Sydney university abolishing its chair in Australian literature

Literature has an important role in enriching people's lives. I greatly enjoyed my own literary studies of long ago. And formal literary studies have an undoubted role in introducing people to works they might not otherwise come to know. So this decision seems like a step in the wrong direction to me. I personally think that taxpayer-funded education should primarily be vocationally focused but it would be a bleak system that did not also have some role for personal development.

So what's behind this decision? It's pretty clearly a part of the Leftist attack on patriotism. The Left want us all to become undifferentiated internationalists. It's only a slight revision of the old aim to create a "New Soviet Man". The corrupt United Nations is the great multicolored hope of the Left. Mr Trump strikes at their very heart

There is a lot of distinctively Australian literature and I think a lot of it is pretty good -- Patrick White and Kath Walker excepted. It introduces us to times and places in Australia that we would not usually come to know about otherwise.

Publisher Michael Heyward has launched an attack on the University of Sydney, describing the sandstone institution's decision to cut off funding for its Australian literature chair as a "shocking betrayal of readers and writers" that "reveals a contempt for books"

The university recently said it had withdrawn internal funding for the chair; the oldest and most prestigious of its type in AUstralia, while it searched for external funding for the role.

The move, which follows the retirement of the university's fourth professor of Australian literature, Robert Dixon, shocked many as the chair was the nation's first dedicated professorship of Australian literature when it was set up 57 years ago.

Heyward, managing director of Melbourne publishing house Text Publishing, said withdrawal of university funds from the historically important role was a case of Sydney joining the "philistine ranks" of other universities, whose Australian literature offerings had traditionally been "paltry".

"In the sorry history of the teaching of Australian literature in our universities, Sydney has been the outlier since 1962 when its chair was founded by public subscription," he said "Now it has joined the philistine ranks of its fellow institutions.

"Not even the Australian National University has a chair in Australian literature. What kind of country can't bear to teach its own literature? What kind of university has no curiosity about the writers who have shaped our imaginations, and have informed how we think?"

Heyward, whose company publishes local and international authors as well Australian classics, said "our universities are increasingly cut off from Australia's dynamic literary life, from our festivals and from our bookstores and from the readers who keep them alive".

Elizabeth Webby, a former professor of Australian literature at Sydney University, called the defunding of the role "very disappointing", warning that if external funding wasn't found and the chair was abandoned, it would leave just one Ozlit chair for academics nationwide, at the University of Western Australia.

"The only (full-time) chair that actually involves an academic doing courses in Australian literature is at UWA, which is government-funded," she said, The UWA chair was established after The Australian exposed how, in 2006, there was just one full-time Australian literature chair still operating -- the Sydney role now under threat

The University of Melbourne has had an externally funded professorship of Australian literature since 2015, reserved for authors rather than academics.

Paul Giles, Sydney University's Challis Professor of English, said the withdrawal of university funds from the chair was caused, in part, by falling student enrolments in Ozlit subjects and fewer research grants going to the humanities. He said the university still employed three fUll-time Ozlit specialists and two part-time lecturers, but admitted that the university had yet to begin its search for external funds

From "The Weekend Australian" of 26/10/2019

Eating lots of trans fats found in fried food, cakes and biscuits 'could put you at greater risk of getting dementia'

The usual deficient control. When medical researchers categorize people they almost always show zero interest in how the categorized people got into their category.  Much is missed because of that.

In this case I don't know much about Japanese sociology but I don't think I am drawing too long a bow to suggest that keen eaters of the deplored foods were predominantly poor people. Poor people are very "incorrect" eaters generally.  And poor people are regularly found to have worse health of all sorts. So the demented people observed may have been demented because they were poor, not because of what they ate

So the research is, as usual, totally inconclusive.  It proves nothing

Fatty acids found in baked goods and takeaways may put people at greater risk of dementia.

Trans fats, which are used to make cakes, biscuits, margarine and fried food, are not banned in the UK, although they are not commonly used.

Japanese researchers have now linked these fats to dementia, in a study of more than 1,600 people over 60.

Estimating people's consumption of trans fats using blood tests, they found those with the highest levels in their body were 52 per cent more likely to get dementia.

Evidence suggests trans fats may cause harmful inflammation and the build-up of a protein called amyloid, which are both linked to dementia.

The findings, published in the journal Neurology, come three years after the Government scrapped a proposed ban on trans fats in its watered-down child obesity strategy of 2016.

Scientists said the previous year that a ban on the fats, which come from partially hydrogenated plant oils, could save 7,200 lives in England from coronary heart disease over five years.

Dr Toshiharu Ninomiya, senior author of the Japanese study, from Kyushu University in Japan, said: 'The World Health Organisation has called for trans fats to be eliminated worldwide by 2023.

'These public health efforts have the potential to help prevent dementia cases around the world, not to mention the decrease in heart disease and other conditions related to trans fats.' While trans fats occur naturally in dairy products like cheese and cream, they are also found in takeaways where vegetable oils have been heated to fry foods at high temperatures.

The fats can improve the taste and shelf life of processed foods and are also used by some manufacturers in pies, biscuits and cakes.

Although they were banned in the US last year, they continue to be present in British food, although health experts say UK intakes are much lower than the recommended maximum.

The Japanese study involved 1,628 people living in a Japanese community who did not have dementia and had an average age of 70.

They were divided into four groups based on levels of elaidic acid in their blood, which is often used to measure the amount of trans fats people have consumed.

Followed up for 10 years on average, people with the group thought to consume the most trans fats were 52 per cent more likely to get dementia than those who consumed the least.

Of the 407 people with the highest level, 104 developed Alzheimer's disease or a different type of dementia, which was almost 30 per cent.

Only 82 out of the 407 in the lowest level group were diagnosed with dementia, which was just over 21 per cent.

The results showed a link between trans fats and dementia even when other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking, were taken into account.

People with the second highest level of trans fats, based on their blood tests, were 74 per cent more likely to develop dementia than those with the lowest level.

SOURCE  Journal article is Serum elaidic acid concentration and risk of dementia

Warnings over ‘carbon bomb’ Amazon’s dangerous tipping point. The Amazon rainforest is dangerously close to an irreversible tipping point and should be described as a “carbon bomb” we need to avoid going off

I don't know whether this is ignorance or bulldust but it shows no knowledge of rainforest. Rainforest does NOT burn, whether in Brazil or Australia. When the fires hit a rainforest, it is too damp to be set alight.

The fires seen in Brazil were in areas -- mostly areas cleared for farming -- that had lost their original rainforest cover or never had it

What the satellites show: "MAAP’s findings show that the dramatic photos that garnered worldwide attention of smoky fires sweeping the Brazilian Amazon in August do not correspond with burning rainforest, but instead coincide with areas intentionally deforested this year"

You have to know so much to counteract Green/Left lies and stupidity

The Amazon would be dangerously close to the estimated “tipping point” as soon as 2021, beyond which the rainforest could no longer generate enough rain to sustain itself, a senior economist says.

Monica de Bolle, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, calculates that if the current rate of deforestation is maintained over the next few years and government policy failure continues, that’s when the world-renowned rainforest will reach tipping point.

In her policy brief that states the Amazon is a “carbon bomb” the world needs to avoid setting off, she outlines how the fires in Brazil represent a government policy failure over many years, with Brazilian public agencies that are supposed to curb man-made fires “deliberately weakened”.

She said in keeping with his far-right nationalist campaign promises, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has intentionally backed away from efforts to combat climate change and preserve the environment, which has emboldened farmers, loggers, and other players to engage in predatory activities in the rainforest.

The trees of the Amazon store 60 billion to 80 billion tonnes of carbon.

“The rainforest is often wrongly called ‘the lungs of the world’,” de Bolle said. “It stores carbon, but that is not what fights climate change. It would be more apt to describe it as a ‘carbon bomb’.

“Setting fire to the forest for deforestation may release as much as 200 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere a year, which would spur climate change at a much faster rate, not to mention associated changes in rainfall patterns that may result from deforestation.

Ms de Bolle said the tragic fires had demonstrated that protecting the Amazon was a global cause. She said the international attention provided an opportunity for the governments of Brazil and the United States to stop denying climate change and co-operate on strategies to preserve the rainforest and develop ways to sustainably use its natural resources.

Some climate scientists believe the tipping point is still 15 to 20 years away.

The briefing highlighted that in August Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research estimated that total deforestation was 222 per cent higher than it was in August 2018.

The Amazon Basin contains 40 per cent of the world’s tropical forests and accounts for 10-15 per cent of the biodiversity of Earth’s continents.

In August, Professor Will Steffen, a member of Australia's Climate Council said there was credible evidence that a tipping point may exist for the Amazon rainforest.

