-- R.G. Menzies
LIBERTARIAN/CONSERVATIVE DIGEST AND COMMENTARY FROM AN ACADEMIC PSYCHOLOGIST in Brisbane, Australia. My academic publications are widely read
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Facebook BANS white nationalism and white separatism from its platform and Instagram as it attempts to bring down the hammer on extremist content
It is disturbing that criticism of immigration will be included in the ban. A great deal of perfectly reasonable discourse could fall under that
And what about "Make America great". That would see to fall squarely within the range of banned expressions
Will posts expressing Muslim supremacy be banned too? Claims that Islam will and should rule everywhere are very common in Muslim discourse.
And does the ban apply to Hindu nationalism? "Hindutva" is the creed of India's current governing party. Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of India’s most populous state, has claimed that Hindus are “preparing for religious war” and has called Muslims “a crop of two-legged animals that has to be stopped.” There are actual anti-Muslim riots in India. Many Indians would take great offence at censorship of "Hindutva" expressions
Facebook has banned white nationalism and white separatist posts from its platform, in what likely constitutes its most aggressive action against extremist content yet.
The policy will be put in place starting next week and will affect all of Facebook's nearly 2 billion-wide user base, in addition to Instagram, the firm announced.
'It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services,' Facebook wrote in a blog post.
The social media giant has removed posts from extremist groups in the past for violating its policies around hate speech and abuse, but has historically fallen short of outright banning posts of this kind.
Previously, Facebook only banned posts promoting white supremacism. The firm decided today that it will now ban white nationalist and white separatist posts from its platform.
Civil rights groups argued that the three extremist ideologies were indistinguishable and should all be banned.
Posts that include statements like 'I am a proud white nationalist' and 'Immigration is tearing this country apart' will immediately be banned.
Prior to Wednesday's decision, Facebook had only prevented users from sharing messages that promoted white supremacy.
'Going forward, while people will still be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, we will not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and separatism.'
Highlighting the thorniness of policing extremist content, Facebook said implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism will not be removed from the site immediately, as it's harder to detect and remove.
Facebook said it will also rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence to remove white nationalist, separatist and supremacist content.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council called the decision a 'win against white supremacy' and said it has met with the firm, including Sandberg, to urge them to take a harder stance against all forms of hate speech on Facebook.
Air pollution can send you mad! Linked to psychotic episodes in teens
Groan! Why does JAMA keep publishing these crap studies? Weak effects, dodgy statistics and failure to control for the most likely confounder. That summary of their work will probably grieve the authors but the fact remains that their study proves nothing. I suppose both the authors and the editors feel that their study is within convention but I am not interested in convention. I am interested in reliable evidence
So: they analysed their data using quartiles. That might sound very technical so let me spell it out: They threw away much of the information they had before they even started to analyse it! How does that sound? Unfortunately use of quartiles is quite a common procedure in medical research. Authors resort to it because using all the data would show no effect.
In this case they found the effect they expected only in the top quartile. It did not exist in the data as a whole. Expressing the relationship between illness and pollution as a Pearsonian correlation coefficient would almost certainly make that brutally clear. In their conclusions the authors did describe their findings accurately but the casual reader would almost certainly conclude that there was a overall correlation between psychiatric illness and air pollution. There was not.
And if there were, we would not know how to interpret it. Why? Because there was no control for income. Probably the most consistent finding in the whole of the epidemiological literature is that the poor have worse health. So you must control for income or your findings could be due to the target group on balance having worse health. Otherwise the lesser health you have found in that group could be simply a poverty effect. And there are reasons to think that was so in this case. The "teenagers living in areas of high pollution" could be living there because they were poorer. Well off people can usually avoid "living in areas of high pollution"
And given the weak effects reported, it's not only possible but probable that income was the sole influence at work in the data. Control for income would have knocked the effects down to negligibility
I know why they did not control for income: It is a more difficult datum to collect. But I usually controlled for it in my survey research career so it can be done if you want your findings to be taken seriously.
Sigh! Why do I so often have to spend an hour pointing all that stuff out? It's just Greenie cussedness. If they think a thing is so, they will twist the statistics to fit
Journal abstract appended
The first research ever to investigate the link between psychotic experiences and poor air quality found teenagers living in areas of high pollution suffered more than those in cleaner environments.
The researchers, from King's College London, used data from 2,232 children born in England and Wales.
They found that, overall, approximately a third of adolescents reported hearing or seeing something that wasn’t there, or feeling paranoid on at least one occasion between the ages of 12 and 18.
Such episodes, while not necessarily serious in themselves, can be a gateway to graver mental conditions such as schizophrenia.
The mental health data was compared against with hourly estimates of air pollution at their home addresses and two other locations where they spent a lot of time at the age of 17 such as a school.
"This study found that psychotic experiences were significantly more common among teens exposed to higher levels of air pollution," lead author Dr Joanne Newbury said.
"For example, teenagers exposed to the highest levels of nitrogen oxides had a 72 per cent greater odds for psychotic experiences compared to those with lower exposure.”
Adolescents exposed to the highest level of nitrogen dioxide had 71 per cent greater odds of having a psychotic experience, the study also found.
Meanwhile, those exposed to the highest levels of particulate matter, which can include carbon, liquids, metals and dust, had 45 per cent greater odds.
Previous research has shown a link between urban living and adolescent psychotic experiences, but the researchers said this is the first evidence of an association with air pollution levels.
Other studies have recently shown an association between dementia and air pollution levels, as well as strokes.
Some theories suggest that small particles from air pollution can enter the brain and cause inflammation or cause chemicals to enter the body, the researchers said.
The King's researchers said noise pollution may also play a role.
The paper is published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Association of Air Pollution Exposure With Psychotic Experiences During Adolescence
Joanne B. Newbury et al.
Importance: Urbanicity is a well-established risk factor for clinical (eg, schizophrenia) and subclinical (eg, hearing voices and paranoia) expressions of psychosis. To our knowledge, no studies have examined the association of air pollution with adolescent psychotic experiences, despite air pollution being a major environmental problem in cities.
Objectives: To examine the association between exposure to air pollution and adolescent psychotic experiences and test whether exposure mediates the association between urban residency and adolescent psychotic experiences.
Design, Setting, and Participants: The Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study is a population-based cohort study of 2232 children born during the period from January 1, 1994, through December 4, 1995, in England and Wales and followed up from birth through 18 years of age. The cohort represents the geographic and socioeconomic composition of UK households. Of the original cohort, 2066 (92.6%) participated in assessments at 18 years of age, of whom 2063 (99.9%) provided data on psychotic experiences. Generation of the pollution data was completed on October 4, 2017, and data were analyzed from May 4 to November 21, 2018.
Exposures: High-resolution annualized estimates of exposure to 4 air pollutants—nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter with aerodynamic diameters of less than 2.5 (PM2.5) and less than 10 μm (PM10)—were modeled for 2012 and linked to the home addresses of the sample plus 2 commonly visited locations when the participants were 18 years old.
Main Outcomes and Measures: At 18 years of age, participants were privately interviewed regarding adolescent psychotic experiences. Urbanicity was estimated using 2011 census data.
Results: Among the 2063 participants who provided data on psychotic experiences, sex was evenly distributed (52.5% female). Six hundred twenty-three participants (30.2%) had at least 1 psychotic experience from 12 to 18 years of age. Psychotic experiences were significantly more common among adolescents with the highest (top quartile) level of annual exposure to NO2 (odds ratio [OR], 1.71; 95% CI, 1.28-2.28), NOx (OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.30-2.29), and PM2.5 (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.11-1.90). Together NO2 and NOx statistically explained 60% of the association between urbanicity and adolescent psychotic experiences. No evidence of confounding by family socioeconomic status, family psychiatric history, maternal psychosis, childhood psychotic symptoms, adolescent smoking and substance dependence, or neighborhood socioeconomic status, crime, and social conditions occurred.
Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, air pollution exposure—particularly NO2 and NOx—was associated with increased odds of adolescent psychotic experiences, which partly explained the association between urban residency and adolescent psychotic experiences. Biological (eg, neuroinflammation) and psychosocial (eg, stress) mechanisms are plausible.
JAMA Psychiatry. Published online March 27, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0056
Wealth is less to do with hard work or luck and more to do with your genes, DNA study shows
The findings below were well-known from twin studies but our knowledge of genetics has now advanced to the stage where we can look for the actual genes which underlie those findings. And we are now begining to see them. We can see that the genes that lead to high intelligence also lead to higher income etc. In their usual blind way, Leftists usually dispute that IQ tests really measure anything. But when you are seeing the associations in actual human genes, there is much less room for dispute. The full, very detailed paper underlying the report below is here
It should be noted that the same studies which show a strong IQ influence on income also show negligible effects from family environment and other environmental variables. Your genes really are your destiny and there's not much you can do about it. That finding will put a lot of noses out of joint on both the Right and the Left but that is what the data shows
Wealth and success may be less to do with hard work or luck and more to do with DNA, it seems. An analysis of 286,000 Britons showed that the genetic make-up of those who earned over £100,000 differed from those on low incomes.
