Shared posts

22 Oct 06:35

Gore bet looks vulnerable with less than one-third to run

by admin

The September 2014 data showed a small lift in the global mean temperature to an anomaly of 0.3°C. Still a win for the month to Professor Armstrong and the Green, Armstrong, and Soon no-change forecast, temperatures have been cooler than Mr Gore and the IPCC’s alarming projection for 20 months in a row. Overall, global mean temperatures have come in cooler than the alarmist projection 80 percent of the time since the beginning of the bet nearly seven years ago.

23 Oct 11:24

Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux
Remlaps

h/.t Jts5665

(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 284 of the eminent Harvard historian Richard Pipes’s wonderful 1999 volume, Property and Freedom (footnote excluded):

The trend of modern times appears to indicate that citizens of democracies are willing heedlessly to surrender their freedoms to purchase social equality (along with economic security), apparently oblivious of the consequences.  And the consequences are that their ability to hold on to and use what they earn and own, to hire and fire at will, to enter freely into contracts, and even to speak their mind is steadily being eroded by governments bent on redistributing private assets and subordinating individual rights to group rights.  The entire concept of the welfare state as it has evolved in the second half of the twentieth century is incompatible with individual liberty, for it allows various groups with common needs to combine and claim the right to satisfy them at the expense of society at large, in the process steadily enhancing the power of the state which acts on their behalf.

Yes.  And, again, this obliviousness to the freedom-crushing features of the obsession with economic inequality and ‘redistribution’ has as part of its foundation the strange “Progressive” notion that the desire to keep what one owns and has earned is illiberal, ungenerous, anachronistic, and greedy, while the desire to take what others own and have earned is liberal, generous, enlightened, and selfless.  As I say, it’s a strange notion, but one that – because it is repeated so often in so many ways and in so many different venues – strikes most people today as being not only normal but right.

22 Oct 01:55

PayPal Co-Founder Is Skeptical of Man-Made Global Warming for This Reason

by Erica Ritz
Remlaps

Same video. Original source.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, often considered one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley, said Tuesday that he is skeptical of man-made global warming because many refuse to allow debate the subject.

“Whenever you can’t have a debate, I often think that’s evidence that there’s a problem,” Thiel said on The Glenn Beck Program. “When people use the word ‘science,’ it’s often a tell, like in poker, that you’re bluffing. It’s like we have ‘social science’ and we have ‘political science,’ [but] we don’t call it ‘physical science’ or ‘chemical science.’ We just call them physics and chemistry because we know they’re right.”

Thiel said no one will be upset if you ask questions about the periodic table, because it is actually science. But referring to man-made climate change as “science” tells you “that people are exaggerating and they’re bluffing a little bit,” Thiel said.

“The weather has not been getting warmer for the last 15 years. The hockey stick that Al Gore predicted in the early 2000s on the climate has not happened,” he remarked. “And I think as this monolithic culture breaks down, you can have more debates.”

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks on The Glenn Beck Program October 21, 2014. (Photo: TheBlaze TV)

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks on The Glenn Beck Program October 21, 2014. (Photo: TheBlaze TV)

Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and a self-described Libertarian, said he favors free market economics but is liberal on most social issues.

“I believe, basically, that individual freedom is very important,” he said.

Thiel said there are countless instances where excessive government intervention and regulation stifled growth or led to economic bubbles.

Technology has been “very lightly regulated” in recent decades, and the world has seen extraordinary advances in the field, he said. But almost every other industry has been heavily regulated, and as a result, has seen very little growth.

“If you’re trying to develop a new drug, that costs you a billion dollars to get through the FDA,” Thiel remarked. “If you want to start a software company, you can get started with maybe $100,000.”

Thiel said America “could be curing cancer,” but because the government has made the cost of developing medicine so high, people are dedicating their time and energy to the tech industry instead.

Complimentary Clip from TheBlaze TV

Beck and Thiel also discussed the similarities and differences between Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

Thiel said most innovators in Silicon Valley have libertarian instincts, “but the politics end up being liberal because that’s what’s cool.”

“For us, politics is about ideas,” he said. “It’s about changing things. But there’s also this other mode where politics is about fashion, and that’s always the risk you have in Silicon Valley. That’s why Hollywood’s so liberal. It’s not that the people have thought things through in Hollywood.”

Thiel said the political system will be changed from the outside, as will many of America’s other issues.

He specifically referenced the skyrocketing cost of education, and how many students are not learning enough to justify hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Many have focused their energy on replacing poor professors, but Thiel believes there is going to be a “reformation” the way there was in the Catholic church hundreds of years ago.

“It’s very hard for us to see it right now, because we can’t imagine anything different,” he remarked. “We believe you will only be ‘saved’ if you go to college. … When you’re scared of the future, you often retrench, and that gets taken advantage of. That’s why the millennials are graduating with a trillion dollars of debt now.”

Thiel said he doesn’t believe there will be a “single alternative system,” but the current system will undeniably change.

Complimentary Clip from TheBlaze TV

The full episode of The Glenn Beck Program, along with many other live-streaming shows and thousands of hours of on-demand content, is available on just about any digital device. Click here to watch every Glenn Beck episode from the past 30 days for just $1!

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22 Oct 12:05

Peter Thiel talks to Glenn Beck

by Luboš Motl
Remlaps

Click into the link for the video.

Peter Thiel is arguably the world's most ingenious venture capitalist. He is a co-founder of PayPal, the first major Facebook investor, a hedge fund boss, a libertarian, an excellent chess player, and one of the most influential folks in Silicon Valley.

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He believes that there is an education bubble and he actively (by significant felllowships) encourages smart kids to escape from the conventional, left-wing-politics-dominated academic system, and become builders of an independent, competing, more pro-freedom framework for the elite.

I admit that my discussions with him in Nice may make me a bit biased. As far as I remember, no other dollar billionaire has ever invited me to a luxurious place for a week and no other billionaire has asked me so many good questions about the expectations at the LHC etc. (Those 4 years ago, I happened to have a "flu" over there which, I became almost certain later, was always caused by Candida, not by viruses or bacteria. I have pretty much chased those "flus" from my life.)




Well, even though I am less corruptible than 99.9% of the mankind, I am still a realist. So I do admit that it's possible that if George Soros had ever done anything for me, maybe he wouldn't be quite the same kind of a jerk and artificially inflated bubble of hot air relatively to Peter Thiel that he is today. ;-)

At any rate, Peter Thiel was interviewed by Glenn Beck a few days ago. Beck had to wait for 6 years; I had waited for 6 minutes. ;-)




The discussion is very interesting. Thiel believes that the progress could be much better and faster than it is. We could cure many diseases and do other wonderful things. (He has been funding quite a few "truly science-fiction-like" projects like swimming cities etc.) But unlike Ray "Singularity" Kurzweil, he stresses that the future is open-ended. It is not something predetermined we may watch while eating popcorn. The future will depend on our acts, too. Defeatism is undesirable. Self-fulfilling prophesies may fulfill themselves but one may also do things because of which they will not be fulfilled.

Back in Nice, there were numerous very interesting (world's top) defenders of the Intelligent Design and I feel that he is close to that culture – despite the fact that he's been actually trained as a biologist in the college. I guess that his (heterodox evangelical) religion is behind this inclination, much like in many other cases. But even if you counted Thiel as a softcore ID guy, and Richard Lindzen, for that matter ;-), I wasn't the only evolution believer over there. An Indian chap with a Czech name – due to his Sudetenland German paternal ancestry – was a real biologist on the evolution side. It still worked.

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This part is about Thiel-inspired technology that helped to kill Osama, Snowden, NSA, the government's efforts to regulate the Silicon Valley, and related things about the Internet privacy. Thiel also points out that most (not only!) U.S. lawmakers are science-illiterate.

I would talk about the multiverse issues – obviously I must have been expected to be much more critical towards the well-known experts' opinion about these matters, and I am not critical because I am confident that the experts are much more rational than the non-experts in those matters. Richard Lindzen would give an overview of the climate debate. And of course that we would notice that Thiel's pre-existing beliefs would be "climate skeptical", too.

In the Glenn Beck interview, Thiel effectively says that he is skeptical because he feels that the advocates have turned the climate debate into a taboo that can't be debated – and such a situation is a sign of a problem. Well, most of the time. If you want to be right 80% of the time, Thiel's rule-of-thumb is very good. I still feel that similar sociological observations are somewhat unreliable methods to decide about an intrinsically scientific or technical problem.

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The interview also covers some comparisons of the Silicon Valley and Washington D.C., debt of students, financing and regulation of new drugs, and other things. We would learn that Apple lost most of the innovative edge and became as stagnant, bureaucratic, and problematic as pretty much all companies with an easy enough way to make profit become. A part of the problem is that companies often depend on the founders.

Some month ago, Thiel would argue in WSJ that competition is for losers, wise chaps manage to create monopolies. For example, Glenn Beck has a monopoly on the Glenn Beck-like shows LOL; it is not like the 1,438th restaurant in Dallas. Things that are one of a kind are most important. (Of course I mostly agree. But, hoping that I won't sound like a Marxist with their ideas about quality and quantity, I also think that many qualitative breakthroughs occur "largely" because of the accumulation of smaller, less radical and just evolutionary advances.) He also mentioned these things in the interview. It's only bad if monopolies become static, but if that's so, it's mostly the government regulation's fault. And in technology, monopolies aren't forever, anyway.
18 Oct 15:12

What Do the Political Terms ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ Mean?

by Tom Woods

A listener writes, “Your podcast with Dan McCarthy on ‘What Do Left and Right Mean?’ was the best succinct contextual background on conservatism and how the neocons have distorted the true meaning over the past few decades that I’ve ever heard. It gave a very clear Orwellian-like doublespeak perspective of how twisted the ‘conservative’ political spectrum has become in 30 minutes.”

Dan is editor of The American Conservative. Check out our conversation below; the mp3 is in our show archive.

Get a commute-sized portion of liberty education Monday through Friday by subscribing to the Tom Woods Show on iTunes or Stitcher!

21 Oct 17:14

Penn. Supreme Court Justice Suspended With Pay For Sending Employees Pornographic E-Mails

by Ed Krayewski

Seamus McCafferyPennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery was suspended with pay by the Supreme Court for sending unwanted sexually explicit e-mails and pornographic images to  employees at the Attorney General’s office, and then trying to coerce another justice into backing him, saying he wasn’t “going down alone.”

The court didn’t suspend McCaffery with pay because the Judicial Conduct Board hasn’t filed formal charges, a reason cited in the dissent. The Express Times reports:

Entering a dissenting opinion, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd said, in part: "No independent investigative body has made any findings regarding merits or credibility, and, unlike the suspension of Justice Joan Orie Melvin, no criminal proceedings have been instituted." Orie Melvin and her sister, Janine Orie, were found guilty last year of using court and legislative staffers to help Orie Melvin get elected, a violation of campaign laws.

