By JR on Saturday, April 25, 2015
Multiculturalism is a racist ideology
Below is a rather intellectual essay from Britain. I will try to give the gist of it in plain words:
Extensive immigration of incompatible minorities makes middle class people uncomfortable but they are heavily into righteousness so regard racism as immoral and cannot express the discomfort and alarm that they really feel. They need to deny that there is anything problematic about the incomers. But they have to have some outlet for the real discomfort and anger that they feel so displace that anger on to those who do not share their unrealistic beliefs. They blame those who DO express discomfort with the immigrant influx and and who thereby upset the middle class denial that anything is wrong. They vent their anger on more natural and straightforward people.
And those who express discomfort with mass immigration and a longing for the pre-immigration state of affairs are mostly the working class, who are less uptight about righteousness. So the former Leftist glorification of the workers is all gone now. The workers are now the despised enemy. They have lost their bourgeois Leftist defenders and champions.
But there is a lot to deny -- such as the high rate of black and Gypsy criminality and the high rate of Muslim hostility, so the preoccupation with denying racial differences becomes a daily obsession. It is very race conscious and is therefore racist in that sense alone. Their avowed belief that all races are equal is itself a racist belief -- or at least a rigidly held and race-obsessed belief. Stereotypes are normally very flexible and responsive to new information, but when they are driven by emotional needs, they can become very rigid indeed.
And, like all racism, it has its victims -- it is just that the victims are not minorities but rather the straightforward people who are not so uptight about racial righteousness. It is as hostile and intolerant as any other form of racism. The slightest deviation from the middle-class norm is punished. The desperate middle class need to think well of themselves leads them to despise others. And in England the working class has always been looked down on anyway.
While I mostly agree with that account, I think it does not go deep enough. I think we need to ask WHY some people have such a powerful need for an appearance of righteousness. And since the hard core of the people concerned are Leftists, I think the answer is obvious. They need an appearance of righteousness and compassion as camouflage for the real evil and hostility of their actual intentions and wishes -- evil very plainly seen when they gain unrestricted power -- as in Soviet Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia, the French revolution etc.
Note that "indigenous" is used below to refer to the English
by Stephen Moriarty
We live in a world in which ethnic conflict is a problem of immeasurable seriousness. Swift had it right when he hinted that humans would fight over which end of their boiled eggs they broke first. How do we explain this? Most arguments make out that ethnic conflict is either inexplicable or immoral or both. Yet there must be an explanation, and since such conflict is conducted by human beings, there is clearly a point at which people overcome their scruples about it.
I think one of our difficulties is that it is usually assumed that a persuasive moral case is a persuasive political case, but it is not, as Machiavelli pointed out long ago. People do not act in line with even their sincere moral beliefs. We fully accept this with regard to things. We know the world would be a better place if possessions were shared and cared for by everyone, but we also know that our sinful nature makes us incapable of this. Capitalism is founded on this concession to “sin”. Marriage and “just war” are similar concessions by Christianity.
The conviction that human nature is essentially good, or can be made so, is a “bourgeois ideology” in the Marxist sense. Sensitive people who live in comfortable circumstances can benefit from the exploitation of those less fortunate with an easier conscience when they believe that life in poorer parts of society is only poorer, rather than also more vicious. This is important because it is difficult otherwise to understand the actions of the Left in destroying the only practical basis for socialism – national identity – by its actions after 1997. The answer is that it was never genuinely socialist in the first place. Its socialism was a bourgeois pose, a display of status by those who never wanted to face its consequences.
Indeed Marxism is a bourgeois ideology in the Marxist sense: the insight was hardly new that people tend to believe what suits them, and Marx excluded sexual motivation and thus relieved prudish people from having to think about the intractability and universality of human evil. This unwillingness to face the reality of universal evil leaves Marxists (and we are all Marxists now) prone to believe in evil in a religious sense (as supernatural) and therefore also prone to witch-hunting and wishful thinking.
The blogger Steve Moxon says that the PC project is a reaction to the failure of the Marxist prophesy of a proletarian revolution. The proletariat, stereotyped as white working-class males, has been rounded-on by its erstwhile champions (a Marxist/Dickensian sentimentality about the working-class was widespread until very recently), who now fetishise anything that is notwhite, working-class, or male, he says. Nevertheless low-status males remain, he says, the least privileged group in all societies; he says there is now a “runaway” bias against them such that their manifestly rough deal, in particular with regard to access to sex and reproduction, is not addressed. I think it is interesting that the two groups involved in the “grooming gangs” were low-status males and white girls from the British underclass.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the “grooming” cases was its show-casing of anti-white prejudice, although one should also mention the long paralysis of the authorities in the face of the problem. Such prejudice is common, as I once heard a brave black caller to BBC Radio 5 attest. The existence of this prejudice is like the existence of Saturn’s moons: it blows a whole world-view to pieces. As Albert Memmi describes in his book Portrait du colonise, portrait du colonisateur, the indigenous population becomes stereotyped as lazy. This is partly because indigenous people have usually established a civilisation in which there is some room for leisure and sharing and because they make up a full spectrum that includes the old, the sick and the feeble, whereas immigrants are obliged to work very hard (and all due credit to them for this) and are almost by definition dynamic. They also often have an ambassadorial pride in their birth-identity.
Furthermore, civilisations have strong hospitality codes that dictate self-effacing generosity to newcomers. Thus it tends to be the host civilisation that breaks down when confronted by mass immigration, because this self-effacement interrupts the normal process of inter-generational acculturation (see the “diversity agenda” in schools and on the BBC, for instance). Yet, in the unconscious of the colonisers, a people who have allowed themselves to be colonised are contemptible, all the more so perhaps when they have previously dressed up their cowardice as charity and thus insulted everyone by condescension.
The black lady who responded calmly to Emma West said that she was here to do the work people like Emma West didn’t want to do. This opinion is understandable because it must be difficult for immigrants to find an explanation for their being invited here in such numbers and under so little compulsion to assimilate if it was not because there was something wrong with the indigenous population. Many immigrants must have the impression that the British ruling class has decided to replace its people despite all the obvious risks, and that therefore the English working-class must have been truly useless.
The English working-class are thus in grave danger of becoming the “Other” to the “British”. They are, to many, the main moral, ideological and practical obstacle to the New Britain (Peter Mandelson’s phrase). They are subject to negative stereotyping on the grounds of culture, class, race, and “loser” status in the current colonial process (and as the descendants of the foot-soldiers of imperialism). The less the New British have in common (and multiculturalism is an ideology that celebrates division), the more they need a scapegoat; and the more the English attempt to resist, the more they will prove their savage incompatibility with modernity.
It is this that partly explains the oft-noted anomaly of greater hostility to immigration in low-immigration areas. In a society based on the notion of relatedness, inherent but taboo negative qualities are projected onto outsiders (“the Other”). When there is sufficient immigration, this ideology becomes untenable, not so much because it has been debunked (which it is to a degree), but because it becomes taboo: people suppress their fear in order to be able to go on with life. It becomes necessary to believe that the new situation is alright, that a society without kinship bonds is not less secure than one with them, and that the enemy is now those atavistic individuals whose persistence in regretting the change is a painful reminder that all may not be well. These become the scapegoat for all the fear and repressed “longing for the tribe”. They become the Other onto which the new taboo of racism can be projected. Racism becomes almost the only sin (and it is indeed a kind of original sin because it is inherent in all of us – we have an instinct to preserve local adaptation by mating with people like ourselves) because, in the effort to believe everything is alright, newcomers are sanctified, and since they are really normal, sinful, people, this means that much normal human sinfulness is placed beyond criticism. Only racism remains as “wrong”. This is “liberalism” and “multiculturalism”.
Thus the natural tendencies of human beings are inverted, rather as gravity holds up the arch. Perhaps societies always function in this masochistic way. As Roger Hicks has pointed out, we can see parallels with the Communist taboo on possessiveness, the Catholic taboo on sex and the general religious taboo on reason: they all use “prestige suggestion”, the bold denial of obvious truth, combined with Girardian group-psychology, to instil guilt and fear. While societies based on kinship can scapegoat outsiders (harmlessly?), those based on “anti-racism” (see below for why this is in quotation marks) will always need an internal scapegoat because they are based on the idea that there is no such thing as an outsider.
I am trying not to romanticise tribal society here. It is probably true that scapegoating was a normal part of tribal life, and an individual or group within the tribe might have found themselves accused of treachery, of being an Other, but in general the natural function of Othering was probably to keep the tribe alert to the very real danger that other tribes posed whilst maintaining “civilised” behaviour within the tribe. I suppose I am trying to trace out what happens when this natural function of Othering is frustrated by the guilt-mechanism of “anti-racism”.
