Senate could become Bill Shorten’s best friend

Peter van Onselen is the token Leftist at "The Australian" but he says below what I have been thinking:  Shorten is all hot air when you reflect how unlikely it is that his destructive policies will get through the Senate.  In both Australia and the USA, Senates are a great force for stability and obstructing change of all sorts.

Van Onselen however adds a speculation about voters being devious, which I think is far-fetched.  He seems to think everybody else is  a professor of politics.  I think the Senate will be Shorten's best friend because it will prevent him from legislating great and impoverishing follies

The Senate could become Bill Shorten’s best friend. With the opposition leader’s tax agenda under significant scrutiny — even though most of it has been publicly known for years — the role of the house of review just might save Shorten from himself.

Australians vote more intelligently than they often get credit for. We know our electoral system and understand that governments don’t always get their way. Not in the upper house where the balance of power is held by minor parties.

Even if Labor wins the election, it can squeal all it likes about the mandate won, yet minor parties in the senate will claim the support they got in the senate is also a mandate to follow their policy scripts — which in the case of a number of the minor parties involves disagreeing with Labor’s plans on negative gearing and franking credits.

If voters think that Shorten’s tax agenda will be blocked then they can use their lower house vote to punish the Coalition for a mix of failures in government — doubling the deficit, changing prime ministers not once but twice, having no serious policy for addressing climate change, you name it.


Our fight against climate change will be hopeless unless we choose to have smaller families

The writer below, BELLA LACK, is well-named.  She is lacking in almost everything that  would enable an intelligent comment on her topic.  She seems totally unaware of the history of population limitation calls -- from Malthus on. See here for starters.

She makes the characteristic Leftist mistake of treating all men as equal.  That Africans and Europeans have very different reproduction rates seems unknown to her.  So lumping all birthrates together into one number is highly misleading.  A scientist would say that she fails to take account of a bimodal distribution.

What the future holds out because of the difference is a SHRINKING population in Europe and an increasing population in Africa and elsewhere in the Third World.

So if we were to follow her logic, she should be an urgent promoter of contraception in Africa while praising Europe for their "responsible" behaviour.  There is no sign that she sees that logic.  If she had another brain she would be lonely

Come 2030 I will be 27-years-old.  If population growth continues at its current rate I will be one of 8.5 billion people on Earth. That’s almost one billion more than today, and more than double the number of people alive in 1970. By 2050 some 10 billion people could call earth home.

The spellbinding beauty of mother nature is impossible to resist. Last year I travelled to Southeast Asia hoping to catch a glimpse of an orangutan at home in Borneo’s lush rainforests. Standing in warm twilight outside the Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah, I gazed through my binoculars at orangutans hanging out in the tangled rainforest canopy. I paused for a second to reflect on the unfathomable privilege of being able to witness these creatures in the wilderness. In that moment there was nowhere on Earth I would rather have been. I was home.

Our natural world gives human beings so much and expects very little in return. But right now we are not honouring our side of the bargain. The devastating effects of global warming are already being felt by the natural world. The concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now stands at 410 parts per million. This is the highest it has been for some three million years. In Antarctica Adélie penguins are starving to death because the krill they eat are dying as sea ice retreats. In Central America the golden toad has been driven to the point of extinction due to droughts.

We gaze in wonder at our precious wildernesses but then think nothing of tearing them down. More than 80 percent of the original forest that covered the Earth 8,000 years ago has been cleared, damaged or altered. The rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. We simply can’t go on like this.


Speech is about power

Jeannie Suk Gersen relates below some rather appalling stories of aggressive authoritarianism on the part of Leftist students. As a reflection of that, she says that the battle for free speech on campuses has become a battle about power.

In that she echoes what the Left-Fascist student "protesters" themselves say. They say that they are waging a power battle. They are as power-mad as any Nazi. Ms Suk however fails to deplore that.  She thinks the students have a point. She thinks it is reasonable that Leftist students have made a battle for free speech into a battle about power

We conservatives however deplore the fact that the Left have made campus speech about power.  A pox on power!  What is wrong with a sober, respectful and balanced discussion of the issues?  Is that not what universities are for?

I know what is wrong with it from a Leftist viewpoint.  It's pretty obvious.  A sober discussion of the issues that explores all sides of the argument generally results in a conclusion that clashes with dreamy Leftist fantasies.  They cannot afford free speech. They are afraid of it.  With free speech conservatives would win most of the arguments.  Leftists display hysterical resistance to hearing conservative argumentation for good reason.  It undermines them

So in the end, conservatives -- in the person of Mr Trump -- have to use power to combat the lawless and coercive power to censor that campus Leftists constantly exercise

Note:  In case anyone thinks my use of the name Suk is satirical, I think I should note that Jeannie is Korean.  Suk is a common Korean name.  It is the surname of her father.  She is married to Prof. Gersen

In September, 2017, a month after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, student protesters at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, shut down a speaker—Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Virginia. A student group had invited Gastañaga to campus to give a talk on the importance of free speech, but, because of the students’ persistent disruptions, she could not proceed. “Blood on your hands,” the protesters shouted, and “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and “You protect Hitler.”

The activities of universities and colleges would be worth little without some basic commitment to free thought, inquiry, and discourse among students, teachers, and researchers. But on many liberal campuses today students emphasize the downsides and limits to free speech. The William and Mary students’ refrains—which included “Your free speech hides beneath white sheets” and “Liberalism is white supremacy”—captured the notion that invocations of “free speech” most often enable domination, oppression, and hate. For some, the idea that free speech can be weaponized to harm the vulnerable not only justifies shutting down speech they hate but also makes free speech itself deeply suspect.

The more that free speech is denounced by the left, the more it is embraced by the right. Two years ago, the University of California, Berkeley, cancelled a lecture by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, after protests of the event turned violent; President Trump then threatened, in a tweet, to withdraw federal funds from the school. At the time, the President’s suggestion appeared to lack a legal basis. Now he has created one, in the form of an executive order issued last month, in defense of free speech. The order, which warns colleges and universities to “avoid creating environments that stifle competing perspectives,” commands public institutions to comply with the First Amendment (which they are already required to do) and requires private institutions (which are not subject to the First Amendment) to comply with their own free-speech policies. It directs twelve federal agencies, including the Department of Education, to insure that schools that receive federal funding—virtually all colleges and universities—“promote free inquiry.”

But, with liberal and left politics dominant on most campuses, Trump can feel confident that his order serves as a partisan attack. The signing ceremony, which featured conservative students telling their stories of being censored on campus, was an opportunity to bash liberals for shutting down free speech. At first glance the order simply seems to reiterate existing legal requirements. But the instruction that agencies “take appropriate steps” to insure that institutions promote free inquiry contains an implied defunding threat. Even if no schools are ever actually defunded because of this order, it may induce them to stay in the government’s good graces on the issue.

The conscripting of the federal bureaucracy to monitor whether schools are sufficiently promoting free speech seems like unusual executive overreach, until we recall that the Obama Administration leveraged Title IX’s anti-sex-discrimination mandate to regulate schools’ handling of sexual assault. That federal executive strategy undoubtedly transformed student discipline, by threatening schools’ funding if they did not use discipline procedures to address allegations of assault. And so it may well be that schools are obligated to use their disciplinary powers against students who undermine others’ speech on campus . But that depends on whether the Trump Administration follows through as aggressively as the Obama Administration did in investigating and shaming schools for noncompliance.

Just this month, Harvard (where I am a professor of law) joined the ranks of schools where protesters have recently managed to shout down speakers, when students demanding divestment from fossil fuels and prisons successfully disrupted a forum at which the university’s president, Lawrence Bacow, was speaking. Bacow had said he would respond to reasons, not to pressure, and protesters were at the ready with a sign mocking him as “Larry ‘Reasons not demands’ Bacow.” “Who shut it down? We shut it down,” the students chanted.

Just before signing the order, Trump urged students to “get that point of view across. And listen to the other point of view. Maybe you can be changed and maybe not. I doubt it. But maybe. You never know.” He had a point. But his combatting of illiberal forces on campus also lent support to their central premise––that free speech is all about power.


Jeff Jacoby has been conned

I refer to his column "Mueller's report means impeachment won't happen".  Like all sane commentors, he concludes that the Mueller report exonerates Trump from the collusion with Russia that he was accused of.  The whole accusation was a Democrat fantasy.

Jacoby has however gone through the details of the report and noted the many alleged statements by Trump's staff that cast Trump in a bad light -- including the quite absurd allegation that Trump's staff frequently disobeyed him and thus saved him from grave errors. Mr Trump has furiously denied that anybody disobeyed him and the idea that a man famous for saying "You're fired" would have tolerated disobedience for one minute is laughable.

In addition to that lulu, there were many descriptions of Trump acting in an immature way.  And Jacoby appears to believe them all and retails them in his post.

