Monday, December 31, 2007

Sacrificing Self-Sacrifice?

My Google news page linked to an interesting Associated Press article titled "'Gospel of Wealth'Facing Scrutiny" by Eric Gorski. Evidently there are evangelical ministries raking in untold (to the IRS) riches and the various pastors are living the life of luxury. Predictably, all this money has caught the attention of the U.S. government:
The probe by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has brought new scrutiny to the underlying belief that brings in millions of dollars and fills churches from Atlanta to Los Angeles — the "Gospel of Prosperity," or the notion that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches.

All six ministries under investigation preach the prosperity gospel to varying degrees.
This raised a question in my mind. In light of the growth of religion in America in recent decades, could it be that this growth is due not to the appeal of self-sacrifice, the stock in trade of all religions, but to the appeal of self-survival, a morally acceptable self-interest that is ok with God? I think it is so. From the article:
One of the teaching's attractions is that it doesn't dwell on traditional Christian themes of heaven and hell but on answering pressing concerns of the here and now, said Brian McLaren, a liberal evangelical author and pastor.
The result of this appeal is:
Yet the prosperity gospel continues to draw crowds, particularly lower- and middle-income people who, critics say, have the greatest motivation and the most to lose. The prosperity message is spreading to black churches, attracting elderly people with disposable incomes, and reaching huge churches in Africa and other developing parts of the world.
Obviously these ministries are appealing to the desire for the unearned but using self-interest as a hook. They seem to be saying "don't feel guilty for making money but do feel guilty if you don't sacrifice some of it to God's voices here on Earth, (us evangelicals)." A lot of people are looking for a moral sanction that tells them it's ok to be self-interested without feeling guilty about it. It is going to be difficult however to convince people that self-interest is in fact virtuous as long as they insist that virtue must be sacrificial. What's sad is that what most people call a sacrifice really isn't. When I talk to most people today, what they call a sacrifice is actually a trade. But in their mind a trade cannot be virtuous. So they just call their trades sacrifices in order to feel virtuous.

As long as this is the case, these people will always be in the market for something that will make sacrifice work like a trade while allowing them to pretend the transaction is in fact a sacrifice and thus virtuous. It is the need for a moral sanction for earning wealth coupled with the desire to avoid guilt that these ministries are cashing in on.

I recommend reading the entire article. I saw a little humor in the sentence:
One of the pastors in the Grassley probe, Bishop Eddie Long of suburban Atlanta, has written that God told him to get rid of the "ungodly governmental structure" of a deacon board.
And I saw a little honesty in the sentence:
But the prosperity gospel, McLaren said, not only preys on the hope of the vulnerable, it puts too much emphasis on individual success and happiness.
I don't think the tax-exempt status of these ministries is in any danger. Sen. Grassley will hold a hearing, demand more transparency, the pastors will agree, probably ala the Joyce Meyer disclosures, and that will be the end of it.

I do think these ministries however are approaching a contradiction they cannot afford. Is self-sacrifice being sacrificed to self-interest? I think this is what is scaring the other ministries that don't preach the prosperity gospel.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Light Blogging

As you may have guessed by now, blogging may be light till after the first but if you're looking for something other than bad news, Nicholas Provenzo has some pictures of Gunston Hall at George Mason U after a dusting of snow.

And,

Ralph Buttigieg reports on a new world record cave dive. I don't think I could spend 15 hours in a decompression chamber though.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Two More Things Spotted By Mike's Eyes

The 12/21/07 print edition of the Detroit News printed a LTE of mine in response to an AP article proclaiming that Arctic ice was melting faster that scientists expected.
Arctic ice melt temporary
I protest the Dec. 12 Associated Press article "Arctic ice melting faster" because it is misleading. It is not true that the melting is caused by carbon dioxide emissions from human activity. The ice is melting because the Pacific Ocean, since 1976, has had a south-to-north movement of warm air to the Arctic. It is due to revert back to a weak phase any time. When it does, the Arctic ice will reform. The speed at which it is melting may surprise some scientists but not those who study climate history.
Every now and then I have to and want to let the media know that the BS their readers are hearing about the perils of global warming are just that, BS.
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On a lighter note.

Last week we in the Midwest really got dumped on with snow. My suburb of Detroit got 8 inches. Some burbs got 10 and 12 inches. Schools were all closed the next day. On the third day though my sidewalk was shoveled as were all my neighbors' and the schools were reopened. An elementary school is only a block from my house which is why I moved here many years ago. As I sat there in my dinette drinking my morning coffee and looking out the front window, I observed small groups of kids with backpacks strapped over their shoulders walking to school. But instead of walking on the nice clean sidewalk, they deliberately stepped off the walk and into the deep snow between the walk and the street and walked to school that way. A smile broke across my face as I took in this sight and recalled my own childhood in which I did the same thing. I didn't have an explicit, well thought out reason for wanting to walk in the snow. It was more like an urge which, if it could be put into words might be something like "Go ahead. It might be fun".

It's good to know I was just being natural. There is nothing wrong with human nature, properly understood.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Spotted by Mikes Eyes Tue. 12/18/07

Yesterday 12/17/07, I stopped by the Cassandra Page and found a head shaking quote by Mark Steyn. Evidently Mark has found a couple writers who are perfect that is, 110%, misanthropes. According to Mr. Steyn:
Oxford University Press has published a book by professor David Benatar of the University of Cape Town called "Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence." The author "argues for the 'anti-natal' view – that it is always wrong to have children … . Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct." As does Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us" – which Publishers Weekly hails as "an enthralling tour of the world … anticipating, often poetically, what a planet without us would be like." It's a good thing it "anticipates" it poetically, because, once it happens, there will be no more poetry.
Ayn Rand once referred to this mentality as the worship of the zero, the non-being. As usual, her identification was right on.
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My opinion.

Benny Peiser has an article in The Financial Post titled "climate alarmism hits a brick wall". While that general idea pleases me, my point is the pragmatic--which means unprincipled--nature of Australia's new leader elect. This paragraph is in evidence:
This power shift has perhaps never been more transparent and dramatic than in
Bali, when Australia's Labour government, under the newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, announced a
complete U-turn on the thorny issue of mandatory carbon dioxide emissions
targets. Only days after Australia's delegation had backed Europe's demand for a
25% to 40% cut in emission by 2020, Mr. Rudd declared (his signature under the
Kyoto Protocol wasn't even dry) that his government would not support such
targets after all.
Ayn Rand once pointed out that modern pragmatists don't want to get elected to advocate certain ideas. They advocate certain ideas in order to get elected. I almost feel sorry for the Aussies. They have elected one of these.

Their only hope I think, is that he wants to stay in power so bad he'll do whatever they want. But do they even know what they want? Perhaps the Aussies want a leader who will say the magic words that will make the Europeans and the UN greenies like them. Maybe they're so terrified of not being liked they will elect a man like Rudd who will say the right words and go through the right motions (perform the right rituals) to achieve the expediency of the moment and everything will be nicey wicey again.

I'm glad Mr. Rudd nixed the Kyoto accord but do our mates down under really prefer a man who says one thing and does another-Rudd-to a man who says one thing and stands by it-Howard? I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Update: Corrected word in F.Post title.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Look Who's Talking

Via Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) comes news that the Pope has criticized greens for their gloom and doom senarios. According to the linked article at the Daily Mail:
The 80-year-old Pope said the world needed to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind.
Despite the fact that this sounds quite rational and the Pope is right about placing man above plants and animals, I think there is an underlying motive.

The Pope, leader of one of the world's largest religions, is acutely aware that his religion has some serious competition in environmentalism. In the spirit of "Thou shalt not worship false gods before me" or something like that, he seems to be saying all the attention and donations going to NGOs should go to the Church and the alms basket. But I had to chuckle when the article said:.
The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.
Look who's talking about dogma!

The church and the NGOs both call for man's sacrifice. But the Holy See sees exactly what is going on. He sees enviromentalism as the new God and "carbon footprint" as the new original sin. It's competition for the sacrificial offerings pure and simple. The government, public and the press are mostly clueless on this. Seems like the only people who truly understand what's going on are the Greens, Objectivists, some skeptics, and the Papacy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Public Interest Trumps Private Interest

Billy Beck has a good post at Two-four about how the New York Times is looking more like the old Soviet Union's Pravda every day. He points out how the Times regards Bush's tax cuts as depriving the government of its money. He even has a relevant quote from Ayn Rand on the subject. But I'm mainly concerned with an excellent point Billy made when he wrote:
Sometimes, dear reader, the FNORDs blow away and you can see right through the clear sky to the naked, evil premise. The Comfy Commissariat is not concerned with you. Take them at their words.
This is so very true. The altruists, collectivists don't see you as an individual. To them you only have value as a member of some collective which can do anything it wants to you for the 'greater good'. That's when you learn that the 'greater or common good' does not include your good. When they say you must sacrifice for the 'public interest', that's when you discover that the 'public interest' does not include your interest, that 'general welfare' does not mean your welfare. You are an individual. You are not a 'greater' or a 'public' or a 'social' or a 'general' thus your interests, good and welfare don't count.

