Saturday, October 29, 2011

British royal discrimination

The UK announces that it is changing male primogeniture:
He has written to the prime ministers of Commonwealth countries outlining how he wants to change laws dating back centuries, but which are now discriminatory.

In the letter, Mr Cameron says it is “an anomaly” and goes against “gender equality” that women have to take their place behind younger royal males in the line of succession.

He writes: “In the UK, we have found it increasingly difficult to continue to justify two particular aspects of the present rules on the succession to the Crown.

“The first is the rule which says that an elder daughter should take a place in the line of succession behind a younger son. We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life, and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority.”
That is what is difficult to justify? The whole rest of the monarchy is difficult to justify.

The UK (and Canada, Australia, etc) have had a queen since 1952, Elizabeth II, not a king. Her husband is considered just a prince.

On the other hand, the king's wife is considered a queen. There is no move to end this discrimination.

I am not sure about this "gender equality" argument. With this new rule, a British girl has less chance of becoming a queen. If Prince William's first-born is a girl, then no other girl of that generation will have a chance at the throne.

This change seems foolish to me.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plot to increase empathy

Here is someone who proposes that mandatory social media service can save America by increasing empathy towards other populations:
Whether his assessment is right or not, two facts emerges as crystal clear. Each of us – blue, red, old, young, urban, rural, black, white, gay, straight – tends to care disproportionately about those with whom we share empathy and interdependency. And as our country becomes more fragmented rather than unified, our communities of concern get narrower. In fact, even the Occupy Movement, which has effectively called attention to the most obvious “us and them” gap, has been criticized for its lack of diversity, particularly in southern cities where there are large African American populations.

This is ironic in an age of social media when we have remarkable tools to connect us to each other. ...

So here’s my idea for saving America in case the Occupy Movement doesn’t work. It’s an idea that could help us increase empathy. It takes full advantage of social media’s true potential. ...

We require every 18-year-old in America to participate in mandatory social media service as part of a daily or weekly routine for one year.
We assign our young adults to a racially diverse online social group comprised of 12 people from different regions, backgrounds, income brackets. (Google+ is a potential platform.)
We present each group with a social challenge – obesity, jobs, poverty, high cost of education, even the problem of young men getting their sex education from watching online porn – and we ask them to solve the problem. ...

Will a group of strangers on a social platform really solve big issues like unemployment, poverty, obesity, and urban violence? Maybe not. But as a society, we might solve our most pressing problem. The need to create greater empathy and understanding between and among people who are different but share a vested interest in America.
This seems like just an isolated wacky idea, as noted here, but there is an ideology behind it.

George Lakoff, Author and Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley, explains why promoting empathy is central to leftist objectives:
Let's start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn't empathy a good thing?

Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others -- not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one's countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed. Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like. Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species. Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

Progressives care about others as well as themselves. They have a moral obligation to act on their empathy -- a social responsibility in addition to personal responsibility, a responsibility to make the world better by making themselves better. This leads to a view of a government that cares about its citizens and has a moral obligation to protect and empower them. Protection includes worker, consumer, and environmental protection as well as safety nets and health care. Empowerment includes what is in the president's stimulus plan: infrastructure, education, communication, energy, the availability of credit from banks, a stock market that works. No one can earn anything at all in this country without protection and empowerment by the government. All progressive legislation is made on this basis. ...

We cannot let conservatives get away with redefining empathy as irrational and idiosyncratic personal feeling. Empathy is the basis of our democracy and its true meaning must be defended. ...

Democrats should go on offense. They need to rally behind empathy -- real empathy, not empathy reframed as emotion and personal feeling. They need to speak regularly about empathy as being the basis of our democracy. They need to point out that empathy leads one to notice real social and systemic causes of our troubles and to notice when and how judicial decisions and legislation can harm the most vulnerable of our countrymen. And finally that empathy is the reason that we have the principles of freedom and fairness -- which are necessary components of justice.
Empathy is a leftist code word.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

End of Iraq occupation

AP reports:
WASHINGTON (AP) — America's long and deeply unpopular war in Iraq will be over by year's end and all U.S. troops "''will definitely be home for the holidays," President Barack Obama declared Friday. ...

This was, in essence, the third time Obama had pronounced an end to the war, allowing him to remind the nation he had opposed it all along — a stance that helped his White House bid in 2008.
No, Obama did not remind us of that. He said:
As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world.

