Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A moderate weather event

It is midwinter in Brisbane where I live.  The temperature at my place with doors open and no heating in operation was 28 degrees C at 3pm yesterday.  Britons would call that a heatwave.  So how come such heat in midwinter?  Brisbane is, after all, in a sub-tropical latitude, not the tropics.  Could it be that global warming is catching up with me?

Not quite.  You see, we also had a very cool summer at the beginning of this year.  So instead of extreme weather events, we are having a moderate weather event -- where summer and winter temperatures converge to an unusual degree. 

I am sure the Warmists could explain it.  They can explain everything "post hoc". But it's certainly pretty weird in an opposite direction to what the panic merchants have predicted.  If this is global warming, I love it!

A poisonous Leftist myth is hurting black kids

The Leftist myth of a "Stolen generation" has by now been pretty well debunked but Leftists are immune to facts so still believe and preach it.  Aboriginal families are often highly dysfunctional, with childen being seriously abused and neglected.  In such circumstances, social workers would take ANY child (black or white) off its parents and foster it out.  So they did that a lot with black kids.  Such kids were the allegedly "stolen" generation, though there was never anything remotely like a whole generation being "stolen". 

When Leftist historians created the myth, however, it generated a great uproar -- with social workers being much demonized.  Guess what?  Social workers effectively went on strike when it came to Aboriginal families.  To avoid being demonized they largely  ceased taking black kids into custody, leaving them to suffer and die at the hands of their neglectful families.

Something I have heard from a few people who worked with Aborigines (not social workers) was that if Aboriginal families went on walkabout they would sometimes "lose" a child on the way.  The family might have (say) six children and, after a stop, they would go on with only five, making no attempt to shepherd all six.  It took whites to reunite the "forgoten" child with its family.  It would take an anthropologist to work out why that happens but you can see that social workers would be horrified by such behaviour.  Now they don't want to know

THE real concern with Malcolm Turnbull’s hastily arranged royal commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory isn’t whether it will do any good, it’s how much harm will it do – and to whom?

This may sound counterintuitive, but as has been the case in similar inquiries, a few words cherry-picked from the findings can have enormous, damaging, long-term ramifications for indigenous Australians.

The 1997 Stolen Children report is the most obvious example. It contained the killer phrase: “The policy of forcible removal of children from indigenous Australians to other groups ... could properly be labelled ‘genocidal’.”

Thanks to that lethal finding, subsequent generations of indigenous children have arguably been condemned to a higher risk of sexual and/or domestic abuse. Why? Because the “system” today prefers to leave indigenous children with their own parents, even when those parents are total basket cases.

Adopting or fostering out such children, as Jeremy Sammut wrote in The Weekend Australian, is only a “last resort”. What Sammut describes as the “scandalous state of child protection systems” is often driven by the fear of creating “another stolen generation”.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that hundreds – possibly thousands – of abused indigenous children suffer unnecessarily because of political correctness.

The 1991 report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody made more than 300 recommendations, including No. 92: “Imprisonment should be utilised only as a sanction of last resort.” There’s that deadly phrase again – “last resort”.

This may appear to be a logical conclusion from the commission’s main finding that: “Aboriginal people do not die at a higher rate than non-Aboriginal people in custody, but the rate at which Aboriginal people are taken into custody is overwhelmingly different.”

But “last resort” is a pretty loose term. If all judges apply recommendation 92 literally to all indigenous criminal cases, it is unavoidable that many Aboriginal thugs who should be behind bars are not, with potentially lethal results for themselves and their communities.

The risk is that Turnbull’s royal commission will, unavoidably, end up recommending that incarceration for young indigenous Territorians should equally only be a “last resort”.

Royal Commissioner Brian Martin, QC, in his former role as Chief Justice of the Northern Territory, made headlines when he sentenced an indigenous 55-year-old man to only one month in jail for having assaulted and sodomised a 14-year-old girl the man claimed was his “traditional” wife. The reason Martin’s sentence was so lenient (it was later increased on appeal) was sympathy to Aboriginal “customary law”.

