Saturday, May 23, 2009

Is red meat bad for you?

I originally wrote the post below for my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog but I think it is of general interest so I am posting it here too

Below is a research summary circulated on a mailing list for medical practitioners. It arrived under the heading: "Red meat is bad for you —and bad for everyone else". Further below is the journal abstract (summary) concerned -- from a very respectable medical journal. The whole thing is, however, one big confidence trick and will achieve nothing other than frightening people off perfectly harmless food that they would otherwise enjoy. The entire report is a scientific, statistical and ethical nothing. Let me tell you very quickly why.

For a start, the "hazard ratios" (relative risks) reported are negligible -- at 1.2, 1.3 etc. The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0."

OK. So who cares about a silly old Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence? But it gets worse. The findings are reported in terms of upper and lower quintiles. In other words they threw away three fifths of the information that they had in order to arrive at their reported conclusions. That is quite simply dishonest and unethical. NO categorization of such data for analytical purposes is now ethically defensible. In pre-computer days, when all calculations had to be performed by hand, doing so could in some cases be justified but with the advent of computers there is NO reason why regression techniques that include ALL the data cannot be used. I note that before I had access to computers, I analysed the data from my first ever piece of research (in 1966) using a regressional technique. Even at that early stage I did not contemplate throwing away any of my data in the course of analysing it.

Had the whole of the data been analysed using a regressional technique, there is no doubt the the resultant correlation between meat consumption and disease would have been derisorily small and maybe even of negative sign, indicating that red meat eating is NOT a cause of cancer, heart disease etc. It is certainly not "bad for you —and bad for everyone else". The authors would of course be aware of that but have nonetheless chosen to present their data in a way that makes mountains out of pimples, which seems to me quite simply unethical.

So how did such a piece of utter crap get published in a medical journal? More particularly, why is such crap ROUTINELY published in medical journals? I am afraid that it is a sad outcome of the "publish or perish" regime that prevails in academe. Researchers need to get papers published in order to be promoted. So a well-meaning consensus has emerged among journal editors that they will accept extreme quintile reports out of solidarity with their colleagues. Otherwise they would have to reject more than half of what they currently publish. That the practice routinely results in the public being deceived is of no account. It is an utter disgrace but I doubt if I will live to see it stopped. An ethical vacuum prevails where the public would normally expect the highest ethical standards.

The emailed circular from DocAlert Messages below:
Further evidence of a link between red meat and poor health has emerged from a large cohort of older US adults. Men and women in the top fifth of red meat intake had a significantly higher risk of death over 10 years than men and women in the bottom fifth (hazard ratio for men 1.31, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.35; for women 1.36, 1.30 to 1.43). The authors also found a link between death and a high intake of processed meat such as bacon, ham, and sausage.

The 545 653 adults were between 50 and 71 when they filled in a detailed food frequency questionnaire in 1995. By 2005, more than 71 000 had died. These large numbers mean the authors were able to estimate with some precision the risks associated with eating red and processed meats for both men and women. The analyses were fully adjusted for other lifestyle factors likely to influence lifespan, especially smoking.

These data add to other observational studies that suggest we should all eat less red and processed meats. Not least because the increasing consumption of meat in many countries is putting a strain on global supplies of water, energy, and food in general, says a linked comment (p 543). It is costlier in all these precious resources to grow meat to eat than to grow vegetables and grains instead.

Journal abstract below:
Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People

By Rashmi Sinha et al.

Background: High intakes of red or processed meat may increase the risk of mortality. Our objective was to determine the relations of red, white, and processed meat intakes to risk for total and cause-specific mortality.

Methods: The study population included the National Institutes of Health–AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) Diet and Health Study cohort of half a million people aged 50 to 71 years at baseline. Meat intake was estimated from a food frequency questionnaire administered at baseline. Cox proportional hazards regression models estimated hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) within quintiles of meat intake. The covariates included in the models were age, education, marital status, family history of cancer (yes/no) (cancer mortality only), race, body mass index, 31-level smoking history, physical activity, energy intake, alcohol intake, vitamin supplement use, fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, and menopausal hormone therapy among women. Main outcome measures included total mortality and deaths due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, injuries and sudden deaths, and all other causes.

Results: There were 47 976 male deaths and 23 276 female deaths during 10 years of follow-up. Men and women in the highest vs lowest quintile of red (HR, 1.31 [95% CI, 1.27-1.35], and HR, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.30-1.43], respectively) and processed meat (HR, 1.16 [95% CI, 1.12-1.20], and HR, 1.25 [95% CI, 1.20-1.31], respectively) intakes had elevated risks for overall mortality. Regarding cause-specific mortality, men and women had elevated risks for cancer mortality for red (HR, 1.22 [95% CI, 1.16-1.29], and HR, 1.20 [95% CI, 1.12-1.30], respectively) and processed meat (HR, 1.12 [95% CI, 1.06-1.19], and HR, 1.11 [95% CI 1.04-1.19], respectively) intakes. Furthermore, cardiovascular disease risk was elevated for men and women in the highest quintile of red (HR, 1.27 [95% CI, 1.20-1.35], and HR, 1.50 [95% CI, 1.37-1.65], respectively) and processed meat (HR, 1.09 [95% CI, 1.03-1.15], and HR, 1.38 [95% CI, 1.26-1.51], respectively) intakes. When comparing the highest with the lowest quintile of white meat intake, there was an inverse association for total mortality and cancer mortality, as well as all other deaths for both men and women.

Conclusion: Red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total mortality, cancer mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Arch Intern Med (2009) Vol. 169 No. 6. 562-571

In addition to the statistical and ethical failures that I have detailed above, there are of course other large problems with the interpretation of the study. The first or second thing you learn in Statistics 101 is that "correlation is not causation". The authors above were cautious NOT to make causative inferences from their data but that message got lost downstream. Even well-informed people reading the report DID assume a causative relationship. They assumed that red meat eating CAUSED heart disease etc. But NO epidemiological study enables causative inferences. There could easily be third or fourth factors producing the observed association.

Just to give a top-of-the head example of how that could have played out: Given the weak associations reported, maybe a substantial proportion of those who ate little or no meat were Seventh Day Adventists. Adventists are an exceptionally healthy group who encourage vegetarianism. So WHY are they exceptionally healthy? Nobody really knows but it seems likely that the strong social and psychological support that they get from their heavy church involvement reduces stress and thus also reduces stress-related disease. And heart disease is partly a stress-related disease. So even if we accept as proper the statistical jiggery pokery reported above we may be basing our conclusions entirely on the doings of Seventh Day Adventists -- which is not of much relevance to the rest of society.


Don't let Leftists get away with their sneering ignorance

So I'm sitting around with family, and one conservative member mentions something he saw on Fox News.

A progressive member starts in with the passive-aggressive giggle of dismissal, and then the condescending "you mean you watch Fox News?"

And the conservative member says "Yup. Fair and balanced."

More giggles. "Oh, gosh! Do you know how many lies they tell?"

Now normally when this progressive member disparages Fox News (this is certainly not the first time) I keep my mouth shut in the name of family harmony. Which I think, unfortunately, only re-enforces the idea in such people's minds that their assertion is correct. But I decided I needed to chime in this time. The giggles are one thing. The condescension I usually gloss over. But the "lies" thing. I wasn't going to let that drop.

"No. I don't know. Tell me a lie Fox News has told."

Giggles. "Well I don't watch it."

"So you don't watch it, but you know they tell lies? How do you know they tell lies?"

"Well I read somewhere..."

"You read somewhere? How do you know that wasn't a lie?"

"Well I don't. They all do it, that's what I'm saying."

"Then why single out Fox?"

"Well I read somewhere that they were the worst."

"And you believe what you read?"

"Well let's not get into anything political. Why can't people just talk about things anymore?"

Why not indeed. Who brought it up? Who got nasty about it?

Fortunately, I suppose, the phone rang. It was for the progressive.

So I'm sitting here thinking ... "Fox News lies, but you don't have any examples and you don't watch it. They all lie, but you know Fox is 'the worst' because you read something one of the other liars wrote?"

The problem is, they're used to people either politely keeping quiet, backing down, or patting them on the head for echoing what they've been instructed to believe and many others have accepted ... typically the people they hang out with.

