Saturday, February 13, 2010

"The Cat Ate My Data"

Phil Jones, the professor behind the "Climategate" affair, has admitted some of his decades-old weather data was not well enough organised. He said this contributed to his refusal to share raw data with critics - a decision he says he regretted.

But Professor Jones said he had not cheated over the data, or unfairly influenced the scientific process. He said he stood by the view that recent climate warming was most likely predominantly man-made. But he agreed that two periods in recent times had experienced similar warming. And he agreed that the debate had not been settled over whether the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the current period...

His colleagues said that keeping a paper trail was not one of Professor Jones' strong points. Professor Jones told BBC News: "There is some truth in that".

Hmm. I wouldn't win any prizes for a tidy desk myself, any more than this chap would. But it is somewhat unfortunate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night Is Music Night - Babylon Is Fallen

The late, great Dave Brady and Swan Arcade

Hail the day so long expected, hail the day of full release
Zion's walls are now erected, and her watchmen promise peace
Throughout England's wide dominion, shrill the trumpets loudly roar:
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen.
Babylon is fallen, to rise no more.

All her merchants stand with wonder, what is this has come to pass
Murmuring like a distant thunder, crying O alas, alas.
Swell the sound ye kings and nobles, priest and people rich and poor.
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen.
Babylon is fallen, to rise no more.

Blow the trumpet in Mount Zion, Christ shall come a second time
Ruling with a rod of iron, all who now as foes combine.
Babel's garments we've rejected and our fellowship is sure.
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen.
Babylon is fallen, to rise no more.

Tune your harps ye heavenly choirs, shout ye followers of the lamb.
See the city all on fire. Clap your hands and swell the flame.
Now's the day of compensation. Hope of mercy now is o'er.
Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen.
Babylon is fallen, to rise no more.

I've also chucked on Down In The Valley To Pray, an American traditional hymn given a terrific shoeing by the band. Knocks Alison Krauss into a cocked hat - which is not an easy thing to do unless she's in the right mood.

This next one I feel a bit guilty about - as Alan Stivell's 'Reflections' CD is still very much available on Amazon France - that's where I bought mine. Nonetheless some chap seems to have put the whole thing on Youtube - not good when harp-strings are not cheap and M. Stivell has bills to pay. Inshallah it'll get pulled soon - but until it does, for those who like the harp and that certain Breton je ne sais quoi, enjoy "Je Suis Ne Au Milieu De La Mer" aka "I was born beside the seaside" :

Moving forward forty-odd years - via my middle son, Sigur Ros.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Rules Of The Game Are Changing

The basic instincts needed regulating too. Copulation meant children, and of the two available models (monogamy or winner-takes-all), Christian Britain went heavily for the first, with a leavening of the second for princes and mighty lords.
Laban's "2,000 years of British history in five paragraphs"

So all of that culture and sex difference comes from our need to reproduce. And those novels and movies where the heroine prefers the bad lad to the steady guy, Heathcliffe to Linton, those complaints that 'women go for bastards' or that 'every woman loves a fascist' - there is or was some evolutionary truth there.
Laban's "Money, Men and Women"

In ancient days (the Golden Age that never was) the disciplines of work and marriage subdued man's natural tendencies to naughtiness of all kinds. No work meant no food - and perhaps more important for socialisation, no respect from your peers. It also meant no marriage - and no marriage meant no sex - unless you were wealthy, lucky or unusually desirable.

Now ... reliable contraception has removed the link between sex and childbearing.
Laban's "It's Sick Bag Time Again"

If I understand these evolutionary biologist chappies aright, before the Great Cultural (and contraceptive) Revolution women really really wanted two things (from an evolutionary biology perspective ... remember we've only just come out of the trees ...)

a) a chap with top genes to father her children - a real alpha male to produce alpha babies

b) a chap who'd provide for said children and stick around to help raise them, or at a minimum to facilitate her raising them

and from the same evolutionary biology perspective men wanted

a) only one thing

the point of both approaches being to maximise the survival of your genes

Now you might have noticed a potential issue with the female strategy - that Mr Alpha and Mr Provider may not necessarily be the same chap. And even today scientists find that female infidelity is more likely during fertile periods - and that chaps find women more attractive (pdf - I bet they weren't short of volunteer researchers) when they're fertile, even though they have no conscious way of determining fertility. IIRC (I can't find a link), when university genetics courses started up, some used to get the students to bring in samples of parental DNA and compare with their own to show the common factors - but then had to stop after the occasional distressing finding.