While multicultural societies intend to treat all groups equally, in fact it is the indigenous population, as a consequence of its nostalgia, which provides the scapegoats. In practice it is only the indigenous population, initially in the majority, that has to adopt the new paradigm: in-coming groups, whilst ostensibly treating “racists” as the Other just like everyone else, remain able to “to other” foreigners, since they are one and the same people: indigenous individuals.
Thus the culture of indigenous population comes under an intense assault. Any attempt to maintain that culture is rejected by many of the indigenous because such loyalty is implicit evidence that the ideology of multiculturalism is flawed and that the new structure is dangerously unstable. Unable to face their situation, they instead redouble their efforts to believe that everything is alright: there occurs a frenzied fetishisation of the foreign and a further stigmatisation of the domestic culture, bringing about its collapse.
Thus what appears to be the apogee of progressive politics – multiculturalism – is in fact its nemesis. Every progressive cause is sacrificed upon its altar: manners, feminism, gay-liberation, child-welfare, animal-rights, rationalism, free-speech, economic equality and, most ironically of all, anti-racism. The mechanism by which (admittedly limited) progress is possible – rational debate leading to consensus – is wrecked by the apparatus of multiculturalism (which is, of course, merely relativism writ large): speech laws (they “creep” because any controversial opinion is a metaphor for the taboo); patronising, indeed racist, sensitivity to “cultural practices” (which become totemic – provocatively assertive); the fragmentation of the demos.
At the bottom of this catastrophe is hypocrisy. Richard Millet has quoted Moliere: “L’hypocrisie, c’est un vice a la mode, et tous vices a la mode passent pour virtus.”
Multiculturalism is a racist ideology.
By JR on Friday, April 24, 2015
Are women who don't want children blue lobsters?
I probably don't need to say so but lobsters are normally red
A long but amusingly uninsightful essay below. It appeared in "The Atlantic" under the heading "Why Women Aren't Having Children". The author, Sophie Gilbert, praises the attitudes and feelings of women who do not want to have children -- without apparently realizing that she is praising destruction of the attitudes concerned. Attitudes and personality are highly hereditary so what is happening is that non-maternal women are breeding themselves out of existence. With no children their particular genes will perish.
There have always been some non-maternal women, some of whom became the well-known category of "maiden aunts". But, in the absence of contraception and amid social pressures to marry, many did reproduce and passed on their anti-survival instincts.
So it is surely a very good thing that non-maternal women now feel free to breed themselves out of existence. Future generations will look back on them with wonder and pity.
So an apt reply to the disturbed Shulamith Firestone, who believed that “childbearing was barbaric and pregnancy should be abolished”, is surely that she is more than welcome to abolish herself -- which she duly did in 2012, leaving no-one behind like her
Women who don't want children are evolutionary duds -- and we are now seeing the last of them. They are a "sport" (a genetic accident). They are not as unusual as blue lobsters but result from a similar process.
A methodological note: With regard to the fact that highly educated women are less likely to have children, one must offer the classic caution that correlation is not causation. Not having children is not the same as not wanting them and for the subset who actually do not want them, it must be allowed that such women may be more likely to fill their lives with extra education. The direction of the causal arrow between more education and childlessness is not in general known and subjective reports may be unreliable
A personal note: What I have said above is undoubtedly politically incorrect and, if I were in employment, attempts would probably be made to get me fired. What I have said is, however, I believe, entirely objective and, as such, is not intended to hurt, offend, disparage or condemn. And it is undoubtedly scientifically accurate. I cheerfully admit however that I have a great love of children and had a great time helping to bring up four of them. I am not a blue lobster
Pope Francis is widely believed to be a cool Pope—a huggable, Upworthyish, meme-ready, self-deprecating leader for a new generation of worshippers. “He has described himself as a sinner,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Pope Francis’ entry on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world, “and his nonjudgmental views on … issues such as sexual orientation and divorce have brought hope to millions of Roman Catholics around the world.”
But there’s one issue that can make even Cool Pope Francis himself sound a little, well, judgy. “A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pontiff told an audience in St. Peter’s Square earlier this year. “The choice not to have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”
Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal
Ignore the irony of a man who’s celibate by choice delivering a lecture on the sacred duty of procreating, and focus instead on his use of the word “selfish.” This particular descriptor is both the word most commonly associated with people who decide not to have children, and part of the title of a new collection of essays, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, by 16 different writers (both female and male) who fall into exactly that category. While the association appears to be so deeply embedded in the collective psyche that it’d take dynamite to shift it, if the book reveals anything, it’s that there’s an awful lot more to not wanting children than the impulse to put oneself first. “People who want children are all alike,” writes editor Meghan Daum in the book’s introduction, with apologies to Tolstoy. “People who don’t want children don’t want them in their own way.”
The 16 essays—variously funny, devastating, infuriating, insightful, and, yes, occasionally smug—not only dismantle the assumption of selfishness, they shed light on a stigma that’s remained stubbornly pervasive well into the 21st century, even as other formerly taboo lifestyles have become thoroughly mainstream. In 2015, thanks in no small part to the success of various works of fiction, it’s more acceptable to talk about wanting to be beaten by a sexual partner than it is to express honestly and openly a deliberate intent to not procreate.
“Shame,” writes the psychotherapist Jeanne Safer in one essay, “—for being selfish, unfeminine, or unable to nurture—is one of the hardest emotions to work through for women who are conflicted about having children.” In 1989, Safer wrote a magazine article about her “conscious decision not to have a child,” but was so aware of the thorny territory she was wading into that she published it under a pseudonym. The article became a book, Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children, and Safer became a figurehead for all the likeminded women who felt, she writes, “that someone was speaking for them at last.”
"I don't really want to have a baby. I want to want to have a baby."
Twenty-six years later, the women Safer interviewed tell her they’re more than happy with their choices, but still the shadow of shame lingers. “Any person who marries but rejects procreation is seen as unnatural,” writes the author Sigrid Nunez in another essay. “But a woman who confesses never to have felt the desire for a baby is considered a freak. Women have always been raised to believe they would not be complete and could not be thought to have succeeded in life without the experience of motherhood.”
The concept of the innate biological desire to have a baby is a familiar one, repeated throughout books and television shows and emotional anecdotes about how friends and family members were suddenly gripped with a burning desire to get pregnant. But for women who’ve never felt such an urge, and who keep waiting for it to happen without ever experiencing any such stirrings, the notion can be alienating. “I finally said to myself, I don’t really want to have a baby, I want to want to have a baby,” writes Safer. “I longed to feel like everyone else, but I had to face the fact that I did not.” If you're of child-bearing age, it can indeed feel like Facebook feeds are flooded with bump selfies and sonograms and baby pictures. In the 1970s, one in ten women reached menopause without giving birth to a child. But by 2010, it was one in five, according to data gathered by the Pew Research Center, and one in four for women with a bachelor’s degree. A quarter of educated American women are getting through life without ever having children.
The inextricable links between increased education and intelligence, and opting out of procreation, are underscored by Laura Kipnis, a cultural critic who writes one of the more explicitly feminist essays in the book. Referring to the activist Shulamith Firestone, who believed that “childbearing was barbaric and pregnancy should be abolished,” Kipnis ponders the value of equating motherhood with “such supposedly ‘natural’ facts as maternal instinct and mother-child bonds,” which, she writes, “exist as social conventions of womanhood at this moment in history, not as eternal conditions.” The concept of profound maternal affection, she argues, was invented in the 19th century after both birth and child mortality rates started to decline. Before that, women couldn’t afford to get attached to infants that had a 15 to 30 percent chance of not reaching their first birthday. Ditto the concept of mother-child bonding, which coincided with the rise of industrialization, “when wage labor first became an option for women” and it became important to impress upon them the significance of staying home. The reason why fewer women are giving birth in Western countries, Kipnis says, is education.
Though no one exactly says it, women are voting with their ovaries, and the reason is simple. There are too few social supports, especially given the fact that the majority of women are no longer just mothers now, they’re mother-workers. Yet virtually no social policy accounts for this. Interestingly, women with the most education are the ones having the fewest children, though even basic literacy has a negative effect on birthrates in the developing world—the higher the literacy rate, the lower the birthrate. In other words, when women acquire critical skills and start weighing their options, they soon wise up to the fact that they’re not getting enough recompense for their labors.
That critical thinking plays a role in falling birthrates is backed up by a study conducted at Kansas State University, in which researchers found that “people’s desire to have children is most influenced by the positive and negative interactions, and the trade-offs.” These are detailed elegantly in an essay by Lionel Shriver, the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book in which a mother’s life is ruined by her psychopathic son. “I could have afforded children, financially,” Shriver writes. “I just didn’t want them. They are untidy, they would have messed up my apartment. In the main, they are ungrateful. They would have siphoned away too much time from my precious books.”
