“When you approach a blond, blue-eyed, white Dane, you expect a high degree of tolerance and reason. But faced with someone like me, you say, OK, let it go. That is the racism of low expectations, and that’s what you are guilty of when you reduce the Cartoon Crisis to a story about a powerful newspaper bullying a minority. It’s a distortion of the essence of the matter. To harbor lower expectations of my ability to be tolerant and reasonable compared to the majority is to discriminate against me.”

- Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Hitchen’s Dictum

by Limbic on March 13, 2015

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens


Bootleggers & Baptists:

by Limbic on March 1, 2015

Here is a theory of regulation that was new to me – Bootleggers and Baptists:

“Here is the essence of the theory: durable social regulation evolves when it is demanded by both of two distinctly different groups. “Baptists” point to the moral high ground and give vital and vocal endorsement of laudable public benefits promised by a desired regulation. Baptists flourish when their moral message forms a visible foundation for political action. “Bootleggers” are much less visible but no less vital. Bootleggers, who expect to profit from the very regulatory restrictions desired by Baptists, grease the political machinery with some of their expected proceeds. They are simply in it for the money.” – From “Bootleggers & Baptists: How Economic Forces and Moral Persuasion Interact to Shape Regulatory Politics” by Adam Smith and Bruce Yandel (2014-09-07). (Kindle Locations 50-55). Cato Institute. Kindle Edition.

In many domains, particularly community relations, we see the unelected “community leaders” speak on behalf of entire communities, engaging in grievance mongering and exaggeration of issues so as directly profit and accrue power. These baptists preach a moral fable of oppression in order to profit as bootleggers.


The Icelandic Problem

by Limbic on February 21, 2015

Flag and picture

I recently came across a article by Elias Thorsson that was posted to the Copenhagen Expats Facebook group.

Published less than a week after the terrorist murders in Copenhagen, the article titled “These People Should Just Leave Denmark” takes a swipe at the supposed hypocrisy of Danes (and their media) at time when one would expect the expatriate and immigrant communities to shows their support for their host nation.

I found the piece irritating at several levels. The unfair aspersions cast on Danes and Denmark, the schmaltzy PC claptrap , the logical fallacies, the hypocrisy decrying bigotry with bigotry and the raw snideness of a kicking his host country at a time when it is recovering from a terror attack.

As a fellow immigrant I want to respond .

Elias (who is Icelandic) starts off by painting a portrait of “a cultural diaspora”, later revealed to be Icelanders in Denmark. He lists typical immigrant and expatriate behaviours the world over: People migrate because the new host country is often a better place to live. Some cynically take advantage of state benefits. People seek out their own kind (a human given), which includes passing their cultural heritage, language and traditions on to their children. Some fail, or refuse,  to adapt and integrate. Some are criminals who embarrass their people when they commit crimes in their new host country.  His point? This group is guilty of all the stereotypical things we hear about immigrants, but he does not read about their wrongdoings in the Danish media.

This is the point where Elias leaves camp reality and suffers oxygen starvation in the thin air of the moral high ground.

Now I’m certain most of you thought I was talking about Muslims, Eastern Europeans or other groups often discussed in the media as “undesirables” for committing crimes and assaulting people in the streets. You know, people with radically different cultures and ideas about the world. The others.

But after almost seven years in Denmark, I know of only one person to be brutally assaulted in the streets of Copenhagen. The perpetrator was Icelandic. The incident didn’t incite an eruption of vile hatred and calls for the construction of an Atlantic Wall to keep these dangerous foreign elements out. To the best of my knowledge there are no Facebook groups called “Stop the Icelandisation of Denmark”, or “Fuck your dried fish, I want flæskesvær.”

Hardly. Rather, me and my fellow Icelanders with our blonde hair and blue eyes manage to blend in pretty well. When someone from this group commits a horrible crime, it’s excused as merely a  bad apple, rather than proof that these uncivilised barbarians streaming in from the north have no place in the country.

This is so convoluted and full of exaggeration that it is is actually hard to unpick what, exactly, Elias is trying to say. It is something like this:

You, dear reader, have a predictable bias. You will associate these negative immigrant behaviours (like benefit cheating and violent crime) not with blonde Icelanders, but only with “the others”, groups who are portrayed as “undesirables” and are targeted for an “eruption of vile hatred”  when one of them commits wrongdoings e.g. Muslims and Eastern Europeans.

