By JR on Monday, October 31, 2016
Why does our planet experience an ice age every 100,000 years?
More Warmist rubbish -- confusing cause and effect again. Of course there was more CO2 dissolved in the oceans during cooler periods. That is what cooler water does. It dissolves more CO2. Your Coca Cola would not fizz otherwise. So they really have no causal explanation at all for the matter they discuss
I add the journal abstract following the popular summary below. The opening comments of the abstract indicate that the period of cyclicity was cooler as a whole. I quote: "The ~100 k.y. cyclicity of the late Pleistocene ice ages started during the mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT), as ice sheets became larger and persisted for longer"
Only a carefully dated tabulation of temperature and CO2 levels showing which changes came first could establish the theory they offer. They offer nothing of that sort. They report on CO2 proxies only
Experts from Cardiff University have offered up an explanation as to why our planet began to move in and out of ice ages every 100,000 years.
This mysterious phenomena, dubbed the ‘100,000 year problem’, has been occurring for the past million years or so and leads to vast ice sheets covering North America, Europe and Asia. Up until now, scientists have been unable to explain why this happens.
Our planet’s ice ages used to occur at intervals of every 40,000 years, which made sense to scientists as the Earth’s seasons vary in a predictable way, with colder summers occurring at these intervals.
However there was a point, about a million years ago, called the ‘Mid-Pleistocene Transition’, in which the ice age intervals changed from every 40,000 years to every 100,000 years.
New research published today in the journal Geology has suggested the oceans may be responsible for this change, specifically in the way that they suck carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere.
By studying the chemical make-up of tiny fossils on the ocean floor, the team discovered that there was more CO2 stored in the deep ocean during the ice age periods at regular intervals every 100,000 years.
This suggests that extra carbon dioxide was being pulled from the atmosphere and into the oceans at this time, subsequently lowering the temperature on Earth and enabling vast ice sheets to engulf the Northern Hemisphere.
Lead author of the research Professor Carrie Lear, from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: “We can think of the oceans as inhaling and exhaling carbon dioxide, so when the ice sheets are larger, the oceans have inhaled carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making the planet colder. When the ice sheets are small, the oceans have exhaled carbon dioxide, so there is more in the atmosphere which makes the planet warmer.
“By looking at the fossils of tiny creatures on the ocean floor, we showed that when ice sheets were advancing and retreating every 100,000 years the oceans were inhaling more carbon dioxide in the cold periods, suggesting that there was less left in the atmosphere.”
Marine algae play a key role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere as it is an essential ingredient of photosynthesis.
CO2 is put back into the atmosphere when deep ocean water rises to the surface through a process called upwelling, but when a vast amount of sea ice is present this prevents the CO2 from being exhaled, which could make the ice sheets bigger and prolong the ice age.
“If we think of the oceans inhaling and exhaling carbon dioxide, the presence of vast amounts of ice is like a giant gobstopper. It’s like a lid on the surface of the ocean,” Prof Lear continued.
The Earth’s climate is currently in a warm spell between glacial periods. The last ice age ended about 11,000 years ago. Since then, temperatures and sea levels have risen, and ice caps have retreated back to the poles. In addition to these natural cycles, manmade carbon emissions are also having an effect by warming the climate.
Breathing more deeply: Deep ocean carbon storage during the mid-Pleistocene climate transition
Lear, Caroline et al.
The ~100 k.y. cyclicity of the late Pleistocene ice ages started during the mid-Pleistocene transition (MPT), as ice sheets became larger and persisted for longer. The climate system feedbacks responsible for introducing this nonlinear ice sheet response to orbital variations in insolation remain uncertain. Here we present benthic foraminiferal stable isotope (d18O, d13C) and trace metal records (Cd/Ca, B/Ca, U/Ca) from Deep Sea Drilling Project Site 607 in the North Atlantic. During the onset of the MPT, glacial-interglacial changes in d13C values are associated with changes in nutrient content and carbonate saturation state, consistent with a change in water mass at our site from a nutrient-poor northern source during inter- glacial intervals to a nutrient-rich, corrosive southern source during glacial intervals. The respired carbon content of glacial Atlantic deep water increased across the MPT. Increased dominance of corrosive bottom waters during glacial intervals would have raised mean ocean alkalinity and lowered atmospheric pCO2. The amplitude of glacial-interglacial changes in d13C increased across the MPT, but this was not mirrored by changes in nutrient content. We interpret this in terms of air-sea CO2 exchange effects, which changed the d13C signature of dissolved inorganic carbon in the deep water mass source regions. Increased sea ice cover or ocean strati cation during glacial times may have reduced CO2 outgassing in the Southern Ocean, providing an additional mechanism for reducing glacial atmospheric pCO2. Conversely, following the establishment of the ~100 k.y. glacial cycles, d13C of interglacial northern-sourced waters increased, perhaps re ecting reduced invasion of CO2 into the North Atlantic following the MPT.
By JR on Sunday, October 30, 2016
An analysis of the Trump message
It seems possible that the past record of Trump with regard to women will lose him enough of the female vote for him to lose the election. But, regardless of that, he has identified a huge section of the population that previously had no voice. And they are not going to go away. There will be an ongoing desire to get the allegiance of such a huge voter bloc. Both the GOP and the Donks will feel under huge pressure to move in a Trumpian direction.
So what is the Trump message? It would not be a bad analysis to say that Trump simply speaks common sense but since common sense is not all that common these days, we need to dig deeper.
Everyone who has heard Trump has a view on what Trump's message is and there have already been many attempts to summarize it in writing. There has however been a recent very extensive attempt to analyse the phenomenon by a respected conservative intellectual, Dr. William Voegeli. I reproduce part of it below. But even the excerpt below is lengthy so let me assist time-poor people by attempting a summary:
He says that Trump speaks for many in believing that governments so far have been doing more harm that good and have in particular endangered the safety and security of ordinary Americans. Many see rightly that they could be the next victim of a Jihadi attack and blame the government for not preventing the many such attacks that have occurred recently. If the government cannot safeguard its citizens, what is it for?
He accepts that Trump is calling on tribal instincts: Those who feel that they are Americans first of all rather than being primarily some other sub-group or intellectual clique. And, much as the Left deplore it, that feeling among a very large part of the electorate is not going to go away. The Left call it racism, which just antagonizes the people concerned.
He also says that the refusal by the political establishment to see Muslims as a threat is borderline insane and perceived as that by most of the electorate. Trump is the only major figure who speaks any kind of sanity on the matter.
On political correctness he agrees with Trump that it has gone too far but to some extent excuses it as being well intentioned. He has drunk the Kool-aid about Leftists being idealists. Idealists who practiced mass slaughter in revolutionary France, in Soviet Russia and in Mao's China? My submission is that hatred of the society around them is the only consistent explanation of what Leftists do.
But the point remains that Americans are being extensively dictated to in the name of assumptions that they do not entirely share and any criticism of that is vastly refreshing to many Americans - who do not like being dictated to. So a bonfire of political correctness would be widely welcomed.
“We are screwing things up.” This is the subtext of the entire Trump campaign. Or, as the Atlantic’s David Frum describes its core message, “We are governed by idiots.” Moreover, the Trump movement is propelled by the fear that the idiots aren’t just screwing up the usual things, such as solvency, but the people’s security and the nation’s sovereignty.
The test of whether a government merits the people’s support, according to the Declaration of Independence, is whether it is “likely to effect their safety and happiness.” People are increasingly skeptical about government’s increasingly expansive promises to help make us happier, however, as shown by the consistently low approval ratings for Obamacare. Nor is there much to show for all the politicians’ talk about bringing back good jobs at good wages. Rendering our increasingly divided society a gorgeous mosaic hasn’t been a raging success, either.
But at least, people have a right to feel, government could do its most basic job and enhance our safety. Surely, in exchange for all the taxes we pay and forms we fill out, government can make life decidedly more peaceful than the state of nature. Elections analyst Henry Olsen reports that Trump’s support “skyrocketed” to “a position of dominance” against his Republican rivals after he responded to last year’s terrorist attacks in France and California by calling for, as his campaign put it, “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Olsen writes:
Trump voters believe they are threatened by Islamic terrorism. If Muslims come to America, they think, Americans will be more likely to die. Trump’s proposed ban seems to them to be common sense: The first duty of a national government is to protect its citizens from foreign threats. One must not underestimate how important the proposed ban is to Trump’s voters and to his appeal.
In the 15 years since 9/11, the United States government has done many things intended to thwart terrorism. Yet whether the security enhancements, if any, are commensurate with the high price the nation has paid is doubtful. In Afghanistan, America embarked on what has proven to be its longest war. No one can state with confidence how or when it will end, or explain the basis on which we could say we have accomplished our objectives. The war and subsequent occupation in Iraq—badly conceived, justified, managed, and terminated—poisoned American politics and destabilized rather than democratized the Middle East. The Arab Spring, likewise, raised hopes for a turn to liberal democracy, but resulted only in compounding the region’s tragic dilemma: only through authoritarianism can it stave off fanaticism. Al-Qaeda gave rise to ISIS, a group even more lunatic and lethal, which has engaged in pornographic brutality in the Middle East while directing or inspiring mass murder in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Nice.
