Sunday, December 02, 2018

Reading - Fall 2018

A Case of Need by Michael Crichton

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday

The Carnivore Diet Handbook by K. Suzanne

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki

Hollywood Dead: A Sandman Slim Novel by Richard Kadrey

A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa by Charles Brandt

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant

Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

Vanished by Joseph Finder

Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder

Guilty Minds by Joseph Finder

Levon Cade Series V1-5 by Chuck Dixon

The Total Money Makeover:  A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Nover by Lee Child

Mind's Eye by Douglas E. Richards


Secret Six Vol. 2: The Gauntlet by Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham, Tom Derenick 

Wolverine by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection Vol. 2, 3 & 4 by Daniel Way, Jeph Loeb, Steve Dillon, Kaare Andrews, Simone Bianchi, Jon Proctor, Marjorie Liu, Doug Braithwaite, Scot Eaton, Will Conrad, Stephen Segovia, Antonio Fuso

Captain America: Operation Rebirth by Mark Waid and Ron Garney

Wolverine: Old Man Logan Vol. 6: Days of Anger by Ed Brisson and Mike Deodato

Jungle Girl Omnibus Paperback by Frank Cho, Doug Murray, Adriano Batista

Death of Wolverine: The Complete Collection Paperback by Charles Soule, Tim Seeley, Kyle Higgins, Marguerite Bennett, Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca, Angel Unzueta, Iban Coello

Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race Paperback by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson

Deadpool Vs. Old Man Logan Paperback by Declan Shalvey, Mike Henderson

Wolverine: Old Man Logan Vol. 7: Scarlet Samurai by Ed Brisson, Mike Deodato

Wolverine: Old Man Logan Vol. 8: To Kill Forby Ed Brisson, Dalibor Talajic

Deadpool by Daniel Way: The Complete Collection - Volume 1
by Daniel Way, Andy Diggle, Steve Dillon, Paco Medina, Carlo Barberi, Bong Dazo


Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Reading - Summer 18 - "When done right, comics are a cognitive whetstone..."

"...providing two or three or more different but entangled streams of information in a single panel. Processing what you’re being shown, along with what’s being said, along with what you’re being told, in conjunction with the shifting multiple velocities of imaginary time, and the action of the space between panels that Scott McCloud defines as closure… Comics require a little more of your brain than other visual media. They should just hand them out to being to stave off Alzheimer’s." - Warren Ellis

Artemis by Andy Weir

Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment by Josh Gross

The Leangains Method: The Art of Getting Ripped. Researched, Practiced, Perfected by Martin Berkhan

Sayonara by James Michener

Malice by Keigo Higashino

Brief Cases: More Stories From the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher 

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Way of the Warrior Kid: From Wimpy to Warrior the Navy SEAL Way: A Novel by Jocko Willink and Jon Boza 

Time Slave by John Norman

The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote by Sharyl Attkisson

Gor Series, Vol 1-9 by John Norman

Lazarus: Sourcebook Collection Volume by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, Michael Lark & others

The Wild Storm Vol. 1 & 2 by Warren Ellis and John Davis-Hunt

The Wild Storm: Michael Cray Vol. 1 by Bryan Hill and N. Stephen Harris  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"Probably 30% of people exclusively watch stuff that you would find disgusting."

"Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies, a new book that uses data on America’s Google habits as an insight into our national consciousness. Two findings from the book dominated the conversation: America is riddled with racist and selfish people, and there may be a self-induced abortion crisis in this country. But there was plenty more revelatory data in the book that we didn’t cover. So I wanted to follow up with Stephens-Davidowitz to talk about some of the other provocative claims he is making. I was particularly interested in sexuality and online porn. If, as Stephens-Davidowitz puts it, “Google is a digital truth serum,” then what else does it tell us about our private thoughts and desires? What else are we hiding from our friends, neighbors, and colleagues? A lot, apparently. 

Among other things, Stephens-Davidowitz’s data suggests that there are more gay men in the closet than we think; that many men prefer overweight women to skinny women but are afraid to act on it; that married women are disproportionately worried their husband is gay; that a lot of straight women watch lesbian porn; and that porn featuring violence against women is more popular among women than men...

 It’s interesting. Some sexual preferences I first learned about on The Jerry Springer Show, which featured really poor, uneducated people. People attracted to animals or family members or the elderly. But, now from seeing porn data, I realize those preferences also exist among wealthy, educated people. Wealthy, educated people are more cognizant of contemporary social norms, which means if you have such an attraction, you hide it..

 All right, give me a couple of unusual desires you noticed — one from men and one from women. 
 It is really amazing how much tastes can vary. There are women who just watch porn featuring short, fat men with small penises. There are men who just watch porn featuring women with enormous nipples. 

 How about other countries? 
The number one Google search in India that starts "my husband wants ..." is "my husband wants me to breastfeed him." Porn featuring adult breastfeeding is higher in India than anywhere else. In just about every country, just about every Google search looking for advice on breastfeeding is looking how to breastfeed a baby. In India, Google searches looking for breastfeeding advice are about equally split between how to breastfeed a baby and how to breastfeed a husband. After I published this finding, some journalists interviewed people in India. Everyone denied this. But I am sure, based on the data, that there are a reasonable number of adult Indian men desiring to be breastfed. It is really amazing that this desire can develop in one country without ever being openly talked about. 

Any other findings from countries not named America? 
Japanese men have recently become obsessed with tickling porn. More than 10 percent of Pornhub searches by young Japanese men are for “tickling.”"

"The data from porn tells us that everybody is weird. Thus, nobody is weird."

Any other surprising findings about women in America? 
About 20 percent of the porn women watch is lesbian porn. A lot of straight women watch lesbian porn. 
That’s not very surprising. 
Porn featuring violence against women is also extremely popular among women. It is far more popular among women than men. I hate saying that because misogynists seem to love this fact. Fantasy life isn't always politically correct. The rate at which women watch violent porn is roughly the same in every part of the world. It isn’t correlated with how women are treated.