After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.
So he merely reminded us that he pledged to end the war. He never opposed the war.

Meanwhile, Obama has initiated military actions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Uganda.

Friday, October 21, 2011

California whites declining

The Sacramenta Bee newspaper reports:
California's birthrate tumbled last year to its lowest point since the Great Depression, new state figures show, yet another indication that the difficult economy is reshaping everyday life.

California families are looking at their personal finances, their job security, their prospects for the future – and increasingly deciding now is not the time to have a baby.
That is just part of the story. Middle class families sometimes find that kids are too expensive, but poor family get welfare payments to have kids.
"We are not becoming the next Germany or Japan, where the number of deaths exceeds the number of births," Johnson said.
The white population of California is declining like Germany and Japan. California's growth is entirely from immigration, illegal aliens, and first-generation (births to immigrants).

According to the California report, 51% of all births today are to hispanics, and it is rising to 55%. Only 29% are to whites, and that will drop to 25% by the year 2020. Hispanic women are having 2.23 kids apiece, while whites are having 1.68 and Asians 1.59.

This is all the result of a set of policies that have discourage white reproduction, and encouraged non-whites. It is as if the govt decided a few years ago to replace the white population of California with a non-white population.

Monday, October 17, 2011

California physicians advocate dope

Physicians are the ones most eager in our society to tell people what to do, without having to explain themselves. People often mistakenly assume that physicians' advice is backed up by scientific evidence, but usually not. Eg, you might think that if they recommended marijuana, then they would have some evidence that it is beneficial.

AP and the LA Times report:
California’s largest industry group for doctors is calling for the legalization of marijuana even as it maintains that the drug has few proven health benefits. Trustees of the California Medical Association adopted the new stance at its annual meeting Friday, Oct. 14, 2011 in Anaheim, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group’s new policy, said doctors are increasingly frustrated by the state’s medical marijuana law, which allows use with a doctor’s recommendation. Physicians are put in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether to recommend a drug that’s illegal under federal law, Lyman said.

“It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not,” he told the newspaper.
Got that? They do not know whether the drug is useful, but recommend legalizing anyway so physicians will feel more comfortable.
Lyman called current laws a “failed public health policy.”

But critics within the medical community said association leaders did not consider the broader implications of legalizing marijuana.

“I think it’s going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern,” Dr. Robert DuPont, an M.D. and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, told the Times.
The law would be a failed policy if some alternative policy would be better. But the physicians did not even consider what an alternative policy would do.

As it is, California physicians can write prescriptions for marijuana, and most of them are for
unverifiable ailments like back pain, headaches, insomnia, impotence, and anxiety. The policy is a joke. The physicians who write these prescriptions have sold out.

Physician recommendations on many subjects, such as diet, vaccines, guns, and drugs is uninformed and unsubstantiated.

Update: Libertarian drug advocate Ilya Somin brags that a Gallup poll shows 50% support for legal marijuana use, for the first time. But many states, including California, already have legal medical marijuana use, and Californians have voted down broader legalization.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jobs and Ritchie

Wired magazine says:
The tributes to Dennis Ritchie won’t match the river of praise that spilled out over the web after the death of Steve Jobs. But they should.

And then some.

“When Steve Jobs died last week, there was a huge outcry, and that was very moving and justified. But Dennis had a bigger effect, and the public doesn’t even know who he is,” says Rob Pike, the programming legend and current Googler who spent 20 years working across the hall from Ritchie at the famed Bell Labs.
I agree. Jobs convinced a lot of people to buy a lot of products, but he didn't have much influence on anything I use. Ritchie did. His inventions are used everywhere.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Police Arrest Man With Headless Duck

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An 18-year-old man was charged with animal cruelty and resisting an officer after witnesses reported the suspect had a headless duck in one hand and a knife in the other. ...

According to the report, witnesses said Main was attempting to show off when he captured and killed a duck, saying he planned on cooking it.

Officers said there was a barbeque grill with a fresh fire blazing on the patio when they arrived. They also said a half-empty bottle of spiced rum was on the patio, and "it was apparent from the suspect's breath and demeanor that he had been consuming alcohol."
So why is this a crime? If this were done by a restaurant, a farmer, or a hunter, no one would question it. Duck is good food, and cutting off its head is as good as what the slaughterhouses do.

