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Just testing

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Let’s Make a Distinction

Objecting to the Israeli response is not the same as endorsing the horrors of Oct 7.  Mandana Rivka Dayani presents a fair response to supporters of Hamas, and especially of its action on Oct 7 2023. But most of the current demonstrators are not supporting the perpetrators of Oct 7 but rather objecting to the indiscriminate response which, rather than emulating the admirable Israeli precise targeting the perpetrators after the Munich Olympics, has been so incompetently indiscriminate as to murder three of their own escaped hostages and dozens of clearly identified international humanitarian support personnel. The actual scumbag terrorists would have far less ability to intimidate and dominate their community were it not for the support of the (unfortunately rather smart and by no means ignorant) scumbag Netanyahu who has consistently humiliated the terrorists’ less dangerous opposition in order to foment a situation that postpones or eliminates his prosecution and conviction for corruption.

Source: (1000) Mandana Rivka Dayani, a Iranian-American Human rights activist said that, ‘Never in my years as an activist have I seen other activists, upon seeing footage of little girls being killed and dragged through streets, immediately find the burning need

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Did Writing This Make Sense?

A Quora question asks: Why does it not make sense to say that 5 is a prime number and 8 is composite in this scenario: ‘There are 5 gallons of water in container A and 8 gallons of milk in container B”?

To which I reply:

It depends on what you mean by “make sense” – and also to some extent on the context.

We often say that an action doesn’t make sense if we can see no good reason for taking it, and so a statement can make sense in the sense of having a well-defined meaning – but it may not make sense to say it if it is not in any way useful.

In general the number of gallons in a container is a real number with zero probability of ever being an exact integer of any kind, so the question of primality of the exact value almost never has any well-defined mathematical meaning.

But if we are only looking at the volumes rounded to the nearest integer, then statements about the factorization properties of those integers make mathematical sense (in the sense of having a well defined meaning) even though we might usually say that it doesn’t make sense to be talking about those properties because we can’t see why one would care.

Most of the time that would probably be right, but there may be particular contexts in which the factorizability does matter.

For example, if we wanted to transfer the water in our containers into a number of full one gallon jugs, and then to cut planks to make a rectangular box holding those jugs in more than one row with no empty spaces, then that would be possible (with acceptable wastage) if the number of gallons in the container is (close enough to) an integer that is composite but not if it is prime. And so in that unlikely context it would make sense (in both senses of making sense) to say that 8 is composite but 5 is prime.

Of course it may not make sense to want that, or even to have written this answer; but I hope that, once written, it does make at least some kind of sense.

Source: (1000) Alan Cooper’s answer to Why does it not make sense to say that 5 is a prime number and 8 is composite in this scenario: ‘There are 5 gallons of water in container A and 8 gallons of milk in container B”? – Quora

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Peter Rosenthal 

Peter Rosenthal had a huge impact on my life. He taught mathematics not by showing us proofs, but by leading us through the process of discovering them for ourselves – and by doing that he led me to a rediscovered confidence in my own ability. His principled political stands were always focused on defending the abused, and often involved painful issues; but despite the seriousness of his work, the twinkle in his eye and wicked smile remind us always that life, even in struggle, can be fun.

Source: Peter Rosenthal – Steeles Memorial Chapel

See also:This G&M Obituary and  This earlier profile in Toronto Life

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Want $#\neq#$ Like

I think the Rolling Stones had a thing or two to say about this!

Source: You can want things you don’t like and like things you don’t want | Psyche Ideas

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One Not So True Thing

Mo Husseini’s list of ‘50 Completely True Things‘ is an admirable attempt to bring some perspective (and humour?) to discussions of the current conflict in the Middle East.

But leaving aside the question of whether 13th century Syria counts as part of Palestine for the purpose of claiming to have invented Hummus, there is one of the more seriously intended “True Things” that I have to take issue with.

FACT No. 40.

Any people have a right to group together and self-identify as whatever-the-fuck-they-want-to-self-identify as. When they get large enough as a group, those people have the right to self-determination and self-respect and a state where they can control their own destinies.