Don't let it happen anymore. When anyone tries to espouse how "hateful" conservative-friendly networks and show hosts are, make them back it up. Watch them back down. Stop an echo.




British aid money wasted : "Millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money have been wasted on failed reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, according to an internal assessment by the Department for International Development. An evaluation by independent consultants criticised the department’s approach to planning, risk management and staffing, and said poor co-ordination with the rest of Whitehall meant that the department was slow to shift strategy as the military effort moved to counter-insurgency. The report reveals that in 2006-07, more than half of the department’s large projects, in which millions of pounds were invested, were deemed likely to fail, excluding money put into a fund run by the World Bank. Only a quarter of state building projects were rated successful in 2006, with 4.5 per cent of them rated value for money. Among the failed projects singled out in the Country Programme Evaluation is the Afghanistan Stabilisation Fund, designed to “establish basic security and good governance in the district and provinces of Afghanistan”. This was begun in 2004 with a £20 million payment to the Afghan Government but ended three years later with “little evidence of tangible benefit”.

AK: Palin vetoes $28.6 million in federal “stimulus” funds : “Gov. Sarah Palin announced today she is vetoing the state Legislature’s decision to accept $28.6 million in federal economic stimulus money for energy relief. Palin also vetoed nearly $12 million from the state budget for construction projects. The biggest project she targeted was the improvement of the Anchorage courthouse. She also cut Southeast Alaska projects funded with cruise ship tax money. … Palin argued that taking the stimulus money would require the state to entice local communities to adopt building codes. ‘There isn’t a lot of support for the federal government to coerce Alaska communities to adopt building codes, but lawmakers can always exercise checks and balances by overriding my veto,’ Palin said in a written statement.”

NY: Terror suspects appear in court: “The four men arrested Wednesday night and accused of plotting to place bombs at New York City synagogues and shoot down National Guard jets appeared in court today, and an attorney for one of the defendants claimed his client suffers from mental illness. At a hearing for three of the defendants, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder called the men ‘extremely violent’ and said, ‘It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot.’”

Stupid copyright restrictions: "Thanks to horribly egregious copyright legislation, books published from the late sixties onward are typically under copyright for 100 years, meaning that someone besides the author is charged with administering rights. That person is usually completely ignorant of book publishing and the content of the book or why it matters. All he wants is money that is not there. More often than not, this person will refuse to make a deal. And the book stays out of print, for the rest of our lifetimes at least. This is what copyright extensions have amounted to: great impediments to printing books and preserving literary legacies. Already, provisions of the law have burned more books than most despots in human history. And this has only just begun. We are going to be seeing this nonsense for another 100 years at least. Sad to say, many of the books that will fail to be printed are great books. But they might as well have never been written. The author is in no position to protest because he or she is six feet in the ground. His or her legacy, about which the heir cares less than nothing, is buried too. The problem is that within the structure of IP there is no rational way to price anything. The property is made scarce only by the state. Its scarcity is otherwise wholly artificial.”

Going Dutch : “Despite budget shortfalls, the Netherlands doesn’t seem interested in returning to its 1970s model of confiscatory rates of taxation. When their economy stagnated, the government quickly moved to slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25.5 percent. (In the United States, it’s roughly 40 percent) A recent proposal by the right-leaning government of Jan Peter Balkenende would lower inheritance tax rates from 27 percent to 20 percent for family members, and from 68 percent to 40 percent for non-family members. And with government coffers thinning and an aging population, a recent piece of legislation would push the retirement age from 65 to 67.”

Don’t judge the chemo kid : “The story of Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old boy from Minnesota with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, became tabloid fodder overnight. The boy and his mother are on the lam because the mother refuses, because of her beliefs, to authorize chemotherapy treatments for her son. Hodgkin’s lymphoma has a 90 percent cure rate with chemotherapy, and a 95 percent chance of killing a person without it. Chemotherapy will likely save Daniel’s life, and as a pediatrician I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to recommend it. But I would also like to turn down the volume on the talk-radio chatter and outraged editorials. That’s because nobody seems to be talking about what it takes to beat Hodgkin’s (or any other cancer). What it takes is a grueling regimen that can indeed give even a dying person pause.”

Will the government be the new king of all media? : “Howard Stern swore off free broadcast radio in 2004 in part because of federally mandated decency rules. The self-annointed ‘king of all media’ may have stepped off the throne in doing so. Them’s the breaks in the competitive media marketplace, contorted as it is by government speech controls. Some would argue that a new king of all media is seeking the mantle of power now that the Obama administration is ensconced and friendly majorities hold the House and Senate. The new pretender is the federal government.”

All cost, no benefit : “The Obama administration’s plan to require new passenger vehicles sold in 2016 to get an average of 39 miles per gallon or better (30 mpg or more for SUVs, pickups and minivans) is likely to be all cost and no benefit. If the proposed fuel efficiency standards were in place today, reports that only two cars — the 2010 Toyota Prius (50 mpg) and the 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid (42 mpg) — would meet the standard. Angry environmentalists might thus find themselves key-scratching ‘gas guzzlers’ such as the 2009 Honda Fit (31 mpg), the 2009 Mini Cooper (32 mpg) and the 2009 Smart ForTwo (36 mpg). There is little dispute that, as a consequence, cars would become more expensive and industry profits more scarce.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Friday, May 22, 2009

The Goebbels of IQ research?

I have just been re-reading the Rushton & Jensen reply to Nisbett and am struck by something remarkable: Not only does Nisbett misrepresent a whole range of research but he even misrepresents research by Rushton. Rushton is a major figure in IQ research, not because of the popularity of his conclusions but because of the rigor and quality of his research and thinking. And the fact that Nisbett refers quite a bit to Rushton is a testament to that.

But surely Nisbett must have known that Rushton would see the misrepresentation of his research and correct Nisbett's claims about it? But Nisbett apparently didn't care about that. He seems to have figured that Rushton's voice in protest would be a small and almost inaudible squeak compared to the megaphone that the media would hand him. In other words, he was confident that the media would enable him to get across a big lie. He believed that if you tell a big enough lie often enough people will believe it -- which was also the view of Dr Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister.

It's reminiscent of that old neo-Marxist fraud, Stephen J. Gould, whose book The mismeasure of man still gets quoted quite a lot by Leftists despite having been comprehensively demolished many year ago. See here and here and here and here.


An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets:

Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit. She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later.

She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans). Word gets around about Heidi's "drink now, pay later" marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit.

By providing her customers' freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi's gross sales volume increases massively.

A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert traders transform these customer loans into DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then bundled and traded on international security markets. Naive investors don't really understand that the securities being sold to them as AAA secured bonds are really the debts of unemployed alcoholics.

Nevertheless, the bond prices continuously climb, and the securities soon become the hottest-selling items for some of the nation's leading brokerage houses.

One day, even though the bond prices are still climbing, a risk manager at the original local bank decides that the time has come to demand payment on the debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. He so informs Heidi.

Heidi then demands payment from her alcoholic patrons, but being unemployed alcoholics they cannot pay back their drinking debts. Since, Heidi cannot fulfill her loan obligations she is forced into bankruptcy. The bar closes and the eleven employees lose their jobs.

Overnight, DRINKBONDS, ALKIBONDS and PUKEBONDS drop in price by 90%. The collapsed bond asset value destroys the banks liquidity and prevents it from issuing new loans, thus freezing credit and economic activity in the community.

The suppliers of Heidi's bar had granted her generous payment extensions and had invested their firms' pension funds in the various BOND securities. They find they are now faced with having to write off her bad debt and with losing over 90% of the presumed value of the bonds. Her wine supplier also claims bankruptcy, closing the doors on a family business that had endured for three generations, her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor, who immediately closes the local plant and lays off 150 workers.

Fortunately though, the bank, the brokerage houses and their respective executives are saved and bailed out by a multi-billion dollar no-strings attached cash infusion from the Government. The funds required for this bailout are obtained by new taxes levied on employed, middle-class, non-drinkers.

Now, do you understand?


Stimulating Ourselves to Death: They might sound great, but do stimulus packages work?

