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I told you food deserts was bullshit. But that didn’t stop the feds and states from spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to force poor people to eat better.

As Ta-Nehisi said, junk food is one of the few vices the poor can afford without wrecking their lives. And the working poor — those trying to drag themselves up against the raging torrent of liberal policies keeping them poor — fast food is sometimes all they have time for. The idea of getting poor people to go down to grocery store and buy lots of organic kale was always an arrogant classist idea; rich busybodies talking down to working folk. But don’t expect their utter failure to deter them.

It never does.

PETA Dumb

There’s dumb. There’s stupid. There’s idiotic. And then there’s PETA:

(#StateofWomen refers to the White Houses’s State of Women summit which, as far as I can tell, is designed to advance a left wing agenda by claiming it’s a feminist one.)

Here’s a little peek at how I write. I do a lot of my writing while doing other stuff: working, cleaning up the house, looking after kids, swimming (especially swimming). By that I don’t mean I’m actively blogging when I’m supposed to be doing my job. I mean that, while I’m working or bathing Hal 11000 Beta or whatever, stuff is bubbling away in the back of my mind. A blog post, a news event or a tweet stews back there, with thoughts accumulating around it. And then at some point, usually in the evening after the kids are passed out, I write out most of a blog post.

Twitter often works the same way. Sometimes I respond instantly to things. Other times, I’ll read something, think about it while I’m doing stuff and then comment during a break in the action. I’ve learned, with both blogging and tweeting, not to force things but to let my ideas ease out on their own — kind of like taking a particularly hard dump (cue jokes about my writing style).

With this PETA quote, though, I was stumped. I would think of something funny to say and then I’d realize it wasn’t as funny as what PETA had originally tweeted. And then I’d think of a snide remark and realize it didn’t mock the tweet as well as it mocked itself. What can you say about someone who doesn’t see a moral difference between a human being and the vicious, dirty (but delicious) creatures that are chickens? In the end, all I could do was retweet it and let its idiocy stand for itself.

This is close to the platonic ideal of a stupid tweet. Anthropologists will study it for years to explore the idiocy. It’s kind of miraculous, really.

Further Thoughts on Orlando

So I’ve been spending a couple of days letting the news gather, reading commentary and thinking about the Orlando massacre. What follows are a few gathered thoughts on the killing and issues related to it. The short version is that I find myself agreeing with Brian Doherty. As much as we want to stop these events, there’s not a lot we can do short of destroying our way of life. We are a free country. We allow people, at least in theory, to go anywhere they chose, to live in privacy, to express themselves as they wish and, yes, to buy and bear arms. Almost all of the “solutions” proposed for mass shootings involve crushing those freedoms for people who have not done anything: restricting someone’s freedom because some government bureaucrat thinks they might be a terrorist, maybe; taking away “assault weapons” that millions of Americans own and use without harm; expanding the power of government to monitor and control our lives.

These are all solutions running around in search of a problem they can solve. They will not be used to stop acts like the Pulse killings. They will almost certainly be used to prosecute the War on Drugs, to punish people for wrongthink and to crack down on groups we either don’t care about or don’t like. We’ve panicked like this before: internment of the Japanese, the Patriot Act, the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Sedition Act of 1918. Let’s not keep repeating the errors of the past.

Read more… »

Shooting in Orlando

My God:

Fifty people were killed inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, Orlando Police Chief John Mina and other officials said Sunday morning, just hours after a shooter opened fire in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

At least 53 more people were injured, Mina said. Police have shot and killed the gunman, he told reporters.
“It’s appears he was organized and well-prepared,” the chief said, adding that the shooter had an assault-type weapon, a handgun and “some type of (other) device on him.”
Officials warned that a lengthy investigation was ahead, given the number of victims and the scope of the violence.

Once again, be suspicious of initial reports and fuck anyone who tries to use this to advance their pet political cause before they know what happened.

(I won’t print the name of the shooter. Suffice it to say there are good reasons to suspect the motive.)

Science Sunday: A Big Social Science Oops

Wow:

Social science can be so amusing. There is a bit of a contretemps over several recent articles that used datasets supposedly measuring the personality traits of liberals and conservatives which has resulted in several abashed corrections. The researchers used the data in an effort to show that personality traits are not the cause of political attitudes, but instead both are correlated with some other factor, most likely genetic. Interesting enough. This finding is not what is being corrected.

