Archive for March, 2010

Persistence in ideology

The gun wars in Washington D.C. provide an example of just how difficult political dialog has become, Federal Court Upholds D.C. Handgun Laws describes how the right to have weapons for self defense is still being argued despite a court judgment.

In the wake of Heller, the city set to craft regulations to comply with the ruling. The result was a labyrinthine process that would test the patience of all but the most Job-like. … Meanwhile, MSNBC reports that D.C. has the highest gun homicide rate in the country – five times the average rate. Obviously, the city government’s “compelling interest” in safety is not working.

Michael Barone labels the two points of view “Founders” and “Progressives” in regards to the Tea Party movement. “The Founders stood for the expansion of liberty and the Progressives for the expansion of government.” That is the issue at hand. The Progressives believe guns are a public safety hazard and should be controlled by the government. Founders believe personal weapons are a means to defend liberty and self.

The facts of the matter tend to refute the Progressives on several fronts. The Heller case was on the Constitutional front. The actual measures of crime are on the street front. None of this reality makes any impact on the ongoing and continual effort to promote the government control of personal weapons. That is one reason why the ideological battle is so costly in so many ways.

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On matters of projection

It seems there is a lot of discomfort about the passing of the Health Care bill. Those who participated in getting it through are showing this in their claims of persecution. Malkin describes How the Left Fakes the Hate, It is a primer about a technique that illustrates one way to deal with discomfort with one’s own intellectual dishonesty.

The issue is the recent spate of complaints by Democrat legislators about personal attacks. Malkin provides several examples that show how these stories lack effective substance. Knight suggests an analysis to understand the complaints on a more traditional basis in Cui Bono?: When “Attacks” And “Death Threats” Are … Convenient..

It is interesting that this brouhaha comes up at the same time as a Canadian Free Speech example. Kevin Libin: ‘Liberals know I haven’t said anything hateful,’ Ann Coulter explains.. In that case, an actual angry mob showed up, police over-reacted, and free speech was shut down. Rationalizations depended upon literal wording taken out of context in a way that denies any use of nuance, comedy, exaggeration, or other subtleties in language to make a point. Coulter did receive a threat and warning she received from the University that she may use to pursue her own hate crimes complaint.

Burnishing the image of Ann Coulter as a teller of dangerous truths may not have been quite the goal of Mr. Houle and the U of O mob, but they have unquestionably done it. In the U.S. media, their school, and this country, have become in the last 48 hours an object of scorn and ridicule, on all sides of the political spectrum, while Ms. Coulter has been cast a free-speech hero. No wonder she seems so cheerful.

Such nuance as in ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ may be beyond those who feel they are victims in their current state of mind.

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Trying to buy happiness in education

There has been a movement for teacher evaluation based on student achievements that goes back at least forty years. That has tied in with massive increases in money for education and attempts to buy a quality education for all. There are many indications that a good education is not something that can be bought by putting money into schools. Another is from the University of Florida.

“The core philosophy of school reform today is that effective schools and quality teaching can correct all learning problems, including those of poor minority students who are most at risk, and if they fail it’s the educators’ fault,” said Harry Daniels, professor of counselor education at UF’s College of Education and lead investigator of the study. “While school improvement and teaching quality are vital, we are demonstrating that the most important factor in student learning may be the children’s lifestyle and the early learning opportunities they receive at home.

There was a big emphasis on learning tools in the fifties and that continues along with other ideas about how to enhance a child’s learning and intelligence. There is also a reaction to the governmental use of schools for indoctrination along ideological lines. In the aggregate, these concerns are insignificant compared to the ‘throwing money at it and forget it’ approach.

Education is a mutli-faceted problem. Excellence is a matter of the individual, the family, the community, the schools, and the educators all working together towards common objectives. Each of these facets have their own needs and circumstances and the others must adapt to maintain cohesion of efforts. That need is why a choice among many options may be one necessary component.

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You’re disfuntional if you don’t believe like I do

Every now and then there is a story, usually from the Left, about how those on the right are stupid, mentally deficient, or have some cognitive impairment. CNSNEWS carries the latest: Liberal Activist Says ‘Cognitive’ Brain Patterns Prevent Conservatives From Accepting Threat of Global Warming citing George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California-Berkeley.

