Monday, May 31, 2010

Life sentence for lewd behavior

If you don't believe that we have draconian penalties for sex crimes, check out this case:
Michelle Lyn Taylor received life sentence for forcing a boy to touch her breasts last week in Elko.
A video shows the sentencing arguments. The Nevada state law requires the life sentence.

Usually men get these sentences. There are murderers who have gotten less.

The jury verdict was for lewd behavior. The jury may have thought that the sentence would be probation or something like that. If you are ever on a jury, you might want to find out what the penalty is for the crime being charged.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nutrition causes obesity

Today's bad advice:
Dear Annie: "Grossed Out in the Silver State" was upset about overweight people wearing ill-fitting clothes ...

It is well known that poor nutrition is a class issue. Many people have trouble eating well because they cannot afford healthy, fresh ingredients, or they don't have the time to prepare home-cooked meals. Eating right and exercising is easy when you have the time and resources, ...

Dear Massachusetts: We agree that poor nutrition and insufficient funds can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, even though jogging around the block doesn't require a lot of time or resources. What would help is for people to be better educated about the dangers of fast food and processed foods ...
No, they have it backwards. Obesity results from too much nutrition, not too little. Fresh ingredients and home-cooked meals are just as fattening as the alternatives. No one ever got fat from not being able to afford nutritious food.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Suspiciousness explained

Wired magazine reports:
A dose of testosterone might be enough to save gullible types from being ripped off, a new study reveals.

Testosterone is linked to aggression, competition and social status. Now scientists have found that the hormone also reduces naive individuals’ confidence in others.
This could explain why women are more gullible than men.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pediatricians Flip Stance On Toddler Swim Class

AP reports:
CHICAGO -- The nation's largest pediatricians group is relaxing its stance against swimming lessons for children younger than 4.

A few small studies now suggest toddlers may be less likely to drown if they've had swim lessons.
These pediatricians issue a lot of unscientific opinions. They have no expertise on teaching toddlers to swim. Do it or don't do it as you please, but ignore the pediatricians.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Limits to using Google

More and more people seem to think that Google is the source of all the world's info.

From today's Meet the Press on NBC TV:
MR. WOODWARD: It, it, it is a potentially a giant disaster of the--I mean, most disasters come and go. 9/11 came and went, OK. This continues. And I, I picked, I picked up your newspaper on Saturday and had half a smile because it said, "BP steps up its effort," and then I read on, "to criticize others and point the finger at others, and blame everyone." Where are, you know, why don't they call in Google? Why don't they call in some of the people who have these great minds to fix it?
No, Google does not know how to cap a deep sea oil leak. Google may help you find trivia like a movie star's birthday, but not this.

The stem cell hoax

NPR has this Stem Cell Research Update. In case you were thinking that the Pres. Obama administration would make stem cell cures possible, it hasn't happened. According to this program, Pres. Bush funded research on 23 embryonic stem cell lines. Pres. Obama allows 64 lines, but some lines are only approved for restricted purposes, and not all of the Bush 23 lines has been approved. No embryonic stem cell therapies have been approved for even clinical trials.

The whole idea that Bush stifled good stem cell cures was all a big hoax. There might be some therapies some day, but we are not getting them any sooner because of Obama's policies.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Even birds do not like organic food

Nwe food research:
Is organic food everything its advocates claim to be? A new study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture describes an experiment in which the subjects were free from human biases. The authors found that wild birds preferred 'normal' bird food to the organic option. ...

In an attempt to explain this disparity, the researchers analyzed the seeds and found that the conventional seed contained upwards of 10 percent more protein per seed, most likely due to the use of inorganic nitrogen fertilizers used in conventional farming techniques.
Organic food is not necessarily better.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Defining stupidity

This video ofMiss Teen USA 2007 has been view 50 million times, and Miss South Carolina's answer to a question has become the modern example of stupidity.

I don't see it that way. The video is amusing, but I say that the questioner is the real idiot. The teenaged girl is asked to comment on a claimed fact that is actually completely false. The question is unfair and she is not prepared for it under such high pressure. But what is the questioner's excuse? The questioner had plenty of time to research a question that made sense.