This is an article from last month but still has some good points

Barack Obama says his “unprecedented” economic stimulus package will not merely be “a short-term program to boost employment.” No, it “will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care; and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.”

The massive cost of the stimulus doubled even before any legislation was written, much less approved. Originally tagged at $400 billion, the proposal quickly jumped to $825 billion, and latest estimates at press time have it costing north of $1 trillion (comprised of 60 percent spending and 40 percent tax cuts).

Given the size, will the stimulus work as advertised? Will the goods and services—be they concrete for new highway projects or groceries for hungry families—pump up flagging demand and boost stalled economic activity? If so, it will be the first time in modern recorded history.

Take the New Deal. According to the economists Christina Romer—chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers—and David Romer, New Deal spending did not pull the economy out of recession. In a 1992 Journal of Economic History paper, the Romers examined the role that aggregate demand stimulus played in ending the Great Depression. They concluded: “A simple calculation indicates that nearly all of the observed recovery of the U.S. economy prior to 1942 was due to monetary expansion. Huge gold inflows in the mid- and late-1930s swelled the U.S. money stock and appear to have stimulated the economy by lowering real interest rates and encouraging investment spending and purchases of durable goods.”

Even the massive spending during World War II, long touted as pulling America out of the Depression, didn’t necessarily help. In a 2006 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, the economists Joseph Cullen and Price V. Fisher asked whether the local economies that were the biggest beneficiaries of federal spending on military mobilization during World War II experienced more rapid growth in consumer economic activity than others. Their finding: Military spending had virtually no effect on consumption.

Another economist, Robert Higgs, offered an even more thoroughgoing critique in an excellent 1992 Journal of Economic History paper. After challenging the conventional portrayal of economic performance during the 1940s, Higgs concluded that “the war itself did not get the economy out of the Depression. The economy produced neither a ‘carnival of consumption’ nor an investment boom, however successfully it overwhelmed the nation’s enemies with bombs, shells, and bullets.” Breaking windows in France and Germany didn’t bring prosperity in America.

In his 2008 book Macroeconomics: A Modern Approach, Harvard economist Robert Barro shows that $1 of government spending in wartime produces less than $1 in GDP—80 cents, to be exact. Stanford economist Bob Hall and Sand Hill Econometrics chief Susan Woodward, neither particularly pro-market, argued recently that each dollar of government spending during World War II and the Korean War produced about $1 of GDP. In other words, the economy is not stimulated by war spending.

The example of 1990s Japan, with its collapsed housing and stock markets, is also relevant. Between 1992 and 1999, Japan passed eight stimulus packages totaling roughly $840 billion in today’s dollars. During that time, the debt-to-GDP ratio skyrocketed, the country was rocked by massive corruption scandals, and the economy never did recover. All Japan had to show for it was some public works projects and a mountain of debt.

Finally, the Bush administration passed the Tax Relief Act of 2001 and the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, two similar packages with similar effects on the economy. Which is to say, not much. In 2008 the major component was sending $100 billion in cash to Americans so they would have more to spend and thus jumpstart the economy. It failed. People spent little if anything of the temporary rebate, and consumption did not recover....

The theory of economic stimuli suffers from several serious problems. First, it assumes people are stupid. Tax rebates, for example, presume that if people get some money to increase their consumption, businesses will expand their production and hire more workers. Not true. Even if producers notice an upward blip in sales after the rebate checks go out, they will know it’s temporary. Companies won’t hire more employees or build new factories in response to a temporary increase in sales. Those who do will go out of business....

The biggest problem is that the government can’t inject money into the economy without first taking money out of the economy. Where does the government get that money? It can a) borrow it or b) collect it from taxes. There is no aggregate increase in demand. Government borrowing and spending doesn’t boost national income or standard of living; it merely redistributes it. The pie is sliced differently, but it’s not any bigger. In fact, the data suggest that stimuli often end up shrinking the pie....

If politicians actually want to do something cost-effective to solve our economic woes, here’s some advice: Stay away from spending and tax rebates. Instead, focus on real incentives to work and invest, such as cutting marginal tax rates for everyone.




A great video for bird lovers here

Airline mechanics who can't read English: "News 8 has recently revealed serious flaws in the way the FAA licenses mechanics who fix planes. There is evidence of years of problems in testing these mechanics. There is also evidence that hundreds of mechanics with questionable licenses are working on aircraft in Texas. Now there is evidence of repair facilities hiring low-wage mechanics who can't read English. Twenty-one people were killed when U.S. Airways Express Flight 5481 crashed in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2003. The plane went wildly out of control on takeoff. One reason for the crash, investigators found, was that mechanics incorrectly connected the cables to some of the plane's control surfaces in the repair shop. The FAA was cited for improper oversight of the repair process. Repairing airplanes is a complicated business. Airplanes have many manuals. Typically, when mechanics repair a part, they open the manual, consult the book, and make the repair step-by-step, as if it were a recipe book. They make a list of every action they take, so the next person to fix the plane (as well as the people who fly it) will know exactly what has been done. If mechanics don't speak English, the international language of aviation, they can't read the manual and they can't record their activities. There are more than 236 FAA-certified aircraft repair stations in Texas, according to the FAA's Web site. News 8 has learned that hundreds of the mechanics working in those shops do not speak English and are unable to read repair manuals for today's sophisticated aircraft."

Obama's Green car industry: "So far, the Obama administration has yet to lay out its magical thinking on how the homegrown auto makers are to become 'viable' when required to subordinate every auto attribute that consumers find desirable in favor of achieving a passenger-car average of 39 miles per gallon by 2016. Nonetheless the answer has quietly seeped out: Taxpayers will write $5,000 or $7,000 rebate checks to other taxpayers to bribe them to buy hybrids and plug-ins at a price that lets Detroit claim it's earning a 'profit' on its Obamamobiles."

Beer tax on tap for health care? : “Consumers in the United States may have to hand over nearly $2 more for a case of beer to help provide health insurance for all. Details of the proposed beer tax are described in a Senate Finance Committee document that will be used to brief lawmakers Wednesday at a closed-door meeting. Taxes on wine and hard liquor would also go up. And there might be a new tax on soda and other sugary drinks blamed for contributing to obesity. No taxes on diet drinks, however.”

FEC dismisses case against Wal-Mart: “The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint by labor groups accusing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of unlawfully pressuring employees to vote against Democrats in the November election. FEC commissioners found no evidence to support claims that Wal-Mart broke election law by telling employees that Democrats such as Barack Obama would support a bill to make it easier for workers to unionize.”

The return of the God King: “Most of human history is riddled with misery, poverty and slavery, save a few bright episodes that brought us great benefits, but were ultimately swallowed up by the darkness again. What was it that changed that created those bright spots? There is a simple answer, freedom. Free societies always produce more than centrally controlled ones do. The creative output increases because human energy is allowed to flow and technology is generated from the experimentation that comes with being unfettered. Without exception this is the cycle of mankind, a free people produce great wealth, not just in commodity, but intellectual wealth as well and then the pendulum swings, there is a backlash against the rising tide of equality that freedom encourages.”

The virtuous path to African development: "A source of great frustration to those concerned with world poverty is the relative stagnation of much of the African continent. It is frustrating because we know that widespread poverty is a function of human limitations, not the availability of natural resources. This fact renders less helpful than it might be the guidelines recently released under the title, Natural Resource Charter. Designed by an independent group of economists, lawyers and political scientists to help developing countries manage their natural resources in ways that create real economic growth, the Charter provides helpful insights. Unfortunately, it does not emphasize enough the crucial role of social mores beyond economics and political governance.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nisbett answered by Rushton & Jensen

When the first publicity for Nisbett's recent book on IQ came out, I said: "I have not read the book and nothing in the review encourages me to do so but I assume that some of my colleagues who specialize in IQ studies will read it and dissect it in due course. Meanwhile, I just offer a few comments that occur to me".

My expectation has now been fulfilled. I have just received from J.P. Rushton the draft of a paper which dissects Nisbett's arguments in detail. It is in the form of a book review so should see academic publication fairly soon.

As I also expected, the liberties taken with the facts by Nisbett are enormous. If there is only one finding out of 5 that suits Nisbett, he will quote that one finding and ignore the other 4. That is a caricature of how real science is done.