His naivety is extreme.  He overlooks what psychologists call the demand characteristics of the situation.  When Trump staffers were asked for details of what their boss said and did, what do you think would be going through their minds?

They would be thinking that they are in a very ticklish situation.  Given the torrent of accusations against him, it seemed possible that their boss may be impeached and that they might be thrown to the wolves with him.  So to save their skins they had to pretend that they were among his critics.  But they could not go to the the point of outright lies in case he survived.  So they embroidered the truth, probably by "misremembering" much.

And given the chronic and quite improper use of leading questions by the Mueller team, it would at all times have been clear what was wanted from them.  So they did the best they could to give what was wanted.

And it is not even clear that they said what Mueller said they said.  There would have been many ways in which the Mueller team  might have done a bit of embroidering too, probably by careful omissions.

So in believing what was almost certainly a farrago of nonsense, Jacoby has done himself considerable discredit.

The Ridd affair is a debacle for JCU and its council should look into it

Physicist Prof. Ridd blew the whistle on scientific fraud at JCU and the Warmist fraudsters hate him for it. He showed that their statements about the "endangered" Great Barrier Reef depended on very selective evidence. They had no defence against his accusations so they played the man, not the ball. The Federal court has just overturned their attempt to fire him.

They were relying on the taxpayers' deep pockets to ensure that Ridd could not afford to challenge them in court.  But Ridd's treatment was so palpably wrong that many people rallied to his defence by contributing to his fighting fund

The unrepentant academics at JCU have said they will appeal the finding.  They may be encouraged by the fact that judge Vasta has been overturned a few times lately.  They should not get their hopes up. He has been overturned on appeal at least 15 times but he has heard more than 1000 cases.  That's not good odds for them

Thank God for the National Tertiary Education Union. Sacked professor Peter Ridd won his Federal Court action against James Cook University this month ­entirely because the university’s enterprise bargaining agreement, negotiated by the union, included a lengthy and carefully worded protection for intellectual freedom.

And that is the simple fact. Ridd’s win (he was found to have been wrongly dismissed) was a big victory for intellectual freedom in academia, and its legal foundation is in the commitment of the tertiary union to free speech.

Why is last week’s decision, from judge Salvatore Vasta, so important? It helps to look back at the history of this dispute.

First of all, Ridd is a respected scientist. He was head of physics at JCU from 2009 to 2016, and he managed the university’s marine geophysical laboratory for 15 years. He has expertise in studies of the Great Barrier Reef.

But he held concerns about the methodology used by some colleagues who said that coral bleaching on the reef was a recent phenomenon and linked to global warming.

Ridd also questioned the methodology behind findings that sediment in run-off was damaging the reef.

Ridd spoke to journalists and made public statements about these concerns. He questioned the judgments of colleagues and called on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as well as the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies to “check their facts before they spin their story”.

But the point about this is that Ridd was arguing about scientific judgments. His views may be right or wrong. But they are testable in the way all scientific assertions should be tested — by observation and experiment. Scientific controversies are a staple of the history of science and, eventually, truth outs.

But the university, offended by Ridd’s contrarian views and possibly fearing the impact it would have on its relations with other bodies such as the GBRMPA and the ARC Centre of Excellence, went after Ridd personally, saying that he had breached the university’s code of conduct by not upholding “the integrity and good reputation of the university”.

The university also trawled through Ridd’s work emails and came up with things that reflected on the organisation and some of Ridd’s colleagues.

There was this statement by Ridd: “ … our whole university system pretends to value free debate, but in fact it crushes it whenever the ‘wrong’ ideas are spoken. They are truly an Orwellian in nature.” And this, referring to some colleagues: “Needless to say I have certainly offended some sensitive but powerful and ruthless egos.”

Such statements, in the view of the university, were again not upholding the university’s good integrity and good reputation.

Sensibly, [judge] Vasta took the view that Ridd was just exercising his right, contained in the enterprise agreement, to “express opinions about the operations of JCU” and “express disagreement with university decisions and with the processes used to make those decisions”.

Naturally the university doesn’t agree. In a statement last week, issued after the decision, it stood by its view that Ridd “engaged in serious misconduct, including denigrating the university and its employees and breaching confidentiality directions regarding the disciplinary processes”.

“We are a university,” JCU also proclaimed in the statement. “Within our very DNA is the importance of promoting academic views and collegiate debate.”

With respect, it is exactly the lack of commitment to academic and collegiate debate that is the problem.

If the university had taken Ridd’s scientific objections to findings about damage to the Barrier Reef seriously, it’s very unlikely that this debacle — which is highly damaging to the university — would have occurred.

There is another point that needs to be made. The science at issue here is not about whether or not global warming is occurring, or whether or not such warming is caused by humans. What Ridd questioned is whether recent bleaching (which nobody disputes occurred) is itself evidence of warming. Ridd presented evidence — which should have been ­investigated, not summarily dismissed — that bleaching is a recurring phenomenon not specifically linked to warming.

In the court decision, Vasta offered his own defence of intellectual freedom and an implicit rebuke of JCU.

“It (intellectual freedom) allows a Charles Darwin to break free of the constraints of creationism. It allows an Albert Einstein to break free of the constraints of Newtonian physics. It allows the human race to question conventional wisdom in the never-ending search for knowledge and truth. And that, at its core, is what higher learning is about. To suggest otherwise is to ignore why universities were created and why critically focused academics remain central to all that university teaching claims to offer,” the judge said.

The Ridd affair should be of major concern to the JCU council — the university’s governing body — and its chancellor, former diplomat Bill Tweddell. If the council doesn’t look into why the university sacked a professor whose honestly held scientific views happened to be unpopular, then it’s failing in its duty.


Global warming is beneficial:  The NYT says so

Most of the wealth and human progress is located in the North of the world. Even quite far North countries such as Norway and Sweden do very well.  And  it gets pretty cold there a lot of the time. 

Even in Italy, it is the cooler North where the prosperity is mostly to be found.  And the warmer European countries such as Greece, Portugal, Turkey and the Yugoslav countries are not rich at all. 

But cold climates do have their limits.  All that snow shovelling and burst water pipes, for instance. So wouldn't countries in those cold climates benefit from a bit of warming?

The NYT quotes a study that confirms that possibility.  Global warming has been good for the First World countries. The small bit of global warming we have had over the last century or so has made us richer.  It has made a variety of things marginally easier for us.  So where's the worry?

Apparently the people of the warmer and poorer world not only don't benefit, they actally slide behind economically.  Sometimes it is too hot to work, for instance.

So what is to be done?  Nothing, as far as I can see.  The poorer countries have so much catching up to do in so many areas that the climate is the least of their worries.  Working to get rid of corruption would be the most likely way in which they could get ahead

Climate change creates winners and losers. Norway is among the winners; Nigeria among the losers.

Those are the stark findings of a peer-reviewed paper by two Stanford University professors who have tried to quantify the impact of rising greenhouse gas emissions on global inequality. It was published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Global temperatures have risen nearly 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the start of the industrial age, and the study was aimed at quantifying what effect that increase has had on national economies and the global wealth gap.

Poor countries lost out, while rich countries, especially those who have racked up a lot of emissions over the last 50 years, the study found, have “benefited from global warming.”

Inequality among nations, which has come down a lot in recent decades, would have declined far faster, it concluded, had climate change not been in the mix. It estimated that the gap in per capita income in the richest and poorest countries is 25 percentage points larger than it would have been without climate change.

The study relies on earlier research by Marshall Burke, an economist at Stanford. In that earlier work, he had found that when temperatures were hotter than average (for any reason), economic growth slowed in poor countries but accelerated in rich countries. That’s because the world’s richest countries are by and large already in cooler latitudes, while poor countries are disproportionately concentrated around the Equator, where even a slight increase in temperature can be devastating to crop production, human health and labor productivity.

For this latest study, Dr. Burke, along with Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist, looked at more than 20 climate models to estimate how much countries have warmed since 1960 specifically because of climate change. Then, they estimated what each country’s economic performance could have been without such a temperature rise.

Most of the world’s poor countries are poorer today than they would have been had those emissions not altered the climate, while many rich countries, especially in the northern belt of the Northern Hemisphere, are richer than they would have been, the study found.

Between 1961 and 2000, climate change dampened per capita incomes in the world’s poorest countries by between 17 percent and 30 percent. Among the countries hardest hit were also some of the largest. India, the world’s second most populous country, would have been 30 percent richer without climate change, the study concluded. For Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, that figure was 29 percent.

Norway, which is also a big oil and gas producer, fared well: It grew 34 percent richer. The authors cautioned that data on the very hottest and the very coldest countries is relatively sparse.

Countries in temperate zones, including China and the United States, did not feel much of an effect, the study said.

“If you’re a really cool country you’ve been helped a lot,” Dr. Burke said. “If you’re a really warm country, you’ve been hurt a lot. And if you’re in the middle the effects have been smaller or much more muted.”

