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FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – BECOMING FAMILIAR . March 31, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogroll.
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Sasha and Dexter went out most mornings, most of the time without incident. Dexter got out of his harness once – a cause for concern. Otherwise, Dexter seems to be settling to his new environment and new routines. Sasha, as best she can, is meanwhile adapting and accommodating to Dexter.

On the bridge. Posted by Picasa

Sasha reflects in the shade. Posted by Picasa

Dexter’s attending elsewhere. Posted by Picasa

Seize the moment. Posted by Picasa

Dexter in new harness. Posted by Picasa

What’s up Sasha?Posted by Picasa

Dexter running free. Posted by Picasa

Morning companions. Posted by Picasa

A relaxed Sasha.Posted by Picasa

Plenty of choices. Posted by Picasa

Sasha surveys the scene Posted by Picasa

“Somethings afoot.”Posted by Picasa

“Goodbye once more.”Posted by Picasa

The usual reminders apply. Go to Modulator for Planet Ark#80 and visit Mickey’s Musings for Carnival of the Dogs. These photos can be enlarged by clicking onto them.

IRAQ WHEAT SCANDAL March 30, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The ABC online reports tonight that two ministers – Downer and Vaile – will be called on to statements to the enquiry, which means that they will then be subject to cross examination potentially from all parties.

Thus we might expect to see some resignations. Howard will continue lying, ducking and dodging, but surely his credibility and integrity will now be shot to pieces.

I understanding this is not the expert opinion, which is that Howard will sail right through without a scratch.

IT WORKS HERE! March 29, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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I appeared to have made a monumental stuff up on John Quiggin’s comment thread.

I put the following text in, which showed as it reads here on the compose screen:

From 72 to double 52, seems to have taken no time at all.

I was going to add tempus fugit. The question has arisen in our household: What is time? It seems to be another culturally mediated experience.

ISRAEL VOTES March 28, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East.
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Israelis have begun voting in an election that the President describes as one of the most important in the country’s history, but the voters seem, according to the BBC report, to be bored.

Perhaps this is due to over-stimulation with the terrorist threat and the State reprisals. I have thought that the effect of the terrorism in Israel has been to mute the opposition to aggressive counter insurgency policies of the Israeli governments of recent times.

These measures, at least I think, are not likely to fix terrorism, but the have the contrary effect. What is required, in my opinion, is a commitment to social justice, reconciliation and human values requiring in the first instance, meeting and wide-ranging dialogue. Those who wish to continue with barbarism can then be isolated as criminals without social and political support.

Still the outcome of this election, including turnout will be interesting.

ANTI-AMERICANISM AGAIN March 27, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East.
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The ghost that walks like Hamlet’s father striding across the moor spoke in the Australian House of Representatives today. Blair proposed that a straw man might keep the birds from the crops.

According to Reuters, via The New York Times:

Calling the anti-American feeling seen in parts of world politics “madness,” Blair said: “The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved.”

To criticize criminality and arrant unilateralism that has lead to the murder and tragedy of Iraq as anti-American is truly bizarre. I would have thought that, notwithstanding any other variable, the current account deficit will ensure that the United States is involved with the world,(I do not claim to know anything about economics, but this seems a good guess) not to mention their dependence on oil.

Tony, like John Howard, has no desire to go anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Mark has an analysis and links at Lavatus Prodeo.

On another level, this anti-Americanism and conversely pro-Americanism could be an argument about history, as James Carroll explains in The Boston Globe. Then the question might be raised as to what is the relationship between such people as Blair and Howard to the US Military Industrial Complex and their need for an enemy so as to consume more public resources, more resources than all the people sleeping out under bridges across the USA could ever conceive let alone dream about.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE ABOUT EMPLOYMENT? March 26, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Social Environment.
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Now we have an American system of Industrial Relations, let us look at the experience there. Here is what the New York Times reports:

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a rough estimate of the imbalance in the demand for jobs as opposed to the supply. Each month since December 2000, it has surveyed the number of job vacancies across the country and compared it with the number of unemployed job seekers. On average, there were 2.6 job seekers for every job opening over the first 41 months of the survey. That ratio would have been even higher, according to the bureau, if the calculation had included the millions of people who stopped looking for work because they did not believe that they could get decent jobs.

