Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Professor against teaching math

Political science professor Andrew Hacker writes:
Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, we’re actually depleting our pool of brainpower. I say this as a writer and social scientist whose work relies heavily on the use of numbers. ...

California’s two university systems, for instance, consider applications only from students who have taken three years of mathematics and in that way exclude many applicants who might excel in fields like art or history. Community college students face an equally prohibitive mathematics wall. A study of two-year schools found that fewer than a quarter of their entrants passed the algebra classes they were required to take.

“There are students taking these courses three, four, five times,” says Barbara Bonham of Appalachian State University. While some ultimately pass, she adds, “many drop out.” ...

It’s clear that requiring algebra for everyone has not increased our appreciation of a calling someone once called “the poetry of the universe.” (How many college graduates remember what Fermat’s dilemma was all about?) ...

I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures. Why not mathematics in art and music — even poetry — along with its role in assorted sciences? The aim would be to treat mathematics as a liberal art, making it as accessible and welcoming as sculpture or ballet. If we rethink how the discipline is conceived, word will get around and math enrollments are bound to rise. It can only help. ...

Yes, young people should learn to read and write and do long division, whether they want to or not. But there is no reason to force them to grasp vectorial angles and discontinuous functions.
The schools have already quit teaching long division. But what could he have against vectorial angles and discontinuous functions?

No one remembers "Fermat’s dilemma" because there is no such thing!

It makes more sense to abolish the political science departments. I agree more with the character in the Heinlein novel who said:
Anyone who cannot cope with Mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Google keeps all data

NPR radio reports:
We told you before about the Google Street View vehicles that illegally collected data from unprotected Wi-Fi devices while they took pictures of the streets in Europe, Australia and the United States.

We told you that the cars slurped passwords and emails and pictures and web searches. We told you about the apology and the fact that Britain found Google broke laws. We also told you that Google later revealed that the snooping was not accidental.

Today, Google dropped another bombshell by way of a letter to Britain's Information Commissioner's Office.

The AP reports that the company admits that it has kept a "small portion" of the 600 gigabytes of personal data it collected and had promised to delete back in 2010.
Google does not believe in deleting anything. Ever. Just assume that Google is spying on you, and will be doing so for the rest of your life. Get used to it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blaming math teachers

From today's newspaper advice:
Dear Annie: ... My son is a university student. His major requires that he take several math classes. In every class, the professor is his worst teacher ... As a result, he does poorly.

... What is it about college math professors that makes them unfeeling, unhelpful and uncaring? Why can't universities get them to treat their students better and be more helpful? — Cape Coral, Fla.
I have met many people who admit to doing poorly in mathematics, and blame it all on the personality of teacher they had once. They only seem to have this attitude about math, and not other subjects.

Monday, July 23, 2012

PSU sanctions punish the innocent

ESPN TV reports:
The NCAA has hit Penn State with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998, the organization said Monday morning. The career record of Joe Paterno will reflect these vacated records, the NCAA said.

Penn State also must reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.
Wow, that is extreme. It would make almost as much sense to punish the Univ. of Colorado for James Eagan Holmes shooting people at the Batman movie.

The NCAA statement of punishment (pdf) says:
Some coaches, administrators nad football program staff members ignored the red flags of Sandusky's behaviors and no one warned the public about him.

By not promptly and fully advising the Board of Trustees about the 1998 and 2001 child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky and the subsequent Grand Jury investigation of him, Spanier failed in his duties as President.
It also says that while "Spanier, Schultz, Paterno and Curley provided various explanations for their deficient conduct", it was "more reasonable to conlude" that they were trying to avoid bad publicity. Among causes, it complains that:
the University maintained a culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community.
This is crazy. The main red flag was that any man is a suspect nowadays if he is dedicated to helping kids. Especially a man who writes a book about it.

It is not clear to me why the public and the trustees need to be warned about police and grand jury investigations, when those investigations were failing to find criminal evidence against an ex-employee.