Many of the points that Rushton & Jensen make are similar to points I have made in my various comments on Nisbett (See here, here and here) but Rushton & Jensen give the actual figures complete with full references.

As the paper is in draft, I cannot quote any of it directly but I can quote an excerpt that they provide from Flynn. Flynn has been one of the chief proponents of environmental rather than genetic influences on IQ and Nisbett relies on him heavily for some of his arguments. Flynn does however listen to those on the genetic side of the debate and he has recently changed his tune considerably. The following is from page 85 of Flynn's 2008 book.
There are two messages. The first is familiar: You cannot dismiss black gains on whites just because they do not tally with the g loadings of subtests. But the second is new and unexpected. The brute fact that black gains on whites do not tally with g loadings tells us something about causes. The causes of the black gains are like hearing aids. They do cut the cognitive gap but they are not eliminating the root causes. And conversely, if the root causes are somehow eliminated, we can be confident that the IQ gap and the g gap will both disappear".

In other words, Flynn accepts that there is an underlying black/white difference in IQ that cannot be traced to environmental factors. Nisbett quotes a lot from Flynn but he does NOT quote that conclusion.

And Rushton & Jensen also report empirical tests of the arm-waving assertions that emanate from Leftists about black environmental disadvantage. None of the assertions are in fact borne out by the research findings.

In that connection I found out about a quite remarkable fact that I was not previously aware of. What if a little kid came from such a poor environment that he had to be hospitalized for malnutrition and was then adopted out into a white family? One would think that a kid from such a background would be permanently handicapped. They obviously would not come from an elite family to start with and nutrition during infancy is known to be very important to subsequent development. Yet precisely that experience has happened to considerable numbers of children from East Asian backgrounds (Korea etc.). I think you know what I am going to say: Far from being dumb, these kids were after only a few years scoring ABOVE the white average on IQ! Genetics triumph! East Asians are of course in general smarter than we Anglos. Their weakness is that they respect authority too much.

Leftists will of course argue that the finding simply show what a wonderful job white adoptive parents do but isn't it odd that blacks adopted by whites still stay close to THEIR average racial IQ -- i.e. around a whole standard deviation below whites -- particularly if we look at adult IQ rather than IQ measured during childhood. It is an old truth that efforts to raise black IQ sometimes seem to be doing some good during childhood but by adulthood the improvement vanishes. Needless to say, Nisbett quotes adoption studies where IQ was measured in childhood and ignores major studies where IQ was measured in adulthood.

In most fields of science, work as incompetent as Nisbett's would earn him nothing but scorn from his colleagues but Nisbett is already heavily laden with honours and will no doubt receive even more honours before long. The human race loves its myths far more than it loves facts.


Karl Marx on “The Russian Loan”

It was in his article, “The Russian Loan,” published in the New-York Daily Tribune on January 4, 1856, that the grotesque antisemitism of Karl Marx’s writing was on full display:
Thus we find every tyrant backed by a Jew, as is every pope by a Jesuit. In truth, the cravings of oppressors would be hopeless, and the practicability of war out of the question, if there were not an army of Jesuits to smother thought and a handful of Jews to ransack pockets.

… the real work is done by the Jews, and can only be done by them, as they monopolize the machinery of the loanmongering mysteries by concentrating their energies upon the barter trade in securities… Here and there and everywhere that a little capital courts investment, there is ever one of these little Jews ready to make a little suggestion or place a little bit of a loan. The smartest highwayman in the Abruzzi is not better posted up about the locale of the hard cash in a traveler’s valise or pocket than those Jews about any loose capital in the hands of a trader… The language spoken smells strongly of Babel, and the perfume which otherwise pervades the place is by no means of a choice kind.

… Thus do these loans, which are a curse to the people, a ruin to the holders, and a danger to the governments, become a blessing to the houses of the children of Judah. This Jew organization of loan-mongers is as dangerous to the people as the aristocratic organization of landowners… The fortunes amassed by these loan-mongers are immense, but the wrongs and sufferings thus entailed on the people and the encouragement thus afforded to their oppressors still remain to be told.

… The fact that 1855 years ago Christ drove the Jewish moneychangers out of the temple, and that the moneychangers of our age enlisted on the side of tyranny happen again chiefly to be Jews, is perhaps no more than a historical coincidence. The loan-mongering Jews of Europe do only on a larger and more obnoxious scale what many others do on one smaller and less significant. But it is only because the Jews are so strong that it is timely and expedient to expose and stigmatize their organization.

A Marxist website has provided a list of articles written by Karl Marx between 1852 and 1861 for the New York Daily Tribune. It does not surprise me that “The Russian Loan” does not appear on this list. When apologists for Marx’s antisemitism run out of explanations, they simply ignore his words.

Much more HERE

The Marx article concerned was however reprinted in "Karl Marx, The Eastern Question" (ed. by Eleanor Marx & Edward Aveling, 1897: new ed. 1969). pp. 600-606. I have also previously excerpted it here



Obama’s new fuel economy rules deadly for both people and carmakers: "Today President Obama will unveil a plan to sharply increase federal gas mileage rules for vehicles sold in the United States, eventually bringing the requirement up to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. Unfortunately, these rules — known as the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards — have the deadly effect of causing new cars to be lighter, smaller and less crashworthy. ‘CAFE is among the deadliest government regulations we have, and with today’s announcement it’s going to get even deadlier,’ said Competitive Enterprise Institute General Counsel Sam Kazman.”

Calif. Voters Reject Measures to Keep the State spending: "A smattering of California voters on Tuesday soundly rejected five ballot measures designed to keep the state solvent through the rest of the year. The results dealt a severe setback to the state’s fragile fiscal structure and to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislators who cobbled together the measures as part of a last-minute budget deal passed in February. The measures, which would have prolonged tax increases, capped state spending, earmarked money for education and involved the state in a complex borrowing scheme against its lottery, were rejected by roughly 60 percent of those who voted. The failure of the measures, combined with falling revenues since the state passed its budget, leaves California with a $21 billion new hole to fill, while foreclosure rates and unemployment remain vexing problems here. “Tonight we have heard from the voters, and I respect the will of the people who are frustrated with the dysfunction in our budget system,” Governor. Schwarzenegger said in a prepared statement. “Now we must move forward from this point to begin to address our fiscal crisis with constructive solutions,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said." [Like firing some bureaucrats?]

Netanyahu stands firm against demands from Obama: "Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in his first meeting with the US president, made it clear that while he welcomed Mr Obama's commitment to the region, he was more concerned about dealing with the threat of Iran than peace talks. Mr Obama was unable to secure any commitments on ceasing the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or embracing the "two-state solution" to achieving peace in the Middle East.... Though Mr Netanyahu made clear he wanted to hold peace talks with the Palestinians, he refused to utter the words "two-state solution", the consensus approach towards peace agreed by previous Israeli governments and US administrations...."The terminology will take care of itself," said Mr Netanyahu. "The important thing is to resume negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible. The issue is less one of terminology than of substance." He said that if a peace deal delivered a "terror base next door" to Israel than it would be worthless, and insisted that Hamas, the militant group that controlled Gaza, had to recognise Israel before he was ready to make concessions. The prime minister dwelt at length on the threat posed to Israel by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. His goal is to persuade the Americans that Tehran must be reined in before peacemaking with the Palestinians can progress."

Senate OKs bill to regulate credit card industry: “The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to rein in credit card rate increases and excessive fees, hoping to give voters some breathing room amid a recession that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans jobless or facing foreclosure. The House was on track to pass the measure as early as Wednesday, paving the way for President Barack Obama to see the bill on his desk by week’s end.” [Lots of low income people will now have their cards cancelled or have very low limits imposed]

Senate Dems won’t fund Gitmo closing: “President Barack Obama’s allies in the Senate will not provide funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison until the administration comes up with a satisfactory plan for transferring the detainees held there, top Democrats said Tuesday. And in a further break with Obama, the Senate’s top Democrat said he opposes transferring any Guantanamo prisoners to the United States for their trials or to serve their sentences. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said 50 to 100 Guantanamo detainees may be transferred to U.S. facilities. ‘I can’t make it any more clear,’ Reid said. ‘We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.’”

