Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Wednesday Potpourri

 First, if you have always suspected that men and women think differently, science has just caught up with your intuition. Researchers from Stanford University have discovered that male and female brains are distinct.

The Telegraph reports the findings:

‌There has never been any definitive proof of difference in activity in the brains of men and women, but Stanford University has shown that it is possible to tell the sexes apart based on activity in “hotspot” areas.

‌They include the “default mode network”, an area of the brain thought to be the neurological centre for “self”, and is important in introspection and retrieving personal memories.

‌The limbic system is also implicated, which helps regulate emotion, memory and deals with sexual stimulation, and striatum, which is important in habit forming and rewards.

‌Experts said the brain differences could influence how males and females view themselves, how they interact with other people and how they recall past experiences.

‌Dr Vinod Menon, prof of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford, said: “This is a very strong piece of evidence that sex is a robust determinant of human brain organisation.”‌

“Our findings suggest that differences in brain activity patterns across these key brain regions contribute to sex-specific variations in cognitive functioning.”

This tells us that men and women are not interchangeable. But, you already knew that.

Second, it does not seem to be limited to one or another sex, but Gen Zers have already learned how not to be up to the job. Their bad manners began with dating but now extend to their jobs. Not that you will find that surprising.

Yahoo news has the story:

Ghosting isn’t just for dating anymore. Now Gen Z are treating their would-be employers like bad dates and not showing up for job interviews or their first day on the job without as much as a phone call.

Employment website Indeed surveyed 1,500 businesses and 1,500 working people in the U.K. and found that job ghosting is rife, with 75% of workers saying they’ve ignored a prospective employer in the past year.

But the youngest generation of workers are by far the worst offenders.

A whopping 93% of Gen Zers told the global recruitment platform that they’ve flaked out of an interview.

Worse still, a staggering 87% managed to charm their way through interviews, secure the job, and sign the contract, only to leave their new boss stranded on the very first day.

Their reason for doing so? According to the survey, it makes them “feel in charge of their career”.

But it’s having the opposite effect on businesses left high and dry: More than half of businesses surveyed have said that ghosting has made hiring more difficult.

Third, as an adjunct piece of information, American schoolchildren are continuing to fall behind in international assessments. This, from the Epoch Times:

The most recent results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) highlight a concerning trend for U.S. students in the field of math.

In comparison to their counterparts in other industrialized nations, American students are falling behind. The rather sobering results revealed a 13-point decline for U.S. students when compared to the 2018 exam.

In stark contrast, 28 countries and economies managed to either maintain or improve their 2018 math scores, with countries such as Switzerland and Japan leading the way—and leaving the United States in the dust. These considerably more successful nations share a number of common characteristics, including, most notably of all, shorter school closures during the pandemic, as noted in the report.

America continues to suffer from pandemic era school closures. Time to ban teachers unions, don’t you think?

Fourth, the Biden administration has been hard at work onshoring manufacturing, especially semiconductor manufacturing. Without very much success. Apparently, as I have reported, America does not possess the human capital needed to fun modern chip manufacturing plants. Our educational system is producing social justice warriors but not tech savvy engineers.

The New York Times has the story:

In December 2022, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the key maker of the world’s most cutting-edge chips, said it planned to spend $40 billion in Arizona on its first major U.S. hub for semiconductor production.

The much ballyhooed project in Phoenix — with two new factories, including one with more advanced technology — became a symbol of President Biden’s quest to spur more domestic production of chips, the slices of silicon that help all manner of devices make calculations and store data.

Then last summer, TSMC pushed back initial manufacturing at its first Arizona factory to 2025 from this year, saying local workers lacked expertise in installing some sophisticated equipment. Last month, the company said the second plant wouldn’t produce chips until 2027 or 2028, rather than 2026, citing uncertainty about tech choices and federal funding.

Fifth, diversity quotas are killing American ingenuity. The College Fix reports:

The continued embrace of diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM combined with a broad decline in academic standards is producing a generation of scientists who are less capable than their predecessors, warned some scientists in recent interviews with The College Fix.

From easier math classes in high school to the elimination of standardized tests to extreme grade-inflation to DEI tropes that elevate lived experiences and ways of knowing over facts and data, the trend represents a pressing problem for science professors working to protect STEM and preserve its standards and meritocracy.

Sixth, apparently, the lust to punish Donald Trump is costing New York State. Certain businesspeople are adding New York to the list of loser states, states they do not want to invest in. Our governor, Kathy Hochul, says that there is no problem, but that can only mean that there is a problem.

