A weekend ramble through religion, history, illiteracy and Wikipedia... and more. Enjoy!
- The US Center for Public Policy Research is turning Greenpeace's insistence on climate skeptic organisations revealing their funding back on Greenpeace, "challenging Greenpeace and its affiliates to disclose the sources and amounts of its 2006 donations exceeding $50,000," and revealing some of those donors.
Greenpeace - perhaps based on its own behavior - assumes that donations influence the stands groups such as ours take. They do not. So that the public can judge for themselves, we're challenging Greenpeace to complete transparency through disclosure of major gifts... If Greenpeace expects its call for public disclosure of grants of other groups to be taken seriously, they should lead by example. If not, they're the real "denial industry."If Greenpeace agrees, says The Center, then they will do the same. See Think Tank Challenges Greenpeace to Meet Transparency Standards.
- John Stossel makes a point, which as usual is a point worth making:
Whenever someone is hurt in an accident, people say, "There ought to be a law!" Politicians rush to oblige them and then take credit for all the lives they saved. But shouldn't they also accept blame for the lives lost because of those laws?
Lives lost? Yes. A joint study by the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute found that government regulations that are supposed to save lives actually end up killing more people. Why? Because safety laws almost always have unintended bad consequences.See John Stossel: Hazardous Safety Regulation.
- Hate Crime. Ed Cline has the real oil on so called "hate crimes," and here's the nub:
The first and most crucial thing to grasp about what can be deemed a “hate crime” is that it is, essentially, a political crime.He's right you know. Read Ed Cline: The Genesis of Thought Crime.
- And read Ed too on Jamestown -- the first successful American colonial outpost -- and Why Jamestown Matters,.a letter correcting a politically correct account of the colony that appeared in a national newspaper. As you'll see, Ed's account has relevance both to New Zealand colonisation, and to recent arguments about politics and religion. Historian Eric Daniels fleshes out Ed's response in a more detailed exposition of the Jamestown colony. Jamestown, he says, was The Birthplace of America's Distinctive, Secular Ideal.
- David Bain is the new David Beckham, or so you would think from all the media coverage he's received this week. When will he be on Dancing With the Stars? Notes the Kiwi Pundit,
The 'miscarriage of justice' referred to in the [Privy Council] decision is not that the verdict was likely to be wrong. The point is that justice requires that the defendant be convicted by a jury that has seen all the evidence. The Bain jury didn't see all the evidence, therefore there is a miscarriage of justice. There is no inference that the jury would have, or should have, decided the case differently based on the new evidence.It's too easy to forget that David Bain is still a suspect -- one of only two suspects in a multiple murder -- and as such he needs a proper trial to either clear his name or determine his guilt. Guilt in this case should be easier to prove than in many other cases, since there are only two suspects, and for the other one to have "done it," then you have to be able to show that he subsequently suicided -- a difficult job by all accounts. Meanwhile, Falufulu Fisi reminds us of the leading evidence against David Bain in this comment.
- Increasing illiteracy is not unique to the products of NZ's factory schools -- it's a worldwide failure due to the signal failure of a leading literacy theory, the stupid "whole language" method of not teaching reading -- a method that "teaches children to memorize and guess at words, using pictures and other clues, instead of using phonics skills to sound them out." It's worth reminding ourselves that "the experts" responsible for this abject failure still rule the roost at the world's teachers' colleges, pumping out new teachers to teach illiteracy to new generations of students every year.
Martha Brown names names in this article, pointing out some of those responsible for both introducing and maintaining a method of teaching that has ensured that in New Zealand a staggering 66.4 percent of Mäori were below the minimum level of “ability to understand and use information from text,”and an equally tragic 41.6 percent of non-Mäori, and "that the United States, like Haiti, is among the seven out of 39 Western Hemisphere nations entering the third millennium with a literacy rate below 80 percent."
