A note about Quora and Ernest Adams

I spend a lot more time than I should reading Quora.  I particularly like its human interest stories.  But Quora is also very political, heavily weighted towards Leftism.  And perhaps the most obnoxious Leftist there is Ernest Adams, who has big tickets on himself.  He wrote the following on Nov. 26th:

There's something funny about conservatives' brains. Research is ongoing, but it seems that conservatives are less open to new experiences, have peculiar notions about sanctity and purity, value social uniformity over diversity, and group loyalty over individuality—sometimes even more than they value fairness. There's a deeply-seated unwillingness to empathize with those outside their tribe. Nobody yet knows what causes it. We can only hope that a cure can be found before it's too late

I was going to reply but Adams has closed off comments, funnily enough.  What I had prepared to comment was as follows:

There's something funny about Leftist brains. Research is ongoing, but it seems that Leftists are less open to new experiences, have peculiar notions about sanctity and purity, value social uniformity over diversity, and group loyalty over individuality—sometimes even more than they value truth. There's a deeply-seated unwillingness to empathize with those outside their tribe. Nobody yet knows what causes it. We can only hope that a cure can be found before it's too late

Both the Adams post and my reply are of course nothing more than expressions of opinion and, as such, have only the weight readers choose to give them.  I note however that the Left are very prone to psychological projection -- of seeing their own faults in others -- so my reconstruction has some plausibility.  What could be more projective that the constant Leftist claim that Trump and conservatives generally are "authoritarian" -- when it was Obama who declared the aim of "fundamentally transforming" America?  Very Leninist.
I am aware of the brain studies being alluded to by Adams -- mostly involving John Hibbing -- and have commented on them often.  Our understanding of the brain is still in its infancy so the claims made about politics and  brains are little more than pure speculation:  Certainly nothing to hang your hat on.  You can equally well interpret the studies as adverse to Leftists -- e.g. here. But you will wait a long time for Adams to acknowledge that.  Like most Leftist claims, his claims fall into a pit once you know the full story.

Why the vitriol about race?

A conservative colleague wrote to me as follows:

"I have written much of late on Quora and have noticed that leftists reserve their most hate filled tropes for issues concerning Black White relations. I recently posted an article arguing that the Democratic Party has consistently failed Black Americans and that the GOP should work at targeting the fallout from such failure.

Needless to say the kickback was harsh. The usual unsubstantiated racist accusations came flying out of the woodwork with a venom that I rarely see on posts reserved for other issues.

But here is the kicker - the worst insults by far came from Whites. Is this a function of virtue signalling or something else as the responses from seemingly reasonable people seemed more visceral than normal?

I think I know EXACTLY why Leftist whites get so heated about race. It is because racial realities are so far away from Leftist beliefs about them. Leftists are cut to the heart when you remind them how exceptionally badly behaved many blacks are -- because they KNOW you are right but cannot afford to admit it.  So they get angry instead.

They know as well as you or I that many blacks are dangerous predators that they need to avoid.  And they do avoid them.  But to admit it would cause their belief structure to come tumbling down.

It is a cause of pride to them that they are better than conservatives -- in being kind, tolerant etc -- so admitting that conservatives are simply realists about race undermines their entire self worth -- JR

The Macassar tyranny

Macassar is a small seaport in Indonesia.  So what has that got to do with Warmism?  Nothing at all.  But its namesake does.

I refer to Rowland's Macassar Oil, a product first marketed by a London barber in 1783.  It was marketed as a way for men to keep their hair in order and in good health.  It soon had imitators and it became a fashion for men to put oil or grease in their hair.  And that fashion lasted into recent times.  I remember going into Woolworths in the 1950s and buying "Californian Poppy" grease for my hair.

Greasing your hair had become virtually universal.  A man who did not grease his hair was regarded as untidy.

The fashion died fairly decisively in Australia in 1972, when a new Leftist Prime Minister gained power -- the haughty Gough Whitlam.  Shortly after his accession, he went on TV to announce that he was abandoning hair grease. Up until that time, he had always greased his hair -- like most of his unionist supporters. The internet has a short memory so does not record the occasion but what Whitlam said ran roughly as follows:

"I have always used a pomade to dress my hair.  But fashionable people tell me I am behind the times in doing so.  A modern man does not put anything in his hair. I have therefore decided that it is time to cease being a gluggy and become a fluffy".

There was at the time some debate over whether rice should be served gluggy or fluffy.

Even unionists ceased greasing their hair after that.  If they were lucky, their wives now blow-dried their hair -- perhaps with a little help from the lady's hair spray.

So what is the lesson from all that?  It shows that a totally useless belief and custom persisted among us for nearly 200 years until it was laughed to death.  Will the equally foolish doctrine of global warming stay among us for 200 years?  It could.

Pre-school to prevent delinquency?

The rant below is typical of disassociated Leftist thought. Jacqueline Maley points to problems and just asserts that pre-school will fix them.  Asking for evidence that your "cure" will in fact cure anything is chronically "forgotten" among Leftists.  Evidence connecting the cure to the problem is absent.

She points to the problems that children reared in feral environments pose for both themselves and everyone else and then points out that if you get an infant very early, you may be able to train its brain into more positive behaviour channels.  It's a reasonable conjecture.

So how do we implement this draconian intervention?  The infant brain is at it most plastic when it is youngest.  The plasticity is highest just after birth and declines steadily thereafter. To make Maley's idea work, you would have to take masses of infants away from their families from shortly after birth.  Is that going to happen?  The "stolen generations" furore guarantees that it will not.

So she does not even explore that option.  She just states blandly and blindly that pre-school  will achieve the desired result.  But, for a start, pre-school is far to late to do much good and, secondly, any effect of a  few hours in pre-school will be overwhelmed by the very different experience of the feral home for the remaining 18 hours (or more) of the day.

Maley quotes theories of U.S. educators that say there is a small advantage in pre-school but those theories fade into insignificance when we look at the actual experience with the American "Head Start" program -- now in existence for many decades. It aimed to give a quality pre-school experience to children from deprived homes.  It produced some initially promising results, as new programs often do, but those  advantages rapidly faded away, leaving a program that scholarly analysts see as an abject failure.  The program is now kept going mainly as a means of offering a child-minding service in poor areas

Ms Maley hasn't got a clue.  Like most Leftist writing hers has an initial plausibility until you know all the facts

There is one simple thing politicians could do right now that would save the budget millions, or even billions, of dollars over the next generation.

The evidence is clear that this near-magic initiative works to prevent poverty, illiteracy, social delinquency, welfare dependency, ill health, and even cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Politicians like to talk about there being no "silver bullet" solution to any given problem, but according to economists and doctors, and at least one Nobel prize winner who has devoted his life to this cause, this is as close to it as it gets.

All they have to do is better fund preschools.

After 20 years of solid research into child brain development, scientists now know (and I use the verb "know" in the entirely scientific, evidence-based, non-feelpinion sense) that the human brain in the infant-to-child period is exquisitely sensitive to its environment.

Whatever crappy destiny a child's genes have planned for him or her, it will usually only be triggered in a bad environment, where a child's basic physical needs are not met, or where his or her parents fail to provide a nurturing, stimulating and responsive backdrop.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, a feted paediatrician who is probably Australia's foremost expert in early intervention and childhood development, says none of this research is touchy-feely or vague.

It is "robust and non-contested" neuroscience.

We all know that children who are exposed to abuse or neglect often grow up to have psychological and behavioural problems.

But the research shows there are long-term physical and neurological consequences from what you and I might call a crappy childhood.

The effects from a bad environment are as real and long-lasting as a blow to the head, or a kick to the kidneys might be.

"In situations of extreme poverty, child abuse, substance abuse, or any situation where the child is exposed to unpredictability and a lack of responsiveness, stress levels go up in the brain," Oberklaid says.

"This produces cortisol, and cortisol levels affect the brain's functioning. You get the biologic embedding of environmental events, so after a generation or two you start to see changes in genetic material."

Here's the real kicker: increased stress in those early years resets the body's physiological regulatory system at a sub-optimal level, meaning these children, as they grow up, are more likely to develop disease like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

It also buggers their brain's frontal lobe development, which governs what is known as "executive function" – a trio of cognitive processes that are essential to functioning as a happy and productive adult: working memory, mental flexibility and self control.

Take a survey of your nearest prison population and you will find it full of men and women who have difficulty holding more than a few pieces of information in their minds at once, who are bad at switching between tasks and who have poor or zero impulse control.

Children are not born with these skills, and they are unlikely to develop them in dysfunctional home environments.

That's why compulsory, state-subsided preschool for at least one year, but ideally two, is something economists are switching on to.

The Nobel-winning American economist James Heckman has devoted much of his professional life to researching the economics of early childhood, and has shown that funding early childhood delivers a return on investment.

