Friday, December 21, 2012

IQ tests are 'meaningless and too simplistic' claim researchers

This appears to have been based on an internet survey and such surveys are notorious for giving non-representative results. A large sample size is no substitute for representativeness

The underlying controversy, however, is as old as the hills: Should IQ be measured as a set of subscores or as one overall score? Among psychometricians it is known as the Spearman/Thurstone controvery and dates back to the beginning of the last century.

The accepted answer is to present results both ways: As one overall score plus a set of sub-scores. Results can reasonably be represented both ways because the subscores are correlated. Knowing a person's subscore on (say) verbal ability will give you a useful (but not of course perfect) prediction of his mathematical ability. That has repeatedly been demonstrated.

The novelty in the report below is that the various sub-abilities were said to be NOT correlated -- which runs contrary to 100 years of findings by others. I note however that the authors are more cautious in the underlying journal article. They say:
Using simulations based on neuroimaging data, we show that the higher-order factor “g” is accounted for by cognitive tasks corecruiting multiple networks. Finally, we confirm the independence of these components of intelligence by dissociating them using questionnaire variables. We propose that intelligence is an emergent property of anatomically distinct cognitive systems, each of which has its own capacity.
That sounds to me as if they admit the existence of a general factor but find that the subfactors don't all use exactly the same parts of the brain -- which should be no surprise to anyone.

There is also a question about how comprehensive were the test items used. Without seeing all the questions, I get the impression that a deliberate attempt was made to find questions that would not produce correlated results. One can ask plenty of questions not conceptually related to intelligence and in that case intercorrelations are not be be expected. In psychometrican's terms, the test would lack construct validity.

The journal article is "Fractionating Human Intelligence" by Hampshire et al. I look forward to seeing a more detailed examination of the article by those who specialize in IQ studies

After conducting the largest ever study of intelligence, researchers have found that far from indicating how clever you are, IQ testing is actually rather ‘meaningless’.

In a bid to investigate the value of IQ, scientists asked more than 100,000 participants to complete 12 tests that required planning, reasoning, memory and attention. They also filled in a survey on their background.

They discovered that far from being down to one single factor, what is commonly regarded as intelligence is influenced by three different elements - short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal ability. But being good at one of these factors does not mean you are going to be equally gifted at the other two.

Scientists from Canada’s Western University in Ontario, also scanned some of the participants’ brains while they undertook the tests.

They found that different parts of the brain were activated when they were tested on each of the three factors.

Traditional IQ tests are ‘too simplistic’, according to the research, which found that what makes someone intelligent is too complex to boil down to a single exam.

IQ, which stands for Intelligence Quotient, is an attempt to measure how smart an individual is. The average IQ is 100. Mensa, the high IQ society, only accepts individuals who score more than 148, putting them in the top two per cent of the population.

The new study, published in the journal Neuron, suggests that intelligence is too complex to be represented by a single number.

Study leader Dr Adrian Owen, a British neuroscientists based at Western University in Canada, said an ‘astonishing’ number of people had contributed to the research.

‘We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds and from every corner of the world,’ he said.

‘When you take 100,000 people and tested their brain function, we couldn’t find any evidence for a single uniform concept of intelligence.

‘The best we could manage is get it down to three elements that contribute to intelligence. But they are completely different factors, unrelated to one another, and you could be brilliant at one and awful at another. For example, the absent-minded professor.

‘IQ tests are pretty meaningless - if you are not good at them, all it proves is that you are not good at IQ tests.

'It does not say anything about your general intelligence.’ The majority of IQ tests were developed in the 50s and 60s when the way we thought and interacted with the world was different, said Dr Owen.


UPDATE: Chris Brand, a student of IQ, comments on the above study. My comment about sampling appears to have been spot-on:

There was general rejoicing in MSM (e.g. D.Telegraph, 20 xii) as neurocogniwallahs repeated the age-old trick of making the g factor vanish. Using a splendid-sounding ‘sample’ of 44,000 “young and healthy” testees, Adam Hampshire and co-workers reported lots of correlations between mental tests (e.g. verbal, reasoning, memory) that were around a modest .30 (rather than the more usual .50) (Neuron 76, ‘Fractionating human intelligence’). Victory over Burt and Jensen was duly proclaimed.

Any problem with this? Any thought about the astonishing 44,000? Where did they hail from? Ah! “Social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook.” That is: they were nerds, probably of around IQ 115. And Edinburgh research had demonstrated by 1990 that the g factor ‘fractionates’ above IQ 100 (see TgF, 1996/2000, Chap.2). Yes, Hampshire et al. had well and truly reinvented the wheel – or part of it, for the lower-IQ distribution had been simply forgotten by the ‘neuroscientists.’

No wonder the ‘brain and mind’ ‘natural scientists’ had to publish in an unheard-of journal having no competence to evaluate psychology!

Hopefully Art Jensen and Phil Rushton gave wry smiles from heaven. How one would like to know if Phil had offered his anti-g colleagues at the University of Western Ontario a photocopy of The g Factor!

Called to discuss IQ testing on the Beeb, senior Mensan Peter Bainbridge volunteered that a testee getting only a score around 60 was “probably a carrot” (Daily Mail, 21 xii). An apology was immediately demanded and obtained by irate ‘learning difficulties’ groups – indicating that at least someone still believed in the reality of IQ.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Is Harvard a Jewish plot? And does it matter?

Jewish Harvard graduate Ron Unz says yes to both questions. He has just written a VERY long article examining bias in Ivy League admissions which would persuade me to change my surname to Goldberg if I wanted admission there.

All sociologists have the unenviable task of extracting viable generalizations from very imperfect data and Unz is a champion in those black arts. I have disputed such generalizations from him in the past but the evidence he marshalls on this occasion is pretty massive. When evidence from multiple sources converges on one conclusion, it elicits at least provisional assent.

My heading above does of course caricature what Unz finds but not by much. What he finds is that admissions to the Ivies in recent years have been grotesquely skewed in favour of Jews and grotesquely skewed to the disadvantage of Asians, with non-Hispanic, non-Jewish whites also unfairly treated.

And Unz's criterion for fairness is hard to criticize. He looks to pre-university educational attainment. High achievement up to the end of high school suddenly fails people trying to get into Harvard, Princeton or Yale. And if your surname is Goldberg you don't even have to be a high achiever at High School level.

I myself read Unz's findings with considerable disquiet but despite my background in social science statistics, I can't see any fault in his overall conclusions -- provided he represents his sources accurately. He does sometimes cherry-pick and I am not familiar with the datasets he uses. But as far as I can see, he meticulously covers all the bases, which is why his article is so long. There are by now many comments about his article online and I have not so far seen one that rebuts his statistics. Most criticisms put up theoretical points that Unz has already covered. It is a long article and I guess that the critics could not be bothered to read it all.

So what the heck is going on? Unz initially points to the overwhelmingly (Leftist) Jewish administration of the Ivies, which does have some plausibility. But he then puts forward something I had never guessed at and which will surely surprise most others: Admissions officers at the Ivies tend to be poorly-paid dumb bunnies, much dumber than the student body they select. Their poor academic background is sometimes quite startling. At Britain's leading universities (Oxford and Cambridge) it is the opposite. Selection is by the academics who will be doing the teaching.

So Unz concludes, and I am inclined to agree, that simple fear of being seen as antisemitic (particularly seeing that their bosses are Jewish) is often the factor that makes admissions officers transfer "Goldberg" applications to the "accept" basket without much scrutiny.

And this bias in favor of Jews does of course put a big squeeze on other ethnicities, particularly Asians and other whites. Even considering that, however, Unz marshalls strong evidence for a systematic bias against Asians, a bias that looks very much like a deliberate quota. A student body that should be around 40% Asian if selected by prior attainment is in fact only around 16% Asian.

It's pretty clear Leftist racism. But Leftists have never ceased being race-obsessed so the only mystery is how the people responsible for it justify it in their own minds. Asians are "gooks", apparently. They don't look remotely like a Goldberg.

So does it all matter? Unz argues that it is in fact vital. Some quotes:
In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America’s most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League....

Power corrupts and an extreme concentration of power even more so, especially when that concentration of power is endlessly praised and glorified by the major media and the prominent intellectuals which together constitute such an important element of that power. But as time goes by and more and more Americans notice that they are poorer and more indebted than they have ever been before, the blandishments of such propaganda machinery will eventually lose effectiveness, much as did the similar propaganda organs of the decaying Soviet state. Kahlenberg quotes Pat Moynihan as noting that the stagnant American earnings between 1970 and 1985 represented “the longest stretch of ‘flat’ income in the history of the European settlement of North America.”120 The only difference today is that this period of economic stagnation has now extended nearly three times as long, and has also been combined with numerous social, moral, and foreign policy disasters.

