How different is the reaction to Trump?

It is tempting to see the huge rage against Trump currently emanating from the Left as the result of how radically Trump diverges from convention.  He may be the most radical President America has ever had, given the number of customs, precedents and assumptions that he has steamed right past.

But the extent of the rage may in fact not be unique to him.  I have an article here which gives a lot of quotes about the outpouring of rage and hate that flowed from the election of the very mild and compromising George W. Bush.  ANYTHING that undermines their delusions seems to push Leftists into foaming rage.


Hate from the anti-hate brigade

The text below is from a British group calling itself "Resisting hate".  They have clearly got a lot of their own hate to go around. They clearly hate Mr Trump (of course!) and various people in Europe.

And they make not the slightest attempt to justify their hate-speech.  They call Mr Trump a Fascist  -- quite ignoring the fact that Fascists practice strong government control of people while Mr Trump is a vigorous de-regulator.  They hate him so much that they call him by his opposite.  A nasty lot

It's all rather amusing, actually.  The Left are great users of Freudian projection -- seeing their own faults in others.  And the screed below is a nice example of that

There is little need to recap the chaos of 2016. Certainly to anyone with a social media presence or who reads the newspapers the horrors have been all too evident. From an increase in worldwide terrorism to the shock Brexit referendum through the rise in Nationalism, evidenced by support for hate groups like Britain First and National Action, and culminating in the election of a fascist to the American presidency – 2016 was not a good year for humanity.

The worry for many is that 2017 will bring more of the same. Trump takes up his seat in the White House in January, The Netherlands have a strong candidate for hate – Geert Wilders – in their March elections and the equally abhorrent Marine Le Pen, the fascist leader of Front National in France has promised a referendum on the French exit from the EU “Frexit” if she comes to power in April.



Strange science

The article below says that global warming cools the temperature in the Pacific and that a cooler Pacific is likely to produce centuries of drought in California.  It appeared just 4 months before the current floods: A very large predictive failure.  

But it was a nutty article anyway.  The Pacific is the world's largest body of water.  Why should global warming cool it?  How can something global leave out the Pacific or even a large part of the Pacific? The authors could have avoided the egg currently residing on their faces if they had questioned their finding that warming causes ocean cooling.  Such an absurd finding should have led them to question whether or not something was wrong with their research methods.  There clearly was.

Prolonged California aridity linked to climate warming and Pacific sea surface temperature

Glen M. MacDonald et al.


California has experienced a dry 21st century capped by severe drought from 2012 through 2015 prompting questions about hydroclimatic sensitivity to anthropogenic climate change and implications for the future. We address these questions using a Holocene lake sediment record of hydrologic change from the Sierra Nevada Mountains coupled with marine sediment records from the Pacific. These data provide evidence of a persistent relationship between past climate warming, Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) shifts and centennial to millennial episodes of California aridity. The link is most evident during the thermal-maximum of the mid-Holocene (~8 to 3 ka; ka = 1,000 calendar years before present) and during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) (~1 ka to 0.7 ka). In both cases, climate warming corresponded with cooling of the eastern tropical Pacific despite differences in the factors producing increased radiative forcing. The magnitude of prolonged eastern Pacific cooling was modest, similar to observed La Niña excursions of 1o to 2 °C. Given differences with current radiative forcing it remains uncertain if the Pacific will react in a similar manner in the 21st century, but should it follow apparent past behavior more intense and prolonged aridity in California would result.



Are there costs which outweigh the benefits of free trade?

Below is an argument from a prominent British libertarian -- Sean Gabb -- which argues for trade policies similar to those advocated by President Trump.  It is in a sense Trumpian economics -- though it does not make one mention of Trump and uses British  examples exclusively.

Gabb writes very simply but he does to a degree assume a knowledge of economics and its language.  Trump has a degree in economics too. Nonetheless, a careful reading should  make Gabb's arguments comprehensible.  In any case, I think I should highlight a few points.

For many years now, economists have pointed out that free trade increases wealth.  It does so by making everything cost less.  Older Wal-Mart customers will be acutely aware of that.  I remember when an electric fan cost around $100.  Now they can be had for around $10 -- because they are now made in China.

So the assumption on both sides of politics has long been that we should free up trade as much as possible. And it took the Donald to question that. He hasn't shattered the consensus yet but his  is a huge innovation in policy and a big sign of unconventional thinking.  Trump as innovator!  And now that Trump has challenged the consensus by talking of higher tariffs and other policies designed to increase the "Made in USA" label on goods sold in the USA, other people are beginning to say:  "Hey!  Maybe he has got a point".  And Sean Gabb below makes a very erudite argument in favour of broadly Trumpian policies.

So an argument now being made by many is that price is not the only test of how good or wise a policy is. There may be benefits of making a good in the USA that justfies a higher price for that good.  Money is not everything.

That is not an entirely new argument.  Economists have always allowed some exceptions to the benefits of free trade,  The infant industry argument and the defence industry argument are well known and there also the less known but equally cogent case known as the Australian case.  And Gabb gives further examples of potential non-price benefits from home manufacture.  I think he makes the best argument yet for that case, in fact.

Much more innovatively, he makes an argument that I have not seen before which downplays the price disadvantage from home manufacture.  He points to what is the undoubtedly high cost of transporting goods.  A farmer can get 10c for an apple he has  grown which retails in the shops for $1.00.  Why?  There are several reasons but a major one is the cost of transporting it to your local supermarket.  The transport industry can easily take a bite out of the $1.00 that you pay which is 2 or 3 times what the farmer gets.  And there is no escaping that.  Truck drivers are not usually highly paid unless they work very long hours and most of what could be done to make cheaper trucks has been done.

Gabb takes up that situation and notes something that is seldom mentioned but which is quite extraordinary when you think about it.  He says that transport costs are heavily subsidized by governments.  Almost all of the costs of freeways, railroads, local roads and defence against piracy at sea are borne by taxpayers, not the users of those facilities.  Trucking firms do pay road use levies of various sorts but such levies are tiny compared with the huge cost of building just one mile of freeway, for instance. So from that, Gabb argues that the high costs of transprt would be even higher without the extensive government provision of almost "free" transport infrastrucure.

So in an ideal world where everybody paid for what they used, high transport costs would encourage goods to be made at home. A  thing might be made cheaper in China but the costs of getting it to you might make its total final cost dearer. It is an innovative and clever argument and there is undoubtedly some truth in it -- but I don't fully buy it.  I am not in a position to do the numbers but I doubt that transport costs could account for the recent reduction in costs of electric fans (for instance).  Most of the transport of goods from China is seaborne and that is very cheap per cubic meter on today's huge container ships.  And containerization makes most of the remaining trip (on land) pretty cheap too.

But there is clearly SOME "unfair" advantage given to remote manufacturers by subsidized transport, so the remaining question is how do we account for or allow for that advantage given to those manufacturers?  It would take some sophisticated econometrics to find out but there is clearly no likelihood that national trade policy will be set by econometricians.  We may simply have to hope that whatever tariff Mr Trump and Congress decide on will not be too far wide of that mark.

From all the considerations given below, however, it is clear that Mr Trump's tariff proposals have substantial intellectual support. They are in no way the sheer ignorance that Leftists claim

Briefly stated, the claim is that, since about 1970, shifts in comparative advantage [under freeish trade] have brought about a swift and fundamental deindustrialisation of Britain; and that this has impoverished millions of working class people.

There is the separate claim that the globalisation of which free trade has been made a part has subjected us to a New World Order that is openly working for our destruction as a free people, or as any people at all. However, since I and many other libertarians accept this claim in full, there is no point in discussing it. I will only add that free trade has existed without a supranational government, and that opposition to the latter has no bearing on the desirability of the former. Free trade is the uncontrolled movement of goods and services across borders. It does not need treaties to harmonise the sale of Vitamin C, or armies of bureaucrats to enforce the treaties. I will move, then, to the primary claim, which is mostly in dispute – though for which there is an arguable case.

Until the 1970s, almost every manufactured good sold in this country was made in this country. In terms of price and quality, these goods were often inferior to those made abroad, and had a market only because of the trade barriers that had grown up since the 1930s. On the other hand, British manufacturing firms gave jobs, directly or indirectly, to millions. These jobs were reasonably well-paid and reasonably secure. They gave those holding them the confidence to speak their minds, and to combine in defence of their collective interests as they perceived them. No doubt, these perceived collective interests were often false, and often defended with an absence of forethought. If there was also bad management, strikes and restrictive practices had their part in the ruin of British manufacturing. But I am old enough to remember when doctors and architects did not earn incomparably more than working class people, and when it was common to believe that we were all part of one nation.

