Abortion is decriminalised in New South Wales after weeks of contentious debate and heated protests

This is a storm in a teacup.  Abortion has been decriminalized in NSW for years -- ever since the Heatherbrae case. The 1971 case of R v Wald ruled that abortions do not contravene the laws in certain circumstances.

That case involved a criminal trial of five people – most of whom were health care professionals. The five defendants were involved in performing an abortion at the Heatherbrae clinic in Bondi. All were charged under section 83 of the Crimes Act.

The trial judge found that an abortion is lawful if there is an ‘economic, social or medical ground or reason’ upon which the doctor could honestly and reasonably believe that an abortion could avoid a ‘serious danger to the pregnant woman’s life or her physical or mental health.’

All five defendants were ultimately found ‘not guilty’ on that basis – and the ruling opened the doors to women seeking to terminate a pregnancy for reasons such as financial disadvantage or instability, or fears of social stigma and judgment – factors which may negatively affect a woman’s mental wellbeing.

The judgment also affirmed that abortions do not need to be performed in hospitals – paving the way for women’s health clinics around the state.

NSW parliament has passed laws decriminalising abortion following a marathon debate and weeks of protest. There was applause in the lower house on Thursday as the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 passed its final hurdle.

It comes after the controversial bill passed the upper house 26 votes to 14 on Wednesday night following nearly 40 hours of discussion - making it the third longest debate in the state's house of review.

The bill, presented to parliament in August by Independent MP Alex Greenwich, takes abortion out of the criminal code and allows terminations up to 22 weeks.

'Thank you to all members for the role you have played in this historic reform ... we can feel proud that part of our legacy will be the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW,' the Member for Sydney said.

An amendment passed in the upper house recognised doctors performing abortions after 22 weeks could seek advice from a multi-disciplinary team or hospital advisory committee.

'With the passing of this bill, our parliament affirms that we trust women,' Labor MP and bill co-sponsor Jo Haylen said just before the final vote. 'We trust women to make decisions about their own lives and about their own bodies.'

The legislation was opposed by religious groups, anti-abortion activists and several MPs who raised concerns about late-term and sex-selective abortions, conscientious objection and the way the bill was introduced.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, and former prime minister Tony Abbott were both outspoken in their opposition of the bill.

Joyce described it as the 'slavery debate of our time,' while Abbott accused the NSW government of putting forward 'the most radical abortion laws in this country.'

Liberal and Labor MPs were allowed a conscience vote on the bill.

Tensions in the government reached a climax last week when Liberal MPs Tanya Davies, Mathew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato said they would move a leadership spill motion against Premier Gladys Berejiklian over her handling of the bill.

The rebel MPs, who ultimately withdrew the motion, said it had been made clear that 'at an absolute minimum' four key amendments were required to ensure continued Liberal Party membership.

Ms Davies on Thursday supported amendments made to the bill, saying they created more safeguards and brought the bill to a better place. 

Abortions after 22 weeks are allowed with the approval of two 'specialist medical practitioners.'

All terminations after 22 weeks will now have to be performed in a public hospital.

'Many of us within the Parliament, and also outside in our communities, had concerns with the original bill ... concessions, amendments, changes to the original bill were moved through both houses of Parliament and that is a good thing,' she said.

The legislation that passed on Thursday is more conservative than the initial bill that Greenwich introduced after changes were made following opposition.

Labor MP Penny Sharpe, who is one of 15 co-sponsors of the bill, on Wednesday night said the vote was 119 years in the making.

'The current law has meant women and doctors have a threat of 10 years in jail for making this decision and that not okay,' she told parliament. 'This is a massive step forward for women in this state.'


The Impossible Math of College Admissions

Colleges say they want more low-income students. So why are they admitting so many wealthy ones? The NYT article excerpted below tries to answer that.

And for most colleges the answer is simple.  To meet their costs they need to charge high prices for their services and the children of poor families just cannot  afford those prices. So to get poor students on campus colleges have to slash what they charge.  But they can't do much of that or they would go broke.

So for most colleges economic necessity dictates that only a small percentage of admissions will be of students from a poor background, no matter how smart they may be.

But what about really rich schools such as Harvard who could afford to charge no fees at all if they chose?  So they have a lot of students from poor backgrounds, right?  Wrong.  Such schools tend to have the fewest poor students of all.  So why?  To put it crudely, admitting many poor students would lower the "tone" of the college -- and tone is a big part of their identity.

So how is "tone" enforced?  Via the "holistic" system of admissions. "Holistic" judgements are used to admit a few blacks and sportsmen but their main function is to keep out those awful poor people.  If you spend a year doing the grand tour of Europe or "helping" blacks in Botswana, your tone score is high.  If you spent similar time flipping burgers your tone score is prohibitive. You are just not "suitable"

Over the last decade, two distinct conversations about college admissions and class have been taking place in the United States. The first one has been conducted in public, at College Board summits and White House conferences and meetings of philanthropists and nonprofit leaders. The premise of this conversation is that inequity in higher education is mostly a demand-side problem: Poor kids are making regrettable miscalculations as they apply to college. Selective colleges would love to admit more low-income students — if only they could find enough highly qualified ones who could meet their academic standards.

The second conversation is the one that has been going on among the professionals who labor behind the scenes in admissions offices — or “enrollment management” offices, as they are now more commonly known. This conversation, held more often in private, starts from the premise that the biggest barriers to opportunity for low-income students in higher education are on the supply side — in the universities themselves, and specifically in the admissions office. Enrollment managers know there is no shortage of deserving low-income students applying to good colleges. They know this because they regularly reject them — not because they don’t want to admit these students, but because they can’t afford to.

There is a tiny minority of American colleges where tuition revenue doesn’t matter much to the institution’s financial health. Harvard and Princeton and Stanford have such enormous endowments and such dependable alumni donors that they are able to spend lavishly to educate their students, with only a small percentage of those funds coming from the students themselves. But most private colleges, including Trinity, operate on a model that depends heavily on tuition for their financial survival. And for many colleges, that survival no longer seems at all certain: According to Moody’s Investors Service, about a quarter of private American colleges are now operating at a deficit, spending more than they are taking in.

In public, university leaders like to advertise the diversity of their freshman classes and their institutions’ generosity with financial aid. In private, they feel immense pressure to maintain tuition revenue and protect their school’s elite status. The public and private are inevitably in conflict, and the place on each campus where that conflict plays out is the admissions office.

When Angel Pérez arrived at Trinity and took a close look at the way the admissions office had been making its decisions, what he found left him deeply concerned. “We were taking some students who probably should not have been admitted, but we were taking them because they could pay,” he told me. “They went to good high schools, but they were maybe at the bottom of their class. The motivation wasn’t there. So the academic quality of our student body was dropping.”

At Trinity, Pérez’s predecessors had been able to capitalize on a pattern that admissions officers say they often see: At expensive prep schools, even students close to the bottom of the class usually have above-average SAT scores, mostly because they have access to high-octane test-prep classes and tutors.

“O.K., you’re not motivated, you’re doing the minimum at your high school,” Pérez explained, describing the students Trinity used to admit in droves. “You have not worked as hard as your peers. But you did the test prep, and you learned how to play the SAT game.”

If you work in admissions at a place like Trinity was before Pérez arrived, SAT scores can provide a convenient justification for admitting the kind of students you might feel compelled to accept because they can pay full tuition. It’s hard to feel good about choosing an academically undeserving rich kid over a striving and ambitious poor kid with better high school grades. But if the rich student you’re admitting has a higher SAT score than the poor student you’re rejecting, you can tell yourself that your decision was based on “college readiness” rather than ability to pay.

The problem is, rich kids who aren’t motivated to work hard and get good grades in high school often aren’t college-ready, however inflated their SAT scores may be. At Trinity, this meant there was a growing number of affluent students on campus who couldn’t keep up in class and weren’t interested in trying. “It had a morale effect on our faculty,” Pérez told me. “They were teaching a very divided campus. The majority of students were really smart and engaged and curious, and then you’ve got these other students” — the affluent group with pumped-up SAT scores and lower G.P.A.s — “who were wondering, How did I get into this school?”

Hidden away among the wealthy masses on the Trinity campus was a small cohort of low-income students. When Pérez arrived, about 10 percent of the student body was eligible for a Pell grant, the federal subsidy for college students from low-income families, and many of those were students of color. Academically, Trinity’s low-income students were significantly outperforming the rich kids on campus; the six-year graduation rate for Pell-eligible students at Trinity was 92 percent, compared with 76 percent for the rest of the student body. But Trinity’s low-income students — at least the ones I spoke to during my visits to campus in 2017 — were often miserable, struggling to find their place on a campus where the dominant student culture was overwhelmingly privileged and white.

But perhaps the most startling fact about the pre-Pérez admissions strategy at Trinity was that it was not doing much to help the college stay afloat financially. As Pérez saw it, this was mostly a question of demographics. The pool of affluent 18-year-old Americans was shrinking, especially in the Northeast, and the ones who remained had come to understand that they had significant bargaining power when it came to negotiating tuition discounts with the colleges that wanted to admit them. As a result, paradoxically, Trinity was going broke educating an unusually wealthy student body.


