Strong opinions, which are weakly held

From Bob Sutton, author of some of my favourite business books comes this:

been pretty obsessed about the difference between smart people and wise people for years. I tried to write a book called “The Attitude of Wisdom” a couple times. And the virtues of wise people – those who have the courage to act on their knowledge, but the humility to doubt what they know – is one of the main themes in Hard Facts.

…Perhaps the best description I’ve ever seen of how wise people act comes from the amazing folks at Palo Alto’s Institute for the Future. A couple years ago, I was talking the Institute’s Bob Johansen about wisdom, and he explained that – to deal with an uncertain future and still move forward – they advise people to have “strong opinions, which are weakly held.”  They’ve been giving this advice for years, and I understand that it was first developed by Instituite Director Paul Saffo.  Bob explained that weak opinions are problematic because people aren’t inspired to develop the best arguments possible for them, or to put forth the energy required to test them. Bob explained that it was just as important, however, to not be too attached to what you believe because, otherwise, it undermines your ability to “see” and “hear” evidence that clashes with your opinions. This is what psychologists sometimes call the problem of “confirmation bias.”

Thanks to Kelly Looney for the heads up.

While Lebanon Boils, Watch Bosnia

Douglas Farah: While Lebanon Boils, Watch Bosnia

There is concern among Bosnian contacts that, if Iran feels things are going badly in Lebanon and that the war needs another front, it would take little to ignite Bosnia. It would not be hard to do and the international presence in Bosnia is greatly reduced. So is the intelligence capacity developed in the late 1990s. Several key intelligence-gathering units have been dissolved in Bosnia in the past six months, meaning the West is more blind there than any time since the mid-1990s.

To date Iranian intelligence maintains a huge apparatus in Bosnia and several dozen, if not hundreds, of trainers with the elite units of the Bosnian military. In addition, several hundred mujahadeen who fought in Afghanistan and then Bosnia remain scattered around Bosnia, many of them still with the elite Bosnia units or in the intelligence apparatus.

The war against Israel – Melanie Philips

The war against Israel:

This weekend, as rockets continue to rain down on northern Israel, there is a rash of demonstrations around Britain against Israel. Not against the genocidal warmongers of Syria and Iran, but against their victim, Israel. Not against Hezbollah, whose rockets are tipped with ball bearings in order to murder and maim as many innocents as possible, but against Israel for waging a war of self defence in which, as in all wars, civilians tragically will lose their lives. Even though Israel, unlike Hezbollah, is delivering repeated warnings to those civilians in advance of its attacks in order to minimise the loss of innocent life whereas the aim of Hezbollah and Hamas is to maximise their murder rate, it is Israel, not Hamas and Hezbollah, which stands condemned in too much of Britain — and as this war grinds on and the casualty rate in Lebanon mounts, such condemnation will surely only increase.

It is Israel, the target of annihilatory attack, which is seen as the guilty party. It is Israel, struggling to defend itself — which it may well not succeed in doing — (so much for its supposedly mythic power, one of the principal motifs of anti-Israel feeling) which is being demonised as brutal and violent, overreacting and at fault. It is Hezbollah which has hidden its rockets in the basements of Lebanon’s apartment buildings, thus using the population of Lebanon as a collective human shield (as Hamas has done in Gaza) behind which it can pursue its murderous purpose against Israel. But it is Israel which is blamed for razing the ‘Paris of the Levant’.

(Via Melanie Phillips’s Diary.)

Fascinating 'disease-mongering' conference ends in Australia

I am referring to Inaugural Conference on Disease Mongering.

‘Disease-mongering’ is the expansion of the boundaries of disorders, the medicalisation of normal life events and the portrayal of risk factors as diseases.

It is a massive problem that is driven mostly by medical and pharmaceutical marketing.

The conference website is here:

The Public Library of Science has papers and notes from the conference on-line.

Brilliant men always betray their wives

From The Daily Telegraph

So Albert Einstein did not, after all, spend all his waking hours chalking up complex symbols on a blackboard. According to letters newly released this week, he devoted quite a bit of it to chasing the ladies. And with considerable success.

To many, the idea of Einstein having 10 mistresses does not fit the classical image of the great, remote genius. Why was he wasting his valuable time with the exhausting business of conducting a string of illicit affairs – affairs that would cause havoc with his family life, damaging especially his relationship with his sons?

The answer is that he, like many other intensely creative men, was over-endowed with one of the human male’s most characteristic qualities: the joy of risk-taking.

Naughty old Einsty! Who woulda thunk it?

Arithmetic of Pain

From the Arithmetic of Pain by Alan M. Dershowitz:

There is no democracy in the world that should tolerate missiles being fired at its cities without taking every reasonable step to stop the attacks. The big question raised by Israel’s military actions in Lebanon is what is “reasonable.” The answer, according to the laws of war, is that it is reasonable to attack military targets, so long as every effort is made to reduce civilian casualties. If the objectives cannot be achieved without some civilian casualties, these must be “proportional” to the civilian casualties that would be prevented by the military action.

This is all well and good for democratic nations that deliberately locate their military bases away from civilian population centers. Israel has its air force, nuclear facilities and large army bases in locations as remote as anything can be in that country. It is possible for an enemy to attack Israeli military targets without inflicting “collateral damage” on its civilian population. Hezbollah and Hamas, by contrast, deliberately operate military wings out of densely populated areas. They launch antipersonnel missiles with ball-bearing shrapnel, designed by Syria and Iran to maximize civilian casualties, and then hide from retaliation by living among civilians. If Israel decides not to go after them for fear of harming civilians, the terrorists win by continuing to have free rein in attacking civilians with rockets. If Israel does attack, and causes civilian casualties, the terrorists win a propaganda victory: The international community pounces on Israel for its “disproportionate” response. This chorus of condemnation actually encourages the terrorists to operate from civilian areas.

