Friday, May 24, 2013


I may here be mentioning something as fraught as IQ.  It seems that I have a boffin-like disregard for what car I should drive.  It has always seemed inexplicable to me that people pay large sums of money for a car when another car at half the price would do all the same things.

I cheerfully confess that I am a Toyota man.  I own a small 15 year old Toyota and a small 8 year old Toyota. Neither has ever broken down.  I drive the more recent one most of the time and lend the other one out wherever that would help someone that I  know.

I have just been reading Kate Fox's book on the English, "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour", which  is, I think,  the funniest book I have ever read.  And she does explain cars.

She shoots down most of the reasons that people give for buying expensive cars ("better engineering" etc.).  She says that in England cars are an index of social class. The makes of cars she mentions apply to England at the time she wrote (2004) so it would not mean much for me to quote specifics (though a Mercedes is not as prestigious as you might think) but what she says does fit with things I have noticed.  And in England it would seem that each position on the class hierarchy does tend to have a type of car that goes with it.

I am rather relieved at that explanation as I had seen the purchase of expensive cars as pure insanity.  My Toyotas are comfortable, reliable, easy to park and get me through city traffic at least as soon as any other car.  So why spend money on a German car at twice the price?

So, as indexed by cars, I am at the bottom of the social class heap in most people's eyes, I gather.

I may however be redeemed by the fact that I also have a really old car for Sunday driving  -- a 50 year old Humber Super Snipe, a big British luxury car of yesteryear.  The Humber sure gets a lot of admiring comments wherever I take it.  Which is ironic.  I gather that a lot of people buy a particular car in the hope that it will be admired.  But I can't think of any modern car that gets anything like the admiration that my ancient Humber gets.  It seems to give people joy just to see it.


Calling all conservative educators (you know who you are)

I put up 9 blogs 6 days a week so it should be obvious that I can't give each one the attention that I think it deserves.  Despite that they all get a good audience as blogs go.

I have long felt, however, that some of them would benefit from having a co-blogger.  And that has recently been shown to be right.  I turned over the day-to-day running of  GUN WATCH to Dean Weingarten about 6 months ago.  He has put a lot of effort into it and now gets TREBLE the readership that I used to get.

So I live in hopes that something similar could be achieved with EDUCATION WATCH.  It gets about 300 pageviews every day, which may not seem much but which puts it in the top 1% of blogs.  A newly started blog would be lucky to average 10 pageviews each day.

So if you are a teacher at some level or are otherwise particularly interested in education, this may be a good chance for you to make your voice heard on a regular basis.  Email me  here


Iceland says "No" again

The leader of the center-right Progressive Party was chosen as Iceland's new prime minister Wednesday and promptly announced a halt to talks with the European Union about joining the 27-nation bloc.

Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson spoke about the policy shift at a press conference after being selected premier.

'The government intends to halt negotiations between Iceland and the European Union,' he said. 'We will not hold further negotiations with the European Union without prior referendum.'

Iceland has engaged in on-and-off talks with the EU for several years. Gunnlaugsson's party has been opposed, in part because members fear that joining would mean giving up control of Iceland's vital fishing stocks.

The new government will also include Bjarni Benediktsson, head of the conservative Independent Party, who will serve as minister of finance.

Icelanders voted April 27, returning to power the parties who had governed for decades before the 2008 economic collapse, the Independents and the Progressive Party.

The two parties had ruled together from 1995 until the 2008 fiasco. After the collapse of the Icelandic banking sector that year, Icelanders voted in a liberal government led by the Social Democrats and the Left-Greens.

The small North Atlantic nation with a population of 320,000 went from economic powerhouse to financial disaster almost overnight when its main commercial banks collapsed within a week in 2008.

The value of the country's currency plummeted, while inflation and unemployment figures soared. Iceland was forced to seek a bailout from Europe and the International Monetary Fund.



Truth Floats Despite Tyranny on the Potomac

Progressivism thrives best when truth is suppressed, but suppressed truth is still truth. You can try to sink it, shred it, cover it and destroy it, but truth eventually rises to the surface. Truth floats. Always.

Currently, the various scandals within the Obama administration have put Progressives in defensive mode to protect an ideology built on lies. Each day brings with it a new scandal or a new angle to a previous scandal. Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS, and the DOJ's seizure of phone records have one thing in common: suppression of truth.

Americans are discovering Progressivism isn't all it is cracked up to be. Even the coolest of Progressive presidents can't deliver the goodies they promise if what they really intended to deliver was hidden inside a bag of lies.

By now, most everyone understands Progressive-speak for "hope and change" translates into high unemployment, an abysmal economy, a disastrous healthcare bill, excessive poverty, starving children, ridiculous food prices, losing wars, and terrorist attacks on our homeland. Four bucks gets you a gallon of gas, a college degree gets you nowhere, and with each new scandal, the White House deflects the blame on someone else and runs off to play another round of golf. That, my friends, is Progressivism in a nutshell.

In a most enlightening article, "Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression," author David Martin nails it when he states "strong, credible allegations of high-level criminal activity can bring down a government" and "the success of these techniques depends heavily upon a cooperative, compliant press and a mere token opposition party." Without a doubt, we have the makings of a perfect storm.

If you've never understood the connection between Progressivism and lies, all you need to do is take an objective look at the current administration's scandals. While all investigations are still active, a common thread weaves through each in that either the truth was suppressed to cover an action or an action was taken to suppress the truth.

In Benghazi it appears the administration suppressed the truth about an act (an al-Qaida-linked terrorist attack) to fit its pre-election "al-Qaida-free" story line. The same rings true regarding the seizure of reporters' phone and email records by the Department of Justice. Attorney General Holder claims records were seized for national security reasons, but that doesn't gel with what the Associated Press describes as an "unprecedented" seizure of records. In a recent statement, AP president Gary Pruitt said his organization held the in-question article describing a terrorist plot by an al-Qaida-linked group in Yemen "until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed." With that in mind, might a more reasonable reason be that administration officials spent an awful lot of time traveling around the country pre-election reporting al-Qaida was no longer a threat?

Each day carries with it new discoveries about the heinous IRS scandal wherein acts of suppression served to squash the voice and rights of those who, unlike Progressives, have the intelligence to differentiate between the U.S. Constitution and a roll of toilet paper and embrace the freedoms and protections therein.

If you don't like what you see, it's time to get loud (not violent) Americans. Silence is acceptance. And so far, your silence is deafening... and dangerous...because silence becomes the well-insulated womb to which tyranny is given safe harbor to grow.



The IRS Fiasco Shows the Incompetence of Liberalism

Scandals are nothing new in Washington. Just about every president has faced an accusation of misconduct, whether moral or criminal. It should be no surprise that the Obama Administration would find itself in the midst of one, well actually 3 at present.

Many Republicans have been quick to declare this the end of Obama, even calling for impeachment. However, these scandals are not the personal failings of the President himself, rather they are the failings of the liberal philosophy which he and his entire administration espouse.

In case you were out camping without a cell phone for the past week, here is a brief recap in order of appearance:

Benghazi: the White House has been accused of failure to act and misleading the public about the events surrounding the 9/11/12 attack on the US consulate resulting in the death of Ambassador Stevens.

IRS: Conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were targeted for extra scrutiny, beginning shortly after Scott Brown special election victory in 2010 through the 2012 presidential campaign. Also, confidential tax documents of prominent conservatives were leaked to the media.

Associated Press (AP) wiretapping: the Department of Justice tapped the phones of AP reporters and offices for two months in an effort to locate an administration leak.

APgate is troubling, but the problem for Republicans is that it’s legal and part of the Patriot Act. Any attempts to role this particular part of the legislation back has been convincingly voted down by both parties. Suddenly, the Republicans realize that an overreaching Patriot Act may not have been a good thing, but it feels politically rather than ideologically driven.

The IRS scandal is the most relatable and represents the most immediate problem for our country. Only a fool would believe that 2-4 field workers took it upon themselves to single-handedly institute a policy of red taping conservative groups. It rises higher, but I seriously doubt the President directed such actions.

Finally, we have Benghazi. It was a tragedy; of that there is no doubt. Was there negligence involved? Yes. Was there a poor attempt at PR misdirection? Most definitely. Were different department figure pointing at each other? AS sure as the sun shines. Is anything that happened impeachable? No. More than anything Benghazi is another example of an administration getting caught flat footed and stumbling to fudge the facts for fear that the American people could not handle the truth, especially so close to the elections.

And that, my dear readers, gets to the heart of what the week was really about: the competence of a government ruled by a party that believe the solution to every problem is more government.