So Mr Provider had a potential problem - he didn't want to spend the rest of his short life putting in a hard day's mammoth hunting to feed someone else's kids. Rigidly enforced monogamy was the solution which evolved over time - and it worked pretty well for the Mr Providers of this world.

"People often quote a figure of one in ten for the number of people born illegitimately," says Professor Jobling. "Our study shows that this is likely to be an exaggeration. The real figure is more likely to be less that one in twenty-five."
(He's talking about historical illegitimacy and children produced by infidelity in history - before the numbers reached industrial scale)

Then came the Great Cultural Revolution. This fascinating Charlotte Allen piece in the Weekly Standard describes what would appear to be a reversion to our primate days for young professional singles. Here's the theory bit :

Evolutionary psychologists postulate that the same physical and psychological drives prevail among modern humans: Men, eager for replication, are naturally polygamous, while women are naturally monogamous—but only until a man they perceive as of higher status than their current mate comes along. Hypergamy—marrying up, or, in the absence of any constrained linkage between sex and marriage, mating up—is a more accurate description of women’s natural inclinations. Long-term monogamy—one spouse for one person at one time—may be the most desirable condition for ensuring personal happiness, accumulating property, and raising children, but it is an artifact of civilization, Western civilization in particular. In the view of many evolutionary psychologists, long-term monogamy is natural for neither men nor women.

All of this is obviously pure speculation, if imaginatively rendered and bolstered by anthropological observations of hunter-gatherer societies today... Yet evolutionary psychology offers a persuasive explanation for many things that we are supposed to pretend are culturally conditioned: that the natures of men and women are fundamentally different and that, pace Naomi Wolf and the cougar-empowerment movement, women don’t get sexier as they get older, at least not in the eyes of the man sitting on the next barstool. Youth and beauty are markers of fertility. As Mystery wrote in his book, it may be sexist to say out loud, but women are well aware “that their social value can be rated largely on their looks” or they wouldn’t devote so many hours to toning muscles and adjusting makeup.

Evolutionary psychology also provides support for a truth universally denied: Women crave dominant men. And it seems that where men are forbidden to dominate in a socially beneficial way—as husbands and fathers, for example—women will seek out assertive, self-confident men whose displays of power aren’t so socially beneficial. This game of sexual Whack-a-Mole is played regularly these days in a culture that, starting with children’s schoolbooks and moving up through films and television, targets as oppressors and mocks as bumblers the entire male sex.

And the practice bit :

Late last September a college student who called herself Courtney A. posted a story on the feminist website Lemondrop: “I Slept With Tucker Max, the Internet’s Biggest Asshat” ...

Many of the commenters to Courtney’s tell-all expressed “disgust” at Max’s manifestly unchivalrous behavior. In a September op-ed for the Washington Post, feminist Jaclyn Friedman, who inexplicably blamed Max’s perverse success with females (half his fans, perhaps the more enthusiastic half, are female) on abstinence-only sex education, sniffed that she found his “antics revolting,” blasted his “unapologetic misogyny,” and accused him of contributing to a campus atmosphere that allows 150,000 young women to be raped every academic year. (Friedman derived that extraordinarily high figure by counting drunken sexual encounters between students as rape.) Amanda Marcotte, the feminist blogger briefly hired by John Edwards during his presidential campaign, chimed in, accusing Max of a “bone-deep hatred of sexual women”—and also of possible “sexual assault” because he had bragged on his website about sleeping with a drunk girl while a friend hidden in a closet filmed the encounter. In May, feminist picketers so disrupted an appearance by Max at Ohio State University that he needed a police escort to get away.

Yet it’s hard to believe that Courtney A. herself shared any of this dudgeon. Next to her story she posted a photograph of her with Max that she had a friend take at the bar. The photo shows a rosy-cheeked strawberry blonde who, although no Scarlett Johansson, is no Ugly Betty either (her C-cup bustline, much in evidence both underneath and spilling over her strapless top, doesn’t hurt). She is also grinning from ear to ear, her smile as wide as a cantaloupe slice. Max, mugging for the camera, has his arm draped proprietarily, if not exactly affectionately, around her shoulder as she leans into his chest. No disapproving peers, either. When Courtney left her apartment to meet Max at the bar, her roommates called after her, “Make sure to bring him back.” She and Max rode off to the inn “with everyone at the bar waving and giving the thumbs up.”

Welcome to the New Paleolithic.

