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05 Feb 19:46

This Picture Is Worth 895 Words

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


On his Facebook page (but, at least so far, not at his excellent blog, Carpe Diem) Mark Perry captures nicely the essence of part of my recent post on the morality and economics of the minimum wage.  Here’s Mark’s rendering of my point.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.26.35 PM

Relatedly, I ask another question of people such as Thomas Hutcheson who believe that the minimum wage is justifiable on ethical (and economic) grounds if, despite causing some workers in subgroup X (for example, “low-skilled workers”) to be unemployed, it raises the aggregate income earned by workers in subgroup X: Does it matter to you that my white, completely healthy, drives-his-own-car, upper-middle-class, private-school-educated, born-and-raised-in-wealthy-American-suburbia teenage son likely is paid, because of the minimum wage, a higher wage at work if his wage premium is the result of a policy that causes a disproportionate number of minority, inner-city teens from poor families to be unemployed?  Do you think that if the minimum wage causes my son’s and 99 others like him to enjoy an aggregate increase in their collective annual income of, say $100,000 while at the same time this minimum wage causes, by shrinking the availability of jobs, the aggregate collective annual income of 100 inner-city minority teens to fall by only $95,000 that the minimum wage is shown by the data to be worthwhile economically and ethically, at least as far as this group of 200 low-skilled workers is concerned?

05 Feb 09:52

Oakland Cops Drag Man Out of Own Home and Kill Him, Thinking Him Possible Intruder

by Carlos Miller

Responding to a call about a possible intruder inside a home, Oakland police arrived and discovered no intruder.

But that did not stop them from dragging a man out from his bedroom and into the street, suffocating Hernan Jaramillo until he died, ignoring his repeated pleas of “I can’t breathe” and “They’re killing me.”

Watching her brother die, Ana Biocini regretted ever calling police in the first place.

The incident too place more than two years ago but police body cam footage was only released last month.

And only after the city of Oakland agreed to a $450,000 settlement in response to a lawsuit filed by Jaramillo’s family.

His sister had called police on July 8, 2013 because she heard loud crashing sounds coming from her brother’s bedroom, giving her the impression that he was being attacked by intruders.

She invited them inside the home and pointed to her brother’s bedroom door.

They knocked and after repeated requests, Jaramillo eventually cracked it open, prompting them to grab his wrists, pull him out and handcuff him.

Police say they smelled alcohol on his breath, which they said justified them handcuffing him in his own home. Plus, they still were not sure if he was the intruder or not.

His sister testified that she was shocked, she was speechless.

The responding officers, Ira Anderson, Carlos Navarro and Steven Stout, tried to shove Jaramillo in the back of a patrol car, telling him he was not arrested, that they only wanted to investigate, but he was not volunteering to sit inside the car.

Before long, the cops were piling on top of Jaramillo on the ground besides the car, telling him to “relax” while he kept telling he was unable to breathe.

“They’re killing me right now,” he yelled, his face pressed into the ground, his hands cuffed behind him, a possible knee on his back.

“Sir, we’re not killing you,” one cop responds.

Jaramillo keeps yelling that they are killing him but the cops are only interested in finding out what drugs he has done that night.

“They’re killing me!” he keeps yelling.

“If you start to relax, we’ll start to relax,” one cop tells him. “It’s a give and take here.”

The cop then continues to inquire about his drug use that night.

But by then, it was too late. Jaramillo is no longer talking.






The post Oakland Cops Drag Man Out of Own Home and Kill Him, Thinking Him Possible Intruder appeared first on PINAC News.

05 Feb 17:28

George Washington’s winters

by curryja

by Judith Curry

Frozen rivers, knee-deep snows, sleet, frigid temperatures, and other winter miseries helped shape the story of George Washington’s life.

Mount Vernon, the site of George Washington’s home, has posted an interesting article Washington’s winters.  Excerpts:

The Allegheny River, 1753

With tensions between the French and British over control of the Ohio Valley rapidly rising, a 21-year-old George Washington was sent on a dangerous diplomatic mission into the French-controlled wilderness beyond the Appalachians. After being politely rebuffed, Washington and his travelling companion, Christopher Gist, began the long journey back through the wilderness to Virginia.

On December 29, 1753 the two reached the Allegheny River which was filled with large chunks of floating ice. Gist and Washington built a raft of logs and then tried to maneuver the rough craft through the ice-clogged waters. Almost halfway across the river, Washington was thrown into the icy waters after their raft struck an ice pack. Nearly hypothermic, Washington pulled himself back on the raft with the aid of Gist.

Struggling against the ice and water, numb and exhausted, the two were unable to successfully reach either shore. They decided to abandon the raft and wade through the freezing water to a nearby island, where they spent a miserable night in the severe weather. By morning, the river was frozen solid, and the two battered survivors walked their way to safety.

The Delaware River, 1776

After suffering a series of stinging defeats, Washington’s Continental Army had retreated south of the Delaware River at the onset of winter in 1776. Rather than skulk off to winters quarters, Washington decided to attack an isolated garrison of Hessian troops who were stationed on the far side of the river at Trenton, New Jersey. To surprise the Hessians, Washington ordered a night time crossing on Christmas Day, 1776. The famous crossing was made infinitely worse by the large blocks of ice floating in the river and the terrible nor’easter that pelted his men with snow and sleet. The freezing temperatures and ice-choked river delayed the crossing by several hours, but Washington remained determined to proceed with the attack which led to a complete rout of the Hessian force the following morning at the Battle of Trenton. In assessing the American casualties for this stunning victory, more American men succumbed from the elements than were killed by Hessian bullets.

Valley Forge, 1777-1778

When you think of cold and miserable winters, Valley Forge easily comes to mind. It was here, over the winter of 1777 and 1778, that 11,000 of Washington’s Continental Army faced once of its most trying episodes. While rain, snow, and cold temperatures afflicted the army, the situation was made far worse by the lack of shelter, blankets, winter coats, and even shoes. It has been estimated that a third of Washington’s army at Valley Forge lacked viable footwear. Washington ordered his soldiers to build wooden huts for themselves and then search the countryside for straw to use as bedding. He hoped this would keep them warm since there were not enough blankets for everyone.

Morristown, 1779-1780

Of all the terrible winters that Washington faced during his lifetime, the frozen winter of 1779 and 1780 might have been the worst. While Valley Forge has become synonymous with winter misery during the Revolutionary War, by all historical accounts the winter encampment at Morristown, New Jersey was far worse. Trapped by one of the worst winters on record, Washington’s Continentals lacked food, clothes, and sufficient shelter. To further complicate the situation, the icy roads made it almost impossible to bring regular supplies to the suffering soldiers. The situation grew so dire that several regiments mutinied and Washington despaired for the future of the Revolutionary cause.

In a March 18, 1780 letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, Washington wrote that “The oldest people now living in this Country do not remember so hard a Winter as the one we are now emerging from. In a word, the severity of the frost exceeded anything of the kind that had ever been experienced in this climate before.”

A Final Horseback Ride, 1799

How is it that the man who survived crossing frozen rivers in the wilderness and outlasting terrible winters in the mountains, would ultimately succumb to the winter elements at his Mount Vernon home? On Thursday, December 12, 1799 George Washington mounted his horse and headed out to inspect his estate and farms as was his custom. On this day the weather turned from light snow to hail and then to rain. Returning to the mansion for a dinner, a punctual Washington refused to delay the meal and stayed in his wet clothes. The next morning brought three inches of snow and a sore throat. The sore throat led to a worsening condition that could not be allayed by his attending physicians. After a hard struggle with his inflamed throat, Washington died at between ten and eleven at night on December 14, 1799. After many a close call, winter finally won out over George Washington.

JC reflections

While these reflections on the climate of the late 18th century are anecdotal, this was clearly a cold period globally, as indicated by this figure from the IPCC AR5:


Tony Brown has also written several posts that include this period:

The IPCC defines ‘dangerous climate change’ as 2C warming since pre-industrial times, circa 1750.  The 18th century was one of the coldest centuries in the millennia — and George Washington’s winter experiences don’t sound like much fun.

