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24 Jul 14:30

Border Agents Harassed My Family, Forced Me to Delete Recording, 'Because'

by Rogier van Bakel

Border port of entryOur trip to Quebec was lovely, thanks. Returning to the U.S., not so much.

At the Jackman, Maine, border crossing into the United States, I get interrogated about what I have in my car. And not just the three juicy Canada-bought clementines, either.

"What is your relation to these children?" brusquely demands the young border guard who examines my two daughters' passports and my own.

They do have their mother's last name, and they do look somewhat Asian. I'm white. Maybe he's curious. So I don't give him any lip.

"I'm their dad."

"Where is their mother?"

"At home, I guess."

"Do you have a letter with her permission for you to travel with them?"

Seriously?

"I wasn't aware that I needed any such thing,” I say. “Are you telling me I do?"

He clearly doesn't appreciate even that tiny bit of pushback.

"Never mind. Follow me into lane one, please. We're going to have to search your vehicle. Please give me your driver's license."

I hand it to him, then park the car in the area he indicates.

"Now please get out of the car and follow me inside."

I grab my iPhone off the dash, hit the record button, and tell him politely: "For my protection, officer, I'm now recording what's happening." He stays silent. I step out of the car, and without warning, he physically attacks—that is, he wrestles the phone from my hand, twisting my arm in the process. I'm stunned.

"Officer, I do not give you permission to take my phone."

"I don't need your permission!” he barks. “Get inside and sit on the bench. With your kids."

He disappears. With my phone.

Inside the building, I ultimately get a lecture from two other border patrol officers—friendlier, but not by much—about why recording is not allowed.

"If you upload it or share it in any way, people are going to know what kinds of questions we ask," one of them says.

That makes no sense, I say. "As a journalist, I can tell the world, in writing, what questions you ask. In the U.S., anyone has that right. That's certainly not against the law. What's the difference between that and recording the conversation?"

A moment's hesitation.

"Officer safety and security."

I consider it. Might be fun to turn the tables for a moment, and use the argument of the typical surveillance enthusiast against them.

"If you all behave professionally, I believe you have nothing to worry about, and I don't see why being recorded should faze you."

'Officer safety' strike me as a nonsense. They're all wearing name tags. I could identify them in writing, in public, and that wouldn't be an intolerable affront against safety and security. Why would a voice recording be any different?

Now, to my surprise, my oldest daughter pipes up, in her sweetest voice. She's 11.

"Why are you telling my dad this?"

I stare at her, wondering if, for her own good, I should tell her to zip it.

The answer from one of the guards is unexpected: "Because!"

What in the world? Who's the child here?

My daughter doesn't hesitate. In a soft but clear voice, she tells the two uniformed men, "'Because' is not a reason."

Holy crap. I am suddenly swelling with pride. But take it easy, kid, I think—this is not your fight. I gesture to her that it's all right. She sits back down on the bench.

Then I fill out a customs declaration, as requested, and am resigned to letting my car get searched...for no reason that I'm aware of, unless it is that, ten minutes earlier, I hadn't smiled ingratiatingly enough.

But the guys now have other plans.

"We'll need you to delete from your phone what you just recorded."

I think about it. Is this leverage, maybe? "If I do, are we free to go?" I ask.

Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

They retrieve my phone.

I take a chance and delete the recording while one of the officers watches closely. I figure that if I ever need to retrieve the footage, I'll find a software expert who knows how.

To his credit, the officer wasn't lying. I promptly get our passports and my driver's license back.

"Welcome home," he says, perhaps brightening at the prospect that I will soon be out of his life. The feeling is mutual.

My daughters and I roll away, in our unsearched car—having ultimately posed no greater threat to the United States than the unthinking importation of three clementines, contraband that the border patrol professionals have bravely confiscated and discarded.

I'm sure they'll rest easy tonight, and so can you.

24 Jul 21:58

Of Apple and NSA

by noreply@blogger.com (Vox)
This is not exactly shocking news, but it is disappointing all the same to learn that Apple is making it even easier for governments to spy on its users.
Apple has endowed iPhones with undocumented functions that allow unauthorized people in privileged positions to wirelessly connect and harvest pictures, text messages, and other sensitive data without entering a password or PIN, a forensic scientist warned over the weekend.

Jonathan Zdziarski, an iOS jailbreaker and forensic expert, told attendees of the Hope X conference that he can't be sure Apple engineers enabled the mechanisms with the intention of accommodating surveillance by the National Security Agency and law enforcement groups. Still, he said some of the services serve little or no purpose other than to make huge amounts of data available to anyone who has access to a computer, alarm clock, or other device that has ever been paired with a targeted device.

Zdziarski said the service that raises the most concern is known as com.apple.mobile.file_relay. It dishes out a staggering amount of data—including account data for e-mail, Twitter, iCloud, and other services, a full copy of the address book including deleted entries, the user cache folder, logs of geographic positions, and a complete dump of the user photo album—all without requiring a backup password to be entered.
So much for that whole liberal countercultural vibe Apple has been riding for decades. It was one thing to construct a walled garden. It's another to hand Big Brother a secret key to it.

Posted by Vox Day.
24 Jul 04:27

NSA Keeps Tracking People Even After They're Dead...

Jts5665

Alternate Headline: NSA Tracking Long Term Democrat Voters


NSA Keeps Tracking People Even After They're Dead...


(Second column, 24th story, link)
Related stories:
23 Jul 21:36

Corporate Tax Inversions Made Simple

by Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Numerous responses to my article in the New York Times yesterday about corporate tax inversions indicated a lack of understanding. Related articles by Levin, Johnston, and Huang similarly suggested that further enlightenment is needed.

The following chart should simplify the issue for NYT readers, columnists, and policymakers.

All data from KPMG. Global average is for 134 countries.

CITR

23 Jul 17:00

The Future Is Smaller - That's The Only Way This Works

by Tyler Durden

Submitted by Simon Black of Sovereign Man blog,

Leopold Kohr was a rather obscure Austrian economist from the early 20th century who spent the better part of his career railing against the ‘cult of bigness’.

Kohr’s fundamental premise was simple: Big doesn’t work. Big corporations. Big governments. Big countries. There are just too many problems from size.

Think about ancient Rome. As the empire expanded, Rome’s imperial government had to create layers and layers of bureaucracies. Municipal levels, provincial levels, regional levels, etc.

