Doughnut economics

The ideas of Doughnut economics are pretty woolly but it seems to be catching on in Greenie circles so I want to note a few things about it.  I reproduce below some excerpts from a very sesquipedalian article about it to give us the idea of it.

Although its proponents are very vague about it, Doughnut economics can in fact be summarized very simply: prioritize  the environment over money.  In other words, do things in a way that is better for the environment rather than in ways that are most economically efficient.

Despite its promotion as a "radical new economic theory" it is in fact a very old feel-good idea, and what it has led to -- as set out below -- shows the lack of understanding of the world that it embodies:  When we do things in the most economically efficient way, it is not money we are prioritizing, it is human work and effort.  Money is just a marker. It tells us how much effort is required to produce a good or service.  The are imperfections in the system but that is basically it.  Study economics if you want the detail.

So we see the stupidity of some of the actions that are praised below.  Instead of buying new computers, they employ people to fix up old ones -- which is very labour-intensive.  And in the end you still have an old and limited computer.  In terms of human effort the refurbished computer is in fact very expensive.  A lot of valuable human effort has been used to produce an inferior product.  If we  did everything that way, we would have a much reduced availability of goods and services.

The circular economy adds up to a waste of human labour and effort.  How is that humane or wise? If the environment really needs saving, there are surely better ways about it

In April 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19, Amsterdam’s city government announced it would recover from the crisis, and avoid future ones, by embracing the theory of “doughnut economics.” Laid out by British economist Kate Raworth in a 2017 book, the theory argues that 20th century economic thinking is not equipped to deal with the 21st century reality of a planet teetering on the edge of climate breakdown. Instead of equating a growing GDP with a successful society, our goal should be to fit all of human life into what Raworth calls the “sweet spot” between the “social foundation,” where everyone has what they need to live a good life, and the “environmental ceiling.” By and large, people in rich countries are living above the environmental ceiling. Those in poorer countries often fall below the social foundation. The space in between: that’s the doughnut.

In 1990, Raworth, now 50, arrived at Oxford University to study economics. She quickly became frustrated by the content of the lectures, she recalls over Zoom from her home office in Oxford, where she now teaches. She was learning about ideas from decades and sometimes centuries ago: supply and demand, efficiency, rationality and economic growth as the ultimate goal. “The concepts of the 20th century emerged from an era in which humanity saw itself as separated from the web of life,” Raworth says. In this worldview, she adds, environmental issues are relegated to what economists call “externalities.” “It’s just an ultimate absurdity that in the 21st century, when we know we are witnessing the death of the living world unless we utterly transform the way we live, that death of the living world is called ‘an environmental externality.’” Almost two decades after she left university, as the world was reeling from the 2008 financial crash, Raworth struck upon an alternative to the economics she had been taught. She had gone to work in the charity sector and in 2010, sitting in the openplan office of the anti poverty nonprofit Oxfam in Oxford, she came across a diagram. A group of scientists studying the conditions that make life on earth possible had identified nine “planetary boundaries” that would threaten humans’ ability to survive if crossed, like the acidification of the oceans. Inside these boundaries, a circle colored in green showed the safe place for humans.

But if there’s an ecological overshoot for the planet, she thought, there’s also the opposite: shortfalls creating deprivation for humanity. “Kids not in school, not getting decent health care, people facing famine in the Sahel,” she says. “And so I drew a circle within their circle, and it looked like a doughnut.”

Raworth published her theory of the doughnut as a paper in 2012 and later as a 2017 book, which has since been translated into 20 languages. The theory doesn’t lay out specific policies or goals for countries. It requires stakeholders to decide what benchmarks would bring them inside the doughnut— emission limits, for example, or an end to homelessness. The process of setting those benchmarks is the first step to becoming a doughnut economy, she says.

Raworth argues that the goal of getting “into the doughnut” should replace governments’ and economists’ pursuit of never- ending GDP growth. Not only is the primacy of GDP overinflated when we now have many other data sets to measure economic and social well- being, she says, but also, endless growth powered by natural resources and fossil fuels will inevitably push the earth beyond its limits. “When we think in terms of health, and we think of something that tries to grow endlessly within our bodies, we recognize that immediately: that would be a cancer.”

The doughnut can seem abstract, and it has attracted criticism. Some conservatives say the doughnut model can’t compete with capitalism’s proven ability to lift millions out of poverty. Some critics on the left say the doughnut’s apolitical nature means it will fail to tackle ideology and political structures that prevent climate action.

Cities offer a good opportunity to prove that the doughnut can actually work in practice. In 2019, C40, a network of 97 cities focused on climate action, asked Raworth to create reports on three of its members— Amsterdam, Philadelphia and Portland— showing how far they were from living inside the doughnut. Inspired by the process, Amsterdam decided to run with it. The city drew up a “circular strategy” combining the doughnut’s goals with the principles of a “circular economy,” which reduces, reuses and recycles materials across consumer goods, building materials and food. Policies aim to protect the environment and natural resources, reduce social exclusion and guarantee good living standards for all. 

The new, doughnut-shaped world Amsterdam wants to build is coming into view on the southeastern side of the city. Rising almost 15 ft. out of placid waters of Lake IJssel lies the city’s latest flagship construction project, Strandeiland (Beach Island). Part of IJburg, an archipelago of six new islands built by city contractors, Beach Island was reclaimed from the waters with sand carried by boats run on low­ emission fuel. The foundations were laid using processes that don’t hurt local wildlife or expose future residents to sea­level rise. Its future neighborhood is designed to produce zero emissions and to prioritize social housing and access to nature. Beach Island embodies Amsterdam’s new priority: balance, says project manager Alfons Oude Ophuis. “Twenty years ago, everything in the city was focused on production of houses as quickly as possible. It’s still important, but now we take more time to do the right thing.”

The city has introduced standards for sustainability and circular use of materials for contractors in all city­owned buildings. Anyone wanting to build on Beach Island, for example, will need to provide a “materials passport” for their buildings, so whenever they are taken down, the city can reuse the parts.

On the mainland, the pandemic has inspired projects guided by the doughnut’s ethos. When the Netherlands went into lockdown in March, the city realized that thousands of residents didn’t have access to computers that would become increasingly necessary to socialize and take part in society. Rather than buy new devices—which would have been expensive and eventually contribute to the rising problem of e­waste—the city arranged collections of old and broken laptops from residents who could spare them, hired a frm to refurbish them and distributed 3,500 of them to those in need. “It’s a small thing, but to me it’s pure doughnut,” says van Doorninck.

The local government is also pushing the private sector to do its part, starting with the thriving but ecologically harmful fashion industry. Amsterdam claims to have the highest concentration of denim brands in the world, and that the average resident owns fve pairs of jeans. But denim is one of the most resource­ intensive fabrics in the world, with each pair of jeans requiring thousands of gallons of water and the use of polluting chemicals.

In October, textile suppliers, jeans brands and other links in the denim supply chain signed the “Denim Deal,” agreeing to work together to produce 3 billion garments that include 20% recycled materials by 2023—no small feat given the treatments the fabric undergoes and the mix of materials incorporated into a pair of jeans. The city will organize collections of old denim from Amsterdam residents and eventually create a shared repair shop for the brands, where people can get their jeans fxed rather than throwing them away. “Without that government support and the pressure on the industry, it will not change. Most companies need a push,” says Hans Bon of denim supplier Wieland Textiles.

Doughnut economics may be on the rise in Amsterdam, a relatively wealthy city with a famously liberal outlook, in a democratic country with a robust state. But advocates of the theory face a tough road to effectively replace capitalism. In Nanaimo, Canada, a city councillor who opposed the adoption of the model in December called it “a very left-wing philosophy which basically says that business is bad, growth is bad, development’s bad.”

In fact, the doughnut model doesn’t proscribe all economic growth or development. In her book, Raworth acknowledges that for low- and middleincome countries to climb above the doughnut’s social foundation, “significant GDP growth is very much needed.” But that economic growth needs to be viewed as a means to reach social goals within ecological limits, she says, and not as an indicator of success in itself, or a goal for rich countries. In a doughnut world, the economy would sometimes be growing and sometimes shrinking.

Still, some economists are skeptical of the idealism. In his 2018 review of Raworth’s book, Branko Milanovic, a scholar at CUNY’s Stone Center on Socio -Economic Inequality, says for the doughnut to take off, humans would need to “magically” become “indifferent to how well we do compared to others, and not really care about wealth and income.”


