The Coronavirus Vaccine and Australia’s Dangerous Clot

Most people will be aware that Australia’s rollout of coronavirus vaccines is being threatened by a dangerous clot. But it’s not just Greg Hunt. As well as the Health Minister there are a number of other problems, including a second, worrying clot.

Of course, ScoMoFo and his team of incompetent goons have screwed up Australia’s vaccination program, and of course they’re too busy image-managing and blame-shifting to work to fix it up. But there is also a serious question about the AstraZeneca vaccine and the prevalence of dangerous blood-clotting.

In brief, is the AstraZeneca vaccine sufficiently safe to warrant its use? How likely is the vaccine to protect a person, and protect them from what? What are the dangers of the vaccine, how likely are the dangers to eventuate, and how dangerous are the dangers?

We’re open-minded on the question, we haven’t looked hard for trustworthy answers, and we’d appreciate it if anyone can point us to reasonable and reliable evidence. We’ll happily work to digest any good-faith analyses, and will look to write about it in future posts. It would not surprise us if we ended up being convinced that the AstraZeneca vaccine, although not without significant risks, is worth the risks. But, as it stands, we’re not convinced.

One thing that does absolutely nothing to convince us that the AstraZeneca vaccine is sufficiently safe is pronouncements from ScoMoFo and GregHunt that the vaccine is sufficiently safe. Declarations from these self-interested con men, on anything, are worthless. We are also not at all comforted by government apparatchik’s chanting “no proven link”, as if some formal proof of a link rather than statistical evidence is the critical issue right now. All these people may be telling the truth, but they are so heavily invested in manipulation and crowd management that it is impossible to tell.

We look forward to reading, and writing upon, whatever non-crazy material is thrown our way.

 

 

 

RatS 10: Adam Curtis’s CGYOoMH

Well, to be more accurate, this is a WatS, since it’s a BBC series.

Adam Curtis is a unique, brilliant filmmaker, exploring the psychology and politics of modern society like no one else. Two previous series, The Power of Nightmares and The Century of the Self, are musts. Curtis now has a new series, Can’t Get You Out of My Head: an Emotional History of the Modern WorldIt is viewable on BBC iPlayer (with VPN trickery) and, at least for now, here. It is great.

RatS 9: The Campus as Factory

Jacob Howland is an emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Tulsa. For the last couple of years Howland has been watching the demise of his university, and the perversion of other American universities from the same anti-academic forces. (Of course, Australian universities are entirely immune from such anti-academic perversions.) This has come together in Howland’s article,

The Campus as Factory: corporatist progressivism and the crisis of American education.

Alan Tudge, Annotated

Alan Tudge, the Federal Minister for Education and Youth is, of course, an asshole. He is a nasty, down-punching, vindictive, glass-jawed, born to rule shithead. But, is Tudge an idiot?

Yesterday, Minister Tudge gave a major policy speech – Being our best: Returning Australia to the top group of education nations. The title indicates the subject, and a very smart teacher-friend of ours suggested Tudge’s speech was “quite good”. So, we read it. Our feelings are mixed.

What follows is Minister Tudge’s speech,* with our brief thoughts – critical and supportive – interlaced. At the end, we give a quick summary of our thoughts.

 

My argument today is that we are not yet living up to this aspiration of a world class education system set out in [the Alice Springs Mparntwe] Declaration where every child is reaching their potential. In fact, based on international benchmarks, we have moved further away from it over the last twenty years.

I want to take you through the evidence of this and outline where I believe we need to focus to lift school standards and realise the aspiration of that Declaration. There are many great reforms already in place, but more will need to be done.

We should set ourselves a new goal of being back amongst the world’s best within a decade.

We will only achieve this if we work together. The Australian Government does not run schools, and no state or sector can achieve this goal alone. My approach will always be to work collaboratively with those who share the ambition of a world-class education system that provides opportunities for every student.

