Tag: Sociology

Weekend Roundup

It’s a slow week in politics and the Olympics are on. But that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of really stupid stories to cover. Here’s a look at what’s going on with the election three months away (and God, it can’t happen a moment too soon, can it?)

Nikki Haley is in big trouble for getting her daughter a state job. Surely, this job must be a six figure cushy … what? … what?! … she’s working part-time in a gift shop? This is what your outrage-o-meter got pinged by? If this is Nikki Haley’s big scandal, she must be the cleanest fucking governor ever.

NBC’s Olympics coverage is coming in for its usual thrashing. Look, I get the tape delay: people want to watch the stuff in prime time. But you’d think NBC would figure out how to make their streaming more accessible: since I don’t have a cable subscription, I’m shut out. More disturbingly, they decided to cut out a tribute to the 7/7 victims from the Opening Ceremonies and their response is that Americans wouldn’t have been interested.

Like hell. When 7/7 hit, every blog in America put up an image of the British flag, expressed its sympathy and solidarity and wondered why the terrorists thought they were going to scared the British of all people. Granted, I move in academic circles and have a Brit in the office next to me. But I have yet to hear anyone tell me, “Boy, I’m glad they cut that 7/7 tribute out.”

With the Olympics, comes the requisite stupidity about athletes being too sexy and Americans focusing on the wrong sports. I respond to this stupidity here. And if the attention to the Michelle Jenneke video seems wrong, read this.

Apparently, Aaron Sorkin’s newest TV show is horrid — even preachier than The West Wing. Cato breaks down the latest stupidity on Glass-Steagel but check out the video clip. This is just horrible television.

The New York Times ran an op-ed this week asking if we should ditch algebra. I’ll let Orac handle this one. Really, the stupidity of the op-ed has to be read to be believed. It’s from a Poli-Sci professor which tells you, really, all you need to know about why our political system sucks.

Blinded With Science

It’s the study the Left is going batshit over:

Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review.

That represents a dramatic shift for conservatives, who in 1974 were more likely than liberals or moderates (all categories based on self-identification) to express confidence in science. While the confidence levels of other groups in science have been relatively stable, the conservative drop now means that group is the least likely to have confidence in science.

Naturally, this is being touted as clinching proof of the wisdom of liberals and idiocy of conservatives (and independents, apparently, since their trust is about as low). This has even caused people to dust off the “smart enough to be dumb” canard because educated conservative are less likely to trust science.

There’s only one problem. As Nick Gillespie points out, the question was not about trusting science but about trusting scientists. And scientists have, over the last few decades, done a lot to earn this distrust.

There was Paul Ehrlich, who became a celebrity while being spectacularly wrong on overpopulation. There’s Algore, massively overstating the case on … everything. There was the EPA study of second-hand smoke, which was so riddled with distortions that Judge Osteen threw it out. There was the CDC study that claimed obesity killed 400,000 Americans, later revised down to 26,000. The CSPI first forced trans-fats down our throats, then yanked them back while blaming “industry”. A major study that claimed autism was caused by vaccines turned out to be a fraud. And while the BEST study has confirmed their results, the sloppy research at East Anglia did global warming theory no favors. Just recently, a study came out claiming that even a little red meat shortens your life. But that study may be flawed as well.

Look, I’m a scientist. I love science. I’ve spent literally half my life in astrophysics, one of the most inter-disciplinary of the sciences. I love doing public nights to bring science to the public and drag my daughter out to look through a telescope at least once a week.

I love science for many reasons. I love it because it’s cool. Last month, I was co-I on a proposal to put a telescope on a suborbital rocket and launch it into the atmosphere. How cool is that? I love it because of the sense of discovery. Last week, I discovered a star hidden in the light of its binary star companion. No one had ever seen it before.

But the chief reason I love science, as Astropixie likes to say, is because science works, bitches! The polio vaccine doesn’t work sometimes. Rockets don’t fail to launch if they’re not in the mood. Stars explode when they’re supposed to. Science works.

However, there as arisen a startling lack of humility among some of the most prominent scientists. It’s an attitude I find mysterious since among the many qualities of science is that it is humbling. But I see early results presented with the certainty of Newton’s Laws. Skepticism is blamed on shadowy industrial magnates. And the failure to correctly predict — prediction being the absolute key feature that distinguishes science from mysticism — is shrugged off. And that’s not even getting into “scientists” like Andrew Wakefield who fake their results. There has arisen a stunning tendency to do what one tobacco policy analyst calls science by press release, where preliminary and often improperly analyzed data is given banner headlines.

