Friday, October 28, 2016


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG thinks the Leftist machine might soon have a clashing of gears

Australia's climate heating and drying out: report

The contemptible rubbish below comes from people who pretend that a global temperature rise of a few hundredths of one degree tells us something important.  It does not. Such rises are well within the error of measurement and are not statistically significant for a start.  And they would be trivial even if they were significant.

And when there was a rise of around a degree last year, it was due to El Nino.  El Nino was such a well known natural effect that they had to mention it below but, without mentioning a scrap of evidence, they dismissed it as a minor effect. 

Well let me mention some evidence.  The authors below imply that the temperature rise was part of a continuing warming process due to increased level of CO2 in the atmosphere.  So there must be some sign in the record that CO2 levels have increased recently.  But look at the CO2 levels from Australia's Cape Grim climate observatory over the heart of the El Nino period.

Within an accuracy of parts per billion, there was NO increase in CO2 levels at all!  The warming over the El Nino period was ENTIRELY natural, with NO contribution from a CO2 rise. CO2 levels did NOT rise so they CANNOT be responsible for the higher temperatures.

The article below is an egregious example of cherry-picking and outright lying

The biannual State of the Climate report from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO shows the effects of climate change are being felt in Australia.

Australia is becoming an even more sunburnt country with worse droughts and more extreme flooding rains.

The latest State of the Climate report, released on Thursday, shows the trends of climate change in Australia are continuing.

"Climate change is happening now; it's having a tangible impact on Australia," the Bureau of Meteorology's climate monitoring manager Karl Braganza told reporters.

The biannual snapshot, prepared by the bureau and CSIRO, shows the country is experiencing very hot days more frequently and rainfall is reducing across the southern part of the continent.

Between 1910 and 1941 there were 28 days when the national average temperature was in the top extremes recorded. In 2013 alone there were 28 such days.

Dr Braganza predicted the record-breaking extreme heat will be considered normal in 30 years' time.

The report also shows below average rainfall across southern Australian in 16 of the past 20 autumn-winter seasons.

"This decline in rainfall for southern Australia, 10 to 20 per cent might not sound like a lot but it's reducing at a time of year where typically we recharge the soil moisture and vegetation and water storages as well," Dr Braganza said.

A 10-15 per cent reduction in rainfall over winter can lead to a 60 per cent reduction in stream flow into water storages.

"That's what we're seeing in southwest WA where their water storages from essentially rainfall (dropped) in 2015 and they're using desal and groundwater to make up the difference," he said.

This combination of drying out and warmer weather increases fire danger, with the fire season already routinely extending into spring and autumn.

The report also shows 15 of the 16 hottest years on record were the past 15 years.

"The earth is warming," CSIRO climate science centre interim director Steve Rintoul said.

While there was some natural variability in temperature caused by effects such as El Nino and La Nina, it was not sufficient to drown out the overall trend towards increasing temperatures, he said.


Australians are in the midst of a potato shortage

This is a bit of a Furphy.  For a start, most vegetable have big price swings thoughout the year.  I buy tomatoes several times a week and I can never predict how much they are going to cost me.  Over quite a short time period, they can vary between a lot less than a dollar per tomato to over a dollar.  Why should potatoes be different?

Potatoes are grown in all Australian States.  They even grow in the tropics.   It is true that Victoria and Tasmania are major growing areas and that both have had a lot of rain recently so there will be some drop in the quantity sent to market overall. But there will still be plenty of spuds in the supermarkets, albeit at temporarily higher price

The potato industry is baked at the moment due to floods cleaning out crops across the country and wet ground has made it near impossible to plant more potatoes, meaning we will have to pay a small fortune for the starchy vegetable until at least February.

It’s not good news coming into barbecue season, with potato salads and potato bakes likely to be off the menu and hipsters may also need to give up their weekend potato rosti.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said in 2004 Australians were chomping through 63kg of mash, chips and other potato pleasures every year.

Brushed potatoes, the tasty ones covered in dirt, are what’s in low supply and Fairfax Media reports Aussie Farmers Direct has told customers it will only deliver red skin potatoes at the moment.

Potatoes are currently sold for about $3.50 a kilo at major supermarkets but that price is expected to hike as supply becomes limited.

