Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bristol Palin's Hollywood and the MSM

By Dick McDonald []

Bristol Palin has made it to the finals of Dancing with the Stars. From a dancing standpoint she should have been eliminated weeks ago. It baffles many why she has lasted so long. The left has advanced the ludicrous theory that it is because she is the daughter of their hated Sarah. Others say it is because she is an underdog. Other say it is because she was treated so poorly during and after her teenage pregnancy.

I believe in another theory. I think American families are using her as a protest against Hollywood, the leftist, the media, liberals and their immense displeasure with all things Obama and Pelosi and Reid. I think it is a subtle rebuke of Letterman, Bill Maher, Tina Fey, John Stewart and their ilk. The “people” have very few avenues to voice their hate for the daily barrage of leftist propaganda. I think Bristol is the lucky recipient of their rage.

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No You Can't. Is genius a simple matter of hard work? Not a chance

What do you think of when you hear the word "genius"? Most of us, I suspect, picture a fellow in a white coat who squints into a microscope, twiddles a knob, and says, "Eureka! I've found the cure for cancer!" More often than not, though, scientific and creative discoveries are the result not of bolts of mental lightning but of long stretches of painfully hard slogging. This unromantic reality is the subject of "Sudden Genius?: The Gradual Path to Creative Breakthroughs," a new book in which the British biographer Andrew Robinson examines key moments in the lives of such giants as Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci. The conclusion that he draws from their experience is that creative genius is "the work of human grit, not the product of superhuman grace." Along the way, Mr. Robinson also takes time out to consider one of the most fashionable modern-day theories of genius—and finds it wanting.

The theory is known in England as "the 10-year rule" and in the U.S., where it has been popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of "Outliers," as "the 10,000-hour rule." The premise is the same: To become successful at anything, you must spend 10 years working at it for 20 hours each week. Do so, however, and success is all but inevitable. You don't have to be a genius—in fact, there's no such thing.

K. Anders Ericsson, the psychologist who is widely credited with having formulated the 10,000-hour rule, says in "The Making of an Expert," a 2007 article summarizing his research, that "experts are always made, not born." He discounts the role played by innate talent, citing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as an example: "Nobody questions that Mozart's achievements were extraordinary. . . . What's often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert—he became one."

It's easy to see why the Ericsson-Gladwell view of genius as a form of skill-based expertise has become so popular, for it meshes neatly with today's egalitarian notions of human potential. Moreover, there is much evidence for the validity—up to a point—of the 10,000-hour rule. My own favorite example is that of Charlie Parker, the father of bebop. As a teenager, he embarrassed himself by sitting in at Kansas City jam sessions before he had fully mastered the alto saxophone, thereby acquiring a citywide reputation for incompetence. In 1937 the humiliation overwhelmed him, and he took a summer job at a Missouri resort and began practicing in earnest for the first time in his life. Eight years later, he had metamorphosed into the glittering virtuoso who teamed up with Dizzy Gillespie to record "Ko-Ko," "Groovin' High" and "Salt Peanuts," thereby writing himself into the history of jazz.

The problem with the 10,000-hour rule is that many of its most ardent proponents are political ideologues who see the existence of genius as an affront to their vision of human equality, and will do anything to explain it away. They have a lot of explaining to do, starting with the case of Mozart. As Mr. Robinson points out, Nannerl, Mozart's older sister, was a gifted pianist who received the same intensive training as her better-known brother, yet she failed to develop as a composer. What stopped her? The simplest explanation is also the most persuasive one: He had something to say and she didn't. Or, to put it even more bluntly, he was a genius and she wasn't.

To his credit, Mr. Robinson unequivocally rejects what he calls "the anti-elitist Zeitgeist." At the same time, he believes that while "genius is not a myth," it is merely an enabling condition that can be brought to fruition only through hard and focused work. This seems to me to strike the right balance—yet it still fails to account for the impenetrable mystery that enshrouds such birds of paradise as Bobby Fischer, who started playing chess at the age of 6. Nine years later, he became the U.S. chess champion. His explanation? "All of a sudden I got good."