Part of the blame lies in our media. It’s no accident that trust in scientists began to decline as their media exposure rose. The media loves dramatic headlines. They flock to studies that make big bold statements and ignore those that are more tentative and cautious in their conclusions. And often, they simply ignore the cautions. PhD Comics ran a great cartoon a few years ago on the science news cycle, where tentative hypotheses are blown up into dramatic definitive statements.

And, to be fair, part of the blame lies in us, the public. The pace of scientific progress — particularly in genetic engineering and cloning — frightens many people. The lack of scientific success some fields like curing cancer frustrates some people. Our expectations of science have come to exceed what it is capable of.

But again and again, I return to the basic lack of caution among some of our most prominent scientific figures. Since this will eventually result in a discussion about Global Warming, I’ll go with it. Would it kill the IPCC head to say something like: “No, we’re never 100% sure of anything. But we’re 99% sure the planet is warming and tens of thousands of pieces of evidence support this. We’re mostly sure it’s manmade — the temperature patterns don’t match any other hypothesis. We’re pretty sure this will be a bad thing.” And it would kill them to leave off discussions about what to do about global warming, a subject about which most climatologists are simply not qualified?

(One other note: I can’t help but think that if the numbers were reversed, we’d be hearing a different narrative. If liberal faith in scientists were declining, we’d be hearing that this because liberals are naturally open-minded and skeptical and don’t believe what they’re told.)

I’ll give Gillespie the last word:

I do not doubt that conservatives are, in their heart of hearts, jugheaded buffoons who simply want to will away inconvenient truths by plugging their ears and covering their eyes when faced with cognitive dissonance. I’m confident that they argue from authority when it serves their purpose and then are muy skeptical when confronted with authority they don’t like. I’m metaphysically certain that many are repllent and repulsive and altogether awful and that they tend to love dogs and cats in the abstract more than they do their fellow human beings in the flesh. In all this, I suspect, they are incredibly similar to liberals and, alas, libertarians, and everyone else.

Exactly. Most of our institutions have low levels of trust. The military and small businesses we trust, but everyone else must pay cash. Congress, in particular, usually has approval ratings in the teens and the most frequent response to that number is, “Who are these freaks who approve of Congress?!” Conservatives may distrust scientists, but they have happily embraced the products of science, from medicine to communications.

That’s not being cynical about facts; that’s being cynical about people.

Nancy Boys On Parade

Blurring the lines of distinction within gender identity and in the process feminizing our culture, this is the goal of a group of mothers who have banded together to kill off an semblances of masculinity left in today’s kids. Who are these femin-nazis, these benders of traditions and norms, these counter culture progressives who want total control on what is now considered normal, they are the Matriarchal Mothers:

OBSERVATION: A reason why matriarchal mothers enroll their sons in dance class: Shopping

Boys whose lives are enriched with dance will be exposed to new experiences and different values unimagined by their fathers and grandfathers. A special bonding experience between mother and son is shopping for feminine clothing for dancing such as shoes, tights, leotards and pretty costumes. She can teach him the importance of accessories.

It is an opportunity for her to gauge his interest in becoming more as her and encourage his femininity. She can help him appreciate fashion and beauty which could led to a lifetime of fun shopping experiences together. Mothers, sons and daughters can all shop together. The idea is to have fun and not be bounded by gender expectations of the past.

Break out of those societal constraints on gender roles, we want free thinkers here, limited only by the imagination of what purse goes with what shoes.

I’m not going to post the video, you can see it for yourself, quite a spectacle. And this isn’t even a gay thing, gays dance much better than that:

This guy can bring it.

How many thinks this is child abuse deserving of some CPS intervention?

I posted stuff here about bullying in school, and how destructive it can be (like this is some new phenomena never ever occurring in the last 4 thousand years of recorded history) but unless you attend Pee Wee Herman’s school of cosmetics who’s classes are populated by Perez Hilton types, if this tape every gets out to the schools of any of these dancers, they might as well run off and join the circus for all the {wrong} attention and they will now get.

Talk about confusing, these boys look about middle school age, pretty much the time of adolescence where hormones take the wheel. Sashaying around and blowing kisses is not conduct to be emulated on the play ground.

Notice all the those giddy mom’s in the audience and their shrieking, I didn’t hear any manly ,”That’s my boy, look at how he shakes his butt, just like his dad”.