So the demand for jobs is considerably greater than the supply, and the supply is not what the reigning theory says it is. Most of the unfilled jobs pay low wages and require relatively little skill, often less than the jobholder has. From the spring of 2003 to the spring of 2004, for example, more than 55 percent of the hiring was at wages of $13.25 an hour or less: hotel and restaurant workers, health care employees, temporary replacements and the like.

That trend is likely to continue. Seven of the 10 occupations expected to grow the fastest from 2002 through 2012, according to the Labor Department, pay less than $13.25 an hour, on average: retail salesclerks, customer service representatives, food service workers, cashiers, janitors, nurse’s aides and hospital orderlies.

The $13.25 threshold is important. More than 45 percent of the nation’s workers, whatever their skills, earned less than $13.25 an hour in 2004, or $27,600 a year for a full-time worker. That is roughly the income that a family of four must have in many parts of the country to maintain a standard of living minimally above the poverty level. Surely lack of skill and education does not hold down the wages of nearly half the work force.

Something quite different seems to be true: the oversupply of skilled workers is driving people into jobs beneath their skills and driving down the pay of jobs equal to their skills. Both happened to the aircraft mechanics laid off by United.

Oh brave new world, and the prime minister promises just wait, and you will have much more flexibility. Workplace Minister, Kevin Andrews was reported as saying last week that “he calculated the number of unemployed workers in Australia was 114,000″ and the most of the rest, which may be as many as two million, were not fit for work anyway.

Yes, and the question remains: What is to be done about employment?

GRAND COALITION ELECTORAL AFTERMATH March 26, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in European Politics.
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The election of the Grand Coalition in Germany between the Christian and Social Democrats continues to have electoral implications.

Next Sunday three State elections will be held involving about 20% of the population. It seems that Chancellor Merkel is riding a wave of popularity. Should the Social Democrats do less well there will be increased pressures on the government holding together.

Deutsche Wella has the report. We must wait to see what happens. For myself, I am keen to see how well the minor parties do since they have become the opposition.

Postscript: 28 March 2006

Here is DW’s report on the outcome of the weekend elections, which it seemed featured low voter turnouts, but otherwise were successful for the parties of the Grand Coalition. How it is up to Chancellor Merkel’s government task to address the economic and other problems facing her nation. (As for me, I have hit the wall. I am tired, and I have to get to bed.)

VERSIONS OF DEMOCRACY March 25, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Iraq Policy.
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Many modern political systems show a tendency to devolve rather than evolve. There are exceptions but they are created by extraordinary circumstances. Democratic presumptions, whether written in stone, or not, can be obliterated by circumstances and the expedient of fear. For example, consider the command and control provisions of anti-terrorism laws.

Democracy is by its nature a faith more than a set of procedures or institutions or principles. Once the faith erodes by the cynics who value power more than principles. Looking at American and Australian democracy it is possible to see decline and degradation, raising the question when does the process become irreversible. A sufficiently strong countervailing momentum does not to be underway, so, for example, the erosion of parliamentary relevance continues unabated.

An immoral invasion and conquest of Iraq has long been justified after the event by it perpetrators as spreading democracy, as if there democracy had not become a disease best not touched, left alone as it surely will be in Iraq.

There is no hope that Egypt or Saudi Arabia are destined to become democracies anytime soon, and perhaps this is less to do with Islam than the existing power structures in those societies, propped by the shining light of the representatives of American Democracy.

Still it surely must come as a surprise, even to those who seen the Bush reign as some exception, that the great American system will fix with the restoration of the status quo, to be told by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi that Libya has a more perfect union between the rulers and the governed. The BBC carried the report.

