Friday, September 25, 2015

The chimpanzee effect confirmed

For some years now, I have been talking about a chimpanzee effect.  The idea is that at 6 months of age a chimpanzee baby is much more able in all ways than is a 6 month old human baby. But a human baby grows to be a much smarter adult that does a chimp.  So in assessing IQ, early measurements can be misleading.  So we find that the IQ gap between blacks and whites tends to become greater as time goes by.  In their brain-dead way Leftists tend to interpret the widening gap in various adverse ways.  They say that blacks start out smart but "whites" somehow oppress them.  They fail to take note that chimps develop earlier too.  And chimp IQ certainly does not plateau early because of "racism" or "oppression".

At no point, of course have I compared blacks to chimps.  I am just using the term "chimpanzee effect" as a vivid term for the general rule that final IQ will be reached more slowly the higher is the final level.

So I am rather pleased that the recent journal article below finds that effect in a solely human population. In the study below, lower socio-economic status children fill the role of chimps in my thesis.  But note again that I am not comparing ANY humans to chimps.  I am just pointing out what an initial high or low IQ finally leads to.  It may be worth noting that the final age in the study below was 16.  That age is usually found to be the point beyond which IQ does not develop further.

Socioeconomic status and the growth of intelligence from infancy through adolescence

by Von Stumm, Sophie and Plomin, Robert.


Low socioeconomic status (SES) children perform on average worse on intelligence tests than children from higher SES backgrounds, but the developmental relationship between intelligence and SES has not been adequately investigated. Here, we use latent growth curve (LGC) models to assess associations between SES and individual differences in the intelligence starting point (intercept) and in the rate and direction of change in scores (slope and quadratic term) from infancy through adolescence in 14,853 children from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), assessed 9 times on IQ between the ages of 2 and 16 years. SES was significantly associated with intelligence growth factors: higher SES was related both to a higher starting point in infancy and to greater gains in intelligence over time. Specifically, children from low SES families scored on average 6 IQ points lower at age 2 than children from high SES backgrounds; by age 16, this difference had almost tripled. Although these key results did not vary across girls and boys, we observed gender differences in the development of intelligence in early childhood. Overall, SES was shown to be associated with individual differences in intercepts as well as slopes of intelligence. However, this finding does not warrant causal interpretations of the relationship between SES and the development of intelligence.



Why I’ve finally given up on the left

Former moderate British Leftist, Nick Cohen, says below that Left-wing thought has shifted towards movements it would once have denounced as racist, imperialist and fascistic.  The rise to leadership of the British Labour party by neo-Marxist Jeremy Corbyn has made that very clear

‘Tory, Tory, Tory. You’re a Tory.’ The level of hatred directed by the Corbyn left at Labour people who have fought Tories all their lives is as menacing as it is ridiculous. If you are a woman, you face misogyny. Kate Godfrey, the centrist Labour candidate in Stafford, told the Times she had received death threats and pornographic hate mail after challenging her local left. If you are a man, you are condemned in language not heard since the fall of Marxist Leninism. ‘This pathetic small-minded jealousy of the anti-democratic bourgeois shows them up for the reactionary neocons they really are,’ a Guardian commenter told its columnist Rafael Behr after he had criticised Corbyn.

Not that they are careful about anything, or that they will take advice from me, but the left should be careful of what it wishes for. Its accusations won’t seem ridiculous soon. The one prophesy I can make with certainty amid today’s chaos is that many on the left will head for the right. When they arrive, they will be greeted with bogus explanations for their ‘betrayal’.

Conservatives will talk as if there is a right-wing gene which, like male-pattern baldness, manifests itself with age. The US leftist-turned-neocon Irving Kristol set the pattern for the pattern-baldness theory of politics when he opined that a conservative is a liberal who has been ‘mugged by reality’. He did not understand that the effects of reality’s many muggings are never predictable, or that facts of life are not always, as Margaret Thatcher claimed, conservative. If they were, we would still have feudalism.

The standard explanation from left-wingers is equally self-serving. Turncoats are like prostitutes, they say, who sell their virtue for money. They are pure; those who disagree with them are corrupt; and that is all there is to it.

Owen Jones, who seems to have abandoned journalism to become Jeremy Corbyn’s PR man, offers an equally thoughtless argument. ‘Swimming against a strong tide is exhausting,’ he sighed recently. Leftists who stray from virtue are defeated dissidents, who bend under the pressure to conform.

It won’t wash, particularly as Jones cannot break with the pressures that enforce conformity in his left-wing world and accept the real reason why many leave the left. It ought to be obvious. The left is why they leave the left. Never more so than today.

In the past, people would head to the exits saying, ‘Better the centre right than the far left.’ Now they can say ‘better the centre right than the far right’. The shift of left-wing thought towards movements it would once have denounced as racist, imperialist and fascistic has been building for years. I come from a left-wing family, marched against Margaret Thatcher and was one of the first journalists to denounce New Labour’s embrace of corporate capitalism — and I don’t regret any of it. But slowly, too slowly I am ashamed to say, I began to notice that left-wing politics had turned rancid.

In 2007 I tried to make amends, and published What’s Left. If they were true to their professed principles, my book argued, modern leftists would search out secular forces in the Muslim world — Iranian and Arab feminists, say, Kurdish socialists or Muslim liberals struggling against reactionary clerics here in Britain — and embrace them as comrades. Instead, they preferred to excuse half the anti-western theocrats and dictators on the planet. As, in their quiet way, did many in the liberal mainstream. Throughout that period, I never heard the BBC demanding of ‘progressives’ how they could call themselves left-wing when they had not a word of comfort for the Iraqi and Afghan liberals al-Qaeda was slaughtering.

The triumph of Jeremy Corbyn has led to "What’s Left" sales picking up, and readers acclaiming my alleged prescience. Grateful though I am, I cannot accept the compliment. I never imagined that left-wing politics would get as bad as they have become. I assumed that when the criminally irresponsible Blair flew off in his Learjet, the better angels of the left’s nature would re-assert themselves.

What a fool I was.

Jeremy Corbyn did not become Labour leader because his friends in the Socialist Workers party organised a Leninist coup. Nor did the £3 click-activist day-trippers hand him victory. He won with the hearty and freely given support of ‘decent’ Labour members.

And yes, thank you, I know all about the feebleness of Corbyn’s opponents. But the fact remains that the Labour party has just endorsed an apologist for Putin’s imperial aggression; a man who did not just appear on the propaganda channel of Russia, which invades its neighbours and persecutes gays, but also of Iran, whose hangmen actually execute gays. Labour’s new leader sees a moral equivalence between 9/11 and the assassination of bin Laden, and associates with every variety of women-hating, queer-bashing, Jew-baiting jihadi, holocaust denier and 9/11 truther. His supporters know it, but they don’t care.

They don’t put it like that, naturally. Their first response is to cry ‘smear’. When I show that it is nothing of the sort, they say that he was ‘engaging in dialogue’, even though Corbyn only ever has a ‘dialogue’ with one side and his ‘engagement’ never involves anything so principled as robust criticism.

A few on the British left are beginning to realise what they have done. Feminists were the first to stir from their slumber. They were outraged this week when Corbyn gave all his top jobs to men. I have every sympathy. But really, what did they expect from a man who never challenged the oppression of women in Iran when he was a guest on the state propaganda channel? You cannot promote equality at home while defending subjugation abroad and it was naive to imagine that Corbyn would try.

The women’s issue nicely illustrates the damage he can do, even if he never becomes prime minister. When Labour shows by its actions that it doesn’t believe in women’s equality, the pressure on other institutions diminishes. Secularists and liberal Muslims will feel a different kind of prejudice. They will no longer get a hearing for their campaigns against forced marriage and sharia law from a Labour party that counts the Muslim Brotherhood among his allies.

