Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Fake News and Pizzagate

In Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal Amanda Robb examines the "web of conspiracy theorists, Russian operatives, Trump campaigners and Twitter bots who manufactured the 'news' that Hillary Clinton ran a pizza-restaurant child-sex ring".

Monday, 20 November 2017

Human's seem to want to have control over potential gains and losses, rather than delegating

In Are you a control freak or a delegator? Personality quiz Ben Ambridge reports on research showing that most people want to make their own decisions, even if they know it will cost them more.

This is based on the paper The intrinsic value of choice: The propensity to under-delegate in the face of potential gains and losses by Sebastian Bobadilla-Suarez, Cass R. Sunstein and Tali Sharot. Here's the abstract:
Human beings are often faced with a pervasive problem: whether to make their own decision or to delegate the decision task to someone else. Here, we test whether people are inclined to forgo monetary rewards in order to retain agency when faced with choices that could lead to losses and gains. In a simple choice task, we show that participants choose to pay in order to control their own payoff more than they should if they were to maximize monetary rewards and minimize monetary losses. This tendency cannot be explained by participants’ overconfidence in their own ability, as their perceived ability was elicited and accounted for. Nor can the results be explained by lack of information. Rather, the results seem to reflect an intrinsic value for choice, which emerges in the domain of both gains and of losses. Moreover, our data indicate that participants are aware that they are making suboptimal choices in the normative sense, but do so anyway, presumably for psychological gains.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

World's Best Chocolate Cake?

In Is this chocolate cake recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's baking cookbook Sweet the world's best? Yotam Ottolenghi provides an interesting chocolate cake recipe from Helen Goh.

Globalisation vs Tribalism

In Lure of globalisation battles our instinctive tribalism Ross Gittins cites the book Choosing Openness by Dr Andrew Leigh in arguing that we tend to have a distrust of outsiders because for most of human history people have lived in small groups of up to 150 people.
Drawing on the work of British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, he argues that "for most of history, humans lived in groups of about 150 people" – a figure known as "Dunbar's number".

Such groups were big enough for some specialisation, but small enough for everyone to know and trust everyone else. People were born, mated, hunted and died within their small community.
However, many of us now live in much large communities.
But while hunkering down in the face of difference might have been a useful evolutionary strategy in the past, the growth of cities changed the equation, Leigh argues.

Cities are bound together by not by familial relationships, but by rules and norms of acceptable behaviour.

For hundreds of years, the most productive cities have been those that welcome visitors. In a primitive tribe, a dislike of difference can keep you alive. In a city, it's likely to just make you poorer.

"In this sense, a distrust of diversity is a bit like wisdom teeth – an evolutionary vestige that once helped us grind up plants, but now are more likely to take us on a trip to the dentist's chair."
Gittins and Leigh argue that the some populist politicians stoke our natural distrust of outsiders for political gain.
In a seminal study of the politics of hatred, the Harvard authority on urban economics Edward Glaeser noted that the key to building a powerful coalition around hate is to focus voters' anger on an "out group" that is sufficiently large to be taken seriously as a threat, but too small to be electorally decisive.
They argue that one of the four main drivers of the growth of populism is inequality.
First, slow growth in living standards when the proceeds of economic growth haven't been shared.

"In societies where prosperity is broadly shared, a cosmopolitan outlook steadily replaces traditional values of religion, deference to authority, and an exclusive focus on the security of our family and tribe," he says.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Which foods should be eat of we want to live a long life?

In Which foods can help you live longer? Paula Goodyer reports that long life is just as much about what we eat as our genes.
There is no foolproof recipe for making it to 100 years old and beyond but there are strong clues from longevity hot spots such as the Mediterranean regions of France and Italy, parts of Spain, Nicoya, in Costa Rica, and Okinawa, in Japan. These are all places with high numbers of long-lived people, according to Dr Preston Estep, director of gerontology at the Harvard Personal Genome Project

They do not always eat the same food but their diets have much in common – a lot of plant food, moderate amounts of fish but not so much meat and added sugar, says Estep, whose book, The Mindspan Diet, looks at the eating habits of people who not only live longer but also have lower rates of dementia. Their fat intake varies, but where diets are high in fat it is usually mono-unsaturated fat – the kind found in olive oil, for example. And when they raise a glass, it is usually with meals and in moderation.
So eat mostly vegetables, with plenty of legumes.

Have the benefits of standing desks been oversold

In How the media oversold standing desks as a fix for inactivity at work Catriona Bonfiglioli and Josephine Chau report that articles in the media about the danger of sitting did not accurately reflect the reality of the report they were based on.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese Recipes

Three vegetarian spaghetti bolognese recipes:

BBC goodfood: Vegetarian spaghetti bolognese

Vegie Num Num: Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

Jamie Oliver: Veggie Spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The making of Dylann Roof

A powerful piece of writing by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah: A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof.
“What are you?” a member of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston asked at the trial of the white man who killed eight of her fellow black parishioners and their pastor. “What kind of subhuman miscreant could commit such evil?... What happened to you, Dylann?”
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah spent months in South Carolina searching for an answer to those questions—speaking with Roof’s mother, father, friends, former teachers, and victims’ family members, all in an effort to unlock what went into creating one of the coldest killers of our time.

Monday, 28 August 2017

The rise of the alt-right

In If you want to know how the alt-right upended American politics, read Kill All Normies Sean Illing interviews Irish academic and author Angela Nagle on her book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right.

The GOP and Authoritarianism

Jonathan Chait on how The GOP’s Age of Authoritarianism Has Only Just Begun. Note this was written before Trump won the US election.

Wayne Swan on the blindness of affluence

Wayne Swan writes about The blindness of affluence and the need for a more inclusive form of prosperity.

The three party system

John Quiggin explains The three party system.
Looking at the way politics has evolved over the past 25 years or so, in the English-speaking world and beyond, I have developed an analysis which is certainly not original, but which I haven’t seen set down in exactly the way I would like. Here’s the shorter version:

There are three major political forces in contemporary politics in developed countries: tribalism, neoliberalism and leftism (defined in more detail below). Until recently, the party system involved competition between different versions of neoliberalism. Since the Global Financial Crisis, neoliberals have remained in power almost everywhere, but can no longer command the electoral support needed to marginalise both tribalists and leftists at the same time. So, we are seeing the emergence of a three-party system, which is inherently unstable because of the Condorcet problem and for other reasons.

Why aren't people protesting against gerrymandering?

Brian Klaas poses the question Gerrymandering is the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States. So why is no one protesting?

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Life in North Korea

In Fear, loneliness, and duty — an American journalist on daily life in North Korea Sean Illing interviews the author of the 2014 book Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite, Suki Kim about living in North Korea.

Are carbs really the problem?

In We’ve long blamed carbs for making us fat. What if that's wrong? Julia Belluz writes about a study that casts doubt on carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis, the theory that
... suggests that a diet heavy in carbohydrates (especially refined grains and sugars) leads to weight gain because of a specific mechanism: Carbs drive up insulin in the body, causing the body to hold on to fat and suppress calorie burn.

