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If you don’t like the results, sit on it for 2 years.

January 21, 2012 4 comments

That’s what happened to a new (old) study that showed that selling junk food to kids in school doesn’t lead to overweight kids. According to a study by Penn State sociology professor Jennifer Van Hook, Competitive Food Sales in
Schools and Childhood Obesity: A Longitudinal Study
:

Employing fixed effects models and a natural experimental approach, they found that children’s
weight gain between fifth and eighth grades was not associated with the introduction or the duration
of exposure to competitive food sales in middle school. Also, the relationship between competitive foods
and weight gain did not vary significantly by gender, race/ethnicity, or family socioeconomic status, and it
remained weak and insignificant across several alternative model specifications (bolded for emphasis)

The real travesty is that Prof. Van Hook sat on the data for almost two years.

Van Hook said that the findings surprised the researchers so much that they held off publishing for nearly two years “because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn’t there.”

This is a problem with a lot of junk science now. A lot of researchers fall victim to Belief Bias. They attribute the validity of the research based on what they believe the valid conclusion should be. In this case, Dr. Van Hook had already made up her mind that junk food in middles schools should lead to more overweight kids. When the data fails to show a correlation, they person simply thinks that there is an error in the data, not an error in themselves. They then try to tease (more like torture) the data to try and fit the preconceived paradigm. In this case, they couldn’t torture the data enough to find anything that fits what they think ought to be true. The opposite is also very true in Academia, when they have one piece of data that confirms their bias, they tout that data as proof positive that their hypothesis is right.

There is nothing wrong with this. This is how science is done. You make a hypothesis, form an experiment, look at the data to see if it fits with your hypothesis. Three things can happen; the data can fit your hypothesis, in which you try different experiment to test your hypothesis. If repeated experiment all confirm your hypothesis, you can make a reasonable assumption that your hypothesis is correct. The second thing to happen is that the data totally refutes your hypothesis, in which case you reject the hypothesis and try again. The third thing to happen (which is common) is that some sort of systemic error occurred in your experiments that makes the data inconclusive. The only thing to do is try to reformulate your experimental procedure to get rid of the error. That is what should happen.

The problem now is what to do with all that legislation that was passed aiming to help the children? Policies were put into place based off of bad science. They made the assumption that junk food in schools WERE the cause of obesity, before any data could be looked at. This is the central fallacy of most Statist (Paternal) solutions to societal problems. They are never really based on any actual science. They same can be said for cell phone bans around the country, when there is no evidence that banning cell phones while driving actual does anything?

The other thing about this junk food study, is that it shows once again that the conventional wisdom is usually wrong. It shows that Academics are the easiest people to fool. It shows the depths to which people will hold on to their beliefs when the data is staring them in the face telling them they are wrong. I do have to give credit where credit is due. The research, Dr. Van Hook, actually published the study. A lot of researchers get so married to their pet hypothesis, they will not publish anything that might refute it.

I highly recommend listening to this Econtalk podcast with Gary Taubes.

Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, talks to EconTalk host Russ Roberts about what we know about the relationship between diet and disease. Taubes argues that for decades, doctors, the medical establishment, and government agencies encouraged Americans to reduce fat in their diet and increase carbohydrates in order to reduce heart disease. Taubes argues that the evidence for the connection between fat in the diet and heart disease was weak yet the consensus in favor of low-fat diets remained strong. Casual evidence (such as low heart disease rates among populations with little fat in their diet) ignores the possibilities that other factors such as low sugar consumption may explain the relationship. Underlying the conversation is a theme that causation can be difficult to establish in complex systems such as the human body and the economy.

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Why Does the Media Keep Underestimating Newt?

January 20, 2012 1 comment

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself. – Sun Tzu

Excellent article by Walter Shapiro here.

The South Carolina primary has become a referendum on Newt Gingrich. Just 10 days after he was left in a dustbin labeled “Yesterday’s Man” after dismal finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Gingrich has confounded the experts yet again. The oft-derided and consistently under-estimated House speaker has now bested Jesus in his sheer number of resurrections—an association that can only help as the South Carolina primary vote looms.

Read the rest but I find the explanation quite simple….they think they are smarter than you, me…and of course they think they are smarter than Newt himself.