Donald Trump, by contrast, has campaigned from the outset against the job both parties have done in protecting Americans from terrorists. He secured the Republican nomination against a field of 16 candidates described last summer by George F. Will as “the most impressive since 1980, and perhaps the most talent-rich since the party first had a presidential nominee, in 1856.”
Trump has described his axial foreign policy precept as “America First.” Detractors fastened on the formulation as either obtuse about the term’s provenance, or a signal that he, like Charles Lindbergh 80 years ago, would fuse isolationism with nonchalance towards dictators who abused populations other than ours. But take away its historical echoes, which are probably inaudible to both Trump and his voters, and putting America first strikes many people as an entirely sensible commitment to expect from an American president.
The P.C. Shuffle
Several writers, including this journal’s editor, have explained Trump’s ascent as a reaction to political correctness. The idea is that Trump’s apparent incapacity to say anything other than what’s on his mind at any given moment appeals to voters fed up with proliferating rules about how to avoid giving offense.
But it is important to consider the question in relation to the dangers posed by terrorism. The salient feature of political correctness is hostility to free speech and, more generally, the idea of inalienable rights. Its most prominent manifestations include campus speech codes, hypersensitive reactions to “microaggressions,” and the vindictive denial of due process to faculty and students accused of sexual harassment or assault.
This zeal to restrict civil liberties is not free-floating, however, but serves the political goal of repudiating appalling injustices of the past by securing a very different future, one immeasurably more equitable and admirable. This project is, in the main, defined by identity politics, the belief that groups that have been abused and humiliated must assert themselves and be accorded abundant compensatory respect. The companion belief is that those sharing the demographic profile of the perpetrators of abuse and humiliation—above all, straight white males—must atone and defer. Merely refraining from abusing and humiliating members of groups previously victimized isn’t enough: they still enjoy privileges derived from “the system of murder and exploitation that benefits some of us at the expense of others,” in the words of one penitent, Emily Pothast, a Seattle-based writer and musician.
“The current politically correct response cripples our ability to talk and to think and act clearly,” Trump said after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. “If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart and fast, we’re not going to have our country anymore. There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left.”
Legions of commentators and political opponents dismissed that speech as still more hyperbole from The Donald. But Trump’s startling success in the GOP race has much to do with the feeling that identity politics has indeed left Americans less safe from terrorism than we need and deserve to be. Consider the term “Islamophobia,” defined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations as the “closed-minded prejudice against or hatred of Islam and Muslims.” The Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, gives this account, more expansive, tendentious, and explicitly P.C.:
Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.
Note that Islamophobia is contrived regardless of whether the Muslim threat is real or merely perceived, which means that a vigorous response to any such threat is, by definition, prejudiced and irrational. “This is why,” the late Christopher Hitchens wrote, “the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be ‘phobic.’” The reality, he insisted, is that in the purported “gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it’s easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims—to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals.”
When Trump says political correctness cripples our ability to think, talk, and act against terrorism, he’s signaling that our response to terrorism is severely compromised by Islamophobia-phobia—the closed-minded, contrived, overwrought, unwarranted, misdirected, counterproductive fear that accurate threat assessments and adequate self-defense might hurt a Muslim’s feelings. “Public sentiment is everything,” said Lincoln of a republic’s political life, which means that those who mold public sentiment are more powerful than legislators and judges, because they make “statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.” Our molders of public sentiment have made citizens more worried about accusations of bigotry than they are determined to report possible terrorism. A man working near the San Bernardino shooter’s home, according to one news account, “said he noticed a half-dozen Middle Eastern men in the area” before the attack, “but decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people.”
By word and example, a diffident government encourages a diffident citizenry. Days after the San Bernardino killings, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch told a meeting of the group Muslim Advocates that her “greatest fear as a prosecutor” is that terrorist attacks will inflame anti-Muslim sentiment, leading to rhetoric that “will be accompanied by acts of violence.” Strange that a law-enforcement official’s greatest fear would correspond to something other than the greatest threat. Fifteen years after 9/11, the violent anti-Muslim backlash is an outrage permanently on the verge of taking place, while bombings and shootings by Islamic zealots remain mere realities.
Equally strange is the Department of Homeland Security’s policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing visa applicants’ social media postings. The possibility of finding information that indicates terrorist intentions was, apparently, outweighed by fear of “a civil liberties backlash and ‘bad public relations’ for the Obama administration,” according to ABC News. In the absence of such reviews, the government took three weeks to approve a fiancée visa application for Tashfeen Malik, who became one of the San Bernardino shooters, “despite what the FBI said were extensive social media messages about jihad and martyrdom.”
Us and Them
The oldest, most fundamental political question is Us and Them. Many people want to write a new chapter in human history, where nationality figures trivially in that distinction. On the right, economics—trade, specialization, growth, prosperity—should render Us and Them obsolete and irrelevant. “America should be a destination for hard-working immigrants from all over the world,” according to a 2015 press release from “top national Republican donors.” Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan contends that we discard cant in favor of wisdom when we come to understand that our “so-called ‘fellow Americans’ are mere strangers with no special claim on [our] time or affection.” On the left, social justice—tolerance, empathy, diversity, inclusion, renouncing and dismantling the Eurocentric structures of power and privilege—will promote comity, respect, and fairness among the earth’s 7 billion inhabitants, erasing tensions and distinctions among people of different colors, creeds, regions, and lifestyles.
The older sensibility about Us and Them, however, refuses to admit its own obsolescence. America is a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. We must honor the proposition, since the republic rests on the conviction that no one is good enough to govern another without that other’s consent. But it is equally important to defend and cherish the nation, the vessel that bears and sustains the experiment in self-government. The Declaration of Independence begins with the assertion that it has become necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them with another. Americans are a people, not just people, and not just any or all people who embrace the idea of human equality and its political implications. The preamble of the Constitution offers six reasons for establishing the new frame of government, the concluding one being “to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.” This aspiration does not require indifference or antipathy to any or all others, nor to their posterity. But it does make clear, again, that We are not Them, and we may justifiably prefer our safety and happiness to theirs when conflicts between the two arise.
Consigning patriotic attachment to the dustbin of history ignores stubborn moral and anthropological realities, as recently described by columnist Megan McArdle:
Somehow, over the last half-century, Western elites managed to convince themselves that nationalism was not real. Perhaps it had been real in the past, like cholera and telegraph machines, but now that we were smarter and more modern, it would be forgotten in the due course of time as better ideas supplanted it.
That now seems hopelessly naïve. People do care more about people who are like them—who speak their language, eat their food, share their customs and values. And when elites try to ignore those sentiments—or banish them by declaring that they are simply racist—this doesn’t make the sentiments go away. It makes the non-elites suspect the elites of disloyalty. For though elites may find something vaguely horrifying about saying that you care more about people who are like you than you do about people who are culturally or geographically further away, the rest of the population is outraged by the never-stated corollary: that the elites running things feel no greater moral obligation to their fellow countrymen than they do to some random stranger in another country.
Our political leaders’ vigilance and competence must encompass not just their organizational skills, but their capacity to grasp the malevolence of those who want to kill our citizens and shatter our way of life. Officials who, instead, traffic in sentimental blather about how we’re all brothers under the skin, awaiting the call of freedom that comes to every human mind and soul, are busy rejecting the understanding it is most important for them to possess. Our dangers will increase by an order of magnitude if Islamic terrorists succeed in their long quest to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The murder of tens of thousands of civilians in a single attack will make admonitions like Loretta Lynch’s after the Paris massacres—“we cannot be ruled by fear”—seem even more blithe, obtuse, and stupid.
Given his manifest, widely discussed defects as a prospective president and as a human, the rise of Donald Trump cannot be read as anything other than a vote of no confidence in the political class that has guided our anti-terrorism policies over the past 15 years. Those who believe that problem to be America’s most pressing are right to fear that Trump’s flair for the sensational, his inaccuracies and distortions, will do more harm than good to the cause of anti-terrorism, just as Joseph McCarthy did to the cause of anti-Communism. This danger makes it all the more important to satisfy the people’s urgent demand: leaders and policies that don’t squander, for the sake of secondary considerations, the moral and practical resources we need to thwart terrorists. In opposing Islamic terrorism, as in any other critical endeavor, the main thing is to make sure the main thing is always the main thing. Trump’s voters feel that he, like them, is unequivocally committed to this imperative. About his political opponents, they feel no such confidence.
By JR on Saturday, October 29, 2016
Do cranberries prevent burny pees?
There has been popular support for cranberries helping with urinary tract infections for a very long time. But the research findings have been uneven. There has therefore been a wish for studies which would settle the question for once and for all. The abstract of the latest study is below.
