Monday, October 24, 2016

Right wing cartooning

The best service cartoonist Bill Leak has provided to national politics is indicating that it takes a really decent knock on the head/brain injury to convert a person into a permanent right wing ideologue.   That lesson hasn't been learnt well enough at Catallaxy, I see, where the controversial Bill Leak aboriginal cartoon (and self serving sequel) is now up as a banner.  (Even before this, the blog was one of the last places in Australia to go for moderate and intelligent commentary on race issues.) 

As it happens, I can see both sides of the Bill Leak cartoon - I certainly understand many aborigines finding it offensive; but I can also see that it fits within the type of graphic commentary whereby cartoonists frequently treat their targets with an unfair broad brush.

Leak's sequel makes his original offensiveness to large numbers of aboriginal fathers worse - indicating that he makes no acknowledgement that he doing anything other than "telling the truth", and that he thinks he was being funny.   If he had somehow acknowledged that he knew you can't accuse all aborigines as alcoholic, hopeless parents, he might have earned some sympathy.  But, no.

Hence, while I would have thought a complaint about the first cartoon under 18C Racial Discrimination Act should have been dismissed, taking both cartoons together makes it appear to me much more likely that he may be found to be in breach of the Act.  Am I concerned about that?   Not really - the Australian, if it was a decent newspaper of any standing, should not have run the cartoon in the first place; or, at the very least, offered an apology for offence caused once the complaints started coming in.  (Did they do that editorially?  I wouldn't know.) 

But then again, nor do I think that Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommanase did his position much good by inviting complaints about the cartoon.  While publicising the role of his organisation is one thing, doing it in such a specific context is unlikely to do more than re-invigorate the culture warriors in the Coalition and media, who have nothing better to do with their time other than hound Gillian Triggs and her organisation to death, and agitate on behalf of the likes of Andrew Bolt.

The HRC needs to have a high profile complaint (such as the current QUT student matter) fail in order to confirm that they and its judges do take a hard headed approach to matters and aren't there for frivolous or ill founded complaints.  I strongly suspect that this is what will happen in the QUT case, and a decision on that cannot come soon enough.  The commission also then needs to review itself from a point of view of procedural fairness.

I will see this movie

Doctor Strange: 5 things to know about Marvel’s best-looking movie yet - Vox

Despite my complaints about Hollywood spending way too much time on comic book movies, I'll see this one because:

a.  everyone likes Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton, don't they? Count me in, too.

b.  articles talking about it seem to suggest there are quite a few jokes to be had.  Marvel needs humour to be bearable;

c.   movies that are noteworthy for unusual visual effects still have some appeal.  Merely well done disaster scenarios, whether on a city or planet-wide scale, don't hold any interest, but this movie sounds more innovative than that. 

Excuse me while I do some food blogging

Here's some boring food/family blogging for you:   on a Saturday or Sunday night, every few weeks, we have a "snack night" - a platter of food and bread that we all help ourselves too.

I not sure how commonly realised this is, but all meals that combine large elements of red and green foods will always be good.  For a platter we enjoy, the key ingredients tend to be:

a.  a wood platter.   Remember, wood platters make all food taste better.  They just do.

b.  oven roasted capsicum (peel off the burnt skin, season and and pour some good olive oil over it.)  This is a really, really popular food in our house.

c.  for green:  in spring - Australian asparagus.  Always tastes better than South American.   Fried in a bit of butter and olive oil is perfect.  Otherwise, just green  beans, either pan fried with a bit of garlic, or steamed in the microwave with a bit of garlic infused olive oil on them afterwards.  Have you tried Cobram Estate's garlic infused olive oil?   It's really great and convenient:

d.  Possible additional red:  ripe tomatoes.  Possibly served with cold mozzarella, or a bit of crumbed feta, olive oil and basil leaves if you have some.  Red and green on the one plate works well.

e.  Possible additional green:  avocado, just mashed up with lemon and salt and pepper.

f.   Further vegetable:  olives.   Whatever type you like. 

g.  Other possible vegetables:  carrot sticks or celery, with which to each the semi-guacamoled avocado or (if you really need it) a dip from the supermarket.  I like beetroot dip.  Home made hummus is easy enough, too, as long as you have some tahini around.

g.  Protein:  smoked fish.   A whole smoked trout, which costs all of $10 or so, with the skin peeled off but otherwise just laid out on the platter for people to attack, does the trick.   Of course, smoked salmon, either of the cold or hot smoked variety, works fine too.  The trout laid out with the head and tail still on looks good, though.

h.  Protein:  brie or another soft gooey cheese.

g.  Bread:  whatever you like, but makes some garlic butter and grill half of it on a stove top griddle for those who like yet more garlic flavour and a crisper base for cheese.

h.  White wine.  May as well make it a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Goes well with the smoked fish.

Some of these meals are the most enjoyable we share at home.  And are not very expensive, given the pleasure derived from this tasty range of foods.

Alt.right losers

Donald Trump’s Alt-Right Supporters: Internet Abuse Must End | National Review

A remarkable account by David French of the intense abuse he and his family have had to endure for his opposing Trump.

The wedding gift registry includes Lego and Chupa Chups

Pictures of two Egyptian children engaged to be married trigger outrage — once again - The Washington Post

I'm tempted to post the garish photo of the "happy" couple, but it's not their fault, so why should I join in the pile on.  (Mind you, I'm not suggesting the pile on against the family is not deserved.)

Anyway, the article notes this:
The engagement of Omar and Gharam “will only lead to an early marriage in which the girl will be deprived of equal chances to education, growth, and will isolate her from social spheres,” he said.