An example of FNORDs being blow away was revealed in a short editorial in the Detroit Free Press of 12/12/07. It complained that the Michigan State Senate's refusal to ban smoking in public places was some kind of travesty. The editorial's argument:
The French made it a priority. The English and Irish, too. And New York City, and some 30 states. Even the casino in Windsor. The U.S. Surgeon General says secondhand smoke is flat-out dangerous. But Michigan bar and restaurant owners say it should be their choice. What other aspect of public health is left to private interests?
There is proof. "Public health" does not include your health. You are an individual and as such a very private interest. Public health cannot be left to private interests means that public health refers to everyone's health except those of private interests like you and me. Public interest or health or welfare or good always means that the health and welfare of some will be sacrificed for the benefit of others. Those others could be anybody or nobody but most likely will be those in power.

(I am ignoring the fact that the Free Press has no doubt, never checked into the so-called evidence behind the Surgeon General's claim that second hand smoke is dangerous and thus abandoning any pretence of speaking truth to power. Nor will I harp on the fact that the editorial uses the logical fallacy of the arguement from consensus and since the editors are educated people who cannot fail to know they are using it, they have given up any pretence of speaking truth period.

It should be noted that the republican Senate did not shelve this bill to protect the individual rights of bar and restaurant owners. They said since Michigan's economy is so bad they didn't want to place any more burdens on the businesses that haven't left the state yet. IOW, lets wait till the golden goose regains his health and starts laying more golden eggs, then we'll bash him over his greedy, selfish head and congratulate each other on how noble and virtuous we are.)

But I digress.

So, whenever you hear intellectuals using collective phrases like common good or public interest, be very afraid because they do not mean you, your interests or welfare.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Michael Vick

Via Breitbart.com (h/t Drudge) comes an AP story that Michael Vick has been sentenced to 23 months in jail for running a dogfighting ring. This is an egregious miscarriage of justice. Vick needs to appeal this judgement right away. He violated no one's rights and should not be in jail.

It is morally wrong to be cruel to animals. It demonstrates a profound lack of respect for life in general. Those who do it deserve every bit of private and public moral condemnation they get. His football team has every right to drop him and ditto his commercial sponsors. What Michael Vick is going through now sans the prison sentence, is in fact a form of social ostricism and its a good and proper thing for a morally just society to do.

But it is politically wrong to give rights to animals. Rights pertain to the freedom of choices that present themselves to volitional beings which animals are not. The only rights that belong to an animal are those of its owner. If someone should abuse or kill an animal without that owner's permission, then he can and should go to jail for violating the owner's property rights. If there are now laws making such cruelty illegal, they should be removed. I am even willing to compromise and say that at the very least, for now, the law should be reduced to a misdemeanor without prison time.

This issue is a good test of one's loyalty to principles. It is often very difficult to defend on principle someone whose actions are morally repulsive. Like defending the free speech rights of the printers of sleaze and pornography. If you're loyal to the principle of free speech, you will do it in opposition to those who would outlaw sleaze thus bringing censorship to this country, free speech being a value held higher than censorship which if adopted, would lead to the destruction of free speech.

Giving political rights to animals would mark the destruction of all rights for humans. Once adopted, this non-objective principle would spread to everything and the next thing you know, humans have no rights and must be sacrificed to everything and anything that does. How would you justify cutting down the tree in your yard because its roots are cracking your foundation, or sidewalk, or plugging your sewer drain, or you want to build a garage there, when that tree has the same right to life you do? If a dog bites a human the government has the right to use retaliatory force to remove that dog from society. But, having rights, how would you put that dog on trial? And what would a jury of his peers look like? Sound stupid? Of course. But no more stupid than giving political rights to animals.

Free Michael Vick now.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Spotted By Mike's Eyes Dec. 2007.

I think Steven Milloy at Junkscience.com of Dec. 6th. has coined a new term which is so admirably precise I plan on using it in future posts. See if you can spot it in this paragraph:
Andy (Revkin's article in New York Times--ME) is partly right, energy-starved third worlders would (and will) love nothing better than cheap, abundant coal-fired electricity. The problem with the piece stems from the totally-wrong idea that atmospheric carbon dioxide presents a problem that must be addressed. This is true only in the virtual world of Play Station® Climatology and has exactly no bearing on the real world. The real motivation for many in the global warming industry has always been the suppression of human activity and the global warming scare represents their greatest success, far greater than their anti-nuclear activities.
If you guessed Play Station® Climatology you'd be right. Computer game technology is exactly what climate models are about when used for predicting future climate. All the catastrophic gloom and doom scenarios come from a single source, computer climate models, not from the observable, historical record. That is why such predictions of disaster should be dismissed as nonsense. If global warming were in fact harmful to life on Earth, there would be evidence of it in the historical record. There isn't any.
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Accuracy Schmacuracy

In Friday Nov 30th Detroit News is the headline "MSU [Michigan State Univ.--ME] finds tainted food killed 350 pets". But the article says "More that 300 dogs and cats may have died earlier this year as a result of eating contaminated pet food, a new survey shows" (my emphasis). It's just a survey of vets, and vet hospitals in which 347 animals "met the criteria" for the sickness. About 25% of these had pre-existing conditions. My point is if someone only read the headline, they would believe that 350 pets died when in reality it's only an estimate which could be significantly off.
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MY MICHIGAN NANNY STATE PROTECTS ME and...

"Legislators draft gift card reform" is the headline in Friday 12/07/07 Detroit News. The article says:
Both [state house and senate--ME] packages would make gift cards or gift certificates good for five years after purchase. As it stands, the life of the cards varies widely from a brief period of time to no expiration date at all.

The House and Senate bills also would:

• Bar retailers from changing the terms and conditions once a card is issued and require terms be disclosed to the purchaser.

• Require that retailers honor the gift cards, even for advertised sale items.

• Ban the charging of inactivity fees.

"Our plan protects every Michigan consumer," said Rep. Michael Sak, D-Grand Rapids, main sponsor of the House package. "Our legislation ensures that consumers get their money's worth from gift certificates, no matter when they choose to use them."
I do think that changing the terms of a card after issue is already illegal or, if our politicians were the least bit concerned about protecting rights, would be.

The idea that deciding how gift certificates should be used is not a legitimate function of government, would not occur to Mr. Sak or the legislature. That businessmen have the right to use and dispose of their own property--which includes gift cards--so long as they don't violate the rights of other citizens, is alien to the Michigan Government mindset. They know they can get away with violating the rights of businessmen because--

...THEY HAVE THE SANCTION OF THE VICTIM:
The legislation is called "imperfect" by the Michigan Retailers Association, which does not oppose the bills.

"They offer important protections for consumers and retailers," said Tom Scott, spokesman for the retailers' group. "We hope the legislation gives consumers even greater confidence so they buy even more gift cards."

He said the five-year shelf life is reasonable, given that retailers have to carry the cards on their books at some cost to the businesses until they are redeemed.

He said retailers are "disappointed" that the bills do not address cards issued by shopping centers for a number of stores.
Like their feelings of disappointment mean anything to the state! This is what it means to be pragmatic and only consider that which is right in front of one's nose ignoring long term consequences and even the path down which one is taking the state. It also proves that pragmatism does not work.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Editorial on 2nd Amendment

This past Monday I posted on a Detroit Free Press editorial calling for a national list of gun owners. Yesterday, 12/04/07, Detroit's other paper the Detroit News ran an editorial urging the SCOTUS to find that the 2nd Amendment protections apply to individuals and not to state militias. While I support this position generally, the editorial makes a common epistemological mistake:
But the Second Amendment does use the phrase "well-regulated."

In our view, this means the government, federal, state and local, has the right to restrict private ownership of such items as machine guns and heavy military hardware. Reasonable regulations such as registration, gun training, certain gun lock requirements, waiting periods for background checks before guns are sold, barring felons from gun ownership and other limitations may easily fall within the normal police powers of the state.
First of all, the phrase well-regulated is explicitly tied to the concept militia and not to the pool of citizens from which the militia was to be drawn. Well-regulated does not apply to individual citizens or their guns outside the context of militia. I do hope the Court understands this context. As I mentioned Monday, to say the the right to keep and bear arms applies only to government militias is to say that the right of the government to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, a completely ludicrous notion. The right to keep and bear arms can have only one meaning, a right of the individual.

As for the list of so-called reasonable regulations in that paragraph, they're a mixed bag. No distinction is made between substantive regulations, those that involve initiating force against citizens by restricting thus violating their rights, and procedural regulations, those that employ the government's monopoly on retaliatory force to answer the question: How best can we exercise our right to keep and bear arms? It's my judgement that requiring certain gun locks would be a substantive regulation involving initiatory force against citizens thus violating their rights. Where as laws against say firing a weapon in a residential neighborhood could be valid regulations because no one has the right to threaten the life of others. The removal of such threats is a proper function of government. But such threats must be clearly and objectively defined.