Postscript:
Gary’s post at Public Opinion, in regard to the the Wheat Board scandal, might be taken as supporting my thesis, particularly with regard to the lack of independent advice from the Public Service, which was once seen as giving policy advice and direction for governments. In truth democracy is a system in modern societies that is not unproblematic, especially when public opinion is immobilized into passivity, or effectively marginalized by a two-party voting system. Furthermore, the situation is no better when the state of political parties, from the point of view of participation, is considered across the political spectrum. Local and neighbourhood political actions are a positive light, but for example in NSW the Minister for Planning is seeking to control over developmental applications for the benefit of the States economy.

It is one thing to have a partial critque; it is another thing to do something about it. Now this is a subject suitable for repeated brainstorming, rather than focus group enquiries.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – SASHA AND DEXTER March 24, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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This week there will by necessity and mischance be fewer photos. One day, I went out and the batteries gave out and on the other I did not have a photo card in the camera. As you can see it has been raining, and that is a further excuse.

Sasha and Dexter.Posted by Picasa

Dexter finds a stick.Posted by Picasa

Sasha in her element. Posted by Picasa

A serious Dexter. Posted by Picasa

Sasha on her own. Posted by Picasa

And again. Posted by Picasa

Dexter is again in a serious mood. Posted by Picasa

“I’ll take a look over here”. Posted by Picasa

Moments later – the reward of patience. Posted by Picasa

Not a pose – a momentary stop.Posted by Picasa

Things to do.Posted by Picasa

A bit of fun. Posted by Picasa

There you go. Posted by Picasa

If as I do you wish to see the enlarged versions of the photos, click onto them. Refer to Friday Ark#79 at Modulator for dogs, cats and other creatures, and Carnival of the Dogs at Mickeys Musings for more dog photos.

EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION March 23, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Growth, Social Environment.
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Economists have prescriptions for social problems, and for causing social problems, but few, it might appear have an understanding of growth. The failings of economical ideology and its proponents should not be overlooked because they design most, and I have the sense this could be all, social policy.

Ross Gittins’ article in The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday takes on importance, since he refers to James Heckman from the University of Chicago, who studied “the dynamics of human skill formation”, and Ross Gittens recommends the efficacy of early childhood intervention.

I have news for Mr Gittins the conclusions of his article have been known for some time. But it is good to see that economists are catching up, and are prepared to incorporate related evidence and recommendations into their public policy prescriptions.

Of course it one thing to know, and another to affect ignorance, as manifest by Howard’s policy cruel and inhuman policy of locking up children in detention centres. Even bv lawyers and economists the defence of ignorance, is the defence of personality defective, childlike adults engaged in playing games without regard for consequences.

THE US MIGHT BECOME A DEMOCRACY – WOW? March 22, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.
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Molly Ivins has part of the prescription, which she spells out here via Common Dreams.

I do not expect to see these proposals implemented in my lifetime. Nor would I normally expect to see another president like Bush, which would be a denial of rationality, but given the ruling class contempt for democracy – it is not their system of government. However, a Bush clone cannot be ruled out.

All power to the imagination of the dreamers I say.

If America, or at least the United States, was a democracy, if would be a better country, and we would live in a better world. Anyway, something to look forward to, even though most of us will not be alive when it happens.

REDISCOVERY OF THE RULE OF LAW March 21, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Much more has been lost that the looting of the national treasures of Iraq due to criminal negligence by the invaders. For three years past the rule of law has gone missing under the presumption of American unilateralism. Now it seems that the rule of law has been rediscovered, an amazing and startling rediscovery and the credit lies with journalists who decided to follow the story.

The BBC carries a report of events.

Of course, in these matters the rediscovery may be premature, but at least now we can begin to hope that those responsible for the crimes will be indicted starting with President Bush.

DELEGATED INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS March 20, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Minister for Workplace Relations today unveiled 400 pages of ministerial discretionary regulations. The Secretary of the ACTU called this an example of “communist-style government control”, with the Minister acting the role of Stalin.