In my post The Goldilocks Principle, I raised the question of which climate do we want?  I don’t think it is the climate of the 18th century.  One answer is the climate that we are adapted to, which is arguably the present climate.  Or perhaps it was the climate of the 1970’s, before the late 20th century warming,  a period that was relatively benign in terms of extreme weather events (at least in the U.S. and Europe, this can be attributed to the cold phase of the AMO).  Since much of the world’s infrastructure does not predate 1970 (outside of Europe, anyways), it doesn’t make too much sense IMO to go further back to define a reference period.

So my question is this.  Why are we defining ‘dangerous climate change’ with respect to the climate of the 18th century, which was the coldest period in the last millennia, with wicked winters?  Why not use a reference point of 2000 or 1970?  The IPCC doesn’t provide  a convincing explanation for the overall warming between 1750 and 1950; according to climate models, human causes contributed only a very small amount to the global warming to during this period (so presumably this overall warming was caused by natural climate variability).  Co-opting the period between 1750 and 1950 into the AGW argument muddies the scientific and the policy waters.

It would make much more sense — from a scientific perspective, from the perspective of adaptation and engineering, and in the public communication of climate change — to refer to warming relative to a more recent reference period.  Since the emissions reference periods are between 1990 and 2005, this also adds to the argument of citing a more recent reference period for defining ‘dangerous’.

The argument that human caused warming is already ‘dangerous’ — widely made by politicians, the media and some scientists — flies in the face of scientific evidence reported by the IPCC AR5 and SREX.  Extreme weather events were worse earlier in the 20th century, and sea level has been rising for millennia, with recent rates of sea level rise comparable to what was observed in the middle 20th century.

So, is there any chance of redefining ‘dangerous’ climate change in a more logical and sensible way?  In terms of the UNFCCC, I would say no.  In the U.S., a Republican President might possibly shake this up in a more sensible way (but then again . . .)

Filed under: Climate change impacts, History
02 Feb 23:40

A Martial Artist’s Guide to Hip Health: Know What Damages Them, How to Strengthen Them!

by Robert W. Young

Martial arts training can place more stress on the hips than any other sport. Therefore, it’s crucial that all practitioners familiarize themselves with the most common types of hip injuries, as well as the causes, treatments and, most important, strategies for preventing them. Doing so not only will enhance your physical performance in the short term but also will ensure a healthy martial arts career that spans decades.

Dr. Robert Klapper, the clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, is an innovator in the field of joint care. The author of a book titled Heal Your Hips: How to Prevent Hip Surgery, he’s patented many new surgical instruments designed to perform hip arthroscopy and has successfully treated celebrity athletes such as basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain and former middleweight karate champion Chuck Norris.

“The martial arts are the No. 1 cause of injuries to the knee and hip, particularly amongst older athletes such as those in their 30s and 40s,” Klapper says. “I am seeing an epidemic of hip replacements, especially in those over 50.” He identifies the roundhouse kick as the most common culprit.

Photo by Peter Lueders

Those problems, along with chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, are caused by the dislocation of the labrum, a crucial tissue within the joint capsule that’s housed in the pelvic bone. Attached to the capsule and labrum, which are closely tied to the meniscus in the joint, are the large muscles of the thigh and hip.

“When a person executes these [kicking] movements, particularly with great force, the labrum can be shifted or pulled out of place within the capsule if he does not possess a high level of muscular strength [and] flexibility or if he performs the movement incorrectly,” Klapper says. “This is the single greatest cause of martial arts hip injuries.”

“Karate Sensei: Should They Be Respected or Feared by Students?” Download this free guide now!

Recognizing the signs of injury is crucial, Klapper says. “Athletes come to me when they are having pain in or around their hips and point to one of three areas: their groin, their side hip area (the pocket) or their buttock. Groin pain means damage to the hip, the pocket means it is bursitis or tendonitis, and the buttock indicates the injury is to the lower spine.”

He recommends that anyone who experiences pain or soreness in that area immediately consult a physician. “Athletes wait too long to seek help for a potential injury because of the no-pain-no-gain ethic of some martial arts,” he says. “Successfully treating your body is about listening to it on a daily basis, not waiting for it to shout.”

Photo by Robert Reiff

Perhaps more important than recognizing the symptoms is implementing a plan of action that will enable you to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Klapper endorses the following strategies:

•     Control your weight and body-fat levels.

•     Maintain appropriate strength and flexibility for your activities.

•     Avoid running and other hard, repetitive-impact movements.

•     Engage in balance training such as tai chi chuan, especially if you’re older.

•     Take a vitamin C supplement because it’s the main antioxidant responsible for joint health.

•     Try recumbent biking and water workouts to improve your conditioning.

“Water workouts are of particular benefit not only in preventing hip injuries but in treating them, as well,” Klapper says. “Warm water, up to about navel height, affords an opportunity for your joints to be almost weightless, and it provides many unique angles and loads of resistance.”

Click here to get a free guide titled “MMA Workouts 101: How to Start an MMA Conditioning Program for More Effective MMA Techniques and Self-Defense Moves.”

Finally, consider how well your art matches your physiology. “If you have a joint and bone structure that is not well-suited to the sport, the joints will begin to deteriorate much sooner and at a greater rate,” Klapper warns. If that’s the case, you may want to switch to a gentler style.

Pat Pollock is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer and Thai-boxing instructor.

05 Feb 14:07

No-Nonsense Signs Just Posted at These Oklahoma Schools Warn That Attempts to Harm Students May Come at a Price

by Dave Urbanski

The newly posted signs in front of public schools in Okay, Oklahoma, aim to scare off all those who assume walking on campus and doing harm to students will be an easy task.

The signs read: ”Please be aware that certain staff members at Okay Public Schools can be legally armed and may use whatever force is necessary to protect our students.”

Image source: KOTV-TV

Image source: KOTV-TV

District policy now lets teachers and staff members carry guns on school grounds, KOTV-TV reported, adding that it’s one of the first districts in Oklahoma to go this route.

And for Superintendent Charles McMahan, letting his employees arm themselves to protect the 400 students at the elementary, junior high and high school is a no-brainer with only one sheriff’s deputy in the entire town.

“If something were to ever happen and I didn’t try to defend my kids, I couldn’t live with that,” McMahan told KOTV. “That’s kind of why we put this in place.”

Image source: KOTV-TV

Image source: KOTV-TV

And if a worse-case scenario ever does come to pass, those with bad intentions will know their actions may come at a steep price. Says McMahan: “… if it saves a life, it saves a life.”

Image source: KOTV-TV

Image source: KOTV-TV

The reaction around the rural community has been positive, he told KOTV — and those the station spoke to echoed that viewpoint.

“Our kids need to be safe here on campus because we are such a rural area,” Lucretia Echols, a grandmother of three Okay students, told KOTV. “Law enforcement is so far away.”

Robert Weller has a grandson at the junior high school and made no bones about where he stands: “If someone wants to come in and start shooting, someone should be able to interrupt it.”

As part of the district policy, teachers and staffers who want to bring guns on campus have to get approval from the school board, take armed security training and pass annual tests.

McMahan said neighboring superintendents have sought him out for advice so they can adopt similar policies.

“All of these kids are our kids,” McMahan said of his students. “I treat every one of these kids as though they’re mine.” – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – |

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05 Feb 05:00

To Taste

Look, recipe, if I knew how much was gonna taste good, I wouldn't need you.
05 Feb 00:57

Pittsburgh District Attorney to Refile Charges Against Acquitted Cop who Attacked Teen on Video

by Carlos Miller

The Pittsburgh police officer who was acquitted this week on assault charges when a surveillance video clearly shows he assaulted a teenager will once again face the same charges after the FBI announced it would launch its own investigation.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala made the announcement this afternoon, informing reporters that he would refile charges against Sergeant Stephen Matakovich.

Hopefully, somebody decides to investigate District Judge Robert Ravenstahl, who acquitted Matakovich on Monday, saying the cop was only defending himself from the teen who had assaulted him.

The video not only showed the opposite but even a Pittsburgh cop who is considered a “use-of-force expert” testified that Matakovich was out of line when he shoved Gabriel Despres to the ground twice, following it up with several punches.

District Judge Robert Ravenstahl
District Judge Robert Ravenstahl

But Ravenstahl decided to acquit anyway, receiving rousing applause from the multitude of cops who had filled the courtroom in their usual attempt to intimidate the hands of justice in their favor.

The refiling of the charges are separate from what the FBI investigation determines.

