Thursday, December 22, 2011

Debunking Myths about Gender and Mathematics Performance?

There is an amusing paper in the forthcoming JANUARY 2012 NOTICES OF THE AMS (American Mathematical Society) which purports to show that it is only oppression of women by society which causes females not to do well in mathematics.

The paper was of course zealous to rule out genetic differences but that does rather leave them without an explanation for Chinese excellence in mathematics. Regardless of the country in which they reside, Chinese tend to be prominent among leading mathematicians -- and China itself is a major centre of mathematical excellence. Yet China is still in many ways a very traditional society in which the very notion of gender equality would normally be scoffed at. The way they abort girl babies is surely enough evidence of that.

Anyway, the paper more or less assumes what it has to prove. In a rather self-contradictory way, the authors seem to assume that educational performance fully indexes innate ability. The paper draws its "evidence" not from IQ tests but from various international measures of educational attainment. And educational attainment is the product of many things other than IQ. Hard work anyone? Social pressures anyone? So I partially agree with the first line of their "Conclusions":
In summary, we conclude that gender equity and other sociocultural factors, not national income, school type, or religion per se, are the primary determinants of mathematics performance at all levels for both boys and girls

You note that they skate entirely over IQ.

They go on to argue that eliminating gender "inequities" is needed to lift female mathematical achievements. After decades of feminism and affirmative action it is hard to imagine how more might be done on that front in the USA other than by procrustean quota systems so the recommendation is as vacuous as it is irrelevant.

Women will always be up against their lower level of mathematical ability that IQ tests reveal so clearly. In recent years women have been pushed into mathematics to satisfy feminist dogma but few will rise to the heights.


Rabbit Raisers Defeat USDA, Won't Pay Any Fines!

This is a victory for all Americans and a warning about how hard-won such victories are under the vast bureaucracies that throttle America

Remember back in May when I reported disturbing news about John and Judy Dollarhite facing $4 million in USDA fines for selling too many bunnies? That news was followed by a dozen and a half posts about federal agents bullying the Nixa, Mo., couple as well as several others across the country - even magicians who pull rabbits out of hats! Well, there's finally some good news to report about this case.

On their Facebook page, USDA Bunny Tyranny of the Dollarhite Family, the Dollarhites announced victory Tuesday night:
"We have a signed settlement with USDA. It isn't everything we had hoped for because there wasn't an apology included for all the nightmares we have endured these several months. There is no fine. They stipulated a 2 year ban on obtaining a USDA license, which we never wanted, nor can I ever envision us wanting anything to do with USDA.

I take this as a sign that out-of-control government agencies can be brought under control when Americans band together to fight for what's right.

More here


Testing the waters of economic liberty

In 1927, seven years before the board game was created, Washington state decided to play monopoly. It gave a private interest the exclusive right to operate a ferry on 55-mile long Lake Chelan in the northern Cascade Mountains. The state apparently will defend this folly until Judgment Day, when state officials will get an earful from the Creator who -- we have Jefferson's word for this -- endowed everyone, including Jim and Cliff Courtney, with the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Courtney brothers' happiness would be enlarged if they could operate a competing ferry. But 84 years ago Washington state asserted a principle much favored by all of America's governments, the principle that it may parcel out certain economic liberties sparingly and only to those who can prove to government that their exercise of their liberty will satisfy some government-concocted criteria.

That principle lacks constitutional warrant and repudiates the nation's foundational philosophy. Hence the national importance of the Courtney brothers' litigation, which asks courts to correct judicial mistakes of 1873 and 1938.

The brothers live in Stehekin on the lake's northern tip and provide recreational services to people who manage to get there from Chelan on the lake's southeast end. But people can get to Stehekin only by plane or boat. And during the summer season, when the boat schedule is most convenient, the two boats operated by the state-conferred monopoly make only one trip a day in each direction, and both depart at the same time in the same direction.

But before the Courtney brothers can give travelers a better choice, they must receive from the state a "certificate of public convenience and necessity." The burden is on them to prove that the current monopolist's service is not "reasonable and adequate." At least four would-be competitors tried and failed to get such a certificate; the most recent attempt generated a 515-page transcript.

