-- R.G. Menzies
LIBERTARIAN/CONSERVATIVE DIGEST AND COMMENTARY FROM AN ACADEMIC PSYCHOLOGIST in Brisbane, Australia. My academic publications are widely read
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Where has that inflation gone?
Something of a puzzle to many commentators is that Obama's vast money printing binge has not produced rapid inflation. A greenback buys less than it used to -- particularly overseas -- but not spectacularly less.
Jerry Bowyer wisely remarks that it often takes a long time for an influence to work its way through the system and he is undoubtedly right so that is clearly part of the story.
But I think the major factor is a straightforward example of what economists call the "velocity of circulation" effect. Price inflation is a product of the amount of money on issue multiplied by its velocity of circulation and the velocity of circulation has fallen precipitously just as the money supply has increased -- the one influence largely cancelling out the other.
My apologies for introuducing a bit of economic jargon into a general political blog but I have been puzzled that none of the discussions of the matter that I have seen have mentioned the role of the velocity of circulation. Perhaps it is just that other writers have better manners than I do.
To make amends, let me put it less technically: Most of the money Obama has issued is just sitting still in the reserves of banks, other financial institutions and major companies. It is not being spent or lent out. Its velocity of circulation is nil. It might as well not exist as far as the economy as a whole is concerned.
And because of general nervousness that is not going to change soon. But if and when it does change the party will really be on -- a party for everyone except people who have savings.
Let me suggest a scenario. Suppose Romney is elected and fires all the Obama cronies running the EPA and other business-obstructing agencies. That suddenly gives everybody more confidence in doing business. So the banks start lending again and businesses with reserves start using their reserves to expand. The money starts flowing again. The velocity of circulation rises. There is now a greater demand for resources: both labour and capital goods. People might even start building new houses again. For a little while that greater demand for resources will be met from presently idled resources: Unemployed people will get employed and shuttered mines and manufacturing facilities will reopen. So everyone will be having a party.
But parties like that tend to feed on themselves and breed yet more optimism -- and so the demand for resources will soon go beyond what can be met by reactivating idled resources. With the money now flowing again, prices will be bid up as everybody wants a piece of the action. And an expanded volume of money chasing a relatively fixed resource base can only lead in one direction -- to price rises. Inflation will be underway. How far it will go is anybody's guess but with everybody now using the extra money that Obama has created, it could be a whopper of an inflationary process. What a greenback will buy could easily drop to (say) half of what it will buy today.
So Romney will inherit Obama's inflation and will probably be blamed for it. And savers will rightly feel utterly betrayed by the political system that has cut the value of their savings in half. "Spend it while you can" will become the new wisdom. My personal hint: Put most of your savings into blue-chip company shares NOW. I did so long ago.
The British council that kept its prayers – by dropping God
"For as long as anyone can remember, councillors in Gloucestershire have stood up for a brief prayer before their meetings get under way.
But when three agnostic and atheist members staged a protest against the historic practice by remaining seated, the chairman decided something must be done to retain council unity.
So he hit upon an apparently ingenious solution: from now on, the prayer would still be said – but with all references to God removed.
So rather than asking "may He give us wisdom to carry out our duties ...", the chairman now states "may we find the wisdom ..." - and the "prayer" still ends with the chairman leading other members in saying "amen".
The authority is one of dozens across Britain which have recently scrapped or significantly altered their custom of saying prayers at the start of meetings under pressure from secular campaigners, who argue the practice breaches their human rights and excludes non-believers and people from other faiths.
Forced sterilizations to stop climate change are already a reality in India
And you doubted that misanthropy is the prime motivation of Greenies? Indians are good people who suffered much under Muslim rule then under socialist rule and now this. This is especially grievous to me as I know Indians well and think highly of them. I have been to India three times and there are always brown faces in my house
Tens of millions of pounds of UK aid money have been spent on a programme that has forcibly sterilised Indian women and men, the Observer has learned. Many have died as a result of botched operations, while others have been left bleeding and in agony. A number of pregnant women selected for sterilisation suffered miscarriages and lost their babies.
The UK agreed to give India £166m to fund the programme, despite allegations that the money would be used to sterilise the poor in an attempt to curb the country's burgeoning population of 1.2 billion people.
Sterilisation has been mired in controversy for years. With officials and doctors paid a bonus for every operation, poor and little-educated men and women in rural areas are routinely rounded up and sterilised without having a chance to object. Activists say some are told they are going to health camps for operations that will improve their general wellbeing and only discover the truth after going under the knife.
Court documents filed in India earlier this month claim that many victims have been left in pain, with little or no aftercare. Across the country, there have been numerous reports of deaths and of pregnant women suffering miscarriages after being selected for sterilisation without being warned that they would lose their unborn babies.
Yet a working paper published by the UK's Department for International Development in 2010 cited the need to fight climate change as one of the key reasons for pressing ahead with such programmes. The document argued that reducing population numbers would cut greenhouse gases, although it warned that there were "complex human rights and ethical issues" involved in forced population control.
The latest allegations centre on the states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, both targeted by the UK government for aid after a review of funding last year. In February, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh had to publicly warn off his officials after widespread reports of forced sterilisation. A few days later, 35-year-old Rekha Wasnik bled to death in the state after doctors sterilised her. The wife of a poor labourer, she was pregnant with twins at the time. She began bleeding on the operating table and a postmortem cited the operation as the cause of death.
Earlier this month, India's supreme court heard how a surgeon operating in a school building in the Araria district of Bihar in January carried out 53 operations in two hours, assisted by unqualified staff, with no access to running water or equipment to clean the operating equipment. A video shot by activists shows filthy conditions and women lying on the straw-covered ground.
Human rights campaigner Devika Biswas told the court that "inhuman sterilisations, particularly in rural areas, continue with reckless disregard for the lives of poor women". Biswas said 53 poor and low-caste women were rounded up and sterilised in operations carried out by torchlight that left three bleeding profusely and led to one woman who was three months pregnant miscarrying. "After the surgeries, all 53 women were crying out in pain. Though they were in desperate need of medical care, no one came to assist them," she said.
The court gave the national and state governments two months to respond to the allegations.
Activists say that it is India's poor – and particularly tribal people – who are most frequently targeted and who are most vulnerable to pressure to be sterilised. They claim that people have been threatened with losing their ration cards if they do not undergo operations, or bribed with as little as 600 rupees (£7.34) and a sari. Some states run lotteries in which people can win cars and fridges if they agree to be sterilised.
Australians now 'indifferent' to environment
CONCERN for the environment has dwindled into a "middling" issue that many people do not have strong feelings about, a major study into Australian attitudes towards society, politics and the economy has found.
Food, health, crime, safety and rights to basic public services - the tangible things that people confront on a daily basis - are dominant national concerns.
"Australians are effectively indifferent to global and societal issues, rating these significantly lower," said the report What Matters to Australians, produced by the University of Technology, Sydney and the Melbourne Business School, with the support of the Australian Research Council.
"What we see in these results is a picture of a relatively conservative society concerned with local issues that influence its members' daily lives."
People's concerns about industrial pollution, climate change, renewable energy and depletion of energy resources plummeted when compared with an identical study in 2007, with only logging and habitat destruction remaining among the top 25 issues of concern to Australians.
In 2007, environmental sustainability was the only set of global issues that was ranked as highly important. When the same questions were repeated last year, no global issues appeared among the nation's top concerns.
"Overall, this reveals a startling decline in the Australian population's concerns about environmental sustainability," the researchers wrote.
"It is possible that 2007 was nothing more than an aberration when the debate about environmental sustainability became a matter of ordinary, everyday concern. What we now see in Australia and across Western countries is likely closer to a long-term trend in the value of environmental matters to the general population."
The study is based on a sample of 1500 adults, weighted to represent the population as a whole, who completed detailed questionnaires that forced them to rate a vast array of issues relative to each other.
The subjects were forced to select a series of different issues they felt strongly about and gradually exclude the least compelling ones until only the most important remained.
Parallel studies were conducted in the US, Britain and Germany, with Australians exhibiting a similar range of concerns to Americans and Britons. The German responses, however, were markedly different.
"You can pretty much read German history in the German responses," said a lead author, Timothy Devinney, a professor of strategy at the University of Technology, Sydney.