The first sentence is of course fine. But even with the “large enough” qualifier the right of any group to define itself (and take control of territory) as a state is just not something that can reasonably be supported.

One might think that it would be morally appropriate for Turkey, Iraq, and Iran to voluntarily give up portions of their territory for the construction of a Kurdish state. At least the members of that group already live on the territory they would like to claim. But if the proposal were to have them all move to some area in rural Canada and hive off a state there, then we might reasonably object – even if they were to start by purchasing large tracts of land in complete accordance with our current legal system.  Indeed we already have regions where identifiable groups form a majority of the local population and own a majority of the land (such as Dukhobors in SouthEastern BC or Menonites in areas of Ontario and Manitoba) but would give no credence to the claim that they have the “right” to declare independence. And for that matter what about the Rajnishi’s “right”, by virtue of land purchase and population import, to take over the Oregon counties of Wasco and Jefferson?

This is not to deny Fact#39’s assertion that what’s done is done. And indeed in a way the claim made in Fact#40 runs counter to the advice in #39 to “Stop with the fucking history lessons” and their associated arguments about whether people had the “right” to do things in the past that by now cannot in way be humanely reversed.


Source: 50 Completely True Things. This is a repost of a list of posts I… | by mo husseini | May, 2024 | Medium

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Priuses are Blue and Pick-ups are Red

. . . according to the current US left-right colour-coding of politics that is.

But, according to Suzuki Elder (and my good friend) Bob Worcester, the vehicle of choice should be green. And in order to provide the necessary all-encompassing view without too much environmental impact, perhaps it should be a balloon.

But although I see the value of looking at the political (or any other) landscape from above,  I am left with the thought that such a perspective does not come naturally to us; and indeed that we have a strong natural tendency to take any opportunity to polarize and divide into competing teams, parties, tribes, and nations – with the tendency towards a binary split being particularly powerful. So, taking the value of Bob’s “green” perspective as given, the real question that remains is how to effectively promote it – not just as something to be agreed with in principle, but as something to actually live by (both as individuals and as a society at large).

Source: Of Priuses and pick-up trucks – Suzuki Elders

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Carbon Capture plan “not economically feasible.”

Well duh! If it costs $2.4 billion to extract “up to” 3 million tonnes per year, then at Canada’s carbon “tax” rate of $80 per ton it would take about 100 years to pay for just the capital cost of the plant.

Source: Carbon capture plan faces doubts after Capital Power cancels $2.4-billion project – The Globe and Mail

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The Kids are (Mostly) Allright 

Writing in the ‘Persuasion’ Substack community, Shalom Auslander pleads  Dear Media, Stop Taking Students Too Seriously.

I like the sanity of this piece – reflected in full measure by that of the author’s son. And I agree with the criticism of journalists lusting after inflammatory content (and of advocates on both sides imagining it for them where it may not actually exist). But despite enjoying the clever humour with which it is expressed, I don’t share the author’s dismissal of college students as a class. Indeed I have seen far worse examples of mindless groupthink and hateful stupidity coming from people of all ages, and have never seen any evidence that a mind still growing is less effective than one that has stopped.

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Shame On Them All

The recent scandal at Guernica magazine was deeply embarrassing to me despite not having any involvement in or even awareness of the magazine.  This is because I know that if I had been aware of the magazine I would have been inclined to support and endorse it on the basis of its description alone and so the dishonourable behaviour of its entire editorial team reflects on my judgement even though I never had the “opportunity” to make that error. And when I say “entire” I do mean to include both those who quit rather than make a coherent objection to the article as well as those who remained and caved to the pressure to unpost it.

Source: Bring Back The Culture of Debate! – by Ross Barkan

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More about JKRowling

One answer to a Quora question about JKRowling goes as follows:

It isn’t what she herself has said, although she’s been generally insulting and has displayed great ignorance by denying the fact that the Nazis destroyed scientific literature about trans people. The problem is that she has publicly supported TERFS who *have* said bad things – people who approve of the murder of trans people (I’ve seen one here on Quora blaming Brianna Ghey for her own murder), and who want to have armed male guards in women’s loos to shoot any trans woman who tries to be in the same space as cis women.