Given that the majority of juvenile inmates in the Territory are black, and the majority of guards white, it’s likely that “racial abuse” will feature prominently in the commission’s testaments, anecdotal evidence and possible findings.

One former NT correctional officer told me: “Juvenile detention centres everywhere in Australia tend to be, in general, a bit more brutal and chaotic than adult facilities. That’s partly because ‘juvies’ can often be harder to manage than adults.”

This officer fervently hopes the inquiry results in clearer, more comprehensive rules and guidelines.

“It’s not the use of spit hoods and restraints and uses of force that’s disturbing in the ABC footage, it’s the way there seems to be no standard procedure. The gas is the worst: you shouldn’t just be able to get it out of the cupboard and use it whenever you want,” he said.

“A thorough investigation – if done right – can set the rules in a way that few other mechanisms could. When the rules are clear, most correctional officers are happier and more effective, and it is easier to spot the thugs and weed them out.”

Yet the risk is that the political correctness industry and the Aboriginal grievance activists will seize on key phrases in Martin’s eventual findings that pin the blame for certain “bad” practices on “racism”. Inevitably, this will lead to judges and magistrates hesitating to lock up juvenile indigenous offenders.

The fear is that Turnbull’s royal commission will – again – become a rallying call for strident Aboriginal activism and the “anti-racist” brigade.

Political correctness may, once again, prove lethal to young indigenous Australians.


Recognition not about concession: Dodson

Call for a constitutional amendment to "recognize" Aborigines has been rumbling on for some time.  That the 1967 referendum long ago recognized Aborigines seems to be forgotten.  So what do they want?  Money, as far as I can see. 

Aborigines seem to feel that they have some rights that other Australians do not and that a formal recognition of those rights would enable them to sell those rights for money.  The Left encourage them in that view, even though six years of ALP rule from 2007 to 2013 did not result in any action in that direction

The 1967 referendum was actually a very interesting one so I follow the news report below with an account of a major lesson  we can learn from it

Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people is not about a "concession to the natives" but how Australia can embrace its multiple heritages and forge a unified view, says Senator Pat Dodson.

Discussion of constitutional recognition of indigenous people is beginning to pivot to a consideration of what it will really offer, as a grassroots movement for a treaty builds momentum.

Cape York leader Noel Pearson said at Garma Festival in northeast Arnhem Land on Saturday that the two aren't mutually exclusive.

"If we think they are somehow separate agendas this whole agenda will fail," he said.  "Constitutional recognition provides the hook that enables agreements to be made... and a national settlement to be made."

Senator Dodson said the matter concerned all Australians.

"It's not some concession to the natives," he said.

"It is about this nation coming to terms with its dark, desperate and miserable history and yet being able to celebrate... the British tradition, the multiculturalism and the indigenous heritage, and to intertwine that in a way that gives this civil state we call Australia a new identity, a new capacity to do things differently."

Recognition would help Australia come to terms with itself, he said.

"Not only with its truth... that underlies the dispossession and the truth that pertains to the racism that underpins public policy and the ignorance that goes with that, but it also goes to the fatigue, the wearing down of indigenous peoples because bureaucracies and governments can do that.

"They have energy, they have resources, the time; they can gloat in the forms of their conservatism and frustrate the energies of the leaders that seek to make things better for indigenous people."

He warned parliament that it was not engaging in a parallel education process with indigenous people.

"Parliament has to prepare itself, not only for constitutional recognition but the agenda that has to flow through there... The need for post-recognition settlement, for the capacity to reshape the relations and reprioritise the programs and capacity of Aboriginal people in the delivery of those services and development of those mechanisms," he said.


Psychological implications of Australia's 1967 "Aboriginal" referendum

Psychologists have long taken an interest in intergroup conflict, with racism being the major instance of that.  And they have laboured mightily to understand it and hence hopefully contribute to its amelioration or eradication.  One look at the world around us today tells us that they have not been successful.