This is typical of anyone that buys into the idea of Statism, which modern Liberals overwhelmingly do. The media is comprised of about 90 – 97 percent liberals according to Tim Groseclose of UCLA (I highly recommend watching his Uncommon Knowledge interview here.) They believe in the central premise of Statism, that the State knows more than you and should therefore be able to dictate what you can and can’t do, for your own good. Call it Paternalism if you want, it’s all the same thing, just depends on the degree of control. How often do you hear a Liberal talk about how dumb those people that vote Republican, Libertarian….take your pick of things not Liberal Democrat and how if they were in charge…

They think they are smarter. So when someone that is really smart comes along (enter Newt) they constantly project their idea of a Republicans on to him. The fact that Newt has consistently defied the “conventional wisdom” (another word for what the Media wants you to believe) should be a fairly good indicator of how dumb those in the media really are. Since they are overwhelmingly Liberal…kinda tells you how Liberalism fairs doesn’t it?

Politifact bias? It’s all subjective anyway right?

I’m not a big fan of Politifact. I think they are subtly biased in favor of Democrats. It’s not as bad as say the New York Times  editorial board, but it is noticeable. I saw on my twitter feed, two article from Politifact that peaked my interest. One on Obama’s claim that “For the first time in more than a decade imports accounted for less than half of what we consumed.” The other was on the RNC claim that “2008: Unions Spent $400 Million to Elect Obama.”

Objectively, Politifact notes that neither claim is 100% accurate. So at least they don’t show blatant bias by giving Obama a “True” and RNC a “False.” As I said above, the bias is subtle.

First let’s see what they say about the RNC claim:

The RNC said the unions “spent $400 million to elect Obama.” We do want to acknowledge that independent publications have reported that number to be the case. But when we looked into the sources for that number, we found that it was the unions themselves discussing what they hoped to raise in the 2008 election. Furthermore, the reports said they wanted to raise $300 million, not $400 million, and it was a goal, not something they had yet achieved. When we looked at the public disclosures after the election, we found the unions reported $206.7 million in spending for all Democrats. It’s clear that the unions raised additional money for get-out-the-vote activities, but we don’t know how much more — nor does the RNC. Finally, all that money went to support Obama and other Democrats, not just Obama alone. In short, we don’t see the evidence to support that unions spent $400 million to elect Obama. So we rate the statement False.

They give themselves all sorts of wiggle room but in the end it comes down to a false, since the evidence says no. Seems straight forward and objective to me at least. I have no problems with this analysis.

Now let us look at Obama’s claim:

Looking strictly at the petroleum consumed by the U.S. last year, 61.2 percent of it was imported, according to EIA data. That percentage has been declining for years, but it is nonetheless much higher than the “less than half” figure cited by Obama.

61.2% means that we only produced 38.8% of the oil we consumed. That’s not a hard analysis. So why did they give Obama a “Mostly True?”

But again, Obama’s statistic depends on the way you calculate it. By a mainstream measure of “dependence on foreign oil,” the U.S. produced domestically a quantity of petroleum that was slightly more than half the amount it consumed. But strictly speaking, imports made up 61 percent of the oil actually consumed in the U.S. last year. And so we rate Obama’s statement Half True.

See it’s all about what they think Obama means when he says it. Aww how nice. An objective person would say that both claims; Obama’s and the RNC’s are false, since the data doesn’t support it. The final sentence for Obama’s claim should read; “In short, we don’t see the evidence to support that the US produced half of the oil that it consumed. So we rate the statement False.

A subjective person would give Obama or RNC (depending on their bias) some slack because they really meant was (BS goes here).

Like I said, subtle.

Categories: Bias, Intellectuals, Liberal, Obama

Keith Olbermann will be missed

November 7, 2010 6 comments

I’m sure he isn’t going anywhere. I’m sure MSNBC will bring him back soon. They can’t handle their rating going down any lower than they already are. So really, Keith has nothing to worry about. Hell Fox might give him a new deal just to piss everyone at MSNBC off, though I doubt they’d want anyone like Olby around.

Olbermann is of course a very partisan Democrat. Anyone with two ears clearly can recognize that. MSNBC isn’t a non-partisan news organization. They are decidedly Left. There is nothing wrong with it. I don’t understand people who think news organization are objective. Objectivity in journalism is such a ridiculous idea that only people with bloated egos and sense of self-worth would think there is such a thing. Naturally the Left holds those ideas close to their chest, as can be seen with any mention of Fox News to any Liberal.

The one and only criticism that the Left has against Fox is that its partisan Right. Well no shit! The one valid criticism against Fox is that they represent themselves as fair and balanced, which they are not obviously. Yet it’s funny that they try harder than most other new organizations for some semblance of balance. They have non Republicans on their shows all the time and for the most part try to be civil. It doesn’t always work. To MSNBCs credit they have Joe Scarborough in the mornings. Either of those doesn’t change the fact that they both have partisan leanings with their new coverage.