How did America reach the point where aspiring entrepreneurs, seeking to improve their lot by improving other people's choices, must approach government on bended knee to beg it to confer upon them a right -- the right to compete? How did America stray from its foundational principle that government exists to protect pre-existing rights, not to apportion such rights as it creates and chooses to bestow? Read on.

The Courtney brothers are represented by the Institute for Justice, which battles government infringements of individuals' liberties -- particularly economic liberties. In an 1873 decision, the Supreme Court (divided 5-4) defined Americans' "privileges or immunities" -- the 14th Amendment's language meaning rights -- narrowly. The court recognized only a few rights, mostly essential to national citizenship, and not including economic liberty.

In 1938, the court bowed to the progressive desire to empower government to allocate wealth and opportunity. The court decided -- without citing a supportive constitutional text, there being none -- that economic liberty should be assigned a status markedly inferior to that of "fundamental" liberties. This spurious dichotomy jettisoned America's natural rights tradition reflected in the Ninth Amendment's protection of unenumerated rights "retained by the people."

The Courtneys' litigation is a little lever that could move the entire nation back toward the Founders' vision. It will do so if it advances the presumption of liberty. This, says Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett, is the principle that the government must be required to justify its restrictions on liberty, rather than requiring citizens to prove that the liberty they wish to exercise is somehow "fundamental" and therefore not an optional gift from government.

The Courtneys deserve judicial engagement where judges actively judge in defense of economic liberty. This means active enforcement of the principle that neither Congress nor the states are entitled to determine the limits of their powers. The Constitution made this determination before the mistakes of 1873 and 1938.

Washington state's creation of the ferry monopoly is what governments have increasingly done since courts misconstrued the Constitution in a way that licenses governments to dispense particular economic favors by restricting general economic liberty. It is now routine for government to have transactions with rent-seekers -- private interests who want public power used to confer advantages on them, or disadvantages on competitors

This case from a remote region of Washington state explains much about a Washington 2,200 miles away. Start with a misbegotten constitutional principle that denigrates economic liberty as less than fundamental, and thus licenses government to ration such liberty. You end with the pandemic rent-seeking that defines the nation's capital.



Unemployment rate actually 11.04 percent

According to former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, employment needs to grow by at least 90,000 a month just to keep up with the growth of the population. But, since the fall of 2008, the civilian labor force has actually shrunk from 154.7 million to 153.8 million, a contraction of about 900,000.

It's not that fertility suddenly dropped or there was a massive plague. It should have grown by 3.24 million since then, but it didn't. Which means working age adults are simply not being counted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.

They are fudging the numbers. Adding the 900,000 contraction to the expected growth, the total civilian labor force should be 4.14 million larger than is being counted, at about 157.94 million by now. And the unemployed should be about that much more larger, since if they could be counted as working, BLS would most certainly be counting them.

So, the amount of unemployed should really be measured at about 17.443 million, instead of 13.303 million, or a rate of 11.04 percent instead of 8.6 percent. And the underemployed rate should be about 17.8 percent instead of 15.6 percent, with 28.145 million people looking for full-time work that cannot find it.



Butter-nomics: Protectionism and Food Shortages

Norway, a fully industrialized country and ranked first in the latest Human Development Index, a United Nations' metric that tries to quantify the quality of life across countries, is suffering through a butter shortage, a common food staple and an important input in the food industry. Food shortages wouldn't be out of place in places like Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and some poor Sub-Saharan nations; it is almost unfathomable that they occur in one of the most developed nations in the world.

Norwegian authorities seem puzzled by the shortage and subsequent rise in butter prices. They blame a new low-carb high-fat diet craze for the additional demand. Additionally, heavy rains during the summer affected grazing areas for cows, which resulted in reduced milk production. The shortage is especially alarming during the Christmas season, where many traditional recipes rely on significant amounts of the dairy product. Norwegians have actually resorted to churning their own butter, including a restaurant owner interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: "We have to [churn butter]. We can't get hold of any butter, not any at all. And it's right before Christmas, so we have a lot of customers. It's really strange. It takes a lot of time since we use hand mixers."