Shriver acknowledges that this attitude could be interpreted as selfish. But, it seems, her feelings are indicative of “a larger transformation in Western culture no less profound than our collective consensus on what life is for.” In other words, she's saying, an existential shift in the way educated humans approach living—a switch from living for the (possibly celestial) future to enjoying the present—has led humans to think much more carefully about having children, since the drawbacks tend to outweigh the benefits. “As we age,” she writes, “we are apt to look back on our pasts and question, not, did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but whether they were interesting and fun.”
That attitude might indeed be selfish, but is it any more selfish than bringing ever more humans into an overpopulated world? Is it more selfish than having a baby simply because you want to, which is often the case? Has anyone in recent memory declared that they were procreating out of a selfless desire to perpetuate the human race, when the human race has never, ever, been less in need of perpetuation? The sense that having children is the most worthy of human activities is questioned by the writer Tim Kreider, who argues that it’s “a pretty low-rent ultimate purpose that’s shared with viruses and bacteria.” Ditto Geoff Dyer, who writes in his very funny essay that “not having children is seen as supremely selfish, as though the people having children were selflessly sacrificing themselves in a valiant attempt to ensure the survival of our endangered species, and fill up this vast and underpopulated planet.”
Has anyone in recent memory declared that they were procreating out of selfless altruism?
Not having children isn’t selfish. Not having children is a perfectly rational and reasonable response given that humans are essentially parasites on the face of a perfectly lovely and well-balanced planet, ploughing through its natural resources, eradicating its endangered species, and ruining its most wonderful landscapes. This might sound misanthropic, and it is, but it is also true.
Maybe the world would be a better place if fewer women weren’t compelled to have children while their resources are stretched unreasonably thin. Maybe fewer sweet, chubby-cheeked toddlers would grow up to be surly, resentful adults because they always had the lingering sense their presence wasn’t wanted. Many of the writers in Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed discuss their own traumatic childhoods, and how they were made to feel responsible for their parents’ failed careers, or failed relationships, or unhappy lives. But there should be no shame attached to the decision not to participate any further in the great human experiment, whether or not it comes from the fact that that experiment has failed a person in the past. “To me, the lack of desire to have a child is innate,” the Fusion culture editor Danielle Henderson writes. “It exists outside of my control. It is simply who I am, and I can take neither credit nor blame for all that it may or may not signify.”
As a compilation of writing, Shallow, Selfish, and Self-Absorbed is generally very strong, bringing together a diverse range of voices and styles to riff entertainingly on a subject that has seemed, up until now, unriffable. But as a collection of manifestos, it’s hugely significant. It won’t influence anyone hell-bent on children away from having them, nor will it dissuade people who feel eternally conflicted about the subject. But what it does, more crucially, is refuse to accept the perpetuation of the myths that have surrounded childbirth for the last 200 years—that women have a biological need to procreate, and that having children is the single most significant thing a person can do with his or her life, and that not having children leaves people sad and empty. Try telling that to Oprah Winfrey, or Ellen DeGeneres, or Jane Austen, or Queen Elizabeth I. Or George Washington, or Nikola Tesla. The argument that lingers after having read the book is that the sooner having children is approached from a rational standpoint rather than an emotional one, the better for humanity, even if the result is that there are slightly fewer people left to enjoy it.
By JR on Thursday, April 23, 2015
Jesus Christ Superstar
I saw a live performance of A.L. Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Sydney back in the '70s. Many church people were critical of it at the time but I thought then, as I still do, that any promulgation of the Gospel message was valuable. It is a great message of hope and kindness. I no longer share the hope but perhaps some of the kindness has stuck.
So when I recently saw in Target a DVD of the show for $5, I thought it a good purchase. It is the Universal Pictures movie version from the year 2000.
And I can see nothing wrong with the story in the show either theologically or exegetically. There are even correct quotations from the scriptures at crucial points. The main emphasis of the show is on the passion, the times immediately leading up to his execution. And the mental agonies that he is portrayed as undergoing at that time are perfectly scriptural, though much enlarged on. Read Matthew chapter 26 if you doubt it. My old Bible opened at that spot very easily when I went to check it.
So I think Webber has done the world a service in introducing the Gospel story to a "rock" audience. He must have reached many that the churches did not.
The casting: Political correctness was already alive and well in the year 2000 so the cast included a lot of blacks. Maybe there were a lot of Ethiopians in the Jerusalem of Jesus' time that we have not heard about. There are certainly a lot there now.
But the times seem to get ever more sensitive so I imagine that if the movie were a current release it might get some flack over its casting of a black as Caiaphas. According to the Gospel accounts, Caiaphas was the major antagonist of Jesus. He was the villain of the piece, in short.
And the casting of Jesus was unrealistic too. He was cast as a tall, well-built man with flowing and curly red hair. In life he would have been a short, stocky man with black hair, dark eyes and swarthy skin, as most Middle-Easterners are to this day. But the casting was pretty close to traditional depictions of Jesus. It was rather odd that he was the only one wearing a nightgown, though.
I must confess that I found the casting of a light-skinned "black" woman (Renee Castle) as Mary Magdalene rather jarring. I can take only so much anachronism. And her rendition of "I don't know how to love him" amazed me by its poverty. She had a very weak and girlish voice. I would have liked to hear that aria from a soaring operatic mezzo. Helen Reddy did it pretty well, though.
By JR on Wednesday, April 22, 2015
I put up a post recently in which I looked at the now generally accepted sociological finding that social homogeneity promotes interpersonal involvement and trust. Most notably in multicultural communities, social harmony and co-operation is damaged.
I thought therefore that I might add to my remarks on the subject by way of an anecdote. The report is from a wise young mother who left the big smoke to live in a small country town in New Zealand. There is one well-liked Chinese family there but everyone else is of British or Northern European ancestry. Many families have lived there for generations. It could reasonably be described as a Kiwi monoculture. Nobody has to press "1" for English there. The young mother and her husband are well settled there now and both are greatly pleased by the move. She writes:
Last Thursday I returned home from swimming with H** [young daughter] when only 20 minutes after my return there was a knock at our door. It was one of the mum/swimming instructors at my door returning my phone that I had accidently left behind at the pool.
She told me one of the girls picked it up, gave it to her and she recognised the photo of H** on the phone and popped over to drop it off. Of course I was grateful and thanked her, I also told her I hadn't yet noticed that I had even lost the phone.
She saved me the stress and panic of realising I had lost it and it left me thinking about how wonderful living in a small town is. It is a lovely thought that H** will be under the watchful eyes of the people around us as we all know and look out for each other's kids.
Would that it were like that everywhere! Anyone for New Zealand? I have another favorite New Zealand story here.
By JR on Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Anaesthetic is WARMING the planet: Gases used to knock out patients during surgery are contributing to climate change (?)
We're used to being nagged about gas concentrations in parts per million but now we are being nagged about gas concentrations in parts per trillion! We didn't even get to stop on parts per billion. And the idea that the anaesthetic gases are much "stronger" in their effect than CO2 ignores completely that the magnitude of CO2 effects is very unsettled (The "climate sensitivity" debate). There is reason to believe that the effect of CO2 is real but negligible. The same may be true of the anaesthetic gases. Theories take you only so far and can be too simplistic. Certainly in the last 18 years the theoretical effect of the trace gases has not accorded with reality
Anaesthetic gases used to send patients to sleep during surgery are accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere where they are contributing to climate change.
Scientists say they have detected the gases used in anaesthetic as far afield as Antarctica and concentrations have been rising globally in the past decade.
The gases - desflurane, isoflurane and sevoflurane - are potent greenhouse gases that have 2,500 times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide.
Dr Martin Vollmer, who led the study at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Science and Technology in Dubendorf, Switzerland, said the anaesthetic gases were capable of storing far more energy from the sun than carbon dioxide.
He said: 'On a kilogram-per-kilogram basis, it's so much more potent. 'Modern halogenated inhalation anesthetics undergo little metabolisation during clinical application and evaporate almost completely to the atmosphere.'
The researchers, whose work is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that concentrations of desflurane reached 0.30 parts per trillion in 2014.
Isoflurane, sevoflurane and halothane have reached 0.097, 0.13 and 0.0092 parts per trillion in the atmosphere respectively.
By comparison, carbon dioxide gas currently makes up 400 parts per million in the atmosphere.
However, one kilogram (2.2lbs) of desflurane produces the same greenhouse effect as 2,500 kg (5,512lbs) of carbon dioxide.
The researchers estimate that anaesthetic gas emissions currently combine to produce the equivalent effect in the atmosphere of 3.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The research team did not examine the impact of nitrous oxide, another major component of anaesthetic, as it is released by many other sources.
The researchers have been taking air samples from remote sites around the Northern Hemisphere since 2000 while they have also obtained air samples in the North Pacific and the South Shetland Islands in Antarctic.
The team also used two hourly measurements at a high altitude observatory at Jungfraujoch, Switzerland since 2013 to track anaesthetic gases. They then used computer modelling to produce global estimates for the concentrations of these gases.
