Archive for November, 2015

Being ignorant won’t slow them down

Tom Gresham takes up the case: When the gun-ignorant make gun laws — “Rather than improve safety, they simply waste money.”

When technically ignorant politicians and ideologues ignore those with expertise in a subject, one begins to wonder if there’s not an agenda other than safety and crime reduction at work. Proposing gun restrictions, which they don’t understand, or which are technically impossible, also position politicians for well-deserved ridicule.

Those who seek to ban some, if not all, guns, have always resorted to demonizing or misrepresenting either the guns, themselves or the parts or functionality they don’t understand. Ignorance is the foundation of the gun-ban movement.

Throughout the past half-century, bans have been proposed, and even enacted, on the basis of guns being too small (“Saturday night specials”), being too cheap (“junk guns”), being too accurate (“sniper rifles”), and looking too mean (“assault weapons”). Each has failed when the reality of what a firearm is, how it’s made and how it functions collides with the fantasy world of the technically ignorant gun control lobby.

Enough to make one wonder if there is another agenda … Want something. Do anything to get it. Take from others for reasons that are really unknown hence manufactured.

Guns are not the only issue where this happens.

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The engineering standard?

Herchel Smith takes note of some commentary stimulated by the pending Paris Climate Conference in Global Warming Fraud? Say It Ain’t So!. There are two problems. One is that claims about extreme often depend upon differences in measure that are well under the noise threshold. The other is the lack of accountability in research.

give me an engineering report on the field measurements, and instrumentation used, calibration data sheets, and a data mean, prove to me that you meet the central limit theorem with the ten or so statistical tests used for Monte Carlo calculations, get it peer reviewed, and most of all, have it all done by a registered PE who can be taken to court and lose everything (including his livelihood) if he’s wrong, and then maybe I’ll take it seriously.

Otherwise, the AGW advocates are just wasting my time. But they won’t do that, because they want to write papers in the echo chamber that is AGW “science.”

The standard used is that of the role of a registered professional engineer. An application for a special use permit to build a million square foot warehousing facility near here was peppered with the seals of PE’s who signed off on various reports and findings. While legal culpability might be a bit much for research findings, the means and methods should not be. The problem with much research about climate is that the usual substitute for legal culpability is under assault. Rather than attempting to enhance duplication of results, any who question are told to shut up or even threatened with unemployment or legal prosecution. There is a smell coming from the climate research community and it is beginning to be noticed.

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Pick a target, Never give up. Never surrender.

Exxon has long been a target of the green movement. Now, it’s Schneiderman’s Climate Inquisition — “New York’s attorney general launches a bid to criminalize skepticism“.

what has inflamed progressives, and given impetus to the New York investigation, is the revelation that Exxon has given money to conservative organizations that oppose the extreme policy proposals of climate alarmists. Or, to use the New York Times’s tendentious description, the company may have played a role in “directing campaigns of climate denial, usually by libertarian-leaning political groups.”

The theory is tenuous, but the endgame is clear: to force Exxon and other companies to settle. Even when the underlying legal theory is frivolous, responding to a subpoena like the one served on Exxon—which seeks nearly 30 years of records—presents high financial and reputational costs. Moreover, the risk of criminal prosecution is one that most companies, particularly publicly-traded companies, can’t afford to take. Peabody Energy has already buckled under the threat of prosecution. After a few more energy companies embrace climate alarmism to avoid the taint of prosecution, the rest of the industry will be sufficiently intimidated to pull any funding from groups that question “established climate science.”

Progressives like to claim that there is an overwhelming consensus in favor of radical action on climate change. That may not currently be true, but it certainly will be once climate dissent is outlawed.

Not only is the effort to silence dissidents, it is to punish them and profit in the process. There seems to be a book on how to abuse prosecutorial discretion for ideological ends. The NY AG isn’t alone. Consider what has happened in the US AG’s office regarding, for instance, Black Panthers monitoring polling places. Then take a look at recent stories about how the LA police steal weapons from burglarized homes. 

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How does a lie live so long?

Rabbi Abraham Cooper tells how MSNBC got caught: Lying through their teeth and their maps — “Factually inaccurate maps distort Jewish and Arab land claims.” The thing is that the maps in question have long since been discredited as a 70’s attempt to show how “Those nasty Zionist imperialists have been stealing more and more Palestinian land.”

None of these facts deter a Who’s-Who of mainline churches who continue to deploy the map with impunity, decrying the theft of “Palestinian” land by the Jews and rallying members to vote for punitive measures against Israel.

How does a lie live so long? Seems that a convenient untruth can often trump the real story. Evidence the celebrated link between homo sapiens and his simian ancestors. Or so people thought of it until that hoax was discovered.

So truth will eventually prevail — but only if and when people are prepared to hear it.

In a Gallup poll of attitudes toward the honesty and ethical standards of people in various professions, well over twice as many Americans trusted clergy over television news reporters. Judging by the way the four-panel map of Palestine hoax continues to be recycled by some church groups, they may want reconsider their preference.