His analysis of one preschool program estimated a 7 to 10 per cent return on investment. Analysis of another early childhood program, the Chicago Child-Parent Centre, estimated $48,000 in benefits to the public per child from a half-day of public preschool. The estimated return on investment was $7 for every dollar invested.

These savings are based on the greater adult productivity of the kids involved, and reduced costs in remedial education, healthcare and criminal justice participation down the line.

The good news is we know exactly what we have to do in order to prevent a lot of these adverse outcomes.

Oberklaid spends his life advocating early intervention policy, and has advised state and federal ministers on the subject.

If he could make politicians do one single thing, it would be to fund one year of universal preschool education. Even better, fund two years of it.

Preschool helps develop the early building blocks of educational success – learning colours and numbers, understanding patterns, realising that printed words hold meaning. It socialises children. Any language, hearing or developmental problems a child may have are picked up early.

An Australian dream that is a Greenie nightmare

Ever since Hitler, Greenies have been doing their best to frighten us into thinking that we are going to run out of food.  Hitler at least had the excuse that there really were food shortages in Germany immediately after WWI but modern-day Greenies live in an era of unprecedented abundance.

Food shortages -- see Paul Ehrlich -- were the no. 1 scare before global warming came along  as a tool to make us do the Greenie beck and call -- but they still pop out the old scare at times too -- usually presenting it as a result of global warming.  That a warmer world would in fact produce a food bonanza doesn't faze them. Imagine the farming lands in Northern Canada and Siberia that a warmer climate would open up!

But you don't have to imagine anything to realize what Northern Australia does to any food-shortage scare. And it rebuffs such scares in two ways -- both because of its potential and because of its actuality.

Australia is a continent and as you will read below, there is an area the size of India in Northern Australia which is virtually  unused agriculturally.  And India feeds over a billion people.  As in India, the usability of the land is uneven but with modern farming methods it could undoubtedly produce far more food than the primitive methods used by most Indian farmers do.  So how is that for a potential food bonanza?  Would enough extra food to feed more than a billion people be enough to tone down the scares?

So that is the potential.  The actuality is in fact even more instructive.  WHY has such vast potential gone unused?  We can find out from the one bit of Northern Australia that HAS been developed  -- using a lot of taxpayer money.  I refer of course to the Ord river scheme.  The Ord is a big river that flows through a fertile landscape in North-Western Australia.  And for decades governments have been trying to open it up for farming.  They even built a big dam to ensure year-round water supply.

So what happened?  They succeeded brilliantly at growing all sorts of crops.  They could readily have fed a small nation for a lot of the time.  But most of the crops concerned have now been abandoned.  Just about the only product they export is sandalwood.  And you can't eat sandalwood.  You burn it for incense.

So WHY was the Ord scheme an abject failure?  Because the world is SWIMMING in food.  There are all sorts of clever farmers worldwide who produce food at minimal cost.  So much so that the big costs is distribution: Getting the food into your local supermarket. The farmer gets only a small fraction of what you pay.  And that's not a racket.  Distribution is expensive.  All those trucks and trains and warehouses and wharves and roads and rail lines, loading docks and silos are expensive -- and so are the wages of the men who work in them.  They have to be paid too -- not only the farmer. And the Ord is far away from most potential markets and is connected to none of the existing distribution networks.  Getting food from the Ord into your local supermarket would be way too expensive.  It's all down to those pesky dollars and cents.

The Ord is in fact not far away from some big potential markets in Indonesia, India and China, but those countries, like most countries, want to be able to feed themselves -- and their governments are fixated on that.  The Ord can go hang as far as they are concerned.  And it does. The twin whammy of distribution costs and trade barriers doom the Ord.  And it would be just the same for the rest of Northern Australia.

Australian politicians have been breast-beating about our empty North for generations and periodically put money into explorations of its potential -- but it never has come to anything and it never will.  The world has TOO MUCH food for that to succeed. So only the cheapest food into your supermarket gets grown.  Famine is not the danger.  Greenies are talking out of their anus gross ignorance

FOOTNOTE: The Ord is a fascinating experiment in agricultural economics so needs a much longer article than these few notes to discuss it properly but perhaps for those interested I can add a couple more notes:

1.) Given its proximity to Asia and Australia's extensive experience with growing rice economically, the obvious market for the Ord would be the growing and export to Asia of rice. Rice is a tropical crop and the Ord is in the tropics. Sadly, however, that is a case of "been there, done that". Many years ago now, in the 1950's the lavishly-funded Humpty Doo experiment in the Northern Territory did prove that an abundant rice crop could be grown in the North. Sadly, however, the vast flocks of beautiful Australian native birds, mostly magpie geese, got to the crops before anybody in Asia did. After the birds had finished, there was nothing much left to harvest. And the flocks were so big that no deterrent efforts worked. And that was in the days before Greenie restrictions on poisons etc. Below is a picture of Magpie Geese at the Ord, where they are abundant. They are supposed to be a living fossil, but nobody seems to have told them that.

2). Given the billions promised for infrastructure provision, might a spur line to the Ord off the Alice/Darwin railway be a good idea? It would cross some very difficult terrain so would certainly soak up billions and in the end it would give access only to the Darwin and Alice-Springs market, both of which are quite small. It would not remotely help to get Ord produce into the nearest big city -- Adelaide -- as Adelaide is quite close the the great array of productive farms in Victoria. So the transport cost of Ord produce would be a lot more than the transport costs from Victoria.

Scientists have been digging up the dirt on northern Australia's potential to become an agricultural powerhouse.

In the biggest undertaking of its kind in Australia, thousands of soil samples were collected from water catchments in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

The samples are now being analysed as part of the Federal Government's multi-billion-dollar plan to develop the Top End and double the nation's agricultural output.

"Northern Australia is a vast and underdeveloped landscape that's three million square kilometres — roughly five times the size of France, or the size of India," said CSIRO Research Director Dr Peter Stone, who oversees the science body's Northern Australia program.

Over the past five years, the CSIRO has identified 70 crops which could grow in the north and 16 million hectares of land that is suitable for irrigated agriculture.

"If you ... grabbed all the water you could, there'd be enough to irrigate about one and a half million hectares of northern Australia," he said.

"So overlaying the sweet spots — where soil is suitable and water is not only available, but reliable — is part of the key."
Drilling in Northern Territory

In the basement of the Ecosciences Precinct in Brisbane, you could be excused for thinking you had walked into a fanciful coffee roastery.

Grinders are lined up on one side of the room, while on the other, Seonaid Philip stacks trays of the most delectable-looking grinds into an oven for drying.

But the pale greys, rich ochres and velvety chocolates are not coffee, of course, but a collection of outback soils.

"For this project we've collected approximately 4,000 samples," said Ms Philip, who co-ordinated the field trips involving two dozen people in the Fitzroy, Mitchell and Darwin water catchments over 120 days.

"The colours tell us quite a bit about the attributes of the soils. These red ones are highly sought after, highly productive, very good for horticultural development... not the best water-holding capacity, but people can manage around that.

"But this one here is a bit sad," she said, picking up a pot of grey dirt.

"It's leeched, a pale colour, and shows that nutrients have been stripped out of it, probably in a high rainfall area."

Upstairs in the laboratory, the samples undergo a wide range of tests to determine their composition, structure and level of nutrients such as nitrogen, essential for plant growth, and carbon, critical for soil and plant health.

The information is helping to build a detailed map of northern Australian soils, which will be overlaid with a similar map being created for above and underground water resources.

Together the projects form the Federal Government's $15 million Northern Australia Water Resources Assessment.

Developing the north is "vitally important", according to Agriculture Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.  "Mining is great, but it's boom and bust ... but agriculture is a constant flow of wealth that comes back," he said.

"If we can, over time, irrigate one and a half million hectares in the north, that would almost double the amount of land we have under irrigation today ... in the whole of Australia, and that would help us to double agriculture over time," Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan told the ABC.

"We don't have a lot of major dams in the north and in the south, in the Murray Darling and other places, we've kind of exploited the resources we already have, so our future opportunities in agriculture, our future opportunities to develop our water resources do predominantly lie in the north."

Senator Canavan said the Government's $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility would help to ensure that any northern foodbowl could get its produce to market.


Do Australian schools need more money, or better spending?

The article below asks the right question but is poor at answering it.  It starts out saying that educational success has little to do with money but then quotes a do-gooder saying that money is the key.  It also breastbeats about the bad performance by poor students and pretends that this can be improved.  It cannot.  Not by very much anyway.  Generally speaking, the poor are poor because they have low IQs -- and there is no remedy for that.

