Thursday, March 19, 2015

Congratulations to Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu

He has been returned to office with an increased plurality for his Likud party and should have little trouble (by Israeli standards) in forming a new governing coalition


Breastfeeding and IQ

There is an elegantly done study just out in Lancet Which shows that, among Brazilians, children who were breastfed for some time grew up to have slightly higher IQs.  The study title is "Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil".

I really hate to demolish such extensive and careful work but the study has a fatal flaw:  Maternal IQ was not measured.  And, surprising though it may seem IQ is hugely important to breastfeeding. High IQ mothers breastfeed a lot more.  And IQ is of course mainly genetically transmitted.  So all that the study really shows is that high IQ mothers have high IQ children, which is no news at all.

In the statistics section of the paper I was delighted to come  across a word that I had forgotten I knew:  "Heteroscedasticity".  I must use it sometime.


Western civilisation at stake amid growing threats

By Greg Sheridan, writing from Australia

WESTERN civilisation is in the midst of a profound crisis. Let me tell you how I get to that ­conclusion.

The most difficult task in any serious strategic analysis is to integrate factors from wholly different spheres of activity and to see how they play on each other. A failure to recognise the depth of the old Soviet Union’s economic crisis, for example, led many traditional Western strategic analysts, accustomed to measuring Soviet arsenals against US arsenals, to miss altogether the impending collapse of the entire Soviet system.

Today, the West, of which Australia is manifestly part, is beset by intractable, diverse challenges, each one of which could provide existential threat. It is solving none of them at the moment. Each threat multiplies the force of the others. Taken together, they constitute a long, systemic crisis. The West might solve these problems. But it might not, too.

First, Islamist terrorism. There are three ways this can be an existential threat. Terrorists could get material for a mass destruction attack, either a nuclear weapon or, much likelier, a radiation weapon, a dirty bomb. So far this hasn’t happened. But a strategic threat is not the common law. It’s not governed by precedent. A lot of determined and intelligent terrorists want to do this. Their chances increase radically when terrorists control the mechanisms of a state, as they do now in parts of Iraq and Syria, and as they did once in Afghanistan. This is one reason ungoverned space is so dangerous.

Second, terrorism could cripple social cohesion in Western societies. It’s impossible to know what social effects a few mass atrocity attacks would have.

Three, terrorists could produce disorder in the Middle East so chronic and widespread that it leads to state-on-state war, pos­sibly involving nuclear weapons.

The West is not winning the war on Islamist terror. Since 9/11 al-Qa’ida has flourished in the Middle East and North Africa. It is now in danger of being supplanted by the even more murderous franchise of Islamic State. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of young men, including thousands from the West, have rallied to these banners.

The second big external threat to the West is the rise of new powers, or old powers newly emboldened, taking advantage of the weak and feckless leadership provided by Barack Obama. The US President is the de facto head of Western civilisation. Not since Jimmy Carter has there been a leader of such little strategic consequence. He is a President of fine words and strategic failure.

Russia is conquering slices of territory from its neighbours. There is no knowing what is the end of Vladimir Putin’s ambition. Reducing his “near abroad” to strategic subservience to Moscow is part of it. China is constructing military installations in disputed territories in the South China Sea hundreds of kilometres from the Chinese mainland.

Both Moscow and Beijing, and others, are testing not only American resolve but the whole efficacy of the US alliance system. China and Russia, and most nations in Asia, are ramping up military spending. In so far as there has been any principle of international security order since World War II, it has been the US alliance system.

Although the US is the leader of this system and does most of the heavy lifting, the power of its allies feeds into and magnifies US strategic power. If the US loses credibility the system becomes hollow.

The third big external threat is nuclear proliferation. There is no plausible economic justification for Iran’s big nuclear industry. Its true purpose is to acquire nuclear weapons, or the ability rapidly to produce nuclear weapons. It is about to secure relief from sanctions, already greatly watered down, in a deal with the US that will allow it to keep its nuclear establishment. Iran will get nuclear weapons in due course. Almost nothing is surer. Saudi Arabia has arrangements with Pakistan to follow suit when that happens. The governments of Egypt and some of the Gulf states will then face their own existential questions, especially if they feel they can no longer rely on the US.

Almost all the nuclear powers except the US are increasing the number of their nuclear warheads. The more these weapons proliferate, the greater the chance of their eventual use.

The fourth big external threat is the democratisation of destructive technology (beyond nuclear technology). The digital economy and all its associated inventions are a wonderful boon for humanity, not least in their applications to human health. But the power to use this technology destructively is also rising. The computing power of every smartphone in everybody’s pocket is greater than all the computing effort deployed to put a man on the moon in 1969. The most destructive people in our society so far have not been techno geniuses. But you wouldn’t need very many before terrorism and other antisocial movements switch to massive infrastructure disruption.

At the military level, asymmetry is the new reality, the power of numerically small and financially weak players to wreak enormous strategic damage. Size and money, which have traditionally helped the West, will be less decisive than they used to be, and are in any event moving against the West.

Then there are a series of internal factors that are hurting the West and its prospects. Western economies have recovered from the global financial crisis to some extent but they are not the primary sources of global economic growth. More than that, throughout the West there is an interlinked crisis of governance, budgets and social and economic sustainability.

In governance, the West is a terrible mess. Look at Europe, now a byword for chronic misgovernance and an inability to come to grips with the limitations of budgets and the excess of entitlements. Europe is one of the wealthiest regions of the planet, but its system cannot provide work for huge portions of its young ­people and cannot meaningfully integrate a large minority of immigrants. And it cannot match expenditure to income.