While the diet combined with unfavorable conditions for dairies has limited the amount of available domestic butter, it doesn't address the biggest issue for the limited quantities of the good: trade regulations.

Since Norway is not part of the European Union, imports from other nations are subject to tariffs and other protectionist restrictions. Butter tariffs in Norway equaled 25 kroner per kilo (about US$ 4.25), effectively eliminating any incentive to import butter from abroad. While the tariff was lowered to four kroner in December allowing Norway to import more than 750 tons of butter for consumers and 1,000 tons for industry, it will do little to solve the shortage, as it will take time for butter to become available to consumers.

The result: A black butter market. One seller on a Norwegian auction website offered 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of butter Tuesday for roughly 30 times the normal price. Two Swedes were arrested in Norway for smuggling around 550 pounds of butter into Norway. Danish and Swedish airports are selling butter at their free-duty shops. Swedish supermarkets are enticing Norwegian customers living near the border with free butter. In short, market forces and regulations have created some incredible situations in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

The government response has been unsurprising. As Agricultural Minister Lars Peder Brekk said last week: "The market regulations are important to uphold long-term stability in the production of food in Norway." Unfortunately for the Norwegian government, only free trade creates stable markets. Complete dependence on domestic markets leaves Norway open to unexpected local calamities that could make prices volatile. Free trade distributes risk among many different countries, so an event in one country will have a smaller effect on availability and overall prices of goods. Finally, given the Norwegian government's record on butter and unwillingness to change policies, Norwegians might face shortages in other goods as well.



Some simple conservative truths

An anonymous sage asserted, "God, can't alter the past, but politicians can." It's amazing how the importance of faith in God can be written out of American history and how the Founding Fathers' treasured equal rights can be transformed into today's entitlement to equal results.

Benjamin Franklin warned, "Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship." We have so many leaks in our boat, many companies are rowing their lifeboats to a more welcoming shore! Wouldn't you love to have a budget that automatically goes up 8 percent every year no matter how much you made! If spending more than what you take in doesn't work in your home, what makes you think you can allow politicians to keep spending on your government credit card!

There's wisdom in this international proverb: "There's always free cheese in a mousetrap." Passing more and more programs to make life easier today when we don't have the funds to pay for them now or in the future is a deadly trap risking trading our treasured life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for national bankruptcy and economic chaos.

Bill Vaughan reminds us, "Money won't buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem." Whether we're funding studies on how long shrimp can run on a treadmill or whether Twitter can predict the stock market, isn't it funny how research costs expand to fill available federal budgets! Hey, let the shrimp pay for their own gym membership.

Herbert Hoover didn't know how prophetic he was when he said, "Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt." Don't you think there's something wrong with extending the payroll tax holiday to fund our "Black Friday" excesses while making future generations pay for our exploding national debt? Give to me now so others can pay later!

Will Rogers had fun with painful truths: "I remember back when a liberal was someone who was generous with his own money." When it costs you nothing to elect politicians who will take from your neighbor to do your "giving" to those in need, that's not caring--that's politically correct stealing.

Milton Friedman was another truth teller: "Congress can raise taxes because it can persuade a large number of the populace that somebody else will pay." Do you really think the "rich" don't pay their fair share when the top 5 percent of the wage earners pay more income taxes than the rest of the 95 percent of tax payers combined.

Phil Gramm made common sense fun: "Change welfare so that people riding in the wagon are not better off than people pulling the wagon." How long will hard -driving producers keep pulling the wagon when you take more and more of their earned rewards, make them pull more weight, and blame them for being the problem.

Robert Nudelman observed, "If you throw more birdseed on the ground, you'll get more pigeons." The more programs governments create and the more rewards they provide for failure, the more people become dependent on government. Washington doesn't just throw the seeds on the ground; they advertise where the seeds are!

Let's end with Harry Truman's admission, "If you can't convince them, confuse them." In the coming months, you'll hear how a failed stimulus plan actually worked, how raising taxes on the people who could start companies and create jobs is a good idea, and how giving President Obama four more years of his "hope and change" is better than returning to the founding principles that made America great. You can laugh or cry. Either way, vote for a return to sanity instead of European-style socialism.




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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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