Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Most of Trump's supporters were well off

Nicholas Carnes and Noam Lupu write in It’s time to bust the myth: Most Trump voters were not working class that most of Trump's supporters were relatively affluent:
Among people who said they voted for Trump in the general election, 35 percent had household incomes under $50,000 per year (the figure was also 35 percent among non-Hispanic whites), almost exactly the percentage in NBC’s March 2016 survey. Trump’s voters weren’t overwhelmingly poor. In the general election, like the primary, about two thirds of Trump supporters came from the better-off half of the economy.

David MacKay on Sustainable Energy

In 2008 David MacKay FRS, the Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge, wrote a book Sustainable Energy – without the hot air. This book is available free at his site www.withouthotair.com

The biggest takeaway I had from the book was this:
Have no illusions. To achieve our goal of getting off fossil fuels, these
reductions in demand and increases in supply must be big. Don’t be distracted
by the myth that “every little helps.” If everyone does a little, we’ll
achieve only a little
. We must do a lot. What’s required are big changes in
demand and in supply.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Don't restrict public housing to the most needy

In The public housing paradox: by helping only the neediest, we undermine the entire system Professor Jenny Stewart, visiting fellow in the school of business at UNSW Canberra, explains that restricting public housing to the most needy denies the revenue that public housing authorities need to maintain their services.
There's no doubt that Australian cities are changing fast. It's difficult enough for those with reasonably good jobs to buy their own home. Public housing could, and should, be an important factor in the mix. But to rejuvenate the sector, more flexibility is needed. If we want to use the state to help the disadvantaged, it is sometimes necessary to think beyond our own good intentions. In public policy, it is easy to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

How to fold a fitted sheet

Jill Cooper shows in this YouTube video how to fold a fitted sheet. I suspect it's harder than it seems and probably requires some practice.


An example of why flexibility in sentencing is good

In Juvenile justice system needs discretion to judge Apex and other Sudanese teenagers differently noted Melbourne crime writer John Silvester gives the example of two young men, both involved in two robberies, to explain why judges need flexibility sentencing.
On the facts presented to court Mayoum is a bad young man while Mawien may well be a young man who did something bad. On Wednesday Judge Gaynor sentenced Mayoum to four years' jail with a non-parole period of two years.

Courts need to punish to deter but there is also a need to offer hope. While it is true the punishment should fit the crime is it not also true that the punishment should fit the offender?

Monday, 5 June 2017

The new jihardis - nihilists?

Olivier Roy in Who are the new jihadis? explains that modern jihadis in the west have certain features in common:

  • They are normally second generation immigrants
  • They have recently converted or reconverted to Islam - that is "born again" Muslims. Their conversion takes place in places like prisons, or in small group situations, or on the Internet. It does not take place in a mosque.
  • They are fascinated by death
  • They often had a background in petty crime
  • They are often not very knowledgeable about Islam

He basically argues that these people are radicals with a hatred of society, who find in Islam a reason for their radicalism. However, Islam does not turn them into radicals - they were already radicals. Islam merely offers an excuse.
To summarise: the typical radical is a young, second-generation immigrant or convert, very often involved in episodes of petty crime, with practically no religious education, but having a rapid and recent trajectory of conversion/reconversion, more often in the framework of a group of friends or over the internet than in the context of a mosque. The embrace of religion is rarely kept secret, but rather is exhibited, but it does not necessarily correspond to immersion in religious practice. The rhetoric of rupture is violent – the enemy is kafir, one with whom no compromise is possible – but also includes their own family, the members of which are accused of observing Islam improperly, or refusing to convert.
...
As we have seen, jihadis do not descend into violence after poring over sacred texts. They do not have the necessary religious culture – and, above all, care little about having one. They do not become radicals because they have misread the texts or because they have been manipulated. They are radicals because they choose to be, because only radicalism appeals to them. No matter what database is taken as a reference, the paucity of religious knowledge among jihadis is glaring. According to leaked Isis records containing details for more than 4,000 foreign recruits, while most of the fighters are well-educated, 70% state that they have only basic knowledge of Islam.
...
Oddly enough, the defenders of the Islamic State never talk about sharia and almost never about the Islamic society that will be built under the auspices of Isis. Those who say that they went to Syria because they wanted “to live in a true Islamic society” are typically returnees who deny having participated in violence while there – as if wanting to wage jihad and wanting to live according to Islamic law were incompatible. And they are, in a way, because living in an Islamic society does not interest jihadis: they do not go to the Middle East to live, but to die. That is the paradox: these young radicals are not utopians, they are nihilists.