The top 100 solutions to climate change

In A new book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change. The results are surprising. David Roberts interviews Paul Hawken about Hawken's book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.
Unlike most popular books on climate change, it is not a polemic or a collection of anecdotes and exhortations. In fact, with the exception of a few thoughtful essays scattered throughout, it’s basically a reference book: a list of solutions, ranked by potential carbon impact, each with cost estimates and a short description. A set of scenarios show the cumulative potential.
The number one solution, in terms of potential impact? A combination of educating girls and family planning, which together could reduce 120 gigatons of CO2-equivalent by 2050 — more than on- and offshore wind power combined (99 GT).
Also sitting atop the list, with an impact that dwarfs any single energy source: refrigerant management. (Don’t hear much about that, do you? Here’s a great Brad Plumer piece on it.)

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Most of the 2016 USA election results were pretty typical

In Why did the 2016 election look so much like the 2012 election? Ezra Klein reports on work shoing that most voters in the USA vote according to partisan identity, not policies or candidates.
A few months ago, I stopped by Larry Bartels’s office at Vanderbilt University. Bartels, alongside Christopher Achen, is the author of Democracy for Realists, which I’d become a bit obsessed with. The book argues that decades of social science evidence has shattered the idealistic case made for how voters in democracies act, and the reality is that “even the most informed voters typically make choices not on the basis of policy preferences or ideology, but on the basis of who they are — their social identities.”
I sat down with Bartels shortly after the 2016 election, and I had a dozen ideas for how his book helped explain the unusual results. But he wasn’t buying my premise. To him, the election looked pretty typical.
The Democratic candidate won 89 percent of Democratic voters, and the Republican candidate won 90 percent of Republican voters. The Democrat won minorities, women, and the young; the Republican won whites, men, and the old. The Democrat won a few percentage points more of the two-party vote than the Republican, just as had happened four years before, and four years before that. If you had known nothing about the candidates or conditions in the 2016 election but had been asked to predict the results, these might well have been the results you’d predicted. So what was there to explain?

Monday, 24 July 2017

The limits of human compassion

In A psychologist explains the limits of human compassion Brian Resnick interviews Paul Slovic on "psychic numbing". It seems our levels of concern appears to be inversely proportional to the number of victims. That's why we ignore mass atrocities but give when there's only a single individual victim (e.g. a child with cancer). Unfortunately, an individual is worth more than the sum of a group.

The interview explores several topics:
  • There is no constant value for a human life
  • We’re compelled to help individuals. But the world’s problems are too large to be solved one person at a time
  • Psychic numbing begins when the number of victims increases from one to two
  • Three factors keep people and politicians from intervening in humanitarian crises
  • We might be able to build machines more moral than humans
  • Even partial solutions save whole lives

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sympathise with the victims, not the perpetrators of domestic violence

In ‘We didn’t recognise that he was dangerous’: our father killed our mother and sister Rossalyn Warren talks to the sons of a man who killed his wife and daughter after they left him. The sons are upset that the media tended to be sympathetic to their father:
The Sun and Daily Telegraph quoted locals who described Lance as “a nice guy”, while the Daily Express reported that he was “a DIY nut”. The Daily Mail spoke to others who described Hart as “always caring”. In every report, there was speculation that the prospect of divorce “drove” Lance to murder, and little mention or description of Claire or Charlotte.
The reality it seems is very different. Although Hart had never been violent, he had terrorised the family and made their live's hell.
“I was shocked at the ease with which others, sitting behind their desks, could explain our tragedy away within an afternoon,” Ryan says now. “It was very difficult to read that they were sympathising with a man who caused Mum and Charlotte misery their entire lives. One writer even dared use the word ‘understandable’ to justify why they were murdered.” This second Daily Mail article, a column by psychiatrist Max Pemberton, argued that a man killing his children “is often a twisted act of love”. The article was later removed from the site.
“You’re reading it and thinking, ‘This is bollocks,’” Ryan says. “But you know people around the country are also reading it, and those ideas are being driven into their minds. It reinforces in the abuser’s mind that what they’re doing is OK.”
“They kept saying this was a money issue,” Luke adds of the news stories. “It wasn’t about money. That’s what made me really angry. Sometimes news is just entertainment. They couldn’t have known our history, but it was weird: in the absence of information, they chose the side of a terrorist who committed murder.”
They now want to live life the way Claire and Charlotte would have wanted them to. Their favourite thing is to walk Indi and Bella, because their fondest memories are of their mother and sister playing with the dogs. They refuse to see Claire and Charlotte as victims. “Vulnerable women and children are not treated as heroes, for standing up to their oppressors even when they are murdered, or given a national day of mourning,” Luke says. “But they should be.”

Terrorism linked to domestic violence?

In Terrorism and domestic violence Martin McKenzie-Murray explores the possible links between terrorism and domestic violence.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Most of Trump's supporters were well off

Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu write in It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class that most of Trump's supporters were relatively affluent:
Among people who said they voted for Trump in the general election, 35 percent had household incomes under $50,000 per year (the figure was also 35 percent among non-Hispanic whites), almost exactly the percentage in NBC’s March 2016 survey. Trump’s voters weren’t overwhelmingly poor. In the general election, like the primary, about two thirds of Trump supporters came from the better-off half of the economy.

David MacKay on Sustainable Energy

In 2008 David MacKay FRS, the Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, wrote a book Sustainable Energy – without the hot air. This book is available free at his site www.withouthotair.com

The biggest takeaway I had from the book was this:
Have no illusions. To achieve our goal of getting off fossil fuels, these
reductions in demand and increases in supply must be big. Don’t be distracted
by the myth that “every little helps.” If everyone does a little, we’ll
achieve only a little
. We must do a lot. What’s required are big changes in
demand and in supply.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Don't restrict public housing to the most needy

In The public housing paradox: by helping only the neediest, we undermine the entire system Professor Jenny Stewart, visiting fellow in the school of business at UNSW Canberra, explains that restricting public housing to the most needy denies the revenue that public housing authorities need to maintain their services.
There's no doubt that Australian cities are changing fast. It's difficult enough for those with reasonably good jobs to buy their own home. Public housing could, and should, be an important factor in the mix. But to rejuvenate the sector, more flexibility is needed. If we want to use the state to help the disadvantaged, it is sometimes necessary to think beyond our own good intentions. In public policy, it is easy to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

How to fold a fitted sheet

Jill Cooper shows in this YouTube video how to fold a fitted sheet. I suspect it's harder than it seems and probably requires some practice.

An example of why flexibility in sentencing is good

In Juvenile justice system needs discretion to judge Apex and other Sudanese teenagers differently noted Melbourne crime writer John Silvester gives the example of two young men, both involved in two robberies, to explain why judges need flexibility sentencing.
On the facts presented to court Mayoum is a bad young man while Mawien may well be a young man who did something bad. On Wednesday Judge Gaynor sentenced Mayoum to four years' jail with a non-parole period of two years.

Courts need to punish to deter but there is also a need to offer hope. While it is true the punishment should fit the crime is it not also true that the punishment should fit the offender?

Monday, 5 June 2017

The new jihardis - nihilists?

