Exhaustive study exonerates Roundup weedkiller

A couple of weeks ago, the EPA released their final version of an exhaustive examination of all the pieces of research that looked at the toxicity of Glyphosate (Roundup).  Roundup is the bete noir of many environmentalists.  Extensive attempts have been made to have it banned.  To Greenies there is no such thing as a good pesticide or a good weedicide. They just know that.  No evidence needed.

To those who have even a nodding acquaintance with the eviidence, it was no surprise what the EPA scientists found. Their report is a book-length document but below is their final summary paragraph:

"Conclusion for Glyphosate

The overall weight of evidence indicates that there is no convincing evidence that glyphosate induces mutations in vivo via the oral route. When administered by i.p. injection, the micronucleus studies were predominantly negative. In the two cases where an increase in micronuclei were reported via this route, the effects occurred above the reported i.p. LD50 for mice and were not observed in other i.p. injection studies at similar or higher doses. While there is limited evidence genotoxic for effects in some in vitro experiments, in vivo effects were given more weight than in vitro effects particularly when the same genetic endpoint was measured, which is consistent with current OECD guidance. The only positive findings reported in vivo were seen at relatively high doses that are not relevant for human health risk assessment"


Note:  "In vitro" means an experiment in laboratory glassware.  "In vivo" means "in rats and mice".

So news about such a controversial subject would have been splashed all over the media, right?  No. Crickets. We had censorship via omission. The title of the report was "Revised Glyphosate Issue Paper: Evaluation of Carcinogenic Potential".  Google that and see if you can find any mention of it in major media.


"Nature", the international journal of non-science: Extreme weather explicitly blamed on humans for the first time. Scientists take the bold step of saying phenomena wouldn’t have happened without global warming (?)

The editorial from "Nature" below is undoubtedly correct. Many scientists DO say those things.  They may be wrong, however.  And if you look at the three studies they quote in support it is just more modelling crap.  Until the models generate accurate predictions -- a necessary criterion for the truth of any  scientific theory -- we can safely ignore such model runs.

See here for some recent details of how unpredictive Warmist models are. They are built on the absurd theory that the tiny percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has a substantial climate effect, so they have no chance of being right. Their repeated failure proves the theory to be wrong.

Steve Milloy has an accurate graphic about climate science versus science:

The unscientific orientation of the journal can also be gleaned from the language used below.  It reads like a novel rather than a scientific report. For instance, in what way is the weather "weird"?  Any statistics?  It doesn't seem weird to me. Show me where I am wrong; A heatwave is "oppressive".  How do we measure that?  Any numbers?  Hurricanes "hammered" America.  How hard?  Damage statistics? I could go on but the language is as emotive as any novel and just about as divorced from reality

The editor of "Nature" clearly has literary pretensions but publishing literary output in a journal which claims to be an "international journal of science" does no credit to either the journal or himself

The weird weather just keeps on coming. An oppressive heatwave dubbed Lucifer stifled Europe in August, then a series of powerful Atlantic hurricanes hammered the Americas. Now, unseasonably hot and dry conditions are driving wildfires in California. During and after such events, the same question always arises: is global warming to blame?

Basic theory suggests that climate change will lead to more extreme weather, but making the link to individual events is difficult. There was a time when the typical answer was something along the lines of, ‘Perhaps, but it’s hard to say.’ The science has advanced over the past several years, and scientists have identified global warming’s relative contribution to many extreme weather events. Now, for the first time, climate researchers are reporting that some weather events would have been outright impossible without the warming influence of humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

This kind of confident assertion rarely makes its way into the scientific literature. Yet it appeared in three studies included in a special annual edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) dedicated to attributing the causes of extreme weather events. If these results hold up, the implications would be profound and unsettling: humanity has already pushed the global climate into a new regime. To be clear, natural variability will always have a major role, but the blame for some of the most extreme weather phenomena — as well as some of the resulting impacts — would rest squarely on our own shoulders.

Released on 13 December, the research in question focused on 2016, the hottest year on record. One modelling study, led by scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, compared the temperature record to a simulated baseline climate without human greenhouse-gas emissions (T. R. Knutson et al. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 99, S11–S15; 2018). In baseline simulations of some 24,000 years of weather from seven climate models, nothing like the record warmth of 2016 ever occurred. Greenhouse-gas emissions, chiefly those from fossil-fuel use, are a prerequisite for this kind of heat. What’s more, the paper indicates that greenhouse gases began to push the climate outside the realm of natural variability around 1980.

These conclusions necessarily assume that today’s climate models are sufficiently robust to capture the full range of natural variability. Others will certainly weigh in on the question, but the results suggest that we may need to reframe how we think about extreme events. The epic El Niño warming event in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean in 2015–16, for example, might have pushed global temperatures to record levels, but only because it was amplified by more than a century of greenhouse-gas emissions. From this perspective, global warming might also be to blame for many of the impacts that we normally attribute to El Niño itself, which roils weather patterns across the globe.

Indeed, a second study in the special issue identified global warming as the culprit behind heatwaves that gripped much of southeast Asia in 2016 (Y. Imada et al. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 99, S97–S101; 2018). In India, the heat killed at least 580 people from March to May. Thailand recorded its highest temperature ever — 44.6 °C — on 28 April, and energy consumption across the region hit record levels as people turned on air conditioners for relief. El Niño might have exacerbated the situation, says the study, but the temperatures “would never have happened without the anthropogenic warming”.

Researchers came to the same conclusion in a third study, focused on marine warming in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea that began in 2014 and climaxed last year (J. E. Walsh et al. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 99, S39–S43; 2018). El Niño might have been involved, but global warming set the stage, with far-reaching consequences. Ice on Alaskan rivers broke up earlier than ever; a lack of sea ice affected fishing; and toxic plankton blooms reduced shellfish harvests. Tens of thousands of seabirds were found dead, probably starved.

Extreme weather would be expected from time to time, regardless of global warming. In fact, of the 131 papers investigating extreme events that BAMS has published over the past 6 years, 35% found that global warming played no appreciable part. Nevertheless, the latest results suggest that the climate is entering uncharted territory, and that would mean that weather will increasingly fall outside the historical norm. From this perspective, humanity hasn’t just loaded the dice. We have replaced them with a whole new type that behave in ways we don’t fully understand.

The solution has been clear for more than two decades: governments need to take aggressive action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. By attributing real-world impacts to global warming, scientists are providing citizens and political leaders with further evidence that climate change is a clear and present danger, not a distant threat to future generations. Perhaps in 2018, policymakers will finally realize which way the wind is blowing.



A mechanical engineer tries to use commonsense to discredit  climate skepticism

His name is Rich Brager.  His effort is below and shows how shallow his understanding of the issues is.

My first smile was his credulous belief that scientific fraud is "pretty rare".  I wonder how he explains that in both psychology and medicine up to two thirds of all findings have recently been found to be unreplicable?  The level of fraud may vary but its frequency shows that treating scientists as an authority is naive.  The only authority is the facts.

And his idea of how scientists work is also idealized.  He says:

"They learn by failure. They formulate new ideas based on their previous test results. They hone and fine tune their ideas until they can achieve success"

But Warmists don't do that. They have a theory they stick to come hell or high water.  Take their basic theory that increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 lead to increasing global temperatures.  So from 1945 t0 1975 when CO2 levels rose strongly, global temperatures rose strongly too.  Right?  But they didn't.  They were effectively static for all of those 30 years.  Some people call it the "long hiatus".  So how do warmists explain that stark contradiction of their theory?  They don't.  They just mumble "special factors" and go on as if nothing to disturb their theory had happened.

