Tuesday, May 17, 2022

IQ and racism

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Research involving human behaviour is tricky.

For example, a famous postwar study of London Transport workers was thought to have shown that people in sedentary jobs, such as bus drivers, were more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those whose work involved more vigorous physical activity, such as bus conductors (in the days when a human went round collecting fares from passengers.)

Much later, my GP friend told me, a flaw was discovered: it could be the case that those who intuitively felt their health less robust would choose sedentary roles. So it was possible that despite the large sample of people in the study and the fact that they had the same field of employment in common, like was still not being compared with like.

The notion that IQ is the most important element in success may also have its weaknesses. When the self-styled ‘Masters of the Universe’ bank traders have finally destroyed the economy and are dangling from lampposts like Il Duce the scorecard may read differently. During the Great Financial Crisis one broker is reported to have bought a flock of sheep from a local farmer in order to ensure his family’s survival. Your own imagination will supply a hundred practical difficulties and dangers that could follow from this decision. If he was that clever, why hadn’t he foreseen the crisis and planned for it well ahead of time?

Some maintain that IQ is heritable and that the average level varies according to ethnicity. As to the first bit, Sir Cyril Burt’s research on twins proved it - so people thought, until it was re-examined after his death and judged fraudulent; his notes and records were no help, as it turned out that they had all been burnt. Nevertheless, other studies appear to support the hypothesis.

As for the second assertion, the link just given says ‘The scientific consensus is that there is no evidence for a genetic component behind IQ differences between racial groups.’

This doesn’t stop some people from trying to show otherwise; historian Simon Webb recently released a vlog citing the indirect evidence of a spatial aptitude test applied to applicants to the Royal Air Force. In this white British scored - on average - higher than Afro-Caribbeans and black Africans, but - oh dear - not so well as Chinese. Those of mixed b/w ethnicity scored - on average - in between b&w.

Remember the London Transport study and look for flaws: were the applicants all aiming for the same roles in the RAF? With the same long-term career ambitions? Why did they apply, but not others of their peer group? Who was advising them on career options? Did they (as seems very unlikely) all come from the same kind of family upbringing and expectations, go to the same kind of school?

It may be possible to improve your IQ; though there may also be a ceiling to that, just as you may train to run faster without ever achieving Olympian standards.

But more significant may be factors that permanently lower the individual’s IQ ceiling: ‘poor prenatal environment, malnutrition and disease are known to have lifelong deleterious effects,’ says Wiki. Poor nurture in early years may also hobble the child, which needs both sensory and mental stimulation to foster its development.

Poverty - or relative poverty, inequality - may well be a meta-factor behind many of these factors.

Then there’s the social environment and the development of one’s self-image, but that’s for another day.

Monday, May 16, 2022

IQ - a right-wing issue?

From my new Substack email newsletter, 'Now and Next':

Cartoon: two mammoths are lumbering along together. One has just stepped on a caveman, squashing him flat, spear and all. The first mammoth says to his mate, ‘Take it from me, brains are overrated.’

There is a theme of IQ threading through right-wing comment on immigration and ethnicity, implying that society is weakened by allowing less intelligent people into the country, or letting them have much of a say in how it runs.

This opens a can of worms, as the saying goes.

Let’s take just one of these worms: the usefulness - or otherwise - of high academic ability.

I’ll give an illustration from somewhere I once taught, an outstanding British comprehensive (all-ability) secondary school. One day, a local businessman phoned the headteacher and said, ‘I want one of your school-leavers to work for me. But he must have an O-level in maths.’ The old Ordinary-level examination was aimed at the top 20 percent of ability.

‘I’m happy to recommend someone for you,’ said the Head, ‘but why is the O-level necessary?’

‘He’ll be working in the storeroom, checking stock levels.’

‘You don’t need an O-level to do that.’

‘No, I really must insist, I won’t have someone who can’t count.’

‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do,’ said the Head. ‘I’ll send you a copy of an O-level maths paper and you tell me if that’s the level of skill you need for the job.’ This he did.

Next day the businessman was back on the phone. ‘I looked at that paper you sent me and I couldn’t understand the first two questions. I’ll go by what you say.’

So the Head recommended a youngster from the C band - the bottom quarter of the school, which then streamed children by broad ability. This lad was perfectly able to do something as simple as counting, but even more importantly he had a perfect record for attendance and punctuality, and was always smartly turned out, affable and obedient.

It was a perfect match, and got secure employment for someone who might easily have been overlooked because of daft selection criteria. Someone much brighter would have been climbing the walls in frustration and boredom after only a few weeks in the job.