The US has a milder version of the same syndrome. Australia is running through prime ministers at a rate that would make postwar Italy proud.

Finally, there is this question: how long can the West live off the moral capital of religious conviction that it is now abandoning? The West is the only part of humanity abandoning religious belief. Can societies in which there is no overarching idea beyond the individual compete successfully in the long run?

Temperamentally, I’m an optimist. But no one should doubt a civilisational crisis exists.



How One Man Turned Americans Against Government

Gallup conducted a poll of 1,025 Americans March 5-8 that captured the nation’s growing disgust with the federal government. But the Leftmedia stopped one question short of finding the real reason for this discontent.

“Dissatisfaction with government” now beats out concerns of the economy, terrorism, illegal immigration and unemployment, despite the direct influence of these pocketbook and kitchen-table issues. Don’t underappreciate these rankings. Survey participants most frequently respond to questions through the prism of, “I’m concerned because this issue impacts me directly.”

So why, Mr. or Mrs. American, do you have this increasing dissatisfaction with government?

It boils down to one word, and, no, it’s not racism. It’s “Obama.”

When Barack Obama declared with glee that we are “days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” most voters failed to fully realize the magnitude of his plans. Few understood that a community organizer raised on the milk of anger, hate and socialist indoctrination would so quickly shred the Constitution. But our Founders warned of such tyranny.

How many Democrats or even Republicans back in 2008 imagined Obama would so egregiously overstep the jurisdiction of the executive branch through ObamaCare’s implementation and effective amnesty? Or that today he would be on the verge of a nuclear agreement with Iran, giving the world’s leading terrorist sponsor much of what it wants?

Have you ever dined at a restaurant described as some delightful experience or marketed to fulfill your culinary dreams only to leave with an excessive tab, disastrous service and a meal you could’ve cooked better at home?

Obama marketed himself with promises of transparency, a government that serves all Americans, and all-around, feel-good “Hope ‘n’ Change™.

Yet after six years, the American people have endured lie after lie. To name but a few:

"If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

“I didn’t set a red line on Syria.”

“I didn’t call the Islamic State a ‘JV team.’”

“Republicans have filibustered 500 pieces of legislation.”

“The sequester is not something I’ve proposed.”

“Here’s what happened [at Benghazi]. … You had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, sort of a shadowy character who – who made an extremely offensive video directed at – at Muhammad and Islam.”

And then there was, for example, the political targeting by the IRS and the politicization of the Department of Justice by his criminal co-conspirator, Attorney General Eric Holder.

The distrust that has been sown, watered, fertilized and is now at full harvest is a testament to Obama’s successful “transformation” of America. He has left Americans with buyer’s remorse of monumental proportions. Voters didn’t bargain for this mess – even if some of us tried to warn them.

Democrats were walloped in two straight midterm elections, which served notice to everyone but a petulant Obama that his policies, his tactics and his results were rejected. Those Democrats who remain in elected office either have to distance themselves from the radical in the White House, or they represent districts where voters embrace Obama’s radical policies.

The Obama approach to elections has been to place each voter in some interest group – black, homosexual, pro-abortion, illegal immigrant, etc. – and win by mobilizing those groups nationally. Identity politics worked for Obama but failed most Americans.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Chief Radical Obama’s failed policies have resulted in a weak bench of leftist extremists down the ballot. The Republican wave was so thoroughly successful that it wiped out vast numbers of state and local Democrats around the nation, from whom the next generation of the party’s leaders will come. It is by no means a permanent defeat, but it’s most certainly a real setback.

Americans are fed up by government because Obama overpromised and under-delivered. His solution to everything is a government program, and, increasingly, Americans are seeing that as the wrong approach.

Now, imagine a nation led by those who say what they mean, mean what they say, and follow through on principled policy. Americans want that type of government leadership and are waiting, impatiently.



The apparent insanity of American liberals

Western liberals keep being so “open minded” about Muslims and Islam their brains have now completely fallen out of their heads.  They just don’t seem to get the fact they will be the first casualties of any kind of Islamic take-over anywhere in the world. As for these self-hating Jews that are part of the pseudo-religion movement of the left who continue to condemn Jews, Judaism, and Israel – what do they think would happen to them if any of the Islamic sects took over western cultures?

Since they’re all leftists they hate capitalism and will support any system that attacks the paragon of capitalism and its allies - the United States.

They work unendingly to destroy the system that gave the world the only stable moral foundation in the world. A system based on Judaic/Christian principles, which was the fertilizer for the only economic system the world ever knew that was capable of bringing so many people out of misery squalor, suffering, disease and early death – American capitalism.

They want to “fundamentally” change the only place in the world where they could spout their inflammatory nonsense without being thrown into jail or worse. I know, I know, they could spout their claptrap in many western nations, but does anyone really believe this would be tolerated anywhere else if America’s Constitution system wasn’t such a dominant force in the world? A system they’re trying to overturn.

Historically we know the concepts they believe in, subscribe to - and demand all others believe it - are worldwide failures, whether it involves religion, economics or the environment. These are concepts so stupid only intellectuals could believe in them. Is it any wonder leftism, in all of its manifestations, are the movements so heavily infested with so many intellectuals?

They reject history - they reject all the evidence of their failures and the devastatingly negative outcomes their policies have inflicted on humanity, and continue to passionately and adamantly promote those concepts! We can only conclude one thing by way of explanation.

The left must truly be insane!



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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