However, Edmond Eger, an anaethesiologist at the University of California San Francisco, said: 'What the report fails to note is that a major factor determining the environmental effect is the manner in which the anesthetics are used.
'Many anesthetists deliver sevoflurane or isoflurane in a two - three liters per minute flow but deliver desflurane in a lower flow - 0.5 to one liter per minute. 'Some believe that desflurane has clinical advantages that argue for its continued use.'
By JR on Monday, April 20, 2015
Teachers more likely to label black students as troublemakers, study finds
The report below is a summary of research by two minority psychologists, Eberhardt and Okonofua. In the study, "Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students", the authors tried to pin more frequent punishment of black students on inaccurate "stereotypes" held by teachers.
It is not completely clear what view of stereotyping that the authors adopt. To be a bit paradoxical about it, stereotyping is often stereotyped. By that I mean that the old 1930s view of stereotypes as fixed, rigid and impermeable to evidence seems still to be widely held, even among psychologists, who should by now know better. There is a massive body of research findings (a summary from some time ago here) to show that, among most people, stereotypes are the exact opposite of that -- i.e. they are highly and rapidly responsive to evidence and change readily as new evidence becomes available. They tend to be valuable generalizations
There are of course some extremists who hold to their beliefs so rigidly that no evidence can dislodge the beliefs concerned. A good example is the way committed Green/Leftists cling to their global warming beliefs, despite the only global temperature changes over the last 18 years being in hundredths of one degree Celsius -- change which is insignificant both statistically and in every other way.
At any event, the authors below were unable to exclude the very real possibility that blacks students simply behave more disruptively and are therefore seen accurately to be more likely to be a continuing problem. Insofar as it is a stereotype, the stereotype could be an accurate one.
This is very naive research that proves nothing. The press release is here. The journal article is: "Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students"
Teachers can judge the behaviour of black students more harshly than while pupils, new research has suggested.
A study by researchers at Stanford University examined the reaction of secondary and primary school teachers in the United States to student race.
They found that the teachers were more likely to view youngsters who they thought were black as troublemakers than those they thought were white.
The researchers say this may go someway towards explaining why black children are often disciplined more at schools compared to other pupils.
Professor Jennifer Eberhardt, a psychologist at Stanford University, said: 'The fact that black children are disproportionately disciplined in school is behind dispute.
'What is less clear is why. We see that stereotypes not only can be used to allow people to interpret a specific behavior in isolation, but also stereotypes can heighten our sensitivity to behavioral patterns across time.
In their study, which is published in the journal Psychological Science, Professor Eberhardt and her colleagues presented teachers with fictional school records.
These records described two instances of misbehaviour by a student. The teachers were asked about their perception of the severity, how irritated that misbehaviour would make them and how the student should be punished.
They were also asked whether they saw the student as a troublemaker and if they could imagine themselves suspending that pupil in the future.
The researchers randomly assigned names to the student records, in some cases suggesting the student was black with names like Deshawn or Darnell and in others suggesting they were white with names like Greg or Jake.
The researchers found that racial stereotypes had little impact on the teachers' views of the pupils after one infraction.
However, the second piece of misbehaviour was seen as 'more troubling' when committed by a black student rather than a white one.
The teachers also tended to want to discipline black students more harshly as they were more likely to see the misbehaviour as part of a pattern.
The researchers suggest that psychological interventions could be used to help change the stereotypes of black students influencing the way teachers treat pupils.
By JR on Sunday, April 19, 2015
Sustainability Gone Wild in colleges and universities
In a world of ever-increasing plenty, sustainability is irrelevant. And plenty is created, not discovered. It is created by human inventiveness, which has never been greater than now.
An example of how ingenuity creates resources: Bauxite is an extremely plentiful mineral. You can find it just lying on the ground as a sea of little red pebbles in some places. But it was not a resource until Hall and Heroult discovered how to extract aluminum from it. The Hall and Heroult process is now virtually the only source of aluminum and has made aluminum very cheap.
As aluminum foil it is now so cheap that it is routinely put out with the garbage. Yet once it was up with silver and gold for rarity and value
Syracuse University alumni are new additions to the lengthening list of persons who can stop contributing to their alma maters. The university has succumbed — after, one suspects, not much agonizing — to the temptation to indulge in progressive gestures. It will divest all fossil fuel stocks from its endowment. It thereby trumps Stanford, whose halfhearted exercise in right-mindedness has been to divest only coal stocks. Evidently carbon from coal is more morally disquieting than carbon from petroleum.
The effect of these decisions on consumption of fossil fuels will be nil; the effect on the growth of institutions' endowments will be negative. The effect on alumni giving should be substantial, because divesting institutions are proclaiming that the goal of expanding educational resources is less important than the striking of righteous poses — if there can be anything righteous about flamboyant futility.
The divestment movement is a manifestation of a larger phenomenon, academia’s embrace of “sustainability,” a development explored in “Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Fundamentalism” from the National Association of Scholars (NAS). The word “fundamentalism” is appropriate, for five reasons:
* Like many religions' premises, the sustainability movement’s premises are more assumed than demonstrated.
* Second, weighing the costs of obedience to sustainability’s commandments is considered unworthy.
* Third, the sustainability crusade supplies acolytes with a worldview that infuses their lives with purpose and meaning.
* Fourth, the sustainability movement uses apocalyptic rhetoric to express its eschatology.
* Fifth, the church of sustainability seeks converts, encourages conformity to orthodoxy and regards rival interpretations of reality as heretical impediments to salvation.
Some subscribers to the sustainability catechism are sincerely puzzled by the accusation that it is political correctness repackaged. They see it as indisputable because it is undisputed; it is obvious, elementary, even banal. Actually, however, the term “sustainable” postulates fragility and scarcity that entail government planners and rationers to fend off planetary calamity while administering equity.
The unvarying progressive agenda is for government to supplant markets in allocating wealth and opportunity. “Sustainability” swaddles this agenda in “science,” as progressives understand this — “settled” findings that would be grim if they did not mandate progressivism.
Orthodoxy was enshrined in the 2006 “American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment.” Since then, the NAS study concludes, “the campus sustainability movement has gone from a minor thread of campus activism to becoming the master narrative of what ‘liberal education’ should seek to accomplish.”
Government subsidizes the orthodoxy: The Environmental Protection Agency alone has spent more than $333 million on sustainability fellowships and grants. Anti-capitalism is explicit: Markets “privilege” individuals over communities. Indoctrination is relentless: Cornell has 403 sustainability courses (e.g., “The Ethics of Eating”). Sustainability pledges are common. The University of Virginia’s is: “I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”
Sustainability, as a doctrine of total social explanation, transforms all ills and grievances into environmental causes, cloaked in convenient science, as with: Climate change causes prostitution (warming increases poverty, which increases … ). Or the “environmental racism” of the supposed warming that supposedly caused hurricane Katrina, which disproportionately impacted New Orleans blacks.
The same sort of people — sometimes the same people — who once predicted catastrophe from the exhaustion of fossil fuels now predict catastrophe because of a surfeit of such fuels. Former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth of Colorado, divestment enthusiast and possessor of astonishing knowledge, says: If we burn all known fossil fuels, we will make the planet uninhabitable, so, “Why should any rational institution invest in further exploration and development when we already have at least three times more than we can ever use?”
There is a social benefit from the sustainability mania: the further marginalization of academia. It prevents colleges and universities from trading on what they are rapidly forfeiting, their reputations for seriousness.
The divestment impulse recognizes no limiting principle. As it works its way through progressivism’s thicket of moral imperatives — shedding investments tainted by involvement with Israel, firearms, tobacco, red meat, irrigation-dependent agriculture, etc. — progressivism’s dream of ever-more-minute regulation of life is realized, but only in campus cocoons.
College tuitions are soaring in tandem with thickening layers of administrative bloat. So here is a proposal: Hundreds of millions could be saved, with no cost to any institution’s core educational mission, by eliminating every position whose title contains the word “sustainability” — and, while we are at it, “diversity,” “multicultural” or “inclusivity.” The result would be higher education higher than the propaganda-saturated version we have, and more sustainable (!).
By JR on Saturday, April 18, 2015
Quick thinkers are born not made: The speed at which we process new information is written in our genes
The journal article is: "GWAS for executive function and processing speed suggests involvement of the CADM2 gene". Processing speed is one aspect of IQ so this is another genetic contribution to IQ identified.
