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Archive for February 7th, 2017

Beware Trump’s Reichstag fire

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Paul Waldman writes in The Week:

I like to think I’m a little less prone to panic than some of my liberal brethren. I haven’t called President Trump a fascist, mostly because the idea of him having a coherent ideology is absurd. Much as I fear how he’d act in a crisis — a fear that has only grown since he became president — I grant that most of what he’ll do in office is exactly what any Republican president would do. I don’t doubt that there will be an election in 2020. And while Trump has a remarkable lack of human virtues and an even more remarkable set of character flaws, I don’t think he’s Hitler.

That doesn’t mean, however, that certain historical events don’t offer us a warning of the kind of thing we should watch out for. In particular, the Trump administration’s move to shut America’s doors to refugees and stop all entry from nationals of seven Muslim countries has me thinking more and more about the Reichstag fire. There will come a moment when something awful happens, and Americans need to be ready for the Trump administration’s effort to exploit it.

In February 1933, an arsonist set fire to the Reichstag, the German parliament building. When a young communist was arrested for the crime, Adolf Hitler, who had become chancellor one month before, declared that it was part of a communist plot to overthrow the government. The next day, a law was signed essentially suspending all civil liberties, and Hitler quickly purged his political opponents from government and consolidated the Nazi Party’s grip on power.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that President Trump is going to turn the United States into a genocidal dictatorship. But we should understand that eventually, there will be some kind of terrorist attack on U.S. soil — perhaps one that fails, or one that succeeds in killing a few Americans, or more than a few. While we have been remarkably safe from terrorism since September 11 — fewer than 100 of us killed by jihadi terrorists over those 15 years — such attacks do happen from time to time. And when the first one of Trump’s presidency occurs, he will probably move quickly to take advantage of it. In fact, I’d be surprised if Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller aren’t already working on a plan for what to do when they get the chance.

When Trump signed that executive order on refugees, immigrants, and travelers, he was keeping a campaign promise, even if it was one that shifted around depending on the week. It started as “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” then it became a shutdown of people from “certain regions” entering, then it became seven countries — despite the fact that no national of those seven countries has killed an American on U.S. soil. But the real promise wasn’t so specific. It was more that as president he’d keep Them out, and you know who Them is. He may not be able to do it all at once, but he was on his way.

That is, until one judge and then others struck down the order. Trump went on the predictable Twitter rant, criticizing the “so-called judge” and decrying the fact that the judiciary can restrict his ability to do what he wants. It culminated in this:

As Harvard Law School professor and former Bush administration official Jack Goldsmith suggested, this could have two purposes, should there be a terrorist attack. “If Trump loses in court he credibly will say to the American people that he tried and failed to create tighter immigration controls. This will deflect blame for the attack. And it will also help Trump to enhance his power after the attack.”

What precisely might Trump do? We know that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 8:44 pm

Emoluments violation, probably: Weekend visit to Trump resort by Japan’s Abe raises an ethics question: Who pays?

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This will come up again and again until Trump is impeached. Anita Kumar reports in McClatchy:

The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Trump-family-owned Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, this weekend is fraught with ethical problems.

Will U.S. taxpayers pay for Abe? Will Abe stay for free? Will Abe pay Trump, who will give the money to the U.S. Treasury?

“I’m hoping the White House will clarify the arrangement, but every financial scenario I can think of compromises the office and presents a significant conflict of interest that every other modern president has taken pains to prevent,” said John Wonderlich, executive editor of the Sunlight Foundation, which pushes for government openness.

The White House referred questions about who is paying to the State Department, which referred questions to the Japanese government. Several Japanese officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The lack of transparency about the arrangements is also troubling,” said Norman Eisen, who served as a White House ethics lawyer under President Barack Obama. “Most fundamentally, this demonstrates that Mr. Trump’s unresolved business conflicts are going to hang over almost everything he does. . . . This news provides one more reason that Mr. Trump should’ve made a clean break with his businesses instead of hanging on to his ownership interests.”

Last month, before he was sworn in, Trump announced that he would donate to the U.S. Treasury profits from foreign government spending at his hotels.

But he revealed few details about how that would work, so it’s unclear whether newly created ethics and compliance offices would oversee it or whether it would be reported to the Office of Government Ethics as part of ongoing disclosure requirements.

The change was made following concerns about the Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which says “officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding in office.”

