By JR on Sunday, May 24, 2015
Buchanan strikes back
I like a lot of what Pat Buchanan says -- his knowledge of history is exceptional -- but I disagree with his views below. He clearly has no background in economics. His major point below is that largely bipartisan measures fostering free trade have led to a large loss of American factory jobs -- with most consumer products now being made in China. What he refuses to look at is the great enrichment of Americans that freeish trade has brought about. You now get far more for your dollar by buying Chinese. It's much the same in Australia. I have seen the price of some electrical goods plummet from around $100 to $10. That's phenomenal.
Buchanan notes that America is now much less self-sufficient than it was but America is not at war with the rest of the world and the huge trade relationship with China is surely a strong force for peace. America would not want to cut itself off from its major supplier and China would not want to cut itself off from its major customer.
And the situation in fact gives America a lot of leverage. If China became particularly annoying, America could without great bother embargo the import of all Chinese products. Suppliers in Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and elsewhere could readily take up the slack and replace China as suppliers. China, on the other hand, could not at all replace America as a customer. So China has now to a substantial extent put itself in America's power. Not that the black jellyfish in the White House at present would ever exercise such power.
And moving Americans out of assembly line jobs surely has a lot to be said for it also
As Middle America rises in rage against "fast track" and the mammoth Obamatrade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, The Wall Street Journal has located the source of the malady.
Last Monday's lead editorial began:
"Here we go again. In the 1990s Pat Buchanan launched a civil war within the Republican Party on a platform targeting immigration and trade. Some claimed Pitchfork Pat was the future of the GOP, though in the end he mainly contributed to its presidential defeats."
But, woe is us, "the GOP's Buchanan wing is making a comeback."
Now it is true that, while Nixon and Reagan won 49-state landslides and gave the GOP five victories in six presidential contests, the party has fallen upon hard times. Only once since 1988 has a Republican presidential nominee won the popular vote.
But was this caused by following this writer's counsel? Or by the GOP listening to the deceptions of its Davos-Doha-Journal wing?
In the 1990s, this writer and allies in both parties fought NAFTA, GATT and MFN for China. The Journal and GOP establishment ran with Bill and Hillary and globalization. And the fruits of their victory?
Between 2000 and 2010, 55,000 U.S. factories closed and 5 million to 6 million manufacturing jobs disappeared. Columnist Terry Jeffrey writes that, since 1979, the year of maximum U.S. manufacturing employment, "The number of jobs in manufacturing has declined by 7,231,000 — or 37 percent."
Does the Journal regard this gutting of the greatest industrial base the world had ever seen, which gave America an independence no republic had ever known, an acceptable price of its New World Order?
Beginning in 1991, traveling the country and visiting plant after plant that was shutting down or moving to Asia or Mexico, some of us warned that this economic treason against America's workers would bring about political retribution. And so it came to pass.
Since 1988, a free-trade Republican Party has not once won Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois or Wisconsin in a presidential election. Ohio, the other great Midwest industrial state, is tipping. The Reagan Democrats are gone. Who cast them aside? You or us?
Since the early 1990s, we have run $3 billion to $4 billion in trade deficits with China. Last year's was $325 billion, or twice China's defense budget. Are not all those factories, jobs, investment capital and consumer dollars pouring into China a reason why Beijing has been able to build mighty air and naval fleets, claim sovereignty over the South and East China seas, fortify reefs 1,000 miles south of Hainan Island, and tell the U.S. Navy to back off?
The Journal accuses us of being anti-growth. But as trade surpluses add to a nation's GDP, trade deficits subtract from it. Does the Journal think our $11 trillion in trade deficits since 1992 represents a pro-growth policy?
On immigration, this writer did campaign on securing the border in 1991-92, when there were 3 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
But the Bush Republicans refused to seal the border.
Now there are 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants and the issue is tearing the party apart. Now everybody is for "secure borders."
We did urge a "moratorium" on legal immigration, such as America had from 1924 to 1965, to assimilate and Americanize the millions who had come. The Journal Republicans called that xenophobia.
Since then, tens of millions of immigrants, here legally and illegally, mostly from the Third World, have arrived. Economically, they consume more in tax dollars than they contribute.
Politically, most belong to ethnic groups that vote between 70 and 90 percent Democratic. Their children will bury the GOP.
Consider California, which voted for Nixon all five times he was on a national ticket and for Reagan in landslides all four times he ran.
Since 1988, California has not gone Republican in a single presidential election. No Republican holds statewide office. Both U.S. Senators are Democrats. Democrats have 39 of 53 U.S. House seats. Republican state legislators are outnumbered 2-to-1.
Americans of European descent, who provide the GOP with 90 percent of its presidential vote, are down to 63 percent of the nation and falling. By 2042, they will be a minority. And there goes the GOP.
By JR on Saturday, May 23, 2015
That good ol' Antarctic peninsula again
These guys below are remarkably incurious. They see the sudden change in parts of the Antarctic peninsula but are sure they have a magic decoder ring that tells then what causes the change -- global warming, of course. But how come the change is so sudden and so recent? And how come it has happened during a period when there has been NO global warming? Their explanations linking it to global warming are obviously just desperate stabs in the dark
And the real cause is known anyhow. There have been several recent reports of subsurface vulcanism in the Western margin and the peninsula. Having a volcano underneath an ice mass is a pretty good way of melting some ice. And volcanoes are sudden and episodic. So vulcanism explains what the Warmists could not -- the SUDDEN onset of the melting. And the second aspect of volcanoes -- that they are episodic -- shows how absurd are the great extrapolations offered below. Volcanoes are mostly caused by tectonic shifts so most erupt and then stop as the plates re-adjust. You cannot reasonably project vulcanism into the future, let alone the distant future. It could stop tomorrow. So the alarming predictions below are just the usual sort of baseless scare that we expect from Greenies
The article below is from the Daily Mail and they obviously didn't like the Warmist claims either. They followed the original story with a quote from a polar expert which pointed out a hole in the story and added a "box" to the article (the words from the capital letters onward) which also shows the absurdity of saying that the Antarctic is being affected by global warming
The Antarctic ice sheet in a previously stable part of the frozen continent is thinning at a rate that has added more than 300 trillion litres of water to the surrounding ocean in the past six years.
Scientists have expressed alarm at the rate of ice loss at the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, which had shown no signs of change until 2009, when it started suffering rapid destabilisation.
Now new research has revealed that glaciers along the peninsula have been melting at accelerating rates, causing the mass of ice there to reduce.
The loss of ice in the region is so large that it has caused the gravitation field of the Earth to change, according to some measurements conducted by scientists.
Since 2009, scientists estimate that the volume of water lost from the ice sheet is equivalent to a body of water larger than Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada or 350,000 Empire State Buildings.
Researchers warn that the melting glaciers are likely to drive rising sea levels if they continue to melt.
They blame the flow of warm subsurface water from the deep ocean for causing the melting of the ice sheets to accelerate.
The Amundsen Sea has long been thought to be the weakest ice sheet in the West Antarctic.
A study published in December suggests the barren region is haemorrhaging ice at a rate triple that of a decade ago.
Researchers believe that the melting of glaciers in West Antarctica, which contain enough water to raise sea levels by at least a metre, may be irreversible.
The findings of the 21-year study by Nasa and the University of California, Irvine claim to provide the most accurate estimates yet of just how fast glaciers are melting in the Amundsen Sea Embayment.
Scientists found the rate by taking radar, laser and satellite measurements of the glaciers' mass between 1992 and 2013.
They found they lost an average 83 gigatons per year (91.5 billion US tons), or the equivalent of losing the water weight of Mount Everest every two years.
Dr Bert Wouters, an earth observation scientist at the University of Bristol who lead the study, said: 'The fact that so many glaciers in such a large region suddenly started to lose ice came as a surprise to us.
'It shows a very fast response of the ice sheet: in just a few years the dynamic regime completely shifted.
'To date, the glaciers added roughly 300 cubic km of water to the ocean. That's the equivalent of the volume of nearly 350,000 Empire State Buildings combined.'
Ice sheets in Antarctica have until recently showed significant resilience to the impacts of global warming. Additional snowfall on the continent has meant some glaciers have actually grown in size.
On the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, the glaciers there appeared to be relatively stable – the flow of ice into the ocean occurred at the same rate as new ice was added at the top of the glaciers.
However, in 2009, several glaciers along the coastline – which measures 466 miles (750km) – started to lose ice at 14 cubic miles (60 cubic km) a year.
Dr Wouters and his colleagues, whose work is published in the journal Science, used radar measurements made by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite to measure the thickness of the ice over the region.
Using five years of data they found the ice surface appears to be falling by around 13 feet (four meters) each year.
Another satellite mission – the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment – also revealed a slight change in the gravity field of the Earth as a result of the dwindling ice.
Dr Wouters said that it appears a change in the winds that encircle Antarcica in response to global warming, was pushing warmer waters from the Southern Ocean towards the ice sheet.
