By JR on Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Harmless pesticide still used in Australia -- ozone "hole" regardless
In their role as sand in the gears of civilization, Greenies constantly find reasons to ban useful chemicals, making pest and weed control difficult and raising costs. We need therefore to look at where a ban is really needed. In this case the reason for the ban is a laugh. Methyl bromide was banned because it allegedly harmed the ozone layer.
But even though the ozone layer "protections" were put in place long ago, the "hole" in the ozone layer waxes and wanes as it always did. The "protections" have protected nothing. The ozone "hole" is now properly regarded as just another failed Greenie scare. Although official meteorological records of the "hole" are no doubt still available, nobody I know even bothers to track it anymore.
So the ban on Methyl bromide should in fact now be lifted completely -- giving farmers and others a colorless, odorless, nonflammable fumigant to use, where appropriate
About 70 per cent of Australian strawberries are being grown on runners that have been fumigated with an environmentally damaging pesticide that has been banned around the world.
Methyl bromide is an odourless and colourless gas which was banned under the United Nations Montreal Protocol in 1989 because it depletes the ozone layer.
Australia agreed to phase it out by 2005 but a decade later, nine strawberry runner growers at Toolangi, in Victoria's Yarra Valley, are still using nearly 30 tonnes a year.
They produce 100 million strawberry runners annually, which in turn generate about 70 per cent of Australian strawberries.
Each year they apply to the UN for a critical use exemption from the ban, claiming the alternatives are financially crippling.
The co-chair of the UN Methyl Bromide Technical Options committee, Dr Ian Porter, said the situation was frustrating.
"Internationally, we've gotten rid of 85 per cent of methyl bromide, and it's a great win for mankind — in fact it's the best environmental gain that's been made," he said.
"[The strawberry runner growers] want to get rid of it, but there's a responsibility to provide high-health runners for the industry.
"It's frustrating ... but we don't want industries to fall over economically or technically. We don't want more disease or pests in Australia."
Environmental Justice Australia said it was concerned the growers were using a loophole to continue their use of methyl bromide.
"I think if people did know more about this issue, they'd be very concerned that the strawberries they're consuming are contributing to this significant environmental issue," chief executive Brendan Sydes said.
"There was a commitment to phase out this chemical by 2005 and yet, despite that, we're continuing to use it in this industry. It's a real concern.
"I think it's a real failure of the industry to come up with some alternative methods of producing strawberry runners, but also of the government to insist on compliance with this important regulatory regime."
Prices would increase to $10 a punnet: industry
The strawberry growers said if they were forced to stop using methyl bromide, the viability of the $400 million strawberry industry would be "compromised" and 15,000 jobs jeopardised.
The industry estimated their costs could soar by 500 per cent if they were to switch to soilless growing systems, similar to those used in parts of Europe.
The runner industry has invested more than $700,000 on research and development to find alternatives to methyl bromide.
That cost would be passed on to consumers, and a punnet of strawberries could end up costing more than $10.
"You imagine turning 100 hectares immediately into glass houses, and the impact that would have," Dr Porter said.
"It's just not the least bit economical at this stage.
"It's tough to weigh up economics, it's one of our challenges. Will consumers pay $10 a punnet? I don't know."
By JR on Monday, March 30, 2015
Infantile Greenies and the "threatened" future of a pretty Tasmanian parrot
The article below is from the environmental writer at the Australian far-Left "New Matilda" magazine so its truthfulness cannot be assumed -- but the interesting thing is the approach of the article. It is typical of "stop everything" environmentalism. It offers no compromise and no middle way. Instead of assisting informed decision-making it just does its best to build a roadblock to action.
In those circumstances, if there are foolish decisions made about environmental matters the Greens are partly responsible for that. Most of Tasmmania is locked up under environmental regulations so there has been no balance at all so far. The voters have clearly grown tired of that and gave Tasmania's conservatives an unprecedented clear victory in the last State election. The conservatives are now doing what they were elected to do -- unlock some of the locked-off areas. It would be so much better if they could do it in a consultative way with all parties -- but compromise is unknown to Greenies. "We want it all" is their juvenile cry.
A more mature Greenie response to what the voters have clearly asked for would be to suggest alternative areas that could be opened up that did not threaten environmental harm. But in a long article (only partially excerpted below) there was no whisper of that. They are emotional toddlers
Concerns over the Abbott government’s plans to “deregulate” the environment and give up much of its environmental powers to the states found a compelling voice this week, as revelations emerged that the Tasmanian government approved logging in contravention of expert advice, knowingly pushing an endangered bird much closer to extinction.
It’s the sort of industry-first approach that environmental lawyers and conservationists are concerned could become far more common under the federal government’s so-called ‘One Stop Shop’ reforms.
The policy would drastically diminish the federal environment minister’s portfolio and see state governments - which stand to gain much more from big developments, mining, and forestry - vested with assessment and approval powers over matters of national environmental significance.
The government says the ‘One Stop Shop’ will cut red tape without a drop in environmental standards but documents obtained by Environment Tasmania under freedom of information laws, released earlier week, have raised serious questions over the state’s commitment to conservation.
The Hodgman government has approved the logging of at least three out of five areas of forest which provide key breeding habitat for the endangered Swift Parrot, it was revealed, despite repeated advice from experts that it will hasten the species’ already steep decline to extinction.
“Conservation objectives for the species at the [local] and regional scales will not be met” if the areas are logged, scientists within Tasmania’s environment department warned.
Less than 1,000 breeding pairs of Swift Parrot remain. Each year the bird undertakes the longest known migration of any parrot, to breed on the east coast of Tasmania.
The areas the Tasmanian government has now approved for logging are high-quality nesting habitat that are known to host large numbers of the just 2,000 remaining individuals during breeding season.
Cutting down forests in this breeding habitat, scientists within the department warn in one email, “will result in the continued loss of breeding habitat that has been identified as being of very high importance for the species with the further fragmentation of foraging habitat”.
“This cannot contribute to the long term survival of the species.”
Put simply, “there is no scientific evidence to support the position that continued harvesting of breeding habitat will support conservation objectives for the species”.
Ordinarily, where matters of national environmental significance such as threatened species are involved, the federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act would be triggered and the Commonwealth government would be tasked with ensuring conservation outcomes are met.
For the Swift Parrot, though, there was no federal safeguard.
The Tasmanian government was allowed to issue the approvals, and ignore the expert advice, because of a deal with the federal government, known as the Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA).
It’s a deal that is remarkably similar to the wholesale hand-over of powers the Abbott government is pursuing through its One Stop Shop reform.
By JR on Sunday, March 29, 2015
Are people who distrust troublesome minorities wrong in the head?
I would have thought it obvious that people who TRUST troublesome minorities are wrong in the head -- but I am just a cautious old conservative so I guess my views don't count in the fairytale world of Left-dominated academe.
The New York Times does push the view that people who distrust troublesome minorities are wrong in the head. But they do so amid such a flood of words that is difficult to pin down any clear claims. I am referring to the article "The Brain’s Empathy Gap" of March 19, 2015. It was so difficult to pin down any clear assertions in it that I initially gave up any attempt to write some sort of critique of it. Answering it seemed like doing battle with a giant marshmallow. So, initially, I simply referred readers to what the excellent Steve Sailer had to say about it. I do think however that I have a few things to add to Steve's comments so I am going to tackle the challenge after all.
The article moves from stories about gypsies in Romania to a disquisition on brain scanning and then back to stories about gypsies in Romania. Romania is a poor country and Romanian gypsies are apparently the poorest of the poor. And it's all caused by "discrimination", of course. The jump between brain scans and Romanian gypsies is rather startling -- but whatever floats your boat, I guess.
What the brain scans showed were some clear patterns but the article itself admits that interpreting such patterns is still speculative. Here is a typical sentence from the article:
"And in both groups, a small region of the brain, the medial precuneus, which may be associated with the theory-of-mind network, responded more strongly"
And it also may be associated with airborne pork, I guess. I have been writing about such scans for some time and, at least among Leftist writers, they seem to be little more that a Rorschach Ink Blot test: What you see in the thing before you tells us more about you than it tells about the display before you. The NYT writer, Jeneen Interlandi, who is said to be a frequent contributor to the NYT magazine, soldiers on anyhow and proceeds to interpret the brain scans. She relies on some work by Emile Bruneau of MIT. It was he who found the enigmatic patterns in brain scans.
It was however an anomaly in the brain scans that caused the excitement. Three Israeli peace activists showed scans similar to Arabs. I can't imagine any Israeli being surprised by that but surprise it apparently did. The article goes on quite rightly to concede that the non-random and tiny sample precludes any generalizations from the findings but then goes on to make some mushy generalizations anyhow
When we get back to the gypsies there is a reasonably fair account of how the gypsies are in part the authors of their own problems. Their high level of petty crime and their unsavoury lifestyle are repellent to other Romanians. And the article admits that government programs designed to uplift the Gypsies have failed. We also read however that "racial prejudice was thwarting efforts to assimilate the Roma" -- where "Roma" is the politically correct word for Gypsy.
