A is A except when A is not A.

An interesting post from Dr. Gad Saad:

I have written about the ensuing personal anecdote elsewhere (Saad, 2004) but it is worth repeating here. Several years ago, my wife and I had gone out for a celebratory dinner with one of my doctoral students and one of his female friends. The friend in question was a committed postmodernist and a staunch academic feminist. At one point during our dinner, I gently asked her whether she genuinely believed the postmodernist foundational tenet that there are no universal truths. The astute reader might notice the logical problem here, as the latter tenet is itself construed as a universal truth! Setting aside this embarrassing conundrum, she retorted with complete assuredness that indeed all knowledge is relative. Surely, I replied there must be some universals otherwise the pursuit of scientific truths is an utter illusion. In the hope of being more concrete, I suggested that I provide her with examples of universals and then she could explain to me how I might be misguided.

I began with a rather trivial truth or so I thought. I asked her whether it was a universal truth that within the human species it is only women who bear children. Surely this is an absolute fact no? After rolling her eyes in utter disgust and taking a few huffs and puffs, she replied that she was amazed at how sexist my example had been. At this point, my doctoral student, my wife, and I were truly baffled. The feminist explained that in the spiritual narrative of a particular group of Japanese people, it is the men who bear the children! Hence, by purposely restricting childbearing to the physical/biological realm, I was being sexist. Sure, in the biological realm, it is the women who give birth but in the spiritual arena, it is wholly conceivable for men to be the child bearers. Whereas I was well aware of the nonsensical babble of postmodernists, I must admit that this was a new height of delusional thinking.

I suggest reading the whole thing because it is not only funny, but illuminating and serves a cautionary tale for a society that insists on seeing truth as relative and not as absolute. As the author states, “These anti-science movements coupled with cultural relativism, political correctness, and an ethos of self-guilt regarding all geopolitical realities will prove the demise of Western civilization.”

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If we regulate now we can prove later that the regulation was needed.

Let’s try to square this statement:

He acknowledged that it was impossible to specify just how many cancers were environmentally caused, because not enough research had been done, but he said he was confident that when the research was done, it would confirm the panel’s assertion that the problem had been grossly underestimated.

“He” is Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr. of Howard University, the chair of the President’s Cancer Panel (umm, why is there a “President’s Cancer Panel?), who published a report that all of the chemicals in th country are the leading cause of cancer. The solution the panel came up with is to take a “precautionary” approach to regulating chemicals in the country, even though it cannot prove that the chemicals and its pollutants causes cancer. When the American Cancer Society, not an exactly conservative leaning group, says that the government is overreacting, then you know that the government is clearly just looking for ways to expand its power. Here is the Dr. Michael Thun from the American Cancer Society:

Unfortunately, the perspective of the report is unbalanced by its implication that pollution is the major cause of cancer, and by its dismissal of cancer prevention efforts aimed at the major known causes of cancer (tobacco, obesity, alcohol, infections, hormones, sunlight) as “focussed narrowly.”

The report is most provocative when it restates hypotheses as if they were established facts. For example, its conclusion that “the true burden of environmentally (i.e. pollution) induced cancer has been grossly underestimated” does not represent scientific consensus. Rather, it reflects one side of a scientific debate that has continued for almost 30 years.

There is no doubt that environmental pollution is critically important to the health of humans and the planet. However, it would be unfortunate if the effect of this report were to trivialize the importance of other modifiable risk factors that, at present, offer the greatest opportunity in preventing cancer.

In other words, the purpose of this report is not so much to inform on the causes of cancer and how to fight the disease, but to show that “chemicals” cause cancers in Americans and call for more regulations that will not have anything to do with curing cancer, but instead will just expand the government’s power into sectors that it has no business controlling.

This should surprise people on two fronts: 1) if the government is proactively regulating things without concrete proof then there is no limit to what the government will want to regulate and 2) being precautionary in regulating means that we will no longer have a free society where people are free to make their own decisions about things that affect them. For an administration that said it will place science back in its “rightful place” it sure seems as though the administration is subscribing to its ideology to regulate as much as possible and let others worry about the fallout.