"They are very concerned about privacy, civil rights, global issues, questions of peace and turmoil. While Australia is globally oriented in some ways, the tyranny of distance means most people aren't actually engaged with global issues as much as some might expect."
Professor Devinney said the lower priority accorded environmental concerns might indicate that 2007 was an "outlier" year in terms of large attention being placed on environmental issues, with last year being a return to the norm.
The findings also show that Australians are relatively disengaged with party politics.
"More than two-fifths of people in the study were either aligned with an independent political position or did not feel their political values aligned with any of the political representation options available to them through organised party politics," the report said.
Oklahoma Democratic chairman says Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh would be member of tea party were he alive today
He overlooks the fact that conservatives generally and the Tea Partiers in particular are in fact IN FAVOR of government: Constitutional government. Unlike Obama and his ilk, American conservatives have great reverence for the Constitution. But there are lawless murderers and terrorists by the millions on the Left. Just look back on the regimes of some of the self-described "socialists" of the 20th century: Stalin, Hitler, Mao etc.
A more extensive comment on the identity of McVeigh here
The chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is refusing to back down from comments he made that likened convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to tea party activists.
"I certainly stand by my remarks, because it's widely known that McVeigh was anti-government. I think that he was a right-winger, and I think the current tea party people, while I'm not saying that they're proposing violence, they're anti-government," Collins said Tuesday. "They dislike the government. I don't know if you'd call them a government hater, but I certainly see them in a similar vein. Maybe they're an offshoot or offspring or next generation."
BOOK REVIEW of Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins, by Robert Spencer
Spencer performs a super detective service for the West in this book. He examines virtually every aspect of the composition and history of Islam and its purported founder, Mohammad. Let us begin with one of his summations:
A careful investigation makes at least one thing clear: The details of Muhammad's life that have been handed down as canonical - that he unified Arabs by the force of arms, concluded alliances, married wives, legislated for his community, and did so much else - are a creation of political ferments dating from long after the time he is supposed to have lived. Similarly, the records strongly indicate that the Qur'an did not exist until long after it was supposed to have been delivered to the prophet of Islam. [pp. 214-215]
The Qur'an, the Islamic canon alleges, was the eternal "perfect book," coexisting with Allah, who sent it to earth via the Angel Gabriel to whisper into Mohammad's ear on Mount Hira, and which he, an illiterate, was able to communicate to the world in its entirety, unalterable, unchanged, and untouchable.
Well, because he couldn't write, he had secretaries to whom he dictated the Qur'an. No, wait. Those secretaries began recording the good book after he had died. No, wait
As Spencer demonstrates, it did not come into existence until long after Mohammad's death (presuming he even existed) in 632. (Gabriel was the "Prophet Whisperer.") The Hadith, the companion to the Qur'an purportedly a collection of Mohammad's sayings and doings, did not begin to accumulate until a century after his death. As Spencer shows, the Hadith became a kind of cottage industry for caliphs, Islamic clerics, scholars and anonymous scribes to invent its contents over the centuries for reasons that can partly be explained, and that partly remain conjectural.
Fascist U.S. schools think they own their students -- even after hours
I'm on the side of the ACLU in this one. Schools should stick to providing an education. They are not a police force controlling what the kids do out of hours. Leave police work to the police. Maybe if they stuck to providing an education, they might do a better job of it
"The relevance of private postings on Facebook to school and work environments has become a highly debated topic ever since the net giant’s influence spread to nearly every part of modern life. So it was only a matter of time before the ACLU filed a suit regarding Facebook posts, and indeed, now they have.
From Indiana comes a story of several teenage girls who were suspended from Griffith Middle School for making inappropriate, off-color jokes on Facebook. The Indiana ACLU has challenged this action in court, according to the Indy Star:
“This conversation spanned numerous subjects, from the pain of cutting oneself while shaving to the girls’ friendship, before turning to a discussion of which of their classmates they would kill if they had the chance,” the suit continued. “At all times, the conversation was purely in jest and could not have been interpreted seriously, as is evidenced by the girls‘ repeated use of ’emoticons,’ by their use of abbreviations indicative of humor, and by the nature and tone of the conversation.
“Free speech rights under the First Amendment, even when it‘s speech we don’t like or agree with, must still be protected, and schools do not possess infinite reach into the private lives of their students.”
Nationalist Greenies in Germany
LOL! The Guardian article below is reasonably sophisticated in that it admits that the prewar Nazis were Green too but says that modern-day German nationalists are "using" the Greenie movement -- suggesting that the Nationalist committment to Greenie ideals is superficial and not sincere. But if Das dritte Reich was passionately environmentalist, why can their modern-day successors not be equally passionate about their beliefs? Environmentalism is no facade for them. It is central to their beliefs.
And The Guardian is careful not to look too closely at what differentiates the two sorts of Greenie. It is nationalism only. Both sorts of Greenie are authoritarian -- wanting to impose their own will on others. The recipe is simple: Greenie+Nationalism = Nazi. No other adjustments necessary. And in fact the modern product is potentially even more nasty than before. The 1930s Nazis didn't like Jews, whereas Greenies today don't like PEOPLE
German consumers are being warned that when they buy organic produce they may be supporting the far-right movement, following the revelation that rightwing extremists in Germany have embraced the ecological movement and are using it to tap into a new generation of supporters.
Debunking the popular view that equates eco-friendliness with cuddly, left-leaning greens, rightwing extremists have even begun to publish their own conservation magazine, which is believed to have the backing of the far-right National Democratic party (NPD). Alongside gardening tips and reports on the dangers of genetically modified milk are articles riddled with rightwing ideology and racial slurs. Bavaria's domestic intelligence agency has described the magazine, Umwelt und Aktiv (Environment and Active), as a "camouflage publication" for the NPD.
"We have to get used to the fact that the term 'bio' [organic] does not automatically mean equality and human dignity," said Gudrun Heinrich of the University of Rostock, who has just published a study on the topic called Brown Ecologists, a reference to the Nazi Brownshirts and their modern-day admirers.
Hotbeds of far-right eco-warriors are to be found throughout Germany. In the Mecklenburg region in the north, they have been quietly settling in communities since the 1990s in an effort to reinvigorate the traditions of the Artaman League - a farming movement whose roots lie in the 19th century romantic ideal of "blood and soil" ruralism, which was adopted by the Nazis. Heinrich Himmler, the SS leader, was a member. "They propagate a way of living which involves humane raising of plants and animals, is both nationalistic and authoritarian, and in which there's no place for pluralism and democracy," said Heinrich, adding that the NPD is closely linked to the settlers, helping the party become "deeply rooted in these rural areas".
The settlers produce "German honey", bake bread from homegrown wheat, produce fruit and vegetables for sale, and knit their own woollen sweaters. Observers have noted that the far-right farmers have been able to profit from the cheap and spacious swaths of land left by a population exodus from impoverished states in the former East Germany, such as Mecklenburg.
Political scientists argue that the NPD is trying to wrest the ecological movement back from the left, particularly the German Greens, who rose to prominence in the 1980s to become Europe's most successful ecological party.
Hans-Gunter Laimer, a farmer in Lower Bavaria who once ran for election for the NPD and is linked to Umwelt und Aktiv, questions why the left has been allowed to dominate the organic scene for so long. "What is the difference between my cucumbers and those of someone from the Green party?" he said.
A representative of the Centre for Democratic Culture, in Roggentin in Mecklenburg, who did not wish to be identified for security reasons, recently told the Sddeutsche Zeitung newspaper: "They want that people don't think about politics when they hear the word NPD. They want as far as possible to build subtle bridges into the lives of other citizens . ecological topics are becoming increasingly important for rightwing extremists."
At the same time as it was butchering millions of people, the Nazi party supported animal rights and nature conservation. But it is disturbing for many Germans to think that while they support local producers and reject genetically modified food, pesticides and intensive livestock farming, there is now little - superficially at least - to distinguish a supposedly well-meaning, leftist Green from a far-right eco enthusiast.
No let-up: Another drubbing for the Labor Party
The Brisbane municipality is huge so control of it is the biggest municipal prize in Australia. Its budget is comparable to Tasmania's
Queensland Labor’s "thugs and villains" should fall on their sword following the ALP’s drubbing in Brisbane City Council elections yesterday, retiring councillor David Hinchliffe says.
