Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A right-wing atheist explains it all to you

Todays's column by Ross Douthat, passed on to me by the invaluable @AdamKissel, is a useful vehicle for this atheist libertarian to 'splain some things to Christian libertarians and conservatives and other simpatico individuals. In fact, one sentence of Douthat's encapsulates most of his misunderstandings.
In essence, it proposes a purely physical and purposeless universe, inhabited by evolutionary accidents whose sense of self is probably illusory.

Problem number 1 is that the 'purpose' of the universe, according to theists, is singularly unconvincing. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, citing Aquinas, God created the universe

in order to manifest his own goodness, power and wisdom.
To this mortal this looks very much like the reason a liberal buys a Prius. But everyone needs a hobby, I guess.
God's pleasure is the one supremely perfect model for action
The technical term for this is 'hedonism'. I'm not knocking hedonism; it's not the most destructive force in the world, by any means, but few people find it a morally uplifting philosophy.
This is accordingly the sufficient reason for the existence of the universe, and even for the suffering which moral evil has introduced into it.
Hmmm. "The important thing is I have a Prius. If it runs over your kid, that's unimportant." Purposeless is looking better and better all the time.

Problem number 2 is far more annoying; it's a complete misrepresentation. Evolution is not an accident. It's a very powerful and directed algorithm. Species evolve because they mutate, but then the more favorable mutations survive. The reason evolution so often looks like design is because it is a process of design; it designs things that better propagate themselves. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming, and if you look around the world at all the magnificence evolution has created, 'accident' is not a word that comes to mind. Philosopher Dan Dennett has written a beautiful and highly readable book on the subject; I highly recommend it for your holiday reading.

Problem number 3: why is a sense of self illusory? Obviously, it exists. Moving right along...

And the rope bridges flung across this chasm — the scientific-sounding logic of utilitarianism, the Darwinian justifications for altruism — tend to waft, gently, into a logical abyss.
Problem number 4. The above is so muddle-headed. Not all secularists or atheists are utilitarians. I'm not. I think utilitarianism is essentially useless as an ethical system. And altruism is not 'justified' by Darwinism. There are Darwinian explanations for altruism, but Darwinism is not a moral philosophy. More importantly, there is good scientific evidence for an innate moral sense, shared by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is not unreasonable to try to construct an ethical system so as not to conflict with humans' innate moral sense, but it would be the fallacy of naturalism to base an ethical system solely on it, any more than we should base the laws of physics on humans' innate mechanism for computing the trajectories of flying objects.

The only thing wafting into a logical abyss here is Douthat's argument.

Summarizing. This atheist agrees the universe is purposeless. He finds the purposelessness less offensive than the theists' purpose. Evolution is not an accident; it's a directed process that has created incredible natural complexity and beauty. Atheists are not necessarily utilitarians. And whether humans are innately moral or altruistic is a scientific question, and moralizing about it has no evidentiary value whatsoever.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Melissa McEwen on grade-school rape culture

Yes, this is about the 6 year old who was suspended for kissing a female classmate. And yes, Melissa McEwen, who worked for sleazeball John Edwards but apparently hasn't had the good sense to retire to a nunnery in shame, actually wrote a blog-post about it called "Rape Culture Entrainment Starts Early":
It's amazing (not remotely amazing) that this defense looks precisely like the rape apologia we see after every other case in which a male student breaches the consent of a female classmate. It was mutual. It was no big deal. There's nothing wrong with it. It's normal. It's natural. It's just a boy being a boy.
When I was six, a pupil at a Catholic grade school in Manchester, England, there was for a while a boys' gang and a girls' gang. We participated in a game called 'pulling down pants'. The boys would chase the girls, catch one, and pull down her underpants. Then the girls would chase, catch and debag a boy. It was all very gender neutral, though the girls did have to pull off two garments rather than one. If a kissing 6 year old is a rapist, heaven knows what we were? I'm sure I was scarred for life.

It was only a passing phase. Pretty soon we moved on to gender-mixed gangs called "The Beatles Gang" and "The Rolling Stones Gang", but the really cool kids told breathless tales about mods and rockers and liked a band no one had ever heard of called "The Who". I was, I'm ashamed to admit, a member of the Beatles Gang. Conventional as always. We used to link arms and run around the playground singing "She loves you yeah yeah yeah". Sheesh.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever: the horror continues

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Juan Franco declares
[UNL] is ... a place where issues related to diversity can be discussed in open and frank ways.
LOL! As I've commented already, Nebraska is desperately short of a sense of irony. Please send emergency supplies immediately. Remember, at UNL you can be as frank as you like, as long as you don't mind stirring up a shitstorm of abuse on your head.

In other news, someone apparently posted something racially abusive on a toilet stall wall in the music building. Offensive grafitti on toilet walls; clearly we are only few weeks from Armageddon!

Some activities that are already being planned include: • Educational workshops; • Enhanced incident reporting process; • Enhancement of the NSE multicultural education for new students; and • Meetings with small groups to further refine campaign goals and to begin the process of implementing new programs.
And no doubt lots of new jobs in the 'diversity' racket.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Some final thoughts on n-word gate

Three parting shots, and then, for the sake of Mo-hammered, Jeebus and all the prophets I haven't bothered to blaspheme, let's put this one to bed.

Mr Murphy and another student named Spenser Garrett stated their case at length in Tuesday's Daily Nebraskan. While he is less sophisticated than some of his critics, it is clear Mr. Murphy has a much more accurate understanding of the First Amendment than they. What he said at the ASUN debate was clearly protected speech, no if, ands or buts. The students made a couple of other points; first, that it is unfair that there is a double-, no let's make that a multiple-standard when it comes to speech. Some groups can use words others are forbidden to use, and more importantly, perhaps, some groups have to be far less circumspect in general about their speech than others.

And that leads to the second point, made by Mr. Garrett. White students feel they have to be far more careful what they say among members of other groups than they do in the company of other white people. Part of this is just life and human nature -- for example, few of us feel comfortable cussing in the company of our grandparents -- but part of it is a genuine perception that a significant fraction of some groups are hypersensitive, and take offense far too easily.

Now you can respond to these points in several ways. You can belittle them, make fun of them, roll your eyes, sneer, and call the students racists. Do that, but don't then turn around and claim what is needed is a dialog about race. If you do I will snark at you by name on Twitter. Those gentlemen told you their point of view. You don't have to agree with it. If you think it's easily refutable, then refute it. Convince them. Convince us. But it took some courage, in these politically correct times, for them to speak their minds, and I don't think either point can be casually dismissed.

The second parting shot is, please make a careful distinction between the social consequences of offensive speech, and the legal consequences. You are perfectly at liberty to show your displeasure at their words. Some of you already have. You can shun the speakers, denigrate them (as long as you don't defame them), label what they say an outrage. But what you cannot do is silence them, or use the power of the State to punish them. In this specific instance, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska is a state constituted body (believe it or not), and so is bound by the 1st and 14th amendments. ASUN, in declining to impeach Mr. Murphy, probably saved itself from a lawsuit -- that is, if Mr. Murphy was inclined to pursue such.

And one final parting shot. The metaphor about fire in a crowded theater was made by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and it's relevant to a very narrow set of circumstances; circumstances where speech is false and likely to be dangerous, and cannot feasibly be countered by contrary speech. In the sense that, if you shout 'fire' in a crowded auditorium during a debate, causing a panic, it is relevant to political debates. In no other sense is it relevant. The holding in Schenk covers only cases where there is "a clear and present danger that [the words] will bring about ... substantive evils". it was later altered, in Brandenburg vs. Ohio, 1969, to a determination that the speech must "be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot)". Neither is pertinent here. Citing 'fire in a crowded theater', without knowing what it refers to, only marks you as a moron.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

You know the tune, boomers...

Last night I said these words to Kerry
Obey me, or I'll put you in the cemetery
I've got a bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
Appease me, oh yeah, 'cos I've got a bomb.