The findings carry enormous implications for the global debate about who should bring down greenhouse gas emissions the fastest — and who should pay for the havoc they are causing, especially in poor countries. That is already one of the stickiest issues in global climate negotiations.

Dr. Burke said this study quantified the “dual benefits” that rich countries, particularly industrialized countries in the cooler latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, had enjoyed — first being able to consume fossil fuels to grow their economies and then reaping the gains of warmer temperatures. “Other countries have not had either of those,” Dr. Burke asserted.

“They didn’t cause the problem,” he said. “They’re being harmed by it. There’s a clear equity dimension here.”


Predestination and Donald Trump

The doctrine of predestination is part of Christian teachings.  It is to be found primarily in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1 but there are also various hints of it in Christ's words.  For instance, when Simon Peter cut off the servant's ear with his sword in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said: "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" -- John 18:10.

The early Christian reformer, John Calvin of Geneva, was a great expositor of predestination. He placed it front and centre of his teaching.  But it was a difficult doctrine.  If everything is predestined before we were born, what is the point of trying to be good? We could personally have no hand in what we did. And, more to the point, whether we were saved to eternal life in heaven or not was also pre-ordained. So, as Calvin saw it, the interesting thing was to see which group you belonged to:  The saved or the damned.

And you could find that out by looking at the lot that the Lord had given you. If you lived a virtuous and prosperous life, that suggested that the Lord had picked you out as one of the good guys and you could be proud of that.

So that was a considerable discipline.  If you misbehaved, it would reveal you as one of the damned. And all good people would shy away from you.  So you had to act very virtuously or you would have no hope of eternal life.  So Calvin built up a reasonable ethical system that way, that did take predestination into account.  You were always looking for signs of God's favour to reassure yourself of your destiny and the signs were your own ethical behaviour.

And Calvin was influential.  His disciple John Knox took his teachings to Scotland, where they took strong root and the various Presbyterian churches preached it from their pulpits. And the Dutch Reformed churches are generally Calvinist too.  Protestant Dutchmen in Australia generally just go along to their local Presbyterian church.

In my lifetime, however, I doubt that I have ever heard any mention of the doctrine from a Presbyterian pulpit.  It has sort of unofficially died out as being too "difficult" a doctrine.  The odd thing, though, is that the doctrine has lived on among the Presbyterian laity.  I remember well the way both my mother and my aunties would say to me on occasions -- with quiet confidence --   "Don't worry, John.  It was all planned out before were were born".  The people are still often Calvinists, regardless of what the clergy are.

My theology is no better than Calvin's so I don't propose to attempt an improvement on it. I think it may be helpful  however if I point out a few things.

The most important is that predestination is part of the mercy gospel, which is a prominent element in Christian teaching. Its powerful preaching in Matthew 5 is well known:  "If a man smiteth thee on thy right cheek ..."  So predestination fits in there.  If you know that an evildoer cannot help it, that he was predestined to do that evil, you are much more likely to be forgiving than if you think he could possibly have refrained from doing that evil deed. "There but for the grace of God go I". So predestination makes Christians merciful, which is probably a good thing.

Predestination also helps to make sense of the world.  If strange things happen, you will not be disturbed by them.  They are just God's will and nobody can know the mind of the Lord.  So the doctrine gives you mental repose.  Whatever happens, it is all taken care of.  There is no cause to worry. And it seems to work.  In my experience Presbyterians do seem to be steadier in the face of life's uncertainties and difficulties.  "It's all God's will". So they just get on with their lives as best they can.   It's about as non-neurotic as you can get.

The great example in our era of steadiness in the face of furious and prolonged abuse and attack would have to be Mr. Trump -- and he was brought up as a Presbyterian, courtesy of his Scottish mother.  Did he hear from his mother:  "It was all planned out before we were born"?  I would be surprised if he did not.

Arabs also, of course, believe that everything is fated:  "InshAllah!". But it seems to be altogether too relaxing to them.  It becomes an excuse not to strive. They don't have Calvin's wisdom on that.


‘We are in a crisis’: Australia’s recycling nightmare

For some reason, plastic is a great Greenie demon and there is a big imperative to recycle it.  Dropping it down a hole is apparently not good enough any more. A lot of Australia's playing fields and parks were once dumps but that is no longer wise, apparently.

But most plastic cannot economically be recycled so the little we do recycle requires government subsidies and support of various kinds. It costs money to recyle.  Making something useful out of rubbish is difficult. The fantasy that recycled rubbish can pay for itself is long gone. And the great bulk that we do not recycle we send overseas where they mostly burn it. But now other countries don't want it either, even if we pay them

If the Greenies had a brain they would be pushing for a total ban on plastic food and drink containers.  Many drink containers are already made of glass, steel or aluminium, which are fully and easily recylable. One's shopping would get slightly heavier as plastic bottles are lighter than steel or glass ones and aluminium containers do not work well in the larger sizes.  But I guess that glass, steel and aluminium are just boring old stuff that you cannot get a virtue claim out of

As our plastic waste piles up at overstretched facilities or is dumped in Malaysia and Indonesia, the crisis is getting too big to ignore.

Australia has catapulted headfirst into a crisis that’s been building for a long time.

The nation is trapped under a mountain of its own waste, lacking the resources to even begin to deal with it — and plastic is our biggest demon.

While Aussie households have gradually become accustomed to sorting rubbish for recycling, the illusion of success was shattered when China abruptly stopped accepting our refuse in 2017.

The country had been processing 60-70 per cent of the world’s recycling, but when it realised the negative impact on its environment, it suddenly shut the door. India has cut us off, too.

Australia has only a few dozen processing plants compared with China’s thousands. So our bottles, containers and coffee cups have been piling up at overstretched facilities, or shipped off to be illegally burned or buried in Southeast Asia.

“Nobody’s built any infrastructure,” Plastic Forests founder and owner David Hodge told “The Federal Government is a basket case.

“Just imagine there’s no garbage trucks coming down the street any more to pick up rubbish. That’s the situation we’re in. “We are in a crisis.”

After 20 years of relying on China, Australia is suddenly facing a visceral nightmare, as we start to drown in our own materialism.

While we have made some steps towards reducing single-use plastic, we still use around 3.3 billion plastic bags, 2.6 billion coffee cups, 2.4 billion plastic straws and 1.3 billion plastic bottles each year.

Soft plastics cannot be recycled, and when households dump plastic bags in the recycling bin, it acts “like chewing gum going through the machine”, which may have to be stopped and decontaminated.

“When we put it in our recycling bin, where does it go?” asks Mr Hodge. “It’s taken almost a generation to train Australians to recycle.

“It needs this — almost emergency powers to step in and address it.”

NSW is the only state or territory without at least a commitment to ban single-use bags. Major retailers have already cut them out, with Coles and Woolworths driving an 80 per cent drop in the consumption of plastic bags nationwide by December last year.

Many want to see federal action, with Labor promising to ban single-use bags and microbeads by 2021 if it wins the election as part of a $290 million plan to cut waste and clean up the oceans. But the solution to our self-made hell will not be easy.

Australians are becoming aware of their impact, with the ABC’s War on Waste having a huge impact in 2017 after it exposed that we were ranked fifth in the world for generating the most municipal waste. A video of supermarkets dumping edible bananas helped it become the broadcaster’s most successful social media campaign.

Nine’s 60 Minutes this week tackled how recyclable rubbish is being dumped in Indonesia, Vietnam and, in particular, Malaysia, which received more than 71,000 tonnes of our plastic in the last year alone.

But the wake-up call has come late in the day, and answers are desperately needed.

Suggested solutions include replacing our plastics with biodegradable versions, taxing non-recyclable or “virgin” plastics, stockpiling the rubbish while we improve our recycling capabilities or burning plastic to create energy.

All of these ideas come with their own costs and challenges. Mr Hodge says he’s concerned the Government will rush headlong into burning plastic for electricity — a hugely expensive energy source — when it could focus on investing in the “circular economy” and creating jobs in the process.

We are living in what he calls a “DUD economy” — Dig it up, Use it, Dispose of it. Most things don’t work like that: more often, water, food and materials are part of a cycle.

“Everybody’s trying to do everything as cheaply as possible, it’s not long-term sustainability,” warns Mr Hodge. “It’s just an enormously expensive fuel.

“We want to keep plastic as plastic.”

Companies are now manufacturing garden furniture, bollards, park benches and cable insulation from recycled plastic. Plastic Forests has found a way to create a mini wheel stop from plastic film using a grant from NSW Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waste Less Recycle More” $802 million initiative.

Australia needs smart investment, clear thinking and innovative ideas to deal with the monumental challenge. This catastrophe may be the wake-up call we need.


Bad conservatives?

I recently received the following email from M. DeV.  It appears to be a riposte to the way conservatives point to murderous Leftist regimes from the French revolution on.  I have a little spare time so I thought I might point out some of the lacunae in it.  I will add my coments at the bottom of it.