Early experience, not genes, shapes child abusers (?)

So it is claimed below. It may be true that most child abusers were themselves abused in childhhod but it does not follow that abuse always makes one an abuser.  Rather to the contrary from some examples I have seen: People are often determined that their kids will have a better deal than they had. So precluding a genetic influence on child abusers is dumb and does, I believe, miss the big story:  Child abusers tend to be low IQ people, low IQ males in particular. So it would seem that child abusers will always be with us.  Eugenics no longer has a constituency.

Stories of children killed or disabled by those responsible for them always grieve me greatly but the one consolation I have is that the murdered kid would probably have turned out pretty dumb too -- though that is not at all certain.

I don't know if this study below by Darius Maestipieri, a primate expert at the University of Chicago, is really worth commenting on. It purports to show that child abusers get that way not by genetic inheritance (e.g. by being born stupid, uncontrolled or aggressive) but by being abused themselves as children. The research concerned, however, was based on a small group of Macaque monkeys and I cannot see how the results can be statistically significant, let alone meaningful in any other way.

And this finding would seem to contradict their conclusion anyway: "almost half of those raised by abusive mothers did not become abusers themselves." That seems to indicate genes at work to me. And I won't ask questions about measures taken to preclude observer bias. No good beating a dead horse

Child abuse may be more of a learnt behaviour than a genetic trait, new research on monkeys suggests. If true, the understanding may provide the opportunity to break the cycle of abuse that runs in some families.

As many as 70% of parents who abuse their children were themselves abused while growing up. Maternal abuse of offspring in macaque monkeys shares some similarities with child maltreatment in humans, including its transmission across generations. This pattern of abuse has led to speculation that it may have a genetic basis.

Darius Maestipieri, a primate expert at the University of Chicago, US, tested the theory by observing a population of macaques across two generations. He took some of the newborn female infants from the group and cross-fostered them among the mothers, about half of which were abusers.

In the next generation, he found that 9 of the 16 females who were abused in infancy by their biological or foster mothers turned out to be abusive towards their own offspring.

But none of the 15 females raised by their non-abusive biological or foster mothers maltreated their offspring, including those whose biological mothers were abusers. This indicates that intergenerational transmission of abuse is not genetically caused.

Protective personality

“This study into primate patterns of abuse can be directly related to human abuse,” argues Maestipieri. “What it shows is that the effect of experiencing abuse first-hand or through experiencing siblings being abused is very significant in determining whether somebody will become an abuser.

“But it’s also interesting to note that almost half of those raised by abusive mothers did not become abusers themselves,” he told New Scientist. “We should try to discover what it is about these infants’ personalities or socially supportive environment that protected them from abusive effects.”

Chris Cloke, head of child protection awareness at the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, is wary of applying animal studies directly to humans. But he adds: “We know the damaging consequences of child abuse can last into adulthood and affect the way children are brought up. Experiences of abuse in infancy can be particularly important as the brain develops fast in the first year of life.

He also notes: “With the right sort of help people with abusive childhoods can often grow up to be loving parents.”

Maestipieri believes that while some abuse is learnt through direct or indirect experience, physiological changes incurred during abuse may predispose behaviour patterns. “There is evidence that early trauma causes people to become more susceptible to stress, and less able to cope with emotionally challenging situations, so that they could react more easily by ‘losing it’,” he says.

Macaques who abuse their offspring do so early on, during the first three months of life. Abuse, which occurs about once an hour, is brief and takes the form of being overly controlling and violent towards the infant. Actions include biting infants or treating them like an inanimate object – dragging the baby around by its leg or tail, tossing it in the air, or stepping on it.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0504122102)


Sarah Nix has been left more than $30,000 out of pocket because of ongoing surgeries despite spending $5000 a year on private health insurance

The situation of the poor woman grieves me but she is placing the blame in the wrong quarter.  If private insurance were to cover ALL medical costs, the premiums would be unaffordable. Basically, private health insurance covers HOSPITAL costs only.  It does not pay for the doctors and others who operate there.  So you have to pay them yourself.

And if it is only one adverse medical episode you have, most people will be able to do that.  In cases like Ms Nix, however, who needs multiple surgeries, that can easily become impossible.  Private health insurance is not for people in her situation.  It is the public system that she has to turn to.  Only the public system covers BOTH hospital and doctor costs.

So it is the public system that Ms Nix should be condemning.  And their services do leave much to be desired.  The care you get in public hospitals is not much  worse than what you get from private doctors and may be as good.  As Ms Nix points out, the big problem with the public system is the WAIT you have to undergo before you get in front of a doctor or surgeon.  And that wait can be very distressing.

So what is the solution?  Unless someone invents a money tree, there is only one solution:  Public hospital services have to be rationed in some way.  Self-inflicted injuries and illnesses in particular should not be treated: Damaged joints caused by obesity and lung cancer caused by smoking for instance.  People suffering from such illnesses could probably take out special insurance for their needs.  But people who are ill through no fault of their own should always be at the front of the queue.

That is unlikely to happen -- though something like that does often happen informally.  So we have to go back to money.  A small charge could be levied every time a person attends a public hospital -- a charge equal to the price of a packet of cigarettes, for instance.  Such an idea was discussed in Tony Abbot's time but was abandoned as poltical poison.  So we are probably stuck with distressing waiting lists.

A compromise that is already used for cancer patients is to give them special priority but even that can be a dangerous delay.  It might help a little, however for similar priority to be given to people in need of multiple surgeries, such as Ms Nix

Sarah Nix has run out of money and is now being forced to make a life-altering decision.

The 26-year-old from Brisbane and her husband Matthew can no longer keep affording to fork out thousands of dollars for her endometriosis surgeries on top of the $5000 a year they already pay for their private health insurance.

Mrs Nix was diagnosed with the debilitating condition that causes tissue similar to the lining of the womb to grow outside it two years ago. Her pain is so horrendous she hasn’t been able to drive or work for the past 18 months.

But on top of the horrific pain, Mrs Nix has the added burden of ongoing medical bills.

And she’s not the only one — tonight’s episode of Insight on SBS highlights how patients are paying high out-of-pocket fees for specialists and surgeries, from people who have had cancer to those with disc problems.

When Mrs Nix tallied up her costs, she was actually worse off than some of the cancer patients. “I’ve had five surgeries in total but it just keeps coming back,” she told news.com.au. “I can’t get rid of it.”

She estimates the surgeries plus everything else have put her out of pocket more than $30,000, with lost wages of $14,000 on top of that.

The couple had to get rid of their car and have set up a GoFundMe page to try to recuperate some of the costs.

“We have top hospital and top extras but they only cover my bed stays,” she said. “Private health is really misleading. “I always thought I was covered, but no.”

But Mrs Nix said she couldn’t afford not to have insurance, with waiting times in the public system too long. She’s had to wait more than three hours for pain relief presenting to a public emergency department compared with five minutes in the private system. “I wouldn’t get that in the public system so I can’t afford not to,” she said.

“But at the same time I can’t afford to keep it because it doesn’t cover anything.

“The public system isn’t good enough — it’s a 12-month wait for surgery and to see a specialist is a few months.”

Mrs Nix said on one occasion she was in so much pain her doctor made a decision to perform surgery on the spot, a luxury she wouldn’t get in the public system.

Now Mrs Nix is being forced to make the harrowing decision of having a hysterectomy when the couple were planning on having children.

“We just can’t keep affording to pay for surgeries, so my husband and I have made the decision if by the end of the year I’m still in pain that’s what I’m doing,” she said.

“It sounds like a hard decision as a young woman, but you know when you are in so much pain that you just want to end it, no matter how you do it? Financially, we just can’t continue this way. We’ve got nothing left.”

That surgery will also cost between $2000 and $6000.

“A lot of people are calling on the Government to change it (private health insurance), but I’m calling on private health insurance companies to change,” she said.

“I remember when I was a kid private health used to cover everything, whereas now it covers nothing. If they fix that our public system would probably be better off because more people would take out private health.”



As most people reading this will be aware, you can get a range of cover for "extras" with private hostpital insurance. And for services that are not too dear and not too often called upon that can be worthwhile. The cover is for such things as spectacles and hearing aids and dental costs up to a limit.  A small contribution to some "in hospital" costs can also be available.

I have maximum ("top") cover so my experience might help others to get a grip on what is available.  The premiums I pay to my fund (CUA) are higher than most but they are unusually generous with hearing aids.  My last lot cost nearly $4,000 and they paid nearly half of that.  I rarely have dentistry and what I have is simple so last time they paid all my costs.  There was also a substantial benefit for new spectacles.

But the most interesting case is what it cost me for my recent big cancer surgery. I was on the table in Brisbane Private Hospital within a week of the cancer being detected. I was in intensive care for a couple of days afterwards so that would have generated an enormous bill from the hospital which my fund paid in full.