The fact is that there has not been any Palestinian state and it is only a modern invention intended to foment civil disruption. The area was a part of the Turkish empire until WWI and then a British colony until allocated to the Jews in 1948 as part of WWII reparations. But lies don’t die as long as they serve a useful propaganda purpose for those without intellectual integrity. The idea of a historic Palestinian state is one of those lies for the anti-western culture enthusiasts.

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Disregard for old-fashioned truth

VDH on The fiction of ‘Truth’ — “Leftists love lies, if the cause is noble.”

Utter disregard for old-fashioned truth is now deeply embedded in contemporary America, largely because it advances a particular agenda. It reminds of an earlier age of politically correct fable, when evidence in the Alger Hiss case and the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case got in the way of ideologically useful mythologies.

Subsequent fact-finding does not seem to dispel these untruths. Instead, what could or should have happened must have happened, given that the noble ends of social justice are thought to justify the means deemed necessary to achieve them.

The “60 Minutes” memos about Bush’s Air National Guard service were never authenticated. Everyone now rejects the myth that the Benghazi attack was a result of a video. Investigators proved that Michael Brown was not executed by Officer Wilson. Ahmed was neither a young prodigy nor a victim of bias.

But the legends are created and persist because they further progressive agendas — and the thousands of prestigious and lucrative careers invested in them.

The enlightened ends of seeking racial and religious tolerance, equality of opportunity and political accountability are never advanced by the illiberal means of lying. What makes this 2016 election so unpredictable are fed-up voters — in other words, Americans who finally are becoming tired of being lied to.

There appears to be a growing awareness of how such deceit is not just a distortion of actual events but an actual hoax. It is no longer a matter of differences in perception but rather a difference in what is actual fact. It used to be that everyone could have their own opinion but they all shared the same facts. This no longer seems to be the case as everyone wants their own facts, too. 

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Understanding the opposition: The Mizzou example

The Neo-Neocon has More on Missouri—and more and more and more. He has been studying the events and happenings and thinks it has legs.

a lot of people are puzzled about what Wolfe and Loftin did or did not do that deserve canning as punishment. I can answer that question quite simply: they didn’t deserve it, the social justice warrior mob demanded it, and what the social justice warrior mob wants on college campuses the social justice warrior mob gets. Enlisting the football team in the fight was the icing on the cake, because football is very powerful on the college campus as well.

The deeper one goes into the facts at Missouri, the more it seems clear (or at least highly likely) that the actual complaints were minor at best, and that it is not at all certain that the alleged offenders were students there. What on earth was the administration supposed to do about it? There was nothing they could have done that they didn’t do. These incidents were pretexts for flexing the muscles of the movement.

The left is very sophisticated. The left is very tireless. The left is very organized. The left is very savvy about politics and power. The left is a giant octopus whose reach is vast, and it is in nearly total control of the American university.

Sophisticated. Tireless. Organized. Savvy. And, no, it’s not a conspiracy or the plot of a gifted few: that is another aspect that makes it difficult to pin down and defend against. A first step is taking the covers off the behaviors and that is why Trump and Carson are gaining so much support.

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Being able to reproduce results?

Ben Marwick gets into How computers broke science – and what we can do to fix it. The issue has a current high profile example of the problem in climatology right now. The Congressional brouhaha over an agency’s manipulation of data and that agency’s reluctance to comply with requests for information is a case in point.

The problem:

For most of the history of science, researchers have reported their methods in a way that enabled independent reproduction of their results. But, since the introduction of the personal computer – and the point-and-click software programs that have evolved to make it more user-friendly – reproducibility of much research has become questionable, if not impossible. Too much of the research process is now shrouded by the opaque use of computers that many researchers have come to depend on. This makes it almost impossible for an outsider to recreate their results.

The problem is that most modern science is so complicated, and most journal articles so brief, it’s impossible for the article to include details of many important methods and decisions made by the researcher as he analyzed his data on his computer. How, then, can another researcher judge the reliability of the results, or reproduce the analysis?

Stanford statisticians Jonathan Buckheit and David Donoho described this issue as early as 1995:

An article about computational science in a scientific publication is not the scholarship itself, it is merely advertising of the scholarship. The actual scholarship is the complete software development environment and the complete set of instructions which generated the figures.

It means all those private files on our personal computers, and the private analysis tasks we do as we work toward preparing for publication should be made public along with the journal article.

This would be a huge change in the way scientists work. We’d need to prepare from the start for everything we do on the computer to eventually be made available for others to see. For many researchers, that’s an overwhelming thought. Victoria Stodden has found the biggest objection to sharing files is the time it takes to prepare them by writing documentation and cleaning them up. The second biggest concern is the risk of not receiving credit for the files if someone else uses them.

What to do? FOSS is gaining attention.

