Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Vaccine refusals

The NY Times reports:
Yet another panel of scientists has found no evidence that a popular vaccine causes autism. But despite the scientists’ best efforts, their report is unlikely to have any impact on the frustrating debate about the safety of these crucial medicines.
The report is Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, and NAP reports are now free downloads.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports:
Despite last year's record-setting whooping cough outbreak, thousands of California parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. Over the past decade, "personal belief exemptions" in California have tripled. Signed by parents, PBEs allow children to enter school missing some or all vaccines. Statewide, more than two percent of kindergarteners have such exemptions.

And the number is growing, much to the alarm of pediatricians and state health officials.

With a 9.5 percent PBE rate - more than four times the state average - Santa Cruz County is close to ground zero in this often heated and emotional debate. In the county's northern region, the parents of approximately 17 percent of entering kindergarteners signed PBEs last fall - one of California's highest rates.
The paper also tells a horror story about an unvaccinated child that died decades ago, and pediatricians are still complaining about it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Colin Powell was a traitor

Colin Powell is upset at VP Dick Cheney:
Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI during its investigation into who leaked to the news media that Plame, the wife of a former ambassador critical of the Bush administration, worked for the CIA.

Powell said that when Armitage realized he was the anonymous source cited by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in an article that revealed Plame's CIA connection, Armitage contacted Powell and they spoke to the Justice Department and the FBI for the probe ordered by Bush.

"If the White House and the operatives in the White House — on Mr. Cheney's staff and elsewhere in the White House — had been as forthcoming with the FBI as Mr. Armitage was, this problem would not have reached the dimensions that it reached," Powell said.

Instead, Powell said, the FBI continued for two more months trying to find out what had happened in the White House and that a special counsel ended up conducting a two-year probe of what he called a "mess."
Maybe Cheney and Libby made mistakes, but Powell's behavior was much more reprehensible. Powell cooperated in a scheme to entrap White House officials into making misstatements about the leaking of Plame, when Powell secretly knew all along that Armitage was the leaker.

I really don't see anything legally or ethically wrong with leaking Plame's name, and I think
that it was a public service because it was necessary to rebut Joe Wilson's lies about how we got into the Iraq War. Libby was only convicted of claiming that Tim Russert knew about Plame, but was not accused of leaking or of covering up a leak.

Powell was a traitor. As Secretary of State, he worked for the President, and he should have told Pres. Bush about the leak. Powell was the highest official who knew the story. Instead, he resigned and let prosecutors harass the White House for two years.

Recording the cops

After Rodney King, you would think that it would be obvious that it is legal to record cops doing their dirty work. Bit it still gets litigated:
It's refreshing, therefore, to read that a Federal Appeals Court has found unconstitutional the arrest of a Massachusetts lawyer who used his phone to video-record an arrest on the Boston Common.
The court even ruled that the lawyer could sue the cops for damages for interfering with his rights.

But a Chicago woman is still being prosecuted for similar recording.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The anti-science party

Steve Landsburg regularly attacks Paul Krugman, such as this NY Times column:
Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, ... said about climate change: “... And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.” ... I could point out that Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence.
This does not make any sense. Krugman contradicts himself. If Perry says that scientists are speaking out against global warming science, then they are not following a code of silence.

Krugman also says:
the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming.
Again, he contradicts himself. If there is sharp disagreement about the climate projections, then there is not a consensus.

Krugman's main point is this:
Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.
The Democrats are the ones who are anti-science on subjects like nuclear power.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Environmentalist pressure

A British environmentalist group spent millions on a propaganda video, and then apologized:
As you may have heard, 10:10 made a mistake by releasing a short film about cutting carbon which was supposed to be humorous but in the event upset a lot of people. We quickly realised that we had made a serious mistake and took it down from our website within hours.

We also issued a statement apologising but there has subsequently been quite a lot of negative comment, particularly on blogs, and understandable concern from others working hard to build support for action on climate change.
You can watch the 10:10 - No Pressure video. It is about killing kids and adults who do not conform to peer pressure to support some silly green political plan. The YouTube commenters cannot figure out of the video, and ask, "Are they supporting eviornmentalism or mocking it." The video does both.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why Kirby pushes evolution