Last week Iran, today it's China
Next week North Korea wants something minor...
They've got a bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
Appease them, oh yeah, 'cos they've got a bomb.

I don't want to stop complaining 'cos there's always something else I can demand
(I can demand!)
Get it to me quick so my requests I can expand, oh yeah, or you'll soon be blue.

Last night I said these words to Kerry
Obey me, or things are gonna get hairy
I've got a bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
A bomb, a bomb
Appease me, oh yeah, 'cos I've got a bomb.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ho-hum

Reading Lincoln Journal Star editorials is a useful mental exercise; assemble in your mind all of the unexamined premises, misguided conclusions and downright falsehoods, and then try to determine if they spring from malice or ignorance. An editorial like today's, whole-heartedly approving of a campaign for political correctness at UNL, is an especially meaty challenge. You just have to step back and admire the following
As often is the case, an effective response to those who use freedom of speech in an offensive way is a simply to exercise more freedom of speech. That's what UNL administrators are doing and what they are encouraging students to do.
Well, no. In fact, that's a complete inversion of the truth. The student senate is exploring the impeachment of the offending student. The administration has done nothing publicly to discourage that impeachment. In fact, Harvey Perlman has minimized free speech concerns. I am not aware of anything he or any other administrator has said that encourages speech to be met by more speech, invoking the marketplace of ideas, or emphasizing that universities are bastions of free expression. Quite the opposite, in fact. "Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever" is not a slogan that signals a campaign based on ideas.

The editorial, while it give the student's name in full (no doubt to secure plenty of unfavorable web hits when he goes looking for a job) never once mentions he faces sanctions for expressing a political opinion.

I'm going with ignorance on this one. I don't think they could be bothered to spend 5 minutes researching the case. And you just have to laugh at this.

A quick online search shows that in recent months racially charged incidents have occurred on campuses on the East Coast, West Coast and other parts of the country.
A quick online search will also get you UFO reports from the East Coast, West Coast and other parts of the country. It doesn't mean we face interplanetary invasion. There is no evidence of an epidemic or an increase in the number of 'racially charged' incidents. In fact, many of the most prominent cases, such as Oberlin, turned out to be mistakes or overt hoaxes.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The consequences of standing up for free speech at UNL

So, a visiting professor in my lab, Dr. Young-Sik Kye, two weeks ago, told me we'd been inspected by Environmental Health and Safety, and given a clean bill of health. That's good. We've really worked the last 3 months getting my lab clean after I was Departmental Safety Chair.

But then, very strangely, after I'd tweeted and blogged criticizing Harvey Perlman's response to the ASUN senate free speech issue, I got another notice saying I was going to be inspected again. Fine I replied, but wasn't I just inspected? No, that was your offices, I was told (not what I heard previously, though). We need to do your labs, HaH 725 725a and 725b.

That's OK, I said, there is no 725a or 725b, but do 725.

After this very abrupt and surprising inspection, I was told I was getting a humdinger of a safety report, but the main thing is my lab fridge and freezer were not compliant.

That's funny, I replied, they were modified by the department's own electronics shop to be safety compliant. And they've been judged safety compliant for 15 years (and frankly, there's not much in them)

Things have changed, I was told. Requirements are much more stringent. OSHA. (We're not actually subject to OSHA)

Then I was asked for safety records of all my students and personnel. Fortunately, 2 of the 3 signed on in the last 3 months and were rigorously trained. The third does purely theory. And the Department, mostly thanks to our excellent current safety chair and building manager, keeps rigorous records.

Then they looked at my own training. Although I was Department Safety Coordinator for the previous three years, and was actually doing the safety training for everyone in the department, apparently my own training is inadequate. I must take more safety courses.

I have no idea what will happen next. No doubt my email password will be judged inadequately secure, or I'll have to do diversity training.

They're messing with the wrong guy. I won't resist any of this. Instead, I'm going to list it all on my annual merit evaluation at the end of the year and demand credit for professional development.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

(2) Missing: Nebraska journalism.

Both Kevin Abourezk of the Lincoln Journal Star and the editorial staff of the Daily Nebraska are well aware of the critical FIRE piece about UNL's response to Mr Murphy's speech at the ASUN senate meeting, and have chosen not to cover it. I emailed Mr. Abourezk, and @DailyNebraskan was flagged repeatedly on Twitter. No response.

As usual, our local professional 'journalists' have displayed profound incuriousness about the whole series of events. Exactly where did this alleged sidewalk chalking occur? Has anyone asked? In this age of camera phones, does anyone have a photograph? Are the police investigating? Crickets!

Needless to say, the chances of this being a 'consciousness raising' hoax, after a publicaly controversial racially tinged incident, are pretty darn high. Everyday bigots and frat house drunks don't walk around with sidewalk chalk in their pockets. Activists do.

Meanwhile, coverage of last night's rally was uncritically accepting of the prevailing racial grievance narrative..

Our local cadre of community activists masquerading as journalists are far more interesting in retricting the information we get access to, than in actually informing us about what is going on.

(1) A bad week for freedom at UNL

Harvey Perlman's proclamation about goings-on at the Association of Students at the University of Nebraska (ASUN) senate got the attention of a national campus free-sppech watchdog group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In a nice piece on recent incidents at the Senate and the university repsonse, Ari Cohn of FIRE wrote:
Of course, the blame for all of this “unlearned liberty” doesn’t rest solely with the students. With administrators like UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, it’s no surprise that students misunderstand the principles of free speech. Perlman addressed the incident in a message to the entire UNL community, saying:
Racial epithets and racial impersonations are not acceptable anywhere but especially in an institution devoted to education and progress. ... I am deeply hurt that use of this language has been used here, for purposes I can’t imagine and in venues where civil discourse and its values are honored. We don’t need to debate any nuance of free speech to conclude such language is harmful, despicable, and intolerable.
Perlman is seemingly unaware of the purpose for which the offending words were spoken. This message conveys no sense of context, as if a student had inexplicably launched into a racist tirade without prompting—when in fact Murphy chose his language specifically to make a point about free speech and the nuances of words that make banning them a bad idea.
As far as anyone knows, Mr. Murphy is still awaiting expulsion from the Senate. Meanwhile, over the weekend, the New York Times, distributed on campus by the same ASUN, published a column by Ta-Nehisi Coates which had no fewer than 13 instances of the spelled-out N word, which got Mr. Murphy in trouble. One law for us, another law for them.

But then, above all else, Nebraska has lacked self-awareness and a sense of irony during this whole affair. Hasn't anyone even noticed that their chintzy slogan Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever doesn't exactly broadcast tolerance?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Chancellors and unpopular student speech

I used periodically to write letters, some quite snarky, and post comments to the Daily Nebraskan, the local student newspaper. I gave it up after a conversation with an older colleague who happened to be a good and very popular teacher. He pointed out that regardless of how faculty regard the relationship, students tend to see faculty as authority figures, and what the professor might think to be a reasonable challenge to an idea, could easily be seen by them as bullying, and one needed to be careful. (This, obviously, does not hold if the student has initiated open hostility or rudeness.)

This came to mind this week in the controversy about a speech a Association of Students of the University of Nebraska senator gave at a student senate meeting. The student reportedly, in a debate about free speech and a resolution advising against derogatory language, read part of a racial-epithet-laden monolog from African-American comedian Chris Rock, and also deplored complaints from Mexican-American students about wearing of sombreros on homecoming floats. I'm merely inferring this, but I think the points he was trying to make were (1) that it's unreasonable for there to be words that one group of people can use without recrimination, but can't be used by other groups of people and (2) that everyone is too gosh darn easily offended anyway. Both points are valid. I happen to agree with both, but even if you don't, I hope you will concede they're valid positions to take.

Even though the chair of the ASUN senate meeting allowed the speech to proceed, Mr. Murphy is now facing 'impeachment' by the student senate. Evidently the irony of punishing someone for what he said during a debate on free speech has escaped some of the members of that august body. And that itself would be fine; it's not as if expulsion from the ASUN senate will blight one's career, and student representative bodies should, except in extreme circumstances, be left alone by the university. It would be nice if its members had been imbued in their college education with an appreciation of the importance of free speech, particularly freedom of political speech, but that's on us, not on them.

All of this was proceeding merrily -- in fact, I'd paid almost no attention to it -- until the Chancellor of the university turned up with a sledgehammer to attack this tiny nut. He sent out this email to everybody -- students, staff and faculty.

I'm sorry, the most pejorative descriptor of Mr Muprhy's remarks, as reported, that I can come up with is 'ill-judged', and that's in hindsight. Not to mince words, calling his speech 'harmful, despicable, and intolerable' is ridiculous hyperbole, and whether Perlman accepts it or not, coming from a chancellor to a student, it is bullying. Perlman apparently thinks very little of free-speech, and apparently doesn't agree that of all speech, political speech deserves the highest level of protection. That is not a 'nuance', it is a cornerstone of freedom and democracy. And if Perlman 'can't imagine' why the language was used, well, let's just kindly say his imagination is deficient.

The statement had its intended effect. Mr. Murphy has indeed been silenced, as Perlman wanted, and won't speak to the newspapers. Meanwhile, last night, the interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences sent out his own statement, which included a clich├ęd call for "critical thinking and engagement in dialogs on race, gender and sexual orientation".

The UNL administration's actions show they're not in the least interested in a dialog. Rather, anyone who expresses a contrary view is to be browbeaten until they shut up. And faced with such powerful adversaries, who wouldn't shut up?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A direct, blatant lie from the Lincoln Journal Star

Three men, armed with a shotgun, committed a home invasion robbery in the near-south area of Lincoln; they assaulted a resident with the gun. The Journal Star reported:
Davidsaver said the resident was OK and was not taken to the hospital. The men were able to provide only vague descriptions of the intruders.
Captain Davidsaver is a police spokesman. But that is not what the police said. Lincoln Crimestoppers reports.
The robbers are described as black males, between the ages of 19-to-23 and all with average builds. The woman is described as being mixed race.
This is not in the least vague. The Lincoln Journal Star has gone from suppressing suspect descriptions in armed robberies, to telling direct lies about them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wind turbines kill 600,000 bats a year in the US alone

From Science Times
Wind turbines killed hundreds of thousands of bats in 2012 in the United States, according to an article by Mark Hayes of the University of Colorado. Hayes took the number of dead bats from 21 wind turbine locations and inferred the number of nationwide bat deaths, arriving at the conservative estimate of 600,000 bats killed in 2012. But the real toll, Hayes notes, may be as high as 900,000.
Bats, several of which are endangered species in the US, are apparently killed either by the blades or by barotrauma. Evidence for the latter are lung or middle ear hemorrhages. 100% of dead bats had the latter, whereas only 46% had physcial trauma. In the vernacuylar, barorauma is where the pressure differences around the blades or in their tiny and vital ears are blown out by the blades. I wonder how many more lose their hearing and starve to death?

Envoironmentalists are cruel bastards

I love bats, but they reproduce slowly. The study confirms other work. Bird kill numbers around wind power stations are also enormous.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ken Haar, untruthful about climate

Ken Haar, a former computer programmer who represents the Sierra Club in the State Legislature while pretending to represent his district, wrote a column in the Lincoln Journal Star today which contains the following.
But recently we have experienced something with far greater impact than just the natural variability we're famous for. We're seeing extreme weather events — one after another — that are unprecedented in the historical record.
In 2011, we had the devastating Missouri River flood stemming from record snowmelt in the Rockies. In 2012, we had a heat wave and a drought worse than the Dust Bowl. And this year, we had a record cold spring, followed by resumed drought, flooding in the west, followed by record tornado winds in several parts of the state and a devastating, earlier-than-usual record blizzard in the Panhandle
Scientists say it's almost impossible to blame any one of these weather events directly on climate change. But they do unequivocally say a warming climate makes extreme weather events more likely and exacerbates the impact.
Really? Why don't we look at the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report AR5 (Climate Change 2013), probably the best summary of the scientific consensus.
In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950
(Emphasis mine)
In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems
In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale
Is Senator Haar ignorant or a liar? I've never been able to plumb the Green Mind, other than to detect a fascination with controlling the lives of other people, so I wouldn't presume to say. I do know that Haar is completely misrepresenting the science.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sympathy for the Devil

Lots of people are astonished, or are feigning astonishment, that Antonin Scalia believes in the Devil. This is either disingenuousness or ignorance. The existence of the Devil is part of the teaching of the Catholic Church, and any orthodox Catholic (and Scalia is certainly that) is obliged to believe in him. Moreover 6 of 9 current Supreme Court justices are nominally Catholic, and should also believe in the Devil; I suspect several of them actually don't, but all that means is that they are cafeteria Catholics.

Why belief in the Devil should be considered especially odd escapes me anyway. If Jesus Christ was the personification of good, why shouldn't there be a personification of evil?

In case the sidebar isn't clear enough, I believe in neither. But what I find curious are atheists who pick and choose what parts of Christianity are stranger than others. It all starts with a talking snake, for heavens' sake. If you don't accept what's in the Catholic catechism, but instead in some sort of amorphous universal love thingy, you're not actually a Catholic, and I see no reason why you should be acknowledged as one. Conversely, if you pick and choose some parts of the doctrine to be sneered at as especially odd, be prepared to be branded intolerant of Catholicism. Me, I think all religion is odd, but it would be foolish to consider embrace of religion as a irremediable personal flaw.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thank you!

A lot of people my age are pretty rough on the millenials, but I'm not. In fact, I'd like to take this moment to thank them for everything they're going to do for me.

I'm getting close to retirement, and very soon I'm going to be drawing Social Security. Now, I suppose I could argue that I've paid into SocSec for 35 years, and I'm just collecting what I'm owed, but we all know that's crap. All my FICA is gone, paid out to the last set of deadbeats, or used to finance the gummint's Chinese borrowings. So my payout will be coming from the millenials, who in ten years will mostly have gotten jobs and be contributing. They will finance my bumming around the Caribbean on a sailboat. By the time the millenials themselves have come along, of course, there will be not much left. But meantime, they voted for Obama and the Democrats, who are dead set against anything that limits Social Security payouts. Thanks!

And then there's Medicare. Ditto. I'm going to draw out far more than I paid. And, while my own GOP want means-testing of Medicare, the Dems are dead set against it. So, although I could probably pay out of pocket for all but the most expensive medical care, I won't have to, thanks to poorly-compensated 20-somethings.

And now I get ObamaCare. I won't be eligible for Medicare for 10 years, and in the interim I might get fired for sassing Harvey Perlman a little too hard, or I might just quit (see sailboat, above). My job has really fantastic medical insurance, but it's good to know that if I decide to leave it, I still have ObamaCare. ObamaCare will probably cost me $10,000 a year, but when you've just beaten your second bout of cancer, it's a bargain. And, of course, the $10 K I pay in will scarcely begin to cover the cost of insuring me; most of the rest will be paid by the same barely-solvent twenty-somethings. A good half-dozen of them will be signing up for insurance they really don't need, and pay far too much for, just to keep me in regular checkups, preserving my cancerous carcass for sailboat adventures. What can I say, guys? I'd say I owe you, but by the time it comes to pay you back, I'll be gone!

Do I feel guilty? Nah. I voted for Bush, and supported Social Security privatization. I voted for McCain and Romney, and therefore against ObamaCare. All I really want is my money back from FICA and Medicare. But if someone gives you something you didn't ask for, well, the gracious thing is not to reject it, but to thank the donor, and keep it.