Over the last few decades America’s ruling elites have been produced largely as a consequence of the particular selection methods adopted by our top national universities in the late 1960s. Leaving aside the question of whether these methods have been fair or have instead been based on corruption and ethnic favoritism, the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country, and we must change the methods used to select them. Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. once famously quipped that he would rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 names listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard. So perhaps an important step in solving our national problems would be to apply a similar method to selecting the vast majority of Harvard’s students.
As the quote shows, Unz favours a partially random solution to the undoubted problem that the Ivies now pose. My own solution would be less drastic. I would favour revival of the rule that all students who receive a perfect SAT score should be automatically admitted -- and any leftover places after that could be allocated any wacky way the university liked.

Under that rule, it would be amusing to see the faces of all the Leftist Jewish administrators when they looked out their windows and saw a sea of Asian faces in the grounds. Again, I would be interested to hear how they justified their racism

Being a people who have themselves suffered greatly from irrational bias, it is particularly saddening to see Jews practicing it. Yet more evidence that Leftism rots the mind, I guess

Monday, November 05, 2012

Conservatives have the gift of contentment

How happy you are seems to be mostly inborn -- and the surveys repeatedly show that conservatives are happier than those on the Left. It seems clear that this is no coincidence. Leftism is ABOUT whining. They are always dissatisfied with something and want to change or even "smash" something.

So it is no surprise that the evidence shows political polarity to be largely inborn too. See here. You are largely born either conservative or Leftist, though aging has a conservatizing effect too. Conservatives are just not upset by every little thing the way Leftists are. And that's a considerable gift.

So I thought that I might reproduce an excerpt from an email I have just received from a vocal Australian conservative. He is not rich and life has not always been easy for him. He sent me the following when I wrote to him and noted that I had not heard from him for a while:
One day, when I can, I'll tell you the crappy story of my life for the last five months which will explain why I so rudely disappeared from your view. With all that has happened though, I do consider myself a blessed and fortunate soul and I wouldn't be anywhere or anyone else.
I think that's rather wonderful. He is a true conservative with a great gift for contentment. I have it too. With a severe iatrogenic illness that sees me under the surgeon's knife several times a year, I could conceivably be a moaner but I am content with my life too. Always have been.

And I know another treasure of a man who is as poor as a churchmouse and always "skint" but he is very conservative, very active in politics and laughs his way though life. He has a ball.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

What does "Amen" mean?

A word that at least a billion people have used but who knows what it means?

It's Hebrew and at the end of a prayer it means roughly "So be it" or "I agree"! But that is not the end of it. It has a broader meaning than that. When Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you ...." (e.g. in John 5:24), what word do you think he was using according to the original Greek text that was translated as "verily"? That's right. He was actually saying: "Amen, amen, I say unto you". So it's basically just a way of emphasizing the correctness of something.

I must admit that I was rather staggered myself when I wondered what the obsolete English word "verily" stood for in the original text and found myself staring at "Amen" when I looked up my authoritative Westcott & Hort text. I couldn't believe my eyes for a minute. I even checked it in the Griesbach recension as well.

On further checking in my Abbott-Smith lexicon I see that the word was also used in the Septuagint: The translation into Greek of the OLD Testament that Christ and the Apostles usually quoted from. So we see how a Hebrew word got into Greek. It has no exact translation into Greek so the learned Jewish translators of the OT in olden times simply reproduced it. Abbott-Smith offers "be firm" as the meaning of the Hebrew original.

Even my Liddell & Scott lexicon of CLASSICAL Greek gives the word a brief mention, maybe because of its Septuagint usage. We learn every day.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

American exceptionalism

To me it is glaringly obvious that the USA is exceptional.  It is overwhelmingly the world's predominant military power and also the source of most of the world's innovations.

So the interesting question is not "if" but "why".  WHY is America so dominant?  In a recent article Podhoretz sets out most of the usual reasons, starting from the foundation of the USA in an independence revolution.  He sees the principles set out by the revolutionaries at that time as having had an enduring influence.

I imagine that they did have an influence for a long time but only conservative intellectuals and activists seem to know of them now.  Thanks to the Leftist takeover of the schools, the average American these days knows nothing substantial about the American founding, if anything at all.  How much does the average black or Hispanic know?  Yet they all have votes  -- and there's a lot of them.

And America is now very socialist.  As Romney rightly if imprudently pointed out, around half of the population now depend on government handouts.  Not much rugged individualism there!   Given the huge and unfunded Federal spending now happening, it could in fact be argued that America is in the midst of a socialist meltdown right now.  Nothing Romney has proposed is capable of reining in the overspend.

But if none of the usual explanations of America's exceptionalism now work, what can it be that makes America so powerful in every sense?  I think it is both extraordinarily simple and much more enduring than all of the other influences that have come and gone:  The fact that there is a national election every two years.  If the ruling party goes off the rails you only have to wait two years to give them a boot up the backside  -- as we vividly saw in the 2010 mid-terms.  There is only so much damage you can do in two years so the damage done by political folly is much less in America.  Most governments are still getting into their stride at the two-year mark and they have to take into account the forthcoming election long before that.

Other countries have three or four year terms before a national government has to face a new election and Britain has horrific five-year terms.  And huge messes can be created, and have been created, in five years. Just look at the problem created by the last British Labour Party government's "open door" immigration policy.  Britain is now lumbered with millions of welfare-dependent parasites who have to be supported by the staggering British taxpayer. At least most of America's "illegals" come to work.

If ever the American socialists (so-called "liberals") wake up to the fact that two-year terms are their enemy, America might have a problem but until then there is hope.  And even liberals might have difficulty in arguing that frequent elections are "unfair".

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jos Meloen: A frantic Dutch melon-head

In "1984", a biting prophecy about socialism, George Orwell was particularly prescient in his comment that "He who controls the past controls the future".  He saw future socialists as revising history to their own advantage. 

Precisely that has happened.  Via academe and Left-taught journalists, key events of the 20th century have been wiped from  the general consciousness.  Who today, for instance, is aware that the term "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist"?

And something that is NEVER said -- though undoubtedly true -- is that WWII was a fight between three socialist administrations.   The key protagonists were the ultra-socialist Stalin, the National Socialist Hitler and the "progressive" administration of FDR.  The only major difference between Hitler's policies and Roosevelt's policies was that Hitler applied German thoroughness to them.  And BOTH men were antisemitic. 

And anyone who knows Leftists well will know how fractious they are -- with the icepick Trotsky got in the head courtesy of Stalin being a major emblem of that.  So Leftist administrations at war with one another is no surprise at all.  And have we already forgotten Communist China invading North Vietnam to "teach them a lesson"?  Or Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, for that matter.

So in the immediate postwar era it was a major embarrassment to the Left that in condemning Hitler's policies they were largely condemning their own.  Given his defeat, they had a frantic need to dissociate themselves from old Uncle Adolf.  Their ideas were so discredited that America might even get a Republican President!  It did.  Ike in 1952.

History revision was needed!  So all efforts were put into portraying Hitler as "Right-wing", which was a Communist perspective.  Hitler WAS to the right of Stalin in being less authoritarian.  Germans mostly followed him willingly -- right to the bitter end.  So the imperative was to detach Hitler from the Left and pin him to conservatives.  No small task but there are no better distorters of history than Marxists and Marxists came to the rescue

So it was that a group of Leftist academics led by a prominent Marxist theoretican -- Theodor Adorno --  came to the rescue.  They published research which purported to show that authoritarianism was fundamentally conservative.  Stalin was just an unfortunate accident.

So how did they make their case?  They took a group of interrelated statements (which psychologists call a "scale") that represented the conventional wisdom of the (progressive) pre-war  era and showed that people who agreed with those statements also tended to agree with various conservative statements.  Since conservatives tend to respect the past that was no surprise.  The key assertion of the Adorno group however was that their list of conventional statements (the F scale) were representative of Fascist ideology.  Ergo, if conservatives agreed with such statements then conservatives must be Fascist.  And this great intellectual somersault was greeted like manna from heaven by the Left.  Mission completed!

The first pesky thing was, however, that if the F scale represented a form of political conservatism, then high scorers on it should tend to vote Republican.  But in general population samples there was/is little or no such tendency.  Strike one against the theory.

Strike two was the finding that high scorers on the F scale did not seem to be authoritarian.  They don't tend to boss other people around.  But if they don't do that the meaning of "authoritarian" is gutted.  The F scale becomes a measure of authoritarianism only in the Alice in Wonderland sense that words can mean whatever you choose them to mean.

But psychologists ignored the mismatch between the theory and the reality because they needed to.  Ignoring reality is an essential Leftist skill and they hugged the Adorno theory to their bosom in the belief that it showed the evil authoritarians to be conservatives, not themselves.

As time went on, however, memories of what prewar Leftism had preached faded away and it became firmly established in the popular mind that Hitler was a "Rightist".  So the Adorno theory was no longer much needed and faded out of consciousness for most pyschologists.

But as I observed some years ago, the theory clung on as bold and bright as ever in Dutch-speaking lands.  I don't really know why but maybe memories of what Nazism actually was are stronger in those lands.  And a leader in the Dutch crusade was Jos Meloen ("meloen" is Dutch for "melon").  So I had a few shots at him in the academic literature in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1998 (See link above).