According to WTAE:

The Allegheny County district attorney will refile charges against a Pittsburgh police officer in connection with an arrest he made during the WPIAL high school football championships at Heinz Field — a case which is also being reviewed by the FBI.

“Clearly, there’s probable cause,” District Attorney Stephen Zappala said Thursday, regarding the decision to file charges of simple assault and official oppression against Sgt. Stephen Matakovich.

Officer David Wright, the city’s expert on use of force, testified for the prosecution that Matakovich’s response — which included shoving Despres to the ground and striking him in the face — “was not reasonable.”

U.S. Attorney David Hickton, whose office would prosecute any charges filed by the FBI, acknowledged the review of the Matakovich case but declined to make any specific comment.

“The FBI is looking at that, and there would be federal jurisdiction and when that’s ready to be talked about, we’ll talk about it,” Hickton said

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the district attorney was also bothered by the number of cops attending the hearing.

Mr. Zappala said his office also relayed concerns to Chief Cameron McLay about behavior of dozens of uniformed officers who attended Sgt. Matakovich’s hearing this week and applauded when the counts were dismissed.

“That should not occur,” Mr. Zappala said.

He said that Chief McLay is investigating whether those officers who attended were on-duty at the time.

There are also various activist groups seeking to have Judge Ravenstahl removed from the stand, which would generate nationwide applause.

Meanwhile, Despres, the 19-year-old man who was attacked by Matakovich, is still facing aggravated assault charges against the officer.




Pittsburgh Cop Caught on Camera Beating Teen Acquitted After Judge Claims Teen Was Aggressor

The post Pittsburgh District Attorney to Refile Charges Against Acquitted Cop who Attacked Teen on Video appeared first on PINAC News.

03 Feb 16:04

Psychologists Analyzed a Big Collection of Condemned Inmates’ Last Words

by Jesse Singal

h/t Whig Zhou

My father-in-law says, "There are no atheists in fox holes."


It’s a strange and uncomfortable exercise: Imagine you’re about to be executed, and you’re given the opportunity to make a final statement. What would your last words be? To psychologists who study how humans cope with fear and death, condemned inmates’ final statements are — setting aside the ick factor — a...More »

04 Feb 19:20

Why I Lean Libertarian

by Robin Hanson

h/t Whig Zhou

Imagine that one person, or a small group, wants to do something, like watch pornography, do uncertified medical procedures, have gay sex, worship Satan, shoot guns, drink raw milk, etc. Imagine further that many other people outside that small group don’t want them to do this. They instead want the government to make a law prohibiting similar groups from doing similar things.

In this prototypical situation, libertarians tend to say “let them do it” while others say “have the government make them stop.” If we take a cost-benefit perspective here, then the key question here is whether this small group gains more from their activity (or an added increment of it) than others lose (including losing via their “altruistic” concern for the small group). Since this small group would choose to do it if allowed, we can presume they expect to gain something. And if others complain and try to make them stop (or cut back), we can presume they expect to lose. So we are trying to estimate the relative magnitude of these two effects.

I see three considerations that, all else equal, lean this choice in the libertarian direction.

  •  Law & Government Are Costly – It will take real resources to create and enforce a law to ban this activity. We’ll have to negotiate the wording of this law, and then tell people about it. People will complain about violations, and then we’ll have to adjudicate those complaints, and punish violators. We’ll make mistakes in which laws to create, who to punish, and how to manage the whole process. More rules will discourage innovation, and invite more lobbying. All of which is costly.
  • Local Coordination Might Work – If people do something that hurts those around them more, often those nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom of association. If playing your music loud bothers folks in the apartment next door, your common landlord can set rules to limit your music volume. And kick you out if you don’t follow his rules. The more ways that smaller organizations could plausibly solve a problem, the less likely we need central government to get involved.
  • Lawsuits Might Work – Legal systems have well-established processes whereby some people can sue others, claiming that the actions of those others have hurt them. Suit losers must pay, discouraging the activity. Yes, people harmed can need to coordinate to sue together, and yes legal systems tend to demand relatively concrete evidence of real harm, and that the accused caused that harm. It might be hard to figure out who to accuse, the accused might not have enough money to pay, and the legal process might be too expensive to make it worth bothering. But again, the more situations where the law could plausibly solve the problem, the less likely that we need extra government involvement.

Again, each of these considerations leans the conclusion in a libertarian direction, all else equal. Yes, they can collectively be overcome by strong enough other considerations that lean the other way. For example, I’ll grant that for the case of air pollution, we plausibly have strong enough evidence of large harms on outsiders, harms insufficiently discouraged by local coordination and lawsuits. So yes in this case central government might be an attractive solution, if it can act cheaply and efficiently enough.

But the main point here is that the three considerations above justify a libertarian default that must be overcome by specific arguments to the contrary. If outsiders complain about an activity, but aren’t willing to buy less of it via contract, or to sue for less of it in court, maybe they aren’t really being hurt that much. There is an asymmetry here: if we don’t ban an activity and might get too much, contract & law could reduce it a lot, but if we ban an activity and might get too little, contract & law can’t increase it much.

Yes, other persuasive contrary considerations might be found, including considerations not based on the net harm of the disputed actions. But the less you think you know about these other considerations, the more your choice will be influenced by these three basic considerations, all of which seem to me pretty solid.

While I have said before that I am not a libertarian according to common strict definitions, I still usually tend to lean libertarian, because in fact arguments based on further considerations often seem to me pretty weak. While one can often make clever arguments, it is often hard to have much confidence in them; the world seems just too complex. And so I often have to fall back on simple defaults. Which, as I’ve argued above, are libertarian.

05 Feb 12:31

More settled science consensus: the formation of coal in the Caboniferous looks to be “grounded in abiotic processes”

by Anthony Watts

I've been intrigued by the idea of abiotic oil for several years. I''m not convinced, but have an open mind. This is the first mention I've seen that coal might be abiotic.

Researcher cites a tendency in science to ignore, rather than go after, theories believed to be false. Two Stanford geologists are disputing the decade-old explanation of the large amount of coal accumulated during the Carboniferous Period. Associate Professor Kevin Boyce and Postdoctorate Research Fellow Matthew Nelsen collaborated with scientists across the country to release a…
05 Feb 10:44

Microsoft is carrying out a massive social experiment in China — and almost no one outside the country knows about it (MSFT)

by Max Slater-Robins

Ex Machina1

Microsoft is conducting what one senior researcher and scientist at the company says "could be the largest Turing test in history" in China.

In a report for Nautilus, the researcher, Yongdong Wang, outlined what the company was doing with Xiaoice — pronounced "Shao-ice" and translated as "little Bing" — in China.

The Turing test, created by British scientist Alan Turing, is a test that looks to see if a human can detect whether the entity answering a question is a human or a computer. The test has become a fixture in pop culture, with a starring role in the film "Ex Machina."

According to Wang, Xiaoice is used by millions of people every day and can respond with human-like answers, questions, and "thoughts." If a user sends a picture of a broken ankle, Xiaoice will reply with a question asking about how much pain the injury caused, for example.

"Xiaoice can exchange views on any topic," Wang wrote. "If it's something she doesn't know much about, she will try to cover it up. If that doesn't work, she might become embarrassed or even angry, just like a human would."

A report from GeekWire said millions of Chinese users were telling Xiaoice that they loved it, without any apparent irony. About 25% of Xiaoice's users — 10 million people — had said "I love you" while using the service.

But very few people outside Asia have heard of Xiaoice. According to Google Trends, which tracks what people are searching for, interest spiked in August last year but has fallen.

But why has Microsoft built Samantha from 'Her'?

HerXiaoice is, essentially, a large-scale test of artificial intelligence for Microsoft.

"Xiaoice is teaching us what makes a relationship feel human, and hinting at a new goal for artificial intelligence: not just analyzing databases and driving cars, but making people happier," Wang wrote.

The company has been making strides with AI outside China, buying up various startups and building its own apps for iPhone and Android.

Microsoft Research, the 1,000-strong arm of the company that does scientific research, said in a list of predictions published late last year that artificial intelligence would be a big trend in 2016.

Xiaoice can do many things Siri or Google Now can't, including offering a 33-day breakup course, according to Wang.

"Xiaoice is constantly memorizing and analyzing your emotional state," he writes. "If you have a recently failed romantic relationship, she will proactively ask whether you've gotten over it."