Currently, these are the tools and methods of the avant-garde, and many midcareer and senior researchers have only a vague awareness of them. But many undergraduates are learning them now. Many graduate students, seeing personal advantages to getting organized, using open formats, free software and streamlined collaboration, are seeking out training and tools from volunteer organizations such as Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry and rOpenSci to fill the gaps in their formal training.

Measurements in the lab have always been described the tools being used and any peculiarities involved in the test and measurement setup and procedure as a routine part of reports. What Ben notes is that this bit of background in the reporting of investigations has become rather sloppy when it comes to twiddling with numbers using modern computer technologies. The suggestion for a fix is to go back to fundamentals. Describe the methods used to obtain and manipulate measurements. Provide the software and the well sourced data in a manner that anyone can replicate and examine.

Complicated? That’s an excuse. When there are enthusiasts reverse engineering cheap VHF-UHF radio firmware, hackers trying to see if they can get past security barriers in cell phones and business databases as entertainment, and FOSS projects such as the Linux kernal and the GNU project, excuses don’t cut it. What should cause wonderment is why it is only just now that “many graduate students” are just beginning to see personal advantages in the FOSS paradigm and why proprietary data formats such as those native to Microsoft Office, are so predominant. It’s been more than thirty years since VisiCalc took the  financial world by storm. Isn’t “avant-garde” getting a bit stale for this sort of technology?

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Actual denial

Orac says it is A sad day for public science advocacy and then illustrates hubris and denial in his plaint.

Over the years, I’ve noticed many traits that various antiscience cranks share in common, be they antivaccinationists, quacks, anthropogenic global climate change denialists, or anti-GMO activists, and that is an obsession with ad hominem attacks. They can’t win on the science because science doesn’t support them; so they attack the man—or woman. The tactics they use include online harassment, harassment of families, legal thuggery (as Steve Novella recently suffered), and, of course, harassing them at work by contacting their supervisors or administration. …  Of course, if harassment of one kind doesn’t work, maybe another type of harassment might. If harassment at a science communicator’s day job doesn’t work, maybe a bogus lawsuit or online public attacks might. Whatever the tactic, the idea is to intimidate the critic to silence, or at least to make speaking up so painful that the critic thinks twice about it. At the very least, other scientists who see what happened to, say, Dr. Folta might decide speaking up is just not worth the consequences. Again, that’s the idea.

Consider what he is doing here. His list of “antiscience cranks” list four issues and makes no distinction about the quality differences between them. The label itself tends to be an illustration of what he calls an “obsession with ad hominem attacks” because crank is about the person and not the quality of the argument. Who is it that is creating a straw man in making assertions about the “idea” these cranks have about goals for their action?

One of the fundamental issues in science, and especially in the social ‘sciences’, is an awareness of observer bias and its effects on measure and perception. The behaviors Orac cites are those that can be seen by anyone and have been noted in this blog for years. Where Orac fails is that he does not seem aware of observer bias and tends to commit the same behavior he impugns. There appears to be a self awareness missing. 

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Considering FUD via ignorance: data mining edition

Brandon Valeriano takes on Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Stoked by Bond and other fiction, our fear of surveillance is worse than the real thing.

There is a real need to rectify our fears and align them with the realities of cyber-conflict. Yes, we face a growing number of attacks online, but their impact and severity are not increasing. To secure this fragile stability, we need to take an approach that will ensure that those attacks and breaches that are bound to occur are kept as limited as possible.

The recent coverage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) passed by the US senate only reinforces the view that the fears we construct are often the greatest danger to our security. An all-knowing security surveillance programme is beyond our capabilities at the moment, but by preventing government and commercial organisations from making best use of the information available to them, we’re leaving ourselves vulnerable.

Chasing rabbits, it is chasing rabbits. Too many of them going in too many different directions and you can’t live off them because they lack nutrients humans need to survive. But many who don’t know do it anyway. They buy protections they don’t really need and push for laws that weigh heavily in dangerous directions.

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Denial of reality: Rather, Mapes, et al (Galaxy Quest edition)

Scott Johnson was one of the first to point out the blatant fraud involved in the Rather reporting of Texas National Guard documents intended to impugn a candidate for president. The attempt to deny that reality continues with ‘seriousness of the charge’ and ‘fake but accurate’ and other known rationales being drug up to prove what cannot be. A recent movie release attempts to re-write history and Johnson is on that as well. Lies of Truth provides a summary.

The film is all about rewriting history. Thus the celebration of the film by the New York Times at the TimesTalks event hosted gingerly by Susan Dominus last month. The left is unrelenting in supporting the myths that sustain its political religion. Truth runs 121 minutes, but it’s an Orwellian Two Minutes Hate for the ignorant, the gullible, and the true believers.

It is like the mantra in Galaxy Quest: “never give up, never surrender.” Such an approach is fine if you are trying to save the galaxy and have a solid basis in reality but the left is trying to make a fantasy and farce a reality, just as in the movie — With another movie that has about the same credibility as Galaxy Quest.

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