Archive for April, 2016

Racism and Intelligence

April 26, 2016

I wish that I could say that I was much surprised  by this article in the Christian Science Monitor titled The Surprising Relationship between Intelligence and Racism, but while the results of the survey mentioned were somewhat interesting, the conclusions drawn by the the author are entirely predictable. Smart people do not seem to be as overtly racist as less intelligent people, because they are better at hiding their racism.

Are smart people less racist than their less-intelligent peers?

That was the question asked in a new study that examined the relationship between verbal intelligence and attitudes on race and racial policies.

The findings may surprise some: While people who score higher on intelligence tests are less likely to hold racist stereotypes (such as imagining that people of another race are lazy or unintelligent), they’re no more likely to support government policies that aim to reduce racial inequality. For example, while 95 percent of study participants who scored higher on the intelligence test said that black and white children should attend the same schools, only 22 percent support school-busing programs.

By highlighting the disconnect between Americans’ attitudes on race and their support for policies that remediate inequality, the study, published in the Oxford University Press, may reveal how deeply entrenched certain forms of racism actually are in society.

For Lori Brown, professor of sociology at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., the findings aren’t surprising because race is a complex issue that involves more than intellect.

“Prejudice involves what we believe to be true, affective feelings [like] likes and dislikes,” and instinctive needs, whereby “some people ‘need’ to be prejudiced [because] they feel so bad about themselves it makes them feel better to hate others,” Prof. Brown explains. “So, better educated or ‘smart’ people may know facts but may still not like people who are different.”

For the study, Geoffrey Wodtke, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, examined three decades of data from the General Social Survey, which has periodically measured Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of topics since 1972. The survey includes a short vocabulary test, considered to be a good indicator of verbal intelligence. Prof. Wodtke isolated the results of some 45,000 Caucasians and compared their verbal intelligence with their attitudes on race.

He found that the group that scored higher on the test were less likely to hold racist beliefs than their lower-performing counterparts. For example, among those who did well on the verbal test, 29 percent said blacks were lazy and 13 percent said they were unintelligent. By contrast, among those who performed poorly on the intelligence test, 46 percent described blacks as lazy and 23 described them as unintelligent.

 

The conclusion that Wodtke draws is that both the high and low scorers on the tests may have racist attitudes, but the high scorers “are simply more sophisticated racists.”

Why are whites judged to be more intelligent than their peers – who research has shown, are more likely to support liberal politics and policies – no more likely to support policies designed to improve racial equality?

Racism is defined as:

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usu. involving the idea that one’s own race is superior.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based on such a doctrine.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
In other words, racism is the belief that race matters most in human affairs and that what you are, in terms of race, is more important that who you are as an individual. A person who believes that Blacks are inherently inferior in intelligence than Whites is a racist. A person who believes that Blacks should be held in an inferior place in society is a racist. However, a person who is opposed to “policies designed to improve racial equality” is not a racist just because they oppose such policies. One may agree with the idea that racism is a bad thing, but believe that policies designed to improve racial equality are not an effective means of reducing racism, and by promoting division and race consciousness, may actually make the problem worse. In any case, if the goal is to create a color blind society in which race doesn’t matter, making race matter more is a strange way to go about it
You see the rhetorical trick that is being played here. The writers are defining racism not only as an overt belief that a certain race is superior to another, but also as opposition to policies that they suppose fight racism. In this way, they do not have to defend the policies they seem to favor, but can simply label any opposition as based on racism.
The article concludes:

The findings reveal how entrenched some forms of racism and white privilege are in society, says Wodtke.

“More intelligent members of the dominant group are just better at legitimizing and protecting their privileged position than less intelligent members. In modern America, where blacks are mobilized to challenge racial inequality, this means that intelligent whites say – and may in fact truly believe – all the right things about racial equality in principle, but they just don’t actually do anything that would eliminate the privileges to which they have become accustomed,” he said in a statement.

“In many cases, they have become so accustomed to these privileges that they become ‘invisible,’ and any effort to point these privileges out or to eliminate them strikes intelligent whites as a grave injustice.”