So thank you, guys, and I hope that somehow it's not as stinky for you, when you get old, as I very much suspect it will be. In return, i'd like to give you some free advice. Save a lot of money, because you'll need it!

Why doesn't Richard Dawkins push to fix his own National Health Service, instead of lobbying for ObamaCare?

British hospitals experience a phenomenon they call Monday Mayhem; the London Sunday Times has an article about it today. Quoting the ST:
Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons and author of the report, said the changes needed to be implemented to prevent the “mayhem” consultants found on Monday morning when patients had been left to deteriorate over the weekend. “There is absolute mayhem sometimes in certain trusts on Mondays where patients haven’t been seen. You do not know what you are going to find. Some have become quite unwell,” he said.
The National Health Service (NHS) is so broke, they won't pay senior doctors to work on weekends. As a result patients 'become quite unwell', classic British understatement for 'sometimes die'.

Meanwhile, the previous Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, is gearing up to sue the current Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, because Hunt uncovered internal NHS documents that said Burnham had ordered news unfavorable to the NHS be suppressed, and tweeted about them.

The lunatic reach of British libel laws is a whole other matter of course; imagine Condoleeza Rice suing Hillary Clinton for criticizing Rice's job as Secretary of State!

The UK state-run health system is an underfunded, chaotic and frequently fatal mess. And it's no secret; it's universally acknowledged. What isn't so acknowledged is that if they tried to spend the money needed to do more than apply bandaids to the NHS, the British Government would go broke, Greek style.

So what does a prominent British skeptic intellectual with a distinguished record in the biological sciences do? Why, he lobbies for Obama's efforts to inflict a state-run health care system in the US!

While US approval of Obama has dwindled to a 41% hard core of partisan Democrats, and the rest of us see him as an administratively-challendged, hyper-political and ultra-sensitive overgrown adolescent who spends too much time on the golf course, most members of the British Left are still Trve Believers in the ObamaCult.

Idol-worship is so ironic in a de facto spokesman for skepticism.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sports fan quits

This week I gave up being a sports fan.

Here at UNL, our athletic program went through one of its periodic melodramas, as a tape surfaced of Bo Pelini cussing out Nebraska fans, sports reporters and pretty much everyone else he could think of. The Lincoln Journal Stars sports hacks immediately leaped to his defense, and by the end of the week were announcing we had all forgiven Pelini after he received absolution from Saint Thomas of Osborne. It's not so much I care about forgiving the man; I think he's an imbecile without the mental wherewithal to coach a top football team, or the self-control to keep his emotions buttoned down. I don't want to think about him.

Osborne himself was a cynical, win-at-all-costs coach who wrapped his machinations in a cloak of po-faced sanctimony. His glory years from 1994-1997 were beset by a long series of scandals where his athletes committed a serious of violent felonies, and Osborne openly interfered with the justice system to keep them playing, all the time piously preaching about the redemptive qualities of big-time athletics. The best summary of it all is here.

Since he left, our athletic department has continued to intervene in the legal system to help athletes evade the consequences of sometimes pretty horrible acts. This is often with the active connvance of the courts and a large part of the citizenry. Doesn't anyone find it odd that Ndomukong Suh, who was pretty much idolized here in Lincoln, is one of the most despised players in the NFL? Did he just magically change when he went to the NFL? Or was he doing the same stuff here, and we didn't mind at all?

Getting away from Lincoln, we have a national sports media that recently poured adulation on Alex Rodriguez for setting a record for grand-slam home runs, a record was almost certainly the result of massive steroid and HGH abuse spanning most of his career. Most of the major records in baseball are suspect for the same reason. One of the best players on my favorite American football team is under indictment for murder. Basketball is the domain of thugs and rapists. International soccer is replete with corruption and match-fixing. The Olympics has a governing body that would be shameful in a central Asian republic. The best American athlete of the last couple of decades, Lance Armstrong, was doping, threatening his teammates to keep it quiet, while all the time promoting healthy living. And the list goes on and on...

Sorry, it's all too much. About a year ago I read a very wise piece of advice; never make your happiness depend on something you can't control. It's not just that you can't control, as a sports fan, what your favorite team or athlete do. It's that there is a good chance they just sold you down the river. You might as well get emotionally invested in professional wrestling.

Ironic, considering the Red Sox are going to win the AL East and three New York sports franchises are looking disaster in the face. But the defeats are as phony as the victories, so I'll pass on the schadenfreude. I've got better things to do with my time than watch cheats and thugs and crooks.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thank you, Froggy 98!

Well, I'm going to have to take the last two days of this week off, to finish protecting my property against the fans attending FrogFest 2013. A special thanks to the Lancaster County Commission, esp. Deb Schorr, Jane Raybould and Brett Smoyer, for approving an entirely inappropriate event that will end up costing me hundreds of dollars and days of wasted time. Thanks also to all those Nebraska country fans who think a few hours of drunken fun and mediocre music is worth making other people's lives miserable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Taking science seriously?

Remember how Obama came into office claiming he would take science seriously? This month, he appointed to the office of Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy a 27 year old postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Stanford, one Maya U Shankar. Ms. Shankar's doctorate, awarded in 2010 from Oxford, concerned how the color of fruity drinks affects their perceived taste. If you have access to that last link, please look at it; there are pictures of plastic glasses containing differently colored liquid. The text was similarly impressive
In preliminary testing, each participant selected the one drink (from among a lineup of seven differently colored drinks) whose color inspired the strongest expectation of a specific flavor in his or her mind, because it would very unlikely be any other flavor but the one it first made them think of’ (this choice will be referred to as each participant’s “target color”).
There's some well-styled academic writing, eh? Had this been entered in a middle school science fair, I'd probably have awarded it a pretty high score. For a Ph. D. thesis, maybe not so much. And by all means weigh in on how that sentence can be parsed, because I got lost after the first comma. The next paragraph contains almost the same pseudo-sentence.
These participants were chosen based on the results of preliminary testing, in which they viewed a number of differently colored drinks and then chose the one drink from among the set that inspired the strongest expectation of a particular flavor, because it would very unlikely be any other flavor but the one it first made them think of (see Fig. 1).
Whatever. It's awful. I don't want to harp on what little there is of Ms. Shankar's academic career; suffice it to say she went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford, but seems to have zero papers in over two years. She has, however, been featured in Glamor magazine and on PBS three times. She has also been linked to the far left Center for American Progress and George Soros.

She is supposedly taking over the White House Behavior Modification team (a.k.a. the 'nudge team') from Cass Sunstein. This s based on the thesis that government can produce desirable behavior in its serfs by subtle behavioral cues. So Ms. Shankar's name is on a letter (given her prose above, I doubt she herself wrote the letter) asking for volunteers for a new nudge team.

If you are aware of individuals with strong analytic skills, experience designing, testing, and evaluating rigorous randomized control trials, and a strong research background in fields such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, or behavioral economics, please encourage them send a CV andcontact information to mshankar2@ostp.eop.gov,which will be sent to the relevant parties for consideration.
(A bit ironic, since Ms Shankar surely does not meet these qualifications herself).

Anyway, that's science in the Obama administration; a barely literate postdoc as senior advisor on a team of behaviorists, who will be paid millions to try to get you to insulate your houses by paying to clean out your attics.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Clear

Something personal, if you'll forgive me.

About a year ago, I was operated on to remove an ugly-looking mass from my intestines. It turned out to contain an adenocarcinoma, but fortunately only at stage 1; the carcinoma hadn't migrated to the lymph nodes, and possibly hadn't even made it through the mucosal wall. I contracted no fewer than two postoperative infections, and for the last year have been putting up with continual blood tests and colonoscopies and finally a CAT scan. It's been tedious as all hell. The good news is I got the CAT scan results today, and I'm apparently free of cancer. We seem to have got that sucker before it metastatized. Mostly it was just pure dumb luck, but if you're 50 or older, get a colonoscopy, folks. It probably saved my life.

The bad news is the building in which I work seems to have housed a large number of cancers in the last 20 years, including no fewer than 4 cases of almost-inevitably deadly pancreatic cancer. There is epidemiological evidence chemists are unusually susceptible to pancreatic cancer, but 4 cases is still awfully high. An epidemiological report is forthcoming, and I expect it to say there's nothing unusual (the state epidemiologist is not going to finger the state university), but one has to ask oneself, how badly does one want to continue working in a place that seems to kill people?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hating Charlie Janssen

Charlie Janssen is a politician on the move. On the Fremont City Council, he stood for legislation barring illegal aliens from renting or working in the city; the rental portion of this ordinance have been upheld by the courts. As a legislator, he sponsored a voter ID law that was only defeated by a filibuster. In the last session, he stood firm against Medicaid expansion and various other leftist measures beloved of the nominal Democrat minority and their RINO fellow travellers. He’s now running for governor.

What is remarkable is the extent to which he’s become a figure of hatred for the Nebraska Left. By simply noting that the rapist/killer of a 93 year old woman in Omaha was an illegal alien, he created an uproar.

Dan Moser, ordinarily a witty and apparently sane individual, wrote to the Lincoln Journal Star claiming Janssen was using "such tragedies to gin up hatred for an entire class of people -- in this case, illegal immigrants". Of course, Janssen did no such thing. He drew attention to the immigration status of one criminal, and tied it to national immigration policy.

It is entirely reasonable to draw attention to the negative consequences of illegal immigration. One such consequence is the importation of violent criminals. Nobody really knows the level of violent crimes among illegal immigrants, and that is largely because the powers-that-be don’t want us to know. We don’t collect the data. ICE does not even normally disclose the immigration status of criminals. You would think, if we wanted citizens to rationally weigh the pros and cons of illegal immigration, reliable numbers on the rate of crime among illegal immigrants would be important. One can only assume that they’re suppressed because they are unfavorable to the cause of amnesty.

In fact, Janssen expanded on this in a letter to the Journal Star

This crime is undeniable evidence that our borders are not secure and we have no idea who is entering our country. The result of the federal government’s failure here — not only criminal violence but human trafficking and drug smuggling — has cost our state immeasurably.
The Journal Star Editorial Board mendaciously accused Janssen of "making a sweeping and damaging generalization". Of course, he did nothing of the sort. This is just a lie.

Most egregiously, Ari Kohen of UNL's political science department decided the Journals Star's lie simply wasn't big enough, and expanded it.

If there’s one thing we can learn about crime from this absolutely awful case, Janssen suggests, it’s that the real culprit is every single Mexican person who wants to come to the U.S.
Janssen suggested nothing even close to this. It's just a nasty fabrication on Kohen's part. Heck, I expect Janssen, if not Kohen, is educated enough to realize not all illegal immigrants are Mexican.

Called on this outrageous slander by Janssen, Kohen shifted to interrogative mode.

(I mean, really, how stupid a question is this?)

Janssen, wisely, told him to get lost, a policy I recommend to anyone who's tempted to get down in the mud with Kohen.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bird number 648: crag martin

We saw ten or so crag martins flying near, and perching on the walls of, Castelnaud in the Dordogne valley. They are slightly out of the normal book-range, but apparently are regular returners.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Double jeopardy, hate crimes, and George Zimmerman

The continued persecution of acquitted Zimmerman by the federal government has turned Orwellian.

While it is possible for the Federal government to charge and convict someone for an act of which they've been acquitted of a crime in state court (the Rodney King case is the most notorious example) this seems to be a stretch in the Zimmerman case. The vehicle the racial grievance industry is proposing is the Shepard-Byrd Act. One problem is, both the crime alleged (willfully causing body injury resulting in death) and the motivation (because of color) seem to be already covered by the original second-degree murder charge, which required the defendant have acted out of enmity to the victim.

Most worrying, though, has been the fishing expedition by the Department of Justice to try to show that Zimmerman was racially prejudiced. Even though evidence presented at trial strongly indicated that Zimmerman was unprejudiced, the DoJ have gone so far as to set up a snitch line using which 'concerned citizens' can email evidence of Zimmerman's race hatred. Bill of attainder, anyone? If this works, Zimmerman is in jeopardy if he can be proven guilty of past thoughtcrime indicating racism.

This is perhaps the most insidious effect of hate crime laws. Racist speech, however much one might deplore it, is protected speech. If however it can be collected post facto and used to provide the basis for a crime carrying a life-sentence, how protected is it?

Meanwhile 'Justice for Trayvon' supporters are out committing overt hate crimes, completely ignored by the US Department of Justice.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Zimmerman aftermath 1: the New York Times continues to lie...

...and I say lie advisedly, because it is inconceivable, after so much attention was paid to the trial, that the Editorial Board of a major newspaper could still be getting this wrong.
The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of Florida’s now-notorious Stand Your Ground statute. Under that law, versions of which are on the books in two dozen states, a person may use deadly force if he or she “reasonably believes” it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm — a low bar that the prosecutors in this case fought in vain to overcome.
First, the jury was never asked to consider Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Stand Your Ground was never an element in the trial, and the defense conspicuously waived a Stand Your Ground hearing before the trial. Stand Your Ground modifies or removes the duty to retreat, and it is not relevant when, like George Zimmerman, you are lying on the concrete with a 17 year old thug-in-training* pounding your head into it. Unless, that is, an ability to melt into the concrete is one of your super-powers.

The New York Times hates Florida's Stand Your Ground law. That is not an excuse for lying about it.

Second, what they cite is not Stand Your Ground, but the ordinary standard of self-defense -- a reasonable belief you are in danger of death or grievous body harm (and how can one believe oneself in danger of GBH and not of death?) -- used, with some variation, in all 50 states, including New York.


* more fun with this later on.
(7/16/2013) Jacob Sullum has made the same point in far greater detail here. People have made the argument 'stand your ground' was covered in the jury instructions. This is because the Florida Supreme Court has a standard boilerplate set of jury instructions for justifiable use of deadly force.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Taxes and Nebraska

For various reasons, we've been looking for a condo in downtown Lincoln. We found one place we like quite a bit. The price for which we can get it is about 75% of what we could get for our condo in Florida. The Florida place is impeccable, in a great area, 40 minutes from a major international airport, 1500 sq. ft. and overlooking the Atlantic. The back gate of the condo complex is a walk through flower-decked sand dunes to a beautiful beach. Its property taxes are half what we'd pay in Lincoln.

I'm currently in a dispute with the Department of Revenue in Nebraska. After 3 letters they claim the sent me, one of which I never received, they seem to have settled on a tax liability for 2012 in excess of $17,000. If I were resident in Florida, we'd pay zero. Florida doesn't have a state income tax.

I pay more in fees and taxes for my wireless bill in Nebraska than I would in any other state. The sales taxes I pay in Nebraska and Florida are the same, but if I go out to eat or have a beer in Lincoln I pay 2% extra to build an arena I will probably never attend. The drain goes on and on. When I retire, Nebraska is one of the few states that will tax my social security

I've lived in Lincoln 21 years. I can retire in less than four years. I like Nebraska, but not enough to keep me here through another winter or another tax year that I don't have to be a resident. Hawaii might be able to get me to pay through the nose of the privilege of domiciling there. Nebraska isn't Hawaii. When I leave the state, it can kiss off a total of perhaps $40 K in tax revenue for its schools, its colleges, its cities and its poor.

More and more people are like me; more and more of us have a choice where we reside. Nebraska needs to realize that it has a tax system designed to drive us elsewhere. Not smart, if you don't have beaches and tropical flowers and year-round warmth.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Smarter Government

About 3 months ago, a visiting scientist coming to work in my lab applied for a visa. We issued a necessary DS-2019, on which we mistyped a birthdate (1967 instead of 1964). The State Department a couple of days ago denied the visa because of this single small typo. Now we have to do it again. I'm not sure we can do it in time.

