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Comment: Re:Just one more reason (Score 5, Informative) 135

by nbauman (#46785775) Attached to: Criminals Using Drones To Find Cannabis Farms and Steal Crops

Sure. But it would also take money/power from the police, police unions, prison guards unions, etc.

Come on, I refuse to believe that these entities are actively working to put more people in prison for no good reason.

That's bullshit, police unions represents police officers, usually union policies are made by vote.

I refuse to believe that most police officers want to lock up people for no good reason

I believe it. In New York City, we had the stop and frisk laws. Officers got caught on tape telling the cops under their command to fill a quota of arrests -- and to arrest black people. Most of the arrests were pot busts after illegal searches. (Possessing marijuana was a violation, not a crime. The cops forced people to commit a misdemeanor by emptying their pockets and displaying marijuana, which was a crime.) That was the subject of a lawsuit, which was also reported on Slashdot. It all came out in court, and Judge Schendlin wrote it up in her written decision.

The new police commissioner was complaining that cops arrest people towards the end of their shift so that they can get overtime pay. Think about that for a second. They're arresting people so that they can make more money.

As I recall, one of the strongest opponents of liberalizing drug laws in California was the prison guards' union. It was pretty clear that they wanted to keep the prisons full to protect their jobs.

That said, they may very well have insights into why weed is bad. They may have experience traffic accidents, etc.

Oh, yeah. Who has more insight into why weed is bad -- cops? Or doctors, psychiatrists and scientists?

Comment: Re:Bush Vetoed this, apparently (Score 2) 629

by nbauman (#46754115) Attached to: IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

All the provision does is lift the statute of limitations on collecting an unpaid debt. I really don't see the problem with that. The actual problem seems to be that they're going after the wrong people to get their money -- and that seems to be based on a policy that allows the government to go after children who may have benefited from overpayments.

The problem is that we have statutes of limitations for a reason. (There's also a related principle called laches http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

The reason is that it's not fair to bring a legal action against someone after an unreasonable amount of time has passed. The person can't defend himself. He may not remember what happened. Records may have been lost, destroyed or missing. People, including witnesses, who could have given information may be unavailable or dead.

Comment: Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (Score 1) 431

by nbauman (#46750849) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

$27,000 is spent every year, per child, in Camden, NJ.

Only three students-- 3-- in the entire city of Camden achieved college-ready scores on the SAT.

These families have lived in the northeast USA for several generations.

Something is wrong, and while we can all agree it's not skin color, it's obviously not Jim Crow laws (that didn't exist in NJ) decades before these kids were born either.

Maybe it's decades of exploitation from single-party rulers in the great majority of our cities.

Most of the northern black population came as immigrants from the South in the 1950s and 1960s. There were welfare departments in Southern states that would give welfare applicants or recipients bus tickets to go north.

There was quite a bit of racial discrimination in the New Jersey school system. At one time towns were splitting up -- the more affluent white parts of town would establish itself as an independent town, leaving the less affluent black parts of the town behind, with a poorer tax base to pay for schools. The reason they're paying $27,000 a year in Camden is that the courts struck down the previous school financing system as segregated.

There was discrimination against black people in housing, which prevented them from living in the better school districts. Southern Burlington County NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel http://www.casebriefs.com/blog...

The parent who started this thread said that there is a subculture of black people who do worse than whites or Hispanics in educational accomplishment. I said that to the extent there is such a subculture, it's the result of 100 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow (which didn't allow blacks to vote, or go to white schools, in the South up to at least 1968). Do you disagree with that?

Comment: Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (Score 1) 431

by nbauman (#46743927) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

The parent said:

To be blunt: black people, and to a lesser extent, first generation Hispanics. The difference is that Hispanics tend to approach the mean for their socioeconomic status by the second generation. Blacks have made progress, but just enough to keep the gap from widening even more.

That's a broad statement. I suspect the reason the parent made it is that he doesn't know anything about black people, and hasn't run into many educated black people in his life.

