Friday, February 06, 2015

Conservatives have a better sense of humor

This is an article from a few years back but it reinforces much that I have been saying for many years.  And it is in the NYT!

We begin by asking you to rate, on a scale of 1 (not funny at all) to 9 (hilarious) the following three attempts at humor:

A) Jake is about to chip onto the green at his local golf course when a long funeral procession passes by. He stops in midswing, doffs his cap, closes his eyes and bows in prayer. His playing companion is deeply impressed. “That’s the most thoughtful and touching thing I’ve ever seen,” he says. Jake replies, “Yeah, well, we were married 35 years.”

B) I think there should be something in science called the “reindeer effect.” I don’t know what it would be, but I think it’d be good to hear someone say, “Gentlemen, what we have here is a terrifying example of the reindeer effect.”

C) If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I’d say Flippy, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong, though. It’s Hambone.

Those were some of the jokes rated by nearly 300 people in Boston in a recent study. (You can rate some of the others at TierneyLab, The researchers picked out a variety of jokes — good, bad, conventional, absurdist — to look for differences in reactions between self-described liberals and conservatives.

They expected conservatives to like traditional jokes, like the one about the golfing widower, that reinforce racial and gender stereotypes. And because liberals had previously been reported to be more flexible and open to new ideas, the researchers expected them to get a bigger laugh out of unconventional humor, like Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts” about the reindeer effect and Hambone.

Indeed, the conservatives did rate the traditional golf and marriage jokes as significantly funnier than the liberals did. But they also gave higher ratings to the absurdist “Deep Thoughts.” In fact, they enjoyed all kinds of humor more.

“I was surprised,” said Dan Ariely, a psychologist at Duke University, who collaborated on the study with Elisabeth Malin, a student at Mount Holyoke College. “Conservatives are supposed to be more rigid and less sophisticated, but they liked even the more complex humor.”

Do conservatives have more fun? Should liberals start describing themselves as humor-challenged? To investigate these questions, we need to delve into the science of humor (not a funny enterprise), starting with two basic kinds of humor identified in the 1980s by Willibald Ruch, a psychologist who now teaches at the University of Zurich.

The first category is incongruity-resolution humor, or INC-RES in humor jargon. It covers traditional jokes and cartoons in which the incongruity of the punch line (the husband who misses his wife’s funeral) can be resolved by other information (he’s playing golf). You can clearly get the joke, and it often reinforces stereotypes (the golf-obsessed husband).

Dr. Ruch and other researchers reported that this humor, with its orderly structure and reinforcement of stereotypes, appealed most to conservatives who shunned ambiguity and complicated new ideas, and who were more repressed and conformist than liberals.

The second category, nonsense humor, covers many “Far Side” cartoons, Monty Python sketches and “Deep Thoughts.” The punch line’s incongruity isn’t neatly resolved — you’re left to enjoy the ambiguity and absurdity of the reindeer effect or Hambone’s affection for dolphins. This humor was reported to appeal to liberals because of their “openness to ideas” and their tendency to “seek new experiences.”

But then why didn’t the liberals in the Boston experiment like the nonsense humor of “Deep Thoughts” as much as the conservatives did? One possible explanation is that conservatives’ rigidity mattered less than another aspect of their personality. Rod Martin, the author of “The Psychology of Humor,” said the results of the Boston study might reflect another trait that has been shown to correlate with a taste for jokes: cheerfulness.

“Conservatives tend to be happier than liberals in general,” said Dr. Martin, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario. “A conservative outlook rationalizes social inequality, accepting the world as it is, and making it less of a threat to one’s well-being, whereas a liberal outlook leads to dissatisfaction with the world as it is, and a sense that things need to change before one can be really happy.”

Another possible explanation is that conservatives, or at least the ones in Boston, really aren’t the stiffs they’re made out to be by social scientists. When these scientists analyze conservatives, they can sound like Victorians describing headhunters in Borneo. They try to be objective, but it’s an alien culture.

The studies hailing liberals’ nonconformity and “openness to ideas” have been done by social scientists working in a culture that’s remarkably homogenous politically. Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one on social science and humanities faculties, according to studies by Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University. If you’re a professor who truly “seeks new experiences,” try going into a faculty club today and passing out McCain-Palin buttons.

Could it be that the image of conservatives as humorless, dogmatic neurotics is based more on political bias than sound social science? Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who reviews the evidence of cognitive differences in his 2005 book, “Expert Political Judgment,” said that while there were valid differences, “liberals and conservatives are roughly equally closed-minded in dealing with dissonant real-world evidence.”

So perhaps conservatives don’t have a monopoly on humorless dogmatism. Maybe the stereotype of the dour, rigid conservative has more to do with social scientists’ groupthink and wariness of outsiders — which, come to think of it, resembles the herding behavior of certain hoofed animals. Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a terrifying example of the reindeer effect.



Obama Versus America

By Thomas Sowell

In his recent trip to India, President Obama repeated a long-standing pattern of his – denigrating the United States to foreign audiences. He said that he had been discriminated against because of his skin color in America, a country in which there is, even now, “terrible poverty.”

Make no mistake about it, there is no society of human beings in which there are no rotten people. But for a President of the United States to be smearing America in a foreign country, whose track record is far worse, is both irresponsible and immature.

Years after the last lynching of blacks took place in the Jim Crow South, India’s own government was still publishing annual statistics on atrocities against the untouchables, including fatal atrocities. The June 2003 issue of “National Geographic” magazine had a chilling article on the continuing atrocities against untouchables in India in the 21st century.

Nothing that happened to Barack Obama when he was attending a posh private school in Hawaii, or elite academic institutions on the mainland, was in the same league with the appalling treatment of untouchables in India. And what Obama called “terrible poverty” in America would be called prosperity in India.

The history of the human race has not always been a pretty picture, regardless of what part of the world you look at, and regardless of whatever color of the rainbow the people have been.

If you want to spend your life nursing grievances, you will never run out of grievances to nurse, regardless of what color your skin is. If some people cannot be rotten to you because of your race, they will find some other reason to be rotten to you.

The question is whether you want to deal with such episodes at the time when they occur or whether you want to nurse your grievances for years, and look for opportunities for “payback” against other people for what somebody else did. Much that has been said and done by both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder suggests that they are in payback mode.

Both have repeatedly jumped into local law enforcement issues, far from Washington, and turned them into racial issues, long before the facts came out. These two men – neither of whom grew up in a ghetto – have been quick to play the role of defenders of the ghetto, even when that meant defending the kinds of hoodlums who can make life a living hell for decent people in black ghettos.

Far from benefitting ghetto blacks, the vision presented by the Obama administration, and the policies growing out of that vision, have a track record of counterproductive results on both sides of the Atlantic – that is, among low-income whites in England as well as low-income blacks in the United States.

In both countries, children from low-income immigrant families do far better in schools than the native-born, low-income children. Moreover, low-income immigrant groups rise out of poverty far more readily than low-income natives.

The January 31st issue of the distinguished British magazine “The Economist” reports that the children of African refugees from Somalia do far better in school than low-income British children in general. “Somali immigrants,” it reports, “insist that their children turn up for extra lessons at weekends.” These are “well-ordered children” and their parents understand that education “is their ticket out of poverty.”

Contrast that with the Obama administration’s threatening schools with federal action if they do not reduce their disciplining of black males for misbehavior.

Despite whatever political benefit or personal satisfaction that may give Barack Obama and Eric Holder, reducing the sanctions against misbehavior in school virtually guarantees that classroom disorder will make the teaching of other black students far less effective, if not impossible.

For black children whose best ticket out of poverty is education, that is a lifelong tragedy, even if it is a political bonanza to politicians who claim to be their friends and defenders.

The biggest advantage that the children of low-income immigrants have over the children of native-born, low-income families is that low-income immigrants have not been saturated for generations with the rhetoric of victimhood and hopelessness, spread by people like Obama, Holder and their counterparts overseas.



Obama is Just Doing a Jim Dandy Job!

By Rich Kozlovich

While 54% of voters want no new taxes and more budget cuts, President Obama is expected to propose a near $4 trillion federal budget that includes tax and spending increases. However, 16% actually do favor a federal budget that increases spending and 21% think we should continue spending like drunken sailors at the same level. Only that would “be an insult to drunken sailors – at least they’re spending their own money”.

So now we absolutely know one thing from that poll - we have 37% of the American population that never took arithmetic in school. Is possible that reading, writing and arithmetic isn't taught in American schools any longer?

