Saturday, June 30, 2012
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Some readers may have noticed a Dutch scandal in the academic psychology industry. See here (h/t Pielke Jr).
The previously undisclosed whistleblower is said to be Uri SImonsohn, co-author of the article: "False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant." The authors set out the following sensible solution to the problem of false positive publications:
Table 2. Simple Solution to the Problem of False-Positive Publications
Requirements for authors
1. Authors must decide the rule for terminating data collection before data collection begins and report this rule in the article.
2. Authors must collect at least 20 observations per cell or else provide a compelling cost-of-data-collection justification.
3. Authors must list all variables collected in a study.
4. Authors must report all experimental conditions, including failed manipulations.
5. If observations are eliminated, authors must also report what the statistical results are if those observations are included.
6. If an analysis includes a covariate, authors must report the statistical results of the analysis without the covariate.
Guidelines for reviewers
1. Reviewers should ensure that authors follow the requirements.
2. Reviewers should be more tolerant of imperfections in results.
3. Reviewers should require authors to demonstrate that their results do not hinge on arbitrary analytic decisions.
4. If justifications of data collection or analysis are not compelling, reviewers should require the authors to conduct an exact replication.
If these rules were applied by real_climate_scientists, most of the criticisms at Climate Audit would be eliminated.
However, there are no signs that real_climate_scientists have any intention of adopting these rules, as evidenced by Gavin Schmidt's bilious outrage at the idea that Briffa should have reported the Yamal-Urals regional chronology considered and discarded in favor of the known HS of the small Yamal chronology.
The language of false positives was also used by the Texas sharpshooters, Wahl and Ammann, in connection with the failed verification statistics from MBH98.
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Today's supreme court "
health sickness care" ruling is an enormous blow to Americans. Our past successes have been created by a governmental philosophy of 'the people know best'. Today we are told that in fact, 'government knows best'. They flat stated, "You will buy OUR soup! or we will Tax you!" As a business owner, I can't even begin to list the horrors which will now extend from this "Constitutional" interpretation even well after the law is struck down. It is very hard to understand how the single most successful culture in world history requires such a radical and truly violent change to what made us successful. Conservative American thoughts become even more incredulous when we consider that most of our health care troubles were created by government in the first place. It is, however, very easy to understand the sales angle – free stuff for those who don't work hard.
As Europe watches, they have been saturated with endless media mis-portraying the US health care system as one which does not provide to those whom cannot pay. The misrepresentation of reality by the global media corporations could not be more disingenuous. In reality, "We the People" GIVE more to the poor more money than ANY country on actual dollar basis. We could do this in the past because we were allowed to own and create wealth at will. What is often forgotten is that America also created the majority of the industrial and medical advances in the world despite our small population (popular disadvantage). A common theme of this blog that shouldn't surprise regular readers is that we all MUST question our information sources a little more vigorously.
NO I am not America centric. I am capitalist centric. America certainly cannot be accused of having the best breeding, best intelligence, finest minds. What we
have had was a system which allowed people to gain individually for their own efforts. The freedom to express our opinions without oppression. The freedom to make money and not have it stolen by those who haven't even tried to work. In the past, if you built the better mouse trap, you could make a hell of a lot of personal wealth in exchange for your efforts. You still can, but the hidden truth is that the probability of success with your mousetrap is being dramatically reduced. The feedback of recent economically negative forcing will have decades of true lag time.
I am certain that much of Europe is watching America gradually make the transition to the European/Russian/third world government system with an odd feeling of satisfaction. Watching us self-destruct in the same haze they experienced, can give them comfort, but America's future has more than mild global consequences. What is happening now to our country is not a local problem. Europeans should realize that the destruction of the American system is the ruination of what is obviously the best hope for governance of mankind.
That though, is not the point of this post.
Capitalism is a math problem. To me it is of the same family as Mannian multivariate regression using noisy predictors. If you have noisy data (every person has their own unique mind) and you fit it to a predicatand (what everyone wants), by probability, you are guaranteed to maximize the popular result to which we all naturally seek. Despite my present discouragement, few will deny that it is an indisputable societal fact that in all cases, the average of a group of individuals will seek the position to their best advantage.
This leads me to an oxymoron of Republican thought – A capitalist who doesn't believe in evolution. The concept is beyond resolution for me.
So rhetorically speaking, what happens when Americans have free health care, food, and housing handed to them if they can demonstrate that they are poor (unemployed) enough?
I have to tell you, I'm tired of working 15 hour days as a business owner simply to pay massive taxes that are multiples of my pay while listening to lazy, over-payed, government bureaucrats blather that they think WE should pay more for their wonderful service.
Simple math folks. Whether you believe this law is devastating (as I do) or simply another minor step, the math is at a minimum guaranteed to shift some portion of the functionally capable population away from effort.
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Fortune claims they know the truth about Operation Fast & Furious! They did their own six-month investigation, reviewed more than 2,000 ATF documents, and interviewed 39 people. Somehow they know more than Congress, which has been investigating this for 18 months. Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News, Katie Pavlich at Townhall, and Matthew Boyle at The Daily Caller have been reporting on Fast & Furious for 18 months as well.