The green year

The last number below is the most striking: Only a 1.09 degree temperature rise in over a century. It's the average you have to look at if you want to make any general statement and it is tiny. No one knows if the warming will continue but anything that gradual will be adapted to just as easily as we have done so far. Weather events come and go but it is the overall stance of human civilization that counts in the end and that has never been better

49.6°C: the record temperature in Lytton, in British Columbia, Canada, on June 29th—hotter than the average for a summer’s day in Dubai. A wildfire promptly burned the village to the ground, making Lytton the tragic poster child of an unprecedented heatwave that affected the entire Pacific Northwest and sent a region better versed in fog scrambling to open cooling centres. Climate modellers declared the heatwave so unusual that it challenged their understanding of the physics of heatwaves, and concluded that it would not have taken place without human greenhouse-gas emissions. The heatwave was by no means the only extreme weather event of the year. Among others, devastating floods in northern Europe also showed that rich countries are not immune to the blunt end of climate impacts.

90%: the proportion of global GDP now covered by a net-zero emissions target, corresponding to 88% of emissions and 85% of global population. Net-zero targets have become all the rage. They should be both celebrated and taken with a fistful of salt. The “net” is key: countries, cities, regions and companies promise to eliminate the bulk of their emissions while leaving themselves room to offset what they can not disappear. Strictly speaking, by the middle of the century these offsets will need to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and tuck them away somewhere for all of eternity, or near enough. There are broadly two ways of doing this: through photosynthesis (in which case the plants must be jealously protected) or technology, which leads neatly on to:

1,200: the estimated tonnes of carbon dioxide that have been extracted from the atmosphere by Orca, the world’s largest carbon-sucking machine, since it was switched on in early September. Orca was built to remove 4,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. The gas is fizzed into water and pumped into Iceland’s volcanic bedrock where it crystallises. Climate models suggest billions of tonnes of CO2-removal will be necessary in the second half of the century to meet the Paris targets. What is less clear is who will pay.

4.9% (+/-0.8): the projected growth in emissions from burning fossil fuels in 2021, relative to 2020. After a 5.4% drop in 2019, caused by global lockdowns, emissions rebounded.

45%: the emissions cut required of Shell by a Dutch court. In a landmark ruling, a judge said the oil giant’s activities violated its “unwritten standard of care” under Dutch law and asked that it reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030 relative to 2019 levels. This was the first time the duty-of-care argument was applied to a private company. It is also notable that the judge’s ruling made Shell responsible for both its own emissions and those of its suppliers. Shell has appealed the decision.

3: the number of “green” members elected to Exxon’s board at a shareholder meeting in late May. For the higher-ups at the oil company, the bête noire of climate activists, this was apparently a bitter pill to swallow.

€88.88: the price of putting a tonne of CO2 in the atmosphere in Europe on December 8th. This marked the first time that the elusive $100-a-tonne mark, which many believe is needed to incentivise net-zero pledges, was reached. It was a fleeting landmark. As December rolled on, prices dropped slightly.

611%: roughly the increase in European gas prices in 2021. The end of the year was marked by a staggering global energy crunch, with Europe (including Britain) particularly badly hit. The leap in prices revealed that the world remains poorly prepared for a transition to an energy system that is primarily powered by renewable sources.

17bn-20bn: the gap, in tonnes of CO2, between the emissions reductions that are built into COP26 climate pledges for the next decade (relative to 2010 levels) and the reductions needed to give the world a good chance of avoiding more than 1.5°C of global warming. This discrepancy highlights the shortcomings of global climate negotiations. Put bluntly: the primary goal of governments headed to COP26 was to find ways of slashing emissions enough by 2030, to put the Paris goals within reach, and on that front they (mostly) failed. The Glasgow Climate Pact requires them to try again, harder, by COP27 in November 2022.

2.4°C: the amount of warming above pre-industrial temperatures that is projected for 2021 if governments deliver on all the promises they made at COP26.

1.09°C: the global mean temperature for 2021, relative to the 1850-1900 average, based on data from January to September.

Email from "The Economist" of December 27TH 2021.

Do children's books encourage gender stereotypes? Titles with a male protagonist tend to focus on professions and tools, while those led by a female centre on affection and communication, study claims

Sounds like they mirror normal life.  But normality must be CHANGED according to the Left.  It's highly likely that the male/female differences we see are largely genetically set but tilting at windmills is the Leftist way

More than 240 books written for children five years old and younger were analysed by a team from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They found that books with a male main character were more often about professions, whereas those with a female protagonist were about affection. 

'Some of the stereotypes that have been studied in a social psychology literature are present in these books, like girls being good at reading and boys being good at math,' said Molly Lewis, lead author on the study.

The authors believe that gendered books read to children in early education 'could play an integral role in solidifying gendered perceptions in young children.'

Researchers analysed 3,000 books published in the last 60 years, including the Harry Potter series. Although more books now feature female protagonists than in the 1960s, males remain 'overrepresented'. It's possible publishing houses are more drawn to stories featuring male protagonists, they claim. 

The team found that books with a strong male or female protagonist were more likely to have gendered language specifically targeted to their main character. 

Female-associated words focused on affection, school-related words and communication verbs, like 'explained' and 'listened.' 

Meanwhile, male-associated words focused more on professions, transportation and tools, with less of a focus on emotional needs.

'The audiences of these books [are] different,' said Lewis. 'Girls more often read stereotypically girl books, and boys more often read stereotypically boy books.'

Girls are more likely to have books read to them that include female protagonists than boys. Because of these preferences, children are more likely to learn about the gender biases of their own gender than of other genders.

To come to this conclusion a total of 247 books aimed at under fives from the from the Wisconsin Children's Book Corpus, were studied by the researchers. 

Books aimed at girls were more likely to have gendered language, than those aimed at boys, according to the researchers.

This could be down to 'male' being historically seen as the default gender. Female-coded words and phrases are more outside of the norm and more notable.

They then compared their findings to adult fiction, finding that children's books displayed more gender stereotypes than fiction books read by adults.

They focused on how often women were associated with terms like good, family, language and arts, while men were associated with bad, careers and math. 

Compared to the adult books, which was fairly gender neutral when it came to associations between gender, language, arts and math, children's books were far more likely to associate women with language and arts and men with maths.

Many families with young children now own a tablet and some use them for bedtime stories or as an educational tool to help youngsters learn.

But a new study suggests that it may be time to ditch the devices for such use, after finding that children actually engage more with stories if they're read from a real book. 

Researchers in the US compared the use of tablets with traditional children's books in a study involving 72 parents with young children aged 24 to 36 months.

They found that parents talked more to their children when reading them a real book, while children also responded more to this conversation than if a tablet was used.

'Our data are only part of the story - so to speak,' said Mark Seidenberg, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and contributing author. 

'They are based on the words in children's books and say nothing about other characteristics that matter: the story, the emotions they evoke, the ways the books expand children's knowledge of the world.' 

The authors don't want to ruin people's memory of 'Curious George' or 'Amelia Bedelia', or any other popular children's book.

'Knowing that stereotypes do creep into many books and that children develop beliefs about gender at a young age, we probably want to consider books with this in mind,' explained Seidenberg.

They didn't look at how children perceive the messages about gender int he books, or examine how the books influence the way readers perceive gender. 

The study also did not evaluate other sources of gender stereotypes to which children are exposed.

'There is often kind of a cycle of learning about gender stereotypes, with children learning stereotypes at a young age then perpetuating them as they get older,' said Lewis. 

'These books may be a vehicle for communicating information about gender. We may need to pay some attention to what those messages may be and whether they're messages you want to even bring to children.'

The findings have been published in the journal Psychological Science.

TV presenter from humble background takes on Labour party aristocrat

What the Labour Grandee said in defence of antisemitic leader Corbyn:   

"Rachel Riley tweets that Corbyn deserves to be violently attacked because he is a Nazi. This woman is as dangerous as she is stupid. Nobody should engage with her. Ever.”

She was ordered to pay Riley £10,000 damages for defamation.

Congratulations and thanks are due to Ms Riley and her lawyer Mark Lewis. The TV presenter and Strictly celebrity could have had a much easier life if she had concentrated on her show business career instead of standing up for herself and the Jewish community so strongly over the last few years. 

She bravely took on the anti-Jewish racists and refused to back down despite the abuse and threats she faced. She demonstrated much more bravery and principle in tackling racism in the Labour Party than many of the party’s most senior members, many of whom now in positions of leadership. Perhaps if they had fought more strongly, she and others would not have needed to. Frankly, they should be ashamed that a TV celebrity showed more political courage in tackling a problem in their party than they did.  

