February 28, 2006

Safely Examining Gender Differences in Intelligence

Posted by TMLutas

While reading about Larry Summers' defenestration from Harvard it occurred to me that one of his cardinal sins, bringing up the possibility that there are gender differences in the distribution of intelligence, could have been examined safely had it been presented differently.

The Summers proposition was that men and women had the same average intelligence overall but that men had thicker "tails", ie more genius and more idiocy resides in the male sex than in the female. He viewed this as a possible explanation of some of the difference in elite academic faculty appointments for women v men. This launched a buzz saw of hate and invective.

But what if Summers had looked at why there are so many males of low intelligence or even better why so few women are extraordinarily dumb, it's hard to imagine that the same controversy would erupt. And if the idea is correct and study is permitted even in an atmosphere of stultifying gender political correctness, there is hope that once the twin realities of more male dummies and equal average intelligence across the sexes are well established even the most fearful will follow through to to the obvious conclusion, that the rightward (smart) tail is also thicker for men.

It's a pity that there doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for a gender study of idiocy. The results might prove fascinating.

The Firm Kill

Posted by TMLutas

So, how should Iran be taken out? Should it be by a "hard kill" invasion? Or should we "soft kill" the regime by connectivity? Or is there a door #3? Evidence for a middle-road, let's call it "firm kill" is emerging:

In the southwest, where most of Iran's oil, and Arabs, are found, two bombs went off in government offices. There were four injuries. These bombings have been going on since last Summer. The government blames foreign instigators. That may be true, but not the British foreigners the government names, but Iraqi Shia Arabs who feel the connection with their fellow Shia Arabs across the border in Iran.

We worry about how the Iraqi government would stand up against the continuing pressure of a bombing campaign but nobody seems to have asked the question of Iran's resiliance and ability to tolerate the same stresses. That's a major propaganda coup for the other side and there's no reason in the world that it should go on. Raising questions about Iranian regime stability is neither difficult, nor especially dangerous (except for oil markets, perhaps). So why aren't we talking about this?

Is the bombing campaign being done to destabilize the regime directly or to invite such severe repression that a Sistani/Najaf fatwa against the heretical Iranian government becomes inevitable? Such a situation would put Moqtada Sadr in a heck of a bind. The puppet would have to decide to either cut his strings or become useless to his Iranian masters by becoming too obviously their agent.

It's a nice play and it's occurring in plain sight.

February 27, 2006

Internet Adoption S Curve flattening

Posted by TMLutas

It's becoming clear that the Internet needs a new killer app. Recent data is pointing to a bit over a third of US households being simply uninterested in current Internet offerings. The glory days of ever increasing household penetration seem largely to be at an end with only 2% of the holdouts planning on getting service this year which means that at that pace, it'll take ~18 years to achieve full penetration.

It's clear that if the US is going to get fully wired up, something other than the web is going to have to be the driver. Yet so many people today think that the Web is the Internet that there's going to have to be some serious retooling of public perception before another killer app is going to be able to take over for the Web.

Maybe the adoption of IPv6 will allow for a rebranding. Supposedly there is a USG mandate to deploy by 2008 so explaining that retooling might allow for a new perception of Internet usefulness to take hold. The ability to deliver rock solid audio and video at decent frame rates should probably entice a few more people to take the plunge. High fuel prices will likely bring some in just to take advantage of telecommuting.

In the end, there will be a few who just decide to drop out, just like there are a few households that do not have TVs. I should know, I used to be in one of them...

February 20, 2006

From the Catholic Rumor Mill

Posted by TMLutas

From comments in an article on the coming end of the SSPX schism.

However, as I see it, the Pope's doing this for other reasons: his intention is to end the schism with the Orthodox this year or next; and they have made it very clear that they want him to end the schism with the SSPX first; and show them thereby how he would propose to end the Great Schism.

So this is a case study for that. And I think B16 has the same idea for both: that is a unilateral cancellation of disciplinary censures. He may ipso facto make the SSPX in communion, without requiring anythign from them; as a good will gesture, and then ask them in Christian Charity to make a Christian response in Charity. And likewith to the Orthodox.

