Rich People Only: How the property boom is tearing our cities apart

Once again, no analysis of why.  The problem is real but solving it needs understanding it.  And the causes are as simple as the law of supply and demand.  Demand is outstripping supply despite quite high building activity.  Why?  Demand is being pumped up by a high level of immigration.  All those migrants, refugees or otherwise, have to be housed.  And the supply is being restricted by an unholy combination of Greenies, NIMBYs and some farmers -- who regularly oppose the release of land for new housing.  That keeps the supply down and the price up.  The simplest remedy would be a big reduction in net immigration, maybe even a complete moratorium -- JR

AUSTRALIAN capital cities have sold out to the elite and cashed in the values that have sustained them, according leading Sydney University academic, Professor Patrick Phibbs.

“The problem is we’re essentially sleepwalking our way to very unequal cities and unless we do something about it soon it might be too late,” the Chair of Urban and Regional Planning and policy said following Sydney University’s Festival of Urbanism earlier this month.

“We’ve taken our eye off looking out for people on low to moderate incomes and we’re basically just pandering to an elite, and I think that’s a risk. Do we want a fair city, do we want an equal city, or do we just want a city where people talk about how much money they made off their million dollar apartment?”

The problem, according to Professor Phibbs, is the way Australians, and much of the world, sees housing today. “We’ve seen the complete pivot of housing from being a place where you live, as a form of shelter, to essentially housing as a wealth generator,” he says, “People have got to look a bit beyond their own personal gain. Sure you’ve made $500,000 on your house but is that really a good thing?”

With the mining boom fading, Australia’s economy is now leaning on an exploding property market for support.

As the Australian reported recently, a boom in apartment buildings around the nation has been responsible for a fifth of Australia’s economic growth over the past two years. A push that has been fuelled by a six billion dollar contribution from China, along with other foreign investors, to the Australian property market. Some of whom have used sophisticated trust structures to get around foreign investment laws.

The Abbott government, who oversaw the recent boom, failed to rein in the runaway housing market. Instead they encouraged it, despite persistent howls over housing affordability in the nation’s major cities. Today it’s left us with some of the least affordable housing on earth, particularly in Sydney where house prices are now 13 times the average annual wage.

“Sydneysiders have always prided themselves on being reasonably egalitarian and sticking up for the battler, but I think essentially we’ve stabbed the battler right in the wallet over the last ten years,” said Professor Phibbs.

Around the country, meanwhile, the economy is showing sign of weakening, with an inflated rental and housing market distorting living costs; unemployment on the rise; wage increases struggling to keep pace with inflation; and Australia’s net disposable income per head — the best measure of living standards — dropping by 1.2 per cent.

The losers in this scenario are pretty much everyone, says Professor Phibbs, though particularly the current generation of young Australians.

“In the current property boom there is a huge group of losers and the biggest, in a general sense, are young people. If they want to buy a house in Sydney, which a lot do, they essentially have to climb a cliff and I just think that’s completely out of order,” he said, adding, “If we’ve managed to make what was an affordable suburb to where houses are worth a million dollars, we’re just headed in the wrong direction.”

“If you’re saying Sydney is a place where kids can grow up and have opportunities, we’re essentially saying, nup, if you’ve bloody got a lot of cash you can stay here,” he says.


Is this racist?

An American-born doctor of Indian parentage, Farah Khan, calls the incidents she recalls below "racist".  But are they?  Could they simply be cautious?  I would suspect that underlying the request not to be treated by an Indian doctor is a realistic fear that the Indian doctor will be incompetent.

In Britain, overseas-trained doctors, mostly from the Indian sub-continent, have four times the rate of adverse findings made against them by medical authorities compared to British-trained doctors. So Indian doctors in Britain definitely are more perilous.  The lower training standards in their home country and their different culture do provably make them less safe with patients.

But of course doctors who get their training in a Western country should be OK regardless of their ancestry.

Even there, however, there may be a problem due to language ability.  An Indian-born person may have an American medical degree but make mistakes through not understanding English well.  In England, for instance, a patient might tell a doctor or a nurse that they want to "spend a penny".  What do we make of that?  You may have to be English born to know that the patient needs to pee.

And then there is the problem of affirmative action.  Africans tend to be passed through the educational system regardless of their attainments.  For that reason even some Africans refuse to be seen by an African doctor.  They are wise to do so in some instances.

So the Dr. below has a just complaint but the patient may simply be overly cautious, not racist.  If Dr. Khan had explained to the "problem" patient that both her birth and her training had been in America, I think the problem would have vanished -- JR

I remember early in my residency, a patient specifically requested that no “foreigners” take care of her. This request was made in passing, one time, to her primary doctor, who happened to be white. It never came up again while she was in the hospital, so nothing was ever really done about it.

Fast forward a year or so later in my residency when a patient’s family explicitly requested, well, actually demanded, that no Indian doctors directly care for their mother. This was a little problematic, from a medical and technical aspect, given that the majority of her primary team of doctors was, in fact, some variety of Indian.

As you can imagine, this situation was also ethically, morally, and personally problematic. I wish I could say that this situation was handled well and all misunderstandings were cleared—but the racism and disrespect of this request were brushed away, and the medical team was told by the powers that be to handle the situation with sensitivity. Excuse me, what?


Is Clueless Clemmie emulating that vicious British barrister feminist?

I want to say something about Clementine Ford's latest emission just to provide the balance that her Fascist thinking lacks but I am initially a little struck by her new photo.  See above.

Her old photo with its furiously red lipstick still accompanies her actual column but on the main page of the SMH there is now a much softer picture of her.  Is she hoping to trap rebarbative old reactionaries like me into praising her looks?  After the Charlotte Proudperson episode in Britain she should be so lucky!  NEVER praise a feminist's looks!  So what is the new image about?  Does she want a Lesbian bit on the side?  I guess that's it. Lesbian couples I have known did have one attractive female.

But on to the important stuff:  In a typical Fascist way, she wants the government to solve our problems -- in this case the problem of violence against women.  But how CAN a government do that?  Turnbull has announced that he will spend a lot of money on it but that is just window-dressing.  Is he going to put a policeman in every home? Of course not.  Governments may be able to scratch at the margins of the problem but large and inherited  male/female differences will always be there and will in extreme and rare cases result in frustrations great enough to evoke violence.

All that the polity can reasonably do is provide refuges for threatened women and severe punishment for those men who do physically attack women.  But as far as I can tell, that is already pretty much in place.  Some problems will never be completely solved and a mature person learns to know when an  asymptote (limit) has been approached.

Just some excerpts from Clemmie below -- JR

Over the two, long years that Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, very little was done to address the scourge of men's violence against women. This sustained, brutal form of misogyny currently sees around 6 women killed per month while claiming the lives of just under 60 women this year*. Despite the arrogant appointment of himself to the office of Prime Minister for Women, Abbott's interest in issues affecting women's lives remained rooted in the retro ideology that assumes our greatest challenges lie in feeding our families and keeping our energy bills down.

Indeed, rather than direct even a skerrick of the attention given to combating fictional terror threats and desperate refugees fleeing war-torn countries, the Abbott government actually withdrew funding from organisations offering vital services to the victims of family violence. During the exit speech supposedly listing all of the successes of his government, Abbott reemphasised his disinterest in the impact of family violence when he said, "Then there's the challenge of ice and domestic violence, yet to be addressed."


Giuditta (Judith)

I hesitated for some time before buying the recording  of Giuditta.  With music by Lehar and a performance from Moerbisch (2003) how could I go wrong?  I just did not like the synopsis.  The ending was undoubtedly romantic but it was not happy!  That is usually not allowed in operetta!  No wonder Harald Serafin (for once) did not cast himself in any of the parts.

I cannot for the life of me see why the librettists did not change the ending to a happy one.  It would have been very easy to do.  If I were Intendant, I would.  As it is, the ending was more like grand opera than operetta.   But a lot of people like that, I suppose. I am not the first to note the similarity with "Carmen".  It was Lehar's last work, appearing in 1934.

It was however rather redeemed for me by having Montazeri as the tenor.  And it was amusing to see little Julia Bauer in a "second banana" role again.  She did well.

"Giuditta" was played by Natalia Ushakova, a good-looking green-eyed Russian soprano born in Uzbekistan in 1979.  She debuted in opera in 1999 and has had a rather meteoric career since. She is now an Austrian citizen.  She would have been 24 in this show.  You can hear the power of her voice best here, in a clip from "Tosca".  And here you can hear her giving an impeccable rendition of Puccini's wonderful O mio babbino caro.