The 1998 paper was a fully referenced critique of some of melonhead's research -- and the journal editor, as usual, gave melonhead a right of reply. And the reply concerned is why I am now being disrespectful of melonhead.  In an amazing display for an academic journal, he started out his reply, not with a discussion of the evidence but with a personal attack on me.  He did his best to portray me as a Nazi!  Maybe they don't teach the informal fallacies of logic at Leiden university.  Melonhead certainly would not seem to have heard of the "ad hominem" fallacy.  For their own reputation, Leiden should take a closer look at him.  It is too distinguished to stand behind such trash.

In part I ignored melonhead's frantic defense of his work at that time as I had retired from academic employment some 15 years earlier and was focused on bringing up kids instead.  But mainly I thought his reply too gross and stupid to be dignified with a rejoinder. After four commentaries on melonhead's work that appeared to have completely bounced off his brain, I washed my hands of him.  I would probably not have got a rejoinder published anyway.  Seeing I was arguing against Leftist views,  I did pretty well even to get my initial critique published. 

I am now getting to an age where I like to tie up loose ends, however, so I don't want to leave melonhead's follies permanently without a reply.  So a few comments on "Ray's Last Stand? Directiveness as Moderate Conservatism-A Reply to John Ray" by Jos Meloen and Hans De Witte, Political Psychology, 1998:

Melonhead's accuracy of statement is very Leftist --i.e. largely absent.  He says that I once joined Nazi parties like the Australian Nazi party.  I have never even came across anything called "the Australian Nazi party", let alone joined it.  What Meloen is clutching at is that since boyhood I have always been interested in Jews, Nazis and racism (and I still write on those topics to this day) and I did for a number of years in my younger days have contact with two informal local groups of Australian neo-Nazis with a view to finding out what they thought and why.  I published my findings in two Jewish journals (here and here), which melonhead has apparently glanced at.   He knew of the matter because I publicized it.

Melonhead also seems to find it suspicious that I referred to Theodor Adorno and his merry band as Jewish.  Since they were Jewish and since Jews and Nazis had a bit to do with one another, I would have thought that what I said was simply relevant.  And I can't help noting the inconsistency:  Referring to Adorno as a Jew is bad but referring to me as a Nazi is fine!  He probably can't even see the inconsistency.  Do personal characteristics matter or not?

And when he gets past the abuse and onto the facts, melonhead is even more hopeless.  He refers to two scales which he used in his research and which I referred to in my critique.  They are the Directivesness scale and a measure of "classic authoritarianism" -- presumably the Adorno F scale.  In his heading he claims that I describe the directivesness scale as measuring moderate conservatism and in the body of his article he claims that I describe the F scale as a measure of moderate conservatism.  He doesn't seem to be able to make up his mind about which scale it is that measures moderate conservatism!  Since they are uncorrelated it can hardly be both! 

An even bigger problem:  I have never referred to EITHER as a measure of moderate conservatism and both scales in fact have negligible correlation with  vote in general population samples in the English-speaking countries for which they were designed.  So he is setting light to a straw man.

Melonhead then goes on to note his finding  that members of Belgium's Flemish independence party -- Vlaams Blok --  had slightly elevated scores on the F scale and related measures.  But WHY do they have such scores?  Melonhead thinks it is because they are authoritarian but that explanation fails because the F scale has been found NOT to measure authoritarianism in anything other than an Alice in Wonderland sense  -- i.e. it measures authoritarianism because that is what it measures.  Melonhead is firmly in Wonderland.  That a scale which has been strongly validated as an ACTUAL measure of authoritarianism showed no elevated scores among Vlaams Blok cuts no ice with him!

So my explanation  -- that Vlaams Blok is basically conservative  as well as seeeking Flemish independence -- survives.  Conservative people do show some respect for old-fashioned ideas. Whether they act on those ideas in any way is another matter.

At bottom, melonhead's folly stems from a refusal to let go the old Adorno theory of authoritarianism.  No evidence against it seems to count with him.  That it is a unicorn theory  -- i.e. it describes something that does not exist -- he cannot admit.  It is too real to his addled Leftist brain.  It makes sense of his world.  He probably believes in global warming too -- JR

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nude photos that look very much like Obama's mother

In late 2008, there were some offensive speculations being made by Leftists about Sarah Palin's family (claims that Trig was really her daughter's baby etc., etc.) so, being something of an Old Testament type, I thought it fair for me to return fire by speculating about Obama's family.  I put online links to some nude pictures that had already appeared on American internet porn sites.  I was alerted to the pictures by an American correspondent.  The pictures bear a striking resemblance to Obama's mother.  In the run up to the election this year, the pictures are again getting a lot of attention so I thought I might offer some further comment here on them.

I note that, although the pictures have subsequently been widely circulated, the person in the best position to identify them  -- President Obama -- has never denied that they were of his mother.

Ann Dunham had a distinctively long face and the woman in the pictures I linked to did also.  Below is a Bowderlized copy of one of the the pictures that I made more accessible, followed by the Wikipedia picture of the young Ann Dunham

Leftists such as Snopes have of course disputed the identification and suggested certain models as the person in the pictures.  Snopes suggested Marcy Moore. I see, however, little similarity between the pictures I put up and the pictures of Moore.  Amusingly, Snopes no longer have an article on the subject.  They seem to have pulled it.  Rather a clear confession of failure, I think.

Snopes does however have a successor.  We see here an attempt that has popped up this year.  Unlike Snopes it is an outright fraud.  It claims that my original post has been taken down when it has not.  See here.  See also here and here for two other posts on the subject by me at that time. 

The fraud also makes much of some reference numbers appearing at the bottom of one of the pictures.  He claims that the reference numbers include the initials of the model, and the initials given are YA rather than AD.  That a woman posing nude  might have used a pseudonym and not her real name has obviously not occurred to him.

He also reproduces two copies of one photo, from one of which the identifying code has been erased.  He implies that he has "discovered" the one with the codes and that the previously circulated photos had the codes erased in order to deceive.  The truth is that the photos I put up DID have the identifying codes.  He has probably erased them himself.

And slurs against me were of course predictable.  For instance, One writer claimed that  "Ray was formerly associated with Majority Rights, a large pro-Nazi White Supremacist site".  It is indeed true that I did for a while contribute to that site but characterizing it as "pro-Nazi" is wrong.  It covers a variety of views but NOT explicitly pro-Nazi ones.  It does/did include antisemitic posts but I put up with that for the sake of reaching the more reasonable part of its large audience.  More to the point, however, I was eventually kicked off the site because I MOCKED and disparaged antisemitism.

A matter that does  not directly concern me but which I thought I might note:  I originally put up three photos that were unmistakeably of the same woman.  At the moment, however, there seem to be about a dozen nude photos circulating that are alleged to be of Obama's mother.  To my eye, none of the additional photos are persuasive. They look like quite different women to me.

I finally note that the photos I put up were clearly an amateur job.  They were just snaps taken in someone's living room.  Had the photos been of a model, we would have expected a more professional job.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

They're still lying with statistics

In 1954 Darrell Huff wrote a book called "How to lie with statistics".  It is well-known and has often been used as an introductory college textbook.  The point of the book was of course to alert people to statistical skullduggery so that they were not deceived by it.

But even though it sold a lot of copies the book has been an almost complete failure.  In most academic fields where statistics are used (e.g. medical research, psychological research, climate research) statistics are still routinely misused.  I spent 20 years getting papers published in the academic journals of the social sciences pointing out the defective reasoning in other  articles in my field and, more recently, my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog has tackled the outlandish conclusions that prevail in much of medical research.  It's all a very sad tale.  A lot of so-called "science" is basically corrupt.

So I would very much like readers to take the time to listen to a breezy video below by statistican W.M. Briggs in which he gives examples of corrupt statistical reasoning from psychological, medical and environmental research.

And the lesson from the above?  Don't accept ANY scientific statement until you have seen what people say who don't agree with that statement.  Corrupt science is so common that the odds are that the critics will be right.

So why is statistically-based science so corrupt?  Briggs gives you some answers but I will give you another one that you may not  see elsewhere:  Most users of statistics are Left-leaning academics and for them "There is no such thing as truth".  There is however a desperate need for them to defend their ideology.  Their egos depend on it.

Even medical science has become heavily politicized with the "war on obesity" and the general elitist view of the Left that anything popular is either wrong or bad for you (cue cellphones).<

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Japan, WWI and Fascism 

The elements in my heading above must seem a bit ill-assorted.  They are not, however, as we shall see.  Let us start with an excerpt from a book review of "Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War"   (Princeton University Press).

