Thursday, August 18, 2016

An educated Black perspective on Race in America

allenbwest.com ^ | 8/18/2016

The leftist progressive media is doing everything it can to reshape the narrative when it comes to Donald Trump. I believe we clearly understand that regardless of what Trump says, the liberal progressive media is going to try and define his words to their advantage. However, the left just stepped into something that needs to be clarified — actually shoved up their “fourth point of contact.” It appears the left is taking umbrage with Trump referring to Hillary Clinton as a “bigot.”

“The Democratic Party has failed and betrayed the African-American community,” Trump declared. “The Democratic Party has taken the votes of African-Americans for granted. They’ve just assumed they’ll get your support and done nothing in return for it. They’ve taken advantage of the African-American citizen,” he added. “It’s time to give the Democrats some competition for these votes.”

It’s time for a history lesson about the Democrat Party and its relationship with the black community in America. It’s not just that Hillary Clinton individually is a bigot, it’s that the Democrat Party has ALWAYS embraced bigotry towards American blacks. There have been times when it was overt; now it’s just covert and better propagandized.

Let’s start with a simple comparison. The Republican Party was created based on a single issue, the abolition of slavery. The Democrat Party stood for slavery and the whole three-fifths compromise was to appease southern Democrats in order to preserve the Union. That ended up leading us into a divisive period we know as the Civil War. And true, at the onset, Abraham Lincoln didn’t want to make the conflagration about slavery in order to placate southern Democrats…but the issue became front and center.

It was Lincoln who, after the Battle of Antietam, issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and it was the Republicans who fought for and ended up achieving the 13th Amendment, ending slavery. The Democrats opposed them at every turn. Subsequently came the 14th and 15th Amendments, but as we approached the turn of the century, the Democrats won over the House and Senate. The Democrats had supported the creation of the Ku Klux Klan. The Democrats ushered in the Jim Crow laws and they were the ones who supported lynchings. Democrat president Woodrow Wilson even had a screening of the film “Birth of a Nation” in the White House, and did little to nothing to stem the tide of lynchings.

It was the Democrats who ushered in the voter intimidation tactics of literacy tests and poll taxes. Yes, Eleanor Roosevelt pushed for the first black fighter pilots, the Tuskegee Airmen, albeit based on pressure from Mary McLeod Bethune.

And yes, integration of our Armed Forces came by way of President Harry Truman, which is why his picture hangs in my home. However, this angered the Democrat Party, and he lost reelection due to a lack of support. It was Republican President Dwight David Eisenhower who federalized the National Guard to enforce the Brown vs The Board of Education decision. He also sought to reinstate much of the Civil Rights legislation the Democrat Party had rolled back. Sadly, it was a difficult haul, since he didn’t have the control of the House and Senate.

The black community was firmly Republican up until the time Richard Nixon refused to offer support to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while imprisoned. Nixon feared upsetting southern whites, and word got out that John F. Kennedy had contacted Mrs. King…true or not.

Therefore, from that point on three pictures hung in every black home: Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy. Trust me, they were in our living room on Kennesaw Avenue in Atlanta. However, the Democrats get credit for passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act when truth be told, it would not have passed without the support of Senate Republicans led by Everett Dirksen. He stood in opposition to Al Gore Sr. and KKK Grand Wizard Robert Byrd — whom Bill Clinton praised at his funeral/memorial service.

It was a Democrat president who began the destruction of the black family with a specific policy of his Great Society — the government giving checks to lower income women who have children out of wedlock, as long as they don’t have a man in the home. It was a Democrat Senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who spoke out against that policy, and he was denigrated by the Democrat Party.

Back in the early ‘60s the two-parent household in the black community stood at 75 to 77 percent. Today it is 24 percent. It was Democrat President Johnson who made a very disturbing and disparaging comment aboard Air Force one about how the passage of the civil rights act would have — well, the last time we told you, Marky Zuckerberg got upset and kicked us off Facebook for 48 hours. You can find out that quote on your own. Hint: there’s a word in there that starts with “n.”

Since Roe v. Wade some 13 to 15 million black babies have been aborted, and you hardly heard a peep from the liberal progressive media about the case of one Kermit Gosnell.

It is Hillary Clinton who praises Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger, for whom she received an award under her name. Just peruse some of Sanger’s statement and you can easily ascertain her real objective in creating Planned Parenthood.

The history of the Democrat Party in America has been about slavery, secession, segregation, and now socialism. And none of that has been beneficial to the black community.

Today the Democrat Party uses its socialist principle of wealth redistribution to expand the welfare nanny-state of victims and dependency. It has become the messenger of the theme called the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” That’s why the Democrat Party cannot stomach successful black conservatives because we counter their insidious bigotry based propaganda. And worse are the “gatekeeper” and modern 21st century economic plantation overseers who keep blacks downtrodden, resulting in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia — you got my point.

The esteemed black educator Booker T. Washington was viciously attacked by white liberal progressives. They even turned his former friend, W.E.B. DuBois, against him — a tactic seen today. Washington famously stated, “There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” That explains why Rev. Al Sharpton, a tax cheat, gets to visit the White House nearly 100 times.

So to the deceptive and despicable liberal progressive media, shut the hell up!

Donald Trump is right, it’s not just Hillary Clinton who is a bigot and a pandering liar, it is and has been the entire Democrat Party. The sad fact is that NO previous Republican presidential candidate has had the resolve and intestinal fortitude to call y’all out.

We finally got one, and it angers you to no end. The Democrat Party has NEVER sought the best for the black community, and to this day you continue to pour your deceptive honey into the ears of those who mindlessly follow you to their own demise.

Black Lives Matter is funded by a disgusting white progressive socialist named George Soros who wants only one thing…keep the colored folks on the new Democrat plantation so we can harvest the new crop, their vote.

As reported by Politico, “Donald Trump made a new and explicit plea for the support of black voters on Tuesday, saying the Democratic Party had “failed and betrayed” them and accusing Hillary Clinton of “bigotry” in the pursuit of minority voters. “We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton which panders to and talks down to communities of color and sees them only as votes — that’s all they care about — not as individual human beings worthy of a better future,” Trump said at a rally in Wisconsin.

After Republican Party leaders have urged Trump for months to rein in unpredictable tangents on the stump that have gotten him in repeated political trouble, Trump used a teleprompter at a campaign rally for the first time on Tuesday to deliver a speech that waded into the thorny topics of race and politics.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Real Climate Story by Tony Heller

We have been lied to by the government elites ‘for our own good!’ for years now. This fraud has cost citizens hundreds of billions of dollars.

This should be played daily in every school!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

30th Anniversary of Hansen’s First Big Forecast Failure

 

Steve Goddard

Thirty years ago, James Hansen made some spectacularly poor global warming predictions before Congress.

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Hansen predicted two degrees global warming by 2006.

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He was off by a factor of ten. Earth warmed about 0.2 degrees from June 1986 to June 2006.

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Enlarged Wood for Trees: Interactive Graphs

Hansen predicted 3 or 4 degrees of US warming between 2010 and 2020

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The US has seen little or no warming since 1986.

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Hansen predicted a huge increase in the number of hot days at Omaha, Nebraska and Washington, DC.

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The exact opposite has occurred. Both places have seen a decline in the number of hot days.

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Climate scientists have no idea what they are talking about, and their CO2 superstition is not based on science.

Annals Of Government Fraud: The “Social Cost Of Carbon”

Francis Menton, The Manhattan Contrarian

Somewhere along the line in the growth of the administrative state, some very naive people got the idea that giving bureaucrats arbitrary power is no problem because the bureaucrats can be constrained by a requirement that they do a “cost-benefit analysis” before they undertake major actions or regulations.  Thus no bureaucratic regulation will proceed unless the benefits exceed the costs.  Obviously, if the benefits exceed the costs, the regulation would be a net benefit, and of course it should take effect.  What could go wrong?

In the ranks of such touchingly naive people we have, for example, the U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court.  The Congress has indulged in hundreds of broad delegations of regulatory power to the administrative state, often with theoretically constraining language that either explicitly requires a cost-benefit analysis, or alternatively says something sort of close to that, such as that any regulation must be “appropriate and necessary.” In the case of a collection of power plant emissions regulations imposed by EPA in 2011, EPA attempted to take the position that the “appropriate and necessary” test under the Clean Air Act did not require it to consider cost before imposing the regulations.  The Supreme Court disagreed in the 2015 case of Michigan v. EPA, and sent EPA back to the drawing board.  So with that, agencies will almost always be required to assess cost against benefit before imposing any major action or regulation, and thus everything is now back to perfect balance and equilibrium in the world.  Right??