The two things that are REALLY needed to lift standards are:  1). Adoption of teaching methods that work -- e.g. phonics in literacy teaching; and 2). Segregating or effectively disciplining unruly students.  Unruly students take away time that should be used for teaching and make the classroom an unattractive place for potential teachers

It would also help if results from Aboriginal kids were reported separately and removed from the overall data.  School attendance is often very patchy among Aborigines and no teaching method is going to work on students who are not there

The relationship between spending and performance is not a simple one

Many countries that got similar average maths scores spent very different amounts on education — and many countries that spent about the same had very different scores.

For example, Australia's score in maths is better than the UK and the US, which each spent more per student.

But Australia's score is well below Korea, Estonia and Poland, who spent between $12,000 and $28,000 less on each student than Australia did.

Overall, the relationship between spending and results was not significant once spending per student passed above US$50,000.

In other words, take out the countries that are not spending very much, and the correlation between spending and performance disappears.

This tallies with Education Minister Simon Birmingham's comments that Australian school funding is at record levels and the focus can no longer be on how much money is being spent.
So how can Australia improve its schools?

Pete Goss from the Grattan Institute says that what matters most for Australia now is not how much money goes into education, but how the money is spent.

"To make sure money is well spent, step one is to distribute to the schools who need it most," he said.

"Step two is that whatever money schools get, it must be spent as effectively as possible on teaching approaches that have been shown to work and are cost effective.

"One side of politics seems to focus more on step one, where money is distributed. The other side focuses more on step two, how money is spent. "We have to get both right."

Laura Perry, associate professor of education policy at Murdoch University, says Australian education has a "distribution problem rather than an absolute funding problem".

"The biggest problem ... is we don't give as much money to the schools that really need it and we tend to give money to the schools that don't need it," she said.

Globally, the PISA data shows that students who are at a socio-economic disadvantage are almost three times more likely to fail to reach a baseline skill level in science.

A 'fair' education system was defined as one where a student's result reflects their ability, rather than things they can't control, like their socio-economic status.

On some measures of fairness, Australia fell below the average among the 35 OECD countries being compared.

Coming from an advantaged background in Australia adds 44 points to a student's science score for every unit increase in socio-economic advantage.

In many countries, including Vietnam, Canada and China, education was more equal than in Australia.

What's the result of unequal schooling?

The difference in education equality in different countries is most obvious in how the bottom quarter of students fares in each country.

Although Australia's bottom and top quarter of students are performing better than the OECD average, the bottom quarter is performing much worse than the bottom quarter in Singapore, Vietnam, Estonia and Japan.

Professor Perry says Canada is the most relevant comparison to Australia.

"We can say that low socio-economic status students ... perform much better in Canada than Australia," she said.

"If you look at the total average [score] for each country, it's higher in Canada and that's the main reason why."
Australia worst in OECD on staffing gap

Professor Perry says one of the explanations for the poor performance of Australia's lowest socio-economic students is their poor access to qualified teachers.

The gap between rich and poor schools' ability to attract qualified teachers in Australia is the largest in the OECD.

The data was gathered by asking principals how much their school's ability to teach students was affected by having unqualified or poorly qualified teachers.

Australian principals in schools in high socio-economic areas gave very different answers from those in poorer areas.

Shortages of qualified teachers were more likely in Australian public schools than private schools.

The same goes for education materials — things like IT equipment, classroom and laboratory materials. Only Mexico, Spain and Turkey had a more unequal split in terms of access to material.

Sue Thompson, director of educational monitoring for the Australian Council for Educational Research, says lots of students, particularly in junior secondary school, are being taught by teachers out of their field of expertise.

One Australian study showed that about 38 per cent of students were being taught by teachers not qualified in maths and science.

These teachers are limited both in their ability to find ways to teach the bottom-performing students, and to challenge the top students, Dr Thompson says.

"All of the OECD research on disadvantaged students shows that by lifting the success of disadvantaged students, you would increase the system as a whole but also you gain on the performance of the high-achieving students as well, as a result of better teaching," she said.

Professor Perry says the amount of social segregation between schools has become a "vicious cycle" in Australia: as teacher shortages become more pronounced in lower socio-economic schools, parents choose to avoid those schools, perpetuating the problem.

"A low socio-economic school, another word for that is a hard-to-staff school," she said.


The aluminium scare

I hold no brief for aluminium. Claims that molecules from aluminium pots and pans leak into food go back a long way so I have never liked aluminium cooking utensils. I have mostly used cast-iron, enamel and steel utensils instead. But the study below has been hyped and I wish to inject a note of caution.

The main cautions concern the sample, its selection, its size  and the variability of the results.

Regarding the latter, I quote from the Results section of the paper:  "Aluminium was found in all 144 tissues and its concentration ranged from 0.01 to 35.65 μg/g dry wt."  That is a pretty big variation. It does not sound like a uniform process.

And the form of Alzheimers was a rare one.  Does it generalize to other forms?  Is the rarity due to something that also encourages aluminium concentrations? Might not more common forms of Alzheimers be less troubled by aluminium?

And the sample is an available one, not a random one so its generalizability is inherently unknown.

And the sample size is risible.  You can get all sorts of odd and unreplicable results with such a small sample.

Finally, an important question is how many users of aluminium pots and pans have lived to a ripe old age?  Hundreds of millions, I would think.  Do we balance 12 cases supporting a conclusion agains millions not supporting it?

I accept that I may be wrong but my conclusion is that aluminium is unlikely to harm you

Aluminium in brain tissue in familial Alzheimer’s disease

Ambreen Mirzaa et al.

The genetic predispositions which describe a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease can be considered as cornerstones of the amyloid cascade hypothesis. Essentially they place the expression and metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein as the main tenet of disease aetiology. However, we do not know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and environmental factors may yet be shown to contribute towards its onset and progression. One such environmental factor is human exposure to aluminium and aluminium has been shown to be present in brain tissue in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. We have made the first ever measurements of aluminium in brain tissue from 12 donors diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease. The concentrations of aluminium were extremely high, for example, there were values in excess of 10 μg/g tissue dry wt. in 5 of the 12 individuals. Overall, the concentrations were higher than all previous measurements of brain aluminium except cases of known aluminium-induced encephalopathy. We have supported our quantitative analyses using a novel method of aluminium-selective fluorescence microscopy to visualise aluminium in all lobes of every brain investigated. The unique quantitative data and the stunning images of aluminium in familial Alzheimer’s disease brain tissue raise the spectre of aluminium’s role in this devastating disease.

Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology Volume 40, March 2017, Pages 30–36.

The war on salt again

The FDA is a very risk averse agency, which can cause more deaths than it prevents.  And the received wisdom about salt is that the amount people currently consume is bad for you.  That has come under very powerful challenge recently but the FDA are sticking by the old theory.  Whether current average levels of salt consumption are dangerous is assumed rather than proven.  So they are at present proposinging guidelines on salt consumption that are unrealistically low. So the article below challenges them. The article below has been followed by a rejoinder but the rejoinder is mainly bureacratic and not convincing.  The article below is "Reducing Sodium Intake in the Population" by David A. McCarron and  Michael H. Alderman.


Why the white working class votes against itself (?)

The little lady writing below is a reasonably good journalist.  She presents both sides of the argument pretty well. As a product of America's Left-dominated educational system, however. She lacks historical or academic context.  Leftists hate history because it falsifies so much of what they believe.  So they teach as little of it as possible.  So the kids hear all about Adolf Hitler and slavery but little else.

It would be very rare for them to hear of a flamboyant Jew who ran the British Empire at the peak of its influence, little more than a century ago.  A German socialist incinerated 6 million Jews.  The British Conservative party made a Jew their Prime Minister. See any significant difference there?  A Leftist probably wouldn't.  They just blot the whole thing out. Conservatives are racist, don't you know?

Why did the British Tories make a Jew their Prime Minister?  Because Benjamin Disraeli was a brilliant man. He was largely responsible for giving working class British people the vote.  Yes: It was a Conservative who did that, not a liberal. Why did Disraeli do that?  Because he saw the workers as "angels in marble": Good people behind a rough exterior.  And he thought that he as a sculptor could show the angels in those blocks of marble.

And how did he do that?  By stressing that the Conservative party stood for the welfare of the nation as a whole, not any sectional interest.  He made the Tories the party for all proud Britons.  He wanted to keep the "Great" in Great Britain.

And Disraeli succeeded.  For decades after that, about a quarter of the working class in both Britain and Australia voted for the Tories rather than the Labour party.

And that drove Leftist sociologists crazy.  They wrote books about it.  Why did workers not vote for THEIR party?  The Leftists had a theory but it was not a very deep explanation.  Their claim was that some workers were "deferential":  They looked up to their "betters" in the middle and upper classes.  And there was something in that.  But WHY were some workers deferential?  Because they were psychologically inadequate was the best answer the Left had for that but there was no attempt to prove it.