Olivier Roy in Who are the new jihadis? explains that modern jihadis in the west have certain features in common:

  • They are normally second generation immigrants
  • They have recently converted or reconverted to Islam - that is "born again" Muslims. Their conversion takes place in places like prisons, or in small group situations, or on the Internet. It does not take place in a mosque.
  • They are fascinated by death
  • They often had a background in petty crime
  • They are often not very knowledgeable about Islam

He basically argues that these people are radicals with a hatred of society, who find in Islam a reason for their radicalism. However, Islam does not turn them into radicals - they were already radicals. Islam merely offers an excuse.
To summarise: the typical radical is a young, second-generation immigrant or convert, very often involved in episodes of petty crime, with practically no religious education, but having a rapid and recent trajectory of conversion/reconversion, more often in the framework of a group of friends or over the internet than in the context of a mosque. The embrace of religion is rarely kept secret, but rather is exhibited, but it does not necessarily correspond to immersion in religious practice. The rhetoric of rupture is violent – the enemy is kafir, one with whom no compromise is possible – but also includes their own family, the members of which are accused of observing Islam improperly, or refusing to convert.
As we have seen, jihadis do not descend into violence after poring over sacred texts. They do not have the necessary religious culture – and, above all, care little about having one. They do not become radicals because they have misread the texts or because they have been manipulated. They are radicals because they choose to be, because only radicalism appeals to them. No matter what database is taken as a reference, the paucity of religious knowledge among jihadis is glaring. According to leaked Isis records containing details for more than 4,000 foreign recruits, while most of the fighters are well-educated, 70% state that they have only basic knowledge of Islam.
Oddly enough, the defenders of the Islamic State never talk about sharia and almost never about the Islamic society that will be built under the auspices of Isis. Those who say that they went to Syria because they wanted “to live in a true Islamic society” are typically returnees who deny having participated in violence while there – as if wanting to wage jihad and wanting to live according to Islamic law were incompatible. And they are, in a way, because living in an Islamic society does not interest jihadis: they do not go to the Middle East to live, but to die. That is the paradox: these young radicals are not utopians, they are nihilists.

What is more radical about the new radicals than earlier generations of revolutionaries, Islamists and Salafis is their hatred of existing societies, whether western or Muslim. This hatred is embodied in the pursuit of their own death when committing mass murder. They kill themselves along with the world they reject. Since 11 September 2001, this is the radicals’ preferred modus operandi.

The suicidal mass killer is unfortunately a common contemporary figure. The typical example is the American school shooter, who goes to his school heavily armed, indiscriminately kills as many people as possible, then kills himself or lets himself be killed by the police. He has already posted photographs, videos and statements online. In them he assumed heroic poses and delighted in the fact that everyone would now know who he was. In the United States there were 50 attacks or attempted attacks of this sort between 1999 and 2016.

The boundaries between a suicidal mass killer of this sort and a militant for the caliphate are understandably hazy. The Nice killer, for instance, was first described as mentally ill and later as an Isis militant whose crime had been premeditated. But these ideas are not mutually exclusive.

The point here is not to mix all these categories together. Each one is specific, but there is a striking common thread that runs through the mass murders perpetrated by disaffected, nihilistic and suicidal youths. What organisations like al-Qaida and Isis provide is a script.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Anarchists, the forunners to Islamic terrorists?

Johann Hari in Blood, rage & history: The world's first terrorists looks at the similarities between today's Islamic terrorists and the anarchist movement from a century ago. He explains the causes of the anarchist movement and why it eventually died out.

John Quiggin on the non-problem of population ageing

In Time’s up for ageing alarmists John Quiggin argues that many of the articles on our ageing population ignore the fact that our health and quality of life for a given age are also improving. So we shouldn't think of our advancing years as an increased burden, but instead it'soffering us opportunities.
The increase in longevity produced by improved medical treatments, reductions in the risk of death, and healthier living is a huge boon for Australians, individually and collectively. Yet the framing of the issue around “population ageing” has presented it as a near-catastrophe, not only creating unnecessary negativity but also closing off discussion of the opportunities created by our longer lifespans. We need to stop talking about “population ageing” and start talking about people living longer and healthier lives.

An ageing population may not necessarily be lowering the dependency ratio

A few years back Ross Gittins wrote a column Australia's ageing population need not be a burden on taxpayers in which he argued that Australia needn't worry about the economic affects of our ageing population. This is because the actual dependency ratio is not changing. Children are also dependants, and as we age the proportion of children in the population is declining, offsetting the increase in older dependants.

He based his column on the paper ‘The ageing of the Australian population: triumph or disaster?’ by Katharine Betts, Adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at Swinburne University of Technology.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Pursade people by arguing using their values

In The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion Olga Khazan reports on research that shows the best way to persuade people with a different political outlook is to frame your argument to suit their values.
Feinberg and his co-author, Stanford University sociologist Robb Willer, have extensively studied how it is that liberals and conservatives—two groups that now seem further apart than ever on their policy preferences—can convert people from the other side to their way of seeing things. One reason this is so hard to do, they explain, is that people tend to present their arguments in a way that appeals to the ethical code of their own side, rather than that of their opponents.
In a later study that’s currently under review, Feinberg and Tilburg University’s Jan Völkel found this even worked to get conservatives to dislike Donald Trump, and liberals to disavow Hillary Clinton. Conservatives were less likely to support Trump if arguments against him were presented in terms of his patriotism— “has repeatedly behaved disloyally towards our country to serve his own interests”—rather than a tendency to overlook the marginalized (“his unfair statements are a breeding ground for prejudice.”) Liberal participants, meanwhile, were more likely to be swayed by Clinton’s ties to Wall Street than by the incident in Benghazi.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Richard Denniss on grandfathering the Australian dream

There's a great essay in The Monthly by Richard Denniss: Grandfathering the Australian dream: House prices, insecure work and growing debts … Who can afford a stake in today’s society?

Trump's win and misleading maps

One of the interesting features of the 2016 US presidential elections is that Trump won most of the counties (2,649 to 503 according to Time), but Clinton won the most votes (by around 3 million). When you see a map showing the counties Trump won, you see a sea of red. According to an article from Chris Wilson of Time, cited below, if you add up the size of the counties, Trump won something like 75.6% of the US's land mass, excluding water. Reportedly Trump loves this map because it seems to show his "yuge" victory.  The thing is, most of these counties have small populations. This tends to be because they're predominately rural. On the other hand Clinton won most of the urban counties with large populations. So the map is in many ways misleading.

In Here's the Election Map President Trump Should Hang in the West Wing Chris Wilson provides us with an alternate map.
A simpler way is just to place a dot over each county that is proportional in area to the number of votes that the winner received, like so:
Here's a screen shot of the map:

Note, please visit the above site to see the full interactive map. It allows you to move the mouse over a dot to see the tally. Have a read of Wilson's article while you're there. He explains things much better than I do.

When is something terrorism?

I don't know. But apparently you're more likely to be a terrorist if you're Muslim, and have darker skin.

Arwa Mahdawi writes in How a neo-Nazi turned Islamist flipped terror narratives upside down
There are lots of ways to be a disaffected, disenfranchised young man. You can spout anonymous abuse online. You can shoot up a school. You can bomb abortion clinics in the name of being pro-life. You can kill black people peacefully praying at church, in the name of white supremacy. You can murder teenagers singing joyfully along at a pop concert, in the name of Isis and Allah.

What you are called, when you do those things, varies. Sometimes you’re a criminal. Sometimes you’re a terrorist. Sometimes you’re a mental health statistic. How you are treated, when you do those things, varies. Sometimes you’re headline news around the world for days; you make an ignominious mark on the history books. Sometimes you’re a few paragraphs in the local papers, and barely make it into the national press.