Most historians seem to agree that WWI was the key folly of the 20th century -- a folly that ultimately led to  both the Hitler and Stalin disasters -- but how and why did it all happen?  There are many answers to that but the review below by Richard Koenigsberg highlights a surprising but cogent explanation in terms of the war immediately preceding it:  The Russo-Japanese war.  That war -- resulting in the crushing and totally surprising defeat of a major European power by an Asian nation -- did make a huge impact at the time so it all fits that it should have been the key to WWI thinking.

Japan and Britain were allied at the time so there were considerable numbers of British observers embedded with the Japanese forces -- so what went on in the various battles was reported in detail in the British press and also therefore in the European press
Battles occurred when massive numbers of troops got out of their trench and attacked the opposing trench. Modris Eksteins describes the fundamental pattern:
"The victimized crowd of attackers in No Man’s Land has become one of the supreme images of this war. Attackers moved forward usually without seeking cover and were mowed down in rows, with the mechanical efficiency of a scythe, like so many blades of grass. “We were very surprised to see them walking,” wrote a German machine-gunner of his experience of a British attack at the Somme. “The officers went in front. I noticed one of them walking calmly, carrying a walking stick. When we started firing, we just had to load and reload. They went down in the hundreds. You didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them.”

By the time the war ended in November 1918, casualties had been staggering. Matthew White’s table summarizes the results: 65 million soldiers were mobilized to fight of which 9.5 million were dead, over 21 million wounded, and nearly 8 million taken prisoner or missing. Total casualties were over 37 million: 57.7% of all forces mobilized.

The mind boggles at these statistics. What could have been at stake to justify this massive episode of slaughter?

Howard suggests that it was neither the Boer War nor the American Civil War nor even the Franco-Prussian War that established the template for the First World War. Surprisingly, the 1905 Russo-Japanese war provided the model that France, Great Britain and other nations sought to emulate.

In February 1904, the Japanese navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. It took the Japanese army a year to establish themselves in the disputed province of Manchuria, capturing Port Arthur by land assault in a two-week battle involving over half a million men.

The general consensus of European observers-who followed this war closely-was that infantry assaults with bayonets were still not only possible but necessary. The Japanese had carried them out time and again, and were ultimately successful. In spite of enormous losses in these assaults (Japan suffered an estimated 85,000 casualties during the war); soldiers had broken through the enemy line against machine gun fire and other obstacles. Bodies were heaped on the ground as one wave of troops followed the next, but the attacks eventually resulted in victory.

Japanese bayonet assaults came, it was true, only at the end of a long and careful advance. A French observer described one Japanese attack:
"The whole Japanese line is now lit up with the glitter of steel flashing from the scabbard. Once again officers quit shelter with ringing shouts of "Banzai!" wildly echoed by all the rank and file. Slowly, but not to be denied, they make headway, in spite of the barbed wire, mines and pitfalls, and the merciless hail of bullets. Whole units are destroyed-others take their places; the advancing wave pauses for a moment, but sweeps ever onward. Already they are within a few yards of the trenches. Then, on the Russian side, the long grey line of Siberian Fusiliers forms up in turn, and delivers one last volley before scurrying down the far side of the hill."

Japanese losses in these assaults were heavy, but they succeeded; and so, European theorists argued, such tactics would succeed again. "The Manchurian experience," one British military theorist wrote, showed over and over again that the bayonet was "in no sense an obsolete weapon. The assault is the supreme moment of the fight. From these glorious examples it may be deduced that no duty, however difficult, should be regarded as impossible by well-trained infantry of good morale and discipline."

It was the "morale and discipline" of the Japanese armed forces, Howard tells us, that all observers stressed. They were equally unanimous in stressing that these qualities characterized not only the armed forces but the entire Japanese nation. General Alexei Kuropatkin, the commander of the Russian forces, noted in his memoirs that his nation's defeat was due not to mistakes in generalship, but Russia's inferiority in "moral strength." Lacking "moral exaltation" and the "heroic impulse," Russia did not have sufficient resolution to conquer the Japanese.

The issue of national morale and will was a central concern of European leaders who studied the War. British General Sir Ian Hamilton stated that the Russo-Japanese war should cause European statesman anxiety. People seemed to forget that millions "outside the charmed circle of Western Civilization are ready to pluck the scepter from nerveless hands as soon as the old spirit is allowed to degenerate." Much as some worry today that China might become the "greatest country in the world," supplanting the United States, so European leaders at the turn of the century worried that Japan might supplant Western nations as the greatest country.

The basis of national greatness was, essentially, the spirit of self-sacrifice. Hamilton said that England still had time to "put her military house in order;" to "implant and cherish the military in the hearts of children." It would be necessary to impress upon the minds of the next generation of British boys and girls a "feeling of reverence and admiration for the patriotic spirit of their ancestors." The cult of the offensive, it would appear, represented a desire to make manifest the national will-the capacity for self-sacrifice-and therefore to demonstrate the greatness of one's nation.

In the following report, British Brigadier-General Hubert Rees describes a battle in which his own brigade was massacred as they advanced on German lines:
They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade and not a man shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine-gun and rifle fire that finally wiped them out. I saw the lines, which advanced in such admirable order melting away under fire.

Yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks, or attempted to come back. I have never seen, indeed could never have imagined such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination. The reports from the very few survivors of this marvelous advance bear out what I saw with my own eyes: that hardly a man of ours got to the German Front line.

In spite of the total failure of this attack, it is evident that General Rees regarded the destruction of his brigade in a positive light. He observed that not a man “shirked” in the face of the machine-gun and rifle fire. He was proud that even though his troops were “melting away under fire,” they continued to advance “in admirable order.” His men did not waver, break ranks, or attempt to retreat. The General gushed that he had never seen such a magnificent display of “gallantry, discipline and determination.”

His soldiers were slaughtered and “hardly a man got to the German Front line.” However, the General does not evaluate the battle in terms of success or failure. Rather, his reflections revolve around the morale and spirit demonstrated by his troops. The fact that his soldiers continued to advance despite being riddled with bullets leads General Rees to conclude that the attack had been “marvelous.”

(Excerpt from a review received by email from Library of Social Science.  Full essay available here)

More on the surprising influence of Japan

As someone who drives a car made in Japan, and as one who occasionally dines at a Sushi train, I am one of the many who is aware of the large influence of Japan in the modern world.  What seems to have slipped out of general awareness is how far back that influence goes.  It has been influencing us for over 100 years.

Even when Commodore Perry anchored his black paddle-wheeler in Tokyo Bay in 1854 and signed a treaty opening  Japan to the West, he was impressed by the rich Japanese culture -- and that impression has continued on from there.  By the late 19th century there was quite a fad in Western Europe for all things Oriental, both Chinese and Japanese.  This was very evident in  Art Nouveau, the dominant art of the Belle Epoque.  As one review says:
"Art Nouveau was not a style but a movement which was a reaction against the stuffy over-decoration of the nineteenth century. It took its early inspiration from the work of William Morris, Arthur Mackmurdo, and Walter Crane, and fused these with an enthusiam for Chinoiserie and Japonisme. And as a movement it errupted very suddenly in the 1890s, spread throughout Europe and even to the USA – and then ended just as abruptly in the first decade of the new century."

But while Westerners were enthusing (justifiably, in my view) about Japanese art, the Japanese were embarking on a uniquely determined attempt to catch up with the West technologically,  something they had pretty much achieved as the dawn of the 20th century broke.  Most Asian nations are still modernizing in the 21st century.  Japan did it in the 19th.  There is no doubt that they are a remarkable people.

And as I have previously pointed out, the culmination of that catch-up in the defeat of Russia in 1905 energized the West enormously.  A civilization that was already esteemed became even more so -- to the extent of being taken as a model in many ways.

But Japanese culture, like Chinese culture, is a culture of honour/shame rather than a culture of moral absolutes so its influence was in some ways atrocious. Again  as I have previously pointed out, its influence on military doctrine led to the mass slaughter of ONE'S OWN TROOPS being seen as a good thing!

And we see another awful instance of the power of honour/shame in the episode below:
I happened to be watching one of those TV progs about antiques the other day. This one was called "Flog It" and it encourages people to dig out old stuff they don't want, get it valued by experts and, if it is worth anything, either sell it to a dealer or put it into auction.

Apparently one of the things that can add extra value to an antique is its "provenance", i.e. its history, especially if it has some particular association with a person or event that makes the item "come alive" and become more interesting and collectible.

On this occasion an elderly woman was selling a set of medals. Alongside the medals she had an old, faded sepia photograph of two boys sitting either side of a young girl. She explained that the picture was taken just before World War I; the girl was her mother and the two boys her uncles - that she had never known. She went on to explain why she had never known them.

Just after the war broke out, one of her uncles was on a bus when a woman approached him and pinned a white feather on him. Readers will recognise this as a familiar insult used by women at the time to shame young men into joining the military and going out to fight in the war. The white feather did exactly what it was designed to do; the young man felt so humiliated by the woman's act that he promptly signed up. But he had to lie about his age in order to get in. Why? Because he was only fifteen years old. That's right: FIFTEEN. He looked older, but that was his precise age.

