Link blog: brexit, olaf, may, story

A very British dream | Richard Seymour on Patreon
“Problem number one for the Conservatives is that they no longer have any idea how to administer capitalism. No viable long-term growth strategy avails. They can’t address the financial sector without hurting their allies in the City. They can’t address the crisis of productivity and investment without more state intervention than they’re willing to accept. They can’t address the housing crisis or the precarious debt-driven economy without harming the interests of home owners. They can’t build new support in the rustbelts on an anti-immigrant basis, without sacrificing affluent swing voters and particularly ethnic minority voters in big cities and marginals.”
(tags: Politics conservatives may brexit)
We Don’t Do That Here
A neutral-sounding way to inform someone that they’ve crossed a line.
(tags: community morality)
A Bluer Shade of White Chapter 1, a frozen fanfic | FanFiction
Do you want to build a self-modifying snowman?
(tags: Singularity fiction story frozen olaf)
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Link blog: google, diversity, psychology, gender

The Most Common Error in Coverage of the Google Memo – The Atlantic
TL;DR: it wasn’t anti-diversity. Via @sonyaellenmann.
(tags: google sexism politics social-justice diversity)
The Google Memo: What Does the Research Say About Gender Differences? | HeterodoxAcademy.org
“1. Gender differences in math/science ability, achievement, and performance are small or nil…
2. Gender differences in interest and enjoyment of math, coding, and highly “systemizing” activities are large. …
3. Culture and context matter, in complicated ways. Some gender differences have decreased over time as women have achieved greater equality, showing that these differences are responsive to changes in culture and environment. But the cross-national findings sometimes show “paradoxical” effects: progress toward gender equality in rights and opportunities sometimes leads to larger gender differences in some traits and career choices. Nonetheless, it seems that actions taken today by parents, teachers, politicians, and designers of tech products may increase the likelihood that girls will grow up to pursue careers in tech, and this is true whether or not biology plays a role in producing any particular population difference.”
(tags: feminism google diversity psychology gender politics)
Suzanne Sadedin’s answer to What do scientists think about the biological claims made in the anti-diversity document written by a Google employee in August 2017? – Quora
Dr Sadedin’s is the best rebuttal to the Google memo that I’ve seen (as the rest just call it bad without rebutting it).
(tags: science google gender sexism psychology)
How To Add A Security Key To Your Gmail (Tech Solidarity)
2FA without the SMS/phone number backup (which can be hacked by social engineering your mobile phone network provider).
(tags: email google 2fa authentication security)
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Link blog: passwords, funny, liberal, cranks

How work changed to make us all passionate quitters | Aeon Essays
Alleges that neoliberalism encourages employees to see themselves as the CEO of “Me, Inc”, always looking for tasks that’ll help them get their next job. Interesting final section about the modern obsession with “passion”.
(tags: capitalism business work economics career)
Troy Hunt: Introducing 306 Million Freely Downloadable Pwned Passwords
A service where you can check the clear text (if you trust the site owner) or hash of passwords to see whether they’ve leaked in any of the site hacks over the years.
(tags: security passwords api)
Operation Luigi: How I hacked my friend without her noticing
Funny stream of consciousness thing about hacking a friend (with permission). Time to enable 2FA on your stuff, people.
(tags: hacking phishing funny email authentication passwords)
Steve Dutch: Conservative Cranks and Liberal Meta-Cranks
What are the differences between cranks on both sides? Conservative ones are generally stupid, liberal ones are clever rationalisers.
(tags: politics cranks conservative liberal)
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Under His eye or The Harrowing of Farron

On Facebook, I ran across a couple of Christian responses to the recent resignation of Tim “Nice-but-Evangelical” Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

A worrying sign

A post by John Stevens, Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, argues that Farron’s resignation is a worrying sign: Farron’s actions as a friend to LGBT people were not sufficient, people were worried about “what Tim thinks” and wouldn’t leave him alone about it.