And, despite all its admissions, the article ends with a claim that by studying people's brain scans we might somehow be able to see where all that nasty prejudice is coming from and stop it -- presumanbly by sending the people with "bad" brain scans to Siberia or some such. That the main problem with gypsies is their known very low IQ is not of course mentioned. Leftists often give me cause to point out pachyderms in rooms.
And a final point I would like to make is that in elite thinking both inside and outside traditional gypsy lands, gypsies have long been appreciated. Despite their general intellectual limitations, many gypsies are brilliant musicians and their music is a substantial source of income for them. It is undoubtedly a rather eerie talent. There have been accounts of gypsies graduating from high-level music schools without being able to read a note of staff notation. They just memorize everything.
And in classical music circles, there have been many expressions of admiration for gypsies by reason of their musical talent. In the most famous opera of all time -- "Carmen" -- the leading lady is a gypsy, and she is certainly portrayed with overall admiration. And the gypsy lifestyle is also portrayed as admirable. And another well-known opera is "La Boheme", where "Boheme" is a French term for a gypsy. And the "Bohemian" lady is treated sympathetically there too. And in Lehar's operetta Zigeunerliebe, the gypsy lifestyle is again admired. And Kalman's operetta Graefin Maritza is one extended hymn of praise for gypsy music. And Kalman was a Hungarian -- and Hungary has a substantial population of Gypsies -- so it is unlikely that he had any illusions about them.
You can see the Moerbisch performance of Graefin Maritza online here. It's infinitely more entertaining than the NYT and the expressive Dagmar Schellenberger in the title role is a pleasure to watch and hear. She is both a most accomplished soprano and a superb actress.
So I would argue that in elite European opinion at least there has been much favourable disposition towards gypsies. That gypsies have been unable to parlay the favourable disposition towards them into any general uplift at all suggests that their own limitations are the problem -- rather than something bad in the heads of others.
By JR on Saturday, March 28, 2015
More stupid speculation and bad data from some arch-Warmists
The data behind the claim below is totally corrupt, almost hilariously so, (See here) but even if it were immaculate the inferences drawn below from it would still be very questionable
The North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation is not well understood and attributing a change in it to global warming is pure speculation. Rahmstorf is an oceanographer so he should be particularly ashamed at lending his name to this. But, then again, he claims that observed average temperature differences of a few HUNDREDTHS of a degree mean something, even though they are not even statistically significant.
And attributing changes in such a vast body of water to a temperature rise of less than one degree Celsius is on the face of it improbable anyhow
The Gulf Stream, the ocean current that brings mild weather to northern Europe and balmy conditions to the south east of the US, is slowing at its fastest rate in 1,000 years.
New research has revealed that the enormous currents that circulate warm and cold water around the Atlantic ocean has slowed by 15-20 per cent over the past century.
Scientists say that the increasing flow of fresh water from melting Greenland ice sheets may be driving the slowdown.
Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, an oceans physicist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: 'It is conspicuous that one specific area in the North Atlantic has been cooling in the past hundred years while the rest of the world heats up.
'Now we have detected strong evidence that the global conveyor has indeed been weakening in the past hundred years, particularly since 1970.
The findings suggest that as global temperatures rise due to climate change, areas that are warmed by the Gulf Stream could see temperatures fall, particularly in the winter. [Warming causes cooling, once again]
The Gulf Stream is a powerful current that forms part of the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.
This is a system of currents that are driven by the rising and sinking of water in different regions of the Atlantic.
Warm water from the equator is driven north towards the Artic where it cools, increases in salinity and sinks to the ocean depths.
This drives deep sea currents that pump water back to the equator, where it is warmed, rising to the surface and feeding the currents towards the pole.
In the Arctic, cold salty water sinks to the ocean depths, driving deep sea currents down to the equator where warmer water then rises to the surface and feeds the Gulf Stream.
The influx of warm water from the equator, which travels up through the Gulf of Mexico, past Maine and then up the west side of Britain and Norway, helps to warm weather systems in Northern Europe.
It makes winter conditions in much of northern Europe far milder than they normally would be, keeping Britain and the west coast of Norway largely snow and ice free through the winter months.
The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that the sea in the northern Atlantic is colder than predicted by computer models. [What? Another model failure?]
They estimate that 8,000 cubic kilometres of fresh melt water haver flowed into the northern Atlantic from Greenland's icesheets between 1900 and 1970.
This fresh water is less dense than the salty water of the ocean and tends to float on the surface, disturbing the balance that causes cold water to sink in that region.
Usually freezing sea ice in the arctic causes the salinity of the ocean water to increase and so become more dense. Adding fresh water dilutes this effect.
Using recent sea surface and atmospheric temperature data, along with data from ice-cores, tree rings and sediments, they found that the changes in the ocean currents are unprecedented since the year 900AD.
However, the researchers also found that the cooling above the Northern Atlantic may also help to slightly reduce the effect of warming on the continents due to climate change.
They warn, however, that if the circulation weakens too much it could even break down completely. [How?]
Professor Jason Box, from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, said it appeared man-made climate change was responsible for the slow down of the Gulf Stream and may worsen as global temperatures increase.
He said: 'The human-caused mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet appears to be slowing down the Atlantic overturning – and this effect might increase if temperatures are allowed to rise further.'
By JR on Friday, March 27, 2015
The latest IQ study
The latest IQ study (below) has a slightly defensive air. Despite ferocious efforts by Leftists to suppress findings that pop the bubble of Leftist claims, it seems that the genetic contribution to IQ has now become well-known and generally accepted. So the effort nowadays seems to have moved towards proving that there are environmental influences too. Previous IQ researchers have never doubted that and usually estimate that around one third of IQ is determined by environmental factors.
And the conclusions below disturb nothing. Both genetic and environmental influences on IQ were found. The main interest of the findings in this study therefore is *how much* influence environment had. The researchers report that a wealthy childhood environment gave the kid an extra 4 points of IQ -- about a quarter of a standard deviation -- over a kid brought up in a poor family.
If anything, that figure is perhaps a bit low. But the study is not a strong one anyhow. It used adopted full-brothers rather than twins so genetic differences could be only roughly controlled for. And assessing IQ in the late teens is not optimal either. The influence of genetics is not fully revealed until about age 30 -- after the influence of early environmental factors has largely worn off.
Family environment and the malleability of cognitive ability: A Swedish national home-reared and adopted-away cosibling control study
By Kenneth S. Kendler et al.
Individual differences in cognitive ability result from a complex admixture of genetic and environmental influences. Adopted children are one way to estimate the degree of malleability of cognitive ability in response to environmental change in the context of a scientific design that can control for genetic differences among individuals. Sibling pairs in which one member is adopted away and the other reared by biological parents are a particularly powerful research design. In a large population-based sample of separated siblings from Sweden, we demonstrate that adoption into improved socioeconomic circumstances is associated with a significant advantage in IQ at age 18. We replicate the finding in a parallel sample of half-siblings.
Cognitive ability strongly aggregates in families, and prior twin and adoption studies have suggested that this is the result of both genetic and environmental factors. In this study, we used a powerful design—home-reared and adopted-away cosibling controls—to investigate the role of the rearing environment in cognitive ability. We identified, from a complete national Swedish sample of male–male siblings, 436 full-sibships in which at least one member was reared by one or more biological parents and the other by adoptive parents. IQ was measured at age 18–20 as part of the Swedish military service conscription examination. Parental educational level was rated on a 5-point scale. Controlling for clustering of offspring within biological families, the adopted siblings had an IQ 4.41 (SE = 0.75) points higher than their nonadopted siblings. Each additional unit of rearing parental education was associated with 1.71 (SE = 0.44) units of IQ. We replicated these results in 2,341 male–male half-sibships, in which, controlling for clustering within families, adoption was associated with a gain of IQ of 3.18 (SE = 0.34) points. Each additional unit of rearing parental education was associated with 1.94 (SE = 0.18) IQ units. Using full- and half-sibling sets matched for genetic background, we found replicated evidence that (i) rearing environment affects IQ measured in late adolescence, and (ii) a portion of the IQ of adopted siblings could be explained by the educational level of their adoptive parents.
Interesting that one of the co-authors above is Eric Turkheimer. Turkheimer is much loved on the left for his demonstration -- using a group of poor 7-year olds -- that genetics is not an important determinant of IQ among poor kids -- where "poor kids" is probably rightly interpreted to mean "blacks".
