The Most Cowardly Act: “Corporal punishment” is a major crime

“Corporal punishment” is not and has never been about punishment.  Its purpose is terrorism and intimidation, to subdue and subjugate people by demonstrating that those in power can perpetrate violence without accountability or redress.  The only reason someone or some entity (e.g. government, military, etc.) uses “corporal punishment” instead of “capital punishment” is that the victims live in fear and the abusers want them to obey. The dead no longer do either.

“Corporal punishment” isn’t just about hitting a child on the buttocks.  It’s torture and beatings in prison, it’s rape in all of its forms, it’s all forms of coercion through violence.  Take away the power of those being abused, and make sure they know there is no authority to appeal to and make the violence stop.  It’s as much mental torture as it is physical.

Here are a few sites with resources.  More below the fold.

From Stop Abuse Campaign:

April 30th is NO SPANK DAY! Before you stop reading this latest bit on not spanking, please consider that I agree with you that spanking works, just maybe not in the ways most parents intended.

Spanking teaches valuable lessons. Yes, true, it does! It teaches that violence and love are inextricably connected. It teaches that the bigger, stronger person gets his way. It teaches that the people who love you are allowed to hit you. It teaches that sometimes, the people you trust will hurt you.

Spanking works.  In the short term, true fact. Most of us will stop doing what we are doing if someone hits us. So, yes, in that regard, spanking works. But what about the long term? To better understand the effects of spanking we should consider the long term and short term effects of giving into a tantrum. When we yield to the screaming, flailing, tantrum throwing child in the grocery checkout line and give her the candy, it works. The screaming stops. The crying stops and the tantrum is over.  Until the next time. We all know, the more we give into tantrums, the more they reoccur. In the same way, when we spank our children, it does work, for the moment, but what doesn’t work about spanking is long term success. Spanking puts an end to the undesirable behavior, but only in the here and now. Children who stop the undesirable behavior when spanked outgrow this method of “discipline” in time and haven’t really learned how to control behavior as much as they have learned to avoid punishment.

From HealthDay, July 2021.  There is a second similarly titled item, “Spanking: The Case Against It (Ages 6 to 12)“:

Spanking: The Case Against It (Ages 1-3)

Should I spank my child?

The short answer is no. Some people feel hesitant to abandon a discipline they experienced when they were children. But the thinking on spanking has changed over the years, and now doctors and child advocacy groups advise against spanking, slapping, or any other kind of physical punishment.

When your child misbehaves or acts in defiant, inappropriate, or even dangerous ways, you want to show him his behavior is unacceptable and must change. Spanking may seem like a direct and effective way to do that, but it delivers other messages you don’t want to send:

  • Fear.
  • Distrust.
  • Might makes right.
  • Poor self-esteem.
  • Danger.

[. . .]

But what’s the harm in a little smack?

Plenty. In a study released in July 2002, a psychologist who analyzed six decades of research on corporal punishment found that it puts children at risk for long-term harm that far outweighs the short-term benefit of on-the-spot obedience.

Psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff of Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty found links between spanking and aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health problems. Gershoff spent five years analyzing 88 studies of corporal punishment conducted since 1938.

According to End Corporal Punishment .org, only 63 countries (as of 2022) have made all of this violence against children illegal, just as it is illegal to do to adults.  (Noticeable are the countries which are NOT on the list.  Of all the allegedly “progressive and democratic” English speaking countries, only New Zealand and Ireland have banned it.)  In over 130 countries, however, abusive “parents” can still beat children even though in many it’s illegal for schools or anyone outside the “family” to hit them.  Physical violence as “criminal punishment” is still legal in sixteen countries.

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Not Fit To Lead: Plumbing the deaths of depravity

Yes, I said deaths, not depths.  The recent Veritasium video below is saddening and frustrating.

Thomas Midgley Jr. (*) is arguably the single greatest mass murderer in human history, responsible for over 100 million people’s deaths and environmental disasters by two of his inventions: the addition of lead to gasoline (deaths by lead poisoning and reduced human intelligence by poisoning the environment, not counting the millions killed by speeding cars) and the creation of freon which caused the ozone hole in our atmosphere.

(* Amended: Midgley, not Charles Kettering who hired him.  No one corrected me on my error, which tells me either no one’s a stickler for details or no one read this post. ^_^)

Lead has been known for about 7000 years of human civilization since we learnt to work metal.  Its low melting point (328°C, about the same temperature as burning wood) made it easy to extract from rocks.  But its use has poisoned the world, its rise in use demonstrated by ice cores in the Antarctic.  Lead has been used as a roofing material and paint (re: the toxic fumes from the Notre Dame fire in Paris), in solder (welding, computers, etc.) and in water pipes.  What politicians have done to the poor in Flint, Michigan should be called a crime agaist humanity.

