By JR on Saturday, January 31, 2015
Joe Romm assumes what he has to prove -- and his assumption is wrong
As we all know, ANY weather event proves global warming. Global warming is unfalsifiable and is, as such, a religious faith, not a scientific finding. So it is no surprise that Joe Romm, the professional Warmist, has put up an argument -- excerpt below -- to say that the recent winter storms in the N.E. USA are caused by global warming. But how can they be? There has been no statistically significant global warming for 18 years or thereabouts. But Romm writes as if warming were happening. He assumes what he has to prove. Clearly, all the events he describes are natural and nothing to do with our static climate
Warming-fueled sea surface temperatures provide a boost of moisture for the forecast New England blizzard, just as it has for previous monster East Coast snow storms. Via NOAA.
Another epic blizzard is bearing down on New England. There is a “big part” played by “human-induced climate change,” especially warming-fueled ocean temperatures, according to Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
I asked Dr. Trenberth to comment on the role climate change has on this latest storm, which is forecast to set records. He explained:
"The number 1 cause of this is that it is winter. In winter it is cold over the continent. But it is warm over the oceans and the contrast between the cold continent and the warm Gulf Stream and surrounding waters is increasing. At present sea surface temperatures are more the 2F above normal over huge expanses (1000 miles) off the east coast and water vapor in the atmosphere is about 10% higher as a result. About half of this can be attributed to climate change".
Before this latest storm, we’ve seen a long-term pattern of more extreme precipitation, particularly in New England winters. Climate scientists had long predicted this would happen in a warming world.
Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. And like a baseball player on steroids, it’s the wrong question to ask whether a given home run is “caused” by steroids. As Trenberth wrote in his must-read analysis, “How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change,” the “answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”
One of the most robust scientific findings is the direct connection between global warming and more extreme precipitation or deluges. “Basic physics tells us that a warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture — at a rate of approximately 7 per cent increase per degree [Celsius] warming,” as the U.K. Met Office explained in its 2014 update on climate science. “This is expected to lead to similar percentage increases in heavy rainfall, which has generally been borne out by models and observed changes in daily rainfall.”
This means that when it is cold enough to snow, snow storms will be fueled by more water vapor and thus be more intense themselves. So we expect fewer snowstorms in regions close to the rain-snow line, such as the central United States, though the snowstorms that do occur in those areas are still likely to be more intense. It also means we expect more intense snowstorms in generally cold regions. This may appear to be counterintuitive — and certainly climate science deniers like to play up big snowstorms for that reason. But the fact is that the warming to date is not close to that needed to end below-freezing temperatures during midwinter over parts of the globe like New England, while it is large enough to put measurably more water vapor into the air.
By JR on Friday, January 30, 2015
Leftist fantasies don't change much
Psychohistorian Richard Koenigsberg says:
"The question is: what did anti-Semitism mean to people like Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels? Why did the idea of “the Jew” arouse such a passionate, hysterical response? Why did Nazi leaders—and many other Germans—feel it was necessary to destroy or eliminate the Jews, conceiving of the Final Solution as a moral imperative?
Hitler said, “We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany, we have performed the greatest deed in the world.” Hitler’s ideology grew out of a rescue fantasy. He wanted to “save the nation.” This is not an unusual motive. Much of politics grows out of this idea that one must act to “save” one’s nation—from external and internal enemies.
Indeed, this motive—the desire to “save one’s nation”—is so ordinary that we barely reflect upon it. What is it that individuals wish to save? What is the nature and meaning of these threats to one’s nation—that often evoke such radical, violent forms of action?"
This is yet another similarity between Greenies and Nazis. Hitler wanted to save Germany and Greenies want to save the planet. Both had/have a central fantasy of themselves as saviours.
Hitler was very socialist. Greenies are very socialist. Hitler fantasized a return to a romanticized rural past. The Greenies fantasize a return to a romanticized rural past. Hitler predicted food shortages as a future policy problem. Greenies predict food shortages as a future policy problem.
The resemblances go on. There is clearly something in human nature (Freud's "Thanatos"?) that emerges in malign form from time to time. It goes at least as far back as ancient Sparta. It may also underlie Islam. Muslims don't seem to care about the environment but they are very collectivist and regard the "Ummah" (Muslim world) in a very mystical way: As a sort of living body that must not lose any of its parts: Very much the way Hitler viewed Germany.
We skeptics are up against some very deep-lying, destructive and irrational instincts.
By JR on Thursday, January 29, 2015
Fat: A big backflip underway
Up until a couple of years ago, we were all told that being fat was bad for us. Then we heard that fat could be OK. Now fat is positively GOOD for you. Could there be any better evidence of government wisdom being often wrong? In this matter, ignoring government pronouncements would clearly have been the wisest course
Because many diabetics are overweight, health crusaders have long argued that obesity causes diabetes -- ignoring the fact that most overweight people are not diabetic. But obsessive eating and drinking is a symptom of diabetes so the most reasonable conclusion is that diabetes causes obesity, not the other way around. But never expect logic from people with a barrow to push
Fat can PROTECT you against obesity and diabetes, improving blood sugar control and metabolism, study finds
It has long been thought to be the enemy of the waistline. But fat can actually protect people against obesity and developing diabetes, scientists have today claimed.
Before reaching for a cream cake though, take note - it is 'good' brown fat that is beneficial to the body, not white fat, which is amassed from gorging on too many calories.
Adults have a small amount of healthy brown fat, usually found in the front and back of the neck and upper back, which burns calories in order to generate heat.
In contrast, white fat is troublesome. It is the result of eating too many calories and is stored around the stomach, thighs and forms the dreaded love handle.
Brown fat, usually found in the front and back of the neck and upper back, can actually protect against obesity and diabetes, a study has found
A new study has revealed for the first time, those people with higher levels of brown fat have better blood sugar control, higher insulin sensitivity and a better metabolism for burning white fat stores.
The findings suggest the ability of brown fat to better regulate levels of sugar in the blood, could make it a potential medical weapon against diabetes.
By JR on Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Leftists are cold bastards
The psychology of politics was my specialty during my research career and one of the most striking things I noted at that time was the way Leftist psychologists would spin ANYTHING they found in a way detrimental to conservatives. So I occasionally showed how you could do some reverse spinning and pointed out ways in which the findings were detrimental to liberals. The sort of data collected by political psychologists tend to be vague enough to make many interpretations equally feasible. It probably needs to be like that. Straightforward findings would likely be too uncomfortable to Leftists.
So the research reported below is rather fun. The authors have definitely had a challenge in spinning the findings their way. From data with VERY contestable meaning they claim to have found that conservatives are "holistic" thinkers and liberals are "analytic" thinkers. And they have to admit that both styles have their uses.
That amused me immediately. Who are the great advocates of "holistic" thinking in the world today? Alternative medicine freaks. Not a notably conservative group. So I think alternative interpretations of the findings are clearly called for.
I think a clue lies in the finding that liberals are extreme outliers in the human population. Conservatives are more normal. Combine that with the finding that liberals are more socially isolated and I think you have a far-reaching conclusion: liberals are emotionally cold. Most of humanity values its relationships with others highly. So do conservatives. Liberals do not. Family is all in many human sub-groups but from Marx onwards Leftists have always despised the family. And conservative Christians always stress the importance of family.
That liberals are emotionally cold can be summed up in a famous utterance by Stalin. "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic." That the great socialist murderers -- Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong un -- were/are emotionally cold has great explanatory value. How could they do what they did otherwise?
An abbreviated account of the study below plus the journal abstract
Political conservatives in the United States are somewhat like East Asians in the way they think, categorize and perceive. Liberals in the U.S. could be categorized as extreme Americans in thought, categorization and perception. That is the gist of a new University of Virginia cultural psychology study, published recently in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
"We found in our study that liberals and conservatives think as if they were from completely different cultures - almost as different as East and West," said study leader Thomas Talhelm, a U.Va. doctoral candidate in cultural psychology. "Liberals and conservatives categorize and perceive things differently, just as East Asians and Westerners look differently at the world."
According to Talhelm, political conservatives in the United States, generally, and East Asians, particularly, are intuitive or "holistic" thinkers, while Westerners, generally, and American liberals, in particular, are more analytical thinkers.
The so-called "culture war," he said, is an accurate if dramatic way to state that there are clear cultural differences in the thought processes of liberals and conservatives.
"On psychological tests, Westerners tend to view scenes, explain behavior and categorize objects analytically," Talhelm said. "But the vast majority of people around the world - about 85 percent - more often think intuitively - what psychologists call holistic thought, and we found that's how conservative Americans tend to think."
Holistic thought more often uses intention and the perception of whole objects or situations, rather than breaking them down to their parts - such as having a general feeling about a situation involving intuition or tact.
There is value in both ways of thinking, Talhelm said. Intuitive thinking likely is the "default" style most people are born with, while analytical thinking generally must be learned, usually through training, such as in Western-style school systems.
Psychologists test thought styles by giving study participants a short battery of tests to determine if they are holistic or analytic thinkers.
One such test asks participants to choose two of three items to categorize together, such as a mitten, a scarf, and a hand. Analytic thinkers usually match the scarf and mitten because they belong to the same abstract category - items of winter clothing. Holistic thinkers usually match the mitten and hand because the hand wears a mitten.
He noted that liberals in the West tend to live in urban or suburban areas and often have fairly weak social and community ties, move more often and are less traditionally religious. They are more individualistic than conservatives and very unlike most people in Eastern cultures.
Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be more connected to their communities and may live in the same areas throughout their lives, maintaining strong social and familial bonds and commitments, and are more traditionally religious. This puts them more in line with the holistic-thinking majority of the world.
Liberals Think More Analytically (More "WEIRD") Than Conservatives
Thomas Talhelm et al.
Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan summarized cultural differences in psychology and argued that people from one particular culture are outliers: people from societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD). This study shows that liberals think WEIRDer than conservatives. In five studies with more than 5,000 participants, we found that liberals think more analytically (an element of WEIRD thought) than moderates and conservatives. Study 3 replicates this finding in the very different political culture of China, although it held only for people in more modernized urban centers. These results suggest that liberals and conservatives in the same country think as if they were from different cultures. Studies 4 to 5 show that briefly training people to think analytically causes them to form more liberal opinions, whereas training them to think holistically causes shifts to more conservative opinions.
A personal note: I think that some people drawn to Leftist causes are genuinely compassionate and caring people who are VERY emotional about suffering they see in the world. They let their feelings swamp their thought processes. But they are too soft to get far in Leftist politics. It is the machine men like Joseph Stalin who rise to the top. And Stalin very smartly killed off all the old Bolsheviks, some of whom would seem to have genuinely cared about the welfare of the average worker.
So the Leftist population is probably bi-modal -- comprised of two distinct groups: the useful fools and the hard men lusting for power. But no psychological survey would ever show that. The hard men know the camouflage they need to wear and will present themselves as caring every time. In my surveys I routinely found Leftists emphatically disclaiming many of the motives -- such as authoritarianism -- that we know to be typical of the Left. The hard men are skilful liars.
So there is a balance to be sought in emotionality. If you are too emotional in your reactions you are likely to be used as a tool by the hard men. What is needed is moderate emotionality. And that is what conservsatives seem to have. They can get emotionally upset about things such as abortion (I do) but they don't allow feelings to ditch their rationality.
I see myself that way. Abortion horrifies me and triumphs of life (e.g. when the life of a very ill baby is saved) bring tears of joy from me. But many things that bother other people (e.g. household accidents) get no emotional reaction from me at all. I just deal with them. I don't sweat the small stuff. So I am alexithymic about minor things but also sentimental about other things -- life particularly. It is a balance that seems to have served me well in living a contented and trouble-free life -- JR
By JR on Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The problem of the "peaceful" Muslims
Given the infernal nuisance that Muslims make of themselves, many of us would like to send them all back whence they come. Let them murder one-another -- which they already do with great enthusiasm -- and leave us alone.
But there is the difficulty -- constantly drummed into us by Leftists -- that the Jihadis mounting terrorist attacks in the Western world are only the tiniest fraction of the Muslim population. So is it fair to penalize the many for the deeds of the few? That is the problem I wish to address.
Muslims are like Catholics. They may regularly go to church/Mosque but they disobey much that their faith commands. Catholics, for instance, almost all use contraception and get divorced if in a bad marriage.
And the commandments of Islam are even more onerous than Roman doctrine. The slightest reading of the Koran -- and I read all of it in my teens -- will tell you that it is a supremacist religion. White supremacism is way out of fashion now but religious supremacism is alive and well in the Koran. And there are many Mullahs who energetically remind Muslims of their obligations in that direction. They preach Jihad against non-Muslims with perfect Koranic justification. And the Jihadis are in fact the obedient Muslims. They do what the Koran commands.
But 99% of Muslims have enough brains to see that any hope of subjugating Western civilization is totally hopeless -- so do nothing towards subjugating anyone outside their own families. But most DO harbour disrespect for Western ways. They think that they, as Muslims are superior by way of having the true faith even if they are careful about how they behave. But they do on occasions push their luck. They wave placards and shout their silly slogans. But once they start pushing or attacking people around them the police usually suppress them in some way.
Australia's main Muslim problem is with Lebanese Muslims. Many Lebanese Muslim young men make their feelings of superiority obvious in minor ways. They make themselves obnoxious by pushing past peple without apology, harassing women etc. And some of them of course join criminal gangs. The Sydney police have a "Middle Eastern Crime Squad" devoted to them.
The point to note, however, is that the hostility to the rest of us is there among Muslims generally even if they rarely have the guts to do anything about it.
And that is what justfies restraining action against the Muslim community in general. They cannot be blamed for the deeds of the few but they can be blamed for providing the sea in which the jihadis swim. They provide community support and encouragement to the jihadis. The problem is the religion.
So a Western national leader might well address his Muslim residents as follows:
"Would you like to have a person hostile to you living with you in your own house? Obviously not. And we in this country don't like to have living among us a class of people who are hostile to us. And it is sadly clear that many Muslim people in this country are hostile to the rest of us and our ways. Many Muslims living in this country came to us as refugees or in search of a better life and we have always been glad to give a safe place to refugees and support opportunity for all. But we expect gratitude for what we have done for such people, rather than hostility. And we normally get that -- but not from Muslims on many occasions. So I say to you now: Either go back to a place and people you like better or abandon your hostility to us. If you stay here we expect you to become one of us. We expect you to adapt to us rather than us adapting to you.
And we all know that your feelings of superiority and hostility to us originate in your religion. What you do reflects the teachings of the Koran and what your Mullahs tell you. So if you wish to remain among us you must change your religion. You have six months to either depart these shores or instead develop a new religious affiliation.
To encourage that I am going to legislate that the restrictions which presently apply to Christians in Saudi Arabia apply immediately to Muslims in this country. That means no mosques and no Muslim activities of any sort. As soon as the necessary legislation is passed, all mosques will become government property and will thenceforth be used for welfare housing only."
I apologize to those Muslims who do not feel hostile towards us but many of you ARE hostile towards us and the government does not have mind-reading machines that could tell us who is hostile and who is not. So to the only way to rid ourselves of hostile Muslims is to rid ourselves of all Muslims. I wish you well as you return to your ancestral countries
The prohibition of Muslim practice would not of course pass constitutional muster in America under the freedom to practice your religion provisions of the First Amendment (or in Australia under Section 116 of the Constitution) but the command to depart almost certainly would. The First Amendment and its Australian equivalent protects religious practice for people living in the USA or Australia but it says nothing about who is permitted to live there.
I suspect that most Muslims born and bred in Western countries would take the option of changing their religion rather than lose the life they have become used to. Any Muslims who failed to leave would of course have to be deported but all the Anglospheric countries have had plenty of practice at deporting illegal immigrants so deporting a few Muslims as well should not require much more in the way of resources in those countries. France and Germany would have bigger problems.
By JR on Monday, January 26, 2015
Handel's Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne
For those who are unaware of it, Glyndebourne is a prestigious opera house in the lush South of England. It is prestigious not only for good performances but is also socially prestigious. A visit to Glyndebourne is part of the London "season" -- or what is left of it.
As I normally live on the other side of the globe from it, I have myself been there only once -- accompanied by the beauteous Susan B. and her rather overweight dog Sally. Not quite sure what we did with the dog during the performance. Left it in the car I guess. England is not a hot place so that would have done no harm. That was back in the '70s when hysteria about hot cars had not yet been invented.
If I were in England again, however, I would be very cautious about revisiting Glyndebourne. I have been watching a set of DVDs of a 2005 performance of Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne and there is virtually nothing about the staging that I agree with. The music was fine and the singers talented but the artistic director of the performance gave the impression of being under the spell of the deplorable modern urge to be "creative" about the staging.
And, sadly, his creativity was so impoverished that he mistook anachronism for originality. He seemed to think that having airships and steamships in the background of an opera set in ancient Egypt was somehow clever -- not to mention the revolvers, rifles, sunglasses, cocktail dresses and pith helmets. Why is deliberate anachronism clever? I have no idea. There was zero attempt to present the life and times of Caesar and Cleopatra authentically.