This, from Newsweek:

Conservative businesspeople and public figures including investor Kevin O'Leary and author Scott Adams have vowed to stop doing business in New York, following the ruling that banned Donald Trump from running a company in the state for three years.

O'Leary, a Canadian businessman and television personality, told Fox Business on Monday that he would never invest in New York now, saying he was shocked at Judge Arthur Engoron's ruling. On Friday, Engoron—who is overseeing the New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud case against Trump—ordered the former president to pay $355 million plus interest for lying about his wealth and inflating the value of his assets. The former president still denies any wrongdoing.

"I can't even understand or fathom the decision at all; there's no rationale for it," O'Leary said.

"It doesn't matter what the governor says; New York was already a loser state, like California is a loser state. There are many loser states because of policies, high taxes and uncompetitive regulations," he added. "It was already at the top of the list of loser states. I would never invest in New York now, and I'm not the only person saying that."

Seventh, when you have lost the New York Times, you have a serious problem. Such is the case of one Joe Biden, via the Daily Mail:

New York Times' publisher has revealed the White House said they have been unhappy at recent press coverage in the newspaper after a series of opinion articles focused on President Joe Biden's age and his unsuitability to run for a second term.

A.G. Sulzberger, 43, who has been publisher for the last six years, said the White House was 'extremely upset' - yet he insists the paper will 'continue to report fully and fairly.'

'We are going to continue to report fully and fairly, not just on Donald Trump but also on President Joe Biden,' he told the Reuters Institute in an interview. 

Eighth, obviously, the Biden foreign policy is a calamity. War in Eastern Europe; war in the Middle East; terrorists shutting down shipping through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

And yet, our foreign policy maven, one Antony Blinken, has gone to war against people who misgender.

The New York Post has the story:

Attention, enemies of America: You can go ahead and kill, bomb and terrorize with impunity — just make sure you don’t misgender anyone. 

That’s American foreign policy in a nutshell under President Biden, a fact confirmed by recent reports that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned his staffers in a memo against using gendered language. 

No more “manpower,” for example. (Also presumably forbidden would be “Uncle Sam” and “Lady Liberty.”) 

Blinken also wants Staties to ID themselves by preferred pronouns — like “ze/zir,” per the memo — in meetings and emails. 

This is what our secretary of state spends his time on, as the world burns around him?

The country is not in the best of hands. We are becoming an international laughing stock.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Inner City American Crime

Bill Maher was shocked to the roots of his being. He was musing with Ann Coulter about the identities of the Kansas City shooters. You recall, the ones who shot up the celebration marking the Chiefs Super Bowl victory.

Authorities have not identified the shooters, but Coulter remarked that if they were white males, we would know all about it by now.

Maher then tried to shut down the discussion by repeating that we do not know.

Of course, it’s the latest way to reduce the African-American crime rate. Progressive Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has found another way-- that is, he reduces felonies to misdemeanors. Don’t call it a serious crime and it is not a serious crime. 

The Daily Mail has the story:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has downgraded a staggering 60 percent of felony cases to lesser charges in the last year, data from his office shows.

The progressive DA reduced 938 of the most serious charged in 2023, 834 of which were brought down to misdemeanors.

Under Bragg, the percentage of felonies downgraded has increased to 60 - up from 53% percent under his predecessor. 

Statistically, this makes it appear that the crime rate is diminishing, while it is merely about skewed statistics.

Naturally, the black crime rate is a major embarrassment. It is an embarrassment for the black community and it is an embarrassment for America. 

Might it have something to do with the fact that when someone black commits a crime, we are obliged not to consider it a crime? Have you noticed, by the by, that no leaders in the black community are mounting campaigns against crime. That is, no black community leaders are militating against crime, against gangs and against violence. Apparently, they believe that it’s all the fault of white people. 

Now, a civil rights activist, by the name of Ben Crump, has the solution. Decriminalize crime. Now, why did you not think of that?

In truth, certain law enforcement officers have long since thought of that. The progressive district attorneys in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland have long since given up on prosecuting crime, especially crime committed by people of a certain race.

Crump suggested that white people had constructed a system of laws that were designed to criminalize the behavior of blacks. 

Now, one Bob Allen, on Twitter, explains it all:

Actually he's pretty close to right. Black African and Tribal cultures allow a lot of killing, and taking of property. The concept of Private Property is really from European culture. But, if they want to live like that they should go to Africa. We don't want it here.

So, private property was invented by white people to steal from non-white people. When people of color rip off convenience stores they are simply taking back what is rightfully theirs. The message seems clear enough. It is made manifest in behavior. 