Rasmussen polls show society isn’t all that thrilled with their health care and don’t expect Obamacare to fix it. Furthermore they think society is better off without government interference in the nation’s health care system. All these things Americans don't like are foundational to everything Obama is doing and yet Rasmussen’s Daily Presidential Tracking Poll gives Obama a 51% performance approval rating. Does that make sense to anyone?

I don’t really know if Rasmussen can be trusted any more than other pollsters, but I put pollsters as a whole in the same category as snake oil salesmen. They ask questions in ways that will generate affirmation versus reality. Having said that - I've followed the Rasmussen polls for some time now and I keep seeing a majority who claim they dislike Obama's policies and yet think he's just doing a Jim Dandy job. Is that rational? Is that a case of cognitive dissonance or was Gruber right – people are stupid?  The second question we need clarity on is  this - if so many people are stupid, did they get that way on their own?

I think it’s a combination of the following. An American educational system that's turned into an expensive failure, cognitive dissonance is rampant, the pollsters are corrupt, people are largely misinformed and uninformed by choice, a corrupt media wants to keep them that way - and Gruber was right. There is only one question I think needs to be answered. Since Gruber was attacked as ‘arrogant’ by various writers – we need to clearly define in our minds if he was being arrogant or was he merely making an observation of reality that no one liked?

Here’s an insight to the correct answer. Newsweek gave a test to 1000 people and found that 29% of Americans didn’t know who the Vice President was, 27% didn’t know the President of the U.S. was in charge of the executive branch and 70% didn’t know the supreme law of the land was the U.S. Constitution. One commenter made the observation that perhaps they thought it was the Prime Directive from the United Federation of Planets. I would be willing to bet if that question was part of the test a fair number would have agreed – and believed it! Is that an indication the American educational system has failed to teach history and civics?

Apparently 33% don’t know the official date for the signing of the Declaration of Independence was July 4, 1776. Hummmm, I wonder if they go around asking why July 4th is a national holiday. Oh wait….I know….I know…’s a national holiday created to lend economic support to fireworks manufacturers…Right?

But that’s only a third of the population, perhaps I’m just being picky since 65% didn’t know the Constitution was written by the Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention – that’s 65%, - and only 12% could name one of the writers, 43% didn’t know the first ten amendments to the Constitution is called the Bill of Rights and 63% didn’t know there were nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, perhaps I'm just being picky again, but is this another indictment of American education?

Now for those who are snickering– how many amendments are there to the U.S. Constitution? Answer without looking it up!

Eighty percent didn’t know who the President of the U.S. was during WWI and 40% didn’t know the U.S. was fighting Germany, Italy and Japan during WWII, with a full 73% being unaware the “cold war” was over the spread of communism. Now does all of this give anyone the impression that someone in American education is clearly dropping the ball?  Is it any wonder why so many believe "going green" is good, in spite of the fact the green movement has been responsbible for more death and suffering than the socialist monsters of the 20th century.

And 51% believe Obama, who increased the national debt from a little over ten trillion dollars to a little over eighteen trillion dollars in six years without having much of an impact of the "Great Recession", is just doing a Jim Dandy job!

Have a really good day!



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.

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, February 05, 2015

Why we should cut Russia some slack

I admire the Russian people.  They suffer a generally dreadful climate and have almost always had atrocious government.  Yet through all that they have not only  survived but have made great contributions to human civilization.  One only has to mention the names of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky to know how much of our classical music we owe to Russians.  And there are other notable Russian composers too:  Rachmaninoff, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Gliere, Borodin, Mussorgsky Scriabin, Glazunov, Prokofiev etc.  The list goes on.

And in literature we think of Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Turgenev, Pasternak, Nabokov, Gorky etc.  Perhaps because of limits imposed by their climate, Russians are great readers.

And in science and technology too Russians have much to their credit.  Sikorsky invented the helicopter as we know it today; the first earth satellite was Russian, and Russia's military industries are legendary.  If there were a war tomorrow, the absurd F35 fighter would be rapidly blasted out of the sky by the latest products of the Mikoyan and Sukhoi design bureaux.  Multi-role aircraft rarely perform any role well and the F35 is an extreme example of that. It is a political compromise and is as good as you would expect from that.

And I admire the Russian people for not losing their patriotism.  Most of the Western intelligentsia have lost theirs under Leftist influence but not even Communism could suppress Russian patriotism.  Despite the theoretical internationalism of Communism,  Stalin in fact had to name what we call WWII as "The great patriotic war" in order to get maximum support from the Russian people.  Patriots stand ready to support and defend their own people.  It is only nationalists who want to subdue other people.

So why has the Western world declared a new Cold War on Russia?  Because of typical Leftist meddling in other people's affairs. Ukraine is in the midst of a civil war. America has had a couple of those too so can hardly criticize. Ukraine is a botch of a country and the war is an attempt to remedy that.  Ukrainians dislike Russians greatly -- about as passionately as Scots loathe the English.  And the "United" Kingdom went within a hairsbreadth of breaking up over that just last year.  So the Russians of Ukraine want to get out from under a Ukrainian majority who despise them and, sadly, war is usually needed for that.

And Mr Putin is cautiously supporting Ukraine's Russians.  No Russian leader would do less, given Russian patriotism. The West should encourage  the independence movement in Eastern Ukraine, not condemn it.  Didn't America have a war of independence once?  So why aren't Americans sympathetic to the independence desires of others?

The cold war is hurting the great Russian people and it should cease at once.  While King Obama has been doing all he can to reduce American military preparedness, Mr. Putin has been steadily rebuilding his forces.  In the face of Western hostility he is well positioned to turn the cold war hot.  What if he decided to invade one or all of the Baltic states, with withdrawal being conditional on an end to the cold war and a large sum of monetary assistance as reparations for the damage to Russia's economy?

The West could do nothing militarily.  The USAF would not dare to deploy the F35 in its present bungled state, leaving only the ageing F22 Raptor to face the startling performance of the latest Russian military aircraft.  So Russian air superiority in the Baltic would be established from the start.  American aviators would get as rude a shock as they did in WWII when encountering Japan's Mitsubishi Zero fighter.

And no Western military would have the stomach for a fight with Russia anyway.  All that the Western militaries are good for these days for is to take on moronic Middle-Easterners  -- and they have had little success even at that.  Ever since Vietnam, the American army has lost all its wars.  There have been some battlefield successes but no lasting victories. Iraq, for instance, is now arguably more hostile to the West overall than it was under Saddam.  There would surely be enough warning in that to preclude a hot war with Russia.  Russia could do to American forces what it did to Napoleon and Hitler.

And there are substantial Russian populations in the Baltic States so Mr Putin could well declare that he was on another rescue mission.  Russians would rally to the cause.  It would take a very large sum indeed to buy the withdrawal of Russian troops under  those circumstances.  Yet the West would feel obliged to rescue the heroic people of the Baltic states from a war brought on by Western folly -- so would pay the Danegeld.  Western taxpayers would feel the pain resulting from the folly of their leaders.  The world desperately needs a leader who is a man of peace at the moment.


Life isn't fair

This 4 year old has the sort of looks that most adult women could only dream of

But here's the challenging bit.  This girl will retain most of those looks into her early adulthood.

How do I know that?  Because her mother did.

Life isn't fair.  Wise people deal with that.  Foolish people whine about it


Regulations Have Consequences

The article below by Daniel Greenfield was written 5 years ago but it is an exceptionally clear  analysis of its subject

It is part of the basic theory of government that when the regulators try to regulate the regulated, the regulated will in turn try to control the terms of their regulation by attempting to influence the regulators. In other words, that which government controls, will try to control it. Because regulation is a two way street. By regulating people, countries and industries-- you are entering into a relationship with that which you regulate.

To rule over the unrepresented creates an unstable situation. And so the regulated will either attempt to indirectly or directly influence the regulators, overthrow them or escape their control. This too is an inevitable outgrowth of the basic theory of government, one which liberals tend to deliberately ignore when complaining about corporate lobbying. Corporate lobbying and donations to both parties are a direct product of the growth of government regulation, interference in industries, bailouts, grants and other forms of corporate welfare. The more government interacts positively or negatively with business, the more business lobbyists will try to influence how those interactions go.

There is of course one easy way to end most corporate influence on politics. But it is not one that the very people agitating against corporate money in politics will champion. That is because it requires them to give up power. Corporations are motivated to spend money in the hopes of either earning a profit or avoiding a loss. Spending money on lobbying would dry up if there were no profits or losses to be gained from doing so. But the very politicians who wail about corporate money, still expect those donations to keep coming in. And they continue exercising power over entire industries and fields, which naturally summon the companies dealing in them to try to shape how that power is exercised.