This is not about Obama the man, or even about Obama the president. This is not even about Republicans and Democrats. This is about the fundamental failure of progressive liberal ideology.

Logistics alone make it impossible for a government to solve every citizen’s problem. Yet, a bigger government is expected to do just that.

Big government is inflexible; it cannot respond to priorities because, over time, there are too many competing priorities. The greater the bureaucracy grows the more it becomes impersonal, wasteful, over-stretched, and difficult to reign in.

Furthermore, big government does not trust you to know how best to run your life, yet other imperfect beings are somehow capable of properly directing your life as soon as they are employed by the government. People are fallible, and so is the state.

If liberals are right about the role of government, then how did these scandals happen? Do we truly need more government to stop these things from happening?

In Benghazi, should even more officials debated whether to send troops to save our people? Should there have been more security?

Perhaps there should not have been a consulate in a hot zone in the first place, especially one so ill protected. How effective can an isolated diplomatic post on lock down really be? It seems more prudent to have a smaller footprint in the middle extreme conflict areas (esp. when our military is not in the field), which would save more lives and treasure.

Regarding the IRS, do auditors need more laws and supervisors to prevent such abuse? What happened is already illegal.

Then again, maybe a simpler tax code would solve the issue. If the law is so simple even a caveman can do it, then less IRS agents are needed, or conversely, it would free up existing agents to more quickly process paperwork.

And finally, regarding the DOJ wiretapping the AP--do we need more Patriot Act provisions to protect the US by suspecting every citizen and stopping potential whistle blowers? Does the government need more power to track everyone’s movements and communications now that modern technology gives them the ability to do so?  I think we need to take a serious look at the Patriot Act and begin rolling it back.

Sometimes, no matter how sound an idea is, both rationally and emotionally, no amount of debate will convince an opponent of the inherent fallacy of his position. In such cases, it is sometimes better to let our adversaries have their way so they can inadvertently hang themselves with their own errant ideas. This week is a perfect example of that. More government would never have solved these issues, nor many others faced by administrations past and present.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Thursday, May 23, 2013

More interesting challenges

A follow up to yesterday's discussion with an old friend.  In this episode he mentions his eldest son, Paul, who is very conservative

From a Google search it appears that very few people understand the terms leftist and rightist which sort of suggests that they shouldn’t be used. I Googled ‘right wing dictators’ and got a whole list from many sources so perhaps you should concentrate on correcting this apparent misconception.

Yes.  I think the term "rightist" has been so abused and distorted by the Left that it should no longer be used. The Left use it for anything they currently disapprove of. They have only the most childish analysis of what it means.   I use "conservative" only and analyse at length what that means here and here.

In England the Tories were known for their “Laissez Faire” politics and I was always a supporter of that attitude and still am. My apparent leftist views seem to have come from a humanitarian attitude to those less fortunate and an unfortunate tendency to play devil’s advocate with people who express strong opinions about anything whether I agree with them or not. Essentially I am afraid of people who think they know what’s what.

That is a very conservative attitude

I do find it confusing when people take an attitude that is more the opinion of an ‘ism’ than one that springs from their own thought process or empirical experience.

Laissez faire in UK was often interpreted as ‘leave it alone’ which I guess is a literal translation but I preferred to see it as ‘don’t interfere when not strictly necessary’

In that light I really don’t get both sides of politics’ attitude to same sex marriage. I don’t see that it’s any of their business nor how it has any effect on people not immediately concerned yet Paul is dead set against it on the grounds that it is ‘leftist’?

Yes.  I am a libertarian there.  I don't think any marriage is any government's business.  Governments should keep out of bedrooms.  Marriage was originally a religious matter and I would be happy for it to remain just that.  And there are always civil contracts for those who are not religious.

But the subtext is important.  Homosexuals want homosexual marriage as a sign of acceptance.  But many people will never accept them so advocates of homosexual marriage  are pissing into the wind.  A distaste for homosexuality is normal, which is why it was long penalized.  And no Bible-respecting Christian could accept homosexuality as right and normal

It is really no surprise that Paul is a conservative as he was brought up to defend for himself and was only ever given things that encouraged him to save or be entrepreneurial. He did, after all, run our company from a tender age against his mother’s wishes. Jenny wanted him to get a ‘trade’ or ‘a career’. I had no objections to that but it wasn’t what Paul wanted.

He has learned from life largely

I do, however, think that Paul lacks compassion and an understanding of less fortunate people and other peoples likes and dislikes, it is possibly because he has never had to struggle and experience deprivation himself (unlike myself) and I think this is a lack in his personality. As much as I don’t understand people who like team sports, tattoos, religion, horse racing, guns, violence, I can still find things to defend people who do, and I certainly don’t take the position of considering them idiots because I know that not to be the case.

Paul is extraordinarily kind and compassionate towards his family.  That may leave less room for others.  He has played a largely fatherly role towards his siblings, giving them all sorts of support.  Deeds, not words, again

I think your suggestion that schools could be segregated into ethnic groups in order to accommodate different levels of learning is totally unworkable in practice and would lead to massive social upheaval. They can’t even yet adjust the learning methods to accommodate the different learning patterns of girls and boys, so I’m sure that the other option would be impossible to implement. You would actually have to integrate people of equal IQ regardless of race but don’t you think that having a variety of IQ’s together is more stimulating and creates greater competitiveness? When some kids see others running faster they try harder and so it goes with academic achievement; if you isolate the lower achievers they will not have exposure to anything better and will therefore have little incentive to try harder in the belief that everyone is the same. Any form of difference between high and low creates ‘potential’ in science as in life. People need to see what can be achieved with application combined with talent in order to stimulate their natural competitiveness, don’t you think?

The dropout rate of American blacks from High School is phenomenal so almost anything would be better. And those who do graduate High School are often barely literate.  But there were some all-black schools in the past that did produce well educated graduates.  And single sex schools to this day seem to get good results.  And standards were undoubtedly higher in the past.  So we have proof from the past that streamed schooling does produce better results

I am all for an homogenous society where we can all learn to appreciate each other’s ideas, foibles, idiosyncrasies, foods, music etc and indeed influence each other.

I suspect that you mean heterogeneous.  I grew up in a very multicultural town so handle that readily as long as I am free to choose my degree of participation in what happens there.  Most people get on best with those most like themselves and organize their contacts accordingly.  There is a Sudanese Mosque near where I live.  Have you considered attending it?  If not, why not?  I am sure it is very heterogenous


Trade as a means of Social Cooperation

Last week we explored the implications of man’s nature as a rational, and volitionally rational being. We’ve identified two major implications of this nature. The first of these is rights, which are the conceptual barriers to our self-owning actions and the negative obligation upon all others to honor such barriers. The second is trade. Trade is the process by which rational beings exchange or cooperate for mutual, but individually- and subjectively-calculated, benefit.

As the saying goes, “no man is an island.” This platitude is often lobbed at liberty advocates of all varieties, containing the unspoken assumptions that,

* coerced association is the only kind possible, and

* those who question its validity are advocating zero cooperation.

We can easily reject this classic argument just by examining these presumptions. The saying, however, is valid and illustrative of an undeniable truth about humanity. Humans have found interaction and interdependence to be both psychologically and economically advantageous to a degree that we can and should reject the idea of total isolation as an ideal. We need not reject this reality.

If we do accept that humans are better off connected socially, and cooperating, then the question is: on what basis should this cooperation be motivated? How do we obtain the cooperation from others we want or need, when each of these others is an individual self-owner who is entitled to her own determinations and free range of self-owning action? Trade is the answer to that question.

Trade is more than just a label for our economic activity. It is a concept that pervades all of our interaction with others. As an ethic for seeking and obtaining cooperation of other self-owners, trade requires that we honor their rationality and right of self-determination by finding a way to appeal to their desires as determined by themselves. This ethic can, and should, be applied to all of our social interactions.

* In a situation where we might be inclined to compel our child’s cooperation by a threat of punishment, guilt, etc., we might instead honor the logical capacity that they do have at a very early age by spending the extra time and effort to help them realize the way they individually benefit from the desired action.

* When we might expect assistance from a friend or family member in an endeavor to assist us out of obligation or as a response to a display of our need, we can instead find a way to appeal to their self-interest by offering an exchange, whether monetary or otherwise.

* We can see our marriages, instead of as a formality that entitles us to the obligatory endurance of our partner, as an exchange that we are required to continue to make desirable to the other in order to appeal to their self-interest.