I have spent two decades involved in schools policy in some form – from working with Dr Brendan Nelson when he was Education Minister, to assisting with some of the toughest schooling challenges in remote communities as Noel Pearson’s Deputy Director, to being a founder of Teach for Australia, and then in parliament, as a member of the Parliamentary Education Committee and as the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary looking after indigenous affairs.

We know very little about it, but our understanding is that Teach for Australia is a very good thing. (EDIT 13/03/21: And maybe not. See the comments below.)

Noel Pearson’s work on education seems worth evaluating and difficult to evaluate, and we won’t attempt it here. We have not much liked anything we have read by Pearson, and he may be a fool. But, at least Pearson doesn’t suffer other fools, and he’s put his heart and soul into trying something different. We’re open-minded.

I have learnt that there is no silver bullet in education. However, I have also learnt that there is good evidence of what works, and that if we are focused, amazing things can be achieved. This is about our children and our nation’s future so what can be more important!

Where I want to start the discussion today, however, is on school funding. I have watched or been involved in the funding debate for many years and I am pleased that the school funding wars are now over.

Yes. We lost.

Funding for schools has increased by 38% in real per capita terms over the last decade. The School Resourcing Standard model for funding schools has been agreed by the Commonwealth with all State and Territory governments.

Since 2013, the Australian Government’s school funding has increased in nominal terms by 80% to a record $23.4 billion, and we have committed a further 40% increase to reach $32.8 billion by 2029. From 2013 to 2029, government schools funding will increase the most by 193%, catholic schools by 109% and independent schools by 161%.

Scotch College gets an eighth polo field

The federal funding is locked in and agreed through to the end of the decade. The states and territories will need to live up to their side of the bargain also, but with record funding to all schools, our focus is now on how to use the money not how much schools should get or the distribution between the sectors.

Tudge really is an asshole. The federal funding of private schools is obscene.

I mentioned at the outset that over the last two decades, international benchmarks suggest we are moving away from the ministerial aspiration of a world class education system. Our standards have dropped in both absolute terms and relative to other countries.

Consider the evidence, as provided by the most authoritative international assessments: the OECD’s PISA tests of 15 year olds.

Since 2000, Australia’s performance in reading has declined by 26 points, or the equivalent of nine months of schooling.

In maths, we have fallen 33 points since 2003, or by 14 months of schooling.

Tudge is, of course, unaware that PISA’s testing of mathematics is garbage. No one should pay any attention whatsoever to PISA.

In science, we have fallen 24 points since 2006, or by 11 months of schooling.

This decline has been consistent across different groups of students. Our top students are less likely to score in the highest achievement bands and our lower performing students are more likely to have fallen below the proficient standard. The problem is not a growing divide in student results; it is a decline in performance across the board.

As our student results have fallen, we have dropped behind more and more countries.

In the early 2000s, we ranked 4th internationally in reading, 8th in science, and 11th in maths. By 2018, we had fallen to 16th in reading, 17th in science and 29th in maths.

We are being significantly outcompeted in our neighbourhood. For example, Australian students are now, on average, about one and a half years behind Singaporean students when it comes to reading and science, and three years behind on maths.

But it is not just the Asian tigers that have leapt ahead of us. The UK, Canada and New Zealand – all countries we used to outperform in education – are now ahead of us on all three assessment domains.

If this was our economy, this decline would be a national topic of conversation. Perhaps the lack of attention is because the decline has been gradual rather than sudden. But when viewed over a twenty-year period, it is profound – and it will have consequences for our long-term productivity and competitiveness if we cannot lift our education performance.

Two other international tests do not show quite the decline as PISA. TIMMS (which covers mathematics and science) and PIRLS (which covers reading literacy) have shown slight upticks recently. Our performance in TIMSS in 2019, especially in Year 8, was promising and perhaps an early indicator of a turnaround. I hope this is the case.

A false hope. TIMSS is an excellent international test of Year 4 and Year 8 mathematics (and science), and our education overlords should really, really really be paying attention to what it tests and Australia’s (woeful) performance. But “Australia” did not improve in 2019: all of the improvement indicated by the Year 8 TIMSS results was in New South Wales.