They had to maintain a massive standing army to secure their constantly-growing borders. Tax collection was a nightmare. Infrastructure constantly needed expansion and maintenance.

It was all so costly, and absolutely required that Rome run an unwieldy, behemoth government.

History tells us that large governments almost invariably lead to waste, corruption, and overextension of power. It’s the large governments that rattle the sabers and constantly threaten warfare.

It’s large governments that maintain police states, that spy on their citizens, and commandeer nearly every personal choice imaginable with regulatory agencies that tell us how to educate our children and what we can/cannot put in our own bodies.

As Kohr theorized, bigness often leads to tyranny.

Moreover, it all ends up costing far more than a nation can afford… which is why big governments historically rack up even bigger debts.

Most of today’s big, established ‘rich’ countries are in exactly the same boat that Kohn predicted: heavily in debt. Militant. Aggressive. Tyrannical.

If you look at the more financially successful nations today, i.e. those with solvent governments who do not indebt future generations to drop bombs by remote control drones, they’re nearly all small.

Hong Kong has some of the lowest tax rates in the world. And yet the local government is awash with so much cash that they frequently send tax refunds back to local residents.

Singapore is in a similar position; the city-state has zero net debt, a strong defense force, incredibly low tax rates… yet they still manage to funnel excess tax revenues back into the economy, often as tax breaks or business incentives.

Here in Andorra is another example.

The personal income tax hasn’t even been implemented yet, but it technically only goes as high as 10%. Local property taxes are a joke– a friend was telling me she pays 70 euros a year to the local municipality.

Corporate income tax tops out at 10%. There are no estate or inheritance taxes. No wealth tax. No capital gains tax.

Yet this place remains one of the most civilized counties on the planet, and is tremendously affordable to boot.

(It doesn’t hurt that Andorra is gorgeous– postcard perfect. And it gets about 300 days of sunshine per year with some of the best skiing a human being could possibly ask for.)

Smallness is one of the key reasons why these places thrive.

The Andorran government would never be able to afford some massive police state or wage wars in foreign lands. They can’t afford bureaucratic regulatory agencies or obscene surveillance programs.

And the place is way too small for politicians to be able to hide. If the Prime Minister does something stupid, he’ll have 20 neighbors standing in his front yard the next morning taking him to task for his incompetence.

Large countries lack this sense of community and accountability. Everything gets lost in the bureaucracy and size.

It’s this very size now that is causing many of the largest economies in the world to collapse under their own weight.

In fact, all over Europe we’re seeing independence movements, from Scotland to Catalonia. There’s even been serious discussion raised about breaking California apart into six separate states.

This seems radical to most people. But when you look at the evidence objectively, smaller is about the only way an organized state can really work.

23 Jul 16:57

Halbig & Obamacare: Applying Modern Standards and Ex-Post-Facto Knowledge to Historical Analysis

by admin

One of the great dangers of historical analysis is applying our modern standards and ex post facto knowledge to analysis of historical decisions.  For example, I see modern students all the time assume that the Protestant Reformation was about secularization, because that is how we think about religious reform and the tide of trends that were to follow a century or two later.  But tell John Calvin's Geneva it was about secularization and they would have looked at you like you were nuts (If they didn't burn you).  Ditto we bring our horror for nuclear arms developed in the Cold War and apply it to decision-makers in WWII dropping the bomb on Hiroshima.  I don't think there is anything harder in historical analysis than shedding our knowledge and attitudes and putting ourselves in the relevant time.

Believe it or not, it does not take 300 or even 50 years for these problems to manifest themselves.  They can occur in just four.  Take the recent Halbig case, one of a series of split decisions on the PPACA and whether IRS rules to allow government subsidies of health care policies in Federal exchanges are consistent with that law.

The case, Halbig v. Burwell, involved the availability of subsidies on federally operated insurance marketplaces. The language of the Affordable Care Act plainly says that subsidies are only available on exchanges established by states. The plaintiff argued this meant that, well, subsidies could only be available on exchanges established by states. Since he lives in a state with a federally operated exchange, his exchange was illegally handing out subsidies.

The government argued that this was ridiculous; when you consider the law in its totality, it said, the federal government obviously never meant to exclude federally operated exchanges from the subsidy pool, because that would gut the whole law. The appeals court disagreed with the government, 2-1. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million people may lose their subsidies as a result.

This result isn’t entirely shocking. As Jonathan Adler, one of the architects of the legal strategy behind Halbig, noted today on a conference call, the government was unable to come up with any contemporaneous congressional statements that supported its view of congressional intent, and the statutory language is pretty clear. Members of Congress have subsequently stated that this wasn’t their intent, but my understanding is that courts are specifically barred from considering post-facto statements about intent.

We look at what we know NOW, which is that Federal health care exchanges operate in 37 states, and that the Federal exchange serves more customers than all the other state exchanges combined.  So, with this knowledge, we declare that Congress could not possibly meant to have denied subsidies to more than half the system.

But this is an ex-post-facto, fallacious argument.  The key is "what did Congress expect in 2010 when the law was passed", and it was pretty clear that Congress expected all the states to form exchanges.  In fact, the provision of subsidies only in state exchanges was the carrot Congress built in to encourage states to form exchanges. (Since Congress could not actually mandate states form exchanges, it has to use such financial carrots and stick.  Congress does this all the time, all the way back to seat belt and 55MPH speed limit mandates that were forced on states at the threat of losing state highway funds.  The Medicaid program has worked this way with states for years -- and the Obamacare Medicare changes follow exactly this template of Feds asking states to do something and providing incentives for them to do so in the form of Federal subsidies).  Don't think of the issue as "not providing subsidies in federal exchanges."  That is not how Congress would have stated it at the time.  Think of it as "subsidies are not provided if the state does not build an exchange".  This was not a bug, it was a feature.  Drafters intended this as an incentive for creating exchanges.  That they never imagined so many would not create exchanges does  not change this fact.

It was not really until 2012 that anyone even took seriously the idea that states might not set up exchanges.  Even as late as December 2012, the list was only 17 states, not 37.  And note from the linked article the dissenting states' logic -- they were refusing to form an exchange because it was thought that the Feds could not set one up in time.  Why?  Because the Congress and the Feds had not planned on the Federal exchanges serving very many people.  It had never been the expectation or intent.