One inescapable presumption contained in every act of voluntary trade is the validity of the self-interest of each participant. By making a voluntary exchange, whether I am exchanging a physical good, money, or my time and effort, I am presuming the validity of my self-interest and the self-interest of the other party to the exchange. Many of the “duties” imposed by our culture, whether governmental, traditional, or religious, seem to stem from an effort to circumvent this trade ethic and thus deny the principle of individual self-determination and self-interest.

As we can see, the notion of trade rests upon some very essential philosophical presumptions, and has some very undeniable implications. In future columns we’ll examine these in detail. Next week we’ll look specifically at the way trade requires diversity, and how voluntary trade (unlike its parasitic, coercive counterfeits) has formed the foundation and engine of everything we now recognize as civilization.



Life in The Sunstein State

Whether imposed by psychological nudges or outright commands, the regulatory state is deeply opposed to America's heritage of liberty


To protect the red-cockaded woodpecker in the 1980s, the federal government prohibited the logging of old pine trees where the bird nests. Timber owners responded with more intensive logging, harvesting trees before they grew old enough to become suitable habitats for the woodpeckers. Even the best-intended regulations can spark unanticipated and counterproductive reactions.

Cass Sunstein understands the limits of the regulatory state. He was head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs—"the cockpit of the regulatory state," as he calls it—in 2009-12. But the Harvard Law School professor still believes passionately in the promise of good government—government that not only intends to do good but is really good at doing good. In "Simpler: The Future of Government," he offers a breezy tract on how to render regulation more user-friendly and effective.

Mr. Sunstein is a long-standing champion of the cost-benefit analysis of regulation, and his criticisms are often spot-on. The idea is simple and sensible: If the costs of a regulation are greater than its benefits, the regulation is shelved, regardless of how splendid its benefits are in the abstract. It is encouraging to read that Mr. Sunstein and his colleagues "focused on economic growth and job creation, and . . . sought to ensure that regulation did not compromise either of those goals."

And given Mr. Sunstein's previous work, 2009's "Nudge," with the economist Richard Thaler, it isn't surprising to find that "Simpler" is deeply informed by the insights of behavioral economics—a field of research that reveals several psychological quirks that affect human decision-making. Mr. Sunstein deploys behavioral-economics notions such as "framing effects" (our interpretation of facts is affected by how they are presented to us) and "status-quo bias" (we prefer the status quo, simply because it is the status quo, over potential alternatives) to promote what he calls "libertarian paternalism."

Government, he thinks, should change behavior using "nudges" instead of commands. Regulations can tap into people's psychological quirks and prompt them to choose "better" behaviors—while still leaving them free in many circumstances to act differently. Cigarette packages with grisly images of cancer-ridden lungs are an effort to nudge—rather than command—people not to smoke. (A federal appeals court last August blocked a proposed Food and Drug Administration rule requiring such packages.)

All good, and the reader of "Simpler" might wonder if this is the same Cass Sunstein who clerked for the progressive Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and was denounced by Glenn Beck as "the most dangerous man in America" upon his appointment to the Obama administration. "Simpler" makes it clear that Mr. Sunstein is no despot in professor's clothing. But he is emphatically not a limited-government kind of guy. He is an enthusiast for active, expansive, "progressive" government.

But his faith in government combines with a scanty appreciation of the creative and disciplining powers of markets to render his case for active regulation, whether imposed through nudges or commands, less than persuasive. The pages of "Simpler" bubble over with examples of adults' weak capacity to choose wisely, which, in Mr. Sunstein's view, calls for more expansive government.

In his new book, “Simpler: The Future of Government,” Cass Sunstein says that the act of choosing is a muscle that gets fatigued. The more choices people have to make, the more likely they are to make bad ones.
The author boasts, for example, that "to save consumers money, we required refrigerators, small motors, and clothes washers to be more energy-efficient." Apparently producers are too benighted to compete for customers by offering such money-saving products. And consumers are too distracted by their own weaknesses to choose such offerings. Similarly, Mr. Sunstein believes that huge numbers of people really want to be organ donors but are prevented from agreeing to donate their organs simply by inertia.

In this worldview, people's weak wills and eccentricities make them prey both to shameless hucksters and to their own strange psychological traits. Ironically, however, Mr. Sunstein fails to explain why the irrational and impulsively childlike people who are apparently the nation's citizens will elect a government that is itself not irrational and impulsive—or why government officials won't exploit, for their own corrupt ends, the people's cognitive weaknesses. True, individuals often make poor decisions, and hucksters are never in short supply. Surely, though, the environment most favorable to poor decision-making and hucksterism isn't competitive markets but, rather, politics. Milton Friedman didn't need behavioral economics to know that each of us typically spends our own money on ourselves more wisely than a stranger spends other people's money on us.

The author assumes, without much reflection, that government's role in protecting us from ourselves has few limits, either ethical or legal. Seldom in the book does Mr. Sunstein pause to ask if this well-meaning nudge or that benevolent order, such as those that govern our diets or our pensions, is permissible under the Constitution. Nor does he worry that government regulation might, in the long run, make people even more behaviorally quirky. If government succeeds as Mr. Sunstein believes it can at protecting us from our thoughtless dietary choices and poor investment decisions, might we not become even more infantilized?

There is a deeper threat posed by a paternalist state, however "libertarian" we might wish it to be, and it isn't easily accounted for by cost-benefit analysis. Friedrich Hayek highlighted it in "The Road to Serfdom" (1944): "The political ideals of a people and its attitude toward authority are as much the effect as the cause of the political institutions under which it lives. This means . . . that even a strong tradition of political liberty is no safeguard if the danger is precisely that the new institutions and policies will gradually undermine and destroy that spirit."

The regulatory institutions championed by Mr. Sunstein are certainly not the worst that various secular saviors have proposed over the years. If I must be regulated by a progressive, I choose Cass Sunstein. But the regulatory state as envisioned by Mr. Sunstein is nevertheless deeply opposed to America's traditions of liberty and individual responsibility. Such regulation will chew away like a cancer at those traditions. If Mr. Sunstein's blueprint for regulation is indeed the future of government, we might, as a result, be well-regulated—but we won't be free.


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


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Some useful enquiries

Below is an email from an old friend which reminds me how much there is to explain in the matters I broach.  I propose to answer it in italics

While understanding that the understanding of authoritarianism may have some application in real life I don’t quite understand how proving that one race is less intelligent than another can have any application at all.

Back to authoritarianism for a moment; you blame all authoritarianism on ‘leftists’ despite ‘nationalism’ normally being seen as a right wing trait. Are there no ‘right wing’ regimes? Are not the Mugabe or the Idi Amins (and many other African states) right wing dictators? If not, then I would like to know the definition of right wing as I clearly don’t understand it. (Serious question)

Not all tyrants are ideologically motivated.  In history most tyrants have been just tyrants.  But as far as it goes Mugabe is a redistributionist, which makes him Leftist.  Amin was just a brute.

There is a distinction between patriotism (love of counrty) and nationalism (the desire to have your country control others).  The first is conservative, the second Leftist.  Democrats declared almost all America's foreign wars.  GWB went to war  only when America was attacked (9/11).  Friedrich Engels (co-author of Karl Marx) was a furious German nationalist; TR was a furious American nationalist and FDR so hankered for a war that he forced the unfortunate Japanese into one by cutting off their oil supplies

Actually I just looked up the definition in Wikipedia (interesting that your article prompted me to research something I normally wouldn’t have bothered with)

“In left-right politics, right-wing describes an outlook or specific position that accepts or supports social hierarchy or social inequality.[1][2][3][4] Social hierarchy and social inequality is viewed by those affiliated with the Right as either inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable,[2] whether it arises through traditional social differences[5] or from competition in market economies.[6][7] It typically accepts or justifies this position on the basis of natural law or tradition”
Would you agree with this definition?

No.  It is a Leftist definition.  "Rightist" is mainly a Leftist term these days.  It is often used for Hitler, who was actually a socialist.  "Conservative" is clearer for the non-Leftist side of politics. 

The great triumph of Leftist disinformation that has identified Hitler as a Rightist has upset the whole Left/Right terminology.  In his antisemitism, nationalism and eugenics Hitler was typical of prewar Leftists.  The Conservative Churchill was his great opponent, not an ally

If so, it would seem to me that most dictatorships would fall within this definition?

By choosing a wrong definition you can prove many wacky things

Ha ha, I just reread your authoritarianism piece again and realised that you are going to accuse me of attempting to ‘...prove that conservatives are the authoritarians...’ .That wasn’t my intention I was seriously trying to discover just exactly what you think ‘right wing’ means as opposed to what I thought it meant. Of course Shakespeare pre-empted Freud with regards to self-justification “...I believe he doth protest too much...”