Freer trade since the late 1970s has given us manufactured goods about as good and cheap as they can presently be. Most of these are made abroad. If the extent of British deindustrialisation can be overstated – we remain one of the main manufacturing countries; and some of our manufacturing exports have no competition – mass-employment in manufacturing is a thing of the past. Unless they have the skills to make it as sole traders, working class people nowadays have three options. In the private sector, they can take jobs in which the main qualities required seem to be obedience and a pretence of enthusiasm for employers whose own sense of obligation is limited to the contractual. They can become petty functionaries in state and quasi-state bureaucracies that should not exist. They can sink into an underclass that is kept alive by a combination of welfare handouts and crime.

The progress of the past forty years has been so great, that everyone benefits to some extent. Holidays in the sun can be had for the price of a thousand cigarettes, as can 50 inch television sets. Property, though, is increasingly difficult to buy; and rents can take up half the average income after tax. Working class people are insecure in their jobs. They are usually in debt. They are easily tyrannised over. They know they cannot speak freely on a range of subjects they think important. Unless on welfare, they have fewer children than their grandparents had. They are credulous. They are superstitious. They are feared by those above them, but easily managed, and therefore despised.

The main beneficiaries of what has happened since the 1970s are those in the professions or the senior reaches of an expanded financial sector. Our incomes have risen most impressively. And far above us floats the new elite of the super rich. Men like Richard Branson and the Mittal Brothers and the hedge fund managers, and the Russian billionaires who have settled here, have been raised up by the growing importance of London as a financial centre. Whether or not they share our nationality, they live among us, but are in no sense with us. The policies they are able to buy from our rulers will have only an accidental congruence with our interests. They find Britain convenient as a trading platform and shopping centre. Unlike the rest of us, who may have little else, these rich have no country.

In part, these changes are an effect of mass-immigration. You need to be a ruling class intellectual to deny the laws of demand and supply in labour markets. But the main cause has been a shift in the pattern of comparative advantage. Even without the twenty or thirty million immigrants of the past half century, mass-employment in manufacturing would have declined. Without the newcomers, the fall in working class living standards would have been greatly moderated. But there would still be no cotton mills in Lancashire, and no computer factories to take their place. The centre of London would still be packed with rich aliens of every nationality, including our own. Free trade necessarily expands output. It does not necessarily produce benefits that are equally shared.

The depression of our working classes is a legitimate concern. These are our people. Any libertarian who rolls his eyes at the phrase “our people” is a fool. Any who starts parroting the self-righteous cant of our rulers is a villain. All else aside, free institutions are unworkable in a society where large numbers of people are going visibly down the toilet. Does this mean that free trade is no longer in our national interest? Does it mean that, if still undeniable as an abstract proposition, the Law of Comparative Advantage no longer applies in the interests of our nation as a whole?

The answer to the question may be yes. If so, I as a libertarian must choose to stand up as a wooden ideologue or as a man of sense. I have always tried to be the latter. I believe in a world where everyone has the right to do with himself and his own as he pleases – a right bounded only by the equal right of everyone else to do the same. I look forward to a world without governments, and therefore without national borders and border controls. This does not mean, however, that I believe in the immediate and unordered throwing off of the present restraints. I see no value in arguing for specific freedoms, the exercise of which would undermine the existence of liberty in general. A sensible libertarian should argue for the present enjoyment only of those liberties that can be sustained.

I give the example of a restraint that I have already gone out of my way to support. There are good reasons for letting people settle anywhere on this planet where they can, by free bargaining, find jobs and accommodation. And there are better reasons why most people should not be allowed to settle in Britain. To be blunt, I accept the need for strict immigration control, and for even stricter controls on citizenship and its resulting membership of the political nation. I am not impressed by any of the apologetics by which some libertarians claim that this acceptance is other than it is. It is a clear breach of the non-aggression principle, and should be seen as such. But not to breach it in this case strikes me as lunacy. Unlimited immigration would lead to the erasure of one of the few nations and political orders in which the non-aggression principle has been even partially accepted.

This being so, free trade cannot be immune from reconsideration. It suited us very well in the nineteenth century. We emerged as the first industrial nation in a world where we controlled the seas and much territory outside Europe. Despite claims that it did not, it continued to suit us down to the Great War; and it would have continued to suit us right into the 1980s. But times may now have altered. If they have, we must consider some form of protection. I repeat that I am not rejecting the Law of Comparative Advantage. Protection always involves costs. Even assuming better management and less obstructive trade unions, prices of manufactured good would be higher – sometimes much higher. The compensation must be higher median living standards in both the material and the immaterial sense.

Nevertheless, before throwing up the case for free trade, there are three further considerations to discuss. The first is a harder look at the costs of protection. For as long as I have known him, Robert Henderson has been arguing for a “judicious” home preference. The assumption behind this is a belief that trade policy can easily be set in the national interest. But politics is at best a dirty business. Politicians and officials are always for sale; and the acceptance of trade protection would bring a cataract of bribes from every manufacturing company with money to spend. Robert believes that protection should cover things like steel and aeroplanes and electronics – things in which we have no present comparative advantage, but which are otherwise suited to our national abilities. The reality might be the equivalent of growing grapes in Scotland. Protection might give us a trade policy not in any national interest, but in the interest of a cartel of skilled bribe-givers and experts in public relations. We may differ in regarding Imperial Germany with admiration or distaste. But the men who built up those great cartels in steel and machinery and chemicals before 1914 were broadly pro-German. In present circumstances, and for the foreseeable future, protection would add to the number of the powerful and unaccountable interest groups that are busily enslaving us.

Nor in a protected economy need there be the same incentives as under free trade to innovation and product development and the control of costs. Whatever we think of their industrial achievement, the Germans did lose the Great War; and they lost in part because their industry was less responsive and less innovative than our own. Or, for the main current example of what can happen under protection, there is India before the liberalisations of the 1990s. There is also our own example. British manufacturing suffered from the opening of trade in the late 1970s compelled by the EEC and the GATT treaties. One of the reasons it was so damaged was that it had enjoyed nearly half a century of protection in its home markets, and this had enabled the growth of bad management and bad union practices. Before it could be nearly destroyed, British manufacturing was already nearly ruined. Can we really be sure that the same would not happen again? Do we want to go to all the trouble of uncoupling ourselves from a system that brings some benefits to some people, and end up with a repeat of the British Leyland fiasco?

The second consideration is that comparative advantage is not something beyond our control. It is not like the climate, which heats and cools in time with changes inside the Sun, or with variations in our orbit about it. I have mentioned the unions and the quality of management. Luckier in both, the Germans have kept more of their manufacturing despite broad similarities of trading environment. Traditionalists and libertarians usually agree that business in this country is both over-taxed and over-regulated. Well, the health and safety laws alone may have cost us half a million jobs. Our environmental laws and energy policy may have done the same. When it was introduced in the 1960s, capital gains tax is said to have ended most non-institutional investment – that is, much investment into small manufacturing. The overall burden of tax, plus inflation, has diverted most saving and investment into the City casino banks.

Looking at opposite tendencies, comparatively free prospecting for oil and gas in the United States has brought down energy prices there; and this is bringing back manufacturing industry previously lost to China. If we were to cut taxes and regulations at least to American levels, we might have more factories and jobs in the north of England. We could do this without losing the benefits of free trade. It might mean breaking a few treaties, but would not require a siege economy.

The third consideration follows from the second, but takes a more radical path. I have argued so far on the assumption that the economic structure of this country as it emerged a couple of centuries ago is worth defending or restoring. I do not share the view taken by many traditionalists that this structure was an abusive breach with immemorial and better ways of life. The enclosures had already worked a destructive revolution in the countryside. Most people there, by about 1815, had been reduced to a rural proletariat. Industrial society, as it emerged during the nineteenth century, enabled a quadrupling of population by 1914 with a strong upward movement in living standards. But, though better than most of the alternatives, I do not think our country, as it came into the twentieth century, was living in the best of possible worlds. I believe that we, and every other country that has followed our path, took a wrong approach to the Industrial Revolution.

In every industrial country, there has been a tendency for large organisations to outcompete smaller on price, and for goods to emerge at competitive prices from supply chains that may begin on the far side of the world. For example, I live in Kent, which is one of the main apple growing areas in England. My local Sainsbury sells apples from China for less than the local farm shops can sell their own apples. Is this a triumph of free market capitalism, for libertarians to celebrate and traditionalists to deplore? Or is it the outcome of a thoroughly interventionist order, from which the big and the distant gain illegitimate advantages over the small and local?