Anyone who thinks himself capable of similar achievements would do well to heed the tart counsel of H.L. Mencken: "Is it hot in the rolling-mill? Are the hours long? Is $1.15 a day not enough? Then escape is very easy. Simply throw up your job, spit on your hands, and write another 'Rosenkavalier.'" Even if you don't care for Richard Strauss's most popular opera, you get the idea. Disbelievers in genius are hereby invited to prove their point by sitting down and creating an equally great work of art. You have until 2020 to comply. Any takers?


Since anecdote often helps to make a point vivid, let me illustrate the points above by recounting my own own background and where it led. I have never WORKED at anything academic in my life, though I always enjoyed academic things. So it should be no surprise that for my first degree I got lower second class honours and for my Master's degree second class honours. My Ph.D. took four years to get marked owing to dissension over it. So I started out on a very mediocre footing in academe.

Yet I started out during my Ph.D. studies submitting articles to academic journals for publication. And my very first published paper was admired for its clarity and concision. In the 20 years after that I got 200+ papers published, with papers coming out at nearly the rate of one a fortnight in my more involved years. By comparison, most academics aim at one paper a year. So I make no claim to being a genius but I was certainly extremely good in operating at the cutting edge of knowledge. Yet at no time did I ever work at it. I just did what I enjoyed and found interesting.

And my colleagues were extremely jealous -- as publications are the marker of academic excellence. They would have LOVED to get papers out at the rate I did but they simply could not. Neither hard work nor anything else enabled that in them. I was born with that talent and they were not. They could work for a year over a paper and end up having it rejected, whereas I sometimes wrote a paper in one day and had it immediately accepted.

It's a very limited talent that I have. I am so clumsy that I quite often cut myself just opening a can of beans or such. Most things I cannot do but there is that one thing that I do well. My abilities and non-abilities are not the product of anything I ever did. They just ARE


In Canada You May Die Waiting For Care, But Enjoy This Web Site

By David Hogberg

The Commonwealth Fund has another one of its surveys showing how health care in the U.S. is so much worse when compared with so many other nations.

A debate on what health care system is best is well worth having. But it’s hard to take such a debate seriously when the senior vice president for the Commonwealth Fund, Cathy Schoen, makes remarks like this: "The U.S. is the only country in the study where having health insurance doesn’t guarantee you access to health care or financial protection when you’re sick. This is avoidable — other countries have designed their insurance systems to value access and limit out-of-pocket costs".

But isn’t Schoen right? After all, under the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, people with bone marrow disease get access to the drug Vidaza, people with bowel cancer get access to Avastin, people with kidney cancer get access to Afinitor, and children with bone cancer get access to Mepact.

Oh, wait. No, they don’t. That NICE Committee said those drugs weren’t worth the cost.

Perhaps Schoen has a better case with Canada. After all, Canuck Diane Gorsuch had access to heart surgery under Canada’s system. Oh, wrong again! Ms. Gorsuch in fact had her surgery canceled twice and was waiting for her third one went she suffered a fatal heart attack. On the upside, she’s no longer on the waiting list.

One thing that Canada does guarantee its citizens — in British Columbia — is access to a Web site to check on wait times for surgeries. You simply click on the body part, and a list of hospitals appears showing the average wait times. For example, 50% of the people who need open heart surgery receive it within 3.3 weeks, and 90% receive it within 10 weeks.

Kevin Falcon, minister of health services in British Columbia, is a proud bureaucrat: “We’ve been recognized by groups like the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Wait Times Alliance as leaders in Canada in reducing surgical waits for key priority areas. The new wait times Web site will build on our success, giving patients more control over their surgical options by letting them see and compare surgery wait times from every hospital across British Columbia.”

So British Columbians may have a long wait for surgery ... but they don’t have to wait long to find that out.

Of course, maybe it won’t be long before we have such Web sites in the U.S., with politicians pushing us closer to a Canadian health system and the likes of Schoen cheering them on.



"Give Us Gridlock"

By Howard Rich

While it lacks the panache of Patrick Henry's impassioned "give me liberty" cry (which the Virginian borrowed from Cato, incidentally), the reality is that Republicans looking for a modus operandi in Washington next year could do a lot worse than "give us gridlock." In fact gridlock is really all that they can promise voters — at least for now.