If, in 2010, on the day after Obamacare had passed, one had run around and said "subsidies don't apply in states that do not form exchanges" the likely reaction would not have been "WHAT?!"  but "Duh."  No one at the time would have thought that would "gut the whole law."

Postscript:  By the way, note how dangerous both the arguments are that opponents of Halbig are using

  1. The implementation of these IRS regulations are so big and so far along that it would be disruptive to make them illegal.  This means that the Administration is claiming to have the power to do anything it wants as long as it does it faster than the courts can work and makes sure the program in question affects lots of people
  2. The courts should give almost unlimited deference to Administration interpretations of law.  This means, in effect, that the Administration rather than the Courts are the preferred and default interpreter of law.  Does this make a lick of sense?  Why have a judiciary at all?
23 Jul 02:04

Ancel Keys Had A Tiny One

by Tom Naughton

Yup, and I can prove it:  Ancel Keys had a tiny dataset — but that didn’t stop him from leaping to big conclusions.  Nina Teicholz wrote about Keys’ problematic data in the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, and I just came across an old paper that backs her up.

The paper appeared in a 1989 edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and was (of course) based on Keys’ famous Seven Countries study.  You’ll recall that Keys supposedly recorded what people in seven countries ate and then followed their health outcomes for several years.

Here’s a description of the study’s design from the paper:

During the base-line survey 13,000 men, aged 40- 59 y, were medically examined. Information on diet was collected in random samples from each cohort by use of the record method.  Detailed data on food consumption patterns have been published only for 9 of the 16 cohorts. Therefore, the food intake data were coded once again into a standardized form by one person. Then the foods were summarized in a limited number of food groups. The average daily consumption per person of these food groups was calculated for each cohort.

So Keys had food records, although that coding and summarizing part sounds a little fishy.  Then he followed the health of 13,000 men so he could find associations between diet and heart disease.  So we can assume he had dietary records for all 13,000 of them, right?

Uh … no.  That wouldn’t be the case.

The poster-boys for his hypothesis about dietary fat and heart disease were the men from the Greek island of Crete.  They supposedly ate the diet Keys recommended:  low-fat, olive oil instead of saturated animal fats and all that, you see.  Keys tracked more than 300 middle-aged men from Crete as part of his study population, and lo and behold, few of them suffered heart attacks.  Hypothesis supported, case closed.

So guess how many of those 300-plus men were actually surveyed about their eating habits?  Go on, guess.  I’ll wait …

And the answer is:  31.

Yup, 31.  And that’s about the size of the dataset from each of the seven countries:  somewhere between 25 and 50 men.  It’s right there in the paper’s data tables. That’s a ridiculously small number of men to survey if the goal is to accurately compare diets and heart disease in seven countries.

But wait … so far we’re assuming the dietary records were accurate.  As Teicholz pointed out, Keys took one of his food-recall surveys in Greece during Lent, when religious Greeks abstain from animal foods.  I’d call that a bit of a confounding variable.  And then there’s this, directly from the paper:

In Crete the villages involved were Agies, Paraskies, Thrapsano, and Kastelli. In Corfu the villages were Ano Korakiana, Skriperon, and San Marco. About 30 men were involved in each dietary survey. However, the original 7-day records were no longer available.

No original records?!  So you dumped the study, right?

It was therefore decided to reconstruct the diets of these cohorts on the basis of results of the dietary surveys mentioned in a publication by Keys et al.

Uh … so you swapped in the results from an earlier paper.  Okay, got it.  But tell me we’re at least talking about a genuine dietary survey here.

When no information about the consumption of certain foods, eg, fruits and vegetables, was available food balance sheet data from Greece in 1961-65 were used as a substitute.

Head.  Bang.  On.  Desk.

Getting the picture?  Keys followed the health of more than 300 men from Crete.  But he only surveyed 31 of them, with one of those surveys taken during the meat-abstinence month of Lent.  Oh, and the original seven-day food-recall records weren’t available later, so he swapped in data from an earlier paper.  Then to determine fruit and vegetable intake, he used data sheets about food availability in Greece during a four-year period.

And from this mess, he concluded that high-fat diets cause heart attacks and low-fat diets prevent them.

Keep in mind, this is one of the most-cited studies in all of medical science.  It’s one of the pillars of the Diet-Heart hypothesis.  It helped to convince the USDA, the AHA, doctors, nutritionists, media health writers, your parents, etc., that saturated fat clogs our arteries and kills us, so we all need to be on low-fat diets – even kids.

Yup, Ancel Keys had a tiny one … but he sure managed to screw a lot of people with it.

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22 Jul 19:00

Venezuela's Transformation To Socialist Utopia Is Nearly Complete As Its Factories Grind To A Halt

by Tyler Durden

Venezuela's transformation to a socialist utopia has been well-documented on these pages. Recall:

In retrospect, one can only hope the same "socialist paradise" fate isn't headed to the other "fairness doctrine" members such as the US and France, because with socialist utopias like these who needs capitalist hell?

In any event, what utopia would be complete without a complete paralysis of the one sector that traditionally serves as the backbone of any functioning economy: no, not makers of iPhone apps... manufacturing.

As the WSJ reports, this car-crazed country's auto industry, once the third largest in South America, is seizing up as manufacturers struggle to produce a few vehicles a day. Apparently channel stuffing hasn't been revealed as a legitimate "retail channel" in the Latin American country just yet. As for subprime car purchase loans, US banks apparently don't offer those in Caracas. Yet.

Car makers, including global giants like Ford Motor Co. , Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, General Motors Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., have cut output by more than 80% in the first six months of the year compared with a year earlier because of a lack of dollars to pay parts suppliers, according to data compiled by the Automotive Chamber of Venezuela, which represents car makers.

 

"This is the first time I have ever seen things this bad," said 61-year-old Antonio Lopez, a Ford worker who recently prepared a sedan for painting at the auto maker's factory here. The cavernous Valencia plant, about 110 miles west of Caracas, was quiet by midafternoon one day last month, with a handful of workers sweeping up and maintaining equipment on assembly stations.

 

Across Venezuela, car production and sales has been sliding fast. Balance sheets have been battered, with revenue vulnerable to devaluation and trapped in Venezuela because of currency controls. Auto makers built 36,919 vehicles through June of last year. But only produced 6,161 during in the same period this year, about what Argentina produces in a few days.

...