1. Those who promoted child labor were conservatives.

2. The brutal genocidal colonizers of the Americans were christian conservatives.

3. Franco was helped into power by conservatives.

4. Hitler was helped into power by conservatives such as Papen and Hindenburg.

5. World War I was started by conservatives.

6. Lenin was helped to get to Russia by German conservatives.

7. Those who opposed food safety laws were conservatives (thousands of children died in 19th century Britain because of arsenic poisoning).

8. The American Civil War was started by treasonous conservative democrats.

9. Centuries of European warfare was brought on by monarchists and conservatives.

10. Al Qaeda and the Taleban were created by the mujahedeen which was supported throughout the 1980s by American conservatives.

11. Iran Contra was treason by conservatives (Reagan should have been hanged for it).

12. Conservatism is a disease and the American GOP is a huge threat to the western world.

1. The man who did most to regulate and cut back child labor was Benjamin Disraeli, Conservative Prime Minister of Britain in the late 19th century

2. The Pilgrim fathers had friendly relations with the natives from 1620 to 1675, when they were attacked

3. Franco was suported by the Falange, a Fascist  (Leftist) party

4. Hitler's rise was his own doing -- particularly by way of his remarkable oratory.  But at various points both the Social Democrat Left and the Communists sided with him

5. Who started WWI is contentious but it would have remained a local affair except for the intervention of the Rusian Tsar, who was above politcs

6. At the beginning of World War I, Germany was a constitutional monarchy in which political parties were limited to the legislative arena. They could control neither the government nor the military.  It was the military who sent Lenin to Russia

7. Those who opposed food safety laws were businessmen with various political loyalties.  They were gradually brought to heel by governments.  But again Disraeli was in the lead.  In 1874 Disraeli brought in an aggressive program of social legislation, including a pure-food-and-drug act

8. The American Civil War was started by treasonous Leftist  politicians.  Republicans were at that time the Left of American politics.  No other country in the world shed a drop of blood to free their slaves.  So why did America?  Because the Republicans were in the grip of Leftist self righteousness.  See here

9. Centuries of European warfare were brought on by national and dynastic rivalries.

10.Al Qaeda and the Taleban were native Muslim movements that started in opposition to the Soviets. American opposition to Soviet intervention in Afghanistan started under Jimmy Carter (D)

11. Iran Contra was part of an attempt to overthrow a Communist regime

12. Leftism is a disease and the American Democrats are Fascists.

How to Have a Useful Conversation About Climate Change in 11 Steps

There is an article under the title above here.  It is aimed at convincing people about the danger of anthropogenic global warming.  So is it from some high-powered Warmist source?  No.  Rather curiously, it is by a professor at a Tibetan Buddhist college located in Portland, Oregon.

Even more curiously, it actually says nothing about global warming. It is a manual telling how to persuade anybody of anything.  And it is a pretty good one.  The steps outlined make sense in any discussion of a sensitive topic.

So for once I see nothing to criticize in it


I read the article. It is a focus on a method of persuasion. It was not a method of finding the truth. The person seeking to discuss the issue with another goes about it with the assumption that he is right and the only objective is to change the mind of the other. Interesting that no where does the exercise promote the idea of seeking the truth through an exchange of ideas, scientific information and observation.  It will not work on a neighbor while helping him clear his drive of 12 inches of snow in mid April.

The exchange may work on a closed mind if true facts are the basis of the discussion. The exchange will easily fix the opinion of someone that enters the discussion with no opinion and any logical set of information is used to make the persuasion. I see it as a trick to be used on indifferent, unsuspecting, persuadable individuals. The method is a one on one approach and will not work as group therapy. One on One will be an extremely slow message unless you can also convince the audience of one to now also spread the gospel.

Women are more susceptible than men to falling under the control of cults

I don't pretend to have a full understanding of it but I have long noted that women, particularly older women, are very commonly "spiritual" -- to the point that by the time they are 50, they nearly all seem to believe in something weird -- aromatherapy, Reiki etc -- so they are an easy mark for con-men.

"Little Pebble" was one in Australia until he went to jail for sexual offensiveness.

And you just have to look at the congregation in mainstream churches -- mainly old ladies.  So the NXIVM group differs only in being more criminal than most

I actually see the "spirituality" as a form of schizophrenia, as it is a belief in things that are not there.  I have spoken at length with some of the women concerned and they say that they know they are part of something that is all around them and bigger than themselves and they feel they are in partial contact with it.  So there is definitely a delusion involved.  But why women lose reality contact so readily is the puzzle.  Its pervasiveness suggests that it has a function so is it some sort of safety valve for the big stresses that child bearing and rearing places on women?

As a psychologist, it is my job to understand human behaviour and I do understand a lot of it (or think I do) but female gullibility in the face of improbabilities is a challenge that really stretches me.  My best guess is that females have to be gullible to believe and rely on men.  The one thing I am sure of is that it is very deep-rooted and, as such, almost certainly genetically encoded

As more details spill from the NXIVM trial, we get an insight into the cult world: branding, sex slaves and physical constraint

NXIVM has described itself as “a company whose mission is to raise human awareness, foster an ethical humanitarian civilization, and celebrate what it means to be human.” Critics have alleged other definitions for the group; definitions such as “sex-cult” and “pyramid scheme.” Federal U.S. prosecutors, meanwhile, are focusing on NXIVM’s alleged criminal activity: racketeering, wire fraud, sex trafficking, and forced labour, for a start.

The group’s spiritual leader and founder, Keith Raniere, goes on trial later this month, a bonus charge of possession of child pornography having been recently added to his already extensive list of alleged crimes. It’s ugly and confounding. How do people get away with this stuff and who falls for it?

Part of the answer is well established, if not well explained: women are more susceptible than men to falling under the control of exploitative movements. Or they do so more often, anyway. Research suggests as many as 70 per cent of cult members in the world are women.

In the NXIVM scandals, most of the worst stories emerge from something called “DOS” — a sort of sorority within NXIVM in which women allegedly recruited other women for all manner of abuse, including having their bodies physically branded with Raniere’s initials and submitting unconditionally to Raniere’s sexual wishes.

There are many theories about why women are disproportionately represented in the population of cult followers, perhaps the most common being that women are conditioned and/or wired to believe there is something wrong with them. The urge to self-correct to find outside acceptance is human, but it’s also familiarly female: lose weight, be gracious, be grateful, be obedient. Win without hurting anyone’s feelings. Be better than who you are.

That theory may be simplistic given that it rests on broad generalizations — which are themselves based on thought patterns whose cultural, evolutionary and biological bases are tough to tease apart. (Women certainly have no monopoly on feeling inadequate.) But even if it’s only part of the story, women’s general tendency to make self-acceptance contingent on improvement and external praise must play its role.

Others say that more women join cults than men because women have a greater need for spiritual fulfilment. According to Pew Research Center, women are indeed generally more religious than men, with women across the globe being somewhat more likely to affiliate with a religious faith than men. Or maybe women join cults because it’s what they know given their long history of oppression. (This made me wonder if other historically oppressed groups, such as African Americans, are more susceptible to cults, but I didn’t find ready evidence one way or the other. I did find a weird story about ties between Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and Scientology. And I learned that most of the people who joined the Reverend Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple — most famous for guiding its members to mass suicide at their compound in Guyana via poisoned Flavour Aid — were African American. Women in Jonestown also outnumbered men, with black women making up close to half the population.)

What’s interesting, if not unique, about NXIVM is the strong role women appear to have played in attracting other women to the group and then keeping them in the group’s grips. Remember the disturbing branding of women’s flesh I mentioned earlier? This allegedly took place with several women holding down another woman on a table while a female doctor allegedly burned the restrained woman’s skin with a laser-like device. Raniere had a female cofounder, who is now accused of many of the same crimes perpetrated against women as he is. That woman’s daughter has admitted to keeping a female slave. One of the reasons NXIVM has been such a headline-grabber is that Smallville actress Allison Mack has pled guilty to two racketeering counts for her involvement in DOS, which included blackmailing women into compliance with Raniere’s demands.

So whatever part subservience may play in attracting women to cults, they are clearly also capable of the predatory instincts of male cult leaders like Raniere — even if often ultimately in service of the male leader himself. Anyone who watched Wild Wild Country, the Netflix documentary about Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, can attest that most of the aggressive acts taken in that movement (including brazen bioterrorism attacks) were initiated by Rajneesh’s personal assistant, a woman named Ma Anand Sheela.

The best we can hope for is that when the NXIVM trials are done, the worst exploiters and abusers are brought to justice, male and female. And that women reading about the NXIVM story may become less likely to listen to that voice — whether from inside their own head or from a charismatic guru — telling them how much better they could be. Because they will be able to see they are good enough as they are.


