UNSW media release: Year 12 creates too much stress and ATAR scoring ‘unfair'

I have long seen how poor is ideologically motivated research and it is well known that the Left dislike formal examinations so I expected immediately that the research underlying the claims below would be suspect.  It was more than suspect.  It was moronic.  I used to teach research methods and statistics at the Uni of NSW and I would have failed any student who presented anything like that to me as a research proposal.

It is just dishonest.  The answers they wanted were transparent and the respondents duly gave the researchers what was expected.  There were just 3 questions in the survey and all were worded in a way hostile to the existing arrangements.  There was not the slightest attempt at balance or to ask more subtly worded questions.  There were no questions expressing approval of the existing arrangements

In my research career  I had a lot published on the desirability of balanced wording -- wording designed to avoid acquiescent response bias.  And I repeatedly found that many people would agree with both a statement and its opposite.  They tended, in other words, to say Yes to anything in answering a survey.  But you cannot detect that unless you have from the beginning in your survey oppositely worded questions.  The present survey did not.  It is moron stuff that should be ignored.

 I could very easily design another survey with different questions that would come to the opposite conclusions.

On the first day of the 2019 Higher School Certificate exams, UNSW Sydney’s Gonski Institute for Education is releasing new survey findings that show most people want student ability and talents outside of end-of-school exam results to be factors used in determining their university entry ranking.

And two thirds feel the reliance on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) for university entry creates unnecessary pressure on Year 12 students.

These results from a new national survey undertaken by UNSW Sydney’s Gonski Institute for Education come as high school students in most states are about to sit their final exams.

Institute Director, Professor Adrian Piccoli, a former NSW Education Minister, said the UNSW survey results support academic research that suggests relying on an end-of-school series of exams as the primary means to gain entry to a university is not the best predictor of a student’s overall ability, nor are they the most equitable.

Professor Piccoli said: “There is a growing body of work that shows one off exams, which are supposedly meant to measure a student’s whole of school experience, often do not accurately measure their skills, potential or overall ability”.

“Like NAPLAN, the HSC scores are used to measure a very narrow range of student abilities which, under the current ATAR system, creates an enormous amount of pressure for all those involved.”

A total of 80 per cent of all respondents to the Gonski Institute survey agreed university requirements should also consider a student’s ability and talents outside the classroom.

While over 57 per cent say ATAR scores create unnecessary pressure on Year 12 students, that number rises to 75 per cent for people who finished high school but did not do any tertiary study.

Professor Piccoli said: “Schools are also under pressure to ensure their students achieve high ATAR scores. School ranking tables created from Year 12 exam results effect a school’s reputation and this measure doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of education available at schools but rather how their students performed in various tests.”

There are strong connections between achievement in the ATAR and the socioeconomic background of the high school, with higher achievement generally being associated with a higher socioeconomic status (SES).

Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Equity Diversity and Inclusion UNSW says: “This inequity associated with ATAR scores and disadvantaged schools poses significant problems for universities in offering places to the most talented students across the country if we just use the ATAR results.

Those with high capability but who come from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly low SES, Indigenous and regional, rural and remote students, are less likely to achieve high ATARs, not because they are not talented but because the ATAR is not a fair measure of their talent and capacity to success at university.

UNSW, like other universities, already has and is working towards further alternative pathways into university that take into account a range of student talent and capability outside of ATAR.”

The release last month of another academic report, ‘Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change’, published by the Australian Learning Lecture supports the Gonski Institute’s findings and urged tertiary education providers to design entry pathways that better align candidates’ interests, capabilities and aspirations with the educational opportunities on offer, and better reflect evidence about the progress and potential of learners.

Press release. Media contact:  Stuart Snell, UNSW External Communications, 0416 650 906 s.snell@unsw.edu.au


Wealth taxes

Even her fellow Democrats are challenging Elizabeth Warren on how she will pay for her big spending proposals.  Her answer to that relies very heavily on her proposed wealth tax.  She clearly thinks it will be a goldmine. There have already been some good comments on why such a tax will be very destructive but I just want to set out the kernel arguments about why such a tax will raise little if anything.

For a start, great wealth is not usually held in the form of bank deposits.  It is almost all in the form of real estate, shares and other tangible assets -- so liquidating even a small part of that would depress asset prices generally.  And that will depress spending and investments across the board. It will affect the wealth of large sections of the population, leading to very negative feeling among job creators.  Unemployment would shoot up and income tax receipts would be reduced.

And the second effect would be large scale emigration among the wealthy.  Some nearby Caribbean islands are pleasant places to live in the sun and many have very low tax rates.  To escape the tentacles of Uncle Sam, the emigrants would also have to renounce their American citizenship but many retirees do that already. And  You only have to bring a few million with you to be granted residence in Australia or New Zealand and you can definitely drink the water there.  And there is never any need to press 1 for English. A lot of rich people have well-appointed bolt-holes in NZ already.

And when the rich move out, they take their income taxes with them -- as well as escaping a wealth tax.  And the rich pay a big proportion of income tax so, once again, tax revenue would FALL.

Even if she can't tax the departed rich Warren might have the bright idea of taxing any assets left behind in the USA.  But that would lead to a mass liquidation of assets, with the proceeds of that going to purchase assets elsewhere. 

High taxing Leftist governments have encountered that problem before and their response is to make the currency not convertible -- so you can't use greenbacks to buy (say) New Zealand dollars.  But that drives away all foreign investments, which are a major source of jobs in America.  So Warren's "clever" proposal would lead to lower revenues and higher unemployment. 

She seems a smart sort of woman so she probably knows all that.  As a Leftist, the thoughtof destroying American prosperity probably turns her on

Warren would apply a 2% tax on every dollar of net worth for households worth $50 million or more, and a 3% tax on every dollar of net worth beyond $1 billion.

According to tables in a recent paper by Saez and Zucman, this would apply to around $11 trillion of holdings this year, producing revenue of at least $220 billion.

Sanders’ “extreme wealth tax” would levy a 1% tax on the first dollar of net worth above $32 million. That tax would rise in increments, to 2% on net worth between $50 million to $250 million all the way up to 8% on wealth above $10 billion.

Sanders’ campaign estimated the plan, which would tax just the top 0.1% of U.S. households, would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade.

Saez and Zucman say their research points to the wealth tax as an effective way to equalize the amount of tax paid by people with massive fortunes like investor Warren Buffett and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the middle-class, and then seed the proceeds through the economy.

Had the Warren proposal been in place since 1982, the share of wealth held by the top 400 would still have risen - but only to 2%. A higher tax rate of 10% on holdings above $1 billion, meanwhile, would have kept that group’s share of national wealth stable.

In more individual terms, the 3% rate on holdings above a billion would mean Bezos would be worth just $86 billion this year, versus $160 billion. At the bottom of the top 15, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson would have $18 billion, versus $35 billion.

A dozen European nations used to have wealth taxes but most have done away with them. France, one of the last, abolished its wealth tax in late 2017, after thousands of millionaires relocated to neighboring, lower-tax countries.

Saez and Zucman argue that Europe’s history with wealth taxes is not relevant to the United States because those countries set their wealth tax bar too low, and because it is easier to relocate within the continent for favorable tax laws.

The U.S. tax system, on the other hand, essentially taxes all citizens, no matter where they live.



"Diversity" is a snark

"Time" magazine has a long-winded article under the heading: Diversity has become a booming business. So where are the results?  It goes on to set out the great efforts and large sums that have been devoted to the cause.  One might summarize their message as: "Never in the field of human endeavor has so much been done by so many for so little".

And they are perfectly right.  Any psychometrician could explain it to you.  As the old proverb says: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".  Blacks, Hispanics and whites all have their own characteristics and fields of expertise and you can't shoehorn the minority groups into white characteristics and fields of expertise.  Seldom the twain shall meet.

There is a dreaded two letter word I could mention here but I think it suffices that conservatives have for over a century opposed Leftist claims of human malleability by the counter-claim that much in human behavior is genetically determined -- and therefore immutable:  "Human nature". And the research in behavior genetics has resoundingly supported the conservative contention. It's truly amazing how much of our behavior is genetically inherited.

One simply has to apply that knowledge to the "diversity" efforts to understand what is going on. Diversity efforts are undoubtedly an attempt to impose some of the characteristic  behaviours of whites onto the minorities. It was bound to fail. To put it as succinctly as I can:  You will rarely make a white man out of a black.

And why should we make that racist attempt?  Members of all the groups have liberty to behave as they want so let them go on doing what they want to do and stop trying to shoehorn them into a mould that doesn't fit.  Try liberty instead of racism.

But the "Time" magazine solution to the problem that the Left have created is typical Leftist brainlessness: The failure of diversity efforts is due to evil men.  I quote: It is due to "a willful negation of our shared humanity". In other words, "We're all racists, you know".  A prime example of the pot calling the kettle black.


