Monday, March 01, 2010

A small note to blogspot bloggers

It is a sad truth that all blogging platforms seem to have their limitations and problems. I have both Wordpress and blogspot blogs and on the whole I prefer blogspot, which is hosted by Google. Most Wordpress templates ("themes") disallow some html commands, which is quite mad. What they hope to gain by that is beyond me. One of my Wordpress templates won't even allow me to post videos!

But Google are always trying new ideas towards optimizing their processes and that occasionally hits blogspot -- not as often as it used to do, thankfully. Some of their past "improvements" were quite disastrous initially.

The latest brainstorm appears to be that blogspot puts a limit on the length of a page that it will display. The limit is large so it does not affect individual posts but it does affect archives (the record of your past posts). If you are using an older template half your archives may disappear. But with a more recent template you may get as little of a quarter of your archives for a given month followed by a link to "previous posts". They seem to have adopted that idea from Wordpress, a feature of Wordpress that I have always disliked. It does make your archives a lot harder to access.

I save all my archives to disk and post them in month-long slabs elsewhere so some other bloggers may want to adopt that practice.


Neuroscientists find brain system behind general intelligence

Which doesn't exist, according to Leftists

A collaborative team of neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology, the University of Iowa, the University of Southern California, and the Autonomous University of Madrid have mapped the brain structures that affect general intelligence.

The study, to be published the week of February 22 in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds new insight to a highly controversial question: What is intelligence, and how can we measure it?

The research team included Jan Gläscher, first author on the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, and Ralph Adolphs, the Bren Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and professor of biology. The Caltech scientists teamed up with researchers at the University of Iowa and USC to examine a uniquely large data set of 241 brain-lesion patients who all had taken IQ tests. The researchers mapped the location of each patient's lesion in their brains, and correlated that with each patient's IQ score to produce a map of the brain regions that influence intelligence.

"General intelligence, often referred to as Spearman's g-factor, has been a highly contentious concept," says Adolphs. "But the basic idea underlying it is undisputed: on average, people's scores across many different kinds of tests are correlated. Some people just get generally high scores, whereas others get generally low scores. So it is an obvious next question to ask whether such a general ability might depend on specific brain regions."

The researchers found that, rather than residing in a single structure, general intelligence is determined by a network of regions across both sides of the brain. "One of the main findings that really struck us was that there was a distributed system here. Several brain regions, and the connections between them, were what was most important to general intelligence," explains Gläscher.

"It might have turned out that general intelligence doesn't depend on specific brain areas at all, and just has to do with how the whole brain functions," adds Adolphs. "But that's not what we found. In fact, the particular regions and connections we found are quite in line with an existing theory about intelligence called the 'parieto-frontal integration theory.' It says that general intelligence depends on the brain's ability to integrate —to pull together— several different kinds of processing, such as working memory."

The researchers say the findings will open the door to further investigations about how the brain, intelligence, and environment all interact.



Debra Medina, new star of America's right, is firing up the race for Texas governor

Lytle is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of town, one of hundreds that dot the vast flat ranchlands of southern Texas. A smear of houses by the main highway between San Antonio and Laredo. Population: 2,383. The first streets only got paved here in the years after the second world war. A sewage system took a little longer, not being built until the 1960s. In short, Lytle, Texas, has never been big enough to have much impact on the politics of the Lone Star state. And few Texas politicians have ever paid much attention to it.

Until Debra Medina, that is. When Medina breezed into Lytle's community hall the locals found themselves confronted with a Texan version of Sarah Palin. She wore a sharp scarlet skirt suit, librarian-style glasses and a puffed-up hairdo. More than 60 Lytle residents had gathered to meet her, a hefty turnout on a weekday at 11am for a Republican primary election in the race to be Texas governor. Medina has become a political phenomenon in Texas. Emerging as a genuine star of the rightwing populist Tea Party movement, she delivers a fiery message of slashing taxes and the abolition of almost all forms of federal government, and issues dire warnings that President Obama is taking America down a slippery slope to Soviet-style communism.

It's working. Previously unheard of by the vast majority of Texans, Medina has set the race for governor on fire, upsetting the primary contest between the incumbent, Rick Perry, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Those gathered to see Medina in Lytle loved her. Young and old, men and women, Latino and white, listened with rapt attention as she outlined her agenda and asked them to back her in this week's first round of voting. If she can beat Hutchison into second place, she can secure a runoff against Perry. That would raise the possibility – distant but real – of a Tea Party activist capturing the government of the second biggest state in America. The Tea Party movement would have gone from being a bunch of ragtag protesters to heading one of the largest single economies in the world. "If we can change politics as usual in Texas, then we can change politics as usual across America. This is not just about Texas, but about changing the whole country," Medina told the Observer before addressing her supporters in Lytle.

