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Tuesday links


  1. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 26, 2015 4:28 am

    So now we are supposed to apologize in advance for anything we say that might “offend” anyone? Good grief. Just about anything, including silence, “might” offend someone, somewhere. Having a “pre-apology” on file makes about as much sense as any of the rest of it – if you are an actor anyway. Never did figure out why some glib “apology” was supposed to negate an offense, and an apology before the fact seems downright crazy. But, what do I care? Nada

    Yes, Laddie loves to ride in the car. All I have to do is put on my hat and head for the back door (where the car is), and he’s turning himself inside out to get his head in his harness – which is also kept by the back door. I’d never let him ride unharnessed as the pictures show. And as much as he’d love to hang out there, the window is never let down that far, even though he’s secured to the seat belt with the harness. Too much chance of a rock or something being flipped into his face.

  2. Bear
    Bear May 26, 2015 4:33 am

    “Who knew bears liked coffee? “

    Well, duh. [grin]

    (Back in the Air farce, my coffee scared the lifers. Really.)

  3. Pat
    Pat May 26, 2015 4:55 am

    Thanks for the Brink of Freedom site. There’s some real good stuff in there to examine further.

  4. Claire
    Claire May 26, 2015 4:59 am

    “So now we are supposed to apologize in advance for anything we say that might ‘offend’ anyone?”

    ML — Pratt’s pre-apology is a joke. It’s also a sadly satiric comment on the way the media and social justice warriors are so quick to damn any well-known person who says anything they don’t like. But it’s not a serious apology in any case.

  5. Joel
    Joel May 26, 2015 6:56 am

    When I lived in Detroit the standing joke was that HUD was the best thing that ever happened to the plywood industry. Since, you know, there were shortly so many windows in need of being boarded up. When Coleman Young’s administration convinced taxpayers to build the gigantic downtown white elephant called the Renaissance Center, some no-doubt-racist joker asked “How are they going to get all that plywood all the way up there?”

    Of course it turned out that boarding up windows on foreclosed HUD houses only provided the privacy looters needed to strip out all the plumbing and wiring so they could sell the copper. Not that it mattered, since nobody was ever going to buy the houses anyway. Last I heard, there were big, once-beautiful abandoned houses you could buy for $7000 – but the few people stupid enough to do it shortly got a bill from the city for all the back property tax – and then it went right back into default.

    When I came back to Detroit in the early eighties and saw the first house I ever lived in – the only house my family ever owned – covered with plywood and graffiti, I could have cried. That was a nice street when I was a little boy. Now not even the gangbangers will live there.

  6. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau May 26, 2015 9:02 am

    “…federal housing subsidies have long destabilized Baltimore neighborhoods and helped create a culture of violence with impunity.

    Yet just last week, Baltimore officials were in Washington asking for more. Given the history, it defies understanding.”

    It only defies understanding if you are confused about motivations; if you take for granted that city officials actually want to help the people. Of course that is not so. They want to help themselves, and the people can go suck the hind tit.

    An alternative explanation is that they do want to help the people, but are incredibly stupid. Probably both explanations are working here.

    At to the Mozilla thing, I can sympathize with the author’s point of view. I got into writing assembly language not through official channels with lots of bureaucracy, but by reading others’ code and looking at processor manuals. Requiring all this crap up front really would have killed the process. I see the same thing in other venues, such as the classes my son is taking to learn to drive. Talk about stifling! Do these people imposing all this crap understand at all how humans learn and do and gain expertise? It doesn’t seem so…

    On that gay marriage study, social “science” is even more loaded with bullshit than other science. Anything where humans are involved? The studies are bound to be lies, and have more to do with driving or justifying legislation (i.e., coercion) than any supposed search for truth. Pardon my cynicism.

    Thanks for that link about chronic pain, I could get some use from that.

  7. s
    s May 26, 2015 12:11 pm

    It would be nice if the case of fraud discovered in a major scientific journal article was shocking, but in truth it isn’t. As your link to The case against modern science pointed out, roughly half of all published papers simply are not true. BS. Malarkey. Cherry-picked. Outright fabrication, as in the present case, is rare but not unheard of.

    I found the predictions of the scientist who exposed the fraud interesting. In the carefully qualified tones used by real scientists (who are humble because they must admit to being wrong quite often), he lays out the evidence and the likely consequences.

    Regardless, I am certain that LaCour faked the results of the original paper—the one published in Science. I predict that UCLA will refuse to award him a PhD, and I predict that Princeton will retract the assistant professorship that it offered him. I predict that UCLA or Princeton or both will conduct an investigation. I suspect that they will find that LaCour faked results in a few papers, not just one.