The surgeon and her assistant sent me a bill totalling over $5,000, of which Medicare paid $1500 and my fund paid nearly $500.  So I was around $3,000 out of pocket.  In my younger days however I lived frugally and was able to put aside substantial funds to cover "a rainy day" -- so $3,000 was no problem.  Savings are the true health insurance.  It's towards the end of your life that you incur most of your life's medical bills. Proverbs 6:6-8 refers.

The psychology of hate

Sandro Galea has come along way since his origins in Malta.  He has authored over 800 academic publications and is now Dean of the School of Public Health at Boston university, a large private university with a strong research orientation.  He is a registered do-gooder, having spent some time in his youth "helping" the benighted people of New Guinea.

Below is a press release announcing his talk on hate.  I will have some comments at the foot of it.

Global experts to examine hate as a public health issue

Professor Sandro Galea, a global expert on public health, talks about the under-represented topic of hate as a contributing factor in health and health equity.

The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre (the Prevention Centre) hosts world-leader in research and discourse on public health, Professor Sandro Galea from Boston University. Professor Galea will lead the conversation on hate as a public health issue at an event on 30 September 2019.

His research shows that hate is a contributor to poor physical and mental health at both the level of the individual and then at societal level.

“Hate such as the kind we witnessed in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence is like a disease, spreading among populations and undermining health in a manner eerily similar to that of a pathogen,” said Professor Galea.

“When a society is infected by hate, it is not hard to see how it can affect our bodies and minds. Being hated is stressful. It makes a person fear for her safety, resent her lack of respect, and worry about what the future holds for herself and her family. People who feel hated are more likely to experience major depression, and the fruits of hate – prejudice, discrimination, segregation, and interpersonal antagonism – sicken and kill Americans every day,” he said.

“Chronic disease, mental illness and drug use,” said Professor Galea. “None of these can be successfully addressed without discussing the injustice and racism that may be at their source. No matter how great our hospitals or advanced our technology, health is limited by the world in which people live.”

“The first step is to change the way we talk about health at a grassroots as well as at a policy level. Seeing health for what it is – a result of factors embedded in everyday life – is just as important as investing in a new hospital or MRI machine.”

So what a fine person Professor Galea is -- talking about what is undoubtedly an important issue.  As I often put up on my blogs news articles about hate, I was greatly interested to hear of him.  I looked forward to seeing his research on the subject. So I checked his list of publications on ResearhGate but, lo and behold, I could not find any!  There were articles in the popular press which consisted largely of bloviation and virtue signalling but that was it. He does do proper scientific articles but not on hate.

Nonetheless, I do agree with him that hate is toxic.  But I also think he is missing the elephant in the room.  And what a big elephant it is!  A veritable mammoth.  We see a virtual  torrent of hate being poured out constantly at Donald J. Trump by the Left. The disapproval of Third World immigration coming from the Right is very pale stuff compared with the hate that seems to come from every pore of the Left.  Hate is what they do these days. They seem to hate just about everything.

And it seems clear that their chronic hate has completely deranged the Left, if the recent Democrat primary debates are anything to go by.  Most of the policy proposals put forward there seem completely out of touch with reality.  And loss of reality contact is the prime symptom of psychosis.

The hate motivation of the Left is all too obvious to need much research but I am sure Prof. Galea could find something to research there if he got serious about the topic.

I give below a moderate and balanced comment on the current political scene from a prominent Leftist commentator.  The Right would have a hard job of matching it.  But perhaps Prof. Galea could find an example of a prominent conservative being so eloquent:

The way the Left describe as hate even the mildest expression of disapproval coming from conservatives is an example of projection that Freud would celebrate.  The Left assume that others have hearts as black as theirs

Neighboring schools, worlds apart

The writer of the article below for the Boston Globe pretends not to know why the pupils at the two schools discussed get such different educational results.  But they know why as well as I do:  One school is mostly black and the other is mostly white.  The black/white difference is one of the immovables in American education.  Nothing budges it.  That it is an inborn difference is fiercely resisted but no other explanation suffices to explain the facts

I am particularly amused in this case by the fact that the underperforming school has the most gracious buildings, while the high performing school has utilitarian buildings.  One of the recurring "solutions" that Leftists propose for poor school results is to give the bad school a whole set of new and stylish buildings.  They think that fancy buildings will somehow make the slow kids smarter.  It never does of course .  But in this case, such an explanation can be ruled out from the start.  On the building theory, the bad school should be the best.

In the end there is only one thing that makes a school good or bad: the quality of the students. And that is what is at work here, sad to say. Until the Left allow Americans to acknowledge the reality of black/white differences, most American blacks will never get an education suitable to their needs

The opportunity gap in our public schools is vast, a fact made plain in two schools, nearly neighbors but in different worlds. For those on the short end, the road up is made more difficult. The question is: Why?

PERCHED ON A hilltop, Brighton High looks like it belongs on a movie set: elegant arched windows, a sweeping staircase, paneled doors, and a row of cherry trees that frame expansive views of the neighborhood below.

It is also, by nearly every standard measure, a place that showcases the overwhelming struggles faced by Boston Public Schools.

In recent years, more than 40 percent of Brighton's students did not graduate within four years. The school's dropout rate outpaced the rest of the state by a factor of four. More than half the school's students were chronically absent, and the average student missed nearly 30 days of class.

More broadly, enrollment has plunged by more than half over the past decade, and today Brighton serves as an educational backstop - a high school of last resort. Its struggling student body is in some ways the inevitable result of a stratified district that funnels high-achieving pupils to a handful of elite exam schools while relegating others to a range of lesser classrooms, where performance and expectations often fall short.

Here at the lower end of that spectrum, many students have significant unmet needs beyond campus, ranging from mental health concerns to immigration anxieties. Most are poor, and many arrive at Brighton after struggling at other schools. Some, like Britney, come after failing to get into their top choice in the district's school assignment lottery. Some are sent there based on their academic needs. Others choose Brighton outright: It's estimated that roughly a third of incoming freshmen selected the school as their top choice this fall.

"We have a very complex population," said Brighton principal Robert Rametti. "We have some students who need more [academic] challenge, and then we have students who are dealing with homelessness."

Britney was disappointed but resigned when she discovered she'd be going to Brighton rather than her first choice, Fenway High. She knew the school had a bad reputation but still held out hope that, "like, it may have improved or something. I didn't really look into it."

Brighton had not improved. The school had been staggering for years by the time Britney arrived as a freshman, occasionally gaining broader public attention through tragedy - a student charged with murder, a coach who allegedly received death threats from students, a fetus abandoned in a bathroom.

Brighton's reputation suffered another blow in 2016, when the state officially branded it underperforming, requiring the district to develop a turnaround plan - twin factors that bring targeted funding along with the specter of state receivership if the school's outcomes don't improve.

"The ultimate question will be, can we make all of the gains they want," said Rametti, a former Brighton teacher who returned in 2017 to lead the school's turnaround effort. "That's to be seen, but we're making progress where we can."

Still, statistics can only describe so much. In Brighton's dimly lit corridors and overheated classrooms, a multitude of stories unfold daily, deeply human struggles too complex to be captured in the right-angled world of spreadsheet assessments.

Brighton, where nearly all the students are black or Latino, is essentially two schools: Roughly half its 600 students are still learning English. Many work full time. Some ventured to the United States alone, living in cramped quarters while helping to support their families. All are trying to bootstrap their way into English language proficiency - perhaps even a shot at college.

The other half of the student body are teenagers who've spent years in the Boston schools, many fighting their way back from academic failure, family catastrophe, or emotional crisis.

Binding it all together is a staff of young, idealistic teachers - many of them newly hired as part of the turnaround - who often work late, hoping to reach their students. It is a place where hope mingles with resignation, where aspirations fight for survival, where an emotionally distressed student may put her head down on a desk - and a sympathetic teacher may let her.

"There are kids who have significant mental health issues that don't get identified," said Brighton school psychologist Allen Cohen. "They don't go to a hospital. They live with those symptoms: the depression and anxiety."

This hilltop school also affords a clear view of the vast educational divide that separates many Boston students from their suburban peers - an educational inequity that is mirrored in urban and suburban districts across the country.

A SHORT DRIVE from the Brighton campus lies Newton South, a low-slung maze of orderly buildings, where students are offered a rich menu of academic and extracurricular opportunities on their path to the country's elite colleges.

Here the dropout rate is 26 times lower than at Brighton. Nearly every member of the school's affluent, mostly white student body graduates on time, and in 2018 fully 100 percent of 10th-graders scored proficient or higher on the English Language Arts MCAS, the state achievement test.

But Newton South, whose alumni include a Nobel Prize winner and several well-known actors, goes far beyond these baseline requirements. The school's speech and debate team has earned two state championships in recent years. The theater program, which is supported by a dedicated parent group, mounted a host of productions last year, including a student directing festival.