The position of the Jews is grimmer still. To be blunt, the new leader of the opposition is ‘friends’ with men who want them dead. One Jewish Labour supporter told me, ‘I feel like a gay man in the Tory party just after they’ve passed Section 28.’ Another described his position as ‘incredibly exposed’. He had ‘come to understand in the last few weeks, quite how shallow the attachment of the left is to principles which I thought defined it.’

And yes, thank you again, I know at this point I am meant to say that Corbyn isn’t an anti-Semite. Maybe he isn’t, but some of his best friends are, and the record shows that out of cynicism or conviction he will engage in the left’s version of ‘dog-whistle’ race politics.

I am middle-class and won’t suffer under the coming decade of majority Tory rule. Millions need a centre-left alternative, but I cannot see them being attracted by the revival of lumpen leftism either. Unlike their Scottish and French counterparts, the English intelligentsia has always had a problem with patriotism. Whenever this trend has manifested itself, voters have turned away, reasoning that politicians who appear to hate England are likely to have little time for the English.

By electing Corbyn, Labour has chosen a man who fits every cliché the right has used to mobilise working-class conservatism. In the 1790s, George Canning described the typical English supporter of the French Revolution ‘as a friend of every country but his own’. Today’s Tories can, with justice, say the same about Corbyn. George Orwell wrote of the ‘English intellectual [who] would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during “God Save the King” than of stealing from a poor box’. That came to mind on Tuesday when Corbyn declined to sing ‘God Save the Queen’ at the Battle of Britain remembrance service.

I opened What’s Left with a quote by Norman Cohn, from Warrant for Genocide, his history of how the conspiracy theories that ended in fascism began in the dark, neglected corners of 19th-century Europe:

It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people.

In the years since What’s Left was published, I have argued that the likes of Corbyn do not represent the true left; that there are other worthier traditions opposed to oppression whether the oppressors are pro-western or anti-western. I can’t be bothered any more. Cries of ‘I’m the real left!’, ‘No I’m the real left!’ are always silly. And in any case, there is no doubt which ‘real left’ has won.

The half-educated fanatics are in control now. I do not see how in conscience I can stay with their movement or vote for their party. I am not going to pretend the next time I meet Owen Jones or those Labour politicians who serve in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet that we are still members of the same happy family. There are differences that cannot and should not be smoothed over.

I realise now what I should have known years ago. The causes I most care about — secularism, freedom of speech, universal human rights — are not their causes. Whatever they pretend, when the crunch comes, they will always put sectarian unity first, and find reasons to be elsewhere.

So, for what it is worth, this is my resignation letter from the left. I have no idea who I should send it to or if there are forms to fill in. But I do know this: like so many before me, I can claim constructive dismissal.



Huckabee says Obama 'pretends to be' a Christian after papal guest list includes pro-abortion nun, gay marriage bishop, transgender woman and Catholic school teacher sacked for marrying her girlfriend

Mike Huckabee said Tuesday that Barack Obama 'pretends to be a Christian,' after the president's guest list for Pope Francis' White House welcome ceremony included a short list of Catholics and other Christians who haev visibly parted with Church doctrine.

Huckabee told Newsmax TV that he is 'concerned about a guy that believes he's a Christian, and pretends to be and then says he is, but does things that makes it very difficult for people to practice their Christian faith.'

'I’m disappointed if a person says, "I’m a Christian," but you invite the Pope into your home and then you invite a whole bunch of people who are at odds with the Catholic Church policy. I think there’s something very unseemly about that.'

Huckabee lashed out at Obama on Tuesday in an essay published by The Daily Caller, saying he 'shows total disrespect to millions of Americans by transforming Pope Francis’ White House visit into a politicized cattle call for gay and pro-abortion activists.'

The former Arkansas governor, also a Baptist minister, is making his second run at the White House and aims to capture the enthusiasm of evangelicals.

Huckabee wrote Tuesday in his op-ed that before he was the Roman pontiff, 'when the issue emerged in his native Argentina, Pope Francis blasted same-sex marriage as a "destructive pretension against the plan of God".'

'Why then does the Obama White House invite crude critics of the Catholic Church and its teachings to welcome the Pope to America for the first time?' he asked.



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

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, September 24, 2015

The New Left: Envy, Resentment and Hate

John C. Goodman

Bernie Sanders is angry. Who is he angry at? Rich people. Why rich people? That’s not clear.

At Liberty University, Sanders complained about a small number of people who have “huge yachts, and jet planes and tens of billions” while others “are struggling to feed their families.” In Madison Wisconsin, Sanders called for a “political revolution against greed.”

So what’s the connection between people who have “tens of billions” and people who are “struggling to feed their families”? For the most part it’s a positive one. In a capitalist system, people get rich by meeting other people’s needs. Because some people are rich, other people find it easier to feed their families.

Take the world’s richest man, Bill Gates. When I was a student at Columbia in the 1970s, I remember a friend showing me a fantastic hand held device. It could add, subtract, divide and multiply. And it only cost $400. Today, I can sit in bed with my lap top, which in 1970 dollars cost less than $400. I can buy and sell goods on eBay, conduct personal banking, purchase airline tickets, book hotel rooms and even work the New York Times crossword puzzle – in large part because of Bill Gates.

Take the world’s richest woman, JK Rowling. When she wrote the last Harry Potter book or helped on the last Harry Potter movie was she making anyone worse off? Was she taking food out of the mouths of babes? Or was she bringing entertainment and pleasure to millions of people?

Is Bill Gates greedy? There’s no evidence of that. He is giving all his money away in ways that are curing diseases that kill children all over the world. More generally, I have never met a truly creative person who was motivated by greed. But even if greed were the motivation, we need more of it – as long as it’s meeting our needs.

So what’s Sander’s complaint? Here are his own words:  "99 percent of all new income today (is) going to the top 1 percent.”

In 2007, "the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income," which is "more than the entire bottom 50 percent."

"Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America."

When Sam Walton was alive, he was one of the world’s richest men. Yet he wore blue jeans and drove a pickup truck. No one in Bentonville, Arkansas even knew he was rich until they read about it in Forbes. Is Walmart making it harder or easier for people to feed their families? You be the judge.

Behind the rhetoric on the left, there is one persistent theme, always implicit, never explicit. Leftist rhetoric is designed to encourage people to believe that the reason they are poor is  because other people are rich.

And this kind of rhetoric is not confined to politicians who know nothing of basic economics. Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs and other well-known economists are just as guilty. They invariably imply that “all property is theft,” a staple of barn yard Marxism. Yet, on rigorous examination, this idea is silly. Most of the people on the Forbes 400 list are self-made or next generation of self-made billionaires.

Writing in the Dallas Morning News, Cullen Godfrey asks: why do we demonize billionaires?

"They didn’t steal our money. They earned our money by providing us with the things that we want and that make our lives better. The Forbes 400 list includes names such as Oprah Winfrey, filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Phil Knight (Nike), Elon Musk (Tesla), Charles Schwab, Ralph Lauren and Michael Ilitch (Domino’s Pizza). Of course, there are those with inherited wealth, but the vast majority on the list are first-generation, self-made billionaires, and those with inherited wealth have, as a rule, been excellent stewards of their good fortune."

Like Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour Party leader in Britain, Bernie Sanders is appealing to our worst instincts. His is not the message of compassion and love. His is the message of resentment, jealousy and hate.

What would he do? Tax capital. He hasn’t given us a figure, but if he goes along with the 90 percent income tax rate favored by Paul Krugman or the 80 percent rate proposed by Thomas Piketty, Bill Gates may never have been able to start Microsoft. Sam Walton may never have given us Sam’s Club.

As I wrote at Forbes earlier this week, the left is intellectually bankrupt. While appealing to our basest emotions, they have no real solutions to any real problems. In fact, their “solutions” would almost certainly make the poor more poor.

