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Torture and remembrance

February 11, 2016

As a consequence of lawsuit pressed by the ACLU, the federal government has released hundreds more photos of torture committed at Abu Ghraib. Neuroscientists are less convinced that torture is effective than are the leading GOP presidential nominees.

Soldiers who committed atrocities under Pinochet are telling more of their stories.

Au revoir, circumflex

February 9, 2016

The Brits do best at reporting French news.

Socialism, globalization, populism

February 8, 2016

Quillette has two pieces quite relevant to the current political scene. First, Mark Fabian well explains the difference between socialism and the modern welfare state, something that gets confused on both the left and the right. Sometimes on purpose. A democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders mostly is pushing the latter.

Next, Corey Iacono points out how globalization has made the entire world richer. It’s important to recognize that all other policies for accelerating global development, combined, have made nary a difference. The one and only thing that has worked is trade.

Yet that globalization is a common target of the populist movements on both the left and the right. Michael Brendan Dougherty provides a sympathetic explanation of Trump’s rise and the populist challenge to the conservative establishment. A rather large point of contention between them is precisely how globalization is viewed. Trump wants to build a wall. The establishment wants immigration and trade.

Impure thoughts

February 7, 2016

Purity is one of the five moral dimensions made popular by Jonathan Haidt. Those most affected by it have stronger reactions of disgust. Some experiments suggesting that purity drives relationship distance in the digital world may indicate there is some substance to it. (Cite.)

Having little squeamishness, and being a sailor, I wonder if my far-ranging posts drive away acquaintances who are more pure of mind than me? Well, those of pure mind may not want to read this article, about the conflict between future mother and fetus, the anatomy of the placenta, and how contact with the semen of the father-to-be lowers a woman’s risk of subsequent pre-eclampsia. But sometimes there are pearls in the muck of biology:

Yet more evidence for a priming effect of semen came from a 2000 paper by Carin Koelman and colleagues. They discovered that a low incidence of pre-eclampsia was associated with oral sex, especially if semen was swallowed.


How old is that fairy tale?

February 4, 2016

Researchers appropriately located at New University of Lisbon and Durham University carried phylogenetic techniques from biology to fairy tales, to trace relationships and age of the latter. According to the result, Jack and the Beanstalk goes back five millennium, making it twice as old as the Old Testament. But stories about smithies dealing with devils are even older. Like sailors, smithies got a bad rap.

Sea lawyers and militia

February 3, 2016

You can take a cruise and learn how to avoid taxes. Don’t call those fraudsters sea lawyers, lest you be haunted by the shades of those insulted.

This article explains the low-key and so far successful approach the government has taken toward the Bundy militia, now better regulated than it was before. I liked this:

It used to be hard to prove what defendants agreed to do: You had to infer it from their actions, or find a snitch to repeat their conversations, or wiretap them. But this is 2016, and we arrange our affairs in the open. The government’s 31-page affidavit in support of the complaint against the eight occupiers is chock-full of their own words: statements in press interviews, statements in videos posted to YouTube, statements in widely distributed emails. It’s enough to make a defense attorney weep.

Thumping Trump

February 1, 2016

Rod Dreher has written not one but two interesting articles about Trump and what he means for conservatism. Regardless of how one views their political positions, National Review has largely descended into rote propaganda for its followers, while American Conservative frequently has articles interesting to those who don’t share its views.

The New Republic points out that Trump is the conservative establishment’s own creation. There is an easy argument that National Review’s attack on Trump is futile as well as absurd. Read it, but here’s the elbow in the side:

Take Glenn Beck. I really don’t know what genius at National Review thought he would be a good representative for impeaching an opportunistic huckster prone to wild populist confabulation. Sending Beck to stop Trump is like trying to get a gravy stain out of a carpet by steamrolling a prime rib into it.

Then, there is the notion that Trump is riding high because… Obama!


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