So I looked into it.  I was an active survey researcher and an experienced psychometrician at the time so I resolved to do a thorough job of looking into it. After much trial and error, I constructed a reliable and validated questionnaire to index social deference.  I then looked at who these blighted deferential people actually were, using several samples with good prospects for generalizability. I found:

 "that working-class conservatives are not a-typically deferential. Rather it is the working-class Labourites who are a-typically non-deferential.  In other words, both groups of upper-class people [Left and Right] also respect social position and expertise in the people they vote for. It is this effect which also accounts for the overall positive correlation between deference and self-assigned class. We do then have support for Parkin's account of deference as representing a normative cultural value from which working-class Labour voters are especially (but institutionally) insulated.

A slightly surprising finding is the low relationship between deference and authoritarianism. A similar low relationship was observed in the Meadowbank pre-test of the scale -- where the correlation was 0.109. It is quite clear then that deference cannot now be viewed as simply a particular instance of attitude to authority in the political field. It is a quite separate determinant of voting behaviour in its own right. Deferentials defer not because of their attitude to authority but because of their beliefs about the causes and efficacy of social position. They are not browbeaten people."

So there is your answer from psychometrically sophisticated  research findings, not from journalistic opinion or single-question surveys.  Generalizing that finding to Trump voters, we would have to say that his working class supporters were mainstream Americans in their outlook.  It is the workers who voted for Hillary who are isolated and alienated  -- which is roughly the opposite of the answer given below.  As Disraeli foresaw, the Trump-voting workers voted for the welfare of their nation as a whole, not for the many special interests that the Democrats were sponsoring.  They really did want to "Make America Great Again"

Why did all those Economically Anxious Trump voters reject policies that would have helped relieve their economic anxiety?

Maybe they believed any Big Government expansions would disproportionately go to the “wrong” kinds of people — that is, people unlike themselves.

Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss, particularly in traditionally blue strongholds, has led to lots of rumination about what the Democrats must do to reclaim their political territory. Smarter marketing, smoother organization, greater outreach and fresher faces are among the most commonly cited remedies.

But there seems to be universal agreement, at least among the Democratic politicians and strategists I’ve interviewed, that the party’s actual ideas are the right ones.

Democrats, they note, pushed for expansion of health-insurance subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans; investments in education and retraining; middle-class tax cuts; and a higher minimum wage. These are core, standard-of-living improving policies. They would do far more to help the economically precarious — including and especially white working-class voters — than Donald Trump’s top-heavy tax cuts and trade wars ever could.

Here’s the problem. These Democratic policies probably would help the white working class. But the white working class doesn’t seem to buy that they’re the ones who’d really benefit.

Across rural America, the Rust Belt, Coal Country and other hotbeds of Trumpism, voters have repeatedly expressed frustration that the lazy and less deserving are getting a bigger chunk of government cheese.

In Kentucky, consumers receiving federal subsidies through the Obamacare exchanges complain that neighbors who are less responsible are receiving nearly free insurance through Medicaid.

“They can go to the emergency room for a headache,” one woman told Vox’s Sarah Kliff.

In Ohio, white working-class focus group participants decried that women who “pop out babies like Pez dispensers with different baby daddies” get “welfare every month” and “their housing paid for, their food.” These women seem to live large, one participant said, while people like herself are “struggling to put food on the table.”

Participants in this focus group, held by the Institute for Family Studies, were also skeptical of efforts to raise the minimum wage.

Opponents argued either that higher pay wasn’t justified for lower-skilled, less intense work or that raising the minimum wage would unfairly narrow the pay gap between diligent folks such as themselves and people who’d made worse life choices.

“That son of a b---- is making $10 an hour! I’m making $13.13. I feel like s--- because he’s making almost as much as I am, and I have never been in trouble with the law and I have a clean record, I can pass a drug test,” said one participant.

In Wisconsin, rural whites are similarly eager to “stop the flow of resources to people who are undeserving,” says Katherine J. Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.”

The people Cramer interviewed for her book often named a (white) welfare-receiving neighbor or relative as someone who belonged in that basket of undeservings — but also immigrants, minorities and inner-city elites who were allegedly siphoning off more government funds than they contributed.

More broadly, a recent YouGov/Huffington Post survey found that Trump voters are five times more likely to believe that “average Americans” have gotten less than they deserve in recent years than to believe that “blacks” have gotten less than they deserve. (African Americans don’t count as “average Americans,” apparently.)

None of this should be particularly surprising.

We’ve known for a long time, through the work of Martin Gilens, Suzanne Mettler and other social scientists, that Americans (A) generally associate government spending with undeserving, nonworking, nonwhite people; and (B) are really bad at recognizing when they personally benefit from government programs.

Hence those oblivious demands to “keep your government hands off my Medicare,” and the tea partyers who get farm subsidies, and the widespread opposition to expanded transfer payments in word if not in deed.

Rhetoric this election cycle caricaturing our government as “rigged,” and anyone who pays into it as a chump, has only reinforced these misperceptions about who benefits from government programs and how much.

It’s no wonder then that Democrats’ emphasis on downwardly redistributive economic policies has been met with suspicion, even from those who would be on the receiving end of such redistribution. And likewise, it’s no wonder that Trump’s promises — to re-create millions of (technologically displaced) jobs and to punish all those non-self-sufficient moochers — seem much more enticing.

No American likes the idea of getting a “handout” — especially if they believe that handout is secretly being rerouted to their layabout neighbor anyway.


The rich live longer

Life isn't fair. With a difference of up to 14 years between rich and poor.  And it's not as mysterious as they make out. This is just the old trilogy of IQ, wealth and health.  IQ is the key variable. Smart people are better at getting rich and  going far in education. High IQ also appears to be in most cases just one indication of general biological fitness.  The brain is just another organ of the body, after all.  So the fitter live longer

The correlation with immigration and life expectancy among the poor presumably stems from immigrants having social disadvantages (language skills etc.).  They were poorer than their genetics would explain.  Had they been native-born they would have been richer

The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014

Raj Chetty et al.


Importance:  The relationship between income and life expectancy is well established
but remains poorly understood.
Objectives:  To measure the level, time trend, and geographic variability in the association between income and life expectancy and to identify factors related to small area variation.

Design and Setting:  Income data for the US population were obtained from 1.4 billion deidentified tax records between 1999 and 2014. Mortality data were obtained from Social Security Administration death records. These data were used to estimate race- and ethnicity-adjusted life expectancy at 40 years of age by household income percentile, sex, and geographic area, and to evaluate factors associated with differences in life expectancy.

Exposure:  Pretax household earnings as a measure of income.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Relationship between income and life expectancy; trends in life expectancy by income group; geographic variation in life expectancy levels and trends by income group; and factors associated with differences in life expectancy across areas.

Results:  The sample consisted of 1 408 287 218 person-year observations for individuals aged 40 to 76 years (mean age, 53.0 years; median household earnings among working individuals, $61 175 per year). There were 4 114 380 deaths among men (mortality rate, 596.3 per 100 000) and 2 694 808 deaths among women (mortality rate, 375.1 per 100 000). The analysis yielded 4 results.

First, higher income was associated with greater longevity throughout the income distribution. The gap in life expectancy between the richest 1% and poorest 1% of individuals was 14.6 years (95% CI, 14.4 to 14.8 years) for men and 10.1 years (95% CI, 9.9 to 10.3 years) for women.

Second, inequality in life expectancy increased over time. Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5% of the income distribution, but by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5% (P < .001 for the differences for both sexes).

Third, life expectancy for low-income individuals varied substantially across local areas. In the bottom income quartile, life expectancy differed by approximately 4.5 years between areas with the highest and lowest longevity. Changes in life expectancy between 2001 and 2014 ranged from gains of more than 4 years to losses of more than 2 years across areas.

Fourth, geographic differences in life expectancy for individuals in the lowest income quartile were significantly correlated with health behaviors such as smoking (r = −0.69, P < .001), but were not significantly correlated with access to medical care, physical environmental factors, income inequality, or labor market conditions.

Life expectancy for low-income individuals was positively correlated with the local area fraction of immigrants (r = 0.72, P < .001), fraction of college graduates (r = 0.42, P < .001), and government expenditures (r = 0.57, P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance:  In the United States between 2001 and 2014, higher income was associated with greater longevity, and differences in life expectancy across income groups increased over time. However, the association between life expectancy and income varied substantially across areas; differences in longevity across income groups decreased in some areas and increased in others. The differences in life expectancy were correlated with health behaviors and local area characteristics.

JAMA. 2016;315(16):1750-1766. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.4226

The good ol' Green/Left double standard again

Dr. Susan Crockford (email: scrock@uvic.ca) has written a well-informed and approachable book about polar bears.  She has no time for the usual Warmist scare about the bears being "endangered".