There is, however, a proposal from the right of the political spectrum: tax consumption rather than saving, investment and capital accumulation. As I wrote previously:

"[W]hen Warren Buffett is consuming, he’s benefiting himself. When he’s saving and investing, he’s benefiting you and me. Every time Buffett forgoes personal consumption (a pricey dinner, a larger house, a huge yacht) and puts his money in the capital market instead, he’s doing an enormous favor for everyone else. A larger capital stock means higher productivity and that means everyone can have more income for the same amount of work. So it’s in our self-interest to have very low taxes on Buffett’s capital. In fact, capital taxes should be zero. That means no capital gains tax, no tax on dividends and profits — so long as the income is recycled back into the capital market.

We should instead tax Buffett’s consumption. Tax him on what he takes out of the system, not what he puts into it. Tax him when he is benefiting himself, not when he is benefiting you and me."



British National Health Service Stops Paying for Lifesaving Drugs

Britain’s government-monopoly (single-payer) health plan, the National Health Service (NHS), has announced plans to stop paying for the most innovative, lifesaving drugs:

    "More than 5,000 cancer patients will be denied life-extending drugs under plans which charities say are a “dreadful” step backwards for the NHS.

    Health officials have just announced sweeping restrictions on treatment, which will mean patients with breast, bowel, skin and pancreatic cancer will no longer be able to receive drugs funded by the NHS.

    In total, 17 cancer drugs for 25 different indications will no longer be paid for in future.

    Charities said the direction the health service was heading in could set progress back by centuries.

    The Cancer Drugs Fund was launched in 2011, following a manifesto pledge by David Cameron, who said patients should no longer be denied drugs on cost grounds.

    Drugs which will no longer be funded include Kadcyla for advanced breast cancer, Avastin for many bowel and breast cancer patients, Revlimid and Imnovid for multiple myeloma, and Abraxane, the first treatment for pancreatic cancer in 17 years."

This is the second round of cuts this year. All in all, reimbursement for 25 drugs used by about 8,000 patients has been cut off.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising. In a functioning health insurance market, these drugs would be reimbursed because they are very expensive and are used by a very small proportion of patients suffering from cancers with few other treatments. In other words, exactly the situation that calls for insurance.

In a system run by politicians, the incentives are upside down and unfair:

    The financial ability to pay is determined not by premiums paid, but by the government’s overall budget.

    The number of patients does not comprise a large enough interest group to cause politicians to prioritize their interests.

    There is no way to legally enforce the so-called “social contract” (as opposed to an actual insurance contract, which courts would enforce) that the politicians and bureaucrats promote to convince us to trust them.

Note, also, that Britain is home to leading pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKine and AstraZeneca, and world-class academic pharmaceutical research. They should be able to make strong arguments for their contribution to good-paying jobs and economic growth. Unfortunately, the perverse incentives in a government-monopoly, single-payer health system are too strong to be overcome by even the best arguments.



Trump, Carson and the Islamic Controversy

Over the last several days, the Leftmedia have worked themselves into a tizzy over two particular presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, following comments that were made — and not made — about Muslims. It’s one of those “gotcha” moments when a candidate must choose between speaking what he believes, dodging the question or simply not saying anything. Regardless of how the candidate answers, they will catch heat for it, primarily because they are Republicans.

During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a questioner accused Barack Obama of being a Muslim, of not being American and stated, “We have [Muslim] training camps growing where they want to kill us, that’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”

Trump didn’t respond the way many in the Leftmedia thought that he should have. He didn’t rebut the questioner’s accusations about Obama’s religion or citizenship. (After all, Trump himself once questioned Obama’s citizenship.) Instead, Trump answered the question vaguely, stating, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, and a lot of people are saying that and saying that bad things are happening out there. We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

To be sure, Trump could have answered the question better, and he could have taken the bait to address the man’s accusations. But he didn’t — or rather, deliberately chose to ignore the accusations from the man because he foresaw the media onslaught that would surely follow. In his own words, Trump told ABC News, “If I would have challenged the man … to put it mildly the media would have accused me of interfering with that man’s right of free speech. … A no win situation, do we agree?”

Perhaps Trump could have responded to the man’s accusation by recalling Hillary Clinton’s own veiled Obama-is-a-Muslim claim in 2008, or reminding voters of Obama’s interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in which Obama mentions “my Muslim faith.” But Trump didn’t address it, and the media are having a field day.

None of this is to say that Obama is a Muslim. But his claim that he is a Christian is just as far fetched. Obama spent 20 years attending the “church” of the Marxist black liberation theology-spouting Jeremiah Wright. It’s far more likely, based on his actions, rhetoric and narcissism, that he worships himself, and will say or do whatever is politically expedient.

As columnist David Limbaugh writes, “It’s true we can’t know for sure what’s in a person’s heart, but we can observe his statements and behavior. … This is not a man with a track record of authenticity.”

“You will recognize them by their fruits,” Jesus said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Carson stirred up controversy following an interview because of what he did say.

Keeping this question in context with Trump not correcting a questioner, when asked if a president’s faith should matter, Carson responded, “It depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.” He added that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”

He answered the question, but it clearly wasn’t what “tolerant” leftists wanted to hear. The Leftmedia have tried for more than a decade to convince Americans that Islam is the Religion of Peace™, so how could Carson say such a thing? Is he an Islamophobe? No, he just happens to understand that Sharia law, which is part of Islam, is inconsistent with the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy offers an outstanding explanation:

“Islam’s sharia is a code premised on the principles that Allah has prescribed the ideal way for human life to be lived; that people are required to submit to that prescription; and that Islamic governments exist to enforce that requirement. Our Constitution, to the contrary, is premised on the principles that we are free to choose how we will live; the laws we make are not required to comply with the principles of any religion; and that government is our servant, not our master.”

McCarthy further notes that Islam should be understood by public figures as both a religion and an all-encompassing political-social ideology. And that’s the very reason why Carson answered the question the way he did. Sharia law is the antithesis of the Constitution. It’s also why when Carson was asked if he would consider voting for a Muslim for Congress he replied that it would “depend on who that Muslim is and what their policies are.”

For Carson, if a practicing Muslim’s political ideology reflects that of the Constitution, rather than Sharia law, then that person is eligible for office. If not, then there is no place in American politics for them.

Of course, there is no Muslim running for president. But Americans should welcome this debate as we consider what it takes to sit in the executive seat of constitutional government. Remember what that is?



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

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, September 23, 2015

Faith in native cultures not well rewarded

Leftists hate their own country and society so much that they like any alternative to it -- typically finding "wisdom" in primitive cultures and religions   -- the Chief Seattle speech being perhaps the most hilarious example of that faith. Leftists do so much of that talk that a lot of people are taken in and so are trustful of primitive practices in poor countries.  We see one result below -- JR

A young backpacker has died in Peru after taking hallucinogens in an ancient Amazonian 'cleansing ceremony'.

24-year-old Matthew Dawson-Clarke consumed ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink made from vines, as part of a seven-day retreat to foster a spiritual awakening.

From Auckland in New Zealand's north, Mr Dawson-Clarke died on September 3 after taking part in the centuries-old ritual, the NZ Herald reports.

In rituals using ayahuasca, also known as yage, which contains DMT, an experienced shaman guides those partaking through their psychedelic experience which lasts six to 10 hours.

The experience is said to result in inner peace after purging toxins from the body through vomiting, diarrhoea, yawning, crying, shaking and sweating.

Many report that the hallucinatory experience is stronger than LSD, ketamine and magic mushrooms.

The rituals are legal in Peru and some neighbouring countries, where they are native to, though they are not regulated.

However, the retreats have become a major tourist draw for those seeking an authentic South American experience.

The Australian government's Smart Traveller website advises on the dangers of ayahuasca use, as some have been assaulted or robbed during the rituals, while others have experienced total amnesia following the consumption of the plant.

