Archive for January, 2011

A funny house on the hill

January 7, 2011

House liberals vowed to not support health care legislation unless it contains a robust public option plan. When it was time to vote, they voted for one without it anyway.

Some house members oppose the continuing war in Afghanistan but they turn around and vote for the supplemental bill to fund it anyway.

The overwhelming majority of house members decry the deficit but they don’t want to raise taxes to curb a historical runaway deficit.

Lieberman (among others) is against wasteful spending but he threatened to use filibuster tactics, if  one of his pet projects, the utterly unnecessary  nuclear submarine that gets made in his home state, was not funded.

The tea partiers are against big government, for individual freedom, and for upholding the constitution. However, they provided support  for the government to have the  most intrusive power to spy on people without a warrant, to dismantle habeas corpus, to kill united states citizens the government deems “dangerous” without a trial. They expanded the government through  unprecedented  security apparatus.

The president vow to have “the most transparent administration in history“, while relentlessly pursuing whistleblowers and concealing government documents.

They’re for the war and against it.

They’re for a public option and against it.

They’re deficit hawks and wasteful spenders.

They’re against big government and for big government.

They’re for transparency while they harass and intimidate  whistleblowers.

Oh, and they’re against torture but for “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

A funny house indeed.



Protected: Real stories of amazing brain power

January 6, 2011

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Statistics and truth

January 2, 2011

Does acupuncture medicine work or not?

Is verbal shadowing ( “subjects shown a face and asked to describe it were much less likely to recognize the face when shown it later than those who had simply looked at it”,) a fact or a fiction?

Not so fast! An interesting  piece in the  New Yorker   documents that the answer to these questions and more depends not only on how sound the statistical evidence is, but also on when you answer it and where (I am not kidding!)

If you live in China, Japan, or Taiwan,  statistical experiments show overwhelmingly that acupuncture works. Not so according to statistical studies in the U.S. , Canada, and the West in general.

Verbal shadowing was a well established fact in the 1990’s. Well, not anymore. Statistical experiments now show otherwise.

Scientific experiments rigorously following identical protocols showed significantly different results.  Well established results from 10 or 15  years ago, are not valid anymore.

Sometimes, it seems like even truth may have a change of heart.

We read about wonder diets, exercise machines, super food, and all sort of theories almost every day. They’re all purported to  have mythical properties. Look closer and you probably find they’re  all  based on shady statistical evidence at best. Even if they weren’t, it still doesn’t mean what they allege is factual or bogus.

Score one more point to the doctrine of doubt.

H. G. Wells, the famous novelist, predicted “statistical reasoning will one day be as important for efficient citizenship as the ability to read or write”. That day, it seems, has arrived with a vengeance.


An ode to Mom this new year

January 1, 2011

Your palm heals like the passage of time

At the edges of your voice there resides a  tender God

I have traveled all the roads

Spoken all the tongues

Rode all the galloping suns

The roads lead back to you

For your love is everywhere

The tales spin around you

For your love is in every word

The suns land in your lap

For your love traps the time