The rat-race wind-up slogan says "Aptitude plus attitude equals altitude"; this misses the point that not everybody can, or should aim for the top.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Warning signs

There are intermittent shortages of foodstuffs in supermarkets; now I hear from more than one source that they have noticed the sell-by dates on fresh fruit and veg have gotten much shorter and the perishables are looking less than pristine; presumably stocks are running low.

We already know that the harvest in Ukraine is likely to be badly affected by the war there. This post outlines some of the other problems upcoming:https://www.bournbrookmag.com/home/disaster-in-the-rye

Gonzalo Lira is predicting economic collapse and hyperinflation (25%- 35% in Europe 'minimum').

P.S. The Prime Minister has deferred the banning of 'Buy one, get one free' offers in supermarkets, citing the difficulties of poor families. The middle-class finger-waggers are protesting that BOGOF is linked to obesity. 

On the other hand a friend told us the other night he has seen mothers bringing used clothes into a shop in exchange for money so their children can buy lunch in school.

Perhaps it is time for overprivileged lifestyle lecturers to get their tanks off poor people's lawns. If the Goodies want people to be slim and healthy they should campaign for better terms of international trade so that the lower classes can earn a decent living.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

WEEKENDER: The WHO, by Wiggia

                                           Or maybe we will………...

It appears our Churchill look alike! PM is about to sign up to the World Health Organisation’s proposal published in March for a global mandated response to any new pandemic…

If he does agree to sign or has done so already, this is another instance of a sovereign country giving powers to a world-wide organisation that the people of this country have no say in or any connection with. There has been no discussion in Parliament has been forthcoming, the health secretary has been mute on the subject, and putting the notion to the people is obviously not considered to be necessary. There is not little point in leaving the EU if you jump back in with someone else proposing blanket controls we have no say in.

You can guarantee it will involve large sums of cash, but Bojo is good at handing out our money to all and sundry. As someone succinctly put it:

“The gibbering Buffoon says we can't spend our way out of trouble, he made a good job of spending our way into trouble. “

One would like to think there would be a more cautious response to any future pandemic being handled in the same way as the world wide failures in combatting Covid. The one-eyed, tunnel vision official version of the scientific view that prevailed in that case proved not to be very effective other than in bankrupting nations. It is also very hard to ignore the less costly response in monetary and human terms of the Swedes and the States in the USA that did as well or better by not taking the lockdown route, 

Normally the official reply is ‘lessons have been learned’ but even that damage-limiting utterance has not been heard about the last two years, for good reason: the enormous waste of taxpayers' money on failed Track and Trace, poor PPE, huge sums given to companies with no manufacturing experience at all in the production of PPE, and the fraud that will never be clawed back. The last thing we need is a global organisation applying a one-size-fits-all solution across the world.

It beggars belief that the Swedes have agreed to sign up to this after their own way proved so much less catastrophic, not just in monetary terms but with the ability to maintain general healthcare and avoid the mental illness caused by lockdowns, plus keeping their schools open most of the time; unlike the experience of ourselves and others.

After the very obvious flaws in the way this pandemic was handled, why would any country want to put itself in a straitjacket treaty that prevents any straying from the chosen route? Something here is not right.

With the WEF meeting again in Davos in a couple of weeks with its “young global leaders” such as Trudeau and Macron on board, we are heading for New World Order lite, to be followed (if it carries on this way) by the full Monty. This is would have been sneered at two years ago as simply another conspiracy theory, yet it is becoming more credible as little by little the truth is revealed.

Even members of SAGE are backtracking in the light of damning new contrary evidence now coming to light…

So why would we suppose that the WHO would do any better? The WHO also has Bill Gates on board with enormous funding and ever more say in the WHO's health strategies; he is unaccountable, unelected and yet through his wealth is at the table with world leaders influencing future vaccine programs among other things. Our own Boris has given millions to the Gates foundation. It is wrong, yet this seems to be a universal trend. I have no desire to have my health dictated to by such a person. It should stop now, but he gains legitimacy through the WHO and builds a bigger stage for himself.
He is not a scientist yet is invited to speak on scientific health matters; why?

Here he states that natural immunity with Omicron did the job ahead of any vaccines but he still wants to jab the world endlessly. He is, I repeat, not a scientist - and we have had some pretty rubbish scientists float to the top during this pandemic.

Why has no politician flagged for discussion the prospect of this country signing up to something like this? Nor has or any section of the mainstrean news media; yet they have plenty of time for cake and the Ginger Growler.