“A combination of direct human landclearing and climate change - primarily through changing rainfall regimes - can trigger a rapid conversion of much of the forest to savanna or grassland ecosystems, thereby emitting large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere,” he said.

“Yet there seems to be little attention given to such global-level feedbacks and abrupt shifts associated with land systems.”


U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says

This is just grantmanship: a plea for more money. Will the army that won in two world wars be unable to cope with a couple of degrees of average temperature rise? Armies have to be adaptable and this lot of adaptations should not be too demanding

Starvation? Note that the big problem for farmers is glut, not shortage (of grains etc.)  Note also that global warming would increase rainfall, not lead to drought.  So crops would thrive

The report is imagination run riot, not a scientific study of the issues

The report says a combination of global starvation, war, disease, drought, and a fragile power grid could have cascading, devastating effects.

According to a new U.S. Army report, Americans could face a horrifically grim future from climate change involving blackouts, disease, thirst, starvation and war. The study found that the US military itself might also collapse. This could all happen over the next two decades, the report notes.

The senior US government officials who wrote the report are from several key agencies including the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, and NASA. The study called on the Pentagon to urgently prepare for the possibility that domestic power, water, and food systems might collapse due to the impacts of climate change as we near mid-century.

The report was commissioned by General Mark Milley, Trump's new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the highest-ranking military officer in the country (the report also puts him at odds with Trump, who does not take climate change seriously.)

The report, titled Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army, was launched by the U.S. Army War College in partnership with NASA in May at the Wilson Center in Washington DC. The report was commissioned by Gen. Milley during his previous role as the Army’s Chief of Staff. It was made publicly available in August via the Center for Climate and Security, but didn't get a lot of attention at the time.

The two most prominent scenarios in the report focus on the risk of a collapse of the power grid within “the next 20 years,” and the danger of disease epidemics. Both could be triggered by climate change in the near-term, it notes.

“Increased energy requirements” triggered by new weather patterns like extended periods of heat, drought, and cold could eventually overwhelm “an already fragile system.”

The report also warns that the US military should prepare for new foreign interventions in Syria-style conflicts, triggered due to climate-related impacts. Bangladesh in particular is highlighted as the most vulnerable country to climate collapse in the world.

“The permanent displacement of a large portion of the population of Bangladesh would be a regional catastrophe with the potential to increase global instability,” the report warns. “This is a potential result of climate change complications in just one country. Globally, over 600 million people live at sea level.”

Sea level rise, which could go higher than 2 meters by 2100 according to one recent study, “will displace tens (if not hundreds) of millions of people, creating massive, enduring instability,” the report adds.

The US should therefore be ready to act not only in Bangladesh, but in many other regions, like the rapidly melting Arctic—where the report recommends the US military should take advantage of its hydrocarbon resources and new transit routes to repel Russian encroachment.

But without urgent reforms, the report warns that the US military itself could end up effectively collapsing as it tries to respond to climate collapse. It could lose capacity to contain threats in the US and could wilt into “mission failure” abroad due to inadequate water supplies.


The Principles of Conservatism

The Heritage Foundation has issued what it sees as the principles of American conservatism today.  Below is their list of 14  points:

The federal government exists to preserve life, liberty and property, and it is instituted to protect the rights of individuals according to natural law. Among these rights are the sanctity of life; the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of individuals to be treated equally and justly under the law; and to enjoy the fruits of ones labor.

The federal government’s powers are limited to those named in the Constitution and should be exercised solely to protect the rights of its citizens. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” Powers not delegated to the federal government, nor prohibited by the Constitution, are reserved to the states or to the people.

Judges should interpret and apply our laws and the Constitution based on their original meaning, not upon judges’ personal and political predispositions.

Individuals and families—not government—make the best decisions regarding their and their children’s health, education, jobs, and welfare.

The family is the essential foundation of civil society, and traditional marriage serves as the cornerstone of the family.
The federal deficit and debt must not place unreasonable financial burdens on future generations.

Tax policies should raise only the minimum revenue necessary to fund constitutionally appropriate functions of government.
America’s economy and the prosperity of individual citizens are best served by a system of free enterprise, with special emphasis on economic freedom, private property rights, and the rule of law. This system is best sustained by policies promoting free trade and deregulation, and opposing government interventions in the economy that distort markets and impair innovation.

Regulations must not breach constitutional principles of limited government and the separation of powers.

America must be a welcoming nation—one that promotes patriotic assimilation and is governed by laws that are fair, humane, and enforced to protect its citizens.

Justice requires an efficient, fair, and effective criminal justice system—one that gives defendants adequate due process and requires an appropriate degree of criminal intent to merit punishment.

International agreements and international organizations should not infringe on American’s constitutional rights, nor should they diminish American sovereignty.

America is strongest when our policies protect our national interests, preserve our alliances of free peoples, vigorously counter threats to our security, and advance prosperity through economic freedom at home and abroad.

The best way to ensure peace is through a strong national defense.


It seems a fair list but it should be acknowledged that it is an expression of conservatism in a particular time and place.

The idea that one's country MUST welcome immigrants would certainly not get universal assent among conservatives.  Conservatives in Britain and Europe quite commonly claim that their country is "full up".

And conservatives outside America have some ideas that would not be much reflected in America.  British conservatives, for instance, see an important constitutional role for the monarchy, a view with only eccentric support in America. 

And conservatives of the fairly recent past saw the gold standard as the proper basis of the currency -- also a view having only eccentric support today.

So rather than the label "principles", it would be more accurate to describe the list above as "current expressions" of conservatusm.  Conservatisn is a cautious psychological disposition, not an ideology

Social class in speech

The article below tells us that we all speak in a way that tends to indicate our background.  In particular, whether we are upper class, lower class or in between is detectible from our speech.

The study is an American one but I doubt that many Britons will be surprised by it.  In Britain, an "Oxford" or "RP" accent is the mark of the upper class person and below that there are various regional accents of varied significance -- with Cockney (a London working class accent) being the lowest of the low. Regional accents are also well known in the USA of course.

And in both the USA and the UK, your accent has a major impact on your life chances.  The best and most lucrative jobs will normally be occupied by people with prestigious accents.  And for anyone with a humble background to break into that is virtually impossible.  It would simply "grate" on upper class people to associate daily with (say) a cockney accent.  There is a loophole, however.  You can change your accent to a more prestigious one.  Many do.

So what is new about the article below? We surely knew all along that our speech gives away a lot about us. The  relative novelty was the finding that class can be detected in your writing style as well.  And that, I think, is very interesting indeed.  Because I think that it is probably complexity that is being detected.  The lower class person can be expected to use fewer words, mostly common words and simpler sentence structure.  That should be easily detected but I cannot see what else would be.

But verbal ability is strongly correlated with IQ.  The more words you know, the smarter you generally are.  I like the word "inchoate" as a test of that.  Do you know what that means?  If you do, take a bow.

So we come back to the now well-supported generalization that social class is largely an IQ gradient. See e.g. here and here. The top people are smarter.  The recruiter who assesses a job applicant by his speech is not being arbitrary.  He is seeking more intelligent employees, which will be generally advantageous.  He is doing a good job of personnel selection.

That is a very different interpretation of the results below.  Intelligence is strongly inherited and Leftists hate that.  They hate a lot of things.  And the traditional Marxist way of coping with that is to use the word "reproduced"' -- which you will see in the heading below.

To account for the fact that some arrangement is persistent from generation to generation, Marxists don't regard that as natural in any way.  They say that the arrangement has to be "reproduced". And they go about earnestly looking for HOW it is reproduced.  They look for things that people do which  cause the same thing to emerge in a second and third generation.  And it is always due to the machinations of evil men, of course.  The idea that a smart person mostly has smart kids willy nilly is rejected by the Marxist.  He thinks that the smart man gets smart kids by sending them to private schools etc.  So if you abolish the private schools, all men will be equal.

So in the article below the authors don't regard the class-detection of the recruiter as being reasonable and natural but rather see it as an unjust strategy of devious complexity that unfairly disadvantages lower class people.  Therefore the recruiter must "unlearn" his wrong procedures and abandon his biases.

So there are two very different lessons that can be learned from the findings below.  I think that nothing needs to be done, whereas the Leftist thinks the whole thing is wrong, wrong, wrong and is in urgent need of reform.

Evidence for the reproduction of social class in brief speech

Michael W. Kraus et al.