Here they eat away at the ice shelves and glaciers that float on the surface of the ocean from below.
Dr Wouters said: 'It appears that sometime around 2009, the ice shelf thinning and the subsurface melting of the glaciers passed a critical threshold which triggered the sudden ice loss.
'However, compared to other regions in Antarctica, the Southern Peninsula is rather understudied, exactly because it did not show any changes in the past, ironically.
'To pinpoint the cause of the changes, more data need to be collected.
'A detailed knowledge of the geometry of the local ice shelves, the ocean floor topography, ice sheet thickness and glacier flow speeds are crucial to tell how much longer the thinning will continue.'
However, Professor Andy Shepherd, director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds, said he felt the ice loss may actually be smaller than the study estimated.
Professor Shepherd, who is also the principal scientific advisor to the European Space Agency's Cryosat mission, said: 'I think the new estimates of ice loss computed from them are far too high, because the glaciers in this sector just haven't speeded up that much.
'It could be that a bigger chunk of the thinning is down to snowfall fluctuations than the authors have accounted for, and so I would be cautious about the new numbers until more information is to hand.'
... BUT ELSEWHERE THE SEA ICE SEEMS TO BE GROWING
Growing sea ice surrounding Antarctica could prompt scientists to consider relocating research stations on the continent, according to the operations manager of the Australian Antarctic Division.
Rob Wooding said that resupplying Australia's Mawson Station - the longest continuously operated outpost in Antarctica - relied on access to a bay, a task increasingly complicated by sea ice blocking the way.
He said that at Mawson, the ice typically breaks up for one or two months of the summer, but in the last four to six years this has not happened every year and some years only partially.
He said: 'We are noticing that the sea ice situation is becoming more difficult.
'In the 2013-4 season we couldn't get anywhere near Mawson due to the sea ice and we had to get fuel in there by helicopter which is inadequate for the long-term sustainability of the station.'
He said that French and Japanese bases on the continent have had similar problems.
Tony Worby, from an Australian centre studying Antarctic climate and ecosystems, said that in contrast to the Arctic where global warming is causing ice to melt and glaciers to shrink, sea ice around Antarctica was increasing.
It hit a new record in September last year, with the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center reporting that the ice averaged 20.0 million square kilometres (7.72 million square miles) during the month.
Scientists have struggled to predict sea ice conditions, which are believed to be affected by the strong winds of the Southern Ocean which can push the ice out from the continent of Antarctica.
This does not happen in the Arctic because the ocean is hemmed in by land masses.
By JR on Friday, May 22, 2015
Some more Green/Left dishonesty
The screed below by diehard socialist Marg Gleeson (her pic below) is the sort that amuses me. It displays the crookedness and addled thinking of the Left very well. Just a few points:
She heads her article with the picture of a mirror-driven solar furnace. And what she says about it is true enough. It's what she omits that is the killer. The biggest such plant is the Ivanpah setup in California. It fries birds at a great rate and is so inefficient and unprofitable that it asked last year for half a billion dollars grant from the Federal government in order to keep going. THAT is what Marg thinks is great! More on Ivanpah here
And she says without embarrassment that "existing emissions have raised the global average surface temperature by less than 1°C." Such a rise is supposed to be bad? I would have thought that it was trivial. Her trick is that she does not say it took over a century to generate the rise concerned. And there is no proof that the rise had anything to do with CO2.
Then she goes on to a bare-faced lie: "This has already caused significant impacts: increases in frequency and intensity of weather events, such as fires, droughts, cyclones and floods." Except that it hasn't. If anything, extreme weather events have become LESS frequent in recent years. No Category 3-5 hurricane has struck the United States for a record nine years, for instance. She completely ignores all the statistics on that. See here
Speaking of mines, she says: "This has brought much wealth to the Australian ruling class". No mention that the biggest single destination for the money earned by the mines is the pockets of the workers who built and run the mines concerned. See here. Are they ruling class? As a socialist, shouldn't she be celebrating the high pay earned by the mine-workers?
I could go on and fisk much more of this lying little article but, after looking at only the first four paragraphs, I think it is clear that there is nothing in it that anyone concerned with the facts should take notice of. So I reproduce below only those paragraphs. The rest of the article can be accessed at the link for anyone who is curious but the quality does not improve in the rest of the article. The old baggage is just another Leftist crook. She is good at regurgitating Green/Left boilerplate, nothing more. Note that I give references for everything I say. She gives none. I wonder why?
Government of dinosaurs will give Australia a 'fossilised economy'
The technology exists for Australia to immediately transition from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, such as solar thermal
Following a recent meeting of federal and state ministers with the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figures, the federal government announced that it will publish by mid-year the emissions target it will take to the Paris Climate Summit in November.
However, even if all the world's governments agree to limit future emissions to what would cause the global average surface temperature to rise by no more than 2°C from before industrialisation, it will not be enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Already existing emissions have raised the global average surface temperature by less than 1°C. This has already caused significant impacts: increases in frequency and intensity of weather events, such as fires, droughts, cyclones and floods. A safe level is to limit emissions to zero.
The Australian economy is heavily dependent on resource exports, including fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. This has brought much wealth to the Australian ruling class and created a political culture where governments are beholden to the mineral and energy sectors.
Beware of Neil Fallon electrical
My split system air-conditioning unit had stopped working so I asked Brisbane's Neil Fallon electrical to look at it. The firm does advertise that it does repairs.
They charged me $232 to diagnose and quote on the fault -- all for an hour's work. Work at that rate did not interest me so I sent the guy away immediately and gave the job of replacing the unit to someone else. I think they outsmarted themselves there.
The attention-seekers and people-haters never stop
Two Greenie organizations, the Foundation for Deep Ecology and Population Media Center have got together to commission and publish a set of magnificent color photos which display scenes said be of environmental degradation. Needless to say, various newspapers and others have grabbed this free artwork and reprinted it.
But the text accompanying the pictures is systematically dishonest. As usual, Greenies can only make their case by lying. I am not going to do a systematic fisking of such a large body of work but I will offer a few comments. I will be referring to the pictures as reproduced by Britain's Daily Mail, a very widely accessed site.
As a preliminary comment, a lot of the unpleasant pictures come from Third World countries such as Indonesia and India. Such scenes are not our fault and are certainly not the result of capitalism, market economies or modern industrial society. They result primarily from a LACK of capitalism, market economies and modern industrial society. They are the fruit of the low-energy economies that Greenies idolize. A subset of the pictures could well be used to show the sad results of the lack of capitalism. So what the pictures show depends heavily on the text accompanying the pictures.
And the very first picture in the set is a case in point. It shows an Indonesian surfer, surfing among trash. They had to go all the way to Indonesia to get that shot. No distressing shots from neighboring Australia, with its thousands of miles of superb beach? Australia has so much beach that you can find deserted and untouched ones with ease, just the sort that the people-haters want. Anyone who has taken the drive from Cairns to Mossman knows that.
The lesson to note is clearly that you can find bad examples of anything if you scour widely enough. I think already at this point I have alerted readers to the essentially deceptive nature of the project but let me go on.
Next is a picture of power-station cooling towers in the UK. The subtext reads: "Harder and harder to breathe: Air pollution, C02, and water vapor rise from that stacks at a coal-burning power plant in the United Kingdom". That is an outright lie. With the scrubbers that modern power stations employ, the output of the towers is 99% pure steam -- and anything not caught by the scrubbers has certainly never been shown to hinder breathing! And do I need to point out that steam is just water?
The text beneath the next picture reads: "Waterfall of melting ice: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway". I have no doubt that the text is accurate but once again we encounter selective reporting and lack of any attempt at a balanced or comprehensive story. I imagine the the picture and text are meant to assert that polar ice is in general melting. It is not.
There has indeed been some melting of Arctic ice and ice associated with the Antarctic peninsula but Antarctica overall has been gaining ice at a rate which more than makes up for losses elsewhere. Why the ice cover in the Arctic and Antarctic sometimes moves in opposite directions nobody knows. The one thing we DO know is that there has been no overall ice melt. But who cares about the full story when you can cherrypick?
Then there is the dead polar bear -- with the probably made-up story of why it died. Did they do an autopsy? It was probably just old. The story that it starved because it could not find a ice floe to hunt from is just fiction. Polar bears do perch on ice floes at times but they don't need to. Polar bears are extremely strong swimmers and can swim for hundreds of miles in search of food. A few years ago, one swam from Greenland to Iceland. The Icelanders promptly shot it. Polar bears are dangerous predators and Icelanders are a no-nonsense sort of people. But the big point is that polar bear populations are increasing overall. So again: No cause for alarm.
And then there is the clear-felled forest. Clear felling is normally done to make way for pine plantations. Pines grow rapidly so are a RENEWABLE resource. Aren't Greenies supposed to LIKE renewable resources?