But if history is any indication, it’s unlikely the complaints will stop Egypt’s child marriages, a practice that is also prevalent in many nations in the Middle East, Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa. Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, has repeatedly urged state institutions to make concerted efforts to stop marriages among minors.
But that has either had little effect in many areas or has spawned efforts to manipulate the law. In Egypt’s rural areas, families marry off their children but usually delay the official registration of the marriage until the couples reach the lawful age of matrimony to avoid legal punishment. As a consequence, any children born of the marriage will not be issued birth certificates or be recognized until then, legal experts say.
Omar’s father, faced with the backlash of his decision, told local newspapers that he "is a free man and did nothing wrong."
He defended the engagement, saying that "Omar has always loved Gharam so much that he used to say he will marry her when they grow up.” He added that both children acted “beyond their years” and developed “strong feelings for each other” through Facebook and other social media and “wanted to get engaged.”
That’s why, Omar’s father said, he decided to announce their engagement now "before any other man asks for her hand in marriage when she is older".
"They will get married when they reach the legal age," he insisted.
This wasn’t the first child marriage in the province this year. In June, a 10-year-old bride in a pink dress sat next to her 12-year-old groom, celebrating their wedding.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Probably an instrument error...

Either stars are strange, or there are 234 aliens trying to contact us

I saw a report about this last week and forgot to post about it.   A couple of astronomers think they may have found an alien signal, but it seemingly is coming from so many stars, it's very suspicious.  

What happened in America in 2013? (And in the past)

There's been some surprising (or not so surprising - depending on where you stand on the pessimism/optimism scale, I suppose) figures out regarding increasing rates of STDs in the US:

So, what happened in 2013?  Everyone suspects Grindr, but then I see it has been around since 2009, and The Guardian was giving it publicity in 2010.  If it was that app, it took a while to hit the STD rates.

The Atlantic had an article about syphilis's re-emergence last year, which also mentions Grindr, but it notes (as does the previous article) that there is no well researched basis for blaming it.   (How hard can it be to research this?   Why can't STD clinics ask that patients answer a short questionnaire on their use of such apps, or the internet, to find partners?) 

As for other reasons:  how about the loss of fear of HIV amongst Western men?   Surely it counts for something; but it astounds me that even if they are going to risk that, men will still take a punt on a disease that looks absolutely horrible, and  can hardly be hidden from friends and loved ones, at least it if gets to the secondary stage.  (You can Google images of the rash yourself.)

But having said that, there still seems something odd about 2013, and it seems no one knows what.

To get back to something resembling optimism again, how do current rates of STD's compare to those in past decades?   It would seem good figures are available for the US since the 1940's, and one thing that is surprising about them is the huge surge in one STD that, I assume, was a result of the 1960's sexual revolution:

As for syphilis, here's the more recent rate trend:

But go back further, and you realise just what a serious problem it was mid 20th century:

Now, that last graph is total cases, not cases per 100,000.  Here's what we really need for a graph comparison:

But, these graphs are confusing if they are including congenital syphilis, and you are only interested in the number of adults catching it. 

You can avoid that by looking at this table - where it is plain that primary and secondary syphilis had a peak 1940's rate in the USA of nearly 71 per 100,000

The rate today (not that I am making excuses for it!) is 7.5.  Pretty close to a tenth of the 1940's peak rate. 

Yeah, so while I can understand why the CDC is dismayed that it is on the way up after nearly disappearing, it's remarkable to realise the extent of problem it presented in the past...

He knows nothing

That's a Sgt Schultz reference, by the way, and specifically made only in relation to the curious matter of Sinclair Davidson's invitations to talk internationally about his research that disputes the efficacy of tobacco plain packaging.

Look, it's good that he spoke to this Canadian journalist at all, but TimT - what on earth is wrong with a journo pressing Sinclair on the matter of whether tobacco company money is behind his appearances at such meetings?   I don't think her questions were disrespectful in tone at all, and if a journalist wants to put challenges to his research for comment, what's wrong with that?   If anything, I wish she had been more aggressive.

Because, let's face it, Sinclair shows a distinct lack of curiosity as to whether tobacco funding is involved, indirectly:
J: Was the tobacco industry involved in the visit in any way?
SD: Not to my knowledge.
J: The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies said that their event was held in partnership with Crestview Strategy, a lobbying firm that represents one of Canada’s biggest tobacco companies, so I would like to have some clarity around the involvement of the tobacco industry.
SD: I can’t help you there – I hadn’t heard of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies before I spoke there, nor have I heard of them since. I also spoke at the Economic Club of Canada meeting in Toronto and Convenience Store meetings in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. I have no knowledge as to how the meetings were organised. Beyond ensuring that each venue had a powerpoint projector I had no interest in the organisation of the meetings.
....I have had contact with people in Canada (obviously – at the talks I gave), the UK, and parts of Europe opposed to plain packaging. These people work in media, think tanks, and consumer rights organisations.
J: Can you confirm whether the institute currently receives any funding?
SD: I don’t know if the IPA currently receives funding from the tobacco industry – I have never been told that it does.
Here's the question that she should have asked as a follow up:

"Would it bother you if you knew that tobacco industry funding was behind the meetings you addressed, or, for that matter, part funding the IPA and its long campaign again plain packaging?"

Now, I presume his answer would be "no, not particularly.  I oppose plain packaging on libertarian grounds, and as such it matters little to me who funds the message."

And I can think of a couple of follow up questions from that.

But why does Sinclair even seemingly reject this proposition (in italics, which are mine)?:
As it turns out I had a long discussion with Garfield Mahood in Toronto during the Q&A session of my talk at the Economic Club and also again after the session. He put to me the same questions with the same underlying premise that somehow I am corrupt, or on the take, or that my motives are base, or that I am inadvertently benefiting the tobacco industry, etc. etc. that you have put to me. Mind you, he was very quick to back away from stating that premise when I asked him if that is what he was implying. In the end he seemed happy to accept that I am an academic doing research and publishing results, and my motive to come to Canada was to visit my relatives.
Oh come on.   How could he plausibly not be at least inadvertently benefiting the tobacco industry by not only doing this research, but going to meetings where they want to hear his "plain packaging hasn't worked" message?   Especially if he shows no interest in knowing whether there is tobacco funding in the background?

Seems to be an obvious over-reach there. 