It is undoubtedly a well-conducted study and a contemporaneous review has used it as something of a final nail in the coffin of clinical use of cranberry juice.
I wish to prise that nail out of the coffin, in part because I have personally found cranberry juice to be very efficacious. It doesn't happen often but, if I get a twinge of UTI, I rapidly belt a couple of mouthfuls of supermarket cranberry juice into me and the problem disappears.
So why is my experience different from what we read in the report below? Several reasons. For a start, I am not a sick and elderly woman living in a Connecticut nursing home. More importantly, however, I take the juice as a cure, not as a preventive. Its effects could wear off if you take it all the time. Cranberries may not be able to prevent UTI but they could cure it.
I am also concerned that most of the studies administer the stuff in capsule form rather than as a drink. As a much-published academic researcher myself, I know exactly why they do that. It enables standardization and replicability. But what if the scientific precautions damage the effect? What if capsules are not a good way of delivering the power of the cranberry? To put it in academic terms, what if the finding is an artifact of the experimental method? What if capsules have processed all the goodness out of the cranberries? Health researchers are loud and frequent in condemning processed food generally, so how come cranberry capsules get a pass?
Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Manisha Juthani-Mehta et al.
Importance: Bacteriuria plus pyuria is highly prevalent among older women living in nursing homes. Cranberry capsules are an understudied, nonantimicrobial prevention strategy used in this population.
Objective: To test the effect of 2 oral cranberry capsules once a day on presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria among women residing in nursing homes.
Design, Setting, and Participants: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled efficacy trial with stratification by nursing home and involving 185 English-speaking women aged 65 years or older, with or without bacteriuria plus pyuria at baseline, residing in 21 nursing homes located within 50 miles (80 km) of New Haven, Connecticut (August 24, 2012-October 26, 2015).
Interventions: Two oral cranberry capsules, each capsule containing 36 mg of the active ingredient proanthocyanidin (ie, 72 mg total, equivalent to 20 ounces of cranberry juice) vs placebo administered once a day in 92 treatment and 93 control group participants.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Presence of bacteriuria (ie, at least 105 colony-forming units [CFUs] per milliliter of 1 or 2 microorganisms in urine culture) plus pyuria (ie, any number of white blood cells on urinalysis) assessed every 2 months over the 1-year study surveillance; any positive finding was considered to meet the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes were symptomatic urinary tract infection (UTI), all-cause death, all-cause hospitalization, all multidrug antibiotic–resistant organisms, antibiotics administered for suspected UTI, and total antimicrobial administration.
Results Of the 185 randomized study participants (mean age, 86.4 years [SD, 8.2], 90.3% white, 31.4% with bacteriuria plus pyuria at baseline), 147 completed the study. Overall adherence was 80.1%. Unadjusted results showed the presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria in 25.5% (95% CI, 18.6%-33.9%) of the treatment group and in 29.5% (95% CI, 22.2%-37.9%) of the control group. The adjusted generalized estimating equations model that accounted for missing data and covariates showed no significant difference in the presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria between the treatment group vs the control group (29.1% vs 29.0%; OR, 1.01; 95% CI, 0.61-1.66; P = .98). There were no significant differences in number of symptomatic UTIs (10 episodes in the treatment group vs 12 in the control group), rates of death (17 vs 16 deaths; 20.4 vs 19.1 deaths/100 person-years; rate ratio [RR], 1.07; 95% CI, 0.54-2.12), hospitalization (33 vs 50 admissions; 39.7 vs 59.6 hospitalizations/100 person-years; RR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.32-1.40), bacteriuria associated with multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacilli (9 vs 24 episodes; 10.8 vs 28.6 episodes/100 person-years; RR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.10-1.46), antibiotics administered for suspected UTIs (692 vs 909 antibiotic days; 8.3 vs 10.8 antibiotic days/person-year; RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.44-1.33), or total antimicrobial utilization (1415 vs 1883 antimicrobial days; 17.0 vs 22.4 antimicrobial days/person-year; RR, 0.76; 95% CI, 0.46-1.25).
Conclusions and Relevance: Among older women residing in nursing homes, administration of cranberry capsules vs placebo resulted in no significant difference in presence of bacteriuria plus pyuria over 1 year.
JAMA. Published online October 27, 2016. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.16141
By JR on Friday, October 28, 2016
Australia's climate heating and drying out: report
The contemptible rubbish below comes from people who pretend that a global temperature rise of a few hundredths of one degree tells us something important. It does not. Such rises are well within the error of measurement and are not statistically significant for a start. And they would be trivial even if they were significant.
And when there was a rise of around a degree last year, it was due to El Nino. El Nino was such a well known natural effect that they had to mention it below but, without mentioning a scrap of evidence, they dismissed it as a minor effect.
Well let me mention some evidence. The authors below imply that the temperature rise was part of a continuing warming process due to increased level of CO2 in the atmosphere. So there must be some sign in the record that CO2 levels have increased recently. But look at the CO2 levels from Australia's Cape Grim climate observatory over the heart of the El Nino period.
Within an accuracy of parts per billion, there was NO increase in CO2 levels at all! The warming over the El Nino period was ENTIRELY natural, with NO contribution from a CO2 rise. CO2 levels did NOT rise so they CANNOT be responsible for the higher temperatures.
The article below is an egregious example of cherry-picking and outright lying
The biannual State of the Climate report from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO shows the effects of climate change are being felt in Australia.
Australia is becoming an even more sunburnt country with worse droughts and more extreme flooding rains.
The latest State of the Climate report, released on Thursday, shows the trends of climate change in Australia are continuing.
"Climate change is happening now; it's having a tangible impact on Australia," the Bureau of Meteorology's climate monitoring manager Karl Braganza told reporters.
The biannual snapshot, prepared by the bureau and CSIRO, shows the country is experiencing very hot days more frequently and rainfall is reducing across the southern part of the continent.
Between 1910 and 1941 there were 28 days when the national average temperature was in the top extremes recorded. In 2013 alone there were 28 such days.
Dr Braganza predicted the record-breaking extreme heat will be considered normal in 30 years' time.
The report also shows below average rainfall across southern Australian in 16 of the past 20 autumn-winter seasons.
"This decline in rainfall for southern Australia, 10 to 20 per cent might not sound like a lot but it's reducing at a time of year where typically we recharge the soil moisture and vegetation and water storages as well," Dr Braganza said.
A 10-15 per cent reduction in rainfall over winter can lead to a 60 per cent reduction in stream flow into water storages.
"That's what we're seeing in southwest WA where their water storages from essentially rainfall (dropped) in 2015 and they're using desal and groundwater to make up the difference," he said.
This combination of drying out and warmer weather increases fire danger, with the fire season already routinely extending into spring and autumn.
The report also shows 15 of the 16 hottest years on record were the past 15 years.
"The earth is warming," CSIRO climate science centre interim director Steve Rintoul said.
While there was some natural variability in temperature caused by effects such as El Nino and La Nina, it was not sufficient to drown out the overall trend towards increasing temperatures, he said.
By JR on Thursday, October 27, 2016
Do religious people understand the world LESS? Study claims belief in God makes you struggle with reality
Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen is a prolific publisher on religious matters but this piece suggests to me that she knows very little of Christianity: A rather large lacuna, one would think. Her findings below sound methodologically acceptable but her interpretation of them is naive.
She falls victim to the logical fallacy that correlation is causation. She thinks that the unscientific thinking of Christians lies behind their poor knowledge of science. It probably does, but not in the way she thinks. Her clear opinion is that her findings show Christians as a bit dumb and intellectually deficient -- with those limitations also explaining their religiousness. So once again we have Leftist academics trying to show that religion is stupid (Islam excepted, of course).
But an equally possible interpretation of the findings is that faith leads to reduced interest in science. Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen is apparently unaware that Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world" and that Christians follow on from that by slighting physical world matters in favour of an interest in what they see as metaphysical matters.
I am an extreme atheist. I agree with Carnap that all metaphysical statements are meaningless. But that is just my opinion. Most of the world does find some metaphysical statements persuasive. So we will have situations where a Christian spends his time on his knees in prayer rather than hunched over a laboratory bench. The Bible will be of interest where a Bunsen burner is not. And both will learn different things from those different experiences
So I would argue that the results tell us only that Christians and unbelievers have different interests. They do not tell us anything about mental inadequacies in religious believers.
I am just speaking basic science in saying that we would need some sort of before and after experiment to isolate the causal direction. A survey cannot do that
I have added the journal abstract after the summary below
A new study has suggested that religious people are more likely to have a poor understanding of the world.
It claims that those with a belief in God are more likely to think that inanimate objects, such as metal and oil can think and feel.
Researchers say that the findings suggest people's lack of understanding about the physical world means they apply their own rules, 'resulting in belief in demons, gods, and other supernatural phenomena'.
The study comes from the University of Helsinki, where researchers went as far as comparing religious people with those with autism, after finding they struggle to understand the realities of the world.