How different would the world be (ourselves, the environment) if lead’s melting point were a thousand degrees higher, closer to nickel, iron, cobalt, and copper?  Unlike radioactivity which can be contained and slowly deteriorates, lead (and arsenic, mercury, selenium, etc.) is a poison that stays permanently in the environment and human bodies.  And we put it there in the name of profit.


At 18:10, he mentions the rise and decline of both lead levels in children and violent crime in society with a twenty year lag.  But he doesn’t ask or mention why it declined.

In 1981, the US and other countries started phasing out and banning the use of lead as an additive in gasoline.  By the mid 1990s, the majority of countries had stopped using it in cars.  It was only in 2021 that Algeria, the last country still using leaded gas, finally banned it.


The Most Cowardly Act: April 30th is International Spank Out Day

The Canadian Children’s Rights Council describes International Spank Out Day thus:

International SpankOut Day was initiated in 1998 by EPOCH-USA to bring widespread attention to the need to end physical punishment of children and to provide educational information to parents and caregivers about non-violent alternatives. Over 500 informational events and programmes have been held in the US and in other countries where it is sometimes called “no hitting day”, “no smacking day” or “day of non-violence for children”.

The Canadian Children’s Rights Council would like to have 365 “SpankOut Days” each year

Hitting a child on the buttocks is an act of violence against a child.  It is both physical assault and sexual assault.  It is not “discipline”, it is not “punishment”, it is not “parenting”.  To anyone who attempts to defend hitting children, answer me this:

If you disobeyed your employer or your spouse, or you broke something, and you were on the buttocks or another body part, would you call that “discipline” or assault? 

If you call it a criminal act for an adult to do to another adult, why is it not assault when the person hit is a child?

Adults can call for help.  Adults can defend themselves and leave a relationship or situation.  Adults have resources and their own voices.

Children have none of these abilities.  They lack knowledge of their rights, who to call for help.  They are dependent on the “parents” who hit them.  And society often ignores children, especially when those children come from “good families” with Jeckyll and Hyde “parents”.

There are a plethora of studies (a few linked below this paragraph) demonstrating the long term effects of violence on children, even those too young to remember details of where or when.  If affects their brain and can have the same long term effects as CPTSD from war or other trauma.  And “spanking” is a form of sexual abuse, because of the nerve endings of the buttocks and genitals are connected.

APA, April 2012: The case against spanking

Physical discipline is slowly declining as some studies reveal lasting harms for children.

A growing body of research has shown that spanking and other forms of physical discipline can pose serious risks to children, but many parents aren’t hearing the message.

“It’s a very controversial area even though the research is extremely telling and very clear and consistent about the negative effects on children,” says Sandra Graham-Bermann, PhD, a psychology professor and principal investigator for the Child Violence and Trauma Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “People get frustrated and hit their kids. Maybe they don’t see there are other options.”

Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children. Americans’ acceptance of physical punishment has declined since the 1960s, yet surveys show that two-thirds of Americans still approve of parents spanking their kids.

But spanking doesn’t work, says Alan Kazdin, PhD, a Yale University psychology professor and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. “You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want,” says Kazdin, who served as APA president in 2008. “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”

Science Direct, August 2009: Reduced prefrontal cortical gray matter volume in young adults exposed to harsh corporal punishment

WebMD, April 19, 2021: Effect of Spanking on Kids’ Brains Similar to Abuse

Rare is the parent who’s never so much as thought about spanking an unruly child. But a new study provides another reason to avoid corporal punishment: Spanking may cause changes in the same areas of a child’s brain affected by more severe physical and sexual abuse.

Previous research has consistently found links between spanking and behavioral problems, aggression, depression, and anxiety, says Jorge Cuartas, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and first author of the study. “We wanted to look at one potential mechanism, brain development, that might explain how corporal punishment can impact children’s behavior and cognitive development.”

US National Insititutes of Health, April 2021: Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children

Spanking remains common around the world, despite evidence linking corporal punishment to detrimental child outcomes. This study tested whether children who were spanked exhibited altered neural function in response to stimuli that suggest the presence of an environmental threat compared to children who were not spanked. Children who were spanked exhibited greater activation in multiple regions of the medial and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), including dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, dorsomedial PFC, bilateral frontal pole, and left middle frontal gyrus in response to fearful relative to neutral faces compared to children who were not spanked. These findings suggest that spanking may alter neural responses to environmental threats in a manner similar to more severe forms of maltreatment.

Harvard University, April 2021: The Effect of Spanking on the Brain

Spanking found to impact children’s brain response, leading to lasting consequences

Research has long underscored the negative effects of spanking on children’s social-emotional development, self-regulation, and cognitive development, but new research, published this month, shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.