A scan pointed to 24 ‘golden genes’ that affect intelligence, the immune system, and the strength of muscles and heart – and so can make the difference between economic success and poverty.
The discovery follows work at the Centre For Cognitive Ageing in Edinburgh.
Three-quarters of the genes are linked to intelligence, the scientists found. But physical attributes also affect the chances of being wealthy and some of these may be inherited.
‘Genetic variants associated with higher income correlate with a genetic predisposition for greater intelligence, a longer lifespan, better physical and mental health, fewer feelings of tiredness, having fewer children and better living conditions,’ the researchers say in a paper which is yet to be published.
Proof that girls and boys are born to be different: Study finds that brain differences between the sexes begin in the womb
Feminists undergo all sorts of gyrations to dispute findings such as this but the fact remains that differences between the neural networks in male and female brains are detectable BEFORE BIRTH (using MRI).
I interpret the finding "the association between GA and increased intracerebellar FC was stronger in males" as a preparation for males to be more active and athletic, which is unsurprising
Journal abstract appended. Note that Moriah Thomason is a female
In a scientific first, researchers claim to have found that differences between men’s and women’s brains start in the womb.
The conclusion is likely to be controversial, with some experts claiming social influences are more important.
But scientists who did brain scans of 118 foetuses in the second half of pregnancy to analyse the links between gender and the connectivity of a developing brain believe the differences are biological.
Professor Moriah Thomason, from New York University Langone, said one of the main differences was in connectivity across distant areas of the brain.
According to the US study, published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, female brains growing in the uterus produced ‘long-range’ networks.
Professor Thomason said this was less true of boys, who were ‘more susceptible to environmental influences’.
Sex differences in functional connectivity during fetal brain development
M.D.Wheelock et al.
Sex-related differences in brain and behavior are apparent across the life course, but the exact set of processes that guide their emergence in utero remains a topic of vigorous scientific inquiry. Here, we evaluate sex and gestational age (GA)-related change in functional connectivity (FC) within and between brain wide networks. Using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging we examined FC in 118 human fetuses between 25.9 and 39.6 weeks GA (70 male; 48 female). Infomap was applied to the functional connectome to identify discrete prenatal brain networks in utero. A consensus procedure produced an optimal model comprised of 16 distinct fetal neural networks distributed throughout the cortex and subcortical regions. We used enrichment analysis to assess network-level clustering of strong FC-GA correlations separately in each sex group, and to identify network pairs exhibiting distinct patterns of GA-related change in FC between males and females. We discovered both within and between network FC-GA associations that varied with sex. Specifically, associations between GA and posterior cingulate-temporal pole and fronto-cerebellar FC were observed in females only, whereas the association between GA and increased intracerebellar FC was stronger in males. These observations confirm that sexual dimorphism in functional brain systems emerges during human gestation.
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Volume 36, April 2019, 100632
The stupid Leftist dream of "affordable housing"
The dream is not stupid but the means Leftists use to address it invariably are. Read the article below and I will add some comments at the foot of it
Cambridge has emerged as ground zero in the struggle to create more affordable housing amid Greater Boston’s sizzling real estate market.
Sure, other communities — Newton and Arlington among them — are debating controversial zoning changes that could spur taller, bigger buildings. And in Boston, city councilors are weighing a new tax for high-end properties that would funnel money to affordable-housing construction.
But a step that the Cambridge City Council could take might be considered even more radical.
City officials are essentially deciding whether to establish an entirely new citywide zoning code, but one that just applies to 100-percent affordable residential projects.
Developers of these affordable units would be able to build taller and denser projects than what would normally be allowed in a particular neighborhood. Apartment buildings could go up in places currently limited to just one- or two-family homes.
The proposal drew passionate pleas from both sides during a City Council committee hearing on Wednesday. To many people, this zoning change is a long-needed concept that should be replicated in other Greater Boston cities to keep up with the intense demand for housing. To others, it’s the kind of well-intentioned urban planning that could wreck a neighborhood.
The truth is, Cambridge already does more than most communities. About 15 percent of the city’s housing stock is considered affordable, compared to a statewide average of nearly 10 percent.
But affordable-housing developers, many of them nonprofits, say this dramatic zoning change could be essential to compete in a city where 1,100-square-foot condos can hit the market for nearly $1 million.
Who the heck do these Leftist clowns think is going to build in these rezoned areas? Building any new building runs big financial risks so the final project has to be very profitable before any builder is prepared to leap in. And how is it going to be profitable if the owner can charge only "affordable" rents. I predict that one of two things will happen:
1) Nothing new will be built in the areas concerned as builders look elsewhere for profitable projects;
2). New projects will be built but the rents will be "affordable" to only a token degree. No other outcome is possible
What is needed to get housing costs down is deregulation in general and ending land use restrictions in particular, both of which are anathema to the control freaks of the Left
Bill Shorten in all-out campaign to destroy Australian jobs
Many businesses, particularly in retail, are barely breaking even. Adding big wage rises to their costs will send them broke, putting their employees on the dole. Target, for instance, is only keeping afloat through the support of their corporate parent. Can you imagine the unemployment if they shut all their stores? Their corporate parent would do better to close all the stores and sell off any real estate they occupy and own. Shorten might well incentivize that
Shorten's attack on penalty rates would also lead to the destruction of a lot of weekend jobs -- particularly in hospitality. And those are often the jobs that low skilled people resort to in order to get ahead. "Let the poor stay poor" is presumably Shorten's reaction to that problem
A Labor government would radically overhaul workplace laws to give Australia's lowest-paid workers a 10 per cent wage increase. Under Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's 'living wage' policy, Australia's 1.2 million lowest-paid workers would receive an extra $73 a week.
Labor wants to give the Fair Work Commission the power to give battlers 60 per cent of median full-time earnings, which now stand at $1,320.
That would see cleaners and shop assistants receive an extra $73 a week, or $792, compared with the current national minimum wage of $719 a week.
'A living wage should make sure people earn enough to make ends meet, and be informed by what it costs to live in Australia today - to pay for housing, for food, for utilities, to pay for a basic phone and data plan,' Mr Shorten said.
'We will fix the law so that the Fair Work Commission has the tools to deliver a living wage for Australia's low-paid workers.'
Mr Shorten described the announcement as huge news for working Australians, who are struggling with flat wages, rising electricity bills and unaffordable housing, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne.
'Everywhere I travel in Australia, people tell me that everything is going up, except their wages,' Mr Shorten said in a video posted to social media on Tuesday.
'Adults in Australia should be able to, if they do full-time work not be in poverty and be above the poverty line.'
He also vowed to get rid of the 'dreadful' penalty rate cuts, which he claims will be better for the economy.
'That's what Labor will do, get wages going again and a fair go all round because when people are getting wage rises, everyone wins,' Mr Shorten said in his video.
One in 10 workers, or 1.2 million Australians on the national minimum wage would benefit, including those on the adult national minimum wage, those not paid at the award rate, and those on junior, apprentice and disability rates of pay.
The living wage would not automatically flow through to workers on award wages.
Labor's proposed policy is strongly opposed by employers.
The Australian Industry Group said the policy would result in low-skilled workers being paid more than workers with higher skills.
'Today's living wage policy announcement by the federal Opposition would have perverse impacts on the Australian labour market,' it said in a statement.
The employer group argued that under Labor and the Australian Council of Trade Unions's policy, an unskilled labourer would be paid close to the rate of an electrician or fitter
'It would further reduce the incentive for people to undertake apprenticeships or other forms of new training, it would most likely lead to many people leaving the trades, and it would reduce employment opportunities for low-skilled people – such as new workforce entrants,' it said.
The proposal has already sparked a backlash from voters on social media.
'Raising incomes is the most laziest action ever. We need to lower costs of living, not raise incomes,' one man tweeted.
Another added: 'No, not everybody wins. People end up working long hours just to pay higher tax. Honesty would go a long way Bill.'
Others pointed out the effect the policy would have on businesses.
'You will now pay more for groceries and cup of coffee and take away. How else are these businesses going to pay their employees when wages rise. Same goes for water, gas, electricity? Enjoy the pay rise. We will cop more than the pay rise,' one voter tweeted.
But not everyone was negative about the policy.
'Great initiative, if you can deliver in a timely manner. Australia seems to be going backward instead of forward. I have never in my life been more worried about my future or my country's future than I have at the present time,' one woman said on Facebook.
The ACTU has called for the minimum wage to be boosted over two years.
They want a six per cent increase from July, taking the minimum full-time wage to $762 a week, followed by another 5.5 per cent increase in 2020, taking pay levels to $804.
That level is significantly above the poverty line for a single adult living alone, which the Australian Council of Social Service defines as $433 a week.
But the ACTU's proposed minimum pay level is less than ACOSS's poverty line calculation of $909 for a couple with two children.
