The ObamaCare jobs lost archive

Bob Kerrey is politically dead, and de mortuis nihil nisi bonum, so I'm going to replace his archive with a link to ObamaCare job losses.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mission creep and the League of Women Voters

I'm a pretty serious birder. I keep a life-list (we all do; some of us just admit it). I spend hours in swamps in cold rain trying to photograph them. My wife complains they dominate every vacation we take.(It is true I've got a mental list of the number of endemics on each Caribbean island, just in case we're get into a discussion where to go).

So it would be logical that I join Audubon, right? When I moved to Nebraska, I considered doing that. I looked up Wachiska Audubon, on the proto-internet. What I found is that it was an active chapter, which scheduled a lot of night meetings. But not to hunt for owls. Wachiska Audubon's primary focus seemed to be human population control.

Now you might argue, and they do, that humans affect birds (indisputable) and that reducing the number of humans increases the health of the bird population (very disputable). But when a birding organization takes a position on human population growth, it first of all excludes those of us who don't see human population growth as a major problem (IMHO, the best way to limit population is grow the economy). And second of all, there are lots of organizations dedicated to limiting human population growth already, and if those float your boat, you can join them instead of Audubon.

But that's not how it works. Being a mere birding club is not good enough for some people. I call it the totalizing impulse; the temptation to make every interest, every avocation, every activity part of one great scheme to Save the Planet. It's consumed most nature-oriented organizations. Audubon is now about Saving the Planet. The Nature Conservancy, which once had the very admirable mission of buying private land and setting it aside for wildlife, is now about Saving the Planet. The Sierra Club, which used to be about creating and maintaining a trail network, is now about Saving the Planet. I'm tempted to see in all of this a manifestation of O Sullivan's Law

Any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time
The Left cannot leave anything alone. The most innocuous club, be it dedicated to needlepoint, or model airplanes, or birds, must be coopted as part of the great totalitarian endeavor.

So what set this off? Ben Sasse, Nebraska candidate for Senate, did not fill out a voter survey sent by the League of Women Voters. LWV is a classic example of O Sullivan's Law in action. Founded in 1920 as an organization to register women to vote, it still calls itself 'non-partisan', but has gotten deeply into public advocacy in areas that have nothing at all to do with exercising the franchise. It's most notorious intervention to date was a vicious attack ad run against Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, which used a young girl with asthma as a vehicle to assail Brown's position on the EPA regulating CO2 emissions (which, of course, don't cause asthma.) called the ads deceitful. LMV's incredibly contorted excuse was that increased CO2 increases plant growth, which increases pollen production, which aggravates asthma. On this basis they should oppose planting trees.

In the end, of course, this will hurt LWV. Instead of having a distinctive and noble mission, it becomes just another generic red/green advocacy group. And there is absolutely no reason why a conservative or libertarian should treat it otherwise.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Never mind"

On Monday, October 3, Mr Eugene Quillen, a Berkeley student, was charged in Alameda County Superior Court with rape by use of drugs to commit sexual assault. He faced jail time and permanent registration on the sex-offender's list, and had to post $100,000 bail. Yesterday, Mr. Quillin was exonerated. California has an unusual (and highly laudable) legal finding called a 'factual finding of innocence', which states not just that the charges were dropped, but that the facts indicate the accused is innocent and should never have been arrested at all.

This is the assistant DA's remarkable statement.

In court Friday, deputy district attorney Joni Leventis said, according to a court transcript, that she had closely reviewed the evidence from police, and had interviewed the woman who initially reported the rape. “I’ve had several discussions with her about those events and we’ve concluded that Mr. Quillin did not commit any sexual assault on September 27th, 2014. And I would add that Jane Doe is in agreement with that conclusion that we have come to,” Leventis told the judge. Leventis also told the judge that there had been no indication that Quillin had been responsible in any way for the woman’s intoxication.
So 'Jane Doe' (unlike Mr Quillen, she is granted the privilege of anonymity), decided that she wasn't raped after all. Hard to believe one could be mistaken about something like that.

Too bad Mr. Quillen's name is all over the internet now. Even though his arrest records will be expunged, any future potential employer will find him in a Google search and likely rule him out immediately. He will live with this false accusation the rest of his life. And his accuser, who one is led to believe accused someone of rape, watched him charged, and then decided he didn't, will face no consequences at all.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dach deeds at the White House

This is hilarious.

