Link blog: death, life, cancer, money

The value of a life
“If you have money and want to save lives, you had better put a price on life… But don’t mix up the price of a life with the value of a life. I see this happen all too frequently. To correct this mistake, I’m going to tell a little story.”
(tags: economics life value cost money charity death)
Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer – NYTimes.com
Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. He reflects on his life.
(tags: death cancer oliver-sacks david-hume)
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Link blog: isis, dancing, dance, sexual-assault

Lindy Hop Event Organizers Conversation on Creating Safer Dance Spaces – YouTube
An hour’s conversation between various scene and event organisers on codes of conduct and whatnot. Including the Swing Patrol UK’s Scott Cupit, and Nina Gilkenson of Mobtown Ballroom, whose CoC I’ve previously linked to. Good stuff. One thing I didn’t realise is that organisers are regularly giving offenders the boot but doing so quietly so people don’t get scared. Organisers don’t want to stop the party (are camps total debauches only in the USA, or do I just not get invited to the right afterparties?), want to treat people as adults (Cupit rejects the idea of CoC specially for teachers on that basis), and don’t want to police every damn social interaction. OTOH recognise that there’s a groundswell for more explicit policies and enforcement.
(tags: lindyhop lindy-hop sexual-assault dance dancing)
What ISIS Really Wants – The Atlantic
“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.” Via Mefi.
(tags: isis islam war terrorism caliphate apocalypse)
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Link blog: psychology, consciousness, philosophy, daniel-dennett

Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? | Oliver Burkeman | Science | The Guardian
Cos it’s a Hard Problem. Geddit?
(tags: consciousness philosophy zombies david-chalmers daniel-dennett)
Believing that life is fair makes you a terrible person | Oliver Burkeman | Comment is free | The Guardian
Just World Fallacy leads to victim blaming.
(tags: victim-blaming just-world psychology fairness)
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Link blog: subjective, scott-aaronson, morality, programming

Feminism and The Search for Truth | The Merely Real
Chana Messinger’s response to the Scott Aaronson thing (on whether feminism hurts geek guys) is the best one. I learned the term “scrupulousity”.
(tags: scott-aaronson nerds feminism laurie-penny chana-messinger)
Hume and subjective/objective moral values
A Twitlonger page (which I guess is what we used to call a blog post) about Hume and the varied meanings of “subjective” and “objective” wrt morality.
(tags: hume david-hume subjective objective morality)
What Color is Your Function? – journal.stuffwithstuff.com
Interesting stuff about asynchronous programming.
(tags: async programming)
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Lindy hop, codes of conduct and sexual assault

This post links to descriptions of sexual assault.

Lindy hop got its own version of the Jimmy Saville revelations recently, when it became clear that a long standing international dance teacher (who wasn’t someone I’d heard of prior to this, as it happens) had abused various women. Jeff Leyco has collated a bunch of links to people talking about it, the most important of which is Sarah Sullivan’s original blog posting describing her experiences.

Elaborating on some comments I’ve made in other places:

There’s sometimes a confusion about types of evidence, and between degrees of evidence and degrees of belief, that happens when people read accusations like this online. Testimony is evidence, especially if it’s potentially costly to the testifier if they lie. We rightly demand a very high probability of truth before we bless certain beliefs for certain uses (for example, in a court of law or a science journal). But that the probability doesn’t need to be as high before deciding to keep someone away from young women at dance camps, for example. There were surprisingly few “oh, the Internet says it, so it must have happened, riiiight” comments, but not none. Those commenters looked pretty foolish when the other shoes dropped, and a pattern of predation emerged in the reports of other women. If you’re not actually having to decide whether to allow that teacher to come to your dance camp next weekend, it seems wise to shut up and wait for those other shoes to hit the floor rather than sounding off on the Internet.

There was some use of the word “awkward” to refer to the perp. People who are socially awkward don’t do the stuff described by these women, which, moral considerations aside, requires some nerve (in the case of initiating physical contact) and Dark Side social skills (isolating the victims, telling them they’re special, and so on). Let’s stop calling predators “socially awkward”, it’s an insult to socially awkward people.

Codes of Conduct

One popular suggesting in the wake of all this is to institute codes of conduct for dance events. Having been initially a little wary of that, I’m now in favour as a result of chatting with friend C (who got me into lindy in the first place) and reading around.

One thing that seems to be happening is that people are adopting language from codes for professional conferences. I’d argue that these codes are not suitable for use at dance events without modification. If you’re going to have a code, it’s not a talisman against predators that you can just hold up like a crucifix in front of a vampire and hope they go away. You have to enforce it, and that means getting language right so it’s enforceable.