Of course the flaw here is the naive faith that a bureaucracy can be trusted to do an honest cost-benefit analysis, when in fact the essential dynamic of all bureaucracies is that they are only interested in growing their own power, staff, and budget.  For today’s lesson, consider what goes by the name of the “Social Cost of Carbon.”

The “Social Cost of Carbon” can fairly be described as the mother of all government cost-benefit analyses.  Supposedly it is a sophisticated tote-up of plusses and minuses that stands behind all government efforts to impose regulations in the area of “climate change.” In reality it is a completely dishonest scam that wildly exaggerates costs and ignores benefits in order to justify vast seizures of power unto the government. 

You may or may not have heard of the specific term “Social Cost of Carbon,” but undoubtedly you do know that in 2009 when the Obama administration came in, “climate change” was one of its top priorities; yet it was clear that there was going to be no new legislation (even though the Congress was fully in Democratic hands).  The administration thus had a huge impetus to proceed by regulations to increase its power and authority.  This was several years before the Supreme Court’s decision in Michigan v. EPA, but the Obamanauts were smart enough to realize that if they were going to have an aggressive regulatory agenda, somewhere in some statute would be something that someone would claim required a determination that the benefits of any proposed regulations exceeded costs.  And this “climate change” thing had the potential to impose hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars of costs on the U.S. economy. 

This was way too big to entrust to any one little agency.  So instead, the White House itself took the reins, and convened what it called the “Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon.” To do the mother of all cost-benefit analyses, you need the mother of all Interagency Working Groups.  What agencies?  In government acronym-speak, it was CEA, CEQ, DOA, DOC, DOE, DOT, EPA, NEC, OECC, OMB, OSTP, and DOT (here’s a document with the list)—all co-ordinated through the White House itself.  Whew!  The mission was to assess the costs versus the benefits of emitting carbon into the atmosphere via the burning of fossil fuels.  With this huge collection of scintillatingly brilliant geniuses from literally every important government agency, certainly you could be assured that the result would be perfect and fair and accurate.  They came out with their initial results in 2010.  The results were subsequently updated in a further document issued in 2013, with with yet a further revision in July 2015.

Now, step back from this for a moment.  Think about what fossil fuels have brought to the world over the course of the past century or so.  To start with, there’s electricity.  Could you go as long as a few days without it?  It is light, telecommunications, computers, smartphones, the internet, music, television and movies, refrigeration, air conditioning, tools, appliances, and so many other things.  About 90% of electricity worldwide comes from fossil fuels and thus from the emission of carbon into the atmosphere; and by the way, most of the remaining 10% (nuclear, hydro) is also not OK with environmentalists.  Next, coming virtually 100% from fossil fuels, we have transportation—automobiles, planes, trains, buses, ships, even motorcycles.  Then we have mechanized agriculture, also depending almost entirely on fossil fuels.  Mechanized agriculture is the difference between having our food supply produced by 2% of the population (as we have today) versus the 90% of the population it took to produce the food before mechanization.  Without mechanized agriculture, you would almost certainly be working on a farm today if you wanted to eat; and by the way you would be using a horse to plow the field rather than a tractor.  And your plow would be made of wood (can’t make metal without fossil fuels).  Then come mechanized and automated factories, which also depend almost entirely on fossil fuels.  Is it even possible to run a steel mill on power from wind turbines?  Still other things dependent on fossil fuels:  Try mowing your lawn without a mower powered by fossil fuels; or trimming a tree without a trimming device powered by fossil fuels; or plowing your driveway after a snowstorm without a plow powered by fossil fuels.  Almost all homes that are heated use fossil fuels to do it.  This list is almost endless.  Fossil fuels literally have transformed human life, hugely for the better, over the course of little more than the past one hundred years.

Are there any negatives in the use of fossil fuels?  Of course there are.  Fossil fuels have impurities that end up as pollution in the atmosphere—SO2, NO2, “particulates” (but great progress has been made in reducing the amounts of these impurities that make it into the atmosphere).  And then there’s the threat of “climate change,” largely theoretical at this point and projected in models that you may or may not believe. 

Suppose that you even believe some of the worst case scenarios projected by the most alarmist of the climate models, and you are then given the task of doing a cost-benefit analysis for the use of fossil fuels by mankind.  Your first reaction would probably be, how do you quantify something like this?  How do you put a value on what it is worth to people to have basically free streaming music, or air conditioning in Texas, or jet travel to Europe and back?  But even as you ponder some of those questions, I hope that your second reaction would be, this is not even remotely close.  On any conceivable scale of measurement, the benefits to mankind from the use of fossil fuels have to outweigh the negatives by a factor of hundreds if not thousands.  The benefits so wildly exceed the costs that the whole effort to try to quantify and weigh the two can’t really even be justified.  Even if you hugely minimize the benefits and exaggerate the costs, there couldn’t possibly be any way to make the use of fossil fuels by mankind into a net negative.  Indeed, if you need a reasonable proxy for the positive benefits of carbon-based energy, a pretty good start would be 100% of GDP.  For the U.S. that’s around $17 trillion per year.  After all, without carbon-based energy GDP would be a very small fraction of what it is.  Maybe you could knock off a couple of trillion for the part produced by nuclear and hydro, the infinitesimal part produced by wind and solar, and the even more infinitesimal part that you could produce by your own backbreaking human labor in the absence of an energy boost from something else.  So a good estimate of what we might call the Social Benefit of Carbon, or alternatively the Negative Social Cost of Carbon, would be around $15 trillion per year.

That’s how you would approach the problem if you were honest, or if you had even a smidgeon of integrity.  But remember, this is the government, and their power is at stake.

So in case you haven’t already guessed, the huge collection of government geniuses in the mother of all Interagency Working Groups sweated and struggled over this problem for about a year, and then in February 2010 they came out with a document titled “Technical Support Document:—Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis—Under Executive Order 12866.” And sure enough, their conclusion was that the use of fossil fuels by mankind imposes big costs upon society, hereafter to be known as the “Social Cost of Carbon.” And not just small costs.  Gigantic costs.  Of course they give multiple scenarios and estimates to make the whole thing as confusing and incomprehensible as possible.  But the simplest answer was, on our preferred assumptions and for this year of 2010, the Social Cost of Carbon is $35 per ton of carbon emitted.  (Total carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. run in the range of 7 billion tons per year.  That would put the total annual “Social Cost of Carbon” in the range of $250 billion, for the U.S. alone.) As mentioned above, since 2010 there have been two updates, most recently in 2015, and you will not be surprised to learn that the claims as to the Social Cost of Carbon have only increased.  At the comparable spot in the model ranges to the $35 per ton claim in 2010, the new 2015 number is $56 per ton.  That would put annual U.S. SCC now at around $400 billion.  But on other assumptions (particularly as to discount rate) it could be as high as $700 billion!  And also, rapidly increasing every year!

So what possible approach to valuing costs and benefits could possibly lead to such frankly insane conclusions?  Go to those two “technical support documents” put out by the IWG, and try to even figure out what they are doing.  It’s endless bureaucratic doublespeak and bafflegab.  We’re using really sophisticated models from the smartest of the smartest at the very best Ivy League schools!  We have the DICE model and the FUND model and the PAGE model!

It’s impossible to quote from documents like these in a short blog post, but I’ll try to summarize at least a little.  It seems that the enormous costs projected by the models trace almost entirely to temperature rises assumed to occur from greenhouse warming, and that the increased temperatures are assumed to cause harm in four main ways:  sea level rise, health effects, agricultural productivity, and so-called “discontinuity events.”

For example, for sea level rise, here’s how they say it works:  CO2 will cause global warming in the future; global warming will cause ice to melt; enough ice melting will cause sea level to rise; we project that rising seas will flood Manhattan in, say, the year 2060.  How much loss will come from that?  Pick an arbitrary large number!  How about $1 trillion.  No, make it $5 trillion!  Now discount that back to the present at a ridiculously low discount rate.  It’s easily $1 trillion of “present value.” (Less than that?  Then make the 2060 loss $10 trillion!) Your heating your house puts 2 tons per year of CO2 into the air.  The Social Cost of Carbon is $56 per ton.  Thus your personal contribution from home heating to the flooding of Manhattan in 2060 costs “society” $112 right now this year!  And sorry, there is no offsetting credit for your being warm in your house in the winter.  You should have heated your house with a wind turbine!  It is really far, far beyond ridiculous.

My short comments on the four things that underlie the bulk of the projected “loss”:

Sea level rise.  I can find no convincing evidence that the rate of sea level rise is any faster now in the intensive fossil fuel era than it has been consistently since the end of the last ice age.  (The rate, by the way, is about 8 inches per century.) Here’s my favorite indicator:  The headquarters of Goldman Sachs is located just a few hundred feet from the Manhattan waterfront, and at most about 15 feet above sea level.  That’s what the smart money thinks about sea level rise, at least over the next many decades.  (At 8 inches increase in sea level per century, the Goldman Sachs headquarters is safe from the sea for another good couple of millennia.)

