Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reason is a politician's enemy

Reviewing outstanding examples of scientific illiteracy, the Sunday Independent (UK) recalls the US presidential campaign:

Mr Obama and John McCain blundered into the MMR vaccine row during their presidential campaigns. "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate," said President-elect Obama. "Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it," he said.

His words were echoed by Mr McCain. "It's indisputable that [autism] is on the rise among children, the question is what's causing it," he said. "There's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do with a preservative in the vaccines."

Exhaustive research has failed to substantiate any link to vaccines or any preservatives. The rise in autism is thought to be due to an increased awareness of the condition.

Even if Obama or McCain knew better, they were smart to be wrong.  Being right on such an issue would open a politician to charges of being insensitive.  We may think of ourselves as being part of a modern and enlightened society but the voting public values sensitivity far more than well-reasoned scientific thought.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Stealing Minnesota

Fox News looks at some strange rulings by the Minnesota Canvassing board as it decides the Franken vs Coleman senate race.  But note that the left-side of the blogosphere makes a big deal out of one of the many examples in the story being reportedly incorrect.

Bizarre Leader Worship

A Washington Post news story, reporter Eli Saslow describes President-elect Obama's exercise:
The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.
The unbiased story continues:
The more Obama's life intensifies, friends said, the more he relies on the gym....

Even Obama's closest friends said they marvel at how he has maintained his commitment.
Michele Malkin contrasts this the Washington Post op-ed's treatment of Pres. Bush's exercise routine ("Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy”).

PREVIOUSLY, leader worship of Obama was covered here ("it's not merely his youthful vigor, or handsomeness, or even inspiring rhetoric") and here ("25 fittest"). It is easy to forget that only a year ago, Sen. Clinton was the one receiving the leader worship.

Go back a few more years to 1927 and the New York Times was enthralled by Stalin, described as the "calm" "steady" "Buddha of the Kremlin." Obviously, 1927 was back when the mass-murderer Stalin was still cool, before the Hitler-Stalin pact which caused liberals to re-evaluate him.

RELATED, reporters for the Washington Post Foreign Service describe Al Gore this way: "sexy man. The thinking girl's thoroughbred." (hat tip: BMI) Contrast that with the way that Salon sexualizes Gov. Palin.

Family to advocate racial separatism

Maggie Anderson asks:
What if our community truly united to Buy Black? Now, we’ll see.
She and her family plan to "buy Black" starting January 1. The Chicago Sun-Times writes on Ms. Anderson's plan to buy Black:
That means she's got to find a new dry cleaner. She's looking for a place to gas up the family's two cars. And locating black McDonald's franchises is a must. "My girls love the fries," she said of her two daughters.
There is no word yet on the genetic purity that she will require. How many generations back must a McDonald's franchise owner provide their his genealogy in order to establish an acceptable racial background so that Ms. Anderson's daughters may enjoy their French fries? Would a 1/8th non-Black background disqualify the franchisee? Or, would a 1/8th Black background be sufficient for her to purchase the fries? Racial separatism is more complicated than it sounds.

PREVIOUSLY, on the subject of racism: "He's not black and he can't represent me, that's just the bottom line" and "NAACP defends racism."

RELATED, LaShawn Barber describes, here and here, the details of affirmative action plans.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Confusing Compassion with Narcissism

Nicholas Kristof, two-time pulitzer prize winner and a former associate managing editor, has an op-ed column in the New York Times discussing research that he says shows that conservatives are more generous to charity than liberals.  He writes:
Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.
Are liberals really demonstrating "tremendous compassion" when all they do is advocate that someone else (the government) spend money on a problem?  Thinking of themselves as compassionate while not actually sacrificing anything sounds to me more like narcissism.

As an aside, Kristof's premise seems to be a little off.  Reading further into his column,  it seems that it is religious people, regardless of politics, who are more generous to charities.  (Since religious believers are mostly conservative, that explains the statistical partisan tilt.)  I suspect that this is simply because church members have stronger confidence that their charitable donations will be used wisely than givers to secular charities such as the United Way.