The general

What am I on about? Broadly, that there’s a difference between the environment you want at a conference where everyone’s on the clock (and subject to employment law) and something that’s a cross between a party and the practice of an art.

There’s also some danger of confusion between the social justice concept of a Safe Space, and the sort of environment the general public would want to dance and socialise in. A Safe Space in the former sense is typically heavily policed against a fairly strict and specialised language code which bans certain words, and the police usually prohibit discussion about matters they consider settled. Assuming that such Spaces make anyone safer, they do so at the expense of other good things, which are put aside in favour of an overriding concern for Safety; and the converse is also true: not making your Space Safe means you’re trading off those other goods against the risk of some people not being Safe (see Mefi, previously). Face this, accept there’s nothing wrong with trading off goods against each other, and don’t use the phrase “safe space” to describe the environment you’re trying to create.

Elizabeth Dingivan criticises this post on safe conferences both for advocating an over-patrolled environment and for concentrating on preventing problems rather than promoting positive values. It’s worth checking our her comment.

Edit: another thought that occurs is that unless you have the resources to police heavily, you cannot in fact offer a totally safe space even if you want to, so your terminology should not offer something you’re not going to deliver.

The specific

More specifically, we need to say more about banning “sexualised material”: if it means porny pictures are banned that’s fair, but do you want to ban a bunch of those songs about food which aren’t actually about food or the songs in which there’s sexual commentary on men’s and women’s bodies? Probably not, because we allow things in an artistic context that we don’t want to see around the office (if you were trying to create a Safe Space, the answer would be different here).

Relatedly, partner dancing got started in part as an early form of speed dating, and some people come to dancing hoping to meet romantic partners, in a way which would not be appropriate for a professional conference. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself, though there are wrong ways to go about it and one needs to be alert for the difference between dance chemistry and sexual desire. I don’t know how to convey this in a short document, but just “no harassment, no sexy stuff” won’t cut it.

When we dance, we’re touching another person and, in some dances, adopting a close hold. It’s worth going into more detail about what’s OK here, rather than just banning “inappropriate touching”. It’s also worth dealing with what to do when bad stuff happens by accident when moving at speed, not something that ForkMyDongleCon ’13 attendees had to worry about, I guess. (I’d also like to ban teachers from initiating back-rub circles at the end of lessons, please: that sort of touch isn’t what people signed up for).

Good examples

I like the policies of Mobtown, Baltimore (though the bullet about various banned -isms shades towards Internet social justice jargon and makes me wonder if I’ll get the boot for saying “Mark’s such a crazy dancer”) and Holy Lindy Land, Israel. I like Bryn’s suggestions on Sarah Sullivan’s posting.

A couple more general points: it’s worth distinguishing hints and tips from serious offences. It’s worth emphasising that we’re dealing with hopefully rare stuff here and most people are lovely. I remember discussion of Cambridge Dancers’ Club’s etiquette page where people wondered whether a long etiquette manual might put the punters off. Both these points can be addressed by having a serious bit and a funny FAQ (a FAQ’s a good format for avoiding the CDC page’s wall of text). I like Holy Lindy Land’s pictures, too.

Final point: there’s no point in any of this if there’s no-one to tell about problems or if problems are not investigated and resolved once you tell someone. This requires a lot of the people who organise events, who are often volunteers. In the case I’ve heard about where harassment was not dealt with at an event, those organisers were women, so it wasn’t a case of men belittling women’s problems. Organisers want to be liked and find confrontation difficult, just like anyone else. I’ve never done that job, so I don’t know what to do about that.

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Link blog: politics, saudi-arabia, islam, wahhabi

Trading with tyranny. The price of snuggling up to Saudi Arabia
“Britain and many other countries are already paying a substantial price for Saudi Arabia’s efforts (over many years) to spread its pernicious Wahhabi ideology far and wide. A more robust stance against that now will mean less need to spend money on security and defence measures in the future.”
(tags: saudi-arabia islam wahhabi politics)
The Utopian · Paris, 2015
“Down with Putin. Down with the Patriarch. Down with the Pope. Down with the self-styled progressives who have abandoned the liberatory spirit of 1968 in favor of the regulatory spirit of identitarianism.”
(tags: left politics identity-politics liberalism free-speech)
Louise Mensch says ‘F**K YOU’ in explosive tweets about David Cameron, Saudi Embassy and the Queen over King Abdullah tributes – People – News – The Independent
You go, girl!
(tags: saudi-arabia louise-mench david-cameron politics islam)
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Je ne suis pas votre allié

A red flagThis post discusses victim blaming in the context of both murder and sexual assault.

