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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

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The End of Identity Liberalism

By MARK LILLA

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.

SOURCE

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Is your blood pressure too high?

I don't intend to make this blog a medical one but I do at times mention findings from medical research that are of particular interest -- and blood pressure is very widely attended to.  Many doctors measure it every time you visit. So it is clearly of some importance.  In particular, high blood pressure is often a precursor to heart attacks and stroke -- which are no fun at all.

So it attracted a lot of controversy recently when the American medical authorities (The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA)) increased the level at which blood pressure becomes a problem.  Previously the maximum "safe" level was 140/90, which happens to be about where my blood pressure levels are. The new "safe" level is 130/80.  Above that level you should receive treatment to bring your pressure down.  That has of course thrown tens of millions into the "diseased" basket -- which produced howls of outrage from many sources -- including me.

A recent article In JAMA by a Dr. Philip Greenland has however hit back and said that the problem is the high level of unhealthy lifestyles among Americans -- including unhealthy diets.  He said that the critics are shooting the messenger -- and his article is overall a good defence of the new guidelines

An article by the ever-skeptical Prof. John Ionnadis is more cautious, however.  He doesn't altogether disagree with the new guidelines but points out that the reseasrch on whih it is based has some rather large flaws if used to guide policy.  It is good reseearch but as a basis for public policy guidelins, extraordinary rigor is required in the research.  The big flaw in the existing research being that it is based on an unrepresentative sample of people who already had heart symptoms.  How far can we generalize from them?  Possibly not at all and probably only weakly,

I would like to add some further criticisms:  Some of the benefits of therapy were tiny.  Adding one extra drug to a conventional regime, for instance, gave an improvement in health outcomes of just one half of one percent (0.54). That could well be illusory.  The authors appear to rely on the finding being statistically significant but, given the large sample size (9361) practically everything is guaranteed to be significant. Statistical significance in that case means nothing.

One also has to be pretty suspicious about the proportion of the population who have ideal cardiovascular health -- from 0.5% in a population of African American individuals to 12% in workers in a South Florida health care organization. One understands that Africans do tend to die younger but saying that 99.5% of that population has some degree of risk seems extreme -- perhaps extreme enough for the finding to be ignored.

A final difficulty I see lies principally with Dr Greenland's article.  He stresses the importance of a "healthy" diet in getting heart attacks down.  That's a very conventional view  but is it right?  And if it is right, how do we know our diet is healthy?  Up until a couple of years ago fat was regarded as bad and sugar as safe, but that has now been stood on its head. The opposite is now the accepted wisdom.  So color me skeptical.  If there is such a thing as a healthy diet, I doubt if anyone knows what it is.  So what do I eat to avoid a heart attack.  I don't think Dr Greenland or anyone else knows.

So I come down to the conclusion by Prof. Ioannidis, who states, "The ability to generalize these gains across diverse settings in clinical practice and to use limited resources wisely remains an open challenge." In other words, we don't know when someone would be helped by the new guidelines. They are a long way from gospel.

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Harvard sticks with restrictions on all-male clubs, eliciting lawsuit threats

The hypocrisy and sheer anti-male hostility in this is mind boggling. Feminists worldwide campaign for safe spaces for women.  Why must there be no safe spaces for men?  What is a "safe space" for women is apparently a "gender-discriminatory organization" for men. (The words of Harvard’s president, Drew Faust). How absurd! I think I will start accusing feminists of sponsoring "gender-discriminatory organizations".

Is it no coincidence that Harvard is currently run by a woman with, no doubt, impeccable feminist credentials. The fact that Faust in not a Harvard graduate may also contribute to her disrespect for its traditions.  She is not of course alone in her Leftist wish for restrictions but she could have stopped the whole push from the beginning if she had wanted to.

The figleaf justifying the policy is that club members sometimes behave badly.  So they do -- like students worldwide. And let the badly behaved culprits be prosecuted and punished appropriately.  But where is the justice in punishing everybody for the misdeeds of a few?  That's not even a semblance of justice.  It makes the Harvard administration look like a kangaroo court


Harvard University announced Tuesday that it will not ban its exclusive all-male final clubs outright but will continue to sanction their members, upholding the college’s current policy.

The fate of the social clubs, which count US presidents and powerbrokers among their alumni, has sparked fierce debate among Harvard’s students, faculty, and graduates over the past two years.

University administrators have sought to phase out the off-campus groups, blaming them for social divisions and alcohol-fueled parties that have led to sexual assaults. This summer, a faculty committee recommended the most severe punishment yet: that students who join final clubs, as well as single-gender fraternities and sororities, be suspended or expelled.

That plan, which would have effectively put an end to the clubs, touched off a firestorm of criticism. Alumni threatened to withhold donations, free speech advocates argued that Harvard had overstepped its legal authority, and students balked at the proposed restrictions on their social lives.

On Tuesday, university officials said they had decided to maintain the current policy, which restricts students who join unrecognized single-gender groups from leading campus organizations and sports teams and bars them from receiving recommendations from the dean for Rhodes or Marshall scholarships.

“Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources,” Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said in a statement released with William Lee, a Boston lawyer and the head of the university’s governing board.

The policy was instituted in 2016 and began with this year’s incoming class.

The decision to maintain the status quo was met with anger and threats of lawsuits from the clubs’ representatives.

“Harvard could not be more wrong,” said Heather Kirk, a spokeswoman for the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents 66 fraternities and is considering legal action against the policy. “It’s ironic that one of the most exclusive institutions in the world is limiting what organizations students can join.”

Rick Porteus, graduate president of the all-male Fly Club, said it has existed for more than 180 years and isn’t going anywhere. He said Harvard should not dictate how students spend their free time and criticized the college for not fostering a better social life on campus.

The clubs are socioeconomically and racially diverse, he said, something Harvard has ignored. “This is really a childish approach to maturing young adults into full adulthood,” he said.

Fly Club members will meet to discuss whether to sue, representatives said.

Harvard has eight unrecognized male final clubs, with secret traditions and mysterious names like the Delphic, the Fox, and the Porcellian. Many were founded in the 1800s, and their alumni include T.S. Eliot, Henry Cabot Lodge, Bill Gates, and John F. Kennedy.

The clubs hold sizable endowments and own stately homes near Harvard Square where students line up to attend their parties.

Harvard also has six female final clubs, as well as five fraternities and four sororities, all unrecognized by the university.

Heather Furnas, a California plastic surgeon whose daughter graduated from Harvard this year, said that sororities and women’s groups are unfairly being swept up by this policy. She has warned the college that she will not make future donations because of this issue.

“How does membership in women’s clubs warrant being barred from leadership positions, being captain of a varsity athletic team, or receiving a college endorsement for a prestigious graduate fellowship?” Furnas asked.

“Harvard’s sanction of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations in the name of diversity is effectively social engineering. I just don’t feel comfortable with social engineering.”

Typically, the decision on the final clubs would have been made by Faust. But because she is stepping down as president in June, Harvard’s governing board voted on the policy. Faust is a member of the governing board.

Since Harvard began debating the policy, one of the final clubs and a fraternity have become gender-neutral, and a men’s club and a women’s club decided to share resources.

University officials said those are signs the campus culture is changing.