Of course Trump lost

I happened to see the closing statements live on TV yesterday in the last Presidential debate.  Clinton sounded smart, relaxed and competent; Trump repeated his handful of memorised lines, starting (oddly, I thought) with a need to boost defence and spend more money on veterans, before going back to American cities being a disaster and how he'll do more for blacks than Hillary ever could.  (Seriously, he thinks he should even bother trying to appeal to the black vote?)

And right at the end, the Donald looked very unhappy, as his family approached him to comfort him in his failure, while Hillary headed into the audience, looking happy (and healthy).

On that last point, let's remember:  right wing conspiracy numbskulls have been telling each other for the last year or more that she's about to fall off the perch any day now.  And Trump personally bought right into it, the shallow  and stupid conspiracy monger that he is.    How easily they gloss over their ridiculous failed predictions. 

As for some other ridiculousness:  Scott Adams is trying to wake up to America to the realisation that all people who dislike Trump have been hypnotised by Democrat Svengalis.   Because only he, the Most Knowledgeable Man in America in the Matter of Persuasion, can see the truth:
Here I pause to remind new readers of this blog that I’m a trained hypnotist and a student of persuasion in all its forms. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to learn the tricks for discerning illusion from reality. And I’m here to tell you that if you are afraid that Donald Trump is a racist/sexist clown with a dangerous temperament, you have been brainwashed by the best group of brainwashers in the business right now: Team Clinton. They have cognitive psychologists such as Godzilla advising them. Allegedly.
I remind you that intelligence is not a defense against persuasion. No matter how smart you are, good persuaders can still make you see a pink elephant in a room where there is none (figuratively speaking). And Clinton’s team of persuaders has caused half of the country to see Trump as a racist/sexist Hitler with a dangerous temperament. That’s a pink elephant.
As a public service (and I mean that literally) I have been trying to unhypnotize the country on this matter for the past year. I don’t do this because I prefer Trump’s policies or because I know who would do the best job as president. I do it because our system doesn’t work if you think there is a pink elephant in the room and there is not. That isn’t real choice. That is an illusion of choice.
Hmm.   How odd it is the Team Clinton managed to get Trump to make hundreds of ridiculous, false and offensive statements in scores of televised appearances over the last 12 months that convinced me (and a huge number of fellow Australians)  that he's a dangerous idiot.  They really are all globally powerful, that Team.

Despite the fact that he (in a subsequent post) actually gave the debate to Clinton on points, Adams remains (arguably) the biggest self disclosed fool as a result of this election campaign.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Attack of a sea monster

Well, this is an odd headline:

Wreckage of U-boat sunken by 'sea monster' found off UK

And the details are quite bizarre:
Incredible sonar images show the 100-year-old wreck to be mostly intact, and the find has led to the resurfacing of nautical folklore. Experts say the wreckage may be the infamous UB-85, which, legend has it, was attacked by a sea beast during the war.

According to the old tale, the U-boat commander -- Capt. Gunther Krech -- said the submarine had been cruising on the surface of the water to recharge its batteries when a "strange beast" rose from the sea with "large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull." Krech said the animal had a small head, but with "teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight," according to a statement from Scottish Energy News...
Hey - how about a better source for the "legend" than the company that found the wreck. Is this just a clickbait story that's fooled me? Because here's the rest:  
The story goes that the sheer size of the beast was so immense that it forced the U-boat to list and the crew began shooting at the monster until it dropped back into the sea. The captain said, however, that during the course of the fight the forward deck plating had been so badly damaged that it could no longer submerge.
The British military had a slightly different take on the incident.  Official reports suggested that when the UB-85 surfaced on April 30,1918, it was spotted and destroyed by a British patrol boat -- HMS Coreopsis -- not by a mysterious sea monster.
Yes, until I hear more about how Capt Krech's story came to light, I will assume I've been clickbaited...

Rats in the news

Sounds like a ridiculously generous amount of money for a rat: 
The Indonesian capital will pay residents to catch rats as part of efforts to curb diseases transmitted by the rodents, local reports say.
Jakarta deputy governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat says residents will be paid 20,000 rupiahs ($A2) for every rat caught and handed over to authorities, the Kompas daily reported.
"Just collect the rats, count them and we will pay," Djarot was quoted as saying.
Rats were rampant in densely populated areas, potentially causing diseases such as leptospirosis, salmonellosis and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, he said.
Some Jakartans are opposed to the idea.
"Mr governor, please don't go ahead with the plan," a resident pleaded on Twitter.
"People will farm rats, just like what happened in Hanoi."
French colonisers in Hanoi, Vietnam, introduced a program in which people were paid for each rat tail caught, prompting people to start breeding them.
And this reminds me, I was reading an article about new studies on rat intelligence on the weekend, but I have forgotten where it was.   Maybe found via Flipboard?   I'll get to this later...

More than you ever thought you needed to know

Bacterial Vaginosis and the Secrets of the Vagina's Microbiome - The Atlantic

This is a really long article about a not so pleasant subject, but I did like the title on the website:  "The Superhero in the Vagina", as it lets me make a joke about how it sounds like a rejected Marvel movie title.

Anyhow, the matter of the complicated bacterial balance in the average vagina is kind of interesting.   I wonder whether this is covered in teenage health and sex ed in schools these days?  Sounds like it should...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fooling your animal

BBC - Earth - How a dog's mind can easily be controlled

It's all about the placebo effect in animals, which seems to be a real thing, even if this article is mainly about the difficulty in studying it.  

Political persuasions of US academia

From a Nature News article about scientists who support Trump (how on Earth did they manage to track down that handful of people?), there's a graphic showing how the political leanings of academics breaks down:

I guess most of this is pretty much what I would have guessed, except I would not have been surprised if engineers had a greater number of conservatives, and I don't really know why mathematicians lean more heavily conservative, too.  (Also, astronomers don't do conservative politics, for some reason.)

Yet more MOND

Hey, I see that my favourite physicist blogger Sabine H has a post up about the new paper which I've been posting about - the one that seems to support the unpopular MOND theory for gravity.