The implication here is that Icelanders are at least as bad as these other groups, both in terms of criminality and failure to integrate,  but racist Danes excuse Icelanders whilst unfairly targeting other immigrants with vile hatred.

Is this true? Are Icelanders as criminal as other groups? Is the Danish media biased in their treatment of Muslims and Eastern Europeans? What evidence does Elias provide to support these serious claims?

He gives us a personal anecdote. The only person Elias knows who was beaten up on the streets of Copenhagen was…you guessed it….beaten up by an Icelander! This is obviously an example of the biased sample fallacy. The people Elias knows are not an accurate reflection Danish society nor is a single incident a big enough sample of street crime to infer that the Danish press and its readership are biased against non-Nordic immigrants. So this far his claims are completely unsupported.

So what are the facts? Are the Danish media showing a bias by reporting more on Muslim and Eastern European criminals instead of Icelanders?

No. The fact is that immigrants as a whole are heavily  overrepresented in the Danish crime statistics.  Some immigrant communities, however, are on average 2.5x more criminal than Danes (who are slightly under-represented). Some immigrant groups – mostly EU, US and east Asian –  are under-represented. Icelanders are so low on this index that they are not even on the list.

According to a 2014 Danish government report on immigrants in Denmark [PDF], of the top 10 most criminal nationalities in Denmark, 8 are majority Muslim countries, one is south Eastern European, and one is south Asian. High rates of criminality amongst Muslim immigrants has been a topic of discussion and concern in Denmark since at least 2009 1

Here is the Criminal Index for the top 10 immigrant communities (100 being average). These are adjusted for age and socio-economic factors.

Lebanon    254
Former Yugoslavia 192
Turkey    192
Morocco    189
Somalia    189
Pakistan    179
Iraq    166
Iran    133
Afghanistan 123

Danes  98

With only 18,000 Icelanders in Denmark and 270,000 Muslims, one would expect Muslims to be in the news significantly more than Icelanders, even if they were equally as criminal (which they are not). Given the crime statistics and the fact that Icelanders are legendary for their low criminality it is fully expected that they are hardly mentioned.  Elias’ core claim about Icelandic exceptionalism is rubbish.

So there is no real evidence in his article that the Danish media unfairly portrays immigrants. The raw facts of the crime statistics shows that Danes are absolutely right to be concerned about immigrant crime (and yes, I am an immigrant). It is a matter of national concern and it is in the public interest for the media to report on it and for us all to debate the problem. Danes and non-Danes alike need to be able to discuss how, as a society, we handle newcomers who are not meeting our standards, breaking our laws and or otherwise causing problems. We need an open discussion on what the right is to immigrants who are not integrating, or threatening us or opposed to national values of democracy and free speech. This is not about defeating or harming or hating  picking on them,  but rather about figuring out how to live together peacefully in a pluralistic society.

Elias finishes of with a command: If you are going to “hate”, then hate everyone.

“So, all I ask is that if you are going to hate groups for being terrible citizens, for not conforming to society, for not blending in or swearing allegiance to Dannebrog and Dronningen, then be even handed – hate everyone equally.”

This implies that the Danes hate and yet they don’t. I think you will find your average Dane is extremely tolerant of immigrants, and would never dream of hating an entire group no matter how criminal or anti-social they are. Yes there are bigots, but in the scheme of things the Nordics are amongst the least racist and most tolerant places on earth.

I am sure there will be plenty who will probably be angry with Elias for taking an unfair dig at Denmark, especially at a time of national mourning for the murder of innocent people. I think he was trying to make some fair points: avoid stereotypes, remember the media accentuates the negative, don’t be hypocrite – but I think he let his own “ingrained historic suspicion towards Denmark and the Danes” ruin his article.

Postscript:  The title is a play on “The Irish Question”. In a follow-up post I will discuss what the Irish immigrants in Britain and America in the 19th century can teach us about how to handle immigration in Europe today.



Rule 65. Perfidy

by LimbicNutrition Shorts on February 13, 2015

Rule 65. Perfidy:

Rule 65. Killing, injuring or capturing an adversary by resort to perfidy is prohibited.


Speaking up every time

by Limbic on February 1, 2015

Warren Farrell photo

By Warren.Farrell (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

[Update: Whilst browsing Eric W Raymond’s Google+ I spotted a post about Shanley Kane. Turns out she is pretty, well, nutty. And despite her rantings about “white males”, she has a history of extreme racism herself. Fascinating.]