“The membership fee at Mar-a-Lago doubled to $200,000 after Trump won the presidency,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “By holding a meeting with a foreign head of state there instead of Camp David, the government is providing plenty of free advertising for Trump’s private club with every news report. And that’s without looking into the cost to the taxpayer. So the question must be asked, is the Trump administration making decisions with the best interest of the American people in mind, or the president’s bottom line?”

Many presidents have chosen to entertain world leaders at Camp David, a sprawling, secluded residence in wooded hills about 60 miles northwest of Washington. They have included British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. President Jimmy Carter held peace talks there in 1978 between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, producing what would later be called the Camp David Accords.

Abe will visit Trump at the White House on Friday. The two will then travel to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend, where Trump said they planned to play a round of golf. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 5:52 pm

President Trump’s Real Fear: The Courts—His Real Desire: To Control Them

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A strong editorial in the NY Times:

When President Trump doesn’t get what he wants, he tends to look for someone to blame — crooked pollsters, fraudulent voters, lying journalists. Anyone who questions him or his actions becomes his foe.

Over the past few days, he’s added an entire branch of the federal government to his enemies list.

On Friday, a federal judge in Seattle, James Robart, blocked Mr. Trump’s executive order barring entry to refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations. The next day the president mocked Judge Robart, a George W. Bush appointee, in a statement on Twitter as a “so-called judge” who had made a “ridiculous” ruling.

That was bad enough, but on Sunday, Mr. Trump’s taunts became more chilling. “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” he tweeted. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

Where to begin? In the same week that he announced his nominee for the Supreme Court, the president of the United States pre-emptively accused not only a judge, but the whole judicial branch — the most dependable check on his power — of abetting the murder of Americans by terrorists. It’s reasonable to wonder whether Mr. Trump is anticipating a way to blame meddling courts for any future attack.

There was, in fact, a terrorist attack shortly after Mr. Trump issued his immigration order: a white supremacist, officials say, armed himself with an assault rifle and stormed a mosque in Quebec City, slaughtering six Muslims during their prayers. Mr. Trump has not said a word about that massacre — although he was quick to tell America on Twitter to “get smart” when, a few days later, an Egyptian man wielding a knife attacked a military patrol in Paris, injuring one soldier.

In the dark world that Mr. Trump and his top adviser, Stephen Bannon, inhabit, getting “smart” means shutting down immigration from countries that have not been responsible for a single fatal attack in the United States in more than two decades. As multiple national security experts have said, the order would, if anything, increase the terrorism threat to Americans. And contrary to Mr. Trump’s claim, no one is “pouring in” to America. Refugees and other immigrants already undergo a thorough, multilayered vetting process that can take up to two years.

But Mr. Trump’s threats are based on fear, not rationality, which is the realm of the courts.

Judge Robart is not the first judge Mr. Trump has smeared. . .

Continue reading.

Trump knows nothing of the Constitution—I doubt he’s even read it—so he doesn’t understand that the Judiciary is a co-equal branch of government. Contrary to Trump’s understanding, the Executive is not supreme and does not issue orders to the other branches. He’s learning it now, and it seems within the realm of possibility that he’s thinking about how he can change that.

The editorial concludes:

. . . Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks on the judiciary are all the more ominous given his efforts to intimidate and undermine the news media and Congress’s willingness to neutralize itself, rather than hold him to account.

Today, at least, the new administration is following the rules and appealing Judge Robart’s decision to the federal appeals court. But tomorrow Mr. Trump may decide — out of anger at a ruling or sheer spite at a judge — that he doesn’t need to obey a court order. Who will stop him then?

Who will stop him then? Congress has already shown that it lacks the courage to act, or else actually support the idea of a authoritarian ruler as best for the country.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 3:20 pm

Experiment Reaffirms Quantum Weirdness

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The weirdness of it depends on th degree to which we really understand it: as understanding increases, weirdness dwindles. Or so it would seem.

Natalie Wolchover reports in Quanta:

There might be no getting around what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” With an experiment described today in Physical Review Letters — a feat that involved harnessing starlight to control measurements of particles shot between buildings in Vienna — some of the world’s leading cosmologists and quantum physicists are closing the door on an intriguing alternative to “quantum entanglement.”

“Technically, this experiment is truly impressive,” said Nicolas Gisin, a quantum physicist at the University of Geneva who has studied this loophole around entanglement.

