Friday, December 30, 2011
(link fixed: 9/1/2014)
1. The HPV Vaccine
2. Apple Juice
3. Gulf Coast Fish
(oil spill chemicals)
4. Hydraulic Fracturing, or “Fracking”
(cylons contaminated everything)
(carcinogens and hormone disruptors)
6. Fluoridated Water
(a whole laundry list)
7. Cell Phones
(non-ionizing radiation and cancer)
8. Genetically Modified Fish
(health problems from inserted genes)
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
For some of us, it's difficult to take the Occupy movement seriously. However, for once, let's do just that and ask the simple question, "What if the Occupiers take power?" To answer that, I need to first address what they would need to do to rise to power (I will address the consequences of them in power in a later post). We need to understand the means through which the Occupiers will reach their ends — communism or anarchy. The answer can be discerned from the perspective of experts on mob mentality and mob rule.
To stand any chance at gaining control over our nation, the Occupy movement would first need to disrupt our current system of governance and commerce. Jim Rawles, editor of Survivalblog.com, New York Times best-selling author, and a former US Army Intelligence Officer, offers a historical perspective on the matter by referencing the International Workers of the World (IWW) protests of the 1920s and 30s.
"In that situation, The IWW relocated people from very long distances. They intentionally overwhelmed the local police by relocating large numbers of protesters. It's analogous to the military massing their firepower for an offensive…If there is an overreaction on the part of the police or conceivably the military, if the protests grow to a large scale beyond the police's ability, there's the potential for a lot of violence."
Further violence from the Occupy movement is not a far-fetched expectation; it's something we have already seen. Historically, mass sit-in protests, such as those of the 1960s or the Veteran's Bonus Encampment of 1932, have the capacity to generate a violent and confrontational end result. After all, Occupy has already attempted to disrupt our economy on Black Friday through mass action protests (and miserably failed). History does repeat itself, by the way, as the IWW is heavily involved with the Occupy protests.
Jerry Ahern, an expert and author of dozens of fiction and non-fiction books on survival, firearms, and defensive strategies proposed another possibility for disruption:
"If [the Occupy movement] continues to grow and branches out into other areas beyond their current movement and if it's still around when the conventions occur, you will see some really, really nasty demonstrations not unlike the riots we saw at the '68 conventions."
With winter on the horizon, there should be a wane in the energy of the Occupy protests. As spring and summer return, a resurgence within the movement is certainly reasonable to expect. In reality though, the only way the Occupy movement could garner power would have to be through direct, possibly violent, confrontations with authority figures. Their demands are too absurd to be accepted by the general public en masse. Even then, action from a potentially sympathetic White House will most likely fail to deter, and could seek to encourage, the protesters. Our President has shone the utmost respect and support for what is a very violent and disruptive movement — not dissimilar to his support of mob rule in Libya, Syria, and Egypt. Even then, OWS's ranks have failed to cause a significant enough disruption within our system — something that could be proven wrong if they are aided by other organized factions during their upcoming planned disruption/"shut down" of West Coast ports on the 12th.
Naturally, I had to ask (to satiate the left's palette), could the right wing be the one to initiate a violent upheaval?
"The majority of the right wing is not looking to change much of anything, nor is it into confrontation. By the same token, the left wing wants to change things. The left wing accepts confrontation as a necessary tactic for bringing about sweeping social change. For instance, a topic brought up in Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals' is it's OK to lie. The political or social goal you want to achieve is so much more important than something as mundane as the truth. It doesn't matter what you do to accomplish your goal because the goal supersedes all else. When you have a situation like that, it becomes very dangerous."
Therein lies the issue: For Occupy to have power in this country, they may very well have to destroy the very system that, ironically enough, ensures their survival. They will have to disrupt our commerce (which they have tried to do) or garner sympathy from a largely apathetic general public. For now, the consequences of those actions are left up to "when" Occupy takes power.
Things you can do from here:
Friday, December 23, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
It seems that the LA Unified School District recently revamped its lunch menus to eliminate fattening standbys like chicken nuggets, nachos, and flavored milk. The resulting meals are much healthier, but apparently also much less appetizing. As a result, participation in the program is down, and the LA Times found students replacing the Beef Jambalaya and lentil cutlets with things like Cheetos.