Ushakova in a studio shot.  With good looks and a great voice how could she go wrong?

But "Giuditta" was just too neurotic a lady for me, something that Ushakova played extremely well. "Giuditta" had no resilience at all.  But that was part of the role.  She was supposedly of Spanish and North African ancestry: A Mediterranean person.

And the gap between the people of North-Western Europe and the Mediterraneans is well-known-- emotional Southerners and cool Northerners. And both groups are aware of it.  Italians tend to regard Germans as very alarming people, for instance.

I am of the Northwestern Volk.  And it is an easily definable Volk.  It is simply people who speak Germanic languages and trace their ultimate ancestry to the shores of the Baltic --  the Germanic people -- whether Germans, English, Scandinavians or the German lands more broadly defined (Swiss, Flanders etc).  We are all pretty similar in our restrained emotionality.

But in the South emotions run riot.  And Giuditta was certainly a case of that.  Women routinely choose military men as partners because they are real men.  But they all "wait" for their men while their men are on deployment. Giuditta had no conception of that.

Anyway the Giuditta lady just seemed nutty to me.  Compare that with my favourite operetta  -- Wiener Blut -- where Hallstein is as cool as a cucumber throughout.  A great difference but still lots of laughs.  There weren't many in Giuditta

I use the German word Volk because it is right for what I mean.  English has no equivalent word.  It is NOT "Right wing".  The old Communist East Germany put VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb) on all its products.  "Right-wing" Communists?

The clip below is of Ushakova singing her Giuditta theme song (Meine Lippen, sie kuessen so heiss).  Rather low rez, I am afraid

Obama as Nero

The burdens Obama has placed on America are great so the question is how lasting they are.  After Obama is gone, will America's freedom and prosperity continue to deteriorate or will they bounce back?  Much will depend on the resolve of the president who replaces Obama.  A timid Republican would not attempt to wind back the clock and even the banishment of Boehner has not banished Republican timidity. Leftist expectations still rule America in many ways.

Only Trump would appear to have the independence and resolve needed to put the destructive policies into reverse.  Otherwise the great weight of regulations (from the EPA and elsewhere) that now exist will continue to exercise their destructive force and will slowly smother America.  But Trump so far has only an outside chance so what if Hillary or some milksop Republican is elected next year?  Will that be the final nail in the coffin?

Perhaps not.  For a long time, many people, including America's revolutionaries, looked to ancient Rome for lessons.  Many of the ancient empires of the Far-East were big, powerful and long-lasting but only Rome seemed to be "like us".  So does Rome have lessons that could encourage us today?  I believe it does.

When Caesar's conquests expanded the Roman republic into the Roman empire, he inherited a great legacy of balanced and substantially democratic government from his predecessors.  The Senate was democratically elected by the upper class and there was also a "tribunis plebis" to represent the ordinary people of Rome.  And government functions were split up so that much power could not be concentrated in one man's hands.  By disobeying the Senate and crossing the Rubicon river with his army, Caesar offended against that division of power.  So they killed him.

But Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again. Armies had become too powerful. Caesar had replaced democratic government with military rule and military rule would continue.  At that juncture, however, Rome was extraordinarily fortunate.  The victor in the military struggles to replace Caesar was the man we now  call Augustus.  That August in our calendar follows July celebrates the memory that Augustus followed Julius Caesar in ruling Rome.

And Augustus was wise enough to draw from the Roman past many lessons about government.  Although the Senators had murdered Caesar, Augustus did not abolish the Senate but converted it into a sounding board for his policies.  They had no power during his reign but still had influence.

He expanded the borders of the empire but through strong and wise rule gave the core of the empire a long period of peace and prosperity.  He adapted the wisdom of old, Republican Rome to form a strong new system of governance for the Roman empire.  And he ruled Rome for 45 years until his death at age 75 in the year 14 AD.

And that long rule set the precedent for how Rome was to be governed thenceforth.  Rome was again ruled not only by men but also by a system of government, a system that had deep roots in the Republic but had been successfully and convincingly made the new normal by Augustus.

Romans now expected their governments to be of a certain type  -- an Augustan type. The reign of Augustus was immensely influential in the minds of Romans -- and later emperors were judged by that criterion.  Rulers who did not provide government along roughly Augustan lines did not last.  A powerful SYSTEM now ruled Rome and Rome prospered greatly under it, even undergoing further expansion of the empire.  So even rather bad emperors such as Nero still kept the system going to some extent and Rome survived him well.  The empire kept expanding and reached its greatest extent under emperor Trajan some decades later.

So I think we can now see the parallels.  Like Nero, Obama has been destructive but American political forms and expectations have been preserved.  The system that is America still exists much as it always has done.  There is a strength in America in the form of the customary systems of law and governmment that continue to exist. And those systems rest on nothing so fragile as laws.  They exists in the expectations that Americans hold about how things should be done.  Those expectations have given prosperity and substantial freedom to Americans in the past and will continue to do so.  America can withstand its traitor president -- JR.

Note:  I refer to Nero above only because he is well known -- but there were of course other bad emperors

Aren't we clever?  Or so the latest crop of bright-eyed Warmists seems to think

The story below is that global average temperatures are not a good index of global warming.  That seems to me to be a contradiction in terms but let logic go by for now.  The claim is that we should look at the occurrence of extreme events instead.  And we should look at them not in terms of overall averages but rather at what occurs in different parts of the globe.  The logic of that is also suspect (It's called "cherry-picking") but let that go by too.

So with the benefit of much indulgence, we have a large claim that global warming began much sooner that is usually said.  But on what is that claim based?  If we go back to the original academic journal article -- a pesky habit of mine -- we find more limited claims.  And, most crucially, we find that the whole thing is just a modelling exercise, not a survey of real world data.  I think we just need to know one sentence from the journal article.  Here it is -- from the "Conclusions" section of the paper:

"This study suggests that for much of the world, the anthropogenic emergence of temperature extremes has already occurred as of the present date, at least in model simulations"

It's just computer games for grown-ups.  No Warmist model has predicted anything accurately yet so let that be a guide to you in assessing this article

We Could Have Discovered Climate Change As Early As the 1940s if We Had Just Looked

The signs of global warming are hitting us over the head today — if you’ll remember, the fire and drought-ridden summer of 2015 was the also hottest in recorded history — but how long has our planet actually been feeling the heat? In parts of the tropics, anthropogenic climate change has been tinkering with the thermometer since the 1940s.

That’s the surprising conclusion of a new modelling study published today in Environmental Research Letters. Running 23 global climate simulations that combine historical trends (beginning in 1860) with future emissions scenarios, researchers at the University of New South Wales estimated when the very first fingerprints of climate warming — extreme temperatures and shifts in the mean annual temperature — would have become measurable across the world, had we been paying any attention. Near the equator, the writing was on the wall decades before the concept of anthropogenic climate change had been realised.

“Remarkably our research shows that you could already see clear signs of global warming in the tropics by the 1960s but in parts of Australia, South East Asia and Africa it was visible as early as the 1940s,” said lead study author Andrew King in a statement. (That’s decades before the the fore-thinking researchers at Exxon discovered global warming!)

Climate change is hitting high latitude ecosystems the hardest — the Arctic, for instance, is warming twice as fast as the world at large. For that reason — and the fact that most big research universities are located in countries with seasons — what’s happening in the tropics has been largely ignored. But as the new study shows, tropical ecosystems may offer an even better long-term thermometer. Lacking a distinct summer and winter, the tropics have a much narrower distribution of temperatures year-round, which makes it easier, statistically speaking, to spot small deviations and outliers years.

And while the tropics are experiencing smaller levels of warming than, say, boreal forests, climate change stands to wreak even more ecological havoc around the equator....

SOURCE.  The paper is "The timing of anthropogenic emergence in simulated climate extremes" by A.D. King et al.  It is such useless stuff that I will not reproduce any more of it.

Why do we hear nothing from the Greenies about Third World cooking fires?

Using wood and cow dung to make cooking fires is widepread throughout South Asia.  It is so prevalent that much of South Asia has a resultant "brown cloud" hanging over it most of the time. It's pollution so bad that it can be seen from space. And that has been known since 2002.

Breathing in the originating smoke down on the ground is an obvious health hazard -- far worse for you than CO2 will ever be.  Just try breathing in the smoke from a cooking fire yourself if you doubt it.