It is extraordinary how Jewish women like Ms Riley, the actress Tracey-Ann Oberman or Members of Parliament like Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth or Louise Ellman bore the brunt of the harassment and abuse meted out by the hard left during this terrible period. And let’s not forget how the BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg needed a bodyguard just for doing her job at the Labour conference, protection not required by any of her male colleagues.  

Second, Ms Murray was not some insignificant Labour member with an over-active Twitter habit, but part of the hard left leadership, working in Corbyn’s office and as a senior official at the party’s head office.  

Her family connections can’t have harmed her meteoric rise to these positions. Her father Andrew Murray is one of the most senior figures on the far left of British politics, chairing the so-called Stop the War Campaign which argues against Western governments, acting as Chief of Staff to Len McCluskey at Unite which bankrolled the party under Corbyn and even working as one of his closest aides as well. Her mother, Professor Susan Michie, famously sold a Picasso worth £50 million she and her siblings had inherited.  

Ms Murray and her family are not just Labour aristocracy but come from the actual aristocracy too. Despite being a lifelong communist, her father is the son of stockbroker Peter Drummond-Murray, a descendant of the Earl of Perth who held the title Slains Pursuivant of Arms. His grandfather on his mother's side was Baron Rankeillour, the Governor of Madras and a Tory MP. Professor Michie’s family are just as grand. Her grandfather was the Eton-educated Baron Aberconway.  

None of that prevented the hard-left Corbyn-supporting campaign Momentum from greeting the court’s verdict with the words: “The establishment always closes ranks. Solidarity with Laura Murray, a kind & principled socialist.” According to Momentum’s class-warriors, the establishment figure is not Ms Murray but the self-made Ms Riley whose talents and hard work have taken her from an ordinary background in Southend.   

And isn’t it ironic that left-wing activists called on Ms Riley to donate her damages to a soup kitchen but don’t demand their comrades to donate the proceeds from the sale of the Picasso as well? The whole sorry story shows us so much of what happened to the Labour Party under the hard left: nepotism, entitlement, anti-Jewish racism and hypocrisy.   

Well done to Ms Riley for having the courage to shine a spotlight on it all and exposing the toxic, morally vacuous far-left for exactly what they are.


Why won’t governments fix housing affordability?

Because they CAN'T.  No government has ever found a way.  And the reason is simple.  Housing is a commodity like everything else that is bought and sold.  And anything that is bought and sold is governed by the law of supply and demand.  If the demand outstrips supply, the price will rise.  So it follows that there is only one way to get the price of housing down.  You have to increase the supply of it

But governments put up lots of obstacles to block an increase in supply, -- principally land use restrictions.  And local governments are big on both lande use restricions and building restrictions. So local governments have to be stamped on to increase the supply of housing.  And that is politically dynamite any time it is attempted.  Existing homeowners like the restrictions.  They keep "riff raff" out of their neighbourhoods

Rapidly rising property prices have led to increasing concerns around affordability, but support for government intervention may actually decline as affordability worsens, a new paper suggests.

Authors of the study argue that homeowners seek to protect their property price gain from being taxed away or undermined by growing housing supply, resulting in less support for government intervention in housing market inequality.

While based on European data, local experts and economists say it points to the challenge of rolling out reforms to improve housing affordability when more people, and voters, are homeowners than not.

Grattan Institute household finances program director Brendan Coates said the politics of improving housing affordability was fraught because most voters already owned a house or investment and mistrust any change that might dent property prices.

“The interest of homeowners tends to outweigh the interest of renters. There’s that classic adage from John Howard who [as prime minister] said that no one is complaining in the streets about their house value going up,” Mr Coates said.

The political consequences of housing (un)affordability, published in The Journal of European Social Policy earlier this month, used data drawn from European and British social surveys and an analysis of British elections to explore the relationship between housing affordability – house prices relative to incomes – and the demand for redistributive and housing policy.

Authors Ben Ansell, a professor at Nuffield College and the University of Oxford, and Asli Cansunar, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, found consistent evidence that declining affordability, driven by increasing house prices, decreases support for interventionist housing policy, especially among homeowners across Europe, and increased votes for the conservative party in the UK.

The beneficiaries of unaffordability, who they noted were those who own property, will prefer to keep policies and parties in place that keep prices high and rising, they concluded. However, while citizens on aggregate become less supportive of intervention, this masked a growing polarisation in preferences between renters and owners in less affordable regions.

Mr Coates said the research design was plausible in the European context, and that poor affordability would likely impact the preferences of political constituents. However, it was not clear if the politics would play out the same way in Australia, noting that at the last election, when Labor was promising changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount, the electorates that swung to Labor tended to be those of higher income earners, while lower income electorates swung toward the Coalition.

However, Mr Coates also noted it was inner city working-class suburbs that had won big in the “housing lottery” as prices climbed over the years, as they were the group with the largest share of their wealth in housing, while the wealth of higher income earners was typically more diversified.

Mr Coates added there was a clear trend in Australia, though, of wealthier areas being more resistant to increased housing supply, but this was driven by multiple factors and not just potential concern of downward pressure on property prices.

“The real question in the Australian context, where there are clearly more house owners than renters making housing policy transformation really hard, is whether there is enough interest from baby boomers … sufficiently worried about whether their kids can ever buy, that leans them more to reform.

“Or whether the solution [they reach] is to double down … by giving [their children] more access to the bank of mum and dad [to get into the market].”

Mr Coates said both tax reform and increased supply would be key to improving housing affordability in Australia, and worried about staunch proponents of either approach downplaying the other at the current inquiry into housing affordability and supply in Australia, when both were clearly needed.

Independent economist Saul Eslake said supply side reforms were only part of the solution and the federal government needed to back away from policies that inflate housing demand, and had been pursued by both sides of government, such as first-home buyer grants, negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount.

It was a tragedy that Labor had walked away from proposed changes to negative gearing and the capital gains tax, he noted, with the opportunity for such reform now possibly gone for a generation.

A greater focus on building more social housing was also needed, with both parties allowing the proportion of such housing to decline egregiously over the decades.

Appearing before the affordability inquiry last month, he asked members of the committee whose interests they were most concerned about: the 11 million Australians who already own at least one property, and the more than two million who own more than one, or the minority, albeit a growing minority, who have been unable to buy. He noted their answer would determine what they recommended to Parliament, with their report expected early in 2022.

Mr Eslake said while politicians shed “crocodile tears” for young Australians struggling to get onto the property ladder, there was a huge gulf between what they say and do. However, Mr Eslake, who also referenced Howard’s comments, acknowledged most homeowners did not want to see government action that would stop the value of their property going up.

“There is a very large constituency that is resolutely opposed to anything that would dampen the rate of house price inflation, yet that is surely at the heart of what you have to do if you’re going to solve the affordability issue.”

Mr Eslake said it was unclear if Australians had become any more opposed to redistribution policy as affordability declined, but noted that while Australia had quite a progressive income tax transfer system, wealth was taxed very lightly compared to other countries.

Any polarisation in preferences between renters and owners was less obvious locally, Mr Eslake added, saying he was often surprised that there was not more anger from young Australians about the way in which the market has been rigged against them by their parents’ generation. But even if they were to adapt their voting behaviour, he said, who would they vote for, with no big reforms on the table from either party.

The last federal election showed the concern homeowners had for housing reform.

Economist Jim Stanford, director of The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, said that in the context of declining housing affordability it made sense for homeowners to be more cautious about their future and reforms, as they could feel more insecure in their situation, but was sceptical of the paper’s suggestion that they had benefited from unaffordability, noting few could sell off property without needing to buy elsewhere.

Many would also worry about their children and see that their kids did not “have a hope in hell” of buying a decent property, if poor affordability continued.

“I don’t think they are better off, even middle-class homeowners would be better off with a policy that thought of a housing as a more basic service. I don’t accept that they have made money off this boom [and just want] to continue to,” he said.

However, the last federal election had shown the concern homeowners had for housing reform, Dr Stanford said, noting that rightly or wrongly, those who saw themselves as housing investors could be influenced by scare campaigns against policies that made a lot of sense, like Labor’s proposed change to negative gearing.

“The government tried to portray it as a tax on homeowners, which is nonsense, but given how the election unfolded everyone is going to be curious about what they propose in this election, that experience sort of ratified the point … with this article.”

Dr Stanford said a big part of the solution would be building up Australia’s supply of non-market housing, which governments had basically walked away from over the last generation, with the time right for an ambitious plan to build more social and affordable housing.

Housing Minister Michael Sukkar and shadow minister for housing and homelessness, Jason Clare, were contacted for comment.