GPS system needs stimulating: “Mismanagement and underinvestment by the U.S. Air Force could possibly lead to the failure and blackout of the Global Positioning System (GPS), a federal watchdog agency says. The risk of failure starts in 2010, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report quoted by PC World. The failure would impact not only military operations, but also the millions of people and businesses who rely on the satellite-based navigation systems built into cars, boats and cell phones. ‘If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to,’ the GAO report states. The report says the Air Force has struggled to build successful GPS satellites within cost and on schedule.”

Ireland: Child abuse report to be released: “The findings of a nine-year inquiry into abuse suffered by children in Catholic institutions in Ireland over a 60-year period are due to be published. About 35,000 children were placed in a network of reformatories, industrial schools and workhouses up to the 1980s. More than 2,000 told the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse they suffered physical and sexual abuse while there.”

Why journalists deserve low pay: “Journalists like to think of their work in moral or even sacred terms. With each new layoff or paper closing, they tell themselves that no business model could adequately compensate the holy work of enriching democratic society, speaking truth to power, and comforting the afflicted. Actually, journalists deserve low pay. Wages are compensation for value creation. And journalists simply aren’t creating much value these days. Until they come to grips with that issue, no amount of blogging, twittering or micropayments is going to solve their failing business models.”

“Parasitic” new media beats old media to the punch: “Last week, I covered the arrest of three independent journalists in Jones County, Mississippi, who appear to have been scooped up for the non-crime of photographing police during a traffic stop. The first ‘old media’ story on the arrests appeared today, in the Laurel Leader-Call. In related news, over the weekend, the Christian Science Monitor reported that bloggers ‘outnumbered national reporters by a good margin’ in the press box at the National Rifle Association convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Even as fans of ink-stained fingers and bloated, institutional journalism bemoan the rise of individualistic and often partisan new media journalists, the old pros they defend barely seem to be making the effort — and when they do get off their duffs, they often do a poor job.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Appropriate advice for the nest of low thieves who currently govern Britain

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice. Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do. I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out!

Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!

Those are of course the wonderful words of Oliver Cromwell, addressed to the Rump Parliament, on 20 April 1653. See here for background on the present corruption


How Specter's Defection Actually Helps the GOP Fight Liberal Judges

That nifty quorum rule

In light of liberal Supreme Court Justice David Souter's pending retirement, careful insider analysis of Senator Arlen Specter's defection from Republican to Democrat reveals a strange irony: Although he could give the Democrats a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority, his defection actually strengthens the "rule of quorum" power and purity of Republican opposition within the Senate Judiciary Committee, who are now more united than ever in their opposition to liberal judges. The prime example is President Obama's nomination of the ANTI-JESUS, ANTI-LIFE Judge David Hamilton, the same bad judge who issued controversial rulings banning public prayers offered "in Jesus name," and hastening the abortion of unborn children. Republicans are following traditional "quorum rules" which can prevent Judge David Hamilton from getting any committee vote. If this continues, we'll win, and this anti-Jesus, anti-Life Judge will never be promoted to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Quorum rules? Yes! The Senate Judiciary Committee procedural rules state: "Eight Members of the Committee, including at least two Members of the minority, shall constitute a quorum for the purpose of transacting business... If there is objection to bring the matter to a vote without further debate, a roll call vote of the Committee shall be taken, and debate shall be terminated if the motion to bring the matter to a vote without further debate passes with ten votes in the affirmative, one of which must be cast by the minority." On April 29th, only one minority Member attended the Hamilton hearings, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), whose tough questioning opposed Hamilton, so no vote was permissible.

When Specter had ruled Judiciary as GOP minority ranking member, he could likely be counted on by the Obama administration as "one soft vote" to promote liberal judges. But now since Specter is no longer Republican, he cannot help Obama. And in breaking news this week, solid conservative Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has assumed Specter's place of leadership as minority ranking Member, and all other Judiciary Republicans Hatch, Grassley, Kyl, Graham, Cornyn, Coburn, can generally be counted upon (with the possible exception of gang-of-14 member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, 202-224-5972), to stand firm against abortion and religious censorship. Now Sen. Sessions says he agrees with Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), that we should oppose and filibuster Hamilton's nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that reversed his liberal, activist, aggressive decisions for years. Only by re-writing the quorum rules, and overriding Senate tradition, can Democrats claim absolute power.

To support Senators Inhofe and Sessions, and stop Hamilton, we first need solidarity among any good conservatives or moderates seated on the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee, especially Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who remains on Judiciary as a Democrat. Senator Specter's phone number is 202-224-4254, and you might call to ask him to OPPOSE AND FILIBUSTER Judge David Hamilton, and keep his promise not to "rubber-stamp" the Obama administration.

But even then we'll need 40 strong Senate votes, including Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), both Arkansas Senators Pryor and Lincoln (D-AR), both Maine Senators Collins and Snowe (R-ME), and all Senators in either party from southern states, to inhibit the majority cloture vote, and prevent Hamilton from getting a final floor vote.

We're now the leading national voice against Hamilton, and we're getting traction, much to the horror of many liberal groups (including the National Abortion Rights Action League who is actively campaigning FOR Hamilton). So please also call both your own Senators at 202-225-3121.



The myth of the parasitical bloggers

The comment by a Leftist blogger below is probably true as a picture of journalists using Leftist blogs but I doubt that many journalists read conservative blogs

Maureen Dowd's wholesale, uncredited copying of a paragraph written by Josh Marshall (an act Dowd has now admitted) -- for what I yesterday called her "uncharacteristically cogent and substantive column"-- highlights a point I've been meaning to make for awhile. One of the favorite accusations that many journalists spout, especially now that they're searching for reasons why newspapers and print magazines are dying, is that bloggers and other online writers are "parasites" on their work -- that their organizations bear the cost of producing content and others (bloggers and companies such as Google) then unfairly exploit it for free.

The reality has always been far more mixed than that, and the relationship far more symbiotic than parasitical. Especially now that online traffic is such an important part of the business model of newspapers and print magazines, traffic generated by links from online venues and bloggers is of great value to them. That's why they engage in substantial promotional activities to encourage bloggers to link to and write about what they produce. Beyond that, it is also very common -- as the Dowd/Marshall episode illustrates -- for traditional media outlets and establishment journalists to use and even copy content produced online and then present it as their own, typically without credit. Many, many reporters, television news producers and the like read online political commentary and blogs and routinely take things they find there.

Typically, the uncredited use of online commentary doesn't rise to the level of blatant copying -- plagiarism -- that Maureen Dowd engaged in. It's often not even an ethical breach at all. Instead, traditional media outlets simply take stories, ideas and research they find online and pass it off as their own. In other words -- to use their phraseology -- they act parasitically on blogs by taking content and exploiting it for their benefit. Since I read many blogs, I notice this happening quite frequently -- ideas and stories that begin on blogs end up being featured by establishment media outlets with no credit.




Well-fed terrorist leader finally killed: "The leader of Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers was shot dead yesterday while trying to flee government troops, a senior defence official said. Velupillai Prabhakaran, 54, and several close aides were in a convoy of a van and ambulance which tried to drive out of the battle zone, but were attacked and killed. The defence ministry said the rebels' leadership was decimated, heralding an end to their 26-year-fight for an independent ethnic homeland in the north of the island. Mr Prabhakaran's son and several key aides were killed by commandos earlier yesterday."

Rise of Europe’s extreme politics: “From Stockholm to Sardinia, Waterford to Warsaw, a noisy and eclectic band of nationalists and eurosceptics are on the campaign trail hoping to unseat their mainstream rivals in the European Parliament. Dutch anti-Islamists, Hungarian nationalists, Italian separatists and an Irish-backed anti-Lisbon Treaty party are all clamouring for seats when Europe goes to the polls between 4 and 7 June. And a combination of dismally low voter turnout and the economic downturn looks set to play into their hands in the vote. Job losses and the grimmest economic forecasts in decades have created the ideal conditions for single-issue candidates and marginal groups hostile to the EU to win seats in the Strasbourg assembly.” [Pic of an Italian candidate appropriately on the right above]

Health care — speaking of taxes: “According to AP, there’s not much of an appetite among Democrats to raise taxes to support ‘health care reform.’ And, of course, given the estimates of the cost of ‘health care reform,’ aimed at making health care ‘more affordable’ (how do they get away with that, especially in light of our experience with Medicare and Medicaid), there’s no question that taxes must increase. Right now the administration and Democrats are attempting to convince a skeptical public that most of that cost can be recovered in ‘efficiencies’ government will introduce into the system. It is the oldest con game going.”