There are people who have lived in segregated communities all their lives.

Comment: Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (Score 1) 431

by nbauman (#46743735) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

In fact, did either of you know that, after compensating for socioeconomic status, the racial gap disappears?

No, I didn't know that. Citation needed. Peer-reviewed sources, please.

Of course, neither of you know this and God knows it doesn't fit in with either of your world views, so it doesn't register in either of your discourses, both of which are based on emotion and specious arguments. If you want to really acknowledge the issue, it's socioeconomic status - class, in short.

Socioeconomic status and class are part of it, but they don't explain everything. Slashdot had an article last year about the New York City stop-and-frisk lawsuit. If you read the judge's opinion, which summarized the data, you'd see that the police were openly stopping black people. Black (but not white) middle-class people and professionals got swept into it. It didn't matter what their socioeconomic status was. They had black college teachers testify that the cops stopped and frisked them with no legal justification, repeatedly, while they were on their way to school. Black professionals testified that they were standing in front of their homes minding their own business when the cops illegally stopped and frisked them and beat them up.

That was one of the complaints of the civil rights movement -- that even when they made it into the middle class, or professional class, they still couldn't get the jobs that white people got, or move into the same neighborhoods, or get the same education. Civil rights organizations used to send out testers to prove it.

One of my teachers told me that she was riding on a train in Pennsylvania and she heard an announcement that all the black passengers had to move to the back of the train at the next stop. That's what her college education and professional class got her.

I once talked to a black doctor, who had served on expert panels, and he said, "I'm a teaching professor at M.D. Anderson, and I worry when a police car drives behind me."

Liberals (even when they pay lip service to this notion) are too chickenshit to actually do anything about it; Conservatives won't even acknowledge it. Both are useless. Just like arguments on Slashdot.

I know some liberals (and some people who were a bit left of liberal) who went down South in the 1960s during the sit-ins. Some of them were killed, and others were crippled for life. So I don't think they were too chickenshit to do anything about it. When have you ever stood up like that for a principle?

Comment: Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (Score 1) 431

by nbauman (#46743613) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

After the Southern schools were required to pay for black education, the math and reading "gap" started to disappear.

There was a narrowing of the achievement gap in the 1960s and 1970s. Then the narrowing stopped. Since then, blacks have done better, but whites have done better too, resulting in the gap staying about the same. You can see a graph of the gap here. It reached a minimum in 1988, and has actually been growing again since then. If the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow was the only cause of the gap, one would expect the gap to continue to narrow, and also to see a smaller gap in northern or western states that never had slavery or Jim Crow. Neither of those things is true. There is an ongoing debate about the causes, but it is doubtful that there is any one simplistic answer.

I don't know. I've seen the same charts and it looked to me as if the black achievement was increasing, especially in the chart headed Long-term Trends" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

In order to figure out what those data mean, I'd defer to a statistician. I notice that the yearly achievements don't have 95%-confidence error bars, so I can't tell whether they really did reach a minimum in 1988, or which way they're going.

(I must say that I don't think that a Wikipedia article that links to the National Review Online and pop books doesn't meet the highest standards of scholarly quality.)

I don't think you can use those data to exclude the effect of slavery, and I think it's obvious that slavery and Jim Crow had a significant effect on the educational accomplishment of the black population. Slavery must also have had a significant effect on the other factors listed in that article, like the black family structure, the motivation gap, etc. So maybe slavery is the prior cause of all those other factors. I'm sure your ancestors in 1850 were married. Black slaves in 1850 weren't allowed to marry. You can say, as the Wall Street Journal editorial page does, "Oh, that should have corrected itself in 150 years." I don't think so. Patterns like marriage are persistent over many generations. Patterns like occupation are persistent over many generations. I know doctors who come from a family of doctors that they can trace back 4 or 5 generations.

Diane Ravitch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... understands educational achievement data better than anybody else I know, and she says that the main factor that affects educational achievement is family income. That's more important than race. Let's do an experiment. Let's raise black income to the same level as white income for a couple of generations and see if they're still behind. http://www.threeriversonline.c...