Economic inequality is at its highest point on record and is linked to poorer health and well-being across countries. The forces that perpetuate inequality continue to be studied, and here we examine how a person’s position within the economic hierarchy, their social class, is accurately perceived and reproduced by mundane patterns embedded in brief speech. Studies 1 through 4 examined the extent that people accurately perceive social class based on brief speech patterns. We find that brief speech spoken out of context is sufficient to allow respondents to discern the social class of speakers at levels above chance accuracy, that adherence to both digital and subjective standards for English is associated with higher perceived and actual social class of speakers, and that pronunciation cues in speech communicate social class over and above speech content. In study 5, we find that people with prior hiring experience use speech patterns in preinterview conversations to judge the fit, competence, starting salary, and signing bonus of prospective job candidates in ways that bias the process in favor of applicants of higher social class. Overall, this research provides evidence for the stratification of common speech and its role in both shaping perceiver judgments and perpetuating inequality during the briefest interactions.


NHS boss announces air pollution 'emergency' as major study shows our dirty air is killing us

For years Greenies and some medical researchers have been trying to prove that air pollution is bad for you.  You would think that that would be a slam dunk -- and at some level air pollution probably is bad for you -- but is it dangerous at the levels we encounter in the worst areas of Western cities?

It isn't.  There are normally one or two studies every year that claim to prove a relatioship between pollution and health and I regularly review them. See here. Without fail, the studies are full of holes.  They do not show what they purport to show.  They omit major methodological precautions that would have protected them from false conclusions and as a result leave their reported effects attributable to other things than pollution.

I find this bemusing.  Is there no researcher out there who is capable of doing a defensible study of the topic?  I suspect that there is and that there have been.  What presumably happens when a good study is done is that the desired effect is not found.  Pollution is found not to be dangerous.  To avoid antagonizing their colleagues, however, those studies are never submitted for publication.  The old bias agist "negative results" comes into play.  Only those studies which purport to show the desired correlation are submitted for publication.  But they are --demonstrably -- the poorly done ones.

So I was initially  rather impressed by the report below:  a study of real people in a real setting: no artificial laboratory rubbish or dubious sampling.

I was soon disappointed.  The pollution statistics looked sound but what about disease incidence?  Where did the statistics on that come from?  Rather hilariously, they had no direct figures for that at all.  We read:

"To match higher pollution days with their impact on public health, the researchers used previous studies which have already highlighted this link, such as expert Committees reports"

We do not yet have details of what those previous reports were but in the light of chronic failures in previous studies already noted one is hardly brimming with confidence that their findings were sound. Once again, the authors have built their castle on sand

So what the heck is going on? Why is it so hard to prove the obvious?

My academic background is in psychology but I twice taught in university departments that also included sociology and anthropology.  And I have always taken an interest in anthropology anyhow. And I think we now have to turn to anthropology to understand what is going on.

And it's rather simple. From our evolutionry past to poor societies in the world today, people have relied heavily on wood fires for heating and cooking.   Even in London today they still do.  A London example below:

But most woodburners are more like this;

And as you soon find out if you regress to the past that Greenies want for all of us, those fires put out SOOT, which is the very stuff that Greenies also say is bad for us

To stop beating around the bush: Humankind has spent maybe a million years huddled around open fires so has evolved to tolerate heavy levels of particulate pollution -- far higher levels than one would normally encounter in modern Western society.  If we do get a load of particulate pollution, we just cough it up. Fine-particle air pollution is NOT bad for us

So a whole tradition of research exists only because of heavily compartmentalized thinking.

The boss of the NHS has declared an air pollution "emergency" as a major study today shows it causes hundreds of heart attacks and strokes every year.

Simon Stevens says we must act now to avoid so many "avoidable deaths" after figures reveal days of high air pollution trigger an extra 124 cardiac arrests, 231 stroke admissions and 193 hospitalisations for asthma across nine major UK cities each year.

Health charities today warn the figures could be just the “tip of the iceberg”, as often those suffering asthma attacks do not go to hospital.

The research by King’s College London, which is due to be published next month, is believed to be the first of its kind to analyse the impact of air pollution on health across different UK regions in this way.

In response to the findings Mr Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “As these new figures show, air pollution is now causing thousands of strokes, cardiac arrests and asthma attacks, so it’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency.

“Since these avoidable deaths are happening now - not in 2025 or 2050 - together we need to act now. For the NHS that is going to mean further comprehensive action building on the reduction of our carbon footprint of one fifth in the past decade.

“So our NHS energy use, supply chain, building adaptations and our transport will all need to change substantially.”

The new figures, released in partnership with UK100 a network of local government leaders, show the immediate, short-term impact of air pollution on the public.

Previous estimates have shown the long-term impact of air pollution cause up to 36,000 deaths every year.

Days where air pollution is more prominent typically occurs on hot, sunny days with little wind, because air pollution stays concentrated and closer to the ground

The nine cities analysed were London, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Oxford and Southampton.

The risk of having a cardiac arrest on the street or in your home is 2.2 percent higher in London on high air pollution days, than lower air pollution days.

This equates to 87 more people on average suffering cardiac arrest each year, while 74 children are admitted to hospital for asthma, and 144 adults are admitted for strokes.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “London’s lethal air is a public health crisis - it leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year, as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness."

In Birmingham, the risk of cardiac arrest is 2.3 percent higher on high pollution days, equating to an extra 12 people per year on average. In Manchester, the risk of cardiac arrest is 2.4 percent higher on high pollution days.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said: "Toxic air is a scourge on the nation's health and this study shines a light on the devastating effects it can have on people with asthma, causing hundreds to be seriously ill and need hospital treatment.

“These figures may be just the tip of the iceberg as many people with asthma don't go to hospital when they have an asthma attack and try to manage it themselves and this research only focuses on people in major cities in England.

"We urgently need the Government to commit to a stronger Environment Bill with legally binding enforceable targets for clean air, based on World Health Organisation recommendations.”

To measure air pollution levels the researchers used data from the UK monitoring body, the Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN), which is published by Defra.

Data from Airbase, the European air quality database maintained by the EEA, was also used in the report.

They classed higher pollution days as those which fell in the top quarter of the annual average range.

To match higher pollution days with their impact on public health, the researchers used previous studies which have already highlighted this link, such as expert Committees reports, NHS statistics and studies from the World Health Organisation.

The number of additional patients suffering health impacts in each of the nine cities was calculated by mapping the rates of health impacts from previous studies onto the population size of the cities, and then quantifying this impact rate with the number of high pollution days.

Dr Heather Walton, from King’s College, said: “This wider range of impacts on our health provides additional evidence of the important need for further action to reduce air pollution.”

A Defra spokesperson said:  “We are taking urgent action to improve air quality and tackle pollution so people can live longer healthier lives.

“Our landmark Environment Bill will set ambitious, legally-binding targets to reduce fine particulate matter and increase local powers to address key sources of air pollution.

“We are already working hard to reduce transport emissions and are investing £3.5 billion to clean up our air, while our Clean Air Strategy has been praised by the WHO as an ‘example for the rest of the world to follow.”


Image hosting blues

For years now there have been image hosting services that have  offered a convenient way of hosting images that you want to display on your blogs or other sites. I used Photobucket for a while, then Tinypic, then Imgur. Imgur was so convenient that it seems to have sent Tinypic out of business.  I used Tinypic mainly between 2006 and 2010.

As well as convenience, Imgur offered an explicit guarantee that an image hosted by them would remain there "forever".  Once posted there it would stay there. Given that for various reasons one could not always stay subscribed to the same ISP, that was particularly appealing.  One might chop and change the host for your blog, home page etc, but the availability of your images would remain unchanged.

But that has now come to an end,  Images hosted on both Tinypic and imgur are now no longer securely hosted,  In the case of Imgur, political correctness has raised its head. Images connected to forbidden topics are now de-hosted.  They are no longer where you put them.  So much for the offer of permanence. 

I must be one of the most incorrect people on the net.  I routinely put up scholarly comments about race, social class and IQ! That's three forbidden topics.  So it was to be expected that some of my pictures would vanish from where they were previously held. The social media generally are hostile to conservative content. And that now includes Imgur.

As long as you keep comprehensive backup files -- which I do -- there is no great drama in reposting deleted images elsewhere. It takes me only a couple of minutes per image to do so.  A rather objectionable feature of the current situation, however is that Imgur are not satisfied simply to dehost a picture but post instead of the deleted image a brightly colored and unpleasant-looking image whih presumably represents a troll.  It certainly motivates you to rehost your image pronto.

But here's the interesting thing: EVERY image ever hosted on Tinypic is now replaced by the same troll.  Imgur seems to have taken over what remains of Tinypic and proceeded to blow a raspberry at each and every one of Tinypic's former users. They seem to be penalizing anybody who once used Tinypic.  It is at least juvenile behaviour. Why they could not simply let Tinypic vanish into the night is a puzzle.

Zuckerberg doubles down on free speech—the Facebook way

Even though he has censored the whole of one of my sites, I have some sympathy for Zuckerberg.  I think he is confronted with an impossible task. The basic problem for him and for us all is that he is constantly URGED to censor things. He is told to censor "hate speech".

