Saturday, October 31, 2009

H-1B visa applications lowest since 2003

The Si Valley newpspaper reports:
More than six months after the federal government began accepting petitions for work visas popular with Silicon Valley companies, thousands of spots remain open, a reflection of the nation's high unemployment and the political pressure to hire citizens, experts say.

As of last week, 46,700 H-1B visa applications had been submitted, thousands less than the 65,000 allocated for fiscal year 2010 and the lowest number since 2003. The cap for 20,000 additional H-1B visas reserved for foreign graduates of U.S. colleges with at least a master's degree was met, though applications are still being accepted.

Tech industry insiders say the recession is primarily responsible for the dearth of applications. "There is definitely a sense that there is a growing hostility toward some of the (visa) programs, but I don't think that is related to the downturn" in petitions, said Jenifer Verdery, Intel's director of work force policy. "You are not going to see big ramp-ups in hiring during the downturn."
If the H-1B visas were used legitimately, then demand would not be dropping so much. The visas are supposed for short-term employment in specialty skills where no American is available. The need for such workers does not vary much with the ups and downs of the economy.

But nearly all of the H-1B workers only have skills that are readily available from USA workers. When there is a recession and high unemployment, American workers can be hired cheaply. When unemployment is low, those same skills are available in those same American workers, but it costs more to hire them. So foreign H-1B workers are attractive because they can be hired more cheaply.

I say that the phonyness of the H-1B program is proved by how sharply demand for H-1B visas varies with the unemployment rate.

Friday, October 30, 2009

High testosterone linked to miserly behaviour

I have finally learned why I am miserly -- too much testosterone! NewScientist reports:
"Our broad conclusion is that testosterone causes men essentially to be stingy," says Karen Redwine, a neuro-economist at Whittier College in California, who presented the work at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in Chicago last week.

A previous study of 17 City of London traders found that morning testosterone levels correlated with each day's gains and losses, with more of the hormone associated with a profit. ...

One biological factor could be the dynamics between testosterone and another hormone called oxytocin. Sometimes called the cuddle chemical, oxytocin also influences generosity. In a 2007 study, Zak's team found that oxytocin administration boosted generosity in the same game by 80 per cent.

Redwine notes that testosterone blocks the action of oxytocin in the brain. "It's possible that by creating these alpha males we actually inhibited oxytocin," she says.
Curious research coming from a woman named Redwine. Next she will be claiming that red wine is beneficial.

My testosterone has recovered since it took a hit after the last election:
Men who voted for Republican John McCain in last year's US presidential election saw their testosterone levels fall significantly when they learned he had lost to Barack Obama, a study showed Thursday.

Saliva samples collected from 163 men on the evening of the election showed that voters for both McCain and Obama had similar testosterone levels when polling stations closed on the east coast, but the levels in McCain backers fell when Obama was announced as the winner.

By contrast, testosterone levels among men who voted for Obama remained stable.
My guess is that a lot more of those Obama supporters are eating tofu.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Why the AMA favors

John Goodman writes:
People are fond of believing that the American Medical Association (AMA) represents physicians. But if representation follows revenues, the AMA’s most important customer is probably the federal government.

In1983, an agreement between the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) and the AMA made the AMA’s copyrighted Current Procedural Terminology codes (CPT) the sole coding system that could be used for billing Medicare.
The AMA used to get its money from membership dues, but now it gets $70M per year from CPT codes.

The 2001 codes are here. I don't see how a private company can claim to own some 5-digits used for Medicare billing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Baby Einstein a failure

The NY Times reports:
Parent alert: the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those ”Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses.

They may have been a great electronic baby sitter, but the unusual refunds appear to be a tacit admission that they did not increase infant intellect. ...