What he found was probably little more than a restriction of range effect but he has repeatedly refused to release his raw data so we may never know. Refusing to release raw data is a breach of all scientific protocols. We see it in Warmist researchers too. It is pretty close to an admission of fraud.
The reason Leftists hate IQ tests is that they contradict the Leftist "equality" creed. The application of that creed to blacks is however relatively recent. Introductory psychology textbooks in the early '60s presented the black IQ findings without hesitation. I remember it well. It was presented as one of the accepted findings in psychology. As the great fantasy revolution of the '60s rolled on however, fact came to be replaced by righteous indignation. The fantasists said that blacks COULD NOT be less intelligent so therefore the tests were bunk.
Equality has always been a silly but seductive dream. It goes at least as far back as the "Levellers" of Cromwell's time. And the Cromwellian era was undoubtedly much loved among America's founding fathers. So Jefferson's "created equal" phrase in the Declaration of Independence is no surprise. But it is a pretty foggy phrase. Are there many acts of creation or is normal childbirth an act of creation? Or is it meant that God created Adam in such a way that all his descendants would be equal? If so "The Fall" has clearly disrupted that intention.
But we should not take that part of the Declaration too seriously, however. The Declaration, like most political documents, was a product of much debate and compromise so Jefferson's ambiguous phrase was just a device to keep happy both those with Leveller beliefs and those with more realistic beliefs.
However you look at it, however, equality is a faith-based belief, not a fact. It has no basis in fact. Rejection of IQ tests is therefore a faith-based act. And the low average IQ scores of blacks are in fact powerful validation of the tests as measures of intelligence.
From the test results we would hypothesize that blacks would be at the bottom of just about every heap -- and they are -- in income, education, status, health, lifespan and crime-incidence etc. What we know of black behaviour is powerful PROOF that the tests get it right. Leftists can only reject the tests by closing their eyes to black behaviour. But they are very good at that
By JR on Thursday, March 26, 2015
Climate change will allegedly make food TASTE bad: Global warming will lead to tougher meat and flavourless carrots
It's all Warmist theory-based prophecy. Karoly is an old shell-backed Warmist. And we know how good Warmist prophecies are
But let me mention some facts instead. If warming is bad for flavour, fruit from the Tropics should be insipid. But I grew up in the tropics and I can assure you that tropical fruit are yummy: Pawpaws and mangoes are of course well-known but there are also Granadillas, Soursops, Custard apples and other fruit which are little known because they do not travel well -- but which are very tasty indeed. If you've never eaten Granadilla and ice-cream, you haven't lived. And the sad things called pawpaws outside the tropics are nowhere nearly as good as pawpaws straight off the tree.
As for any overall shortage of food being caused by warming, that is utter nonsense. Plantlife flourishes in warm climates like nowhere else. It almost leaps out and grabs you at times in the tropics
For those hoping global warming will bring more opportunities for a summer barbecue, there may be disappointment ahead - climate change is likely to make steaks and burgers far less appetising.
In a major report on the impact of global warming on food, scientists have concluded that the quality of many meats and vegetables is due to decline at temperatures increase.
The researchers predict that as heatwaves become more common, steaks and other meats are likely to become stringier and tougher - putting the traditional barbecue at risk.
Popular vegetables like carrots are also likely to become less flavoursome and have a less pleasant texture.
Potatoes are likely to suffer far more from blight, which rots the tubers and makes them inedible.
Onions could get smaller if temperatures early in the season increase while fruit and nut trees in some regions may not get cold enough to signal fruit development.
The report, produced by scientists at the University of Melbourne, also warned that milk yields could decrease by up to 10-25 per cent as heatwaves grow more common.
Lower levels of grain production could also hit dairy cattle, meaning their milk contains less protein, which would result in poorer quality cheese.
Professor Richard Eckard, director of the primary industries climate challenges centre at the University of Melbourne, said: 'It’s definitely a wake up call when you hear that the toast and raspberry jam you have for breakfast, for example, might not be as readily available in 50 years time.
'Or that there may be changes to the cost and taste of food items we love and take for granted like avocado and vegemite, spaghetti bolognaise and even beer, wine and chocolate.
'It makes you appreciate that global warming is not a distant phenomenon but a very real occurrence that is already affecting the things we enjoy in our everyday lives, including the most common of foods we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.'
The scientists assessed the impact of the changing climate on 55 foods grown in Australia and other parts of the world.
It predicted that as weather conditions get warmer, with heatwaves and other extreme events increasing in frequency, agricultural production will be hit hard.
The cost of apples could rise as farmers try to combat damage from extreme temperatures on fruits like apples by using shade cloths.
Heat stress will have a particular impact on meat production with cattle and chickens suffering in higher temperatures and affecting their appetite.
This will mean meat is likely to be be tougher and more stingy.
Pigs could have particular problems in the heat as they do not possess sweat glands.
Avocados are also likely to get smaller in warmer temperatures as the plants get stressed while the trees themselves will flower far less.
Temperatures above 27 degrees can cause beetroot flowering stems to grow early and result in smaller bulbs, while the vegetable can also lose some of its distinctive red colouring in warmer temperatures.
Professor David Karoly, an atmospheric scientists at the University of Melbourne and one of the co-authors of the report, said countries like Australia, where drought is already a major problem, are likely to be worse hit.
He said: 'Global warming is increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and bushfires affecting farms across southern and eastern Australia, and this will get much worse in the future if we don’t act.
'It’s a daunting thought when you consider that Australian farms produce 93% of the food we eat.'
By JR on Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Zigeunerliebe and GWF Hegel
I guess it shows what a hopeless academic I am that I could write the heading above. Only an academic would compare a Viennese operetta with a nigh-unintelligible Leftist philosopher. I guess they both spoke German. There's that to it.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century, there seems to have been some fascination with Gypsies as living "free" lives. You see it in Carmen, in Zigeunerliebe and Il Trovatore, for instance. Lehar's Zigeunerliebe has a somewhat minor place in operatic history but I was watching a 1973 cinematic version of it last night so it is in front of my mind at the moment.
Both Carmen and Zigeunerliebe feature a fascination with gypsy life. And the portrayal is fairly similar in both cases. The major difference is that the ending is tragic in the opera (Carmen) and happy in the operetta (Zigeunerliebe). But that's basically the difference between the two art-forms. In some operettas there are THREE happy couples at the end (e.g. Der Graf von Luxemburg and Im weissen Roessl) so Zigeunerliebe is actually rather morose in having only one. The scheming old father was apparently seen as not deserving of marital bliss.
Both Carmen and Zigeunerliebe are quite moral tales. They say that a desire for freedom can be strong but freedom is in the end illusory -- or at least has a lot of downside.
Which brings me to GWF Hegel -- who thought the same. Hegel was of course the philosophical inspiration of both Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler but still seems popular among the small number of Leftists who are capable of thinking at any depth. And you DO need to be a deep thinker to follow Hegel. His writings are a real struggle to follow. I gather that he gave satisfying lectures, however, and after people were inspired by his lectures, they made the effort of following his writings -- and so generally broadcast his name and fame. I have a more extended comment on his writings here.
But the problem Hegel and the opera characters were addressing is a real one. We all like to be free from restrictions but a moment's thought will tell us that rights connote duties. For example, my right not to be assaulted is everybody elses's duty not to assault me. Similarly, the opportunity Gypsies have to move around a lot makes it difficult for them to earn a living. They have to resort to some rather unpleasant work, such as begging and stealing.
Hegel, however carries that insight to an extreme degree. He basically said all freedom is an illusion. Being a philosopher, however, he did not actually deny freedom. He redefined it -- saying that the only freedom was freedom to march in lockstep with everyone else. His idea of freedom was the freedom of the ant. His model of an ideal human society was an anthill.
Fortunately, the English have always valued their individual liberties so Hegel's ideas were not widely accepted in England and its derivative societies. And both in England and elsewhere the 19th century also produced some good defences of individual liberties -- both in the persons of various economists (culminating in the thinking of Boehm-Bawerk) and in the very lucid philosophical writings of J.S. Mill. Sadly, Mill did not practice what he preached. His votes in the House of Commons were thoroughly socialist. Rather amazingly, he was a crypto-Hegelian. His On Liberty seems to have been just an intellectual exercise for him.
Fortunately the classical liberal ideas of Mill and others developed in the 20th century to thinking now known as libertarianism -- thinking which sets out in detail how a very much larger scope for liberty than we currently have can be achieved. And insofar as libertarian ideas have been applied (for instance in the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan) the results have been very benign -- a stark contrast with the ideas of GWF Hegel.
So there is an answer to the opera characters and others who idolize the Gypsies: Freedom can never be absolute but we can go much further towards it than we so far have done.
