Teacher evaluations and superstition

Discipline in the classroom and the IQ of the kid are the main things that make a difference

Megan McArdle has a long post on the issue of measuring teacher quality. Meanwhile, The New York Times profiles James Heckman, whose careful research suggests that by the time a child reaches school age it is too late to make much difference.

If the best evidence is that it is almost impossible to make a long-term difference in education, then the statistical evidence on teacher quality is bound to be highly unreliable. What appears to be teacher quality is likely to be random variation. The low rate of replication of statistical teacher evaluations that Megan discusses is consistent with that.

There is a term that Daniel Klein alerted me to called "white hat bias." What it means is that findings that favor a popular political viewpoint will be published, while those that contradict that viewpoint will tend to be discarded. So many people have a vested interest in believing that teachers make a difference that one has to be very wary of white hat bias in studies that purport to show such differences.

Along these lines, I am afraid that I am skeptical of Rick Hanushek's claim that the best teachers are really effective and the worst are really ineffective. If that were true, then I think we would observe private schools dramatically outperforming public schools, holding student characteristics constant, and I do not think that is what the data say. Instead, when we see differences, those differences typically do not persist over time.

In education research, intensive efforts are made to find differences caused by teachers or other inputs. This is a worthwhile effort, but whenever studies are published showing such differences, they need to be discounted heavily for the biases induced by various filters in the research and publication process. The likelihood of any strong difference holding up in repeated study is quite low.


Texas: Must not warn of speed traps ahead?

We read:
"Three years ago, when Lakeway resident Lance Mitchell launched his website, SpeedTrapAhead.org, he didn't hide his intentions. "Not a lot of people flash their lights to warn others nowadays," he wrote. "But, I DO! And when I see a speed trap, I go back up the road a bit, and stand on the sidewalk, wearing my SpeedTrapAhead T-shirt."

Early on April 22, 2009, Mitchell spotted a Lakeway police cruiser set up inside a school zone with a radar gun. He set up his warning station up-road, pointing enthusiastically at his speedtrapahead.org shirt whenever a driver passed. His truck, which also sported a decal of the website address, was parked nearby.

According to Mitchell's video account of the event, a black police cruiser soon arrives.... the group approaches Mitchell; an officer asks for his ID. When he hands over a card with his name, address and birth date, Debrow demands his driver's license. As Mitchell begins to explain how, technically, that is not legally required as he was not driving, Debrow abruptly orders Mitchell handcuffed and placed under arrest.

During the 13 hours he was detained, Mitchell eventually was informed he was being charged with violating Lakeway's sign ordinance by displaying a sign on his shirt and a speedtrapahead.org decal on his truck.

[Judge] Madison found Mitchell not guilty on all counts. Madison continued: "I don't think the intent of the city is to outlaw the wearing of a T-shirt. If we outlaw T-shirts, what happens next? If you have a tattoo on your body, does that become a sign?"

A month after the trial, Mitchell filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Lakeway, Debrow, the code enforcement officer and Almaguer complaining that he "was arrested, jailed and prosecuted ... and deprived of his First Amendment rights merely because he wore a shirt and sported a decal on his truck with a message that reads speedtrapahead.org."

Last month, both sides reached a confidential settlement. "I don't have to worry about working for four or five months," said Mitchell, who is currently unemployed. He also said he's ready to get back to warning Lakeway drivers to slow down.


I was once ticketed by police for flashing my lights to warn other drivers but when I wrote in and complained, they decided that no offence had been committed. You have to stand up for your rights -- always politely, of course.

Global cooling is on the way!

By Bob Foster [fosbob@bigpond.com]

A millennium ago, a sage opined “He who foretells the future, lies – even when he tells the truth”. However, with 6 billion mouths to feed, our policy-makers live in vastly different times. Now, they must address the future; and surely, they need guidance from the Geological Society of Australia – because lives depend on getting it right.

Sadly, the recent “Publicity and Media” report (The Australian Geologist of 9/2010, p.5) reveals an opportunity lost. A list of six “attention-grabbing headlines” generated by the Australian Earth Sciences Convention (AESC) lacks the crucial “Global cooling ahead!”

The 300-year warming from ‘quiet Sun’ of the Maunder Minimum to ‘hyperactive Sun’ of the Modern Grand Maximum is over. Strong solar cycles are punctual – averaging only 362 spotless days between cycles during the MGM. In 2004, NASA predicted Solar Cycle 24 would begin in early 2006, peak in 2010, and be extra strong.

I promise I am not making this up: there are now an amazing 813 days without sunspots since 2004, when Cycle 23 began to weaken - including 7-10 October 2010. Late cycles are weak; and indeed, Cycle 24 is very late. Embarrassing for NASA, I know; but will it now tell the world’s policy-makers? A big test for Dr James Hansen!

What lies ahead? As our sage so sagely said, no-one can foretell the future; but every new spot-free day makes it more likely that Earth is entering the Landscheidt Minimum – predicted at its coldest by 2030. In its Little Ice Age look-alike (the fearsome Maunder, 1645-1715) a third the population of Europe died. Planners ready?

Puzzlingly, the AESC list also reveals an opportunity misspent – “Sea levels to rise at double expected rate”. But first, I need to tell you that when Dr Rajendra Pachauri (then head of Tata Energy Research Institute, and now also head of IPCC) was President of the International Association for Energy Economics, I was among his flock.

The Report of November 2009 “The Effect of Climate Change on Extreme Sea Levels in Port Phillip Bay” is by Kathleen L. McInnes, Julian O’Grady and Ian Macadam of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. It asserts a dramatic acceleration of sea level rise, totalling a massive 0.82 metres by 2100 - based on the “IPCC 2007 A1FI scenario”.

Unchanged from 2001, “A1” is IPCC’s high-end A1 Marker scenario for projected global economic growth. “FI” is IPCC’s most-fuel-intensive story-line for calculating global CO2 emissions - which IPCC says are the primary cause of people-driven change to a stable and benign pre-industrial climate. (A warmer climate would mean an increasing rate of sea level rise.)

In IPCC’s base-year of 1990, South Africa’s consumption of commercially-traded primary energy (in million tonnes oil-equivalent) was 90.5 MTOE – similar to the 89.0 MTOE in Australia. But a phenomenal 77% of South African primary energy was coal (because of oil-from-coal at SASOL); while in Australia, coal’s share was an unexceptional 44%.

Obviously, South Africa used a very atypical proportion of coal. In 1990, per-capita GDP in South Africa was 2.8 (all GDP numbers are 1990 US$ thousands) compared to 17 for lucky Australia. But by 2100 – according to IPCC’s A1 Marker scenario – fortunes change. South Africa will be blessed to enjoy a GDP of 470, compared to 61 in pathetic Australia. Thus, IPCC’s beneficent projections for South Africa have it going from a per-capita GDP of only x0.16 that of Australia in 1990, to a whopping x7.7 that of ours in 2100.

Put another way, South Africa’s projected real-terms per-capita GDP growth of x168 is vastly better than the utterly pedestrian growth of x3.6 projected for Australia. Might we expect Australian economic refugees sailing to South Africa by 2100?

Surely, this question must be asked – and answered – before CSIRO’s sea-level work can be taken seriously. Why did Australia’s premier scientific body embrace IPCC’s nonsensical – and self-serving - economic projections? Could it be that CSIRO put advocacy above science?


A further six days (18-22 December 2010) show no sunspots visible on the solar disc – there are now an amazing 819 spot-free days in the Cycle 23/24 interregnum. No-one can foretell the future, of course. But the longer it takes Cycle 24 to fully-develop the weaker it will be; and the more likely it becomes that Earth is entering the next - and long-predicted - Little Ice Age cold period. Will it be an in inconvenient Dalton (1800-20), or a killing Maunder, look-alike?

From: The Australian Geologist, Newsletter 157 December 2010, pp. 7, 8

The Destructive Nature of Envy and Why Arabs Hate Jews

Jews show Arabs up as being useless and stupid

Nancy Kobrin, PhD, Joan Lachkar, PhD

As mental health professionals and as political analysts, it is our opinion, that the on-going Arab-Israeli Conflict is powered by Envy as the root cause. Just as Chaucer said that money is the root of all evil [Chaucer was quoting the New Testament. 1 Timothy 6:10], we say in turn that envy is the root of all evil. The Palestinians held the land for a thousand years and did nothing all those years to enhance or fertilize it, keeping it as a total wasteland. The Jews came back to their homeland and in decades transformed it to a rich green fertile land of Milk and Honey.