Used in South America, especially in the Amazon basin, Ayahuasca is a drink produced from the stem bark of the vines Banisteriopsis caapi and B. inebrians.

Mr Dawson-Clarke had been working on a luxury yacht based in Europe for the past 18 months and had travelled to Peru for a short trip before planning to return to Europe.

Though the 24-year-old had died more than three weeks ago, his body was only returned to the family on Monday, and a coroner is now investigating the 24-year-old's death.

In 2012, 18-year-old Kyle Joseph Nolan from northern California died from exceeding the dosage of ayahuasca in Peru.

British student Henry Miller, died at 19 in the Columbian jungle after drinking the concoction in 2014



UK: Government do-gooding backfires

Conservatives generally approve of people owning their own homes so it is not surprising that a British Conservative government decided to help out poorer home buyers by giving them cheap government loans.  But, typically for government meddling, it had unfortunate unintended consequences -- JR

House prices have been forced up by almost £20,000 in parts of the country because of George Osborne's controversial help-to-buy scheme, a new report has revealed.

Under the Chancellor's programme people who cannot get a mortgage because they do not have enough savings will be given a cheap government loan – allowing them to buy a property with a deposit as small as 5 per cent.

However, the policy has come under fire for forcing up house prices up for everybody else – pushing the dream of getting on the housing ladder even further out of reach for many families.

According to a report commissioned by the housing charity Shelter, help to buy has pushed up the price of an average house by £8,250 across the country - an increase of 3 per cent.

But in parts of England where there has been a rush of families using the scheme house prices have jumped by almost three times that amount.

In North West Leicestershire, house prices have risen £19,433 as a result of help to buy, today's report by Shelter found.

Overall, nearly 120,000 families have used the £26billion government scheme in the two and a half years since it was launched.

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said the figures were 'proof that help to buy hasn't helped many people at all, instead it's pushed a home of their own even further out of reach'.



Abolish the FDA

As I drove to work the other day, I heard a very interesting segment on NPR that featured a startup designing video games to improve cognitive skills and relieve symptoms associated with a myriad of mental health conditions. One game highlighted, Project Evo, has shown good preliminary results in training players to ignore distractions and stay focused on the task at hand:

“We’ve been through eight or nine completed clinical trials, in all cognitive disorders: ADHD, autism, depression,” says Matt Omernick, executive creative director at Akili, the Northern California startup that’s developing the game.

Omernick worked at Lucas Arts for years, making Star Wars games, where players attack their enemies with light sabers. Now, he’s working on Project Evo. It’s a total switch in mission, from dreaming up best-sellers for the commercial market to designing games to treat mental health conditions.

“The qualities of a good video game, things that hook you, what makes the brain—snap—engage and go, could be a perfect vessel for actually delivering medicine,” he says.

In fact, the creators believe their game will be so effective it might one day reduce or replace the drugs kids take for ADHD.

This all sounds very promising.

In recent years, many observers (myself included) have expressed deep concerns that we are living in the “medication generation,” as defined by the rapidly increasing numbers of young people (which seems to have extended to toddlers and infants!) taking psychotropic drugs. As experts and laypersons continue to debate the long-term effects of these substances, the news of intrepid entrepreneurs creating non-pharmaceutical alternatives to treat mental health problems is definitely a welcome development.

But a formidable final boss stands in the way:

[B]efore they can deliver their game to players, they first have to go through the Food and Drug Administration—the FDA.

The NPR story goes on to detail on how navigating the FDA’s bureaucratic labyrinth is akin to the long-grinding campaign required to clear the final dungeon from any Legend of Zelda game. Pharmaceutical companies are intimately familiar with the FDA’s slow and expensive approval process for new drugs, and for this reason, it should come as no surprise that Silicon Valley companies do their best to avoid government regulation. One venture capitalist goes so far as to say, “If it says ‘FDA approval needed’ in the business plan, I myself scream in fear and run away.”

Dynamic, nimble startups are much more in tune with market conditions than the ever-growing regulatory behemoth that is defined by procedure, conformity, and irresponsibility. As a result, conflict between these two worlds is inevitable:

Most startups can bring a new video game to market in six months. Going through the FDA approval process for medical devices could take three or four years—and cost millions of dollars.

In the tech world, where app updates and software patches are part of every company’s daily routine just to keep up with consumer habits, technology can become outdated in the blink of an eye. Regulatory hold on a product can spell a death sentence for any startup seeking to stay ahead of its fierce market competition.

Akili is the latest victim to get caught in the tendrils of the administrative state, and worst of all, in the FDA, which distinguished political economist Robert Higgs has described as “one of the most powerful of federal regulatory agencies, if not the most powerful.” The agency’s awesome authority extends to over twenty-five percent of all consumer goods in the United States and thus “routinely makes decisions that seal the fates of millions.”

Despite its perceived image as the nation’s benevolent guardian of health and well-being, the FDA’s actual track record is anything but, and its failures have been extensively documented in a vast economic literature. The “knowledge problem” has foiled the whims of central planners and social engineers in every setting, and the FDA is not immune. By taking a one-sized-fits-all approach in enacting regulatory policy, it fails to take into account the individual preferences, social circumstances, and physiological attributes of the people that compose a diverse society. For example, people vary widely in their responses to drugs, depending on variables that range from dosage to genetic makeup. In a field as complex as human health, an institution forcing its way on a population is bound to cause problems (for a particularly egregious example, see what happened with the field of nutrition).

The thalidomide tragedy of the 1960s is usually cited as to why we need a centralized, regulatory agency staffed by altruistic public servants to keep the market from being flooded by toxins, snake oils, and other harmful substances. However, this needs to be weighed against the costs of keeping beneficial products withheld. For example, the FDA’s delay of beta blockers, which were widely available in Europe to reduce heart attacks, was estimated to have cost tens of thousands of lives. Despite this infamous episode and other repeated failures, the agency cannot overcome the institutional incentives it faces as a government bureaucracy. These factors strongly skew its officials towards avoiding risk and getting blamed for visible harm. Here’s how the late Milton Friedman summarized the dilemma with his usual wit and eloquence:

Put yourself in the position of a FDA bureaucrat considering whether to approve a new, proposed drug. There are two kinds of mistakes you can make from the point of view of the public interest. You can make the mistake of approving a drug that turns out to have very harmful side effects. That’s one mistake. That will harm the public. Or you can make the mistake of not approving a drug that would have very beneficial effects. That’s also harmful to the public.

If you’re such a bureaucrat, what’s going to be the effect on you of those two mistakes? If you make a mistake and approve a product that has harmful side effects, you are a devil incarnate. Your misdeed will be spread on the front page of every newspaper. Your name will be mud. You will get the blame. If you fail to approve a drug that might save lives, the people who would object to that are mostly going to be dead. You’re not going to hear from them.

Critics of America’s dysfunctional healthcare system have pointed out the significant role of third-party spending in driving up prices, and how federal and state regulations have created perverse incentives and suppressed the functioning of normal market forces. In regard to government restrictions on the supply of medical goods, the FDA deserves special blame for driving up the costs of drugs, slowing innovation, and denying treatment to the terminally ill while demonstrating no competency in product safety.

Going back to the NPR story, a Pfizer representative was quoted in saying that “game designers should go through the same FDA tests and trials as drug manufacturers.” Those familiar with the well-known phenomenon of regulatory capture and the basics of public choice theory should not be surprised by this attitude. Existing industries, with their legions of lobbyists, come to dominate the regulatory apparatus and learn to manipulate the system to their advantage, at the expense of new entrants.

Akili and other startups hoping to challenge the status quo would have to run past the gauntlet set up by the “complex leviathan of interdependent cartels” that makes up the American healthcare system. I can only wish them the best, and hope Schumpeterian creative destruction eventually sweeps the whole field of medicine.

Abolishing the FDA and eliminating its too-often abused power to withhold innovative medical treatments from patients and providers would be one step toward genuine healthcare reform.