How Social Science Research is Done

Arthur C. Brooks is the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University and the author of Who Really Cares. In the New York Times, he explains how he goes about doing research:
“When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”
In other words, the steps are (1) start with a liberal hypothesis, (2) find data, (3) if data doesn't agree with liberalism, try to change the data, and (4) accept that the liberal hypothesis is wrong only as a last resort.

The Liberal Herd

Jay Nordlinger describes (H/T Powerline) going to Carnegie Hall for a Christmas concert where he expected a `respite from politics':
Shortly into the concert, the conductor turns to the audience and speaks about “the holidays.” This year, he says, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are overlapping with Christmas. (According to what I can find, Kwanzaa begins on December 26, but never mind.) Then we have New Year’s Day. And “on January 20, there will be a new beginning for our country.” The crowd, of course, erupts into cheers. Then he says, “I see I’m not the only one who’s ready.”

They can’t help themselves, can they? They can’t help preening, saying, in effect, “See how virtuous I am? My politics are correct. I am a fully paid-up member of the herd — nothing independent-minded about me.” I have seen this in Carnegie Hall before (as elsewhere): The conductor, or someone else, makes a partisan political statement, releasing a little stink bomb that smells up the entire evening, no matter how good the music is.
They have to say `how virtuous they are,' this blog asserts, because they suffer from depression, from guilt complexes, and, at some level, they know they act like adolescents.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

RIAA is still filing new lawsuits

Several news organizations reported that the RIAA said it had stopped suing music downloaders. To my knowledge, none of those news organizations fact-checked the statement. However, Ray Beckerman of the Recording Industry vs. People blog did and he writes:
According to a report on, the RIAA spokesman claims that the RIAA has not filed any new lawsuits "for months"; according to the Wall Street Journal report the RIAA stopped filing mass lawsuits "early this fall"; and the Associated Press was apparently told that the RIAA had stopped bringing new lawsuits in August.

Being very familiar with the RIAA's penchant for "misspeaking", even when under oath, I investigated the matter a bit, and learned that a large number of suits have been brought by the RIAA quite recently, one as recently as this Monday. Here are just a few.

Atlantic Recording v. Williams 08cv01710 W.D. Pennsylvania 12/15/08
Sony BMG Music v. Linus 08cv14413 S.D. Florida 12/11/08
UMG Recordings v. Gulledge 08-cv-00973-MHT-TFM M.D. Alabama 12/10/08
Warner Bros. Records Kelley 08-cv-02295-CLS N.D. Alabama 12/10/08
Sony BMG Music v. Van Ornum 08-cv-04205-JLH E.D. Arkansas 12/10/08
Interscope Records v. Tabor 08-cv-03068-JLH W.D. Arkansas 12/10/08
BMG Music v. O'Brien 08-cv-02244-HRH D. Arizona 12/10/08
Priority Records v. Easterling 08-cv-08131-PA-JTL C.D. California 12/10/08
UMG Recordings v. Ibarzabal 08-cv-08136-R-SH C.D. California 12/10/08
Interscope Records v. Doe 4 08-cv-01880-JBA D. Connecticut 12/10/08
Arista Records v. Doe 2 08-cv-01874-CFD D. Connecticut 12/10/08
Arista Records v. Doe 3 08-cv-01876-SRU D. Connecticut 12/10/08
UMG Recordings v. Burmeister 08-cv-02295-MPM-DGB C.D. Illinois 12/10/08
To be charitable, I suppose the RIAA spokesman could have meant that no new investigations, as opposed to lawsuits resulting from old investigations, had been started in recent months.