One of the earliest proposals put forward by psychologists was  what was called the "contact hypothesis".  Put crudely, the proposal was that the more whites got to know blacks the more hostility between them would disappear.  The origin of the hypothesis was an influential book by Stouffer et al. called "The American soldier".  The book was based on studies of what had happened in the American armed forces during WWII, when around a million blacks were enlisted plus many more whites.  The authors interviewed many of the men concerned after the war and concluded on rather dubious grounds that being together during the war had improved white attitudes towards blacks. 

This sunny conclusion was much seized on by psychologists and many supportive studies were produced.  After a while however, dissent emerged, particularly but not exclusively from Britain.  Many studies showed that contact did NOT improve interracial attitudes and some even found that interracial contact WORSENED racial attitudes.  And so the matter remains to this day:  With no fully agreed resolution.  In some circumstances, contact seems to be beneficial and in others it seems to be detrimental. And often it has no effect at all.

Almost all of the studies on both sides of the question have however had two large defects:  1).  They studied expressed attitudes only, not behaviour;  2).  The "samples" of people that they used were almost always  non-samples, making generalizations from them precarious.  Psychologists base most of their conclusions about humanity on studies of white rats and available groups of Tertiary students, which would be hilarious if it were not so disappointing. 

And that is where Australia's 1967 referendum comes in.  It offered a remedy to both those defects.  The hope or idea that one could obtain useful data not from a sample but from an entire national population is usually an impossible dream. Yet the 1967 referendum offered just that.

To recap.: In 1967 Australia held a constitutional referendum in conjunction with a Federal election (voting in Australian elections is compulsory so turnout was around 98%) which was designed to allow the government to make laws specifically about Australia's native black population (the Aborigines). Rather like native Americans ("Indians"), the Aborigines at the time lived to a considerable extent on reservations and were mostly poor, ill-housed, unemployed and prone to serious health problems. I lived just down the road from an Aboriginal settlement during my teens in the '60s so I saw with my own eyes how they lived.

That is not to say that all Aborigines lived poorly.  Some had assimilated and become much like other Australians but at that time they were few.

The main aim of the referendum was to give the Federal government the power to improve their lot.  The constitutional change could in theory have allowed the government to make laws AGAINST the interests of Aborigines but that was not foreseen.  There was much enthusiasm to "do something" to improve the state of Aborigines.  So even at that time 91% of Australians were NOT racist. They wished the Aborigines well.  And the right to vote had already been given to Aborigines a few years earlier.

Aborigines are, however, unevenly distributed throughout Australia. They are largely unseen in the big cities and those Aborigines who are city-dwellers almost invariably live in just one semi-slum suburb. They mostly come into contact with whites as fringe-dwellers around country towns. Additionally, some Australian States have few Aborigines at all (e.g. Tasmania, where they were mostly wiped out in the last century) while others (such as Queensland and Western Australia) have a disproportionately high number of blacks.  The outcome of the referendum was overwhelming (91%) support for the referendum proposal. Australians overall wanted blacks to be helped in any way by the government.

One social scientist, however delved more deeply.  Ian Mitchell noticed that most of the "Yes" vote seemed to have come from the big cities where blacks were largely unknown. He therefore correlated the size of the "No" vote in Australia's various electoral districts with the proportion of the population in those districts that was of Aboriginal origin. No matter how he analyzed the data, he found a correlation of .9 between the number of anti-Aborigine votes and the density of the black population. The more white Australians had been in a position to see, get to know and evaluate blacks, the less they wanted them as equals.

The behavior involved (the voting) was undoubtedly of an extremely significant and important kind as far as discriminatory practices are concerned and the correlation with opportunity for contact was of a magnitude seldom seen anywhere in the behavioral sciences. Compare more than 80% of the variance explained with the 8% explained by Studlar's (1979) multiple regressions in England. When we turn to the strongest body of data we have on discriminatory practices, we find extraordinarily strong evidence that contact with black culture is highly aversive for members of the majority white culture.

There are four reasons why Mitchell's data is particularly strong:

1). He used a full population, not a sample; 2). Behaviour (vote) was studied rather than a (possibly insincere) expression of attitude. 3). The relevant behavior could be emitted privately (in the ballot booth) with little obvious room for peer or social pressure to be exerted. 4). The effect (r = .9) revealed was very strong.