What has the expanding network of government regulations wrought? First, it has created a vast industry of lobbyists from companies who either want to avoid regulation or want to exploit regulation in order to benefit themselves or harm their competitors. Companies who want the government to pass along taxpayer money to them or create monopolies for their benefit. Companies who want government contracts for items that the government doesn't need or doesn't need to buy at that price, but will anyway because companies find it cheaper to donate to congressmen than compete fairly for the contract. All this is the result of a system in which government regulations have made it increasingly entangled with the very businesses that government is regulating.

Secondly, it has convinced many companies that it is simply easier to opt out, and move their manufacturing facilities out of the control. This has been a boon for China, but a disaster for America. The manufacturing sectors of America have become depressed, and perfect fodder for Democratic politicians to bring home the dole by taxing America's remaining businesses. But as Thatcher once reputedly said, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." In America, if the process goes on, there will be two types of companies, government subsidized companies and companies that have relocated overseas. And America will finally have Europe's economy with everyone on the dole, including the companies themselves.

As government continues to press companies over overseas revenue, they will find it simpler to relocate their headquarters overseas. Some have already done it. This will deprive the system of another source of taxable revenue, which will only drive them to press down harder on the existing sources. Which will further accelerate the entire process. But the people behind it know exactly what they're doing.

The combination of regulation and taxation makes it gradually too expensive for companies to operate legitimately. That means the only possible way for them to continue operating is to either leave the country, or throw in with the system and get a grant to begin doing something absolutely useless. Under socialism, rent seeking behavior by a company is much safer than making a good product and selling it. And so the successful business strategy now relies on integrating business with government, to produce a socialist state, in which business is not simply regulated by government, but is an actual part of government.

Consider a system in which Cap and Trade can allow speculators hiding behind environmentalist credentials to rob existing companies of billions of dollars, and decimate entire industries-- through government regulation. Under such a system it makes no sense to own a factory. Instead it makes sense to visibly drive a Prius while flying a private jet around the country, talk about the shrinking icebergs while eating imported lobster, and lobbying for wealth redistribution from actual productive companies.

That is the socialist strategy. Not to destroy business. But to destroy legitimate and productive business. Business that does not rely on government for its moneymaking strategy. And in the end all that remains is a whitemarket economy that is tightly regulated, low priced, inaccessible and virtually useless for obtaining many basic products and services-- and a blackmarket economy that is unregulated, overpriced and where anything can be found. That doesn't just apply to the kind of health care system that the left would like to impose on America. That is the kind of system they want to impose comprehensively in every area of life, minus of course the blackmarket, which is of course an inevitable outgrowth of overregulation.

Regulation is inimical to economic diversity. The more you regulate a field, the less authentic economic diversity it can have, because economic diversity is a function of economic creativity and mobility. Regulation leads to central planning in the long run, and to a freeze on economic creativity in the short run. The more regulation you have, the less economic diversity remains and the economic ecosystem rewards only business strategies that are symbiotic or parasitic on government. Regulation steadily makes the government the key, and then eventually the only player in the marketplace, as it comes to control everything from manufacturing to the sale of the products all down the line.

The growing influence of corporate money on politics is not a sign of capitalism, but of socialism. Capitalism does not require buying politicians. Socialism does. And the influence of corporate money on politics parallels exactly the influence that politicians have on business. It is a two way street, and those that the regulators regulate will attempt to influence the regulators. The more this happens, the more it's a sign that there are too many regulations, not too few.

Regulators like to believe that they can absolutely control human behavior. But human beings respond in unexpected ways. And one of those ways is that they will strive to escape or seek to control, those who would control them. Democracy is the outgrowth of the practical recognition that the rule of the people is also the best way to maintain a civil and working society. It avoids the power struggle between the government and the governed. By trying to rule without representation, the power struggle resumes. Because regulations have consequences. And the first consequence of regulation is that those you rule over, will try to rule over you.

Via Rich Kozlovich


AG Nominee Lynch's Claim Illegals Have 'Right' to Work in U.S. 'Just Absolutely Crazy'

Speaking about Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s statement that illegal aliens have the “right to work” in the United States, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said he was “astounded” by Lynch’s comments, calling them “crazy” and “just not true.” asked Vitter, “Do illegal aliens have the right to work in the United States?”

“No, they do not, and more importantly, the law is very clear on the fact that they do not have the right to work in the United States,” Vitter answered.

“Ms. Lynch basically said illegal aliens have the same right to work in the United States as citizens and green card holders, which is just absolutely crazy and just not true. The law is very clear on that. And for her to say that is just…I was absolutely astounded.”

During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lynch asserted that illegal aliens living in the United States shared the same right to work as U.S. citizens and legal residents.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked Lynch during the hearing, “Who has more right to a job in this country" – citizens and legal permanent residents or illegal aliens?

“I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that's shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here,” Lynch responded. asked Vitter, “Do you believe Ms. Lynch’s comments reflect what the president believes about illegal aliens in the United States?”

“Absolutely, Ms. Lynch’s comments obviously reflect the president’s stance on immigration, and it’s clear she supports his position on it,” he responded.

“It’s a deciding factor for me,” Vitter continued. “I said weeks ago that I would vote against Ms. Lynch being confirmed as attorney general, specifically because of this issue. The fact that she would say something that is so contrary to U.S. law tells me she should not be the next attorney general.”

Vitter also said he was not surprised Lynch’s support for illegal aliens’ “right to work” in the United States did not get much airtime in the mainstream media last week.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Vitter explained, adding that “the mainstream media has a history of not covering things or reporting things that are critical of the president’s agenda, and clearly it’s no different with this issue.”



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.

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, February 04, 2015

Are Republicans more open to new product choices?

The authors below were clearly embarrassed by their findings.  They wanted to find out that Leftists were more adventurous.  So they offer some contorted reasoning to  explain why it was conservatives who were more adventurous.

They need not have worried, however.  What generalizability do findings have that are based on the responses of convenient groups of American college undergraduates?  Non-existent sampling gives non-existent generalizability.

As it happens, I looked at the question some time ago, using proper sampling of the general population.  And I used both measures of general sensation seeking and consumer sensation seeking. And I found the opposite to the report below!  How I interpreted my findings may however be rather uncongenial to Leftists.  I headed my article as:  "Political radicals as sensation seekers"

And I think that fits.  Conservatives are the contented people and Leftists are the restless, dissatisfied  ones.  The journal article summarized below  is "Political conservatism and variety-seeking"


Some people may think of political conservatives as having a desire to maintain traditions, but a new study shows they also have a more adventurous side that seeks out variety in products.

The new research from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University was recently posted online by the Journal of Consumer Psychology. It includes three experiments in which political conservatives prove they are more likely to choose a variety of consumer products than their liberal counterparts.

"Although political conservatives have been found in previous studies to have a higher desire for control, they have an even stronger motivation to follow when there is no threat to the system or individual," explains Naomi Mandel, professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, one of the study authors. "Since we have a very individualistic culture in the United States and Europe, people tend to think of others more favorably when they include more variety in their consumption choices. Therefore, political conservatives may seek out that approval and positive evaluation."

In a series of experiments, Mandel and her co-author - Daniel Fernandes, assistant professor of the Catholic University of Portugal - found political conservatives wanted more variety in their products than liberals.

For example, the researchers first used several established scales to question and determine the political leanings of 192 college undergraduates. Then, they told the students to imagine four consecutive weekly trips during which they could select from four brands of snack chips. Overwhelmingly, the politically conservative students chose more variety in their chips for the month than the more liberal students did.

In another experiment, 111 undergrads were polled for their political leanings. Then, they completed other tasks before ultimately being asked to select three candy bars from five options as a reward for participating. Again, the political conservatives exhibited much more variety in the candy bars chosen.

"Differences between liberals and conservatives are rooted in basic personality dispositions that reflect and reinforce differences in fundamental psychological needs and motives," says Mandel. "We wanted to understand how and why a consumer's political ideology could affect his or her ."



Greek leeches

By economic historian Martin Hutchinson

"We are not worried. Our team is strong. We have Icarus in the wings" chortled Greek leftist Alexis Tsipras after his election victory. You'd think a Greek would remember that Icarus fell to a watery grave when his wings melted – the country's education system is clearly not what it was. All the same, apart from a few cheap laughs, it's worth reflecting what his victory will bring both Greece and the rest of Europe.