The conduct board lacks the resources and manpower for the "enormous effort" of the investigation ordered into McCaffery's conduct, [Chief Justice Ronald] Castille wrote.

"The most recent misconduct of Justice McCaffery — forwarding sexually explicit pornographic emails to employees of the Attorney General's Office (and, in one instance, an email depicting a naked 100-year-old woman as the target of a sexually explicit joke and a video of a woman in sexual congress with a snake that is clearly obscene and may violate the Crimes Code Section on Obscenity) — has caused the Supreme Court to be held up to public ridicule," Castille wrote. "This conduct deserves the immediate action as implemented by this court today."

Among the images sent by McCaffery, according to The Times, one of the images showed a woman having sex with a snake that could be illegal.

h/t Irish

21 Oct 17:20

Video: Cop Shoots 'Aggressive' 6-Month-Old Puppy, Gets Paid Leave

by Zenon Evans

Amanda Henderson of Cleburne, Texas should have made sure her dogs were securely locked up. Otherwise, her six-month-old pit bull, Maximus, might still be alive.

Maximus and two other pit bulls escaped Henderson's property while she was shopping for school supplies for her kids in August. Officer Kevin Dupre responded to a call and shot Maximus several times, killing the pet.

Henderson, who says she never received an explanation of what happened, just came forward to local media about the incident because she recently got her hands on Dupre's body camera, and she says it contradicts his official account of what took place.

You can watch and judge for yourself whether or not the officer's action appeared to be justified. Warning: The video is graphic:

Dupre's police report reads, "I raised my duty weapon to the ready position – pointed at the growling dog's head. As soon as I lifted my pistol, the dog began coming up the hill, continuing to growl and display its teeth…I fired three shots at it."

Henderson sees something different take place. "You see the dogs are happy and playing, they don't even realize [Dupre] is there until he calls them over. They say there's more to the story, but there's no more there. There's no reason he couldn't have used a tranquilizer, pepper spray, a taser instead."

In fact, an animal control officer collected one of Henderson's other dogs without problem. That dog was also caught on Dupre's body camera, trotting right up to the other officer and obeying commands to follow. The third pet was "secured without incident before the shooting" according to the Cleburne Police Department.

Over the weekend, some 10,000 people liked a Facebook page titled "Justice for Maximus," which planned a protest on Saturday.

The police department, which acknowledges it does not train officers to deal with loose dogs, insists that the "the short video" of the shooting "does not tell the whole story" of the dog's "aggressive" behavior toward Dupre. However, yesterday the department announced that it was conducting an internal investigation. And, "we're also talking to another possible, independent, group about doing a review," says Mayor Scott Cain.

The department doesn't know how long the investigation will take, but in the meantime, Dupre is on paid administrative leave as of Friday. 

21 Oct 14:03

This app will help kids cheat on math tests

by Sonali Kohli
Remlaps

h/t Jts5665

Don't bother; there's an app for that.

“Show your work” has long been the math teacher’s mantra. Making students write down each step of a math problem prevents them from merely flipping to the back of their textbook to source the correct answer. But there’s a new shortcut to math problems that gets around that constraint: a free app that solves a math problem and shows the user all the steps. All a student has to do is aim the camera toward the question.

The camera captures the equation, solves it, and the user has the option to look at the steps. The app, called PhotoMath, is free for iOS and Windows phones, and will likely be available on Android in early 2015, according to its website. On the one hand it’s a useful tool for students who need a nudge in the right direction. On the other hand, it isn’t a stretch to envision kids sneaking a phone into the classroom on test day, turning the app into a high-tech crib sheet.

The app uses text recognition technology to find the components of the expression, combined with a human-like problem solving capability, explained the company’s founder Jurica Cerovec at the TechCrunch Disrupt Europe event in London. The app can currently help students in solving relatively simple equations and fractions.

MicroBlink, the company behind the app, envisions it as a math aid for kids who don’t have access to a tutor or to individualized attention at schools, or for parents who need help advising their kids on math homework. A company spokesperson told Quartz its intention isn’t for the app to be used as a cheating device.

Eventually, MicroBlink wants to apply the technology to PDF scanning, online banking, and anything that needs to be read and analyzed. In the meantime, children without access to tutors or close classroom supervision will have an automated math aid—or an easy way to cut corners.

20 Oct 08:05

You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data

by Mark Whitehorn

Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth

Evidence-based decision making is so clearly sensible because the alternative — making random decisions based on no evidence — is so clearly ludicrous.…

01 Oct 00:00

Governments Need Inflation, Economies Don't

by Peter Schiff

In an article in the UK's Telegraph on October 10, veteran economic correspondent Ambrose Evans-Pritchard laid bare the essential truth of the nearly universal current embrace of inflation as an economic panacea. While politicians, CEOs and economists talk about demand stimulus and the avoidance of a deflationary trap, Evans-Pritchard reminds us that inflation is all, and always, about debt management.Every year the levels of government debt as a percentage of GDP, for both emerging market and developed economies, continue to go higher and higher. As the ratios push out into uncharted...
17 Oct 05:00

Bus Driver Organizes Black Mob Violence Against White Family

Read it ten times. You still might not believe it.          
18 Oct 18:04

Gavin Schmidt and the EPA Denial Decision

by Steve McIntyre

About eight weeks ago, Jean S postulated that Gavin Schmidt had been involved in writing the documents supporting EPA’s decision denying various petitions for reconsideration of the Endangerment Finding (the “RTP documents“), documents that Mann had cited to the D.C. Court as a supposedly  “independent” investigation into allegations against him. Obviously, if Schmidt had been involved in the evaluation of evidence for EPA, any claim to “independence” of the EPA’s supposed investigation would be risible.

Jean S directly asked Schmidt, but Schmidt ignored the question.

However, Jean S’ post led to the discovery of new and convincing evidence on Schmidt’s involvement in the RTP documents, which I’ll report today for the first time.   Searching for an answer also revealed that EPA appears to have violated federal peer review policies in respect to the peer review of the RTP documents supporting the denial decision.

Background to FOI Request

In his CA post, Jean S noted that language in the RTP documents (noting Responses 1-2, 1-9, 1-16 and 1-70) showed a familiarity with some very fine details of Real Climate positions on past controversy that even Jean S had not been previously aware of. From this, Jean S speculated that Schmidt (and perhaps even Mann) had been involved with the RTP documents. Jean S directly asked both Mann and Schmidt as follows:

@ClimateOfGavin @MichaelEMann Were you involved in writing of EPA’s Denial of Petitions? http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/petitions.html

The comment thread to Jean S’ post is worth re-reading.  Among other things, AMac reminded readers of EPA’s reliance on Mann’s contaminated nodendro reconstruction (an issue that I had noticed in my only near-contemporary comment on the EPA documents.)

FOI Request

Subsequently, one of the parties in Mann v Steyn (CEI) made an FOI inquiry to EPA asking for (1) correspondence between EPA and Gavin Schmidt between February 2010 and August 2010; and (2) a list of authors and a list of reviewers of the RTP documents

Schmidt Correspondence

EPA produced emails between Schmidt and Jason Samenow of EPA (copied to Marcus Sarofim and Rona Birnbaum of EPA.)  Samenow and Sarofim had been lead authors of the Endangerment Finding, of which Schmidt had been a reviewer. Other FOI information (see discussion here) provides evidence that Samenow,  Sarofim and Birnbaum were also lead authors of the RTP documents

On May 21, 2010, Samenow and Schmidt exchanged emails in which the EPA officials scheduled a meeting with Schmidt at Schmidt’s office in New York on June 10.  Samenow and Sarofim planned to take a train to New York and meet with Schmidt and Reto Ruedy for a half-day, finishing in early-to-mid afternoon. Sarofim and Birnbaum were copied on the correspondence.

On June 8,  Samenow sent a “document” via overnight courier to Schmidt in preparation for their half-day meeting on June 10. Emails were exchanged on the day prior to the meeting arranging details.

Under the circumstances, there can be little doubt that Schmidt had been sent draft versions of documents connected to the denial decision and that Schmidt’s meeting with Samenow and Sarofim was for the purpose of reviewing these documents.   Jean S’ question can therefore be answered in the affirmative: Schmidt had been involved – at a minimum, as a technical expert in the review and evaluation of the draft documents.

No Peer Review Documents

EPA’s answer to the other question was equally interesting. They stated that they had no documents listing either authors or reviewers of the RTP documents.  This is hard to understand given U.S. federal policies requiring peer review and peer review records for influential scientific information disseminated by the U.S. federal government.

Both federal and EPA policies require EPA to carry out peer review of “influential scientific information” in accordance with the EPA Peer Review Handbook,  as clearly stated in the following EPA policy memo linked on their webpage concerning peer review:

Influential scientific information, including highly influential scientific assessments, should be peer reviewed in accordance with the Agency’s Peer Review Handbook. All Agency managers are accountable for ensuring that Agency policy and guidance are appropriately applied in determining if their work products are influential or highly influential, and for deciding the nature, scope, and timing of their peer review. For highly influential scientific assessments, external peer review is the expected procedure. For influential scientific information intended to support important decisions, or for work products that have special importance in their own right, external peer review is the approach of choice.

The EPA defines “influential” scientific information as follows:

.3. EPA will generally consider the following classes of information to be influential, and, to the extent that they contain scientific, financial, or statistical information, that information should adhere to a rigorous standard of quality:

Information disseminated in support of top Agency actions (i.e., rules, substantive notices, policy documents, studies, guidance) that demand the ongoing involvement of the Administrator’s Office and extensive cross-Agency involvement; issues that have the potential to result in major cross-Agency or cross-media policies, are highly controversial, or provide a significant opportunity to advance the Administrator’s priorities. Top Agency actions usually have potentially great or widespread impacts on the private sector, the public or state, local or tribal governments. This category may also include precedent-setting or controversial scientific or economic issues.

Similar language is set out in the EPA’s Peer Review Handbook in its  section entitled “2.2.3 How Does One Determine Whether a Scientific and/or Technical Work Product is Influential Scientific Information?”.

The decision to deny the petitions for reconsideration was clearly a “top Agency action” that provided “a significant opportunity to advance the Administrator’s priorities”, was “highly controversial”,  had “potentially great or widespread impacts on the private sector, the public or state, local or tribal governments” and/or included “precedent-setting or controversial scientific or economic issues”. Indeed, it’s hard to contemplate how one would even begin to argue otherwise.

The EPA’s Peer Review Handbook requires the agency to maintain a “peer review record”, which, at an inconceivable minimum,  would contain the names of authors and reviewers of the document.   So how is it that the EPA had no responsive documents? Odd.