It is critical that the distinction between starting the use of force and retaliating with it be grasped clearly. Procedural regulations are based on the positive idea of respecting the rights of others and not on the idea of restricting or limiting rights. No one has the right to violate or threaten to violate some one else's rights. Since that right does not exist, well, you can't limit or restrict that which does not exist. It is absolutely essential that our lawmakers and judges think in these terms. To suppose that rights can be restricted in any way is not only sloppy thinking epistemologically, it is very dangerous politically in that it can lead to all kinds of very real limits on very real rights in turn leading to their complete destruction.

I am not a lawyer so I'm not sure exactly what regulations would qualify as procedural or substantive in any given context. Such determinations are for those schooled in the law. But I think any lawmaker or judge when considering a particular regulation, should ask these questions: does this law aid in the exercising of a right by employing the retaliatory use of force in the service of recognizing the rights of others? Or does it consist of starting the use of force against citizens to compel a certain behavior which does not remove an objectively provable threat thereby violating rights.

An objectively provable threat must be clearly defined and does not mean that because one is uncomfortable with a neighbor who has a gun and might someday shoot one it justifies one's desire to have the government confiscate his gun. All such
preventive laws are substantive in nature and a violation of citizens' rights and therefore unconstitutional. I seriously doubt that our Supreme Court is even capable of thinking in these terms but who knows, maybe someday someone will be nominated to the SC who is.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aiming At Guns

Sunday's, 12/2/07, Detroit Free Press had an editorial titled "Safety first on guns" by editorial page editor Ron Dzwonkowski. He is calling for the establishment of a national list of gun owners. His main argument is:
It makes sense to me that police should have access to a national database of gun owners. If I'm rolling up to a house where there's a reported burglary in progress or some kind of assault going on, I'd want to know if guns are registered for the premises. Wouldn't that advance warning protect gun owners, too, from police reacting badly to the presence of a firearm? Seems as if it'd be safer for both. (In Michigan, police can run a computer check to see if a person has a permit to carry a firearm, if they have a name; license plate checks for vehicle ownership do not include such information)
[um, I thought license plate checks revealed a name which can then be checked for ccw--ME]
This has to be one of the inanest arguments for a national list I've ever heard. First, I don't think there is a cop in his right mind who, upon discovering no gun was registered to a given house, would enter that house on that assumption. Second, Mr. Dzwonkowski points out that there are an estimated 240 million guns in homes in America. Cops cannot fail to know this. Any cop who thinks he will be safer with a national list of owners won't be safe for long. Third, criminals usually have unregistered guns precisely so they can't be traced to them. A gun owners list will not provide an iota of safety from real criminals. I know that domestic violence cases are often very dangerous for police but an owners list will not alleviate that one bit, unless the gun is removed before the DV crime is committed and that is the real point isn't it.

This is nothing but an attempt to get all guns registered which will be an aid to any attempt to confiscate them. Using harmless sounding words and phrases like "But nobody's allowed to keep a list of who's armed" (poor oppressed government) and "...not even for police-eyes only..." (can't we even have a peek?) Mr. Dzwonkowski is trying to couch this as a harmless little list for police-eyes only which will simply be used for police safety. Right! If you can believe that....

This editorial does have merit though. It shows how a principle (like letting the government keep records on you) once adopted even only partly, grows by its own merit until it is applied entirely or is repudiated entirely. Mr. Dzwonkowski reminds us of the extent to which we have already adopted the above principle so why not let it expand a teensy bit more?
Yet government agencies keep records of your driving habits and vehicle ownerships, of births and address changes, can get at records of your phone and credit card use and, soon enough I'm sure, will have basic medical information about you on a central computer.

But only you get to know if there's a gun in your house. Should the police ever roll up in an emergency, might be a good idea to let them know it's there, and that it's legal.
"But only you get to know if there's a gun in your house." Yep, and that's the way I want to keep it.

He seems to be of the opinion that SCOTUS will rule next year on Washington DC's effort to ban handguns in favor of the individual and not state militias but that guns will be 'well regulated' "sparing us a national war over disarmament" which disarmament he obviously prefers.

Of course the Court should rule that the 2nd Amendment applies to the individual and not state militias. When you consider that a proper government must have a monopoly on the retaliatory use of force, therefore it must have guns, and that a state militia is a government entity, to say that the 2nd Amendment applies to militias would be saying that the government must have the right to keep and bear arms, a ridiculous redundancy. The right of the people to keep and bear arms can have no other meaning than individual human beings.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Night Shift Causes Cancer?

There is no way I could ever be a news reporter or even a headline reading news anchor. I would go to bed at night feeling unclean, with guilty conscience knowing I had fed my audience a spiel full of half-truths, package-deals, out of context statements and a general disrespect for concepts and their meanings. I would get bounced out of any job like that in the first day or so because, in order to sleep at night, I would have to annotate everything.

Case in point: in Friday's Detroit News is a front page, above the fold article by AP writer Maria Cheng which, if I were anchorman--then reporter-- Mike N, I would report thusly, my annotations in brackets:

"The Associated Press reports on a new study which found that working the 'Night shift may cause cancer'. [Which means after tonight there will be no more News at Eleven.] Our ace reporter Mike N has the story from London. Mike?"

*Thanks Mike. 'London--Like UV rays and diesel exhaust fumes, working the graveyard shift will soon be listed as a *probable* cause of cancer.
It is a surprising step validating a concept once considered wacky.'

[Actually folks, it doesn't validate anything. It just identifies itself with that wacky concept which we are to believe was once considered wacky but evidently no longer is.]

"Next month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization, will add overnight shift work as a probable carcinogen.

The higher cancer rates don't prove working overnight can cause cancer. There may be other factors among graveyard shift workers that raise their risk for cancer.

However, scientists suspect that overnight work is dangerous because it disrupts the circadian rhythm, the body's biological clock. The hormone melatonin, which can suppress tumor development, is normally produced at night."

[While true, this is a misnomer. According to this source, Melatonin is produced in darkness which for most people is at night. But if you work at night and sleep in a darkened room, you'll still get your melatonin.]

"There are plenty of skeptics. And to put the risk in perspective, the "probable carcinogen" tag means that the link between overnight work and cancer is merely plausible.

Dr. David Decker, an oncologist for Beaumont Hospital said he's never heard of a correlation between cancer and the shift a patient has worked, although he said it's plausible.

"I would take (the study) with interest but I wouldn't change my lifestyle or go out and quit my job," Decker said."

[So we see ladies and gentlemen that the threat is only a plausible one but the IARC is going to call it 'probable' anyway. My advice? Don't lose any sleep over this one.]*

I probably wouldn't make it to the end of the story before security guards escorted me out the door. I do think the reporter Ms. Cheng, and contributing News writer Oralander Brand-Williams did a good job of giving some balanced perspective to the article.

However, one more quote from that article is noteworthy:

""The indications are positive," said Vincent Cogliano, head of the agency's (IARC-ME) carcinogen classifications unit. "There was enough of a pattern in people who do shift work to recognize that there's an increase in cancer, but we can't rule out the possibility of other factors.""

I want to add that what is really going on here with elevating 'plausible' to have the same meaning as 'probable' is another attempt to morph the meaning of correlation into causation. As readers of this blog know from this post, a "positive pattern" is all that is needed for a correlation to be deemed "convincing". Once so ordained, it becomes fact and no more evidence or proof is needed.

The need to end government encouragement of science has never been greater.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some Positive Posts

Joseph Kellard at The American Individualist has a post on one such individualist, Roger Folz, who built his gumball vending business into a nation wide company from modest beginnings but now is closing the doors having sold it to a larger company. In "Folz is Folding" Mr. Kellard opens with
"They have a cure for old age now," 79-year-old Roger Folz quipped as he slowly, carefully climbed the stairs in his office. "Die young."
Projecting an image of man the achiever, the story is well worth reading.

In addition, Mr. Kellard tells how he came to write that story in another post titled "Anatomy of a Story" in which he shows how a writer can start out thinking he's going to write a certain story but wind up writing a completely different one.
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Sarita at The Kalamazoo Objectivist has a 14 min. video about a man who is not an objectivist but is committed to staying focused on reality 24/7, James Randi. She quotes part of his video:
"Why people are so drawn to the irrational has always puzzled me. I want to, if I can,be as sure of the real world around me as is possible...I want the greatest degree of control. I've never involved myself in narcotics of any kind. I don't smoke. I don't drink because that can easily just fuzz the edges of my rationality, fuzz the edges of my reasoning powers and I want to be aware as I possibly can. That means giving up a lot of fantasies that might be comforting in some ways but I'm willing to give that up in order to live in an actually real world as close as I can get to it."
Admirable code to live by indeed.
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SoftwareNerd has a list of "Ten Simple Poems". I enjoyed them. Hope you do too.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nonsense

While I've spent the week posting short notes on things I'm grateful for, I see this week has been one for the utterly inane and and mindless. First, via Drudge Report is an article by Telegraph writer Roger Highfield about two American cosmologists who claim "Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'. How?
The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end. "Incredible as it seems, our detection of the dark energy may have reduced the life-expectancy of the universe," Prof Krauss tells New Scientist.
It's incredible alright, incredible that these two men bought into the nonsense of the Schrodinger's Cat experiment. This theory holds that states of existence are determined not by the nature of the things existing, but by the act of a consciousness perceiving them. The folly of that idea has been exposed before and doesn't need restating by me. Fools and unthinking intellectuals will always be with us but what is really amazing is that these gentlemen are collecting a paycheck and are being taken seriously by others in the so-called intellectual professions.