Now, Sabine can be hard to follow when she gets into details, but if you read the post (and the lengthy comments, which get into a bit of an almost philosophical argy bargy about when you give up on a science theory), you get an idea as to why MOND is viewed suspiciously by many. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Planning for lunar living

An Astronaut Gardener On The Moon - Summits Of Sunlight And Vast Lunar Caves In Low Gravity

Yay - someone who thinks, like me, that it's more sensible to be planning on lunar colonies being the first off Earth permanent colonies for humans, rather than distant, extremely hard to get to, Mars.

This long, long post talks about many aspects of living on the moon.  I haven't read it all yet, but I'll get back to it.

One thing to be curious about - the long term health effects of lunar (or Martian) low gravity.   How can that ever be guessed at until you get people living there for a year or more.  Even more curious - would babies gestated there end up taller, weaker, or what?  I would guess that one of the first things to do on a lunar base would be to raise generations of mice or rats there, and see what happens.   (I also remember some telemovie from - I think - the 1990's that had a mining outpost on the Moon, and the pregnant mother getting spun gently in a centrifuge to provide some artificial gravity to her fetus.  I think she was then heading off to Earth to give birth?  I don't remember much about it - I didn't watch the whole movie.)

Update:  I know that studies have been done with rats raised in centrifuges to simulate a high gravity life, but short of having a centrifuge running permanently on the ISS, the equivalent studies of them raised in low gravity are hard to envisage...

American election comments

*  Donald Trump and his "rigged election" rhetoric is clearly dangerous in a country full of armed-to-the-hilt, conspiracy minded nutters who are encouraged to believe (and easily convinced) that Clinton is a dangerous criminal who wants to take their guns from them.   The mildly worded counterclaims by Republicans (such as Pence) don't seem to be anywhere near enough of a rebuke, and if Trump keeps this up, he really deserves calling out and complete repudiation from the highest levels.  It's much more serious, in its way, than the groping allegations.  (And none of this "he doesn't mean voter fraud - he means the way the media is against him" excuse making I've heard from some of his supporters.)

* There is so little appreciation of the matter of government security classification of communications in the general public that is it easy for them to think that Clinton's classified emails that ended up on her private server were really important stuff.  This is distorting the public perception of her "wrongdoing", and Trump and Republicans are taking full advantage of that.  But even the liberal media is not really helping to clarify public understanding.  This article from back in July sets out this basic point:
An important thing to understand is that the determination of what information is classified is subjective. This means reasonable people can disagree about the relative sensitivity of particular information.

Before coming to academia, I worked for many years as an analyst at both the State Department and the Department of Defense. I held a top secret clearance and worked on issues related to weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation. Debates and arguments about whether certain information should be classified were frequent. More often than not the debates centered on why something was classified in the first place. This is why determining whether Secretary Clinton was careless is not a cut and dried issue.
Well, it's fair to say she was careless - but the consequences of the carelessness are something that is not at all clear, and it is quite possibly very inconsequential from a national security point of view.   

Some pretty incredible work here

Mouse eggs made from skin cells in a dish : Nature News & Comment

Some very science-fictiony stuff here that, I guess, really could make sex redundant for reproduction.  Still need a womb for growing a baby though - I don't think any science is being done on replacing women entirely.  As far as I know... 

Surely you wouldn't, Malcolm

It's reported in The Australian today:
Malcolm Turnbull is being pressured to relax the nation’s gun laws to secure two key industrial reforms in an escalating round of Senate horsetrading, amid a political firestorm over the government’s bid to curb union power.
The government’s workplace agenda is hanging in the balance as Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm demands an expansion of shotgun imports to win his vote for laws to crack down on illegal union tactics across the construction industry.
Malcolm would absolutely kill his moderate credentials with voters if gave in to this from Leyonhjelm.  Surely he wouldn't do it?

Speaking of Leyonhjelm:  I have the distinct impression that he's in a bit of a funk since not only the election, but before it.  Since Helen Dale resigned, actually.  He did only barely get returned due to the double dissolution;  Pauline Hanson and her group of numbskulls has kept his numbskull off the media radar to a large extent since the election; he copped it for speaking ill of a journalist on the very day she died; and now his best mate in the Senate (the very uninspiring Bob Day - surely one of the dullest politicians to be in the Senate for many a year) is quitting.   Leyonhjelm just looks very glum anytime I see him now.  Retire, David; it'll do you good...

Monday, October 17, 2016

What a loser

Peter Thiel donating $1.25 million to Donald Trump's campaign - Oct. 15, 2016

My opinion of this weirdo just keeps heading down.

What blatant dishonesty

Matt Drudge may have lost his grip on reality - The Washington Post

Problem is, I reckon half of Drudge's readership would not go near the Washington Post for news, and will genuinely go on believing Drudge's dishonesty and propaganda.  

Why hunt bears?

Pedals the bear endeared himself to humans by walking like one. Did hunters kill him? - The Washington Post: The week of agitation over what happened to Pedals coincided with New Jersey’s first bow hunt for black bears in more than 40 years, the Asbury Park Press said. This year, the state’s black bear-hunting season spanned Oct. 10 to 15 for those using bows or muzzleloaders, and will open again from Dec. 5 to 10 for those using firearms. Hunters killed 432 bears in New Jersey last week, according to AP.
Gee. I'm very surprised there is a black bear hunting season at all.   Are they marauding around people to such an extent they need to be culled?   And why pander to the bow hunting fraternity at all?   Surely it makes for a more difficult and painful death if they have to be killed at all.

Kind of glad I don't live in the US...

Update:  I see from this anti-bear hunt Facebook site that many blame Chris Christie for the expanded hunt.   He's not a popular man, and as a sell out to Trump, he deserves it...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ignoring MOND?

[1609.06642] MOND impact on and of the recently updated mass-discrepancy-acceleration relation

A couple of weeks back, I linked to a report of a new study of galaxy rotation which seemed to be pretty important for what it meant for dark matter.

The link above is to a paper by Mordehai Milgrom, who first proposed MOND, complaining that the paper gave way too little attention to the fact that MOND theories of gravity had predicted this, and it's effectively a strong experimental endorsement of MOND.

