Dorito Night must-see

I have to admit I am a little surprised at the backbone of the BBC. But Withrow is right and the orientationally-challenged of the world will have to learn that if they want to be celebrities in the public eye, they have to accept being mocked just like everybody else:

Gill sparked the row with his comments in a review of her new show ‘Britain by Bike’ in the Sunday Times last weekend.

He wrote: ‘Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty.

‘So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry. Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation….

Balding was so incensed at the critic’s dig about her sexuality that she raised it with his editor, John Witherow of the Sunday Times.

But she was astonished when Mr Witherow told her she should accept occasionally being made the butt of jokes. His reply stated: ‘In my view, some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society.

‘Jeremy Clarkson, perhaps the epitome of the heterosexual male, is constantly jeered at for his dress sense (lack of), adolescent mindset and hairstyle. He puts up with it as a presenter’s lot and in this context I hardly think that AA Gill’s remarks were particularly cruel, especially as he ended by so warmly endorsing you as a presenter.’

Besides, who is dumb enough to put a fat lesbian on any form of two-wheeled apparatus and NOT expect someone to make a crack about “dykes on bikes”.

Mailvox: responding to a liberal

CG asks for help in responding to this, but I think he is probably looking in the wrong place by coming here:

Conservatives have no clue about business. They think that business can sell MORE AND MORE to people who have jobs paying less money, with a collapsing middle class. Who is going to buy stuff after we get through gutting the system and eliminating the buying power of workers in this country? What fuels consumption now that the borrowing binge we’ve been on for thirty years is over. Can consumers borrow their way to prosperity, along with our economy. How do you pay for the $10s of trillions in private debt that has masked a collapsing real economy which used to be fueled by savings and investment?

40 years ago we had a third of the private work force unionized, tariffs to protect domestic industry, 70% marginal rates on income over about 3 million, and were the most prosperous country on earth, the exporter and lender to the world. Now that Reaganomics has worked it’s magic for 30 years, China owns us.

Not sure how you think us running 30-40 billion per month trade and current account deficits will work out long term. Love to hear the theory of how we import our way to prosperity, trading jobs that produce wealth, transform raw materials into valuable to valuable goods, for “service” jobs that add no wealth and don’t sustain any economy that I’ve known of in all of recorded history. How long can we keep sending the rest of the world paper, and they send us oil and TVs and cars, and clothes and electronics, etc. Seem unsustainable to me, but I don’t understand how business works.

This demonstrates why the Democrat/Republican, liberal/conservative poles simply don’t apply to the present economic situation very well. CG’s liberal interlocutor is correct in diagnosing the problem as debt and “free trade”, but he is incorrect in thinking that Reaganomics is to blame for either of them and he is deeply mistaken to think that high marginal tax rates helped produce societal wealth. One doesn’t increase savings and investment through taxation, after all, and while it is absolutely true that consumers can’t borrow their way to prosperity, governments can’t tax-and-spend their way there either, Keynesian arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.

The reason we were the most prosperous country on Earth 40 years ago was very simple and easily proved. The USA was about the only major economy on Earth that had not had its industrial infrastructure completely destroyed by World War II and American industry made an absurd amount of money selling both consumer and capital goods into European and Asian markets that had to rebuild their industrial base. This was the source of our post-1940s economic growth and concomitant wealth. Now that all of our former competitors have rebuilt their economies and numerous other countries have succeeded in developing theirs, it has naturally become much more difficult to maintain our economic primacy vis-a-vis the rest of the world. As I have previously stated, but have yet to conclusively prove, the Ricardian concept of comparative advantage has turned out to be incorrect and therefore American wealth should be expected to decline in both a relative and absolute sense as other countries grow at the expense of American industry and workers in a free trade environment.

It’s not that conservatives have no clue about business, they have no clue about economics. But neither do liberals; the fact that one party is incorrect does not automatically make the other right. The fact that conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike supported TARP, the banking bailouts, and the automotive bailouts demonstrates that the intrinsic problem is superpolitical and therefore will not be solved regardless of which political faction ends up temporarily on top.

Why women overrate themselves

Veronica: Why do you have to be such a mega-bitch?
Heather #1: Because I can be.

