Thursday, July 29, 2010

Utilitarianism and Morality

This e-mail, appearing in The News Gazette, discusses utilitarianism.
I think it's fair to say that many, maybe most Americans employ some type of utilitarianism in their moral decision making. But there are at least two problems. One is that to judge the best outcome can be very subjective. What may be judged good for the pregnant woman may not be good for the baby. What may be judged good for the about-to-cheat-husband may not good for his wife or his children. This problem of subjectivity is inherent in utilitarianism for a second reason. Utilitarianism counsels that moral decisions should NOT be based on the inherent meaning of acts. Acts are only good or bad relative to outcomes. The natural law theory that I expounded in class assumes that human acts have an inherent meaning (remember my fist vs. extended hand of friendship example).
This, by the way, is the problem I have with "utilitarian" arguments against torture. 
These arguments take the form,
Torture doesn't work
Torture should never be used.
Problem is, if torture is determined to work, even if only in some cases, it ceases to be an absolute forbiddance.
Now the professor who wrote this e-mail touched on a different area, just as contentious:

One of the most common applications of utilitarianism to sexual morality is the criterion of mutual consent. It is said that any sexual act is okay if the two or more people involved agree. Now no one can (or should) deny that for a sexual act to be moral there must be consent. Certainly, this is one reason why rape is morally wrong. But the question is whether this is enough.

If two men consent to engage in sexual acts, according to utilitarianism, such an act would be morally okay. But notice too that if a ten year old agrees to a sexual act with a 40 year old, such an act would also be moral if even it is illegal under the current law. Notice too that our concern is with morality, not law. So by the consent criterion, we would have to admit certain cases as moral which we presently would not approve of. The case of the 10 and 40 year olds might be excluded by adding a modification like "informed consent." Then as long as both parties agree with sufficient knowledge, the act would be morally okay. A little reflection would show, I think, that "informed consent" might be more difficult to apply in practice than in theory. But another problem would be where to draw the line between moral and immoral acts using only informed consent. For example, if a dog consents to engage in a sexual act with its human master, such an act would also be moral according to the consent criterion. If this impresses you as far-fetched, the point is not whether it might occur but by what criterion we could say that it is wrong. I don't think that it would be wrong according to the consent criterion.


Sherrod Timeline

From Wizbang:

Let's see how things developed through the day:
(All times Eastern, because that's the time zone for DC, Georgia, and me)

11:18 a.m.: Breitbart releases video.

1:43 p.m.: Story first mentioned on Fox Nation (Fox's online community).

(Unknown time): WCBS-TV posts story on video. (Prior to 4:30 -- see below)

4:30: Drudge links to WCBS-TV story.

5:00: Glenn Beck show starts, no mention of Sherrod.

5:00 (approximately): Bill O'Reilly begins recording his show, near the end plays video and calls for Sherrod's removal.

5:58: Video hits

6:22: First comment posted on article.

6:30 (approximately): USDA announces Sherrod's resignation.

8:49: Bill O'Reilly's denunciation of Sherrod airs.

We also have Sherrod's own account of her dismissal. She doesn't give time stamps, but does cite several things that narrow down the window of time considerably.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SB 1070 and ID

One of the memes going around wrt Arizona's SB1070 is the question: "Are you carrying proof of legal residency in the US right now?" The presumption is that many, if not most, forms of ID will not be accepted as proof of legal status. Legal immigrants, and citizens for that matter, would wind up being held until someone, somewhere, can be called in to present a birth certificate or something. Heather MacDonald addresses this in: Clueless L.A. Councilman Distorts the Arizona Law - Heather Mac Donald - The Corner on National Review Online

Los Angeles city councilman Ed Reyes deserves top billing on any updated compendium of idiocy for the following statement, made in anticipation of the Los Angeles City Council’s resolution to boycott Arizona:
As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport. If I come across an officer who's having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be . . . deported, no questions asked. That is not American.
It should not be necessary to rebut Councilman Reyes’s hysterical fabrications, but for his fellow members of the L.A. City Council, who compared Arizona’s law to Nazi Germany and to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and for all those other grandstanding politicians who are busily denouncing Arizonans’ racism, a primer is apparently needed.

If Mr. Reyes was planning to fly to Arizona from L.A. (pre-boycott, of course), he would need either his driver’s license or his passport to get on a plane. So we had better add the TSA to the list of Holocaust-in-waiting perpetrators. The only way he could be “deported” is if he is in fact an illegal alien, and before that happens, there will be plenty of “questions asked” and other legal wrangling, thanks to decades of work from the immigration-law industry. The only way the police would have a chance to discover that he is an illegal alien is if he has given them lawful grounds to stop him, such as running a red light, driving drunk, or acting suspiciously enough to suggest imminent law-breaking — and then has given them further ground to suspect that he is in the country illegally, such as possessing no valid identification.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Reyes presents any form of valid government ID during the course of a lawful police stop, he will be presumed to be in the country legally, and there will be no inquiry into his immigration status. So if, after getting through the brownshirts at LAX, Mr. Reyes continued to carry his California driver’s license, he would have nothing to worry about in Arizona.

Interestingly enough, I haven't heard very many people voicing concerns about being hauled in, subjected to immigration checks, and possibly deported. You'd think, if people were worried about that, they'd avoid the state for reasons other than a desire to punish with a boycott.

Since Mr. Reyes and all the other boycotters are so convinced that the Arizona police are itching to abuse their rights under SB 1070, they would make a much better case against the law by actually traveling to Arizona and demonstrating to the world their mistreatment at the hands of the police. Until then, their unhinged denunciations of the law reveal only one thing: They are terrified that it will work.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Myths about Sherrod

Breitbart And The NAACP: Busting The Myths (Wizbang) Jay Tea looks at the myths surrounding the whole Shirley Sherrod kerfuffle.

Myth 1: Fox News got Sherrod fired.

Earlier this week, I got into a dustup over this, and did some research into the precise timeline of what happened when. What I've managed to establish (all times Eastern, as best as I can tell about what happened last Monday... So, the verdict here: "Plausible," based on the initial story, but highly, highly unlikely.

Myth 2: Breitbart edited the video to "get" Sherrod.

The video Breitbart initially released was carefully edited...

Breitbart claims that he published the entire video he was given, and he did not edit it. Further, he says that he contacted the NAACP for a full copy of the video, and was denied.

That is a very, very risky claim for Breitbart to make. His request very well might be documented at the NAACP, and that could prove quite damning.

Further Breitbart has a history of "aiming high." He goes after big names --very prominent people and organizations. To him, Sherrod is very, very "small fry."

Conclusion: Busted. To Breitbart, Sherrod was entirely incidental to his point. The NAACP was always Breitbart's target.

Myth 3: The NAACP was "snookered" by Breitbart into issuing their press release condemning her.

As noted, the video Breitbart released was taken at an NAACP function. The NAACP had the full, unedited video in their possession. Further, Breitbart had put in a request for that video. Had they practiced their "due diligence," they would have reviewed that video or consulted with someone who attended it before making any statements.

Conclusion: Busted. If the blame for the NAACP's error were to be divided up, they'd own at least 90% of it.