While reaping historic gains in the U.S. House, the Tea Party-fueled GOP wave that broke with such force across the country last week was necessarily limited in its breadth. After all, the names of President Barack Obama and nearly two-thirds of the U.S. Senate did not appear on the ballot. Also roughly the same number of Democratic and Republican Senate seats were up for grabs in 2010 — which limited GOP gains in the upper chamber (along with the fact that Democrats were defending seats in liberal strongholds like California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Vermont).

Meanwhile in West Virginia — where a Republican hasn't been elected to a full-term in the U.S. Senate since 1942 — the victorious Democratic candidate won his race by running a TV ad in which he picked up a rifle and literally shot a hole through Obama's proposed "cap and trade" energy tax hike. "I'll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets," Gov. Joe Manchin said in the ad, sounding more like a Tea Party protester than a twice-elected Democratic governor.

In 2012 the stakes will be much higher. Not only must Obama himself face the voters but 23 Democratic Senate seats must be defended — several of them in GOP-leaning states like Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Virginia. Having slammed the brakes on the socialist overreaching of Obama and his Congressional allies in 2010 — in the next election, limited government advocates must commence the long-overdue national U-turn back to fiscal sanity, individual liberty, free markets and constitutionally-limited government.

Michael Tanner — a senior fellow at the Cato Institute — has been an instrumental voice in dissecting the fiscal betrayal that led to the GOP's "power loss" in 2006 and 2008. In analyzing last week's elections, Tanner described Republicans as being like the "proverbial dog that caught the car, wondering what they should do next."

That may be overstating things a bit given the extent to which Democrats still control the levers of power in Washington, but Tanner does offer some sage advice for the incoming Republican House Majority. "Republicans won this time simply by not being Democrats," he writes. "But having even a share of governing power means that just opposing the worst of the Obama agenda won't be enough next time. Republicans need to develop and put forward a positive agenda. They need to do this even if they know that the bills will die in the Senate or be vetoed by the president."

Indeed. And while "gridlock" may be the only result of the current congressional balance, this should not dissuade Republicans from vigorously advancing an agenda based on what fueled their dramatic gains – a reawakening of America's freedom-loving, limited government conscience. What should be on Republicans' agenda?

Obviously, the low-hanging fruit includes a permanent extension of the 2001/03 tax cuts (in their entirety) and an immediate reversal of other tax increases that are scheduled to take effect on January 1. According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, preventing these tax hikes would pump as much as $6 trillion into the U.S. economy over the coming decade.

Of course it is not enough to simply stop the coming "tax tsunami," Republicans must also mount an effort to undo the damage that's been done by a decade of unsustainable government growth and two years of full-blown socialism. That means repealing every word of "Obamacare," scrapping so-called "Wall Street reform" and restoring welfare laws that were gutted when the Obama bureaucratic bailout was passed.

And that's just a start. In addition to slicing trillions off of the deficit by axing "Obamacare" and eliminating dozens of new government programs created by Obama's bailout and "financial reform" laws, the government-cutting scalpel must go even deeper into Washington's needless layers of bureaucracy.

More fundamentally, Washington itself must be redefined. A culture of entitlement must be dismantled brick-by-brick and replaced by a government that's focused on core competencies. A cesspool of corruption dominated by career politicians must be swept aside in favor of clean government run by term-limited citizen legislators.

And the conventional Washington wisdom which holds that "getting things done" means passing new legislation and regulations must be turned completely on its ear. In fact, until citizen leaders committed to freedom and free markets hold all of the levers of power in Washington, "give us gridlock." After all, doing nothing is infinitely preferable to jumping off of a cliff.




The great radio blockade against competition: "The Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act turns 10 next month. If Congress believed in truth in advertising, it would have called the law the Radio Broadcaster Preservation Act, since its effect was to protect existing stations from a new wave of competition. Though even that name would have been a stretch: The new competitors would all be noncommercial outlets transmitting at no more than 100 watts of power, so they weren’t likely to put anyone out of business.”

AK: AP calls US Senate race for RINO: "After a two-week count of write-in ballots, the Associated Press has called the Alaska Senate race for incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski, who defeated Tea Party challenger Joe Miller, will be the first write-in candidate to win election to the Senate since South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond in 1954.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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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