Open Thread and Link Farm, Frozen Like My Cold Dead Heart Edition

  1. Atheism and the Basis of Morality (pdf).The author argues that believing in an all-powerful, all-wide omnipresent, all-knowing God is incompatible with common morality, such as the idea that we shouldn’t permit a child to suffer terribly if we have a choice.

  2. Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets – Vox

    Multiple studies have pointed to this same conclusion: It ends up costing cities less to provide housing for the homeless, then not. But this idea doesn’t even seem to be on the map at all, except among the left side of the left.
  3. Asking the Wrong Questions: It’s Easy to Be a Saint in Paradise: Thoughts on The Good Place’s Third Season
    wonderful and thoughtful blog post on the ethics of The Good Place, by Abigail Nussbaum. Thanks to Mandolin for the link.
  4. Scott Satens provides highlights of the results of the recent Basic Income experiment in Iceland.
    Interestingly, people on Basic Income got slightly less assistance than the control group on welfare – but reported higher levels of happiness.
  5. Americans are becoming more socially isolated, but they’re not feeling lonelier
  6. Self-Styled Free Speech Advocate Dave Rubin Praises Jair Bolsonaro For Ridding Schools Of ‘The SJW Stuff’ – Angry White Men
  7. Donald Trump handed a chance to supercharge voter suppression in 2020.
    I don’t think the decision was necessarily legally wrong. But it still frees up the RNC to step up voter suppression efforts – specifically, sending “security” personnel to go stand in front of minority-heavy voting locations.
  8. Elizabeth Warren Apologizes to Cherokee Nation in Private For DNA Test
    Some Cherokee Nation members are saying that the apology should have been public.
  9. The Misguided Focus on 1619 as the Beginning of Slavery in the U.S. Damages Our Understanding of American History | History | Smithsonian
    The story is more complex, and goes back further, than some people think.
  10. The Destruction of Black Wall Street – by Chelsea Saunders
    A short comic about the 1921 white riot that destroyed a prosperous Black community.”
  11. 16 Black Moms Are Getting a Basic Income in Mississippi. Here’s How It’s Working. – Rewire.News
    It’s a pilot program; if it goes well, the plan is to expand it.
  12. How Big Is the Male-Female Wage Gap, Really? – The Atlantic
    There is no “real” answer to this question, because – even when well-done – the answer to “how big is the wage gap” is always dependent on which wage gap is being measured. This is about measuring the wage gap over the course of fifteen years; measured this way, the answer is 50%.
  13. Pelosi Aide Tells Insurance Executives Not to Worry About “Medicare for All”
    Aside from the “Pelosi is anti M4A” part of things (which is not a surprise), it’s interesting to see what they’re thinking about Obamacare and pharmaceutical prices.
  14. 3 philosophers set up a booth on a street corner – here’s what people asked
  15. Are You a Woman Traveling Alone? Marriott Might Be Watching You. –
    As part of an anti-trafficking initiative, hotels, airlines, etc, are being told to be suspicious of things like single women and interracial families.
  16. Cops Say Cindy McCain Didn’t Catch Toddler Trafficker at Airport: Reason
    “I went over the police and told them what I saw and they went over and questioned her and, by God, she was trafficking that kid. She was waiting for the guy who bought the child to get off an airplane.” That’s McCain’s version of the story; the truth appears to be, McCain called the police on a perfectly innocent mom who was with her different-race child.
  17. This filmmaker sat down with neo-Nazis and jihadists. Here’s what she learned. – Vox
  18. Restorative Justice | Thing of Things
    “There are some things you are entitled to that are completely non-negotiable, no matter how bad a person you are…. You have a right not to be tortured. You have a right not to be assaulted or killed, except when necessary to defend others. You have a right to food and water and shelter. You have a right to human interaction (but not to force unwilling people to interact with you, and that sometimes means sufficiently disliked people are doomed to loneliness– but it is a tragedy, every time).”
  19. U.S. Economy: Higher Minimum Wages Haven’t Increased Unemployment – Bloomberg
    The evidence is now clear: Either raising the minimum wage doesn’t increase unemployment, or it increases unemployment by such a small degree that it can’t be reliably measured.
  20. I might simply link to Henry Farrell’s response to people who want to engage him on race and IQ, next time someone wants to engage me on the subject. (A reminder: arguing for so-called “scientific racism” is not allowed on “Alas.”)
  21. Venomous yellow scorpions are moving into Brazil’s big cities – and the infestation may be unstoppable
    A lot of causes – including sanitation issues and global warming – have combined to make a possibly insolvable problem.
  22. Causation Fallacy 2.0: Revisiting the Myth and Math of Affirmative Action.
    Even if Harvard and other schools that are the focus of current lawsuits stopped admitting Black and Latinx students entirely, that would not significantly improve the odds of admission for White and Asian students. (Journal article, sci-hub link).
  23. Is Harvard Really Biased Against Asian American Students?
    Asian students are correct to think they’re being discriminated against in admissions. But that discrimination isn’t due to formal AA programs benefiting minorities, but due to informal racism for the benefit of white applicants. “These findings suggest that the same constellation of grades, activities, awards, essays, and test scores are interpreted as intellectual curiosity and academic excellence when presented by white applicants, but interpreted as evidence of an unimaginative applicant who is “booksmart and one-dimensional” when submitted by a student who is Asian American.”
  24. This Nancy strip is brilliant.
  25. Carol Anderson on Republican voter suppression – Vox
  26. Latino Turnout Surged. Then Texas Questioned 98,000 Voters’ Citizenship. | HuffPost
    We are increasingly dividing into the pro-democracy and anti-democracy parties.
  27. Can bees do math? Yes – new research shows they can be taught to add and subtract
    But can they be trained to do my taxes?