SOURCE.  See also here on the FDA


Study Pokes Hole in Government Theory on Food Deserts

When it comes to public health, liberals think the root cause of obesity is the environment and societal structures. For years, the Left has bemoaned “food deserts” — zip codes where the population tends poor and live a distance from a supermarket — as the cause for expanding waistlines.

But a new study, produced by the Rand Corporation, suggests it has more to do with decisions people make in what they stuff into their mouths, the price of food and eating habits. When studying the issue, the Rand Corporation found that there was little correlation between how many supermarkets are in an area and the rates of obesity.

The Los Angeles Times reported, “[A director at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Dr. Paul Simon, said] that government regulations intended to improve public health tend to be simplistic. Dropping a new supermarket in an underserved community won’t solve dietary problems, he said.”

In the past, places like Los Angeles have gone so far as to control how many fast food restaurants can set up on certain areas, controlling the local economy. It’s not just about getting fresh fruits and veggies in certain neighborhoods, but it’s also about controlling the food the neighborhood eats.

If we want to see what a government-sanctioned diet looks like, just look to the school lunch program or a prison. Freedom is tasty.



Something to think about


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

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, September 22, 2015

Russia is not the enemy

By Stephen Kinzer, a former senior reporter for the NYT.  He is known for anti-interventionism -- which is a Leftist version of conservative isolationism.  Interesting how the same policy can be either Leftist or Rightist.  I think he is broadly right below.  America really has no beef with Putin. As a Leftist, Kinzer does not name the real enemy but, ever since 9/11, it is clear that the enemy is fundamentalist Islam, particularly in the shape of Iran.  "Death to America" surely needs no interpretation. And Obama has just let them back onto the highroad towards nuclear weapons.

Real enemies are a threat to any country, but imagined enemies can be even more dangerous. They sap resources, provoke needless conflicts, and divert attention from true challenges. The United States has constructed such a fantasy by turning Russia into an enemy.

Our current campaign against Russia was set off by what some in Washington call its “aggression” against neighboring Ukraine. Russia’s decision to aid the Assad regime in Syria has also angered us. The true reasons for anti-Russia sentiment, though, lie deeper.

Most leading figures in the American political and security establishments grew up during the Cold War. They spent much of their lives believing that the Antichrist lived in Moscow. Today they speak as if the Cold War never ended.

For a brief period in the 1990s, it appeared that Russia had lost control over its own security. Stunned into paralysis by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and without any power to resist, Russians had to watch helplessly as NATO, their longtime enemy, established bases directly on their borders. Many in Washington believed that the United States had permanently broken Russian power. In their jubilation, they imagined that we would be able to keep our foot on Russia’s neck forever.

That was highly unrealistic. By pressing our advantage too strongly in the years after the Cold War, we guaranteed a nationalist reaction. President Vladimir Putin embodies it. He is popular in Russia because his people believe he is trying to claw back some of Russia’s lost power. For the same reason, he is demonized in Washington.

Having Russia as an enemy is strangely comforting to Americans. It reassures us that the world has not really changed. That means we do not have to change our policies. Our back-to-the-future hostility toward Russia allows us to pull out our dusty Cold War playbook. We have resurrected not just that era’s anti-Moscow policies but also the hostile rhetoric that accompanied them.

This summer’s most extreme exaggeration of Russia’s power came not from an inveterate Cold Warrior like John McCain or Hillary Clinton, but from the new chairman of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford. At his Senate confirmation hearing in July, Dunford said Russia “could pose an existential threat to the United States.” He suggested that, to defend ourselves, we should send aid to Ukrainians who want to fight Russia.

Statements like these are bizarre on several levels. First, Russia is a fundamentally weak country with a tottering economy. It is far from being able to compete with the United States, much less threaten it. Second, Russia is surrounded by American military bases, hears threats from the West every day, faces NATO guns on its borders, and therefore has reason to fear for its security. Third, by pushing Russia away, we are driving it toward China, thereby encouraging a partnership that could develop into a true threat to American power.

The most important reason it is folly to turn Russia into an enemy is more far-reaching than any of these. Europe remains stable only when all of its major countries are included in the process of governing, and each one’s security concerns are taken seriously.

The visionary Prince Metternich grasped this truth 200 years ago. Metternich was foreign minister of the Austrian Empire and mastermind of the Congress of Vienna, which was charged with reconstructing Europe after nearly a quarter-century of war. France was the villain. French armies under Napoleon had ravaged much of Europe. Anti-French sentiment was widespread and virulent. Delegates to the Congress of Vienna demanded harsh punishment for the troublemaker. Metternich resisted their pressure. He persuaded other leaders that in the interest of future stability, they must invite the miscreant back into the family. That kept Europe at peace for generations.

Emotion argues that Russia is a troublemaker because it refuses to play by our rules, and must be confronted and punished. Reason should reply that Russia is a legitimate power, cannot be expected to take orders from the West, and will not stand quietly while the United States promotes anti-Russia movements on its borders.

In our current standoff, Russia has at least one advantage: Its leaders are not foolish enough to consider the United States an existential threat. We would benefit from a bit of their realism.



Donald Trump and Ben Carson renew their attacks on Muslims as Hillary Clinton warns of 'starting fires'

A Muslim should never be president, says Ben Carson, as Donald Trump maintains his refusal to apologise for anti-Muslim questioner

Two of the leading Republican contenders for the presidency further stoked the flames of a row about Muslims in America on Sunday, as Hillary Clinton warned all sides to beware of lighting fires “that can get out of control”.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson both used appearances on the Sunday chat shows to harden their stances – as a new poll showed that Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican race, was soaring in the ratings, overtaking Mr Carson and eating away at Mr Trump’s support.

Mr Carson, a neurosurgeon who has never been elected to any political office, told NBC News that a Muslim should never be president, because Islam is not “consistent with the constitution.”

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation – I absolutely would not agree with that,” he said.

Islam has been a hot subject of the presidential campaign this week, and Mr Trump has been criticised for failing to take issue with a man on Thursday who, at an event in New Hampshire, said: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. When can we get rid of them?"

Asked on Sunday whether he believed Muslims were a problem, the combative billionaire said: “We can say no, and you can be politically correct, and say everything’s wonderful. But I haven’t seen people from Sweden going back and leaving after the bombing of the World Trade Center, so we have a problem.

“And at the same time, we have fabulous Muslims living here and they have done fantastically well.

“But certainly if I were to say ‘Oh no, not at all,’ then people would not believe me.

“So it may not be the right thing to say, but I don’t care what the right thing to say is. Some Muslims, and the terrorism and everything else, it seems to be pretty much confined there. So it is a problem - and we can say no - but it is.”

Mr Trump’s support in a CNN/ORC poll has fallen from 32 per cent earlier this month to 24 per cent now, while Mrs Fiorina is now in second place. Mr Trump dismissively said on Sunday that “she has a good pitter patter, but if you listen to her for more than five minutes straight you get a headache” – yet Mrs Fiorina has seen her support surge to 15 per cent – up from only three per cent at the beginning of this month.

And Mrs Clinton, making her first appearance on a Sunday morning chat show since 2011, warned of the dangers of the rhetoric coming from the Republican side, and described Mr Trump’s failure to correct the audience member as “appalling”.

“He is fuelling a whole level of paranoia and prejudice about all kinds of people,” she said.  “And when you light those fires, you better recognise that they can get out of control. And he should start dampening them down and putting them out.

“If he wants to talk about what he would do as president, that’s obviously fair game. But to play in to some of the worst impulses that people have these days, that are really being lit up by the internet and other conspiracy minded theories, it just irresponsible. It’s appalling.”