The medals on show on the programme were the ones he and his brother, who followed him into the army, won in their brief lives. Within a year of signing up, they were both dead on the killing fields.

Dead. Wasted. Before they could start their own families, before they even had a vote, before they had any chance of fulfilling their promise. Brave, honourable, but uselessly dead.

The presenter of the programme could not hide his shock at the story. It is good that people can still register such shock, because we should never forget the lessons. Did that woman who pinned the feather ever know what wickedness she had perpetrated? Did she ever care?

It occurs to me that in order to pin the feather on the young man, she must have deliberately taken it out with her that day. She must have had it in her bag or whatever, and was specifically looking for a young man to pin it on. It could not have been a spontaneous act: it was planned. She had a clear intent to inflict personal shame and misery, and ultimately complete destruction, on an innocent young man she didn't even know. She might as well have pulled out a gun and shot him. But she got clean away with it."

What kind of person is it that approaches a random stranger and calls him a coward knowing nothing about him, not his age, his occupation, his health and fitness, any of his history at all, the only type of person who does this is one who feels completely invulnerable, secure and confident in the knowledge that they would not be censored or criticized"

Fortunately, the follies of WWI were rapidly recognized as soon as the war was over and Western Christian values were more or less restored throughout Europe.

During WWI, Japan itself continued its alliance with Britain but mainly undertook naval operations (Would you believe Japanese navy warships assisting the  British even in the Mediterranean?) -- so Japanese values continued on as before, leading them into the disaster of their conflict with the USA in WWII.

Japan, "Modernism" and the 19th century origins of Fascism

I would now like to say something about the deeper reasons behind the West's early fascination with Japan.  I need to set out a lot of background to get to that point, however, and "Modernism" is a rather surprising key to that.  It explains both the fascination with Japan before WWI and the emergence of Fascism after WWI.

"Modernism" is a much abused term that has had a number of meanings over the years but the version that I want to discuss here was a movement, mostly in art and literature, in the closing decades  of the 19th century and continuing into the early 20th century.  It took a hit from the shattering events of WWI but rather surprisingly survived. It was particularly prominent in France and Italy and in Italy eventually merged with Fascism. 

It was a rather euphoric movement marked by a general rejection of previous traditions and a feeling that the modernists could create the world anew.  It all sounds rather silly and egotistical nowadays but its relationship with Fascism gives it more than ordinary historical importance.  Wikipedia has one summary of it here for those who want to read further. 

There is a book (briefly summarized here) by a frequent writer on  Fascism (Roger Griffin) which attempts the daunting task of defining modernism -- and the author's apologies for the boldness of that endeavour must be my apologies too. 

I think his approach to Fascism via Modernism is fruitful but there is also something in the Marxist account of social changes having economic causes -- so I would extend the analysis to say that even modernism can be seen as an economic product.   I think economic history explains just about all of modernism in fact.  But economic phenomena do not exist in a vacuum either.  Behind economic history is political history. So on to that:

After the defeat of the French by German forces in 1870, Bismarck rapidly accomplished his long-pursued  task of unifying most of  the German lands under the Prussian crown.   Only Austria proved indigestible.

Bismarck saw the great danger of the unification, however.  Unified Germany was such a formidible economic and military power that it had great potential to strike terror into the rest of Europe.  And a logical response to that terror would be for the rest of Europe to "gang up" on Germany in what would have to be a brutal and destructive war, whatever the outcome. 

Rather surprisingly to some, however, Bismarck was a man of peace, despite his earlier talk of "blood and iron".  His only real devotion was to his Vaterland so, although he made skilled use of war to bring about the widely desired unification of Germany, he was just as ready to use peace on behalf of Germany once that was accomplished.

And Bismarck saw the fatal weakness in hostility to Germany:  Great alliances would have to be formed if there was to be any hope of taking Germany on.  So for the remainder of his term as  Reichskanzler he used diplomatic means to frustrate that.  His constantly changing foreign policy confused everyone and prevented any firm alliances from forming.  So purely to protect Germany, Bismarck achieved something remarkable:  Peace in Europe.

And that peace became rather permanent.  People got used to not being at war. Proof that peace was possible made it the status quo which most people wanted to continue.  So even after Bismarck left the scene in 1890 the peace continued for nearly a quarter of a century more -- until 1914. 

And peace in Europe had a hugely energizing effect.  Scientific, technical and economic innovations  had already begun in various places but with European energies diverted to peaceful pursuits rather than war, those developments got  a huge kick-along and great economic progress took place.  Europe emerged from a peasant age into an industrial age.  Even in Russia, heavy industries emerged and railways snaked out across  the land.

But these vast economic changes had a psychologically disruptive effect.  As the old order crumbled before the steam train its assumptions crumbled too.  Aristocracy lost legitimacy and all values were questioned.  Any thinking that had been widely accepted in the past became automatically suspect as belonging to the past only.

And that, basically, was modernism:  A confidence that the old could be swept away and replaced by a new more exciting and more heroic vision of just about everything.

But again at risk of seeming Marxist, the new vision had its antithesis.  Many people were suspicious of the new enthusiasms and were not at all ready to throw away  the wisdom of the past.  This "reaction" was brilliantly managed by Disraeli  in Britain, not managed at all in  France and rather hamfistedly managed by Bismarck in in Germany.  Bismarck was not nearly as successful in domestic policy as he was in foreign policy, though again his policies kept his opposition off-balance as long as he was around.

So, of the major European powers, only Britain merged smoothly into the modern world -- with only a minimum of social disruption.  The values of the past were largely preserved while considerable innovations to cope with changed economic circumstances were also made.  Russia was of course at the other end of the scale, where adaptation to the new was disastrously managed. 

Perhaps the most vivid evidence of the orderly British transition is the survival right into the present day of the House of Lords, still a highly esteemed body but quite unlike any other present-day upper house that I know of.  So Britain had plenty of cultural modernism in its day but Fascism never made significant inroads into British political life, despite the efforts of Sir Oswald Mosley.

So now I come to where I disagree with the Marxists (with whom Griffin, mentioned above, seems to agree partly).  I think the Marxists have got the wrong end of the stick altogether.  Marxists  see Fascism as a form of defence of the old order when it was clearly quite the opposite.  They see it as a defence of traditional values when Fascists themselves saw themselves as the vanguard of the new.  Particularly in Italy  it is clear that Fascists were the modernists, not  traditionalists.  Extreme modernists such as D'Annunzio were simply co-opted into Fascism.

One can perhaps excuse the Marxist confusion a little in that both Mussolini and Hitler did make major allusions to the past  -- Mussolini aiming to re-establish the Roman empire and Hitler glorifying Germany's imagined  pre-Christian lifestyle.  But it is starkly clear that these allusions are to an imagined and remote past rather than to the actual immediate past.  Neither man was a traditionalist in any sense.  Both had visions for their countries that were thoroughly modernist.  The visions were rather vague and inchoate but that was part of modernism.

But the major point behind the Marxist critique is that the changes wrought by the Fascists were much less sweeping than those wrought by the Bolsheviks in Russia.  The Fascists left most of the existing structure of society in place.  Does that not make them defenders of the status quo?

But it must be remembered that the modernists were idealists  rather than the hate-filled smash-everything monsters  of Bolshevism.  And the "hope and change" message offered by the modernists was  every bit as vague as a similar message in the 21st century.  Their ideals left very little guide for action.  So their actions were rather limited when  they came to power.  They were clear that they needed to gain close control over society but they saw that this could be done by laws and regulation rather than by mass-murder -- so chose that more orderly path. 

The one ideal that they aimed to implement was the thoroughly socialist ideal  of a better deal for the workers -- and they in fact did that by much expanded social welfare legislation.  And they intruded further into the lives of the workers than even social democratic parties had ever envisaged  -- even providing cheap recreations for the workers (The "Dopolavoro" system in Italy and the "Kraft durch Freude" movement in Germany). 

A KDF "Holiday ship"

The Fascist control of their society was extensive and intrusive but not obviously destructive.  They were in that way closer to the social democrats than the Bolsheviks.  So the transformation of society under the Fascists was more restrained than what happened in Russia but it was still obviously motivated by socialist ideals and was just as disastrous in the end.

But what about the nationalism of the Fascists?  Where does that fit in?  It was in fact one way in which the Fascists did NOT innovate or stand out.  Nationalism was normal across the political spectrum in Europe at the time.  There were few more ardent German nationalists  than Friedrich Engels, for instance.  Yes.  THAT  Engels: Karl Marx's co-author.  And Mussolini saw that.  He saw that the working classes of Europe had supported their respective nation-states  in WWI and it was largely that realization which eventually caused him to give up Marxist class-war ideas  and invent Fascism instead.  Hitler too was repulsed by class-war ideas.

So one can conclude that the political manifestation of modernism in the form of Fascism was largely a poorly managed response to an economic transformation.  A new world called for new ideas and Fascism purported to offer that.