It does seem that MOND has a bit of a PR problem in astrophysics.  I see from the Wikipedia article on it at the last link that one of its criticisms is that, at a galactic cluster scale, you still need dark matter to make sense of their movement.  As it says, this makes the theory "less elegant"; on the other hand, it apparently means you can use much less dark matter if you use MOND, which one would think is consistent with the problems of even identifying dark matter. 

Yes, my hunch remains that MOND and Milgrom are unjustly ignored.

Friday, October 14, 2016

I sense a potential for misuse of this study...

Study finds link between marriage attitudes and risky sexual behaviors: This is the first study to investigate links between marriage attitudes and sexual behavior across racial and ethnic minority groups as well as the role skin tone plays in shaping marriage attitudes...
Researchers found that toward marriage had a significant dampening effect on risky behaviors for lighter-skinned African Americans and Asians compared with their
darker skin counterparts, who had more negative attitudes toward marriage. The findings suggest that skin tone plays a role in views toward relationships and marriage, thus impacting decisions about for some people.
I am not at all sure what to make of that!

Excuse me while I talk to monty

Your guest post at Catallaxy has the advantage of not being insane, unlike most of the blog, but I have the following criticisms:

*  did you really have to throw in the "cultural allusion"?:  it reminds me too much of the grand - and nutty - Right wing faux historical prisms that nearly everyone at that blog thinks everything has to be viewed through.  In a way, it reads too much like the grandiose crap that Mk50 used to go on about.  (And, incidentally, he seems to be on some calming medication, or something, now, since he returned under a new identity.  [And why did he bother doing that, when everyone knows who it is?]  He's no longer getting positively excited by the prospect of an American Right wing armed revolution, like he used to.)

* takes too many words to make a point that many - even on the Democrat side - have already made.

* candy was right - the reference to Trump's supporters formerly being the type who would have a country club membership is a tad improbable.  Update:   here's Nate Silver yesterday:
Based on recent polls, I’d estimate that about 35 percent of Trump’s current voters are white men without a college degree, by far Trump’s best demographic group.
  Was this demographic ever into country club membership, monty?

* it's one thing to have sympathy to the economic plight of the low educated under globalisation - and to talk of them having a logical reason for dissatisfaction - but in doing so it risks encouraging them to believe the situation is more catastrophic than it really is, exactly as Trump has been doing.   It also underplays the poisonous anti-evidence based nonsense that the entire leadership of the American Right has participated in for more than a decade as priming Trumpkins to believe any nonsense at all, including that sprouted by their orange buffoon.

I can see how it's not a winning strategy to win hearts and minds to tell people that they are being idiots - yet this is what at least the leadership of the Right needs to be told.   I fear that expressing too much sympathy towards the Trump base makes that job harder to do, and I think that your post reads too much in that direction.

PS:  please pass on the threadsters at Catallaxy that I think they're all being idiots.

JG is correct on this

Trump's Bad Sex Strategy | National Review

A calm explanation from Jonah Goldberg about the stupidity of the Trump, um, counter-grope strategy.

And it was probably written before he heard Trump basically tell a crowd that he wouldn't have forced himself on one of the women 'cos she's not hot enough (as Slate generously puts it.  Others would say - 'cos she's too ugly.)  (Mind you, if challenged on this, I bet he'll deny that's what he meant.  And absolutely no one will believe him.)

He is, genuinely, a rolled gold idiot.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Donald and "disgusting"

Two Women Say Donald Trump Touched Them Inappropriately - The New York Times: In a phone interview on Tuesday night, a highly agitated Mr. Trump denied every one of the women’s claims.

“None of this ever took place,” said Mr. Trump, who began shouting at the Times reporter who was questioning him. He said that The Times was making up the allegations to hurt him and that he would sue the news organization if it reported them.

“You are a disgusting human being,” he told the reporter as she questioned him about the women’s claims.

Asked whether he had ever done any of the kissing or groping that he had described on the recording, Mr. Trump was once again insistent: “I don’t do it. I don’t do it. It was locker room talk.”
There are, one strongly suspects, many more stories to come of unwelcome groping/kissing by Trump, and I wonder whether he'll find a new way to react other than by calling the reporter "a disgusting human being".

This seems to be his favourite insult, and in particular, he seems to use "disgusting" in contexts few other people would.  I take it as a sign of a pretty limited vocabulary, and it's hard to imagine him being good with words in diplomatically important encounters. 

Update:  Trump can't even take his own advice:

More on Penrose

I had missed that Peter Woit had favourably reviewed Roger Penrose's new book a few weeks ago.   Go have a read.

(It's interesting, the discussion about Penrose's issues with inflation.  I always had the feeling that this seemed to be a solution that was widely accepted before the mechanics of how it could happen were even guessed at, which seems to be a somewhat backwards way to work compared to most of physics.  Well, at least for a phenomena that isn't actually being observed but is being inferred. Was my hunch right?)

Watching for new craters

Seems the Moon still gets hit by meteors quite often:

Meteorites have punched at least 222 impact craters into the Moon's surface in the past 7 years. That’s 33% more than researchers expected, and suggests that future lunar astronauts may need to hunker down against incoming space rocks....
Although most of the craters dotting the Moon's surface formed millions of years ago, space rocks and debris continue to create fresh pockmarks. In 2011, a team led by Ingrid Daubar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compared some of the first pictures taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which launched in 2009, with decades-old images taken by the Apollo astronauts. The scientists spotted five fresh impact craters in the LRO images. Then, on two separate occasions in 2013, other astronomers using telescopes on Earth spotted bright flashes on the Moon; LRO later flew over those locations and photographed the freshly formed craters2, 3.