But it cannot be done -- for the simplest of reasons: One man's hate-speech is another man's fair comment, or even part of his religion.

So Zuckerberg inherits the problem of deciding what is hate speech. He seems to decide that on what the loudest voices say and the big complainers are Leftists.

But that is probably the best he can do.  There is no agreed definition of hate speech nor could there be, probably.  So the only fair way to treat Facebook content would be to delete NOTHING.  But that would be unpopular too. It would infuriate the Left.

So the acceptable censorship of social media sites is an impossible task.  All we can hope for is some compromise that is not wholly unreasonable.

I think we can do that.  I think we can regulate it in a way that avoids political bigotry.  And we do it by taking the whole censorship task away from Zuckerberg, which could well please him.

What I propose is a variant on the ancient Roman Tribunus plebis.  A tribune is someone appointed to safeguard the interests of a particular group.  I think social media platforms  should appoint two tribunes -- one for the Left and one for the Right.  And NO content should be deleted without the approval of BOTH tribunes.  Each tribune would need a substantial staff and he should be free to choose and train  his own staff.  The tribune himself (or herself) should be appointed by the head of the relevant party in the Federal Senate

That should do the trick

Mark Zuckerberg came to Washington, DC, on Thursday to claim the mantle of Martin Luther King and the Founding Fathers as a champion of free speech. Standing in the stately Gaston Hall auditorium at Georgetown University—which has hosted the likes of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bono—the Facebook CEO declared, “I’m here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.”

And a city full of regulation-hungry politicians and foes of Big Tech undoubtedly thought: How’s that working out?

Zuckerberg’s highly promoted speech introduced no new Facebook features or initiatives, but was a defiant reply to critics of Facebook’s destructive effects on global society—manipulating voters, fomenting division, and even aiding genocide. He doubled down on Facebook’s handling of the treacherous business of implementing free expression at an unprecedented global scale. Despite considerable evidence that the approach has often fallen short, Zuckerberg still professes optimism: Giving people a voice and connecting the world, he believes, are transformationally positive actions. Essentially, he’s saying—as he always has—that Facebook is essentially positive.

What’s more, he was claiming high ground for Facebook’s values. If you disagree with him on speech, he implied, you’re siding with the forces of censorship and elitism. He described a “countertrend … to pull back on free expression.” His foes, he implied, are the same kind of people who wanted Eugene Debs in prison, who wanted Vietnam protesters stopped. But the people whose Facebook presence is more disturbing include the likes of Alex Jones (whom Facebook ultimately banned) or … Donald Trump. The speech didn’t really take on those kinds of choices.
Furthermore, rejecting his point of view will align you with the oppressive overlords of China! He pointedly noted that his dreams of taking Facebook to that country have been stalemated by that country’s demands on data and censorship. While Facebook’s encrypted WhatsApp service is a boon to protesters, he says, the Chinese TikTok app censors mentions of protests even for users in the US.

Zuckerberg clearly believed in what he was saying: Though his presentation was sometimes halting (maybe reflecting that he was tinkering with the speech until his deadline), his voice grew stronger when invoking Facebook as an instrument of empowerment. He spoke for almost 40 minutes, which is what happens when senators aren’t interrupting you.

But while he constantly described Facebook as giving voice to everyday people and underrepresented groups, he gave short shrift to the way that powerful forces are using his platform to manipulate people. In the past two years, Zuckerberg and his leadership team have admitted that they were late to recognize the downside of free expression: political extremism, intentional misinformation, and political ads that baldly lie.

At every turn, the company has avoided becoming an arbiter of what is news and what political utterances are destructive. “I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy,” he said, a sentiment he often expresses. But neither does that mean that a private company has to promote outright lies and divisive content. It would have been interesting if he’d grappled with that concept more in his Georgetown address.

Maybe the most powerful part of the speech was when he said, “I’m not going to be around forever,” and so he thinks it essential to deeply embed free speech values into Facebook so the company continues giving voice to people long after he’s gone.

Zuckerberg’s foray into the belly of the Beltway to deliver a message of free speech was, in a sense, a daring gambit. It’s hard to disagree with the First Amendment, and even less attractive to align with censors. But his critics—and a lot of people who are simply unhappy with Facebook—are asking for more. Boosting speech at global scale is a tricky and unprecedented practice. Though Zuckerberg constantly cites the army he now employs in matters of security and safety (up to 35,000), it’s not clear that a “community” of almost 3 billion people can be purged of truly destructive content. Facebook is a huge experiment that constantly tests Zuckerberg’s deeply felt claim that connecting the world will yield a net positive. The results are far from settled.

After the speech, Zuckerberg took a few questions from Georgetown students in the audience (which were submitted in writing, not offered spontaneously). One questioned whether Facebook was favoring conservatives with its green light to misinformation in political ads. Zuckerberg agreed with Georgetown’s moderator that liberals are angry, too. “Right now, we’re doing a very good job of making everyone angry at us,” he said.

No one seemed to disagree with that. And things won’t change after Zuckerberg’s Tom Paine moment.


Honey Dew, Dunkin’ toss out Styrofoam cups, but is it enough to save the planet?

I have still yet to hear what is wrong with tossing everything into landfills -- it's cheap and we did it for generations. A lot of Australia's sportsgrounds and public parks were once landfills.  Once the dump is full, you level it off, add rocks and soil and call in the gardeners.

And most landfills were unsupervised dumps.  It was great fun to go to the dump with your rubbish and come back with things other people had tossed out.  That was REAL recycling. I remember it well. Many wives complained that their husbands came back with as much as they threw out

Honey Dew Donuts founder and CEO Dick Bowen never liked Styrofoam cups. They just seemed chintzy, the kind of thing you’d find at a backyard barbecue or in a church basement. “Our coffee was too good for foam,” said Bowen, whose company made the switch from paper to foam two decades ago. “I literally always had a bad taste in my mouth to go to foam. It didn’t feel right.”

Now foam is getting the heave-ho, as Honey Dew strives to be more environmentally friendly. But as Kermit the Frog might say, it’s not easy going green.

Like its giant competitor, Dunkin’, Honey Dew used Styrofoam cups to accommodate customers’ ever-growing demand for bigger portions, and Styrofoam could keep big cups of coffee hot without burning hands. When Bowen opened his first shop in 1973, the biggest size was 10 ounces; today it is 24 ounces. And the Plainville-based chain runs through about 12 million Styrofoam cups a year.

This month, Bowen will say goodbye to the foam cup, as new double-walled paper cups arrive across Honey Dew’s 147 stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. You can’t miss the new cups; not only are they more environmentally friendly, but the beige branding is replaced with a bold new red design.

Corporate America is embracing sustainability. So are millennial customers and municipalities. That means the coffee industry has to deliver a greener product.

Dunkin’ is also on track to eliminate foam cups in New England locations by year’s end, and all of its stores nationwide in early 2020. The change will remove 1 billion foam cups — which are hard to recycle — from the waste stream annually. For customers nervous about change, Dunkin’ assures that its double-walled paper cup “has heat retention properties that are equal to our foam cup.”

Honey Dew’s cups are made from 88 percent renewable resources; the double walls keep the coffee hot and eliminate the need for a sleeve. But are these new paper coffee cups recyclable?

That’s debatable. Coffee companies say yes; environmentalists say not so fast. The new paper coffee cups are lined with plastic and would need to be sorted separately from paper and plastic collections. And few facilities have the right equipment to recycle something made out of mixed materials.

So it’s possible to recycle the new Honey Dew cups — but practically speaking, it’s not going to happen.

That explains the muted reaction from environmentalists. Styrofoam is among the most toxic of plastics, so eliminating it from landfills is a good thing, but they don’t think new paper cups are the best solution.

“None of the systems in Massachusetts accept or collect coffee cups,” said Kirstie Pecci, director of the Zero Waste Project at the Conservation Law Foundation, referring to Styrofoam and the new cups. “Do not put coffee cups in your bin.”

For Pecci, and from the perspective of state environmental officials, the gold standard is to break the habit of using a disposable cup.

“Eliminating Styrofoam in favor of paper cups is, from a public health and environmental perspective, the right thing to do,” Ed Coletta, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said in a statement. “However, bringing in your own cup beats all.”

Bowen understands the dilemma, but he says Honey Dew is doing its part to help the environment. “It’s in their corner to make this work,” he said of municipal waste facilities.

So how hard can it be to make an easily recyclable coffee cup?

We may have sent a man to the moon, but a truly sustainable disposable cup has been elusive even for coffee kahuna Starbucks. For three decades, the Seattle chain has been working on this issue, even hosting three “cup summits,” two of them at MIT.