A community-supported scholarship fund provides financial assistance for low-income students to join their classmates in a variety of international programs: cultural exchanges with China and France, a service trip to Puerto Rico, expeditions to the Galapagos Islands to study ecology or to Sweden and Iceland to study climate change. A new initiative will eventually supply every student with a Chromebook. The school boasts more than 100 clubs - groups for would-be doctors and strategic financial investors, aspiring roboticists, attorneys, even cheese enthusiasts.

More than a quarter of Newton South students sit for final AP exams in a given year, and the overwhelming majority earn a qualifying score of 3 or higher. Meanwhile, students here outscore their statewide peers on the SAT by an average of 165 points - a gap that grows to roughly 430 points when compared directly to Brighton.

These two schools, so close as the crow flies, seem to inhabit entirely separate educational realms. At one, students select new and gently used clothes that have been donated to an onsite "store." At the other, students park in a lot that offers a charging station for electric vehicles.


How there can be an underlying stability behind policy changes

I put up a post recently in which I commented on how political parties can change their policies, sometimes into a reversal of their previous policies.  The classic  example was how the Communist party of the USA changed in an instant from Pro-Nazi to anti-Nazi when Hitler ceased to be an ally of Russia and attacked it instead

But I also said that the policy change can disguise an underlying consistent orientation.  In the case of the CPUSA that orientation was no secret.  As Communists they supported Hitler when he was allied with Communist Russia and did so for that reason only.  They were consistently Comunist in the underlying orientation behind their changing policies.

I would like to give a less obvious example as well, however: The example of Australian attitudes to immigration.

Although all white Australian are descendants of immigrants, Australians have never been generally pro-immigration.  People "like us" (British) were acceptable but not others. This was clearly seen in the first years of the 20th century, when the "White Australia" policy was enacted.  No Chinese or blacks were allowed to immigrate and even continental Europeans were looked on askance.

But, as I said previously, circumstances alter cases and when a good reason to loosen up presented itself, attitudes became more permissive.  The new circumstance was WWII, when the Japanese attacked some targets in Australia.  This drew attention to how the small population of Australia made the country hard to defend.  This led to acceptance of a new policy to take in as immigrants any whites at all, not only the British.

So a perception of foreigners as troublesome lay behind the original white Australia policy but that motive was overriden by the experience of WWII.  It came to seem imperative to expand Australia's population for reasons of national defence.  And that led eventually to the total abolition of the white Australia policy (by the conservative Holt government) with selected Asians starting to be  admitted.

And then came the boat people, initially geniune refugees from  the Vietnam war. They were all accepted on humanitarian grounds. After a while, however, various people from the Middle East started to arrive uninvited on Australian shores in ramshackle converted fishing boats -- also claiming to be refugees.

It was clear from the beginning that they were not refugees, however.  Almost all had refuge in some other country, often Pakistan, before arriving in Australia.  And they usually destroyed their identity documents before arriving so that the Australian government would have difficulty in checking their stories.

That brought out all the slumbering concern about foreigners in Australians.  With most of the immigrants likely to be unskilled parasitic crooks who would not make any positive contribution to the country, hostility to them arose.  Most of them went straight on to welfare and stayed there.  As a result, the boat people are now effectively kept out by the Australian navy, making Australia one of the few advanced countries with effective controls against illegal immigration.

So Australian policy has flipped from anti-immigration to pro-immigration and back to anti-immigration.  But underlying it all the time was a perception that immigarnts were in various ways a detriment to the existing population.  The underlying thinking and motivation did not change even though the policy did.

So does that mean that all Australians are racists?  Going by the loose definitions used by the Left it does. But opposition to immigration is not irrational.  Adding  whole glob of new arrivals does tend to take away something from the existing population. Adding  whole glob of new arrivals to an existing set of infrastructure is always going to generate some problems.  It is going to overcrowd schools, hospitals and roads that were built for a smaller population.  And the various waves of immigration have put Australia in exactly that position. Traffic, school and hospital congestion has become notably worse in recent years.

So the opposition to immigration was simply a realistic defence of people's existing good life, a fear of change that was well warranted.  And, as I have previously pointed out, that is the normal reason behind conservative opposition to Leftist proposals for change.  They may seem changeable in the policies they will support but their underlying motives remain broadly the same

I might note in passing that Australia does take in a large number of legal immigrants.  People who have been vetted in advance for their likelihood of making a good adjustment to life in Australia are accepted, though the number accepted is in dispute. So a country that welcomes large numbers of arrivals from all over the world is hardly racist.

The Republican Party has no 'bedrock principles.' The Democratic Party doesn't either

Jeff Jacoby sets out below a useful history of both the Democratic and Repubican party policies.  As I have long pointed out, the Republican and Democratic parties have to a considerable extent switched places.  That is perhaps most clearly seen in policies towards America's great self-inflicted problem: Blacks. In the 19th century Democrats wanted blacks kept on a leash whereas Republicans did not.  They even fought a bloody war over it.  And the war didn't have much effect on those attitudes, as the emergence of the KKK showed.

After the great change of the 1960s however, that substantially reversed.  Republicans continued to want to live and let live whereas Democrats became the big advocates of black emancipatuion and acceptance

So is Jacoby right? Does the Republican party have no lasting principles?  That is an interesting question but it is not the most important one.  We cannot identify the GOP with conservatives.  So we also need to ask whether conservatives have any lasting policies and principles.  And, superficially, the answer is that neither Republicans nor conservatives have any enduring policies.  Many conservative thinkers have argued over the years that conservatives have no fixed principles -- e.g. Feiling.  See also here

But that is not the whole of the answer. In my academic way, I regard the answer to one question as the starting point for another question so I immediately ask WHY the major parties have been so changeable in their policies.  And the answer is pretty clear:  Circumstances alter cases.  The realities that political parties face are always changing and it is to cope with new realities that policies are changed.

An interesting example of that is before our eyes at the moment in Hongkong.  With the encouragement of old crooks like Bernie Sanders, Many American student radicals are advocating socialism, sometimes vociferously.  But at the same time, their counterparts in Hong Kong are demonstrating AGAINST socialism. They have seen it up close and want no part of it.  Having a socialist behemoth looming over you is a lot different from a pleasant-sounding abtraction. Circumstances alter cases.

So is conservatism an illusion?  Is there really no such thing? If Left and Right can switch places so readily, is there anything  left to describe or talk about? Is there anything that alters how we respond to changing circumstances?

There is.  As I have repeatedly argued, we find some very strong and consistent influences if we go down to the psychological level of analysis.  In fact, as I have argued at great length elsewhere, we find that we have always had conservatives with us.  And regular readers here will be familiar with what I have proposed.  In brief:

Although particular policies change, policies called conservative do tend to have one constant characteristic: caution.  Policies referred to as conservative are normally cautious policies. Cautious and conservative are near synonyms. And to be called a conservative you are normally cautious about a lot of things.

So what makes some people systematically cautious? There could be a number of influences but I think it is mainly because they  are broadly content with their lives and the world around them. Even Leftists see that. They often refer to conservatives as "complacent". And surveys of happiness do normally show conservatives as happier.

And if you are happy with your situation, proposals to make big changes in it arouse caution. They have to be examined carefully lest they upset things you are happy with. Leftists, because they are basically unhappy people, want change with a passion. Conservatives will consider change but feel no urgency about it so need to be convinced that it will be to the good before they support it

So Jeff is right in that the policies of a political party will change as the world changes.  But just which policies will be adopted at any one time will reflect the personalities of the individuals concerned.  And conservatives are the happy or at least the contented people

OVER THE WEEKEND, the Washington Post published an op-ed column by Mark Sanford, Joe Walsh, and Bill Weld, the three candidates challenging President Trump for the 2020 GOP presidential nomination. They expressed indignation over the decision by Republican parties in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina to cancel next year's presidential primaries and award their convention delegates to the president without any input from the voters.

"Trump loyalists in the four states that have canceled their primaries and caucuses claim that President Trump will win by a landslide, and that it is therefore a waste of money to invest in holding primaries or caucuses," the three Republicans write. "But since when do we use poll numbers as our basis for deciding whether to give voters an opportunity to choose?"

I sympathize with the challengers. They have every reason to resent the state parties' maneuver, which denies them the chance to go before Republican voters and make their case that Trump should be replaced. But it was something else in their op-ed that caught my eye.

Sanford, Walsh, and Weld condemn Trump for having "abandoned the bedrock principles of the GOP," and insist that "if a party stands for nothing but reelection, it indeed stands for nothing."

Is that true? I would suggest that when all is said and done, major parties are primarily about winning elections — and that their "bedrock principles" are usually softer and more malleable than party members think.

Faithful Republicans and Democrats generally associate their parties with certain political values, and often imagine that those values go to the party's essence. At the Massachusetts Democratic Convention on Saturday, Senator Elizabeth Warren exhorted delegates to remember that "Democrats have been on the front lines in the fight for social, racial, and economic justice." In a speech to Republican lawmakers the day before, Trump listed the values that he said unite Republicans — they "defend the Constitution ... stand up for heroes of law enforcement ... reject globalism ... respect our great American flag." This is how most of us tend to think about parties: that they embody a core philosophy, which they win elections in order to implement.