Health effects.  Assume worst case projected scenarios of five or even six degrees of warming.  That’s a lot less than the average temperature difference between, say, New York and Houston.  As far as I know, Houston is no less healthy than New York.

Agricultural productivity.  There is no question but that higher temperatures and more CO2 make for better, not worse, agricultural productivity.

“Discontinuity events.” This seems to refer to future natural and weather disasters that they have no reason to think will be more frequent or severe in a warmer future than they are now.  They are completely making it up.

So to summarize: The government has convened literally everybody who is anybody in the regulatory apparat to put out a document to “prove” to the world what every thinking person knows can’t possibly be true, namely that carbon fuels are a cost rather than a benefit to humanity.  It’’s hard to imagine a more transparent and obvious fraud. 

Anyway, I take up this subject today because the internet has been abuzz this past week with critiques of the government]s Social Cost of Carbon analysis that somehow seek to deal with it on its own terms.  A paper in April by Dayaratna, McKitrick and Kreutzer re-ran the government]s SCC numbers using lower climate sensitivity estimates based on empirical evidence (rather than just models).  Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller picked up on that article on June 7 in a piece titled “Experts Debunk Obama’s ‘Social Cost of Carbon’ Estimate—It Might Be Negative!” (Might be???  It’s at least $10 trillion per year negative on any reasonable assumptions.) The generally sensible Judith Curry also comments here on the issue, and equally points out that the government’s SCC figures rely on climate sensitivity estimates that have been refuted by empirical evidence of the past several decades.

Fair enough.  But these people give the government way too much credit for fairness and honesty. The Social Cost of Carbon is a preposterous and transparent fraud by the government that is ridiculous in forty different ways.  I suppose these people deserve some credit for doing hard work to establish that the government’s representations fall apart even on their own terms, but really, this whole Social Cost of Carbon thing is something that no intelligent person should take seriously.  And yet, it seems that we have to.  Meanwhile, the idea that imposing a “cost-benefit” requirement on the government is any meaningful constraint is exposed as complete futility.  If they can put out an analysis purporting to make use of fossil fuels a negative for mankind, then they can do literally anything.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The whole truth in but a few words!

Janie Johnson@jjauthor 17h17 hours ago Nevada, USA

We are told NOT 2 judge ALL Muslims by actions of a few lunatics& encouraged 2judge ALL Gun Owners by actions of a few loons! #WakeUpAmerica

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Undeniable Evidence That The Real Economy Is Already In Recession

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/18/2016 02:00 -0400

You are about to see a chart that is undeniable evidence that we have already entered a major economic slowdown. 

In the “real economy”, stuff is bought and sold and shipped around the country by trucks, railroads and planes.  When more stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, the “real economy” is growing, and when less stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, the “real economy” is shrinking.

I know that might sound really basic, but I want everyone to be on the same page as we proceed in this article.

Just because stock prices are artificially high right now does not mean that the U.S. economy is in good shape. In fact, there was a stock rally at this exact time of the year in 2008 even though the underlying economic fundamentals were rapidly deteriorating.  We all remember what happened later that year, so we should not exactly be rejoicing that precisely the same pattern that we witnessed in 2008 is happening again right in front of our eyes.

During the month of April, the Cass Transportation Index was down 4.9 percent on a year over year basis. What this means is that a lot less stuff was bought and sold and shipped around the country in April 2016 when compared to April 2015.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Freight shipments by truck and rail in the US fell 4.9% in April from the beaten-down levels of April 2015, according to the Cass Transportation Index, released on Friday. It was the worst April since 2010, which followed the worst March since 2010. In fact, shipment volume over the four months this year was the worst since 2010.

This is no longer statistical “noise” that can easily be brushed off.

Of course this was not just a one month fluke.  The reality is that we have now seen the Cass Shipping Index decline on a year over year basis for 14 consecutive months.  Here is more commentary and a chart from Wolf Richter

The Cass Freight Index is not seasonally adjusted. Hence the strong seasonal patterns in the chart. Note the beaten-down first four months of 2016 (red line):

Cass Freight Index - Wolfstreet

This is undeniable evidence that the “real economy” has been slowing down for more than a year. In 2007-2008 we saw a similar thing happen, but the Federal Reserve and most of the “experts” boldly assured us that there was not going to be a recession.

Of course then we immediately proceeded to plunge into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Traditionally, railroad activity has been a key indicator of where the U.S. economy is heading next. Just a few days ago, I wrote about how U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago during the month of April, and I included a photo that showed 292 Union Pacific engines sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing.

Well, just yesterday one of my readers sent me a photograph of a news article from North Dakota about how a similar thing is happening up there.  Hundreds of rail workers are being laid off, and engines are just sitting idle on the tracks because there is literally nothing for them to do…

North Dakota Railroad Engines Idle

Intuitively, does it seem like this should be happening in a “healthy” economy?

Of course not.

The reason why this is happening is because businesses have been selling less stuff.  Total business sales have now been declining for almost two years, and they are now close to 15 percent lower than they were in late 2014.

Because sales are way down, unsold inventories are really starting to pile up.  The inventory to sales ratio is now close to the level it was at during the worst moments of the last recession, and many analysts expect it to continue to keep going up.

Why can’t people understand what is happening?  So far this year, job cut announcements are up 24 percent and the number of commercial bankruptcies is shooting through the roof.  Signs that we are in the early chapters of a new economic downturn are all around us, and yet denial is everywhere.

For instance, just consider this excerpt from a CNBC article entitled “This key recession signal is broken“…

Treasury yields are behaving as if they are signaling a recession, but strategists say this time it’s more likely a sign of something else.

The market has been buzzing about the flattening yield curve, or the fact that yields on longer duration Treasurys are getting closer to yields on shorter duration securities.

In the case of 10-year notes and two-year notes, that spread was the flattest Friday than it has been on a closing basis since late 2007. The yield curve had turned negative in 2006 and stayed there for months in 2007 before turning higher ahead of the Great Recession. The spread was at 95 at Friday’s curve but widened Monday to more than 96.

Treasury yields are very, very clearly telling us that a new recession is here, but because the “experts” don’t want to believe it they are telling us that the signal is “broken”.

For many Americans, all that seems to matter is that the stock market has recovered from the horrible crashes last August and earlier this year. But in the end, I am convinced that those crashes will simply be regarded as “foreshocks” of a much greater crash in our not too distant future.

But if you don’t want to believe me, perhaps you will listen to Goldman Sachs.  They just came out with six reasons why stocks are about to tumble.

Or perhaps you will believe Bank of America.  They just came out with nine reasons why a big stock market decline is on the horizon.

To me, one of the big developments has been the fact that stock buybacks are really starting to dry up.  In fact, announced stock buybacks have declined 38 percent so far this year

After snapping up trillions of dollars of their own stock in a five-year shopping binge that dwarfed every other buyer, U.S. companies from Apple Inc. to IBM Corp. just put on the brakes. Announced repurchases dropped 38 percent to $244 billion in the last four months, the biggest decline since 2009, data compiled by Birinyi Associates and Bloomberg show. “If the only meaningful source of demand in the market is companies buying their own shares back, then what happens if that goes away?” asked Brad McMillan, CIO of Commonwealth “We should be concerned.”

Stock buybacks have been one of the key factors keeping stock prices at artificially inflated levels even though underlying economic conditions have been deteriorating.  Now that stock buybacks are drying up, it is going to be difficult for stocks to stay disconnected from economic reality.

A lot of people have been asking me recently when the next crisis is going to arrive.

I always tell them that it is already here.

Just like in early 2008, economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating, but the stock market has not gotten the memo quite yet.

And just like in 2008, when the financial markets do finally start catching up with reality it will likely happen very quickly.

So don’t take your eyes off of the deteriorating economic fundamentals, because it is inevitable that the financial markets will follow eventually.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Surgical Sex - Why We Stopped Doing Sex Change Operations


First Things ^ | November 2004 | Paul R. McHugh

Posted on 1/2/2016, 9:13:52 PM by Coleus

When the practice of sex-change surgery first emerged back in the early 1970s, I would often remind its advocating psychiatrists that with other patients, alcoholics in particular, they would quote the Serenity Prayer, “God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Where did they get the idea that our sexual identity (”gender” was the term they preferred) as men or women was in the category of things that could be changed?