Schmidt and Mann v Steyn

Mann had represented to the D.C. Court that the EPA had conducted an “independent” investigation “into the allegations of scientific misconduct against Dr. Mann”.  Out of all the supposed “exonerations”, EPA was most heavily featured in Mann’s pleadings, which included extended quotations from the EPA’s press kit (falsely described in the pleadings as coming from the denial decision itself.)

For an investigation to be “independent”, it would obviously be inappropriate for the technical experts of an investigation into scientific misconduct to have current or previous personal or professional relationships with the subject of the inquiry that could be considered a conflict of interest.  The Office of the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation clearly stated this in a letter to Penn State in March 2010 as follows:

The official(s) who conduct this investigation and any technical experts you might rely on to evaluate evidence related to this investigation should not have a current or previous personal or professional relationship with Dr. Mann that could be considered a conflict of interests.

While this particular letter was sent in a different proceeding, it reflects the Inspector General’s understanding of applicable U.S. federal policy, policy that applies also to EPA.

Conclusion

Obviously, Gavin Schmidt had a close “current or previous personal or professional relationship with Dr. Mann that could be considered a conflict of interest”. Indeed, it is hard to contemplate a technical expert, other than Mann himself, who would be more thoroughly conflicted in the investigation of scientific misconduct allegations against Mann.   Given the resulting compromise to its independence, it is surprising, to say the least, that EPA would so thoroughly ignore Schmidt’s well-known personal and professional relationships with Mann by asking him to act as a technical expert and/or reviewer in a supposed “investigation” of scientific misconduct allegations against Mann or that Schmidt would not recuse himself from acting as a technical expert and/or reviewer of such an investigation.

In previous CA posts, I’ve challenged the claim in Mann’s pleadings that EPA had actually carried out an “investigation” into scientific misconduct allegations” against Mann (as opposed to taking the narrow, clever and legalistic position that the EPA Endangerment Finding has not relied on hide-the-decline in Mann’s section of IPCC TAR or Mann et al 1998-99, thus making the Mann controversy moot in respect to the Endangerment).  Be that as it may, today’s post shows that any such investigation was not “independent“, since the EPA’s evaluation of evidence related to its supposed investigation of scientific misconduct allegations against Mann unwisely used a technical expert (Gavin Schmidt) who was thoroughly conflicted by well-known personal and professional relationships with Mann.

Schmidt’s involvement with the EPA denial decision and its supporting documents also places an interesting new perspective on EPA’s use of Mann’s controversial nodendro reconstruction to supposedly refute the divergence issues – a tactic that originated at realclimate (see here).  Soon after his meeting with the EPA officials, Schmidt defended Mann et al 2008, not just at Real Climate, but in controversy at a third party blog, claiming, as he had for months, that Mann’s use of contaminated data didn’t “matter” to any of the reconstructions.  However, on or before July 27, 2010, a couple of days before the release of the RTP documents, Schmidt learned that his previous defences of Mann’s nodendro reconstruction were untrue and that Mann’s nodendro reconstruction (which had been relied upon by EPA) had, after all, been compromised by Mann’s use of the contaminated portion of the Tiljander data.  This placed Schmidt in an exceeding awkward position in respect to EPA, since he now knew that the RTP documents made false claims in respect to Mann’s nodendro reconstruction, but it was now only hours away from their release.  I’ll discuss these events in my next post.


16 Oct 04:08

Five Case Studies On Politicization

Remlaps

h/t Adam Victor Brandizzi

[Trigger warning: Some discussion of rape in Part III. This will make much more sense if you've previously read I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup]

I.

One day I woke up and they had politicized Ebola.

I don’t just mean the usual crop of articles like Republicans Are Responsible For The Ebola Crisis and Democrats Try To Deflect Blame For Ebola Outbreak and Incredibly Awful Democrats Try To Blame Ebola On GOP and NPR Reporter Exposes Right Wing Ebola Hype and Republicans Flip-Flop On Ebola Czars. That level of politicization was pretty much what I expected.

(I can’t say I totally expected to see an article called Fat Lesbians Got All The Ebola Dollars, But Blame The GOP, but in retrospect nothing I know about modern society suggested I wouldn’t)

I’m talking about something weirder. Over the past few days, my friends on Facebook have been making impassioned posts about how it’s obvious there should/shouldn’t be a quarantine, but deluded people on the other side are muddying the issue. The issue has risen to an alarmingly high level of 0.05 #Gamergates, which is my current unit of how much people on social media are concerned about a topic. What’s more, everyone supporting the quarantine has been on the right, and everyone opposing on the left. Weird that so many people suddenly develop strong feelings about a complicated epidemiological issue, which can be exactly predicted by their feelings about everything else.

On the Right, there is condemnation of the CDC’s opposition to quarantines as globalist gibberish, fourteen questions that will never be asked about Ebola centering on why there aren’t more quarantine measures in place, and arguments on right-leaning biology blogs for why the people opposing quarantines are dishonest or incompetent. Top Republicans call for travel bans and a presenter on Fox, proportionate as always, demands quarantine centers in every US city.

On the Left (and token libertarian) sides, the New Yorker has been publishing articles on how involuntary quarantines violate civil liberties and “embody class and racial biases”, Reason makes fun of “dumb Republican calls for a travel ban”, Vox has a clickbaity article on how “This One Paragraph Perfectly Sums Up America’s Overreaction To Ebola”, and MSNBC notes that to talk about travel bans is “borderline racism”.

How did this happen? How did both major political tribes decide, within a month of the virus becoming widely known in the States, not only exactly what their position should be but what insults they should call the other tribe for not agreeing with their position? There are a lot of complicated and well-funded programs in West Africa to disseminate information about the symptoms of Ebola in West Africa, and all I can think of right now is that if the Africans could disseminate useful medical information half as quickly as Americans seem to have disseminated tribal-affiliation-related information, the epidemic would be over tomorrow.

Is it just random? A couple of Republicans were coincidentally the first people to support a quarantine, so other Republicans felt they had to stand by them, and then Democrats felt they had to oppose it, and then that spread to wider and wider circles? And if by chance a Democrats had proposed quarantine before a Republican, the situation would have reversed itself? Could be.

Much more interesting is the theory that the fear of disease is the root of all conservativism. I am not making this up. There has been a lot of really good evolutionary psychology done on the extent to which pathogen stress influences political opinions. Some of this is done on the societal level, and finds that societies with higher germ loads are more authoritarian and conservative. This research can be followed arbitrarily far – like, isn’t it interesting that the most liberal societies in the world are the Scandinavian countries in the very far north where disease burden is low, and the most traditionalist-authoritarian ones usually in Africa or somewhere where disease burden is high? One even sees a similar effect within countries, with northern US states being very liberal and southern states being very conservative. Other studies have instead focused on differences between individuals within society – we know that religious conservatives are people with stronger disgust reactions and priming disgust reactions can increase self-reported conservative political beliefs – with most people agreeing disgust reactions are a measure of the “behavioral immune system” triggered by fear of germ contamination.

(free tip for liberal political activists – offering to tidy up voting booths before the election is probably a thousand times more effective than anything you’re doing right now. I will leave the free tip for conservative political activists to your imagination)

If being a conservative means you’re pre-selected for worry about disease, obviously the conservatives are going to be the ones most worried about Ebola. And in fact, along with the quarantine debate, there’s a little sub-debate about whether Ebola is worth panicking about. Vox declares Americans to be “overreacting” and keeps telling them to calm down, whereas its similarly-named evil twin Vox Day has been spending the last week or so spreading panic and suggesting readers “wash your hands, stock up a bit, and avoid any unnecessary travel”.

So that’s the second theory.

The third theory is that everything in politics is mutually reinforcing.

Suppose the Red Tribe has a Grand Narrative. The Narrative is something like “We Americans are right-thinking folks with a perfectly nice culture. But there are also scary foreigners who hate our freedom and wish us ill. Unfortunately, there are also traitors in our ranks – in the form of the Blue Tribe – who in order to signal sophistication support foreigners over Americans and want to undermine our culture. They do this by supporting immigration, accusing anyone who is too pro-American and insufficiently pro-foreigner of “racism”, and demanding everyone conform to “multiculturalism” and “diversity”, as well as lionizing any group within America that tries to subvert the values of the dominant culture. Our goal is to minimize the subversive power of the Blue Tribe at home, then maintain isolation from foreigners abroad, enforced by a strong military if they refuse to stay isolated.”

And the Blue Tribe also has a Grand Narrative. The Narrative is something like “The world is made up of a bunch of different groups and cultures. The wealthier and more privileged groups, played by the Red Tribe, have a history of trying to oppress and harass all the other groups. This oppression is based on ignorance, bigotry, xenophobia, denial of science, and a false facade of patriotism. Our goal is to call out the Red Tribe on its many flaws, and support other groups like foreigners and minorities in their quest for justice and equality, probably in a way that involves lots of NGOs and activists.”

The proposition “a quarantine is the best way to deal with Ebola” seems to fit much better into the Red narrative than the Blue Narrative. It’s about foreigners being scary and dangerous, and a strong coordinated response being necessary to protect right-thinking Americans from them. When people like NBC and the New Yorker accuse quarantine opponents of being “racist”, that just makes the pieces fit in all the better.

The proposition “a quarantine is a bad way to deal with Ebola” seems to fit much better into the Blue narrative than the Red. It’s about extremely poor black foreigners dying, and white Americans rushing to throw them overboard to protect themselves out of ignorance of the science (which says Ebola can’t spread much in the First World), bigotry, xenophobia, and fear. The real solution is a coordinated response by lots of government agencies working in tandem with NGOs and local activists.

It would be really hard to switch these two positions around. If the Republicans were to oppose a quarantine, it might raise the general question of whether closing the borders and being scared of foreign threats is always a good idea, and whether maybe sometimes accusations of racism are making a good point. Far “better” to maintain a consistent position where all your beliefs reinforce all of your other beliefs.

There’s a question of causal structure here. Do Republicans believe certain other things for their own sake, and then adapt their beliefs about Ebola to help buttress their other beliefs? Or do the same factors that made them adopt their narrative in the first place lead them to adopt a similar narrative around Ebola?

My guess it it’s a little of both. And then once there’s a critical mass of anti-quarantiners within a party, in-group cohesion and identification effects cascade towards it being a badge of party membership and everybody having to believe it. And if the Democrats are on the other side, saying things you disagree with about every other issue, and also saying that you have to oppose quarantine or else you’re a bad person, then that also incentivizes you to support a quarantine, just to piss them off.

II.

Sometimes politicization isn’t about what side you take, it’s about what issues you emphasize.

In the last post, I wrote:

Imagine hearing that a liberal talk show host and comedian was so enraged by the actions of ISIS that he’d recorded and posted a video in which he shouts at them for ten minutes, cursing the “fanatical terrorists” and calling them “utter savages” with “savage values”.

If I heard that, I’d be kind of surprised. It doesn’t fit my model of what liberal talk show hosts do.