Would it be fun to list specifically how a ‘right wing’ person would respond to all of today’s controversies?

Use "conservative" and we can have an empirical definition.  Briefly:   "Devoted to individual liberty".  Not much room for dictatorship there

Anyway, it wasn’t authoritarianism that prompted me to write, but intelligence across races.

Understand that I am not seeking to debate or argue with you but simply to align your thinking with mine in order to isolate where our thoughts might diverge.

In seeking to prove that one race is intellectually inferior to another how would you like to proceed with that knowledge to change the way the world works?

It could be used to give American blacks schools especially suited to their limited abilities -- They learn very little in today's schools

A few things occurred to me while reading:

Assuming that the average IQ is 100, what cross section of society is used to determine that number, ie is it the population of America or Africa or the Middle East, or is it the world or a specific race? I’m sure there is some complicated maths behind all of this.

The population mean (average) for the white population of Britain, the USA and most of Europe is 100 so that has become the norm

If it is America, then it must contain subsets of many races which (if your assertion is correct) must skew the average downwards making it irrelevant to any specific race and making a race of even a slightly higher IQ seem artificially higher. If IQ is determined on a racial basis (ie a different mean is set for each race) then I would have thought that cross-race testing would be very revealing given cultural specialities. I would be interested in these results if they are available.

Yes.  The mean for the USA as a whole would be meaningless.  You have to separate out the ethnic groups

Again, what actually is the point in proving your assertion? Are you suggesting that one race should be treated differently because they have a lower IQ? Should we assume that if we are talking to or listening to a Muslim we shouldn’t take any notice of what he thinks? Or are you suggesting that intelligent people are in some way better members of society than others? Or maybe better able to rule? There are many clever intellectuals who get many things wrong.

The policies adopted depend on many factors but treating all groups as the same will inevitably lead to policy failures -- outcomes not envisaged

I believe it to be true that many serial killers and sociopaths in general, have high IQ’s and are very charming people. My experience is that less intelligent people are much more likely to obey rules than those who think things through for themselves and therefore believe that ‘rules are made for the lowest common denominator and therefore don’t apply to me’. I have often found that the more ‘ordinary’ a person is the nicer human beings they are (if less interesting to communicate with)

There are exceptions but most incarcerated criminals are low IQ and poorly educated. 

I personally get on best with working class people as I find them more down to earth

I applaud your desire to simply state the truth that research reveals and I totally understand that ideal but in order to do that effectively I suggest that the use of emotive words and phrases like  ‘pretended’ ‘ ...who should know better’ ‘ is clearly...’ ‘...unlike...(fill in the assumption)...’ ‘...are obviously...’ ‘ is surely that...’ would best be avoided.

Yes.  I avoid that in my academic writings but for maximum reach I have to make things vivid a bit

I know it is difficult to avoid these common phrases but they are read as put downs by people who may have an opposing view or who even see grey where you might see black and white, and leads them to think that if they disagree with the subject of the sentence they are somehow wrong or misinformed or even worse, stupid. I think that your points could be just as impactful (if less reaffirming to the converted) without the emotive content.

I don't actually hope to convert Leftists.  That rarely happens except through aging.  I aim to buck up my side

Perhaps it is the association of IQ with superiority that needs to be addressed. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that people should be upset by being called inferior?

High IQ is broadly advantageous but is not much use for singing or running and various other things so it is not everything.  I accept, for instance,  that I am physically clumsy.  We all have our limitations and for a contented life you have to accept them

Maybe there is even a psychological inference to be drawn from those who seek to prove their superiority by these means? Lol. Didn’t someone once try to prove that the capacity of the skull was proof of superiority simply because he had a big head?

That was phrenology.  But more sophisticated measurements do show a correlation of about .3 between brain size and IQ

I would be interested to know where you would classify me in the scale of left to right. I seem to adopt ideas from both ‘isms’ with little or no conflict. I come to conclusions on issues (wherever I actually do hold an opinion) by largely empirical and logical means but don’t claim to have any answers to the bigger questions of life. An example of where I do conflict is when I quite happily tuck into a meat meal but am quite incapable of killing the animal that supplied it. I acknowledge my hypocrisy but am powerless to rationalise it. 

I think you are a recovering Leftist -- about right for your age.  How you had such a conservative son is the mystery

You claim that ‘leftists’ know all of the answers, in which case I know no ‘leftists’ at all (although I think you would disagree). In fact the person I know who does seem to have most of the answers is you, John? Ha ha

Leftist policy prescriptions show very little awareness of possible problems so they  do create the impression that they think they know it all. 

If I knew it all I would just write it down once and then stop.  That I keep writing indicates that I am always learning

I can’t help feeling that by spending your energies on segregating races you are simply employing the emperor Alexander’s solution to the Gordian knot problem, instead of trying to unravel the complex knot you would take a sword to it and simply cut the rope. Lol.

It's not at all complex.  The only complexity is that many people dislike the evidence. 

Race is a major problem in the USA but it is not I who have created it.  I just try to point out that most of the problem is due to wrong assumptions of equality and that the problem will remain until reality is recognized

Like you I find these topics fascinating but I can’t agree with your assertion that ALL leftists deny that race exists. I have never heard that, neither have I heard them insisting that everyone is equal, I have only ever interpreted it as all men should have ‘equal opportunity’ which is what I loosely believe. This allows talent to rise to the surface from whichever substrate they come, and accepts by definition that some will naturally end up as less equal than others. In fact the very acceptance of this tenet is the acceptance that men are not all equal.

You need to note the shrill outrage when Americans even mention IQ or race.  Belief in equal opportunity only  is conservative these days

Anyway, the more I read over your articles the more it makes me think and I thank you for that stimulation.


Moral bias at the New York Times

by Tibor R. Machan

The headline said it all: “Confusion and Staff Troubles Rife at I.R.S. Office in Ohio.” No mention of mendacity, of evil, of meanness, of vice, Nada.

For liberals their own pals are never morally amiss. They may make mistakes, be confused and have troubles. But guilty of malpractice never! Only Republicans and others who do not share their own attitudes can possibly be morally, ethically defective. When a Republican votes for reducing increases in welfare budgets or subsidies or other support for what liberals consider right and proper, the problem lies with their moral fiber, their lack of decency and good will. Not so with anything that liberals mismanage–that can only be due to some kind of technical malfeasance–”confusion and staff troubles.”

How do these folks manage, intellectually, to dodge the moral and ethical ire they are so eager to dish out at their opponents?

In liberal circles what is prominent when matters go awry is to give some kind of explanation–poverty, illness, ignorance, the bad influence of culture or the movies or whatever. Liberals must–yes, must–always be basically good, Their intentions are unfailingly impeccable. They always mean well. Accordingly, since it is the thought that counts, they are always innocent. Hope, audacious hope, is what makes one a good person, never mind how botched up one’s actions and even beliefs turn out to be, never mind what actually is accomplished with one’s preferred policies!

There is a prominent moral philosophical doctrine that this line of thinking follows. Immanuel Kant, the very famous and influential 18th century German philosopher, believed that human beings can only be morally good, praiseworthy, based on their intentions. It is their thought that makes them decent or indecent, not their actions or conduct. What they actually do is irrelevant to whether they are good or bad folks because, and here is the essence of the doctrine, there is ultimately no choice there; we must do what we do.

Free will for Kant has nothing to do with choosing our actions, only with choosing our thoughts. The mind is free, in this minimal way, but it has no practical impact on human action. The world moves in accordance with deterministic laws, of physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc., etc. We cannot change anything apart from what we think. So we can only be credited for good thoughts, good intentions, of which liberals, of course, have plenty.

The story is rather complex but this is the gist of it. This, mainly, is why The New York Times cannot even fathom liberals being morally guilty of anything. They always intend the best, never mind that they pay very little attention to the likely outcome. In the end, outcomes just happen and we have nothing to do with them.

The IRS folks, for example, just did their jobs and the fact that those jobs contained the seeds of malpractice–given that selectivity is always involved in giving citizens exemptions and breaks and such–is irrelevant.

In contrast, Republicans and their ilk never think right. They are worried about costs and whether a policy works and such, all mundane matters that people of genuine good will never bother about. It is petty thinking, not the noble kind that liberals produce!



A dream

The Israelis are developing an airport security device that eliminates the privacy concerns that come with full-body scanners. It's an armored booth you step into that will not X-ray you, but will detonate any explosive device you may have on your person.

Israel sees this as a win-win situation for everyone, with none of this crap about racial profiling. It will also eliminate the costs of long and expensive trials.