I could go on but I have spent too much time on this nonsense already. Selective reporting is just as deceptive as an outright lie. But the Green/Left rely on lies and don't even seem much bothered when their lies are exposed. No amount of effort to rebut the lies will ever stop the cascade of them, it seems.
And then there is the clear-felled forest. Clear felling is normally done to make way for pine plantations. Pines grow rapidly so are a RENEWABLE resource. Aren't Greenies supposed to LIKE renewable resources?
I could go on but I have spent too much time on this nonsense already. Selective reporting is just as deceptive as an outright lie. But the Green/Left rely on lies and don't even seem much bothered when their lies are exposed. No amount of effort to rebut the lies will ever stop the cascade of them, it seems.
By JR on Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Black Brain, White Brain?
There came out recently a book called Black Brain, White Brain -- by Gavin Evans. It seems to have got some acclaim so I thought I might say a bit about it. That task seems to be facilitated by an article by Evans under the same heading which appeared just over a month ago. The article seems to summarize the main points of the book and thus spares me the time of reading the book. But if there are things in the book which undermine any of the things I day below, I would be delighted to hear of it.
The main point of the book seems to be an accusation that it is racist to discuss the black/white IQ gap. And like all other efforts in that direction that I know of it does a lot of huffing and puffing and declaring things obvious rather than providing proof of them. The abusive and intemperate writing by Evans may be judged by his reference to "racist science that has been spewing out of the computers". Do computers spew? His use of abusive language like that is certainly a strong indication that he has a weak case that he is trying to cover up. "fester" and "dangerous" are other emotive words he uses. Abuse in lieu of facts is a very familiar Leftist modus operandi. And a few of Evans's assertions do seem to be simply wrong.
And in the best Leftist style, his writing is almost entirely an appeal to authority. Quite illogically, he thinks that because other people have declared something wrong then it must be wrong. That many people have declared genetically-oriented treatments of the black/white IQ gap to be wrong and mistaken proves nothing at all. It simply shows that most academics are Leftist. For Evans to have written in any sort of scholarly way, he would have to list the main points where the genetic writers were found to be in error. He does not do that.
He seems to think that he has made a great point by saying that no one gene for IQ has been discovered. So what? IQ researchers have for decades accepted with perfect calm that IQ is polygenetic. Whether one gene or many is behind a difference may make research more or less difficult but it does not take away from the fact that the difference is genetic. And the genes that do contribute to IQ differences are being discovered all the time. I must make a list of the studies concerned some time. I have noted quite a few on this blog.
He then goes on to claim that intelligence has not evolved for 100,000 years. That completely ignores the work of Bruce Lahn, who showed a major evolutionary change in brain size about 5,000 years ago, a change which coincided with the birth of civilization and which is almost unknown in Africa. Pesky!
Another claim by Evans: "Other studies have also shown that the IQs of children adopted into middle class homes rise significantly and that these increases can persist into adulthood". He is right about the first part but wrong about the second part. Manipulations of the environment can improve IQ scores in childhood and even into the teens but by about age 30, all those improvements are lost. By age 30 most environmental influences have washed out and the genetic endowment comes to the fore.
And then Evans gets on to the good ol' Flynn effect. So much has been written about that that I hesitate to write any more but in summary, the Flynn effect seems to be an artifact of increasing years of schooling and the test sophistication that engenders. On important IQ subtests -- such as vocabulary -- where being test-wise does not help -- there has been very little movement in scores. And in some advanced countries -- such as Nederland -- the rise has petered out, as one would expect if it was just a one-time artifact that had approached an asymptote (maximum value).
Finally, I am amazed by his assertion that "black American IQs are rising at a faster rate than those of white Americans". I know of no evidence for that. In fact, on some indices, the black/white gap is increasing. So I guess I will have to "fester" away in my conclusion that there are real and inborn differences between the average IQs of blacks and whites.
And let's not have the old nonsense that IQ tests measure something limited and mysterious. They measure general problem-solving ability, which is why researchers tend to use the term 'g' instead of 'IQ'.
And I may note that my view of IQ is no longer academically marginalized stuff at all. I don't quite know whether to be pleased or disappointed but it seems that mainstream psychology is catching up with what psychometricians such as myself have been saying for years: That IQ is highly general, highly central, highly hereditary and of overwhelming importance in determining people's life-chances. Not so long ago any claim to that effect would be very marginal within psychology and would expose anyone making it to all sorts of nasty accusations.
But you can now read it all not in some obscure academic journal or some Rightist source but in a 2004 issue (vol. 86 no. 1) of the American Psychological Association's most widely-circulated journal -- the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Article after article there sets out the importance of IQ. And for social psychologists to be taking an interest in such evidence is really amazing. Psychometricians have known all that stuff for years. It is the social psychologists who have been most resistant to such ideas. I guess that even an organization as Leftist as the American Psychological Association has to come to terms with the evidence eventually.
And note that the APA conceded some time ago that "African American IQ scores have long averaged about 15 points below those of Whites". 15 points is one standard deviation, which is a huge difference -- accounting for 34% of the distribution. So it looks like I've got a lot of company in my "festering", as Evans calls it. Evans is fighting a lost battle.
By JR on Tuesday, May 19, 2015
What was behind the white Australia policy?
Although it is now a forbidden belief, a belief that race differences exist and are in some cases important was virtually universal up until fairly recently so it is easy to conclude that the legislation enshrining what was generally known as the White Australia policy was motivated by racism. While racial beliefs did no doubt provide some background to, and justification for, that policy, however, I would think that most people with any awareness of Australian social history will be aware that the "Immigration Restriction Act", as it was called, was motivated primarily by a strong demand from the working class to exclude cheap labour, Chinese labour in particular. It was motivated by what unions call a desire to maintain their "conditions". Suspicion of cheap labour brought in from China still surfaces among union spokesmen to this day.
For those who know little about Australian social history, a long and erudite essay by a pseudonymous author has just appeared. I reproduce below the section most immediately relevant to the enactment of immigration restrictions at the very beginning of the Australian federation.
There is one small error in it. The white Australia policy was abolished not by Gough Whitlam but by the conservative government of Harold Holt. Whitlam just tidied up a few details
Australia was singularly fortunate that, by the beginning of the 1890s, the “common man” actually had political power via the franchise and elected his own representatives to the various colonial Parliaments. In a world ruled mostly by absolute monarchs and the hereditary aristocracy, Australia was unique in being governed by “the workers” the majority of whom were also literate and numerate. In Australia almost the entire population, from the top professionals to the lowest ditch-diggers, were directly connected with the convict “assigned servant” system or had come from the disenfranchised and oppressed classes of Britain, Europe and America. Here people, men and women, could breathe free and truly believed that “Jack was as good as his master” and there was no way they were ever going to allow British or foreign Imperialists, aristocrats, or the filthy rich share-holders to establish a plantation system in this country worked by exploited whites or anyone else. The only way to stymie foreign plans for exactly that was to pass legislation that would deny such exploiters the one resource they needed – and that was the importation of a huge coolie workforce. That’s why the various colonial laws restricting immigration were made consistent and became the “Immigration Restriction Act” that was the first legislation ever passed by the Australian Federal Parliament and became known as the “White Australia Policy” – even though it did not deny anyone entry on the basis of race.
Between 1901 and 1914 Australia was “the most democratic country on earth” and led the world with social reform that, for the first time in world history, gave the common man a real opportunity to rise above the station of his (or her) birth. A place where a man really could be judged on the content of his character, his own abilities and innate worth, rather than on whom his father was or the “Public” school that he’d attended – or his accent. At that time visitors to Australia were often appalled by the lack of “respect” and “reverence” Australians showed to their social betters and their refusal to doff their hats or tug their forelocks to anyone or to “know their place”. Australians had also developed a distinctive accent that, unlike anywhere else in the English speaking world, is the same regardless of geographical location or social status. George Bernard Shaw could never have written “Pygmalion” if he’d been born and raised in Australia; that could only have been written in, and about, a class riven society such as Britain where people are instantly judged, and assigned a social role, by their accents. Australia at that time, just over a century ago, also had a very powerful union movement that ensured that employees, regardless of the complexity of the work done, received a liveable wage and had a real and tangible opportunity to own their own home or piece of land and made sure there were schools for their children and hospitals for their sick and pensions for those of them who were old or infirm. Those ideas were “revolutionary” in the world of the first decade of the 20th Century. Australia also elected, for the first time in world history, a Labor Government made up of men who wouldn’t even have had the vote in Britain (or most countries in the world) at that time.