Part of Rowling’s problem boils down to her inability to count. Yes, a very small minority of trans women are bogus and/or predators (I used to know one: they do exist). A small minority of lesbians are also sexual predators, and some teenage girls will sexually attack other females as a form of bullying, and even rape them with implements. The risk of an individual trans woman being a predator probably is higher than the risk of an individual cis lesbian or straight teenage girl being one, but since the number of cis lesbians and straight teenage girls is *enormously* higher than the number of trans women, they’re where the threat lies, if you want to get worked up about already very small dangers.

By getting hysterically fixated about a statistically tiny risk, TERFS have set the cause of women’s liberation back 50 years, making it seriously dangerous for any cis girl to appear anything other than fluffy and girly, or for any old woman to grow a moustache.

With regard to the first paragraph (and ignoring the fact that although the Nazis destroyed lots of scientific literature, some of which may have related to trans people, it is not clear that they did so for that reason per se rather than out of fear of sexual ambiguity in general) I wanted to comment on the “guilt by association” argument that some of those she supports may have said bad things. One can support the ideas of the Model T and Volkswagen without endorsing the other ideas of their promoters. The sins of the latter are of course so well known that any sign of approval of anything he did is suspect, but it is still quite possible for someone to endorse Henry Ford as belonging to the pantheon of great industrialists without being assumed to share (or consciously overlook) his racial views. So I still wonder if it is clear that JKR has ever supported the approval of murder of trans people, or the idea of having “armed male guards in women’s loos to shoot any trans woman who tries to be in the same space as cis women”.

Actually, I suspect that public washrooms are a non-issue for most of those who are often identifed as TERFs, but that their concern is more with places where they might have to disrobe in the open, and in the case of people who have been sexually assaulted with penises with wanting to have some guarantee that the person counselling them does not have one.

And with regard to the last paragraph in that answer, I have been told that what many feminists object to is not the existence of trans women but the suggestion that any girl who appears anything other than fluffy and girly, or who does not feel the need to eliminate any sign of facial hair, must accept the “reality” that she is actually a trans man.

Source: (1000) Claire Jordan’s answer to Can you specify the exact words Rowling says that’s transphobic and explain exactly why it is without saying it’s a “dog whistle”? Please don’t assume it’s “just so clear” because it isn’t to a large amount of people. – Quora

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“Very Fine People”

I expected to like this (more than 2 years) old piece by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff on the way opposing viewpoints seem to dig themselves deeper and deeper into extremes of overreach. But I was surprised to find in it yet another example of such overreach – one which may provide some insight into how these things often arise.

The section that bothers me is what strikes me as an overly defensive reaction to some readers of ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’  who sent them “hate mail” for allegedly perpetuating the “Charlottesville Hoax” which is how some supporters of DJT characterize the response to his reference to some “very fine people” on both sides at that awful event.

Haidt and Lukianoff acknowledge that it would be wrong to say that “Trump called neo-Nazis and white nationalists very fine people.” But then they go on to say

But that’s not what we wrote. We wrote: “With those three words—‘very fine people’—the president showed that he was sympathetic to the men who staged the most highly publicized march for racism and antisemitism in the United States in many decades.”

Now it may be true that Trump was sympathetic to those organizers, or just that he wanted them to think he was; but neither is unequivocally shown by what he said – unless he used those words in reference specifically to the organizers rather than just to some of the attendees (who may have been potentially decent people motivated by a misguided sentimental attachment to a historical figure about whom they had been misinformed and/or whose evil aspects they were turning a blind eye to).

They go on to say more about Trump’s references to a permit without confirming that he knew that it had been obtained by a “prominent white nationalist”, and to the lack of disorder at the previous night’s rally (whose truly racist nature he may be able to claim he was not yet aware of).  These comments could well be part of a more complete argument for the case that Trump was indeed tacitly supporting the racist elements but they don’t support the claim quoted above that the words ‘very fine people’ (applied to “some” of the participants) are themselves sufficient.