Politicians, historians, let alone the media, have grossly overlooked or shown myopia to the destructive nature of envy. Of course we don't expect these experts and governmental officials and people in Homeland Security to understand a fundamental principle, which governs all human forces as do psychoanalysts and those in the mental health profession. We feel, though, that it is our moral responsibility and the time is right to present the primitive nature of envy as fundamental to the political state as the centerpiece and major deterrent to peace.

More and more people are beginning to understand how peace negotiations, empathy, offers of land for peace are falsely embraced and then immediately repudiated. Several times the Israelis reached out to the Palestinians and each time the effort was rebuffed or repudiated. Yasser Arafat accepted Rabin's offer with much gratitude and smiles, only later to reveal his smile was really a smirk like the cat who swallowed the canary. Lttle did we know in the next breath he would bring explosives and weapons to wage an even fiercer war against the Jews, let alone to assuage his military cohorts martyrs who feared his betrayal to their cause -- the destruction of Israel.

Throughout history the Jews have been the most successful group of people in science, music, literature, entertainment and winners of Nobel prizes. We take a pause and question why? Jews throughout history have not only been encouraged to question G-d to not live by dogma, but to study Talmud. In doing so they have been for generations questioning, analyzing, and examining. Freud's nanny would read him Bible stories every night and in the story of Joseph, Joseph is asked to analyze three dreams. Is it any wonder that Freud would develop an entire psychology based on what might have been for having read these stories (dream interpretation, the understanding of dysfunctional families, the unconscious, sibling rivalry, oedipal rivals etc.)?

But why envy? The answer is simple. More than any group, the Jews have been awarded the Nobel Prize for worldwide recognition in such fields as chemistry, engineering, science, literature, medicine, entertainment, physics, economics, and peace winners. In spite of being one of the smallest populations represented in the world population (only 2 percent), the Jews excel. Another reason may be historical but Biblically-based Jews have not only adhered to the myth of being "G-d's Chosen People," they have made it a reality. Yet we hasten to add that being chosen means observing the 613 mitzvot of the Bible – it doesn’t mean that Jews are “special,” which of course is part of the reason why many envy. Success has not come easy for them, yet they have persevered through persecution, the Holocaust and hard labor.

Much fun is made of the Jewish mother syndrome and her effort to enforce her "son's chosenness” through education, thinking, inventing, and there is some truth here. Freud once quipped in a joke about a Jewish mother running frantically along the beach screaming, "Help! Help! My son the doctor is drowning!” In many earlier contributions, this second author has written about how Jews because of the envy they evoke in others with this admiration comes sadistic attacks against them - hence the Holocaust.

Envy differs from jealousy and is considered to be the most primitive fundamental emotion. It is destructive in nature and is based on hatred and evil and its intent is to destroy that which is enviable. Jealousy, unlike envy, is based on love wherein one desires to be part of the family, the clan, the group or the nation. It is a higher form of development and does not seek to destroy.

In conclusion, as political analysts and therapists, it would be nice to offer a cure, suggestions, how to overcome this brutal and toxic syndrome, but that would be rather grandiose on our part. Our purpose is mainly to draw attention to an area that has not been given much attention by the media or those who study and unravel the mystery of terrorism and suicide bombings. Why else would an entire nation devote/dedicated themselves to destroying a tiny majority of people whom they regard with hatred and evil? For the time being, until a further explanation comes along, the answer is ENVY!


Northern Europe doing fine

Note that both Germany and Sweden are under conservative leadership

NORTHERN European countries, lead by Sweden, are providing a glimmer of hope to a continent savaged by a sovereign debt crisis.

In late November, as euro-zone leaders struggled to quell Dublin's debt maelstrom, something odd was happening farther north. In Stockholm, government statisticians reported the strongest economic growth in Sweden's modern history.

Having been torpedoed along with the rest of the West in the banking bust, the Nordic country was now riding on a high, with gross domestic product rising almost 7 per cent thanks to a potent rebound in domestic spending and strong exports.

Sweden was not alone. Germany, Europe's dominant economy, enjoyed its most powerful economic expansion since the country's reunification in 1990, borne aloft not only by its hyper-competitive manufacturers but by an acceleration in consumer spending and rising employment.

And further east, Poland was showing signs of shrugging off its own credit crunch hangover to report a growth spurt, with gross domestic product rising by an annual 4.7 per cent in July to September.

The figures defy the perception of a Europe that is drifting into economic somnolence, the only thrills coming from fiscal car wrecks in the single currency area.

Some of the region's key economies are enjoying remarkable success, in part thanks to their exporters' ability to cash in on demand from fast-growing emerging markets, but also because of strengthening household spending and confidence at home.

"It is a great divide; we have the best and worst in the world in this region," said Christopher Potts, head of economics and strategy at CA Cheuvreux. "We have countries in serious, serious difficulties, but we have other parts of Europe that are enjoying a period of prosperity."


Opposing a political office-holder is "hate" if he is black?

The President of the Republican National Committee is Michael Steele, a fairly useless black who appears to have been given the job simply as a black counterweight to Obama -- so Republicans can point to him as showing that they are not racist.

His uselessness has now become a pain to many Republicans, however, and there are various moves to dump him from the job. The legal counsel to the GOP was not happy about that and wrote as follows to the people behind the move to dump Steele (excerpt):
"Concern has been expressed among members of the Caucus that these two anti-Steele pledges/resolutions could be viewed as hateful toward Chairman Steele — regardless of what benign names they may be given,” Semanko wrote. “They are also considered arbitrary in that they, quite literally, purport to support anyone but Chairman Steele, without consideration of any particular candidate's qualifications.”

To this, Bopp responded with seeming fury.

“Norm, are you some liberal professor at some liberal arts college enforcing their ‘hate speech’ prohibition?” he demanded of the Idaho GOP chairman. “Is our brand-spanking-new general counsel now the self-appointed speech police? Or were you asked by Chairman Steele to assume this role?”

Continuing, Bopp inferred that by “hateful” Semanko was alluding to perceptions about how the party was treating its first black national chairman.

“I know that liberals view any criticism of someone's conduct to be ‘hateful,’ if the person happens to be black, etc,, but I was unaware that we at the RNC had adopted such a political speech code,” he wrote. “In my view, it is not 'hateful' to decide not to vote for Steele because one views his conduct in office to be detrimental to the interests of the Republican Party and the country, even though he happens to be black.


The lawyer sounds like a RINO. A holder of ANY political office can be opposed without it being "hate".

£3,000: the annual bill working Britons pay for Britain's lavish benefits system

Up by $200 under the Labour party governmernt

Labour's lavish benefits system has burdened working families with an average bill of £3,000 a year, figures revealed yesterday. Tory analysis of official statistics revealed that the average working family contributes an extra £200 a year towards the welfare system in real terms following changes made by Labour.

The Tories last night said the figures underlined the need to reform Britain’s bloated benefits system to reduce the pressure on taxpayers who have to fund it.

Conservative MP Gavin Barwell said: ‘The benefits bill rocketed under Labour. That’s why we will cut the ballooning welfare budget and make work pay through a radical new Universal Credit. ‘Ed Miliband and Labour’s opposition to our reforms, which will make work pay, show he is not on the side of fairness or hard-working families.’

Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions show that the real terms cost of working age benefits, such as Incapacity Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, rose by £3.2billion under Labour, hitting £48.2billion last year.

The increase left the 16.5million working households paying almost £200 a year extra to support those on benefits. The total cost of working age benefits is equivalent to £2,920 a year for every working household. The figures also reveal that the number of workless households increased under Labour from 3.7million to 3.9million.

Ministers are planning a range of new measures to help people on benefits to get back into work. They are also planning a £25,000 annual cap on the amount of benefits an individual household can receive. The figures do not include the cost of pensions or locally administered benefits such as housing benefit.


Note: One pound in Britain buys about the same as one dollar in Australia

The Warmists did NOT foresee the present cooling

Even if they now claim that it fits their theories

The UN's "Nobel Prize Winning" IPCC Report in 2007 predicted "warmer northern winters" for Europe.

As summarized in this UN Press Release of April, 2007, we should expect to see:

"the ongoing thawing of European glaciers and permafrost, the delayed winter freeze of rivers and lakes, the lengthening of growing seasons, the earlier spring arrival of migratory birds... In addition to warmer winters, Europe's northern regions will experience more precipitation and run-off.

The expansion of forests and agricultural productivity will be accompanied by greater flooding, coastal erosion, loss of species and melting of glaciers and permafrost."

A classic case of a "failed prediction." Theories making predictions that fail are called "refuted."

NSW Premier's shocking abuse of power

The face of a Leftist crook

Public servants have been gagged from giving evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into Labor's power privatisation in Premier Kristina Keneally's latest desperate bid to stymie scrutiny of the sale. The move follows her attempts last week to scuttle the hearings by closing Parliament two months early.