But the opposite is closer to the truth: Parties strive to win elections, and over time adapt their views and ideology to do so.

In a forthcoming book, How America's Political Parties Change (And How They Don't), the respected political analyst Michael Barone observes that the Democratic Party (which dates from 1832) and the Republican Party (born in 1854) are among the very oldest political parties in the world. As he shows in fascinating detail, both parties' basic values have changed dramatically over the generations. The only thing about them that remains constant, Barone argues, is the type of groups each appeals to: Republicans are the party of those considered to be "typical Americans," while Democrats are "a collection of out-groups."

Over time, the makeup of those categories has shifted enormously. In the 19th century, Republicans were apt to be northern, Protestant, town- and city-dwellers; in the 21st century, they are more likely to be married white, southern Christians. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has gone from being the 19th-century party of southern slaveholders and big-city Catholics to the 21st-century party of urban blacks and affluent major-metro liberals.

Yet even more striking is how each party's "bedrock principles" have altered.

In the 1930s, Barone writes, the Democratic Party under Franklin Delano Roosevelt "stood for big government, deficit financing, and inflationary currency." A century earlier, the Democratic Party under Andrew Jackson "stood for pretty much the opposite." From the 1850s through the turn of the 20th century, on the other hand, the GOP was the big-government party: It favored the imposition of uniform policies on the states, denounced racial segregation, championed protective tariffs, and passed laws against corporate monopolies. By the 1920s, however, Republicans had morphed into a party skeptical of activist government and more inclined to focus on economic growth and lower taxes.

Changes in the parties' policy stands are often driven by the changing nature of their supporters. For example, the GOP was home to many liberals until the 1970s. They stayed Republican, Barone writes, because they detested the big-city machine bosses, the militant union leaders, and the segregationist southern politicians who were the Democratic Party's dominant players. As those elements gradually disappeared from Democratic politics, the liberal wing of the Republican Party disappeared as well.

Something similar happened with Democratic conservatives. They stuck with the party long after FDR and the New Deal did away with the party's Jeffersonian tradition of small government and laissez-faire economics. What finally drove them out, Barone writes, was not civil rights — a popular misconception — but foreign policy. Conservative Democrats were hawks, and the Democratic Party from Roosevelt through Johnson was the party of military action abroad, hefty defense spending at home, and vigorous Cold War anticommunism. But with the rise of prominent antiwar Democrats like Robert Kennedy and George McGovern, the party turned dovish — and more and more conservatives turned Republican.

The Democratic and Republican parties are always in flux. Their values, their rules, their powerbrokers, their supporters — all change over time. Only one thing remains fixed: the quest to win elections. That was true long before Trump showed up. It will be true long after he's gone.


Diversity the key to improved performance in schools

Is it now? Below is a press release from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership which says it is.  They have just done a glossy "Report" on the matter that they want you to know about.  In my experience, a "report" is what you put out when you can't get your claims into an academic journal.  Nonetheless I had a good look through the report and its associated documents in the hope of finding some claim backed up by a controlled study, hopefully one that was not so brain-dead as to treat many different sorts of people as all simply "diverse".

A serious approach to the question would have looked at different types of diversity.  Did Chinese teachers, for instance, get better results than Aboriginal teachers? I found no evidence of that kind. I found no evidence of any research at all that could be classed as scientific -- no controlled experiments at all.  It was all just pious hopes and vague generalizations.  The "report" is in short totally worthless.  It is a piece of boring old Leftist propaganda only

If I had to make generalizations of their sort I  would have said that teachers get best results when their background is similar to that of their students.  Chinese teachers are best for Chinese students, Aboriginal  teachers are best for aboriginal students etc.  that might not be so but it is at least scientifically examinable

A new evidence summary released today by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) highlights the benefits of championing a diverse school leadership workforce in Australia.

The report Spotlight: Diversity in School Leadership, points out that improved diversity in schools leads to a range of benefits, including helping teams work smarter, increasing innovation, and improving performance.

The report supports calls for school systems and sectors to take active steps towards increased quality and diversity within their leadership pools.

AITSL CEO Mark Grant said: “We know that an effective school leadership strategy that is focused on increasing the diversity of future leaders has considerable benefits. This is true for all leadership roles, in all geographical locations from rural and remote to metro areas.”

Workplace research shows that diversity in the teaching workforce can lead to improved outcomes for students academically and in their personal well-being.

The report shows that while diversity among school students is broadly representative of the Australian population, the profile of teachers and school leaders does not currently match Australia’s gender and cultural diversity.

The report found that more than 70 per cent of school teachers in primary and secondary schools are female, with male teachers making up just 18 per cent of primary school teachers, and 40 per cent of secondary teachers.

In terms of cultural diversity, while almost 25 per cent of Australian students come from homes where a language other than English is spoken, only 9 per cent of primary and 11 per cent of secondary teachers speak a language other than English at home.

Also, while almost 6 per cent of Australia’s students identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, only 2 per cent of Australian teachers identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and an even smaller proportion of those are in leadership positions.

“We know that diverse leadership teams improve performance, increase innovation, and generate creative approaches to problem solving,” Mr Grant said.

“It would be a tremendous boon for the education sector if teachers and leaders truly represented all of our community demographics, like different cultural and societal backgrounds, or individuals who identify as having a disability.

Improving diversity in schools begins with increasing diversity in Initial Teacher Education (ITE). As ITE students are the teachers and school leaders of the future, there needs to be just as much focus on diversity in this group as on the current teaching and school leadership workforce.”

“Today’s report highlights the importance of increasing the diversity in our schools. Leadership teams need to put a stronger focus on ensuring they reflect the broader community in their schools. One way this can be done is with recruitment processes that are better targeted to under-represented groups to achieve the broadest possible pool of high quality suitable candidates.”

Deciphering "gender"

I have known about gender for over 50 years.  It was that pesky continental habit of assigning sex to words.  In German, for instance, a dinner fork is feminine (die Gabel), spoons are masculine (der Loeffel) and knives are neuter (das Messer).  So Germans have pretty sexy dinner tables.

In English, of course, we have no such nonsense.  We do other crazy things, like spelling our words according to how they were pronounced 600 years ago (all the "silent" letters in "knight" were once pronounced, for instance)

So for centuries "gender" was a property of words, foreign words in our case.  Around two decades go, however, the Left, with their usual abuse of words, decided to use "gender" as a description of people.  Your preferred use for your penis was described as your gender. If you made normal use of that organ you were "cis", for some obscure reason.

But the sex drive is a strong one, as Freud emphasized, so the sex urge did occasionally get derailed in various ways for various reasons.  And your preferred derailment became your gender, according to the Left.  So the BBC recently announced that there are 100 genders.

Being myself very "cis", such extensive creativity rather surprises me but I can see no obvious harm in it.  Why the rest of us need to be bothered by it, however, I have no idea. All I can make out of it is that the derailed folk want to be praised for their derailment.  Good luck with that!

So let the Left prattle on about gender.  I suppose it draws our attention to the fact that there are a variety of sexual practices -- but we have always known that.

The Leftist censors have grabbed another social media site: imgur.com

Imgur.com is the biggest image-hosting site that there is these days.  It is very easy to use so has left other image-hosting platforms -- such as Tinypic and Photobucket -- for dead.  It also offers permanence. It says that pictures you have uploaded there will stay up.

But that has now fallen by the wayside.  Some pictures I have housed there have been replaced by an angry and unpleasant looking cartoon, presumably under the pretext that my pictures were "offensive"

One of the pictures I had up was of General Pinochet, who is/was a great Leftist boogeyman. He did solve Leftist terrorism in Chile by killing off a couple of thousand of the livelier Chilean Leftists. So I can understand his image being "disappeared".  But for most of the pictures no offensiveness is obvious.  A table of statistics that disappeared would seem inoffensive.  But it WAS a table of IQ statistics -- and IQ is as unpopular among the Left as General Pinochet.

But the deletion that really amuses me is that they have taken down a picture I had up of myself!  I make no claim to being  good-looking but I didn't think I was that bad!    They have also taken down images of my discharge certificate from my time in the Australian army and photocopies of my university degrees. So they have been rather systematic.

Anyway, I keep very comprehensive backups so have simply rehoused all deleted images on another site so all images I had up are now back up.

So the question arises of what to do about this latest transmogrification.  In my case, I can't see any form of protest as being needed.  It is simplest just to replace the lost images from backups.  And I do have archive copies of all my blogs online which already include self-hosted picture backups.  My practice of putting up backup copies of my blog entries has probably seemed like overdoing conservative caution but it has clearly now come into its own.

Nonetheless, I will have to think in future about where I house pictures online.  I will probably host the more incendiary ones on one or another of my own sites and use imgur for the more mundane ones

It is something of an irony that I have a regular blog -- TONGUE-TIED -- devoted to coverage of censored content -- only to be censored myself

Why are Americans dying younger?

The following article confirms the overall decline and speculates that it is because of increased use of illicit drugs and more dangerous illicit drugs (such as fentanyl). I too would see that as the most probable cause. Note however that the overall decline was tiny -- .19 of a year or 69 days, which  could well not survive replication and is in any case of little practical importance.