LRO has taken about a million high-resolution images of the lunar surface, but only a fraction cover the same portion of terrain under the same lighting conditions at two different times. Speyerer’s team used a computer program to automatically analyse 14,092 of these paired images, looking for changes between the two. The 222 newfound craters are distributed randomly across the lunar surface, and range between 2 and 43 metres in diameter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why the Note 7 won't kill Samsung

Before I get onto this topic, has anyone else noticed that suddenly, at JB Hi Fi, the only tablets on sale are Samsung's and Apple's?  (And both of those companies have a small range now.)   Are other manufacturers giving up on tablets?   (I don't know that any other company had screens as good as the big two anyway, but I still liked looking at what other companies offered.)   Are large "phablets" killing the tablet market?

Back to the Note 7 explody phone:  the Note range was not that important to Samsung, anyway:
While the Note stylus is important to many users, it has still been a niche product. The last Note5 (there was no Note6) generated only 5% of all of Samsung's sales, Moorhead said. The Galaxy line of phones, including the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are from two to three times more popular, according to various accounts.
"The Note line has been very small for Samsung," he said. He and other analysts said it would be hard to see problems from the Note line affecting other lines.
"Samsung has many smartphone models globally and none have experienced the same problem," Burden said.
As to whether Apple or Huawei would benefit from the Note7 disaster, analysts were uniformly convinced there will be little boost to competitors.
Part of the reason is that Samsung already controls the largest share of the smartphone market globally, at 22% in the second quarter, according to IDC. Apple had 12% and Huawei had 9%.
"No way will Samsung lose its ranking over this problem," Moorhead said. "They are just so large."

I knew someone would have posted this theory before I could...

I had independently thought of this last week (honest), but kept forgetting to post about it. Anyway, I guessed it would have occurred to others - for all I know, someone on Reddit probably came up with it months ago.

It's the theory that anxiety about Trump has caused the killer clown panic:

The explanation for October's clown sighting hysteria is staring us in the face | Mary Valle | Opinion | The Guardian: I think this “clown epidemic” is a form of real-time trauma play. Right now, in this nation, on this planet, a bona fide human-like sociopath is very close to grabbing the One Ring of Power. Or the Former One Ring of Power that is Still Pretty Powerful.
'I'm a gentleman': Trump menaces Clinton with imposing presence and brash insults
Read more

China may be the Coke of today and we may just be the Pepsi, which may partially explain the second-rate, rinky-dink two-bit hustler who has fooled millions of people into thinking he somehow cares about them, courting steelworkers as he loads his buildings with Chinese steel, pretending to care about small business owners while notoriously stiffing them for decades.

Somewhere in their heads they must understand that they are not acting in their best interest, and this gigantic killer clown is using their despair and hopelessness against them by masterfully pulling their anger strings, turning them, too into ugly, disjointed residents of his angry uncanny valley.
Yes, it's a Jungian explanation, I suppose; in the same way he thought that UFOs were a sort of psychic projection of societal anxieties.   

About one of the rape allegations

As this article explains, the evidence that Juanita Broadderick offers for her allegation that Hillary Clinton intimidated her after her alleged rape by Bill is extremely thin and improbable.   Apart from the matter of having to infer a double meaning into words, it also assumes that Bill would have told Hillary that he had just raped (or at the very least, slept with) Broadderick, and that Hillary's reaction would be to meet her a couple of weeks later and thank her for not making a complaint.   How likely is that?  

Update:  Homer in comments referred me to a Slate article about this, and it does indeed confirm the wild improbability of Hillary even knowing that Bill had done anything, consensual or nonconsensual, with Broadderick (assuming, for the sake of argument, that a sexual encounter did happen):
As I’ve written before, everything we know about the Clintons’ marriage tells us that Bill took pains to hide his affairs from his wife. In A Woman in Charge, Hillary’s biographer Carl Bernstein describes how Bill initially refused to settle a lawsuit with Paula Jones—setting off the events that led to impeachment—because he feared admitting a sexual encounter to Hillary. “Bill didn’t dare acknowledge to his wife that something had transpired with Jones, so he rolled the dice and risked his presidency on the outcome—just as he would when he denied for months that he had had a sexual relationship with Lewinsky,” Bernstein writes.
If Trump really does insist on going nuclear on the Broaddrick charges at Sunday night’s debate, I hope Hillary sticks closely to what she’s been accused of—greeting a woman who would later call her husband a rapist in what that woman interpreted as a menacing tone of voice. When you examine every accusation of Hillary as an “attacker” of women, it ends up looking equally flimsy. Claims that Hillary Clinton smeared Monica Lewinsky rest on the fact that, after learning of her husband’s dalliance, she called her a “narcissistic loony toon” in a private letter to a close friend. Some on the right think Trump should hit Clinton for representing, as a young lawyer, a poor man charged with raping a 12-year-old named Kathy Shelton. But the judge in the case had appointed her, and as the prosecutor in the case has recounted, she accepted only reluctantly. Bill Clinton’s history with women is hard to defend. Hillary Clinton’s history is not. And her own history is all she should be accountable for Sunday night.

Disaster crowded out by the Donald

North Carolina’s record floods: “You have got to see it to believe all the devastation that has occurred.” - Vox

Yeah, it's getting some media attention, but if I lived in the middle of the North Carolina disaster area, I think I would feel a little peeved about how the Trump stories are sort of crowding out the degree of media attention it would otherwise get.

So there may have been arsenic in the old lace?

I guess lace isn't often coloured, but if it was....

This comes under the category of "things I feel I've read a bit about before, but it didn't stick much in my memory". 

At the Atlantic, there's an interview with the author of a new book which discusses the rather disastrous popularity of arsenic in the Victorian period - with it widely used in popular dyes for wallpapers and cloth of all kinds.  (And also, strangely, foods!)   An extract:
Factory workers were getting sick—and many died—because they were working with green arsenic dye. It was fashionable to wear these artificial green wreaths of plants and flowers in your hair that were dyed with arsenic. In wallpaper factories, workers were becoming really unwell, especially when they were working with flock papers, or papers with small fiber particles that stick to the surface. The workers would dye these tiny, tiny pieces of wool or cotton in green, and while doing so would inhale them and the particles would stick to their lungs. The manufacturing process created a lot of dust from the dye—the dust had arsenic in it—and this created major problems for the factory workers as the dust would stick to their eyes and skin. If there were abrasions on their skin, the arsenic could get directly into their blood stream and poison them that way as well....