Miss India is white

You can't beat it. That preference for white skin is always emerging somewhere

In the Miss Universe contest, Bollywood star Harnaaz Sandhu beats out black Miss USA Elle Smith


Restore the original immigration policy: an open door (?)

by Jeff Jacoby

Jeff is normally quite a conservative writer generally but he makes a characteristic Leftist mistake below -- thinking in terms of big groups instead of looking inside those groups.

It is true that America benefited for a long time from open immigration.  But the immigrants concerned were almost entirely from Europe and the British Isles.  And because of their large similarites to the existing population, very good assimilation and adaptation from them was usually complete within one generatoion.  

But not all of today's imigrants are like that.  Immigrants in general may adapt well to American ways and customs but some subgroups do not, people with African ancestry particularly, but Hispanics and Muslims also to some extent.  Excluding all individuals from those populations would hugely benefit the safety and civility of American life

THE FRAMERS of the Constitution gave the federal government no authority to restrict peaceful immigration. For the first century or so of US history, most foreigners wishing to move to the United States were legally free to do so. The Constitution delegates many specific powers to the federal government, but a general right to bar or expel immigrants is conspicuously not among them. During the national debate over the notorious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 — which (among other provisions) allowed President John Adams to unilaterally deport immigrants he deemed dangerous — James Madison and the Virginia General Assembly denounced the laws for investing the president with "a power nowhere delegated to the federal government."

Not until 1882 was there a significant federal law curbing immigration: the unabashedly racist Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively slammed the door on immigration from China. Instead of striking down the law as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court upheld it on the grounds that the right to exclude foreigners for any reason was an "incident of sovereignty belonging to the government of the United States." That decision — by the same court that a few years later endorsed racial segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson — erased a core human right that the authors of the Constitution had never intended to curtail: freedom of immigration.

Plessy was eventually repudiated. But the assumption that the government has plenary power over immigration hardened into conventional wisdom. Today, the courts defer to virtually any restriction on immigration, including those based on national origin, political viewpoint, or religion; those based on family connections; and those based on numerical quotas.

To restore the freedom to immigrate intended by the Founders, a brief amendment should be added to the Constitution:

Neither the United States, nor any State, shall restrict immigration from nations with which the United States is not in a state of war, unless such restrictions are narrowly tailored to the advancement of a compelling government interest.

Under such an amendment, explains Ilya Somin, a professor of law at George Mason University and the author of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom, federal immigration restrictions would be presumed unconstitutional, much like laws that discriminate by race or silence political speech. That presumption could be overcome when necessary to keep out foreigners posing a genuine threat to public safety, public health, or national security, each of which is a "compelling government interest." By and large, however, peaceful individuals from any country would be free to move to the United States without impediment — just as individuals from one state may move freely to any other state.

To anti-immigration hardliners, such a change would be unthinkable. "A nation without borders is not a nation," former president Donald Trump declared dramatically to justify construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico. It's a common claim among those who want foreign migrants kept out, but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

A return to the "open door" policy of America's first 100 years would not mean that the nation's borders no longer had meaning, nor would it be tantamount to a surrender of US sovereignty. Washington would continue to have full authority to repel foreign armies from those borders, and to enforce its laws and collect taxes within them. As an analogy, consider supermarkets, public libraries, or churches: They are generally open to all comers, yet no one disputes that they have full authority over their own premises. Anyone may enter a supermarket, so long as they do so during business hours and through the front door. That doesn't give thieves a right to enter the supermarket in the dead of night, or by breaking in through the loading dock. Similarly, even with a freedom-to-immigrate amendment, newcomers would still be obliged to enter the country through lawful ports of entry and to comply with all border and immigration regulations.

Who would gain from such an amendment? The entire nation. Immigration is the great growth hormone of American history. More immigrants mean more economic development, more innovation, more cultural richness. Contrary to nativist shibboleths, immigrants are more law-abiding than US-born residents, they rapidly assimilate and acquire English proficiency, and they are highly patriotic.

"America is open to receive not only the opulent & respectable Stranger," wrote George Washington in 1783, "but the oppressed & persecuted of all Nations & Religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights & privileges." That was the right policy when the United States was small and weak. It remains the right policy for a nation that has grown into history's most influential superpower. An immigration freedom amendment would restore the vision of the Founders by permanently opening the door to virtually all would-be Americans, whoever and wherever they are.

Epic sea level rise drove Vikings out of Greenland

This is ridiculous.  Expanding ice sheets should have locked up more water and LOWERED sea levels.  The claim that they raised sea levels is therefore illogical and the proffered explanation is far-fetched.  It is normally accepted that the wintry conditions wiped out the settlers' crops and it was therefore starvation that drove them out

The Vikings are remembered as fierce fighters, but even these mighty warriors were no match for climate change. Scientists recently found that ice sheet growth and sea level rise led to massive coastal flooding that inundated Norse farms and ultimately drove the Vikings out of Greenland in the 15th century.

The Vikings first established a foothold in southern Greenland around A.D. 985 with the arrival of Erik Thorvaldsson, also known as "Erik the Red," a Norwegian-born explorer who sailed to Greenland after being exiled from Iceland. Other Viking settlers soon followed, forming communities in Eystribyggð (Eastern Settlement) and Vestribyggð (Western Settlement) that thrived for centuries. (At the time of the Vikings' arrival, Greenland was already inhabited by people of the Dorset Culture, an Indigenous group that preceded the arrival of the Inuit people in the Arctic, according to the University of California Riverside).

Around the 15th century, signs of Norse habitation in the region vanished from the archaeological record. Researchers previously suggested that factors such as climate change and economic shifts likely led the Vikings to abandon Greenland. Now, new findings show that rising seas played a key role, by submerging miles of coastline, according to data presented Wednesday (Dec. 15) at the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), held this week in New Orleans and online. 

Between the 14th and 19th centuries, Europe and North America experienced a period of significantly cooler temperatures, known as the Little Ice Age. Under these chilly conditions, the Greenland Ice Sheet — a vast blanket of ice covering most of Greenland — would have become even bigger, Marisa Julia Borreggine, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University, said in a presentation at the AGU conference. 

As the ice sheet advanced, its increasing heaviness weighed down the substrate underneath, making coastal areas more prone to flooding, Borreggine said. At the same time, the increased gravitational attraction between the expanding ice sheet and large masses of sea ice pushed more seawater over Greenland's coast. These two processes could have driven widespread flooding along the coastline — "exactly where the Vikings were settled," Borreggine said. 

The scientists tested their hypothesis by modeling estimated ice growth in southwestern Greenland over the 400-year period of Norse occupation and adding those calculations to a model showing sea level rise during that time. Then, they analyzed maps of known Viking sites to see how their findings lined up with archaeological evidence marking the end of a Viking presence in Greenland. 

Their models showed that from about 1000 to 1400, rising seas around Greenland would have flooded Viking settlements by as much as 16 feet (5 meters), affecting about 54 square miles (140 square kilometers) of coastal land, Borreggine said. This flooding would have submerged land that the Vikings used for farming and as grazing pastures for their cattle, according to the models.

However, sea level rise was probably not the only reason the Vikings left Greenland. Other types of challenges can cause even long-standing communities to collapse, and a perfect storm of external pressures — such as climate change, social unrest and resource depletion — may have spurred the Vikings to abandon their settlements for good, Borreggine said. 

"A combination of climate and environmental change, the shifting resource landscape, the flux of supply and demand of exclusive products for the foreign market, and interactions with Inuit in the North all could have contributed to this out-migration," she said. "Likely a combination of these factors led to the Norse migration out of Greenland and further west."

Confirmation that some people are born bad

Genetic influences that explain aggressive behaviour in teens match up with similar influences much later in life

"Continuity of Genetic Risk for Aggressive Behavior Across the Life-Course"

Camiel M. van der Laan et al.


We test whether genetic influences that explain individual differences in aggression in early life also explain individual differences across the life-course. In two cohorts from The Netherlands ( N = 13,471) and Australia ( N = 5628), polygenic scores (PGSs) were computed based on a genome-wide meta-analysis of childhood/adolescence aggression. In a novel analytic approach, we ran a mixed effects model for each age (Netherlands: 12–70 years, Australia: 16–73 years), with observations at the focus age weighted as 1, and decaying weights for ages further away. We call this approach a ‘rolling weights’ model. In The Netherlands, the estimated effect of the PGS was relatively similar from age 12 to age 41, and decreased from age 41–70. In Australia, there was a peak in the effect of the PGS around age 40 years. These results are a first indication from a molecular genetics perspective that genetic influences on aggressive behavior that are expressed in childhood continue to play a role later in life.