So Lehar's Zigeuner Liebe was rather insightfully didactic. The glorification of gypsies was rather common in Austro/Hungarian operetta so Lehar used his great talents in an attempt to right the balance. In this show he first set out the attractions of the gypsy life, as conventionally conceived, and then showed its downside. And there was lots of good singing to make the lesson enjoyable
Didactic art can be very good (e.g. Dickens) but that tends to get subordinated to the message. And in this show there were very few jokes and no characters that one could identify with. Janet Perry is/was a very nice looking lady and a good singer but I certainly could not see much engaging about the thoroughly scatty woman she portrayed.
And I must comment on "Ilona". She was convincingly portrayed by Colette Lorand and she fitted exactly what my father would have called "An old bomb". I am not sure how widely that bit of Australian slang is understood but -- approximately -- it means an older lady who thinks she is still as attractive as she was in her youth and is rather arrogant and egotistical as a result: An unpleasant but realistic character. I quite loathed her. But in a characteristic Australian way I loathe pretention and egotism generally. It's "bunging on an act" and it's not "fair dinkum". I could translate those expressions but I think I already have.
So it was good a show but not one to return to very often.
By JR on Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Which was worse, WWI or WWII?
I understand that the death toll in WWI was greater than WWII but I am not going to base anything on that. Instead I want to submit that the major tragedy of WWI was the Bolshevik revolution and that the major tragedy of WWII was the holocaust. That is of course arguable but, given that, I think the answer is clear.
But first let me spell out why the Bolshevik revolution was attributable to WWI. There are two reasons. The first is that Germany deliberately and with malice aforethought transported the exiled Lenin in a sealed train across Europe to Russia. The German High Command rightly assessed Lenin as a major threat to the Russian war effort and therefore facilitated his trouble-making in that country as part of their own war effort.
Secondly, before the Bolshevik takeover, Russia had become a real parliamentary democracy. The Mensheviks were democrats who believed in elections. The overthrow of the Mensheviks during the war by the Bolsheviks was therefore a violent overthrow of democracy -- which resulted in many millions of deaths both then and across the next 70 years -- and also condemned the world's largest country to tyranny and poverty for all that time.
I am the last to minimize the death of 6 million Jews. But it seems clear to me that the Bolshevik revolution was much more widely harmful.
By JR on Monday, March 23, 2015
Race And The American Millennial’s Brain Rot
Ilana Mercer is an expert at writing scarifying prose. She is supreme at ripping people to pieces verbally. So what she writes below seems rather exaggerated to me. She grew up in Israel so may be more critical because of that. I am also in no doubt however that there is a large element of truth in what she writes below. The Left have been dumbing down and distorting American education for so long that any other state of affairs could hardly be expected.
I am more optimistic than she appears to be, however. And I am optimistic because of one thing: IQ. IQ is largely hereditary so is not readily susceptible to destruction by the Fascists that American "liberals" have become. So I think that, as they grow up, the brighter part of the Millennial cohort will work things out pretty well for themselves. That will be assisted by the large gap that always exists between Leftist beliefs and reality.
And societal progress is not strongly dependant on the mental state of the masses. It very largely depends on the "smart fraction" of society. As long as the top 5% of any population are on the ball, the society as a whole will do well.
Israel is a prime example of the centrality of the smart fraction. Largely because of the Sephardi and Mizrachi element in the overall population, the average IQ in Israel is just that: average, around 100 IQ points. But the Ashkenazim are another matter. They average out roughly half a standard deviation above the mean, which is a lot. And it is primarily they who have made Israel into the brilliant society that it is
So I think that, where it exists, American talent will continue to thrive
“Silence; We’re Studying for Our Pregnancy Test” (2008), “Your Kids: Dumb, Difficult and Dispensable” (2010), “Higher Education Is A Hard Row To Ho” (2014): The author of such titles is well aware of how stupid, on average, American millennials are. She has been for some time.
The 2010 piece aforementioned warned that “the electronic toys our dim, attention-deficient darlings depend on to sustain brain waves are made, for the most, by older people,” and that “the hi-tech endeavor consist in older Americans and Asians uniting to supply young, twittering twits with the playthings that keep their brainwaves from flatlining.”
According to my sources in the high-tech industry, for every useless, self-aggrandizing Gen Yer, a respectful, bright, industrious (East) Asian, with a wicked work ethic, waits in the wings. The millennial generation will be another nail in the coffin of the flailing American productivity.
Encounters over the years with a relatively smart cohort, through this column, have solidified these impressions. Oh yes: I did my patriotic part. I attempted to employ a Millennial or two. I found them to be incapable of following simple written instructions. Their interactions were, moreover, pathologically personal, never professional.
Now, confirmation of these anecdotal impressions comes courtesy of researchers at the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service (ETS). Sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the ETS researchers found that, “Not only do Gen Y Americans trail their overseas peers by every measure, but they even score lower than other age groups of Americans.”
Millennials in the U.S. lag in literacy, “including the ability to follow simple instructions, practical math, and—hold on to your hat—a category called ‘problem-solving in technology-rich environments.’” Worse yet: “Even the best-educated Millennials stateside couldn’t compete with their counterparts in Japan, Finland, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden, or elsewhere. … Altogether, the top U.S. Gen Yers, in the 90th percentile, scored lower than their counterparts in 15 countries.”
This includes millennials with masters degrees and doctorates. Our best and brightest managed to best their peers in only three countries: Ireland, Poland and Spain. Much as Charles Murray has documented in his seminal “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,” the results obtain irrespective of class and race.
Rejoice! America is becoming an egalitarian Idiocracy.
Let us anchor these general findings about the nature of the Gen Y Beast in particular examples from the passing week.
A few students at the University of Oklahoma were caught in flagrante, singing a racist ditty while white. The cretins of cable were in high dudgeon. CNN’s Brianna Keilar crisscrossed a black student, Meagan Johnson, about her experience with racism on the UO campus.
Oh yes, replied the girl. She had indeed endured the indignities of racism at the UO. “We experience forms, different forms of racism on our campus all the time. It wasn’t shocking at all.” Keilar requested examples. Right away, the student replied that her “overall experience at OU has been a great one.” It was vital, she added, for “the University of Oklahoma … to focus on diversity across our campus. … it needs to be a campus wide effort to make OU [a] more diverse and more inclusive place.”
Here was an example of an educated lass who was incapable of comprehending and answering a straightforward question. Encouraged by Keilar’s effusive praise—”I love your perspective on this Meagan,” she gushed—the girl went on to cop to experiencing “racial microaggression”: She had been asked for lessons in twerking and complimented on her weave.
A pedagogue, presumably, had taught the girl about “microaggression.” Race Robocop Keilar responded with compliments. Thus was this Millennial’s mindlessness reinforced.
Millennials have been pre-programmed and praised for stupidity. They’ve acquired an education yet they remain uneducated. For an educated young American would know that racist speech, too, is constitutionally protected speech. And an educated young American would know that, as professor Eugene Volokh teaches, “It’s unconstitutional for the University of Oklahoma to expel students for racist speech.”
It would appear that when the neocortex is underused, the reptilian brain takes over.
Hysteria and heightened emotions are the hallmarks of the Millennial Mind. They can “whip up a false sense of mass outrage” with ease. The Spectator’s Brendan O’Neill calls these walking dead dodos “The Stepford Students.” They sit “stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously police beer-fueled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in their company will know that these students are far more interested in shutting debate down than opening it up.”
Black, liberal and bright—oops; I committed a “microaggression”—comedian Chris Rock recently confessed that he avoids doing his stand-up routine in front of millennial audiences. “You can’t say ‘the black kid over there.’ No, it’s ‘the guy with the red shoes.’ You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.”
In the Orwellian universe in which your kids are suspended, words speak louder than actions. Drunken youths sang a nine-second ditty while white—they did not defraud, steal, vandalize, beat, rape or murder anyone; they merely mouthed ugly words.
Unkind cuts, however, called for an exorcism. On cue, a petrified Waspy man, OU President David Boren, proceeded to perform the rituals that would soothe his unhinged charges. While Boren failed to fumigate the fraternity, tear his clothes; rub earth and ashes on his noggin and dress in sackcloth—he did shutter the doors to the dorm and board up its windows. A vice president of diversity was appointed. Soviet-style investigations launched, and summary expulsions sans due process carried out.
Tyranny, as we know, strives for uniformity.
In synch with their pedagogic pied piper, University of Oklahoma students gathered for prayer vigils, marches, demonstrations and lamentation. Burly athletes wept. One Oklahoma football lineman “decommitted,” or was committed.
This menagerie of morons—this institutionalized stupidity—would be comical were it not so calamitous, as shown by the research commissioned by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
By JR on Sunday, March 22, 2015
I am outraged
I was brought up as a Presbyterian and, culturally, I guess I still am one. I even still read Presbyterian publications at times. So the lily-livered report below from one such publication is deeply disappointing to me.