I think the latter is the case. There are still many libertarians – and these determine how the movement as a whole is seen – for whom utopia is Tesco minus the State. They believe that doing away with taxes and regulations and privilege for the well-connected would bring into being a world recognisably similar to our own. It would be richer and more peaceful and more just. But it would have much the same structures of centralised production and widespread distribution, and of wage labour. There are other libertarians – Kevin Carson, for example – who take a fundamentally different view of what might emerge in the absence of distortions by the State. And, for all they denounce traditionalism, and see themselves as on the “left,” they are elaborating a version of libertarianism that few traditionalists might see as hostile to their own concerns.

During the past few hundred years, the British State, among others, has been subsidising road and rail and, more recently, air transport. These subsidies take the form of direct building, or of financial underwriting or other assistance, or of compulsory purchase and incorporation laws that externalise many of the private costs of construction and use and maintenance. Without subsidy, roads and railways would still have been built. But there would have been fewer of them, and full-cost charging for use would have directed a higher proportion of investment into local networks.

The subsidised infrastructure that we have is biased towards transport over long distances. It raises the maximum scale of production. Internal economies of scale in a factory are worthless if distribution costs make the price of output uncompetitive in all but very local markets. Centralised production for a national market may be worthwhile in a country where distribution costs must be reflected in price. It will be far more worthwhile in a country where distribution costs are partly met by the taxpayers.

What is true of national distribution networks is also true at the level of international trade. British and then American control of the seas has made shipping safe from piracy. British and American control of the Middle East has externalised many of the costs of oil drilling and movement. British and American armed interventions stabilised less powerful countries for the sale of our industrial output, and then for the development of manufacturing industry in places where the local ruling classes could be bribed and assisted into making labour both cheap and docile.

These facts go far to explaining why Chinese apples undercut Kentish apples in Kent, and why it is worth concentrating the manufacture of virtually all electronic goods in a few coastal regions of China, and why most of the clothes we buy are put together in Turkish and Bangladeshi sweatshops. It goes far to explaining why, when I drive home every summer from the family trip to Slovakia, I share fabulously expensive motorways with lorries that pay a pittance per mile, and burn diesel at prices – even allowing for taxes – far below the real cost of extraction and transport, and that are carrying goods to places like Manchester and Leeds where once whole armies were employed in their manufacture.

In short, the manufacturing side of the globalisation that traditionalists denounce proceeds from a pattern of comparative advantage that makes sense only on the basis of systematic externalisations of cost. This is not a natural order. It is not free market capitalism. It is instead a global mercantilism in which a cartel of ruling classes has decided that certain regions should specialise in certain activities. If notebook computers are not made in Basingstoke, it may be less because firms in Canton are better at making them than because their final prices all over the world do not take fully into account their costs of manufacture and distribution.

It may be that these interventions lead to positive externalities that outweigh the externalised costs. But this is to put a faith in the wisdom of politicians and bureaucrats that is not supported by our everyday experience. More likely, costs are not merely shifted from those incurring them, but also magnified before they are dispersed, if in ways that none of us can fully understand.

Let us try to imagine the shape of a world in which these interventions had not begun. It might now be a place of largely independent communities, with much production of food and energy and manufactured goods close to market. There would have been an industrial revolution. But it would have taken a different path. There would be advanced technology. But it would be different in its objects. There would be some centralised production, but only where its full distribution costs were reflected in price. There would be some international specialisation and trade on the basis of comparative advantage. But this would not be so omnipresent, nor so able to produce vast and sudden dislocations. There would be neither corrupt, free-floating elites nor an alienated proletariat. But there would be much freedom and much regard for tradition.

In the world as it is, the British working classes have been smashed not by free trade, but by systematic state interventions so longstanding that we are liable to take them as inevitable. The answer is not to call for the State to make up sliding scale tariffs or to set quotas on South Korean washing machines. Rather, it is for the initial interventions to be swept away. Two centuries of the world as it is cannot be undone at once. But we can hope that a root and branch attack on the enabler of that world will allow something more natural to take its place.

I have said that there are differences between libertarians and traditionalists over what constitutes the substance of the good society. Rightly considered, I increasingly wonder where the real differences need to be about the form of that society, and over how to get there.



Australia's new political divide: 'globalists' versus 'patriots'

There is often talk that the old Left/Right divide is inadequate.  Eysenck made a big deal of that in his 1954 book. And libertarians too think a two dimensional description is needed.  A fairly typical example is below:

So the claims below are not very new.

I paid considerable attention to the matter in my research career, as you will see here but my conclusion was that a second dimension of attitudes did not emerge from the survey results.  Only the old Left/Right division could be found.

An important qualification to that is that OBLIQUE factors could be found.  In other words, the Left/Right domain was not totally homogeneous.  For example, there is a dimension of economic conservatism plus a dimension of moral conservatism.  Statements within those two domains correlate highly with one another but the correlation between moral conservatism overall and economic conservatism overall was weak:  Weak but not non-existent.

In other words, economic conservatives also tended -- somewhat -- to be conservative on moral issues.  And those two dimensions are the chief sub-dimensions of the Left/Right continuum.  They emerge repeatedly in survey research.  Despite some wrangling, Economic and moral conservatives do find common cause in everyday politics.  They have enough in common to co-operate with one-another.

So what are we to make of the findings below?  Clearly, they have identified two distinct factors.  But how oblique are those factors?  We are not told.  I am almost certain that the two factors will in fact be very oblique, very highly correlated.  Patriotism is normally a strong component of conservatism and internationalism is normally a Leftist ideal. Leftists continue to salute the United Nations despite the gross corruption in that body.

So all that I think the authors below have done is rediscover the old Left/Right divide. They have identified a group of statements that conservatives strongly agree with -- patriotic statements -- and a group of statements that get strong support from Leftists -- globalism. Two particular subsets of Left/Right attitudes have come under sharper focus and gained greater importance recently

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Openness. That is the word Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe chose to emphasise at his first public outing this year.

In Australia there is an "openness and transparency" not always found elsewhere, he told a high-powered business gathering at the Opera House on Thursday night.

And openness to trade and investment has been fundamental to the nation's prosperity.  Australia is "committed to an open international order," Lowe said.

Those sentiments might have seemed routine a few years back. But in the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump "openness" to the world economy – often referred to  as globalisation – is now a hotly contested political issue.

A little over a year ago Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right Front National party and a presidential contender, cast political battlelines as being no longer "between the left and the right but the globalists and the patriots". The globalists, she sneered, are for the dissolution of France into a "global magma".

Greg Ip, a Wall Street Journal economics commentator, wrote last month that Le Pen's remarks foreshadowed "the tectonic forces that would shake up the world in 2016".

Opposition to globalisation – the increasing movement of goods, money and people across international borders – was a key theme of Trump campaign to become president of the US. From now on it is going to be "America First", he says repeatedly.

In Australia, Pauline Hanson has globalisation in her sights. In her maiden speech to the Senate in September she accused national leaders of giving away our sovereignty, our rights, our jobs and even our democracy.  "Their push for globalisation, economic rationalism, free trade and ethnic diversity has seen our country's decline," she said.

In pitting globalists  against patriots Le Pen neatly summed up a new and unpredictable political fissure that cuts across old divisions between left and right.

Ip predicts the tussle between globalism and nationalism "will shape the coming era much as the struggle between conservatives and liberals has shaped the last".

This political split has emerged during a period of rapid global economic integration. In the two decades before the onset of the global financial crisis in 2007 international trade in goods and services grew by 7 per cent a year on average – a much faster rate than global GDP.

This has been a period of great prosperity for Australia, which has not experienced a recession for a quarter of a century. But there has also been a marked shift in the structure of the economy. Since the mid-1990s manufacturing's share of Australia's economic output has fallen from 14 per cent to about 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, the importance of knowledge-intensive service industries such as finance and professional services has grown significantly. Similar trends have been at work in other advanced economies.

The flow of migrants to Australia – another factor many associate with globalisation – has also been strong. The proportion of Australians born overseas reached 28 per cent in 2014-15, the highest proportion in more than 120 years.

There are now signs the tussle Ip describes between globalist and nationalist sentiment has become an important political fault line in Australia.

Polling for the Political Personas Project commissioned by Fairfax Media and conducted by the Australian National University and Netherlands-based political research enterprise Kieskompas, shows public opinion is divided over the merits of trade liberalisation, one of globalisation's fundamentals.

The statement "free trade with other countries has made Australia better off" could not muster support from the majority of the 2600 voters surveyed – 44.7 per cent agreed (but only 7.1 per cent strongly), 27.5 per cent disagreed and 27.8 per cent were neutral.

There is a similar split when voters are asked to assess the impact of globalisation.