Mr Brager goes on to compare the science that goes into his beloved motor cars with climate science and says that because motor cars work well, climate science must be right too.  That is a rather large non-sequitur for starters but its basic error is to assume that climate scientists proceed the way other scientists do.  They don't.  I have just pointed out an example of that but let me give another one:

It is a normal scientific courtesy for scientists to make their raw data available to other scientists so other scientists can re-analyse it and (hopefully) show that the analyses done by the original author were correct and adequate.  New analyses could even reveal new insights not picked up by the original author.

But Warmists NEVER do that. They refuse point blank to make their data available to others.  That immediately evokes supicion that their data may not show what they say it shows. And on one occasion when some very important data was left lying around where skeptics could access and analyse it, the whole "hockeystick" edifice built on it collapsed.  They have good reasons to hide their data.

Mr Brager clearly needs to do some reading.  He could start by googling "unreplicable findings"

Science deniers seem to be everywhere. You can read about them in the papers virtually every day. They are in the news all the time. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has assigned a disproportionate number of jobs requiring scientific knowledge to science deniers. Very sad, very dangerous.

What are they denying? The topics include climate change, evolution, vaccination as well as a number of other topics. So why are the deniers deniers? Of course, there is no single reason. They often cite instances where scientists were fraudulent with their scientific information. Since scientists are also human, this does happen sometimes but fortunately, it is pretty rare.

Sometimes they say that the scientists have just made errors in their scientific analysis. This can also happen, but many non-scientists just don’t really understand how science works. Scientists learn by pushing the envelope of knowledge and by testing their ideas. They learn by failure. They formulate new ideas based on their previous test results. They hone and fine tune their ideas until they can achieve success.

I think many science deniers are very selective in their denials, almost hypocritical. They agree with and love science every time they go to their garage and start their modern car. The science that goes into designing and manufacturing a modern car is borderline unbelievable. You name it, it is there: material science, chemistry, thermodynamics, electronics, robotics, anatomy (think driving position, location of controls), physics, etc., etc. And they all work together so seamlessly that you don’t give it another thought while you commute to work.

And you science deniers could care less about the science that goes into your cell phones, GPS’s and microwave ovens. They all work “like magic”, but they are not magic. They are science at work. And work they do.

So do scientists of different stripes (physicists, chemists, weather scientists, biologists, etc.) go about their work in completely different ways?

Although their fields of study may differ wildly, their scientific methods are remarkably the same. They design their tests, gather their data, review their data, rerun tests as necessary, use statistical methods in analyzing their data, search for similar research by others, present their finding to other experts. Final reports are peer reviewed and critiqued. New and amazing findings are made.

So let’s pick on climate change deniers for a second. Do you think climate scientists are dumber than automotive scientists? Do you think their techniques are inferior to cell phone scientists? Or is your own understanding of climate science just not as good as your understanding of how your cell phone works? Or just because your political party needs to support big energy, climate change shouldn’t be real? Or what? Please help me understand.

So you deniers, make sure you have some real good scientific knowledge before you deny. Think about what Isaac Asimov (scientist and science fiction writer) said about anti-intellectualism. He stated that anti-intellectualism is “nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

It is not.


Comment from a reader: This has got to be one of the screwiest posts that I have every read ....and to think it was published by a Mechanical Engineer.

He truly misses a single most important point....the people promoting man-made Global warming have not performed a single scientific experiment that demonstrates that CO2 will cause the temperature of the atmosphere to rise and if one should take a look at the last 50 years a true scientist would conclude that CO2 either has little or no effect.

All that I have seen is the pointing at all kinds of false findings and claiming these to be evidence of global warming.....rising sea levels, glaciers melting, loss of polar ice, polar bear demise, more violent storms, droughts, crop failure, insect migration, disease, correlation of temperature to CO2 concentrations, and on and on.

Any scientist would take a step back at the failure of any of these prediction to come true.


Panic that foreign boats are set to fish in Australian waters

They always have done -- on case by case arrangements.  Some good fishing grounds are remote from Australian fishing ports so are "under-fished".  In those cases selected foreign boats that comply with Australian crewing and other standards are allowed catches by the Australian government.

The panic is to distract from the Turnbull government's move towards unlocking big fisheries that were locked up for no good reason by the last Greenie-influenced Labor government.  There are at the moment very few areas of Queensland waters where fishing is allowed, leaving a valuable food source unused

Australia has vast areas suitable for sustainable fishing but Greenie inspired fishing bans mean that Australia imports a lot of its table fish-- particularly from New Zealand

The federal government is stripping marine protections from remote waters off the Australian coast because it plans to change the law to allow foreign fishing boats with low-paid crews to fish there, a leading fisheries expert claims.

The suggestion, backed by conservationists, has been rejected by the government as "unsubstantiated scaremongering".

However the Australian Fisheries Management Authority says some waters are being under-fished and they are in talks with several operators about allowing foreign boats to operate in Australia's fishing zone under existing laws.

The Turnbull government has proposed changes to the 3.3 million square kilometres of Australia's protected offshore regions, allowing commercial fishing in a host of sensitive marine areas.

Dr Quentin Hanich, head of fisheries governance research at the University of Wollongong's Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, said many of the proposed changes were in distant waters far from port and "it had never been profitable for the fishers to go there".

"But if you allow cheap distant-water vessels to come in ... those vessels won't come into port. That combined with subsidised fuel, a $1000 annual wage and a whole bunch of problems with the way they treat their crews means they have incredibly low costs and can fish those remote areas," he said.

"Not only does that undermine the protection of those conservation values, it will return incredibly little benefit to Australia."

Dr Hanich, who advises international organisations and governments on fisheries governance and marine conservation, said such a scenario would require law changes allowing cheap foreign boats.

He believed the government's proposed weakening of protected marine areas was based on "hypothetical future changes in Australian regulations on foreign vessels [that] may enable industry to reduce business costs and fish in these previously economically marginal zones".

Dr Hanich questioned the economic need to relax marine protections, saying official estimates showed that under current laws, it would result in a mere $4 million gain to the Australian fishing industry.

There are no foreign boats operating in the Australian fishing zone. Foreign boats can be deemed Australian, and allowed to fish in Australian waters, when there are no domestic boats of that type available – such as large distant-water boats that can deep-freeze fish and stay at sea for long periods. Such boats must operate under Australian standards.

AFMA confirmed it has been in "discussions with a number of operators this year about deeming boats to be Australian across several fisheries".

At a Senate estimates hearing in October, AFMA chief executive James Findlay said there was "significant underfishing ... going on in a number of quota-managed fisheries."

"We're only taking about half of the quota that we've scientifically demonstrated is sustainable. Understandably, quota holders are looking to explore opportunities to harvest that quota ... they're looking at opportunities on the global market to bring in cheap capacity," he said.

Mr Findlay said the moves were not linked to the wind-back of marine protections.

However Pew Charitable Trusts oceans director Michelle Grady insisted the "ambition of the tuna industry to see very deep water remote areas fished" was driving the marine park changes.

This could lead to increased bycatch of threatened species, depleted fish stocks and the loss of large conservation areas, she said.

Water Resources Minister Anne Ruston said such claims had "no substance".

"Of course it is not the intention, nor has it ever been the intention, of the government to allow foreign fishing vessels to fish in Australian waters as a result of changes to marine park zoning," she said.

Tuna Australia chief executive David Ellis described as "absurd" the claim that the Australian fishing industry required foreign vessels to access fishing areas, and said Australia was "recognised worldwide as a leader in sustainable fishery management".

Maritime Union of Australia national secretary Paddy Crumlin said cheap foreign labour "results in a race to the bottom rather than decent wages for all", and unions would fight any such move in the fishing industry.