Economists say the car industry, like newspapers, bottlers and food processors, has been hard hit by a shortage of dollars in Venezuela that has left many companies scrambling to pay for much-needed imports in a country that produces little more than oil. The reverberations in the economy include companies going out of business, a shortage of basic products and one of the world's highest rates of inflation.

...

 

"[Sales] volumes are down 75% below 2013, and last year was the lowest level in a decade," said Carlos Gomes, an economist who follows the global auto industry for Scotiabank. "I think it is fair to say that the situation is alarming."

Alarming maybe, but at least it is a socialist utopia. An utopia where it appears that the phones...

Venezuela's Communications Ministry declined to comment. The ministries of finance and industry didn't return phone calls. A spokeswoman for the Automotive Chamber of Venezuela, which represents foreign auto makers, said the group was in talks with the government and declined further comment.

.... also don't work.

And a quick glance at what is coming to every banana republic socialist utopia near you:

"I can't find anything. Prices are climbing daily," said Jesus Ramirez, a taxi driver who has spent a year trying to replace the 2008 Renault he purchased new for $7,441. He sold the car for over $30,000 five years later.

 

With inflation at 60% a year, among the highest in the world, Venezuelans protect their earnings by buying cars, among other big-ticket items.

 

Car parts needed to keep vehicles on the road have also become difficult to find. That has led thieves to steal parts such as batteries from parked cars.

 

The owner of a Caracas car dealership who said he last sold a vehicle in 2009, said he stays in business by servicing cars. But with spare part shipments tumbling 75%, he said, he fears his business may soon close.

 

"I spend all day on the phone looking for parts," the owner said, asking to remain nameless. "We are in survival mode."

Oops. Looks like someone forgot to BTFD, or rather BTFATH, and instead of being hopeful is cynical.

22 Jul 18:34

Feds: 75 Percent of Newark Police Pedestrian Stops Unconstitutional

by The Huffington Post

three-year federal investigation into the conduct of the Newark Police Department found that the vast majority of pedestrian stops conducted by police were unconstitutional, that many officers used unreasonable force and that some officers even stole from prisoners, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Read the investigation report.

Read the article.

22 Jul 16:41

New Gene Editing Technology Eliminates HIV

by Ronald Bailey

CRISPR EditingCRISPR gene editing technology is barely two years old, and it is already shaking up biotechnology and medicine. Using CRISPR biotechnologists can precisely edit genomes down to a single set of base pairs. Researchers are currently exploring just how to use this powerful new technology to treat all sorts of illnesses including sickle cell disease and cystic fibrosis.

Researchers reported in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences how they used CRISPR to entirely extirpate HIV virus from various types of infected human cells. The PNAS editors rate the research's significance:

For more than three decades since the discovery of HIV-1, AIDS remains a major public health problem affecting greater than 35.3 million people worldwide. Current antiretroviral therapy has failed to eradicate HIV-1, partly due to the persistence of viral reservoirs. RNA-guided HIV-1 genome cleavage by the Cas9 technology has shown promising efficacy in disrupting the HIV-1 genome in latently infected cells, suppressing viral gene expression and replication, and immunizing uninfected cells against HIV-1 infection. These properties may provide a viable path toward a permanent cure for AIDS, and provide a means to vaccinate against other pathogenic viruses. Given the ease and rapidity of Cas9/guide RNA development, personalized therapies for individual patients with HIV-1 variants can be developed instantly.

Obviously, much more work needs to be done, especially on how to deliver CRISPR enabled therapies in the actual bodies of patients. Still, investigators have already applied CRISPR to cure mice of a genetic liver disease and other investigators used it to genetically modify monkeys. It seems likely that CRISPR will usher in a range of highly effective new therapies before the end of the decade.

22 Jul 13:06

Chinese Anomalies: How the World’s Largest Country Is Really Different from America

by Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

SHENYANG, CHINA—For the longest time I viewed twitter as, well, a silly waste of time, and refused to use it.  I still view it as a silly waste of time in any normal world.  But I finally gave in after friends and colleagues told me that it would be a very useful tool.  I’m still not convinced, but I have to admit that I’m pleased to see the rise in the number of people following me (@Doug_Bandow) over time.

When I travel somewhere I normally go onto Google, check the news, and comment on current stories.  After arriving in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) I logged in and plugged in Google.  Which wouldn’t come up.  So tried it again.  And nothing.

Then the light went on.  Of course.  The Beijing authorities set up a Chinese version since they didn’t want their people to be able to access articles on forbidden topics.  Of course, I thought, I could still make comments on Twitter about my visit.  But when I tried to load Twitter and the same thing happened.  Another bulb lit up.  Of course:  the PRC has set up its own system (Weibo) because people say bad things about China—its policies and leaders—on Twitter.  So that service can’t be allowed.

It really makes one appreciate living in a free society. 

But perhaps the most stunning aspect of China, which it takes a while to recognize, is the dearth of children and almost complete absence of siblings.  There are a lot of people here.  If you don’t like crowds, forget visiting Chinese cities.

However, for years the PRC has enforced, with various degrees of ruthlessness, the “one child” policy.  Most families have one kid.  Since rural, farming families tended to value boys for their labor, the policy led to infanticide with the killing of female babies.  In part because of the latter, in recent years the government has relaxed the rules at the margin.

The result is a very odd national demographic.  There are, for instance, too many men, many of whom won’t be able to find a wife.  That will result in potential social dynamite.  Moreover, the aging of the society will be extreme, far worse than in America and Europe.  Some analysts speak of China growing old before it grows rich.

The economic, social, and political consequences will be huge.  But the visual impact is more dramatic for the average visitor.  No parents carrying a baby and holding a toddler by the hand.  No harried mom or dad trying to keep up with a couple hyper-charged boys.  No travelers attempting to guide a couple of young children onto the plane while holding an infant and stowing a baby carriage.

As for the college students I often deal with, there are none of the joys or frustrations of siblings.  They will have no nieces or nephews.  There will be no networks of cousins.  The contrast with America is obvious enough.  The contrast with more traditional societies with very tight networks of extended families is even greater.

It’s another reason to appreciate living in a nation where people are generally left free to make personal decisions.

The PRC is a fascinating place, a complicated civilization with a venerable heritage in rapid transition to somewhere, and no one is quite sure where.  But while China has shown how market liberalization creates growth and empowers the poor, it also demonstrates how market liberalization is not enough to create a free society.  Hopefully some day the Chinese people will be truly free.