A separate Ipsos survey released in December found 48 per cent of Australians considered globalisation a "force for good" while 22 per cent said it was a "force for bad", with 29 per cent undecided.

Carol Johnson, professor of politics and international studies at the University of Adelaide, said many voters have, over time, become more aware of globalisation's drawbacks.

"Twenty years ago, the electorate seemed prepared to believe that while there were some risks to opening up the economy, there would also be benefits," she said.  "Part of what happened is that people are now more aware that many of our competitor countries, including Asian countries, are more than capable of developing these [high-tech and service] industries themselves.

"The assumption that Western countries will always be superior has started to come undone and voters are becoming worried that government hasn't got right the mix of balancing the benefits and downsides of globalisation."

Polling for the Political Personas Project found more than eight in 10 voters believe "we rely too heavily on foreign imports and should manufacture more in Australia". This statement received more support than any other proposition in the survey, which covered dozens of hot-button political issues.

Jill Sheppard, a researcher from the ANU's Centre for Social Research and Method who was involved in the project, said public concern about the decline of manufacturing was linked to perceptions of globalisation.

"Globalisation seems to manifest in people's minds as manufacturing and jobs going offshore. They think about cheap labour in Asian countries, which seem like a direct threat to us."



More on the Bates revelations about the NOAA paper by Tom Karl

The writer below says that the Bates revelations have one and one only important implication:  That unvalidated data was used.  In my career as a psychometrician, I too often railed against the unvalidated data often used by my fellow social scientists.  So I agree that use of unvalidated data means that the conclusions of that particular study cannot be accepted.

I don't think the problem ends there, however.  I think it unlikely that the data used CAN be validated.  The revelation about the best measurements of sea surface temperature not being used do, I think, have that implication. They imply that the data body used was constructed to defraud

It is sometimes said science is all about data… observation, measurement, experiment, measurement… But that is NOT the whole story. To ensure data is reliable and understood, we’ve developed standard units of measure, and document procedures used to obtain and record measurements. The intention is to make sure BOTH the data AND collection methods can be reliably understood and used by others. The fleshed out version of this is the scientific method, and is integral to, and indispensable in the advance of science. It works because it helps eliminate bias and protect the integrity of both data and process. Any departure from rigorous adherence to these principles may or may not adversely affect data. But it increases the risk, and introduces doubt as to the overall integrity. And any subsequent reliance on this data must not assert confidence levels beyond the weakest preceding link. For example, it would be inaccurate or dishonest to claim 100% certainty on results that can only be replicated 50% of the time.

So let’s wind forward…

There has been much suck-and-blow blather in the aftermath of the David Rose column on the whistleblower allegations by former NOAA scientist John Bates. I won’t rehash the article, other than to say Rose does seem eager to sensationalize speculative results rather than the details, but that in no way negates the seriousness of the allegations stated. What I want to discuss is the allegations and impacts. Rose is not the story. Bates is not the story. The story is the circumvention of procedures put in place to protect the integrity of the data, and hence the reputation of the NOAA. From John Bates:

Predictably, both the “consensus” and skeptic camps largely missed the mark in jumping to defend or attack positions. There were a flurry of hastily written newspaper and blog reports on “bad data“, “data manipulation“, and “data tampering“. Bates’ report didn’t say data was deliberately compromised (he mentioned a “thumb on the scale” which he later seemed to walk back), but that the presentation may have been biased, and adherence to protocol was haphazard. These of course are different things. This opened the door for the usual suspects from the other side to rush out reports showing the NOAA data was largely in agreement with other datasets, directing the discussion away from the presentation and protocol questions to “The data checks out. See? No problem.” This was cleverly, cynically, and all too accurately highlighted by Gavin Schmidt:

Let there be NO mistake: Regardless of the best efforts of Schmidt and friends to paint this as just deniers denying, if NOAA followed THEIR OWN established protocols, there would be no story.

Now the hordes of hyperactive and secure-in-their-ignorance columnists, tweeters and bloggers from the periphery join in with escalations of character attacks, dishonest misdirections, and deliberately uncharitable interpretations of innocuous statements. The Guardian chipped in with a nastily biased bit:

Referring back to the Science Insider piece…

Just one little problem: They provide no evidence that Bates said anything about being wary of skeptics. He said “people”. And as both skeptic and consensus camps have seemingly derailed in their rush to the wrong conclusion, it could easily mean either, or more likely both.

I could go on at length about the ridiculous obfuscation and mean spirited BS thrown about during any attempted discussion of the allegations (most of which have not been denied, but rather downplayed) but I’ll save that for a separate post. That’s just another distraction from the real issue at hand.

No, the issues are as Bates outlined: “Ethical standards must be maintained”. There can be no confidence in data without confidence in the procedures surrounding collection and storage of data. And persons or organizations that place no value in these procedures further erode confidence. This happens repeatedly:

  • publicly funded trustee of information gets “sloppy”

  • concern is expressed

  • those at fault are defended

  • the ‘concerned’ are attacked

  • conversation derails

  • nothing is fixed

  • rinse and repeat
This is damaging to public confidence in climate science in particular, and government programs in general. And rightfully so. There are many billions in public funds that need to be allocated to the best possible effect. At a minimum, these continued scandals damage public willingness to invest resources required. And potentially more damaging, errors lead to resources that could have been better spent (poverty, etc) being wasted to no benefit.

Perhaps in this case no data was harmed. I hope not. But if we don’t take these matters seriously eventually there will be damages. And not just to a database.



What the elite mean by Fascism

Brendy is pretty right about current usage below but his definition of historical Fascism is weak.  As a retired Marxist, he relies largely on Trotsky for a definition of it.  And that definition is conventional rather than history-based.  The classic Marxist lie is that Fascism/Nazism was middle class.  Yet the most fanatical Nazis -- the "Sturmabteilung" -- were overwhelmingly working class.  And Hitler's origins as a hobo are also not middle class.

The defining characteristics of Fascism are socialist rhetoric and extensive government control of industry.  And those things are true of most developed nations to this day. Control of industry these days is done by laws and regulations rather than by having a party representative on-site at major business  establishments but the result is very similar.  There is great government control in both cases.  So does Fascism still exist in the world today?

It does to a considerable degree.  The overt hostility to other countries is gone but that is about it.  Historical Fascists had great national pride and tried to take over territory from other nations  -- but America's many wars abroad are not so different.  The propaganda is better but there has been an obvious intention to reform other nations along American lines.  America has tried to Americanize the world.

And it may be noted that most of America's wars have been entered into by people who also espouse socialistic rhetoric.  Socialistic rhetoric was joined with war by Hitler and the same is largely true of the USA. Democrat President Woodrow Wilson got America into WWI. FDR got it into WW2.  Kennedy got it into Vietnam.  Only the Iraq intervention was the work of a Republican and that was in response to a direct attack on the U.S. homeland -- so was essentially a defensive war.

And, as with past Fascist military adventures, American interventions abroad have had very poor success.  The last clear success was in Korea and even that succeeded only in the South.

But in a sense America's military efforts are incidental to American dominance.  American mass culture has conquered the world.  Guns and bullets are a crude instrument of influence compared to that.

So I do think that real Fascism is not only alive and well but is the dominant form of government today.

Having divorced politics from popular opinion as a way of keeping in check the presumed fascist tendencies of the masses, it is not surprising that the political class views the public’s recent attempts at ‘taking back control’, at joining back together opinion and democracy, as a return of fascism. Their great fear is that the lid they put on the masses’ latent fascism, their distancing of the political machinery from public prejudices, has been lifted. They are screaming ‘fascism’ because they see fascism in us, in ordinary people. Thus the accusation of fascism expresses a profound hostility towards democracy itself, and to the demos. It is pure elitism to see fascism in the new politics. Which is why the most elite sections of society — archbishops, princes, heads of global institutions — are often to the fore in the fascism frenzy.

And of course, what they describe as ‘fascism’ — Brexit, people worried about immigration, Trump — is nothing of the sort. These things don’t even come close to fascism. As Weismann argued, even ‘dictatorship, mass neurosis, anti-Semitism, the power of unscrupulous propaganda, the hypnotic effect of a mad-genius orator on the masses, and so on’ do not necessarily constitute fascism. Fascism, he said, was something different to all that, something more than all that. Fascism, in essence, is a mass, paramilitary movement that acts as a stand-in for normal politics and normal statehood when that politics and statehood cannot deal with a threat it faces, primarily the threat of revolution or of organised, agitating labour. As Trotsky put it, fascism occurs when the ‘police and military resources’ of a society, and its parliamentary process, ‘no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium’. In such circumstances, as happened most notably in Italy and Germany, the rulers of society give way to, or rather push to the front, a mass violent movement fashioned to crush the threatening force. Fascism, basically, is when a society in crisis green-lights civil war as a means of stabilising itself in the longer term.