You really need to read the whole thing - there's a lot in it. And the criticisms and comments at Steve Sailer's are (mostly) illuminating, especially on the vexed question of what constitutes an alpha male in todays society.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

It's like deja vu all over again

Revolting students occupy Sussex Uni. We seem to be replaying the Seventies, but will it be tragedy or farce ?

Immigration, Immigration, Immigration

"Stop it at once" sayeth Norman Tebbit in the Telegraph :

These islands are our islands. They do not belong to the political classes, the European Commission, the United Nations, nor the government of the day. We live here and it is we, the people, who have the absolute right to decide who may, and who may not, come here and upon what conditions they come. That is probably enough to have me held under suspicion of racism and worse...

I think that the massive, deliberate, uncontrolled, uncounted and often denied programme of mass immigration has more complex origins. There is within NuLab a detestation of much that is British quite unknown in the Labour Party of Attlee or Callaghan. It is often a form of self-hatred and guilt. Guilt about being born comfortably middle class, having been to a decent school and a private hospital. Guilt even about being born into a prosperous country with a glorious and proud history. Like Caliban, these people rage against their own image.
In Attlee's party, perhaps. Not necessarily in all of Callaghan's. And anyway, the 'we' who live here isn't the 'we' it used to be, and will be even less so in the future, even were all immigration to stop now.

UPDATE - Norm returns to the fray in his trademark combative style :

We could require schools to teach the history of this country, and I mean teach the history, not to teach pupils to engage in emotionally incontinent spasms about how a Roman soldier might have felt as he was mown down by Boadicea’s chariot, or how a black African being sold by other black Africans to an Arab slave trader might have have felt about that. What is needed is to teach how the people of these islands built a great nation. ...

And by the way, if you do not want your church to become a mosque, then you had best start going along and sitting in the pews.

BBC Radio Four has - for one week only, the following excellent programme :

In the past decade, Britain has experienced mass immigration on an unprecedented scale. A former government aide recently suggested this was a deliberate policy, motivated in part by a desire to increase racial diversity. David Goodhart investigates the ideological forces behind one of the most significant social changes to have affected the UK.

Andrew Neather, a former Number 10 speechwriter, recently wrote a much-discussed article in the Evening Standard in praise of multicultural London, but suggesting that those who have influenced immigration policy under Labour were politically-programmed to be relaxed about such numbers. His article was immediately seized upon by anti-immigration campaigners as evidence of a conspiracy to make Britain a more racially diverse society.

In this programme, David Goodhart investigates the truth about reasons for recent increases in migration to Britain. Political insiders, including former home secretary David Blunkett, talk candidly about the real influences behind the scenes. None of them give credence to the accusation that there was a plan to create a more multicultural Britain. An unexpected increase in asylum applications and the demand for cheap labour from employers were the main motivators, according to those who influenced policy. But, admits former Home Office special adviser Ed Owen, a nervousness about discussing immigration policy meant that New Labour was, in its first years in office, poorly prepared to deal with the issue.

We may not have witnessed a grand act of social engineering, concludes David Goodhart, but New Labour's combination of economic liberalism and cultural liberalism led it to regard mass immigration as a trend which would bring great social benefits and few disadvantages.

Interviewees include:

Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, former home secretary

Tim Finch, head of migration, equalities and citizenship, and director of strategic communications at the Institute for Public Policy Research

Andrew Neather, Comment editor at The Evening Standard and former Number 10 speechwriter.

Sir Andrew Green, Migrationwatch

Sarah Spencer, deputy director, Centre on Migration Policy and Society

John Tincey, Immigration Services Union

Ed Owen, former Home Office special adviser

Claude Moraes MEP.

Associated news story here - seems it was all a series of unfortunate events which is apparently the new narrative. The BBC seem to have decided that shouting 'racist' at any and every critic of mass immigration hasn't worked.

Podcast of the programme here - it's there for a week for download and the prog will apparently be repeated on Sun 14 Feb at 21.30. I didn't catch all of it last night, but what I did catch was good stuff. Recommended.

At Bronte Capital, an interesting piece by John Hempton on demographics and the national budget - from an Aussie perspective, but the principles apply to all welfare states.

Australia – like much of the developed world – has a demographic problem from aging baby boomers. Our dependency ration (the ratio of people of non-working age to working age) is increasing and likely to increase dramatically. Moreover the dependent group will shift from young people (who impose schooling expense) to old people who impose nursing home and medical expense. Old people generally cost more than young people and as we live in a country with (semi) socialised medicine that expense is likely to fall (heavily) on the Federal Budget.