All that isn’t new. But what is new, is that now of all time, MSNBC is trying to make a stand? I mean why now? Why wait until 2010, when Olbermann’s partisanship has been on world display for years? MSNBC says it because of politician donations they just found out about…hogwash! Olbermann and Mathews have been doing far more with their nightly tirades against Republicans. I don’t know how much MSNBC charges for a 30 sec ad spot in the 8pm time slot, but if you were to add up time that Olbermann and Mathews use their shows for partisan purposes, it would be far greater than what Olbermann donated.

Olbermann says it’s not a First Amendment speech issue. For that I give him credit, at least he is trying to be consistent in respects to the Citizens United ruling. indeed, if it’s in his contract that he isn’t to donate, then he did breech his contract with MSNBC, so they are well within their rights to do what they want with him.

I say Oblermann will be missed because, unlike some, I welcome partisanship. I am fully aware of the bias in all forms of journalism. Being aware make me cautious as to what I believe. I do my due diligence based on my notions of which organizations have which bias.

The sacking of Olbermann only makes the bias harder to fully appreciate. MSNBC, by making this stand, makes it easier for people to forget that they still will be biased Left. They aren’t changing their line ups, they still have the Leftists Maddown, Mathews and “We as one nation, must stand together, must fight the forces of evil – the conservatives in this country” Ed Schultz, are they? Who in their right mind would think that is a non-partisan lineup anyway, well except for Liberals, which judging by MSNBC’s ratings, don’t watch much news anyway. They must just already know right?

People like Olbermann, Mathews, Krugman, Goldberg, O’Reilly and Hannity provide us with valuable signals as to what bias a news organization has. Without those points, we can’t properly calibrate our BullShip detectors. Sacking Olbermann only makes matters worse for the people who fall victim to the fallacy of non-partisan news organizations.

Tea Party vs the GOP establishment

September 19, 2010 4 comments

I’m not going to bother posting links. Anyone that has read the headlines or watched any news shows knows whats going on between the GOP establishment and the Tea Party backed Christine O’Donnell. It’s not pretty.

My condensed version is this.

The GOP establishment loved the Tea Party, when the Tea Party was going after Obama and the Democrats. The GOP loved when the Tea Party was protesting Democratic Town Halls and the GOP love when the Tea Party rallies around “conservative” issues.

The GOP establishment do not like it when the Tea Party have the nerve to elect who they want to represent them, instead of who the establishment wants. This O’Donnell thing pretty much proves that.

One thing that I have always liked about the Tea Party was that is was true grassroots. There are no leaders and no directors. It’s a truly decentralized organization, that is only possible thanks to the highly decentralized nature of the internet. Thinking along those lines, it’s easy to see why the Democrats at first hated them. But it’s also easy to see why the GOP establishment hate them now. The Democrats and the GOP are basically the same, they are in it for the power not for the people.

It’s funny thinking that people like Chris Matthews, who have belittled and pretty much made shit up about the tea party, are now finding out that the Tea Party isn’t so bad. (Only when the Tea Party bucks the GOP establishment mind you.)

“I have waited all my adult life for an election in which voters have the fire to reach up and burn those who have been running the show for decades, but I didn’t know it would come from the right and the center. 2010 could be the first year in modern times when being in office and part of Washington is the worst possible credential when facing voters.”

Anyone with a brain and two eyes knew that the Tea Party was about real change, not the uppity rhetoric, but the real deal. Throwing the bums out and starting over. Maybe even a little slash and burn strategy is necessary in a few races.

The problem is, that the Democrats have partisan shades on. They won’t see the Tea Party for what it is, they only see what they want to see…..racism. The GOP establishment thought they could ride the coattails of the Tea Party movement all the way till November. Now the GOP are finding out that the villagers have enough Tar and Pitchforks to paint the Democrats for their selfish and unnecessary spending as well as the GOP for their spending spree during the Bush years.

Sowell on Liberals and Conservatives

September 16, 2010 7 comments

Thomas Sowell hits a home run here.

The late liberal Professor Tony Judt of New York University gave this definition of liberals: “A liberal is someone who opposes interference in the affairs of others: who is tolerant of dissenting attitudes and unconventional behavior.”

According to Professor Judt, liberals favor “keeping other people out of our lives, leaving individuals the maximum space in which to live and flourish as they choose.”

That of course would be the classical definition of Liberalism. What we call Liberal in the US now, is anything but liberal. As Sowell says later, “‘progressive’ may be more in vogue.” Progressive is what todays version of liberals used to call themselves. That was back in the early 20th century, until Progressive policies gave us the Great Depression. Liberals love to forget that Hoover was a Progressive Republican. So Progressive that Democrats wanted him to run for the Democratic Party instead of Al Smith. But I digress, history is selective to the modern Democratic Party.