Their regular response was to show me their patients. Men (and until recently they were all men) with whom I spoke before their surgery would tell me that their bodies and sexual identities were at variance. Those I met after surgery would tell me that the surgery and hormone treatments that had made them “women” had also made them happy and contented. None of these encounters were persuasive, however. The post-surgical subjects struck me as caricatures of women. They wore high heels, copious makeup, and flamboyant clothing; they spoke about how they found themselves able to give vent to their natural inclinations for peace, domesticity, and gentleness—but their large hands, prominent Adam’s apples, and thick facial features were incongruous (and would become more so as they aged). Women psychiatrists whom I sent to talk with them would intuitively see through the disguise and the exaggerated postures. “Gals know gals,” one said to me, “and that’s a guy.”

The subjects before the surgery struck me as even more strange, as they struggled to convince anyone who might influence the decision for their surgery. First, they spent an unusual amount of time thinking and talking about sex and their sexual experiences; their sexual hungers and adventures seemed to preoccupy them. Second, discussion of babies or children provoked little interest from them; indeed, they seemed indifferent to children. But third, and most remarkable, many of these men-who-claimed-to-be-women reported that they found women sexually attractive and that they saw themselves as “lesbians.” When I noted to their champions that their psychological leanings seemed more like those of men than of women, I would get various replies, mostly to the effect that in making such judgments I was drawing on sexual stereotypes.

Until 1975, when I became psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, I could usually keep my own counsel on these matters. But once I was given authority over all the practices in the psychiatry department I realized that if I were passive I would be tacitly co-opted in encouraging sex-change surgery in the very department that had originally proposed and still defended it. I decided to challenge what I considered to be a misdirection of psychiatry and to demand more information both before and after their operations.

Two issues presented themselves as targets for study. First, I wanted to test the claim that men who had undergone sex-change surgery found resolution for their many general psychological problems. Second (and this was more ambitious), I wanted to see whether male infants with ambiguous genitalia who were being surgically transformed into females and raised as girls did, as the theory (again from Hopkins) claimed, settle easily into the sexual identity that was chosen for them. These claims had generated the opinion in psychiatric circles that one’s “sex” and one’s “gender” were distinct matters, sex being genetically and hormonally determined from conception, while gender was culturally shaped by the actions of family and others during childhood.

The first issue was easier and required only that I encourage the ongoing research of a member of the faculty who was an accomplished student of human sexual behavior. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jon Meyer was already developing a means of following up with adults who received sex-change operations at Hopkins in order to see how much the surgery had helped them. He found that most of the patients he tracked down some years after their surgery were contented with what they had done and that only a few regretted it. But in every other respect, they were little changed in their psychological condition. They had much the same problems with relationships, work, and emotions as before. The hope that they would emerge now from their emotional difficulties to flourish psychologically had not been fulfilled.

We saw the results as demonstrating that just as these men enjoyed cross-dressing as women before the operation so they enjoyed cross-living after it. But they were no better in their psychological integration or any easier to live with. With these facts in hand I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.
Thanks to this research, Dr. Meyer was able to make some sense of the mental disorders that were driving this request for unusual and radical treatment. Most of the cases fell into one of two quite different groups. One group consisted of conflicted and guilt-ridden homosexual men who saw a sex-change as a way to resolve their conflicts over homosexuality by allowing them to behave sexually as females with men. The other group, mostly older men, consisted of heterosexual (and some bisexual) males who found intense sexual arousal in cross-dressing as females. As they had grown older, they had become eager to add more verisimilitude to their costumes and either sought or had suggested to them a surgical transformation that would include breast implants, penile amputation, and pelvic reconstruction to resemble a woman.

Further study of similar subjects in the psychiatric services of the Clark Institute in Toronto identified these men by the auto-arousal they experienced in imitating sexually seductive females. Many of them imagined that their displays might be sexually arousing to onlookers, especially to females. This idea, a form of “sex in the head” (D. H. Lawrence), was what provoked their first adventure in dressing up in women’s undergarments and had eventually led them toward the surgical option. Because most of them found women to be the objects of their interest they identified themselves to the psychiatrists as lesbians. The name eventually coined in Toronto to describe this form of sexual misdirection was “autogynephilia.” Once again I concluded that to provide a surgical alteration to the body of these unfortunate people was to collaborate with a mental disorder rather than to treat it.
This information and the improved understanding of what we had been doing led us to stop prescribing sex-change operations for adults at Hopkins—much, I’m glad to say, to the relief of several of our plastic surgeons who had previously been commandeered to carry out the procedures. And with this solution to the first issue I could turn to the second—namely, the practice of surgically assigning femaleness to male newborns who at birth had malformed, sexually ambiguous genitalia and severe phallic defects. This practice, more the province of the pediatric department than of my own, was nonetheless of concern to psychiatrists because the opinions generated around these cases helped to form the view that sexual identity was a matter of cultural conditioning rather than something fundamental to the human constitution.

Several conditions, fortunately rare, can lead to the misconstruction of the genito-urinary tract during embryonic life. When such a condition occurs in a male, the easiest form of plastic surgery by far, with a view to correcting the abnormality and gaining a cosmetically satisfactory appearance, is to remove all the male parts, including the testes, and to construct from the tissues available a labial and vaginal configuration. This action provides these malformed babies with female-looking genital anatomy regardless of their genetic sex. Given the claim that the sexual identity of the child would easily follow the genital appearance if backed up by familial and cultural support, the pediatric surgeons took to constructing female-like genitalia for both females with an XX chromosome constitution and males with an XY so as to make them all look like little girls, and they were to be raised as girls by their parents.

All this was done of course with consent of the parents who, distressed by these grievous malformations in their newborns, were persuaded by the pediatric endocrinologists and consulting psychologists to accept transformational surgery for their sons. They were told that their child’s sexual identity (again his “gender”) would simply conform to environmental conditioning. If the parents consistently responded to the child as a girl now that his genital structure resembled a girl’s, he would accept that role without much travail.

This proposal presented the parents with a critical decision. The doctors increased the pressure behind the proposal by noting to the parents that a decision had to be made promptly because a child’s sexual identity settles in by about age two or three. The process of inducing the child into the female role should start immediately, with name, birth certificate, baby paraphernalia, etc. With the surgeons ready and the physicians confident, the parents were faced with an offer difficult to refuse (although, interestingly, a few parents did refuse this advice and decided to let nature take its course).

I thought these professional opinions and the choices being pressed on the parents rested upon anecdotal evidence that was hard to verify and even harder to replicate. Despite the confidence of their advocates, they lacked substantial empirical support. I encouraged one of our resident psychiatrists, William G. Reiner (already interested in the subject because prior to his psychiatric training he had been a pediatric urologist and had witnessed the problem from the other side), to set about doing a systematic follow-up of these children—particularly the males transformed into females in infancy—so as to determine just how sexually integrated they became as adults.
The results here were even more startling than in Meyer’s work. Reiner picked out for intensive study cloacal exstrophy, because it would best test the idea that cultural influence plays the foremost role in producing sexual identity. Cloacal exstrophy is an embryonic misdirection that produces a gross abnormality of pelvic anatomy such that the bladder and the genitalia are badly deformed at birth. The male penis fails to form and the bladder and urinary tract are not separated distinctly from the gastrointestinal tract. But crucial to Reiner’s study is the fact that the embryonic development of these unfortunate males is not hormonally different from that of normal males. They develop within a male-typical prenatal hormonal milieu provided by their Y chromosome and by their normal testicular function. This exposes these growing embryos/fetuses to the male hormone testosterone—just like all males in their mother’s womb.

Although animal research had long since shown that male sexual behavior was directly derived from this exposure to testosterone during embryonic life, this fact did not deter the pediatric practice of surgically treating male infants with this grievous anomaly by castration (amputating their testes and any vestigial male genital structures) and vaginal construction, so that they could be raised as girls. This practice had become almost universal by the mid-1970s. Such cases offered Reiner the best test of the two aspects of the doctrine underlying such treatment: (1) that humans at birth are neutral as to their sexual identity, and (2) that for humans it is the postnatal, cultural, nonhormonal influences, especially those of early childhood, that most influence their ultimate sexual identity. Males with cloacal exstrophy were regularly altered surgically to resemble females, and their parents were instructed to raise them as girls. But would the fact that they had had the full testosterone exposure in utero defeat the attempt to raise them as girls? Answers might become evident with the careful follow-up that Reiner was launching.

Before describing his results, I should note that the doctors proposing this treatment for the males with cloacal exstrophy understood and acknowledged that they were introducing a number of new and severe physical problems for these males. These infants, of course, had no ovaries, and their testes were surgically amputated, which meant that they had to receive exogenous hormones for life. They would also be denied by the same surgery any opportunity for fertility later on. One could not ask the little patient about his willingness to pay this price. These were considered by the physicians advising the parents to be acceptable burdens to bear in order to avoid distress in childhood about malformed genital structures, and it was hoped that they could follow a conflict-free direction in their maturation as girls and women.