It is however interesting that people with a college degree defied the trend and lived longer. My interpretation of that would be that the college people were smarter and hence more judicious in their use of drugs, so that drugs had little impact on their health.  They therefore experienced the normal growth in lifespan that is characteristic of recent decades. The dummies by contrast had a higher proportion of heavy drug users among them who largely killed themselves one way or another by their high drug use

Association Between Educational Attainment and Causes of Death Among White and Black US Adults, 2010-2017

By Isaac Sasson et al


Importance:  There are substantial and increasing educational differences in US adult life expectancy. To reduce social inequalities in mortality, it is important to understand how specific causes of death have contributed to increasing educational differences in adult life expectancy in recent years.

Objective:  To estimate the relationship of specific causes of death with increasing educational differences in adult life expectancy from 2010 to 2017.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Serial cross-sectional study of 4 690 729 deaths recorded in the US National Vital Statistics System in 2010 and 2017.

Exposures:  Sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Life expectancy at age 25 years and years of life lost between ages 25 and 84 years by cause of death.

Results:  The analysis included a total of 2 211 633 deaths in 2010 and 2 479 096 deaths in 2017. Between 2010 and 2017, life expectancy at age 25 significantly declined among white and black non-Hispanic US residents from an expected age at death of 79.34 to 79.15 years (difference, −0.18 [95% CI, −0.23 to −0.14]).

Greater decreases were observed among persons with a high school degree or less (white men: −1.05 years [95% CI, −1.15 to −0.94], white women: −1.14 years [95% CI, −1.24 to −1.04], and black men: −0.30 years [95% CI, −0.56 to −0.04]). White adults with some college education but no 4-year college degree experienced similar declines in life expectancy (men: −0.89 years [95% CI, −1.07 to −0.73], women: −0.59 years [95% CI, −0.77 to −0.42]).

In contrast, life expectancy at age 25 significantly increased among the college-educated (white men: 0.58 years [95% CI, 0.42 to 0.73], white women: 0.78 years [95% CI, 0.57 to 1.00], and black women: 1.70 years [95% CI, 0.91 to 2.53]).

The difference between high- and low-education groups increased from 2010 to 2017, largely because life-years lost to drug use increased among those with a high school degree or less (white men: 0.93 years [95% CI, 0.90 to 0.96], white women: 0.50 years [95% CI, 0.47 to 0.52], black men: 0.75 years [95% CI, 0.71 to 0.79], and black women: 0.28 years [95% CI, 0.25 to 0.31]).

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this serial cross-sectional study, estimated life expectancy at age 25 years declined overall between 2010 and 2017; however, it declined among persons without a 4-year college degree and increased among college-educated persons. Much of the increasing educational differences in years of life lost may be related to deaths attributed to drug use.


Gloom! Another attempt to demonize air pollution in the USA fails

They do not mention it in their conclusions below but I have put a rubric on the important finding: By the conclusion of the study, fine particulate air pollution (fine soot) was NOT associated with emphysema.

The pollution that Greenies rage about is fine particle (PM2.5) pollution in the atmosphere.  Such pollution is rather heavily emitted by motor vehicles and we all know what Greenies think of motor vehicles -- as they drive off in their Volvos or try to deny what is the major source of power in their Priuses.

And one of the nastiest forms of lung damage is emphysema. Emphysemics feel fairly well but struggle even to get up a flight of stairs, which is super frustrating.  So Greenies are certain  that America's polluted skies must cause emphysema.  But the study below says not so.  How frustrating!  It's actually heavy smokers who get emphysema

Association Between Long-term Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution and Change in Quantitatively Assessed Emphysema and Lung Function

By Meng Wang et al.


Importance:  While air pollutants at historical levels have been associated with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, it is not known whether exposure to contemporary air pollutant concentrations is associated with progression of emphysema.

Objective:  To assess the longitudinal association of ambient ozone (O3), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and black carbon exposure with change in percent emphysema assessed via computed tomographic (CT) imaging and lung function.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  This cohort study included participants from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Air and Lung Studies conducted in 6 metropolitan regions of the United States, which included 6814 adults aged 45 to 84 years recruited between July 2000 and August 2002, and an additional 257 participants recruited from February 2005 to May 2007, with follow-up through November 2018.

Exposures:  Residence-specific air pollutant concentrations (O3, PM2.5, NOx, and black carbon) were estimated by validated spatiotemporal models incorporating cohort-specific monitoring, determined from 1999 through the end of follow-up.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Percent emphysema, defined as the percent of lung pixels less than −950 Hounsfield units, was assessed up to 5 times per participant via cardiac CT scan (2000-2007) and equivalent regions on lung CT scans (2010-2018). Spirometry was performed up to 3 times per participant (2004-2018).

Results:  Among 7071 study participants (mean [range] age at recruitment, 60 [45-84] years; 3330 [47.1%] were men), 5780 were assigned outdoor residential air pollution concentrations in the year of their baseline examination and during the follow-up period and had at least 1 follow-up CT scan, and 2772 had at least 1 follow-up spirometric assessment, over a median of 10 years.

Median percent emphysema was 3% at baseline and increased a mean of 0.58 percentage points per 10 years. Mean ambient concentrations of PM2.5 and NOx, but not O3, decreased substantially during follow-up. Ambient concentrations of O3, PM2.5, NOx, and black carbon at study baseline were significantly associated with greater increases in percent emphysema per 10 years (O3: 0.13 per 3 parts per billion [95% CI, 0.03-0.24]; PM2.5: 0.11 per 2 μg/m3 [95% CI, 0.03-0.19]; NOx: 0.06 per 10 parts per billion [95% CI, 0.01-0.12]; black carbon: 0.10 per 0.2 μg/m3 [95% CI, 0.01-0.18]).

Ambient O3 and NOx concentrations, but not PM2.5 concentrations, during follow-up were also significantly associated with greater increases in percent emphysema. 

Ambient O3 concentrations, but not other pollutants, at baseline and during follow-up were significantly associated with a greater decline in forced expiratory volume in 1 second per 10 years (baseline: 13.41 mL per 3 parts per billion [95% CI, 0.7-26.1]; follow-up: 18.15 mL per 3 parts per billion [95% CI, 1.59-34.71]).

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this cohort study conducted between 2000 and 2018 in 6 US metropolitan regions, long-term exposure to ambient air pollutants was significantly associated with increasing emphysema assessed quantitatively using CT imaging and lung function.


Leftist historical revisionism again.  As Orwell predicted

A small news review in Far-Leftist e-ine "New Matilda" under the heading "CPAC & The High Court: Fighting For Australia’s Future" caught my eye.  Below is its introduction:

"As the basic freedoms of all Australians are whittled away, conservatives met to chant ‘send her back’. Stuart Rees reports.

Two events in early August cast a shadow over Australia’s supposed fair go, human rights respecting democracy. The American Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held a meeting to fight to ‘protect the future’; and the High Court ruled that the federal government may restrict the right of public servants to express political views, thereby upholding a decision to sack a public servant for anonymously criticizing her employer, the Department of Immigration.

Speakers at the CPAC meeting included Fox News commentators, gun-owning enthusiasts from the US National Rifle Association, former PM Tony Abbot, One Nation state politician Mark Latham and Britain’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. In Sydney in the wake of mass shooting in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio, the participants arrived following Trump rants about Congresswomen of the wrong colour going back to where they came from. Farage had been invited in the context of his support for English nationalism, racism and opposition to Europe.

Down With ‘Socialism’

Although advertised as fighting for Australia’s future, the conservatives’ future only emerged in comments concerning an agreed enemy, a mirage-like ghost called ‘socialism.’"

"I stopped reading at that point.  If the 20 million killed by Stalin in the Soviet Union and the 6 million killed by Hitler were a mirage, I don't know what real human beings look like.  Socialism is a dread malady of the human brain that seems to be forever lurking in the brains of a substantial number of the population.  It is no ghost. It is a dread enemy to be opposed at every step.

And Bill Shorten's range of proposed new taxes and regulations  was an unambiguous step towards it.  It was only the solid conservatism of my fellow-countrymen in North Queensland that blocked it.  In the recent Federal election, Shorten did not get one seat outside Queensland's Southeast corner. That was enough to sink him.  We sank Gough Whitlam in the same way. Shorten would have been a perfect Soviet apparatchik


Now chicken is bad for you

Everything is bad for you if you read the epidemiological literature for long.  I found the abstract for the report here and the full article here.

The article says that "All analyses were adjusted for socio-demographic, lifestyle and women-specific factors" but the article gives no details of that.  I am 99% certain that they did not adjust for income or social class and that vitiates their conclusions.  Poor people both eat more chicken and have worse health so it was a poverty effect that they found, not a diet effect

Eating chicken puts consumers at a higher risk of a rare form of blood cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as prostate cancer in men, according to researchers from Oxford University.