This fascist movement is made up from the ‘crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralised lumpenproletariat’, in Trotsky’s colourful, cutting phrase. Brought to ‘desperation and frenzy’, this mass, paramilitarised section of society sets about ‘annihilating’ workers’ movements and of course executing anti-Semitic savagery. The consequence is that ‘a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallisation of the proletariat’ — ‘therein precisely is the gist of fascism’, said Trotsky. This is why those who say ‘the Nazis were left-wing, you know’ are wholly wrong. Fascism fundamentally represents the violent marshalling of a certain strata of society to the end of crushing the left and the working class. Yes, the Nazis in particular used socialist terms, even calling themselves the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But as Trotsky says, that was merely the means through which a mass movement could be built. Fascism’s leaders ‘employ a great deal of socialist demagogy’, he said, for this is ‘necessary to the creation of the mass movement’.

Nothing even remotely like this exists today. None of the conditions or groups that make fascism, and which make it distinct from hatred and demagoguery and even from dictatorship, exist in Europe or the US in 2017. There is no powerful workers’ movement posing such a threat to the stability of capitalism that it needs to be destroyed. No ‘crazed’ petty bourgeoisie is being armed and goaded into civil or class war as a means of ‘annihilating’ vast numbers of their fellow citizens. People — well, ordinary people — have not been whipped into a frenzy. Indeed, it is the patience of Brexit and Trump voters in the face of incessant defamation by the media and political set that is most striking.

It is a fantasy to claim fascism has made a comeback. And it’s a revealing fantasy. When the political and media elites speak of fascism today, what they’re really expressing is fear. Fear of the primal, unpredictable mass of society. Fear of unchecked popular opinion. Fear of what they view as the authoritarian impulses of those outside their social, bureaucratic sphere. Fear of the latent fascism, as they see it, of the ordinary inhabitants of Nazi-darkened Europe or of Middle America, who apparently lack the moral and intellectual resources to resist demagoguery. As one columnist put it, today’s ‘fascistic style’ of politics is a creation not so much of wicked leaders, as of the dangerous masses. ‘Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you’, he says. ‘Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you.’ In short, not leaders but the led; not the state but the people. This, precisely, is who terrifies them. This, precisely, is what they mean when they say ‘fascism’. They mean you, me, ordinary people; people who have dared to say that they want to influence politics again after years of being frozen out. When they say fascism, they mean democracy.



Sea ice around Antarctica hits record low as NASA captures the moment massive iceberg the size of Manhattan breaks away from  giant glacier

Once again a single event is being hailed as proof of global warming.  But you cannot logically do that.  A global theory requires global evidence.  You can have warming in one place while it is cooling elsewhere -- for no net effect.  And it IS cooling elsewhere.  I repeat once again the graph showing ice GROWTH in Greenland.  The authors below slide around the Greenland data by saying: "At the other end of the planet, ice covering the Arctic Ocean has set repeated lows in recent years."  It sure has -- in recent years but not this year.  Greenies sure can be slippery.

And breaking ice shelves of course do not raise the water level by one iota.  They are FLOATING ice.  Check your Archimedes.

Also note that West Antarctica is normally more prone to melting than the rest of Antarctica -- probably due to greater subsurface vulcanism

Sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to the smallest annual extent on record after years of resisting a trend of man-made global warming, preliminary U.S. satellite data has revealed.

Ice floating around the frozen continent usually melts to its smallest for the year around the end of February, the southern hemisphere summer, before expanding again as the autumn chill sets in.

This year, sea ice extent contracted to 2.287 million square kilometres (883,015 square miles) on Feb. 13, according to daily data from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

That extent is a fraction smaller than a previous low of 2.290 million sq kms (884,173 square miles) recorded on Feb. 27, 1997, in satellite records dating back to 1979.

It comes as NASA revealed stunning images of a huge area of ice breaking off from the Pine Island Glacier.

Pine Island Glacier is one of the main glaciers responsible for moving ice from the interior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the ocean.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured these images of Pine Island Glacier's floating edge before and after the recent break.

The top image shows the area on January 24, 2017, while the second image shows the same area on January 26.

About a kilometer or two of ice appears to have calved (broken off) from the shelf's front.

Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC, said he would wait for a few days' more measurements to confirm the record low.

'But unless something funny happens, we're looking at a record minimum in Antarctica. Some people say it's already happened,' he told Reuters.

'We tend to be conservative by looking at five-day running averages.'

In many recent years, the average extent of sea ice around Antarctica has tended to expand despite the overall trend of global warming, blamed on a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuels.

People sceptical of mainstream findings by climate scientists have often pointed to Antarctic sea ice as evidence against global warming. Some climate scientists have linked the paradoxical expansion to shifts in winds and ocean currents.

'We've always thought of the Antarctic as the sleeping elephant starting to stir. Well, maybe it's starting to stir now,' Serreze said.

World average temperatures climbed to a record high in 2016 for the third year in a row. Climate scientists say warming is causing more extreme days of heat, downpours and is nudging up global sea levels.

At the other end of the planet, ice covering the Arctic Ocean has set repeated lows in recent years.

Combined, the extent of sea ice at both ends of the planet is about 2 million sq kms (772,200 square miles) less than the 1981-2010 averages for mid-February, roughly the size of Mexico or Saudi Arabia.

The shocking new NASA images show the reality of the problem, as Pine Island Glacier has shed another block of ice into Antarctic waters.

The loss was tiny compared to the icebergs that broke off in 2014 and 2015, but the event is further evidence of the ice shelf's fragility.



What fun! John Cook rides again!

He is the author of the famous 97% claim and a most energetic defender of Warmism.  And he certainly is a crook Cook.  He makes a great pretence of science by reporting known facts but ignoring or leaving some things out. He then pretends that he has proven global warming.

But his latest is a superb example of psychological projection. He takes some well-known examples of psychological defence mechanisms and purports to find examples of them among climate skeptics.  But exactly those same mechanisms are common among Warmists.  An excerpt:

I’m a cognitive psychologist interested in better understanding and countering the techniques used to distort the science of climate change. I’ve found that understanding why some people reject climate science offers insight into how they deny science. By better understanding the techniques employed, you can counter misinformation more effectively.

Every movement that has rejected a scientific consensus, whether it be on evolution, climate change or the link between smoking and cancer, exhibits the same five characteristics of science denial (concisely summarized by the acronym FLICC). These are fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, cherry picking and conspiracy theories. When someone wants to cast doubt on a scientific finding, FLICC is an integral part of the misinformation toolbox.

He points to no specific examples of each fallacy among skeptics so, very briefly, let me point out how those fallacies apply to Warmists:

* Fake experts:  Al Gore

* Logical fallacies:  Some extreme weather events imply a general increase in extreme weather events

* Impossible expectations:  No change is too small to be worth noticing.  Even temperature changes in the hundredths of one degree mean something.  No change is small enough to prove temperature stasis

* Cherry picking:  Looking at only a short run of temperature records.  The Central England Temperature record goes back to 1659 and shows no trend

* Conspiracy theories:  Big oil is behind climate skepticism

Perhaps most amazing in Cook's latest screed is the way he refers to his own 97% paper.  He accurately describes it as showing that:

"Among the papers stating a position, 97 percent agreed that humans are causing global warming"

He completely skates over the fact that two thirds of the papers he examined took no position on global warming.  So only ONE THIRD of all scientists, and not 97%, agreed with global warming.  It's typical Cook.  He quotes facts but ignores their full implications.

And, as far as I can see,  that goes for all of the other claims in his paper.  For instance:  He wades in to the uproar generated by the David Rose article which questioned a paper by NOAA's Tom Karl.  He implies that Rose is wrong and the Karl paper is right.  So there has been no C21 temperature "pause".  He "forgets" to mention that, in the Fyfe et al. paper, some prominient Warmist scientists also distanced themselves from the Karl paper.  Cook is so unbalanced it is a wonder he doesn't fall over.

Cook really is a crook Cook.


'Gender disappointment'

I was delighted when my son was born but it is my one big regret that I did not have a daughter too.  But 10 IVF treatment cycles did not produce one.  So I do to a degree understand the stories of the two women below.  "Daughter deprivation" is a real thing.

But I note that both women are emphatic about gender roles. They seem to want to prove something.  It appears that they have feminist ideas that they want to apply to their daughters.  They don't want normal "girly" girls.  They want to show that girls don't have to be girly.  That makes me a bit concerned if they do end up with girly girls.  