“The findings are one of the last pieces of evidence to make sense of the research of the last 50 years on spanking,” says researcher Jorge Cuartas, a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who coauthored the study with Katie McLaughlin, professor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. “We know that spanking is not effective and can be harmful for children’s development and increases the chance of mental health issues. With these new findings, we also know it can have potential impact on brain development, changing biology, and leading to lasting consequences.”

ABC News, February 2008: Study: Spanking May Lead to Sexual Problems Later

Researchers say the discipline tactic can lead to risky sexual behaviors.

Children whose parents spank them or otherwise inflict physical punishment may be more likely to have sexual problems later, according to research to be presented Thursday to the American Psychological Association.

The analysis of four studies by Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire-Durham, suggests that children whose parents spanked, slapped, hit or threw objects at them may have a greater chance of physically or verbally coercing a sexual partner, engaging in risky sexual behavior or engaging in masochistic sex, including sexual arousal by spanking.

“A greater chance of physically or verbally coercing a sexual partner”.  That may not show a direct link between hitting children and becoming a rapist, but it shows one cannot dismiss the possibility., January 2018: Pediatricians’ Group Says Spanking is Ineffective, Potentially Harmful

It’s official: spanking is out. Time-outs are in. That’s the lead message of a new policy statement from the largest pediatricians’ group, in its strongest warning yet against the use of spanking or other harsh punishments–ever–by parents and others charged with caring for children. It’s the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) first update to its policy guideline on discipline since 1998, when it discouraged but did not specifically proscribe spanking. This time, the message is clear: spanking doesn’t work and may cause harm. Ditto for harsh verbal reprimand that shames or humiliates.


He pointed to evidence that corporal punishment initiates a cycle of aggression that often followed children into adulthood and raised their risk of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. A 2009 brain-imaging study found that young adults who were spanked as children had reduced gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate, suggesting they may be on a trajectory of altered brain development. Those who had been spanked also performed worse on IQ studies.

University of Texas, April 2016: Risks of Harm from Spanking Confirmed by Analysis of Five Decades of Research

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and experience increased anti-social behavior and other difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research.

AUSTIN, Texas ­ — The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan.

The study, published in this month’s Journal of Family Psychology, looks at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children. The researchers say it is the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking, and more specific to the effects of spanking alone than previous papers, which included other types of physical punishment in their analyses.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

This is the first of two items.

The second tomorrow covers the uglier aspects of this form of child abuse.

Putin Would Be Proud: Journalist Intimidation 101

It’s only a cover up if people know it was a cover up, right?

Alene Tchekmedyian reported for the Los Angeles Times about abuses perpetrated by the Los Angeles County sheriff’s office. Video showed that a cop was kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed man, and several other cops stood and watched. LA county sheriff Alex Villanueva and others saw the video, then helped cover up the crime.

What was Villanueva’s response to Tchekmedyian’s factual reporting? To open a campaign of intimidation and threats. . .I mean, an “investigation” targeting her. But not just Tchekmedyian, any journalist in the future who dares tell the truth about his office’s actions would be a target.  He sees journalism as the “enemy”.

This is the same LA County sheriff’s office which has eighteen gangs within its members, as another journalist reported in August 2021.  Would it surprise you to hear the corrupt cop is also an anti-vaxxer?

The LA sheriff is investigating a reporter who broke a story on a department cover-up

The Los Angeles County sheriff on Tuesday announced he was launching an investigation into a reporter behind an article detailing a cover-up of inmate abuse within the department.

During a news conference, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he was investigating leaked materials, including a video published by the Los Angeles Times in an article by reporter Alene Tchekmedyian.

Tchekmedyian reported that sheriff’s department officials attempted to cover up an incident in which a deputy kneeled on a handcuffed inmate’s head for three minutes in March 2021.

[. . .]

On Monday, a sheriff’s commander reportedly filed a legal claim stating that Villanueva and other sheriff’s officials tried to cover up the 2021 incident, fearing bad publicity.

Villanueva had earlier claimed that he was unaware of the incident for eight months, but Tchekmedyian had reported that the head of the department not only viewed a video of the altercation five days after it occurred, but Villanueva allegedly led the effort to conceal any information about it from the public.

Tchekmedyian’s reporting featured security video footage of the incident, which showed several sheriffs standing around and watching as the restrained man was pinned to the floor.

Some Advice That’s Never Heard Nor Told

Rather than simply post a comment on PZ Myers’s post, “For all the 18 year olds anticipating next year”, allow me to hijack it with my own opinion.

When I was eighteen, I wasn’t ready to attend college. I was pushed into it for a year.  Never mind that I was still an unconfident and shy teen still living with abusive parents, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. It’s only fortunate that the sperm donor was paying for the courses, that I didn’t have student loans.