Thus, although the study is the only one of its kind, it is one of a kind largely because of its unusual strengths.

The reasons behind the findings are far from mysterious if one knows a little of the ethnography concerned: Aborigines as encountered by whites seemed to be almost invariably unemployed and living on welfare. They are generally encountered by whites as vagrant street-dwellers being drunk and quarrelsome. They show quite often signs of fearsome disease (e.g. leprosy) and venereal diseases such as syphilis are endemic among them. They show little or no adherence to white ideals of hygiene. Again those things were not true of all but they were the things that whites usually saw at that time.  Many Aborigines today are  clean, sober, hardworking and reasonably healthy but it is the opposite that is most usually seen.

Drunkenness, unemployment, poor hygiene and bad behavior are not, however, part of the original Aboriginal culture. They are the result of loss of culture.  But there are real cultural differences that are just as difficult to bridge: the imperative to share vs the individual ownership, the importance of extended family, the importance of religion, the interconnectedness of all things.

So even if you disregarded modern-day trends and searched the world for the two most dissimilar sets of cultural beliefs you wouldn't go past Australian Aboriginal versus Northern European.  Aborigines do have their own ways but in our society the results are markedly dysfunctional and put them at odds with the society in which they live.

They are also in fact a generally kind and friendly people who feel that they have been robbed of their country but it would only be with a considerable act of will that most whites could bear to interact with many of them at all. Most whites would avoid a drunk, dirty and white hobo so it is precisely because they do NOT discriminate racially that they also avoid and tend to be disgusted by drunk, dirty and quarrelsome black hobos. The most usual state of the Aborigines to this day does have to be seen to be believed. See Cowlishaw (1986) for a fuller description.

The point of all this is that neither whites nor blacks are to blame for the obviously strong dislike that many whites feel towards blacks in general. When large numbers of Aborigines behave "badly" by white standards and large numbers of whites dislike them for it, members of both groups are simply acting as normal carriers of their own culture. The problem lies in the fact that the two cultures are juxtaposed and yet are so different. What is normal in the one is reprehensible in the other. If white culture did not embody a respect for hard work, hygiene and control of alcohol intake, it would not be white culture as it is today. It would be something else. But it is not something else. It is a highly successful culture (in at least material and technological ways) that dominates the world. It will not go away overnight. To tell most Australian whites who know Australian blacks not to dislike Australian blacks is to tell them to forget in an instant their own core values.

So have Mitchell's findings revolutionized thinking in the area?  They are so strong that they should have done but instead they have been sedulously ignored.  I have mentioned them many times in the academic journals but they are not what people want to hear.  Anti-racism is something of a religion in the post-Hitler era and Mitchell's findings do not suit that at all.  Far from adverse racial attitudes being deviant, ignorant, evil, maladjusted or stupid, the findings tell us that such attitudes can in fact be both normal for their community and understandable.

A common psychological claim is that the "other" is disliked out of fear.  Differences in others are feared so defensive mental walls go up.  Is that what Mitchell's findings show?  It's possible but I have yet to hear a white express dislike of Aborigines out of fear.  The reaction instead is invariably disgust.  And Aborigines are simply not fearsome.  They are placid, very polite people and are most certainly not likely to compete your job away from you.  I cannot think of anything about Aborigines that might be feared.  There are good reasons why American whites fear American blacks but none of that applies to Aborigines.

So the outlook for equality between whites and blacks in Australia is very dark indeed.  Aborigines are not going to change, whites are not going to change so nothing will change.

Do the findings suggest anything about the USA?  I think they do.  Australian Aborigines and Africans are different in many ways but what American whites encounter from American blacks also has large aversive elements -- the high rate of violent crime among blacks, for instance.   So despite all the Procrustean efforts of the American Left, equality between blacks and whites in America is almost certainly chimerical.

The statistics -- An ecological fallacy?

Discussion of the assumptions underlying methods of statistical analysis probably makes rather dry reading for most readers but it nonetheless needs to be covered in order to protect one's work from apparently devastating demolition by subsequent, statistically sophisticated writers.