The long-serving Labor figure last night warned the ALP had become the "personal fiefdom of a few egomaniacs" and renewed calls for the party’s state secretary, Anthony Chisholm, to resign.
Labor was reduced to six - possibly seven - wards in Brisbane City Council’s 26 wards in last night's emphatic win by the LNP, with Lord Mayor Graham Quirk also returned with a higher share of the vote than LNP predecessor Campbell Newman achieved in 2008.
It means twice in five weeks Labor in Queensland has been routed by a resurgent Liberal National Party, given the comprehensive state election loss on March 24.
Mr Hinchliffe called for elder Labor statesman Wayne Goss, Jim Soorley and Peter Beattie to play a senior role in re-shaping the Labor party at a state conference to be held "as soon as possible".
Mr Hinchliffe, who has served as a councillor since 1988 and was deputy mayor between 2004 and 2008, said he had been threatened over the phone last night after making earlier comments to brisbanetimes.com.au. "I have already had them on the phone to me tonight," he said last night. "They will be loading up the guns to shoot the messenger."
Mr Hinchliffe believed the party administration needed to stand down. "The executive of the party that has been responsible for the two disastrous campaigns - and the third of those campaigns will be on its way as soon as the federal election is called - those people should tender their resignations and get out of the way," he said.
Mr Hinchliffe described Saturday’s Brisbane City Council loss as "a tsunami on top of a wipe-out".
Mr Hinchliffe said he felt entitled to have his say because he had been in office for a quarter of a century and in the party for one-third of its history. "And that is what I am doing, as vocally and as loudly as I possibly can," he said. "This is not the time to sit idly by and wait for some mythical pendulum to swing back. "
Now even the NYT recognizes that "food deserts" are just an elite myth
People who like fast food will eat fast food; people who like taking drugs will take drugs. And there's nothing government can do about it. It must be a bitter pill to Leftists to see that there are limits to what government can do
It has become an article of faith among some policy makers and advocates, including Michelle Obama, that poor urban neighborhoods are food deserts, bereft of fresh fruits and vegetables.
But two new studies have found something unexpected. Such neighborhoods not only have more fast food restaurants and convenience stores than more affluent ones, but more grocery stores, supermarkets and full-service restaurants, too. And there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents.
Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, "you can get basically any type of food," said Roland Sturm of the RAND Corporation, lead author of one of the studies. "Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert," he said.
Some experts say these new findings raise questions about the effectiveness of efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods. Despite campaigns to get Americans to exercise more and eat healthier foods, obesity rates have not budged over the past decade, according to recently released federal data.
"It is always easy to advocate for more grocery stores," said Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, who was not involved in the studies. "But if you are looking for what you hope will change obesity, healthy food access is probably just wishful thinking."
Advocates have long called for more supermarkets in poor neighborhoods and questioned the quality of the food that is available. And Mrs. Obama has made elimination of food deserts an element of her broader campaign against childhood obesity, Let's Move, winning praise from Democrats and even some Republicans, and denunciations from conservative commentators and bloggers who have cited it as yet another example of the nanny state.
Speaking in October on the South Side of Chicago, she said that in too many neighborhoods "if people want to buy a head of lettuce or salad or some fruit for their kid's lunch, they have to take two or three buses, maybe pay for a taxicab, in order to do it."
Mrs. Obama has also advocated getting schools to serve healthier lunches and communities to build more playgrounds.
Her office referred questions about the food deserts issue to the Department of Agriculture. A spokesman there, Justin DeJong, said by e-mail that fighting obesity requires "a comprehensive response." The federal effort, he added, includes not just improving access to healthy foods but also improving food in schools, increasing physical education time, and educating people on the importance of healthy diets.
Some researchers and advocates say that further investigation is still needed on whether grocery stores and chain supermarkets in poor neighborhoods are selling produce that is too costly and of poor quality. "Not all grocery stores are equal," said John Weidman, deputy executive director of the Food Trust, an advocacy group in Philadelphia.
It was difficult to design a study that could rigorously answer the questions: Do poor urban neighborhoods lack places to buy fresh produce and is that contributing to obesity? But Helen Lee of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, found a way. For data on where children lived and went to school and how much they weighed, she used a federal study of 8,000 children. For data on the location of food establishments, she used a data set that compiled all the businesses in the nation and included their sizes and locations.
"I knew where the children lived, so let's take the middle of that neighborhood," Dr. Lee said. "What is the nearest grocery store? What is the nearest convenience store?"
She used census tracts to define neighborhoods because they tend to have economically homogeneous populations. Poor neighborhoods, Dr. Lee found, had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores as wealthier ones, and they had more than three times as many corner stores per square mile. But they also had nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile. Her study, financed by the institute, was published in the March issue of Social Science and Medicine.
Dr. Sturm's study, published in February in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, had a different design. With financing from the National Institutes of Health, he used data on the self-reported heights, weights, and diets of more than 13,000 California children and teenagers in the California Health Interview Survey. The survey included the students' addresses and the addresses of their schools. He used a different data set to see what food outlets were nearby. Dr. Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.
He has also completed a national study of middle school students, with the same result - no consistent relationship between what the students ate and the type of food nearby. Living close to supermarkets or grocers did not make students thin and living close to fast food outlets did not make them fat. The study will be published soon in Public Health.
Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians
Just as Jews were once expelled from Arab lands, Christians are now being forced from countries they have long inhabited.
The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church's clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.
The trauma of those priests is now commonplace among Middle Eastern Christians. Their share of the region's population has plunged from 20% a century ago to less than 5% today and falling. In Egypt, 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes last year after beatings and massacres by Muslim extremist mobs. Since 2003, 70 Iraqi churches have been burned and nearly a thousand Christians killed in Baghdad alone, causing more than half of this million-member community to flee. Conversion to Christianity is a capital offense in Iran, where last month Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death. Saudi Arabia outlaws private Christian prayer.
As 800,000 Jews were once expelled from Arab countries, so are Christians being forced from lands they've inhabited for centuries.
The only place in the Middle East where Christians aren't endangered but flourishing is Israel. Since Israel's founding in 1948, its Christian communities (including Russian and Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians and Protestants) have expanded more than 1,000%.
Christians are prominent in all aspects of Israeli life, serving in the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry and on the Supreme Court. They are exempt from military service, but thousands have volunteered and been sworn in on special New Testaments printed in Hebrew. Israeli Arab Christians are on average more affluent than Israeli Jews and better-educated, even scoring higher on their SATs.
This does not mean that Israeli Christians do not occasionally encounter intolerance. But in contrast to elsewhere in the Middle East where hatred of Christians is ignored or encouraged, Israel remains committed to its Declaration of Independence pledge to "ensure the complete equality of all its citizens irrespective of religion." It guarantees free access to all Christian holy places, which are under the exclusive aegis of Christian clergy. When Muslims tried to erect a mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Israeli government interceded to preserve the sanctity of the shrine.
Israel abounds with such sites (Capernaum, the Hill of the Beatitudes, the birth place of St. John the Baptist) but the state constitutes only part of the Holy Land. The rest, according to Jewish and Christian tradition, is in Gaza and the West Bank. Christians in those areas suffer the same plight as their co-religionists throughout the region.
Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, half the Christian community has fled. Christmas decorations and public displays of crucifixes are forbidden. In a December 2010 broadcast, Hamas officials exhorted Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbors. Rami Ayad, owner of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, was murdered, his store reduced to ash. This is the same Hamas with which the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank recently signed a unity pact.
Little wonder, then, that the West Bank is also hemorrhaging Christians. Once 15% of the population, they now make up less than 2%. Some have attributed the flight to Israeli policies that allegedly deny Christians economic opportunities, stunt demographic growth, and impede access to the holy sites of Jerusalem. In fact, most West Bank Christians live in cities such as Nablus, Jericho and Ramallah, which are under Palestinian Authority control. All those cities have experienced marked economic growth and sharp population increase—among Muslims.
Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem's churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza. In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs—among them Christians—has tripled since the city's reunification by Israel in 1967.
There must be another reason, then, for the West Bank's Christian exodus. The answer lies in Bethlehem. Under Israeli auspices, the city's Christian population grew by 57%. But under the Palestinian Authority since 1995, those numbers have plummeted. Palestinian gunmen seized Christian homes—compelling Israel to build a protective barrier between them and Jewish neighborhoods—and then occupied the Church of the Nativity, looting it and using it as a latrine. Today, Christians comprise a mere one-fifth of their holy city's population.
