Archive for the ‘Behaviour’ Category

Nuclear weapons are necessary to avoid another Hitler

July 8, 2017

Yesterday the UN again demonstrated its uselessness. More, it demonstrated, again that majorities are very often wrong and can be just plain stupid.

Countries without nuclear weapons voted among themselves that countries with nuclear weapons should not have them. The stupid voting among themselves that the more intelligent should not be so intelligent.

The UN adopted a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. Only 124 nations of 193 participated. The treaty was adopted by a vote of 122 countries in favor with one NATO member, the Netherlands, voting against and with Singapore abstaining.

The stupidity of the resolution and the vote lies in that neither those who have nuclear weapons, nor those who have experienced a nuclear strike, even participated.

 

  1. None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons — the United States, Russia, UK, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — took part in the negotiations or the vote.
  2.  Even Japan — the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945 — boycotted the talks and the vote.
  3. The only NATO country to participate, the Netherlands, voted against.
  4. The other NATO countries not participating were Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States.

The UN is good at sanctimonious, feel-good resolutions which are “full of sound and fury” but “signifying nothing”. It is, in fact, the presence of nuclear weapons which has put a cap on the number of deaths by war.

Time:

During the 31 years leading up to the first atomic bomb, the world without nuclear weapons engaged in two global wars resulting in the deaths of an estimated 78 million to 95 million people, uniformed and civilian. The world wars were the hideous expression of what happens when the human tendency toward conflict hooks up with the violent possibilities of the industrial age. The version of this story we are most familiar with is the Nazi death machinery, and we are often tempted to think that if Hitler had not happened, we would never have encountered assembly-line murder.

…… As bad as they are, nukes have been instrumental in reversing the long, seemingly inexorable trend in modernity toward deadlier and deadlier conflicts. If the Nobel Committee ever wants to honor the force that has done the most over the past 60 years to end industrial-scale war, its members will award a Peace Prize to the bomb.

Nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented.

The simple fact is that it is the existence of nuclear weapons which has prevented the blood-letting of WW1 and WW2 from happening again.

And which prevents another Hitler from appearing. And which will prevent Kim Jong-un from ever becoming another Hitler.


 

When acquaintances pass away

June 28, 2017

The bulk of those we “know” are acquaintances and they may number from several hundred and up to a few thousand.

If the Dunbar Number postulation is correct, we can have strong, stable, close relationships with about 150 people (minimum about 50 and maximum about 250). We  can also “feel” strong, one-way relationships with a few public figures we may never have met, and who may not even be aware of our existence (musicians, actors, politicians ….).

When somebody close passes away the measure of our grief and our reactions is dominated primarily by the closeness of the relationship and then by the circumstances surrounding the death. This has probably been much the same for humans through most of history. However it is our reaction to the passing away of acquaintances which may say more about our changing attitudes to life and death.

I am of an age now where hardly a week goes by without the passing away of an acquaintance. I am also of an age where new acquaintances come slowly. So my circle of acquaintances is beginning to reduce. Trying to observe myself, I would generalise my reactions to the death of an acquaintance as follows:

  • Less than 50 years old : Futility, cruel, tragically young
  • In their 50’s                   : Sorrow, regret, before their time
  • In their 60’s                   : Sadness, misfortune, not very old
  • In their 70’s                   : Regret, it happens, a good innings
  • In their 80’s                   : Acceptance, acceptance, acceptance
  • In their 90’s                   : Acceptance, celebration, a long span
  • In their 100’s                 : Wow! Was he/she still alive?

Of course the circumstances of a death also play some part in the reaction  – but not so much, it seems, once an acquaintance has passed 80. The same kind of tragic accident which takes the life of a 50 year old, seems not so tragic when an 80 year old is the victim. A few months ago a good acquaintance died in his 50’s following a bicycle accident, and it all seemed such a terrible waste. About a year ago an 83 year old acquaintance also died following a bicycle accident, but his death did not seem as tragic, and even included a hint of “what on earth was he doing on a bicycle at that age?”

I suppose it is because the probability of an 80 year old dying is so much higher than that of a 50 year old. Our sense of regret and loss reduces as the probability of death increases. The circumstances surrounding the death seem less important.

At 50 the probability of death is about 1: 300 but at the age of 80 this has increased to 1:20.

UK data image bandolier

Our reactions, I conclude, are probably strongly influenced by the probability of death of that acquaintance. As longevity changes, the probability of death changes, and our reactions follow suit.


 

 

“Solidarity” is overrated (and brainless)

June 22, 2017

One trade union supports another in a conflict in which it has no part to show solidarity with the other union.

Students rampage in the streets in solidarity with striking workers to show support in a conflict in which they have no direct involvement.

The EU president wants to impose sanctions on some EU members who are not showing solidarity by accepting EU immigration rules which they do not wish to follow.