Meanwhile today I got a notice from the Nebraska Department of Revenue. They announced they had, unfortunately, miscalculated an underpayment of taxes they claim I made. Three weeks ago they had sent a downright hostile letter, threatening liens, and claiming I owed them about $300. I couldn't see how they came up with that number, but decided I wasn't going to hire a tax lawyer for $300. So I sent them a cheque. They cashed the check, but never credited to my account. So now they claim I owe them another $80, even though it is they who owe me $220. I have no idea how long it's going to take to get this all sorted out.

Smarter government is less government. Don't let anyone tell you different.

All the news that's sick to print

People call the New York Times a cat box liner. Their cats are a lot less picky than ours. But today, the Newspaper of Record excels itself. The piece that has everyone outraged is of course My Mother’s Abortion. But they overlook Eyeball of Providence (not Rhode Island, one presumes)which is about being stuck in the eye with a needle. And there's Why I Donated my Stool (unfortunately not about furniture), which is about...oh, just read it.

My theory is, it's all there to make Eliot Spitzer seem a little less gross.

People ask me if I miss New York, and then look surprised when I say "No, not in the least"

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wind-power-driven blackouts in the UK this winter

The UK has invested heavily in reducing carbon emissions and installing wind capacity. The result...
Shops and factories will be paid to ration electricity to avoid nationwide power blackouts under a drastic government plan announced yesterday. Household energy bills would have to rise to compensate companies for turning off lighting and machinery during winter nights. It comes after the regulator Ofgen said that the risk of blackouts had doubled in less than a year because not enough new power stations were being built to replace old coal and gas plants.
Schadenfreude is misplaced. Obama plans to put us in exactly the same predicament, by closing coal power stations.

Wind power kills another high-value target

From Scotland
A bird from a species that has been recorded in the UK only eight times in the past 170 years died when it flew into a wind turbine — watched by scores of enthusiasts who had travelled to the Outer Hebrides to see it.
The white-throated needletail, the world’s fastest flying bird, was thousands of miles off course after turning up at Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. It was first spotted in Northumberland on Monday and experts believe that it may have come from Siberia.
Can't wait until we put these bird-blenders in the Nebraska Sandhills. If the fastest bird in the world, a mere 5 inches long, gets chewed up, imagine the carnage of sandhill and whooping cranes, ferruginous hawks, etc..

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fossil-fuel companies are reducing our carbon footprint. Let's punish them!

The divestment movement in the 1970s and 1980s urged colleges, universities and other institutions to sell stockholdings in companies doing business in South Africa, at the time ruled by a racist and rather vicious regime. I was a small part of it. I sat out on the steps of University Hall, Harvard, blocking administrators from entering. It all felt very high-minded, and JK Galbraith gave us a clenched-fist salute, which was pretty darn kewl.

Unfortunately, some environmentalist kooks are now trying to emulate our success by campaigning for universities to divest from fossil-fuel companies, on the theory that said companies are destroying the planet. More unfortunately, the campaign has hit my institution, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. And even more unfortunately, some of my less rational colleagues are apparently supporting it.

One of the most inconvenient truths of modern climate policy (for environmentalists, that is) is this. The US has dramatically reduced its CO2 output since 2006. This was done not by taxing carbon or by creating a corrupt malfunctioning carbon credit market. Subsidizing renewable energy and encouraging efficiency had relatively minor contributions. The major reason is fracking. It was done, not by the government, but by fossil fuel companies. Fracking releases natural gas, which is higher in hydrogen and lower in carbon than petroleum or coal. It's been so successful that natural gas is incredibly cheap, and companies that build natural gas engines for heavy trucks are prospering. Meanwhile countriies that have invested in renewables, and have restricted fracking, are increasing their CO2 output.

UNL has virtually no equities holdings anyway; the UNL Foundation, a private charity, holds most stocks associated with UNL. And I encourage the Foundation board to ignore the loonies and continue to hold -- maybe even increase -- our holdings in fossil fuel companies.


More on fracking; how the EPA used phony data and hilariously bad methodology in a 'draft report' condemning fracking, and then stealthily withdrew the report.

Friday, June 7, 2013

...but not if he's black and the crime was rape.

A 16- year old girl was allegedly raped under the 27th street overpass in Lincoln last night, around 1 a.m., by a stranger. In this case the Journal-Star did not give a description. However, KLKN TV does.
Police say the suspect is a heavy set black male, around 5'10".
You might think that if there is a stranger-rapist abroad in Lincoln (and one needs always to be somewhat skeptical of crime reports like this one) that it might be useful for the public to have a rough description. You might think.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ezekiel Emanuel, ice water, and colonoscopies

Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Rahm, and guru of much of the left when it comes to health care reform, today penned a shocking column in the New York Times. Shocking not because of its content, which was pretty vapid (comparing home renovation to colonoscopy) but in what it revealed about the writer's ignorance of science and modern medicine. And I quote:
In the early ’90s, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues did a series of experiments that revealed how people remembered the pain of a situation. In one experiment, participants held a hand in an ice-water bath (of 14 degrees Celsius) for 60 seconds — a pretty painful experience. To be precise: an 8.3 on a 10-point pain scale. In a second experiment they held their hand in the same ice-water bath for 60 seconds and then for another 30 seconds, during which the water was warmed just 1 degree.
Problem is, 14 Celsius isn't the temperature of icewater, and it isn't painful. It's 57°F. I've looked at the original paper, and they used icewater to cool the water to which the subjects were exposed, but the latter water was at 57°F; it wasn't ice water. I find the entire study very fishy; even though the pain was rated as 8.3 on a 14 point (not 10 point) scale, it's hard for me to believe 60 seconds in 57°F water caused any significant pain at all. I checked the cold water in our building; after running for 30 seconds, it reached a temperature of 13°C. I filled a bucket with it, checking the temperature was staying approximately constant, and immersed my left hand in it for several minutes, moving it around to make sure it was exposed to the cold. I felt very little discomfort; certainly not pain of 8 on a scale of 0-14.

But it gets worse

This was confirmed in 2003 by another experiment by Dr. Kahneman, who won the Nobel Prize in 2002, and his fellow researchers, concerning the pain associated with colonoscopy. The patients in the study underwent the usual procedure, but one group experienced a slight change at the end. How to put it delicately? After everything was finished, the tip of the colonoscope was left resting in the rectum for up to three minutes before being removed. Afterward, when all the medications wore off, patients evaluated the pain of the procedure. Surprisingly, those who had the colonoscope in longer on average remembered less total pain. And this just wasn’t a matter of self-reporting: over the next five years, they were also 18 percent more likely to return for a repeat colonoscopy — increasing the opportunity to reduce deaths from colon cancer.
But, in fact, anyone who's had a recent colonoscopy (and I just had my second in the last year) will tell you the procedure isn't at all painful. You're so doped up on fentanyl you don't feel or remember a thing. Emanuel's column is distinctly noxious; it will probably discourage some people from having a procedure that might save their life.

This is the guy guiding much leftist thought on health care delivery. Yikes.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The needs of the many must give way to the needs of UNL Athletic Department

There really only is one entity to blame for UNL's cancelled graduation today; the UNL department of athletics. They were so danged anxious to get the volleyball team into Devaney, which required a $20 m renovation, they couldn't defer construction one season. Had they been willing to wait, they could have started renovating after next season, and held graduation in the new Pinnacle Bank Arena.

They instead chose to gamble with Nebraska spring weather; at the moment, and new grad should be filing into Memorial stadium, it's 38 F and pouring rain. You'd think Harvey Perlman would realize by now he has somehow offended the weather gods. His luck in announcing snow days has been execrable.

As long as the AD tail continues to wag the UNL dog, things like this will continue to happen. When our athletes commit mayhem, the athletic director appears in court to plead for the young thug, and a wrist slap results. Our lenient treatment of Lawrence Phillips probably cost lives. But we never learn.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Deadbeat democrat defames!