Andre Jahchan, a 16-year-old sophomore at Esteban Torres High School, said the food was "super good" at the summer tasting at L.A. Unified's central kitchen. But on campus, he said, the chicken pozole was watery, the vegetable tamale was burned and hard, and noodles were soggy.
"It's nasty, nasty," said Andre, a member of InnerCity Struggle, an East L.A. nonprofit working to improve school lunch access and quality. "No matter how healthy it is, if it's not appetizing, people won't eat it."
At Van Nuys High School, complaints about the food were so widespread that Principal Judith Vanderbok wrote to Barrett with the plea: "Please help! Bring back better food!"
Among other complaints, Vanderbok said salads dated Oct. 7 were served Oct. 17. (Binkle said the dates indicate when the food is at its highest quality, not when it goes bad. They have been removed to avoid misinterpretation.) On campus, even adults -- including a Junior ROTC officer and an art teacher -- have been found selling black market candy, chips and instant noodles to hungry students, she said.
"I compare it to Prohibition," Vanderbok said.
Things you can do from here:
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
You probably know by now that President Obama told Steve Kroft in an unaired portion of his 60 Minutes interview earlier this month that he had accomplished more in his first two years in office than any other President ""with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln."
John Hinderaker of Powerline (who drew everyone's attention to this display of immodesty) does a nice job of comparing Obama's first two years in office with that of Ronald Reagan.
Well, it's good to know that President Obama believes that signing the Stimulus Bill into law is a greater accomplishment than George Washington presiding over the passage of the Bill of Rights.
It's good to know that President Obama believes that caving into Russia on ballistic missile defense is a greater foreign policy achievement than the Louisiana Purchase under President Thomas Jefferson.
It's good to know that President Obama believes that apologizing for America's sins, real or imagined, did more good than President John F. Kennedy establishing the Peace Corps.
If Reagan were still around to hear Obama's bragging I suspect he would say, "There he goes again."
Things you can do from here:
- Subscribe to The American Spectator and The Spectacle Blog using Google Reader
- Get started using Google Reader to easily keep up with all your favorite sites
via Commentary Magazine by Peter Wehner on 12/19/11
As I pointed out in a previous post, many conservatives and Republicans are skeptical of global warming and the role humans play in it. (In a March 2011 Gallup survey, for example, 36 percent of Republicans said they believed pollution from human activities had contributed to increases in Earth's temperature during the last century, while 62 percent of Republicans attributed the warming only to natural changes in the environment.)
They hold this view despite the fact that the science on global warming is near-unanimous: anthropogenic global warming is real. Groups like the National Academy of Sciences, which in the early 1990s issued a report saying that "there is no evidence yet" of dangerous climate change, have shifted their stance, arguing that human activity is having a substantial impact on increases in global temperatures. But what is less clear are the implications of global warming and what steps need to be taken to address it.
Many climate scientists fear that unless dramatic steps are taken soon, we'll see rising sea levels, contracting ice sheets, more floods and intense tropical cyclones, the spread of tropical diseases like malaria, the submergence of parts of continents, alterations in our ecosystems, and food and water shortages. Perhaps so; those concerns are certainly worth considering. But as Jim Manzi –who combines a sophisticated understanding of the scientific and economic stakes of the climate-change debate — has pointed out, pumping out more CO2 triggers an incredibly complicated set of feedback effects, and the most important scientific debate is really about these feedback effects. In Manzi's words, "Climate models generate useful projections for us to consider, but the reality is that nobody knows with meaningful precision how much warming we will experience under any emissions scenario. Global warming is a real risk, but its impact over the next century could plausibly range from negligible to severe."
Conservatives should be part of that conversation. There's an intellectually credible case to be made that it's unwise to embrace massive, harmful changes to our economy in the face of significant uncertainties based on incomplete knowledge of how the climate system will respond in the middle part of the 22nd century. It's reasonable to argue that a meaningful deal to cut carbon emissions among the worst emitting nations (China, the United States, the EU, India, and Russia among them) is almost surely beyond reach and that our focus should be on adaptation (see here) and relatively low-cost investments in technologies rather than drastic carbon cuts. And it's fair to ask whether the best data suggests that Earth's temperature has not risen in more than a decade; and if so, why that's the case.