Absolute faith in the news

I've mentioned elsewhere that the NAACP and the White House must have absolute faith in the accuracy of reports from Fox News. And Breitbart, while we're at it.

Now Jay Tea at Wizbang points out the same thing: Rushing To Judgment

Remember the timeline. Two elements show just how quickly they reacted:

--Breitbart posts the video at 11:18 a.m. last Monday.

--Sherrod's own account of her dismissal.

Sherrod says that she was called while driving home from work. Her boss told her that the White House had called three times to get her fired, because she was "going to be on Glenn Beck's show tonight."
In that 4-hour window, what elements factored into their decision to get rid of Sherrod? Besides the Breitbart video, obviously.

Certainly not Breitbart's reputation. After all, Breitbart is a notoriously dishonest, hyperpartisan smear artist and fraud. The guy has no credibility whatsoever. Just ask any leftist.
But for all their words about how awful Breitbart is, the reactions of the Obama administration and the NAACP put thei lie to them. They absolutely took him at his word. Neither of them tried to review the full video before jumping on Sherrod with both feet. Neither tried to contact Sherrod for her side of events. Neither sought anyone who might have attended the event for their account.

As I said, this made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. There had to be another element at play here, besides Breitbart's own reputation.

And then I made the connection: the old saying "you can't con an honest man."

Nearly all confidence schemes are, at their core, contingent on the greed and dishonesty of the mark. The mark has to know the deal sounds too good to be true, has to believe that they are getting something for nothing, that they are benefiting from some kind of fraud. In the end, they lose out because they let their cupidity overpower their integrity and common sense. They were predisposed to dishonesty.

Likewise, I find it extremely plausible that both the Obama administration and the NAACP jumped so hard on Sherrod because they knew, beforehand, that what she said in that video -- confessing to discriminating against whites and carrying a racial grudge -- was entirely within her character. They reacted so quickly and so firmly not because they were unaware of her beliefs, but because they were surprised it came out so clearly.

In other words, they weren't "snookered" by Breitbart and Fox News – they didn't need convincing because they knew the truth to begin with.

More JournOlist posts

From Powerline:

The Daily Caller has released the latest batch of JournoList messages, and it's a shocker: the journalists and other assorted left-wing intellectuals (!) debating what apparently was the hottest topic of the hour, Sarah Palin's son, Trig. I had thought that the belief that Trig was really Bristol's baby was an insane idea held only by Andrew Sullivan. It is an insane idea all right, but it turns out that it was believed, or at least taken seriously, by a number of liberal journalists--while some others, to their credit, tried to restore a sense of decency to the liberal press.

Adventures in peer review

Peer review is a gatekeeping function.  It's supposed to keep garbage out of the journals.  But if "the science is settled", is everything being excluded really garbage?
via the Air Vent by Jeff Id on 7/18/10

Pat Michaels has a disturbing article in the Wall Street Journal on what is happening in peer review since climategate.  He can no longer publish any papers and has had four blocked since November.   The article was from the 12th but I didn't see it until now.

Climate Research and several other journals have stopped accepting anything that substantially challenges the received wisdom on global warming perpetuated by the CRU. I have had four perfectly good manuscripts rejected out of hand since the CRU shenanigans, and I'm hardly the only one. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, has noted that it's becoming nearly impossible to publish anything on global warming that's nonalarmist in peer-reviewed journals.

Blocking of papers that came to different conclusions from climate journals was one of the central issues of climategate.   The conspiracy to block certain views was openly discussed in the emails, of course the 'review' panels couldn't seem to read them, but whatever.


Nancy Pelosi said we'd have to pass the bill to see what was in it.

Mazel tov.


via NCPA on 7/20/10

The length and complexity of President Obama's health care reform bill, combined with a debate that often generated more heat than light, has led to massive confusion about the law's likely impact.  But, it is now possible to analyze what is and is not in it, what it likely will and will not do, says Michael D. Tanner, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute. 

For example: 

  • While the new law will increase the number of Americans with insurance coverage, it falls significantly short of universal coverage; by 2019, roughly 21 million Americans will still be uninsured.
  • The legislation will cost far more than advertised, more than $2.7 trillion over 10 years of full implementation, and will add $352 billion to the national debt over that period.
  • Most American workers and businesses will see little or no change in their skyrocketing insurance costs, while millions of others will actually see their premiums go up faster as a result of this legislation. 

Other consequences include: 

  • The new law will increase taxes by more than $669 billion between now and 2019, and the burdens it places on business will significantly reduce economic growth and employment.
  • While the law contains few direct provisions for rationing care, it nonetheless sets the stage for government rationing and interference with how doctors practice medicine.
  • Millions of Americans who are happy with their current health insurance will not be able to keep it. 

In short, the more we learn about what is in this new law, the more it looks like bad news for American taxpayers, businesses, health care providers and patients, says Tanner. 

Source: Michael D. Tanner, "Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law," Cato Institute, July 12, 2010.  

For text:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Arctic Sea Ice Briefly Continued

This is from David Friedman's blog. I know you'll find it of interest -- particularly the last paragraph.

I had a couple of recent posts, pointing out what appeared to be an inconsistency between the claim on a JPL page that the latest data showed arctic sea ice continuing to shrink and the publicly available data, which appears to show that a ten year decline reversed a bit over a year and a half ago. None of the commenters on the posts managed to explain away the discrepency, so I emailed someone at NASA. He was a pleasant and courteous correspondent, but seemed unable to distinguish between the question "do we have reason to expect arctic sea ice to continue to shrink" and the question "is what JPL said on this page about the evidence true?" Eventually he conceded that he was a media person, not a scientist, sent my question off to a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and sent me the response.

That response again ignored the question of whether what JPL said was actually true, to focus on whether the conclusion they were arguing for was true. I emailed him, pointing out that what I was asking was not whether there was good reason to expect further shrinking but whether the JPL assertion about the current data was true or false.

I got back an evasive answer that came down to (not a quote) "the long term trend is down, so objecting that JPL says the current data shows that trend continuing when it doesn't is merely a technical semantic objection."

I concluded that he, unlike the gentleman at NASA, understood my question, and that his real answer was that it was all right to lie to people about the evidence as long as you were telling them what you thought was the truth about the conclusion. I sent him off a reference to the Orwell piece that discusses the dangers of suppressing the truth for fear that it would "play into the hands of" the opposition.

And I now know that nothing said by NASA/JPL ought to be trusted. Readers of this blog may want to check the JPL claim against the data for themselves before deciding whether or not they agree with that conclusion. I have provided the links above.

Frank Luntz on Why American Jewish Students Won’t Defend Israel

Liberal (n): A man who is too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel. 
     -- Robert Frost
Evelyn Gordon writes at Commentary Magazine:
PR guru Frank Luntz gave a lengthy interview last week to the Jerusalem Post's David Horovitz. Much of it was what one might expect from a PR guru. But one incident he described was shocking: a session with 35 MIT and Harvard students, 20 non-Jews and 15 Jews:

"Within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with 'the war crimes of Israel,' with 'the Jewish lobby,' with 'the Jews have a lot more power and influence' – stuff that's borderline anti-Jewish.

And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn't say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything."

