Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mrs Obama

I was right in my judgment yesterday that Mrs. Obama would fret about not being invited to the forthcoming Royal wedding in Britain. We read:
Even after it was clear that Prince William and Kate Middleton would not be sending a wedding invitation to the White House, Michelle Obama still appears not to have given up hope. "If I get invited, I'll go," the First Lady said on the Live With Regis and Kelly Show on American television. She conceded, however, that, as things stand, she had not been invited


It's looking bad in Egypt

Professor William Jacobson of Cornell Law School writes that "the yuppie revolution in Egypt is over." He points to the return to Cairo, in triumph, of Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had been exiled by Mubarak. al-Qaradawi spoke to a crowd of, reportedly, more than a million Egyptians in Tahrir Square on Friday.

Sheik al-Qaradawi has been whitewashed somewhat in the liberal press, but he is a hard-core radical Muslim. Discover the Networks has the details. Here is al-Qaradawi on the Jews, in January 2009:
Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them - even though they exaggerated this issue - he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.

And on the United States and its efforts in Iraq:
All of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and one should fight them, since the American civilians came to Iraq in order to serve the occupation. The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately.

To be fair, al-Qaradawi did include some conciliatory words in his speech on Friday. For example, he included Egypt's Copts in his greeting. But his audience knows perfectly well what he stands for. Professor Jacobson posted this video, via Israel Matzav. One of the chants you hear translates, "To Jerusalem we go, for us to be the Martyrs of the Millions."

To Jerusalem we go? That could be a big problem for both the U.S. and Israel, whose security policies have long rested on the historic peace between Egypt and Israel.

One of the western media's favorite Egyptian rebels is Google executive Wael Ghonim. No surprise there: if you had to choose among radical clerics like al-Qaradawi, hooligans like those who assaulted Lara Logan, and a suave, Westernized Google exec, whom would you want to interview? Ghonim was present on Friday and intended to address the crowd, but he was barred from the platform by al-Qaradawi's security. He left the stage in distress, "his face hidden by an Egyptian flag." Is Ghonim Egypt's Kerensky? Well, at least Kerensky got to rule for a while.

I very much hope I am wrong, but I am getting a here-we-go-again sense about events in Egypt and, I am afraid, through much of the region.



Barack Hussein Alinsky

Pat Buchanan

As a large and furious demonstration was under way outside and inside the Capitol in Madison last week, Barack Obama invited in a TV camera crew from Milwaukee and proceeded to fan the flames.

Dropping the mask of The Great Compromiser, Obama reverted to his role as South Chicago community organizer, charging Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature with an "assault on unions."

As the late Saul Alinsky admonished in his "Rules for Radicals," "the community organizer ... must first rub raw the resentments of the people; fan the latent hostilities to the point of overt expression."

After Obama goaded the demonstrators, the protests swelled. All 14 Democratic state senators fled to Illinois to paralyze the upper chamber by denying it a quorum. Teachers went on strike, left kids in the classroom and came to Madison. Schools shut down.

Jesse Jackson arrived. The White House political machine went into overdrive to sustain the crowds in Madison and other capitals and use street pressure to break governments seeking to peel back the pay, perks, privileges and power of public employee unions that are the taxpayer-subsidized armies of the Democratic Party.

Marin County millionairess Nancy Pelosi, doing a poor imitation of Emma Goldman, announced, "I stand in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers fighting for their rights, especially for all the students and young people leading the charge."

Is this not the same lady who called Tea Partiers "un-American" for "drowning out opposing views"? Is not drowning out opposing views exactly what those scores of thousands are doing in Madison, banging drums inside the state Capitol?

Some carried signs comparing Walker to Hitler, Mussolini and Mubarak. One had a placard with the face of Walker in the cross hairs of a rifle sight. Major media seemed uninterested. These signs didn't comport with their script.

In related street action, protesters, outraged over Congress' oversight of the D.C. budget, showed up at John Boehner's residence on Capitol Hill to abuse the speaker at his home.

And so the great battle of this generation is engaged. Between now and 2013, the states are facing a total budget shortfall of $175 billion. To solve it, they are taking separate paths.

Illinois voted to raise taxes by two-thirds and borrow $12 billion more, $8.5 billion of it to pay overdue bills. The Republican minority fought this approach, but was outvoted and accepted defeat.

Wisconsin, however, where Republicans captured both houses and the governor's office in November, and which is facing a deficit of $3.6 billion over the next two years, has chosen to cut spending.

Walker and the legislature want to require state employees, except police, firemen and troopers, to contribute half of their future pension benefits and up to 12.6 percent of health care premiums.

Wisconsin state workers and teachers enjoy the most generous benefits of state employees anywhere in America. According to the MacIver Institute, the average teacher in the Milwaukee public schools earns $100,000 a year -- $56,000 in pay, $44,000 in benefits -- and enjoys job security.

The Battle of Madison, where Obama, Pelosi, the AFL-CIO, Jackson, the teachers unions and the Alinskyite left are refusing to accept the results of the 2010 election and taking to the streets to break state governments, is shaping up as the first engagement in the Battle for America. What will be decided?

Can the states, with new governments elected by the people, roll back government to prevent a default? Or will the states be forced by street protests, work stoppages by legislators, and strikes by state employees and teachers to betray the people who elected them? Will they be forced to raise taxes ad infinitum to feed the government's insatiable appetite for tax dollars?

In short, does democracy work anymore in America?



Dude, Where's My Theory of Everything?

Bryan Caplan

Almost all traits run in families. But why? People have literally debated the question for thousands of years. Is the cause nature/heredity/genes, nurture/upbringing/parenting, or some mixture of the two?