Greece has been a problem for the EU ever since it joined in 1981. The 1980s prime minister Andreas Papandreou was both highly corrupt and thoroughly anti-Western, and developed considerable skill in sucking subsidies and special deals for both Greece and his cronies out of the Brussels bureaucracy. (At that time Greece was both small and much poorer than any other EU member, so playing to the liberal conscience in Brussels generally worked well – it was only taxpayers' money, after all.)

By 2008, buoyed by EU subsidies, Greece had achieved a per capita GDP of $32,000. That was higher than all of central Europe and about three times the level of its neighbors Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania, all of which had been capitalist for a couple of decades by then and were considerably better run.

As an indication of how badly Greece was run even before Tsipras won last week's election, you can look at the ratings for the country by Transparency International, the Heritage Foundation and the World Bank, which between them cover the gamut of political/economic belief in the West. On Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, Greece ranked 69th in 2014, equal with Bulgaria and Romania and below Macedonia. That's actually a 10-place improvement over 2010 – center-right prime minister Georgios Samaras had some genuine if modest progress to his credit. Heritage International's 2015 Index of Economic Freedom ranked Greece an appalling 130th, hugely below its Balkan neighbors, all of which ranked in the 50s. Finally, even the World Bank's left-friendly 2015 Ease of Doing Business ranking put Greece at #61 compared with Bulgaria, Macedonia and Romania at #38, #30 and #48 respectively.

Given those ratings, prepared by agencies varying in their worldviews, it's clear that Greece's purchasing power gross national income per capita, recorded by the World Bank at $25,700 in 2013, is still far too high compared with its fellow EU members Bulgaria at $15,200, Romania at $18,400, or better-run non-member Macedonia at $11,500. History has repeatedly shown that there is a limit on the living standards that can be achieved in kleptocratic states, in which there are few returns for legitimate innovation and business capability and massive rewards for insider dealing and corruption. Greece has since 1981 managed to suck resources out of its richer neighbors to raise living standards artificially far above that limit. Tsipras intends to demand a redoubling of that resource transfer; he must be resisted.

Tsipras is right that it is impossible to achieve through government cuts the further austerity needed to get Greek living standards to their appropriate level. The necessary adjustment must instead be achieved by Greece leaving the euro and allowing its currency to float downwards. Northern European taxpayers have been supporting this mess since 1981. Tsipras' election, against a government that was at least modestly improving Greece's position, means that it is time for them to stop doing so.

Tsipras has promised to increase tax compliance, as well as restoring many of the cuts in social programs that were made in the last few years. However, tax increases have already been tried by the previous government; while raising the tax to GDP ratio four percentage points to 33% from 2009 to 2012 that ratio appears to have topped out at that level and to be unable to rise further. Given Syriza's hostile attitude to private wealth, it's likely that tax flight will soar following their election and that Greek tax compliance, already abominable, will fall to hitherto unimagined levels.

After four years of grinding austerity, Greece is currently running a "primary surplus" on its budget. However this is a spurious statistic, much loved by spendthrift Brazilians; it actually means the country is running a massive deficit when interest on its huge debt is factored in. Given the likelihood of capital flight (which after all is a big problem in Russia, which ranked far above Greece on the Heritage survey and immediately below it on the World Bank one) tax collection is likely to decline rather than increase. Needless to say, one would be mad indeed to start a small business under a Syriza government. So a Greek debt crisis appears unavoidable, even with a helpful degree of laxity among the EU's paymasters.

Giving in to Tsipras would be bad news indeed for the euro's future and indeed for that of the EU. Spain's Podemos, which professes the same mad-left belief system as Tsipras' Syriza, would be immensely strengthened, probably sufficiently so as to win the next Spanish election, due later this year. Italy's feeble attempts at reform would halt altogether, as the innumerable special interests in that country would see a chance to preserve their privileges by leeching off northern European taxpayers. France would probably tip over into the ranks of the leechers from the shrinking group of northern European resource generators.

In such circumstances, the euro would be doomed. It's one thing to decree in an academic vacuum that a common currency requires income transfers from the richer states of Europe to the poorer; it's quite another to require such transfers in hard cash from the honest burghers of Munich, Amsterdam and Helsinki to prop up Tsipras and his corrupt leftist looters. Redistribution schemes are generally of pretty dubious morality. In this case the doubtful morality would be plain for all to see, and revulsion to it would be infinitely reinforced by a rebirth of nationalism, in itself healthy but devastatingly bad for trans-national projects such as the euro.

The other alternative would be to throw Greece out of the euro, which should have been done five years ago. It would probably not be necessary to throw Greece out of the EU; there are now enough corrupt ineptly-run Balkan members of the EU (with more to come) that Greece's approach to life sticks out less among the EU's other members than it did in 1981.

In 2010 it was disclosed that Greece was nowhere near fulfilling the Maastricht Criteria for euro membership and never had been and that its 2001 entry into the euro had been accomplished through accounting fraud abetted by Goldman Sachs. Rather than propping Greece up with huge subsidies and a debt renegotiation, on promises of better behavior in the future, the EU authorities should have realized that behavior sufficiently better as to solve Greece's problems was most unlikely to occur, and would cause huge political damage if it was attempted. Had Greece been thrown out of the euro in 2010, its necessary decline in living standards would have been imposed by devaluation of the "new drachma" rather than by the EU or its own government, and so much less political damage would have been caused.

If Greece were to exit the euro now, its currency the "new drachma" would decline rapidly to 50-60% of its previous value, as Greek living standards were brought in line with those of its neighbors in Bulgaria, Romania and Macedonia. Following this move, Greek small businesses would find their possibilities immeasurably increased and exporters would thrive, while imports became very expensive indeed for the Greek population. Of course, with Tsipras in power the benefits of this devaluation would almost certainly be absorbed in state bloat and yet further corruption, so that Greek living standards would decline yet further, but that's what the silly people voted for; they deserve it.

Meanwhile, the euro itself would be immeasurably strengthened, as the other weak sisters, seeing the decline in Greek living standards, would redouble their own efforts at public sector austerity. Provided Podemos was defeated in Spain later this year (which would be more likely to happen, since Syriza's success had led not to further handouts but to Greek impoverishment) both Spain and Italy should be able to right their economies with only modest additional effort. The recent revulsion against profligacy in France suggests that there, too, a Greek sacrifice should produce sufficient improvement.

This strengthening of the euro would not remove the political difficulties of the EU, notably the blatant expansionism of its monstrous bureaucracy, but it would provide the great majority of Europeans with a better, more disciplined future than would be available through more handouts. It would at least allow the euro to stagger on towards the next crisis, rather than collapsing as would be the inevitable end-result of a Greek bailout.

"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" (Timeo Daneos et dona ferentes) wrote Vergil in the Aeneid two thousand years ago. The EU hasn't seen many gifts from Greece since 1981; instead there has been a steady procession of Greeks demanding gifts, ever more urgently.  It's time for the handouts to stop.

Via email


When the levy breaks? NM legislator proposes eliminating almost all taxes

Calling New Mexico’s tax system “a mess,” a state senator proposes a plan to eliminate most levies in the Land of Enchantment.

“It’s difficult, it’s confusing, and it’s certainly not fair or simple,” State Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, said during a news conference Wednesday.

Brandishing a copy of the state’s 1,089-page tax code, Sharer claimed New Mexico could eliminate almost every tax currently levied by reforming the way it collects the gross receipts tax.

“No personal income tax, no corporate income tax, no compensating tax, no vehicle excise tax, no insurance premium tax and about a hundred other taxes go away,” Sharer said.

The GRT would stay, but would be reduced to 2 percent. Currently the state GRT is 5.125 percent, and additional taxes in counties and cities raises the rate in some municipalities to as high as 8.6875 percent.

Sharer cited a study by Lee Reynis at the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research that found a 2 percent GRT would generate more revenue than existing taxes do, provided that all exemptions, deductions and credits were eliminated from the GRT.

Currently, Sharer said, there are more than 300 exemptions, deductions and credits. If these were eliminated, the GRT would be sufficient to pay all the expenses of the state and local governments at current funding levels, without any cuts in spending.


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, 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.

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, February 03, 2015

Will magnetic media create a black hole in the history of late 20th century creativity?