According to standard quantum theory, particles have no definite states, only relative probabilities of being one thing or another — at least, until they are measured, when they seem to suddenly roll the dice and jump into formation. Stranger still, when two particles interact, they can become “entangled,” shedding their individual probabilities and becoming components of a more complicated probability function that describes both particles together. This function might specify that two entangled photons are polarized in perpendicular directions, with some probability that photon A is vertically polarized and photon B is horizontally polarized, and some chance of the opposite. The two photons can travel light-years apart, but they remain linked: Measure photon A to be vertically polarized, and photon B instantaneously becomes horizontally polarized, even though B’s state was unspecified a moment earlier and no signal has had time to travel between them. This is the “spooky action” that Einstein was famously skeptical about in his arguments against the completeness of quantum mechanics in the 1930s and ’40s.

In 1964, the Northern Irish physicist John Bell found a way to put this paradoxical notion to the test. He showed that if particles have definite states even when no one is looking (a concept known as “realism”) and if indeed no signal travels faster than light (“locality”), then there is an upper limit to the amount of correlation that can be observed between the measured states of two particles. But experiments have shown time and again that entangled particles are more correlated than Bell’s upper limit, favoring the radical quantum worldview over local realism.

Only there’s a hitch: In addition to locality and realism, Bell made another, subtle assumption to derive his formula — one that went largely ignored for decades. “The three assumptions that go into Bell’s theorem that are relevant are locality, realism and freedom,” said Andrew Friedman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a co-author of the new paper. “Recently it’s been discovered that you can keep locality and realism by giving up just a little bit of freedom.” This is known as the “freedom-of-choice” loophole.

In a Bell test, entangled photons A and B are separated and sent to far-apart optical modulators — devices that either block photons or let them through to detectors, depending on whether the modulators are aligned with or against the photons’ polarization directions. Bell’s inequality puts an upper limit on how often, in a local-realistic universe, photons A and B will both pass through their modulators and be detected. (Researchers find that entangled photons are correlated more often than this, violating the limit.) Crucially, Bell’s formula assumes that the two modulators’ settings are independent of the states of the particles being tested. In experiments, researchers typically use random-number generators to set the devices’ angles of orientation. However, if the modulators are not actually independent — if nature somehow restricts the possible settings that can be chosen, correlating these settings with the states of the particles in the moments before an experiment occurs — this reduced freedom could explain the outcomes that are normally attributed to quantum entanglement.

The universe might be like a restaurant with 10 menu items, Friedman said. “You think you can order any of the 10, but then they tell you, ‘We’re out of chicken,’ and it turns out only five of the things are really on the menu. You still have the freedom to choose from the remaining five, but you were overcounting your degrees of freedom.” Similarly, he said, “there might be unknowns, constraints, boundary conditions, conservation laws that could end up limiting your choices in a very subtle way” when setting up an experiment, leading to seeming violations of local realism.

This possible loophole gained traction in 2010, when Michael Hall, now of Griffith University in Australia, developed a quantitative way of reducing freedom of choice. In Bell tests, measuring devices have two possible settings (corresponding to one bit of information: either 1 or 0), and so it takes two bits of information to specify their settings when they are truly independent. But Hall showed that if the settings are not quite independent — if only one bit specifies them once in every 22 runs — this halves the number of possible measurement settings available in those 22 runs. This reduced freedom of choice correlates measurement outcomes enough to exceed Bell’s limit, creating the illusion of quantum entanglement.

The idea that nature might restrict freedom while maintaining local realism has become more attractive in light of emerging connections between information and the geometry of space-time. Research on black holes, for instance, suggests that the stronger the gravity in a volume of space-time, the fewer bits can be stored in that region. Could gravity be reducing the number of possible measurement settings in Bell tests, secretly striking items from the universe’s menu? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Science

Secret money fueled pro-Betsy DeVos ad campaigns

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Carrie Levine from the Center for Public Integrity reports:

Only 100 U.S. senators — not the general public — will vote to approve President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.

But that’s not stopping several conservative organizations from launching ad blitzes promoting Trump’s Cabinet picks — most notably Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, who critics have panned as a wealthy partisan hack with no practical experience in public education.

Two conservative nonprofit groups in particular, the Club for Growth and America Next, are pushing back hard, producing broadcast television ads supporting confirmation of DeVos, a GOP megadonor and staunch advocate for charter schools and school vouchers.

Both Club for Growth and America Next are nonprofit groups organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code. That means their primary mission has to be social welfare, a category that includes issue advocacy ads that don’t specifically seek to influence a political election.