The extinction of the Middle East's Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude. Yet Israel provides an example of how this trend can not only be prevented but reversed. With the respect and appreciation that they receive in the Jewish state, the Christians of Muslim countries could not only survive but thrive.
Incorrect washing-up sponges
"A company behind a new range of Afro style washing up sponges has been slammed for being racist.
Campaigners have attacked British makers Paladone for its latest range of dish cleaning products which caricatures black soul legend Diana Ross as having a brillo pad for a hairstyle.
The offending items, which have just gone on sale across the UK, have been likened to reproducing golliwogs or the Black and White Minstrels by reinforcing negative stereotypes.
The Unite Against Fascism general secretary Weyman Bennett said: ‘What are we going to have next, toilet brushes like that?
‘Although it’s aimed at being humorous, sometimes it’s not funny.
Jim Hansen's rhetoric gets really weird: Now talking about "boiling" oceans
He sounds like he has flipped his lid. Even the most extreme IPCC prediction goes nowhere near that.
But let's look at a couple of places where the oceans are warm anyway. Below are plots of sea surface temperature at Fiji and the Cook Islands in the mid-Pacific. Also on the graph is the sharply rising plot of atmospheric CO2. So the sea-surface temperature must be rising like crazy too, right?
The facts speak for themselves
More HERE (See the original for links)
Loneliness among university students: Is it worse in Australia?
I think Adele Horin has a point below. My undergraduate years were in the '60s and I had an exceptionally a good time in campus politics at that time. Being one of the few outspoken conservatives on campus in the Vietnam era was immensely entertaining. But what I enjoyed most was my time in one of the university's army units. So I was the complete counterformist. Donning an army uniform when most of the campus was scared stiff of being drafted into the army was real defiance. And I could tell of other adventures ....
Rather to my regret, however, my own son in his undergraduate years was rather like those Adele Horin describes below: Sticking to his studies and his old school friends. Fortunately, however, he has now moved interstate to do his Ph.D. and he seems to be having there the sort of fun I would wish for him. In his undergraduate years I kept telling him that your time at university is a time for having fun so I am glad he has finally realized it
Having just read the latest American literary sensation, The Art of Fielding, about college baseball, I am struck once again at the deep emotional connection young Americans feel towards their university; for the American college student the years between 18 and 22 are seminal when new friendships are forged and campus experiences can be life-changing.
It could not be more different from the narrow, often lonely and alienating experience of going to university in Australia.
This week, new figures showed record numbers of students from migrant, indigenous and otherwise hard-up backgrounds are going to university.
But I could not help wonder how these students will fare without a pack - or a pair - of high school mates as a ballast against loneliness.
Some parents once feared university might corrupt their darlings by bringing them into contact with strange and subversive elements. But nowadays parents are more inclined to worry that university is not the broadening and enlivening experience it once was.
The old school tie is more important than ever. Many young people cling to their high school friends for dear life as they progress through the university years, barely making a new acquaintance.
So big and inhospitable are campuses, so large are the numbers in tutorials, so depleted are university clubs, and so pervasive are the changes in life outside the campus that the university experience has become less vital, interesting and social for many students.
A few years ago the mother of a gorgeous and vivacious young woman from Sydney's north shore - now a journalist - revealed how friendless her daughter found university. The only sources of welcome and cheer were the campus Christian clubs that unsurprisingly had gained a huge following. If this young woman with bountiful social skills found university a bit lonely what hope do the shy, awkward and socially disadvantaged have?
My assertions are based on observations over the past five years of a group of young people still making their way through university and backed by three research reports since 2005 charting the engagement - and disengagement - experience of thousands of students.
To give credit where it is due, the universities are keenly aware that student disengagement is a major issue that needs to be addressed. But a lot of the forces causing the alienation are outside the universities' control.
The First Year Experiences in Australian Universities report, which traced changes from 1994 to 2009, found only half the students in 2009 felt a sense of belonging to their university and one-quarter had not made a friend - a significant worsening from previous years. As well, there had been a significant decline in the proportion that felt confident that at least one teacher knew their name.
Decreasing proportions participated through university sports, clubs or societies, and, of course, students spent less time on campus than in the past, and the less time they spent, the less they felt they belonged.
The report also points to improvements in student satisfaction with the quality of teaching, and enjoyment of courses. Academically, life is better.
If university is a less exciting and social place than it used to be for many, it is partly because students are holding down jobs, on average 13 hours a week, and not just to pay for ski trips. Another report, "Studying and Working", which looked at student finances and engagement, found many were in financial hardship and 14 per cent sometimes could not afford to eat.
The decline in shared houses due to soaring rents is another reason for the diminution of university experience. Thinking back, it was the network of shared houses that linked students into a constant party in the long-ago 1970s that made the era so vivid. Living with mum and dad will not be so memorable.
And then there's Facebook. Stephen Marche, writing in The Atlantic, posed the question "Is Facebook making us lonely?" If you use it to make arrangements to meet friends it is an asset. But when Facebook - and online interactive games - become a substitute for meeting people then it robs students of the richness and complexity of real relationships.
That is what makes Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding so fascinating. It is a novel, at heart, about the deep and complex relationships forged at university, with the central character being a shy, awkward and socially disadvantaged young man.
The American system is entirely different from ours, propelling students across the continent to reside at college. It is enormously wasteful. Students and parents rack up huge debts to pay for tuition and board when often perfectly good institutions of higher learning are in their home town.
But it does have the advantage of expanding student horizons and friendship networks, and of imparting a thrilling edge to the university experience, and a deep attachment to the institution.
For the 40,203 students from low socio-economic postcodes who started university this year, the opportunity is priceless. Previous research shows such students have more clarity of purpose, study more consistently and skip fewer classes. But they are also less likely to make friends or like being a university student.
Young people are lucky in so many ways with a world of connection and information at their finger tips. But the university experience seems less special and more impersonal than it used to be, and that's a pity.
The VIOXX hysteria
There is a ridiculous article here which claims, in effect, that the executives of Merck & Co should have been hanged, drawn and quartered for releasing the anti-arthritis drug Vioxx.
It is all rather water under the bridge now so I won't go into great detail but but I believe Vioxx was unfairly impugned and should still be available to the many people it helped.
The attack on it was underpinned by a practice that I have often criticized on this blog: Looking at relative risk to the exclusion of absolute risk. If the absolute risk is tiny, the relative risk seems of only academic interest to me. There are risks in everything we do so something that has only a tiny absolute risk attached to it should be one of our better options in life, it seems to me.
Anyway, I will comment here only on the one big study that was most used to condem Vioxx. The VIGOR study compared Vioxx with an accepted "safe" drug in its class: Naproxen.
And it found that using Vioxx raised the absolute risk of a heart attack by one third of one percent -- from .01 to .04% I would have interpreted that finding as showing that both drugs were low risk with only trivial differences between them but medical researchers love their relative risk statistics. Without a heavy focus on RR, most of their findings would be trivial so RR is almost a religion with them.
So they treated these essentially trivial results in a most frightening way: saying that Vioxx was FOUR TIMES as likely to give you heart attacks as its alternative. And if you ignore that all the risks involved were tiny, that does sound alarming. In fact, however, it was the usual medical research practice of making mountains out of molehills. My recommendation from the data would have been that VIOXX is safe, except perhaps for people with known heart problems
But that's not all. While the heart attack rate with Vioxx was elevated, the overall mortality was not! In other words, Vioxx was not more likely to kill you than its control. It may have led to a few more heart attacks but it REDUCED your risk of dying from other causes. So even in relative risk terms it is a safe drug. When you're dead you're dead. It does not matter what you died of -- so overall mortality should have been the dominant criterion for evaluating Vioxx. That it was essentially ignored just shows how hysterical people can get about drug companies. They pick on trivialities to bring down what they hate as "Big Pharma".
Merck was unfairly persecuted by small minds and Vioxx should still be available to those it helped. Arthritis is a most disabling condition and for some people Vioxx gave better relief than other drugs in its classs.