Dissidents arrested as Pope Francis celebrates his first Mass in Cuba

Pope John Paul II stood up to the Communist government of Poland and gave the people courage to resist -- but it is clear that this Pontiff tried nothing like that in Communist Cuba

Pope Francis meets with Fidel Castro in Havana, after an outdoor mass attended by tens of thousands of people in the capital's Revolution Square

Cuban authorities prevented leading dissidents from meeting Pope Francis in Havana on Sunday, in a sign of the Communist regime’s rigid intolerance of political opposition.

Two well-known dissidents, Marta Beatriz Roque and Miriam Leiva, had been invited by the Vatican to attend a vespers service led by the Pope’s in Havana’s historic baroque cathedral.

But they said they were detained by security agents and barred from attending the event.

"They told me that I didn't have a credential and that I couldn't go to the Pope’s event that was taking place there in the plaza of the Cathedral," Ms Roque said.

She said that she and Ms Leiva had also been invited by the Vatican to meet Pope Francis at the residence of the Holy See’s ambassador to Cuba shortly after the pontiff's arrival on Saturday, but that they were detained on that occasion as well.

The head of an opposition group called the Ladies in White said that 22 of the 24 members of the group who had hoped to attend a Mass celebrated by the Pope were prevented from doing so by Cuban security officials.

There had been intense speculation about whether the Pope would risk incurring the displeasure of his host, President Raul Castro, by meeting political opponents of the Communist regime.

The fact that the Vatican invited the women to Sunday’s cathedral service showed Francis’ determination to try to engage with the dissident movement, which has endured years of persecution by the Castro regime.

Earlier in the day, the Pope celebrated Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square in front of tens of thousands of people.

He was driven through the crowds in a white pope-mobile, pausing to kiss children who were held up to him.

As the ceremony got underway, Cuban security officers detained at least three people who appeared to be trying to distribute leaflets in the capital’s Revolution Square, a large open area dominated by a massive likeness of revolutionary hero Che Guevara.

The three people were tackled and dragged away by the officers.

Political opponents of President Raul Castro’s Communist regime are regularly subjected to harassment and intimidation.

In its latest report on Cuba, Human Rights Watch said that the Castro government “continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism.”

The human rights group said “repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.”

There are high hopes among many Cubans that the Pope’s visit will spur the Castro regime towards enacting more reforms and granting greater freedoms to its long-suffering people, who survive on an average monthly wage of $25.

But the message delivered by the Pope in two addresses to the large crowd was more pastoral than political and he refrained from issuing even coded criticism of the Communist government.

After the morning Mass, Pope Francis met Fidel Castro at the ex-president's residence in Havana, in an encounter that had been widely expected.

The pair held a "friendly and informal conversation" for around 40 minutes, said the Rev Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

A photo provided by Alex Castro, Fidel's son and official photographer, showed the 89-year-old former president and Francis looking into each other's eyes as they shook hands, the pope in his white vestments and Castro in a white shirt and Adidas sweat top.

They also exchanged gifts. Fidel Castro gave the Pope a book titled "Fidel and Religion", based on conversations between the Cuban leader and a Brazilian priest, in which he discussed his views on Catholicism and his education in a Jesuit school.

The Pope gave Fidel a book written by a Jesuit who taught the former guerrilla leader at the Catholic school he attended as a child.

The Pope will fly from Havana to the eastern city of Holguin on Monday, where he will celebrate Mass, and from there will travel to the city of Santiago.

On Tuesday he will fly from Cuba to Washington, where he will meet President Obama and address Congress, on his first visit to the United States.



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

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, September 21, 2015

Great Moments in Socialism

Socialism is an economic failure. International socialism didn’t work in the Soviet Union. National socialism didn’t work in Germany. And democratic socialism, while avoiding the horrors of its communist and Nazi cousins, also has been a flop.

Socialism fails because it attempts to replace market-determined prices with various forms of central planning based on government-dictated prices.

Moreover, socialism channels self-interest in a destructive direction. In a free market, people get income and improve their lot in life by satisfying and fulfilling the needs of other people. In a socialist system, by contrast, people squabble over the re-slicing of a shrinking pie.

There’s a famous Winston Churchill quote that basically says that the ostensible problem with capitalism is that people aren’t equally rich, whereas the supposed attractiveness of socialism is that people get to be equally poor.

Sure, the masses are equally impoverished by socialist systems, but a handful of people escape this fate. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the government elites have very comfortable lives. And that may be the understatement of the century, as indicated by this report in the U.K.-based Daily Mail. Here are some very relevant passages.

“The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets. Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35 … holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2 billion. … Others close to Chavez managed to build up great personal wealth that was kept outside the petrostate. Alejandro Andrade, who served as Venezuela’s treasury minister from 2007 to 2010 and was reportedly a close associate of Chavez, was discovered to have $11.2 billion in his name …

During his lifetime, Hugo Chavez denounced wealthy individuals, once railing against the rich for being ‘lazy.’ ‘The rich don’t work, they’re lazy,’ he railed in a speech in 2010. ‘Every day they go drinking whiskey – almost every day – and drugs, cocaine, they travel.’”

What a bunch of hypocrites. They denounce successful people who presumably earn money honestly, yet they amass huge fortunes by pilfering their nation.

And what’s been happening in Venezuela is no different, I’m sure, than what happened in the past in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and other socialist regimes.

And I’m sure it’s still happening today in other socialist hell holes such as North Korea and Cuba. The elite enjoy undeserved and unearned wealth while ordinary people live wretched lives of deprivation.

Everyone’s equal, but some are more equal than others.

Let’s close by citing some wise words about the impact of socialism on ordinary people from Kevin Williamson of National Review.

“The United Socialist party’s disastrous economic policies have led to acute shortages of everything: rice, beans, flour, oil, eggs, soap, even toilet paper. Venezuela is full of state-run stores that are there to provide the poor with life’s necessities at subsidized prices, but the shelves are empty. …

While Venezuela has endured food riots for years, the capital recently has been the scene of protests related to medical care. Venezuela has free universal health care — and a constitutional guarantee of access to it. That means exactly nothing in a country without enough doctors, medicine, or facilities. Chemotherapy is available in only three cities, with patients often traveling hours from the hinterlands to receive treatment. But the treatment has stopped.”

Now ask yourself whether you think the party bosses are suffering like other citizens because of a lack of food and health care (or toilet paper!).

And that giant gap between the treatment of the elite vs. the peasantry tells you everything you need to know about socialism, whether it’s the brutal kind practiced in places such as Venezuela or the kinder, gentler (but equally hypocritical) versions found elsewhere.



Senator  Embraces ‘Nativist’ Slur: What’s Wrong with Favoring Americans?

Alabama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is pro-American, and he doesn’t care if he’s called a “nativist” by post-national advocates for massive immigration.

“What’s wrong with that? … What’s wrong with putting America[ns] first?” he told a reporter for Roll Call, which published an article headlined as “Sessions Feels Vindicated by [Donald] Trump’s Nativist Surge.”

Sessions’ focus, however, isn’t on just the people born in the United States. He’s looking beyond ancestry and birthplace to include immigrants and their kids who’ve been welcomed legally into the United States. “We [politicians] represent the people who voted for us. That’s who our duty is owed to. To them…we should be doing what’s in their best interest,” he stated.

The mere existence of the would-be “nativist” slur shows the deep contempt that internationalists have for ordinary Americans, said a Hill staffer. “It should go without saying that the country exists to serve the interests of its citizens… so that fact that we have the [sneering] term ‘nativist’ implies that some people think the citizens shouldn’t have that priority,” the staffer said.

So far, populists haven’t developed their own term to trump the would-be slur of ‘nativist’ for the politicians who put Americans’ interests ahead of other people’s interests. Americans First, Americans’ Pride, citizenist, pro-American, and nativist are all being thrown about in conversation.

Sessions — and Trump — are pushing that conversation along. “It is important for people to see a politician to turn a word around on its head,” said the staffer.