Instead, what is being corrected is the rather casual assumption in the studies by the researchers that a personality factor identified in the datasets they used is supposedly associated with conservative political views. That factor is called Psychoticism. They hasten to explain that Pyschoticism is not the same thing as psychotic. The original article, “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies,” in the American Journal of Political Science explains:

Having a high Psychoticism score is not a diagnosis of being clinically psychotic or psychopathic. Rather, P is positively correlated with tough-mindedness, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, impulsivity, and authoritarianism (Adorno et al. 1950; Altemeyer 1996; Eysenck and Eysenck 1985, McCourt et al. 1999). In social situations, those who score high on P are more uncooperative, hostile, troublesome, and socially withdrawn, but lack feelings of inferiority and have an absence of anxiety. At the extremes, those scoring high on P are manipulative, tough-minded, and practical (Eysenck 1954). By contrast, people low on P are more likely to be more altruistic, well socialized, empathic, and conventional (Eysenck and Eysenck 1985; Howarth 1986). As such, we expect higher P scores to be related to more conservative political attitudes, particularly for militarism and social conservatism.

Well, guess what. It turned out that they’d coded their spreadsheet wrong. Higher “psychoticism” scores actually correlated with liberal beliefs, not conservative ones. So their study, cited by many liberals as proof that Conservatives Be crazy, showed the exact opposite of their conclusions.

Digression time:

The best thing about science is that it has a corrective mechanism: someone else can do the experiment and check the results and see if they’re borne out. This mechanism works well in the physical sciences, where mechanisms are fairly deterministic — no matter how many times you drop a steel ball, it will always follow the same law of gravity. It works reasonably well in the biological sciences. In biology, systems are more complex and a bit more unpredictable. On balance, heavy drinking will kill you. But there are people who drink like fish and live long lives because genes or other factors or just plain luck keep them going. You also have a problem of reproducing experiments — I can mix chemicals over and over again and weed out the bad results. But I only get to do a 40-year study of people’s eating habits once.

In the social sciences, though, all bets are off. Part of it is that you are dealing with complex systems. Economies are complex, humans are complex and we only get to live out history once. Part of it is an “observer effect”. People behave differently or even lie to researchers when they know they are part of an experiment. For example, Sweden claimed the number of men who had ever seen a prostitute dropped massively after they imposed their “Nordic Model” on sex work, which only makes sense if massive numbers of Swedish men were struck dead by the legislation. In reality, fewer men were willing to admit they had because of the social pressure.

But it’s also ideological. Physicists, chemists, engineers and biologists tend to have a mix of political views; social scientists tend to be almost exclusively liberal. Physical and biological research only occasionally has big political implications (e.g., global warming, GMOs, evolution). And even in these cases, the science is not political; the science is politicized by opportunistic politicians.

But in the social sciences, almost everything has some political implication. So results that confirm the ideological bias of the researchers sometimes isn’t questioned too carefully. Massive tomes on income inequality are praised despite serious methodological flaws. Papers supporting Keynesian economics are taken as gospel despite huge flaws. Garbage research claiming massive amount of sex trafficking is used to inform policy.

An example more germane? A lot of people have claimed that Donald Trump’s supporters are authoritarian. This sounds about right to me except … that analysis is based on sociological debris. Here are the questions used to determine if someone is authoritarian:

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?

Everyone claims this is the “definitive” test of authoritarian tendencies. Is it? Those traits seem to track culture far more than they track politics. My grandparents’ generation would have shown up as very authoritarian even though they voted FDR in four times and huge numbers of them had fled Europe because of the rise of authoritarianism. But because this test shows that conservatives are more authoritarian and all the sociologists believe that conservatives are more authoritarian, everyone accepts it.

But which is more authoritarian? Believing in a government that governs least? Or believing in a government that controls our lives? The problem here is that liberals don’t think of themselves as authoritarian even thought they are. If you believe in government controlling healthcare, education, retirement and half of the country’s wealth, you’re authoritarian, no matter how sincerely you believe that gays should be able to get married or how liberal your parenting methods are.