Sexting: A grown up approach: “Teenagers will be teenagers, and during that period of their lives their hormones are rampant and the opportunity to explore takes on attractive new levels. Throughout this time there are many dangers and one of which seems to have taken hold of the media’s imagination is the apparent craze of ’sexting.’ This is the new mode of communicating juvenile lust, whereby the sender of a text attaches anything from, titillating to pornographic pictures of themselves and then presses send. The recipient usually being the latest crush. In the United States there have recently been some high profile cases of teens being arrested and charged with child pornography and shackled with the tag of being sex offenders. But as highlighted by this article there are two very different approaches to dealing with teens just being teens.”

How to get ahead via the Leftist media: “Should my advice be solicited by any ambition young writer seeking the quickest path to wealth and fame, I would outline a strategy like this: * Establish yourself early as a ‘promising conservative intellectual’ — Become the token conservative columnist for your college newspaper, get into a Republican youth leadership summer program, do an internship at National Review or a GOP-leaning non-profit. * Aggressively suck up to Republican politicians — Try to land a speechwriting or ‘policy advisor’ gig for a senator or governor who is seen as a prospect in the next presidential campaign. * Once you’ve made a name for yourself, go ‘rogue’ — That is to say, after leaving your job as a Republican staffer, think-tank analyst or conservative journalist, do everything possible to sabotage GOP prospects. Followed carefully, this plan will land you a book deal before you’re 30, a regular spot as a panelist on a Sunday network news show, and a twice-weekly op-ed column in an influential newspaper.”

Obama’s magic bubble deflator : “In case you’ve ever wondered what it must have been like to read Pravda, reading the American media’s treatment of the financial crisis and our wise leaders’ expert management of it all has given everyone a wonderful opportunity. For instance, check out this piece from several days ago on Politico. If you can’t bring yourself to click on the link, I’ll give you the headline: ‘Obama Would Regulate New ‘Bubbles.’”

Great Right North: “Reports last week that the recession is draining Social Security and Medicare funds were just one more reminder that the United States needs to fix its finances. For inspiration, why not look to Canada? Long derided by American conservatives as ’socialist’ and praised by the left for its generous government spending, Canada is casting off those stereotypes. Over the past few years, while U.S. politicians presided over huge increases in spending and debt, the Canadian government tightened its belt, slashed tax rates and balanced budgets.”

Banker of the Year: “Beal has been buying toxic assets and broken-down banks in big huge gulps. And he’s been doing it without the help of government. Forbes says that he ‘has purchased $800 million of loans from failed banks, probably more than anyone else.’ How? Well, back in 2004 he stopped making loans. He almost stopped banking. He cut back his hours. He had to lay off a lot of employees. Why? He didn’t trust the market. He thought the binge of borrowing and lending utterly foolish. Forbes relates that his behavior puzzled regulators, who were worried that he was over-capitalized! How could he resist the huge profits? Well, Beal sure showed the regulators. And his competition. Today he’s buying assets for pennies on the dollar.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Leaky Jonathan has discovered Nisbett

Jonathan Leake is the science writer for the London "Times" who can always be relied upon to draw the most politically correct conclusions -- no matter how much he has to distort the facts. Some of his global warming reports are classics of deliberate distortion. He has now discovered Nisbett's work on the flexibility of IQ and has taken Nisbett's determined optimism fully on board. Since I have already fisked a lot of Nisbett's assertions (See here and here), I won't say a lot here but a few comments are in order.

The more you know about a subject, the more laughable some of the assertions are. One of the recommendations for making your kid smarter, for instance, is to teach them delay of gratification. Yet my careful psychometric research on that subject (psychometrics is notoriously absent from delay of gratification research) showed that such a thing hardly exists. The popular tasks for assessing a kid's tendency to delay gratification correlate with one-another hardly at all. Delay of gratification is highly situational. It is not a stable trait like IQ is. Yet it is precisely the hope of those who recommend delay of gratification training that delay of gratification IS a stable and generalizable disposition.

I think you should already be getting the impression that the conclusions Leftists such as Leake and Nisbett come to are more driven by hope than facts. Much of the argument put by readers of Nisbett is a straw man argument. They seem blissfully unaware that nobody has ever claimed that IQ is solely determined by genetics. Everybody has always conceded that a good or bad environment can also make a difference. A good environment can help you make the most of what genetics has given you. The usual estimate is about two thirds of the determination of IQ is genetic while about one third is environmental. Nisbett himself concedes that. His only innovation is to make the split more equally. On rather specious grounds he reduces the causation to about 50/50 genetic/environment. So the upshot is that the small improvements in IQ that have been demonstrated by various environmental interventions are no surprise to anybody and upset no assumptions or generalizations.

Leake overstates the significance of the Flynn effect. Flynn found that average IQ rose through the 20th century. Yet from the beginning it was always held that an environment which is both visually and verbally stimulating was ideal for getting the best out of a child's genetic potential for intelligence. So what happened beginning in the second half of the 20th century? TV! And huge exposure of kids to TV -- which is a VERY rich source of verbal and visual stimulation. Much as the Leftist elite hate the thought, TV alone could potentially explain the rise in overall IQ. There is more to it than that but I think one can see from that alone that the Flynn effect disturbs no prior theory or generalization.

And we also see in the Leake article a rather unfortunate mention of the fact that the black/white IQ gap is small during childhood but is large during adulthood. That finding is held to support the view that blacks are made dumber because of their poorer educational experiences. There is however a simple biological explanation that requires no reference to education. It is HIGHLY politically incorrect, however, so I will just give the link here. It starts from the fact that baby chimps are just as smart as human infants.

Perhaps under the influence of Flynn, who seems quite obsessed with it, Leake also brings up the absurd Eyferth study, as proof of equal black/white genetic potential for intelligence. The study looked at mixed race children fathered by black U.S. servicemen in Germany after WWII. As the obvious implications of the study are a bit brutal, I will again simply refer readers to some prior comments of mine here and here

Perhaps I should take this opportunity for a comment on another publication by Nisbett -- one that seems at first crushing but which in fact suggests that Nisbett has not the faintest idea of what a correlation coefficient means. Rushton & Jensen commented on Nisbett's work by drawing attention to the overall correlation between IQ and head size -- which strongly suggests a significant genetic contribution to IQ, as nobody argues that head size can be influenced by better education etc.

Head size is however only one of the factors affecting IQ. There is absolutely no doubt that the causation of IQ is polygenetic and what some of the genes are is now emerging in medical research. A high degree of myelinization in the brain has, for instance, recently been found to be helpful. So it should be no surprise that head size and IQ correlate only moderately -- at around .40, implying only 16% of shared variance between the two variables. Head size is, in other words, only one of many physical influences on IQ. So a correlation as low as .40 allows for a large number of exceptions to the rule. Somebody with a small head but (say) good myelinization can still be quite smart.

So what does Nisbett do in response to the careful survey evidence summarized by Rushton & Jensen? He quotes a whole lot of exceptions to the rule as if that proved something! He answers overall generalizations with particular instances. He puts up an argument by example and such arguments can support anything. They are certainly no basis for generalizations. I suspect that Nisbett needs to do a course in the philosophy of science some time.


"Some of my best friends are Chinese"

As every regular reader of this blog knows, I regularly put up on a blog the latest thoughts from Chris Brand, whom every right-thinking person would identify as a "racist". I think he is just a realist but, even so, I don't agree with all that he says. Mostly I think that he should be heard. Stigmatizing some views as beyond the pale grates on me. I even think that epidemiological journals should continue to be published -- and considering the large amount of rubbish that appears in them, that is a large concession, I can tell you. Anyway, I thought I would put up the recent picture below.