There is no consensus as to why our performance has declined over the last twenty years.

It is certainly not because of a decline in funding. As outlined, our funding has gone up considerably in real per capita terms while at the same time our standards have declined.

Nor is it class sizes which have steadily declined over the past few decades and are now considerably smaller than other countries that significantly outperform us. Moreover, many of our schools are now brand new, with facilities that older generations look at with envy.

But these things don’t have as much of an impact as what happens inside the classroom. The quality of the teaching, the rigour of the curriculum and the discipline in the classroom matter most.

Tudge is correct, and this is hugely important. The blowing of money on polo fields and technological snake oil hasn’t helped, and Tudge ignores the massive and insane administrative-accountability burden that has been placed upon teachers. Nonetheless, he is correct. KKK.

So how do we get Australia back to being amongst the best in the world?

The first step has been done; state and territory ministers, along with the former federal minister, have agreed the ambition to be world class.

Whoa. Big first step. Let’s all be sure to catch our breath.

But we should go further.

Really? That first step was just so helpful, maybe that’s enough.

We should set ourselves a 2030 target to be again amongst the top group of nations across the three major domains of reading, maths and science. We used to consistently be in the top group, which means we can get there again.

Fine. By what measure of success? PISA results? TIMSS results? 

I will be taking this to the next Education Ministers Meeting in April.

Such a target would then become a guiding principle and place urgency to the task.

Ten years is a reasonable, while ambitious, timeframe to again be amongst the top nations. By achieving the goal, we would be living up to the aspiration of giving Australian students the opportunity to achieve their best.

We have many building blocks already in place to achieve the target.

For example, there are already great initiatives in place across a variety of areas and I commend the state education ministers and Minister Tehan and Birmingham for these. This includes accreditation of initial teacher education courses, the Year 1 phonics check, the national unique student identifier, a new education evidence institute, and many more reforms.

Great to see phonics noted. The teaching of reading in primary schools is arguably worse and more damaging than the teaching of arithmetic.

I will continue to work with the state and territory ministers to implement these initiatives. They will make a considerable impact.

I will also prioritise new reform areas in the months ahead to accelerate our progress.

Building on our progress to date, my focus and the Government’s focus will be on three areas: quality teaching, particularly initial teacher education, curriculum and assessment. In addition, I will be leading a continued focus on indigenous students, particularly those in remote communities, whose level of educational attainment remains catastrophically poor.

Let me start with quality teaching.

We have tens of thousands of passionate teachers who transform our children’s lives, giving them skills that they seem to magically acquire. After parents, they are frequently the most important person in a child’s life, and in some cases, the most important person.

Quality teaching is by far the most important in-school factor in determining student performance. If we get this right, we will achieve our goal.

Tudge is correct.

Consider: a student with a teacher in the top 10% of effectiveness achieves in a half a year what a student with a teacher in the bottom 10 percent achieves in a year. That is, a good teacher has twice the impact of a poorer teacher on student learning.

What does this even mean? How does one begin to quantify “effectiveness” and “achievement” and “impact”? This numerology suggests that Tudge has no clue how to evaluate the quality of a teacher or their teaching.

Most of the challenge of quality teaching lies with the states and the non-government education authorities who employ the teachers and run the schools. They manage the issues associated with salaries, conditions, hiring, and firing. There is still much work to do on this front to better reward the brilliant teachers and to more easily let go the ones who are better suited in alternative careers.

The federal government’s main leverage over quality teaching is its funding of universities to deliver Initial Teacher Education courses, and through the provision of high-quality teacher professional development.

All teacher professional development is pointless and a waste of everybody’s time, as a matter of fact and, pretty much, of necessity. Teachers learn by teaching, then reflecting, then teaching again, and that’s pretty much it. KKK.

Our Initial Teacher Education courses play two central roles – selecting the future teacher workforce and then training that workforce.

Top-performing education systems set high standards for who becomes a teacher. They know and apply Michael Barber’s maxim that, ‘the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’.