Friday, May 13, 2022

FRIDAY MUSIC: Nanci Griffith, by JD

 Nanci Griffith 1953 - 2021.

"Nanci Griffith, the Texan “folkabilly” singer-songwriter, died in August last year at the age of 68, after fighting two different cancers for 25 years. In my decades of writing about contemporary folk music, I’d venture to say there were no performers who possessed more talent than Griffith in the 1980s and early ’90s, when she was at her remarkable best."

Greatly admired by her fellow artists and a devoted army of fans, Nanci Griffith, exemplified a style of musical storytelling with a literary flavour, focusing on the small details of the lives of her characters. Songs such as Love at the Five and Dime and Gulf Coast Highway have become permanent fixtures in the folk-country canon (Griffith described her music as “folkabilly”), and the Grammy award she won for her album Other Voices, Other Rooms in 1994 seemed a long overdue reward for her carefully crafted body of work.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Not that I'm prescient: the US proxy war against Russia

JD has kindly drawn my attention to what I said here nearly 4 years ago:

Is Ukraine to be the new Guernica?

Pic: South China Morning Post

Last Friday (31.08.18) Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the "Donetsk People's Republic" (in eastern Ukraine) was killed in a bomb blast, along with his bodyguard. It is claimed that the killers, who are still being hunted, work for the Ukrainian security service.

Unlike in the western part of Ukraine, the population of Donetsk is predominantly Russian-speaking and/or of Russian descent. The breakaway state declared its independence four years ago, but so far has only been formally recognised by South Ossetia.

Under the 2015 Minsk II agreement, Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany brokered a ceasefire and progressive demilitarisation. But the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has now cancelled ongoing treaty negotiations, claiming that the assassination is "an open provocation aimed at hindering implementation of the Minsk agreements" and linking it to the recent increase in US sanctions against Russia (announced 8 August) in the wake of the Skripal poisoning case in Britain, which has been blamed on Russia (denied by the latter and not yet forensically proven.)

The Kiev administration has failed to implement Minsk II and last year the United States was saying that the US did not wish to be limited by the agreement and suggested that Kiev should seek an accommodation directly with Moscow. Now the US special envoy for Ukraine has said that Washington could increase arms supplies to Kiev to buttress the country’s naval and air defence forces.

There is some evidence to suggest that the Ukraine has become a testing ground for Western weaponry. A "Ukraine based" firm called LimpidArmor has just announced the extension of a battlefield sensor system from fighter planes to tank warfare:

"The Land Platform Modernization Kit uses four cameras positioned strategically around the tank to create a seamless display of the environment surrounding the vehicle. Crew members wearing the HoloLens headgear would then be able to look around their environment without being hampered by the tank’s heavy armor while also not having to potentially expose themselves to enemy fire."

Although run by a Ukrainian, Mikhail Grechukhin, and conducting its research and development in Kiev, LimpidArmor's headquarters are in Walnut Creek, California. And in March this year the Ukrainian Defence Minister said that the US' supply of anti-tank missiles "opened the door for closer military cooperation in the face of Russian aggression."

Anti-Russian rhetoric was a major feature of Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in 2016, to the extent that Russians were getting nervous. When Trump won, it appeared to be a chance to normalise relations and shortly afterwards he was tweeting "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" But since then the US President has seemed to row back, perhaps in response to the sustained campaign by the Democrats to paint Russia as in collusion with Trump to get him his election victory.

Doubtless there is a deep geopolitical game being played, but aside from Mrs Clinton's disappointed hopes one has to wonder what the real motivation may be. Is it really a cold, then a hot war with Russia - now no longer a Communist country, thanks to its people who have every reason not to wish the return of the Reds?

Or is it to rehearse weapons and tactics for war - perhaps by proxy - against another, still Communist, mightier and clearly expansionist potential foe: China? If so, the increasing sophistication of China's defence capabilities ought to give the three-dimensional chess players of Washington pause for thought - see for example this article on the PRC's development of next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles.

Could the "military-industrial complex" (as Eisenhower called it) be endangering us with its hubris?



  • https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/2162391/ukraine-peace-plan-ice-after-pro-russian-rebel-leader-killed-cafe
  • https://sputniknews.com/world/201809011067667072-rusia-us-sanctions-dialogue/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minsk_II
  • https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-ukraine-idUSKBN19H19M
  • https://thenewsrep.com/107709/ukrainian-company-testing-f-35-style-helmet-to-see-through-tanks-in-combat/
  • https://translate.google.co.uk/translate?hl=en&sl=uk&u=https://uk.wikipedia.org/wiki/LimpidArmor&prev=search
  • https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-defence/ukraine-says-weapons-decision-heralds-new-era-of-cooperation-with-u-s-idUSKCN1GE27X
  • https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/09/07/the-kremlin-really-believes-that-hillary-clinton-will-start-a-war-with-russia-donald-trump-vladimir-putin/
  • http://thesaker.is/chinas-dark-sword-uav-program/

Monday, May 09, 2022

Gaming democracy

 Can universal-franchise democracy actually work?