But the story I’m actually referring to is liberal talk show host / comedian Russell Brand making that same rant against Fox News for supporting war against the Islamic State, adding at the end that “Fox is worse than ISIS”.

That fits my model perfectly. You wouldn’t celebrate Osama’s death, only Thatcher’s. And you wouldn’t call ISIS savages, only Fox News. Fox is the outgroup, ISIS is just some random people off in a desert. You hate the outgroup, you don’t hate random desert people.

I would go further. Not only does Brand not feel much like hating ISIS, he has a strong incentive not to. That incentive is: the Red Tribe is known to hate ISIS loudly and conspicuously. Hating ISIS would signal Red Tribe membership, would be the equivalent of going into Crips territory with a big Bloods gang sign tattooed on your shoulder.

Now I think I missed an important part of the picture. The existence of ISIS plays right into Red Tribe narratives. They are totally scary foreigners who hate our freedom and want to hurt us and probably require a strong military response, so their existence sounds like a point in favor of the Red Tribe. Thus, the Red Tribe wants to talk about them as much as possible and condemn them in the strongest terms they can.

There’s not really any way to spin this issue in favor of the Blue Tribe narrative. The Blue Tribe just has to grudgingly admit that maybe this is one of the few cases where their narrative breaks down. So their incentive is to try to minimize ISIS, to admit it exists and is bad and try to distract the conversation to other issues that support their chosen narrative more. That’s why you’ll never see the Blue Tribe gleefully cheering someone on as they call ISIS “savages”. It wouldn’t fit the script.

But did you hear about that time when a Muslim-American lambasting Islamophobia totally pwned all of those ignorant FOX anchors? Le-GEN-dary!

III.

At worst this choice to emphasize different issues descends into an unhappy combination of tragedy and farce.

The Rotherham scandal was an incident in an English town where criminal gangs had been grooming and blackmailing thousands of young girls, then using them as sex slaves. This had been going on for at least ten years with minimal intervention by the police. An investigation was duly launched, which discovered that the police had been keeping quiet about the problem because the gangs were mostly Pakistani and the victims mostly white, and the police didn’t want to seem racist by cracking down too heavily. Researchers and officials who demanded that the abuse should be publicized or fought more vigorously were ordered to attend “diversity training” to learn why their demands were offensive. The police department couldn’t keep it under wraps forever, and eventually it broke and was a huge scandal.

The Left then proceeded to totally ignore it, and the Right proceeded to never shut up about it for like an entire month, and every article about it had to include the “diversity training” aspect, so that if you type “rotherham d…” into Google, your two first options are “Rotherham Daily Mail” and “Rotherham diversity training”.

I don’t find this surprising at all. The Rotherham incident ties in perfectly to the Red Tribe narrative – scary foreigners trying to hurt us, politically correct traitors trying to prevent us from noticing. It doesn’t do anything for the Blue Tribe narrative, and indeed actively contradicts it at some points. So the Red Tribe wants to trumpet it to the world, and the Blue Tribe wants to stay quiet and distract.

HBD Chick usually writes very well-thought-out articles on race and genetics listing all the excellent reasons you should not marry your cousins. Hers is not a political blog, and I have never seen her get upset about any political issue before, but since most of her posts are about race and genetics she gets a lot of love from the Right and a lot of flak from the Left. She recently broke her silence on politics to write three long and very angry blog posts on the Rotherham issue, of which I will excerpt one:

if you’ve EVER called somebody a racist just because they said something politically incorrect, then you’d better bloody well read this report, because THIS IS ON YOU! this is YOUR doing! this is where your scare tactics have gotten us: over 1400 vulnerable kids systematically abused because YOU feel uncomfortable when anybody brings up some “hate facts.”

this is YOUR fault, politically correct people — and i don’t care if you’re on the left or the right. YOU enabled this abuse thanks to the climate of fear you’ve created. thousands of abused girls — some of them maybe dead — on YOUR head.

I have no doubt that her outrage is genuine. But I do have to wonder why she is outraged about this and not all of the other outrageous things in the world. And I do have to wonder whether the perfect fit between her own problems – trying to blog about race and genetics but getting flak from politically correct people – and the problems that made Rotherham so disastrous – which include police getting flak from politically correct people – are part of her sudden conversion to political activism.

[edit: she objects to this characterization]

But I will also give her this – accidentally stumbling into being upset by the rape of thousands of children is, as far as accidental stumbles go, not a bad one. What’s everyone else’s excuse?

John Durant did an interesting analysis of media coverage of the Rotherham scandal versus the “someone posted nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence” scandal.

He found left-leaning news website Slate had one story on the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, but four stories on nude Jennifer Lawrence.

He also found that feminist website Jezebel had only one story on the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, but six stories on nude Jennifer Lawrence.

Feministing gave Rotherham a one-sentence mention in a links roundup (just underneath “five hundred years of female portrait painting in three minutes”), but Jennifer Lawrence got two full stories.

The article didn’t talk about social media, and I couldn’t search it directly for Jennifer Lawrence stories because it was too hard to sort out discussion of the scandal from discussion of her as an actress. But using my current unit of social media saturation, Rotherham clocks in at 0.24 #Gamergates

You thought I was joking. I never joke.

This doesn’t surprise me much. Yes, you would think that the systematic rape of thousands of women with police taking no action might be a feminist issue. Or that it might outrage some people on Tumblr, a site which has many flaws but which has never been accused of being slow to outrage. But the goal here isn’t to push some kind of Platonic ideal of what’s important, it’s to support a certain narrative that ties into the Blue Tribe narrative. Rotherham does the opposite of that. The Jennifer Lawrence nudes, which center around how hackers (read: creepy internet nerds) shared nude pictures of a beloved celebrity on Reddit (read: creepy internet nerds) and 4Chan (read: creepy internet nerds) – and #Gamergate which does the same – are exactly the narrative they want to push, so they become the Stories Of The Century.

IV.

Here’s something I did find on Tumblr which I think is really interesting.

You can see that after the Ferguson shooting, the average American became a little less likely to believe that blacks were treated equally in the criminal justice system. This makes sense, since the Ferguson shooting was a much-publicized example of the criminal justice system treating a black person unfairly.

But when you break the results down by race, a different picture emerges. White people were actually a little more likely to believe the justice system was fair after the shooting. Why? I mean, if there was no change, you could chalk it up to white people believing the police’s story that the officer involved felt threatened and made a split-second bad decision that had nothing to do with race. That could explain no change just fine. But being more convinced that justice is color-blind? What could explain that?

My guess – before Ferguson, at least a few people interpreted this as an honest question about race and justice. After Ferguson, everyone mutually agreed it was about politics.

Ferguson and Rotherham were both similar in that they were cases of police misconduct involving race. You would think that there might be some police misconduct community who are interested in stories of police misconduct, or some race community interested in stories about race, and these people would discuss both of these two big international news items.

The Venn diagram of sources I saw covering these two stories forms two circles with no overlap. All those conservative news sites that couldn’t shut up about Rotherham? Nothing on Ferguson – unless it was to snipe at the Left for “exploiting” it to make a political point. Otherwise, they did their best to stay quiet about it. Hey! Look over there! ISIS is probably beheading someone really interesting!

The same way Rotherham obviously supports the Red Tribe’s narrative, Ferguson obviously supports the Blue Tribe’s narrative. A white person, in the police force, shooting an innocent (ish) black person, and then a racist system refusing to listen to righteous protests by brave activists.

The “see, the Left is right about everything” angle of most of the coverage made HBD Chick’s attack on political correctness look subtle. The parts about race, systemic inequality, and the police were of debatable proportionality, but what I really liked was the Ferguson coverage started branching off into every issue any member of the Blue Tribe has ever cared about:

Gun control? Check.

The war on terror? Check.

American exceptionalism? Check.

Feminism? Check.

Abortion? Check

Gay rights? Check.

Palestinian independence? Check.

Global warming? Check. Wait, really? Yes, really.

Anyone who thought that the question in that poll was just a simple honest question about criminal justice was very quickly disabused of that notion. It was a giant Referendum On Everything, a “do you think the Blue Tribe is right on every issue and the Red Tribe is terrible and stupid, or vice versa?” And it turns out many people who when asked about criminal justice will just give the obvious answer, have much stronger and less predictable feelings about Giant Referenda On Everything.

In my last post, I wrote about how people feel when their in-group is threatened, even when it’s threatened with an apparently innocuous point they totally agree with:

I imagine [it] might feel like some liberal US Muslim leader, when he goes on the O’Reilly Show, and O’Reilly ambushes him and demands to know why he and other American Muslims haven’t condemned beheadings by ISIS more, demands that he criticize them right there on live TV. And you can see the wheels in the Muslim leader’s head turning, thinking something like “Okay, obviously beheadings are terrible and I hate them as much as anyone. But you don’t care even the slightest bit about the victims of beheadings. You’re just looking for a way to score points against me so you can embarass all Muslims. And I would rather personally behead every single person in the world than give a smug bigot like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

I think most people, when they think about it, probably believe that the US criminal justice system is biased. But when you feel under attack by people whom you suspect have dishonest intentions of twisting your words so they can use them to dehumanize your in-group, eventually you think “I would rather personally launch unjust prosecutions against every single minority in the world than give a smug out-group member like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

V.

Wait, so you mean turning all the most important topics in our society into wedge issues that we use to insult and abuse people we don’t like, to the point where even mentioning it triggers them and makes them super defensive, might have been a bad idea??!

There’s been some really neat research into people who don’t believe in global warming. The original suspicion, at least from certain quarters, were that they were just dumb. Then someone checked and found that warming disbelievers actually had (very slightly) higher levels of scientific literacy than warming believers.

So people had to do actual studies, and to what should have been no one’s surprise, the most important factor was partisan affiliation. For example, according to Pew 64% of Democrats believe the Earth is getting warmer due to human activity, compared to 9% of Tea Party Republicans.

So assuming you want to convince Republicans to start believing in global warming before we’re all frying eggs on the sidewalk, how should you go about it? This is the excellent question asked by a study recently profiled in an NYMag article.

The study found that you could be a little more convincing to conservatives by acting on the purity/disgust axis of moral foundations theory – the one that probably gets people so worried about Ebola. A warmer climate is unnatural, in the same way that, oh, let’s say, homosexuality is unnatural. Carbon dioxide contaminating our previously pure atmosphere, in the same way premarital sex or drug use contaminates your previously pure body. It sort of worked.

Another thing that sort of worked was tying things into the Red Tribe narrative, which they did through the two sentences “Being pro-environmental allows us to protect and preserve the American way of life. It is patriotic to conserve the country’s natural resources.” I can’t imagine anyone falling for this, but I guess some people did.