    I also believe that there are lots of similar, yet so far undetected, cases like LaCour’s in political science. Over the past five or ten years I have noticed more and more papers written by young political scientists (grad students and assistant professors) that claim to use extremely fancy and complex statistical techniques, yet the authors do not seem to fully understand the techniques that they claim to use

    Strike the word “political” from the second paragraph, and you get a good summary of the state of all modern science.

  8. Claire
    Claire May 26, 2015 12:26 pm

    One of the things that struck me about the original story of LaCour’s apparent fakery is that, while his fraud was discovered by other researchers, it was discovered so late.

    I’m mystified that neither his partner in the study nor the journal Science nor the peer reviewers took the simple, obvious step of checking his claims before putting their stamp of approval on his work — claims about the company he hired, the (apparently non-existent) employee of that company, etc. What kind of publishing process doesn’t include doing due diligence on the basic claims?

    Yes, I know that scientific publishing in general looks more fraudulent every day. But the details of the process can still shock me.

  9. LarryA
    LarryA May 26, 2015 2:14 pm

    Agreed, Calire. In particular, LaCour claimed to have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money… and no one asked where, or how they could get some?

    Lesson One seems to be: Don’t fake a study on a controversial subject.

    I’m looking at Bellesiles again.

  10. jed
    jed May 26, 2015 3:44 pm

    I disbelieve a great deal of the “science” I read. Particularly when there’s a known political agenda. There’s an old saying, “The more you know about a subject, the worse the reporting of it is”. Doesn’t help that most of the “science” that gets popular press is about climate change. And coffee is good / bad / good / bad / good … I think it’s now considered “good” in moderation. I’m certain it’s good for me (and bears, I guess). Okay, I admit to confirmation bias – I believe that the latest news about diet and fats, and chocolate, is right on.

    Elsewhere, Stink Bombs for Riot Control.

  11. s
    s May 26, 2015 4:05 pm

    I’m thankful LaCour’s treachery was discovered at all.

    In science publication frame of reference, this is pretty fast. The fraudster hasn’t even finished his Ph.D. yet.

    The work was “finished” the summer of 2013. The paper was first submitted 16 May 2014, accepted 7 November 2014, and published 12 December 2014.

    The fraud was called out in May 2015, it lasted only 6 months.

    You argue for a process of checking that would predictably turn adversarial. There is an element of trust in science publications. Thankfully, outright fraud like LaCour’s is fairly rare. Cherry picking and model tweaking are endemic, and one can argue they are no less fraudulent in their effects.

    He had no “partner” in the study. Green was the tenured professor who got his name on the paper because tenure. LaCour was the grad student who did the “analysis.” He got data from another source, Fleischer, who run an LGBT center at UCLA, but Fleischer only gave LaCour access to the 12,000+ records they had of field conversations.

    LaCour was the only one to look at the data and perform analyses. When the results were so strong they decided to repeat the experiment, LaCour was still the man in the middle.

    When challenged about the fraud, LaCour fell back to the 21st century version of “the dog ate my homework” excuse. But nothing is really deleted on the internet, so that ruse failed.

  12. s
    s May 26, 2015 4:11 pm

    The good news is that LaCour’s career in science is finished. Punishment in science is swift and harsh. No one will ever want to be his co-author, and no one with enough sense to check references will fail to discover his fraud.

    He’ll make a great legislative assistant or policy wonk. With work and a bit of luck, it could be Congressthing LaCour ere long. He’s certainly established his qualifications for those jobs.

  13. Claire
    Claire May 26, 2015 6:08 pm

    “You argue for a process of checking that would predictably turn adversarial.”

    Not necessarily. Every major magazine and newspaper employs fact checkers. Not that they always use them wisely, as in the recent Rolling Stone fiasco. But it’s a perfectly ordinary part of getting an investigative story to print. Neither adversarial nor controversial. Everybody understands it’s a basic failsafe.

    Procedures in the scientific world ought to be at least that rigorous.

    And though I know that Green got his name on LaCour’s paper merely by dint of academic tradition, clearly he had a responsibility to see that he didn’t give his imprimatur to fraud.

  14. Claire
    Claire May 26, 2015 6:15 pm

    And LarryA — Agreed. Shades of Bellesiles. I guess we can be glad LaCour didn’t win any major national prizes for his fraud before it was uncovered.