It is of Chris and friends at a dinner at Edinburgh's Cafe Royal. Chris says that you may recognize the table he is at from the Oscar-winning film, 'Chariots of Fire.' In the middle of the picture is the equally wicked emeritus Prof. Richard Lynn with his wife. Chris is on the right and his beautiful Taiwanese wife, Shiou-yun, is on the left.

There is a famous measure of racism in the academic psychology literature -- the Bogardus scale -- that says that you are least racist if you would marry a person of another race.

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


Dems Lack Waterboarding Exit Strategy

Many Democrats in Congress have pushed for release of documents and the holding of hearings on waterboarding and other interrogation methods. Putting aside for now whether the release of such information should take place, it appears that Obama started the ball rolling down hill by releasing the interrogation memos. Barring active intervention by Obama, there will be some further level of document release, Congressional investigations, and public hearings.

This presents a problem mostly for Democrats. Republicans who were briefed on the interrogation methods at least will be consistent, for the most part, in maintaining that the methods were lawful and useful. No Republican is going to be harmed politically by the revelations because most Americans support these methods against people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If leaks of a Justice Department report are to be believed, there will be no prosecutions. Republicans are safe politically and legally.

For Democrats, however, the damage could be significant. Nancy Pelosi already has lost a great deal of credibility from her changing stories. Dozens of other Democrats, including such senior Senators as Jay Rockefeller, apparently also were briefed on the interrogation methods and either were silent, approved, or encouraged the policy.

The irony is that a full-blown investigation and hearings will turn mostly on what the Democrats knew, and when they knew it. The Republicans mostly couldn’t care less if they were “blamed” for keeping the country safe even if necessitated waterboarding the mastermind of 9/11 to prevent further attacks. When faced with sacrificing a city versus using harsh interrogation methods, most voters would opt for harsh interrogation.

That the Democrats have more to lose is demonstrated by the looming fight between Democrats in Congress and the CIA. The Democrats are complaining that the CIA is out to get them through selective leaks of documents. These are the same Democrats who cheered when the CIA leaked information damaging to Bush administration policies. So that complaining is going to go no where.

Where this seems to be heading is: (1) Republicans claim Democrats are damaging national security, thereby setting Democrats up for blame when there is a terrorist attack; (2) Republicans claim the mantle of putting the safety of the country ahead of politics; (3) Democrats claim the mantle of putting politics ahead of the safety of the country; (4) Democrats end up exposing Democratic Party leaders to be untruthful, misleading, deceptive and/or too smart by half; (5) the CIA fights as it always has for its institutional interests, in a battle politicians mostly lose; and (6) Democrats turn on each other.




There is another of these allegedly superior search engines out: It is supposed to allow natural language queries. I tried it with a query on the subject that I know most about: myself. I asked it "who is John Ray". I was told that I was born in 1627. Not impressed.

Did anybody wonder why I said yesterday that my comments about Tamils were risky? See here.

The age of debt: “Beware when politicians promise ‘fiscal responsibility.’ It’s pretty much a guarantee that every word that follows the phrase will be a lie. President Barack Obama’s first budget, entitled An Era of New Responsibility: Renewing America’s Promises, is no exception to this rule. Every page comes with a promise to end budget tricks and save money by reforming procurement and cutting various types of waste, but the actual plan boosts spending and deploys gimmicks galore. If this is a new era, it’s one made of debt.”

Obama picks a health dictator to head CDC: “In tapping New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President Obama on Friday chose an official who has been on the front lines of the fight against swine flu. Frieden, 48, helped lead New York’s efforts over the last month to contain the spread of the disease, after the first concentrated outbreak in the U.S. was tied to a school in Queens. But Frieden may be known best in public health circles as an advocate of government action in preventive medicine, which many experts say is crucial to the health system overhaul envisioned by Obama and his congressional allies. In his 7 1/2 years leading New York’s public health department, Frieden led campaigns to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, expand labeling of unhealthful ingredients in food, and develop a network of electronic health records in doctors’ offices citywide.”

Russia still despises homosexuals: “Riot police broke up several gay-rights demonstrations in Moscow on Saturday, hauling away scores of protesters hours before the capital hosted a major international pop music competition. Activists had targeted Moscow, which was holding the finals of the Eurovision song contest, hoping to use the event’s global popularity to draw attention to their claims that Russia officially sanctions homophobia. Led by a mayor who describes homosexuality as ’satanic,’ city officials had warned they would not tolerate marches or rallies supporting the rights of gays and lesbians. Among those detained were British activist Peter Tatchell and American activist Andy Thayer of Chicago, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network.”

The stupidity of the trade war with Canada: “I am sorry to see the following development. Before 9/11, the trend was toward a mutually beneficial co-operation between the U.S and Canada; now, there is a death of goodwill in trade, at borders, in employment, in consumer preferences …. How does converting a friend into an enemy make either nation safer or more prosperous?… The xenophobia gripping the U.S. will almost guarantee that, in the near future, anyone who buys foreign goods or hires a foreign worker will be seen as unAmerican, unpatriotic … a traitor to decent hard-working folk who deserve his/her money and will use the force of law to make sure they get that entitlement.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, May 18, 2009

Sri Lanka and the Tamils (and Israel)

I am going to take a risk here and say a few words about the endgame going on in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) at the moment. Sri Lanka is a large island just South of India with nearly 20 million people living there. Most Sri Lankans are an ethnic group known as the Sinhalese but in the far North is a minority of Indian affinity called Tamils, some relatively recent arrivals from India and some of more ancient origin. Most of the world's Tamils live just North of Sri Lanka in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Tamils have a civilization going back over 2,000 years and the ones in Sri Lanka felt that the Sinhalese did not treat them with due respect. They were more prosperous than the Tamils in India, however, so they accepted the status quo, with very few escaping the Sinhalese "oppression" by taking the 20 mile journey across the Palk strait to Tamil Nadu. Then along came some far Leftist creators of trouble who whipped up feelings of grievance among the Sri Lankan Tamils and thus the Tamil Tigers were born: Communist "nationalists" much like Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam or Stalin during WWII.

What the Tigers demanded was "eelam" -- a homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka independent of the rest of Sri Lanka. That they already had a homeland just across the strait in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu was ignored. But the Sinhalese did not like the idea of losing part of their island at all -- particularly to a hostile Communist regime. They wanted Sri Lanka to remain united. But for 30 years they negotiated with the Tigers off and on in the hope of finding a peaceful solution. At one time they even allowed an Indian "peacekeeping" force into their island to stand between them and the Tigers. All they got was terrorism in return. The suicide belt is a Tamil invention. And all India got was the assassination of their Prime Minister by a Tamil. There is a great deal of sympathy for the Sri Lankan Tamils in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu but the Tigers threw away any prospect of Indian support by their viciousness.

So in the end all patience was exhausted and the Sinhalese accepted aid from China which enabled them to move from containing the Tamils towards an all out military solution -- gradually grinding the Tigers down to nothingness. And that is now just about all done. It proved to be the only way to peace and to rescue the ordinary Tamil population from the tyranny of the Tigers. All very sad -- particularly because it shows how Israel's patience must run out one day too. Sometimes peace can NOT be gained by talk. Neville Chamberlain found that out. Sometimes the enemy can only be destroyed. 30 years! Just remember that! The Sinhalese negotiated for 30 years before they decided that they had to wipe the Tigers out if they wanted peace. One is reminded of Bismarck's much reviled but sadly true dictum: "Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided - but by iron and blood".

Israel has now been negotiating with the Arabs for around 60 years and it is not presently foreseeable that they will treat Gaza the way the Sinhalese eventually treated the Tamil enclave. But "transfer" (deportation) of recalcitrant Arab populations to other countries has long been discussed in Israel so could become a majority view who knows when? So it is no wonder that the two Arab countries which have peace treaties with Israel are Egypt and Jordan. Because they are the two neighboring countries which have historic and quite recent ties with the Gazans and the West Bank Arabs and into which the Gazans and the West Bank Arabs could be expelled. But they don't want the "Palestinians" either. But Syria remains foolishly hostile. In the 19th century the Arab population of what is now Israel was described as Syrian. So the Syrians could reasonably be expected to welcome their Arab brothers back, could they not? The Arab countries expelled or forced out their Jewish populations so why should the Jews not expel their Arab population?