Levin: The ‘So-Called’ Conservative Intellectual Movement Is on Life Support

Levin in fact concludes that "there really is no conservative intellectual movement" and that is right.  But it is right for a good reason. It overlooks what an "intellectual" is.  An intellectual is someone who puts a sophisticated gloss on a simple idea.  And the great headquarters of simple ideas is the Left.  They never think anything through, which is why their policies are always disastrous -- check Obamacare

In fact Leftists have only one idea:  "If people won't behave the way we want, then we will MAKE them behave. Compared to the complexities of libertarian policy proposals, their ideas are childish and unoriginal.

So when someone comes along who can make Leftist thinking sound half-decent, he is greeted rapturously, hailed as an "intellectual" and given lots of publicity.

Conservatives don't need that.  Between the Bible and America's founding documents, they have all the guidance they need to create a good society and a good life for its people.  They already have policies and ideas that work and are well-known. Erudite men like Levin can help publicize those mighty founding ideas and show how they apply in modern times but that is just a badly-needed educative role, not any kind of new discovery.

I can't put it better than Reagan did:

"In all of that time I won a nickname, 'The Great Communicator.' But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries."

So we can safely leave intellectuals to the Left.  We don't need them.  The average IQ of Leftists and Rightists is about the same but we apply our minds to practical problems and the real world, not high flown theories, speculations and justifications for hate.

On his nationally syndicated radio talk show Thursday, host Mark Levin began his program’s opening monologue on a somber note, suggesting that the “so-called conservative intellectual movement” is “on life support.”

“[T]he so-called conservative intellectual movement is very weak right now – very weak,” stated Mark Levin. “In fact, I think it’s on life support.” Below is a transcript of Levin’s remarks from his show on Thursday:

“From time to time, often actually, I sit back and I watch what’s going on in the news or go on the internet and start reading various stories and so forth, and then I try to think back to history and philosophy and try to think back to our founding and try to make sense of it all.

“The vast majority of what comes across the television, what comes across the internet, what comes across the radio, in terms of news, is about the federal government. Maybe it’s about a congressman, maybe it’s about the Supreme Court, maybe it’s about a tax bill – it’s about the federal government.

“And this really is a massive alteration of what the founders of this country intended, that we would be spending so much time talking about the federal government, fearing the federal government, trying to win elections so we can control the federal government, expanding the federal government. It was never supposed to be this way.

“And you can see the deleterious effects.

“I said yesterday that, as a result of the conservative movement, we’ve had a lot of electoral victories at the federal level, but very few advances in terms of rolling back what the left has done and advancing liberty.

“And I believe that. I believe men and women, most of you, believe in America’s founding principles, believe in Americanism – Americanism.

“I also believe – it’s a sorry truth – that the so-called conservative intellectual movement is very weak right now – very weak. In fact, I think it’s on life support.

“You know, I write books about liberty, and I write books about the Declaration and the Constitution. And I write books about Supreme Court rulings. I write books about natural law and liberty and what all that means.

“The reason that most of these books sell about a quarter of a million copies or more every time I write them – which is by far the largest among conservatives, and yet receives virtually no attention among the fledgling, barely existing conservative intellectual movement – is because there really is no conservative intellectual movement. Or it’s very small, it’s very weak.”


Liberal city is also very racist

Boston is in the heart of Yankee country where the descendants of Puritans still think they know best what is right for everybody.  They are of course a Democrat stronghold.  So of course they believe in racial equality.

That commitment to racial acceptance provoked the powers that be at the "Boston Globe" to do an extensive set of surveys to find out how well blacks in Boston were in fact accepted.  Did a belief in racial togetherness translate into action?  Did the deeds of Bostonians reflect their avowed beliefs?

They did not.  The anti-racism in theory went with mostly polite but nonetheless real racism in behaviour in Boston.  They are too polite to wear Klan hoods but they might as well do so

THAT BLACK people find Boston racially inhospitable isn’t news. While angry white faces standing between a black child and a schoolhouse door does not represent the city today, Boston isn’t any more inclusive for black people now than it was during its rancorous busing era four decades ago.

In its seven-part series “BOSTON. RACISM. IMAGE. REALITY,” the Globe’s Spotlight team outlined the indelible stain of racism on Boston’s reputation. It also painstakingly detailed how that mark has deepened and hardened over time. As Boston enjoys an economic boom, black residents still find themselves segregated in housing, schools, and even hospitals, and excluded from boardrooms, job opportunities, and political power.

“To be a black person in Boston, is [often] to be the only one. . . . The only one in the office; the only one in the leadership position. It’s lonely,” Bridgit Brown, a communications specialist from Dorchester, told the Globe. “You’re aware of the racism. You’re aware of the subtleties. It’s like the air we breathe, if you’re black.”

Racism is nimble. It shape-shifts away from the most obvious, headline-grabbing horrors, allowing those in corridors of power, as well as ordinary white people, to insist things aren’t as bad as they used to be. And, in the most superficial sense, they aren’t. Still, such facile readings ignore how racism burrows in, normalized and equivocated, until it becomes just another accepted part of our landscape.

Its toll on Boston’s black community is immeasurable. Yet the price for a city that considers itself world class is also unacceptably high. For all its achievements, pervasive racism forces Boston to operate with one arm tied behind its back.

No city fully realizes its potential unless it makes the most of what political leaders like to call its “human capital.” Those are the people who, given an opportunity to do so, share their singular talents and vision to help stamp a city’s identity. With its many esteemed colleges and universities, Boston has always been in a unique position to welcome fresh young minds into the city every year and make its case that this city is more than just an academic destination.

In recent years, Boston has made it a priority to retain as permanent residents graduating students. In 2013, a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study revealed that, compared with other census areas, New England retains fewer college graduates, leading to a so-called “brain drain.”

With black college students, even getting them to come to Boston is difficult. Few want to confront what they see as entrenched racism. The Spotlight team found that African-American enrollment in Greater Boston area universities was less than 7 percent in 2015. That’s significantly less than other major metro areas; nationally, the average for black enrollment is 11 percent.

This could be a refreshing infusion of young black people, some who might stay to establish a real black middle class in Boston. Instead, they won’t even step foot in the city.

“I had the impression that it was this liberal city and that the race relations were on par with Los Angeles or New York,” Melissa Potter Forde told the Globe. A 2006 Northeastern University graduate, she left Boston to finish her last semester in New York. “But I realize there’s still a time of evolution that’s still taking place in the city. Racism was a big part of why I left.”

It’s also a big part of why African-Americans generally don’t stay in Boston after college. In a national survey commissioned by the Globe this fall, black people ranked Boston, out of eight major cities, as the least welcoming to people of color. More than half of those surveyed also rated Boston as unwelcoming

When they come at all, many black college students leave the city as soon as they have their degree in hand. For many, four years in Boston is enough, and greater opportunities, they believe, lie in such places as Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Chicago. These cities also have their own persistent issues with racism, yet present more opportunities and cultural balance. It’s a sentiment passed from one generation to the next. Black people who move to Boston are often warned by their families to reconsider. And when black friends visit, they are usually struck by what looks like Boston’s overwhelming whiteness.

As the Spotlight series pointed out, Boston has worked to ensure that the city does not slip back into the tragic errors of its troubled past. Mayor Martin Walsh has sponsored public conversations about race, but there’s still not much of an indication how that talk will be translated into action. We’ve long since answered the question about whether Boston is racist. The question remains how best to address that fact.

Leaders often speak of diversity, but it’s ardent inclusion that allows cities to thrive. Right now, Boston is failing to utilize to the fullest 23 percent of its population. Nor is it doing enough to convince black professionals that this city welcomes what they have to offer.