Victorian potato grower Des Jennings said he would need a crystal ball to predict when potatoes would be replenished but thought it would be early next year.

Usually at this time of year, Mr Jennings has planted two thirds of his potato crop, but he said he isn’t even close to planting half because of how heavy rain has affected the soil.

Mr Jennings picked his potato crop four months ago and sold it for about $400 a tonne.

But now potatoes are going for up to $2000 a tonne, showing just how desperate people are becoming to get their hands on the vegetable.

“The growers who have potatoes are laughing,” Mr Jennings said.

“They are getting prices they haven’t seen before.

“But obviously a lot of farmers don’t have potatoes, which is why we have a shortage.”

Mr Jennings said demand had been constant for many years, and weather was the main blame for the shortage.

Mr Jennings grows his potatoes in Thorpdale, in Victoria’s Gippsland region, and he said most of the supermarkets already had their shelves cleared of brushed potatoes.

Lauren Rosewarne, from Melbourne University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, said a potato shortage was something to potentially worry about considering people before had died as a result.

She said however, stepping away from the hash browns and moving to other starchy vegetables could be a healthy decision.

“We’re not hearing of shortages in things like quinoa, and that’s the new superfood we are supposed to be eating at the moment,” she said.

“Sweet potato, that’s considered to be a nutritional powerhouse with a lot of similar properties to potatoes. But it has lower GI and not going to spike blood sugar and counts as a vegetable — potato actually doesn’t.”


How would Donald Trump fare under Australia's hate speech laws

There are just under two weeks to go before the US presidential election, a fact that would normally favour a candidate trailing in the polls. But in Trump’s case I suspect time is not his friend. Like a flaming zeppelin drifting toward the earth, Trump’s trajectory is set. The longer he remains aloft, the more spectacular the crash will be.

But on the morning of November 9, as Trump surveys the ruins of his presidential ambition, there is one humiliation he will be spared: he will not be hauled before Gillian Triggs to account for the blizzard of racial discrimination complaints that would surely be his had he run his campaign in Australia.

Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act might well have been written for Donald Trump. Section 18C, which makes it an offence to offend, insult or humiliate somebody on the basis of their race, more or less defines Trump’s entire candidacy.

On Monday, the New York Times published a compilation of Trump’s insults. The list ran to 6000 and took out two full pages.

Among Trump’s more spectacular barbs was this one, levelled against Mexican migrants: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.’’

Even by the wide standards of American discourse, this is edgy stuff. To probe the relationship between immigration and crime is one thing. To label an entire community sex offenders is quite another.

And yet Americans took it in their stride.

I asked Professor James Allan of the Queensland University law faculty what the reaction would be if similar comments were made in Australia.

“It is almost certain that the Human Rights Commission as it’s presently constituted would, given a complaint, act,’’ Professor Allan said.

Surely a Trump-like figure would get off by citing 18D, the public-interest clause that exempts offensive comments provided they’re made reasonably and in good faith?

Doubtful, says Allan.

“If the Bolt case is anything to go by, it’d be a no-brainer. He’d lose for sure.’’

The Bolt case, of course, refers to the 2011 complaint against Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt, whose comments about fair-skinned Aborigines saw him pinged under Section 18C. Factual errors and the “tone” of Bolt’s piece saw him stripped of any protection he might otherwise have enjoyed under 18D.

There is an implied right to political expression in the Australian Constitution, but that’s pretty vague too. To begin with, it’s not even written down.

In short, if Trump were an Australian politician it’s likely vast tracts of his speech would be declared unlawful. And that, I contend, would be a tragedy.

Trump is a charlatan and a buffoon and I sincerely hope he loses.

But by tapping into a well of discontent he has told America something vital about itself. He has shown America’s political classes just how far they have drifted from the concerns of their constituents. He has laid bare the anger of those who feel dispossessed by corporate greed. He has shown us there are two Americas: the affluent, cosmopolitan America of its coastal cities and a second America, one of shuttered factories and faltering local economies.

It is possible Trump could have done this another way - without, perhaps, vilifying 34 million Mexican Americans. But he didn’t. He did it this way.

The free flow of ideas, even the demented idea that Mexicans are rapists, is essential to democratic operation.

