Advice

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Apr 112022
 

Advice of Queen Artemesia of Caria to to Xerxes, 480 BCE:

‘Tell the King this from me, Mardonius – and I speak as someone whose record in the battles fought off Euboea was by no means the worst, and whose feats hardly the most contemptible. “It is only proper, Lord, that I give you as my opinion what I truly believe to be in your best interests. Keep your ships in reserve, and do not commit them to battle, for, by sea, the Greek forces will be as superior to yours as men are to women. What earthly need, then, for you to risk your fleet in battle? Not only have you taken Athens, which was the goal of your expedition all along, but the rest of Greece as well. There is no one to stand against you. Those who tried to do so were dealt with as they deserved.

This speech of Artemisia’s to Mardonius greatly alarmed her well-wishers, who assumed that her comments dissuading the King from fighting at sea were bound to lead him to punish her. Conversely, those who resented her, and envied her the honour in which – pre-eminently among the allies – she was held, were delighted by what she had said, as they assumed that it would result in her execution. In fact, when the range of opinions was reported back to Xerxes, he was hugely impressed by Artemisia’s take on things, and lavished her with more praise than ever – though she had already stood high in his estimation before. Nevertheless, he commanded that the majority opinion prevail, since it was his firm conviction that his men had stinted in fighting at their best off Euboea because he had not been there in person, whereas now he was ready to watch his fleet give battle.

Herodotus, Histories

Her predictions were correct. The Persians lost the Battle of Salamis, significantly affecting the course of Western civilization.

 Posted by at 12:54 am

Religion

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Apr 092022
 

Not only did religion used to make claims about factual and scientific matters, religion used to make claims about everything. Religion laid down a code of law—before legislative bodies; religion laid down history—before historians and archaeologists; religion laid down the sexual morals—before Women’s Lib; religion described the forms of government—before constitutions; and religion answered scientific questions from biological taxonomy to the formation of stars. The modern concept of religion as purely ethical derives from every other area’s having been taken over by better institutions. Ethics is what’s left.

Less Wrong

 Posted by at 8:21 pm

Power

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Apr 082022
 

The historian Henry Adams described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” This may sound like hyperbole, but it has been borne out by years of lab and field experiments. Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, has been studying the influence of power on individuals. He puts people in positions of power relative to each other in different settings. He has consistently found that power, over time, makes one more impulsive, more reckless and less able to see things from others’ points of view. It also leads one to be rude, more likely to cheat on one’s spouse, less attentive to other people, and less interested in the experiences of others.

Does that sound familiar? It turns out that power actually gives you brain damage.

This even shows up in brain scans. Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University in Ontario, recently examined the brain patterns of the powerful and the not so powerful in a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine. He found that those with power are impaired in a specific neural process — mirroring — that leads to empathy.

I’m a parent, and one thing you find very consistently with kids is that they reciprocate what you do. You smile, they smile. You laugh, they laugh. Among the powerful in various settings, their impulse to reflect what they are being shown emotionally has been numbed. They similarly lose the ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes.

Lord David Owen and Jonathan Davidson called it the “hubris syndrome” — a disorder of the possession of power held over years and with minimal constraint on the leader. Its clinical features include contempt for others, loss of reality, recklessness and displays of incompetence. Lack of empathy is part of the package.

Perhaps most distressing is that in lab settings the powerful can’t address this shortcoming even if told to try. Subjects in one study were told that their mirroring impulse was the issue and to make a conscious effort to relate to the experiences of others. They still couldn’t do it. Effort and awareness made no difference in their abilities.

Susan Fiske, a Princeton psychology professor, has argued that this change in attitude is adaptive and meant to aid efficiency. If you become powerful, you have less need to read other people because you have command of resources. The need to demonstrate empathy is behind you.

One behavior that did help some people relate to others was to recall a time when they felt powerless.

Andrew Yang

 Posted by at 9:02 pm

Why We Fight

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Apr 072022
 

This paper provides evidence of the long-run effects of a permanent increase in agricultural productivity on conflict. We construct a newly digitized and geo-referenced dataset of battles in Europe, the Near East, and North Africa from 14001900 ce and examine variation in agricultural productivity due to the introduction of potatoes from the Americas to the Old World after the Columbian Exchange. We find that the introduction of potatoes led to a sizeable and permanent reduction in conflict.