Apologies for that portentous heading but it does express a fear I have.  Let me explain.  Magnetic media came into their own during the late 20th century.  First there were open reel tape-recorders for sound; then there cassette tapes for sound; then there were floppy disks for computer software, including games; then there were VHS video recorders for a full audio-visual experience.  But all those are now obsolete.  They were an advance for their times but have now been superseded by DVDs etc.

None of that would be any great problem except for one thing:  Magnetic media degrade over time.  That was recently brought home to me when I got out one of my old VCRs and set it up to play some video tapes of two Mozart operas that had been recorded about a quarter of a century ago.  They were a professional production so should have been of good quality.  Unfortunately they were only good in parts, as the curate said.  At their best they reproduced about as well as a DVD but in other parts there was a lot of flicker, "snow" etc.  And it was not the player that was at fault.  More recent recordings were fine.

Yet the performances were good ones that deserved to be preserved.  And, probably because they were great works by a very famous composer, they ARE now available on DVD (See here and here).  But what of less famous works by less famous composers and performers? They must be on the brink of being lost forever.  I think that is a great pity.  Hopefully, all of the best of late 20th century creativity will be transferred to optical format before it is too late but I am pessimistic about most of it.

Interestingly, not all old audio-visual technology is so fragile.  Sound and vision recorded on movie film is pretty long lasting, as is music recorded on the old black vinyl LPs.

Hard disks are also of course magnetic media but disk failure is frequent enough for most people to keep backups of everything -- so data on them is less likely to be irretrievably lost.  I back up my more recent files onto DVDs several times a year.


Want to Defeat Terrorism? It’s Time to Go to the Source

by Michael Ledeen

Lots of well-known former foreign policy/national security officials don’t, or feel obliged to appear “realistic” (diplospeak for “don’t do anything, keep talking”).  Some former military officers do, although only up to a point.

Three duly respected policy professionals, Denis Ross (Obama’s — and plenty of others’ — Middle East guru for a few years early on), Eric Edelman (Bush’s under secretary of defense and earlier ambassador to Turkey), and Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations (who recently published a very important story detailing the background of the Iranian occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran in ’79), tell us it’s time to get tougher with Iran:

"[It's] time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens what the Islamic Republic values the most—its influence in the Middle East and its standing at home."

In other words, threaten the regime itself and its foreign legions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.  But just when you say to yourself, “Finally!  They’re going to call for regime change,” they tiptoe delicately into dipspeak:  “Iranian officials must come to understand that there will be no further concessions to reach an accord and that time is running out for negotiations.”
Further down, they return to the “we’re almost, kinda for regime change” theme:

"the United States should consider a political warfare campaign against Tehran to complement its economic sanctions policy. The administration officials and its broadcast services should draw attention to the unsavory nature of the theocratic regime and repressive behavior. Such language will not just showcase our values but potentially inspire political dissent."

As if the Iranian people needed the State Department and the appeasers at the feckless Persian service of the Voice of America to tear the blinders from their eyes and enable seem to see that they are living in misery under a hateful regime!  If you really want to “inspire political dissent,” just do it.  Call for the release of the opposition leaders, support the students’ and workers’ and women’s movements, and call for a national referendum on the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic.

But the three gurus aren’t calling for that.  They have no apparent interest in real political warfare, except as part of the nuclear negotiations. They’re calling for some sort of military action in Syria and Iraq, not as a decisive blow to the expansionist activities of the Islamic Republic, but as an essential ingredient in the parlay with Zarif and Rouhani.  Their main objective is to compel the Tehran regime to come to terms on the nuclear deal.

"A regime stressed at home and under pressure abroad may yet consider the price of its nuclear intransigence".

That won’t do, I’m afraid, because, as the Washington Post said in 2012, to get an end to the Iranian nuclear project, you have to have regime change in Tehran.  To be sure, the destruction of the Assad regime would be a major step in that direction, but the three gurus don’t even mention that;  nor, for that matter, does the exemplary General Robert Scales, although he has a better grasp of the dynamics of the Middle East war.

Scales, albeit using different language, stresses the importance of defeating the jihadis on the ground, in large part because defeat undermines their messianic world-view.  He calls it depriving the enemy of “hope,” I call it a blow to their conviction that their bloody enterprise is blessed by Allah.  It comes to the same thing:

"Think of hope as a material formed in a crucible over time by a series of successful terrorist strikes against the West and Western-affiliated countries in the Middle East. Since violent actions filled this crucible, only a violent military counterresponse can crack the crucible and empty it of hope. The object of a campaign against hope is not necessarily to kill in large numbers but rather to find the greatest vulnerability and shatter it dramatically and decisively.

The terrorist’s greatest source of hope today comes from Islamic State battlefield successes in Syria and Iraq. A defeat there cracks the crucible. The question is how to do it with enough drama and speed that terrorists the world over lose hope and become passive. From any perspective, the Islamic State enclave in Syria is militarily unassailable. But Iraq is a different story."

I certainly agree with the general’s main point — defeat of the enemy is very important, and when we defeat them it is not just a gain of terrain but also an ideological and political victory for our side — I think his context is too narrow, and I don’t share either his pessimism on Syria or his surprising optimism regarding Iraq.

I remain perplexed at the failure of our policy elite to advocate all-out political and military support for the Kurds.  They are pro-Western, they are tough and brave, and their enemies in the region are ours: above all, Iran, Turkey and Syria.  They are the most effective force against ISIS.  Our failure to do more for them is yet further evidence of Obama’s grotesque alliance with the Iranians, from Syria and Iraq all the way down to Yemen.

In like manner, I don’t get the optimism about Iraq, which is effectively at the mercy of Iran, and therefore a totally unreliable force.

Why not go to the source, as my late boss General Alexander Haig loved to intone?  Tehran is the source.  Unmentioned by Scales, pigeonholed by the three gurus as a negotiating challenge rather than the terror master of the world, its defeat should be the West’s central mission.



As usual, the Leftist response to criticism is attack, not thought

The latest from Britain, where the Labour Party is led by Ed Miliband, the hard-Left son of a prominent Marxist theoretician (Leftists love theory; the facts not so much).  He has become increasingly unpopular and even party members have questioned his leadership.  But let any outsider criticize him and  ...

Labour went to war with Boots yesterday after the chemist chain warned of catastrophe if the party won the general election.  Stefano Pessina, the firm’s acting boss, said Ed Miliband’s policies were ‘not helpful for business and not helpful for the country’.

Labour business spokesman Chuka Umunna hit back with a series of extraordinary attacks on Mr Pessina and his firm, which has 70,000 UK workers.  He questioned whether Boots paid enough tax while fellow Labour MPs said they would not listen to a multi-millionaire who lived in ‘a big mansion’.

The extreme response will fuel claims that the party is anti-business and raise further doubts over Mr Miliband’s election strategy.  The reaction also showed ‘staggering immaturity’ on the part of the Labour leadership, according to a former party adviser. As chaos in the Labour ranks escalated:

*    Miliband allies were said to be plotting a way to keep him in place, even if Labour lose the election;

*   The editor of the left-wing New Statesman said the leader had a ‘haunted’ look and even shadow chancellor Ed Balls had ‘all but given up’ on him;

*   The party’s biggest private donor attacked Mr Miliband’s NHS and mansion tax policies;

*    Lord Mandelson was accused of plotting to destabilise Mr Miliband;

*   The party’s election campaign chief Douglas Alexander repeatedly refused to rule out a deal with Scottish nationalists in the event of a hung parliament.

Labour’s uneasy relationship with business exploded into the open thanks to the intervention of Mr Pessina, who heads Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, owner of the biggest chain of UK chemists.

It is highly unusual for captains of industry to be so outspoken this close to an election.

But Mr Miliband has announced a series of policies taking aim at what he calls capitalist ‘predators’ across a range of industries from energy suppliers to private landlords.

Mr Pessina said: ‘If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe. The problem is, would they act that way or not? One thing is to threaten and to shout, but it is completely different to be in charge and to manage the country day to day.’

Labour has previously had close links with Boots – former health secretary Patricia Hewitt worked for it as an adviser.

But last night Labour MPs tweeted criticisms of Mr Pessina, a 73-year-old Italian who is estimated to have a £7.5billion fortune. Ilford South MP Mike Gapes wrote: ‘Does Boots boss own a big mansion in UK? Does he pay income tax in UK? Does he vote in UK?’

Mr Umunna said: ‘It is important that the voice of business is heard during this general election campaign, not least on Europe.  'But the British people and British businesses will draw their own conclusions when those who don’t live here, don’t pay tax in this country and lead firms that reportedly avoid making a fair contribution in what they pay purport to know what is in Britain’s best interests.’