Baby Einstein, founded in 1997, was one of the earliest players in what became a huge electronic media market for babies and toddlers. Acquired by Disney in 2001, the company expanded to a full line of books, toys, flashcards and apparel, along with DVDs including “Baby Mozart,” “Baby Shakespeare” and “Baby Galileo.”
Of course it doesn't work. If the parents are stupid enough to buy that junk, then they probably have too low an IQ to have genius kids.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blogger defends Roman Polanski

A "Pro-Peace" blogger writes:
Legally, Roman Polanski admitted to consensual sex with a minor (statutory rape), he did not plead guilty to forcible rape. The reason given for the plea bargain by the family is that they did not want their daughter to go through the trauma of a trial. ...

One of the great evils of our age is the increasing ability of the State to pursue criminal charges without the consent of the victim which is the very antithesis of victims’ rights. It is evil. ...

Since she has forgiven him and most likely received a large sum of money it is now no longer the interest or concern of the State. ...
No, Polanski did not legally admit to consensual sex. He admitted to a crime. Consensual sex is not a crime.

I agree that the state should not pursue criminal charges against an adult
victim unless that adult victim complains. Many domestic violence advocates
have pushed for laws and processes that punish men even when the woman does
not complain. (A recent example of such punishment is here.) I disagree with that, but it has no resemblance to the Polanski case.

The Polanski victim complained, and Polanski was convicted. That ends the victim's obligation. Now it is the obligation of the state to make him serve the sentence corresponding to his conviction, and to prosecute him for being a fugitive.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Economist writes on global warming

There has been a lot of criticism of the new Levitt-Dubner Super-Freakonomics book. It seems like another case of experts giving opinions outside their expertise.

Levitt is an economist, but he is mostly famous for social science research
on abortion that turned out to be wrong, and for various things to make his
ideas more saleable to the public. I would not expect him to have anything useful to say about global warming anyway.

Levitt responds:
The statements being circulated create the false impression that our analysis of the global-warming crisis is ideological and unscientific. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I guess that means that he will post a substantive response.

Update: More criticism of Levitt here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New spanking study

A new spanking study (abstract available only) claims that child fussiness at age 1 leads to aggression at age 2 and low IQ at age 3, and all are correlated to spanking. These anti-spanking studies have been criticized by the WSJ and the American College of Pediatricians.

I don't doubt that these correlations exist. If you looked at adults, you would probably find that low IQ and aggressive behavior was correlated with being jailed. But that is not a reason to get rid of jails. It clarifies why we have the jails.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Harvey Milk Day

California news:
Slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk will get a special day of recognition in California, making him only the second person in state history — in addition to conservationist John Muir — to gain such a designation.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signing of the bill establishing "Harvey Milk Day" each May 22, Milk's birthday, was announced Monday. ...

Randy Thomasson, president of, said he was appalled by the governor's decision.

"Sadly, children in public schools will now have even more in-your-face, homosexual-bisexual-transsexual indoctrination," he said in a statement.
The schools are already indoctrinating students with false info, as you can see from today's Dear Abby letter:
DEAR ABBY: I am a 15-year-old girl who is losing the will to live. I am bisexual, but my parents are very anti-gay/lesbian, so I can't tell them about my sexual orientation. ...

DEAR HURTING: As you already know, your sexual orientation isn't something you chose. It is something you were born with, and your parents' disapproval -- as intimidating as it may be -- isn't going to change it. ...
No, there is no scientific proof that a bisexual orientation is ever determined in a 15-year-old girl, and certainly no proof that it was determined at birth. This is the sort of nonsense that California schools are going to teach on Harvey Milk Day.

I realize that there are people who claim to know such things to be true from personal experience. There are just as many who claim to know such things are false from personal experience. And a lot of smart academic scientists have done a lot of studies to try to prove that sexual orientation is determined at birth. All of those studies have failed.

Washing hands with warm water

The NY Times writes:
Soap and warm water have long been said to prevent the spread of infections, but is warm or hot water really more effective than cold? ...

“Temperature of water used for hand washing should not be guided by antibacterial effects but comfort,” they wrote, ...

