Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Melbourne named world's most liveable city again, Adelaide ranked fifth

These rankings do tell something about the quality of life in the cities concerned but the differences are highly subjective.  Another ranking put Tokyo first!  Most of the raters in the present case would have been from England's Home Counties.  So it is amusing to note how similar to the Home Counties the highly rated cities are.  4 out of the top 5 were even English-speaking!  The same 4 were also in monarchies with the Queen as Head of State.  Mustn't laugh!  Definitely congenial places for English people. But hey! I like Melbourne too

Melbourne has been named the world's most liveable city for the fifth year in a row, achieving a near perfect score on the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) liveability survey of 140 cities.

The survey rated cities out of 100 in the areas of health care, education, stability, culture and environment and infrastructure.  Melbourne again achieved a score of 97.5, just two-and-a-half points shy of perfection.  The five most liveable cities:

    Melbourne, Australia
    Vienna, Austria
    Vancouver, Canada
    Toronto, Canada
    Adelaide, Australia

Adelaide was ranked in fifth place again with an overall rating of 96.6.

"Those that score best tend to be mid-sized cities in wealthier countries with a relatively low population density," the EIU report said.

"These can foster a range of recreational activities without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure."

Seven of the top 10 scoring cities were in Australia and Canada.

Melbourne is Australia's fastest-growing capital and the only city in the world to have won the title five consecutive times. International visits have increased by 8 per cent in that time.

While celebrating the ranking, the Victorian Government said it would "never be complacent", investing $20 billion in transport infrastructure and $5.4 billion in health and education to create a stronger economy.

"Melbourne has the best of everything and this title proves it," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.  "Perfect scores in health care, education and infrastructure, culture, environment and sport are all proof there's no place like Victoria."

Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle said he was "very proud" of the accolade.  "It is particularly pleasing in a year when the Economist Intelligence Unit notes that many cities lost ground," he said.  "We must be doing something right in our cities in this part of the world."


Australian Psychological Society uses biases and fallacies to accuse skeptics of bias and fallacies

Woolly-headed old lady leaps to the defence of something she knows nothing about

If psychologists want to be taken seriously, and want psychology to be called “a science”, they need to elect a director who knows what science is.

The Climate Study group in Australia published a half page advert in The Australian last week – Psychology and Climate Alarm: how fear and anxiety trump evidence.  See the advert here.

In reply, Prof Lyn Littlefield, Executive Director of the [Leftist] Australian Psychology Society wrote a letter to The Australian protesting — claiming that the Climate Study Group are the ones suffering from the confirmation bias they accuse climate scientists of.

“The advertisement, ‘Psychology and the New Climate Storm’  misuses psychology-based arguments to add credibility to myths and misinformation about climate change. In doing so, the authors illustrate aptly the very error bias (confirmation bias) they are erroneously attributing to the climate science community.”

It’s the “the pot calling the kettle black”, exclaims Littlefield. But since her arguments are entirely fallacies, this is the kettle calling the pot calling the kettle black.  The Climate Study Group mentioned many scientific observations, and in reply Lyn Littlefield can’t find an error in any of them, she can only cite “the consensus”. So instead of using a thermometer to measure the temperature, she wants to use keyword studies in abstracts of publications, and pronouncements of sub-committees of scientific associations.

Hey, it’s not like consensuses have been wrong before, or grants committees, journal editors, and scientists could possibly have any personal motivations, training deficits, or biases, right? But who would expect a psychologist to spot those…

Littlefield seems to think that scientists are robots. She talks of “vested interests” of the skeptics, but is blind to the 3500:1 ratio of funding for climate “belief”. Then she accuses skeptics of cherry picking and bias. It’s projection, projection all the way down.

The world cooled for 37 years while CO2 rose. Does that matter? No, says Lyn, the Royal Society was founded in 1662. Welcome to a conversation with a blind believer. Seriously, the good scientific psychologists need to speak up lest the fawning confused believers in their profession stay glued to the public mouth-piece. (Lucky  Jose Duarte has spoken, and Littlefield should read his blog. Where are the other good psychs?)