It is through debate that we locate truth and orientate ourselves as moral beings.

Outliers like Trump, Pauline Hanson and, if you like, Andrew Bolt, are essential to this process. By marking out the margins of an idea, they allow the rest of us to find its centre.

Trump’s wild exaggerations, his distortions and his lazy sloganeering have prompted a ferocious counter-attack that has told us more about the condition of our times than all the chin-stroking worthies on Q&A put together.

Having created Trump, Americans are now tearing him down.

But outliers are the targets of Australia’s 18C, which was passed in 1995 at a time when the cult of identity politics was in full flight. Back then its presence suggested a national nervousness, a quivering anxiety about where a freewheeling, full-throated debate might lead us.

Twenty years on and it seems little has changed.

My friend and colleague Bill Leak is to be summoned before the Human Rights Commission and made to answer for a cartoon depicting a drunken Aboriginal father who can’t remember the name of his delinquent son.

Leak, I hope, will get off - but not before he’s hauled through the wringer and made to answer charges that he’s a cold-blooded racist.

And for what? The idea at the heart of Leak’s cartoon - that parental neglect is a major problem within Aboriginal communities - is settled ground. Yet instead of debating its causes and possible solutions - a process that might actually yield some good - we are distracted by a foolish argument about whether Leak should have raised it at all.

Then there is the bizarre example of the same-sex marriage plebiscite, where Australians have spent two months furiously debating whether or not it’s safe to have a debate.

Foreigners love to laugh at America. We love to laugh at its excesses, its gaudiness. We cringe at its tub-thumping patriotism and recoil at the gun-toting fatties in their Make America Great t-shirts.

But Americans would never tolerate this. They have a thousand times the cultural confidence of we Australians, or anyone else for that matter.

Long after Donald Trump has stormed off the political stage, Americans will be arguing long and hard about what this bizarre episode in their history has meant.

Thank god they don’t have 18C to stop them.


What's really behind Australia's declining international education results

Not mentioned below is that Australia has taken in a lot of Africans and Muslims recently.  Both groups have markedly lower IQs than the host population, so their children will too -- leading to poorer educational performance overall

Australian students' slide in the international benchmarks for reading and numeracy may not be the fault of the students, the teachers, or even the school system, says Finnish education expert Pasi Sahlberg.

He argues there is a key factor being overlooked, a shift so profound and complete we've almost forgotten life without it: the rise of the smartphone.

Finnish education guru Pasi Sahlberg explains how Finland built its highly regarded education system.

And Professor Sahlberg predicts a tobacco and big sugar-style marketing war between edutech-company-backed research and independent research in the next five years, over whether more technology in the classroom is beneficial or harmful to kids.

"We are not paying attention to the very rapidly increased use of screen technology," he said. "The first three PISAs were in 2000, 2003 and 2006, this thing didn't exist. There were no iPads or smartphones.

"So if you look at kids in Australia, they used a fraction of the time they use today with different types of smartphones and iPads and computer screens compared to the first three."

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests are run every three years by the OECD, comparing a sample of 15-year-olds in different countries on reading, maths and science.

As Australia's results have slipped against other countries, policy-makers and school systems have scrambled to figure out what's going wrong.

But Professor Sahlberg, who has recently returned with his family to Helsinki after three years working at Harvard in the US, said the decline in PISA performance is happening in all western countries.

"Reading performance has been drastically declining in Finland because of this. Our pedagogy and teaching has not changed, the curriculum has not changed. So how else can you explain this dramatic change?"

A second key factor, he said, is that the East Asian countries, which are rising strongly in the PISA rankings, drill their student populations and teach to the test.

"I go to Singapore, I do a lot of work in South Korea, it's all over the place. They have practice halls for the PISA. They practice using the PISA test items so the kids are familiar with that type of thing."

East Asian countries enrol the majority of students in "cram schools" or private tuition, where gadgets are banned while they study, he said. 

"It doesn't really tell you how good the overall system is. It tells you how good the system is at taking these particular tests. It's a different thing."

Professor Sahlberg has been a teacher, educator and policy adviser in Finland, and wrote the book Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland.