Under Labor, the Fair Work Commission would be asked to determine what a living wage should be under the first stage of the plan before inviting community organisations, business representatives and unions to submit their feedback.
The commission would also consider Australia's social wage - the amount of tax people pay, and any family tax benefits or other transfers they receive.
The second step would be for the Fair Work Commission to consider the time frame over which the increase should be phased in, taking into account the capacity of businesses to pay, and the potential impact on employment, inflation and the broader economy.
Further public submissions would be taken on this before the commission determined a fair and responsible phasing in of a living wage.
The first living wage case would take place as part of the next annual wage review after the legislation passes parliament, with wage increases to be phased in from the July 1 after that review.
The living wage would not automatically flow through to award wages, but rather only apply to those receiving the national minimum wage.
Labor would keep an annual wage review to determine award wages.
'Labor believes in a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and a living wage is fundamental to achieving that goal,' Labor's workplace spokesman Brendan O'Connor said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted last week the minimum wage would be hard to live on, but pointed out most Australians were paid above award rates.
Under the Coalition government, the minimum wage has gone up each year at a faster rate than inflation and wage growth across the economy.
Climate change: Water shortages in England 'within 25 years'
Dropping a retired diplomat into the job of heading an environment agency was bound to have amusing results. And so it has. Sir James knows not even the basics of science. The idea of England running out of water, for a start, could pass as a joke. Visitors to England get the impression that it never stops raining there.
Greenies have however been doing their usual tricks in obstructing water infrastructure improvements such as dam building. So reticulating the water to Britain's immigrant-swollen population could be problematical. But that is on the head of the Greenies, nobody else.
And global warming has absolutely nothing to do with it. A warmer world would evaporate more water off the oceans and that would come down as INCREASED rainfall. Sir James must not have done even High School physics to be unaware of that
Within 25 years England will not have enough water to meet demand, the head of the Environment Agency is warning.
The impact of climate change, combined with population growth, means the country is facing an "existential threat", Sir James Bevan told the Waterwise Conference in London.
He wants to see wasting water become "as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby".
"We all need to use less water and use it more efficiently," he said.
Sir James Bevan was appointed chief executive of the Environment Agency - the public body responsible for protecting the environment and wildlife in England - in 2015 after a career as a diplomat.
He told his audience that, in around 20 to 25 years, England would reach the "jaws of death - the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs".
Air pollution is BAD for you
One imagines that it is. But how bad? The article below purports to tell us. And their conclusions are a reasonable commentary on their results. An equally reasonable conclusion would be that the effects of air pollution on health are totally trivial no non-existent.
The numbers tell it best. After using all sorts of clever statistics to get the numbers up, they found that 8.79 MILLION deaths worldwide could be attributed to air pollution. That sounds a lot, does it not? That figure is however a mindless extrapolation. You just have to note that the world's current estimated population is 7.7 BILLION to see what is going on. What they actually found -- if you reverse their multiplication -- is that just over ONE PERCENT of all deaths are attributable to air pollution
Is that significant or trivial? I will leave it for readers to judge. Suffice it to say that if we wanted to work on preventing things that lead to premature death, air pollution would be a bottom priority.
But it gets worse than that. The study below is a type of meta-analysis. The authors appear to have taken every existing study they could find that estimates deaths from pollution and used those existing findings as their source of data. But that is extraordinarily naive. It is the antithesis of good scientific practice. A meta-analysis should be highly selective, using only the best controlled of prior studies. And that is the besetting weakness of air pollution studies: poor control.
In all the studies of the subject that have passed across my screen over the years, I doubt that there was a single one that controlled for income. And that is a critical weakness. Perhaps the most regular finding in the whole of the epidemiological literature is that the poor have worse health. So, without control for income, what you think is a real effect may be entirely an artifact of income.
A typical such study will find that people who live in more polluted areas of a city have worse health than people who live in leafier areas. But who lives in the leafier areas? The rich! Their better health is an income effect, not a pollution effect!
So WHY have we not seen well-controlled studies of urban air-pollution? I think I know why. If any such study HAS controlled for income, they most likely found that applying the controls for income knocked an initially weak effect down to non-significance. And we all know about the bias against reporting "negative" results!
So if we look for well-controlled studies of the effects of air pollution on health or mortality we have to say that there is NO evidence that ordinary urban levels of air pollution have adverse health effects.
You can see the idiocy of worrying about the sort of air pollution we normally experience when we reflect that smokers voluntarily inhale hugely more particulate pollution than others do -- and yet they have a close to normal life expectancy. Among the famous centenarian Jews of NYC, about a third of them smoke.
So why the attention to air pollution? The study below is only one of many. I comment on about two per year and in all cases the effects they describe are weak and turn out on close inspection to be inconclusive. So why do such studies? The authors below tell us why they do such studies in the last sentence of their abstract. It is all an effort to encourage "replacing fossil fuels by clean, renewable energy". It's just another sermon in support of the Warmist religion, in other words. Tiresome
Cardiovascular disease burden from ambient air pollution in Europe reassessed using novel hazard ratio functions
Jos Lelieveld et al.
Published: 12 March 2019
Ambient air pollution is a major health risk, leading to respiratory and cardiovascular mortality. A recent Global Exposure Mortality Model, based on an unmatched number of cohort studies in many countries, provides new hazard ratio functions, calling for re-evaluation of the disease burden. Accordingly, we estimated excess cardiovascular mortality attributed to air pollution in Europe.
Methods and results
The new hazard ratio functions have been combined with ambient air pollution exposure data to estimate the impacts in Europe and the 28 countries of the European Union (EU-28). The annual excess mortality rate from ambient air pollution in Europe is 790 000 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 645 000–934 000], and 659 000 (95% CI 537 000–775 000) in the EU-28. Between 40% and 80% are due to cardiovascular events, which dominate health outcomes. The upper limit includes events attributed to other non-communicable diseases, which are currently not specified. These estimates exceed recent analyses, such as the Global Burden of Disease for 2015, by more than a factor of two. We estimate that air pollution reduces the mean life expectancy in Europe by about 2.2 years with an annual, attributable per capita mortality rate in Europe of 133/100 000 per year.
We provide new data based on novel hazard ratio functions suggesting that the health impacts attributable to ambient air pollution in Europe are substantially higher than previously assumed, though subject to considerable uncertainty. Our results imply that replacing fossil fuels by clean, renewable energy sources could substantially reduce the loss of life expectancy from air pollution.
European Heart Journal
Jobs miracle in Britain as employment hits new record high
Britain is one of the most heavily governed countries there is. Everything is regulated. Britain was once a dynamic innovative place but enveloping bureaucracy stifles all that these days. One index of that is that Britain has still not got a single fracking well producing commercially, despite excellent geology for it. The drillers have had to go through years of red tape.
But it seems that the old spirit of business is still there in the hearts of British businessmen -- and recent events have unleashed it. For the last two years the British parliament has talked about almost nothing except Brexit -- how Britain will relate to Europe once Britain leaves the EU -- which is now due at the end of this month. So while the parliament has been wrangling about Brexit, they have not had time to poke their noses into other things. Britain has had two years of very little new legislation and regulation.
So without Nanny continually trying to run their affairs, British businessmen have thrived. And part of that thriving is a big boost in jobs as British businesses branch out into new activities. You can read the result below
Unemployment fell to its lowest level in 44 years at the start of 2018 as Britain’s businesses defied Brexit worries to put on a new hiring spree.
Employment surged by 222,000 in the three months to January, almost double the expected growth.
This was the fastest pace of jobs growth since 2015, flying in the face of fears that political uncertainty was starting to bite. There are now more than 32.7m people in work, a record high.
Compared with the same time last year, an extra 473,000 people are in work, the Office for National Statistics said.
Full-time employment accounted for 90pc of the increase.
Making Sense of Climate Science Denial
Above is the headline of an hilarious new "course" being run out of the University of Queensland, about a 15 minutes drive from where I live. The mover and shaker of it appears to be the famous "Mr 97%", John Cook, the cooker of books.
The "course" purports to prove the truth of imminent catastrophic global warming and to explain why there are some deranged people who don't accept the "truth" of it.
But the very first words in the introduction to the course are a lie. We read:
"In public discussions, climate change is a highly controversial topic. However, in the scientific community, there is little controversy with 97% of climate scientists concluding humans are causing global warming."
That contrasts with the fact that Cook's own research showed that less than ONE THIRD (not 97%) of climate scientists endorsed global warming. Here are the words from the originating paper:
"We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW"
So in a great green feat of magic, 32.6% has become 97%.
And it gets worse than that. Cook et al. did a second study where they mailed out questionnaires to climate scientists asking if they agreed with global warming. Only 14% replied! So that time they could not even get up to 32.6% agreement. They got only 14%. A full 86% declined to say that they agreed with global warming. That 97% swam even further away the second time around!
I pity anyone who takes this absurd "course". The prospectus for it is here.