Hot water for hand washing has not been proved to remove germs better than cold water.
There is something seriously wrong with this story. Removing germs is not the only purpose to washing hands.

I wash my hands to get rid of dirt, oils, and germs. I always thought that warm water was more effective at getting rid of dirt, not germs. This article does not even address whether the warm water is better for cleaning dirt, and yet it recommends cold water as being just as good.

This is a problem with a lot of science-based recommendations. Someone will quote a study, but the study may have only looked at one aspect of the matter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Outage has been restored

I lose electric power whenever there is a storm, and a company (PG&E) robot just called after a 3-hour outage and said (to my answering machine robot):
The outage in your area has been restored to most locations in your area.
This sounds like a near miss, which one usage dictionary says is not an error, despite its apparent lack of logic.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How calorie info influences choices

WSJ blogger Carl Bialik writes:
I wrote last summer about menu labeling of calorie counts, and questioned whether they would influence diners to make healthier choices. This week, a widely reported study of a New York City law mandating menu labeling in chain restaurants revealed that low-income diners didn’t order lower-calorie meals when confronted by the calorie counts, when compared with New York diners before the law was passed and with diners in Newark, which doesn’t have mandatory labeling. The study undercuts a major notion behind menu labeling: that, when confronted with mammoth calorie counts, diners will choose healthier options.
The researchers and experts were baffled at the study results.

I think that all of these articles miss the point. The most immediate effect to posting calorie info is that it allows the customer to calculate the cost of the calories. He can figure how many calories per dollar he can buy. Or if he needs 500 calories to satisfy his appetite, then he can choose the dish that gets him those calories most cheaply.

The obvious consequence of this is that low-income customers would use the info to buy more calories for their dollar. The high-income customers would not care so much.
It is like supermarket unit pricing. The low-income customers use the unit price labels to buy cheaper generic foods, while the high-income customers are more likely to ignore the unit price and buy a brand name.

This is exactly what the study shows.

The experts make the mistake is that they assume that poor people will think that low calorie dishes are healthier, and therefore be willing to pay more money for them. That seems crazy to me. The low calorie dishes are not necessarily healthier, and the poor are the least likely to pay extra for them even if they were. If poor people want to cut calories, they just buy less and eat less.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Why Obama got the prize

Roissy has a theory. Pres. Obama was elected by bitter unmarried women, and Norwegian women gave him the prize. Sailor call it the The Affirmative Action Nobel. I think that Obama is becoming a caricature of himself.

Foreign born prize winners

San Jose Mercury News columnist Chris O'Brien writes:
If you're looking for reasons to puff out your chest and take pride in being American, then take note that the first six Nobel Prize winners announced this week are U.S. citizens.

Here's something else you should know: Four of those winners were born outside the U.S. ...

However you feel about the H-1B visas that our tech companies hunger for, or the swarms of bodies crossing our borders to pick our crops, these hot-button topics obscure the reality: We need these immigrants to renew our economy and to prosper. Our demonization of them is shameful.
And now the Nobel Peace Prize winner is a US citizen from Hawaii and Indonesia!

O'Brien's argument is debunked by VDARE.

The first thing you notice about Chris O'Brien is that you cannot tell whether he is a man or a woman from either his name or his picture. (His picture is always in the print edition, but not online on his blog.)

O'Brien's biggest story as a SJMN reporter was his page one story that the Microsoft takeover of Yahoo was a done deal. Not just an intention, but a certainty. No, the takeover never happened. He has been wrong on a lot of other issues also.

His argument is absurd. H-1B visas do not goto potential Nobel prize winners. They goto wage slaves doing grunt work in order to displace American workers.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Reading nonsense makes you smarter

The NY Timesreports:
In the most recent paper, published last month, Dr. Proulx and Dr. Heine described having 20 college students read an absurd short story based on “The Country Doctor,” by Franz Kafka. The doctor of the title has to make a house call on a boy with a terrible toothache. He makes the journey and finds that the boy has no teeth at all. The horses who have pulled his carriage begin to act up; the boy’s family becomes annoyed; then the doctor discovers the boy has teeth after all. And so on. The story is urgent, vivid and nonsensical — Kafkaesque.