Committee chairman Fred Nile accused Ms Keneally of using "brutal force" to shut the inquiry but vowed he would not be stopped from finding the truth about the $5.3 billion sale.

Ms Keneally said yesterday the Auditor-General had started his investigation into the midnight electricity sell-off. But voters won't see that report until after the March election because the Auditor-General's reports must be tabled in Parliament, which Ms Keneally closed early.

And that is where Mr Nile's inquiry could embarrass the Government - it reports back on January 31, possibly giving the Opposition and Greens ammunition leading into the state election.

Ms Keneally yesterday referred to Crown Solicitor's advice - given in 1994 - that witnesses would not be offered parliamentary privilege if they appeared at Mr Nile's inquiry because it had no legal standing. "That would not be a situation in which we would have public servants attending an inquiry," she said.

But despite relying all week on that legal advice, Ms Keneally has now gone back to the Crown Solicitor's office to ask if it was still relevant and correct. Depending on the response, which won't come until after January 10, the inquiry could be ruled legal.

In the meantime, Ms Keneally said the Auditor-General had broad powers to consider whether the "activities of government are being carried out effectively, economically, efficiently and in compliance with all relevant laws. I am quite confident this transaction stands up to that scrutiny," she said.

Mr Nile, who is determined his committee will meet on January 17, asked what Ms Keneally was "afraid of". "If she has nothing to hide or nothing to fear, then why did she prorogue Parliament early and why is she gagging public servants from giving evidence?" he said. "It's like she is using brutal force to try to stop the inquiry."

Mr Nile said he was aware that the eight directors who quit the boards of Delta and Eraring over the sale were "ready and willing" to speak.

Public Servants Association assistant secretary Steve Turner said he was not happy with the sale. "We would welcome an inquiry to look into it and if a proper inquiry occurs then public servants should legally be able to give evidence," he said.



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has repeated his New Year cartoon from last year -- on the grounds that we still have all the same problems

Eating "healthier" means living longer (?)

The heading above is something of a tautology but there are some non-tautologous findings (below) underlying it. We also see below, however, more epidemiological speculation. And, perhaps sadly, the differences in relative risk (40%) are too low to support inferences of causation anyway (200% conventionally required). But let us look at what the findings COULD mean anyway:

Note that diet was assessed via a self-report questionnaire rather than direct observation. That leaves a lot of room for "faking good" and high IQ people (who are healthier anyway) may be more able and inclined to do that.

Note that high IQ has been found elsewhere to be a strong predictor of "good" (conforming) behavior: We read, for instance, that "The mother's IQ was more highly predictive of breastfeeding status than were her race, education, age, poverty status, smoking, the home environment, or the child's birth weight or birth order".

So the alleged enthusiastic eaters of fruit and vegetables (etc.) may simply be high IQ people saying what they know will earn approval. They may even actually eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, but we don't know that.

It could be objected that education was controlled for but the correlation between educational level and IQ is around .7 -- which leaves 50% of the variance in the two variables not explained by one another. Thus control for education may reduce the influence of IQ but certainly does not eliminate it.

And whether what is true of septuagenarians is true generally would also seem moot

The leading causes of death have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. These illnesses may be affected by diet. In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers investigated empirical data regarding the associations of dietary patterns with mortality through analysis of the eating patterns of over 2500 adults between the ages of 70 and 79 over a ten-year period. They found that diets favoring certain foods were associated with reduced mortality.

By 2030, an estimated 973 million adults will be aged 65 or older worldwide. The objective of this study was to determine the dietary patterns of a large and diverse group of older adults, and to explore associations of these dietary patterns with survival over a 10-year period. A secondary goal was to evaluate participants' quality of life and nutritional status according to their dietary patterns.

By determining the consumption frequency of 108 different food items, researchers were able to group the participants into six different clusters according to predominant food choices:

"Healthy foods" (374 participants)
"High-fat dairy products" (332)
"Meat, fried foods, and alcohol" (693)
"Breakfast cereal" (386)
"Refined grains" (458)
"Sweets and desserts" (339).

The "Healthy foods" cluster was characterized by relatively higher intake of low-fat dairy products, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and vegetables, and lower consumption of meat, fried foods, sweets, high-calorie drinks, and added fat. The "High fat dairy products" cluster had higher intake of foods such as ice cream, cheese, and 2% and whole milk and yogurt, and lower intake of poultry, low-fat dairy products, rice, and pasta.

The study was unique in that it evaluated participants' quality of life and nutritional status, through detailed biochemical measures, according to their dietary patterns. After controlling for gender, age, race, clinical site, education, physical activity, smoking, and total calorie intake, the "High-fat dairy products" cluster had a 40% higher risk of mortality than the "Healthy foods" cluster. The "Sweets and desserts" cluster had a 37% higher risk. No significant differences in risk of mortality were seen between the "Healthy foods" cluster and the "Breakfast cereal" or "Refined grains" clusters.

According to lead author Amy L. Anderson, Ph.D., Department of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Maryland, the "results of this study suggest that older adults who follow a dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry and fish, may have a lower risk of mortality. Because a substantial percentage of older adults in this study followed the 'Healthy foods' dietary pattern, adherence to such a diet appears a feasible and realistic recommendation for potentially improved survival and quality of life in the growing older adult population."

The journal article is "Dietary patterns and survival of older adults" by Amy L Anderson et al., Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 111, Issue 1 (January 2011)


Henry Kissinger apologises for 'gas chamber' comment

We read:
"Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of States, has apologised for his remark in 1973 that it would not be an American concern if the Soviet Union sent its Jews to the gas chambers.

Mr Kissinger's comment was made in a recorded conversation with President Richard Nixon that was only released recently. During the conversation, he was heard saying: "The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern."

Mr Kissinger, 87, apologised in a Washington Post opinion article, saying that "references to gas chambers have no place in political discourse, and I am sorry I made that remark 37 years ago".

The transcript of the recording created consternation among Jewish groups because Mr Kissinger is a German-born Jew who fled the Nazis as a child and is regarded as a staunchly pro-Israel figure.

But Mr Kissinger argued that his comment was taken out of context and stated that the Nixon administration had managed to help many Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union.


I am inclined to side with Kissinger on this. He was clearly setting out the Realpolitik (political "realism") position -- which focuses on interests to the exclusion of morality. And he did immediately add that other, humanitarian, considerations could influence any actual policy decision.

Pressure on Australia as Japan stalls plans for Warmist laws

JAPAN'S decision to postpone its plans for an ETS by 2013 has increased pressure on Julia Gillard over her goal of pricing carbon next year. The postponement has also set back efforts for a global market to cut global carbon pollution.

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt called on the Prime Minister to rule out an emissions trading scheme by New Year's Day in the wake of the Japanese move.

The decision by the world's fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter and Australia's second-largest trading partner to postpone the scheme for a year comes after the US also stepped back from a national emissions trading scheme and as international firms remain concerned about lax pollution controls in China, which has no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Labor and Greens-backed climate change committee is looking at ways to cut carbon emissions and the Productivity Commission is examining carbon reduction regimes around the world.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has repeatedly argued that Australia is "locking our economy into failure" without a carbon price. Two weeks ago, he defended the Rudd government's carbon pollution reduction scheme, dumped by the former prime minister. He said it had included an emissions trading scheme that would have "provided the greatest certainty that Australia would meet its emissions reductions targets".

But, Mr Hunt said, the government's plans were "now in tatters". "First Canada, second the US and now Japan have all determined that there is a better way to cut emissions than a massive electricity tax. "The Prime Minister should drop this electricity tax before New Year's Day."

The government should look at the Coalition's approach of market-based incentives for emissions abatement, he said. "The choice for Australia is now a massive new tax or emissions reductions by focusing on our strengths."

Mr Combet has repeatedly argued that a price on carbon is an essential economic reform that will create an incentive to reduce pollution, stimulate investment in low-emission technology and provide greater certainty for business investment.

"It will also enhance our ability to influence the direction of the international climate change negotiations and provide encouragement for a binding agreement including all major emitters," Mr Combet told the Investor Group on Climate Change this month.

"We either grasp this opportunity for an orderly, planned and gradual transition, or face the later prospect of economic adjustment at greater cost and dislocation - in circumstances where other countries have taken the lead and the competitive advantage."

The Japanese government move came after pressure from business, which was concerned an ETS would add to costs and limit their ability to compete against rivals in China and India who would not face the same restrictions.

The Japanese government remains committed to levying a tax on CO2 emissions from fuel in October next year and to the expansion of a pilot plan for renewable sources of electricity.