A Web Browser for Racial Separatists

LaShawn Barber says this isn't a joke: there really is a web browser, called Blackbird, designed for African Americans, with claimed features such as and "dark black theme" and:
  • Black Search
  • Black News Ticker
  • Black Bookmarks
  • Blackbird TV
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Email Manager
  • Social Network Manager

The Blackbird Browser gives you access to Internet sites just like Internet Explorer, plus more community-specific features when you want them. For example, Black Search moves important information from African American sites higher in your search results. Try the Blackbird Browser and see how we are customizing the web experience just for you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congress and Spam

Network World reports on the successes of the  2003 CAN-SPAM act:
"Lawyers were having to work overtime to stretch existing laws to cover what was going on with spam. Issues like falsified headers were not clear-cut legal offenses," Church explains. "A lot of folks were saying: 'What can we do to give some teeth to legal efforts to try to stop spam?' There were a number of different proposals over many years, and the one that carried the day was the CAN-SPAM Act."

CAN-SPAM allows the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and state agencies to prosecute spammers, and it allows ISPs to sue those who violate the law.

The FTC has brought around 30 law enforcement actions under the CAN-SPAM Act, according to a staff report issued in November 2007. Meanwhile, AOL, Yahoo, EarthLink and Microsoft have sued hundreds of alleged spammers under CAN-SPAM. 

"One of the other good things about CAN-SPAM is that it provided the ability for end users and ISPs who are victims of spam to seek justice on their own behalf, and a number of them have taken advantage of that fact," says Dmitri Alperovitch, director of intelligence analysis at Secure Computing. [emph. added]

So, what good has all this prosecuting and suing accomplished?  Not much.  As Network World points out, back when Congress heroically passed CAN-SPAM, spam made up only 45% of e-mail.  Now, five years later, it constitutes an amazing 97% of all e-mail.  But fret not because the upside is that the lawyers doing all the prosecuting, suing, and defending are profiting.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Money and Education

Camille Paglia writes of President-elect Obama's public works proposals:
I gulped when Obama also pledged educational reform by putting state-of-the-art computers in every classroom. Groan. Computers alone will never solve the educational crisis in this country: They are tools and facilitators, not primary conveyors of knowledge.
"State-of-the-art computers in every classroom" are expensive and, I agree with Ms. Paglia, nearly useless as an educational tool. This is an excellent example of a liberals thinking that problems will go away if they just throw money at them.

PREVIOUSLY, the issue of "throwing money" was discussed here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Corruption loses a key advocate

Rep. Jefferson was caught with $90,000 of cash in the freezer of his Washington home and indicted in 2007 on charges of receiving more than $500,000 in bribes.  Naturally, he won his party's nomination to run this year for re-election.  In a surprise upset, however, only 47% of his constituents in the Louisiana 2nd Congressional District (New Orleans) voted to send him back to congress.  50% voted for his Republican challenger, attorney Anh Cao.

PREVIOUSLY, the culture of corruption was discussed here and here.  Failure of Democrats to pay taxes is discussed here.  How to duy a congressman's support is explained here.

Proof that home barbecues cause global warming

With all the debate on global warming, you might have wondered how the US government actually measures surface temperatures. The official NOAA USHCN climate station for measuring temperatures in Fairbury, Nebraska is shown at right

The climate station is that off-white box on the pole in front of the tree. Next to the official climate station, you can see a parked car and a barbecue. Obviously, when the people who live in that house use their barbecue, or maybe they let their car idle, the climate station will record a higher temperature. The resulting temperature records are used by the government to prove that global warming is 'real.'

It would be nice if this was a joke. It isn't. The volunteers at have many such climate stations and documented their effect on 'global warming.' The temperature record for this station is discussed here. Many other such stations are documented by the excellent blog

Haste makes progress?

Bloomberg reports on the incoming presidents plans:
Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama said he’ll make the “single largest new investment” in roads, bridges and public buildings since the Eisenhower Administration to lift the sagging economy and create jobs. ....

We won’t just throw money at the problem,” he said. “We’ll measure progress by the reforms we make and the results we achieve -- by the jobs we create, by the energy we save, by whether America is more competitive in the world.” [emph. added]
Large public construction projects are, of course, extremely complicated to plan, often involving many compromises and finally gathering needed land through eminent domain.  So, how will The One assure that proper progress will be made, rather than just "throw[ing] money at the problem"?  Here's how, he will eliminate that lengthy and messy planning process altogether:
To the states that will be the conduits for the funding, he had a simple message: “use it or lose it.”