As Nick Spencer writes, there are two sorts of liberalism. Farron was an example of liberalism as a way of living (or modus vivendi, as we say in the New Statesman) in a pluralist society, but fell victim to people who saw liberalism as a system which itself provides the right answers to moral questions. But taking liberalism as such as system, as Stevens says, opens its followers to the same sorts of criticism that Farron got: can a follower of a system fairly represent the interests of those who disagree with it?

(Unfortunately, Stevens does get dangerously close to using the phrase “virtue signalling”, which should worry him, for is it not written whosoever shall say to his brother, “thou art virtue signalling”, shall be in danger of being a huge arsehole, and that goes double for “snowflake”.?)

The burning of Latimer and Ridley at OxfordStevens has an interesting argument for liberalism as a way of living: if idolatry is the greatest sin, yet Christians do not want religion imposed by the government as this has historically not ended well (pic related), how much more so (or a fortiori, as we probably say in the New Statesman) ought Christians to allow freedom in law for people to commit lesser sins?

Public reason

With his mention of a “substantive, even comprehensive” liberalism, Nick Spencer in the New Stateman is gesturing at Rawl’s ideas of public reason. From what I read of this, a liberalism which is what Rawls calls a comprehensive doctrine can’t legitimately be the sole basis for arguments in favour of a fundamental right (such as gay marriage), any more than the religious comprehensive system can be the sole basis for an argument against. As Mariel Johns’s summary puts it,

It is important to remember that secular comprehensive doctrines are not allowed – the same way that philosophical and religious comprehensive doctrines are not allowed. These fall outside the domain of the political. This can be seen if we consider what each type of doctrine might ask with regard to making homosexual relations among citizens a criminal offense. A secular doctrine might ask, “Is it precluded by a worthy idea of the full human good?” A religious doctrine might ask, “Is it a sin?” A political conception would ask, “Will legislative statues forbidding those relations infringe on the civil rights of free and equal democratic citizens?”

I’m not an expert in political philosophy, but this seems to get something important right, namely that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. “What Tim thinks” can only be of political concern if we’re reasoning from a comprehensive doctrine which says our thoughts can be wrong in and of themselves (such as Christianity, or liberalism of the second sort), or if we can show that what he thinks is somehow relevant in reasoning which is not unique to any such doctrine. Only the latter is legitimate, if I’m reading Rawls right.

So, what should Farron have said? Perhaps “What I think is What The Bible Says1, but look at my voting record and see that I don’t seek to impose my views on others, because (insert Stevens’s a fortiori argument here)”. Note that Rawls doesn’t think people cannot bring forward religious reasons (in fact, he thinks they should, in a “cards on the table” sort of way), only that they should then be backed by public reasons (such as “enforcing religion infringes on the civil rights of citizens”, presumably).

This is easy to say in hindsight, of course.

Shearer

G J Shearer writes that “Arguing that Christians shouldn’t ‘impose’ their views on society is simply a tacit way of saying that someone else should.” But this ignores the distinction between liberalism of the first, Rawlsian, sort, and liberalism of the second, comprehensive, sort. Perhaps Shearer thinks that such a distinction can’t be maintained, and everything must collapse into a fight between competing comprehensive doctrines. But why think that? It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if nobody makes the effort to maintain it, it certainly won’t be maintained. Farron’s pursuers harmed our political life by making it harder to maintain it.

Shearer argues that secular liberalism is illogical:

What, in effect, is the logic of secular liberalism? We live in a world heading towards extinction, our consciousness created by blind physical laws and driven by a ruthless will to reproduce and survive, therefore… What? Love each other? Look after the poor, the lame, the vulnerable? A moment’s consideration shows that these conclusions do not flow from the premise.

Hume lives! But his guillotine is a multi-purpose tool (it slices! it dices! it cuts both ways!). Suppose the facts are these: we live in a world ruled by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent creator, therefore… what? What conclusions about morality follow from these premises? You need to add some other premise (like “we ought to do what God wants/commands of us”), and if you need that, why fault secular philosophers for needing to add theirs (like “we ought to do that which leads to human flourishing” or “the greatest good of the greatest number” or whatever)? All moral systems, including theistic ones, are “illogical” by these lights.