Such groups aren’t required to reveal their donors, which means the public has no way of knowing who is paying for the pro-DeVos ads.

The lion’s share of those TV ads came from America Next, which aired nearly 300 spots nationally through Feb. 5, according to data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by Kantar Media/CMAG, which tracks television advertising. Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal created America Next in 2013.

“Why is the radical left so full of rage and hate?” asks the off-camera narration for one spot, called “Angry Liberals.”

It continues: “They still can’t accept that Trump won and they lost. Now extreme liberals like Elizabeth Warren are trying to stop Betsy DeVos from becoming secretary of education. Why? DeVos angers the extreme left because she exposes their hypocrisy. DeVos wants low income kids to have the same choices that liberal elitists have for their families. DeVos wants equal opportunity in education for all kids and that makes angry liberals even angrier.”

The Club for Growth, meanwhile, aired a handful of spots targeting Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, both Democrats. In both cases, the ad said the senator could be the deciding vote on DeVos and urged viewers to call their senator and tell them to “support President Trump and vote to confirm Betsy DeVos for secretary of education.”

The ads serve several purposes. . .

Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. There’s a lot more.

A lot of taxpayer money goes to education, and with such a large money stream, corporations are champing at the bit to siphon off as much as they can. The general strategy seems to be to open a charter school (privately run, but paid by the taxpayer), which then has its own purchasing department, not controlled by the district. So I would imagine that

(a) cost reductions will be paramount, since that’s how the profits can most easily grow: class size increase, arts (music, drama, drawing, etc.) will be cut altogether. Staff will be reduced, increasing the workload on those who are retained (and who are inevitably told “Work smarter, not harder.”; and

(b) One helluva lot of purchases will go to particular vendors, as part of the overall goal of shoveling money from the public treasury while you can.

Well, the nation has been here before and survived. The Ulysses S. Grand administration was pretty corrupt. Warren G. Harding. And others: This list of the most corrupt administrations (and it explains why) starts with Ronald Reagen.

The column quoted has this conclusion:

“This has never happened before with an education secretary nominee,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in an emailed statement.

“We’ve never seen someone tapped for this job who is so ill informed, who is so overtly hostile to public education, and who would give such preferential treatment to for-profit schools, vouchers and other strategies that actively drain funding from public schools.”

Weingarten is missing the point. She’s looking at it from the point of view of knowledge, experience, and expertise in fulfilling the duties of the position, but that is all totally beside the point. The point is to get control of where all that taxpayer money goes and make sure as much as possible comes to those who are backing DeVos.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 1:09 pm

The hi-tech war on science fraud—and some dangers

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In the Guardian Stephen Buranyi has a fascinating long article on how to fight fraud in science:

One morning last summer, a German psychologist named Mathias Kauff woke up to find that he had been reprimanded by a robot. In an email, a computer program named Statcheck informed him that a 2013 paper he had published on multiculturalism and prejudice appeared to contain a number of incorrect calculations – which the program had catalogued and then posted on the internet for anyone to see. The problems turned out to be minor – just a few rounding errors – but the experience left Kauff feeling rattled. “At first I was a bit frightened,” he said. “I felt a bit exposed.”

Kauff wasn’t alone. Statcheck had read some 50,000 published psychology papers and checked the maths behind every statistical result it encountered. In the space of 24 hours, virtually every academic active in the field in the past two decades had received an email from the program, informing them that their work had been reviewed. Nothing like this had ever been seen before: a massive, open, retroactive evaluation of scientific literature, conducted entirely by computer.

Statcheck’s method was relatively simple, more like the mathematical equivalent of a spellchecker than a thoughtful review, but some scientists saw it as a new form of scrutiny and suspicion, portending a future in which the objective authority of peer review would be undermined by unaccountable and uncredentialed critics.

Susan Fiske, the former head of the Association for Psychological Science, wrote an op-ed accusing “self-appointed data police” of pioneering a new “form of harassment”. The German Psychological Society issued a statement condemning the unauthorised use of Statcheck. The intensity of the reaction suggested that many were afraid that the program was not just attributing mere statistical errors, but some impropriety, to the scientists.