People with strong religious beliefs tended to have a worse understanding of physical phenomenon, such as volcanoes and wind, and were more likely to believe that inanimate objects can think and feel.
For example, religious people tended to agree with statements such as 'stones sense the cold.'
Marjaana Lindeman and Annika Svedholm-Häkkinen, who led the study, told The Independent: 'The more the participants believed in religious or other paranormal phenomena, the lower their intuitive physics skills, mechanical and mental rotation abilities, school grades in mathematics and physics, and knowledge about physical and biological phenomena were.'
The study involved 258 Finnish participants, who were asked how much they agreed with the statement 'there exists an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God' and if they believed in paranormal phenomena such as ghosts and psychic visions.
They were also tested on a range of other topics, including intuitive physics skills and understanding of basic biology.
The results showed that religious people tend to base their actions on instinct, rather than analytical thinking.
A study in 2013 by researchers at the University of Rochester suggested that religious people tend to have a lower IQ.
It suggested that those with high IQs had greater self-control and were able to do more for themselves - so did not need the benefits that religion provides.
But other studies have also found the religious people tend to be happier than those who do not believe in God.
Does Poor Understanding of Physical World Predict Religious and Paranormal Beliefs?
Marjaana Lindeman and Annika M. Svedholm-Häkkinen
Although supernatural beliefs often paint a peculiar picture about the physical world, the possibility that the beliefs might be based on inadequate understanding of the non-social world has not received research attention. In this study (N = 258), we therefore examined how physical-world skills and knowledge predict religious and paranormal beliefs. The results showed that supernatural beliefs correlated with all variables that were included, namely, with low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena, intuitive and analytical thinking styles, and in particular, with assigning mentality to non-mental phenomena. Regression analyses indicated that the strongest predictors of the beliefs were overall physical capability (a factor representing most physical skills, interests, and knowledge) and intuitive thinking style.
ACPsy Volume 30, Issue 5, September/October 2016, Pages 736–742
By JR on Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Multiculturalism in Australia, success or failure?
David Forde, below, seems to think there has been some sort of success of multiculturalism in Australia. Maybe there has been, though he offers no proof of it. But the big success with immigrants to Australia has in fact been with assimilation. People from all over the world have come to Australia and fitted in well with the mores of the host society. And by and large, their children are indistiguishable from other Australians. Not much multiculturalism there!
The ARE multiculturalists here but do we call African crime and Muslim hostility a success? I can't see it. It's true that not all Africans commit crimes and not all Muslims wage jihad against us but the crimes and the jihad clearly come from the alien culture of the offenders. Not many Presbyterians wage Jihad and not many Han Chinese do breaking and entering. The culture clearly makes a difference. The assimilated Han are no problem but who would say that of the Africans?
David Forde's big problem is that he has swallolwed the Leftist hokum that all men are equal. To him the Han and the Africans are all the same. If only Africans WERE as civilized as the Han! But he is quite incapable of discussing such differences. He relies totally on overgeneralizations. He inhabits a world of mental fog.
As we read below, Forde thinks that if all are treated and made to feel equal within the rule of law, that will create "a sense of belonging and strengthening social cohesion". So how come it hasn't? There's certainly no "sense of belonging and social cohesion" among members of the South Sudanese Apex gang members who are terrorising parts of Melbourne these days. But they have all been treated equally before the law.
If we look at the detail that Forde cannot see, we have to conclude that assimilation is the answer to social cohesion, not multiculturalism
RECENTLY there has been a resurgence in negativity regarding multiculturalism.
As I see it, we have two choices. We can speak up in support of inclusion where all are treated and made to feel equal within the rule of law, thereby creating a sense of belonging and strengthening social cohesion.
Or, we don’t speak up and treat multiculturalism as a concept to be avoided or scapegoated. Thereby letting the negative control the narrative while creating a sense of exclusion, where people are more readily labelled and some are considered more Australian than others. As a result, we encourage division as people retreat into various ethnic groupings and put up the barriers as they seek a sense of belonging and acceptance from within.
It also creates an environment where the more vulnerable are left open to exploitation.
Yes, there are people who don’t want to, or don’t feel comfortable associating with people outside their own given identity – this is normal and applies to people of all backgrounds.
The important thing is that it’s not about everyone agreeing or being the same, that’s simply impossible, it’s about acceptance and a fair go where everyone is treated equally. Surely everyone is entitled to that.
There are too many Australians, including many born here, who feel excluded from society and continually have to justify their “Australianness”.
Every one of us is different, but as individuals we share more in common than we realise. One of those commonalities is that everyone, except our First Peoples, is of migrant stock; it’s just that some are more recent than others.
Currently more than 28 per cent of Australia’s population was born overseas. Australia is a multicultural success story.
So scapegoating the very substance that has delivered today’s Australia is not the answer. In fact it is completely counter-productive, not least for economic reasons around trade and tourism.
I have been very fortunate to call Australia home for the past 24 years and live in one of the most culturally diverse suburbs in Queensland. I have neighbours who originate from all parts of the globe. Despite this diversity – or because of it – we have a tremendous sense of community, not least when the community, be they from the local service clubs, mosques, churches, temples or just everyday community members, rally together to assist those in need.
Creating fear of the “other” or the unknown is very easy. But rather than rejecting or scapegoating Australia’s multicultural success story, we should embrace it; there are simply too many benefits.
Go out and meet your fellow Australians, engage and replace (politically motivated) fear of the unknown with curiosity.
This leads to one simple question. What sort of Australia do we want, a weak and divided Australia or a strong and inclusive Australia?
I know what I want and what is in Australia’s long-term interests.
By JR on Tuesday, October 25, 2016
More wonderful singing from Anna Netrebko
I have of course over the years heard many renditions of "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. It would go close to being Puccini's best aria. So I was pleased to see two versions of it by Netrebko. And I think she is the best yet at it in my judgment.
But that's not the end of it. She did another version of it that is now online. I suspect she is a little older in this version. It is however a bit hard to tell. She was fairly informally presented in the first version, with very little makeup on. In this version, however she has the full slap on. It does look very elegant and romantic.
It's interesting that Netrebko looks quite Italian in this performance. Since the whole song is set in Firenze (Florence) -- with references to the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno etc -- that is very appropriate. Netrebko is from Southern Russia -- Cossack country -- so she probably comes from a latitude nearly as Southerly as Firenze.
By JR on Monday, October 24, 2016
Memo to Florida Voters: Your AC Bill Just Went Up
I have just been talking to a refrigeration expert who for his own reasons supports the ban on HFCs as refrigerants. I put it to him that all the possible replacement gases have problems with toxicity, flammability etc. We agreed that flammability is going to be the most likely problem to arise but he said that the probability of the gases igniting is very low. He made the point that we often do things that have a much higher likelihood of harming us -- driving a car, for instance.
While that is an intelligible argument, it ignores the reality that what we are moving away from is a zero-risk situation. Say that there will in future be only three occasions worldwide where an AC unit explodes and kills someone. ALL THREE of those occasions were fully avoidable by retaining HFCs. We may ordinarily take risks but how often do we deliberately heighten our risks? Sensation-seekers aside, I think we do not. So the latest Greenie mandate will kill some people -- entirely as a result of that mandate
We’ve warned for some time that Big Government is coming for your air conditioner in the name of saving the planet. Well, on Saturday, nearly 200 countries, including China, agreed to take action in the next eight years on reducing the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are used in AC units and refrigerators. The legally binding deal was spearheaded by John Kerry, who thinks HFCs pose as great a threat to national security as jihadis do. But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was equally involved. “In a nutshell, these HFCs cool our homes and chill our food, but they are turning up the temperature of our planet,” lectured McCarthy. “World leaders took a giant leap forward by agreeing to a global phase-down of these harmful gases.”
What do we get in exchange for this regulatory bonanza? The Washington Examiner reports, “Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal … would put the planet on track to stop the Earth’s temperature from rising a half of a degree Celsius over the next two decades.” That goal is unprovable. No matter how much the temperature changes, these folks will say it would be half a degree Celsius worse had it not been for their intrepid work.
Furthermore, air conditioners were more efficient with the already-banned CFCs than they are with HFCs, and these regulations threaten to make that even worse. Stephen Yurek, the head of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute, says, “After two phases of research, the most promising alternatives are currently classified as mildly flammable or flammable.” That sounds fun. So when our AC doesn’t work as well without HFCs, we’ll all be hotter, which has the advantage of “proving” the alarmists right about global warming.
McCarthy also crowed, “While we have seen many significant successes under President Obama’s leadership in fighting climate change, this day will unquestionably be remembered as one of the most important in our effort to save the one planet we have.” And you can bet that “important effort” — just like every other Obama regulation to that end — is going to cost you dearly
By JR on Sunday, October 23, 2016
Hunt for the radical centre: confronting welfare dependency
Noel Pearson is the leading Aboriginal intellectual and he is unusually realistic below. He recognizes the bad effects of welfare dependency, for instance. But in the end his solution to Aboriginal problems is despairing. He in effect says that only a great new Messiah could solve them. His pessimism is understandable. Of all the things that have been tried by many governments for many years, nothing works.