So if those wonderfully "compassionate" Green Leftists who worry so much about the health impacts of global warming were actually sincere, they would be exerting great efforts to protect Asians from this scourge, don't you think?

But there is only one way to give the poor of the Third world an escape from such hazards:  Give them at least a mini version of a modern kitchen.  And that mostly means supplying them with electricity.

Horrors! say the Greenies.  We can't have that!  Generating more electricity will add to global warming.  So Greenies oppose all efforts by Third world countries to supply their people with electricity.  They even bully Western banks into not lending money for hydro-electric dam building.  Greenies hate dams too.

So let the poor of the world die of lung disease!  That is the Greenie gospel.  You see how "caring" they are.

The article below puts some numbers on the problem. Over 3 million people die from the smoke each year.  But note that the study  only covers outdoor cooking.  But a lot of Third world cooking is indoors, which obviously gives much more exposure to smoke.  So many millions more must be the overall death toll -- JR

The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale

J. Lelieveld et al.


Assessment of the global burden of disease is based on epidemiological cohort studies that connect premature mortality to a wide range of causes1, 2, 3, 4, 5, including the long-term health impacts of ozone and fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5)3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. It has proved difficult to quantify premature mortality related to air pollution, notably in regions where air quality is not monitored, and also because the toxicity of particles from various sources may vary10. Here we use a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. In accord with the global burden of disease for 2010 (ref. 5), we calculate that outdoor air pollution, mostly by PM2.5, leads to 3.3 (95 per cent confidence interval 1.61–4.81) million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. We primarily assume that all particles are equally toxic5, but also include a sensitivity study that accounts for differential toxicity. We find that emissions from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature mortality globally, being even more dominant if carbonaceous particles are assumed to be most toxic. Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity. Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.

"Nature", 2015

A split-brain report from Boston

Don't you like those hopeful first two paragraphs below?  How wonderful that one of America's biggest problems is on its way to a solution!  PROBLEM:  The rest of the article goes into the details and they show no systematic movement in educational attainment at all. There are both losses and gains. It was just a random walk.  The first two paragraphs are just wishful thinking, to put it politely.

Looking at the detail behind headlines and conclusions generally is a dreadful habit that I have had for decades.  It sure was enlightening in reading the guff below.  I have often found that Leftists conclude what they want to conclude, regardless of what their data show. The article below is just another example of that. It's almost like their brains were split into two halves that don't communicate with one-another

And note that we are looking at a dumbed-down test here. See the last two paragraphs below. Even on dumbed-down criteria blacks are still way behind

Black and Hispanic students made some progress this year in closing a troubling gap with white students in academic achievement, state officials said Monday as they released statewide results from MCAS tests taken in the spring.

The racial divide narrowed in many grades in both English and math scores for black students and in math for Hispanics in most grades this year, state data show. For students of all races, MCAS scores showed gains in 11 of 17 tests administered this spring, compared with 2014.

In English, black students’ scores drew closer to scores of white students this year in most grades, but the gap between black and white students remained the same in third grade and grew by 2 percentage points in seventh grade.

Hispanic students gained ground in English scores for grades 4, 8, and 10, but saw the gap grow in grades 5 through 7 and remain the same in Grade 3. In most grades, math scores improved for Hispanic students.

Looking back further, the MCAS results showed that the greatest change for minority students was in 10th-grade English, where the gap between scores for black students and their white peers has narrowed 19 percentage points since 2007, when MCAS became required for all students in grades 3 to 8.

For Hispanic students, the gap in English scores is now 18 points smaller since 2007.

In math scores, Hispanic students in the third grade jumped 11 percentage points closer to their white peers.

The most dramatic gain in math scores among black students occurred in fourth grade, where the gap in performance narrowed by 8 percentage points since 2007.

About 88 percent of 10th-grade students met the minimum MCAS requirements to earn a high school diploma, the same percentage that met that threshold for the past two years.

When the requirement took effect 11 years ago, just 68 percent of students were successful on their first try.


I am still a skeptic

The Associated Press has just revised their stylebook to say that both "climate skeptic" and "climate denier" are now deplored. Journalists should now say "climate change doubters" or "those who reject mainstream climate science".

Anthony Watts has said that he too will adopt AP usage.  He does generally try to maintain some respectability in establishment circles so that decision is to be expected of him.  And he may be wise to do so.

I however have zero inclination to make nice with frauds and charlatans, so will continue to call myself and similar others "skeptics".

I in fact probably deserve the title of skeptic more than almost anyone else.  My many papers in the journals attest that I am totally skeptical of the mainstream claims within my own field of political psychology and that is only my starting point.

I also don't believe in Jesus Christ, Karl Marx or Global warming.  I further don't believe in the adverse health effects of dietary fat, salt or sugar.  And I most certainly don't believe that Leftists are "compassionate".

Am I the world's most skeptical person?  Could be.  And perhaps because I am not burdened by any false beliefs, I live a very  happy life.

UPDATE:  Someone has suggested that, as well as saying what I do not believe in I should also say what I DO believe in.  And that is very easy.  I believe in all the things that Leftists consider stupid and old-fashioned:  Honesty, truth, frankness, objectivity, integrity, morality, humility, generosity, kindness, laughter, courage, justice (without adjectives) and, above all, the central importance of children and the family.  How crazy can you get? I am old now so what I think matters little but I am pleased that my mathematician son has similar values.  He even laughs at my jokes!

Stop turning schools into training centres

The teacher below makes a very good case for a broad High School education.  I certainly benefited greatly from one in the traditional school system of long ago.  I came out with a knowledge of two foreign languages, Chaucer, Tennyson, Schubert and Bach, to mention just a few of the things I am so glad about.

As I was writing this I felt transformed by the wonderful music I was listening to at the same time: JS Bach's St Matthew Passion - sung by the Thomanerchor Leipzig (Video with subtitles).  A great pinnacle of Christian music sung by a wonderful choir of German young people. The Thomanerchor, the choir of the Thomaskirche, was founded in 1212 and is one of the oldest and most famous boys' choirs in Germany.

But I learned useful bits about Physics, Chemistry and mathematics too.  And I still became a useful employee.  I ended up teaching statistics and computer programming at university level!  But it is the poetry and classical music that is continually running through my head that gives me unfailing pleasure

But the author below fails to address the problem of how to get good teachers of the humanities. My view is that enthusiasm for your subject is the sine qua non of a good teacher, regardless of the subject.  There are even mathematics teachers who make their pupils enthusiastic about mathematics. My son was so enthused.

But are there enough teachers of humanities subjects who can  enthuse their students?  Obviously not, I think.  So once again we have a case for large class sizes so that the talents of the limited number of enthusiastic teachers can be maximally spread around.  With the aid of class assistants, large classes should rarely be a problem.  So, in my view, the fad for small class sizes is the biggest enemy of a humanities education for all -- JR

Going by the language that politicians and their advisers use these days to discuss education policy, you would think teachers are answerable to the business community.

Consider the terminology in the Australian Labor Party’s ‘New Directions’ paper, released in the lead-up to the federal ALP victory in 2007, and you get a fairly clear idea of where the government intended to take education. The paper identified ‘productivity growth’ and ‘human-capital investment’ as ‘the critical link’ to ‘long-term prosperity’, concluding that ‘if Australia is to turn its productivity performance around as well as enhance workforce participation, the Australian economy needs an education revolution in the quantity of our investment in human capital and quality of the outcomes that the education system delivers’.

As Stephen J Ball points out in his book, The Education Debate, the ‘New Directions’ paper collapsed the social and economic purposes of Australian education ‘into a single overriding emphasis on policymaking for economic competitiveness’. This suggests that the so-called ‘education revolution’ had more to do with strengthening Australia’s economic future than radical pedagogical reform and development.

If the current government is dedicated to strengthening education, it needs to establish a clear understanding of teachers’ roles in schools. Do schools need teachers who stimulate curiosity and inspire life-long learning? Or is it ‘trainers’ they need – people who skill-up children for the labour market? If the language Australian principals and school leaders use these days is anything to go by, it’s probably the latter.

Pick up an education policy or ‘school business plan’ and you’re bound to encounter terms that belong in a corporate manual. Attend a staff-development session in an Australian state school and you’re likely to hear reference to the school’s ‘strategic-planning initiative’, and the need to ‘build on maximum capacity’ and ‘value add’. There will also be talk of ‘targets’ and ‘benchmarks’, as well as the need for increased ‘market share’.