Paul at Noodle Food has posted on this also. Comments are interesting.
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Next is the report, also from Drudge, by Jeffrey Earl Warren of the San Fransisco Chronicle, that SF is considering banning all fireplaces. Mr Warren makes good practical arguments against such a ban but misses the moral argument. The closest he comes is:
Those of us in rural communities feel bullied by this sort of nanny state legislation. We'd like to believe that a man's home is indeed his castle. Most of us live in small towns or the country for a reason. We don't like cities. We don't like traffic. We don't like noise. We don't like the dirty air.
A good moral argument of course would be that 'a man's home is indeed his castle' by unalienable individual right, and not by permission of the state. The government has no right to ban anything in anyone's home so long as no one's rights are being violated.

BTW, if this goes through can backyard barbecue grills be far behind?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving Thanks for Rational Education

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I spent about 6 1/2 hours babysitting my two grandsons. A lot to be thankful for there.

But today, Lisa VanDamme, founder of VanDamme Academy, is also reflecting on some of her favorite things. Because I know a rational education is of crucial importance to human survival, I reprint her latest newsletter below.



Pedagogically Correct Volume 2, Issue 3
November 23, 2007

"Pedagogy": The art and science of teaching.
:: Calling All LifeLong Learners: Learn Science the VanDamme Academy Way!
:: Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog


Yesterday's Highlights: Stories From Home

We at VanDamme Academy love hearing stories about things the students do or say at home that reflects their VanDamme Academy education. I recently asked parents to share some stories from home. Here are a few highlights:

Calvin (5):

I was talking to Calvin about the upcoming trip to Schoolhouse Rock, and I told him how much I enjoyed the songs as a child. I started singing "Conjunction Junction for him: "Out of the frying pan and into the fire. He cut loose the sandbags but the balloon wouldn't go any higher. Let's go up to the mountains or down to the sea. Always say 'thank you' or at least say 'please.'" Then Calvin said, "Pan, fire, bag, balloon, mountain and sea are nouns."

Mrs. O'Brien's poetry discussions and literature readings have had an impact on Calvin. He's begun to describe things metaphorically. Yesterday he told his little sister she has a smile of sparkly snowflakes. He told me my eyes are made of fairy dust, ocean water and chocolate milk. (They're green with flecks of brown and a rim of blue.) Later that evening he was thinking of Mrs. Beach and her black hair. He said, "Mama, Mrs. Beach's hair is made of night-time sky and pretty, pretty stars."

Last week we were sitting down to dinner and Calvin said, out of the blue, "Daddy, would you rather eat leather or die?" (I hope my cooking didn't put that idea in his head.) After some prompting from us, he told us he learned from Mrs. Beach that Columbus and the sailors on his ship ran out of food and had to eat leather to survive. He made a little game out of thinking of other things that might have some nutritional value and could pass as food if he were stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean. "Would you rather eat sawdust or die? Would you rather eat leaves or die?"

Jonathan (7):

Allie, Johnny's younger sister, received a copy of the Disney film Pocahontas. She was telling him about the movie when he said to her: "That's not the real story at all." He then proceeded to tell her his entire history lesson on the subject. When I asked him if it bothered him that the movie wasn't the real story, he said, "No, movies aren't real."

Lana (8):

Yesterday, on the way to a birthday party, we passed La Paz Rd., and Lana declared, "La Paz is the capital of Bolivia!" (A fact learned in Mr. Mizrahi's geography class.) Later that day, she feared Greta was being too rough on their dog Gracie, and said, "Be careful not to hyperextend her paw." (A term learned in Mr. Krieger's science class.) Over the summer, when I was at the gym with the girls and Lana heard someone say his son didn't "do too good in school," Lana waited until he was gone and whispered to me, "Don't worry, Mom. I corrected his grammar in my mind."

Darcy (4):

Darcy was telling me that she missed her family in Virginia and wanted to move back. I told her I understood how she felt and that it would be so nice to be near her aunt and grandma. I then said that if we did go back it would mean that Darcy wouldn't have her friends Lana and Greta nearby, wouldn't be in Mrs. Beach's class, wouldn't have her classmates, etc. Darcy said, "I have an idea. We can do what they did in olden times and start a colony."

Bianca (8):

At home one evening, Bianca was plotting schemes to steal balls from the boys at recess in their benevolent, ongoing boy-girl rivalry. She read her plans to me in the car on the way to school. I was instantly struck and thrilled by her scheme: it was in outline form! I thought to myself, "My child has an orderly mind! She THINKS in outlines!" This is unquestionable the result of the structured note- taking and writing she does at VanDamme Academy.



Calling All LifeLong Learners: Learn Science the VanDamme Academy Way!
Now Anyone Can Understand The Fundamental Principles of Science Better than Most Scientists
"Fundamentals of Physical Science: A Historical, Industive Approach"
By David Harriman, Historian and Philosopher of Physics

Learn all about it at our brand new website.

Here's what other Pedagogically Correct Readers are Saying:

"I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in physics, and I was amazed at how much I learned from David Harriman's course. This course stands head and shoulders above any other course or textbook I have encountered."

"It's perfect for someone relatively new to physics like myself; it's perfect for even advanced people who want a deeper historical perspective than is usually taught...I found Mr. Harriman's physics course to be an exciting walk through the fascinating world of physics."

"I think this type of course is needed for everyone, as in my experience, it's so far above the courses I've had throughout my life as far as the actual transmittal of knowledge is concerned...In short, this course has made science and math much more intelligible for me, and was completely worth the time and cost - I highly recommend it."

I was a physics major when I entered college, yet I can easily say that my actual understanding of physics is much greater as a result of this course than I can credit to any other class I've taken.

www.vandammescience.com

With this course you will:
* Finally understand the world around you, the world of science and technology, in a way you never thought possible. (No, you don't have to be a math wiz.)
* Learn the thinking methods of the greatest minds in history.
* Understand what all those physics equations and formulas you once memorized really mean.
* Be inspired by scientists' amazing 2500-year quest to unlock the mysteries of the physical world.
* And have a great time in the process!

All thanks to a one-of-a-kind science teaching methodology available in no other course or textbook.


www.vandammescience.com


Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog
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Check out our 'blog, which will contain much (but not all) of the material we sent out in our newsletters. Spread the word!




VanDamme Academy encourages you to forward our newsletter to your friends or post it on your website or blog. If this newsletter has been forwarded to you, you can sign up to receive Pedagogically Correct for free, at www.vandammeacademy. com.

Happy Learning!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks to Soldiers and Pioneers

Today is Thanksgiving Day and I had a great meal with family today. I have several groups I want to thank. The first is all the soldiers who fought and risked their lives so that their families and country could continue to have joyous holidays like today.

Second, I thank the pioneers who settled Jamestown in a for-profit adventure funded by a global corporation 400 years ago this year. America really was founded on the principles of capitalism.

Both the pioneer and the soldier are cut from the same moral cloth. Both were willing to make the ultimate trade: their life in return for a better future.

To Them I say a profound thank you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks for Capitalism

Today I want to give thanks to our founding fathers for establishing a rights respecting social system called Capitalism. This rights honoring system allowed men to create material and intellectual values they could trade with other men. This led to the incredible technology we have today.

Recently a relative gave birth to a baby 2 months premature. When I went to visit, I noticed all the tubes and monitor wires attached to these little beings. I also noticed 4 other premies in the same unit and I realized how fortunate we were to have this technology at our disposal. It occured to me that before Capitalism, most if not all of these babies would not have survived.

So I say thanks Founders for creating Capitalism and the life-sustaining modern technology that it has made possible.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Giving Thanks For Earth's Gravity

Just two days before Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks to the fact that I live on Earth and not Jupiter. You see Jupiter is 318 times more massive than Earth and I think the gravity ratio would be about the same. That means that since I am about 30 lbs overweight on Earth, (I'm working on that) I would be 9,540 lbs overweight on Jupiter. Now that would require one helluva diet and excercise plan! No thank you!

