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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

TRYING CUPID

"I will sum it up. Online dating is waste of time for men and most women."

Having tried to find love online and finding only pain, I strongly advise people avoid the experience completely. I'm not joking. However, there will always be those who try, and a recent experiment by Jon Millward helps support my findings.

He took pictures of 5 guys and 5 girls and gave them all exactly the same gender-neutral profile as much as possible (other than some statistics). They all had the same write ups, the same answers to questions and so on, wherever possible. The pictures ranged from not very attractive to quite so. He posted them all in pairs in 5 different cities, and waited.

He found out exactly what I have seen: guys get virtually no responses from women. Women just don't take the first step and reach out to a guy, period. They will use a guy's profile to analyze a message they get from him, but will almost never take the first step. Here's how the messages broke down after a week:

Message CountYeah.

Millward shifted the dating pool to the UK to test that, and found the discrepency was even greater: the women got 20 times as many messages as the guys, and the messages to the guys were the same as the fingers on your hand after a week. In the UK, women are even less likely to reach out and contact a guy.

I suspect there's a variety of reasons why women won't send guys messages. Probably part of it is just the usual "let him make the first move" thing that is part of being a woman. Its rare women will take that first step; they just aren't as aggressive or risk-taking and do not want to be the one who hangs themselves out to take abuse or rejection. Second, I think that just being on a dating site makes women feel insecure and uncomfortable, so going around messaging guys feels even more pathetic and desperate, which nobody wants to feel.

And third, there's some danger in reaching out to a stranger. Every single thing they say on that profile can be a lie - and in this case, it was. Making that first move exposes you to potential risk, which is significantly less of a risk for guys. Yes, she might be psychotic, but physically speaking women are in more danger from guys than the opposite, on average.

But the truth is, if you're a guy on these things, you're going to have to make the moves, and make them well.

And second, if you don't have a "hot" picture - show your bod, preferably some clevage or bikini shot - you're going to get a lot less attention from the guys. There are two reasons for this, from a man's perspective. First, most guys on these things are after nookie, not a relationship, so they're looking for the highest quality product they can sample. They want a hottie, someone preferably out of their dating class if at all possible.


Second, a shot of just a face can be incredibly misleading. There are some really cute girls:

with less-than-cute bodies.

A face shot can hide a lot, and that matters a lot to most men. Its no different from women, having a cute face but a flabby or bloated body makes women go "eww" too. Life isn't fair. So a picture of a girl like this, who is pretty cute and young makes guys uncertain:

But a picture of a woman like this who is a little older but shows more, makes guys more confident:

And as you can see, contestant number 2 got more photos than number one.

Similarly, I think women who see a guy who looks like this:

More interesting than a guy who looks like this:

Because guy 2 seems too attractive, possibly too self absorbed. Any man who looks like that, they figure, wouldn't need to go online for dating. Guy 1 seems like maybe more real and probably an honest picture but 1? Maybe not. So you see that guy 1 got the most letters of any of the guy choices (but a miniscule amount) while guy 2 got the second most.

Guys are willing to take the chance that a picture is fake, or just are living the dream. Women seem more cautious about this, and untrusting, probably from past experience with lying men.

Here's the thing. People lie on dates, even if they don't mean to. They're at their most charming, friendly, and trying to be their best. They don't look like that alone at home. They don't act like that with their buddies. They might be nice enough, but people are in a certain role, performing an act while dating. So to a certain extent, they aren't being totally honest.

But in person, you can see their act more easily, you can listen to the tone of their voice, watch how they treat others, and so on. In person, you can more readily find a falsehood than online. And people tend to lie outrageously online. Jon Millward lists some statistics
  • While online daters rate their photos as relatively accurate, independent judges rate approximately 1/3 of the photographs as not accurate.[1]
  • • Female photographs are judged as less accurate than male photographs, and are more likely to be older, to be retouched or taken by a professional photographer.[1]
  • • Men lie more about their height, and women lie more about their weight, with people farther from the average lying more.[2]
  • • In a survey of online dating users, over 80% of participants registered concerns that others misrepresent themselves.[2]
The truth of the matter is that you're much better off if you find someone you know or can get to know organically - at work, at church, in social groups, at hobbies, etc - than someone you don't know and try to learn about through dating... or a computer profile. Yes, a lot of relationships start these days with online dating. Few survive any form of dating, and I suspect online, the ratio is even worse.

SHOW ME THE FUNNY

Sir Alexander Dane: Could they be the miners?
Fred Kwan: Sure, they're like three years old.
Sir Alexander Dane: MINERS, not MINORS.
Fred Kwan: You lost me.

Humor is very subjective. There is much in life which people think is totally up to each person which is not (beauty, for instance), but humor really is up to each person. What I find hilarious you might shrug at. Some people find the TV cartoon Archer hilarious and I just chuckle once in a while at it.

That said, there are some things that people find really funny almost without exception, and that results in a lot of success. Comedians like Eddie Murphy and Jeff Foxworthy have made millions due to that factor.

So here's a list of the movies that make me laugh the hardest, the funniest, most entertaining movies I've ever seen. There might be funny movies out there I have not and should see, but this is my list. I would try to list them in order, but its nearly impossible.
  • Blazing Saddles - almost flawless, although the ending is bizarre and silly
  • Galaxy Quest - so many quotable lines, just makes me laugh so hard
  • Naked Gun - The sequel is just as funny, and the third one has some great moments, too
  • Stripes - Again, quotable, although the end with the war winabego is odd
  • Airplane - for extra laughs, watch a few of the Airport movies first
  • Duck Soup - Marx Brothers at their best
  • Better Off Dead - so quotable, so funny. I can't believe I forgot this movie.
  • Caddyshack - Again, so many quotable lines
  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - hilarious spoof of detective novel
  • Animal House - Quotable lines, great moments, and a genre-creating movie
  • Hot Fuzz - I laughed so hard I was weeping
  • A Fish Called Wanda - Still incredibly hilarious
  • Ghostbusters - More quotes per scene than almost any movie.
  • Office Space - Especially funny if you've worked in an office
  • Super Troopers - Hilarious from beginning to end
  • High Anxiety - Mel Brooks' second funniest movie, it does to suspense thrillers what Blazing Saddles did to westerns
  • Tommy Boy - So much promise, a new "road to" pair.
  • Up In Smoke - Drug humor usually leaves me bored, but these guys were genuinely funny
  • A Shot in the Dark - And the Pink Panther franchise is born
  • Liar, Liar - Jim Carrey at his best, such a fun movie
  • A Night at the Opera - Marx brothers having so much fun its addictive
  • Beerfest - Das BOOOOOT!!!
  • The Road to Bali - Hard to really pick just one, they're all so much fun. And roughly the same movie.
  • The Bank Dick - WC Fields, kids, family troubles, and just having fun
  • Happy Gilmore - the bleeped out swearing scene is funnier than any ten jokes with foul language
  • Austin Powers - Not as funny as it thinks it is, but still lots of fun
  • Bowfinger - hilarious sendup of Hollywood, and the last time Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin were funny
Then there are movies that are very funny but aren't comedies. Films that have very funny parts or are hilarious but are also dramatic, even scary at times. These can be funnier than comedies in parts, but aren't really comedic overall.
  • The Thin Man - The book is just as funny, if not more so.
  • Oh Brother Where Art Thou - And the music is wonderful
  • 48 Hours - The beginning of buddy cop movies
  • Broadcast News - So many great lines and such a great satire of news media
  • Groundhog Day - Wonderful movie, one of the best
  • Steamboat Bill, jr - Unbelievable stunts mixed with fun
  • My Man Godfrey - One of the best movies ever, such a lovable film
  • This Is Spinal Tap - Loads of fun
  • Trading Places - Eddie Murphy really did used to make funny movies
  • Beverly Hills Cop - honest
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - Sometimes quite sad, but overall hilarious
  • Singin In The Rain - Best musical ever, plus the adorable young Debbie Reynolds
  • Raising Arizona - Cohen brothers' first film, and its terrific
Then there are movies I found incredibly funny but disturbing at the same time. The disgusting or unnecessarily foul parts detracted from the overall enjoyment for me and I can't really list them up with the rest of the comedies. Some on the list come close (Caddyshack, for instance) but squeak by. All of these were flawed by parts of an otherwise great film.
  • Tropic Thunder - Overall hilarious and well done but Jack Black's character was utterly needless and not funny.
  • Team America: World Police - Were all those scenes really necessary?
  • South Park movie - Very funny but again, you went too far.
  • Kingpin - Yeah, well. Funny but wow. You went there.
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back - lots of funny bits, but too many I'd be ashamed to admit I saw.
You really can be funny without gratuitous sex and profanity. Honest.