Was clearing out my Instapaper backlog today and came across this very interesting profile of feminist published Shanley Kane by Elizabeth Spiers from July 2014. Called “Speaking up every. Fucking. Time”, it is an interesting glimpse into the life and tactics of a feminist campaigner in Silicon Valley.

By chance I also stumbled upon Mariah Blake’s profile in of former feminist, now Men’s Rights activist, Warren Farrell, called a “Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned“. The profile is deeply, deeply unfair it it’s characterization, but in fairness it does post responses both by Farrell and other men’s activists slandered in the piece.

One thing that struck me was that in both pieces there is a defence of sorts of the hard-line tactics used in anger by the campaigners:

As Spiers says of Kane:

“…it would be naïve to think that this would be accomplished entirely by the tonally appropriate, the consummate diplomats, the people who always control their anger in public and never call anyone a shithead. “Speaking up every. Fucking. Time,” as she puts it, is done in a variety of ways, and big societal advances are never the result of monolithic strategies or tactics. Someone occasionally has to “burn shit down.” And Kane is good at burning shit down

…What remains to be seen is whether her sometimes gleeful arson, which often seems like an end in itself, also puts what she’s trying to build at risk. It’s difficult to build a media operation while refusing to engage with the subjects of the stories you’re trying to tell. “

Here is Blake on Farrell:

“He also maintains that A Voice for Men deploys over-the-top language and tactics because it’s the only way to overcome public indifference and draw attention to the urgent problems facing men. “I don’t know a social movement that has made any progress without anger,” he told me.”

Farrell’s last word on this, in his response to the article, is anything but angry.  He comes across as a genuine and thoughtful man. I will be taking a closer look at his work.

On a personal level, I appreciate your accurate incorporation of some of my responses to your queries. Overall, though, I feel like I’ve been portrayed as the unwitting and sometimes witting inspirer of the gender equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan–of men who would rape or kill women. To me, this is like saying Mother Jones was a Communist who inspired the deaths perpetrated by Stalin. (Well, I’m getting on a roll here!)

I know the story as you wrote it matches the vision of the great majority of MJ’s readers, and that that is your source of income and ideology. I mistakenly thought that with more information, that you were a woman who would have the courage to move your readers to see what they were not seeing rather than further close their minds, deepen their fears of men, and widen the gender gap. Yes, many men’s rights men have done the same thing–but you, who are condemning that, are in your own way reinforcing that. Do you see that?

To me, Mariah, when a magazine calls itself liberal, radical or progressive, it ideally incorporates rather than excludes. Being progressive means using the skills of gifted writers such as you to articulate well what has been articulated poorly; to uncover the best intent of the angry and hurt.

As you know, when I was with the women’s movement, I tried to never allow books like the SCUM Manifesto–advocating a Society for Cutting Up Men by the woman who shot Andy Warhol–to blind me from seeing the women’s movement’s best intent. To me, that is what is required if we are to call ourselves progressive.

Please ask yourself, “will this article leave women angrier?”

And “will it leave men feeling unheard?”

Do you want to feed your son by creating a world with angrier women and unheard men?

Mad Men: Inside the Men’s Rights Movement—and the Army of Misogynists and Trolls It Spawned | Mother Jones

“Speaking up every. F*cking. Time” — Matter — Medium


Another reason to repeal blasphemy laws

by Limbic on January 31, 2015

USACE employees receive flu protection

From the Sydney Morning Herald comes this, “Anti-vaccination group encourages parents to join fake church“:

A controversial anti-vaccination group is encouraging people to sign up to a fake church because it may help them bypass Australia’s emerging “no jab, no play” childcare laws.

…children who are not fully immunised are unable to enrol in childcare unless their parents declare they have a medical reason or personal, philosophical or religious objection.

…But with some doctors refusing to sign the documents, the Australian Vaccination Skeptics Network Inc (formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network), is spruiking 1 the “Church of Conscious Living” as a religion that is opposed to vaccination.

Now imagine how this could go down here in Denmark, where according to the Blasphemy laws

“Anybody who publicly mocks or insults any in this country legally existing religious community tenets of faith or worship, will be punished by fine or imprisonment for up to 4 months.” –  § 140 of the penal code

A  pseudo-science believing loon can simply join or establish a religious community. They declare these claims to be tenets of faith or worship. They declare they are insulted by any disputation of their tenets of faith. Anyone arguing with them publicly commits a crime.