But I did pay for it later in other ways.

First, I resented being pushed into it.  This was the 1980s when you could still get a decent job without a college education, and thought I could do that too. I ended up wasting several years working low paying, dead end jobs before I was motivated and went back to college for my own reasons.  As said above about a lousy home life, I wasn’t a “know it all” teen, I was trying to demonstrate independence from them.

Second, I paid for the low grades of that first year. I had no choice financially except to attend the same college when I finally did go.

The college wouldn’t erase or delete those prior courses (none of which related to what I studied).  I couldn’t afford the time or money to retake them and get better grades.  With the unwanted albtatross around my neck, my GPA was barely 2.5. Without them, it would have been about 3.0, not bad considering I was living a 24 hour clock and on polyphasic sleep for years (simultaneously working and studying).  Imagine that effect if a scholarship is based on GPA, and you’re denied it because of a mistake you were pushed into making.

If I could have the ears of any eighteen year olds finishing grade twelve now and are uncertain about life, the one piece of advice I would give them is:

Don’t go to college.

Not yet, anyway.  At eighteen, few genuinely know what they want to do the rest of their lives.  Sacrificing one year now and learning basic adult life skills isn’t a waste of time, it’s better than wasting five years later.  More below.

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The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

There’s a story below the fold (apocryphal or true, I don’t know) that lives up to the old joke in the title.  An unnamed employer in Chicago took an attitude towards employees that left much to be desired.  The story has been making the rounds in Childfree circles, and a source of great mirth.

But there is an ounce of truth to it, whether the story is true or not: employers are more accomodating about scheduling and workload to people with children.  Just because people do not have children does not mean they have “free time and nothing to do”, or that they “don’t have families”.  (NB: Saying this does not diminish, excuse, nor pretend that discrimination by employers doesn’t exist, e.g. the glass ceiling and lack of advancement women are subjected to.)

It’s an arrogant assumption that people without kids have “unlimited free time”.  Childfree and childless people have just as much right to free time as those with kids.  The pandemic has exacerbated this with the attitude that Childfree and childless people “can’t pass it on if they get sick and should work from the office”, as if they have no contacts outside of work.

From CNBC:

Office smackdown: Parents vs. childless workers

In the career complaints category, few things can get people more worked up than the debate over who works harder, has it better or is given more preferential treatment: Workers with kids, or those without.

Parents will tell you that juggling work trips and presentations to the CEO with field trips and an unexpected vomiting episode is hard work, but they can make it work with a little co-worker understanding and a few nontraditional work hours.

But increasingly, some childless workers are countering with a similar lament: They say they deserve a life, too.

Workers without children often have been coveted by employers precisely because the assumption is that they have nothing better to do than to put in long hours, said Trina Jones, a professor at Duke University of Law whose research looks at whether efforts to produce family-friendly workplaces have had an adverse effect on single people without children.

In addition, some childless colleagues worry that they’ll face backlash if they ask for flexibility to pursue something outside of work, such as a part-time schedule to train for a marathon or flexible days off so they can volunteer at a pet shelter.

“What happens is the justifications are not viewed the same, and therefore the single person’s commitment to the workplace is questioned,” she said.

Another problem is that those with children are sometimes excused from work duties, and those without kids expected to take on a heavier share of the workload without extra pay.  From Harvard Business Review:

How Managers Can Be Fair About Flexibility for Parents and Non-Parents Alike

Bias against parents — and especially mothers — has been well documented. We call it the “Maternal Wall,” and we’ve been studying it for years, researching how women who have always been successful at work sometimes find their competence questioned when they take maternity leave or ask for a flexible work schedule. We know now that this bias can affect fathers, too, when they seek even modest accommodations for caregiving. For example, a consultant in one study reported that he was harassed for taking two weeks of paternity leave — but applauded for taking a three-week vacation to an exotic locale. Parents, studies consistently show, face extra scrutiny.

But while the data is clear that parents are more likely to face bias at work, sometimes we also hear about a different problem: that people without children find that their managers are more understanding of working parents’ need for flexibility, while expecting childless or unmarried staff to pick up the slack because they “have no life.” Indeed, research has found that women without children work the longest hours of any group.

[. . .]

If you have a work-from-home policy, it should be reason-neutral. It’s generally not a good idea to have to judge different peoples’ “reasons” for working from home. This leads to uncomfortable territory: does sick baby trump dying grandparent? Instead, when people work from home, just have them say “I’m working from home.” Don’t make people explain why.

If employees are given unequal workloads, scheduling flexibility, time off, and pay is not reflected by the work done, then resentment and friction is inevitable.  Childfree people are NOT “anti-child” or “anti-parent”.  What we are is people with the same expectations as those with kids.

From BBC:

Do companies lean harder on non-parents?

