Thursday, June 24, 2010


Every now and again I put up a gallery of what I think are the best pictures that have appeared on my blogs. I have finally got around to putting up my selection for the second half of 2009. See here


Personality, happiness and those pesky genetics again

A central tenet of Leftism has long been that people are something of a blank state and can be "educated" into becoming whatever the Leftist wants. So Leftists to this day often reject the idea that what we are is largely genetically inherited. The evidence against the Leftist dogma has been piling up over the years, however, and recent research, below, has confirmed in detail what has long been known in general -- that even how happy you usually are is genetically inherited. It has long been known, for instance, that even quadriplegics -- people who have lost the use of their limbs through spinal injury -- end up roughly as happy after their accident as before.

If anything, the report below understates the role of genetics. It was found that genetics explained only 50% of the variance in happiness. But that does NOT mean that environmental factors explained the rest. The remaining variation in the data is much more likely to be due to errors of measurement. Measuring happiness is hard to do with great exactitude.

Leftist intellectuals in recent times have sometimes used the invariance of happiness to argue that governments should be free to do what they like because people's happiness will be unaffected anyway. That obnoxious argument assumes, however, that what people want is unimportant. Leftists do often seem to believe that

Happiness in life is as much down to having the right genetic mix as it is to personal circumstances according to a recent study.

Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh working with researchers at Queensland Institute for Medical Research in Australia found that happiness is partly determined by personality traits and that both personality and happiness are largely hereditary.

Using a framework which psychologists use to rate personalities, called the Five-Factor Model, the researchers found that people who do not excessively worry, and who are sociable and conscientious tend to be happier.

They suggested that this personality mix can act as a buffer when bad things happen, according to the study published in the March issue of Psychological Science.

The researchers used personality and happiness data on more than 900 twin pairs. They identified evidence for common genes which result in certain personality traits and predispose people to happiness.

The findings suggest that those lucky enough to have the right inherited personality mix have an ‘affective reserve’ of happiness which can be called upon in stressful times or in times of recovery.

The researchers say that although happiness has its roots in our genes, around 50 per cent of the differences between people in their life happiness is still down to external factors such as relationships, health and careers.

Dr Alexander Weiss, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, who led the research said: “Together with life and liberty, the pursuit of happiness is a core human desire. Although happiness is subject to a wide range of external influences we have found that there is a heritable component of happiness which can be entirely explained by genetic architecture of personality.”



McChrystal was right

By Barry Rubin

There are two ways of looking at General Stanley McChrystal's interviews with Rolling Stone magazine: one is to focus on whether he should have said such things, the other is to analyze the important truths he unveiled. Here, I'm going to look at the latter and, following my usual practice, I've actually read the article and will base myself on the text.

But first, think about it: the general pointed out the near-disastrous situation with American leadership today. An increasing number of people know that he's correct in his assessment. Isn't that what's really important?

On its cover, Rolling Stone called him, "The Runaway General," saying he is carefully watching "the wimps in the White House." Coming from Rolling Stone, this phrase is presumably intended to mock the general. To anyone who cares about U.S. security, however, it rings true, a warning rather than a whining.

Thus, Michael Hastings has written an article important not for back-biting gossip about who doesn't like who but because it tells a lot about the looming tragedy on the ground in Afghanistan and the loony situation in the government in Washington.

One of the most devastating points in Hastings' article is one whose huge significance the author himself doesn't seem to notice. In passing, he mocks the Afghan war effort as "the exclusive property of the United States" because all of its allies have opted out. Yet doesn't this mean that President Barack Obama's apparent popularity with Europe is meaningless? After all, Obama has made this his war and if he cannot get any ally to support the campaign that is a devastating outcome.

At the other extreme, the most noticed point in the article was Hastings' quote from one of the general's top aides saying that in meeting with the generals, Obama seemed ill-prepared and disengaged. Does this surprise you? Do you doubt that it is true? What, then, is the proper reaction, to feel that McChrystal and his staff have big mouths or to be worried about the tininess of the president's experience, knowledge, interest, focus, and decisiveness?

Much more here


Not for Sale

As the adage goes, if you give a mouse a cookie he's going to want a glass of milk. The same is true when government attempts to exercise power outside its boundaries.

Eminent domain, a process in which a state can take over private property for public use in exchange for market-value compensation, was established by our Founding Fathers as a way for America to better herself for the good of the people. It was primarily meant to be used to build roads and provide public right of ways for a growing nation.

"Eminent domain is for public use, for roads and schools," says Christina Walsh, director of activism and coalitions for the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm. "It is not simply to transfer property to someone who has more money and more power."

Throughout the nation are cases where government at all levels is seizing property for private profit - whether it be a new shopping center, condominiums or to expand a current business. State and local governments are exercising powers beyond their limits to fund corporate welfare and for their own economic growth.

A case that received national criticism by property owners was the 2005 Supreme Court decision of Kelo vs. City of New London. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of New London, Connecticut, to wipe out an entire neighborhood for hotels and offices to better complement pharmaceutical company Pfizer's new corporate facility.