Proponents of human-caused global warming claim that “cognitive” brain function prevents conservatives from accepting the science that says “climate change” is an imminent threat to planet Earth and its inhabitants.

Of course, this is the ad hominem fallacy and might be construed as projection from the psychologist’s point of view. That should be enough to raise questions about the pattern of trying to dismiss one’s ideological foes but there are more substantial reasons as well.

Pat Michaels, a former professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the argument that opponents of human-caused global warming are physically or psychologically different reveals “desperation” on the part of those who want people to not only embrace the idea of human destruction of the environment but put that idea into laws regulating human activity. … Michaels asserts that science doesn’t confirm, and in some cases even rejects, the existence of human-caused global warming.

Global warming is anticipated to be the next big issue now that a health care bill has passed. There is a pattern there, too. The health care bill debate illustrated similar tactics. IBD calls it Enacting a Lie.

Sunday’s vote exposed the ugly truth that ObamaCare is not really about health care at all. It’s all about who pays for it and who controls it — in effect a massive wealth-redistribution scheme.

Those who believe this will lead to some medical nirvana will likely be disappointed. Fact is, this poorly designed monstrosity will lead to lower-quality care, higher costs, fewer practicing physicians, higher taxes and fewer jobs.

Both issues, climate alarmism and government health care, are sold as a means to prevent disaster and calamity. Both are sold by dishonest means. Both are part of an agenda to socialize society and move control from the individual to government. Proponents of both do not like questions, skepticism, or honest debate. That should be a worry.

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The lawyers have a problem

A group called Keep America Safe has released a video questioning the values of a number of lawyers now working in the Justice Department because of their pro bono work for Gitmo detainees. That has the lawyer community up in arms in protest. It also has the Democrats using the opportunity to sling mud at Republicans. Devin Garret describes the scene as Critics of Justice lawyers under fire.

A conservative group’s bashing of several Obama administration lawyers as the “al Qaeda Seven” has struck a nerve in the U.S. legal community, prompting even some fellow Republicans to denounce the group’s attack.

Orin Kerr and commenters at the Volokh Conspiracy show the nerve at Lawyers, Treason, and Deception: A Response to Andrew McCarthy.

The questioning is indeed a ‘guilt by association’ effort. Where the lawyers have a problem is in that the number of Al Qaeda pro bono lawyers in the Justice Department is disproportionate and the matters of detainee status and warfare are not as settled in the public mind as some lawyers may think. The lawyers see the pro bono effort as equivalent to representing indigent criminals or other citizens who need legal remedies. They have questions about whether there is a war on or not – even if the courts have pretty much said the US is indeed in a state of war. Then there is the problem of the status of the detainees which has been clouded by legal attacks and assaults that also offend much of the public.

What Keep America Safe is saying is not only that the Justice Department may have a bias when it comes to national security, the legal community needs to take a careful look at its own predispositions and biases. You can indeed go too far on well meaning do-good efforts and if you don’t understand the boundaries, they will find you.

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The census and civil disobedience

There seems to be a movement objecting to the focus on race by the government. Scott at Powerline says We’re an American Man and cites Mark Krikorian on the point that much of the US census form is about race. The suggested solution has been picked up by many.

I Am An American — ( Census #9- check “Some other race”, write in “American.” ) citing Ace of Spades.

Shrinkwrapped suggests Sending a Message with the Census.

Tigerhawk echoes the sentiment in Civil disobedience.

Economic Expert describes the options and notes that:

Some other race was included in 2000 census for respondents who were unable to identify with the five Office of Management and Budget race categories. Respondents who provided write-in entries such as Moroccan, South African, Belizean, or a Hispanic origin (for example, Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Cuban) (or even American) are included in the “Some other race” category.

Bear Creek Ledger has its take on Census Question Number 9 – pass it on.

What will the Census Bureau do if you answer “American?” A clue is in Recommendations of the Census Bureau’s African American Advisory Committee. It looks like answers of other -> American will be assigned a slot in the defined race categories at the whim of the Bureau.