People on the left are emotionally invested int he idea that America is an irredeemably racist country, as if they are caught in some time warp in which George Wallace is forever standing on the courthouse steps shouting, “Segregation forever!!!”. We have made considerable progress in race relations since those days. Racism of the old kind is all but extinct in our public discourse. Certainly there are prejudiced people still around, and many Blacks do not have all the opportunities they should, but the fact that we have to search for invisible White privilege says something about the vast changes in society over the last few decades. In the good old days, the privileges that Whites held over Blacks was obvious to everyone, and few believe that it should be otherwise. Liberals are always talking about having a great discussion on race, by which they mean they get to hector the rest of us and call us racists, but I think that the best thing we could do for race relations would be to stop talking about race and just try to be good to one another.  At least we should stop wasting time and money on worthless studies like this one.

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Phony Psychic

April 18, 2016

In Gulliver’s Travels Gulliver describes the customs and laws of the tiny Lilliputians, and mentions that they consider fraud to be a worse crime than theft.

They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man’s goods from thieves, but honesty has no defence against superior cunning; and, since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted and connived at, or has no law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and the knave gets the advantage.  I remember, when I was once interceding with the emperor for a criminal who had wronged his master of a great sum of money, which he had received by order and ran away with; and happening to tell his majesty, by way of extenuation, that it was only a breach of trust, the emperor thought it monstrous in me to offer as a defence the greatest aggravation of the crime; and truly I had little to say in return, farther than the common answer, that different nations had different customs; for, I confess, I was heartily ashamed.

We generally regard violent crimes as worse than non violent crimes like fraud, since with non-violent crimes no one is physically harmed, but I think I agree with the Lilliputian view. A murder or theft might perhaps injure or kill a handful of people in his criminal career, but a swindler undermines the bonds of trust that holds a society together. Any society more complex than a band of hunter-gatherers depends on people being able to trust that other people, including strangers they will never meet, are doing their part to keep things working. Societies in which these bonds are weak or in which each person feels they can only rely on their own relatives or members of their own subgroup tend not to work very well. The con artist takes advantage of people’s’ trust and so weakens the ability of people to continue to trust one another. As Gulliver puts it, commerce depends on trust and if fraud is not regarded seriously enough, the honest are at the mercy of the knaves, and worse, the honest are obliged to become knaves in order to protect themselves.

In my opinion, the lowest of the low as far, as the fraudulent are concerned, are those people who take advantage of grieving persons who have a loved one missing by pretending to be able to determine whether the missing person is alive and where they can be found using their purported psychic powers, or even worse, impede police investigations by providing tips allegedly gained through their clairvoyance. It is with particular pleasure, then, that I present this video of one of these con artists getting something of what she deserves.

 

Here is the story that comes with this video.

Do you believe that psychics have the ability to assist families and the police in finding missing persons or solving murder cases?

Each year, countless desperate families turn to so-called psychics looking for information and leads. Sadly, psychic detectives are often selling false hope to the anguished and distraught instead of actually helping them unravel the mysteries.

Psychic detectives are known to prey on victims’ families, using vague, contradictory and useless information to convince them of their validity. They hardly ever offer answers or comfort to the grieving, sending police on an endless manhunt.

In the video above, Inside Edition exposes a phony psychic and her abilities.

When Laurie McQuary is asked about a missing girl, she claims that her “sixth sense” told her that she was brutally murdered. Interestingly enough, the photo she was shown was actually a childhood photo of the show’s Chief Investigative Correspondent, Lisa Guerrero.

As you can imagine, McQuary had no idea she was about to be exposed, and immediately excused herself from the interview after playing dumb.

I don’t much care for the description of this woman as a “phony psychic” since that seems to imply that there are real psychics out there, but perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much, since the reporter states more than once that there are no known cases in which a psychic detective was able to solve a case. I am glad Inside Edition ran this story, and I wish there were more like it. All too often, supposed psychics are promoted and celebrated in the media and not debunked, getting their own television shows, or appearing on talk shows in which their abilities are accepted without question or challenge. Psychics are good entertainment and no one seems to want to spoil the fun by actually examining their claims, even if they are cruelly taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable.

I wonder why these psychics are never prosecuted for fraud. It would seem to be an easy case for any competent prosecutor. These people are making a claim that they possess a power that they do not actually have and they are asking for money to use this power. How is this not fraud and why are they not punished?