Finland, for example, rigorously assesses potential teachers through standard school leaver exams, additional tests of critical thinking, and mock teaching activities. Only one in 10 applicants make the grade. Singapore has a similar level of selectiveness.

Once selected, top-performing systems ensure that teachers are rigorously trained, equipped with the skills, confidence and knowledge to be highly effective from day one in the classroom. The best ITE courses are focused on practical capabilities, essential content knowledge, and proven pedagogical strategies rather than fads. For example, primary teachers in Singapore are rigorously trained in systematic and explicit teaching of grammar – a key to great literacy teaching.

This is sounding better. We’re not convinced that Finland is the great role model it is sometimes presented as, but at least Tudge is saying the right words. The noting of teaching grammar, which is currently non-existent in primary schools, is particularly good to see.

In Australia, we have made real inroads into the task of raising standards in the selection and training of our teachers in the last few years.

No we haven’t.

Guided by the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) recommendations, every initial teacher education course must now be assessed and accredited. This is a big breakthrough that over time will be fundamental to improving student outcomes.

We very much doubt it. Before reading Tudge’s speech we had not heard of the TEMAG report or the Government response. To us, it appears to be very much the standard swill.

Further, every teaching student now sits a test before graduation to ensure they have personal literacy and numeracy skills that are in the top 30 per cent of the adult population. If they do not pass the test, they cannot enter the classroom to teach.

ACER’s literacy and numeracy test is pointless and evil. We haven’t yet written on this obscenity, but it is on the list.

In addition, we have invested in Teach for Australia, a proven model that I helped found, that supports an accelerated pathway into the classroom for top graduates from non-teaching faculties.

We have made good progress, but there is still room for improvement.

We are still not consistently attracting the best students into teaching.

So you’re gonna offer teachers more money and make the job less shithouse? Or, is that suggestion too weirdly free market for you?

Moreover, some teachers are still graduating from their courses insufficiently prepared to teach in a classroom either because there has been too much focus on theory at the expense of practice, or because evidence-based teaching methods are not taught. I hear this consistently from school principals and graduates alike.

The OECD data backs this up: teachers in Australia feel less well prepared than the OECD average across curriculum content, pedagogy, managing student behaviour and monitoring student development.

La Trobe University has recently offered a short course in teaching phonics to existing teachers. A thousand teachers have signed up already. It is great that they offer this course and teachers are keen to learn, but it is an indictment on some education faculties that they were not taught this in the first place given how clear the evidence is.

The next evolution of reforms is needed, to build from the TEMAG reforms. I will soon be launching a review to help shape such reforms. This review will investigate where there is still further work to do to ensure that all ITE courses are high-quality and adequately prepare our teachers to be effective from day one.

This has been talked about for almost two decades now, going back to the National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in 2005, so l will be impatient with education faculties that are not implementing evidence-based practices. It is the kids that miss out!

This is very good to read, but the weak point is the term “evidence-based”. What counts as evidence, and who will evaluate the evidence? Think of the craziest education idea, and you’ll be able find “evidence” to back it, and an education “authority” claiming to be convinced by that evidence.

Further, for many of the changes that a sane person would make, is any evidence required or helpful? Does anyone need evidence, for example, that if kids aren’t sitting still and paying attention to a teacher then they’ll learn bugger all? Sure, Tudge needs “evidence” for political reasons, but to appreciate the major educational and cultural changes required, all one needs is a sense of history, a pair of eyes and a brain. 

 

I will also be looking for mechanisms to enable school principals and expert teachers to have a greater input over the content and delivery of teacher education courses in a similar way that practitioners and employers are in medicine and law.

We need to find additional pathways to attract outstanding students to teaching, including talented mid-career professionals.

This is very good. Intended or otherwise, it is more viewing teaching as vocational rather than professional.

Twenty years ago, when our standards were higher, a person could be trained to become a teacher through a one-year Diploma. Now it takes a minimum of a two year Masters. It would be a rare mid-career person who could afford to take two years off work. Shorter pathways are required.