In that first decade of the 20th Century Australians were the richest and freest people in the world and in all human history. The wealth distribution between the rich and poor was also the narrowest and we had avoided a war of independence, a civil war, serious uprisings or any of the other great societal conflicts that plagued older and more traditional societies. But while we avoided all those things and the horrors of the Industrial Revolution with its 5 year-olds down mines and cleaning the cotton mills, the little match girls and chimney sweeps, the share-cropping system, and the factory fodder living in a company hovel and working a six day week for one day’s pay and forever in debt to the company store, there was an element, both domestic and foreign, who still hankered after a coolie-worked plantation system that would bust the unions, drive down wages, and chase the common ruck from the Halls of Power that “rightfully” belonged to them on the basis of their birth and inherited wealth. Australians were the bastards of the British Empire, a collection of lower-class upstarts descended from criminals and street sweepings that needed to “compete” in a reverse-auction for work and political power – for their own good – against a few million coolies imported from around Asia and the Pacific Islands. But they failed. The White Australia Policy lasted on the statutes until the mid-1960s when it began to be watered down and then finally abolished by the Whitlam and Fraser Governments and was replaced, without any popular support or, heaven forbid, a referendum of the people, with Al Grassby’s policy of “multiculturalism” – an idea that had been around since the days of the Roman Empire and has a 100% failure rate everywhere it had ever been tried – and is failing everywhere it’s been implemented over the last 50 years.
The Immigration Restriction Act was not about white supremacy, racism, or the belief that whites were higher up the evolutionary tree than the coloured races. Rather, it was designed to STOP the racist exploitation of non-whites (all of whom would have been illiterate peasants practicing religions and cultures anathema to progressive democracy) being conscripted into a life of semi-slavery in a coolie-worked plantation economy for the benefit of the absolute monarchs, hereditary aristocracy and the super-wealthy companies and share-holders of the northern hemisphere. It was also about stopping the creation of ethnic-racial enclaves and ghettoes, inter-religious schisms and conflict, and from destroying the “working man’s paradise” that had been created by the native-born, the “currency” lads and lasses, of Australia. We did not want the racial and ethnic conflicts that plagued every part of the Americas and the Caribbean or the rigid class structures of Europe or the oppression of ethnic minorities as was normal in the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, British, French, German, American, Russian, Chinese and Japanese Empires of the time. We only wanted people who believed as we did: that a man should have dignity, a say in government via a universal and compulsory franchise, and a fair share of the wealth of the nation; that people should rise in society on their own merits and find their own station in life regardless of who their father was; that women should have the same rights to an education, inheritance, personal wealth and social advancement as anyone else; that no man, woman or child should ever be a slave or a serf or work in indentured bondage; that anyone could say what they damned well liked without fear of exclusion, impoverishment, the knout, the cell, the chain-gang, or the gallows. The only way to ensure all those revolutionary freedoms was to keep one commodity in short supply – and that was labour. The White Australia Policy was about self-preservation and the continuance of a social experiment that had been a spectacular success.
By JR on Monday, May 18, 2015
Is Australia's Great Barrier Reef 'In Danger'?
If I have the time I do sometimes read Australia's far-Left "New Matilda". I would like to start a blog that regularly demolished their articles -- perhaps to be called "Walzing New Matilda" -- but I have weightier matters to spend my time on. Anyway, the article below is up to its usual standard of presenting only half of the story. Balance is the Devil incarnate to Leftists.
Some scientists do say that the GBR has shrunk by 50% but the interesting question is why there has been any shrinkage at all. The Warmist below knows why, of course. It's because of global warming. Pesky that there has been no global warming for 18 years though. Can something that does not exist cause anything? They also seem to think that Richard Branson is a climate scientist. Enough said on that.
The key point, however, is that the reef does get heavily impacted by natural events such as the many cyclones that have hit North Queensland in recent years. Cyclones are very destructive of coral. HOWEVER, when we look at that storm destruction, we also find that corals grow back rapidly. While that happens, the GBR is in no "danger". Any changes are temporary. See here and here, for instance.
Warmists will say that the cyclones were caused by global warming but again I ask: Can something that does not exist cause anything?
Billionaire Richard Branson has urged the United Nations to list the World Heritage value of the Great Barrier Reef as ‘in danger’ after being approached by advocacy group 1Million Women.
While admitting the campaign may seem “counter intuitive”, Branson argues it is an effective way to “stop further irreversible damage” to the reef “and to protect it for generations to come”.
“Saying the Great Barrier Reef is ‘in danger’ could be just what it needs,” Branson wrote in a blog post yesterday.
The United Nations World Heritage Committee is set to make a decision on whether to change the listing of the reef at a meeting in Bonn, Germany, in June this year.
Like Branson, the UN has expressed concern that port developments and coal ships set to service Australia’s largest ever coal mine, which the federal government approved last year, will further damage the reef.
The Great Barrier Reef has already lost half of its coral cover in the last three decades, and it faces further threats from the Crown of Thorns Starfish and increased agriculture run-off.
In 2013, a federal government report noted that 24 out of 41 attributes which make up the ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ of the reef under the World Heritage Convention are deteriorating.
But the greatest threat to the reef, according to government scientists, is climate change. “The reef’s plight, like many others, is unbearably sad,” Branson said. “It is being totally overwhelmed by climate change impacts through a destructive combination of heat-driven coral bleaching, ocean acidification and tropical storms.”
Despite climate change being the greatest threat to the reef, a recent Australian Government plan designed to guide conservation efforts for the next 35 years and address UN concerns made next to no mention of the risk to the reef from rising emissions.
On Thursday, the United Nations warned that for the first time in millions of years the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earths atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million.
The Greens environment spokesperson, Larissa Waters, said on Wednesday that she doesn’t “think the government has done enough policy-wise to avert the threat of a world heritage in danger listing for the Great Barrier Reef”.
“Which is an absolute tragedy,” she said, “because we’re talking about one of the seven wonders of the world.”
“The foremost World Heritage Committee has for the past four years now said to Australia ‘slow down, you’re on this path of industrialisation, we’re worried about the future of the reef, your own scientists are worried about the future of your reef, what are you going to do about it?”
“And the government has consistently thumbed its nose at the key recommendations, and it’s made some changes around the edges.”
Waters said she hopes the reef is not listed as ‘in danger’, despite the fact it is “in serious jeopardy”.
Yesterday, The World Wildlife Fund has released a ‘to do’ list, lobbying the government to do more than is proposed in its ‘Reef 2050’ plan.
At least one federal MP is likely to be unimpressed with these recent developments.
George Christensen MP, whose electorate of Dawson takes in part of the Great Barrier Reef, is standing by the government’s “exemplary document”.
The outspoken backbencher recently voiced his outrage at “eco-traitors” who are committing the “treason” of advocating for an ‘in danger’ listing.
“These extreme greens act like Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings, flying overseas and whispering in the ears of the decision-makers and diplomats who have anything to do with UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee, poisoning their minds on the state of the reef,” Christensen said.
“They belong to groups such as Greenpeace, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth, Get Up, and the Environmental Defenders Office.”
By JR on Sunday, May 17, 2015
Guns and crime in New Zealand
There has been a recent release of statistics for homicide around the world. There is a comprehensive report here.
In summary, homocides are most frequent in African and Hispanic countries. Honduras (85.5 murders per 100,000 inhabitants), Venezuela (53.7) and the US Virgin Islands (46.9) have the highest murder rates per population in the world. The rate for the USA is 4.7. But perhaps most interesting is New Zealand. It is very similar to the USA in many ways yet its homicide rate is 0.9 per 100,000, only a fifth of the US rate.
Why? The major reason, of course, is that NZ has few Africans, who are the major perpetrators of murder in the USA. There are however some other reasons: A report from New Zealand itself says:
"Every year, "organised, stable" New Zealand ranks in the bottom one or two of international corruption tables, while the rule of law is respected. And we have a lot of registered firearms - over a million in New Zealand - but we control them well, and guns are only used in about 25 per cent of murders here."
A million firearms in a population of 4 million means that New Zealand is well armed. So it's clearly not the presence of guns that is dangerous. It is the people and their attitude towards one-another.
It is hard to legislate about that, however. Promoting social harmony might help but the American Left constantly does the opposite -- constantly stirring up racial animosity with unending accusations that black disadvantage is caused by white prejudice.
By JR on Saturday, May 16, 2015
Murdered by climate change deniers
I suppose I should join a lot of my fellow skeptics by having a laugh at dear little "Schatzie" (Yiddish for little treasure) who wrote the hymn below. It passionately celebrates faith -- faith in global warming. No knowledge of actual climate facts or interest in climate data is evident.
Her logic is a bit hard to follow but she seems to be saying that Arctic explorers would not have to explore so hard if everybody accepted the global warming gospel. So when Arctic explorers die, that is the responsibility of climate skeptics, who undermine faith in global warming.
I am of course sad to hear of the missing Dutchmen but no evidence that they were motivated by a desire to refute climate skeptics is offered. And the possibility that explorers explore because they like to explore is also not mentioned.
She has certainly not considered the possibility that the big money showered on climate research as a result of the warming scare might have been responsible for the upsurge in climate "research" generally, and the research being done by the dead Dutchmen in particular.
And as far as loss of human lives is concerned, has she considered the number of people who died because they have been denied access to reliable, affordable electricity and other modern technologies –- thanks largely to the Big Green factions Schatzie extols. That loss of life would be far greater by many orders of magnitude than what even she could possibly attribute to us wicked skeptics.