Paula Kirby writes in the Wash. Post:
In the real world, facts are stubborn beasts. ... Evolution is a simple fact. We can choose to remain ignorant of it, we can stick our fingers in our ears and refuse to think about it, we can even rail against it and shout and scream that it is not allowed to be true. But facts are facts, and will not go away just because we don't like them.
If it is such a simple fact, then she ought to be able to state what it is in the column. She does not. Definitions of evolution vary widely. Sometimes it is defined as change in the history of the universe.
In everyday English, 'theory' can mean something vague, a hunch, a guess. In scientific English, it is almost as far from that meaning as it's possible to get: in science, a theory is the best explanation for a set of facts. It carries real weight: in science, nothing can be called a 'theory' until it is very well established indeed. Science has its own term for what, in a non-scientific context, the rest of us might call a 'theory': the scientific term for a suggestion, a best guess, something that seems plausible but has not yet been shown to be reliably true, is 'hypothesis'. You will never, ever hear a scientist talk about 'the hypothesis of evolution', for the simple reason that evolution is long past that stage.
This is nonsense. Scientists use the word "theory" in the ordinary dictionary meaning. Theories like string theory are not established at all, except as an academic subject for study.

You do not hear about 'the hypothesis of evolution' because evolution has many hypotheses. Some of them are firmly established, and some not.
... to attempt to co-opt evolution as part of a divine plan simply does not work, and suggests a highly superficial understanding of the subject. ...

Evolution poses a further threat to Christianity, though, a threat that goes to the very heart of Christian teaching. ...

Christianity is like a big, chunky sweater. It may feel cozy, it may keep you warm, but just let one stitch be dropped and the whole thing unravels before your very eyes. Evolution is that stitch. Evolution destroys the loving creator on which the whole of Christianity depends.
Now we get to the real reason she is so eager to teach evolution exclusively in the schools. She believes that it will destroy Christianity.

I also have a related criticism of an opinion article by Richard Dawkins in the same newspaper.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Colleges charge big tuition because they can

Jonathan H. Adler writes on The Education Bubble:
This chart looks like a mistake, but it’s correct. Student loan debt has grown by 511% over this period. In the first quarter of 1999, just $90 billion in student loans were outstanding. As of the second quarter of 2011, that balance had ballooned to $550 billion.
Textbook prices are also up:
“According to a study (pdf) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices have increased FOUR TIMES the rate of inflation of other finished goods for the period of 1990-2009,”
And tuition is up because:
The reason tuition has been on such a steady upward march can be found in the most basic lesson of an entry-level econ class: supply and demand.

Tuition goes up because it can -- because there currently are no market forces or legislative controls to curtail it.
This is a bubble because it is unsustainable. The public has been brainwashed into believing that colleges are worthwhile, regardless of the cost. The knowledge learned at college is readily available elsewhere. You could spend a couple of years reading Wikipedia and learn a lot more than the typical college graduate. Eventually, students will refuse to take the debt, and find alternatives.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

No free speech in school

The Santa Cruz Sentinel has a page 1 story about a supposed lobbying scandal:
Under pressure from a lobbying group for the plastics industry, schools officials in California have edited a new environmental curriculum to include positive messages about plastic shopping bags, interviews and documents show. ...

Although the curriculum includes the environmental hazards of plastic bags, the consultant also added a five-point question to a workbook asking students to list some advantages. According to the revised teachers' edition, the correct answer is: “Plastic shopping bags are very convenient to use. They take less energy to manufacture than paper bags, cost less to transport and can be reused.” ...

Among other changes, he also removed a mention of plastic bags as “litter” in the teachers' edition after the trade group's representative complained. “To be clear,” wrote the Ogilvy executive, “plastic bags don't start as litter; they become litter.” Now, when the word litter appears in the text, it is prefaced with “can become” or is used as a verb.
The industry lobbying improved the textbooks. We have schoolkids being brainwashed with a Gaian religion that says that plastic bags are evil, along with coal, nuclear power, internal combustion engines, and many other modern essentials. It should be obvious that the plastic bags have some utility, or we would not be using them. If it were not for these industry lobbyists, the Gaian lobbyists would have succeeded in telling only one side of a story, and it is a radical leftist side.

An evolutionist quotes Politifact and says:
Yesterday, Rick Perry commented "in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figured you're smart enough to figure out which one is right." ...

Perry's office's claim (apparently echoed by TEA) that "teachers are permitted to discuss [creationism] with students" if the students bring it up is dubious at best. Teachers are certainly not required to remain mum when asked a direct question, but established law and professional ethics do not require or indeed authorize a teacher to use that question as an opportunity to proselytize for creationism, as Perry suggested Texas teachers do routinely. ...

