Archive for August, 2010

Can Peer Review Be Fixed?

August 14, 2010

From Jo Nova: Can Peer Review Be Fixed?

“Seriously, what other profession would call unpublished comments by two unpaid anonymous colleagues “rigorous”?

Dear IRS officer, my tax return was audited by two accounting friends I won’t name, and they say it’s right. OK?”

Integrity it Ain’t

August 14, 2010

From Kev Boyle: Integrity it Ain’t

“The ‘diversity’ agenda is, in reality, all about creating a locked down monoculture.”

EU Taxation Without Representation

August 14, 2010

EU taxation without representation: but has Britain got what it takes to fight?

This could be yet another moment of national British humiliation. Brussels has made its move in the dead days of August, of course, in the hope it would pass unnoticed.

But some of us have noticed. And the British had better take notice. The European Commission has decided to fire up the powers of taxation given to the EU by the Lisbon Treaty. Thanks to David Cameron’s refusal to fight the transfer of sovereignty the treaty makes, the British people can now be subject to taxation direct from Brussels, with the Commons — indeed, with the Chancellor — having no control over the tax at all.

Today Janusz Lewandowski, the commissioner in charge of the EU’s £116bn budget, announced he intends to press for a new EU tax. The euro-elite want to be able to get their hands on your money without having to ask your Government even for a perfunctory agreement. All this talk about belt-tightening around Europe is making the euro-elite edgy: they have their luxurious pay and pensions and travel allowances, and all their empire-building to protect, after all.

Britain and every other member state is going through terrible budget turmoil, with spending cuts and citizens furious about increases in taxation — yet now Brussels is getting ready to activate Art 311 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (part of the Lisbon bundle — the euro-elite don’t want to make it easy for you to find it).

It says, ‘The Union shall provide itself with the means necessary to attain its objectives and carry through its policies.’

The ‘means.’ That means money. Your money. Taken away by an unelected single party government (the commission) enabled by politicians over whom the British voters have no political control (the council). The British will have to pay the tax these people demand, but can never vote them out. The commission wants to start with a tax on all bank transactions, or perhaps air travel. It doesn’t really matter which. Their point now is to establish the power of Brussels to tax the populations of the countries of the EU without any control by national parliaments. Once that power is in place, the taxes can be ratcheted up.

There you have it, people forced to pay taxes by people they did not vote into office, and whom they cannot vote out of office, and over whom they have no control. George Washington

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, a lot a determined men on board a tea ship in Boston Harbour, a lot of other brave men at a green in Lexington, and plenty other men with much to lose, all decided long ago they would not tolerate such a thing. They could not tolerate taxation without representation.

Question: will the British tolerate it? Or will they let themselves be humiliated in a way that even the small ragtag population of 13 British colonies would not allow in 1776?

Political Ponerology

August 14, 2010

Science on the nature of evil adjusted for political puroposes.

“People in positions of power that systematically perpetuate evil behave as if they were a different human species.”

“Ponerology and “successful” psychopathology (i.e. not the “violent serial killer” type, but the Stalin, Pol Pot, Cheney, Rockefeller, Kissinger, Bill Clinton, or Donald Rumsfeld type) clinically explain how “pathocracies” – the system of government created by a small pathological minority that takes control over a society of non-psychopaths – are generated and dominated by those that possess an inborn error (psychopathy) prevalent in 4-6% of the population, which is physiologically unable to feel normal human empathy. They are emotionless, selfish, cold and calculating, and devoid of any moral or ethical standards, yet they are intelligent, charming, driven, focused, and therefore tend to achieve the highest positions of power by concealing their true nature under a “mask of sanity.” This concept applies to all existing hierarchical power structures.”

“…Relatedly, the Milgram Experiment ties in nicely with this concept. If you are unfamiliar with this experiment, in 1961, on the heels of certain Nazi war crimes trials, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram conducted this experiment across a range of 40 individuals to test their response to authoritative pressure. They were directed by the experimenter to deliver what they believed to be real electric shocks to another participant (actually an actor). The results shocked everyone. Only 1.2% of individuals were predicted to administer the highest voltage (450 volts); 26 of the 40 participants (65%) – some with clearly conflicted consciences – delivered this lethal electric shock. The only duress placed on the subjects was verbal cueing from a man in a white lab coat! You can imagine the disastrous results derived from the combination of conscience-lacking psychopaths as the authorities in executive power circles and the masses of people obeying such “authority” blindly in such large proportions”

Diversity is Not Black and White

August 14, 2010

From August 2007

The latest round of research done by sociologist Robert Putnam has been spreading around the world in dribs and drabs for most of this decade. Mr Putnam, who teaches at both Harvard and the University of Manchester, is known for his work on social capital, which he defines as “social networks and the associated norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness”.