Reiner, however, discovered that such re-engineered males were almost never comfortable as females once they became aware of themselves and the world. From the start of their active play life, they behaved spontaneously like boys and were obviously different from their sisters and other girls, enjoying rough-and-tumble games but not dolls and “playing house.” Later on, most of those individuals who learned that they were actually genetic males wished to reconstitute their lives as males (some even asked for surgical reconstruction and male hormone replacement)—and all this despite the earnest efforts by their parents to treat them as girls.

Reiner’s results, reported in the January 22, 2004, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, are worth recounting. He followed up sixteen genetic males with cloacal exstrophy seen at Hopkins, of whom fourteen underwent neonatal assignment to femaleness socially, legally, and surgically. The other two parents refused the advice of the pediatricians and raised their sons as boys. Eight of the fourteen subjects assigned to be females had since declared themselves to be male. Five were living as females, and one lived with unclear sexual identity. The two raised as males had remained male. All sixteen of these people had interests that were typical of males, such as hunting, ice hockey, karate, and bobsledding. Reiner concluded from this work that the sexual identity followed the genetic constitution. Male-type tendencies (vigorous play, sexual arousal by females, and physical aggressiveness) followed the testosterone-rich intrauterine fetal development of the people he studied, regardless of efforts to socialize them as females after birth. Having looked at the Reiner and Meyer studies, we in the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Department eventually concluded that human sexual identity is mostly built into our constitution by the genes we inherit and the embryogenesis we undergo. Male hormones sexualize the brain and the mind. Sexual dysphoria—a sense of disquiet in one’s sexual role—naturally occurs amongst those rare males who are raised as females in an effort to correct an infantile genital structural problem. A seemingly similar disquiet can be socially induced in apparently constitutionally normal males, in association with (and presumably prompted by) serious behavioral aberrations, amongst which are conflicted homosexual orientations and the remarkable male deviation now called autogynephilia.

Quite clearly, then, we psychiatrists should work to discourage those adults who seek surgical sex reassignment. When Hopkins announced that it would stop doing these procedures in adults with sexual dysphoria, many other hospitals followed suit, but some medical centers still carry out this surgery. Thailand has several centers that do the surgery “no questions asked” for anyone with the money to pay for it and the means to travel to Thailand. I am disappointed but not surprised by this, given that some surgeons and medical centers can be persuaded to carry out almost any kind of surgery when pressed by patients with sexual deviations, especially if those patients find a psychiatrist to vouch for them. The most astonishing example is the surgeon in England who is prepared to amputate the legs of patients who claim to find sexual excitement in gazing at and exhibiting stumps of amputated legs. At any rate, we at Hopkins hold that official psychiatry has good evidence to argue against this kind of treatment and should begin to close down the practice everywhere.

For children with birth defects the most rational approach at this moment is to correct promptly any of the major urological defects they face, but to postpone any decision about sexual identity until much later, while raising the child according to its genetic sex. Medical caretakers and parents can strive to make the child aware that aspects of sexual identity will emerge as he or she grows. Settling on what to do about it should await maturation and the child’s appreciation of his or her own identity.

Proper care, including good parenting, means helping the child through the medical and social difficulties presented by the genital anatomy but in the process protecting what tissues can be retained, in particular the gonads. This effort must continue to the point where the child can see the problem of a life role more clearly as a sexually differentiated individual emerges from within. Then as the young person gains a sense of responsibility for the result, he or she can be helped through any surgical constructions that are desired. Genuine informed consent derives only from the person who is going to live with the outcome and cannot rest upon the decisions of others who believe they “know best.”

How are these ideas now being received? I think tolerably well. The “transgender” activists (now often allied with gay liberation movements) still argue that their members are entitled to whatever surgery they want, and they still claim that their sexual dysphoria represents a true conception of their sexual identity. They have made some protests against the diagnosis of autogynephilia as a mechanism to generate demands for sex-change operations, but they have offered little evidence to refute the diagnosis. Psychiatrists are taking better sexual histories from those requesting sex-change and are discovering more examples of this strange male exhibitionist proclivity.
Much of the enthusiasm for the quick-fix approach to birth defects expired when the anecdotal evidence about the much-publicized case of a male twin raised as a girl proved to be bogus. The psychologist in charge hid, by actually misreporting, the news that the boy, despite the efforts of his parents to treat him and raise him as a girl, had constantly challenged their treatment of him, ultimately found out about the deception, and restored himself as a male. Sadly, he carried an additional diagnosis of major depression and ultimately committed suicide.

I think the issue of sex-change for males is no longer one in which much can be said for the other side. But I have learned from the experience that the toughest challenge is trying to gain agreement to seek empirical evidence for opinions about sex and sexual behavior, even when the opinions seem on their face unreasonable. One might expect that those who claim that sexual identity has no biological or physical basis would bring forth more evidence to persuade others. But as I’ve learned, there is a deep prejudice in favor of the idea that nature is totally malleable.

Without any fixed position on what is given in human nature, any manipulation of it can be defended as legitimate. A practice that appears to give people what they want—and what some of them are prepared to clamor for—turns out to be difficult to combat with ordinary professional experience and wisdom. Even controlled trials or careful follow-up studies to ensure that the practice itself is not damaging are often resisted and the results rejected.

I have witnessed a great deal of damage from sex-reassignment. The children transformed from their male constitution into female roles suffered prolonged distress and misery as they sensed their natural attitudes. Their parents usually lived with guilt over their decisions—second-guessing themselves and somewhat ashamed of the fabrication, both surgical and social, they had imposed on their sons. As for the adults who came to us claiming to have discovered their “true” sexual identity and to have heard about sex-change operations, we psychiatrists have been distracted from studying the causes and natures of their mental misdirections by preparing them for surgery and for a life in the other sex. We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure, and ultimately prevent it.

Paul McHugh is University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

We Need A Complete System Overhaul: 5 Charts That Blow Up The Status Quo (Zerohedge)

 

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 05/10/2016 08:22 -0400

The promises made when there were 7 workers for every retiree cannot be kept when there are only 2 workers for every retiree.

In an auto-mechanic analogy, the Powers That be are assuring us those grinding noises under the hood and the black smoke chugging out of the tailpipe are no big deal and can be fixed with a minor tuneup. They're wrong; we need a total overhaul to avoid a total system breakdown.

The grinding noises and black smoke are telling us the engine of our economy is on its last legs. The Powers That Be (Federal Reserve, government at all levels, mainstream corporate media, etc.) have been masking the need for an overhaul with trickery for the past seven years, the financial equivalent of using heavy oil and spray-painting the battery to make it look new.

With the tranny and top end about to blow, the Status Quo keeps claiming everything's running great and the new set of sparkplugs and minor valve adjustment (i.e. zero-interest rate policy and more banking regulations) have restored the economy to top performance.

It's all lies, fantasy and propaganda. Nothing has been fixed. Automation has just started devouring human labor/jobs, corporate profits have peaked, the trick of pushing the stock market higher by borrowing money to buy back shares is finally falling apart, the trends of wealth and income inequality are roaring ahead full steam, and our entire system of taxation, entitlements and debt is about to blow up.

As I explain in my new books A Radically Beneficial World and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform, the big structural trends will destroy the status quo: automation/loss of jobs leads to lower profits and wages which means lower tax revenues while costs of an outsized generation retiring will soar for the next 30 years.

The promises made when there were 7 workers for every retiree cannot be kept when there are only 2 workers for every retiree. As automation commoditizes labor, goods and services, the ratio of full-time workers to retirees will continue to slip: it's already under two-to-one, as there are 123 million full-time jobs and 65.48 million Social Security beneficiaries.

Please glance at the following charts. The point here isn't to play doom-and-gloom; it's to accept the reality that the current set of promises and power arrangements is going to blow up and we'll need a complete overhaul of our system.

Chart 1: Medicare costs will continue skyrocketing for decades:

Chart 2: all three major entitlement programs--Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security--are expanding rapidly while tax revenues are stagnating (and could plummet in a systemic recession). (For context, the entire defense budget is around $700 billion.)

Chart 3: the inevitable consequence is soaring entitlement deficits for decades:

Chart 4: we are at the base of a steep mountain of government spending:

Chart 5: funding this mountain will require a doubling of federal taxes:

Toss in the crushing burden of skyrocketing debts and the rise of inflation (already running 20% hotter than official statistics) and the meltdown of the status quo is only a matter of time. Anyone who thinks taxes can double and the consumer-based economy will be just fine is delusional.