Leslie Dach (I like to call him Papa Dach) is a long-time Democrat operative who also lobbied for Walmart. Presumably as a reward for his help in 2008, the Obama administration hired him as a 'counselor' at HHS and his son Jonathan Dach as a volunteer staffer in the White House. As an advance-man for the President's ill-fated trip to Colombia, Baby Dach had a prostitute stay in his room overnight. So did a bunch of Secret Service agents. They were fired. The White House denied all involvement by its staff. Baby Dach wasn't fired; instead, he's now under federal contract with the State Department, working for, wait for it...

The Office of Global Women's Issues! (rimshot)

Well, he's certainly had experience with global women!

BTW, Mama Dach, whose actual name is Mary Dickie (the laughs keep coming), is on the far left, Papa Dach next to her, and Baby Dach on the far right.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Closet deontology, or how climate change turns utilitarians into Kantians

(Despite my knowledge of the jargon, I don't philosophize for a living, so be patient, and if possible, kind. I'm not, by the way, claiming these are novel observations. In fact, I have no idea if they are, but I expect they're not.)

There are two great classes of ethical systems in contemporary philosophy; deontology and utilitarianism. (One could argue there's a third system, based on what seems to be a universal and innate human ethical sense, but I'd argue simply adopting that would be falling into the naturalistic fallacy.) Anyway, broadly speaking, deontology is 'duty ethics'; actions are right or wrong depending whether they accord with doing one's duty. Deontology is often religious; obeying the Ten Commandments is a duty for Christians and Jews. One can argue even fairly strict and seemingly arbitrary deontological rules, such as keeping kosher, once had a rational basis. Avoiding pork and segregating milk from meat probably made a lot of sense in the 1000 BCE middle east. But as several orthodox Jews have explained to me, one obeys God's laws because they are God's laws, not because they make sense.

The idea that one should obey revelation-based rules obviously was not popular during the Enlightenment, and 18th century thought took two tracks. One was Kant's, which sought to found deontological ethics on reason, and led to the categorical imperatives, the most famous of which is 'Act as though the maxim of your actions could be a general law', or as my mother (knowing nothing of Kant) put it "What would happen if everyone did that?" There are all sorts of criticisms of Kant, and attempt to build on or modify his ideas; my own experience is that raw Kantianism leads to a set of rules that are incredibly strict.

The other great thread is utilitarianism, which essentially says one should act to maximize the overall happiness, or good, or something, of the universe. There are of course all sorts of problems with this too. Is happinees necessarily a good thing? After all, a well-supplied drug addict is happy. How can you define good in utilitarianism in a non-circular way? How do we know if animals are happy, and is their happiness to be given equal weight to ours? If we knew killing a baby Hitler would spare 50 million people, should we kill baby Hitlers? But my own view is we can solve most of these problems sufficiently. The one insurmountable problem, in my view, is the impossibility of the utilitarian calculus. It is simply impossible to forecast the long term results of any action, even to some acceptable degree of probability.

It is probably fair to say most deontologists are on the right, and most utilitarians on the left. The reasons for that are pretty obvious, so I won't belabor them. Because of what I view as the fatal flaw of utilitarianism, I am sort of a half-hearted Kantian, partly by upbringing, partly because I see little practical alternative, being an atheist.

That's all background; here's the point of this post. Climate change is a case study in why the flaws of utilitarianism cause its adherents to become deontologists. Climate change is happening, because we are collectively pumping large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. I happen to think the short term consequences of this will be overall benign, but it's hard to say that about the long-term consequences; it will take an awful lot of carbon-dioxide-bestowed goodness to offset drowning the coastal regions of the earth. So what, ethically, should one do?

Oh, oh, I know, says the utilitarian. Institute policies to push us away from fossil fuel use. Stop the atmospheric CO2 increase! Problem is, we can't actually do that. We can reduce our own production of CO2, at some considerable cost to ourselves (a utilitarian evil). But there is no indication enough of the world will do the same. China will say it will, but it won't. India simply refuses. If we lower our consumption of fossil fuels, that will simply increase the supply, lower the price, and incentivize consumption elsewhere. It's depressing but entirely reasonable to predict humans will continue to consume fossil fuels, regardless of long term consequences, until the last readily available fossil fuels are used up. At that point, we are seriously screwed. Another problem with utilitarianism; sometimes you can't do anything to increase the good of the universe.