So what’s the future of online porn? Where is it going? 
 I think anal sex will pass vaginal sex in porn within three years. That's what my data models suggest. 

 Somehow that feels like a perfect point on which to end."

"Why should your right to freedom of speech trump... a person's right not to be offended?"

Why Can't People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?:
"My first introduction to Jordan B. Peterson, a University of Toronto clinical psychologist, came by way of an interview that began trending on social media last week. Peterson was pressed by the British journalist Cathy Newman to explain several of his controversial views. But what struck me, far more than any position he took, was the method his interviewer employed. It was the most prominent, striking example I’ve seen yet of an unfortunate trend in modern communication.

First, a person says something. Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Fox News hosts all feature and reward this rhetorical technique. And the Peterson interview has so many moments of this kind that each successive example calls attention to itself until the attentive viewer can’t help but wonder what drives the interviewer to keep inflating the nature of Peterson’s claims, instead of addressing what he actually said. the interview, Newman relies on this technique to a remarkable extent, making it a useful illustration of a much broader pernicious trend. Peterson was not evasive or unwilling to be clear about his meaning. And Newman’s exaggerated restatements of his views mostly led viewers astray, not closer to the truth.

Peterson begins the interview by explaining why he tells young men to grow up and take responsibility for getting their lives together and becoming good partners. He notes he isn’t talking exclusively to men, and that he has lots of female fans.

“What’s in it for the women, though?” Newman asks.

“Well, what sort of partner do you want?” Peterson says. “Do you want an overgrown child? Or do you want someone to contend with who is going to help you?”

“So you’re saying,” Newman retorts, “that women have some sort of duty to help fix the crisis of masculinity.” But that’s not what he said. He posited a vested interest, not a duty.

“Women deeply want men who are competent and powerful,” Peterson goes on to assert. “And I don’t mean power in that they can exert tyrannical control over others. That’s not power. That’s just corruption. Power is competence. And why in the world would you not want a competent partner? Well, I know why, actually, you can’t dominate a competent partner. So if you want domination—”

The interviewer interrupts, “So you’re saying women want to dominate, is that what you’re saying?”

The next section of the interview concerns the pay gap between men and women, and whether it is rooted in gender itself or other nondiscriminatory factors:

Newman: … that 9 percent pay gap, that’s a gap between median hourly earnings between men and women. That exists.

Peterson: Yes. But there’s multiple reasons for that. One of them is gender, but that’s not the only reason. If you’re a social scientist worth your salt, you never do a univariate analysis. You say women in aggregate are paid less than men. Okay. Well then we break its down by age; we break it down by occupation; we break it down by interest; we break it down by personality.

Newman: But you’re saying, basically, it doesn’t matter if women aren’t getting to the top, because that’s what is skewing that gender pay gap, isn’t it? You’re saying that’s just a fact of life, women aren’t necessarily going to get to the top.

Peterson: No, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, either. I’m saying there are multiple reasons for it.

Newman: Yeah, but why should women put up with those reasons?

Peterson: I’m not saying that they should put up with it! I’m saying that the claim that the wage gap between men and women is only due to sex is wrong. And it is wrong. There’s no doubt about that. The multivariate analysis have been done. So let me give you an example––

The interviewer seemed eager to impute to Peterson a belief that a large, extant wage gap between men and women is a “fact of life” that women should just “put up with,” though all those assertions are contrary to his real positions on the matter.

Throughout this next section, the interviewer repeatedly tries to oversimplify Peterson’s view, as if he believes one factor he discusses is all-important, and then she seems to assume that because Peterson believes that given factor helps to explain a pay gap between men and women, he doesn’t support any actions that would bring about a more equal outcome.

Her surprised question near the end suggests earnest confusion:

Peterson: There’s a personality trait known as agreeableness. Agreeable people are compassionate and polite. And agreeable people get paid less than disagreeable people for the same job. Women are more agreeable than men.

Newman: Again, a vast generalization. Some women are not more agreeable than men.

Peterson: That’s true. And some women get paid more than men.

Newman: So you’re saying by and large women are too agreeable to get the pay raises that they deserve.

Peterson: No, I’m saying that is one component of a multivariate equation that predicts salary. It accounts for maybe 5 percent of the variance. So you need another 18 factors, one of which is gender. And there is prejudice. There’s no doubt about that. But it accounts for a much smaller portion of the variance in the pay gap than the radical feminists claim.

Newman: Okay, so rather than denying that the pay gap exists, which is what you did at the beginning of this conversation, shouldn’t you say to women, rather than being agreeable and not asking for a pay raise, go ask for a pay raise. Make yourself disagreeable with your boss.

Peterson: But I didn’t deny it existed, I denied that it existed because of gender. See, because I’m very, very, very careful with my words.

Newman: So the pay gap exists. You accept that. I mean the pay gap between men and women exists—but you’re saying it’s not because of gender, it’s because women are too agreeable to ask for pay raises.

Peterson: That’s one of the reasons.

Newman: Okay, so why not get them to ask for a pay raise? Wouldn’t that be fairer?

Peterson: I’ve done that many, many, many times in my career. So one of the things you do as a clinical psychologist is assertiveness training. So you might say––often you treat people for anxiety, you treat them for depression, and maybe the next most common category after that would be assertiveness training. So I’ve had many, many women, extraordinarily competent women, in my clinical and consulting practice, and we’ve put together strategies for their career development that involved continual pushing, competing, for higher wages. And often tripled their wages within a five-year period.

Newman: And you celebrate that?

Peterson: Of course! Of course!

Another passage on gender equality proceeded thusly:

Newman: Is gender equality a myth?

Peterson: I don’t know what you mean by the question. Men and women aren’t the same. And they won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be treated fairly.