WHY ISN'T THIS NEWS?

"There is nothing wrong in this command that we can't fix ourselves."
-General Caldwell

Military Hospital Victim
A poster of the Bill of Rights from the US Constitution was torn down from the wall and lay in pieces on the floor, supposedly taken down "to prepare for painting." One patient died from gangrene in his wounds. Patients had drains inserted without anesthetic, surgery with no analgesics while semi conscious, surgery was done in semi sterile environments, feces were found on the floor with open containers collecting blood draining from their bodies. And much, much worse. Bandages left for more than a week untended. The stench of rotting sores.

Cuba? Some third world hell hole? No, Afghanistan. An Afghani medical hospital for wounded civilians in Afghanistan, to be precise. Dawood Military Hospital was funded by American dollars, built by US Soldiers, and run by Afghanis. The wounded in Afghanistan were sent and suffered in nearly unspeakable conditions. Buzzfeed has a series of photos and information. I caution you strongly: do not go there if you have a weak stomach or are eating. It is ghastly at a level rarely seen.

Lt. General William B. Caldwell stonewalled reporting on the hospital - the only way to get changes made - until after the November elections. "How could we make this request with elections coming? [President Obama] calls me Bill." One of the three Colonels who made this report said
"General Caldwell had the request withdrawn and postponed until after the election and then, after the election, tried to intimidate his subordinates into a consensus that it need not move forward at all.

"Lt. Gen. Caldwell screamed at these three officers, waving his finger at them for trying to bring in the DOD IG."
The colonels involved are convinced that the delay was due to personal politics, a general seeking to better - or at least not harm - his career. Colonel Geller was asked if he had any reason to believe General Caldwell had delayed investigation, he responded "any reason to believe? I know it for a fact.’”

This makes Abu Ghraib look pathetic. One weekend of making a terrorist suspect humiliated and afraid for a trio of sick perverts to get their jollies, almost immediately reported and acted on? Six months of coverage blaming Bush. Three YEARS of suffering, dying victims, literally rotting and starving in a hospital? Crickets. The Lt General was afraid this might hurt the Obama administration before an election; he needn't have been concerned. This is being virtually stonewalled by the press.

And worse, nobody else seems to want to talk about it, either. Not blogs, not the new media, not anyone. Has Rush Limbaugh even mentioned this? Has it been on Hot Air? Drudge touched on it, but its gone nowhere. This is an unbelievable scandal, but everyone wants to just brush it under a rug and make it go away. Its as if everyone thinks this will hurt their side and wants to just not pay it much attention at all.

Abu Ghraib was ridiculously overplayed, it was insanely overexposed and hammered by the press. This is the opposite, its being absurdly ignored, like a rotting corpse in the middle of a room people walk around and pretend doesn't stink. Those flies are part of the decor dear, its so transgressive and avant garde!

Congress is acting on this, they are investigating not only the situation and leadership that resulted in this ghastly hospital, but the possibility that whistleblowers were intimidated and punished. There has been scant coverage in the press, very brief. There are a few blog posts. But where is the outrage, the horror, and the shock? Where is the coverage? People want this to just go away. It makes our soldiers look bad and its only Afghanis, the right seems to be saying. This may hurt Democrats in an election year and who cares, its military, the left seems to be saying.

And those people in Afghanistan suffered and died for years without hope of anyone helping them, in the most humiliating, helpless of conditions. FOR YEARS. Where is our voice of outrage on this? Where is the cry for justice? Where is our humanity? This is simply shameful.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Modern parenting, courtesy American Digest.

Quote of the Day

"I don't get it we make these large-scale investments in infrastructure.* What do you mean, there are no jobs?"
-Barack Obama at former economic meetings

*Solyndra, et al

Monday, July 30, 2012

THE BIG BUST

"mistakes have been made..."

Churchill Bust
The Churchill Bust story is one of those weird inside politics bits that only junkies and people who follow the news professionally (or, at least semi-professionally) are really aware of. Most people probably didn't even know there was one bust of Churchill in the White House, let alone that President Obama sent it back to the British.

So this story showed up again, for some reason, and the White House blog claimed it was all right wing hysteria, showing a picture of a Churchill bust in the White House from a few months ago. See, they said, its still there! Stupid reich-wingers.

So the newspapers dutifully reported that as well. And by dutifully reported I mean they did what they were told and printed what they were handed. The White House blog snarled:
Normally, we wouldn’t address a rumor that’s so patently false, but just this morning the Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer repeated this ridiculous claim in his column . . . This is 100% false. The bust [is] still in the White House. In the Residence. Outside the Treaty Room.
Now its been shown that the story was true, and Obama did send a bust back to the British (its now at the British Ambassador's house), but that there were two busts. One was loaned to president Bush when he took office, and the loan extended to 2009. The British no doubt would have been glad to extend the loan to the new President, but he's been... less than friendly toward the British and particularly dislikes Winston Churchill, so there you go.

The other one has been in the White House since the 60s, and is still there. So the White House blog was technically correct that a bust is by the treaty room... but lying when they said President Obama had not sent back a bust. I say "lying" on purpose, because it was in the news, only happened a few years ago, and the White House blog is written by staffers in the White House who would know damn well what happened. I am willing to admit that there is a chance that the person who wrote this is just that ignorant and didn't know, however.

Here's where it gets ugly. Andrew Rosenthal runs the editorial page for the New York Times. He wrote about this event, and took the White House blog side, repeating what the blog said, and figured that was enough. Now, he has written a bit of a retraction:
I got some facts wrong, because I made the mistake of relying on a White House blog post by the communications director Dan Pfeiffer, which included what looked like photographic proof that the bust never left the White House. Except Mr. Pfeiffer didn’t tell the whole truth and nothing but.
Now, there's no apology for calling Charles Krauthammer a liar here, and there's no real admission of doing anything wrong. Just a "oops I didn't get it right, lets move on."

But consider: this is a journalist, a reporter whose job is to find facts and dig into information. He basically took a White House press report on the topic, repeated it, and then went out to get some lunch. Now, I'm willing to put up with a certain amount of bias, because its impossible to avoid. What I'm not willing to put up with is this kind of uncritical sloth, being so lazy and credulous that you'll just believe what you're told without question because you like the source.

This is simply inexcusable, particularly in an editor in the one of the world's leading newspapers. And it happens far too often. OVer and over I've read and heard from reporters and retired journalists about how news organizations will just take a press release from an organization they like or trust (or, at least has a snazzy logo on its fax and contains something they want to be true) and run it almost without editing as a news story.