Contrived generational wars disguise the failure of the American Dream

The Leftist lady writing below has an interesting point.  She says that naming and describing "generations" (generation X, generation Y etc) serves to deflect attention away from the fact that incomes have been static for many years in real terms.  She is also undoubtedlty right that assigning characteristics to a whole generation of people is a vast over-generalization.

She takes a few potshots at Trump along the way, as one expects of almost any American Leftist, but she misses the big picture.  Trump has actually solved the problem she complains of.  In the Trump economy wages are rising at long last.

So why were incomes so static for so long?   They were in fact less static than it seems.  There have been large qualitative improvenments in most products. A car today will for instance be a lot safer, more economical and more reliable than the rattletrap you might have bought in 1950.  So your money buys better even if it does not buy more.

Nonetheless, Trump shows us what can be done and we need to ask why did that not happen sooner.   The answer is perfectly clear. The destructive Left  have been in power quite a lot since WWII and they have succeeded in their destructive aims.  They have hobbled the wealth creators -- business -- in all sorts of ways, destroying jobs and keeping prices high.  And the intervening Repiublican administrations have not been radical enough to destroy much of what the Left have put in place.

So it needed  a truly radical reformer to take the shackles off business and get business activity roaring.  Trump is that reformer.  Businessmen have been so encouraged by Trump that they have regularly created hundreds of thousands of new jobs -- to the point that they have difficulty getting the employees they need for their enterprises.  There is a abor shortage.  And when there is a labor shortage employers offer higher wages to ensure they get the workers they need. Trump unleashed capitalism, which is the only way of getting rising incomes across the board.

Bill Gates was born in 1955. That makes him what is commonly called a boomer. Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston’s homeless shelters. According to the principal investigator of a recent study, Dennis Culhane, many people of Lavoie’s age are indeed part of a boom — “a boom in aging homeless people.” They were “less well educated people who faced economic challenges in their youth — falling wages and rising housing costs — and never recovered financially. . . . Now in their 50s and 60s, they are biologically older than most people their age. . . . The average lifespan for a homeless person is 64.”

Unlike Gates’s co-billionaires in the .01 percent, 29 percent of people 55 and over have nothing at all saved for retirement, according to the Government Accountability Office, and many of the rest have little. Ageism in the workforce is one reason they lose a job and then can’t find an equally good one — or find any work at all. Boomers are often treated as “deadwood.” Corporations drop them by the thousands. Even Xers are now old enough to be at risk of having their resumes discarded. When people suffering from middle ageism stop looking for work they are omitted from the unemployment data. At midlife, some submit to deaths of despair.

Succeeding cohorts (all containing the same disparities — of class, race, gender, and education) have also been treated as if they were a single human with a character flaw. During the 1990s recessions, when the so-called Xers couldn’t find work, they too were branded with a slur — “slackers” — while boomers were represented as the horde bullies who held onto all the good jobs.

The baleful technique is still at work today. Given the same problem — lack of decent jobs for all ages, especially people without college degrees and people over 50 — it’s the turn of the millennials. One of them complains about the stereotypes, defensively, in Vox: “We demand participation trophies, can’t find jobs, and live with our parents until we’re 30.” His response is to bash — you guessed it — the boomers, who “have a ton of maladaptive personality characteristics.”

In the Atlantic, pundits Niall Ferguson, from the Hoover Institution, and Eyck Freymann defend millennials because their “early working lives were blighted by the financial crisis” — but ignore how home foreclosures, sluggish growth, and job losses also blighted people around Ferguson’s own age (55).

Millennials are supposed to be so ignorant and cruel that they would dismiss old people’s needs because of the boomers’ alleged wealth. “Cutting old-age benefits for boomers would be an easy call if millennials are anywhere on the line of fire,” write the original concoctors of the age-war distraction, Neil Howe and William Strauss, in their latest pandering assault, “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.”

We frequently hear that our elders’ retirement needs will “break the bank” despite their lifelong pay-ins. If Republicans manage to destroy the whole system of social trust, cutting Social Security could indeed be one of the dire outcomes of the lies of generational warfare. Otherwise, experts say, its financial failure is not remotely in the cards. For families it has always been the most popular government program, because it provides a measure of dignified independence for older people and a measure of relief for their adult children.

Younger people should support the expansion of Social Security for another reason, writes one millennial who doesn’t take the bait. Nick Guthman argues in The Hill that because of student debt, “Millennials and Generation Z will need Social Security even more than our parents and grandparents do.”

The 2100 Act, now before Congress, would raise the cap on taxable-wage contributions. Conservatives reject this easy fix, but it is overwhelmingly popular with the public.

Manipulating cohort characteristics damages far more than attitudes toward Social Security, bad as the effect of that contrived skepticism could be. Blaming an older generation that is already maligned allows many real perpetrators to smugly hide from their irresponsibility. Will the climate movement find youngsters blaming the boomers for ecological destruction, because some drove big cars? Wouldn’t it be better to turn on the CEOs of Exxon, who hid the dangers of burning fossil fuels that their scientists discovered so thoroughly that few of us knew to stop flying?

Persistent precarity is indeed the historical issue that is obscured by these discourses. The fact of American decline is this: Most people in each generation have had it worse than their parents. According to a report on The State of Working America, the United States lags behind its peer countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in measurements of father-son mobility. In the United States, the “sons” have been receiving stagnant wages, fewer benefits, jobs in the insecure gig economy. Many women too have lost the progress narrative of rising expectations. That progress narrative, when upward mobility was more widespread, supported the American Dream. It gave hope that democracy would work for increasing numbers.

Don’t blame your parents. Every article manipulating cohort stereotypes lets the government and corporations off the hook for outsourcing abroad, the crash of rust-belt industries, de-unionization, and the decades of cascading downward mobility we now endure. You can’t even want to get justice until you know the true sources of injustice.

HOW DO IMAGINARY reputations and hostile emotions get nailed onto struggling groups, decade after decade, in this pernicious way? Naming each imagined age cohort makes it possible. The process is called reification. Naming makes vague temporal proximity into a thing.

Only the name baby boomers had an adequate demographic and historical reason to exist. These millions were born (from 1946 to 1964) of the relative affluence that spread after World War II. Their numbers did give them unifying experiences as they grew up — made their elders build new schools for them, made their working lives more competitive. Now they are confronted by a president who, after promising not to, is cutting their security and health care in devious ways.

But, even undergoing historical events together, age-peers don’t build the same memories, share the same beliefs, behave uniformly. During Vietnam, some young men were conscripted into the war while others fought to end it. Stark differences likewise mark the current group of young people (unimaginatively called “post-millennials”). Some of them are woke and ready to take on racism, sexism, homophobia, gun control, global warming. At the same age, neo-Nazis are setting fire to synagogues.

Once cohorts are reified by name, the labels become dog-whistles. Envy and fear can divide a nation and abet destructive political changes. Malice can turn one generation against another.

We could mitigate the divisiveness. Editors could stop soliciting age-war articles by second-rate phrasemakers. We ordinary people need to defy the lies, and build intergenerational bonds. Let us understand that capitalist and neoliberal choices have worsened life, for decades, for every later, unequal subculture. And a comforting, unifying cross-age coalition should eject politicians unwilling to maintain and repair our precious communal institutions.



What student debt is doing to a generation of Americans

I inherited nothing but because I was a good saver and invested from early on, I was able to pay for all my son's  education fees without difficulty.  He entered the workforce with zero debt.

But had I been poorer I would have advised him to learn deeply whatever he was interested in and get a diploma mill degree for documentation purposes.  If you know a field well and can demonstrate it, employers will have little interest in your documentation.

He spent 8 years learning stuff that he enjoyed but which was no practical use to him but then took a short course in IT.

He entered the workforce in IT and he just had to show his work for lots of people to want to hire him. They hired him on the basis of what he could do rather than any qualifications.  And you can learn programming, which is the basis of IT, in a week.  I did.  Demonstrated ability and usefulness will get you jobs.  Qualifications often will not.

In my working life I several times got jobs that weren't even advertised.

So I greatly deplore the poor guidance that most American college students receive.  Most could do well without incurring any debt

In April, 2011, the anthropologist Caitlin Zaloom was sitting in her office at New York University when one of her most promising students appeared at her door, crying. Kimberly had dreamed of life in New York City since she was eight years old. Growing up in a middle-class family just outside Philadelphia, she was regaled with stories about her mother’s short, glamorous-sounding stint waitressing in Times Square. Kimberly’s version of the big-city fantasy was also shaped by reruns of “Felicity,” a late-nineties drama set at a lightly fictionalized version of N.Y.U.