For everyone. The push from a 1-Year Graduate Diploma to a 2-year Masters was monumentally stupid: needless, costly torture to trainee teachers, and almost certainly lowering teaching standards.

We need a system that recognises that many professionals have deep expertise and relevant experience that would make them highly impactful teachers. I would love to see more engineers and accountants, for example, using their mathematical expertise to help us address our critical shortage of maths teachers.

In the end, the quality of teaching is the most important factor in student outcomes. It is my most important priority when it comes to schooling.

That Tudge listed this as his first and most important priority is very good.

My second area of focus will be on the Australian Curriculum, which is currently under review by ACARA.

Tudge is presumably unaware that ACARA is run by clowns.

This is an opportunity for us to take a step change improvement and put us on the pathway to again being amongst the top nations.

The Alice Springs Declaration sets the objective of ‘promoting [a] world-class curriculum’. It is the right objective: without a world-class curriculum, we will not achieve world-class learning outcomes.

The curriculum sets the standard for the student outcomes we expect – and so our curriculum must reflect our aspiration to be among the best in the world again.

This can be done by benchmarking our curriculum standards against top performing countries like Singapore and using this analysis to set our expectations for student learning.

As with “evidence-based”, benchmarking is easily gamed and is effectively pointless, except for political purposes.

Education Ministers have given ACARA the job of refining, updating and decluttering the content across the current curriculum. By the start of next year, we will have a more streamlined, coherent, focused Australian Curriculum available to be implemented in our schools.

Signs are that this updating of the Curriculum will make things even worse. We hope to write on this in the next day or so.

We will not bridge the three-year gap between us and Singapore overnight, but my hope would be that our revised national curriculum will put us on a pathway over the next decade that will see Australia rise to the top tier of global reading, maths and science standards.

Within the national curriculum content, I would like to see greater focus put towards the fundamentals of reading, mathematics and civics and citizenship. These are the building blocks which underpin other content areas and set individuals up for a greater contribution in our society and democracy.

Yes! Finally, the three Rs! Reading, mathematics and … civics.

Jesus H. Christ. A proper classroom culture (not ScoMoFo’s fucking “Australian values” bullshit) is critical, coming before the three Rs.  But it’s not a goddam area of learning, it’s the way you create a medium for learning. 

Tudge’s push for “fundamentals” is very welcome, but he really screwed up the dismount.

I will have more to say on these content areas in the months ahead including how we can use technology better (particularly in maths teaching) to make up for teacher shortages in particular areas.

He means Mathletics, or some other brand of dog shit. Inevitably, this will be monumentally stupid and monumentally damaging.

We will need a renewed push in reading where too many are transitioning to secondary school without the fundamental reading skills.

Good.

We need to improve the knowledge that young people have of our society and our democracy.

Start with Peter Dutton and your other goon mates, you turd.

My third priority area will be assessment.

John Hattie’s research tells us that effective assessment and feedback influences student achievement as much as prior cognitive ability – that’s a significant effect that should make us sit up and pay attention. It’s clear that assessment empowers teachers – putting student data at their fingertips to personalise learning plans and address areas of weakness.

Our uninformed understanding is that Hattie is a bit of an idiot. But, good assessment is good.

This is why our national annual assessment of student progress – NAPLAN – is so important.

And bad assessment is bad. NAPLAN is garbage.

We must protect NAPLAN, and not give in to those who call for less accountability and less information for teachers and parents.

At the same time, we will continue to refine the NAPLAN tests to ensure they are optimised to provide the information that schools, teachers, parents and policymakers need to lift school standards. The shift to online assessment will be completed in 2022, which will help deliver results faster. This year, we will assess other opportunities to adjust the tests or their implementation.

A national, lower-year testing scheme for arithmetic and spelling-grammar and comprehension would be valuable and worth the effort. We cannot see how the idiocy of NAPLAN could ever morph into that. 