How does the utilitarian answer that? He/she says we should do it anyway, to show 'leadership'. Maybe if we do the right thing, others will follow. it will at least give us the moral standing to pressure them to follow. I think that's deluded. India has all sorts of good moral arguments why it should continue to grow, and self-interest will cause it to pick its own, over ours

So, in the end, utilitarians are forced to argue that we should limit CO2 production, because it would be good if everyone did it. Kant stirs in his grave and murmurs "By golly, that sounds familiar!" (Auf Deutsch, natürlich). Welcome to the categorical imperatives, boys and girls, and get out your reading glasses. The Critique of Practical Reason is heavy going, but you'll get through it; if everyone did, the world would be a better place.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chuck Hassebrook's disavowal of his role in 'Biotechnology's Bitter Harvest'

...which he issued tonight, in the Nebraska Gubernatorial Debate, is transparently false. Chuck claims he only wrote a few paragraphs of the report, and wanted his name taken off. But he was a member of the group that published the report! If he wanted his name removed, since he was a member of the group that published the report, he could surely have done so then, or at any time in the 24 years since! In fact, the Biotechnology Working Group, of which Chuck was indubitably a member, was a cosy little bunch...
In the U.S., a particularly important social space where anti-GE activists generated ideas was the Biotechnology Working Group (BWG). The BWG was formed in the late 1980s when a dozen activists working on various aspects of food and agriculture, environmental issues, trade policy, and biotechnology got together for the first time, thanks to a grant from two small foundations. In the process of meeting together for several years, the group’s members began to constitute themselves as a collective actor (Melucci 1996).
The BWG played a catalytic role in bringing these activists’ diverse trajectories to converge, both intellectually and organizationally, on the issue of biotechnology. The BWG was an important place for gathering and exchanging information, and for forming a collective political analysis. When they got together, BWG members would discuss recent developments in the technology and industry, and brainstorm action strategies. In 1990, the BWG published a report entitled “Biotechnology’s Bitter Harvest: Herbicide Tolerant Crops and the Threat to Sustainable Agriculture.” This report reflected a synergy of ideas among people from diverse backgrounds and organizations. This pattern of co-authorship became a common means by which the ideational work of grievance formation took place in the proto-mobilizational phase of the anti-GE movement.
The face-to-face interactions among BWG members were crucial in forging the intimate personal relationships and strong sense of commitment, solidarity, and mutual support that helped to sustain this fledgling movement and made it hum with energy, tension, humor, and excitement. For BWG members, they were an important source of inspiration and morale-building. “I have really fond memories [of the BWG] because initially it was really a wonderful group,” one member nostalgically recalled. “I mean, I’ve been to some [other] meetings, and people go, ‘oh, this was like the BWG in the old days.”
Hassebrook was a member of a group actively campaigning against GMOs, and he won't admit it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chuck Hassebrook's War on Biotechnology II: "Biotechnology's Bitter Harvest"

It is hard to believe that a major-party candidate for the governorship, in a rural state like Nebraska, tried to suppress the development and use of the biotechnology that more than 90% of our farmers depend on. It is hard to believe that instead of trying to help sell our ag produce overseas, as our governors have historically done, the candidate told other countries not to buy our produce, and asked the UN to ban their export. Unfortunately, Chuck Hassebrook did both.

Chuck Hassebrook started with the Center for Rural Affairs, a left-leaning non-profit, in the 1970s, while in college. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t ever done paid work anywhere else.

From the beginning, he displayed deeply anti-free-market attitudes, castigating corporate farming and vertical integration of hog operations. CRA was largely responsible for passing the unconstitutional Initiative-300, which banned corporate ownership of farms in Nebraska. His commitment seems to be to a long-gone system of rural development, based on uncompetitive small farms, using obsolete technology, and propped up by government subsidies.

When GM crop development seriously started in the mid-1980s, Chuck saw everything he didn’t like; corporate profits for companies like Monsanto, increased efficiency, and an abandonment of the non-viable ‘sustainable agriculture model’ he had invested so heavily in. So of course he set out to oppose it. His attempt to crush biotech agriculture came in the publication (with three environmentalist coauthors) of Biotechnology’s Bitter Harvest, a document that aimed at stopping the development of genetically modified crops at every stage: research and development, use, and sale. You can still find BBH on line, still being pushed approvingly by groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

BBH is first of all a profoundly dishonest document. One of its favorite tricks is to lump all herbicides together, sometimes even with other pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, etc.). So, for example, it discussed herbicide dangers by referencing the relatively toxic bromoxynil, even while it provides data that by far and away the most prevalent herbicide used in GM crop development is glyphosate (which, as we’ve seen, has very low toxicity). While the authors were forced to admit

many herbicides are not acutely toxic to humans and wild animals
…they then proceeded to recite a litany of largely speculative or preliminary reports about chronic toxicity of herbicides, (but not glyphosate.)