Newman: Is gender equality desirable?

Peterson: If it means equality of outcome then it is almost certainly undesirable. That’s already been demonstrated in Scandinavia. Men and women won’t sort themselves into the same categories if you leave them to do it of their own accord. It’s 20 to 1 female nurses to male, something like that. And approximately the same male engineers to female engineers. That’s a consequence of the free choice of men and women in the societies that have gone farther than any other societies to make gender equality the purpose of the law. Those are ineradicable differences––you can eradicate them with tremendous social pressure, and tyranny, but if you leave men and women to make their own choices you will not get equal outcomes.

Newman: So you’re saying that anyone who believes in equality, whether you call them feminists or whatever you want to call them, should basically give up because it ain’t going to happen.

Peterson: Only if they’re aiming at equality of outcome.

Newman: So you’re saying give people equality of opportunity, that’s fine.

Peterson: It’s not only fine, it’s eminently desirable for everyone, for individuals as well as societies.

Newman: But still women aren’t going to make it. That’s what you’re really saying.

That is not “what he’s really saying”!

In this next passage Peterson shows more explicit frustration than at any other time in the program with being interviewed by someone who refuses to relay his actual beliefs:

Newman: So you don’t believe in equal pay.

Peterson: No, I’m not saying that at all.

Newman: Because a lot of people listening to you will say, are we going back to the dark ages?

Peterson: That’s because you’re not listening, you’re just projecting.

Newman: I’m listening very carefully, and I’m hearing you basically saying that women need to just accept that they’re never going to make it on equal terms—equal outcomes is how you defined it.

Peterson: No, I didn’t say that.

Newman: If I was a young woman watching that, I would go, well, I might as well go play with my Cindy dolls and give up trying to go school, because I’m not going to get the top job I want, because there’s someone sitting there saying, it’s not possible, it’s going to make you miserable.

Peterson: I said that equal outcomes aren’t desirable. That’s what I said. It’s a bad social goal. I didn’t say that women shouldn’t be striving for the top, or anything like that. Because I don’t believe that for a second.

Newman: Striving for the top, but you’re going to put all those hurdles in their way, as have been in their way for centuries. And that’s fine, you’re saying. That’s fine. The patriarchal system is just fine.

Peterson: No! I really think that’s silly! I do, I think that’s silly.

He thinks it is silly because he never said that “the patriarchal system is just fine” or that he planned to put lots of hurdles in the way of women, or that women shouldn’t strive for the top, or that they might as well drop out of school, because achieving their goals or happiness is simply not going to be possible.

The interviewer put all those words in his mouth.

The conversation moves on to other topics, but the pattern continues. Peterson makes a statement. And then the interviewer interjects, “So you’re saying …” and fills in the rest with something that is less defensible, or less carefully qualified, or more extreme, or just totally unrelated to his point. I think my favorite example comes when they begin to talk about lobsters. Here’s the excerpt:

Peterson: There’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the Western patriarchy. And that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. I use the lobster as an example: We diverged from lobsters evolutionarily history about 350 million years ago. And lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin just like ours. The nervous system of the lobster and the human being is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction, which it doesn’t.

Newman: Let me get this straight. You’re saying that we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters?

Yes, he proposes that we all live on the sea floor, save some, who shall go to the seafood tanks at restaurants. It’s laughable. But Peterson tries to keep plodding along.

Peterson: I’m saying it is inevitable that there will be continuities in the way that animals and human beings organize their structures. It’s absolutely inevitable, and there is one-third of a billion years of evolutionary history behind that … It’s a long time. You have a mechanism in your brain that runs on serotonin that’s similar to the lobster mechanism that tracks your status—and the higher your status, the better your emotions are regulated. So as your serotonin levels increase you feel more positive emotion and less negative emotion.

Newman: So you’re saying like the lobsters, we’re hard-wired as men and women to do certain things, to sort of run along tram lines, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Where did she get that extreme “and there’s nothing we can do about it”? Peterson has already said that he’s a clinical psychologist who coaches people to change how they related to institutions and to one another within the constraints of human biology. Of course he believes that there is something that can be done about it.

He brought up the lobsters only in an attempt to argue that “one thing we can’t do is say that hierarchical organization is a consequence of the capitalist patriarchy.”

At this point, we’re near the end of the interview. And given all that preceded it, Newman’s response killed me. Again, she takes an accusatory tack with her guest:

Newman: Aren’t you just whipping people up into a state of anger?

Peterson: Not at all.

Newman: Divisions between men and women. You’re stirring things up.

Actually, one of the most important things this interview illustrates—one reason it is worth noting at length—is how Newman repeatedly poses as if she is holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it is she that is “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.”

At every turn, she is the one who takes her subject’s words and makes them seem more extreme, or more hostile to women, or more shocking in their implications than Peterson’s remarks themselves support. Almost all of the most inflammatory views that were aired in the interview are ascribed by Newman to Peterson, who then disputes that she has accurately characterized his words.

There are moments when Newman seems earnestly confused, and perhaps is. And yet, if it were merely confusion, would she consistently misinterpret him in the more scandalous, less politically correct, more umbrage-stoking direction?"

Jordan Peterson Creates Humid Environment on Feminist Soundstage
"Charitably, let’s say her misunderstanding of Jordan’s positions is willful and deliberate, although I rather think not. My experience with most feminists is that they think critical thought is the same as arguing in a high school debate class, where techniques like derailing and turning constitute a ‘win’, which feminists then misconstrue as ‘understanding’. The winning condition for a feminist is never to understand. It is to feel. Angry, avenged, justified, vindicated, outrageous, virtuous – whatever the feeling, that’s how feminists argue. This particular feminist seems oblivious to how patiently Peterson lets her hang herself. At one point she is so flummoxed, she doesn’t know what to feel, and is therefore speechless. “You’ve got me,” she says, almost giddy in Peterson’s power."