And that nothing works is a clear case of the basic scientific truth that if your theories are wrong, you won't get the results you expect. Pearson simply pooh-poohs without evidence the plain truth that Aborigines are genetically different. They have evolved over 40,000 years or more to cope with an environment vastly different from the modern world. They are fish out of water. Only a willingness to deal with what Aborigines are actually like will have any prospect of success
But to deal with what Aborigines are actually like would imperil the insane Leftist faith that all men are equal. So the status quo will continue
My subject is the legacy of the great American public intellectual and politician Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the author of one of the most famous briefings in the history of public policy. As an aide in president Lyndon Johnson’s labour department, Moynihan’s 1965 paper The Negro Family: The Case for National Action argued that the US government was underestimating the damage done to black families by "three centuries of sometimes unimaginable mistreatment" and the "racist virus in the American blood stream" that would continue to plague blacks in the future. He wrote:
"That the Negro American has survived at all is extraordinary — a lesser people might simply have died out, as indeed others have … But it may not be supposed that the Negro American community has not paid a fearful price for the incredible mistreatment to which it has been subjected over the past three centuries.
"The Negro family, battered and harassed by discrimination, injustice, and uprooting, is in the deepest trouble … While many young Negroes are moving ahead to unprecedented levels of achievement, many more are falling further and further behind."
Fifty years later, we live in the wake of Moynihan’s electrifying thesis on African-American prospects in the wake of civil rights. The discourse reverberated here in Australia.
Moynihan’s was an attempt to identify the radical centre in thinking about the legacy of slavery and racism and its effects on African-Americans, and what it would mean for the hopes and dreams they held after the catharsis of civil rights. These 50 years saw a tumultuous dialectic play out: between those captured by Moynihan’s striking call to arms and those alarmed by its analysis. This discourse began immediately with a vehement campaign by liberal social reformers and leftist activists to oppose the adoption of Moynihan’s thinking by the US federal government.
The first riposte to The Negro Family came from Harvard academic William Ryan, taking aim at Moynihan’s identification of the black family as the ground zero of black poverty and social crisis, later published in book form in 1971, Blaming the Victim. I re-read Moynihan and Ryan in preparation for this oration, as well as a bracing retrospective by Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me. Coates is the leading black intellectual of the Black Lives Matter movement and his book is a searing analysis of the ongoing American dilemma.
Last year on its 50th anniversary, The Atlantic republished The Negro Family and Coates’s article "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration". It is astounding to reflect that in the entire leftist argument that any attempt to attribute responsibility or personal agency to individuals in respect of social problems has its genesis in Ryan’s accusation that one may be "blaming the victim". It became the most powerful nostrum of leftist objection to social analyses on personal behavioural terms and any policy responses predicated on such analyses. In my reading of Ryan, however, I cannot gainsay much of its insight and perception. Unlike the leftist discourse that he spawned in subsequent decades, Ryan’s original critique cuts to the quick and warrants reflection.
I won’t rehearse the terms of that original disputation, except to say Ryan objected to the so-called "tangled pathology" within African-American families as a misattribution of their predicament. While Moynihan’s denunciation of the ongoing horrific effects of racism against black Americans was unequivocal, Ryan cogently argues slavery was not the immediate cause of the problems manifesting in black families: poverty was their cause. Similar problems were manifesting with other peoples around the world in like circumstances.
I find Ryan’s critique sobering in long retrospect because he reminds us of the danger of conveniently pathologising specific aspects of black life, particularly family life in the ghettos, without turning our eyes to the economic and structural circumstances in which these families live and the deprivations they not only suffered in the distant past but continued to endure. Social policy responses in the modern era have been confined to addressing segments of egregious disparity without looking at the broader circumstances that gave rise to those problems and which, more importantly, drive these problems into the future.
The chief accusation against Moynihan is the Negro family’s causal role in poverty. This is, I think, unfair. The better way to understand Moynihan’s argument is that the Negro family was the victim and became the transmitter of poverty. Once entrenched in poverty with all its effects on black family life, the family then becomes the means by which poverty is transmitted to future generations.
When I reflect on the history of this discourse over half a century, I wonder how much better it would have been if the insights of these two great intellectuals had somehow been reconciled, each correcting and balancing the other rather than repudiating the other. Instead, they became polar opposites in an unresolved discourse that organised a liberal progressive tribe on the one side, and a conservative tribe on the other.
Charles Murray’s 1984 book Losing Ground, which laid out the modern articulation of welfare reform, is the legatee of Moynihan’s Negro Family.
However, the very alarm harboured by Ryan that the political and intellectual Right would pathologise and blame African-Americans for their own predicament was realised when Murray and Richard Herrnstein subsequently published The Bell Curve, spuriously arguing that black Americans were innately intellectually inferior to whites. The problems of poverty and social inequality had their source in the innate character and genetics of black people, and the old assumptions about black racial inferiority found its new sociological cloak in The Bell Curve.
Attempts to build policy in the radical centre found their apotheosis in president Bill Clinton’s enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996, aiming, in Clinton’s invocation of Moynihan’s original words, "to end welfare as we know it". It sought to reconcile the behavioural dimension of welfare dependency and the structural opportunity of employment. These reforms were supported by the now New York senator Moynihan, to the dismay of the welfare rights lobby.
There is great debate about the success of the PRWORA reforms, but it is clear this reconciliation was dependent on the availability of work. The deal worked during the Clinton administration when jobs were available but could not be sustained in the economic downturn. You can mandate personal responsibility but not employment opportunity.
My interest is the radical centre. This is the place where those in search of a better society might best hunt. It is the sweet spot representing the right combination of conservative, social and liberal ideas and insights. Rather than the weak, "lowest common denominator" compromise between left and right, the radical centre is the highest, noblest compromise. It brings together high ideals with hard realism. It is high-minded pragmatism informed by intense dialogue and negotiation.
Clinton, Tony Blair and other social democratic leaders around the world were the chief proponents of radical centre politics, however its invention began in Australia with the Hawke-Keating government in 1983. Paul Keating was its greatest exponent. My own view is the difference between Keating as the champion of the radical centre — seeking to produce social good underpinned by economic reform — and John Howard, is that Howard was the great manager of the centre, whereas the exceptional character of Keating’s leadership was to drive the radical centre: to pursue reform and not just management.
The politics of the radical centre have declined in the past decade and a half and we have retreated to that old tepid partisanship, plying for the promiscuous affections of swinging voters. The terms of public political debates are largely between the 15 per cent of the far right against the 15 per cent of the far left, with the middle just sagging.
As perspicacious as Ryan is in Blaming the Victim, in retrospect his thesis informed a half-century’s worth of leftists encouraging the poor to see themselves as victims. This was not his intention but it was his effect. His riposte to Moynihan was a nostrum that became an ideology that became a mindset, and legions of leftist social workers and academics compounded the idea that the victimised were indeed victims and entitled to a sense of victimhood.
I have long argued against the horrific results of this legacy. Inculcating a sense of victimhood in the victimised is for me to remove power from the victims. In a sense, the Right’s relative heartlessness was preferable: better to object to the Right’s hypocrisy than to succumb to the Left sanctifying victimhood. The frog falling in the fire can at least jump, whereas the frog in the freezer hibernates peacefully to his death.
In 1999, I published my thesis Our Right to Take Responsibility. My conviction was in the difference between poverty and passivity. Poverty in the Third World as I had witnessed in Vietnam was of a different character to the passivity in my home community.
My thesis was based on the idea that we needed to assume responsibility as a power — as a power to take control over our lives and to have the kind of self-determination that successful citizens, communities and peoples need, expect and are entitled to in a liberal and social democratic society. Like Moynihan, however, my thesis aroused objections from the Australian Left, indigenous and non-indigenous. A similar discourse that engulfed the Moynihan report played out in a provincial echo here in Australia.
I want to go through the main contentions in this discourse that have eluded common ground. First, in relation to social disadvantage and poverty, the issue of explaining the ultimate origin of these problems going back to the colonial past, to the legacy of racism and exclusion, versus more proximate explanations such as indigenous communities leaving the cattle industry and joining the welfare rolls, and the rise of substance abuse epidemics, is the subject of great convulsion. My argument has been that, though historical wrongs have ongoing impacts, many problems now manifest in our communities are of recent origin. They concern the rise of substance abuse epidemics and welfare dependency in recent decades.
Another debate centres on causation. What drives poverty — is it the structural circumstance of disadvantaged peoples, or is it the behaviour of the peoples themselves that explain the cause of these problems?
Yet another dimension is the effect of racism. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have experienced and continue to experience appalling racism in Australian society. But in responding to that racism, should we inculcate a sense of victimhood in the victimised, or should we resist racism while ensuring it does not become our burden? We should never inculcate a sense of victimhood, otherwise we let the racists win.