Boston is a fine city, but systemic racism continues to bleed us of black talent, innovation, and the cultural spark that turns a good place to live for some into a great place to live for everyone.



MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR  to all those who come by here

In case anybody is wondering, my surgery went off without a hitch and I am already as right as rain again. For any curious minds,  I have put up a detailed account on my Personal Blog

I want to mention something that seems to have passed almost unnoticed in this Christmas season.  It occurred in the speech President Trump gave to coincide with the lighting of the White House Christmas tree.  He at one stage invoked "Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ".

In that utterance he expressed the core doctrine of evangelical Christians.  That was unprecedented as far as I can remember.  Even Reagan, an undoubted man of God, was not so emphatically Christian.  Many Americans DON'T think Jesus is their Lord and saviour so it was a bold thing for a politician to say.  It would have been a dagger aimed at the heart of Leftist anti-Christians and a warm glow in the hearts of committed Christians.

Trump got most of the evangelical vote last time so he will probably get all of it next time but it was clearly not a good electoral calculation.  He stood to lose non-Christian voters while picking up only a few more Christians.  So why did he do it?  The speech was undoubtedly written for him by an evangelical pastor but he ad-libs readily so could easily have toned that bit down if he had wanted to.

The obvious reason is that he believed what he said.  Trump is amazing the way he speaks his mind.  He is clearly no career politician.

But I think there is a second reason. Christians have copped so  much abuse and condemnation in recent years that they deserved some support -- and Trump gave them that.  He validated their beliefs and principles.  It told them that the days of travail are easing.  And if it stabbed at the anti-Christian left, it was about time they got some heat back.  It was justice for the meek.

And the media were amazingly silent about it.  They criticized a few minor details but ignored the Christian invocation as far as I could see.  Maybe they were wary of antagonizing Christians -- JR.


Unrestrained romanticism is not dead

The guff below could have been written by a Nazi writer.  Nazism also had a romanticized vision of a marvellous small-farmer past. Some people will never learn.

Their key paragraph below is this one:

"The industrial food chain is using at least 75 per cent of the world’s agricultural land and most of agriculture’s fossil fuel and freshwater resources to feed barely 30 per cent of the world’s population. Conversely, more than 500 million peasant farms around the world are using less than 25 per cent of the land – and almost no fossil fuels or chemicals – to feed 70 per cent of humanity."

It is one of the sillier attempts to lie with statistics. It makes no mention of HOW MUCH food different farming systems produce or how much effort goes into producing it.  It may be true that 25% of the land feeds 70% of the people but it does so only via back-breaking labor that leaves little time for anything else and in the end provides on a bare minimum of food most of the time. For the rest of the time it produces famine.  It is no model for any sane person.

I think that tells you how good the rest of their statistics below are.  It's just a prolonged fantasy

Industrial agriculture isn’t the efficient beast it’s made out to be. Peasant farming, not industrial food production, is the way to feed the world, argue Pat Mooney and Nnimmo Bassey

The solution for both climate and food sovereignty is to dismantle the global industrial agri-food system (which we call the ‘industrial food chain’) and for governments to give more space to the already growing and resilient ‘peasant food web’ – the interlinked network of small-scale farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, fishers and urban producers who, our research shows, already feed most of the world.

The industrial food chain is using at least 75 per cent of the world’s agricultural land and most of agriculture’s fossil fuel and freshwater resources to feed barely 30 per cent of the world’s population. Conversely, more than 500 million peasant farms around the world are using less than 25 per cent of the land – and almost no fossil fuels or chemicals – to feed 70 per cent of humanity.

Aside from burning vast quantities of fossil carbon, industry is also wasting money that could be directed to supporting equitable agroecological production while still lowering food prices for the world’s marginalized consumers.

The statistics are staggering. Consumers pay $7.5 trillion each year for industrially produced food. But between a third and half of this production is wasted along the way to the consumer or at the table: spoiled in the field or in transport, rejected from grocers because of blemishes, or left on the plate because of over-serving.

The total food overproduced each year is worth $3.8 trillion – a combination of $2.49 trillion worth of food waste and $1.26 trillion of over-consumption (see footnote 191 of the report). Burgeoning waists worldwide also have both human and economic costs.

When the wider environmental damages – including contaminated soils and water, greenhouse gas emissions – are added to the health and social impacts, the harm done by the industrial food chain is almost $5 trillion (see footnote 193). For every dollar consumers spent in supermarkets, health and environmental damages cost two dollars more.

Added to the amount spent by consumers, this makes the real cost of industrial food $12.4 trillion annually.

Policymakers negotiating the future of food and climate may wonder if it is possible to make such a dramatic change in our food production. Peasants may feed 70 per cent of the world’s population now but can they adapt quickly enough to climate change to feed us in 2100? Which system, the industrial food chain or the peasant food web, has the track record, innovative capacity, speed and flexibility needed to get us through the unparalleled threat of an unpredictable climate?

The answer is clear. Take experience: over the last century, the industrial food chain has not introduced a single new crop or livestock species to production but has cut the genetic diversity of our crops by 75 per cent, reduced the number of species by about one third, and reduced the nutritional value of our crops by up to 40 per cent. The peasant web has introduced 2.1 million new plant varieties where industrial agriculture has only introduced 100,000 over the same time frame.

The industrial food chain works with only 137 crop species and five main livestock species. Stunningly, 45 per cent of the industry’s research and development targets just one crop: maize. By contrast, the peasant web is breeding and growing 7,000 different crop species and 34 livestock species – like the alpaca, ñandu, and guinea pig.

Peasants also have the track record of dealing with new conditions quickly and effectively. Recent history is replete with evidence that peasant producers – before there were telegraphs or telephones or railways – have adapted new food species (through selective breeding) to an extraordinary range of different climatic conditions within the span of only a few human generations

The peasant web is breeding and growing 7,000 different crop species and 34 livestock species – like the alpaca, ñandu, and guinea pig

This process of seed and knowledge sharing from farmer to farmer is how maize spread across most of the regions of Africa and how sweet potatoes were planted everywhere in Papua New Guinea from mangrove swamps to mountain tops – all in less than a century – and how immigrants brought seeds from Europe that were growing across the Western Hemisphere within a generation.

When we compare the track record of the industrial food chain to the peasant food web we must conclude that our century-long experience with the chain shows that it is just too expensive, and it can’t scale up. Meanwhile, with almost no support from governments, the peasant food web is already feeding 70 per cent of us (see page 12) – and could do much more, while producing drastically less greenhouse gas emissions than industrial methods.

To be clear, ‘peasant farming as usual’ is not an option. Climate change will mean our over 10,000 years of agriculture has to deal with growing conditions that the world hasn’t seen for three million years.

There is no reason to be sanguine about the problems ahead.

Peasants can scale up if the industrial chain gets off their backs. Governments must recognize peasants’ rights to their land and seeds and support fair, peasant-led rural development and trade policies. We need to cut waste and shift our financial resources to strengthening the peasant food web and both tackling climate change and ensuring food sovereignty.



George Monbiot as a neo-Nazi

The continuity between Hitler's Nazism and modern-day eco-Fascism is amazing and disconcerting.  The whole point of Hitler's "Drang nach Osten" was to secure "Lebensraum" for Germany.  Hitler felt that Germans were in danger of starving unless he seized Russian farmlands to feed them.

And the Greenies today continue over and over to predict food shortages unless we return to a primitive past in which lots of inferior people are killed off.  It's a recurrent theme but the latest exponent of the theory is George Monbiot, a "Guardian" columnist.  Maybe George could think of nothing else to write so fell back on something out of the Warmist catechism.