Full interview.

"...if you think racism is ok for some people then you might be a racist."

"The idea originated in American academia in the 1970s and is generally stated as the equation “racism = prejudice + power” with the implication that only those who belong to the race which holds power are capable of being racist, therefore since white people occupy the majority of leadership roles in public institutions, only white people can be racist...

The first assumption is that positions at all levels of the power structure are held exclusively by a single racial group. The second is that there are no constitutional or legal boundaries to prevent those in power enacting racist policies in their favour and that they are willing to use their power to do so. The third is that any ordinary citizen who happens to share the race of the people in power, is able to somehow enforce their own racist prejudices just by virtue of being a member of that race. This last assumption is absolutely crucial since if this is not the case, it follows that people who are not a member of an institution wielding power at a societal level cannot be a racist even if the first and second assumptions hold...

If we consider racism to be morally wrong then it should be regarded as wrong for everyone in society regardless of their race and social status (if you think racism is ok for some people then you might be a racist). The only exceptions usually made to moral or legal rules are for people we would normally consider to lack or have diminished agency such as children, insane people and some mentally disabled people. Therefore if only white people can be racist due to P+P theory, it is giving all other races an exemption to a moral standard which is not only unfair but also insinuates that people of other races are less responsible for their actions than whites. An inconsistent application of moral responsibility based on race is inherently racist since it implies these people have less agency to act morally. This is often referred to as the bigotry of low expectations...

 These are some of the absurdities which arise from collectivist thinking of the type which gives rise to the P+P definition. The collectivist thinking that would have you believe that a homeless white veteran with PTSD has more power and privilege than Barack Obama, or that white people living in poverty in trailer parks have more power and privilege than the children of wealthy black, Asian or Latino parents who are Studying at Yale or Harvard. Those who hold this view require us to believe that it would not be racism if a gang of young men from an ethnic minority decide to go out and beat up a white person for no other motivation than their hatred and resentment of white people. Even if you pointed out that this act is itself an exercise of power and that they were using their overwhelming power in the situation to act on their racial prejudice, the answer would be that this is not the power which matters. All these confusing logical consequences, absurd conclusions, contradictions and ridiculous phrases such as “reverse racism” disappear if we reject the P+P definition and continue to use the actual definition of racism. It is not only more parsimonious and useful, but in it its neutrality it is also less racist."

"...the “sneaky fuckers” strategy - the way in which subordinate males manage to accomplish mating with females."

"As we close out 2017, let’s take some time to reflect on lessons learned over the past 12 months. In an act of no holds barred brutal honesty, this year completely obliterated the myth of the male feminist. Though these men claim to be champions of women’s rights, we’ve seen time and time again how they are nothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing. 

In the last several months, Harvey Weinstein, Joss Whedon, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose have all fallen into this camp. In the case of writer Michael Hafford, who has been accused of physically assaulting four women, he went as far as authoring a column for Vice’s women-focused site, Broadly, in 2015 titled “Male Feminist Here,” parodying the deceitfulness of this very group of men. [Editor’s Note: Hafford is a former contributor to; the company was unaware of the allegations made against this individual during the brief time he contributed to the website.] 

 From an evolutionary perspective, the approach has been described by the late evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith as the “sneaky fuckers” strategy, referring to the way in which subordinate males manage to accomplish mating with females—which they otherwise might not get to do—by taking advantage of instances in which dominant (and more appealing) males are preoccupied, fighting off intruders. This has been observed across multiple species in the animal kingdom and in humans, it takes the form of feminist men. 

These men know by rote all of the right things to say in order to gain a woman’s trust. They pride themselves on being sensitive, socially conscious “allies,” calling out “male privilege” and “problematic behavior” by the “patriarchy.” They will subvert any hint of their masculinity...

I’ve encountered a healthy number of male feminists in my day and they never fail to disappoint when it comes to posturing. Many proudly declare how much they admire “strong women” and will be sure to randomly insert inspirational yet irrelevant quotes into everyday conversation, like “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” or name Judith Butler as one of their favorite authors. (Yes, these men actually exist.) In doing so, they’re attempting to atone for the atrocious behavior of other men when really, they are engaging in their own special form of projection. A research paper published in Motivation and Emotion earlier this year suggests that virtue-signaling—commonly seen in men apologizing for the behavior of other men—is a reflection of a person’s own moral failings. Voicing outrage at unethical behavior is a way for people to alleviate guilt, essentially through overcompensation...

 When it comes to the hot topic of gender in particular, they know that men and women are different, but they will proclaim otherwise, saying nonsensical things like there are no differences between the sexes or that differences are socially constructed, because doing so will win them points and secure them sexual partners. 

But pretending these differences don’t exist only leads to a wider chasm between the sexes. 

 In a dating context, it hampers our ability to understand one another and form any genuine or meaningful connection. So, going back to the intersectional feminist dating checklist, I guarantee any guy who touts the “right answer” to each of these bizarre, social justice-related questions will reveal himself in time to be hideously deceptive. 

Thankfully, it seems women, including female feminists, have become wary of these red flags. They even inspired their own SNL skit last year, wherein a bunch of “male feminists” approach a woman in a bar only to call her “bitch” when she rejects them. Women deserve equality and to be treated no differently from men, and there are plenty of decent men out there who agree with me. The difference is these men don’t feel the need to run around waving a giant banner notifying everyone of this (or wearing a pink pussy hat, the national emblem of the Woman’s March on Washington in January). 

To have healthy and successful relationships, the solution isn’t mindlessly telling women what they want to hear, nor setting impossible expectations on men based on a biased worldview. For those who have bought into the unfortunate narrative that women are an oppressed class in need of special treatment in order to level the playing field, I will say that helping and supporting women because they are women is patronizing. 

There is nothing a male feminist loves more than educating women on how oppressed we really are."