Harvard said it will review the policy in five years to determine whether it is effective.

SOURCE

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Global warming is bad for your health:  Scare 902176

It may well be in some instances but it is a lot healthier than cold overall. Winter is when hospitals are run ragged. Warming would be GOOD for people's health on balance. But the Green/Left never give the whole picture on anything.

And in the great Warmist tradition of calling the tiniest effects significant, we see much attention given below to an effect that "explains" one tenth of one percent of some type of event. Ludicrous. "No effect" would be a more reasonable conclusion from their data

I am particularly amused that temperatures over 32 degrees are regarded as dangerous heatwaves. 34 degrees is a normal summer daytime temperature where I live -- in sub-tropical Brisbane. And I was born and bred in tropical far North Queensland, where temperatures often reach 100F (38C). Definite proof that I am a moron, I suppose


A growing body of research concludes that rising global temperatures increase the risk of heat stress and stroke, decrease productivity and economic output, widen global wealth disparities, and can trigger greater violence (see “Hot and Violent”).

Now a new study by researchers at Stanford, the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury suggests that even short periods of extreme heat can carry long-term consequences for children and their financial future.

Specifically, heat waves during an individual’s early childhood, including the period before birth, can affect his or her earnings three decades later, according to the paper, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Every day that temperatures rise above 32 ˚C, or just shy of 90 ˚F, from conception to the age of one is associated with a 0.1 percent decrease in average income at the age of 30.

The researchers don’t directly tackle the tricky question of how higher temperatures translate to lower income, noting only that fetuses and infants are “especially sensitive to hot temperatures because their thermoregulatory and sympathetic nervous systems are not fully developed.” Earlier studies have linked extreme temperatures during this early life period with lower birth rate and higher infant mortality, and a whole field of research has developed around what’s known as the “developmental origins of health and disease paradigm,” which traces the impacts of early health shocks into adulthood.

There are several pathways through which higher temperatures could potentially lead to lower adult earnings, including reduced cognition, ongoing health issues that increase days missed from school or work, and effects on non-cognitive traits such as ambition, assertiveness, or self-control, says Maya Rossin-Slater, a coauthor of the study and assistant professor in Stanford’s department of health research and policy.

The bigger danger here is that global warming will mean many more days with a mean temperature above 32 ˚C—specifically, an increase from one per year in the average U.S. county today to around 43 annually by around 2070, according to an earlier UN report cited in the study.

SOURCE

 


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Public patients waiting four times longer than private patients for some operations at Australian public hospitals

Note that this report refers to two classes of patients accommodated in public hospitals -- public patients who are not charged and "private" patients who pay for better accomodation etc. (e.g. single rooms).  For the patient, the system offers a low-cost alternative to private hospitalization and for the hospital, the system brings in much needed revenue

Waiting times in private hospitals are another matter altogether and are often close to zero.  When I presented with kidney stones at about midday to a private hospital a few years ago, I was on the operating table only hours later.

So if they had any health insurance at all, "private" patients kept waiting would be likely to desert public hospitals for the private sector.  That is the reality behind the differences described below.  Even at their best, however, public hospitals impose long waits for treatment


The rules are simple. It doesn't matter whether you're a public patient or a health fund member, if you're a patient in a public hospital, treatment should be delivered based on clinical need not insurance status.

But the latest figures in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's Private Health Insurance Use in Australian Hospitals report tell a very different, and worrying, story.

Public patients, for some elective operations such as a cataract extraction, are waiting four times longer than privately insured patients in public hospitals – 113 days compared to 29 days.

Waiting for a tonsillectomy? Public patients have to wait three times longer – 138 days compared to 49 days.

In violation of Medicare principles enshrined in Australian health care agreements, public patients had a median waiting time of 42 days for elective surgery in 2015-16, compared to 20 days for patients who had opted to use their health insurance to cover all or part of their admission.

Health Minister Greg Hunt holds "real concerns" that the practice of public hospitals' "harvesting" private health insurance is driving up the cost of insurance premiums and pushing out waiting lists.

And the situation is getting worse. The number of privately insured patients in public hospitals has doubled in the past decade to 872,000 admissions in 2015-16.

"Data also shows that private health insurance premiums would be around 2.5 per cent lower if this practice wasn't running rampant," a spokesman for Mr Hunt said.

Hospitals are in their rights to treat privately insured patients as a means to raise revenue. However, they shouldn't be giving a certain group of patients preferential treatment. They've long insisted that the money raised is ploughed back into services, benefiting everyone.

NSW, compared to all other states and territories, had the highest proportion of privately insured patients in public hospitals, 19.9 per cent, compared to the national average of 13.9 per cent.

"The government will continue to work with the states on how we can fix this problem because nobody wins with longer waiting times," Mr Hunt's spokesman said.

SOURCE

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Blue Planet 2: David Attenborough grieved by plastic pollution in the oceans

He obviously knows a lot about wildlife but knows little about people.  It is not "us" who are to blame for plastic in the oceans.  Developed countries go to great lengths to dispose of their rubbish properly.  The source of nearly 100% of that plastic in the ocean is poor countries where people simply throw their rubbish into their rivers -- which flow into the oceans

If Attenborough and his Greenie friends were  really concerned about marine pollution, they would be agitating to set up booms across the mouths of major Asian and African rivers to trap and remove the pollution before it reaches the sea.  But since when did Greenies ever do anything practical?


Over the last few weeks, Blue Planet II has been impressing viewers around the country, quickly becoming the most-watched television show of 2017.

Of course, the show wouldn’t exist without fascinating wildlife populating the ocean. Yet, mankind has put the inhabitants of the Big Blue under threat.

During the last episode of the series, David Attenborough issues a warning to viewers, detailing how overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change are all damaging ocean habitats. 

“For years we thought the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect upon them. But now we know that was wrong,” Attenborough says. 

“It is now clear our actions are having a significant impact on the world’s oceans. [They] are under threat now as never before in human history. Many people believe the oceans have reached a crisis point.

“Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us.”

The BBC were reportedly nervous certain viewers would see the series as too politicised by taking a stand, ordering a fact check. “We just couldn’t ignore it – it wouldn’t be a truthful portrayal of the world’s oceans,” producer Mark Brownlow told The Guardian. “We are not out there to campaign. We are just showing it as it is and it is quite shocking.”

Brownlow also revealed that the team saw albatross chicks being killed after eating plastic they mistook for food — they decided the scenes were too upsetting to broadcast. 



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The poor get sick sooner and die younger in both the USA and the UK

In the later age cohorts, poor people are 3 to 4 times likelier to get ill and die than are wealthy people.  And, sadly for the authors below, the wonderful universal health care in the UK made no difference.

Their findings are in fact what always emerges when social class variables -- in this case wealth -- are studied.  Poverty is a major influence on death and all sorts of disease.  But medical researchers fear political incorrectness if they mention social class as an influence on their findings so ignore it for around 98% of the time in their research reports.  So it is worthwhile noting here one of the occasions when they have bitten the bullet.

They have several possible explanations for their findings and all their suggestions probably have some merit.  But they overlook the elephant in the room: genetic differences.  If genetics is not an influence on your lifespan, what would be?