And particularly in Act 3 a lot of the arias were sung with the actors lying on the ground. How is that for moronic choreography? Most of the live audience would have been able to see nothing at such times.
Not for me I am afraid. People go to a stage show to see the creativity of the author and that is what the artistic director should be trying to bring out -- not display some petty creativity of his own
I watched the very extensive "after-notes" on the DVD and they did feature wide-ranging comments by David McVicar, the distinguished Scottish artistic director. And although I disagree with just about everything he did, I have to concede that he is a man of great sensitivity and sensibility, in a notably "camp" way.
He was obviously devoted to the work, which is admirable, but clearly saw his role as making Handel more "accessible" to modern audiences. But he seems to have had a very dim view of his audience. He seems to have seen them as simpletons who need to be talked down to, with schoolboy humour, if necessary. At Glyndebourne??
He seems to have thought that largely Edwardian costumes, props etc. accomplished that. And he had no idea of military deportment. He had some soldiers moving at one stage as if they had pooed their pants! And what on earth was achieved by having pictures of WWI battleships, blimps and RMS "Titanic" in the background? Arty people just get too detached, sometimes, and McVicar being homosexual probably isolated him even more than usual.
How could he be so totally unaware of the great success the BBC has had with costume dramas? Togas and Egyptian finery would have been both in keeping with the story and enjoyed by the audience. And there was no lack of precedent for that approach. Aida is often done with an approach to Egyptian sets and costumes. Most of the props and costumes needed were probably already in store at Glyndebourne.
And the voices were so unbalanced! Maltman was the only decent male voice in the show. The rest were females plus one counter-tenor. Was that supposed to be politically correct, or something? It was certainly tiring and ridiculous artistically. I very much like soprano voices but you can have too much of a good thing.
And, sadly, that was an excellent chance to be original that was missed. When Handel wrote the opera, castrati were all the rage so the songs of some male figures were given in a high key that only women and counter-tenors can now reach. So Caesar was played by a woman in order to be faithful to the notes as written by Handel. I deplore trouser roles generally but a female Caesar is frankly ridiculous. Now that the fashion for castrati is long gone, it would surely have been desirable to drop all the male parts down an octave or two and have men in men's parts.
Can do better Glyndebourne. Maybe they could re-run the opera (minus the anachronisms of course) with Caesar as a bass and the other males as baritones. That alone would generate great excitement, I fancy
From the opening scene
I would be remiss if I did not record my appreciation of the performances by Christopher Maltman and Danielle de Niese in the opera. Maltman is multi-talented. He is a singer who is also an accomplished acrobat! And he acts well too. His representation of Achilla represents a military man well. It takes a man to portray a man! Shockingly "sexist" of me, I know.
And the unfailing energy of Australian singer Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra is also impressive. She had some long arias to sing but her rich soprano voice never faltered and her facial expressions mirrored every word she sang. She was no Cleopatra in looks and her dancing was very basic but her singing was awesome. She is a mixed-race ("Burgher") Sri Lankan by ancestry but was born and bred in Australia.
I particularly enjoyed Cleopatra's triumphant aria towards the end of Act 3. It is probably not one of the "great" soprano arias but it is certainly one of the longest. And with Handel composing it is superb as well as long. The immediate and huge applause that comes at the end of the aria is amply justified.
As I write this I am listening to the energetic and marvellous brass fanfare that introduces the end of the opera. Quite incredibly good. Handel never lets us down.
There are a couple of excerpts from the show online here and here
By JR on Sunday, January 25, 2015
I am a long way from being a nature-lover, most scenery bores me, I am not house-proud and I am no gardener. BUT: some things in the natural world do get through to me, and my Crepe Myrtles are one such.
Brisbane people love their tropical and sub-tropical flowering trees: Crepe Myrtles, Jacarandas and Poincianas -- plus some lesser species. They are everywhere in Brisbane. And from childhood on I have always liked Crepe Myrtles. So 12 years ago I had eight of them planted along almost the full length of my back fence -- some in the original crepe myrtle colour, which is lavender, and some in both white and in shocking pink.
They are now very tall trees and in full blossom at the moment. So I have in my back yard what amounts to an enormous floral bouquet -- a 17 meter (55 ft) wide display of massed blossom. It is quite spectacular and and immediately invites photography. But how do you photograph something 17 meters wide? And if you do manage it, is there any sense in squeezing such a display into a photo a few inches wide? I doubt that there is but I have made an attempt anyway. Below is a photo of just the central portion of the display, taken with a wide-angle lens.
By JR on Saturday, January 24, 2015
Will feminism produce great works of art?
DVDs are a wonderful thing. I have a DVD recording a performance at the Mariinsky theater in St Petersburg of the great ballet "Firebird". The company is the Ballet Russes. I am far from a balletomane but the wonderful music of Igor Stravinsky gets me in every time. And the reconstructed choreography of Michel Fokine is of course excellent too. It is no wonder that Firebird has a prominent place in the classical ballet repertoire.
And I couldn't help noticing that the chief ballerina (The Firebird) got thrown around an awful lot by the chief male dancer. It was done with enormous athleticism and grace but there was no doubt who was the dominant character in the scenes concerned. And it struck me that feminists would almost certainly find that repugnant -- with words like "patriarchy" and "inequality" popping into their addled brains. Perhaps they think the ballerina should have thrown the larger male dancer about!
But Firebird is not alone in its representation of male/female roles. A traditional representation of such roles is virtually universal in opera and in classical ballet. So, having seen what artistic wonders traditional thinking can bring forth can we expect such art to emerge from feminist attitudes? Feminism has been around since the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and her girls over a century ago but I know of nothing notable that has emerged so far. The only possible candidate appears to be the disgusting Vagina Monologues and they seem to be notable only for their crudity.
So my proposed answer to the question in my heading is a blunt "No". Most prominent feminists are radicals and seem quite deranged most of the time. They seem to have no beauty in their souls. And they don't care about women anyway. They ignore the terrible plight of most women in Muslim lands and content themselves with nitpicking criticisms of everyday speech in their own country.
Fortunately most women are not feminists. They believe in things like equal pay for equal work but have little in common with the fountains of rage and hatred who are the radical feminists. So what I have written above is in no way critical of women generally. I have been married four times so I clearly think women are pretty good. And plenty of ladies find my views acceptable -- particularly ladies around my own age.
Some desultory notes on the Mariinsky performance of Firebird:
As I have previously mentioned elsewhere, in all stage shows I like authenticity in the staging. I can put up with modern minimalist staging but when directors of the performance try to be "creative" and invent very strange sets, costumes, backdrops etc. I dislike it greatly. So I was most pleased that this performance endeavoured to re-create the original Diaghilev staging.
And at risk of enormous political incorrectness, I might perhaps note that, this being Russia, all the performers were very white -- which did of course echo the original. There is a great push to get blacks into everything these days but to revise in some way an original great artistic creation is to me just stupid. The lily-whiteness of the skins was part of the artistic effect.
I am breathless with admiration for the dancing of (Firebird) Ekaterina Kondaurova. She is unbelievably light on her feet. She almost defies gravity.
By JR on Friday, January 23, 2015
Is a $500,000 private school education really worth it?
A point overlooked below is that in choosing your son's school, you are choosing his friends for life. Except for the army, men rarely make new friends far into adulthood, and even if they do, their old school friends will still usually predominate in their friendship circle. So choosing a school is choosing a lot for a son. What sort of friends do you want your son to have? He will tend to have smarter and more socially competent friends if you send him to a private school. And if you send him to a sink school ....
All parents know that having children is like firing up a backyard bonfire but you substitute wads of cash for kindling and wood, but this week's study about the cost of private schooling would give anyone pause.
The Australian Scholarship's Group's research showed that a baby born in 2015 would cost over half a million dollars to be educated in Sydney's private schools.
Forget the six-million-dollar man, we have the half-million dollar kid – and we two of them!
But you are only going to get sticker shock if you insist on putting your kids into a private school and I don't plan on doing that. There are a number of factors at play here, not least the cost of the schooling and my inability to pay for it.
One problem is that "private schools" often seem to come under an umbrella brand that brings with it a belief of quality when, just like public schools or even hospitals or restaurants, quality varies quite significantly. For some private schools you may be getting top quality, out-of-the-box education, but at others you are just paying a lot more for a fairly standard education.
Many people send their kids to private school in the belief it comes with more advantages than the quality of teaching, that it can help one muscle in on the old boys' network.
There is little doubt that this network can be of some assistance. As an inexperienced twentysomething my friend, a former Geelong Grammarian, got us a face-to-face meeting with a member of the Fairfax family to discuss our fledgling men's magazine and there was little doubt that his school contacts were instrumental in getting that meeting. It certainly wasn't our business plan for the magazine, because we didn't have one.