Statins have no effect on cholesterol for over 50% of patients

This study is one of the few that looks at the cholesterol/statin correlation directly. And it does so with a substantial sample (N=165,411) so is of considerable interest. As such its conclusions are gloomy for statin use. On half your patients it may do no good at all, assuming that high cholesterol is associated with heart disease.  Given the size of the effect, that conclusion is unlikely to be overturned in subsequent research so needs to be taken seriously in patient treatment decisions henceforth

On the other hand, they found that among the "unprotected" group heart disease incidence was marginally higher.  In those circumstances (where the effect is weak), limitations of the study must be noted: It must be noted that the sample was not a random one.  It was a sample of people who had seen their doctor with some heart problem. And we also should note that the controls for confounding factors were poor -- no demographics!

So with those large reservations, we could say that the present weak results are consistent with previous findings that high levels of cholesterol are problematic for people with pre-existing heart disease only

Sub-optimal cholesterol response to initiation of statins and future risk of cardiovascular disease

Ralph Kwame Akyea et al.


Objective: To assess low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) response in patients after initiation of statins, and future risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Methods: Prospective cohort study of 165 411 primary care patients, from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink, who were free of CVD before statin initiation, and had at least one pre-treatment LDL-C within 12 months before, and one post-treatment LDL-C within 24 months after, statin initiation. Based on current national guidelines, <40% reduction in baseline LDL-C within 24 months was classified as a sub-optimal statin response. Cox proportional regression and competing-risks survival regression models were used to determine adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and sub-HRs for incident CVD outcomes for LDL-C response to statins.

Results: 84 609 (51.2%) patients had a sub-optimal LDL-C response to initiated statin therapy within 24 months. During 1 077 299 person-years of follow-up (median follow-up 6.2 years), there were 22 798 CVD events (12 142 in sub-optimal responders and 10 656 in optimal responders). In sub-optimal responders, compared with optimal responders, the HR for incident CVD was 1.17 (95% CI 1.13 to 1.20) and 1.22 (95% CI 1.19 to 1.25) after adjusting for age and baseline untreated LDL-C. Considering competing risks resulted in lower but similar sub-HRs for both unadjusted (1.13, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.16) and adjusted (1.19, 95% CI 1.16 to 1.23) cumulative incidence function of CVD.

Conclusions: Optimal lowering of LDL-C is not achieved within 2 years in over half of patients in the general population initiated on statin therapy, and these patients will experience significantly increased risk of future CVD.


The late Lawrence Auster 1949 – 2013

By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)


Author of the blog "VIEW FROM THE RIGHT" Auster was a deeply conservative writer who often wrote on immigration and multiculturalism. Sadly he died all too soon. Conservatives tend to remember their honoured predecessors so I thought I should put up a small personal memoir about him. I therefore put up below a slightly expanded version of what I said of him on December 19, 2004

I rarely comment on arguments put forward by my fellow conservatives, but I am going to make a small exception today to say a few words about the ideas of Lawrence Auster, a traditionalist Jewish writer who thinks that almost nobody these days is conservative enough. He has just put up on Frontpage an excellent article on the antiwar RIGHT ("The Antiwar Right's Bent View of the World") that I fully agree with and recommend. It no longer comes up on that site unfortunately but he summarizes it as follows:

"The charge of “anger” has, of course, long been a liberal shibboleth used to label, belittle, and dismiss conservatives. This has especially been the case at the New York Times, where the word “anger” as applied to conservatives, both in headlines and the body of stories, would typically appear more often in the paper than “House of Representatives,” “poll,” or “gay.” It is classic politically correct propaganda, a way of portraying any non-liberal position as consisting of nothing but primitive impulses and dark prejudices. Since 9/11, however, the phenomenon of anger-driven politics, both on the left and the antiwar right, has ceased being a politically correct fantasy and has become an all-too-real, indeed formative element in our national politics that renders rational discussion almost impossible much of the time. As such it represents an extremely important development that needs to be understood in depth and resisted."

There is an updated and expanded version here

He also has an excellent article here (reproduced here) that explains why American Jews are so overwhelmingly Left-wing. He says that they are actually AFRAID of American Protestant Christians, who are -- as Auster points out -- in fact the very best friends that Israel and the Jews have. Auster does not say so but I think the Jews concerned can be forgiven their paranoia. It is a pity that they are not more up to date but Christians (including Protestants such as Calvin and Luther) DID persecute them for a very long time.

Some other Auster articles of the many I could mention are ones complaining that the Pope is too Leftist and that most modern conservatives are really Leftists. He also thinks that the "neocons" are a bad lot who have GWB in their hip-pocket and that America's largely open borders are a disaster.

I of course agree with SOME of those other articles. I do think the whole neocon conspiracy thing is just paranoia but, as an Australian conservative I am delighted that our government has just about stopped illegal immigration stone dead and that it locks up any illegal immigrants it catches -- as it would anyone else who defies our laws. And I agree that the Holy Father, like most of his predecessors, is not much of a conservative politically.

My disagreements with Auster arise from the fact that I am one of those villains whom he sees as having destroyed conservatism -- libertarians. He rightly notes that libertarian conservatism is one of the dominant forms of conservatism today (the other being Christian conservatism) and makes the correct point that Christian conservatives are pretty strongly influenced by individualistic, liberty-oriented thinking too. Unlike Auster, however, I do not see this as a particularly modern phenomenon. I have done an extensive historical survey showing that belief in individual liberty has always been central to conservatism. Auster, by contrast, seems to think that traditionalism is the main current. I actually see something more basic in conservatism that underlies both traditionalism AND belief in liberty -- a certain cautious pragmatism and mistrust of the goodwill of others. Because of this basic trait of caution, conservatives want as much freedom to make their own decisions as possible and they also like systems that have been tried and tested. But the liking for tradition is in the end just a tool -- a way of being cautious, not something that is compelling for its own sake.

So the basis of Auster's complaint is that modern conservatives are too liberty-oriented and value-free -- and he sees this as something that they have in common with the Left. A related complaint is that modern conservatives have no anchors -- they just go along with whatever seems to be working. The only thing I disagree with there is the idea that Leftists believe in liberty. They don't. They only believe in power. They advocate various liberties from time to time -- e.g. various sexual liberties -- mainly because it suits them as a way of disrupting existing society and thus hopefully getting themselves into power. But for the rest, I would claim that liberty and the good life are the only lasting values for secular conservatives and that going along with what seems to be working is the historic conservative modus operandi. And long may it continue! We have had more than enough of theorists telling us what to do!

I apologize to Auster for having to a degree caricaturized his views above but I was aiming only to give a quick impression of them. His own prolific writings give plenty of detail, explanation and nuance.

Auster made the following brief comment on my post above about his writings:
"I thank Mr. Ray for his sympathetic and thoughtful overview of my writings. However, regarding his main criticism of me, I don't think I ever said that the belief in individual liberty was not part of the American conservative tradition. The difference is between those who understand liberty as being within a moral and constitutional order, and those who see liberty, or rather freedom, as essentially free of any constraints". Mark Richardson is another writer who often makes that sort of point. I find such a view incomprehensible. I know of NO conservative who denies that "rights connote duties" and I know of NO conservative who denies that we are in at least some ways constrained in what we do by "human nature". So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.

So it would appear that the differences between Auster and other conservatives lay mainly in matters of emphasis

There is a comprehensive list of Auster's writings here

Obedience to the authorities and Romans 13

Romans 13 was for a long while held to support the divine right of kings.  But does it? It is certainly a command to be a good citizen and one cannot easily object to that.  But the idea that one should just accept anything that any government does is surely troubling.  Even more troubling is the idea that all governments, however bad, were put there by God. So let's see where Paul may have been coming from in writing that.

I have previously suggested here and here that some of the commands to Christians given in the NT were not meant as instructions for all times but rather for the very transitional period when the first flowering of Christianity was in danger of being crushed under the feet of the established authorities, mostly Roman but also more local.  The imperative was for the faith to survive but once that was firmly in place "normal" rules could apply. That helps us to understand the most disobeyed instruction in the Bible:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Matthew 5:38

That advice runs against all nature.  No-one naturally behaves that way.  It is anti-instinctual. So it must have been designed for a very special occasion.  And it was.

It seems to me that these were instructions Jesus gave in full knowledge of the hostility that already existed towards him and the great danger his followers would be in after his death.  He wanted his teachings to survive his death and the disciples were to be the vehicle for that survival.  So he gave them instructions which would minimize hostility towards them.

How do we know that these instructions were for a transitional period only?  Easy.  Many of his other instructions were quite martial. "He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.".  Again: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword".  And Christ himself drove the moneychangers out of the temple. And when Simon Peter cut off the servant's ear with his sword, Jesus did not say that the use of the sword was wrong.  He simply said that the time was wrong for that -- John 18:10.