There are a few key variables which determine what you are called and how you are treated when you commit a deadly act designed to cause widespread fear. Namely: how many people you killed; where you killed them; whether you shouted “Allahu Akbar” as you killed them and the colour of your skin. The whiter your skin, it seems, the more likely you are to be classified as a criminal rather than a terrorist.
She then cites the case of the young white supremacist Dylann Roof who killed nine African Americans in a church in South Carolina. He was convicted on 33 federal charges. These included murder and hate crimes, but not terrorism.

Mahdawi then discusses Devon Arthurs. Arthurs had been a white supremacist but converted to Islam. He killed his two roommates because they reportedly disrespected his religion and, he claimed, were planning a terrorst act. Police investigations in the caes led to the subsequent arrest of another roommate, Brandon Russell. Russell, a Florida national guardsman had been storing explosives in his garage and a photo of Timothy McVeigh in his bedroom. He's facing a charge of “possessing an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive material”.

Mahdawi then looks at the statistics on domestic terrorism in the US:
According a recent report, A Dark and Constant Rage, from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), rightwing extremists have been responsible for planning at least 150 acts of terror in the United States over the past 25 years. They’ve killed 255 people in these attacks and injured 600 more. White supremacists and anti-government extremists are the biggest subset of rightwing extremists (which also includes groups such as anti-abortionists and anti-immigrant extremists) and are responsible for 85% of these incidents.

However, as the ADL points out, while “rightwing extremists have been one of the largest and most consistent sources of domestic terror incidents in the United States for many years”, this fact “has not gotten the attention it deserves.” What’s more, “it has garnered far less notice than … Islamic terrorism”.

Can you imagine how much more press Brandon Russell’s basement full of explosives would have received if it had belonged to a man called Mohammed with a picture of a 9/11 bomber in his bedroom?

Rightwing terrorism doesn’t just get less media attention than Islamist terrorism – it gets less attention in policy. As the ADL report notes, the US still doesn’t have a federal domestic terrorism statute and “federal spending on training law enforcement on issues such as rightwing violence and terrorism is extremely low”. This is clearly ridiculous. 
Then there's the case of Jeremy Joseph Christian. Jason Wilson reports on this case in Suspect in Portland double murder posted white supremacist material online:
Police in Portland, Oregon, have charged a white supremacist with a double murder and hate crimes, after he allegedly cut the throats of two passengers and stabbed another on a commuter train late on Friday afternoon.

According to police, while riding the MAX train in suburban northeast Portland, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, began “yelling various remarks that would best be characterized as hate speech toward a variety of ethnicities and religions”.

When fellow passengers attempted to intervene, Christian stabbed three of them.

Two of them died.

So would this be terrorism if Christian had been a Muslim and had shouted Allah Akbar as he stabbed the three people? 

Evidence supporting claims pirated Australian ship visited Japan unearthed

In Australian convict pirates in Japan: evidence of 1830 voyage unearthed Joshua Robertson reports on evidence confirming the visit of a ship from Australia to Japan in 1830. The ship had been hijacked by convicts being transported from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour.

An amateur historian has unearthed compelling evidence that the first Australian maritime foray into Japanese waters was by convict pirates on an audacious escape from Tasmania almost two centuries ago.

Fresh translations of samurai accounts of a “barbarian” ship in 1830 give startling corroboration to a story modern scholars had long dismissed as convict fantasy: that a ragtag crew of criminals encountered a forbidden Japan at the height of its feudal isolation.

The brig Cyprus was hijacked by convicts bound from Hobart to Macquarie Harbour in 1829, in a mutiny that took them all the way to China.

Claims Australia's unemployment data is dishonest are wrong

In To those who claim Australia's unemployment data is dishonest – please stop Greg Jericho explains why journalists need to be very careful about claims the government is lying about unemployment numbers - for that leads us down the path of "fake news".
In an era where fake news is like a virus, media organisations need to be very careful that they are not adding fuel to the bonfire of fantasies. Even with the best of intentions journalists should be wary of arguing that government data is dishonest – such as recent suggestions that the real unemployment rate is much higher than what the ABS would have us believe.
But there is no one measure that tells the whole story.

We should ensure our coverage reflects that. There is nothing wrong with creating new labour force measures, but we should be very wary of dismissing the official rates as dishonest.

Doing so only serves to reduce people’s confidence in the impartiality of the ABS. And we should discourage anything that would give succour to politicians – such as Trump – who seek to undermine institutions by suggesting any data inconvenient to their policies is fake.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Features of working class Trump voters

In 12 Features of White Working-Class Trump Voters Confirm Depressed and Traumatized Multitudes Voted for Him Steven Rosenfeld identifies some of the features that were more common amongst working class Trump voters than amongst the general public.
Looking to the past, not the future. Feeling lost, resenting immigrants. Feeling broke, picked on. Self-medicating, rejecting education. Wanting a rule-breaking leader to end the misery.

These are some of the characteristics of white working-class voters who were three times more likely to support Donald Trump in the 2016 election, according to an expanded analysis of more than 3,000 people surveyed before and after the election by PRRI/The Atlantic of white Americans who are marked by “cultural dislocation.”

Reality is complicated

In Reality has a surprising amount of detail John Salvatier explains that there are a lot more details involved in doing things than we generally expect.
It’s tempting to think ‘So what?’ and dismiss these details as incidental or specific to stair carpentry. And they are specific to stair carpentry; that’s what makes them details. But the existence of a surprising number of meaningful details is not specific to stairs. Surprising detail is a near universal property of getting up close and personal with reality.

You can see this everywhere if you look. For example, you’ve probably had the experience of doing something for the first time, maybe growing vegetables or using a Haskell package for the first time, and being frustrated by how many annoying snags there were. Then you got more practice and then you told yourself ‘man, it was so simple all along, I don’t know why I had so much trouble’. We run into a fundamental property of the universe and mistake it for a personal failing.

If you’re a programmer, you might think that the fiddliness of programming is a special feature of programming, but really it’s that everything is fiddly, but you only notice the fiddliness when you’re new, and in programming you do new things more often.

You might think the fiddly detailiness of things is limited to human centric domains, and that physics itself is simple and elegant. That’s true in some sense – the the physical laws themselves tend to be quite simple – but the manifestation of those laws is often complex and counterintuitive.
Before you’ve noticed important details they are, of course, basically invisible. It’s hard to put your attention on them because you don’t even know what you’re looking for. But after you see them they quickly become so integrated into your intuitive models of the world that they become essentially transparent. Do you remember the insights that were crucial in learning to ride a bike or drive? How about the details and insights you have that led you to be good at the things you’re good at?

This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.

That’s why if you ask an anti-climate change person (or a climate scientist) “what could convince you you were wrong?” you’ll likely get back an answer like “if it turned out all the data on my side was faked” or some other extremely strong requirement for evidence rather than “I would start doubting if I noticed numerous important mistakes in the details my side’s data and my colleagues didn’t want to talk about it”. The second case is much more likely than the first, but you’ll never see it if you’re not paying close attention.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Is beetroot the secret to increased endurance?