  15. jed
    jed May 26, 2015 8:07 pm

    Without trying to speak directly to LaCour’s case, I wonder what the path is, to a better system. Of course, accusations of bias are nothing new, but it seems to me that it’s getting worse. Perhaps my opinion is skewed by what I’ve read over the past few years regarding climate research. But we can point to other examples, e.g. medical research funded by a grant from one of the big pharma corporations. There have been accusations of bias in that area. The pressure to “publish or perish” comes in to play as well.

    Claire, you mention “fact checkers”. All well and good, and yes, I would expect higher standards and integrity in academic journals. Has the process been subverted by special interests, political pressure, etc.? We certainly see that when it comes to crime and firearms. If the AMA is ok with pushing physicians to make gun propoganda part of their practices, does that make us wonder what other biases lurk within the JAMA?

    I’m sure there’s still a lot of basic research going on – the Large Hadron Collider comes to mind. Then there’s the human decomposition research, which, while it seem macabre, is scientifically very interesting, and useful.

    Just pondering how, in today’s world, problems with research and publishing get fixed. I recall reading a critique, a while back, of the peer-review process. Don’t recall the gory details, but the gist was that the process is flawed. One thing which I think came up was the peers typically don’t have time to really do the articles justice — they’re busy with their own research and writing. My guess is that patronage typically comes from an entity with an agenda. Even if it’s tax dollars, that certainly isn’t free from bias and political pressure, now is it?

  16. KiA
    KiA May 26, 2015 8:18 pm

    Re: fake science
    Lacour is still claiming that his data is real. he’s preparing a response by May 29th. those interested may follow up on his personal website.

  17. s
    s May 27, 2015 3:06 am

    While fact checkers sound great, anyone who has had their name published in a newspaper knows of their amazing ability to get the simplest details wrong.

    It’s much tougher in scientific journals, where the subject matter is incredibly specialized. Peer review is supposed to provide the fact-checker function, but peer review is deeply broken.

    The basic model of peer review is flawed. I’ve been on both ends of peer review. As a reviewer, I’m asked to interrupt my work to do the review. A good review takes real time and careful thought. Writing the review is nearly as much effort as writing a paper.

    At the end, whether my comments have any impact on the final paper or not, my name and effort are unmentioned. There is very limited incentive for a good, thorough review.

    Peer review has been largely replaced by pal review. The whistleblower who collected the CRU email trove provided ample documentation of this pernicious con. A paper that supports the conclusions necessary to maintain the tsunami of government funding is given to friendly reviewers, who quickly approve it.

    Papers that question the prevailing orthodoxy are not only given to reviewers with obvious conflicts of interests, but editors who dare to publish them are hounded from their jobs.

    Willis Eschenbach has a nice summary example and some good recommendations in Peer Review, Pal Review, and Broccoli

    Eschenbach suggests that reviews be published along with the paper, with the reviewers name. That would go a very long way to improving the quality of fact checking and halting the gatekeeping antics of pal review.

    I don’t know the social sciences and can’t say exactly what happened in this case. Green was the first line of defense, and he failed. To his credit, once alerted to the problems, he challenged LaCour, and when he didn’t get a satisfactory response, Green asked Science to withdraw the paper. Better late than never.

    I suspect confirmation bias was involved. The result was very welcome to some.

  18. david
    david May 27, 2015 9:02 am

    Details are important! Was the coffee the bear went after black, or a latte, or a salted caramel frappe? I wonder. Given they think the bear was young, I’m betting on the foo-foo version.

  19. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 28, 2015 12:13 pm

    I’ve been involved with medical “research” and have some definite convictions about all science. The key to scientific study/research is that other scientists must be able to use the same subject/theory, method, environment, etc. and replicate the results. Far, far too much scientific study today cannot be honestly replicated that way. It is impossible to avoid this in so-called “social” or political studies, since the subjective is absolutely all they have to work with. They need to find a different term than scientific research.

    Unfortunately, far too much medical research is not much different, especially drug and nutritional things. Studies are based all or mostly on self reporting, subjective input, with little or nothing that can actually be measured, verified or repeated. The research I was involved in turned out to be a total fraud, since those in charge took great license in what data they accepted and what they discarded. At one point, I was asked to CHANGE my documentation to align more with the conclusion they wanted. That’s when I quit.

    On the other hand, think of all the “research” that was done to “prove” that cannabis was totally devoid of beneficial use, and inherently dangerous. Thousands of years of empirical evidence discarded because it didn’t fit the agenda.

    And that agenda has become the main driver for much of science. The conclusion is arrived at first. The “study” is designed to “prove” the desired conclusion, mostly using subjective values and measurements. The data collected is massaged to fulfill the design, and the conclusion is then pronounced fact.

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