Since social capital is linked to better health, wealth and education, longevity and a stronger democratic life, it is something worth guarding. Mr Putnam lamented its decline in a bestseller called Bowling Alone. At the start of this decade, Mr Putnam undertook a vast study that led him to a troubling conclusion: one of the big causes of the decline of social capital is racial diversity.

This summer, Mr Putnam’s work on diversity came a step closer to penetrating the consciousness of the public when one of his lectures was published in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies. His social science colleagues have been mulling over his research for years and none has seriously challenged his conclusions. So an ideological crisis is looming. One of the cherished shibboleths of public policy, corporate identity and interpersonal relations – the idea that “diversity is strength” – is losing its legitimacy.

Mr Putnam studied 30,000 people, urban and rural, rich and poor, young and old, male and female, across the US. He found a steady correlation between ethnically mixed environments and withdrawal from public life. People living amidst diversity tend to “hunker down”, in his words. They trust their neighbours less (whether of other races or their own), vote less and give less to charity. About the only things they excel at, in Mr Putnam’s account, are television-watching and protest marching. They lead sadder lives.

This conclusion, viewed a certain way, is just laboriously documented common sense. People trust people like themselves more than they trust people unlike themselves. Life is short and diverse groups waste precious time arguing over ground rules. Once a certain level of diversity is surpassed, a community ceases to be a community. What makes “the gay community” and “the African-American community” communities, at least in politically correct jargon, is that they are not diverse. Mr Putnam himself acknowledges a long list of “evidence that diversity and solidarity are negatively correlated”. One could cite Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser’s demonstration that ethnic diversity helps account for much of the weakness of the US welfare state relative to those in Europe.

But Mr Putnam’s study does not simply point to a few difficulties in administering diversity – it undermines the official doctrine of western governments that diversity is always, and in every way, a positive force in society. It makes one wonder if diversity would still be considered a positive force at all if it were not an official doctrine, and one with a mighty apparatus of enforcement. Admirably,Mr Putnam wants to keep people from overreacting to diversity (the social fact). But the way he chooses to do this is by taking refuge in diversity (the state ideology). He insists that “ethnic diversity is, on balance, an important social asset”. What exactly does he mean by this? Diversity is indeed an asset, in the sense that companies that pay careful attention to it will spend a lot less time defending lawsuits against government prosecutors. But what is its inherent value?

Here, Mr Putnam’s gift for specificity and syllogism fails him. While he describes and empirically verifies the problems of diversity, he does little more than speculate about its advantages. Mr Putnam credits one social scientist with having “powerfully summarised evidence that diversity (especially intellectual diversity) produces much better, faster problem-solving”. But intellectual diversity is not the kind of diversity that Mr Putnam is studying, and it is not the kind that official programmes promote, particularly in human resources departments and on college campuses. What is promoted is racial diversity. While it is assumed in theory that this will bring intellectual diversity in its wake, that has not happened in practice. Indeed, a powerful conformism has become the mark of American universities in precisely the decades when they have been growing more diverse. Mr Putnam also cites the desegregation of the US Army as evidence that people get used to diversity over time. But even the best army is organised along hierarchical and authoritarian lines that make it a poor place to look for lessons about life in a democratic republic.

“The central challenge for modern, diversifying societies,” writes Mr Putnam, “is to create a new, broader sense of ‘we’.” But surely to “broaden” anything is to attenuate it. If you doubt this, imagine how your spouse or business partner would take such a suggestion. To ask for a “broader sense of ‘we’ ” is to ask that we simply make our peace with waning social capital.

It is our duty to live with the diversity around us. But it is not our duty to sing the praises of diversity ideology. Racism and certain other forms of exclusion corrode a society morally. But diversity, as an ideology, is not a matter of avoiding those occasions of sin. It is an active, ruthless and crusading belief system. Its effects resemble those of “meritocracy” on the community life of London’s Bethnal Green, as described in Dench, Gavron and Young’s The New East End. It involves identifying, discrediting and breaking up close-knit communities in the interest of mixing them more easily into some new ideal of the nation.

There have been great gains from this ideology, and great losses. Mr Putnam’s research shows that the latter are more obvious than the former.

Study: Climate 460 MYA was like today, but thought to have CO2 levels 5-20 times as high

August 14, 2010

From WUWT:

Study: Climate 460 MYA was like today, but thought to have CO2 levels 5-20 times as high