displayed. Please see the Notes worksheet for more information."

As such, I will not calculate net migration (i.e. balance estimates), excluding migration for educational purposes, but will just look at inflows.

Looking at the years ending June (since the Brexit vote was held on June 23 2016 and presumably would've affected the data after June), we get:

(also given in HTML format)

Years Ending/Thousands EU Non-EU EU Non-EU EU Non-EU EU/Non-EU Ratio
Inflow - all reasons Formal study Inflow excluding Formal study  
Jun 11 157 309 45 183 112 126                      0.89
Jun 12 144 263 39 148 105 115                      0.91
Jun 13 171 216 28 132 143 84                      1.70
Jun 14 205 240 39 120 166 120                      1.38
Jun 15 242 254 47 131 195 123                      1.59
Jun 16 264 242 34 113 230 129                      1.78
Jun 17
(anomaly for study)maly for study)
210 221 33 94 177 127                      1.39
Jun 18
206 293 56 135 150 158                      0.95

Clearly, from July 2013 to June 2017, once we exclude students, EU migration has exceeded non-EU migration quite significantly. Thus claiming that non-EU net migration exceeds EU net migration may be technically true but is very misleading.

Of course, after their studies some people will stay on in the UK to work (or do other things).

Yet, this will only increase the ratio of EU to non-EU migration, since ex-students from the EU are easily able to stay on after their studies - while non-EU students are essentially kicked out.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Links - 5th February 2019 (Trans Mania)

Why don't trans activists practise what they preach? - "nine women filed a lawsuit against Naomi’s House, a shelter for homeless women, and its parent company, the Poverello House, after a man identifying as female was allowed to stay at the shelter, and sexually harassed numerous residents... rather than address any of the arguments I’d made in my talk, respond to any of the questions I’d asked or to any of the concerns I’d brought up, she wanted to talk about people’s “feelings”... this is a go-to strategy on the parts of trans activists. When asked to explain their claims that “transwomen are women”, that individuals can change their sex, or, simply, what a “transwoman” or a “woman” is, they will refuse to respond, and instead accuse the questioner of being “mean,” “hurtful,” “hateful” or “bigoted”. It’s a successful tactic, since most people do not wish to be considered “bad” or “hateful”. But when it comes to debating ideas and public policy, it makes no sense to avoid critical thinking or evidence, lest we upset those lobbying for the changes or ideology. Imagine if we were asked not to debate war or capitalism or climate change, lest it hurt the feelings of warmongers and capitalists and climate change deniers? But beyond that, since when did being “nice” entail lying? Or rejecting critical thought? Is it “nice” to accept dogma one believes is harmful or irrational? If someone told you the earth was flat, would you agree in order to avoid hurting their feelings? Jonathan Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind, sees this trend as having originated on college campuses, where students have “medicalized” their aversion to certain ideas, books, words, and speakers. Rather than simply protest, as they would have in the past, students are claiming that these ideas, books, words, and speakers are actually harmful, traumatising, or even “literal violence”. And rather than debate these difficult ideas, they no-platform speakers and entirely avoid having to examine what, exactly, they say or believe is troubling about the ideas or words in question. This isn’t an attitude that will save us from bad policies or harmful political ideologies. In fact, it is already preventing us from forming good ideas and legislation with regard to trans issues. Nor is it good philosophical practice to accept dogma unquestioningly. Besides, how “nice” is it to demand the public go along with your preferred beliefs, lest they be blacklisted, bullied, fired, threatened, or labelled as “bigoted”? I’ve been threatened with violence online countless times, simply for asking questions about transgender ideology and gender identity legislation. Recently, Twitter locked my account because I tweeted the phrase, “men aren’t women”. This doesn’t strike me as particularly “nice” or open-minded behaviour. Yet somehow I am the one accused of “hate”... if this is the preferred way forward, let’s not carry on the charade of describing trans activism as a progressive movement towards acceptance. It smacks, instead, of tyranny."