He told an audience of education leaders in Sydney on Thursday that it is just a theory, but research on the intrusion of digital technology is ramping up. Studies such as Growing Up Digital in Canada were reporting disturbing preliminary results, he said, with some making the argument that digital immersion changes the way children think and process information in a way that may make deeper learning difficult.

"We're going to see with in the future, a next five years, a war between these kind of research studies, trying to show that doing more screen time [in the classroom] at the time when it's already controlling the lives of young people doesn't make any sense; and then the tech companies will say if you build your teaching and learning around the technology you will decrease the dropout rate and increase the graduation rates - we' re going to see a lot of that in the future."

A frequent visitor to Australia, he is not here to sell the popular line that Finland is the perfect education system, and in fact argues that NSW could teach Finland a thing or two.

"I don't think that Finland has the magic answer to education or anything – no country whatsoever has that. In a way that's a myth."

What Finland does get right, he says, is its child-focused approach, with an emphasis on play, a later school starting age (7), and letting each child develop at their own pace.

"This conversation of having an extended childhood where children can play and be themselves, learn to be with other people – was recognised an important thing [in Finland].

"One thing that distinguishes Australia and Finland is we have much less concern about academic performance in the early years than you have here."

But he said Finland's student population was changing significantly due to increased migration, from almost zero immigrants 20 years ago to around 7 per cent and rising today.

"I think Finland can learn a great deal from Australia, NSW in particular. About what the system should do to be good for everybody, good for Aboriginal and minority children. This is something we are learning in my country right now."

Professor Sahlberg is in Sydney following a tour of regional and remote schools with Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, giving a speech on Thursday about the results of a study of the NSW school system that he supervised at Harvard. He said Australia has a far better system than the US.

An article by a US academic William Doyle who lived for six months in Finland published by Fairfax Media – Why Finland has the best schools – remains among the best read articles on the SMH website. Professor Sahlberg chuckled when I told him this.

"That was my friend," he said. "He's writing from the position of an American."


China is now Australia's biggest wine exports market

The massive growth in China’s middle class has been a godsend for the Australian wine industry, with exports jumping 51% in the last year to $474 million, making it the top export market by value for the first time.

The rise of China is no more apparent than in the fact that just a decade ago, sales there were worth just $27 million.

Wine Australia’s Export Report, released today, reveal double digital growth for local exporters in the 12 months to 30 September 2016, up 10% to a total value of $2.17 billion.

Overseas fans are not only drinking more, they’re drinking better, with bottled exports up 14% to $1.8 billion and the average value increasing by 9% to $5.47 per litre, a 13-year high.

Only the UK disappointed, posting a small drop in sales, down 1% to $361 million.

Europe overall disappointed, down 3% to $570 million. Northeast Asia is now Australia’s number one export region, growing 35% – $177 million – to $678 million.

North America was up 3% to $639 million, while Southeast Asia grew 11% to $152 million.

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said more than half of the total value of growth in the last 12 months was in wines priced at $10 or more per litre.

Growth in the premium price segments (detailed below) added more than $120 million in value.

"Of the 1743 active exporters across the period, 70% contributed to the value growth, an outstanding result. The value of exports grew in 81 of the 122 destinations for Australian wine," Clark said.

Exports priced $10 and more per litre FOB (free on board, the value of the wine leaving Australia, excluding transport costs) were up in all top five markets ­– mainland China by 63%, the US by 21%, the United Kingdom by 20%, Canada by 9%, and Hong Kong by 7 per cent.

Clark said the China–Australia Free Trade Agreement also contributed to the stellar result in that market.

More than a third of Australian wine exports priced $10 and more per litre FOB were destined for China, valued at $190 million and up by 63%.

Negociants International executive director Adam O’Neill said demand premium wines in China showed no signs of abating, with online platforms such as Alibaba’s TMall helping Australian exporters find new customers.

Exports to Malaysia jumped 24% to $55 million, Taiwan was up 23% to $19 million and South Korea 42% to $14 million.

Japan posted a small decline of 0.3 per cent to $45 million, due to a decline in bulk wine exports.

Australia’s top five export markets by value:

· Mainland China – $474 million up 51%

· US – $448 million up 4%

· UK – $361 million down 3%

· Canada ­– $190 million up 1%

· Hong Kong ­– $126 million up 7%.


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

No comments: