April 07, 2012

Let's not put science on too high a pedestal

The more cases of scientific cheating like this I see, the more and more I wish Gnu Atheists and others who sometimes elevate science to the point of “scientism” would be more honest that science, while noble in theory, and the best way of researching all its legitimate subjects, is nonetheless a human practice in reality, engaged in by humans for sometimes-flawed motivations.

That observation doesn’t mean, necessarily, that scientists are more prone to cheat than people in other professions. But, has the temptation to cheat grown?

It’s possible, given the ever-increasing fragmentation and specialization in the sciences. Look at the Alabama professor a year or so ago who went far beyond cheating to shooting people on her tenure committee. If not junior scientists striving for academic tenure, what about others yearning for grant money?

Let’s face it, there are serious financial incentives to do stuff like this.

And, it’s not just money and jobs for younger scientists. What about fame for older ones?

So, repeat after me: “Science is a human endeavor, engaged in by sometimes-flawed human beings.”

And, per my comment in the comments thread, this NYT Opinionator column explains just what philosophy still has to offer to science.

Green Party of Texas news - looks good

Per fellow Texas blogger Perry Diddle, who's already done the legwork, here's some updates on where things stand.

First, the Dems can't even challenge incumbent justices of the Texas Supreme Court this fall? Greens are. That's part of 56 Green candidacies, including 20 for statewide elections. Perry also notes that because Greens have one (or more) candidates in five of those statewide offices where Democrats have nobody, that should guarantee continuing statewide party-line ballot access. Thanks, Dems!

That is especially good news for 2014. If Dems nominate another lame-o for governor and Greens have a real option, that person will get a big boost from party ballot listing.

Back to those 20 statewide races.

The Green Party of Texas will elect its U.S. Senate candidate, in a contest between David Bruce Collins and Victoria Ann Zabaras, and presidential delegates to its national convention at the statewide conclave, to be held in San Antonio on June 9-10.

Hmm. Maybe I'll bop in.

April 06, 2012

Liberals can be anti-science too; #ChrisMooney barks up wrong tree

Good answer by Kevin Drum to Chris Mooney on Mooney's new book claims insinuating that modern Republicans' anti-science stance is somehow "de novo" and possibly in part genetic. In part, Drum that liberals used to oppose (and some still do) things like ev psych (and not just its overblown claims, the more supported ones). Remember Gould and Lewonton vigorously attacking E.O. Wilson? Remember the pitcher of water dumped on his head?

And, Steve Gould and Richard Lewontin weren't the stereotyped fringe left-liberal antivaxxers. Beyond this on the left, and global warming on the right and evolution on the religious right, politics motivates other science rejection. A lot of conservatives and libertarians refuse to discuss science-based behavioral economics. Other liberals, along the line of Drum, as well as religious conservatives, may reject more and more claims of cognitive science and neuroscience, the closer they come to making broad pronouncements about human consciousness.

This is why, in some ways, Mooney is barking up the wrong tree. Liberals and conservatives both engage in motivated reasoning. How and why do they differ in the degree and intensity of this, and what does this show about group psychology, and about how certain old, long-evolved traits have been co-opted what we call conservatism.

In short, he's approaching this issue a bit like a Gnu Atheist approaches religion; he should instead be taking a Scott Atran approach. Rather than "pulling a Chris Mooney," he should study how the practice in general has evolved.

Update, April 6: Mooney responds, on Drum's MJ blog. He gets it half right, his response, but no more. On the "liberals" issue, he says:
Kevin cites the “science wars,” noting that they emerged from the academic left. Yes, but what a classically liberal way of challenging science, replete with incomprehensible jargon (“deconstruction”), layer upon layer of nuance and complexity, and more than a whiff of “hey, over here” attention seeking.
The “science wars” were liberal in another way, too—faddish. Temporary. Fleeting. They didn’t last, we moved on to other things. Meanwhile, conservatives are going on a century of active anti-evolutionism in the United States, and climate change denial is now also decades old.
Similarly, I don’t think liberals are nearly as opposed to “sociobiology” or “evolutionary psychology” as they once were, because again, liberals change and shift their views more easily. I, as a liberal, find such explanations essential.
Chris, you're still half-wrong on the "liberals" section. Folks like Gould/Lewontin did NOT engage in "academic jargon" when they attacked the likes of E.O. Wilson. And, "alt-med" science wars continue today without going full-on into antivaxxer territory. As for the "evolution of stances" issue, why can't conservatives do that?
As for conservatives  bashing stem-cell research, I haven't seen that as rejecting the science itself, just the moral issue results. And Mooney never addresses the issue of why climate change denial is so much more virulent among U.S. conservatives.