A discussion of creationism might be acceptable in a Biblical history class if the full range of theological views on Genesis were also presented. But creationism could not be presented as science in a Biblical history class, any more than it could be presented as science in a science class. ...
Perry also said that the theory of evolution has gaps. He was answering a child whose mom was feeding him questions. The video shows her saying to the child, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.”

I don't know what they teach in Texas, and I certainly don't think that Biblical creationism is scientific, but I think that the science lobby is silly to get excited about this. All of the candidates profess Christian beliefs, including the idea that God created the world. It won't hurt schoolkids to learn this, and scientists should not be threatened by it.

UCLA law prof Volokh reports:
A former “teacher of the year” in Lake County, Florida, has been reassigned while school administrators investigate comments posted on his Facebook page about same-sex marriage.... [S]chool officials received a complaint Tuesday about the content on Mount Dora High School teacher Jerry Buell’s personal Facebook page .... CNN affiliate Central Florida News 13 reported that a status post on it said, “I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about the New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.”
Same-sex marriage is illegal under both Florida and federal law. If a Florida teacher is opposed to it, then he is in agreement with most of his political leaders. He should be allowed to express his private opinions on his personal Facebook page regardless of whether anyone agrees with him, and he should certainly not be punished for expressing opinions that are firmly within the majority.

A new California law requires teachers to promote homosexuality. Again, leftist propagandists are insisting on brainwashing kids with one side of a controversial story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trivial confusions

Wikipedia has long articles on Parity of zero and 0.999.... These are completely trivial mathematical points that any 10-year-old should be able to understand. Apparently not.

There are also people who confuse a slash with a backslash. I don't know how. The slash has been in common use for centuries. The backslash is an obscure ascii character.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Look at today's breeders

An ad for a sperm donor says:
I am a 34 year-old single woman ...
My ideal donor will: ... Be 5'11 or taller ... Healthy ... Attractive ... be able to demonstrate a fierce intelligence ... identifies as a liberal or progressive ...
Race/ethnicity, religious/spiritual background, hair color, eye color, national origin, and occupation are not factors in my decision.
I am not sure who is worse, the breeders who plan it or the ones who don't.

Meanwhile, a UK TV reporter complains that an eyewitness account of the riots was "being stereotypical" by describing a particular crowd as "black youths". reports The 6 Dumbest Things Schools Are Doing in the Name of Safety.

The LA Times reports:
"We are now going to make it a crime in California not to use a fitted sheet? Really?" state Sen. Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) asked during a debate before the Senate passed the measure in June.

The bill, one of nearly 900 awaiting final action in the Legislature when it returns Monday from a monthlong recess, is intended to address back injuries sustained by hotel housekeepers. But it has revived a long-simmering debate over whether California has become a hyper-regulated "nanny state."
Our civilization is in decline.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Math ability born

Recent news stories say Intelligence tests highlight importance of genetic differences, and Math ability born not made, say psychologists.

I would not take these stories too seriously. The latter is based on a study of 4-year-old kids, and a math ability at age 4 is not necessarily inborn.

But if there is any truth to these at all, then they explain the failure of the No Child Left Behind Act:
The Obama administration will bypass Congress and give qualifying states a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) after reform of the education law stalled.

The Department of Education announced today the White House has directed it to move forward with a plan, to be rolled out sometime early in September, that will give qualifying states relief from NCLB requirements until permanent changes to the law are made.
Many kids are not going to pass those tests, no matter how much the schools are improved.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

California passes anti-democracy plan

AP reports:
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that would award all of California's 55 Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote, a move intended to ensure that the winner of the popular vote becomes president.

The movement by a group called National Popular Vote aims to prevent a repeat of 2000, when Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote but Republican George W. Bush won the electoral vote and the presidency.

California is the eighth state to sign on, giving the effort 132 of the 270 electoral votes it needs to take effect.
No, the plan makes it less likely that we elect a President without winning a majority vote. Gore did not win the popular vote in 2000. He only got 49% of the vote.

This plan is anti-democratic. Democracy is
The doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding on the whole group.
A minority of the states are trying to bypass the US Constitution and rewrite the rules for how we elect a President.

No one won the popular vote in 1948, 1960, 1968, 1992, 1996, and 2000. If this NPV plan had been in effect in 1960, then Richard Nixon might have been elected President. There is no consensus on who won a plurality of the popular vote that year.

The plan makes a majority vote winner less likely because it encourages third-party voters. Under the current system, the futility of third-party voting was demonstrated by Ross Perot. He got many millions of popular votes, but no electoral votes.