"...under the cover of anonymity, 12% of Saudis declared themselves to be atheists."

" cannot control what happens inside someone’s head. You cannot stop them from thinking a thought. All you can do is make them too afraid to speak that thought aloud. You can find proof of this in the fact that, in a recent survey, under the cover of anonymity, 12% of Saudis declared themselves to be atheists and in the fact that the Arabic version of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion has been downloaded 10 million times. Even in the world’s most repressive country, in which unbelief is punishable by death and people are not free to utter the mildest skepticism aloud, in their minds, some of them are free. Fear and threats are poor persuaders. Arguments must be refuted with arguments; speech can only, in the long run, be effectively countered with speech..

When you take away someone’s right to speak, you also infringe on the rights of others to hear them. You prevent those students from learning how to confront, challenge, sift, weigh and evaluate the ideas of others. These are vital skills. 

I learned far more discussing things with my fellow students than I ever did in lectures. We must learn to counter speech with speech, to have the tools to respond with arguments, rather than violence. And we must also understand that being mistaken in a theory or wrongheaded about an idea is not, in itself, prove of iniquity. I strongly disagree with Peterson on a number of issues, but I feel able to refute his arguments because I have read his work and heard him speak. 

Watching students harass and threaten him and hearing about the death threats and kidnapping threats he and his wife and children have received, on the other hand, makes me feel pity for him as a person. Ideas should be critiqued, but human beings deserve our respect and protection. When we make decisions about who to allow to speak and who to silence, we often make very poor decisions. Even in the West. That’s why reformer Ayaan Hirsi Ali met with death threats from some members of the Muslim community in Australia where she wanted to speak out against practices like child marriage and FGM, while the group’s imam gives talks on such subjects as why and how a good Muslim should beat his wife with impunity. 

When we don’t allow ideas to be fully discussed, when we don’t encourage people to read and listen to the actual work of scholars and writers before passing judgement upon them, we get quote mining, witch hunts, careers and reputations ruined and families faced with death threats — often on the basis of partial, twisted or even completely fictional misrepresentations of their ideas. In all fairness, we must always allow controversial figures to put their own case. We must retain a principle of innocent until proven guilty. 

I often hear the argument that if speakers are allowed to make certain bigoted generalisations about specific minority groups or utter racist, sexist or homophobic slurs, this will create a hostile atmosphere which will effectively silence members of minorities. While I believe we should all strive to be as polite, kind and considerate of people’s feelings as possible, I don’t think we should allow specific words to become taboo, as it gives those terms a disproportionate power over us and can even increase prejudice since it may seem that the thing itself is so horrific that we shy away from even naming it. 

Queer was the Voldemort word of my own generation. Usually uttered in a sotto voce hiss, it was an accusation which could make the victim’s blood run cold. Now, it is one of the most politically correct of terms and its power to hurt has been completely neutralised. Likewise, we cannot base our morality on our fear of confronting the possibility of certain ideas. Our psyches must become resilient enough to not be cowed by a collection of syllables. And our ethical instincts must be robust enough to explore, investigate, face up to truth and still be able to decide on a course of action which will maximise human happiness...

This doesn’t mean bad ideas should go unchallenged. On the contrary, we can only effectively challenge bad ideas if we actually know what they are. So I want to know what someone like Richard Spencer is telling his followers. I don’t want it shrouded in mystery. I don’t want him made into some kind of a martyr. I don’t think punching him convinced anyone to oppose him. I want to know what he is saying because I want his racist, white supremacist ideology exposed, derided, ridiculed and debunked. Give him the rope. Let him hang himself..

The New York Times article falls into one further fallacy which is the result of a deep blindness to the author’s own privilege. I call this the Pastor Niemoeller Fallacy. The writer believes that he will always be one of those in charge of deciding who is allowed to speak and who must be silenced and that his own free speech rights will therefore always remain protected, even as those of others are infringed. This is selfish. But also, I think, naive. And not just because, on a worldwide scale, those silenced are overwhelmingly atheists, liberals, dissidents and freethinkers. 

We are living in the age of Trump. It’s surely not that far-fetched to imagine an America under right-wing rule where you are forbidden to teach evolution, where sex education is a taboo topic, where your career could end if you didn’t pay lip service to Christianity. There are already plenty of pockets of repressive anti free-speech authoritarianism on the right, too. Just look at Liberty University, where staff have to agree to teach their students the ludicrous fiction that the world is only 6,000 years old. We have to make a clear distinction between speech and violence. 

When we use hyperbolic language, such as claiming that not using someone’s preferred pronouns is an act of assault or that criticizing Black Lives Matter is an erasure of African Americans, we are equating speech and violence. That’s something we should never do: even when we find the speech in question despicable, disgusting, deeply offensive or vile. Because if just saying something is considered an act of violence, that means it’s OK to counter it with actual violence. That will convince no one. And simply perpetuate a cycle of hate. 

We also should never assume that the fact that people are outraged by something someone has said or allegedly said means that the speaker deserves to be punished. They placed Galileo under house arrest; they burnt Giordano Bruno at the stake; they terrorized Salman Rushdie. And, most recently, a mob of hundreds of his fellow students beat promising young intellectual Mashal Khan to death, on campus, in broad daylight. 

Don’t silence anyone. Answer speech with speech. Always."

"...straight women’s gaydar improves when they are in the fertile period of their menstrual cycle."

"...recent research has offered support for the core idea behind Ulrichs’ theory, including neuroimaging studies showing that the brains of gay men and women are, respectively, partially feminized and masculinized. Research has also shown genetic underpinnings to homosexuality. Based on these findings, one would expect corresponding differences in behavior associated with sexual orientation. 

Indeed, studies have shown differences in speech patterns associated with sexual orientation, which is probably one of the first things that come to mind when we think of differences between gay and straight folk...  In one study from almost 20 years ago, participants listened to tape recordings of straight and openly gay men speaking. Study participants were able to correctly identify the speaker’s sexual orientation roughly 80 percent of the time, despite the fact that participants also showed a bias toward identifying speakers as straight.