What is more radical about the new radicals than earlier generations of revolutionaries, Islamists and Salafis is their hatred of existing societies, whether western or Muslim. This hatred is embodied in the pursuit of their own death when committing mass murder. They kill themselves along with the world they reject. Since 11 September 2001, this is the radicals’ preferred modus operandi.

The suicidal mass killer is unfortunately a common contemporary figure. The typical example is the American school shooter, who goes to his school heavily armed, indiscriminately kills as many people as possible, then kills himself or lets himself be killed by the police. He has already posted photographs, videos and statements online. In them he assumed heroic poses and delighted in the fact that everyone would now know who he was. In the United States there were 50 attacks or attempted attacks of this sort between 1999 and 2016.

The boundaries between a suicidal mass killer of this sort and a militant for the caliphate are understandably hazy. The Nice killer, for instance, was first described as mentally ill and later as an Isis militant whose crime had been premeditated. But these ideas are not mutually exclusive.

The point here is not to mix all these categories together. Each one is specific, but there is a striking common thread that runs through the mass murders perpetrated by disaffected, nihilistic and suicidal youths. What organisations like al-Qaida and Isis provide is a script.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Anarchists, the forunners to Islamic terrorists?

Johann Hari in Blood, rage & history: The world's first terrorists looks at the similarities between today's Islamic terrorists and the anarchist movement from a century ago. He explains the causes of the anarchist movement and why it eventually died out.


John Quiggin on the non-problem of population ageing

In Time’s up for ageing alarmists John Quiggin argues that many of the articles on our ageing population ignore the fact that our health and quality of life for a given age are also improving. So we shouldn't think of our advancing years as an increased burden, but instead it'soffering us opportunities.
The increase in longevity produced by improved medical treatments, reductions in the risk of death, and healthier living is a huge boon for Australians, individually and collectively. Yet the framing of the issue around “population ageing” has presented it as a near-catastrophe, not only creating unnecessary negativity but also closing off discussion of the opportunities created by our longer lifespans. We need to stop talking about “population ageing” and start talking about people living longer and healthier lives.

An ageing population may not necessarily be lowering the dependency ratio

A few years back Ross Gittins wrote a column Australia's ageing population need not be a burden on taxpayers in which he argued that Australia needn't worry about the economic affects of our ageing population. This is because the actual dependency ratio is not changing. Children are also dependants, and as we age the proportion of children in the population is declining, offsetting the increase in older dependants.

He based his column on the paper ‘The ageing of the Australian population: triumph or disaster?’ by Katharine Betts, Adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at Swinburne University of Technology.


Saturday, 3 June 2017

Pursade people by arguing using their values

In The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion Olga Khazan reports on research that shows the best way to persuade people with a different political outlook is to frame your argument to suit their values.
Feinberg and his co-author, Stanford University sociologist Robb Willer, have extensively studied how it is that liberals and conservatives—two groups that now seem further apart than ever on their policy preferences—can convert people from the other side to their way of seeing things. One reason this is so hard to do, they explain, is that people tend to present their arguments in a way that appeals to the ethical code of their own side, rather than that of their opponents.
...
In a later study that’s currently under review, Feinberg and Tilburg University’s Jan Völkel found this even worked to get conservatives to dislike Donald Trump, and liberals to disavow Hillary Clinton. Conservatives were less likely to support Trump if arguments against him were presented in terms of his patriotism— “has repeatedly behaved disloyally towards our country to serve his own interests”—rather than a tendency to overlook the marginalized (“his unfair statements are a breeding ground for prejudice.”) Liberal participants, meanwhile, were more likely to be swayed by Clinton’s ties to Wall Street than by the incident in Benghazi.