“Solidarity” has been reduced to being support for one party in a conflict by a third party for reasons of “belonging to a group” but which disregards and downgrades independent thought. It is an appeal to class and is what pits “class” against “class”. “Sympathetic strikes” are not only – by definition – brainless, they demand that a “class consciousness” override thought. The fourth title of the EU Charter of Human Rights is labelled “Solidarity” but is really concerned about workers rights. Solidarity as it is used today, either as an excuse for actions committed or as a demand for actions to be taken, is always to defend actions or demand actions of a third party in favour of one of two parties in a conflict. The defence or the demand is based on group association and not on thought.

Brainless solidarity is what produces movements such as “White Supremacy” or “Black Lives Matter” or “Occupy”.

Solidarity has become a dirty word for me. But worst is that it denies sapience. It is always an appeal for a class association to overrule thought.

 


 

Would religions survive if children were not brainwashed into them?

May 25, 2017

Whether “indoctrination” of an empty child’s mind is less reprehensible than the “brainwashing” of an adult mind that has existing beliefs is not the point.  At issue is whether beliefs, which, by definition, exist outside the realm of knowledge, can be force-fed. No religion allows its followers to develop their own beliefs. All religions presume to instill their standard beliefs onto their own adherents and onto potential converts. Can beliefs be externally imposed or must they be developed internally? My own “belief” is that an idea, which is not the result of an individual’s own cognitive processes but is externally imposed, cannot be a true “belief”. All societies permit, and most approve, the indoctrination of children into the religions of their parents (or guardians). Apart from coerced conversions (which are still going on), I would guess that over 95% (and perhaps 99%) of all those who follow a religion, follow that of their parents.

Human behaviour has effectively made religion hereditary. Religion is not controlled by our genes except in that our genes may determine how susceptible we are to indoctrination. Yet our religious beliefs are determined by who our parents are. Unfortunately parents have not succeeded as well in indoctrinating children away from other undesirable behaviour. The growth or decline of religions across the world simply mirrors fertility on the one hand and the coercive conversion of peoples into the religion.

If a group of children were brought up in isolation on a desert island, by robotic instructors confined to teach only in the area of knowledge, and to answer any question in the space of ignorance with a “don’t know”, some of the children may well develop “religious” beliefs with divine power being attributed to the sun and the moon and the winds and the waves. But for there to be war between the sun-worshipers and the wind-worshipers there would first need to be those arrogant enough to anoint themselves as priests. There would be no organised religions without priests appointing themselves as special messengers of the divine powers. There would be no religious wars without “turbulent priests” bent on religious expansion. If every child was allowed, as it felt necessary,  to develop its own religious beliefs, organised religions would never catch hold. And if organised religions did exist they would merely wither and die without a continuous stream of new adherents in the form of brain-washed children growing up.

The problem lies not in whether one believes in gods or not, but in that organised religions exist and that they compete. They compete by claiming that one set of beliefs in the space of ignorance are superior or better than another set, also in the space of ignorance. The claims for the one or for the other are made by turbulent priests. It has been so ever since organised religions came into being. It is still so today, whether it is a mad mullah pronouncing a fatwa or a Hindu God-man calling for the destruction of a mosque or a Buddhist monk attacking unbelievers or a “celibate” Pope pronouncing on family values.

Who will rid us of these turbulent priests?


 

Democracy, like natural selection, has no need for excellence

April 14, 2017

Natural selection gives traits that are good enough for survival up to the time of reproduction. There is no value to be gained by being anything beyond just good enough to survive and only till reproduction is accomplished. Natural selection is about being “good enough” and there is no force which drives towards excellence. Fast enough may, in fact, be much more successful for descendants than fastest. Strong enough is good enough and there is no advantage necessarily accruing from being the strongest. The forces of natural selection are quite satisfied with intelligent enough and do not persist towards increasing intelligence. The equilibrium position is mediocrity.

And so it is with democracies. Democracies are all about winning elections, not about selection of the “best” leaders. A winning candidate only needs to be sufficiently intelligent and sufficiently competent and sufficiently rich and  sufficiently cunning and sufficiently dishonest to ensure the capture of sufficient votes. There is no value, and there may well be a negative value, in having more of a vote-winning attribute than just necessary.

Given that excellence, of any attribute, must be a minority “thing” (the bell curve again), any system promoting the majority must inevitably promote a leveling down – a chase for mediocrity. Natural selection is all about increasing population. Extinction is failure and increasing population is the measure of success. Democracies pander to the majority in a population. There will always be more of the poor than of the rich, the unintelligent will always outnumber the intelligent and the incompetent will always swamp the competent.