Her dream school did not disappoint. Kimberly was an intrepid, committed student, studying the effects of globalization on urban space; she worked with street vendors and saw their struggles to make ends meet. College opened up a new world to her. But her family had sacrificed to help finance her education, and she had taken out considerable loans. She had looked forward to putting her degree to good use, while chipping away at the debt behind it. But the job she was offered involved outsourcing labor to foreign contractors— exacerbating the inequalities she hoped a future career might help rectify.

Zaloom felt that there was something representative about Kimberly’s story, as more students find themselves struggling with the consequences of college debt. She wanted to learn about the trajectory that had brought Kimberly to her office that day. She visited her at home and listened as her mother, June, talked about how she, too, had fantasized about a life in New York.

But June’s family had needed her back home, in Pennsylvania, where she met Kimberly’s father. They eventually divorced, but they stayed in the same town, raising Kimberly together. June had wanted her daughter to have the experiences she had missed out on. When Kimberly was accepted at N.Y.U., her father urged her to attend a more affordable school in state. June implored him to change his mind, and he eventually agreed. The decision stretched their finances, but June told her daughter, “You’ve got to go.”

It’s easy to dismiss quandaries like Kimberly’s as the stuff of youth, when every question seems freighted with filmic significance. There’s a luxury to putting off practical concerns. But her story gave Zaloom insight into the evolving role of college debt in contemporary American life.

Kimberly’s predicament was put in motion when she first set her sights on attending a college where, today, the annual tuition is more than fifty thousand dollars, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. That her parents risked their financial stability to nurture this dream seemed meaningful. Previous generations might have pushed a college-bound child to fend for herself; Kimberly’s parents prized notions of “potential” and “promise.” Shielding her from the consequences of debt was an expression of love, and of their own forward-looking class identity.

Since 2012, Zaloom has spent a lot of time with families like Kimberly’s. They all fall into America’s middle class—an amorphous category, defined more by sensibility or aspirational identity than by a strict income threshold. (Households with an annual income of anywhere from forty thousand dollars to a quarter of a million dollars view themselves as middle class.)

In “Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost” (Princeton), Zaloom considers how the challenge of paying for college has become one of the organizing forces of middle-class family life. She and her team conducted interviews with a hundred and sixty families across the country, all of whom make too much to qualify for Pell Grants (reserved for households that earn below fifty thousand dollars) but too little to pay for tuition outright.

These families are committed to providing their children with an “open future,” in which passions can be pursued. They have done all the things you’re supposed to, like investing and saving, and not racking up too much debt. Some parents are almost neurotically responsible, passing down a sense of penny-pinching thrift as though it were an heirloom; others prize idealism, encouraging their children to follow their dreams.

What actually unites them, from a military family in Florida to a dual-Ph.D. household in Michigan, is that the children are part of a generation where debt— the financial and psychological state of being indebted—will shadow them for much of their adult lives.

A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards and auto loans combined.

Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net.

But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference.

Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twenty-somethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream.

If you are a so-called responsible parent, you might begin stashing away money for college as soon as your child is born. You may want to take advantage of a 529 education-savings plan, a government-administered investment tool that provides tax relief to people who set money aside for a child’s educational expenses. Some states even provide a 529 option to prepay college tuition at today’s rates.

Zaloom writes of Patricia, a schoolteacher in Florida who managed to cover in-state fees for both of her children after five years of working and saving. Patricia resented the fact that preparing for her children’s future left her with so little time and energy to be with them in the present. Her daughter, Maya, was academically gifted and excelled in college. Then, when Patricia’s son, Zachary, was a high-school senior, her husband walked out on the family, leaving them four hundred thousand dollars in debt.

Patricia spent her retirement savings to keep them afloat. Zachary had difficulty coping, and he had never shown a strong inclination toward college, but the money was already earmarked. Zaloom writes, “Her investment in his tuition was an expression of faith in him.” He struggled in college and never graduated. “If I’d had a crystal ball,” Patricia says, “I wouldn’t have gotten in the program for Zachary.”

In Zaloom’s view, Patricia’s decisions all point to a core faith that college is fundamental to middle-class identity. Throughout “Indebted,” parents and children lament the feeling of burdening one another. Parents fear that their financial decisions might limit their children’s potential, even when those children are still in diapers. It’s a fear, Zaloom argues, that loan companies often exploit. “You couldn’t not hear about it,” Patricia recalled of the commercials for Florida’s college-savings account. The existence of 529 plans suggests that paying for college is just a matter of saving a bit of each monthly paycheck.

And yet Patricia is an outlier. Only three per cent of Americans invest in a 529 account or the equivalent, and they have family assets that are, on average, twenty-five times those of the median household. Zaloom disputes the premise that “planning leads to financial stability.” Student debt didn’t become a problem because families refused to save. “In truth, it’s the other way around,” she writes. “Planning requires stability in a family’s fortunes, a stability in both family life and their finances that is uncommon for middle-class families today.”

As an anthropologist, Zaloom is particularly attuned to how institutions teach us to see ourselves. The Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form, required of all students seeking assistance, consists of a hundred or so questions detailing the financial history of the applicant’s family. Zaloom hears about the difficulty of collecting this information, especially when parents are estranged, or unwilling to help. And the form presumes a lot about how the “family unit” works. One informational graphic poses the question “Who’s my parent when I fill out the FAFSA?”



On Cape Cod, climate change is terrifyingly real

The illogicality of Warmists knows no bounds.  They admit that some climate episode they want to exploit is local and then talk as if it was a global effect.  They say that in the Cape Cod climate "warming is faster than nearly any in the world".  So it is local data about a local effect and has no evidentiary value about global anything, including global warming. So the attributions below are mere opinion.

So what is warming Cape Cod?  Nobody knows but local eddies in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation -- known to you as the Gulf Stream -- would be a likely area of enquiry

The Cape Cod we love is at risk. It is perched on a stretch of ocean warming faster than nearly any in the world. And as much as we might wish it away, as hard as we try to ignore it, the effects of climate change here are already visible, tangible, measurable, disturbing.

Perfect summers have grown hotter and muggier. Storms arrive violently, and more often.

People here like to say that the only thing constant about the Cape is change, but what human-caused climate change has already wrought here is not the same old uncertainty. It is loss.

And so we have criss-crossed the Cape in search of what is slipping away.

The Cape is fundamentally a peaceful place. For generations, we have talked about joy and family and the restorative power of open ocean and unspoiled sand.

But talk to the people who live and work here, who study emerging threats to the place they’ve always known, and you will hear them use different words: Higher ground. Breach. Retreat.



Provocative chief executive Matt Barrie says Australia’s education system is a “basket case” and is the main contributor to the country’s “completely cactus” economy

There is much truth in the comments below but how do we turn the system around?  Getting into the professions will always be aspired to so courses leading to that will always be sought out.  And the other high-paid sector -- IT -- requires high levels of mental ability that only a small minority can rise to. In computer programming you have to be able to think like a machine.

That leaves the trades -- which can also be highly paid.  So the provision of trade courses plus heavy information campaigns about their earning potential would seem to be the only practical way forward

The tech entrepreneur and multi-millionaire blames the deterioration of Australian manufacturing output on what he calls an ancient education system where overachieving students are pushed into medicine and law while participation in electrical engineering and computer science dwindles.

“That’s why there’s no productivity because we’re producing people to serve cups of coffee and serve avocado on toast to each other,” Mr Barrie said.

Gross domestic product grew by just 0.5 per cent in the June quarter, dragging year-on-year growth to 1.4 per cent as Australians struggle with stagnant wage growth and a crippling debt-to-income ratio.

Mr Barrie, boss of ASX-listed freelancing marketplace Freelancer.com, says the fastest way to turn this around is to encourage youngsters to be leaders in more practical, high-skilled industries.

“If you get enough people into the right jobs, then four years later they go into the workforce, they get high-paying jobs, they start companies, they create income tax, and benefits flow from that,” he told news.com.au at a Yahoo Finance conference recently.

“Plus they also increase the skills level because when they start these companies, they train all the employees they hire.”

The entrepreneur said year 10 students needed access to pathways to jobs with a greater ability to stimulate the economy.

“We’ve created this insane leaderboard in the HSC, which is basically medicine and law; they’re the best subjects.

“Everything else doesn’t really matter and every parent, every teacher and then every kid thinks, ‘I’ve got to do medicine or law’.

“We don’t need any more lawyers in the world. There are plenty of other jobs that are far more important to the economy right now.

“We’ve got to fix the secondary school system, which is an 18th century relic training people for jobs that don’t exist.”

Mr Barrie told news.com.au a more productive population would bump-up wage growth.

“If you’re going to have high wages you need to be high value producing in the value chain. You can’t be serving people a couple of cups of coffee and expect high wages.

“You’ve got to be doing advanced manufacturing like robotics or sophisticated products and services with a high margin.