Most men understand it when the most attractive women consider themselves too good for the average joe. Because, in short, they are, and few men have much of a problem with that. Where men get confused and irritated is when a woman who is manifestly NOT too good for them by any reasonable objective metric acts as if she genuinely believes that she is. The reason is exactly as Occam’s Razor suggests. She does. And here’s why.

Women have a strong preference to date and mate up. Men, on the other hand, are much more inclined to date broad-spectrum and mate down. And while most men understand that the definition of “up” varies according to sex – men placing extra value on looks and sexual history, women placing emphasis on social status and wealth – they don’t understand the logical consequences of women dating up and men dating down. And these consequences are further exacerbated by men generally being the pursuers and women the pursued.

Look at it this way. A woman who manages to attract the passing attention of a higher-status man, even if she does so through taking the role of the pursuer, is quite reasonably, if incorrectly, inclined to consider herself worthy of the attentions of higher status men in the future despite the declining marginal utility of her youth and sexual history. This is why a woman will always identify her status by the football star, the surgeon, or the singer in the band with whom she once spent a few hours rather than by the nondescript fellow who was her boyfriend for several years, regardless of how long ago it was. Roissy had an amusing post about a woman who had dated Anthony Kiedis a long time ago and actually carried around pictures of them in order to show them to people she had just met.

This creates an essentially Austrian problem of false signals leading to malinvestment. Because women do not distinguish between the quantity of male attention and the quality, the conflation encourages them to a) overrate their own attractiveness, and, b) invest their time and attention in men who are not likely to have any interest in them beyond the immediate term. So, the female 6 considers herself an 8 by virtue of the times that a male 9 decided that she was the best available at the moment, and quite logically feels insulted when she is approached by a male 5 or 6. Meanwhile, the male 6 is standing there in astonishment, staring at what he believes is quite clearly an appropriate counterpart and wondering who in the world she thinks she is.

What this means is that thanks to modern hook-up culture, the average woman now tends to consider herself a 7 or 8 rather than a 5, which is one of the many social factors that make it hard for her to eventually “settle”.

What makes a statement "scientific"?

Dan Gezelter of Open Science contemplates the question:

Popper concluded that it is impossible to know that a theory is true based on observations (O); science can tell us only that the theory is false (or that it has yet to be refuted). He concluded that meaningful scientific statements are falsifiable.

A more realistic picture of scientific theories isn’t this simple. We often base our theories on a set of auxiliary assumptions which we take as postulates for our theories. For example, a theory for liquid dynamics might depend on the whole of classical mechanics being taken as a postulate, or a theory of viral genetics might depend on the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. In these cases, classical mechanics (or the Hardy-Wienberg equilibrium) are the auxiliary assumptions for our specific theories.

These auxiliary assumptions can help show that science is often not a deductively valid exercise…. Falsifying a theory requires that auxiliary assumption (AA) be demonstrably true. Auxiliary assumptions are often highly theoretical — remember, auxiliary assumptions might be statements like the entirety of classical mechanics is correct or the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium is valid! It is important to note, that if we can’t verify AA, we will not be able to falsify T by using the valid argument above. Contrary to Popper, there really is no asymmetry between falsification and verification. If we cannot verify theoretical statements, then we cannot falsify them either.

Since verifying a theoretical statement is nearly impossible, and falsification often requires verification of assumptions, where does that leave scientific theories? What is required of a statement to make it scientific?

In light of the increasing tendency of scientists to gravitate towards credentialism, authoritarianism, and hiding behind fictional concepts of property, I find the development of the Open Science movement to be both significant and encouraging. There is nothing that will hinder, if not outright prevent, the transformation of science from a method open to anyone into a technocratic ideologically-driven priesthood more effectively than forcing scientific papers and pronouncements to stand publicly on their own merits.

Open Source Software has transformed the world of software development; at least one-third of the programs I now use on a daily basis are OSS. I suspect Open Science has the potential to have an even more significant and even more necessary impact on the increasingly corrupt and politicized field of science. But just as the developers of proprietary software continue to fight the rising tide of open source software, one can expect the practitioners of closed science to bitterly resist open science. I, for one, anticipate hearing the convoluted arguments they will present for keeping science safely locked away behind credentialed doors.