Excellence in sport requires special coaching and training regimes for elite squads of young athletes. Academic excellence requires elite academic institutions. Excellence in science needs its ivory towers. Excellence in companies is achieved by autocracies (including monarchies) but never by democracies. Military excellence requires elite troops.  Excellence in government and in management requires autocrats. To achieve excellence in almost any field requires elitism. “Socialist principles” abhor elitism. It is not perhaps so surprising that the essence of “social democrats” lies in leveling down, in making a god out of mediocrity.

At some point humans and human societies will find the need to drive towards improvement and a search for excellence. With no pressure to increase population humans will be freed from the constraints of natural selection and will be able to target excellence. Natural selection will have to be given direction with a strong dose of artificial selection. Once poverty is eliminated (but not the poor who must always be there) and population is stable or declining, even human societies will be freed to chase excellence. Democracies will then need to acquire some spine by institutionalising  more than just a little whiff of autocracy. Voters and candidates for election will need to qualify, votes will be weighted and elected leaders will be autocrats for their terms of office.

Leaders might then begin to lead again rather than being followers of the mob.


 

United was in breach of contract: It was not a “denial of boarding” but an unauthorised “refusal to transport”

April 13, 2017

United exceeded their authority. This was not a case of denial of boarding but one of refusal to transport. And to free up a seat for one of their own employees is not a permissible reason for refusal to transport. Even denial of boarding – which this wasn’t – would only be permitted in a case of over booking. This was not such a case. United is going to get screwed over in court – if it ever gets there.

The should settle quickly if they want to get past this.

Not that they can’t afford it. Their CEO will probably get a bonus of about $13 million.

Image result for united re-accommodated

Bloomberg:

Most of the coverage of the United Airlines bumping debacle assumes something like, “United Airlines had a right to remove that flier. But should it have?” But a close reading of the fine print of the contract included in every ticket purchased from United Continental Holdings Inc. strongly suggests that United in fact breached its contract with passenger David Dao.

The contract allows the airline to deny boarding involuntarily in case of overbooking. But that’s not what happened; the airplane wasn’t oversold. And Dao wasn’t denied boarding. As far as we know, he was removed from a seat he had already taken after being assigned to it. The contract’s specific provisions for removing travelers or refusing to transport them don’t include the airline’s desire to free up seats, whether for its own employees, as in this case, or for other passengers.

……. Rule 25(A)(2) of the contract applies to “oversold flights.” It says that “no one may be denied boarding against his/her will” until the airline asks for volunteers. Then, “if there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily in accordance with United Airlines’ boarding priority.” ……….

……. But all this is about “oversold flights,” which are defined in the contract as “a flight where there are more passengers holding valid confirmed tickets that check-in for the flight within the prescribed check-in time than there are available seats.” That’s a grammatically poor definition, but it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t apply to a situation where the flight isn’t oversold, but the airline wants to add its own employees.

What’s more, this entire section of the contract is about denial of boarding — which is legally different from “removal,” which is discussed in an entirely different section of the contract.

Rule 21 of the contract covers “refusal of transport” and includes involuntary removal of a passenger from a plane. It includes a wide variety of misdeeds, from the serious (deadly weapons) to the trivial (barefoot).

But nowhere does this section authorize removal or refusal to transport for no reason other than that the airline needs the seat.

That seems pretty unambiguous. Actually a fairly straightforward breach of contract and unauthorised (also uncouth) behaviour on the part of United.


 

United Airlines redefines “re-accommodate”

April 11, 2017

A  69 year-old passenger is “re-accommodated” by United Airlines into a hospital.

This upsets me more than most things do. Maybe my being 69 has something to do with that.

If you do happen to fly with United, don’t ever accept an offer from them to “re-accommodate” you.

United’s CEO made a non-apology after the s**t hit the fan.:

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.”

 

Time for UAL shareholders to sell off.


 

 

Drawing red lines or, by attacking, implying them

April 8, 2017

To draw, or not to draw–that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the body politic 
To shift and squirm around pre-drawn lines
Or to take to arms, all unforeseen, 
And by attacking, imply them

Just as with Obama, I don’t think that Trump has a very clear Syria strategy – yet. What he probably does have is a cloudy vision of where he would like the US to be. Whereas Obama kept drawing red lines in the sand and then kept shifting them to avoid action, Trump has not bothered with drawing any lines. Instead his strike against Assad’s airfield has just demonstrated that there are undrawn lines which, if crossed, triggers a retaliation. He has just not bothered with months of circular debate, creating “coalitions” of the good or “sexing up of dossiers” for the UN Security Council. (As an aside, there is a zero possibility of the UN subjecting the US to any sanctions for any alleged infringement of international law.) Trump’s red lines are implied and the onus is on his opponents to try and figure out where they are. It is not impossible that even Trump does not know quite where they are until they are crossed.

Trump achieves a number of things with his cruise missile strike, not all intentional perhaps.