All of this suggests that schools are becoming more like businesses that trade in skilled human capital, than places of learning. Put simply, schools are becoming little more than training centres that procure compliant and attentive candidates for the workplace, and lessons are becoming little more than training sessions for the job market.

The American philosopher Sidney Hook wrote that ‘everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not their methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system.’ Most of us remember a teacher who had a significant influence on us. Mine was my English teacher. He would enter the classroom with nothing more than the prescribed novel, a stick of chalk, a mellifluous voice and a good story. And with these basic tools he would draw every member of the class into a world of wonder.

It was not easy. But his methods were simple: no jargon, no hackneyed phrases and certainly no corporate language. Just good stories, with which he was able to stimulate thinking and discussion about life’s big questions. I know it’s an old-fashioned notion, but he made learning enjoyable.

As an English and philosophy teacher, my students often ask me how reading a novel written more than 100 years ago, or studying an ancient civilisation, will help them get a job. I say: ‘It’s not meant to. Not everything we do in life, and indeed school, is geared to material gain.’ Forming relationships, engaging in interesting conversation, sharing stories, reading books, inventing, creating and labouring over things you love – all are valuable in themselves. Pleasure is a sufficient reward, and it certainly can’t be measured by a standardised test or exam.

But, sadly, there is very little time for this kind of learning in a curriculum geared to government targets and benchmarks. And there’s hardly any time for students to tinker, make mistakes, pull apart, dissect, rebuild and make serendipitous discoveries.

Informative as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results are, they can’t tell us everything about the quality of schools. These are crude instruments that don’t take into account the complexities of education. Yet they are gaining increasing prominence in Australian schools. Excessive reliance on National Assessment Program: Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results, test scores and league tables has diminished the teacher’s role, narrowed the curriculum and substituted real teaching for training kids up for tests.

Any ‘training facilitator’ can impart lower-order rote skills, which require little more than memorising information and conducting simple operations. But, unlike a trainer or an online module where students (or should I say clients?) are required to read, memorise and click to submit, a teacher releases the creative energy that all children possess and fans the flames of curiosity. Teachers help kids make sense of a world that is becoming increasingly complex and confusing. And they help students make sense of the torrent of information the internet spews out, by providing them with something a search engine never can: understanding.

Good teachers enter the profession because they are good communicators, not ventriloquists for technocrats and business leaders. If you want teachers to kill enthusiasm for learning, then tell them to conduct their lessons like a corporate trainer, preferably with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. Kids lose interest and disengage the moment a teacher stops teaching and begins to train, as many teachers are instructed to do, particularly when it comes to lifting NAPLAN scores.

Here is a revolutionary idea: why not place an embargo on corporate speak in schools? If education analysts are to have a meaningful discussion on advancing education, then why not use meaningful language instead of vapid corporate terminology that would make anyone, let alone a teacher, glaze over?

Schools do not need ‘improvement strategies’ prepared by a consultancy agency; they need teachers, those who have been entrusted by society to teach children to live well. After all, it is the students who will judge teachers, not politicians, economists, business managers or captains of industry.


The chimpanzee effect confirmed

For some years now, I have been talking about a chimpanzee effect.  The idea is that at 6 months of age a chimpanzee baby is much more able in all ways than is a 6 month old human baby. But a human baby grows to be a much smarter adult that does a chimp.  So in assessing IQ, early measurements can be misleading.  So we find that the IQ gap between blacks and whites tends to become greater as time goes by.  In their brain-dead way Leftists tend to interpret the widening gap in various adverse ways.  They say that blacks start out smart but "whites" somehow oppress them.  They fail to take note that chimps develop earlier too.  And chimp IQ certainly does not plateau early because of "racism" or "oppression".

At no point, of course have I compared blacks to chimps.  I am just using the term "chimpanzee effect" as a vivid term for the general rule that final IQ will be reached more slowly the higher is the final level.

So I am rather pleased that the recent journal article below finds that effect in a solely human population. In the study below, lower socio-economic status children fill the role of chimps in my thesis.  But note again that I am not comparing ANY humans to chimps.  I am just pointing out what an initial high or low IQ finally leads to.  It may be worth noting that the final age in the study below was 16.  That age is usually found to be the point beyond which IQ does not develop further.

Socioeconomic status and the growth of intelligence from infancy through adolescence

by Von Stumm, Sophie and Plomin, Robert.


Low socioeconomic status (SES) children perform on average worse on intelligence tests than children from higher SES backgrounds, but the developmental relationship between intelligence and SES has not been adequately investigated. Here, we use latent growth curve (LGC) models to assess associations between SES and individual differences in the intelligence starting point (intercept) and in the rate and direction of change in scores (slope and quadratic term) from infancy through adolescence in 14,853 children from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS), assessed 9 times on IQ between the ages of 2 and 16 years. SES was significantly associated with intelligence growth factors: higher SES was related both to a higher starting point in infancy and to greater gains in intelligence over time. Specifically, children from low SES families scored on average 6 IQ points lower at age 2 than children from high SES backgrounds; by age 16, this difference had almost tripled. Although these key results did not vary across girls and boys, we observed gender differences in the development of intelligence in early childhood. Overall, SES was shown to be associated with individual differences in intercepts as well as slopes of intelligence. However, this finding does not warrant causal interpretations of the relationship between SES and the development of intelligence.


Credentialism and its outcomes

In the 20 years during which I was an active academic researcher, I was repeatedly appalled by the low intellectual standards that I found in papers by colleagues.  They repeatedly ignored basic scientific caution and, all too often, concluded what they wanted to conclude, regardless of what their data actually showed.  I got a couple of papers a year published in the academic journals pointing that sort of thing out. See here.  

I have no background in climatology and only the most basic background in physics and chemistry -- but even from that low starting point I have often found that in climate-related articles there are the most glaring follies too.  One instance is attributing the high surface temperature of Venus to a "runaway greenhouse effect" -- when that temperature is perfectly well explained by basic adiabatics -- as the outcome of the pressure exerted by the huge Venusian atmosphere.  And just basic logic seems often to be overlooked.  So I have always suspected that climate science is just as impoverished intellectually as science in the fields that I am more familiar with.

And an exquitiste demonstration of that has just been put up by Willis Eschenbach.  He takes a climate paper from a most prestigious academic journal -- "Nature" -- and tears it to very small shreds.  "Nature" is of course a great temple of global warming.  I have done some pretty savage shredding of other people's papers in my time but the comprehensive shredding by Eschenbach leaves me way behind.  It is a classic.  

So how come?  How come science is often so unscientific?  Credentialism plays an obvious part.  The number of years of formal education that a person gets on average has been steadily climbing for many years.  Teachers, for instance, once learnt their job as apprentices but now a four-year degree is normally required.  And the inevitable outcome of credentialism is a great expansion of the higher education sector.  All those degree-hungry people have to be taught. And the teachers concerned have to earn their stripes.  To prove yourself as an academic you need to do research and get the results published in some respectable outlet.

But all men are not equal and those who are capable of rigorous scientific thinking is apparently few.  The sort of article that I and Eschenbach find absurd is the product of the credentialled but incapable.  There are just far too many academics around who are not up to the job.  But they are needed because there are so many students to be taught.

Is there a solution?  I think there is.  But it will be as unpopular as it is simple.  Student loans and grants should be given only to those who can be shown to be in the top 5% of IQ.  Some people who fail such a test will still be able to enroll if they can self-fund but the overall effect should be a large reduction in student numbers.  And with fewer students to be taught, universities can be more selective about the teachers they hire.  And better selected teachers should do better conceived and executed research -- JR

Now for the Warmist mosquito scare

I was born and bred in the tropics, where mosquitoes sometimes seem so numerous that you almost expect them to pick you up and fly off with you.  And, you know what?  There are a lot of animals in the tropic too. Yet somehow the animals survive without the benefit of mosquito nets and mosquito repellent. Fur coats help a lot, of course.  Is there any reason to think that furry animals that have evolved in other mosquito-prone environments would do less well?  I can't see it.