April 05, 2012

'Stan Musial' is a stand-up double

Maybe a triple. But not quite a home run. Maybe Stan Musial hasn't made more baseball fans' "cut" because he hasn't had better or deeper biographies. George Vecsey tries, but doesn't quite get all the way there. It seems like he just doesn't have as much "material" as a DiMaggio or Mantle book. I don't know whether that's from Stan playing in St. Louis, or something else, as Jane Leavey showed with Mantle and his background.

Heroes don't have to have feet of clay, but many do.

That said, Vecsey does show us that, at least in the case of Joe Garagiola, Stan could certainly bear a grudge. Was this the only case? I bet not; I would have liked to hear more.

And, Musial having Alzheimer's is mentioned almost in passing. How much do we know about this? Is he that aware that he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Also, race issues. I don't think he was a racist, but did Musial hear what people like Curt Flood or Bob Gibson thought of him? Did he respond? I'd like to know.

I had heard this book was good, but not quite great. And so it is. Maybe a great one will come along, but I doubt it.

April 04, 2012

Wipe that smug look off your face #SteveJobs

And, the rest of you Appleholics, too.

Your OS X Macs may be MORE LIKELY to get viruses than Windoze machines.

Now, I've used Macs myself for years. But, starting really with Windows 98, the Microsoft folks, with every other iteration of operating systems, closed the user-friendly gap with Apple more and more. XP was a notable step forward. Then came Windows 7, which loads faster than most Mac OS versions, even the almost-latest. And, of course, is cheaper.

And, safer, for the non-smug.

Now, I'm engaging in a stereotype. Not all  Mac users are so smug about their computers. But, enough are to perpetuate these stereotypes.

Update: 600K Macs already affected by a Trojan.

What's up for #AlbertPujols, aka #ElHombre, in 2012?

With Albert Pujols moving to the American League, presumably bouncing back from nagging injuries (and early-season "pressing" last year — he did, even if he denies it), in more of a hitters park than Busch, with plenty of games in Arlington and other big hitters' parks — AND with a big chip on his shoulder — what's up  for him on the personal (and team) side, this year?

The personal? I expect Phat Albert to bop .320, with 45 HRs, slugging back above .600 and OPS back over 1.000. At least 120 runs and 120 RBIs. You heard it here.

On the professional side? Angels win AL; take the West in the regular season and win the ALCS. Repeat 2002 WS all the way down to an Angels' win, with Pujols making Cards' hearts weep and out-Bondsing Barry Bonds in the Bay.

Yes, that last part is a bit Hollywoodish. But, certainly possible. And, I do believe Pujols will do at least what I predicted. Especially with a big chip on his shoulder.

There's a number of good takeaways in the article. The obvious one is that the Cards figured there'd be no big buyers market for Pujols, and were wrong.

For better or worse, or both, Pujols did have a tight relationship with Tony La Russa, showed in part by Albert saying TLR could deliver his wrong, and nothing more special was needed (as if the Cards were planning special delivery). TLR responds with this quote:
"I feel the Cardinals made a decision that they couldn't afford him," La Russa says. "It'd probably be better if they made that public. They were just hoping the market wouldn't be there and they could afford him. He offered St. Louis a sizable hometown discount, but people paint him like he was a bad guy for leaving. That's not right. 

"I'm a huge fan of Albert's. Albert deserves to be truly honored for what he's done for the Cardinals organization. What distinguishes Albert from everyone is his commitment to winning. He plays the game to win. He did that every day in St. Louis. He'll do that for the Angels." 
Albert himself says he's received a lot of hate mail. I know most my St. Louis kin are at least somewhat that way, as to thinking who's at fault. Well, folks, family included ... you have to look at Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak, too. The Reds gave Joey Votto a "near-Pujols" contract, after all. Yes, Votto is younger, but the Reds are a smaller market than the Cards. And the Cards never offered a post-career personal services contract or anything else to Pujols.

Unfortunately, Cards' fans, including my family, will just blame Albert, not the team. Wrong answer, folks. Ever since Ryan Howard got his new contract more than two years ago, Cards' management knew what they were facing. That said, contra TLR, they're not going to fess up in public.

And, Jim Caple and one other person at ESPN agree with me that Pujols will not only take the Angles to the World Series, but to a win over the Giants. (Four or five other staffers predict the Haloes to win over the Phillies or ... the Cardinals). Not sure about three ESPNers picking the Cards to make it, and two to win it, but ....  