The NCAA report says that his is a one-time punishment that is unlikely to ever be applied again to any other case. I think that is correct. This is a witchhunt where no one is allowed to defend the accused. In retrospect, the Trustees should have been notified of anything that would become such a disaster, but the officials did not know of any crimes. Just red flags. The PSU president agreed to this penalty, but that does not make it right. Perhaps he felt that he had to do it to avoid a harsher penalty, as he has admitted, or he wanted to justify himself replacing the previous president, or he is just a spineless tool. At any rate, the punishment is entirely directed at those who were completely innocent. Paterno is dead, and Sandusky is in prison. The current PSU students and staff had nothing to do with the allegations.

Spanier issued a letter saying:
As I have stated in the clearest possible terms, at no time during my presidency did anyone ever report to me that Jerry Sandusky was observed abusing a child or youth or engaged in a sexual act with a child or youth.
Paterno is dead now, but he testified that he never even heard a rumor that Sandusky was a child molester:
Q: Other than the incident that Mike McQueary reported to you, do you know in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky with young boys?

A: I do not know of anything else that Jerry Sandusky would be involved in, no. I do not know of it. You did mention—I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don't know. I don't remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor.
Freeh spent $6.5M investigating this claim, but found no witness or document to contradict it, except for recovered memories of McQueary that the Sandusky jury did not believe. If there really were a rumor that Sandusky was a child molester, then I would expect emails to have alluded to it.

The NCAA sanctions are not based on facts, fairness, reason, or due process. It is based on hearsay about what is "more reasonable to conlude", on lawyers and others seeking to profit from Paterno's demise, on others who are piling on, and on schadenfreude. That is a German word meaning pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.

There are leftists, academics, feminists, and others who have always hated the Penn State football program for its success on and off the field. For them, the program is symbolic of the American patriarchy. They hate it when boys and men excel in a male activity like football.

Update: David Post writes:
The NCAA is ordering the taxpayers of Pennsylvania, because of the misdeeds of their agents, to set up an endowment program for preventing child sexual abuse and fund it to the tune of sixty million dollars?? And oh, by the way, taxpayers of Pennsylvania: you can take it out of lab space, computers, and teaching salaries, but YOU MAY NOT PAY THIS FINE BY REDUCING CURRENT SPENDING ON ATHLETICS! ...

Allegations of sexual misconduct with children are extremely serious and should be handled by the appropriate professionals. The football coach is not the appropriate professional and should not be actively involved–even if people think he is God. Especially if people think he is God. How can there be a fair and objective investigation if God is butting in?
So even tho the reports complain about a pro-sports culture, the sanctions require that the sports spending continue at the high levels. And I agree that Paterno did the right thing by allowing police to handle the criminal matter, and other university officials to handle university policy.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Barry Bonds appeal

AP reports:
Prosecutors on Thursday urged a federal appeals court to uphold former major league slugger Barry Bonds's obstruction of justice conviction. ...

A jury found Bonds guilty in April 2011 but couldn't decide on three other charges of making false statements, which prosecutors then decided not to pursue. ...

Prosecutors countered Thursday the obstruction conviction, which was known as "count five" of his indictment, arose from a "catch all" charge that alleged Bonds' entire testimony was meant to mislead the grand jury investigating sports doping.

"Contrary to Bonds's attempts to interpret it as such, Count Five did not charge him with the act of obstructing justice through particular statements he made to the grand jury, but through intentionally evasive, false, and misleading testimony," prosecutor Merry Jean Chan wrote.
A "catch all" charge? That's the feds' best argument? If the feds are going to imprison Bonds for lying, then they ought to be able to produce some example of a lie. Apparently they cannot.

As I have argued, Bonds was convicted and sentenced not for lying, but for giving an evasive answer to a question. It appears from the transcript that Bonds misunderstood the question, and the prosecutor accepted his answer as complete. Under US law, even a deliberately evasive answer cannot be perjury. It was the proscutor's responsibility to ask a direct question.

Nearly everyone seems to agree that Bonds is guilty, and yet no one can specify exactly what he is guilty of. The 9th Circuit should reverse his conviction.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Identifying the low caste

BBC reports:
Officials in India are investigating claims that staff at a private school deliberately humiliated poorer children it was legally obliged to take in.

Parents of four children at the school in Bangalore complained that staff cut off tufts of their hair and denied them the same uniform as other students.