Australia's national budget will thus become a little tighter each year. [This is in contrast to the glory days of the 70s and 80s where economic growth and baby boomers going through their years of peak productivity made the budget just a little easier to balance every year.]

The net effect is that something has to give. Either

(a) Australia cuts benefits to old people (and with socialized medicine that means deciding when you turn the respirator off) or

(b) Australia sharply increases taxes or

(c) Australia sharply change the mix of our population by having more babies or importing more people through immigration.

Some smaller things can work at the margin. For instance Australia can change ages at which people qualify for various pensions. This should keep old people in the workforce longer and hence reduce the dependency ratio. Also – as the working age population become the scarce factor wage levels for those still working should rise. The higher wages will attract some older people back into or into staying in the workforce. However these are effects are likely to be too small to overwhelm the main thesis.

With a good size baby boom and old people driving government expenditure (something that is certainly the case in the US) the problem is real and will remain intense.

The problem could be solved with very rapid economic growth – but the Australian Treasury models a quite high real rate of growth and Australia still has a problem. If economic growth were to decline to Japanese levels the fiscal imbalance by (say) 2030 would become very intense. [Australia could get very lucky with sharp increases in commodity prices. That sort of luck is possible because Australia is small – however that sort of luck will not bail out the US.]

By far the easiest solution is (c) - changing the mix of the population. Societies are not good at rationing health care expenditure for the elderly and there are limits to the ability of smaller open economies (such as Australia) to keep increasing taxes. [Though in my view a little of both these things will happen.]

Hempton comments :

Everyone that matters in Australia knows that the easiest solution is (c). Peter Costello – Australia's last Treasury (in the US context read Secretary of the Treasury) knew this and advocated women having three children – one for mum, one for dad and one for the country. **

Costello had his eye on the future fiscal balance (as he should) but there is an undertone of racism in his pronouncement. Australia's population is a matter of choice because there is an endless supply of skilled and/or needy immigrants who want to live in Australia and the main case for having babies over importing people is that the babies are probably white.

Anyway the core way that Australia is balancing the long term budget is through immigration. If you want to solve the problem that way you need very large immigration now so that in 30 years the you get the right dependency ratio. That – for better or for worse – is what the government is currently doing. Australia's immigration rate is massive – roughly 1 percent of the population per year. That level of immigration will have Australia on the path to a 50 million population (currently 21 million) by the year 2050.
Maybe I'm dumb, but it seems to me that the policy isn't any more sustainable there than it is here. So you import enough immigrants to fix the dependency ratio 30 years hence. Either their fertility tends towards the fertility of the host community, in which case you're just moving back the identical demographic problem for another generation (to be solved by another influx ? - compound interest says you'll run out of land before too long, even in Oz) , or it doesn't - in which case it's likely

a) that you've also got cultural separation

b) that the ethnic balance of the population will tip more and more towards the incomers

Those two together aren't good juju.

The Aussies have some good ideas. We could do with an Intergenerational Report - not to mention a Charter of Budget Honesty.

Under the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 1998 an Intergenerational Report is required every five years.

The reports focus on the implications of demographic change for economic growth and assess the financial implications of continuing current policies and trends over the next four decades.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Derby NHS Trust - "Do Not Resuscitate" forms for all

Mail :

Peter Clarke was not treated by doctors after going into cardiac arrest as a nurse had spotted the form in his files and, even though it was blank and had not been filled in, told other ward staff he should not be revived.

The blunder emerged at an inquest into the incident at Derby Hospitals NHS Trust, where bosses revealed staff had been ‘routinely’ placing the forms alongside medical records before they had been correctly signed and witnessed by senior doctors.

The errors go against the usual Trust policy on using the forms and mean the documents were inserted into files without the consent of patients.

It has affected an unknown number of patients and it is not known how long the practice was going on.

The good news is that 'lessons have been learned and procedures changed' :

Dr Robert Hunter, Derby and South Derbyshire Coroner, recorded a verdict of natural causes. He said that on the balance of probabilities the failure to carry out resuscitation did not cause or affect Mr Clarke’s death.

But he added: "The circumstances have highlighted faults within the system. If anything has come out of this, it's improved the policy for future patients."

Miss Fowlie said that several changes in procedure had been made to prevent a repeat occurrence.

Blank Do Not Resuscitate forms were no longer being routinely filed into patients’ medical records by clerical staff, and greater checks and balances had been implemented when it came to deciding whether to resuscitate a patient.

Just wait until they start adding the Terry Pratchett 'I really want you to top me if I can't do it myself (and save a lot of NHS budget)' forms.