Leo Ramirez’s passion job is editing Grubby Cat, a cat-care website. But his main job is very different: coordinating inspections for a crane company in Florida, US. It’s there that he sometimes feels frustrated as a 47-year-old employee without children.

“It’s a very family-oriented workplace,” he explains, with frequent social events like employee picnics and parties. These are supposed to be fun occasions, but they can be dispiriting for him. “My co-workers will make me feel guilted – unintentionally I am sure – into staying [at work] those days later than everyone else… while everyone else has that ‘excuse’ to be unable to make it in because they have families and kids to prepare with.”

Ramirez reports that his colleagues say things like, “come on Leo, you know if you had kids or anything we would let you take the extra time you needed”. Yet when Ramirez and his lifelong best friend married earlier this year, his managers wouldn’t let him leave two hours early for last-minute wedding prep on the Friday before the wedding.

Ramirez is sympathetic to parents’ needs: “Me having to get my teeth worked on is never going to be as important as someone’s kid being hurt, I completely understand that.” He’s even happy to work on holidays so that his colleagues with kids can have uninterrupted family time at Christmas and Thanksgiving, for instance. But it can rankle that “I have been asked to pick up the ‘supervisor on call’ responsibility for others on multiple weekends when it should have been their turn to do so”.

“On call for our need until you breed” is not conducive to creating good morale.

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The World’s Birth Rates Decline: This IS the painless way

Environmental collapse due to overconsumption of natural resources is inevitable, even without climate change, depletion of arable land, bleaching of coral reefs, acidification of the oceans, etc.  But if there’s one bright spot in all this doom and gloom, it’s the worldwide change in attitude towards having children.  People, and more specifically women, are having fewer children by choice, and the reasons are positive.  The world’s current estimated population is close to eight billion (7.94), but based on several factors, we may peak at 8.5 billion and begin to decline.

First, there’s the World Population Historical Table from Worldometers.  The total raw number of people has continued to increase, but the rate of increase is lessening.  For example, the average number of new people born per year was 91 million in 1990 (from 5.3 billion), but was only 81 million in 2020 (from 7.8 billion). The annual increase peaked at 2.07% in 1970 but since it was 1.82% in 1990, the annual rate of increase continutes to drop, now at 1.05% in 2020.

How did we produce fewer new children despite 2.5 billion more people to have them?  Mass deaths?  No.  From a reduced number of pregnancies.  People are choosing to have fewer children.  In the cases of China, India, South Korea, and possibly others with sex selective abortions, there are a disproportionate number of men and a shortage of women.  And some of these women are choosing their career over marriage and children (i.e. China’s “left over women”, age 30+ who never married).

Historically, families had many children because they expected some to die.  Like turtles, more offspring meant more competition for resources but a greater chance of one or more surviving.  Thanks to other factors, people are behaving more like elephants, having fewer children yet able to invest more in their care and survival.  The same number of kids are surviving to adulthood, but with fewer deaths and trauma for the parents.  Their chances increased because of improved medical care, vaccination, increased family income, employment opportunities, education for women and children, among others.

The video below goes into detail about each factor, and where the changes in birth rates are happen.  Unsurprisingly, the greatest declines are in Europe, North America, and Oceania.  However, everywhere else the same declines are occuring at the same rate.  Birth rates in Africa now are still the highest, but the rate in most African countries now are lower than the rates in European countries century ago.  Where I disagree with him are contributing factors he leaves out (e.g. democracy, industrialization, migration, common languages), but the numbers he presents matches his source, Our World In Data.

In East Asian countries (esp. Japan, South Korea, China) industrialization was common while political systems varied widely, yet the birth rates are the same. Attitudes towards abortion were not, with sex selective abortion being common practice in South Korea and China thirty-odd years ago, but not in Japan.

Also noticeable in Africa is the strip of countries along the east coast where the rates declined the most.  Several have a common language (Swahili) which makes it easier for ideas to spread across political borders because there’s only one barrier, not two.  Being bookended by the most democratic nations in Africa (Kenya and South Africa) probably helps.  Also of note, other than Kenya, all those countries have low or unmeasurable rates of Female Genital Mutilation, another sign of education in a society.

Something else shown by the World Population Historical Table from Worldometers. (also linked above) is the increasing median human age worldwide.  For centuries, the average was in the low 20s.  But since 1990, the median has increased and is now over 30, likely the first time ever.  And the median age will continue to rise.

The world population is ageing (Researchgate), and those of reproduction age (20-35) are having fewer children.  (This Researchgate chart is from 2017, so take into account the bar for each age is now one older.)  Those children in the chart age 0-15 were born to the bulges aged 30-39.  The smallest bands in the graph (age 15-24, now age 20-29) are the Zoomers, and they aren’t having kids.  There are declining birth rates in dozens of countries worldwide.  I would really like to see a new version of this table in 2022.  How small is the 0-4 age group now?


