Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Standing Up

Most modern college students in North America have been sheltered from challenge and responsibility their entire lives. Compared to the upbringing of most children through history, modern college aged youth are pampered, and assured of their own specialness.
Today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors, according to a comprehensive new study by five psychologists who worry that the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society.

"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."

Twenge and her colleagues, in findings to be presented at a workshop Tuesday in San Diego on the generation gap, examined the responses of 16,475 college students nationwide who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006.

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.

..."Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others," he said.

The study asserts that narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."

Twenge, the author of "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before," said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others.

Modern child-rearing in North America lacks meaningful challenges, and rites of passage--to provide a clear demarcation between self-centered childhood and a more competent and responsible adulthood.

In Science Fiction author Alexei Panshin's novel "Rite of Passage", 14 year olds underwent "The Challenge", a necessary rite of transition which some of them did not survive. Of course this idea was drawn from many earth examples of aboriginal and other cultures that require the child to undergo a rite of passage that sometimes results in the child's death.

For boys, the ritual often involved surviving in the wilderness--perhaps hunting a dangerous animal such as a lion. For girls, rites surrounding the onset of menses were common. Certainly giving birth for the first time was a sufficiently life threatening and altering experience to qualify as a rite of passage for girls.

Going to college for many years, and perhaps graduate school for many more, can often be a way to simply avoid one rite of passage--a full time job leading to economic self-sufficiency. If a youth considers himself too "special" to undertake most forms of work, the rite may be postponed indefinitely. For a young woman, school and long preparation for a career can postpone the childbirth rite so late in her life, that the biological clock eventually obviates the issue permanently.

Psychologically neotenous youth are typically narcissistic as well. If they also open themselves to indoctrination at a typical university or college, they have scored the magic hat trick--narcissism, psychological neoteny, and academic lobotomy. When that occurs, there is little reason to expect adult behaviour or responsible attitudes and participation in the society at large.

There are, however, some areas of North American society where the rite of passage occurs in all its historical potency. That would be in much of the military, fire departments, EMS, rescue units, and better trained and disciplined law enforcement personnel.

The idea of a rite of passage is a powerful one, as old as humanity. You can see how easily it is perverted in the muslim culture, where violent murder by martyrdom is too often celebrated as a rite of passage--although a rather grotesque and pointless one in my opinion.

But rites of passage need not be so perverse. An enlightened society has to understand that lifelong pampering and protection from challenge and responsibility is no way to raise productive adults who willingly contribute to their communities in all facets of living. Until North Americans understand the problem they have created for themselves, the ride will be bumpy and more than a little precarious.

Global Warming Threatens Extinction of Antarctic Polar Bear

You cannot help but wonder whether a President Gore might have acted soon enough to save the Antarctic Polar Bear. From the earliest days of human exploration in the Antarctic, Polar Bear sightings there have been extremely uncommon. With the arrival of global warming, antarctic polar bears are now almost completely extinct. The sad appearing antarctic polar bear pictured above may be the last of its breed. The albino bear (most antarctic polar bears have black fur) can be seen attempting to eat a downed weather balloon--certain proof that climate change has devastated the bear's normal food supply.

Soon we will be forced to add this tragic climate-caused extinction to that of the Arctic Emperor Penguin, extincted when its sole island breeding ground near the North Pole was submerged beneath the inexorable sea level rise caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

Yes, skeptics abound--the equivalent of holocaust deniers and evolution deniers! These scoundrels are in the pay of big oil and the Bush White House, but still we cannot stop everyone from taking them seriously.

I strongly recommend doing anything necessary to prevent ordinary people from visiting websites such as this or that. These people claim to be climate scientists, or math-savvy "auditors" of climate scientists, but we know they are in the pay of big oil and the Bush White House--Karl Rove and the neocons!

You must be as thoroughly chagrined as I am by the excessive caution of the most recent IPCC report. Like most environmentalists, I believe that as bad as global warming is--with these extinctions and all--we must exaggerate its effects to the public by at least a factor of one hundred. That is the only way to wake the idiots out of their oil-sotted slumber.

Global warming and peak oil may not seem to be able to coexist. They are said to be mutually exclusive, but as environmentalists we need to ignore such attempts to dampen our enthusiasm for control. As a matter of public stance, we should be saying that global warming is already past the point of no return, so that even after peak oil devastates the world economies, global warming will keep on flooding, extincting, hurricaning, and thermally exhausting the remaining humans on earth.

Pretty grim, eh? We need to make it sound as grim as necessary to bring about the changes we seek. Let's not allow the Antarctic Polar Bear to die in vain, shall we?

Fortunately, the arctic polar bear is in no danger of extinction--its numbers have increased by up to 25% over the past decade! If anything, the arctic polar bear is in danger of overpopulating its habitats due to overbreeding. Perhaps the arctic polar bear has an evolutionary adaptation that allows it to thrive in a climate of global warming?

In fact, that must be true, since in the medieval warm period--when temperatures were even higher than in modern times--the polar bear is said to have thrived.

In spite of that good news, we need to join Al Gore in projecting to the public the idea that all polar bears--not just the antarctic bear--are endangered by anthropogenic climate change. Mr. Gore's thriving carbon credit trading scheme depends on maintaining such public postures. Reality be damned, this is business!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

China--An Uncertain Future

China suffers from a monumental environmental crisis, a crisis in non-performing loans, shoddy construction practices and materials that result in collapsing bridges, highway tunnels, and buildings, etc. At the same time, China's economy is projected to continue its almost 10% per year GDP growth at least until the end of this decade.