I do not know this for sure but I suspect since these regulations have only now been made public that the parliament voted for this legislation without knowledge of them. If so, that is pathetic, a clear dereliction of duty.

There is no ministerial statement without spin doctoring in which words are used that have no, or very little bearing on the truth, but are judged to sound appealing. John Howard has no shame, accusing his opponents of been propagandists. Consider:

Releasing the regulations yesterday, Mr Andrews said they contained “a myriad of matters” broadly in keeping with details published in the original workplace changes document released in October. Details included how secret ballots were to be conducted during industrial disputes and covered the issues of agreements not fully decided in state jurisdictions when the new system takes effect next Monday. “This is significant legislation, but it is fair legislation. It is legislation designed to ensure that Australia’s productivity continues to grow,” Mr Andrews said.

It has always been debatable whether an authoritarian regime will be more productive and effective across the spectrum of workplace relationship issues than a more liberal one with arbitration and mediation. The is a rerun of the old contest between Sparta and Athens, and the measure historically as now is the type of society that results. The slave class are likely to be disjoint from the ruling class. A recipe for ramping up the repression.

Perhaps in truth, Howard is a communist revolutionary?

RETURN OF THE DUCKS March 19, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.
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Sasha and Dexter went for a walk with me up to the dam today. Lo and behold there were ducks. Sasha’s heavy breathing and Dexter desire to romp in the bushes did not help, but I managed to take this photo as proof before the camera batteries gave out.


The ducks are back! Posted by Picasa
My morale was lifted by their presence. Others have a opposite view and seek to kill them for pleasure.

I need a camera with a zoom lens, but when I bought it I did not envisage the possibility since it was an experimental purchase. I had no idea I would be taking photos on a regular basis.

IRAQ INVASION THIRD ANNIVERSARY March 19, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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The next days will mark the third anniversary of the criminal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

With the passage of time, the suffering of the Iraqi people has increased measured by deaths and deprivations. In the modern world addressing grievances and reconciliation with injustice will not be easily assuaged, and the indictment of all the criminals involved will not only be primary and necessary step to address what otherwise my be its ramifications and consequences.

The American president may be able when indicted to argue that he is too stupid to understand the full implications of his decisions, but that in its turn will be indictment for what passes now for democracy in his country, the United Kingdom and Australia. The irony that such people could claim that they were attempting to spread democracy to another country is profoundly satiric, and witness to a lack of self-awareness, perhaps and doubtfully not by the oily spin doctors but certainly by those who consume their medicine.

The policy of such people is sick, and must be purged from the respective body politics. As always prevention is better than cure, and prevention will require change in behavior, for which there is I believe no stomach at the moment, but for which the necessity cannot be ignored.

We make our choices, some of which are irreversible, and we live with them, as those who follow us must. Thus policy, not excluding foreign policy, requires principles as well as pragmatism.

“TOO MUCH SPORT . . . March 18, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Miscellaneous.
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. . . is never enough.” Sure.

At the same time, it must be getting hard to keep up, more so if there is a choice available between pay and free to air television. For example, just take the football codes – and cricket is still going. Then there is the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

I have bailed out. It is all too much for me. After all sport is just a distraction, or at best an entertainment for non-participants. Once you think who cares who wins, it is just completely irrelevant, the interest passes. From some years of experience, I have found it has no bearing on my life whatsoever, and what is best forgotten, is best not known.

Television is pretty much like sport. Now I watch one program per week on television. And I do not like the news, so called, because they have the habit of telling me things I do not want to know, such as who won some sporting contest. Admittedly, that might be news in a mass audience sense, but not necessarily in narrow band sense that this technology provides, and as I suggest it is irrelevant anyway.

Questions of a philosophical nature are buried in this observation, which in my philosophy classes I half attended years ago I never got around to developing the skills of clarification, probably because it was thought to be beyond me. I settle with the observation that posting blogs, even as it is by nature sedentary and by execution less than interesting, remains for me participatory, detracting and entertaining.

BAN LIFTED March 18, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Multiculturalism.
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Our very nice Minister for Tourism has travelled to Britain, escorting two elderly British tourists, and the language ban on the tourism advertisements lifted.