Why do we face this elementary problem? Read Brown's Poor Reading-Instruction Methods Keep Many Students Illiterate to begin finding out, and to see what part "NZ's own" Marie Clay has to play in the whole scam. Have a look at this local page for a brief introduction to the difference between whole word, whole language and phonics, and read some of Patrick Goff's articles at this index to get some of idea of how phonics really does works for reading. Brown's conclusion is worth quoting in full. Explaining why Marie Clay's Reading Recovery programme still continues despite both research and practical experience of failure that discredits it, she concludes:
Writing separately, [literacy researchers] Groff and Lyon both speak of poor teacher preparation and (in Lyon's words) of "the tendency for educational practices and policies to be guided by philosophical and ideological factors rather than scientific factors." Groff notes educators' ignorance and distrust of "what experimental research actually indicates about reading instruction."
He adds, "There has been no easy or regular accommodation for grievances from the courts for the malpractice in reading instruction that has taken place. The monopoly over teacher education that is now held by university departments of education has allowed them to train reading teachers wrongly with impunity. Ideology about reading teaching thrives in this hothouse of irrationality."
Burning down the teachers' colleges is long overdue.
- While Syrian and Iranian sponsored terrorists are blowing up people in Iraq and Israel, Condoleeza Rice looked the other way and went to the Middle East to talk to those who train, arm and supply the terrorists. What did she think she was doing? According to Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute,
Talking will not convince the Iranian theocrats to give up their support for terrorism and their feverish quest for nuclear weapons. Quite to the contrary, any such 'dialogue' will only demonstrate America's weakness and encourage the Iranians to sponsor even more terrorism, especially against Americans in Iraq.He's right, isn't he. When one side is saying "Death to America!" and America responds by "seeking dialogue," aren't you just inviting more of the same? See Yaron Brook: Iran Sponsors Terrorism, US Seeks Dialogue.
- In fact, when it comes to the threat of Islamic Totalitarianism, as John Lewis says There is No Substitute For Victory. Hear Lewis make the argument in a controversial presentation at George Mason University: a link page is here. (And here, just to remind you, is his fantastic article on the same topic.)
- But surely the threat of Islamic Totalitarianism isn't a real threat, I hear some of you say? This isn't a real war? Well, perhaps you need to understand a different way to declare war. In the modern world with only one major superpower, there is more than one way to declare war. James Joyner lays out in detail the reality of so-called Fourth Generation War, a new kind of war in which we are presently engaged, and which is as difficult to fight as it is for many people to identify.
We now face a foe that cannot be defeated with a few guided missiles, smart bombs, or shock and awe. We’re not simply fighting “terror” or “terrorists,” but, as Barnett puts it, “those who want to isolate large chunks of humanity.” These people are, quite literally, enemies of freedom and of its underlying values. The global economy, its rules, and its attendant culture threaten their way of life, and they will stop at nothing to cut themselves off from the reach of Western values.
The good news is that this enemy doesn’t have the ability that the Soviet Union had to wipe out the planet. The bad news is that this enemy may be harder to defeat. And remember: the Cold War lasted more than forty years.
- But isn't it easier to just put your head in the sand about the threat and just blame others for imagined vices? Well, maybe. It's certainly something that's going around. In fact, there's even a leading psychiatrist who's identified it as a syndrome. University of Michigan psychiatrist Pat Santy suggests that the phenomenon of "displacement" is at work.
Displacement is the separation of an emotion from its real object and its redirection toward someone or something that is less offensive or threatening in order to avoid having to deal directly with what is frightening or threatening...Visit "Dr Sanity" here: More Displacement, Less Reality. [Hat tip Orson at SOLO]
This pyschological manouever disguises obvious self-delusion or self-deception]: It is, for example, behind most of the more vicious attacks on President Bush for anything he does; and for anything he doesn't do. He is behind every evil like some modern-day Moriarity, a criminal and godlike genius who is simultaneously a moron and incompetent. We are not talking about a mere dislike of the President; nor is this simply "politics as usual". Rather, it is an unreasoning and implacable, visceral hatred of George W. Bush for the sin of existing.
