Published on 27 Feb 2017
The classic narrative of the outbreak of World War 1 is that everyone saw it coming and was awaiting it with patriotic fervor. But studying the people that profited most from a war, the bankers, that idea is definitely challenged.
February 28, 2017
Amy Alkon views with disdain a Quartz article on sexually harassing, inter alia, Alexa and Siri:
Quartz Seriously Wants To Know: Are You Sexually Harassing Your Phone?
There’s an unbelievable piece up at Quartz, reflecting a gone-mad sector of our society — ultimately driven by radical academic feminism (though typically not admitting or crediting its nutbag roots).
Feminism was supposed to be about women wanting equal treatment. Now, as I like to put it, feminist no longer demand that women be treated as equals but as eggshells.
This article is a case in point. “We tested bots like Siri and Alexa to see who would stand up to sexual harassment,” is the headline. […]
First of all, if I could have Siri in either a bitchy drag queen voice or an Indian accent (from India, that is), which I love, I would. French or Italian or Eastern European would be fun, too. Because Apple’s rather boring about this — probably to serve an increasingly humorless and humor-attacking public — I think I have it on the British guy right now.
But I hate Siri and never use it.
The point is, you can change Siri to a man and harass the fuck out of it. I yell profanity at automated telephone systems when they repeatedly won’t accept my answer — both because I’m kind of immature and because there was this (probably mythic) idea out there that swearing would trigger a live operator to come on.
And per these evolved sex differences — we go for different Achilles heels in men and women when we’re attacking them. That’s because men and women are biologically and psychologically different, and men are more likely to be leaders, for example, and women are more likely to be caretakers.
Though male brains and female brains are mostly similar, these evolved sex differences lead to some differences in our psychology and how we present ourselves in the world (including the roles women versus men tend to have).
Apparently the Royal Navy’s long
unbroken tradition of glorious victories had a few setbacks after all, like the 1667 Battle of Chatham, which a flotilla of Dutch sailing vessels will be commemorating this June:
The Dutch are preparing to invade English seas with a fleet of 90 vessels after a previous expedition boarded the Royal Navy’s flagship and stole the Royal Coat of Arms from her.
In a celebration of Dutch Admiral De Ruyter’s 1667 raid on Chatham Dockyard, which resulted in English flagship HMS Royal Charles being boarded and ransacked by Dutch sailors, their modern-day civilian counterparts are planning a memorial cruise to Chatham.
The raid is known in British naval history as the Battle of Chatham, and formed part of the endless naval scrapping of the middle of the last millennium which eventually forged Britain’s 19th century dominance of the high seas.
In the battle, the numerically superior Dutch fleet sailed right up the River Medway into Chatham, Kent, and generally caused mayhem amongst the laid-up English warships moored there. The English fleet, starved of money and manpower, could not afford to put to sea in numbers despite wreaking havoc on the Dutch in the previous year.
Amongst other booty, the Dutch made off with the English royal coat of arms from fleet flagship HMS Royal Charles, which adorned the warship’s stern. The ornate carving can be viewed in the Netherlands’ Rijksmuseum today.
Published on 7 Oct 2016
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Interestingly, Mussolini found much of John Maynard Keynes’s economic theories consistent with fascism, writing: “Fascism entirely agrees with Mr. Maynard Keynes, despite the latter’s prominent position as a Liberal. In fact, Mr. Keynes’ excellent little book, The End of Laissez-Faire (l926) might, so far as it goes, serve as a useful introduction to fascist economics. There is scarcely anything to object to in it and there is much to applaud.”
After the worldwide Great Depression, Mussolini became more vocal in his claims that fascism explicitly rejected the capitalist elements of economic individualism and laissez-faire liberalism. In his “Doctrine of Fascism,” Mussolini wrote: “The Fascist conception of life accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. . . . Fascism reasserts the rights of the state. If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.” In his 1928 autobiography, Mussolini made clear his dislike for liberal capitalism: “The citizen in the Fascist State is no longer a selfish individual who has the anti-social right of rebelling against any law of the Collectivity.”
Lawrence K. Samuels, The Socialist Economics of Italian Fascism, quoted by Perry de Havilland in “Mussolini admired ‘Mr. Keynes’ excellent little book'” at Samizdata, 2015-07-08.