The report is from the head of the Presbyterian church in Queensland and his report is of a meeting with local Muslim leaders. So did the meeting express any concern at all about the large-scale and grievous attacks on Christians in Muslim lands?
Such attacks were not mentioned at all. We read that the meeting was "to express concern about the violence that has been perpetrated against some Muslims simply because they are Muslims".
And in the press release we find out what the "violence" was: "recent negative sentiments expressed toward Muslims and especially Muslim women". So rape, torture and death of thousands of Christians fades into insignificance compared with a few harsh words about Muslims!
I am flabbergasted. The man quotes the Bible but he is a Pharisee, a hypocrite, an abomination and a "whited sepulchre".
Has he not read: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). Christ had great concern for every one of his followers but the Rt. Rev. Phil Case apparently does not.
He was only one of the church leaders at the meeting but he voices no disquiet about its reprehensible proceedings.
Heads of Churches meeting with members of Queensland Islamic council
By Rt. Rev. Phil Case (Moderator of the Presbyterian church in Queensland)
I attended the Heads of Churches meeting on the 20th October. We met with the Brisbane leaders of the Islamic community.
Some might ask why we would meet with them when our faiths are so different. This was not a meeting about the content of our respective faiths, but a meeting to express concern about the violence that has been perpetrated against some Muslims simply because they are Muslims. It was a meeting to support the Freedom of Religion we enjoy in Australia.
I think it was Evelyn Beatrice Hall biographer of Voltaire who wrote “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
If we do not speak out against these actions pertaining to people because of their religion, how can we speak out when we are acted against because of our Christian faith? We do not share beliefs with the Islamic Community, but we do share our humanity with them. Our Lord has commanded us to love our neighbour, and to love our enemies.
Speaking out in defence of their right to live in peace as law abiding citizens is doing just this. Aggression toward people arises from fear; fear of that which is different, fear of that which we do not know and understand.
It would be good if we as Christians could take the time to get to know our Islamic neighbours and show them love at the appropriate level. How can we expect them to listen to us if we will not listen to them and take the time to get to know them?
Not only is this an opportunity to live out the commands of our Lord to love our neighbour, but it is an opportunity to share the Gospel with people who desperately need it. God has brought these people to our shores, but the tragedy is that most of these people have no more contact with Christians than they would if they still lived in their Islamic homeland.
They hear no more of the Gospel and know no more of Christianity than those in countries where Christians are not free to share the Gospel. In 1 Peter 3:15-16 we read "...in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience..."
If Christ is Lord, we are to be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about our faith and hope. But no one is going to ask about our hope if we never bother to meet and get to know anyone.
Note also, that we are to do it with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. We are always to act with care and respect for those we speak to. It is interesting that this is Peter’s command to those who may be afraid of persecution (see verse 14).
We are not to be afraid. We are not to fear anything because our Lord is in control. Let us take the opportunity while it is day to do good to all men and to share the Gospel.
I encourage all Christians to learn not just about the beliefs of Islam, but also to get to know some people who practise Islam. Our common humanity ensures we have much in common with them.
Many of their concerns are our concerns. They are having open days at mosques and are open to invitations to events that we might hold at our churches. This is a golden opportunity to build peace and share the Gospel as the Lord permits.
It will take time and effort to build relationships in which questions can be asked and answered, but let’s not miss out.
Heads of Churches meeting with members of Queensland Islamic Council
by Rt Rev Phil Case
On Monday 20 October, the Heads of Christian Churches met with members of the Islamic Council of Queensland to consider ways of strengthening relations between the Christian and Islamic communities in the State that promote respect and harmony.
The meeting was precipitated by the concern over the recent negative sentiments expressed toward Muslims and especially Muslim women.
The meeting abhorred such actions, and called upon all Queenslanders to respect the right of all Australians to enjoy Freedom of Religion, and seeks to promote ways in which understanding and tolerance between people of different faiths can be increased.
Churches represented included the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Uniting, Congregational Federation of Australian and New Zealand, Australian Christian Churches, Presbyterian Church of Queensland and the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia.
As well as members of the Queensland Islamic Council there were also representatives of the Council of Imams, Crescents of Brisbane and AMARAH in attendance.
Topics discussed included supporting freedom of religious practices and ideas within the Australian community; showing dignity to all people regardless of their beliefs and ways of life; and speaking with a united voice to government and politicians on topics of mutual concern.
As well it was agreed to support initiatives such as the open mosque days, organising forums to educate the wider community about Islam
By JR on Saturday, March 21, 2015
Breastfeeding and IQ
There is an elegantly done study just out in Lancet Which shows that, among Brazilians, children who were breastfed for some time grew up to have slightly higher IQs. The study title is "Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil".
I really hate to demolish such extensive and careful work but the study has a fatal flaw: Maternal IQ was not measured. And, surprising though it may seem IQ is hugely important to breastfeeding. High IQ mothers breastfeed a lot more. And IQ is of course mainly genetically transmitted. So all that the study really shows is that high IQ mothers have high IQ children, which is no news at all.
In the statistics section of the paper I was delighted to come across a word that I had forgotten I knew: "Heteroscedasticity". I must use it sometime.
By JR on Friday, March 20, 2015
A problem vocabulary -- and a partial solution
Many stages in my life have added to my vocabulary. I was born into an Australian working class home so I speak the vivid Australian slanguage with joy -- but I don't usually write it.
And I am basically a literary type so I know the difference between a dactylic and an anapaestic rhythm. And neither "eleemosynary" nor "emoluments" are mystery words to me
And I have studied 3 languages so have many words from them in my brain. For instance, I can use Volk and Reich with accuracy and sometimes use words of Latin origin in their Latin meaning. And a lot of people don't like the ungracious English name "Eggplant" for a rather desirable fruit so call it by the French name instead: "Aubergine". But I don't like much about the French but do rather like Italians. The vastly "incorrect" Silvio Berlusconi is something of a hero of mine. So I call the vegetable "Melanzane", which is both the Italian word and a version of its botanical name (Solanum melongena).
My odd food words mostly oppress Anne, the lady in my life. But she has got used to them and even makes her own Liptauer these days -- and has even tried to make cevapi. But she and I share similar geographical and social origins so I can talk to her in broad Australian -- which is pleasing to us both. When I call someone a "galah" or a "drongo" she knows what I mean.
And my early very intensive studies of the Bible have left me with an extensive knowledge and appreciation of the wonderful words and phrases of the King James Bible, plus a knowledge of theology and textual criticism. So I know what Masoretic and paraclete means.
And at university I did some studies in linguistics and came out of that with an appreciation of both Old English and Middle English. So I occasionally use constructions from those sources. One of my favourite proverbs in fact uses Middle English: "If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there'd be no room for tinkers" ("an" means "if" in Middle English). And I am prone to reciting Chaucer in the original Middle English.
And my doctorate in the social sciences has left me with a useful statistics vocabulary -- so I am inclined to talk about "orthogonal" factors and "leptokurtic" curves, for instance.
So with that wonderful treasure of words available to me, I am inclined to use it, where appropriate. The big problem with that, however, is that if I used my vocabulary as I am inclined to do, I would render a lot of what I write barely intelligible a lot of the time. Most people have backgrounds quite different from mine.
So what I have long done is to write something out fairly spontaneously and then go back through it replacing the uncommon words with simple words of mainly Anglo-Saxon origin. And I am pleased to say that such simplification often clarifies my thought and rarely obscures it.
But I am getting old and no longer have the time and energy I once did so lately I have tended on some occasions to let my original words stand rather than revise them. And that will probably get gradually worse as time goes by.
So this is just an apology if what I write is not immediately clear. I am however consoled by the thought that everybody has Wikipedia and various online dictionaries at their fingertips these days so can clarify any obscure words with considerable celerity (Latin: "celer" = "quick").
Just for fun, here are a few odd words I have been using lately -- either in writing or in speech: narthex, vietato, endorheic, spinto, exegesis, rhotic
By JR on Thursday, March 19, 2015
Extreme weather the new normal in Australia's disaster-prone neighbourhood
As soon as I saw the headline above I smelled a rat. I then deployed my pesky habit of going back to the raw data underlying the report. I did not have to go far. I read here:
"In order for a disaster to be entered into the database at least one of the following criteria has to be fulfilled: - 10 or more people reported killed; - 100 people reported affected; - a call for international assistance; - declaration of a state of emergency"
So the finding is not about climate but about people. It does not list cyclones, hurricanes etc. but rather the number of people impacted. And with growing populations in third world countries -- where most of the casualties occur -- one must expect more people to be impacted when severe weather strikes. The data therefore tell us NOTHING about "climate change"
If it seems to you that major humanitarian emergencies are happening more often, you're right. Extreme weather events like the one that devastated Vanuatu on Saturday are on the rise. Since 2000, the average number of climate-related disasters each year has been 44 per cent higher than between 1994 and 2000 and well over twice the level during the 1980s, a data-based managed by Brussels-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters shows.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a disaster risk reduction conference in Japan on Saturday that climate change is making extreme weather events the new normal.