She is not alone in that ambition. Across America other extreme candidates have emerged on the Republican right to challenge familiar party figures with a fiery mix of Tea Party-inspired populism. In Arizona, Senator John McCain is facing a tough re-election fight against a former congressman, JD Hayworth, who has expressed public doubts as to whether Obama was born a legitimate American citizen. In Florida the moderate Republican governor, Charlie Crist, is lagging badly in his own primary election to rightwing challenger Marco Rubio, who has the backing of local Tea Party groups.

On the right of US politics, this is big stuff. Instead of forcing mainstream Republicans to woo them for their votes, the rightwingers are now bidding for power. It is an attempt at revolution that could have huge meaning for America and the world, especially given the disastrous showing of Democrats in recent polls and elections. Medina knows this. After her speech she ended with a plea to her audience. "We can win this race," she said, then held up her hand and squeezed two fingers together. "It is this close."

Later that night, at a firemen's association hall in the much larger city of San Antonio, Medina's face stared down from a huge screen as she delivered a long policy monologue. To her audience she was the very antithesis of establishment power: a heroic revolutionary, out to destroy government and bring power to the people. "She is not a career politician. Everything she is saying will make Texas better than what it is," said Sergeant Shawn Mendoza, 30, a veteran of three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. A few minutes later the flesh-and-blood version of Medina entered the hall. She got a standing ovation before she had said a word.

She began her stump speech again, still wearing the outfit she had in Lytle. But when it comes to speeches Medina is no Sarah Palin. She has no need to write on her hand to remember her talking points. Instead her speech was a complex walk through her extreme anti-government philosophy, citing sources as varied as the Austrian school of economics, St Augustine and modern French philosophers. She said she wanted to get rid of property taxes and allow Texans to do whatever they wanted with anything they owned, whether that was dig for oil or build an extension. There was, she said, no constitutional basis for a federal Department of Education or an Environmental Protection Agency or the Federal Reserve. Texas should assert its rights almost as a nation-state, controlling over its own National Guard units. The disdain for government was visceral. The American way, she said, was simple. "There are two rights essential to freedom: private property and gun ownership."

Such thoughts find fertile ground in Texas. This state has always had a swaggering, independent streak and a dislike for too many laws. Medina was born on a farm near the small town of Beeville in south Texas. She speaks with a homely Texas accent and worked as a nurse before entering politics at county level in the 1990s. Her bid for governor was largely ignored by the media as she crisscrossed the state for 13 months, visiting small town after small town. Gradually she crept up in the polls and forced her way into the televised debates, where she performed strongly. Campaign money began to pour in. One poll puts her as high as 24%, just behind Hutchison and within reach of catching her and forcing Perry into a runoff.

Medina believes she is not really in third place, citing the fact that the polls only telephone previous Republican primary voters, whereas she is bringing in thousands of new supporters. "I feel fantastic. I think we can win this," she said in Lytle.

More HERE (The article is from the Leftist "Guardian" so the rest of the article is mainly snarky comments and unsubstantiated assertions)


The coming catastrophe

By David Warren, writing from Canada

A spectre is haunting Europe, and America -- the spectre of Keynesianism finally gone nuts. What began, not very innocently, as a suggestion that governments should run deficits in bad times, and surpluses in good times, gradually "evolved." In the next phase, governments tried to balance at least the operating account during the best of times. In Phase 3, governments ran deficits by habit during the good times, but much bigger "stimulus" deficits during the bad times. We are now entering Phase 4.

The U.S. national debt now exceeds $12.3 trillion in a $14.2-trillion economy, and the U.S. government is now piling it on with unprecedented new deficits. The U.S. Treasury's borrowing requirement is, as it were, coming up against the Great Wall of China.

Little things, such as the heart of the U.S. space program, are being gutted to make way for metastasizing social security entitlements and debt service payments that will soon swamp the entire federal budget -- thus requiring the elimination of more little things such as the army, navy and air force. At some point the entitlements simply can't be paid, without hyperinflation.

I am not exaggerating. The American debt is now at levels that ring bells at the International Monetary Fund. And as the world's biggest debtor rapidly accelerates its borrowing, the fiscal carrying capacity of the rest of the planet comes into question.

There are two large reasons why we cannot afford to be smug up here. The first is that after adding the "entitlement" heritage of our provincial governments to the federal debt load, our position is not much better. The second is that even if it were much better, the tsunami coming from south of the border will anyway sweep all our dikes away.