I know one tomboyish mother who ended up unexpectedly with a "Princess" daughter but in that case it ended well.  The mother was above all kind so the princess got her frills and things

Ethically, gender selection seems to me to pose the same dilemmas as abortion but since the selection occurs before there is any consciousness, I would be inclined to look the other way -- JR

We have come to the house of a woman we won't name, in a state we won't name, to talk to her about her desperate wish to have a daughter. We have agreed to call this woman "Kate", and such is her fear of social backlash that when we interview her, we film her in silhouette.

Several other women had agreed to be interviewed by Lateline, then changed their minds over concerns they would be targeted on social media for their views.

Kate suffers from what is known as gender disappointment.

How seriously you take that concept probably goes a long way to determining how you feel about whether Australia should legalise gender selection - the use of IVF to get the baby of your desired sex.

Gender disappointment is not a medically recognised condition.  Critics call it a social construct, but venture into some closed online chat forums and you will find hundreds of Australian women who are sharing their disappointment over the sex of their children.

Kate, 29, already has two boys and is five months pregnant with her third boy - a revelation that left her "gutted". "I went to the bedroom and cried for a really long time," she says. "Then my husband came in and he cried as well. "You feel horrible, because you want to be excited that it's a boy, but part of you was really disappointed."

Kate is desperate for a daughter but she insists she doesn't want a "a ballerina, Barbie girl". "I'm not wanting someone that I can dress in pink and tie her hair up. I'm not wanting any of that," she says.

"It's just that I always imagined her and she's always existed. I feel the family isn't complete without her."

Kate and others who feel gender disappointment describe it as a guilt-ridden, debilitating depression.

"Unless someone has that desire themselves and feels how it can be all-consuming, they can't understand what it's like," she says. "It'd be so easy if I could just switch it off and just be happy."

Gender selection is not allowed in Australia, but an ethics committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council has been reviewing the guidelines for assisted reproductive technology and may make a recommendation for change.

"To you she doesn't exist yet, but to us we can't imagine a life without her," Kate wrote in her submission to the committee.

"It's really a personal decision and it's not going to hurt people the way that people seem to think it is.

"It's not going to affect the gender ratio, and it's not going to place these unrealistic ideas on the children that are being born."


Sarah has two boys, aged nine and seven, and four-year-old twin girls.

"I will talk to people and they go, 'Oh you're so lucky you got the two boys and then you got the two girls', and I will go, 'No, luck had nothing to do with that. I had to do some extreme measures to get my girls'," she says.

After having two boys, Sarah went to California, where gender selection is allowed, to go through an IVF cycle and be implanted only with the female embryos it produced.

Sarah had gone through the same range of emotions Kate is now experiencing. "It's gut-wrenching. I would be in tears," she says.

"It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't have a daughter, and I wanted that because I was so close to my mum that I wanted to be the mum that was that close to my daughter," she says.

She rejects suggestions sex selection is akin to creating a designer baby. "I didn't choose any eye colour, I didn't choose a hair colour, I just chose a girl over a boy," she says.

She is adamant that her daughters will not be expected to conform to gender stereotypes.

"I'm not going to force anything on my children," she says. "They can be gay, they can be bi, they can do whatever they want with their lives.

"I'm a live-and-let-live kind of person. "I don't judge other people, and I just hope they don't judge me in the same way."



Donald Trump backs down over 'one China policy' in call with China's Xi Jinping

By first making it clear that U.S. policy cannot be taken for granted, Trump has gained kudos by agreeing to the status quo after all.  Good negotiation tactics.  China does now to a degree owe him a favor.

The Leftist media don't or won't understand his tactics so are  full of scare stories about what Trump MIGHT do.  But his actions have been very conservative -- including his immigration restrictions, which are little different from actions by previous Presidents, such as Obama and Carter

There is a long article here by Daniel McCarthy, editor at large of The American Conservative which is headed: "Donald Trump: the method behind the madness. How the unorthodox US president may be one step ahead of his critics".  So some people at least do get how Trump works

Note also the following comment on Trump's travel ban order:

"Trump could have executed this better, and the courts absolutely got it wrong. But it's important to realize that this was also strategically calculated to play out in one of two ways: Either Trump got his way with the order (he didn't), or his base is (rightly) fired up about an activist judiciary just in time for Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Trump wins either way. And along the way, Trump successfully diverted media attention to a very temporary travel moratorium - i.e., not the most critical issue. The charitable view is that this is an example of one of Trump's deal-making trademarks, "managed chaos," in which he keeps his opponents off balance, distracted and unaware of the right hook that is, ultimately, going to win the match"

Donald Trump has backed down over his confrontational stance towards Beijing, committing to the `One China policy' in his first phone call with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, since taking office.

In a move that is certain to ease tensions between the United States and China, the US president "agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honour our `one China' policy," the White House said in a statement.

The "lengthy telephone conversation" on Thursday evening was "extremely cordial" and the two leaders "extended invitations to meet in their respective countries," the statement added.

Mr Xi told Mr Trump that he appreciated the president's reaffirmation of the policy, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.

Mr Trump angered Beijing by accepting a congratulatory call from the President of Taiwan in December, breaking decades of diplomatic protocol.

He has since suggested there could be a renegotiation of the One China policy, in which the US recognises Beijing's rule over the island. Beijing views Taiwan as a breakaway province, which will be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Observers had questioned Mr Trump's apparent willingness to use the Taiwan issue as a `bargaining chip' with China, and they believe his decision to back down over the issue is the correct one.

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said: "Trump played with the notion of using this arrangement as leverage, but I think he ultimately came to the right conclusion that this is not where the US Administration can get leverage.  "The One China Policy is not a card on the bargaining table - it is the table itself.

"Taiwan is also a vital US partner and thriving democracy of 23 million people. Its future is not ours to bargain away," Mr Haenle, who served on the National Security Council under Mr Bush and Barack Obama, told The Telegraph.

Bonnie Glaser, senior advisor for Asia at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said: "The US-China relationship has been on hold as Beijing waited for Trump to make this statement.

"Now the two countries can get down to business and discuss how to manage their differences on a wide range of issues," she told The Telegraph.



If  conservatives want to copy Trump, embracing Putin is the worst place to start (?)

Like Mr Trump, I see some virtue in Vladimir Vladimirovich and I have written to that effect on several previous occasions. (See here. Scroll down). I like Mr Putin nearly as much as I like Mr Trump, in fact.  So I am one of those evil people that the Leftist Australian  journalist  below is inveighing against. Vladimir Vladimirovich is in fact an exceptionally enlightened ruler by Russian standards.

The Leftist writer below, David Wroe, tries to make the case that Putin and Russia generally are dangerous, evil and should be shunned.  Which is amusing.  A few decades back Leftists would hear no ill about Russia -- at a time when there really was cause for concern about Russia. The points made below are however specious and are typical of the Leftist habit of telling only half the story.

Mr Putin is somehow blamed on the shooting down of a Malaysian airline over Ukraine. But the Ukraine was at the time in a civil war and was known as dangerous airspace -- and most airlines kept away from it even though that increased their costs.  It was penny-pinching bureaucrats running the Malaysian airline who took the big risk of flying their plane over Eastern Ukraine.  It is they who are to blame

It took Russia's intervention to set in train the now almost complete destruction of ISIS but our friend below can only complain that the defeat helps the Syrian government.

The Syrian government is certainly brutal but dictatorships seem to be the only sort of regime that works in Muslim lands. Islam is an authoritarian religion.  "Submit or die" is its historic message. Democracy didn't last long in Egypt. Turkey  has once again returned to a version of the authoritarian rule that has characterized most of its history and vast American efforts to democratize Iraq and Afghanistan have certainly been an abject failure.

I could go on but I think I have said enough to show that it's just the usual dishonest Leftist propaganda below.  You believe anything in it at your peril>

David Wroe

The Trumpification of the right wing of Australian politics has begun.

On Sunday night, Coalition backbencher George Christensen defended Vladimir Putin's Russia, saying on Twitter it had been "demonised unfairly" and asking, "What threat do they cause us or the West?"

This is a startling message to a country that lost 38 people in the shooting down of flight MH17 in the skies above Ukraine. In his tweets, Mr Christensen distanced Moscow from involvement in MH17 and said only that separatists "allegedly" shot down the plane, though on Monday morning he clarified that he accepted most investigators' conclusion that "separatists backed by Russia" were responsible.

But his string of tweets point to an affinity with the US President's foreign policy view that strong men who pursue their country's national interests with scant regard to the international system are to be admired and emulated.

