Archive for the ‘Behaviour’ Category

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


 

Sweden among the leaders of the sanctimonious claptrap at the UN again

March 28, 2017

Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden are leading a UN conference to ban nuclear weapons globally. Very politically correct and a marvellous opportunity to be self-righteous and sanctimonious. 123 countries and lots of NGO’s are going to participate in New York. Also an opportunity for a little holiday in New York.

Image result for un talking shop

The only problem is that about 40 countries are not participating. Every country which has nuclear weapons is boycotting the conference. It is just another talking shop and an opportunity for the irrelevant to posture. Maybe some of these countries attending are there in good faith but I have serious doubts as to their common sense.

Agence France Press + PRI:

More than 100 countries on Monday launched the first UN talks aimed at achieving a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, as Washington led an international boycott of a process it deems unrealistic. Before the conference had even begun, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, spoke out to reject the proposal in the light of current global security threats. “As a mom and a daughter there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Haley, who represents the world’s largest nuclear power, said on the sidelines of the meeting. “But we have to be realistic,” she added. “Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?”

Haley spoke in a group of some 20 ambassadors from US allies which are boycotting the negotiations, including Britain, France, South Korea, Turkey and a number of countries from eastern Europe. The ambassadors of Russia and China were notably absent, but both major nuclear powers are also sitting out the General Assembly talks.

Haley estimated that “almost 40 countries” were not participating.

The push for a ban was announced in October by 123 UN members who say the threat of atomic disaster is growing thanks to tensions fanned by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and an unpredictable new administration in Washington. Leaders of the effort include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Sweden, supported by hundreds of nonprofit organizations. But Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the United States all voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained — together accounting for most of the world’s declared and undeclared nuclear powers.

Even Japan — the only country to have suffered atomic attacks, in 1945 — voted against the talks, saying a lack of consensus over the negotiations could undermine progress on effective nuclear disarmament. Japan’s ambassador, Nobushige Takamizawa, addressed the General Assembly to explain why. “Efforts to make such a treaty without the involvement of nuclear weapon states will only deepen the schism and division” in the international community, he said.

NDTV:

India is not participating in the first UN conference in more than 20 years on a global nuclear weapons ban which opened here amid objections from major nuclear powers. More than 120 nations in October last year voted on a UN General Assembly resolution to convene the conference to negotiate a legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination. Britain, France, Israel, Russia and the US voted no, while China, India and Pakistan abstained from voting on that resolution.

The first substantive session of the conference began yesterday. In its Explanation of Vote (EoV) given for its abstention on the resolution in October, India had said that it was “not convinced” that the proposed conference could address the longstanding expectation of the international community for a comprehensive instrument on nuclear disarmament. India also maintained that the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) is the single multilateral disarmament negotiation forum.

It had further said that it supports the commencement of negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament on a Comprehensive Nuclear Weapons Convention, which in addition to prohibition and elimination also includes verification. It had said that international verification was essential to the global elimination of nuclear weapons, India feels that the current process does not include the verification aspect. In line with its position that India articulated in the EoV, India has decided not to participate in the current conference that will run through March 31.

It will, however, continue to follow the developments in the event.

The US, France and the UK led a group of over 40 nations that are strongly protesting the UN talks.


 

Indian Hindus are genetically racist

March 28, 2017

Hindu matrimonial advertisements are littered with “fair”, “very fair”, “tall”, “beautiful” and the like, but also with the bizarre “innocent divorcee” and ” clean shaven Sikh”. There are always enough clues to specify caste, if caste and sub-caste are not specifically named. Often the classified ads are classified by caste.

from scoopwhoop.com

The ad can be very specific and require a “convented girl” (which is someone educated at an english-medium school originally started by nuns – a “convent”) like this one from a Brides Wanted classified.

Typical conversations within families could well include:

“You can marry anyone you like, as long as he is from the community” (“community” means sub-caste) 

“You can marry anyone you like, as long as she is not Muslim”

“If she is a gora you will be divorced within a year” (“gora” actually means red but is a euphemism for pale-skinned)

“Even an Indian Muslim rather than an African”

“But she’s so dark, (so short), (so homely), (so well built) … ….”

“Not an Assamese (Sikh), (Punjabi), (Tamil), (Bihari) …………..  “

So I was not very surprised at this story today:

Times of India:

  • In keeping with the stereotype that “Nigerians sell drugs”, residents of a Noida neighbourhood want Africans to move out
  • Locals alleged one of the foreign students sold the drugs to a Class 12 boy who died of an overdose
  • Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister Adityanath this morning promised a “fair investigation”

Five people were arrested today in connection with the assault on four Nigerian students yesterday, Noida police said, according to ANI. “Police have arrested 5 persons. FIR registered, action will be taken accordingly,”said Daljeet Chaudhary, assistant director general (law and order), to ANI. 
One of the assaulted students spoke to the media today. “We asked people around for help, but not one called the police. Even our college did not help,”the student said.

Racism is not just endemic among Indian Hindus, it’s genetic.


 

Why I am an optimist

March 16, 2017

From a talk I gave on 15th March

Sometimes, I’ve noticed, I irritate people around me who would rather be sad. I wondered why I was an optimist and always saw the glass half full. 

This example came to mind. 

It is perhaps not widely known that the world is facing a new crisis. It is an inescapable conclusion if two assumptions are correct. First, that intelligence – however it is defined – is hereditary. Second, that more intelligent people have fewer children. If intelligence is inherited and the intelligent have fewer children, it does not take an Einstein to realise that the world is getting dumber every day. 

We know that intelligence is at least partly hereditary. Furthermore, all over the world, the number of children the intelligent have has fallen sharply. It is simple arithmetic that generation after generation, the world must be dumbing down. Or rather, generation after generation, children of the world must have dumber parents. 

This reasoning has a few  flaws. Intelligence is not just hereditary. It also depends on nutrition, education and the environment the child grows up in. Knowledge is also not the same as intelligence, and measurement of intelligence cannot avoid including some influence of knowledge. It has been calculated that even if we do know that knowledge is increasing, and has increased continuously, human intelligence peaked when we were still hunter-gatherers about 15,000 years ago. So although human intelligence has probably reduced, it has done so very slowly and is partly compensated for by the increase of knowledge. What is clear, however, is that intelligence is not increasing at the rate it would if it were a survival factor for natural selection. 

In any case, if and when an intelligence problem becomes a crisis, we can always solve it with the right choice of  tax system. As you all and every politician knows, no problem exists that cannot be solved by an appropriate tax system. So, in the event of a crisis, my solution would be very simple. Income tax would be scrapped and replaced by a tax on intelligence. The tax would increase with intelligence, but those with higher intelligence than the average would have their tax rate reduced for each child, while those who were below average would have their rate increased with every child. 

The world would be a very boring place without problems to solve. 

Perhaps it is so that fiddling with the tax system is not the solution to every problem, but in my worldview, problems exist to be solved. Not a problem in every challenge, but a challenge in every problem.

And that is why I am an optimist.

source unknown


 


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