And anyway, the study of local warming below was done in a period of exceptional overall temperature stability so tells us nothing about global warming.  And IF global warming does ever happen we could easily help the Caribou by aerial sprayng of DDT -- which we now know has no adverse impacts for humans or birds.  Before it was banned, people used to be fogged with DDT to kill various bugs -- and the people concerned came to no harm from it

And note Chip Knappenberger's comment below -- JR

The Atlantic is worried the caribou won’t survive massive mosquito swarms that are allegedly spawning earlier every year, harassing malnourished mothers and killing their young.

Arctic mosquito swarms are huge, sometimes containing millions of insects that can easily kill baby caribou and even harm mature adults as well. But environmentalists and liberals are claiming that a warming Arctic will only increase the frequency and severity of these death swarms.

“Mosquitoes responded to this early melt by hatching ahead of schedule,” writes The Atlantic’s Ross Andersen. “They also grew faster, meaning they spent less time in the vulnerable, developmental state that makes them easy prey for birds. More of them survived to adulthood, and that’s bad news for caribou.”
Special: New Probiotic Fat Burner Takes GNC by Storm

“Arctic mosquito swarms are the stuff of legend,” writes Andersen. “Some of them contain hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of insects. That’s enough to harass a pregnant caribou until she stops worrying about food. And it’s enough to kill caribou calves outright.”

Andersen’s article is based on a new study by Lauren Culler of the Dickey Center’s Institute for Arctic Studies at Dartmouth, who spent two summers studying mosquitos in Greenland. She found that in 2012, a very warm year in the Arctic, mosquitoes were breeding earlier.

“Caribou have no defense against mosquitoes,” Culler told Andersen, “except to run.”

“If the Arctic continues to warm, and there is every indication that it will, the summer tundra may soon be abuzz with larger and larger clouds of biting, blood-sucking insects,” Andersen warns in his article.

It’s a reasonable concern, but one that doesn’t ask an important question — how did caribou herds survive past warm periods? It’s a question that was asked by Cato Institute climate scientist Chip Knappenberger asked over Twitter.

The Earth’s climate has not been static in the last 15,000 years (there are cave paintings of caribou in Europe that are at least this old), as the world has warmed and cooled since that time.

The Middle Ages, for example, saw a warming spell that lasted until the late 1300s when a period known as the “Little Ice Age” came about and caused temperatures in Europe and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere to plunge.

IQ, Sex roles and tradition: A reflection

Having a high IQ has all sorts of advantages.  It has been known since the '20s that high IQ people do better in education, tend to earn more, live longer and have better health.  They even have more stable marriages.  So what's not to like about that?

Only one thing but it is a biggie.  It greatly constrains communication with run-of-the-mill folk.  High IQ really puts you into a different world of thinking.  I can be using language which is natural to me and find that I am making the person I am talking to slack-jawed.  They just cannot follow what I am saying.

I am of course aware of that and do my best to tame my vocabulary on everyday occasions but it is more than a matter of vocabulary.  It is how you look at things and what you think about.  I have on various occasions tried to listen in on conversations between shop-assistants and the like -- and the conversation just seems to me to be too trivial to be worth saying. I just could not do it.  Their mental horizons seem tiny to me.

And where that is a particular bugbear is in male/female relationships.  If I see a nice-looking lady who is (say) a checkout chick, I would often be inclined to get to know her.  But I know it is hopeless.  I just cannot do conversation at that level. I would just have to mention some general term in what I say to have the lady freeze.  She too knows that she and I come from different mental worlds. In her vocabulary, I would be a "toff" or the like.

So finding girlfriends has always been difficult for me.  Most women that I meet just seem to be too dumb.  My son had that problem for a while too.  The only women smart enough for him were Asian. But he has now given the Asian ladies up in favour of a nice-looking blue-eyed woman he met at university.

So one has to sift through huge numbers of women to find a compatible one.  But that has its rewards.  High IQ people tend to be healthier, taller and better-looking.  So finding a high IQ lady is finding a treasure indeed.  And the feeling tends to be mutual.  Highly intelligent women HATE men being duller than them so are greatly relieved to meet someone who is at least their equal intellectually. Even a woop like me gets a welcome. When two highly intelligent people meet, it is arriving at the "haven under the hill".

Just a little bit of culture that would once been recognized immediately but is no more: Tennyson's great lament over the death of his homosexual lover includes the line:

"And the stately ships go on / To their haven under the hill"

Google will get you there but you first have to know what to Google. And it is the poem as a whole that delivers the effect. I am a great devotee of the culture of the German lands but English culture offers enormous resources too -- but only if your education has made that available to you, which modern education does not.  I am a dinosaur -- but a very happy one.  I have that  which was lost

What?!  You didn't realize that I was also quoting when I said, "that which was lost"?  It's in Luke 19:10.

But, sadly, even shared IQ is not always enough.  All the normal rules of male/female relationships still apply.  And there is an operetta that depicts those well.

One should not normally look for serious themes in operetta but Leo Fall and his librettists clearly had one in mind in creating Die Dollarprinzessin.  He pushes it in both the "Alice" and "Daisy" stories of the show.  Part of what he implies is that female assertiveness is inimical to love.  The ladies of course get their way in the end but they have to be nice about it!

But more generally, Die Dollarprinzessin is in fact a celebration of traditional sex roles.  Accepting such differences and working within them is needed for good male/female relationships.  Most  women HATE to have a man they can push around, for instance. They want a man with a mind of his own. "Daisy" in the show says that explicitly.  So men have to be men and women have to be women.  If you don't like that, your relationships will suffer.

GLOSSARY:  In good academic style, I am going to add a very small glossary to the above post.  A glossary is an explanation of unusual words and terms.  I use the word "woop" above.  "Woop" is one of those wonderful words from Australian slang that are powerfully meaningful but cannot be completely translated into formal English. At its most basic, "woop" means "poorly dressed person" but it is also redolent of country people dressing in the fashions of yesteryear in a failed attempt to be modern.  A woop is a figure of fun for his unsophisticated and inappropriate dress.  That's the best I can do to explain it.  I have been a woop for most of my life.  Even my mother accused me of being a woop!  And I don't care! But woops just don't notice anyway!

I am a multiculturalist

I am a multiculturalist but I don't believe that all cultures are equal.  A Leftist has to believe the absurdity that they are equal because he believes that all men are equal -- despite all the evidence to the contrary all around him.

I am a multiculturalist because I grew up as one.  I grew up in a town in the Australian tropics that even has a rather multicultural name. "Innisfail" is Irish (Gaelic) for "Isle of Destiny" -- which is a romantic name for Ireland. And since I do have substantial Irish ancestry that bothers me not a bit.  And you will never hear a bad word about Ireland from me.

But, more germanely, Innisfail was only about half Anglo-Celtic.  Most of the rest of the population was Italian but there were substantial numbers of Spaniards, Greeks, Chinese and Maltese,  And I also knew a few Sikhs, Danes, Russian and Germans.  No Muslims or Africans, though. And guess what?  It all worked perfectly well.  Recent imigrants who spoke little English were not included in much but they were not harassed in any way either.  So I have seen a very multicultural society work well in my own lifetime.  I KNOW it is perfectly possible.

So let me tell a little story about why I don't believe that all cultures are equal.

I was recently at an Indian restaurant that did not sell alcohol but I decided that I would like some beer.  Beer goes well with Indian food.  There was a liquor shop nearby run by a Scotsman -- but it was 5 minutes past his closing time.  He was still there, however, so I knocked on his door and asked if I could buy some beer.  He refused.  He was too proud to bend his rules for a mere customer. Very British!  If you have ever been shopping in Britain, you will know what I mean.

Then, last night, I dined at another Indian restaurant which also was a sort of general store.  I was rather taken with the unusual spoons they gave us with our dinner and decided that I would like to buy some.  So I asked about that.  They said that they  did not stock them for sale.  After consultations, however, they sold me some from their own working stocks.  They went out of their way to do business. Very Indian.

So when I walked out of the restaurant, I had the spoons I wanted and they had my money in their till.  A perfect arrangement.  Capitalism embodied.  Why can't everybody be like that?

So, you see, cultures are different and some (not all) of those differences can be to our advantage.  What I have said here is merely anecdotal and, as such, is no proof of anything but, having spent time in both Britain and India, I can assure all and sundry that the two experiences I have described are abolutely typical of the two nations concerned.

It's a sad day when Indians are more capitalist than the British but it is so.  Jaguar cars have been going from strength to strength recently -- since the firm was taken over by an Indian.  India is poor  because of its socialist politics but individual Indians are great businessmen.

But, as I started out saying, not all cultures are the same -- as we see below.