The book has only just been released but the Warmists are already on the case.  A review by someone called "Eli" on Amazon reads:

"Caveat emptor: the author's vague self-description as "a professional zoologist who has studied polar bear ecology and evolution for more than 20 years" appears intended to mask the facts that her PhD and professional work are in the field of canine archaeology, and that she has no formal training or expertise in polar bear science. Up to you to decide whether she's the best source of information for you and your kids on polar bear facts and myths."

I would love to know who Eli is.  I want to ask him whether Al Gore's speeches about global warming should be disregarded because Al's qualifications are in divinity and social science

Eat as much steak and sausage as you like

The study below is a little confusing. It was a large one, which allows for small effects, and it found that the amount of red meat you ate has no effect on your lifespan.  There did however seem to be a tiny advantage in replacing some red meat with vegetable protein

Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality

Mingyang Song et al.


Importance:  Defining what represents a macronutritionally balanced diet remains an open question and a high priority in nutrition research. Although the amount of protein may have specific effects, from a broader dietary perspective, the choice of protein sources will inevitably influence other components of diet and may be a critical determinant for the health outcome.

Objective:  To examine the associations of animal and plant protein intake with the risk for mortality.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  This prospective cohort study of US health care professionals included 131 342 participants from the Nurses’ Health Study (1980 to end of follow-up on June 1, 2012) and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 to end of follow-up on January 31, 2012). Animal and plant protein intake was assessed by regularly updated validated food frequency questionnaires. Data were analyzed from June 20, 2014, to January 18, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Hazard ratios (HRs) for all-cause and cause-specific mortality.

Results:  Of the 131 342 participants, 85 013 were women (64.7%) and 46 329 were men (35.3%) (mean [SD] age, 49 [9] years). The median protein intake, as assessed by percentage of energy, was 14% for animal protein (5th-95th percentile, 9%-22%) and 4% for plant protein (5th-95th percentile, 2%-6%). After adjusting for major lifestyle and dietary risk factors, animal protein intake was not associated with all-cause mortality (HR, 1.02 per 10% energy increment; 95% CI, 0.98-1.05; P for trend = .33) but was associated with higher cardiovascular mortality (HR, 1.08 per 10% energy increment; 95% CI, 1.01-1.16; P for trend = .04). Plant protein was associated with lower all-cause mortality (HR, 0.90 per 3% energy increment; 95% CI, 0.86-0.95; P for trend < .001) and cardiovascular mortality (HR, 0.88 per 3% energy increment; 95% CI, 0.80-0.97; P for trend = .007). These associations were confined to participants with at least 1 unhealthy lifestyle factor based on smoking, heavy alcohol intake, overweight or obesity, and physical inactivity, but not evident among those without any of these risk factors. Replacing animal protein of various origins with plant protein was associated with lower mortality. In particular, the HRs for all-cause mortality were 0.66 (95% CI, 0.59-0.75) when 3% of energy from plant protein was substituted for an equivalent amount of protein from processed red meat, 0.88 (95% CI, 0.84-0.92) from unprocessed red meat, and 0.81 (95% CI, 0.75-0.88) from egg.

Conclusions and Relevance:  High animal protein intake was positively associated with cardiovascular mortality and high plant protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, especially among individuals with at least 1 lifestyle risk factor. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.

JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1453-1463. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182

Graham Readfearn is very shouty in his latest climate peroration

Graham lives in Australia and makes part of his living by writing articles in support of global warming.  So he is not an impartial commentator.  He is well-funded for his puerile efforts. But he has clearly run out of ideas.  What he writes below is just a shouting match -- a stream of abuse.  It's  totally "ad hominem", which is the antithesis of science.  

He mentions not a single climate statistic.  No mention, for instance, that after all the El Nino excitement, the global temperature has returned to its 21st century plateau level. I guess that would be too awkward altogether.

All he was able to do in his article below was to summon up a host of boogeymen.  You are just supposed to agree with him without any benefit of facts and rational argument.  He comes across as a would-be ecofascist Dr. Goebbels, a propagandist for hire.  If he ever knew any science, he seems to have long since forgotten it

For well over a decade now, Australia’s climate policy has been battered, torn and held back by climate science denial and a broader antipathy towards environmentalism. The same interests and ideologies that have worked for decades to reach the current crescendo in the US have been doing the same thing here.

Neatly connecting Australia and the US is the One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, who earlier this week met with a who’s who of the climate science denial industry in Washington DC, including Ebell.

Think we’re immune to the Trump denialism? You haven’t been paying attention.

When Malcolm Turnbull lost the Liberal party leadership to Tony Abbott in 2009, it was Turnbull’s then refusal to back away from pricing greenhouse gas emissions that turned the party room against him. From that point onward, pricing carbon became a no-go zone for the Liberal party.

A chief architect of that leadership coup was the then South Australian senator Nick Minchin, who, a month earlier, told ABC’s Four Corners he didn’t accept that humans caused climate change. Rather, Minchin considered the issue a plot by the “extreme left” to “deindustrialise the world”.

After the ABC program aired, the journalist Sarah Ferguson said Turnbull had refused interview requests because he “didn’t want to face the sceptics”.

You might think Turnbull would have learned his lesson. But, from his latest meek surrender to the deniers in his party, it seems not. He still won’t take them on.

Earlier this month, the energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, said a review of Australia’s climate change policy would include a look at an emissions trading scheme for the electricity sector – the biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the Australia.

Within 24 hours, Frydenberg backed down and, soon after, Turnbull said carbon pricing was not party policy and this would not be considered – even though all the expert advice tells him that it would be the cheapest way to cut emissions and would likely deliver billions of dollars in savings on power prices in coming years.

That capitulation was another example of Turnbull giving in to the deniers in the right of the party – in particular, another South Australian senator in the form of Cory Bernardi.

Bernardi, too, refuses to accept the mountains of evidence that burning fossil fuels is causing climate change.

The recently appointed chairman of the Coalition’s backbench environment committee is the Liberal MP Craig Kelly – another climate science denier.

Going further back, Abbott’s position on climate science was heavily influenced by the mining industry figure and geologist Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth – a tome packed with contradictory arguments, dodgy citations and errors too numerous to count (actually, celebrated mathematical physicist Dr Ian Enting did count them and found at least 126).

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Roman Catholic, also took his lead from Plimer’s book.

And who can forget Abbott’s business adviser Maurice Newman and his claims that climate science is fraudulent and acting as cover for the UN to install a one-world government – the exact same position taken by Roberts and other fake freedom fighters.

Another Coalition MP seen as influential is the Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen.

Like Roberts and Bernardi before him, Christensen has attended US conferences of anti-climate science activists hosted by the Heartland Institute (that group has been heavily funded by the family foundation of Robert Mercer, the ultrarich conservative hedge fund manager whose millions helped get Trump elected and whose daughter Rebekah is a pivotal member of Trump’s transition team).

Just like the US, Australia too has its own “free market” conservative groups pushing climate science denial. Look no further than Melbourne’s Institute of Public Affairs (which only last year was called in to “balance” a climate science briefing to Kelly’s committee).

How about the media? Rupert Murdoch’s outlets the Wall Street Journal and Fox News help to push themes that climate scientists are frauds, that action to cut greenhouse gas emissions will wreck the economy and that renewable energy can’t keep the lights on.

The stable of flagship commentators working on Murdoch’s News Corp Australia, led by the likes of Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Chris Kenny and Terry McCrann, are all happy to repeat and embellish those same talking points.

On the radio, the US has popular conservatives such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh pushing climate science denial. In Australia, we have Alan Jones and his stable of shouty Macquarie Radio colleagues.

At this point, some will argue Australia and the rest of the world is investing heavily in renewables. The US, like Australia, is seeing strong growth in the renewable energy sector. That’s all true.

Also true is the progress made through the international agreements made in Paris, even though the climate pledges that make up the deal still fall well short of averting dangerous climate change.

But there’s little doubt that climate science denial is on the march, backed by a conspiracy culture that’s rapidly gaining audiences online.

Trump is climate science denial’s greatest propaganda victory so far. Australia is not immune.


Greenies never give up: "attribution analyses" used to tie global warming to extreme weather

We see below that the latest toy of the Warmists is attribution analysis, a technique originally devised to analyse movements in share prices on the stock exchange.  And we all know how well modelling predicted the big financial crash of 2008, don't we?  They were caught with their algebraical pants down and a lot of smarties got badly burnt.  I construct my share portfolio according to very simple rules and it survived largely unscathed.

And once again it is modelling crap below.  I quote from the journal abstract: " Confidence in results and ability to quickly do an attribution analysis depend on the “three pillars” of event attribution: the quality of the observational record, the ability of models to simulate the event, and our understanding of the physical processes that drive the event and how they are being impacted by climate change. "

So it's just fancy guesswork.   When any of their models show predictive skill will be the time to take their  modelling seriously, but there is no sign of that on the horizon

A new scientific report finds man-made climate change played some role in two dozen extreme weather events last year but not in a few other weird weather instances around the world.