Schools pulled into row over helping transgender children - "the “watchful waiting” approach advocated by the Transgender Trend pack, which warns schools to be “aware of the risk of ‘social contagion’ from celebrity trans internet vloggers who glamorise medical transition”? Stephanie Davies-Arai, a parenting adviser, launched the Transgender Trend resource pack in February half-term, thinking it would barely get noticed. Instead, she says: “It just blew up”. The LGBT lobby group Stonewall accused Transgender Trend, the organisation Davies-Arai set up two-and-a-half years ago, of spreading “damaging myths, panic and confusion”, and advised local authorities not to use the pack. On Twitter, people piled in, with one describing the pack (which had been checked by lawyers) as a “modern edition of Mein Kampf”. Davies-Arai says she took an interest in the subject because as a child she had felt herself to be a boy, and she didn’t think it was a good idea to label children like her as transgender because she believes that in some cases, these feelings resolve naturally by the end of adolescence... Davies-Arai says her broader concern is that by affirming students’ gender identity, schools may be nudging them down a route that can lead to cross-sex hormones and life-changing surgery without enough time to reflect. Teachers, she says, “are essentially being forced to collude in an experimental approach towards children with gender dysphoria”. She adds: “You can support children and accept them, without affirming their belief that their body is ‘wrong’.” Adele Robinson (not her real name), a head of year at a secondary school, shares Davies-Arai’s worries. The school has had 12 children, all girls, come out as transgender in the past 18 months. The majority, she says, have autism, and some have experienced sexual abuse. When they come out, she says, they have brought in information sourced from Tumblr blogs and YouTube videos... staff are too frightened to challenge what she sees as harmful practices: “We have chest binders worn in school, which is horrible. If a child was cutting, they would be straight in with a counsellor. Yet damaging developing breast tissue goes unquestioned. It’s a gross failure in terms of child protection.”"

Even Oxford University can’t save Jenni Murray from the transgender activist mob | Coffee House - "woman says things some people don’t like; woman gets invited to speak at a event; some people say woman shouldn’t get to speak at all; woman ends up not speaking"

The misogyny of trans censorship - "It seems this new generation of feminists are willing to silence women in order to accommodate trans activists – a group which, let’s face it, consists mainly of white, biological men; those usually seen by the left as the most privileged demographic, and those most responsible for silencing women throughout history. That the hurt feelings of biological men are being used by feminists to justify the censorship of biological women is absurd. This sounds a lot like the thing that hampered women throughout history: patriarchy. The fact that this new assault on women is coming from within the feminist movement is a cruel irony."

Trans murderer serving life will receive £80k gender reassignment on the NHS - "Green, 27, was found guilty of murder and jailed for life in 2013 after she tortured, sexually assaulted and beat a man to death with two accomplices.Since being incarcerated, Green from Glenrothes, Fife, has been removed from a women’s prison for sexually assaulting other inmates... prison officers are unhappy about Green’s operation, branding it “not live saving” and not “vital”... “You can murder someone brutally but while you’re in prison you’re entitled to everything you ask for, no matter the burden you put on a stretched system, because it might breach your human rights to say no."

Childhood Gender Nonconformity and Children’s Past-Life Memories - "Results: Children who remembered a life involving a different natal sex were much more likely to exhibit GNC than children who remembered a same-sex life.
Conclusions: After exploring potential explanations, we conclude that past-life memories represent a novel factor that may be associated with the development of GNC."
Maybe this means they're making both up

Everyone's Doing It: Three Trans Middle Schoolers Undergo Sex Change Therapy Together - "With the support of their parents and each other, the children -- all under age 12 -- will undergo medical intervention to avoid the otherwise inevitable process of developing adult male bodies... They will start taking hormone blockers right away. At age 14 to 16, they will begin taking female hormones, aka hormone replacement therapy. And when they are 18, they will have gender reassignment surgery."