But it is not the shortcut to nepotism many in the Comments section of school news stories like to believe, our would-be patron was polite but firm about our need to go and get our shit together before bothering to sit down with him or anyone else again (and quite rightly so).
There is also a fairly irrational fear of public schools. Just like the private equivalent these vary greatly and you need to do your research but we are lucky in Australia to not have to worry about our kids having to pass through metal detectors.
After spending the past two years in Singapore, paying a private school fee for a public school level of schooling I am readily embracing the amazing offering that is a virtually free education in this country and more of us should do the same. If more of the families that wanted their kids well educated put their efforts into the public system it would surely improve. Perhaps this huge hike in private schools fees is actually a boost to the public system, making their elite nature even clearer and sending the upper middles back into the arms of the state.
Other downsides for me include the fact many private school kids have to travel further to get to school (we know one mum with a nearly two hour school run between two far-flung male and female private schools) and the fact that you often have to select these school so far in advance that you can't know they are a good fit for your kids.
The question of what school to go to is more than a Naplan score or a natty blazer, it is the people, the community, the proximity to friends and after-school play. There are so many variables that you can't be sure you will achieve the desired result you had pictured when they were an infant – no matter how much you pay.
And what about the opportunity cost to a $500k education? Few of us will be able to pay such bills without forgoing certain things, things like the mind-opening world of international travel. I would not trade my kids Cambodian road trip for private schooling, if you can have both knock yourself out but at these projected rates that will not be a large slice of the population.
Far too many assumptions are made about schooling choices. We recently met a family from the US on a trip through Indonesia. When they said their kids – four of them 17 through to 11 – were home schooled our first instinct was to inch slowly away from them on our tiny boat. But spending a few days with these caring, erudite kids was a great reminder or our inbuilt prejudice as they were some of the most calm, well-rounded young people we had ever come across.
Now home schooling is not for us. And it's not the cost that is putting us off, it's the fact that we might have to reintroduce the cane for it to work. But private school is something I know is not the right fit for us either. I want my kids to have diverse range of fellow pupils, of races, of backgrounds. I do not want the common unifying factor to be the almighty dollar.
This is a very emotive debate but it is often framed in the reductive cry of wanting "the best" for our kids. We all want to give our kids a great start and, with some budgetary axing and a second job, I could probably send my kids through the private school system, but like a lot of things – as a not-particularly wealthy parent – it comes down to value for money.
And, at a half-million-dollar price tag, I do not see the clear and overwhelming benefits of a private school education.
By JR on Thursday, January 22, 2015
Supreme Court Agrees to Define Marriage
I should perhaps mention the libertarian perspective here. Conservatives find much libertarian thought congenial and they might find the libertarian perspective on marriage helpful as well in a legal environment that is hostile to the traditional view of marriage.
Libertarians think governments should butt out of involvement with marriages altogether. Libertarians hold the view (And I know some who have put it into practice) that marriage is simply an agreement between two people and that such an agreement or contract may be whatever suits the couple concerned. The contract could be formalty registered as a contract in some way and then it would be just another contract under normal contract law. And two homosexuals could obviously make contracts with one another.
But people have always wanted heavy social recognition of such contracts and that is where churches, mosques or temples have always figured prominently. So a traditional marriage is basically a religious occasion. And until about a century ago, church records were the only formal records we had of who had married whom. Libertarians ask: Can that be so hard to go back to? The traditional nature of such arrangements should be attractive to conservatives.
And churches can of course have different views about who gets their blessings. Episcopalians would probably marry dogs if asked and Catholics won't marry divorced people. But that is just part of the rich texture of society and as long as nothing is forced upon us, let people go to hell in their own way (As Elizabeth I once said to the King of Spain).
So ALL marriage laws should be abolished and replaced by contracts that can be solemnized in any way that can be agreed on by the parties concerned.
For Americans who maintain that marriage is between one man and one woman, gear up for the next battle. On Friday, the Supreme Court announced it had agreed to hear cases regarding same-sex marriage. Given the track record of activist judges on the High Court, we are not overly optimistic the justices will rule in favor of the third pillar of Liberty.
In October, the Supreme Court declined to hear cases from five states seeking to preserve their lawful, voter-approved definitions of marriage. By choosing not to take on those cases, the Supreme Court left in place lower court rulings overturning laws on same-sex marriage.
And two years ago, the Supreme Court tossed Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling that the federal government is bound to recognize same-sex marriages from states in which they are legal. The justices did not, however, go so far as to declare same-sex marriage a right – yet.
The result of that decision led to most of the lower courts striking down numerous state bans on same-sex marriage.
There was one exception: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld traditional marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Judge Jeffrey Sutton said in that ruling it was not the place of the courts to decide such an important social issue. What a novel concept. “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”
Given the split among the circuit courts, it was almost certain the Supreme Court would step in to settle the dispute.
It’s worth noting the timing of the Court’s announcement. There is growing capitulation among Republicans on the issue, and the party’s candidates offered little debate over marriage during the campaign season. The GOP’s new congressional majorities are occupied with other agenda items. Should the Supreme Court rule to redefine marriage (as many political pundits presume it will), the GOP could be further divided on this issue leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Regardless of whether the Supreme Court discovers a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, any Republican candidate who has or continues to oppose same-sex marriage will be portrayed as a bigot. But a Court ruling could move the needle further. There will also be many potential candidates who would argue that, since the Court ruled, the matter is settled.
On the other hand, there could also be ample opportunity for candidates to stand firmly on principle. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review notes, “If the Supreme Court does issue such a ruling, Republicans in the presidential primaries will be under a bit more pressure to say that they back a constitutional amendment reversing the decision and to say explicitly that they’ll appoint justices who don’t tend to agree with that sort of decision.”
Aside from the political fallout for the GOP from a Supreme Court decision that is presumed to side with the homosexual agenda, the greater impact will be on the people. A majority of voters in a majority of states have said that marriage is a sacred institution that does not change at the whim of progressive lobbyists and activist judges. Their voice will have been rejected.
And don’t think for a moment that a ruling redefining marriage will have no impact on churches and religious liberty in America. If the Supreme Court can redefine marriage, then is that same Supreme Court not powerful enough to impose its will on those who preach, teach and believe that the only true marriage is that between one man and one woman? Where does it end? Bakers, florists and photographers are already under assault – just wait until same-sex marriage is a “constitutional right.”
America had better wake up, because regardless of which way the Court rules the issue of what constitutes marriage isn’t going away any time soon.
By JR on Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Climate scientists have refuted skeptics' arguments against 2014 'warmest year' claim?
Below we actually find a fairly encouraging article. We find some recognition in the media that there are a lot of people who question global warming and who question the "2014 was the hottest year" claim.
The writer is still in the grip of the Warmists, however, and maybe he has to be to keep his job. The key point he misses is how small the temperature differences are that lie behind the Warmist claims. I don't expect a modern-day American journalist to understand statistical significance, or the fraud implied when a scientist ignores it, but the fact that temperature differences over recent years can only be found in hundredths of one degree should be comprehensible. I think most people should see that such differences are infinitesimally small and unlikely to mean anything. That, after all, is what statistical significance tells us in this matter.
So the writer is thrashing about in discussing more minor points and missing the main issue -- that the year to year differences in temperature are too minute to be even worth discussing. We actually live in a time of exceptional temperature stability
On January 16, two U.S. climate observing agencies jointly announced that 2014 was most likely the warmest year on record worldwide, beating previous record years such as 1998, 2005 and 2010. The announcement signaled the death knell of the argument that global warming "stopped" in 1998, which has been a popular rallying cry for climate change contrarians, from blog posts to speeches on the Senate floor.
With such high stakes, climate skeptics have been vigorously pushing back against the data, saying that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA downplayed the uncertainties in their records and misled the public.
Headlines like "2014: The Most Dishonest Year on Record" have been posted on climate skeptic blogs, such as Watts Up With That, and a commentator for the popular British newspaper The Daily Mail all but accused NASA of lying to the press and the public about global temperatures, despite the open discussion of uncertainties both in NASA's press materials and during a press conference with audio that is publicly accessible.
The skeptics have focused mainly on one table in the temperature report issued on Friday, which explains the uncertainties involved in declaring 2014 the warmest year. The table would appear to indicate that 2014 only has a 38% chance of being the warmest year in NASA's data set, which isn't that convincing at first glance, and a 48% likelihood according to NOAA's data. (Each agency uses slightly different methods of calculating global average surface temperatures.)
Here is how the Daily Mail discussed the temperature record in a story published on Sunday. "The Nasa climate scientists who claimed 2014 set a new record for global warmth last night admitted they were only 38% sure this was true." The story portrayed NASA as backing off their claim that 2014 was clearly the warmest year on record according to its data set.