“And that’s what we’ve let fall apart. We need to have very sophisticated trade schools in the country so people can learn advanced skills, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering in order to produce these products and services and infrastructure.

“We don’t do that. It’s basically you’re a doctor or you’re a lawyer, otherwise you’re a failure and that’s pretty much it.”

Shadow minister for innovation, technology and the future of work, Clare O’Neil, agreed improving the education sector was the best way to correcting Australia’s anaemic economy.

She told the same finance conference that federal funding wasn’t translating to better results.

“We haven’t had a really good conversation in Canberra about why, even though we’re spending more money on schools all the time. Our performance is pretty static or in some instances declining,” Ms O’Neil said.

“Wherever I go around Australia there’s a big disconnect between that pointy end of the education system and the needs of business.

“And it just amazes me that after knowing that’s been a problem, for probably 40 years, we haven’t found a solution.”

Mr Barrie said Australian skills had fallen behind because of the inaction of politicians and uninspired workers within the sector.

“It’s a complete basket case because education is the remit of state governments and you’ve got a lot of teachers who are frightened of technology because their job is threatened,” the entrepreneur said.

“It’s the teachers that are holding things back, and because it’s all controlled by the state governments you have all this duplication, bureaucracy, glacial movement of the system and all these entrenched people in positions that you just need to reinvent it.”

He said this had created fiscal issues for a country too reliant on commodity exports and a bloated housing market.

“The Australian economy is completely cactus,” Mr Barrie told news.com.au.

“We’ve let manufacturing completely fall apart and we’re just deluding ourselves thinking we’re a wealthy country just because we’ve got inflated house prices and because we’ve got an immigration program to prop up tax receipts and prop up the housing market.

“It’s going to end in tears — households are already at capacity in terms of their ability to pay rent and buy houses.”



‘You are nothing’: Reality of life on $40 a day

I guess there really are some people who have problems budgeting for that amount so maybe I should let them in on the secret.  I have been on the dole twice in my life and always added to my savings during those times.

There are 3 big items you need money for: Rent, utilities and food. The easiest one to save on is undoubtedly food.  We all eat to much and too extravagantly.  But there are some foods that you can make good and healthy but very cheap meals with.

The 10 absolute bargains in groceries are milk, eggs, baked beans, porridge-oats, day-old bread, plum-jam, sugar, pasta, rice and noodles. A big jar of Vegemite goes a long way too. And if you have an old-fashioned taste in coffee, (which I do) a bottle of Bushell's coffee and chicory essence goes a long way too.

You could in fact live on milk alone.  I have done so. And if you can't enjoy a breakfast of sugared porridge followed by scrambled eggs you are hard to please.

Sticking to those items plus any other low cost bargains that come your way, you can eat well and will definitely save enough to pay your way across the board. You might even be able to pay for the occasional beer.

The Morrison government has defended the Newstart allowance amid criticism it’s too low. But those forced to live on it tell a different story.Source:AAP

People on the dole are made to feel like they’re nothing, senators examining Newstart payments have heard.

Mark, who was only identified by his first name, told the committee on Friday the welfare system operated “to deter or to destroy but certainly not help”.

Mark said his background as an award-winning journalist was not recognised when he went on Newstart five years ago.

“Once you get caught up in the system … you’re reminded very, very quickly how much your own background and professional history mean nothing,” he said.

Mark said he was pushed onto welfare after a traumatic break-up.

“I counted the days waiting (for payment) and that’s what you do on Newstart,” Mark said. There has been widespread pressure for a raise to the $40-a-day dole, which has barely budged in real terms for a quarter of a century.

The Australian Council of Social Service told the committee a boost to the payment would see a boost to the economy.

Chief executive Cassandra Goldie said she knew the politicians on the committee had come to parliament to do good things, and raising welfare payments would be one of the effective ways to fix national poverty rates.

“This is the best good thing you could do,” Dr Goldie said.

Foodbank Australia said people in cashless welfare card trial sites were having difficulty accessing food in an “affordable and routine way”.

Professional services giant KPMG has called for Newstart to rise from $277.85 per week for a single person to $370 per week, which would move it up to half the national minimum wage. “It’s a balance between making sure that you’ve got a level which satisfies material wellbeing and psychological wellbeing, and ensuring that you don’t have a disincentive to work,” KPMG’s Grant Wardell-Johnson told the committee.

He said an inadequate welfare safety net enhanced people’s fear about innovation, technology and their jobs.

KPMG has favoured increasing Newstart since 2016.

Mr Wardell-Johnson said he had been shocked to learn that about half the people on Newstart are aged over 45. A friend of his was made redundant at the age of 55 after a long career in industry training.

“She went to more than 100 interviews before she got a job,” he told senators.

“That’s quite different from the image of the lazy 30-year-old or so, which I think is very much a misunderstanding of people on Newstart.”

The Morrison government has rejected calls to raise Newstart, with a multi- agency submission to the hearing saying the government’s focus was on strengthening the budget.



The Case for Inclusion and Diversity in the Tech Sector

This article starts out talking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) knowledge and morphs into a discussion of diversity generally.  The authors seem to miss that what happens in STEM jobs largely contradicts what they say about diversity.

Predictably, they say that diversity in top management is a very good thing and makes more money for the firm concerned.

But as they say about hi-tech, there are very few females there and yet hi-tech flourishes.  We are supposed to believe that it would flourish even more with more female managers.

Whether that is true depends on two things:  The diversity effect being significant and STEM fields being much like any other field.  Both assumptions are very questionable.  STEM expertise -- and IT expertise in particular -- requires very high levels of IQ and such levels are mostly found among males.  So STEM is different from the start.

The evidence for benefit from diversity that the writers below quote is the much belaboured report from Kinsey & Co which first came out in 2007 and was reissued in 2015. I have read the passages in that repoprt that detail their analyses.

We can dismiss the female effect straight off.  They found that having females aboard went with a 5% improvement in performance in the UK but only a 1% improvement in the USA.  So unsexy boards are not worth bothering with in the USA but have some point in the UK.

What is different about the UK and how can that difference explain what McKinsey found? This being Britain, it almost certainly has to do with social class.  In Britain, people who went to the expensive private schools are at the top of every heap.  Britain is run by "old boy" networks.  It seems likely, however, that in searching for able female managers, that network had to be broken down to some extent.  It was only by looking outside traditional talent pools that many able females could be found.  So in Britain it was opening up to "lesser" social classes that drew in more management talent rather than opening up to women.

So the evidence in favor of female diversity is just not there.

What about ethnic diversity? Here the report is very misleading, possibly deliberately so.  They fail to discriminate between ethnicities. From reading them we would very readily conclude that whether a firm had 3 Asian or 3 blacks on its board would not matter.  But given the vast record of black educational failure we would have to conclude that the contribution of blacks to a hi-tech firm's results would be very small.  We would have to suspect that it is only in token roles that blacks are there at all.

But, when it comes to brilliant Chinese or exceptional communicators like Indians, one can readily believe that they would make a useful difference on almost any management team.  And it would in fact mostly have been an Asian presence that made a firm "diverse" in McKinsey's study. So a more precise summary of the evidence -- that having Asians in your team was beneficial -- would have been a much more helpful guide.  As they stand, the actual conclusions are politically correct rubbish

“The uncomfortable truth is that the technology industry today is not a place in which everyone, of any gender, race, disability, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic background can thrive and succeed,” said Francesca Warner, CEO of Diversity VC, in Diversity & Inclusion in Tech’s report. In November 2018, a Guardian headline pointed to a “worrying” lack of diversity in Britain’s tech sector. Only 15% of the tech workforce are from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds, while gender diversity lies at 19%—compared to 49% for all other jobs (Diversity in Tech, 2019). Meanwhile, the proportion of men and women appointed as tech directors has remained almost the same since 2000—only 22% of tech directors were women in 2018 (Tech Nation).

And this isn’t just a problem in the U.K. The European tech community as a whole is dominated by men. Research by Atomico notes that out of the 175 large start-ups they surveyed, only one had a female chief technology officer. Even roles like chief marketing officer and chief financial officer that are often held by women, were held by men 80% of the time. The report stated that the industry was failing to make any meaningful progress, and that there had only been a single percentage point increase in the level of female participation at European tech community events in the last two years.

Check Warner from Diversity VC wrote in Atomico’s report: “Europe is not necessarily tangibly better or worse than other tech hubs. However, given that Europe has such a diverse range of geographies and people this should be a key strength.”

While looking at how funding is allocated, the gender imbalance is striking. All-male founding teams received 93% of the capital invested in 2018, compared to just 5% received by all-female founding teams. The report notes that these figures have shown little to no improvement in the last five years.