To make his argument, he lists a whole lot of things that SHOULD be reducing food production. ACTUAL trends in food production he does not consider.  And the actual trends are very clear and consistent: Food production keeps rising -- to the point  where many basic crops are in glut.  There is so much food that prices have been pushed down to historic lows.  Once upon a time poor families had to struggle to put food on the table.  Now food is so cheap that the only worry is whether your income can support your drug habit.

So, by using normal extrapolation, food will tend to become more plentiful, not less.  Farmers do face challenges but with the aid of modern science and technology, they mostly rise well above those challenges.

And final proof that George is as unrealistic as Hitler is the fact that a warmer world would open up vast lands in Siberia and Northern Canada for food production. Canadian farmers already push their farms right up to the climate limit so another hundred miles of newly arable land would be a bonanza to them.  They already export huge volumes of grains.  Give them more land to cultivate and they would really show you what they can do

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is all the food going to come from?

By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in south Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by the year 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. These predictions could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4C of warming in the US corn belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with fewer than five hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the UK has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.

While these multiple disasters unfold on land, the seas are being sieved of everything but plastic. Despite a massive increase in effort (bigger boats, bigger engines, more gear), the worldwide fish catch is declining by roughly 1% a year, as populations collapse. The global land grab is mirrored by a global sea grab: small fishers are displaced by big corporations, exporting fish to those who need it less but pay more. About 3 billion people depend to a large extent on fish and shellfish protein. Where will it come from?

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how exactly do we accommodate it?

The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. Already, 36% of the calories grown in the form of grain and pulses – and 53% of the protein – are used to feed farm animals. Two-thirds of this food is lost in conversion from plant to animal. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a 100-fold difference.

It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other life forms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more cattle.

Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.

The shift in diets would be impossible to sustain even if there were no growth in the human population. But the greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.

Other people have different dreams: the fantasy of a feeding frenzy that need never end, the fairytale of reconciling continued economic growth with a living world. If humankind spirals into societal collapse, these dreams will be the cause.

There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal- to a plant-based diet. All else being equal, stopping both meat production and the use of farmland to grow biofuels could provide enough calories for another 4 billion people and double the protein available for human consumption. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.

The next green revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?



How America Is Breaking Public Education (?)

Ethan Siegel, writing and depicted below, somehow manages to combine unoriginality with being a bit of a nut.  The image below is only one of his eccentric depictions of himself.

Siegel has reduced the problems of education to only one factor -- albeit a factor popular among teachers.  He says teachers need to be treated like professionals but that they are not. What teacher union would disagree with that?

Being Left-leaning, however, Siegel has not thought to ask WHY teachers are inapty treated.  To describe a problem seems to him a sufficient contribution without offering any solution to it. If you can't call "racism" as a response to some problem, Leftists are stumped.

And for anybody with experience in the education sector, the reason for the situation is obvious:  Most public school teachers are dummies.  Except for a few dedicated souls, those who teach are those who could get no other work deserving of a college education.  A bright graduate will look to teach only as a last resort, and  will very rarely drop to that last level.  The "Teach for America" system is an explicit recognition that bright graduates typically don't go into teaching.

OK.  That's the first part of the explanation.  Now we ask WHY teaching is such an unattractive job in most places today.  It helps to answer that to consider some places where teachers are high quality -- say South Korea.  Teachers there mostly have higher degrees and are something of an elite.  How come?  Because teaching has long been a rewarding and prestigious occupation and there is nothing in South Korea to disrupt that.  Even from ancient Sumeria we have a depiction of a parent giving a teacher a fleece -- a bit better than an apple for the teacher.

So what has gone wrong in the Anglosphere countries of recent times?  Answer: Leftist destruction of discipline.  Teachers now have very few disciplinary options available and a few unruly students can now totally destroy the classroom experience.  Teaching becomes a constant battle to get the attention of the students.  In many public schools teachers are little more than child-minders.  They can do very little teaching. So we have the experience of places like California where students can graduate High School while being barely able to read and write

And who would want to work in that environment?  Only those with no other options.  So as older teachers retire, classrooms have been left in the hands of people with very little in the way of educational achievement themselves.  Politicians talk about demanding that admission to their teacher-training colleges include only candidates with good GPAs etc but if they insisted on that, they would soon run out of teachers.

But good classroom management is within living memory so higher educational standards are possible -- but only if Leftist "reforms" of the last 30 years or so are rolled back

The ultimate dream of public education is incredibly simple. Students, ideally, would go to a classroom, receive top-notch instruction from a passionate, well-informed teacher, would work hard in their class, and would come away with a new set of skills, talents, interests, and capabilities. Over the past few decades in the United States, a number of education reforms have been enacted, designed to measure and improve student learning outcomes, holding teachers accountable for their students' performances. Despite these well-intentioned programs, including No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and the Every Student Succeeds Act, public education is more broken than ever. The reason, as much as we hate to admit it, is that we've disobeyed the cardinal rule of success in any industry: treating your workers like professionals.

Everyone who's been through school has had experiences with a wide variety of teachers, ranging from the colossally bad to the spectacularly good. There are a few qualities universally ascribed to the best teachers, and the lists almost always include the following traits:

* a passion for their chosen subject,

* a deep, expert-level knowledge of the subject matter they're teaching,

* a willingness to cater to a variety of learning styles and to employ a variety of educational techniques,

* and a vision for what a class of properly educated students would be able to know and demonstrate at the end of the academic year.

Yet despite knowing what a spectacular teacher looks like, the educational models we have in place actively discourage every one of these.

The first and largest problem is that every educational program we've had in place since 2002 — the first year that No Child Left Behind took effect — prioritizes student performance on standardized tests above all else. Test performance is now tied to both school funding, and the evaluation of teachers and administrators. In many cases, there exists no empirical evidence to back up the validity of this approach, yet it's universally accepted as the way things ought to be.

Imagine, for a moment, that this weren't education, but any other job. Imagine how you'd feel if you found yourself employed in such a role.

Requiring teachers to follow a script in a variety of educational settings is one of the surest ways to squash creativity and kill student interest. It is a more widespread practice than ever before.

You have, on any given day, a slew of unique problems to tackle. These include how to reach, motivate, and excite the people whose education and performance you're responsible for. It includes imparting them with skills that will enable them to succeed in the world, which will be vastly different from state-to-state, county-to-county, and even classroom-to-classroom. Gifted students, average students, special needs students, and students with severe disabilities are all often found in the same class, requiring a deft touch to keep everyone motivated and engaged. Moreover, students often come to class with problems that place them at a competitive disadvantage, such as food insecurity, unaddressed physical, dental, and mental health issues, or home life responsibilities that severely curtail their ability to invest in academics.

If your goal was to achieve the greatest learning outcome possible for each of your students, what would you need to be successful? You'd need the freedom to decide what to teach, how to teach it, how to evaluate and assess your students, and how to structure your classroom and curriculum. You'd need the freedom to make individualized plans or separate plans for students who were achieving at different levels. You'd need the resources — financial, time, and support resources — to maximize the return on your efforts. In short, you'd need the same thing that any employee in any role needs: the freedom and flexibility to assess your own situation, and make empowered decisions.

In public education, if teachers do that, they are penalized to an extraordinary extent. Passion is disincentivized, as whatever aspects your passionate about take a back seat to what will appear on the standardized test. Expert knowledge is thrown to the wayside, as curiosity and engagement is seen as a distraction. A vision for what successful students look like is narrowed down to one metric alone: test performance. And a teacher's evaluation of what skills are important to develop is treated as less than nothing, as anything that fails to raise a student's test score is something that everyone — the teacher, the school, and the student — are all penalized for.

If this were common practice in any other industry, we'd be outraged. How dare you presume to micromanage the experts, the very people you hired to do a difficult job full of unique challenges to the best of their abilities! Yet in education, we have this unrealistic dream that a scripted, one-sized-fits-all strategy will somehow lead to success for all. That we can somehow, through just the right set of instructions, transform a mediocre teacher into a great one.