The man behind all this controversy was a 25-year-old Dutch scientist named Chris Hartgerink, based at Tilburg University’s Meta-Research Center, which studies bias and error in science. Statcheck was the brainchild of Hartgerink’s colleague Michèle Nuijten, who had used the program to conduct a 2015 study that demonstrated that about half of all papers in psychology journals contained a statistical error. Nuijten’s study was written up in Nature as a valuable contribution to the growing literature acknowledging bias and error in science – but she had not published an inventory of the specific errors it had detected, or the authors who had committed them. The real flashpoint came months later,when Hartgerink modified Statcheck with some code of his own devising, which catalogued the individual errors and posted them online – sparking uproar across the scientific community.

Hartgerink is one of only a handful of researchers in the world who work full-time on the problem of scientific fraud – and he is perfectly happy to upset his peers. “The scientific system as we know it is pretty screwed up,” he told me last autumn. Sitting in the offices of the Meta-Research Center, which look out on to Tilburg’s grey, mid-century campus, he added: “I’ve known for years that I want to help improve it.” Hartgerink approaches his work with a professorial seriousness – his office is bare, except for a pile of statistics textbooks and an equation-filled whiteboard – and he is appealingly earnest about his aims. His conversations tend to rapidly ascend to great heights, as if they were balloons released from his hands – the simplest things soon become grand questions of ethics, or privacy, or the future of science.

“Statcheck is a good example of what is now possible,” he said. The top priority,for Hartgerink, is something much more grave than correcting simple statistical miscalculations. He is now proposing to deploy a similar program that will uncover fake or manipulated results – which he believes are far more prevalent than most scientists would like to admit.

When it comes to fraud – or in the more neutral terms he prefers, “scientific misconduct” – Hartgerink is aware that he is venturing into sensitive territory. “It is not something people enjoy talking about,” he told me, with a weary grin. Despite its professed commitment to self-correction, science is a discipline that relies mainly on a culture of mutual trust and good faith to stay clean. Talking about its faults can feel like a kind of heresy. In 1981, when a young Al Gore led a congressional inquiry into a spate of recent cases of scientific fraud in biomedicine, the historian Daniel Kevles observed that “for Gore and for many others, fraud in the biomedical sciences was akin to pederasty among priests”.

The comparison is apt. The exposure of fraud directly threatens the special claim science has on truth, which relies on the belief that its methods are purely rational and objective. As the congressmen warned scientists during the hearings, “each and every case of fraud serves to undermine the public’s trust in the research enterprise of our nation”.

But three decades later, scientists still have only the most crude estimates of how much fraud actually exists. The current accepted standard is a 2009 study by the Stanford researcher Daniele Fanelli that collated the results of 21 previous surveys given to scientists in various fields about research misconduct. The studies, which depended entirely on scientists honestly reporting their own misconduct, concluded that about 2% of scientists had falsified data at some point in their career.

If Fanelli’s estimate is correct, it seems likely that thousands of scientists are getting away with misconduct each year. Fraud – including outright fabrication, plagiarism and self-plagiarism – accounts for the majority of retracted scientific articles. But, according to RetractionWatch, which catalogues papers that have been withdrawn from the scientific literature, only 684 were retracted in 2015, while more than 800,000 new papers were published. If even just a few of the suggested 2% of scientific fraudsters – which, relying on self-reporting, is itself probably a conservative estimate – are active in any given year, the vast majority are going totally undetected. “Reviewers and editors, other gatekeepers – they’re not looking for potential problems,” Hartgerink said.

But if none of the traditional authorities in science are going to address the problem, Hartgerink believes that there is another way. If a program similar to Statcheck can be trained to detect the traces of manipulated data, and then make those results public, the scientific community can decide for itself whether a given study should still be regarded as trustworthy.

Hartgerink’s university, which sits at the western edge of Tilburg, a small, quiet city in the southern Netherlands, seems an unlikely place to try and correct this hole in the scientific process. The university is best known for its economics and business courses and does not have traditional lab facilities. But Tilburg was also the site of one of the biggest scientific scandals in living memory – and no one knows better than Hartgerink and his colleagues just how devastating individual cases of fraud can be.

In September 2010, the School of Social and Behavioral Science at Tilburg University appointed Diederik Stapel, a promising young social psychologist, as its new dean. Stapel was already popular with students for his warm manner, and with the faculty for his easy command of scientific literature and his enthusiasm for collaboration. He would often offer to help his colleagues, and sometimes even his students, by conducting surveys and gathering data for them.