February 27, 2017
“Dumb Norsemen go into the north outside the range of their economy, mess up the environment and then they all die when it gets cold”
Debunking the Greenland myth in the Smithsonian:
Those tough seafaring warriors came to one of the world’s most formidable environments and made it their home. And they didn’t just get by: They built manor houses and hundreds of farms; they imported stained glass; they raised sheep, goats and cattle; they traded furs, walrus-tusk ivory, live polar bears and other exotic arctic goods with Europe. “These guys were really out on the frontier,” says Andrew Dugmore, a geographer at the University of Edinburgh. “They’re not just there for a few years. They’re there for generations — for centuries.”
So what happened to them?
Thomas McGovern used to think he knew. An archaeologist at Hunter College of the City University of New York, McGovern has spent more than 40 years piecing together the history of the Norse settlements in Greenland. With his heavy white beard and thick build, he could pass for a Viking chieftain, albeit a bespectacled one. Over Skype, here’s how he summarized what had until recently been the consensus view, which he helped establish: “Dumb Norsemen go into the north outside the range of their economy, mess up the environment and then they all die when it gets cold.”
But over the last decade a radically different picture of Viking life in Greenland has started to emerge from the remains of the old settlements, and it has received scant coverage outside of academia. “It’s a good thing they can’t make you give your PhD back once you’ve got it,” McGovern jokes. He and the small community of scholars who study the Norse experience in Greenland no longer believe that the Vikings were ever so numerous, or heedlessly despoiled their new home, or failed to adapt when confronted with challenges that threatened them with annihilation.
“It’s a very different story from my dissertation,” says McGovern. “It’s scarier. You can do a lot of things right — you can be highly adaptive; you can be very flexible; you can be resilient — and you go extinct anyway.” And according to other archaeologists, the plot thickens even more: It may be that Greenland’s Vikings didn’t vanish, at least not all of them.
H/T to Kate at Small Dead Animals for the link.
Published on 20 Nov 2015
They say what matters most in life are the things money can’t buy.
So far, we’ve been paying attention to a figure that’s intimately linked to the things money can buy. That figure is GDP, both nominal, and real. But before you write off GDP as strictly a measure of wealth, here’s something to think about.
Increases in real GDP per capita also correlate to improvements in those things money can’t buy.
Health. Happiness. Education.
What this means is, as real GDP per capita rises, a country also tends to get related benefits.
As the figure increases, people’s longevity tends to march upward along with it. Citizens tend to be better educated. Over time, growth in real GDP per capita also correlates to an increase in income for the country’s poorest citizens.
But before you think of GDP per capita as a panacea for measuring human progress, here’s a caveat.
GDP per capita, while useful, is not a perfect measure.
For example: GDP per capita is roughly the same in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Honduras. As such, you might think the three countries have about the same standard of living.
But, a much larger portion of Nigeria’s population lives on less than $2/day than the other two countries.
This isn’t a question of income, but of income distribution — a matter GDP per capita can’t fully address.
In a way, real GDP per capita is like a thermometer reading — it gives a quick look at temperature, but it doesn’t tell us everything.
It’s far from the end-all, be-all of measuring our state of well-being. Still, it’s worth understanding how GDP per capita correlates to many of the other things we care about: our health, our happiness, and our education.
So join us in this video, as we work to understand how GDP per capita helps us measure a country’s standard of living. As we said: it’s not a perfect measure, but it is a useful one.
February 26, 2017
Published on 25 Feb 2017
Indy sits in a French Chair this time and answers your questions about World War 1. This week we talk about the German disc grenades and the heroes that were celebrated in Austria-Hungary.
Like the awful Diane Abbott, Harman is one of those thoughtful, serious-minded Labour women who seems to come alive when saying silly, thoughtless things. She even has the Voice — that more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger Sunday-school drone which remains convinced that if it keeps repeating itself in ever slower permutations, opposition will do the decent thing and crumble. Brexit, of course, was the ripest raspberry ever blown in the face of such wheedling arrogance. Still, it’s hard not to warm to her sharp-nosed, clear-eyed young face on the front cover, peering bravely into a future of policy reviews and quangos galore. Sadly her writing style is so dull it makes ditchwater look like a dry martini — if you had to guess the MP author, you might hazard John Major in his pedantic pomp — and this is rendered comical by the three dynamically named sections of the book: ‘Upheaval’, ‘Transformation’ and ‘Challenge’.