An annual report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found climate change was a factor, however small or large, in 24 of 30 strange weather events.

They include 11 cases of high heat, as well as unusual winter sunshine in the United Kingdom, Alaskan wildfires and odd 'sunny day' flooding in Miami.

The study documented climate change-goosed weather in Alaska, Washington state, the southeastern United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, China, Japan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the western north Pacific cyclone region, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Ethiopia and southern Africa.

'There has to be evidence for it and that's what these papers do,' said NOAA scientist Stephanie Herring, co-editor of the report.

In six cases — including cold snaps in the United States and downpours in Nigeria and India — the scientists could not detect climate change's effects.

Other scientists, though, disputed that finding for the cold snap that hit the Northeast.

Herring highlighted the Miami flooding in September 2015. Because of rising sea levels and sinking land, extremely high tides flooded the streets with 22 inches of water.

'This one is just very remarkable because truly, not a cloud in the sky, and these types of tidal nuisance flooding events are clearly become more frequent,' she said.

The report also found an increase in tropical cyclone activity and strength in the western Pacific can be blamed partly on climate change and partly on El Nino, the now-gone natural weather phenomenon.

But similar storm strengthening hasn't increased noticeably around the United States yet, said study co-editor Martin Hoerling, a NOAA scientist.

The report was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Using accepted scientific techniques, 116 scientists from around the world calculated whether the odds of the extreme weather events were increased by global warming.

They based their calculations on observed data, understanding of the physics of the climate and computer simulations — techniques that the National Academy of Sciences said were valid earlier this year.

Columbia University meteorology professor Adam Sobel, who was on the national academy panel but not part of this report, praised the NOAA study but noted it wasn't comprehensive.

It picked only certain but not all weather extremes to study.

For the February 2015 Northeast cold snap, other scientists have connected the polar vortex pushing south to shrinking ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Judah Cohen, seasonal forecasting chief at Atmospheric Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, said he even predicted the 2015 polar vortex because of the low sea ice.

He said the same thing is happening with the bitter cold hitting the U.S. this week.

NOAA's Hoerling said the research found a connection between the shrinking ice and the polar vortex but didn't see one causing the other.


The latest attempt to "psychologize" conservatives

There could be few more Authoritarian, rigid and closed minded people than believers in Global Warming.  Their usual response to being shown evidence about the non-correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels is, not to discuss the matter, but to appeal to authority. "97% of scientists say ..." is their typical response, with no awareness that they are misquoting.  They base their beliefs entirely on authority, not on the scientific facts.  They talk airily about "The Science" while showing an abject ignorance of any climate science whatsoever.

And Leftists generally are like that.  If a conservative mentions any fact that conflicts with Leftist gospel, the response of the Leftist is either to run away or shower the conservative with abuse  -- sometimes both. We conservative bloggers encounter it all the time.

So it is amusing that Leftist psychologists have been beavering away for over 60 years in an attempt to prove that it is CONSERVATIVES who are rigid, closed-minded and authoritarian.

But to get any result in line with their desires, they have to use very sloppy research methods, most particularly opinion inventories that lack predictive validity.  If they think that some opinion expression indicates conservatism, rigidity etc they conclude that it does without further ado.  I spent 20 years pointing out the flaws in their research methods but that seems to have had no influence whatsoever.  They liked their conclusions too much to examine the evidence closely.  I have given many examples of such pseudo "research" over the years but let me mention just a couple here.

A widely used measure of mental rigidity was the Budner scale of Intolerance of Ambiguity.  It contains both tolerant and intolerant opinion expressions.  And the two sorts of expressions are combined to produce a measure of overall rigidity.  So the two sorts of item should show a strong negative correlation between them. People who agree with the "tolerant" statements should disagree with the "intolerant" statements.  But they do not.  The two types of item are uncorrelated.  They clearly measure two unrelated things.  So which type of item measures "intolerance of ambiguity"?  Who knows?  Probably neither. But I have yet to read of any user of the Budner scale being bothered by its self contradictory nature.  They accept garbage as information.

And the means they use to assess conservatism are equally hilarious.  A very popular measuring instrument is the Altemeyer Right Wing Authoritarianism attitude inventory.  Yet its  author admitted that it gave very little prediction of vote at election time.  Roughly half of the alleged right wingers as detected by the inventory actually voted for Leftist parties.  A very strange measure of anything Right-wing!  To cap it off there was one group found who regularly did score highly on it:  Russian Communists.  But if they are Right-wing who is Left-wing?

But the "research" concerned goes on, scatterbrained definitions and all.  One of the most ardent workers in the vineyard is the  Belgian Psychologist Alain Van Hiel.  He still seems to think there is something in the research concerned.  I tried to disabuse him of that idea a few years back, but, as usual, I was pissing into the wind.  His latest paper is: "The Relationship Between Right-wing Attitudes and Cognitive Style: A Comparison of Self-report and Behavioural Measures of Rigidity and Intolerance of Ambiguity" -- appearing in the 2016 European Journal of Personality.

And Van Hiel has gone from bad to worse as far as conceptual confusion is concerned.  In his latest paper, he accepts just about anything as an index of conservatism, from the afore-mentioned "Right Wing Authoritarianism" inventory to the Rokeach Dogmatism scale, which was specifically constructed NOT to correlate with Left/Right orientation. So the numbers he gets out of his research are meaningless.  One wonders why he bothers. He must have a great need to project Leftist failings onto conservatives

The Premier of Queensland is a liar

In 1911, a conservative Queensland government appointed Eleanor Bourne to head up a new school nursing service -- spurred by concerns over a huge incidence of trachoma in the children of Western Queensland. 

Both vision and hearing were to be tested initially and other testing was soon added.  The service had a mandate to test every schoolchild in the State at least once.  As a result, many problems were detected early and referred to doctors.

The service was particularly important to  Aboriginals (native blacks)  as both hearing loss and eye problems are something of an epidemic among Aboriginal children -- and the parents are usually far too timid to do anything about it. Many blacks can see and hear today because of interventions the school nurses spurred in their childhoods.

So what did the Anna Bligh Labor government of Queensland do in 2011?  Abolished the service in its centennial year -- on "funding" grounds. There was next to no outcry as Leftist governments are always right, according to the media.

But it was a vicious and heartless decision so the new Labor Party leader Anna Palaszczuk promised in her 2015 election campaign to restore the service -- including vision and hearing tests plus offering nutrition advice.   But cynicism about a politician's promises is always justified so we read that late this year the service was revived -- but testing for vision problems only.

In between the Bligh and Palaszczuk Leftist governments there was however the conservative government of Campbell Newman.

So when the revival of the school nursing service was being discussed, who did the media blame for its abolition?  Campbell Newman, of course! Bligh was in power until 2012 so there is no ambiguity that Newman was completely innocent of the charge.

But believing anything you read in the newspaper is rightly regarded with cynicism.  More interesting is what Palasczuk herself said about the matter.  In January 2015, only four years after the abolition of the service, she blamed Newman.  I quote: "Ms Palaszczuk promised to spend $12 million over four years on restoring a school nurses program she says was cut back by the Newman Government"

So she is a barefaced liar.  With the abolition of the service being so recent, a claim of memory failure could hardly fly.

And such lies are Leftist form.  Leftists very rarely take responsibility for their stuff-ups.  All follies are blamed on the other side and the other side's triumphs are claimed by them.  

Note how the abolition of the White Australia Policy is routinely attributed to Leftist eminence Gough Whitlam when it was in fact abolished in 1966 by the conservative Federal government of  Harold Holt. 

And in the eulogies accompanying the death of Whitlam, I saw nobody admit that  Whitlam's eulogized free university policy was abolished not by the conservatives but by Bob Hawke, a Labor party Prime Minister.  But from all the talk at the time, you would have thought that it was the conservatives who had abolished it.  And so on ... 

"Healthy eating" censorship

Like most government edicts, this one is a crock.  Nobody in fact knows what healthy eating is.  Up until a couple of years ago sugar was fine and fat was bad.  Now that has gone into reverse. It's all just poorly founded speculation, not knowledge.  If much the same evidence can lead to totally opposite conclusions, how can we have any trust in the conclusions?

And this episode below is in fact a function of the old advice to avoid fat.  If they were up to date with the current wisdom, they would have concluded that the food concerned was GOOD for your health.

IT’S a seemingly innocent advert featuring two young kids and treasure chest. The 15-second YouTube advert shows two children on a beach who discover a treasure chest with the ice-cream inside.

But the Paddle Pop Twirly Pop advert has been banned by the Advertising Standards Bureau after a complaint that it promotes unhealthy eating and obesity in children.

The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) said the ad breached the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI). The initiative aims to reduce advertising to youngsters for food and drinks that are not healthier choices.