But NASA did no such thing.
NASA and NOAA scientists say they have not changed their tune about 2014, since the data clearly shows that it was most likely the warmest year to date since instrument records began in 1880. Furthermore, they argue that climate skeptics are twisting the meaning of uncertainty ranges and making it seem like there is far less confidence in temperature data than there actually is.
Climate science debates occur every day in the blogosphere and on cable news shows, but this particular fight about a major temperature record (and therefore, major news story) highlights the extent to which many boil down to mere contradiction and rejections of facts, rather than arguments based on competing lines of evidence.
Mashable reached out to Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), who helped make Friday's announcement and has been a target of the vigorous pushback from the climate skeptic community. Schmidt is mentioned several times in the Daily Mail story.
Schmidt told Mashable that NASA is not backtracking from its conclusion that 2014 was the warmest year in its records, and that climate skeptics — (some prefer to call them "climate deniers") — misunderstand the characterization of uncertainty that NASA provided on Friday.
Schmidt says there is, of course, some uncertainty in the global temperature data, which NASA has long acknowledged. But even when these uncertainties are considered, the data still shows that 2014 was most likely the warmest year.
"No-one disputes that there are uncertainties in estimating the global mean temperature anomaly — issues of spatial coverage, measurement practice changes over time, movement of stations etc. and we estimate that any one year's value comes with an uncertainty of about plus or minus 0.05 degrees Celsius, or 0.09 degrees Fahrenheit," Schmidt said in an email.
"2014 *is* the warmest year in the GISTEMP, NOAA and Berkeley Earth analyses," he said [But only the warmest by a few hundredths of one degree], referring to different data sets kept by different groups of scientists, including the one kept by his center and known as "GISTEMP."
By JR on Tuesday, January 20, 2015
I have been including in my postings here occasional comments on history because I believe that you need to know how we got to where we are today before you can understand what is going on in the world today. Leftists, of course shrink from knowing anything about history because of the way it falsifies their claims. In particular it shows that their "solutions" to the problems of today have already been tried and found wanting. They are like a dog returning to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11).
My offering today is an excerpt from psychohistorian Richard A. Koenigberg. He shows where collectivism leads and in so doing displays how alien to conservatism Nazism was. There was NOTHING "Right wing" about it. It was totally alien to the individual liberty concerns that have always been basic to conservative thought
Robert J. Lifton's book, The Nazi Doctors (1986) provides evidence that the fantasy that drove Hitler's thinking drove the thinking of other Nazis as well. Lifton spent several years interviewing 29 men who had been significantly involved at high levels with Nazi medicine. Lifton's reconstruction of the deep-structure of Nazi ideology presented in his book is based upon these interviews, combined with an analysis of written accounts, documents, speeches, diaries, and letters.
The central fantasy uncovered by Lifton was that of the German nation as an organism that could succumb to an illness. Lifton cites Dr. Johann S. who spoke about being "doctor to the Volkskorper (‘national body’ or ‘people's’ body)." National Socialism, Dr. Johann S. said, is a movement rather than a party, constantly growing and changing according to the "health" requirements of the people's body. "Just as a body may succumb to illness," the doctor declared, so "the Volkskorper could do the same."
When Lifton asked another doctor, Fritz Klein, how he could reconcile the concentration camps with his Hippocratic Oath to save lives, he replied "Of course I am a doctor and I want to preserve life. And out of respect for human life, I would remove a gangrenous appendix from a diseased body. The Jew is the gangrenous appendix in the body of mankind." Lifton mentioned this phrase "gangrenous appendix" to another Nazi, Dr. B., who quickly answered that his overall feeling and that of the other Nazi doctors was that "Whether you want to call it an appendix or not, it must be extirpated (ausgerottet, meaning also "exterminated," "destroyed," "eradicated").
Goebbels put it this way: "Our task here is surgical; drastic incisions, or some day Europe will perish of the Jewish disease." Hans Frank, General Governor of Poland during the Nazi occupation, called Jews "a lower species of life, a kind of vermin, which upon contact infected the German people with deadly diseases." When the Jews in the area he ruled had been killed, he declared that, "Now a sick Europe will become healthy again."
Finally, on February 22, 1942, Hitler made the following astonishing statement: "The discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that have taken place in the world. The battle we are engaged in is of the same sort as the battle waged during the last century, by Pasteur and Koch."
By JR on Monday, January 19, 2015
No wonder 40% of Australians have private health insurance
See for example the disastrous situation described below -- where a "free" service is just not good enough by any criterion.
Private health insurance is affordable in Australia. Many people on relatively low incomes have it. It is a significant budget item for many, however, so the majority would rather spend their money on beer and cigarettes than on insurance. So they rely on the taxpayer for "free" health care. They rely on bureaucratic healthcare provision.
And the ineffectiveness of that gets steadily worse. Bureaucracies do not die overnight. They are like cancer, slowly growing but they will kill you eventually. They gradually choke themselves to death. And what we read below shows that process to be in an advanced state in Australia -- the State health services all go back many decades. And the services will get even worse in future.
So the present situation is in fact mostly fair. If you put your money into beer and cigarettes instead of health insurance you deserve only third-rate care and that is what you get. You are mainly raiding people who have already paid for their own care and asking them to pay for your care too.
The solution to the problem posed by the situation below then is to get the beer and cigarettes money redirected into private health insurance -- so that the government system is left to care for the few who cannot afford even beer and cigarettes. If that were done, much of the demand would be taken off the government service and the genuinely poor would get better service.
So if you see the situation described below as a problem, your rational response would be to mandate private health insurance for all but the very poor. If you don't like the compulsion in that you can console yourself that the existing system may be rather horrible for many but it is at least fair for the great majority. Most of those being poorly treated could have chosen otherwise
I have a fairly average health insurance policy so my treatment in a recent health emergency is instructive. I had an attack of kidney stones. So I went straight to the Wesley private hospital here in Brisbane -- a church-run hospital named after two great Christians. Within less than two hours of the pain developing, I was given morphine as pain relief and within 6 hours I was on the operating table. The ideal is possible and readily available in Australia. It just isn't free
A Sydney hospital left a patient in its emergency department for almost six days, prompting condemnation from an expert in emergency medicine.
Details about the incident are scarce. But a hospital source said the patient was admitted to Blacktown Hospital's emergency department on Wednesday evening the week before last.
The hospital confirmed the patient had been sitting in a recliner chair in its emergency department and was discharged at some time on Tuesday last week.
"This is absolutely extreme," said Clinical Associate Professor Paul Middleton from Sydney University. "In 25 years working in hospital emergency departments I've never seen anybody stay for that long.
"The lights are on all the time. It's noisy. There are wailing children, mental health patients, people pissed off with waiting and shouting; there's trauma; there's blood and there's vomiting. It's not a place to spend a long time. Patients don't do well [in emergency]."
The hospital, citing patient confidentiality, declined to provide details about the patient's illness. It said they had been treated while in the emergency department and been referred to hospital specialists.
Danny O'Connor, the CEO of the western Sydney local health district, said the patient was discharged after the hospital was satisfied with their progress.
Mr O'Connor also said the case "presented many social complexities" and that the hospital continued to care for patients who were unable to leave for "family or social reasons".
But Professor Middleton said a ward was the only place for a patient in hospital that long.
"There are also alternatives to staying in hospital [such as refuges]," he added.
The Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, declined to comment.
"Our members are sick of being abused by patients who are facing major delays," said Judith Kiedja from the nurses' and midwives' union.
The union advocates the government impose a ratio of one nurse for every three patients to maintain standards of care. Blacktown's emergency department has often run at twice that ratio of nurses this fortnight.
Tanya Whitehouse, from the Macarthur Domestic and Family Violence Service, said she found the case baffling.
"If the patient was facing domestic violence or homelessness, they should have seen a social worker and been found a refuge," she said.
A spokesman for the Family and Community Services Minister, Gabrielle Upton, said over the next three years the government would "invest a record half billion dollars to tackle homelessness across the state".
This latest case comes after a fortnight of major delays at Blacktown Hospital, where between 40 and 60 beds have been closed for the holidays.
A dozen patients, half aged over 80, were waiting more than two days in emergency two weeks ago.
There were further delays last week. Paramedics waited for 17 hours to hand one patient over to the care of the hospital.
"If they're closing that many beds it's a potential for disaster," Professor Middleton said.
By JR on Sunday, January 18, 2015
The Warmist fraud gets ever more bald-faced -- "Hottest year" bulldust
See the report below from -- where else? -- The Guardian. I remember The Guardian from the days when it was The Manchester Guardian -- and it hasn't improved. It is still a purveyor of Leftist deception.