On the one hand, this is going to cause a lot of confusion: because laws are supposed to be for guiding the practice of virtue and for the instruction in virtue, and until we se how he does it and if he does it this way, it is hard to say what the repercussions will be. On the other hand, the sins of heresy and schism remain, regardless of whether they are condemend in this particular person or church. And it is conceivable, for those who are ignorant that they are in sin, and have no malice (which even Christ admitted to St. Bridget in regard to the majority of the Orthodox), that such a unilateral step will only foster their acceptance of the truth, ultimately. In short, the pope will be treating them as poorly catechised children, with whom it is pointless to impose censures, since they are not yet ready for the responsibility of adulthood. It all seems highly unorthodox to me.

Ending schism between Catholicism and Orthodoxy may seem to be obscure and inconsequential to many modern readers. I can assure you that it is not. It is the start of reforging an old Huntingtonian civilization, christendom. Stuff like this happens once a millenium and usually the process is the reverse, one civilization becoming two.

If this truly is the papal line, be ready for a few adjustments in practical terms. The calculation of Easter is a very likely concession of West to East. Protestants are going to have to decide denomination by denomination whether they want to go along with the Eastern formulation and then civil governments in protestant (like the UK) and split western nations (like the US, FRG, and France) are going to have to mediate.

Get ready to hear an awful lot about the Eastern Church fathers and their different approach to salvation. Even if you're a protestant or not even christian, the new preeminence of the eastern fathers are going to change the discussion in unexpected ways. Get used to thinking again because you're likely to hear some arguments that you haven't heard before.

Get ready for the first full apostolic council in a millenium whose first order of business will be reconciling the last millenia's thelogical developments between the major branches of apostolic christianity. God only knows what would come out of such a council but it will be the acid test of the new unity.

February 16, 2006

Too Clever by Half

Posted by TMLutas

Charlie Cook says that Democrats might not want congressional majorities and thus modulate their efforts to try to get a gain but not enough to tip control of Congress. This may very well be right and Charlie Cook is famous as an electoral prognosticator for good reason.

The problem with the scenario is that electoral gains are not so easily calibrated. Both the Republican party and the people have a say as to how many seats the Democrats have come January. If the Democrats are so foolish as to not actually try their best, they may find that instead of a satisfactory gain that sets them up for 2008 majorities, President Bush's electoral reputation will get burnished again as he survives yet another mid-term without losing seats in Congress.

February 15, 2006

Watching "Watching America" I

Posted by TMLutas

Watching America is a news aggregator and translation service taking a distinctly leftish view of the world press, translating and assembling it for convenient consumption. It's a useful exercise in getting out of the self-congratulatory praise fest that is the constant danger of our narrowcast, niche, new news world.

It's scary what's out there, though.

Take this bit of foolishness by Linda Mcquaig in the Toronto Star

Take the question: Why are there so many suicide bombers in the Muslim world?

Of course, there's a rote answer to this that we hear all the time: Muslims have a culture of death; their blind rage against our freedom leads them to sacrifice their lives to spite us.

Another explanation - one you rarely hear - is that they're blowing themselves up to fight military incursions into their lands. (In this sense, they're not that different from people throughout history who sacrificed their lives to defend territory against foreign armies.)

One person who's been saying this - and getting little attention - is Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Based on the comprehensive databank he's developed as director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, Pape concludes there's been a strategic goal common to nearly every act of suicide terrorism in the past 25 years: "To compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland."

There's one problem with the construction. Muslim suicide bombers believe that any formerly muslim land is muslim land forever. Spain must become muslim as must the Balkans and central Europe up to the gates of Vienna. These maximalist demands are non-negotiable. The suicide bombers will keep coming until they are met. Only then will they negotiate peace and safety with the rest of the world, after further concessions, of course.

Afghanistan was supposedly taken because we needed a stable government that would protect a pipeline to bring natural gas to the south asian market and possibly for export further. Unseating the Taliban who had provided Al Queda with sanctuary as they plotted and executed a plan to kill thousands of americans has nothing to do with it. It's all about the oil (or in this case, natural gas).

The reality is that a pipeline likely will be built as the security situation improves but the motivation is exactly backwards. We encourage pipelines to transit through shaky regimes we like in order to stabilize them with transit fees. We acquired the responsibility for gifting Afghanistan with something better when we justifiably ejected the Taliban.