The Long-Run Effects of Agricultural Productivity on Conflict, 14001900

 

 Posted by at 6:54 pm

Birth

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Apr 042022
 

What is a woman’s life? Do not think, because she is not a man, she does not fight. The bedchamber is her tilting ground, where she shows her colours, and her theatre of war is the sealed room where she gives birth. She knows she may not come alive out of that bloody chamber. Before her lying-in, if she is prudent, she settles her affairs. If she dies, she will be lamented and forgotten. If the child dies, she will be blamed. If she lives, she must hide her wounds. Her injuries are secret, and her sisters talk about them behind the hand. It is Eve’s sin, the long continuing punishment it incurred, that tears at her from the inside and shreds her. Whereas we bless an old soldier and give him alms, pitying his blind or limbless state, we do not make heroes of women mangled in the struggle to give birth. If she seems so injured that she can have no more children, we commiserate with her husband .

Hilary Mantel, The Mirror & the Light

Portrait of Jane Seymore. Died shortly after giving birth to Edward, son and successor of King Henry VIII.

 Posted by at 5:29 pm

Excellence

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Apr 032022
 

In 2001, following the accounting scandals at Enron and other companies, a publication called CFO Magazine quietly abandoned its annual Excellence Awards, because winners from each of the previous three years had gone to prison.

New Yorker

 Posted by at 11:58 pm

Overton

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Nov 202020
 

Please look at the article on Wikipedia, from which this is lifted https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window

The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.[1] It is also known as the window of discourse. The term is named after Joseph P. Overton, who stated that an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within this range, rather than on politicians’ individual preferences.[2][3] According to Overton, the window frames the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office given the climate of public opinion at that time.
A new idea fills the window of what the public regards as unthinkable, causing the desired idea to shift into the window of what the public views as sensible, without its proponents necessarily having explained any benefits of the desired idea.

 

 Posted by at 1:31 am

These are the end times

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Jun 212020
 

A cop and a politician speaking honestly and telling truth. Be sure and click through to the complete statements.

But I will also say this: that everybody knows, every honest person knows, that the laws in this country today, they’re made almost entirely by unelected bureaucrats and courts. They’re not made by this body.

Why not? Because this body doesn’t want to make law. That’s why not. Because in order to make law, you have to take a vote. In order to vote, you have to be on the record. And to be on the record is to be held accountable. That’s what this body fears above all else, Madam President. This body is terrified of being held accountable for anything on any subject.

Senator JoshHawley, June 16, 2020
Speech in the US Senate

[The best part is about 8 minutes in, but listen to the whole thing. Here is the case he is referencing Bostock.]

 

So what do we do about it? Even though I’m an expert on bastardism, I am not a public policy expert nor an expert in organizing a post-police society. So, before I give some suggestions, let me tell you what probably won’t solve the problem of bastard cops:

  • Increased “bias” training. A quarterly or even monthly training session is not capable of covering over years of trauma-based camaraderie in police forces. I can tell you from experience, we don’t take it seriously, the proctors let us cheat on whatever “tests” there are, and we all made fun of it later over coffee.
  • Tougher laws. I hope you understand by now, cops do not follow the law and will not hold each other accountable to the law. Tougher laws are all the more reason to circle the wagons and protect your brothers and sisters.
  • More community policing programs. Yes, there is a marginal effect when a few cops get to know members of the community, but look at the protests of 2020: many of the cops pepper-spraying journalists were probably the nice school cop a month ago.

Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop
Officer A. Cab  June 6, 2020
Medium

 

 

 

 Posted by at 9:34 pm

Normal

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Jun 212020
 

“blacks might be more likely to die from chokeholds because their arteries do not open as fast as they do in normal people”

Darryl Gates, Los Angeles Chief of Police, 1982
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daryl_Gates

 

“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it.”

Donald Trump. 2020
Wall Street Journal  (paywalled site, try Fox “News” )

 Posted by at 8:32 pm