At the global climate change meetings in Cancun, Mexico, Japan opposed extension of the Kyoto Protocol, calling it unfair because it did not include 70 per cent of the world's emissions, with top polluters China and the US absent.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government had planned to launch an ETS, under which companies would essentially buy and sell licences to pollute, in the fiscal year beginning April 2013 but had postponed it until at least 2014. The environment and other ministers decided to postpone the plan, saying the country would first "carefully consider it".

A carbon-trading system sets a cap on the pollutants companies can emit and then requires heavy polluters to buy credits from companies that pollute less, creating financial incentives to cut emissions


The Case Against the Corporate Tax

As the new Congress gets set to liberate America from the stranglehold of the freshly defeated Red Congress, hopes for change are arising. One is the hope for a lowering of the US corporate tax rate.

This rate is a hefty 35%, second highest among the developed economies of the world. It seems obvious, just considering basic psychology, that lowering the corporate tax will be economically beneficial. It is a truism of behaviorist psychology that if you punish (negatively reinforce) a behavior you get less of it, and if you reward (positively reinforce) a behavior you get more of it. Corporate taxes punish business activity, resulting in less business — great if you are a leftist, but lousy if you are anyone else.

The Heritage Foundation has released the results of a study by economists Karen Campbell and John Ligon that spells out the case for lowering corporate taxes, called The Economic Impact of a 25 Percent Corporate Income Tax Rate. Campbell and Ligon ran a simulation of the economic impact of lowering the corporate tax from 35% to 25%. The results are eye-opening.

Their simulation (which covers the period 2011 to 2020) estimates that under the lower taxes, GDP would grow by an extra $132 billion annually, creating over 530,000 new private-sector jobs per year. The average family of four would see its after-tax yearly income go up by nearly $2,500. Gross private investment would rise by over $57 billion annually, and foreign assets in the US would rise by 4% annually. American capital stock would grow by $240 billion more a year, and real after-tax corporate profits would increase by an average of $124 billion a year over the current projected levels.

Notwithstanding all this, it is questionable whether Obama will ever allow a drop in corporate tax rates. He is instinctively anti-business, and although the economic case is compelling, he is the most economically ignorant president in recent history.


The makeup of the human brain may guide people's political views, according to a recent study

An amusing "spin" put on the findings below: The usual old Leftist attempt to smear conservatives. The brain and its component parts are very complex and associating one of those parts with "fear" is ludicrously simplistic: Rather reminiscent of the old-time phrenologists, in fact. Other research has been interpreted as showing the same area to be associated with greater "sociability", for instance. Take your pick!

Phrenology: "Head reading"

Nonetheless, the report is interesting in that tends to confirm what has long been known from twin studies -- that ideology is highly heritable genetically

Political views may be hard-wired into people, according to a study that suggests those with right-wing views have a larger area of the brain associated with fear.

Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond-shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions, London's Daily Telegraph reports.

They also have smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life, than those from the opposite end of the political spectrum.

The research was carried out by scientists at University College London, who scanned the brains of two members of parliament and 90 students.

The study found that the size of the two areas of the brain related directly to the political views of the volunteers.

However because the volunteers were all adults, it was hard to say whether they had been born that way, or whether their brains had developed through experience.

Geraint Rees, director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said he was “very surprised” by the finding, which is being peer reviewed before publication next year.

The study was commissioned as a light-hearted experiment by actor Colin Firth while guest editing BBC Radio's Today program, the Press Association reported. But it has now developed into a serious effort to discover whether we are programmed with a particular political view.

Professor Rees said although it was not precise enough to be able to predict someone's stance simply from a scan, there was “a strong correlation that reaches all our scientific tests of significance”.

“The anterior cingulate is a part of the brain that is on the middle surface of the brain at the front and we found that the thickness of the grey matter, where the nerve cells of neurons are, was thicker the more people described themselves as liberal or left wing and thinner the more they described themselves as conservative or right wing,” he told the BBC program.

“The amygdala is a part of the brain which is very old and very ancient and thought to be very primitive and to do with the detection of emotions. The right amygdala was larger in those people who described themselves as conservative.

“It is very significant because it does suggest there is something about political attitudes that are either encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that our brain structure in some way determines or results in our political attitudes.”


Now the humble spud is in the gun

Obama Administration Bans Potatoes from WIC Program

Chris Voigt lost 21 pounds and improved his health by living on a potato-only diet for 60 days. Potatoes are more nutritious than other starchy foods like rice and bread, and “are a good source of vitamins.” They have a lot of vitamin C (much more than a banana or an apple), and potassium levels slightly higher than potassium-rich bananas).

But the Obama Administration, which does not understand nutrition, has banned white potatoes from the WIC program (for school lunches and poor mothers), based on the false belief that potatoes are unhealthy. (Yet critics of the Obama Administration’s food nannyism get lectures from liberal journalists).

Potatoes are critically important in providing the poor with cheap, nutritious food. As Voigt notes,”In 2008, the United Nations declared it to be the ‘Year of the Potato’. This was done to bring attention to the fact that the potato is one of the most efficient crops for developing nations to grow, as a way of delivering a high level of nutrition to growing populations, with fewer needed resources than other traditional crops. In the summer of 2010, China approved new government policies that positioned the potato as the key crop to feed its growing population.”

After they were brought from America to Europe, potatoes “rescued the Western World” from recurrent famines, and made the Industrial Revolution possible. They did this by radically increasing the amount of food that hungry peasants could grow per acre, and by enabling farmers to provide the agricultural surplus that would feed burgeoning industrial populations.

In addition to trying to take away poor people’s potatoes, the Obama Administration has pushed ethanol subsidies that turn food into fuel and contribute to a “global food crisis” by spawning famines overseas. The Obama Administration is also using federal funds to subsidize the opening of an International House of Pancakes in Washington, D.C., and the development of high-calorie foods that benefit politically-connected agribusinesses.


The Speaker of Britain's House of Commons mocks and opposes free speech about homosexuality

The Speaker is supposed to be an impartial president of the assembly. The present Speaker, Bercow, is a pipsqueak of Jewish origins who once pretended to be a strong conservative but who made a sharp turn Left when that seemed more likely to further his ambitions. It did. He was made Speaker by Labour Party votes.
"Before he was Speaker Mr Bercow supported the previous Government’s attempt to remove a free speech safeguard from a sexual orientation ‘hate speech’ law.

The current law says that, for the avoidance of doubt, criticising same-sex conduct or urging people to refrain from such conduct is not, in itself, a crime.

It was inserted by Parliament to a sexual orientation ‘hate crime’ law following a string of alarming cases where Christians had been investigated by the police for their beliefs about sexual ethics.

Mr Bercow has said the free speech amendment is “at best superfluous, and at worst deeply objectionable”. He has added: “Some—although not all—of its supporters would not even know how to spell the word ‘equality’, let alone sign up to it.”


Is Basic Health Care a ‘Right’?

Here’s a letter to the Boston Globe from economist Donald J. Boudreaux

Ronald Pies, MD, asserts that every individual has a “right” to “basic health care” – meaning, a right to receive such care without paying for it (Letters, Dec. 26).

The rights that Americans wisely cherish as being essential for a free society require only the refraining from action. Your right to speak freely requires me simply not to stop you from speaking; it does not require me to supply your megaphone.

Not so with a “right” to “basic health care.” Elevating free access to a scarce good into a “right” imposes on strangers all manner of ill-defined positive obligations – obligations that necessarily violate other, proper rights. For example, perhaps my “right” to basic health care means that I can force Dr. Pies away from his worship service in order that he attend (free of charge!) to my ruptured spleen. Or perhaps it means that I have the “right” to pay for my health care by confiscating part of his income. If so, how much of his income does my “right” entitle me to confiscate? Who knows?

And if Dr. Pies is planning to retire, do I have the “right” to force him to continue to work so that the supply of basic health care doesn’t shrink? If Dr. Pies should die, am I entitled – again, to keep the supply of basic health care from shrinking – to force his children to study and practice medicine?

Does my right to basic health care imply that I can force my neighbor to pay for my cross-country skiing vacation on grounds that keeping fit is part of basic health care?

Talking about “rights” to scarce goods and services sounds right only to persons who are economically illiterate, politically naive, and suffering the juvenile delusion that reality is optional.


As blizzards batter the US East coast, even some readers of the Green/Left "Guardian" are becoming skeptical about Warmism

Excerpts below from both the "Guardian" article and comments from its readers:

The East coast of the US was today recovering from a blizzard that brought air travel to a standstill in New York and other cities, paralysed rail services and hit a dozen states.

More than 3,000 flights were cancelled, mostly from New York's three main airports, stranding tens of thousands of people returning home and to work after the Christmas holiday on some of the busiest travel days of the year.

Planes were grounded in New York through most of Sunday and much of today, while airports along the east coast grappled with cancellations and long delays that were expected to continue for several days.

