Sunday, 29 January 2017

Bannon's treatment of his former wife and children

The Oppo Report has published details from Bannon's divorse to his second wife in The Bannon Files: Divorce Records Reveal Marital Discord and Questionable Parenting.

He comes across as a real arsehole.

SF & Fantasy books being recommened by their publishers

96 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2017.

Steve Bannon appointed to the National Security Council

David Ferguson writes that Trump boots top officials — but includes Steve Bannon — in reshuffled National Security Council.
The Post reported that Bannon has been given a regular seat on the National Security Council’s principals committee, which will include the nation’s highest ranking security officials, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State.

Unlike previous presidential administrations, Trump’s Saturday memo specified that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs will only attend principals committee meetings that pertain to their specific “responsibilities and expertise.”
The former Goldman Sachs executive presided over the expansion of from a fringe right-wing web community to a sprawling hub of the so-called “alt-right,” a collection of white nationalists, racists, anti-feminists and neo-Nazis.

On the council, Bannon will be privy to some of the country’s most highly classified military and intelligence secrets. Typically membership on the council is reserved to the president and key administrators and is, as columnist and author Dan Froomkin said Saturday night “off limits to political hacks.”

Does Bannon want to destroy the US Government?

Ronald Radosh writes that Steve Bannon, Trump's Top Guy, Told Me He Was 'A Leninist' Who Wants To ‘Destroy the State’.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Hill’s Criteria applied to climate change

In What climate skeptics taught me about global warming Seth Miller writes that:
Long before research exposed evidence that humans cause global warming, science made another sensational claim — that smoking caused lung cancer.

That case has been proven beyond doubt. But there is a science story from this era that is mostly forgotten: The battle against cigarettes taught science how to prove.

Before linking cigarettes to lung cancer, science had no established method to prove that one thing caused another. The fields of epidemiology and statistics were new, and while they had some prior successes, the questions were so evident — think about mercury causing madness — that proof did not require the level of meticulousness that modern science expects. The need to establish a link between cigarettes and lung cancers — and the backlash that ensued — changed this. Epidemiology and cigarettes grew up together.
And I unearthed a notion that is rarely mentioned in the global warming debate: Science actually has a method for establishing that one thing causes another. Scientists don’t have to vote on the issue — the 97% consensus of climate scientists who believe that humans cause warming is telling, but only one part of a broader process. And for those who want to honestly weigh their skepticism in context of the evidence, there is a way.
The battle against smoking was the first bare-knuckles public policy debate driven by science. So over years of defending his work, Hill had to think deeply about what constitutes ‘proof’, and how to overcome the intelligent rebuttals of the world’s Ronald Fishers.

In 1965, he formally proposed a solution.

Hill recognized that there are more ways to support causation that finding that two variables track. In fact, Hill identified nine separate strands of ‘proof’, each of which makes an independent case for or against causation. The list of nine aspects — and I’ll go into details below — are now called Hill’s Criteria.

You don’t need strong support from all of the strands to prove a result. But when independent strands tell the same story, with no contradictions, the case is strong. Perhaps as importantly, by using fixed criteria, we can categorize not just data we have, but identify what data are missing as well. And with all of the possible evidence in mind, we can effectively draw a conclusion using classic, human judgment.
And while Hill’s Criteria are not commonly used outside epidemiology, they should be. The criteria take an impossibly large and complex pile of data and break them up into chunks. They make the evidence understandable. And they make the case for causality transparent — each piece of evidence is categorized, and weighed in the context of the whole. If evidence is challenged, it becomes clear just how devastating or inconsequential that challenge is. We lose any presumption that somehow a single set of data could prove the entirety of scientific understanding to be in error.

What happens when we apply Hill’s criteria to the question:
Are humans, by adding CO2 to the air, causing the planet to warm?
Miller then goes on to test this question against Hill's Criteria.

This is worth a read.