From the BBC (2020):

Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born

The world is ill-prepared for the global crash in children being born which is set to have a “jaw-dropping” impact on societies, say researchers.

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century.

And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100.

Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.

[. . .]

As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century.

“That’s a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline,” researcher Prof Christopher Murray told the BBC.

“I think it’s incredibly hard to think this through and recognise how big a thing this is; it’s extraordinary, we’ll have to reorganise societies.”

It has nothing to do with sperm counts or the usual things that come to mind when discussing fertility.

Instead it is being driven by more women in education and work, as well as greater access to contraception, leading to women choosing to have fewer children.

In many ways, falling fertility rates are a success story.

It’s both a success story, and a solution to a problem.  The fewer consumers of resources there are, the easier the burden we place on the environment.  Less impact means fewer deaths due to climate impacts, starvation, wars for resources, disease, etc.

An ageing and shrinking population is the gentle solution to our environmental problem.


Speak Broadly: The ZX Spectrum at 40

Clive Sinclair died last year, sadly missing the fortieth anniversary of his most important invention, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, which was first released on April 23, 1982.

While it didn’t have much impact in North America (competing with the likes of Apple, Commodore, Atari, Tandy, and others), the Spectrum is legendary in Europe.  And unlike the US with its embargoes on exports to the East Bloc during the Cold War, the UK still traded with them, thus the Spectrum made its way to communist countries, becoming the learning ground of today’s hackers (for better and for worse) thanks to a seemingly endless list of Spectrum clones.

Unlike Sinclair’s earlier models with membrane keyboards, the ZX-80 and ZX-81, the Spectrum was a proper computer, thought the criticism for its keyboard was entirely valid.  But for its price, its features and capabilities, it was competitive and capable with other computers on the UK market (e.g. BBC Micro, Amstrad, Dragon).  The BBC Micro may have been the computer of UK schools, but it was the Spectrum that was in their homes.

More below the fold.

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This Is Cool: The ARPA Net of 1977 in one image

No deep meaning or arguments, just a picture that appeared in a retro computing group.

The good old days when Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) dominated the minicomputer market, along with other innovative companies (Data General, Control Data Corporation, Rand).  And of course, those Intolerant of Beards and Moustaches.

Drug Tests: Breaking Bad in real life

Taiwan is, sadly, a country which still has state sponsored murder (aka the “death penalty”) but usually it is only committed against hard-to-defend cases (i.e. the 2014 subway slasher who murdered four people).  Killing prisoners involved in the drug trade is still on the books, but I don’t know of any cases where it happened.

Recently, “Breaking Bad” turned real life.  A university assistant professor named Zhang was arrested for doing drug purity tests for a Taiwan gang on university property.  He even had his students running the tests.  (The students did not know what the substance involved was, so they have been cleared of any wrongdoing.)

Zhang lost money on a business venture and was heavily in debt.  He made the mistake of listening to criminal gangs instead of accepting the losses and facing much less severe consequences than what he’s facing now.  Even if he gets out of prison, who would hire him?  He’s thrown everything away.

Breaking Bad: chemistry prof used university lab, students, to operate “one-stop test shop” for Taiwanese drug syndicate

An assistant professor and post-doctoral researcher has been prosecuted for using a university chemistry laboratory with advanced equipment, and having students unknowingly assist in testing imported and locally manufactured illicit drugs for purity, on behalf of a Taiwanese narcotrafficker.

Zhang Enming (張恩銘), 44, was charged by the Taipei District Prosecutor’s Office for manufacturing category 3 drugs and other crimes following an investigation into a drug manufacturing operation uncovered in Yilan County in early 2021.

According to reports, Zhang, a former postdoctoral researcher the the Genomic Research Center at Academia Sinica, was involved with a cleaning detergent business in China, and became indebted for the amount of RMB400,000 (NT$1.82 million).

Information about the debt was passed on to the head of a Taiwanese drug syndicate, Xiao Guangzhe, who then approached Zhang, and suggested he help with testing drug purity to help pay off his debt.

On the other end of things, in the face of growing public sentiment for the legalization of marijuana, Taiwan’s government has greatly reduced the penalty for individual possession of marijuana (non-distribution), to a minimum of one year in prison from five.

Great.  More dolts growing and smoking that crap and making everyone else stink of it because there’s less risk if they’re caught.

Taiwan reduces jail penalty for growing marijuana for personal use

Taiwan’s Legislature passed a law amendment on Tuesday to reduce the penalty for growing marijuana for personal use from a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment to one year, and a maximum of seven years.

