Thursday, December 31, 2009


I am in the process of getting settled in California, but everything is still rather chaotic (I don't have internet service yet at home and most things are still in boxes!). I start my new job on Monday and am just trying to get somewhat organized before then.

I hope to be back to blogging in a week or two...


Oh, and don't party too much tonight, or you'll end up like my friend:

Monday, December 28, 2009


And, Victor Davis Hanson provides a little for all those "progressive" folk who prefer to remain in denial:
Coming on the heels of the killing spree by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, the latest terrorist "incident," involving Abdul Mutallab on Northwest Flight 253, is yet another isolated but tell-tale sign that we must learn from:

1) If solidly middle-class Westernized Muslims mouth the al-Qaeda line of radical Islamic, anti-American boilerplate, please take them seriously — i.e., worry less about their feelings and more about the lives of innocents they may in the future seek to annihilate. The more upscale and the more the Western exposure, the more there is to worry about.

2) For the last eight years, many have patiently tried to suggest that the answer to "Why do they hate us?" does not entail poverty, Western imperialism or colonialism, support for Israel, past provocations, etc. Rather, radical Islam encourages in an Hasan or Mutallab age-old passions like pride, envy, and a sense of inferiority — all accelerated by instantaneous communications and abetted by continual Western apologetics that on a global level blame Westerners for self-induced misery in many Islamic countries. "They did it" is far easier than looking inward to address tribalism, gender apartheid, statism, autocracy, religious intolerance, and fundamentalism, which in perfect-storm fashion ensure an impoverished — and resentful and angry — radical Islamic community while the rest of the world moves merrily on.

In other words:

**By the way, I won't be allowing comments on my posts until I have the time to monitor them. There are far too many psychopaths out there who have been using my absence as an opportunity to drop their feces all over my blog. Feel free to email with any suggestions on comment software, as I am done with haloscan.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Free Clipart

Have a joyous and safe holiday, filled with magic and wonder!

See you all in the New Year....

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Wretchard has a really excellent post on the AGW issue that discusses in some depth confirmation and bureaucratic bias. What particularly interested me was his and the Atlantic's Megan McArdle's 's use of the Challenger disaster to explain how such bias works.
Confirmation bias “is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.” A similar, but subtly different kind of problem affected the Space Shuttle program. Let’s call it ‘incentive bias’. NASA grossly underestimated the probability of a launch failure and set it at 1:100,000 because that’s what it was bureaucratically believed to be. What it bureaucratically had to be. Richard Feynman, who was asked to look into the causes of the disaster knew this number could not possibly be right. But he also knew how powerful an influence a bureaucratic bias could be. There was a consensus on how safe the vehicle was on launch among rocket scientists. But there was only one problem: it had to be wrong.
The first thing Feynman found while talking to people at NASA, was a startling disconnect between engineers and management. Management claimed the probability of a launch failure was 1 in 100,000, but he knew this couldn’t be. He was, after all a mathematical genius. Feynman estimated the probability of failure to be more like 1 in 100, and to test his theory, he asked a bunch of NASA engineers to write down on a piece of paper what they thought it was. The result: Most engineers estimated the probability of failure to be very close to his original estimate.

He was not only disturbed by management’s illusion of safety, but by how they used these unrealistic estimates to convince a member of the public, teacher Christa McAuliffe, to join the crew, only to be killed along with the six others.

Feynman dug deeper, where he discovered a history of corner-cutting and bad science on the part of management. Management not only misunderstood the science, but he was tipped off by engineers at Morton Thiokol that they ignored it, most importantly when warned about a possible problem with an o-ring.

Feynman discovered that on the space shuttle’s solid fuel rocked boosters, an o-ring is used to prevent hot gas from escaping and damaging other parts. Concerns were raised by engineers that the o-ring may not properly expand with the rest of the hot booster parts, keeping its seal, when outside temperatures fall between 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Because temperatures had never been that low, and there had never been a launch failure, management ignored the engineers. The temperature on launch day was below 32 degrees.