Perhaps there is a certain reluctance to punish psychics because it seems to be too close to religious persecution. If a psychic can be prosecuted, why not a faith healer? And then, why not any religious leader who proclaims himself a  prophet?  I think a clear distinction can be made between matters of faith and practices that are fraudulent. If someone preaches that Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven, this is strictly a matter of faith. That preacher’s claims cannot be verified and it is likely that he believes it. If a preacher states that prayer can cure illnesses, that also is a matter of faith. If, however, the preacher states that he can heal people and will do so for a donation, that is closer to being fraud. The ability to instantly cure diseases and injuries at a prayer meeting can be verified and if it can be shown that he cannot actually perform such miraculous cures, the preacher is a fraud. If someone claims to be a psychic who can speak to the dead, that may also be a matter of faith, but if the psychic claims to know the fate of a missing person, and it is shown that he does not, in fact, have that knowledge, than he is a fraud.

If we can’t prosecute psychics, I wish that at least there would be more shows that expose them for the charlatans they are, and maybe better education in critical thinking. It would be the least anyone could do.

The Czars

April 11, 2016

There is a tendency, when writing of the history of a nation, to focus on the actions of rulers of that nation. American history books tend to divide American history by presidents, while British books differentiate the eras of British history by kings and queens, and later prime ministers, Chinese by dynasties, and so on. This approach is understandable since while kings and emperors may not have as much control over the events of the nations they rule as they would like, their reigns do give convenient dividing points between periods and eras. Still, there is often a lot going on that has little to do with the actions of any rulers and a history focused on the ruling class risks overlooking many factors and events in the country’s history.

This approach may be more justified in the case of Russian history, than in the histories of most other nations. For much of its history, Russia has been ruled by a strong, centralised government with political power vested in one man or woman, the Czar. The personality of Russia’s Czar was the most powerful influence on the development of the Russian nation. Russia only became a unified nation when the earliest Czars were able to establish control over the unruly boards and the Orthodox Church, become strong enough to defeat the invading Mongols, Poles and Lithuanians and take the title of Czar. The history of Russia is the history of its Czars.

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The Czars by James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci tells the story of Russia’s czars, from their messy beginnings as the Vikings who raided, traded, and then settled the vast Russian lands to the murder of Nicholas II at the hands of the Bolshevik revolutionaries. It is a fascinating story, well told by the two authors. They give a biography of every Czar, the early and obscure princes of Kiev and Muscovy no less than such titanic rulers as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, giving something of the personalities and lives of each Czar as well as the historical circumstances of their reigns. I found the early history of the unification of Russia to be particularly interesting as this was a period that I didn’t know much about. Most histories of Russia seem to cover this time in the first chapter before quickly moving on to Ivan the Great and his son Ivan the Terrible.

The only fault that I can find with The Czars is the absence of maps. A map of the Ukraine and the European part of Russia would have been very handy, especially if it included all the little principalities and cities that were absorbed by the growing Russian state in its earliest years. I found myself having to consult Google maps to get some idea of where the various regions of European Russia were in relation to each other and where the battles against the Mongols and the Poles took place. A genealogy of the two Russian dynasties, the Ruriks and the Romanovs would also have been useful, especially with the early Ruriks who had not yet established the tradition of handing down power from father to son, and with the more tumultuous times of trouble in which several short-lived and distantly related Czars followed one another in succession. Despite these shortcoming, I still found the Czars to be interesting and informative.

Who is the Extremist?

April 4, 2016

Bernie Sanders is calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker an extremist.

David—

When our campaign first set foot in Wisconsin this past summer, we got a very warm welcome from the people of Wisconsin. I spoke to more than 10,000 people in Madison about our corrupt political system, our broken economy, and how our political revolution can take back our country from people like the Koch brothers and the billionaire class.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican party weren’t as happy to see me. Gov. Walker, who has been helped throughout his career by the Koch brothers, issued statements against us, and the GOP even put up billboards calling me an “extremist.”

Well, let’s talk about extremism. Scott Walker has attacked the minimum wage, gutted unions, made it much harder to vote, and restricted access to abortion. That is extremism.