This is cute, but it’s too little too late. Global warming has already gotten inextricably tied up in the Blue Tribe narrative: Global warming proves that unrestrained capitalism is destroying the planet. Global warming disproportionately affects poor countries and minorities. Global warming could have been prevented with multilateral action, but we were too dumb to participate because of stupid American cowboy diplomacy. Global warming is an important cause that activists and NGOs should be lauded for highlighting. Global warming shows that Republicans are science denialists and probably all creationists. Two lousy sentences on “patriotism” aren’t going to break through that.

If I were in charge of convincing the Red Tribe to line up behind fighting global warming, here’s what I’d say:

In the 1950s, brave American scientists shunned by the climate establishment of the day discovered that the Earth was warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, leading to potentially devastating natural disasters that could destroy American agriculture and flood American cities. As a result, the country mobilized against the threat. Strong government action by the Bush administration outlawed the worst of these gases, and brilliant entrepreneurs were able to discover and manufacture new cleaner energy sources. As a result of these brave decisions, our emissions stabilized and are currently declining.

Unfortunately, even as we do our part, the authoritarian governments of Russia and China continue to industralize and militarize rapidly as part of their bid to challenge American supremacy. As a result, Communist China is now by far the world’s largest greenhouse gas producer, with the Russians close behind. Many analysts believe Putin secretly welcomes global warming as a way to gain access to frozen Siberian resources and weaken the more temperate United States at the same time. These countries blow off huge disgusting globs of toxic gas, which effortlessly cross American borders and disrupt the climate of the United States. Although we have asked them to stop several times, they refuse, perhaps egged on by major oil producers like Iran and Venezuela who have the most to gain by keeping the world dependent on the fossil fuels they produce and sell to prop up their dictatorships.

A giant poster of Mao looks approvingly at all the CO2 being produced…for Communism.

We need to take immediate action. While we cannot rule out the threat of military force, we should start by using our diplomatic muscle to push for firm action at top-level summits like the Kyoto Protocol. Second, we should fight back against the liberals who are trying to hold up this important work, from big government bureaucrats trying to regulate clean energy to celebrities accusing people who believe in global warming of being ‘racist’. Third, we need to continue working with American industries to set an example for the world by decreasing our own emissions in order to protect ourselves and our allies. Finally, we need to punish people and institutions who, instead of cleaning up their own carbon, try to parasitize off the rest of us and expect the federal government to do it for them.

Please join our brave men and women in uniform in pushing for an end to climate change now.

If this were the narrative conservatives were seeing on TV and in the papers, I think we’d have action on the climate pretty quickly. I mean, that action might be nuking China. But it would be action.

And yes, there’s a sense in which that narrative is dishonest, or at least has really weird emphases. But our current narrative also has really some weird emphases. And for much the same reasons.

VI.

The Red Tribe and Blue Tribe have different narratives, which they use to tie together everything that happens into reasons why their tribe is good and the other tribe is bad.

Sometimes this results in them seizing upon different sides of an apparently nonpolitical issue when these support their narrative; for example, Republicans generally supporting a quarantine against Ebola, Democrats generally opposing it. Other times it results in a side trying to gain publicity for stories that support their narrative while sinking their opponents’ preferred stories – Rotherham for some Reds; Ferguson for some Blues.

When an issue gets tied into a political narrative, it stops being about itself and starts being about the wider conflict between tribes until eventually it becomes viewed as a Referendum On Everything. At this point, people who are clued in start suspecting nobody cares about the issue itself – like victims of beheadings, or victims of sexual abuse – and everybody cares about the issue’s potential as a political weapon – like proving Muslims are “uncivilized”, or proving political correctness is dangerous. After that, even people who agree that the issue is a problem and who would otherwise want to take action have to stay quiet, because they know that their help would be used less to solve a problem than to push forward the war effort against them. If they feel especially threatened, they may even take an unexpected side on the issue, switching from what they would usually believe to whichever position seems less like a transparent cover for attempts to attack them and their friends.

And then you end up doing silly things like saying ISIS is not as bad as Fox News, or donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to the officer who shot Michael Brown.

This can sort of be prevented by not turning everything into a referendum on how great your tribe is and how stupid the opposing tribe is, or by trying to frame an issue in a way that respects or appeals to an out-group’s narrative.

Let me give an example. I find a lot of online feminism very triggering, because it seems to me to have nothing to do with women and be transparently about marginalizing nerdy men as creeps who are not really human (see: nude pictures vs. Rotherham, above). This means that even when I support and agree with feminists and want to help them, I am constantly trying to drag my brain out of panic mode that their seemingly valuable projects are just deep cover for attempts to hurt me (see: hypothetical Bill O’Reilly demanding Muslims condemn the “Islamic” practice of beheading people).

I have recently met some other feminists who instead use a narrative which views “nerds” as an “alternative gender performance”, ie in the case of men they reject the usual masculine pursuits of sports and fraternities and they have characteristics that violate normative beauty standards (like “no neckbeards”). Thus, people trying to attack nerds is a subcategory of “people trying to enforce gender performance”, and nerds should join with queer people, women, and other people who have an interest in promoting tolerance of alternative gender performances in order to fight for their mutual right to be left alone and accepted.

I’m not sure I entirely buy this argument, but it doesn’t trigger me, and it’s the sort of thing I could buy, and if all my friends started saying it I’d probably be roped into agreeing by social pressure alone.

But this is as rare as, well, anti-global warming arguments aimed at making Republicans feel comfortable and nonthreatened.

I blame the media, I really do. Remember, from within a system no one necessarily has an incentive to do what the system as a whole is supposed to do. Daily Kos or someone has a little label saying “supports liberal ideas”, but actually their incentive is to make liberals want to click on their pages and ads. If the quickest way to do that is by writing story after satisfying story of how dumb Republicans are, and what wonderful taste they have for being members of the Blue Tribe instead of evil mutants, then they’ll do that even if the effect on the entire system is to make Republicans hate them and by extension everything they stand for.

I don’t know how to fix this.

15 Oct 15:31

The Pretense of Knowledge

By F. A. HAYEK

[This classic essay was presented by Hayek on the occasion of his Nobel Prize in Economics, December 11, 1974. It is reprinted with permission of the Nobel Prize Foundation]

The particular occasion of this lecture, combined with the chief practical problem which economists have to face today, have made the choice of its topic almost inevitable. On the one hand the still recent establishment of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science marks a significant step in the process by which, in the opinion of the general public, economics has been conceded some of the dignity and prestige of the physical sciences. On the other hand, the economists are at this moment called upon to say how to extricate the free world from the serious threat of accelerating inflation which, it must be admitted, has been brought about by policies which the majority of economists recommended and even urged governments to pursue. We have indeed at the moment little cause for pride: as a profession we have made a mess of things.

It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences - an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error. It is an approach which has come to be described as the "scientistic" attitude - an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, "is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed."1 I want today to begin by explaining how some of the gravest errors of recent economic policy are a direct consequence of this scientistic error.

The theory which has been guiding monetary and financial policy during the last thirty years, and which I contend is largely the product of such a mistaken conception of the proper scientific procedure, consists in the assertion that there exists a simple positive correlation between total employment and the size of the aggregate demand for goods and services; it leads to the belief that we can permanently assure full employment by maintaining total money expenditure at an appropriate level. Among the various theories advanced to account for extensive unemployment, this is probably the only one in support of which strong quantitative evidence can be adduced. I nevertheless regard it as fundamentally false, and to act upon it, as we now experience, as very harmful.

This brings me to the crucial issue. Unlike the position that exists in the physical sciences, in economics and other disciplines that deal with essentially complex phenomena, the aspects of the events to be accounted for about which we can get quantitative data are necessarily limited and may not include the important ones. While in the physical sciences it is generally assumed, probably with good reason, that any important factor which determines the observed events will itself be directly observable and measurable, in the study of such complex phenomena as the market, which depend on the actions of many individuals, all the circumstances which will determine the outcome of a process, for reasons which I shall explain later, will hardly ever be fully known or measurable. And while in the physical sciences the investigator will be able to measure what, on the basis of a prima facie theory, he thinks important, in the social sciences often that is treated as important which happens to be accessible to measurement. This is sometimes carried to the point where it is demanded that our theories must be formulated in such terms that they refer only to measurable magnitudes.

It can hardly be denied that such a demand quite arbitrarily limits the facts which are to be admitted as possible causes of the events which occur in the real world. This view, which is often quite naively accepted as required by scientific procedure, has some rather paradoxical consequences. We know: of course, with regard to the market and similar social structures, a great many facts which we cannot measure and on which indeed we have only some very imprecise and general information. And because the effects of these facts in any particular instance cannot be confirmed by quantitative evidence, they are simply disregarded by those sworn to admit only what they regard as scientific evidence: they thereupon happily proceed on the fiction that the factors which they can measure are the only ones that are relevant.

The correlation between aggregate demand and total employment, for instance, may only be approximate, but as it is the only one on which we have quantitative data, it is accepted as the only causal connection that counts. On this standard there may thus well exist better "scientific" evidence for a false theory, which will be accepted because it is more "scientific", than for a valid explanation, which is rejected because there is no sufficient quantitative evidence for it.

Let me illustrate this by a brief sketch of what I regard as the chief actual cause of extensive unemployment - an account which will also explain why such unemployment cannot be lastingly cured by the inflationary policies recommended by the now fashionable theory. This correct explanation appears to me to be the existence of discrepancies between the distribution of demand among the different goods and services and the allocation of labour and other resources among the production of those outputs. We possess a fairly good "qualitative" knowledge of the forces by which a correspondence between demand and supply in the different sectors of the economic system is brought about, of the conditions under which it will be achieved, and of the factors likely to prevent such an adjustment. The separate steps in the account of this process rely on facts of everyday experience, and few who take the trouble to follow the argument will question the validity of the factual assumptions, or the logical correctness of the conclusions drawn from them. We have indeed good reason to believe that unemployment indicates that the structure of relative prices and wages has been distorted (usually by monopolistic or governmental price fixing), and that to restore equality between the demand and the supply of labour in all sectors changes of relative prices and some transfers of labour will be necessary.

But when we are asked for quantitative evidence for the particular structure of prices and wages that would be required in order to assure a smooth continuous sale of the products and services offered, we must admit that we have no such information. We know, in other words, the general conditions in which what we call, somewhat misleadingly, an equilibrium will establish itself: but we never know what the particular prices or wages are which would exist if the market were to bring about such an equilibrium. We can merely say what the conditions are in which we can expect the market to establish prices and wages at which demand will equal supply. But we can never produce statistical information which would show how much the prevailing prices and wages deviate from those which would secure a continuous sale of the current supply of labour. Though this account of the causes of unemployment is an empirical theory, in the sense that it might be proved false, e.g. if, with a constant money supply, a general increase of wages did not lead to unemployment, it is certainly not the kind of theory which we could use to obtain specific numerical predictions concerning the rates of wages, or the distribution of labour, to be expected.