So what genetic influence could explain the findings?  What widely-influential genetically determined human characteristic do we know of?  At the risk of sounding like a cracked-record, let me mention our old friend IQ again. I am repetitious about IQ because nature is. No matter what you study, IQ very frequently seems to pop up as an influence.  And I just report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- vastly incorrect  though that sadly is these days.

Some people are born more functional in general. All their bits work well, including their brain. So they have high IQs. And it is very well established that high IQ people both live longer and are  more likely to get rich.  The old challenge: "If you are so smart, how come you aren't rich?" is well founded.  So the findings below can be explained as showing that long lifespans are largely inborn and that those so born are also likely to be rich because they will also have high IQs.  We already knew that from IQ research but it is nice to see the same effects emerging in medical research


Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England

Lena K. Makaroun et al.

Abstract

Importance:  Low income has been associated with poor health outcomes. Owing to retirement, wealth may be a better marker of financial resources among older adults.

Objective:  To determine the association of wealth with mortality and disability among older adults in the United States and England.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  The US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) are nationally representative cohorts of community-dwelling older adults. We examined 12 173 participants enrolled in HRS and 7599 enrolled in ELSA in 2002. Analyses were stratified by age (54-64 years vs 66-76 years) because many safety-net programs commence around age 65 years. Participants were followed until 2012 for mortality and disability.

Exposures:  Wealth quintile, based on total net worth in 2002.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Mortality and disability, defined as difficulty performing an activity of daily living.

Results:  A total of 6233 US respondents and 4325 English respondents aged 54 to 64 years (younger cohort) and 5940 US respondents and 3274 English respondents aged 66 to 76 years (older cohort) were analyzed for the mortality outcome. Slightly over half of respondents were women (HRS: 6570, 54%; ELSA: 3974, 52%). A higher proportion of respondents from HRS were nonwhite compared with ELSA in both the younger (14% vs 3%) and the older (13% vs 3%) age cohorts. We found increased risk of death and disability as wealth decreased. In the United States, participants aged 54 to 64 years in the lowest wealth quintile (Q1) (≤$39 000) had a 17% mortality risk and 48% disability risk over 10 years, whereas in the highest wealth quintile (Q5) (>$560 000) participants had a 5% mortality risk and 15% disability risk (mortality hazard ratio [HR], 3.3; 95% CI, 2.0-5.6; P < .001; disability subhazard ratio [sHR], 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.6; P < .001). In England, participants aged 54 to 64 years in Q1 (≤£34,000) had a 16% mortality risk and 42% disability risk over 10 years, whereas Q5 participants (>£310,550) had a 4% mortality risk and 17% disability risk (mortality HR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.7-7.0; P < .001; disability sHR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1-4.2; P < .001). In 66- to 76-year-old participants, the absolute risks of mortality and disability were higher, but risk gradients across wealth quintiles were similar. When adjusted for sex, age, race, income, and education, HR for mortality and sHR for disability were attenuated but remained statistically significant.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Low wealth was associated with death and disability in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. Access to health care may not attenuate wealth-associated disparities in older adults.

SOURCE

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Milo Yiannopoulos promoters won’t pay $50,000 Victoria Police bill

I can hardly believe how far left Victoria is veering: State police charging a conservative to protect him from Leftists. Charging protection money is what criminals do. The next step is refusing protection and letting harm happen.

The whole rationale for government is that there are some things that should not be user-pays, but which the State should pay, like roads and infrastructure, defence, police, search and rescue, and emergency services, certain amenities ... etc. If the police don't think it is part of their job to prevent criminal assault, what are they good for?

The only consolation is that this is probably a try-on



THE ORGANISER behind controversial Milo Yiannopoulos’ Melbourne event is refusing to cough up $50,000 to cover the cost of police after a violent protest broke out.

Penthouse publisher Damien Costas, the man who organised Milo Yiannopoulos’s tour, told 3AW he had no intention of paying the five-figure bill from Victoria Police, following the Kensington clash.

“I can’t imagine we would (pay the larger bill),” he said. “In Melbourne they were talking about a user pays model but a particular sergeant at our head of security we were dealing with said ‘We’d like you to pay for the barriers, bollards etc’.”

“I think the entire thing was about five or $6000.” “I paid what I was asked to pay. Anything over and above that we can determine.” “This is actually asking the victim to pay the bill.”

He said user-pay models were discussed in every state and he’d paid about $9000 for police in the Gold Coast and nothing in New South Wales.

Supporters of the far-Right figure were involved in violent clashes with left-wing protesters on Monday night in Kensington.
Hundreds of police were called in with some using capsicum spray to subdue rioters.

Mr Costas said the 3000 attendees didn’t do anything wrong rather those uninvited threw rocks.

Police Minister Lisa Neville told the radio station on Wednesday the event’s promoters would have to foot the bill, which would be at least $50,000. She said billing event organisers for police resources was commonplace.

“For these sort of rallies, but also for the AFL and those big events there is an agreement around the costs,” she said. Ms Neville said she was confident Mr Yiannopoulos would cough up.
“(It’s a) big call to say you’re going to ignore a bill from Victoria Police,” she said.

Mr Costas said the police presence was executed with “military precision” and there were also 70 security guards at the event.

SOURCE

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Taking a second look at the learn-to-code craze

I must say that the craze puzzles me.  From all I have seen serious coding in languages like C and its derivatives is only possible for perhaps the top 2% or 5% in IQ.  And for them it soon becomes a doddle.  As Jesus said in another context, "For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 25:29, ESV).

In my decades of experience as a statistical analysis programmer, I have met a lot of other programmers and all have had the bright eyes that only high IQ gives.

I actually have form as a teacher of coding. In my academic career, I once tried to teach a sociology class at a major university the FORTRAN language.  As far as I could tell, by the end of the semester none of them had actually "got" it.  And they would have been fairly bright.

I would like to see evidence that a person of average IQ can code productively -- or at all -- but until I do I think I will rather reluctantly have to believe the Left-type explanation below


Over the past five years, the idea that computer programming – or “coding” – is the key to the future for both children and adults alike has become received wisdom in the United States. The aim of making computer science a “new basic” skill for all Americans has driven the formation of dozens of nonprofit organizations, coding schools and policy programs.

As the third annual Computer Science Education Week begins, it is worth taking a closer look at this recent coding craze. The Obama administration’s “Computer Science For All” initiative and the Trump administration’s new effort are both based on the idea that computer programming is not only a fun and exciting activity, but a necessary skill for the jobs of the future.

However, the American history of these education initiatives shows that their primary beneficiaries aren’t necessarily students or workers, but rather the influential tech companies that promote the programs in the first place. The current campaign to teach American kids to code may be the latest example of tech companies using concerns about education to achieve their own goals. This raises some important questions about who stands to gain the most from the recent computer science push.
Old rhetoric about a ‘new economy’

One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the value of computer donations.

The bill was clearly a corporate tax break, but it was framed in terms of educational gaps: According to a California legislative analysis, the bill’s supporters felt that “computer literacy for children is becoming a necessity in today’s world” and that the bill would help in “placing needed ‘hardware’ in schools unable to afford computers in any other way.”

Kids Can’t Wait took advantage of Reagan-era concerns that Americans were “falling behind” global competitors in the “new economy.” In 1983, a U.S. Department of Education report titled “A Nation at Risk” warned that the country’s “once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world.” The report’s authors blamed the American education system for turning out graduates who were underprepared for a fast-changing, technology-infused workplace.

Over the past 30 years, the same rhetoric has appeared again and again. In 1998, Bill Clinton proclaimed that “access to new technology means … access to the new economy.” In 2016, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith described the Obama administration’s coding initiative as an “ambitious, all-hands-on-deck effort to get every student in America an early start with the skills they’ll need to be part of the new economy.”

While technology is often framed as the solution for success in a globalized labor market, the evidence is less clear. In his 2003 book “Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom,” education researcher Larry Cuban warned that technology on its own would not solve “education’s age-old problems,” such as inequitable funding, inadequate facilities and overworked teachers.

Cuban found that some educational technology initiatives from the 1990s did help students get access to computers and learn basic skills. But that didn’t necessarily translate into higher-wage jobs when those students entered the workforce. However, the equipment and software needed to teach them brought large windfalls for tech companies – in 1995 the industry was worth US$4 billion.

Under pressure

If computers in schools didn’t work as promised two decades ago, then what’s behind the current coding push? Cuban points out that few school boards and administrators can resist pressure from business leaders, public officials and parents. Organizations like the CS For All Consortium, for example, have a large membership of education companies who are taking advantage of funding from state legislatures.

A huge boost comes from the tech giants, too. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others are collectively contributing $300 million to the Trump administration’s new federal initiative – no doubt seeing, as The New York Times observed, the potential to “market their own devices and software in schools as coding classes spread.”

This isn’t always the best deal for students. In 2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District planned to give Apple iPads to every student in every school – at a cost of $1.3 billion. The program was a fiasco: The iPads had technical problems and incomplete software that made them essentially useless. The fallout included investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and a legal settlement in which Apple and its partners repaid the school district $6.4 million.

However, tech companies are framing their efforts in more noble terms. In June 2017, Microsoft president Brad Smith compared the efforts of tech industry nonprofit Code.org to previous efforts to improve science and technology training in the United States. Recalling the focus on scientific research that drove the Space Race, Smith said, “We think computer science is to the 21st century what physics was to the 20th century.”

Indeed, tech companies are having a very hard time hiring and retaining software engineers. With new concerns about restrictions on visas for skilled immigrant workers, the industry could definitely benefit from a workforce trained with public dollars.

For some tech companies, this is an explicit goal. In 2016, Oracle and Micron Technology helped write a state education bill in Idaho which read, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.” While two lawmakers objected to the corporate influence on the bill, it passed with an overwhelming majority.
History repeating?

Some critics argue that the goal of the coding push is to massively increase the number of programmers on the market, depressing wages and bolstering tech companies’ profit margins. Though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the fact remains that only half of college students who majored in science, technology, engineering or math-related subjects get jobs in their field after graduation. That certainly casts doubt on the idea that there is a “skills gap” between workers’ abilities and employers’ needs. Concerns about these disparities has helped justify investment in tech education over the past 20 years.

As millions of dollars flow to technology companies in the name of education, they often bypass other major needs of U.S. schools. Technology in the classroom can’t solve the problems that budget cuts, large class sizes and low teacher salaries create. Worse still, new research is finding that contemporary tech-driven educational reforms may end up intensifying the problems they were trying to fix.

Who will benefit most from this new computer science push? History tells us that it may not be students.

SOURCE

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Surprise, surprise!  Climate skeptics don't think polar bears are doomed!

That is the conclusion below in a new paper by the usual suspects. They write as if that identifies skeptics as fools or crooks.  But to support that allegation, they would have to show that skeptics are wrong.  So what are their grounds for believing that skeptics are wrong about the bears?  It is just the usual feeble reliance on "consensus".  I quote from the body of their paper:

"Science-based blogs overwhelmingly used the frame of established scientific certainties and supported arguments with the published literature affirming that warming is rapidly reducing seasonal Arctic sea-ice extent and threatening the mid- to longer-term survival of polar bears"

But the consensus has come serious under challenge, most notably from the writings of specialist Arctic biologist Susan Crockford.  So they do their best to discredit her.  In a carefully-worded statement they say:

"Crockford has neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears"

The part about publication is actually true but she has published extensively in the academic journals on Arctic biology generally.  And there is no doubt that any attempt by her to get anything into the academic journals that questioned the Greenie consensus would fail.  She has however published her observations extensively elsewhere -- in sources not influenced by Greenie censorship.

There are two problems with their attack on Crockford.  The most amusing is that they offer NO detailed refutation of her claims.  They attack her as a person, not her facts.  That is of course the old informal fallacy known in logic as the "ad hominem" fallacy.  And as such it has no scholarly standing whatsoever.

The second problem is that they give the impression that she is a lone dissenting voice.  She is not.  Almost everybody who visits polar bear territory remarks on the frequency of the bears in the places concerned.  And it's not only tourists who see lots of bears.   The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimated in 1966 that there were 10,000 polar bears in the world; in 2006, the same source estimated that the population had risen to 20,000-25,000 bears.

And how about an excerpt from the Scientific Working Group to the Canada-Greenland Joint Commission on Polar Bear of 2016:

"The genetic mark-recapture assessment of the BB subpopulation resulted in a mean estimate (2012-2013) of total abundance of 2,826 polar bears (95% CI = 2,059-3,593). Due to several limitations of the available data, discussed in detail in this report, the estimates of abundance for the 1990s and 2000s are not directly comparable. Therefore, it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about trends in the abundance of the BB subpopulation. Nevertheless, the study has demonstrated the presence of a subpopulation in Baffin Bay considerably larger than that inferred from previous modeling (1,546 bears cf. PBSG 2015); the results of which formed part of the basis for the PBSG’s (2015) designation of BB as a declining subpopulation."

In plain words that official report says that there are many more bears in that area than thought previously.

And the paper also seems to forget the work of Mitch Taylor:  "Dr Mitchell Taylor has been researching the status and management of polar bears in Canada and around the Arctic Circle for 30 years, as both an academic and a government employee. More than once since 2006 he has made headlines by insisting that polar bear numbers, far from decreasing, are much higher than they were 30 years ago"

So the paper below places itself in the warm embrace of conventional thinking -- without addressing that it is precisely the conventional thinking which is under heavy challenge. They have built a two-legged stool.  They have failed to undermine the extensive evidence that bear numbers are increasing, not declining


Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy

Abstract

Increasing surface temperatures, Arctic sea-ice loss, and other evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are acknowledged by every major scientific organization in the world. However, there is a wide gap between this broad scientific consensus and public opinion. Internet blogs have strongly contributed to this consensus gap by fomenting misunderstandings of AGW causes and consequences. Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have become a “poster species” for AGW, making them a target of those denying AGW evidence. Here, focusing on Arctic sea ice and polar bears, we show that blogs that deny or downplay AGW disregard the overwhelming scientific evidence of Arctic sea-ice loss and polar bear vulnerability. By denying the impacts of AGW on polar bears, bloggers aim to cast doubt on other established ecological consequences of AGW, aggravating the consensus gap. To counter misinformation and reduce this gap, scientists should directly engage the public in the media and blogosphere.