NAPLAN assessments must be supported by a range of other assessments. Great teachers use formative assessment on a daily or weekly basis to assess student learning and identify where more instruction and support is required.

We will do more to embed formative assessment in every classroom in the country. The Online Formative Assessment trial, initiated under the National Schools Reform Agreement, is being developed now.

This trial has great potential to increase the effectiveness of classroom teaching by making robust assessment quick and easy for teachers to regularly complete. It is critical that this trial delivers on its great promise, and I will be monitoring its progress closely and supporting its implementation.

I will also be looking into how we can develop a repository of proven assessment tools that teachers and parents can use, in classrooms and at home, to see how children are performing.

It’s not clear what this all means, but it sounds bad. Good teachers will always have their own methods, of varying degrees of formality, of assessing their students, suitable to the topic and the students. Perhaps Tudge is proposing to offer assistance for this, but it sounds more declarative and needlessly micromanaging.

Finally, I will continue the Government’s priority on indigenous students, particularly those in remote areas. This has been a long term commitment of mine, as it has been for many Australians. There are no simple solutions, but I do think we can do more. I particularly want to see a greater focus on the early years so that kids don’t start school from behind.

And you know, whatever the intention it’ll change almost nothing.

School education is a topic that every person has experience with, a view on, and every Australian should have an interest in. We have all been through the schooling system and many of us have children, nieces, nephews or grandchildren still in the system.

Overall, our school system works well. But as a whole we can do better to ensure that we deliver on our ultimate goal of ensuring that every child reaches their potential.

I am optimistic that we can lift Australian school standards to put us among the world’s best education systems again. And, more importantly, I am confident that we know what it will take to achieve this goal.

We will see.

*) We cut out a statement Tudge gave on sexual assault in schools, as well as the opening, boilerplaterish part of his speech.

 

SUMMARY

OK, does anybody else have whiplash?

After reading Tudge’s speech, we wrote to our teacher-friend and graded it a D+, maybe a C. After reflecting and writing and reflecting, we’re probably willing to raise that to a C+ or B. Although containing a number of genuine idiocies, the speech is focused upon flagging genuine problems with Australian education, and suggests some plausible approaches to at least alleviate those problems. As such, we cannot see that Tudge’s proposals will end up causing much harm, and they may even do some good.

But not much good. At best, Tudge will be relying upon the evidence and the experts to implement changes. But, as we have queried above, which evidence and which experts?

The reality is, Tudge will be relying upon half-wits at ACER and ACARA and the like, along with God knows which academic nitwits. And what is the alternative? Who can you think of in Australia, who has both the educational clout and proper sense-knowledge-intelligence to make a decent go of Tudge’s proposals? Is there a single person?

Tudge’s speech is good in sum, but Tudge doesn’t understand the depth or the fundamental sources of the problem. To go properly into that is another, long, post. We’ll just make one note: any proposal for education reform that doesn’t begin with a blanket ban of computers in the primary classroom is not a serious proposal.

Yep, C+ is probably about right.

Christian Porter is a Poisonous Lizard, and He Should be Left Alone

Let’s be straight: Christian Porter is loathsome, a poisonous and privileged shithead. He was raised in privileged shitheadedness, the son of a Liberal shithead, and the grandson of a Liberal shithead. Porter is a poster boy for Australia’s grotesque class rule, and he drips in his class’s nastiness and sense of self-worth. Christian Porter is a complete and utter asshole.

Porter is also a sadistically destructive asshole. As Minister for Social Services, he brought in the Turnbull Government’s psychopathic Robodebt scheme. It was evil, and obviously evil, from the start, bringing needless misery to thousands of the most vulnerable and powerless, and prompting God knows how many suicides. And it took four years of the fucking obvious, four years of senate reviews and legal challenges to get rid of the fucking thing. Without an apology. What a cunt.