Today, Afghanistan is in desperate need of money to replace poppy cultivation one of its few economic success stories. Pipeline income can be part of the long-term success story of removing Afghanistan as the #1 source of raw materials for heroin production.

Admittedly, it is hard to get a good handle on motivations, especially for projects that are likely to last decades and have already been around at least a decade. This is a sword that cuts two ways though. When the US might have good, honorable motivations or dastardly, power hungry ones, a commentator has a choice over which motive to assign (or just present them all and let the reader decide). It's something of a test of the writer. Linda Mcquaig exposes herself as an unabashed partisan by excluding the alternatives and just assuming the worst motivation on the part of the US. It is anti-americanism in full flower.

February 14, 2006

How to Find a Good Doctor

Posted by TMLutas

My wife relayed an interesting anecdote. She's doing temporary (locum tenens) work to fill in those empty slots while word of mouth brings patients to her door and a recruiter she worked with changed jobs and asked her how to find a doctor in the Atlanta area. Her advice was so good that I thought I'd blog it for the similarly perplexed who have good health insurance for the first time and don't know how to pick a doctor.

1. Contact the local hospitals and ask them for a list of nearby doctors who are taking new patients
2. Start calling the offices up and check whether they take your insurance and whether they would be willing to let you tour the office and meet the doctor.
3. Drop the practices from your list who are too busy to do such a thing or are anything other than happy to do it.
4. If you have multiple doctors who will allow you to tour, take the tour and pick the best one based on a checklist. Here's a sample:
How much do you like the doctor?
How convenient is the office location
Are the office hours convenient to your lifestyle?
how flexible are they if you would need to make an appointment outside regular office hours?

February 13, 2006

The UIA Strains

Posted by TMLutas

One of the things that is going to determine whether or not Iraq is going to succeed as a parliamentary democracy is the split of the Shia. This seems to be moving apace with the Sadrists pushing things to the edge of the toleration of the other members of the UIA and gaining their choice for prime minister by a 1 vote margin. You can have such close splits, you can personally black ball people out of the cabinet. What you can't do is to expect to carry it off over and over again without eventually splitting your coalition and creating a scenario where you find yourself in a lonely plurality, with an everybody else coalition forming against you.

There is nothing essential that the Sadrists provide that mandate that they be in the majority all the time. They are a faction, one among many, and they seem to be destined to play the role of splitting the Shia majority.

February 12, 2006

The Right Plays ACLU

Posted by TMLutas

The ACLU is famous for defending interests that are disreputable, even odious, in order to defend free speech. As far as I can tell, having visited the ACLU and run a couple of searches, they are totally missing in action regarding the Cartoon Wars. At the very least, a statement of solidarity would have been appreciated. Apparently, they don't feel that it's in their interest to uphold the principle of free speech against the chill wind of State Department disapproval.

Their banner of defending the rude and worse is being carried, instead, by their usual nemesis, movement conservatives. I strongly doubt, had there been no violent reaction, that most of these conservatives would have batted an eye or risen to the defense of the cartoons and their illustrators had they been on the receiving end of nastygrams and words of pain and shock at sacrilege. This is par for the course. There might even have been a little shared commiseration, a "welcome to the club" as it were that would have somewhat tightened the bonds of conservative christian and muslim groups.

But violence was committed, the principles of free speech, diplomatic immunity, and proportionality were all grossly violated, and the right swung to defend the West in a strategy script that could have been carbon copied out of the ACLU's defense of any number of objectionable defendants.

Such an occurrence should be remembered the next time the 2 minute hate is about "right-wing intolerance of free speech".

February 11, 2006

How to Smack Down Your Own Side

Posted by TMLutas

I've often said that it's imperative that restraining your own nutters is an important obligation of any faction. The American Mind provides an excellent example of how to do it.

This is not the first time that Ann Coulter has been slapped down like this. She doesn't write for National Review anymore, for example, because of past indiscretions. As long as the right in the US continues to apply discipline like this and the left does not, this country will continue its drift towards conservatism.

February 09, 2006

Apocalypse 2008?

Posted by TMLutas

A simple question, why does Arnaud de Borchgrave think that Iran's Ahmadinejad has set the date of the Apocalpse for 2008?