Friday, 27 January 2017

German genocide in Southwest Africa and the Holocaust

In Germany’s extermination program for black Africans, a template for the Holocaust Edwin Black documents how many of the techniques the NAZIs used against Jews were first deployed by Germany against the native people of Southwest Africa.
'Subhumans,' 'cattle car transports,' even the 'Final Solution' - all these and other Nazi concepts have their sinister antecedents in Africa in the early 1900s. And the list of the prominent Germans there who went on to shape Nazism is long and execrable.
Decades before the Nazis turned to the Jews, German colonialists in Southwest Africa – now Namibia – dehumanized, built death camps for, and slaughtered tens of thousands of tribespeople in a systematic genocide. Here, Edwin Black reveals the full horrors of an eerie and odious precursor of the Shoah, and its legacy in the US
Black also describes eugenics and forced sterialisations in the US prior to World War II. It seems that proponents of eugenics in Germany and the US were influenced by each other.

Black also mentions the an unintended consequence of the eugenics and discrimination programs in Germany and the US. Many highly skilled German Jews migrated from Germany to the US because of NAZI victimisation. However, at the time there was considerable anti-semetic feelings in the USA. Jews as well as blacks were often discriminated against. So many German Jewish academics ended up as teachers at black colleges.

The influx of German-Jewish academics offered an unexpected stimulus to many African Americans’ educational experiences during the formative years of the pre-Civil Rights era. Refugee professors helped set the stage for the intellectual movement to come.

Among the students who credit the inspiration of German-Jewish professors is Joyce Ladner, who went on to organize civil rights protests with Medgar Evers and who would later rise to the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC] and the Congress on Racial Equality [CORE].

Ladner’s mentor was Ernst Borinski, a Jewish sociologist who arrived from Germany in 1938 and eventually taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. His sociology student Ladner excelled and ultimately became a board member of the American Sociological Association as well as interim president of Howard University. In 1996, Washingtonian Magazine named her “Washingtonian of the Year.”

As for Borinski, he is remembered for fighting Jim Crow all his years in Mississippi. When he died, he was buried on the Tougaloo Campus.

His tombstone reads simply: “Ernst Borinski, Inspiring Teacher.” Ladner remembered Borinski’s devotion to overturning segregation, recalling his “affinity with blacks because they experienced a similar persecution.” The Mississippi chapter of the ACLU still grants the “Ernst Borinski Civil Libertarian of the Year Award.”

Another African American student is Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who went from being mentored by a German-Jewish professor to a distinguished career in medicine. In 1993, she became Surgeon General of the United States. Later, Elders reflected on the indispensable years as student of a German-Jewish émigré. “I can read almost any German scientific literature,” Elders told the Wall Street Journal. “The German-Jewish professors had a tremendous impact on young blacks in the South,” summed up African American attorney Jim McWilliams, who attended Talladega College. “They exposed us to new music, art, and academic programs.”

The Okinawan diet

The Okinawa Diet Plan’s Food List and Menu Recipes Are Wrong lists the thinks Okinawans traditionally ate. It appears to have been mostly vegan, with little meat or dairy. Sweet potatoes feature heavily as did rice, grains and soy.

Did Putin use the left and the right against Clinton?

In How Putin Played the Far Left Casey Michel argues that Russia assisted both the far left and alt-right in order to undermine support for Hillary Clinton.

Free trade brings benefits, the TPP maybe not

In Turnbull and the TPP: desperately pressing ahead despite negligible benefits Greg Jericho finds there would likely be little economic benefit to Australia in the TPP. He has some interesting graphs on inflation and the price of motor vehicles  and textiles and footwear in Australia as protection has been removed.

Nate Silver on what reporters got wrong about the US 2016 presidential election.

In The Real Story Of 2016 Nate Silver details "What reporters — and lots of data geeks, too — missed about the election, and what they’re still getting wrong."

The Bastille Day Attacker

In The Untold Story of the Bastille Day Attacker explores the life and crime of Lahouaiej Bouhlel. After reading this article I get the impression that Lahouaiej Bouhlel was less an Islamic terrorist and more a psychotic individual, similar to other spree killers we have seen in places like the USA.