The ABC News Online reports:

Ms Bailey says she is pleased the regulators realised the campaign was intended to be fun and cheeky, and not offensive. Ms Bailey says the British public seemed to have no problem understanding that the ad was tongue in cheek.”We were doing some filming and we asked a number of local people and they all laughed – they thought it was a joke. They said that you know that they really enjoyed it – that they thought it was good fun,” she said.

Now, I suppose, we are to be deluged by tourists. Luckily, as I have noted before, I am not a tourist, but if I were I would not travel to country that represented itself in that manner. There would be closer and better alternatives in which people could manage standard English. Still as the fatuous Minister seems to believe, ” it is all good fun”.

Would it not have been easier to change the advertisement?

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – GOODBYE TAFFY March 17, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in DOG BLOG -.
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Sadly, yesterday Taffy left us for the last time. He was having difficulty standing up, and on the Vets advice to avoid unnecessary pain he was put to sleep. Dogs are treated more kindly than humans. As dog owners we gain greater experience with death. I took some final photos.

(Should you wish, you may click onto the photos to enlarge. Please refer to The Carnival of the Dogs at Mickeys Musings and Ark #78 at Modulator for more dogs, cats and other animals.)

Taffy’s last photo. Posted by Picasa

Taffy’s spirit shone. Posted by Picasa

Sasha and Dexter continue to go out for morning walks – and sometimes such as yesterday when I lost my mobile phone again, they have a double walk. The project to socialize Dexter continues, so far with incomplete success.

Dexter close-up Posted by Picasa

Sasha: Rear glance. Posted by Picasa

Another morning outing. Posted by Picasa

Dexter in the frame – at last. Posted by Picasa

Dexter hunches. Posted by Picasa

Sasha waits to move on. Posted by Picasa

Take up a stick. Posted by Picasa

No chance to jump the fence. Posted by Picasa

On the alert. Posted by Picasa

“No problems”. Posted by Picasa

A time for inspection. Posted by Picasa

Another stop; another stick. Posted by Picasa

A dignified Sasha. Posted by Picasa

I will remember Taffy for his spirit displayed in this photo.

Final goodbye Taffy. Posted by Picasa

IRAQI PARLIAMENT MEETS March 16, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Yes that is the story. Just three months after the election, and with the unresolved issue of who should be prime minister.

Once Iraq has a government there will be a question as to what they govern. A civil war is one possible answer.

None of which stops the American president and Secretary of State from talking up the situation, which is just what the Australian government wants to hear.

THE VIRTUE OF IQ MEASUREMENT March 15, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Growth.
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Measuring human beings can be a deeply flawed process and often more so when it is qualitative in nature, which often deeply affects our sense of ourselves and our best possibilities. This effect may be exacerbated by social class. Facetiously here, I use George Walker Bush as the example, although I think had he had an appropriate education, he would never have sought, or been led, to be president.

To educate means to draw out, or at least this etymology makes sense when you look at the word. As a legacy of religious instruction and the institutional needs of the Church, and the subsequent late nineteenth century incorporation of the factory model of mass production, education became a process of stamping and sealing. The abstract noun “education” often had little to do with the process it sought to describe, or else in the description as happens the process was forgotten. Then there are those incorrigible ones, I suspect a minority, who through gifts of observation and independent thought, did learn engage in significant learning as they churned through the sausage machine.

Charles Dickens, I believe, was on to the futility of rote learning, and I would hate to admit how much of what I studied was in effect rote learning, prepared for exams and then forgotten. The thing that bugs me even now is the use of rote learning of the times tables, when other methods could be used. For example, I have just noticed this evening, and humility overcomes me, that if for example, you run the sequence:

9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0

Then reverse the series:

0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9

And then combine them so that the second precedes the first you get:

09-18-27-36-45-54-63-72-81-90

Which might be recognized as the nine times table. Now if you combine these numbers in another way, they always add up to nine. Now, I claim had this mirror image around the mid point been pointed out to me at an earlier age, the chances of sparking my interest would have been greater than the mindless repetition of numbers.