Chairman Darrell Issa's press secretary Becca Glover emailed me this statement:
Fortune's story is a fantasy made up almost entirely from the accounts of individuals involved in the reckless tactics that took place in Operation Fast and Furious. It contains factual errors – including the false statement that Chairman Issa has called for Attorney General Holder's resignation – and multiple distortions. It also hides critical information from readers – including a report in the Wall Street Journal – indicating that its primary sources may be facing criminal charges. Congressional staff gave Fortune Magazine numerous examples of false statements made by the story's primary source and the magazine did not dispute this information. It did not, however, explain this material to its readers. The one point of agreement the Committee has with this story is its emphasis on the role Justice Department prosecutors, not just ATF agents, played in guns being transferred to drug cartels in Mexico. The allegations made in the story have been examined and rejected by congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the Justice Department.
Somehow Fortune turns David Voth, the ATF supervisor of Fast & Furious into a victim and uses it as a way to push gun control. This investigation has to do with one thing: Justice for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and three-hundred-plus Mexicans. Here's the evidence and facts.
Katherine Eban does a stellar job smearing the whistleblowers, especially John Dodson. Agent Dodson risked his job going public with the information, especially giving an interview with Sharyl Attkisson at CBS News. Ms. Eban acts as if it was just a few disgruntled ATF employees when actually it was many. A lot just prefer to remain anonymous.
Surveillance video in the interview shows straw purchasers leaving gun shops with boxes of weapons. Documents showed these guns were showing up at crime scenes in Mexico and ATF supervisors actually keeping track of this information. Agent Dodson and other senior agents confronted their supervisors over and over about this horrible operation.
Their answer? "If you're going to make an omlette, you've got to break some eggs."
Ms. Eban tries to downplay an email, now known as the "schism" email, sent by Mr. Voth to the team. While many say the email was about gunwalking Ms. Eban insists it was about everything but that. I'd like Mr. Voth to explain these parts (emphasis mine):
"Whether you care or not people of rank and authority at HQ are paying close attention to this case and they also believe we [Phoenix Group VII] are doing what they envisioned the Southwest Border Groups doing."
"We need to resolve our issues at this meeting. I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumors, or other adolescent behavior."
"I don't know what all the issues are but we are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have a (sp) exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law enforcement tool box. If you don't think this is fun you're in the wrong line of work – period!"
Mr. Voth also needs to explain why they let go of their top suspect when they had him in custody. This is the man who purchased the guns found at Agent Terry's death scene. The guns that have been recovered have been ones found at crime scenes. 1,400 guns are still missing. Mr. Voth and the ATF never made an effort to interdict the weapons. None. The testimony of whistleblowers at a hearing on June 14, 2011 stated there was never intention to interdict these weapons.
There's a reason why Chairman Issa and others think Fast & Furious was used to enforce stricter gun laws. Ms. Attkisson released emails on December 7, 2011. At some point, whether it was at the beginning or middle, the operation was used to make a case for more gun control laws.
Throughout the article Ms. Eban tries to make the case for those gun control laws. It's simply too easy for anyone to buy guns in Arizona. Ms. Eban fails to tell her readers that the ATF forced the gun shops to sell these guns to the straw purchasers. In the article above Ms. Attkisson shows emails between the owners and the ATF. Who is included in these emails? David Voth. The gun shop owners did not want to sell these weapons, but Mr. Voth reassured them the ATF was tracking the weapons. They weren't doing that, though. It's hard to use the supposed loose gun laws when the ATF forced them to break the laws and sell the weapons.
This is the worst case of journalism malpractice I've encountered while covering Fast & Furious and just further proves the desperation of the liberal media to protect this administration.
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Thursday, June 28, 2012
The second difference is that the result in this decision is likely to be hated by people who aren't immersed in politics. The left hated Bush v. Gore for partisan reasons and hates Citizens United for ideological ones. People who aren't particularly partisan or ideological had no reason to care about either of those rulings. But this one will affect their health care, and a large majority of the public has long been hostile, and rightly so, to ObamaCare.
What's more, Roberts's opinion has made a liar of President Obama, who in a 2009 interview with ABC News insisted that the mandate "is absolutely not a tax increase." He even lectured the network's George Stephanopoulos, who had cited the dictionary definition of tax: "George, the fact that you looked up Merriam's Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you're stretching a little bit right now. Otherwise, you wouldn't have gone to the dictionary to check on the definition."
In 2008, Obama promised not to raise taxes on middle-class taxpayers. Oops. Maybe he can win back swing voters by telling them the word gullible isn't in the dictionary.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
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Kimberlin, in a letter to Aaron Walker's attorney yesterday:
Again, I want to be left alone by your client. That is my demand as required by Galloway and the criminal harassment statute. His false narrative that I framed him is defamatory and inciting extremists to threaten me. He is responsible for their conduct. I will not hesitate to seek additional peace orders or criminal harassment charges if he does not leave me alone.
The trouble is, Brett Kimberlin defines "leave me alone" as "don't blog about the lawfare I have waged on you." He wants the right to engage in dishonest and abusive litigation, but he demands more: the right to do it without criticism. As you can see from his response to Aaron's filing for an emergency stay, Kimberlin continues to assert that he has the right to an email inbox free from Google Alerts relating to posts written by Aaron about Kimberlin:
Mr. Walker, contrary to what he says in his motion, did, as Judge Vaughey found, contact Petitioner directly in order to harass him. In his blog posts andon his Twitter page, he addressed Petitioner directly. He knew that his posts and tweets would end up in Petitioner's email box, and taunted Petitioner to turn off "his Google alerts." This is akin to telling someone to shut off their phone or stop their mail service if they did not want to receive harassing calls or mail.