Feynman had his answer, he just had to prove it.

The perfect opportunity arrived when he was requested to testify before Congress on his findings. With television cameras rolling, Feynman innocently questioned a NASA manager about the o-ring temperature issue. As the manager insisted that the o-rings would function properly even in extreme cold, Feynman took an o-ring sample he had obtained out of a cup of ice water in front of him. He then took the clamp off the o-ring which was being used to squish it flat. The o-ring remained flat, proving that in fact, resilliancy was lost with a temperature drop.

In his own report Feynman described the terrible and corrupting influence of incentives and expectation upon science and engineering. Even literal rocket science was not exempt from human pressure. Feynman ended his discussionof the Challenger disaster with an observation that eerily speaks to the subject of “consensus” in scientific matters. Consensus doesn’t matter. Only science and engineering does. “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

I was there, right in the middle of all the events of Challenger. As a lowly flight surgeon (who also had a biomedical engineering degree) I watched and listened to the debate in launch control over the effects of the weather. Like many others in that room I was a bit skeptical about the decision to launch, especially since we could see icicles on the SRB and we had all driven to the Cape that early morning in temperatures below 20 degrees. Most of us knew that the o-rings had not been tested at temperatures below freezing (as confirmation of this, hours after the explosion of the orbiter, there were many discussions about the o-rings and the temperature issue as being the most likely cause; so I know it was a subject on many people's minds. Most of us had heard about the Morton Thiokol engineers' reluctance to ok a "go" for launch; though unless you were in upper management, you were not aware of the details of this.)

What I remember most of all was my own sense of trust: trust that the mission managers knew what they were doing; and a calm acceptance of their decision to launch. My own thoughts at the time are still very clear to me: this was NASA , after all. The people here were the "best and brightest" (of course I included myself in this) and our scientific credentials would insure that we would never ignore objective reality. Though I was young and foolish, I clearly understood that wishing and wanting something to be true did not make it so. I had faith that the system was relatively immune to psychosis (i.e., being out of touch with reality).

Needless to say, it was an extremely painful lesson that nature taught us that day, and I have never forgotten it. Of course, I internalized that lesson in a way that is not always consistent with being a psychiatrist, in that I learned you cannot take the "human" out of "human nature"; and that wishes and hopes are all very nice and all, but that reality is not in the least interested in your wishes and hopes--or any of your feelings for that matter.

Nature cannot be fooled; but human nature is predisposed to foolishness--and therefore likely to accept and tolerate all sorts of errors and fantasies for a variety of very human reasons--no matter what the tragic consequences might turn out to be.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


The insanity continues...particularly in the cuckoo's nest we call Congress.

[Cartoons by Glenn Foden ]

Monday, December 07, 2009


...Not that it wasn't eroding already under the auspices of socialist idiot Morales, but here's the latest consequence of Morales' deal with the imperialistic thugs of Islam:
On Wednesday, November 24, Iranian demands that female nurses don the hijab in response to Iran’s providing $1.2 million for funding of the new El Alto city hospital in Bolivia sparked a national outcry among women’s rights advocates within Bolivia. In an international teleconference in La Paz held between Bolivian President, Evo Morales, and Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to celebrate the hospital’s opening, nurses were shown wearing hijabs as part of their new uniform regulations.

This imposition of political Islamic pseudo-religious attire from another country is causing a rift within Bolivian political ranks. Even though the Morales administration is the profoundly socialist MAS party, the Iranian demand is still seen as an affront on Bolivian cultural integrity especially in a country with a Roman Catholic majority.

They can protest all they want, but, as I once explained in detail, in the socialist food chain, the rights of women are pretty low in the heirarchy:
From the perspective of the socialist utopian, what matters more than Women's rights or Gay Righs are the rights of a designated culture. The dogma of multiculturalism trumps the dogma of women's superiority. This is probably because for the socialist utopian, might makes right and the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few--and the few better remember that fact, or else. In the socialist utopia, there is no room for individuality or personal preference; or tolerance for differences. You always must subsume yourself to the collective; and the bigger the collective, the more power victimization can be exploited.