The Flores Man hoax

Nature magazine reports:
Homo floresiensis, dubbed the 'hobbit' of Indonesia, is once again igniting debate. A skull-scanning study supports the idea that the diminutive individual was not a separate species, but simply a stunted human.
There are still some unsettled issues, but it was crazy to declare a new human species based on one dubious skeleton.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Northern Humans Had Bigger Brains

ScienceDaily reports:
The farther that human populations live from the equator, the bigger their brains, according to a new study by Oxford University. But it turns out that this is not because they are smarter, but because they need bigger vision areas in the brain to cope with the low light levels experienced at high latitudes.

Scientists have found that people living in countries with dull, grey, cloudy skies and long winters have evolved bigger eyes and brains so they can visually process what they see, reports the journal Biology Letters.

Lead author Eiluned Pearce, from the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology in the School of Anthropology, said: 'As you move away from the equator, there's less and less light available, so humans have had to evolve bigger and bigger eyes. Their brains also need to be bigger to deal with the extra visual input. Having bigger brains doesn't mean that higher latitude humans are smarter, it just means they need bigger brains to be able to see well where they live.'

Co-author Professor Robin Dunbar, Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary, said: 'Humans have only lived at high latitudes in Europe and Asia for a few tens of thousands of years, yet they seem to have adapted their visual systems surprisingly rapidly to the cloudy skies, dull weather and long winters we experience at these latitudes.'
It is sometimes claimed that regional differences in human intelligence could not have evolved in the 50k years or so that humans spread from Africa to Europe and Asia. This study shows that it is possible, at least as far as image processing goes.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Climate science indoctrination

The current AAAS Science magazine says:
So, we’re all familiar with the century-long debate over whether evolution or creationism should be taught in grade schools and high schools to children. But, because of the political debate that’s going on today – it’s very loud, it integrates every part of the media over whether or not climate change is occurring and how attributable it is to human activity – grade school and high school teachers are now finding parents coming to them and saying, “You shouldn’t be teaching climate change to our students because it’s not a science, it’s not scientifically based.” And there have even been cases where administrators and school boards have told teachers not to teach climate change, that it’s an unsettled area of science. ... And so, one of the things that’s been happening is some of these people will suggest maybe you should have a debate – you should have a climate denier and a climate scientist get up on stage in front of students and talk about the pros and cons, which has a lot of scientists and educators concerned because that’s not the way that science works. Science works through peer review and through reaching a consensus based on data – not through who has the louder voice. There’s a case in Los Alamitos – in southern California, in Orange County, it’s a conservative area – just a couple of months ago the school board there decided that they didn’t like the idea of climate change being presented in a high school classroom in an advanced placement class. And so, they passed a new mandate stating that teachers were going to have to present evidence every year of how they were going to talk about both sides of the debate. ...

Climate change is something that’s very rapidly changing, and it’s very hard to keep up with. The last thing that they need, when they’re often struggling with this very complex science themselves, is people coming in and saying, “You’re teaching us wrong. You need to be teaching all of these other positions that may or may not be actually based in science and more based in policy.” ...

Interviewer - Stewart Wills
Well, some of the issues regarding the teaching of evolution have kind of played out in the courts. Is there any such remedy for climate change teaching, as well?

Interviewee - Sara Reardon
It doesn’t seem likely from the people I’ve talked to that teachers would have a lot of recourse there. The reason that creationism has been shut down time and time again in the courts is that it’s been ruled that it’s a religious stance. And under the first amendment you can’t present religion in a public school. But, climate change is not couched in religion.

Interviewer - Stewart Wills
Okay, well if the courts aren’t available, where is this headed? What can the scientific community do in response to this?
Much of global warming (aka climate change) is driven by the Gaia religion, with the skepticism based on science. So using the courts to censor religion would not suit the interests of the leftist-atheist-evolutionists in this case.

It is funny to see these folks lecture us on "how science works", and then tell us that no one may tell a teacher that he is teaching it wrong, and that students must not be allowed to see contrary evidence.

It should be clear from this that using the courts against creationism is just a tool to eliminate a contrary view and to force one particular belief system on students.

Meanwhile, the leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne just posted rules for his Why Evolution Is True blog (which he prefers to call a web site, not a blog):
2. Most of our readers are atheists. If you come over here professing belief in God in a loud or obnoxious way, I reserve the right to request that you describe the evidence that led to your belief. If you fail to provide it, you may not be allowed to post again.
He regularly posts attacks on the Bible, Koran, and related theology, so he reads religious writings. But he is eager to censor the comments on his blog to be within his worldview.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Internet Explorer story was bogus

UK BBC reports:
A story which suggested that users of Internet Explorer have a lower IQ than people who chose other browsers appears to have been an elaborate hoax.