I could go on and discuss the other nitpicking associated with the VIGOR study but Humpty Dumpty is now well and truly off his wall so I see no point in going further. I do however feel very sorry for the people at Merck and also sorry for the people who were denied the chance to continue with something that was best for their disability. Vioxx would not have once been so widely used without it being a very helpful drug.
Cut world population and redistribute resources, false prophet urges
That the Guardian is giving space to Ehrlich is yet more evidence that for the Left there is no such thing as right and wrong -- in any sense of those words. Black can be white if it suits the Green/Left. Do I really need to spell out Ehrlich's widely-proclaimed false prophecies in the 1960s? Here's a sample:
“The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
“[A] minimum of ten million people, most of them children, will starve to death during each year of the 1970s. But this is a mere handful compared to the numbers that will be starving before the end of the century.”
“By… some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
[By 1984], “the United States will quite literally be dying of thirst.”
[I forecast] “a new Ice Age … with rapid and drastic effects on the agricultural productivity of the temperate regions.”
The world's most renowned population analyst has called for a massive reduction in the number of humans and for natural resources to be redistributed from the rich to the poor.
Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University in California and author of the best-selling Population Bomb book in 1968, goes much further than the Royal Society in London which this morning said that physical numbers were as important as the amount of natural resources consumed.
Link to this audio
The optimum population of Earth – enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone – was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050, said Ehrlich in an interview with the Guardian.
"How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage."
"The question is: can you go over the top without a disaster, like a worldwide plague or a nuclear war between India and Pakistan? If we go on at the pace we are there's going to be various forms of disaster. Some maybe slow motion disasters like people getting more and more hungry, or catastrophic disasters because the more people you have the greater the chance of some weird virus transferring from animal to human populations, there could be a vast die-off."
Ehrlich, who was described as alarmist in the 1970s but who says most of his predictions have proved correct, says he was gloomy about humanity's ability to feed over 9 billion people. "We have 1 billion people hungry now and we are going to add 2.5 billion. They are going to have to be fed on more marginal land, from water that is purified more or transported further, we're going to have disproportionate impacts on how we feed people from the population increase itself," he said.
The racist media
Whatever the ultimate outcome of the case against George Zimmerman for his shooting of Trayvon Martin, what has happened already is enough to turn the stomach of anyone who believes in either truth or justice.
An amazing proportion of the media has given us a painful demonstration of the thinking -- and lack of thinking -- that prevailed back in the days of the old Jim Crow South, where complexion counted more than facts in determining how people were treated.
One of the first things presented in the media was a transcript of a conversation between George Zimmerman and a police dispatcher. The last line in most of the transcripts shown on TV was that of the police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to continue following Trayvon Martin.
That became the basis of many media criticisms of Zimmerman for continuing to follow him. Only later did I see a transcript of that conversation on the Sean Hannity program that included Zimmerman's reply to the police dispatcher: "O.K."
That reply removed the only basis for assuming that Zimmerman did in fact continue to follow Trayvon Martin. At this point, neither I nor the people who assumed that he continued to follow the teenager have any basis in fact for believing that he did or didn't.
Why was that reply edited out by so many in the media? Because too many people in the media see their role as filtering and slanting the news to fit their own vision of the world. The issue is not one of being "fair" to "both sides" but, more fundamentally, of being honest with their audience.
NBC News carried the editing even further, removing one of the police dispatcher's questions, to which Zimmerman was responding, in order to feed the vision of Zimmerman as a racist.
In the same vein were the repeated references to Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic." Zimmerman is half-white. So is Barack Obama. But does anyone refer to Obama as a "white African"?
All these verbal games grow out of the notion that complexion tells you who is to be blamed and who is not. It is a dangerous game because race is no game. If the tragic history of the old Jim Crow South in this country is not enough to show that, the history of racial and ethnic tragedies is written in blood in countries around the world. Millions have lost their lives because they looked different, talked differently or belonged to a different religion.
In the midst of the Florida tragedy, there was a book published with the unwieldy title, "No Matter What ... They'll Call This Book Racist." Obviously it was written well before the shooting in Florida, but its message -- that there is rampant hypocrisy and irrationality in public discussions of race -- could not have been better timed.
Author Harry Stein, a self-described "reformed white liberal," raised by parents who were even further left, exposes the illogic and outright fraudulence that lies behind so much of what is said about race in the media, in politics and in our educational institutions.
He asks a very fundamental question: "Why, even after the Duke University rape fiasco, does the media continue to give credence to every charge of racism?"
Harry Stein credits Shelby Steele's book "White Guilt" with opening his eyes to one of the sources of many counterproductive things said and done about race today -- namely, guilt about what was done to blacks and other minorities in the past.
Let us talk sense, like adults. Nothing that is done to George Zimmerman -- justly or unjustly -- will unlynch a single black man who was tortured and killed in the Jim Crow South for a crime he didn't commit.
Letting hoodlums get away with hoodlumism today does not undo a single injustice of the past. It is not even a favor to the hoodlums, for many of whom hoodlumism is just the first step on a path that leads to the penitentiary, and maybe to the execution chamber.
Winston Churchill said, "If the past sits in judgment on the present, the future will be lost." He wasn't talking about racial issues, but what he said applies especially where race is involved.
Member of Sudanese gang jailed for his role in gruesome three-week robbery rampage
Africans are a big problem in Melbourne. The episode below is only one of many. Rather than feel gratitude towards the country that gave them refuge, many of them seem to feel only contempt for the rest of the community
A MEMBER of a gang of Sudanese youth who attacked 13 victims during a three-week robbery rampage has been jailed for almost six years after a judge said the courts could not tolerate unprovoked violence against soft targets on Melbourne's streets.
The assaults and robberies were "violent, it was unforgivable, it was brazen, it was frightening," County Court Judge Michael Tinney said today in sentencing Ring Chol, now 19, to a maximum five years and 10 months and a minimum term of three years and four months.
Some of the victims, attacked after leaving western suburban train stations or walking alone in St Albans in mid afternoon, had left Australia after the bashings, the court heard.
Judge Tinney said Chol's group, which included offenders aged 13 to 16, targeted vulnerable people, some of whom were bashed, threatened with a knife or bottle, or laughed at during attacks - despite offering to hand over possessions during the 22-day spree in June 2011.
"Just take my wallet, take my phone, take my bag, just leave me alone, I will die," one victim told his attackers after trying to flee. "Yet he was punched repeatedly by you and at least two others" and lost consciousness during the assault which lasted 10 to 15 minutes, Judge Tinney said. "These were cowardly and often brutal attacks," the judge said.
"Many people in this community no longer regard public transport as a safe option. "This court must send a clear and loud message."
Judge Tinney said hardly a day goes by when soft targets are not subjected to robbery and assault in Melbourne and unprovoked violence must no longer be tolerated by the courts, if it ever was.
In one incident Chol stood on the bumper of a taxi and threatened to smash a rock into the windscreen unless the driver gave over property, and in another a victim was followed from Keilor Plains train station to his home where his house window was smashed and three vehicles damaged.
While bailed for the original offences, Chol breached curfew and has since been charged with two other assaults committed in central Melbourne for which he is yet to face court, Judge Tinney said.
He said Chol suffered post traumatic stress from the horrors he witnessed growing up in Sudan and what was described as "three years of hell" being subjected to racially-motivated violence in Egypt before coming to Australia as a 14-year-old.
But Judge Tinney said while some sentence reduction was called for due to his earlier trauma and his youth, the nature and gravity of the offending should be condemned.
Chol pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery, six robberies, two counts of recklessly causing serious injury, four counts of criminal damage and one count of attempted robbery.
Two child offenders are yet to be dealt with in the Childrens' Court and other members of Chol's group have not been identified, the court heard.
America's REAL Inequalities
Increasingly, ordinary people get prosecuted for trifles, while politically connected people get a pass for the exact same crime, or far worse behavior.
A whale-watcher is being criminally prosecuted merely for lying about whistling at a whale. But former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a big Obama booster who "stole" $1.2 billion, is not being prosecuted, despite his investment firm's massive diversion of funds from client trust accounts, a crime that Corzine "personally" ordered.
Meanwhile, a dairy-farming family in Maryland is getting prosecuted by the federal government for "structuring" - breaking up bank deposits into deposits of less than $10,000 at a time to avoid scrutiny. But former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer got a free pass for the very same offense, even though he (unlike the hapless dairy farmers) used the practice in order to hide criminal activity, making his actions much worse.