To acknowledge global warming does not necessarily lead one to embrace Al Gore's environmental agenda.
But rather than offer constructive ideas on how to deal with global warming, some conservatives simply deny global warming has occurred. Their concern is that admitting global warming is real opens the door to government restriction on liberty, so it's simply better to keep the door bolted shut. Given the undeniable political agenda some global warming advocates embrace, those concerns are understandable. And some climate scientists have not helped their cause by endangering their role as honest brokers (see the Climate Research Unit scandal at the University of East Anglia for more). Nevertheless, the problem for those who deny global warming is empirical: Earth's temperatures have increased and human activity has contributed to it. To deny this is to deny reality, to subordinate truth to ideology. And in the long run that can only damage conservatism.
As I mentioned before, I'm quite open to those who would refine, amend, or contradict my interpretation of things. And in the process we can all agree we should be open to revising our views based on the best evidence we have; that we let facts and data determine our views rather than the other way around. Because even in science, the wish can be father to the cause.
Friday, December 16, 2011
via ScienceBlogs Select by Martin R firstname.lastname@example.org on 12/14/11
As an archaeologist I often need to plot coordinates on maps and plans. At every scale, really: from individual finds on the plan of an excavation trench to the distribution of something across Europe. Just dots of varying shapes and colours on various background maps. Most often, it's GPS data from field walking and metal detecting. My colleagues in contract archaeology and academe use ArcInfo for these things, but I've never had incentive or opportunity to learn to use it. Also, once you know the software, you still need a map to plot stuff on, and those are expensive. So I've been wondering if I could somehow plot my coordinate data via Google Docs in Google Maps. Free software, free maps, free updated aerial photographs.
Turns out, you can. And today I figured out how. I believe it was David Petts who nudged me in the direction of Google's "Fusion Tables". And Hans Persson (who is an inveterate geocacher) asked me to write my findings up on Aard.
1. Data formatting
Convert your coordinate data to decimal lat & long after the WGS84 datum and with a decimal dot, not the Swedish decimal comma. For instance, my house is at lat 59.289576 long 18.258234. Call the northings column "Latitude" and the eastings column "Longitude". (There are Excel macros to do coordinate conversions. For the Swedish systems, I find Robert Larsson's on-line conversion utility handy, though it doesn't do batch jobs.)
You may also want to add a "Text" column to describe what each point marks, and an "Icon" column that takes entries like "small_red" and "large_blue".
(The Map function is pretty smart and also happily works with street addresses or place names if you put them in a "Location" column.)
2. Where to put the data
Stick this data into a spreadsheet in Google Docs. Save and close the spreadsheet.
3. Plot your dots
Now click the Create button on the start page of Docs and select "Table (beta)". Tell the software to grab the data from the Docs spreadsheet you just created. (At this stage you can also tell it to disregard any extraneous data columns.) I don't quite know how to conceptualise the distinction between these tables and standard Docs spreadsheets. But for practical purposes, tables are useful because (unlike spreadsheets) they have a Visualize menu including a Map alternative. Use it and zoom in on your area of interest.
4. Colour your dots
At first, all of your dots will be small and red. To get the software to use the data you entered into the "Icon" column, (such as "large_blue"), click "Configure styles", change the "Marker icon" settings to "Column", and select "Icon".
Tell me how you're doing with this, Dear Reader, and I'll update the entry as I learn more. The first thing I want to find out now is how to create a dynamic link between my spreadsheet and the map, so that any changes to the data appear automatically on my maps. At the moment I have to make a new table every time I change the spreadsheet. Also, the only way I currently know of to get maps out of the software is screen grab, which doesn't make for great resolution.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
Gene Marks has been taking some entirely justified twitting for outlining what he'd do if he were a poor black kid. Like most of the people making fun of him, I assume that if I had been a poor black kid, I would have made the same choices that poor black kids make in those circumstances. I was as easily led as any other sixteen year old--I wanted to be liked, and I preferred hanging out with my friends to doing schoolwork. The main differences, as I see them, are that I grew up knowing a lot of people who had achieved enjoyable and remunerative careers via college degrees; and the peer group available to me at the Riverdale Country School all thought that it was really, really important to graduate high school and get into a good college. I was willing to work much harder to impress my friends than for a nebulous shot at a future job that was, from my perspective, a half a lifetime away.