And finally, the whole question about agency: should we focus on personal agency or structural reform? The Left says structural reform and the Right says personal agency. Like Clinton and Obama, I say both/and. Because at the end of the day, it is personal agency that will drive structural reform. We can’t just sit back and hope structural reform will somehow happen, and absolve us of the necessity of agency. This is the passive leftist dream of social justice. Social justice in truth can be secured only when two by two, clutching our children to our breasts, we climb the stairs of social progress in pursuit of better lives for our families, animated by the engine of our own liberal self-interest, while supported by the social underpinnings of that staircase built by the distribution of opportunity.
We need strong, healthy, educated children to emerge in distressed communities while working for the structural reforms for the progress of our communities. The stronger our children are, the better they will be able to fight for structural reform.
In 2015, eight regional communities across indigenous Australia developed and provided the federal government with an agenda for empowered communities, which grapples with the structural dimensions of indigenous empowerment.
This blueprint sought to answer the call for empowerment made in the 1990 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Twenty-five years after the royal commission the number of indigenous people in prison doubled. Australia’s indigenous imprisonment rate is the highest in the world: 27 per cent of our prisoners come from 3 per cent of the population. No statistic speaks more profoundly to the structural nature of our predicament than this one. If there is not a structural, indeed, constitutional basis for 3 per cent of any society filling 27 per cent of its jails, then we would have to subscribe to a theory of innate criminality on the part of those peoples. The most notorious figures concerning the indigenous plight in this country make plain this is not a problem of criminology or socio-economic development — this is a problem of disempowerment derived from that people’s status in the nation.
We proposed a comprehensive policy program for consideration by the federal, state and territory governments. Essentially, the challenge of creating a level playing field between the elephant of government and the mouse of indigenous Australia is to find the right fulcrum between the two, to create a relationship of negotiation and mutual responsibility and respect, rather than a top-down relationship of mendicancy and control.
The other structural agenda that is imperative, in my view, is the constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians. This, too, is about empowerment and responsibility. Australia’s first nations must be empowered with a voice in relation to the laws and policies affecting our people.
Finally, the country needs to embrace the indigenous heritage of Australia in a way that celebrates it as the heritage of the entire nation, and which provides assurance to our first nations that the extraordinary languages and cultures of this land may endure long on this continent, as they have done for more than 50,000 years.
Empowerment. Recognition. Cultural embrace. These are the structural agendas of indigenous policy to which we must employ the shoulders of the nation. But achieving them must be the mutual responsibility of indigenous Australians and non-indigenous Australians alike. We all recognise the problems and yearn for solutions. The question is: will the nation’s leaders take up this challenge? Are we willing to work together to make the paradigmatic shifts that are needed? Is anybody willing to lead?
As a nation, we must have the courage to change the way we do business in indigenous affairs.
I put these views forward from the unfortunate conclusion that there is little that is promising in what has been done and is being done under the banner of "welfare reform" in Australia. Fiddling around with entitlement design and conditions is not by itself going to reform welfare. They will be components of a comprehensive agenda, but they are not sufficient to constitute real reform.
Indeed, we have probably worsened things with the move to outsourcing human service delivery to the private sector. While this outsourcing may be said to be more efficient, the truth is that we have now created and entrenched industries whose sole rationale is the existence of social problems. Beyond the employment and training services industries, we now have private sector industries in all manner of social need and misery, the dead end of which is child protection. The profit motive now exists in the space that separates lost children from their mothers’ bosoms. These vampire industries have completely colonised indigenous communities, and constitute the Australian welfare state’s main response to poverty and the problems that arose from welfare dependency.
Now that rentals flow in these industries there is no incentive for players to work to resolve the social problems that is their market. Rather, the imperative now is simply to manage and, indeed, sustain them. The purveyors of these quasi-markets of outsourced government service delivery now hold the commanding heights, and resist reform.
My belief has always been that we need to pursue reform on both fronts: at the behavioural and structural levels. I do not resile from mutual responsibility and conditional welfare. By themselves they will not solve our problems but there is no escaping the fact disadvantage over time becomes dysfunction, that poverty over time becomes passivity.
The struggle for structural reform is not easy. Even where we have developed concrete agendas for empowerment, the country’s political leaders do not know how to respond. If I have learned anything these past 15 years it is that reforms to secure the radical centre on poverty and disadvantage require national leaders to lead them. You need the equivalent of Keating to lead real social reform, as the flip side of economic reform. The radical centre cannot be secured by activists and provocateurs from the outside, and neither by minor ministers. Only a Johnson or Keating can have the dexterity and authority to do what needs to be done.
By JR on Saturday, October 22, 2016
A hearty salad
A hearty salad? What the devil is that? Salads are supposed to be rabbit food! They're not hearty. Mine are. They're almost a meal in themselves. So I thought I might share the concept.
I also call the salad I mostly make a simple salad, as it is usually just four ingredients chopped and thrown together without even the blessing of a dressing.
For two people:
Chop one tomato into wedges
Chop one Lebanese cucumber into thick slices
Chop contents of an avocado into substantial slices
Chop enough Feta cheese to make about a dozen small chunks
Toss together in a bowl and serve
Optionally: Add Manzanilla olives, anchovies or chopped capsicum (Bell pepper)
I am very heretical in that I don't use lettuce, other leaves or onion in my salads. Lettuce has no nutritional value and, if you use onions, a salad dressing is required (in my opinion). Raw onion is a bit harsh.
I have and have used salad dressing in the past but I am against it these days. It tends to mask the flavours of the salad ingredients. And, if what you are are using is reasonably fresh, the usual salad ingredients have a great taste of their own. And I now like to taste that without distractions.
By JR on Friday, October 21, 2016
How the housing boom is remaking Australia’s social class structure
This is quite a sober article but it does fall into the mould of a Green/Left scare story: "We'll all be rooned, said Hanrahan". It's fault lies in its confidence that accurate prophecies are possible. In particular, it relies on straight-line extrapolation: The really dumb belief that all trends will continue unchanged. It does not allow for Taleb's "Black Swan" events. And just such an event is now happening. So it is sad that the erudite academic below has not allowed for it. He has seen it but has not understood it.
I refer to the huge inflow of Chinese money that is behind the orgasm of apartment building which has now been going on in the big cities for a year or more. Huge apartment buildings are springing up like mushrooms all over the place. There must be a dozen within 5 minutes' drive of where I live in Brisbane. The process has already brought new accomodation to glut proportions in Melbourne.
And the law of supply and demand tells us what must happen. A prediction based on the law of supply and demand is as certain as a prediction based on straight-line extrapolation is not. As the supply of apartments races ahead of the normal demand, the prices will fall and the demand will expand to take up the supply. We are in other words looking at a major fall in the price of housing in roughly a year's time. The apartment glut will even hit house prices as the demand for accommodation is somewhat fungible. Some people who might have been in the market for a house will be diverted by the good value of a cheap apartment.
So the predictions below were out of date the moment they were written
The relentless housing boom in Australia’s cities, especially Melbourne and Sydney, is often framed as an intergenerational conflict in which younger generations are being priced out of the market by baby boomers. However, sociological theories of social class suggest parents’ wealth and social status will eventually be passed onto their children anyway.
So, by focusing on intergenerational inequalities that will eventually be reversed, we are framing the housing affordability question the wrong way. At the same time, the impact of the housing boom is so deep that some long-established ideas about social class may be no longer relevant.
The housing boom has blurred existing boundaries between upper, middle and lower classes that applied to the baby boomers and previous generations. New social class boundaries and formations are being produced.
This does not mean younger generations, as a collective, are disadvantaged compared to their parents. Rather, these younger generations will be subdivided differently and more unequally.
The renting class
In the industrial city, the term “working class” was defined by the experiences of low-income workers in manufacturing jobs. Yet in a post-industrial Australian city it makes more sense to talk about the “renting class”.
Not all renters are poor, and not all poor households are private renters. However, the correlation between the two is significant and strengthening. The proportion of private renters in the total population is slowly but surely increasing – from 20.3% in 1981 to 23.4% in 2011.
Simultaneously, public housing – once a symbol of the working class – is undergoing a dramatic demise.
Largely abandoned by the state to fend for itself, with weak regulation for security of tenure or rent control, the renting class faces the unrelenting burden of ever-rising rents. The average renter paid 19% of their income on rent in 1981. In 2011, this proportion increased to 26.9%.
And, in 2014, around 40% of low-income private renters were in housing affordability stress, paying more than one-third of their income on housing.
With hardly enough “after-housing” disposable income to meet basic living standards, savings for retirement is almost impossible for the low-income renter. And with little or no wealth to assist their children to buy a home, the renter’s social class status is likely to be passed from one generation to the next.
The home-owner class
More than just a status symbol, home ownership has become increasingly central to the way most Australians accumulate wealth. About half of the home-owner’s wealth is held in their own home. Each housing boom enriches them further through tax-free capital gain on their homes.