Littlefield wants to talk “fallacies”, so let’s take her “jumping to conclusions” fallacy and raise it. Those who jump to assume long reports from human committees are “facts” are falling for the fallacy known as “argument from authority”. Real scientists look at the data — which is exactly what the Climate Study Group did.
The danger of believing press releases — there is a reason “argument from authority” is a fallacy

Littlefield seems to think that if an association issues a statement it’s an accurate reflection of the members, but these societies almost never survey their members. Those of us who understand the psychology of groups know that most associations speak on behalf of the six most motivated volunteers who signed up for the sub-committee on Climate Thingys. (You’d think, maybe, a psychologist might know that?) It’s just another reason the scientific method does not include “opinions of associations”. We have almost no evidence of what the members opinions are because no one asked them, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because it’s not evidence about the climate. (Perhaps we should start a new society to supplant the Royal Society for people like Littlefield — maybe the Royal Gossip or the Royal Opinion?)

Lucky Professor Littlefield, director of The Australian Psychology Society, does not assess surveys for a living, eh?
Surveys show there is no consensus among scientists

For the record if Littlefield did some (any) research before writing to newspapers, she’d know there are a few surveys of scientists but they pretty much all have devastating news for naive fans of a “consensus”. Empirical data shows only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, that  52% of meteorologists think natural causes are more important and only 43% of climate scientists (fergoodnesssake) agree with the biblical certainty expressed in the IPCC. Clearly skeptics outnumber believers, but as a scientist, I’d never use that to defend my views. It all comes back to real evidence instead — observations from stuff like satellites, sediments, ice cores and boreholes.
Define “climate science denial” — is that where psychologists deny the empirical evidence?

Littlefield understands that the work “empirical” is a good word to use to sound scientific.  If only she knew about empirical climate data, instead of empirical data of online-anonymous-surveys. One sort of data matters:

 There is a growing body of empirical research into the psychology of climate science denial,  and a number of these characteristics are on display in the Climate Study Group’s  advertisement.

The Climate Study Group can back up their statements with empirical data, which unequivocally shows that the models are wrong, the hot spot didn’t appear (even according to the IPCC), the surface stopped warming when it shouldn’t have, and the warming started long before it was supposed too (1680 versus 1900). Logically the “climate science deniers” are the ones who think 28 million weather balloons don’t matter, but ten anonymous responses in a survey of unskeptical sites do.
A real discussion we need to have is about the pathetic state of psychology

Are the successful scientists and corporate directors misusing psychology, or is it the psychologists misusing psychology?

There are questions the Australian Psychology Society really need to answer. “Climate denier” is an abusive form of namecalling; does it have a place in university psychology? It defies any literal definition; no one denies we have a climate and no one denies the climate changes. There don’t appear to be any people who fit the definition. Even PhD students of psychology (like John Cook) are being encouraged to use it. Does accurate English matter in psychology?

Does Littlefield think it’s OK for psychologists to generate derogatory media headlines based on three anonymous responses? Does she think it’s useful to survey sites that are hostile to skeptics to find out what skeptics think? (Would she survey Jews in order to understand what Palestinians feel?) Is it acceptable to claim that 78,000 skeptics saw a link to a survey on a site run by a co-author that never hosted the link? Does the APS care about truth, or does the ends justify the means?

These kinds of “climate” psychology studies start from the “consensus” fallacy (despite the empirical evidence that the consensus does not exist) . Do they serve the taxpayer, or is it just a way of improving propaganda in order to bilk the public for more big-government funds?

There’s a unspoken potential vested interest here. Corporates, miners, and skeptics don’t funnel much money on the climate issue to research psychologists because they know how pointless it is. Big-government however seems happy to fund psychologists who use the money to promote their own personal political (big-government) beliefs. Does psychology suffer from its own “confirmation bias”?   Aren’t “climate” psychologists just government-funded activists in the Climate Change Scare Machine?

The evidence Littlefield either denies or is ignorant of is that the climate models depend on assumptions about feedbacks that observations have long proven to be false.

The models not only fail on global decadal scales, but on regional, local, short term, [1] [2], polar[3], and upper tropospheric scales[4] [5] too. They fail on humidity[6], rainfall[7], drought [8] and they fail on clouds [9]. The hot spot is missing, the major feedbacks are not amplifying the effect of CO2 as assumed.

 –see  the scientific references for those.

The consensus that doesn’t exist, depends on models that don’t work. Can anyone spot a problem?


Traditional marriage arrangements rejected by Greens

Australian politicians have clashed with traditional marriage advocates on ABC's Q&A, as the debate surrounding marriage equality continued to cause sparks to fly.

