Archive for April 8th, 2013

Global Warming and the Lizard People

April 8, 2013

I had another point to make about the poll I referred to the other day but I thought it would distract attention from my discussion of the Anti-Christ, and anyway the post was getting to be long enough. Let me quote the article again.

It’s official: Americans love their conspiracy theories. Public Policy Polling asked voters to weigh in on 20 more infamous ones, and the results show that a not-insignificant number of people believe that President Obama is the anti-Christ (13%), Big Foot exists (14%), and the planet is secretly ruled by the New World Order (28%). Four percent think our societies are actually ruled by “lizard people.”

  • 21% believe the government covered up a UFO crash in Roswell; 29% believe in aliens
  • 6% believe Osama bin Laden is alive
  • 5% think Paul McCartney has been dead for decades
  • 15% think there’s mind-control technology hidden in TV signals
  • 37% think global warming is a hoax
  • 7% think the moon landing was faked
  • 15% think Big Pharma develops new diseases as a way to make money
  • 14% see the CIA’s hand in the 1980s crack epidemic

If you look carefully, you will notice that one of these crazy conspiracy theories is not like the others in terms of plausibility. It is insane to believe that lizard people rule the world or the CIA distributed crack to minority neighborhoods. It is more than a little silly to believe that Bigfoot exists or the Moon landing is a fraud. These sorts of things are possible, but the available evidence is against their being true. The belief that the New World Order or the Trilateral Commission secretly rules the world seems like paranoia, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch any group of powerful people who meet on a regular basis.

What about the idea that global warming is a hoax? Well, given that the behavior of some of the principal proponents of the idea that man made global warming will lead to catastrophic results has been less than honest in their dealings with the public and given that at least some of these proponents seem to have a political agenda that is quite unrelated to any scientific evidence, it does not seem that the theory that global warming (or is it climate change or climate catastrophe or climate chaos?) is a hoax is quite in the same league as these others.

To be fair, I am not sure if the scientists at the Climate Research Institute and elsewhere were consciously engaging in fraud. Their misbehavior may be more due to self-deception, wishful thinking and shoddy scientific technique. They did not take Richard Feyman’s advice.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you   easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful aboutthat. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

I would like to add something that’s not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. I am not trying to tell you what to do about cheating on your wife, or fooling your girlfriend, or something like that, when you’re not trying to be a scientist, but just trying to be an ordinary human being. We’ll leave those problems up to you and your rabbi. I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen.

Instead of presenting the facts the best way they could, too many decided the matter was so important that they had to be alarmist. If global warming is a real threat, then they harmed their cause considerably.

When you consider the business people and politicians who stand to profit from this sort of alarmism, would be carbon credit billionaires and world leaders who will leap at any excuse to gain more power for themselves (Yes, I have Al Gore in mind), then perhaps hoax is not too strong a word to use.

Of course, the idea here is to associate people who are unconvinced by any lack of evidence for global warming with crazy people who believe that the lizard people rule the world.

The fact that 37% of the people in a poll believe that global warming is a hoax does not, of course, make it a hoax. But then, listing the idea that global warming is a hoax with a group of less plausible ideas does not make disbelief in global warming less plausible. One hurricane, however strong, does not prove that the world is getting warmed, nor was Sandy unprecedented in its size and destructiveness. Sandy was a category 3 hurricane, while the highest rating is category 5. There have been worse tropical storms in the Atlantic.

Hurricane Sandy was the largest hurricane on record as far as actual diameter, as well as the second most destructive in terms of property damage, with 2005’s  Hurricane Katrina causing the most property damage. You have to consider, however, that coasts are more developed today than they were decades ago and property is worth more, not to mention that both these storms struck urban areas in the United States.

I suppose that it is too much to ask that a television meteorologist be familiar with logic and the scientific method though.

 

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RIP Margaret Thatcher

April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, one of Britain’s greatest Prime Ministers died of a stroke today. She took control of a nation in decline and turned things around, at least temporarily, giving Britain one last moment of glory. Unfortunately none of her successors have seen fit to continue her policies, even her own Conservative Party, and so Britain is on the way down again. On the international stage, she was a stalwart supporter of freedom and a friend to America. She, along with President Reagan was instrumental in winning the Cold War and ending Soviet tyranny. She will be greatly missed.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

 

 

Message from Maryland’s Martin O’Malley

April 8, 2013
Martin O'Malley, Governor of the U.S. state of...

Martin O’Malley, Governor of the U.S. state of Maryland. Enemy of freedom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A bit of alliteration there. Anyway, I recently received a fund raising e-mail from Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland. He wanted to inform me of Maryland’s recent success in curbing gun violence and urged me to support the Democrats.