Multiculturalist casually murders good kid

The grieving family of a popular 15-year-old murdered in a horrific street stabbing have described him as 'amazing' and 'the best'.

Joshua Williams, 18, stabbed Alan Cartwright in the chest in an 'utterly senseless' attack as he cycled along a busy street in Islington, North London, with friends.


Who has the greatest freedom of speech in the world today?

It is of course blacks.  They can say almost anything without reproof, the n-word most notably.

But homosexuals come a close second. I have noted many instances of indulgence extended to them over recent years -- with the most obvious example being that they can use "queer" to describe themselves.  Others use that word at their peril.

I haven't got the time or energy to do much more than note the phenomenon but I would like to mention two examples from Britain that stand out in my mind.  Two homosexual men, David Starkey and the recently deceased Brian Sewell.  See also here on Sewell.  As far as I can find, neither man has ever suffered any sanction over their "offensive" utterances, though complaints have of course been made.

David Starkey

Starkey has been called the "rudest man in Britain" and his rejection of homosexual marriage would probably have the British police after him were he not himself openly in a long-term homosexual relationship.  And he compared the Queen to Dr. Goebbels!

Other gems were when he insisted that a 16-year-old pupil could “groom” a 44-year-old teacher; stating that violence, not consent, should be the measure of rape; and saying that Princess Anne looked like a horse

And on black immigration to Britain he said: "I’ve just been rereading Enoch Powell – the rivers of blood speech. His prophecy was absolutely right in one sense.”  The speech is probably the most reviled in British history but you don't have to go far in Britain to find people who say (in private) "Enoch was right"

From Wikipedia:

"Starkey's comments in August 2011 on the BBC's Newsnight programme, made during a discussion about the 2011 England riots, precipitated support and condemnation from several notable commentators. Starkey claimed that "the whites have become black", and that "a particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion". The leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband, spoke about Starkey's remarks, saying "they are racist comments, frankly"....

 After stating in a debate in June 2012 that a Rochdale sex trafficking gang had values "entrenched in the foothills of the Punjab or wherever it is", he was accused by his fellow panelist, the writer Laurie Penny, of "playing xenophobia and national prejudice for laughs".

But he can also be offensive when he gets it right. For instance, he compared the Scottish National Party to the Nazis and likened the Saltire (Scottish flag) to a swastika.  He also likened the SNP's view of the English to Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitism. I have argued similarly.

Brian Sewell

Sewell was primarily an art critic but went on to become an outraged commentator on politics.  He was very outspoken about what he regarded as bad art.  In 1994, 35 prominent figures in the art world, including Bridget Riley and Maureen Paley signed a letter to the Evening Standard, attacking him for 'homophobia', 'misogyny', 'demagogy', 'hypocrisy', 'artistic prejudice', 'formulaic insults' and 'predictable scurrility'.  They spoke of  Sewell’s “dire mix of sexual and class hypocrisy, intellectual posturing and artistic prejudice”.

And he described his homosexuality as “an affliction”. Fighting words for anybody else these days

He also sheltered Anthony Blunt after Blunt’s exposure as the fourth man in the infamous Cambridge spy ring

An example of his art criticism:  “Any fool who can put paint on canvas or turn a cardboard box into a sculpture is lauded. Banksy should have been put down at birth. It’s no good as art, drawing or painting. His work has no virtue. It’s merely the sheer scale of his impudence that has given him so much publicity.”

Of the Turner Prize for contemporary art, he said: "Ignoring it is the kindest thing one can do."

And on women artists:  "There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it's something to do with bearing children."  Can you hear the feminist shrieks?

And an odd one for the feminists:  "I have a theory that only men steal books, although when I proposed that to a woman a month or two ago she was absolutely outraged"

I haven't tracked when both men "came out" but that would be a formality in the British intellectual world that they both inhabited.  It would have been known informally from early on. Even in the early 20th century, many of the Bloomsberries were known as homosexuals, for instance.

Why does Australia pay McDonald's workers more?

The article below pretends to be for a businesss audience but is spectacularly naive.  It's a rather good example of American ethnocentrism, in fact.

Just for starters, they fail to mention that one Australian dollar these days is worth only about 72c in U.S. dollars.  So A$15 converts to only $US10.80. It is true that international exchange rates often depart considerably from buying power in the countries concerned but, as it happens,  PPP adjustment does not alter the US/AU ratio much.  So the discussion below is based from the beginning on a false  premise and could reasonably be dismissed without further ado.

Even at around $10, however, Australian workers do get more than some U.S. workers in similar jobs.  Why?  The easy answer is that Australia's taxes are somewhat higher than in the U.S.  Bottom-range workers in the U.S. pay no income tax at all whereas the same people in Australia would usually pay some tax. So the higher salary is needed to cope with the higher tax  burden

And now I come to the politically incorrect bit  -- VERY incorrect, mainly because it is true.  When one walks into an Australian McDonalds, one is normally served by bright and enthusiastic white teenagers.  When one walks into an American McDonalds, one is often greeted by very relaxed blacks.  I don't think we need any statistics to tell us that the Australian workers are more productive.  So fewer of them are needed to do the job.  So therefore they can be paid more.  They earn it.

There is more to be said but I think I have said enough -- JR

Last week, fast-food workers around the United States yet again walked off the job to protest their low pay and demand a wage hike to $15 an hour, about double what many of them earn today. In doing so, they added another symbolic chapter to an eight-month-old campaign of one-day strikes that, so far, has yielded lots of news coverage, but not much in terms of tangible results.

So there's a certain irony that in Australia, where the minimum wage for full-time adult workers already comes out to about $14.50 an hour, McDonald's staffers were busy scoring an actual raise. On July 24, the country's Fair Work Commission approved a new labor agreement between the company and its employees guaranteeing them up to a 15 percent pay increase by 2017.

And here's the kicker: Many Australian McDonald's workers were already making more than the minimum to begin with.

The land down under is, of course, not the only high-wage country in the world where McDonald's does lucrative business. The company actually earns more revenue out of Europe than than it does from the United States. France, with its roughly $12.00 hourly minimum, has more than 1,200 locations. (Australia has about 900).

So how exactly do McDonald's and other chains manage to turn a profit abroad while paying an hourly wage their American workers can only fantasize about while picketing? Part of the answer, as you might expect, boils down to higher prices. Academic estimates have suggested that, worldwide, worker pay accounts for at least 45 percent of a Big Mac's cost. In the United States, industry analysts tend to peg the figure a bit lower—labor might make up anywhere from about a quarter of all expenses at your average franchise to about a third.* But generally speaking, in countries where pay is higher, so is the cost of two all-beef patties, as shown in the chart below by Princeton economist Orley Ashenfelter. Note Western Europe way out in the upper-right hand corner, with its high McWages and high Big Mac prices.

That said, not every extra dollar of worker compensation seems to get passed onto the consumer. Again, take Australia. According to the The Economist, Aussies have paid anywhere from 6 cents to 70 cents extra for their Big Macs compared to Americans over the past two years, a 1 percent to 17 percent premium. If you were to simply double the cost of labor at your average U.S. Mickey D's and tack it onto the price of a sandwich, you'd expect customers to be paying at least a dollar more.

Why don't they?

To start, some Australians actually make less than the adult minimum wage. The country allows lower pay for teenagers, and the labor deal McDonald's struck with its employees currently pays 16-year-olds roughly US$8 an hour, not altogether different from what they'd make in the states. In an email, Greg Bamber, a professor at Australia's Monash University who has studied labor relations in the country's fast food industry, told me that as a result, McDonald's relies heavily on young workers in Australia. It's a specific quirk of the country's wage system. But it goes to show that even in generally high-pay countries, restaurants try to save on labor where they can.

It's also possible that McDonald's keeps its prices down overseas by squeezing more productivity out of its workers. Researchers studying the impact of minimum wage increases on American fast food chains in the Deep South have found that while restaurants mostly cope by raising prices, they also respond by handing their employees more responsibility. It stands to reason that in places like Europe and Australia, managers have found ways to get more mileage out of their staff as well.

Or if not, they've at least managed to replace a few of them with computers. As Michael Schaefer, an analyst with Euromonitor International, told me, fast food franchises in Europe have been some of the earliest adopters of touchscreen kiosks that let customers order without a cashier. As always, the peril of making employees more expensive is that machines become cheaper in comparison.