The US Census looks to be an opportunity for US citizens to express their feelings about societal segregation by race. It appears to be an opportunity that has significant appeal to many.

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Latest media scare: the revenge of the machine

Toyota has been under assault about runaway cars. The assertion is that some high end Toyota cars will go full throttle all by themselves. This resulted in Congressional inquiry and ABC even aired a report purportedly showing it could happen to you.

But it turns out that (a) wide open throttle complaints have declined with the introduction of electronic throttles and (b), as Toyota says, “Electronics Don’t Rewire Themselves” as the media report did. Popular Mechanics describes how the media report was misleading.

Here’s what Gilbert had to do to make his Avalon go rogue: He had to cut open three of the six wires that travel from the pedal assembly to the engine computer. Two of the wires send the accelerator-position signals—one for each Hall-effect sensor—and one is a 5-volt power supply. Next he had to insert a specific 200-ohm resistor between the two signal wires. Finally, he had to generate a direct short between the 5-volt supply lines and the signal leads. The new wiring essentially mimicked a size-12 mashing of the pedal to the carpet and the engine went to WOT. Also, the order of the modification is important. Apply the 5-volt power lead to the wires before inserting the resistor and the computer would instead throw a fault code and go into limp mode.

Needless to say, Toyota is examining the vehicles returned to the shop that had complaints about throttle performance trying to find out what could cause the problem.

For the public, the idea that there are two independent throttle sensors should provide a clue that there is more than is readily visible. Automotive engineering pays a great deal of attention to safety, failure modes, and potential hazardous situations. The two throttle sensors don’t just duplicate their sensing, they do so in a way that allows them to be known to be different yet compared in what they say about the throttle position. After the throttle position, there are other conditions that must be met before throttle action is taken. If anything goes wrong or the various checks don’t match up, the engine check light is turned on and the vehicle is put into limp home mode. The design goal is for any failure or oddity to fail safe.

It is possible that there is a bug in the system. That would have to be one interesting bug to only show up in such very few situations. Since most of the control is in software, there would have to be a common factor in those situations that exist in no other. Might be – but odds are way out there.

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Sowell on the implications of a DHMO petition

Dr. Sowell laments.

When we see children in elementary schools out carrying signs in demonstrations, we are seeing the kind of mindless groupthink that causes adults to sign petitions they don’t understand or— worse yet— follow leaders they don’t understand, whether to the White House, the Kremlin or Jonestown.

A philosopher once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of one’s own ignorance. That is the knowledge that too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach our young people.

Artificial stupidity? Artificial may be the wrong word. Studious stupidity may be a bit closer to the truth.

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It may have started with the teachers

It may be that teacher’s unions were among the first to gain significant clout. They have also been among the first under the gun with such events as the firing that hit the news in Rhode Island lately. They have also been under the gun in regards to charter schools, ‘No child left behind’ accountability measures and the growth of home schooling.

But now, other public sector unions are coming under scrutiny because they have made their members Civil Servants no more. The Washington Times book review by Jeremy Lott takes note of one example.

Mr. Greenhut does a good job of showing how California’s public employee unions have done so much to cause the state’s budget troubles by negotiating large salaries, benefits and retirement packages far out of line with state revenues. He does an even better job of showing how the unions respond when their privilege is threatened.

For instance, they managed to shoot down all of the referendums Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put on the state ballot in 2005 to get a grip on state spending.

This, in essence, is the expression of a warning that goes back to the founding fathers. The public sector has surpassed the private in terms of salaries and the benefits have never been comparable. Public sector employees have had better job security than private in recent times. A result has been that many communities are facing financial pressures. Trying to find revenue sources to pay for their employees is a big problem but even that problem looks small in comparison to the bill that is coming due in regards to pensions and retirement benefits.

Restoring the balance is likely to be a rough process.

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Drug scare

One the one side are people without access to drugs that may help them. On the other is a government that wants to make sure that all drugs are perfectly safe. Dr. Gilbert Ross describes the assault on Avandia in this debate.