Many things have changed in the past 46 years, but Richard Feynman’s definition of science is even more applicable today than it was when he first articulated it: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Mailvox: database question

Paradox looks for advice:

I have a question. What type of database software would you and the Ilk recomend for a small business? The business will be auto repair. The database entities would be customers and invoices. Atributes would be items like invoce number and car make and model etc.

All I have to say is that’s a good business in this economy. But I know nothing about databases, so if anyone has anything intelligent to offer on the subject, please do so.

TIME beats the war drum

The cover picture of a woman with her nose cut off is captioned “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan.” This would appear to indicate that the Magic Negro isn’t even thinking about ending the occupation next year or his supporters in the media wouldn’t be reduced to banging the drums in an attempt to stir up some belated war fever in such an obvious way.

The ridiculous thing is the way in which TIME missed the obvious point, which is that the brutal punishment meted out to the young women for breaking a marital contract happened under the American military occupation. Saving the noses of Afghan women certainly isn’t a bad thing but there is no circumstance in which one can honestly claim that it is in the American national interest or concerns American national security in any way.

More excuses from the Fowl Atheist

PZ Myers tries to defend his cowardly fear of public debate and his inability to formulate effective arguments under the guise of criticizing the idea of a science section on a popular web site:

[JL Vernon] “The most resounding message emerging from the opposition is the idea that having “real science” share a platform with “bad science” will ultimately tarnish the reputation of the legitimate scientists and science communicators who choose to participate. This is essentially the same argument Richard Dawkins, PZ Meyers and others take when refusing to debate evolutionists. The concept here being that by sharing the stage with creationists, scientists lend credibility to the creationist arguments. In some ways, I think this is a cowardly response. If you have a sound argument, the opposition should not win the debate.

That’s wrong on multiple levels. First, a debate is not won by sound argument; it’s by persuasive rhetoric. Many creationists have that skill (I have to repeat a mantra I’ve got: creationists are not stupid, just ignorant and misled by ignorant arguments), so it is a serious tactical error to think that because all the facts and science are on your side, you’re going to win debates. That’s a recipe for consistent failure.

The other problem here is that I’ve “won” most of my debates…because the other side is just nuts. Jerry Bergman and Geoff Simmons, to name two, were raving loonies who made me embarrassed to be sharing a spotlight with them. There was no gain for me, and plenty for them. You get two possibilities: you’ll face an eloquent rhetorician who will run rings around you despite your command of the facts, or you’ll get a nutcase who makes you feel like you’re sharing the podium with a brain-damaged hobo. Neither are great options.

Vernon is right. It is a cowardly response. It is also a very revealing response about how genuinely confident the individual is in the arguments he makes. (That confidence may or may not be well-placed, of course.) As I have demonstrated here on numerous occasions, if one is possessed of a sufficient command of the relevant facts, it is a very simple thing to dismantle the credibility of one’s opponent and demonstrate the logical fallacies and factual errors utilized in his arguments. It escapes no one’s attention that frauds like Dawkins never hesitate to debate decrepit elderly priests and clueless female journalists, but run for shelter the moment a competent opponent appears on the horizon. The amusing thing is that pseudo-scientists like PZ simply can’t understand the reason they are regularly losing the battle for public opinion is that they have increasingly abandoned science in favor of political and ideological activism. Worse, they have done so in favor of an anti-democratic technocratic authoritarianism that is far more dangerous than the imaginary theocracies of their fevered nightmares.

Consider this bit from “Science Turns Authoritarian“: Science is losing its credibility because it has adopted an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by politics…. We searched Nexis for the following phrases to see how their use has changed over the last 30 years: “science says we must,” “science says we should,” “science tells us we must,” “science tells us we should,” “science commands,” “science requires,” “science dictates,” and “science compels.”

What we found surprised us. One phrase, in particular, has become dramatically more frequent in recent years: “Science tells us we should.” Increased usage of this phrase leads to a chart resembling a steep mountain climb (or, for those with a mischievous bent, a “hockey stick”). The use of the phrase “science requires” also increases sharply over time. The chart (below) vividly shows the increasing use of those particular phrases. Some of this may simply reflect the general growth of media output and the growth of new media, but if that were the case, we would expect all of the terms to have shown similar growth, which they do not.