The Japan Meteorological Organization was, I think, the first off the blocks with the claim that 2014 was the world's hottest year -- and skeptics were quick and vociferous in pointing out the holes in that claim. But NOAA and NASA have learnt nothing. They can't afford to. If they acknowledged the points skeptics make they would be acknowledging the fragility of their whole Warmist edifice.
A lot of skeptics have been fired up by this latest example of malfeasance and some may already have rebuttals up and running online. But basically, you need to know only one thing: That the differences the Warmists are prattling about are so minute as to be statistically non-significant. Statistical significance is the MINIMUM condition for a difference to have any significance in a larger sense. When a difference is not statistically significant, it is the sort of difference that arises by chance alone. So there is no basis to say that the difference concerned is anything but random.
And all scientists know that. It is a basic axiom of science. And the temperature differences recorded for the last 18 years or more have been so minute -- measured in hundredths of one degree Celsius -- that they are crashingly non-significant statistically. So anybody who parades the temperature differences observed as showing anything is simply not a scientist He is a crook. It is rather sad that big organizations heavily remunerated by taxpayer funds are run by crooks but that is the plain truth of the matter. The only scientifically defensible conclusion from the given data is that the temperature has remained unchanged for 18 years.
You can read the actual NASA/GISS press release here. Nobody is misquoting them. They have nailed their pirate colors to the mast
The numbers are in. The year 2014 – after shattering temperature records that had stood for hundreds of years across virtually all of Europe, and roasting parts of South America, China and Russia – was the hottest on record, with global temperatures 1.24F (0.69C) higher than the 20th-century average, US government scientists said on Friday.
A day after international researchers warned that human activities had pushed the planet to the brink, new evidence of climate change arrived. The world was the hottest it has been since systematic records began in 1880, especially on the oceans, which the agency confirmed were the driver of 2014’s temperature rise.
The global average temperatures over land and sea surface for the year were 1.24F (0.69C) above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) reported. Nasa, which calculates temperatures slightly differently, put 2014’s average temperature at 14.67C – 0.68C above the average – for the period 1951-80.
The scientists said 2014 was 0.07F (0.04C) higher than the previous records set in 2005 and 2010, and the 38th consecutive year of above-average temperatures. [NOTE: 0.04C is four HUNDREDTHS of one degree. We are debating here how many angels can dance on the head of a pin]
That means nobody born since 1976 has experienced a colder-than-average year.
More crap HERE
By JR on Saturday, January 17, 2015
Irish warned of doomsday sea levels if climate change continues
The article below is pure assertion, with no scientific data to back it up. So let me provide some scientific data. Below you will see that there has been NO sea level rise going on in Ireland. So the article below is not based on any known actual trend. It is sheer speculation
Irish scientists have warned that large areas of Ireland could disappear into the ocean with rising sea levels due to climate change.
In a global warming special on RTE’s environment series Eco Eye, experts warned about the catastrophic dangers of climate change, predicting significant coastal damage and the extinction of many plant and animal species, the Sunday World reports.
“Climate change is a reality. It’s here. That’s something as a society we haven’t bought into. It will be a very difficult problem for Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast,” said Professor Robert Devoy, from the Coastal Marine Research Centre (CMRC).
“What is coming down the tracks is a significant warming of the planet. The last time it warmed of this order, 88 per cent of life on earth disappeared.
“Given the nature of politics being short-term, it’s the last thing on our politicians’ minds.
“I have five grandchildren. Whatever time is left to me it doesn’t matter, but for them at the age of four and five I can see we have significant problems to solve,” said Devoy, one of Ireland’s leading experts on global warming.
“We can’t wait any longer for reducing carbon emissions and making significant changes.”
He estimates that it will cost at least €5bn to protect Ireland’s largest cities and critical areas of the Irish coastline.
During the show, Eco Eye presenter Duncan Stewart travels to Iceland to show how melting glaciers due to climate change are contributing to a rise in sea levels.
Dr Barry Dwyer, as environmental scientist with the Coastal Marine Research Centre at the Irish Naval Headquarters, said that two percent of Dublin could be swallowed by the sea, along with more than three percent of northern counties.
“The big problem is storm surges that we have in Ireland with sea level rises, and then add another storm surge on top of that and that becomes a two-meter storm surge.
“In the more northerly counties we are looking at up to 3.5 per cent of the entire land area being inundated, and that doesn’t account for the big wash that would come off the storm surge and the destruction from that.”
Cathal O’Mahony, a Coastal research scientist with the CMRC, said: “We’ve concentrated a lot of things along our coastline. Be it our urban centers, our road or rail networks and even our leisure time.
“The strategy is really going to involve a lot of agencies working side by side. “No one organization is going to have the answer to climate change.
O’Mahony cautioned that certain areas of the coastline may have to be sacrificed. “We need to make decisions on where perhaps we can defend and where we can retreat.”
By JR on Friday, January 16, 2015
Climate change: Why some Australians won't believe it's getting hotter
Peter Martin, Economics Editor of the Leftist "Age" newspaper presents below an argument with all the usual Warmist holes in it. Once again we find an argument from authority, with not a single actual climate datum mentioned. It is his central contention below that climate skeptics are ideologically motivated but it apparently has not occurred to him that Warmist scientists might be ideologically motivated! Typical one-eyed Leftist reasoning. Awkward facts, such as the disablingly high temperatures reported in Sydney in 1790 (Yes. 1790, not 1970) don't swim into his view at all. But he would have to be an unusual economist to know anything about climate, of course. He is just gullible -- and only the gullible would believe him
What is it about the temperature that some of us find so hard to accept?
The year just ended was one of the hottest on record. In NSW it was the absolute hottest, in Victoria the second-hottest, and in Australia the third hottest. Doesn't that tell us that it is regional variations we are looking at, not something global?
The measure is compiled by the Bureau of Meteorology. It dates back to 1910. A separate global reading prepared by the World Meteorological Organisation has 2014 the hottest year since international records began in 1880. Not a single year since 1985 has been below average and every one of the 10 hottest years has been since 1998.
That it's getting hotter is what economists call an empirical question – a matter of fact not worth arguing about, although it is certainly worth arguing about the reasons for the increase and what we may do about it.
But that's not the way many Australians see it. I posted the Bureau of Meteorology's findings on Twitter on Tuesday and was told: "Not really". Apparently, "climate-wise we are in pretty good shape".
If the bureau had been displaying measures of the temperature on a specific day or a cricket commentator had been displaying the cricket score, there would be no quibbling. The discussion would centre about the reasons for the result and its implications.
But when it comes to the slowly rising temperature some of us won't even accept the readings. And that says something about us, or at least about those of us who won't accept what's in front of our faces.
I am not prepared to believe that these people are anti-science. Some of them are engineers, some mining company company executives. Like all of us, they depend on science in their everyday lives.
Nor am I prepared to believe they've led sheltered lives, although it's a popular theory. In the United States a survey of six months of coverage on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel found that 37 of its 40 mentions of climate change were misleading.
The misleading coverage included "broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, disparaging comments about individual scientists, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and cherry-picking of data".
Fox News called global warming a "fraud", a "hoax" and "pseudo science".
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal fared little better. 39 of its 48 references were misleading.
In Australia it's not as bad. Rupert Murdoch's The Australian gives more space to climate change than any other newspaper. Its articles are 47 per cent negative, 44 per cent neutral and 9 per cent positive, according to the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.
It's impossible to read The Australian's articles without feeling at least a bit curious about climate change.
Another theory is that it's to do with psychology. Some people are more threatened by bad news than others, making them less able to accept that it's real.
And now a more sophisticated theory suggests that it's not about the facts at all. It's really a debate about the implications, disguised as a debate about the facts. Troy Campbell and Aaron Kay, a researcher and associate professor in neuroscience at Duke University in North Carolina find that belief in temperature forecasts is correlated with beliefs about government regulation and what those forecasts would mean for government regulation.
They assembled a panel of at least 40 Republicans and 40 Democrats and asked each whether they believed the consensus forecast about temperature increases. Half were told that climate change could be fought in a market friendly way, the other half that it would need heavy-handed regulation. Of the Republicans, the proportion who accepted the temperature forecast was 55 per cent when they were told climate change could be addressed by the free market and only 22 per cent when they were told it would need regulation.
(Democrats were about 70 per cent likely believe the temperature forecast and weren't much swayed by how climate change would be fought.)
The finding is important. It means that the first step in getting people to at least agree that it's getting hotter is to stop talking about how to prevent it. Muddying the two, as we do all the time, gets people's backs up.