Before legislation was passed, bakers used arsenic green as a popular food coloring. Sometimes, a baker was given flour or sugar with arsenic in it unknowingly, but other times it was used as a bulking agent. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of things that were put into Victorian foods as bulking agents. It wasn’t just arsenic, there were lots of weird things. Flour was expensive, so they would resort to adding other things.

There was an orphanage in Boston and all these small children were getting really, really sick and they didn’t know why. It turned out that the nurses were wearing blue uniforms dyed with arsenic and they were cradling the children, who in turn were inhaling the dye particles.

That’s another thing, too: Green was a color that was always seen as the culprit, simply because it was so desirable at the time, but many other colors used arsenic as well. When the National Archives did testing on the William Morris wallpapers, all of the colors used arsenic to some extent. These colors were exceptionally beautiful, and up until this point, it was not something they could achieve without the use of arsenic.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

All a bit sad

Ross Cameron goes on Sky to defend Donald Trump comments in video

I had forgotten, too, until I read this other account of his silly TV act, that in his politician days, he used to be prominently Christian.    Then his philandering sex life was disclosed, and that was that.

This performance seems to me to all be part of the unfortunate aspect of right wing cable TV commentary - as with Bolt, they feel they have to throw a bit of theatre and drama into it.  With Bolt, it's  a matter of ratcheting up the "smug" quotient to "11", and lately having the likes of comedy-drama queens (and actually kinda increasingly sad figures) Ann Coulter and Milo on as guests.   All very unfortunate for the former relatively respectable face of conservative political commentary.

Trump duped - what a surprise

Dear Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, I Am Not Sidney Blumenthal

An interesting article here a Newsweek writer.

Seems worth knowing

Common high blood pressure meds affect mood disorders

First it was the contraceptive pill coming under renewed scrutiny for depression - now it's (some) blood pressure medication.

Perhaps people should try regular beetroot juice first?

My guess about the debate

I've still not seen video reports on the Presidential debate, but I note that sources as diverse as monty, Douthat, and the completely-in-the-tank-for-Trump Powerline blog gave the debate narrowly for Trump.   (There are other Trump supporters who, of course, gave it totally to Trump, as you would expect from the alt-right - see Scott Adams - and their dimwitted followers.) 

So, I assume, in one sense it would seem that Trump did better than expected - although, obviously, it was about the lowest bar possible that he had to climb over to look more knowledgeable than in the first debate.

But - and here I'll actually cite Adams with semi-approval (even a weirdo can say something useful once in a while):  after the first debate, he said that Hillary won it on debating technique, but he thought that on the matter of how it made the audience feel, which he said was more important, he gave it to Trump.  (Of course!)

Well, if he's right on the matter of feely perceptions, I can't but get the impression that Trumps strange, intimidating looks and pacing behind Clinton, as well the threat to re-investigate and jail her, were exactly the opposite of what was needed to undo with women the damage caused by the weekend tape.  (Adams, of course, being in love with Trump, cannot see this is a result of using his own criteria.) 

I therefore would guess that the debate will have next to no positive polling effect for Trump.  We'll know in about a week's time.

Space dementia in the news, again

Mars-bound astronauts face chronic dementia risk from galactic cosmic ray exposure | EurekAlert! Science News

I wonder whether active electro-magnetic shielding is still being investigated as a possible response?  (I read something about that many years ago.)   I assume it would involve lots of power, though.    

Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's check in on the delusional deplorables (Australian sub-branch)

It seems that the threadsters at the home for Australian Trumpkins (you know where I mean by now) are cock-a-hoop*  that Trump didn't entirely self-immolate at today's debate.  (Which I haven't watched - just been reading 'net reactions.)

The fact that we're only formerly seen wannabe dictators threatening opponents with special investigations and jail - and that this is not a good look in a democracy - hasn't sunk into their thick heads yet; probably never will.

Anyway, amongst the tidal surge of ridiculousness I was reading, I thought that this spin on Trump and his very curious debate sniff was the funniest by far:
The Donald stood like a General, with his sniffs adding to the serious disdain in his expression at everything Hillary said.

*  perhaps not an expression that's it wise to use when mentioning Trump.**

** OK, or Bill.

The man is completely untrustworthy

Donald Trump Says Central Park Five Are Guilty, Despite DNA Evidence - NBC News

Paul Krugman tweeted on the weekend that this should be an even worse scandal regarding Trump's character and judgement, but it has been crowded out by the sensationalism of being able to hear his crude sexism from his own mouth. 

UpdateThe Atlantic has a short article on the same story, ending with this:
Trump’s stances on social issues, domestic policy, and foreign affairs are often mercurial at best. His disdain towards basic constitutional protections is a rare point of constancy.
The thing is, not admitting he was wrong is more important to him than everything else.

Reviewed in Nature

The Nature website has reviews of four books of interest at the moment:

* the one about Nazi drug addiction, which is getting a bit of publicity - but the review indicates its not that good, really.

*  one co-authored by Michael Mann, about climate change denialism.   Not a topic that really needs dwelling on at the moment, given the crisis in conservative politics in America, perhaps.

*  one taking a big picture approach to how physics has evolved.  Sounds OK.

* the one I am most interested in, by Roger Penrose, in which he criticises some paths modern physics has taken.