This hasn't worked in any walk of life, and it doesn't work in education. If we were serious about improving the quality of public education in this country (or any country), we wouldn't focus on a one-size-fits-all model, whether at the federal or state level. We would fully fund schools everywhere, regardless of test scores, economic concerns, or teacher quality. We would make a concerted effort to pay desirable wages to extremely qualified, expert-knowledge-level educators, and give them the support resources they need to succeed. And we'd evaluate them across a variety of objective and subjective metrics, with any standardized testing components making up only a small part of an evaluation.

The most important goal of an education is something we rarely talk about: the set of skills and the capabilities of thinking and problem solving that a student acquires. Part of what makes an adult successful in this world is the unique toolkit they have for approaching, attacking, and defeating the challenges they face in this world. A diversity of experiences and methods among the population is a great way to ensure that more problems can be solved; absolute uniformity is as bad for human society as monoculture is for agriculture. The greatest advances in science and society have come about because of the unique backgrounds and approaches some of the greatest minds in history possessed and utilized. Unless our goal is societal stagnation, we need to encourage creativity and excellence, not only in our students, but in our educators as well.

Like any job involving an interaction with other people, teaching is as much of an art as it is a science. By taking away the freedom to innovate, we aren't improving the outcomes of the worst teachers or even average teachers; we're simply telling the good ones that their skills and talents aren't needed here. By refusing to treat teachers like professionals — by failing to empower them to teach students in the best way that they see fit — we demonstrate the simple fact that we don't trust them to do a good job, or even to understand what doing a good job looks like. Until we abandon the failed education model we've adopted since the start of the 21st century, public education will continue to be broken. As long as we insist on telling teachers what to teach and how to teach it, we'll continue to fail our children.



Small hiatus

I have just got out of some rather extensive day surgery so am feeling a bit worn down.  I expect to be back in a day or two


The radical right is using 'free speech' to help them destroy democracy (?)

The big Zapper (Chris Zappone) argues below that some speech can destroy democracy.  But he fails to identify a single anti-democratic utterance coming from those he disapproves of.  What, for instance has Milo Yiannopoulos said that undermines democracy? Nothing that I have heard.

So Zappone relies on mischaracterizations in the routine Leftist way.  He says the "Alt-Right" groups he disapproves of advocate racial superiority.  Yet the most prominent spokesman of such groups -- Yiannopoulos -- is married to an African man.  Not much white supremacism or racism there!

He also refers to restrictions on immigration from some Muslim countries as undermining democracy.  How?  How does that prevent the existing population from voting?  Most countries have immigration restrictions.  Are they all undemocratic?  

Perhaps most amusingly, the Zapper says that "actions to divide and drive wedges into society overall" are an antidemocratic  conspiracy.  Some of  the wedges driven into American society by Obama (as seen in the upsurge of black crime under Obama) must therefore be antidemocratic conspiracies too.  I am inclined to agree that Obama has been anti-democratic -- but not for reasons quoted by the Zapper -- Obama's reliance on regulations rather than law, for instance

Basically, the zapper seems to be defining democracy as "arrangements that I approve of".  He shows no connection at all between current alt-Right public utterances and any threat to selective voting. He just asserts it. He has no intellectual depth whatever.  But what do we expect from a Fairfax journalist?

Somewhat lost in the chaos of the past year is a shift in language that has profound implications for open democracies.

Fringe extremists, nationalists and racist groups have tried to portray their cause as a battle for "free speech."

The most famous example, so far, has been the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which alt-right and other extreme right groups gathered, in an event that turned violent, leaving one counter demonstrator dead.

Some of Milo Yiannopoulos' most provocative events have been staged under the banner of "free speech," a claim repeated to defend his visit to Australia.

Part of today's political crisis stems from this cultivated confusion that conflates freedom of expression with extremist ideas such as racial superiority, or blanket bans on people based on their religion (as long as it's Islam).

Ideas, in other words, that are frankly incompatible with a modern democracy.

People are free to argue whatever idea they please – that's free speech. But if they're using the idea of free speech as a shield for actions to divide and drive wedges into society overall, it's conspiracy.

More here 


Trump plays the race card yet again by targeting affirmative action on campus

I would have thought it was affirmative action advocates who are playing the race card.  Trump is opposing use of race in admission decisions.

The writer below pins his argument about the evilness of Trump on blacks being under-represented in tertiary colleges.  But what does that prove and why is it bad?  To the race-obsessed Leftists it is obviously bad but people not concerned about race might simply say: "That's the way the cookie crumbles" and leave it at that.

And given the long-term failure of blacks to increase their presence in tertiary institutions, "That's the way the cookie crumbles" could be the only reasonable response -- or at least the only response that acknowledges reality

One wonders at the poor grip on reality of the writer below.  He also hates on the greater presence of the rich in universities.  High income earners do tend to be brighter and that is hereditary so their children are much more likely to meet the criteria for college admission. Only a Communist society could change that but even the Soviet union had a distinct favoured elite -- The Nomenklatura.  So when will the galoot below accept that all men will NEVER be equal?  He will never accept it because it goes against his Leftist religion.

He will never get the Communist society he seems to want so he will take whatever pressure towards it that he can get:  The pressure to enrol in colleges those who are less fit for it but are the "right" race.  He can't see that he is using an injustice to create some semblance of his impossible dream.  He can't see that he is the racist

Once again, Donald Trump pummels reality to please his base. As often, his cudgel is race.

His Justice Department, The New York Times reports, is investigating colleges, including Harvard, whose admissions policies supposedly disfavor whites and Asians to benefit blacks and Hispanics. This is perverse, for the evidence shows that those minorities continue to be underrepresented on American campuses.

Indeed, in the last 35 years this gap has widened. A comprehensive study by the Times shows that the percentage of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged, and that the increase in Hispanics has not kept up with their growth rate overall. The same holds true at top liberal arts colleges and public flagship universities, including the University of California in America’s most diverse state.

In 2003, the Supreme Court found that promoting diversity on campus is a legitimate consideration in admissions policy. But according to the Department of Education, since that ruling we have seen little progress.

As of 2014, the African-American population in four-year colleges had risen 1 percentage point, to 13 percent, over the preceding decade. Hispanics were up only a little more. Yet Trump’s DOJ, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, is “attempting . . . to achieve what they have not been able to do with the Supreme Court” — discourage affirmative action.

His campaign thrived on deliberately stoking racial anxieties and resentments. Surveys show that a belief that whites are treated unfairly is a powerful predictor of support for Trump. Similarly, his adherents are more likely to feel that the growth of racial or ethnic groups is negatively affecting our society.

These feelings pervade the GOP electorate. A 2017 survey showed that 43 percent of Republicans believe there is significant discrimination against whites, whereas only 27 percent of them believe the same for blacks. As Thomas Edsall spelled out in the Times, Trump benefits from a “white identity politics” among voters who want the advantages they imagine accrue to minorities.

Now Trump’s presidency is reeling. His attack on affirmative action on campus is red meat for white people, demonstrating he will correct the passion for diversity which, his followers believe, limits white opportunity by skewing college admissions.

Thus does bigotry bury what, for the GOP, is a highly inconvenient truth. According to The Washington Post: “At 38 top colleges in the United States, more students come from the top 1 percent of income earners than from the bottom 60 percent.” It is income inequality, not race, that disadvantages lower-bracket whites.

But for Republican ideologues and cynics, reverse discrimination in admissions is a politically potent myth, energizing the base while providing cover for policies favoring the wealthy. Nowhere is this pernicious stalking horse more empowered than among Republican judges on the Supreme Court, to whom Trump will ultimately look to banish affirmative action.