Values and language

In Linguist George Lakoff Explains How the Democrats Helped Elect Trump Paul Rosenberg interviews George Lakoff. Lakoff explains the differences between conservatives and liberals with two contrasting family models: authoritarian (“strict father”) and authoritative (“nurturant parent”). Lakoff contends that many of the Democrat's attacks on Trump reinforced what his followers liked about him.

This interview seems to follow on from Lakoff's blog post A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do.

In the interview Lakoff also makes the point that many conservatives in politics studied business and so received some education in cognitive science via their marketing subjects. So they have some understanding for framing. By contrast, if you're a progressive interested in politics:
... you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on, but you’re not going to wind up studying marketing, most likely, and you’re not going to study either cognitive science or neuroscience.
People studying these courses will learn Descartes' "Enlightenment reason":
And here’s what that reasoning says: What makes us human beings is that we are rational animals and rationality is defined in terms of logic. Recall that Descartes was a mathematician and logician. He argued that reasoning is like seeing a logical proof. Secondly, he argued that our ideas can fit the world because, as he said, “God would not lie to us.” The assumption is that ideas directly fit the world.

They’re also, Descartes argued, disembodied. He said that if ideas were embodied, were part of the body, then physical laws would apply to them, and we would not have free will. And in fact, they are embodied, physical laws do apply to them, and we do not have absolute free will. We’re trapped by what the neural systems of our brains  have accumulated. We can only see what our brains allow us to understand, and that’s an important thing.

So what he said, basically, was that there are no frames, no embodiment, no metaphor — none of the things people really use to reason. Moreover if we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year. So that’s a very important thing.
 Unfortunately, it appears we aren't very rational after all.

Why Trump's Mexican tax is bad

Scott Phillips in Donald Trump's Mexico tax plan is bad for everyone, including Americans explains some of the problems with protectionism.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Russian Propaganda

Roman Skaskiw lists Nine Lessons of Russian Propaganda:
  1. Rely on dissenting political groups
  2. Domestic propaganda is most important
  3. Destroy and ridicule the idea of truth
  4. "Putin is strong.  Russia is strong."
  5. Headlines are more important than reality, especially while first impressions are forming
  6. Demoralize
  7. Move the conversation
  8. Pollute the information space
  9. "Gas lighting" -- accuse the enemy of doing what you are doing to confuse the conversation

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Jelinek protocol and multiple sclerosis

In An MS diagnosis led Professor George Jelinek's quest to stop history repeating Sharon Bradley reports that some multiple sclerosis are having success with the Jelinek protocol: "a diet rich in seafood, fresh fruit and vegetables. She took daily doses of flaxseed oil and vitamin D".

This sounds a bit like the Mediterranean diet.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Should you be able to be beat your instructor?

Ron Amram explains Why You Should Beat Your Instructors Up.

I guess that if your instructor is good, and you can defeat him or her, then you have been taught well.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The most dangerous animal in Australia - the horse

In Forget spiders and snakes, horses are more likely to kill you, study of Australian coronial data shows Loretta Florance writes that:
More Australians have been killed by horses in recent years than all the country's venomous creatures put together, a new study by Melbourne University researchers has found.
In the period 2000 to 2013 there were 74 deaths from horses, 26 from sharks and 19 from crocodiles. Over the same period there were 27 deaths from stings (bees, wasps, etc.), 27 deaths from snakes and 5 from ticks and ants.

By contrast, there were nearly 5,000 drowning deaths and almost 1,000 from burns.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Because of media reporting our fears of terrorism don't match the actual risks

In How Media Fuels Our Fear of Terrorism Nemil Dalal shows how the media report terrorism deaths out of proportion to other victims of violence, especially deaths in the USA and Europe.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Backfire Effect

David McRaney explains The Backfire Effect.
The Misconception: When your beliefs are challenged with facts, you alter your opinions and incorporate the new information into your thinking.

The Truth: When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Do MBA CEOs put their interests ahead of their employers?