Why should we, however, in economics, have to plead ignorance of the sort of facts on which, in the case of a physical theory, a scientist would certainly be expected to give precise information? It is probably not surprising that those impressed by the example of the physical sciences should find this position very unsatisfactory and should insist on the standards of proof which they find there. The reason for this state of affairs is the fact, to which I have already briefly referred, that the social sciences, like much of biology but unlike most fields of the physical sciences, have to deal with structures ofessential complexity, i.e. with structures whose characteristic properties can be exhibited only by models made up of relatively large numbers of variables. Competition, for instance, is a process which will produce certain results only if it proceeds among a fairly large number of acting persons.

In some fields, particularly where problems of a similar kind arise in the physical sciences, the difficulties can be overcome by using, instead of specific information about the individual elements, data about the relative frequency, or the probability, of the occurrence of the various distinctive properties of the elements. But this is true only where we have to deal with what has been called by Dr. Warren Weaver (formerly of the Rockefeller Foundation), with a distinction which ought to be much more widely understood, "phenomena of unorganized complexity," in contrast to those "phenomena of organized complexity" with which we have to deal in the social sciences.2 Organized complexity here means that the character of the structures showing it depends not only on the properties of the individual elements of which they are composed, and the relative frequency with which they occur, but also on the manner in which the individual elements are connected with each other. In the explanation of the working of such structures we can for this reason not replace the information about the individual elements by statistical information, but require full information about each element if from our theory we are to derive specific predictions about individual events. Without such specific information about the individual elements we shall be confined to what on another occasion I have called mere pattern predictions - predictions of some of the general attributes of the structures that will form themselves, but not containing specific statements about the individual elements of which the structures will be made up.3

This is particularly true of our theories accounting for the determination of the systems of relative prices and wages that will form themselves on a wellfunctioning market. Into the determination of these prices and wages there will enter the effects of particular information possessed by every one of the participants in the market process - a sum of facts which in their totality cannot be known to the scientific observer, or to any other single brain. It is indeed the source of the superiority of the market order, and the reason why, when it is not suppressed by the powers of government, it regularly displaces other types of order, that in the resulting allocation of resources more of the knowledge of particular facts will be utilized which exists only dispersed among uncounted persons, than any one person can possess. But because we, the observing scientists, can thus never know all the determinants of such an order, and in consequence also cannot know at which particular structure of prices and wages demand would everywhere equal supply, we also cannot measure the deviations from that order; nor can we statistically test our theory that it is the deviations from that "equilibrium" system of prices and wages which make it impossible to sell some of the products and services at the prices at which they are offered.

Before I continue with my immediate concern, the effects of all this on the employment policies currently pursued, allow me to define more specifically the inherent limitations of our numerical knowledge which are so often overlooked. I want to do this to avoid giving the impression that I generally reject the mathematical method in economics. I regard it in fact as the great advantage of the mathematical technique that it allows us to describe, by means of algebraic equations, the general character of a pattern even where we are ignorant of the numerical values which will determine its particular manifestation. We could scarcely have achieved that comprehensive picture of the mutual interdependencies of the different events in a market without this algebraic technique. It has led to the illusion, however, that we can use this technique for the determination and prediction of the numerical values of those magnitudes; and this has led to a vain search for quantitative or numerical constants. This happened in spite of the fact that the modern founders of mathematical economics had no such illusions. It is true that their systems of equations describing the pattern of a market equilibrium are so framed that if we were able to fill in all the blanks of the abstract formulae, i.e. if we knew all the parameters of these equations, we could calculate the prices and quantities of all commodities and services sold. But, as Vilfredo Pareto, one of the founders of this theory, clearly stated, its purpose cannot be "to arrive at a numerical calculation of prices", because, as he said, it would be "absurd" to assume that we could ascertain all the data.4 Indeed, the chief point was already seen by those remarkable anticipators of modern economics, the Spanish schoolmen of the sixteenth century, who emphasized that what they called pretium mathematicum, the mathematical price, depended on so many particular circumstances that it could never be known to man but was known only to God.5 I sometimes wish that our mathematical economists would take this to heart. I must confess that I still doubt whether their search for measurable magnitudes has made significant contributions to our theoretical understanding of economic phenomena - as distinct from their value as a description of particular situations. Nor am I prepared to accept the excuse that this branch of research is still very young: Sir William Petty, the founder of econometrics, was after all a somewhat senior colleague of Sir Isaac Newton in the Royal Society!

There may be few instances in which the superstition that only measurable magnitudes can be important has done positive harm in the economic field: but the present inflation and employment problems are a very serious one. Its effect has been that what is probably the true cause of extensive unemployment has been disregarded by the scientistically minded majority of economists, because its operation could not be confirmed by directly observable relations between measurable magnitudes, and that an almost exclusive concentration on quantitatively measurable surface phenomena has produced a policy which has made matters worse.

It has, of course, to be readily admitted that the kind of theory which I regard as the true explanation of unemployment is a theory of somewhat limited content because it allows us to make only very general predictions of the kindof events which we must expect in a given situation. But the effects on policy of the more ambitious constructions have not been very fortunate and I confess that I prefer true but imperfect knowledge, even if it leaves much indetermined and unpredictable, to a pretence of exact knowledge that is likely to be false. The credit which the apparent conformity with recognized scientific standards can gain for seemingly simple but false theories may, as the present instance shows, have grave consequences.

In fact, in the case discussed, the very measures which the dominant "macro-economic" theory has recommended as a remedy for unemployment, namely the increase of aggregate demand, have become a cause of a very extensive misallocation of resources which is likely to make later large-scale unemployment inevitable. The continuous injection of additional amounts of money at points of the economic system where it creates a temporary demand which must cease when the increase of the quantity of money stops or slows down, together with the expectation of a continuing rise of prices, draws labour and other resources into employments which can last only so long as the increase of the quantity of money continues at the same rate - or perhaps even only so long as it continues to accelerate at a given rate. What this policy has produced is not so much a level of employment that could not have been brought about in other ways, as a distribution of employment which cannot be indefinitely maintained and which after some time can be maintained only by a rate of inflation which would rapidly lead to a disorganisation of all economic activity. The fact is that by a mistaken theoretical view we have been led into a precarious position in which we cannot prevent substantial unemployment from re-appearing; not because, as this view is sometimes misrepresented, this unemployment is deliberately brought about as a means to combat inflation, but because it is now bound to occur as a deeply regrettable but inescapable consequence of the mistaken policies of the past as soon as inflation ceases to accelerate.

I must, however, now leave these problems of immediate practical importance which I have introduced chiefly as an illustration of the momentous consequences that may follow from errors concerning abstract problems of the philosophy of science. There is as much reason to be apprehensive about the long run dangers created in a much wider field by the uncritical acceptance of assertions which have the appearance of being scientific as there is with regard to the problems I have just discussed. What I mainly wanted to bring out by the topical illustration is that certainly in my field, but I believe also generally in the sciences of man, what looks superficially like the most scientific procedure is often the most unscientific, and, beyond this, that in these fields there are definite limits to what we can expect science to achieve. This means that to entrust to science - or to deliberate control according to scientific principles - more than scientific method can achieve may have deplorable effects. The progress of the natural sciences in modern times has of course so much exceeded all expectations that any suggestion that there may be some limits to it is bound to arouse suspicion. Especially all those will resist such an insight who have hoped that our increasing power of prediction and control, generally regarded as the characteristic result of scientific advance, applied to the processes of society, would soon enable us to mould society entirely to our liking. It is indeed true that, in contrast to the exhilaration which the discoveries of the physical sciences tend to produce, the insights which we gain from the study of society more often have a dampening effect on our aspirations; and it is perhaps not surprising that the more impetuous younger members of our profession are not always prepared to accept this. Yet the confidence in the unlimited power of science is only too often based on a false belief that the scientific method consists in the application of a ready-made technique, or in imitating the form rather than the substance of scientific procedure, as if one needed only to follow some cooking recipes to solve all social problems. It sometimes almost seems as if the techniques of science were more easily learnt than the thinking that shows us what the problems are and how to approach them.

The conflict between what in its present mood the public expects science to achieve in satisfaction of popular hopes and what is really in its power is a serious matter because, even if the true scientists should all recognize the limitations of what they can do in the field of human affairs, so long as the public expects more there will always be some who will pretend, and perhaps honestly believe, that they can do more to meet popular demands than is really in their power. It is often difficult enough for the expert, and certainly in many instances impossible for the layman, to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate claims advanced in the name of science. The enormous publicity recently given by the media to a report pronouncing in the name of science on The Limits to Growth, and the silence of the same media about the devastating criticism this report has received from the competent experts6, must make one feel somewhat apprehensive about the use to which the prestige of science can be put. But it is by no means only in the field of economics that far-reaching claims are made on behalf of a more scientific direction of all human activities and the desirability of replacing spontaneous processes by "conscious human control". If I am not mistaken, psychology, psychiatry and some branches of sociology, not to speak about the so-called philosophy of history, are even more affected by what I have called the scientistic prejudice, and by specious claims of what science can achieve.7

If we are to safeguard the reputation of science, and to prevent the arrogation of knowledge based on a superficial similarity of procedure with that of the physical sciences, much effort will have to be directed toward debunking such arrogations, some of which have by now become the vested interests of established university departments. We cannot be grateful enough to such modern philosophers of science as Sir Karl Popper for giving us a test by which we can distinguish between what we may accept as scientific and what not - a test which I am sure some doctrines now widely accepted as scientific would not pass. There are some special problems, however, in connection with those essentially complex phenomena of which social structures are so important an instance, which make me wish to restate in conclusion in more general terms the reasons why in these fields not only are there only absolute obstacles to the prediction of specific events, but why to act as if we possessed scientific knowledge enabling us to transcend them may itself become a serious obstacle to the advance of the human intellect.

The chief point we must remember is that the great and rapid advance of the physical sciences took place in fields where it proved that explanation and prediction could be based on laws which accounted for the observed phenomena as functions of comparatively few variables - either particular facts or relative frequencies of events. This may even be the ultimate reason why we single out these realms as "physical" in contrast to those more highly organized structures which I have here called essentially complex phenomena. There is no reason why the position must be the same in the latter as in the former fields. The difficulties which we encounter in the latter are not, as one might at first suspect, difficulties about formulating theories for the explanation of the observed events - although they cause also special difficulties about testing proposed explanations and therefore about eliminating bad theories. They are due to the chief problem which arises when we apply our theories to any particular situation in the real world. A theory of essentially complex phenomena must refer to a large number of particular facts; and to derive a prediction from it, or to test it, we have to ascertain all these particular facts. Once we succeeded in this there should be no particular difficulty about deriving testable predictions - with the help of modern computers it should be easy enough to insert these data into the appropriate blanks of the theoretical formulae and to derive a prediction. The real difficulty, to the solution of which science has little to contribute, and which is sometimes indeed insoluble, consists in the ascertainment of the particular facts.