Restoring gender balance to the tech sector

Today, technology is dominated by men. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the world’s first programmer, Ada Lovelace, was a woman. In the 1940s, Lovelace turned a complex formula into simple calculations that could be fed into a mechanical computer. She was also the first person to realize that a general purpose computer could do anything, given the right data and instructions.

So how did we get here? And can we rebalance the gender gap in the tech sector? Tech Talent Charter—an initiative that drives organizations to deliver greater diversity in the U.K. tech workforce, is aiming to do just that. The CEO Debbie Forster said, “If everything is going to be digital and this huge disruption is coming in terms of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is essential that the minds creating these technologies are minds that represent the whole population.”

The Charter has signatories ranging from tech giants like Microsoft, Salesforce and Cisco, to banks and organizations including Lloyds Bank, the BBC, Cancer Research UK, Domino’s Pizza, and a number of SMEs and start-ups.

“All of the statistics show that companies with more diverse teams are more profitable, more sustainable, and more able to survive disruption,” said Forster. “Companies are waking up and realizing that it’s not just a good thing to do, it’s not even just a smart thing to do, it’s essential.”

“The uncomfortable truth is that the technology industry today is not a place in which everyone, of any gender, race, disability, religion, sexuality, and socioeconomic background can thrive and succeed.”

According to McKinsey & Company, companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. And it’s not just gender. The same research showed that companies with high ethnic and cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. “I’m not bothered to chase every company to join us because the market is going to reward those who do,” said Forster. “Diversity is bottom line profitability.”



The hateful extremism of the British government

I have just had an extensive look at "Challenging Hateful Extremism", a recent emission of the British government.

There is only one form of extremism in Britain that frequently kills people and that is of course Muslim extremism. So you would think that the report would focus heavily on that form of extremism and leave other forms of extremism to be summed up in a single chapter.  That is not remotely so.

The report does mention Musim hate speech but it is most heavily concerned with the words of British patriots who resent the favoritism shown towards Muslims by the British government.  And that favoritism is surely hateful extremism. 

The Left will deny anything so will probably deny any favoritism towards Muslims but the report itself is evidence of that bias.  It was chaired by Sara Khan, a former  president of an Islamic youth organisation.  No expectation of bias there, of course.

So rather than be preoccupied with the grievous attacks from Muslims that can erupt anywhere any time, the British government wants to muzzle citizens who are concerned about such attacks.  A more hateful form of extremism would be hard to imagine -- JR


The Amazon rain forest has existed for 10 million years. It might not survive the next 100

This article starts out with a lie.  Amazonia was extensively inhabited by native people within historical memory.  Does any reasonable person believe that the natives would have built great civilizations in Mexico and Peru (Aztecs and Incas) and at the same time ignored the vast expanse of the Amazonian lands?

The Spanish conquistadores and the  priests who followed them reported great cities in the Amazon basin when they arrived and they called the area Amazonia.  In the warm tropics of Amazonia however the diseases that the Spaniards brought with them spread like wildfire, wiping out whole cities at a time.  And with their civilization destroyed, the few natives who survived reverted to primitive ways.

And there is one legacy of that past big settlement that you can see today: black soil.  The natural Amazonian soils are thin and poor so the natives had to fertilize them to get the most out of them.  And a principal way of doing that was by fire.  Any vegetation that came to hand was burnt to enrich the soil.  And that produced the black soil we see today.  And "black" soils are found throughout Amazonia today.

So most of  the forest in Amazonia is actually a recent growith, not much more than 400 years old. And what can grow once can grow again.  There is no tragedy in turning forest into farms.  And once the loggers have departed, the land does often become farms -- thus bringing Amazonia back to what it once was

Fuller details of all that here .  I reproduce below  just the opening blast from a very long-winded article in "Time" magazine

Five decades ago Brazil incentivized millions of its people to colonize the Amazon. Today their logging yards, cattle enclosures and soy farms sit on the fringes of a vanishing forest. Powered by murky sources of capital and rising demand for beef, a violent and corrupt frontier is now pushing into indigenous land, national parks and one of the most preserved parts of the jungle.

Brazil’s new President, Jair Bolsonaro, an unapologetic cheerleader for the exploitation of the Amazon, has the colonists’ backs; he’s sacked key environmental officials and slashed enforcement. His message: the Amazon is open for business. Since his inauguration in January, the rate of deforestation has soared by as much as 92%, according to satellite imaging.

As human activity in the Amazon ramps up, its future has never been less clear. Scientists warn that decades of human activity and a changing climate has brought the jungle near a “tipping point.” The rain forest is so-called because it’s such a wet place, where the trees pull up water from the earth that then gathers in the atmosphere to become rain. That balance is upended by deforestation, forest fires and global temperature rises. Experts warn that soon the water cycle will become irreversibly broken, locking in a trend of declining rainfall and longer dry seasons that began decades ago. At least half of the shrinking forest will give way to savanna. With as much as 17% of the forest lost already, scientists believe that the tipping point will be reached at 20% to 25% of deforestation even if climate change is tamed. If, as predicted, global temperatures rise by 4°C, much of the central, eastern and southern Amazon will certainly become barren scrubland.

The fires that raged across the Amazon in August helped illuminate something the world can no longer ignore. Inside the crucible of this ancient forest, relentless colonization is combining with environmental vandalism and a warming climate to create a crisis. If things continue as they are now, the Amazon might not exist at all within a few generations, with dire consequences for all life on earth.

To understand what is truly happening to the world’s largest rain forest, TIME journeyed thousands of miles by road, boat and small plane this year to the front lines of deforestation. We spoke to loggers, tribespeople, environmentalists, ranchers and scientists. Despite growing outrage and threats by Western leaders to withhold trade with Brazil until Bolsonaro reverses course, on the ground we discovered the battle for the Amazon is close to being lost. The emboldened forces of development are running without restraint, and the stakes for the planet couldn’t be higher. As the official formerly responsible for Brazil’s deforestation monitoring, Ricardo Galvão, who was fired in August for defending his data on tree loss, told us, “If the Amazon is destroyed, it will be impossible to control global warming.”

The Amazon is 10 million years old. Home to 390 billion trees, the vast river basin reigns over South America and is an unrivaled nest of biodiversity. From blue morpho butterflies to emperor tamarins to pink river dolphins, biologists find a new species every other day.

The first humans migrated to the Amazon from Central America about 13,000 years ago. Up to 10 million tribespeople lived in fortified settlements, creating ceremonial earthworks, and cultivating fields and orchards. The Karipuna tribe roamed one enclave just south of where the Madeira River splinters into its tributaries amid rapids and waterfalls, in what today is the Brazilian state of Rondônia. The mouth of the Amazon sits 1,000 miles to the northeast. To the west and north the forest stretches into Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela.

The European colonization of the Americas from 1492 saw settler plantations advance across the New World, bringing deforestation on a vast scale for farmland, firewood and houses. By the early 20th century, the world had lost trees that would have covered the Amazon rain forest at least once over, but its rain forest remained largely intact. Not so its inhabitants. As with many of the more than 300 tribes that survive in Brazil, contact with outsiders decimated the Karipuna’s numbers through illnesses such as measles and flu.

The 20th century saw more global tree loss than the rest of history. The Amazon, with vast mineral riches under its soil, finally came under threat. In 1964, Brazil’s military dictatorship took power and decreed the “empty” jungle was a security risk. It went on to create the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) to conquer the forest and make it an agricultural stronghold.

In the early 1970s, the government ran television ads for a new mecca of cheap land—and freedom. Bertola and his family, farm laborers descended from Italian immigrants to the south of Brazil, joined millions flooding northward on newly built highways. “Everyone had the same dream,” says Bertola, now 52. “It just meant deforesting it all.” Men like Bertola are the forward cavalry of deforestation. Where main roads are built, hundreds of makeshift logging tracks splinter offin a fish-bone pattern. The land is demarcated, often illegally, and lots are typically sold for a few hundred dollars by grileiros, or “land grabbers,” to poor farmers, who raze the forest and build communities.

Over time, electricity and phone lines arrive, and the jaguars that threaten the cattle disappear from the landscape. Once infrastructure is in place, wealthy tycoons buy up the land to build cattle ranches or vast fields of soy. Bertola and those like him track the frontier northward into the virgin forest.

Once in motion, expansion is relentless. In Brazil— one of nine countries in the Amazon basin—an area larger than Texas has been cut. Here in the frontier state of Rondônia, ranching is king, much economic activity is illegal, and state agents are bought offor outmuscled. Agri business in Brazil generates nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP, and the Amazon alone has over 50 million cattle.



Do medical X-rays give you cancer?

It would be very surprising if they did. They have been in use for about a century so one would think that any adverse effects would have been noticed long ago. Yet the article below says they do cause cancer -- in South Korea.