She is actually a good example of an old axiom in logic which says that if your premises are faulty your conclusions are likely to be absurd. Her unquestioning faith in the tenets of global warming has certainly led to an absurd conclusion in this case. Talking facts to her would clearly be pissing into the wind
Jo Nova has also had a laugh at this sad little lady
Two Dutch Arctic ice researchers, Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo, have disappeared and are presumed drowned. They were last heard from on Thursday, when Cornelissen, who is the founder of Cold Facts, jokingly left a voicemail on his organizations answering machine lamenting the fact that the unexpectedly warm weather where they were located (200 km south of Bathurst Island in the Canadian Arctic) had forced the pair to ski in their underwear.
Cornelissen and de Roo were on a months long mission planning to measure the thinning Arctic ice as part of the Last Ice Survey.
So, you may be wondering, how were the pair murdered by climate change deniers? Scientists, and I mean REAL scientists, not the Willie Soon crooked bunch of characters, are risking lives and limbs every day to not only try and figure out how all the known, and unknown, feedback loops interact and are impacted by climate change, but they are forced to defend their every move by buffoons such as Senator James Inhofe, et al, who lazily park their fat asses in their comfy office chairs, cashing in fossil fuel dollars, while shooting spit balls at the scientific community.
This obfuscation utterly squanders the efforts of scientists and researchers who must constantly work up against the walls erected around them by deniers instead of actually working towards reversing out of the planetary death spiral we are all on.
Moreover, as scientists around the world go to extreme and heroic lengths to document and prove their point, the fossil fuel industry, aided and abetted by the US government and other western leaders, work around the clock to JUST MAKE IT WORSE by green lighting every lunatic idea (such as Shell trying to drill for oil again in the melting Arctic) the fossil fuel industry puts forth. It’s like the drunkest EVER bar patron asking to be hooked up to a never-ending supply of bourbon, and then, right before he’s going to pass out, handing him keys to a Ferrari (and expecting benign results).
Think about this for a moment: we KNOW what is causing the Earth to heat up to the point of inhabitability: burning fossil fuels. We know how to stop making it worse: stop burning fossil fuels. Are we going to end up in caves, living like the Flintstones when we stop burning fossil fuels? No, because we have 100% technologically advanced renewable energy sources ready to fill that gap. SO, where is the logjam preventing us from beginning to heal the horrific insults we have inflicted upon our planet? Climate deniers, who make the work of scientists all the more difficult and s-l-o-w down the demise of the fossil fuel industry.
Deniers, who keep the public thinking that there is still some sort of DOUBT about the validity of global warming (there is NOT) continue to pour money into the politicians and other sell-outs who keep the fossil fuel industry profitable. Ergo, climate change deniers and their ilk have viciously killed these young men. They are entirely responsible for their deaths. And you can bet that if they were charged with causing these deaths, and penalized in a real way (not the bogus monetary fines imposed on the biggest polluters), they’d think twice before building that next oil well.
By JR on Friday, May 15, 2015
The ghastly Soviet episode is all that most Westerners know about Russia. But Russia is much more than that. And a broader understanding of Russia is surely important now that the appalling Cold War with Russia has resumed.
To understand Russia, you need to understand Russians. You need to understand a people hardy enough to endure the terrible winters that grip most of the country -- and who flourish in that environment. Such people are never going to be soft. And, more than that, you need to know something about Russian history and geography.
It is very presumptuous of me to address such a large topic in a short blog post, but at some risk of oversimplification, I am going to try to say something useful about all that.
Something that most people are probably aware of in at least a dim way is the sheer size of the Russian Federation. We all know the strict boundaries that enclose most countries but in Russia we have one country that spans the entire Eurasian continent -- from the Baltic to the Pacific. And Russians are not dimly aware of it. They are acutely aware of it. That one country could be so utterly exceptional is a matter of great and justified pride for them. No other country is both a great European country and a great Asian country.
And Russia did not get there overnight. It all began with Muscovy. After the curse of the Mongol domination had been thrown off, Muscovy steadily expanded. It expanded through conquest and annexation from just 20,000 square kilometers in 1300 to 430,000 in 1462, 2.8 million in 1533, and 5.4 million by 1584. And it didn't stop there. Successive Muscovite leaders, not least being Ivan the Terrible, expanded and expanded again their realms. Ivan the Terrible left his domain comprising a BILLION acres.
And they did that largely through good leadership. As Wikipedia says of Ivan: "He was an able diplomat, a patron of arts and trade, founder of Russia's first Print Yard, a leader highly popular among the common people of Russia, but he is also remembered for his paranoia and arguably harsh treatment of the nobility"
And Russian expansion never really stopped until the end of the Soviet era. Given Russia's incredible history of expansion, the shrinking that took place after the Soviet collapse HAS to be seen by Russians as a great humiliation. It feels like the end of their long and glorious history.
And let me not gloss over the details of that expansion. It was often savage. Ivan, for instance, really was terrible. He even had his own son and heir apparent executed in one of his rages.
And Ivan was not alone. Even into relatively recent times Russian mercy was often in short supply. The conquest of the Muslim Circassians in the 19th century has led some to speak of the Circassian genocide. The Circassians had a rather nice tract of land on the North shore of the Black Sea and Russia wanted it. They saw all of the Black sea region (including Crimea!) as rightly theirs. So they just drove the Circassians out -- mostly to what we now know as Turkey, on the South shore of the Black sea.
Leftists tend to portray pre-revolution Russia as backward and primitive. But that is just the sort of reality-defying propaganda that you expect from Leftists. It is true that Russia was mostly an agricultural country and it is true that the Duma (parliament) was relatively weak versus the Tsar.
But it is also true that Russia WAS a democracy, or, more precisely, a constitutional monarchy. The Tsar had approved a fairly modern constitution in 1906. And it was not primitive and backward overall. The lives of the farm-workers undoubtedly were poor and oppressed but Russia was rapidly industrializing and railroads were snaking out across the land. And, despite the difficult climate and mostly indifferent soils, the farms were very productive. Russia was a major exporter of grain until the Bolsheviks ruined everything, the farming sector in particular. Something as basic as feeding their people has always been a problem for Communists.
This image, taken in 1911, shows some of the power generators in the Hindu Kush Hydro Power Plant, in Turkmenistan, the largest hyro-electric plant built during the Russian Empire
So is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin just reviving traditional Russian expansionism? Not really. He is just trying to get back the ethnically Russian lands that were carelessly lopped off from Russia in the chaos of the immediate post-Soviet period. He is trying to tidy up that re-organization. The implosion of the Soviets and the prosperity of his Western neighbors has made it clear to him that there are large limits on Russian power.
How do I know that? Because he has made all his moves in the East and has limited them to areas where Russians are in the majority. There are substantial Russian minorities both to the West and the East of the Russian Federation but he has shown no interest in them. And his moves have grown more cautious, if anything. He sent his tanks into the Russian bits of Georgia only under severe provocation from the Georgians and, even then, he was happy for those regions to remain autonomous rather than absorbing them into Russia.
And in Ukraine he has kept his tanks at home, content to encourage and arm the ethnic Russian Ukrainian rebels. He has boasted, undoubtedly accurately, that he could have his tanks in Kiev in a couple of weeks -- but he has not done so. He has shown admirable restraint. He knows that the West could do nothing to stop him but has chosen great caution nonetheless.
So what should the West do at this juncture? One thing: Recognize the great and justified pride Russians have in their country and their people. "We shall overcome" was the song of a self-praising 1960s American clique but it would with much greater justification be seen as the song of the Russians.
They have endured terrible oppression, a terrible climate and two terrible wars with Germany -- and yet have still come out of it with a generally modern and powerful country that STILL stretches from one end of Eurasia to the other. Britons for long had great pride in their now-lost worldwide empire. How much more pride should Russians have in their still intact vast empire?
Russians have many reasons for pride -- not only in terms of their phenomenal territorial reach but also in the great contributions that Russians have made to science and technology and their equally great contributions to classical music, literature and art. In all those respects Russia is among the top few of contributing nations. Who invented the helicopter as we know it today? Igor Ivanovich Sikorsky. Who invented TV as we know it today? The world's first 625-line television standard was designed in the Soviet Union in 1944, and became a national standard in 1946. And I hardly need to mention Russian achievements in space and the great range of acclaimed Russian composers and performers. Does the name Tchaikovsy ring a bell?
So Russians tend to feel rather aggrieved that Russia is rarely accorded the respect that they feel it deserves. The Soviet image still looms large in people's thinking about Russia. What Russia wants is by and large simply the respect that Russians feel is their due. If Western leaders weere to start praising Russia and Russian achievements instead of condemning Russia, it would be a great leap forward for world peace. Any Western leader who publicly praised "the great Russian people" would almost immediately have the friendship of Russia. And the friendship of Russia is very much worth having.