In Secrets of two-hour marathon men may alter running for ever Jamie Doward describes the work of Professor Andrew Jones, a specialist in endurance running. Jones is currently involved in the Nike project attempting to lower the record for the marathon below the two hour mark.

Jones has identified nitrates as a key ingredient in performance. Sources of nitrates include leafy green vegetables as well as beetroot juice.

Genetics also helps.
So what is it about their physiology that has allowed African runners to dominate distance running so comprehensively in recent years? “Their body types tend to be smaller and naturally leaner,” Jones said. “Their limbs have slightly different proportions, which make them run more efficiently. They have slightly longer shanks; their lower legs tend to be relatively long compared to their thighs, they don’t tend to carry a lot of muscle on their calves and they have quite long achilles, which can be quite advantageous. Their V02 Max [maximum oxygen uptake] may not be much higher than what you’d find in a good class of distance runner in the UK, but they’re much more economical and they’re able to operate at high fractions of their max almost without fatigue.”

Monday, 10 April 2017

The NBN, Australia's National Tragedy

In The Tragedy of Australia’s National Broadband Network Rodney Tucker explores how most of the world is deploying FTTP rather than obsolete FTTN, and how FTTP deployment costs are comparable to FTTN in other parts of the world, including New Zealand.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Less common grains

In Beyond the common grain Arabella Forge looks at less common grains and how we can use them.

Wholegrains are good for you

Amby Burfoot writes that Despite the anti-carb diet fads, wholegrains are still good for you.

In Biology Size Does Matter

J. B. S. Haldane's famous essay On Being the Right Size.
The most obvious differences between different animals are differences of size, but for some reason the zoologists have paid singularly little attention to them. In a large textbook of zoology before me I find no indication that the eagle is larger than the sparrow, or the hippopotamus bigger than the hare, though some grudging admissions are made in the case of the mouse and the whale. But yet it is easy to show that a hare could not be as large as a hippopotamus, or a whale as small as a herring. For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.'s famous essay On Being the Right Size.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Progressive politics needs to tell stories about patriotism

Katharine Murphy has written a very interesting essay in Meanjin: The Tricky Business of what Happens Next. In it she argues that progressives won't win the battle of politics by arguing about facts and figures or economic theory. They need to engage with people by showing they're shared values, and to tell stories that demonstrate that.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Monday, 20 March 2017

Frequent Flyer Point Hacks Site

Point Hacks, "The best guides, deals and tips for more frequent flyer points in Australia."

News Organisations Inadvertently Spreading False Facts Even as They Refute Them

In How News Organizations Inadvertently Spread "Alternative Facts" Gleb Tsipursky explains that many readers will tend to believe President Donald Trump's claims, even when they aren't true, because of the way the media presents them.
Behavioral science suggests that despite Trump offering no substantive facts for his claim, the mainstream media’s current coverage will get him what he craves. Fortunately, we can use the same research to reframe the narrative to help truth trump Trump’s evidence-free accusations.
This is because many people only glance at the headlines rather than reading the full reports. Tsipursky suggests an alternate way of presenting the stories:
Reframing the media coverage of Trump’s claims, using techniques informed by behavioral science, would disincentivize Trump from making such baseless statements, instead of rewarding him. Rather than focusing on relating the details of the specific claims made by Trump, news headlines and introductory paragraphs could foreground the pattern of our President systematically making accusations lacking evidence.

For instance, in the case of this specific news item, AP News could have run the headline “Trump Delivers Another Accusation Without Evidence, This Time Against Obama.” CNN could have introduced the story by focusing on Trump’s pattern of making serial allegations of immoral and illegal actions by his political opponents without any evidence, focusing this time on his predecessor. Then, deeper in the article where the shallow skimmers do not reach, the story could have detailed the allegations made by Trump. This style of media coverage would make Trump less inclined to make such claims, as he would not get the impact he wants.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Trump's use of false history

Paul Rosenberg describes how Trump uses fake history as a narrative to base his lies on in Bigger than fake news: Trump’s rise was fueled by a deeper narrative of fake history.
A lot of ink and a lot of electrons have been spilled on the subject of “fake news” during the last election cycle. But too little attention has been paid to something deeper that plays a crucial role in Donald Trump’s worldview: fake history. Although vague in its outlines, and more often alluded to than directly mentioned, that fake history is central to Trump’s worldview, his sense of self and the ways he connects with his audience.
Of particular interest is the description of different ways of understanding the world:
In “The Battle for God,” Karen Armstrong highlighted an ancient distinction between two different ways of understanding the world: Logos is concerned with the practical understanding of how things work in the world, while mythos is concerned with ultimate meaning. “Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair,” she noted. “The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal. It was also rooted in what we would call the unconscious mind.”

The power of memes is clearly related to how well they fit into a mythos. For decades, conservatives have nourished a mythos that sustains them, one in which liberal betrayal plays a central role, and where conservatives alone are the “real Americans,” the most exceptional people on earth. (Their mythos has always had a strong ethnocentric core, which they’ve drawn on to achieve other policy ends. Trump won by doubling down on that core.) Liberals, meanwhile, have been much more engaged in logos, in the actual how and why things work in the world. Trump’s campaign intensified this polarization, identifying all educated elites as the liberal establishment that had betrayed “real Americans.”

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Trump aesthetic typical of autocrats

In Trump’s Dictator Chic Peter York explains that autocrats tend to prefer a certain style in architecture. It seems Trump has the same style.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Flight upgrade tips

Michael Gebicki lists Five ways to get a flight upgrade: Tips on how to get a seat upgrade when you fly.

Intermittent fasting studies show possible benefits

In New intermittent fasting studies reignite debate about its benefits Sarah Berry reports that there's still a lot of uncertainty about intermittent fasting, but some studies are showing some benefits:

Several new studies support its supposed benefits. One study, by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), found that intermittent fasting may help to reverse diabetes in mice by reprogramming "non-insulin-producing cells into insulin-producing cells".

A second study of 71 adults, also out of the USC, found that fasting for five days a month (consuming between 3138 and 4600 kilojoules on those days) reduced cardiovascular risk factors, inflammation levels, waistlines and total body fat, but not muscle mass.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The right wing billionaire using big data

In Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media Carole Cadwalladr details some of the activities of companies associated with Robert Mercer in influencing public opinion and disrupting mainstream media.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Michael Mosley's six tips to improve our diet

In Why your diet isn’t working: Michael Mosley’s six things to change right now Bonnie Bayley talks to Michael Mosley about what we're doing wrong in our diets. His six things are:
  • You think diet soft drinks are healthy -- they aren't
  • You’re terrified of your natural hunger signals --we don''t have to eat as soon as we feel hungry
  • You eat low-fat dairy -- full fat lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • You’re partial to bread and pasta -- commercial breads are full of sugar and salt, stick to dark rye bread. As for pasta, reheat it to make it healthier
  • You rely on willpower to make healthy choices -- It's much easier to not have any unhealthy choices available so don't keep them in the house
  • You mainline the smoothies -- you lose the benefits of the fibre which slows sugare absorption. You're better off eating whole fruit and vegetables.

H. R. McMaster on lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan

In The Pipe Dream of Easy War H. R. McMaster looks at lessons to be learned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I especially liked this:
We must not equate military capabilities with strategy.