It not only applies to television but also to radio, print, cinema and internet sites as well.

In the OPC’s submission, reported by Fairfax, it stated: “In our submission the advertisement breaches … the RCMI, because it is a communication directed primarily to children, Paddle Pop Twirly Pops do not represent a healthier dietary choice … and it does not promote healthy dietary habits or physical activity.

“We do not think that the message is sufficient to promote good dietary habits or physical activity. In our view, child viewers of the advertisement are unlikely to pay significant attention to the message and are likely to be focused on the visual and audio content.”

The ABS agreed that the ad was aimed at children under 12 and had minimal nutritional benefits and upheld the November complaint.

In its initial response to the complaint, ice-cream manufacturer Unilever said the ad carried a message “True heroes balance energy intake and activity; enjoy Paddle Pop as a treat within a balanced diet” for eight seconds of the video.

A spokeswoman for Unilever told news.com.au that it was committed to responsible marketing and advertising.  “As part of our ongoing commitment to the RCMI and the review process under the ASB we accept the decision of the independent arbiter and will ensure that appropriate steps are taken to comply with the decision,” she said.

“The TVC will not be rebroadcast and we are in the process of removing it from YouTube.”


Meteorologist tries to debunk Breitbart

The point she made is an old one and already well answered.  The fall in temperature was NOT found only in the satellite record.  There were similar falls in other measures.  See here. And the land-based record is important precisely because it shows changes first, before the ocean does.  There is more thermal inertia in the oceans but the ocean surface moves in the same direction as the land surface.  So the land record is predictive of overall cooling, which was the point.  The lady is just a pretty face

AN ATMOSPHERIC scientist has delivered a scathing response to alt-right website Breitbart for trying to use a video “with my face on it” to back its misleading views on climate change.

Kait Parker, from the US cable show The Weather Channel, recorded a video debunking Breitbart’s claims saying: “Here’s the thing — science doesn’t care about your opinion”.

“Cherry picking and twisting the facts will not change the future, nor the fact ... that the Earth is warming,” Ms Parker says in the video published on Tuesday.

Ms Parker’s response was prompted by a Breitbart article that suggested global warming was nothing but a scare and that global temperatures were actually falling.

“Problem is they used a completely unrelated video of la nina with my face in it to attempt to back their point,” she said.

“What’s worse is that the US committee on space, science and technology actually tweeted it out.”

The climatologist then proceeded to completely dismantle Breitbart’s article, debunking the conclusions it makes.

She said one claim that global land temperatures had plummeted by one degree since the beginning of this year was based on one satellite estimate, and when land temperatures were combined with sea surface temperatures, you actually get a record high temperature.

“Land temperatures aren’t an appropriate measure, the Earth is 70 per cent water and water is where we store most of our heat energy,” she said.


Why the howls over Clinton's defeat?

We all know the vast contrast between the Republican reaction to Obamas's election and the Leftist reaction to Trump's election.  Republicans reacted with quiet trepidation to the era of Obama while the Left reacted to Trump with nationwide howls of rage and florid symptoms of psychological distress. Why the difference?

Could it be that they regretted losing the hold over the rest of us that the labyrinthine array of rules and regulations fastened on us in the Obama era gave them? Do they regret a loss of power? No doubt they did regret that but the individual Leftist exercises little or none of that power so the election result does not personally threaten anything of that kind. And the election result did clearly generate a feeling of personal loss

At one level the answer to the question is clear.  Leftist politics are emotion with just a slight overlay of rationality while in conservative politics rationality is dominant.  Conservatives are interested in what works for the general betterment while Leftists think they can create a new Eden by passing laws.  You have to be pretty simple-minded or deranged to think that.

And that brings us to what I think is the answer to the recent Leftist meltdown.  Leftists believe so many improbable things that it takes constant psychological work to keep those beliefs alive.  Beliefs such as:  All men are equal; all men are brothers;  there are no important differences between men and women; blacks are just like us only browner; The United Nations is the big hope for the future; you can force people to be good; Money grows on trees; it is justice to take money off someone who has earned it and give it to someone who has not earned it; the planet needs saving etc., etc.  That summary puts their beliefs in an unvarnished way but their beliefs do boil down to that.

So having a burden of beliefs so at variance with reality cannot be easy.  Reality is constantly undermining your beliefs.  So you need all the help you can get to prop up your beliefs. And the BIG help you can get is social support:  Having other people share those beliefs.  And you can usually achieve that by being fussy about your company. Hang out with other Leftists only.  And if you accidentally run into a conservative who wants to remind you of reality, you either shut him up or run away.

But Presidential elections can undermine those defences.  It is such a high profile event and so engrossing for both sides that you have to notice the outcome.  You may have to face the fact that not everyone agrees with you.  When huge emotional energy is put in to getting a result that will confirm the dominance of your beliefs, an adverse result shatters a major support for those beliefs.  The real world glares in at you. Try as you might, you cannot escape it. You have at last to face the possibility that you may be wrong in your passionately held beliefs.

Conservatives by contrast have a strong grip on reality and feel no need to hide from it so are not shaken to the core by obviously foolish beliefs in others. Conservatives KNEW that Mr Obama could not stop the seas rising and heal the earth -- and his election did nothing to undermine that knowledge. What caused ecstasy among the Left was simply seen as risibly silly by conservatives.

So the loss by Hillary cracked a lot of walls.  It shouted at Leftists that their view of reality might be wrong and that those "Fascists" of the Republican party could be right.

But it was worse that that. Striking at their view of reality was bad enough but it also threatened their self-worth.  Leftist beliefs are not random.  They are carefully designed to convince the Leftist that he is good and kind and wise. So if you take his beliefs away from him you undermine his whole opinion of himself.  He has to confront the possibility that he might be no better than those "Fascist" Republicans.  And that is simply intolerable.  It could mean that his entire life has taken a wrong direction.  No wonder the Left were upset  and enraged.

So the defeat of Clinton undermined desperately needed social support for their crazy beliefs. They still believe that only fools and evil people disagree with them but that belief has just  taken a battering.  They badly needed the government to tell them that they are right but now that has been snatched away from them -- JR.

Women’s Mental Health and Well-being 5 Years After Receiving or Being Denied an Abortion: A Prospective, Longitudinal Cohort Study

This study has been widely reported in the press.  But because the conclusions of it suit Leftists, I immediately went to the underlying journal article -- Abstract below.  After many years of reading academic articles with conclusions that suit the Left, I was immediately 90% certain the underlying article would be a heap of bullshit.  It is.  Leftists are so out of touch with reality, that reality rarely suits them.  So they have to spin like tops to claim support for their ideas.

This article purports to test the well-known intuitive claim that having an abortion damages a woman psychologically.  But it does not test that claim at all. Why?  Because it is a survey that includes only women who have sought an abortion.  It has no control group such as a matched sample of non-pregnant women or women who have never sought an abortion but who have instead bravely decided from early on to continue with an unplanned pregnancy.  And without a proper control group it tells you nothing.  You have no basis for comparisons

M. Antonia Biggs et al.


Importance:  The idea that abortion leads to adverse psychological outcomes has been the basis for legislation mandating counseling before obtaining an abortion and other policies to restrict access to abortion.

Objective:  To assess women’s psychological well-being 5 years after receiving or being denied an abortion.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  This study presents data from the Turnaway Study, a prospective longitudinal study with a quasi-experimental design. Women were recruited from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2010, from 30 abortion facilities in 21 states throughout the United States, interviewed via telephone 1 week after seeking an abortion, and then interviewed semiannually for 5 years, totaling 11 interview waves. Interviews were completed January 31, 2016. We examined the psychological trajectories of women who received abortions just under the facility’s gestational limit (near-limit group) and compared them with women who sought but were denied an abortion because they were just beyond the facility gestational limit (turnaway group, which includes the turnaway-birth and turnaway-no-birth groups). We used mixed effects linear and logistic regression analyses to assess whether psychological trajectories differed by study group.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  We included 6 measures of mental health and well-being: 2 measures of depression and 2 measures of anxiety assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory, as well as self-esteem, and life satisfaction.

Results:  Of the 956 women (mean [SD] age, 24.9 [5.8] years) in the study, at 1 week after seeking an abortion, compared with the near-limit group, women denied an abortion reported more anxiety symptoms (turnaway-births, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.01 to 1.13; turnaway-no-births, 2.29; 95% CI, 1.39 to 3.18), lower self-esteem (turnaway-births, –0.33; 95% CI, –0.56 to –0.09; turnaway-no-births, –0.40; 95% CI, –0.78 to –0.02), lower life satisfaction (turnaway-births, –0.16; 95% CI, –0.38 to 0.06; turnaway-no-births, –0.41; 95% CI, –0.77 to –0.06), and similar levels of depression (turnaway-births, 0.13; 95% CI, –0.46 to 0.72; turnaway-no-births, 0.44; 95% CI, –0.50 to 1.39).