Washington’s political class unfortunately caters to the post-national, globalist business groups, Sen. Sessions says. “They spend too much time in fundraisers with rich people and they don’t deeply understand the pain of middle-class, salaried people,” he said.

“The idea of somebody sitting in Wall Street, a million-plus dollars a year in income, saying ‘This is all right to bring in an unlimited number of people,’ to cause trouble and you know, financial difficulties for our schools and our hospitals? They don’t live with that. It’s easy for them to say that. Who are these people? Who’s speaking for the average person?”

Each year, the federal government invites or accepts roughly 2.5 million new immigrants, guest-workers, and illegal migrants to compete for jobs sought by the four million Americans who turn 18. The resulting glut of labor thins Americans’ wages and strains taxpayer’s anti-poverty programs, while also fattening company revenues, profits, Wall Street stock prices, and progressives’ career opportunities.

Populist champion Donald Trump recognizes the issue, Sessions noted. “He met with us and certainly adopted a lot of the suggestions that I’ve been making over the years and all of a sudden he’s surged to the top of the polls.”

Trump is the first or second choice of roughly 40 percent of GOP primary voters. In contrast, the GOP establishment candidates are stuck below 10 percent or five percent.

But Sessions thinks there’s time for the GOP to redeem itself. “People like confession,” he said, offering up a script for politicians to get on the right side of history. He says:

    "We [politicians] need to say, ‘We’ve been too pure in this trade business. … You are right, American people — we have not defended you sufficiently on the world stage in these trade agreements and we’re going to negotiate tougher and we’re going to defend our interests more effectively. And yes, you’re right. You’ve been asking for 30 years to end this [immigration] lawlessness. We don’t have enough jobs for our own people. We’re not going to keep bringing in millions of people, legal and illegal, until you have a better chance to get your children, your family, a job. And I care about you, and I don’t care what Wall Street money says.’"

Trump’s roaring success has been a surprise to the establishment, Sessions’ said. Now, the shocked GOP leaders and lobbyists “ought to be a little more humble in their political prognosticating,” he said. So far, however, “I haven’t had a lot of people [in D.C.] say I was right,” he said.



Equal opportunity will not give equal results

By Thomas Sowell

A hostile review of my new book — “Wealth, Poverty and Politics” — said, “there is apparently no level of inequality of income or opportunity that Thomas Sowell would consider unacceptable.”

Ordinarily, reviewers who miss the whole point of a book they are reviewing can be ignored. But this particular confusion about what opportunity means is far too widespread, far beyond a particular reviewer of a particular book. That makes it a confusion worth clearing up, because it affects so many other discussions of very serious issues.

“Wealth, Poverty and Politics” does not accept inequality of opportunity. Instead, it reports such things as children raised in low-income families usually not being spoken to nearly as often as children raised in high-income families. The conclusion: “It is painful to contemplate what that means cumulatively over the years, as poor children are handicapped from their earliest childhood.”

Even if all the doors of opportunity are wide open, children raised with great amounts of parental care and attention are far more likely to be able to walk through those doors than children who have received much less attention. Why else do conscientious parents invest so much time and effort in raising their children? This is so obvious that you would have to be an intellectual to able to misconstrue it. Yet many among the intelligentsia equate differences in outcomes with differences in opportunity. A personal example may help clarify the difference.

As a teenager, I tried briefly to play basketball. But I was lucky to hit the backboard, much less the basket. Yet I had just as much opportunity to play basketball as Michael Jordan had. But equal opportunity was not nearly enough to create equal outcomes.

Nevertheless, many studies today conclude that different groups do not have equal opportunity or equal “access” to credit, or admission to selective colleges, or to many other things, because some groups are not successful in achieving their goal as often as other groups are.

The very possibility that not all groups have the same skills or other qualifications is seldom even mentioned, much less examined. But when people with low credit scores are not approved for loans as often as people with high credit scores, is that a lack of opportunity or a failure to meet standards?

When twice as many Asian students as white students pass the tough tests to get into New York’s three highly selective public high schools — Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech — does that mean that white students are denied equal opportunity?

As for inequality of incomes, these depend on so many things — including things that no government has control over — that the obsession with statistical “gaps” or “disparities” that some call “inequities” is a major distraction from the more fundamental, and more achievable, goals of promoting a rising standard of living in general and greater opportunity for all.

There was never any serious reason to expect equal economic, educational or other outcomes, either between nations or within nations. “Wealth, Poverty and Politics” examines numerous demographic, geographic, cultural and other differences that make equal outcomes for all a very remote possibility.

To take just one example, in the United States the average age of Japanese Americans is more than 20 years older than the average age of Puerto Ricans. Even if these two groups were absolutely identical in every other way, Japanese Americans would still have a higher average income, because older people in general have more work experience and higher incomes.

Enabling all Americans to prosper and have greater opportunities is a far more achievable goal than equal outcomes. Internationally, the geographic settings in which different nations evolved have been so different that there has been nothing like a level playing field among nations and peoples.

Comparing the standard of living of Americans at the beginning of the 20th century with that at the end shows incredible progress. Most of this economic progress took place without the kind of heady rhetoric, social polarization or violent upheavals that have too often accompanied heedless pursuits of unachievable goals like the elimination of “gaps,” “disparities” or “inequities.”

Such fashionable fetishes are not helping the poor.


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. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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, September 20, 2015

Population predictions are crap

What I want to say here is mostly 4th grade stuff but vast numbers of people don't seem to get it.

What I want to talk about is the folly of straight line projections.  People who are used to graphs should know immediately what I am going to say but people with more  literary inclinations probably will not.

Perhaps the most hilarious example of the folly concerned is the repeated prediction that we are going to run out of oil soon.  People have been making that prediction ever since oil was discovered and they have always been wrong.  Up until fracking was implemented, Greenies used to make that prediction.  But fracking has mostly silenced them on that issue.  Now they say we will run out of food!

So why has that prediction always been wrong?  Because it assumes that all the influences on the thing concerned will stay the same. In the case of oil, it assumes there will be no more discoveries.  The reasoning goes like this:  "We have reserves of 10,000 barrels of oil and we are using 1,000 barrels each year so therefore we will run out in 10 years".

It's great arithmetic but totally ignorant of almost everything in nature.  Nature is complex.  Things are always changing.  And if there is any predictability at all in nature the trend will be in the form of an ogive or some other curvilinear trend.  In an ogive, things rise for a while and then flatten out.  In statisticians' terms, they "approach an asymptote".

So it should by now be clear why all the current  predictions of future population will be wrong.  I am in fact here and now going to issue a prophecy!  Bold, I know, but it's a pretty safe one. And neither the Book of Daniel nor the Book of Revelation is involved!  So: This is my prophecy:

"In 50 years time, all the current predictions of various national populations will be shown to have been wrong"

The birthrates in various nations at the moment are very low.  So low that the straight-line wise-heads are predicting that the populations of countries like Japan, Italy and Russia will be only half of what they are now.  Why is that prediction foolish?  Because it assumes that birthrates will remain the same.  Yet anybody who remembers the world before the 1960s should know how absurd that is.

Take Italy, one of the doomed populations according to the straight-line wiseheads. Italy was once the land of large families.  Lots of Italian families had an Ottorino (eighth child).  Now, of course, one child is the norm.  So does not a change as drastic as that tell you something?  Does it not tell you that all the influences on the given phenomenon (in this case the birthrate) will NOT remain the same?  It surely should.

Let us be a little more insightful about population than doing silly arithmetic.  What caused the Italian birthrate collapse?  The same thing that has caused a birthrate collapse in most of the developed world:  The contraceptive pill. Children are expensive but up until about 1960 people had no easy way of stopping them coming.  So they kept coming.

OK.  The pill was an unexpected factor that threw out all the straight line "population explosion" projections made in the early  20th century.  Paul Ehrlich take a bow.  So what other influences could come along and ditch all the present predictions?