“If a state doesn’t act quickly to invest in roads and bridges in their communities, they’ll lose the money,” [Obama] said.

Not everyone believes Al Gore

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:
"This cry that 'We're all going to die' is an overreaction and just not good science," said Andre Bernier, a meteorologist at WJW Channel 8. "I don't think I personally know any meteorologists - here in Cleveland or anywhere else I've worked - who agree with the hype over human-induced warming." ....

[T]there are doubters - all AMS certified - in prominent on-air positions at each of the four Cleveland television stations.

Bernier and Dick Goddard - the patriarch of Cleveland weather forecasters - predict the weather at WJW Channel 8.

Both cite natural fluctuations in the Earth's climate and dismiss the industrialization of the 20th century and the subsequent spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide as the cause for warming.....

[T]he drift away from global warming among TV weather forecasters is hardly limited to Cleveland.

"This is nationwide," said Stu Ostro, meteorologist and director of weather communications for the Weather Channel in Atlanta.

How will the fear mongers retaliate? Will they boycott TV weather?

Hat tip: WattsUpWithThat.

RELATED:  NASA data and global warming dishonesty was discussed here.  A study showing that warming in urban areas in recent years was due to reduced air pollution was discussed here.  The news media fall for global warming frauds: one example is discussed here.  A long history of the left politicizing science was discussed here.

Communists are still Number 1

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports:
China continued to be world's worst jailer of journalists, a dishonor it has held for 10 consecutive years.
By CPJ's count, China currently imprisons 28 journalists. In second place is Cuba with 21 imprisoned journalists.

In related news, the International Herald Tribune reports on China's continuing use of an old Stalinist tactic:
Local officials in Shandong Province have apparently found a cost-effective way to deal with gadflies, whistleblowers and all manner of muckraking citizens who dare to challenge the authorities: dispatch them to the local psychiatric hospital.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Politicians take care of their own

Due to elections and term limits, 34 California assembly members and senators will need a new job.  In the Orange County Register, Jon Coupal explains what happens next:

The existing legislative leadership has already begun the bi-annual process of providing welfare to their outgoing colleagues. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has just appointed termed-out Assemblyman John Laird to the Integrated Waste Management Board. The job pays $132,178 per year.

On the Senate side, President Pro Tempore Don Perata has selected the soon-to-be-jobless Sen. Sheila Kuehl to replace former Sen. Wes Chesbro, who was appointed to the panel after he left office in 2006, but who no longer needs the cushy job because he has just been elected to the Assembly.

Other members of the Waste Management board include the wife of another former lawmaker, and a former scheduler for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – and this is just one board out of many.

For those who may have wondered why the state spends millions each year on scores of little-used and often worthless boards and commissions that pay handsomely for only a few hours of work each month, these appointments may provide clarification.

So as our political class shrieks and bellows that without major tax increases there will not be enough to support the needy, remember, on their list of the truly needy, these folks rank No. 1.

Afterward, they will of course need argue that they must raise taxes to pay for the important things that government does.

Hat tip: Instapundit.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It is always somebody else's fault!

Apparently, Kerry Burdicck's mother didn't teach him to be careful when he got on and off escalators.  So, what did the mother do when the 6-year olds plastic shoes got caught in an escalator?  She sued the shoe's manufacturer.

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin.

RELATED:  For more on the US legal system, see "How to buy a judge," and "How to buy a judge II."  For more on abusive lawsuits, see "In support of Al Qaeda, ACLU sues Boeing," and "California sues laws of physics."  Perverse consequences of lawsuit abuse are discussed in "Paralysis in the US."  Abuse of the legal system by Ralph Nader is discussed in "Fraud and Deceit in 2004."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What the Democratic Leadership thinks of the common man

From a report in the DC Examiner by Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin
The Capitol Visitors Center, which opened this morning, may have tripled its original budget and fallen years behind schedule, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid found a silver lining for members of Congress: tourists won't offend them with their B.O. anymore.

"My staff tells me not to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway," said Reid in his remarks. "In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it's true."
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