As Walter Olson notes, "structuring" is "the federal criminal offense of splitting up bank deposits so as to keep them under a threshold such as $10,000 above which banks have to report transactions to the government. Structuring is unlawful whether or not it occurs in conjunction with any other legal offense . . . Nor is there any requirement that the person be aware that there is a law banning structuring; someone who gets wind that transactions over $10,000 are reportable, and decides `What's up with that? I'll just make $9,000 deposits', has broken the Bank Secrecy Act."
Increasingly, the federal government persecutes the innocent and punishes whistleblowers, while turning a blind eye to the guilty.
In the auto bailouts, non-union retirees, pension funds, and bondholders got ripped off, while the powerful UAW union, which endorsed Obama, got special, preferential treatment and a big chunk of the automakers' stock.
Children's favourite books removed from British library shelves after parents complain they’re 'offensive'
Public libraries have had to withdraw dozens of long-standing children's favourites after parents complained they were offensive.
Anxious adults have taken action over stories deemed to be racist, blasphemous, violent or otherwise unsuitable, a survey has revealed.
Roald Dahl was among those criticised, with his Revolting Rhymes and Even More Revolting Rhymes singled out over the celebrated author's use of supposedly coarse language.
And while young readers have been enjoying Dahl's satirical fairy tales for decades, even classics such as The Nutcracker and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves were said to be too sinister or frightening for children.
Library staff have had to investigate each of the complaints and have often ended up moving the offending books out of the children's section, or removing them altogether.
Racism was a common cause for concern, with the much-loved Babar and Tintin series accused of exposing children to ethnic stereotypes.
Librarians in East Sussex removed copies of Babar's Travels, in which one of the cartoon elephant's adventures finds him faced with 'savage cannibals'.
Those wishing to borrow it must now order it specially, after staff upheld a complaint that it contained offensive stereotypes of black Africans.
A similar complaint saw staff in Lewisham, London, remove Herge's Tintin in the Congo, while elsewhere the title has been transferred to the adult's section.
Children's author David McKee, creator of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and Mr Ben, attracted more complaints than any other writer. Parents claimed Tusk Tusk - his book about a dispute between black and grey elephants - was racist, while the wealthy main character of Denver was said to promote the idea of an unfair gap between rich and poor.
Meanwhile, the insults hurled between the characters in Two Monsters - such as 'twit' and 'dumbo' - were thought too aggressive for young ears.
A surprised Mr McKee told the Sunday Telegraph his books were meant to celebrate the differences in society. He said: 'I think the complaints seem to come from the parents rather than the child. 'Children often seem to get the point. It would be rather boring if all books simply started "once upon a time" and ended "happily ever after".'
Nicholas Allan's More and More Rabbits, about two rabbits who can't stop having babies, has been praised for teaching numeracy and broaching the difficult subject of where babies come from.
But librarians in West Lothian pulled the book after one anxious parent said it the content was inappropriate.
The gruesome Horrible Histories series - which seeks to take the stuffiness out of the subject - was said to celebrate and trivialise violence, while one reader feared its sister series Horrible Science would encourage children to carry out dangerous experiments.
Parents worried that titles such as The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit - in which a lonely monster fashions friends out of stone - would damage children's self-esteem.
And staff in Newcastle library removed Flabby Cat and Slobby Dog from the health and wellbeing section after it was said to give a negative message about obesity.
The survey of 98 library authorities took in more than 300 complaints from the last five years about 'unsuitable, inappropriate or offensive' works. Half of them were about children's books.
Awkward finding: Changes in wind currents responsible for melting Western Antarctic sea ice
Antarctic sea ice (floating ice) as a whole is not melting but even if it did it would have no effect on sea levels -- See Archimedes. The various bits of scare talk below are just speculation at best -- if not outright dishonest
Antarctica's massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study finds.
That suggests [how?] that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting.
The western chunk of Antarctica is losing 23 feet (seven metres) of its floating ice sheet each year. Until now, scientists weren't exactly sure how it was happening and whether or how man-made global warming might be a factor. The answer, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is that climate change plays an indirect role — but one that has larger repercussions than if Antarctic ice were merely melting from warmer air.
Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said research using an ice-gazing NASA satellite showed that warmer air alone couldn't explain what was happening to Antarctica. A more detailed examination found a chain of events that explained the shrinking ice shelves.
Twenty ice shelves showed signs that they were melting from warm water below. Changes in wind currents pushed that relatively warmer water closer to and beneath the floating ice shelves. The wind change is likely caused by a combination of factors, including natural weather variation, the ozone hole and man-made greenhouse gases, Pritchard said in a phone interview.
As the floating ice shelves melt and thin, that in turn triggers snow and ice on land glaciers to slide down to the floating shelves and eventually into the sea, causing sea level rise, Pritchard said. Thicker floating ice shelves usually keep much of the land snow and ice from shedding to sea, but that's not happening now.
That whole process causes larger and faster sea level rise than simply warmer air melting snow on land-locked glaciers, Pritchard said.
"It means the ice sheets are highly sensitive to relatively subtle changes in climate through the effects of the wind," he said.
What's happening in Antarctica "may have already triggered a period of unstable glacier retreat", the study concludes. If the entire Western Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt — something that would take many decades if not centuries — scientists have estimated it would lift global sea levels by about 16 feet (4.87 metres).
NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati, an expert in Earth's ice systems who wasn't involved in the research, said Pritchard's study "makes an important advance" and provides key information about how Antarctica will contribute to global sea level rise. [Che?]
Another outside expert, Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, said the paper will change the way scientists think about melt in Antarctica. Seeing more warm water encircling the continent, he worries that with "a further push from the wind" newer areas could start shrinking.
Mooney the spinner
Chris Mooney is a journalist who has popularized some hoary old Leftist theories about the psychology of politics. I was researching and writing about those theories when they were still "hot" so I know a bit about them. My most relevant academic journal articles on the subject are listed here. Needless to say, I found that the theories concerned did not stand up under rigorous testing.
Mooney's recent article "Liberals and conservatives don't just vote differently. They think differently" has attracted some attention so, although I have had a few laughs at Mooney's work before (See here and here), I thought I might add just a few more comments.
For a start, Mooney's work is actually more balanced than what Leftist psychologists themselves have usually said. Mooney can see that a trait ascribed to conservatives can be both a good and a bad thing, which many Leftist psychologists routinely ignored. So what Mooney does is to take a finding which could be read either way and "spin" it so that it makes Leftists look better than conservatives. So one of the things I do is to "unspin" such judgments.
But first a few excerpts from Mooney:
There's now a large body of evidence showing that those who opt for the political left and those who opt for the political right tend to process information in divergent ways and to differ on any number of psychological traits.
Perhaps most important, liberals consistently score higher on a personality measure called "openness to experience," one of the "Big Five" personality traits, which are easily assessed through standard questionnaires. That means liberals tend to be the kind of people who want to try new things, including new music, books, restaurants and vacation spots - and new ideas.
Conservatives, in contrast, tend to be less open - less exploratory, less in need of change - and more "conscientious," a trait that indicates they appreciate order and structure in their lives. This gels nicely with the standard definition of conservatism as resistance to change - in the famous words of William F. Buckley Jr., a desire to stand "athwart history, yelling `Stop!'?"
Now consider another related trait implicated in our divide over reality: the "need for cognitive closure." This describes discomfort with uncertainty and a desire to resolve it into a firm belief. Someone with a high need for closure tends to seize on a piece of information that dispels doubt or ambiguity, and then freeze, refusing to consider new information. Those who have this trait can also be expected to spend less time processing information than those who are driven by different motivations, such as achieving accuracy.
A number of studies show that conservatives tend to have a greater need for closure than do liberals, which is precisely what you would expect in light of the strong relationship between liberalism and openness. "The finding is very robust," explained Arie Kruglanski, a University of Maryland psychologist who has pioneered research in this area and worked to develop a scale for measuring the need for closure.
I can't help laughing at Mooney's acceptance of the absurd Kruglanski work. You can read my close look at it here. I think I show pretty clearly that the Kruglanski questionnaire measures infantilism rather than need for closure, with Leftists being the infantile ones. And in the same paper I refer to the work of Van Hiel, one of the believers in "Openness". Van Hiel actually put some hard work into testing the theory that Leftists are more open. Rather embarrassingly, his findings were mostly the opposite of what his theory said. So the claim that Leftists are more "open" rests on sand.