That's unacceptable from any news organization, but to do so with a politician is simply treason. News organizations are the natural enemy of politicians. Politicians are their prey, their targets. It is the job and should be the glee of any reporter to eviscerate and expose politicians. They should never, ever just take a political organization at its word, on anything, no matter what.

But the election is at stake, and the truth is, the press has realized several things that they hate.
1) They are losing customers and dying. As they die, they thrash around frantically trying to get readers.
2) They aren't in control of a monopoly on information any longer. Talk radio, blogs, cable news, and the new media have blown that to pieces.
3) This country tends toward the right. Its not conservative, but the US is more right than left, and unless continually, relentlessly pushed to the left by popular media and the news, voters tend to elect more right-leaning politicians.
The first two mean that the third part is less effective. They cannot any longer report on bad news about Democrats and control the damage or the story. It gets completely out of their control (Bill Clinton's dalliances with an intern, for example). So they are more and more in the tank every year for their chosen political allies to the point that as reporters they've not just abandoned all pretense of objectivity, but are betraying everything their job and calling stands for.

They cannot be relied on to even try to look into issues when there's something political at stake, for fear of losing control of the story. This story was about Romney being a colossal dunce in England, that was the narrative and that's how they wanted this spun. See, he can't lead America, he embarrasses us in England! What a loser, don't vote for him!

When it started to turn into "uh, are you kidding, look at how Obama has been acting toward England for the last four years?" the White House lashed out and the press, eager to keep the story on target and not report anything bad on Obama, went along like obedient little sheep.

And again they end up looking idiotic. Because that's what happens when you abandon all integrity and honor for political success. You lose any credibility. And while you'd think a dying industry would be more careful with what shreds of public trust they still have, they have simply gone berserk over those last two points. Loss of monopoly and inability to control the narrative to keep their side in power.

See, when you honestly and genuinely think, having been raised and carefully indoctrinated to believe this - that Republicans are poor-hating racist monsters and Conservatives are Nazis in sheep's clothing who want to outlaw fun and beat women with truncheons for asking a question, the cause is too great to back off of, even for your career. The evil right must be stopped, at all costs, no matter what. Its why Hollywood puts out utter bombs over and over again, socialist crap that nobody wants to watch. They are capitalists who put out deliberately low-earning trash because the right is just that bad and must be stopped.

And again, to me that's terribly sad because we need that fourth estate. We need information, we need the news, we need reporters who'll dig into corruption and misuse of power, waste, fraud, and scandal. A democracy cannot survive if the public has no reliable source of information.

I don't have the energy or resources to go get that information myself; I rely on news organizations. I wouldn't have much of a blog without them. Nobody would. We'd all be talking about our kids and how we mowed the lawn and that last song we listened to all day. Diverting once in a while, awful as a steady diet. We need New York Timeses and CNNs and Daily Telegraphs and so on, because that's where the information comes from.

And that, my friends, is why I so often return to this topic. Not because I like to kick reporters when they're down or hate journalism. Because I like journalism and need reporters. But they're letting everyone down and failing us to the point of treachery by their idiotic need to protect political allies. And that's contemptible, and deserves steady and prominent mockery and assault.

*UPDATE: Dan Pfieffer at the White House apologized to Krauthammer for calling him a liar. Sort of. The entire statement is in the passive sense "an apology is owed" but no actual apology is given.

WIERD INDICATORS

"Will you just shut up about bad news??"

The general public isn't all that savvy when it comes to economic issues. They know about some broad basics like inflation is bad and unemployment is no good, but that's about it. Why these things happen and how to address them are a bit more complicated, and the many other indicators such as industrial purchases and buying power are pretty arcane to most people.

I came across a couple of interesting alternative indicators that are pretty concrete and easy to understand. The first is from Business Insider and its an odd one: the US Garbage Indicator. Basically it measures the bulk and weight of trash collected in the United States and compares that to growth and contraction in the economy. And its pretty dead on:

Garbage IndicatorSee how it almost exactly corresponds to the economy in terms of growth? The blue line is carloads of trash, the red line is the Gross Domestic Product. Both are measured per quarter and you get that chart. It kind of makes sense, the more people consume (and thus produce to meet demand), the more trash is generated.

Look at the end line. Either something very unusual is happening, or we're not getting, shall we say, the whole picture from the Obama administration. Either way, if history is any guide, we're in for a real problem this quarter - which ends in September.

The second is the Fed Ex indicator. Federal Express is the largest independent parcel delivery service in the world, although there are many others, so that's the name for this one. Essentially it measures the number of packages being shipped around and compares that to economic conditions. Unsurprisingly, the better the economy, the more stuff gets shipped about. The worse things are, the fewer. Steven Hayward at Power Line explains:
Demand for package delivery is about as real-time an indicator as you can get, and doesn’t depend on survey data, statistical modeling, and “seasonal adjustment.” Today’s headline is “FedEx Scales Back Economic Forecasts.” The story says FedEx’s U.S. package delivery volume was off by 4 percent last quarter. They’re scaling back their own in-house economic forecast for the rest of the year. They’re going to take some planes out of service and park them in the desert, and shrink their workforce through attrition.
Part of this is due to the cost of fuel, but the rest is just flat out things are slowing down. Businesses are in the job of making money, that's what they do. They might make shoes or sports drinks or serve you popcorn, but they are there to make money. If they are scaling back, that means there's a problem. Fed Ex isn't going to voluntarily reduce its work force and ground planes unless they are forced to by lack of sufficient business.

The latest economic news had US growth at just over 1%; again, every single growth report the Obama administration has put out has been adjusted down after a few weeks. In other words, are we even seeing growth? And if we are seeing contraction in the US will a president seeking reelection admit that or will they cook the books like the Clinton administration did in 1999-2000 to help Al Gore win office?

Any way you look at it, things are not going well for the world's economy. England for three quarters in a row has faced economic contraction. Leading rating firms are making noises about downgrading England's financial rating from AAA soon (and may have already if the Olympics weren't being held there and wanted to avoid it until after the games). All across Europe, the struggle to keep the Euro and prop up the EU is not going well.

What this all adds up to for me is a warning about the near future. Be ready for things to get even worse.

WHISTLING UP HARASSMENT

"We just paid $200 to have a whale hock a loogie on us, that's what we did."

Bill Engvall has a hilarious bit on going to see whales on a boat and how miserable he was. The whales blew a gust of spray over them and how the Californians were so excited.



Its a good thing they didn't whistle at the whale though. George Will tells a tale of the Obama administration and the NOAA:
Black, 50, a marine biologist who also captains a whale-watching ship, was with some watchers in Monterey Bay in 2005 when a member of her crew whistled at the humpback that had approached her boat, hoping to entice the whale to linger. Back on land, another of her employees called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ask if the whistling constituted “harassment” of a marine mammal, which is an “environmental crime.” NOAA requested a video of the episode, which Black sent after editing it slightly to highlight the whistling. NOAA found no harassment — but got her indicted for editing the tape, calling this a “material false statement” to federal investigators, which is a felony under the 1863 False Claims Act, intended to punish suppliers defrauding the government during the Civil War.
Those charges went nowhere for a year, so agents swarmed on Mrs Black's house and seized scientific photos, business files and computers, hoping to find something they could get a prosecution with. She was charged with "feeding" killer whales by taking a bit of the torn apart gray whale they were already eating and putting a camera on it so she could get footage of them feeding. Her friends were told not to talk to her, particularly if contacted by her lawyers. They sent a soebpena to her accountant, although none of these charges have the slightest thing to do with finance.

Notice here two things. First, the federal government is demented and out of control. They're all acting like special prosecutors, spending millions to get some kind of case, no matter how related it is to the original investigation. They got started and looked stupid, so they're pushing until they find something, anything to get a case built around. In the meantime, they are harassing this woman and abusing their power.