Whither the GOP?

There has been the predictable breast-beating among the more wishy-washy Republicans over "where did we go wrong?" and "What should be our policies next time?" The NYT sums up some of that debate rather gleefully. It is not however a debate that should bother old hands. Sad to say, the policies of the party out of power matter little. There is an old saying in British/Australian politics that "Oppositions don't win elections. Governments lose them" and given the extremism and unrealism of the Obama administration, the auguries for big blunders from them are good. It will then be "kick the bums out" and the GOP will be back in power, hopefully in next year's mid-terms.

The other thing that determines political victories is personal appeal or charisma. Historically, Republicans have put up more attractive candidates -- peaking with the Gipper -- but it can be a close-run thing and Obama learnt the Reagan lesson well: Talk feelgood talk. He was undoubtedly the most personally smooth and appealing candidate and that is why he is now President. So the GOP need to focus on finding charismatic candidates at all levels. There is no need for major policy change.



It seems to be very popular so I am trying to get a handle on what this Twitter business is all about. From what I can make out, you start out with a group of people who know one-another to some degree and each person in that group puts up frequent daily reports of what they are doing and thinking. And the people concerned read one-another's reports of that kind.

I think my life is pretty well un-twitterable as all I do is sit in front of my computer all day, with occasional breaks to eat. And any thoughts I have eventually make their way onto one of my blogs.

But I am going to give it a go so have opened up a twitter account in the name of (surprise!) jonjayray. So if you want to read my tweets, such as they are, I guess you can sign up for that. And I guess I should read tweets from anyone who reads mine. All a bit confusing at this stage but I may get it eventually.


US faces a future of big tax rises and smaller cars

A pretty good summary by economist Irwin Stelzer below

Green shoots continue to sprout. The supply of homes for sale has dropped; banks have survived the stress tests in better shape than many feared and are going about the process of raising capital; the cautious European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet thinks the global economy is starting to recover; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says several of the world’s leading economies are turning up; Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel, said demand for computer chips has bottomed out; and spending on technology has stabilised.

However, as usual, there are counter-signals: continued falls in house prices, weakness in the labour market, an impending wave of defaults on commercial-property loans, and heaven only knows what Congress will concoct.

Longer term, there is little doubt that we will be paying more for energy, either directly or indirectly by paying higher taxes to cover the costs of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions and of the subsidies being lavished on solar, wind, ethanol and other parts of the green economy by environmentalists. Or, in the case of ethanol, by politicians who equate ethanol with corn, corn with Iowa, and Iowa with the first presidential primary in 2012. Throw in the costs of a “smart grid” and all of us will pay more, especially those who have been stockpiling incandescent electric bulbs so as not to be dependent on the dangerous, malfunctioning and costly energy-saving fluorescents when America follows your country and outlaws incandescents in 2014.

Last week Democrats in the House of Representatives reached an agreement on a cap-and-trade system for carbon-dioxide emission permits by bribing recalcitrant congressmen with free pollution permits for important constituents in the utility, oil and other industries. Which is too bad: cap-and-trade is a woefully inefficient way of imposing emissions costs on polluters. Experience in Europe shows that the price of permits fluctuates so wildly that potential producers of renewable energy don’t have a target against which to compete. Green power might make economic sense when users of coal have to pay $40 a tonne for a permit but is uncompetitive when the price drops to $10, as it has done.

We will also end up paying more to borrow than we would have paid before the government decided that contracts can be broken. The Obama administration demonstrated in the Chrysler bankruptcy that it has no regard for the contracts that have in the past protected lenders who made their money available on the assumption that they would have a preferential claim on the borrowers’ assets. Nor does it believe that contractual pay deals should withstand a raised voiced in Congress. This weakening of the sanctity of contracts increases lenders’ risk, which leads to a demand for an offsetting higher interest rate.

There will also be a big change in the structure of the financial-services sector. New regulations will have a greater effect on institutions that create systemic risk than on smaller, below-the-radar enterprises. So the best and brightest will leave the job of second-vice-presidential-assistant-to-the deputy-risk-manager to the more bureaucratically inclined, and set up shop on their own, or seek other outlets for their entrepreneurial urgings – one of the few pleasant unintended consequences of new regulations.

We are also certain to see take-home pay decline significantly. The debt that Obama is running up will have to be repaid. Already, there are grumblings in the market about the future of the dollar, with the Chinese not the only one of our creditors worrying that we will inflate our way out of our obligations. Run the presses, make dollars cheaper, and use the debased currency to repay debts. But that is not the only possibility. Instead, politicians, remembering the fate of Jimmy Carter when he allowed inflation to climb towards 20%, will try to restore fiscal sanity by raising taxes.

Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who supported the president’s stimulus package, puts the needed tax increase at $1.1 trillion over the next decade; the International Monetary Fund puts the figure at $1.9 trillion, the magnitude of which can be better understood when written as $1,900,000,000,000.

After all, Congress won’t be able to cut spending. Obama’s drive towards a $1 trillion healthcare tax-funded system seems irresistible. Drug companies will go along so they will be relieved of the cost of subsidising lower-income patients’ drug needs. Insurers will go along because the law will require everyone to take some sort of coverage. Employers will go along so they can shift the cost of employee-benefit plans to taxpayers.

So higher taxes are in our future, as is the inevitable queuing with which patients in Canada and Britain are familiar, examples being cited by Obama’s critics in television ads aimed at rousing voter opposition to his programme. Polls show that most Americans are satisfied with the quality of their healthcare. But like so much of what Obama is pushing through, this “reform” will prove irreversible.

Finally, there are the cars we will be driving. It is difficult to predict whether the government can prevent carmakers from producing the big, comfortable, safe cars we prefer, and shoe-horn people into smaller European-style vehicles. But the greens will give it a good try.

Where is the outrage? Perhaps among the mass of voters worried about the rising debt burden faced by their children. We won’t know until next year’s congressional elections.




Landslide victory in historic election: "The leader of India's Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, said yesterday that the Indian people have made "the right choice" after her party and its allies swept to a commanding election victory. "First of all I would like to thank the people for reposing faith in the Congress party once again,'' Ms Gandhi said in a joint news conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "The people of India know what is good for them and they always make the right choice,'' she said. Results still coming in from the Election Commission show the Congress-led alliance has crushed its Hindu nationalist rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)." [Great to hear that economist Manmohan Singh will still be in charge. His free-market reforms have done wonders for India]

Shocking Cluelessness from the Federal Reserve Inspector General: "Rep. Alan Grayson probes Federal Reserve Inspector General, Elizabeth Coleman, by asking simple, basic questions about the trillions of dollars lent by the Federal Reserve and where it went, and the trillions of off balance sheet obligations. Coleman responds that she does not know and is not tracking where this money is. According to the Fed's OIG web page: The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts independent and objective audits, inspections, evaluations, investigations, and other reviews related to programs and operations of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board). OIG efforts promote integrity, economy, efficiency, and effectiveness; help prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse; and strengthen accountability to the Congress and the public."

Is Mrs Obama a "babe"? "One more reason why I detest the left is that they are constantly trying to distort reality in the manner so accurately described by George Orwell. This may seem like a trivial example, but the in-your-face insistence that our first lady is some kind of smokin' hot babe is a case in point. All heterosexual men know that this is an outrageous lie. Who are they trying to kid, and why? Look, we're talking about an average looking woman here. Sarah Palin is not going to lose any sleep over the comparison. But why is this lie being promulgated with such urgency and to such absurd lengths by the liberal media? There must be something more significant going on when someone is in such an insistent state of denial. It reminds me of the liberal love-fest over the Edwards' marriage a couple of years ago. How'd that work out? Here is a typical tongue bath by closet lesbian columnist Sally Quinn. She says that the first lady's arms -- her arms, fer cryin' out loud -- "are representative of a new kind of woman: young, strong, vigorous, intelligent, accomplished, sexual, powerful, embracing and, most of all, loving." Now, I am quite confident that I speak for all heterosexual males when I say that we don't place a great premium on upper arms."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)