The time was when I used to lament over quite imaginary pictures of lads of fourteen dragged protesting from their lessons and set to work at dismal jobs. It seemed to me dreadful that the doom of a 'job' should descend upon anyone at fourteen. Of course I know now that there is not one working-class boy in a thousand who does not pine for the day when he will leave school. He wants to be doing real work, not wasting his time on ridiculous rubbish like history and geography. To the working class, the notion of staying at school till you are nearly grown-up seems merely contemptible and unmanly. The idea of a great big boy of eighteen, who ought to be bringing a pound a week home to his parents, going to school in a ridiculous uniform and even being caned for not doing his lessons! Just fancy a working-class boy of eighteen allowing himself to be caned! He is a man when the other is still a baby. Ernest Pontifex, in Samuel Butler's Way of All Flesh, after he had had a few glimpses of real life, looked back on his public school and university education and found it a 'sickly, debilitating debauch'. There is much in middle-class life that looks sickly and debilitating when you see it from a working-class angle.
Things you can do from here:
Monday, December 12, 2011
via Power Line by Scott Johnson on 7/18/11
Tomorrow is the official publication date of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, by Tim Groseclose. Groseclose is the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics at UCLA. He holds joint appointments in the political science and economics departments.
The publication of Professor Groseclose's book — previewed here by Paul Bedard at USNews and here by Professor Groseclose himself — is a signal event. To the vexed question of media bias, Professor Groselose brings the methodology of the social sciences. Professor Groseclose and his publisher have kindly granted us permission to publish the preface (here) yesterday, introduction and eighth chapter of his book (Tuesday through Friday), starring our friend Katherine Kersten, over the course of this week.
When Professor Groseclose published his findings with Professor Jeff Milyo in 2002, all hell broke loose. It is a revealing story with few twists and turns as well as a happy ending. He tells the story in the introduction to the book. Here it is:
Discussions about media bias can really inflame people's passions.From Left Turn by Tim Groseclose, PhD. Copyright © 2011 by the author and reprinted by kind permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC. All rights reserved.
In the Spring of 2002, I began a research project with Jeff Milyo, who at the time was a public policy professor at the University of Chicago. Our goal was to create a method that would objectively measure the bias of the media.
The motivation was simple. In social science we have lots of precise, numerical devices that measure how liberal or conservative politicians are. There ought to be something similar for the media.
Three and half years later, after thousands of hours of gathering and analyzing data, we achieved that goal. For 20 major news outlets, we estimated a score, between 0 and 100, that described how liberal the outlet was. The beauty of the scores—which I now call Slant Quotients—is that they are directly comparable to Political Quotients. This means that they can answer questions such as: (i) "Is the New York Times to the left or right of Hillary Clinton?" or (ii) "Is Fox News to the left or right of John McCain?".
The results generally agreed with the claims of conservatives. For instance, our method found that 18 of the 20 outlets were left of center. The only two that were not were the Washington Times and Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume.
Our findings, however, contradicted a few claims of conservatives. For instance, they showed that some mainstream news outlets are nearly perfectly centrist, albeit still left-leaning. Two were ABC's Good Morning America and [PBS's] The Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Also, we found that many supposedly far-left news outlets were not that far left. For instance, we found that National Public Radio was no more liberal than the Washington Post, Time, or Newsweek. And we found that it was less liberal than the average speech by Senator Joe Lieberman.
We thought that, maybe, people on both sides of the political spectrum would appreciate the study, that each side would say something like "finally, an answer to the age-old debate."
We now realize how naïve that thought was.
We posted the results on my website. The public relations office at UCLA, where I work as a professor of political science and economics, wrote a press release that summarized the results.
Then came the firestorm. Our study was denounced by hundreds, and maybe thousands, of left-wing blogs, including Media Matters, the Daily Kos, and the Huffington Post. At one point if you googled "crap UCLA study," most of the first ten listings would refer to our study.