"Over the last two decades, more than four out of every five disasters were related to the climate change phenomenon," he said. "The economic toll is as high as $300 billion every year."
Developing countries are disproportionately affected – they account for about 95 per cent of all people killed by natural disasters – and once again small, vulnerable nations have been hit hardest. Cyclone Pam caused damage in Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands before tearing through Vanuatu.
Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale has stressed the long-term consequences of the disaster.
"All I can say is that our hope for prospering in future have been sedated."
Australia's immediate neighbourhood is especially prone to extreme weather events. The latest World Risk Index, collated by the United Nations University, showed five of the 10 countries most vulnerable to disasters are near Australia. The index's rankings have proved alarmingly accurate. Vanuatu was ranked No.1 on the index, and the Philippines, which was shattered by Cyclone Haiyan only 16 months ago, was ranked No.2. Other Australian neighbours among the top 10 were Tonga, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
Australia is a significant contributor to the global humanitarian system and has a special responsibility in the Pacific region.
"As one of the biggest and strongest economies in the region, Australia really should be leading the way in helping our closest neighbours to prepare for and recover from disasters such as Cyclone Pam," said Paul Ronalds, the head Save the Children Australia.
Australia contributes about 60 per cent of all the aid given in the Pacific Islands and is best equipped to lead major humanitarian operations in the region. With the humanitarian system under strain across the globe, it is likely Australia will be called upon more often to provide assistance after extreme weather events in the Pacific.
By JR on Wednesday, March 18, 2015
MOVIE REVIEW of "Kingsman: The Secret Service", only recently released and the most subversive anti-AGW movie yet
Anthony Cox below rightly reports that the movie has a large basis in fact. The Green/Left do indeed despise humanity and want to reduce the human population. And many do see humanity as a "disease" infecting and damaging the planet. And as psychohistorian Richard Koenigsberg points out at length, that is also how Hitler saw Jews -- as parasites infecting Germany.
Leftists rarely know much about history and it shows. They keep on repeating themselves with no awareness of their past mistakes and failures. Because they know so little history, they cannot learn from it.
Note that Croly and others of the war-mongering American "Progressives" around the beginning of the 20th century also relied on the human body as an analogy to the state and justified their policies as "healing" the body of America. The more things change, the more they remain the same -- at least among Leftists
Some movies are unintentionally anti-AGW because they are so pretentious like Atavar or just plain stupid like Noah.
Some are subtle and sly in their critique of AGW like Interstellar, a great movie or Captain America: The Winter Soldier another great piece of cinema.
But there is nothing subtle or sly about Kingsman: The Secret Service; this movie presents in Technicolour the awful nature of alarmists; they are elitist, narcissistic and misanthropic. And riddled in hypocrisy.
The villain is Valentine, played by Samuel Jackson. Valentine is another tech billionaire who despises his fellow man for causing AGW. His solution is to kill off 99.9% of the human population.
His sales pitch to the rich and famous is classic alarmist agigprop. Valentine tells them that humans are a virus raising the temperature of the living Earth. If the virus isn’t destroyed the planet’s fever will worsen and either the planet will fight back and kill the disease of the disease will kill the planet.
The idea that humans are a disease or parasite has underpinned the AGW narrative and is espoused by all the leading AGW scientists and particularly AGW’s many rich supporters like Bill Gates.
In Kingsman Valentine is seen convincing Obama of his vision which is ironic since Obama’s chief scientist, John Holdren, is an avid supporter of forced reduction of humanity. In real life Obama would have taking no convincing.
Valentine, as the archetypal rich supporter of AGW, has a tenuous hold on real life. He thinks he is living in a movie and can’t stand the sight of blood even though he is prepared to kill billions.
Valentine is the perfect portrayal of the elitist loon who supports AGW. He has made his vast wealth from his society and now as a matter of vanity will destroy that society. The thought that his lifestyle will cease when the society is destroyed doesn’t enter his thinking. This is cognitive dissonance on a grand scale.
Valentine implants chips in the chosen ones so they can resist the doomsday device he has perfected.
In a delicious twist all the elistists, including Obama (and Prince Charles) literally lose their heads when the device backfires.
The movie wittily portrays the religious nature of AGW belief when Valentine tests his device on a bible bashing Southern Baptist church. The message is plain: when religion claims to be fact trouble is inevitable. This is what has happened with AGW: it is religion masquerading as fact. Armed with the pseudoscience of AGW rich crackpots like Valentine can live out their dreams. At the end Valentine can’t tell reality from his ego generated bubble of fantasy.
The movie offers no formal solution to the blight of public corruption by the AGW scam and relies on a steadfast and very aggressive secret organisation to violently eradicate the AGW zealots and hypocrites.
We should be so lucky in the real world.
By JR on Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Bright British pupils do 50% worse if they're poor
Hmmm. I have read the PDF of this study and am not greatly impressed. I am perfectly sure that the overall conclusion (headline above) of the study is pretty right but I see some deficiencies in methodology and in the reasons given for the findings.
I am particularly unimpressed by the measure used to classify children as "bright". The authors assess that by the grades in core subjects attained at the end of primary school. But that is a product of many things -- as the report itself acknowledges -- rather than straight intelligence. So what it tells us will necessarily be obscure. The authors were obviously up against the current anti-intellectual horror of IQ measurement. Nonetheless, school attainment does correlate substantially with IQ so the measure used was not entirely hopeless and did produce intelligible results.
I see the results as reflecting mainly school quality. The authors did assess that but the measures used were, I think, distorted by political correctness. Assessing a school as "poor" when it contains mostly minority students would cause much grinding of mental gears and the final assessment will probably therefore be dishonest to a substantial degree. And in another bow to political correctness, the authors seem to have taken no notice of race. The very word "race" is a no-no, of course. Yet it is a major factor in educational attainment. In the USA, educators have been agonizing for years over the "gap" in black versus white school attainment.
So it's my suspicion that a frankly-done study would show that students who fall behind their previous levels of attainment during High School do so very largely because they are sent to poor schools. Poor people live in poor locations, where the schools too are poorer in various ways. And a major reason why why schools in poor areas offer an inferior education is that poor areas are also the major location for minorities. And middle-class parents flee as if from the plague when it comes to sending their children to schools dominated by minorities. They know, as I suspect we all do, that minorities are harder to discipline, harder to teach and tend to drag standards down to the lowest common denominator. A bright student sent to such a school will undoubtedly receive an inferior education.
And since I am already deep into political incorrectness, I will mention something else. The popular category "minorities" is inadequate. Children of subcontinental origin appear to be no great problem. It is children of sub-Saharan African ancestry who give themselves and everyone else big problems. Their combination of high restlessness and low IQ make them a bane on any classroom. Where they are present in numbers, the amount taught will be minimal indeed.
So the solution to the problem of disadvantaged bright children is a lot simpler than the authors of the study below suggest: Academic selection. Send high IQ pupils to schools where they will be in the company of other bright students only.
So we return to the old Grammar School controversy. Leftists hate such schools because they are "elitist" and transgress against the impossible ideal of "equality".
But perhaps there is a middle way. Grammar schools have a whole ethos that separates them from other State schools. But why not have a State school that is generally indistinguishable from other State schools except that it requires success in an 11-plus exam for enrolment? Any other "solution" is pissing into the wind.
Because I believe (and research has long shown) that IQ is the overwhelmingly main factor in educational attainment, I predict that such schools would get results as good as formal Grammar schools.
To break any mental logjams about IQ, let me refer readers to an amazing study here -- which shows how wide is the reach of IQ. It is the main factor in something well outside education and in a field that one would not expect -- unless one already knew how wide is the reach of IQ into human behaviour. Just read the first sentence under "Results".
If the Tories win the forthcoming election, academic selection may be revived to a degree but I can see no hope for poor but bright pupils otherwise.
Bright children from poor backgrounds are half as likely as their richer peers to succeed in tougher A-level subjects, a study shows.
Researchers found those from disadvantaged families were far less likely to study and score highly in English, maths, science, humanities and languages.
Pupils who do not take these so-called ‘facilitating’ subjects have less chance of obtaining a place at the prestigious Russell Group universities, which often favour them.
Researchers commissioned by the Department of Education at Oxford University also found poor children are much less likely to get three A-levels in any courses.
The wide-ranging study also showed that going to a decent nursery, reading for pleasure and attending an outstanding school can boost a disadvantaged pupil's chances of getting good results. Taking part in school trips and getting into a daily homework routine can also help them.
The research is based on data drawn from more than 3,000 young people who have been tracked from the age of three for the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE) project.