The bureaucratic agenda behind this gratuitous and unscientific attack is spelled out in the report: The authors want to create an independent drug-safety division within – but separate from – the FDA. Even though our drug regulators are the world’s most demanding, the senators and Dr. Graham want even more stringency. They have long been advocates for an even more cautious, risk-averse FDA, elevating safety above all other concerns – even at the cost of sacrificing innovative, lifesaving new drugs.

There are two trends here. One is the litigation that ensues because the ‘government’ says something isn’t safe. The other is in the growth of government.

There is already one agency involved in determining drug safety. This episode shows what happens when someone things that agency isn’t doing the job right – they suggest another agency or bureau. No wonder it is the public employee sector that is growing and that is in both quantity as well as in salary level.

Then there are the ‘science’ aspects involved in the measurement and assessment of efficacy and risk. Pharmacology is in the same vein as climatology in terms of fuzziness of measure. That fuzziness of measure is a rich field of opportunity for those who want certitude and finality in outcome.

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Modern sensibilities

Ann Woolner provides an excellent example of the problem in Give Us a Right to Be Free of Those Who Bear Arms. The title illustrates a lack of tolerance for other people and their views. In order to support the desire to be free of certain type or class of person, that class is then assigned certain ‘bad’ behaviors.

I favor a reverse Second Amendment. It would read something like this:

“Well-regulated firearms, being necessary to the security of the states, the right of the people to be safe from gunfire as they go about their daily lives shall not be infringed.”

This should be a familiar pattern to those who understand racism. In this case, the assumption is made that the right to carry firearms means that society is subject to a lack of safety due to gunfire. The desire to be free from any risk of gunfire is laudable. It is the connection between that and the lawful carrying of firearms where the problem arises. This is analogous to expressing dislike of some racial or ethnic group and rationalizing that dislike by asserting that that group has some despicable or other bad characteristic or behavior – as a group.

If you read the opinion, you’ll see other characteristics besides this bigoted racism. There is the use of ridicule. There is the reduce to the absurd. There is a problem connecting to reality. There is fear to go with the loathing. There is the scary example implied to be the norm.

There is a constitutional concept that allows us to be free from certain people we loathe or abhor. It is the freedom of association. That, like the freedom to bear arms, requires responsibility, tolerance, and acceptance of its limitations. Many have tried to have ‘gun free’ compounds. That is their right. Where it becomes a problem is when they try to foist that value on everyone else and force them to also live in such a compound. That is the essence of modern sensibilities: we know what is good for you because it is what we like.

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The fundamental conundrum

The problem with much of the climate change alarmism is one of matching what has been measured to what is attributed to that measure. The Reference Frame takes note in A toad of truth: golden toads not killed by GW

The very idea that global warming causes any of these things is utterly ludicrous. If you want to kill a toad, you must give it a poison or shoot it or something like that. You can’t do it by raising the temperature by half a degree. There exists a long list of 690+ consequences of global warming, with links to the media.

Things just don’t match up. You can’t reliably find the temperature in your yard to within a fraction of a degree much less its average temperature much less any impact on the flora and fauna due to that sort of change. Yet, we hear often and repeated nearly every day about some unusual, usually disastrous, event being caused by human caused climate change. That is the fundamental conundrum.

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The medical hockey stick

Climate research isn’t the only field suffering from misplaced expectations and outcomes. Johb Timmer says We’re so good at medical studies that most of them are wrong at ars technica and describes inherent problems encountered when trying to make conclusions about phenomena that has many inputs and much complexity.

The consensus seems to be that we simply can’t rely on the researchers to do it. As Shaffer noted, experimentalists who produce the raw data want it to generate results, and the statisticians do what they can to help them find them. The problems with this are well recognized within the statistics community, but they’re loath to engage in the sort of self-criticism that could make a difference. (The attitude, as Young described it, is “We’re both living in glass houses, we both have bricks.”)

in the mean time, Shaffer seemed to suggest that we simply have to recognize the problem and communicate it with the public, so that people don’t leap to health conclusions each time a new population study gets published. Medical researchers recognize the value of replication, and they don’t start writing prescriptions based on the latest gene expression study—they wait for the individual genes to be validated. As we wait for any sort of reform to arrive, caution, and explaining to the public the reasons for this caution, seems like the best we can do.