But former Labour adviser Dan Hodges said attacking Boots was a ‘mad, pitch-to-the-Greens and the left’ strategy, adding: ‘The immaturity that surrounds Labour’s political decision-making is simply staggering.’

John Mills, Labour’s biggest individual donor, said reports he had criticised Mr Miliband were ‘pure mischief-making’ but went on to raise doubts about key policies.

A spokesman for Walgreens Boots Alliance insisted Mr Pessina’s comments had been taken out of context, adding: ‘He is not campaigning against Ed Miliband or Labour.’

The company has been accused of trying to cut its UK tax bill by moving its HQ to Switzerland.

The firm’s spokesman said it was now paying more tax than it had as a listed company.



UK: Socialized medicine at work

If you are seriously ill, British government doctors often just want to kill you as not being worth their time.  The evil "Liverpool pathway" -- where they bombed the elderly out with morphine and then let them die of thirst -- now seems to be gone but the underlying attitude remains

A father who doctors ‘gave up’ on following a stroke is now recovering after The Mail on Sunday highlighted his plight.

Doctors applied four times to place a ‘do not resuscitate’ order on the medical notes of Paul Scoble, 48, after he suffered the devastating stroke last August.

It meant they would not have tried to restart his heart if he had gone into cardiac arrest, and would have left him to die.

He was immobile, breathing through a ventilator and largely unable to communicate. Doctors at Basildon Hospital in Essex told Mr Scoble’s children, Danielle and Leon, to prepare for the worst and asked them to ‘seriously consider’ what their father’s life would be like if he did survive, the siblings said.

Besides suffering the stroke, Mr Scoble also had two leaky heart valves. The doctors resisted the idea of carrying out an operation to mend them and said the chances of him surviving it were slim. But Danielle and Leon refused to listen and contacted bosses at other hospitals to ask if they would operate.

After The Mail on Sunday highlighted their plight in November, medics at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London agreed to operate and he was transferred there.

Now, Mr Scoble, who runs a family import business with Danielle and Leon, is off a ventilator, eating and talking.

Last night he said: ‘I feel very lucky to be here and I owe my life to my family, friends, The Mail on Sunday and everyone at the Royal Brompton.

‘I am very disappointed at what happened to me at Basildon Hospital and what they put my family through, and I am quite shocked about how far this had to go before I could get the help I needed.’

Danielle, 29, said: ‘He is doing brilliantly – a million times better than how he was in Basildon. He is ever so grateful. He feels so lucky to have got out of there and had this operation.’



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.

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)


Monday, February 02, 2015

No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice (??)

Dear me! We do have some nonsense below. A study making claims about genetics that in fact has no genetic data is the first surprise but the way they interpret their numbers is also remarkable.  It is an extreme example of a common tendency among  Leftists academics:  The tendency to conclude what they want to conclude regardless of what the numbers say. Academics are almost all Leftists so they just KNOW what the truth is, and who cares about evidence? It is reminiscent of the way some climate scientists interpret temperature changes amounting to only hundredths of one degree as catastrophic.

What these authors found was that ability at different mathematical tasks correlated at around .50.  To anybody else that would be a high correlation but they report it as if it were  no relationship!  I could easily go on to criticize other aspects of the study (e.g. sampling) but what they in fact found was only a small departure from what others before them have found so there is no point.  The results are entirely in keeping with there being a "mathematical gene" or complex of genes.  The only slightly surprising thing about the study is the dogged refusal of the authors to face the facts. But as Leftists that is really no surprise at all.

Excerpt from a report in below followed by the journal abstract.  The original article appeared in an "author pays" journal so it is a bit surprising that seized on such rubbish.  I guess that they are Leftist too.

New research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim could have an effect on how math is taught.

If you want to be really good at all types of math, you need to practice them all. You can't trust your innate natural talent to do most of the job for you.

This might seem obvious to some, but it goes against the traditional view that if you are good at math, it is a skill that you are simply born with.

Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson at Department of Psychology is one of three researchers involved in the project. The results have been published in Psychological Reports

The researchers tested the math skills of 70 Norwegian fifth graders, aged 10.5 years on average. Their results suggest that it is important to practice every single kind of math subject to be good at all of them, and that these skills aren't something you are born with. "We found support for a task specificity hypothesis. You become good at exactly what you practice," Sigmundsson says.

Nine types of math tasks were tested, from normal addition and subtraction, both orally and in writing, to oral multiplication and understanding the clock and the calendar.

"Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills, Sigmundsson said.




H. Sigmundsson et al.


Individual differences in mathematical skills are typically explained by an innate capability to solve mathematical tasks. At the behavioural level, this implies a consistent level of mathematical achievement that can be captured by strong relationships between tasks, as well as by a single statistical dimension that underlies performance on all mathematical tasks. To investigate this general assumption, the present study explored interrelations and dimensions of mathematical skills. For this purpose, 68 ten-year-old children from two schools were tested using nine mathematics tasks from the Basic Knowledge in Mathematics Test. Relatively low-to-moderate correlations between the mathematics tasks indicated most tasks shared less than 25% of their variance. There were four principal components, accounting for 70% of the variance in mathematical skill across tasks and participants. The high specificity in mathematical skills was discussed in relation to the principle of task specificity of learning.



The Smart Way to Stop Illegal Immigration

The new Congress has come ready with some fresh ideas for immigration reform. Freshman Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said in a recent interview, “We have to start with a secure border, we have to start with a guest worker program.” Gardner is right to link border security with a guest worker visa program. The former cannot be achieved without the latter.

Gardner’s comments are an under appreciated bit of common sense in an immigration debate stubbornly stuck between the polar opposite demands for nearly unlimited border security from the populist Right and unconditional amnesty from the progressive Left. Neither position will stop illegal immigration.

Doubling down on enforcement by itself won’t work. Since 1992, there has been an almost 500 percent increase in the number of Border Patrol agents and patrol hours spent along the Southwest border. In 2014, apprehensions — a proxy measure of the number of illegal crossers — were little more than a fourth of their 2000 peak of 1.6 million. Last year’s apprehensions were almost 100,000 fewer than they were forty years ago in 1974.

Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul’s new Secure Our Borders First Act would amass dubious technologies at the border — fences and other security gimmicks that will have little impact on an already trivial flow of unlawful immigrants. Instead of beefing up security, a guest worker visa program could decrease illegal immigration even further. History provides a prime example.

In 1953, there were about 2 million illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. By 1955, the number had fallen 90 percent and the cross-border flow nearly ceased — all while the number of Border Patrol agents actually dropped. This turnaround was achieved by the expansion of the so-called “Bracero” guest worker visa program.

After the expansion, Mexican workers learned that they could get a work visa easily. The visa allowed American farmers to legally hire migrant workers with minimum government oversight. Border Patrol helped by handing illegal immigrants a Bracero visa at their worksites. Many times, Border Patrol even brought the workers to the border so they could take one step into Mexico and immediately into the U.S. legally — a process dubbed “walking around the statute.”

Once Mexican migrants realized it was simple and cheap to get a visa and American farmers realized they could hire all of the legal migrant workers they demanded, the illegal immigrant market virtually disappeared. At this point, Border Patrol and immigration enforcement focused on those few illegal immigrants that remained — a job made much easier, because Bracero shrunk their numbers so dramatically.

Bracero was ended in 1965, due primarily to opposition from labor unions. As a result, the number of illegal immigrants shot up after that year. This deprived American businesses of a legal way to hire migrants, and migrants of a safe and legal way to enter, ushering in the modern age of illegal immigration.

Enforcement is vital but it is merely an expensive band aid without a functional guest worker visa program. The government can’t get a handle on illegal immigration without a guest worker visa program to legalize much of the flow. A large and lightly regulated guest worker visa will drive would-be illegal immigrants into the legal system — an option that currently does not exist for them.

Amnesty has similarly failed to control illegal immigration — even when combined with more border security. The 1986 Ronald Reagan amnesty did both in spades but did not create a guest-worker visa. The number of illegal immigrants shot up after Reagan’s amnesty because the labor market demanded more workers but there was no legal way for them to come.

Bracero wasn’t a perfect guest worker visa, but its example shows how the opportunity for legal migration can crush illegal immigration. Gardner was right to link border security with a guest worker visa program. In practice, a functional guest worker visa makes border security possible. It’s high time Congress recognizes that.