Behavior Genetics 51(11) DOI: 10.1007/s10519-021-10076-6

Nasal spray developed by Australian scientists STOPS cancer patients catching Covid with a bigger trial to find if it can be the next weapon to fight the pandemic

Another one of those evil nasal sprays.  But this one uses a well recognized therapeutic ingredient so will be harder to dismiss

A trial for a nasal spray that has prevented cancer patients getting Covid-19 could be a new weapon to fight the pandemic.

Some 175 patients have tested the drug by taking daily doses of a nasal spray containing cancer drug interferon developed by scientists at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

None of the participants in the C-SMART trial have contracted Covid so far, despite several waves of the virus plunging Melbourne into six lockdowns.

Scientists are seeking more volunteers to take part in the free trial, which will be expanded to Austin and St Vincent's hospitals in Melbourne, along with Westmead Hospital in western Sydney.

Anyone with a past or current cancer diagnosis is eligible to take part in the four month trial. 

Scientists hope the nasal spray will be an extra protection for vulnerable patients until better preventions are developed.

'We have not had any patient on the trial actually report back to us that they have developed Covid infection,' National Centre for Infections in Cancer director Professor Monica Slavin told the Herald Sun.

'But we have had about 10 per cent of people on the trial sending in a swab due to some sort of viral illness.

'We know that there are groups of patients, because of the immune system being suppressed, that don't make a good response to the vaccination.'

But it hasn't all been smooth sailing for the trial, which began a year ago.

Scientists were forced to press pause on the trial for five months earlier this year when access to chemicals and sending samples of the drug for testing were hampered by international border closures.

The expanded trial will determine whether the drug can also prevent other respiratory viral illnesses.

Studies have shown cancer patients make up 10 per cent of severe Covid-19 cases, and about 20 per cent of those who die from it, according to the trial's website.

They are also more likely to rapidly develop severe infections and be admitted to ICU compared to cases without cancer.

How a simple house renovation left a celebrated professor with just DAYS to live

I think this is a bum steer.  To develop a disease after something that happened 32 years ago is certainly consistent with mesothelioma but the principal symptom of mesothelioma is lung damage and resultant breathing difficulties.  It is not reported that she suffered such symptoms.  But even if she did, it is not what she is dying from. She has an inoperable cancer on her spine.  Linking that to mesothelioma is tendentious. Cancer can have many causes

To declare a personal interest: 35 years ago I bought a large old house that was completely clad in fibro (Fibrous cement sheeting, where the fibre is asbestos).  I took every last bit of it off and replaced it with pine chamfer boards.  Neither I nor the person who helped me have any symptoms of mesothelioma.  We both breathe as freely as we ever did

A loving wife and accomplished professor dying from asbestos-related cancer has pleaded for Australians to 'wake up' to the dangers hidden in the home renovations craze which has taken off during the pandemic. 

Gillian North, 61, is in the final days of a harrowing mesothelioma fight and being cared for at home at home at Thirroul south of Sydney by her twin sister Jocelyn and her husband Martin.

They do not expect her to live to see Christmas.

A leading academic who had a career in law, accounting and at Deakin University, Ms North has written an incredible 18 research papers about asbestos dangers and reforms.

Ms North is convinced she developed the fatal disease after being exposed to asbestos while during home renovations in the United Kingdom 32 years ago and in Australia 25 years ago.

While Ms North admits it's not '100 per cent' certain she developed the cancer from home renovations, she said 'nobody can be certain of their exposure'. 
'But I know of no other possible cause,' she said. She was diagnosed by her local GP in 2019, at 58, after developing a nagging cough.

After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery Ms North got a two-year reprieve until X-rays showed an inoperable tumour against her spine. She has been steadily deteriorating since mid-2021. 

Any exposure to asbestos fibres or dust is widely regarded to be the main cause of mesothelioma, a cancer which attacks tissues around major organs.

The disease is regarded one of the deadliest forms of cancer, with 94 per cent of Australian sufferers dying within five years. 

While asbestos was banned in 2003, it remains in place in public buildings, including schools, and houses and unit blocks.

Why I Love Great Britain

A very recent talk by Jordan Peterson. Wonderful to hear him in good voice again. I have been pretty Anglophilic at times but Peterson easily outdoes me in that.

My surprise is that he still finds in Britain its historic virtues. British legislation in recent years has seemed very authoritarian to me, with Leftist ideas leaking even into the Conservative party.

What Peterson reports however is that his contacts with eminent Britons revealed among them a civility and tolerance that I had assumed were no more. Despite the crazy legislation, the old and truly Great Britain lives on among the British people.

Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial has given the world a glimpse of her strange, luxe life with Jeffrey Epstein

image from

I am pretty sure I know what went on here. It was actually a great love affair. Ghislaine is a genuinely attractive woman with a good brain as well. So Epstein fell for her and they formed a very good and lasting relationship. After a while, however she realized that his wandering ways would come between them.

So she did what she needed to do to keep her close relationship with him. She helped to give him what he most wanted: sexual variety. So she remained a huge part of his life emotionally and otherwise, which was what she wanted. She not only held on to her man but strengtheded her relationship with him. They became closer than ever.

She would not be the first woman to tolerate or even facilitate her man having sexual adventures. I know a bit about that myself. I too have known "tolerant" women, rather remarkably so at times.

So did she do wrong? Is it wrong to introduce women to a man who would likely be attracted to them? Hardly. But did she facilitate rape? That would be wrong but it seems more accurate to say that she facilitated prostitution. But prostitution is not illegal in most jurisdictions these days so that is not really an offence either. The "madam" of a brothel is not normally prosecuted

So the dramatic ending of her great love is a real tragedy. She deserves compassion not infamy

Did an Oxford-educated heiress enable a wealthy paedophile to systematically target and sexually abuse vulnerable young girls and women, or is Ghislaine Maxwell being made a scapegoat?

After a three-day adjournment, jurors will return to the courthouse in lower Manhattan tomorrow, as the defence gets its chance to address the question at the heart of the former socialite's sex trafficking trial.

Dozens of witnesses are expected to be called in an attempt to prevent the 59-year-old daughter of publishing magnate Robert Maxwell from spending the rest of her life behind bars.

The defence's job is to counter the narrative presented by the prosecution that, behind closed doors, the high-society heiress was a "dangerous predator" who "served up" young girls to try to satiate the sexual perversions of Jeffrey Epstein.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to six counts of enticing minors and sex trafficking over a 10-year period from 1994 to 2004.

In the trial's opening testimony, jurors were given a glimpse into a life of almost unimaginable luxury, in which Ms Maxwell and Epstein jetted between his Palm Beach home, a sprawling ranch in New Mexico, a private Caribbean island and a Manhattan mansion.

Guests on those flights ranged from a series of female passengers, the court heard, to the likes of former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, actor Kevin Spacey and Prince Andrew.

None of Epstein's high-profile former associates, whose names have been dropped several times in court, are accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the case.

Larry Visoski — a long-time pilot for the secretive financier — told the court he was never aware of underage girls on board his jet and never saw any sexual activity at all.

The court was told that employees — such as Mr Visoski, whose job it was to facilitate Epstein and Ms Maxwell's lavish lifestyle — were amply rewarded.

Mr Visoski also told the court Epstein had funded his daughters' education and gifted him land to build a home.

While wealthy clients often expect discretion from staff, prosecutors said Ms Maxwell created a "culture of silence" among employees.

A manual for household staff at Epstein's Palm Beach mansion commanded them to "see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed at you".

Staff were also directed to "NEVER disclose Mr Epstein or Ms Maxwell's activities or whereabouts to anyone."

At the time of the alleged crimes, Ms Maxwell was managing Epstein's properties. In Mr Visoski's words she was "Number 2" in the financier's hierarchy.

Four alleged victims have taken the stand to allege Ms Maxwell's duties also saw her recruit and groom young girls and women for sexual abuse.

The locations vary — from New Mexico to New York, Florida and London — but the women's accounts are of a strikingly similar pattern of procurement and abuse.

The alleged modus operandi saw Ms Maxwell befriend women and girls, normalise sexual contact and then encourage them to give Epstein massages which soon turned to abuse.

Ms Maxwell, it's alleged, sometimes participated in the abuse, touching the victims' buttocks and breasts.

The girls, often from troubled backgrounds, would regularly receive hundreds of dollars in cash afterwards.

One alleged victim, known only as Carolyn, told the court she had more than 100 sexual encounters with Epstein at his Florida mansion, beginning when she was aged 14.

But, she told the court, that when she reached the age of 18, she realised she was no longer as attractive to the financier.

"He asked me if I had any younger friends, and I said no," she said. "That's when I realised I was too old."