Um, no, it's not. If you set up a service where your phone rings every time someone talks about you in public, I am not "phoning" you if I talk about you in public. If you set up a service where you receive a piece of snail mail every time someone talks about you in public, I am not "mailing" you if I talk about you in public. Having a Google alert for your name is YOUR choice. It cannot be used as a sword to force people to stop talking about you — and it is not "taunting" for Aaron to say: if you don't want your email inbox filled with notifications about Aaron's posts, turn your Google alerts off.
And Aaron Walker is not responsible for the reaction of other people to his peaceful speech, in which he repeatedly disclaims any intent to have people harass Kimberlin in any way whatsoever. (As do I.)
The thing is, Kimberlin has been told all of this before — and he still goes back and gets peace orders. And the judges in the Maryland court system give them to him. These judges feel bound by their own rules instead of the rules set by the Supreme Court, as Judge Vaughey famously made clear.
So when Kimberlin makes a threat like this, it is not idle.
He is not going to stop, until someone (morally and legally) forces him to stop.
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Friday, June 22, 2012
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Higgs bosons might be being produced at CERN right now, but we can't keep them. Lily Asquith explains...
The experiment I work on is based around a particle detector which we lovingly refer to as ATLAS. ATLAS is an enormous and highly intricate piece of equipment, designed and built on the blood and sweat (we don't produce tears) of thousands of people over two decades, and the main motivation for all this is to find or exclude the existence of the predicted "Higgs" boson.
The ATLAS detector can be thought of as a giant camera with many different parts, each with different sensitivities, just as we are used to film cameras being sensitive to visual and audio input of widely varying types.
But, it is not capable of directly observing the Higgs boson. We can't take a picture of this thing: no detector can. The Higgs boson's existence is fleeting: it is given the opportunity of existence by the high collision energy of the proton beams in the LHC, and the instant it finds itself in existence, it decays.
This tendency to decay is true of most fundamental particles, but why? This is a question I was asked recently by a teenager at an outreach event organized by the quarknet collaboration. I think it is in the top three finest questions I have ever been asked by a teenager. I opened my mouth to answer and then I just laughed. A colleague of mine who happened to be sitting in the audience caught my eye and spoke up to fill the tittering space. His disappointing (but in hindsight entirely appropriate) answer was "because it can". This is quantum mechanics, even the most unlikely of events has a probability: if it can happen, it will happen
We describe the Higgs boson as a particle, which implies that it is a real thing, an object, and thus when we are told it undergoes 'decay' we summon analogies with other objects we know to decay, like organic matter (because of chemical influences from outside) or perhaps radioactive decay (because a nucleus is in an unstable state, and the energy required to allow it to remain in existence is less if it spits out energy in the form of a photon or something).
It feels sensible to divide this statement "If it can happen, it will happen" into two parts: the "CAN" and the "WILL". First, the "CAN":
When we talk about any "fundamental" particle such as the Higgs, the reason for its decay is actually much more simple. Such a particle is not an 'object' in the sense we usually imagine, I think it is more accurately described as a 'possibility'. The question of 'what is real?' is one that I have avoided whole-heartedly since a particularly bad headache I had about three years ago, but a very general idea is that we can't describe anything without some well-defined properties, and in particle physics these properties are quantum numbers. A set of quantum numbers, combined with some additional information, gives you a descriptive quantity called a wavefunction, which completely describes a state of "matter" in its most fundamental form. The decay of a particle such as the Higgs CAN happen if its wavefunction is identical to the combined wavefunction of two other particles. It is always two: it must be because of the possible configurations of the quantum numbers.
Many different decays are possible, in the same way that the electron wavefunction in hydrogen can inhabit many different orbits, each having a different probability. The transition between different 'orbits' (or energy levels) CAN happen if it is allowed by the quantum numbers and it WILL happen when energy and momentum conservation are satisfied. This could be quite frequent or very rare (for example, the Lamb transition occurs on average once every 131 years for a single hydrogen atom)
So, the Higgs boson "is" also a pair of Z or W bosons, a pair of photons, or a pair of quarks or leptons. We cannot predict whether a single Higgs will decay to a pair of photons or to a pair of something else, we can only give a probability of each decay type.
This correspondence between the quantum numbers of different states doesn't explain why it only ever remains being a Higgs for a tiny amount of time though; why does it prefer to exist as two Z bosons, or photons? Why for that matter do each of the Z bosons in turn prefer to exist as a pair of electrons or muons, which are the things we actually observe in the detector?
This is the "WILL" happen bit.
I had an answer to this when I first thought of it, but it isn't really the correct one. My instinctive explanation was entropy: the increase of disorder in the universe.
For any ordered configuration such as the Higgs, there is a number of less-ordered states (a number of ways of sharing out the energy and momentum) that correspond to the same bag of quantum numbers. If the number of less-ordered states is zero, then the particle is stable, as the electron and photon are.
I said this isn't really the correct answer to why the Higgs decays, but it is relevant. I love the concept of entropy because it describes a universe that is forever becoming more disordered over time, going from a pin-prick of infinite energy to a vast expansion of nothingness, the 'Heat Death', where every particle is so separated from every other that there is no more light or matter or any interaction at all. Heat death here really means "no heat" no transfer of energy or opportunity to create any ordered system. At first thought this sounds appallingly depressing rather than fascinating, but, as with most things, it is what happens on the way that is incredible. Somehow along the way of inevitable increasing entropy (disorder) we have found ourselves in a universe full of the most incredibly ordered machinery. Solar systems are one thing, but human beings are almost beyond belief in their intricacy. Machines within machines within machines. And these composite machines that we have become, on the path to Heat Death, are so complex and wonderful that they have sought to understand every stage of their evolution from atom to organism to replicator to mammal.