With almost three decades on the front bench, twice acting deputy leader and the first Labour woman to feature at Prime Minister’s Questions, Harman is the definitive Nearly Woman — as are all capable Labour women, trapped in a party which having signed up to the brotherhood of man seems quite happy to ride roughshod over their sisters, forever promising them jam tomorrow so long as they themselves pick the fruit, boil the berries and write the labels. At a time when the Conservatives are on their second female leader and Labour are led by a man who seems as impervious to sexism as any other weirdy beardy from Real Ale Society to mosque, Harman’s book seems especially poignant. But I must say that any sympathy I had for her went out of the window in the first 40 pages when, having already suffered physical and verbal gropings from lecturers, employers and comrades without complaining about it, she gets stalked by a nutter whose case she has been bothering the poor police about through her job with the National Council for Civil Liberties. ‘He was menacing and angry. Having been his solicitor, I was fully aware of every detail of his record of violent crime. I knew that he didn’t just threaten violence, he carried it out’ — and yet she doesn’t tell the coppers for years, until he actually threatens to kill her. ‘As I tipped out the carrier bags full of just some of the letters I’d kept, the police were aghast that I’d done nothing about it before.’
Here is the masochistic madness of do-gooding socialist feminism laid bare — and Labour wonder why women vote Tory! While we’re on the subject of perverts, instead of unreservedly presenting the NCCL as a heroic ‘thorn in the side of government’ forever fighting for the rights of the little man, Harman might have seen fit to mention that, during her time there, they also granted the Paedophile Information Exchange formal affiliate status at a time when this vile lobby group was suggesting that the age of consent be lowered to ten. A little mea culpa might not have gone amiss. Still, it’s in the nature of the great and the good not to admit to anything which might reveal them as the entitled, woolly-minded mediocrities they generally are, and Harman — despite her admirable work for women’s rights — is no exception.
H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link.
Published on 10 Feb 2017
In the final episode, Lucy debunks the fibs that surround the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the British Empire – India. Travelling to Kolkata, she investigates how the Raj was created following a British government coup in 1858. After snatching control from the discredited East India Company, the new regime presented itself as a new kind of caring, sharing imperialism with Queen Victoria as its maternal Empress.
Tyranny, greed and exploitation were to be things of the past. From the ‘black hole of Calcutta’ to the Indian ‘mutiny’, from East India Company governance to crown rule, and from Queen Victoria to Empress of India, Lucy reveals how this chapter of British history is another carefully edited narrative that’s full of fibs.
… even in Parkdale we have good restaurants. There are now seven Tibetan chop shops (yak stops?) along Queen Street. I think this qualifies us to be called “Little Tibet,” and get special street signs from the the municipal multicultural patronizing bureaucracy. Though when I accompanied an excessively white friend into one such establishment, he was filled with anxiety. “I sure hope the food isn’t authentic,” he commented.
It was, earlier today, starting with the salted butter tea. Or rather, it wasn’t. Everything tastes different, this close to sea level.
The same remark can be made for chillies, as can be made for wine. Except, chillies often grow well in the mountains. But this depends on the mountain face, in relation to the sun’s course; on the soils, and temperatures; on the rains in their seasons; on luck, and the art of the chilli farmer. Gentle reader will guess I am about to pump Tibetan Tiger Chillies.
Now, Tibet is no country to grow chillies, overall. Some katabasis is usually required. Go south, down the mountains, perhaps to Bengal; then east, to the hills behind Chittagong; or into the lower hills of Assam; and there, I solemnly believe, you will find the finest chillies in the world. The Naga Morich, grown there, have been attempted elsewhere, always with dispiriting results. The conditions can be reproduced artificially, and hybridizations can be tried to square the circle, as it were. Some gentleman in England topped the Scoville table, a few years ago, by triangulating from the Naga Morich, the Bhut Jolokia (or, “ghost pepper,” closely related), and the Trinidad Moruga (or, “butch scorpion,” with linguistic variants). But the hybrid was unstable and he lost the competition the next year.