After three hours, Luntz dismissed the non-Jews and confronted the Jews, furious that "you all didn't say sh*t."

"And it all dawned on them: If they won't say it to their classmates, whom they know, who will they stand up for Israel to? Two of the women in the group started to cry. … The guys are like, "Oh my God, I didn't speak up, I can't believe I let this happen." And they're all looking at each other with horrible embarrassment and guilt like you wouldn't believe."

But Luntz didn't stop with illustrating this gaping hole in what American Jews are evidently teaching their children; he also explained it:

"The problem that I see is that so many parents in the Jewish community taught their kids not to judge. I'm going to say something that's a little bit ideological, but I find that kids on the right are far more likely to stand up for Israel than kids on the left. Because kids on the right believe that there is an absolute right and wrong; this is how they've been raised.

Kids on the left have been taught not to judge. Therefore those on the left will not judge between Israel and the Palestinians; those on the right will."

This is a travesty — because this particular right/left difference shouldn't exist. First, it's a travesty of everything the left once stood for — which was upholding a particular set of values, not refusing to judge between those values and others. Willingness to defend your own values shouldn't be a trait limited to the right.

But it's also a travesty because it shouldn't be hard for any Jewish leftist to explain why Israel, for all its flaws, is still a far better example of the left's one-time values, such as freedom, democracy, tolerance, and human rights, than any of its enemies. As Israel's first Bedouin diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi, said in explaining why he chose to represent a country that allegedly oppresses his fellow Muslim Arabs, "We're a multicultural, multilingual, multireligious country and I'm happy and proud to be part of it."

Israel's PR failings are innumerable. But if American Jews can't get this particular message across to their children, the fault isn't Israel's; it's their own. And only American Jews themselves can fix it.

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" -- Hillel

Why is Geert Wilders "anti-Islam"?

Yes, travel can be very educational. Geert Wilders has traveled, and now commits the grave social error of reporting on what he saw in his travels.

...I clearly recall my very first impression of Egypt: I was overwhelmed by the kindness, friendliness and helpfulness of its people.

I also remember my second strong impression of Egypt: It struck me how frightened these friendly and kind people were.

While we were in Sharm el-Sheikh, President Mubarak happened to visit the place.

I remember the fear which suddenly engulfed the town when it was announced that Mubarak was coming on an unexpected visit; I can still see the cavalcade of black cars on the day of his visit and feel the almost physical awareness of fear, like a cold chill on that very hot day in Summer.

It was a weird experience; Mubarak is not considered the worst of the Islamic tyrants and yet, the fear of the ordinary Egyptians for their leader could be felt even by me. I wonder how Saudis feel when their King is in town, how Libyans feel when Gaddafi announces his coming, how Iraqis must have felt when Saddam Hussein was near. A few years later, I read in the Koran how the 7th century Arabs felt in the presence of Muhammad, who, as several verses describe, "cast terror into their hearts" (suras 8:12, 8:60, 33:26, 59:12)....


There are people who say that I hate Muslims. I do not hate Muslims. It saddens me how Islam has robbed them of their dignity.What Islam does to Muslims is visible in the way they treat their daughters. On March 11, 2002, fifteen Saudi schoolgirls died as they attempted to flee from their school in the holy city of Mecca. A fire had set the building ablaze. The girls ran to the school gates but these were locked. The keys were in the possession of a male guard, who refused to open the gates because the girls were not wearing the correct Islamic dress imposed on women by Saudi law: face veils and overgarments.

The "indecently" dressed girls frantically tried to save their young lives. The Saudi police beat them back into the burning building. Officers of the Mutaween, the "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice," as the Police are known in Saudi Arabia, also beat passers-by and firemen who tried to help the girls. "It is sinful to approach them," the policemen warned bystanders. It is not only sinful, it is also a criminal offence.

Girls are not valued highly in Islam; the Koran says that the birth of a daughter makes a father's "face darken and he is filled with gloom" (sura 43:15). Nevertheless, the incident at the Mecca school drew angry reactions. Islam is inhumane; but Muslims are humans, hence capable of Love - that powerful force which Muhammad despised. Humanity prevailed in the Meccan fathers who were incensed over the deaths of their daughters; it also prevailed in the firemen who confronted the Mutaween when the latter were beating the girls back inside, and in the journalists of the Saudi paper which, for the first time in Saudi history, criticized the much feared and powerful "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice."

However, Muslim protests against Islamic inhumanity are rare. Most Muslims, even in Western countries, visit mosques and listen to shocking Koranic verses and to repulsive sermons without revolting against them.

I am an agnosticus myself. But Christians and Jews hold that God created man in His image. They believe that by observing themselves, as free and rational beings capable of love, they can come to know Him. They can even reason with Him, as the Jews have done throughout their history. The Koran, on the contrary, states that "Nothing can be compared with Allah" (sura 16:74, 42:11). He has absolutely nothing in common with us. It is preposterous to suppose that Allah created man in his image. The biblical concept that God is our father is not found in Islam. There is no personal relationship between man and Allah, either. The purpose of Islam is the total submission of oneself and others to the unknowable Allah, whom we must serve through total obedience to Muhammad as leader of the Islamic state (suras 3:31, 4:80, 24:62, 48:10, 57:28). And history has taught us that Muhammad was not at all a prophet of love and compassion, but a mass murderer, a tyrant and a pedophile. Muslims could not have a more deplorable role model.

Without individual freedom, it is not surprising that the notion of man as a responsible agent is not much developed in Islam. Muslims tend to be very fatalistic. Perhaps - let us certainly hope so - only a few radicals take the Koranic admonition to wage jihad on the unbelievers seriously. Nevertheless, most Muslims never raise their voice against the radicals. This is the "fearful fatalistic apathy" Churchill referred to....

Harry Truman is alleged to have said, "I don't give 'em hell.  I tell the truth and they think it's hell."

Implausible TV Plot Lines

In a comment from the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh notes an utterly implausible plot line for a movie or TV series:
there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.
I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".
Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.
I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese....
Read the rest. Thanks to my friend Arvin Tseng for the pointer.
Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to be believable.

Fwd: A New Breed of Debt Collectors

Megan McArdle writes about:

The last decade or so has given rise to a new version of an old phenomenon:  the bottom feeding debt buyer.  It's often thought of as being linked to the bad economy, and perhaps it is, a little bit--businesses in trouble are probably more willing to look to their old collections as a source of revenue. But it's also a result of increasing improvements in computer technology.  It's easier to aggregate very small amounts--say, hundreds of unpaid co-pays from a doctor's office.  Those debts can be unloaded at pennies on the dollar to firms which then use the interwebs to find their victims debtors and dun them for cash.

Often these firms don't bother with the abusive high-pressure tactics that are used for large sums--the hourly wage on collecting $29.99 just isn't a good use of resources.  But that's small comfort, because instead, they file blizzards of lawsuits against people who they can't find, resulting in default judgements against someone who may not owe the money, or may not realize they owe.  And those hundreds of aggregated small debts hit the credit reports of people who probably didn't intend to skip out on a $15.87 termination fee when they cancelled some utility, but now can't get a car loan because there's a black mark on their credit.