On the present occasion, it must be pointed out that Mitchell's (1968) correlations were "ecological" ones in Robinson's (1950) sense -- i.e. the units for analysis were not indivisible. As Robinson shows, such correlations can easily be beguilingly high, particularly where the units for analysis are few, and such correlations are not estimates of individual correlations. As Menzel (1950) has pointed out, however, ecological correlations do not have to be estimates of individual correlations to be of interest.

Furthermore, it should be noted that Mitchell analyzed his data two ways: once using large (and hence few) units for analysis (the State by State comparison) and secondly using smaller (and hence much more numerous) units for analysis (comparison of electoral districts). Unlike the cases discussed by Robinson, the correlation did not fall markedly on the second occasion. It in fact fell not at all. This suggests that taking the analysis down to the smallest possible unit of analysis (the individual) might not have made a big difference either.

Whether or not that would have been so, however, it does need to be pointed out that ecological correlations tend to tell us more about broad processes than details within such processes. On the present occasion what the correlation tells us precisely is that areas where there are a high proportion of Aborigines are also areas where Aborigines are actively discriminated against. It may tell us nothing about the attitudes that are voiced by whites in such areas and it may tell us nothing about who does the discriminating. It does, however, demonstrate a broad social process. It tells us about societies rather than individuals.


Cowlishaw, G. (1986) Race for exclusion. Australian & New Zealand J. Sociology 22(1), 3-24.

Menzel, H. (1950) Comment on Robinson's "Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals" American Sociological Review 15, 674.

Mitchell, I.S. (1968) Epilogue to a referendum. Australian J. Social Issues 3(4), 9-12.   

Robinson, W.S. (1950) Ecological correlations and the behavior of individuals. American Sociological Review 15, 351-357.

Stouffer, S.A. et al. (1949) "The American Soldier: Combat and Its Aftermath".  Princeton U.P., Princeton, NJ

Studlar, D.T. (1979) Racial attitudes in Britain: A causal analysis. Ethnicity 6, 107-122.

Easier access to university has devalued degrees, created huge debt and made some feel like failures

AUSTRALIA’S university system is letting students down and pumping out graduates with “broken dreams and a large student debt”, the head of a body representing the country’s most prestigious institutions has noted.

Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson has highlighted the broken state of the system in a wideranging speech she delivered today at the Graduate Employability and Industry Partnerships Forum.

She said the removal of caps on student numbers and the introduction of a “demand driven” system, had led to unintended consequences.

Universities were now pumping out an oversupply of graduates, making it hard for some to get jobs despite spending significant time and money on their education.

Ms Thomson also noted that the value of vocational study had also been eroded, with people forced to consider going to university “or be labelled a failure”.

Almost 40 per cent of Australians aged 25 to 34 years old now had an undergraduate degree, an achievement helped by the world’s most generous income-contingent student loan scheme (HELP).

But Ms Thomson said reaching this goal had not led to the “career utopia” many graduates dreamt of, and had come at enormous financial cost to the country.  “Personally we all know the barista or bartender, with an honours in law,” Ms Thomson said.

“The young guy serving in Officeworks who is a mining engineer; the young woman in the bakery with two degrees in the marketing space. None of us are happy with those outcomes.”

Not only was this a big expense to students, but the economy was also paying. Student debt from HELP will be almost $200 billion in 2024-25, something which universities know is unsustainable.

It comes as the government tries to find ways of raising money to cover this increasing burden. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking at allowing universities to set their own fees for some “flagship courses”, as an alternative to the unpopular proposal put forward by ex-PM Tony Abbott that all university fees be deregulated. Universities could also see their government funding cut by 20 per cent.

The idea released in an options paper with the Budget suggested allowing universities to set their own fees for courses in which up to 20 per cent of their students were enrolled.

But the Group of Eight (representing Sydney University, Melbourne University and others) and the Australian Technology Network of Universities (representing RMIT, the University of Technology, Sydney and others) have criticised the idea.

