Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Quick Run Around the Web -- December 10, 2015

Cristo Redentor statue on top of Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Source: Wikimedia)
  • Related: "Finding the Assassin Dagger in the Haystack"--Austin Bay at Strategy Page. Discussing various methods to combat terrorist attacks in the U.S., including better vetting of immigrants and informants among the Muslim community. 
What motivates someone to be violent? This is a question many people are asking in the wake of the recent mass shootings in California. Most explanations tend to revolve around the core assumption that violence is wrong. If someone is violent, something must be broken in their moral psychology—they are intrinsically evil, they lack self-control, they are selfish, or they fail to understand the pain they cause. However, it turns out that this fundamental assumption is mistaken. It is not the breakdown of their morality at all, but rather the working of their moral psychology. Most violence in the world is motivated by moral sentiments.
The problem I see with the article is that it doesn't define "violence." It references a study on spanking to discipline children, but then also includes killings. The other is that it purports to suggest that one particular factor is responsible for all violence, rather than just a piece of the puzzle; something clearly wrong because it fails to account for the violent predator. Anyway, for those who study violence, I offer the link to the article, but with reservations as to its conclusion. For those interested in a detailed review of the subject, I recommend Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature.
  • Related: "Outcry as Islamabad officials target slums over Christians"--AFP. "Human rights activists slammed Islamabad authorities Thursday after court documents showed the Pakistani capital's development body had cracked down on illegal slums because it feared their growing Christian population would threaten the city's Muslim majority."
[A]ir power alone has never won any war and won’t win the war against ISIS. It will require ground troops to destroy the Islamic State, and the U.S. has not had much success in getting proxies to do the fighting for us.
    The most reliable have been the Kurds, but they won’t advance outside Kurdish areas. In Iraq, notwithstanding the belated offensive against Ramadi, which shows signs of success, there is little reason to think that the Shiite-dominated security forces and the Shiite militias, which are the real power now, have either the ability or willingness to take and hold Sunni areas. In Syria the situation is, even more, grave — aside from the Kurdish militia, the YPG, there is no force at all that is remotely capable of taking on ISIS, and the YPG is interested primarily in establishing its own state (Rojava) not in destroying the Islamic State.
      That is why it looks increasingly likely that outside ground forces will be needed to defeat ISIS. And who will provide them? Reuel Gerecht, one of our canniest Middle East analysts, rightly derides hopes that Arab or European states will step forward with tens of thousands of ground troops. “Arab armies that could conceivably be used — Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, and Emirati — are not expeditionary forces,” he notes. “The autocrats of these lands simply aren’t stupid enough to send abroad their soldiers in numbers: These troops have the preeminent mission of protecting the status quo at home.” “And the Europeans,” he continues, “aren’t any bolder.” France is overstretched in West Africa, the British have cut their forces to the bones, and the Germans “remain materially and spiritually incapable of projecting much force abroad.”
      • "Cosmologists should be more skeptical of dark matter"--Aeon. "The sobering fact is that either 96 per cent of the Universe is unknown to us or we are completely wrong about the way we think the Universe works." It seems that Occam's Razor should apply here. Anyway, the author argues that scientists should examine theories other than just those necessitating "dark matter" or "dark energy." However, the scientific community is, perhaps more than most other fields, driven by popularity: money and graduate students (i.e., warm bodies) follow what theories are popular. 
      • "9 Prototype Soviet Assault Rifles From WWII"--The Firearms Blog. It appears to me that the Soviets were actually on the cutting edge of assault rifle development during WWII. 
      • "144 years of marriage and divorce in 1 chart"--Randal S. Olson. It is interesting that the surge of divorces in the 1960's actually predates the adoption of "no-fault" divorce laws in most states. One could argue that it tracks the popularity of "feminism"--and this is likely true as to the overall increase of divorce rates--but I would note that the 1960's surge seems to coincide with the expansion of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children in the 1960s and the adoption of the Food Stamp Act of 1964.

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