You're in the airport terminal and you hear a muffled explosion. Shortly thereafter, an announcement: "Attention to all standby passengers, El Al is proud to announce a seat available on flight 670 to London. Shalom!"


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTICAUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Israel: Triumph of Resilience

By Daniel Mandel

Israel, having attained its 65th anniversary, resists easy definition.  Sixty-five years ago, on May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, declared independence, to which American and Soviet recognition was forthcoming the next day, following the expiration of British rule.

Any reckoning on Israel, its successes and failures, is also inescapably interwoven with the verdict one gives on the animating philosophy of the state, Zionism, which itself will celebrate later this year its 116th anniversary.

Zionism foresaw a collectivity of Jewish labor redeeming a patrimony lost in antiquity.  It envisioned a national solution to that age-old disease, anti-Semitism, conscious of the fact that time was running out for Jews in Europe.  Theodor Herzl, political Zionism's founder, even thought it might prove the antidote to anti-Semitism, though he doubted the possibility of reviving ancient Hebrew as a spoken language.  He once asked rhetorically, "Who amongst us knows enough to purchase a railway ticket in that language?"

Herzl was wrong on both counts.  The national language was revived, a feat that still eludes other peoples seeking to emulate Israel's success, but anti-Semitism, far from having been extinguished, is very much alive.  Even when put to bed, it is a light sleeper.

The widespread revilement of the Jews in pre-state times was replicated when the U.N. General Assembly resolved in November 1975 that Zionism, uniquely among national movements around the globe, was a form of racism.  So Israel became the focus of renewed anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism, a distinction without a difference insofar as the target remains Jews, with discrimination now applied to sovereign identity rather than individual rights.

Israel solved anti-Semitism in the sense that it permitted Jews to cease being timorous petitioners to foreign governments and permitted those in need or desire of joining the national enterprise to do so.  In fact, nothing better evokes today, if only fleetingly, the lost pioneering ethos of Israel than latter-day efforts to rescue Jews in distress.  This is but a continuation of the process that began in Europe in the nineteenth century and embraced the Arab Middle East in the 1940s and 1950s, when Arab nationalism and Muslim supremacism combined to depopulate virtually each and every established Jewish community in Arab lands.  Unlike their European counterparts in the 1930s, however, these Jews did have somewhere to go.  In the span of Jewish history since the destruction of the Second Jewish Commonwealth nearly two millennia ago, that is likely to remain Israel's biggest achievement and calling-card.

Jewish labor and nation-building have had a much more checkered history.  The utopian idealism of the kibbutzim is a thing of the past, although the kibbutz is still the only voluntary socialist system to have been devised and implemented.  The incorporation in 1967 of the West Bank and Gaza into Israeli control during the Arab-inspired Six-Day War saw the emergence of cheap "Arab labor" which would have been deplored by Israel's founding fathers, although the ongoing hostilities into this century have somewhat reversed that trend.

The Oslo peace process, conceived as a project of political normalization, long ago foundered in bloodshed.  That failure was inherent in Israel's attempt to produce a neighboring Palestinian state with Yasser Arafat and his successors, who remain dedicated to a supplanting Palestinian state.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) that emerged from Oslo remains a moral and political Enron.  Palestinian society is radicalized and morally defunct, split between the Hamas fiefdom of Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah redoubt in the West Bank.

Israel has provided Jews a home and turned that home into a innovative powerhouse, but it has a more modest record of success in the millenarian vision of an "in-gathering of the exiles."  The in-gathering was always going to be a combination of voluntary and involuntary immigration, but it is only the heroic age of Zionism that can boast a solid core of idealists.  In each succeeding epoch, the persecuted, the endangered, and the expelled have predominated.  Few nations are primarily composed of people (or descendants of people) who either involuntarily left their native homes or who would have gone elsewhere given the chance.  Yet there is no mystery about this.  It is a special breed of person who deliberately courts danger, disease, climatic extremes, economic uncertainty, material scarcity, and neighboring hostility in preference to a settled life in a relatively tranquil society.  Zionism has been only a peripheral magnet for free and enfranchised Western Jews in countries like the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, or Australia who, if they move at all, are as likely to move between each other as to Israel.

One remarkable success, however, is the realization of an early Zionist idea: to produce a new, sovereign Jew at home in his own country.  Diaspora Jews often notice that Israelis do not in the main share what Jean-Paul Sartre would have called the "over-determined" character of the Jews, a result of centuries of Jewish dependence on Gentile goodwill.  The Israeli is refreshingly free of untoward concern for the opinion of others or the belief that in whatever he may do, he is somehow representative of all Jews and is being judged accordingly.  He has been normalized to the extent that he feels he belongs somewhere without qualification and that in this way he is like most other members of the human family.  If he meets someone who dislikes him, it is not his problem, as it still remains for even the freest and most established Western Jew.  He needs no communal security apparatus, anti-defamation league, hate monitors, or communal advocates.  He has all of these in the forms of the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad, and an elected, sovereign government.  He can leave the job, if not always confidently, to the professionals.

For all this, Jewish sovereignty has not come cheaply; the loss of 23,085 soldiers -- about the equivalent to America losing 900,000 servicemen -- was commemorated at this year's Remembrance Day in Israel.  The Arab-Israeli conflict has subjected generations of Israelis to years of military service and reserve duty, and the civilian front has often been far from tranquil.  Indeed, with the advent of Oslo, Palestinian terrorists made killing and maiming ordinary Jewish civilians in the largest possible numbers a special priority.  For most of the Muslim world, a theological calamity occurred with Jewish statehood.  Muslim supremacists work overtime to ensure that the Jew, largely a figure of contemptuous docility in Arab collective memory, can be again relegated to Islamic subject status on "liberated" Islamic land.

Perhaps, with so much conflict, internal and external, Israel's great achievement is the resilience of its democratic life.  By temperament, Israelis are the most democratic of peoples.  They have a low threshold of tolerance for any pretense of social superiority.  Informality is the norm.  Some people think this goes a little far.  As any visitor knows, graceful manners are in short supply.  The army is the most respected national institution for obvious reasons, yet it has almost no chivalric tradition.  There is an economy of military and civilian honors, which makes military ceremony on national occasions all the more haunting for its accessibility and austerity.

Vigorous debate and parliamentary procedures are alive and well, but proportional representation in the Knesset has balkanized politics, sometimes defying the requirements of stability and holding majorities hostage to capricious minorities.  As a result, Knesset members hold office courtesy of party lists, not electors' votes, and are beholden to party whips, not to constituencies.  This has engendered at once careerism, lack of accountability, and public cynicism.  Worsening matters is Israeli bureaucracy, which, in its untroubled inefficiency, is typically Mediterranean.  Press freedom somewhat mitigates the picture, since Israeli journalists are not inclined to self-censorship.  Foreign correspondents congregate in the country, free to report without fear or favor, and often show little but disfavor.  Corruption scandals are far from rare, though the country's president, Shimon Peres, once offered a consoling thought: "Better a democracy with scandals than an authoritarian system without scandals."

The Israeli Arabs -- today a minority of approximately 24% -- spent Israel's first years under military rule before participating normally in Israel life.  Trade union membership followed in 1960.  Political representation has always been a feature of Israeli Arab life, with Arab judges presiding over courts and Arab Knesset members sitting in governing coalitions; one, Raleb Majadele, was recently a minister in the government of Ehud Olmert (though he refuses to sing the national anthem, Hatikvah).  Arabs represent Israel abroad in the diplomatic service; the staunchly loyal Druze population has enjoyed a harmonious relationship to the state, its youth even serving in elite units of the armed forces.  Knowing the limits of the human condition, Israel has not imposed army service on its Arabs (though volunteers are taken), just as the U.S. did not deploy Japanese-Americans in the Pacific theater of operations during the Second World War.  One result of this, however, has been that, in a country in which national service is often a prerequisite for good employment and economic opportunities, Arabs have lagged behind.



Calling all true liberals

The last couple weeks’ revelations of fresh and compelling examples of the kind of duplicity and petty tyranny we conservatives have been screaming about for five years have presented us with what military folks call a “seam.” A “seam” is the border where two different units meet, and it is generally the kind of weak point you want to drive your forces into in order to split your opponent’s front and rout him. These latest scandals have revealed a seam between two elements of the liberal coalition, the liberals who actually believe some of what they say and the cynical leftists who merely crave power.

Let’s split that seam.

But to do so, conservatives must ignore the voices of the fussy and the fainthearted and ruthlessly exploit it. We can and should – and must – politicize the hell out of these shameful imbroglios.