SOURCE.  There is a report of the above paper in the popular press here and a very detailed dissection of it here


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Crocodiles:  Conservative Australian politician versus "experts"

Crocs mean "no swimming in coastal waters or in rivers within a certain distance from the coast" but that's OK by the Greenies, apparently. They also look at the long term average of croc attacks and say it is low but that is an inappropriate statistic where the population is rising.  They should look at the trend.  And if you do that you see the four recent attacks as a minimum not as an outlier.

And to demonstrate ecological benefit from lots of crocs they had to go to Brazil.  Pretty good evidence that there are no such benefits here.

They are right in saying that crocs are a tourist attraction and some areas should be set aside for that purpose.  But limiting their Queensland population to the Daintree and parts North would be a reasonable compromise.  That would leave a big areas for crocs while leaving most of the North Queensland coast safe.  But compromise is alien to Greenies.  They always want it all


Australian politician Bob Katter wants to launch a war … against crocodiles.

Katter, known for his controversial opinions on multiple topics including same-sex marriage, claimed on Nov. 15 that there are too many crocodiles in Australia. They have no natural enemies, and in the Australian region of North Queensland alone, they eat up to four people each year, he said.

Katter made the anti-croc statement on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's program "Insiders"

But crocodile experts assert that the ancient reptiles are, in fact, good for Australia.

The animals have a positive effect on the ecosystem, as well as the local economy, said Adam Britton, a leading crocodile expert and zoologist at Charles Darwin University in Australia. Though Britton conceded that crocodiles in the rivers of northern Australia can threaten people's lives, these dangers can be easily managed, he said.

"There are probably between 150 [thousand] and 180 thousand crocodiles in the Northern Territory [of Australia] and some 40 [thousand] to 50 thousand in Queensland," Britton told Live Science. "They are certainly not endangered. But over the last 30 to 40 years, we were able to deal with the risks [posed by crocodiles] via a management program."

For local people, that program means no swimming in coastal waters or in rivers within a certain distance from the coast.

Britton, who runs the website CrocBITE, which monitors attacks by all sorts of crocodile species around the world, noted that North Queensland has experienced an unusual streak of crocodile attacks over the past year. However, he said that he doesn't think there are too many crocodiles in Queensland's rivers. Rather, the croc population is still recovering from overhunting that occurred in the first half of the 20th century, he said.

"This year has been a little bit unusual for Queensland," Britton said. "They had four attacks in total. Two of them were fatal. It has been the worst year they've had for a long time."

But in the long term, the statistics look less sinister, Britton said. "Over the last 10 years, there have been 14 crocodile attacks in North Queensland, six of them fatal," he said. "That would be about one person killed by crocodiles every 20 months."

Most of the victims had ignored a slew of warning signs, Britton said. The crocodile habitats are known and marked by warning signs, yet some people decide to risk their lives nonetheless.

In one of the recent cases, for example, a guy "was attacked by a crocodile when he was showing off to a girl," Britton said. "He jumped into the water, where he knew there were crocodiles, and sure enough, one of them bit him. It's like putting on a blindfold and walking into a highway. You may be lucky or you may not."

Britton added that even though crocodiles place limitations on people living in the areas, northern Australia benefits from the animals' presence. The reptiles attract adventure-seeking tourists, and the wild-crocodile egg-harvesting program is an important source of income for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, he said. Harvesters can sell the eggs to crocodile farms that breed the animals for skins, which are popular in the fashion industry.

Moreover, artificially reducing the crocodile population could disrupt the balance of the wider ecosystem, Britton said.

"There are examples from other parts of the world," Britton said. "For example, in Brazil, when they removed black caimans [a large crocodile species], the economically valuable fish that were captured by local people disappeared."

After the reintroduction of the caimans, the fish population recovered. Researchers eventually found that the juvenile caimans feed on crabs, which eat fish eggs. The lack of juvenile caimans had meant too many crabs in the water, which resulted in a reduced fish population and economic problems for local fishers.

Katter said he is concerned that crocodiles don't have natural enemies and that the only way to keep the population within limits is to kill off the animals. But Britton said the population will stabilize naturally once it reaches healthy levels.

"As the crocodile population recovers, the mortality rate of juveniles increases through competition," said Britton. "Crocodiles actually self-control their own population growth, eventually slowing down and reaching a stable level like any wild animal population with limited resources."

SOURCE

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A tax on the American Dream (?)

Larry Summers below is a smart guy but he is overlooking TWO elephants in his room. He fails to notice that most of the universities and colleges in America these days have made themselves into Leftist Madrassas, deeply antagonistic to anything conservative.  Trump is simply responding to that and hitting them where it hurts.  A resumed interest in real scholarship will be needed to turn that around.

Secondly, he assumes that universities offer the best path towards upward mobility.  They probably do enable social mobility for the most part but they certainly are not the best path to income mobility. Tradesmen earn more than most graduates.  Apprenticeships are the best path to upward income mobility.


Equipped with de-identified tax records, economist Raj Chetty and his team at the Equality of Opportunity Project have provided the hard numbers to confirm what many have long feared: Upward income mobility in America is on a steady downward trajectory. Whereas 95 percent of sons born in the United States in 1940 made more money than their fathers, this was true for only 41 percent of sons born in 1984. These data points seem profoundly important for anyone hoping to interpret the current state of our politics and national dialogue. But they also merit the close attention of both our university leaders and legislators working on the tax code. In a country of declining intergenerational mobility, the proposed endowment tax is seriously misguided.

Educational institutions should be important actors in reversing the American Dream’s decline. A new paper released by Chetty’s team this year has helped to affirm the potential for higher education to foster more broadly shared opportunity. The research, published alongside a set of mobility report cards for all 2,199 US colleges and universities, shines a light on the relative success (or lack thereof) of American institutions in creating pathways to economic success for low-income students.

What one might call the “manifest inadequacy of . . . higher education’s contribution to equality of opportunity” is unfortunately not a new phenomenon. Over a decade ago at Harvard, we were similarly troubled by the striking underrepresentation of the bottom half of the income distribution. During the Summers presidency in 2004, Harvard initiated the most ambitious expansion to date of financial aid, specifically targeting families of low and moderate incomes. Along with eliminating parental contributions for parents earning under $40,000 (since increased to $65,000), the college made changes to applicant review and launched new outreach and recruiting efforts across the country. The idea was that the most talented students should know that Harvard was an option for them, no matter their economic background.

No doubt, this has been a persistently stubborn problem to address. And yet, data show that efforts at Harvard, unlike other elite institutions, appear to have borne some fruit. Harvard’s mobility report card shows noticeable upticks in the mid-2000s share of students from the bottom 60th and 20th percentiles of the US income distribution, beginning with the class of 2009, right after the new policy was announced. These gains occurred even as real incomes of these families were declining over the same period due to widening inequality.

Notably, Harvard has outperformed other Ivies and top-tier peers, who did not experience similar increases in the fraction of low- or middle-income students. And here in Boston, data for Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern actually all show declines in proportions of low- or moderate-income students over the same period, with especially visible drops during the Great Recession.