But the article is inconclusive. WHO were the people who had many X-rays?  Probably the poor as the poor are always shown to have worse health.  So the greater incidence of cancer among X-ray recipients was entirely as expected -- as a normal correlate of poverty.

There is so much crap in epidemiological research.  Inconclusive articles like this are a big pain to me as I repeatedly feel obliged to point out the obvious flaws in them

Association of Exposure to Diagnostic Low-Dose Ionizing Radiation With Risk of Cancer Among Youths in South Korea

Jae-Young Hong et al.


Importance  Diagnostic low-dose ionizing radiation has great medical benefits; however, its increasing use has raised concerns about possible cancer risks.

Objective  To examine the risk of cancer after diagnostic low-dose radiation exposure.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This population-based cohort study included youths aged 0 to 19 years at baseline from South Korean National Health Insurance System claim records from January 1, 2006, to December 31, 2015. Exposure to diagnostic low-dose ionizing radiation was classified as any that occurred on or after the entry date, when the participant was aged 0 to 19 years, on or before the exit date, and at least 2 years before any cancer diagnosis. Cancer diagnoses were based on International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision codes. Data were analyzed from March 2018 to September 2018.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary analysis assessed the incidence rate ratios (IRRs) for exposed vs nonexposed individuals using the number of person-years as an offset.

Results  The cohort included a total of 12 068 821 individuals (6 339 782 [52.5%] boys). There were 2 309 841 individuals (19.1%) aged 0 to 4 years, 2 951 679 individuals (24.5%) aged 5 to 9 years, 3 489 709 individuals (28.9%) aged 10 to 14 years, and 3 317 593 individuals (27.5%) aged 15 to 19 years. Of these, 1 275 829 individuals (10.6%) were exposed to diagnostic low-dose ionizing radiation between 2006 and 2015, and 10 792 992 individuals (89.4%) were not exposed. By December 31, 2015, 21 912 cancers were recorded. Among individuals who had been exposed, 1444 individuals (0.1%) received a cancer diagnosis. The overall cancer incidence was greater among exposed individuals than among nonexposed individuals after adjusting for age and sex (IRR, 1.64 [95% CI, 1.56-1.73]; P < .001). Among individuals who had undergone computed tomography scans in particular, the overall cancer incidence was greater among exposed individuals than among nonexposed individuals after adjusting for age and sex (IRR, 1.54 [95% CI, 1.45-1.63]; P < .001). The incidence of cancer increased significantly for many types of lymphoid, hematopoietic, and solid cancers after exposure to diagnostic low-dose ionizing radiation. Among lymphoid and hematopoietic cancers, incidence of cancer increased the most for other myeloid leukemias (IRR, 2.14 [95% CI, 1.86-2.46]) and myelodysplasia (IRR, 2.48 [95% CI, 1.77-3.47]). Among solid cancers, incidence of cancer increased the most for breast (IRR, 2.32 [95% CI, 1.35-3.99]) and thyroid (IRR, 2.19 [95% CI, 1.97-2.20]) cancers.

Conclusions and Relevance  This study found an association of increased incidence of cancer with exposure to diagnostic low-dose ionizing radiation in a large cohort. Given this risk, diagnostic low-dose ionizing radiation should be limited to situations in which there is a definite clinical indication.

JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(9):e1910584. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.10584


Politically incorrect anthropology

I have been reading about Napoleon Chagnon for many years now.  I wrote about his findings as early as 2003. So I was pleased to see a recent comprehensive summary of his work in Quillette

As I learned myself by working in two academic departments that covered anthropology, anthropologists are the most Lefist discipline in the social sciences -- and that is saying something.  Chagnon, however, was simply interested in reality and was one of the most committed anthropologists ever.  He spent years living among the people he described -- under conditions that few modern men could endure. So he knew what he was talking about.  Below is a brief excerpt from the Quillette article.  As you can see, his findings went right against the old Leftist claim that man was naturally good and kind but had been corrupted by modern civilization:

In 1966, Chagnon began working with the geneticist James Neel. Neel had had managed to convince the Atomic Energy Commission to fund a genetic study of an isolated population and was able to pay Chagnon a salary to assist his research there. Neel’s team took blood samples from the Yanomamö, and began administering the Edmonston B vaccine when they discovered that the Yanomamö had no antibodies to the measles. In some ways, the Yanomamö sounded like something out of any anthropology textbook—they were patrilineal and polygamous (polygyny); like other cultures around the world, they carved a position for the levirate—a man who married his dead brother’s wife; they had ceremonial roles and practised ritual confinement with taboos on food and sex. But sometimes this exotic veneer would be punctured by their shared humanity, particularly their mischievous sense of humour.

But for all their jocularity, Chagnon found that up to 30 percent of all Yanomamö males died a violent death. Warfare and violence were common, and duelling was a ritual practice, in which two men would take turns flogging each other over the head with a club, until one of the combatants succumbed. Chagnon was adamant that the primary causes of violence among the Yanomamö were revenge killings and women. The latter may not seem surprising to anyone aware of the ubiquity of ruthless male sexual competition in the animal kingdom, but anthropologists generally believed that human violence found its genesis in more immediate matters, such as disputes over resources. When Chagnon asked the Yanomamö shaman Dedeheiwa t0 explain the cause of violence, he replied, “Don’t ask such stupid questions! Women! Women! Women! Women! Women!” Such fights erupted over sexual jealousy, sexual impropriety, rape, and attempts at seduction, kidnap and failure to deliver a promised girl.

Internecine raids and attacks often involved attempts by a man or group to abduct another’s women. “The victim is grabbed by her abductors by one arm, and her protectors grab the other arm. Then both groups pull in opposite directions,” Chagnon learned. In one instance, a woman’s arms were reportedly pulled out of their sockets: “The victim invariably screams in agony, and the struggle can last several long minutes until one group takes control of her.” Although one in five Yanomamö women Chagnon interviewed had been kidnapped from another village, some of these women were grateful to find that their new husbands were less cruel than their former ones. The treatment of Yanomamö women could be particularly gruesome, and Chagnon had to wrestle with the ethical dilemmas that confront anthropologists under such circumstances—should he intervene or remain an observer? Men frequently beat their wives, mainly out of sexual jealousy, shot arrows into them, or even held burning sticks between their legs to discourage the possibility of infidelity. On one occasion, a man bludgeoned his wife in the head with firewood and in front of an impassive audience. “Her head bounced off the ground with each ruthless blow, as if he were pounding a soccer ball with a baseball bat. The head-man and I intervened at that point—he was killing her.” Chagnon stitched her head back up. The woman recovered but she subsequently dropped her infant into a fire as she slept, and was later killed by a venomous snake. Life in the Amazon could be nasty, brutish, and short.

Chagnon would make more than 20 fieldwork visits to the Amazon, and in 1968 he published Yanomamö: The Fierce People, which became an instant international bestseller. The book immediately ignited controversy within the field of anthropology. Although it commanded immense respect and became the most commonly taught book in introductory anthropology courses, the very subtitle of the book annoyed those anthropologists, who preferred to give their monographs titles like The Gentle Tasaday, The Gentle People, The Harmless People, The Peaceful People, Never in Anger, and The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya.

The stubborn tendency within the discipline was to paint an unrealistic façade over such cultures—although 61 percent of Waorani men met a violent death, an anthropologist nevertheless described this Amazonian people as a “tribe where harmony rules,” on account of an “ethos that emphasized peacefulness.”  Anthropologists who considered such a society harmonious were unlikely to be impressed by Chagnon’s description of the Yanomamö as “The Fierce People,” where “only” 30 percent of males died by violence. The same anthropologist who had ascribed a prevailing ethos of peace to the Waoroni later accused Chagnon, in the gobbledygook of anthropological jargon, of the “projection of traditional preconceptions of the Western construction of Otherness.”



Politically correct mathematics!

The article below is rather coy about it but they are clearly trying to convey that children develop high math skills by the mere presence of parents with high math skills. They want to avoid the conclusion that a kid's intelligence is all due to that nasty genetics.  There is something else there as well which can make you bright.

And it may well be true that having a bright parent cues you into strategies that are helpful in mathematics.  But their research does not prove that.  All they did was old stuff: They correlated parental math scores with offspring math scores.  And there was, as usual, a strong association between the two.  There was nothing in their findings that could not be explained by a wholly genetic transmission of mathematical ability.

We have known for around 100 years that mathematical ability is genetically transmitted so there was really no point to the study. Its only point was its "slant" towards a politically correct conclusion.