Finally Someone on the Left Gets It: It’s Not “Violent Extremism,” It’s Radical Islam

You won’t hear me say that often, but when someone is right, they’re right.

Iraq War veteran and current Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2) didn’t mince words in explaining how she feels about the Obama Administration’s insistence that we only refer to terrorists as “violent extremists” and not radical Islamists.

Secretary of State John Kerry has recently been on a PC trip of late doubling down on the Administration’s preferred euphemistic nomenclature, “violent extremism,” to describe those radical Islamists who are terrorizing, beheading, enslaving, and slaughtering thousands upon thousand around the globe in the name of Islam.  Secretary Kerry recently said groups like ISIS and al Qaeda are “nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy–nihilism, which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation.”

As the Washington Times reports, Representative Gabbard has had enough:

"This is not just about words," the Hawaii Democrat told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren. "It's not about semantics. It's really about having a real, true understanding of who our enemy is and how important that is, that we have to understand what their motivation is and what their ideology is — the radical Islamic ideology that is fueling them."

Ms. Gabbard took umbrage with Secretary of State John Kerry's recent assertion that the criminal conduct of terrorists with the Islamic State and al Qaeda is "rooted in alienation, poverty, thrill-seeking and other factors," which she said is flat-out wrong.

"If that's really the cause, then the solution would be just to give them a trophy, give them a hug, give them a good-paying job, $10,000, and a skateboard so they can go and get their thrills and say, 'OK, great, they are going to be happy and they won't be fighting anymore,'" she said. "That's not the case. … We've got to look at what their ideology is and how that's fueling these tragic attacks that keep on occurring."

Representative Gabbard gets it. You cannot defeat an enemy that you refuse to name.

We’re no more in some esoteric war against “violent extremism” than we are against pink flying unicorns.  The fact of the matter is that there is a radical Islamic dogma that thousands of terrorists around the globe have committed their lives to.

It’s not “nihilistic,” which ironically means, “Rejecting all religious and moral principles in the belief that life is meaningless.”  Radical Islamic terrorists are exactly the opposite.  Theirs is an unyielding, dogmatic adherence to a particular interpretation of the Islamic religion where there meaning in life is to kill the infidel and bring about an Islamic state here on earth.

Representative Gabbard merely points out the deadly naivety of the Administration’s political correct blindness to the truth about the enemy we face.

Thankfully some on the Left, including Representative Gabbard and Bill Maher, are starting to get this.  But it is going to take more than a handful on the Left to right the ship on this issue before it’s too late for America’s foreign policy and the world.



Freedom of religion is under attack in the District

America was founded on freedom of religion.  But this freedom is under attack in Washington, DC. Two newly signed bills could set a precedent for other local governments to intervene in the religious beliefs of Americans.

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act: The bill forces pro-life employers in the District to cover elective, surgical abortions in their health plans.

The Human Rights Amendment Act: This bill forces educational organizations into promoting and condoning lifestyles, orientations, or belief that go against their religious convictions. Under the Human Rights Amendment Act, a religious school could be forced to host a gay pride day, “coming out” day, or support a student group dedicated to furthering LGBT activities.

Here’s the good news: Congress can stop this violation of liberty.  Congress has the power to overturn any law made in Washington, DC. In order to stop this, lawmakers must introduce and pass a disapproval resolution for the two bills.



Memo To Obama: Man Up And Tell Bibi To Stay Home

An excerpt from the anti-Israel libertarian Justin Raimondo below. He seems to think it meaningful that Leftists (Indyk, Foxman) are critical of a GOP-run Congress.  I would be surprised if they were anything else.  But they are making a big noise about the issue so that does get attention

Sneaking around behind the President’s back to invite a foreign leader to address Congress – specifically for the purpose of undermining how the chief executive conducts US foreign policy – would normally be regarded by patriotic conservatives with unmitigated horror. Imagine, for example, if a Democratic Congress had invited Daniel Ortega to address the assembled solons back in the 1980s, when President Reagan was (covertly) funding and supporting a contra movement to overthrow the Sandinista regime. Heads would’ve exploded all across the political spectrum, not just on the right. While this example is somewhat more dramatic than House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – for the specific purpose of undermining the nuclear talks with Iran – it isn’t by much.

The Boehner ploy has split the pro-Israel community down the middle, with such stalwarts as the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman denouncing it as “ill-advised” and former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk – founder of the staunchly pro-Israel Saban Center at the Brookings Institution – saying:

“Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign, and the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama. Unfortunately, the US relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.”



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.

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, February 01, 2015

If Social Security was really about funding your retirement...

The more I see and hear about Social Security, the clearer it becomes how many people misunderstand it.

I'm 65 and a few months now; after some deliberation, I filed last month. My considerations: file now, and get a slightly smaller monthly check (and maybe lose part of it, since I'd continue to do at least some work on the books); or wait until I hit 66 in July ("full retirement" for my age-group), for a bigger monthly check and no real limits on what else I chose to earn, within reason.

I'm now waiting (finding other ways to cope) while they process the application, hoping all goes well and I have my first three months of "payback" in hand by mid-February.

I'm still editing part time, along with several months of full-time seasonal work to supplement things; once the regular checks start hitting my bank account, I might even put a little aside (yeah, sure!). I'm also thinking I could invest a little back into my long-dormant IRA account, or maybe put some cash into clean, full-band studio recordings of a couple of my better songs, then pitching those to create some residual income.

Meanwhile, by making $300-500 a month on top of the SSA checks, I can probably live fairly comfortably for my tastes, and I'm already three quarters of the way to that level, just with current recurring projects.

However, I still sometimes wish I could have held onto a bit more (or all?) of what I earned, and done it my way. . . .

If Social Security was really about funding your retirement, it would be a lot different. For one thing, it would be tied to some sort of investment process, so that at the very least the money taken out of your paycheck each time was earning at least a savings-bank level of interest. (If you recall your high school math classes, the concept of compound interest is what makes even the smallest regular infusion of cash into an account something to reckon with. See the example a few paragraphs below.)

A lot of folks try to make the point that the amount taken out for Social Security (then, since the mid-'60s, FICA) has always been a relative pittance, and that even when you double the figures (by including the so-called "employer share"), the grand total is far less than any of us might withdraw during our senior years. Some talk about how they "already got back what I paid in, even what my boss did," and pat themselves on the back for beating the system.

Unfortunately, this misses an important point: Had that "pittance" that was taken out over all those years (before you had a chance to decide where it might be better spent) been instead diverted into investment (even a simple 5% savings account, as once existed pretty much everywhere) it could now have been worth six figures (seven, in many cases)!

Yes, I know savings accounts have become worth less over time; so you could have moved it to a simple CD 20 years ago for that 5% (maybe 10% or more, given that you were leaving it there for several decades, while making regular additional contributions).

Do the math (no Common Core required!): On average, those small FICA deductions, amassed over 40-50 years of your working days, with nothing taken out before retirement, would have built to the higher six-figure levels if not higher, even under those limited conditions.

(Note that I didn't say it went into the stock market, where-with a little intelligent financial management, like getting out (or shifting to low-risk stocks, or even T-bills) during the the crashes and returning a while afterward-one could easily have generated well over a million dollars from those little pieces.

Let's use a low number, the one Obama threw out as "insufficient" in his State of the Union address: $15,000. The current "minimum wage" of $7.25 an hour, over 40 hours a week, would amount to . . . $290 a week, which times 52 equals . . . $15,080!

If you averaged $15,000 a year over your entire working life (most working folks exceed that at least a good part of that time, but again let's use the minimums), that's $1870 a year (the $935 taken from you, plus the added 6.2% your boss could have paid you instead it going to FICA); over 45 years, even at that measly 5%, that small investment becomes . . . $335,100.73! (It's a lot larger if you were to include the entire FICA deduction of 7.5%, doubled, but for now we'll stick with just the smaller amount.)

Let's say you now retire, then begin to take $1500 each month to live on fairly comfortably. (Remember, since you're not losing that 7.5% to FICA anymore, nor presumably any paying taxes on it, what was once a monthly gross of $1250 or less is now . . . a net of $1500!) On $335,000 and change, the interest alone (even at that measly 5%) is $16,755 a year, or $1396 a month; assuming this is your only source of income now (no part-time jobs, internet surveys, lottery tickets, etc.), perhaps you pull an extra $100 each month from that principal to stay on that $1500 monthly course (Again, you're now NETTING more than you were grossing with that $15,000 annual salary, and with no more FICA or withholding deductions being taken away it's even more!).