(On the other hand, if I went to the moon, which has only 1/6 of the Earth's gravity, my 208 lbs would reduce to only about 35 lbs and mother nature would owe me some pounds. Seconds anyone?)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Giving Thanks to Carbon

Since this is Thanksgiving week, I have decided to give thanks for a few of my favorite things. Today I give thanks to the element Carbon. After all it is what I am made of. Without it I wouldn't be here. In fact, all living things are made of it. Carbon is unique in that it can easily combine with so many other elements to make so many different and useful--that is, life sustaining--compounds.

It is true that Carbon can unite with oxygen to form the deadly gas Carbon Monoxide. But it redeems itself beautifully by also forming Carbon Dioxide which is a life giving food for all plants. It is an indispensable gas without which there would be no life on this earth. It can be said that we humans are this element's greatest achievement thanks to its magnum opus--the DNA molecule.

I personally can't do justice to this excellent element. But John Brignell at Number Watch has come pretty darn close with a superb essay titled "In Praise of Carbon" which I highly recommend. In fact, that essay inspired this little thank you note.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Right to Paradise

Planet Ark has a Reuters news story by Ajay Makan titled:"Climate Change Threatens Human Rights - Small Island States" (h/t Junkscience.com of Nov 14th) In it Mr. Makan writes:
MALE - Representatives of 26 of the world's small island states met in the Maldives capital Male on Tuesday to draft a resolution identifying climate change as a threat to human rights.
That's right! Rising seas and other natural forcings can be guilty of violating your rights. This isn't a misunderstanding. Mr. Makan removes all fog with this clarification:
Delegates are expected to agree a declaration that climate change threatens the fundamental right to a safe, secure and sustainable environment, forcing developed countries to view rising seas through the prism of human rights.
Have you ever heard more unthinking drivel before? If these delegates sign this declaration they will be displaying a total ignorance of the concept rights, its source, its purpose and its nature.

In her essay 'Man's Rights' Novelist/Philosopher Ayn Rand pointed out that:
The concept of a "right" pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
It does not mean freedom from the requirements of nature including one's own. It does not mean freedom from the responsibility of using one's mind to provide for one's survival. It does not mean that one can call on governments to force someone to somehow provide one with a "safe, secure and sustainable environment."

The intellectual deterioration of our age is really getting bad. People like these delagates can look at the phrase "right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (our Constitution is not a secret) and not have a clue as to its meaning. This is the age of whim worship. Like our Supreme Court, if you wish to declare a life-giving gas like carbon dioxide a pollutant, go ahead and it shall be so. If you want to stamp your feet like a 12 year old spoiled brat because no one has provided you with a safe, secure and sustainable environment, have at it. It's standard procedure nowadays.

I don't know how much attention the world will pay to these delegates but if past performance is any indication, they'll get all the press they want and then some. The only way to combat this kind of ignorance is with a clear understanding of the concept of rights which can be gained by reading Ms. Rand's essay Man's Rights in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, or in the book Virtue of Selfishness. A collection of her quotes on 'rights' can be viewed here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Unearned Guilt via Environmentalism

Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame has a great post titled "Trillions for CO2 regulation and guilt propagation". In it he points out how expensive carbon mitigation really is, provides another proof that the whole AGW campaign is driven by politics not science, and shows how China may be blaming the western nations for its emissions. Mr. Motl talks about how the west should not accept this guilt because it is just typical communist propaganda as well as being inherently unjust. All true but I want to focus on the concept he correctly identifies as "guilt propagation." Regarding guilt Mr. Motl says:
This question about the propagation of "guilt" is another important aspect of this whole debate. Imagine, for a little while, that CO2 emissions are harmful. Who is responsible for the Chinese emissions? Is it the buyers?
A few paragraphs later he correctly points out that:
But one of the principles of an enlightened modern society is that guilt simply cannot propagate in this way. For example, you shouldn't be held responsible for your parents' being killers even though you have had relationships of many kinds with your parents.
On close inspection one can see that the kind of guilt Mr. Motl is referring to is unearned guilt. I want to pursue this concept further for it is indeed an "important aspect of this whole debate."

The entire AGW-equals-catastrophe movement is spread by employing two main techniques; the propagation of fear and the propagation of unearned guilt. We all know about how the greens propagate fear. Just pick up any newspaper or magazine or consult any evening news broadcast and you'll see enough half-truths, package deals, out of context assertions and nonsequiturs to fill a book of logical fallacies.

But it's the propagation of an unearned guilt that is the most insidious. The main tool used in this technique is the concept "the environment." Let's look at that concept a little closer.

My Webster's college dictionary defines 'environment' as "1.surrounding or being surrounded, 2.something that surrounds,3.all the conditions, circumstances and influences surrounding and affecting the development of an organism or group of organisms: often contrasted with heredity." We see then that the concept 'environment' is local and/or regional.

If we look around the world, we see many different species of organisms living in a discernible environment. Some even share the same environment like predators and prey or competitive species. The sum total of all these environments is what we refer to as nature. Just as there is no such thing as a global climate, only local or regional ones, so the same is true for the concept global environment. It refers to the total of all the environments.

As an aside, notice how a trick is being used with both above mentioned concepts. Both 'global climate' and 'the environment' are being sold to American citizens as if they were individual things, single entities which can be controlled with a few tweaks by knowledgeable 'experts.' But if one remembers that global climate actually refers to hundreds if not thousands of local and regional climates all dynamically interacting with each other, and it is these the enviros are claiming we must--and they know how--to control, one sees the utter absurdity of their claims. Well, the same is true for 'the environment'. And this is where the selling of unearned guilt comes in.

To get a person, or nation, to accept an unearned guilt, one must get them to believe they are responsible for something which in reality they are not. The method used is the cognitive package deal. It takes the valid meaning of environment, an organism's surroundings that influence it, and stretches its meaning to include everyone else's environments. If he accepts this new meaning, he is agreeing to be held responsible for whatever happens to anyone's environment. It is a guilt he has not earned but has accepted. Thus, if he can be told that his actions or lack of same, had a negative impact on someone's environment halfway around the world, his guilt will make him want to atone by offering sacrifices (like donating to green foundations) or performing rituals (like recycling). {The former is what the enviro movement is all about}

Just as it would be immoral to hold Antarctic penguins responsible for the environment of a tree frog in Argentina, and that frog responsible for the environment of a sparrow in Michigan, and that sparrow responsible for the environment a Hudson Bay polar bear, so it is equally immoral to hold a man in New York responsible for the environment in Miami, or that Miami man responsible for the environment in Tokyo. It isn't their environment. They are not responsible for it. And no one should accept an unearned guilt from anyone for any reason.

Lubos Motl nailed it when he said:
Guilt for well-defined sins must be localized to those who are really responsible.
Amen


(I am indebted to Peter Schwartz for his identification of 'the environment" as a cognitive package deal in his lecture set "Clarity in Conceptualization: The Art of Identifying 'Package-Deals'" which can be purchased here.)

Update: fixed a typo in headline.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Flushing Meadows?

I have sometimes heard the expression that our world was going down the toilet. I always thought that was just a metaphore, until now. My comcast news page reports that "Mr. Toilet" in Korea, has built a two story house in the shape of one. Toilet that is. For now, ABC News online has a short video here.

I suppose he's just trying to be ac-commodating!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Socialized Medicine

Sarita at The Kalamazoo Objectivist has a good post on socialized medicine. She has a link to a 9 minute video titled "Uninsured in America" by Blain Greenberg which I recommend viewing. She says about the video:
It explains how this 45 million uninsured figure is a canard to get us all up in a tizzy about the shamefulness of it all. But actually if one examines the number closer a different picture emerges.
Indeed it does.

Evidently, this video is at a website called Free Market Cure with other similar videos on how subhuman socialized medicine really is. I've added it to my favorites list.
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About why it has to be subhuman, Myhraf has a perceptive observation in his post "It's Over" about why he thinks Hillary doesn't stand a chance in 08. It is:
Clinton is a statist through and through. She sees the American people as helpless, deluded creatures who need to be forced and controlled for their own good by altruist philosopher-kings like Hillary Clinton. She thinks of herself as having "compassion" and "caring for the common man," but when one thinks of people as inferior children who need to be lied to, there is another feeling just beneath the surface: contempt. Her contempt and condescension shine through on TV.
I couldn't agree more. When I watch her on TV she just looks condescending to me. Anyway I do think contempt for the unwashed masses is shared by many on the left.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reducing CO2 Emissions, It's So Simple Even a....

In my last post "New Paradigm: Correlation=Causality" I wrote about what it can look like when scientists consider the issue of truth and falsehood irrelevant. In it I wrote that
So, if one becomes indifferent to truth and therefore reality, one will also become indifferent to the meaning of those things that identify reality--concepts and their symbols, words. Words then become nothing more than tools that one uses to get what one wants in a social context. Sometimes all one might want is to do is observe a problem, like a lady's splitting grocery bag dumping its contents onto the floor, and write an essay on the need for double-bagging.

This article at the Times of India (h/t Benny Peiser) is about:
The UN Human Development Report's core message is that climate change could cause reversal of human development in
the 21st century, particularly in developing countries. Lead author Kevin
Watkins tells Narayani Ganesh that rich countries ought to take drastic,
mandatory action to prevent global catastrophe:
It continues with my comments in brackets:
Q: Should India set hard targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe)?