Pauline Hanson did much the same on Monday morning, saying "I've got no problems with Vladimir" because he is "a strong leader" who is "standing up for his nation" and that's what Australians want of their leaders too.

Newsflash to them both: Australia is not the US or Russia. It is a middle power that needs rules and a level playing field. As one of our finest foreign policy thinkers, former Department of Foreign Affairs head Peter Varghese, put it in a 2015 speech: "Australia can neither bully nor buy its way in the world, so an international, rules-based order is in our best interests."

Take another one of Christensen's Sunday night tweets: "Russia [is] the real reason ISIS is losing."

Moscow has propped up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad but has targeted a wide range of anti-regime forces, not just the Islamic State, and has indiscriminately bombed civilians, killing thousands.

Its intervention has removed any incentive for Assad to compromise and allow a political solution in Syria, ensuring that Syrian Sunnis will feel aggrieved for at least another generation. That will help seed the next generation of sectarian fighters and jihadists that will replace the Islamic State when it is defeated.

By contrast, the Australian Defence Force has for more than two years carefully targeted Islamic State forces in airstrikes while advising and training Iraqi forces on the ground. Not one civilian is known to have been killed in Australian air strikes, and the ADF's efforts alongside the US have tried to avoid empowering the Assad regime.

Mr Christensen also called Russia "a democracy" and branded the hacking of US political parties "fake news", even though Mr Trump himself has admitted Russia was responsible for the hacking and US intelligence agencies have stated in a public report that Russia hacked political parties for the express purpose of tilting the election in Mr Trump's favour.

Russia is working to break up Europe and tear up the international system of rules and norms that has made the last 70 years the most prosperous and stable the world has seen. It wants to return the world to spheres of influence around powers that use might to make right.

That is the threat Russia poses to us all.



GoDaddy stopped

I really hate it when a large organization gives you a phone no. only to contact them.  It often means waiting on "hold" for half an hour or more before you get through.  Why not supply an email address?  Beats me! But it is very common.

GoDaddy tried that caper with me but my patience soon ran out.  So I sent them a nicely printed letter by snail mail.  I sent it to their Texas HQ as they had carefully hidden their Australian geographical address.

The letter was never answered.  Here it is:

I am one of your Australian customers -- 121058135.  I am writing to you in Texas because I can find no other address for you and I have long given up waiting on the line to your phone helpline.

I have received an email from you informing me that you intend to debit my account $131 for one year of internet access.  I forbid you to do that.  I did not sign up for that.

When I signed up, I made a single payment covering both a domain name and internet access.  So when I received a bill for $42 a few weeks ago, I assumed that I was again making a single comprehensive payment.  That was not so apparently.  I now gather that the bill was only for domain name support.  The amount seemed passable at the time so I paid it.

I believe that you should accept that payment to cover internet access as well.  You will get no other money from me.

I am dissatisfied with your deceptive marketing tactics and am thinking of writing to the Australian regulators about them

But thanks to the ANZ bank, I got my money back. I told them it was an unauthorized debit and they clawed the money back off GoDaddy. FU GoDaddy!


Big foot-shoot:  New baseline shows SLOWER warming

The galoots behind the study below seemed to have been unhappy that 19th century steam trains might have affected the baseline against which global warming was measured.  They argued that temperatures in the period 1720-1800 would be a better criterion for what the temperature was before industrial influences cut in.

So they did the work of getting their new baseline temperature.  But what did they find? They found that the temperature in this pre-industrial period was "likely 0.55–0.80°C cooler than 1986-2005".  That compares with the usual agreed figure of about two thirds of a degree for global warming so far.

So at the lower end the new baseline shows LESS warming than previous studies.  They were a little bit cowardly, however, in that they stated a range rather than a single figure.  Previous authors have chosen a single most likely figure.

It's a bit rough but we could take an average of their two extremes as a single figure.  In that case we are back to the two thirds of a degree already accepted. So we are left with two possible conclusions from their study.  In the modern warming period, the amount of warming is uncertain or that it is still just about the two thirds already agreed.

But here's the killer: The conventional estimate of warming shows warming of two thirds of a degree over a period of around 100 years -- which is certainly a trivially slow warming.  But the baseline in the new work is around 300 years ago.  So if a change of two thirds of a degree over one century is trivial, what is the same change over a 300 year period?  It looks like these guys have really shot warmism in the foot.

But in their usual way, most Warmists will simply choose the starting point that suits them.  Sad for them that an earlier starting point did not help.

The authors must have known they were on dangerous ground so they included the El Nino effect (2015/2016) in their estimate of current temperature.  But that is rubbish and is increasingly being recognized as such.  But it's the only way they could get their final estimate of a one degree rise

But in the end, what the work below shows is that the temperature today is very similar to the temperature of 300 years ago.  Not the desired message, I think

Estimating changes in global temperature since the pre-industrial period

Ed Hawkins et al.


Better defining (or altogether avoiding) the term ‘pre-industrial’ would aid interpretation of internationally agreed global temperature limits and estimation of the required constraints to avoid reaching those limits.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process agreed in Paris to limit global surface temperature rise to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’. But what period is ‘pre-industrial’? Some-what remarkably, this is not defined within the UNFCCC’s many agreements and protocols. Nor is it defined in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) in the evaluation of when particular temperature levels might be reached because no robust definition of the period exists. Here we discuss the important factors to consider when defining a pre-industrial period, based on estimates of historical radiative forcings and the availability of climate observations. There is no perfect period, but we suggest that 1720-1800 is the most suitable choice when discussing global temperature limits. We then estimate the change in global average temperature since pre-industrial using a range of approaches based on observations, radiative forcings, global climate model simulations and proxy evidence. Our assessment is that this pre-industrial period was likely 0.55–0.80°C cooler than 1986-2005 and that 2015 was likely the first year in which global average temperature was more than 1°C above pre-industrial levels. We provide some recommendations for how this assessment might be improved in future and suggest that reframing temperature limits with a modern baseline would be inherently less uncertain and more policy-relevant.


Race gaps in SAT scores highlight inequality and hinder upward mobility

In the usual Leftist way, the writer below doesn’t want to believe what the tests show so blames the test gap on poverty, class etc.

It is important to note, however, that the tests DO predict exam performance and graduation rates. And the racial gap in exam performance and graduation is equally large and persistent there.  Educators have been trying for years to find something, anything, that would close the black/white educational success gap but nothing has had any effect. Blacks are still much less likely to graduate.  So the SAT and the in-house assessments done by 4-year schools validate and confirm one another.  They both show poor average intellectual ability among blacks and Hispanics

And note that, as a whole, the most culturally disadvantaged group are the Asians — for many of whom English is not their native language. Yet they score high, not low in both schools and on the SAT. So blaming poor performance on environmental rather than genetic factors is just wishful thinking. The gap is real and only genetic differences explain it adequately

There is as feeble attempt below to say that the black/white difference is due to social class but that just pushes the problem back one step.  We then have to ask why blacks are much more likely to be poor.  And their lesser educational aptitude and success would be a good explanation of that too. Educational success is enormously important to subsequent economic success in America

Note that the report below is from the Brookings Institution, a Left-leaning body, but one that takes an interest in the facts

Taking the SAT is an American rite of passage. Along with the increasingly popular ACT, the SAT is critical in identifying student readiness for college and as an important gateway to higher education. Yet despite efforts to equalize academic opportunity, large racial gaps in SAT scores persist.


The SAT provides a measure of academic inequality at the end of secondary schooling. Moreover, insofar as SAT scores predict student success in college, inequalities in the SAT score distribution reflect and reinforce racial inequalities across generations.

In this paper, we analyze racial differences in the math section of the general SAT test, using publicly available College Board population data for all of the nearly 1.7 million college-bound seniors in 2015 who took the SAT. (We do not use the newest data released for the class of 2016, because the SAT transitioned mid-year to a new test format, and data has so far only been released for students who took the older test.) Our analysis uses both the College Board’s descriptive statistics for the entire test-taking class, as well as percentile ranks by gender and race. (The College Board has separate categories for “Mexican or Mexican American” and “Other Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American.” We have combined them under the term Latino.)