Moreover, there's a booming market in old debt, which may be purchased for a penny on the dollar.  These collectors aren't merely behaving badly; they're breaking the law.  There are good reasons for statutes of limitations, which is why we have a whole law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which says that you cannot attempt to collect any debt older than seven years.  (Unless you're the IRS or a student loan lender, because why on earth would Uncle Sam have to follow the laws it makes for everyone else?)


So as a public service, here are some tips for anyone who gets contacted about a years-old debt they didn't even know existed.  I can't vouch for them personally, but they are the accumulated lore of many years of personal finance reporting:

  1. You have a right to validation of the debt.  Demand that they provide documentation that the debt is legitimate--and no, a name and an account number do not count as "documentation" of a debt; they are documentation that they have a name and an account number.  Demand this in writing, with a certified letter return receipt requested.  They have thirty days to provide validation; if they fail to, they may not legally continue to collect the debt and must remove it from your credit report.
  2. It is illegal to collect a debt after the statute of limitations has run out in your state.  This varies by state, but you can find out what it is online.
  3. Debt collectors are not allowed to contact your neighbors or your employer (unless they have an order for garnishment).  They can contact you at work, but once you have told them that they can't contact you there, they are bound by law to honor that.
  4. Debts must come off of your credit report seven years and six months after the date they were incurred--not the date that the latest bottom-feeder reported them.  It is illegal to report a debt after that date.
  5. It is illegal to threaten you with anything other than a judgment.  They can't tell you they'll take your car or whatever.
  6. Here's the fun part:  if you report them to the FTC, they get fined at least $1,000 for each violation (that would be one phone call to your office after you've told them not to call there).  Most debt collectors aren't very well trained, and will repeatedly violate the FDCPA without even knowing it.  (Or, frankly, caring)
  7. You can also sue them in small claims court, secure a judgement, and maybe even sell that judgement to . . . another collections agency.
  8. You are perfectly free to record your calls as long as you inform them of this; if they won't consent to the recording, say, "I'm sorry, but I don't talk to anyone unless they consent to recording" and hang up.  In many states, it is illegal to record someone without their consent, so don't do this unless you know that one-party consent is legal in the state where you live, and the state where they are calling from.  In general, the hang-up is your best friend; use it liberally, along with certified cease-and-desist notices when they violate your rights.

From the JournoList Archives

via Power Line by John on 7/22/10

The Daily Caller has obtained the archives of JournoList, a list serve consisting of several hundred liberal journalists and others. It has been publishing excerpts from the archives for the last week or so; the messages published so far confirm the worst stereotypes of liberal journalists as an auxiliary of the Democratic Party, and especially of the Barack Obama campaign.

Today's installment shows how liberal journalists coordinated their response to John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate. You really have to read it all to appreciate the corruption that has infected the Fourth Estate


"The non-official [Obama] campaign" is a good description of the role the press played in 2008.

Blogger Matt Yglesias sent out a new post thread with the subject, "The line on Palin."

"John McCain picked someone to help him politically, Barack Obama picked someone to help him govern," Yglesias wrote.

Ed Kilgore, managing editor of the Democratic Strategist blog, argued that journalists and others trying to help the Obama campaign should focus on Palin's beliefs. "The criticism of her really, really needs to be ideological, not just about experience. If we concede she's a 'maverick,' we will have done John McCain an enormous service." ...

Chris Hayes of the Nation wrote in with words of encouragement, and to ask for more talking points. "Keep the ideas coming! Have to go on TV to talk about this in a few min and need all the help I can get," Hayes wrote.

Suzanne Nossel, chief of operations for Human Rights Watch, added a novel take: "I think it is and can be spun as a profoundly sexist pick. Women should feel umbrage at the idea that their votes can be attracted just by putting a woman, any woman, on the ticket no matter her qualifications or views."

Mother Jones's Stein loved the idea. "That's excellent! If enough people - people on this list? - write that the pick is sexist, you'll have the networks debating it for days. And that negates the SINGLE thing Palin brings to the ticket," he wrote.

Hugh Hewitt thinks the Journolist scandal is the story of the hour:

[T]he big story is the JournoList story, not the NAACP story, though not surprisingly it is not receiving anything like the attention it deserves, at least not yet.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sherrod thoughts

Some thoughts from PowerLine blog:

 David Frum, who as far as I know still calls himself a conservative, is a case in point. He thinks the episode demonstrates "the shame of conservative media." By which he means, apparently, Andrew Breitbart and a handful of bloggers, that being about the extent of "conservative media," if you add in Fox News.

all video clips are "severely edited." Andrew received the clip in the form in which he posted it, and passed it on to others, including us. I reviewed the clip carefully, as I am alert to the possibility that video clips could be edited in a misleading fashion. I watched this one twice and concluded that it was damning to say the least. It didn't occur to me, as I'm sure it didn't occur to Andrew, that the anecdote in the clip might be framed by Sherrod's recantation in a way that would undermine the apparent point of her story. So that was a mistake, but Frum isn't satisfied with a mere error

Frum continues:

Breitbart went almost universally unmentioned.

This is false. If you follow Frum's links, you will find that Glenn Reynolds mentioned Breitbart in the first word of his post and at least five times thereafter; the Anchoress and her commenters mentioned him 67 times; Erickson mentioned him four times in the linked post; and Lowry not only mentioned Breitbart but criticized him here.

So, which is worse: Breitbart's failure to investigate enough to determine that the clip he was sent was misleading, or Frum's linking to a series of posts and excoriating the authors for not mentioning Breitbart's role when, in fact, they did? Did Frum link to the posts without reading them, or was he trying to mislead his readers?


Frum equates Andrew Breitbart with Dan Rather. But that is absurd. CBS News foisted a series of faked documents on the American people and tried to use them to influence a Presidential election. The documents were obvious frauds, but Rather swore to his television audience for two weeks that they came from an "unimpeachable source" and therefore could be relied upon. He was lying, as neither he nor anyone else at CBS had any idea where they originated. The video clip that Andrew posted was not a fake, and when the broader context came to light, Andrew did not deny it, but argued that it didn't rebut his point. Whether you agree with that or not, his posting of an accurate clip from a video is hardly on a par with CBS's use of fake documents to try to influence an election on behalf of the network's favored candidate.

Rorschach Test

Yesterday I asserted that Andrew had made a mistake and owed Shirley Sherrod an apology. Whether I am right or wrong about that, I also think he is right to withhold it under the circumstances. Taranto captures some of the conflicting considerations:

It is entirely fair to observe that Breitbart's Monday report on Sherrod was journalistically shoddy. He misinterpreted a quote whose meaning was at best ambiguous. He should have sought out the full speech (the NAACP has posted it here), and he should have given Sherrod an opportunity to comment.

But the NAACP's defense that it was "snookered" by Breitbart--and [David] Frum's implication, in turn, that Breitbart is the only "villain" of the piece--is laughable. Are we to believe that Ben Jealous thought Breitbart was what Dan Rather, before his fall, claimed to be--an impartial and reliable purveyor of facts? In the unlikely event that the answer to that question is yes, doesn't his failure to know better reflect a stunning incompetence?