21 Jul 21:00

More Evidence Uber Keeps People From Drunk Driving

by Paul Best

a graph depicting Uber usageEver since innovative ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft started gaining popularity, people have made the intuitive assertion that these services could cut down on drinking and driving. People will choose an affordable, safe alternative to drunk driving if that alternative is readily available. 

Just a few weeks ago, Pittsburgh resident Nate Good published a quick study that offered the first hard evidence that DUI rates may be decreasing in cities where Uber is popular. An analysis of Philadelphia's data showed an 11.1 percent decrease in the rate of DUIs since ridesharing services were made available, and an even more astonishing 18.5 percent decrease for people under 30. 

As everyone knows, however, correlation does not equal causation. Good's quick number-crunching was too simplistic to draw any overarching conclusions, but it did open the door for future studies. A recent, deeper analysis from Uber makes the case even stronger that ridesharing services may be responsible for a decline in DUIs.

The first thing Uber did was use its own data to see if people disproportionately called for Uber cars from bars in comparison to other venues. And indeed:

Requests for rides come from Uber users at bars at a much higher rate than you might expect based on the number of bars there are in the city. The fraction of requests from users at bars are between three and five times greater than the total share of bars.

Next, they used government data to find out when deaths from DUIs are most likely to occur. Fatalities due to drunk driving start to peak at midnight, are the highest from 12:00-3:00 AM, and happen much more often on the weekends. Uber then gathered their own internal data and found that Uber transactions spiked at the times when people are most likely to drink and drive (as depicted in the chart above).

There remains plenty of room for more studies on how Uber is affecting transportation trends. But early evidence for a positive impact—an impact that goes far beyond mere consumer convenience—is already compelling.

21 Jul 15:45

University mulls 'diversity-based grading'...

Jts5665

How would this be any different from the "separate , but equal" mantra of Jim Crow?


University mulls 'diversity-based grading'...


(First column, 23rd story, link)

19 Jul 03:55

Crony crapitalism, NFL edition……

by Mark J. Perry

Reason’s Nick Gillespie in a December 2013 Time.com article “Football: A Waste of Taxpayers’ Money” asks a very good question: Why are we subsidizing such a hugely profitable sport?

It’s just not right when governments shovel tax dollars at favored companies or special interests, even when those firms are called, say, the Minnesota Vikings or the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University. The NFL’s Vikings are lousy at scoring touchdowns – they have the worst record in the NFC North – but they’ve proven remarkably adept in shaking down Minnesotans for free money. Next year they’ll be playing ball in a brand-spanking new $975 million complex in downtown Minneapolis, more than half of whose cost is being picked up by state and local taxpayers. Over the 30-year life of the project, the public share of costs will come to $678 million. The team will pay about $13 million a year to use the stadium, but since it gets virtually all revenue from parking, food, luxury boxes, naming rights, and more, it should be able to cover that tab.

Not that the Vikings were ever hard up for money: Forbes values the franchise at nearly $800 million and the team’s principal owner, Zygi Wilf, is worth a cool $310 million. When the Minnesota legislature signed off on its stadium deal for the Vikings, the state was facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit. Priorities, priorities. And the Vikings deal isn’t the exception, it’s the rule.

19 Jul 13:23

Who’d a-thunk it? Socialism is demoralizing, socially corrosive, and promotes individual dishonesty and cheating?

by Mark J. Perry

Here’s the abstract of the research paper “The (True) Legacy of Two Really Existing Economic Systems“:

By running an experiment among Germans collecting their passports or ID cards in the citizen centers of Berlin, we find that individuals with an East German family background cheat significantly more on an abstract task than those with a West German family background. The longer individuals were exposed to socialism, the more likely they were to cheat on our task. While it was recently argued that markets decay morals (Falk and Szech, 2013), we provide evidence that other political and economic regimes such as socialism might have an even more detrimental effect on individuals’ behavior.

And here’s part of the conclusion:

If socialism indeed promotes individual dishonesty, the specific features of this socio-political system that lead to this outcome remain to be determined. The East German socialist regime differed from the West German capitalist regime in several important ways. First, the system did not reward work based to merit, and made it difficult to accumulate wealth or pass anything on to one’s family. This may have resulted in a lack of meaning leading to demoralization (Ariely et al., 2008), and perhaps less concern for upholding standards of honesty. Furthermore, while the government claimed to exist in service of the people, it failed to provide functional public systems or economic security. Observing this moral hypocrisy in government may have eroded the value citizens placed on honesty. Finally, and perhaps most straightforwardly, the political and economic system pressured people to work around official laws and cheat to game the system. Over time, individuals may come to normalize these types of behaviors. Given these distinct possible influences, further research will be needed to understand which aspects of socialism have the strongest or most lasting impacts on morality.

Here’s a link to an article in The Economist about the paper “Lying Commies: The more people are exposed to socialism, the worse they behave.”

Related: My 1995 article “Why Socialism Failed.”

17 Jul 01:10

Photo



18 Jul 18:43

Foreign Policy Hawks Ignore Data

by Stephanie Rugolo

Stephanie Rugolo

As 2016 presidential contender Rand Paul catches flack for his so-called foreign policy “isolationism,” the neocons go on frightening the public. According to the hawks, the world is getting more dangerous.

In a Politico interview last Monday, Dick Cheney said, “The world’s not getting safer, it’s getting far more dangerous.” On the same day, Newt Gingrich said on CNN:

After 9/11, the United States is not safer … in an increasingly dangerous world… If you look at what’s happening around the world today, it’s almost impossible to say that we’re safer… The worldwide scene is not a very safe scene.”

Senator John McCain also said on CNN that the world is “in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime.”

While 2014 may in some ways be less safe than 2013, foreign policy hawks ignore long-term trends that show an increasingly safer world. Consider the following evidence from HumanProgress.org. First, all types of wars, from civil to interstate, are less deadly:

Second, deaths from genocide are on a downward slope:

Third, terrorism poses relatively little threat. As my colleague John Mueller has stated, terrorism outside of war zones has claimed fewer lives each year since 9/11 than annual bathtub drownings in the United States. The data reflect this, showing a declining trend since the early 1980s:

While we’re on the topic of politicians frightening Americans with misleading claims about global violence, note that U.S. rape and homicide rates have dramatically dropped since the early 1970s:

Why should you care that fear-mongers try to make the world seem less safe than it is? Because, in so doing, the hawks drum up support for policies that may make us less secure and less prosperous.