The housing boom also creates work in the construction industry, which is the third-largest employer in Australia with more than one million workers. These are no longer working-class occupations, with most skilled jobs paying average weekly earnings of close to A$1,500. So, it is arguably the home-owner class that benefits most from each construction boom.
One consequence of the housing boom is that a growing cohort of moderate-income households is now priced out of home ownership. Had they been born a generation earlier, they would have probably been able to afford a house. Now it is beyond their reach.
Over the years, as their rents rise and their wealth stagnates, the gap between the renter and a home owner will become unbridgeable. Their experience of retirement will be worlds apart.
One lifeline for this cohort is the prospect of inheriting some of the housing wealth of their baby boomer parents. But when this will happen is highly uncertain.
The housing elite
The housing elite is rewarded by the housing boom well beyond the capital gain on their own homes. Much of the massive wealth of Australia’s elite is generated through the housing market – through investment, construction and financing of housing.
Harry Triguboff, Australia’s third-richest person, earned his fortune in the apartment development business. So did the three youngest entrants into the 2016 BRW Rich List. Their entry marks the rising importance of housing in the making of Australia’s super-rich.
The top 20% of the wealthiest Australians hold most of their wealth in their home and in other investment properties. They also hold significant wealth in the sharemarket, which is commanded by big banks whose portfolios are heavily dominated by housing loans. Each housing boom significantly adds to their wealth.
Social class, however, is more than just financial wealth. The wealthiest Australians secure their social class position by living in exclusive suburbs where they are able to associate with the right people and live an elite lifestyle. The astronomical prices of houses in some of these suburbs ensure their hermetically exclusive nature.
Breaking the loop
None of these social class categories is natural or universal. These categories will not apply in some European countries, for example, that have very different housing systems.
The deepening fusion between Australia’s housing system and its social class system creates a dangerous cycle. The further house prices grow, the more important housing becomes as a determinant of social class. And when social class is increasingly defined by housing, people are willing to bid even higher to enter home ownership or the housing elite.
Unless we break this cycle, Australia will continue in its path of becoming a more polarised society, with a weakened renting class, an impenetrable elite, and a shrunken home-owner class between them.
By JR on Thursday, October 20, 2016
HFCs: Mistaking theory for achievement
CFCs and HFCs are the safest gases for use in refrigeration. But in accord with their unfailing agenda of destruction, Greenies have now got both banned. So more dangerous gases will have to be used. Air conditioners that explode or burst into flames coming to a place near you shortly.
And for what? Because HFCs absorb some frequencies of electromagnetic radiation in the laboratory. So the Greenies assume that HFCs warm the earth. But HFCs break down rapidly once they get into the atmosphere so the amount resident at any one point in time is much lower than the amount released. So the calculations of the effect of a ban on HFcs are undoubtedly well wide of the mark.
But the warmists are so caught up the ecstasy of banning something that they even talk of the recent agreement as already working: "this is the largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement". Whether it achieves ANY effect on temperature remains to be seen, if it can be seen.
The ban on CFCs was driven by similar theory. Banning them was supposed to heal the hole in the ozone layer. It didn't. The hole was bigger than ever late last year. So much for theory.
Nearly 200 nations have reached a deal, announced Saturday morning after all-night negotiations, to limit the use of greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide in a major effort to fight climate change.
The talks on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, were called the first test of global will since the historic Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions was reached last year. HFCs are described as the world's fastest-growing climate pollutant and are used in air conditioners and refrigerators. Experts say cutting them is the fastest way to reduce global warming.
President Barack Obama, in a statement Saturday, called the new deal "an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis." The spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it "critically important."
The agreement, unlike the broader Paris one, is legally binding. It caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning by 2019 with action by developed countries including the United States, the world's second-worst polluter. More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world's top carbon emitter, will start taking action by 2024, when HFC consumption levels should peak.
A small group of countries including India, Pakistan and some Gulf states pushed for and secured a later start in 2028, saying their economies need more time to grow. That's three years earlier than India, the world's third-worst polluter, had first proposed.
"It's a very historic moment, and we are all very delighted that we have come to this point where we can reach a consensus and agree to most of the issues that were on the table," said India's chief delegate, Ajay Narayan Jha.
Environmental groups had hoped that the deal could reduce global warming by a half-degree Celsius by the end of this century. This agreement gets about 90 percent of the way there, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.
Zaelke's group said this is the "largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement."
The new agreement is "equal to stopping the entire world's fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years," David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
It is estimated that the agreement will cut the global levels of HFCs by 80 to 85 percent by 2047, the World Resources Institute said in a statement.
Experts said they hope that market forces will help speed up the limits agreed to in the deal.
HFCs were introduced in the 1980s as a substitute for ozone-depleting gases. But their danger has grown as air conditioner and refrigerator sales have soared in emerging economies like China and India. HFCs are also found in inhalers and insulating foams.
Major economies have debated how quickly to phase out HFCs. The United States, whose delegation was led by Secretary of State John Kerry, and Western countries want quick action. Nations such as India want to give their industries more time to adjust.
"Thank God we got to this agreement that is good for all nations, that takes into consideration all regional and national issues," said Taha Mohamed Zatari, the head of Saudi Arabia's negotiating team.
By JR on Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Foolish Aboriginal model wants acceptance as a model only
She hasn't got a hope. The worldwide standard of female beauty is Nordic -- narrow faces, fine features, white skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. Even some Japanese ladies blond their hair. To blacks, a white wife is a trophy. The unfortunate Magnolia has no Nordic attributes at all. If her skin were white she would be ugly. She has received acceptance only because many people want to be kind to Aborigines. She is an "affirmative action" model.
We may deplore the Nordic standard but saying that people should adopt other standards for females that they like to look at is pissing into the wind. It won't happen. It will have zero influence. Brown hair can be accepted in lieu of blonde but that is the only variation to the top standard. Mr Trump has plausibly claimed that he can have any sort of lady that he wants. He can have the top standard. So see the picture of Melania below. Compare and contrast.
I am sure I will be called a Nazi, a white supremacist and much else abusive for saying what I have just said but I am in fact simply pointing out the obvious. The attractiveness of Ms Maymuru is very much of a piece with the Emperor's new clothes
So why am I pointing out such obvious truths? It's because that is what I do. I attack popular fairy stories. I think truth serves us best. A full and frank discussion of beauty standards might even help a black girl to be thankful for what she's got, rather than pining for the impossible.
It's been mere months since the Northern Territory model, Magnolia Maymuru, shot to fame after becoming the first Indigenous woman from a traditional community to become a finalist in Miss World.
But already, the 19-year-old has become something of a role model for countless women and girls around Australia.
Speaking to Sydney Morning Herald, Ms Maymuru said she wants to go above and beyond merely being seen as 'an Indigenous model'.
'I am about breaking down barriers and stereotypes,' she said. 'And I want to get to a place where I'm not described as an Indigenous model but simply as a model.'
So far, things are going pretty well for the girl who was discovered on a Darwin street in 2014 by her now manager, Mehali Tsangari.
At the time, Ms Maymuru was working as a sports and recreation officer, before she entered Miss World Australia and had the opportunity to represent the Northern Territory.
The 19-year-old has since landed her first major gig as the face of the Melbourne shopping centre, Chadstone. She has also recently been the ambassador for this year's Darwin Art Fair.
Magnolia Maymuru, whose real name is Maminydjama Maymuru, recently said that she never believed she would have a career in fashion. Describing herself as an outdoorsy sort of girl, who was into hunting and camping, she didn't have any experience within the fashion industry.
However, these days the model's glamorous Instagram account is testament to the fact that she is as at home on the catwalk as she is outside at home.
By JR on Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Can the Great Barrier Reef be saved? Uproar as writer claims world’s largest living structure is DEAD
We went through all this a few months ago. The galoots below are just catching up. To summarize: The tourism operators in Far North Queensland -- who go to the reef daily -- were all amazed to hear this guff. The reef does undergo bleaching (which in NOT "death") from time to time but not all parts are affected. So they did their own survey and found that only a relatively small part of the reef was bleached at the time: A MUCH smaller part than what the Greenies claim.
They have NO difficulty in finding parts of the reef where they can take their tourist boats and show visitors the reef in all its glory. The main departure point for the reef is the city of Cairns and the tourism industry there at the moment is booming.
The Greenie claim is that agricultural runoff is killing the reef but the main area of coral bleaching at the moment is parallel with the Northern half on Cape York peninsula, where there are essentially NO farms -- So it's ideology, not reality speaking
The Great Barrier Reef was once a scene of thriving coral, but one environmental writer has claimed it is now beyond help.
'The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old,' wrote Rowan Jacobsen in Outside magazine.
Recent pictures show many parts of the reef appear full of swampy algae, brown sludge and rubble, and it is estimated 93 per cent of Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching, which can kill corals.
In his 'obituary', Jacobson wrote 'The Great Barrier Reef was predeceased by the South Pacific’s Coral Triangle, the Florida Reef off the Florida Keys, and most other coral reefs on earth.
'It is survived by the remnants of the Belize Barrier Reef and some deepwater corals.'