April 03, 2012

Play ball! MLB 2012 thoughts

First, let's get out of the way my true fandom cry that the St Louis Cardinals are going to win the World Series.

While they're more likely to do that than about 17 or 18 other MLB teams, they're less likely to do that than 11 or 12 others. In fact, I'm not so sure they even make the playoffs.

First, via Yahoo, here's one set of projections.

I disagree on several counts, starting with the NL.

In the East, I put the Phillies ahead of the Braves. In the Central, I don't see the Cards getting a wild-card slot. And, in the West, I put the Giants and Rockies both in the postseason, even while cursing the second wild-card idea.

(Please, Bud: Two divisions per league, no year-round interleague play, keep the Stros in the NL, and let both wild-cards in a four-team playoffs come from the same division.)

In the AL? I see Yankees and Rays in the East, Tigers in the Central, yes, but Angels ahead of Rangers in the West. A certain Albert Pujols will see to that, and will rebound from last year's injuries, in more of a hitters park, to bop .320, with 45 HRs, slugging back above .600 and OPS back over 1.000. You heard it here.

Giants win NL, with timely, tight postseason pitching. Angels win AL. Repeat 2002 WS all the way down to an Angels' win, with Pujols making Cards' hearts weep and out-Bondsing Barry Bonds in the Bay.

Yes, that last part is a bit Hollywoodish. But, certainly possible. And, I do believe Pujols will do at least what I predicted. Especially with a big chip on his shoulder.

And, Jim Caple and one other person at ESPN agree with me. Not sure about three ESPNers picking the Cards to make it, and two to win it, but .... 

If you meet the Buddha on the road ...

Don't kill him. Or her.

Instead, be a bit kindly to them.

First, assuming that such a thing as Buddhahood exists, a real Buddha, like a Socrates, wouldn't claim to be a Buddha. Therefore, anyone making such a claim is still attached to ego, or doesn't know yet all that he doesn't know.

Second, the actual Buddha (if a Siddhartha Gautama actually existed) didn't have Buddhahood. Karma/reincarnation, as I've said before, is as offensive as heaven/hell, especially the conservative Christian original sin version of that. Perhaps even more. And, of course, from my point of view, karma/reincarnation has no more reality than heaven/hell. So, anyone claiming Buddhahood on the dogma of the dhamma deserves kindness. (Unless he or she stridently persists too much.)

Third, the metaphysical, or psychic, or even "just" psychological cause-and-effect claims of karma simply aren't true, anyway. Even if we set metaphysics aside.

Regular readers here know that I reject the idea of free will "versus" reincarnation. Well, that's why karma isn't real, beyond the metaphysical issues.

Psychological causes and effects simply aren't black and white like karma presents them as being. Rather, we are all driven by a mix of free will and the psychological "shaping" of previous events in our lives. No two individuals will have the same mix of free will and determinism in their different reactions to exactly the same situation. No one individual will have the same mix in his or her different reactions to the same, or nearly the same, situation, occurring at two different times in their lives.

So, be kind to any "Buddha in the road."

They're sadly deluded.

Be kind and help them out.

April 02, 2012

Romney offers to debate likely Green nominee

Per an email from presumative Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein:
Dr. Jill Stein, the frontrunner in the Green Party presidential primaries, has accepted an invitation by Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney to join him in nationally televised debate. Romney issued the invitation yesterday, April Fools Day, in advance of his expected victory in the Wisconsin primary.

"I'm still embarrassed that Dr. Stein bested me the last time we debated," said Romney, "I'm hoping she'll give me a rematch so that the voters can see that I have some substance too. Really, I do."

Stein and Romney last faced off in the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial debates. Media accounts described Dr. Stein as the biggest winner of those debates, and in one case as "the only adult in the room."
I presume this is Mittens' version of an April Fool's joke, but, let's see Etch-a-Sketch try to wriggle out.

April 01, 2012

Court: Blogger isn't journalist - he may be right

Update, April 1, 2012: The blogger not only isn't a journalist, she's apparently a shakedown artist.