As dean, Stapel appeared to reward his colleagues’ faith in him almost immediately. In April 2011 he published a paper in Science, the first study the small university had ever landed in that prestigious journal. Stapel’s research focused on what psychologists call “priming”: the idea that small stimuli can affect our behaviour in unnoticed but significant ways. “Could being discriminated against depend on such seemingly trivial matters as garbage on the streets?” Stapel’s paper in Science asked. He proceeded to show that white commuters at the Utrecht railway station tended to sit further away from visible minorities when the station was dirty. Similarly, Stapel found that white people were more likely to give negative answers on a quiz about minorities if they were interviewed on a dirty street, rather than a clean one.

Stapel had a knack for devising and executing such clever studies, cutting through messy problems to extract clean data. Since becoming a professor a decade earlier, he had published more than 100 papers, showing, among other things, that beauty product advertisements, regardless of context, prompted women to think about themselves more negatively, and that judges who had been primed to think about concepts of impartial justice were less likely to make racially motivated decisions.

His findings regularly reached the public through the media. The idea that huge, intractable social issues such as sexism and racism could be affected in such simple ways had a powerful intuitive appeal, and hinted at the possibility of equally simple, elegant solutions. If anything united Stapel’s diverse interests, it was this Gladwellian bent. His studies were often featured in the popular press, including the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, and he was a regular guest on Dutch television programmes.

But as Stapel’s reputation skyrocketed, a small group of colleagues and students began to view him with suspicion. “It was too good to be true,” a professor who was working at Tilburg at the time told me. (The professor, who I will call Joseph Robin, asked to remain anonymous so that he could frankly discuss his role in exposing Stapel.) “All of his experiments worked. That just doesn’t happen.”

A student of Stapel’s had mentioned to Robin in 2010 that some of Stapel’s data looked strange, so that autumn, shortly after Stapel was made Dean, Robin proposed a collaboration with him, hoping to see his methods first-hand. Stapel agreed, and the data he returned a few months later, according to Robin, “looked crazy. It was internally inconsistent in weird ways; completely unlike any real data I had ever seen.” Meanwhile, as the student helped get hold of more datasets from Stapel’s former students and collaborators, the evidence mounted: more “weird data”, and identical sets of numbers copied directly from one study to another.

In August 2011, the whistleblowers took their findings to the head of the department, Marcel Zeelenberg, who confronted Stapel with the evidence. At first, Stapel denied the charges, but just days later he admitted what his accusers suspected: he had never interviewed any commuters at the railway station, no women had been shown beauty advertisements and no judges had been surveyed about impartial justice and racism.

Stapel hadn’t just tinkered with numbers, he had made most of them up entirely, producing entire datasets at home in his kitchen after his wife and children had gone to bed. His method was an inversion of the proper scientific method: he started by deciding what result he wanted and then worked backwards, filling out the individual “data” points he was supposed to be collecting.

On 7 September 2011, the university revealed that . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 11:53 am

Posted in Science, Technology

The GOP now wants to make it easier for people with severe mental illnesses to buy guns

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I truly do not understand the thought processes of Republicans. Consider this NY Times editorial:

Republican lawmakers and the National Rifle Association often attribute gun massacres to the country’s inadequate mental health system, rather than the easy availability of firearms. Now, those same people want to make it easier for those with schizophrenia, psychotic disorders and other mental health problems to buy guns.

The House voted last week to scrap a policy the Obama administration finalized in December that would have added to the national background check database about 75,000 people who receive Social Security disability benefits because they have mental health problems. People who would be added to the database under this policy have conditions that make it impossible for them to work, cannot manage their own affairs and have someone else receive benefits on their behalf.

Licensed gun dealers must check the database before selling firearms. The Senate could pass the legislation to overturn the Obama regulation this week, and President Trump, who has embraced many of the N.R.A.’s extremist positions, would almost surely sign it into law.

The Obama administration policy was inspired in part by the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., by Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six educators. An investigation found that psychiatrists had recommended that Mr. Lanza be treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and anorexia, calling attention to the need to keep guns from people with severe mental health problems.

Federal law prohibits people who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily committed to a mental institution from buying guns. But it has been hard to enforce that restriction because government agencies have not always submitted the names of people with mental health problems to the background check database. The Obama policy was intended to address that weakness by guaranteeing more reporting.

While most people with mental health problems never commit violence, it makes no sense to give them access to the kind of assault weapons that can kill scores of people in minutes. That’s why the push to repeal this Obama policy is deeply troubling. Even Republican lawmakers like Senator John Cornyn of Texas have previously said that the deeply mentally ill should not be able to buy guns. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 February 2017 at 11:17 am

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