Sunday, March 03, 2013

People who are less reflective are more religious?

I would have thought that religious people reflect on things all the time but Hey Ho, Nonny O

Following is the "Cognitive Reflection Test", a set of riddles.  Maybe you might like to try answering the questions yourself.

 * A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

 * If it takes five machines five minutes to make five widgets, how long does it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

 * In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would ittake for the patch to cover half of the lake?

 * Correct Answers: Five cents, five minutes, and forty-seven days.

Most people get the "wrong" answers.  That is the point of the test.  It is claimed that people who get the answers right, however,  have a general tendency towards "reflective" thinking.  The source article for the test is here.

But as the authors acknowledge, it is basically a measure of mathematical IQ, though a particular subset of it.  So therefore any correlations with it could be explained as the outcome of general mathematics ability as well as a particular subset of mathematics ability.

But when Huffpo notes that religious people do poorly on the test,  they make large inferences from that, claiming that religious people are not critical thinkers.  Unbelievers, on the other hand are "reflective".

As I have always struggled with mathematics but am as atheist as you can get, I found that rather amusing.  So I looked up the research on which Huffpo hung its hat.  There was only one study that gave the correlation between religion and test score while also controlling for general IQ.  It is here.

And it sure is amusing.  Even BEFORE controlling for IQ, the correlation between test score and belief in God was .14, which is  of only marginal statistical significance (significant on a one-tailed test only despite N=large) and of negligible significance in any other sense.  And controlling for IQ reduced the "relationship" even further, of course.

So, to put it plainly, it is all hokum. Religious people are about as likely to get the questions right as are atheists. Hey Ho, Nonny O indeed.  I could make other criticisms of the research concerned (sampling etc.) but I can see no point in flogging a dead horse.


I cannot tell a lie


A nasty, brutish, imperial presidency

Thomas Hobbes wrote that the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Today’s White House definitely isn’t poor, lavishly feeding off the wealth of the American taxpayer, and the current presidency certainly isn’t short, with nearly four more years to run. But it is undeniably nasty and brutish, as veteran Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has found after questioning President Obama’s narrative on the sequester issue.

Woodward, one of two reporters who broke the Watergate story that led to Richard Nixon’s downfall (immortalised in the 1976 Oscar winner All The President’s Men), has revealed to CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the White House warned him that he would “regret” his recent remarks on the sequester, made in a Washington Post column. (Read the exchange of emails between White House economic adviser Gene Sperling and Woodward posted by Politico here.) Woodward is hardly a conservative, and has been at the heart of the liberal media establishment for decades. He is, however, not afraid of challenging the status quo, as he did with his 2010 book Obama’s Wars. Woodward is not alone. Lanny Davis, another liberal columnist and former special counsel to Bill Clinton, who has penned several pieces critical of Obama’s policies, has also spoken out against similar White House tactics.

The threats being dished out to Woodward, Davis and others are extremely disturbing in a free society, and are a reflection of an imperial presidency that acts with impunity and is highly intolerant of dissent. The heavy-arm tactics that Obama’s team have deployed for years against conservatives are now being increasingly implemented as well against liberals questioning the president’s record.

Leading US political analyst Michael Barone predicted all this in a piece for National Review Online back in October 2008, when he wrote about “The Coming Obama Thugocracy.” It is an article that is strikingly accurate in its predictions. Here’s what Barone had to say before Obama even entered the White House:
“I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors,” Barack Obama told a crowd in Elko, Nev. “I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face.” Actually, Obama supporters are doing a lot more than getting into people’s faces. They seem determined to shut people up.

    … Once upon a time, liberals prided themselves, with considerable reason, as the staunchest defenders of free speech. Union organizers in the 1930s and 1940s made the case that they should have access to employees to speak freely to them, and union leaders like George Meany and Walter Reuther were ardent defenders of the First Amendment.

    Today’s liberals seem to be taking their marching orders from other quarters. Specifically, from the college and university campuses where administrators, armed with speech codes, have for years been disciplining and subjecting to sensitivity training any students who dare to utter thoughts that liberals find offensive. The campuses that used to pride themselves as zones of free expression are now the least free part of our society.