The software behind Xiaoice is Bing, the search engine that Microsoft runs. "Xiaoice is a big data project, built on top of the Microsoft Bing search engine," Wang wrote.

The data that Microsoft can glean from Xiaoice in China can then be used elsewhere. Cortana, the virtual assistant that is built into Windows 10, uses Bing data and could benefit from Xiaoice.

In an interview with GeekWire last year, Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, who leads the Xiaoice project, said the technology could be exported outside China but the company did not plan to do so.

Microsoft is betting big on AI

CortanaMicrosoft is betting big on artificial intelligence, and it has been for years. Microsoft Garage, an in-house app-development project, has made numerous lighthearted proof-of-concept apps that, at the core, use AI technology.

An alarm clock for Android can recognise facial expressions, for example, and SwiftKey, the keyboard app Microsoft acquired last week, uses AI to predict words.

Cortana and the Office suite, two core components of Microsoft's businesses, use artificial intelligence and are powered by Bing, just like Xiaoice.

Cortana, the virtual assistant, uses Bing to power results that are spoken in natural language, while Office Delve, a new addition in Office 365, analyses a user's inbox and priorities some items.

"Microsoft is a pretty serious business with clearly a lot going on in the AI and machine learning space," Azeem Azhar, an AI expert, said in an email to Business Insider last month. He cited Cortana and Xiaoice as examples.

"Through the tens of billions of conversations she's had over the past 18 months, Xiaoice has added considerably to her store of known conversational scenarios, and improved her ability to rank answer candidates," Wang wrote. "We can now claim that Xiaoice has entered a self-learning and self-growing loop [and] she is only going to get better."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How to find Netflix’s secret categories

04 Feb 18:16

Ep. 586 Why Capitalism Is Morally Superior to Socialism

by Tom Woods

Defenders of capitalism often wind up making arguments that implicitly concede the moral superiority of socialism — sure, socialism is a fine system, but we can’t live up to it. What kind of defense of capitalism is that? Jason Brennan makes a powerful moral case for capitalism that avoids this pitfall.

About the Guest

Jason Brennan is Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Chair and Associate Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.


Jason Stapleton Program (search the site for whatever we wrote last time he sponsored)

Book Discussed

Why Not Capitalism? by Jason Brennan

Guest’s Website

Related Episodes

Ep. 513 Can We Decide on a Main Problem with Socialism? Also: Why the Austrians Are Right About Monopoly (Jeff Herbener)
Ep. 507 Anarcho-Capitalism or Anarcho-Socialism? Why We Should Embrace Property Rights
Ep. 408 The Main Reason Socialism Can’t Work (Mateusz Machaj)
Ep. 337 The Fatal Errors of Socialism (James Otteson)

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04 Feb 20:00

US Temperature Trends, In Context

by admin

There was some debate a while back around about a temperature chart some Conservative groups were passing around.

Obviously, on this scale, global warming does not look too scary.  The question is, is this scale at all relevant?  I could re-scale the 1929 stock market drop to a chart that goes from Dow 0 to, say, Dow 100,000 and the drop would hardly be noticeable.  That re-scaling wouldn't change the fact that the 1929 stock market crash was incredibly meaningful and had large impacts on the economy.  Kevin Drum wrote about the temperature chart above,

This is so phenomenally stupid that I figured it had to be a joke of some kind.

Mother Jones has banned me from commenting on Drum's site, so I could not participate in the conversation over this chart.  But I thought about it for a while, and I think the chart's author perhaps has a point but pulled it off poorly.  I am going to take another shot at it.

First, I always show the historic temperature anomaly on the zoomed in scale that you are used to seeing, e.g.  (as usual, click to enlarge)

click to enlarge

The problem with this chart is that it is utterly without context just as much as the previous chart.  Is 0.8C a lot or a little?  Going back to our stock market analogy, it's a bit like showing the recent daily fluctuations of the Dow on a scale from 16,300 to 16,350.  The variations will look huge, much larger than either their percentage variation or their meaningfulness to all but the most panicky investors.

So I have started including the chart below as well.  Note that it is in Fahrenheit (vs. the anomaly chart above in Celsius) because US audiences have a better intuition for Fahrenheit, and is only for the US vs. the global chart above.  It shows the range of variation in US monthly averages, with the orange being the monthly average daily maximum temperature across the US, the dark blue showing the monthly average daily minimum temperature, and the green the monthly mean.  The dotted line is the long-term linear trend

click to enlarge

Note that these are the US averages -- the full range of daily maximums and minimums for the US as a whole would be wider and the full range of individual location temperatures would be wider still.   A couple of observations:

  • It is always dangerous to eyeball charts, but you should be able to see what is well known to climate scientists (and not just some skeptic fever dream) -- that much of the increase over the last 30 years (and even 100 years) of average temperatures has come not from higher daytime highs but from higher nighttime minimum temperatures.  This is one reason skeptics often roll their eyes as attribution of 15 degree summer daytime record heat waves to global warming, since the majority of the global warming signal can actually be found with winter and nighttime temperatures.
  • The other reason skeptics roll their eyes at attribution of 15 degree heat waves to 1 degree long term trends is that this one degree trend is trivial compared to the natural variation found in intra-day temperatures, between seasons, or even across years.  It is for this context that I think this view of temperature trends is useful as a supplement to traditional anomaly charts (in my standard presentation, I show this chart scale once and the standard anomaly chart scale further up about 30 times, so that utility has limits).
04 Feb 17:14

James Madison: What the Feds are Constitutionally Authorized to do

by Michael Boldin

TAC memberships help us produce more educational tools like this. Members can download this video and get the full transcript at this link

What is the federal government constitutionally authorized to do? The short answer, according to James Madison, not a whole lot.

04 Feb 03:42

Miami Police Union Leader Retaliates Against Woman Who Pulled Cop Over by Doxing Her

by Rusty Davis

The head of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police is retaliating against the woman who pulled over a Miami-Dade police officer for speeding last week in a video that went viral by posting her personal information online and encouraging his followers to call and harass her.

The exact term is doxing and its intent is to harass, bully and intimidate.

But Miami Police Lieutenant Javier Ortiz says he is only exercising his First Amendment rights by sharing publicly available information to his social media followers, which includes about 4,000 cops on Facebook.

However, Facebook has since deleted at least one of his posts, claiming it violated its community standards, after it was reported by Miami filmmaker Billy Corben.

Ortiz responded by reposting the information, putting his Facebook account at risk of being suspended, which would be torturous to the union leader who barely goes a day without posting. That reposting has since been removed.


FB Policy Ortiz

Javi Ortiz FB4


Claudia Castillo, the woman who recorded the video in a story that has made international headlines after it was first posted on PINAC, says she is exploring her legal options.

“My phone has not stopped ringing,” Castillo said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Wednesday. “Some have been courageous to leave a message, leaving threats. None have been courageous to say anything to my face.”

The threats consist of unknown voices from unlisted numbers informing her that she now has a target on her back.

“They say, ‘be careful what you do. You better watch your back. Be careful how you proceed. You better drive very carefully.'”

She describes the retaliation as juvenile or as she described it in terms that few outside of Miami will understand, “una comemierderia,” which Urban Dictionary defines as “Cuban slang term describing the act of behaving uneducated and inept.”

“It’s pretty interesting their reaction is similar to that of a delinquent,” she said. “Instead of taking the high road, they have decided to bash me and trash me and overlook the actual issue that this Miami-Dade police officer was driving reckless.”

Her critics point to an NBC Miami article that says she has been pulled over and cited 14 times since 1998 for various traffic offenses with most of the cases being dismissed.

However, the Miami-Dade police officer whom she pulled over, Daniel Fonticiella, also has a history of bad driving, including seven car crashes since 2006, according to CBS Miami, who obtained his personnel file.

In October 2006, records show he sideswiped a vehicle on Miami Beach. A year later he crashed straight into a concrete poll while turning right. His police vehicle, a rented car, sustained $10,000 in damage. A few months after this accident he hit another poll trying to avoid a suspect. Fonticella had to take extra driving courses and since then has had three more accidents, though those were not his fault.

But CBS Miami also points out he was recently “recognized for not having accidents,” which does not mean a whole lot considering cops are frequently awarded for simply showing up to work.