Six states, from North Carolina to New Jersey, declared snow emergencies, including Virginia. South Carolina and Georgia had their first Christmas snow in more than a century.

New York's central park was buried under about 50cm of snow, and parts of New Jersey recorded 75cm in a few hours. Strong winds, gusting up to 55mph, helped create drifts more than one metre deep.

Hundreds of passengers were stuck on at least three New York subway trains through the night because of the snow. Although some were theoretically able to leave the trains, officials said there was nowhere for them to go. Others were trapped between stations for hours.

The city's emergency services asked people not to call for an ambulance unless absolutely necessary after many became stuck in snow.


Some of the comments:

Well this wasn't what they were predicting a few years ago is it?

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - Global warming will cause major changes to the climate of the U.S. Northeast if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, scientists said today. Warmer annual temperatures, less snow, more frequent droughts and more extreme rainstorms are expected if current warming trends continue, the scientists said in a new study, and time is running out for action to avoid such changes to the climate.

The Northeast's climate is already changing, the report said, as spring is arriving sooner, summers are hotter and winters are warmer and less snowy.

The report was released by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA), a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a team of independent scientists from universities across the Northeast and the nation.


That's the climate science view (as of four years ago).


One Arctic Tern does not a winter make, so to speak.

But that cuts both ways. The run of mild winters was a relatively short one, and yet we had the Union of Concerned Scientists telling us that:

"Across the globe, and here in the Northeast, the climate is changing. Records show that spring is arriving earlier, summers are growing hotter, and winters are becoming warmer and less snowy. These changes are consistent with global warming, an urgent phenomenon driven by heat-trapping emissions from human activities"


Well which is it? Can we detect anthropogenic forcing from winter weather or can't we? I'm guessing the answer is yes, but over longer time scales. I think 30 years is the usual period stated.

So why do they rush out a report after a run of only five or six mild winters claiming it as validation of their climate models? Where was the caveat that global warming could lead to snowier, colder winters in that report?


You may well be right, although I haven't been able to find a peer-reviewed article stating that 2010 was the warmest year ever globally. Perhaps you could direct me to one in a reputable academic journal?

But here's something to consider: the world has been warming gradually since the end of what's colloquially known as "the little ice age" around 1850. So you would expect each year to be a little warmer than the preceding year, broadly speaking.

The IPCC states that anthropogenic forcing can only be considered detectable after 1970, as Co2 emission prior to that were not large enough to affect the climate.

So, the question is not whether the globe is getting warmer - temperature change of some kind is always happening - but whether that warming is anomalous and if it is, whether it can be conclusively tied to Co2 emissions.

Simply stating that any given year was warmer than the year before does not prove anthropogenic forcing. But I'm sure you knew that.

Cruel results of Labor party "compassion"

AS the nation was shocked by news of the Christmas Island tragedy, Sarah Hanson-Young issued a statement via Twitter. The Australian Greens' immigration spokeswoman expressed horror at the "terrible tragedy" and said this day was "for expressing sorrow for what has happened, and for providing support and compassion for everyone involved".

A few hours later, while rescue teams would still have been scouring huge seas for survivors, the senator tweeted again: "Sharon Jones at the Gov. [Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Adelaide] Brilliant!"

That moment crystallised for me the core of the problem with those who argue about border protection from a standpoint of moral superiority and self-declared compassion. It is all care, no responsibility.

The border-protection issue highlights the difference between the emotional self-aggrandisement of the progressives and the hard-headed pragmatism of the conservatives. It's the difference between displaying empathy and attempting to solve a problem.

The Howard government took hard decisions and deliberately designed them to appear even tougher than they were. This sent an unambiguous message to places where the prospective customers of people-smugglers were gathering: if you attempt an unauthorised arrival you may never get to Australia, and if you do make it into the country you may not receive permanent residency.

Cruel, claimed many. But to the extent that it was cruel, it was cruel to be kind. We will never know how many lives it saved by removing the incentive for dangerous voyages.

And here's the rub: while it stopped the people-smuggling trade, it did not reduce the number of refugees who received sanctuary in Australia. We still filled our humanitarian quota; only the refugees were chosen through orderly process, not self-selected by access to a people-smuggler's fare or a willingness to take terrible risks.

When it came to power, Labor set about unravelling this tough regime. It was a way to be popular, to appease the emotive pleadings of people such as Hanson-Young and other potential Greens voters. Labor was warned as it did this that it would restart the people-smuggling business. Then opposition immigration spokesman Chris Ellison said: "The weakening of Australia's strong immigration detention policy will send a clear message to the region that we are relaxing border control. The intelligence we have demonstrates there are still people-smugglers in the region."

Proclaiming the end of the so-called Pacific Solution, Labor shouted to the world that most of the asylum-seekers the previous government had sent to Nauru were resettled in Australia anyway. This, they said, betrayed the futility of the Pacific Solution.

On the contrary, it demonstrated the genius of that arrangement. Refugees eventually and quietly were provided with the new life they sought. But the hardline perception was maintained to dissuade more asylum-seekers.

Since the policy softening in 2008, boat arrivals have accelerated, detention centres have filled and two fatal tragedies have taken more than 50 lives.

Throughout this period, conservative politicians have argued for the reinstatement of a tough regime and warned of lives at risk. For their trouble they have endured constant accusations from Labor, the Greens, activists and the media of being heartless, racist and opportunistic.

Even in the wake of the Christmas Island horror, the abuse continued with claims of "dog whistling" and "demonising" asylum-seekers. Yet the opposition's focus on saving the lives of asylum-seekers is largely ignored by the media.

In November last year, then opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull called a press conference to explain how Labor's softening of the border-protection regime would have to be reversed: "We are determined to keep our borders secure, to prevent and discourage asylum-seekers from risking their lives in perilous journeys and to protect the integrity of our generous immigration program."

Almost six months earlier then opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone told Radio National: "What we're worried about, though, is that you actually put your life in the hands of criminals who have no interest in your safety, who are of course interested in getting you in the cheapest boat, one-way route possible."

In October last year, frontbencher Scott Morrison, who has since assumed the immigration role, was asked on Canberra's Radio 2CC why he was creating "hysteria" about small numbers of asylum-seekers.

"Because people can die, literally, by coming by boat," he replied. "It is the most risky and dangerous way to come here. So I have a real serious concern about the wellbeing of these people who are being encouraged to take this massive risk and risk their lives and those of their families in this way."

Even before he became opposition leader, Tony Abbott warned on ABC1's Lateline in October last year that "once the flow starts, who knows how many of them might end up perishing at sea".

A few months later, as leader, he told a news conference: "What endangers lives is contracting out Australia's immigration program to people-smugglers. What endangers lives is doing anything that encourages people to take to the sea in leaky boats." This is just a small sample, but you get the picture.

With stunning audacity, Julia Gillard has now effectively called for a bipartisan truce on this issue. Such calls for calm were not made in 2001 after the tragic loss of 353 lives in the sinking of the SIEV X. Back then, distasteful conspiracy theories accused the Australian defence forces of complicity in the deaths. Labor luminaries, such as senator John Faulkner and even Gillard, fuelled the SIEV X fury, pushing for inquiries and hinting at government cover-ups.

And so, within hours of the Christmas Island disaster, the same conspiracy theorists were at it again, with David Marr and Tony Kevin suggesting Australia could have done more to save these lives. Gillard and Labor were on the receiving end of the madness they once cultivated.

They couldn't stop even the dangerous stupidity of one of the independents who keeps them in power. Rob Oakeshott went into print and on the airwaves repeating malicious rumours about Australian complicity while demanding they be refuted. Such incendiary nonsense from our politicians should not be tolerated.

Apart from anything else, it grossly impugns the quality of our defence force personnel and wildly misjudges our national character. No matter how baseless, such claims trigger distress, resentment and even violence in detention centres and suburbs.

Much vitriol was directed at commentator Andrew Bolt for saying Gillard had "blood on her hands". But his strident language was backed by a clear, important and rational argument: that is, the government was repeatedly warned that softening the border-protection regime would put lives at risk.

Gillard, Marr, Hanson-Young, the ABC, some church leaders and others who trumpet the so-called compassionate approach must recognise that cessation of third-country processing, coupled with limited detention periods and near-guaranteed permanent residency, gave the people-smugglers a plausible product to sell. This product, the promise of a relatively trouble-free passage into Australian suburban life, is what tragically lured the men, women and children into entrusting their lives to people-smugglers on that doomed Christmas Island voyage.

The day after the tragedy Hanson-Young tweeted again: "Compassion, nothing more to say really." In fact, while Morrison, Abbott and Turnbull share the same feelings of compassion and trauma about the deaths, they did have more to say. Despite the vile abuse it often attracts, they continued to argue for a plan to prevent future disasters.