[Note: Fleming has a response to this characterization in the comments below]

The Onion nails it, as usual:

I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

(Thanks Farren for the heads up on Danish blasphemy laws)


  1. New word to me, means to promote


Africanized Deep House

by Limbic on January 30, 2015

Jody Wisternoff just dropped his latest Intensified Mix for January 2015 [MP3] .

Track two is a “Mr Raoul K – Sena Kela feat . Laolu”.  I absolutely love this track. It sounds a bit like early Deep Forest , but don’t let that put you off.

Here it is….

Here is the whole mix….

Intensified – 5 January 2015 – Jody Wisternoff by Chemicalgroove on Mixcloud


The Fatalism of Names (or a tale of two Barrys)

by Limbic on January 29, 2015

I never cease to be tickled by name <–> profession suitability.

Two recent examples

Barry Mapp the Mind Mapping Expert

This is from Barry’s Udemy course. Nice guy and great course, but oh how he must get mocked for that name.

Barry Sample the drug tester

This one comes from This American Life’s “I Was So High” episode:

 Ira Glass: Sean, are there surveys measuring how many of us are high all the time?

Sean Cole: I mean– [SIGH] There’s not a lot of data. There’s workplace drug tests that show 3 and 1/2% of workers test positive for drugs. But obviously, that’s only in workplaces that test for drugs in the first place.  One of the experts on this data, who’s wonderfully named, Dr. Barry Sample from Quest Diagnostics told me drug use is a couple percentage points higher in places that don’t test for drugs.

From http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/524/transcript


Personal Wikis and Link Autosuggestion

by Limbic on January 26, 2015

I absolutely love wikis and have used them personally and professionally for years.

I was not surprised to learn recently that the US intelligence community uses them extensively 1. As does the UK’s GCHQ 2.

I think I started out with Wikidpad as my personal wiki before it was even open sourced. It was (and is) a phenomenal wiki. Windows native, but Python based so with some effort you can get it running on Linux and OS X too.

When I started using OS X both at work and personally, I moved my Wikidpad notes to nvAlt, another stupendous personal information manager that combined near instantaneous search with the ability to create a note right out of your search and super easy note linking with link autocompletion.

Confluence nvalt

A killer feature for me is the ability to get link suggestions/autocompletions as you type. Just Type [[ and start typing a name and if it exists you get a list of matching linked notes you can select and link to. Confluence, Wikipad, naval and SahrePoint Wiki all have this natively. You can get it in MediaWiki with plugins like LinkSuggest, but it only starts to suggest after the first three letters. This feature is missing from OneNote, although linking via [[ is supported.

Whilst I loved nvAlt for my personal wiki / notebook, I also wanted a public notebook or wiki.

I tended to find myself using one of two wikis for pubic wikis: MediaWiki or Confluence .

I had been using MediaWiki for several projects (e.g. the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club wiki) and found it a phenomenally powerful platform, especially when you extend it with plugins like Semantic MediaWiki. I also greatly enjoyed Confluence. I used it for many years in a former company, where it was an indispensable tool for us. We used to for all our internal documentation, but also for external facing user documentation.

Confluence is hard to beat on features, especially the much loved link autocompletion feature.  It is a full on Enterprise wiki, but it comes at a price. Unlike MediaWiki, you need a dedicated VM / computer to run it. It is Java based and needs loads of memory to be performant. The license is dirt cheap for individuals and small teams ($10 for 10 users) but as soon as you exceed this you are paying big bucks for the software. You also need to be fairly technically proficient to operate a Confluence instance, but it is very well supported too.

These days I am mostly using OneNote for my notes and personal wiki. It is an absolutely superb piece of software that “just works” on every platform I uses (Windows, OSX, iOS, Windows Phone). I have filed a feature request (internally) with the OneNote team for them  to support link autocompletion. If you like the idea, please vote for it on  the OneNote team’s Uservoice.

I have been tempted to OneNote as a public wiki too. It is trivially easy to share a notebook with the public. The only problem is that the URLs are ugly and the notebook cannot be styled to look unique to you.

If I can find a way to easily shuttle my OneNotes to Confluence, I may have a winner. I can do all my composing in OneNote, then just publish to Confluence 3.

I am already considering doing this for blogging now that OneNote for Windows has a blogging feature now.

If you are looking for some resources to get started with your own wiki, here you go….

  1. “Structured analytic techniques for intelligence analysis by by Richards J. Heuer, Jr., and Randolph H. Pherson (2011)
  2. One of Edward Snowden’s leaks was a copy of the “Internal Wikipedia” used by GCHQ
  3. Plugin writers, I beseech you!