So Vladimir Vladimirovich is reasserting Russian power to great acclaim in Russia. He is doing what any Russian ruler would do. We must be glad that he is doing it with great caution and restraint. No Western population would agree to a war with Russia so it is only his innate caution that keeps Europe largely undisturbed.
After two ghastly world wars erupting from their lands, Europeans generally are frantic to avoid any repetition of that. And pendula are very common in human affairs. So from the furious nationalism of 1914, Europe has swung to the artificial and absurd internationalism of the EU. And it seems clear that Vladimir Vladimirovich has also learned from that gory lesson, but without resorting to a corrupt internationalism. No Russian would want a re-run of WWII.
Footnote: Why do I refer to Mr Putin as Vladimir Vladimirovich? It's just manners. Remember them? It's terribly old-fashioned of me even to mention them, I suppose. The polite and friendly way to address or refer to any Russian is by way of his Christan name and patronymic (father's name). And Russia still does have Christian names. Russia is a Christian country. They are a branch of our people. The gospel was never lost in Russia even in the Soviet era -- unlike most of the Western Europe of today.
By JR on Thursday, May 14, 2015
Leftism and the causal arrow
A group of psychologists have recently done some new research on an old topic -- status striving. They see the desire to be thought well of by others as a basic and important human motive. I don't argue with that as I have long argued that such a motive is what drives a lot of Leftism. I have argued that such a need is so strong among Leftists that it borders on clinical narcissism.
So I was disappointed to see that they had correlated that need with all sorts of things EXCEPT politics. I can't help wondering if that was deliberate -- but asking people their politics can be tricky so maybe not.
Their research rediscovered along the way something that pops up in the medical literature almost every time it is examined: Being of lower socio-economic status goes with poorer health. I will follow the journal abstract below with some comments about that:
Is the desire for status a fundamental human motive? A review of the empirical literature.Something I have difficulty with are the following statements from the body of their article:
By Anderson, Cameron et al.
The current review evaluates the status hypothesis, which states that that the desire for status is a fundamental motive. Status is defined as the respect, admiration, and voluntary deference individuals are afforded by others. It is distinct from related constructs such as power, financial success, and social belongingness. A review of diverse literatures lent support to the status hypothesis: People’s subjective well-being, self-esteem, and mental and physical health appear to depend on the level of status they are accorded by others.
People engage in a wide range of goal-directed activities to manage their status, aided by myriad cognitive, behavioral, and affective processes; for example, they vigilantly monitor the status dynamics in their social environment, strive to appear socially valuable, prefer and select social environments that offer them higher status, and react strongly when their status is threatened.
The desire for status also does not appear to be a mere derivative of the need to belong, as some theorists have speculated.
Finally, the importance of status was observed across individuals who differed in culture, gender, age, and personality, supporting the universality of the status motive. Therefore, taken as a whole, the relevant evidence suggests that the desire for status is indeed fundamental.
Psychological Bulletin. 2015 Volume 141, Issue 3 (May). Pages 574-601
Perhaps the strongest test of the status hypothesis is whether the possession of low status impacts health. If so, this would suggest that failing to satisfy the desire for status produces consequences that extend beyond decreased levels of happiness and dampened feelings of self-worth. It would suggest that status motive is powerful enough that when it is thwarted, individuals begin to suffer from psychological and physical pathology......I think they have got it ass-backwards. I think the causal arrow is pointing the other way. They propose that low status --> poor health, while I would argue that poor health --> low status (where the arrow is read as "causes"). I think it is poor health that holds you back in life and thus leads to a realistic perception in others that you are not a person of high status. And being perceived as a person of low status will usually lead to the person concerned recognizing that he is perceived in that way.
Evidence from multiple research literatures suggests that low status contributes to poor health. People with low status in their community exhibit higher rates of psychological disturbances, such as depression and anxiety, and experience physical health problems, such as higher blood pressure and a greater susceptibility to infectious disease. Proxies of low status, such as lower organizational rank and the tendency to behave in deferential ways, were also linked to mental and physical illness. Taken together, the reviewed evidence suggests that being accorded low status by others not only damages subjective well-being and self-esteem, it also promotes psychological and physical pathology.
There is no doubt that poor health DOES hold you back in various ways so Occams Razor would tell us that that is a sufficient explanation for the observed correlations. The onus is on the researchers to show that there is some effect in the other direction. I cannot see where they have shown that. And since they see the correlation with health as the key test of their theory we are entitled to give the old Scottish verdict of "not proven" to their overall claims. They are probably right but have not shown it well. They should be more careful about jumping to conclusions. Assuming the direction of the causal arrow is however a besetting sin in the research literature. They are far from alone in seeing only what they expect to see.
So in any future research into status striving, it would be unwise to use state of health as an index of it.
Their conclusion about health is of course classic Leftist crocodile tears: It is a variation on "Poverty hurts the poor", or, "being poor is bad for you". Their variation is "being of low status is bad for you". I think I have shown that such a conclusion is not warranted by their findings
Another stupid Leftist assumption about the causal arrow
The crocodile tears never stop. Once again we are being told that being poor is bad for you. I will follow the article below with some comments
Stress can leave damaging and lasting imprints on the genes of the urban poor. This is according to a new study that claims poor people's DNA is declining in quality as a result of difficult upbringings.
The results are based on the finding that people in disadvantaged environments have shorter telomeres — DNA sequences that generally shrink with age — than their advantaged peers.
Previous research has found telomere length can reliably predict life expectancy in humans.
The study found that low-income residents of Detroit, no matter their race, have shorter telomeres than the national average.
'There are effects of living in high-poverty, racially segregated neighbourhoods,' Dr Arline Geronimus, a visiting scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study said in an interview with The Huffington Post.
Within this group, how race-ethnicity and income were associated with telomere length varied dramatically.
There are reasons for being poor -- being dumb, being lazy, having poor social skills, being in bad health etc. So assuming that being poor makes you dumb or unhealthy (etc.) gets it ass-backwards. The researchers above mistake the direction of the causal arrow. They claim poverty --> poor health, while I would argue that poor health --> poverty.
The researchers simply failed to ask WHY people are poor. They failed to look at the circumstances antecedent to their research -- a politically incorrect enquiry, I guess. Had they done that they would have seen that their conclusion is the unlikely one.
Their data show only that in poor people there is a lot of ill health -- which is in fact probably the most reliable finding in medical research. Whatever ailment medical researchers look at, it is generally found to be most frequent among people of low socio-economic status. But correlation is not causation so that repeated finding permits NO causal conclusions whatever. Only looking at the big picture behind the findings can suggest causal explanations. And that poor health is in general a considerable barrier to getting rich can hardly be disputed --- JR
By JR on Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The natural state of affairs
The political Left is widely and reasonably identified as people opposed to the status quo. They sure are. There is virtually nothing at present existing in the world that they would not like to overturn if they could. Such a big overturn can only be attained via a revolution but, ever since the French revolution, Leftists have managed quite a few of those. And the French revolutionaries even wanted to change the calendar.
But the awkward fact is that conservatives don't like the status quo either. In fact nobody does. I have yet to meet anyone who is completely happy with the world about him. I suspect such a person would have to be a hebephrenic or some other sort of mental case.
So how come Leftists are so identified with opposition to the status quo? The easy answer is that they are more passionate about it and more involved over it. They are driven by anger about things that others feel they can live with. The emotional importance of change differentiates and drives them. They are hell-bent (sometimes literally) on change.
While that is all undoubtedly true it doesn't provide a really sharp differentiation of the Left from others. And I think we can improve on it. And to do that I think we have to refer to the natural state of affairs. "The natural state of affairs"? What is that? It is a concept sometimes used in both law and economics but I want to broaden its applicability. I think it is actually quite easy to define in a generally applicable way. It means whatever people would do in the absence of external constraints.
And Leftists are big on external constraints. They are continually trying to make laws and regulations that will move people away from doing what they otherwise would do. There is general agreement that some basic laws are needed -- prohibition against assault, murder, theft etc. but Leftists go far beyond that. In a celebrated case one of them even wanted to forbid you from buying fizzy drinks in a container that was bigger than a certain size. Leftist would regulate EVERYTHING if they could. And in the Soviet Union they went close to achieving it. Leftists are the ultimate authoritarians. They want to STOP people doing what they would do in a natural state of affairs.
So I think we can now make a pretty sharp distinction between the changes Leftists want and the changes that conservatives want. Leftists want change AWAY from the natural state of affairs while conservatives want changes TOWARDS the natural state of affairs -- or at least changes that respect the natural state of affairs.
For instance, in a natural state of affairs people would tend to discriminate in various ways. They would and do tend to give various sorts of preference to people like themselves. And conservatives generally understand that. But to Leftists discrimination is an offence deserving of severe punishment. They want to stop people doing what they are normally and naturally inclined to do. Their need for change and the dreams of utopia that drive them make them the enemy of the natural state of affairs.