However, a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority report released this week said its preliminary findings show 22 per cent of coral on the Reef died due to the worst mass bleaching event on record.
However, that's not to say the remaining coral is not in dire trouble.
A destructive bleaching process has already affected about 93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef as of April this year, according to scientists at James Cook University.
The latest before and after shots of the devastating effect of coral loss in the tropical far north Queensland in recent years.
With the December 1 deadline looming, Australia must report to the UNESCO to demonstrate an investment strategy to save the Reef.
WWF-Australia spokesman Sean Hoobin said while there was no scientific study on what killed coral in this specific area, the pictures were indicative of what was happening along the Reef's coast.
'Inshore reefs along the coast are deteriorating and studies say sediment, fertiliser and pesticide run off are taking a toll on coral,' Mr Hoobin said.
An independent report estimated it would cost $8.2 billion to achieve most of the water quality targets for the Reef that governments have committed to deliver by 2025.
'Stopping water pollution will help restore the beautiful coral gardens choked by runoff. This image drives home what a big job we face,' Mr Hoobin said.
'Australia must commit the $8.2 billion as a national priority to protect the Reef and the tourism jobs that rely on it.
This comes as coral samples dating back thousands of years show evidence of the human impact on the Reef, researchers have claimed.
University of Queensland Professor Gregg Webb said coral 'cores' taken from along the Queensland coastline showed definable difference in trace element chemistry, including those linked to European arrival in Australia.
'We can look at ancient events where they're been stressed by bad water, high nutrients, but also just sediment load and see what killed them, what was sub-lethal, how common events are, and just get an idea of what the reef can handle,' he said
By JR on Monday, October 17, 2016
British footballer Ched Evans cleared of rape charges, following retrial. Feminists furious
I thought from the beginning that the conviction was a monstrous injustice so I am pleased that justice has finally been done. It took a British court to convert consensual sex into rape. The Crown Prosecutors stretched the law in order to appease feminists with a high profile conviction. Feminists had been complaining that there were "not enough" rape convictions. Evans is the victim of feminist hate
The many who condemned and shunned Evans will have egg on their faces for a long time
According to the original prosecution, Yes means Yes and No means No -- except when you are Ched Evans
The woman concerned DID say Yes to him and made no complaint afterwards but a badly instructed British jury in its stratospheric wisdom decided that Evans should have taken Yes to mean No. She was too drunk to give consent, apparently. Though how they know that and what is the relevant metric of drunkenness in those circumstances remains uncertain. How was Evans to know the woman was too drunk to give consent? There are no standards for how drunk a woman can be before being unable to consent.
So it is a relief that the British justice system has now got it right -- after Evans spent over two years in jail. According to the original verdict, sex with women who drink must be harshly discouraged. If that pompous dictum were taken seriously among the population at large, it would at least halve the British birthrate, I would think. Alcohol and sex have a long history together, even among married people.
And the Yes means Yes mantra is a typically stupid feminist invention anyway. There are many men who can attest that sometimes No means Yes. I was always too impatient to play that game myself (apparently to some confusion) but it is a common one where the woman is embarrassed, shy etc. Many women would think less of themselves if they said "Yes" straight away. The woman would think that she was appearing "too easy". So men do sometimes have to decide whether a No really means Yes and they can obviously make the occasional mistake there, particularly if they are not too bright.
So one can only hope that the feminist mantra, Yes means Yes, is vigorously preached to women too so that they will be less evasive and less confusing to men. I am not holding my breath.
Some of the feminist comments below are very disturbuing. Discovering the truth can be wrong: Better for an innocent man to remain wrongly convicted, apparently
International footballer Ched Evans has been found not guilty of the rape of a 19-year-old woman, but the decision to allow the jury to hear the sexual history of the complainant has sparked outrage from women’s support groups and campaigners.
As Evans was acquitted of rape at a retrial on Friday, five years after having sex with the woman in a hotel room, activists expressed the fear that an earlier appeal court ruling which allowed the complainant’s sexual behaviour to be taken into account by the jury would set a dangerous precedent, and could put off women from coming forward to report sexual offences.
The appeal court judgment – made before the retrial but which can only now be reported – allowed in new evidence from two witnesses who gave testimony about the complainant’s sexual preferences and the language she used during sex. It led to her being questioned in detail in open court about intimate details of her sex life.
Evans, who has played for Wales and Sheffield United and was a member of the Manchester City youth set-up, spent two-and-a-half years in prison after being convicted in 2012 of raping the young woman following a drunken night out in his home town of Rhyl, north Wales.
Following his conviction, a well-funded legal and PR campaign that included the offer of a £50,000 reward for information leading to his acquittal was launched by family and friends. The campaign eventually resulted in the case going to the court of appeal in London and his conviction was quashed.
After an eight-day trial, a jury at Cardiff crown court took two hours to acquit Evans. He kept his head down as the male foreman returned the unanimous verdict. Evans then rushed from the dock into the arms of his girlfriend, Natasha Massey. They held each other for a minute and sobbed on each other’s shoulders.
In a statement read outside the court by his solicitor, Shaun Draycott, Evans said he was “overwhelmed with relief”. He thanked his friends and family, “most notably my fiancee, Natasha, who chose, perhaps incredibly, to support me in my darkest hour”.
The statement concluded: “Whilst my innocence has now been established, I wish to make it clear that I wholeheartedly apologise to anyone who might have been affected by the events of the night in question.”
A spokesman for Evans said he would now return to football – though he is currently nursing an injury. He may be able to sue for lost earnings, which would total millions of pounds.
Chesterfield, his current club, welcomed the verdict. Chief executive Chris Turner said: “We can now all move forward and focus on football.”
It can now be revealed that:
During the appeal case that led to the retrial, lawyers for the crown suggested the two new witnesses may have been “fed” information by those close to Evans. This claim was rejected by Evans’s side and by the appeal court.
The appeal court judges expressed “a considerable degree of hesitation” before allowing in the new evidence of the former partners because it would result in the complainant’s sexual behaviour being subject to forensic scrutiny.
Evans’ girlfriend, Massey, was accused in legal argument during the second trial of offering an “inducement” to a key witness. The prosecution said this had “the flavour of a bribe”. The trial judge disagreed.
The woman told the jury she woke up naked in a hotel room in Rhyl, north Wales, in May 2011 with no memory of what had happened but fearing her drinks were spiked.
Friends encouraged her to go to the police and officers found out that the room in which she woke up had been booked and paid for by Evans. He was questioned, and both he and his friend and fellow footballer Clayton McDonald said they had consensual sex with the woman.
The prosecution said she could not possibly have consented as she was too intoxicated. She has never alleged Evans or McDonald raped her.
In court, Evans admitted he lied to get the key for the hotel room and did not speak to the woman before, during or after sex. He left via a fire exit. It also emerged that Evans’ younger brother and another man were trying to film what was happening from outside the room.
Lisa Longstaff, of the group Women against Rape, said the case seemed a “throwback to another time”. Section 41 of the Youth and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 puts restrictions on what evidence can be put before a court by the defence about an alleged victim’s sexual behaviour and questioning of the complainant.
“But it has exceptions, and clever lawyers can get round it,” said Longstaff. “Here they’ve driven a coach and horses through the supposed protection.”
Vera Baird, the barrister, women’s rights campaigner and police and crime commissioner, said the appeal court decision would “go down as a precedent that will be used and abused”. She said the exception used by Evans’ team was originally specifically about instances of sexual activity that happened “at or about the same time”, such as during sex parties.
One of the new witnesses said he had sex with the complainant on the same bank holiday weekend as the hotel incident; the second said they had sex a fortnight later. A feminist activist who goes by the pseudonym Jean Hatchet and was behind petitions asking football clubs not to sign Evans following his jail term, told the Guardian it was “deeply worrying” that evidence about a victim’s sexual history had been permitted.
She said: “This will set a precedent in rape cases to follow where defence barristers will comb through an alleged victim’s sexual past and following the alleged assault at a time when they are suffering trauma.”
Rachel Krys, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “We are very concerned at the precedent which might have been set.
“In addition to this there are reports that the defence offered a ‘bounty’ for such testimony. This is extremely worrying. We will review the case in full and may contact the Crown Prosecution Service and the government about aspects of this case which raise concern.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “There is a big risk that this case overall has a negative impact on reporting. Only this week CPS figures revealed a quarter of women are not pursuing cases. If you look at the surrounding maelstrom about this case it’s easy to see why that is the case.
“A woman’s past sexual history bears no relevance on whether or not they have been a victim of rape. There is a need to challenge pervasive cultural assumptions that equate a woman’s former sexual history with her likelihood of being a victim of rape.”
Police reminded people that naming the complainant was a criminal offence. Supt Jo Williams, of north Wales police, said: “We are aware that once again the victim has been named on social media. An investigation is ongoing.
“People need to be aware that they could find themselves being arrested and prosecuted. This was done previously, people were prosecuted and heavily fined.”