I love very hot chillies, and those above 1,000,000 Scoville units are much appreciated. (The hottest Habaneros get only half way there.) But I also love chillies, in themselves, and this includes quite mild ones. You see, as chilli-haters refuse to be taught, there is more to them than capsaicin. Even the heat is produced by compounds: the scientists, always counting, don’t know where to start. The customer who wants only pain can hit 16,000,000 with the synthetic chemical in its wax form. … Go ahead. … I’ll watch.
A Canadian (white) may say, “How can you taste your food with all those chillies?” There is no polite answer to this. It’s a typically Canadian passive-aggressive stance: to ask the unanswerable question. You just have to shoot them.
David Warren, “Elevated Discourse”, Essays in Idleness, 2015-06-11.
February 25, 2017
The deadest part of the NFL year is drawing to a close, as the post-Super Bowl quietude slowly changes to the excitement of the Underwear Olympics, the Legal Tampering Period, free agency, and the draft. Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman spoke to the local sports media on Friday, but he spoke in his patented “Rickspeak” mode, which uses ordinary words like finely tuned instruments to conceal rather than to reveal the team’s plans:
The art of deception and lying is one that takes years to master and perfect. Some people never do, and you can tell the second they open their grocery hole they’re a terrible liar. Some people are okay at it, and can tell a little white lie, maybe, but not a big one.
And some people are masters at it, creating a web of bullshit so convincing, so complete, that it’s almost impossible to separate from the truth. These people usually end up becoming politicians, but some become the general manager of an NFL team.
Vikings GM Rick Spielman is one of these people, because with him you don’t know where the truth ends and the bullshit begins. And honestly, when you get to the level of doublespeak (or Rickspeak, as we affectionately call it in this little corner of the Internet), that Rick Spielman is at, you don’t care that you’re being fed a load of crap so massive you could fertilize all of Minnesota’s farmland with it for five years. As a matter of fact, you kind come to enjoy it, in a weird Stockholm Syndrome kind of way.
But still, you want to know the truth, and that’s where we come in, the fine folks that write for The Daily Norseman.* We sift through the bullshit, find out what the true meaning of Spielman’s words are** and translate it for you into common, every day language.***
*By we I mean me, because no one else would do this. As a matter of fact, Eric pestered me on Twitter to do this, because he knows that if anyone is going to get sued, it isn’t going to be him. Eric is smart. I am a dope, so here you go. Enjoy.
**It’s true we read it and come up with alternative answers, but I divine no true meaning. I’m literally making up every word. And seriously, we’re talking about the off-season plans of a football team, not some Zen-level philosophy on how to live your life. It’s just football, Fokker.
***So yeah, this won’t be in Aramaic. You’re welcome.
Earlier this week, Ted Campbell offered his suggestions on how to address some issues he notes in the lower ranks of the Canadian Army, based on both Canadian and allied armies’ experiences:
There was always a problem with the old (1850s to 1960s) Army rank structure: there was some need to tie rank to trade, but not as tightly, many military people believe, as […] in the Canadian Armed Forces today. Some branches (corps) used to have fairly strict rules; in the old (1960s) Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, for example, the technicians, amongst the very highest paid soldiers in the whole army, could not attend the long, difficult and expensive, advanced (3rd of 4 levels) technician course until they had passed the junior leadership course and they could not attempt the senior leadership course until they had passed the advanced technician’s course, and so on. But that system always excluded some good people. There were, and still are today, many people who can be excellent, even outstanding technicians but cannot lead or manage soldiers. The United States Army addressed this same issue by creating the “specialist” grouping which allowed soldiers to “advance” through part of the pay system ~ higher salaries for technical skills ~ but not the other ~ even higher salaries for leadership. In past years there were many different (paid) grades of specialist but now it is a “rank” equivalent to the US Army corporal for soldiers who have not yet or cannot pass the first level junior leader course. The British Royal Air Force has a similar and, in my opinion, better system …
… which recognizes both technical skill and leadership requirements.