By JR on Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Warmism as the folly of the intellectuals
That scientists working in climate-related fields embrace Warmism is no surprise. The scare has produced a downpour of research grants into their grateful hands. And everybody likes $$$$. So that needs no further explanation. In law one often asks cui bono? (to whose beneft?) in deciding guilt or innocence so the same enquiry suggests why climate scientists nearly all have something good to say about Warmism. It would be rather amazing if they had anything bad to say about it.
What DOES need explaining, however, is that academics and intellectuals almost ALL support global warming. It's not just climate scientists. We saw that recently in the uproar that resulted when Bjorn Lomborg was invited to set up a think-tank at the University of Western Australia. Almost EVERYBODY at the university seemed to be against Lomborg and, as a result, the university backed down and withdrew the invitation to Lomborg.
So what is it that makes so many smart and highly educated people into Warmists? Being smart is the key. As we shall see, being smart tends to make you authoritarian and that leads down a short road to Warmism.
The Bolsheviks were all middle class intellectuals and, although it is common these days to call Mussolini a buffoon, he read poetry and philosophy voraciously, including Socrates and Plato. He spoke several foreign languages, was always interested in discussing political and philosophical ideas with almost anyone, had considerable acceptance in his early days as a leading Marxist theoretician, wrote over 40 books, and was a tree-lover and environmentalist 50 years before Greenies were thought of.
And what is authoritarianism? The Bolsheviks and Mussolini were undoubtedly both authoritarian and socialist, so is it socialism that makes you authoritarian?
Leftism is fundamentally authoritarian. Whether by revolution or by legislation, Leftists aim to change what people can and must do. When in 2008 Obama said that he wanted to "fundamentally transform" America, he was not talking about America's geography or topography but rather about American people. He wanted them to stop doing things that they wanted to do and make them do things that they did not want to do. Can you get a better definition of authoritarianism than that?
That Leftism is intrinsically authoritarian is not a new insight. It was well understood by none other than Friedrich Engels (Yes. THAT Engels). His excellent short essay On Authority was written as a reproof to the dreamy Anarchist Left of his day. It concludes: "A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means"
And Warmism divides politics quite sharply. Almost all Leftists accept it and almost all conservatives reject it. It is as good a hallmark of Leftism as any and better than most. And another major marker for Leftism is academic status. Teachers in the universities and colleges are overwhelmingly Leftist. Conservatives are a small and oppressed minority there. As a former academic myself, I have seen it close up. So why would academics be elitist and authoritarian?
The answer is really quite simple. If your life had made you feel superior to most people wouldn't you want to be treated in a superior way too? More importantly, wouldn't you feel that your inferiors should be got out of your way and told what to do? Wouldn't you feel that they should be herded onto public transport and thus leave the roads free for you to drive where you want without being held up by traffic jams? That is EXACTLY how elite Leftists think. Only they cannot say that out loud of course. To say it out loud would not only be obnoxious but it would also achieve nothing. So our elites are smarter than that. They know they have to cloak their oppression in the mantle of a claim that "It's all for your own good". And knowing how rich, clever and well-organized they themselves are, they are confident that they will be able to escape the limits and confines that they put on other people. Even high taxes are no worry to them when they already have most things that money can buy. So regulate, regulate, regulate is their cry. And regulating and controlling others is what Leftists have always got 1,001 reasons for -- with the most extreme form of control being exercised in Communist regimes.
And a very large percentage of the "knowledge class" generally is directly hired or subsidized by the government. As Peter Berger notes: "it thus has an interest in the expansion of those public functions that furnish it with employment and subsidies, and also with power and status. The "knowledge class," therefore, is favorable toward the reinforcement of public programs. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that its constitutive interests push it toward leftist politics.... there is a clash between those whose principal interest is production and those whose principal interest is redistribution"
(From "A Far Glory. The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity", New York, The Free Press, 1992)
And as this writer notes:
"The Democrats are the party of the elite. Consider Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. In a 1948 student poll Thomas E. Dewey [R] beat Harry Truman [D] by 2 to 1. In 2000 Al Gore [D] beat Bush [R], an Andover alumnus, by nearly the same margin, reflecting the Democrats' historic capture in 2000 of "professionals," a group well-represented among the parents of Andover students. Next to African-Americans, the most reliable Democrats in the electorate are women with post-graduate degrees".
And there is another reason why teachers -- particularly at the university and college level -- are overwhelmingly Leftist and authoritarian. It is pretty simple. Whether or not they are very good at it, Leftists would like to be dominant and to boss other people around -- and that is very much the teacher's role. It is an elite role. Even a social misfit can get to rule the roost in teaching (and I don't think many people who know the universities well will have any trouble naming a lot of oddballs and misfits there). So teaching will tend to attract Leftists and elitists in the first place. As this writer put it:
"As I said, liberalism is a psychology, not an ideology. And as such, it's unreasonable to expect it to be limited to a person's politics; it should show through to many different aspects of a person's life, and it does. Liberals tend to dominate fields like academia, the news and entertainment media, and the legal professions, and they populate the elite social circles, all because they're so concerned with their egos.
In academia, teachers and professors are revered as wise and accomplished, and they exercise almost absolute power over dozens to hundreds of students. People in the media are famous and seen as powerful, intelligent, charismatic, and accomplished. Lawyers have enormous power over people's lives, and like celebrities are seen as intelligent, charismatic, and accomplished, and are also generally seen as moral people (by people who substitute law for morality). Judges are esteemed and seen as a source of wisdom and knowledge, and they too hold enormous power over people's lives and are seen as moral in the same way lawyers are."
So I think we now have a good explanation of why intellectuals, particularly in the colleges and universities, are overwhelmingly Warmist. By proclaiming a planetary emergency that can only be solved by regulating most aspects of people's lives, they get to gain the sort of power over the population that they and all Leftists dream of.
Warmism is the folly of the intellectuals because it serves their Leftist authoritarianism. And, sadly, because of the respect which is normally accorded to knowledge and those who possess it, the Warmist tale gets far more respect than it deserves. It survives solely because of the prestige of those who proclaim it. And, in turn, that is why almost all defenses of Warmism consist solely of an appeal to authority -- academic authority. Any defense of it based on the facts fails very rapidly under informed scrutiny. Given the fact that a heated molecule will radiate its heat in all directions, it is not even a good theory.
So for dishonorable reasons most intellectuals espouse a falsehood. They will all be laughed at by posterity and we climate skeptics will be creditably remembered. Their children and grandchildren (if any) will one day be ashamed of them for failing as scientists and whoring for a false god. They undoubtedly enjoy more "lurks and perks" than most skeptics do so one hopes they enjoy their 30 pieces of silver. All frauds implode eventually so who knows how long they will enjoy their silver. Judas did not enjoy his silver for long.
Christians might like to reflect on the words of Jesus concerning the intellectuals of his day -- the Pharisees. In Matthew chapter 6 Jesus said repeatedly of them "They have their reward" in the here and now but he also said that the ultimate reward goes to those who do NOT do as the Pharisees do -- JR
By JR on Monday, May 11, 2015
More embarrassing facts for the shallow thinkers of the Left! One sometimes wonders if they think at all
"A study of survival rates in trauma patients following health insurance reform in Massachusetts found a passing increase in adjusted mortality rates, an unexpected finding suggesting that simply providing insurance incentives and subsidies may not improve survival for trauma patients, according to a report published online by JAMA Surgery.
Massachusetts introduced health care reform in 2006 to expand health insurance coverage and improve outcomes. Some previous research has suggested improved survival rates following injury in patients with insurance. But the relationship of insurance to survival after injury may not be well understood. Some might expect that survival after traumatic injury may be unrelated to a person's insurance status because all injured persons have access to emergency care, according to the study background.
Turner Osler, M.D., M.Sc., of the University of Vermont, Colchester, and coauthors conducted a study of more than 1.5 million patients hospitalized following traumatic injury in Massachusetts or New York, a neighboring state that did not institute health care reform like Massachusetts. The study examined the 10 years (2002-2011) surrounding reform in Massachusetts.
The rates of uninsured trauma patients in Massachusetts decreased steadily from 14.9 percent in 2002 to 5 percent in 2011. The authors also found health care reform was associated with a passing increase in the adjusted mortality rate that accounted for as many as 604 excess deaths during four years.
"Fortunately, the increase in mortality among trauma patients following Massachusetts HCR [health care reform] resolved within a few years. It may not be possible to retrospectively reconstruct the causal pathway responsible for the increased excess deaths following HCR and its subsequent resolution. ... There are compelling arguments for providing health insurance to all citizens of the United States but our analysis suggests that simply providing health insurance incentives and subsidies does not improve survival for trauma patients. ... Ours is thus a cautionary tale for health care reformers: successful HCR for trauma patients will likely require more complex interventions than simply promoting health insurance coverage legislatively."