Second, notice that False Claims Act reference? This is a law that was passed during the Civil War, an effort to stop corruption. First, a bit of background. Corruption in this context is the practice of military suppliers to overcharge for lower quality goods. It became infamous during the Napoleonic wars where the English shipyards were so corrupt it took decades and several ruined careers of good men trying to stop it before it finally was dealt with. Read the biography of Captain Thomas Cochrane - easily the greatest naval captain of the war - some time to learn more about this.

Although greatly reduced by efforts of men like Cochrane and Pitt, corruption kept going. It was easy to do. Governments needed supplies desperately, and there was huge money to be made. By the time anyone found out, it was deep in the field, far from notice, and the men were powerless to complain. So your shirts fell apart, so the dye ran in the rain so your uniform looked pathetic, so your food was largely gristle and bone. The companies got paid top dollar.

This still goes on, at a much more sophisticated level these days. The same sort of hideous cabal of people in government and suppliers who bribe and cut them in on the profits work together to defraud taxpayers and governments at the expense of the men and women in the military. Today its useless spare parts, extra engines, overcharging for materials, and in the end, the congressmen who helped get a cushy no-work job at Evilbastard Industries when he is finally voted out of office.

So during the US Civil War, the Lincoln administration worked on a bill to make it easier to punish people ripping off the government on military supplies. It was called the False Claims act of 1863 and lying to a federal officer when questioned became a federal crime.

This was only meant to deal with corruption. Instead, the federal government said "hot damn!!" and has been using it for every situation and federal officer since. Remember Martha Stewart? They thought she was guilty of "insider trading" (making stock buys and sales based on information not generally known to the public) which has always seemed like a bizarre crime to me to begin with. Isn't making decisions on good information usually called "wise?"

They couldn't get her on insider trading. So they nailed her on lying to a federal officer, claiming her testimony included lies. Its been a fallback position for the feds for a long time. Is your statement inconsistent? Do you have a tough time remembering things exactly in order? Did you change your mind about something? Bingo, lying to a federal officer. Ordinary cops probably salivate at the very idea of being able to jail someone for lying to them.

This is one of those laws that went way beyond its intended use, like Sarbanes-Oxley which is routinely applied to situations that have nothing whatsoever to do with financial auditing or bookkeeping. Lawyers love this kind of thing, it makes them feel and look clever (to their peers) and as judges are former lawyers, they love it too. So you don't get judges who rule "you cannot use that law on dog collars to apply to food disposal at a diner" they go "wow that's clever, you go girl!!!"

Its basically impossible to not break federal law these days, and they take advantage of that. If they want you for, say, being a big and public donor to a rival to the sitting president, they can nail you for something. And if they can't find a good case, well after a few years eventually your testimony will conflict and they have you for lying to a federal officer and obstruction of justice.

And that, my friends, is the kind of abuse of power and rape of liberty that men like John Adams and George Washington took up weapons to fight in the late 18th century.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Although Mrs Obama's outfit actually did look good this time, for once.

Quote of the Day

"The glory of great men should always be measured by the means they have used to acquire it."
-Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Friday, July 27, 2012

WORD AROUND THE NET

"is it ‘false consciousness’ if liberals actually, in practice, favor an economy that, however prosperous, is filled with jobs where the booklearned get to boss around the unbooklearned?"

Lemonade Crime
Well I sent a copy of Old Habits to Instapundit, hopefully he'll plug it on his blog like he usually does when someone sends him a book. Since I'm a blogger he's linked and a reader, he might be more inclined to do so. I figure with 50-100,000 readers a day, this is the cheapest advertising money can buy at about $25, and maybe I can get a few more sales out of it. If you'd like to read the book, check the sidebar of my blog for the e-book and paperback versions.

TARP, that wonder of capitalism violating to save free market, as Bush put it. Even many right-leaning blogs screamed we had to have it to save the world. By now almost all of them have backed off admitting it was a colossal waste, but now we have even more evidence that it was stupid and wrong. Aaron Task writes at Yahoo's Daily Ticker:
Congress never would've passed TARP if not for programs included in the program to help homeowners facing foreclosure and generally spur bank lending. "TARP was an abysmal failure on those very important goals the reason why they got that money to give to the banks in the first place," Barofsky says.
...
"The bottom line is [the government] still expects tens of millions of losses on TARP," Barofsky says. "The losses are a lot less than originally anticipated but this resorting to trickery really shows you they're trying to cover up how badly TARP has failed in its other goals of helping homeowners and increasing lending to the economy."
And, Barofsky points out, the fed was almost obsequious to the big banks. Did TARP stave off financial armageddon? Maybe, but by now we could have been digging out of it and had far less debt. Too big to fail should have been political poison. So should bailing out huge stupid companies and letting the little guy dangle.

Stoners are the new fast food market group. From Jack In The Box to Taco Bell, new products and advertising are focused on munchies, trying to get stoners to eat there first. Some marketing guru decided there was big money to be made on potheads looking for a snack or late night meal and so we get the pizza flavored burrito with 420 calories and Cheech & Chong selling Fiber One cereal. This seems like a questionable money making effort given the low income and earning potential of stoners.

Mitt Romney was asked about the Olympics, which is like asking Henson about a puppet show: in his wheelhouse, they say in baseball. Romney probably should have said something bland and polite, but the guy does know his Olympics, so he pointed out what others have said:
“The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials — that obviously is not something which is encouraging”
The British press freaked out. London's mayor stirred up a mob so much they threw things at Romney. But what he said was pretty mild and on target, so much so even leftist CNN drone Piers Morgan defended Romney. The Washington Post claimed Romney had the "worst week in Washington" ignoring the humiliation and buffoonery displayed by Obama this week. Given how mild Romney's comment was - and his obvious experience - its hard to avoid the conclusion that this is all political theater.

America's USDA website recently had a piece encouraging "meatless mondays" one of those left activist schemes that was promoted and never went anywhere. The article was written by an unknown agency member and cited the ecological value of eating less meat - especially beef - from a UN report. It was subsequently taken down after the Daily Caller remarked on it. My problem isn't the silly idea, its that the atmosphere at the Obama White House is such that the agency thought it was reasonable and unremarkable to post something like that on a government website.

Desmond Lachman at the American Enterprise Institute remarked on something I've noted a few times: if Europe's teetering economy collapses (England's economy has contracted the last 3 quarters, for example) that will have consequences for the US election and the world economy. If Europe goes, so will America and China, we're all that precarious. But would that help Obama (fear drives you to the known factor) or Romney (reaction to a lousy economy hurts the sitting president)? Who knows these days.

Ric Locke wrote the science fiction e-book Temporary Duty and it was a pretty big hit online. Locke was in poor health and was having monetary problems so bad he asked people to help him buy an oxygen device, and donations flooded in. He has died of lung cancer with his follow up to the book unfinished. I've heard the book is quite good from all kinds of different people but haven't read it myself.

Another stem cell research triumph, again adult cells, this time for the heart. Essentially the doctors were able to de-age heart cells in elderly patients, reviving the muscles which they hope can be used to prevent heart failure.

Brendan Greene-Walsh and Leila Rathert-Knowles are part of a generation of parents who clung to both of their names, refusing to bow to the patriarchy and ask the woman to give up her name when she married. Now Greene-Walsh and Rathbert-Knowles want to marry but don't know what to do with their names. Should they keep four? This was instantly brought up when couples started this practice, but it was pretty well ignored: not their problem, after all.
"My names would probably be Leila Rathert-Knowles Greene-Walsh," Leila says, laughing.