In my opinion we should undo much of what Mr Hellyer did, while thanking him for addressing the pay problem, and restore the junior leadership positions, especially the tank and rifle section commanders, to the real, and younger, junior leaders: those in the rank of master corporal. This will restore the senior leaders to their traditional roles as “guides” and mentors to the junior leaders: both to the corporals and the lieutenants. The ranks of sergeant ~ in several “grades” and warrant officer are often, and very correctly, referred to as the backbone or even the “heart and soul” of the army. That is partly because, traditionally, they stood ever so slightly “aloof” from the rank and file. The lieutenants gave orders, advised, coached and mentored by the sergeants, to the corporals who, then, directly led the riflemen but were also mentored by the sergeants. It was, to repeat the words I used to describe the US constitution, “a fine and finely balanced system;” we upset the balance 50 years ago to solve a pay problem. We should, also, adapt the RAF’s aircraftman/technician to our own needs to allow some soldiers to advance “up” in their technical field (and be paid more) without becoming leaders (and being paid more for that, too).
To do that the Army will have to reform itself.
First, it will have to repose trust in its junior leaders; that’s something that will be hard to do, even after the Army, of absolute necessity, makes junior leader training ~ making privates into corporals and civilians into second lieutenants ~ its highest priority and the job it assigns to its very, very best senior leaders.
Second, it will have to restore the “sergeant’s mess” to its traditional pride of place in the Army by giving the sergeants and warrant officers back the senior supervisory and management duties that have, in far too many cases, migrated “upwards” until they are now done by captains and even majors. Once again, it is a trust issue and we live in a world where many of the most senior leaders are timid because they have been “burned” too often, by their own superiors, when a subordinate makes a mistake. Mistakes are part of human nature; they have to be corrected, forgiven, in most cases, and, very often, used as teaching aids.
Third, the government will need to revise the pay system so that junior leaders are paid more and, meanwhile, the gap between corporal and master corporal and sergeant is maintained.
Fourth, promotions, in the Army, at least, to corporal and to captain must not be automatic. Promotion to corporal must require that one pass a very tough junior leaders course; promotion from lieutenant to captain should be by examination.
But, doing these four things will, in my opinion, give the Army a firm foundation upon which to build and fight.
Andrew Ferguson on the gullibility of SAPs (sophisticated and affluent people) in social science fields:
Every few weeks, it seems, a new crack appears in the seemingly impenetrable wall of social-science dogma. The latest appeared last month with the publication of a paper by the well-known research psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, a professor at Emory University and coauthor of the indispensable primer 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Among other things, he is a great debunker, and he has trained his skeptical eye on “microaggressions.”
Sophisticated, affluent people in the United States (SAPs) have been trained through years of education to respect whatever is presented to them as “science,” even if it’s not very good science, even if it’s not science at all. Their years of education have not trained them how to tell the difference. Sophisticated and affluent Americans, as a group, are pretty gullible.
So when their leaders in journalism, academia, and business announce a new truth of human nature, SAPs around the country are likely to embrace it. The idea of microaggressions is one of these. It was first popularized a decade ago, and now the pervasiveness of microaggressions in American life is taken as settled fact.
We could have seen it coming. Already, by the time microaggressions became widely known, social scientists had invented the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The test, administered online and to college students throughout the country, pretended to establish that anti-black and anti-Latino prejudice among white Americans was ever-present yet, paradoxically, nearly invisible, often unrecognized by perpetrator and victim alike. Even people who had never uttered a disparaging remark about someone of another color were shown by the IAT to be roiling cauldrons of racial animus. You know who you are.
The IAT thus laid the predicate for microaggressions. They were the outward, unwitting expressions of implicit racism; not only were they evidence of it, they were offered as proof of it. (Circularity is a common tool in cutting-edge social science.) Microaggressions are usually verbal but they don’t have to be. In their pathbreaking paper “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life” (2007), the psychologist Derald Wing Sue and his team of researchers from Columbia University helpfully listed many common microaggressions. Saying “America is a melting pot” is really a demand that someone “assimilate to the dominant culture.” Having an office that “has pictures of American presidents” on the wall announces that “only white people can succeed.” Also, an “overabundance of liquor stores in communities of color” carries the microaggressive message that “people of color are deviant.”
H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.