Researchers found that just a third of bright but disadvantaged students took one of more A-levels facilitating subjects, compared to 58 per cent of their wealthier peers with the same academic ability.
Less than a fifth of the poor students followed gained at least a B in these subjects, compared to 41 per cent of their advantaged classmates.
The findings also show that just over 35 per cent of the sixth-formers identified as clever based on their test results at age 11 got three A-levels in any subjects, compared to 60 per cent of their high-achieving, richer peers.
An analysis of the data found that sixth-formers who did two to three hours of homework each night were nine times more likely to gain three A-levels than those who did none.
The study said: ‘Spending time on homework is likely to reflect both student motivation and engagement, study skills and independence, school policies and the priority teachers attach to encouraging students to study at home (or provide opportunities after school), as well as parental attitudes and support.’
The study concludes that encouraging reading for pleasure, educational trips, the chance to go to a good nursery and school, feedback on school work and a supportive home life can help disadvantaged youngsters to get good results.
It suggests that bright, poor students should get ‘enrichment’ vouchers, funded through the Pupil Premium - public funding for disadvantaged children - to help with educational trips, reading for pleasure and studies outside of the classroom.
We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust which commissioned the report, said: ‘The fact that bright disadvantaged students fall so far behind when they reach their A-levels shows that government and schools urgently need to do more to support able students from less advantaged homes.
‘We must ensure that access to the best schools and opportunities for academic enrichment outside school are available to all students. It is also vital that schools advise their students on the right subject choices at GCSE and A-level so as to maximise their potential.’
Professor Pam Sammons, co-author of the report, said: ‘There is no silver bullet that alone can make a difference but a combination of good schools and pre-schools, the right home learning environment and supportive teachers ready to monitor progress and provide good feedback can all ensure that bright but disadvantaged students get the chance of a good university education. There are important lessons here for teachers and policymakers seeking to reduce the equity gap in attainment.’
By JR on Monday, March 16, 2015
Conservatives Are No More Biased About Science Than Liberals Are
The article below by psychological researchers Erik C. Nisbet and R. Kelly Garrett is a curious one. I have no great argument with either their conclusions or their methodology but it is a sad day when scientific claims are examined in this way. Disputes about scientific claims should be examined by presentations and discussions of the evidence only. The article below does not do that. It treats the facts as irrelevant. It claims that ideology dictates scientific conclusions, not the facts underlying the conclusions.
The sad thing is that they are obviously right in lots of cases, but it seems a great pity that they could not survey the evidence pro- and con- for the scientific conclusions that they study.
I like to think that I am persuaded solely by reason and the facts. I can well imagine that in saying that I provoke laughter. But I think I can substantiate it.
Christians sometimes say that I am their favorite atheist. And they have good grounds for that. I am basically a very religious person and was a very fundamentalist Christian in my teens. I am perfectly at home even with a demanding and puritanical religion. But I also have studied philosophy from an early age and I cannot fault Carnap's argument that all metaphysical statements are meaningless. So I have been an extreme atheist for the whole of my adult life. I don't even believe that the statement "God exists" is meaningful. Can you get more thoroughgoing atheism than that?
But due to my religious instincts and religious past, I still have warm feelings towards Christians and regularly defend them. So some people CAN come to conclusions about the world that are ideologically inconvenient -- VERY inconvenient in my case.
And the undoubted fact that Northeast Asians (in China, Japan, Korea) have markedly higher IQs than people of European origin might well be bothersome to a person of European origin like myself and I could be inclined to deny it -- as Leftists do. But I actually accept the reality with perfect equanimity. I publicize it in fact.
I suspect that many atheists find something or somebody in the world about them to worship. The way many obviously intelligent academics pore over the works of Karl Marx seems to me to be pretty religious. "What Marx was really saying" is a phrase that I have heard from them "ad nauseam". They treat Das Kapital in the same way that fundamentalist Christians treat the Bible. Their examination of it is very reminiscent of the theological disputes among Christians. It is certainly their holy book.
And I know why they do that. Marx was a great hater. He hated just about everyone -- even the working class from which he hoped so much. And Leftism is a religion of hate. Leftists hate the world about them. They hate "the system", in their words. That is why they yearn to "fundamentally transform" it, to use Obama's phrase. So haters like a great hater. Marx FEELS right to Leftists, even if no application of Marxism has worked even passably well.
So have I too found a new object of worship to replace my early Christianity? I don't think so. I am not only an extreme atheist, I am also a complete one. I don't believe in Karl Marx, Jesus Christ or global warming. And I also don't believe in the unhealthiness of salt, sugar and fat. How skeptical can you get? But I could be said to worship reason, I think.
Getting back to the article below: The authors reveal themselves to be very unscientific. Though maybe they had to be in order to get their stuff published. Take for instance this paragraph:
"We note in particular that our findings neither exempt nor validate the well-organized and heavily funded “climate denialist movement.” This movement engages in extensive public communication campaigns and lobbying efforts intended to misrepresent the science and scientific consensus about the issue"
Where is the evidence that climate skeptics are "well-organized and heavily funded"? They quote no evidence because there is none. The overwhelming majority of climate skeptics are just isolated individuals calling foul over what they see as bad science. And very few of us have received a cent in connection with our writings on climate. I have received nil and other skeptics I know say the same.
The statement is however a rather good example of psychological projection. Warmists receive vast financial support not only from government but even from energy companies such as Exxon. Leftists understand people so poorly that they judge other people by themselves. They HAVE to believe that we are like them.
Despite my criticism of the article below, I hope it is clear that I do agree with their fundamental premise that there is such a thing as "motivated social cognition". That people see what they want to see or expect to see is proverbial and has often been demonstrated in psychological experiments. Even the classical Asch conformity experiment is as good a demonstration of motivated social cognition as any.
And motivated social cognition provides an excellent explanation for the fact that there is a large degree of consensus among academics about the dangers of global warming. Solomon Asch would not be surprised by it. Let me elaborate:
At law, one routinely asks "Cui Bono" (who benefits?) in deciding guilt or innocence of some crime. It's often the decisive factor in arriving at a conviction. And looking at who benefits from a belief in dangerous global warming makes it crystal clear why academics support that belief. The global warming scare has produced a huge shower of research money to fall on climatologists and anyone else who can get into the act. All academics hunger for research grants and the global warming scare provides those lavishly. Say that your research supports global warming and you are in clover. If we go by the legal precedents, the consensus among academics is a consensus about the desirability of research grants more than anything else.
And the same thing goes for journalists and newspaper proprietors. Scares sell newspapers and global warming is a scare that can be milked in all sorts of ways. John Brignell has a long list of the ways.
So where is the impact of the article below likely to be? I am confident that it will have very little impact. It goes against the kneejerk way the Green/Left respond to skeptics. Rather than challenge the facts that skeptics put forward, the Green/Left simply resort to abuse. They say anything derogatory about skeptics that they can think of. They fallaciously think that abusing the arguer answers the argument.
And one of the commonest types of abuse that they resort to is to say that skeptics are psychologically defective in some way. One such way is that skeptics and conservatives generally are supposed to be especially closed-minded and ideologically biased. The article below sinks that accusation rather well. But the Green/Left cannot afford to lose an arrow out of their slender quiver of them so the study below will simply be ignored. Ignoring facts is a standard Leftist defence mechanism so will be trotted out on this occasion with the greatest of ease
I could say more but I have already said much so I will end with an anecdote. Sometimes in company when some adverse weather event is being discussed, I say: "It must be due to global warming". Every time I say that people laugh. Skepticism about global warming is very widespread. As far as I can see, it is only a few Leftist barrow-pushers who believe in it and I wonder how sincere their belief is.
I excerpt below just the "guts" of the article I have been discussing:
Testing our partisan brains
Our own study focused on the second explanation for ideological divides and tested whether conservative and liberal trust in science varies by topic.
Recruiting a diverse group of 1,500 adults from a national online panel of volunteers, participants were randomly assigned to read scientifically accurate statements about different science topics.
Some participants read about issues exhibiting a significant partisan divide, including climate change, evolution, nuclear power, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of natural gas, while others read about issues that tend to be viewed as ideologically neutral, namely geology and astronomy.
Nuclear power and fracking are often seen by liberals as threatening their environmental values. Evolution and climate change are more often contested by conservatives because they challenge the social and economic beliefs associated with their ideology.
We went into our experiment expecting that liberals and conservatives would experience negative emotional reactions when reading statements challenging their views, which would increase their skepticism to the claim.
We also anticipated that participants would be motivated to resist the science, experiencing feelings of threat and arguing against the presented information.
Each of these factors would lead individuals to feel more distrustful of the source of the unwelcome information, the scientific community.