Finally, McDonald's has also helped its bottom line abroad by experimenting with higher margin menu items while trying to court more affluent customers. Way back in 1993, for instance, Australia became home to the first McCafe coffee shops, which sell highly profitable espresso drinks. During the last decade, meanwhile, the company gave its European restaurants a designer make-over and began offering more localized menus meant to draw a higher spending crowd.

So if President Obama waved a magic wand tomorrow and raised the minimum wage to $10 or $15, does this all mean that U.S. fast food chains would be able to cope? "Were that to happen overnight, it would be a hugely traumatic process," Schaefer told me. After all, virtually every fast food franchise in the country would have to rethink its business model as their profits evaporated. But as the international market shows, the models are out there. It would certainly mean more expensive burgers. It would almost definitely mean fewer workers, as restaurants found ways to streamline their staffs, either through better management or technology. And it might mean fewer chains catering to the bottom of the market.


The vanishing island (?)

The excerpt below is part of a big and colorful feature in the Sydney Morning Herald.  It claims that a small island in the Pacific is being swamped by global warming -- but gives no actual proof of that.  Since the satellites have detected no global warming for over 18 years now, that would be very difficult to do.

A careful reading of the article reveals two things:  1). It is tsunamis that are the main problem for the islanders;  and: 2). There has been a sea level rise in that part of the Pacific which is much greater than the global average.

So here comes my favorite weapon: Logic.  If the water level rise is not global, how can it be an effect of global warming?  It is clearly a local effect due to variations in ocean currents and the like.  And as a LOCAL effect, it has nothing to do with GLOBAL warming.

OK.  What I have just said is probable rather than logically entailed but there would need to be evidence of some process linking the two phenomena.  But since one of the phenomena does not even exist, that would be hard.  The SMH does not attempt one.

So what we have below is just the usual dishonest propaganda that we so often get from Left-leaning rags like the SMH.  They do pull their punches to a degree at one point but an uncritical reader would conclude that the fate of the island is tied to global warming --JR

Taro Island: a sometimes picturesque coral atoll adrift in the ocean at the north-western tip of the Solomon Islands.

Barely a kilometre long and less across and almost none of it more than two metres above sea level, it is barely a smudge on a map. Yet this smudge - with its nearly 600 permanent residents, its hospital, churches (four), school, police station and courthouse - is set to take an unwanted place in history. Though tiny, it is the capital of the province of Choiseul. Soon it may be the first provincial capital in the world to be abandoned due to climate change.

In the wash of environmental and geopolitical changes that flow from the warming of the planet, Taro is a drop in the ocean. But it is also an early marker of what lies ahead. As Peter Dutton joked with Tony Abbott about water lapping at the doors of Pacific Islanders, the people of Taro were weighing warnings that their home would be among the first - of dozens? hundreds? thousands? - of largely blameless communities swallowed by the ocean as sea levels rise.

Plans have been drawn up. The people are ready. But they have a nagging question. Who will pay the hundreds of millions needed to make it happen? They are waiting for an answer.

Roswita Nowak already knows what it’s like to abandon her home; she’s done it three times.

Shortly after 8am on April 2, 2007, the mother of eight was making the short stroll from her home at Taro’s northern end to her work in a government office when she was distracted by an unfamiliar sound. “I looked down [toward the village centre] and could see people running, and then I heard this ‘sssshhhh’, and saw the water rushing. Then there was shouting: ‘Tsunami! Tidal wave!’ Everyone started to panic, running. People were shouting, ‘We have to go, leave everything, we’re going now.’ And for the women, the first thing we thought of was our children.”

While others headed for boats on the shore, Nowak dashed for home - a slightly raised four-room house where she had left six of her kids minutes before. She calmed them best she could, and waited. “I was shaking.”

Soon her husband, Fleming, a police officer, arrived. He said, “The boat is ready, let’s go.” Their 15-year-old son, Stanislaus, picked up his five-year-old sister, Helena, and everyone ran to the beach at the atoll’s north, where a dinghy was waiting. “We got into the boat,” Nowak remembers, “and immediately the tide went out and we just sat there on the dry seafloor and had to wait for the water to come back in, not knowing what it would do.”

They were lucky. The water came back forcefully enough to lift them but not tip them out. So they headed about two kilometres east across rough seas to the Choiseul mainland and scrambled up a hill to a small camp used by a logging company.

The evacuation of Taro was messy. There weren’t enough boats so it took more than two hours of trips back and forth. Some people were dropped off on an exposed coral reef, only for the oscillating sea to return and swamp them up to their chests as they tried to walk to the shore. The town’s people relocated to the jungle logging camp for five days, largely exposed to the elements. Other parts of the country were much less fortunate. The tsunami, triggered by an earthquake about 160 kilometres south, killed 52.

The island has been evacuated twice more since, during heavy seismic activity in a week in April last year. To some extent, this is the risk that comes with life in a low-lying area dissected by geological fault lines. But the advice from scientists and hard-headed officials is that the risk is worsening rapidly.

Satellite data suggests sea levels in the south-west Pacific are rising up to five times faster than the global average - 7.7 millimetres a year in the capital Honiara, to the south, and up to 16.8 millimetres a year in the ocean to the country’s north.....

As always, climate change driven by greenhouse gases is interacting here with natural forces. Separating the two isn’t necessarily straightforward, but scientists say the human hand is already evident.

They cannot say with confidence that tropical cyclones in the area will become more intense due to climate change, but they know that storms are heading further south. When we arrive, the people of Choiseul are counting the cost of tropical cyclone Raquel, which took at least one life and destroyed homes, palm plantations and seaweed crops at the start of July. Along Taro’s shore, recently felled trees lie in the ocean waiting to be cleaned up.

It is, by several months, the latest in the season a cyclone has hit the area - a reflection, meteorologists say, of changing atmospheric patterns and ocean temperatures being the warmest on record.


Australian Crackdown on Foreign Property-Buyers Intensifies

The crackdown is just a bandaid.  The real reason for high Australian property prices is land-use restrictions supported by a devil's combination of NIMBYs and Greenies -- and to some extent farmers.  Getting land released to house a growing population -- growth mainly caused by high immigration -- is therefore usually  something of a battle  -- often a costly battle with costs being passed on to home buyers.

A sensible loophole in the restrictions, however, is that foreign buyers can readily invest in new builds.  That should encourage new builds and counter the unemployment effect of reduced mining activity.

One might also note with some amusement that 12 properties affected so far will hardly have macro effects

And, finally, the overseas buyers are almost in the high-end market.  So the restrictions help only affluent Australians, not the average Joe.  A sad policy solution to a real problem.  A more effective solution would be a reduction in net immigration, maybe even a complete moratorium -- JR

A government clampdown on illegal investment in Australian real estate has broadened, with almost 500 properties worth more than 1 billion Australian dollars (US$713 million) in total under investigation and more foreign buyers forced to sell properties.

The government has been under pressure to rein in an investment-driven surge in home prices in Australia’s two biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne, amid growing criticism that wealthy Asian buyers are making the property market increasingly unaffordable.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said divestment orders have been served on five properties across the country, forcing their owners—who hail from Singapore, Indonesia, the U.K. and China—to sell homes. He added that the crackdown is continuing despite political turmoil this week that saw Malcolm Turnbull replace Tony Abbott as prime minister.

“The purchase prices of the properties range in value from A$265,000 to A$8.1 million,” Mr. Hockey told reporters in Canberra. “The foreign investors involved either purchased established property without Foreign Investment Review Board approval, or had approval but their circumstances changed, meaning they were breaking the rules,” he said.

The central bank has warned the property boom is unbalanced and potentially dangerous to a fragile economy, as economists become increasingly nervous about the possibility of the country entering a recession for the first time in 24 years.

Australia’s economy grew by 0.2% in the second quarter from the first three months of the year and 2% from a year earlier, its slowest quarterly growth in four years in the second quarter. The Reserve Bank of Australia is forecasting 2.25% growth for the year, but a dip below 2% could put the prospect of an interest-rate cut back on the table.

Many Australians fear cashed-up foreign investors could put homeownership out of reach of much of the population. Mr. Hockey told The Wall Street Journal last month that equity-market turmoil in China could drive even more Chinese buyers to seek havens by investing in Australian property.

China last year overtook the U.S. as Australia’s largest source of investment from overseas, with a total of A$27.6 billion last year, according to FIRB, the foreign-investment watchdog. Real estate accounted for almost half of that.