A: No. I said rich countries ought to undertake mandatory, binding emissions
cuts to stabilise GHGe during 2012-2050. It is unrealistic to expect developing countries to do so. The aim should be to gradually reduce emissions from
developing countries after 2020 [This sounds like a marketing ploy: sign up now and you won't have to make any payments-sacrifices-till 2020.] but at a rate which is consistent with expanding
access to electricity [what is that rate? How is it determined? Who determines it?] for the 1.6 billion who don't have access and in improving [how?]
energy services for the five million people who manage their energy needs
through collecting firewood and dung.
And:
For this to happen we need to transfer financial and technological resources [whose?] through multilateral ways [multilateral means ganging-up-on the owners and producers of those resources], expanding access to energy and improving efficiency
through low carbon technology. Funds [whose?] should also be made available for adaptation. This mechanism should be part of whatever replaces the present Kyoto Protocol (KP) that culminates in 2012.
What does 'made available' mean? Notice how all the problems are only problems because of a lack of access? Evidently people don't have energy, technology and riches because they don't have access to them. Presumably, rich people are rich because they have access to riches. In Mr. Watkins mind, it is access that the haves have, and access that the have nots have not. The obvious solution then is to 'transfer' the resources of the haves so that the have nots have access to them. Have you ever heard of a more simplistic view of reality?

(Nowhere is there any recognition of the fact that prosperity, energy and technology are things that have a specific nature and very specific requirements to bring them into existence. If the have nots are ever to have, it is these requirements they need to discover then have, capitalism, individual rights, reason, freedom.)

The words and concepts for solving GW problems are slung together by the Gores and Watkins of the world in such a concrete bound, obvious, but-of-course, simplistic kind of way, one gets the impression that intellectual cavemen would be able to understand them. Alas, it's not an impression, that's to whom that essay is appealing.

Update: edited last sentence for clarity.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

New Paradigm: Correlation=Causation

In my recent post "Lil' Junk Science Roundup" of 10/29, I linked to an article at JunkfoodScience.com about how epidemics are created by changing the definitions of diseases and how the definition of heart attack will soon be expanded to include detection of elevated Troponin levels. But as JFS moderator Sandy Szwarc points out, there are things other than heart attacks that can cause such elevated Troponin levels.

Now I have no problem with advances in science that expand our knowledge of reality. Maybe medical science will integrate the addition of Troponin rationally. But I do have a problem with widening the goal posts to increase one's chances of achieving a scientific/political/funding/publishing score. In that post Ms. Szwarc reveals that in 1997/98 the goal posts were moved adding millions of people to various sick or unhealthy lists. For example:
“Overweight:”Definition changed from BMI ≥ 27 to BMI ≥ 25 by the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute in 1998, instantly increasing by 43% the numbers of Americans, an additional 30.5 million, deemed ‘overweight.’
Obesity epidemic? Now you know where a large chunk of it came from. The article also shows this was done to "hypertension", "high cholesterol" and "diabetes" just to name a few.

All this demonstrates once again the truth of "Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood."-Ayn Rand.

But what does it mean to be indifferent to truth or falsehood? In what concrete forms would that manifest itself? First, we have to ask what is truth? Objectivism answers that it is that which corresponds to reality. So, if one becomes indifferent to truth and therefore reality, one will also become indifferent to the meaning of those things that identify reality--concepts and their symbols, words. Words then become nothing more than tools that one uses to get what one wants in a social context. (Whoops! My mistake. There is no longer any such thing as a context or hierarchy into which concepts are integrated. There are only paradigms which have a mysterious power to change now and then. How? Somehow.)

The meaning of words is no longer determined by reference to reality but by whatever seems to be socially acceptable in the current paradigm. Thus it should come as no surprise that another JFS article informs us that the words 'correlation' and 'association' are now deemed to have the meaning 'causal'. Ms. Szwarc informs us:
How did they define associations as being causal? They created three grades of evidence:


· Convincing: Associations deemed as strong enough evidence to call ‘convincing’ of a causal relationship included: “at least two independent cohort studies...and a plausible biological gradient (‘dose response’) in the association. Such a gradient need not be linear or even in the same direction across the different levels of exposure, so long as this can be explained plausibly.”


· Probable: They defined associations as being strong enough to label as ‘probable’ of a causal relationship if it included: “at least two independent cohort studies, or at least five case control studies” and they could find a biological plausibility.


· Limited: The label of “limited, but suggestive” included associations “too limited to permit a probable or convincing causal judgement, but where there is evidence suggestive of a direction of effect. The evidence may have methodological flaws, or be limited in amount, but shows a generally consistent direction of effect. This almost always does not justify recommendations.” It included “at least two independent cohort studies or at least five case control studies.” And evidence labeled “limited, no conclusion” was that so limited no conclusion could be made.
So, if you wish upon a star, causal is what correlation and association are. In fact, 'plausible' can even become 'convincing'. Man,what magical power these words can have if you only put them in the right paradigm. (I recommend reading the whole article. It's packed with info.)

Obviously the above is nothing more than the attempt to declare something to be causal without having to do the rigorous work usually involved in identifying a causal mechanism. For a long time now, science, the media, academe, and the body politic have treated statistical studies as if they were a substitute for actual scientific experiments. This study is an attempt to put over the notion that there is no difference, they are the same.

Expanding the goal posts of existing disease definitions by including an ever growing number of non-essentials will serve only to obliterate the essential defining characteristics of those diseases and lead to chaos in medicine. So will the packaging together of different meaning concepts and pretending they have the same meaning.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

ISU Arms Campus Police

The Iowa State Daily is reporting that their board of regents will adopt a security plan which will include campus police being armed. According to the article:
The Iowa Board of Regents passed a new comprehensive security plan that will, among other things, permit campus police officers to carry firearms.

Cmdr. Gene Deisinger of the ISU Police said the new policy is multifaceted.

"The training and arming of university police officers was one subsection of the overall policy that was submitted by the board," Deisinger said.
I am in favor of such a policy. No campus can ever be completely safe but an armed campus police force plus an enhanced communications system could go a long way toward making sure a killer doesn't take 2 hours to kill and reload for more killing. When a psychopathic killer is loose, a gun free zone full of unarmed victims is a welcome mat.

What do the students think of this?
Brian Phillips, senior in political science and president of the Government of Student Body, said the GSB was pleased that the regents had addressed the issue of arming police.

"Students were clearly in support of arming the officers, the PA systems, crisis management, interventions and things of that nature," Phillips said.

He said in August some student leaders at all three state universities conducted surveys at the behest of the Board of Regents to see how students reacted to the idea of arming police.

"At all three there was about 60 percent that agreed or strongly said that the police should carry arms, all three expressed overwhelming support," Phillips said.
I agree with this policy and hope other universities follow suit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lil' Junk Science Roundup

Galileo Blogs has a good post on how the environmental movement places nature above humans, this time in Atlanta, Georgia.
The city of Atlanta, Georgia, is running out of water. Despite this, the Army Corps of Engineers has ordered that sufficient water flows be drained out of Lake Lanier, the city's main reservoir, to keep alive the fat threeridge mussel located in Florida's Apalachicola River, some 350 miles away.
It is stories like this that prove beyond any shadow of a doubt the misanthropic credentials of environmentalism.
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At the website of ICECAP is a 10/26/07 article "Global Warming Is Not Caused By Carbon Dioxide" by Marc Moreno at the website of Gary Novak. It seems to be written for the non-scientist like me. Anyway, I've always thought that the so-called greenhouse gasses had no power to fry the earth. That's because neither carbon dioxide, nor any of the other GHGs for that matter, are capable of generating heat. They can only temporarily trap whatever heat was imparted to the earth by the sun.

Did you or your significant other ever pile on the blankets--3,4 or maybe even 5-- on a particularly cold winter night? Did you find that that person had ignited or melted or turned into a crispy critter the next morning? Of course not. It didn't happen for the same reason it isn't going to happen to planet earth. This article helps explain why.
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JunkScience.com of Oct. 29th. links to a NYT story that says
"After purchasing a vast unbroken wilderness in Adirondack Park which only loggers and a few hunters have ever seen, the Nature Conservancy will not preserve it all as public land."
I'm sure that the NC will not make any more money off this land than the $110 million they paid for it since they claim to be non-profit. Yeah right! I do think all wilderness should be privately owned but not for the expressed purpose of not using it for some purpose. And because of its shady past, I don't consider TNC a proper conservation group.
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Sandy Szwarc at JunkfoodScience does it again with another revealing article on how scare stories are manufactured. This time it's about how so-called 'epidemics' are created just by changing the definition of various diseases. We are now warned that:
With heart disease deaths dropping dramatically for the past half century, the world’s top four organizations representing heart disease interests have all gotten together to change the definition ... of a heart attack.
No doubt, in a year or so we'll be hearing of a new 'epidemic' of heart disease.
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Still at JunkfoodScience is another article on "more 'bad carb' myths" about how sugar and so-called bad carbs really don't cause type 2 diabetes.
One of the more popularized beliefs is that you can give yourself type 2 diabetes by eating sugars or ‘bad carbs’ because they cause blood sugars and insulin levels to surge. No matter how many times researchers have shown this not to be the case, myths surrounding dietary sugars and carbohydrates, especially those that come in the color white, continue, with each generation 'refining' their explanations.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Live and Learn

Did you ever have what you thought was a simple yet neato idea, a cool thing to do, and have it turn out to be a disaster? Well, that was me last week.