    Obama supporters who found the campuses congenial and Obama himself, who has chosen to live all his adult life in university communities, seem to find it entirely natural to suppress speech that they don’t like and seem utterly oblivious to claims that this violates the letter and spirit of the First Amendment. In this campaign, we have seen the coming of the Obama thugocracy, suppressing free speech, and we may see its flourishing in the four or eight years ahead.
Will American liberals now stand up to the Obama White House and condemn its blatant attempts to suppress criticism and free speech? I doubt it. The Washington Post has provided relatively little coverage of the story, despite the fact that one its own star writers has been targeted. The New York Times is, unsurprisingly, completely silent (with the exception of a small mention in a single blog) on the issue. Ironically, most of the reporting of the White House’s attempts to intimidate liberal critics has come from the conservative press, led by the Drudge Report, which has propelled the story to national prominence. Both conservatives and liberals should be rallying to the defence of free speech and freedom of the press, holding the Obama presidency to account. All Americans should be concerned by government attempts to stifle press criticism in the land of the free, tactics which undermine the very foundations of liberty.



The lesson of the Iraq war is that benign intervention can work

An unusual POV from Britain below but he has a point

Ten years after the start of the Iraq war, it is often overlooked that Britain’s participation in the highly complex military operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime was deemed to be an unqualified success.

Because of the bitter controversies over the legality of the invasion in March 2003, as well as the non-existent stockpiles of WMD, all the attention tends to focus on what happened after Saddam’s removal from power, rather than what went before. For, in purely military terms, Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led campaign to remove Saddam, achieved remarkable results. Within the space of just 21 days, American forces, backed by a 10,000-strong British combat division, overthrew the Ba’athists and delivered the country in a still functioning state to the Iraqi people.

But then winning military campaigns has always been the easy part of the West’s various attempts to intervene in failed states. From the original post-September 11 intervention in Afghanistan to France’s more recent involvement in tackling al-Qaeda in Mali, Islamist militants rarely offer much resistance against well-organised Western forces equipped with devastating firepower.

It is after the fighting ends that the really difficult challenges arise. In Afghanistan the Taliban simply fled across the border and regrouped in Pakistan, while in post-Saddam Iraq the wilful failure of the Americans to impose order resulted in the country’s rapid descent into sectarian conflict. The French may have enjoyed early military success in Mali, but already Islamist militants are making their presence felt by launching suicidal attacks against French and Malian army positions. No matter how great the provocation, though, French commanders insist that a resurgence in Islamist activity will not affect their withdrawal strategy, which is due to begin this month.

We will see whether the French find the process of leaving Mali as painless as their arrival, but this desire to speed the departure is certainly motivated by a determination not to repeat the mistakes of Iraq, a conflict in which the French declined to participate.

And so far as Iraq is concerned, it is undeniable that the initial, post-Saddam administration of the country was a disaster. By meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, with ill-considered policies such as the de-Ba’athification programme, coalition forces overstayed their welcome, with the liberators quickly turning into occupiers in the eyes of the resentful populace.

Indeed, the country was only saved from the devastation of all-out civil war by the military surge masterminded by former US General David Petraeus in the summer of 2007, which succeeded in destroying al-Qaeda’s attempts to turn the Sunni heartlands into a self-contained Islamist state and reduced the violence to manageable levels.

There will be those who argue that, with an estimated 1,500 Iraqis still losing their lives to sectarian conflict each year, that country could hardly be described as a haven of security and stability. But then its people have always had a tendency towards violence. During the 1920s, when the British created the kingdom of Iraq, the Royal Air Force was regularly ordered to bomb Shia villages to keep the natives in check.

But, for all the traumas, it is also worth remembering that Iraq today has far better prospects than it would ever have had under Saddam. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki might have inherited some of his Ba’athist predecessor’s taste for corruption and brutality, but Iraq has a constitution that enshrines democratic principles – whether Mr Maliki likes it or not – and obliges the government to uphold the rule of law. But arguably the country’s greatest asset is its booming oil-based economy, with predictions that it could enjoy double-digit growth for the rest of the decade – so long as it can steer clear of further sectarian infighting. The lesson of Iraq, therefore, must be that, handled the right way, interventionism works.