Taxachusetts was way ahead of Obamacare in giving people that wonderful publicly subsidized health insurance. So people there don't die for want of insurance any more -- Right? As we read above, some pesky medical researchers have just reported the evidence on that. And??? More people DIED under the Massachusetts system. The outcome was the exact opposite of what Leftists were so sure they could deliver. Their meddling was harmful, not helpful. Where have we seen that before? And will we see it from Obamacare?
The researchers describe the change they observed as "transient", meaning that the effect was seen only in the first few years of the new system. But have the Obamacare architects learned from that? Not that I can see. They seem in fact to have made the same mistakes. So this report probably means that Obamacare will kill tens of thousands of Americans.
Their report that earlier studies had shown better outcomes for insured people is naive. People who took out private health insurance in the past would in general have been smarter and richer. And both smart and rich people are known to have better health generally than others. It's one of the most consistent findings in medical research. And healthier people are more survivable after misadventure.
And I don't have to be as coy as the researchers above in addressing the cause behind the findings: The increase in the number of insured patients led to an increase in demand for medical services. It was meant to. What would be the point of the legislation otherwise? But that increase was not matched by a similar increase in available medical personnel. So the healthcare system became overstretched, meaning that EVERYONE got worse care, including, sadly, emergency cases. And Obamacare was similarly implemented. It has, if anything, REDUCED the availability of medical personnel. If that is not turned around somehow (How?), the avoidable deaths will continue too.
So in their typically short-sighted Leftist way, the Massachusetts and Obamacare legislators did not consider the probable downstream effects of their new healthcare legislation. But they did get what they wanted out of it -- the warm inner glow of being SEEN to be helping the poor. That they actually harmed everyone was of no concern to them.
Or, as T.S. Eliot rather generously put it over 50 years ago: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
I do still occasionally report my amazement at the follies I see as a result of my frequent readings in the medical journals and this finding certainly justifies that odd hobby of mine. And it is particularly enjoyable to have a "big dig" at Taxachusetts. Puncturing hubris is always amusing. Journal abstract below
Survival Rates in Trauma Patients Following Health Care Reform in Massachusetts
By Turner Osler et al.
IMPORTANCE: Massachusetts introduced health care reform (HCR) in 2006, expecting to expand health insurance coverage and improve outcomes. Because traumatic injury is a common acute condition with important health, disability, and economic consequences, examination of the effect of HCR on patients hospitalized following injury may help inform the national HCR debate.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of Massachusetts HCR on survival rates of injured patients.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Retrospective cohort study of 1,520,599 patients hospitalized following traumatic injury in Massachusetts or New York during the 10 years (2002-2011) surrounding Massachusetts HCR using data from the State Inpatient Databases.
We assessed the effect of HCR on mortality rates using a difference-in-differences approach to control for temporal trends in mortality.
INTERVENTION Health care reform in Massachusetts in 2006.
MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE Survival until hospital discharge.
RESULTS During the 10-year study period, the rates of uninsured trauma patients in Massachusetts decreased steadily from 14.9%in 2002 to 5.0.%in 2011. In New York, the rates of uninsured trauma patients fell from 14.9%in 2002 to 10.5%in 2011.
The risk-adjusted difference-in-difference assessment revealed a transient increase of 604 excess deaths (95% CI, 419-790) in Massachusetts in the 3 years following implementation of HCR.
CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Health care reform did not affect health insurance coverage for patients hospitalized following injury but was associated with a transient increase in adjusted mortality rates. Reducing mortality rates for acutely injured patientsmay require more comprehensive interventions than simply promoting health insurance coverage through legislation.
JAMA Surg. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.2464 Published onlineMay 6, 2015
By JR on Sunday, May 10, 2015
Today is fun day for poking holes in popular health myths. My pervasive skepticism is getting a lot of support at the moment. All the research reports below are from "JAMA Internal Medicine", a most prestigious medical journal
Wow! How the statin worm has turned!
The cholesterol fanatics were until very recently so evangelical about statins that they were urging for them to be put into the water supply. Just the title of the article below would have been unthinkable two years ago. There are a few of us who have been saying for years what a deadly hoax the statin craze was but we were like climate skeptics against global warming: The whole establishment was against us. The conclusion below? Even very ill people were on balance better off WITHOUT statins.
The whole point of the article is something that is still sometimes denied: The often severe side effects of statins and the severe impact of those side effects on the patient's quality of life (QOL). A lot of apparent Alzheimer's cases have been in reality sufferers from statin side-effects
Safety and Benefit of Discontinuing Statin Therapy in the Setting of Advanced, Life-Limiting Illness: A Randomized Clinical Trial
By Jean S. Kutner et al.
Importance: For patients with limited prognosis, some medication risks may outweigh the benefits, particularly when benefits take years to accrue; statins are one example. Data are lacking regarding the risks and benefits of discontinuing statin therapy for patients with limited life expectancy.
Objective: To evaluate the safety, clinical, and cost impact of discontinuing statin medications for patients in the palliative care setting.
Design, Setting, and Participants: This was a multicenter, parallel-group, unblinded, pragmatic clinical trial. Eligibility included adults with an estimated life expectancy of between 1 month and 1 year, statin therapy for 3 months or more for primary or secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, recent deterioration in functional status, and no recent active cardiovascular disease. Participants were randomized to either discontinue or continue statin therapy and were monitored monthly for up to 1 year. The study was conducted from June 3, 2011, to May 2, 2013. All analyses were performed using an intent-to-treat approach.
Interventions: Statin therapy was withdrawn from eligible patients who were randomized to the discontinuation group. Patients in the continuation group continued to receive statins.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Outcomes included death within 60 days (primary outcome), survival, cardiovascular events, performance status, quality of life (QOL), symptoms, number of nonstatin medications, and cost savings.
Results: A total of 381 patients were enrolled; 189 of these were randomized to discontinue statins, and 192 were randomized to continue therapy. Mean (SD) age was 74.1 (11.6) years, 22.0% of the participants were cognitively impaired, and 48.8% had cancer. The proportion of participants in the discontinuation vs continuation groups who died within 60 days was not significantly different (23.8% vs 20.3%; 90% CI, −3.5% to 10.5%; P = .36) and did not meet the noninferiority end point. Total QOL was better for the group discontinuing statin therapy (mean McGill QOL score, 7.11 vs 6.85; P = .04). Few participants experienced cardiovascular events (13 in the discontinuation group vs 11 in the continuation group). Mean cost savings were $3.37 per day and $716 per patient.
Conclusions and Relevance: This pragmatic trial suggests that stopping statin medication therapy is safe and may be associated with benefits including improved QOL, use of fewer nonstatin medications, and a corresponding reduction in medication costs. Thoughtful patient-provider discussions regarding the uncertain benefit and potential decrement in QOL associated with statin continuation in this setting are warranted.
Hurrah for peanuts! (Goober nuts; ground nuts)
"Prospective Evaluation of the Association of Nut/Peanut Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality" by Luu, Blot et al. (Yes. They are real names) reports that you live longer if you eat more peanuts. The study was methodologically strong but the effects were trifling -- rather like saying that if you eat a lot of peanuts you will live longer by one week. With the large sample sizes, the effects were statistically significant but they were not significant in any other way. Eat as few or as many peanuts as you like. I guess that's good news for people with peanut allergies.
A jarring note about this study is that the journal editor (Mitchell H. Katz) put up a note that showed no awareness at all of how small the effect size was. He claimed it as a great health recommendation for peanuts. Amazing. I guess medical researchers have got used to reporting trifling effects.
Vegetarians have healthier bottoms
We read: "Vegetarian diets are associated with an overall lower incidence of colorectal cancers. Pescovegetarians in particular have a much lower risk compared with nonvegetarians. If such associations are causal, they may be important for primary prevention of colorectal cancers."
How splendid to see in the medical literature for once that proper caution: "If such associations are causal". The study is worth noting for that alone. The effects noted were however very small so it's not worth going vegetarian in order to dodge bowel cancer.
An apple a day does NOT keep the doctor away
Sad news for apple growers, I guess. "Association Between Apple Consumption and Physician Visits" reports: "Evidence does not support that an apple a day keeps the doctor away; however, the small fraction of US adults who eat an apple a day do appear to use fewer prescription medications". The data were derived from a large and well-sampled subject pool so the findings are pretty conclusive, at least for the USA.
I have kept the best 'til last
"Responses of Specialist Societies to Evidence for Reversal of Practice" is worthwhile just for the title. Medical backflips are so common that they can now be studied as a subject of interest by themselves. The authors found that specialists were quick to adopt poorly founded practices and slow to let them go.
It's a good lesson in always questioning authority. Authorities are often wrong. The questioning has to be reasonable, however. An insistence on seeing the evidence is what is needed. If you don't know much about statistics but want to read articles in medical journal, just remember the official rule of thumb: Hazard ratios of less than 2.00 are not sound evidence. The hazard ratios in the studies mentioned above were all MUCH weaker than that. None of them even rose as high as 1.00. Amazing.