It has long been agreed that IQ is affected by many genes but an earlier article in the same series ("Genetic contributions to variation in general cognitive function: a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in the CHARGE consortium (N=53949)" shows that 28% to 29% of the genes affecting IQ have now been identified: "The proportion of phenotypic variation accounted for by all genotyped common SNPs [single-nucleotide polymorphism] was 29% and 28%"
The first article in the series was "Genome-wide Studies of Verbal Declarative Memory in Nondemented Older People: The Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology Consortium". It isolated genes for memory performance, also important to IQ
"General cognitive function" is basically just a euphemism for IQ -- less likely to frighten the horses. It is encouraging to see the long list of academics involved in the studies above. Interest in studying "general cognitive function" is obviously widespread, despite its political incorrectness. Layman's account of the first study mentioned above given below
Quick thinkers are born not made, claim scientists. They have discovered a link between our genes and the ability to remain mentally on the ball in later life. It is the first time a genetic link has been shown to explain why some people have quick thinking skills.
Researchers identified a common genetic variant – changes in a person’s genetic code – related to how quickly a person is able to process new information. The researchers say the finding could help understand how the brain works, and why some people develop mental decline, while others do not.
Professor Ian Deary, director of the centre for cognitive ageing and cognitive epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh and a co-author on the study, said: ‘Processing speed is thought to be a core capability for preserving other mental skills in older age.
‘This inkling into why some people's processing speed is more efficient than others is a small but encouraging advance in understanding the biological foundations of more efficient thinking.’
Professor Deary said the study found one variant with a relation to processing speed. He said: ‘The genetic difference that was significantly related to slight slowing of processing speed was one that about one third of the population have.’
The Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium, which includes experts at the University of Edinburgh, brought together data from 12 different countries on 30,000 people, aged more than 45 years old.
The participants – none of whom had dementia – took cognitive function tests that included tests of simple, repeated coding under pressure of time.
Researchers then processed the results alongside details of each person’s genome to identify genetic variants or changes associated with speed of thinking skills.
People with slower processing speed overall were found to have variants near a gene called CADM2.
The CADM2 gene is linked to the communication process between brain cells - the gene is particularly active in the frontal and cingulate cortex in the brain, which are areas of the brain involved in thinking speed.
Professor Deary said the study examined the genetic contribution to processing speed differences among middle-aged and older people.
‘This is important because, as people age, when processing speed slows down there tends to be reduced efficiency of other thinking skills too, like reasoning executive functions, and some aspects of memory,' he said.
‘So it is important to understand the mechanisms by which people differ in their processing speed.'
Lead researcher Dr Carla Ibrahim-Verbaas, resident in Neurology at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, said: ‘We have identified a genetic variant which partly explains the differences in information processing speed between people.
‘Our study confirms the likely role of CADM2 in between-cell communication, and therefore cognitive performance. It is of interest that the gene has also been linked to autism and personality traits.’
The study complements two other recent discoveries by the CHARGE team, which identified genetic variants associated with memory performance and general cognitive functioning in older adults.
The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry journal, involved researchers in Australia, Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the UK and the US.
By JR on Friday, April 17, 2015
Love that chartmanship!
Chartmanship is a sub-branch of how to lie with statistics. In the example below the trick is to put up a long series that makes recent years look trivial. You are supposed not to notice that, while there was some warming in the 20th century, temperatures in the 21st century have been flat. The facts are there in the chart but are swamped by other details. But you can see it if you look carefully.
And note that the "record" temperature is only higher than the previous "record" by three one hundredths of one degree. Utterly trivial and highly artificial. The accuracy of global temperature measurement is just not that good. Warmists are very devious folks
Global temperature records keep melting as Japan declares March the hottest on record
The average air temperature over land and sea was 0.31 degrees above the 1981-2010 average, eclipsing the previous record anomaly of 0.28 degrees set in 2010.
Compared with the 20th century, temperatures last month were 0.76 degrees above average, the agency said.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is likely to release its March readings in coming days. Last month, the agency said both the first two months of 2015 and the 12 months to February were the hottest in 136 years of records. [But by how much? By less than one degree]
By JR on Thursday, April 16, 2015
It's not poverty after all!
The Left's all-purpose explanation won't do for sex crimes. Latest academic findings below. And it's "whole of nation" data, not requiring sampling, which makes the findings exceptionally firm. Sex offending is 40% genetic and only 2% related to home background. 58% is all other causes -- so the genetic influence stands out.
As findings in the life sciences go, the effect of genetics reported below is huge. Medical researchers greet odds ratios of less than 1.00 with celebrations and ululations (e.g. here). The odds ratio of 5.1 reported below would leave them gasping. Many would never in their entire research career see a ratio that high
So let me summarize the findings below in plain language: Some people are born bad
Out of political correctness (All men are equal, you know), the authors below would no doubt object to that formulation -- but that is what their numbers show
Sexual offending runs in families: A 37-year nationwide study
By Niklas Långström et al.
Background: Sexual crime is an important public health concern. The possible causes of sexual aggression, however, remain uncertain.
Methods: We examined familial aggregation and the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to sexual crime by linking longitudinal, nationwide Swedish crime and multigenerational family registers. We included all men convicted of any sexual offence (N = 21,566), specifically rape of an adult (N = 6131) and child molestation (N = 4465), from 1973 to 2009. Sexual crime rates among fathers and brothers of sexual offenders were compared with corresponding rates in fathers and brothers of age-matched population control men without sexual crime convictions. We also modelled the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors to the liability of sexual offending.
Results: We found strong familial aggregation of sexual crime [odds ratio (OR) = 5.1, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 4.5–5.9] among full brothers of convicted sexual offenders. Familial aggregation was lower in father-son dyads (OR = 3.7, 95% CI = 3.2–4.4) among paternal half-brothers (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.5–2.9) and maternal half-brothers (OR = 1.7, 95% CI = 1.2–2.4). Statistical modelling of the strength and patterns of familial aggregation suggested that genetic factors (40%) and non-shared environmental factors (58%) explained the liability to offend sexually more than shared environmental influences (2%). Further, genetic effects tended to be weaker for rape of an adult (19%) than for child molestation (46%).
Conclusions: We report strong evidence of familial clustering of sexual offending, primarily accounted for by genes rather than shared environmental influences. Future research should possibly test the effectiveness of selective prevention efforts for male first-degree relatives of sexually aggressive individuals, and consider familial risk in sexual violence risk assessment.
By JR on Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Die lustige Witwe
I suppose I am a bit foolish to bother about these things but I have myself done a fair bit of translation from German so I am inclined to make a few comments about the translation of Die lustige Witwe. The usual translation is "The merry widow" and I suppose that is close enough but "gay" or "pleasure-seeking" would approximate it too. "Lustig" is not "lusty", however. It is about having a good or entertaining time.
I was delighted recently to receive a DVD of the operetta by Lehar of that name which featured Dagmar Schellenberger as the leading lady. After her performance as Mariza at Moerbisch I expected some brilliant singing and acting and I was not disappointed.
The performance was from Zuerich in der Schweiz, in the Zurich opera house -- and that made clear to me how Moerbisch spoils us. The high tech facilities at Moerbisch enable lots of very sharp and very close close-ups -- rather like in a Hollywood musical. So facial expressions can be seen in great detail. The technicians at Zurich were no slouch but broadcasting from an ordinary opera house did limit them, with the lighting apparently being the main culprit.
So the brilliant expressions that Schellenberger is known for were at their clearest only when she was under bright light. Lighting varies in opera houses so clarity was on other occasions reduced. There was not the constant clarity to be found at Moerbisch. What was particularly missing was Schellenberger's eyes. She has the most expressive eyes and one could not always see them at critical junctures. We saw enough of her, however, to marvel yet again at how well her face mirrored what was going on. She has the most amazing range of expressions -- and all used appropriately to the story. I liked it when she answered her difficult man with just one glance of her eyes.
And the very different role did call forth from Schellenberger a new lot of expressions. This time she brilliantly conveyed disgust, pique and coquettishness -- among much else. Her singing was as good as ever but the role did not really stretch her -- though she did belt out a few high notes for fun on occasions.
But it was a fun operetta and I will be watching it repeatedly. It gains with each successive viewing of course. The local patrons at the Teatro alla scala in Milano know that. They normally know well the opera put on there but keep going along to absorb more of it.
I initially thought that Schellenberger looked younger than she was at Moerbisch but, on checking, I found that both performances were in 2004! It shows how much difference hair, makeup and clothes can make. And her role was quite different too. At Moerbisch she was the haughty lady who fell in love against her better judgement whereas at Zurich she was the pretty and clever little lady who was determined to get her man. And, this being operetta, she did, of course. The man didn't have a hope. Whether she IS the ultimate female or not, she certainly plays one with great conviction.
The Swiss were a bit more daring in the costume department too. Both Schellenberger and Ute Gfrerer showed noticeable cleavage, particularly so in the case of Gfrerer. Gfrerer was the second lead, playing Valencienne, the attractive young singer married to a rich older man.
Gfrerer seems to be a rather jolly lady in general but her part in this show was almost wholly serious. She was even asked, rather absurdly for her, to be Eine anstaendige Frau (a respectable wife). I was inclined to think that her notable bosom was what got her the part and that may have been so. It did suit the role. But she is also much acclaimed as a singer and actress. There is a bio of her here.