It is getting hotter. Seven of Australia's 10 hottest years on record have been since the Sydney Olympics. Last year was 0.91C hotter than the long-term average. Last year's maximums were 1.16C hotter than long-term average maximums. Warming is a fact. The Bureau of Meteorology accepts it, the government accepts it and it shouldn't be beyond our abilities to accept it.
Then we can talk about what to do.
By JR on Thursday, January 15, 2015
Are better looking women conservatives?
The authors below are careful not to draw that conclusion but it is a reasonable inference from the findings reported. We read below: "But the women rated as more physically attractive by their peers were more likely to endorse values like conformity and tradition rather than values like self-direction and universalism". That sounds like a pretty clear Left/Right split to me. The essence of conservatism is caution so that could well be perceived as being more conforming. Conservatives tend to be much more acceptant of the status quo than Leftists are and don't like to rock the boat. The Leftist authors, of course, put quite a different spin on their results. See particularly what they "suggest" in the last sentence of their journal abstract below. Being unattracted by world government is apparently "self-promotion"!
Does being beautiful on the outside make you beautiful on the inside? Not necessarily, although attractive women are often thought to have more desirable personality traits in the eyes of strangers, new research shows.
In actuality, beautiful women might be more likely to have some less attractive values, favoring conformity and self-promotion over independence and tolerance, the study found.
Researchers from the Open University of Israel and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recruited 118 female students to serve as "targets" in the study. These women completed questionnaires to measure their values (such as tradition, self-direction, conformity and benevolence) and personality traits (such as extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism). The participants, whose average age was 29, were then video-recorded for about a minute as they entered a room and read a weather forecast while looking into the camera.
Another 118 participants served as judges. Forty percent of this group was male and each watched the video footage of a different target, chosen randomly, before evaluating that woman's values, traits and attractiveness.
If a target was judged as physically attractive, the researchers found she was also perceived to be agreeable, open to experience, extroverted, conscientious and emotionally stable — all socially desirable traits. The judges were also more likely to believe that more attractive women valued achievement compared with less attractive women.
"People are warned not to 'judge a book by its cover,' but they often do exactly that," the researchers wrote in their paper in the journal Psychological Science.
Meanwhile, the questionnaires that the targets filled out about themselves showed no correlations between these personality traits and their perceived attractiveness. But the women rated as more physically attractive by their peers were more likely to endorse values like conformity and tradition rather than values like self-direction and universalism, which is linked to tolerance and a concern for others, the researchers said.
"Thus, whereas people hold the 'what is beautiful is good' stereotype, our findings suggest that the beautiful strive for conformity rather than independence and for self-promotion rather than tolerance," wrote the authors, led by Lihi Segal-Caspi of the Open University.
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, Revisited
Perceived and Reported Traits and Values of Attractive Women
By Lihi Segal-Caspi et al.
Research has documented a robust stereotype regarding personality attributes related to physical attractiveness (the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype). But do physically attractive women indeed possess particularly attractive inner attributes? Studying traits and values, we investigated two complementary questions: how perceived attractiveness relates to perceived personality, and how it relates to actual personality. First, 118 women reported their traits and values and were videotaped reading the weather forecast. Then, 118 judges rated the traits, values, and attractiveness of the women. As hypothesized, attractiveness correlated with attribution of desirable traits, but not with attribution of values. By contrast, attractiveness correlated with actual values, but not actual traits: Attractiveness correlated with tradition and conformity values (which were contrasted with self-direction values) and with self-enhancement values (which were contrasted with universalism values). Thus, despite the widely accepted “what is beautiful is good” stereotype, our findings suggest that the beautiful strive for conformity rather than independence and for self-promotion rather than tolerance.
By JR on Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Should we all live on beans?
There is a book called “The Blue Zones” which researched areas of the world that have an unusual concentration of centenarians (people reaching the age of 100). Let me put up a brief summary of its conclusions before I comment:
All long-lived people live on a high-carb, low-fat, plant-based diet
All long-lived people eat a lot of vegetables, including greens.
Whenever they can get it, long-lived populations eat a lot of fruit and it seems to contribute to their longevity
When animal products are consumed, it’s occasionally and in small amounts only. But the 7th Day Adventist study also showed that vegans live longer than vegetarians or meat eaters, so the ideal is to avoid all animal products. If you do eat animal products, it shouldn’t be more than a few times a month (paleo eaters take note).
All long-lived people had periods in their life when a lot less food was available and they had to survive on a very sparse, limited diet. For example, the centenarians in the book in Okinawa describe a time during World War II when they lived on sweet potatoes for three meals a day. When discussing the centenarians in Italy: “When their family was young, in the 1950s, they were very poor. They ate what they produced on their land — mostly bread, cheese and vegetables (zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and most significantly, fava beans). Meat was at best a weekly affair, boiled on Sunday with pasta and roasted during the festivals.” This reinforces my concept of periodic fasting. Because we live in a society of such abundance, we have to force ourselves to go through periods of restrictions with periodic cleanses and fasting.
All long-lived people live in a sunny, warm climate — but not necessarily tropical. They got plenty of vitamin D from natural sunshine. The warmer climate probably also contributes to less stress and a more relaxed lifestyle.
All long-lived people consume beans in some form or another.
Nuts appear to be good for health. The 7th Day Adventists who ate a small serving of nuts several times a week had about half the risk of heart disease of those who didn’t.
The typical centenarian diet is very simple. If you analyze all these diets from long-lived people around the world, they essentially eat the same simple foods every day. It appears that you do not need a wide variety of foods in your diet to be healthy. Quality food over variety is more important. Also, rich foods like meat and cheese are reserved for special occasions, and eaten at the most a few times a month if at all.
They did not constantly change their diet or jump on the latest superfood fad. They ate the same seasonal things every day of the year.
Those conclusions were derived from a study of just 5 populations -- and from a statistician's point of view a sample size of 5 is most unlikely to support accurate generalizations.
But let us accept that the generaliations are accurate and ask whether there are other factors that explain the findings. One such stood out to me as I read it: Food shortage. Note that the groups above lived on very little. A sub-demand food intake both increases longevity and reduces stature. It get you lots of long-lived short people -- as in Japan, where the food supply was very sparse for most people up until about 1960.
The effect of food shortage on stature can be extreme -- as we see in North Korea today, where the average North Korean army recruit averages out at around 4'6". And in reverse we see that the young people of Japan today are much taller than their grandparents. From memory the average has increased from about 5' to about 5'6"
So my theory that the long lives in the study groups are attributable to food shortage is thus easily testable. It follows from my theory that the individuals concerned will be very short. That should be easily testable if the authors want to advance their claims. I think there is a fair likelihood that they won't need to go back with tape-measures, however. I think they will recollect themselves towering over their study populations.
The next question concerns the California Adventists. They presumably had no food shortages, living in one of the great centers of agricultural productivity. That may be so but the Adventists could be a special case for reasons other than their food. They are also members of a very religious group and it has been observed that very religious people (also the Mormons, for instance) tend to live long and healthy lives -- presumably because both the religion itself and the community that usually comes with it de-stresses people.
But, again, let us assume that both food shortage and religion were irrelevant to the findings above. We then come to the policy decision: Is it worth it to live longer on a much less palatable diet than what we are used to? I think there is not much doubt that the majority answer is a resounding: "No". I happen to like beans but that is certainly my answer
By JR on Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Naomi again: We Greenies are not NIMBYs
Now that she is opposing development in her own backyard, she is at pains to say that her opposition is not merely based on personal convenience. I agree with her. I think her opposition is deeply ideological. She says at length that her opposition is based on a love of natural beauty but that is almost certainly just camouflage. An interesting test of that would be to hear what she says about wind farms. They GROSSLY despoil naturally beautiful landscapes. Is she against them too? I'm guessing not.
She opposes the building of a power line that will bring much-needed electricity to New England. Power is already so scarce there that the price mechanism has pushed up electricity bills for residents to unprecedented heights.
So what is her solution to that problem? She has none. She simply says airily: "There are other ways to address future energy demand". No details.
I guess she is so well paid that electricity bills don't worry her. They are only of concern to the unimportant "little people" who need Greenies to make them behave properly.
By Naomi Oreskes
The term NIMBY – “not in my back yard”– has long been used to criticize people who oppose commercial or industrial development in their communities. Invariably pejorative, it casts citizens as selfish individualists who care only for themselves, hypocrites who want the benefits of modernity without paying its costs.
Communities and individuals who oppose fracking, nuclear power, high voltage power lines, and diverse other forms of development have all been accused of NIMBYism. It’s time to rethink this term.
A recent example close to my home is the Northern Pass power development, a proposal to bring hydroelectric power from Quebec to consumers in southern New England via a high-voltage power line that would trace the spine of New Hampshire.