Brendan smirks, too. "It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?"

Now, four years later, these hyphenated honeys are still in love — but also still stumped on what they would possibly do if they decide to get hitched.

"I just don't have any good answers," sighs Leila.
Or you could just drop all this nonsense and take his dad's name, for both of you. These days the hyphenated name trend is disappearing, for a variety of reasons, probably mostly because its no longer trendy, is viewed as pretentious and there's a resurgence of traditional ideas in marriage and child rearing.

Time thinks that humans bred with Neanderthals and the evidence is still in our DNA. The article is about a DNA study done at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and the lead scientist claims that DNA found in Neanderthals is also in that of humans. The obvious conclusion (maybe that's just part of being human) is avoided, and they look for some explanation that helps support the presumption that Neanderthals aren't actually just people.

Researchers at the University of Washington claim they've found a chemical that helps blind mice see. Maybe they won't lose their tails that way. If this work is valid, perhaps it will lead to a cure for blindness in humans some day. Lately it seems like a lot of the incurable ailments and problems we face such as deafness and so on have a cure on the horizon, and I think that's great. Lets hope they don't involve ghastly side effects.

Shell Oil was recently the target of a sophisticated environmentalist hoax using computer image manipulation and video capabilities. A video showing an alleged Shell corporate party celebrating their arctic facilities was posted on Youtube as if it was real, and it was picked up as real by news organizations around the world. Then, journalists were sent emails by someone claiming to be Shell Oil directing them to a sophisticated looking website which was also fake which had statements about "taking advantage" of climate change and filled with unflattering reports of Shell's activities. This would be hard to combat for the average journalist or blogger, without contacting Shell its self, and its something to be very careful and aware of.

Death by ten thousand cuts, is how I would put it. The Competitive Enterprise Institute calls it the Ten Thousand Commandments. They're referring to the burden of regulations and rules that the federal government alone imposes on businesses and how much it costs just to try to comply. A few facts from the site:
  • Estimated regulatory costs, while "off budget," are equivalent to over 48% the level of federal spending itself.
  • The 2011 Federal Register finished at 81,247 pages, just shy of 2010’s all-time record-high 81,405 pages.
  • Agencies issued 3,807 final rules in 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over 3,573 in 2010.
  • Of the 4,128 regulations in the works at year-end 2011, 212 were “economically significant,” meaning they generally wield at least $100 million in economic impact.
A handy chart comparing the cost of regulations vs other costs for business is attached. But those simply cannot be cut, reduced, or reconsidered, they are all totally critical for human existence if you ask a leftist.

Leaks about intelligence that shut down entire operations and threaten the lives of spies, leaks about the war on terror to help make a campaign ad movie about Bin Laden's death, leaks about military action, all of those have been pouring out of the Obama administration lately like a broken dam. Absurdly staged investigations were held to find out who is responsible for this outrage, when everyone knows already. The Pentagon was cleared, but nobody seriously suspected them to begin with. Even hard left California Democrat Diane Feinstein stated that it was clearly the White House leaking this information, and the Obama administration has gone from saying it wasn't the White House to saying it wasn't the President himself who personally handed out the information.

Remember back when just leaking an ex spy's name was a criminal offense so awful the Vice President was likely to go to prison?

President Obama said that the government built the internet, and he cited the existence of the defense DARPA net as its genesis. That's not entirely false, but it is greatly misleading. DARPA wasn't an internet, it was a network, a closed set of computers communicating and sharing data. The internet is a series of multiple networks communicating together, and that was invented by a scattered group of different independent and business employees. Government had nothing to do with their work. Some guys at Xerox, a Swedish researcher, and several others built all the different pieces such as HTML, links, and so on. Compuserve, Ethernet, and other services were the first to take advantage of this, and the full internet built on its own. Rush Limbaugh has a fairly good history of it all, except he is an Applehead so he gives Steve Jobs monstrously more credit than he deserves.

Ever wonder why sliced bread is the best thing others are compared to? Early on when the bread slicer was invented, bakeries didn't care for it. They figured the bread would go stale faster, that it was an unnecessary expense, and that consumers didn't want their bread sliced. Courtesy American Digest's sideboard (sort of a WATN that goes on all week) comes this piece by the improbably named Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg at The Atlantic which gives the whole history of sliced bread. Combine that with my history of margarine for a basic sandwich.

Hey, occupy, hey all you young people. Want to really fight the man? Look around you: the only one oppressing you is old people. The boomer generation is stealing your future, burdening you with impossible debt and requiring you take care of them more and more at your expense. Their endless need for welfare and benefits is why you can't find a job. Their demands for money and attention are why the economy is in such lousy shape. That's where the class warfare is: between generations. Boomers declared war on you and your future, and they fooled you into helping them out.

Joel Kotkin wrote a piece recently that I saw on Instapundit, in which he notes that the left's dream of an economy where the book learned command and control those who have no academic credentials. This entirely violates the "we're for the little guy" origins of the left and the Democratic Party, and when times get tight, it all falls apart. He notes that the energy boom in middle America is destroying this entire scheme. Most of the left's current ideas revolve around how effete, emasculated men and harpyish women with degrees get enough power to tell everyone else how to behave, think, and live.

Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection asks a simple question: is there any Obama fundraising parody you wouldn't believe could be true? My answer is that they're beyond the parody horizon. I'd be willing to believe any parody at this point could be true.

And that's the Word Around the Net for July 27, 2012

HOW I DO IT (aka where's Chik-Fil-A?)

"If I have to start choosing restaurants on what sexual preferences they support or don't I'll never eat out, again."
-Garry Shandling

Eat Mor Chikn
I've been blogging over six years now, and I've fallen into a comfortable, experienced method of writing every day. I don't know exactly how other bloggers do their thing, but I can guess in a few cases. Instapundit gets thousands of emails a day from people sending him tips on various stories and oddities they find or have written. He has blogs he regularly checks (you can tell by how often they get links) and writes about, and he just does a quick post on each link, sometimes with extended commentary.

Other blogs seem to want to be more on the newspaper side of things, jumping on any story as soon as it comes out to be the first on the block and get their version out. Some focus on events or special interest to them, others seem to be more interested in red meat (like Gateway Pundit), seeking stories of perpetual outrage and disapproval.

Sometimes you'll see a big story on the net that I never touch. In fact, I tend to avoid the topic du jour, or give it a quick once over, because I figure everyone else has covered that already. Take the Chik-Fil-A story, where the founder of a company was asked about some things by a church, answered honestly, and everything blew up in his face because he was being so politically incorrect.

I haven't written about the entire debacle for two reasons. First, I have nothing to say on the topic that hasn't already been said five hundred times by other people. All the hypocrisy, the first amendment violation of the two Mayors they backed off of, the silly nature of most boycotts, etc. All of it has been covered. So why write about it here, I don't have anything new to add.

Second, I like to write about the cultural and ethical reasons behind why people do what they do, and there wasn't enough to work with in this story. Mostly, its just political, this was one more "war on women" thing to gin up excitement in the Democratic Party base, which sadly a lot of people fell for. Nothing really new or useful to say, there. And that ties into how I write Word Around the Net each day.

Here's how I do it.

I try to put at least three pieces up each day, plus a fun picture and a quote. The quote is because often quotes will say something important or wise in a very concise, brief way and I appreciate that. The pictures are so I have something for people less inclined to read long wordy posts, which I have too many of. That means I have five pieces of content a day, most of the time.

Word Around the Net has five different kinds of posts that I'll write about.

ESSAY
The first is the analysis and study kind. This is my favorite sort of post, and its why Word Around the Net came into existence to begin with. I was writing long comments on other blogs and people kept telling me I should start my own. To find a niche I tried to focus on comments, but that didn't work so well.