- Meanwhile, Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame has news of what looks to be a fabulous book by Czech president Vaclav Klaus, Blue , Not Green Planet -- including a great interview and reaction from climatologists. Klaus views the environmental movement and specifically the global warming hysteria as a Green "revolt of mobs." From the interview (translated from the Czech):
Could you please tell our readers who obviously haven't yet read your book why you wrote it?
Because I am very worried about some people's far-reaching attempts to reconstruct the world and revolutionize the behavior of the society. These people use some highly questionable data and hypotheses to deduce what is happening today and what will be happening in the world. And I view it as a threat for freedom... this issue has the capacity to mobilize larger groups of people: that's why I say that environmentalists are able to initiate a "revolt of the mobs".
This topic is likeable and understandable for most people. Catastrophes are always sold well and the extrapolated catastrophicity is now even higher than it used to be in the context of Marx. I don't think that the goal of these people is to reduce freedom deliberately. When I am going to talk to Al Gore, he will deny it. But I insist that what he proposes does suppress freedom. And it is sad he is not thinking about the consequences.
- I've just discovered and enjoyed a 2005 speech from Alan Greenspan, a quick walk through American economic history of the last two-hundred years, concluding with hs view of the health and resilience of the contemporary economy, which is changed fundamentally he argues by the ability of crucially important price signals to be disseminated so rapidly by your new information systems, and by a new flexibility in the economic system. It's worth quoting a substantial part of it since it explains the value of economic freedom so succinctly:
Whether by intention or by happenstance, many, if not most, governments in recent decades have been relying more and more on the forces of the marketplace and reducing their intervention in market outcomes. We appear to be revisiting Adam Smith's notion that the more flexible an economy, the greater its ability to self-correct after inevitable, often unanticipated disturbances. That greater tendency toward self-correction has made the cyclical stability of the economy less dependent on the actions of macroeconomic policymakers, whose responses often have come too late or have been misguided.Read the whole speech, starting here: Alan Greenspan speech, Oct 12, 2005.
It is important to remember that most adjustment of a market imbalance is well under way before the imbalance becomes widely identified as a problem. Individual prices, exchange rates, and interest rates, adjust incrementally in real time to restore balance. In contrast, administrative or policy actions that await clear evidence of imbalance are of necessity late.Being able to rely on markets to do the heavy lifting of adjustment is an exceptionally valuable policy asset. The impressive performance of the U.S. economy over the past couple of decades, despite shocks that in the past would have surely produced marked economic contraction, offers the clearest evidence of the benefits of increased market flexibility....
Most recently, the flexibility of our market-driven economy has allowed us, thus far, to weather reasonably well the steep rise in spot and futures prices for oil and natural gas that we have experienced over the past two years. The consequence has been a far more stable economy.
Flexibility is most readily achieved by fostering an environment of maximum competition. A key element in creating this environment is flexible labor markets. Many working people, regrettably, equate labor market flexibility with job insecurity.Despite that perception, flexible labor policies appear to promote job creation, not destroy it...Although the business cycle has not disappeared, flexibility has made the economy more resilient to shocks and more stable overall during the past couple of decades.
- As many readers will know, Alan Greenspan was an enthusiastic admirer of Ayn Rand. Which links nicely to this post at the Leitmotif blog, answering this question: Why is Ayn Rand Respected More in India?
Ayn Rand is rather well-known in India, though of course not as widely known as she is in the US; however, it can be argued that Rand is certainly viewed more respectfully and with admiration here in India than in the US.
The reasons for that are probably not quite straightforward: it’s not just because Rand’s reputation in India has escaped the lies, mischaracterizations, and attacks of the intellectual and academic elite in the US...
And one might say the same of the lies, mischaracterisations, and attacks of the intellectual and academic elite here in New Zealand. One might, but one wouldn't.