Its sponsors tout it as an investment in New Hampshire’s future, stressing the tax revenues and jobs that the project will bring, characterizing hydropower as a clean and renewable energy source, and arguing that the project will help to address an emerging energy crisis in New England.
Opponents note that the lion’s share of the jobs created will be temporary, that the power will be delivered to customers south of the power line, that hydropower is not actually renewable, and that there are other ways to address future energy demand.
They also question the promise of economic benefit, noting that chambers of commerce along the proposed route believe it will hurt tourism and damage real estate values. But the key issue at stake for the opponents is not jobs or money, but beauty.
The project is opposed by the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, The Conservation Law Foundation, and the N.H. Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. All agree that the key issue is the project’s impact on the natural beauty of New Hampshire.
Is natural beauty out of fashion?
It’s a strange comment on our times that we have to make the case for the value of beauty, but perhaps a good sign that increasingly we realize that we needn’t translate it into monetary terms.
People who have chosen to build their lives in New Hampshire – a state with a tough climate and poor employment prospects but miles upon miles of gorgeous natural forests – clearly value it to a high degree. And so do the millions of others who visit them every year. And not just in New Hampshire.
A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service counted more than 160 million visits to the National Forests over a five-year period, and another 300 million occasions when visitors driving scenic highways “appreciated the beauty of the National Forests from their vehicles.”
The primary effect of these visits, Forest Service data indicates, is an improved sense of well-being. Since a majority of these visits involve physical activities (hiking, walking, downhill skiing, fishing, hunting) they contribute to our physical health as well. And the people who make these visits are men and women, adults and children, from all walks of life.
Of course these visits generate tourist revenue, but that isn’t their main value. Tourist revenue is the effect: the cause is that we visit forests, and other beautiful places, because having beauty in our lives is important. It is part of living the good life. It makes us feel better to walk or ski or hunt in the woods. Just think for a moment of autumn leaves. Forests make people happy.
By dismissing opponents as NIMBYists, proponents of Northern Pass and other projects shut down conversations that we should be having about the things we value, including quiet, safety, security, and peace of mind.
We all want energy to light and heat our homes, but at what cost? Would anyone want to live in a warm, well-lit house surrounded by a nuclear waste site?
True democracy calls for open discussion
The pejorative term NIMBY also shuts down key questions about our democracy: Who gets to decide? Who has the burden of proof? And how should citizens be compensated if a collective decision to drill, frack, or burn has apparently injured them, but it can’t be proven because no one did the baseline studies that should have been done but weren’t?
If legal fracking contaminates a private well in a community where there is no public water supply, then what? What if a family find the value of their home diminished, or they can’t sell it at all?
These issues should be discussed and debated, not dismissed. In a democracy, government exists to serve the needs of people, and those needs are not only economic.
NIMBY name-calling also intimidates by provoking what psychologists call stereotype threat. Those of us who care about the natural environment and the health of our communities are often afraid of being labeled NIMBYs, so we bend over backward to insist that we are not anti-business, not anti-technology, and not anti-modern.
Not in anyone’s backyard
There’s nothing wrong with standing up for our own communities, and standing with our fellow citizens who want to preserve their quality of life. Not everything about modernity is worth embracing. We have the right to protect and defend the things we care about. Indeed, it’s defeatist not to.
Most supposedly NIMBY arguments are not NIMBYist at all – they are NIABYist: not in anyone’s backyard. They are about preserving beauty, safety and integrity of communities.
They are about solving problems (like climate change) without creating serious new ones (like nuclear waste and proliferation). They are about finding technologies that enrich our lives, support our health, and increase our prosperity, and not ones that threaten our safety, harm our health, and destroy our natural beauty.
By JR on Monday, January 12, 2015
Another nail in coffin of the antioxidant religion
Are antioxidants a waste of money? Latest study says eating expensive 'superfoods' or taking supplements WON'T help you live longer. That dynamo of research in the area, Beatrice Golomb, will not be surprised. In a recent correspondence with me she said: "Personally, I have never advocated, to anyone, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol, or folic acid in supplement form". The only pill that she is favors these days is the recently revived CoEnzyme Q10 -- but see here, here and here for skepticism about that
People who get a lot of antioxidants in their diets, or who take them in supplement form, don't live any longer than those who just eat well overall, according to a long term study of retirees in California.
Antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E, are plentiful in vegetables and fruits and may help protect against cell or DNA damage. As a result, they've been touted for cancer prevention, heart disease prevention and even warding off dementia.
'There is good scientific evidence that eating a diet with lots of vegetables and fruits is healthful and lowers risks of certain diseases,' said lead author Annlia Paganini-Hill of the Clinic for Aging Research and Education at the University of California, Irvine.
'However, it is unclear whether this is because of the antioxidants, something else in these foods, other foods in people's diet, or other lifestyle choices,' Paganini-Hill told Reuters Health by email.
Most double-blind randomized clinical trials - the gold standard of medical evidence - have found that antioxidant supplements do not prevent disease, she said.
The researchers used mailed surveys from the 1980's in which almost 14,000 older residents of the Leisure World Laguna Hills retirement community detailed their intake of 56 foods or food groups rich in vitamins A and C as well as their vitamin supplement intake.
With periodic check-ins and repeated surveys, the researchers followed the group for the next 32 years, during which time 13,104 residents died.
When Paganini-Hill's team accounted for smoking, alcohol intake, caffeine consumption, exercise, body mass index, and histories of hypertension, angina, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, there was no association between the amount of vitamins A or C in the diet or vitamin E supplements and the risk of death.
Participants in the new study were largely white, educated and well-nourished.
By JR on Sunday, January 11, 2015
Worldwide, the Left are critical of patriotism. They hate the world they live in and that includes their own country. Most Americans, however, are very patriotic. So Democrat politicians are very defensive about patriotism. Like Leftists everywhere they are not patriotic but in America they dare not admit it. "Are you questioning my patriotism?" Democrat politicians sometimes huff. The correct answer to that would generally be: "Yes". But conservatives are usually too polite to say that.
In England, patriotism has been under elite attack for around a century but it still hangs on. Below is a very patriotic hymn from Britain which is still frequently sung. Note that both the Queen and the (Conservative) Prime Minister are present at the recent performance below in the Royal Albert Hall..
The sentiments are definitely of the "my country right or wrong" sort, which is an uncommon view today. The hymn was written around the time of WWI. One reason why that view no longer prevails is that such a defence was disallowed at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals immediately after WWII. It was held that German soldiers had a duty to disobey immoral or unethical orders. Just because the orders came from your country's high command was not good enough justification for obeying them. That disobedience to an order in the WWII German armed forces would get you promptly shot did not seem to be considered.
The Nuremberg rules are not however entirely blue sky. The Israeli Defence Force has a "black flag" system. If an officer gives a man what seems an inhumane order, the soldier is duty bound to report that and not to obey the order. It seems to work -- but only because it is taught as part of their military law.
So these days loyalty to your country is mostly based on your country being in the right. And given the chronic feelings of alienation among the Left, it is mainly a conservative virtue.
Leftists, Leftist psychologists particularly, do of course sometimes try to equate patriotism with racism but I carried out an extensive and international research program on exactly that question in the '70s and 80's and found no association between the two attitudes among general populations samples. I know of no subsequent research that has contradicted that. See e.g. here and here and here
Patriotism is of course to be distinguished from nationalism: The feeling that your country has a right to dominate others. You can love your own country while also respecting that other people love theirs. Nationalism seems to have died with Hitler and Tojo's Japan. We do however have a closely related problem: Religious supremacism from Muslims. White and Bushido supremacism may be dead but religious supremacism is very much alive and kicking. It too may eventually need nuclear weapons aimed at selected targets to kill it.
I myself don't much feel great loyalty to one country. I am delighted to have been born and bred in the "Lucky country" but I think the Anglosphere generally has characteristics that I would fight for. Whether I am in Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Canada or the USA I feel I am largely among my own people -- people like me in many ways and whom I readily understand -- and that those people have a good balance in values and in what they collectively regard as important.
Just a small footnote: The name "Lucky country" for Australia, was intended as derogatory by Donald Horne, who invented it. He thought Australia became well-off just out of luck. Australia is however roughly at the centre of Anglospheric variation so by that criterion the whole Anglospere is lucky, which would be lucky indeed, considering their considerable differences in history and geographical location. But that is nonsense. The Anglospheric countries are certainly good places to live -- witness the flood of migration toward them -- but they are good places to live because of the people who live in them -- people who generally have respect for others, who are substantially honest, who tolerate diversity, who respect the rule of law and who are generally peaceful in nature. We make our luck.