Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Links worth a look

1. Two from Vice, each with a more imaginative (and also entertaining) take on modern politics than one normally finds elsewhere.

First, here is why people who want a new middle-ground party are fantasists. The writer imagines the party taking shape: "It was one of those cathartic moments: finally someone was saying what we were all thinking, which was: "Everything is pretty much OK, but could you make some minor adjustments?" and then the new party's campaigners "out on the streets bedecked in their new political home's colours of beige and grey – handing out leaflets, knocking on doors and winning round swing voters with rational arguments grounded in key metrics and meticulous use of data-based policy soundings".

Second, Sam Kriss, the Marmite of such writers, with an account of how some Remainers now sound like Leavers: "They are not left or right. They are not neoliberals or social democrats. They are Remain. As they look out on a world grinding itself apart, where zombie governments shovel themselves deeper into a mouldering power, where tower blocks blaze up fuelled by class warfare and cynical profiteering, where hundreds of millions of people are living in vast tracts of land that will shortly be as uninhabitable as the moon, there are people whose main political self-identification is still that they don't want Britain to leave the EU." I often find myself violently disagreeing with Kriss, but often agreeing with him about what is worth disagreeing about.

2. Gef, the talking mongoose of the Isle of Man.

3. Another anecdote about Britain hacking the US political system. All in a good cause.

4. This is quite rude, but this (carefully crafted) quotation from it isn't: "I am certain a large number of men are more attracted to overweight women than skinny women but try to date skinny women to impress their friends and family members.... the data from dating sites tells us that just about all men try to date skinny women. Many people don’t try to date the people they’re most attracted to. They try to date the people they think would impress their friends. ... There are a lot of single men and single overweight women who would be sexually compatible. But they don’t date, while the man tries and fails to date a skinny woman even though he’s less attracted to her. And then there are women who practically starve themselves to remain skinny so their husbands won’t leave, even though their husbands would be more attracted to them if they weighed more. The desire to impress people causes all kinds of inefficiency."

5. A Buzzfeed list of 14 things, but not at all amusing: 14 suspected killings by Russia on British soil; and here's a suspected one on US soil too. Read Bill Browder's testimony here.

6. "“There is no case on record in which a secular society has been able to uphold its birthrate,” Lord Sacks says." Well, maybe. I'm not totally impressed with the argument that something can't be done because it hasn't been done before: sometimes things get done for the first time. And if he is right, then religion will be fine - all the secularists will die out, so what's the worry? But Lord Sacks may well be right that the future for all religions (in the West at least) will involve them looking a lot more like Judaism.

7. "When all job differences are accounted for, the pay gap [between men and women] almost disappears". Tell that to Google.

8. Japan spends less on education than other countries but has better schools. Yawn. But what about this: "In a classroom I visited, all five second-graders in the school watched a teacher demonstrate flower-arranging as three other teachers surrounded them, helping them with each step." We need more flower-arranging in Western schools. Or at least - isn't it worth a try?

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