There will certainly be many who have participated in the Arab uprisings of the past two years who now cast covetous glances at the legacy the West has bequeathed to Iraq. Egyptians, Libyans and Syrians – to name but a few – would dearly love to have the freedoms that are enjoyed by post-Saddam Iraq. But without Western help, they have little chance of fulfilling their dreams.



The Nordic economic example

 Take Estonia: its response to the crash was to make immediate and deep savings in the cost of government, while keeping taxes flat and low. Its economy quickly bounced back and its deficit vanished. J├╝rgen Ligi, its finance minister, does not need to make speeches blaming the eurozone for various national ills. He has been bold enough to make his own luck.

Estonia’s economy is smaller than Birmingham’s, so it can be written off as a curiosity. It is harder to dismiss Sweden, which is transforming itself from the most socialistic nation in the continent into a land of sun, snow and supply-side economics. The hero of its economic reforms is Anders Borg, who looks more like someone you might see protesting outside a meeting of European finance ministers than someone setting the agenda inside. He sports an earring and ponytail, as if to illustrate his cheery contempt for received wisdom. He showed this when he responded to the crash with a permanent tax cut for the low-paid, a move regarded across Europe as a bizarre gamble.

“Everybody was told 'stimulus, stimulus, stimulus’,” Borg said to me later. Britain and Spain followed this advice, and Borg now points to both as an example of what not to do. “Very little of the stimulus went to the economy, but they are stuck with the debt.” As a former chief economist of SEB bank, Borg approached his job with almost clinical detachment. The political clamour to borrow, spend and bail out companies made no sense to him (he briefly set up a blog to take on critics and explain why). The problem lay not so much with economic demand, he argued, but with the supply of workers. If he targeted tax cuts at the low-paid, they would have a greater incentive to move off welfare and into work.

So it was to prove. Before long, Sweden was celebrating the abolition of its deficit and the fastest economic growth in Europe. The tax cut, which almost entirely paid for itself, came alongside deeply controversial cuts to welfare, but Borg felt he had to make a choice. It was elegantly summed up in a new campaign slogan: “We are the new workers’ party.” That is a claim that many can make, but Borg had given low-paid workers the equivalent of an extra month’s salary a year. Good economics became good politics, and the Swedish Conservatives were re-elected for the first time in history.

The Nordic way has been to come up with policies that are radical, but sound dull. Borg has posed not as a ponytailed Thatcher but a slightly bored economist prescribing basic medicine. His tax cuts were justified not by grandstanding slogans (they came later) but by a 270-page book on labour market policy. His latest move, an instant, deficit-financed trimming of corporation tax from 26 per cent to 22, was described as an obvious way to “protect” the tax base. Borg has ensured the success of the Swedish pro-growth revolution by making it sound like most self-evident thing in the world.



More on Joe McCarthy

Thanks to Joe McCarthy, many Americans whom the left angelicized as "free thinkers" or "liberals" were finally unmasked as hardened Soviet agents. These would include, to take 10 examples from M. Stanton Evans' masterpiece, "Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies," Solomon Adler, Cedric Belfrage, T.A. Bisson, V. Frank Coe, Lauchlin Currie, Harold Glasser, David Karr, Mary Jane Keeney, Leonard Mins and Franz Neumann.

As for "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" This tiresome catchphrase may quiver with righteousness on history's eternal wavelength, but it is probably the biggest crock of all. As Evans writes, Army counsel Joseph Welch famously hurled the question as an accusation at McCarthy. McCarthy's transgression, we are supposed to believe, was outing Welch's young legal associate, Frederick G. Fisher Jr., as a former member of the National Lawyers Guild, a notorious communist front group.

The truth is quite different. Six weeks earlier, Welch himself was quoted in The New York Times, confirming that Fisher had belonged to the communist front and that, as a result, Welch himself had "relieved (Fisher) from duty." Welch's hearing-room histrionics, in other words, were a lot of hot air. But they worked. To this day, the truth remains lost to most people, while this thinnest fiction is immortal.

Failing to unmask the McCarthyism libel for what it is and always was -- bunk and agitprop designed to demonize conservatives, from Joe then to Ted [Freshman Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas] today -- does exactly what conservatives continue to take pains to disavow. It slanders a patriot -- Joe McCarthy -- by cavalierly associating him with an odious and politically radioactive "ism."   It's time to thank the man instead.




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