Jim Jefferies EXPOSED by Avi Yemini using hidden camera
Jim Jefferies is an Australian comedian who is very popular in the US and is a rabid lefty and anti-gunner. He has his own talk show and goes out of his way to pander to the left.
So he set his sights on Avi Yemeni, an Australian of Israeli origin who frequently publicizes Muslim abuses. Jefferies aimed to discrefdit Yemeni. The interview took place before the Christchurch massacre but Jefferies broadcast it after the massacre in an effort to blame Yemeni for the massacre.
Yemeni is an old hand at handling Leftist dishonesty, however, so he made his own hidden recording of the interview. The recording reveals Jefferies making grossly "Islamophobic" statements in an effort at getting Yemeni to agree with them. The recording also shows how Jefferies edited his broadcast by attaching Yemeni's answers to different questions, thus making Yemeni look bad
The broadcast was a total fraud. Leftists NEED lies. Reality suits them so badly.
Climate science requires acceptance, not belief or full understanding: Climate change is like gravity, only accessible to lay-people at the top levels (?)
An amusing article below by Michael Barnard off the pseudo-intellectual "Medium" site. He is badly in need of a bit of philosophical sophistication. A reading of Erich Fromm on authority might generate some thought in him.
He says that you need to accept authority to accept global warming. I sort of agree with that. It is only blind trust in authority that is behind most global warming belief as far as I can see.
What he is doing is overlooking Erich Fromm's distinction between rational and irrational authority. In Fromm's terms, Leftism is a case of irrational authority. Leftists want to impose their will on us "by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon", as Friedrich Engels put it. It is authority exercised by fear and pressure on the basis of emotional submission. It is the authority of blind obedience.
But there is another kind of authority, rational authority, by which we mean any authority which is based on competence and knowledge, which permits criticism, which by its very nature tends to diminish, but which is not based on the emotional factors of submission and masochism, but on the realistic recognition of the competence of the person for a certain job.
So Barnard claims that global warmists are rational authorities and should therefore be believed. But they are not. They behave just like irrational authorities, trying to shut up dissent and getting anyone fired who disagrees with them and refusing debate with knowledgeable opponents. They do NOT permit criticism. They expect submission only.
And their claim to competence and knowledge is totally deficient. They have made numerous prophecies over the years and none have come true. The Arctic is supposed to be ice free by now, English children are not supposed to know what snow is by now etc.
Far from being rational authorities, Warmists are false prophets
There’s a problematic question in journalism and science communication. Various people are asking journalists to stop asking politicians whether they “believe in climate change” and to start asking whether they understand it.
The problem is that outside of the odd politician who was actually a climate scientist, the vast majority of people can’t claim to understand climate change or global warming with any degree of sincerity or completeness. At best, the average layperson or even well-educated layperson will have a superficial understanding of anything beyond the basics.
Let’s take an analogy that might be useful. Do you understand gravity, or just believe in it? Let’s test this out.
Lowest level of understanding
Can you perform an experiment that demonstrates gravity’s existence? Yes, anyone can drop something.
Moderate level of understanding
Can you perform an experiment that quantifies gravitational pull? Yes, drop a ball from two meters and time it until it hits the ground. Some simple math gives you ~9.8 meters per second squared. That math is beyond some people. It was beyond everyone until Newton.
Can you perform an experiment which assesses the impact of other forces to isolate gravitational pull? Yes, drop a ball and a feather from two meters and time them. The ball hits first telling you that air resistance slows down the feather more than the ball. Then you can isolate the impact of air resistance on the ball and refine the estimation of the acceleration due to gravity.
High level of understanding
Can you generalize the effect to any two large objects? That requires an understanding of how far gravity reaches and how it changes with distance. It’s very doable, but this was beyond everyone for a long time. It’s beyond most people today.
Can you perform an experiment to determine whether gravity stays the same regardless of distance? Sure, you could perform the ball dropping experiment at sea level and at the top of a mountain. But you would have to account for the squished ball shape of the earth and the various places where there’s a bit more mass leading to a bit more gravity. And then you’d have to account for the variance in air resistance between sea level and 3 or 4 kilometres up. It’s very doable, but the variance is still tiny. Most people couldn’t perform the experiment with sufficient rigour, deal with the confounding factors, or do the math.
Could you calculate the trajectory of asteroids based on gravity? Well, we can observe the orbital periods of the moon, the sun, and the earth. We can start figuring out from there and a whack of observations their masses. We can figure out from our experiments how rapidly gravitational forces fall off. But most people couldn’t calculate the orbital mechanics of anything even with all of the data and formulas provided.
But the GPS in people’s cell phones works regardless of them being able to do the math, which explains why the GPS satellite doesn’t fall out of the sky. And planes fly regardless of whether the passenger in them can explain how the force of gravity is being counteracted.
This is a lengthy way of saying that something which everyone can interact with directly by dropping something becomes so increasingly arcane that even very smart and educated people end up in situations where they just accept the science. In other words, where they assert belief, not understanding.
This does turn into an appeal to authority, but not the logical fallacy of appeal to false authority. That’s a rhetorical trick played by ‘skeptics’. They claim that any appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, when it’s actually only referencing the statements of the unqualified that is the logical fallacy.
What does this have to do with climate change?
The vast majority of people have never seen any evidence of climate change; they just see weather. They haven’t looked at historical temperature records for the globe and crunched the numbers. They haven’t compared surface to satellite temperature data. They haven’t personally gone to multiple glaciers every year for 30 years to compare their rates of disappearance. They haven’t looked at 20,000 year old ice cores to assess CO2 isotopes. They haven’t leveraged existing and proven climate models to assess specific impacts. They haven’t amassed data on weather events and done statistical analysis that would show the impacts of climate change or not.
At best, some people see that spring is earlier than in their childhood, but most people would probably question their memories rather than the seasons.
Climate change is diffuse. Climate change is happening incredibly quickly by geological standards, but incredibly slowly by human standards. We can’t easily see it.
Most of climate science is beyond most people. For the majority of people, they just accept that, like GPS, the scientists are right. They accept the authority of peer-reviewed science, the scientific consensus, and the reports of the IPCC. They believe it to be true.
Most people don’t understand climate change at more than the simplest of levels, and even then they aren’t able to define and perform experiments which could assess it.
Climate change skeptics and deniers look at this and their brains melt and run out of their ears. They accept that GPS works, that planes fly, and that people have walked on the moon, stuff that they have a pretty equal lack of understanding of. But then they turn around and reject the science of climate change, something that they understand just as poorly.
They will happily point to inexpert experts such as Nobel Laureates in solid-state electronics who are skeptical about global warming, but will claim that citing the IPCC and actual climate scientists is the logical fallacy of appeal to false authority. In other words, they are guilty of the thing that they claim you are guilty of (a familiar pattern).
So what do we do?
Well, don’t demand that people understand it all and don’t ask that they believe in it, just ask that they accept the science as they accept GPS or gravity.
Or reframe the problem entirely and talk about pollution or sensible risk policies or health. As the major political groups which are skeptical about climate change are conservative, and conservatives dominate the ranks of skeptics, it’s worth looking at this guidance on how to talk to conservatives about the subject.
Personally, I don’t argue with skeptics or deniers about the basics of global warming and climate change. It’s not that I haven’t read through a ton of the evidence and can counter most of their arguments, or that I don’t have online resources such as Skeptical Science to find the refutations quickly. It’s just a futile exercise. In a complex space, there is a tremendous amount of scope for Gish Galloping and whataboutism, two annoying debating tactics commonly used by skeptics. I’d rather spend my time on advancing solutions and I’m not the right person to convince most skeptics to shift their views. I’m more focused on solutions.
New push for children to start school at the age of three
This push is basically bullshit. Finland does not start kids at school until age 7 and they have famously good results. Let me quote just a small excerpt from someone who has surveyed the evidence on the question:
"University studies are often quoted to support the perceived academic beneﬁts of preschool. What is not often mentioned is that whilst these studies demonstrate preschool in a favourable light when compared with an impoverished home environment; preschool environments and results do not compare favourably with the average home environment.
Even Professor Edward Zigler, credited as “the father of Head Start” a well-respected American preschool program admits “there is a large body of evidence that there is little to be gained by exposing middle class children to early education…(and) evidence that indicates early schooling is inappropriate for many four-year-olds, and that it may be harmful to their development.”
So what about the long-term academic effects of preschool? The longitudinal studies, often quoted to argue an academic advantage provided by preschool for lower socio-economic groups, actually also show that this “advantage” disappears by grade three.
If preschool were truly beneﬁcial in terms of giving children a head start, those places with some form of compulsory preschool should do demonstrably better academically. The evidence does not bear this out. The two states of America which have compulsory preschool, Georgia and Oklahoma, have the lowest results for fourth grade reading tests in the country."
So why the deception? The push is in fact just a push for free child-minding
Children should start school at the age of three to give them the best start in life and to stop Australia falling behind Europe and China, leading experts claim.