I can see where it might be crime to kill someone's pet, or to hunt out of season, but this is not animal cruelty. But this seems to be a trend. I've heard a bunch of stories like this, where someone was arrested for animal cruelty, but where there is no real cruelty. Just someone who disapproved of someone else's treatment of an animal. It makes the law very vague, because there is hardly anything that you can do with an animal that will not cause someone to disapprove.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rehashing Anita Hill

NPR Radio's Nina Totenberg is rehashing the Clarence Thomas hearings:
Thomas was accused of violating the very laws he was charged with enforcing as chairman of the EEOC.

Right out of the starting gate, the hearing was white hot, as Anita Hill, a black 35-year-old law professor, described how her one-time boss had pressured her to go out with him and how he subjected her to sexually explicit conversations when the two were alone in the office. "He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals, and films showing group sex or rape scenes," Hill testified.
No, that is not the way I remember it. I believe that Hill did not allege that Thomas had asked her out on a date, or that Thomas had violated sexual harassment laws. She merely alleged inappropriate sexual comments.

Even if she did, Totenberg is biased to say "described" instead of "alleged". Thomas denied the charges, and no one substantiated Hill.
Bork had detailed his conservative views at length and been rejected. Now Thomas asserted he had no opinion on such landmark cases as Roe v. Wade, the court's 1973 abortion ruling, and among those expressing incredulity was Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy.

"You're not suggesting that there wasn't any discussion at any time of Roe v. Wade?" asked Leahy.

"Senator," responded Thomas, "I cannot remember personally engaging in those discussions."

According to Feldman, many people doubted Thomas' assertion.

"Most people had trouble believing that someone who had been to Yale Law School [and] had spent a public career in jobs connected to law, could possibly have no opinion on the most controversial legal topics of his generation," he says. "And yet somehow those answers not only did not stand in the way of Justice Thomas' confirmation, but were seen in some way as good politics."
Again, NPR is lying about Thomas. He did not deny having an opinion about Roe v Wade. He only denied participating in a discussion about it with his classmates. Many liberals have accused Thomas of perjury for saying this, but it seems plausible to me. None of his classmates has ever claimed that he was in any such discussion. Lots of lawyers like to discuss controversial legal topics, but Thomas is known as the silent one on the Supreme Court, and he is obviously not one to go out of his way to get into such debates.

After the Thomas hearings, a big majority of the public sided with Thomas. But with years of people like Totenberg lying about the hearing, many people changed to be more hostile to Thomas. I don't know how she gets away with it, since the hearings were televised and the transcripts are readily available.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not everyone liked Steve Jobs

Free software guru Richard M. Stallman writes:
Steve Jobs, the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool, designed to sever fools from their freedom, has died.

As Chicago Mayor Harold Washington said of the corrupt former Mayor Daley, “I’m not glad he’s dead, but I’m glad he’s gone.” Nobody deserves to have to die - not Jobs, not Mr. Bill, not even people guilty of bigger evils than theirs. But we all deserve the end of Jobs’ malign influence on people’s computing.

Unfortunately, that influence continues despite his absence. We can only hope his successors, as they attempt to carry on his legacy, will be less effective.
Some people may assume that Stallman just doesn't like Apple selling proprietary software. But it goes much deeper than that. He does not like:
  1. Digital rights management. While Amazon and others sold digital music that could be played on any device, Apple built its music empire on the concept that music should have special DRM restrictions that prevent playing the music on non-Apple devices.
  2. Anti-consumer-choice. Other computers can be bought with whatever ports, peripherals, and options that the consumer wants. Jobs has always stood for forcing these choices on the user.
  3. Privatizing the web. Instead of the world wide web being open to everyone with a browser, Jobs has worked to make his devices require special apps to view popular web sites, and to restrict apps to what Apple approves.
  4. Crippled gadgets. Other smartphones and tablet computers allow the user to run whatever applications he wants. The Iphone and Ipad are unique in that they can only run apps from the Apple store.
Jobs was certainly a marketing genius, but Android phones consistently outsell Apple phones, and they do not have Apple's limitations.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bad psychology results

A blog reports:
Around 18% of statistical results in the psychological literature are incorrectly reported. ...