On January 5, 2006, I appeared on CSPAN's Washington Journal to discuss the study. That morning, the Daily Kos, made me the focus of an "action alert," which encouraged readers to call CSPAN and force me to "answer some tough questions" about my and Milyo's "highly flawed study."
Many of the blogs attacked us personally and tried to insinuate that right wing groups had paid us to fudge our results.
The emails were even more vicious. "I've been in media relations for twelve years, and I've never seen anything like this," said Meg Sullivan, the UCLA publicist who wrote the press release and who was listed as the contact person. "Every other study that I've been involved with will get maybe a few emails. This one has gotten hundreds. And some are scary. I hope your home address is not public."
A few people emailed the UCLA chancellor, insisting that I be fired. One of them noted on the subject line "Groseclose must be fired IMMEDIATELY," as if simply firing me next week would a grave injustice.
Of the many emails that leftwing strangers sent me, the first one was representative of the anger and viciousness:
Dear Tim,One of my colleagues at UCLA, whom I'll call Byron B. Bright, may be the smartest political scientist on the planet. He knows seemingly everything about politics, economics, math, and computers. And he's the best person to ask if you need your car, refrigerator, or anything else fixed. Once, a statistical software package wouldn't do what he wanted. So, to solve his problem, he wrote a computer program that would write a series of other computer programs, which would successively execute the statistical package—that's right, he wrote a computer program that would write other computer programs.
Sounds like that cockamamie load of bulls**t study of yours started with the results you wanted (i.e., that Fox News is "fair and balanced") and then concocted the most ridiculous, asinine set of parameters you could think of to ensure the results you were after.
You've obviously never watched Fox News, [otherwise you'd realize how many people] will be laughing at your "study".
Sorry man, sounds like a bunch of BS to me, and that's from an independent. …
At the same time, he's a staunch liberal, approximately as staunch, maybe more staunch, than I am a conservative. Our first debate occurred only a few weeks after meeting each other, almost twenty years ago. He casually mentioned how the only people who listen to Rush Limbaugh are ignorant extremists. I quickly explained why he was wrong, and told him, in fact, that I had been listening to Limbaugh that day.
In a more recent debate, I told him, "No, it's not true that liberals and conservatives are equally decent. Liberals have worse manners, they go to church less, they more often live in aggressive, urban environments, they shout people down at public speeches, and they use more vulgarity when they talk." At first he didn't respond. I think he decided that the best response was just to give me a look as if I had just claimed that the earth was flat. But then, just for good measure, he said "Funny how all of those well-mannered conservatives favor pre-emptive strikes against innocent Iraqis."
So after I received the above email, I gleefully showed it to Byron. I responded to the email even more gleefully:
Dear Mr. Xxxx,At the University of Missouri, where my coauthor Jeff Milyo had just taken a job, the press office described our study in favorable terms and posted it on a prominent university web site.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
Please keep in mind, however, that in creating the statistical estimation method and in designing the set of parameters for it, I have benefited greatly from the help and comments of Byron Bright, a colleague at UCLA. An argument could be made that he deserves to be a coauthor. His email address is email@example.com.
Soon after the posting, the chairs of the humanities and social-science departments held a regular meeting with the dean. Although it was not supposed to be a topic for the meeting, our study soon became the focus of a heated discussion. The chairs of the departments of sociology, religion, and German and Russian languages were especially angry, and they called it "offensive" and "scandalous." One said "The study isn't research. It's agitprop for the conservative blogosphere."
After the meeting, one of the professors sent Milyo an email to reprimand him:
… In that lay part of my objection, and here I have to say that it's not to your work qua research at all. Rather, its presentation on the website made a pretty categorical claim about bias that taps into a charged political environment. There are difficult issues that underpin the website headline, and your study is complex and sophisticated enough to treat many of them; far more subtle and nuanced than the journalistic reductio. There are of course issues outstanding or open to discussion (what's included by way of news sources, whether conceptual categories like liberal and conservative have veridical legitimacy as identity markers, where and how one designates boundaries of same [i.e., you can call something X and cite as reason a widely accepted standard, but that in no way means that the thing really is X, or so a philosopher would say], how one categorizes constellations of dispositions, how one treats what Bakhtin called dialogism in discourse analysis, and so forth. …Milyo and I couldn't understand him either. But the fact that he would take the time to write such an email is yet another example of the passions that the study inflamed. It wasn't Milyo's idea to post a description of the study on the university web site. Also remember, Milyo had just moved to the University of Missouri. That was his welcome.