We need a complete system overhaul, and the sooner we face up to this sobering reality, the sooner we can start working on real solutions.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Scientific Regress


First Things ^ | May 2016 | William A. Wilson
Posted on ‎4‎/‎18‎/‎2016‎ ‎9‎:‎31‎:‎02‎ ‎AM by Heartlander

 

by William A. Wilson May 2016
The problem with ­science is that so much of it simply isn’t. Last summer, the Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field. Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case. The OSC was the biggest attempt yet to check a field’s results, and the most shocking. In many cases, they had used original experimental materials, and sometimes even performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers. Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.
Their findings made the news, and quickly became a club with which to bash the social sciences. But the problem isn’t just with psychology. There’s an ­unspoken rule in the pharmaceutical industry that half of all academic biomedical research will ultimately prove false, and in 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided to test it. Looking at sixty-seven recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research, they found that in more than 75 percent of cases the published data did not match up with their in-house attempts to replicate. These were not studies published in fly-by-night oncology journals, but blockbuster research featured in Science, Nature, Cell, and the like. The Bayer researchers were drowning in bad studies, and it was to this, in part, that they attributed the mysteriously declining yields of drug pipelines. Perhaps so many of these new drugs fail to have an effect because the basic research on which their development was based isn’t valid.
When a study fails to replicate, there are two possible interpretations. The first is that, unbeknownst to the investigators, there was a real difference in experimental setup between the original investigation and the failed replication. These are colloquially referred to as “wallpaper effects,” the joke being that the experiment was affected by the color of the wallpaper in the room. This is the happiest possible explanation for failure to reproduce: It means that both experiments have revealed facts about the universe, and we now have the opportunity to learn what the difference was between them and to incorporate a new and subtler distinction into our theories.
The other interpretation is that the original finding was false. Unfortunately, an ingenious statistical argument shows that this second interpretation is far more likely. First articulated by John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, this argument proceeds by a simple application of Bayesian statistics. Suppose that there are a hundred and one stones in a certain field. One of them has a diamond inside it, and, luckily, you have a diamond-detecting device that advertises 99 percent accuracy. After an hour or so of moving the device around, examining each stone in turn, suddenly alarms flash and sirens wail while the device is pointed at a promising-looking stone. What is the probability that the stone contains a diamond?
Most would say that if the device advertises 99 percent accuracy, then there is a 99 percent chance that the device is correctly discerning a diamond, and a 1 percent chance that it has given a false positive reading. But consider: Of the one hundred and one stones in the field, only one is truly a diamond. Granted, our machine has a very high probability of correctly declaring it to be a diamond. But there are many more diamond-free stones, and while the machine only has a 1 percent chance of falsely declaring each of them to be a diamond, there are a hundred of them. So if we were to wave the detector over every stone in the field, it would, on average, sound twice—once for the real diamond, and once when a false reading was triggered by a stone. If we know only that the alarm has sounded, these two possibilities are roughly equally probable, giving us an approximately 50 percent chance that the stone really contains a diamond.
This is a simplified version of the argument that Ioannidis applies to the process of science itself. The stones in the field are the set of all possible testable hypotheses, the diamond is a hypothesized connection or effect that happens to be true, and the diamond-detecting device is the scientific method. A tremendous amount depends on the proportion of possible hypotheses which turn out to be true, and on the accuracy with which an experiment can discern truth from falsehood. Ioannidis shows that for a wide variety of scientific settings and fields, the values of these two parameters are not at all favorable.
For instance, consider a team of molecular biologists investigating whether a mutation in one of the countless thousands of human genes is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The probability of a randomly selected mutation in a randomly selected gene having precisely that effect is quite low, so just as with the stones in the field, a positive finding is more likely than not to be spurious—unless the experiment is unbelievably successful at sorting the wheat from the chaff. Indeed, Ioannidis finds that in many cases, approaching even 50 percent true positives requires unimaginable accuracy. Hence the eye-catching title of his paper: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.”
What about accuracy? Here, too, the news is not good. First, it is a de facto standard in many fields to use one in twenty as an acceptable cutoff for the rate of false positives. To the naive ear, that may sound promising: Surely it means that just 5 percent of scientific studies report a false positive? But this is precisely the same mistake as thinking that a stone has a 99 percent chance of containing a ­diamond just because the detector has sounded. What it really means is that for each of the countless false hypo­theses that are contemplated by researchers, we accept a 5 percent chance that it will be falsely counted as true—a decision with a considerably more deleterious effect on the proportion of correct studies.
Paradoxically, the situation is actually made worse by the fact that a promising connection is often studied by several independent teams. To see why, suppose that three groups of researchers are studying a phenomenon, and when all the data are analyzed, one group announces that it has discovered a connection, but the other two find nothing of note. Assuming that all the tests involved have a high statistical power, the lone positive finding is almost certainly the spurious one. However, when it comes time to report these findings, what happens? The teams that found a negative result may not even bother to write up their non-discovery. After all, a report that a fanciful connection probably isn’t true is not the stuff of which scientific prizes, grant money, and tenure decisions are made.
And even if they did write it up, it probably wouldn’t be accepted for publication. Journals are in competition with one another for attention and “impact factor,” and are always more eager to report a new, exciting finding than a killjoy failure to find an association. In fact, both of these effects can be quantified. Since the majority of all investigated hypotheses are false, if positive and negative evidence were written up and accepted for publication in equal proportions, then the majority of articles in scientific journals should report no findings. When tallies are actually made, though, the precise opposite turns out to be true: Nearly every published scientific article reports the presence of an association. There must be massive bias at work.
Ioannidis’s argument would be potent even if all scientists were angels motivated by the best of intentions, but when the human element is considered, the picture becomes truly dismal. Scientists have long been aware of something euphemistically called the “experimenter effect”: the curious fact that when a phenomenon is investigated by a researcher who happens to believe in the phenomenon, it is far more likely to be detected. Much of the effect can likely be explained by researchers unconsciously giving hints or suggestions to their human or animal subjects, perhaps in something as subtle as body language or tone of voice. Even those with the best of intentions have been caught fudging measurements, or making small errors in rounding or in statistical analysis that happen to give a more favorable result. Very often, this is just the result of an honest statistical error that leads to a desirable outcome, and therefore it isn’t checked as deliberately as it might have been had it pointed in the opposite direction.
But, and there is no putting it nicely, deliberate fraud is far more widespread than the scientific establishment is generally willing to admit. One way we know that there’s a great deal of fraud occurring is that if you phrase your question the right way, ­scientists will confess to it. In a survey of two thousand research psychologists conducted in 2011, over half of those surveyed admitted outright to selectively reporting those experiments which gave the result they were after. Then the investigators asked respondents anonymously to estimate how many of their fellow scientists had engaged in fraudulent behavior, and promised them that the more accurate their guesses, the larger a contribution would be made to the charity of their choice. Through several rounds of anonymous guessing, refined using the number of scientists who would admit their own fraud and other indirect measurements, the investigators concluded that around 10 percent of research psychologists have engaged in outright falsification of data, and more than half have engaged in less brazen but still fraudulent behavior such as reporting that a result was statistically significant when it was not, or deciding between two different data analysis techniques after looking at the results of each and choosing the more favorable.
Many forms of statistical falsification are devilishly difficult to catch, or close enough to a genuine judgment call to provide plausible deniability. Data analysis is very much an art, and one that affords even its most scrupulous practitioners a wide degree of latitude. Which of these two statistical tests, both applicable to this situation, should be used? Should a subpopulation of the research sample with some common criterion be picked out and reanalyzed as if it were the totality? Which of the hundreds of coincident factors measured should be controlled for, and how? The same freedom that empowers a statistician to pick a true signal out of the noise also enables a dishonest scientist to manufacture nearly any result he or she wishes. Cajoling statistical significance where in reality there is none, a practice commonly known as “p-hacking,” is particularly easy to accomplish and difficult to detect on a case-by-case basis. And since the vast majority of studies still do not report their raw data along with their findings, there is often nothing to re-analyze and check even if there were volunteers with the time and inclination to do so.
One creative attempt to estimate how widespread such dishonesty really is involves comparisons between fields of varying “hardness.” The author, Daniele Fanelli, theorized that the farther from physics one gets, the more freedom creeps into one’s experimental methodology, and the fewer constraints there are on a scientist’s conscious and unconscious biases. If all scientists were constantly attempting to influence the results of their analyses, but had more opportunities to do so the “softer” the science, then we might expect that the social sciences have more papers that confirm a sought-after hypothesis than do the physical sciences, with medicine and biology somewhere in the middle. This is exactly what the study discovered: A paper in psychology or psychiatry is about five times as likely to report a positive result as one in astrophysics. This is not necessarily evidence that psychologists are all consciously or unconsciously manipulating their data—it could also be evidence of massive publication bias—but either way, the result is disturbing.
Speaking of physics, how do things go with this hardest of all hard sciences? Better than elsewhere, it would appear, and it’s unsurprising that those who claim all is well in the world of science reach so reliably and so insistently for examples from physics, preferably of the most theoretical sort. Folk histories of physics combine borrowed mathematical luster and Whiggish triumphalism in a way that journalists seem powerless to resist. The outcomes of physics experiments and astronomical observations seem so matter-of-fact, so concretely and immediately connected to underlying reality, that they might let us gingerly sidestep all of these issues concerning motivated or sloppy analysis and interpretation. “E pur si muove,” Galileo is said to have remarked, and one can almost hear in his sigh the hopes of a hundred science journalists for whom it would be all too convenient if Nature were always willing to tell us whose theory is more correct.