Her natural talent for gaiety did however surface in the dancing. She was in any dancing going, whether the part really called for it or not. She even led the cabaret dancers towards the end of the show. With big smiles and shrieks, her happiness throughout the dancing was a joy to watch. She even got herself tipped upside down in that last segment! She is a naturally happy lady, I think. And being born both beautiful and talented why should she not be happy?
Schellenberger with the ambassador
Schellenberger with her "difficult" man
In fact Zurich got top talent all round. Even the conductor has a distinguished record. He was Franz Welser-Moest and when I saw him I thought he was rather young as conductors go -- but I was mistaken. He was in fact 44 at the time. A lot of German men are ageless for a long time and he is obviously one of those. Something to do with the climate, maybe. I was at a conference at Oxford once when I saw a New York lady mistake a good-looking German man as being about 30. He was closer to 50.
The music was of course good so it seems a pity that none of the arias seem to be much used outside the context of the operetta itself. Some of the tunes might even reasonably be described as catchy. Vilja gets a very occasional airing as a concert piece by itself but even on YouTube most of the renditions are extracted from stage performances of the operetta.
The inescapable Andre Rieu has of course grabbed it for his shows and in fact done rather well with it. He has up a very sweet rendition by a slightly built black South African soprano named Kimmy Skota. She does not of course have a fraction of Schellenberger's facial expressions but the singing is as good as any. I find it hard to evaluate Schellenberger's performance of the aria as just singing. I can't isolate the singing from the brilliant way she plays the part as a whole.
I was amused that "men" are described in one of the later scenes as quoting Heinrich Heine (a German romantic poet) to win women. I like some of Heine but have never recited Heine to a woman I was interested in -- but I did once quote Goethe to a very fine woman with good effect. I am out of contact with her now, to my regret, but I imagine she still remembers that too: "Tiefe Stille herrscht im Wasser ...". I have had some lovely ladies in my life and I fear that I did not treat them all as well as they deserved.
The stars of the show were undoubtedly the two ladies above but Njegus the majordomo was a great comic touch too. And Rudolf Hartmann made a great comic figure out of Baron Zeta.
And I must of course say something about the big and mellifluous American baritone, Rodney Gilfry, who has learnt enough Hoch Deutsch to play Graf Danilo well. His rugged good looks do make him credible in the part as much admired by women but he is quite powerless against the the German ultra feminine Schellenberger. Schellenberger has been described as "Prussian energy plus feminine charm" -- and there is a lot to that. A real-life man could not withstand her for 5 minutes.
A small point: My old ears are not so good these days but, as I hear it, Schellenberger does reply to her lover on some occasions with the Slavic "da" rather than the German "ja". That would be in keeping but I do wonder if my ears deceive me.
And the two little voiceless sobs she does in the humming song are immensely evocative, though I do think they are a bit of a trademark for her. She is one clever lady.
A small language note: The honorific Russian form of address "Gospodin"/"Gospodina" is used on occasions in the show -- presumably to identify the mythical country in which the show is set as Slavic (clearly modelled on Montenegro). It means "Your honour" or "Gracious lady" or something along those lines. It is perhaps a bit less empty than the German expression "Gnaedige Frau" (which is also used).
Speaking of expressions, it is mildly interesting that women in German lands rarely refer to their husband as a husband. They refer to him as "mein Mann" (my man). There is a German word for husband (Ehemann) but it seems to be little used. And Frau (woman) is also used to mean "wife".
Another language note: As the anstaendige Frau is a recurrent theme, I thought I should elaborate a little on the meaning of anstaendig. It is reasonably translated as "respectable" but it is also often translated as "decent". It is a claim about her good character as well as a claim about her good reputation.
I was a bit peeved that the French used in the show was subtitled but not translated. I haven't spent one minute studying French. But, fortunately, my general knowledge of European languages enabled me to get most of it.
Finally, is there a political message in the operetta? Patriotism is rather clearly held up to ridicule in it but is Lehar ridiculing Austro/Hungarian patriotism, the patriotism of small countries or ridiculing patriotism generally? I will have to read further on that, I think. He was not himself Jewish but his wife was and he associated a lot with Jews so that may have made him skeptical of the patriotic sentiments of the time. On the other hand he spent a lot of his early life in the armed forces, which usually encourages patriotism. On balance, I am inclined to suspect that he saw Austro/Hungarian patriotism as excessive. His near contemporary in England, W.S. Gilbert (in the Gilbert & Sullivan light operas) was certainly no respecter of the establishment.
By JR on Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Exercise doesn't help much
Medical researchers tend to get very excited even when they detect a very small effect of something. Below is such a case. When everything was controlled for in their analyses, they found a pathetic .66 hazard ratio ("the adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were 0.66"). Statisticians don't usually conclude that something real is going on until the ratio exceeds 2.0. So the lifespan benefits of taking regular exercise are somewhere between tiny and negligible. Pity that.
What we see below is another example of the failure of theory. It seems obvious that we are designed for an active life so therefore we should live longer if we are active. But we don't -- not to any appreciable extent, anyway
Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity on All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Australians
By Klaus Gebel et al.
Importance: Few studies have examined how different proportions of moderate and vigorous physical activity affect health outcomes.
Objective: To examine whether the proportion of total moderate to vigorous activity (MVPA) that is achieved through vigorous activity is associated with all-cause mortality independently of the total amount of MVPA.
Design, Setting, and Participants: We performed a prospective cohort study with activity data linked to all-cause mortality data from February 1, 2006, through June 15, 2014, in 204 542 adults aged 45 through 75 years from the 45 and Up population-based cohort study from New South Wales, Australia (mean [SD] follow-up, 6.52 [1.23] years). Associations between different contributions of vigorous activity to total MVPA and mortality were examined using Cox proportional hazards models, adjusted for total MVPA and sociodemographic and health covariates.
Exposures: Different proportions of total MVPA as vigorous activity. Physical activity was measured with the Active Australia Survey.
Main Outcomes and Measures: All-cause mortality during the follow-up period.
Results: During 1 444 927 person-years of follow-up, 7435 deaths were registered. Compared with those who reported no MVPA (crude death rate, 8.34%), the adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality were 0.66 (95% CI, 0.61-0.71; crude death rate, 4.81%), 0.53 (95% CI, 0.48-0.57; crude death rate, 3.17%), and 0.46 (95% CI, 0.43-0.49; crude death rate, 2.64%) for reporting 10 through 149, 150 through 299, and 300 min/wk or more of activity, respectively. Among those who reported any MVPA, the proportion of vigorous activity revealed an inverse dose-response relationship with all-cause mortality: compared with those reporting no vigorous activity (crude death rate, 3.84%) the fully adjusted hazard ratio was 0.91 (95% CI, 0.84-0.98; crude death rate, 2.35%) in those who reported some vigorous activity (but <30% of total activity) and 0.87 (95% CI, 0.81-0.93; crude death rate, 2.08%) among those who reported 30% or more of activity as vigorous. These associations were consistent in men and women, across categories of body mass index and volume of MVPA, and in those with and without existing cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus.
Conclusions and Relevance: Among people reporting any activity, there was an inverse dose-response relationship between proportion of vigorous activity and mortality. Our findings suggest that vigorous activities should be endorsed in clinical and public health activity guidelines to maximize the population benefits of physical activity.
JAMA Intern Med.
By JR on Monday, April 13, 2015
Why is Northeast Asia poorer than the USA?
The statistics make it clear as crystal that IQ is a major determinant of national wealth. Poor countries tend to be dumber, much dumber in some cases. So it is interesting that a massive and statistically very strong article by Anatoly Karlin has just come out that asks why the USA is such an outlier. American exceptionalism really does exist in the wealth statistics. According to their national average IQs, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan should be richer than the USA -- but they are in fact significantly poorer. That's a puzzle.
The easy answer to the puzzle is to say that special factors are at work in each case but that is a bit of a cop-out -- though it may be true. Karlin considers a wide range of factors that might help America and it is clear that some of them are indeed involved. Relative size of market, more Jews in the USA etc.
Something that deepens the puzzle is that Northeast Asia is also less socialist. Socialism, depending on its extent, clearly has a dampening effect on wealth creation. Britain's millions of NEETs sponging off welfare are an example of how socialism can take a significant slice of the population out of the workforce. Now that the Tory government has done a modest crackdown on "dole bludging", there has been a big increase in the size of the active workforce. So semi-socialist USA should be poorer than the NE Asians, not richer.
And natural resources are not the answer. Karlin has some statistics on that but there are plenty of examples of resource-poor countries doing well.
I think inherited traditions and RACE are major factors, though not perhaps in the way that one might think. As it is less incendiary, I will mention traditions first.