After the story, the students studied a series of 45 strings of 6 to 9 letters, like “X, M, X, R, T, V.” They later took a test on the letter strings, choosing those they thought they had seen before from a list of 60 such strings. In fact the letters were related, in a very subtle way, with some more likely to appear before or after others.

The test is a standard measure of what researchers call implicit learning: knowledge gained without awareness. The students had no idea what patterns their brain was sensing or how well they were performing.

But perform they did. They chose about 30 percent more of the letter strings, and were almost twice as accurate in their choices, than a comparison group of 20 students who had read a different short story, a coherent one.

“The fact that the group who read the absurd story identified more letter strings suggests that they were more motivated to look for patterns than the others,” Dr. Heine said. “And the fact that they were more accurate means, we think, that they’re forming new patterns they wouldn’t be able to form otherwise.”
This sounds bogus to me, and the research report is not online. If it checks out, maybe I will post some nonsense for my readers' benefit.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Sorry State Of Psychotherapy

The high-status psychologists badmouth their colleagues who got their degrees from second-rate colleges:
Where's The Science? The Sorry State Of Psychotherapy

ScienceDaily (Oct. 3, 2009) — The prevalence of mental health disorders in this country has nearly doubled in the past 20 years. Who is treating all of these patients? Clinical psychologists and therapists are charged with the task, but many are falling short by using methods that are out of date and lack scientific rigor. This is in part because many of the training programs—especially some Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) programs and for-profit training centers—are not grounded in science. ...

For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be the most effective treatment for PTSD and has the fewest side-effects, yet many psychologists do not use this method. Baker and colleagues cite one study in which only 30 percent of psychologists were trained to perform CBT for PTSD and only half of those psychologists elected to use it. ... whereas medications such as Paxil have shown 25 to 50 percent relapse rates.
They also badmouth prescription drugs, as they don't have licenses to prescribe drugs.

Meanwhile, those quacks who can prescribe drugs tell a different story:
According to Nutt, few psychotherapy trials meet the requirements demanded of drug tests, and even those that do frequently show that psychotherapy performs no better -- and often worse -- than pharmacological interventions. What is more, he points out, many psychotherapy trials do not even consider the possibility that their treatment could harm. Yet all therapists should be aware that therapy can have adverse effects on some patients and a major part of psychotherapy training is how to deal with issues such as counter-transference that can mediate these negative effects.
I am not sure about the drugs, but I do agree that the psychologist study is not scientific if it does not even recognize the possibility of a treatment doing harm.

New childrearing book

A new book, NurtureShock, offers scientific evidence on child rearing, reviewed here:
Frequent and oft-undeserved rewards in the form of praise, the authors caution, deprive a child of motivation and discourage persistence. “It’s a neuro­biological fact,” they write, pointing to studies of M.R.I. scans and trained rodents. True, but far from new. Albeit without the sci-techy benefit of brain imaging, in 1964, “Children: The Challenge,” a popular manual of the day, warned, “Praise, as a means of encouragement, must be used very cautiously.” It can be “dangerous” if a child sees praise as a reward and “could easily lead to discouragement,” the author, Rudolf Dreikurs, noted.
People probably had more common sense in 1964. It is since then that there had been a big fad to overpraise kids for everything.

The review goes on:
One of the most valuable chapters looks at how white parents deal with race. For those who think it best to describe Caucasians as “pinkish white” and blacks as “brown skinned” (raise your hands, Upper West Siders), recent research delivers a strong rebuke. Pretending race doesn’t exist leaves young children to form their own — often racist — opinions.
This is funny. Brainwash your kids, or they might figure things out for themselves.