Let's see the new media fluffers' take on this:

A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman sued for defamation was not a journalist when she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case, a decision with implications for bloggers around the country.
Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted online that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group LLC.
U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez found last week that as a blogger, Cox was not a journalist and cannot claim the protections afforded to mainstream reporters and news outlets.
Is this just a matter of Oregon needing a better shield law? That's one claim.
“My advice to bloggers operating in the state of Oregon is lobby to get your shield law improved so bloggers are covered,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. 
Dalgish may or may not be right on that. She is right on this:
“But do not expect the shield law to provide you a defense in a libel case where you want to rely on an anonymous source for that information.”
That's because Hernandez went further:
The judge ruled that Cox was not protected by Oregon’s shield law from having to produce sources, saying even though Cox defines herself as media, she was not affiliated with any mainstream outlet. He added that the shield law does not apply to civil actions for defamation.
But, Dalgish is not guaranteed to be right on this, if Cox is indeed not a journalist.

Now, contra new media fluffers who accuse old media of trying to maintain a guild system, I'm not doing that.

Let's read WHY Hernandez ruled as he did:
Hernandez said Cox was not a journalist because she offered no professional qualifications as a journalist or legitimate news outlet. She had no journalism education, credentials or affiliation with a recognized news outlet, proof of adhering to journalistic standards such as editing or checking her facts, evidence she produced an independent product or evidence she ever tried to get both sides of the story.
Emphasis on the last clauses are mine. Hernandez, although he appears to start from the "guild" point of view himself, goes beyond that to use generally recognized journalistic standards as a large portion of his decision.

And Cox's response, if anything, justifies Hernandez's decision:
Cox said she considered herself a journalist, producing more than 400 blogs over the past five years, with a proprietary technique to get her postings on the top of search engines where they get the most notice.
“What could be more mainstream than the Internet and the top of the search engine?” she said.
Let's try riffs on that:
1. Twenty years ago: What could be more mainstream than junk mail and a filled mailbox?
2. Sixty years ago: What could be more mainstream than Joe McCarthy and a stack of papers waved in one's hand?
3. Seventy-five years ago: What could be more mainstream than Father Coughlin?
I think you get the drift.

I'm sure Dalgish's organization and others will file amicus briefs in any appeal, but, really, they shouldn't. Both for the actual defendant and for the material facts involved.

Here's my response.

First, blogging may be journalism. It isn't automatically journalism. That's reason one professional media organizations should be wary of offering amicus briefs in this case, at least without actually taking a look at Cox's blog first.

Second, I'd potentially partially disagree with the judge that that plaintiff is not a public figure. I'd have to see the details of how big his tax shelter advice was, whether he's a defendant in the fraud case against some of his advisees and other things. He may be a public figure.

This isn't a slam-dunk one way or the other, unlike the Houston-area blogger of a few years ago, who was reporting on a criminal case, a felony, and using anonymous sources.. There's no indication that Cox was even using anonymous sources, or doing anything more than writing opinion pieces. And, even if attorney Patrick IS a public figure, while case law cuts more latitude on opinion pages in conventional newspapers and magazines, even there, there isn't a license to libel.

Given that Cox is using a "proprietary technique," which is probably called paying $99 to some SEO optimizer outfit, and boasts about that, she's not a journalist from where I stand, and probably stands guilty of the failings of effort Hernandez found.

I do agree with media analysts that a case like this shows we need SCOTUS to eventually wade in. BUT, this case ain't the vehicle for it.

Meanwhile, the New York Times op-ed section, with one of its "Room for Debates" set of mini-columns, has weighed in. Of the four contributors, one notes that post-"Sullivan" understandings of libel and public figures apply to the general public, not journalism; one halfway wrestles with the idea of what individual bloggers must be doing to prove themselves journalists, without looking in more detail as to whether Cox met that hurdle; and the other two, including one from the Poynter Institute (which I see as more and more coasting on "reputation") talk in terms of vague platitudes without addressing case specifics at all.

The jail bubble bursts in Texas

The Great Recession never saw a huge housing bubble burst in Texas, unlike most Sunbelt states. But, what it IS showing, now, is the bursting of a huge bubble of jail construction, a bubble that, as documented here, threatens to hobble, even crush, finances of a lot of small, rural counties across the state.

And, for Texas GOPers and others who tout privatization, let's not forget that much of the push for building more of these jails was driven by private jail companies like CCA.

I feel sorry for these local counties, but NOT for the all-GOP governments that bought off on the tough-on-crime, big-on-jobs Faustian bargain that drove such construction in the first place.

And, as the story notes, the privatizers are pulling out of these "Jail to Nowhere" places too. So, I don't feel sorry for county governments, or the state, for not getting some ironclad guarantees from the likes of CCA. That said, I'd like to see a few counties sue the state, even if it would go nowhere constitutionally.

I'd also like to see the Democratic Party make more of an issue of this, as well as get tough on its own members, whatever level of government, who have supported prison privatization.

Of course, none of this will actually happen.