(This problem of nomenclature comes up a lot. I can’t find the link, but McArdle has written about a study that showed that liberals valued “fairness” more than conservatives. Every liberal scholar and pundit cited it was proof of how unfair conservative ideas were. But conservatives objected, arguing that wealth redistribution was not “fairness”. They saw it as plunder. Conservatives think that allowing people to keep what they’ve earned is “fairness”. In the end, the researchers agreed that people might differ on the definition of “fairness” and changed their word choice.)

In any case, this is yet another demonstration of how bias clouds the social sciences. This was a very basic error, something that even a modicum of checking would have shown. but no one questioned it, no referee gainsaid it, no one reproduced the results because it confirmed what liberals wanted to believe.

Your 2016 Presidential Race

Barack Obama endorse Clinton today. Prompting this from Trump:

And then this from Clinton’s staff:

And then this, a couple of hours later, from Trump

No word on whether Hillary will respond with, “I know you are but what am I?!” and if Trump will lay down some “yo mama” slaps.

The witty repartee of your 2016 Presidential candidates, ladies and gentlemen. To hell with it all.

Clinton Wins

So yesterday was our seventeenth or eighteenth Super Tuesday of this electoral season and Clinton won big, taking the prizes of New Jersey and California. This morning, she is estimated to have 2168 pledged delegates. With superdelegates, she is well past the 2383 required to clinch the nomination. Barring both Sanders crushing her in every primary left and a mass revolt by the superdelegates, she will be the nominee.

(An interesting result out of California’s Senate primary: because of the way the Democrats have rigged the system, the November election will be between two Democrats with no Republican nominee. The choice is between the authoritarian Kamela Harris and the authoritarian Loretta Sanchez. The Democrats claim they changed the primary system to prevent candidates from becoming too extreme. Now we see the real reason they did it. If Texas did something like this, there would be howls of outrage and fainting spells.)

I’ll pause for a moment to note that we have the first woman Presidential candidate and likely the first woman President. OK, there, that’s all the time I’m prepared to spend basking in that accomplishment. Clinton, despite Vox’s desperate efforts at revisionist history, is a terrible candidate for President. And no, it’s not because she’s a woman and it’s hard for women to find the right balance to appear authoritative without appearing “bossy” (that is a difficulty women politicians face; it’s also a difficulty women like Margaret Thatcher have transcended for years with more skill and energy than Clinton). She was basically handed the nomination eight years ago and blew it. She was then guaranteed the 2016 nomination and almost blew it against a crackpot socialist Senator. So spare me the butt-kissing.

Speaking of that crackpot Senator … Politico has a piece up about the end game of the Sanders’ campaign. It’s worth reading in a schadenfreude way. Sanders’ staffers have been trying to tell him that the race is basically over. And Sanders refuses to accept that.

There’s no strategist pulling the strings, and no collection of burn-it-all-down aides egging him on. At the heart of the rage against Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, the campaign aides closest to him say, is Bernie Sanders.
It was the Vermont senator who personally rewrote his campaign manager’s shorter statement after the chaos at the Nevada state party convention and blamed the political establishment for inciting the violence.

He was the one who made the choice to go after Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz after his wife read him a transcript of her blasting him on television.
He chose the knife fight over calling Clinton unqualified, which aides blame for pulling the bottom out of any hopes they had of winning in New York and their last real chance of turning a losing primary run around.

And when Jimmy Kimmel’s producers asked Sanders’ campaign for a question to ask Donald Trump, Sanders himself wrote the one challenging the Republican nominee to a debate.

There are many divisions within the Sanders campaign—between the dead-enders and the work-it-out crowds, between the younger aides who think he got off message while the consultants got rich and obsessed with Beltway-style superdelegate math, and between the more experienced staffers who think the kids got way too high on their sense of the difference between a movement and an actual campaign.

But more than any of them, Sanders is himself filled with resentment, on edge, feeling like he gets no respect — all while holding on in his head to the enticing but remote chance that Clinton may be indicted before the convention.

This comports with my general impression over the last few weeks. I was impressed with Sanders early. But as it has became more and more obvious that he isn’t going to win, he has become increasingly strident and bitter. This isn’t a protest campaign like we’ve seen on the GOP side where someone like Ron Paul or Rick Santorum will stay in well past their expiration date because they feel like the party needs to address an important issue. Clinton has already moved way left to capture Sanders’ support. No, this was increasingly about Sanders himself. It pains me to say it, but … I think the Democrats made the right choice.