The amendment, which cleared the legislative floor without objections among lawmakers who were present, was proposed by the Cabinet that recommended that penalties match the gravity of the crime in growing marijuana, also called cannabis.

Under the existing Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act, those found guilty of cultivating cannabis with the intention of supplying it for use as a narcotic face a minimum of five years imprisonment, and may be fined up to NT$5 million (US$171,000).

On March 11, 2021, the Cabinet approved a proposal to revise the act with a new article that stipulates that those found guilty of growing cannabis for personal use should be punished with imprisonment ranging from one to seven years, and may be fined up to NT$1 million.

I’ve never touched it, never will.  I hate the smell.

Then again, maybe that “teacher” from 2018 might still be alive.

It Was Awesome

The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert took place on Monday, April 20, 1992.

This was one of the most watched music events in history, second only to Live Aid, with an estimated audience of one billion worldwide.  But it’s not the “scorekeeping” of audience size that mattered.  What mattered was the message the concert sent, how important it was in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, and in changing social attitudes towards LGBTQIA people and to those with the disease.

If a musician as popular worldwide was Freddie Mercury could die from it, anyone could.  And just as importantly, it changed the attitudes of many who held anti-gay views and used anti-gay hate speech, some of them the performers at the concert (i.e. Axl Rose).  The Mercury Phoenix Trust was founded after the concert, an AIDS charity organisation the educates and raises awareness in the developing world.

Musically, the concert was at times uneven (a blogger’s in depth opinion on the show here).  There were brilliant all-time performances from several people, while sub-par efforts from of the biggest names in rock music (no names accused here).  But what stood out most about the show and made it unique was the mix of Pop and Heavy Metal artists, two genres Queen comfortably straddled. Where else would you see Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath playing guitar behind Elton John, or Elton John with once virulent homophobe Axl Rose?  This show brought everyone together.

Elizabether Taylor‘s presence was a surprise to me at the time because I didn’t then know how she was involved in distributing HIV medication (to the point of risking prison). But to see Liza Manelli take the stage for “We Are The Champions” was one of the most unexpected “hell yeah” moments ever.  Any long time Queen fan knew that Mercury listed Jimi Hendrix and Liza Manelli as his musical heroes, but nobody expected her to be there.

Some of the performances weren’t broadcast on TV, most notably Mango Groove whose performance in South Africa was broadcast onto screens at Wembley Stadium. South Africa holds a special place in Queen’s history.  In the 1980s when anti-apartheid sentiments shunned and shamed artists who continued to perform there, Queen still did.  It hurt their public image and perception in some countries.  But because they still played and toured in South Africa, many of their songs became anthems of the anti-apartheid movement, most notably “I Want It All”.

What are my personal picks for best performances of the day?  The best is obvious, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who disagrees.

George Michael’s performance of “Somebody to Love” is undoubtedly the show’s highlight, done with a vocal and charisma that only Freddie could have outdone.  There is such bitter and sad irony that Michael died only weeks after the 25th anniversary of Mercury’s death.

Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson performed “All The Young Dudes”, Mott The Hoople’s 1972 hit with backing vocals from Joe Elliot and Phil Collen of Def Leppard.  MTH were Glam Rock contemporaries of Queen, and “Dudes” is an all time classic song.  (Fun fact: In the 1980s, Mick Ronson produced the first two albums for Canadian Punk/New Wave band The Payola$.  The band’s guitarist and album engineer became a famous producer in his own right: Bob Rock, who produced albums for Metallica, another band playing at the FMTC.)

Annie Lennox and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”.  Oh my word.  Dressed in makeup reminiscent of what Freddie would wear, Annie Lennox gave an incredible and emotional performance.

Joe Elliot and Slash, “Tie Your Mother Down”.  Def Leppard owed much of their style to Glam Rock of the 1970s like Queen, their song “Action Not Words”, directly influenced by The Sweet’s “Action”.  Elliot’s voice was perfect for a bawdy song like this.

Lisa Stansfield, “I Want to Break Free”.  Stansfield’s pop songs were never my thing, but her appearance in curlers and pushing a vacuum cleaner was a brilliant and touching moment of levity on a day that could have been only mournful.  Her later duet with George Michael on “These Are the Days of Our Lives” was also very good.

Roger Daltrey and Tony Iommi, “I Want It All”.  It’s easy to overlook Daltrey’s performance because he was one of the first of the show.  He doesn’t have Freddie’s vocal range, but on this song he didn’t need it.  This song is Hard Rock, bordering on Metal, perfect for his voice.

The concert can be purchased and viewed online (no plugs for commercial sites given), though people have posted it on youtube (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and a “bonus” of film not shown on TV).

Below the fold, a few pictures cobbled together from various sources.

[Read more…]

Gee, Thanks: For making me wait two weeks

After much foot dragging by my employer (they’re supposed to organize it), I finally have my booster third shot.