The essays I wrote for weekends for a few years were of this sort. I find a story or topic that not only piques my interest, but that I have a springboard to make a larger point from. I don't care to just write about a story and have nothing useful to say, you can get the story from anywhere. I want to write about what that means, why people are doing that, what it says about our culture, and why its wrong or right and how we should react.

If I don't have that hook, I'll let a lot of stories go. Almost everything that goes into the Word Around the Net weekend wrap up are stories I grabbed because I thought they were interesting, but could not find that hook. If someone rarely emails me something they think I should write about or may be interested in, it tends to sit in my links for a while because I have to find that hook, that approach that takes it beyond "hey look at this!"

So if I see something in the news like the Aurora shooting, I won't just write "oh this is awful some people were shot" because that's not only obvious, but redundant. I haven't said anything. I need an angle to write about that takes it beyond the surface to a more profound or at least interesting (to me) meaning.

MYTHBUSTER
The second kind of post I enjoy writing is the myth buster. This isn't so much a study on culture and meaning as a chance to share something I never knew or found amazing about something I learned. And it makes a statement about critical analysis and thinking: don't just believe what you're told. The entire Common Knowledge series is about this kind of thing, and people find it fascinating. That's my most popular series ever (closely followed by the Depression Era Survival Kit).

I love to find something that is generally thought to be true, research it, and show how things aren't what we've always been told. This is important to me because it is a valuable tool to lever people away from trusting the legacy media and seeing where we've all been manipulated and lied to by a certain segment of the culture for many decades. And hopefully it teaches people to question and analyze what they're told.

FUN STUFF I LIKE
Because I deliberately try to have a mix of tone and content on WATN, and because I need to have light hearted things in my life, I'll write about something silly, cute, or just funny whenever I can. This is why I put up the picture of the day to begin with, usually they are absurd or funny. This is why I wrote about the girl who plays Wendy in the commercials yesterday, or about Disney's Princes, and Hot Cartoon Girls. Its just stuff that I thought "hey, that's fun" and wrote about. I don't know if anyone else even cares, but it lightens up the blog and adds some variety into the usual mix you see on the internet.

THROWAWAYS
Because my health is unpredictable and often poor, I will post just junk to have content. I apologize, but I figure people would rather find something on the blog each day than nothing. Like most bloggers I think, I fear losing readers for lack of content on a given day and try to put something up during the week no matter what. Some days I just can't make it. Others, I put up just silly crap like "hey look, weird pictures" or even "this post was neat but people didn't read it much" reposts.

I apologize for the weak content on those days, but sometimes that's all I have in me. And some days its pretty tough to write anything at all for lack of interest and ideas. Frankly, you're lucky to get anything some days. I suspect all bloggers do this. If I had a ton of readers and commenters like some sites, I'd just put them up and say "open content!" or "open thread" and hope for the best. This is where the WATN wrapup came from in the first place: I just had a ton of links but no interest in writing anything, so I just barfed it all into a Friday bit. Turns out it was a pretty good plan and I kept doing it.

And the WATN is kind of a category all its own. I do put some analysis and thought into each of the links but mostly its just a link dump at the end of the week: stuff I couldn't find a hook for but thought was interesting. Here you go, take a look, here's what I thought.

But that's how I do it. I suppose its not that different from most bloggers. I suppose this kind of post (or the WATN FAQ and "what is a blog?" posts) are sort of a fifth meta-blogging category; blogging about blogging.

COMMON KNOWLEDGE: More Science Bits

"I do believe sadly it's going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe."
-Jenny McCarthy

Modern western culture is built around a tendency to believe what scientists say without question. Lately that's begun to fall apart, but for decades people trusted a guy in a lab coat more than they did their own spouse. If a scientist said something was true, well then it had to be, it was science. That was the final argument: here's what science says. But like I've noted many times before, there isn't any "voice of science."

There is no "science pope" who speaks the final, authoritative word on any subject. There isn't even a single voice of science in any given field. All science can offer is a preponderance of evidence, not absolute but conclusive enough to trust when properly executed... until someone finds out something more accurate.

Usually these new discoveries make minor adjustments to previous findings. Sometimes they totally reverse what was previously thought certain. Most of the time it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to our lives whether Newton's Laws were 100% accurate or just accurate enough to use but not completely precise.

Then there are the other kinds of scientific answers, such as climate change, where they don't simply say "well we think there might be a problem here" but instead scream "you must believe every word I say without question and immediately change your entire economy and lifestyle to destroy over a century of progress!!!!1!!!!!1!"

In the last decade the wall of trust around scientists has suffered a lot of damage because of the internet. It isn't that sarcasm, cynicism, and paranoia have been given such a powerful tool to spread their corrosion - although that's true - its that information is reaching us that used to only be "in house" and kept to the scientific community. For example, we have this story out of University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey where neuroscientist Mona Thiruchelvam is retracting two studies she did there.

Her studies claimed to show a connection between pesticides in the environment and in our food... and Parkinson's Disease. Haley Dunning writes at The New Scientist:
Thiruchelvam fabricated stereological cell count data in two studies on how pesticides influence neuronal mechanisms involved in Parkinson’s disease (PD). The studies reported the results of 13 new experiments that supposedly counted nigrostriatal neurons in the brains of mice and rats, but an investigation spearheaded by the UMDNJ determined those counts were never taken.
When called on this, Mona gave the review board a file supposedly containing 293 images and data supporting her findings, but the files were "corrupted" and couldn't be opened. She blamed a computer virus. Eventually, she sent more files, this time not corrupt, but they were all variations of the same image, from work done before she'd even gotten to the university and for completely different research. Eventually she just refused to respond to the board and left the university.

ten years ago, you probably never would have heard about this because you don't get or read any scientific journals. But the research would have been reported on by a newspaper and you might have seen that. Just not the retraction and the fact that this work was all bunk. Researchers still suspect a connection between pesticides and Parkinson's, they just can't find any proof.

Here are a few more scientific tales of woe and horror that ended up being false. Like the Silent Spring/DDT story or the previous Science Bits you've probably heard about most or all of these, but haven't heard the whole story.

FAKE HOOTIES
Remember the breast implant lawsuits in the 90s? Rush Limbaugh used to hammer this as an example of lawsuits out of control and the way the media is complicit in fraud. There was a study done that suggested a link between silicone breast implants and certain auto immune ailments. That study proposed that silicone would "leak" out of the implants and cause joint inflammation, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments.

The problem is the study was nonsense. That didn't stop lawsuits in America and England, though. Lawyers made millions off of companies that manufactured these implants, doctors who implanted them, and so on. Harvard Harvard Medical School, examined 87,500 nurses, of whom 1,200 had breast implants. It found no greater incidence of illness among women who had implants than among those who had not. Study after study showed that the claims were utter nonsense.

The lawsuits went on, and won and won and won. Dow Corning was evil and must pay. Doctors knew about the dangers and did it anyway. The United States FDA banned the use of silicone in breast implants. Lawyers argued "they wouldn't ban them if it wasn't true!" Juries saw dollars in their eyes for when they went to court. And it was all based on a faulty study, countered by many other larger more accurate ones. To this day silicone breast implants have a bad reputation.

I think breast implants are largely ridiculous, but they aren't the health risk lawyers argued they were. And at least one woman died from complications removing hers.