The fiery debate took place after an audience member asked the panel what Australia's next step in legalising same-sex marriage should be, after the Coalition government voted last week not to address the issue prior to the next election.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale got the discussion under way by accusing Prime Minister Tony Abbott of sabotaging the push for equality by using 'every tactic in the book'.

'We could have a bill before the Parliament supported by majority of parliamentarians if Tony Abbott did what he espouses and that is to respect the freedom and liberty of his own backbenchers and allow them to a free vote,' Mr Di Natale said. 'The sooner the Liberal Party change the Prime Minister, I think the country will be better for it.'

The discussion took a turn for the worse when American traditional marriage advocate Katy Faust began to list reasons why she believes marriage equality should be denied.

The controversial commentator and self-described bigot's main objection was with the alleged negative impact same-sex parents would have on their children.  'We don't want to inflict intentional motherless and fatherlessness on kids in the name of progress,' Ms Faust said, on the ABC's program.

'In (my) country, we didn't have a robust debate... It was so demonised from the beginning that anybody that supported traditional marriage was doing so based on bias or bigotry or hatred or homophobia. It totally shut it down and people felt like they could not speak up.'

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari immediately challenged Ms Faust on her comments, which he said were 'so offensive (he didn't) know where to start'.  [Would he challenge similar comments in his native Iran?]

'The politician in me tells me that I should be saying that while I disagree with your views, I wholeheartedly respect them but I find that very hard,' Mr Dastyari said.  'I find it very hard to respect a lot of your views on what you have said because I don't think it comes from a place of love. I think it comes from a place of hate.

'I worry that so much of your views stem not really with an issue with just marriage, I think some of it stems with an issue with homosexuality. You have described homosexuality as a lifestyle. You have said homosexuality drives us further away from God.

'There are people in this country who have different views on same-sex marriage. People will have the debate but we have to have it at a higher level. The American evangelical claptrap is the last thing we need in the debate.'

Mr Di Natale later took issue with Ms Faust's assertion about the harmful impact same-sex parents have on children, by saying the most important thing is a loving household and dismissing other claims as 'rubbish'.

Ms Faust shot back at the Greens leader, saying: 'Oh my, rubbish. well, it's actually not. Social science has been studying alternative family structure.'

British editor Brendan O'Neill also offered his thoughts on the debate, which focused around the alleged 'shouting down' of people who do not support marriage equality.

'Here's what freaks me out about gay marriage,' Mr O'Neill said.   'It presents itself as this kind of liberal civil-rightsy issue, but it has this really ugly intolerant streak to it.

'You really see it in this whole cake shop phenomenon... This whole thing around the western world where people are going to traditional Christian cake shops and saying to them, 'hey you, stupid Christian, make this cake for me' and if they don't they call the police.'

Mr O'Neill also went on to defend Mr Abbott's handling on the issue, saying the Prime Minister has unfairly been painted as someone from 'the Dark Ages for believing what humanity has believed for thousands of years'.

The debate comes after Liberal backbencher Warren Entsch is expected to introduce his same-sex marriage bill, seconded by Labor, into parliament on Monday, but it is not expected to be voted on.

A new poll also revealed 76 per cent want a national vote on marriage equality, according to AAP.


Academics hate the idea of competition

IT WAS Budget night 2014 and Professor Bruce Chapman, the man credited with inventing HECS, went to the lock-up fully expecting it to be a “bit of a bore”.

“When we heard the announcement about the planned policy reforms, I don’t know what the sound of what one hand clapping is, but I do know what the sound of three jaws dropping was,” Prof Chapman recalled.

Prof Chapman attended the Budget lock-up with two colleagues who had both worked in the office of former Treasurer John Dawkins, responsible for one of the biggest shake-ups of tertiary education in Australia, including the introduction of HECS. But those reforms paled in comparison to what the Federal Government proposed in 2014.

Prof Chapman, who spoke at a forum on university financing at ANU last week, said he had been modelling various parts of the university financing system for 25 years or more. The Abbott government’s plans were so radical he had never even considered them.

“(We) had never modelled any of this because we thought the likelihood of it ever happening were close to zero,” he said, calling them the “most radical suggested reforms to Australian higher education” ever.

The plan to deregulate university fees was rejected by the Senate, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he will not give up on the reforms, insisting they are necessary if Australian institutions are to flourish.