The children are reportedly from low-caste Hindu communities, enrolled under a recent anti-discrimination law.
In the USA, we would not cut off a tuft of hair. We would just wait for them to get themselves tattoos! Miley Cyrus just got her 15th tattoo. Justin Bieber also has tattoos.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

James defends Paterno

I am happy to see that Bill James has the guts to defend Joe Paterno. Nearly everyone blames Paterno, but no one can explain what he did wrong. I am unimpressed with the Freeh report.

Sandusky was caught showering with a boy in 1998, and the incident was reported to police who decided that no crime was committed. Paterno had Sandusky fired anyway. McQueary reported another shower incident in 2001 to Paterno, who passed the report to higher authorities. There is no witness or document at the time saying that McQueary saw a crime. Penn State banned Sandusky from bringing kids on campus anyway.

In Paterno's 2011 testimony, he appeared to not remember the 1998 incident, but he may not have been lying because he was not asked directly about it.

In retrospect, many argue that it should have been obvious that Sandusky fit the profile of a homosexual child molester. Maybe so, but why was that Paterno's responsibility? There were 100s of people who knew Sandusky better than Paterno, and none of them could figure it out. That includes police, district attorneys, parents, and social service workers. Paterno was just a college football coach.

I believe that most people cannot think rationally when there is a mob attack on someone. The media is ganging up on Paterno, and it is fueled by (1) anti-homosexual child abuse hysteria, (2) lawyers suing because Penn State has deep pockets, and (3) leftist-feminists who think that football symbolizes the evil patriarchy.

James has been ordered by his employer to keep quiet about Paterno, so you will not hear any more defense of him.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Evolutionists against group selection

Perhaps the hottest dispute in science is whether evolution acts at the gene level, or also at the group level. Defenses of group evolution are in the current Sci Am (print only) and by E.O. Wilson in the NY Times. It is attacked by Steve Pinker and Jerry Coyne. Pinker is criticized by Gelman and others.

E.O. Wilson spent most of his career studying ants, and became a big-shot by speculating generalizations to human beings. So he thinks of human cultures as being like ant colonies. He admits that his current positions is contrary to what he has said for many years, but he does not address others who say he is wrong today.

If group selection applies to humans, then the most well-documented example is that of Jews. According to K. MacDonald, the evolutionary strategy only works because Jews teach it to those within the group, and deny it to those outside the group. Pinker is Jewish, so he would have to deny it. He wrote:
MacDonald's various theses, even if worthy of scientifically debate individually, collectively add up to a consistently invidious portrayal of Jews, ... Of course I have not plowed through MacDonald's trilogy and therefore run the complementary risks of being unfair to his arguments ...
As argued here, Pinker is a Jewish atheist whose last book has a sharply anti-Christian bias to it. His view is more ideology than science.

Group selection is just one of several evolution principles that leftist intellectuals deny. They also deny that IQ exists and is heritable, that humans have evolved in the last 50k years, that racial diffences exist, besides skin color, and that human sexes are different, besides the obvious. A core principle of evolution is that traits develop by being heritable, and by groups with advantageous traits outcompeting others. This applies to humans just like plants and animals.

The leftist magazine The Nation complains:
Do you know what the worst thing about the recent Gallup poll on evolution is? It isn’t that 46 percent of respondents are creationists ...

It’s that the proportion of college graduates who are creationists is exactly the same as for the general public. ...

It’s useful for us as a species to understand that we are a recent appearance on this planet and that 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct.
The complaint is not so much about what the public understands, but that they have not adopted a suitably leftist worldview.

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that liberals have trouble understanding certain concepts because that have a crippled moral sense. While more academics are liberals, they fail to appreciate basic moral values.

Another evolution-related controversy is free will. Besides Sam Harris (video), his fellow new-atheist religion-haters Jerry Coyne and Victor Stenger adamantly argue that science shows that Free will is an illusion. They say that a leftist atheistic scientific worldview requires believing that everything in the universe was determined in the first second of the big bang. No, this is another thing that evolutionists get wrong. There is no more scientific reason to doubt free will than there was when theologians debated it centuries ago.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A calorie is a calorie

Food journalist Gary Taubes writes:
A CALORIE is a calorie. This truism has been the foundation of nutritional wisdom and our beliefs about obesity since the 1960s.