The network said there could be an “inequitable drift” of those who could afford to pay to attend certain “prestige” courses at particular institutions, making similar courses at other universities seem less attractive.

Student debt is already a growing problem, especially as degrees no longer guaranteed jobs. This could potentially saddle the government with writing off bad debts if students could not afford to pay their loans back.

Encouraging more students into the university system had also led to businesses no longer valuing bachelor degrees because they had become a base level of achievement in many areas.

“More graduates feel they have to keep studying, to seek out a masters — and with it more student debt — to give them a career edge — or even parity in some cases,” she said.

Ms Thomson said there was an “uncomfortable trend” of employers asking job seekers for university qualifications even if they are applying for non-professional jobs that previously would have required a TAFE certificate or less.

“Over past months my staff have pointed various examples out to me, including advertising for a recruitment team co-ordinator, an admin co-ordinator and a PA in a property development firm who had to have completed a bachelor with a major in property,” she said. “Each of these noted that a degree qualification was a must.”

She said asking people to get university degrees for jobs that didn’t need them risked diminishing the value of university education. “University isn’t for everyone. It was never intended for everyone,” she said.

“Equally there should never have come a point where entering a ‘trade’ was seen as a lesser pathway.

“This nation is built, literally, on its trades and its TAFE diplomas. Enormous economic value. Irreplaceable in the past, present and the future.  “We should be encouraging vocational study, not allowing it to be seen as a consolation prize.”

She said under the demand-driven system, those studying degrees had increased but those doing other qualifications had languished.

“I doubt it was ever intended that the demand driven system would set up society to consider the lack of a degree as a failure,” she said.  “But that is what has been occurring. There is anecdotal evidence of family aspirations leading to students being channelled away from TAFE and a trade into a degree program.”

She said more opportunities should be opened up for students who did not want to complete degrees.

Ms Thomson said universities shouldn’t just be degree factories that aimed to teach narrow skills.

This was more important than ever as degrees no longer guaranteed jobs and someone graduating today would likely have 17 jobs across five careers in their lifetime.

She said teaching was one example of a career that was pumping out way more graduates than could realistically get jobs.

Quoting an article in The Australian from the University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis, Ms Thomson noted there were 80,000 students studying teaching but only 7000 full time jobs on offer each year.

In another example, Ms Thomson said other graduates may begin a degree with good career prospects at the time, but the job market could be very different by the time they finished a four-year degree.

Ms Thomson used the mining boom as an example.  In 2007, 100 per cent of mining engineering graduates who wanted fulltime work were employed but by 2013, this had dropped to 83 per cent.

The numbers are even starker for geology students.  In just two years (from 2012 to 2014), those working fulltime fell from 84 per cent to just 57 per cent.

“Universities must play a vital role in making a graduate more generally employable, and knowledgeable,” she said.

She said students needed to be taught portable skills such as research, teamwork, analytical thinking, problem solving, communication and project management.

“And it is a fallacy to assume that such generalist degrees do not lead to good employment outcomes,” she said.

Ms Thomson pointed to a US study that showed liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree were making more money on average than those who studied in professional or pre-professional fields by their mid-50s. They were also employed at similar rates.

She said the key was finding a balance between graduates who do end up working in specific careers, and those who don’t. “Both are essential, as I say — the key is finding the balance.”

While many graduates did not end up working in the field they studied for, universities played a role in giving students the confidence to venture into self-employment, and/or diverse employment.  “The cost to the nation of their degree has not been wasted, nor has the cost to themselves,” she said.

“We have provided them with a strong foundation to contribute to the economy — as they are doing — and will increasingly need to be able to do, if they are to be successful in a career that will increasingly be marked by technological breakthroughs and disruption.”

Ms Thomson said universities were often criticised for not turning out work ready graduates but said there should also be discussion about whether businesses were asking more of today’s graduates.

She said part of the problem may be that businesses could no longer afford to give graduates the time to adjust to their roles, or to give them old-fashioned on-the-job mentoring.

“Which leads me to repeat — that universities have a far broader role in society, and for our students, than being a degree factory for jobs.”


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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