So … this is how we may end up with our first woman President. A dishonest, disliked establishment insider elected because her opponents were two septuagenarians with the combined political knowledge of a tootsie roll. That is, if she’s not indicted, which she probably would be if she were anyone other than Hillary Clinton.

So, I guess you can celebrate that. But right now, it crosses me as celebrating your victory in a marathon because you ran it in three days but all the other runners were eaten by bears.

Update:

Trump v. Curiel

Over the last few days, Trump has been launching attacks at the judge who refused a summary judgement in his favor on lawsuits involving the alleged scam known as Trump University. Judge Curiel ruled partially in Trump’s favor and partially against, throwing out the demands for an injunction but allowing the demands for damages to proceed. Trump then attacked Curiel, claiming that he is biased against Trump because he’s Mexican and doesn’t like Trump’s position on deportation.

Ken White has a great lawsplainer on the rules of recusal and bias. The TL;DR version is that Trump is full of it (surprise!). First of all, his lawyers haven’t asked for a recusal. Second of all, the reason they haven’t asked for a recusal is because demanding a judge recuse himself simply because he’s “Mexican” (Curiel is a first-generation American born in Indiana) wouldn’t work:

Many courts have considered and rejected the argument that a judge of a particular ethnicity, gender, or religion is inherently biased because of the nature of the case. In fact, the argument has been so repeatedly and thoroughly rejected that it’s sanctionable to make it.

But even that’s going too far. The case here does not involve Hispanics or immigration. It’s a case about fraud involving Trump University. What Trump is saying is that Hispanics can not possibly be judges for him in any proceeding because they might not like his positions on unrelated issues. The press has called these comments “racially tinged”. I won’t. If Trump is saying that Hispanics, by sole virtue of being Hispanic, can not judge his cases, that’s pretty much the definition of racism.

(Trump supporters are harping on Curiel’s association with the La Raza Lawyers of California, deliberately or ignorantly conflating it with the National Council of La Raza. I’m not going to get into NCLR right now, but these are not the same things. They’re not even close to the same thing. And even if they were, it’s not clear that this would necessitate Curiel’s recusal.)

I’m not fond of attacks on judiciary. I wasn’t happy when Obama did it for political reasons. And I’m certainly not happy when Trump does it for his personal benefit. However, I think we may be overthinking this. Our own Thrill sent this out the other night.

I think Thrill has hit it on the nose. Trump is trying to defuse an electoral liability. Trump is many things, but he’s not an idiot. He knows that Trump University could be a big liability in the campaign. So he’s already delegitimizing the result, trying to pretend that the University controversy is just people out to get him because of his awesome ideas.

To be fair, our mainstream politicians and political commentariat are in glass houses on this one. For years, any SCOTUS decision they disagreed with was the result of politicization of the Court. If the conservatives opposed Obamacare, it was because of politics. If SCOTUS overturned campaign finances “reform”, it was politics. The extension Trump has made is to extend that excuse making into his personal lawsuits, rather than just political cases. But the groundwork for delegitimizing the Courts has been well laid and the people who laid it are the very ones complaining about Trump.

But this is a new low. Trump is attacking the integrity of the federal judiciary because of its effects on his personal finances and personal political ambitions. A federal judge is being slimed as collateral damage on his way to the White House. Right now, the GOP is rallying behind him, hoping he’ll advance their agenda. But, throughout this campaign, his has instantly and viciously throw anyone who has the temerity to oppose him under the nearest bus. What’s it going to be like when he’s President?

Post Scriptum: And just in case were’ still on about Trump not being establishment? The Florida AG decided not to join Trump University suits around the same she got a donation to her campaign.

Silencing Science

Again, before we get into this, here is where I am coming from: global warming is real; we are almost certainly causing it; it is very likely to be bad; proposed liberal solutions are terrible and often counterproductive.

To wit:

A landmark bill allowing for the prosecution of climate change dissent effectively died Thursday after the California Senate failed to take it up before the deadline.

Senate Bill 1161, or the California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016, would have authorized prosecutors to sue fossil fuel companies, think tanks and others that have “deceived or misled the public on the risks of climate change.”