The Obama administration's financial projections are extremely optimistic, yet even if they all come true, the U.S. debt will continue to grow unsustainably. The kind of alarm falsely placed in "global warming" would more usefully be directed toward the remarkable cooling effect this will have, as all our fiscal and demographic trends converge. For this is a predictable future; an issue where the numbers correspond to real things, not to mere speculation.

We can already see where the U.S. is headed, because Iceland and Greece are showing the way. Both have now passed a point of no return, and both are being followed down that plughole by Britain and several other European countries that will probably precede the U.S. into outright bankruptcy. The State of California also gives some clues.

While an optimist would say that we are witnessing the final demise of the welfare state, and good riddance, a pessimist would observe that everything must go down with it. Moreover, as we have seen from the history of Germany and other countries, fiscal catastrophe accentuates every latent threat to public order.

For our governments have created vast bureaucracies, employing immense numbers whose livelihoods depend entirely (whether they realize it or not) upon the capacity of profit-earning people to pay constantly increasing taxes. It should have been grasped, decades ago, that the constant transfer of resources from the productive to the unproductive must eventually tip the ship. And when it does, real people go over the side who get angry when they are thrown in the water. There are consequences to that anger.

The idea that we can spend our way out of a debt crisis -- or what I called above "Keynesianism gone nuts" -- has already been rejected by the Tea Party movement in the U.S., and has always been rejected by voters of conservative tendency. They know what's wrong with the present order, and have an important teaching function to the rest of the electorate, which doesn't get it yet.

But more urgently, we are in need of a positive conception of how to rebuild the economy and society, when Nanny State collapses under her own weight. For yelling "run!" is only a short-term solution.




TN: Lynn pushes state sovereignty: "State Rep. Susan Lynn says she isn’t trying to fight the political battles of the Civil War again. But she isn’t afraid to push to restore Tennessee’s ’sovereignty.’ Lynn believes it’s time Tennesseans reworked their relationship with the federal government. And she says one of her jobs as a state legislator is to open that dialogue, even if it means sparking confrontation with political leaders in Washington, D.C. ‘For a very long time, the federal government has been growing and growing and becoming a bigger and bigger deal,’ Lynn said last week. ‘Maybe it’s time to pull out the document.’ … With libertarian outrage toward the federal government seemingly on the rise … Lynn has become one of its foremost champions in the Tennessee legislature.”

Report: Not just Toyota with acceleration problems: "The challenge of the rogue gas pedal is apparently not unique to Toyota. In the five years ending last September, all of the six largest carmakers operating in the US marketplace had at least 50 complaints about unintended acceleration filed against them, according to, a provider of auto industry information based in Santa Monica, Calif. Toyota had the most complaints: 532 during the five-year period, or 4.81 per 100,000 vehicles sold by the company or its Lexis or Scion brands. But some other carmakers also drew numerous complaints, according to the analysis of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).”

Intervention and economic crisis: "No supporter of the market economy could have been surprised when the recent financial crisis was inevitably blamed on ‘capitalism’ and ‘deregulation.’ The free market, we were told, was a recipe for financial instability. ‘Advocates of the free market must confront the fact that both the Great Depression and the current financial chaos were preceded by years of laissez-faire economic policies,’ wrote Katrina van den Heuvel, editor of The Nation, and author Eric Schlossel, in September 2008.”

Social justice, the new feudal capitalism: "Social justice is a feel-good term that stands to, as Obama has promised, ‘Fundamentally change our economy.’ Social justice has undergone a transformation in the past fifteen years; it has been adopted by the left as a talking point that can put a friendlier face on more politically charged terms like ‘income redistribution’ and ‘property redistribution.’ But for social justice to become a reality, it is necessary for the middle class to take a step back on the economic scale. Rest assured, our social engineers in Congress and the Administration will sacrifice the continued growth of our middle class for their vision of economic egalitarianism that, in the name of sharing wealth, will consolidate power in a new elite class.”

Census confidentiality? The check is in the mail: "Some promises shouldn’t be taken seriously. ‘The check is in the mail,’ or ‘Of course I’ll respect you in the morning,’ or ‘I won’t raise taxes.’ To that list should be added, ‘Your answers to census questions will remain completely confidential.’ Already this census season, many of homeless people have refused to divulge personal information to census takers. Some of the homeless have fears that their personal plight will be revealed to far-away relatives.”


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 (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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)


1 comment:

Norma said...

Good article by David Warren. He's quite brilliant.