  1. Syria and Iran and North Korea, among others, now have to guess where Trump’s red lines actually are.
  2. If Assad felt he could now act with impunity (whether he was responsible for the gas attack or not), he now knows that it is unsafe to cross Trump’s undrawn lines.
  3. Assad could begin to seriously address when and how he withdraws.
  4. Kim Jong Un gets a clear message that he could be subject to a “personally targeted” surgical strike if he crosses some unknown line.

 


 

A decision before dinner which Obama would have taken 2 years not to make

April 7, 2017

Risk-filled, reactive, unpredictable, dangerous. No doubt.

But decisive.

In the business and entrepreneurial world it is an axiom that speed of decision is the critical factor but must be accompanied by immense flexibility for course corrections. Few decisions are wholly good or wholly bad. The key is to be “in motion” which allows course corrections – and even U-turns – to be made. Altering any course is impossible if the engine is not running. But the worst case scenario nearly always involves decisions taken too late.

My opinion that Trump has few – if any – ideological hangups but is only a pragmatist is only reinforced by his Syria strikes on the Al Shayrat airfield.

Can business-style decision making work in international politics? That is the question.

But the contrast to Obama’s paralysis by analysis, his unending deliberation and overwhelming risk aversion could not be more stark.

Wall Street Journal:

President Donald Trump’s decision to order military strikes in Syria sets his presidency on a new and unpredictable course that is likely to shape his time in office.

Faced with his first major foreign-policy test—a moment that confronts every new president—Mr. Trump demonstrated a comfort with military action and a flexibility in approach that saw him change course not only on comments he made in the campaign but also on his policy toward Syria in just 48 hours after seeing gruesome photographic evidence from the Asssad regime’s chemical-weapons attack Tuesday.

His decision drew support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have long called for stronger U.S. action in Syria.  

But with his message delivered both in missiles and in a presidential address from behind a podium at his private resort in Florida, Mr. Trump faces the difficult choice his predecessor and other world leaders have grappled with for years: Now what? It’s the question that repeatedly led President Barack Obama to decide against deeper military involvement in Syria.

Just three months into his presidency Mr. Trump will have to find his own answer. He has to confront a litany of risky unknowns.

It is unclear how the Assad regime, or its allies Russia and Iran, will react. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump intends to move the U.S. more forcefully into the Syrian conflict—committing the U.S. military to greater engagement in the Middle East—or whether he plans to hold back beyond sending a signal that the use of chemical weapons won’t be tolerated by the White House.

One message was clear: Mr. Trump is willing to use force and to make decisions swiftly when he is moved to act.

“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow, brutal death for so many,” Mr. Trump said in a national address. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

It is a dramatic shift from Mr. Obama, who deliberated at length over military decisions and resisted years of calls for a deeper U.S. military involvement in Syria to help bring the conflict to an end. During his own election campaign, Mr. Trump suggested the U.S. should leave conflicts such as the one in Syria for other nations to resolve, including Russia.

The missile strikes mark an early turning point in Mr. Trump’s presidency. It is his first major military order as commander in chief. But it is also the first military decision of consequence that Americans and the world have seen him make after otherwise fitful first weeks as president, which have been marred by controversy and infighting in his own party.

Mr. Trump had in many ways compelled himself to act by vowing on Wednesday to retaliate for the gas attack. He had limited other options given Mr. Obama had cut a deal with the Assad regime, brokered by Russia, to remove its chemical-weapons stockpile instead of launching military action.

Interesting times indeed.


 

The killers among us

April 3, 2017

A number exercise.

Globally, somewhere between 7 and 12 per 100,000 of population will be murdered every year (excluding deaths by “war” or war-like armed conflicts). This number varies widely between less than 1 per 100,000 in many countries but up to 90 per 100,000 in Central America. Between 500,000 and 900,000 people will thus be murdered every year. Assume that 750,000 are murdered and with an assumed kill-rate of 1.5 the world will produce 500,000 killers in a year. Some of them though will be repeat killers. Again, assume that 80% are “fresh” killers. That would give a global production of 400,000 fresh killers every year.

In 2015, the world saw around 3,500 executions (not all for murder and over 2,000 estimated just in China). In any case, executions contributed very little to reducing the number of killers living. I further assume that the killers have a somewhat reduced longevity with an average of – say – 65 years.

It follows that we have 26 million murderers living among us – which is 0.37% of the global population (370 per 100,000 of population).

But another way of looking at the numbers is that in every 100,000 of population there are 370 killers present. Seven – twelve of the population will be murdered every year. Five to six new killers will emerge. Or that any “globally representative” gathering of just 270 people will probably include one killer. (I just observe that the US Congress has 435 voting members, the UK House of Commons contains 650 members and the Swedish Riksdag has 349).

from Wikimedia


 


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