A "Concerned scientist" does not know when she is being sent up

Brenda Ekwurzel, Ph.D., Climate scientist, Union of Concerned Scientists replies below in grade-school prose to a mocker. It's a good thing I wasn't drinking coffee when I read her first sentence or else my keyboard would have been a mess. Note also that she is one of those who claim that a freeze covering most of the Northern hemisphere is just a "local" event. What a chump poor Brenda is!

Dear Brenda,

I know our fingerprints are all over global climate change. I know the science is clear that it's happening now and that it's caused by all the human activities that emit heat-trapping gases. And I know that people, countries, and natural systems are at risk from global warming. But I don't know what to say to friends, family, or colleagues who question the existence of climate change when cold weather sets in.

I admit that sometimes, when my ears are freezing as I walk to the subway, I grumble to myself, "Where's global warming when you need it!" When it's cold, I just don't know how to explain to people that Earth has a fever. Just the other day I was talking to someone at a holiday party who said the blizzards we had last winter disproved global warming.

I'm not the kind of person who always has to set people straight even when I know they're wrong. I usually let people have their say, but I'm really appalled at the lack of understanding of basic science. If you have any suggestions, especially when it comes to winter weather, could you let me know? What can I say to people who pooh-pooh global warming? And why do they hold their tongues in summer when we're wilting in a record-high heat wave?

Cold in Winter

* * *

Dear Cold in Winter,

The hallmark of winter is cold, at least in North America. Even with climate change, you're still going to wake up on a January morning and see snow falling. I walk to the bus stop, too, so I know about cold ears and fingers. As a climate scientist, I have plenty of compelling facts at hand about global warming, and trust me, it's hard to explain the overwhelming evidence of climate change when people are feeling winter's wind in their faces. I understand the problem you describe, for sure.

You may want to remind your friends that weather is different from climate. The day-to-day weather -- even a cold snap or a heat wave -- doesn't prove or disprove climate change. Climate is the prevailing condition--temperature, precipitation, humidity, and atmospheric pressure -- of a region over a long period of time. For example, in Wisconsin you expect cold, snowy winters. In Mexico you expect mild, sunny winter weather....

It's also helpful to put our local conditions into perspective. If you look only at our country, you're seeing only 2 percent of Earth's surface. That's like watching a football game and seeing only what's going on between the 48-yard line and the 50-yard line. Well-documented measurements all across the world over the past several decades show that Earth is definitely warming. Science takes a whole-world view, just like watching the football game in high definition on a wide-screen television.

At least, don't shy away from telling people it's winter. You just might need to remind them when winter comes next year.

Your friend,


If you are old and in poor health, Obama wants you to die

Socialized medicine can't afford you

When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.

Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

Congressional supporters of the new policy, though pleased, have kept quiet. They fear provoking another furor like the one in 2009 when Republicans seized on the idea of end-of-life counseling to argue that the Democrats’ bill would allow the government to cut off care for the critically ill.

The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.

Under the rule, doctors can provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves.

While the new law does not mention advance care planning, the Obama administration has been able to achieve its policy goal through the regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent in the next two years as the president deals with a strengthened Republican opposition in Congress.

In this case, the administration said research had shown the value of end-of-life planning.

“Advance care planning improves end-of-life care and patient and family satisfaction and reduces stress, anxiety and depression in surviving relatives,” the administration said in the preamble to the Medicare regulation, quoting research published this year in the British Medical Journal.

The BMJ is a Leftist rag. The so-called "Liverpool pathway" for the ill elderly has caused much disquiet in Britain. It is probably helpful in some instances but when administered by a bureaucratized hospital system, it is too readily seized as an excuse to bomb out old people with drugs and let them die of thirst. There have been occasions when relatives have rescued their elderly family members from the Liverpool pathway and the relatives concerned have subsequently made a full recovery -- JR

Opponents said the Obama administration was bringing back a procedure that could be used to justify the premature withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment from people with severe illnesses and disabilities. Mr. Blumenauer, the author of the original end-of-life proposal, praised the rule as “a step in the right direction.”

“It will give people more control over the care they receive,” Mr. Blumenauer said in an interview. “It means that doctors and patients can have these conversations in the normal course of business, as part of our health care routine, not as something put off until we are forced to do it.”

After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated “a quiet victory,” but urged supporters not to crow about it.

“While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue. “This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth.”

Moreover, the e-mail said: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, and Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, led the criticism in the summer of 2009. Ms. Palin said “Obama’s death panel” would decide who was worthy of health care. Mr. Boehner, who is in line to become speaker, said, “This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia.” Forced onto the defensive, Mr. Obama said that nothing in the bill would “pull the plug on grandma.”


Persecution of Christians in Muslim lands

Fresh attacks against Christians marred Christmas Day as Pope Benedict led pleas by religious leaders for an end to persecution and for peace in the Middle East.

While record crowds flocked to Bethlehem, the Palestinian town where Jesus Christ was believed to have been born, hundreds also defied al-Qaeda threats and packed Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad for Christmas Mass.

Although there were no immediate reports of attacks against Christians in the Middle East, bombings in other parts of the world highlighted the threats facing believers.

A series of Christmas Eve church attacks and explosions left 38 people dead in Nigeria and six injured in the Philippines.

The situation was especially tense in the central Nigerian city of Jos, where at least 32 people died and a further 74 were injured, many as they were doing their Christmas shopping, police said. Sectarian unrest in the region has killed hundreds this year.

In Maiduguri, in northern Nigeria, suspected members of an Islamist sect that staged an uprising last year attacked three churches, leaving six people dead and one of the churches burnt down, an army spokesman said.

In the Philippines, a bomb in a church in Jolo injured six. The island is a bastion of Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to al-Qaeda.

In his Urbi et Orbi address, the Pope called for human rights to be respected in Afghanistan and Pakistan and an end to the turmoil in African trouble spots, and rebuked the Chinese government for what he said were the limitations placed on Christians living in China.

He reserved special mention for Christians in Baghdad after 44 worshippers and two priests were killed when Islamist militants laid siege to a church in Baghdad in October. "May the comforting message of the coming of Emmanuel ease the pain and bring consolation amid their trials to the beloved Christian communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East," he said.

In Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury also urged people to remember those who face persecution because of their Christian faith. "We may feel powerless to help, yet we should also know that people in such circumstances are strengthened simply by knowing they have not been forgotten," Rowan Williams, said.



Useless shepherds: Cowardly Christian leaders fail to defend their flock

Jon Jay is dissatisfied with the occasional lame statements of the kind we see above (Spelling etc. tidied up a bit):

Let us just squarely address the silence of the "leaders" of Christendom on the slaughter of Christians generally, and specifically, the slaughter of Christian celebrants during the high holy season, by Islam, to advance the purposes of Islam.

This failure of Christian leaders, such as the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, to address this issue is immoral, and it is sin. This craven silence, this eloquent indifference to the suffering of the faithful at the hands of Islam is cowardice in the face of attack, and such cowardice is immoral in the extreme.

It is immoral because it only encourages and incites islam to further outrage, outrages, i would note, that are perpetrated against the lambs in the flock as opposed to being directed at its "shepherds." it is one thing for the shepherd to turn the other cheek to the ravening wolf, ... , that is a personal choice on the part of the shepherd.

It is quite another matter for the shepherd to stand idly by while the innocent lambs of the flock are slaughtered. And, it is a matter of added sin and guilt for the shepard to make the way to the flock easier for the wolf, and moreover, to encourage the wolf to continuing his ravening attacks by not loosening the hounds in protection of the flock.

To stand by mute while these attacks occur, is immoral and it is grave sin for the Pope and the archbishop to remain silent in the face of such outrage.

How do these cowards meet their maker, with faces downcast in shame for their inaction, for their silence, for their very complicity in truckling with islam?


Dan Friedman says: "Give them time. This is a tough one. It's going to take a while before they figure out how to blame it on the Jews"

"The country is grinding to a halt NOW, and they are still prattling about global warming in the period 2030 to 2100?"

Coldest Day Ever Recorded in Ireland

On Tuesday this week, the high temperature in Ballyhaise, County Cavan, clocked in at 16 degrees Fahrenheit. As Head forecaster Gerald Fleming told the Irish Times, "That's the lowest daily maximum ever recorded in Ireland, which makes it the coldest day ever recorded in Ireland."

This new low did not shock the Irish. They have been getting used to sub-freezing temperatures. This is the coldest December on record in Ireland and throughout much of Northern Europe. It is likely the snowiest as well. The weather has thoroughly disrupted European travel and is starting to damage the economy.

Not all winters are like this. I saw no snow the year I lived in Ireland in the early 1990s, and in the early 1980s, during the winter I spent in France-Nancy to be precise-the temperature never dropped below freezing, even at night.