Unsurprisingly, we found that conservatives who read statements about climate or evolution had a stronger negative emotional experience and reported greater motivated resistance to the information as compared to liberals who read the same statements and other conservatives who read statements about geology or astronomy.
This in turn lead these conservatives to report significantly lower trust in the scientific community as compared to liberals who read the same statement or conservatives who read statements about ideologically neutral science.
Significantly, we found a similar pattern amongst liberals who read statements about nuclear power or fracking. And like conservatives who read statements about climate change or evolution, they expressed significantly lower levels of trust in the scientific community as compared to liberals who read the ideologically-neutral statements.
Biased attitudes toward scientific information and trust in the scientific community were evident among liberals and conservatives alike, and these biases varied depending on the science topic being considered.
An additional distressing finding was that though liberals who read statements about climate change and evolution reported greater trust in science than conservatives who did the same, they also reported significantly less trust in the scientific community than liberals who read ideologically neutral statements about geology or astronomy.
This suggests that highly partisan, high profile science can result in an overall loss of public confidence in the scientific community, even amongst those likely to trust the evidence.
We wish to stress that demonstrating that both conservatives and liberals are prone to responding to ideologically unpalatable scientific information in a biased manner is not an excuse for either side to do so.
We note in particular that our findings neither exempt nor validate the well-organized and heavily funded “climate denialist movement.” This movement engages in extensive public communication campaigns and lobbying efforts intended to misrepresent the science and scientific consensus about the issue; it funds and targets political candidates; and it attempts to intimidate climate scientists.
By JR on Sunday, March 15, 2015
The Streisand effect is kicking in
From Wikipedia: "The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California inadvertently drew further public attention to it."
A Warmist site has just put up an article about the "the small network of hired pundits and scientists helping to sow doubt about climate science". They then list the Devils concerned and give a bit of information about each one. So they are effectively letting the cat out of the bag about the "settled Science" claim. They are making known to people I would never reach that the science is not settled -- and give information to their readers that could lead them to the dissenting voices concerned. They are busting their own coverup of dissent. And their list of villains is a long one -- further crashing the "consensus" claim.
Because the list is so long, I reproduce only a few entries below, including mine. But the complete list is a handy guide to anyone interested in climate skepticism.
And you can even look below for people who have won the "Noble" [sic] Prize! The authors' spelling is as defective as their science. They are probably unaware that there once was a guy named Alfred Nobel
Their assertion that all the people they list are "hired" pundits is a psychopathic lie. Most of us have never received a cent from anybody in connection with our writings on climate. They just lie with gay abandon and no concern for evidence, as psychopaths do
In the months before the debut of the new documentary film "Merchants of Doubt," long-time climate denialist Fred Singer contacted more than two dozen bloggers, public relations specialists and scientists asking for help in derailing the documentary’s release.
"Can I sue for damages?” Singer asked in an email last October. "Can we get an injunction against the documentary?"
Singer is one of the "merchants of doubt" identified in the documentary, as are a number of other recipients of his email. The documentary, released nationwide last week, exposes the small network of hired pundits and scientists helping to sow doubt about climate science and delay legislative action on global warming in the United States.
Singer's email became public earlier this week when it was leaked to journalists.
Many of those copied on the email thread, such as Singer and communications specialist Steven Milloy, have financial ties to the tobacco, chemical, and oil and gas industries and have worked to defend them since the 1990s. Others seem relatively new to the denialist camp, such as climate scientist Judith Curry. All, however, have been vocal before Congress, on broadcast news or on the Internet in arguing that human activity is not the primarily driver of climate change.
Here is InsideClimate News' guide to those who were on the emails, in alphabetical order:
A retired geography professor from the University of Winnipeg, Ball says he doesn't believe humans are behind climate change. The "claim" of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that humans are almost solely responsible for global warming "is not proven except in their computer models and cannot be proven until we understand how much climate varies naturally," he wrote on his website.
Bastardi has a bachelor's degree in meteorology and worked at Accuweather before joining WeatherBELL Analytics LLC, a meteorological consulting firm. Last September, Bastardi told the website beforeitsnews.com, "Nature, not man, rules the climate system." He said the people who participated in the People's Climate March were "more concerned with their political agenda than climate science," and that they shouldn't be "prostituting the weather and climate for [their] own needs."
Briggs is a statistician at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and a consultant at New York Methodist Hospital. More than two decades ago, he spent a year as a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He is listed as an expert on the Heartland Institute's website, where he wrote, "Climate change is of no real interest to anyone except climatologists." Earlier this year, he co-wrote an article in the peer-reviewed Chinese Science Bulletin with fellow climate denialists Christopher Monckton and Willie Soon arguing that the IPCC's models are inaccurate and the world won't warm dangerously this century.
Curry is a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology. During a January 2014 hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Curry said the problem of climate change has been "vastly oversimplified." She said scientists should pay more attention to the role of natural variability in the climate system and the uncertainties in climate modeling. She also said the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is overly confident in attributing most of the warming to human activity.
D'Aleo is a former Weather Channel meteorologist and executive director of Icecap.us, a project that seeks to connect "respected scientists and journalists that are not deniers," but who don't believe human activity is the main driver of global warming. Last May, D'Aleo was one of 15 climate skeptics who wrote a rebuttal to the White House's National Climate Assessment report. "As this rebuttal makes clear, the NCA provides no scientific basis whatsoever for regulating CO2 emissions," they wrote.
The Greenie Watch blog is run by Australian social scientist John Ray. It questions the scientific evidence for global warming. "Climate is just the sum of weather. So if you cannot forecast the weather a month in advance, you will not be able to forecast the climate 50 years in advance," he wrote on his blog's home page. In response to the release of Fred Singer's emails about the film "Merchants of Doubt," Ray wrote, "We skeptics have got Warmists on the defense, a pathetic 'ad hominem' defense though it is."
Happer is a physicist at Princeton University and an outspoken critic of global warming. He has repeatedly called global warming trends "exaggerated." In a TV interview last year, he compared the scientific community's treatment of carbon dioxide to "the demonization of poor Jews under Hitler." During President George H. W. Bush's term, Happer was director of the office of energy research at the Department of Energy.
Patrick J. Michaels
Michaels is the director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C. He was long considered the most credible scientist in the climate denial campaign. He was the president of the American Association of State Climatologists and an IPCC author, sharing the 2007 Noble Peace Prize with other contributing scientists. But Michaels—who at one point estimated 40 percent of his funding came from the fossil fuel industry—has been caught repeatedly making inaccurate climate claims, including on Fox News and in the Washington Post and Forbes.
Roger Pielke Sr., a controversial climate scientist, said he believes that "humans have altered the climate system." However, he also supports the idea that warming has recently stopped and has argued against some well-established points of climate science, such as observed sea level rise and glacier melting. Pielke holds the position of senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies. He also is a senior research associate the University of Colorado in Boulder. It's unclear whether the intended recipient of an email thread concerning "Merchants of Doubt" was Pielke himself, or his son Roger Pielke Jr. His son is a policy researcher at the Center for Science and Technology in Colorado and has criticized those who have linked climate change to increasingly extreme weather.
S. Fred Singer
Singer is one of the earliest and most vocal scientists in the climate denial campaign. He was an academic and government space researcher for nearly four decades before working on behalf of the tobacco industry to discredit scientific evidence that smoking was bad for human health. In the early 1990s, he started attacking global warming. He founded an anti climate-action think tank, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, using fossil fuel funds. The group has denied the existence of man-made climate change for 25 years. He also created the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), a publication of junk science that counters the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's work. He has called the IPCC's latest assessment "a wonderful paper weight or door stop."
Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon
Soon, a solar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has posited that increased energy from the sun—not the burning of fossil fuels—is the biggest driver of modern climate change. His theory has been widely refuted by the scientific community, including the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academy of Sciences. In February, public documents showed that Soon received hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel interests to publish "deliverables" in the form of articles about the solar-warming theory in scientific journals. He failed to disclose conflicts of interests to those journals and during congressional testimony. Soon also has ties to several conservative, climate-denying think tanks, including the Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.
Spencer is a scientist at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and a former senior scientist for climate studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. He says he believes natural fluctuations in the climate system could be the primary driver of global warming. During a Senate hearing in July 2013, Spencer told the committee humans "are having some influence" on climate change, "but it is impossible to know with any level of certainty how much influence."
Watts edits the blog Watts Up With That, which questions climate science and presents, "the untold story of the climate debate from the climate skeptic side." Watts studied electrical engineering and meteorology at Purdue University but never graduated. He then served as an on-air meteorologist for 25 years. He's a frequent speaker at anti-climate action events hosted by the Heartland Institute. "I believe that our [man-made] contribution [to climate change] may be far less than has been postulated," he told a California newspaper in 2007. "Our measurement network has been compromised—not intentionally, but accidentally and through carelessness."