At least in medicine there is whiplash as there are many different studies that reach conflicting conclusions. That is a contrast to the monolithic climate research output. Which is better?

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Tactics of distraction accusation

The CSM illustrates how true believers can rationalize – and marginalize – those whose views they do not understand. The opinion is War over the Arctic? Global warming skeptics distract us from security risks. The thesis is that anyone skeptical of AGW is distracted from national security issues.

The first claim asserted as authoritarian is that the Arctic ice is melting. Heubert is quoted to affirm that the Arctic has lost 40% of its icecap since 1995. “It is not a matter of if, but when, the ice will be gone,” he said. This particular conclusion is elevated from the opinion of a scientist to a matter of absolute fact. That is then extrapolated to arrive at the idea that “Expected melting of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean means greatly expanded access to increasingly scarce fossil fuels. It also means tensions over Arctic real estate.”

Then there is the straw man: “Partially because of years of climate change denial, “the United States remains largely asleep at the wheel,” according to a Foreign Affairs article last March by Scott Borgerson.” This gets supported by assumptions about the character of the lay public:

“Most Americans have no clue the United States is an Arctic nation,” said US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Gene Brooks. Such ignorance carries a heavy price. Yet broader public ignorance about climate change is the goal of some skeptics and deniers. It wasn’t that long ago when cigarette manufacturers told Congress that nicotine wasn’t addictive, or when Detroit’s auto moguls insisted that seat belts were a bad idea. Responsible dissent is one thing. But defiance of facts on the ground that imperil US national and energy security is quite another. Says Brooks: “The age of the Arctic is upon us.”

i.e. if you don’t agree with me, you are stupid and ignorant. You have no clue as to reality. You are in denial and morally equivalent to other despicable groups of people who took ignorant viewpoints.

Just because you won’t get sold a bill of goods does not mean you are in denial. The fact of the matter is that the allegations of denial have more behaviors in consonance with projection than do their subject with irrational rejection of false claims.

The facts is that there is no evidence that the icecap is suffering anything other than nominal variation (and it has recovered its extent in recent years), Skepticism of alarmist claims is appropriate and necessary as a part of education of others and confirmation of ideas. It is entirely reasonable to express skepticism such as “you want me to believe what is a result of a one degree change in climate over my lifetime?” There is a proportionality problem here that is not being addressed.

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Attack the attacker, early and often

Another technique often seen in many of the modern ideological debates is that of trying to maintain the offense. This means finding ways to deal with an attack. An example is reported by the Guardian in US Senate’s top climate sceptic accused of waging ‘McCarthyite witch-hunt’. Senator Inhofe has called for a criminal investigation into the actions of 17 scientists who had communications in the collection that became public last fall.

“I think this is like a drag net, just to try and catch everyone whose name happens to be on this list. It’s guilt by association and I thought those days were over 50 years ago,” said Michael Oppenheimer, of Princeton University, who is on the list of 17 scientists. “It looks like a McCarthyite tactic: pull in anyone who had anything to do with anyone because they happened to converse with some by email, and threaten them with criminal activity.”

An inquiry is being called “guilt by association” and subjecting ‘honest researchers’ to “inquisitions.” The attacks on these poor scientists who dared to participate in communications that the Institute of Physics described as a perversion of science are considered to be a “coordinated attack” on the ideology of AGW. The whitewash investigations done by peers and colleagues are cited to illustrate just how underhanded these new calls for investigation must be. There is worry about how a Senator is using the power of his office to intimidate and harass.

The fact remains, as an inquiry in Great Britain concluded, there was indeed illegal activity. That inquiry said the only saving grace was that the obfuscation took enough time to allow the transgression to escape the statute of limitations by a quirk of the law. This initial review only illustrates that the stakes are very high. That is why it is necessary to use any method to impugn and disparage questions about the behavior involved as protecting the perversions of the process is a protection of self.

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