This contrast with other Boston private universities helps illuminate why Harvard is able to continue admitting and supporting more low-income students, irrespective of economic conditions or parents’ ability to pay. Harvard’s financial aid budget, totaling $414 million university-wide this year (including $175 million in need-based undergraduate aid) is directly supported and enabled by the returns of the university’s endowment. As its largest source of revenue financing operations, Harvard’s endowment is precisely the reason the school can strive toward more economic diversity. Today, 90 percent of American families would pay the same or less to send their children to Harvard as a state school — this would be impossible without these funds.

It is especially troubling, then, that the Republican tax plan seeks to compensate for lost corporate tax revenue by penalizing a select group of educational institutions. The $43 million annual hit on Harvard would directly impact the college’s efforts to further expand financial aid for low-income families. It is hard to take Republicans’ claims of economic fairness seriously when other nonprofits, like exclusive prep schools and opera companies, are ignored. It seems especially preposterous in a piece of legislation that simultaneously repeals the estate tax, which benefits only the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans. Instead, this all smells of a certain kind of politics — where rather than careful welfare analysis, tax policy instead is a political weapon used to reward supporters and penalize perceived opponents. Coupled with the House bill’s proposed elimination of the student loan interest deduction and repeal of the tuition tax waiver, the tax plan will make pursuing higher education more difficult for anyone not at the top of the income distribution. Those who would suffer disproportionately are the young adults whose lives could be most transformed by a place like Harvard — students from the bottom 20 percent families who rise to the top 1 percent as adults. Harvard ranks in the 99th percentile nationally on this metric.

Of course, this is no warrant for complacency. Harvard’s top-heavy skew in the admitted class limits mobility potential, as does its still small bottom-quintile share (Berkeley has almost double Harvard’s percentage). We know that there are a lot of low-income high-achievers who aren’t applying or making it to the Ivy League. Economic diversity has often not received the same intensity of attention rightfully paid to racial diversity. But the Chetty data show earnings outcomes at elite institutions for students from modest economic backgrounds look almost identical to higher-income peers. It would be an unfortunate irony if “need-blind” admission policies, intended to protect low-income applicants, had the effect of preventing institutions from giving preference to these applicants, who succeed when given the chance. Universities should be more ambitious in recruiting low-income students, expanding their classes to provide more access, and admitting more transfer students from public institutions.

Whatever your political persuasion, equality of opportunity should be a major concern. If America is going to make the progress we all want to see, its private universities need to take on an increasingly active role. The federal government is right to call on them to step up. But Congress and the president are gravely wrong to levy punitive taxes on engines of opportunity at a time when they need to be enabled to do more, not forced to do less.

SOURCE

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Australian cities could soon be uninhabitable because of extreme heat with 'brutal' global warming already making temperatures soar to SEVENTY degrees (?)

What a lot of slime!  The alleged 70 degrees reported was the temperature reached by bitumen roads at  midday on a dry sunny day in the tropics.  No air temperature ever gets near that.  And bitumen roads in the tropics have always got very hot -- so hot that the bitumen sometimes melts.  It is neither unusual nor diagnostic of anything. I well remember sitting on my verandah in the tropics one Christmas day long ago and watching the heat waves rise like worms from the bitumen road outside

And you can't draw global conclusions from what happens in one country.  Australia is at the moment having a hot spell but at the same time Britain is having an unusually cold spell. The two average out to say nothing global is happening.  I reproduce both the Australian and British reports below


Climate scientists have warned that some Australian cities could become 'virtually uninhabitable' due to a combination of blistering heat and smothering humidity.

In the past week alone, surface temperatures in parts of Darwin's inner city have been nudging 70C - and experts have told news.com.au that some regional cities in Queensland 'may not be far behind'.

This year, Bureau of Meteorology senior climate liaison officer Greg Browning warned Darwin residents that 'everything would be hotter than normal' in the lead-up to the wet season.

Average temperatures all over the country have been shattering records all year, with Hobart's recent run of six consecutive November days unparalleled in 130 years.

Darwin residents have 'suffered' through a 'hotter than average' lead up to the 2017 wet season

Sydneysiders are also in the midst of the warmest November week in nearly 50 years, ending a dismal run of rain and cooler temperatures.

A prolonged run of uninterrupted warm weather is due to hit the city with temperatures set to reach or exceed 25 degrees every day until the end of November.

'The last time this happened in November was in 1968, and it's only happened four times in the last 160 years,' Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke told Daily Mail Australia.

The last times Sydney basked in seven consecutive days of temperatures at or above 25 degrees were in 1968 and 1897.

The consistently warm weather is the result of a high pressure system - known as a 'blocking high' - that is centred over the Tasman Sea and is stopping any strong cold fronts from moving up Australia's east coast.

And it's not just Sydney that's rolling into summer - Melbourne residents have had sweltering spring temperatures for the past week, enduring the longest stretch of November days exceeding 28 degrees on record.

Australian National University's Dr Elizabeth Hanna warned that the issue would mostly affect the Top End due to the tropical humidity.

'We can cope with much higher temperatures in Melbourne because the air is drier, but in Darwin the high temperatures and humidity are oppressive.

'If it gets worse, those unpleasant times of the year (like the build-up) will extend longer and longer making it not a viable place to live,' she told the news site.

Professor Mattheos Santamouris explained that the way to combat climate change and battle rising temperatures is to 'understand what is happening at a local level'.

He warns that if Australia can't find a solution, the cities will eventually become 'uninhabitable'.

But it's not just the environment that will suffer - when it's oppressively hot, people feel 'crappy and grumpy' which impacts on people's social behaviour. 

Professor Samtamouris recommends planting more greenery - the surface temperature of grass in the city of Darwin is only 27.4øC, while bitumen can have a surface temp of nearly 70øC

Three months ago, the Territory Government kicked off a project to see where Darwin's hot spots were - and what was causing them - so they could cool down the CBD.

'The study found our streets, parking lots, roofs and pavements have very high surface temperatures, ranging from 45-67C,' said Chief Minister Michael Gunner at the time.

'Areas such as the Post Office carpark, the Supreme Court car park, and the Bus Terminal are incredibly hot - Cavanagh Street (the CBD's main thoroughfare) is a river of fire.'

Professor Samtamouris told news.com.au Darwin was a 'classic case of an urban heat island' where materials used in roads and buildings 'turbocharged' temperatures.

Excessively hot surface temperatures can raise the temperature around them - for instance, black bitumen can heat the air by around 3ø - which is why Professor Samtamouris recommends more greenery in the city.

He also suggests building with alternative materials, like 'cooling' asphalt which works to bring own the surrounding air temperature.

The urban heat island effect is being felt most strongly in Darwin, but the rest of Australia may not be too far behind.

'Townsville and Cairns are not as bad but they will start to become like Darwin. Everything is just moving to the extreme but we just don't know exactly when or how fast it will happen,'' warned Professor Hanna.

'Global temperatures are going so badly and emissions are increasing so much that it's not looking good.'

Planting more trees and creating shady streets was a good strategy to make cities more liveable, she said, but as temperatures continue to rise, there's only so much that plants can do.

SOURCE

Britain is gripped by a deep FREEZE: Health chiefs warn of 'very real risk' of deaths as temperatures plummet to -4C and November looks set to be coldest on record

Just as quickly as the temperatures across Britain dropped this weekend, bookmakers have slashed the odds on November to be the coldest on record.

Britain is facing more sub-zero temperatures tonight as the cold snap which has braced the nation is expected to bite again.