And Romans 13 is clearly an elaboration of the instructions in Matthew 5. Paul was a good apostle. It reads:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Paul was writing in the very beginning of the Christian expansion and there was already hostility to their "strange" beliefs in the Greek cities where they were mostly to be found.  So he wanted to instill attitudes of non-resistance to make them safe.  That both he and Christ saw non-resistance as powerful was in fact amazing wisdom for the time.  It was brilliant advice on how to survive hostility and danger. Psychologists these days teach "de-escalation techniques" for dealing with conflict but Christ and Paul taught such techniques 2,000 years ago.

But are we certain yet that the desire for a peaceful life lay behind those instructions?  I think there is one more piece of evidence that clinches it. It is in I Timothy 2:

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty

So it is clear that deflection of aggression from the authorities is the single theme of Matthew 5, Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2. And in those times deflecting hostility was vital if the faith was to survive.  Being known as good people would help them survive.

But what if the survival of the faith is no longer threatened, as is the case in the modern world, with its billions of Christians?  I think in that case the instructions continue as useful tools but they are not something mandatory.  They were instructions for a particular time and circumstance.  So we may no longer use swords but armed self-defense is allowed. But Christian forgiveness still is a wise response to many conflict situations in 1 to 1 relationships.

So was Paul pulling a fast one in telling us that all governments were ordained by God?  Was he telling a white lie in order to get the early Christians to behave?

He was not.  He was simply re-iterating the doctrine of predestination, as found in Ephesians chapter 1.  John Calvin was much taken by that doctrine and did much to elaborate it and it survives as an official doctrine of Presbyterian churches to this day.  It is even preached in the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England, albeit in a rather strangled way. That does however raise new issues so I will leave a discussion of it for another day.

Obama judges have cleared the way for Trump judges to block completely all future Democrat initiatives

Like Harry Reid, the Left generally seem to be oblivious of the danger in setting a bad precedent.  They are incapable of thinking ahead. If Obama judges can regularly block Trump on shallow grounds -- see below -- Trump judges may decide in future that they can rule on frivolous grounds too. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Trump can appeal to SCOTUS for relief from lower courts but the majority of SCOTUS judges are now Trump judges too -- so would be unlikely to give Democrats any recourse.  All new legislating could grind to a halt, which would be a very good thing from a conservative viewpoint. Only Republican-sponsored legislation would get through the judiciary

Last fall, Chief Justice John Roberts asserted that “we do not have Obama judges” after President Donald Trump suggested that we did. While it is understandable that Roberts would like for the courts to be viewed as non-partisan, the fact of the matter is that President Trump is right: we do have Obama judges. We have seen that fact demonstrated as these judges have repeatedly sought to thwart the President’s agenda.

One area in which Obama judges have obstructed is immigration, and that obstruction started early in the Trump Administration. In April of 2017, William Orrick, a federal district judge in California, blocked Trump’s executive order defunding sanctuary cities. Last November, the uber-liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Administration must continue the unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows illegal immigrants who arrived as children to stay here. Two of the three judges who made the decision were Obama appointees: John Owens and Jacqueline Nguyen. (The third judge was a Clinton appointee.) That same month, Jon Tigar, a federal district judge in California, blocked Trump’s policy requiring asylum seekers to apply at ports of entry.

Three Obama judges have blocked the inclusion of a simple citizenship question in the 2020 census — even though such a question was asked in the past. These three judges are Jesse Furman, a federal district judge in New York, George Hazel, a federal district judge in Maryland, and Richard Seeborg, a federal district judge in California. In addition, earlier this week, Seeborg ruled against Trump’s policy of having asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases are considered by immigration courts.

Obama judges have also weighed in against Trump’s energy policies. For example, Brian Morris, a federal district judge in Montana, blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline last November. The Trump Administration has approved construction of the $8 billion pipeline, which would create thousands of jobs. Once complete, the pipeline could transport over 800,000 barrels of oil a day to the Gulf Coast for refining.

When not opposing pipelines, Obama judges can be expected to halt drilling. Rudolph Contreras, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., blocked drilling on federal lands in Wyoming last month because the Administration “did not sufficiently consider climate change.” Soon thereafter, Sharon Gleason, a federal district judge in Alaska, reinstated Obama’s ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the northern Atlantic Ocean last month.

Obama judges have also meddled in health care policy. In January, Wendy Beetlestone, a federal district judge in Pennsylvania, and Haywood Gilliam, a federal district judge in California, blocked Trump’s regulation designed to free religious businessowners from an Obamacare requirement that they pay for contraceptives that violate their beliefs.  James Boasberg, a federal district judge in Washington, D.C., has blocked two states from requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work. In June of last year, Boasberg blocked Kentucky from implementing work requirements; and, last month, he blocked Arkansas’s Medicaid work requirements.

Fortunately, a little over two years into the Trump presidency, 96 judges have been confirmed, and more than 60 judicial nominees are awaiting confirmation. With the confirmation of Paul Matey to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals last month, Republican-appointed judges now make up a majority on that court, which has jurisdiction over Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Three other circuit courts are close to flipping from having a Democrat-appointed majority to having a Republican-appointed majority. Finally, not a moment too soon, Republican Senators voted last week to speed up the confirmation process for district court judges after years of Democrat Senators dragging out debate on nominees to waste time.

While these and other Obama judges seem to view it as their job to resist the duly-elected President, the good news is that Trump and Senate Republicans are making good progress at changing the composition of the courts. It’s about time.


Oz Conservative:  An Australian traditionalist conservative site

It's now a number of years since I have linked to the above site so I thought it was time for me to give blogger Mark Richardson a shout-out.  I write from Brisbane and he writes from Melbourne so we have different priorities in writing about State matters but we both move far beyond geographical concerns.  I don't think there any major differences between us in our attitudes but I may be a bit further towards the libertarian end of conservatism.

And I occasionally mention topics that are completely forbidden even to conservatives -- like IQ, race and social class.  All three are immensely powerful influences on what people say, think and do, so that may be the reason why any mention of them is taboo.  We must not understand too much.  But I am an academic  psychologist with a research background in all three topics so I foolishly think that understanding and explaining such influences lies within my remit

Mark has up at the moment an excellent interview with a black Cardinal in which the Cardinal asserts the importance of national identity

A Leftist obsession: Mr Trump is mentally damaged

Even during the primaries there were claims that Mr Trump was in some way mentally defective.  And there has been an absolute drumbeat of such accusations ever since.  The latest, by a John Gartner, is titled

"Trump's cognitive deficits seem worse. We need to know if he has dementia: Psychologist"  It appears in that august publication, "USA Today"

Dr. Gartner is a psychologist and a former assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine but I am a Ph.D. psychologist with a large array of published academic papers on mental health topics so I think I am in a good position to examine  his claims.

Gartner assembles many examples of "defects" in Trump's speech and rightly says that such defects are common in the speech of people with Alzheimer’s disease.  He shows that Trump rambles and mixes up his words.

So has he made his case? No. As Leftists normally do, he has ignored facts that do not suit him.  He has a conclusion he wants to come to and has ignored alternative explanations for the "evidence" he examines.

And the thing he ignores is a really gross omission: Elder speech.  Old people ramble and mix up their words. We all do as we get older.  Let me recycle something I said about that recently:

"Old people tend to forget their words and may use generic substitutes.  For instance, the lady in my life and I are both of Mr Trump's vintage and we  both listen to a lot of early classical music.  But one day she wanted to say something to me about a harpsichord, an instrument very familiar to us both.  But words failed her.  So she referred to it as "that piano thing".  Mr Trump's speech could well lack precision like that. He is 72. He could, for instance say "father" when he meant "grandfather". Mr Trump is squarely in the category of someone from whom elder speech can be expected. 

But being old does not make you mentally defective. Most of the world is ruled by old people. So they would appear in fact to be mostly seen as wise by their electors.

But other politicians don't speak in the muddled way Trump does, you might say.  And that's true.  Because others almost invariably read pre-written words off a teleprompter, often words of great verbal skill.  It's not even their own words that most politicians are uttering in public speeches.  Mr Obama is a good example of that.  All his speeches were brilliantly polished.  But there were a few occasions when for some reason he was deprived of his teleprompter and on those occasions he made no sense at all. Some examples here and here of muddled Obama speech that Dr Gartner might like to review. And Mr Obama is a lot younger The Donald.

The biggest verbal horror Obama perpetrated to my mind when he referred to an army "corps" and pronounced it as "corpse". Quite gross. And as for grandiose speech, can you beat Obama's claim that his nomination for the Presidency was "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal"? (3 June 2008).  And for confusion, what about, ""We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."  It made sense to Obama's followers but Trump makes sense to his followers too.

Mr Trump is a very forthright politician.  He speaks his mind and he speaks it his way.  He does use a telepromter on some formal occasions but mostly he just lets it rip.  His followers like that.  They know they are hearing the real man, not some artificially contrived media creature who actually believes in nothing.  Mr Trump is no policy wonk but nor are most of his voters.