There are also documented differences between homosexual and heterosexual people with regard to their physical mannerisms. For instance, research has shown that people are able to tell someone’s sexual orientation from the way they walk... Regarding physical appearance, we can glean a huge amount of non-verbal information by looking at a person’s face, and a complex system of mechanisms in the brain have evolved to help us with this process.

This also extends to sexual orientation; despite having low confidence in their judgments, people are able to accurately identify someone’s sexual orientation within one-twentieth of a second of looking at their face. Researchers at Brock University in Canada also found that our facial features differ according to our sexual orientation...

What does this all mean, in the bigger picture? Life is hectic and complicated, and we, as human beings, have evolved the ability to read social information quickly and reliably. Since many aspects of who we are, like sex, age and race, are quite obvious from the get-go when we take a gander at someone, it follows that sexual orientation would be, to some extent, similar. Being able to correctly identify whether someone is gay or straight helps us in our pursuit of finding a suitable mate, and research has actually shown that straight women’s gaydar improves when they are in the fertile period of their menstrual cycle. 

I’ve also been hearing a lot lately about how sexual orientation and gendered behavior are two completely unrelated things, but the reality is—at least from a scientific perspective—they are interconnected and, as you’ve seen, noticeable across a wide range of measures across many different sub-disciplines within sexology. We can acknowledge that there are identifiable differences between gay and straight people without being homophobic.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from the paper was that people with higher anti-gay prejudice have less accurate gaydar because they tend to assume that everyone is straight."

"That core truth is: The war on drugs has always been a pointless sham."

"America's War on Drugs" from the History Channel was excellent.

The History Channel Is Finally Telling the Stunning Secret Story of the War on Drugs:  "For decades the federal government has engaged in a shifting series of alliances of convenience with some of the world’s largest drug cartels. So while the U.S. incarceration rate has quintupled since President Richard Nixon first declared the war on drugs in 1971, top narcotics dealers have simultaneously enjoyed protection at the highest levels of power in America....

There’s no mealy mouthed truckling about what happened. The first episode opens with the voice of Lindsay Moran, a one-time clandestine CIA officer, declaring, “The agency was elbow deep with drug traffickers.” Then Richard Stratton, a marijuana smuggler turned writer and television producer, explains, “Most Americans would be utterly shocked if they knew the depth of involvement that the Central Intelligence Agency has had in the international drug trade.” Next, New York University professor Christian Parenti tells viewers, “The CIA is from its very beginning collaborating with mafiosas who are involved in the drug trade because these mafiosas will serve the larger agenda of fighting communism.” 

For the next eight hours, the series sprints through history that’s largely the greatest hits of the U.S. government’s partnership with heroin, hallucinogen, and cocaine dealers. That these greatest hits can fill up most of four two-hour episodes demonstrates how extraordinarily deep and ugly the story is. First we learn about the CIA working with Florida mob boss Santo Trafficante Jr. in the early 1960s. The CIA wanted Fidel Castro dead and, in return for Trafficante’s help in various assassination plots, was willing to turn a blind eye to the extensive drug trafficking by Trafficante and his allied Cuban exiles. 

Then there’s the extremely odd tale of how the CIA imported significant amounts of LSD from its Swiss manufacturer in hopes that it could be used for successful mind control. Instead, by dosing thousands of young volunteers including Ken Kesey, Whitey Bulger, and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, the agency accidentally helped popularize acid and generate the 1960s counterculture of psychedelia. 

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. allied with anti-communist forces in Laos that leveraged our support to become some of the largest suppliers of opium on earth. Air America, a CIA front, flew supplies for the guerrillas into Laos and then flew drugs out, all with the knowledge and protection of U.S. operatives. The same dynamic developed in the 1980s as the Reagan administration tried to overthrow the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The planes that secretly brought arms to the contras turned around and brought cocaine back to America, again shielded from U.S. law enforcement by the CIA. 

Most recently, there’s our 16-year-long war in Afghanistan. While less has been uncovered about the CIA’s machinations here, it’s hard not to notice that we installed Hamid Karzai as president while his brother apparently was on the CIA payroll and, simultaneously, one of the country’s biggest opium dealers. Afghanistan now supplies about 90 percent of the world’s heroin."

"Everyday Women's & Gender Studies."


That Google Memo.

Nobody cares about it anymore because it was a million news cycles ago, but I found the whole thing kind of insane and had a bunch of notes in my queue that I'm finally getting around to organizing.  The reporting on the actual content of the memo was highly disingenuous, imo.

"I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem."

No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science - The Globe and Mail: "Despite how it’s been portrayed, the memo was fair and factually accurate. Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our interests and behaviour. As mentioned in the memo, gendered interests are predicted by exposure to prenatal testosterone – higher levels are associated with a preference for mechanically interesting things and occupations in adulthood. Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to be dominated by men. 

We see evidence for this in girls with a genetic condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia, who are exposed to unusually high levels of testosterone in the womb. When they are born, these girls prefer male-typical, wheeled toys, such as trucks, even if their parents offer more positive feedback when they play with female-typical toys, such as dolls. Similarly, men who are interested in female-typical activities were likely exposed to lower levels of testosterone. As well, new research from the field of genetics shows that testosterone alters the programming of neural stem cells, leading to sex differences in the brain even before it’s finished developing in utero. This further suggests that our interests are influenced strongly by biology, as opposed to being learned or socially constructed. 