"The ultimate promise of all Divine religions," says Ahmadinejad, "will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [the 12th Imam], who is heir to all prophets. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace. Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one." He reckons the return of the Imam, AWOL for 11 centuries, is only two years away.

This is the first article that I've seen that purports to have identified a particular year for the end of the world in Ahmadinejad's theology. It's quite important to figure out if this is actually true. The fate of the Middle East, and possibly far beyond may depend on it.

February 06, 2006

Lying Carter

Posted by TMLutas

President Carter is either a complete partisan hack or he's gone senile judging from this article. You can maintain that the NSA wiretap program is legal or illegal in my book. I think there's a fundamental grey area and President Bush went up to the edge of it to gain advantage for the intelligence services of the US and to the detriment of our enemies, foreign and domestic.

It's been admitted by all the principals in Congress that this administration has regularly briefed Congress regarding this NSA program and did it from the beginning right up to the point the operation was blown by the NY Times. It's likely that secret briefings are still ongoing. Democrats as well as Republicans were briefed in accordance with the procedures that the Congress has set up for highly classified programs. The ranking members and chairmen of the Intelligence committees as well as majority and minority leaders of each congressional house were briefed. That's the way they did it In Jimmy Carter's White House too.

Unfortunately, Carter's either forgotten or he just doesn't care much for the truth. He's throwing cheap, partisan gasoline on the fire to gain advantage for his side. That's despicable. The only excuse would be senility and at that point, shame on his handlers to let him shoot his mouth off like that.

February 01, 2006

Expensive Wrapping

Posted by TMLutas

The call newspaper fishwrap. But what do you wrap newspapers in? If you're the Boston Globe, it appears you wrap it in you customers' private financial data. 240,000 credit card numbers and 1,100 check routing codes went out to 2000 retailers and 390 paper carriers totalling 9,000 bundles of inappropriate bundle wrapping.

The mind boggles.

It's hard to imagine trusting your financial data to these jokers in future. Perhaps paying in cash will be making a minor comeback?

Khaled Meshaal's Betrayal of Palestine

Posted by TMLutas

The LA Times has a fascinating, and disappointing, betrayal of Palestinian dignity penned by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' political director. The fundamental truth of international aid is that it is a gift, a favor given by one country to another (or to groups inside another) country. When the Marshall plan ended, was the US punishing Germany or any of the other recipient countries? Of course not.

International aid is often, even usually attached with certain conditions. In the case of the Palestinian Authority, the conditions were that the Authority recognize Israel's right to exist and not war on the state of Israel. Fatah agreed to those conditions. To date, Hamas has not done so. To say that the Palestinian people are being threatened or punished because aid will be pulled if aid conditions are not fulfilled is to adopt the ugly manner of the welfare queen, the risible figure of fiction and reality that felt entitled to live by the sweat of others without any personal contribution to their own sustenance.

Welfare queens are contemptible and deserving of scorn because they can support themselves but choose not to. They voluntarily abase themselves, humiliate themselves, and say the world owes them. Sad to say, very often the world gives them enough to keep them out of sight, out of hearing, and out of mind.

By adopting the welfare queen attitude that aid is owed without any compromise or other effort, Mr. Meshaal betrays the dignity of the Palestinian people. Hamas knew the conditions for aid long before they went to the polls. They should have had a plan to survive without the aid for Palestine to thrive in independent dignity. Instead, we have this pathetic mau mau, this roaring welfare queen. It is betrayal. Palestinians deserve better.

Egypt Presses Hamas

Posted by TMLutas

Via Instapundity I learn that Egypt wants Hamas to recognize Israel. What's more interesting is the report in the same article that Egypt has convinced President Abbas to delay asking Hamas to form the next government until Hamas recognizes Israel and promises to abide by previous agreements.

This puts Hamas in a terrible bind. They can stick to their present position but only at a price of profound misery to the palestinian people with little chance of succor from Egypt or Jordan or they can abandon terrorism and almost guarantee schism inside Hamas and a more complicated civil war than already was brewing.

President Bush is currently looking pretty good on how he's playing things. Let's see if this continues.

A product of BruceR and Jantar Mantar Communications, and affiliated contributors. Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's half-informed viewpoint on the world.

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