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113 Responses to Open Thread and Link Farm, Frozen Like My Cold Dead Heart Edition

  1. 101
    Michael says:

    Is there a reason comments are off on the Skull on the Shelf thread?

  2. 102
    Ampersand says:

    Because I accidentally unchecked something I should not have unchecked!

    Thanks for letting me know – you should now be able to post comments on that thread. :#)

  3. 103
    Harlequin says:


    Google found it paid men less than women for the same job. Whoops.

    For a single job title, apparently. It’s good that Google is looking into & fixing this kind of thing (and examining their procedures for measuring it, as mentioned in the article). But I would hesitate to draw any larger conclusion from that.

  4. 104
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Given how Google runs the analysis, there can be up to 3,000 job groups of 30+ people and up to 18,000 demographic groups of 5+ people. They claim that their methodology is statistically rigorous, but if this was a scientific study, I would discount it for being under-powered as well as p-hacking.

    Of course, it isn’t a scientific study (and shouldn’t be evaluated that way). As a way to produce more fair pay, it may very well be a decent approach, although it is far from guaranteed to be free from biases or errors. These are hard to judge given the paucity of information.

    A possible cause for errors that I did notice is that evaluations are rounded and then used for analysis, which can easily introduce rounding errors. The people who are officially at level 4, are actually rounded to that number. Some of them are actually level 3.6, while others are actually 4.4. Then in the analysis these look like they have the same skill, even though the difference is almost a full level. Due to chance or other reasons, demographic groups can differ substantially in their actually skill level for the same ‘official’ skill level, especially for small groups.

    Note that one of the lawsuits is a woman who alleged that she was hired at level 3 while a man with similar experience was hired at level 4. The analysis would then find that it is fair that he got paid more, as that takes assigned levels as being correct.

  5. 106
    RonF says:

    Amp @ 88:

    Ron, my impression is that the U.S. Armed Forces do not even want to accept more people than they’re currently accepting. It’s not “we’re turning away 80% because only 20% qualify”; it’s “we’re turning away 80% because 20% is the number we need.”

    According to this link the Army is falling short of its recruiting goals. Apparently the Navy is having its problems as well.

  6. 107
    Ampersand says:

    Mandolin, how is the Mona Lisa political?

    Ron, you didn’t ask me, but I’d say that part of what makes any work of art political is the context it was created and experienced in – which makes it harder to perceive after centuries.

    Nonetheless, we can still say a little about the politics of the Mona Lisa. The portrait is believed to be of a wealthy merchant’s wife; only the wealthy could afford to commission portrait paintings (and even for them, there might be only one or two portraits painted in their lifespan). So there’s some obvious class politics going into why this woman, rather than another, was the subject of the painting.

    (Incidentally, Da Vinci blew his deadline on Mona Lisa, and so the painting never got to the patron. As someone who has blown more than a few deadlines, this fact makes me feel good.)

    Secondly, Mona Lisa represented a new way of painting women. I don’t know if it was the first painting to try this new approach, but I’d bet it was the most influential one.

    The way Leonardo painted this portrait deviated from the traditional way women were painted like this in Italy. Mona Lisa looks directly out at us, the viewers, which was something unconventional for a woman in a portrait to do at this time. She also appears rather content and assured in her demeanor, which reflected more the expectations of the aristocracy among men rather than among women. Further, until this point in time, portraits of both men and women were typically cut off in the middle of torso and hands were raised so that we the head and face and shoulders occupies more of the panel upon which the paint was applied. Here, however, the portrait shows not only the woman’s head and upper torso, but much of her body down to just below her waist. We see all of her arms, which are not raised up but resting comfortably on the armrests of her chair. The implication of this kind of view is that we are seeing the entire person, rather than just a sliver of her. Leonardo’s approach was innovative and would start a trend in portrait painting which would influence European painting into 1800s.