To obtain a better understanding of the origins of the errors made in the reporting of statistics, we contacted the authors of the articles with errors in the second study and asked them to send us the raw data. Regrettably, only 24% of the authors shared their data, despite our request being quite specific and our assurances that the authors would remain anonymous. . .
I would guess that another 50% of the published social science results are wrong just because of faulty data handling. Such errors are nearly impossible to detect if the authors refuse to share their raw data.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Nothing like the Great Depression

Politico reports:
Over the past decade, homeownership has dropped by the largest margin since the Great Depression, the Census Bureau said Thursday.
I am getting a little tired of all these stories about how our economic crisis is the worst since the Great Depression. The Census Bureau said that the drop was 66% to 65%, compared to a drop from 48% to 44% in the 1930s. We had govt policies that artificially homeownership and housing prices, and they got out of control. A 1% correction is a very slight one.

The economic crisis of 2008 was not even any worse that the one in 2000. The 2008 one only looked worse because of high-profile over-leveraged Wall Street speculators who went begging for bailouts. Losses occurred when banks made bad loans to people buying houses at the peak of the housing boom in 2005. The paper losses in 2008 were comparable to the paper losses in 2000.

I think that Pres. Barack Obama will eventually be said to have had an easy presidency. The economy was in relatively good shape except for the real estate correction. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had already been won, and there were no major foreign policy crises. There were no natural disasters like Katrina, and no big terrorist attacks. He had firm control of the Congress for his first two years. He got the economic program he wanted. It just didn't work, and it is going to get worse when Obamacare goes into effect.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

DoJ: Muslim Juries Threaten Our Values

Wired mag reports:
Danger Room has acquired a 2010 PowerPoint presentation compiled by an intelligence analyst working for the U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Reminiscent of FBI training materials exposed by Danger Room in September, the PowerPoint warns of a “Civilizational Jihad” stretching back from the dawn of Islam and waged today in the U.S. by “civilians, juries, lawyers, media, academia and charities” who threaten “our values.” The goal of that war: “Replacement of American Judeo-Christian and Western liberal social, political and religious foundations by Islam.” ...

Marsh’s presentation, which claims to be “one analyst’s view” and not that of the U.S. government, paints a harsh view of Islam. “Internal Islamic Failures/Collapse,” it advises, “Did NOT Start on 9/11,” but instead date back “~1400 years” — that is, to the birth of Islam itself and the death of the Prophet Muhammad. (Other slides take a meandering tour through world history, and specifically the very pre-Islamic Roman Empire.) “2 Inescapable facts” about contemporary terrorists, Marsh presented, are “1. All Say they are Muslims. 2. All believe they are acting as followers of the true Islam.” ...

“Many Muslims do desire peace,” Marsh allows.

But several of Marsh’s other slides blur those distinctions. They describe Islam as operating along a “broad Muslim belief spectrum,” spanning from average “Muslim” to “Jihadi supporters/terrorists.” (The “Two ‘Faces’ of Islam,” in Marsh’s telling.) The briefing contends, “No Major Muslim group has ever renounced the doctrines of jihad of the sword.” Underscoring his point, a picture of the burning Twin Towers is paired with two minarets. Over them reads a quote: “The West never remembers and the East never forgets.” ...

“Islam is CONVINCED of the superiority of its CULTURE; and OBSESSED with the inferiority of its POWER.” Marsh also presents a quote from the son of the founder of Hamas, a convert to Christianity: “What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he’s doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn’t matter if he’s a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God.” And bookending his presentation is a quote from Princeton’s Bernard Lewis that seems to anticipate the objections to Marsh’s own briefing: “Self censorship and political correctness will destroy our ability to discuss issues critical to our survival.”
I expected the article to have some rebuttal of the DoJ analysis, but it did not. It merely suggested that it was improper to target all Muslims when they are not all terrorists. It also gave two examples of crimes committed by non-muslims.

The trouble with those examples is that they are not clear examples of terrorism. They were crimes committed by individuals who were not linked to any political or other organization or cause, and their motivation was unclear. As the saying goes, the exception that proves the rule.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Prohibition story is one-sided

The Ken Burns alcohol prohibition story is fascinating, but one-sided. The main point of the show seems to be to argue that Americans were foolish and hypocritical to try to ban alcoholic beverages.