Lobby groups are urging the Federal Government to boost funding for more children to have access to school earlier.
More and more private schools and early learning centres are offering 'pre-kindy' which exposes children to play-based learning so they are better prepared for when they start school.
Many programs have lengthy waiting lists and now an initiative led by the Early Learning Benefits campaign wants extra funding so more children have access to pre-school education.
'We have some children already having access to high quality learning, but many are missing out … equity is a big issue,' Early Childhood Australia CEO Samantha Page told The Courier Mail.
Latest statistics show only 58.5 per cent of three-year-olds in Australia are enrolled in pre-school programs, compared to 95-100 per cent of children in France, Denmark, Norway, Israel and Spain.
University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer Dr Ali Black, said international research showed children introduced to high quality education earlier were more likely to go to university, gain better jobs and even own their own homes.
They were more resilient, had better social skills and had fewer behavioural issues.
Australian Catholic University early childhood specialist, Laurien Beane, said the push would follow the lead of cutting-edge Scandanavian countries, who have invested huge resources to educating kids from birth to the age of five.
'We invest in the 5-18 age group and it starts too late … that's why as a nation we are languishing so far behind a number of other countries,' Ms Beane said.
Ms Beane said the main objectivity of early education was not about literacy and numeracy but to foster curiosity, creativity, imagination and social development. Children would typically attend two days a week for five-and-a-half hours.
They would have lessons in music, literature, languages, as well as more social-based lessons about respecting others and regulating emotions.
Ms Page said Labor made a commitment in October to extend funding to early education for three-year-olds by 2021.
Some parents say they feel pressured to be in favour of the push as primary schools are likely to give preference to children attending pre-kindergarten programs. Other fears include schools will favour children in those programs to boost rankings and funding.
Childcare and early learning provider C&K is among those leading the way with pre-kindergarten rooms, like Banyo in Brisbane's north.
New Zealand Assailant: 'Eco-Fascist' Not 'Right Wing'
Some useful comments in the article below but let me expand them.
Brenton Tarrant displays a mix of ideas in his manifesto, though, as we shall see, it is a rather familiar mix. His overriding idea is a dislike of Islam in general and Jihadis in particular. His massacre was a clear answer to the Jihadis. He says: If the Jihadis can slaughter Western men women and children indiscriminately, I am justified in slaughtering Muslim men women and children indiscriminately. It is Old Testament justice.
And it is that hostility to Islam that the Left identify as "right wing". And conservatives do indeed voice strong reservations about Islam. But conservatives are not alone in that. There can surely be few people in the Western world who are happy about the constant assaults on Western people by Jihadis.
The only people who seem to like the Jihadis are the Left. They do their best to protect Muslims from any retribution or any check at all. But their reason for that is clear. The Leftist's whole aim in life is to disrupt the existing society (to "fundamentally transform" it, in the words of Barack Obama and Bernard Sanders). So the disruptions caused by Muslims makes Muslims "fellow travellers" to the Left who must not be denounced.
So his dislike of Islam does identity Tarrant as non-Left in that regard but that does not make him conservative. His dislike is simply an extreme version of a normal reaction.
So what of his other views? What of his admiration of Communist China and Bernard Sanders? What of his describing himself as both a Fascist and an eco-fascist? What about his belief in global warming and other Greenie themes? Except for his ideas about Muslims he would make a pretty good Greenie and a pretty good socialist.
And liking both China and Fascism are not at all inconsistent. Although China is still ruled by the Communist Party, the Dengist reforms have given it a classical Fascist economy. Business is allowed to get on with business but the State keeps a watchful eye overall.
What makes his hostility to Islam particularly strong is his racial awareness. He sees himself as part of the white race and deplores attacks on it. So how common is that? Mention of race has been so thoroughly suppressed in our society that there could well be a large reservoir of racial sentiment just below the surface. We don't know -- though Leftists regularly assert it.
There is no doubt, however, that seeing himself as part of an identity group -- whites -- was the key to Tarrant's behaviour. And the chief promoters of whites as an identity group are of course the Left. The Left are entranced by group identities and the big gorilla looming above all other groups is white males. Only a few extreme-Left whites take any notice of that but there was one white male who did -- Brenton Tarrant. There had to be one. He had been exposed to a lot of Leftist thought and suddenly it occurred to him when hearing talk about whites: "Hey! That's me!"
And according to the Left, whites are all powerful masters of the universe who control everyone else. And Tarrant liked that identity. So identify he did. And when he saw that there was an evil force -- Islam -- trying to tear down white civilization, he took up arms in its defence, as group members tend to do. And it is not pychopathic to take up arms in defence of your group. "Greater love hath no man ..." Tarrant was sucked in by Leftist identity talk and it all developed from there. Had he been a conservative, he would have rejected identity talk in favour of the centrality of the individual.
But where have we heard all that before? Where have we previously encountered a combination of socialism, environmentalism and racial loyalty? Yes. It was our evil twins, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Both were good socialists, good Greenies and strong racial loyalists. In short, Tarrant has reinvented historical Nazism in his own mind. He is a perfectly consistent Nazi in the historical sense of that term. And, like the Nazis of history, Tarrant attacked those he saw as his racial enenmies.
But he is NOT "Right wing" any more than Nazism ("National Socialism") was. Far from it. And his ideas are not "mixed up". They once dominated two of the biggest and most sophisticated nations in Europe, so they have their own consistency.
And it follows fairly strongly from that that Tarrant is not a psychopath/sociopath. I can see no evidence that Tarrant was a sociopath. I have done research into psychopathy/sociopathy and have a couple of articles on it in the academic journal so I know a bit about it but nothing stands out to me in Tarrant's manifesto that points clearly in that direction. Narcissism, yes. Psychopathy, No. He in fact displays a sense of humor fairly often, which is rare among psychopaths.
So Tarrant is not mad and belongs firmly on the Green/Left
Footnote: For Hitler's Greenie credentials see here For Mussolini's Greenie credentials see here
The brutal terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, today, were, according to police, perpetrated by a sociopathic Australian. Three others were arrested in connection with the attacks. The assailant killed 50 people and wounded nearly that many more. He live-streamed part of the attack to Facebook, and posted it to other social media outlets — significantly enhancing the profile of this attack. He abandoned his assault and fled only when another man picked up a shotgun the shooter had dropped and fought back.
The primary suspect declared in a lengthy manifesto that he was inspired, in part, by racist fascists who perpetrated attacks in the United States, Canada, and Europe. For that reason, and because he mentioned President Donald Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” (though condemning some of his policies), the Leftmedia and others, including the Australian prime minister, are parroting the charge that he is a “far-right extremist.” But that’s just not the case.
Of course, after other Islamist terrorist attacks — including Paris, Orlando, San Bernardino, and most notably, the 9/11 attack — these same Leftmedia outlets lectured, ad nauseam, that Islam is the Religion of Peace™, and that we shouldn’t stereotype Muslims by associating all of them with a few extremists.
Fact is, there are brutal Islamic attacks against Christians in the Middle East and Africa daily, with virtually no media notice. But indeed, we should not embrace the stereotype that all Muslims support such violence.
That notwithstanding, we fully expect the Leftmedia’s reporting on this incident, and hate-profiteering by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to focus on the rise of “right wing” hatred in the age of Trump, casting that stereotypical shadow over all those who support Trump. But as we’ve said before, there’s nothing uniquely “right wing” about racism or nationalism.
For the record, the ideological spectrum is better understood as circular, not as linear. And in that sphere, fascism occupies the space between Left and Right. Anyone who asserts that fascism is uniquely “right wing” is either grossly misinformed or intellectually disingenuous. The New Zealand assailant was not what the Leftmedia commonly calls “right wing” — those advocating Liberty, individual rights, and limited government. Far from it.
The New York Times declared, “Writing that he had purposely used guns to stir discord in the United States over the Second Amendment’s provision on the right to bear arms, he also declared himself a fascist. ‘For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist,’ he wrote.”
But the assailant, who spent time in North Korea and Pakistan, specifically declared himself an “Eco-Fascist,” who advocated “Green Nationalism” and supported the socialist views of Bernie Sanders. He railed against humans for destroying the environment and causing global warming, and he advocated government control to stop it. He wrote, “The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.” That would be Communist China.
Right winger? Hardly.
For his part, President Trump said, “I spoke with Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand to express the sorrow of our entire nation following the monstrous terror attacks at two mosques. These sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing. … It’s a horrible, horrible thing.”
A final note: Attacks on houses of worship are, tragically, nothing new. The Associated Press compiled a list of 18 such attacks just over the last decade. Churches, mosques, synagogues — nothing is safe. Such violent hatred is pure evil. Indeed, the assailant bore symbols of Satanism among his belongings. Responsible people should rise above that evil with our run-of-the-mill political disagreements.