Academics are being harassed over their research into transgender issues - "We represent a newly formed network of over 100 academics, most of whom are currently employed in UK universities. We are concerned, from a range of academic perspectives, about proposed governmental reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and their interaction with the Equality Act... We are also concerned about the suppression of proper academic analysis and discussion of the social phenomenon of transgenderism, and its multiple causes and effects. Members of our group have experienced campus protests, calls for dismissal in the press, harassment, foiled plots to bring about dismissal, no-platforming, and attempts to censor academic research and publications. Such attacks are out of line with the ordinary reception of critical ideas in the academy, where it is normally accepted that disagreement is reasonable and even productive. Many of our universities have close links with trans advocacy organisations who provide “training” of academics and management, and who, it is reasonable to suppose, influence university policy through these links. Definitions used by these organisations of what counts as “transphobic” can be dangerously all-encompassing and go well beyond what a reasonable law would describe. They would not withstand academic analysis, and yet their effect is to curtail academic freedom and facilitate the censoring of academic work. We also worry about the effect of such definitions on the success rates of journal submissions and research grant applications from governmental bodies such as the AHRC and ESRC. We maintain that it is not transphobic to investigate and analyse this area from a range of critical academic perspectives. We think this research is sorely needed, and urge the government to take the lead in protecting any such research from ideologically driven attack."

Australian PM Blasts Transgender ‘Nonsense,’ Will Not Change Gender On Passports - "Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he has had enough transgender "nonsense," refusing to capitulate to the movement's demands for the government to create "non-binary" government documents for transgender people... "This is the problem with Labor, obsessed with nonsense like removing gender from birth certificates rather than lower electricity prices, reducing tax for hard-working families and small businesses.""

Transgender rights reforms: How it could be ILLEGAL to say 'he' or 'she' - "Using the pronouns 'he' and 'she' could land Australians before the courts under Tasmania's controversial transgender rights reforms, legal experts have warned... the prime minister drew widespread criticism after commenting on social media that schools do not need 'gender whisperers' in response to a report that teachers are being trained to identify transgender children"

YouTube Bans 'Dangerous' Ad For Video Critiquing Transgenderism - "Progressives are no longer willing to argue with those who oppose them, even with satire. Instead, companies like Google are just shutting them down...
"me talking about basic biology w/ @LOUontheSUBWAY @WeTheInternetTV is "dangerous or derogatory.""...
WTI gives it to both sides, but only finds itself facing an ad ban when it offends the sensibilities of progressives... There is nothing even remotely offensive about the ad that was blocked or the content that is advertised. Google is bowing to progressive pressure to shut down thought that progressives find problematic"

Trans Activists’ Campaign Against ‘TERFs’ has Become an Attack on Science - "To cite the historically verifiable fact that someone named Bruce Jenner once existed is now seen as a sort of religious heresy. And like all heresies, it must be ritualistically expunged—not because it is factually wrong, but because it is seen as morally wrong... Marcus is worried that facts might be used to undermine ideologically hallowed “perspectives”—also known as “opinions.”... transgender activism has undermined the efforts of clinicians and researchers who have sought to investigate the issue of gender dysphoria. There is perhaps no other area of human behaviour where ideologically motivated actors have been so successful in creating what are in effect no-go zones for academics, and even for facts themselves... trans extremists aren’t even trying to hide their witch-hunt tactics anymore. Goldsmiths researcher Natacha Kennedy, working under the name of Mark Hellen, was discovered to have orchestrated a smear campaign targeting female academics in the UK who refuse to conform to transgender ideology. (Kennedy encouraged members on a private Facebook group to draw up a list where “members plotted to accuse non-compliant professors of hate crime to try to have them ousted from their jobs.”)... girls as young as 13 are being told by US physician Johanna Olson-Kennedy that they “have the capacity to make…reasoned, logical decision[s]” about whether they want their breasts removed—because if they “want breasts later on in [their] life, [they] can go and get them.” This sort of casual attitude to body mutilation—and re-mutilation—helps explain why many enterprising doctors have become de facto transgender activists, since they get paid on both ends of the transformation... The journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (PPR) recently published two articles—one by trans academic Rachel McKinnon (College of Charleston) called “The Epistemology of Propaganda,“ and another by Jason Stanley (Yale), “Replies”—wherein the epithet “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) is casually flung about to attack women who oppose a trans-maximalist agenda. The attack on women contained in these articles was so scathing that a group of philosophers were moved to publish a guest post in the philosophy blog Daily Nous entitled “Derogatory Language in Philosophy Journal Risks Increased Hostility and Diminished Discussion,” pointing out that TERF is “at worst a slur and at best derogatory.” (It has also been pointed out that McKinnon’s paper contained at least one flat-out falsehood—the claim that there is no case on record of a transgender woman sexually assaulting a woman in a female-only space.)... there have been recent analyses of the British prison system showing that approximately two-fifths of transsexual male prisoners are sex offenders. And while the BBC attempted to whitewash this analysis (a scandal unto itself), The Spectator’s James Kirkup took it upon himself to set out the grim facts that the BBC has sought to bury."