He also wonders whether atheist politicians could explain how “their belief that human life is merely ‘an accidental collocation of atoms’, to use Bertrand Russell’s phrase, fits with the various moral imperatives that drive their politics”. Probably not, because politicians, unlike Hume, are generally crap at philosophy. But, as we’ve just seen, Shearer hasn’t explained why his premises about God lead to his moral conclusions, either.

Offred from a Handmaid's Tale, with the caption "But her emails"Shearer ends with a call to Christians to get more involved getting Christian values into law: “it is time that Christians began to unapologetically argue that society is best served by Christian, rather than secular, values shaping the public sphere.” This doesn’t seem likely to end any better than it did historically (pic related).

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  1. This is an evangelical term of art, so should be taken with the usual caveat 

Link blog: politics, bible, satire, jeremy-corbyn

The Book of Jeremy Corbyn – The New Yorker
“And they hearkened unto the word of Jeremy, and believed. For they said unto themselves, Lo, he bringeth unto us the desire of our hearts. He cometh by bicycle, with a helmet upon his head. And he eateth neither flesh nor fowl, according to the Scriptures. For man cannot live by bread alone, but hummus is quite another matter.”
(tags: satire politics bible jeremy-corbyn funny)
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Whence came Trump’s list of bad countries?

Where’d Trump get the list of bad countries from which none shall pass (except if they have a Green Card and a court order)? From legislation passed on Obama’s watch, we’re told by various people defending Trump’s latest omnishambles. As Seth Frantzman says, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), the legislation referred to in the Executive Order was signed into law under Obama. However, Frantzman’s commenters make a few interesting points, which I summarise below.

Under the legislation, if you’ve visited one of those countries or are a national of them, this will prevent you from getting a visa waiver.

How’d those countries get into the visa waiver banned list, and is that Obama’s fault? Some of them appear to have been added by a Republican sponsored bill which failed to pass, but became law by getting tagged on to a larger spending bill. This letter is a complaint that Obama had weakened the provisions of that Bill, which, in passing, gives a history of how it became law.

From my extensive viewing of The West Wing, it seems that tagging stuff on to a spending bill is a way to force the point: if you refuse to sign the bill, other important stuff will not be funded. So, it’s not clear how much Obama’s administration approved of the additions (since they apparently went on to weaken it when it was implemented, perhaps they didn’t and their hands were forced, but I haven’t seen any public statements either way by them). Either way, they certainly didn’t ever put that list to the use that Trump has. To use a list to exclude people from getting visa waivers is quite different from using it to bar people outright. Implying that the list of countries in the Executive Order came from Obama is disingenuous.

What about?

Presidents Carter and Obama have blocked visa applications from nationals of certain countries at certain times (Obama in relation to Syria). Pointing out that the other lot did something similar and therefore can’t argue that Trump is wrong to do it is called the tu quoque fallacy.

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Link blog: politics, world-war-II, iot, italy

Who Will Command The Robot Armies?
Funny and worrying talk. Pinboard is always good for “Internet of shit” stories, but has a wider point here.
(tags: robots facebook twitter amazon work po politics surveillance technology automation iot)
Ur-Fascism | by Umberto Eco | The New York Review of Books
What are the common features of anything worth calling Fascism?
(tags: history politics fascism italy world-war-II)
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Link blog: politics, brexit, trump, nuclear

Why Stop Funding Hate deserves answers – Creative Review
“The Stop Funding Hate campaign is gaining traction and giving brands difficult decisions to make.” If you want something you can do, this is something you can do.
(tags: daily-mail newspapers hate daily-express politics)
Why the economy can’t explain Trump or Brexit – OpenLearn – Open University
Authoritarian social attitudes and the rate of change of minority population in an area are better predictors of Trump/Brexit voting than poverty.
(tags: trump brexit psychology authoritarianism politics)
Responding to Tim Keller’s “Making Sense of God” Talk
A shorter and better version than my own rebuttal of the book the talk was based on.
(tags: tim-keller Religion philosophy Atheism)
The President and the bomb | Restricted Data
The US military won’t stop a president from using nuclear weapons, the system is designed to make sure they can do so, not to prevent them.
(tags: politics military nuclear president)
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