Penrose is now 85, so is in great danger of breaching my "he's too old to pay attention to" rule of thumb.  But I don't think he's ever said anything completely silly yet, even though his views on a quantum role in biology and consciousness views are controversial.   Here's part of the review:
Penrose claims that even well-confirmed theories, such as quantum mechanics, are 'oversold' with respect to their presumptive stability. Quantum physics has had an impressive record of predictive success, ranging from quantum chemistry to elementary particle physics. But it faces a deep conceptual problem. Whereas quantum mechanics has a perfect internal consistency when it describes a system that evolves without being measured, the way in which it represents measurements is not coherently embedded in that description. To Penrose, this indicates that the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics have not yet been found and will rely on the elusive full integration of gravity into quantum physics. He argues that the success of quantum mechanics tends to make physicists insensitive to the theory's conceptual problem and generates an unjustified degree of faith in its basic principles as a solid foundation of physics.
Another source of undue trust in a theory, Penrose asserts, is the physics community's tendency to follow fashion — that is, to settle on one strategy of dealing with a problem before severely testing the theory's empirical predictions. Penrose views string theory (a theory of quantum gravity) as the pre-eminent example.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Behold! Stupidity (and worse)

What a fantastic gloat-fest of a weekend, with the Party-breaking quandary for the GOP of how to finally deal with its poisonous orange candidate, all because its leadership couldn't earlier find the gumption to just outright tell a large slab of its base that they were just being nuts.  And that being largely due to a decade of participating in the Fox News, Breitbart, right wing radio echo chamber that encouraged its base to believe conspiracy and nonsense.   (All with the added irony that, for all of those years, Fox News had serious sexual harassment built into its leadership, too.)

At least I can muster a modicum of respect for commentators like Jonah Goldberg, who has let fly with this:
Donald Trump is a fundamentally dishonorable and dishonest person — and has been his whole adult life. The evidence has been in front of those willing to see it all along. And there’s more to find. And there’s more in the Clinton stockpile.
Character is destiny. The man in the video is Donald Trump. Sure, it’s bawdy Trump. It’s “locker room Trump.” And I’m no prude about dirty talk in private. But that isn’t all that’s going on. This isn’t just bad language or objectifying women with your buddies. It’s a married man who is bragging about trying to bed a married woman. It’s an insecure, morally ugly man-child who thinks boasting about how he can get away with groping women “because you’re a star” impresses people. He’s a grotesque — as a businessman and a man, full stop.
If you can see that, but still think Hillary Clinton would be worse. Fine. Just be prepared for an endless stream of more embarrassments in your name. And, for my friends in the media and in politics, if you minimize, dismiss, or celebrate his grotesqueness out of partisan zeal, just keep in mind that some people, including your children, might think you mean it. Or, they might know you don’t mean it. Which means they now know you lie for a living.
And if you can’t see what a hot mess Donald Trump is yet, I doubt you ever will and I wonder what fresh Hell will allow the realization to penetrate your consciousness. Either way, this video is not an aberration. It is not a special circumstance. It’s him. There’s no pivot in him. There’s no “presidential” switch to flip. He’s Donald Trump all the way down. And he will humiliate and debase his defenders so long as they feel the need to defend this indefensible man.
(Mind you, Goldberg was trying on the "it's all Obama's fault that we've ended up with support for Trump" line earlier this year - I would in no way say he's always a reliable commentator.)

But for peak stupidity and offensiveness, where else to go in Australia but to Catallaxy?  First, the "it's not so bad, is it? And it's all his in past" ridiculousness:

Hard to believe the gullibility, no?  But then again, she doesn't believe in climate change because her husband told her so.  She hasn't picked up on the difference between money and reliable smarts, yet.  No wonder she supports Trump.

Mind you, the resident expert on Aquinas and groupie of the unreadable Edward Feser wasn't sure it was that big a deal either.  Yes, a theological brain the size of a planet, and yet no common sense:

What?  Aquinas mustn't have written anything about the importance of character in a leader, obviously...

Then there's the obnoxiousness of old cohenite, who tells us more about the type of man he is than he probably should:

Yeah, "go hard, Trump" is some pretty popular advice thereabouts.  And one commentator, frequently bordering on needing institutionalisation, by the sounds, takes it to the next level:

Just stupid, paranoid, nuts.

Update:   And here's Republican supporting Drudge making his contribution to right wing respect for women:

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Letterman has it right

I see that Trump is in the news this morning for a tape showing what a complete and utter sordid boor he is.  How's that playing for you, Evangelicals?  (Of course, who knows how Bill Clinton has talked about sexual conquests before - although I don't think that being being a powerful philandering man necessarily means you have to be a braggart with other men about it.)

Anyway, at the NYT, there's an interview with David Letterman, who (apparently, I didn't recall) had Trump on his show often.   He has a sensible take on Trump:
I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time, and I always thought he was exactly what New York City needed to have: the big blowhard billionaire. “By God, I’m Donald Trump, and I date models, and I put up buildings, and everything is gold.” Nobody took him seriously, and people loved him when he would come on the show. I would make fun of his hair, I would call him a slumlord, I would make fun of his ties. And he could just take a punch like nothing. He was the perfect guest.

So now, he decides he’s running for president. And right out of the box, he goes after immigrants and how they’re drug dealers and they’re rapists. And everybody swallows hard. And they think, oh, well, somebody will take him aside and say, “Don, don’t do that.” But it didn’t happen. And then, I can remember him doing an impression, behind a podium, of a reporter for The New York Times who has a congenital disorder. And then I thought, if this was somebody else — if this was a member of your family or a next-door neighbor, a guy at work — you would immediately distance yourself from that person. And that’s what I thought would happen. Because if you can do that in a national forum, that says to me that you are a damaged human being. If you can do that, and not apologize, you’re a person to be shunned.

I kept telling people he will absolutely not get elected. And then David Brooks said he’ll get the nomination and he will be crushed in the general election. And I thought: Yeah, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. I stand by that. The thing about Trumpy was, I think people just were amused enough about him to keep him afloat in the polls, because nobody wanted the circus to pull up and leave town.
Update:  Hotair acknowledges how bad this is for Trump:

A curious finding

Study Finds Students Of All Races Prefer Teachers Of Color : NPR Ed : NPR

Friday, October 07, 2016

Not sure I would take this report very seriously

Tech billionaires convinced we live in the Matrix are secretly funding scientists to help break us out of it | The Independent

All sounds like a report that should be in the National Enquirer rather than The Independent, but I haven't had time to follow the links.  I do think Elon Musk is a bit nutty, though...