In my opinion, the main reason for this is that the Indian people who read her actually understand the truth of her arguments, for the most part. Because Indians live in the collectivist, pseudo-statist, tradition-bound, mystic society that India is, the readers grasp the validity of Rand’s ferocious criticisms of these states and agree with her description of life under these conditions.
- Speaking of Rand, if you've never seen her sparkling appearances on the Phil Donahue Show in the last decade of her life, then you should. YouTube has them, starting here: Ayn Rand - Donahue Interview (Part 1).
- "Powdergate." Like a zombie emerging from our dark pre-1984 past, the recent trial of business executives for selling milk powder -- a product over which the government had decreed that the Dairy Board should hold a monopoly -- serves as a reminder that the gains and economic freedoms so well addressed in Alan Greenspan's speech above should not be taken for granted. Our Muldoonist past is not so far away.
What about them Scientologists, huh? Yeah, they're fruit cakes for sure, but Alexander Cockburn argues they're no more nuts than are most religious fruitcakes.
There’s probably more psychic oppression in every ten seconds of the life of the Roman Catholic Church (or — let’s be ecumenical — the Mormons, Lutherans, Baptists and Methodists) than in the career of the Scientologists since L. Ron Hubbard got them launched. Last time I heard, the Vatican (which has to OK every deal) was settling sex abuse cases against priests in the U.S. at about $1 million per.He points to the dangers of the political demonisation of religionists. (Think Exclusive Brethren.) See Alexander Cockburn: Scientologists Take Offense in Reich Land. As always, this blog will continue to personally demonise religionists insead.
- "Why is it okay to make fun of Christians but not Muslims?" asks Jim Woods. Well, he says for a start, "every adult that talks to their imaginary friends are either a prime candidate to be the object of humor, or institutionalized if they are a direct physical danger to themselves or others. "
This includes Muslims, Christians, and all other devoted followers of the Invisible Sky Daddy. Fortunately, it generally isn’t necessary to make the effort to make up jokes about them as they do that themselves when they open their mouths.Making fun of people who actually respond verbally to your ribbing is always far more fun than making fun of people who blow up your transport.
In addition, especially outside of this country, Muslims live in cultures where Aristotle is now completely absent. To find something similar in this country you would have to go to a Protestant church or a university faculty lounge. No wonder they act illogically, they don’t even know that logic was invented. Humor would go right over their heads; non-contradiction, what is that?
- The danger of mixing politics and religion is highlighted over at Thrutch, with a post on the worrying rise of religiopolitics in Europe, and news of a limited atheist fight back.
Passive indifference to faith has left Europe's churches mostly empty. But debate over religion is more intense and strident than it has been in many decades. Religion is re-emerging as a big issue in part because of anxiety over Europe's growing and restive Muslim populations and a fear that faith is reasserting itself in politics and public policy...See Theocracy Watch: The Re-emergence of Religion in Europe.
..."The battle over religion is restarting. It is going to be a difficult one," says Terry Sanderson, president of Britain's National Secular Society... The most potent force driving activist atheism is concern that Islam, Europe's fastest-growing religion, is jeopardizing the principles of the Enlightenment -- and emboldening other religions to raise their voices, too, and re-fight old battles... Such faith-based agitation, says [University of London professor Anthony] Grayling, threatens a "dark ages for free enquiry and free speech."
- Some of you might have seen the recent issue of Time magazine which baldly stated as fact many myths about global warming that your average tin foil hat wearer would reject as too outlandish, including for example the bald claim about so-called "climate refugees," people -- "about 25 million" -- displaced by global warming-induced disasters, "such as those in the Papua New Guinean Carteret Islands, who have been forced to relocate due to a rising ocean level." Trouble is, that's just not true. It's just as untrue as a similar claim in Al Bore's film about "climate refugees" flooding into NZ (have you seen them?). The problem in the Pacific, such as it is, is not rising sea levels but sinking islands.
- And finally, if surgery was like Wikipedia, here's how little surgery would get done. Hilarious!.