Starbucks will tell you their paper coffee cups are recyclable in communities that have the infrastructure. But Starbucks realizes that’s not good enough, and in 2018 committed $10 million to help launch the NextGen Cup Challenge to create an industry consortium to develop a greener cup.

In February, the consortium unveiled 12 winners of the challenge, whose ideas ranged from innovative cup liners to reusable cup services; some of those winners will move onto a next phase of piloting their ideas through an accelerator program.

The biggest takeaway for Peter Senge, an MIT senior lecturer who participated in a cup summit, is that it will take a village: retailers, recyclers, and government. “We all have a stake in nurturing the ‘underground economy’ that can make it economically viable to harvest our waste,” Senge wrote in an e-mail.

Honey Dew began its hunt for the proper paper cup over six years ago. (It has long used paper cups for its smallest size.) Manufacturers were making alternatives to foam, including the double-walled paper cups, but they were too expensive.

Honey Dew also didn’t want to give up its lid design. For some customers, it’s all about the lid. What good is a cup when you can’t sip without spilling? (Eighty-percent of Honey Dew’s business is takeout.)

By the fall of 2018, Honey Dew settled on a cup made by Dart Container Corp. that worked well with the plastic lid design the chain was already using. The new cups began arriving at Honey Dew stores in September. All the foam will be gone by the end of the month. Paper is more expensive, and some franchisees may pass the cost on to the customer. A 16-ounce paper cup, for example, costs 11 cents, while the foam version costs 7 cents.

But the work to reduce plastic waste is not done at Honey Dew. Don Leavitt, the executive who led the paper cup chase, is now onto his next project. “Now that I have the cups under control,” he said, “I’m working on the straws.”


The Not So Special Relationship: How Trump Has Bewildered the United Kingdom

There is a long article in "Foreign Affairs" under the above heading.  It makes clear that the UK bureaucracy and elite generally are regularly flummoxed by Trump.  They seem unaware that Trump also regularly flummoxes the American bureaucracy and elite.

But the question the article raises is whether Trump has eroded the "special relationship' that has long existed between the USA and the UK?  It's an odd question to ask when you note that Mr Trump is in fact half British by birth, has significant investments in Britain and has often made positive comments about Britain.  And there is an undoubted warmth between Prime Minister Johnson and President Trump. Each clearly sees the other as similar to himself. That all sounds special to me. And I don't mind predicting that the longevity of the Johnson Prime Ministership will be considerable.

What is undoubted however is that Mr Trump upsets the British bureaucracy.  They suddenly find that their customary policies and positions no longer work reliably.  Good! one might be inclined to exclaim.  Perhaps their customary policies and positions are in need of a spring cleaning!

Clearly, however, Trump is a "one off".  It's unimaginable that we will ever see another President like him.  Though subsequent Presidents will undoubtedly learn from him. 

But Trump has revealed important truths:  That culltivating personal relationship with heads of opponent governments can lead to important advances towards peace: That patroitism is a powerful force for conservatives to draw upon and that deregulation is as poweful a force for prosperity as regulation is a force for economic stagnation.  Nobody foresaw 3.5% unemployment or Mr  Kim's clear eagerness for a rapprochement.  So the plain truth is that both the American and British establishments need to stop whining and instead learn from Mr Trump that his overturning of established customs and pieties is something to learn from.

Like Ronald Reagan before him, he is a very radical conservative.  The Left, by contrast have learned nothing since the 19th century.  "Let the government do it" must be just about the most moronic policy ever devised.

Perhaps the most amusing thing about this whole matter is that Obama and his cohorts really did disrespect the special relationship. His critics are accusing Trump of what Obama did.  But Obama was the spearhead of the steady Leftist advance through society so everything he did could be understood.

UNSW media release: Year 12 creates too much stress and ATAR scoring ‘unfair'

I have long seen how poor is ideologically motivated research and it is well known that the Left dislike formal examinations so I expected immediately that the research underlying the claims below would be suspect.  It was more than suspect.  It was moronic.  I used to teach research methods and statistics at the Uni of NSW and I would have failed any student who presented anything like that to me as a research proposal.

It is just dishonest.  The answers they wanted were transparent and the respondents duly gave the researchers what was expected.  There were just 3 questions in the survey and all were worded in a way hostile to the existing arrangements.  There was not the slightest attempt at balance or to ask more subtly worded questions.  There were no questions expressing approval of the existing arrangements

In my research career  I had a lot published on the desirability of balanced wording -- wording designed to avoid acquiescent response bias.  And I repeatedly found that many people would agree with both a statement and its opposite.  They tended, in other words, to say Yes to anything in answering a survey.  But you cannot detect that unless you have from the beginning in your survey oppositely worded questions.  The present survey did not.  It is moron stuff that should be ignored.

 I could very easily design another survey with different questions that would come to the opposite conclusions.

On the first day of the 2019 Higher School Certificate exams, UNSW Sydney’s Gonski Institute for Education is releasing new survey findings that show most people want student ability and talents outside of end-of-school exam results to be factors used in determining their university entry ranking.

And two thirds feel the reliance on the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) for university entry creates unnecessary pressure on Year 12 students.

These results from a new national survey undertaken by UNSW Sydney’s Gonski Institute for Education come as high school students in most states are about to sit their final exams.

Institute Director, Professor Adrian Piccoli, a former NSW Education Minister, said the UNSW survey results support academic research that suggests relying on an end-of-school series of exams as the primary means to gain entry to a university is not the best predictor of a student’s overall ability, nor are they the most equitable.

Professor Piccoli said: “There is a growing body of work that shows one off exams, which are supposedly meant to measure a student’s whole of school experience, often do not accurately measure their skills, potential or overall ability”.

“Like NAPLAN, the HSC scores are used to measure a very narrow range of student abilities which, under the current ATAR system, creates an enormous amount of pressure for all those involved.”

A total of 80 per cent of all respondents to the Gonski Institute survey agreed university requirements should also consider a student’s ability and talents outside the classroom.

While over 57 per cent say ATAR scores create unnecessary pressure on Year 12 students, that number rises to 75 per cent for people who finished high school but did not do any tertiary study.

Professor Piccoli said: “Schools are also under pressure to ensure their students achieve high ATAR scores. School ranking tables created from Year 12 exam results effect a school’s reputation and this measure doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of education available at schools but rather how their students performed in various tests.”

There are strong connections between achievement in the ATAR and the socioeconomic background of the high school, with higher achievement generally being associated with a higher socioeconomic status (SES).

Professor Eileen Baldry, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Equity Diversity and Inclusion UNSW says: “This inequity associated with ATAR scores and disadvantaged schools poses significant problems for universities in offering places to the most talented students across the country if we just use the ATAR results.

Those with high capability but who come from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly low SES, Indigenous and regional, rural and remote students, are less likely to achieve high ATARs, not because they are not talented but because the ATAR is not a fair measure of their talent and capacity to success at university.

UNSW, like other universities, already has and is working towards further alternative pathways into university that take into account a range of student talent and capability outside of ATAR.”

The release last month of another academic report, ‘Beyond ATAR: a proposal for change’, published by the Australian Learning Lecture supports the Gonski Institute’s findings and urged tertiary education providers to design entry pathways that better align candidates’ interests, capabilities and aspirations with the educational opportunities on offer, and better reflect evidence about the progress and potential of learners.

Press release. Media contact:  Stuart Snell, UNSW External Communications, 0416 650 906

Wealth taxes

Even her fellow Democrats are challenging Elizabeth Warren on how she will pay for her big spending proposals.  Her answer to that relies very heavily on her proposed wealth tax.  She clearly thinks it will be a goldmine. There have already been some good comments on why such a tax will be very destructive but I just want to set out the kernel arguments about why such a tax will raise little if anything.

For a start, great wealth is not usually held in the form of bank deposits.  It is almost all in the form of real estate, shares and other tangible assets -- so liquidating even a small part of that would depress asset prices generally.  And that will depress spending and investments across the board. It will affect the wealth of large sections of the population, leading to very negative feeling among job creators.  Unemployment would shoot up and income tax receipts would be reduced.

And the second effect would be large scale emigration among the wealthy.  Some nearby Caribbean islands are pleasant places to live in the sun and many have very low tax rates.  To escape the tentacles of Uncle Sam, the emigrants would also have to renounce their American citizenship but many retirees do that already. And  You only have to bring a few million with you to be granted residence in Australia or New Zealand and you can definitely drink the water there.  And there is never any need to press 1 for English. A lot of rich people have well-appointed bolt-holes in NZ already.

And when the rich move out, they take their income taxes with them -- as well as escaping a wealth tax.  And the rich pay a big proportion of income tax so, once again, tax revenue would FALL.

Even if she can't tax the departed rich Warren might have the bright idea of taxing any assets left behind in the USA.  But that would lead to a mass liquidation of assets, with the proceeds of that going to purchase assets elsewhere. 