There’s nothing wrong with politicizing politics. In fact, it’s kind of difficult to imagine why politics shouldn’t be politicized – politics is, after all, by definition political. In fact, it’s only this week, after it became inconvenient, that the liberal establishment changed its collective mind and determined that politicization was once again a bad thing. It was a good thing when liberals were slobbering at the chance to use the massacre of innocents by a lunatic to deprive law-abiding citizens of their sacred fundamental right to keep and bear effective arms. Back then, politicizing misfortune was not only A-OK but a moral imperative.  This week, not so much.

Of course, no discussion of liberal hypocrisy could begin without a reference to Teddy Kennedy, who did his part in the War on Women by personally running up the casualty rate. Bill Clinton was another friend of women, at least until they complained about him and were insulated by his liberal guardians.

Liberal champions of minorities didn’t hesitate to make an icon of Robert Byrd, who was either a Grand Imperial Cyclops or an Exalted Kleagle in the Democrat-founded KKK. And the liberal champions of the innocent and the helpless won’t help you if you are too innocent or helpless – if you are, say, a fetus you are out of luck.

The current administration’s love of civil rights and liberties came to an end about the time the President removed his hand from the Bible in January 2009. Free speech was an awesome concept when liberals were using it against their opponents. But once liberals took power, free speech became an appalling obstacle to true progress. Freedom of religion stopped being important when some religious people abused that right by opposing liberal initiatives on religious grounds. And as for the Second Amendment, well, don’t let the text fool you into thinking it gives you any rights.

If it was to the Administration’s short term political advantage to quarter soldiers in private houses without the consent of the owner they would be showing the Third Amendment the door.

We now have an Administration that lied about what happened in Benghazi, and is now lying about its lies. We have a cabinet secretary shaking down healthcare companies for “donations” to a propaganda fund for Obamacare. We have the government grabbing up reporters’ cellphone records, and we have the IRS randomly selecting for persecution people and entities who just happen to oppose the regime’s goals.

For some liberals, this is just too much to swallow, and we should focus on splitting them out of the liberal coalition. This is the seam.

We spend so much time seeing and reading the ravings of the zombie liberals of the media and the blogs that we forget there is another group of liberals who are liberal because – for whatever misguided reason – they think liberalism is the right way to be. In other words, there are liberals who actually believe what liberalism used to purport to support – including civil rights, civil liberties and the rights of traditionally disadvantaged people.

It is interesting that from those ranks come some of the most dedicated and effective conservative activists – people who became conservative not because they changed their views but because they didn’t. Liberalism left them. They believe in individual rights and in equality before the law. They hate prejudice and bigotry in all their ugly forms. They embrace every individual’s value, and want to see every individual have a chance to live and to succeed.

They are people like Andrew Breitbart. Andrew was not born a conservative. He wasn’t raised a right-winger. He started out a liberal, but he actually took seriously what liberals said. His great sin – and why he was and is so hated by liberals – is that he refused to stop believing in those values when those values stopped being useful. His outrage was not that liberals were liberal; it was that establishment liberals were liars, that they struck poses as defenders of what was true and good and then abandoned them without a second thought if another pose better served their purpose.

This is the seam, the liberals who have a sense of right and wrong, who truly believe in the values the liberal establishment merely pays lip service too. You can see them tentatively raising their heads in response to the avalanche of scandals, noting that maybe the Administration could be a bit more forthcoming on Benghazi, that perhaps siccing government enforcers on political opponents is a bad thing to do.

They sense the truth, and they need time to get their head around it. Liberalism has left them too.

This is why it is no time to go all wobbly. This is why it is no time to ease up on the accelerator. The unvarnished truth, presented clearly, forthrightly and undeniably, will be a wedge that drives them out of the liberal coalition.

Now that the mainstream media has itself felt the clammy grasp of government oppression, for the first time since the inauguration the White House has reason to fear the headlines in the morning papers. The press senses blood in the water, and some elements of it seem to be stirring out of their lethargy and spinning up into a well-deserved feeding frenzy.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Altemeyer is still fundamentally confused

At least since 1950, Leftist psychologists have been fascinated by the concept of authoritarianism.  They have good reason to be.  The most authoritarian regimes in recent history have been socialist:  From the Communist Lenin, Stalin and Mao, through the national socialist Hitler to the ghastly Pol Pot.  So authoritarianism is in the bones of Leftists. We also see that orientation in their virtually universal refusal to condemn the gran lider of Cuba ("Great Leader", Fidel Castro) and their unrelenting attempts to fasten the bonds of regulation around  most aspects of life in the USA. And they are always eager to spend your money for you whether you want them to or not.

But authoritarianism is repugnant to most people gripped by it so the Left have a need to deny the authoritarianism which is innate to them.  They need to pretend to be something else.  And they are rather good at that. They pretend to be do-gooders even though most of what they do turns out badly.

Another very useful way of deflecting criticism is simply denial.  If you say often enough that you are not authoritarian, people might believe you.  And a very effective way of reinforcing such denials is of accusing your opponents of what is really true of yourself.  Freud called that "projection".  So Leftist psychologists have made great efforts to prove that conservatives are the authoritarian ones, not themselves.

That merry little scheme started with the work of Marxist theoretician Adorno in 1950 but foundered eventually on the poor evidence for the various Adorno assertions.  I cover that here.

The Adorno work was however refurbished from 1981 on by Robert Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba in Canada and I have pointed out from early on how sloppy Altemeyer's work is (e.g. here and here and here) .

Altemeyer has however continued to write books on authoritarianism and has gained a certain degree of notice outside academe,  particularly through the blog of Jonathan Turley.  Not much about Altemeyer's story has changed over the years but maybe there is by now a case for me to update a little my comments on his work.

Altemeyer has compiled a set of statements (the RWA scale) which in his view reflect "Right Wing Authoritarianism".  But he is very shifty about what he means by "right-wing".  Sometimes he refers to it as meaning conservative and at other times he admits that it is uncorrelated with vote for conservative political parties.

In other words his research is about conservatives who are as likely to vote Democrat as Republican!  A truly odd bunch!  The truth, I suspect, is that Altemeyer would not know a conservative if he fell over one. I have  no doubt that the Psychology Dept. at the University of Manitoba is the standard Leftist bubble that one expects of such Depts so strange beliefs about conservatives and much else could flourish in that environment.

So what the RWA scale really measures is anybody's guess.  I see it as measuring an old fashioned form of extreme conservatism that no longer has political relevance or, indeed, any relevance at all.  So the political relevance of Altemeyer's various research findings exists only in Altemeyer's imagination and need detain nobody for any time at all.

But if Altemeyer is vague about "right wing", he is quite clearly wrong about authoritarianism.  He makes it clear that it is not dictators he is talking about but rather their followers.  He claims that he is measuring a tendency for people to submit to authority.  But there is no such thing.  Nobody just respects authority per se.  Different people respect different authorities.  Altemeyer is convinced that conservatives in the USA are characterized by a respect for conventional authority.  Yet most American conservatives these days almost spit when they talk about the President, Congress and the Supreme Court.  Not much respect for the conventional authorities of America there!

And even the old mainline churches get short shrift among conservatives.  Conservatives tend to respect "rebel" evangelical churches, churches with a strong streak of independence.

Altemeyer has some awareness of the political  irreverence of American conservatives so to save his theory he nominates Rush Limbaugh and his ilk as authorities that conservatives respect.  But Limbaugh is no authority at all.  He is just a radio commentator!  People listen to him because they agree with him, not for any other reason.  In Altemeyer's world, agreeing with anybody is dangerous!

And it is not only in conservative politics that one finds an absence of a general tendency to respect authority.  I set out here some evidence from psychological research which shows that respect for authority in one field does not generalize to respect for authority in other fields.  That being so, Altemeyer is studying a unicorn (or perhaps more specifically, a chimera).

So wherever you look at Altemeyer's theories you find that he is not studying what he thinks he is studying.  He is studying something that exists only in his own imagination.

But a relatively recent work of his really puts the cap on his intellectual confusion.  He has written an extensive history and analysis of the Tea Party movement.  And he does get one thing right.  He notes that a lot of the Tea Partiers are evangelical Christians.

Even Altemeyer cannot avoid noticing however that Libertarians are prominent in the Tea Party movement too. So are Libertarians authoritarian? Good old Altemeyer sticks to his guns and says they are. He calls libertarians "The Other Authoritarian Personality". That people who comprehensively reject authoritative control over our lives are also submissive to authority must be one of the most crosseyed assertions in contemporary politics. Black might as well be white. Again Altemeyer is living in a little world of his own imagination.