Lead plaintiff, Susette Kelo's land went to private developers to fund corporate welfare. But that's not all. New London and Connecticut spend about $78 million to clear the land for condos and other specialty components. Four years after that decision, Pfizer decided to move out, leaving the government-seized land barren and empty. Not only was a neighborhood lost for nothing, but millions of dollars was also wasted.

"This was an unconscionable decision made by the Supreme Court," says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG). "Eminent domain should never be used as a power grab to benefit the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of the people."

As this Supreme Court decision sent shockwaves around the country, many states reformed their eminent domain laws. Walsh says 43 states have taken steps to protect the rights of property owners and about half of those states have made significant reforms.

"In the wake of the Kelo decision, people found out about the abuse of power and communities starting rallying around property owners," Walsh says. "There have been dozens of successes over the years for property owners."

Some states still have done nothing to reform current laws dealing with eminent domain. New York is one of those states and is currently in battles to seize land from many private property owners for its own economic development.

Current New York law considers property in "blight" conditions, a condition of disrepair, to be able to be seized by eminent domain procedures. With a loose definition of what "blight" conditions look like, many corporations and cities have seized on opportunities to takeover properties they justify as "blighted."

In the case of Kaur vs. Urban Development Corporation, there is controversial use of eminent domain by Columbia University, a private school, which wants to build a new 17-acre research campus in the West Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville.

Manhattanville business owners' lead attorney and former New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Norman Siegel was able to prove that Columbia and Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) conspired together to produce the conditions of "blight" that would then allow the ESDC to seize the property wanted by the university. He also found that many of the "blighted" buildings were already owned by Columbia and it was the university's responsibility to clean them up. Because the university was not keeping the buildings and spaces up to code, many of the businesses in the area were forced to move out.

Last December a state appellate court struck down the ESDC's actions as illegal. The case was then heard by the Court of Appeals on June 1, and a ruling is expected sometime this summer.



Brookes News update

Obama's ideology could wreck America : If for some perverse reason your idea of success is a massive expansion of government at the expense of economic progress then destructive economic policies make sense. It becomes apparent why Obama and his cronies would see absolutely nothing wrong with implementing an energy policy that would cause "electricity prices to rocket", as he admitted, and oil prices to soar. We begin to see why he wouldn't mind being a one-term president if he was able to set America on an irreversible course that would transform it into a country that reflected his statist vision. If that were to happen America would indeed cease to be America
The Australian economy is looking shaky : If the government borrows or taxes then this clearly involves a straightforward transfer of purchasing power. It is absolutely absurd to suggest that this process raises total spending. Yet this is exactly what is being said
KPMG and the stupidity of Rudd's resource rent tax : KPMG's resource rent tax paper is utterly worthless. The fact is that Rudd used taxpayers' money to pay KPGM to give him the result he wanted. We have a word for that kind of behavior. As for the idea of economic rent, it is a dangerous fallacy that will do enormous damage to the economy if it is not thoroughly refuted
Paul Krugman's dishonesty and contemptible behavior : I've no idea what it is about President Bush that drove Krugman nuts, but I strongly urge him to undergo a course of psychiatric treatment because he has long since passed the point where facts or reason - or even reality - matter to him
How are wage rates determined? : Thus no employer can lastingly pay a worker one dollar an hour and sell his product for five dollars an hour. Other employers will be very happy to enter this business and offer the worker more than one dollar per hour. It is the values that consumers place on each particular contribution to total production that determine what businessmen can pay for that particular contribution
Oliver Stone & Jesse Ventura tag-team for Hugo Chavez to smack down America : Self-styled libertarian Jesse "The Body" (not Jesse "The Brain") Ventura praised the sadistic tyrannical Castro and Oliver Stone, Castro and Chavez's favourite Hollywood lickspittle. Ventura thinks these thugs are absolutely super-duper people: Ventura is so dumb he annot distinguish between the subjects of a Stalinist police state and the attendees of an AmWay convention



Israel launches new spy satellite “Ofek 9″: "Israel launched a spy satellite called ‘Ofek 9′ late Tuesday, Israel’s Defense Ministry and officials said, increasing Israel’s capacity to keep an eye on enemies like Iran. The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying the satellite was launched late Tuesday from the Palmachim air force base on Israel’s coast south of Tel Aviv. An hour later, after the satellite completed its first circuit, the ministry said it had achieved its proper orbit, describing it as ‘a surveillance satellite with advanced technological capabilities.’”

Obama having staff problems: "A burst of unsettling news about President Obama's key staff members Tuesday threatened new challenges to his image and agenda, already stained by the BP oil spill and the chance of a shellacking for his party in November. In a span of hours, Peter Orszag said he would quit as director of the Office of Management and Budget in July, Rahm Emanuel fought rumors that he would step down as Obama's chief of staff and, most embarrassing, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, criticized the administration in a Rolling Stone article".


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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" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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