Moving on from that self-indulgent little speech; the law of entropy is in some way related to the decay of the Higgs, but it is only really meaningful to talk of entropy "statistically". I would appear to break the law, since I am a highly complex and ordered machine, made out of a cell from each of my parents, beans of toast, haribo, and small amounts of other stuff that is arguably less-ordered than I am. But when you consider the amount of disorder created elsewhere to make me what I am now, the NET disorder is higher as a result of my existence. How much work goes into a tin of beans? How much planting, growing, watering, picking, packaging and shipping, cooking, digesting, etc. ?
So I can't tell you it is because of entropy that a single Higgs boson decays; but it is related to entropy, it is because of opportunity. If the Higgs finds itself as two distinct photons with enough energy to fly away from one another, then they will. Those photons are separated in space now, and will remain so. Conservation laws insist that any energy and momentum in the manifestation we call the Higgs must be conserved, and as the Higgs has to decay to two particles thanks to the conservation of charge, spin and various other characters, these will fly off in opposite directions to one another at very high speeds. So they do not have the opportunity to meet each other again an recombine to form a Higgs.
I mentioned that we can give probabilities for the Higgs to decay in each of the various ways we expect it to. In the standard model these probabilities are divided between a number of 'decay channels' that include a pair of photons, a pair of Zs or Ws (in these cases one of the decay products is not even real, but is virtual… that's for another time), a pair of quarks or a pair of leptons. In order to establish whether or not the Standard Model is correct, we have to count all of these pairs of particles. If the number of pairs we count is larger than the number we expect in the "no Higgs" scenario, then we calculate the invariant mass of these pairs (explained here). This is what the ATLAS and CMS experiments are currently so busy with: counting and calculating. If we find that the number of pairs is very agreeable with the "Higgs exists" scenario and these extra pairs all have a particular invariant mass that is agreeable with the allowed mass of the Higgs, then we will claim a discovery. If the number of pairs is very agreeable with the "no Higgs" scenario then we will claim the opposite: 'exclusion'. In each case we will provide the probability of us actually being right about our claim - 95% of our work goes into this 'how likely are we to be wrong' part.
The really interesting but, though, is measuring a discovery or exclusion for every possible way that the Higgs can decay - only then can we really have any idea whether we are looking at 'The Higgs' predicted by Peter Higgs within the framework of the Standard Model.
Some people started blogging rumours of a discovery this week. This is bizarre - we only stopped taking data on Monday, and that data (basically just electrical signals) has to pass through a long series of steps to analysis, with each step providing ample opportunity for human error. Each piece of this procedure must be carefully examined, repeated, done backwards and repeated again, otherwise we would make critical mistakes with 100% probability. We do the relentless and sometimes soul-destroyingly tedious hard work because we want to get the answers. We will be one step closer to having them by 7th July.
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Some findings go down easy: As most would expect, identical twins raised apart have virtually identical heights as adults. Some findings seem obvious after the fact: Genes, but not upbringing, have a pretty big effect on personality traits like ambition, optimism, aggression and traditionalism. Other findings perennially cause outrage: The IQs of separated identical twins are almost as similar as their heights. Critics of intelligence research often hail the importance of practice rather than inborn talent, but a three-day test of the Minnesota twins' motor skills showed that how much you benefit from practice is itself partly an inborn talent.
The Minnesota study's IQ results hit a nerve years before their publication in 1990, overshadowing other controversies that might have been. Many of its findings are bipartisan shockers. Take religion, which almost everyone attributes to "socialization." Separated-twin data show that religiosity has a strong genetic component, especially in the long run: "Parents had less influence than they thought over their children's religious activities and interests as they approached adolescence and adulthood." The key caveat: While genes have a big effect on how religious you are, upbringing has a big effect on the brand of religion you accept. Identical separated sisters Debbie and Sharon "both liked the rituals and formality of religious services and holidays," even though Debbie was a Jew and Sharon was a Christian.
"Born Together—Reared Apart" is an excellent book for a serious, statistically literate reader who already knows the basics of twin research. But livelier, more accessible introductions are already on the market—most obviously Ms. Segal's earlier "Entwined Lives" (1999). "Born Together—Reared Apart" is, however, a joy to read when she describes the awe of reuniting twins—and the joy of seeing many become soul mates before her eyes. And despite her focus on academic research, Ms. Segal shares some of her casual observations, such as that one pair of identical twins both held their beer glasses with a pinkie hooked underneath.