The research involved tracking 475,000 middle-aged Britons over a period of eight years between 2006 and 2014. Their diets were analysed alongside the diseases and illnesses they suffered with.

Around 23,000 of them developed cancer.

'Poultry intake was positively associated with risk for malignant melanoma, prostate cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma', according to the paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The research that was carried out was an 'association study'.

This means that it only shows the correlation between eating chicken and the certain types of cancers, rather than investigating the reasons why.

There are a number of factors that could cause this link. It could mean that the meat itself contains a carcinogen but it could even come down to how the meat is cooked.  Up until now, chicken has been widely regarded as a healthy alternative to red meat.

Red meat is known to raise health risks including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer because of how the blood from the meat product is digested.


Image hosting

I don't put a lot of pictures up on my blogs but I do put up some. I usually host the images on Imgur.com, the number one image host at the moment. An encouraging feature of their service is that in early 2015 they announced that all images will be kept forever and only removed if deletion is requested.

Someone must have requested that some of my images be deleted and Imgur has obliged, putting up an ugly and offensive replacement image instead of the original.  I keep pretty good records, however so I have replaced the lost images with backup copies hosted on another server.  I have so far noticed only about half a dozen affected images, however, so I would be obliged if people would let me know if they come across any other offensive images that I have not so far noticed.

We conservative bloggers are definitely under attack.  There was nothing egregious in any of the deleted images.  One was just a table of statistics.  Facebook has also banned all posts that link to my Greenie Watch blog. Questioning global warming is the unforgiveable sin. All my graphs and tables of statistics were in vain. There are a lot of things that the Left don't want to know about.

An evangelical Christian conservative versus a Catholic conservative

There are probably as many flavours of conservatism as there are conservatives.  The attempt to categorize them is always going to be approximate. So the recent debates between David French and Sohrab Ahmari are interesting.  Both seem to feel that they represent the REAL conservatism. French is the evangelical and Ahmari is the Catholic.

I think both have good points.  The emphasis on civility and principle by French does indeed strongly distinguish conservatives from the abusive and unprincipled Left.

Ahmari thinks the times are too urgent to stand on such principles.  He thinks we are in a war which we could lose unless we go for the jugular.  He thinks we have to use every strategy we can if we are to win.  I am inclined to agree with him.  My own writings are pretty savage at times.

But I think the great mistake is to claim that there is such a thing as conservative politics.  In the last few hundred years all sorts of doctrines have been identified as conservative and many of them would get little respect from modern-day conservatives.  There are, for example, still some people concerned about the gold standard but not many.  And who even knows about the silver standard?

So conservatism is not an unchanging ideology.  It is a tendency.  And that tendency can only be described at the psychological level.  Liberals and Conservatives may agree or not about political policies but at the psychological level they are as different as chalk and cheese.

To put it most starkly, conservatives are the happy people and Leftists are the miserable people.  Stark as that sounds, it is actually repeatedly shown in surveys of happiness.  It is always the consevatives who are shown as happiest.  So what might seem as a vague psychological statement is actually something verifiable by empirical research

And another common finding of happiness research is that happiness is dispositional:  It changes little though your lifetime.  As even Gilbert and Sullivan saw, you tend to be born either a liberal or a conservative.  So the idea that a conservative is a constitutionally happier person is remarkably well grounded in the research.  Conservatives are happier and happiness is dispositional, genetic .

Most people, of course fall somewhere in between but the poles are the ones I have identified.  And it is the poles that we mostly encounter in political debates.

And given that psychological basis of politics, how those two types of personality play out in policy prescriptions will vary according to the time and place.  So on neither side is there a fixed set of principles from which all policies can be deduced.

And that suits Leftists very well.  They usually blame their unhappy feelings on things in the world about them rather than working on themselves. And because they are so unhappy, they want to tear down those things that they blame for their unhappiness. They think that if they could possibly get rid of that awful thing (e.g. Donald Trump) they would be happy or at least happier.

So they put great energies into their tearing-down activities.  And the psychological accompaniment of their wish to tear something down is hate.  Particularly if something resists being torn down, they come to hate it with a passion, as we see from the Leftist reaction to Trump.  They loathe every little thing about him.  Even his remarkably successful economic policies win him no praise from them.  Their hate has become obsessive.

Because they do not have a fire of unhappiness burning inside them, conservatives, on the other hand, can pay more attention to the full picture and note both the good and the bad in a particular situation or policy.  They see, for instance, that limited welfare for the poor is regrettable but also see that more generous welfare provisions would lead to "dole bludging": people who decide to live on the taxpayer's dime when they are perfectly capable of earning their own living.  So conservatives seek a middle way.  Just tearing down one side of the problem seems brain dead to them.

That is very much in evidence in America right now.  The Democrats see a degree of suffering among illegal immigrants held at the Southern border and simply wish to tear down the border as a solution.  No thought to how the USA would be overrun by people with little to contribute seems to occur to them. Conservatives, in the person of Mr Trump, take a middle way and say that only genuine refugees and not economic migrants will be accepted.

So that history leads up to where David French goes wrong and Ahmari is right.  The old principles of a liberal order have served well in the past but it is now time to move on.  New circumstances require new responses -- and conservatives are once again trying to be pragmatic and seek a middle ground.  As an example, Mr Trump has responded to the continuing onslaughts on Americans by Jihadis not by trying to keep all Muslims out of America but by keeping out people from particularly troublesome Muslim nations.  That was one of his first actions on coming to office.

I am particularly interested in Ahmari's comment on the First amendment.  That Amendment must be the most regularly butchered law that there is.  It has regularly been used to attack Christians when it says you must not do that and  has been regularly defied by speech restrictions on American university campuses.  So if the Left can regularly defy it, might not conservatives stretch it too?

I would pass Federal legislation to forbid any kind of political bias on campuses and allow speech and performances that offend public decency and morality to be banned whenever and wherever they occur. New circumstances can require new legal principles and that may possibly be done by modifying old laws.  Traditions can be powerfully useful and informative but they are not a straitjacket.

And I might perhaps note in passing that this idea of a middle way being desirable is very Catholic.  It underlay two encyclicals a century apart:  De rerum novarum and Centesimus Annus.  And, yes, I have read both of them, though not in the original Latin.

Can Americans discuss race?

There is a Newsweek article here under the title 'FEEL HOW THAT FEELS' A young woman of color’s take on why the fight against racism has to start with owning it written by a black woman called Nadira Hira.  It starts from the view that we are all racists to some degree, a view long held by most psychologists.  She includes herself and other blacks in that. And she thinks we should talk about it.

The article is long and rambling so I won't reproduce any of it here but I think I can see a large problem in it. A large part of what she writes hinges on definitions.  There are many ways you can define racism and it matters. She strongly argues that whites normally define racism too narrowly -- as bad things done by bad people -- and that blacks tend to disown their racial biases also.  So she wants all of us to discuss openly the many ways we are racist -- in the view that we will make it less harmful by doing so.

But there is a big obstacle to that.  Leftists ALREADY define racism very broadly and, the way they do it, no dialogue will ever come out of it. Leftists call just about EVERYTHING they disagree with racist and condemn it sweepingly.  If she wants to get any dialog about race going, she has somehow to shut up the race-baiting Left. And that will be hard -- as the Left are so bereft of ideas that they would often be left with nothing to say if you took that robotic insult away from them.

So it's an essay that I mostly agree with but it is pissing into the wind.  The Left have effectively shut down almost all intelligent dialog about race in America. Just mentioning the word "race" will normally expose you to a tirade of abuse. And the claim that blacks are racist too will cause many of them them to go completely off their brains

Australia: Primary school teacher sparks outrage after telling students the "Stolen Generations" were taken from their families because of poor parenting

Once again, the truth is "racist" and enough to lose you your job.  In this case a confection by Leftist historians is preferred to the facts.

There is absolutely no mention below of any actual events with Aboriginal children, just mention of some past laws.  There is no mention of what lay behind the laws nor is there any mention of how they were carried out.  There is no mention that, as today, Aboriginal parenting is often both abusive and neglectful towards children and that children were removed from their orginal homes by probably Leftist social workers to give them safer homes with white families.

There was no stolen "generation", just occasional rescues of mistreated children on a case by case basis -- under normal social work procedures

A primary school ethics teacher has sparked outrage after telling students the Stolen Generations were taken from their families due to bad parenting.

The volunteer teacher was discussing homelessness with a year-six class at Dulwich Hill Public School, in New South Wales, when the conversation turned to the mistreatment of Australia's indigenous people.

Stolen Generations refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who were forcibly removed by the government as children from their families between the early 1900s up until the 1970s.

The volunteer, believed to be in his 70s, allegedly told the young students what they had been told was false, and the real reason the children were removed was lazy parenting.

The volunteer teacher was stood down from his position after four pupils complained. A spokeswoman for the organisation that runs the program said complaints involved stereotyping and the ethics teacher is alleged to have voiced racist opinions. 

Kathryn Albany, the mother of one of the students, said she was proud of the students for arguing back.