DEADLY APPLES
ALAR (Daminozide) was a big scare in the late 80s. It was an additive sprayed on apples to regulate their growth, make them easier to harvest, and to enhance their color. The activist group National Resources Defense Council put out a report that a byproduct was showing up in applesauce apple juice, and was dangerous. 60 Minutes did a special on it, showing that ALAR could be dangerous and the ball started rolling. Five separate studies showed that ALAR caused cancer in laboratory mice. Phil Donahue said "we're poisoning our children" on TV.

At one parent's request, state troopers chased a school bus to confiscate a student's apple. School administrators had apples and apple products summarily destroyed. Congress held hearings, politicians said alarming things. Celebrities testified, and finally the US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of ALAR. Apple growers lost millions. The apple market died, stores stopped stocking apples temporarily.

What went unnoticed in all this was that in order to get the lab rats to develop cancer, they basically fed the poor creatures enormous quantities of ALAR, hundreds of times the amount that any child would get in their lives, even assuming the residue would stay on apples. Which, independent labs demonstrated it did not. ALAR was not only harmless in the quantities anyone was going to be exposed to it, it wouldn't even reach the shelves of supermarkets. Apple growers sued CBS, but the case was dismissed in 1994.

HAWTHORN
There was a study done between 1927 and 1933 in a company at the Hawthorne's electrical plant in Illinois. It claimed to demonstrate that the length of work day, number and length of breaks, and so on had little to do with productivity. What they said they discovered is that workers who believe they are part of an experiment work harder, regardless of the content of the experiment.

Psychologists love this, and they still refer to it and cling to it to this day. The Hawthorne Effect, they call it, and consider it an important psychological factor to consider when framing a study. Don't tell them about this, or the Hawthorne Effect will mess up your data. We have to discount for the Hawthorne Effect.

Turns out the Hawthorne Study was hopelessly flawed to the point of being useless. Gina Kolata at the New York Times writes:
But only five workers took part in the study, Dr. Ross said, and two were replaced partway through for gross insubordination and low output.
It may very well be true that workers try harder when they think they're part of an experiment but this study was useless in determining it.

HIGH TENSION
Oh those power lines. All that electromagnetic energy running through them, right over your house, your kids! They are next to schools! Surely that's horrible! Claims of EMT (Electro Magnetic Transmission) health risks have run rampant for years, with families suing for problems with their kids housing values lower near a powerline, and so on. Except it turns out that there's no higher chance of any given health problem - or health problems in general - in families near high tension power lines than those not near them. I'm willing to believe all this electromagnetic energy we're continuously bombarded with might be harmful but there's been no evidence to show it yet.

SWORDFISH
Remember the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC)? They were the ones behind the ALAR scam. They struck again with Swordfish, claiming in 1991 that the fish was being overfished and wiped out. The media and government bought into this as well, until the National Marine Fisheries Service conducted a study and stated unequivocally that the swordfish was in no jeopardy whatsoever, and there wasn't the slightest bit of evidence to support the NRDC's claims.

By the way, the NRDC is still out there. They still claim swordfish are being wiped out by overfishing, that the Keystone pipeline would increase gas prices, that oceans "are on the brink of ecological collapse," and so on. They sign on to any environmental and anti-industrial cause, and still are taken seriously despite their massive failures. Between 1996 and 2001, the EPA provided $4.6 million to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC). I have no doubt its still going on with this administration.

Most of these myths cling on because of the enchantment of the conspiracy. When proof is offered that the myth is nonsense, the response is always "well yeah that's what the corporations want you to think!" Its always a grand conspiracy by pharmaceutical corporations, chemical companies, its the sinister rich paying off labs to cover up their evil.

There are a host more of these out there, from the Center for Science in the Public Interests' regular junk 'findings' to Bird Flu, Swine Flu, SARS, and Bisphenol, it keeps happening over and over again.

PAINTED MICE
And its not just activist groups and lawyers that are to blame for bad science. Discover Magazine listed a dire litany of lousy science, sloppy work, and outright fraud over the years, running back centuries. A few samples:
  • In the 1970s the FDA investigated Francois Savery, a doctor who submitted identical data to two drug companies, claiming that they were from two different studies. When confronted, he explained that he was forced to re-create his data sets because he took the original research with him on a lake picnic and lost it when his rowboat capsized. Government authorities later learned that Savery never conducted the studies in the first place—or received a medical degree.
  • Researchers have found that Isaac Newton fudged numbers in his Principia, generally considered the greatest physics text ever written.
  • Other legends who seem to have altered data: Freud, Darwin, and Pasteur.
  • And Austrian monk Gregor Mendel’s famous pea-breeding experiments—the foundation of modern ideas of heredity—are suspiciously good, matching his theory of genetic inheritance a little too well.
  • In 1974 immunologist William Summerlin created a sensation when he claimed to have transplanted tissue from black to white mice. In reality, he used a black felt-tip pen to darken patches of fur on white mice.
  • Some researchers still use “painting the mice” to describe scientific fraud.
  • Painting the mice can have serious consequences. In the 1980s, psychologist Stephen Breuning published results from fictitious “trials” of tranquilizers; his findings informed the clinical practices for treating mentally retarded children.
  • In 1981 John Darsee, a rising-star cardiologist at Harvard, faked log entries in a canine heart study in full view of his colleagues. Although many of his papers were later found to have false data, Darsee continued to be cited positively for years.
In fact, fraud and poor science are so common that 14% of all researchers claim they know a colleague who falsified data. There have been multiple stories like Ms Thiruchelvam up above who have been busted for false or bad research. One particularly ironic twist is that a woman did a study claiming that American researchers were more likely to falsify data than any other nation... until it was revealed that she had falsified data to come to this conclusion.

In the end, science is no more trustworthy, reliable, or filled with hard working men and women of integrity than any other job. Look around you at work. See that lazy bum who gets by on other people's labor? Remember that girl who faked her timecard? Had enough of those guys who just don't know what they are doing but get promoted anyway? That happens in science, too.

And when you combine that with massive government grants and huge publicity, well it just gets even worse. I'm not saying ignore scientists and consider science trash. I'm saying be slow to believe what you're told, question what seems unlikely and absurd, and verify what you hear about. Because despite what you've heard lately, skepticism is a very powerful tool and an important part of any science.

*This is part of the Common Knowledge series, things we know that ain't so.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

AC Cat
Surprise!

Quote of the Day

"The sudden uptick of 'are negative ads hurting both candidates?' stories tells you who they're actually hurting."
-Ann Althouse

Thursday, July 26, 2012

WHAT DOES THIS TELL YOU?

"The fact is the universe feels more orderly when we have expectations of how men will act, how our white knight will come parading in."

White Knight
If you want deep, substantive thinking, a website called The Frisky is probably one of the last places you'd want to go. Its a girly site about girly issues, dating, relationships, sex, and so on with a pink motif. However, you expect more from Instapundit, which is usually thought provoking if brief.

Well this time Glenn really provoked some thought. It started with a Frisky article called "The Aurora Shooting & The Myth Of Men’s Obligation To Be Heroes" by Jessica Wakeman. Jessica figures its dumb to say men are heroic, cause grrls can be too!
I can respect and be touched by these men’s sacrifices. But I’m also wary of some byproducts of the heroism myth, the idea that a few good men will have courage under fire and put “women and children first.” The Post crowed over these men’s “old-fashioned chivalry,” which are funny words to use, when you get right down to it. Why does masculinity have to have anything to do with heroic behavior?
But then we have Glenn Reynolds' response to her question: "It doesn't." He then wonders why there's no stories of girls leaping in front of a bullet to protect men if this heroism thing goes both ways, but his answer betrays a problem with masculinity today. But Instapundit said that masculinity has nothing to do with heroic behavior.