Source: The Polarization Spiral (from the ‘Persuasion’ community on Medium)

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“Mistakes and Violation of Protocol”

It may seem to Palestinians that Western outrage over the murder of foreign food delivery workers is placing higher value on our own ethnicity than on the other victims. But it is more that by seeing the targeting of an aid convoy whose content is readily verified we are now better able to assess  the frequency of “misidentified” civilian targets in general and to understand that with or without an explicit mandate the IDF practice is indeed much closer than we might have realized to killing anything that moves without regard to any proper assessment of threat. (The killing of their own escaping hostages and of the medical team assisting a trapped child could have been just a small fraction of a vast number of interactions, but the number of aid workers killed in this and other incidents is much more clearly seen to be a shockingly high proportion of those on the ground.)

But it is probably still overreach to apply the label of genocide to the Israeli government as a whole. The problem is with establishing “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religions group, as such“. Accidental indiscriminate destruction as a side effect of the intended elimination of a political subgroup may almost certainly be a war crime but it does not necessarily qualify as genocide.

Source: IDF investigation shows mistakes and violation of protocol, officers disciplined – The Washington Post

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Why MAGA Loves Putin

What’s more, the grievance and resentment at the heart of Trumpist nationalism in America is in some ways quite similar to the mentality of Putinist nationalism in Russia: One obsesses over losing the culture war and being disrespected by the “elites”; the other, over losing the Cold War and being disrespected by the West. Perhaps this explains other similarities in the two mindsets, from the penchant for provocation and in-your-face defiance of norms to the affinity for conspiracy theories.

Source: When Hatred of the Left Becomes Love for Putin

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Renewable Natural Gas?

Apparently FortisBC is being sued over ‘deceptive’ marketing tactics regarding so-called Renewable Natural Gas.

I haven’t seen what Fortis is actually offering or claiming, but capturing methane from waste dumps makes sense (and is renewable in the sense that the methane is being produced continuously by ongoing biological processes).

Ideally it might just be sequestered underground, but so long as people are still burning methane from the ground it makes sense to replace some of that supply with the recaptured stuff.

If the captured methane is more expensive to produce than that from the ground then it makes some sense to encourage people to choose to pay a premium for it. But it makes more sense to have a proper carbon tax on the ground-pumped stuff, with a lesser tax on the recovered so that using the recovered is actually cheaper for the consumer.

Source: FortisBC sued over ‘deceptive’ marketing tactics – Vancouver Is Awesome

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Hospitals Under Siege!

One doesn’t “besiege” a site that is not resisting. So the question that comes to mind here is who is returning fire and how did they get in to “defend” the hospitals?

Source: Israeli forces besiege two hospitals, kill dozens in new Gaza attacks, Palestinian medics say – The Globe and Mail

and this on the after effects.

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Polkinghorne’s QTVSI

John Polkinghorne’s  Quantum Theory – a Very Short Introduction is a decent enough introduction to quantum theory, but might have been even better if 30% shorter.

The first two chapters are a pretty good introduction to the historical motivation and some basic features of the theory. But the third chapter is more problematic – perhaps in part because it is discussing philosophy rather than physics, and in philosophical discussions it is easier to misinterpret and/or misrepresent the opinions of others.

On pp42-43 Polkinghorne alludes to an “error” that some claim to have discovered in the work of John von Neumann, but many others read vN as not having ever actually made the claim that is found to be wrong.

On page 45 he makes the incorrect assertion that “the electron’s magnet can only point in two opposing directions”, when in fact the magnetic moment of the electron can be measured (and found to be nonzero) along any axis we like. What is true is that for  whatever direction we choose to measure, there can only be two possible observed values, which will be seen with probabilities depending on how the electron was prepared (eg on what previous measurement it has been subjected to); and this more correct statement is actually sufficient to motivate the subsequent discussion of “collapse”, so perhaps that error can be overlooked.