High taxing Leftist governments have encountered that problem before and their response is to make the currency not convertible -- so you can't use greenbacks to buy (say) New Zealand dollars.  But that drives away all foreign investments, which are a major source of jobs in America.  So Warren's "clever" proposal would lead to lower revenues and higher unemployment. 

She seems a smart sort of woman so she probably knows all that.  As a Leftist, the thoughtof destroying American prosperity probably turns her on

Warren would apply a 2% tax on every dollar of net worth for households worth $50 million or more, and a 3% tax on every dollar of net worth beyond $1 billion.

According to tables in a recent paper by Saez and Zucman, this would apply to around $11 trillion of holdings this year, producing revenue of at least $220 billion.

Sanders’ “extreme wealth tax” would levy a 1% tax on the first dollar of net worth above $32 million. That tax would rise in increments, to 2% on net worth between $50 million to $250 million all the way up to 8% on wealth above $10 billion.

Sanders’ campaign estimated the plan, which would tax just the top 0.1% of U.S. households, would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade.

Saez and Zucman say their research points to the wealth tax as an effective way to equalize the amount of tax paid by people with massive fortunes like investor Warren Buffett and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos with the middle-class, and then seed the proceeds through the economy.

Had the Warren proposal been in place since 1982, the share of wealth held by the top 400 would still have risen - but only to 2%. A higher tax rate of 10% on holdings above $1 billion, meanwhile, would have kept that group’s share of national wealth stable.

In more individual terms, the 3% rate on holdings above a billion would mean Bezos would be worth just $86 billion this year, versus $160 billion. At the bottom of the top 15, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson would have $18 billion, versus $35 billion.

A dozen European nations used to have wealth taxes but most have done away with them. France, one of the last, abolished its wealth tax in late 2017, after thousands of millionaires relocated to neighboring, lower-tax countries.

Saez and Zucman argue that Europe’s history with wealth taxes is not relevant to the United States because those countries set their wealth tax bar too low, and because it is easier to relocate within the continent for favorable tax laws.

The U.S. tax system, on the other hand, essentially taxes all citizens, no matter where they live.


"Diversity" is a snark

"Time" magazine has a long-winded article under the heading: Diversity has become a booming business. So where are the results?  It goes on to set out the great efforts and large sums that have been devoted to the cause.  One might summarize their message as: "Never in the field of human endeavor has so much been done by so many for so little".

And they are perfectly right.  Any psychometrician could explain it to you.  As the old proverb says: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".  Blacks, Hispanics and whites all have their own characteristics and fields of expertise and you can't shoehorn the minority groups into white characteristics and fields of expertise.  Seldom the twain shall meet.

There is a dreaded two letter word I could mention here but I think it suffices that conservatives have for over a century opposed Leftist claims of human malleability by the counter-claim that much in human behavior is genetically determined -- and therefore immutable:  "Human nature". And the research in behavior genetics has resoundingly supported the conservative contention. It's truly amazing how much of our behavior is genetically inherited.

One simply has to apply that knowledge to the "diversity" efforts to understand what is going on. Diversity efforts are undoubtedly an attempt to impose some of the characteristic  behaviours of whites onto the minorities. It was bound to fail. To put it as succinctly as I can:  You will rarely make a white man out of a black.

And why should we make that racist attempt?  Members of all the groups have liberty to behave as they want so let them go on doing what they want to do and stop trying to shoehorn them into a mould that doesn't fit.  Try liberty instead of racism.

But the "Time" magazine solution to the problem that the Left have created is typical Leftist brainlessness: The failure of diversity efforts is due to evil men.  I quote: It is due to "a willful negation of our shared humanity". In other words, "We're all racists, you know".  A prime example of the pot calling the kettle black.

Contrived generational wars disguise the failure of the American Dream

The Leftist lady writing below has an interesting point.  She says that naming and describing "generations" (generation X, generation Y etc) serves to deflect attention away from the fact that incomes have been static for many years in real terms.  She is also undoubtedly right that assigning characteristics to a whole generation of people is a vast over-generalization.

She takes a few potshots at Trump along the way, as one expects of almost any American Leftist, but she misses the big picture.  Trump has actually solved the problem she complains of.  In the Trump economy wages are rising at long last.

So why were incomes so static for so long?   They were in fact less static than it seems.  There have been large qualitative improvements in most products. A car today will for instance be a lot safer, more economical and more reliable than the rattletrap you might have bought in 1950.  So your money buys better even if it does not buy more.

Nonetheless, Trump shows us what can be done and we need to ask why did that not happen sooner.   The answer is perfectly clear. The destructive Left  have been in power quite a lot since WWII and they have succeeded in their destructive aims.  They have hobbled the wealth creators -- business -- in all sorts of ways, destroying jobs and keeping prices high.  And the intervening Repiublican administrations have not been radical enough to destroy much of what the Left have put in place.

So it needed  a truly radical reformer to take the shackles off business and get business activity roaring.  Trump is that reformer.  Businessmen have been so encouraged by Trump that they have regularly created hundreds of thousands of new jobs -- to the point that they have difficulty getting the employees they need for their enterprises.  There is a labor shortage.  And when there is a labor shortage employers offer higher wages to ensure they get the workers they need. Trump unleashed capitalism, which is the only way of getting rising incomes across the board.

Bill Gates was born in 1955. That makes him what is commonly called a boomer. Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston’s homeless shelters. According to the principal investigator of a recent study, Dennis Culhane, many people of Lavoie’s age are indeed part of a boom — “a boom in aging homeless people.” They were “less well educated people who faced economic challenges in their youth — falling wages and rising housing costs — and never recovered financially. . . . Now in their 50s and 60s, they are biologically older than most people their age. . . . The average lifespan for a homeless person is 64.”

Unlike Gates’s co-billionaires in the .01 percent, 29 percent of people 55 and over have nothing at all saved for retirement, according to the Government Accountability Office, and many of the rest have little. Ageism in the workforce is one reason they lose a job and then can’t find an equally good one — or find any work at all. Boomers are often treated as “deadwood.” Corporations drop them by the thousands. Even Xers are now old enough to be at risk of having their resumes discarded. When people suffering from middle ageism stop looking for work they are omitted from the unemployment data. At midlife, some submit to deaths of despair.

Succeeding cohorts (all containing the same disparities — of class, race, gender, and education) have also been treated as if they were a single human with a character flaw. During the 1990s recessions, when the so-called Xers couldn’t find work, they too were branded with a slur — “slackers” — while boomers were represented as the horde bullies who held onto all the good jobs.

The baleful technique is still at work today. Given the same problem — lack of decent jobs for all ages, especially people without college degrees and people over 50 — it’s the turn of the millennials. One of them complains about the stereotypes, defensively, in Vox: “We demand participation trophies, can’t find jobs, and live with our parents until we’re 30.” His response is to bash — you guessed it — the boomers, who “have a ton of maladaptive personality characteristics.”

In the Atlantic, pundits Niall Ferguson, from the Hoover Institution, and Eyck Freymann defend millennials because their “early working lives were blighted by the financial crisis” — but ignore how home foreclosures, sluggish growth, and job losses also blighted people around Ferguson’s own age (55).

Millennials are supposed to be so ignorant and cruel that they would dismiss old people’s needs because of the boomers’ alleged wealth. “Cutting old-age benefits for boomers would be an easy call if millennials are anywhere on the line of fire,” write the original concoctors of the age-war distraction, Neil Howe and William Strauss, in their latest pandering assault, “Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation.”

We frequently hear that our elders’ retirement needs will “break the bank” despite their lifelong pay-ins. If Republicans manage to destroy the whole system of social trust, cutting Social Security could indeed be one of the dire outcomes of the lies of generational warfare. Otherwise, experts say, its financial failure is not remotely in the cards. For families it has always been the most popular government program, because it provides a measure of dignified independence for older people and a measure of relief for their adult children.

Younger people should support the expansion of Social Security for another reason, writes one millennial who doesn’t take the bait. Nick Guthman argues in The Hill that because of student debt, “Millennials and Generation Z will need Social Security even more than our parents and grandparents do.”

The 2100 Act, now before Congress, would raise the cap on taxable-wage contributions. Conservatives reject this easy fix, but it is overwhelmingly popular with the public.

Manipulating cohort characteristics damages far more than attitudes toward Social Security, bad as the effect of that contrived skepticism could be. Blaming an older generation that is already maligned allows many real perpetrators to smugly hide from their irresponsibility. Will the climate movement find youngsters blaming the boomers for ecological destruction, because some drove big cars? Wouldn’t it be better to turn on the CEOs of Exxon, who hid the dangers of burning fossil fuels that their scientists discovered so thoroughly that few of us knew to stop flying?