Other experts are not so sure, and one US academic is concerned Australia could do more harm than good by pressing ahead.

Despite initial support for deregulation among Australian universities, there has been more scepticism about whether student fees should be deregulated, particularly if aimed at improving Australia’s ranking on international tables.

This week it was revealed that Australia now has more than half of its public universities listed in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities, and four universities in the top 100.

Experts at the ANU forum also expressed concerns that universities would be encouraged to chase profits rather than educate students.

Professor Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan in the US said it was unclear why the reforms were needed.

“What problem are people trying to fix?

“If the goal is to get more money — and I haven’t seen any evidence there’s insufficient funds for teaching ... it seems to be getting more funds for research ... that would cost tax dollars and people don’t want to spend money.”

During the forum Prof Dynarski provided “gory details” of the problems in the US system, which had seen student debt double between 2001 and 2011. There was now a push to implement elements of the Australian HECS/HELP system to address some of the issues.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government wants to cut university funding in Australia by 20 per cent and allow universities to make up the shortfall by deregulating student fees. Allowing universities to increase fees would also enable it to put more money into research, which is the measure largely used to rank universities.

“It seems like what would really need to happen is a more robust system for funding research, and the grown-ups should sit down and agree to that rather than dumping (the expense) on to the kids,” Prof Dynarski said.

“This place doesn’t seem to be broke so don’t try to fix it too much because you might definitely break it.”


Tasteless and ostentatious ethnic ("Wog"?) wedding under fire

How NOT to win friends and influence people. The Mehajer family are Muslims, most likely of Lebanese or North African origins

He's the cocky groom who dared authorities to investigate his 'wedding of the century' after he came under fire from irate neighbours. And now his wish has been granted.

Detectives are probing how Salim Mehajer's glitzy procession of Ferraris and Lamborghinis closed an entire western Sydney street on Saturday, police confirmed to Daily Mail Australia.

The official investigation comes amid calls for Mr Mehajer, deputy mayor of Auburn Council, to be sacked after his glitzy wedding to bride Aysha caused traffic chaos.

The couple's elaborate ceremony was always set to grab headlines, featuring as it did a squadron of helicopters, a brigade of luxury cars and a cake nearly taller than the bride.

But since the ceremony more than 4000 people have signed a petition calling for Mr Mehajer to be ousted for 'treating the community, law and council with great disrespect'.

Lidcombe residents were irate after receiving mysterious flyers last week informing them their cars would have to be cleared from Frances St by Saturday or they would be towed at their expense.

A police spokeswoman said Flemington officers determined no approval was given for the entire road to be closed. 'The matter is under investigation,' she said.

Two fellow councillors told Daily Mail Australia questions will be asked about the road closure and other wedding matters on Wednesday evening.

'I think the council has certainly been very much damaged, the reputation of the council,' Clr Irene Simms said. 

A defiant Mr Mehajer dismissed he controversy as 'nonsense' in a radio interview on Monday morning.  'They can investigate all they like, I've got nothing to hide,' he told KIIS FM's Kyle and Jackie O program.

He said the wedding had permits from council 'with regard to traffic control and the vehicles there'. 'However there was a number of vehicles... that exceeded the limit, which I had no control whatsoever.'

Supporters of Mr Mehajer, who was elected on an independent ticket, rallied around the Facebook page 'Let's keep Salim Mehajer at Auburn Council' on Tuesday morning. It had more than 1000 likes at time of publication.

Mehajer's groomsmen entered the classy reception on motorcycles, revving to the applause of the crowd

Mr Mehajer appeared to be in cheery spirits the first weekday after the wedding, posting a picture of himself in the shower at an apartment near Blue's Point, on Sydney Harbour, on Monday.

'Good morning to the BEST city in the world,' he crowed. But it will be some time until he and his wife leave on their honeymoon, with Mr Mehajer saying he is needed at work until December.

The ceremony began on Saturday with the groom arriving via helicopter and guests later flocking to the classy waterfront venue Le Montage overlooking Iron Cove Bay for the reception .

The highly anticipated wedding had been held off while the groom's father, Mohamed Mehajer, served out the final months of his three-and-a-half year jail sentence for attempting to cheat and defraud the National Australia Bank of $3 million, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The groomsmen were filmed entering the building to the roars of expensive motorcycles, with the bride and groom followed by upbeat drums and flashing fireworks.


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