Altemeyer also likes the "Social Dominance Orientation" theory of Pratto and Sidanius but I have pointed out the large holes in that some time ago.

Finally, the whole idea that you need to be a particular personality type to support an authoritarian regime is contrary to the evidence. Well-known experiments by both Milgram and Zimbardo showed vividly  that perfectly ordinary people can be conned into supporting extremely authoritarian actions and prewar writers such as Roberts and Heiden agree that by the late 30's Hitler was quite simply the most popular man in Germany. They LIKED his claim that they were a Herrenvolk (Master race)! His support ranged from the intelligentsia to the workers and, contrary to the usual Marxist piffle, the hard-core Nazis (the SA) were predominantly working class -- usually the more rebellious element of society.


Oops, maybe government is tyrannical

By Marta H. Mossburg

Less than two weeks ago President Obama stood in front of graduates from The Ohio State University and told them to reject those who warn of government tyranny.

“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems,” he said.

To young, idealistic people his words likely sounded insightful — until last week. That’s when it became officially impossible to deny that the government abuses its power for political gain.

Practically overnight people labeled conspiracy theorists by the elite were proven prescient interpreters of how big government operates when news broke last Friday that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny in their tax-exempt applications. The media pile on against the administration is so ferocious Fox News could run live feeds from its competitors without losing a beat.

It should be so because the partisan treatment of hundreds of groups is stunning.

Ginny Rapini saw the IRS in action firsthand. The volunteer coordinator for the NorCal Tea Party applied for 501(c)(4) status for her group in July 2009. In the spring of 2010 the IRS asked for more information. She sent in the information immediately but didn’t hear from the IRS again until January 2012, she said. At that point the agency sent the group a list of 19 questions, including a request for the names of donors, every email the group sent and minutes of each board meeting, with the requirement that everything be returned within two weeks or the agency would consider the application void, she said. She sent the IRS 3,000 pages of information prior to the deadline — but did not include the names of donors. “I think they wanted to intimidate me, but instead they made me mad,” said Rapini.

After Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) spoke about NorCal’s problems with the IRS on the floor of the House and wrote to the agency, she got a favorable response to her application in the summer of 2012 — three years after the initial request, not unlike many other organizations treated to years of silence in between harassing questions.

What makes the IRS’s actions even worse is that top officials knew about the inappropriate questioning of conservative groups since 2011 but didn’t say anything about it to Congress. Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, was fired earlier this week, and should be the first of a long line of people held accountable for the agency’s flagrant mistreatment of political opponents by one of the most powerful government agencies.

On top of the IRS scandal, the Department of Justice (DOJ) last week admitted to secretly taking records of incoming and outgoing calls on work and personal phones of Associated Press (AP) reporters, its main lines in New York, Washington and Hartford, CT., and for the AP number in the House of Representatives. It took records on more than 20 lines in total in April and May of 2012 — lines used by more than 100 journalists.

Asked by National Public Radio how many other news media phone records the DOJ had taken Attorney General Eric Holder said, “I’m not sure how many of those cases…I have actually signed off on…I take them very seriously.”

So, confidential sources are not confidential if the government wants to know who they are. Whistleblowers beware.

That all of this is happening as the IRS is in the middle of hiring potentially thousands of new employees to write and enforce ObamaCare regulations should make everyone afraid. It is also happening while the IRS is in the middle of creating a giant information center with other federal agencies called the Data Services Hub to assist with rolling out ObamaCare (See here) that will provide one stop shopping on everything but what color underwear someone is wearing for the day.

The government promises, “Protecting the privacy of individuals remains the highest priority.” But after the last week, Americans should know there is no guarantee of personal privacy with the government or impartiality in how their information is used. It should also put Americans on notice that their political party could determine the quality of their health care. Welcome to the real world, Ohio State graduates.



Fight the Power

Mona Charen

It's plausible to grant that Obama himself did not know that IRS agents were targeting tea party groups, Jews and other -- one almost wants to write "enemies of the state" -- for audits, harassment and delay. If Obama understood the conservative critique of big government even a little, he would know that his lack of knowledge is expected. In fact, it's part of the problem. As David Axelrod put it, the government is just "too vast" for the president to control. Who would have thought?

Obviously the government has always been too large for any one person to control. But our brilliant founders arranged matters so that power would be diffuse. Interest would counter interest, branch would check branch and transparency would ensure accountability to the voters. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51:

Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?

The tea party movement -- those the IRS harassed -- dressed up as Founders, a rich irony. A good progressive, Obama finds Adams, Jefferson and Co. passe. He doesn't recognize the capacity of government to abuse power when in the proper (i.e. Democratic) hands -- or, more likely, doesn't care. His arrogance about his own good intentions for the "middle class" -- odd that he almost never speaks of the poor -- makes him contemptuous of those who agree with Madison that government power must always be carefully constrained.

You needn't believe that Barack Obama personally texted IRS agents and instructed them to harass conservatives to know that he disdains the constitutional order. The evidence is in the legislation he signed. Both the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank create boards with utterly (in the case of Dodd Frank) and nearly (in the case of Obamacare) unreviewable power. Both are the subjects of lawsuits challenging their constitutionality.

Dodd Frank (aka "Dodd Frankenstein") creates at least two panels that are insulated from Congress's power of the purse. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Financial Stability Oversight Council derive their funding directly from the Federal Reserve. The president can appoint the director of the CFPB but can remove him only in very limited circumstances. The courts, which can normally overturn agency actions deemed "arbitrary or capricious," have limited review. The president highlighted his contempt for law by illegally naming the current director of CFPB as a "recess appointment" - when the Senate was not in recess.

The FSOC can declare firms "too big to fail" and thus obligate taxpayers for bailouts. The courts will have no say.

Under Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is exempted from the notice and comment rules of federal agencies. IPAB dictates automatically become law unless Congress itself intervenes, but Congress has little time to do so and must vote by a three-fifths majority to modify an IPAB decision. The courts are not permitted to review its rulings.

Even abolishing IPAB has been made virtually impossible by the law.

At his Thursday press conference, Obama promised that if "there's a problem in government, we'll fix it." But his overweening signature legislation guarantees that power will be abused. Shielding government agencies from judicial and congressional review is an open invitation to the kind of misuse a wiser person would guard against. Wiser men did. They created our constitution, which Obama and his progressive allies flout.



Still one of the funniest photos of all time

Vice-President Biden and a very startled official


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mentioning the unmentionable again

In my academic career as a psychometrician, I paid some attention to the sociology of knowledge, and, indeed to the psychology of knowledge.

The field is actually a respectable one among Leftists -- dating particularly from Karl Marx's claim that your class position influences how you think.

Unlike Marx and the Leftists, however, I do not extrapolate small facts into vast generalizations.  Because one can descry influences on how people think, I don't jump to the conclusion that there is no such thing as truth.  I think the truth is still knowable even to those who wish that it were not so.

But the thing that fascinates me is the use of censorship, formal and informal.  Why do people wish to censor certain ideas?  Censored ideas are obviously seen as dangerous but WHY are they seen as dangerous?  It cannot be because they are silly.  There are many silly ideas that are not censored.  Nobody tries to censor the widespread claim that George Bush blew up the Twin Towers, for instance.  Silly ideas are allowed to run their course.  They are not censored.

So it is clearly threatening ideas that are censored.  But why are they threatening?  The answer surely is that the censored thought is reality-based.  So religious people who wish to censor expressions of sexual license, reveal by their censorship attempts that there is a real tendency towards sexual licence out there in the population -- a tendency which they do not wish to overwhelm  their own families.  And homosexuals who brand all criticism of homosexuality as "homophobia" reveal that there is a strong tendency out there in the population to find homosexuality at least distasteful if not perverted and immoral.

So ever since I wrote an academic article on the subject in 1972, it has always seemed to me that the idea of IQ is very threatening to those who fulminate against it.  And it is clear why it is threatening:  Because it refers to a fact that has great potential to upset people who are less intellectually able.

But that it the point.  If it were a fantasy as silly as the claim about George Bush and the Twin Towers, nobody would be disturbed by it.  The fact that the idea of IQ is founded in over a century of careful academic research is the problem.  It is arguably the most solid finding ever to come out of psychological research that problem solving ability is highly general across different classes of problem.  And we call that general problem solving ability 'g' or IQ.