And 18 hours later, I’m as sick as a dog, unable to sleep, just like the first two times.  I already know I won’t be working on Monday.

The annoyance about their foot dragging: two weeks ago was a four day long weekend, Monday and Tuesday off.  And now I’m going to lose a day’s pay, or two.

Third shots are mandatory for nearly all foreigners and many Taiwanese.  Plus, there are a bunch of places now requiring proof of a booster shot.

Shots for kids are finally starting to roll out, too late for how they’ve recently “handled” things, the new policy of “live with COVID, for the economy!”  Active cases are over 10,000, many schools are closed, and it’s expected to hit a million by September.  Needless to say, I’m ticked.

What happens when (not if) the next variant appears?  What if it’s not so innocuous to inoculation?

This One Still Works: The Lynx web browser at 30

The Lynx web browser was first released in Spring 1992 (evidence here), is still in development with a new update sometime this year (v2.9.0).  Lynx was originally made for Unix, DOS and other text-only operating systems, but has also been ported to Linus, MacOS, Windows, and nearly every commonly used operating system.

Lynx is ideal for those who can’t use a mouse and want a keyboard operated browser, or they need a text-only brower which can be used with a text-reader (for the visually impaired).  The only problem using Lynx today is website design.

In stark contrast to Microsoft’s desire to force user migration, some people choose to maintain, port, and upgrade software.   The Bert Lance quote says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  It needs a corollary: “If it still works, don’t dump it.”

Here’s the wikipedia page

Where to get Lynx:

Invisible Island . net

Invisible Mirror . net

And for those who want to try it, Invisible Island has a user’s guide.  There’s also one at the University of Toronto.  But considering how easy and intuitive is Lynx to use, you may not need it.

I don’t use Lynx much these days, but I have great fondness for it.  Back in the 1990s when I was at my poorest (unemployed, on welfare, using a Frankenstein PC), I couldn’t afford paid internet.  I could, however, use my 14.4K modem to dial into the local Freenet, for an hour per day (or more than one between 12am-6am) running Lynx to do it.  This allowed me to browse websites, read Usenet groups, send emails, reserve or renew books at the local library on Telnet, but most importantly, read the job bank at the local unemployment office (hooray for early adopters!) and find the job that got me back on my feet.  I might not be where I am today without the same opportunities.

Where The Evil Empire Began: Windows 3.1 at 30

Microsoft released Windows 3.1 on April 6, 1992, thirty years ago today. While Windows 95 was the game changer in terms of stability, functionality, marketing, and signalled the death knell of command line operating systems, it was Windows 3.1 that showed the platform could be taken seriously as a GUI, could host third party software, and was internet capable.

That was its highlight. The other things Microsoft did with Windows 3.1 were regrettable, despicable, and unforgivable.



First, Win3.1 started the ever growing feedback loop and arms race of computing.  Windows 3.0 could run on an 8086 computer, but Windows 3.1 ran only on 80286 in protected mode with 1 MB of RAM.  This forced users to buy new machines (what the industry calls “upgrading”) despite the fact their current machines still worked fine.  This led to the vicious and environmentally wasteful cycle:

new operating system requires new computer

new computer is able to run a newer operating system


Second, Windows 3.1 is where Microsoft’s unethical and criminal business practices really ramped up. Users of Digital Research’s DR-DOS were able to run Windows 3.0.  However, they could not run Windows 3.1.  This was not any failing of DR-DOS, which was fully capable of doing so.  Rather, it was due to code Microsoft intentionally writing code in Windows 3.1 that detected your version of DOS.  It is referred to as the AARD Code.

If you were running PC-DOS or MS-DOS, Windows 3.1 would start normally.  If Windows detected DR-DOS, it would refuse to start, displaying a false “error message”.  Digital Research tested and found the cause was Microsoft’s anti-competitive practices and filed suit.  However, by the time the case was heard and decided, the damage was done.  The public no longer trusted Digital Research’s products. The company was once a direct competitor of Microsoft (even after the mistake of not signing the deal with IBM that Microsoft did), but from then on it was a company in decline, eventually sold off to other companies.

How bad is Microsoft’s greed? So much so that decades old software which won’t run on modern computers (all their pre-NT operating systems) and would be too insecure or underpowered for today’s users, remains under copyright, not made available freely for collectors of old hardware.

From How To Geek: Windows 3.1 Turns 30: Here’s How It Made Windows Essential


Are there hardcore people still using Windows 3.1?  Yes, and they made a Wordle clone for it.

Ars Technica: If you’re still on Windows 3.1, Windle is the best way to get in on the Wordle craze

And one more pointless piece of trivia:

Review Geek: An easter egg in Windows 1.0 has been found in 2002.  37 years later.