It seems to me, and I am guessing, when general anthropological evidence is considered, whether the Ancient Greeks, or the Maori, and others without the artifices of modern life, those with strong memories are valued as the guardians of folklore, and as potential leaders. And other less war-like societies, perhaps such as many Australian Aboriginal nations the environment is the story book of the world, and memory is the direct lived experience.

Of course too, in criticizing the education process, I ought to remember that sending children to schools was a far better option than setting them to work in factories, mines and farms, and that schooling made an appreciation of a wider world possible for many people, and perhaps even in my case. And that, I think, raises the question: Is the institutionalization of the process of educating the problem? Or is it simply inevitable and necessary.

Still I can report that despite obtaining some modest certifications, it is rare to all but unknown for any employer in my experience to notice them, and by doing so have made them irrelevant of getting and earning, which I would claim is not the purpose of life, despite a widespread assumption to that effect. It may be described as the lesser purpose rather than the greater purpose. To those you assume we should be necessarily subordinated into corporate profit, or other utilitarian purpose, I would associate myself in company with Thomas Jefferson and affirm “pursuit of happiness”. I take this to be the end of education.

The purpose of IQ testing, in my view, leaving aside its social class effects, if not intentions, has always been the measurement of the “educatibility” of its subjects, whether they were the French school children of interest to Alfred Binet, or the First World War American army recruits. There may be 20% of the population for which IQ testing is simply irrelevant been pointless in its execution for contrary reasons. But that means that 80% of the population were reduced to a single number as far as their potential cognitive abilities were concerned, and furthermore that this number was wholly determined by genetic endowment, as for example eye color might be.

The growth paradigm would at least call this presumption into question and invite closer examination of the otherwise compelling twin studies and raise questions as to whether the comparative environments of each twin were significantly different as to effect the result. To me it is common sense to suppose that Mozart would not have realized his potential without the influence of his parents, particularly his father.

I have not a clue how musical ability could be measured, and I am certain that I would not do very well, even if musicality was given higher social value, but I can observe this ability in far greater degree than I do. Now I suppose that the path to happiness for these people is to develop there talents to the greatest degree possible, and so for those with other abilities. However, at this point our society with its regimentation and utilitarian values has determined to cripple people and deny them the possibility of fulfillment and happiness by in effect denying the possibility of education.

My intuition is that the hidden purpose, and unconscious paradigm is manifestation of a military society. For that reason, I suggest, environmental values, regardless of their urgency and logic, are difficult to accept. To accept anything other than military solutions, for example the so-called “war on terrorism” and as I am advised the revival of “cadets” in some schools would be conflict with our social genetic code.

When I left school, my headmaster wrote that I “had academic ability somewhat above average.” And my response was I do not think so, and what does it mean anyway, without appreciating that he was in a good position to judge these matters in a qualified way notwithstanding. Similarly, when I got results from an intelligence test I took, which was good for my self esteem and therefore sense of possibility, similar and greater scepticism was aroused by the suggestion that my intellectual type is “visual mathematician”. I am to admit that as soon as geometry became part of the syllabus, I started to do better at mathematics, but I assumed that was true for everybody.

I would attempt to argue that quantitative IQ measurements are more useful, even if the vexed questions of validity and reliability can be set aside, to the extent that different skills are identified and compared. A long time ago, before the daily degradation beset me, it would have been of strategic value to have indicated what I might be able to do better. For example these results suggested that I scored higher than 80 – 90 per cent of people who took the test on the mathematical scale, 90 -100 per cent on the visual spatial scale, 70 – 80 per cent on the Linguistic percentile, and 60 -70 percent on the logical scale. Obviously, I have a problem with logic, but I think that is universal too.

Naturally I do not believe a word of it, but I have the picture. It seems to me that IQ testing may be appropriately used as diagnostic tool for cognitive skills, but not as a social definition by a single number.

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