A letter in today's Lincoln Journal Star was obnoxious, even by the standards of our local cat-box liner.

Until recently, I considered Sen. Mike Johanns to be a basically good and decent man, even though he is a Republican.

Who is this ass? I wondered. A few minutes on the intertubes confirmed that the author, one Ronald Orville Feyerherm, is in fact a recent bankrupt.

Good and decent men pay their bills. And I'm so tired of being insulted by ignorant moochers who can't even balance a household budget.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Democrat hate has an expiration date.

In the panic that followed the Boston Marathon bombing, the Haymarket street on which Senator Deb Fischer's office stands was closed because of a bag of trash outside the door. The news was tweeted by the LJS here

Our delightful UNL Young Democrats modified the tweet, to the effect that the trash was actually Senator Fischer. To their very transitory credit, UNLHaters retweeted the tweet, signaling it as hateful, which is where I saw it. UNL Young Democrats then deleted the original, and it also disappeared from UNLHaters, even though they claim to have a policy of not removing deleted tweets. They claim they had used autoretweet on the Young Democrats tweet; this deletes retweets when the original is deleted. But, of course, this goes agains their stated policy, and their past practice. How convenient!

So UNL Young Democrats' cheap shot at Deb Fischer is consigned to the memory hole, and UNLHaters have lost another fragment of their tattered credibility.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When it's warmer, it's 'climate'; when it's colder it's 'weather'

Just about this time last year, speaking out from its vast well of scientific wisdom, the Lincoln Journal Star opined editorially that the warm spring was an indicator of climate change.
Nonetheless, on a 91-degree March afternoon, it was difficult to believe that some still deny that global warming is real.
Tonight is predicted to set a cold temperature record for the date, the second time this has happened in a week. So far this month in Lincoln has been the coldest April on record. So let's make some minor tweaks to the above:
Nonetheless, on a 24-degree April night, it is difficult to believe that some still argue that global warming is real.
Both statements are equally stupid.
It's now a 34 degree May evening, and the rain-snow line is moving inexorably across Seward Co. towards Lincoln. The Weather Channel is forecasting 3 - 7 inches by tomorrow evening, but no one really knows, because May snowfalls are, well, rarer than snow in summer. Or late spring, anyway.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A poem for Dzhokhar

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a pothead
Tamerlan a bit of a hothead
His brother was shot
Dzhokhar he was caught
And in prison forever he rotted.

...but wait, there's more!

A nutcase named Amanda Palmer
Had a bit of a crush on a bomber
"My Dzhokhar's a cutie
I just love his bootie"
His murders don't seem to alarm her

Saturday, April 20, 2013

So much fail

Despite an orgy of self-congratulation, it is hard to look at the events surrounding the Boston marathon bombing as less than a litany of epic failures. The police are lauded for running towards the scene of the explosions -- doing their job, in other words -- while ignoring the fact that two amateurs were able to place and detonate two bombs in the middle of a densely policed area, with bomb-sniffing dogs on the prowl. The early investigation was a mess of misleading police leaks and completely false stories from the mainstream media. The authorities and media were apparently convinced by ideology, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever (in fact plenty of evidence to the contrary) that the bombing was done by conservatives, with tax-supported NPR actually claiming the date was chosen partly because April is the month of Hitler's birthday.

Meanwhile, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a glaringly obvious suspect, who had been the subject of a foreign intelligence inquiry in 2011, had posted Islamist videos to the net, had a violent criminal record, and lived 3 miles from the bombing, was not interviewed, even though they had a decent picture of him.

The Tsarnaevs were captured because they held up a convenience store and shot an MIT policeman. If they'd kept their head down and driven to Canada, they'd have been long gone and hard to find. Despite massive police presence, they lost one brother after the Thursday night shootout in East Watertown, and then locked down the entire Boston metropolitan area, a futile and expensive act that hindered the manhunt.

Dzhokhor Tsarnaev, wounded, was hiding in a boat at 65 Franklin (B), 0.7 miles, or 13 minutes at 3 m.p.h. pace, from the shootout at Laurel and Dexter (A). The entire '20 block perimeter' the cops claimed to have set up was a joke (anyone who has lived in the Boston area knows the street layout is so irregular the term 'block' is meaningless). Not only was the bomber a few minutes on foot from the shootout, but he'd left blood leading up to and on the outside of the boat he was hiding in, and the cover ties were cut. The massive manhunt totally missed all that. Then when they found him they pointlessly unleashed hundreds of rounds, for no good reason and to no apparent effect.

Looking back, the younger Tsarnaev's education at leftist Cambridge Rindge and Latin seems to have left him with little more than a serious drug habit, a belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories, an unrealistic appraisal of his own abilities, and $2,500 in taxpayer money to pay for failing most of the courses he took in his first year of college.

Meanwhile, those of us on the right were slandered by the media and the government, which failed to protect a major sporting event, completely bungled a police investigation, consistently misreported events, locked up the citizenry in its homes for a day, and wasted untold millions of dollars. Is it any wonder we want to choose for ourselves how to educate our children, want to have the means to protect ourselves from criminals, and object to paying for propaganda directed against us?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The 'Scientist in Chief' gets it wrong

Obama, whose stock of delusions of grandeur is never depleted, today, bizarrely, called himself the Scientist-in-Chief. He also made this claim:
The Apollo project that put a man on the moon also gave us eventually CAT scans.
It's rubbish, of course. CAT scans were developed by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield at the private British record company EMI, not in the United States, and owe absolutely nothing to the Apollo project.

It's wonderfully ironic that his examplar of a spin-off from government-funded research was in fact developed entirely by the private sector.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Lincoln Journal Star's ignorant drivel about Iran sanctions

Fulminating against Republican opposition to Chuck Hagel, the Lincoln Journal Star ranted....
The fact is that Hagel opposed unilateral sanctions, and for a very good reason. They don’t work. But he voted repeatedly for multilateral sanctions -- which do work -- against Iran. It’s a matter of record. You can look it up.
I did look it up. The LJS is full of it. The United State imposes a slew of unilateral sanctions against Iran. These include bans on any company doing business with Iran, a ban on imports from Iran, sanctions against Iranian banks, a ban on exporting aviation parts, and so on...a full listing is here. An appraisal of the effect of the US sanctions by Akbar Torbat in 2005, before they were intensified and before multilateral sanctions were imposed, said that
It is concluded that, overall, the sanctions' economic effect has been significant, while its political effect has been minimal.
The Congressional Research Service have concluded that US sanctions against financial sector companies doing business with Iran have been particularly effective. And, of course, current Obama administration policy includes the use of unilateral sanctions against Iran.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Seeing double

The best SOTU joke derives from the split screen they were using on CNN to show the State of the Union speech simultaneously with Chris Dorner's shuffling off this mortal coil.
Q: What's the difference between Barack Obama and Chris Dorner? A: One is a gun-control supporter with a chip on his shoulder who thinks its OK to summarily kill American citizens, and the other's a former cop.
Thanks, and remember to tip your waitress.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is 'generic' the new 'urban'?

Observers of the language have watched with some amusement how the word 'urban' has become a stand-in, in some places, for 'African American'. Now, it appears, the Lincoln Journal Star has a new formula for suppressing information about crime perpetrators - 'generic description'. Here's a story about a serious, apparently unprovoked assault in downtown Lincoln overnight.
The assailant got out of a black, four-door Honda Accord at 10th and N streets and punched the man shortly after 2 a.m., causing him to fall to the pavement, Lincoln Police Capt. David Beggs said. Police offered only a generic description of the attacker. Beggs said no footage showing the attack was available.
An actual news source, as opposed to a news-suppression organization, gives us some insight as to what 'generic' means.
Police say they're looking for a 1997 or newer black four door Honda Accord. There were two black males, one about 6' 1'' and 190 pounds, possibly wearing a blue long sleeved shirt, and two white females, in the car.
It's truly hilarious the LJS feels it can publish the color of the car, but not of the attackers. And this is surely anything but 'generic'. As perp. descriptions go, it's quite detailed.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

UNL still mired in seething h8!