Monday, February 04, 2019

The Morality of Comedy

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, The Morality of Comedy

"With faith in our institutions, apparently, at an all time low, at least, partly because of the relentless scorn of the standups. Is comedy healthy for democracy? Or does it trivialize and caricature the most serious issues we face, dumbing us down and making society itself glibly stupid?...

'Totalitarian authoritarian leaders... don't like comedy because it undermines them'...

‘Shouldn't they make fun of the left as well as berating the right’


‘And is it your view that they fail in that respect?’

‘That is changing. Comedy, it's funny because in the 70s comedy there was there was a lot of overtly right wing comedians. Jim Davidson, Bernard Manning, those kind of people and then you saw the rise of alternative comedy of which Ben Elton is perhaps the most famous proponent because he was so overtly left wing and his politics.

And what kind of happened in comedy in the 90s and the noughties is that the left had kind of took the moral high ground and anyone who stood for right wing values, because of the denigration that Thatcher came under, anyone who took the right wing viewpoint was just abused and smeared and undermined… what you tend to find with right wing comics or comics who believed in non kind of Guardian left reading values was that they just kept their politics to themselves because they wanted to get booked again. So you tend to find that the right wing politics tend to do things like absurdist humor or tell stories but they don't do overtly political jokes’...

‘On Brexit, comedians and satirists mainly line up with remain. They line up alongside the bankers, the CBI, The Financial Times, so they're lined up with the establishment. Doesn’t that strike you as rather funny?’

‘It strikes me as not only funny, it strikes me as deeply hypocritical. And it is a failing of comedy. And you're starting to see now, only now with Brexit that it has become acceptable to utter kind of non left values that you're starting to see other voices appear. And it's a great tragedy. And it's been a great failing of comedy, because comedy is supposed to be a bastion of free speech.’...

‘Effective comedy makes us think’...

‘If you look at the research what's quite good in some ways and quite worrying is that young people now don't turn to the news for their political knowledge, they turn to comedians, mockumentaries, late night comedy shows. Now that's good in some ways. But the research also shows that that viewing has a real influence on those young people's political attitudes. And a lot of the time it switches them off of politics.’...

‘I don't think being snarky has any skill to it at all. I think being snarky is easy. Attacking politicians is like shooting fish in a tank. It's easy, it's cheap laughs. We can do it all day long, 247. What is more difficult is educated, deep reflective satire that as you quite correctly say makes people think on the way home in the car after they've had a good laugh’...

One of the things that people say for comedy in a kind of political context is that it's, it's subversive. But I wonder whether actually watching comedy is an incredibly safe and actually rather smug way of feeling, you're feeling that you’re clever and subversive, and then returning to your semi detached house and not challenging anything at all... we’ve reached the stage where people respect a capacity to be funny more than they respect their capacity to engender hope or to be genuinely challenging...

'I wonder whether we’re just addicted to comedy, actually, because it makes us feel good about ourselves and in some ways it's a replacement for other things that we might be doing that could be more useful'"
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