Does the sweeping legislation empowering federal officials to tell doctors, patients, hospitals, and insurance companies what to do, when it comes to medical care, sound like leaving individuals the maximum space to live their lives as they choose?

Communities that have had overwhelmingly liberal elected officials for decades abound in nanny state regulations, micro-managing everything from home-building to garbage collection. San Francisco is a classic example. Among its innumerable micro-managing laws is one recently passed requiring that gas stations must remove the little levers that allow motorists to pump gas into their cars without having to hold the nozzle.

Liberals are usually willing to let people violate the traditional standards of the larger society but crack down on those who dare to violate liberals’ own notions and fetishes.

Our academic institutions are overwhelmingly dominated by liberals. They feature speech codes that punish politically incorrect statements. Even to apply to many colleges and universities, students must have spent time as “volunteers” for activities arbitrarily defined by admissions committees as “community service.”

I think most modern liberals would stop reading there, thinking that Sowell is only berating them. If they’d be truly tolerant and keep reading they’d see Sowell take Conservatives to task as well.

As for conservatism, it has no specific political meaning, because everything depends on what you are trying to conserve. In the last days of the Soviet Union, those who were trying to maintain the Communist system were widely– and correctly– described as “conservatives,” though they had nothing in common with such conservatives as William F. Buckley or Milton Friedman.

Professor Friedman for years fought a losing battle against being labeled a conservative. He considered himself a liberal in the original sense of the word and wrote a book titled “The Tyranny of the Status Quo.” Friedman proposed radical changes in things ranging from the public schools to the Federal Reserve System.

Sowell is making two points here. First and foremost, don’t get caught up in fancy rhetoric. Anyone that considers themselves educated and intelligent should always look past the flashiness of words to their real meaning.

The second point is also easy. Don’t get caught up with labels. People are much too complex to be labeled.

Thomas Sowell on Equality and Racism

August 15, 2010 8 comments

Anyone that reads this blog knows that I think very highly of Thomas Sowell. His logic is impeccable. In his latest column,  he writes about equality.

Ask the bean-counters where in this wide world have different groups been proportionally represented. They can’t tell you. In other words, something that nobody can demonstrate is taken as a norm, and any deviation from that norm is somebody’s fault!

Anyone who has watched football over the years has probably seen at least a hundred black players score touchdowns– and not one black player kick the extra point. Is this because of some twisted racist who doesn’t mind black players scoring touchdowns but hates to see them kicking the extra points?

At our leading engineering schools– M.I.T., CalTech, etc.– whites are under-represented and Asians over-represented. Is this anti-white racism or pro-Asian racism? Or are different groups just different?

So what is it about equality that gets people all riled up? Well I think the first thing, the one Sowell is poking fun of, is the idea of equality of outcomes. No one can tell you of a time or place, where everyone was perfectly proportionally represented. Why?The simple answer is, everyone is different. Each racial group has a standard normal distribution of intellect, athleticism, musical ability, mathematical ability, etc.

So when some bean counter is looking at racial statistics at X university. What are they really looking at? They are looking at distribution of a certain ability, say math, within a distribution of people with high math ability in that certain population.

If a certain racial group makes up only 20% of the total population. And if only 20% of a racial group are good at math and only 30% of those are good enough to get into MIT. It doesn’t take a MIT math wiz to tell you that you will never get equal representation (20%) of the total population at MIT.

That’s only part of the problem. The other part is the very notion of equality. What does it mean? It might sound like a dumb question, but it’s that very question that gets people all worked up to begin with.

Most Liberals, I’d say, have a notion that equality means that the outcomes have to come out equal. This is the equality of outcomes that Sowell talks about in Conflict of Vision. This is a basic premise of “Unconstrained Vision.” That since everyman is equal (a point that both Left and Right usually share) then the outcomes have to be equal as well. It’s a very Utopian concept that almost always fail to account for what is found in reality. This premise looks past natural ability, determination, and work ethic in determining the outcomes. Only the final number is important. If the final number doesn’t fit the ideal, then some nefarious motives have to be at work.

The other notion of equality is the idea of equality of opportunity. This idea, central to the “Constrained Vision,” is one that values the natural abilities in determining the outcomes. The only ideal is that everyone be giving the same opportunity to succeed in life, what happens is up to chance and that persons desires, work ethics and abilities.

Equality of opportunity stresses that the mechanism be equal, while equality of outcomes ignores the mechanism. By mechanism, I’m talking about laws, institutions and rules (All this is from Conflict of Visions). Equality of outcomes stresses the final tally, while the equality of opportunity doesn’t really care about the outcomes. Is it any wonder why the two sides talk past each other? The whole very basic premise of what is “equal” is radically different.