A simple example will show the nature of this difficulty. Consider some ball game played by a few people of approximately equal skill. If we knew a few particular facts in addition to our general knowledge of the ability of the individual players, such as their state of attention, their perceptions and the state of their hearts, lungs, muscles etc. at each moment of the game, we could probably predict the outcome. Indeed, if we were familiar both with the game and the teams we should probably have a fairly shrewd idea on what the outcome will depend. But we shall of course not be able to ascertain those facts and in consequence the result of the game will be outside the range of the scientifically predictable, however well we may know what effects particular events would have on the result of the game. This does not mean that we can make no predictions at all about the course of such a game. If we know the rules of the different games we shall, in watching one, very soon know which game is being played and what kinds of actions we can expect and what kind not. But our capacity to predict will be confined to such general characteristics of the events to be expected and not include the capacity of predicting particular individual events.

This corresponds to what I have called earlier the mere pattern predictions to which we are increasingly confined as we penetrate from the realm in which relatively simple laws prevail into the range of phenomena where organized complexity rules. As we advance we find more and more frequently that we can in fact ascertain only some but not all the particular circumstances which determine the outcome of a given process; and in consequence we are able to predict only some but not all the properties of the result we have to expect. Often all that we shall be able to predict will be some abstract characteristic of the pattern that will appear - relations between kinds of elements about which individually we know very little. Yet, as I am anxious to repeat, we will still achieve predictions which can be falsified and which therefore are of empirical significance.

Of course, compared with the precise predictions we have learnt to expect in the physical sciences, this sort of mere pattern predictions is a second best with which one does not like to have to be content. Yet the danger of which I want to warn is precisely the belief that in order to have a claim to be accepted as scientific it is necessary to achieve more. This way lies charlatanism and worse. To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the over-confident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority. Even if such power is not in itself bad, its exercise is likely to impede the functioning of those spontaneous ordering forces by which, without understanding them, man is in fact so largely assisted in the pursuit of his aims. We are only beginning to understand on how subtle a communication system the functioning of an advanced industrial society is based - a communications system which we call the market and which turns out to be a more efficient mechanism for digesting dispersed information than any that man has deliberately designed.

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, "dizzy with success", to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men's fatal striving to control society - a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.




1. "Scientism and the Study of Society", Economica, vol. IX, no. 35, August 1942, reprinted in The Counter-Revolution of Science, Glencoe, Ill., 1952, p. 15 of this reprint.

2. Warren Weaver, "A Quarter Century in the Natural Sciences", The Rockefeller Foundation Annual Report 1958, chapter I, "Science and Complexity".

3. See my essay "The Theory of Complex Phenomena" in The Critical Approach to Science and Philosophy. Essays in Honor of K.R. Popper, ed. M. Bunge, New York 1964, and reprinted (with additions) in my Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, London and Chicago 1967.

4. V. Pareto, Manuel d'économie politique, 2nd. ed., Paris 1927, pp. 223-4.

5. See, e.g., Luis Molina, De iustitia et iure, Cologne 1596-1600, tom. II, disp. 347, no. 3, and particularly Johannes de Lugo, Disputationum de iustitia et iure tomus secundus, Lyon 1642, disp. 26, sect. 4, no. 40.

6. See The Limits to Growth: A Report of the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind, New York 1972; for a systematic examination of this by a competent economist cf. Wilfred Beckerman, In Defence of Economic Growth, London 1974, and, for a list of earlier criticisms by experts, Gottfried Haberler, Economic Growth and Stability, Los Angeles 1974, who rightly calls their effect "devastating".

7. I have given some illustrations of these tendencies in other fields in my inaugural lecture as Visiting Professor at the University of Salzburg, Die Irrtümer des Konstruktivismus und die Grundlagen legitimer Kritik gesellschaftlicher Gebilde, Munich 1970, now reissued for the Walter Eucken Institute, at Freiburg i.Brg. by J.C.B. Mohr, Tübingen 1975.

14 Oct 05:00

Is Ebola the Same Virus as the Black Death?

Remlaps

Interesting. I have full access to the book through my school library and confirmed that the source reference actually does say what this author claims. The book is from 2005.

Historical records reveal striking similariries between the Black Death and the accelerating Ebola epidemic.
15 Oct 23:25

The Los Angeles Times Calls for Recording of Interrogations

One month after DNA evidence exonerated a pair of North Carolina brothers who were convicted of rape and murder based on their coerced confessions, an editorial in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times outlines how law enforcement can prevent future missteps and wrongful convictions.

Mentally disabled half-brothers Henry Lee McCollum, 50, and Leon Brown, 46, spent 30 years behind bars before they were released last month. Their cases are among the roughly 30% of DNA exoneration cases where innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty.

Research shows that innocent people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit as a result of mental health issues and aggressive law enforcement tactics. The electronic recording of custodial interrogations, from the reading of Miranda rights onward, is the single best reform available to stem the tide of false confessions. The Times writes:


Outfitting all those interrogation rooms wouldn't be cheap, and storing the interviews would take some logistical configuring. But those are minor hurdles. Since 2010, Congress has considered several bills that would have provided matching federal funds to install recording systems, but it has failed to pass them. It should do so.

But even if it doesn't, the Legislature should work with Gov. Jerry Brown to recraft legislation requiring the recordings. It would protect both the integrity of the criminal justice system and the innocent.

Read the full editorial.

Understand the causes of false confessions and learn more about mandatory recording of interrogations.


15 Oct 22:27

More on Liberal Vigilantism

by admin

Last week, I wrote about how much liberal college sex vigilantism reminds me of the right-wing 1970's Death Wish vigilantism.  Here is Ezra Klein proving my point:

For that reason, the law is only worth the paper it’s written on if some of the critics’ fears come true. Critics worry that colleges will fill with cases in which campus boards convict young men (and, occasionally, young women) of sexual assault for genuinely ambiguous situations. Sadly, that’s necessary for the law’s success. It’s those cases—particularly the ones that feel genuinely unclear and maybe even unfair, the ones that become lore in frats and cautionary tales that fathers e-mail to their sons—that will convince men that they better Be Pretty Damn Sure.

Good God, I have had many differences with liberals on a variety of issues but I have always made common cause with them on civil rights and criminal justice issues.  I can't believe he wrote this.  What is the difference from what Klein writes and and having a 1960's southern sheriff argue that it is OK to hang a few black men because it has the benefit of making the rest of the African-American population more docile?   Last week I asked:

 It is the exact same kind of rules of criminal procedure that Dirty Harry and Paul Kersey would have applauded.  Unacknowledged is the inevitable growth of Type I errors (punishing the innocent) that are sure to result.  Do the proponents not understand this tradeoff?  Or, just like the archetypal southern sheriff believed vis a vis blacks, do women's groups assume that the convicted male "must be guilty of something".

I guess we have our answer.

15 Oct 05:00

The Climate Sensitivity Controversy

The concept of Climate Sensitivity (CS) is a useful way to describe the effects of carbon dioxide on the climate. The climate sensitivity is close to zero from 1978-to 2000, and again from 2002 to present.
15 Oct 16:04

It’s Not TV. And It’s Not Cable. It’s HBO, Online.

by James Poniewozik

If you’ve been considering cutting the cord to your cable-TV subscription, HBO may have just handed you the scissors. At Time Warner’s investor meeting Wednesday, CEO Richard Plepler announced that beginning in 2015, HBO will offer a standalone online service, allowing broadband customers without cable TV to subscribe.

This move has been speculated–and by some cordcutters, fantasized–about for years. But the thinking was that it was some time off, if ever, because HBO had more to lose by ticking off cable providers than it had to gain from broadband content delivery. Apparently the balance has shifted, with 10 million U.S. households getting broadband-only service. As Plepler said:

That is a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped. It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO . . . We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them.

The statement leaves a lot of details open–price, how much HBO programming will be available–but the upshot appears to be: you’ll be able to get pay for HBO streaming without cable or satellite service, essentially buying HBO GO or another, possibly more limited, online service. Does this makes sense for HBO? It seems to think so, aiming for a combination of tapping into new households and, maybe, monetizing some of those cable-less fans who’ve been borrowing HBO GO logins to watch Game of Thrones. (Not to mention possibly getting a competitive edge on Netflix.)

Without access to the numbers, I can only speculate on the math. HBO does risk making less money from cable carriers, since HBO’s service is worth less to the carriers if the carriers’ customers can get HBO without them. Maybe HBO plans on making up the difference in volume, or maybe the standalone package will be priced accordingly higher.

But however this particular deal works out, this is a potentially exciting development for TV viewers tired of watching their cable packages swell into bloated, gold-laden barges of tied-together offerings topping $200 a month. If big player HBO sees that it can offer a cable-free package and survive, that may lead the way for companies in other pricey TV sectors–live sports, for instance–which you’ve had to agree to buy a giant cable package to get.

It’s easier to imagine a future in which you cobble together a decent menu of entertainment with Internet service, over-the-air HD, and some combination of HBO, Netflix, Amazon and so forth. That cord-cutting, a la carte paradise isn’t here yet. But HBO may just have unleashed the dragon.

[Non-disclosure disclosure: HBO and Time Warner Cable used to be sister companies of TIME within Time Warner; Time Warner Cable and publisher Time Inc. were spun off as separate companies by Time Warner, which still owns HBO.]

15 Oct 05:49

My New Book Is Now Available!

by Tom Woods

Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion, featuring a foreword by Ron Paul, is now available in paperback and Kindle editions. If you’ve enjoyed my replies to our critics over the years, you’ll be pleased with this book.

Please check out RealDissent.com, where you’ll find a link to a free audiobook version (with me reading it!), as well as a short video about the book, and more.

I’d be grateful if you could spread the word — I’ve never done self-publishing before, so promoting a book without a marketing division behind me is something new for me. Enjoy, and thank you!

15 Oct 19:45

General Warrants: From Colonial British to the NSA and FBI Today

by Judge Andrew Napolitano

Earlier this week, FBI Director James Comey gave an interview to “60 Minutes” during which he revealed a flawed understanding of personal freedom. He rightly distinguished what FBI agents do in their investigations of federal crimes from what the NSA does in its intelligence gathering, when the two federal agencies are looking for non-public data.

The FBI requires, Comey correctly asserted, articulable suspicion to commence an investigation and probable cause to obtain a search warrant. It does this because its agents have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, and their failure to comply with that oath may very well render the evidence obtained by unconstitutional means useless in court.

The NSA, as we know, makes no pretense about presenting probable cause to a judge. Rather, it asks a judge on a secret court (so secret that the judges themselves are kept from the court’s files) for general warrants. A warrant based on probable cause must specifically describe the place to be searched and the person or thing to be seized. General warrants, which the Constitution prohibits, permit the bearer to search wherever he wishes and seize whatever he finds.