Principal among them is Chief Justice John Roberts. It was in opposition to affirmative action in admissions that he wrote his famous dictum: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

This excruciating platitude does not withstand exposure to the world as it actually exists, including in college admissions. Such banality is, perhaps, to be expected from a smug country clubber, smiling benignly at the waiter who has just served up his favorite single malt scotch. But from America’s chief justice, it drives rulings that serve the ideology and electoral interests of the GOP at the cost of justice for minorities.

This effort is epitomized by Fisher v. University of Texas, the most recent challenge to affirmative action before the Supreme Court.

At issue was a modest plan allowing the university to consider race as one of many “plus factors” in some students’ admissions decisions. The white plaintiff conveniently overlooked that of the 47 students admitted with lower grades and test scores, 42 were white. A narrow majority of justices upheld the Texas program.

Roberts dissented. At oral argument he demanded to know: “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”

Seriously? Does Roberts really imagine that this is about the principles of physics? What about those disadvantaged students — minorities and the poor — who the university sought to help? Or what students of all backgrounds experience as part of a diverse student body? His calculated obtuseness exposes the GOP’s attack on affirmative action for what it is — a callous sham.

But there Roberts remains, awaiting the next attack, which beyond doubt will be supported by Donald Trump.



At last! A start on reducing the national debt

It is a common situation in Australia and elsewhere for a new Leftist government to implement big new spending policies without raising taxes to pay for them.  New welfare programs are popular but new taxes are not.  So the Left just borrow the money and pile up debt year after year. And it is left to the next conservative government to clear up the mess.

In 2007 the Labor party inherited a treasury  from the conservatives that had ZERO federal debt.  When they were finally booted out, the debt had ballooned to $400 billion. So in a vicious circle, a lot of taxpayer money had to go to the banks in interest payments and so made constructive spending even more difficult to fund.

The incoming conservative governments under Abbott and Turnbull found it politically difficult to abandon all the new spending that the Left had put in train so had to continue borrowing for some time.  That has now come to an end

IT’S a tiny figure of a few decimal points but it represents a change the Government says will save taxpayers billions of dollars over a few years.

In fact, the savings could reach $1 billion a year, Treasurer Scott Morrison will argue today.

The Treasurer will release the Midyear Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) — the half-yearly progress report on the Budget delivered last May.

The updated calculations will highlight a projected fall in government debt, compared to the total announced in the Budget. That debt currently stands at just over half a trillion dollars and has steadily been rising.

But today, the Government will boast that by keeping “expenditure under control” it no longer has to borrow to pay for the recurrent bills of the business of government such as wages.

Its new calculations raise the prospect of a $40 billion cut in debt over 10 years, a reduction necessary for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to fund in part at least promised income tax cuts and massive tax relief for big business.

Net debt is now expected to peak next financial year — in 2018-19 — at 19.2 per cent of GDP, or national output.

This would be a 0.6 percentage point improvement on the 19.8 per cent forecast in the Budget. And the difference amounts to $11.9 billion.

The Treasurer will forecast that in three years gross debt will be $2.3 billion lower than calculated last May.

The smaller debt will mean the Government’s interest bill will be lopped by $2.3 billion over three years, reaching $1 billion a year in savings by 2020-21, the Treasurer will announce.

Mr Morrison said in a statement yesterday the MYFO figures would show the Government was “deliver on our prudent and responsible economic management, staying the course to keep expenditure under control and return the Budget back to balance”.

“We are making real headway, bringing down our expected gross debt by $23 billion, meaning lower interest payments of up to a billion dollars a year,” he said.

“In the years ahead we intend to make further progress on bringing down the debt as we get the Budget back into balance as promised.

“In MYEFO, over the next 10 years we expect gross debt to be $40 billion less than we were projecting in May.”

Mr Morrison said the debt reduction this financial year was the equivalent of putting the national grocery bill on the credit card.

“Our responsible budget management means we are now in a position to no longer be borrowing to pay for everyday [recurrent] expenditure, like schools funding, Medicare and welfare, a year earlier than forecast,” he said.

“We are acting, as we promised, in a fiscally responsible way to reduce our debt so that we can sustainably fund the essential services like health, schools as well as infrastructure, that Australians rely on.”

Labor leads the Coalition on a two-party preferred vote by 53 per cent to 47, representing a national swing against the Government of three per cent, the last Newspoll for the year shows.

The poll of 1669 voters across the country, conducted exclusively for The Australian, shows the Coalition has made no ground in the past two weeks with Labor maintaining a one point primary vote lead of 37.

The poll conducted over the weekend shows the major parties have not shifted since the last poll held between November 30 and December 3. The Greens remained steady on 10 per cent while One Nation dropped a further point to seven per cent.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull maintained his narrow lead over Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister, lifting two points to 41 per cent while the opposition leader lifted a point to 34 per cent.



The Saker

A Saker is a large bird, a falcon.  It is also the name of a popular Leftist blog.  The blogger is anti-American, anti-Israel and quite paranoid: It was of course George Bush who blew up the twin towers.

The Saker is an example of an older Leftist type that precedes the modern-day Democratic party.  As Trump points out, the modern-day Democrats are the establishment, the people in charge of most things in American life. They would still control the Presidency if they had put up Sanders against Trump but the personal ambition and deep pockets of Hillary Clinton derailed that.

But there is an older leftist type that is anti-establishment.  They used to complain about "the system", "The bosses",  "Wall St.", "Big business" etc. They yearned for a "workers' paradise".  They saw themselves as ground-down and the victim of all sorts of conspiracies, including "The capitalist press".

And they still exist. A majority of Democrat voters still believe that George Bush blew up the twin towers.  So how come those people now vote for the establishment?  It's because the old and new Leftists have one thing in common: hate.  And in classic Leftist style it is an inchoate hate, a hate that is always in its infancy and therefore flits here and there from one hate to another:  One day it can be traditional marriage and the next it can be statues of Confederate heroes.  As long as the Establishment can find hate-objects to campaign against, it sounds right to the old-style Leftist.  He knows he will always be ground down so all he hopes for is that the status quo is under attack, somehow, somewhere.

But Trump has disrupted all that.  He has declared that the establishment "Emperor" has no clothes.  He has pointed out that the Left in fact control the country -- via the "swamp" -- and that they therefore are the proper hate-object. Instead of chasing after small hate-objects, he has given individual Leftists one big hate object to oppose.  And for that reason, many former Democrats voted for him, upsetting all expectations.  The combination of anti-authority Leftists and anti-authority conservatives gave Trump a big win.

Sadly, however, the anti-authority Leftist still believes in all the old nostrums, false beliefs about why the world is all wrong -- including "The Jews". He still believes that behind the facade we all see are Jews pulling all the strings of power and impoverishing little guys like him.  And with Ashkenazi names like Blankfein and Goldman frequently found among the great powers of Wall St., one understands their mistake.  They don't understand why the world really works so they resort to conspiracy theories.

And so we come back to The Saker. Both America and Israel are great conspiracies to him and he loves Hizbollah, Muslim terrorists. He is an "Anti-Zionist". And because the official Left no longer preach all the old suspicions, The Saker has got himself a big audience for his theories.  He has become a spokesman for the non-establishment Left.

So it is amusing that some of his articles are half-right.  One such article is "Fascism?  Surely not", in which he correctly notes the pervasive control wielded by modern States and compares it with Fascism in the first half of the 20th century.  He doesn't actually seem to know much about historical Fascism but notes the tendency of businesses to expand by mergers etc and become semi-monopolies in their respective fields.  That is indeed not too different from the "corporations" set up by Benito Mussolini.