...we know from experience that blacks, women and gays lose their cherished victim status if they dare to become Republicans; and, to a lesser extent, if they choose to be Christian (except for most Episcopalians, who have seen the secular light).

Being black trumps being a woman or gay (i.e., there is more "social justice" mileage to be squeezed out of the oppression of blacks, i.e., racism, than there is from the oppression of women (sexism) or even gays (homophobia). Just ask Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

The oppression of Jews is completely ignored because of the animus the "enlightened" have toward Israel; and anti-semitism, which in past times would have had a ranking up close to the level of dark-skinned people (probably because those who founded the Jewish state were dedicated socialists--unfortunately, they soon realized that in real life, their ideology didn't work too well); but anti-semitism no longer is a compelling issue for the socialists. In fact, they are among its worse practitioners as socialism has spread throughout the Middle East.

So far, we have established that the culture (except for Western culture, which is uniquely evil and oppressive) is very high up on the food chain, and can eat and kill with impunity. Is there any group that trumps the culture?

Again, there are hints of how socialist logic deals with this. The needs of the nation will trump a protected/victim culture for the same reason that being an independent woman, black or gay person loses their victim status: they act independently of the socialist gestalt (i.e., they refuse to stay in their pre-determined place in the food chain and dare to be different).

Just let them get any sort of a foothold--financial or otherwise, and the imperialistic thugs of Islam will be taking over...oh, wait!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Rex Murphy from CBC on Climategate: "Climate science has been shown to be, in part, a sub-branch of climate politics..."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I've been out of the country for the last five days and came back just in time to listen to Obama's incredibly boring and lecturing speech on his seemingly reluctant decision to do the right thing in Afghanistan--but only until he needs to start working on his re-election campaign. And, to make the unconvincing droning even more annoying, he pretty much took up the first few minutes just to blame the previous Commander in Chief for all our current troubles there.

Is it just me who is constantly amazed that this guy is considered a marvelous and inspiring orator? He sounds more like some college lecturer forced to speak on a distasteful topic of little or no personal interest simply because it is part of the course outline. Whatever happened to projecting a little "hope" --not to mention inspiring the troops and the rest of us about our mission? I give it a D- effort at best; and he didn't fail completely only because he at least got the fundamental idea right, though not much else with his multiple contradictions and unemotional and flat delivery.

Oh, and what was with the constant slapping the podium with every verbal point? In the deafening silence being made by the audience, each time he did it, it only emphasized the silence and was very distracting.

On the whole, I agree with Victor Davis Hanson:
That was such a strange speech. Deploring partisanship while serially trashing Bush at each new talking point. Sending more troops, but talking more about when they will come home rather than what they will do to the enemy. There was nothing much new in the speech, yet apparently it took the president months to decide whether even to give it.

Ostensibly the talk was to be on Afghanistan; instead, the second half mostly consisted of the usual hope-and-change platitudes.

Still, the president, to his credit, is trying to give the best picture of the Afghanistan war. Obama started well in his review of why George Bush removed the Taliban. But that disinterested narrative lasted about two minutes. Then came the typical Obama talking points that characterize his reset-button foreign policy and don't offer a high degree of confidence that our commander in chief wants to defeat the enemy or believes that he can win the war....

Personally, I don't believe he cares much either way about Afghanistan until he can determine how much it will help or hurt him to either lose or win there. When you understand that it's all about Obama all the time, then the strangeness becomes more understandable: he's got to be able to say everything that everybody wants to hear, no matter how contradictory it may sound.


On another note, from now till January sometime, blogging will be very intermittant to non-existent. The movers come in 2 weeks and I'll be making the trek from Ann Arbor to Fresno before Christmas.