I had been impressed with a few friends who had pretty birds coming to bird feeders in the trees in their back yards. Now that the tree in my front yard was big enough, I decided to buy a feeder and be nice to nature. (Moron!) I bought a wild bird feeder at a local store. It was made of plastic, square and had four feeding ports. I bought a small bag of wild bird seed, hung the benevolence in my tree and waited for nature to show her gratitude. (Idiot!)

After an hour or so I looked out my front window and observed a handful of birds chowing down at the feeder and said unto myself "this is good!"

About 2 hrs later I looked again and observed about 35-40 birds in my tree waiting their turn. Then I noticed about 35-40 more birds on the ground apparently also feeding. But on what? I went outside to inspect and saw seed on the ground. The feeder trays had a tiny hole in them obviously for rainwater drainage. Evidently, some of the seeds were small enough to fall through. Either that or the feeder birds were sloppy eaters.

I went back into the house and watched as the 80 or so birds returned and said unto myself "Oh s--t!" I decided to step back and consider the facts I had observed on this day.

First, the birds were all sparrows, no pretty birds.

Second, at the base of my tree is a ring of white bricks which border a planting of Hens and Chicks which were growing nicely. But I noticed that my once green Hens and Chicks were now turning white along with parts of the lawn.

Third, those birds finished off about 2 pounds of feed in 5 hrs flat. Keeping it full was going to be expensive.

Fourth, I reasoned that if there are that many sparrows in my neighborhood, they certainly aren't in any danger of starving and definitely don't need me to feed them.

Fifth and lastly, since this was unfolding in my front yard, my neighbors had to be looking out their window wondering "WTF is he doing?"

So, since winter is almost here, I have decided to take down this particular feeder and do a little research over the winter. Maybe I'll think about getting special feeders like hummingbird or finch feeders or some such. Maybe I'll consider putting the feeders in my back yard perhaps hanging from the garage corners. In the meantime I will take solace in the idea that I didn't make a mistake but rather, had a learning experience, and that's a good thing.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Viva Carbon

John Brignell, moderator of Number Watch, has a pretty good post titled "In Praise of Carbon" which I highly recommend. (h/t JunkScience.com of Oct 22nd.) He puts the whole global warming issue in perspective. I thought his section "In The Stocks" about how AGW has become a secular religion was very perceptive. For example:
When you are establishing a new religion, it is necessary to create the basic infrastructure of sacrifice, ritual and credence. Commitment comes from the combination of these three, but the greatest of these is belief. It is not sufficient to induce just any undemanding belief, such as that the sky is blue. That would require no leap of faith and therefore no devotion. If you can induce a belief that is logically insupportable, such as the reward for immolating yourself and others being eternal attendance by somewhat implausibly numerous virgins, then you have established mastery. It is then, of course, absolutely necessary to cut off other interfering sources of information, which is why the Greenies made such strenuous, if covert, efforts to occupy the commanding heights of the scientific and media establishments, from which to orchestrate a blanket censorship of alternative views.

That is the perversity of some manifestations of religion. They operate on a principle of opposites in the nomination of that which is defined as evil. The contradictions are an essential part of the mystique. Religion creates commitment by belief and then adds reinforcement by demanding sacrifice and ritual. It is in the nature of man to deny that a sacrifice, once made, has been in vain, it offends his self regard, so that each further little discomfort and inconvenience affirms the dedication. They have been with us since the dawn of human language – doomsayers, puritans, flagellants, killjoys – the deniers of contentment and the promoters of pain. Every tiny pointless gesture reinforces the commitment: turn off the stand-by light, tolerate death-dealing maggots in the garbage bin, do without the holiday, abandon fresh milk and on and on. Each gesture must involve an element of pain or discomfort and be linkable by mangled logic to the realisation of the return to the supposed stone-age paradise.
Of course the sacrifice would entail the giving up of things as mentioned, the rituals to be performed would be all manner of things like using fluorescent bulbs, recycling, car-pooling, etc. Credence would be achieved by getting people to accept the notion that truth is determined by a "consensus" and by smearing those who don't share the consensus as heretics and non-believers by using the terms 'skeptics', 'deniers' and 'doubters.'

I think this sentence is very true: "It is in the nature of man to deny that a sacrifice, once made, has been in vain, it offends his self regard, so that each further little discomfort and inconvenience affirms the dedication." It is also why an enjoyment of life proper to a rational being in an industrial and technological society will evoke feelings of guilt in the believers and a desire to atone by performing more rituals and sacrifices.

Mr. Brignell ends his essay with:
So, if it is in your nature to give thanks for anything, spare a thought for the much maligned atom that is your primal ancestor and the provider of everything that you are, that you have and that keeps you alive.
A good idea. So, I now think I will write two essays the week of Thanksgiving: one thanking capitalism and modern technology and the other thanking the life giving gas of carbon dioxide. I will include a link to Mr. Brignell's article and may pattern mine after his own. Hell, it might even make a good LTE to the local papers. In fact, I would like to see all my readers follow Mr. Brignell's lead and write LTEs to their local papers Thanksgiving week in praise of carbon and its life sustaining dioxide.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Assault on the Profit Motive

My Congressional Representative sends out a newsletter about once a week. I sometimes write a short note agreeing and disagreeing on various of his positions. Today, I reprint below the first of my congressman's accomplishments:

House Adopts Legislation to Crack Down on Iraq Contracting Fraud

On October 9, the House of Representatives voted 375 to 3 to approve the War Profiteering Prevention Act [H.R. 400] to make war profiteering a felony, subject to up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million or twice the profits of the crime. There is currently no federal statute specifically targeted at prohibiting contracting fraud during times of war, military action, or reconstruction activities.

War profiteering and reconstruction fraud by U.S. companies has become a significant problem in the Iraq war. The U.S. has devoted more than $50 billion to U.S. contractors for relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq alone, with billions of these dollars unaccounted for. In February, the head of the Defense Contract Audit Agency testified that the agency estimated that there have been more than $10 billion in questioned and unsupported costs related to Iraq reconstruction and troop support contracts since 2003.

(link omitted)

So I sent this letter to his office.

Dear Congressman:

"I object to your voting for the anti-profiteering legislation regarding Iraq contractors.This is nothing but an attack on the concept of profits. I have no problem with prosecuting companies who actually commit fraud in their contracting. If you were serious about fraud, I would think you would go exclusively after that practice. But you don't. Your concern is also that someone may 'profit' from the fraud implying that if no profits were had, the deceit and dishonesty would not be as serious.

This evaluation is supported further by the fact that you specifically cite profits as evidence of possible fraud "War profiteering and construction fraud...". This means that any company making any money in Iraq is automatically suspect in your eyes.

The Constitution's declaration that every man has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the first declaration in mans' history that held profits to be moral so long as the same right of others to profit is respected. In this light, equating fraud with profit making is very un-American.

The issue of whether profits were made is irrelevant to the issue of was a crime committed. Profits may be a motive-and often are-but never a proof of guilt, nor should they be the target of any legislation. HR400 "to make war profiteering a felony" which you supported, is a direct attack on profits, not fraud. Sure, the word fraud is mentioned several times in your newsletter, but it is not the main focus of HR400, profiteering, or making money, is.

I'm not saying that a thief shouldn't have his loot confiscated and returned to its rightful owner. I am saying that when he goes to jail, it's not because he stole an ipod instead of a toaster.

As mentioned, I'm 100% in support of your efforts to go after fraud. I'm 100% opposed to going after profits as if they were a sign of some kind of evil."
*************************

I want to add that the concept of "profiteering" is a cognitive package deal. A package deal is a concept that destroys the valid meaning of a concept by replacing it with a pseudo or false meaning. In this case, the valid concept money making--the rational pursuit of wealth--is equated with the also valid but opposite meaning of--the irrational pursuit of wealth--in which thieves, robbers and con men indulge.

It is not the case that the users of that package deal are saying "We want a concept that refers to wealth gained by dishonest means but we don't want to disparage or smear in any way the concept of the rational pursuit of profit." No sir. The exact opposite is true. The users of 'profiteering' fully intend to obliterate the distinction between the honest (rational) and dishonest (irrational) pursuit of wealth.