The mercury dipped to -3.5C (25.7F) in Hurn, Bournemouth, while South Newington reached -2C (28.4F) and Drumnadrochit, near the Loch Ness dipped to -1.7C (28.94F), while health watchdogs have urged people to prepare for a prolonged cold snap.

Ladbrokes slashed their odds to just 5/2 that November will be the coldest on record. The betting firm has also slashed the odds of the UK seeing a White Christmas to just 8/15, while Coral is offering 4/6 on the same bet.

Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said: 'The sun might be shining but the odds are shivering south as much as the mercury is. It looks like the UK could finally see a proper White Christmas this year.'

Weathermen believe records may have been broken as this weekend was the fifth autumn weekend which saw temperatures fall below at least -4C.

The Weather Outlook forecaster Brian Gaze said: 'All regions are at risk of rain, sleet and snow later in the week.

'Five autumn weekends in a row each having sub-zero cold snaps must be a record.'

And the low temperatures are likely to see a new level 2 Government health warning as hospitals prepare be to busier than usual., while staff prepare to make daily visits or phone calls to the vulnerable. Figures earlier this week showed there were more than 34,000 'excess deaths' across England and Wales over the last winter period, the second highest level in eight years.

But despite the chilly temperatures last night, the mercury did not drop near to this Autumn's lowest temperature of -6.3C which was recorded this Friday in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire.

On Saturday there were smatterings of snow in parts of Scotland and the West Midlands, with more forecast for higher parts of Wales, the Pennines and parts of Northern Ireland overnight.

On Saturday there were smatterings of snow in parts of Scotland and the West Midlands, with more forecast for higher parts of Wales, the Pennines and parts of Northern Ireland overnight. The mercury dipped to -3.5C (25.7F) in Hurn, Bournemouth, while South Newington reached -2C (28.4F) and Drumnadrochit, near the Loch Ness dipped to -1.7C (28.94F)

A yellow weather warning was issued for the length of the western side of Britain and Northern Ireland from 10pm on Saturday until 10am on Sunday, alerting people to the risk of ice.

Yet the weather warnings have now been lifted, although a Met Office spokesman warned people living in coastal areas to remain vigilant as there is the possibility that showers which happen into this evening and overnight could pose a risk of icing over.

Heading into next week, the Met Office warned of snow as far south as Essex by Wednesday, with the East, Northern Britain and Wales all due low-level snow near coasts.

While temperatures will remain similar to the 3-6C that most of Britain felt during the day this weekend, the bitter polar winds next week could make it feel a bitter -1 to -2C.

Temperatures in some parts of Britain could plummet to a brisk -7C on either Wednesday or Thursday in both Scotland or England, which would beat Saturday morning's low of -6.3C in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire.

Met Office forecaster Luke Miall said: 'It turns cold again from Monday afternoon and stays colder-than-average through the week and for up to 10 days, with winds from the Arctic.

SOURCE

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Global warming creating child brides

This is a typical example of Leftist assertion without evidence.  Leftists KNOW the truth:  No evidence needed.  So no evidence is offered for the claim that recent rainfall variations in East Africa are due to anthropogenic global warming.  The cause is more likely to be El Nino, in fact.

Because rainfall is unpredictable almost everywhere -- even the monsoon fails at times -- farming is an inherently risky business.  I call farmers "Rural gamblers".  So even in a First World country like Australia, farmers go broke from time to time because of bad bets about rain.  Rainfall variation is normal and in no need of "explanation" by global warming

And if I might slightly misquote a famous Rabbi (Matthew 26:11), pictures of starving Africans seem always to be with us so offer an unlikely explanation of anything on the present occasion


It was the flood that ensured that Ntonya Sande’s first year as a teenager would also be the first year of her married life. Up to the moment the water swept away her parents’ field in Kachaso in the Nsanje district of Malawi, they had been scraping a living. Afterwards they were reduced to scavenging for bits of firewood to sell.

So when a young man came to their door and asked for the 13-year old’s hand in marriage, the couple didn’t think about it for too long, lest he look elsewhere. Ntonya begged them to change their minds. She was too young, she pleaded. She didn’t want to leave. But it was to no avail. Her parents sat her down and spelled it out for her: the weather had changed and taken everything from them. There was not enough food to go around. They couldn’t afford another mouth at the table.

That night she lay down in bed for the first time with the man she had never seen before and followed the instructions of her aunt, who had coached her on the important matter of sex. Ten months later, she gave birth to their first daughter.

Around 1.5 million girls in Malawi are at risk of getting married because of climate change. That’s  a huge number

Everyone has their own idea of what climate change looks like. For some, it’s the walrus struggling to find space on melting ice floes on Blue Planet II. For others, it’s an apocalyptic vision of cities disappearing beneath the waves. But for more and more girls across Africa, the most palpable manifestation of climate change is the baby in their arms as they sit watching their friends walk to school.

The Brides of the Sun reporting project, funded by the European Journalism Centre, set out to try to assess the scale of what many experts are warning is a real and growing crisis: the emergence of a generation of child brides as a direct result of a changing climate.

And time and again, in villages from the south of Malawi to the east coast of Mozambique, the child brides and their parents told an increasingly familiar story. In recent years they had noticed the temperatures rising, the rains becoming less predictable and coming later and sometimes flooding where there had not been flooding before. Families that would once have been able to afford to feed and educate several children reported that they now faced an impossible situation.

None of the villages had any way of recording the changes scientifically, or indeed felt any urge to do so. All they knew was that the weather had changed and that where they used to be able to pay for their girls to go through school now they couldn’t. And the only solution was for one or more daughters to get married.

Sometimes it was the parents who made the decision. For the good of the rest of the family, a daughter had to be sacrificed. She would be taken out of school and found a husband, one less mouth to feed. Sometimes it was the girl herself who made the decision and forced it upon her parents. Unhappy, hungry, she hoped that a husband might be the answer.

SOURCE

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Trump recycles some truths about Muslims -- causing uproar in Britain

Official Britain is in the grip of a paralysing neurosis about Islam.  So the truth about Islam is heavily suppressed there.  Wilders, Geller and Robert Spencer simply report what Muslims do but they must be kept out of Britain because of that.  Facts are forbidden.

So it is only marginal groups in Britain who offer unrestricted reports about Muslim behaviour. So it is to them that Trump had to go to get accurate reportage on Muslim behavior in Britain. 

It's notable that no one is disputing the accurcy of what Trump tweeted. They are only criticizing the channel through which that information came.  That is of course an "ad hominem" argument and, as such, is of no scholarly worth whatsoever


THE PRESIDENT OF the United States, Donald Trump, got to work early on Wednesday, stoking anti-Muslim hatred by amplifying the views of a small group of British vigilantes who call themselves Britain First, sharing three tweets from the group’s deputy leader.

Britain First is not, as Trump might have guessed, a tribute to his “America First” campaign slogan. It is a splinter group formed by ex-members of the avowedly racist British National Party which has called for Islam to banned and is dedicated to taking “militant direct action” against Muslim Britons, including elected officials they call “occupiers.” The group’s handful of members have been harassing British Muslims during so-called Christian patrols of the streets since at least 2014.