A philosopher makes the case against free speech -- And I push back
As you can see from my blog about him Brian Leiter is not as clever as he thinks he is. So his critique of free speech below goes nowhere. He gets stuck on the rock of how to decide who is competent to censor speech.
His reasoning behind that is however amusing. He says that we get saturated by so much conservative propaganda that we cannot decide what the truth is. I would have thought that it was the overwhelmingly Leftist slant of the mainstream media that made the truth hard to discern. Just count up the number of adverse mentions of Trump to see which way the media lean.
Leiter's words are a typical example of an unrelenting Leftist strategy -- what Freud called projection -- seeing your own faults in others.
But the discussion below does cover the main points at issue in free speech so it has some interest -- JR
By Sean Illing
I don’t consider myself an absolutist about anything — except for free speech.
The value of free expression seems so fundamental to me that it hardly needs a defense. It is, after all, enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. But like any dogma, there is utility in occasionally challenging the assumptions that undergird it.
Which brings me to a paper I recently read in the Sydney Law Review, titled “The Case Against Free Speech.” The author is Brian Leiter, a political philosopher at the University of Chicago. Leiter argues that we shouldn’t think of free speech as an inherently good thing and that there are negative consequences for pretending that it is.
The sort of speech he’s talking about is public, the kind of stuff we hear on television or read in newspapers. He’s not suggesting we should even think about regulating private or interpersonal speech. And in fact, he doesn’t think we can even regulate public speech, mostly because we just don’t have a reliable way to do it.
But he does raise some interesting objections against what’s often called the “autonomy” defense of free speech, which holds that people are only free to the extent that they’re allowed to say what they want, read what they want, and determine for themselves what is true and what is false.
According to Leiter, this is a bogus argument because people are not actually free in the way we suppose. We’re all conditioned by our environment, and what we want and think are really just products of social, economic, and psychological forces beyond our control. If he’s right, then the “autonomy” defenses of free speech are just wrong, and probably dangerous.
I spoke to Leiter about what he thinks we get wrong about free speech, and why most of the arguments people make in defense of it fall apart when you examine them closely. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Let me start by summing up your argument as simply as I can, and then we can go from there. I take you to be saying that most of our public speech, the kind of speech we consider morally and politically serious, is not only useless but actually hinders our collective effort to get at the truth, and therefore we shouldn’t permit its expression without considering the social costs.
That’s really close, but I think it’s not quite right in one important respect. Because at the end, I actually argue for a pretty strong libertarian approach to free speech, but not on the grounds that the speech necessarily has value. A lot of it has no value, as you correctly said in your summary.
But basically I don’t think we can be confident that the regulation of speech, or the regulators of speech, would make the right choices in discerning what is good and bad speech, or what is helpful or unhelpful speech. But this says more about the pathologies of the American system than it does about the value of freedom of speech.
We’ll come back to the regulator problem, because I think it ultimately undercuts any effort we could ever make to control speech. Maybe it’ll help if you first explain why you want to take a sledgehammer to this assumption that free speech is an inherently good thing for society.
My paper is about running through all the arguments people make in defense of this assumption and showing why they don’t hold up. I’ll start with the simplest one, which is this idea that a free marketplace of ideas is likely to help promote discovery of the truth. This is probably the most famous defense of free speech associated with the British philosopher John Stuart Mill.
But what people often don’t stop and notice is that even Mill thought certain background conditions had to be established for it to really be true that a marketplace of ideas would lead to the discovery of the truth. Mill said, “People have to be educated, and they have to be mature.” Those are pretty thin conditions, and you might worry that a lot more is required for a real marketplace of ideas to be conducive to the truth.
As I point out, we have an important institution in American society that aims to discover the truth, namely the court system. And the striking thing about the court system is that it completely rejects the marketplace of ideas view. It says, “It’s crazy to think we’ll discover the truth by just permitting people to express any view they want, make any claim they want.” In the court system, we impose massive restrictions on speech to facilitate the discovery of truth.
Okay, I’m glad you brought up your court analogy. Here’s my problem: A courtroom and a political community are wildly different contexts, which even you acknowledge in the article. To take just one difference: A court’s job is to establish the facts so that jurists can decide accordingly. But politics is about values as much as facts. Is there any way for a community to decide how to live and what’s worth pursuing without allowing the free exchange of ideas?
Fair question. I would disagree a bit with the assumption that politics is mainly about values rather than facts. An awful lot of politics is about facts and their relationship to the values that can be realized in concrete policies.
So take one of the examples I use: the Bush administration’s efforts to justify the illegal war of aggression against Iraq in 2003. That turned heavily on the misrepresentation of the facts. It turned heavily on Fox News, in particular, indoctrinating a large part of the population into thinking there was some connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda when there was none.
And then take something like climate change, where there’s a constant disagreement about the facts with so-called skeptics who insist, in the public sphere, that the science doesn’t really establish this. These are fact disputes, not value disputes.
I certainly agree with you that there are value disputes, but the establishment of facts is hugely important.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying facts don’t matter. I’m saying politics is about deciding what we ought to do in light of what is. And in order to have that kind of conservation, we need the free exchange of ideas.
Again, I’d resist that a little bit. I think most of our disputes are about factual questions. I mean, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren aren’t saying, “In order to promote the values of equality and well-being, we need higher taxes on the rich.” And the other side isn’t saying, “We’re not interested in equality or freedom.” They say, “We don’t think that’s the way to realize those values.”
I disagree about that, but I don’t want tumble down a rabbit hole here, so let’s stay on topic. Is there any way to maintain a free society without simply accepting that most opinions on serious topics are bad and ill informed, and yet that’s the price we pay for allowing citizens to express their political identity?
There is clearly a lot of value to people in letting them express their political identity, their moral views, and so on. It’s important to people’s well-being to be able to speak their mind. I don’t want to discount the value of that. I just think that’s one value that should go into a broader calculation that takes into account all the harms that are related to the expression of certain kinds of views.
Do you think people are free in any meaningful sense if what they’re allowed to hear, or see, or read, is controlled or constrained in any way?
It depends on what kind of control and regulation is involved. So I’ll give you another analogy. I control what the students in my class read and discuss. I actually think this enhances their freedom and their autonomy by bringing to their attention substantive materials, helping them frame thinking about these particular issues, and so on. So regulation isn’t necessarily incompatible with free thinking.
But that brings us back to the question I touched on at the very beginning. The best argument for broad freedom of expression is skepticism about whether those who would regulate expression would do so in a way that was productive and constructive, rather than simply making things worse.
Although you keep expressing skepticism, you still seem to think we’d be better off with gatekeepers — some institution or body of institutions that decides what should or shouldn’t be expressed in the public sphere.
That would seem to be the conclusion following from the arguments in the first part of the paper. But my conclusion is that even if there isn’t enough positive value to speech to justify its unfettered expression, there are certainly reasons to be worried about whether capitalist democracies will regulate speech in ways that aren’t simply pernicious.
But this has more to do with the pathologies of our political system than it does to do with the intrinsic value of speech. That’s one of the main points I’m pressing on in this article.
As I read your paper, I kept thinking about the media critic Walter Lippmann (whom I wrote about for Vox), who struggled with these same questions. He didn’t think most people could be trusted to decide intelligently what ought to be done, so he wanted technocrats and experts to act as mediators of sorts. But the problem is always, who are the arbiters of worthy speech in this imagined order? And how will we stop them from abusing their power?
Under the current circumstances, I think that’s exactly right. But I’ll also quote the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who, when asked, “Who will make these decisions,” said, “Who makes them now?” And that’s worth bearing in mind.
These decisions are, in fact, being made now. They just aren’t being made by bureaucrats. They’re being made by Rupert Murdoch, by editors behind the scenes, by producers on TV programs, who themselves are responsive to all kinds of interested parties.
What’s the alternative? We either live in a free society, or we don’t. There does not seem to be much room for compromise here. I mean, there’s no marketplace of ideas that isn’t saturated with bad ideas, right?
I guess it’s a matter of degree. Again, I think the big problem now has to do with the pathologies of our political and economic system. Maybe what we need is for the political and economic system to change if we’re ever going to adopt a more sensible approach to the regulation of expression.
I also think most people fail to understand what’s meant by “free society.” No one thinks we don’t live in a free society because there are restrictions on public masturbation or public sex, right? There are always limits. We countenance all kinds of restrictions on freedom. It’s always about trade-offs, and what we’re ultimately willing to live with.
Well, I’d say free speech is crucial to individual liberty in a way that, say, public masturbation isn’t, but that’s another argument. It’s still not clear to me what you’d have us do? What is the solution here?
It’s important to recognize that most of what any of us believe about the world depends on intermediaries, people who guide us as to what we ought to believe because it’s true. I believe in evolution by natural selection, but not because I did all the experiments in the lab.
The big crisis of the internet era is that it has eliminated a lot of the traditional intermediaries, such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or PBS or the BBC and so on. Those old intermediaries weren’t perfect, but they were better than what we have now. So I think we need better intermediaries that help people to sort out the world.