The most vicious response of all was by Eric Alterman, a writer at Media Matters. He insinuated that we were paid by rightwing think tanks to fudge our results. "Rigging the Numbers" was the title of his essay. The following were his concluding paragraphs:
Check the fine print and one finds this study—naively touted as both objective and significant by the UCLA public affairs office and published, inexplicably, by the previously respected Quarterly Journal of Economics, edited at Harvard University's Department of Economics, was the product of a significant investment by right-wing think tanks. In 2000-2001, Groseclose was a Hoover Institution national fellow, while Milyo has been granted $40,500 from the American Enterprise Institute; both were Heritage Foundation Salvatori fellows in 1997.At one level I can understand why so many leftwing strangers sent me angry emails, and why writers, like Eric Alterman at Media Matters, would say such false and vicious things about Milyo and me.
And yet despite its shockingly desultory intellectual underpinnings and almost comically obvious ideological imperatives, we can be certain we will hear about this study over and over for the next decade—from the very people who have written off normative knowledge and scientific research as some sort of liberal plot to subvert the values of Heartland America.
Really, you just can't make these people up.
If people believe the results of our study, then they will begin to believe that they are not getting the whole truth from the media.
They might begin to think, "Maybe lower taxes are a better idea than I thought." "Maybe government should scale back its involvement in the economy." "Maybe affirmative action is not such a great idea."
Larry Greenfield, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, has made a profound observation about the psyche of the far left: "They worship the god of Equality." A corollary of his observation is the following: While other virtues, such as kindness and honesty, are important, they are secondary when they clash with Equality.
Our study, at least in small ways, harms the goal of Equality. In at least small ways, it works to make U.S. public policy less "progressive" and less consistent with "social justice." If you are an advocate of "social justice" and "progressive" values, then, even if you believe that our study is true, you should hate it. Further, if you value Equality more than other virtues, then it would be appropriate for you to conclude, "Smearing Groseclose and Milyo's study is justified, even if the smears are false." You would also be justified in attacking us personally, even saying false and vicious things about our character. As the leftwing icon Saul Alinsky advised, "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it [my emphasis], and polarize it."
At this point, let me warn you, if you are such an advocate of "social justice" and "progressive" values, then you will hate this book even more than my and Milyo's original study. I provide additional objective, precise measures that show that the media is at least as liberal as the original study concluded.
Plus, I provide evidence that the bias really does affect people's views. As I will explain, the left does not yet understand that they should disagree with the latter fact. It implies that the present views of the average voter are distorted—that is, if it weren't for media bias, then those views would be more conservative. While my original study found that the media is to the left of the (distorted) position of the average voter, the above fact means that the media is even further away from the natural, non-distorted position of the average voter. That is, not only is the media biased, it's even more biased than people realize.
But before I describe that research, let me describe the most surprising response to our study—that of professors at elite universities.
First, before the study was published, several professors invited me to present the research at their universities. I gave presentations at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Duke, as well as two presentations at Stanford. Although the audiences at those universities were overwhelmingly liberal, and often they raised methodological objections, not once did anyone attack me personally; nor did anyone ever suggest that I was anything but honest while conducting the research.
Next was the response at the University of Missouri. At the heated meeting of the department chairs, the chair of the economics department suggested, "Hey, we're all scholars here. Maybe we should settle this like scholars—with a debate. Let's allow Milyo to present his findings at a public forum, and we'll allow others to have a chance to criticize it." The dean agreed, and he set up such a forum. Not one of the professors who criticized the study showed up at the debate.
We submitted our paper to the Quarterly Journal of Economics. This is the oldest scholarly economics journal. It is based at Harvard University, and the three editors of the journal, all professors in the Harvard economics department, are almost sure to win Nobel prizes someday. All professional economists consider the QJE one of the top four economics journals, and some consider it the top journal.