For now we are suffering from a cognitive dissonance. We walk through our neighborhoods and see the shut-down storefronts. We see the drug stores locking down their wares. And, we keep saying to ourselves that this is white supremacy in action. Because we certainly do not want to hold the legions of smash and grab robbers accountable. That would expose us as bigots. 

In a world where whites have enslaved blacks, all people of color have a right to take what they want. And, if you are not a person of color, you should shut up.

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Monday, February 19, 2024

The Problem with Negativity

Gerald Seib has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to bemoan the state of American political rhetoric. Political advertising, he avers, is more likely to involve trash talking about one’s opponent and less likely to present issues. We demonize and vilify. We do not debate and discuss opposing points of view.

So much for the marketplace of ideas. And so much for deliberative democracy.

As for how we got to this juncture, the answer seems fairly clear. Far too many American minds have been warped to the point where they simply want to know the most acceptable opinion, to the exclusion of the rest. 

It’s about feeling like a member of a cult-like group. The practice does not appeal to intelligence, but it manipulates emotion. It makes people feel something, not think something.

People are not well enough educated to entertain alternative points of view. So, they want to feel like they belong to this or that group. Otherwise, they would need to work, to evaluate two alternative points of view. 

Knowing who you should love or hate is easier than knowing the particularities of a policy debate. Or even of legal issues.

The American mind has been closed, Allan Bloom told us more than three decades ago, and it has since been even more closed off and closed down. Our educators no longer bother to teach children how to think. They teach them the prevailing orthodoxy and punish those who deviate, or who think for themselves.

When you cannot entertain different points of view, you become a cult follower. But, that implies that you are incapable of negotiating or even conversing. If you fail to show respect for alternative viewpoints, other people are not going to show any respect for yours. 

If you cannot negotiate you cannot do business. You cannot provide leadership. You cannot persuade your staff to implement your policy. If you cannot negotiate you will find yourself in a position where you will insist on getting your way. 

It takes more intelligence and more education to see two sides of an issue than to see only one side. And, it is easier to be negative than to be positive. 

To create a consensus, to include people in a group or on a team, you need to recognize the potential validity of other points of view. No one is going to do his best job because he has been browbeaten by a manager who imposes his will on everyone else. 

Failing to recognize the value of someone else’s ideas is disrespectful. And disrespect does not persuade.

Moreover, in order to get along with other people you are obliged to modify your positions, to recognize the value of the other person’s point of view, and to reject the all or nothing, good vs. evil mindset that characterizes the conversation where you assume that one person has a monopoly on the truth and that the other person’s point of view must be ignored. In other words, you must reject negativity.

Given the mental deficiencies of the products of our educational system, executive coaches and psycho professionals tell us that we can best communicate by showering everyone with essence of vulnerability. They have elevated empathy into the supreme virtue, failing to notice, as Paul Bloom once averred, that too much empathy can make you a sadistic empath.

More important than feeling your feelings or even feeling everyone else’s feelings is-- to play by the same rules. We see it every day in courtrooms where nitwit prosecutors and judges apply one set of standards to one defendant and another set of standards to another defendant. It is not about justice, but about using the judicial system to impose one’s will on one’s perceived enemies.

In a culture where people are competing to see whose rules can be imposed on who-- which is called multicultural-- where people try to get their way, and have to win, at all costs. When they are not winning they insist that the game is rigged and that it can only be corrected by rigging it in their favor. 

Leadership involves persuading people that you have heard their views and that you are accepting that everyone has something to contribute. It precludes dismissive negativity. As of now we are not even close to it. If you dismiss someone's ideas out of hand, you should not expect that he will do his best to implement yours.

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Sunday, February 18, 2024

How to Apologize

Jancee Dunn wants to teach us all how best to apologize. When you err, when you offend or insult, and did not mean to do so, you apologize. 

Writing in the New York Times, Dunn asked a number of academic experts. She would have done better to have consulted with the Times ethicist columnist, Kwame Anthony Appiah. 

Approximately five years ago, as I dutifully reported on my blog, Appiah was responding to a letter from a woman who asked whether she should apologize to a former husband she dumped some four decades ago. She felt that she had been unfair to him and thus believed that she owed him an apology.

Now, Appiah nixed the project, for a simple reason. The purpose of apology, he writes, is to repair a relationship. The relationship in question has long since gone beyond repair. And thus, an apology simply recalled an unpleasant situation, without there being any chance for repair.

In his words:

You may think it’s very unlikely that this man will want to re-establish the relationship, and if that’s so, the only serious effect of the apology will be to cause him whatever distress might come from revisiting a painful episode or whatever relief might come from your “it’s not you, it’s me” assurances. Neither the fact that, in some sense, you owe him an apology nor the fact that apologizing might make you feel better settles the matter of what you should do. In short, the answer to your question is: No, apology isn’t always the ethical choice. When an apology from the remote past would simply unearth anguished memories, the right choice may be reticence.