I will close by  pointing  out very briefly the rather obvious tie-in to the fascination with Japan that prevailed for a while in Europe.  Japan modernized at the most breakneck speed of all and yet still seemed to retain all its traditional values!  No wonder the modernists were fascinated!  In fact, Japan had something for everyone, which is why it had so much influence (now mostly forgotten) in the run-up to WWI.

Footnote:  I am mildly pleased to see that the Wikipedia entry on Bismarck agrees fairly closely with what I have said about him.  I don't always have orthodox history on my side!

The death of a Jew-hater

There is a lot of outrage on the net today over an Israeli court giving the "wrong" verdict over the death of a pro-Palestinian protester, Rachel Corrie, in March, 2003.  She was run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to be a "human shield" to protect a Palestinian terrorist site.  The IDF has always held that the driver of the bulldozer did not see her before he ran over her. He was driving a large and heavily armored bulldozer with small slits for vision.  The court upheld the driver's account.

The interesting thing to me is the close-up picture that accompanies many of the stories.  It  portrays her as a quiet and serious young woman in what could be a studio portrait (though even in a studio portrait they could not get her to smile).  You can search high and low on the net to find a picture that gives any other impression  of her.  Being an old guy, however, I have certain records and one of them has produced a picture of her that is what the bulldozer driver would have seen if he had been looking down.  A picture is worth a 1,000 words, I think.  The stock picture followed by the "forgotten" picture below.  The forgotten picture shows her at a rally shortly beforehand.

Even in the above picture she looks rather angry

A face of hate

If anyone is to blame in the matter it is the parents who indoctrinated her with their Leftist hates.  May their grief help them to repent.  The love of Christ would not have led them into the Devil's kingdom.

Rachel Corrie believed in Israel

I don't know if anybody else has pointed this out  -- they probably have  -- but the Israel-hating Rachel Corrie showed by her actions  that she recognized Israel's moral superiority. Why didn't she hop out of the way at the last minute instead of getting run over by the bulldozer?  I certainly would have in her shoes. 

But the reason why she did not is clear:  She clearly had absolute confidence that the bulldozer would stop at the last moment.  Her  only mistake was in assuming that the driver would see her lying on the ground in front of him.  Had it been a Palestinian bulldozer I cannot imagine anyone not being prepared to hop out of the way.  But Rachel Corrie was clearly not so prepared.

By her own actions she betrayed more than any words could do that she knew Israel was not the moral monstrosity that she claimed it was.  Her death was an unintentional  tribute to Israel.  She knew in her heart where the virtue was.  And coming from an enemy of Israel, the tribute is all the more impressive.  She was hate-filled but she knew the truth.

A trenchant comment from Israel about her here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is libertarianism an infantile disorder?

In the excerpt below the very level-headed Mark Krikorian says it is:
I think libertarianism is an infantile disorder, an "ideology" in the worst, anti-Burkean sense of the word. That is not to say that many Americans who call themselves "libertarians" share that disorder — I think the appeal of the label comes from the Republican Party's pathetic big-government record over the past couple of decades. Despite the many patriotic Americans who call themselves "libertarians" as a kind of protest, the ideology of libertarianISM is a post-American creed that rejects national borders and nationhood itself.

Krikorian is of course alluding to "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder", a book by V.I. Lenin in which Lenin criticizes the more idealistic and less practical Communists of his day.

I am inclined to agree with Krikorian.  The level of hate and fanaticism that I regularly read in libertarian publications can sometimes be quite nauseating.  Ideas of moderation and compromise are a rarity.  As I myself am very much a minimum government conservative I find a lot of libertarian analyses helpful so I will not go on a rampage of finger-pointing and naming names but some of the writers on Lew Rockwell's site (for instance)  regularly sound distinctly unpleasant to me.  Take this article by Karen de Coster for instance.  It absolutely drips hate and dogmatism.  She is admittedly an extreme food fanatic as much as she is a libertarian  but that seems to pass muster among at least some libertarians.  Their very Leftist contempt for the society they live in makes them disrespectful of scientific caution so food and health fads seem to flourish among them.

I will not go on but those who read much libertarian literature will know well why libertarians  are and will remain a tiny minority in politics.  Which is all the more a pity because a more moderate presentation might help in the great struggle against government and for the  individual that is afoot in America today

An important caveat, however, is that there are as many versions of libertarianism as there are libertarians and there are a minority of libertarians who manage to keep their feet on the ground.  There are, for instance, some libertarians who oppose unrestricted immigration, though that is far from the majority position among libertarians.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A wicked proposition 

I have been thinking about this for some time but have not mentioned it before because almost any mention of race and ethnicity is prone to being misunderstood, if not actively demonized.  Yet what I want to say is, I think, commonsense and is certainly well-meant.  Yes.  I know about the road to hell.

What have Indians, Chinese and Jews got in common?  High IQs maybe but there is something more important that a knowledge of history would tell you:  All three have been heavily persecuted in lands  where they have been minorities  -- the Chinese in S.E. Asia, the Indians in East Africa and the Jews we all know about.

Sadly,  I have to say that I think that is human nature.  We can struggle against it and we might even change the minds of educated people but I think the average Joe in any society does not like to think that his society is run by those he perceives as aliens.  That doesn't mean I condone what Indonesia did to the Chinese or Uganda did to the Indians any more than I condone what Hitler  did.  But do note that the Jews in prewar Germany occupied a space in Germany not dissimilar to the space that Jews occupy in America today:  At the top of most heaps. 

Jews in America today seem perfectly safe but Jews in Germany once seemed that way too.  The Prussian parliament announced the emancipation of the Jews as early as 1812 and Frederick the Great welcomed them when just about no-one else would.  As a result the German Jews of the 1930s were the most assimilated Jews in the world.  It did them no good.

Why did it do them no good?  It did them no good because Hitler tapped into precisely the sentiment I mentioned:  resentment of dominance by an ethnically distinctive elite.  Hitler waxed eloquent about Jewish dominance of banking, commerce, science and industry and there were plenty of examples for him to point at.  And there was little objection to that among non-Jewish Germans.

So what should Jews learn from that?  I think that they should learn that they are not as safe as they think.  The antisemitic comments I get on my blogs (DESPITE the Israeli flag I have flying on them all) are both frequent and virulent and the antisemitic cadre formed by Muslim-Americans is well known. 

And the ever-encroaching socialism promoted by the Democrats has already long ago halted any growth in the average incomes of Americans -- despite great technological and scientific improvements.  And the Obama-induced Great Recession seems finally to have put America into economic reverse-gear.  Even a Romney/Ryan victory would seem to have only a slim chance of reversing the huge debt overhang that Obama has bequeathed to America    -- so an outright economic collapse via Weimar-style inflation seems all too possible.  And amid an economic collapse the people at the head of most parts  of "the system" could be very exposed.  Politicians will certainly prioritize saving their own skins above all else and pointing the finger at people other than themselves is totally predictable.

Let us suppose (for instance) that Romney/Ryan is defeated this year and an (overdue) inflationary thunderclap befalls America shortly thereafter.  What is Obama going to say as the 2014 mid-terms approach?  The dislike of Jews among African-Americans is well-known and Obama is an African-American politician who has no problem with race-hate (embodied in  his pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright).  And even among white Democrats there is a barely-suppressed stream of antisemitism that occasionally breaks the surface.  So if Obama pointed to Jewish bankers as the culprit for America's woes he would have almost every prominent African-American and Muslim-American on his side immediately.  And the media will swallow anything that Obama says.  And it's all downhill along a well-trodden path from there.

Republicans might object (as some did in response to FDR's imprisonment of Japanese Americans in WWII) but the well-oiled and media-enabled Leftist abuse machine would soon drown that out.

Are there any steps that Jews can take right now that will help them in the future?  I think there is one.  I will be blunt about it:  Jews occupying prominent positions in American life should make aliyah.  Israel needs their money and talents and they need Israel.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Some more observations about Ron Unz and IQ

There is an ongoing "debate" between  Richard Lynn and Ron Unz regarding international variations in IQ.  Although he is the publisher of "The American Conservative", Unz takes the classic Leftist view that  low IQ is caused by  poverty, although he does make the concession that "some residual European IQ differences might indeed be due to genetics rather than environment".  

Poverty is the cause of everything according to Leftists.  They even blamed the 9/11 events on poverty until it finally penetrated their unseeing eyes that Bin Laden was in fact a billionaire.

Unz's article is replete with accusations that Lynn has acted in bad faith  (though not in those  words), which seems to me rather deplorable, though I was not too surprised by it.  When Unz replied to my observations about crime and  immigration, his comments were almost hilariously "ad hominem":  He suggested that I was disqualified from commenting on such matters because I live in Australia!