No, you can't cheat an honest man. Breitbart set a trap for the NAACP, and the NAACP walked right into it. He was able to do so because he correctly identified the organization's moral weakness. Confronted by a video showing apparent racism at an NAACP function, its leaders appear to have panicked and made a snap decision to denounce one of their own so as to pre-empt the charge of employing a double standard.

It was a very effective bit of Alinskyite political theater, and in a way more so for Breitbart's having gotten the story wrong. As it turned out, the NAACP condemned Shirley Sherrod based on a false, secondhand accusation of racism. Members of the Tea Party movement know just how she feels.

From Buckley to Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart shouldn't have posted the video excerpts of Shirley Sherrod's speech with the comment that "the NAACP awards racism." It was a mistake to do so. He was had.

Others including ourselves should not have followed suit. It was a mistake to do so. We extended our apologies to Ms. Sherrod as soon as the unedited video of the speech was made available.


The shafting of Shirley Sherrod came to an end within something like 24 hours. As I see it, she was owed apologies by those from whom she has received them, in addition to one from my friend Andrew, from whom she has not. She has become a celebrity and an advertisement for racial redemption.

Breitbart was induced to post the videos as a result of the NAACP's false imputation of racism to the Tea Party movement. Breitbart has done heroic work to rebut the charge. See his post linked above.

Prominent reporters and news organizations such as Matt Bai of the New York Times continue to assert that Tea Party protesters of Obamacare subjected Rep. John Lewis et al. to racial abuse on Capitol Hill on March 20. Rep. Lewis et al. went walking through the crowd apparently hoping to touch off a racial incident, but there is no evidence other than the congressmen's say-so that one occurred.


Glenn Reynolds has collected much outstanding commentary expressing points of view that emphasize points other than mine. Glenn himself comments: "[W]hen the JournoList crowd was fomenting deliberate lies about the tea parties, the Frum-types were happy to join in the pile-on. A lot of us noticed. Don't expect us to be impressed by your self-proclaimed ethical standards now. . . ."

The Shafting of Shirley Sherrod

The Democrats' 'Bush lied' lie

A lie is when someone knows something is false and utters it anyway. Everyone and his dog  thought Saddam was sitting on stockpiles of WMD.
via PrairiePundit by Merv on 7/14/10

Karl Rove:

Seven years ago today, in a speech on the Iraq war, Sen. Ted Kennedy fired the first shot in an all-out assault on President George W. Bush's integrity. "All the evidence points to the conclusion," Kennedy said, that the Bush administration "put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth." Later that day Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told reporters Mr. Bush needed "to be forthcoming" about the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Thus began a shameful episode in our political life whose poisonous fruits are still with us.

The next morning, Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and John Edwards joined in. Sen. Kerry said, "It is time for a president who will face the truth and tell the truth." Mr. Edwards chimed in, "The administration has a problem with the truth."

The battering would continue, and it was a monument to hypocrisy and cynicism. All these Democrats had said, like Mr. Bush did, that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. Of the 110 House and Senate Democrats who voted in October 2002 to authorize the use of force against his regime, 67 said in congressional debate that Saddam had these weapons. This didn't keep Democrats from later alleging something they knew was false—that the president had lied America into war.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham organized a bipartisan letter in December 2001 warning Mr. Bush that Saddam's "biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs . . . may be back to pre-Gulf War status," and enhanced by "longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." Yet two years later, he called for Mr. Bush's impeachment for having said Saddam had WMD.

On July 9, 2004, Mr. Graham's fellow Democrat on Senate Intelligence, Jay Rockefeller, charged that the Bush administration "at all levels . . . used bad information to bolster the case for war." But in his remarks on Oct. 10, 2002, supporting the war resolution, he said that "Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose real threats to America."

Even Kennedy, who opposed the war resolution, nonetheless said the month before the vote that Saddam's "pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated." But he warned if force were employed, the Iraqi dictator "may decide he has nothing to lose by using weapons of mass destruction himself or by sharing them with terrorists."

Then there was Al Gore, who charged on June 24, 2004, that Mr. Bush spent "prodigious amounts of energy convincing people of lies" and accused him of treason, bellowing that Mr. Bush "betrayed his country." Yet just a month before the war resolution debate, the former vice president said, "We know that [Saddam] has stored away secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."

Top Democrats led their party in making the "Bush lied, people died" charge because they wanted to defeat him in 2004. That didn't happen. Several bipartisan commissions would later catalogue the serious errors in the intelligence on which Mr. Bush and Democrats relied. But these commissions, particularly the Silberman-Robb report of March 31, 2005, found that the "Bush lied" charge was false. Still, the attacks hurt: When they began, less than a third of Americans believed the charge. Two years later, polls showed that just over half did.


While the false charges did hurt Bush politically in this country, they also hurt US foreign policy as others outside the US decided it was OK to be disrespectful to the President and accuse him of being a liar too.

By allowing the President to be a stoic punching bag, it hurt his presidency for the remainder of his term. It later morphed into the Democrats actively seeking our defeat in Iraq, and people like Harry Reid declaring that the surge was a failure before all the troops were in the country. It was one of the most shameful partisan shows in recent history.

It is good that Rove is reminding people of the Democrats bad faith. It is something they should remember as they vote this fall.

OK, Shirley Sherrod is due an apology.

But then, so are lots of people.

From Legal Insurrection: about finally apologizing for the months long smear in 2009 that Census worker Bill Sparkman was killed by anti-government, Tea Party-affiliated, right-wing talk show inspired extremists. Think Progress, which is leading the charge on Sherrod, linked the Sparkman killing to Michele Bachmann's concerns that the Census was too intrusive, and numerous
And while we're at it, how about some apologies for all the false allegations by Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Charles Blow and numerous left-wing bloggers claiming that health care protesters were violent, and falsely linking the Tea Parties to the Amy Bishop shooting, the IRS Plane Crasher, the Fort Hood attack, and the Pentagon shooter.

And while we're at it, all the left-wing bloggers who called health care protesters thugs and a mob and astroturf and terrorists and Birthers and harassers and manufactured and frightening and vicious and "Karl Rove's wet dream."

And while we're at it, the Democratic Party and left-wing bloggers who have seized on a strategy of painting all political opponents as crazy.

And while we're at it, how about Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer apologizing for calling health care protesters "un-American"; and Harry Reid for comparing opposition to Obamacare to opposition to ending slavery; and Sheldon Whitehouse for invoking Kristallnacht and comparing health care opponents to white supremacists; and Alan Grayson and his groupies for saying Republicans wanted patients to die; and the Southern Poverty Law Center for serving as a tool of the Democratic Party by branding legitimate political opposition as racist.

And while we're at it, how about all those who have elevated the use of the race card to the central tool in the Democratic Party arsenal, thereby tearing at the fabric of this country (and ruining my Saturday nights).

And while we're at it, the Democratic base which thinks it's a riot to make fun of Trig Palin.
left-wing bloggers did the same.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nature is more resilient than you think

Final draft of a piece appearing in the Times: Natural resilience | The Rational Optimist…

Historical Financial Statistics

Historical Financial Statistics

That is a new database, on-line, it looks very useful and it is constructed by smart people.  Summary:

Welcome to Historical Financial Statistics, a free, noncommercial data set that went online in July 2010. We aim to be a source of comprehensive, authoritative, easy-to-use macroeconomic data stretching back several centuries. Our target range of coverage is from 1492 to the present, with special emphasis on the years before 1950, which few databases cover in detail.