Michael Mosley post the 5:2 diet

Sarah Berry writes about What Michael Mosley has learnt since the 5:2 diet. Mosley seems to recommend eating mostly vegetables, and NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which is just a fancy way of telling us to be more active during the day.
He builds in more NEAT by always walking "if it's less than a mile", always taking the stairs "if it's less than seven flights", and walking up escalators.

"You can easily burn 300-400 calories by just doing that," Mosley says, "[it's the] equivalent of running a few miles and is more achievable for many people."

He also does a set of resistance exercises each morning, including press-ups and squats.
Mosley is in favour of fermented foods, but advises that most of the commercial ones offer no benefits:
"There's a lot of rubbish out there at the moment, and all sorts of probiotic drinks being sold," the father-of-four says. "We did an experiment in the series where we compared the yoghurt drinks that claim to promote good bacteria and compared that to having kefir (a fermented milk drink). The yoghurt made no difference whatsoever ... we couldn't detect any difference ... but the kefir did make quite a big difference."

He adds: "There's such a big difference between the ones you buy, like sauerkraut - out of a jar and the homemade stuff. We tested sauerkraut - it didn't taste great - and the supermarket version had nothing living in it at all. Whereas the homemade version was absolutely rife with bacteria. I've been making some at home myself and ... particularly kefir is really easy to make."
He also recommends a Mediterranean diet:
"One of the main things is switching to a Mediterranean-style diet," Mosley says. "We realised that low-fat diets are not very effective.

"And understanding what a Med-style diet really is - it's not pasta and it's not pizza. It's the oily fish, nuts, olive oil and stuff like that. The evidence is pretty strong now to say that way of eating is one of the healthiest there is.

"When I wrote the Fast Diet, I wasn't all that interested in the things you ate on the fast days, and I've become much more interested in a more Mediterranean-style diet and looking more carefully at looking how much of the sugary, carby stuff you eat.

"Changing what you eat is one of the most important things you can do to lose weight and improve health."

Australia's role in the Iraq War

David Wroe explores Australia's role in the Iraq War in The Secret Iraq Dossier. It seem Australia was basically there to strengthen the alliance, at minimal risk to our forces.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Have renewables kept SA power bills down?

Sophie Vorrath reports that SA power bills rose less in past decade than coal states. This was based on an ANU report commissioned by News Limited.

2006 2016 Increase
NSW $918 $1,922 109%
VIC $ 841 $1,837 118%
QLD $890 $2,102 136%
SA $1,110 $2,080 87%
WA $855 $1,582 85%
TAS $1,317 $2,181 66%
ACT/NT $1,061 $1,785 68%

Sunday, 19 February 2017

4chan and Trump

Dale Beran writes about 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump.
Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him.

Police pursuits

In In pursuit of the truth on police pursuits John Silvester has some interesting stats on the outcome of police pursuits.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Attitudes to immigration and diversity in America

In Immigrant Shock: Can California Predict the Nation’s Future? Emily Badger writes about parallels between the political backlash against growing diversity in California between 1980 and 2000, and in other communities at the moment. The backlash is most notable in smaller communities where changes are more noticeable.
Sociological studies suggest that increasing contact between groups can yield familiarity and tolerance. But it can also unnerve, especially in communities where that rapid change is most visible — and when politicians stand to gain by exploiting it. California lashed out at diversity before embracing it.
However, this only becomes a political issue if a politician attempts to exploit the change, as Pete Wilson did in California in 1994, and as Donald Trump is doing now.
California’s example suggests that the very demographic trend Democrats believe will benefit them in the long run could aid Republicans in the near term. At least, that remains true so long as Republican candidates like Mr. Trump or Mr. Wilson position themselves in opposition to immigration or policies perceived as aiding minorities.

Mr. Trump fared particularly well in the parts of the country where demographic change is accelerating. Scholars say that it’s the change in diversity that helps explain how a community responds. So an influx of Hispanics into Chicago may not be noticeable, but a few new immigrant families into small-town Pennsylvania is.
A Wall Street Journal analysis found during the primaries that the most rapidly diversifying counties in a cluster of Midwestern states were more likely to vote for Mr. Trump.

In the general election, voters were more likely to shift to Mr. Trump in the counties with the strongest growth in the Hispanic and nonwhite populations since 2000, according to research from a coming book by Ryan Enos, a Harvard political scientist. It appears in survey data, Mr. Enos argues, that this shift in 2016 was driven by whites who had previously voted Democratic — and who don’t appear to have responded in the same way to rising diversity before Mr. Trump’s campaign.
“When I talk to people about their concerns about immigration, they often talk about language,” said Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.“They talk about being uncomfortable having to ‘press 1 for English,’ or seeing Spanish-language signs. They talk about the feeling of dispossession that comes from having lived for a long time in a community and seeing it change.”
One noticable point from the article, this is much more of an issue where there's segregation.
There is no neat tipping point, no level of diversity beyond which the backlash inevitably gives way to greater tolerance. The volume of political bluster matters. So does the level of segregation, because diversity doesn’t necessarily mean communities are integrating. So does the kind of contact that occurs when different groups bump up against one another.

Research from the 1950s found that integrated military units reduced prejudice and stereotyping. And studies since then have shown that soldiers have more interracial friendships than typical civilians (as veterans, they’re also more likely to buy homes in more integrated areas). But soldiers engage in a rare kind of contact: They live together, eat together and work together on common goals.

That’s a different kind of contact than occurs when we pass strangers in the supermarket aisle, or encounter Spanish-language signs. And even in the most demographically diverse cities, there is often little integration of schools, neighborhoods and workplaces.
In Mr. Enos’s earlier work, he found that white voters in the most segregated counties nationally were five to six percentage points less likely to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 than white voters in the least segregated places, with a similar effect within states. That suggests that the nature of contact matters not just for disarming prejudice but for shaping politics. And often, when new groups come into a community, they immediately segregate.
It's interesting that attitudes soften over time:
In another study, Mr. Enos found that the mere presence of a few Spanish speakers on a train platform was enough to raise anti-immigrant sentiment among commuters in the white, liberal Boston suburbs. But as the same Spanish speakers kept appearing over two weeks, those attitudes softened. The commuters began to smile at one another.
To reiterate, this only becomes an issue when you have a politician trying to exploit it. I think this also helps explain the Brexit vote.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Bannon's treatment of his former wife and children

The Oppo Report has published details from Bannon's divorse to his second wife in The Bannon Files: Divorce Records Reveal Marital Discord and Questionable Parenting.

He comes across as a real arsehole.

SF & Fantasy books being recommened by their publishers

96 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017.

Steve Bannon appointed to the National Security Council

David Ferguson writes that Trump boots top officials — but includes Steve Bannon — in reshuffled National Security Council.
The Post reported that Bannon has been given a regular seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee, which will include the nation’s highest ranking security officials, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State.

Unlike previous presidential administrations, Trump’s Saturday memo specified that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will only attend principals committee meetings that pertain to their specific “responsibilities and expertise.”
The former Goldman Sachs executive presided over the expansion of Breitbart.com from a fringe right-wing web community to a sprawling hub of the so-called “alt-right,” a collection of white nationalists, racists, anti-feminists and neo-Nazis.

On the council, Bannon will be privy to some of the country’s most highly classified military and intelligence secrets. Typically membership on the council is reserved to the president and key administrators and is, as columnist and author Dan Froomkin said Saturday night “off limits to political hacks.”