Perhaps I can be rather Old Testament in the matter however by in turn accusing Unz of bad faith.  In his desire to discredit Lynn's  hypothesis of substantial genetic influence on IQ he cherrypicks his data heavily, as Sanders has pointed out at length.  And it also seems to me that he rushes by the German data in great haste.  I would think that the differences between the old East and West Germany should be a very good test of Unz's "poverty" hypothesis. After  several generations of real poverty, East Germans were found to have average IQs that were about the same as West Germans -- even though West Germany was one of the world's most prosperous countries, one which made a "miraculous" economic recovery from WWII  (the famous Wirtschaftswunder).

If poverty had no effect there, whence Unz's claim that poverty explains almost all IQ variation?  Unz does not allude to the German results in his latest article but here is what he said in his earlier article:
Consider, for example, the results from Germany obtained prior to its 1991 reunification. Lynn and Vanhanen present four separate IQ studies from the former West Germany, all quite sizable, which indicate mean IQs in the range 99–107, with the oldest 1970 sample providing the low end of that range. Meanwhile, a 1967 sample of East German children produced a score of just 90, while two later East German studies in 1978 and 1984 came in at 97–99, much closer to the West German numbers.

These results seem anomalous from the perspective of strong genetic determinism for IQ. To a very good approximation, East Germans and West Germans are genetically indistinguishable, and an IQ gap as wide as 17 points between the two groups seems inexplicable, while the recorded rise in East German scores of 7–9 points in just half a generation seems even more difficult to explain.

Unz here cherrypicks again by seizing on the widest possible gap in the data rather than on the reasonably inferrable average.  The 107 result is clearly an outlier and a West German mean of around 100 seems the best attested. And the convergence between the two later East German studies  suggest that the 1967 East German finding was also an outlier.  So we are left with an East German mean that is essentially undistinguishable from the West German  mean.

Will Unz be defeated by that fact?  Perhaps not. He leaves himself an "out" by saying "but East Germans hardly suffered from severe dietary deficiencies".  So now it is not poverty that affects IQ but rather "severe dietary deficiencies".  The goalposts have moved!

I don't know that it is really worth saying much more about Unz's merry journey through the data but I will briefly mention two other points:  Unz consistently discounts the immigrant effect, the claim that immigrants are in various ways a superior subset of their parent population.  Yet the USA seems a clear proof that such an effect exists.  Herrnstein & Murray long ago showed that lower IQ goes with lower social class and the mass of immigrants to both Australia and America in the past were clearly from the lower strata of their host societies. To this day, upper class English accents are as rare in Australia as British regional accents are common.  So average white IQs in both Australia and America should be lower than the average IQ in (say) Britain -- right? 

But it isn't so.  The average IQ in all three countries is essentially the same.  The most readily apparent explanation for that convergence would seem to be the immigrant effect:  The immigrants were a superior subset of the population from which they originated.  And the way America has in various ways led and dominated the world at least since WWII would also seem to suggest that those immigrant genes were pretty good.

A final point in defence of Lynn.  Unz says:  "Finally, Lynn closes his rebuttal by repeating his boilerplate disclaimer that he has “never maintained that IQ is overwhelmingly determined by genetics,” although this seems to be his clear reasoning in every single particular example he discusses"

I suspect here that Unz is failing to see that Lynn has had two aims in his work:  His main aim is to show that IQ is economically important and ascribing any origin to the  differences observed is secondary to that aim.  And that refusal to ascribe is what Lynn is doing when he makes modest claims for what he has shown.  In science, however, once one question is answered, new questions arise and Lynn's demonstration of national differences in IQ does quite immediately lead to a question of how those IQ differences arise.  And in rejecting Unz's "poverty" reasoning Lynn has moved on to the derivative question.

And even there, I think  Unz is seeing only what he wants to see in Lynn's words.  Lynn's denial of an "overwhelming" influence is perfectly consistent with around 100 years of IQ research.  The normal finding from twin studies is that IQ is about two thirds genetically determined.  Whether two thirds is "overwhelming", I leave others to judge but I submit that Unz has read more into Lynn's words than is there.

Prominent psychologist Steven Pinker also has some  comments on Unz's dubious logic and in addition  makes some useful points about the massive support for the heritability of IQ etc.  He is far too cautious to endorse Lynn's position, however.  To do so would be academic suicide  -- JR

Monday, August 06, 2012

  Another revealing admission of Leftist motivations

I don't think Leftists realize how arrogant they sound sometimes.  Obama is on record as wanting to "fundamentally reshape" the American economy -- something he has certainly done, though not in a way that many would praise -- and we read below something very similar from  Kevin Rudd, a past Prime Minister of Australia who could well be getting his job back soon as his Leftist rivals falter.  There are no fixed terms for Australian Prime Ministers.

In reading Leftist admissions of wanting to "reshape" countries  conservatives ask:    What if the people don't want the shape the Leftist  wants?  What about letting the people shape their nation by their own individual actions and choices?  This idea that a "shape" can be imposed from on high is pure Fascism

He is not supposed to be talking about a comeback, but former prime minister Kevin Rudd has given an interview in which he opens up about wanting to shape Australia's future well into the next decade.

Mr Rudd, who unsuccessfully challenged Julia Gillard for the Labor leadership in February, has told the Australian Women's Weekly that shaping the nation - which is somewhat difficult to do from the backbench - is "part of who I am, and you gotta be who you are".

Asked directly whether he wanted an ongoing role for himself, Mr Rudd said: "Oh definitely, it's just who I am. You gotta be who you are."

He was quick to say that "the position you occupy in life is less important".  "What's more important is being involved directly in shaping the nation's future, to the extent that you can," he said.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Criminality among illegals

I have found what sound like  some better statistics on  illegal immigrants than what can be inferred from Obama's broad brush claim that he "only" deports serious criminals.   We read:
"The 2011 figures show slightly more undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes were deported last year than in the prior year. ICE reported that 216,698 of the unauthorized immigrants removed in the 2011 fiscal year were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors, making up about 55 percent of the total removals"

Even so, if we scale up 216,698 over just 10 years we still have 2 million out of 12 million illegals who are offenders, and that is not at all consonant with claims by Ron Unz and others that offending among illegals is rare.

All statistics in this field have to be regarded as wobbly but deportation statistics would seem most likely to be solidly grounded -- JR

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


The article below came out some time ago but it is so stupid  that it has taken me until now to bother with it.  They come to the crazy conclusion that people do NOT become more conservative as they age. 

I think most of us old-timers can think of quite a few people who are a lot more conservative than they used to be -- and who can overlook that both Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill were liberals in their younger days?  And readers of this blog will probably be familiar with John Stossel and David Horowitz as further examples of such change.  In my home State of Queensland, Ned Hanlon started out as a far-Left unionist and red-ragger but when he eventually became Premier of the State he ended up using the police to break strikes by unionists.  He moved from one extreme to the other in the course of his lifetime.  I could go on.  The exampes are innumerable.

So how did they go wrong below?  In the usual Leftist way:  They have no idea of what conservatism is and substitute their own false picture of it for the reality.  In particular,  they equate conservatism with rigidity and closed-mindedness, when the actual research on the topic (going back to Rokeach in 1960) says that closed mindedness is not politically polarized.  Both liberals and conservatives are roughly equally likely to be rigid and closed-minded. My papers on that topic are here

And any mention of what conservatism really is:  Respect for individual liberty and opposition to big government, for instance, is conspicuously missing.

In short, the work below fails as research because it gets the very first step in any science wrong:  Taxonomy.  Their classification of people as conservatives is demonstrably erroneous

Readers may be interested in the listing of attitudes contained in my paper "What old people believe".  Note that the listing includes statements that old people REJECT  -- JR

Amidst the bipartisan banter of election season, there persists an enduring belief that people get more conservative as they age -- making older people more likely to vote for Republican candidates.

Ongoing research, however, fails to back up the stereotype. While there is some evidence that today's seniors may be more conservative than today's youth, that's not because older folks are more conservative than they use to be. Instead, our modern elders likely came of age at a time when the political situation favored more conservative views.

In fact, studies show that people may actually get more liberal over time when it comes to certain kinds of beliefs. That suggests that we are not pre-determined to get stodgy, set in our ways or otherwise more inflexible in our retirement years.  Contrary to popular belief, old age can be an open-minded and enlightening time.

"Pigeonholing older people into these rigid attitude boxes or conservative boxes is not a good idea," said Nick Dangelis, a sociologist and gerontologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

"Rather, when they were born, what experiences they had growing up, as well as political, social and economic events have a lot to do with how people behave," he said. "Our results are showing that these have profound effects."

Today, the image is ubiquitous in popular culture: A rigid gray-haired grump, who is closed-minded and set in his or her curmudgeonly ways. To some extent, that belief emerged from a real observation: Surveys that ask about attitudes towards things like premarital sex or race relations reveal that people older than 60 express more conservative views than people between the ages of 25 and 39. By extension came the assumption that older people used to be more liberal.

The problem with these studies, Dangelis said, is that they compare two demographics at one moment in time without offering a picture of the older cohort when they were younger. So, in a 2007 paper in the journal American Sociological Review, Dangelis and colleagues started to address that problem.