The latest divestment orders bring the number of properties hit by the crackdown to 12. In March, Mr. Hockey ordered a Hong Kong-based buyer of a A$39 million Sydney mansion to sell after investigators said it was purchased illegally.

This time, the properties netted by the crackdown are scattered across the country and include homes in the cities of Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane as well as the Gold Coast, in tropical Queensland state.

Mr. Hockey said all five owners had voluntarily come forward to detail their investments, meaning they would have a year to sell their homes rather than the usual three months, under an amnesty offer announced by the government in May.

Mr. Hockey could be replaced as Australia’s chief economic minister after a leadership putsch in the conservative government that this week installed Mr. Turnbull as prime minister. Among the possible candidates to become treasurer is Scott Morrison, regarded as one of the government’s most effective ministers.


How your tweets can betray your politics: Liberals use swear words on Twitter while those on the right discuss religion

This will be no news to conservatives who have had interactions with Leftists.  Abuse is about all they are capable of if you point out anything that undermines any of their claims.  Civil disagreement and rational argument mostly seem to be beyond them.

Like an earlier study, the study below found that profanity is much more common on Leftist social media. The earlier study of the matter found profanity to be TWELVE TIMES more common on Leftist blogs. Profanity is of course proverbially the sign of a weak mind trying to express itself forcibly.

It has to be that way.  Reality is so inimical to Leftist views  that a balanced consideration of all the evidence would make conservatives out of them.  So emotional responses to any undermining of their positions are all that is left to them. They are a sad lot -- ruled by their own hostile emotions

For many users of social media, figuring out their political stance is simple as they broadcast their views for all to see.  However, it seems it is possible to discern someone's politics purely from the language they use on Twitter.

Researchers have found liberals, like supporters of the Democrats in the US, were more likely to use swear words.

They were also more likely to use emotionally charged language and express positive emotions than Conservative and Republican tweeters, but also use language associated with anxiety.

Conservatives were more likely to discuss religion, with 'god' and 'psalm' being among their most popular words.

Dr Matthew Purver, one of the authors of the study at Queen Mary University of London, said: 'Open social media provides a huge amount of data for use in understanding offline behaviour.

'The way people talk and interact on Twitter can provide a more robust and natural source for analysing behaviour than the traditional experiments and surveys.'

The researchers studied tweets sent between 15 and 30 June 2014 by followers of either the Republican or Democrat party Twitter accounts.

As might be expected, there were clear differences in the discussion of politics and topical issues.  Liberals were more likely to discuss international news, frequently mentioning 'Kenya', where 60 people were killed in violent attacks during the time of the study, and 'Delhi' which was also regularly in the news at the time.

However, while Democrats would be expected to mention Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi regularly it was actually Republicans who talked about their opposition most.

Democrats conversely were more likely to talk about former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science One, showed Democrats were also more likely to swear, with 'f***' and 's***' in their top ten most used words after common English words were removed.

Democrats were also more likely than conservatives to use words like 'I' and 'me', while Republicans used words like 'we' and 'our'.

Previous studies have suggested liberals have a greater sense of their own uniqueness while conservatives are more likely to emphasis group identify and consensus.


Some thoughts on Zigeunerbaron at Moerbisch 2011

I watched another lavish production from the vast floating stage at Moerbisch recently.  It was the Zigeunerbaron by Strauss 2.  They have done it several times but this was the 2011 production with Harald Serafin as Intendant. As usual he took a part himself and performed it very well.  He is a brilliant character actor -- though there is a sense in which he always plays himself.

The whole show is online here

But I cannot imagine what he was thinking when he did the casting this time. Why was the old witch portrayed by an overweight young woman in a grey wig?  Why was the allegedly attractive Saffi played by another rather overweight young woman?  Why was Barikay portrayed as a hippy type? The role is for a wanderer but hippies are quite often sessile and plenty of wanderers are not hippies.  There is no reason why the part could not have been filled by a generally attractive young man.  I am afraid the casting rather ruined the show for me.  The visual side has to be good in operetta and it was not on this occasion.

2012 was the last for Serafin at Moerbish before he handed over to Dagmar Schellenberger so maybe he was using the 2011 production as something of a last hurrah and to prove he can be politically correct about fat. Casting his son in a good role in the production also has the air of a last hurrah.  He cast himself and his son in the 2012 production (of Fledermaus) too.

In my view the best performance was by Serafin himself.  He was as usual fun to watch.

But it was a lively and amusing show overall with good music and the usual improbabilities of operetta.  The famous Flotter Geist song was of course the musical highlight of the show. Ist nicht schwer!

An excerpt from the recruiting scene, with the stirring Werberlied (recruiting song):

Population predictions are crap

What I want to say here is mostly 4th grade stuff but vast numbers of people don't seem to get it.

What I want to talk about is the folly of straight line projections.  People who are used to graphs should know immediately what I am going to say but people with more  literary inclinations probably will not.

Perhaps the most hilarious example of the folly concerned is the repeated prediction that we are going to run out of oil soon.  People have been making that prediction ever since oil was discovered and they have always been wrong.  Up until fracking was implemented, Greenies used to make that prediction.  But fracking has mostly silenced them on that issue.  Now they say we will run out of food!

So why has that prediction always been wrong?  Because it assumes that all the influences on the thing concerned will stay the same. In the case of oil, it assumes there will be no more discoveries.  The reasoning goes like this:  "We have reserves of 10,000 barrels of oil and we are using 1,000 barrels each year so therefore we will run out in 10 years".

It's great arithmetic but totally ignorant of almost everything in nature.  Nature is complex.  Things are always changing.  And if there is any predictability at all in nature the trend will be in the form of an ogive or some other curvilinear trend.  In an ogive, things rise for a while and then flatten out.  In statisticians' terms, they "approach an asymptote".

So it should by now be clear why all the current  predictions of future population will be wrong.  I am in fact here and now going to issue a prophecy!  Bold, I know, but it's a pretty safe one. And neither the Book of Daniel nor the Book of Revelation is involved!  So: This is my prophecy:

"In 50 years time, all the current predictions of various national populations will be shown to have been wrong"

The birthrates in various nations at the moment are very low.  So low that the straight-line wise-heads are predicting that the populations of countries like Japan, Italy and Russia will be only half of what they are now.  Why is that prediction foolish?  Because it assumes that birthrates will remain the same.  Yet anybody who remembers the world before the 1960s should know how absurd that is.

Take Italy, one of the doomed populations according to the straight-line wiseheads. Italy was once the land of large families.  Lots of Italian families had an Ottorino (eighth child).  Now, of course, one child is the norm.  So does not a change as drastic as that tell you something?  Does it not tell you that all the influences on the given phenomenon (in this case the birthrate) will NOT remain the same?  It surely should.

Let us be a little more insightful about population than doing silly arithmetic.  What caused the Italian birthrate collapse?  The same thing that has caused a birthrate collapse in most of the developed world:  The contraceptive pill. Children are expensive but up until about 1960 people had no easy way of stopping them coming.  So they kept coming.

OK.  The pill was an unexpected factor that threw out all the straight line "population explosion" projections made in the early  20th century.  Paul Ehrlich take a bow.  So what other influences could come along and ditch all the present predictions?

There is an obvious one: An evolutionary one. All the non-maternal women are currently being removed from the gene pool by reason of the simple fact that they now rarely have children. Women like them will become rarer and rarer. So all the births of the not too distant future will come from maternally-inclined women. And how many children will those women have? As many as they can afford (and then some in some cases). Some wonderful stories about maternal women here and here and here and here and here.

So the birthrates in advanced nations will recover and the  population will start growing again -- albeit off a lower base.

And there are other influences that may have an effect -- even ones that I have not thought of!  France, for instance, has long had pro-natalist government policies and that has propped up the French birthrate.  Similar policies will probably be adopted by other nations.  Russia and Singapore have already stepped up to the plate with policies of that nature.

And here's a way-out one:  It seems to have become fashionable for celebrity women to have children, multiple children in most cases.  You would not think that women who live by their looks would risk  their figures by having children, but they are in fact doing it -- the Kardashians, for instance.  Children now seem to have become a sign of affluence.  They are the ultimate luxury -- even better than big yachts and Gulfstream jets.  And lots of people DO emulate celebrities.  Many women in the near future may start having children because it is fashionable or simply because they want to show off.  One can imagine the conversations:  "I've got three.  How many have you got?"

So who knows what the future holds?