I am told by a credible source that progress will be cumulative.

The problems with dark matter are overblown

"The Dark Matter Crisis?" Hardly.

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." -Plato
Imagine, if you will, the year 2200. Forget about the flying cars and robotic exoskeletons, though. I'm thinking about the incredible scientific tools we'll have at our disposal, as well as the huge set of information we'll have available about the Universe.


One day, the latest telescope project gets completed, and we're finally able to make detailed measurements of an extra-solar planet's surface!


We'd already been able to learn much about this planet, including its temperature (about 20° warmer than Earth), rotational speed (9 hour days), orbit (approximately circular, 0.82 Astronomical Units in radius), and atmospheric composition. Based on our findings, we had believed that it was teeming with life! Imagine we'd even been able to measure the altitude of various features, including finding sea level (and a sea!), as well as mountains, valleys, plateaus and plains.


But we hadn't been able to image it directly, not until now. So we'd made predictions about what type of life we'd find there. We saw an atmosphere with lots of molecular oxygen, with nitrogen and other elements, much like Earth's. We found carbon signatures on the ground and traces of CO2 in the atmosphere, as well as liquid water and water vapor.

Overall, we expected to find life similar to life on Earth, except, with this new planet being hotter, we expected more of the tropical-style plant and animal life. What did the new telescope reveal?


For some reason, this planet, although covered with its own amazing biodiversity, didn't have any angiosperms on it. No leafy, deciduous trees, no flowering plants, nothing, in fact, resembling the lush, forested land our best astrobiologists had expected. The flora, surprisingly, resembled pine trees more than anything else, even in the warmest, wettest, most tropical climates.


But, despite what was immediately dubbed "the angiosperm problem," scientists hailed this as a triumph. With a successful prediction of life, many stages of its evolution, and a large number of specialized adaptations, the astrobiologists were almost completely satisfied.

But there were a small number who were convinced that they had it all wrong. Where were the flowers? Where were the maples? Where were the fruit-bearing trees? Standard Astro-Darwinian theory dictated that they ought to be there! So they created their own, rival theory, Extended Gymnospermic Astro-Darwinism, or EGAD! It still predicted life, and it also predicted gymnosperms outcompeting angiosperms. But it failed to predict many of the things that standard theory predicted, giving incorrect predictions for the adaptations to temperature and altitude, as well as failing to predict the evolutionary timeline correctly. Still, a few scientists could not get past the angiosperm problem, and rather than trying to solve it, abandoned all of the accepted astrobiology in favor of working on EGAD.


This story, of course, is pure fiction, and since I wrote it, there's probably a whole slew of things wrong with the biological assumptions in it.

But right now, in my field of cosmology, the same thing is going on with the dark matter problem. Although I've already told you what convinced me that dark matter exists, I'll briefly recap some of what dark matter explains.


It successfully explains the observed large-scale structure of the Universe. Simulations without dark matter all fail to match the observations, but with dark matter, they match up practically perfectly.


Look at the individual galaxies within any of the many galaxy clusters we see, like the Coma Cluster, above. They're all moving too quickly to be held together by just the gravity from protons, neutrons, and electrons. An extra, dark type of matter must be present in this cluster. Why am I so convinced that it isn't more protons, neutrons, and electrons? Or that the law of gravity just isn't different than we expect?


Because when we look at two colliding clusters, above, we see that gravity (in blue) doesn't line up with where the normal matter is (in pink)!

But that's not all. Without dark matter, there would be a whole mess of things that didn't work out.


The matter power spectrum of the Universe, for one. (Image from Eisenstein & Hu, 1998.) The top sets, with all of the matter being normal matter (and irrespective of your law of Universal Gravitation), is completely ruled out. But if you allow some of that matter to be dark matter (i.e., not protons, neutrons, and electrons), you get a graph that looks more like the bottom set, which is also what we see in the Universe.

Actual CMB data.png

The spectrum of fluctuations in the microwave background is another one! If you look at what you get (data points, above), and compare it with predictions involving dark matter (solid line, above), it lines up pretty well! But if you take the dark matter away, the shape of your curve looks like this.

CMB with no Dark Matter.png

I know, because I calculated it myself! I'll just give you one more.


Without dark matter, you'd need much more normal matter in the Universe in order to make the Universe the way it is. But you can't have any more than we see, because you would screw up big bang nucleosynthesis! The abundance of the light elements is well observed, and consistent with there only being about 6 nucleons (protons and neutrons combined) for every 10 billion photons; try to put more in there and you'll conflict with what we see.

Bottom line, dark matter -- this one addition -- makes these and a whole host of other observations work out. But, much like the fictitious astrobiologists and their predictions of angiosperms, there's one thing that dark matter gets slightly wrong.


For individual galaxies, dark matter predicts a huge, diffuse, massive halo surrounding the galaxy. This should have a gravitational effect, and should cause the galaxy's rotational speed to vary with distance according to either the curve marked "Moore" or "NFW", below.


But it doesn't! It matches the line marked "isothermal." In other words, dark matter is wrong in the details it predicts for individual, galaxy-scale objects. And this is a genuine problem for the theory of dark matter. It's a puzzle that most of us are hoping to work out.

And, as you might expect, just like there were the EGAD group of scientists in the story at the top, there are people in favor of modifying Newton's Laws of Gravity to explain these galaxy-scale features. If you do Modify Newtonian Dynamics (the theory of MOND), you can explain the galactic-scale observations better than dark matter can. But you can't explain any of the others.

Any of them. And the predictions that even simple models make are wildly in conflict with a huge number of observations. So, most of us try to fix the problems with dark matter on galactic scales by studying it better, and trying to figure out what's going on with the halo.

This illustration shows the visible Milky Way galaxy surrounded by a %22squashed beachball%22-shaped dark matter halo.jpeg

But I am compelled to tell you all of this today. Why? Because over in Germany, one of the most media-visible scientists, Pavel Kroupa, has been harping on the galactic-scale successes of MOND, and touting it as a superior alternative to dark matter. In addition to a number of press releases, he's even started his own blog on the SciLogs network, The Dark Matter Crisis.

His writing is focused on this one issue in many different incarnations: the incorrect predictions of dark matter halos, in the detail of their density profiles, on scales of a single galaxy and smaller.

I'm not saying that there isn't something to be learned from MOND, but I am saying that it isn't a better explanation for anything except the dynamics of an individual galaxy than dark matter. But it was designed to explain the dynamics of an individual galaxy. Until you manage to accomplish something else with MOND, I'm not only going to support dark matter, I'm going to keep you honest about your claims of what MOND does and dark matter doesn't do. It's important to consider alternatives to the standard theories, to be sure, but not to do it at the expense of all of your evidence.

Don't ignore the great forest of evidence, on all of its different scales, just because the individual trees look different than you were expecting. Try to figure out why the trees are different, and try to reconcile that with the fact that they're definitely found in a forest.