British government agents and soldiers used general warrants issued by a secret court in London to invade the privacy of the colonists. The British also used another tool now prohibited by the Constitution — called writs of assistance — which permitted certain agents and soldiers to write their own search warrants and serve them upon the colonists. This was done, it was argued, because London was too far from America and the British claimed an urgent need to search colonial homes to determine whether the owners had paid the king’s taxes. The British use of general warrants and agent-written warrants became arguably the last straws that tipped colonial minds toward revolution.

Comey knows that if his agents get caught violating the Constitution, their searches will be fruitless. Yet, he conveniently failed to reveal in his interview that under the Patriot Act, his agents can and do write their own search warrants — just as British agents and soldiers did. The Patriot Act calls these warrants by the euphemism “national security letters.”

A national security letter is a search warrant in which one federal agent authorizes another federal agent to search for and retrieve data held by third parties.

The list of third parties that can be subjected to an agent-written search warrant includes virtually all entities required by law to keep records, such as telephone providers, banks, lawyers, physicians, hospitals, supermarkets, utility companies, credit card companies and computer service providers; the list is nearly endless. Five federal judges have held this section of the Patriot Act to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment (which provides that only judges may issue search warrants) and thus unconstitutional.

The Patriot Act also prohibits the recipient of an agent-written search warrant from telling anyone about it — that includes a lawyer in confidence, a priest in confession, a spouse in the home, even a judge in open court. It is this section of the Patriot Act that is being challenged by Twitter and Google in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

Twitter and Google have apparently received many of these unconstitutional agent-written warrants, and they want their customers to know what the government is doing. Two federal judges already have found this section of the Patriot Act to be violative of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”) and thus unconstitutional.

The Patriot Act is the most unconstitutional legislation since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which proscribed speech critical of the government; yet the FBI loves it. Its premise is that in dangerous times, if we surrender our freedoms to the government, the government will keep us safe until the danger passes. This is a flawed argument.

The Declaration of Independence recognizes the continuous possession of personal freedoms (“endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights”), and thus they cannot be stolen by a majority vote in Congress, but only surrendered by a personal, intentional, knowing choice. And history teaches that government does not return freedoms once stolen or surrendered. Without freedom, who will protect us from the government?

The government can’t deliver the mail, pave potholes, balance the budget, fairly collect taxes, protect us from Ebola, even tell the truth. Who would trust it with personal freedoms?

Since 2001, Comey’s agents have written more than half a million of their own search warrants, and their targets don’t even know what was done to them. He will argue that if the evidence from these agent-written warrants is not used in court, there is no harm to the unknowing victim, and hence no foul. Yet the Constitution was written to keep the government from interfering with our natural rights even when it does so in secret, because no government violation of inalienable rights is harmless.

16 Oct 00:07

CDC Officials Confirm They Gave Second Dallas Ebola Nurse Permission to Fly — Even After She Called to Report Fever

by Jason Howerton

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reportedly confirmed that they gave Ebola patient Amber Vinson permission to fly on a commercial plane Monday, even though she had a low-grade fever, according to several reports.

Vinson, 29, is the second medical worker to contract Ebola after having close contact with deceased Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Amber Vinson (Photo: Akron Public Schools)

Amber Vinson (Photo: Akron Public Schools)

The CDC apparently gave Vinson the OK to fly because she was showing no other signs of Ebola other than a low-grade fever.

A health official admitted that someone “dropped the ball.” More from CBS News:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Vinson called the agency several times before flying, saying that she had a fever with a temperature of 99.5 degrees. But because her fever wasn’t 100.4 degrees or higher, she didn’t officially fall into the group of “high risk” and was allowed to fly.

Officials in the U.S. have been trying to calm fears over the Ebola crisis, but time and again events have overtaken their assurances.

“She wasn’t bleeding or vomiting,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “The level of risk around her would be extremely low, but because of the extra margin of safety, we will be contacting [all those who were on the flight].”

However, Frieden admitted that Vinson “should not have been on that plane.”

“We will from this moment forward ensure that no other individual with exposure travels in anything other than a controlled manner,” he added.

There were a total of 132 passengers on that flight, all of whom have been asked to call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

The other nurse who contracted Ebola after treating Duncan is 26-year-old Nina Pham. Vinson was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Read more stories from TheBlaze

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How Well Do You Really Know the U.S. Constitution? See if You Can Answer All 15 Questions Correctly

CDC Officials Confirm They Gave Second Dallas Ebola Nurse Permission to Fly — Even After She Called to Report Fever

15 Oct 20:00

Encouraging: Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details

by Anthony Watts
WUWT reader Paul Ostergaard  tips us to this article from Aviation Week and Space Technology – video follows Lockheed Martin aims to develop compact reactor prototype in five years, production unit in 10 Hidden away in the secret depths of the Skunk Works, a Lockheed Martin research team has been working quietly on a nuclear…
15 Oct 15:19

Emerging Evidence Shows How Computer Messaging Helps Autistic Adults Communicate

Anecdotal reports suggest that autistic adults benefit from computer-based communication. Now the scientific evidence is building.


The conventional view of people with autism is that they are loners with little interest in initiating or maintaining relationships with other people. But that attitude is changing rapidly not least because of the growing evidence that exactly the opposite is true.

14 Oct 10:59

Surveillance in Schools

by schneier
Remlaps

Click through.

This essay, "Grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance," talks about the general trends in student surveillance.

Related: essay on the need for student privacy in online learning.

10 Oct 14:00

No place for workplace intimidation

by NetRight Daily

This article was originally published on FoxNews.com, linked below.

By Rick Manning

Intimidation is an ugly word.

It is even an uglier practice. Yet that is exactly what the United Auto Workers union is doing in General Motors plants in right to work states Kansas and Tennessee.

The intimidation is in the guise of producing so-called scab lists to alert union workers about which of their colleagues have exercised their legal right to choose not to be a member.  These scab lists give out the non-union worker’s personal information as well as where he or she works in the plant, encouraging work place harassment.

The Washington Free Beacon describes the plight of one Tennessee GM worker who opted not to join in the union.  Upon publication of the list at his plant, “he was soon approached by a number of union members who engaged in harassment name calling…”

Big Labor has always relied upon coercing workers to join, and that is the heart of the closed shop system that ruled in Detroit.  Under that system, if a worker wanted a job on a Detroit assembly line, he or she had to join the UAW, no union dues, no job.  It was that simple.

Get full story here.

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14 Oct 15:23

The Upside of Ebola? Support for "Right-To-Try" Laws and Patient Power

by Nick Gillespie

Pretend for a moment that you or a loved one is diagnosed with Ebola and the virus proceeds to a point where death is not simply a possibility but likely. Would you be happy simply to mark time until the inevitable takes hold? Or would you want as many options as possible, even knowing full well most will fail?

If we start having more conversations about the ways in which medical regulations need to change—and need to respect individual patient desires—we might be able to add an upside to Ebola’s arrival in the United States.

My latest Daily Beast column argues that the arrival of Ebola in America should encourage "a conversation about the regulations surrounding the development of new drugs and the right of terminal patients to experiment with their own bodies."

Ebola in the United States may well accelerate adoption of so-called right-to-try laws. These radical laws allow terminally ill patients access to drugs, devices, and treatments that haven’t yet been fully approved by the Federal Drug Administration and other medical authorities. The patients and their estates agree not to bring legal action against caregivers, pharmaceutical companies, and insurers.

You don’t have to be a doctrinaire libertarian—though it helps—to see the value in letting people with nothing left to lose experiment on themselves. They may get a new lease on life. The rest of us get meaningful information that may speed up the development of the next great medical intervention.

Read the whole thing.

14 Oct 05:00

40 Years of Nobelity: What Hayek Means to Me

That super-centralized administrative monster ObamaCare will crash and burn. It was always going to crash and burn. Because Hayek.
14 Oct 10:30

Yet another significant paper finds low climate sensitivity to CO2, suggesting there is no global warming crisis at hand

by Anthony Watts
Hot on the heels of the Lewis and Curry paper, we have this new paper, which looks to be well researched, empirically based, and a potential blockbuster for dimming the alarmism that has been so prevalent over climate sensitivity. With a climate sensitivity of just 0.43°C, it takes the air out of the alarmism balloon.…
14 Oct 07:38

Liberty, not Government, is the Key to Containing Ebola

by TAC Daily Updates

by Ron Paul

It is no coincidence that many of those countries suffering from mass Ebola outbreaks have also suffered from the plagues of dictatorship and war.

The devastation wrought by years of war has made it impossible for these countries to develop modern healthcare infrastructure. For example, the 14-year civil war in Liberia left that country with almost no trained doctors. Those who could leave the war-torn country were quick to depart. Sadly, American foreign aid props up dictators and encourages militarism in these countries.

President Obama’s response to the Ebola crisis has been to send 3,000 troops to West African countries to help with treatment and containment. Obama did not bother to seek congressional authorization for this overseas military deployment. Nor did he bother to tell the American people how long the mission would last, how much it would cost, or what section of the Constitution authorizes him to send US troops on “humanitarian” missions.

The people of Liberia and other countries would be better off if the US government left them alone. Leave it to private citizens to invest in African business and trade with the African people. Private investment and trade would help these countries develop thriving free-market economies capable of sustaining a modern healthcare infrastructure.

Legitimate concerns about protecting airline passengers from those with Ebola or other infectious diseases can best be addressed by returning responsibility for passenger safety to the airlines. After all, private airlines have a greater incentive than does government to protect their passengers from contagious diseases. They can do so while providing a safe means of travel for those seeking medical treatment in the United States. This would remove the incentive to lie about exposure to the virus among those seeking to come here for treatment.

Ebola patients in the US have received permission from the Food and Drug Administration to use “unapproved” drugs. This is a positive development. But why should those suffering from potentially lethal diseases have to seek special permission from federal bureaucrats to use treatments their physicians think might help? And does anyone doubt that the FDA’s cumbersome approval process has slowed down the development of treatments for Ebola?

Firestone Tire and Rubber Company has successfully contained the spread of Ebola among 80,000 people living in Harbel, the Liberian town housing employees of Firestone’s Liberian plant and their families. In March, after the wife of a Firestone employee developed Ebola symptoms, Firestone constructed its own treatment center and implemented a program of quarantine and treatment. Firestone has successfully kept the Ebola virus from spreading among its employees. As of this writing, there are only three Ebola patients at Firestone’s treatment facility.

Firestone’s success in containing Ebola shows that, far from justifying new state action, the Ebola crises demonstrates that individuals acting in the free market can do a better job of containing Ebola than can governments. The Ebola crisis is also another example of how US foreign aid harms the very people we are claiming to help. Limiting government at home and abroad is the best way to protect health and freedom.