Some clues have been offered as to the nature of the relationship between Epstein and the defendant. But it, like Ms Maxwell herself, remains largely unknown.

Photographs tendered in evidence suggest that Epstein and Ms Maxwell were in an intimate relationship over a number of years.

They include holiday snaps where they are seen kissing, a never previously published image of a slightly dishevelled Ms Maxwell giving Epstein a foot massage on his private plane, his foot planted firmly in her cleavage.

One photograph of the couple shows them looking relaxed and happy at a cabin on what appears to be the Queen's Balmoral Estate in Scotland.

Then there's the curious document, created in 2002 on the hard drive of a computer registered in Ms Maxwell's name, which states: "Jeffrey and Ghislaine have been together, a couple, for the last 11 years".

"Ghislaine is highly intelligent and great company with a ready smile and an infectious laugh," the document states.

The alleged victims have been pressed about payouts running into the millions of dollars they received from a compensation fund set up with Epstein's estate.

"These are women who were manipulated by their desire for a jackpot of money," defence lawyer Bobbi Sternheim said in opening arguments.

Money has been hinted at as a possible motivating factor for Ms Maxwell, with the court shown bank statements indicating she received upwards of $42 million from Epstein's accounts between 1999 and 2007.

Beyond suggestions of a financial motive, the prosecution has not delved into the psychology of Ms Maxwell's alleged criminality, but argues the socialite was "essential" to Epstein's alleged abuse.

The question of why a woman would allegedly enable and participate in the abuse of other women and girls is ultimately not for the court to decide.

Climate change affects the ability of fish to form tight, defensive schools, leaving them more vulnerable to predators, Australian scientists say

Professor Nagelkerken, corresponding author of the study referred to below, is a real go-getting Dutchman.  He has had half a dozen papers published already this year.  

And it is amusing that one of those publications contradicts the paper referred to below. In the paper below we are told that acidification is bad for fish.  But another paper under his name says the opposite,  I refer to:

Nagelkerken, I., Alemany, T., Anquetin, J. M., Ferreira, C. M., Ludwig, K. E., Sasaki, M., & Connell, S. D. (2021). Ocean acidification boosts reproduction in fish via indirect effects. PLoS Biology, 19(1), e3001033-1-e3001033-21.

The abstract for the present paper is here:

So how come the contradiction?  I am afraid that Nagelkereken seems to get his numbers up by doing "quick and dirty" research.  In the case of the work below he studied fish in the laboratory.  But the probability of any laboratory setting representing accurately a real-life oceanic environment would seem to be small.

Additionally, instead of having one treatment that mirrors real-life as accurately as possible, he subjected his fish to many combinations of acidity and temperature, some fairly extreme.  And he then seems to have sounght a trend in all his data.  So the extreme conditions would appear to have gone into the trend found, which is absurd.  His findings tell us nothing about probable conditions

The journal editors should look at his work more critically

They're also less able to dart quickly in the same direction, giving whatever is chasing them a better chance of a bigger meal.

University of Adelaide Professor Ivan Nagelkerken led a new study that used tanks to simulate two primary effects of climate change - warmer seas and ocean acidification.

He and his team then studied how those simulated conditions affect schooling behaviour - the main defensive mechanism for many species including tuna, sardines and anchovies.

The results aren't good news.

Schools were less cohesive and less compact under future conditions, and showed slower escape responses from potential threats.

"A school that is more compact has better protection than a school that has fish with a bigger distance between each other," Prof Nagelkerken said.

"What we found, under a future climate, is that schools of mixed species are much less compact. We also found these schools allow predators to approach to a closer distance before they would try to swim away."

Ocean acidification also appears to affect a natural tendency for fleeing schools to move towards the right.

Typically schools will head right most of the time but will also throw in a handful of leftwards manoeuvres to keep whatever's chasing them guessing.

"We found that under ocean acidification, the tendency to deviate to the right was much more diminished. That means the school, as a whole, functions differently compared to evolutionary times," Prof Nagelkerken said.

The study indicates schooling fish will face increased mortality from predators as the climate continues to change.

"It doesn't mean that all fish will die, but predators will likely be able to capture more fish," said the professor from Adelaide University's Environment Institute and Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories.

"When you combine that with the other impacts on the ocean, like destruction of habitat, overfishing, pollution, then less effective schooling behaviour is yet another thing fish will need to cope with in the bigger scheme of things."

The study looked at both single-species schools, and mixed-species schools, with the latter of particular interest due to the southern migration of tropical fish into temperate waters now warm enough to sustain them.

The research has been published in the journal Global Change Biology.


Fear not: a bit of inflation is no bad thing

Jessica Irvine

This is a sophisticated presentation. Basically, inflation destroys people's savings, which is a very bad thing, but the writer below points out that other things tend to counteract that. Wages rise and stockmarket values rise.

But she is too optimistic. The principal protection that savers have is rising interest rates on their savings. And if interest rates rose in such a way as to give both a return on capital and an inflation counterbalance, that would be fine.

But with recent negigible interest rates being offered on savings, it is clear that interest rates often do neither of those things. So in practice inflation is a serious robber, hitting mostly small savers, The big fish have their money in the stockmarket, either directly or via index funds

Superannuation offers an "out" for the small saver but many superannuation funds are very poor performers, sometimes even giving negative returns

Concerns about inflation look set to dominate the global economic outlook in 2022.

But despite pandemic related shortages pushing up prices for some things like furniture, cars and fuel, the global inflation bogey man is more imagined than real, at this stage.

Financial markets, of course, love nothing more than a general fret-fest about rising prices. What investors are really scared about, however, is not that prices will rise, per se, but that they’ll rise either faster or slower than they’ve factored into their models for valuing shares.

For example, Americans found out on Friday they are facing the highest rate of consumer price inflation since 1982. Prices rose 6.8 per cent over the year to November, driven by higher fuel, food and housing prices. But sharemarkets rallied on the news, as it was in line with their expectations.

Workers, too, commonly fear inflation. Frustration with the rising “cost of living” is a perennial election issue. But again, if they stopped to think about it, it’s not actually inflation that workers fear, but that their wages might not rise fast enough to keep them ahead of the rising cost of living.

Of course, if inflation was such a terrible thing in and of itself, you’d expect governments would try to eradicate it altogether – to keep prices absolutely stable. But they don’t.

In fact, making sure that economies generate a bit of inflation is the explicit goal of central banks around the world. Our Reserve Bank, for example, has an explicit target to keep consumer prices rising at between 2 and 3 per cent on average, over time.

If inflation runs too high, you can be sure they’ll jack up interest rates to cool activity and prices. But if inflation dips too low – as it has in recent times - they’ll also intervene to cut lending rates to ensure people borrow and spend more to push up prices again. Importantly, they’ll also look through any temporary swings in prices and be guided by underlying trends.

I remember once asking a central banker why they didn’t just aim to keep prices stable. Why is inflation necessary at all?

The answer was essentially that a little bit of inflation is better than the alternative: of deflation. Deflation – a phenomenon where prices fall over time - is unambiguously bad.

When people think prices will be cheaper tomorrow, they will delay making purchases, leading to a widespread “consumer strike” which is bad for the economy.

Far better, then, to err on the side of running things too hot, than too cold.

A little bit of inflation also helps to lubricate the wheels of capitalism in various ways.

Let me explain.

If prices are not rising, it can be very noticeable when a company decides to lift prices for the goods or services they provide. If they face supply disruptions which increase their costs, however, companies may need to lift prices to maintain profitability. The alternative, if they can’t increase prices, could be to lay off workers or otherwise cut their wages bill.

So, an environment OF rising prices can help to provide the cover needed for companies to pass on higher costs to survive.

A bit of inflation can also help companies straining to reduce their wages bill by simply lifting worker wages by less than rising prices – i.e. deliver a real pay cut. That’s not great for workers, but nor is losing their job instead.

For borrowers, inflation can also be beneficial.

As we’re about to find out on Thursday in the mid-year budget update, the Australian government has accumulated significant debts during COVID.

It’s ok. We’ve done it before. And we’ll no doubt do it again. The answer to high levels of debt, historically, has been to simply let an expanding economy and rising inflation “inflate” away the real value of the debt incurred. That is, we should pursue policy settings which help the economy and prices to grow so fast, that the debt is worth less, in relative terms, tomorrow than it is today.

Mortgage holders also benefit if rising inflation pushes wages higher, reducing the size of their debt relative to their income.

Before COVID, of course, it had become clear workers lacked the degree of bargaining power they once had to push for higher wages, whether due to declining rates of unionisation, the rise of labour-replacing technologies or more competition from cheaper offshore workers.