'I'd always seen ethics as quite a good alternative to scripture,' she told the Sydney Morning Herald. 'But it's almost part of the problem because it's the same issue - these people are unregulated. Imagine if a teacher had responded like that? I would expect them to have pretty serious disciplinary action.'

Special Education in Ethics is offered as a secular alternative to special religious education.

A spokeswoman for the New South Wales Department of Education said the comments were unacceptable and the volunteer teacher has been replaced. An investigation into the incidents is ongoing. 

What are the Stolen Generations: 

The Stolen Generations refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who were forcibly removed by the government as children from their families between the early 1900s up until the 1970s.

The first Aboriginal Act was passed in Western Australia in 1905, and the Chief Protector became the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and 'half-caste' child under the age of 16.

Similar laws were soon passed in other states and territories, including the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Act in 1909, and in 1911 the South Australia Aborigines Act and the Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance.

From the time the first act was passed until 1970, between one in ten and one in three Indigenous children were removed from their families or communities.

In 1937 a Commonwealth/State 'native welfare' conference made assimilation the national policy.

'The destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin, but not of the full blood, lies in ultimate absorption ... with a view to their taking their place in the white community on an equal footing with the whites,' the policy stated.

By 1967 a referendum was held to amend the Australian constitution, establishing laws for Aboriginal people who were also included in the census for the first time.

Two years later, all states had repealed legislation allowing for the removal of Aboriginal children for 'protection'.

In 1975 parliament introduced the Racial Discrimination Act, making discrimination based on race unlawful regardless of state or territory legislation.

Eight years later the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle is established, ensuring indigenous children are placed with indigenous families when adoption is necessary.

On February 13, 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered a public apology to the Stolen Generations.


Marriage rates are on the decline because of fewer 'economically-attractive' men as women are focused to choose between remaining single or 'settling' for less successful partners

It is perfectly reasonable and utterly traditional for women to want a competent partner -- and economic competence is part of that.  And it is undoubtedly true that modern-day women experience a shortage of economically competent men. They have been complaining bitterly about it for some years now.  So how come?

It's all down to feminism.  Political feminism is largely anti-man and their destructive aims do have some fulfilment in various ways.  And the first way is that women are being pushed into traditionally male jobs. And for every woman who gets such a job a man is pushed out and may never get as good a job again.  So the woman can be pleased with her new job but will she be pleased with the reduced availability of appealing partners?

Another way feminism hurts women who want a normal marriage is the feminization of education from grade school on. That feminization tends to push men out of the education system and thus greatly reduces their job prospects.  A majority of graduates are now women. So again feminism damages the economic competence of men.  Once again feminism has hurt female marrige prospects.

Thirdly, feminist activism has created a minefield of politically correct expectation for men.  Normal male reactions to women -- even compliments -- are often deemed unacceptable and may lose the man his job.  And in such circumstance it may be very difficult to get a new job.  Smart men can navigate the verbal obstacles but average men who could be perfectly competent breadwinners in a more permissive age can easily be thrown on the scrapheap.  A considerable range of potential suitable partners will thus not make the cut.

In the circumstances, men can very easily get tired of women from their own ethnicity.  I have seen several high quality men go to the Republic of the Philippines for brides.  Asian women tend to have very little in the way of feminist hangups so very easily take men off the marriage market and promptly have children. Such relationships are not necessarily a bed of roses but the children keep them going, as they do in many Western families. So women who are less feminist lose out to foreign competition.

And Australia is an interesting example of that.  Australia is fortunate in that its largest ethnic minority is East Asian. About 5% of the Australian population is of Han Chinese ancestry plus there are significant numbers from Australia's other Asian neighbours -- Vietnamese in particular.  Where I shop in suburban Brisbane, about a third of the faces I see are Asian.

And the Han are mostly from Southern China, who are quite short in stature.  So the many young Asian females walking about must feel at times as if they are among a race of giants  Even the Caucasian females walking about are often 6' tall, against the S.E. Asian norm of about 5'.

So in their own minds the ladies concerned clearly become quite determined that their children will not be such shrimps.  But there is only one way they can have tall children:  They have to get themselves a tall husband.  But there are very few tall Asian males around.  But there is a plentiful supply of tall Caucasian men, including not a few over 6' tall.  So those determined little Asian ladies set out to get one of them.  And being generally smart they get what they want.  If you see a small Asian lady on the arm of a man where I hang out the man will normally be Caucasian, a tall Caucasian.  A couple where both are Asian is much rarer.  And even then the Chinese man concerned will be a TAll Chinese man.  There is no mistaking what is going on

And a major reason why the Chinese ladies snag a Caucasian man so readily is because when the man finds a well presented lady saying  nice things to him instead of feminist crap, it is like water on dry ground. How does "I will do anything for you" sound? It sounds very persuasive to any man. So again feminism has taken an eligible man off the market and feminist-inspired women can go whistle.

I gather that similar things happen in parts ofthe USA where there is a substantial Chinese presence, for instance in the universities.

But perhaps the greatest damage that feminism does is the unrealistic expectations it puts on men.  Women are taught that they should look for female virtues in men. They will often not find them -- particularly in economically competent men, who will usually be independent-minded.  So even if the man is actually economically competent he may well be rejected, producing an ever-shrinking pool of eligibles.

And once a woman has found a man who ticks all her boxes comes the big challenge, getting him to marry her. Thanks to Britain's savage feminist-inspired divorce laws, no well-advised  Englishman would ever marry, and many don't.  About half of all births in England today are ex-nuptial

Political feminism is the dire enemy of normal marriage-minded women.  Many women are feminist but to a much lesser degree than the political feminists -- but it is the politically active feminists who get the attention and dominate the culture

Marriage rates are on the decline due to a lack of 'economically attractive' men with steady jobs for single to women to meet

The study found that married men had incomes that were 58% higher and were 30% more likely to be employed than unmarried men who are still available

Researchers at Cornell University found that women may instead 'settle' for a potential husband or remain unmarried altogether

Black women and other minorities face serious shortages of potential marital partners, as do unmarried women, the study found

Marriage rates are on the decline due to a lack of 'economically attractive' men with steady jobs for single to women to meet, according to a study.

Researchers analysed data on recent marriages between 2007-2012 and 2013-2017 and concluded that there are fewer men with stable jobs and a good income available for unmarried women to match with.

The study from Cornell University examined characteristics of unmarried women's perfect or 'synthetic' spouses which were comparable to real life husbands of married women.

Authors found that so-called 'dream' husbands had an average income that was 58 per cent higher than the average unmarried man.

Women's perfect husbands were also were 30 per cent more likely to be employed and 19 per cent more likely to have a college degree than the average single American man, according to the study titled: 'Do Unmarried Women Face Shortages of Partners in the U.S. Marriage Market?.'

As a result, women may instead 'settle' for a match that falls short of their aspirations in a husband, the study suggests.

Women also may struggle to marry if they are of either a low or high socioeconomic status.

The study also found that women faced serious shortages of potential black or minority marital partners.

The authors also pointed to research which shows that the 'mass incarceration of black men' has depleted the pool of unmarried men in inner-city urban neighborhoods, which has greatly reduced the prospect of marriage for black women.

On average, black men are roughly seven times more likely than white men to be incarcerated.

Race remains a significant demographic dimension of national and local marriage market mismatches, especially as educational and income constraints are amplified within many low-income and segregated minority populations.

It concluded: 'This study reveals large deficits in the supply of potential male spouses. One implication is that the unmarried may remain unmarried or marry less well-suited partners.'

The study reinforced the commonplace view that women in modern society face new marriage trade-offs at a time when finding a suitable match has become more difficult.

Daniel T. Lichter, the study's lead author and researcher with Cornell University, said: 'Most American women hope to marry but current shortages of marriageable men—men with a stable job and a good income—make this increasingly difficult, especially in the current gig economy of unstable low-paying service jobs.

'Marriage is still based on love, but it also is fundamentally an economic transaction. Many young men today have little to bring to the marriage bargain, especially as young women’s educational levels on average now exceed their male suitors.'

Authors found that traditional patterns of mating have shifted, switching from a tendency in 1980 for women to 'marry up' in socioeconomic status to a current trend of 'marrying down.'

It found that women face overall shortages of economically attractive partners with either a bachelor’s degree or incomes of more than $40,000 a year.

They said the findings reiterated previous research finding that mismatches in the marriage market in the form of shortages of economically attractive men may exacerbate uncertainty and heighten disincentives to marriage.

They said this comes at a time of rising education and growing financial independence among American women.

One solution, the study states, is  that promoting good jobs may be the best marriage promotion policy rather than marriage education courses that teach new relationship skills.

Women who are highly-educated fare worse due to gender imbalances , as they will either increasingly remain unmarried or they will match with men of a lower social status both in education and financially.

The study noted that the average total income of married men is $70,000 compared with $35,000 for unmarried men. Nearly 40 per cent of married men are college graduates compared with only 25 per cent of unmarried men.

Although the difference is small in absolute terms, the relative difference in employment status is large.

About twice as many unmarried women are unemployed compared to married women.