Several recent presidents of the US have assumed that by promoting economic modernisation in China, they were also promoting freedom and democracy. That has not been the case, for reasons discussed in this analysis of China's institutional response to massive economic growth.
Certainly, the lack of political progress was not what successive Republican and Democratic administrations promised. In lobbying for continued trade with China, President Bill Clinton predicted in 2000, “We will be unleashing forces no totalitarian operation rooted in last century’s industrial society can control.” President George W. Bush reiterated Clinton’s prediction in 2005: “I believe a whiff of freedom in the marketplace will cause there to be more demand for democracy.” Just how China is to proceed from “a whiff of freedom” to democracy no one knows. Meanwhile, the ccp is determined to show otherwise: It continues to gobble up Western technology, know-how, and capital without relinquishing its monopoly on power.

North American and European approaches to influencing third world authoritarian governments has always been naive. Incisive criticism from Amy Chua, Peter Bauer, Robert Kaplan, Thomas Sowell, Hernando de Soto, Ludwig von Mises, and many others has failed to influence the basic naivete of western governments in their approach to modernising more primitive and authoritarian nations.

Former Hong Kong attorney Gordon Chang has sounded the warning of a coming collapse in China for years now. Chang correctly points out many of the critical problems in China's economic and political infrastructure, which would ordinarily signal the impending collapse--or at least the radical re-structuring--of most nations.

China's government has successfully played the strengths of its human capital against the weaknesses of its organisational infrastructure--by depending upon the wishful thinking and naivete of western governments and business/financial interests. Microsoft felt it was contributing to the liberalisation of China--not to perpetuating the prisoner executions cum human organ factories. Westinghouse thought it was helping democratize China, not promote the brutal suppression of basic freedoms. Google was certain it was opening up the flow of information in China so as to make the citizens freer--not providing the oppressive regime a more powerful tool for spying on more of the people.

Past methods of predicting financial outcomes may not work very well when mega-economies such as that of the US are directly involved. Make no mistake, it is the US economy that is propping up China, just as the US is helping to prop up the EU. As long as US presidents continue to believe that promoting billions of dollars of trade with China is the surest route to changing China from a belligerent regional foe into an ally and friend, China will be able to paint over the inner rot with outer glitz and the appearance of prosperity. Western investors will continue to be thrilled right up to the moment the sandy foundation gives way.

China needs to occupy Taiwan in order to guarantee a free route to the sea for a growing blue water navy. But the moment China attacks Taiwan, it risks the collapse of its economy with the inevitable internal strife that will bring. War with the US over Taiwan would not be nearly as important if not for the fact that trade with the US gives China the cash reserves it craves, and apparent peace with the US reassures investors in other parts of the world that investment in China is safe.

It will not go on forever. China will invade Taiwan, perhaps under cover of a provocation against the US and Japan by North Korea, or a nuclear strike against Israel by Iran. Then all bets are off.

But China will not take the irrevocable step until its Politburo and Supreme Leader determine that China will emerge from the other end of the tunnel as hegemon of Asia. They must believe that the US has served China's purpose long enough as a stupid pack-mule, and that it is now time for China to accept its destiny.

Here is a great video of Gordon Chang and two critics at a Cato Institute gathering. Here is a Gordon Chang article on "the grand wager on China", this is a Ching-tsi Chang article on China's Collapse, and this is an Orville Schell interview on the coming collapse.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Appeasing the Barbarians: The Appalling Cowardice of the Left

The National Book Critics Circle award has become the focus of a furious debate over whether a barbaric culture of bigotry such as Islam--which promises to conquer all of Europe--should be described in print for what it is. Prominent leftists in the publishing industry and the media would prefer that authors "play nice" with the barbarians who want to destroy the tolerant western culture.
“One of the most disgraceful developments of our time is that many Western authors and intellectuals who pride themselves on being liberals have effectively aligned themselves with an outrageously illiberal movement that rejects equal rights for women, that believes gays and Jews should be executed, that supports the coldblooded murder of one’s own children in the name of honor, etc., etc.,” he wrote on his own blog,

....“While Europe Slept” warns that “Europe is at a Weimar moment,” and that “by appeasing a totalitarian ideology” it “was imperiling its liberty.” “Political correctness”, he writes, is keeping Europeans from defending themselves, resulting in Europe’s “self-destructive passivity, its softness towards tyranny, its reflexive inclination to appease.”

Have you ever wondered why so many prominent leftists in the media dance the "softshoe" around Islamic oppression toward women, executions of homosexuals and Jews, and abuse of children?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Study Looking at University Professors by Political Affiliation

Education is meant to instill in the student both the love of learning and the ability to sort through ideas and evidence in order to arrive at the most workable solutions and systems of thought and action. But if the information available to students in university is so skewed toward a particular point of view--excluding the broad spectrum of ideas prevalent in the real world--the university cannot perform its vital function for the student.

This 2005 study by researchers at Smith College, University of Toronto, and Center of Media and Public Affairs, should put to rest the claims by leftist professors that the university is not skewed to the left. Please read the study before commenting.

The study shows that in the arts and social sciences, and soft sciences, the faculty is almost certain to consist of mostly leftists. The proportion of leftist to mainstream is closer to 50:50 in the harder sciences and engineering faculties--where competence must be demonstrated, and where training is more rigorous and demanding.

It is no surprise that leftists tend to flock to areas where competence-testing is rare, and based upon subjective peer appraisal rather than unforgiving objective criteria, as in harder sciences and engineering. This allows them to pretend to be knowledgeable and expert in an area without actually needing to demonstrate any competence--except to other members of their in-group. Circular jerkulating is the rule in those departments of university.

Read the study before commenting, as a favour to others.