Persistent precarity is indeed the historical issue that is obscured by these discourses. The fact of American decline is this: Most people in each generation have had it worse than their parents. According to a report on The State of Working America, the United States lags behind its peer countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in measurements of father-son mobility. In the United States, the “sons” have been receiving stagnant wages, fewer benefits, jobs in the insecure gig economy. Many women too have lost the progress narrative of rising expectations. That progress narrative, when upward mobility was more widespread, supported the American Dream. It gave hope that democracy would work for increasing numbers.

Don’t blame your parents. Every article manipulating cohort stereotypes lets the government and corporations off the hook for outsourcing abroad, the crash of rust-belt industries, de-unionization, and the decades of cascading downward mobility we now endure. You can’t even want to get justice until you know the true sources of injustice.

HOW DO IMAGINARY reputations and hostile emotions get nailed onto struggling groups, decade after decade, in this pernicious way? Naming each imagined age cohort makes it possible. The process is called reification. Naming makes vague temporal proximity into a thing.

Only the name baby boomers had an adequate demographic and historical reason to exist. These millions were born (from 1946 to 1964) of the relative affluence that spread after World War II. Their numbers did give them unifying experiences as they grew up — made their elders build new schools for them, made their working lives more competitive. Now they are confronted by a president who, after promising not to, is cutting their security and health care in devious ways.

But, even undergoing historical events together, age-peers don’t build the same memories, share the same beliefs, behave uniformly. During Vietnam, some young men were conscripted into the war while others fought to end it. Stark differences likewise mark the current group of young people (unimaginatively called “post-millennials”). Some of them are woke and ready to take on racism, sexism, homophobia, gun control, global warming. At the same age, neo-Nazis are setting fire to synagogues.

Once cohorts are reified by name, the labels become dog-whistles. Envy and fear can divide a nation and abet destructive political changes. Malice can turn one generation against another.

We could mitigate the divisiveness. Editors could stop soliciting age-war articles by second-rate phrasemakers. We ordinary people need to defy the lies, and build intergenerational bonds. Let us understand that capitalist and neoliberal choices have worsened life, for decades, for every later, unequal subculture. And a comforting, unifying cross-age coalition should eject politicians unwilling to maintain and repair our precious communal institutions.


What student debt is doing to a generation of Americans

I inherited nothing but because I was a good saver and invested from early on, I was able to pay for all my son's  education fees without difficulty.  He entered the workforce with zero debt.

But had I been poorer I would have advised him to learn deeply whatever he was interested in and get a diploma mill degree for documentation purposes.  If you know a field well and can demonstrate it, employers will have little interest in your documentation.

He spent 8 years learning stuff that he enjoyed but which was no practical use to him but then took a short course in IT.

He entered the workforce in IT and he just had to show his work for lots of people to want to hire him. They hired him on the basis of what he could do rather than any qualifications.  And you can learn programming, which is the basis of IT, in a week.  I did.  Demonstrated ability and usefulness will get you jobs.  Qualifications often will not.

In my working life I several times got jobs that weren't even advertised.

So I greatly deplore the poor guidance that most American college students receive.  Most could do well without incurring any debt

In April, 2011, the anthropologist Caitlin Zaloom was sitting in her office at New York University when one of her most promising students appeared at her door, crying. Kimberly had dreamed of life in New York City since she was eight years old. Growing up in a middle-class family just outside Philadelphia, she was regaled with stories about her mother’s short, glamorous-sounding stint waitressing in Times Square. Kimberly’s version of the big-city fantasy was also shaped by reruns of “Felicity,” a late-nineties drama set at a lightly fictionalized version of N.Y.U.

Her dream school did not disappoint. Kimberly was an intrepid, committed student, studying the effects of globalization on urban space; she worked with street vendors and saw their struggles to make ends meet. College opened up a new world to her. But her family had sacrificed to help finance her education, and she had taken out considerable loans. She had looked forward to putting her degree to good use, while chipping away at the debt behind it. But the job she was offered involved outsourcing labor to foreign contractors— exacerbating the inequalities she hoped a future career might help rectify.

Zaloom felt that there was something representative about Kimberly’s story, as more students find themselves struggling with the consequences of college debt. She wanted to learn about the trajectory that had brought Kimberly to her office that day. She visited her at home and listened as her mother, June, talked about how she, too, had fantasized about a life in New York.

But June’s family had needed her back home, in Pennsylvania, where she met Kimberly’s father. They eventually divorced, but they stayed in the same town, raising Kimberly together. June had wanted her daughter to have the experiences she had missed out on. When Kimberly was accepted at N.Y.U., her father urged her to attend a more affordable school in state. June implored him to change his mind, and he eventually agreed. The decision stretched their finances, but June told her daughter, “You’ve got to go.”

It’s easy to dismiss quandaries like Kimberly’s as the stuff of youth, when every question seems freighted with filmic significance. There’s a luxury to putting off practical concerns. But her story gave Zaloom insight into the evolving role of college debt in contemporary American life.

Kimberly’s predicament was put in motion when she first set her sights on attending a college where, today, the annual tuition is more than fifty thousand dollars, in one of the most expensive cities in the world. That her parents risked their financial stability to nurture this dream seemed meaningful. Previous generations might have pushed a college-bound child to fend for herself; Kimberly’s parents prized notions of “potential” and “promise.” Shielding her from the consequences of debt was an expression of love, and of their own forward-looking class identity.

Since 2012, Zaloom has spent a lot of time with families like Kimberly’s. They all fall into America’s middle class—an amorphous category, defined more by sensibility or aspirational identity than by a strict income threshold. (Households with an annual income of anywhere from forty thousand dollars to a quarter of a million dollars view themselves as middle class.)

In “Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost” (Princeton), Zaloom considers how the challenge of paying for college has become one of the organizing forces of middle-class family life. She and her team conducted interviews with a hundred and sixty families across the country, all of whom make too much to qualify for Pell Grants (reserved for households that earn below fifty thousand dollars) but too little to pay for tuition outright.

These families are committed to providing their children with an “open future,” in which passions can be pursued. They have done all the things you’re supposed to, like investing and saving, and not racking up too much debt. Some parents are almost neurotically responsible, passing down a sense of penny-pinching thrift as though it were an heirloom; others prize idealism, encouraging their children to follow their dreams.

What actually unites them, from a military family in Florida to a dual-Ph.D. household in Michigan, is that the children are part of a generation where debt— the financial and psychological state of being indebted—will shadow them for much of their adult lives.

A great deal has changed since Kimberly’s parents attended college. From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards and auto loans combined.

Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness.

Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net.

But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills.

These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference.

Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twenty-somethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream.

If you are a so-called responsible parent, you might begin stashing away money for college as soon as your child is born. You may want to take advantage of a 529 education-savings plan, a government-administered investment tool that provides tax relief to people who set money aside for a child’s educational expenses. Some states even provide a 529 option to prepay college tuition at today’s rates.

Zaloom writes of Patricia, a schoolteacher in Florida who managed to cover in-state fees for both of her children after five years of working and saving. Patricia resented the fact that preparing for her children’s future left her with so little time and energy to be with them in the present. Her daughter, Maya, was academically gifted and excelled in college. Then, when Patricia’s son, Zachary, was a high-school senior, her husband walked out on the family, leaving them four hundred thousand dollars in debt.

Patricia spent her retirement savings to keep them afloat. Zachary had difficulty coping, and he had never shown a strong inclination toward college, but the money was already earmarked. Zaloom writes, “Her investment in his tuition was an expression of faith in him.” He struggled in college and never graduated. “If I’d had a crystal ball,” Patricia says, “I wouldn’t have gotten in the program for Zachary.”

In Zaloom’s view, Patricia’s decisions all point to a core faith that college is fundamental to middle-class identity. Throughout “Indebted,” parents and children lament the feeling of burdening one another. Parents fear that their financial decisions might limit their children’s potential, even when those children are still in diapers. It’s a fear, Zaloom argues, that loan companies often exploit. “You couldn’t not hear about it,” Patricia recalled of the commercials for Florida’s college-savings account. The existence of 529 plans suggests that paying for college is just a matter of saving a bit of each monthly paycheck.

And yet Patricia is an outlier. Only three per cent of Americans invest in a 529 account or the equivalent, and they have family assets that are, on average, twenty-five times those of the median household. Zaloom disputes the premise that “planning leads to financial stability.” Student debt didn’t become a problem because families refused to save. “In truth, it’s the other way around,” she writes. “Planning requires stability in a family’s fortunes, a stability in both family life and their finances that is uncommon for middle-class families today.”