Comment: Re:Can the writings be read? (Score 1, Troll) 431

by nbauman (#46742537) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

People who are encouraged as kids to be sloppy about their writing tend to emerge from adolescence sloppy about their thinking too.

Can you cite this from a peer-reviewed publication, please? If this is really such a problem, surely you can back it up with scholarship.

No, he was encouraged during his adolescence to be sloppy about his thinking.

Comment: Re:They've got a lot of catching up to do... (Score 2, Interesting) 431

by nbauman (#46742515) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

Can you name some of these subcultures?

To be blunt: black people, and to a lesser extent, first generation Hispanics. The difference is that Hispanics tend to approach the mean for their socioeconomic status by the second generation. Blacks have made progress, but just enough to keep the gap from widening even more.

Did you ever meet a black person with a college degree?

I did. When I went to elementary school and high school, lots of my teachers were black. One of my best teachers was the biology teacher who taught me how to grow bacteria and fruit flies. I think of her every day. My work today involves a lot of molecular biology and genetics.

One of my college housemates was a black guy who graduated in chemical engineering. Did you ever study chemical engineering? Could you pass physical chem? (BTW I met a lot of black chemical engineers. It's one of those disciplines where you can get ahead just by being smart and working hard.)

Did you ever meet a black lawyer? I have. Did you ever meet a black doctor? I have. They were at the top of their field. They didn't get there by affirmative action.

The reason black people did so badly in the U.S. is 100 years of slavery followed by 100 years of Jim Crow under which black people couldn't vote or go to school in the former Confederate states. Did you ever meet anybody who later got killed for trying to organize black people to vote in the South? I did. Black people couldn't exercise their right to vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and even then the racists used all kinds of tricks to stop them from voting. They're still doing it today.

After the Southern schools were required to pay for black education, the math and reading "gap" started to disappear. You can see the data at the NAEP web site.

Comment: Re:correlation does not prove causation (Score 1) 137

by nbauman (#46672643) Attached to: Study: Exposure To Morning Sunlight Helps Managing Weight

They try to correct for those factors but they can never be sure.

Maybe the biggest epidemiological study is the Nurses' Health Study, which has several thousand participants and has been going on for more than one generation. They've been recording a huge number of personal activities and medical developments. Then they run it through computers to find associations. Then they try to correct for all the factors. Then they do a randomized controlled study to find out if the association was spurious or if it really was causation. They get it right about half the time, which is worthwhile. But you just can't eliminate every possible confounding factor.

Comment: Re:correlation does not prove causation (Score 1) 137

by nbauman (#46662871) Attached to: Study: Exposure To Morning Sunlight Helps Managing Weight

True, it's appropriate to start with a correlational study before you go on to a randomized, controlled trial.

This would have been a good study -- if they didn't come to an unjustified conclusion.

Exposure to moderate levels of light at biologically appropriate times can influence weight, independent of sleep timing and duration.

We don't know that from this study, because they couldn't control for all the other factors that might have influenced weight.

Comment: Re:correlation does not prove causation (Score 5, Insightful) 137

by nbauman (#46657909) Attached to: Study: Exposure To Morning Sunlight Helps Managing Weight

If they really wanted to find out whether sunlight affected weight, they would have done a randomized, controlled trial.

They would have randomly assigned half the people to getting exposed to sunlight early, and the other half to getting exposed to sunlight late.

Instead, they let the subjects go their merry way and simply measured their exposure to sunlight during the day.

These kind of studies give spurious results. For example, suppose the ones who are exposed to sunlight in the morning are getting up early to start their day jogging.

Comment: Re:30 years of journalism experience in 30 seconds (Score 1) 156

by nbauman (#46566103) Attached to: In the Unverified Digital World, Are Journalists and Bloggers Equal?

No, I'm not saying that I try to make each side look equally valid.