And yet the flight to physics rather gives the game away, since measured any way you like—volume of papers, number of working researchers, total amount of funding—deductive, theory-building physics in the mold of Newton and Lagrange, Maxwell and Einstein, is a tiny fraction of modern science as a whole. In fact, it also makes up a tiny fraction of modern physics. Far more common is the delicate and subtle art of scouring inconceivably vast volumes of noise with advanced software and mathematical tools in search of the faintest signal of some hypothesized but never before observed phenomenon, whether an astrophysical event or the decay of a subatomic particle. This sort of work is difficult and beautiful in its own way, but it is not at all self-evident in the manner of a falling apple or an elliptical planetary orbit, and it is very sensitive to the same sorts of accidental contamination, deliberate fraud, and unconscious bias as the medical and social-scientific studies we have discussed. Two of the most vaunted physics results of the past few years—the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, and the supposed discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border—have now been retracted, with far less fanfare than when they were first published.
Many defenders of the scientific establishment will admit to this problem, then offer hymns to the self-correcting nature of the scientific method. Yes, the path is rocky, they say, but peer review, competition between researchers, and the comforting fact that there is an objective reality out there whose test every theory must withstand or fail, all conspire to mean that sloppiness, bad luck, and even fraud are exposed and swept away by the advances of the field.
So the dogma goes. But these claims are rarely treated like hypotheses to be tested. Partisans of the new scientism are fond of recounting the “Sokal hoax”—physicist Alan Sokal submitted a paper heavy on jargon but full of false and meaningless statements to the postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text, which accepted and published it without quibble—but are unlikely to mention a similar experiment conducted on reviewers of the prestigious British Medical Journal. The experimenters deliberately modified a paper to include eight different major errors in study design, methodology, data analysis, and interpretation of results, and not a single one of the 221 reviewers who participated caught all of the errors. On average, they caught fewer than two—and, unbelievably, these results held up even in the subset of reviewers who had been specifically warned that they were participating in a study and that there might be something a little odd in the paper that they were reviewing. In all, only 30 percent of reviewers recommended that the intentionally flawed paper be rejected.
If peer review is good at anything, it appears to be keeping unpopular ideas from being published. Consider the finding of another (yes, another) of these replicability studies, this time from a group of cancer researchers. In addition to reaching the now unsurprising conclusion that only a dismal 11 percent of the preclinical cancer research they examined could be validated after the fact, the authors identified another horrifying pattern: The “bad” papers that failed to replicate were, on average, cited far more often than the papers that did! As the authors put it, “some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis.”
What they do not mention is that once an entire field has been created—with careers, funding, appointments, and prestige all premised upon an experimental result which was utterly false due either to fraud or to plain bad luck—pointing this fact out is not likely to be very popular. Peer review switches from merely useless to actively harmful. It may be ineffective at keeping papers with analytic or methodological flaws from being published, but it can be deadly effective at suppressing criticism of a dominant research paradigm. Even if a critic is able to get his work published, pointing out that the house you’ve built together is situated over a chasm will not endear him to his colleagues or, more importantly, to his mentors and patrons.
Older scientists contribute to the propagation of scientific fields in ways that go beyond educating and mentoring a new generation. In many fields, it’s common for an established and respected researcher to serve as “senior author” on a bright young star’s first few publications, lending his prestige and credibility to the result, and signaling to reviewers that he stands behind it. In the natural sciences and medicine, senior scientists are frequently the controllers of laboratory resources—which these days include not just scientific instruments, but dedicated staffs of grant proposal writers and regulatory compliance experts—without which a young scientist has no hope of accomplishing significant research. Older scientists control access to scientific prestige by serving on the editorial boards of major journals and on university tenure-review committees. Finally, the government bodies that award the vast majority of scientific funding are either staffed or advised by distinguished practitioners in the field.
All of which makes it rather more bothersome that older scientists are the most likely to be invested in the regnant research paradigm, whatever it is, even if it’s based on an old experiment that has never successfully been replicated. The quantum physicist Max Planck famously quipped: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” Planck may have been too optimistic. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research studied what happens to scientific subfields when star researchers die suddenly and at the peak of their abilities, and finds that while there is considerable evidence that young researchers are reluctant to challenge scientific superstars, a sudden and unexpected death does not significantly improve the situation, particularly when “key collaborators of the star are in a position to channel resources (such as editorial goodwill or funding) to insiders.”
In the idealized Popperian view of scientific progress, new theories are proposed to explain new evidence that contradicts the predictions of old theories. The heretical philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, on the other hand, claimed that new theories frequently contradict the best available evidence—at least at first. Often, the old observations were inaccurate or irrelevant, and it was the invention of a new theory that stimulated experimentalists to go hunting for new observational techniques to test it. But the success of this “unofficial” process depends on a blithe disregard for evidence while the vulnerable young theory weathers an initial storm of skepticism. Yet if Feyerabend is correct, and an unpopular new theory can ignore or reject experimental data long enough to get its footing, how much longer can an old and creaky theory, buttressed by the reputations and influence and political power of hundreds of established practitioners, continue to hang in the air even when the results upon which it is premised are exposed as false?
The hagiographies of science are full of paeans to the self-correcting, self-healing nature of the enterprise. But if raw results are so often false, the filtering mechanisms so ineffective, and the self-correcting mechanisms so compromised and slow, then science’s approach to truth may not even be monotonic. That is, past theories, now “refuted” by evidence and replaced with new approaches, may be closer to the truth than what we think now. Such regress has happened before: In the nineteenth century, the (correct) vitamin C deficiency theory of scurvy was replaced by the false belief that scurvy was caused by proximity to spoiled foods. Many ancient astronomers believed the heliocentric model of the solar system before it was supplanted by the geocentric theory of Ptolemy. The Whiggish view of scientific history is so dominant today that this possibility is spoken of only in hushed whispers, but ours is a world in which things once known can be lost and buried.
And even if self-correction does occur and theories move strictly along a lifecycle from less to more accurate, what if the unremitting flood of new, mostly false, results pours in faster? Too fast for the sclerotic, compromised truth-discerning mechanisms of science to operate? The result could be a growing body of true theories completely overwhelmed by an ever-larger thicket of baseless theories, such that the proportion of true scientific beliefs shrinks even while the absolute number of them continues to rise. Borges’s Library of Babel contained every true book that could ever be written, but it was useless because it also contained every false book, and both true and false were lost within an ocean of nonsense.
Which brings us to the odd moment in which we live. At the same time as an ever more bloated scientific bureaucracy churns out masses of research results, the majority of which are likely outright false, scientists themselves are lauded as heroes and science is upheld as the only legitimate basis for policy-making. There’s reason to believe that these phenomena are linked. When a formerly ascetic discipline suddenly attains a measure of influence, it is bound to be flooded by opportunists and charlatans, whether it’s the National Academy of Science or the monastery of Cluny.
This comparison is not as outrageous as it seems: Like monasticism, science is an enterprise with a superhuman aim whose achievement is forever beyond the capacities of the flawed humans who aspire toward it. The best scientists know that they must practice a sort of mortification of the ego and cultivate a dispassion that allows them to report their findings, even when those findings might mean the dashing of hopes, the drying up of financial resources, and the loss of professional prestige. It should be no surprise that even after outgrowing the monasteries, the practice of science has attracted souls driven to seek the truth regardless of personal cost and despite, for most of its history, a distinct lack of financial or status reward. Now, however, science and especially science bureaucracy is a career, and one amenable to social climbing. Careers attract careerists, in Feyerabend’s words: “devoid of ideas, full of fear, intent on producing some paltry result so that they can add to the flood of inane papers that now constitutes ‘scientific progress’ in many areas.”
If science was unprepared for the influx of careerists, it was even less prepared for the blossoming of the Cult of Science. The Cult is related to the phenomenon described as “scientism”; both have a tendency to treat the body of scientific knowledge as a holy book or an a-religious revelation that offers simple and decisive resolutions to deep questions. But it adds to this a pinch of glib frivolity and a dash of unembarrassed ignorance. Its rhetorical tics include a forced enthusiasm (a search on Twitter for the hashtag “#sciencedancing” speaks volumes) and a penchant for profanity. Here in Silicon Valley, one can scarcely go a day without seeing a t-shirt reading “Science: It works, b—es!” The hero of the recent popular movie The Martian boasts that he will “science the sh— out of” a situation. One of the largest groups on Facebook is titled “I f—ing love Science!” (a name which, combined with the group’s penchant for posting scarcely any actual scientific material but a lot of pictures of natural phenomena, has prompted more than one actual scientist of my acquaintance to mutter under her breath, “What you truly love is pictures”). Some of the Cult’s leaders like to play dress-up as scientists—Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson are two particularly prominent examples— but hardly any of them have contributed any research results of note. Rather, Cult leadership trends heavily in the direction of educators, popularizers, and journalists.
At its best, science is a human enterprise with a superhuman aim: the discovery of regularities in the order of nature, and the discerning of the consequences of those regularities. We’ve seen example after example of how the human element of this enterprise harms and damages its progress, through incompetence, fraud, selfishness, prejudice, or the simple combination of an honest oversight or slip with plain bad luck. These failings need not hobble the scientific enterprise broadly conceived, but only if scientists are hyper-aware of and endlessly vigilant about the errors of their colleagues . . . and of themselves. When cultural trends attempt to render science a sort of religion-less clericalism, scientists are apt to forget that they are made of the same crooked timber as the rest of humanity and will necessarily imperil the work that they do. The greatest friends of the Cult of Science are the worst enemies of science’s actual practice.
William A. Wilson is a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The General Slocum Disaster and New York Values (American Thinker)