But again, I don’t anticipate a law being passed that shuts down Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh — we’re stuck with them. Which means we’re stuck with a public sphere filled with nonsense. So the short answer is that we’re screwed.
Look, the ideal political system is one in which everyone is wise and discerning and cares very deeply about the truth. But such a system is not possible, has never been possible, and so we must live in the least imperfect and most just society possible. Has liberal democracy not proven to be just that?
I’m not sure it’s that simple. Liberal democratic societies have certain values, and they’re mostly good. But the problem is having a capitalist economic system that pollutes the public domain and presents all sorts of obstacles to the intelligent expression and regulation of speech.
Under capitalism, at least the sort of capitalism we have now, the ruling class completely distorts our political process and the laws that get enacted. Until we do something about that, we’re not going to be in any position to hope that regulation of speech, let alone other aspects of law, will actually be conducive to human well-being.
This is ultimately why I don’t know what to do with your paper. I agree with your general diagnosis here, and yet we end up in a dead end.
Well, if I may reference one of my favorite philosophers, whom I know you like as well, Nietzsche said, “Sometimes the truth is terrible.” And I think there’s value in recognizing the truth of our situation, even if it’s terrible.
We have massive amounts of worthless, dangerous speech in the public sphere right now, and at the same time I can’t see any legal remedy that isn’t likely to be used for even more pernicious ends. But the situation we’re currently in is quite dire, and the fact that we have a monster child as our president is proof of that fact.
Given everything you’ve said, given the paucity of realistic solutions, what’s the point of an article like this? Why make the case against free speech if there aren’t any viable means of improving speech?
The fact that there aren’t solutions now isn’t a reason not to identify a problem. And of course, one point of the article is to challenge what I think is a slightly unthinking popular consensus. Free speech isn’t an inherently good thing; it can be good or it can be bad, and normally we think of the law as something that can step in when things can be both good or bad, like operating a motor vehicle, for example, which is why we have rules about it.
But in the case of speech, we have good reason to be worried about whether we’ll make the right rules. And therefore, the real question that we need to talk about isn’t about assuming the intrinsic value of speech. It’s about why we have a political and economic order that makes it impossible for us to regulate all the bad things about speech in a reliable way.
The censored manifesto
I found it curious how thoroughly the NZ gunman's manifesto was censored. He sent out many copies but most recipients announced proudly that they were not going to release their copy. It was only with a fair bit of scouring that I was able to get hold of a copy.
So what motivated the censorship? What ideas in it were so dangerous that they must be kept from us by our soi disant betters? Let me offer a rough summary:
There WERE dangerous ideas in it: But very ordinary ideas, the sort of ideas that are widespread in Western countries. There are majorities in all Western countries which want the flood of Third world immigrants stopped. And where those majorities are large enough, the governments of the countries concerned have taken measures that have largely stopped at least the illegal sources of such immigration: Australia, Norway and most of Eastern Europe. Even in those countries, however, there are substantial inflows of Third worlders who are accepted legally as "refugees", though many are clearly not true refugees.
Because disrupting the "complacent" societies they live in is the whole aim of most Leftists, however, Leftists do their best to oppose immigration restrictions and brand immigration opponents with every derogatory name under the sun, of which "racist" is the mildest. Despite his record of support `for minorities, even Mr. Trump is routinely branded by the Left as a "racist" because of his efforts to protect America's borders from a Third world influx.
Given the Leftist role in supporting the undermining of Western societies, it is left to the conservative side of politics to articulate the common desire to retain their existing social and national arrangements. It is conservative writers who point to the adverse aspects of largely uncontrolled immigration. They point to the frequency of immigrant crime and the serious stretching of public services (schools, hospitals, roads) that heavy inflows of low quality immigration causes. They also point out where demographic projections lead: The much higher immigrant birthrates point to formerly Western countries becoming in time predominantly Third World countries, with the crime, poverty and general disruption that entails
And the NZ gunman in his manifesto echoes those concerns. There is nothing new in his manifesto. It is largely just a compilation of the things that non-Leftists have been saying about Third world immigration. He is particularly concerned about Muslim immigration because of Islam's aggressive contempt for Western civilization. He sees Muslims becoming in time an intolerant majority in many Western countries, which will bring hard times for non-Muslims. And the fate of Christians in existing Muslim lands certainly bears out such concerns
So what is different about the NZ gunman? Is he mentally ill? Does he have a personality disorder? There is no sign of it. Reports from people who know him generally describe him as a normal pleasant person.
So is he a white supremacist? It is rather to the contrary. Far from seeing whites as supreme he sees them as vulnerable and threatened, which is roughly the opposite of supreme. He is not even much of a racist. He speaks warmly of the Pakistanis he met on his visit there and names his chief inspiration as a prominent BLACK American conservative, Candice Owens. And he is certainly no nationalist, white or otherwise. He is an internationalist concerned for the whole of Western society.
What appears to have set him off is his travels. He has travelled to a bewildering variety of countries and has taken particular note of the immigrant influence there. And what he has seen and heard of the foul deeds of Jihadis has particularly disgusted and enraged him. So under heavy pressure of Jihadi reality, he has decided that he should do something about it. For most of us, Jihadi deeds are something that happen somewhere else and have little personal impact on us -- so we put it all out of our minds. His travels, by contrast, brought it all to the front of his mind.
So it should be clear why the Left are having orgasms over the manifesto. It shares with normal conservative writing a dislike of Muslim influences and a wish for immigration restrictions. To the Left that brands all conservatives as potential terrorists and all-round bad eggs. But that is guilt by association and a violation of natural justice. And even the association is absurdly weak. Who is typical of conservatives, the hundreds of millions of conservatives who do NOT become terrorists or the one man who does?
With the Left, on the other hand the association is much clearer and more troubling. When Leftists gain unrestricted power -- as with Leftists from Robespierre to Stalin to Mao -- we see where the real murderous potential lies. Unless restrained by powerful other influences, Leftism always leads to tyranny and mass murder. The deeds of their philosophical allies in other countries ARE a realistic guide to the potential of Western Leftists.
In the unlikely event that they had any humility and balance, Leftists would be asking whether their repeated defence and coverup of Muslim hostility had any role in pushing the NZ gunman into his pushback against Muslim terrorism. On November 5, 2009, for instance, a mass shooting took place at Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas when Muslim Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people and injured more than 30 others. Rather than Muslim terrorism, the Obama administration insisted that the event had to be referred to as "workplace violence" -- an epic coverup.
To return to the shooter: Vengeance is a normal human motivation. It is probably always unwise and is definitely unChristian but it can be a powerful force. It is perhaps forgiveable where the vengeance targets the original offender but it all too often spreads more widely than that. And on this occasion it did. For the gunman the problem was a group of people so a group had to be the target. It is deplorable that the people he targeted were as far as we know innocent men, women and children. But jihadis target innocent men, women and children too so he no doubt thought that they had set the relevant precedent.
I am not going to put up the manifesto on any of my sites. The all-wise Leftist controllers of our social media would undoubtedly take it down if I did and they might even take down the whole site. That is why I have offered this summary in lieu of the whole thing. Even this summary and this site could be attacked however so I have taken the defensive measure of not naming the gunman. It seems to me that the hostiles will use his surname as a search term for locating posts such as mine but, because of my defensive measures will not pick this post up immediately. Regular readers will thus get to see it first.
I am however prepared to email a copy of the manifesto to anyone who is otherwise unable to obtain it.
Fact-checking Trump's notion that white nationalism is not a rising threat
Having enemies seems to be a good political tactic. It can mobilize your base. It is a tactic much used by the Left. They exaggerate even the slightest opposition to their schemes -- and anything untowards happening in the world is due to bad men whom they know all about. And a favourite mythical beast that they are fighting is "white nationalists" or a "white supremacists". Anybody who mentions any human group can be declared a "white supremacist" at the drop of a hat. And often you don't even need to drop the hat.
So anybody who is critical of the doings of any Muslim becomes an "Islamophobe" for starters and he doesn't have to say much more to become a "white supremacist".
No doubt there are some real white supremacists about the place. Some people believe that the earth is flat. But do they exist in any numbers? There is no evidence of it. There are some people who attack minorities from time to time but none of them seems to be part of any organization or even have many friends. And why would anybody be bothered to proclaim white supremacy when it is perfectly obvious that whites do have overwhelming influence in the world? You might as well go around making proclamations that that the sky is blue.
So Mr Trump was right when he said recently of white nationalists that "I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems"
But that could not be allowed to pass, of course. And CNN did a "fact check" of what Trump said. It is below. And they do list a number of individuals whom they allege to be white supremacists -- but at no point do they make the slightest effort to show that any of the individuals concerned were in fact white supremacists. If they were truly white supremacists a sentence or two from each of them confirming that they were white supremacists would have given the needed confirmation.
But no such evidence is given, We are expected to accept the assertions of CNN as all the evidence we need.