He is quite correct. Any apology offered after decades would merely be a means of virtue signaling, designed to make the woman feel better, without really accomplishing anything. At present, both parties are happily married to other people, so there is nothing to be salvaged by this point. Thus, if nothing is left to be repaired, the best approach is to forget all about it.

When you apologize you take responsibility for your dereliction. You do not make an excuse or try to rationalize your error. You do not shift the blame. 

That means, you do not blame the traffic. You do not say that you had to take your children to the hospital. In truth, when you apologize you take complete responsibility for your behavior.

And this is true even when, for example, you were late because you got hit by a truck while walking across the street. You might say that it is not your fault that the truck veered into you, but, when you awake from your coma you are going to apologize, and take responsibility for your absence.

This precludes your using phrasing like: I’m sorry if you are offended. You apologize when you are sorry for what you did, not for how the other person reacted.

But that is not all. By apologizing you are saying that your actions do not represent your intentions and do not manifest your character. The only way to affirm that position is to swear that you are not going to do it again. The value of an apology does not lie so much in the shame you manifest as in the actions that you do not take in the future.

An apology implies that one will not do it again. It also implies that you did not do it in the first place. To ensure that your action does not show anything about your character, you should, the Times says, state explicitly that you will not repeat the offense.

If you make a habit of not showing up on time for meetings, your apologies become null. 

When you apologize you are giving your word. If you go back on your word, by repeating the same error, your action becomes a meaningful expression of your attitude toward the other person. You did not offend him inadvertently. You offended him intentionally. At that point, you have not repaired the relationship; you have redefined it in terms of exploitation. The question then becomes, will he allow you to get away with mistreating him.

Consider the following situation. An executive who has not led his company successfully might apologize for his poor leadership. In some places he will bow his head in shame and resign in disgrace. In short, he will be paying a price for his failure. He will not go about it as though nothing happened, as though he should just continue doing what he was doing.

One recalls that one Janet Reno, when she was the Attorney General in the Clinton administration, gave an order that produced a holocaust of members of a cult called the Branch Davidians. Dozens of people died in the fire and Janet Reno felt very bad about it. She made manifest her shame in a Congressional hearing.

And yet, she then continued as though nothing had happened. She did not pay a price. That means, her apology was more theatrical than real, regardless of how she felt.

Now, the experts suggest that the person who apologizes should be forgiven. But, that depends on the nature of the offense. Should we have all forgiven Janet Reno for her poor judgment? Surely, she did not intend to produce a Holocaust, but still she is responsible for the mass murder of the followers of David Koresh.

At the time, if I recall, most people blamed Koresh, not Reno.

When a leader fails, when he leads the Light Brigade into the valley of the shadow of death, he cannot simply apologize. He must resign his commission. In many cases, he will perform the ultimate altruistic action and fall on his sword. 

Depending on circumstances, he will either retire from his commission forever or for a reasonable period of time.  In case he commits the ultimate altruistic action, he is assuring that he will not do it again.

Obviously, this is the ultimate in altruistic actions. When you resign your position you are ensuring that you cannot make the same error again-- because you will never again be in the position to do so. 

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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Saturday Miscellany

First, damn those capitalists. Major banks and investment houses have reduced their investments in climate change initiatives. They have chosen to walk away from the United Nations’ climate alliance. They are giving up on the war against the weather. Uh, oh.

The New York Post has the story. It concerns the nation’s largest bank, JP Morgan Chase and its largest asset manager, BlackRock:

JPMorgan Chase and institutional investors BlackRock and State Street Global Advisors announced Thursday that they are quitting or, in the case of BlackRock, substantially scaling back involvement in a massive United Nations climate alliance formed to combat global warming through corporate sustainability agreements.

In a statement, the New York-based Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan explained that it would exit the so-called Climate Action 100+ investor group because of the expansion of its in-house sustainability team and the establishment of its climate risk framework in recent years.

Larry Fink’s BlackRock and State Street, which both manage trillions of dollars in assets, said the alliance’s climate initiatives had gone too far, expressing concern about potential legal issues as well.

The stunning announcements come as the largest financial institutions in the US and worldwide face an onslaught of pressure from consumer advocates and Republican states over their environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities.

It looks like ESG investing was a fad whose time has come and gone. 

Second, if only he had known. The Hamas Number 2 leader has expressed surprise at the Israeli counterattack that followed the October 7 massacre. 