And yet there may be something in it. I did some reseach using proper random sampling (a rarity among psychologists) that found Leftists to be "sensation seekers". That's not too different a concept from "openness" but just spins the opposite way. It makes Leftists look shallow rather than conservatives.
So the Mooney writings should not disturb conservatives in any way. The underlying facts are no discredit to conservatives at all.
Must not equate "Progressives" with Communists
"Rep. Allen West (R-FL) has taken intense heat from the media and the left over his statement that there are “78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.” In the wake of the controversy that has resulted from his remarks, West, who was slated to be a speaker at an event hosted by the Martin County chapter of the NAACP this past Saturday, was disinvited from addressing the group.
The statement in question is, of course, when Rep. Allen said that “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party … It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”
"Progressives" rarely ever had a bad word to say about Soviet Russia in its time and they still adore Castro so I think Colonel West has a point
Moonbats’ Heads Explode Over Marine Crusaders
A culture ashamed of its own religion and history has an obvious psychological disadvantage on the battlefield. Yet since it’s a pillar of leftist ideology that Muslims were the good guys during the Crusades, moonbats at blowing gaskets over this:
A recent decision by the Marine Corps to reinstate “Crusaders” as the name of its Fighter Attack Squadron 122 — replacing “Werewolves” — and adopting the red cross of the medieval Knights Templar was blasted as unconstitutional and willfully ignorant by a civil rights group Wednesday. …
VMFA-122 based out of Beaufort, S.C., used the Crusaders symbol from 1958 up to 2008…
That’s when it was changed to Werewolves to be more politically correct, since our rulers would rather have us identify with evil supernatural creatures that degenerate into animals than with heroes who took the fight to the enemy on behalf of Western Civilization during Islam’s long centuries of relentless forcible encroachment on Christendom.
Dozens of military members, including Marines in the affected squadron have contacted MRFF reporting that the name has been changed back, and that the symbols had already been painted on the vertical stabilizers of the F-18s.
Whimpers Mikey Weinstein, founder of the militantly anti-Christian Military Religious Freedom Foundation:
“They’re being told, ‘the enemy gets to have Allah in their fight. We need to get our Lord and Savior back into our fight.’”
Lt. Cmdr. Wade Weigel explains it differently:
“It’s a way for our Marines to draw on the service of the Marines before them, and to make their own history under the same name. As the squadron prepared to celebrate its (70th anniversary), my intent was to return the squadron to the Crusader name since 50 of the squadron’s 70 years were under that name. The name change is a reflection of our heritage.”
If there is one thing liberals hate, it’s heritage. Naturally they are threatening legal action. Maybe they can get the name changed to the Flying Dhimmis.
Minorities a problem for conservatives in Britain too
The Prime Minister will today launch a major campaign to target ‘aspirational’ ethnic minority voters in the suburbs after warnings that he can’t win at the next election without them.
Tory Chairman Baroness Warsi has revealed the party aims to woo female and older Asian voters who share the party’s views but who have traditionally voted Labour.
She has told Conservative Cabinet ministers and MPs that they need to do more to win over non-white voters in key marginal constituencies.
They will be ordered to discuss core Tory values – hard work, good schools, the perils of welfare dependency – rather than ‘pandering’ to received Left-wing wisdom that Asian voters are only concerned with state handouts and foreign policy issues such as Afghanistan.
The PR drive comes after Tory pollsters warned that the party could fail to win a majority in 2015 unless they do better with ethnic minority voters. The Tories won just 16 per cent of the non-white vote in 2010, and did just as badly among wealthy and poor ethnic minority communities.
Polls show that these groups predominantly share Tory values but 68 per cent of them vote for Labour.
Baroness Warsi said: ‘There are at least ten constituencies that we should have won at the last election, on the basis of the overall swing we achieved, but which we didn’t win purely because they were seats with a much larger than average black and minority ethnic population. 'The battleground for the next election is predominantly urban.’
Lady Warsi admitted that many of her colleagues have been surprised to discover that they have far larger migrant populations in their constituencies than they previously realised.
She added: ‘Somewhere like Solihull now has more than 5,000 British Muslims. These are upwardly mobile people.’
David Cameron will unveil a Conservative Friends of India group to woo Asian voters. He will also launch a Conservative Friends of Pakistan and a third group for Bangladesh later in the year.
Tory supporters have recently written in the ethnic minority media stressing that welfare dependency runs in the face of their community’s values.
Baroness Warsi said: ‘My father came to Britain and he was hugely aspirational. He wanted to work hard and do the right thing.
'People from his generation wonder how being on benefits has become a lifestyle choice. Labour go round saying to these voters that the Tories will cut your benefits. But that’s the worst sort of patronising approach.’
Following the trouncing of Labour in the Bradford West by-election, Baroness Warsi said the party would capitalise on the malaise among young Asians with the way Labour used their elders to dictate how they should vote.
‘You can see in Bradford that a generation of younger Asian women are standing up and demanding to be heard,’ she said.
The "Green" wing of the Nazis survived -- and became the foundation of the German Greens of today
No wonder they are still so heedless of other people's rights and desires. "We know what's best for you". Or "Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz" as Hitler put it
Alfred Toepfer (1894-1993) was an extremely successful German tycoon, an avid environmentalist, and a key influential supporter for the development of the European Union. Toepfer made his fortune in agri-business during the fateful years of the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). During the 1930s, Toepfer was also very loyal to the Nazi regime, even though he was never a card-carrying member. Toepfer was particularly loyal to Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945)'s dreaded SS, the greenest faction of the Nazi Party. Hitler put Himmler in charge of exterminating the Jews in the Baltics, Poland, Belorussia, and the Ukraine.
Hitler called the SS his "pack of wolves." The Fhrer was fascinated with wolves and loved to be called "Uncle Wolf." He used to imagine himself howling like a wolf to the frenzied crowds of Germany. In the late 1920s, Alfred Toepfer's brother, Ernst, was the secretary of a pro-Nazi organization in New York City called "Wehrwolf." Ernst was also working for his brother's international firm at the same time.
Alfred Toepfer was born near Luneburg Heath, a plain full of meadows, forests, peat bogs, and sand dunes in northern Germany, just southeast of Hamburg. Historically, the Luneberg Heath was a place of nationalistic pride where rugged old style farming practices harmonized with the natural surroundings. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the Luneburg Heath was symbolic of a strong German character patriotically rooted in the soil of the homeland. Indeed, after Heinrich Himmler committed suicide, he was buried in the Luneburg Heath in an unmarked grave.
The heath was also where Nazi environmentalists gathered together at the end of the war to find some solace. Environmentalist Hans Klose, who never became a Nazi because he was married to a Jew, reorganized what was left of the German conservation movement. He helped Nazi environmentalists graduate from the de-Nazification process with minimal difficulties. In 1949, it was Hans Klose who said that the years 1936-1939 were the green heyday of the German conservation movement. Earlier, three landmark Nazi environmental laws were passed (1933-35). During the same time frame, the Nazis also implemented sustainable forestry practices called "dauerwald," which means "eternal forest."
During the postwar period, the Luneburg Heath was an environmental flashpoint between Germany and the Allies. Not only did Nazi Germany surrender to the Allies on the heath, but the sacred ground was scarred up by British tanks, which used the southwestern portion of it for military maneuvers. Toepfer strongly opposed the presence of the British military in the heath, but the Brits did not leave until 1994. However, thanks largely to the efforts of Toepfer, the Luneburg Heath became the first national park of Germany in 1956.
In the early 1900s, the area was a natural sanctuary for what was called the "wandervogel"-- a German youth movement that sought a close contact with nature. Wandervogel literally means "wandering bird." The heath was known especially for its wild birds and recreational use. The "wandervogel" movement, which began about 1894, was also one of the first environmentally conscious movements in Germany.
The movement provided opportunities for the German youth to explore the great outdoors with a spirit of adventure and rugged self-discipline. German folklore, nationalism, patriotism, and an intense appreciation for nature were emphasized. Alfred Toepfer became actively involved in the wandervogel movement in 1913.