Castillo said last Friday he sped past her at more than 80 mph before he drove up the onramp of the Palmetto Expressway. She said he reached speeds of 100 mph as she tried to keep up with him, her camera mounted on her dash.

She followed him for several miles, admitting that she reached speeds of 80 mph, until she finally got him to pull over. When he approached her car, inquiring whether she had an emergency, she told him she was upset at him for speeding.

He accepted the criticism without taking it personal, saying he disagrees with her, but that she is entitled to her opinion. He also apologized and promised to drive safer.

In essence, he came across professional, which surprised Castillo and most of us who are accustomed to seeing videos of cops flying off the handle at the faintest hint of criticism.

But on the other hand, Ortiz’s professionalism is questionable considering he is using his social media platform to encourage his followers to bully and harass Castillo, including posting a photo of her driving a boat while holding a beer can.

While it is illegal to drive a boat while drunk, it is not illegal to drive a boat while holding an open can of beer.

Javi Ortiz FB3

Ortiz said he has not actively fished for her information, but that it was just sent to him and all he did was share it. He also claims Fonticiella was not speeding.

And, of course, he mentioned the mythical “War on Cops.”

He stated the following in a Facebook message to PINAC:

The officer wasn’t speeding. He was professional. She acts as if she was doing a public service when she wasn’t. I’m not against taping the police. Acting like she pulled a police officer over is ridiculous and may give people a false sense of authority that could lead to negative interactions with police. Cops are being ambushed more and more often. If you see a cop doing something wrong, video and report it. Don’t take the law into your own hands. The cop was professional. It’s not our fault she has a lengthy traffic history.

PINAC has made public records requests for Fonticiella’s GPS logs as well as requests to the Florida Department of Transportation, which maintains cameras on the expressway.

So this notion that we can’t “prove’ he was speeding should be put to rest once those requests are fulfilled. And the longer they are not fulfilled, the more we can assume he was speeding.

Ortiz’s Social Media History

This is not the first time Ortiz has used social media to influence public opinion on citizens trying to hold police accountable.

And about him not being against citizens who record, well, last August, he used social media to intimidate and discredit a woman who recorded a violent episode of police brutality in a story first reported on PINAC.

Miami Cop Beats Arrested Suspect Who Complied, Cop Watcher Assaulted Too (Updated II)

Now, Ortiz has upped the ante in exposing Claudia Castillo’s personal phone number and work contact information, publishing them on his Facebook account, encouraging officers to harass the woman in retaliation for the gall to correct an officer’s dangerous driving.

In this case, the officer he is defending is not even a member of Ortiz’s union.

Fonticiella is a county cop, whose president, John Rivera, has refrained from doxing Castillo, sticking to defending the officer by saying that one, we can’t prove he was speeding, and two, even if he was speeding, he has special training to know how to speed.

That training apparently has not reached the Miami Police Department where an officer struck a six-year-old named Antoine Lawson Wednesday afternoon, leaving him with serious injuries.

Antoine Lawson

The child’s family members told reporters the officer was driving between 50 to 60 mph without emergency lights. The posted speed limit in that area is not more than 35 mph.

But don’t be surprised is Ortiz turns to social media to accuse the child of being a thug.

After it, it was only last December when he accused 12 year-old Tamir Rice of being “a thug,” even though Rice, who was killed by Cleveland police for playing with a pellet gun, had a clean criminal record.

On the other hand, the cop who killed him, Timothy Loehmann, had a history of mental instability and “dismal” gun performance and had failed written tests and physical exams when he applied for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office before he was eventually hired by Cleveland police who did not bother doing a background check on him.

But Ortiz, who last year was named one of Miami’s Dirty Dozen by the Miami New Times, has never publicly addressed that detail.

Departmental Social Media Policies

Fortunately for Ortiz, the Miami Police Department has no social media policies in place restricting what officers can say on their personal social media pages. We imagine that any effort to implement such a policy would be fought hard by Ortiz and his union.

After all, he frequently uses social media to attack superior officers, including an assistant chief for not placing her hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.

On the other hand, the Miami-Dade Police Department has a very strict and detailed policy, which you can read here, a sampling which is posted below.

Miami-Dade Police social media


At least one of the many commenters responding to Ortiz’s attacks on Castillo, Carlos Portela, is a Miami-Dade police officer who suggested Castillo “crawl back under the rock” where she came from.

Carlos Portela


Another retired Miami-Dade police officer named Greg Kral was surprised Fonticiella did not claim he was in fear for his life to justify beating her.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 2.44.51 PM

Other commenters went on to post images of her children and Facebook profile of her boyfriend too. Additionally, they crafted crude memes with her personal photos.

Many of Ortiz’s friends commenting on his posts stated they were calling her using *67 in order to keep their number from appearing on her Caller ID, ironically trying to keep their information private while openly and publicly harassing a private citizen.

Other officers went onto – a public bulletin board allowing anonymous posting – to disclose her public record from Florida’s DAVID system (Driver and Vehicle Information Database). Those officer claim they obtained the information through a clerk of court’s online search, which anybody can do, but when PINAC tried to replicate the search, a date of birth was required to proceed.

The backlash against Castillo is not much different than it was against Florida State Highway patrol officer Donna Jane Watts, who pulled over Miami police officer Fausto Lopez for driving more than 100 mph in 2011. Like Fonticiella, he was also on his way to work.

Police made her life a living hell by sharing her personal information and crank calling her, sending pizzas to her home to teach her a lesson not to enforce laws against officers breaking the laws.

She sued several agencies for unlawfully accessing her personal information and has since received various settlements from various departments.

Don’t be surprised if Castillo ends up doing the same.

PINAC publisher Carlos Miller contributed to this report.

Javi Ortiz FB2




The post Miami Police Union Leader Retaliates Against Woman Who Pulled Cop Over by Doxing Her appeared first on PINAC News.

04 Feb 15:51

No Longer An Excuse Not to Start Your Own Monopsony-Power-Exploiting Company

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


In my selfless efforts to help believers in the reality of monopsony power do well while doing good, I not only remind them yet again of Mike Long’s generous offer of free-of-charge business advice, I myself now offer (also free of charge) a sure-fire idea for a profitable business that uses as its key input the talents of most of these monopsony-power believers: Put yourself in business, as a consultant, offering to identify those locales and industries where monopsony is real.  You yourself don’t have to open and dirty your hands by operating the likes of restaurants, lawn-care companies, or junk-removal services.  Instead, set up shop as “XYZ, Consultant, LLC.”  Advertise your professional skill at identifying places in the economy where existing firms are currently earning excess profits off of workers who are underpaid.  You would, in this way, do little more than what you currently do – namely, insist, based upon your theory-informed reading of the data, that monopsony power is real and relevant throughout the economy.

To make money, you’d charge entrepreneurs and companies – big, small, and middlin’ – a fee.  Various models for such fees are possible.  I don’t know which specific model would work best for you, or which one would eventually be discovered by the competitive market process to be the fee model that is optimal.  The simplest model is to charge by the hour.  You should not think this model to be far-fetched because you already obviously believe that other people – especially legislators, voters, pundits, and your students and readers – should believe your claims about monopsony power.  If these other people should believe your claims upon encountering the brilliance of your argument and the compelling nature of the data that you show to them, then there is every reason to suppose that executives at McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, and Padre Julio’s Lawn & Garden Service will believe your claims.  These business people have positive powerful incentives to pay careful attention to you and to reward you monetarily for helping them in their incessant quests to greedily earn more and more profits.

But, as I say, fee models other than by-the-hour are possible.  It will pay you to hire a business consultant who is expert in advising on such matters.

Now go forth!  You have no excuse.  If you are correct, the billionaire class and other capitalist exploiters will beat a path to your office door and shower you with big bucks for informing them of profit opportunities that they have yet to notice with sufficient clarity or certainty.  (Indeed, you don’t even need an actual business office.  You can dispense your lucrative consulting advice from your university office, your favorite coffee shop, or that bean-bag chair in your basement.)

There is now, truly, no – none, nada, nul’, zero, zilch – reason for you not to take this step that, by your own premises, will generate profits for those who exploit existing monopsony power.  Do it!  Make yourself rich and, in the process, make low-skilled workers better off.  The world awaits your action!