But the things he blames on corporations are eccentric.  I quote:

"The issue of Vaccination is just one area of concern. There are many others that are appearing on the horizon that society has never had to think about or, debate before. The long term safety of water fluoridation, the spraying of our crops by Monsanto chemicals or, the consumption of GMO foods are just a few issues that raise serious concerns for millions of people. Instead of having a public and scientific debate to ensure safety, we instead see cover-ups, studies funded by the very Corporations who make the products or, paid experts appearing in the Media assuring us that everything is okay. Orwellian!"

He seems simply unaware that we have in fact already had a most extensive "public and scientific debate" about vaccination, fluoridation, GMO foods and chemicals on crops.  Because he doesn't understand those subjects, he resorts to conspiracy theories.

So, Yes.  Modern states are very reminiscent of historical Fascism, but it is not because of vaccination, fluoridation, GMO foods and chemicals on crops.  It is because of government controls on so much in our lives.  More on historical Fascism here

The Saker and his cohorts are in fact an example of the old saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  A real understanding of the world we live in requires a knowledge of economics and psychology, particularly economics.  And most people don't have that knowledge so give up attempting to understand why things happen. But the Saker and his cohorts don't give up.  They are intelligent people with enquiring minds so try to find explanations that make sense to them.  And conspiracy theories are a classic resort of those who don't actually understand.

They read far and wide and still find puzzles. And only a conspiracy theory explains who so many bad things happen for no apparent reason.  So only a theory of bad men secretly getting together to do bad things fits the facts as they know them.

I found the same thing in my studies of neo-Nazis long ago.  They were people with a real interest in world affairs and a considerable knowledge of what was happening. But only a Jewish conspiracy made sense of it all from their point of view.

For both the neo-Nazis and the Saker crowd, a course in economics would have given them a real understanding of what was going on -- but economics is hard.  Ricardo's law of comparative advantage, for instance, runs up hard against everyday assumptions about trade -- so requires real thought. Commonsense will get you nowhere in economics

An example of how things are non-obvious in economics is the  effects of the velocity of circulation of money.  Major Douglas built his Social Credit movement on a misunderstanding of that  and both Left and Right at times use that misunderstanding to demonize "the banks".

It is such a powerful misunderstanding that my own brother believed it for many years and I had the devil of a job to show him where the error lay.  More on Social Credit here.

So one can't blame the Saker for his errors but it is a pity that he propagates them. Humility would better become him -- JR


The End of Identity Liberalism


The article below first appeared in the NYT just over a year ago (Nov. 18), when it generated a furore among Leftists.  Why?  It is a very level-headed article and in fact hits on the very issues  which led to the triumph of Trump on Nov. 8.  He is essentially an old-fashioned Leftist who thinks that the Democratic party needs to stick to traditional Leftist themes if it wants to win power and do good.

It is what he criticizes that led to fury, however. He points out quite logically that the current Democrat obsession with identity politics cannot win a majority.  Focusing on homosexuals, feminists, blacks etc. simply leaves out the great majority of people who are not part of those minorities.  Mainstream people will tend to feel left out and will look to someone who includes them.  

The Left talk about inclusion but their version of inclusion tends to exclude the majority.  Leftist "inclusion" consists of forcing minorities down the throats of the majority, with no concern about how the majority might feel about that.

As Lilla said, the majority did feel left out and looked for someone who spoke for them: Donald Trump.

So why did that very reasonable and much needed message arouse so much rejection among American Leftists ("liberals" if you like)?  I think a major reason is in the tone of the article.  There is no rage and hate in it.  It is just calm and considered.  It could mostly have been written by a conservative.  

The Left feed on rage and hate and Lilla gave them not a skerrick of that.  In those circumstances what he was arguing hardly mattered.  He was not one of "us" to Leftist readers.  Every word of his was therefore suspect

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.

But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?

This campus-diversity consciousness has over the years filtered into the liberal media, and not subtly. Affirmative action for women and minorities at America’s newspapers and broadcasters has been an extraordinary social achievement — and has even changed, quite literally, the face of right-wing media, as journalists like Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham have gained prominence. But it also appears to have encouraged the assumption, especially among younger journalists and editors, that simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs.

Recently I performed a little experiment during a sabbatical in France: For a full year I read only European publications, not American ones. My thought was to try seeing the world as European readers did. But it was far more instructive to return home and realize how the lens of identity has transformed American reporting in recent years. How often, for example, the laziest story in American journalism — about the “first X to do Y” — is told and retold. Fascination with the identity drama has even affected foreign reporting, which is in distressingly short supply. However interesting it may be to read, say, about the fate of transgender people in Egypt, it contributes nothing to educating Americans about the powerful political and religious currents that will determine Egypt’s future, and indirectly, our own. No major news outlet in Europe would think of adopting such a focus.

But it is at the level of electoral politics that identity liberalism has failed most spectacularly, as we have just seen. National politics in healthy periods is not about “difference,” it is about commonality. And it will be dominated by whoever best captures Americans’ imaginations about our shared destiny. Ronald Reagan did that very skillfully, whatever one may think of his vision. So did Bill Clinton, who took a page from Reagan’s playbook. He seized the Democratic Party away from its identity-conscious wing, concentrated his energies on domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance) and defined America’s role in the post-1989 world. By remaining in office for two terms, he was then able to accomplish much for different groups in the Democratic coalition. Identity politics, by contrast, is largely expressive, not persuasive. Which is why it never wins elections — but can lose them.

The media’s newfound, almost anthropological, interest in the angry white male reveals as much about the state of our liberalism as it does about this much maligned, and previously ignored, figure. A convenient liberal interpretation of the recent presidential election would have it that Mr. Trump won in large part because he managed to transform economic disadvantage into racial rage — the “whitelash” thesis. This is convenient because it sanctions a conviction of moral superiority and allows liberals to ignore what those voters said were their overriding concerns. It also encourages the fantasy that the Republican right is doomed to demographic extinction in the long run — which means liberals have only to wait for the country to fall into their laps. The surprisingly high percentage of the Latino vote that went to Mr. Trump should remind us that the longer ethnic groups are here in this country, the more politically diverse they become.

Finally, the whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.

We need a post-identity liberalism, and it should draw from the past successes of pre-identity liberalism. Such a liberalism would concentrate on widening its base by appealing to Americans as Americans and emphasizing the issues that affect a vast majority of them. It would speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another. As for narrower issues that are highly charged symbolically and can drive potential allies away, especially those touching on sexuality and religion, such a liberalism would work quietly, sensitively and with a proper sense of scale. (To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, America is sick and tired of hearing about liberals’ damn bathrooms.)

Teachers committed to such a liberalism would refocus attention on their main political responsibility in a democracy: to form committed citizens aware of their system of government and the major forces and events in our history. A post-identity liberalism would also emphasize that democracy is not only about rights; it also confers duties on its citizens, such as the duties to keep informed and vote. A post-identity liberal press would begin educating itself about parts of the country that have been ignored, and about what matters there, especially religion. And it would take seriously its responsibility to educate Americans about the major forces shaping world politics, especially their historical dimension.

Some years ago I was invited to a union convention in Florida to speak on a panel about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Four Freedoms speech of 1941. The hall was full of representatives from local chapters — men, women, blacks, whites, Latinos. We began by singing the national anthem, and then sat down to listen to a recording of Roosevelt’s speech. As I looked out into the crowd, and saw the array of different faces, I was struck by how focused they were on what they shared. And listening to Roosevelt’s stirring voice as he invoked the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear — freedoms that Roosevelt demanded for “everyone in the world” — I was reminded of what the real foundations of modern American liberalism are.