While the Hitler Youth later replaced the wandervogels during the Nazi regime, one could also easily argue that the SS itself was a "grown up" version of the wandervogel movement. The SS strongly promoted a "back to the land" ideal throughout the 1920s and '30s. They wanted to biologically rejuvenate Germany's health by returning people back to the natural German soil, and away from the artificial Jewified international cities that were allegedly corrupting Germany's blood. The SS called its back to nature policy "blood and soil." SS leaders Heinrich Himmler, Richard Walther Darre, and Rudolf Hoess were all involved in a wandervogel group called the Artamanens, where much of their ideology was developed. Darre was Hitler's agricultural minister from 1933-42. Rudolf Hoess was the infamous commandant of Auschwitz. Alfred Toepfer was also a "blood and soil" enthusiast.
Alfred Toepfer continued to be a nature-lover until the day of his death. He was the chairman of the Nature Park Society 1953-1985, where he helped develop many new nature parks for Germany from the North Sea to the Alps. His efforts at the Nature Park Society were greatly expanded for all of Europe under the rise of the Europarc Federation, an association which Toepfer's foundation still supports. In 1981, the Alfred Toepfer Academy for Nature Conservation (NNA) was established. It is a state institution that emphasizes sustainable development and environmentalism. Its main office is located at an old farmstead named Hof Mor in the Luneburg Health itself.
Even Toepfer's most prestigious academic prizes and scholarships that he financed are named after men foundational to the German green movement. The Hanseatic Goethe Prize, dedicated to outstanding European scholarship, is named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). Goethe is considered by many to be the father of German Romanticism. Today, Romanticism is known as environmentalism. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in New York is named after naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). Humboldt is the German father of a volkisch indigenous environmentalism.
The German word "volk" means "people" with certain racial connotations. Humboldt believed that the character of the volk is shaped by geography and climate so that man becomes indigenous to his own environment. As the 1800s progressed, the racial element became more and more emphasized by many German thinkers along with a nationalistic view of the land itself. When this concoction mixed with evolutionary theory, an Aryan Social Darwinism was born, which later became the biological bread and butter of National Socialism. By the early 1900s, race, indigenous ethnicity, and a love for nature became very popular in German culture, especially among the wandervogels.
Toepfer's academic philanthropy paid handsome dividends over the years. Both British and German scholars have been reluctant to admit the full force of Toepfer's National Socialist past. Yet it was precisely during the Nazi regime that Toepfer began funding academic awards to European foreign students with much help coming from the infamous Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946), Hitler's foreign minister.
Toepfer's loyalty to the SS continued after the war. He later employed notorious Nazis like SS Brigadier Edmund Veesenmeyer, Kurt Haller and SS Major General Hans-Joachim Riecke, all of whom were responsible for hundreds of thousands of atrocities committed during the war.
Much is made of the fact that Toepfer was arrested by the Nazis in 1937 for foreign currency violations that were forbidden under the Aryanized National Socialist economy. However, Toepfer was finally released thanks to his SS patronage together with the personal intervention of Hermann Goering (1893-1946), the second-most powerful man in Nazi Germany at the time. Even Josef Goebbels (1897-1945), Hitler's propaganda minister, was very complimentary of Toepfer in 1936. So was German Nazi expert Hans Mommsen in 2007. After a thorough investigation paid for by the Alfred Toepfer foundation, Mommsen concluded that he was "a model European."
Like all Greenies, a lot of Toepfer's thinking was irrational. His beloved Lueneburger Heide (Luneburg Heath) is not a natural landscape at all. It was originally forest-covered but the trees were cut down and the area is maintained mainly as a grassland by grazing sheep on it. It is an environment heavily altered by human intervention! And present day German Greenies regard the Lueneburger Heide as sacred ground too. You can't make this stuff up
Warmists are finally getting hot and bothered (pun intended) about the lack of warming in the last 15 years. Their improbable explanation is that other things are happening which "mask" an underlying warming trend. That is however an unfalsifiable explanation unless they can show what the pesky "other" influences are -- and they have made some attempts in that direction. The latest is excerpted below.
Warmists and skeptics alike know that eddying ocean currents in the Pacific have a big influence on temperatures and precipitation in Pacific-bordering countries and elsewhere. The two major eddies are customarily dubbed el nino and la nina. So Warmists want to point to them as having a slowly increasing cooling influence to offset an underlying slow warming over the last 15 years. And the article below tries to put bones on that unlikely theory.
The first problem is that ocean currents don't behave the way Warmists want. There is nothing steady about them. It is true that several La Nina (cooling) events have happened in recent times but they alternated with "neutral" and warming (el nino) events. Fear not, however! With statistical averages we can maybe smooth that out. And so to the article below.
And he makes a sort of a case if you ignore his starting point: How he detects la ninas, el ninos and other influences. He detects such events, quite conventionally, as periods of temperature that diverged from an average. So he removed those periods from his data and, Hey Presto! He gets the desired cooling effect.
So if you remove temperature periods that you don't like, you get a temperature pattern that you do like. That proves nothing. For him to have shown extraneous influences on temperature, he would have to have measures of those influences themselves, not just the temperature changes that are attributed to them. To use a rough analogy, he is standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself by the handle. He needs to get out of the bucket.
He himself admits "the need to find the cause of the actual global temperature changes" but does not do so. He just takes out one large component of "the actual global temperature changes" -- JR.
About the Lack of Warming.
It's common knowledge among those who follow such things that global temperatures have not gone up very much in the past several years. This has caused many to believe that the recent lack of warming contradicts what climate models say should happen in response to the increasing Tyndall gases. This, in turn, has provoked the counterargument that the Earth is still warming, just on a longer time scale, or that the recent period is too short to yield statistically significant results.
These counterarguments are not compelling. Fundamentally, any change in global temperature, even if it's just from one year to another, must have a cause. Saying that we need to look at longer time scales denies the need to find the cause of the actual global temperature changes (or lack thereof) at shorter time scales.
Such causes have been sought, and a few papers have proposed various combinations of cloud cover, volcanic aerosols, the El Ni¤o/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), deep ocean heat uptake, and so forth. A recent paper I like by Foster and Rahmsdorf (discussed here and here) takes a statistical approach to attempt to eliminate the effect of the other known forcing mechanisms, and what's left over is a fairly steady warming. Others have noted, more casually, that 2011 was the warmest La Ni¤a year on record.
I decided to take a simple approach at looking at the effect of ENSO. Using GISTemp Land/Ocean Index values and Ni¤o 3.4 values, I computed 12-month running averages of Ni¤o 3.4 and compared them to the average GISTemp values at lags of 0, 3, and 6 months. Foster and Rahmsdorf used a diferent ENSO index and found optimal lags between 2 and 5 months. So one would guess that a 3-month lag would fit the data best in my case, and indeed it did.
The normal threshold for El Ni¤o or La Ni¤a, as applied by the Climate Prediction Center, is for five consecutive months of at least 0.5 C above or below normal in a key region of the tropical Pacific. For working with annual data, I decided to call an annual average above 0.5 C an El Ni¤o and an annual average below -0.5 C a La Ni¤a. Then I plotted it up, color-coding each year for whether it was El Ni¤o, La Ni¤a, or neither (neutral).
Arguably-related mad cow image
Where's the alarm? Nonexistent.
A dairy cow in California has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), customarily known as mad cow disease.
The disease is always fatal in cattle, however.And now, a 2012 case in California. It's commendable that the Department of Agriculture has developed a system for keeping track of all cows in the U.S. It's a big job.
There have been three confirmed cases of BSE in the United States, in a Canadian-born cow in 2003 in Washington state, in 2005 in Texas and in 2006 in Alabama.
Maybe the agriculture folks could take over the job of tracking of illegal aliens.
By Mike Pechar on Wednesday, April 25, 2012 No comments:
Shorten Pwns Himself...
Today the leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott made a mistake and mixed up the release of CPI figures with the monthly RBA rates meeting.
Labor politicians such as the Treasurer went to town.
But, eventually, inevitably, they push it just a bit too far.
Minister for Financial Services, Bill Shorten, thought he was on a good thing. Specifically to attack Tony Abbott, Shorten rang the ABC to pre-record a interview in which he would trot out his rehearsed lines. The interview is shown below as tweeted in real time by Latika Bourke.
Oh dear, Billy...
Update: Shorten was asked for an interview.
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