The mean score on the math section of the SAT for all test-takers is 511 out of 800, the average scores for blacks (428) and Latinos (457) are significantly below those of whites (534) and Asians (598). The scores of black and Latino students are clustered towards the bottom of the distribution, while white scores are relatively normally distributed, and Asians are clustered at the top:

Race gaps on the SATs are especially pronounced at the tails of the distribution. In a perfectly equal distribution, the racial breakdown of scores at every point in the distribution would mirror the composition of test-takers as whole i.e. 51 percent white, 21 percent Latino, 14 percent black, and 14 percent Asian. But in fact, among top scorers—those scoring between a 750 and 800—60 percent are Asian and 33 percent are white, compared to 5 percent Latino and 2 percent black. Meanwhile, among those scoring between 300 and 350, 37 percent are Latino, 35 percent are black, 21 percent are white, and 6 percent are Asian:

The College Board’s publicly available data provides data on racial composition at 50-point score intervals. We estimate that in the entire country last year at most 2,200 black and 4,900 Latino test-takers scored above a 700. In comparison, roughly 48,000 whites and 52,800 Asians scored that high. The same absolute disparity persists among the highest scorers: 16,000 whites and 29,570 Asians scored above a 750, compared to only at most 1,000 blacks and 2,400 Latinos. (These estimates—which rely on conservative assumptions that maximize the number of high-scoring black students, are consistent with an older estimate from a 2005 paper in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, which found that only 244 black students scored above a 750 on the math section of the SAT.)


Disappointingly, the black-white achievement gap in SAT math scores has remained virtually unchanged over the last fifteen years. Between 1996 and 2015, the average gap between the mean black score and the mean white score has been .92 standard deviations. In 1996 it was .9 standard deviations and in 2015 it was .88 standard deviations. This means that over the last fifteen years, roughly 64 percent of all test-takers scored between the average black and average white score.

These gaps have a significant impact on life chances, and therefore on the transmission of inequality across generations. As the economist Bhashkar Mazumder has documented, adolescent cognitive outcomes (in this case, measured by the AFQT) statistically account for most of the race gap in intergenerational social mobility.


There are some limitations to the data which may mean that, if anything, the race gap is being understated. The ceiling on the SAT score may, for example, understate Asian achievement. If the exam was redesigned to increase score variance (add harder and easier questions than it currently has), the achievement gap across racial groups could be even more pronounced. In other words, if the math section was scored between 0 and 1000, we might see more complete tails on both the right and the left. More Asians score between 750 and 800 than score between 700 and 750, suggesting that many Asians could be scoring above 800 if the test allowed them to.

A standardized test with a wider range of scores, the LSAT, offers some evidence on this front. An analysis of the 2013-2014 LSAT finds an average black score of 142 compared to an average white score of 153. This amounts to a black-white achievement gap of 1.06 standard deviations, even higher than that on the SAT. This is of course a deeply imperfect comparison, as the underlying population of test-takers for the LSAT (those applying to law school) is very different from that of the SAT. Nonetheless the LSAT distribution provides yet another example of the striking academic achievement gaps across race:

Another important qualification is that the SAT is no longer the nationally dominant college-entrance exam. In recent years, the ACT has surpassed the SAT in popularity. If the distributions of students taking the two exams are significantly different, focusing on one test alone won’t give a complete picture of the racial achievement gap. A cursory look at the evidence, however, suggests that race gaps on the 2016 ACT are comparable to those we observe for the SAT. In terms of composition, ACT test-takers were 54 percent white, 16 percent Latino, 13 percent black, and 4 percent Asian. Except for the substantially reduced share of Asian test-takers, this is reasonably close to the SAT’s demographic breakdown. Moreover, racial achievement gaps across the two tests were fairly similar. The black-white achievement gap for the math section of the 2015 SAT was roughly .88 standard deviations. For the 2016 ACT it was .87 standard deviations. Likewise, the Latino-white achievement gap for the math section of the 2015 SAT was roughly .65 standard deviations; for the 2016 ACT it was .54 standard deviations.


On the other hand, there is a possibility that the SAT is racially biased, in which case the observed racial gap in test scores may overstate the underlying academic achievement gap. But most of the concerns about bias relate to the verbal section of the SAT, and our analysis focuses exclusively on the math section.

Finally, this data is limited in that it doesn’t allow us to disentangle race and class as drivers of achievement gaps. It is likely that at least some of these racial inequalities can be explained by different income levels across race. Unfortunately, publicly available College Board data on class and SAT scores is limited. The average SAT score for students who identify as having parents making between $0 and $20,000 a year is 455, a score that is actually .2 standard deviations above the average score for black students (428). These numbers are fairly unreliable because of the low rates of student response; some 40 percent of test-takers do not list their household income. In comparison, only 4 percent of test-takers fail to provide their racial identification.

However, a 2015 research paper from the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley shows that between 1994 and 2011, race has grown more important than class in predicting SAT scores for UC applicants. While it is difficult to extrapolate from such findings to the broader population of SAT test-takers, it is unlikely that the racial achievement gap can be explained away by class differences across race.


Given the reliance of colleges on test scores for admissions, the gaps in SAT math performance documented here will continue to reproduce patterns of inequality in American society. It seems likely, however, that colleges rely too heavily on such tests. Research from William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, and Michael McPherson suggests that high school grades may have more incremental predictive power of college grades and graduation rates. The SAT may not be a good measure of student potential.

Even to the extent that SAT scores do predict college success, it is far from clear that universities are justified in basing admissions so strongly on the exam. After all, a wide range of other morally relevant considerations—questions of distributive justice, for example—may well need to be weighed alongside considerations of academic preparation.

Significant racial and class inequalities much earlier in life explain persistent obstacles to upward mobility and opportunity. The extensive racial gaps in academic achievement and college preparation across high school seniors are symptomatic of those deeper drivers of inequality. Accordingly, policy efforts may be more effective if they target underlying sources of these achievement gaps. That means experimenting with earlier childhood interventions of the sort we have described elsewhere: increasing cash transfers to disadvantaged parents with young children, improving access to quality preschool programs, pursuing paid leave policies to allow for more quality parent investment during the first years of life, teaching parents the skills they need to effectively raise their children, and so on.

It is also important to bear in mind that despite persistent gaps in test scores, racial gaps in college enrollment have actually been closing in recent years. In fact, the college enrollment gap by income is now significantly larger than by race. The challenge now is about college graduation rates (where race gaps have not closed) as much as college enrollment: for graduation rates, race gaps remain larger than income gaps.

It is also clear, however, that when such large gaps have opened up by the end of the high school years, equalizing outcomes at the college level will be an almost impossible task. Interventions at the end of the K-12 years, or in the early stages of college, can often be too little, too late.

Debates over the fairness, value and accuracy of the SAT are sure to continue. The evidence for a stubborn race gap on this test does meanwhile provide a snapshot into the extraordinary magnitude of racial inequality in contemporary American society. Standardized tests are often seen as mechanisms for meritocracy, ensuring fairness in terms of access. But test scores reflect accumulated advantages and disadvantages in each day of life up the one on which the test is taken. Race gaps on the SAT hold up a mirror to racial inequities in society as a whole. Equalizing educational opportunities and human capital acquisition earlier is the only way to ensure fairer outcomes.

SOURCE  (See the original for graphics)


Fake news from the NYT

During the recent election campaign, a false story about Hillary Clinton and a NY pizza joint made news.  The Left instantly called it "fake news" and were enraged at the very idea of false stories  being treated as news.  But misleading "news" from Leftist sources has long been common, with both outright misreporting and a relentless tendency to report only one side of a story. So it behooves us all to use the current interest in fake news to point out that fake news is an overwhelmingly Leftist phenomenon.  A recent example is below

On February 2, 2017, the New York Times published on its front page above-the-fold a hit-piece under the headline, “A Sinister Perception of Islam Now Steers the White House.”  The principal targets of this unflattering article were President Trump, his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his “chief strategist,” Stephen Bannon.  But at the article’s end were five paragraphs and a picture with a caption that amounted to the journalistic equivalent of a drive-by-shooting aimed at Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney.

Specifically, Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg distorted and falsely reported comments made by Frank Gaffney in the course of two recorded interviews conducted in December 2016.  His article and an accompanying photo’s caption respectively asserted that Mr. Gaffney regarded “Islam” and “Muslims” as “termites [that] hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions for the purpose of creating conditions under which the jihad will succeed.”

Actually, as transcripts of the two conversations spanning roughly 2.5 hours make clear, Mr. Gaffney was characterizing the modus operandi of the Muslim Brotherhood, not “Muslims” or “Islam.”  The misrepresentation serves the interest of the Brotherhood – which has long been determined to silence him and the Center for Security Policy – but not the interests of the New York Times’ readers or the paper’s responsibility to report the facts.

As a public service and in the interest of holding the so-called “nation’s newspaper of record” accountable, the Center today released the full transcripts of the two interview conversations between Messrs. Gaffney and Rosenberg, together with the transcript of a phone call and an exchange of emails between the two after the publication of the article on February 2nd.  Together, they constitute a case study of mainstream media malfeasance that, deliberately or not, has the practical effect of helping America’s foes.