Just to illustrate how quickly they would become unglued if they tried to back up their assertions, just consider the man of the hour, the NZ gunman. Every leftist alive would fervently assure us that he is a white supremacist despite that fact that many of his targets were a passable shade of white. Does that upset the applecart at all? If it doesn't, try this: The person whom the gunman stated was the greatest influence on him was Candace Owens. Candace is an American black. So is the gunman a black supremacist? In the insane world of the Left, he might as well be.
On my reading of his manifesto he is principally concerned about the large influx of foreigners into European-origin countries. He identifies with white Europeans and sees himself as conducting a defensive operation. He is not asserting the dominance or superiority of white Europeans but simply wants them not to fade away under immigration pressures. He says that wherever he goes he sees invaders and that disturbs him. So he is certainly a racist of sorts but not a white supremacist.
Is he a white nationalist? Maybe but that depends on your definition of nationalism. On Orwell's definition he is not, as he shows no interest in conquering other countries
So Mr Trump again gets it right. Even the NZ gunman is arguably not a white nationalist. He is in fact something of an internationalist. His concern is for the survival of European civilization as a whole
During a press conference Friday, President Donald Trump was asked if he "see(s) today that white nationalism is a rising threat around the world?" in the wake of the terrorist attacks on two mosques in New Zealand, which left at least 50 dead.
"I don't really. I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess," the President said. "If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case, I don't know enough about it yet. They're just learning about the person and the people involved. But it's certainly a terrible thing."
The man charged with murder in the New Zealand attack cited a list of white nationalists who inspired him in his putative manifesto posted online.
Facts First: White nationalism is certainly a rising threat in the US, with plenty of evidence to back it up.
In the past two years there have been a number of high profile incidents involving white nationalists, perhaps most notably the Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. One woman was killed and 19 were injured when a speeding car slammed into a throng of counter-protesters.
Last year's shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh claimed the lives of 11 people. Federal prosecutors charged the gunman, an avowed white nationalist, with hate crimes. In February, authorities arrested a Coast Guard lieutenant, an alleged white supremacist, who was planning an attack on several television anchors and elected officials.
The data suggests these are all part of a broader rise in white nationalism across the US.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization focused on tracking extremist activity, found last year that white supremacist murders in the US "more than doubled in 2017," with far-right extremist groups and white supremacists "responsible for 59 percent of all extremist-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2017." They were responsible for 20% of these fatalities the year before.
"This attack (in New Zealand) underscores a trend that ADL has been tracking: that modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release.
ADL also reported that propaganda efforts from white supremacist groups increased by 182% in the US in 2018; causing the number of incidents to jump from 421 the previous year to 1,187.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank based in Washington, DC, reports that "the number of terrorist attacks (in the US) by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017."
White nationalism, supremacism, and far-right extremist attacks and propaganda are on the rise. The President is incorrect in suggesting that these groups do not present a growing threat.
Domestic terrorism -- as a whole -- has seen a recent uptick in the US, with nearly 25 related arrests in the last three months of 2018, an FBI official told CNN. These cases are separate from plots relating to international terrorism investigations, like those involving al Qaeda and ISIS.
As CNN recently reported, the FBI has approximately 900 open domestic terror investigations.
The New Zealand Massacre
Almost as bad as the massacre itself are the false media claims about it. It is invariably said that the gunman was "right wing" or "far right". What in conservative thought justifies the killing of the innocents? There is nothing.
What we do know is that the gunman isued a manifesto that is decribed as full of Nazi ideas. But Nazism was a socialist sect. Conservatives -- such as Churchill -- opposed Nazism. It is nothing more than a survival of Soviet disinformation that says Nazism is rightist. Hitler was to the right of Communism but to the left of just about everyone else. Ever since the French revolution it is the Left who have been the mass murderers --Robespierre, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Mao -- not conservatives -- and that was again true in Christchurch.
One thing that was Leftist about the gunman even by modern standards was his identifying himself as a representative of a group -- Western whites. He saw the Jihadi attacks on Western whites as attacks on a group that he identified with and that he wished to save. The Jihadi attacks were attacks on his people. And identity politics are a major obsession of Leftists at the moment. They try to divide everyone into groups -- blacks, whites, homosexuals, transsexuals women etc. And they then treat people according to their group identity. Conservatives, by contrast, treat people primarily as individuals.
And the gunman did make it abundantly clear that his actions were provoked by Muslim hostility towards Western whites as evidenced in the innumerable attacks on Westerners by Jihadis. He did not act at random. He was provoked. So those who provoked him bear at least some of the blame for what he did. Muslims should be deeply thankful that the Jihadis who arise from among their ranks so seldom provoke a violent reaction.
It may be however that the Christchurch massacre is the harbinger of things to come. It may not be the last time that someone horrified by Jihadi violence decides to strike back. If Muslims want to avoid that they should urge their Mullahs to stop preaching Jihad. Jihadis mostly seem to strike at random so Muslims too could be struck at random. It would be a great pity if bloody attacks on Muslims were the only thing capable of persuading Muslims to desist from attacking others.
Australian government urged to shut down Milo Yiannopoulos after Christchurch massacre
This is a typical despicable Leftist attempt to blame uninvolved others for the deeds of one man. It all hinges on the Leftist inability to see people as individuals. Leftists see people only as group members and reserve to themselves the right to say who belongs in which group. It would not be stretching their logic too far to say that Tarrant was born in Australia so therefore all Australians (including members of the Labor party!) bear a responsibility for his Christchurch attack.
I wouldn't be surprised if some Leftists do assert that. They might say (they do say) that Australia is racist and Tarrant was therefore simply expressing Australian racism
The claim below that what Leftists call "hate speech" leads to terrorist acts such as Tarrant's is an empty assertion untethered to any evidence. David Hume pointed out a couple of hundred years ago that to identify a cause you have to have constant conjunction between the cause and the effect. And there is no conjunction at all between what Leftists call "hate speech" and acts of terrorism by whites. Tens of millions of whites have heard words such as those by Yiannopoulos so where are are the acts of terrorism connected to them? The usual reaction to Yiannopoloulos is no reaction other than, perhaps, a nod of the head.
If there are ten million instances of a "cause" NOT leading to an alleged effect, that destroys the causal claim. The effect needs something else to cause it. In Tarrant's case, he seems to have seen a lot of the effects of Jihadi attacks during his extensive travels and that has enraged him.
The Australian government has been told it must cancel the visa for far-right speaker Milo Yiannopoulos following the Christchurch terrorist attack, with opposition frontbencher Tony Burke saying far-right extremism should be treated in the same way as other forms of terrorism.
The immigration minister, David Coleman, personally approved Yiannopoulos’s visa last week, against advice from the Department of Home Affairs, which earlier told Yiannopoulos he may fail the character test to enter Australia.
Burke, who is Labor’s spokesman for citizenship and multiculturalism, said rules around banning people who could be seen as supporting terrorism should be applied to all extremist ideologies.
“If someone wants to come to Australia and we know that they’ve been speaking in support of values that have given rise to other forms of terrorism, we don’t give them a visa,” Burke told ABC24.
“Only a few days ago, the government intervened against the department to provide a visa for someone to have a tour here in Australia to whip up hatred against Muslims. I would be stunned if the government goes ahead with that visa.”
The department has the ability to block a visa from a person on character grounds if it perceives there’s a risk they will commit a crime, harass people, vilify a segment of the Australian community or incite discord.
Recent speaking tours of US whistleblower Chelsea Manning and British conspiracy theorist and anti-semite David Icke were blocked after their visas were rejected on character grounds.
“We knock back people all the time with respect to other forms of hatred that have been consistent with what has resulted in terrorism actions,” Burke said. “We need to make sure the full force of the law treats this as the same as any other form of terrorism.”
Guardian Australia contacted Coleman’s office to ask if Yiannopoulos’s visa would be revoked after the Christchurch attack and did not receive an immediate response.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has called Friday’s massacre a “violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack” and also condemned comments from Queensland senator Fraser Anning, saying that “blaming the murderous attacks by a violent, right-wing, extremist terrorist in New Zealand on immigration are disgusting”.
“Those views have no place in Australia, let alone the Australian parliament,” Morrison said.
The Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, said Anning did not represent Australia.
Burke also criticised Anning’s comments but said: “the normalisation of bigotry is something that is not only confined to him.”
He said the use of hate speech was connected to violence and extremism and should be taken more seriously.
“There’s been an attempt in Australia by many people to normalise hate speech,” Burke said. “We get told, ‘Oh, it’s just freedom of speech’.”
He said that view had been pushed by “some [television] networks” and said the normalisation of hate speech was “not the whole story of what’s happened, but there is no doubt it is part of it”.
The Australian man charged with murder over the Christchurch attack was not on a terrorist watchlist, and Burke said it was possible that “up until now, many people would not have viewed this form of extremism as being as dangerous to people as every other form of extremism”.
“Anyone who had that doubt, that doubt finished yesterday,” he said.
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