What it means is that a calorie of protein will generate the same energy when metabolized in a living organism as a calorie of fat or carbohydrate. When talking about obesity or why we get fat, evoking the phrase “a calorie is a calorie” is almost invariably used to imply that what we eat is relatively unimportant. We get fat because we take in more calories than we expend; we get lean if we do the opposite. Anyone who tells you otherwise, by this logic, is trying to sell you something.

But not everyone buys this calorie argument, and the dispute erupted in full force again last week.
He refers to this JAMA research study and editorial. But this study does not contradict the idea that we get fat because we take in more calories than we expend.

When people lose weight by dieting, their metabolism slows down somewhat. That can make continued weight loss difficult. This study looked at how dietary far influences metabolism after weight loss. Interesting, but not contrary to thermodynamics.

Different types of food are metabolized differently. It is still true that if you burn all the calories you eat, then you will not get fat. Taubes writes useful reporting on food research, but I don't know why he keeps arguing that a calorie is not a calorie.

Also I happened to notice this govt report that says that Prohibition worked:
Alcohol consumption declined dramatically during prohibition. Cirrhosis death rates for men were 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 and 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to State mental hospitals for alcoholic psychosis declined from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928. ...

Following the repeal of prohibition, alcohol consumption increased. Prohibition did not end alcohol use, but it did succeed in reducing, by one-third, the consumption of a product that had wide historical and popular sanction.
It is funny how everyone says that alcohol prohibition didn't work, but there never have any data to back up the claim.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Penn State report

There is a new Freeh report on the Penn State sex abuse scandal. One of its main findings is that Penn State "should have recognized the potential risk ... to the University's reputation." It also accuses the university of concealing facts "in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity". This seems contradictory to me. It is plausible that Penn State fully realized the risk, and was trying to avoid a public impression that the situation was worse than it really was.

Lawyer Tom Kline bragged on Fox News TV that the report is a "road map" for how he will collect millions of dollars in a lawsuit against Penn State.

I don't see a smoking gun. This report was held up until after Sandusky's conviction, so that it could refer to certain allegations as facts. But even if you accept the jury's findings, the most damaging allegation against Penn State is from McQueary about "victim 2", but the jury did not believe that and acquitted on that count.

The big issue is whether Penn State knew that Sandusky committed crimes. While lots of people argue that it should have been obvious that any man must be a child molester if he likes kids, starts a charity for boys, and writes a book titled, "Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story". But multiple govt investigations spent years on the case before bringing charges, and they only brought charges after McQueary changed his story and a couple of victims mysteriously had recovered memories. I think that McQueary is lying to save his own skin, and that Penn State officials are unlikely to have known about crimes.

This case is all about destroying Penn State football, and making taxpayers pay millions to lawyers.

Meanwhile in California, another alleged victim was not convicted because of a jury nullification:
Will Lynch, acquitted in the beating of a priest he says raped him as a child, won't face a second trial, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday. ...

Prosecutors had argued that although they believed that Rev. Jerold Lindner molested Lynch and his 4-year-old brother in the mid-1970s on a camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains, his repugnant act didn't justify Lynch's "vigilante" attack. ...

Lindner, now 67, briefly took the stand in the trial to deny abusing Lynch before invoking his right not to incriminate himself. That has become the subject of a possible perjury charge, which Rosen's office said it is exploring.
The original allegation was never reported. In 1998, Lynch had a recovered memory of an incident in 1974 or 1975, and his family collected about a million dollars in a settlement. Some others also made allegations against Lindner, and collected monetary settlements.

We are never going to find out what happened in 1974. Even if Lynch were abused, he got paid off, and supposedly settled the matter. It is strange that jurors excused a revenge beating for a 1974 incident that cannot be verified. It is also strange for prosecutors to consider a perjury charge. Perjury means lying about a material fact. Both the prosecution and the defense stipulated that a molestation took place, so Lindner's testimony was not material to the case against Lynch.

I think that child abuse cases are the modern witch trials.

In other witchhunt news:
Federal civil-rights investigators interviewed dozens of George Zimmerman's friends, neighbors and co-workers, and no one said he was a racist, records released Thursday show.

FBI agents spread out across the state, talking to three dozen people, including gun-shop employees, Zimmerman's ex-fiancée and the Sanford police detective who led the investigation into the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old.