One of the most wonderful aspects of the response to our paper is something that Milyo and I—and most other scholars—usually take for granted. This is that at no point in the review process did anyone at the QJE ask, "Are you currently, or have you ever been, associated with any conservative organization?" Many leftwing blogs, including Media Matters, denounced our paper because of our prior affiliation with conservative groups. Some blogs, for the same reason, even denounced the QJE for accepting our paper. The writers at these blogs should consider how much they sound like Joe McCarthy—once you substitute "conservative" for "communist." The beauty of the review process at the QJE—and all other scientific journals of which I am aware—is that they don't care about the political views and associations of the authors who submit papers. They judge the papers strictly by their merits.
It may surprise some people that a group of Harvard professors approved of a paper that concludes that the media has a liberal bias.
But if you think that's strange, just wait.
A few months after the QJE accepted our paper, instead of firing me, UCLA promoted me—from Associate Professor of Political Science to "full" Professor of Political Science.
That one surprised me. Out of the many hundreds of professors at UCLA, I'm aware of only nine who voted for John McCain in 2008, and one of those nine asked me never to reveal that fact to anyone at UCLA. I am almost certain that not one dean, chancellor, or vice-chancellor at UCLA voted for McCain in 2008 or Bush in 2000 or 2004.
A few months later, the professors in the economics department at UCLA voted to give me a "joint" professorship in their department. Around the same time, Caltech invited me to be a Visiting Professor for a quarter.
Shortly after, the University of Missouri promoted Milyo—from Associate Professor of Economics to "full" Professor of Economics.
Then it got really, really strange. Yale University offered me a job … as a full professor. The average professor at Yale, I am certain, is even more liberal than the average professor at UCLA. Although I believe that Yale offered me the job in spite of, not because of, my media-bias research, Yale did not consider that research a reason to blackball me.
Soon after that, the University of Chicago offered me a job as a full professor with an "endowed chair." UCLA responded with an endowed chair, plus a significant increase in salary.
But from a personal standpoint, the most wonderful response came from an email that I received one day. "Dear Mr. Alterman," it began. Alterman, you may recall, was the writer at Media Matters who said that Milyo and I "rigged" our numbers and insinuated that we did it because rightwing think tanks had "invested" in us.
I was very disappointed to read your review of my colleague Timothy Groseclose's paper on media bias. The lack of civility and the personal nature of your review struck a tone that I had not expected from you. …Once I realized that the email was written by one of my UCLA colleagues, I quit reading and bolted down the hall. This deserved an immediate thank you.
As much as you and, indeed, I want to believe that the results of Tim's study are false, they are not the result of cooking the books. Tim is nothing if not careful. Yes, he is a conservative and, yes, I am sure he is pleased with the way the results turned out. But, the method was laid out before the data were collected and I am confident that the paper would have been published regardless of the outcome.
For what it is worth, here is the truth about the paper from someone who does not share Tim's politics. … It is academically honest research by careful and serious scholars who do not pursue a research agenda at the behest of any conservative patron.
But as I approached his door, it occurred to me that I might not be able to express my thanks without my voice breaking or eyes watering. So I slowed my walk, cleared my throat, and blinked my eyes. The reason the email was so touching was not so much its words but who wrote them … Byron B. Bright.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Here is a non-exclusive list of
seveneight symptoms to watch out for:
Science by press release. It’s never, ever a good sign when ‘scientists’ announce dramatic results before publishing in a peer-reviewed journal. When this happens, we generally find out later that they were either self-deluded or functioning as political animals rather than scientists. This generalizes a bit; one should also be suspicious of, for example, science first broadcast by congressional testimony or talk-show circuit.
Rhetoric that mixes science with the tropes of eschatological panic. When the argument for theory X slides from “theory X is supported by evidence” to “a terrible catastrophe looms over us if theory X is true, therefore we cannot risk disbelieving it”, you can be pretty sure that X is junk science. Consciously or unconsciously, advocates who say these sorts of things are trying to panic the herd into stampeding rather than focusing on the quality of the evidence for theory X.