In Why you should think twice before you appoint a CEO with an MBA Nicole Torres writes that companies run by a CEO with an MBA showed poorer performance than those run by non-MBA CEOs.
Miller and Xu tracked their firms' growth strategies and performance and the CEOs' compensation, and found that CEOs with MBAs were more likely to engage in behaviour that benefitted them but hurt their companies. Specifically, they pursued costlier growth strategies and were less able to sustain superior performance than their non-MBA counterparts.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Misleading with graphs

In Why this National Review global temperature graph is so misleading Philip Bump shows how using different scales on a graph can mislead. He then graphs the US national debt and the Dow Jones as examples.

Thomas Piketty on Bernie Sanders' rise

Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era.

Clean energy is coming - don't get left behind

Paul Ebert writes that The clean energy economy is coming – and there's a lot to lose for those who can't keep up: "The energy internet, the ‘smart’ grid, solar energy and battery storage are converging and the economic benefits are clear".

Is Baird turning NSW into a police state?

David Shoebridge argues that The Charming Mike Baird Is Turning NSW Into A Police State.

Who wrecked the budget

Forget the pundits, budget papers show Coalition – not Labor – wrecked the budget writes Western Sydney Wonk

Renewables as a source for baseload power

Skeptical Science asks the question Can renewables provide baseload power? and answers yes.

Mark Diesendorf argues that Baseload power is a myth: even intermittent renewables will work.

Redistribute wealth for stability?

In It's time to focus on the redistribution of wealth to poorer workers Greg Jericho writes that "The former World Bank chief economist says that protectionism against globalisation is not the answer to the labour crisis – inclusive growth is".
Globalisation is not about to stop, and neither are the concerns of workers – especially as we are seeing in Australia a time of flat real wage growth and declining share of income going to workers.

This does not mean we need to cower and put up trade barriers which will only exacerbate the problems. But neither does this mean we can carry on still thinking only of GDP growth. To both improve our economy and also dampen the nationalistic xenophobia that quickly turns to racism, governments must adopt policy more targeted to inclusive growth. They must realise that with the greater flexibility of labour comes the need for greater emphasis on redistribution of income.

Failure to do so will only see inequality increase and the fires of nationalism – and all the dangerous sparks associated with it – burn hotter.

Change the energy market settlement time to encourage storage technologies

In Change market rules, and battery storage will easily beat gas Giles Parkinson argues that changing the settlement time in the energy market from 30 minutes to 5 minutes will encourage the adoption of fast response technologies like batteries and other forms of storage.

Convincing someone when facts won't

Michael Shermers explains How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail.
Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data.
If corrective facts only make matters worse, what can we do to convince people of the error of their beliefs? From my experience, 1. keep emotions out of the exchange, 2. discuss, don't attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum), 3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately, 4. show respect, 5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and 6. try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews. These strategies may not always work to change people's minds, but now that the nation has just been put through a political fact-check wringer, they may help reduce unnecessary divisiveness.

Trump and Patton

Arthur Allen looks at The Problem With Trump’s Admiration of General Patton.

Walking to work makes us happier apparently

Julia Naughton tells us How Walking To Work Makes You A Happier Person.

Tips to move more at work

Nine 2 five health has 5 tips to move more at work, plus some activities a workplace can add to their calendar.

Password strength - the don't care region

Mark Stockley advises us to Stop wasting time making the wrong passwords stronger.
Most of the effort spent on making passwords stronger is wasted, according to a trio of researchers from Microsoft in the USA and Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

The researchers, Dinei Florêncio, Cormac Herley and Paul C. van Oorschot, said in a recent paper that there are two vast “don’t care” regions where energy spent on strengthening passwords is simply wasted.
The first “don’t care” region is an online-offline chasm. The chasm represents the gap between the number of guesses a password might have to withstand in an online attack and how many it might face in an offline attack (you can read more about it in my article Do we really need strong passwords?).

Tricks to remember what you read

In 9 tricks for remembering everything you read Shana Lebowitz collates some recommendations to improve our recollection of what we read.