The show does acknowledge these two facts, but does not draw the obvious consequences:
  • Pre-prohition alcohol comsumption was much heavier than today.
  • Prohibition was led by leftists and women, and their other big accomplishment was to pass the 16th Amendment to create the federal income tax.
At the time, the federal govt got most of its money from alcohol excise taxes, and the leftist progressives wanted to eliminate that so that the feds would have to adopt an income tax, and thereby redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. There was no mention at all of the technological factors underlying alcohol consumption trends at the time.
  • Clean and safe drinking water was not available until around 1900. Neither was refrigeration. Alcoholic beverages were a necessity.
  • Before steam engines and other technologies, men had to work very physically demanding jobs, and they needed the calories from alcohol.
  • California is suited for wine production, but not the rest of the USA,
    so Americans drank drank hard liquor and beer.
Thus the enormous American alcohol consumption was no longer necessary, and it was reasonable to pass drastic laws to break our addiction. Even today, it is conventional wisdom that an alcoholic must quit cold turkey to break his addiction. In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to try a less extreme measure, and to shift more gradually to beer and wine consumption. If so, then blame the progressives, socialists, and women who pushed for extreme change. But it must still be acknowledged that Prohibition achieved a substantial and permanent reduction in alcohol consumption, and cured millions of Americans of alcoholism. This PBS documentary missed the point badly.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Some deviate from vaccine schedule

USA Today reports:
At a time when many infectious diseases are making a comeback, about 13% of parents are skipping or delaying their children's immunizations and following an "alternative" vaccination schedule that puts kids at serious risk, a new study says.

And many parents who follow their pediatricians' advice have doubts about vaccines' safety, according to a study in Monday's Pediatrics. For example, even among parents who fully vaccinate their children, 28% believe that an alternate schedule — which spaces out vaccines to avoid giving several shots at once — is safer, the study says.

Health officials are concerned about the trend. Unvaccinated people have fueled an outbreak of measles, which sickened nearly 200 people in the first eight months of this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The USA also has battled outbreaks of whooping cough and mumps in the past two years.

The study's results reflect widespread skepticism and confusion about vaccine safety, fueled partly by a 1998 study in The Lancet linking vaccines to autism that has since been revealed to be fraudulent, says Ari Brown, a doctor and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
No, the new study does not say that the kids are at risk. It says:
Conclusions: More than 1 of 10 parents of young children currently use an alternative vaccination schedule. In addition, a large proportion of parents currently following the recommended schedule seem to be “at risk” for switching to an alternative schedule.
The only "risk" here is that the parent might not follow orders and stick to the schedule, not that any kids are at a health risk.

These articles always make a point of saying that a 1998 study was fraudulent. Whether or not that study was fraudelent has nothing to do with the safety of the vaccines or the vaccine schedule.

As I read this, the pediatricians are whining that parents do not always do exactly as they are told, and sometimes make their own decisions. More than any other profession, pediatricians like to treat adults as children.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Prohibition worked

The new PBS Ken Burns documentary Prohibition is showing. I heard Burns interviewed promoting it, and he said that before Prohibition, Americans consumed 5 to 7 times as much alcohol as we do today. He says that we were a nation of drunkards:
CORNISH: At the beginning of the documentary, you set the stage with a voice-over reading from a gentleman named Captain Frederick Marryat and his views on the American people's drinking habits in the 19th century. Let's have a listen:

JEREMY IRONS: (as Captain Frederick Marryat) They say the British cannot fix anything properly without a dinner, but I'm sure the Americans can fix nothing without a drink. If you meet, you drink. If you make acquaintance, you drink. If successful in elections, they drink and rejoice. If not, they drink and swear. They commence it early in life and they continue it until they soon drop into the grave.

CORNISH: Ken Burns, who was Captain Frederick Marryat and why was his general perception...


CORNISH: ...sound so close to what I might think about modern day America?


BURNS: Yeah, he was an astute British observer of our times. We were awash in alcohol in the 19th century. Our first of three episodes is called "A Nation of Drunkards." That's what we feared we were becoming, drinking five, six seven times the amount of alcohol that we consume today; towns littered with inebriates; asylums filling up with drunkards. And very understandably, a temperance movement was begun initially to drink less - a very understandable thing.
And yet people say that Prohibition did not work. Based on Burns, it appears that not only did Prohibition dramatically reduce alcohol consumption, we had a permanent reduction that continues to the present day.

Prohibition worked. People say otherwise, in order to promote the legalization of recreational drugs like marijuana and ecstasy.