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this study, compared with having an abortion, being denied an abortion may be associated with greater risk of initially experiencing adverse psychological outcomes. Psychological well-being improved over time so that both groups of women eventually converged. These findings do not support policies that restrict women’s access to abortion on the basis that abortion harms women’s mental health.

JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.3478

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world (?)

Michael J.I. Brown, an Australian astronomer with a big chin, has an amusing article below.  As is usual with the Green/Left, it's only when you know what he does NOT say that you can see the hollowness of his argument. He creates a false dichotomy where the only alternatives for exploring knowledge are academic journal articles and public debate between non-scientists.

So what does that leave out: Perhaps the most important thing is the unreliability of what is reported in the academic journals. This is the subject of an agonized debate among academics at the moment after as many as two thirds of journal reports were found to be unreplicable. And one of the factors in that debate is an admission that scientists sometimes deliberately fake their results to make them interesting enough for publication. Clearly, anyone who relies on academic journal articles as a sole source of truth is leaning on a broken reed.

The second thing Prof. Brown leaves out is that not all public debates are ill-informed.  You can have fruitful public debates about a topic between people well versed in the available evidence.  That occurs routinely at academic conferences.  Such debates can be very beneficial in ensuring that all parties have a balanced view of their field. But there have been few debates of that kind over climate.  Knowledgeable skeptical scientists and scholars have repeatedly challenged Warmist believers to such debates but the Warmists run away.  They know that people like the formidably well-informed Lord Monckton will make mincemeat of them.  So if astronomer Brown is mourning the absence of such debates, he can look to his Warmist colleagues for the lack of them, not skeptics.

Monckton has even produced his own climate model, one that has better predictive skill than the pathetic GCMs used by Warmists.  Warmists have of course "replied" to Monckton's paper  but the fact that the reply is laden with ad hominems tells you how good their science is.  Even I could comprehensively debunk their reply if I had to, but some of the things I would say are here.  There is a better discussion of the paper here, including a rejoinder by Monckton.  Whatever you conclude about Monckton's model you have to see that he is in the great British tradition of the independent scholar, a category of enquiry not acknowledged by Prof. Brown.

And given that there is no monopoly of knowledge anywhere, why cannot discussion of publicly available data be fruitful?  Prof. Brown is very hostile to the way in which journalist David Rose pointed out that publicly available climate data showed a drastic recent fall in global temperature.  This threat to their beliefs energized lots of Warmists and much scorn was heaped on Roses's  article.  The findings were said to be unrepresentative.  But they were not.  Various authors have now pointed out other lines of evidence that lead to the same conclusion.

Prof. Brown below regurgitates the early criticisms of the Rose finding as if it had not been refuted. He fails in an academic's basic duty to keep up with the relevant literature on his topic.  And the relevant literature is no longer all in the academic journals.  Bodies such as NOAA and NASA regularly report climate data publicly and that data is available to anybody who wants to point out features in it.

And you don't need to look hard to see how contrary to Warmist claims some of it is.  I am only a humble social scientist but for most of this year I have been pointing out that CO2 levels observed at Cape Grim and Mauna Loa  plateaued for the entire recent warming period -- showing that the warming was due to El Nino, not CO2.  That finding has now found its way into the academic journals but  you read it here first.

It now needs to be taken into account by Warmists.  But they will ignore it as they usually do with inconvenient climate facts.  The warming concerned was a huge subject of fake news from Warmists, who almost totally ignored El Nino and preached climate Armageddon.  Prof. Brown seems to be much against fake news so how curious it is that he has ignored that bit of very fake and obviously fake news.

Brown's entire rant below is the very cherry-picking he deplores. It is a highly selective coverage of the relevant facts that ignores facts that do not suit him. It is an extended outpouring of abuse with only the most glancing scientific references and a total lack of epistemological sophistication. It is a polemic, a Gish gallop in fact. It is not nearly a scientific treatise. It is Brown who has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world

As a scientist, I expect the Trump presidency to have a curious familiarity.

Why? Because the relentless stream of falsehoods and character attacks of Trump’s campaign mainstreamed disinformation tactics that biologists, immunologists and climate scientists have come to know and despise.

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its accompanying conspiracy theories. He’s tweeted that climate change is a hoax and vaccines cause autism.

Trump has met with Andrew Wakefield, whose fraudulent 1998 study kickstarted the modern anti-vaccine movement. And he has just appointed a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

These pseudoscience communities are nothing new, and they haven’t even bothered to rebadge themselves as "alt-science" (yet).

It’s critical that the broader community learns from the grim experience of scientists when dealing with these attacks. Often scientists failed to appreciate that many public arguments about science are actually political battles, rather than evidence-based discussions. Raw political battle isn’t about seeking truth and reasoned argument. It’s about winning news cycles and elections.

Scientific argument is often methodical, technical and slow. Perhaps this is exemplified by the biggest scientific announcement of 2016, the detection of gravitational waves, which were predicted by Einstein a century ago.

I’m engaged in a scientific argument right now about how rapidly galaxies form stars. My key points are in a 10,000-word manuscript detailing the data, methods, comparison with prior studies, and conclusions. An anonymous astronomer is reviewing that manuscript, and I expect my article to be published in 2017.

So if commentators or politicians demand "an honest debate" about science, what are they doing?

First, don’t ignore the adjective "honest", with its veiled implication of dishonesty. It can be the starting point for conspiracy theories, with scientists and organisations around the globe manipulating science for no good.

What kind of debate is being sought? Are both sides going to face off by undertaking years of research and submitting 10,000-word manuscripts to scientific journals? Not likely.

Often a very literal debate is being sought, either on television, radio or stage. We find such debates, with their rhetorical flourishes, provocative and entertaining but they rarely advance science.

When Albert Einstein and Phillip Lenard debated relativity in 1920, Einstein wasn’t the clear winner. Perhaps the audience and newspapers that dutifully reported the debate didn’t appreciate that Lenard’s arguments about fictitious gravitational fields were wrong.

Demands for debate – such as the recent call for one by Australian One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts – are often seeking formats where even Einstein couldn’t win an argument about relativity.

They provide theatre and column inches. And critically, they provide equal billing for scientists and those who’ve never truly engaged in science. They embrace false equivalence.

Who am I?

I’m a scientist, but on Twitter people have some strange ideas about who I am. I’ve been accused of being a "warmist" and "alarmist" who is on the "gravy train" with a "bed wetting agenda". (For the record, I prefer people not to wet their beds.)

I’ve encountered these accusations when discussing evidence, and they’re a means of derailing discussion. "Warmist" and "alarmist" are attempts to frame scientific findings as extreme political positions. Creationists can play this game too, preferring "evolutionism" to "evolutionary biology". This tactic falsely reframes the argument as a debate between competing and equivalent ideological positions.

It doesn’t matter if the accusations have no factual basis, embrace conspiracy theories or are insincere. That’s not the point. I’ve been accused of using neo-fascist techniques and neo-Marxist attacks on the same day. Donald Trump has never provided evidence that climate change is a "hoax", with its accompanying global conspiracy of scientists.

This isn’t reasoned argument; it’s disrupting discussion of evidence. It’s about what needs to be true to reject scientists, not what is actually true about scientists.

Scientists slowly accumulate evidence to test their hypotheses, but in political fights evidence only needs to survive the news cycle. Robust methodology, statistics and hypothesis testing be damned.

I was reminded of this recently when the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology tweeted a link to a Breitbart article claiming that global temperatures are falling:

Breitbart wasn’t reporting the findings of a new peer-reviewed study with new data and a compelling analysis, but rather was quoting the Daily Mail’s David Rose.

While the accumulation of data, from satellites and weather stations, shows the globe warming over decades, Rose had a different focus. He highlighted a few months of data, from a deprecated dataset, that excluded polar regions and the oceans, to suggest the "run of record temperatures are at an end". This is misinformation, as there’s no evidence to show an end to long-term global warming.

Of course scientists picked apart Rose’s article, but by then the news cycle had moved on.

Such articles are a feature, not a bug, in the politicised climate debate. In 2008, Bjorn Lomborg in The Guardian noted "a slight drop" in sea levels, and concluded that we "urgently need balance." In 2012, the Australian’s Graham Lloyd reported on sea level falls that supposedly "defied climate warnings." Of course, those were blips in the long-term trend of sea level rise, but those articles did effectively spread doubt about climate science.

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its tactics, and will be bringing it to the White House. I expect the accusations and misinformation of Trump’s campaign to continue, and like many scientists I will find it all too familiar. To argue with today’s politically expedient statements as if they’re evidence-based and carefully reasoned arguments embraces a false equivalence of fact and fiction. It is a time for true scepticism.