We had a political leader much like Mr Trump in my home State of Queensland, Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen.  He was a small farmer and spoke like one.  Media figures thought his rambling, disconnected speech made no sense at all.  But it made plenty of sense to his voters.  They kept him in office for nearly 20 years.  So 8 years of Trump would seem eminently feasible.

Even young public speakers make gaffes. Dr. Gartner should make allowances.

The five ways the human race could be WIPED OUT because of global warming

I guffawed when I saw the title of this article but I had to read it.  We know that all bad things are attributable to global warming but this is the first prophecy of human extinction I have seen.  Author Bill McKibben is an old global warming hysteric from wayback but has never yet managed to make an accurate prophecy  -- and this one will be no better.

I am not going to fisk it all.  It is too silly for that.  It is just a collection of extreme improbabilities.

But I am amazed that he is still pushing the ancient and constantly overturned food-shortage barrow.  That shows he is an outright fraud. A couple of degrees of warming would open up for farming millions of acres in Northern Canada and Southern Siberia.  Food would become super-abundant.  And the extra rainfall from warmer oceans would green a lot of the earth's desert areas.  Australian and Canadian farmers already do wonders in low-rainfall areas. Think of their productivity leap with more rain

And the claim about IQ is wild.  I know of no sound source for it and IQ research is something I monitor.  He seems unaware that submariners routinely live in super-high concentrations of CO2 but no effects of it on their IQ are known.  Does anybody think that the USA would put into its nuclear submarines crew who are likely to go ga-ga?

McKibben may be relying on the old Satish study that I have previously critiqued. That study was so tiny, used no sampling and made no allowance for adaptation that its relevance is very doubtful but it should be noted that in that study high CO2 did show some adverse effects on human performance but also showed some positive effects. Not much for McKibben to hang his hat on.

Here's a little excerpt from the Satish study that is rather fun:

An inverse pattern was seen for “focused activity,” with the highest level of focus obtained at 2,500 ppm and the lowest at 600 ppm. Thus, most decision-making variables showed a decline with higher concentrations of CO2, but measures of focused activity improved. Focused activity is important for overall productivity

So overall productivity was best at the very highest level of CO2. CO2 improved your focus. Quite the opposite of what McKibben claims to fear.

Amusing that of all the bad effects of global warming that he lists, the only actual death so far that he claims is of one 12-year old boy

The deadly possible consequences of global warming have been laid bare in a book that reveals the terrifying ways the human race could be wiped out.

From a total food-system collapse, to a catastrophic sea-level rise and the return of lost deadly diseases, 'FALTER: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?' lists the lethal, and unexpected, ways that humans could become extinct.

Author Bill McKibben, a scientist and environmental activist who wrote the influential End of Nature - one of the first books for a mainstream audience on climate change - has followed up with this doomsday study of possible homosapien endgames - which include rising tides, falling crops and exploding populations.

Oceans heating up and disrupting photosynthesis leading to mass suffocation

 By the end of this century if the world's oceans continue to warm up they might become hot enough to stop oxygen production by phyto-plankton by disrupting the delicate process of photosynthesis, a 2015 study in the Journal of Mathematical Biology suggested.

More than two thirds of the earth's oxygen comes from phyto-plankton so the disruption of photosynthesis would more than likely result in the mass extinction of life on earth through suffocation.

While the melting ice sheets could trigger catastrophic natural disasters capable of decimating entire countries. In fact, increased seismic activity has been registered in Alaska and Greenland, suggesting this process has already begun.

Melting icecaps sparking catastrophic tsunamis destroying coastal life

 Additionally, the increased seawater could create a bending in the earth's crust which would prompt a massive increase in volcanic activity with lava poisoning marine life.

'That will give you a massive increase in volcanic activity. It'll activate faults to create earthquakes, submarine landslides, tsunamis, the whole lot,' the director of University College London's Hazard Centre told Rolling Stone magazine.

Scientists have evidence that such an event happened before. Some 8,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, a section of Norway's continental shelf collapsed creating a series of gigantic waves which swept all signs of life away from coastal Norway to Greenland.

Such was the violence of the waves, thought to be some 65ft tall, that a landmass connecting Britain to parts of Europe was drowned.

Deadly diseases in frozen animals thawing out and contaminating the water supply

 Melting icecaps has revealed a treasure chest of well preserved artifacts and specimens for scientists to study. But they could also bring the return of lethal diseases trapped in permafrost.

One example the book lists is a reindeer carcass that thawed after many thousands of years. The exposed body released anthrax into the surrounding water and soil which they infected two thousand reindeer grazing nearby, and they in turn infected some humans who hunted them - killing one 12-year-old boy.

Permafrost creates the perfect conditions for microbes and viruses to survive because 'it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark'.

Scientists have managed to revive an eight-million-year-old bacterium they found beneath the surface of a glacier.

While researchers believe there are fragments of the Spanish flu virus, smallpox, and bubonic plague buried in Siberia and Alaska, which could all infect humans should they be released from their frozen state.

Increased carbon dioxide causing decreased brain function

McKibben also points to the increased carbon dioxide levels impairing cognitive ability. Again, by the year 2100, carbon dioxide levels could rise to a thousand parts per million, while would cause a 21 percent cognitive regression.

A study on the effects of cognitive impairment through carbon dioxide poisoning showed the most pronounced effects on 'crisis response, information usage and strategy' functions within our brains, one Harvard study reported.   

Food supply breakdown causing mass starvation

While humans have for large parts of the late twentieth and early twenty first century managed to keep ahead of an exploding global population, it has come at a great human cost.

Farmers have been displaced in third world countries, forcing them into slums, while fertilizers, pesticides and machinery has increased production radically.

However, that production could be completely halted with increased heat and drought, with studies on coffee, cacao and chickpea growth highlighting the damning effect warming has on them.

The food source humans most rely on, though, is also the ones that are most at risk.

Cereals are the cornerstone of human nutrition providing the vast majority of the world's calories: corn, wheat and rice all evolved as crops in the climate of the past 10,000 years - so a sudden spike to that climate, at a rate evolution cannot maintain, means the crops will die and fail to grow in the new, parched land.

A 2017 study in Australia, home to some of the world's highest-tech farming, found that 'wheat productivity has flatlined as a direct result of climate change.'

Wheat yields tripled between 1990 and 1990 but have stagnated since then as temperature increases and rainfall declined by nearly a third.

In June 2018, researchers found that a two-degree Celsius rise in temperature - which is what the Paris accord is targeting - could cut U.S. corn yields by 18 percent.

A four-degree increase - the earth's current trajectory would cut the crop almost in half.

It is a similar story for corn, the planet's most widely grown crop. The systematic breakdown of mass agricultural farming would see the foundation of human sustenance wiped out, plunging the earth into a mass scavenging race for nutrition.


Bill Shorten’s war against ‘accountant tax rorts’ and real estate industry is really a war against business generally

He's in a war on the costs of doing business. He wants to treat costs as profit. First it was "excessive" mortgage interest payments, which will be disallowed under the attack on "negative gearing"; now it is the cost of having accountants do your tax return and also now the cost of paying commissions to real estate agents.

The attack on negative gearing was the start.  Negative gearing simply treats all costs of doing business as costs, without exception -- be they costs of paying mortgage interest or whatever.  But the attack on "negative gearing" in effect treats some mortgage interest payments as not a cost!  But because some  amounts are held not to be a cost, those amounts become profits and are taxed as such.  It's just a brain-dead tax grab.

A lot of business activity will wind down at that rate and take lots of jobs with it. Levying tax on costs is insane.  Everywhere else in the world, they only tax profits, as far as I am aware

The only consolation is that such an extreme change will probably need new legislation and the change is so mad that any such legislation is unlikely to get through the Senate.  And if the change is via regulation, the High Court could knock it back on various grounds -- not the least of which is denial of natural justice

It seems to be Shorten's modus operandi to promise things that he most probably will not be able to enact. His threat to raise the minimum wage is also a con. All he can do is make submissions to the Fair Work Commission and they are perfectly capable of denying him what he asks in either whole or in part, most likely in part.

But his big talk will look good to some unwary voters.  So he gains credit for intentions only.  He will not have to deliver anything

Bill Shorten has doubled down on his plan to stop wealthy people claiming high accountants’ fees on tax and has taken a swipe at real estate agents.

In a sign of a fierce “class warfare” campaign ahead, the Opposition Leader today said he was sticking with a cap of $3000 on exempting accountancy fees despite scepticism his plan will raise the $1.8bn he predicts it will.

“I’m 100 per cent confident that Labor is right, to stop allowing people deduct hundreds of thousands of dollars off their tax for what they pay their accountant,” he said in the Liberal electorate of Bennelong.

“I’m 100 per cent confident that what we can do is make sure that this is a fairer system.