David

Throughout my career as a prosecutor, city councilman, mayor of Baltimore, and now governor of Maryland, I’ve had to attend too many funerals for men, women, and children who have lost their lives to gun violence.

I’ve spent my career working with law enforcement to drive down violent crime, and I am happy to say that today, we are taking another step forward toward curbing gun violence.

Yesterday, our state legislature passed a comprehensive public safety package that will make sure fewer mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters will lose a loved one to gun violence in Maryland.

What is this comprehensive public safety package? He doesn’t say. Here are some details, courtesy of Fox News.

The measure would require people who buy a handgun to submit fingerprints to state police, bans 45 types of assault weapons, and limits gun magazines to 10 bullets. It also addresses firearms access for the mentally ill.

Maryland will become the first state in nearly 20 years to require potential handgun buyers to submit fingerprints to state police. Only five other states have a similar requirement: Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

Gun control advocates say the fingerprinting requirement will help keep guns away from criminals, because it will make people reluctant to buy firearms for those who are not allowed to have them. Opponents say the bill erodes Second Amendment rights and ultimately penalizes law-abiding citizens without focusing on lawbreakers.

Although the measure bans 45 types of assault weapons, people who own them now will be able to keep them. People who order the weapons before Oct. 1, when the law would take effect, also would be able to keep them.

People who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility won’t be allowed to have a gun.

The first question that should be asked about all of this is will this legislation actually reduce crimes committed with guns and will the public be any safer as a result. In general, criminals will likely be less affected by any tougher gun control laws than law abiding citizens for the simple reason that being criminals, they are not likely to obey any particular laws. This is not necessarily an argument against the Maryland legislation. It may well be that the benefits will outweigh the costs. The costs have to be considered, though. Is Governor O’Malley prepared to divert law enforcement resources to suppressing the illegal and semi-legal trade in firearms that will develop? Are these measures worth the irritation and aggravation they will cause people with a legitimate need for guns? Will they actually prevent enough crime to make it worth the trouble?

I notice that Governor O’Malley describes the legislation he signed as “a comprehensive public safety package”, without mentioning the detail that this safety package seems more designed to make it more difficult for law abiding citizens to obtain firearms. Why doesn’t he just openly and honestly say something to the effect that he thinks that private possession of firearms causes gun crime and that it is a matter of public safety to discourage such ownership by making the process of obtaining them by private persons as onerous as possible? Why are the Democrats pushing “gun safety” and not “gun control” as they used to? I imagine because they can’t afford to be so honest. American public opinion has been becoming more libertarian in the past few decades, and Americans are less impressed with the idea of government controlling much of anything they were  half a century ago. Note that our recent economic recession did not push American public opinion towards favoring bigger government as liberals had hoped it would. Public opinion has also shifted against the government telling people what guns they can own. So, the Democrats have had to change the slogan.

Here is more from Governor O’Malley.

Even though the proposal is supported by a large majority of Marylanders, we had to work harder than ever before to pass it into law. The interest groups who oppose actions to reduce gun violence are powerful, entrenched, and well-financed, and they fought us every step of the way in Maryland — just as they’re fighting tooth and nail to block any action at the federal level.

The governor does not cite any polls so I have no idea how many Marylanders actually supported the legislation. It would probably depend on how the questions were framed. If asked, “Do you support the proposal to limit gun violence?’, an overwhelming number of people would say “yes”. If the question was, “Do you support a law that will make it more difficult and onerous for citizens to acquire firearms with the ultimate intent of prohibiting gun possession altogether?”, then even in deep blue Maryland an overwhelming majority of people would expression their opposition.In any event, the number of people who support the governor’s proposal is irrelevant. Our constitutional rights are not decided by popular vote, nor is any law a good idea, just because a large number of people support it.

The comment regarding the powerful and well-financed interest groups is a curious one, if you stop to think about it. The idea seems to be that there is one course of action that is obviously the right one and which is best for the common good and anyone who opposes this action can only oppose it because they are selfish and uncaring of the common good. Hence, the unnamed special interests (the NRA or Gun Owners of America) oppose Governor O’Malley’s proposals not because they may think they are bad ones or that they have better ideas, but because they are selfish and maybe even want to see more gun violence. In practical terms this idea of special interests versus the common good means that the persons who are most affected by any proposed legislation, the ones with an interest so to speak, are the same persons who ought not to have any influence on that legislation.

What will happen next in Maryland? I have no idea. It is likely that the new laws will be tested in court and there is an even chance that they will be overturned. Gun stores in Maryland will be making record sales and profits until the new laws go into effect. Crime may well increase and this will be taken as a sign that Maryland’s gun control laws are not tough enough and need to be strengthened. Maybe they will end up banning knives and clubs. Or, maybe politicians like Martin O’Malley will someday learn to leave people alone.Well, I can dream.


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