Trump’s intervention later prompted a rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May. “Britain First seeks to divide communities in their use of hateful narratives which that peddle lies and stoke tensions,” May said in a statement. “British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

Given British laws against hate speech, Trump might even have veered into dangerous territory if he still hopes to visit the country soon. In May’s previous role as home minister, she added two Islamophobic American bloggers, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, to a list of “extremists” barred from travel to the country, on the grounds that their presence could “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K.” That ban, imposed in 2013, was motivated by what the two bloggers had written about Muslims online and their plan to take part in a march in London organized by the virulently anti-Islam English Defence League.

In 2009, the Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders was denied entry to the U.K. after the Home Office ruled that his anti-Muslim speeches could “threaten community harmony and therefore public safety.”




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Elizabeth Warren Plagiarized 'Cherokee' Crabmeat Recipe from French Chef

This might seem a trivial matter but it is more evidence that Pocahontas is psychopathic.  What regularly gets psychopaths unglued is that they never foresee that their lies will be found out. Claiming to be Cherokee when she wasn't was a big example of that but her recipe claim is another.

It is also psychopathic that psychopaths gild the lily. So not only did she submit the recipe as hers but she boldly said it "had been passed down for generations in her Cherokee family".

Her attraction to the Left is that she does rage well but again that is the only real emotion that psychopaths have.  All the rest is fake.  She will wriggle out of this one with more lies.  And the Left will believe her because they want to.


Boston radio host Howie Carr said his state's senior senator lifted a French chef's recipe and submitted it as an authentic Cherokee recipe for a Native American-themed cookbook.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump again dubbed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) "Pocahontas" - a riff on her claim to be of Cherokee ancestry.

Tucker Carlson asked Carr about the 1984 book, Pow Wow Chow, to which Warren submitted two recipes featuring shellfish. "When she isn't stealing a Cherokee identity, Warren is also stealing recipes," Tucker Carlson said.

Carr said Warren claimed that the recipes had been passed down for generations in her Cherokee family.

But, he said that the recipes actually came from a former ritzy New York City restaurant owned by late French chef Pierre Franey.  Franey said the dishes were a favorite of the late King Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor, as well as American composer Cole Porter.

SOURCE

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Shock! Horror!  Conservatives are more cautious

The article below is an amusing example of "spin". They report research which shows that conservatives are innately more cautious -- something that no-one I know would argue with. We rather celebrate it, in fact. Caution is almost the definition of conservatism. But the galoots below seem to think that they have shown something new.

The only way they justify that is by seeing caution as "fear".  But even that is unoriginal.  Conservatives do indeed have realistic fears and make no apologies for it.  They particularly fear the outcomes of the madcap schemes that Leftists embark upon -- such as the"Affordable Care Act", which has deprived many Americans of healthcare altogether -- via the huge deductibles that are now often asked before any care is given.

The article is rubbishy in other ways too. The sample consisted of people taking an online survey. But such surveys routinely give a different picture from a proper random sample. The generalizability of the findings is therefore unknown.  You can only generalize to a population if you have taken a random or otherwise representative sample of that population.

And they make quite a point about a suspicion of minorities being associated with a germ model.  I quote:  "For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within."

Curiously, they don't name any such leader.  But there certainly is one leader who did that:  Adolf Hitler, a socialist.  Arch-conservatives, such as Winston Churchill opposed him.  He wasn't one of them.

Hitler even used the old revolutionary slogan "Alles muss anders sein" (Everything must change).  Is that arch conservative?  He wanted to "fundamentally transform" Germany, just as Obama wanted to do to America.  It is an old Marxist lie that Hitler was conservative.

The article seems to imply that the changes they made in people's attitudes were permanent.  But there is no evidence of that given.  It is improbable.


At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions

By John Bargh

Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm is perhaps our strongest human motivation, deeply embedded in our very DNA. It is so deep and important that it influences much of what we think and do, maybe more than we might expect. For example, over a decade now of research in political psychology consistently shows that how physically threatened or fearful a person feels is a key factor — although clearly not the only one — in whether he or she holds conservative or liberal attitudes.

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.

In a new study to appear in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology, my colleagues Jaime Napier, Julie Huang and Andy Vonasch and I asked 300 U.S. residents in an online survey their opinions on several contemporary issues such as gay rights, abortion, feminism and immigration, as well as social change in general. The group was two-thirds female, about three-quarters white, with an average age of 35. Thirty-percent of the participants self-identified as Republican, and the rest as Democrat.

But before they answered the survey questions, we had them engage in an intense imagination exercise. They were asked to close their eyes and richly imagine being visited by a genie who granted them a superpower. For half of our participants, this superpower was to be able to fly, under one’s own power. For the other half, it was to be completely physically safe, invulnerable to any harm.

If they had just imagined being able to fly, their responses to the social attitude survey showed the usual clear difference between Republicans and Democrats — the former endorsed more conservative positions on social issues and were also more resistant to social change in general.

But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal — their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans’ attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before — it had turned conservatives into liberals.

In both instances, we had manipulated a deeper underlying reason for political attitudes, the strength of the basic motivation of safety and survival. The boiling water of our social and political attitudes, it seems, can be turned up or down by changing how physically safe we feel.

This is why it makes sense that liberal politicians intuitively portray danger as manageable — recall FDR’s famous Great Depression era reassurance of “nothing to fear but fear itself,” echoed decades later in Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address — and why President Trump and other Republican politicians are instead likely to emphasize the dangers of terrorism and immigration, relying on fear as a motivator to gain votes.

In fact, anti-immigration attitudes are also linked directly to the underlying basic drive for physical safety. For centuries, arch-conservative leaders have often referred to scapegoated minority groups as “germs” or “bacteria” that seek to invade and destroy their country from within. President Trump is an acknowledged germaphobe, and he has a penchant for describing people — not only immigrants but political opponents and former Miss Universe contestants — as “disgusting.”

“Immigrants are like viruses” is a powerful metaphor, because in comparing immigrants entering a country to germs entering a human body, it speaks directly to our powerful innate motivation to avoid contamination and disease. Until very recently in human history, not only did we not have antibiotics, we did not even know how infections occurred or diseases transmitted, and cuts and open wounds were quite dangerous. (In the American Civil War, for example, 60 out of every 1,000 soldiers died not by bullets or bayonets, but by infections.)

Therefore, we reasoned, making people feel safer about a dangerous flu virus should serve to calm their fears about immigrants — and making them feel more threatened by the flu virus should cause them to be more against immigration than they were before. In a 2011 study, my colleagues and I showed just that. First, we reminded our nationwide sample of liberals and conservatives about the threat of the flu virus (during the H1N1 epidemic), and then measured their attitudes toward immigration. Afterward we simply asked them if they’d already gotten their flu shot or not. It turned out that those who had not gotten a flu shot (feeling threatened) expressed more negative attitudes toward immigration, while those who had received the vaccination (feeling safe) had more positive attitudes about immigration.

In another study, using hand sanitizer after being warned about the flu virus had the same effect on immigration attitudes as had being vaccinated. A simple squirt of Purell after we had raised the threat of the flu had changed their minds. It made them feel safe from the dangerous virus, and this made them feel socially safe from immigrants as well.

SOURCE/.  There are some further critical comments on the study here