Gazan suffering

Gazan suffering

The popular meme amongst the unholy cabal that is Islam and the Left is that Israel is a murderous genocidal regime that is currently using the blockade to impose unimaginable suffering on the Gazans.  Fortunately, modern communications allow us to see the full extent of that "suffering" (h/t Sadie):

Click here to view the embedded video.

By the way, Gaza is governed by Hamas, and I thought I'd share with you some gems from the Hamas charter:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

"Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: 'The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.' (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim)."

The poisonous effects of the race card

Bookworm offers her take on the Sherrod story: Knee jerk jerks — or, the current state of racism in America

Breitbart held onto that video clip until the NAACP announced that, in the absence of any evidence showing Tea Party racism, it was going to denounce Tea Party racism. In the face of the NAACP’s knee jerk attack to policies with which it disagrees, Breitbart published the video.

It turned out, though, that Breitbart might have been knee jerking it too, since the video turned out to be part of a longer presentation during which Sherrod had confessed that she had abandoned her old racist ways. To the extent that he was trying to highlight NAACP conduct, not Sherrod’s, Breitbart still had a point with that knowing laughter the audience gave during Sherrod’s confession. Be that as it may, it looked as if Breitbart owed Sherrod an apology.

Interestingly, the NAACP was so panicked by the video — despite the fact that it had the entire speech in its possession — that it immediately denounced Sherrod. This was yet another example of knee jerk idiocy, giving the NAACP two knee jerk points, the first for attacking the Tea Party, and the second for trying to disassociate itself from Sherrod before taking 15 minutes to get the facts.

The Obama administration also went into knee jerk mode, explicitly claiming fear of Fox and Glenn Beck. Without bothering to investigate, it humiliated and then fired Sherrod. When the whole video transcript came out, the administration had to engage in a massive belly crawl to Sherrod. No surprise here. Almost two years of Obamaness has shown us that the administration is focused on its goals, but a little hazy on the details.

Fascinatingly, for all the scorn the left heaps on "Faux News", they seem to consider it incredibly authoritative. All you have to do is hint that something might be on Fox News, and it will be taken as gospel.

It turns out that, remorseful confession notwithstanding, Sherrod is still a race sinner, whose default, knee jerk setting is to cry racism. Check it out. She’s no rose and she’s not repentant. When push comes to shove, Sherrod is every bit as bad as the rest of them.

Race in America is poisonous, not because most Americans are racists, but because the Left believes that most Americans are racists. I am reminded of Maria Van Trapp’s autobiography, which I read decades ago. Before she fell into the hands of the “good” nuns, the ones who achieved Hollywood fame, Maria was sent to a school run by fairly sadistic nuns. These nuns beat the children daily on the principle that children were inherently evil and, whether or not one caught them making mischief, one could assume that they had made mischief, so they should be punished accordingly.

My father had a similar experience with nuns back in Berlin in 1924, when he was 5....

Both Maria and my father had the exact same response to the experience of all punishment, no crime: They concluded that, if they were going to be beaten for being bad, whether or not they had, in fact, been bad, they might as well be bad. At least then the beating would have meaning and maybe they’d have some fun along the way.

If you constantly castigate honorable Americans as racists, they will eventually confirm to your standards. That’s all.

And they will do this for two reasons. First, in many cases, it takes extra effort to make sure you're including everyone who needs to be included, and avoid accidentally discriminating against people. If you're not going to get credit for making the effort, why bother? Second, "in for a penny, in for a pound." If you're going to be condemned as a racist, you might as well get whatever benefit you can from it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

That never occurred to me!

Not that I'm a genius or anything. (Well, I am, but genius is only as good as the available information.) Dafydd ap Hugh at Big Lizards looks at why Andrew Breitbart's $10K offer was a brilliant move: Big Lizards:Blog:Entry “The Cleaver Conundrum - and the Brilliance of Breitbart's Bucks”

The easy (and correct) conclusion is that the incidident never happened; that's why no journalist claims he heard it. But this begs a most intriguing question: Why not? Why hasn't some left-leaning journalist present at the scene stepped forward and claimed he heard the N-word, even if he has to lie about it?

One would think it would be the easiest thing in the world for two or three or ten reporters simply to fib, to back up the Democrats and tar the entire Tea-Party popular front with the vile epithet "racist." The leftstream media is certainly no stranger to tendentious lying to make the political Left look good; they do it all the time. What could a new "Jayson Blair" possibly have to lose?

The answer is -- his freedom; and therein lies the genius of Andrew Breitbart.

By making his $100,000 offer, Breitbart has changed the game: He singlehandedly elevated the consequences for lying about the alleged incident from simple embarassment if caught, or even a job loss (usually temporary) -- to felony fraud.

Now if some reporter for the New York Times or the Washington Post or CBS News tells the big lie, casting it as his "personal eyewitness testimony," he can be arrested for fraudulently trying to obtain the hundred thousand dollar bounty. And considering the wealth of negative evidence from videotape, audiotape, and hundreds of Tea Partiers and even other reporters, any earwitness thinking of backing up the CBC's fabrication must weigh the possibility that he himself will end up in prison.

Thus is the power of positive bounty... a ton of money makes a federal case out of simple character assassination!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Creationism as Occupational Hazard

At Panda's Thumb, Nick Matzke responds to some critiques of his article.

Article at Evo. Edu Outreach:

Part 1: Luskin claims I only “sneer” at the information argument:
It was explicitly not an attempt to give detailed rebuttal to ID arguments. Instead, I referred readers to numerous other works. As I did in the very passage Luskin partially quotes as being a sneer:
An especially good example of silliness is the ID assertion that natural processes cannot create new genetic information. ID advocates have recently been pushing this line heavily as of late (Meyer 2009), even in the science standards of some states (see Matzke and Gross 2006, for discussion and refutation of the information argument)
Whoops! Just read the next line, Luskin!
Part 3: Luskin cites a bunch of popular-science books by the likes of Sagan and Hawking making metaphysical-ish statements in their concluding pages. He then accuses me of using a double standard. Apparently I was supposed to review the history of everything anyone had ever said that was vaguely connected to science or evolution. But no, my article had a specific topic: creationists. If you want to learn something about creationists and why they think and act like they do, despite the scientific dubiousness of their arguments (which, as I said, I just assume for the purposes of this article; see my other articles for why creationist arguments are scientifically silly), then read my article. If you want to learn about evolutionists, read something else.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How the Media Colluded with Hamas

via Commentary by Evelyn Gordon on 6/24/10

I have read few things more disturbing than this week's media reports from Gaza describing full supermarket shelves offering a wide variety of choices. For if this is true, there is only one way to interpret all the previous years' reports: as intentional collusion with Hamas on an anti-Israel smear campaign.

For years, the media bombarded us with reports on the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza: people going hungry, children deprived of toys and schoolbooks, a population denied all the good things of life due to Israel's cruel blockade.