There is an obvious one: An evolutionary one. All the non-maternal women are currently being removed from the gene pool by reason of the simple fact that they now rarely have children. Women like them will become rarer and rarer. So all the births of the not too distant future will come from maternally-inclined women. And how many children will those women have? As many as they can afford (and then some in some cases). Some wonderful stories about maternal women here and here and here and here and here.

So the birthrates in advanced nations will recover and the  population will start growing again -- albeit off a lower base.

And there are other influences that may have an effect -- even ones that I have not thought of!  France, for instance, has long had pro-natalist government policies and that has propped up the French birthrate.  Similar policies will probably be adopted by other nations.  Russia and Singapore have already stepped up to the plate with policies of that nature.

And here's a way-out one:  It seems to have become fashionable for celebrity women to have children, multiple children in most cases.  You would not think that women who live by their looks would risk  their figures by having children, but they are in fact doing it -- the Kardashians, for instance.  Children now seem to have become a sign of affluence.  They are the ultimate luxury -- even better than big yachts and Gulfstream jets.  And lots of people DO emulate celebrities.  Many women in the near future may start having children because it is fashionable or simply because they want to show off.  One can imagine the conversations:  "I've got three.  How many have you got?"

So who knows what the future holds?


Jonathan Haidt and friends are tackling the issue of the Leftist monoculture in academe

Haidt has been working on this for a while.  I thought he would get burnt by it and fall silent but he seems instead  to have made it a major focus of his work.  My take is that he is a moderate Leftist with a secret fascination for conservatism.  He may even be an old-fashioned liberal.  Anyway, he has enlisted quite a few creditable friends to his endeavour and below is the first slice of their most recent publication.

I took him at his word that he wanted more conservative input to the social sciences and offered my services as a referee for papers in the field of social psychology.  He responded favourably so it will be interesting to see if anything comes of that  -- JR

HeterodoxAcademy has its origins in a collaborative effort by five social psychologists and a sociologist to study a problem that has long been noted in psychology: nearly everyone in the field is on the left, politically. We have been working together since 2011 to write a paper explaining how this situation came about, how it reduces the quality of science published in social psychology, and what can be done to improve the science. (Note that none of us self-identifies as conservative.)  In the process we discovered the work of the other scholars in other fields who joined with us to create this site.

Our paper is finally published this week! A preprint of the manuscript was posted last year, but now we have the final typeset version, plus the 33 commentaries. Here is a link to the PDF of the final manuscript, on the website of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. (Thanks to Paul Bloom for his wise and patient editorship.) Here’s a link to a page linking to HTML versions of all the documents. But because our article is long (13 dense pages) and the 33 commentaries are longer (another 31 pages) — and then there’s our response (another 7 pages) — we recognize that few people will ever read the whole package. Plus, its behind a paywall (so you might just want to read the preprint that was posted last year.)

For all these reasons, we offer here a “CliffsNotes” version, giving the basics of our argument using excerpts copied directly from the paper.  [Occasional comments from me–Jonathan Haidt–are interspersed in brackets] Please also see this post by Lee Jussim, explaining why we think this problem is so serious. In a later post we’ll list the commentaries and summarize our response article.

CITATION: Duarte, J. L., Crawford, J. T., Stern, C., Haidt, J., Jussim, L., & Tetlock, P. E. (2015). Political diversity will improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 38, 1-13.DOI:


Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity – particularly diversity of viewpoints – for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity. This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims: (1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years. (2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike. (3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking. (4) The underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination. We close with recommendations for increasing political diversity in social psychology.

1. Introduction

In the last few years, social psychology has faced a series of challenges to the validity of its research, including a few high-profile replication failures, a handful of fraud cases, and several articles on questionable research practices and inflated effect sizes… In this article, we suggest that one largely overlooked cause of failure is a lack of political diversity. We review evidence suggesting that political diversity and dissent would improve the reliability and validity of social psychological science…

We focus on conservatives as an underrepresented group because the data on the prevalence in psychology of different ideological groups is best for the liberal-conservative contrast – and the departure from the proportion of liberals and conservatives in the U.S. population is so dramatic. However, we argue that the field needs more non-liberals however they specifically self-identify (e.g., libertarian, moderate)…

The lack of political diversity is not a threat to the validity of specific studies in many and perhaps most areas of research in social psychology. The lack of diversity causes problems for the scientific process primarily in areas related to the political concerns of the Left – areas such as race, gender, stereotyping, environmentalism, power, and inequality – as well as in areas where conservatives themselves are studied, such as in moral and political psychology.

2. Psychology is less politically diverse than ever

[In this section we review all available information on the political party identification of psychologists, as well as their liberal-conservative self descriptions. The graph below says it all. Whichever of those two measures you use, you find a big change after 1990. Before the 1990s, academic psychology only LEANED left. Liberals and Democrats outnumbered Conservatives and Republican by 4 to 1 or less. But as the “greatest generation” retired in the 1990s and was replaced by baby boomers, the ratio skyrocketed to something more like 12 to 1. In just 20 years. Few psychologists realize just how quickly or completely the field has become a political monoculture.

More HERE  (See the original for links).  There is also a good commentary here by William Reville, an emeritus professor of biochemistry in Ireland.


The British scene

In Britain, the Tories think all their Christmases have come at once.  Labour Party activists have overwhelmingly chosen as their new leader a Marxist, Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of barely 10% of his own MPs.  He has in turn appointed a shadow cabinet comprising long-term comrades like new Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, plus a smattering of faint-hearted fellow travellers from the Blair and Brown years.  He has given the agriculture portfolio to a vegan!

The Tories believe Labour under Corbyn is unelectable (some even paid £3 to register as Labour supporters so they could vote for Corbyn in the leadership ballot).

Economically, Corbyn's Labour will be 'anti-austerity'.  Rather than reducing the huge government deficit, Corbyn and McDonnell would force the Bank of England to buy billions of pounds of new debt by creating money ('People's Quantitative Easing') to fund more government spending.  They also want to increase taxes on high earners, scrap student fees, renationalise the railways and energy supply industries, control the banks and clobber private landlords.

Foreign policy would be vehemently anti-American and anti-Israel.  Corbyn wants Britain out of NATO and says he would scrap the Trident nuclear weapons system.  He would refuse to deploy any British forces to fight in the Middle East.  He and McDonnell claim they are long-term peacemakers, but theirs is a one-eyed pacifism: in Ireland they befriended Sinn Fein/IRA (McDonnell even called for IRA bombers to be "honoured") and in the Middle East their chums are Hamas and Hezbollah.

But are the Tories right that Labour is now unelectable?

Much of Corbyn's program will be popular.  There is already strong support among voters for renationalising the railways, taxing 'the rich', bashing the bankers and scrapping student fees.  Next year the government starts cutting tax credits (top-ups for low-paid workers) and this will fuel 'anti-austerity' sentiment.  There is also widespread weariness with foreign wars.

The assumption that parties can only win elections 'from the centre' is also suspect.  Corbyn's friend, Ken Livingstone, won the London Mayorality on a hard-left platform, and in May the anti-austerity SNP took 56 of Scotland's 59 seats at Westminster.  Emotive, populist leftism is surging across Europe; there is no reason to believe the UK is immune.

Worse, the Tories themselves could soon be in trouble.  The referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, due in 2017, is almost bound to rupture party unity (there have already been mutinous rumblings as Cameron has tried to gerrymander the voting rules).  And with China's growth flagging and Europe tanking, another slump in the world economy seems almost inevitable before 2020, when the next general election is due.

If that happens, Britain will suffer badly, for the asset bubble -- fuelled by public and private borrowing -- is bigger than ever.  If and when the economy crashes, the Tories will forfeit their reputation as competent economic managers, and with the centre party Lib Dems now almost wiped out, voters will turn to Corbyn.



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

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)