As Attorney-General, as the keeper of Australia’s laws and sense of law, Porter has been destructive and villainous. He’s worked overtime appointing half-wit Liberal mates to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. He has absolutely no sense of openness of government or privacy from the State, and clearly considers the AFP to be his personal police force. He’s led the crucification of Benard Collaery and Witness K in a secret and manipulated trial, all to mask and avenge Lord Downer and Co’s fucking-over of East Timor.  Of course he has not raised a finger to protect the poor fucked-over refugees at the mercy of Dutton and his Black Shirts. “Rule of Law”? Any suggestion that Porter gives a flying fuck about the rule of law, or even has an inkling of what it means, is vomitously laughable.

That’s enough. It’s a mountain more than enough. But, understandably and unfortunately, people want more.

Is Porter a rapist?

No one knows now – except Porter – and we’re extremely unlikely to find out. What would a review, any review, accomplish? What would it tell us other than, perhaps, something questionable happened 30+ years ago, when the guy was a teenager, merely a trainee sadist. Which we already know.

Why bother? Why not focus on Porter’s much more recent and much more provable awfulness? We know what Christian Porter is, and his disgusting colleagues know what he is. It has been, and still is, up to Morrison and his fellow thugs whether Porter should be in charge of the country’s law. And it’s now up to them if they want a show trial or a cover up. But no one else needs it. No one with an ounce of humanity can believe that Porter should be responsible for a dog, let alone a country.

And what if Morrison and his thugs don’t want an inquiry? Then so be it. Porter can stay, as a dead, festering lizard hanging around the neck of Morrison’s revolting, thoroughly evil government. And if that’s not enough to hang the whole fucking lot of them, then we’re fucked anyway.

Leave the loathsome cunt alone.

Trumped

We’re back, sort of, and we’ll soon get back to mathematics and to needling the VCAA and their goon-clown minions. But, first, there’s a little catching up to do. And, to begin, we must celebrate the decline and fall of the Orange Maniac. It turned out, and this was no gimme, that American society was strong enough to withstand the full on assault by Republican fascists. And now America, and the World, is once again perfect.

Trump, of course, is not the disease but a symptom. True, he’s a disgusting symptom, and he’s a symptom that’ll probably end up killing a couple million Americans; symptoms can indeed be deadly. But the disease is what matters most, and the disease was thriving long before Trump shat on everything, and it is stronger than ever. For decades, Republicans have gleefully engaged in a calculated and vicious denial of reality, eagerly enabled by Murdoch and his rapacious ilk, and their psychopathically soulless henchmen. And the Democrats, and America in general, is not a whole hell of a lot better. The place is pretty fucked.

Australia is not fucked. Yes, we currently have a fifth rate, mini-wit conman motherfucker for a Prime Minister. Yes, this fifth rate mini-wit conman motherfucker leads a government of neanderthals and crooks and born-to-rule twat-snots and full blown sadists. They are trying to fuck up Australia, and they are certainly making it worse. The disease is here as well, and it is getting stronger. But, and in spite of ScoMoFo and his thugocracy, and corruptly compliant media, Australia has held together pretty well.

So, let’s give thanks. Let’s give thanks that we don’t live in a gun-infested, reality-denying lunatic asylum. Let’s give thanks that the dumb fucks in our government are, in particular, pretty inept in their attempts to fuck things up. Let’s give thanks that the disease, although anything but dormant here, has not won here. Yet.

Amen.

Which Republican is More Repulsive?

There’s the Republican who, even after the whipping up of a riot, continues to lie through his teeth, to steadfastly deny that Trump is a narcissistic, sadistic, psychopathic cult leader. Then there’s the Republican who pretends to have finally seen the light, who pretends that they didn’t recognise all along that Trump is a narcissistic, sadistic, psychopathic cult leader.

Which is more repulsive? The answer, of course, is “Yes”. Republicans are loathsome fuckers. All of them.

Cicchetti’s Random Shit

Readers will be aware that Trump and his MAGA goons have been pretending that Joe Biden stole the US election. They’ve been counting on the corruptness of sufficient judges and election officials for their fantasy grievances to gain traction. So far, however, and this was no gimme, the authorities have, in the main, been unwilling to deny reality.