Yankees tend to be, to be blunt about it, self-righteous, know-it-all bastards. And they are still a substantial fraction of the US population -- and are certainly an influential fraction of the US population. Their ancestors left Europe and Britain in rickety wooden boats absolutely convinced that they would create in the new world a religious utopia -- as soon as they threw off the silly customs and conventions of the old world. A third of them had to die of starvation before they decided that their communism was a crock and that the silly ways of the old world were not so silly after all. And their descendants today are not much different, still convinced of their own righteousness and wisdom -- which is why New England is the great redoubt of the American Left. Being a Republican in Massachusetts requires some fortitude.
And we see something similar in Australia. The first white settlers there made a much longer journey in rickety wooden ships of the Royal Navy. Most of them were convicts. Two of them were my ancestors. And they HAD to become settlers. Returning to England would get you hanged at Tyburn. But convicts were not keen workers. Their attitude to their jobs tended to be relaxed. And that still exists in Australia. Australia is the laid-back country. Nobody really expects to get any job done right the first time. Even if it takes three times to get something done that is fine, normal, even. But such relaxed attitudes are inefficient economically. Having three goes to get something done is wasteful. It does however make Australia a cheerful, friendly place, which the world could surely do with much more of. It takes Muslims to make Australians riot.
So what we see is the surprising influence of the founders of a society. Traditions once set up are amazingly persistent. So it is to American traditions that we should to look for at least a part-explanation of American exceptionalism. And whatever else they were, the Pilgrim Fathers were exceptionally enterprising and brave. They took on a big challenge with scarcely a second thought. They knew the risks and were prepared to face them. And that is very characteristic of American business to this day. American wealth is created by American business. And as we recently saw, what is bad for General Motors is bad for America. American entrepreneurs are a large part of America's success.
Now we get on to what I believe is another powerful factor: RACE. But I am NOT going to say that Americans are particularly superior racially. Not at all. We can see that by considering the cases of Australia and New Zealand. Both those countries are very similar to America racially -- and in other ways too. You don't even have to press "1" for English there. Yet Australia and New Zealand are clustered with the NE Asian countries in terms of wealth per capita. Despite the great similarities between the USA and the ANZAC countries, America is clearly richer. So it is not the racial composition of the majority population that makes the difference. It is the minority population that is the key.
OK. Let me now say something that just about every American knows but which it is social poison to utter these days: Blacks are a HUGE problem for the white population. They run fast and sing well but those are just about the only good things you can say about them. So American whites are in general pretty frantic to minimize their contact with blacks. Living among them is just too frightening for most whites.
But how can whites minimize their contact with blacks in the present climate of political correctness? There is really only one way: White flight. You have to move to places where blacks don't want to go if you are to find safety for your family. And, since their income is generally as low as their IQ, blacks are mostly poor. So it is in the more expensive suburbs and exurbs were you are safest from them. So being able to spend big money is the only way to safeguard yourself and your family. So American whites have to struggle frantically to make as much money as possible. And they do. To an outsider it looks like money is their God. But in a capitalist economy the best way to make a lot of money is to deliver a lot in goods and services. And white Americans do. Their spurred-on efforts produce America's wealth.
Japan and Korea, by contrast, are among the world's most racially homogeneous societies. Unaccompanied women walk through the streets of Tokyo at night without fear -- somewhat different from NYC, one might say. There is a story here about Japan that sometimes makes me sob. I remember that it was once like that in the small Australian town where I grew up long ago. Not all Japan's strengths are monetary.
So I think that the high money-motivation produced by America's racial tensions is the main driver behind America' unusual wealth. I am glad I am not American. I give most of my modest income away. Radix malorum cupiditas est
UPDATE: A reader has commented that there are many places in the USA where blacks are largely absent so there is no pressure to avoid them. I think however that overlooks the importance of the big cities -- e.g. NYC and L.A. The big cities are a large part of America's economic dynamism and there ARE lots of blacks in most of them. So the people there ARE driven towards affording a refuge.
By JR on Sunday, April 12, 2015
A few more notes on Graefin Mariza
I am at the moment "nuts" about the 2004 performance at Moerbisch of Kalman's Graefin Mariza. I have already written a bit about it but I think I should add a few things that might, via the magic of Google, be helpful to people looking for more information about it. There is very little available in English about it online so far.
I think I have watched the show every night since I got the DVD some weeks ago. It is to me great entertainment and also a perfect work of art. I even still laugh at jokes that I have heard around 30 times already! The combination of Kalman's music and the no-expenses-spared staging at Moerbisch is hard to beat. I love the Moerbisch steam train.
And, in the usual way for operettas, the show is exceedingly romantic. Love is its theme. So why the Devil do I enjoy it? I see myself as one of the world's least romantic persons. But as the ancient Greeks used to say, "It's a wise man who knows himself" and the fact that I have been married four times may be some evidence of that. And I still think that I married four very fine ladies.
Moerbisch is such a prestigious venue in the world of operetta that the organizers must have had just about untrammeled choice among all the many singers of the German lands. Germans did terrible things to themselves (and others) in two world wars but artistic talent still abounds there. So the directors at Moerbisch could demand performers who were both brilliant singers and great actors -- and pretty good dancers too. And in 2004 they got all that.
And Dagmar Schellenberger as Mariza was the first among greats. Her brilliant acting and rich soprano voice rather mesmerize me. Her acting would be taken as over-acting at Hollywood but it was perfect for operetta, where realism is secondary to a great show. I enjoy her amazingly expressive acting as much as her faultless singing. She must have the most expressive eyes I have ever seen. Her facial and bodily expressions are perfect for every moment of the story and convey almost as much as her singing. She does hauteur, anger and ecstasy equally briliantly.
And I loved the comic performance by Marco Kathol as Baron Zsupan almost as much. He is a very good tenor who, unusually, was also a ballet dancer for some years. And his dancing background shows. His moves are so fleet and flexible that they are a wonder to watch. He must have been a pretty good ballet dancer too. He is a pleasure to watch.
And he is obviously still very strong and fit. He picks up Schellenberger as easily as if she were one of the wispy little ladies of ballet. And Schellenberger is a fine figure of a woman, almost a "big bizzem", as they say in Scotland. When the character Penizek in the show checks out her "architecture" he had reason to be pleased with what he saw. For most of the show she wears heavily "glammed up" clothes that rather disguise her body but when she gets into her milkmaid Tracht towards the end of the show she looks very good indeed.
In another operetta, Die lustige Witwe, we find the meaning of "architecture" spelled out a little more -- as a good mezzanine and a good balcony. I think we get the drift.
All of the singers in the show performed their roles very well but it is Schellenberger and Kathol who cause me to watch it again and again. After watching the show many times I now laugh the minute I see Kathol roll onto the stage on his railway handcar.
The producers of the show never resolved the conflict between representing the period of the show as either the 1920s when it was written or the late 19th century in which it is set. There were also a few references to modern times, but mainly for humorous effect. I was rather pleased that a passing reference to the EU got a big laugh. It is a bureaucratic monster that needs to be laughed at.
And if you do know a bit of history some strange things happen. When Mariza asks Herr Toerek, "Haben Sie einen Frack" he replies affirmatively. But nobody in the show at any time wears a late 19th century Frack. A late 19th century Frack was what was known in English as a frock coat, a long coat that belled out slightly towards the bottom. It was not cutaway. You occasionally see them on gamblers and the like in cowboy movies. In Graefin Mariza formal dress is the more modern Frack of the 1920s, a tailcoat. The producers of the show kept the original words but not the period dress. The subtitle translators rendered Frack as "dress-shirt", which is simply wrong. "Evening clothes" would have been better.
The best song of the show is undoubtedly the Varazdin song. It is very catchy. But until you try to sing it you don't realize that it is a tongue-twister too. Kathol and Schellenberger to well to gallop energetically through it. When I try to sing along I can't do it. I always stumble over Gulaschsaft (goulash juice). The words are below:
Komm mit nach Varazdin! So lange noch die Rosen blüh'n,
Dort woll'n wir glücklich sein, wir beide ganz allein!
Du bist die schönste Fee, von Debrecen bis Plattensee,
Drum möcht mit dir ich hin nach Varazdin!
Denn meine Leidenschaft, brennt heisser noch als Gulaschsaft
Und in der Brust tanzt Herz mir Czardas her und hin!
Komm mit nach Varazdin, so lange noch die Rosen blüh'n,
Dort ist die ganze Welt noch rot, weiss, grün!
The "rot, weiss, grün" (red white and green) refers to the colours of the Hungarian flag. The operetta is set in a grand Hungarian estate.