In other words, around the end of the 1980s, science (at least science reporting) took on a distinctly authoritarian tone. Whether because of funding availability or a desire by some senior academics for greater relevance, or just the spread of activism through the university, scientists stopped speaking objectively and started telling people what to do.

I am not at all opposed to science qua science, but I am inexorably opposed to all forms of science-flavored authoritarianism. Needless to say, any refusal to bow before the misapplication of science by scientists is enough cause one to be labled “anti-science” even though it is the short-sighted actions of scientists that are rapidly destroying the credibility of science. All of this makes me wonder… perhaps WND needs a science section. And, of course, a master of persuasive rhetoric as the editor.

Not that tape, the other one

Paul Krugman attempts to whitewash his record on the failed stimulus program:

Those of us who say that the stimulus was too small are often accused of after-the-fact rationalization: you said this would work, but now that it hasn’t, you’re just saying it wasn’t big enough. The quick answer to that accusation is that people like me said that the stimulus was too small in advance. But the longer answer is that it’s all in the math: Keynesian analysis provides numbers as well as qualitative predictions, and given reasonable projections of the economy’s path in January 2009, the proposed stimulus just wasn’t big enough. Let’s go back to the tape, January 9, 2009:

Even the C.B.O. says, however, that “economic output over the next two years will average 6.8 percent below its potential.” This translates into $2.1 trillion of lost production. “Our economy could fall $1 trillion short of its full capacity,” declared Mr. Obama on Thursday. Well, he was actually understating things. To close a gap of more than $2 trillion — possibly a lot more, if the budget office projections turn out to be too optimistic — Mr. Obama offers a $775 billion plan. And that’s not enough.

Brilliant stuff! How does he do it? And now let’s go back to the tape only two months before, to November 8, 2008:

I wrote this morning’s column partly because I had a hunch that the Obama people might be thinking too small on stimulus. Now I have more than a hunch – I’ve heard an unreliable rumor! So let’s talk about stimulus math, as I see it….So we need a fiscal stimulus big enough to close a 7% output gap. Remember, if the stimulus is too big, it does much less harm than if it’s too small. What’s the multiplier? Better, we hope, than on the early-2008 package. But you’d be hard pressed to argue for an overall multiplier as high as 2. When I put all this together, I conclude that the stimulus package should be at least 4% of GDP, or $600 billion.

Now, I may not be a Nobel Prize winner or a professional economist, but even lacking such credentials, I think I can successfully work out that $600 billion is SMALLER than $775 billion. Put not your trust in Keynesians.

When rape is inevitable

For a society that is supposedly free, open, and democratic, it is interesting to note that what little public oversight of the powerful financial institutions that exists is being rapidly eliminated:

Under a little-noticed provision of the recently passed financial-reform legislation, the Securities and Exchange Commission no longer has to comply with virtually all requests for information releases from the public, including those filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The law, signed last week by President Obama, exempts the SEC from disclosing records or information derived from “surveillance, risk assessments, or other regulatory and oversight activities.” Given that the SEC is a regulatory body, the provision covers almost every action by the agency, lawyers say. Congress and federal agencies can request information, but the public cannot.

Why, it’s almost as if the executive and legislative branches of government believe that they have, or will have, something very important to hide from the public. The interesting question is if this new law was inspired by something that has happened already or something that is going to happen. On a tangential note, those who believe more regulation is going to solve anything would do well to keep the implications of this law in mind.

Defend yourself

Don’t rely on the cops:

The District police department policy on forcible entry caused a “deadly delay” as officers waited for a supervisor outside an apartment while a mother and her two young sons were being stabbed to death inside, according to a lawsuit filed by the woman’s family. The policy that led to police taking nearly an hour to finally bust down the door and find the murdered family is at the center of a $60 million wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the officers involved.

As has happened in every other case of this type, the police will be found to have no liability because it has been well-established in various courts of law that they have absolutely no responsibility for defending you. If you are relying on the police instead of yourself, you are quite literally defenseless. If you don’t own a shotgun, a rifle, and a pistol or three, then you are neglecting one of your most basic responsibilities as a human being.