Scott Alexander wrote, on dealing with social justice debates on the Internet:

H.L. Mencken writes “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Well, this is my temptation. It requires more willpower than anything else I do in my life – more willpower than it takes for me to get up in the morning and work a ten hour day – to resist the urge to just hoist the black flag and turn into a much less tolerant and compassionate version of Heartiste1.

Hoist the colours high

I felt this urge most strongly while reading the Metafilter thread about the attack on Charlie Hebdo (I’m pw201 on Mefi), where many commenters were engaging in what elsewhere might be called victim blaming or de-railing, and then flouncing when called out.

What passes for Leftism in America and in her cultural sphere of influence (i.e. the Guardian) seems to be the the establishment of an ordering of identity groups and the promotion of the interests of those groups lower down the order over those groups higher up. (The claims that there are multiple orthogonal pecking orders or that there’s no strict total ordering in people’s heads seem false: there are only two directions one can “punch”, and, whenever there’s a debate, it’s about who is really higher or lower).

It is one thing to bite the bullet, as I think Arthur Chu does, and admit that the accusations of victim blaming and the like are properly made only against his ideological enemies, without any attempt to pretend that victim blaming is universally bad. But to do this is to admit to special pleading, which most people don’t think is fair.

What I saw in the debate about the attacks and subsequent anger/flouncing was the painful dissonance that arises when Leftists-of-this-sort have to deal with members of a group whose interests they would naturally promote (identifying the murderers as Muslims and brown people) carrying out heinous crimes against people higher up the ordering (identifying the victims as white people or even as racists). Suddenly, those L-O-T-S who in other contexts would be assiduous in calling out any implication, however subtle, that “she was asking for it, dressed like that” or “maybe it was a bad idea to drink so much at the frat party”, are using those same tropes and hoping that a big disclaimer will do the trick.

I guess what’s happened is that the ordering was established as an instrument to promote the positive values of some sort of Leftism, but has now become almost an end in itself. My political leanings were formed growing up in the 1980s reading the Daily Mirror, but it’s fair to say I’m not an “ally” of L-O-T-S. Which isn’t to say I haven’t learned anything from reading Mefi, LJ and even Tumblr (the shocking prevalence of street harassment, to take one example).

Mais je ne suis pas votre ennemi

Scott Alexander’s urge doesn’t really make much sense rationally, though it’s psychologically understandable. If you have lefty views but think the special pleaders are bad, recall that their ideological rivals are worse, or at least, seeking worse outcomes. If you’re just posting and commenting on the Internet (as opposed to, say, voting), you don’t actually have to join up pick a team and buy their views as a package. If people you agree with about a lot of stuff argue with you about some other stuff, you don’t have to feel bad about that, because you’re not letting the team down: remember, you’re not on a team in the first place. People who are experts on social problems aren’t necessarily experts on how you personally should deal with them, as previously discussed. And thus I survive on Mefi, and places like it.

The Mefi thread went in quite a good direction in the end: there was a debate about cartoons and caricature, some attempt to understand what the cartoons were about, and translated commentary from French people. It is long, but worth reading. I’ve been posting the good bits to the link blog, but allow me to recommend Lost in translation: Charlie Hebdo, free speech and the unilingual left in particular.

tl;dr;

Kitty Stryker said bad things and should feel bad, but that’s no reason to get into bed with Heartiste. He certainly won’t respect you in the morning.

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  1. Heartiste is a well known pick up artist, men’s rights activist, and all-round bad egg. Ozy Frantz did a Anti-Heartiste FAQ which might save you some unpleasant research. 

Link blog: pakistan, islamism, streaming, music

Global Swing Broadcast | Music * Videos * Photography
Swinging internet radio station. Nice.
(tags: music streaming swing radio)
Brown Pundits: Unreal Islam
“As someone in love with the cultural traditions of Islam and as a diligent student of its history, I agree that the acts of the jihadis do not represent the vast majority of Muslims today or in history. Humans are a violent species and Muslims have contributed their share, but it is completely asinine to think that Muslims have been, historically, any more violent than other groups. However, it is equally absurd to deny that the ideology underlying jihadism draws upon mainstream Islamic beliefs and is, therefore, undeniably a form of “real Islam” – albeit of a very extreme form. It is more accurate to say that this extremism is “not the only Islam”, and, by historical standards, it is a version very different from what the vast majority of Muslims have practiced.”
(tags: islam religion islamism history pakistan)
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Link blog: charlie-hebdo, islam, islamism, culture