But during COVID, I have observed a noticeable shift in thinking from our central bank to be even more determined to ensure workers get the pay rises they are due before interest rates are returned to more normal levels.

‘Remarkable’ recovery not enough to bring budget back to health
As governor Phil Lowe said on Tuesday, future interest rate rises “will require the labour market to be tight enough to generate wages growth that is materially higher than it is currently”. Furthermore: “This is likely to take some time.” Get it?

Our Reserve Bank won’t be lifting official interest rates until it is confident workers are enjoying the sorts of pay rises that would also assist in meeting higher mortgage repayments.

And as we return to life pre-pandemic, that might still be some time away. You can relax about inflation for now.


Warmists versus conservationists in North Queensland

Wind farms wrecking the natural environment

While environmental campaigners like Steve Nowakowski remain committed to renewable energy, a Background Briefing investigation has found growing community backlash over the locations chosen for projects in North Queensland.

Local conservation groups and peak climate bodies are sounding the alarm over plans to build green energy projects in forests that predate white settlement, along corridors bordering World Heritage Areas, and on properties previously targeted for conservation protection, rather than on cleared and degraded land.

If all current proposals were to be approved, an estimated 13,332 hectares of remnant vegetation would be cleared statewide. Around 90 per cent of the land clearing will be in North Queensland.

There are currently 48, large-scale renewable energy projects that have been completed, commenced or slated for Queensland, with some of the largest facilities to be built along the electricity transmission networks that traverse the Coral Sea coast.

These transmission lines provide convenient access to the national energy grid but sometimes cut through ecologically valuable land.

“We’ve got this big wall of steel coming through along the transmission line along the western side of the Great Dividing Range, hugging the western side of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area,” Steve says.

According to James Cook University adjunct professor and evolutionary biologist, Dr Tim Nevard, Far North Queensland is one of Australia’s most biodiverse regions and many of the sites chosen for wind farms are “wholly inappropriate”.

“Biodiversity is the buffer at the end of the tracks that stops the runaway train of climate change from bursting through,” Dr Nevard says.

“Destroying biodiversity in order to have greater amounts of wind energy is a complete oxymoron. It’s ridiculous. So we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Anti-vaccine speech by prominent Australian conservative politician

She should be free to decide what to put into her own body. J.S. Mill argued that ownership of one's own body is the most basic liberty

Federal One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has told a crowd of “pro-choice” business owners she has no intention of getting vaccinated against Covid-19, saying she is “not putting that s*** in my body”.

Senator Hanson was a guest speaker at a “businesses for choice” event in Ipswich on Thursday night. The group behind the forum describes itself as wanting to “support like-minded patriotic and conservative representatives, irrespective of party affiliation”.

In her remarks, Ms Hanson said she would not listen to bureaucrats, the United Nations or the World Health Organisation “pushing their own agenda” to “take away my freedom”.

However she insisted she was “not an anti-vaxxer”.

The vast majority of Australians have chosen to get vaccinated against Covid, with Ms Hanson’s own state Queensland passing its 80 per cent double-vaxxed threshold this week. At the national level, 93 per cent of Australians over the age of 16 have received at least one dose and 89 per cent are fully vaccinated.

“I’ll tell you honestly: I haven’t had the jab, I don’t intend to have the jab, I’m not putting that s*** in my body,” Ms Hanson said in footage obtained by Channel 9.

The crowd responded with applause.

“I’ve taken that stance and that is my choice,” she continued.  “I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I am very careful what I put into my body. I felt that I’ve kept pretty good health all my life, and I intend to keep it that way.

“I don’t intend to listen to bureaucrats or politicians, or UN or WHO pushing their own agenda and take away my freedoms, my rights, my choices when that’s why I’m fighting this issue and so should you.”

Native Americans’ farming practices may help feed a warming world

The elevated structures look very expensive to build so the economics of using them as farms would have to be very dubious

Indigenous peoples have known for millennia to plant under the shade of the mesquite and paloverde trees that mark the Sonoran Desert here, shielding their crops from the intense sun and reducing the amount of water needed.

The modern-day version of this can be seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, where a canopy of elevated solar panels helps to protect rows of squash, tomatoes and onions. Even on a November afternoon, with the temperature climbing into the 80s, the air under the panels stays comfortably cool.

Such adaptation is central to the research underway at Biosphere 2, a unique center affiliated with the University of Arizona that’s part of a movement aimed at reimagining and remaking agriculture in a warming world. In the Southwest, projects are looking to plants and farming practices that Native Americans have long used as potential solutions to growing worries over future food supplies. At the same time, they are seeking to build energy resilience.

“We’re taking Indigenous knowledge,” said Greg Barron-Gafford, a professor who studies the intersection of plant biology and environmental and human factors. But instead of relying on tree shade, “we’re underneath an energy producer that’s not competing for water.”

On both sides of the Arizona border with Mexico, scientists are planting experimental gardens and pushing the potential of an “agrivoltaic” approach. Thirsty crops such as fruits, nuts and leafy greens — which require elaborate irrigation systems that have pulled vast quantities of water from underground aquifers and the Colorado and other rivers — are nowhere to be found.

“We’ve had 5,000 years of farmers trying out different strategies for dealing with heat, drought and water scarcity,” said Gary Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and agrarian activist who focuses on plants and cultures of the Southwest. “We need to begin to translate that.”

The University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill will break ground next spring on Tumamoc Resilience Gardens, an initiative to be located at the base of a saguaro-studded hill within an 860-acre ecological preserve in the heart of Tucson. It will show how people can feed themselves in a much hotter, drier future.

The core of the project’s design will be passive rainwater harvesting to support a variety of edible, arid-adapted plants. Some of those will be planted under solar panels, while others will benefit from centuries-old strategies such as rock berms and rock piles to increase moisture, according to Benjamin Wilder, the lab’s director.

Southern Arizona is an epicenter of the movement not just because of the intense environmental pressures that the region faces but because of the presence of the Tohono O’odham Nation southwest of Tucson.

Since the early 1970s, a group of Nation members have run the San Xavier Cooperative Farm and grown “traditional desert cultivars” in accordance with their ancestral values — particularly respect for land, water and plants.

“We’re all about using what is out there,” Sajovec said. Among the center’s heirloom varieties: 60-day corn, a fast-maturing desert-adapted vegetable, and the tepary bean, a high-protein legume particularly suited to the climate because of leaves that can fold to withstand direct sunlight during the peak of summer.

Johnson captures precipitation during the Arizona monsoon season to sustain crops on his field in the desert lowlands. “It’s using the rainwater,” he explained, “using the contour lines, using your environment and nature to grow food.”

Perhaps even more daunting than the rising temperatures of climate change are the water shortages that many parts of the world will confront. In Tucson, the Santa Cruz River is now dry because of too much diversion and burgeoning demand, according to Brad Lancaster, an expert on rainwater harvesting.

“The majority of the water that irrigates landscapes and Tucson and Arizona is not local water” but tapped from the Colorado River, Lancaster said. Unless severe drought conditions reverse and the river level improves, mandatory federal cutbacks mean farmers will lose a significant amount of that critical resource starting next year.

“The goal is how can we use rainwater and storm water, passively captured, to be the primary irrigator,” said Lancaster, who lives in a local neighborhood that has been transformed through passive water harvesting into an “urban forest,” with wild edible plants such as chiltepin pepper and desert hackberry lining the sidewalks.

He is planning a similar system at Tumamoc Resilience Gardens, using basins and earthen structures to spread water across the landscape and reduce channelized flows. Nabhan, who also is involved in the site’s design, sees it as replicable and, more importantly, scalable.

“We hope [planting] these gardens will be the same as planting an apple orchard,” Nabhan said, walking around his own creation at his home in Patagonia, a small town about 18 miles north of the Mexico border. The fenced space holds 40 species of agave, three species of sotol, prickly pear and other varieties of cactuses and succulents.

“The key concept,” he said, “is that we’re trying to fit the crops to the environment rather than remaking the environment.”

Soaring numbers of university students, unregistered teachers fronting classrooms to plug shortages

This reminds me of the Whitlam era in the 60s and 70s when there was another big teacher shortage.  At that time I got a job teaching in a NSW High School despite having no teacher qualifications at all.  But I had a degree

In 2021, 320 teachers were granted Permission To Teach (PTT) approvals by the Queensland College of Teachers (QCT) — an increase from 211 in 2020 and 178 in 2019.

Of the 320 approvals this year, 272 were for pre-service teachers in Queensland, with 222 working in state schools and 98 in non-state schools.

A PTT application can be considered when a school is unable to find an appropriate registered teacher for a specific teaching position and can be granted for up to two years.