I can think of no better place for our political revolution to continue its momentum than in Wisconsin. The latest poll has us down just a few points, and I know that if we work together right now, we can pull off a huge victory.

With a huge FEC fundraising deadline on Thursday at midnight, there has not been a more important time for you to support our campaign.

Click here to make a $2.70 contribution to our campaign and MoveOn’s efforts to help us win before Thursday night’s deadline—and we can shock the political establishment with a victory in Wisconsin.

Not only has Governor Walker been helped throughout his career by huge financial support from the Koch Brothers, but he has enacted their ideology while in office.

When you deny the right of workers to come together in collective bargaining, that’s extremism.

When you tell a woman that she cannot control her own body, that’s extremism.

When you give tax breaks to billionaires and refuse to raise the minimum wage, that’s extremism.

Our views, which represent the views of the vast majority of the American people, are different. We believe that the time has come for the people of Wisconsin and all over the country to create a movement that tells the billionaire class: YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL!

And what we are saying to the Koch brothers and Scott Walker is that this great country belongs to everybody, and not just a handful of very wealthy people.

Contribute $2.70 to our campaign and MoveOn right now to say you stand with our political revolution—and help us win in Wisconsin next week.

When the people stand together against the Koch Brothers and the billionaire class, we can win.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, extremism is defined as:

belief in and support for ideas that are very far from what most people consider correct or reasonable

Are the positions held by Governor Walker really very far from what most people consider correct or reasonable? Well, about half the people in this country take a pro-life position in which they believe that abortion is morally wrong and should be restricted or outlawed altogether. Even many people who identify as pro-choice on the abortion issue do not consider abortion to be a good thing in itself. They are simply reluctant to force their personal views on others and many would favor at least some restrictions on abortion, particularly abortions performed in the third trimester. Relatively few people support the idea of abortion completely unrestricted up to the moment of birth. That would be the extreme position.

I have not heard that Governor Scott wished to abolish the minimum wage altogether. That would be an extreme position, although there are libertarian economists who hold that any minimum wage is an unreasonable restriction on the free market that increases unemployment. If Scott Walker opposes more than doubling the minimum wage to $15 per hour, he is in agreement with his party and large number of people, including most economists. This idea of raising the minimum wage to make young persons or people with few skills unemployable ought to be considered the extreme position, although since there are a large number of ignorant people who vote Democrat, but I repeat myself, who think it is a good idea, doubling the minimum wage is not as extreme as it ought to be.

As far as I know, Governor Scott does not seek to eliminate the rights of workers t0 join labor unions, although considering that only 7% of private sector workers belong to a union, being anti-union is far from extreme. Walker has fought the public sector unions in Wisconsin. These unions are widely believed to have colluded with state and local politicians to secure for themselves salaries, benefits and pensions that are not sustainable. Walker is not the only governor who has discovered that these obligations have become greater than the state government’s ability to meet. He has been more effective than many in seeking to limit the influence of the public sector unions in an attempt to balance his state’s budget.

The people of Wisconsin do not seem to consider Scott Walker’s ideas far from what is considered correct or reasonable. He was elected governor in 2010, survived an attempt to recall him in 2012, and was reelected in 2014. If Walker were really the extremist Bernie Sanders portrays him as being. surely he would have been thrown out to office years ago. Of course, Sanders might state that dark money from the nefarious Koch Brothers has been keeping Scott Walker in office, but all the money in the world is not going to help a candidate who the voters view as a crazed extremist. If money really had as much influence on politics as Sanders believes, then Jeb Bush would have gottenthe Republican nomination instead of being forced to withdraw, and Hilary Clinton would be sailing her way to the Democratic convention. Money does matter, but not as much as some believe.

Speaking of which, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with members of the billionaire class who support the Democratic Party and progressive causes, such as George Soros. But that is another post.

I would say that Bernie Sanders is more of an extremist than anyone else of national prominence, being the only openly socialist member of Congress. He supports extreme left-wing ideas which have not worked anywhere else they have been tried and will not work here in the U.S. The fact that he is not seen as an extremist by many is an indictment of our dumbed down media and education.


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