None said he or she had ever known him to show racial bias.
Since when do the feds go around digging for dirt on personal beliefs? It is not a crime to have some racist opinions. It should not be, anyway.

Update: Apparently racism thought is a crime in the UK. A soccer player was just on trial in London, as delicately described by the NY Times:
The case rested on whether Mr. Terry, who during a game last year used the word “black” when addressing Mr. Ferdinand in the midst of a heated exchange of insulting profanities, had meant it as a slur. ...

Mr. Ferdinand then tauntingly reminded Mr. Terry that he had, to paraphrase, illicitly slept with the girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, another player.

The court heard that Mr. Ferdinand enhanced his remark by making what Mr. Terry told the police was “an obscene gesture of a sexual nature,” whereupon Mr. Terry responded with a different gesture meant to suggest, he explained, that “Anton had bad breath.” ...

As the argument on the field became more heated, Mr. Terry at one point compared Mr. Ferdinand to male genitalia, and then to female genitalia, in consecutive sentences. ...

Mr. Terry does not deny that in the course of all this he used a racially offensive remark, inserting the word “black” between a rude adjective and a rude noun that had already seen a great deal of play in the exchange. But, he said, he was merely using the “rhetorical” device of repeating what he (mistakenly, it appears) believed Mr. Ferdinand had accused him of saying in the first place. He added that he often repeated other players’ insults back to them, as a matter of style. ...

The complaint that led to the criminal case was made not by Mr. Ferdinand but by an off-duty police officer who saw the game on television.

“Why not just say, ‘Anton, calm down?’ ” Mr. Penny asked.
This is crazy. It sounds as if the word "black" was the least insulting thing said. Is there something wrong with being black? Why do they take complaints from an off-duty cop watching TV?

Meanwhile, I am disturbed by a few more things about the Freeh report. Besides the above, you can get it at www.freehsporkinsullivan.com or thefreehreportonpsu.com/.

First, Penn State paid him $6.5 million. That is a huge amount of money to recapitulate info that almost all in the newspapers already.

Freeh claims that the report info is attorney-client privileged. [p.9, bottom] That means that he is concealing info in order to protect the interests of the client, Penn State. This is very odd, considering that the main accusation is against others who concealed info to protect the interests of Penn State.

The report complains about others not having a better conflict-of-interest policy. But the report leaves open the possibility that the lawyers who wrote the report will directly profit from their opinions by joining in lawsuits against Penn State.

The report brags about 430 interviews, but it did not interview McQueary, the only non-victim witness of abuse. Much of the report depends on McQueary's credibility. Why do we need Freeh's opinion, if all he has is the same conflicting McQueary statements that appeared in the newspaper?

As a sports writer points out:
Like other internal investigations, Freeh's was conducted under an imperfect set of rules for obtaining evidence and uncovering the truth. For one, those interviewed by Freeh were not under oath. Even if they knowingly lied, they could not have committed perjury or the crime of lying to government officials. While witnesses likely had other motivations to tell the truth, the absence of a legal threat is significant. This is especially true if witnesses had reasons to lie, such as to keep a job or preserve a public reputation.
The report reads like a one-sided lawyer's argumentative brief. There is very little recognition that there could be another side to the argument, that key witnesses could be lying, that supporting witnesses have incentives to lie, and that allegations may not be facts. The report might have been fairer if it got input from Joe Paterno's family.

I can only assume that this is the way the current Penn State management has decided is best to deal with their public relations nightmare. That is, make a dead man and a couple of others into scapegoats and let the taxpayers pay the damages.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Bus monitor gets fortune

AP reports:
NEW YORK (AP) — The upstate New York school bus monitor who was bullied by four seventh-graders says she's satisfied that they're being suspended for a year. ...

A fund drive that began with a goal of $5,000 to help Klein take a nice vacation raised more than $667,000 as of Friday.

She hasn't decided yet whether to return to her job

"I don't know, I just don't know," she said, adding, "I'm going to invest and I don't need to work."
This story is ridiculous. The woman was a bus monitor, not an innocent victim. If she cannot handle insults from 12-year-olds, then she should be fired and replaced by someone who can do the job. It must be nice to get $667k for listening to 10 minutes of insults.