Does Bannon want to destroy the US Government?

Ronald Radosh writes that Steve Bannon, Trump's Top Guy, Told Me He Was 'A Leninist' Who Wants To ‘Destroy the State’.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Hill’s Criteria applied to climate change

In What climate skeptics taught me about global warming Seth Miller writes that:
Long before research exposed evidence that humans cause global warming, science made another sensational claim — that smoking caused lung cancer.

That case has been proven beyond doubt. But there is a science story from this era that is mostly forgotten: The battle against cigarettes taught science how to prove.

Before linking cigarettes to lung cancer, science had no established method to prove that one thing caused another. The fields of epidemiology and statistics were new, and while they had some prior successes, the questions were so evident — think about mercury causing madness — that proof did not require the level of meticulousness that modern science expects. The need to establish a link between cigarettes and lung cancers — and the backlash that ensued — changed this. Epidemiology and cigarettes grew up together.
And I unearthed a notion that is rarely mentioned in the global warming debate: Science actually has a method for establishing that one thing causes another. Scientists don’t have to vote on the issue — the 97% consensus of climate scientists who believe that humans cause warming is telling, but only one part of a broader process. And for those who want to honestly weigh their skepticism in context of the evidence, there is a way.
The battle against smoking was the first bare-knuckles public policy debate driven by science. So over years of defending his work, Hill had to think deeply about what constitutes ‘proof’, and how to overcome the intelligent rebuttals of the world’s Ronald Fishers.

In 1965, he formally proposed a solution.

Hill recognized that there are more ways to support causation that finding that two variables track. In fact, Hill identified nine separate strands of ‘proof’, each of which makes an independent case for or against causation. The list of nine aspects — and I’ll go into details below — are now called Hill’s Criteria.

You don’t need strong support from all of the strands to prove a result. But when independent strands tell the same story, with no contradictions, the case is strong. Perhaps as importantly, by using fixed criteria, we can categorize not just data we have, but identify what data are missing as well. And with all of the possible evidence in mind, we can effectively draw a conclusion using classic, human judgment.
And while Hill’s Criteria are not commonly used outside epidemiology, they should be. The criteria take an impossibly large and complex pile of data and break them up into chunks. They make the evidence understandable. And they make the case for causality transparent — each piece of evidence is categorized, and weighed in the context of the whole. If evidence is challenged, it becomes clear just how devastating or inconsequential that challenge is. We lose any presumption that somehow a single set of data could prove the entirety of scientific understanding to be in error.

What happens when we apply Hill’s criteria to the question:
Are humans, by adding CO2 to the air, causing the planet to warm?
Miller then goes on to test this question against Hill's Criteria.

This is worth a read.

Friday, 27 January 2017

German genocide in Southwest Africa and the Holocaust

In Germany’s extermination program for black Africans, a template for the Holocaust Edwin Black documents how many of the techniques the NAZIs used against Jews were first deployed by Germany against the native people of Southwest Africa.
'Subhumans,' 'cattle car transports,' even the 'Final Solution' - all these and other Nazi concepts have their sinister antecedents in Africa in the early 1900s. And the list of the prominent Germans there who went on to shape Nazism is long and execrable.
Decades before the Nazis turned to the Jews, German colonialists in Southwest Africa – now Namibia – dehumanized, built death camps for, and slaughtered tens of thousands of tribespeople in a systematic genocide. Here, Edwin Black reveals the full horrors of an eerie and odious precursor of the Shoah, and its legacy in the US
Black also describes eugenics and forced sterialisations in the US prior to World War II. It seems that proponents of eugenics in Germany and the US were influenced by each other.

Black also mentions the an unintended consequence of the eugenics and discrimination programs in Germany and the US. Many highly skilled German Jews migrated from Germany to the US because of NAZI victimisation. However, at the time there was considerable anti-semetic feelings in the USA. Jews as well as blacks were often discriminated against. So many German Jewish academics ended up as teachers at black colleges.

The influx of German-Jewish academics offered an unexpected stimulus to many African Americans’ educational experiences during the formative years of the pre-Civil Rights era. Refugee professors helped set the stage for the intellectual movement to come.

Among the students who credit the inspiration of German-Jewish professors is Joyce Ladner, who went on to organize civil rights protests with Medgar Evers and who would later rise to the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] and the Congress on Racial Equality [CORE].

Ladner’s mentor was Ernst Borinski, a Jewish sociologist who arrived from Germany in 1938 and eventually taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. His sociology student Ladner excelled and ultimately became a board member of the American Sociological Association as well as interim president of Howard University. In 1996, Washingtonian Magazine named her “Washingtonian of the Year.”

As for Borinski, he is remembered for fighting Jim Crow all his years in Mississippi. When he died, he was buried on the Tougaloo Campus.

His tombstone reads simply: “Ernst Borinski, Inspiring Teacher.” Ladner remembered Borinski’s devotion to overturning segregation, recalling his “affinity with blacks because they experienced a similar persecution.” The Mississippi chapter of the ACLU still grants the “Ernst Borinski Civil Libertarian of the Year Award.”

Another African American student is Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who went from being mentored by a German-Jewish professor to a distinguished career in medicine. In 1993, she became Surgeon General of the United States. Later, Elders reflected on the indispensable years as student of a German-Jewish émigré. “I can read almost any German scientific literature,” Elders told the Wall Street Journal. “The German-Jewish professors had a tremendous impact on young blacks in the South,” summed up African American attorney Jim McWilliams, who attended Talladega College. “They exposed us to new music, art, and academic programs.”

The Okinawan diet

The Okinawa Diet Plan’s Food List and Menu Recipes Are Wrong lists the thinks Okinawans traditionally ate. It appears to have been mostly vegan, with little meat or dairy. Sweet potatoes feature heavily as did rice, grains and soy.

Did Putin use the left and the right against Clinton?

In How Putin Played the Far Left Casey Michel argues that Russia assisted both the far left and alt-right in order to undermine support for Hillary Clinton.

Free trade brings benefits, the TPP maybe not

In Turnbull and the TPP: desperately pressing ahead despite negligible benefits Greg Jericho finds there would likely be little economic benefit to Australia in the TPP. He has some interesting graphs on inflation and the price of motor vehicles  and textiles and footwear in Australia as protection has been removed.

Nate Silver on what reporters got wrong about the US 2016 presidential election.

In The Real Story Of 2016 Nate Silver details "What reporters — and lots of data geeks, too — missed about the election, and what they’re still getting wrong."

The Bastille Day Attacker

In The Untold Story of the Bastille Day Attacker explores the life and crime of Lahouaiej Bouhlel. After reading this article I get the impression that Lahouaiej Bouhlel was less an Islamic terrorist and more a psychotic individual, similar to other spree killers we have seen in places like the USA.

Values and language

In Linguist George Lakoff Explains How the Democrats Helped Elect Trump Paul Rosenberg interviews George Lakoff. Lakoff explains the differences between conservatives and liberals with two contrasting family models: authoritarian (“strict father”) and authoritative (“nurturant parent”). Lakoff contends that many of the Democrat's attacks on Trump reinforced what his followers liked about him.

This interview seems to follow on from Lakoff's blog post A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do.