Charlie Hebdo victim was ‘a friend of Islam, Turkey’ – INTERNATIONAL
“Voicing his ‘fear,’ Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök writes about a chat he once had with Georges Wolinski, who was killed in the attack at the offices of the French satirical magazine.”
(tags: charlie-hebdo islam turkey)
JE SUIS CHARLIE? IT’S A BIT LATE | Pandaemonium
Kenan Malik: “The expressions of solidarity with those slain in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices are impressive. They are also too late. Had journalists and artists and political activists taken a more robust view on free speech over the past 20 years then we may never have come to this.”
(tags: charliehebdo freedom politics satire journalism free speech liberalism charlie-hebdo)
Paris attacks: unless we overcome fear, self-censorship will spread| Nick Cohen | Comment is free | The Observer
Cohen argues that Western journalists had already given in. “My friend and comrade Maajid Nawaz was a jihadi before he converted to liberalism and understands the totalitarian mind. He says that people still do not realise that radical Islamists do not just want to impose their taboos at gunpoint. They want to “create a civil war” so that European Muslims accept that they can only live in the caliphate; to encourage the rise of the white far-right so that ordinary coexistence becomes impossible. If they win one demand, as they are winning in Britain, then they will up the tension and move to another.”
(tags: censorship charlie-hebdo islam free speech islamism)
The cult of death and the psychopaths it ensnares – Telegraph
“Islamist terrorists believe they are a pure elite, destined to survive the cataclysmic conflict of civilisations they desire to bring about. That is why Isil’s magazine is called “Dabiq” or Ark. Ideally, as the Egyptian president has courageously commented, they would like to witness an all-out war between 1.6 billion Muslims and the other six billion inhabitants of our planet, but for the time being they’ll just be the vanguard of it.”
(tags: islam islamism terrorism)
dear US followers
“NO ONE, I repeat literally NO ONE in France ever considered Charlie Hebdo as racist. We might have considered the drawings tasteless, but NOT racists. For the very simple reason that WE FUCKING KNOW OUR POLITICS. So, when you see the covers of the journal out of context and without understanding french, you’re seeing maybe 10% of what there’s to see.”
(tags: charlie-hebdo racism culture france)
If Europe is to overcome Islamist terror, it needs to fight for the values it holds dear | Comment is free | The Guardian
“For many on the left, tolerance comes easily. But economic disarray has sapped the will to defend our principles of rationalism and individual liberty.”
(tags: terrorism left islamism europe culture)
Imperfect Tenderness | The Comics Journal
Interesting round-up of reactions to CH’s cartoons.
(tags: charlie-hebdo satire cartoons racism irony)
Charlie Hebdo: the danger of polarised debate | Gary Younge | Comment is free | The Guardian
“Those who claim that Islam is “inherently”violent are more hateful, but no less nonsensical, than those who claim it is “inherently” peaceful. The insistence that these hateful acts are refuted by ancient texts makes as much sense as insisting they are supported by them. Islam, like any religion, isn’t “inherently” anything but what people make of it. A small but significant minority have decided to make it violent.”
(tags: islam religion violence charlie-hebdo)
All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth, in Two Minutes | WIRED
Apparently, there’s no evidence that people actually have different learning styles.
(tags: learning myths pedagogy psychology education teaching)
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Link blog: islam, terrorism, murder, charlie-hebdo

The case for mocking religion.
Hitchens! thou shouldst be living at this hour: France has need of thee.
(tags: cartoons christopher-hitchens satire religion islam terrorism murder)
22 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting – BuzzFeed News
“Cartoonists from all over the world mourn in the wake of a Paris shooting that killed as many as 12 people, many of whom are members of Charlie Hebdo.”
(tags: charliehebdo jesuischarlie cartoon murder terrorism)
Ex-Muslims Forum on Twitter: “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror http://t.co/EngpM6LbjQ”
The ex-Muslims Forum publish “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror”
(tags: ex-muslim charlie-hebdo terrorism murder islam)
The Blasphemy We Need – NYTimes.com
“Must all deliberate offense-giving, in any context, be celebrated, honored, praised? I think not. But in the presence of the gun — or, as in the darker chapters of my own faith’s history, the rack or the stake — both liberalism and liberty require that it be welcomed and defended.”
(tags: blasphemy charlie-hebdo islam speech freedom)
The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders – The New Yorker
“Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture. A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents.”
(tags: charliehebdo journalism terror religion politics islam)
How Muslim Scholars View Paris Attack (In-depth) – Special Coverage – Shari`ah – OnIslam.net
There isn’t a shortage of Muslims condemning the attack in Paris.
(tags: muslim islam terrorism paris charlie-hebdo)
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