But the fact that there really is such a thing as IQ out there in the general population only intensifies the problem.  The findings about IQ are entirely disruptive to the Leftist wish to declare all men equal.  The fury and sweeping denunciations aimed at  people like Jason Richwine are so powerful precisely because the concept of IQ is so accurate.  Although many have tried, the concept of IQ cannot be dismissed academically.  So all that is left is denunciation and persecution of those who proclaim the facts of the matter.

The fact that talk about IQ is so heavily penalized and forbidden is surely one of the most powerful demonstrations there are of how reality-based IQ findings are.  Putting it more generally, the more "forbidden" a statement is, the more likely it is to be true.

So it is mildly amusing how silly the attacks on IQ are -- and the demonstration that blacks on average have markedly lower IQs does of course arouse great steaming eruptions of silliness.  The quite standard response of Leftists is a variation of their ultimate fallback when forced into a corner by the facts.  They resort to some variation on the quite incoherent assertion that "there is no such thing as right and wrong".  In the case of IQ they deny that either IQ or race exists.

I have been reading a fair bit of the Leftist commentaries on the Richwine affair  -- from black writers like Ta Nehisi Coates to the cautious David Weigel.  And they regularly  refer to the concept of IQ as "discredited".  Who discredited it and how they do not say.  They don't want to go there. I think they know that they would be in very deep if they tried.  The various academic assaults on the concept have been easily rebutted  -- e.g. here.

Ta Nehisi Coates is however more empirical than most.  He takes a rather ad hominem approach.  Like the black conservative Tom Sowell, he shows how ideas of racial intelligence have been wrong in the past and arrives at the non sequitur that current ideas of that ilk are also therefore wrong.  It's rather like saying that Hitler liked dogs so love of dogs these days is Fascist.  Ultimately you have to judge the truth of a proposition on the  facts, not on who believes it now or who believed something similar in the past.

And absolutely ALL Leftists deny that such a thing as race exists.  As far as I can tell, ALL Americans can see that it does but when did reality hold up Leftists?  The argument for race non-existence is an old philosophical fallacy that can be applied to almost everything.  I can equally argue, for instance, that dogs do not exist  because some are large, some are small, some have short coats some have long coats, some are white some are black etc.

So some people regarded as American blacks look a lot like whites and some do not.  So the Leftist argument (e.g. by Coates) is that there is therefore no such thing as blacks. Such an asinine argument hardly deserves a reply but Razib Khan (a brown man) has answered it at length anyway  -- pointing out that all taxonomy in the natural world concerns central tendency rather than rigid or simple demarcation lines.  My comment from some years back on the matter is here.

Even many conservatives find the idea of low average IQ among blacks distasteful but, as the old Scots proverb has it:  "Facts are chiels that winna ding" (Facts are guys that you can't knock down).

FOOTNOTE:  It is often pretended that what IQ tests measure is either a mystery or trivial.  So we sometimes hear even from people who should know better the statement:  "IQ is only what IQ tests measure".  It is of course trivially true that IQ tests measure IQ but what IQ tests measure is neither obscure nor trivial.  They measure general problem-solving ability, which is why psychometricians refer to IQ as 'g'.  And that there is such a thing as general problem-solving ability is a momentous discovery with many implications -- which is why high IQ goes with so many desiderata:  from educational success to higher income to better health and longer life.

And pointing out that there are exceptions to that rule is merely sophomoric.  In the life sciences all rules that I can think of have exceptions.  As any gambler can tell you, however, even small departures from randomness can be invaluable. A correlation does not have to be perfect to be useful.


The umbrella difference

George Bush can hold his own umbrella

President Obama humiliated the marine who he asked to hold his umbrella by making him ‘look like a butler’, a respected military general claimed today.  Thomas McInerney, a former United States Air Force Lieutenant General, said that the President showed a ‘lack of respect’ by making the soldier shelter him from a shower.

He also said that the President has plenty of aides so did not understand why one of them could not have held the umbrella.

The President caused a stir when he summoned over two marines to keep him dry at a press conference in the Rose Garden.  The marines held an umbrella over the President and the Turkish Prime Minister individually as Obama made jokes about the weather.

However, for some the move was not a laughing matter particularly as it is a breach of protocol for marines to hold umbrellas while in uniform.



Healthcare and the Poor: Why Money Works Better than Waiting

By John C. Goodman

What I call health policy orthodoxy is committed to two propositions: (1) The really important health issue for poor people is access to care, and (2) to ensure access, waiting for care is always better than paying for care. In other words, if you have to ration scarce medical resources somehow, rationing by waiting is always better than rationing by price.

(Let me say parenthetically that the orthodox view is at least plausible. After all, poor people have the same amount of time you and I have, but a lot less money. Also, because their wages are lower than other people’s, the opportunity cost of their time is lower. So if we all have to pay for care with time and not with money, the advantage should go to the poor. This view would be plausible, that is, so long as you ignore tons of data showing that whenever the poor and the non-poor compete for resources in almost any non-price rationing system, the poor always lose out.)

The orthodox view underlies Medicaid’s policy of allowing patients to wait for hours for care in hospital emergency rooms and in community health centers, while denying them the opportunity to obtain less costly care at a walk-in clinic with very little wait at all. The easiest, cheapest way to expand access to care for millions of low-income families is to allow them to do something they cannot now do: add money out of pocket to Medicaid’s fees and pay market prices for care at walk-in clinics, doc-in-the-boxes, surgical centers, and other commercial outlets. Yet, in conventional health policy circles, this idea is considered heresy.

The orthodox view lies behind the obsession with making everyone pay higher premiums so that contraceptive services and a whole long list of screenings and preventive care can be made available with no co-payment or deductible. Yet, this practice will surely encourage overuse and waste and, in the process, likely raise the time prices of these same services.

The orthodox view lies at the core of the hostility toward Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), and any other kind of account that allows money to be exchanged for medical services. Yet, it is precisely these kinds of accounts that empower low-income families in the medical marketplace, just as food stamps empower them in any grocery store they choose to patronize.

The orthodox view is the reason so many backers of Obamacare think it will expand access to care for millions of people, even though there will be no increase in the supply of doctors. Because they completely ignore the almost certain increase in the time price of care, these enthusiasts have completely missed the possibility that the act may actually decrease access to care for the most vulnerable populations.[1]

The orthodox view is the reason there is so little academic interest in measuring the time price of care and why so much animosity is directed at those who do measure such things. It explains why MIT professor Jonathan Gruber can write a paper on Massachusetts health reform and never once mention that the wait to see a new doctor in Boston is more than two months.[2]

This neglect would matter little if not for one thing: the evidence, as I explain in my book Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, suggests that the orthodox view is totally wrong.



Men who are physically strong are more likely to have right wing political views

And I thought that Schwarzenegger was a RINO but, Ah Well

Men who are strong are more likely to take a right-wing stance, while weaker men support the welfare state, researchers claim.

Their study discovered a link between a man’s upper-body strength and their political views.

Scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark collected data on bicep size, socio-economic status and support for economic redistribution from hundreds in America, Argentina and Denmark.

The figures revealed that men with higher upper-body strength were less likely to support left-wing policies on the redistribution of wealth.

But men with low upper-body strength were more likely to put their own self-interest aside and support a welfare state.

The researchers found no link between upper-body strength and redistribution opinions among women.

Professor Michael Petersen said: ‘In all three countries, physically strong males consistently pursued the self-interested position on redistribution.

‘However physically weak males were more reluctant to assert their self-interest – just as if disputes over national policies were a matter of direct physical confrontation between individuals.

‘While many people think of politics as a modern phenomenon, it has, in a sense, always been with our species.  ‘Political views are designed by natural selection to function in the conditions recurrent over human evolutionary history.’

The findings were published in the journal Psychological Science.

Professor Petersen added: ‘Many previous studies have shown that people's political views cannot be predicted by standard economic models.

‘This is among the first studies to show that political views may be rational in another sense, in that they're designed by natural selection to function in the conditions recurrent over human evolutionary history.’

SOURCE.  The journal article is below:

The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper-Body Strength Regulates Men’s Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution


Over human evolutionary history, upper-body strength has been a major component of fighting ability. Evolutionary models of animal conflict predict that actors with greater fighting ability will more actively attempt to acquire or defend resources than less formidable contestants will. Here, we applied these models to political decision making about redistribution of income and wealth among modern humans. In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark, and the United States, men with greater upper-body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position: Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution. Because personal upper-body strength is irrelevant to payoffs from economic policies in modern mass democracies, the continuing role of strength suggests that modern political decision making is shaped by an evolved psychology designed for small-scale groups.


So we see that the findings are not as simple as they were initially presented.  Strong guys still favoured redistribution if they were lower class. The opponents of redistribution were both strong and upper class


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)