As an anthropologist, Zaloom is particularly attuned to how institutions teach us to see ourselves. The Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) form, required of all students seeking assistance, consists of a hundred or so questions detailing the financial history of the applicant’s family. Zaloom hears about the difficulty of collecting this information, especially when parents are estranged, or unwilling to help. And the form presumes a lot about how the “family unit” works. One informational graphic poses the question “Who’s my parent when I fill out the FAFSA?”


On Cape Cod, climate change is terrifyingly real

The illogicality of Warmists knows no bounds.  They admit that some climate episode they want to exploit is local and then talk as if it was a global effect.  They say that in the Cape Cod climate "warming is faster than nearly any in the world".  So it is local data about a local effect and has no evidentiary value about global anything, including global warming. So the attributions below are mere opinion.

So what is warming Cape Cod?  Nobody knows but local eddies in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation -- known to you as the Gulf Stream -- would be a likely area of enquiry

The Cape Cod we love is at risk. It is perched on a stretch of ocean warming faster than nearly any in the world. And as much as we might wish it away, as hard as we try to ignore it, the effects of climate change here are already visible, tangible, measurable, disturbing.

Perfect summers have grown hotter and muggier. Storms arrive violently, and more often.

People here like to say that the only thing constant about the Cape is change, but what human-caused climate change has already wrought here is not the same old uncertainty. It is loss.

And so we have criss-crossed the Cape in search of what is slipping away.

The Cape is fundamentally a peaceful place. For generations, we have talked about joy and family and the restorative power of open ocean and unspoiled sand.

But talk to the people who live and work here, who study emerging threats to the place they’ve always known, and you will hear them use different words: Higher ground. Breach. Retreat.


Provocative chief executive Matt Barrie says Australia’s education system is a “basket case” and is the main contributor to the country’s “completely cactus” economy

There is much truth in the comments below but how do we turn the system around?  Getting into the professions will always be aspired to so courses leading to that will always be sought out.  And the other high-paid sector -- IT -- requires high levels of mental ability that only a small minority can rise to. In computer programming you have to be able to think like a machine.

That leaves the trades -- which can also be highly paid.  So the provision of trade courses plus heavy information campaigns about their earning potential would seem to be the only practical way forward

The tech entrepreneur and multi-millionaire blames the deterioration of Australian manufacturing output on what he calls an ancient education system where overachieving students are pushed into medicine and law while participation in electrical engineering and computer science dwindles.

“That’s why there’s no productivity because we’re producing people to serve cups of coffee and serve avocado on toast to each other,” Mr Barrie said.

Gross domestic product grew by just 0.5 per cent in the June quarter, dragging year-on-year growth to 1.4 per cent as Australians struggle with stagnant wage growth and a crippling debt-to-income ratio.

Mr Barrie, boss of ASX-listed freelancing marketplace, says the fastest way to turn this around is to encourage youngsters to be leaders in more practical, high-skilled industries.

“If you get enough people into the right jobs, then four years later they go into the workforce, they get high-paying jobs, they start companies, they create income tax, and benefits flow from that,” he told at a Yahoo Finance conference recently.

“Plus they also increase the skills level because when they start these companies, they train all the employees they hire.”

The entrepreneur said year 10 students needed access to pathways to jobs with a greater ability to stimulate the economy.

“We’ve created this insane leaderboard in the HSC, which is basically medicine and law; they’re the best subjects.

“Everything else doesn’t really matter and every parent, every teacher and then every kid thinks, ‘I’ve got to do medicine or law’.

“We don’t need any more lawyers in the world. There are plenty of other jobs that are far more important to the economy right now.

“We’ve got to fix the secondary school system, which is an 18th century relic training people for jobs that don’t exist.”

Mr Barrie told a more productive population would bump-up wage growth.

“If you’re going to have high wages you need to be high value producing in the value chain. You can’t be serving people a couple of cups of coffee and expect high wages.

“You’ve got to be doing advanced manufacturing like robotics or sophisticated products and services with a high margin.

“And that’s what we’ve let fall apart. We need to have very sophisticated trade schools in the country so people can learn advanced skills, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering in order to produce these products and services and infrastructure.

“We don’t do that. It’s basically you’re a doctor or you’re a lawyer, otherwise you’re a failure and that’s pretty much it.”

Shadow minister for innovation, technology and the future of work, Clare O’Neil, agreed improving the education sector was the best way to correcting Australia’s anaemic economy.

She told the same finance conference that federal funding wasn’t translating to better results.

“We haven’t had a really good conversation in Canberra about why, even though we’re spending more money on schools all the time. Our performance is pretty static or in some instances declining,” Ms O’Neil said.

“Wherever I go around Australia there’s a big disconnect between that pointy end of the education system and the needs of business.

“And it just amazes me that after knowing that’s been a problem, for probably 40 years, we haven’t found a solution.”

Mr Barrie said Australian skills had fallen behind because of the inaction of politicians and uninspired workers within the sector.

“It’s a complete basket case because education is the remit of state governments and you’ve got a lot of teachers who are frightened of technology because their job is threatened,” the entrepreneur said.

“It’s the teachers that are holding things back, and because it’s all controlled by the state governments you have all this duplication, bureaucracy, glacial movement of the system and all these entrenched people in positions that you just need to reinvent it.”

He said this had created fiscal issues for a country too reliant on commodity exports and a bloated housing market.

“The Australian economy is completely cactus,” Mr Barrie told

“We’ve let manufacturing completely fall apart and we’re just deluding ourselves thinking we’re a wealthy country just because we’ve got inflated house prices and because we’ve got an immigration program to prop up tax receipts and prop up the housing market.

“It’s going to end in tears — households are already at capacity in terms of their ability to pay rent and buy houses.”


‘You are nothing’: Reality of life on $40 a day

I guess there really are some people who have problems budgeting for that amount so maybe I should let them in on the secret.  I have been on the dole twice in my life and always added to my savings during those times.

There are 3 big items you need money for: Rent, utilities and food. The easiest one to save on is undoubtedly food.  We all eat to much and too extravagantly.  But there are some foods that you can make good and healthy but very cheap meals with.

The 10 absolute bargains in groceries are milk, eggs, baked beans, porridge-oats, day-old bread, plum-jam, sugar, pasta, rice and noodles. A big jar of Vegemite goes a long way too. And if you have an old-fashioned taste in coffee, (which I do) a bottle of Bushell's coffee and chicory essence goes a long way too.

You could in fact live on milk alone.  I have done so. And if you can't enjoy a breakfast of sugared porridge followed by scrambled eggs you are hard to please.

Sticking to those items plus any other low cost bargains that come your way, you can eat well and will definitely save enough to pay your way across the board. You might even be able to pay for the occasional beer.

The Morrison government has defended the Newstart allowance amid criticism it’s too low. But those forced to live on it tell a different story.Source:AAP

People on the dole are made to feel like they’re nothing, senators examining Newstart payments have heard.

Mark, who was only identified by his first name, told the committee on Friday the welfare system operated “to deter or to destroy but certainly not help”.

Mark said his background as an award-winning journalist was not recognised when he went on Newstart five years ago.

“Once you get caught up in the system … you’re reminded very, very quickly how much your own background and professional history mean nothing,” he said.

Mark said he was pushed onto welfare after a traumatic break-up.

“I counted the days waiting (for payment) and that’s what you do on Newstart,” Mark said. There has been widespread pressure for a raise to the $40-a-day dole, which has barely budged in real terms for a quarter of a century.

The Australian Council of Social Service told the committee a boost to the payment would see a boost to the economy.

Chief executive Cassandra Goldie said she knew the politicians on the committee had come to parliament to do good things, and raising welfare payments would be one of the effective ways to fix national poverty rates.

“This is the best good thing you could do,” Dr Goldie said.

Foodbank Australia said people in cashless welfare card trial sites were having difficulty accessing food in an “affordable and routine way”.

Professional services giant KPMG has called for Newstart to rise from $277.85 per week for a single person to $370 per week, which would move it up to half the national minimum wage. “It’s a balance between making sure that you’ve got a level which satisfies material wellbeing and psychological wellbeing, and ensuring that you don’t have a disincentive to work,” KPMG’s Grant Wardell-Johnson told the committee.

He said an inadequate welfare safety net enhanced people’s fear about innovation, technology and their jobs.

KPMG has favoured increasing Newstart since 2016.

Mr Wardell-Johnson said he had been shocked to learn that about half the people on Newstart are aged over 45. A friend of his was made redundant at the age of 55 after a long career in industry training.

“She went to more than 100 interviews before she got a job,” he told senators.

“That’s quite different from the image of the lazy 30-year-old or so, which I think is very much a misunderstanding of people on Newstart.”

The Morrison government has rejected calls to raise Newstart, with a multi- agency submission to the hearing saying the government’s focus was on strengthening the budget.