Whatever, the case, that principal will still remain in six figures for quite some time, even if it's now dwindling a bit faster (it would still be another 50 years or more before you began to run out of those invested funds). Meanwhile, want to spend more each month? There's always that part-time work (look for something online!), or you could even invest a little of what you already have in something slightly more risky-maybe buy a few shares of that latest high-tech IPO, the next Amazon, Facebook or Microsoft wanna-be?

I'm not going to claim there aren't lots of folks who wouldn't just piss it all away along the way if they were given this opportunity; maybe there must be some restrictions on what you can do with your own money. The fact remains, though: from the outset. there was never any choice given in the matter; Social Security got implemented and imposed, and that was that!

So much for the "entitlement" claims about all of this-even if, technically speaking, the program is and always has been administered as the definition of a Ponzi scheme (from before they started actually stealing from the "lockbox"): payments are transferred from the currently working (including us, if we still work part time?) to the non-working (retired, etc.).

Regardless of that, anything now coming back should be yours without question. The earning power that money could have had makes any trickle-back return now a small fraction of what the principal could have become. Meanwhile, with that investment to draw on all those years, who knows what ventures of your own you might have financed and succeeded at?

You could also have taken some time off earlier in life, while that nestegg continued to grow, for a "sabbatical" of sorts-living off the interest for a few months of travel, perhaps, or investing some of the principal in your own business, or an arts project. Maybe you'd just be able now to pass on some of this accumulated wealth to your kids and grandkids. Imagine the possibilities, using YOUR OWN money.

So what could be done now to remedy this travesty? The honest approach would be to fund the existing claims (at least for those over about age 50) from general revenues (which is where all that FICA money has gone already); younger workers should be allowed to keep their money, using it while knowing its intended purpose.

Maybe such a deal could be limited somewhat; perhaps it could only be used for further education, health crises . . . or retirement itself. It would still be more just, as a method for people working all their lives to prepare for an end to those days, as well as a comfortable seniority.

Let's also not forget the other half of this outrage: that "employer share" that's just as large as the wage deduction from the paycheck "earned" by the worker. That's part of what your boss had to allocate, allegedly on your behalf, to hire you; it could as easily gone right to your pocket, without harming the bottom line one bit!

(Again, it's likely this money would also be restricted, but it could at least form the baseline of a personal account for each employee, just as easily as it's now being funneled off through the SSA and Medicare accounts, then ending up paying for wars and corporate welfare.)

This writer has actually done a fair amount of thinking on this subject, for about three decades as of this article. My continuing thoughts on the matter involve "putting a floor on FICA": Up to a certain level of annual income, NO deductions would be taken from a paycheck-for anyone. (Stay tuned for my forthcoming e-book to get a more detailed discussion on this; I'm rewriting the original essay a bit.)

To begin with, those who remain at low income levels throughout their shortened lifetimes rarely live long enough to collect on it, yet the first dollar they make loses seven-and-a-half cents (while another equal amount that could be going into their pockets is also taken from the employer's funds). Consider also, at the upper end of the income spectrum, FICA deductions now cease entirely once you ?earn' over $118,500.

This means that anyone who's truly well-to-do (and least likely to miss it?) doesn't pay this little bit on those higher earnings, while remaining eligible for full SSA payments at retirement anyway.

Some "progressive" pundits have claimed that the solution to the current "shortfall" in Social Security (caused by both pilfering by other government programs and the rise and fall of population demographics) should be to raise this "ceiling," continuing to deduct FICA from these higher incomes. Whether or not they do that, they should clearly be raising the "floor" at the same time.

Let's postulate that "floor" as $15,000 a year-no windfall, but something livable for most of us. This would mean anyone making that much or less in a given year would have NO deductions taken from a paycheck for ?FICA payments,' an idea which is both entirely just and a good way to stop penalizing the "working poor" (Since those remaining at that level for more than a few working years rarely live long enough to collect it anyway, why steal from the poor to keep the middle and upper classes comfy?).

However, if it were run equitably, this measure would also apply to the first $15K anyone made each year. (Additionally, let's put that "employer share" on the same set of scales, letting that "contribution" remain in each worker's personal savings account, for medical, educational or retirement purposes; even those low-income workers could then accrue something for the long term, as would every other working person on the books.)



Fast track too risky

It asks us to trust President Slimy

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman appeared before Congress Tuesday to make the corporate argument for “fast track” trade promotion authority. The USTR and President Obama are pushing fast-track pre-approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other big “trade” agreements they are working on. The Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and other corporate groups and lobbyists are also pushing hard for Congress to pass fast track.

The promoters of fast track say we need it to push “trade” agreements through Congress to expand trade and increase exports. “What we’re going to do through this trade agreement is open up markets,” Froman told Congress Tuesday, “and then level the playing field so we can protect workers, protect American jobs and then ensure a fair and level playing field by raising labor and environmental standards, raising intellectual property rights, standards and enforcement, making sure that we’re putting disciplines on state-owned enterprises that pose a real threat to workers.”

These corporate arguments (you can see them in this Chamber of Commerce slide show “Ten Reasons Why America Needs Trade Promotion Authority”) just make me more skeptical of what they are selling. Here’s why.

1) President Obama, trade representative Froman, the Chamber of Commerce and others repeat the talking point, “95 percent of the world’s markets are outside the U.S..” This makes me skeptical of what they are selling because it is a “look over there at that shiny object” argument.

Saying that 95 percent of the world’s markets are outside the U.S. implies that we need TPP and other agreements because we are currently not selling goods to 95 percent of the world. This is patently false. We sell goods and services around the world already. In fact, it contradicts other corporate arguments for these agreements like, “More than 38 million American jobs already depend on trade.”

This argument deceives people about the very nature of these agreements. Most of the objections being voiced over these coming agreements are about non-trade issues. Only five of TPP’s 29 chapters deal with what people understand as “trade.” So an argument that TPP and similar agreements will “expand trade” masks what the bulk of these agreements are really about, which is getting governments off the backs of the giant corporations and protecting their profits from competition and democratic regulation.

Just one example of this is the “investor-state dispute settlements” provision, which I have called “corporate courts.” This part of “NAFTA-style” trade agreements, including TPP, allows corporations to sue governments that pass laws and regulations that interfere with profits. Similar clauses in trade agreements around the world have, for example, enabled tobacco companies to sue governments for trying to protect the health of their citizens. Under TPP these suits will be adjudicated by corporate attorneys, not democratically constituted courts.

Other examples are expanded copyright and patent protection for the giant multinationals, which will increase the cost of pharmaceutical products and potentially restrict the freedom of the Internet.

Obviously the corporate advocates of these agreements want this, so they are using distraction, diversion and shiny promises of increased trade and more jobs to sell the agreements.

2) Froman, testifying before the Senate Tuesday, said that we need these new agreements because our country has low tariffs and other barriers to entry while many countries we trade with have high tariffs and barriers to entry.

Wait, back up, he is saying that other countries have high tariffs and barriers to entry but we let goods from those countries into our country with low tariffs and few barriers? What? Doesn’t this undermine our country? Don’t low import tariffs cost badly needed revenue and enable offshoring of jobs and factories? Isn’t this a recipe for imbalance, job loss and huge trade deficits? (And don’t we have imbalance, job loss and huge trade deficits as a result of that recipe?)

In other words, he is saying that the U.S. has been an absolute and complete patsy on trade. And obviously we have been paying the price. Our government hasn’t enforced trade balance and hasn’t protected American interests, which has cost us wages, jobs, factories and entire industries. We have an enormous, humongous trade deficit and that has lowered our standard of living, and driven inequality. Trade agreements haven’t fixed this — recent trade agreements like NAFTA and South Korea have worsened this problem, with more job loss and even larger trade deficits.

Is there a section of these new agreements – the five of 23 chapters that are actually about trade, anyway – that requires that trade be balanced so we can stop losing jobs, wages, factories and industries? TPP is still secret, so we don’t really know. And fast track doesn’t give us time to find out once we do see the agreement, and doesn’t allow us to fix it if it doesn’t require balance.

What is needed is for the the contents of the TPP agreements to be made public now and for stakeholders like labor, environmental, consumer, democracy, health and all other groups to be part of the process right now. Then, when an agreement is concluded, Congress and the public need adequate time to fully analyze and discuss these agreements and their implications. Finally, Congress should be able to fix problems with the agreements to bring them in line with the interests of all Americans.



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.

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)