Many people, including a former Google employee, have attempted to refute the memo’s points, alleging that they contradict the latest research. I’d love to know what “research done […] for decades” he’s referring to, because thousands of studies would suggest otherwise. A single study, published in 2015, did claim that male and female brains existed along a “mosaic” and that it isn’t possible to differentiate them by sex, but this has been refuted by four – yes, four – academic studies since. This includes a study that analyzed the exact same brain data from the original study and found that the sex of a given brain could be correctly identified with 69-per-cent to 77-per-cent accuracy. Of course, differences exist at the individual level, and this doesn’t mean environment plays no role in shaping us. But to claim that there are no differences between the sexes when looking at group averages, or that culture has greater influence than biology, simply isn’t true."

...In fact, research has shown that cultures with greater gender equity have larger sex differences when it comes to job preferences, because in these societies, people are free to choose their occupations based on what they enjoy. As the memo suggests, seeking to fulfill a 50-per-cent quota of women in STEM is unrealistic. As gender equity continues to improve in developing societies, we should expect to see this gender gap widen. This trend continues into the area of personality, as well. Contrary to what detractors would have you believe, women are, on average, higher in neuroticism and agreeableness, and lower in stress tolerance. Some intentionally deny the science because they are afraid it will be used to justify keeping women out of STEM. But sexism isn’t the result of knowing facts; it’s the result of what people choose to do with them. This is exactly what the mob of outrage should be mobilizing for, instead of denying biological reality and being content to spend a weekend doxxing a man so that he would lose his job. At this point, as foreshadowed in Mr. Damore’s manifesto, we should be more concerned about viewpoint diversity than diversity revolving around gender."

Gender & Toys: Monkey Study Suggests Hormonal Basis For Children's Toy Preferences | HuffPost: "In experiments, male adolescent monkeys also prefer to play with wheeled vehicles while the females prefer dolls — and their societies say nothing on the matter. The monkey research, conducted with two different species in 2002 and 2008, strongly suggested a biological explanation for children’s toy preferences. In recent years, the question has become: How and why does biology make males (be they monkey or human) prefer trucks, and females, dolls? New and ongoing research suggests babies’ exposure to hormones while they are in the womb causes their toy preferences to emerge soon after birth. As for why evolution made this so, questions remain, but the toys may help boys and girls develop the skills they once needed to fulfill their ancient gender roles. 

First, in 2009, Gerianne Alexander, professor of psychology at Texas A&M University, and her colleagues found that 3- and 4-month-old boys’ testosterone levels correlated with how much more time they spent looking at male-typical toys such as trucks and balls compared with female-typical toys such as dolls, as measured by an eye tracker. Their level of exposure to the hormone androgen during gestation (which can be estimated by their digit ratio, or the relative lengths of their index and ring fingers) also correlated with their visual interest in male-typical toys. “Specifically, boys with more male-typical digit ratios showed greater visual interest in a ball compared to a doll,” Alexander told Life’s Little Mysteries. 

Kim Wallen, a psychologist at Emory University who has studied the gender-specific toy preferences of young rhesus monkeys, said, “The striking thing about the looking data shows that the attraction to these objects occurs very early in life, before it’s likely to have been socialized.” Further buttressing the idea that toy preferences are caused by hormones, last year, a group of British researchers found that girls with a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia, who experienced abnormally high levels of the male sex hormone androgen while in the womb, prefer to play with male-typical toys. [Why Is Pink for Girls and Blue for Boys?] But why would male sex hormones make people favor wheeled vehicles and balls? A common explanation holds that these toys facilitate more vigorous activity, which boys are evolutionarily programmed to seek out. But the 2009 study indicated that their affinity for balls and trucks predates the stage when children actually start playing with toys. At just 3 months old, the newborn boys already fixed their eyes on the toys associated with their gender. “Given that these babies lack physical abilities that would allow them to ‘play’ with these toys as do older children, our finding suggests that males preference for male-typical toys are not determined by the activities supported by the toys (i.e., movement, rough play),” Alexander said. Wallen approaches the data more cautiously. “It’s hard to interpret what the looking data mean because we don’t know why people are attracted to specific things. 

Clearly children recognize that certain objects in their environment are appropriate for certain activities. They could be looking at a certain toy because it facilitates an activity they like,” he said. The debate over why boys prefer toy vehicles and balls continues. In a new study, Alexander and her colleagues investigated whether 19-month-olds move around when playing with trucks and balls more than they do when playing with dolls. According to the study, they don’t. Toddlers with higher levels of testosterone are more active than toddlers with lower levels of the sex hormone, but the active toddlers moved around just as much when holding a toy truck, ball or doll. “We find no evidence to support the widely held belief that boys prefer toys that support higher levels of activity,” she wrote in an email. A paper detailing the work has been accepted for publication in the journal Hormones and Behavior. If it isn’t vigorous activity they’re after, it could be that boys simply find balls and wheeled vehicles more interesting, while human figures appeal more to girls. 

As for why evolution would program these toy preferences, the researchers have a few ideas. According to Alexander, one possibility is that girls have evolved to perceive social stimuli, such as people, as very important, while the perceived worth of social stimuli (and thus, dolls that look like people) is weaker in boys. [The Smarter Sex? Women’s Average IQ Overtakes Men’s] Boys, meanwhile, tend to develop superior spatial navigation abilities. “Multiple studies in humans and primates shows there is a substantial male advantage in mental rotation, which is taking an object and rotating it in the mind,” Wallen said. “It could be that manipulating objects like balls and wheels in space is one way this mental rotation gets more fully developed.” This is purely speculative, Wallen said, but boys’ superior spatial abilities have been tied to their traditional role as hunters. “The general theory is that well-developed skills in mental rotation allowed long distance navigation: using an egocentric system where essentially you navigate using your perception of your location in 3D space,” he said. “This might have facilitated long distance hunting parties.”"

By Firing the Google Memo Author, the Company Confirms His Thesis - "Most of the mainstream media refers to the former Google engineer's leaked internal memo as the "anti-diversity memo." Recode calls it "sexist." And Google fired James Damore for "perpetuating gender stereotypes." But in reality, the problem isn't diversity; it's that a senior software engineer admitted, perhaps unwittingly, to pondering three of the most scandalous thought crimes of contemporary American society. 