Miss South Carolina 2007 could be smart girl who happened to get flustered under pressure. But I am not sure that there is much hope for the questioner, the pageant officials, and all the pundits who ridiculed her without noticing how bad the question was.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just one accusation away

Lenore Skenazy writes:
Let us remember this when we look up our local sex offender maps and see two convicts: One who ostensibly exposes himself to children and one who ostensibly assaults them. ...

I spoke to the actual mom of these two young men. She's a fishing net-maker in Maine and she put it pretty succinctly: "We're all just one accusation away from the sex offender registry."
Read the column to see how innocent and trivial these offenses were. The sex offender registry now has so many falsely-accused names on it that it is useless for preventing sex crimes.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Genetic determinism in the news

I don't expect the NY Times to promote genetic determinism, but it has recent articles on how genes determine desirability of human eggs, happy marriages, and crime. Then there is the news that non-Africans have Neanderthal genes, whatever that means.

This study also got a lot of press:
"The greater the age difference, the lower the wife's life expectancy," Sven Drefahl of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, said. "The best choice for a woman is to marry a man of exactly the same age."

Drefahl believed that having a relationship with a younger man may mean more stress for women because they are "violating social norms and thus suffer from social sanctions," which could result in a more stressful life, he said.

A "sugar daddy" with a wife seven to nine years his junior is seven percent less likely to die early — probably because she's more likely to nurse him in old age.
The explanations are ridiculous and unsupported. A woman who marries an older man has probably sized him up as being particularly healthy, and that is why he lives longer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Moral loan default

The NY Times reported in Jan.:
Some homeowners may keep paying because they think it’s immoral to default. This view has been reinforced by government officials like former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who while in office said that anyone who walked away from a mortgage would be “simply a speculator — and one who is not honoring his obligation.” (The irony of a former investment banker denouncing speculation seems to have been lost on him.)

But does this really come down to a question of morality?

A provocative paper by Brent White, a law professor at the University of Arizona, makes the case that borrowers are actually suffering from a “norm asymmetry.” In other words, they think they are obligated to repay their loans even if it is not in their financial interest to do so, while their lenders are free to do whatever maximizes profits. It’s as if borrowers are playing in a poker game in which they are the only ones who think bluffing is unethical.
A business prof debates White here.

There is a legal fiction that a contract is a legal agreement where the parties understand the terms. And yet millions of people sign mortgage contracts with basic misunderstandings about their legal obligations to pay.

Law schools teach classes on contracts. The subject is not difficult, but the law defines a contract in way that would surprise anyone who has never been to law school.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dyslexia a cruel fiction leading to crime

A London UK Times article reported last year:
A Labour MP has provoked anger among literacy campaigners by calling dyslexia a “cruel fiction” that can often lead to criminal behaviour.

Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Manchester Blackley, wrote in his column for Manchester Confidential magazine: “Dyslexia is a cruel fiction, it is no more real than the 19th-century scientific construction of ‘the aether’ to explain how light travels through a vacuum.”
Bad analogy. The term aether went out of favor in the early 20th century, but since about 1940 the concept has been essential to understanding how light travels thru a vacuum. Quantum field theory teaches that there is no such thing as a vacuum, and what we call the vacuum is actually filled with particles that are essential to the propagation of light.
In the same column, Mr Stringer argued: “The reason that so many children fail to read and write is because the wrong teaching methods are used.” He accused Ed Balls, the Education Minister, of wasting nearly £80million in disability benefits given to dyslexic children, when government policy should target an overhaul of the way that children are taught to read.

Mr Stringer pointed to the synthetic phonics method of teaching, whereby children were taught to associate letters with their phonetic pronunciation (reading “ee” for “y”, for example).

He said: “It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well known methods for teaching everybody to read and write.”
He has a point there. Phonics has been shown to be a superior method for teaching reading, but most schools don't use it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Cheese sandwich confiscated

The UK Times reports:
Yet the impossible has happened: staff at a nursery in Pemberton, near Wigan, have confiscated a cheese sandwich belonging to a two-year-old pupil, Jack Ormisher. Its failing was to contain neither lettuce nor tomato.

Wigan Council has since confirmed that the straight-up combination of cheese and bread contravenes its healthy eating guidelines — and fully supported the cheese-snatchers. “The centre has a list of recommended healthy food, according to national guidelines, which children are encouraged to eat,” said a spokesman. “A cheese sandwich would not feature on the list.”

Unsurprisingly, Jack cried. He is now recovering. His mother sensibly moved him to a new, more cheese-friendly establishment.
First they came for the cheese sandwiches, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a cheese sandwich.

More evidence that fat is good for you

Scientific American reports:
Eat less saturated fat: that has been the take-home message from the U.S. government for the past 30 years. But while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year. ...

The finding joins other conclusions of the past few years that run counter to the conventional wisdom that saturated fat is bad for the heart because it increases total cholesterol levels. That idea is “based in large measure on extrapolations, which are not supported by the data,” Krauss says.
Yes, the Atkins crowd has been saying this for decades. The science behind cholesterol has never matched the physicians' recommendations.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Apple is evil

Google's motto used to be Don't Be Evil. More and more, it means Don't Be Like Apple.

Even the NY Times says that Apple has lost its cool. No other company uses the law to intimidate its media critics, as Apple does. No other company tries to restrict what you can do with its products, as Apple does. No other company is as hostile to open source software, as Apple is.

Apple products are overpriced and crippled. Apple has a loyal customer base, but it is a bit like AOL's customer base. People sign up because they think that the service limitations will make the product easier to use. But it is only easier if you are willing to be locked into to the company's business model. It is not easier if you want some flexibility in your use of the product.

Update: Pres. Obama is now a critic:
With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations--none of which I know how to work--information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Unused pig flu vaccines

Fumento reports:
According to Reuters, the U.S. has 71 million unused H1N1 swine flu vaccine doses. And damned if it isn't determined to use up every last one, in order to reduce the embarrassment of throwing away so much of the expensive stuff.
I am adding the 2009 swine flu to my list of modern hoaxes.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Iowa requires evidence of current crime

It always seemed obvious to me that if you are charged with a crime, the prosecutor should have to prove that you committed that actual crime, and not just present evidence of previous bad behavior. If you are charged with being a drug dealer, for example, the jury will not even be told of previous drug offenses.

If you are convicted, then previous convictions will be considered for sentencing, but not for determination of guilt or innocence.

Many states now make an exception for sex crimes. If you are charged with a sex crime, the prosecution is usually allowed to base its case on a general character assassination by scrutinizing your sex life.

That seems wrong to me, and now the Iowa court agrees:
But in State v. Cox, decided April 30, the Iowa Supreme Court held that the admission of such propensity evidence violates the Iowa Constitution’s Due Process Clause. “The policy against admissibility of general propensity evidence stems from ‘a fundamental sense that no one should be convicted of a crime based on his or her previous misdeeds.’ ‘A concomitant of the presumption of innocence is that a defendant must be tried for what he did, not for who he is.’ This concept is ‘fundamental to American jurisprudence.’” In this, the court departed from the view of federal courts and most state courts, and adhered to the minority view, which until then apparently was followed only by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Cops help illegal aliens get visas

Texas news:
But when the police came, they didn’t ask Monica about her immigration status. Instead they referred her to The Friendship of Women, a battered women’s shelter in Brownsville, where she received therapy and legal assistance. She got a protective order to keep her and her son safe. She learned about visas available to help victims of domestic violence get on the path to permanent residency, and began the application process. The U Visa is available to victims of violent crime, and the Violence Against Women Act also gives women who are married to or recently divorced from their abusers the ability to self-petition for permanent residency.

Monica’s is a success story now unlikely to be repeated in neighboring Arizona, where a new immigration law is set to give victims a heightened fear of deportation if they come forward to report crimes, and criminals the confidence to perpetrate crimes without fear of retribution.
Illegal alien women are discovering that the easiest way to get a visa and free welfare services is to make phony domestic violence accusations. If the new Arizona law stops this, so much the better.