For old time's sake, I have been tracking the weather reports out of Europe. Yet in all that I have read in the mainstream European press, I have seen no attempt to reconcile the present cold with the promised heat, not even to chalk the flagrant disparity up to "climate change." It is as if the reader is not supposed to notice.

But many do. The blogs and editorial letters boil over with outrage. Writes one not atypical letter writer in the UK, "Snowfall, ice, Arctic-level cold and all the rest have caused major disruption to the UK infrastructure in the last few weeks, not least because our gilded civil servants have been looking in the wrong direction. And they still are. . . . The country is grinding to a halt NOW, and they are still prattling about global warming in the period 2030 to 2100? These people are truly off their trolleys. They are seriously mentally ill."

The Europeans are learning what we have always known, as Michael Savage might put it, "Liberalism is a mental disorder."


The reference above is to a recent heading and subheading in The Guardian, which reads:

"UK's infrastructure will struggle to cope with climate change, report warns. Floods, rising temperatures and higher sea levels threaten the UK's road, rail, water and energy networks between 2030 and 2100"

Church free to ban homosexual foster parents

This is a big improvement on Britain, where the verdict went the other way. The picture below is of Cardinal Pell outside St. Mary's cathedral. It appeared with the story below but the court case actually involved a Protestant organization. Apparently His Eminence makes a better demon

CHURCH groups are free to discriminate against homosexuals after a landmark judgment in which a tribunal ruled religious charities are allowed to ban gay foster parents.

The ruling, made in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, has been hailed by the Catholic Church but has outraged civil libertarians, who are demanding religions no longer be exempt from anti-discrimination laws if they receive public money, reported The Daily Telegraph.

The Council of Civil Liberties suggested more children might end up in orphanages because church-based service providers could now knock back couples who did not conform to their beliefs.

Even the tribunal itself, whose judgment came down in favour of the ban, said it was effectively bound to reach the decision because of the very broad exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act relating to religious groups. And, it went as far as suggesting that Parliament may wish to revise those laws.

The decision marks the end of a seven-year legal battle for a gay couple who attempted to become foster carers through Wesley Mission Australia but were knocked back because their lifestyle was not in keeping with the beliefs and values of Wesleyanism, a Methodist order of the Uniting Church.

The ADT initially awarded the couple $10,000 and ordered the charity to change its practices so it did not discriminate but an appeals panel set aside that decision and ordered the tribunal to reconsider the matter.

The tribunal then said it had little choice but to find that the discrimination was "in conformity" with the church's doctrine because the test in the law "is singularly undemanding".

Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said churches who received taxpayers money to provide services for the state -as was increasingly the case -should no longer be exempt from discrimination laws. "It's outrageous," he said. "If a non-religious organisation tried to do this they would be in breach of the law.

"If they want to run a foster care agency they ought to be looking after the best interests of the child, not trying to push their religion on the community.

Cardinal George Pell welcomed the decision and said churches must be able to choose who they wanted to use in the provision of services.

Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said it was high time groups were no longer able to discriminate for religious reasons.

A spokesman for Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said if the matter came before Parliament the Liberal Party would allow a conscience vote.


Killjoy British officials ban pantomine stars from throwing sweets to children

They are traditions that no proper pantomime should be without – the over-dramatic dame, the frantic cries of ‘It’s behind you’ and the hurling of sweets into the audience for excited children to grab. But council officials have now decided that throwing boiled sweets is a health-and-safety risk and have ordered amazed actors to lob marshmallows into the crowd instead.

The stars of a new production of Aladdin have also been forbidden from squirting water into the auditorium – and the pyrotechnics that usually herald the appearance of Aladdin’s genie have been barred as well.

Panto traditionalists believe the measures are the most stringent ever applied to a production, and the producer of the show has described the council’s attitude as idiotic and miserable.

The restrictions have been imposed by officers at Barrow Borough Council in Cumbria. The council says the rules are necessary to ensure no members of the audience are injured during the production of Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp, which is playing at the town’s 500-seat Forum 28 venue.

Duggie Chapman, the show’s producer, said he was saddened by the excessive requirements. ‘Pantomime is the only really British theatre tradition we have left and these rules do bother me,’ he said. ‘They are idiotic. I guess it’s down to someone in a particular department making a job for themselves. It is a bit miserable.’

Mr Chapman is also producing a version of Aladdin in Bolton – where no such restrictions on panto fun have been imposed.

More here

Must not tell people how useless America's aviation security is

Stranger than fiction: Telling the truth makes you unfit to have a gun, apparently!
"An airline pilot is being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for posting video on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security.

The 50-year-old pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, asked that neither he nor his airline be identified. He has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit. He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia.

Three days after he posted a series of six video clips recorded with a cell phone camera at San Francisco International Airport, four federal air marshals and two sheriff's deputies arrived at his house to confiscate his federally-issued firearm. The pilot recorded that event as well and provided all the video to News10.

The YouTube videos, posted Nov. 28, show what the pilot calls the irony of flight crews being forced to go through TSA screening while ground crew who service the aircraft are able to access secure areas simply by swiping a card. "As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here," the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. "I would say a two-foot crash ax looks a lot more formidable than a box cutter," the pilot remarked.

A letter from the TSA dated Dec. 6 informed the pilot that "an administrative review into your deputation status as a Federal Flight Deck Officer has been initiated." ...


If the Feds had any brains they would drop the matter and just let it quietly fade away.

Some video here.

Jesus Who? Christian Cross Banned from Bethlehem Souvenir Shops

Two-thousand years after Jesus Christ was born in the town of Bethlehem, the Christian cross has reportedly been banned from souvenir shops as tourists and pilgrims pour into the Holy Land for the Christmas season.

According to AsiaNews, textile shops in Jerusalem and Hebron have begun to print and sell tee-shirts “depicting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem without the cross.” The cross has also been removed from tee-shirts of local football teams “because of the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in the Palestinian territories.”

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Samir Qumsieh, journalist and director of the Catholic television station Al-Mahed Nativity TV in Bethlehem, said: “I want to launch a campaign to urge people not to buy these products – he says – because the removal of the cross is an intimidation against Christians, it is like saying that Jesus was never crucified. “

Like every year, thousands including authorities, faithful and tourists from all over the world crowd, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for midnight mass on the night of 24 December. It will be celebrated by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and will be attended by the highest offices of the Palestinian Authority.

Qumsieh says that the population is living these days with joy, but the situation for Christians is still dramatic. According to the journalist, the dialogue of recent years between Muslims, Christians and Jews has not changed the situation.

“In the Holy Land – said Qumsieh – the emigration of Christians is growing, even if the authorities refuse to give precise numbers. Every day there are people who flee to other countries. As Christians, we live in a constant feeling of fear and uncertainty, and if you live in constant tension and pessimism you can not plan anything.

According to the journalist, “people leave because there is no work and movement is restricted under Israeli control.” Other factors are the internal problems of Palestine, such as the clash between Hamas and Fatah, which has repercussions on the economic situation. Qumsieh points out that from 2002 to 2010 the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped from over 18 thousand to 11 thousand people.

In Gaza, after Hamas came to power in 2006, Christians have fallen by about 3,200 units, from 5 thousand to less than 1800 in 2010. Only 15,400 Christians (2% of the population) live in Jerusalem, as reported in a study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. They are 50% less than the 31 thousand registered residents in 1948, when Christians accounted for 20% of the population of the city.

The reporter says that if this exodus continues there will be no more Catholics in the Holy Land and that one day the Church of the Nativity could be turned into a museum. “If there are no more Christians in the Holy Land – he says – then there will no longer be Christians anywhere.”

Meanwhile, as religious worshipers descend on the Holy Land for Christmas celebrations, the Israeli military has reportedly ordered troops deployed to the Palestinian territories to facilitate safe passage for Christian pilgrims.


More secrecy from a Leftist government

The facts are poison to Leftism

The Baillieu government says it has found proof the former Labor government politicised and interfered with the Freedom of Information process.

Adviser notes and briefings found in desk drawers in the premier's office reveal that John Brumby blocked the appointment of an FOI officer because he was advised "she has consistently interpreted requests and made decisions to our detriment". The notes are the second instalment of damaging material apparently overlooked and left behind in desks by former advisers to Mr Brumby.

The first, revealed last week, was an adviser's black notebook that detailed dirt unit activities and referred to the emails of then shadow frontbencher David Davis. The Sunday Age understands more damaging material has been found and will eventually be released.

In a 2008 memo to the premier, an adviser named Alison recommended to Mr Brumby that he block two officers from receiving special powers to process FOI requests to his private office. One of Mr Brumby's key advisers was Alison Crosweller, but it is not certain the memo is from this Alison. The two new officers, from the legal branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, were suggested to the premier for his approval.