There is other wildly speculative stuff

It cannot be assumed that the transferred genetic material will produce substances safe for human consumption

…but is there any evidence all it might be unsafe? No, and plenty of reason to believe it incorrect!

And there was plenty more unsubstantiated speculation about what negative effects GM crops might have on farm economics.

It’s clear reading the report that while all the nebulous dangers are cited, Hassebrook and his co-authors’ main problem is that Monsanto and other manufacturers might make money by selling GM seed/herbicide combinations. The authors also complained at length about US and State government funding of GM research.

Their alternatives? Generally tedious and back-breaking, such as mechanical tilling hoeing and intercropping. Mostly ineffective. And sometimes noxious, such as the introduction of alien species to prey on weeds.

The recommendations were draconian. Here they are in full.

  1. End federal and state support for developing herbicide-tolerant plants
  2. Increase federal and state funding for non-chemical methods of pest control
  3. Target the federal research and experimentation tax credit for corporate research toward socially and environmentally beneficial research and deny the credit for expenditures to develop herbicide-tolerant crops and trees;
  4. Change federal farm policy to discourage the use of environmentally damaging agricultural practices;
  5. Regulate genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant plants as pesticides;
  6. Prohibit the introduction of trees genetically modified to be herbicide tolerant into our national forests and other government lands; and
  7. Fully inform Third World countries of the potential negative impacts of herbicide-tolerant crops and trees and urge the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to develop restrictions on the export of herbicide-tolerant plants.
1 – 6 are predictably leftist; shut down research they don’t like, fund pet projects they like, and regulate the heck out of everything. But 7 is particularly chilling. Hassebrook wanted the UN to restrict US exports of GM crops, and to tell third world governments not to import our produce. This proposal, if implemented, would have cost our state and our farmers billions.

BBH was popular in extreme environmentalist circles, but fortunately had almost no influence on government policy. As anyone who knows anything about agriculture is aware, GM crops now account for most US production (98% of the soybeans and 70% of the corn in Nebraska, for example). The predicted Armageddon never happened. Herbicide use has declined, especially use of pesiticides of questionable safety, such as atrazine. Farm incomes are way up, and GM has had the major effect of decreasing the workload of farmers. GM also makes more feasible carbon-conserving practices like no-till.

Chuck was dead wrong, but he has never admitted it. As an actual expert, Matin Qaim, wrote in 2009...

Genetically modified (GM) crops have been used commercially for more than 10 years. Available impact studies of insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops show that these technologies are beneficial to farmers and consumers, producing large aggregate welfare gains as well as positive effects for the environment and human health. The advantages of future applications could even be much bigger. Given a conducive institutional framework, GM crops can contribute significantly to global food security and poverty reduction.

And Hassebrook's War on Biotech continues. In 2005, as a University of Nebraska Regent, he ineffectually opposed a licensing agreement between UNL and Monsanto to bring to market other GM crops developed by our researchers. In 2010, he was the sole vote against Ronnie Green, the vice-chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, as a futile and rather childish protest against ‘industrial agriculture’.

Given that Hassebrook abused his position as regent to try to discourange the University of Nebraska from commercial licensing agreements, and to hinder our engagement in biotech agriculture, it is almost certain he will abuse the governorship to try to force our farmers back into last-century’s methods, and to discourage agribusiness. His life so far has had a single, all-consuming mission; why would he abandon it now?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Oh how I love to be lectured on climate change by Leonardo diCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio notoriously rented the superyacht Topaz to bring his pals to the World Cup. Just for fun, I decided to calculate the carbon footprint of the Topaz. At service speed (23 kn) it operates two large diesel engines at a total horsepower of 15980 horsepower. 1 horsepower is 745.7 watts, so the Topaz generates 11.9 MW of power. Since a marine diesel is pretty efficient, sometimes exceeding 50%, let's say this comes from 23.8 MW of heat generation. At 48 MJ/kg, this requires burning about 0.495 kg, or slighly over a pound of diesel fuel a second, to give 1.279 kg of CO2 per second.