Another vile hate-filled tweet has been unearthed by those intrepid sleuths at UNLhaters!
Oh, merciful God, or Allah, or nearest divine equivalent. Someone commented he was surrounded by people speaking a foreign language! We are only a few short steps from death camps!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

John Kerry...supremely qualified to be diplomat in chief

...if a diplomat is a man sent to lie for his country. Because John lies like a master. Today:
I supported Ronald Reagan when he sent troops into Grenada
In 1984
"The invasion of Grenada represents the Reagan policy of substituting public relations for diplomatic relations . . . no substantial threat to US interests existed and American lives were not endangered . . . The invasion represented a bully's show of force against a weak Third World nation. The invasion only served to heighten world tensions and further strain brittle US/Soviet and North/South relations."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Worst boycott evar?

Students from three Nebraska universities and a high school are calling for a public boycott of Anheuser-Busch products because of their sales to beer stores in the town of Whiteclay.
Needless to say, if you're in high school, you can't legally drink beer anyway. Nor can about 70% of college students. So this is like me boycotting Gulfstream.

Usually, my response to boycotts like this is to double my personal consumption, but since we're talking about the fine products of the Anheuser-Busch corporation, twice zero is still zero. I'd rather adopt urolagnia as a lifestyle.

But I must say I find it appalling our young people are trying to help impose prohibition on a group of American citizens, purely on account of their race and tribal affiliation. Some Native Americans clearly want to drink beer, are denied that right by their local government, and these young fascists want to prevent them from doing so even outside the bounds of their reservation. What a nasty bunch of jackbooted bigots.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The world, an update

Happy second inauguration day, Obamaites. Let's review where we are after 4 years of 'soft power'.

Last week, largely ignored by the US media, a large number of foreigners were taken hostage by jihadist terrorists in southern Algeria. Many were killed; we don't know how many, because the US government has no influence with, and negligible presence in, Algeria. The Algerian government has so little interest in the opinion of such weak sisters as Obama, Cameron and Hollande it simply declined to take their 'phone calls, deciding instead to show Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb that, unlike for other governments, we do not negotiate with terrorists is more than an empty slogan for the Algerians.

Meanwhile, France is fighting a shooting war with other islamists in Mali. We're covering some of their logistics; the US is now the world's UPS. Libya is an anarchic mess where a US ambassador was killed without repercussions and the administration's principal interest was covering up its own negligence. Egypt is in the hands of the Moslem Brotherhood and a president who describes the Israelis as the sons of pigs and monkeys. We ensured his election by withdrawing support of Mubarak, another ally. The White House's under- and ham-handed efforts to interfere in Israeli elections have likely backfired, convincing much of Israel of what Netanyahu already knows; that American under Obama is no friend. It will be even less of a friend if the execrable Chuck Hagel is confirmed. Syria is a bloodbath, over which Obama has twiddled his thumbs. Thanks to Obama, we have no troop presence in Iraq, and we are pulling out of Afghanistan in indecent haste, practically inviting the Taliban to take over again. Our presence in the region is limited to remote-controlled drone-strikes, which further alienate the populace.

In other words, North Africa and most of the Middle-East are a anarchic mess where America is simply irrelevant. Al Qaeda are stronger than they were at the end of Clinton's administration. And Americans would be unwise to travel to the region wiothout substantial private security, because it's clear the State Department and the US armed forces will not raise a finger to help anyone, even our own diplomatic personnel.

If there's one tiny silver lining to this comprehensive disaster, it's in a column by Tim Montgomerie in today's London Times, plaintively headlined We need the world's policeman back on duty. Some prime quotes:

Again and again Mr. Obama has taken the wrong decisions in the still early stages of this longest of struggles...the lightly-armed, all-smiles policeman of the Obama years is too ready to please the crowds, afraid to do anything other than hide behind often-inaccurate drone attacks...the world [can't] afford another four years of drift and detachment.
The silver lining is that the rest of the civilized world is waking up and realizing, while the Democrats are a major party supported by a huge and feckless proportion of the American electorate, that it can't rely on America to play a significant role in keeping the peace. Perhaps, just perhaps, they might learn that reducing their defense spending to near zero has, as it should have, rendered them defenseless. We can only hope.

Meanwhile, in four years, some of us will have to pick up the pieces.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Unilateral economic disarmament

Y'all probably don't remember this, but in the 1980s there was something called a nuclear freeze movement. The idea of it was that if the US froze its nuclear weapons, other countries would follow, and we'd all be on the way to Universal Whirled Peas, or something. Nebraskans for Peace supported the movement; so did your soon-to-be Secretary of State John Kerry. Needless to say, it was a monumentally asinine idea; the idea that countries like China and the Soviet Union were simply waiting on the United States to do the right thing before they themselves would disarm was simply insane. In fact, there is good evidence it was Reagan's arms build-up that forced the Soviet Union into dissolution.

Fast forward to 2013. Tim Rinne of the (unfortunately) still-existing Nebraskans for Peace wants the US to cripple its economy with carbon consumption restrictions, to reduce anthropogenic global warming. Will it reduce AGW? Almost certainly not; India and China are not crazy enough to cripple their economies in the same fashion, and will simply use the carbon-based fuels we forgo.

A lot of it is just plain wrong. For example:

It will mean growing more of our food locally and eating seasonally to lower production and transportation costs.
Problem is, locally grown food does not reduce carbon production. Global distribution networks are highly efficient. Shipping in train-cars of produce from California uses less carbon than the thousands of small trucks local growers need to take food to their local markets. What Tim really hates is big business, and he likes the hair-shirt feeling he gets from eating half-rotten turnips and contracting mild scurvy. Yes, it is stupid and more-than-slightly crazy, but there you go.

Liberals are weird. The end result of an action seems unimportant to them, as long as the action palliates their guilt. They felt bad about having the capability to incinerate Soviet babies, even though former-Soviet babies, now grown up, are far better off because we were steadfast about our nuclear capability. Now they want us to engage in a course of self-indulgent abnegation, even though it will not do anything to stop AGW, because it will less them feel less guilty about their small fraction of it.

I don't know about you, but palliating liberal-self-loathing is not high on my list of priorities. If they really want to reduce their carbon dioxide production to near-zero, there's an obvious course for them to take.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Moving the furniture at UNL

This semester one of the classes I'm teaching is overfull. It has 46 students registered; the limit is 45. The classroom is supposed to have 48 seats, but as of Monday, only had 44. So several students were sitting on the floor.

There's a plaque on the wall of Hamilton Hall 133, the classroom in question, giving a Facilities number to call if there are any problems. So on Wednesday, before class, I called Facilities. We don't do seats, said Facilities, call Inventory. We used to do seats, said Inventory, but now Classroom Assignment does seats. We don't do seats, said Classroom Assignment, call Facilities.

Oh no, you don't, I said, canny, after 25 years teaching, in the loops that bureaucrats create when they want to get rid of you. Facilities already sent me to Inventory, who sent me here. OK, said Classroom Assignment, we'll check it out, and get back to you. This is turning into a huge waste of time, I said, why don't I just move some seats from another classroom? Please don't, said Classroom Assignment, that's how problems like this are created. Maybe people move seats, I said, because when they try the official way, they get the bureaucratic run-around. I'll get back to you, said Classroom Assignment. She never did.

I just went downstairs and moved four seats from Hamilton Hall 135 to Hamilton Hall 133.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Airhead alert

Jane Kleeb thinks we should make Chuck Hagel Secretary of Defense, because he has dreamy blue eyes. I seriously wonder whether feminism has accomplished very much in liberating what's between liberal women's ears.

I prefer to listen to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.