The latest denial of the denial of reality came yesterday, with the Supreme Court telling Texas’s scumbag attorney general, and 17 other scumbag attorneys general, and 126 scumbag congressmen, to go fuck themselves. AG Paxton’s lawsuit, arguing to invalidate the election results in four states, was garbage in every conceivable way, and in a few inconceivable ways. One of those inconceivable ways was mathematical, which is why we are here.

As David Post wrote about here and then here, Paxton’s original motion claimed powerful statistical evidence, giving “substantial reason to doubt the voting results in the Defendant States” (paragraphs 9 – 12). In particular, Paxton claimed that Trump’s early lead in the voting was statistically insurmountable (par 10):

“The probability of former Vice President Biden winning the popular vote in the four Defendant States—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—independently given President Trump’s early lead in those States as of 3 a.m. on November 4, 2020, is less than one in a quadrillion, or 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000.”

Similarly, Paxton looked to Trump’s defeat of Clinton in 2016 to argue the unlikelihood of Biden’s win in these states (par 11):

“The same less than one in a quadrillion statistical improbability … exists when Mr. Biden’s performance in each of those Defendant States is compared to former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s performance in the 2016 general election and President Trump’s performance in the 2016 and 2020 general elections.”

On the face of it, these claims are, well, insane. So, what evidence did Paxton produce? It appeared in Paxton’s subsequent motion for expedited consideration, in the form of a Declaration to the Court by “Charles J. Cicchetti, PhD” (pages 20-29). Cicchetti’s Declaration has to be read to be believed.

Cicchetti‘s PhD is in economics, and he is a managing director of a corporate consulting group called Berkeley Research Group. BRG appears to have no role in Paxton’s suit, and Cicchetti doesn’t say how he got involved; he simply writes that he was “asked to analyze some of the validity and credibility of the 2020 presidential election in key battleground states”. Presumably, Paxton was just after the best.

It is excruciating to read Cicchetti’s entire Declaration, but there is also no need. Amongst all the Z-scores and whatnot, Cicchetti’s argument is trivial. Here is the essence of Cicchetti’s support for Paxton’s statements above.

In regard to Trump’s early lead, Cicchetti discusses Georgia, comparing the early vote and late vote distributions (par 15):

“I use a Z-score to test if the votes from the two samples are statistically similar … There is a one in many more than quadrillions of chances that these two tabulation periods are randomly drawn from the same population. 

Similarly, in regard to Biden outperforming Clinton in the four states, Cicchetti writes

 “I tested the hypothesis that the performance of the two Democrat candidates were statistically similar by comparing Clinton to Biden … [Cicchetti sprinkles some Z-score fairy dust] … I can reject the hypothesis many times more than one in a quadrillion times that the two outcomes were similar.”

And, as David Post has noted, that’s all there is. Cicchetti has demonstrated that the late Georgia votes skewed strongly to Biden, and that Biden outperformed Clinton. Both of which everybody knew was gonna happen and everybody knows did happen.

None of this, of course, supports Paxton’s claims in the slightest. So, was Cicchetti really so stupid as to think he was proving anything? No, Cicchetti may be stupid but he’s not that stupid; Cicchetti briefly addresses the fact that his argument contains no argument. In regard to the late swing in Georgia, Cicchetti writes (par 16)

“I am aware of some anecdotal statements from election night that some Democratic strongholds were yet to be tabulated … [This] could cause the later ballots to be non-randomly different … but I am not aware of any actual [supporting] data …”

Yep, it’s up to others to demonstrate that the late votes went to Biden. Which, you know they kind of did, when they counted the fucking votes. As for Biden outperforming Clinton, Cicchetti writes (par 13),

“There are many possible reasons why people vote for different candidates. However, I find the increase of Biden over Clinto is statistically incredible if the outcomes were based on similar populations of voters …”

Yep, Cicchetti finds it “incredible” that four years of that motherfucker Trump had such an effect on how people voted.

What an asshole.