18 Jul 15:20

Chicago Officials Pretend to Be Puzzled at Traffic Cameras Sending Out Undeserved Tickets

by Scott Shackford

Using red lights to fight red inkChicago Tribune reporters David Kidwell and Alex Richards have put together a massive investigation documenting huge problems causing the city’s red light cameras to send out thousands of tickets to innocent drivers. Today they report that after a bunch of cameras stopped giving out any tickets for a couple of days (suggesting possible downtime and perhaps some sort of fiddling), they suddenly went berserk, giving out dozens of tickets a day:

Cameras that for years generated just a few tickets daily suddenly caught dozens of drivers a day. One camera near the United Center rocketed from generating one ticket per day to 56 per day for a two-week period last summer before mysteriously dropping back to normal.

Tickets for so-called rolling right turns on red shot up during some of the most dramatic spikes, suggesting an unannounced change in enforcement. One North Side camera generated only a dozen tickets for rolling rights out of 100 total tickets in the entire second half of 2011. Then, over a 12-day spike, it spewed 563 tickets — 560 of them for rolling rights.

Many of the spikes were marked by periods immediately before or after when no tickets were issued — downtimes suggesting human intervention that should have been documented. City officials said they cannot explain the absence of such records.

City officials seem to be unable to explain anything at all, even as traffic courts buck typical behavior and have reversed nearly half the tickets appealed from one such spike. Transportation officials claim they didn’t even know it was happening until the reporters told them.

Oh, also of note: The company (which is supposed to inform the city of any such spikes) and the city’s program are under federal investigation for corruption. The company, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., is accused of bribing a city official to the tune of millions in order to land the contract. The Chicago Tribune reported last year how the controversy caused Mayor Rahm Emanuel to disqualify Redflex from a new contract putting up speed cameras near schools and parks to increase revenue safety.

The Tribune notes that these traffic cameras have generated nearly $500 million in revenue since the program began in 2003, yet everybody in the lengthy story seems to dance around the idea that the city or Redflex could have any sort of incentive to make alterations to cause the system to suddenly start spitting out tickets. Chicago’s CBS affiliate noted last fall that the city’s budget for 2014 relied on revenue from its red light cameras (and the highest cigarette taxes in the nation) for revenue in order to balance.

(Hat tip to John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute)

18 Jul 17:28

Watch the NYPD Choke a Guy to Death Over Alleged Black Market Cigarettes

by Scott Shackford

The city will get its pound of flesh, either through taxes or other means.Eric Garner, 43, said he was just breaking up a fight. New York Police Department officers said he was selling untaxed cigarettes and tried to arrest him. When he refused to cooperate, police jumped on the 400-pound Staten Island man, put him in a chokehold, and forced him to the sidewalk. He complained loudly that he couldn’t breathe as a pack of police kept him held down. Then, according to the police, he went into cardiac arrest and died at Richmond University Medical Center.

The arrest was caught on video and has been posted by New York Daily News, who also spoke to Garner’s wife. She and family members claimed he didn’t have any cigarettes on him at the time of his arrest:

Officials confirmed that NYPD Internal Affairs officers launched an investigation Thursday night.

Records show Garner was due in court in October on three Staten Island cases, including charges of pot possession and possession or selling untaxed cigarettes.

Esaw Garner said her husband was unable to work because he suffered from a host of ailments, including chronic asthma, diabetes and sleep apnea.

Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, 65, added, “I want justice.”

Watch the video here.

Reason writers have repeatedly made note that skyrocketing cigarette taxes have increased the size and scope of the black market for the little cancer sticks. Read about it here.

18 Jul 15:36

Footage shows launcher with two missing rockets being smuggled back into Russia...

17 Jul 08:47

Calcio is life

by noreply@blogger.com (Vox)
Every so often, David Brooks can be insightful. This sports analogy may help put things in perspective for people who often find themselves frustrated that life does not go the way they expect it to:
Most of us spend our days thinking we are playing baseball, but we are really playing soccer. We think we individually choose what career path to take, whom to socialize with, what views to hold. But, in fact, those decisions are shaped by the networks of people around us more than we dare recognize....

Once we acknowledge that, in life, we are playing soccer, not baseball, a few things become clear. First, awareness of the landscape of reality is the highest form of wisdom. It’s not raw computational power that matters most; it’s having a sensitive attunement to the widest environment, feeling where the flow of events is going. Genius is in practice perceiving more than the conscious reasoning.

Second, predictive models will be less useful. Baseball is wonderful for sabermetricians. In each at bat there is a limited range of possible outcomes. Activities like soccer are not as easily renderable statistically, because the relevant spatial structures are harder to quantify.
Everyone knows connections and networks and friends and family are more important to success than raw ability and hard work. And yet, that recognition offends most of us. It seems unfair somehow. But why? We see examples in every aspect of human endeavor. Even Michael Jordan didn't become a champion by scoring 63 points a game, he achieved more when he scored 30 and relied on Scottie Pippen and his other teammates to help him win the game.

The coach of my Nike team once asked me how it was that I scored a goal in every game that season, regardless of whether the team we played against was good or bad, whereas my more talented strike partner would tend to score three goals against the bad teams and get regularly shut out by the good ones. I pointed out that the other striker's goals were almost always brilliant individual efforts that involved beating two or three defenders on the dribble. Mine were almost always one- or two-touch shots that relied upon getting a well-placed pass from a midfielder, often my younger brother.

And while the other striker was a gifted player from Ireland who could dribble right past two or three lesser defenders, he wasn't gifted enough to beat two or three good ones in succession. For me, on the other hand, it made little difference if the defenders were good or bad, because as long as the midfielder passed the ball into the open space past the last defender, I was going to run right past them. When the defense was tough, a little teamwork reliably trumped considerably superior individual talent.

The lesson of soccer is that individual effort will often suffice when things are relatively easy. But in order to surmount the more difficult challenges, you will almost always need reliable teammates of one sort or another.