Now, the Israeli offensive has reduced most of Gaza to rubble and has shown Yahya Sinwar that he messed with the wrong enemy.

The Daily Mail reports:

Hamas' second-in-command is said to regret the October 7 massacre as he didn't expect Israel's retaliation to be 'so dangerous'. 

Yahya Sinwar, who is believed to have orchestrated last year's terrorist attack wouldn't have done so if he knew what the consequences would be according to his friend, Esmat Mansour.

Mansour told Sky News that his terrorist friend's plan was miscalculated and gave Israel an excuse to unleash hellfire.

Mansour said: 'He didn't expect the operation to make things this complicated and to go as far as it did and become this dangerous and (it) gave Israel all the reasons and excuses to break all the rules.'

Alledgedly, Sinwar's plan was to use the massacre to aid the release of his friend from prison and turn him into another Hamas leader as well as lifting the 'Israeli siege' on the area.

The way to drive some sense into Hamas is to make their terrorist tactics too expensive. Fortunately, the Israelis have gotten the message, even if the Biden administration has not.

Third, I have suspected this for some time. Now we have evidence. If you want to enhance brain connectivity-- who doesn’t?-- you should write by hand, not on a keyboard.

A recent study from Norway found that the old-school art of handwriting engages parts of the brain that tapping on a keyboard does not. The intricate movements involved in handwriting activate more regions of the brain associated with learning than typing does.

A new study published in Frontiers in Psychology and led by Audrey van der Meer, a neuroscience researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, examined the differences between handwriting and typing. Ms. Van der Meer and her team analyzed the neural networks involved in both activities to uncover their respective impacts on brain connectivity.

“We show that when writing by hand, brain connectivity patterns are far more elaborate than when typewriting on a keyboard,” she said in a press statement. “Such widespread brain connectivity is known to be crucial for memory formation and for encoding new information and, therefore, is beneficial for learning.”

Fourth, here is some bad news from the world of plastics. These miracle substances cannot be recycled. This means, plastics are forever. You suspected as much. Now, The Hill has the report:

Plastics producers have promoted recycling their products as an environmental solution for decades despite firsthand knowledge that it was not feasible, according to a report published Thursday.

More than 99 percent of plastics are produced using fossil fuels, and of these, the vast majority cannot be “recycled” in the sense of being processed and turned into entirely new products, according to the report from the Center for Climate Integrity. Viable end markets, or businesses that buy recyclables to make new products, only exist for polyethylene terephthalate and high-density polyethylene plastic containers, according to the report. Environmental Protection Agency materials have documented this for at least 30 years. 

Fifth, what could possibly go wrong? Naturally, we are fully engaged in our Cold War against China. And yet, strangely enough, we are still collaborating with Chinese laboratories in research on special kinds of bird viruses-- like Covid.

The Daily Mail reports:

The US government is spending $1million of American taxpayer money to fund gain-of-function experiments on dangerous bird flu viruses in collaboration with Chinese scientists.

The research involves infecting ducks and geese with different strains to make them more transmissible and infectious, and study the viruses' potential to 'jump into mammalian hosts,' according to the research documents.

It is being funded through the US Department of Agriculture and will take place at sites in Georgia, Beijing and Edinburgh in Scotland.

Have we learned anything yet?

Sixth, Stanford University has decided to combat anti-Semitism. Aaron Sibarium reports on what happened when it sponsored a discussion about the problem.

January 24, Stanford University held a forum on combating anti-Semitism. The event, which featured Stanford president Richard Saller and provost Jenny Martinez, was meant to reassure Jewish students that the university had their back amid the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping college campuses.

"We really do want to make sure that all of the communities on campus get the respect that they deserve," Saller told the forum. "We’re committed to equal treatment and equal protection."

The events that transpired that night undercut that message. By the end of the evening, protesters had physically threatened Jewish students, harassed a rabbi, and told employees of the elite university that they would "find out where you live."

David Schuller, 24, a yarmulke-wearing graduate student in Stanford’s physics department, found himself surrounded by a mob of hecklers when he approached a protest outside the forum.

Seventh, in an Atlanta courtroom, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis may or may not have been wearing her dress backwards. Some of you will know more about this than I do, but still, when the zipper looks like it is in the front of the dress that suggests that you have put it on backwards.

As for the Willis performance, leave it to Glenn Greenwald to sum it up:

How someone reacts to the Fani Willis testimony yesterday is a litmus test for if they're a complete partisan hack. Anyone who denies that she clearly lied, could not respond to basic questions, acted inappropriately, and corrupted this prosecution is a mindless Dem partisan.

For the record, Greenwald is anything but a Trump supporter. Heck, he is not even a right wing conservative.

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