04 Feb 17:47

02/03/16 PHD comic: 'The 5 most typed words in Academia'

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The 5 most typed words in Academia" - originally published 2/3/2016

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

04 Feb 13:00

Facebook looked completely different 12 years ago — here's what's changed over the years (FB)

by Jillian D'Onfro

Mark Zuckerberg

Happy 12th birthday, Facebook!

As you'd expect, the site looks completely different now compared when it first launched on February 4, 2004. 

But in case you haven't been a loyal user since the beginning, we'll give you a little tour of how the site evolved. 

Check it out:


(Former Business Insider reporter Megan Rose Dickey also contributed to this piece.)

SEE ALSO: What 25 popular websites used to look like

Remember when Facebook was called Thefacebook? It started at Harvard and slowly opened up to other colleges.

Mark Zuckerberg originally described himself as not only the founder of Facebook, but also as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State."

We love this gem about "poking" from one of the original FAQ pages.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
02 Feb 17:40

Supergirl Has a Libertarian Main Villain, and He’s Pretty Interesting

by Scott Shackford

Not sure how a libertarian could even be a villain, since villainy typically involves theft, fraud, or agressive force - all of which are inherently non-libertarian. I might tune in to try to figure it out.

The evil paternalist-industrialist who wants us to give up fossil fuels. Wait, what?Warning: This blog post spoils plot points from Monday night's episode of Supergirl (as well as several previous episodes).

Supergirl represents CBS's efforts to wade into the superhero serial drama that is dominating both television and blockbuster films. It's the first of these hero shows from the DC Comics universe with a female protagonist, and, yes, it "leans in" to the feminism in ways that are sometimes effective, sometimes corny. "Sometimes effective, sometimes corny" is actually a good capsule review of the series after 12 episodes. It is entertaining, but often uneven (compared to more confident shows from the DC universe like Arrow and The Flash) and the dialogue is often lackluster. The solid acting tends to elevate the worst of the writing.

For casual viewers the show can seem like a young adult, gender-swapped knock-off of Superman. She fights a lot of space aliens. There's another crop of evil Kryptonians attempting to cause mayhem. There's a definite familiarity of style.

The show has its own version of Lex Luthor in the guise of Maxwell Lord (played by Peter Facinelli). Lord is a wealthy industrialist-inventor very much in the Tony Stark/Iron Man vein. He's also a hardcore libertarian who could have stepped right out of an Ayn Rand novel—he built a high-speed train, apparently without government subsidies. He is deeply distrustful and critical of government, explaining early in the series that his scientist parents died while following government-approved safety procedures that turned out to be inadequate. He doesn't trust Supergirl and doesn't think people should rely on her to keep them safe (the television show is tied to the most recent Superman movie, and Lord takes note of the tremendous destruction Superman's fighting caused in Metropolis).

As of Monday's episode, Lord is also certainly the primary antagonist of the season.  He experimented on a comatose young woman to give her the same powers as Supergirl—a "bizarro" version of the heroine, in a variation on the comic book version—and the two women fought. He also uncovered Supergirl's real identity and her foster family. As a result, Supergirl's foster sister Alex Danvers, a special agent in a secretive government organization that addresses threats from aliens, "arrested" Lord with no actual warrant and no real authority, and dragged him off into a secret detention facility with no legal representation. The show does not ignore the ramifications of this move like it might have decades ago. Lord, stuck in a high-tech prison cell, notes, "Holding people indefinitely against their will; can't get more American than that."

Once it became clear that Lord was heavily influenced by libertarian and objectivist ideologies, I decided to keep an eye on the show to see how he developed. It wasn't clear at first whether he was going to become a full-on villain or more of a critical antagonist who wasn't necessarily evil (in the comics Lord has gone back and forth between heroic and villainous attitudes). I also wanted to see how the show represented Lord's beliefs—did the writers understand the underlying concepts of libertarian thought? If Lord became a villain, would it be portrayed as an indictment of libertarianism itself or would it be driven by Lord's personality?

After watching the trajectory of Lord's development into a nemesis, I'm actually a bit surprised at the nuance on display (mostly because of the generally unsubtle writing). Lord has all the signs of a complex, interesting villain. The show doesn't paint his criticism and skepticism of government itself as wrong. Characters who disagree with his attitude are also heavily connected to the government, like Supergirl's sister, and not exactly dispassionate observers. Rather, what makes Lord a villain is how he acts in response to his ideology, which ultimately corrupts his own argument. There's nothing libertarian about experimenting on a non-consenting human in order to prove that he's not reliant on Supergirl to protect earth from evil aliens. It's a villain mentality reminiscent of the deeply complex X-Men villain (and sometimes hero) Magneto. Magneto, a Holocaust survivor, accurately notes that a huge swath of humanity is hostile toward his mutant peers. Readers/viewers are intended to agree with his perception. But then, his solution has frequently been to wage war on humanity in response. He's a villain the audience can "identify" with while still grasping the evil of his actions.

There is a big trap I expected the show to fall into when presenting a libertarian as a villain: The misrepresentation of libertarianism or objectivism as a selfish philosophy that cares only for individual success and achievement and has no interest in social cooperation. So far, to the show's credit, it has not fallen into this trap. In fact, I've been noting an interesting trend that libertarians might actually identify with: Lord is perceived as selfish and self-interested by the "heroic" characters on the show even as he talks about using his skills in his own way to help others and mankind (without the yoke of the government) and supporting the concept of spontaneous order. Watch this clip below from early in the series, before it became clear that Lord had some sinister intents:

That's Alex Danvers, Supergirl's sister, he's talking to. Note that she doesn't actually engage in his argument at all that he's helping people without using the government (or a gun). She just accuses him of not trusting anybody. In a later episode, Supergirl temporarily loses her powers and isn't available to assist in response to an earthquake. Lord uses the situation to argue to the public that they can't depend on the government (or Supergirl) to protect them, and that they need to rely on each other in times of crisis. This is characterized by Supergirl as "sowing panic," even though Lord is also shown desperately trying (and failing) to save the life of a person injured in the disaster. He's also, interestingly, pro-renewable energy, complaining at one point about the media reporting about plunging gas prices and reinforcing dependency on fossil fuels, meaning they're also avoiding the characterization of the libertarian industrialist as reinforcing the wealthy pro-oil status quo and the anti-Koch sentiment that drives a lot of anti-libertarian criticism.

It's possible for the show to still fall into this trap of turning Lord's beliefs themselves into caricatures, but for now it's being remarkably thoughtful about them. It is not clear from last night's episode that we are supposed to support the decision to hide Lord away in a secret prison, even though he does represent an actual threat to the safety of Supergirl and her family. I have my own theories as to where Lord's story arc is going to end up taking him. For now, I'll give the show credit for making a libertarian villain who is not a mockery of libertarian philosophy.

03 Feb 17:06

5 Months in Jail for Anti-Semitic Tweets: When Does Free Speech Become a Threat?

by ReasonTV

Did police avert a mass shooting in the picturesque mountain town of Whitefish, Montana when they apprehended a young man following a string of disturbing social media posts? A handful of citizens and activists believe so.

"We do a lot of hand-wringing and praying and calling for action after school shootings. Here's a case where, potentially, a school shooting was averted," says Francine Roston, one of two rabbis living in Montana's Flathead Valley.

Roston believes she was a potential target of David Lenio, a 29-year-old short-order cook who moved to the area so he could snowboard the slopes. He often camped out in his van and, apparently, liked to use Twitter.

It all began on February 15, 2015, when publicist and political activist Jon Hutson began tweeting in the wake of mass shootings at a Copenhagen cafe and synagogue. Hutson noticed a series of anti-Semitic and conspiratorial tweets directed at him from a user named Psychic Dog Talk Radio. It was Lenio's account, and once Hutson dug deeper, he found that Lenio had spent the previous few days tweeting about killing Jews and fantasizing about perpetrating school shootings.

"Best way to counter the harm #jewish #policies is causing [sic] is #ChapelHillShooting styling killing of #jews till they get the hint & leave," read one such tweet. In another, Lenio complains about being a "wage slave" and says he's "not even opposed to shooting up a random school like that sandy hoax stunt only realer."

For deeper look at this case, watch the Reason TV video above, and check out Elizabeth Nolan Brown's previous coverage.