But suddenly, now that Israel has agreed to end the blockade on most civilian products, we get reports like this one from the New York Times: "The store shelves were filled on Monday in Rafah and in Deir al Balah and Gaza City, the shops stocked with all kinds of supplies, stoves, refrigerators, fans, generators — most smuggled through tunnels dug deep beneath the border with Egypt." People "said they were not starving" and that easing the blockade would improve their lives only "at the margins": they would be able to buy soda in cans "that were not covered in sand," or Israeli appliances instead of "low-quality Chinese goods."

Or this report, from Haaretz: "The market is still full of items brought through the tunnels and it is possible that merchants will not immediately order 'permitted' items from Israel — because there are similar items from Egypt," said economist Muhammed Skaik of the Gaza branch of Paltrade. And anyway, he added, "ketchup, snacks and mayonnaise, for example … are not essential items that will genuinely change the situation." True, but isn't that exactly what Israel claimed for years — to universal derision?

Indeed, the situation is so far from desperate that Hamas has announced it will bar many of the newly permitted products from entering Gaza altogether — such as Israeli cookies, juices, soft drinks, and salads. But has anyone noticed any media outcry lately against Hamas for depriving Gazans of the same products Israel was excoriated for withholding?

And then there is this interesting statistic: "An infant in Gaza has a life expectancy a year and a half longer than his Turkish cousin — 73.5 as compared to 72." Anyone care to explain how, despite having been brutally starved by Israel for years, Gazans still manage to outlive residents of wealthy, peace-loving, democratic Turkey?

In reality, of course, none of this is new; reporters could have gone to Gaza anytime over the past few years and described the same full supermarket shelves and the same wide variety of products. But instead, they preferred to collude with Hamas in accusing Israel of causing widespread hunger and deprivation.

And the only reason they have changed their tune now is that Israel's decision to end the civilian blockade makes it vital to update the smear campaign: to explain that Gaza is still a place of "limited options and few hopes for a better life" (to quote the Times), that easing the blockade will do nothing to change this, and that the misery is still, somehow, all Israel's fault.

Delegitimizing the Delegitimizers

From Commentary's "Contentions" blog:

Delegitimizing the Delegitimizers

by Jennifer Rubin on 6/24/10

In the Knesset, Bibi went after international efforts to delegitimize Israel:

"They want to strip us of the natural right to defend ourselves. When we defend ourselves against rocket attack, we are accused of war crimes. We cannot board sea vessels when our soldiers are being attacked and fired upon, because that is a war crime."

"They are essentially saying that the Jewish nation does not have the right to defend itself against the most brutal attacks and it doesn't have the right to prevent additional weapons from entering territories from which it is attacked," he said.

Netanyahu stressed that Israel has taken steps to push forward a resolution with the Palestinians though they have not reciprocated the gesture.

"The Palestinian side promoted the Goldstone report, organized boycotts, and tried to prevent our entrance into the OECD. The Palestinian Authority has no intentions of engaging in direct talks with us," Netanyahu exclaimed.

Israel's enemies have been at this for some time. But the efforts to use international organizations to delegitimize and constrain Israel have accelerated under Obama for at least three reasons.

First, he's raised the profile of international organizations, conferred on them new prestige, elevated gangs of thugs like the UN Human Rights Council, and made clear that international consensus is near and dear to him, a priority above many other foreign policy goals. This has emboldened Israel's foes, who now enjoy more respect and more visibility. Because Obama has put such a high price on consensus in these bodies and on internationalizing decisions, he is handing a veto to the more aggressively anti-Israel members.

Second, the U.S. has done nothing to discourage or rebut the delegitimizing. We've sat mutely when the UN Human Rights Council has condemned Israel. We haven't denounced or even chastised the Israel-bashers. When Jeane Kirkpatrick or John Bolton held their posts, you would at least see the Israel-haters' arguments demolished and their representatives put in their place. No such defense is offered these days by Susan Rice.

And finally, Obama  outside the confines of these bodies, has signaled that it's fine to slap Israel around. When the American government condemns Israel, others are sure to follow. He's announced his intention to put daylight between the U.S. and the Jewish state, which tells the Israel-haters they have a green light to take their own swings.

So if the goal were to delegitimize the delegitimizers, then we should do the opposite of what the Obama team has been doing. We should try to reduce the importance and prestige of these bodies while elevating that of democratic alliances. We should forcefully refute the arguments and resolutions and wield our veto. We should not participate in, fund, nor countenance assaults on Israel's legitimacy and right to defend and manage its own affairs. And finally, we should in word and deed stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel, making clear that those who take on Israel will pay a price — financial, diplomatic, or otherwise. None of this will end the attempts at delegitimizing, but it may give those on the fence second thoughts about joining in the efforts and discourage those who now believe they can act with impunity. Right now the incentives are all going in the wrong direction.

The Nnylf Effect

From Steve Sailer's blog, a discussion of creativity:
Anyway, I do want to explain why IQ tests are more useful than creativity tests. We use IQ-like tests for all sorts of predictive purposes, such as law school admissions. The LSAT is pretty good at predicting whether you are smart enough to not flunk out of law school and to pass the bar exam. So, the LSAT can help you avoid disastrous life choices -- spending years studying a subject that's not really that much fun and is very expensive and end up still not being smart enough to be a lawyer.

The AFQT/ASVAB helps the Air Force figure out if it's worth sending you to avionics school or truck driving school. Neither one is all that much fun

In contrast, there isn't much need for tests to see how good you'll be at playing the guitar or playing tennis or whatever. Why not? It would be useful to have a genetic test that would tell the parents of young athletes how tall they'll end up being. But for most fun things, the best test of how good a guitar player or basketball player you'll be is to pick up a guitar or basketball, get some coaching, and practice, practice, practice. You'll figure out soon enough if you in the top half or the bottom half of the population distribution. And if you don't like playing tennis, it really doesn't matter if you have a high TQ score on some hypothetical test because people who do will be better at it, and why play a game you don't like? As for figuring out if you are in the 99.9999th percentile or 99.99999th percentile of tennis players, well that's what they hold Wimbledon for. Not test you take as a little kid is going to predict that.

Creativity is similar. The way to show you are creative is to be creative. The last thing we need are people claiming sinecures on the grounds that they have the proper creativity credential.

American Woman Behind “Everybody Draw Mohammad” Protest On Hit List

Al-Qaeda Puts American Woman Behind “Everybody Draw Mohammad” Protest On Their Hit List

Cartoonist Molly Norris posted this Mohammad cartoon on her website.
Now Al-Qaeda wants her dead.

Al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki placed a US cartoonist on a hit list for organizing the "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" online protest.
The New York Daily News reported:

A CHARISMATIC terror leader linked to the botched Times Square car bomb has placed the Seattle cartoonist who launched "Everybody Draw Muhammed Day" on an execution hit list.

Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki – the radical who has also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers – singled out artist Molly Norris as a "prime target," saying her "proper abode is hellfire."

FBI officials have notified Norris and warned her they consider it a "very serious threat."

In an English-language Al Qaeda magazine that calls itself "Inspire," Awlaki damns Norris and eight others for "blasphemous caricatures" of the Prophet Muhammed. The other cartoonists, authors and journalists in Awlaki's cross hairs are Swedish, Dutch and British citizens.

Norris later took the cartoon down from her website.
…But they want her dead anyway.