Thursday, June 08, 2006


"Shonky" is a very useful word much used in Australia which is ROUGHLY translatable as "fraudulent", "misleading" or "a confidence trick". In academe, political correctness is a great source of shonky research reports. An article in "The Times" of London drew my attention to this study. The basic claim of the article is that student motivation is the main determinant of success at school. Ability is given short shrift. As soon as I read the report in "The Times", I thought it looked like the authors were spinning like a top. And so I found it to be when I looked at the research report itself.

The authors start out under their heading Explanations with: "there is no evidence that genetic factors such as systematic differences in innate ability play a significant role in ethnic test score gaps". NO evidence? A very bold claim -- particularly in the light of around 100 years of psychometric research showing LARGE interracial differences in IQ and in view of the undoubted correlation between IQ scores and educational attainment. If the authors had said that there was "some controvesy" about the importance of innate differences in ability, they would have made a properly cautious academic statement. What they DID say is a straight-out lie.

And in their own data analysis they make sure that ability will not be shown to have any effect. They "match" (control) for the neighbourhoods from which the students are drawn by using the official "Index of Multiple Deprivation" (IMD) for the neighbourhoods concerned. No prizes for guessing that deprived neighbourhoods tend to be inhabited by lower IQ people. Smart people are not often "deprived".

Not satisfied with that, they also matched students on their "Mosaic" postcode classification -- a classification which again picks out poor versus affluent neighbourhoods. They were determined that nothing in their study would reveal anything about ability. They used proxies of ability to remove its influence on their results.

So in the end they conclude that some ethnic groups outperform whites in educational attainment. That may well be true. As far as Indians are concerned, I have little doubt of it. But that is not what their research showed. What it showed is that blacks outperformed POOR whites only, not whites as a whole.



Segolene Royal, the leftwing favourite for the next French presidency, outraged fellow Socialists for the second time in a week yesterday by attacking the 35-hour working week, the main legacy of the party's last term in office. The 35-hour week had the "unintended consequence of worsening the situation for the most vulnerable workers, notably for women with few qualifications" who now had less time to spend with their families, she said. Mme Royal's criticism of the sacrosanct 1999 working time law followed her call last week for military training for delinquent teenagers from the housing estates and boot camps for their parents.

The unorthodox positions are part of a campaign by Mme Royal, 52, who is far ahead of other contenders, to cast herself as a tough-minded reformist who is in touch with the people rather than just the Socialist party. Among the rivals whom Mme Royal is unsettling is Francois Hollande, who is party leader as well as her partner and father of her four children. So far the self-described "gazelle" of French politics, is succeeding in her strategy of winning so much public support that the party will have to nominate her for the spring 2007 elections, despite what traditionalists see as her heresy over cherished doctrines....

Laurent Fabius, one of the other would-be nominees for next April's election, demanded that Mme Royal, an admirer of Tony Blair in a party which abhors the British Prime Minister, be reprimanded for promoting ideas contrary to Socialist tradition. Yesterday, however, an Ipsos poll by Le Monde showed that Mme Royal had struck a nerve. Some 69 per cent of the public said that they agreed with her ideas for imposing discipline.

More here



We were evil, Google founder admits: "Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin acknowledged the dominant internet company has compromised its principles by accommodating Chinese censorship demands. He said Google is wrestling to make the deal work before deciding whether to reverse course. Meeting with reporters near Capitol Hill in Washington, Brin said Google had agreed to the censorship demands only after Chinese authorities blocked its service in that country."

Australian PM firmly against homosexual marriage: "Prime Minister John Howard said today he had scuttled the ACT's homosexual unions law because it challenged a major characteristic of Australian society. "The Bill is plainly an attempt to mimic marriage under the misleading title of civil unions," Mr Howard told ABC radio. "We are not anti-homosexual people or gay and lesbian people, it is not a question of discriminating against them, it is a question of preserving as an institution in our society marriage as having a special character."

The egregiously destructive war on drugs: "I personally find all currently illegal drugs loathsome; they stunt the mind, inhibit the body, and curtail productivity. I would never consume such substances myself, and I would advise others against doing so. Yet, compared to the adverse effects of their illegalization, the harm of drugs themselves is small indeed. Drug-taking is extremely unhealthy for the persons engaging in it, but not for anybody who abstains from it. The 'War on Drugs,' by contrast, harms everybody subject to a government that undertakes it. I have no sympathy for drug addicts; I wish to argue the case of the innocent, moral, productive people who have never used such substances in their lives but are nonetheless harmed by the coercive illegalization of drugs."

The pitfalls of government "wars": "We have heard that "war is hell," "all's fair in love and war," and "war is politics by other means" (any combination of which illustrates the risks of compounding imperfect analogies). We heard that the 1970s oil crisis was the moral equivalent of war (although government price controls did far more damage than OPEC, making one wonder who declared war on Americans). Government has declared war on every conceivable problem, from drugs and crime to poverty and illiteracy. But the imagery of urgency, resolve, and "giving it all we've got" for the good of the country doesn't match the policies or their effects on the taxpayers' pockets and liberties. Rather, declarations of such "wars" are often just dramatic rhetoric used to promote politicians' pet programs, which frequently do more harm than good, such as the vast invasions of property and privacy, and the increases in violence and corruption, triggered by the War on Drugs.



"All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State." -- 19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel is the most influential philosopher of the Left -- inspiring Karl Marx, the American "Progressives" of the early 20th century and university socialists to this day.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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