Posted by Vox Day.
17 Jul 15:32

Government Officials Praising Unilateral Trade Liberalization

by Simon Lester

Simon Lester

It doesn’t happen often, so I like to highlight it when it does.  Here is Australian trade minister Andrew Robb:

We’ve seen over the last thirty years in Australia that tariffs are down on average 2.7 per cent across the economy.  A lot of that was done unilaterally – we didn’t wait for the rest of the world and it’s one of the reasons that we’ve had uninterrupted growth for 23 years, because we are a very open economy. We’ve got to drive it further, we’ve got to be more competitive but so does the rest of the world.

16 Jul 14:33

Climatologist John Christy: "The Science Is Not Settled"

by Ronald Bailey

John ChristyThe New York Times is running a pretty fair profile of University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) climatologist John Christy today. As Reason readers know, I blog every month the global satellite temperature trend produced by Christy and his UAH colleague Roy Spencer. I have relied on Christy as a source of honest data and insight ever since I began reporting on the science and policy issues related to man-made global warming over two decades ago. Based on empirical temperature data he has long questioned the computer climate model projections of rapid and dangerous warming, which has gained him no friends in what he calls "the climate establishment."

From the Times:

John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says he remembers the morning he spotted a well-known colleague at a gathering of climate experts.

“I walked over and held out my hand to greet him,” Dr. Christy recalled. “He looked me in the eye, and he said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Come on, shake hands with me.’ And he said, ‘No.’ ”

Dr. Christy is an outlier on what the vast majority of his colleagues consider to be a matter of consensus: that global warming is both settled science and a dire threat. He regards it as neither. Not that the earth is not heating up. It is, he says, and carbon dioxide spewed from power plants, automobiles and other sources is at least partly responsible.

But in speeches, congressional testimony and peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, he argues that predictions of future warming have been greatly overstated and that humans have weathered warmer stretches without perishing. Dr. Christy’s willingness to publicize his views, often strongly, has also hurt his standing among scientists who tend to be suspicious of those with high profiles. His frequent appearances on Capitol Hill have almost always been at the request of Republican legislators opposed to addressing climate change.

“I detest words like ‘contrarian’ and ‘denier,’ ” he said. “I’m a data-driven climate scientist. Every time I hear that phrase, ‘The science is settled,’ I say I can easily demonstrate that that is false, because this is the climate — right here. The science is not settled.”

Dr. Christy was pointing to a chart comparing seven computer projections of global atmospheric temperatures based on measurements taken by satellites and weather balloons. The projections traced a sharp upward slope; the actual measurements, however, ticked up only slightly.

Such charts — there are others, sometimes less dramatic but more or less accepted by the large majority of climate scientists — are the essence of the divide between that group on one side and Dr. Christy and a handful of other respected scientists on the other.

It would have been helpful if the Times had actually published one of his charts showing the divergence between actual global temperature trends and computer model projections. Here's one such:

ModelsVsData

And being suspicious of those with high profiles? Oh, please. Do not leading consensusers James Hansen, Michael Mann, John Holdren, Kerry Emanuel, and so forth have "high profiles" when it comes to climate science? As reported by numerous newspapers including the New York Times, James Hansen famously testified before a Congressional committee way back in 1988 that "global warming has begun."

16 Jul 16:12

SUIT: Woman Arrested, Detained For 24 Hours For Recording Police Activity...


SUIT: Woman Arrested, Detained For 24 Hours For Recording Police Activity...


(Third column, 8th story, link)

15 Jul 13:52

How The World Feels About Pervasive US Surveillance And Spying: One Curious Finding

by Tyler Durden
Jts5665

Depressing.

Perhaps the only thing more surprising that someone actually needed a poll to "discover" how the world feels regarding the NSA constant snooping of every form of electronic communication, is that a majority of the respondents in India, Nigeria and the Phillippines actually approve of having zero privacy. Oh, and the United States too.

As for the 10% of Russians who said "approve", we assume they were either seriously drunk or even more seriously hung over when responding to the poll.

Source: Pew

14 Jul 19:39

New Snowden Docs: British Spies Manipulate Polls and Pageview Counts, Censor Videos They Don't Like and Amplify Messages They Do

by George Washington

We've noted for years that the Pentagon and spy agencies manipulate the Internet - including social media - in order to promote false propaganda and to stifle dissenting information.

We've also discussed some of the methods used to game popularity on social media sites.

A new report from the Intercept adds to our understanding of these tactics:

The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist.” The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call.

 

The tools were created by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.

 

***

 

The “tools” have been assigned boastful code names. They include invasive methods for online surveillance, as well as some of the very techniques that the U.S. and U.K. have harshly prosecuted young online activists for employing, including “distributed denial of service” attacks and “call bombing.” But they also describe previously unknown tactics for manipulating and distorting online political discourse and disseminating state propaganda, as well as the apparent ability to actively monitor Skype users in real-time—raising further questions about the extent of Microsoft’s cooperation with spy agencies or potential vulnerabilities in its Skype’s encryption. Here’s a list of how JTRIG describes its capabilities:

 

• “Change outcome of online polls” (UNDERPASS)

 

• “Mass delivery of email messaging to support an Information Operations campaign” (BADGER) and “mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign” (WARPARTH)

 

• “Disruption of video-based websites hosting extremist content through concerted target discovery and content removal.” (SILVERLORD)

 

• “Active skype capability. Provision of real time call records (SkypeOut and SkypetoSkype) and bidirectional instant messaging. Also contact lists.” (MINIATURE HERO)

 

• “Find private photographs of targets on Facebook” (SPRING BISHOP)

 

• “A tool that will permanently disable a target’s account on their computer” (ANGRY PIRATE)

 

• “Ability to artificially increase traffic to a website” (GATEWAY) and “ability to inflate page views on websites” (SLIPSTREAM)

 

• “Amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (Youtube)” (GESTATOR)

 

• “Targeted Denial Of Service against Web Servers” (PREDATORS FACE) and “Distributed denial of service using P2P. Built by ICTR, deployed by JTRIG” (ROLLING THUNDER)

 

• “A suite of tools for monitoring target use of the UK auction site eBay (www.ebay.co.uk)” (ELATE)

 

• “Ability to spoof any email address and send email under that identity” (CHANGELING)

 

• “For connecting two target phone together in a call” (IMPERIAL BARGE)

NSA engages in the same types of dirty tricks.

We're not very confident that the spies are only going after actual bad guys and promoting the messages of the good guys, given that:

  • Any criticism of government policies is considered "extremist" and potential terrorism

And see this.