QCT director Deanne Fishburn said the majority of PTTs were granted for one year or less.

"Teachers approved under PTT are restricted to teaching specific subjects and year levels in the nominated school only," she said.

"Importantly, applicants must also be suitable to teach and have the knowledge, qualifications, skills or training reasonably considered by the QCT to be relevant to the position."

Ms Fishburn said pre-service teachers who were granted PTT were generally in the final stages of their teacher education program and were continuing their studies while teaching.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the number of PTT  applications represented a small fraction of the broader teaching workforce.

"The majority of approved PTTs engaged by the department are in the final stages of their Initial Teacher Education programs, and about to graduate as a qualified teacher," they said. "This is a normal occurrence each year."

Queensland Teachers' Union president Cresta Richardson said using PTT to fill shortages should be a last resort. "We really should be producing enough quality candidates — and I'm not saying they're not quality people — but we really should be attracting enough people to universities, getting them through and supporting them as teachers," she said.

It comes amid concerns of further workforce shortages due to the Queensland government's vaccine mandate for any staff entering an educational setting, including schools.

Independent Education Union QLD/NT branch secretary Terry Burke said both schools and employees were waiting on clarity regarding the health direction arrangements and advocated for consultation.

Ms Richardson said the union was working with the department on understanding how the directive would be implemented.

"If we apply what's happened in Victoria and New South Wales, we would assume that there will be a very small proportion of people who may choose to remain unvaccinated," she said.

"Where there are numbers or support required, we'll be working with the department on how best to support those school communities to ensure teaching and learning can continue for students in those schools."

Contingency plan

An Education Department spokesperson said all Queensland state schools had contingency plans in place and were well prepared for any disruptions that might occur.

"Principals and their school teams have been planning for these scenarios for almost two years, and are ready to deliver programs that best meet the needs of their school communities," the spokesperson said.

"The department will continue to follow advice from Queensland's Chief Health Officer and Queensland Health to help manage the impacts of COVID-19 on students, staff, and their families."

Soaring demand for relief teachers

This year, the department increased the number of casual relief teachers available to schools to meet rising demand.

"The department continues to track the number of offers made to relief teachers to fill short-term demand within schools to cover the impacts from seasonal cold and flu, as well as managing public health advice, such as 'Feel Sick, Stay Home, Get Tested', which is now a standard practice in the workplace," the spokesperson said.

"The department continues to work towards offering more full-time and permanent employment to teachers within a school, or cluster of schools. and remains consistent with the government's commitment to employment security for public servants."

The spokesperson said the department had managed more than 200,000 relief teacher requests, filling 95 per cent.

"The requests that were not filled can be attributed to late notice of the request by school, geographical location and availability of the relief teacher for that day," the spokesperson said.

’Ticking time bomb of inequality’ to put owning a home beyond the reach of Australians born today

Rubbish!  This galah has rightly noted the big increase in house prices but is oblivious that home unit [condo] prices have not followed suit.  Home unit prices have increased much less.  And the way apartment towers keep popping up there should soon be downward pressure on unit prices.  Home unit prices should remain affordable even when house prices do not.  Home unit living can be perfectly congenial

Australian kids born in major capitals today face a “ticking time bomb of inequality” that could force them to rent for life as homeownership becomes an inherited luxury.

That’s the prediction from a leading futurist, who has warned the government may need to level the playing field as the bank of mum and dad drives entrenched wealth between Australians and their homeownership dreams.

It comes as newborn babies can take their first steps on the property ladder before they can walk, with fractional property investment now open to minors via BrickX.

Global futurist at the Thinque think tank Anders Sorman-Nilsson said while Australia’s cultural affinity with homeownership was driving markets like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane today, it would price out more and more residents in the coming decades.

“You may (in the future) only be able to afford your own home in Sydney and Melbourne if your mum and dad are taking out some of the equity in their own home to help,” Mr Sorman-Nilsson said.

“This could be a ticking time bomb of inequality. So there will have to be something done to ensure that this Australian dream will remain.”

Affordability issues already mean large parts of Sydney are out of reach for many buyers.

He noted some countries had implemented wealth and inheritance taxes to stem the impact of intergenerational gifts such as the hundreds of thousands of dollars some parents offered to help their kids into a home.

Price growth might be alleviated as greater “digital democracy” made knowledge-based jobs more accessible in regional areas, but it was still likely many kids born today will never own a home.

“You will see new European-style housing arrangements, with people who rent for life or rentvest – buying an investment property, but renting where they want to live,” he said.

Proptrack (’s research division) economic research director Cameron Kusher said price growth over the past 30 years was unlikely to repeat in the coming decades as it had been buoyed by falling interest rates, which were more likely to now rise.

But Mr Kusher said even a conservative estimate would put home price growth ahead of inflation, which typically rises as wages do, meaning today’s prices could still be doubled in 30 years time when newborns would be looking to buy.

“Most parents will help via their property increasing in price,” Mr Kusher said. “But unfortunately homeownership has been falling, so not everyone will be able to do that.”

He said parents might consider shares or fractional property purchases to help their kids


Quit Worrying About Uncertainty in Sea Level Projections

Don't ask questions.  Have faith. That seems to be the message of this article. Even the  IPCC acknowledges sea level projections are associated with deep uncertainty

As ice sheets lose mass at increasing rates, scientists are growing increasingly concerned that portions of these massive reservoirs of frozen water are poised to begin irreversibly retreating [Cornford et al., 2015; DeConto et al., 2021]. To adapt to the ensuing changes along shorelines, authorities responsible for coastal planning and climate mitigation efforts need actionable sea level rise projections. However, recent studies using climate and ice sheet models are, more and more often, coming to very different conclusions about future rates of sea level rise and even about the sensitivity of ice sheets to future warming [DeConto et al., 2021; Edwards et al., 2021].

Focusing on uncertainty in model projections of long-term sea level rise is a trap we must avoid.

How can climate scientists help decisionmakers navigate vague or conflicting information to develop practical response strategies in the face of large uncertainties? One solution that may provide needed clarity is to change our emphasis from what we do not know to what we do know.

Large discrepancies among model projections of long-term sea level rise have spawned calls among the scientific community for scientists to work on reducing uncertainty. However, focusing on uncertainty is a trap we must avoid. Instead, we should focus on the adaptation decisions we can already make on the basis of current models and communicating and building confidence in models for longer-term decisions.

The Folly of Focusing on Uncertainty

Emphasizing uncertainty is misguided for two main reasons. First, a growing body of research shows that providing uncertainty estimates to decisionmakers actually decreases the usability of climate projections [Lemos and Rood, 2010]. This is partly because it isn’t always clear how best to incorporate uncertainty into planning. Do we plan for the most likely projection of sea level rise, knowing the protections we put in place may be inadequate, or do we plan for the most extreme sea level projection despite the additional cost to do so? 

The planning process is complex, with uncertainty in global sea level projections being just one of many factors decisionmakers must consider. For example, investing in protections against sea levels that won’t be experienced for 70 years may not seem pressing when people can’t leave their homes because of air quality concerns or can’t drink tap water because it is contaminated. Furthermore, future planning and infrastructure decisions must directly confront the inequitable practices that have long disadvantaged vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Planning for shorter-term sea level rise doesn’t mean ignoring the specter of more substantial sea level rise farther down the road.

Second, although models provide a murky picture of the magnitude of sea level rise that will occur by the end of the century, estimates of what will happen in the next few decades are much clearer. This clarity is important because the most pressing adaptation decisions facing communities now—related to addressing both climate vulnerabilities and historical inequities—primarily reflect needs on decadal, not centennial, timescales. So rather than stressing distant targets that are elusive and evolving, communities need help to be successful in adapting to near-term climate risks.

Planning for shorter-term sea level rise doesn’t mean ignoring the specter of more substantial sea level rise farther down the road, and there is still a need for longer-term climate and sea level projections. For example, adaptation decisions such as where to place infrastructure designed to last more than a century (e.g., new sewer lines) call for information about long-term as well as short-term change and require significant immediate costs.

But committing to adaptation measures across the board on the basis of unclear long-term projections is like planning a dinner party years in advance: It’s good to think ahead, but it might be premature to buy the groceries. Moreover, sea level rise is not like a tsunami that will suddenly inundate coastlines (although it may seem that way when sea level rise conspires with storm surges to flood communities). Rates of sea level rise, even at the extremely high end, are measured in centimeters per year. Given the reality that sea levels will rise in the near term, plans today can focus on changes expected over the next decade or two and can then be adapted as more nebulous longer-term changes come into focus.