Parents' math skills 'rub off' on their children

First evidence found of intergenerational transmission of an unlearned, nonverbal competence in mathematics

Parents who excel at math produce children who excel at math. This is according to a recent study that shows a distinct transfer of math skills from parent to child. The study specifically explored intergenerational transmission -- the concept of parental influence on an offspring's behavior or psychology -- in mathematic capabilities.
Parents who excel at math produce children who excel at math. This is according to a recently released University of Pittsburgh study, which shows a distinct transfer of math skills from parent to child. The study specifically explored intergenerational transmission -- the concept of parental influence on an offspring's behavior or psychology -- in mathematic capabilities.

"Our findings suggest an intuitive sense for numbers has been passed down -- knowingly or unknowingly -- from parent to child. Meaning, essentially, the math skills of parents tend to 'rub off' on their children," said lead researcher Melissa E. Libertus, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and a research scientist in the University's Learning Research and Development Center. The Department of Psychology is within the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. "This research could have significant ramifications for how parents are advised to talk about math and numbers with their children and how teachers go about teaching children in classrooms."

Within the study, Pitt's researchers found that the performance levels for early school-aged children on standardized mathematic tests could be reliably predicted by their parent's performance on similar examinations. Specifically, they observed major correlations in parent-child performance in such key areas as mathematical computations, number-fact recall, and word problem analysis. Surprisingly, the researchers also found that children's intuitive sense of numbers -- i.e. the ability to know that 20 jelly beans are more than 10 jelly beans without first counting them -- is predicted by their parents' intuitive sense of numbers. Researchers determined that such close result parallels could not have been produced through similar institutional learning backgrounds because their previous research showed that this intuitive sense of numbers is present in infancy.

The findings represent the first evidence of intergenerational transmission of unlearned, nonverbal numerical competence from parents to children. While separate studies have pointed to the existence of intergenerational transmission of cognitive abilities, only a select few have examined parental influences in specific academic domains, such as mathematics.

Libertus said the study is an important step toward understanding the multifaceted parental influences on children's mathematic abilities. Her future studies will examine why this transference of mathematic capability occurs.

"We believe the relationship between a parent and a child's math capabilities could be some combination of hereditary and environmental transmission," said Libertus. "We look forward to future research endeavors that will explicitly examine the degree to which parents pass down key genetic traits and create an in-home learning environment that is conducive to producing high-achieving math students."

For the present study, the math abilities of parents and children were assessed using the appropriate subtests from the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement, a nationally recognized standardized examination of baseline math ability. Children completed three subtests designed to gauge their capabilities in mathematical computations, basic number-fact recall, and word problems with visual aids. Parents completed a math fluency subtest as a measure of mathematical ability, and they were surveyed on the importance of children developing certain math skills.

The study sampled 54 children between the ages of 5 and 8 as well as 51 parents -- 46 mothers and five fathers -- between the ages of 30 and 59. In terms of racial demographics of participating children, 45 were Caucasian, five biracial, three African American, and one Asian. Forty-six participating parents had at least a college degree, and all possessed at least a high school diploma.

A Pitt faculty member since 2013, Libertus' research focuses on the understanding of how children perceive and learn mathematical concepts. The long-range goals of her work seek to identify key factors in the successful learning of mathematics. Emily J. Braham, a doctoral student with a cognitive-neuroscience concentration in the Department of Psychology, assisted in this research study.

The study "Intergenerational Associations in Numerical Approximation and Mathematical Abilities" is available in the latest edition of Developmental Science.

SOURCE .  The journal  abstract is here


The pension should not be protecting mansions

Adam Creighton below must be young.  He is an economist and speaks good economic sense.  But he seems to know nothing about politics. The tax exempt family home is untouchable.  Any politician who proposed reform to it would get a barrage of opposition and abuse and would lose the next election.

No matter how logically, you present your argument, what you present will be seen as dangerous and will easily be exaggerated by your political opponents. Note what happened to the Labor party at the last election when they proposed various economically reasonable tax reforms

It’s a bit pathetic the Coalition, far from the next election, is already ruling out options only days after announcing a broad review into the retirement income system.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg ruled out “ever” including the principal residence in the eligibility test for the pension.

If the age pension is going to be means tested, then the “family home’’ must be included.

How can people respect the social security system when a pensioner in a Toorak mansion, clearly with vastly greater resources, is treated the same as one in a fibro in Sydney’s Bankstown.

No one should ever be forced to move but if a pensioners’ total assets (housing and financial) exceed some high bar, say $2m, then surely any age pension payments should be deducted from the ultimate inheritance.

A $2m tax free inheritance might become, say, $1.9m. Oh the horror!

Ask any financial planner; retirees often use their superannuation to upsize their home or fund renovations, which ensures the wealth is shielded from the eligibility test. This induces yet more money to flow into housing than otherwise would.

Perhaps the most ridiculous argument against including the principal residence in the eligibility test along with other assets is that it isn’t retirees’ fault their home is now worth so much.

It’s true: the extraordinary tax-free capital gains (“unearned” in the old nomenclature, because no one really lifted a finger to generate them) enjoyed by many boomers probably will never be repeated.

Surely that’s all the more reason for some of these gains to be used to fund retirement, allowing taxes to be lower for the current generation of workers who face an ever higher personal income tax burden.

When the Fisher government introduced the old age pension in 1908 it was about alleviating poverty — most people died before they were eligible and even then only the genuinely needy received it. Indeed, the family home was included in the eligibility test until 1912.

Today the pension is as much about subsidising inheritances as alleviating poverty.

The Callaghan review is a good opportunity to bring this fact, and the extraordinary cost to the economy of lifting the compulsory saving rate to 12 per cent, to light.

Indeed, there are good arguments for scrapping distorting means-testing, giving the age pension to everyone, scrapping super concessions and using the net savings to dramatically cut income tax.

But based on comments by the Prime Minister and Treasurer in recent days it looks like more pusillanimous fiddling at the edges is all we can expect.



Can we now vaccinate against lung cancer?

Not so fast.  The report below suggests that we can but it is misleading.

The story starts with a remarkable product that originated in the early 20th century: BCG vaccine. Some patient French scientists produced a weakened bacillus from the form of tuberculosis that cattle get. They used their product as an effective vaccine against TB for humans. It is actually a live bacterium that they and their successors inject into you as a vaccination. But it is a real life-saver. Once injected with it, you mostly don't get TB at all and you mostly recover well in a worst case scenario. It is very widely used so it keeps a large lot of Third-worlders alive.

So is it itself dangerous to your health?  The studies of that differ in their conclusions but the general conclusion is that it is pretty safe.  The study below aimed to settle that for once and for all.  And it did.  With a follow-up of thousands of people across a remarkable 60 year period, people who had been given the vaccine were no more likely to die than anyone else.  You seldom get conclusions as solid as that.

While analysing their data however the authors noticed something interesting. There were a lot fewer lung cancer deaths among those who had received the BCG vaccine.  They cried Eureka and said we now know how to prevent lung cancer.  They were able to show statistical significance for their findings so that is that!

But it isn't. The effect they found is exceptionally small statistically (a hazard ratio of 0.38) and was shown as statistically significant only because of the large sample size.  It has no precedent so is clearly one of those adventitious findings that you often get when analysing a large and complex body of data:  Findings that will never emerge again.

Because you can do it so easily, it is actually regarded as bad science to report such adventitious findings. You are supposed to report the significance or not of only those correlations you have predicted from theory. A lot of last minute theory revisions happen of course.

So all the work behind that study was well-justified by the findings that BCG -- as predicted -- is very safe but the "findings" about lung cancer should be ignored.

Association of BCG Vaccination in Childhood With Subsequent Cancer Diagnoses: A 60-Year Follow-up of a Clinical Trial

Nicholas T. Usher et al.


Importance:  The BCG vaccine is currently the only approved tuberculosis vaccine and is widely administered worldwide, usually during infancy. Previous studies found increased rates of lymphoma and leukemia in BCG-vaccinated populations.

Objective:  To determine whether BCG vaccination was associated with cancer rates in a secondary analysis of a BCG vaccine trial.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective review (60-year follow-up) of a clinical trial in which participants were assigned to the vaccine group by systematic stratification by school district, age, and sex, then randomized by alternation. The original study was conducted at 9 sites in 5 US states between December 1935 and December 1998. Participants were 2963 American Indian and Alaska Native schoolchildren younger than 20 years with no evidence of previous tuberculosis infection. Statistical analysis was conducted between August 2018 and July 2019.

Interventions:  Single intradermal injection of either BCG vaccine or saline placebo.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The primary outcome was diagnosis of cancer after BCG vaccination. Data on participant interval health and risk factors, including smoking, tuberculosis infection, isoniazid use, and other basic demographic information, were also collected.