Ms. Segal has little patience for those who fear the social consequences of the Minnesota Study. The facts are on her side. Scientific support for the effect of heredity on ability, character, and success has been mounting for decades, but Western societies are more tolerant than ever, and more inclined to treat their members as individuals. Hatemongers have no need to appeal to heredity. Nazis used genetics to rationalize genocide. Communist regimes rejected genetics as "bourgeois" and murdered millions for their counterrevolutionary family backgrounds. When a powerful movement wants to commit a heinous crime, it makes up a reason. The wise response isn't to argue the science but to insist that we should treat others with common decency, no matter what the science says.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Three Takeaways From the State of Social Science and Gay Families - By David French - The Corner - National Review Online
As the 18 social scientists said in their letter, "The vast majority of studies published before 2012 on this subject have relied upon small, nonrepresentative samples that do not represent children in typical gay and lesbian families in the United States." Thus, when political (and judicial) figures declare that gay and lesbian families are equivalent to heterosexual families in child-rearing outcomes and that the science is "settled," they're simply wrong.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Health - Brian Wansink & David Just - How Bloomberg's Soft Drink Ban Will Backfire on NYC Public Health - The Atlantic
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
The Reality Of Canada's "Free" Health Care
On PsychologyToday.com, Gad Saad, a Canadian academic whose work I follow, advises Americans not to romanticize the Canadian health care system:
(1) Our healthcare is anything but free. We are levied some of the most punitive and exorbitant tax rates of all industrialized nations. The average Canadian will pay extraordinarily more taxes to subsidize the "free" healthcare system then he/she will ever receive in return in terms of services rendered.
(2) Margaret Thatcher famously quipped "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." Let's see how this played out within the Canadian healthcare system. For decades, the Canadian medicare card did not include a photo ID. In other words, when an individual presented his/her card to obtain "free" medical services, seldom did anyone ensure that the card belonged to the individual in question. The running joke among many Middle Eastern communities (recall that I was born in Lebanon) is that the whole of the Middle East obtained free healthcare in Canada. The Canadian government eventually smartened up to this astonishing scam by altering the medicare cards to include a photo ID. That said, the politicians did not have to worry about the billions of dollars stolen (which I paid for), as there is always a passive citizenry willing to absorb additional tax hikes. You see, we have "free" healthcare in Canada.
(3) The Canadian healthcare system is so overburdened that it is difficult to find a family physician willing to take on new patients. In our "free" system, one has to beg and plead to be taken as a patient. You are made to feel as though you are personally indebted to a physician who accepts you as a patient. "Thank you, doctor. I will never forget your infinite kindness for having accepted to provide me the 'free' service that I pay thousands of dollars per year in taxes to have. You are a mensch doc." Good luck finding a specialist in due time. There are endless anecdotes of patients being told that the next available date for an important surgery is many months down the line, given the scheduling backlog.
(4) Let us suppose that you are facing a medical emergency. Have no fear, as our Canadian system is free and generous. You'll only have to wait 8-14 hours in a hospital waiting room (as did my wife when she experienced a medical situation whilst pregnant with our first child). You might die while waiting but at least it is "free."
(5) The failure of our Canadian healthcare system is so apparent (and so unsustainable) that in the last few years many Canadians have had to enroll in private health insurance programs! I recently experienced debilitating lower back pains rendering me nearly immobile for several days. I could have sought the services of our "free" healthcare but this would have meant that I would have likely waited six months to see a physiatrist. He/she would have then ordered me to have some MRI images done, which would have taken a few more months at the "free hospital." On the other hand, since I pay for private healthcare insurance, the problem was addressed in less than one week. Hence, not only do I pay exorbitant taxes to fund a healthcare system that is utterly broken but also I must enroll in private healthcare programs (as would the average American) to avoid having to participate in the "free" system that I already paid for!
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Brett Kimberlin does not want people writing about his past -- a past that includes convictions for serial bombing, drug smuggling, perjury, and even impersonating a member of the military. (One of his ploys as a major narcotics trafficker was to avoid inspection of his drug-carrying planes when they were refueled by... dressing himself and his crew in fake military uniforms and flashing fake DoD credentials, telling ground crews that the plane was a top-secret flight and they were ordered to ask no questions about it. Citizen K., pages 94-95.)
Saturday, June 09, 2012
1. Pope Pius XII was a Nazi Collaborator
According to Rabbi David Dalin in his book The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, Pius saved at least 800,000 Jews from extermination at the hands of the Nazis. This is why, during and especially just after WWII, Pius was roundly praised by Jewish figures such as Golda Meir, Albert Einstein, and Moshe Sharett, just to name a few.So what happened? Well, five years after Pius’ death, a play called The Deputy was made by leftist Rolf Hochhuth. It portrayed Pius as a self-serving man who was indifferent if not hostile to the Nazis’ Jewish victims, and the increasingly secular world ran with it. The Big Lie was repeated until it was “truth.”But the back story here is even more interesting: The highest-ranking communist intelligence officer to ever defect to the West, Ion Mihai Pacepa, divulged that the attack on Pius — including The Deputy — was no accident. It was Soviet agitprop.2. There are more whites than blacks on welfareWhen responding to this, educated people often mention that only percentages matter, not raw numbers. But here’s the real surprise: The basic assertion itself is incorrect and has been since the 1990s welfare reform. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance, in 2002 (the last year I found statistics for), 659,296 white families were on welfare versus 782,914 black families. This phenomenon held true even when norming for income: Poor whites were less likely to receive welfare than poor blacks.3. Men are more likely to get involved in car accidents than womenFellows do get into more accidents, but only because they drive considerably more — 60 to 65 percent more, actually. Per million miles driven, however, men are involved in markedly fewer accidents. This is true beginning at the age of 25; among those younger, the sexes’ accident rates are now similar.To break it down further, the safest drivers are men between the ages of 40 and 60.4. Pedophilia is an unusually big problem in the Catholic ChurchNot according to an official U.S. government-sponsored study. Reported LifeSiteNews.com last year:
According to Charol Shakeshaft, the researcher of a little-remembered 2004 study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”[In fact] … “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”So why does everyone focus on the church? Hillary Profita of CBS News provides some insight:
During the first half of 2002, the 61 largest newspapers in California ran nearly 2,000 stories about sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, mostly concerning past allegations. During the same period, those newspapers ran four stories about the federal government's discovery of the much larger — and ongoing — abuse scandal in public schools.People focus on where media place the spotlight — whether it belongs there or not.5. The Crusades were an expansionist West’s attempt to convert the Muslim world to Christianity
Medieval historian Dr. Thomas Madden debunks this myth in his essay “The Real History of the Crusades,” writing:
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them.... The Seljuk Turks [had] conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western [sic] Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
[The Crusades] were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.Read more about the Crusades here.6. Women earn less than men because of discrimination
Simple sound bites such as “a woman only makes 77 cents to man’s dollar" may be rhetorically effective, but the truth lies in the statistics behind that statistic. For example, “full-time” women work fewer hours than “full-time” men do. Women enter less lucrative fields, such as the soft instead of the hard sciences. Relative to men, they’re more likely to decline promotions, place emphasis on flexibility and personal fulfillment, and take time off; and they’re less likely to be willing to travel, relocate, or take on dangerous jobs. Simply put, they’re more willing to sacrifice money for lifestyle. Journalist Carrie Lukas explains this all beautifully in her piece, “A Bargain At 77 Cents to a Dollar.”