In the interview Lakoff also makes the point that many conservatives in politics studied business and so received some education in cognitive science via their marketing subjects. So they have some understanding for framing. By contrast, if you're a progressive interested in politics:
... you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on, but you’re not going to wind up studying marketing, most likely, and you’re not going to study either cognitive science or neuroscience.
People studying these courses will learn Descartes' "Enlightenment reason":
And here’s what that reasoning says: What makes us human beings is that we are rational animals and rationality is defined in terms of logic. Recall that Descartes was a mathematician and logician. He argued that reasoning is like seeing a logical proof. Secondly, he argued that our ideas can fit the world because, as he said, “God would not lie to us.” The assumption is that ideas directly fit the world.

They’re also, Descartes argued, disembodied. He said that if ideas were embodied, were part of the body, then physical laws would apply to them, and we would not have free will. And in fact, they are embodied, physical laws do apply to them, and we do not have absolute free will. We’re trapped by what the neural systems of our brains  have accumulated. We can only see what our brains allow us to understand, and that’s an important thing.

So what he said, basically, was that there are no frames, no embodiment, no metaphor — none of the things people really use to reason. Moreover if we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year. So that’s a very important thing.
 Unfortunately, it appears we aren't very rational after all.

Why Trump's Mexican tax is bad

Scott Phillips in Donald Trump's Mexico tax plan is bad for everyone, including Americans explains some of the problems with protectionism.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Russian Propaganda

Roman Skaskiw lists Nine Lessons of Russian Propaganda:
  1. Rely on dissenting political groups
  2. Domestic propaganda is most important
  3. Destroy and ridicule the idea of truth
  4. "Putin is strong.  Russia is strong."
  5. Headlines are more important than reality, especially while first impressions are forming
  6. Demoralize
  7. Move the conversation
  8. Pollute the information space
  9. "Gas lighting" -- accuse the enemy of doing what you are doing to confuse the conversation

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Jelinek protocol and multiple sclerosis

In An MS diagnosis led Professor George Jelinek's quest to stop history repeating Sharon Bradley reports that some multiple sclerosis are having success with the Jelinek protocol: "a diet rich in seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables. She took daily doses of flaxseed oil and vitamin D".

This sounds a bit like the Mediterranean diet.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Should you be able to be beat your instructor?

Ron Amram explains Why You Should Beat Your Instructors Up.

I guess that if your instructor is good, and you can defeat him or her, then you have been taught well.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The most dangerous animal in Australia - the horse

In Forget spiders and snakes, horses are more likely to kill you, study of Australian coronial data shows Loretta Florance writes that:
More Australians have been killed by horses in recent years than all the country's venomous creatures put together, a new study by Melbourne University researchers has found.
In the period 2000 to 2013 there were 74 deaths from horses, 26 from sharks and 19 from crocodiles. Over the same period there were 27 deaths from stings (bees, wasps, etc.), 27 deaths from snakes and 5 from ticks and ants.

By contrast, there were nearly 5,000 drowning deaths and almost 1,000 from burns.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Because of media reporting our fears of terrorism don't match the actual risks

In How Media Fuels Our Fear of Terrorism Nemil Dalal shows how the media report terrorism deaths out of proportion to other victims of violence, especially deaths in the USA and Europe.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Backfire Effect

David McRaney explains The Backfire Effect.
The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Do MBA CEOs put their interests ahead of their employers?

In Why you should think twice before you appoint a CEO with an MBA Nicole Torres writes that companies run by a CEO with an MBA showed poorer performance than those run by non-MBA CEOs.
Miller and Xu tracked their firms' growth strategies and performance and the CEOs' compensation, and found that CEOs with MBAs were more likely to engage in behaviour that benefitted them but hurt their companies. Specifically, they pursued costlier growth strategies and were less able to sustain superior performance than their non-MBA counterparts.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Misleading with graphs

In Why this National Review global temperature graph is so misleading Philip Bump shows how using different scales on a graph can mislead. He then graphs the US national debt and the Dow Jones as examples.

Thomas Piketty on Bernie Sanders' rise

Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era.

Clean energy is coming - don't get left behind

Paul Ebert writes that The clean energy economy is coming – and there's a lot to lose for those who can't keep up: "The energy internet, the ‘smart’ grid, solar energy and battery storage are converging and the economic benefits are clear".

Is Baird turning NSW into a police state?

David Shoebridge argues that The Charming Mike Baird Is Turning NSW Into A Police State.

Who wrecked the budget

Forget the pundits, budget papers show Coalition – not Labor – wrecked the budget writes Western Sydney Wonk

Renewables as a source for baseload power

Skeptical Science asks the question Can renewables provide baseload power? and answers yes.

Mark Diesendorf argues that Baseload power is a myth: even intermittent renewables will work.

Redistribute wealth for stability?

In It's time to focus on the redistribution of wealth to poorer workers Greg Jericho writes that "The former World Bank chief economist says that protectionism against globalisation is not the answer to the labour crisis – inclusive growth is".
Globalisation is not about to stop, and neither are the concerns of workers – especially as we are seeing in Australia a time of flat real wage growth and declining share of income going to workers.

This does not mean we need to cower and put up trade barriers which will only exacerbate the problems. But neither does this mean we can carry on still thinking only of GDP growth. To both improve our economy and also dampen the nationalistic xenophobia that quickly turns to racism, governments must adopt policy more targeted to inclusive growth. They must realise that with the greater flexibility of labour comes the need for greater emphasis on redistribution of income.

Failure to do so will only see inequality increase and the fires of nationalism – and all the dangerous sparks associated with it – burn hotter.

Change the energy market settlement time to encourage storage technologies

In Change market rules, and battery storage will easily beat gas Giles Parkinson argues that changing the settlement time in the energy market from 30 minutes to 5 minutes will encourage the adoption of fast response technologies like batteries and other forms of storage.

Convincing someone when facts won't

Michael Shermers explains How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail.
Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data.
If corrective facts only make matters worse, what can we do to convince people of the error of their beliefs? From my experience, 1. keep emotions out of the exchange, 2. discuss, don't attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum), 3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately, 4. show respect, 5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and 6. try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews. These strategies may not always work to change people's minds, but now that the nation has just been put through a political fact-check wringer, they may help reduce unnecessary divisiveness.

Trump and Patton

Arthur Allen looks at The Problem With Trump’s Admiration of General Patton.

Walking to work makes us happier apparently

Julia Naughton tells us How Walking To Work Makes You A Happier Person.

Tips to move more at work

Nine 2 five health has 5 tips to move more at work, plus some activities a workplace can add to their calendar.

Password strength - the don't care region

Mark Stockley advises us to Stop wasting time making the wrong passwords stronger.
Most of the effort spent on making passwords stronger is wasted, according to a trio of researchers from Microsoft in the USA and Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

The researchers, Dinei Florêncio, Cormac Herley and Paul C. van Oorschot, said in a recent paper that there are two vast “don’t care” regions where energy spent on strengthening passwords is simply wasted.
The first “don’t care” region is an online-offline chasm. The chasm represents the gap between the number of guesses a password might have to withstand in an online attack and how many it might face in an offline attack (you can read more about it in my article Do we really need strong passwords?).

Tricks to remember what you read

In 9 tricks for remembering everything you read Shana Lebowitz collates some recommendations to improve our recollection of what we read.