    Of course, there’s no rule that you have to use the political lens to view Mona Lisa. (And it should go without saying – but maybe I have to say it – that I’m not advocating that this should be the only lens used.) But it is a lens that can be meaningfully used and which can add to our appreciation of the work.

  7. 108
    Ampersand says:

    Ron wrote:

    According to this link the Army is falling short of its recruiting goals. Apparently the Navy is having its problems as well.

    I stand corrected.

    I got the impression that the forces were turning people away from this 2014 article. (I made a mistake – the article is about walk-in recruits, not all recruits.)

    So what’s changed since 2014? First of all, the armed forces were being reduced under Obama, and now are expanding under Trump. And second, unemployment has been dropping for almost a decade, so the armed forces are going to have to sweeten their deal to remain competitive. (Which is a good thing.)

    But nothing going on now is even remotely close to making a draft necessary. All the branches but the army met their recruitment goals in 2018. As for the army, “The shortfall will not leave the Army paralyzed, representing only about 1 percent of the force.” There are currently 471,513 people in the army; their goal is to be at 500,000.

    The 2014 article I linked mentioned that the army used to send fat recruits to weight loss camp, rather than turning them down. My speculation is that either they stopped because it was effective, but not worth the money in a time of drawing down forces (in which case they should consider restarting the program); or they stopped because over the long term too many of the recruits regained the weight. I wonder which it was.

  8. 109
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    The military tends to increase or lower their standards in response to the availability of recruits & can force soldiers to stay in service (stop-loss), so they are unlikely to ever have large shortages. The impact of fewer recruits is on army efficacy, training costs and such, which is less visible. The impact of stop-loss is on morale, again, less visible than hard numbers.

    This reminds me of a social justice tragedy involving the military: Project 100,000. This was part of Johnson’s War on Poverty, where the intent was to use the army to teach skills and give a job to men who scored low on the qualification test, including people with very low IQ. The idea was that this would also make it easier to get enough recruits. The justification included the fantasy that videotapes, new at the time, would be a revolutionary teaching tool. Of course this didn’t work and the pressure on training centers was so high that remedial teaching often wasn’t even tried. So the end result was that these soldiers died at 3 times the rate of the other recruits. I guess that this is a way to reduce poverty, although culling is a rather immoral way to do so, IMO.

    Here is a lecture about this project.

  9. 110
    Mandolin says:

    Yeah, the lens thing gets laid aside a lot. A lens is just one way of looking at something. It’s not the only option!

  10. 111
    desipis says:

    Birmingham school stops LGBT lessons after Muslim parents protest

    A primary school that taught pupils about homosexuality as part of a programme to challenge homophobia has stopped the lessons after hundreds of children were withdrawn by parents in protest.

    Parkfield community school in Saltley, Birmingham, has been the scene of weekly protests over the lessons, which parents claim are promoting gay and transgender lifestyles.

    On Friday about 600 Muslim children, aged between four and 11, were withdrawn from the school for the day, parents said. The school would not confirm the number.

  11. 112
    nobody.really says:

    Project 100,000. This was part of Johnson’s War on Poverty, where the intent was to use the army to teach skills and give a job to men who scored low on the qualification test, including people with very low IQ. The idea was that this would also make it easier to get enough recruits.

    “I have only comparatively recently emerged from the United States Army, so that I am now, of course, in the radioactive reserve. And, the usual jokes about the Army aside, one of the many fine things one has to admit is the way that the Army has carried the American democratic ideal to its logical conclusion – in the sense that not only do they prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, and color, but also on the grounds of ability.”

    An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer, “It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier” (1959)

  12. 113
    RonF says:

    Actually, Amp, I spent a goodly number of hours a few months ago reading this biography of Leonardo da Vinci, the which I recommend. Blew the deadline? Heck, he never delivered it at all! He hung onto it, adding some paint here and details there and taking it with him from city to city and country to country until he died. It ended up in the Louvre basically because King Francis I of France was his patron (providing him living expenses and lodging) when he died.

    As far as the main point goes, its quite true that the political environment influences how art can be produced. A freer society permits more diversity in the ideas that can be expressed, a society that produces more material goods and wealthier people will create conditions that enable an artist to make a better living purely off of producing art, etc. etc.

    But to me, “politics influences how art is made” != “all art is political”. Politics helped create the kind of society that enabled a man like Leonardo da Vinci to create the kind of art he did. But I don’t see that it means that the art itself is political. I do not see that Mona Lisa was created with the idea of communicating a political message (and I certainly don’t see a political message in it), which is what “‘x’ art is political” means to me. Any man-made material object or piece of intellectual property is a product of it’s times. That does not make it or its production political.