But in the memo to the premier, Alison says: "I am very nervous about delegating authority to one of the suggested officers. She has consistently interpreted requests and made decisions to our detriment. Rather than approve one and not the other, suggest DO NOT APPROVE on the basis the [premier's private office] does not receive many requests and we'd prefer to work with current authorised officers."

Alison then recommends a form of words for Mr Brumby to reject the request for approval. Mr Brumby writes almost an exact copy of these words on the bottom of the brief requesting his approval.

The brief, seen by The Sunday Age, was written by the director of his legal department.

The former opposition and media have long suspected FOI was heavily monitored and influenced by the former government, but this appears to be the first proof of this interference.

The Baillieu government told The Sunday Age the former premier's actions showed he was prepared to disadvantage two public servants because one of them had performed her duties in compliance with the act.

The Minister for Corrections and Crime Prevention, Andrew McIntosh, says the Baillieu government will establish an FOI commissioner, who will be independent from government and political interference.

The commissioner will review FOI requests, develop and enforce professional standards and be an independent officer of the Parliament in the same way as the Ombudsman and Auditor-General, he said. Mr McIntosh said the commissioner would monitor all FOI requests, receive and investigate complaints and could inquire into the decision-making of all government FOI officers.

Opposition spokeswoman EmmaTyner declined to answer specific questions about the 2008 blocking of FOI officers by Mr Brumby. But she said: "Quite clearly, Ted Baillieu thinks it's more useful to spend his time searching through drawers for old documents rather than getting on with the job of fixing the problems, which he promised to do."

The first instalment of revealing information left behind by the former government was a black notebook belonging to Mr Brumby's strategic adviser, Simon Hammersley. It appeared to refer to emails "to and from" Mr Davis and could be the subject of an Ombudsman's inquiry.

The Baillieu government has written to Ombudsman George Brouwer asking him to investigate whether the former government inappropriately accessed the then opposition's emails.


A very selective precautionary principle

Good to take precautions against warming but wrong to take precautions against cooling?

The so-called "precautionary principle" is the last refuge of the Warmist when confronted with evidence that the global warming scare rests on very shallow foundations. "But it might happen so we should take precautions against it", they say.

But it such thinking is incoherent. How do we decide what we should take precautions against? There are many hazards in life and we can afford to take precautions against only the most likely ones of them.

The incoherence was in evidence in the article I excerpted yesterday under the heading: "Britain's one time chief alarmist rejects the Warmist Met office advice". (Originally here)

The argument was that Britain should not prepare for any more severe winters as continued cooling is unlikely. In other words, the precautionary principle is abandoned and opposed in that case.

A reader comments: "I guess they just invoke the precautionary principle when it's their unproven fantasies (not to mention the greening of their pockets) that are at stake. They want us to throw trillions at non-existent AGW (oops, sorry, I mean "climate change"), but investing in something that'll save lives and prevent real massive economic loss? ...well, you've gotta draw the line somewhere, after all. Hey, what are the lives of a few peasants, anyway, if you can't make a buck off 'em; and what's economic catastrophe, if you can't profit from it?"

Warmists Play Their Christmas Card

First it was the cuddly polar bears (Warning: Polar bears only look cuddly from a distance. They are not really. Should you by chance have a close encounter with a polar bear, do not attempt to cuddle with it) and the cute little penguins, and now USA Today reports that reindeer are endangered by climate change:
Thirteen of the Arctic's 23 largest migrating herds are now in decline, according to the 2010 Arctic Report Card by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A Canadian study last year found that global reindeer populations have fallen 57% from their peak over the past two decades.

"Arctic herds in particular are challenged by climate change, just like polar bears are," study author and University of Alberta ecologist Mark Boyce told Mother Nature Network's Russell McLendon. "It's in the Arctic that climate change is happening faster than anywhere else on the planet."

Can Santa's workshop and the elf population (herds?) be far behind?

I may be wrong but didn’t Finland cull their reindeer herd in 2005 due to overpopulation?

So now the reindeer are endangered according to NOAA because the total amount of reindeer has fallen from a overpopulated high during the Reagan / Bush era. A population that the Norwegians, Sweden and Finland deliberately culled due to overpopulation. A decrease NOAA now claims are due to global warming.

Talk about cooking the books. If increased industrial production increases the reindeer population and decreasing industrial production to fix global warming decreases the reindeer population then the problem is too many environmental activists.

Maybe the solution is to issue hunting permits to cull the herds of environmental activists to save the planet and reindeer herds. After all, if the number of environmental activists are allowed to rise without limit there will soon come a time when their ecological niche is overpopulated and damages all other related niches. Certainly the Conservative and Business environmental niches have been critically damaged.

So call your State Hunting Board today to classify the environmental activists as nuisance wildlife.
They need to be culled to maintain a healthy population as they are currently overpopulated. PETA claims a turkey is a deer is a feral swine is a PETA person. Why not take them at their word and treat them as their philosophy dictates. So call today as only you can correct the dangerous overpopulation of environmental activists.


A new surge of Obamamania from the press

Hugh Hewitt

Wednesday's press conference may have starred President Obama fresh off his alleged big win on START and DADT, his losses on the Dream Act and the Omnibus spending bill, and the tie on the tax deal, but the big story was the eagerness of the White House Press Corp to revert to fawning treatment of their once-and-future leader.

"I think while they may be saying Merry Christmas," Mark Steyn told me on yesterday's broadcast, "but actually as far as they’re concerned, it’s Easter, that their messiah has risen from the dead, and now bestrides lame duck Washington like a colossus."

Even the leader of the rump group of real reporters at 1600, ABC's Jake Tapper, succumbed to the mood in the press room and congratulated the president on the passage of the repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. I don't think it is fair to attribute support for the repeal to Tapper on the basis of the remark, but reporters don't typically cheer the president's agenda anymore than they hiss at it.

Tapper's lapse may have been reflecting the loneliness of the holdout serious journalist when it comes to Obama. Yesterday's presser was a perfect example. The night before the press conference the president's Director of National Intelligence --James Clapper-- was stumped by Diane Sawyer's reference to Monday evening's arrests of a dozen terror suspects in Great Britain. Clapper blinked incomprehension when Sawyer asked him if the threat over there had any connections to the threat over here. An astonished Sawyer later returned to the subject and pressed Clapper, who admitted that he simply hadn't heard of the arrests, which had played nonstop on cable all day Tuesday and which I had discussed at length with New York Times London Bureau Chief on my Monday night show, --proving only that it wasn't exactly hard to get up to speed on the arrests even though they occurred across the Atlantic.

Imagine the press conference George W. Bush would have faced if either of his DNIs --John D. Negroponte or Michael Hayden-- had blanked on a major story with a network anchor the night before the questions rolled out. If either Bush appointee had been shown to be clueless about the smashing of a major terror ring in England on the week of Christmas, the tape would have rolled endlessly and the press would fairly have screamed questions about resignation demands at W.

Not this press corps and not this president. What conservatives saw yesterday was the first act in MSM's campaign to re-elect Barack Obama. The script isn't difficult to anticipate.

First, every Obama defeat --like the massive repudiation of the president's first two years in office and especially of Obamcare-- must be air brushed off the front page as quickly as possible.

Second, legislative defeats, like the ban on moving Gitmo detainees to the U.S. for trial which passed Wednesday, must not be mentioned unless, like the Dream Act, the MSM perceives political advantage in spinning the defeat in the president's direction.

Third, pratfalls by key members of Team Obama like James Clapper must vanish quickly and not be allowed to feed the public's obvious dismay with the competence of this Administration.

Next, prepare to present the GOP House as a band of rogue inquisitors eager to cobble together some sort of Whitewater II. Ignore the demands of Congress that out-of-control agencies like the FCC abandon unnecessary and ideological extreme initiatives like "net neutrality," and bury the baseline deficit from fiscal year 2007 --the last GOP budget-- of $160 billion versus the trillions spent in red ink since then.

Finally, keep all eyes off of the president's incredible record of weakness aboard, his hostility to Israel, and his inability to do anything about the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran despite his many promises of engagement and a new start. The president's child-like approach to foreign affairs has left our friends with their heads shaking and our enemies with their hands clasping. The White House press corps, even with the Korean peninsula on the brink of all out war, must not press the president on the subject or on his manifest inability to bring any pressure to bear on the North Koreans or to do anything to stop the runaway nuclear proliferation of the gangster regime.

Wednesday's press conference featured the return of the media we saw throughout campaign 2008 --a blocking front for a hard-left president they approve of over drinks and to whose re-election they are resoundingly, and obviously, committed.