Using surveys taken between 1972 and 2004, the researchers found that groups of people actually became more tolerant, not more conservative, after age 60 -- calling into question some enduring myths about old age. Survey questions addressed attitudes about boundaries of privacy (such as the right to die), historically subordinate groups (such as women and Blacks) and civil liberties (for groups like atheists).

But that study had limitations, too. For one thing, each survey included a different set of people. So the researchers could compare the attitudes of people who were 25 in 1972, for example, with the attitudes of people who were 35 in 1982.

What's still missing, though, are long-term studies that actually follow individuals over time to see how their beliefs change.

In lieu of that kind of research, which is too difficult to do, researchers are now using complicated statistics to tease apart the effects of getting older from the effects of being a certain age at a certain moment in time.

Results, which are just starting to emerge, suggest that each belief follows its own complicated pattern. Seniors seem to have become more liberal about subordinate groups, for example, but more conservative about civil liberties.

Overall, what's happening in society at large as people come of age seems to matter most in determining the starting point for their core beliefs, said Karl Pillemer, a sociologist and gerontologist at Cornell University, who conducted more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with seniors for his book, "30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans." From there, people's attitudes can evolve as they age. And flexibility often trumps rigidity.

"Older people said very surprising things about being old," Pillemer said. "One of those things was that old age was a quest for adventure and a time to try new things. Many older people describe themselves as feeling freer or clearer."

Late in life, his research shows, people often become more open, more tolerant, and more appreciative of compassion. Even if they started out conservative, they may become less extreme in their conservatism.

"Many describe themselves as open to ideas or open to new ways of thinking, and they come back to a sense of much greater tolerance for different points of view," he said. "I had someone say, 'I used to think I was always right, but now that I'm 80, I'm not so sure I'm always right.'"


Sunday, July 29, 2012

What are the Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty

Lots of people would like to know the answer to that and many answers have been proposed.  Daron Acemoglu dismisses the most popular explanations and proposes a contrast between societies run on extractive and inclusive lines.  He says that societies are usually  run on extractive lines but it is the inclusive societies that are the runaway successes.  Below are his illustrative case-studies.  I am not  persuaded but will add my doubts at the foot of the extract below:


There is no better laboratory that demonstrates how extractive institutions emerge and persist than the New World. The Americas provide a brilliant example for understanding how different institutions form, how they become supported within different political frameworks, and how that, in turn, leads to huge economic divergences.

The economic and political institutions in the New World have been largely shaped by their colonization experience starting at the beginning of the 16th century. While the tales of Francisco Pizarro and Hernán Cortés are quite familiar, I'd like to start with Juan Díaz de Solís — a Spaniard who in 1516 initiated the colonization of the southern cone of South America, in what is today Argentina and Uruguay. Under de Solís's leadership, three ships and a crew of 70 men founded the city of Buenos Aires, meaning "good airs." Argentina and Uruguay have very fertile lands, with a climate that would later become the basis of nearly a century of very high income per capita because of the productivity of these areas.

The colonization of these areas itself, however, was a total failure — and the reason was that the Spaniards arrived with a given model of colonization. This model was to find gold and silver and, perhaps most importantly, to capture and enslave the Indians so that they could work for them. Unfortunately, from the colonists' point of view, the native populations of the area, known as the Charrúas and the Querandí, consisted of small bands of mobile huntergatherers.

Their sparse population density made it difficult for the Spaniards to capture them. They also did not have an established hierarchy, which made it difficult to coerce them into working. Instead, the Indians fought back — capturing de Solís and clubbing him to death before he could make it into the history books as one of the famous conquistadors. For those that remained, there were not enough Indians to act as workhorses, and one by one the Spaniards began to die as starvation set in.

The rest of the crew moved up the perimeter to what is now known as Asunción, Paraguay. There the conquistadors encountered another band of Indians, who on the surface looked similar to the Charrúas and the Querandí. The Guaraní, however, were a little different. They were more densely settled and already sedentary. They had also established a hierarchical society with an elite class of princes and princesses, while the rest of the population worked for the benefit of the elite.

The conquistadors immediately took over this hierarchy, setting themselves up as the elite. Some of them married the princesses. They put the Guaraní to work producing food, and ultimately the remainder of de Solís's original crew led a successful colonization effort that survived for many centuries to come.

The institutions established among the Guaraní were the same types of institutions that were established throughout other parts of Latin America: forced labor institutions with land grants for the elite Spaniards. The Indians were forced to work for whatever wages the elites would pay them. They were under constant coercive pressure — forced not only to work but also to buy what the elites offered up for sale. It is no surprise that these economic institutions did not promote economic growth. Yet it's also no surprise that the political institutions underpinning this system persisted — establishing and continuously recreating a ruling class of elites that did not encourage economic development in Latin America.

Yet, the question still remains: Could it have been geography, culture, or enlightened leadership — rather than institutional factors — that played a critical role in the distinct fates of the two teams of explorers?


Roughly a thousand miles north, at the beginning of the 17th century, the model of the Virginia Company — made up of the elite captains and aristocrats who were sent to North America — was actually remarkably similar to the model of the conquistadors. The Virginia Company also wanted gold. They also thought that they would be able to capture the Indians and put them to work. But unfortunately for them, the situation they encountered was also quite similar to what the conquistadors witnessed in Argentina and Uruguay.

The joint stock companies found a sparsely populated, very mobile band of Indians who were, once again, unwilling to work in order to provide food for the settlers. The settlers therefore went through a period of starvation. However, while the Spaniards had the option of moving up north, the captains of the Virginia Company did not have this option. No such civilization existed.

They therefore came up with a second strategy. Without the ability to enslave the Indians and put them to work, they decided to import their own lower strata of society, which they brought to the New World under a system of indentured servitude. To give you a sense of this, let me quote directly from the laws of the Jamestown colony, promulgated by the governor Sir Thomas Gates and his deputy Sir Thomas Dale:

No man or woman shall run away from the colony to the Indians upon pain of death. Anyone who robs a garden, public or private or a vineyard or who steals ears of corn shall be punished with death. No member of the colony will sell or give any commodity of this country to a captain, mariner, master, or sailor to transport out of the colony or for his own private use upon pain of death.
Two things become immediately apparent in reading these laws. First, contrary to the image that English colonies sometimes garner, the Jamestown colony that the Virginia Company was chartered to establish was not a happy, consensual place. Pretty much anything the settlers could do would be punished by death. Second, the company encountered real problems that were cause for concern — namely, that it was extraordinarily difficult to prevent the settlers they brought to form the lower strata of society from running away or engaging in outside trade. The Virginia Company therefore fought to enforce this system for a few more years, but in the end they decided that there was no practical way to inject this lower stratum into their society.

Finally, they devised a third strategy — a very radical one in which the only option left was to offer economic incentives to the settlers. This led to what is known as the headright system, which was established in Jamestown in 1618. In essence, each settler was given a legal grant of land, which they were then required to work in exchange for secure property rights to that plot. But there was still one problem. How could the settlers be sure that they had secure rights to that property, particularly in an environment in which a stolen ear of corn was punishable by death?

The very next year, in order to make these economic incentives credible, the General Assembly offered the settlers political rights as well. This, in effect, allowed them to advance above the lower strata of society, to a position in which they would be making their own decisions through more inclusive political institutions.


The above examples seem to me to offer no insight into the two runaway economic and political successes of the  19th century:  Britain and Germany.  Britain inherited a system of individual liberty from way back which was emphasized by the governments of the day,  notably by both the Liberals under Gladstone and the Conservatives under Disraeli.

Germany, however, was created by Bismarck in 1872 and flourished under his authoritarian rule.  And the systems which he set in place survived his term in office and led to continued economic advance in Germany.  And by 1914,  Germany was arguably more powerful and prosperous than Britain.  It was only a tenuous lead in naval strength that gave Britain any headway over Germany.  Compared to the German army, the British army was of course laughable.  It took the combined might of France, Britain, Russia and the USA to bring Germany to heel.

So how does Germany fit the Acemoglu model?  I cannot see that it does.   Both Prussia before 1872 and Germany after 1872 had parliaments with varying degrees of influence but both Prussia and Germany remained substantially under the control of political strongmen, first Bismarck and then Kaiser Bill.  One of the most famous episodes in his career  was when Bismarck ran Prussia for four years in the name of the Kaiser alone  -- completely ignoring the Prussian parliament. 

So it seems to me that the Acemoglu model gives us no insight into the ORIGIN of powerful and prosperous societies.  It does however give a reasonable DESCRIPTION  of powerful and prosperous societies -- secure property rights etc.  But we already knew that.   It is the origin question that we want answered. 

And I do have an answer  -- but it is so politically incorrect and will initially be seen as so improbable that I hesitate to say much about it.  Briefly, I think that a tradition of respecting the individual is the key and that such an orientation was historically basic among Teutonic peoples and is still alive (though gasping)  today.  I think it  is that tradition which led to both British and German eminence in the 19th century.  I set out some of the history behind my thinking on the matter here