True masculinity is heroic. Heroic behavior like saving the life of a loved one, even at the cost of your own, is masculine. Jessica Wakeman tries to defend the fellow who ditched his fiancee and the kids to run away, saying "that's real life!" And the problem is, I fear that really is how far too many manscaped, apricot facial scrubbed, self-centered men would behave today. Talk about how if a guy had a concealed gun in the audience then the shooting could have been significantly reduced and people start shouting John Wayne as if that's an insult.

It is part of a man's nature to defend and protect. That's part of the essence of masculinity. It is part of being a man to give of yourself to save those you love. Its why men worked so hard in the past, to better their family, to give them what they needed and to demonstrate love and devotion by giving a little more. Again I have to turn to the Magnificent Seven to explain real courage as told by Charles Bronson's character O'Reilly:
Don't you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there's nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery. That's why I never even started anything like that... that's why I never will.
Men do this out of love and out of being a man. They sacrifice everything in the end for those they care for. Whether its leaping in front of a bullet or working yourself into a grave so your family can eat, its the same thing.

Its not that women cannot be heroic, Ms Wakeman lists some heroic female figures in her article. Its that their heroism takes a different form. Women sacrifice too, it is innately heroic to be truly feminine, particularly in this culture. But when it comes to this kind of heroism, its a masculine trait of physical prowess, using your strength and position to protect, build, and help those in need.

Ms Wakeman mocks the traditional concepts and old fashioned ideas being praised in those three heroes who died to save their loved ones. Because that's the new, fashionable thing to do. That's what our modern culture does, it showers contempt on virtues, patterns, and beliefs of the past, to show sophistication, intellectual "evolution," and how clever we all are now. Why, those fools, they should have lived, how are those girls better off without a husband, a boyfriend, a man they loved?

You can tell how out of place the behavior of these men were by how many columns and articles have been written about this strange action and trying to make sense of it. Its like aliens came to earth and are wondering why it is we kiss. They are amazed and shocked by this ancient behavior, why, how could someone do this?

When something like the Aurora shooting comes along, or 9/11, or a hurricane, flood, earthquake, what have you... all that fragile nonsense modern culture has built up around us to make being cowardly, selfish, and greedy seem proper and reasonable fall to pieces. And if your whole worldview is based on hedonism and postmodernism, that can be uncomfortable, even jarring. So you get pieces like what Ms Wakeman writes, to try to salvage some of her worldview and fight off the creeping sensation that maybe you're wrong not just in specifics but at the very foundation of your understanding of life and the universe.

In a culture where your life and comfort matters more than everything else, self sacrifice seems the very depth of stupidity and insanity. And in a crazy world, acting sane makes you look the most demented. Thankfully, most of the comments were very negative and disliked the whole tone of this woman's post. And I hope that, if she's ever protected by a man, she is properly grateful and not all grrl power in his face about how old fashioned he is and how women are heroes too.

Those three men who died, they rejected the society around them, the culture that says focus on yourself, and the idea that a smart man runs. They gave up everything they had to keep the one they loved safe, and greater love hath no man. Those men are heroes, and no disillusioned feminist can take that away.

HE DIDN'T BUILD THAT EITHER

"When you look at what Progressives advocate for, it's not hard to see that we are the true Patriots in this Nation."

Duncecap
A few weeks back I wrote a piece about George Lakoff, relating to something by Zombie and his book The Little Blue Book For Democrats. Lakoff is professor of Linguistics at University of California Berkeley and promoter of how to use language to change the political debate so you shut up people who disagree with you and get the left more political power.

Well Professor Jacobson at Legal Insurrection found something interesting by Lakoff from the past, where he said this:
Nobody makes a dollar in this country in business without using the common wealth…. The idea that there’s a self-made man, that’s there’s a self-made millionaire is false, it is absolutely false, and that is the thing that Obama missed…. Without this you don’t have those roads, you don’t have that internet, you don’t have the banking system, etc.
If that sounds familiar, you're right. That's what President Obama (and Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth 'high cheekbones' Warren in Massachusetts) are saying lately.

Lakoff thinks that taxes are not to pay for the minimal required government for an ordered society, but rather "dues" of a sort to live in a society:
Taxation is paying your dues, paying your member-ship fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it. You did not build the basketball court. Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won't be maintained and will fall apart. People who avoid taxes, like corporations that move to Bermuda, are not paying their due to their country. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer. It is traitorous to desert our country and not pay your dues.

Perhaps Bill Gates Sr. said it best. In arguing to keep the inheritance tax, he pointed out that he and Bill Jr. did not invent the Internet. They just used it--to make billions. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make his money alone. He used taxpayer infrastructure. He got rich on what other taxpayers had paid for: the banking system, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and the judicial system, where nine-tenths of cases involve corporate law. These taxpayer investments support companies and wealthy investors. There are no self-made men! The wealthy have gotten rich using what previous taxpayers have paid for. They owe the taxpayers of this country a great deal and should be paying it back.
See how this works? Government is the source and focus of everything in America, and you pay government for the right to live here. Taxes aren't something government depends on for its existence, given by citizens by choice. They're the price you pay for getting things from the government and those horrible rich people should pay more of it.
"There are no self-made men! The wealthy have gotten rich using what previous taxpayers have paid for. They owe the taxpayers of this country a great deal and should be paying it back."
That's what President Obama was saying in his speech. Its ridiculous, since the rich pay such a huge portion of the tax burden and since they paid workers and so on to get to the point they are at, but this is the origin of Obama's (and Warren's) speeches on the topic. Almost word for word, they copy lines from Lakoff's sadly confused understanding of taxes, wealth creation, and economics.

And while Lakoff is a linguistics guy and probably is not particularly conversant with economics - especially if he's teaching at Berkeley - Obama has no such excuse; part of his job is to understand how an economy works.

WHO IS WENDY

"I’m not sure I’ve ever really received BAD advice. If I did, then thank goodness I didn’t listen to it."

Not Wendy Wendy's used to have their owner, Dave Thomas (father of Wendy) as their spokesman. He was a likable fellow and while I don't know if he helped sales any, his ads weren't so annoying I left the room. Dave died in 2002, and for a time Wendy's didn't really have an official face.

Now they have a redheaded girl who is somewhat like the Wendy's logo. The real Wendy Thomas looks more like her dad than the little pigtailed girl, so they found someone else, and her name is Morgan Smith Goodwin. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, and she is a model and actress. Here's a bit of her bio:
The 27-year-old Cullman native, who spent a good deal of time in Birmingham while earning a musical theater degree at Birmingham-Southern College before moving to New York, has the title role in “Sweet Charity,” the Red Mountain Theatre Company musical opening Thursday and running through Oct. 23.
In her short time in New York, Smith has performed in concerts, readings and benefits, and was an original cast member of the off-Broadway show “Freckleface Strawberry.” The show earned nominations from The Outer Critics Circle Awards, The Obie Awards, The Lucille Lortel Awards, and won the TINA Award for Best Musical Ensemble Cast. You can hear Smith on the original cast recording, available on iTunes.
She has a website with some highlights of her past acting work and lots of pictures although the interface is really awkward. She also has a series of silly videos she did with another girl on YouTube, just girls having fun. The Cullman Times profile of her (from her former home in Cullman Alabama) also mentions she sings and dances, and she sang a few songs for Freckleface Strawberry that are apparently available on I-Tunes.

I just think she's cute and seems like a lot of fun, without being unapproachably beautiful. It might be her acting ability, but she also seems approachable and friendly, someone who is just a regular person rather than the mutants Hollywood seems to attract. Which works well for Wendy's because she's fun to watch in the ads. However, she is married (big surprise) so sorry fellas, not available. And she loves Celine Dion, so you know, nobody's perfect. Plus, sorry guys, she's married.