Until a few decades ago, the debaters basically just chased their own tails. And then... enlightenment happened. Social scientists finally discovered a Rosetta Stone to disentangle nature from nurture. Or to be precise, they discovered two Rosetta Stones. The first was the twin study: comparing identical to fraternal twins. The second was the adoption study: comparing adoptees to their adopted families - and occasionally their biological families as well.

Since then, researchers have used these Rosetta Stones to decipher a massive list of mysteries. As I recount in my forthcoming book, twin and adoption researchers studied human health, intelligence, happiness, success, character, values, appreciation, and more. Their answers are beyond surprising. With a few important exceptions, they learned that nature handily wins its ancient cage match with nurture, especially in the long-run. Traits run in families primarily due to heredity, not upbringing. The mighty effects that people ascribe to parenting are largely imaginary.

Faced with these achievements, you'd expect almost any social scientist to be impressed, even awed. But not Tyler Cowen. His reaction, instead, is to complain that twin and adoption methods don't contribute more.* Who cares if you've solved the ancient nature/nurture debate? He wants a Theory of Everything.

I submit that this is both unreasonable and ungrateful. Behavioral geneticists don't have a Theory of Everything. No one does. But behavioral geneticists have answered many important, age-old questions. How many other sub-disciplines in social science can say the same?

Now I'll reply to Tyler point-by-point. Tyler's in blockquotes, I'm not.
"Culture" and "genes" are two major factors determining individual outcomes, toss in parenting, and if you wish call parenting and culture two parts of "environment." It is obvious that culture matters a great deal, and this comes from knowledge which existed prior to rigorous behavioral genetic studies.

... "The culture word" may be overused and abused, but still the power of culture is evident.

If "culture" just means "everything besides heredity and upbringing," then Tyler's clearly right. Identical twins raised together are hardly ever literally identical, therefore other stuff matters. A lot. But if you define culture more falsifiably, things get complicated very quickly. Sure, there are traits like accent that clearly stem from humans' tendency to copy each other. And yes, you can't be "bookish" unless your society has books. Nevertheless, many allegedly cultural traits could easily be genetic, and we don't yet have a Rosetta Stone to disentangle the two.

Tyler continues:
If twin adoption studies seem to show that parenting does not matter much, I think:

1. Matter for what and for whom? Parenting matters a lot for language and religion and obedience and also one's sense of "how the world works," and those factors matter to parents even if they don't always matter to researchers and economists. The word "matters" is going to carry real weight here; in my admittedly extreme pluralist view, "doesn't affect adult income" does not translate into "does not matter."...

Sigh. In my book, which Tyler not only read but blurbed, I cover the twin and adoption evidence not just for income, but for an entire Parental Wish List: health, intelligence, happiness, success, character, values, and appreciation. Religion falls under "values," and the punchline is that parenting has a big but superficial effect. Parents strongly affect what you say your religion is, but have little long-run effect on your intrinsic religiosity or observance. I don't discuss language, but it's pretty clear how a twin or adoption study would play out: You can make your kid semi-fluent in another language with a lot of effort.
2. We already know that culture matters a great deal in shaping what kind of adults children become, but often individual families cannot much affect the broader culture a child is raised in. It's sometimes the individual family which is impotent, not the surrounding culture as a whole.

Plausible. I've made such arguments myself. But twin and adoption methods are poorly designed to test such claims, and it isn't reasonable to expect them to.
3. Most parents are deep conformists. There isn't always a lot of cross-sectional variation in adoption studies. Even if most parenting strategies don't matter (if only because they are not varying much), if a child is raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, or in a strict American-Chinese family, or among the Amish, that probably matters, even adjusting for genes.

The adoption studies can be showing that a) most parents don't so much shape a child's culture at the margin, or b) that environment doesn't much matter in light of the power of genes.

Twin and adoption studies measure the effects of the kinds of parenting that people in the First World frequently use. I say this repeatedly in my book. If you want to do social policy or weigh whether to join the Amish, it's an important limitation. If you want to answer the kinds of questions that most parents in the First World are actually asking, it's not.

And if you want to call the vast majority of Western parents a bunch of "conformists" and claim that their parenting is all basically the same, give credit where credit is due. On the surface, parenting styles seem to vary widely. The only reason anyone would conclude that these diverse approaches are roughly equivalent is by reasoning backwards from their effects. And the only reason anyone would conclude that these effects are small is twin and adoption evidence itself.

* Tyler singles out "twin adoption studies," which is normally a synonym for "separated twin studies." But his critique applies to ordinary twin and adoption studies as well.




White House Backing Away from Wisconsin?: "Rasmussen reports that 48% of likely voters agree with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, while 38% agree with the government union protestors. Perhaps it's not surprising that, in light of those numbers, that The White House is trying to play down the reports of its involvements in the protests. Either way, perhaps some of the most insightful discussion of the stand-off has come from PajamasMedia's Richard Pollock, who explains why involving themselves in the Wisconsin protests has been a significant strategic miscalculation for both The White House and Democrats generally."

Public sector unions a menace to society: "There is a movement sweeping the nation to restrict or end the ability of public-sector employees to use collective bargaining as a way of strong-arming more money and benefits from an already overtaxed public. This is a much-needed reform to a system that is draining the fiscal life out of the states. Perhaps years of watching government employees get richer on the backs of workers in the real world who continue to see drastic cuts is sparking this movement."

Commerce is a people’s revolution, daily: "The big-box book business has begun to crumble with the bankruptcy filing of book-selling behemoth Borders. The Chapter 11 filing indicates the company is looking to restructure its debts and continue on. But as in the case of bankrupt Blockbuster, there may not be anything to restructure, with both of these old-technology companies destined for liquidation and futures of little more than Wikipedia entries chronicling each company's past glories."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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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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