And I should say something about the Puszta. It is mentioned quite a lot both at the beginning and the end of the show. In the subtitles, it is sometimes translated (as "prairie") and sometimes not. As Wikipedia informatively says: "The Hungarian puszta is an exclave of the Eurasian Steppe". It is a large area mostly of grassland with rather infertile soils -- but the interesting part is the people who live there. Wikipedia doesn't tell you about that. It's a hard life there and it breeds a tough people. And it is the women of the Puszta who are idolized in Graefin Mariza. They are seen as particularly lively and attractive -- and, one suspects, rather easily seduced by rich Hungarian men.
Hungary generally is in fact greatly romanticized by Kalman. And not only mainstream Hungarian society but also the Hungarian gypsies are extolled. Gypsy music is in fact to a large degree the focus of the show. But gypsy fortunetelling is treated with respect, as are gypsy dancers. Why was Kalman so enthused by gypsies? It's got to have something to do with the fact that Kalman was a Hungarian Jew (born Imre Koppstein). Antisemitism was already rife in Vienna and elsewhere when Kalman was writing -- Nazism arose in fertile soil -- and it must have freaked him. So was he trying to claim a new identity for himself? Perhaps.
There is a lot to note about the language in the show. It took me a while to figure out what was going on when the word Zigan was used. When sung, it sounded like Sieger (victor) to me but I eventually figured out that it was just an abbreviation for Zigeuner (gypsy).
And a curiosity about the language was a roughly 50/50 split over where the emphasis should be placed on Mariza. Is it MAHriza or MahRITza? Schellenberger pronounces it the latter way but others do not. So either way is "correct".
There is quite a lot of wordplay in the show but you miss most of it unless you know some German. One thing that struck me as odd was when the majordomo opined that Bela Toerek was named "Bela" because he was good looking -- an allusion to the Italian "bella", meaning beautiful. But Bela is a common Hungarian Christian name and Hungarian is unrelated to other European languages so how could he think that? Apparently there is no agreed meaning for the name "Bela" so he was at liberty to make a romantic speculation about it.
And the split between Northern and Southern German pronuciation is referred to. Northern Germans tend to look down on Southern Germans but Southerners don't give a damn about that. And Fuerstin Cuddenstein, the rich aunt, is portrayed as speaking in a broad Southern way. Like the Swiss, she says "Daitsch" instead of "Deutsch". So she brings her German teacher, a former thespian, with her to "improve" her speech.
The translators do a manful job of turning German into English but the translations are quite "free" (non-literal). I don't underestimate their difficulties, though. German and English were the same language 1500 years ago but a lot has changed since then. And the two languages do to an extent cut up reality in different ways these days. I have made a few notes about that from my days translating the German of Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler into English. A lot of what those two gentlemen said during their lives poses difficulties for the modern political Left so had not been available in translated form online. So it was amusing for me to let the cat out of the bag.
So all that adds up to the fact that you get a lot more out of the show to the extent that you understand German. Translations just cannot do the whole job of conveying the original intention of the text. One instance of that occurs when the Graefin is declaring her intention to stay on her Gut (estate). To deter any opposition to her decision,she adds, "sicher und sicher". That is certainly very emphatic in German and Schellenberger's facial expression says more than words probably could anyway. But sicher literally means firm or secure so you cannot translate it well directly. You have to use a circumlocution. And no circumlocution that I can think of is as emphatic. So I hope that my various comments here about things in the show will help to a small degree to make up for any lack of German in those who view it.
On to the politically incorrect bit!
Anne watches a lot more ballet than I do and Russia is of course a ballet powerhouse. You only have to see magical performances such as that by Ekaterina Kondaurova as the Firebird at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersberg to know why. And Anne remarked to me recently that she has never seen a black or Asian face in a ballet performance from Russia. All the faces look like the faces we both grew up amongst. You cannot usually tell one Northern European face from another just by looking at them. A Russian could be an English person for all that looks give away.
And I notice the same in the performances I have seen from Moerbisch. I have not seen them all so maybe there has been some "diversity" there at times. It's actually a bit of a shock to see someone who could be the person next door speaking very foreign-sounding German words.
But perhaps an old guy like me may be permitted to be pleased to be watching faces like those he grew up among.
By JR on Saturday, April 11, 2015
Enjoyment of school is highly heritable
A huge and fascinating article below but it is greatly regrettable that the authors failed to control for an obvious confounder -- IQ. I reproduce only the abstract below but I have read the whole article and I can see no mention of IQ in it at all. Yet it seems to me that we have here a clear case of double counting. It is highly likely that dull kids find school a trial and that smart kids find it a breeze, not only being easy but producing praise from teachers and others. Many teachers smiled on me in my schooldays.
So are we just measuring IQ below? Impossible to be certain but highly likely, I think. I suspect that the authors have simply found that smart kids enjoy school more. Which is much less surprising than their findings initially appear. Try alternative explanations for the findings. I can't think of any.
With all the data that the authors must have had, it is strange that IQ was not controlled for. Why did they not? They DID control for social class, which it is often too politically incorrect to mention, so why not IQ? Perhaps that was a step too far in what they felt free to mention.
I have myself had a considerable number of articles published in the academic journal concerned so it vexes me that the current editor has put out an article with such a large and unacknowledged hole in it. There is a layman's version of the article here
Why children differ in motivation to learn: Insights from over 13,000 twins from 6 countries
Yulia Kovasa et al.
Little is known about why people differ in their levels of academic motivation. This study explored the etiology of individual differences in enjoyment and self-perceived ability for several school subjects in nearly 13,000 twins aged 9–16 from 6 countries. The results showed a striking consistency across ages, school subjects, and cultures. Contrary to common belief, enjoyment of learning and children’s perceptions of their competence were no less heritable than cognitive ability. Genetic factors explained approximately 40% of the variance and all of the observed twins’ similarity in academic motivation. Shared environmental factors, such as home or classroom, did not contribute to the twin’s similarity in academic motivation. Environmental influences stemmed entirely from individual specific experiences.
By JR on Friday, April 10, 2015
Is it a problem that some big companies pay little tax?
There is a big debate on that ongoing in Australia at the moment and it has been causing heartburn in Britain too. The British have attempted to plug the hole by a bureaucratic monstrosity that will have a main effect of increasing accountancy costs. But the most just system would undoubtedly be to abolish company tax altogether. Companies disburse their revenues to suppliers, workers and shareholders. And those people are already taxed on those receipts. Company tax is double taxation. Australia has a unique "franking" system that reduces the burden on shareholders but the simplest system would be to abolish the tax altogether.
Politicians rarely abolish or reduce taxes, however. You almost have to be another Ronald Reagan to do that. John Howard did but even he replaced the "lost" tax by a new tax (the GST). Given that reality, the challenge is to find a better system of taxation than the present one.
The simplest and most efficient change would be to impose a turnover tax as an alternative to a company tax. A turnover tax of (say) 2% on all companies would yield similar revenue to what company taxes yield and would not be avoidable by profit shifting. Multinationals would have no avenue of escape. The turnover of a company (total revenue before disbursements earned in the country concerned) is readily ascertainable from existing company records so would also require minimal bureaucracy to enforce.
It would also erode the temptation to divert profits into "fringe benefits" for company officers and employees. Such diversion would have no effect on the tax bill. Even the temptation to retain profits in the hope of changed circumstance in the future would be minimized. The revenue would be taxed whether it was retained or not. It would also require no international consensus or co-operation.
Why it never seems to be canvassed rather mystifies me. Perhaps the bureaucrats don't like it because it would shrink their empires. An excerpt from the current debate below
Taxation experts have warned against unilateral action on corporate tax avoidance, telling a Senate Economics Committee Australia should be proactive and show leadership in the OECD and G20 tax processes already underway.
The inquiry, initiated by Greens leader Christine Milne, is exploring tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in Australia.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has hinted that a diverted profits or “Google tax”, similar to that introduced in the UK is being considered by the Australian government.
However Richard Vann, Challis Professor of Law at Sydney University told the committee he was somewhat cynical about such a tax, suggesting it would collect very little revenue in the UK.
“They don’t even know how they’re going to try to calculate the revenue that they’re going to collect from Google,” Professor Vann said.
Professor Vann said the government was sending a “mixed message” to the multinationals that presented the biggest tax avoidance problem to Australia, by suggesting in the tax discussion paper that we needed to cut our corporate tax rate, and at the same time highlighting the problem of tax avoidance by multinationals.
“There are no simple single-country solutions, it does require coordinated action, he said.
“I’m not saying the diverted profits tax or something like it is a bad idea, but if everyone introduced one that would be a problem. They would all be different, they wouldn’t be harmonised and then we would have breakout.”
QUT taxation Professor Kerrie Sadiq agreed, and said Australia must collaborate internationally and not act “hastily or unilaterally”.
“Personally, I believe we should strive to fix the current system, particularly the transfer pricing regime.”
Transfer pricing sees multinationals make intra-company transactions, such as billing a subsidiary company, for the purposes of avoiding tax in higher taxing jurisdictions.