The public is already familiar with the concept of racketeering (another package deal) and by means of association, will attribute the same negative or immoral connotation to 'profiteering'. Thus, when a member of the public hears the term 'profiteering', he will associate the negative or immoral meaning to it. He will also come to believe that the crime is not in the violation of some one's rights, but in profiting from that violation. This means that a bunch of CDs bought with the thousand dollars he just robbed at gun point is evil because he is 'profiteering'. But giving that stolen thousand dollars to his favorite charity is not 'profiteering' and so is not evil. (This last is called taxation.)

As a side note,the above mentioned concept 'racketeering' is also a package deal in that it refers only to that which is illegal and not necessarily a rights violation. It reminds me of the excellent analogy by Peter Schwartz in his CD lecture Clarity in Conceptualization: The Art of Identifying "Package Deals" which I recommend and can be purchased here. In it, Mr.Schwartz explains how the concept criminal could be destroyed by creating the concept 'rule ignorer'. In which case, the idea of a person who violates rights (criminal) is replaced by the idea of a person who ignores arbitrary rules like wearing white after Labor Day. In this way, the government, as a protector of individual rights, is replaced with the idea of government as the issuer of arbitrary rules which every one else must obey.
I would say that the concept 'racketeering' is a version of 'rule ignorer'. Again, I really recommend buying Mr. Schwartz's 4 CD set linked above. Knowing how to spot package deals is like having one's own mental firewall which helps one detect the viruses of package deals and anti-concepts which in turn destroy one's ability to think clearly.

Anyway, I couldn't let my congressman's chest beating go unchallenged. I don't expect him to convert to my way of thinking but I do want him to know there is a difference of registered voter opinion out there. Actually, my rep. is an old fashioned liberal, the old left, so there are fragments of his reasoning one can appeal to.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Interview

Grant Jones at the Dougout posts on an interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Reason magazine. If you read the whole article he links to, you'll see her level of conceptualization is considerably more advanced than the interviewer's. Consider this exerpt:
There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

Reason: Are we really heading toward anything so ominous?
You'd think this last question was asked by a liberal or leftist in denial of reality but no, it was a conservative.

Or this exerpt from the article:
Reason: I want my government to protest the Rushdie fatwa. I’m not so sure they ought to diplomatically engage some idiots burning a piece of cloth or a straw figure in the streets of Islamabad. Isn’t there a huge difference between the two?

Hirsi Ali: It’s not just a piece of cloth. It’s a symbol. In a tribal mind-set, if I’m allowed to take something and get away with it, I’ll come back and take some more. In fact, I’ll come and take the whole place, especially since it’s my holy obligation to spread Islam to the outskirts of the earth and I know I’ll be rewarded in heaven. At that point, I’ve only done my religious obligation while you’re still sitting there rationalizing that your own flag is a piece of cloth.

We have to get serious about this. The Egyptian dictatorship would not allow many radical imams to preach in Cairo, but they’re free to preach in giant mosques in London. Why do we allow it?
Wow! Is this lady tuned in to a reality that the interviewer-and many in America's educated class-isn't? Read the whole article, an intellectual breath of fresh air.

Ignobel Peace Award

I swear if I should ever win a Nobel peace prize I would refuse it and make a public statement repudiating the award and the people behind it. I could not accept an award given to a terrorist like Arafat, a weakling like Carter and a second hander like Gore and help them pretend there is any merit to it whatsoever. Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Successful" Pedagogy

Lisa VanDamme of VanDamme Academy gives us a glimpse into one of the classes at the Academy in a letter sent home to the parents of students. Reprinted below.


Pedagogically Correct Volume 2, Issue 2
October 5, 2007

"Pedagogy": The art and science of teaching.
:: Yesterday's Highlights: "Success"
:: Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog


Yesterday's Highlights: "Success"

In a letter called "Yesterday's Highlights," I periodically describe my observations of classes to the VanDamme Academy parents. I have decided to share these highlights with readers of this newsletter as well. I hope you enjoy your glimpse into a VanDamme Academy classroom.

Success

Dear Parents,

This week and last, I have had the pleasure of teaching poetry to Rooms 1-5. This gave me an opportunity to get to know each of the students a little better, and to share with them something I love.

In each class, we studied a poem that connects to the novel the class had recently completed. If you want to learn more about your child's education, help him study his poem, and ask him to explain how it relates to what he has been discussing in literature.

For example, Room 5 is memorizing the following gem of a poem, which I only recently discovered, and which immediately struck me as having an obvious connection to The Miracle Worker.

Success

If you want a thing bad enough To go out and fight for it, Work day and night for it, Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it

If only desire of it Makes you quite mad enough Never to tire of it, Makes you hold all other things tawdry and cheap for it

If life seems all empty and useless without it And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,

If gladly you'll sweat for it, Fret for it, Plan for it, Lose all your terror of God or man for it,

If you'll simply go after that thing that you want. With all your capacity, Strength and sagacity, Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,

If neither cold poverty, famished and gaunt, Nor sickness nor pain Of body or brain Can turn you away from the thing that you want,

If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it, You'll get it!

BERTON BRALEY

The students were quick to identify and explain that this poem captured Annie Sullivan's dogged, dauntless determination to teach language to Helen Keller. They noted that she "gave up her sleep for it," immediately implementing ideas that struck her in the middle of the night; that she held Helen's obedience and grooming as "tawdry and cheap" compared to her need to learn language; that she endured the bodily pain of being slapped, kicked, stuck with a pin, and having her tooth knocked out, and never gave up on her goal; and that she lost all terror of God, man, and Captain Keller for it. Now, they have seen this theme demonstrated in the inspirational character of Annie Sullivan, and they have heard it eloquently captured in the words of Berton Braley.

Poetry is incredible fuel for the soul. After your children have memorized the poems, they will have a claim to them, and will have them at the ready when a relevant time arises. Just today, a parent shared with me a charming story of her daughters reciting their poem "Courage" to her when she was afraid to jump from the Jacuzzi into the pool.

I will take inspiration from "Success." This school is something I have had to "fret for" and "plan for," something that has at times taken all my "strength and sagacity," something I "schemed" and "dreamed" about. And my life would definitely be "empty and useless" without it. Thank you for helping all of us at VanDamme Academy achieve our "Success." We, in turn, will help your children to do the same.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Saving Michigan

As most of my readers know, Michigan's economy is in the dumps. This week's Detroit papers have been full of articles on the new budget just passed by the state legislature last weekend. As I look at the Detroit News of Tuesday Oct 2nd. I have to laugh at some things and shake my head at others.

First, objectivists understand that altruism is a morality of intentions over results and insists that one's actions should not be condemned or attacked if one's intentions are held to be noble and virtuous.

Well, in a special section called Michigan's Budget Solution, Governor Jennifer Granholm is quoted as saying "I'm very angry at those on the fringe who would attack legislators who voted their conscience." In other words, if you vote to do what you think is right, you should be exempt from criticism, regardless of the possibility those actions might do more harm than good by violating the rights of citizens.

Also implied in that statement is the notion that anyone who criticizes those "who voted their conscience" should not be taken seriously because they are on the "fringe" which means don't bother to examine their arguments, just dismiss them out of hand.

Lastly, the entire premise of the statement, "voted their conscience" is extremely, to the nth power, laughable. Why? In a News editorial it is pointed out that:
The size of the bureaucracy is not measurably shrinking, privatization of services is not significantly expanding, and the incentive for ongoing reforms is evaporating.

This budget promises to give state government a generous windfall. More than half of the $1.4 billion tax increase will go to cover the budget deficit pushed forward last year.

Once that bill is paid, nearly $800 million will be available in coming years to spend on new programs.

The expansion of the sales tax to certain services also gives lawmakers a convenient vehicle for raising future taxes. Expect the number of services covered to grow whenever the government needs more money.
Voted their conscience eh?

But what are those 'services' destined for tax increases?
Besides targeting mainstream industries such as consulting and financial planning, the sales tax changes strike the less familiar and the offbeat: Astrologers, psychics, phrenologists and numerologists would have to begin charging their clients an extra 6 percent.

"None of them contacted us," [State Rep. Steve] Bieda joked. "They must not have seen it coming."
For a complete list of targeted services go here and scroll down to "Taxed Services."

The very beginning of this article is also revealing.
Dating services are covered, but a round of golf is not.

Going skiing will be subject to the state's 6 percent sales tax but not going to see the Detroit Lions.

Consultants' services will be taxed, lawyers' won't be.
Yep, since many of our legislators are lawyers who like to golf, this is what "voted their conscience" looks like.

While there are many other absurdities and inanities in the articles in that edition, I will close with the above linked article's closing paragraphs:
While it's hard to determine how much those "industries" [seers] generate a year, psychic Nina Toro of Dearborn Heights said it's not much. "There is no profit in psychic reading," she said. "If business picked up I'd be more than willing to pay the 6 percent."

Layoffs and foreclosures have hurt her business as well. She typically charges $25 a session, but will drop her price to $10 for the unemployed.

As for the state's future: "I don't see any good."
Neither do I.