Approximately 7:37. Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Field producers are Paul Detrick and Alex Manning. Music by Chris Zabriskie and Lee Rosevere. Additional photography provided by Greg Lindstrom and the Flathead Beacon.

Scroll down for downloadable versions, and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube channel for daily content like this.
03 Feb 10:41

“CDC Tells Fertile Women: Don’t Drink At All”

by Walter Olson

“Women of childbearing age should avoid alcohol unless they’re using contraception, federal health officials said Tuesday, in a move to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome.” [Liz Szabo/USA Today (“CDC: Young women should avoid alcohol unless using birth control”), Tracy Clark-Flory/Vocativ (with headline above)]

Rebecca Kukla, professor at the Kennedy School of Ethics, had the following comment, quoted in the Vocativ piece:

We don’t tell pregnant women not to drive cars, even though we are much more certain that there’s a nonzero risk to their fetuses from each car ride than from each drink. The ideal of zero risk is both impossible to meet and completely paralyzing to try to meet. The idea that the pleasures and routines that make up women’s days are mere luxuries that are not worth any risk whatsoever is patronizing and sexist, and it would also turn their lives into complete hell if really taken to its conclusion. It also imposes a much higher risk reduction bar on pregnant women than on parents of small children, for no apparent reason.

We have had numerous occasions over the years to remark on the direction in which Obama appointee Thomas Frieden has taken the Centers for Disease Control.

More: Alexandra Petri, Washington Post (CDC’s warning “incredibly condescending”).

“CDC Tells Fertile Women: Don’t Drink At All” is a post from Overlawyered - Chronicling the high cost of our legal system

03 Feb 15:00

The New Religion of Anti-Racism Can Turn Disagreement into Heresy

by Chris Martin

John McWhorter recently noted the resemblance between religious fervor and anti-racist activism:

An anthropology article from 1956 used to get around more than it does now, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” Because my mother gave it to me to read when I was 13, of course what I remember most from it is that among the Nacirema, women with especially large breasts get paid to travel and display them. Nacirema was “American” spelled backwards—get it?—and the idea was to show how revealing, and even peculiar, our society is if described from a clinical distance.

These days, there is something else about the Nacirema—they have developed a new religion. That religion is antiracism. Of course, most consider antiracism a position, or evidence of morality. However, in 2015, among educated Americans especially, Antiracism—it seriously merits capitalization at this point—is now what any naïve, unbiased anthropologist would describe as a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so.

To someone today making sense of the Nacirema, the category of person who, roughly, reads The New York Times and The New Yorker and listens to NPR, would be a deeply religious person indeed, but as an Antiracist. This is good in some ways—better than most are in a position to realize. This is also bad in other ways—worse than most are in a position to realize.

One of the rituals of this quasi-religion is the acknowledgment of white privilege. It was demanded of the University of Missouri president. As McWhorter explains:

The Antiracism religion, then, has clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin. Note the current idea that the enlightened white person is to, I assume regularly (ritually?), “acknowledge” that they possess White Privilege. Classes, seminars, teach-ins are devoted to making whites understand the need for this.

McWhorter notes that several private schools in New York are now offering courses in White Privilege. There are also college courses and a conferences on White Privilege and people far to the left of McWhorter, like Corey Robin, have written about the emptiness of some of these conferences. If you look at anti-racism as a religion, however, this collective ritual makes sense as a symbolic religious gesture.

On the other hand, not everything is symbolic. Passionate beliefs on racial issues have created wicked polarization, with academics clustered at one pole. The result is that discussions on say the genetics of racial difference emphasize that there is little genetic diversity among humans, which is an essential point to make, but then skip the point there is still enough genetic clustering in subpopulations to identify a person’s ethnicity using genetic analysis. I’m non-white, so I understand why we wouldn’t want students to think of humans as divisible into a fixed set of races. But I believe that some aspects of genetic diversity have to be recognized. Luckily, sociologists are starting to discuss these aspects more openly. However, it can still be risky for junior faculty or graduate students to venture into these areas.

Religious fervor creates problems for researchers who, despite their prior commitments, are willing to go where the data lead them. And it also challenges university administrators, who have to deal with the fact that any push back against minority demands can seem sacrilegous to some observers, at least in the eyes of some liberals. That is unfortunate because minority students can, on occasion, demand policies that might diminish the likelihood of inter-race contact and increase feelings of exclusion and permanent victimhood.

The line between good passion and scary religious fervor can be blurry. Non-violent resistance movements, which we often only admire in retrospect, need passion to keep them going. And although most of my co-bloggers would probably disagree with me, I’m happy that student activists have been passionate enough in their activism to make some progress in divestment. On the other hand, as a sociologist, I know that if I do any research on race, I would probably have to reach a predictable conclusion (“we’ve made very little racial progress”) or deviate in a more pessimistic direction (“we’ve made less racial progress than so-and-so thinks” or “this anti-racist policy failed because it didn’t accomplish as much as it aspired to”.) If I reached an optimistic conclusion, I would violate a moral imperative, and possibly get accused of being racially insensitive or an advocate of color-blindness. Yet, if social scientists suppress optimistic news about racial progress, we might be doing a disservice to racial minorities themselves.

As McWhorter notes, the religious self-flaggelation of today’s antiracists may not be focusing on helping racial minorities to begin with:

Antiracism as a religion, despite its good intentions, distracts us from activism in favor of a kind of charismatic passivism. One is to think, to worship, to foster humility, to conceive of our lives as mere rehearsal for a glorious finale, and to encourage others to do the same. This kind of thinking may have its place in a human society. But helping black people succeed in the only real world we will ever know is not that place.

Real people are having real problems, and educated white America has been taught that what we need from them is willfully incurious, self-flagellating piety, of a kind that has helped no group in human history. Naciremian Antiracism has its good points, but it is hopefully a transitional stage along the way to something more genuinely progressive.

Much of the antiracist activism in the fall was not of the self-flaggelating sort, but it did rely on quasi-religious passion, making no room for negotiation. Can we make antiracism a negotiable issue instead of a sacred one on college campuses? I would have answered pessimistically if you had asked me a few months ago, but just last month the president of Oberlin College stated that he was rejecting the demands made by Oberlin student protestors, noting that the demands violated the philosophy of the institution. That development may be tied to the fact that the demands at Oberlin were much stronger than elsewhere, and included a list of faculty to be promoted and list of faculty to be fired. Nevertheless, this rejection is a hopeful sign for campuses, one that portends a future where grievances can be aired, but where administrators do not fear a religious counter-reaction when they treat demands as negotiable rather than sacred.

03 Feb 16:31

Groundhog Day: Wolf Demands Millions More for Education

by Commonwealth Foundation

When Punxsutawney Phil casts a shadow, Pennsylvanians expect a long winter. When Gov. Wolf issues a press release, Pennsylvanians expect a massive tax hike.

How fitting that Wolf chose Groundhog Day to demand another $577 million in basic education funding—$377 million for the rest of FY 2015-16 and an addition $200 million in the next fiscal year. The governor’s demands are rooted in the “framework budget” from last November, which was rumored to include $350 million in new basic education funding.

Unfortunately for Wolf, the framework budget has been dead for months [paywall]:

“I believe they may be the only party that does not believe the framework is dead,” said Senate GOP spokeswoman Jenn Kocher of the Wolf administration. “I'm sorry but it died the day that pensions did.”

The administration provided no explanation for why the $350 million figure increased to $377 million. Perhaps this was intended to offset the $50 million in borrowing costs incurred by school districts as a direct result of Wolf’s budget vetoes. Nonetheless, the administration seeks to distribute the 2015-16 funding through a hyper-political “formula” that ignores the recommendation of the state’s Basic Education Funding Commission.

Wolf continues to demand more spending while placing little value on smarter spending, which is exactly what the Funding Commission was created to ensure. The governor is not demonstrating a willingness to compromise, either: his education spending requests are not much different than his original proposal last March.

Rather than a $377 million windfall, what schools really need is the $3.1 billion that Wolf vetoed in December.

Of course, Pennsylvania revenue per-student already exceeds the national average by $3,400. Even when looking solely at state funding, Pennsylvania schools are better-funded than average.

03 Feb 23:45

Male Teen Takes Nude Photo of Himself, Charged with Making Child Porn

by Robby Soave

SelfieA Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime. He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took an inappropriate photo—of himself.