By the way, in some cities, in many fields and very often when qualifications are equal, women earn more than men — largely because of affirmative action and quotas.
7. Thirteen children a day are killed with guns
Sometimes the number cited is 14, but neither figure is accurate. More significantly, most of those killed are actually teenage gang members, as this statistic includes individuals up to the age of 19.
So don’t offer your nanny skills for any of these “children” — you may end up remaking “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.”
8. Most wars are caused by religion
One minute of critical thought reveals this one as a falsehood. Pick most any conqueror imaginable — Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, etc. — and it becomes plain that, with few exceptions, wars were motivated by a desire for power, glory, and riches, not religion.
9. Liberals are more charitable than conservatives
In reality, “liberal” today isn’t synonymous with “liberality.” For example, Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks conducted research showing that conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than liberals — despite earning 6 percent less. And thus do red-state residents donate more than wealthier blue-state ones.
But it goes beyond money. Studies also show that conservatives donate considerably more blood, are more likely to care for sick relatives and place others’ happiness ahead of their own, are less envious and less likely to place emphasis on money. Conservatives even hug their children more.
10. The world faces dangerous over-population.
In truth, fertility rates are below replacement levels (2.1 children per woman) in more than 100 countries worldwide; this includes nations you wouldn’t expect, such as Muslim lands Algeria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tunisia.
The problem is so severe in many places — in parts of Spain and Italy the fertility rate is less than one — that some nations are taking note and action. Russia, for example, pays women to have children. It isn’t working, though. The result? Man faces a graying world and the staggering consequences that can entail.
Whether we face continued energy abundance in the US, or face a looming crisis will largely depend on the political choices we make in the next dozen or so years.Post 2:
Energy is to the economy what food is to a human. You can’t get much more basic than the need to eat. Energy provides the ability for humans to accomplish many times more than their own physical efforts. It is energy that drives the machines that allows an American to be many times more productive than workers in non-industrial economies, from tractors to computers.
The last Post argued that our Energy Future will largely be determined by who gets to decide, who gets to make energy decisions. If we have decisions made by individual Americans in a competitive market, we will continue to have ample energy. But if we have decisions made by central planners, we will see energy famine and perhaps even the return of poverty to America.Post 3:
To generate the solar heat equivalent of 2200 Calories provided by four 13 ounce bottles of oil requires a ten foot by ten foot solar panels sitting in the sun for a quarter of a day. Think about the convenience of chugging down four bottles of oil verses lugging around a ten by ten foot panel for a quarter of a day and you have a pretty good personal illustration why extracting sun power from combusting oil is so much more useful than using direct sunlight.Post 4: Oil Haters and Energy-Crats
Note that oil comes from plants. So oil is also green energy. Combusting oil releases sunlight energy that shined on plants in time past, and releases carbon dioxide and water back to the atmosphere from which it came. It’s all part of what is called the Carbon Cycle. Think about it, oil is a naturally occurring “biofuel” and what is currently called “green biofuel” is actually produced synthetically by a manufacturing process.
And will we really run out some day?Post 5: The US Oil Shale Boom
Actually, oil is being generated all the time. The “biofuel” industry uses man-made manufacturing processes to simulate what the earth does every day: cook plant material and generate oil. I don’t think we will ever see an end to the green, organic, naturally occurring, plant-stored solar power miracle fuel, oil. The primary problem is one of accessibility. The harder something is to access the more it will cost, at least for a while.
It is quite astonishing to consider the possibility that in a short five years US oil production might be restored to the previous peak rate reached forty years earlier.
Post 6: Oil -- The Plant Smoothie
We know that oil is organic, naturally-occurring, solar-packed biofuel. It’s from plants, so it’s green. Most oil and gas migrates from its source until it gets trapped and stored for our later use, or seeps out at the surface. Seeps happen a lot in the Gulf of Mexico, and many bugs depend on it for food.