 The first crime is proposing that a meritocracy might be healthier for a company than bean-counting race, ethnicity and sex. The second is pointing out that ideological diversity matters. The third and most grievous of all is suggesting that men and women are, in general, physiologically and psychologically different, and thus they tend to excel at different things. 

"On average," asserts Damore, "men and women biologically differ in many ways." He then has the temerity to accuse women of generally displaying a "stronger interest in people rather than things," of having empathy and "openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics," and of being less pushy and having less interest in status than male colleagues. Women, this guy says, are "more cooperative" than men and search out better "work-life balance." There's much more, but I don't want to further upset any female readers. 

One of the problems with this kerfuffle was that the vast majority of the histrionic reactions on social media and elsewhere have misrepresented not only what the memo says but also its purpose. It was neither a screed nor anti-diversity. It was the kind of unvarnished, dispassionate and meticulous case that I imagine many engineers offer. It's difficult to believe anyone who read through it with an open mind could interpret the author's notions as an attempt to consolidate the patriarchy or make life less diverse in his field. 

 The other, bigger problem is the reaction to it demonstrates that the author is completely right about the lack of ideological diversity and the consequences of that lack. Damore's contentions about the bias at Google is a near-perfect summation of the dangers manifest in all close-minded institutions, including most of the news media and many universities. He points out that conflating "freedom from offense with psychological safety" shames people into silence. Further, he argues that these monocultures foster unhealthy environments where people can no longer honestly debate important topics. Finally, and most destructively, he says that these bubbles then promote "extreme and authoritarian elements." 

 We see incidents of this close-mindedness all the time. In schools. In government. In business. Just ask Brendan Eich, who was hounded out as CEO of Mozilla in 2013 for having the wrong opinion on gay marriage in 2008, despite zero evidence that he had ever discriminated against anyone in his life. Or, better yet, ask Danielle Brown, Google's new vice president of diversity, integrity and governance. She wrote in response to the engineer's memo, "Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture," and then rebuked the statement, telling employees that she wouldn't link to the letter because everyone disagrees with its contents. Rather than showing appreciation for diverse thinking among her ranks, Brown even went on to insinuate that the engineer's suggestions in the memo might undermine "discrimination laws." 

Does Brown believe that dissenting Google employees will now feel safer sharing their opinions when they see that the company won't stand by those making unpopular ones? Because, after all, any old VP of diversity, integrity and governance can defend positions that confirm the biases of the majority of their workforce. Of course, nothing in the letter states women aren't as good as men, or that women deserve less money, or that women aren't suited to be good at tech jobs, or that they should be victimized by the company. The author mostly theorized as to why self-selection might account for some of the disparity at Google."

In Defense of the Google Manifesto – AREO: " would think Damore wrote the next iteration of Mein Kampf. Gizmodo labelled it an “anti-diversity screed.” Mashable called it a “racist/sexist manifesto” when reporting that the author’s identity had been revealed. Tweetstorms were fashionable, with one user even positing that Damore was saying “Your gender means that you’re biologically incapable of doing this job and should never have been hired.” A popular response by a Yonatan Zunger chided the author as causing “significant harm to people across this company,” and for being incorrect in everything — except Damore’s points on the male gender role being inflexible. Even the respectable Atlantic managed to pipe up with a “Googler’s Would-Be Manifesto Reveals Tech’s Rotten Core,” by an Ian Bogost. Another Mashable piece complained “the text of that Google employee’s manifesto is just like every other MRA rant,” with the writer of the piece strangely going on to say, “The biological arguments get into some weird assumptions around gender that are also offensive for reasons unrelated to the tech industry.” 

Weird assumptions, you say? The sciences of sex differences and their results on cognition and behavior are not the purview of a fringe group of men operating in bunkers to prove their sexist fantasies about subjugating women. They are established, respected fields. I’m not sure what I can say to convince those who have reacted so adversely to Damore’s claims about biological, developmental, and hormone related male and female differences in behavior and personality, except to try to marshal the relevant information — and hope that their ideological biases don’t impinge on their willingness to accept scientifically arrived at truths. The reactions from hyperventilating journalists and bloggers has been akin to: “What Damore wrote goes against everything I know and my worldview. Which means… that he’s a sexist and racist.” "

...Prenatal and pubertal organizational hormones have an effect on individual behavior with “good evidence that exposure to high levels of androgens during prenatal development results in masculinization of activity and occupational interests, sexual orientation, and some spatial abilities.” Girls exposed to high testosterone levels in the womb have more male-typical career interests. Men are more interested in things, women in people. Newborn male and female children, (scientists use newborns to rebut the objection that children are socialized to behave in certain patterns) show a distinction in what they find interesting. Male infants exhibit a stronger interest in the physical-mechanical-mobile while female infants show a stronger interest in the face (the proxy for “interest” here being the time of fixed gaze). Men and women in 55 different countries show clustered patterns in the big five personality traits — with women reporting higher levels of neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness than men do across most nations. These sex differences are also seen in nonhuman primates in play and grooming, and object manipulation patterns also emerge in rhesus monkeys, with toy preference paralleling those of human children. Sex differences in mate preferences and status-seeking have also been studied heavily across cultures."

... "It goes without saying: noting different patterns in male and female cognition says nothing about the moral distinction about equality or treating people as individuals — a point Damore makes himself. But the reactionaries don’t seem to understand this. Pointing out aggregate differences in population does not mean we can justify discrimination. I’ll also note that the objectors in this instance are usually the types to say “we should trust scientists, they know best,” when it comes to issues like climate change, but when it comes to taboo topics like sex differences in behavior between men and women they are the first to plug their ears and cry out: “sexism, misogyny, biological determinism!”"