“Why should someone who pays $1 million to their accountant to minimise their tax for millions more, why should we pay for the double dip?

“I mean, it’s a sweet deal. It’s not illegal, but enough’s enough.”

Last month, Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan said he was sceptical the savings claimed from Labor’s policy were all sourced from managing tax affairs instead of other exemptions.

“When people see a quick headline, ‘millionaires paying millions not to pay tax’, there might well be some other reason entirely, like GIC (general interest charges) and I think we’re trying to break that box down now,” he told the Tax Institute in March.

“If you’ve got all that GIC and you’ve paid an enormous settlement, you can claim the GIC as a tax deduction so yes you might have millions of dollars of income but I can’t see any rational or even irrational person, spending over a million to not pay tax on a million.”

Mr Shorten refused to answer questions on whether the difference pointed out by Mr Jordan would affect the revenue raised by his policy.

But he did hit back at a national campaign led by real estate agents against his negative gearing policies. “Well, the real estate agents, it’s obviously in their financial interest to keep taxpayer money flowing to their business model?” he said.

“You’ve gotta ask yourself, why are they campaigning? They’re campaigning because they like to have people bidding for houses who are getting a taxpayer subsidy. “Because the more people they have bidding for houses, the more they can charge their percentage on the sale.”

The Real Estate Institute of Australia, which represents about 95 per cent of the 36,000 businesses that employ about 120,000 people, is leading the push to coincide with the election campaign.

The industry-backed campaign will harness social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to promote key attack lines against the Labor policy, arguing that it will reduce property prices in a cooling market, fail to raise the forecast revenue and pose a danger to the Australian economy.


The haphazard care offered by Britain's NHS can kill

Below is just the beginning of a HUGE BBC report on the avoidable death of a Downs syndrome little boy.  It is some tribute to Britain's legal system that the death was taken very seriously and extensively  investigated.

When I saw that the doctor convicted of "manslaughter by negligence" was of Nigerian Muslim origins, I thought I knew the beginning and ending of the story.  I was wrong.  Doctors of African ancestry are often pushed through medical school on the basis of the color of their skin rather than how much they have learnt. But there was no sign of that in the case of this doctor.

It is certainly true that she was part of a system that gave the boy insufficient care but the system was in chaos on the day.  Even the computers weren't working and key staff were simply missing, just not there in the ward.  And the doctor who was there had been given the job with no warning and had never been trained to work in that ward.  Understaffed is hardly the word for it.  It was a caricature of a medical service.  In the circumstance the doctor was run off her feet and could not be expected to think of everything and do everything.

Her conviction was indeed a sham and a coverup. There was only one defendant who should have been in the dock -- the NHS. The NHS simply has neither the money nor the staff to provide even a safe service, let alone a curative one. With most illnesses people do after a while get better of their own accord and that is the only reason for a majority of the successful discharges from NHS hospitals.

The whole idea of the NHS is faulty.  Governments are not fit to run hospitals.  In the case of the NHS there is a vast  bureaucracy that never has a shortage of clerks and administrators --  while the service has a gross shortage of doctors and nurses.  Firing the bureaucrats would instantly free up enough money to hire the most desperately needed medical staff.

I can't help comparing what I read about the NHS with the care that I receive in the private hospital I go to.  In that hospital there are always plenty of nurses around and a call button gets a 5 minute response.  I am rarely admitted for anything too serious but I still get my BP taken every hour during the day and am given all sorts of small attentions. And any scans I might need are done and interpreted within an hour of my arrival.  Anything that might help me is done promptly.

So why the difference?  I have private health insurance.  And that is not unusual in Australia,  Where only 7% of Britons have private health insurance, 40% of Australians do -- which shows a high level of affordability.  I am not remotely unique in being able to receive hospital care of the highest international standard

Given the differences I have just outlined, I cannot see any case for such a thing as a government hospital to exist.  All that is needed to provide for the poor is for the government to foot the bill for their private care

When a junior doctor was convicted of manslaughter and 
struck off the medical register for her role in the death of 
six-year-old Jack Adcock, shockwaves reverberated
through the medical profession. 

Many doctors have argued that Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba was
unfairly punished for mistakes she made while working in
an overstretched and under-resourced NHS - and on 
Monday the Court of Appeal ruled she should not have
been struck off.

With access to full trial transcripts, witness statements 
and internal hospital inquiries, Panorama talks to 
Dr Bawa-Garba and to the parents of Jack Adcock 
in order to tell the story in detail.

Jack Adcock wasn’t himself when he returned from school.

He later started vomiting and had diarrhoea, which continued through the night.

In the morning Jack was taken to the GP by his mother, Nicola, and referred directly to Leicester Royal Infirmary’s children’s assessment unit (CAU).

Less than 12 hours later he was dead.

“Losing a child is the most horrendous thing ever. But to lose a child in the way we lost Jack – we should never have lost him,” Mrs Adcock says.

Trainee doctor Hadiza Bawa-Garba arrived at work expecting to be on the general paediatrics ward - the ward she’d been on all week.

She had only recently returned to work after having her first baby. Before her 13 months’ maternity leave, she had been working in community paediatrics, treating children with chronic illnesses and behavioural problems.

But when medical staff gathered to discuss the day’s work, they were told someone was needed to cover the CAU – the doctor supposed to be doing it was on a course. And Dr Bawa-Garba volunteered to step in.

She also carried the bleep – which alerts the doctor that a patient needs seeing urgently on the wards or in the Accident and Emergency unit, across four floors of the busy Leicester Royal Infirmary – and was required to respond to calls from midwives, other doctors or parents.

Soon after Dr Bawa-Garba took over, the bleep went off – a child down in the accident and emergency unit, several floors below, needed urgent attention and she missed the rest of the morning handover.

Back in the CAU, Dr Bawa-Garba was asked to see Jack Adcock by the nurse in charge, Sister Theresa Taylor, who was worried he had looked very sick when he had been admitted.

She was the only staff nurse that day. Because of staff shortages, two of the three CAU nurses were from an agency and not allowed to perform many nursing procedures.

“Jack was really lethargic, very sleepy. He wasn’t really very with it,” says Mrs Adcock. She told medical staff he had been up all night with diarrhoea and sickness.

The boy’s hands and feet were cold and had a blue-grey tinge. He also had a cough.

“I knew that I had to get a line in him quickly to get some bloods and also give him some fluids to rehydrate him,” says Dr Bawa-Garba. He didn’t flinch when she put his cannula in.

Because of a pre-existing heart condition, Jack had been taking enalapril – a drug to control his blood pressure and help pump blood around his body – twice a day.

But Dr Bawa-Garba says she didn’t want him to have the enalapril, because he was dehydrated and it might have made his blood pressure drop too much.

Because of this, she says, she left it off his drug chart.

She then asked for an X-ray to check Jack’s chest. Blood was taken – some was sent down to the labs, while a quicker test was done to measure his blood acidity and lactate levels – the latter being a measure of how much oxygen is reaching the tissues. The tests revealed his blood was too acidic.

“A normal pH is 7.34 – but Jack’s was seven and his lactate was also very high. A normal is about two and his was 11, so I knew then he was very unwell,” Dr Bawa-Garba says. She gave him a large boost of fluid – a bolus – to resuscitate him.

Her working diagnosis was gastroenteritis and dehydration.

But she didn’t consider that Jack might have had a more serious condition. It was a mistake she regrets to this day.

Jack had been admitted under the care of Dr Stephen O’Riordan, the consultant who was supposed to be in charge that day – but he hadn’t realised he was on call and had double-booked himself with teaching commitments in Warwick and hadn’t arrived at work.

Another consultant based elsewhere in the hospital had said she was available to help and cover him if needed – although she had her own duties.

After an hour of being on fluids to rehydrate him, Jack seemed to be responding well.

“He was a little more alert and we thought he was getting better,” Mrs Adcock says.

Dr Bawa-Garba thought that too.

One of the less experienced doctors in the unit had been unable to do Jack’s next blood tests. They had tried but couldn’t get blood, so Dr Bawa-Garba went to do it herself.

This time, when Dr Bawa-Garba went to take blood from his finger, Jack resisted, pulling away.

“That kind of response, to me, said that he was responding to the bolus,” she says. “Also, the result I got showed that the pH had gone from seven to 7.24. In my mind I’m thinking this is going the right way.”

However, not enough blood had been taken to get another lactate measurement.

Dr Bawa-Garba looked for Jack’s blood results from the lab. She had fast-tracked them an hour-and-a-half earlier. But when she went to view them on the computer system, it had gone down.

The whole hospital was affected. This meant not only that blood test results were delayed, but also that the alert system designed to flag up abnormal results on computer screens was out of action.

She asked one of the doctors in her team to chase up the results for her patients, and took on some of that doctor’s tasks.

Those tests would have indicated that Jack may have had kidney failure and that he needed antibiotics.