A typical American home uses 10837 kWh of electrical energy per year. That corresponds to 1.236 kW of average power usage. Given the average coal plant operates at 33.8% efficiency, that corresponds to 3.662 kW thermal generation. At 24 MJ/kg, this requires burning 0.152 grams of coal per second, generating about 0.447 g of CO2 per second.

Dividing the two, we calculate that the bold ecowarrior Leonardo, on his trip to the World Cup, was generating as much CO2 as required to supply electricity to 2860 American homes, or around 6000 people. A small town, in other words.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thoughts on Salaita

Let's say you had a colleague at another institution whose public nastiness was legendary. Let's say he had retweeted that one of your articles should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv. Then you learned that your own institution was planning to hire this guy. Would you say "Oh well, his public posting of violent threats is of no concern, because Academic Freedom."

No, you wouldn't. And even if you yourself were not directly threatened, I doubt you'd take the position that a faculty member has absolute liberty to post anything he likes that isn't actually illegal (which, in the US, is almost anything), and expect it not to be taken into consideration in a hiring decision. There is a category of expression that, while not criminally prosecutable, will and should be considered a negative in a faculty hire. This is more to do with the manner of the expression than its content. If you express yourself like a thug, don't expect people to ignore that.

(Though, for example, if you've openly expressed overtly racist views,good luck with the job hunt. Some content is strenglich verboten.)

You can read a nice collection of Professor Salaita's tweets here. And, in case you haven't been paying attention, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, at the final stage of the hiring process, refused to employ Salaita in a tenured position in their Department of Native American Studies, because of voluminous complaints about his online nastiness. He had, unwisely, resigned his previous position in the Department of English at Virginia Tech. VT don't seem to be in a hurry to lure him back, by the way.

(It's a nice reflection on the chaotic and decayed state of the Humanities that neither position seems to particularly reflect Salaita's 'scholarly' output as a writer of anti-Israel polemics)

The most norotious tweet, in which he retweeted that "Jeffrey goldberg's story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv", is not here (it's been deleted) but the original is.

It has been argued that if this tweet relates to his academic work, it is protected by academic freedom; and if it does not, it is not pertinent to his job. I posit that neither contingency is valid. Academic freedom does not protect violent threats to others who write in the same area; and if one's twitter output about one's field includes a series of ill-tempered violent outpourings, that surely needs to be considered along with one's more conventional academic work. On the other hand, if these are academically-unrelated private opinions, they are hardly completely irrelevant. Would we hire a physics professor who very publicly opined that African Americans are genetically inferior, or that pedophilia should be legal? Not in a New York picosecond!

I would happily sign on to the idea that one's expression as a private citizen should not be considered in hiring, tenure, evaluation or retention, but that isn't the world we live in. My friend and colleague, Martin Gaskell, was denied a job as an astronomer at the University of Kentucky based on his evangelical Christianity, reports of some long-past-expressed opinions that evolution might not be the only source of life on earth, and unfounded rumors he might be creationist. He mentored my daughter's undergraduate research. I know he's not a creationist.

(I've heard determinedly atheist physicists say the same thing about evolution, by the way. Physicists are often quite contemptuous of biologists and often suspect they've missed something important.

A feminist law blog publicly debated if I should be fired on Title IX grounds, based on some derisive comments I posted on a 'potty parity' survey in STEM fields, which implied that women's underrepresentation in those fields was partly caused by inadequate provision of women's toilets. And there are plenty of other examples of conservatives being fired for political or other expression. In all these cases, the same crowd loudly proclaiming that Salaita's sacred academic freedom is being violated were completely absent.

I defended Dan Guth at Kansas when he tweeted nastiness about the NRA, but don't sign me up for this crusade (so to speak). Salaita is being treated in a way consistent with standard practice in academia. Whether or not you should be able to, you can't get away with publicly saying anything you feel like, and his is not a hill I feel like dying on. From what I've seen of his public effusions, Salaita's a nasty peice of work, and I wouldn't want him as a colleague.