That is why oil from the Mercado oil spill just disappeared; the bugs ate it. There are entire ecosystems around oil seeps. Oil is a sort of plant smoothie.
The Mercado spill was a human tragedy because of 11 lost lives. But most of the subsequent human tragedy was imposed by government policy.
But first let’s look at the spill from a bug’s perspective. For them, the Mercado spill was sort of like spilling a truck load of birdseed by the side of the road might look to a bird. It’s not good for people because it makes a huge mess and creates a lot of inconvenience, and perhaps a hazard. But the birds see an all you can eat buffet.
Friday, June 08, 2012
Apple has touted its plan to use solar energy to help run its massive new data center in Maiden, N.C. But in a recent blog post (perspectives.mvdirona.com) titled "I Love Solar Power But," James Hamilton, a vice president and engineer on Amazon's Web services team, calculated that the 500,000 square-foot facility would need about 6.5 square miles of solar panels.
He noted that setting aside that kind of space in densely populated regions, where many data centers are built, is "ridiculous" and would be particularly difficult because the land couldn't have any trees or structures that could cast shadows on the panels.
Wind? An average wind-energy project has an electricity-generating capacity of about two watts per square meter. Even assuming that a wind project produces electricity 100% of the time (it won't), Facebook's data center in Prineville would need a wind project covering about 14 million square meters, nearly 5.5 square miles, or about four times the size of New York City's Central Park.
The mismatch between the power demands of Big Data and the renewable-energy darlings of the moment are obvious. U.S. data centers are now consuming about 86 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, or about 43 times as much electricity as is produced by all the solar-energy projects in America.
"Clean energy" is a great friend for Facebook, Apple and every other energy consumer in America—as long as those consumers don't use much energy at all.
European Union law mandates that the 27 member countries on average cut their C02 emissions 20% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The goal after that is to cut emissions by between 80% and 95% by 2050. In May 2010, a study by the European Commission's energy department estimated the 20% cut would cost 48 billion euros ($66.3 billion) a year. The Commission's draft Energy Roadmap for 2050 is frank: "There is a trade-off between climate change policies and competitiveness."
There is indeed. The consultancy Verso Economics has calculated the opportunity cost of the United Kingdom's subsidy system for renewables to be 10,000 jobs between 2009 and 2010 alone. A report by the Energy Intensive Users Group (which represents energy-intensive British businesses) and the Trades Union Congress cited steel making, ceramics, paper, cement and lime manufacture, aluminum and basic inorganic chemicals as industries facing up to 141% in additional energy costs by 2020 as a result of C02 emissions-reduction schemes. EIUG Director Jeremy Nicholson notes that "the current policies do seem to be angled towards creating a market for overseas competitors."
Emissions-free solar and wind energy, on which the U.K. plans increasingly to rely, are expensive. The government estimates that a planned offshore wind farm project ringing the coast will cost £140 billion, or £5,600 ($8,972) for every household in the country. Conventional energy could provide the same amount of energy at 5% of the cost.
The U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change commissioned a report (led by Prof. John Hills of the London School of Economics) to examine the issue of "fuel poverty," defined as when fuel bills take up more than 10% of household income. It found four million of England's 21.5 million households fall in this category and the number could rise to 9.2 million by 2016, equivalent to 43% of all homes in England. One of the key factors are green taxes and levies expected to add up to £200 ($306) to bills by 2020.
Even Germany, Europe's healthiest economy, may be in for some rude surprises. Germany's Renewable Energy Feed-in Act of 2000 requires electric utilities to buy renewables from all producers at fixed, exorbitant rates and feed it into the power grid for 20 years. A German utility executive has observed that solar energy in Germany makes as much sense as growing pineapples in Alaska. Despite this, Germany now has half the world's solar photovoltaic capacity.
Fritz Vahrenholt, the departing head of the renewable energy arm of RWE Innogy and a former hero of the German environmental movement, now says: "We're destroying the foundations of our prosperity. In the end what we are doing is putting the German automotive sector at risk, the steel, copper and chemical sectors, silicon, you name it."
Thursday, June 07, 2012
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
The left's response to the Wisconsin rout is that their ideas weren't rejected, but they were simply outspent by a flood of corporate, special interest cash. And it's true the anti-Walker forces were outspent — by roughly the same ratio as Barack Obama outspent John McCain in 2008 — but obviously if Gov. Scott Walker's policies were as draconian and abhorrent as Democrats claim then no amount of money could win him the election.
Still, Democrats are bringing back all the old conservative boogeymen — the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, corporate spending, Citizens United — in an attempt to turn the Wisconsin loss into an Obama campaign fundraising ploy. The Hill reports:
In an email to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called Tuesday's outcome — and, more specifically, the super-PAC money spent on Walker — a "terrifying experiment." …
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, agreed with that sentiment, saying Democrats learned a similar lesson in 2010, when they lost a slew of seats to Republicans.
"In 2010, we did not lose the House to House Republicans," Israel told The Hill. "We lost it to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. In 2012, we did not lose the Wisconsin recall to Gov. Walker, we lost it to an 8-to-1 spending differential, most from out of the state."
One side is almost always outspent in politics, and Democrats certainly didn't seem concerned when Obama was outspending McCain. But was Wisconsin really different because of the Citizens United decision, as liberal pundits have claimed? At the Examiner, Conn Carroll finds zero evidence that Citizens United had an impact in the race:
But the Center for Public Integrity link…proves no such thing. Yes, [Tom] Barrett was outspent heavily. But none of the money spent on Walker's behalf would have been illegal before Citizens United either. …
At no point in CPI's entire article do they cite a single example of conservative spending that would have been illegal before Citizens United, but is legal now.