In the vlog below, Demirep/Granniopteryx looks at the results of the 5 May UK local elections in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. There the mayoral election of 2014 was declared void and the victor, Lutfur Rahman, banned for five years because of corrupt and illegal practices; Rahman has now stood again under a new political banner - the Aspire Party - and regained his mayoral office.

'Granniopteryx' discusses the potential for gaming the vote by the use of proxy and postal voting in a community where the head of the household can use his traditional authority in the family to influence the casting of votes. She makes the point that this does not happen only with Asians but also, for example, among Greeks. The ability to get together and elect one of your own gives you the chance to go along and ask for favours. (Labour's mayoral candidate was a non-Asian - perhaps a Party blunder, under the circumstances.)

Why are postal votes needed, except for the significantly disabled? It is so easy to vote in person. Voter participation can be affected by the distance to the nearest polling place - 

'The largest impact occurred in lower-salience European elections, with voter drop-off occurring after 500 metres from the polling station; this occurred at 600 metres for local elections. Distance travelled had very little influence on turnout to Parliamentary elections.'
https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmpolcon/writev/1463/1463.pdf (p.8)

- but it is not difficult to get to one in Tower Hamlets. Geographically the borough is smaller than 20 square kilometres yet in 2019 there were 110 polling places - i.e. 5.5 per square kilometre.

Participation in local elections tends to be much lower than for General Elections: in my own constituency - another densely-populated urban one, in Birmingham - the 5 May turnout was only 27%. Yet in this Tower Hamlets it was 42% (and in 2014, almost 48%.) Perhaps the size of the Tower Hamlets mayoral election turnout is because it was not merely for local councillors but for the Big Man running the borough, the Man who can grant your wishes; insinuations of procedural jiggery-pokery may not be necessary to account for it.

By contrast, in the US, I read, some places deliberately make it difficult to vote by setting up polling stations far from population centres and perhaps not even easily reachable by public transport. Those Americans who suspect that the 2020 Presidential election was 'stolen' by late or fake postal votes should, if their concern is that participation should be fair, look at other solutions to accessibility issues.

But even if polls are fairly conducted, what about how those votes are canvassed? The system is set up to make the aspiring politician focus on what voters think (or can be made to think) matters, rather than systemic problems. The tail is wagging the dog; instead of the people calling their leaders to account, political parties have learned how to cultivate the vote. Billions are spent on psephological analysis, focus groups, opinion polling, advertising, lobbying etc - how can good long-term governance arise out of this mess? 

One method currently used to divert the public's attention from domestic policy challenges and cloud their minds with emotion is to wage wars and proxy wars on foreigners. America and Britain are like Lewis Carroll's Walrus and Carpenter, happily prepared to eat Ukrainian Oysters until the last is gone. Such a useful distraction from what Americans need; and so good for the arms industry. Instead of a welfare state, the US has opted for a warfare state.

Yes, the US has a welfare system at the moment, but the GOP is pressing for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.) For their part the Democrats' plan seems to be to encourage the 'undocumented' immigration of relatively poor people, who may look to the Dems for financial benefits of various kinds. There is no plan either from the Republicans or from the Democrats, to help the indigenous lower classes thrive by protecting their work and wages. 

The people are waking up to this, when not mesmerised by other 'woke' issues or military drum-banging. Was it not the slow-dawning realisation that in the US Red v Blue has become a 'uniparty' scam that led to the election of the unprofessional maverick Trump (with all his faults)? But the Establishment did everything it could to hamper him in office, and does everything it can to bury him in lawfare now. The uniparty wants Business As Usual until the machine breaks down.

Similarly, here in the UK, although the Northern 'Red (socialist) Wall' collapsed in 2019, Granniopteryx notes that it still far from being rebuilt, despite the Conservatives' difficulties in the last couple of years. We are in a wider political crisis in which Labour has failed to make itself credible but as Peter Hitchens says, 'You need something better than the Tories, and soon.'

We must hope that there will be replacements for both parties before it is too late; but how can they possibly replace themselves, and alternatively, how could we do it, without a revolt?