A number of media organisations, including the BBC, reported on the research, put out by Canadian firm ApTiquant.

It later emerged that the company's website was only recently set up and staff images were copied from a legitimate business in Paris.

It is unclear who was behind the stunt.

The story was reported by many high profile organisations including CNN, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and Forbes.
I'd like to measure the IQ of those who fell for this silly story. For example, here is the bogus NPR story.

TV show on atheist scientists

Cosmologist Sean M. Carroll plugs an atheist TV show on the Discovery Channel this Sunday, and says:
Hawking clearly goes all-in with “God does not exist.” It’s not a message we often hear on American TV.
Leftist-atheist-evolutionist Pharyngula is also excited about it. Elsewhere, Hawking denies that he is an atheist. He recently said, I am not claiming there is no God.

Meanwhile, leftist-atheist-evolutionist Jerry Coyne argues in USA Today:
As a biologist, I see belief in God-given morality as American's biggest impediment to accepting the fact of evolution. "Evolution," many argue, "could never have given us feelings of kindness, altruism and morality. For if we were merely evolved beasts, we would act like beasts. Surely our good behavior, and the moral sentiments that promote it, reflect impulses that God instilled in our soul." ...

So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning.
His example is that he once helped a FedEx man pick up some boxes, and that was based on a non-Biblical instinct.

Update: USA Today article on Hawking.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Advice for sexless marriage

Here is today's bad newspaper advice:
Dear Annie: My wife and I are both 30 and have been married for five years. We have a toddler.

The problem is, over the past few years, my wife has cut down sex to roughly once every couple of months. I do what I can to keep her happy and have even bargained with her to get sex by offering to take her out to eat at her favorite restaurant or giving back massages, but she won't discuss it. As soon as I bring it up, she gets angry, and it puts her in a bad mood. ...

I could understand if she had a medical problem, but she doesn't. I'm being pushed to the brink. My wife has no interest in talking to a counselor. ...

Dear Frustrated: ... Stop pressuring her for sex, either by asking or by bargaining, and get some counseling for yourself.
Their marriage is doomed. Counseling is a waste. Marriage will not survive if these attitudes are commonplace. Here is a better response (and a previous view from the Thinking Housewife. She says:
Advice columnists are shills for the feminist-dominated psychotherapy industry. No matter what a reader’s problem is they invariably recommend professional therapy.
Therapy is very destructive in a case like this.

Story on conversion therapy

NPR radio news just broadcast a story on Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation?:
The debate about the value of conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, has been raging in psychological circles for more than a decade.

About three years ago, the American Psychological Association came out with an official position paper on it. The APA said that it was basically a bad idea, and that there was no evidence that it was possible to change sexual orientation. Therapists also shouldn't tell their clients that change was possible, the APA noted.

This morning on Morning Edition I profile the conversion therapy experiences of two men. They represent two sides of a debate that hasn't been resolved despite the APA's position.

One side feels that therapies which seek to make gay people straight are invariably harmful. The other says the therapies can help gay people who are profoundly uncomfortable with same-sex attraction.
The story is from Alix Spiegel, who told the 2002 story about how her grandfather was a closeted gay psychiatrist who changed the official definition of sexual deviance to exclude homosexuality in 1973.

The APA did not really say that there was no evidence of change. It said that there was evidence that therapy could change sexual orientation, but that it was insufficient to justify endorsing the therapy, considering that such therapy is contrary to certain political goals. See here for details.

The underlying problem here is that nearly all psychological therapies are unscientific and ineffective, and the profession is politicized and corrupt. They cannot explain why they endorse sex change therapy but not sexual orientation change therapy.

The show gave this very strange justification for refusing homosexual conversion therapy:
Clients request a lot of things based on lack of knowledge... If a girl with an eating disorder came to a therapist saying that she wanted to be thinner, the therapist couldn't ethically honor her request.
Maybe this is part of why we have so many fat women getting useless therapy.

The story is generating a lot of angry comments from leftist NPR listeners who complain that the story was too balanced. One said that there should not be balance on this subject, just as there should not be balance on the teaching of evolution. They say that they would listen to Fox News if they wanted to hear something contrary to the gay agenda.