Results:  A total of 2963 participants, including 1540 in the BCG vaccine group and 1423 in the placebo group, remained after exclusions. Vaccination occurred at a median (interquartile range) age of 8 (5-11) years; 805 participants (52%) in the BCG group and 710 (50%) in the placebo group were female. At the time of follow-up, 97 participants (7%) in the placebo group and 106 participants (7%) in the BCG vaccine group could not be located; total mortality was 633 participants (44%) in the placebo group and 632 participants (41%) in the BCG group. The overall rate of cancer diagnosis was not significantly different in BCG vaccine vs placebo recipients (hazard ratio, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.66-1.02), including for lymphoma and leukemia. The rate of lung cancer was significantly lower in BCG vs placebo recipients (18.2 vs 45.4 cases per 100 000 person-years; hazard ratio, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.20-0.74; P = less than .005), controlling for sex, region, alcohol overuse, smoking, and tuberculosis.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Childhood BCG vaccination was associated with a lower risk of lung cancer development in American Indian and Alaska Native populations. This finding has potentially important health implications given the high mortality rate associated with lung cancer and the availability of low-cost BCG vaccines.

JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(9):e1912014. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.12014


Academics spending big in search for racism

Leftists boost themselves up in a most childish way -- by running down other people.  That those they criticize are in fact innocent of any wrongdoing or even wrong thoughts does not seem to matter to them

And when it comes to academics the process is magnified.  Because of their great learning in one tiny field of knowledge, they feel that they are much wiser and superior to the average Joe. So, improbable though it is, the whole population can then be found to be at fault

Solid evidence that Australians are NOT systematically racist is the high rate of intermarriage between ordinary Anglo-Australians and East Asians.  I see young Asian ladies on the arm of Caucasian men all the time in my local shopping centre

These "anti-racists" live in a delusory little world of their own.  Their self-image as noble rescuers is what it is all about

If you were not already convinced that Australia’s humanities departments have truly lost their way, the latest research project from the faculty of arts and social sciences at the University of Sydney should get you over the line.

Resurgent Racism is the seventh “flagship” theme of FutureFix, a program devised by academics at the university to show taxpaying Australians their money is being put to good use. Resurgent Racism will “address the emergence of new forms of racism manifesting as national populism and far-right extremism”. Researchers will “seek to explain the logics of emboldened white rac­ism in Western liberal democracies”, which they predict “will be applicable to majoritarian racism elsewhere”. These self-appointed sages have looked into the crystal ball and have seen a future blighted by white supremacists.

But we can be pulled back from the brink of this dystopian nightmare if the team at the faculty of arts and sciences is permitted to spend taxpayers’ dollars, and the next few years, “mapping the changes of racism, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacism” in Australia.

That Islam is a religion, not a race, seems not to matter because a great many academics have shifted from focusing on what is real to what is not — in this case an imagined crisis of endemic racism. They are knee-deep in the quagmire of identity politics, that most dangerous and divisive of ideas that insists on distinguishing individuals by their differences rather than by their similarities.

Like so many in the humanities, they view the world through a Manichean lens, in which everything can be explained as a struggle between the forces of good (light) and evil (darkness). Everything they think about, write about and talk about in their capacity as historians, sociologists or political scientists must support the belief that Western civilisation is a white male patriarchy that wields power over, and oppresses, women and racial minorities.

Last year, Sydney University invited American professor, author and “renowned anti-racism educator” Robin DiAngelo so she could tell all the white people attending the launch of What Does It Mean to be White? Developing White Racial Literacy just how terribly, but perhaps not irredeemably, racist they were. According to DiAngelo, white people live in a racially insular bubble that renders them quivering wrecks when it comes to talking about race, a phenomenon she calls “White Fragility”. “Why does race seem to be the hardest word for white people?” she asked.

If she were to take a closer, impar­tial look at the Australian university sector, she would encounter many white people who have no problem at all with the word. Many academics are not only not afraid to talk about race but they talk about it so incessantly that if it weren’t for gender — the other great preoccupation of 21st-century academe — it would verge on monomania.

Of the 30-odd staff employed at the uni’s department of history, for example, 10 make a point of mentioning race or racism as a research interest. When Greg Sheridan criticised the Australian National University for rejecting the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, one Sydney University professor, Dirk Moses, compared Sheridan to Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.

Since 2002, the department has received almost $9m from the Australian Research Council to fund 18 historical studies research projects that focus on racism, in one form or another. These included The Construction of Race and Racial Identity at the Antip­odes of Empire, 1788-1840 (costing $231,000); Southern Racial Concepts: Comparative Histories and Contemporary Legacies ($2.4m); Immigration Restriction and the Racial state, c. 1880 to the Present ($359,000); Enterprising Women, Race, Gender and Power in the Revolutionary Atlantic, 1770-1820 (‘$323,000); and The Racial Century ($94,000).

The Resurgent Racism squad comprises, among others, former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane, seen by some to have encouraged complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission following publication of a 2016 cartoon by Bill Leak in this newspaper. Last year Soutphommasane gave the keynote address at the university’s National Centre for Cultural Competence, launched in 2013 to the tune of $5.6m of taxpayers’ money. It claims its mission is to “roll out cultural com­pe­tence across the university and broader local national and international community”, but in real­ity it is a concerted effort to con­vince us Anglo-Celtic white culture is bad.

When vice-chancellor Michael Spence suggested questioning the existence of Chinese influence on his campus was akin to the White Australia policy, he was simply ensuring next year’s income. Last year the university pocketed $884m in international student fees, a generous portion from Chinese students.

The Resurgent Racism team is spending taxpayers’ money to tell Australians how racist we are. It is evidence the racism industry is flourishing on our university campuses, which are no longer in the business of producing objective and impartial scholarship that will edify, inspire and educate future generations of Australians.



UK: Councils must do more to crack down on the illegal conversion of flats and houses to bedsits to stop young renters from being exploited, according to an influential MP

So it's going to help the poor to throw them out of their cheap accommodation??

Crowded accommodation arises because not enough homes are being built.  The huge influx of migrants into Britain has to be housed somewhere and in the absence of government action, private enterprise comes to help.

Home-owners see large market who need housing but can't pay much.  So they see a profit in subdividing.  They provide small living spaces for small sums in rent.  But those small sums add up to more than what the property was getting before subdivision. So everyone is happy.  The migrants have a roof over their heads and the property owner has more income than before.

What the do-gooders want is impossible unless as many as a million new modern apartments are built -- and that is not going to happen.  Only a new city's worth of new apartments could house the migrants in the style that the do-gooders want. If they succeed in their meddling and close down the subdivided houses, where will the occupants go? It will simply throw poor migrants onto the streets.  Is that good?

Clive Betts, the [moronic] chairman of the housing select committee, questioned whether some local authorities have the political will to deal with rogue landlords after a Times investigation found that unlicensed bedsits are being advertised with impunity online.

Analysis of 100 rooms offered in five-bed properties on the most popular house-share websites found that only 12 per cent were listed on council registers of approved Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

An HMO licence is mandatory for all rental properties where five or more unrelated people live. Every council has to publish a list of licensed properties so in most cases a check would be as simple as entering an address into a website.

Mr Betts said: “I know local authorities have suffered staff shortages and huge cuts but nevertheless these websites are easy and obvious places to go looking for these problems. Money is a big issue but political will is also important.

“This piece of work by The Times is very helpful. Every local authority should now be looking at these sites and taking action. Councils need to start enforcement. Once they do, compliance increases as well because word gets around.”

The investigation found that websites, such as spotahome.com, which is part owned by a founder of Uber, are offering rooms to rent as small as five square metres in converted houses and flats as the housing crisis encourages landlords to turn even upmarket properties into glorified bedsits. A consequence is that “generation rent” is facing the end of the sitting room with nine out of ten house shares in some areas being offered with no communal living space.

Mr Betts said: “These websites should also be answering questions about facilitating illegality. I think it is disgraceful if a company is making huge amounts of money out of the housing crisis.

“We might need to follow up our committee’s report on the private rented sector and see how much progress councils are making on taking action, and what the government is doing to drive this issue.”

Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, added: “Solving this problem demands a two-pronged approach: councils need more funding to be able to clamp down on law-breaking landlords and we also need a decent alternative to private renting. That alternative must be social homes – three million of them in the next 20 years.”

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, insisted that local authorities are doing what they can to raise standards in the private rented sector..

David Renard, the organisation’s housing spokesman, said: “Enforcement would usually be a last resort for councils, who have to weigh up whether or not the fines available would be a significant deterrent to rogue landlords, or whether expensive prosecutions are a cost-effective use of taxpayers’ money at a time when councils are under significant financial pressures.

“It can take more than a year to prosecute a rogue operator and in many cases paltry fines are handed out to criminal landlords.

“There are things that central government can do to help – granting councils further banning powers for the minority of landlords not prepared to offer up-to-standard accommodation, and powers to levy more substantial fines on the worst offenders would be powerful incentives to bring the best out of the private rented sector and ensure it delivers quality accommodation for our residents and communities.”