 

This quiz is aimed at New Yorkers, but anyone is welcome to play. It is especially aimed at New York supporters of the Democrat-turned-Republican-for-now, Donald Trump. Who, like their paramour, profess ignorance of what everyone else on the planet refers to as “New York values”.
And because Trump, the crybaby bully, purposefully played his 9/11 victimhood trump card to confuse the meaning of “New York values”, I’ll abide his choice of subjects, to keep this as simple as possible and not confuse him or his devotees further.
Ready?
Here’s the quiz:
“Before 9/11, what was the single worst tragedy in New York City?”
Answer? Anybody?
If you answered the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, you won yourself a big, juicy Bronx cheer. And identified yourself as a product of the New York City school system. That’s because the 146 Jewish-American and Italian-American women who died that day were a catalyst for the mob-connected, Marxist union movement, which helped elevate the unions to a position of prominence in New York City, including the teachers union, and gave them a seat at the table of every industry. A power in many ways equal to the city’s corrupt Democrat machine that has run New York City for two centuries. (Except for the desperate, temporary, “Save Our City” Republican messiahs like Fiorello La Guardia and Rudy Giuliani.)
After all, the deaths at Triangle served a purpose for the Left. And therefore, the unionized New York City school system teaches each student about the horror that was the Triangle fire. And that’s why you guessed wrong. Blame a teacher.
So, if Triangle wasn’t the worst disaster with its 146 deaths, what was?
The answer:
The steam-powered General Slocum was a grand excursion passenger ship with twin side paddles, designed to carry 3,000 people on its three massive, open decks. This particular day, June 15, 1904, 1,342 were on board for St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s 17th annual end-of-school-year day trip. For the children and mothers, to an idyllic beach on Long Island’s North Shore. A long-anticipated, carefree day of fun and frolic after a long school year. The children ran across the broad decks while the women milled about in their long, heavy, Victorian dresses. And, like most urban people of the time, the passengers were largely innocent of aquatics skills.
Further, none of the ship’s fire hoses worked. (As the crew was well aware.) None of the lifeboats worked. (They were painted and wired tight to the ship.) None of the life preservers worked. (Their cork had turned to dust and actually absorbed water when used that day.) None of the passengers knew any of this beforehand. But the crew did and so did the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service, the federal agency whose local office was under the influence of the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall Democrat machine, which had inspected the ship and certified it as safe just five weeks prior.
The fire started as the ship passed East 90th Street, but rather than immediately turn toward shore, the captain instead powered straight ahead for another 53 minutes through three miles of the most turbulent inland whirlpools in the United States -- aptly named “Hell Gate”.
Racing full throttle into a headwind that fanned the flames rearward from its ignition in the bow, the fire quickly engulfed the entire ship. By the time the burnt-out hull, charred nearly to the waterline, finally beached itself onto distant North Brother Island, the ship was nearly vacant of all life. The passengers had either burned alive or were forced to jump fully clothed into the whirlpools with others jumping on top of them and grabbing onto them as they tried desperately to keep from drowning, dragged down by heavy clothes and corroded life preservers. This, despite the fact that both shorelines had been a mere quarter of a mile to either side the entire trip.
1,021 aboard died that day. Remarkably, 35 of the 40-crew members survived. Many of the crew, including the captain, although suffering burns, clambered aboard a tug that had pulled alongside, near North Brother Island.
Therefore, 78% of the passengers perished, but only 12.5% of the crew. And the dead comprised the vast majority of the children and most of the women of a single, huge Lutheran church, gutting the heart of the entire Lower East Side known as Little Germany. Afterward, many of the distraught fathers and husbands committed suicide or moved out of Little Germany, along with the grandparents too old and babies too young to have made the trip. This transformed the ethnic makeup of the city forever.
But you won’t find many New Yorkers who have even heard of the event. There are but two marble markers commemorating the disaster, and you've never seen either. Because one is in an inaccessible children's playground in what used to be Little Germany. And the second one is in an inaccessible cemetery in Queens.
It’s certainly never taught in schools, as opposed to the Triangle fire. Which is ironic because the German-American community in the 1800s was instrumental in helping to create both the public schools (but not the unions that came to control them) and the free library system in New York City, institutions already established in their homeland. Ironic too because there are more German-Americans than there are from any other country. Ironic three because Donald Trump, of German-American descent himself, is likewise ignorant of his group’s history within his beloved city. The city for which he tolerates no criticism (if its defense serves his political ambitions), dealing instead the 9/11 victimhood trump card from the bottom of the deck.
This is because, in New York City, the General Slocum deaths offered no utility to the corrupt Tammany Hall Democrat machine, unlike the politically-connected groups represented in the Triangle fire. In fact, the Slocum deaths were an indictment of that Democrat machine because of the nefarious collusion revealed by the charade “inspections” performed by the city’s office of the USSIS.
Now, as a matter of jurisprudence, the law stated that one maritime death, caused by malfeasance or negligence, constituted manslaughter. Yet no one served time for the manslaughter of a thousand.
In fact, the only one who served any time at all was the captain, spending three-and-a-half years in prison for negligence beforehand -- for not having conducted mandatory fire drills with his crew, and for not maintaining the fire extinguishing equipment. But no jail time for inexplicably turning his ship into a monstrous pyre that day. Therefore, one man alone served approximately 1,275 days for negligence. But none spent time for the 1,021 deaths themselves.
Not the captain who refused to turn toward shore.
Not the company that knew their ship was unsafe.
Not the safety inspectors who certified the ship as safe.
Hell, the company was even permitted to recommission the burnt-out hull as an industrial barge, making even more money from their ship of death.
Yet, virtually no New Yorker has heard of their own city’s disaster. Schoolchildren are not taught about it, nor its obvious lessons -- both positive, such as the need for swimming and lifesaving training, the importance of fire safety and rescue planning; nor the negative, such as the turpitude of their city’s corrupt Democrat machine and its crony workers, and the resulting mortal danger to the people of New York from these “New York values”.
So don’t feel bad that you never heard of the worst disaster in New York City prior to 9/11, New York Trumpsters. Just understand that the lesson of the General Slocum is what others call your “New York values”. Something you shouldn’t need an outsider to explain. Marxism, sanctuary city policies, a one-party system devoid of any checks and balances, rampant abortion, the purposeful breakup of nuclear families, the electoral exploitation of the poor for the enrichment of the elite, the decimation of the middle class, racial and class conflict as a political tool, ignoring marijuana while targeting tobacco “loosies”, Occupy Wall Street, Code Pink, Not In Our Name, Act Up, the LGBT “rights” industry, ad infinitum.
And, in the instance at hand, it is the fact that greater value is given to the Triangle 146, whose deaths served a political purpose for the Democrat machine with which Trump has made his “great deals” his whole life, than the 1,021 Slocum deaths, which were an indictment of that same Democrat machine.
Besides, your heartthrob, Trump, failed the quiz about the General Slocum too. He's just as ignorant of his own city’s history and "values" as you. And he’s a German-American.
Further reading:
Ship Ablaze by Edward T. O’Donnell