The measure, which cleared two Senate committees, provided a four-year window in the statute of limitations on violations of the state’s Unfair Competition Law, allowing legal action to be brought until Jan. 1 on charges of climate change “fraud” extending back indefinitely.

“This bill explicitly authorizes district attorneys and the Attorney General to pursue UCL claims alleging that a business or organization has directly or indirectly engaged in unfair competition with respect to scientific evidence regarding the existence, extent, or current or future impacts of anthropogenic induced climate change,” said the state Senate Rules Committee’s floor analysis of the bill.

No no no no no no no no no no no NO NO NO! Bad legislature! Bad, bad legislature. Go sit in a corner and think about what you almost did.

I’m not going to mince words: this bill was (and probably will be again) a totalitarian piece of shit. It would have opened up climate skeptics to lawsuits because of their speech and opinions (keeping in mind that “climate skeptics” is class that often includes me because I oppose liberal solutions to global warming). Not only that, it would have extended that liability back for 30 years, allowing climate skeptics to be sued for statements they made when the science was way less certain.

Not only is the bill an attack on the First Amendment, it’s an attack on science. Science benefits from criticism, even criticism from cranks. In the case of climate science, methodology has been improved and data made more readily available to the public in response to skeptics. This has made the case that global warming is real stronger.

I understand where this is coming from. Climate scientists have found themselves the targets of a massive disinformation campaign. Garbage climate memes (polar ice caps are growing! Global cooling! It’s the sun!) proliferate no matter how often and how thoroughly they are debunked. In many cases, it’s gotten personal with online attacks and death threats.

But as Megan McArdle pointed out, fighting fire with fire isn’t helping:

There is a huge range of possible beliefs that go into assessing the various complicated theories about how the climate works, and the global-warming predictions generated by those theories range from “could well be catastrophic” to “probably not a big deal.” I know very smart, well-informed, decent people who fall at either end of the spectrum, and others who are somewhere in between. Then there are folks like me who aren’t sure enough to make a prediction, but are very sure we wouldn’t like to find out, too late, that the answer is “oops, catastrophic.”

These are not differences that can be resolved by name calling. Nor has the presumed object of this name calling — to delegitimize thoughtful opposition, and thereby increase the consensus in favor of desired policy proposals — been a notable political success, at least in the U.S. It has certainly rallied the tribe, and produced a lot of patronizing talk about science by people who aren’t actually all that familiar with the underlying scientific questions. Other than that, we remain pretty much where we were 25 years ago: holding summits, followed by the dismayed realization that we haven’t, you know, really done all that much except burn a lot of hydrocarbons flying people to summits. Maybe last year’s Paris talks will turn out to be the actual moment when things started to change — but having spent the last 15 years as a reporter listening to people tell me that no, really, we’re about to turn the corner, I retain a bit of skepticism.

(McArdle, who thinks global warming is real and we should take action just in case it turns out be very bad, was immediately branded a Koch shill and a denialist for having the temerity to suggest that calling every heretic a Koch shill and a denialist wasn’t a great way to promote science. So, yeah. She also links Warren Meyer’s outstanding series of posts on why is a “lukewarmer”. I don’t agree with everything he says, but he has a very good grasp of the science and makes the case for a conservative set of policies to address global warming.)

This is long past being absurd and going into territory that’s outright dangerous. We have Attorneys General investigating “denialists”. We have cartoons depicting violence against “denialists”. We now have a legislature trying to effectively silence “denialists” by gutting the First Amendment. Global warming is becoming less of a science/policy issue and more of a Culture War issue and we really can’t afford that.

Enough. It’s tiring, I know. But the only way to fight bad speech is with good speech. That has always been the case, it is currentlty the case and it always will be the case. If the global warming alarmists want to make some progress, decoupling the science case that global warming is real from the political case that we must do X, Y and Z would be far more beneficial than passing blatantly unconstitutional law to try to shut people up. You’ll get a lot more people to talk about global warming if talking about global warming doesn’t necessarily mean giving government even more power over our lives.

Update: In related news, Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to boycott businesses that boycott Israel. I support Israel. I think the boycott business is ridiculous. I think a government moving against boycotters is a horrific intrusion on free speech and free association.