14 Jul 11:47

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 31 of H.L. Mencken’s, A Second Mencken Chrestomathy (1995); specifically, it’s reprinted from Mencken’s 1926 book, Notes on Democracy:

He is a man who has lied and dissembled, and a man who has crawled.  He knows the taste of the boot-polish.  He has suffered kicks in the tonneau of his pantaloons.  He has taken orders from his superiors in knavery and he has wooed and flattered his inferiors in sense.  His public life is an endless series of evasions and false pretenses.  He is willing to embrace any issue, however idiotic, that will get him votes, and he is willing to sacrifice any principle, however sound, that will lose them for him.  I do not describe the democratic politician at his inordinate worst; I describe him as he is encountered in the full sunshine of normalcy.  He may be, on the one hand, a cross-roads idler striving to get into the State Legislature by grace of the local mortgage-sharks and evangelical clergy, or he may be, on the other hand, the President of the United States.  It is almost an axiom that no man may make a career in politics in the Republic without stooping to such ignobility.

11 Jul 15:00

Obamacare's Unknowable Price Tag

by Jason Keisling

This much we know: There is no way of figuring out whether (or by how much) the Affordable Care Act is going to cost compared to the estimates used to push the program through Congress. Back in 2009, it was really important to President Obama that people understand he "not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits—either now or in the future. Period." He sold the plan as costing about $938 billion in its first decade of operation.

Nowadays, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the agency originally charged with tallying up Obamacare's costs and revenues, says there's no way it can figure out how much the law will cost compared to earlier estimates. There have been too many delays, postponements, modifications, you name it, to the original bill. "Isolating the incremental effects of those provisions on previously existing programs and revenues four years after enactment of the Affordable Care Act is not possible," the CBO concludes

Obamacare Estimate

Yet if past experience with massive government-run health care programs is any indicator, the odds are high that Obamacare will end up costing way more than it was supposed to. Here are three examples to think about as the health care reform law gears up for its second year of sign-ups (for more information, go here).

1. Massachusetts Commonwealth Care. This is the plan supported by Gov. Mitt Romney that provided the very model for Obamacare. It guaranteed universal coverage and subsidized insurance premiums for low-income residents. Initial cost estimates came in at $472 million while actual costs were closer to $628 million for an error ratio of 1.2:1.

Masscare Estimate 

2. Medicare. In 1967, Congress estimated that the nation's single-payer system for the elderly, Medicare, would cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual price tag was $110 billion, for an error ratio on 9.17:1.

Medicare Estimate

3. Medicaid DSH program. Medicaid pays for health insurance for the poor (its expansion represents the main way Obamacare in enrolling new beneficiaries). The "disproportionate share hospital program" (DSH) gives money to facilities that serve a large number of poor patients. In 1987, Congress figured DSH payments would be less than $1 billion in 1991. Instead, they totaled $17 billion, creating an error ratio of 17:1.

Medicaid DSH Estimate

Read more about phony-baloney health care accounting here and here. And check out Reason's special collection of new stories about "The Sad Story of Obamacare."

11 Jul 03:19

Beer milestone: US now has more than 3,000 breweries; welcome to the ‘Golden Age of Beer’

by Mark J. Perry

breweries The Brewers Association reported yesterday that:

The American brewing industry reached another milestone at the end of June, with more than 3,000 breweries operating for all or part of the month (3,040 to be precise). Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is likely the first time the United States has crossed the 3,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s. The Internal Revenue Department counted 2,830 “ale and lager breweries in operation” in 1880, down from a high point of 4,131 in 1873.

What does 3,000 breweries mean? For one, it represents a return to the localization of beer production, with almost 99% of the 3,040 breweries being small and independent. The majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery, and with almost 2,000 planning breweries in the BA database, that percentage is only going to climb in the coming years.

Secondly, it means that competition continues to increase, and that brewers will need to further differentiate and focus on quality if they are going to succeed in a crowded marketplace. While a national brewery number is fairly irrelevant without understanding local marketplaces, 3,040 breweries could not happen without increased competition in many localities.

MP: In addition to the animated graphic above, there’s an interactive chart of the annual brewery count from 1873 to 2014 here. Note that in every year from 1977 to 1984 there were fewer than 100 breweries in the US, and the low point was 1978, when there were only 89 breweries. By 2007, there were about 1,500 breweries, and that number had doubled to more than 3,000 in less than 7 years! There’s never been a better time to be a serious beer drinker than today, given the awesome selection of craft beers from every part of the country. Welcome to the Golden Age of Beer - there’s no stagnation for this part of the economy!

11 Jul 00:48

Trend That Is Not A Trend: Creating a Trend From Measurement Changes

by admin

I was watching some excellent videos of recent Phoenix dust storms roll across the city.  I started thinking about a joke story:

Scientists report that the number of Phoenix dust storms have likely increased substantially since 1990.  Before that date, almost no cell phone videos exist of large dust storms in Phoenix.  Today, one can find hundreds of such videos on Youtube, mostly from the last three or four years.  Obviously we are seeing some sort of climate change

This would clearly be absurd -- there has been a change in measurement technology.  No cell phone cameras existed before 1990.  But equally absurd examples can be found every day.

  • With the summer of the shark, an increase in frequency of media coverage of shark attacks was mistaken for an increase in frequency of shark attacks themselves.
  • With tornadoes, improving detection of smaller twisters (e.g. by doppler radar and storm chasers)  has been mistaken by many (cough Al Gore cough) for an increase in the frequency of tornadoes.  In fact, all evidence points to declining tornado frequency
  • With electrical grid disturbances, a trend was created solely by the government owner of the data making a push with power companies to provide more complete reporting.
  • I have wondered whether the so-called cancer epidemic in India is real, or the results of better diagnosis and longer life spans

Postscript:  I remember when I first saw one of these storms rolling towards me after I moved to Phoenix.  Perhaps I should not have read Stephen King's The Mist, but I honestly wondered for a minute if I would live to regret not hopping in my car and racing to stay ahead of the wall coming towards me.

 

"Trend that is not a trend" is an occasional feature on this blog.  I could probably write three stories a day on this topic if I wished.  The media is filled with stories of supposed trends based on single data points or anecdotes rather than, you know, actual trend data.  More stories of this type are here.  It is not unusual to find that the trend data often support a trend in the opposite direction as claimed by media articles.