The boy is unnamed in local news reporters, which note that he is under 15 years of age. He allegedly took a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone. That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another. Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it. A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges.

Police Detective Mike Mohney told that sexting is a serious crime because it leads to “bullying,” and “real severe things like people committing suicide or violent crimes against others because they're so embarrassed about it.”

Mohney’s statement is a perfect example of the inherent contradiction of ruining kids’ lives for sexting. If the goal is to avoid “severe consequences,” why would they pursue charges in the first place? If sexting-induced embarrassment is a source of violence and suicide, certainly the risk of embarrassment is made much worse by branding the offender a pedophile—for abusing no one but himself—and sentencing him to the sex offender registry.

Criminal charges don’t appear to deter other teens from sexting, either. As I noted in a recent op-ed for USA Today, a Drexel University study found that more than 50 percent of college undergraduates had sent sexts as minors. Some 88 percent of people surveyed had sent sexts, period. In other words, this is something that almost everyone is doing.

Authorities warn that the consequences for the underage are just too dire, but the most awful outcome is the one the authorities themselves impose on perpetrators: criminal charges. Can you imagine being a 14-year-old, trying to get your life back on track, after being socially stigmatized, expelled, charged with a crime, and publicly branded a sex offender? All because you took a picture of yourself?

Teens who create and share sexy photos aren’t child pornographers. They are teenagers. To pretend the law can suppress their natural curiosity about their own bodies, and each other’s, is to subscribe to vindictive madness and paranoia about human sexuality. These kids aren't hurting themselves—we're hurting them.

04 Feb 00:23

Philadelphia's Parking Authority Used Citizen Fines to Help Keep Citizens From Using Uber

by Brian Doherty

Citizens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who might want to use Uber or Lyft on their own and the companies' terms are getting stymied by their own money, in the form of strong political opposition from the city's Parking Authority (PPA), who have used up to half a million (much of it from parking and other vehicle violation tickets) to pay a firm that has lobbied against Uber and Lyft's attempts to operate freely in the city. (The rest of the state of Pennsylvania has given them a two-year legal status.)

Various colluding emails from back in 2014 when the state was first regulating Uber (and did, but Philadelphia carved out an exception for itself) between the PPA and taxi lobbying interests are detailed in this report by William Bender from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

An Uber spokesman explained to Bender that the legitimate safety concerns, such as background checks and insurance, are already dealt with between Uber and its drivers. Said Matt Wing: "The only difference is the PPA doesn't get to collect the fees associated with them, which means less money for them to spend on lobbyists." (Uber, as it often does, is openly operating in violation of the law in Philadelphia.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer editorialized against the PPA's machinations, the agency is:

effectively using parking fines and other revenue collected from those who live, work, and travel in the city to limit the same public's transportation options. The newspaper obtained emails showing that Parking Authority officials colluded with cab companies to mount the lobbying effort and even to set up ride-share drivers in sting operations.

The report proved what had appeared to be true for some time: that the Parking Authority has formed an unholy alliance with the taxi industry it supposedly regulates to work in their mutual interest - and against the public's - to stifle competition.

The PPA collects millions a year in taxi medallion and other taxi-related fees, so it has some interest in keeping the industry alive against technologically savvy and more useful competition.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, Vince Fenerty, executive director of the PPA, insists it is motivated entirely by a concern for public safety and a level playing field, and fends off accusations of harassing Uber for the benefit of existing regulated taxi interests by pointing out the Authority regulates taxis themselves in a way that they often fight again.

My 2014 feature on the long regulatory fight across the nation of these ridehail app services.

04 Feb 00:09

Initialization practices disqualify UN IPCC global circulation models from use for most climate change forecast purposes

by Guest Blogger
Guest essay by Michael G. Wallace Hydroclimatologist, Albuquerque, NM The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change UN IPCC features and endorses decadal global climate forecasting products. Those in turn feed into numerous downscaled regional climate forecasts. In published representations of forecast skills to date, all within this collective appear to include the poorly disclosed…
03 Feb 17:13

If you're too young to remember the insanity of the dot-com bubble, check out these pictures

by Matt Weinberger

jeff bezos amazon segway

Investors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs can't stop arguing over whether or not the tech industry is in a bubble — and when that bubble is going to burst, if it hasn't already.

But we've been through this before

In the 1990s, a new breed of dot-com companies popped up, raised millions in funding, threw ridiculous parties...and then vanished. 

Here's how it went down. 

SEE ALSO: 31 photos of Amazon's incredible journey from the dot-com crash to world domination

The dot-com boom kicked off in the late nineties, as more people got the Internet in their homes, and the Microsoft Windows 95 Plus Pack included the first version of the Internet Explorer browser — most people's first experience with the web.

Entrepreneurial types saw a huge opportunity to serve this growing market. Jeff Bezos saw it coming early and founded Amazon in 1994. It shipped its first book, Douglas Hofstadter's "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought," out of Bezos' garage in early 1995.

They got the name "dot-com companies" because at the time, it was a novelty to have a business with a web address — and these companies only existed online and in warehouses.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
03 Feb 22:52

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shares 4 business books he thinks everyone should read

by Richard Feloni

tony hsieh zappos

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh wants his employees to continuously explore new ideas. That's why there's a library of some of his favorite books at Zappos' Las Vegas headquarters.

Over the years he's recommended well over 20 business books — including his own, the 2010 bestseller "Delivering Happiness" — and you can always find what he's currently reading atop his cluttered desk.

"It's always interesting just to learn different perspectives, but to be careful of not trying to just say, 'Oh this book is the Bible, and we should copy that,'" Hsieh told Business Insider. "Instead, I want us t0 take the parts that make sense for Zappos and try to incorporate them."

Hsieh shared with us the four books he's recommending to everyone at the moment.

SEE ALSO: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh reveals what it was like losing 18% of his employees in a radical management experiment — and why it was worth it

'Start with Why' by Simon Sinek

Leadership consultant and popular TED Talk speaker Simon Sinek's 2009 book "Start with Why" has a simple but potentially profound insight: The best leaders process and share information by starting with why, then how, and then finally what, whereas most people approach matters in the reverse order.

It's why, for example, Apple was able to dominate the mp3 player industry in the last decade despite the prevalence of many other quality devices on the market. It started its pitch to consumers with the why of having a mission to change the status quo and encourage creativity and then ended with the what of selling an iPod.

Find it here >>

'Where Good Ideas Come From' by Steven Johnson

Author Steven Johnson argues in his 2010 book that innovation comes from the collision of ideas. This can happen when an individual working in isolation builds off years of existing knowledge to fuel his insights, or it can happen much more quickly when several creative types bounce ideas off each other in a community like Silicon Valley.

This theory is one of the reasons why Hsieh decided to invest $350 million of his own money in 2010 into the Downtown Project, which is building a community of entrepreneurs in Zappos' neighborhood.

Find it here >>

'Getting Things Done' by David Allen

David Allen is a management consultant whose 2001 classic "Getting Things Done" has sold over a million copies, making it the go-to book on personal productivity for the past 15 years.

Allen updated it last year, but its main principles have held up well because they provide readers of all experience levels with tools to make decisions, plan their days according to top priorities, and stay focused on what matters.

It turns out that Allen runs his consulting company using the same unusual self-management system that Zappos recently adopted. 

Find it here >>

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
03 Feb 19:28

Is Stupidity The Main Driver Of Global Warming?

by tonyheller

The Washington Post says that DC snow is now caused by global warming.

Screenshot 2016-02-03 at 12.17.49 PMScreenshot 2016-02-03 at 12.18.01 PM

Is global warming behind D.C.’s new era of great snowstorms?

Four years ago, the same clowns were predicting cherry blossoms in February, due to global warming.

Screenshot 2016-02-03 at 12.25.59 PM Screenshot 2016-02-03 at 12.25.50 PM

Could cherry blossoms one day be blooming in winter?

Snowfall around DC is not changing. Climate science is 100% superstition and data tampering.

Screenshot 2016-02-03 at 12.44.49 PM

02 Feb 22:00

Microsoft shows how NFL fans could use HoloLens in the future

by Edgar Alvarez

h/t Roumen.ganeff

It's going to be a while before HoloLens, Microsoft's newly developed augmented reality headset, will become a mainstream product. But since its debut last year, the tech giant has been teasing the potential for HoloLens across different categories,...