I’d argue that the equality of opportunity is the one true measure of equality. Men are equal to a certain extent. When talking about rights and privileges, then all men are equal. Yet, when we are talking about abilities, then all men are certainty not equal. I am not equal to Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. I’m not equal to Lebron James on the basketball court. I’m not equal to Eli Manning on the football field as well. Yet neither are they equal to me at what I do best. Even when it comes to my chosen profession, I doubt any of them even know what Gas Chromatography or Mass Spectroscopy are, much less know how to analyze data and troubleshoot problems.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. This is so obvious that most people overlook it when talking about equality. I think that those of the equality of outcomes persuasion kind of wish away that fact. When talking about economics (income equality is the biggie), people tend to forget that not all people act the same exact way. We all act in our interests. The variation with various ethnic and racial groups is enormous. The variation within the total human population is even bigger (imagine that).

If we all acted the same way, life would be boring. If we all acted the same, a central tenet of modern human self-worth, that we are all unique and different, is meaningless. Think about that for a minute. If we act all the same, meaning the same abilities and skills, then really each person is not really worth much of anything, since there are billions of exact duplicates all around the globe. One thing that makes human life so valuable, is that we are all unique. That we all do have differing skills, abilities and wants.

If you think about the liberal unconstrained view of equality, outcomes, you’ll notice that the end run is exact duplicates. If we were to achieve the liberal Utopia where everyone is “equal,” it doesn’t matter if they are all equally living in the mud, eating bugs and all dying from Malaria. We are all “equal” right. No one is better off than the rest. There is no room for innovation or the entrepreneurial spirit. Those are the things that lead to “unequal” outcomes. After all it was Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos drive, entrepreneurial spirit and leadership (all innate skills and abilities) that lead to their “unequal” outcomes of extreme wealth. In order to have equal outcomes, the extraordinary would have to be culled from the human race.

Of course a Liberal would contest that equal outcomes means everyone is as wealthy as the Gates, Jobs and Bezos of the world. Yet, I find that assertion flat-out insane. How do you create wealth? You don’t just print it out of a printing press. You can’t just add zeros to a bank account to create wealth. Wealth is created by innovation, drive and entrepreneurial spirit, the exact things that would need to be culled in order to attain equality of outcomes.

A cursory look at history supports my case. Pretty much every government that tried to create equal outcomes has done so by bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator. From Maoist China, Stalinist Russia, to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Revolution in Cuba, the people live a far lower standard of living than even the poorest person here in the  “unequal” US. Hell the Cubans only just recently were allowed cell phones (although it does them no good), where as practically everyone even those living on food stamps and welfare have had cell phones here in the US for years.

One of the things that got us started on heavy-handed government regulation of the housing market were statistics showing that blacks were turned down for mortgage loans more often than whites. The bean-counters in the media went ballistic. It had to be racism, to hear them tell it.

What they didn’t tell you was that whites were turned down more often than Asians. What they also didn’t tell you was that black-owned banks also turned down blacks more often than whites. Nor did they tell you that credit scores differed from group to group. Instead, the media, the politicians and the regulators grabbed some statistics and ran with them.

The bean-counters are everywhere, pushing the idea that differences show injustices committed by society. As long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it– and the polarization they create will sell this country down the river.

Racism is a common reason for inequality, according to Liberals. The reason is simple, they can’t find any episode from history, except those above which they want to forget, that has had equal outcomes. Racism is the only way they can cope with the fact that their ideas don’t work. It gives them a bogey man to blame because their whole concept of equality is wrong, they are thinking in the wrong terms. Outcome based equality is a pipe dream. All that we can do, giving a wide range of human interests, skills and abilities, is create an environment where everyone is given equal opportunity.

Modern Liberals can’t handle that. That would mean ending racial quotas (the most pervasive form of racial discrimination on the planet in my opinion), the end of collecting racial statistics and the end of Affirmative Action. But you can’t play identity politics that way. Identity politics is the core of the modern Democratic party. Look at their push for illegal amnesty. Even the most ardent Liberal will concede that it is for electoral political reasons.

Ironically,The Liberal world  the very opposite of the world in which Dr. King wanted. Dr. King wanted a world were people were judged by the content of their character NOT the color of their skin. Modern Liberals judge people by the color of their skin or what they are packing in their pants/pantsuit first and foremost.

Racism will be around for as long as there is money in keeping it around. The last time I checked, not too many conservatives or libertarians were giving money to Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. More importantly it will continue to be used as a weapon for as long as the people fall for it.