Read the rest of Carroll's piece, where he shoots down the different claims about Citizens United and political spending. Citizens United is the crux of the Democratic argument about Wisconsin, but so far they've presented no evidence it had an effect.
Things you can do from here:
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
On the bright side, I like the basketball metaphor! However, Zimmerman's clothes were held by the police (his wife brought him a change before he went home) and the police have held onto his gun.
Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:
Most Americans know the Declaration of Independence states that God endows people with certain unalienable" rights. When I ask my students what it means for a right to be inalienable, they respond that it means that government cannot take those rights away. I follow up that modal answer by asking whether that means that government can then take away rights that are alienable. At that point we usually need to pause to consider a bit more rigorously what it means for a right to be inalienable.
My students miss the point of the adjective. It is no less wrong for the government to take away an alienable" right than it is for the government to take away an inalienable" right. The difference between the two isnt that one can be taken away while the other cannot. Rather, an inalienable right cannot be given away by the person who has it. Inalienability" is a restriction on the set of choices that individuals can make.
The Declaration borrows the word from property law. An alienable" right over property means that the property can be sold or given away by the owner. Property that is inalienable" cannot be transferred by the owner. The dramatic backdrop in several of Jane Austens novels, notably including Pride and Prejudice, comes from property that is inalienable. The estate in the story has been entailed" to the first-born male of each generation. While Mr. Bennet has use of the property during his lifetime, because he has no son, the property will go automatically to Mr. Collins on his death. Mr. Bennet cannot sell the land permanently (although he can rent the land out during his lifetime), and he cannot give it away to his wife, daughters, or to anyone else. Ownership of the estate in inalienable; this inalienability limits what Mr. Bennet can do with the estate.
Rousseau explains the notions application in political theory:
If a private citizen, says Grotius, can alienate his liberty and make himself another mans slave, why should not a whole people do the same, and subject themselves to the will of a King? The argument contains a number of ambiguous words which stand in need of explanation. But let us confine our attention to one only alienate. To alienate means to give or to sell.
But what is the practical significance of a right being inalienable? Why would an individually voluntarily become a slave, let alone an entire community?
Throughout human history, many peoples have not had a strong yet limited government to call upon for their protection, and isolated communities became easy prey for groups of roving bandits unless they secured protection from a warrior class. In some places these powers grew over time until the population was effectively reduced to the status of slaves. Other pressures could induce populations to cede their rights. Consider the report in Genesis 47 in which, as a result of the pressure of famine, Joseph effectively bought" the Egyptians for Pharaoh and reduced them to slavery.
There is a very practical use to some rights being inalienable." Instead of being inalienable, if rights were alienable, then when we observe a political community in effective slavery to its leaders, we would need to trace the history of agreements between that community and its leaders, much like clearing the title for a house, to assess whether their reduced political status was just or unjust (i.e., some tyrants may hold their power justly if rights were alienable). But if these rights are inalienable, the actual history of agreement would not matter-the people themselves did not have the right to alienate what are inalienable rights, and therefore they hold those rights whether they purported to transfer them to their political leaders or not. We would know that every tyranny is unjust no matter the history of consent between the people and their leaders.
But what relevance might a discussion of roving bandits and consensual slavery have to the political questions facing the U.S. today?
Take modern discussions of a right to die" and assisted suicide." The discussion is precisely one of whether we understand life to be an inalienable right or whether life is an alienable right. An inalienable right to life means that the decision whether to continue ones life is not a matter solely within the domain of an individuals liberty.
That liberty includes a right to die"meaning a right of an individual to choose to end his life at his discretionstrikes at the very heart of the aspirations of U.S. government as reflected in the Declaration. This not simply a quaint historical fact: In the Declarations theory, life being an alienable right is a postulate of despotism.
Secondly, while the god-talk in the philosophy of John Locke (the philosopher who most directly influenced this part of the Declaration), is often taken to be superfluous to his philosophical argument, in reality its not. Locke argues that life is an inalienable right precisely because God owns us and, therefore, we do not own ourselves. For Locke, human self-ownership would entail that all rights are alienable rights. Divine ownership" of the human person is a necessary predicate for rights to be inalienable in his view. There are no inalienable rights without a Creator who endows those rights.
To be sure, this raises as many questions as it answers. What is the relationship between the Declarations affirmations of inalienable rights and the positive law of the U.S. Constitution, both historically and today? What is the nature of the Creator" affirmed in the Declaration and what is the minimal set of attributes this Creator must have in order to endow humanity with inalienable rights? What does it mean if the majority of U.S. citizens at some point no longer affirm any deity consistent with the documents upon which their governments are, or were, based? Can a self-standing philosophy of human dignity" substitute for the role that God plays in the theory of the Declaration, or does the edifice of inalienable" rights necessarily collapse when humans, rather than God, own" themselves?
These are important questions that stem from recognizing that the concept of inalienable rights isnt an issue merely when governments that grab power from their citizens without their consentit would be just as wrong for governments to grab those rights even if rights were alienablerather, inalienable rights inure against the possibility that people in some situations can be induced to give those rights away.
James R. Rogers is department head and associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University. He leads the New Man" prison ministry at the Hamilton Unit in Bryan, Texas, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
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