Chuck Hassebrook's Record: Opposing Biotech, part 1

While our local left-leaning media has been busy trying to pin Pete Ricketts to everything the Platte Institute has ever published, there has been remarkably little analysis of his Democrat opponent's record as an environmental activist and as a member of the Nebraska Board of Regents. Part of this is undoubtedly bias; after all, one of the state's two major newspapers is owned by heavy Hassebrook financial backer Warren Buffett. But I think part of it is a result of the average political reporter's complete ignorance about science. If you have no idea what genetic modification is or how it's done, what it's used for in contemporary agriculture, and the history of its research, development and commercial implementation, how can you write a piece about it? To remedy this, I'm going to be writing a series of posts explaining GM and its enormous economic and other benefits to Nebraska, and then describing the extreme and sustained nature of Hassebrook's opposition to GM agriculture. At the end, I hope at least ask yourself how this fringe anvironmental activist could propose to govern an agricultural state like ours.

Genetic modification, succinctly, is the introduction of genes from foreign organisms into the genome of one's organism of choice. This has been happening slowly and quietly for billions of years; when a virus infects a cell, it occasionally incorporates some of the cell's DNA into its own genome. The virus's descendents can then go on to infect and transform other cells, sometimes modifying their genomes. In the early 1980s, we learned to do this much faster and in a directed way. Agrobacterium, a genus of plant bacteria, naturally transfers DNA between it and its hosts, via small extra 'chromosome-like' piece of DNA called plasmids. So a scientist can choose a gene from one organism, synthesize a plasmid containing the gene, infect Agrobacterium with it, infect a plant with the Agrobacterium, and screen the cells or offspring of the plant for ones that have successfully incorporated the gene. You can now buy kits to do this; it's so easy I've done it myself (I genetically engineered a bacterium to overproduce a plant protein called azurin). If Agrobacterium won't infect the plant (it doesn't infect corn) we can use something called a gene-gun to fire bits of DNA through the plant cell wall, again screening for descendants that have incorporated the gene into their own genomes.

Aside from a commercially unsuccessful attempt to genetically engineer frost-resistant tomatoes, the earliest atttempts to genetically engineer crops involved trying to introduce herbicide resistance (remember that term). The most successful of these GM-crops have been 'Roundup-resistant'. These are based on a very simple but elegant strategy of introducing a gene, already native to Agrobacterium, for the enzyme 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (or EPSP synthase). EPSP synthase is vital to all plants, because it's used in the pathway to make the essential aromatic amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. Animals, however, don't need it, because we can't make aromatic amino acids, and have to get them in our diet. So if we can block, EPSP synthase, we can kill plants, but leave animals unharmed. And this is what Roundup, technically known as glyphosate and even more technically as N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine) does. It diffuses into the active site of the EPSP synthase enzyme, and sits there, tightly bound, preventing the enzyme from doing its job. Glyphosate is an extremely simple molecule, and is almost completely nontoxic to humans and other animals (naturally enough, since we don't have its target enzyme).

So where does genetic engineering come in? Well, Agrobacterium also makes its own aromatic amino acids, and so also has EPSP synthase. But Agrobacterium EPSP-synthase is structurally different from the plant enzyme, and is not blocked by glyphosate. So all you have to do is replace the plant enzyme with the bacterial enzyme, or even more easily, just give the plant the bacterial enzyme naturally, with a promoter that will cause it to overexpress, and the plant will still be able to make its essential amino-acids and will be resistant to the herbicide.

So now a farmer can plant his corn and soybeans on a field already cleared by glyphosate. He can even spray glyphosate on the field while his crops are growing, killing weeds but not his crops. The result is higher yield, and no need to use selective herbicides like atrazine, which are far more toxic to humans.

How could anyone oppose that? Well, as we'll see in the next post, Chuck Hassebrook did.

Rape and statistics

Consider this: under Bayesian statistics, the prior proability that an accusation of rape is true is 50%, and that it is false is also 50%.

Now introduce one piece of information; fewer than half of all rape accusations are false. This is a very modest assumption; while Kanin put the rate of false accusations at 41%, most sources put it lower. Feminists, unsurprisingly but in the absence of any real backing, claim false accusations are virtually non-existent. In any case, let's just say, statistically, more accusations are true than false.

With this one piece of extra evidence, we change the probabilities. A man accused of rape is more likely to be guilty than innocent.

But with the 'preponderance of evidence' standard now enforced by Obama's Department of Education, a better than 50% probability of guilt is sufficient to convict. That means, going into a campus sexual assault hearing, if no evidence at all is presented against him, the man should (according to the rules) be convicted.

Facing nothing but an accusation, therefore, he bears the burden of proving himself innocent, turning the entire common law tradition of Anglo-American jurisprudence on its head.