I'm saying that I try to let each side make their best case, and let my readers decide.

I'm writing for people who are intelligent enough to know how to evaluate both sides of an argument and come to their own conclusions.

Sometimes it's obvious that one side is lying. Sometimes it's too close to call.

For example, when I was writing about needle exchange programs for IV drug users, I had a stack of well-designed studies published in major medical journals saying that needle exchange programs saved lives, and I could call up experts who would make very persuasive arguments for them.

Then I'd call up some right-wing politician's office and say, "What's your evidence? How do you respond to this article in the Journal of the American Public Health Association?" Let them talk. Sometimes they just make fools of themselves. (Governor Pataki said, "We don't have enough evidence yet. We're studying it." Studying it forever.) Sometimes they really did seem to be well-intentioned people who believed things that were wrong. Sometimes they had actually changed their position.

Of course it's always possible that I could find out that I was wrong.

If you want to know more about the process, look up John Stuart Mill's On Liberty on the Internet.

(Oh yeah, the other rule is, "Always ask, 'What's your evidence?'")

Comment: Re:The problematic word is verified (Score 5, Interesting) 156

by nbauman (#46565003) Attached to: In the Unverified Digital World, Are Journalists and Bloggers Equal?

I write about medicine. I read the journals and go to the conferences.

I was passing by New York City Hall (during the Giuliani Administration) and I saw a demonstration by AIDS activists, something that I had been covering. I always like to talk to the real people involved, so I tried to get over to the demonstration.

Giuliani put a locked gate around City Hall. I had to stop by a guard post. I told the guard what I was doing, and he told me I needed press identification. I told him that I should be able to go to the demonstration simply as a member of the general public. But he was an asshole on a power trip and insisted that I needed a press ID. Finally I saw somebody else walk through without press ID, so I just walked through myself.

I later called up City Hall to complain about the guard, and went through a long series of written complaints to supervisors who were perpetually on vacation or had been moved to a different job. Finally the City Hall guards let some politician's friend with a gun into City Hall without screening, and he shot and killed a City Council member. It was no longer a good time to press on with a complaint like that.

I also called the City Hall press office and asked them what the requirements were for a press card. They were actually reasonable as written. The original purpose of a press card is to let you cross police lines during a fire or other emergency, or big events or demonstrations, and they gave press cards to reporters who regularly covered them for news media. Counter-cultural publications like the Village Voice and WBAI-FM got press cards. Less formally, they let the cops know when the reporters were watching so they didn't beat up demonstrators with cameras around. With time, press passes turned into a prestige item that publishers and other freeloaders used to try to get out of speeding tickets, get free admission to the circus, cage free meals at restaurants, etc. You had to fill out a form and apply, documenting that you actually do cover events where a press card is useful. I thought that it might actually make a good story, for the National Writers Union newsletter or someplace, "How to get a police press card."

I decided that I don't need your fucking press card. I can find out enough just by exercising the rights I have as an ordinary citizen, and exercising my willingness to go to jail if that's what it takes, to get my readers the information that they want and have a right to know.

One of the things that always amused me was the outrage of the press (like the New York Times) when the cops beat up their reporters during a demonstration (at the Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention, for example). Why weren't you doing your job of reporting the truth when we were getting beaten up by the cops, in front of your own eyes?

So blogger, shmogger. You don't need a press pass to write journalism. All you need are your rights under the Constitution and the willingness to get beaten up and go to jail.

Comment: 30 years of journalism experience in 30 seconds (Score 2) 156

by nbauman (#46564403) Attached to: In the Unverified Digital World, Are Journalists and Bloggers Equal?

As someone who made a modest living for 30 years as a "journalist" (or whatever you want to call me), I can summarize the most important thing I learned in 30 seconds:

Every time you attack someone, always call him to get his side.

(Variation 1: Every time you write something that you strongly believe, always call somebody on the other side to find out why they disagree with you.)

That's it. If you follow that rule, you'll always get a decent story.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain

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