Rhetoric that mixes science with the tropes of moral panic. When the argument for theory X slides from “theory X is supported by evidence” to “only bad/sinful/uncaring people disbelieve theory X”, you can be even more sure that theory X is junk science. Consciously or unconsciously, advocates who say these sorts of things are trying to induce a state of preference falsification in which people are peer-pressured to publicly affirm a belief in theory X in spite of private doubts.
Consignment of failed predictions to the memory hole. It’s a sign of sound science when advocates for theory X publicly acknowledge failed predictions and explain why they think they can now make better ones. Conversely, it’s a sign of junk science when they try to bury failed predictions and deny they ever made them.
Over-reliance on computer models replete with bugger factors that aren’t causally justified. No, this is not unique to climatology; you see it a lot in epidemiology and economics, just to name two fields that start with ‘e’. The key point here is that simply fitting historical data is not causal justification; there are lots of ways to dishonestly make that happen, or honestly fool yourself about it. If you don’t have a generative account of why your formulas and coupling constants look the way they do (a generative account which itself makes falsifiable predictions), you’re not doing science – you’re doing numerology.
If a ‘scientific’ theory seems tailor-made for the needs of politicians or advocacy organizations, it probably has been. Real scientific results have a cross-grained tendency not to fit transient political categories. Accordingly, if you think theory X stinks of political construction, you’re probably right. This is one of the simplest but most difficult lessons in junk-science spotting! The most difficult case is recognizing that this is happening even when you agree with the cause.
Past purveyers of junk science do not change their spots. One of the earliest indicators in many outbreaks of junk science is enthusiastic endorsements by people and advocacy organizations associated with past outbreaks. This one is particularly useful in spotting environmental junk science, because unreliable environmental-advocacy organizations tend to have long public pedigrees including frequent episodes of apocalyptic yelling. It is pardonable to be taken in by this the first time, but foolish by the fourth and fifth.
Refusal to make primary data sets available for inspection. When people doing sound science are challenged to produce the observational and experimental data their theories are supposed to be based on, they do it. (There are a couple of principled exceptions here; particle physicists can’t save the unreduced data from particle collisions, there are too many terabytes per second of it.) It is a strong sign of junk science when a ‘scientist’ claims to have retained raw data sets but refuses to release them to critics.
It would be way, way too easy to list the ways these symptoms have manifested with respect to the AGW panic. It’s a more useful exercise for the reader to think back and try to recognize them in previous junk-science flaps. Go and learn. And don’t get fooled again.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
via Big Government by Joel B. Pollak on 12/7/11
McIntyre: permission to occupy the bench! (Photo credit: AP)
Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre, who was prematurely panned for granting Occupy Boston a temporary reprieve (and for being a Mitt Romney appointee), delivered an elegant decision against the protestors today:
Plaintiffs claim that their occupation of the site and the community they have established thereon are protected by the First Amendment. They seek a preliminary injunction against their removal by the defendants.
But the injunction is denied because, while Occupy Boston protesters may be exercising their expressive rights during the protest, they have no privilege under the First Amendment to seize and hold the land on which they sit…[T]his court seriously doubts that the First Amendment permits the plaintiffs to seize and hold a public forum to the exclusion of others. (1, 15)
Judge McIntyre noted that "the setting up of tents, sleeping, and governance" on a public square is "expressive conduct," albeit subject to local regulations that have a merely "incidental" impact on free speech, and which are consistent with established time, place, and manner restrictions on the First Amendment. However, the fact that protesters sought to "Occupy" that public square crossed the line from speech into land seizure.
(Time to rename that movement, perhaps?)
Meanwhile, in Denver, a federal judge ruled against Occupy Denver's request for a restraining order to stop city policy from ticketing them, ahead of a lawsuit to decide the substance of their claim.
The Denver Post reports that U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn (a George W. Bush appointee) ruled that Occupy Denver had failed to show evidence that the police were acting in retaliation to the protestors' opinions.
The attorney for the activists blasted the judge: "The problem with the court system today is there are so few judges willing to stand up for civil rights and civil liberties and so many judges willing to enhance the power of the police."
(Time to try a different legal strategy, perhaps?)