While Israel does everything reasonable to minimize civilian casualties – not always with success – Hezbollah and Hamas want to maximize civilian casualties on both sides. Islamic terrorists, a diplomat commented years ago, “have mastered the harsh arithmetic of pain. . . . Palestinian casualties play in their favor and Israeli casualties play in their favor.” These are groups that send children to die as suicide bombers, sometimes without the child knowing that he is being sacrificed. Two years ago, an 11-year-old was paid to take a parcel through Israeli security. Unbeknownst to him, it contained a bomb that was to be detonated remotely. (Fortunately the plot was foiled.)

This misuse of civilians as shields and swords requires a reassessment of the laws of war. The distinction between combatants and civilians – easy when combatants were uniformed members of armies that fought on battlefields distant from civilian centers – is more difficult in the present context. Now, there is a continuum of “civilianality”: Near the most civilian end of this continuum are the pure innocents – babies, hostages and others completely uninvolved; at the more combatant end are civilians who willingly harbor terrorists, provide material resources and serve as human shields; in the middle are those who support the terrorists politically, or spiritually.

The laws of war and the rules of morality must adapt to these realities. An analogy to domestic criminal law is instructive: A bank robber who takes a teller hostage and fires at police from behind his human shield is guilty of murder if they, in an effort to stop the robber from shooting, accidentally kill the hostage. The same should be true of terrorists who use civilians as shields from behind whom they fire their rockets. The terrorists must be held legally and morally responsible for the deaths of the civilians, even if the direct physical cause was an Israeli rocket aimed at those targeting Israeli citizens.

Israel must be allowed to finish the fight that Hamas and Hezbollah started, even if that means civilian casualties in Gaza and Lebanon. A democracy is entitled to prefer the lives of its own innocents over the lives of the civilians of an aggressor, especially if the latter group contains many who are complicit in terrorism.

Anglo-Saxons wanted genetic supremacy

From Ancient Worlds News:

The Anglo-Saxons who conquered England in the 5th century set up a system of apartheid that enabled them to master and outbreed the native British majority, according to gene research.

In less than 15 generations, more than half of the population in England had the genes of the invaders, investigators say.

“The native Britons were genetically and culturally absorbed by the Anglo-Saxons over a period of as little as a few hundred years,” says Dr Mark Thomas, a University College London biologist.

“An initially small invading Anglo-Saxon elite could have quickly established themselves by having more children who survived to adulthood, thanks to their military power and economic advantage.

“We believe that they also prevented the native British genes getting into the Anglo-Saxon population by restricting intermarriage in a system of apartheid that left the country culturally and genetically Germanised,” he says.

“This is what we see today, a population of largely Germanic genetic origin, speaking a principally German language.”

…The Anglo-Saxons, Germanic tribes who lived in present-day Germany, northern Holland and Denmark, invaded Britain in 450 AD after the fall of the Roman empire.

They conquered England but were unable to penetrate far into the Celtic fringes of what are now Wales and Scotland. They coincidentally prompted an exodus of Britons to what is now Brittany, France.

The population of England at that time was probably around two million while the number of Anglo-Saxons was minute: the lowest estimate puts the number of migrants at less than 10,000 some 200 years after the invasion, although others put it at more than 100,000.

How could such a tiny minority have ruled a country so emphatically? How could it skirt assimilation with the native British majority and impose a language, laws, economy and culture whose stamp is visible today?

The answer, suggest Thomas and colleagues, is an “apartheid-like social structure” that enshrined Anglo-Saxons as the master and the native Britons (called “Welshmen”, from the Germanic word for slave) as the servants.

Is there such a thing as a cancer personality?

From an interview with Gabor Mate, who wrote the bestseller “When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stress-disease Connection“:

No personality causes disease. So there’s no cancer personality. However, there are some common traits that, if they are present in exaggerated degrees, will make you more predisposed to the disease. They don’t cause it, but make you more likely to get it because they increase the amount of physiological stress you’ve got inside you. So people who don’t know how to say no, people who are rigid and compulsive, perfectionistic, expecting themselves to be perfect in everything, people who don’t know how to express their experience of anger in a healthy way, people who compulsively and automatically take care of others and don’t think of their own needs, these people are physiologically stressed, whether they know it or not. So it’s not that the person causes the disease. Stress is the thing that leads to disease or leads to conditions for it, but certain personalities are more prone to this stress. Because their boundaries will be invaded but they won’t know it, they’ll be extending themselves and they won’t know it, they will work when they should be resting. So only in that broad sense can you speak of personalities, not in the sense that a particular personality causes a particular disease.

Read on here.

You might want to check out his new highly acclaimed book on parenting and child development “Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” and his fascinating examination of ADD in “Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do about It“.

Good English language news sources for Israel – Hezbollah crisis

DEBKAfile – Political Analysis, Espionage, Terrorism Security.

Jerusalem Post – One of the best English language newspapers in the world. Updated by the minute.

Ha’aretz – Online version of popular Israeli newspaper. Updated by the minute. – English language Israeli news site.

Israel Today – Another Israeli news site

Al Jazeera – Notorious Arab TV news station. Good for rumours and scoops from anti-Israeli/US/Coallition forces but frequently rumours are wrong. [Very slow site] – Lebanese daily.

Arutz Sheva (Israel National News) – Strongly pro-Israeli news site.

The Daily Star – Lebanese daily

Middle East on Target – Analysis and news from Israel

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Official declarations on the situation.