2 years ago we read about this Swedish couple:

A couple of Swedish parents have stirred up debate in the country by refusing to reveal whether their two-and-a-half-year-old child is a boy or a girl.
the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child’s parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.

I admit that I am old fashioned in some respects but I don’t think feminizing males, turning them into effeminate boys both in dress and mannerisms is a good idea.

Is this much ado about nothing and I’m over reacting, or are these boys the product of bad parenting and genuinely screwed in their ability to socialize with those of their own sex?

The Happiest Place On Earth

I think we all had a good giggle at this:

North Korea’s Central TV recently invented its own politically expedient global happiness index, claiming China is the world’s happiest country, followed by North Korea, NBC reported Tuesday.

China topped the list as the happiest country on earth with 100 points out of 100, trailed by North Korea with 98. Other thorns in the U.S.’ side were next, with Cuba scoring 93 points, Iran 88 points and Venezuela 85 points.

South Korea came 152nd with 18 points and the U.S. finished 203rd with a mere 2 points.

Haha! What kind of idiots do they take use for?! What idiot would pay attention to a “happiness” index that strangely rates is country of origin and its friends as the happiest places on Earth? Why, you’d have to be … I’m sorry?

24/7 Wall St. analyzed the new Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Better Life Index to objectively determine the happiest countries in the world. The Index is based on 11 measurements of quality of life including housing, income, jobs, community, education, the environment, health, work-life balance, and life satisfaction. We made “life satisfaction” the cornerstone of our index because it is as good a proxy for “happiness” as the survey provides. We then compared “life satisfaction” scores to the other measurements to find those economic and socio-political realities that had the highest and lowest correlation to happiness.

Old, stable nations of northern Europe took five of the top 10 spots on our list. These include Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. Switzerland is also on the list and has many characteristics in common with the Scandinavian countries. The resource-rich, English-speaking countries of Australia and Canada made the cut as well.

The US didn’t make the cut. There is some rather disturbing verbiage about culturally homogenous countries being happier. For those of you who don’t speak sociology and don’t realize that most of the countries in the sample are European, that means “white”. But their big conclusion is that having lots of social services and not having to work hard are the key to a happy populace.

As you can imagine, the Left Wing is touting this story. But while PMSNBC’s analysis is better bullshit that the NK study, it’s still bullshit. The OECD’s Better Life index is highly subjective to say the least. You can play with it here. The life satisfaction rating is here. Stunningly, an organization in which half of the member countries are in northern Europe find that northern European countries are the happiest.

There are other reasons besides self-worship that this measurement is useless. Here’s one:

The OECD study no doubt would have had different results had it included politically unstable countries in the Middle East or large emerging economies where political unrest threatens to bubble over such as China.

That is, the OECD restricted itself to stable countries. The US not being the happiest country in that group (we’re 13th) is like being the most flat-chested Page 3 model. You have to consider the peer group, especially when, of all the nations in he list, the US is by far the least culturally and racially homogenous and also, by far, the largest.

To be fair, I think it’s likely that people in Scandinavian countries are happier with their lives. But I think this is more of a cultural thing. Milton Friedman, when it was pointed out that Swedes had miniscule levels of unemployment, famously replied that Swedish-Americans did as well. Attitudes toward the world are informed by conditions, but they are based on culture. To assume a causative relation — that the superior happiness of Scandinavians is caused by their socialized systems (which are far less socialized than they used to be) — is to believe that human beings are empty vessels whose every attitude and emotion is informed by the quality of their government.

Americans tend to be a grouchy bunch, in case you haven’t noticed. This is especially true when we have a political and media class that are constantly running the nation down and telling us we need to be … more like northern European countries. To be completely fair, I think there is something to MSNBC’s analysis: there are parts of this country with entrenched poverty and misery. But they’ve drawn the wrong conclusions from this. We’ve already invested trillions trying to fix that problem through northern European style social services. The result has been to only make the problem worse.

(Side note: Speaking of stupid comparisons, I tweeted about it this weekend, but Nicholas Kristof wrote a truly moronic column this weekend arguing that the Republicans’ ideal country is seen in either Pakistan or the Congo. Don Boudreaux tears him up as does Balko. I simply get tired of saying this: wanting less government is not the same as wanting no government. Wanting less government is not the same as wanting no government. Wanting less government is not the same as wanting no government. Do you guys get it now?)