I don’t think Polkinghorne says anything particularly wrong or unfair about most of the approaches to the measurement/collapse issue, but as an advocate of the ‘Irrelevance/RelativeState’ school/sub-school I find it odd that he considers “seems very odd” to be a serious objection to an interpretation of Quantum Theory. Surely we all agree that, compared to our natural intuition, quantum theory is indeed “very odd”. Also I think he misses the point that the predictions of any human theory of physics are about what a human observer will see, so we should not be surprised that it’s also true of quantum theory; and the relative state approach does not actually depend on consciousness per se, as it can be applied more generally for states of one part of the universe relative to another regardless of whether or not the “observing” part corresponds to a conscious entity. And to call what is perhaps the most widespread approach among physicists “abhorrent to the mind of the scientist” is a bit presumptuous – as is the misuse of “treason of the clerks” to refer to an attitude of philosophical restraint when the term was originally used with regard more to the opposite.

When he gets back to proper physics in Chapter 4, I think the content is a pretty good summary of what is going on, but I start to have issues again in Chapter 5.

In particular the claim on p.79 that “the majority view leads to the conclusion that measurement on 1 produces an instantaneous change at 2” is, I think, false. Although the Bertelmann’s socks analogy does not in fact resolve the more sophisticated conundrums related to Bell’s inequality, it does show how the existence of a correlation does not necessarily imply any transmission of effect. And the spurious “produces an instantaneous change” language is especially odd since Polkinghorne does end the chapter pretty well clarifying that no FTL information transfer is enabled by quantum correlations.

Finally, while I don’t really find anything to object to in the more philosophical Chapter 6, neither do I see it as adding anything useful to our understanding of the physics.

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Genocidal anti-genocide

Many (but not all) anti-genocide protests are themselves genocidal (in the opposite direction), so opposing those protests does not imply endorsing what they are protesting against.

And failing to recognize the genocidal aspects of an entity’s behaviour is not the same as being pro genocide.

Source: (1000) Alan Cooper’s answer to Why are there so many staunch pro genocide Israel supporters? Why do they oppose anti-genocide protests? – Quora

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The Theft Continues

The life of Scandinavian writer Victoria Benedictsson, who achieved literary stardom under a male identity as Ernst Ahlgren and then committed suicide apparently due to unrequeited love for a man, is quite a fascinating story.

But it seems odd that in an essay (by a woman) suggesting that the story of that life was “stolen” by August Strindberg (as source material for one of his plays) we see mention of the titles and dates of various works by Strindberg (and other male authors) but only vague allusions to all but one of the many widely praised Benedictsson/Ahlgren works – including the novelized diaries that she left to a male friend, who published them in portions over the next 30 years, and which became a bestseller, which though not identified by title is described in the essay as “forceful as” (you guessed it) an explicitly named Strindberg novel.

Source: The woman behind Strindberg’s Miss Julie and her male alter ego | Aeon Essays

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Defining Antisemitism

This makes things so much clearer (and more acceptable) to me.

According to Kenneth Stern, the lead author of the I.H.R.A. “definition”, its main intent was more to identify things as warning signs of possible antisemitism than as de facto evidence of actual antisemitism. And interpreted that way, as opposed to as a list of prohibited opinions, I could well agree with it.

Holding Israel to a higher standard than some other nations is often a sign of semitophilic respect rather than the opposite, but it is also often just an excuse for giving vent to pre-existing hatred. So, it’s certainly legitimate to include it as a sign of the need to look more deeply.

But the wording of the I.H.R.A. “definition”, and its claim to be such, definitely encourage what Stern would identify as its current misuses.

A much better version is provided by the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) and I am disappointed that Stern has not signed it, nor has he formally repudiated the I.H.R.A. definition.

This is especially odd given his recent observation that asking whether something is or is not antisemitism is the wrong question. “The question is, Why is this so binary that we want to label it this way or that way?”

Source: The Problem with Defining Antisemitism | The New Yorker

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