More on that Times story here.

Four reasons why the Congress is the proximate cause of the financial crisis.

James Pethokoukis lays them out:

1) Credit Ratings Agencies. While the crisis does not have a single cause, the behavior of the credit rating agencies is a defining characteristic. It is impossible to imagine the current crisis without the activities of the NRSROs. And, it is difficult to imagine the behavior of the NRSROs without the regulations that permitted, protected, and encouraged their activities. … Rather the evidence is most consistent with the view that regulatory policies and Congressional laws protected and encouraged the behavior of NRSROs.

2) Credit Default Swaps. I am suggesting that the evolution of the CDS market, the fragility of the banks, and the Fed’s capital rules illustrate a key feature of the financial crisis that is frequently ignored. The problems with CDSs and bank capital were not a surprise in 2008; there was ample warning that things were going awry. Senior government policymakers created policies that encouraged excessive risk taking by bankers and adhered to those policies over many years even as they learned about the ramifications of their policies.

3) The SEC and Investment Banks. Consider three interrelated SEC decisions regarding the regulation of investment banks. First, the SEC in 2004 exempted the five largest investment banks from the net capital rule, which was a 1975 rule for computing minimum capital standards at broker- dealers. Second, in a related, coordinated 2004 policy change, the SEC enacted a rule that induced the five investment banks to become “consolidated supervised entities” (CSEs): The SEC would oversee the entire financial firm. Specifically, the SEC now had responsibility for supervising the holding company, broker-dealer affiliates, and all other affiliates on a consolidated basis. Third, the SEC neutered its ability to conduct consolidated supervision of major investment banks. … The combination of these three policies contributed to the onset, magnitude, and breadth of the financial crisis. The SEC’s decisions created enormous latitude and incentives for investment banks to increase risk, and they did.

4) Fannie and Freddie. Deterioration in the financial condition of the GSEs was not a surprise. … But, Congress did not respond and allowed increasingly fragile GSEs to endanger the entire financial system. It is difficult to discern why. Some did not want to jeopardize the increased provision of affordable housing. Many received generous financial support from the GSEs in return for their protection. For the purposes of this paper, the critical issue is that policymakers did not respond as the GSEs became systemically fragile. Again, I am not arguing that the timing, extent, and full nature of the housing bubble were perfectly known. I am arguing that policymakers created incentives for massive risk-taking by the GSEs and then did not respond to information that this risk-taking threatened the financial system.

So everyone recognizes that Congress had a major role to play in the financial crisis (and it must necessarily be so: when Congress has the power not only to make the rules but to enforce them AND to play them, then everyone else must follow the rules of Congress, make sure they are not violating them, and play with Congress as if it were another competitor). So the question I have is: if you recognize that Congress had a major role to play in the financial crisis, why is everyone okay with giving Congress more powers to regulate industry? Perhaps we should pare back Congress’s power and have them engage in less regulation and not more to bring back actual solvency and balance to the markets?

Proper protest or incendiary rhetoric?

My friend from high school, Tajji Sharp, participated in a rap video protesting the recently passed Arizona Immigration law. I told him that the video was very incendiary, divisive and filled with racist rhetoric (not to mention one of the rappers is wearing a PLO head scarf). Tajji disagrees. I’ll post his video here so you can be the judge:

Yeah, what did happen to the concerns about the ozone?

LiveScience raises the question and then answers with a contradiction:

First, the good news: Since the 1989 Montreal Protocol banned the use of ozone-depleting chemicals worldwide, the ozone hole has stopped growing. Additionally, the ozone layer is blocking more cancer-causing radiation than any time in a decade because its average thickness has increased, according to a 2006 United Nations report. Atmospheric levels of ozone-depleting chemicals have reached their lowest levels since peaking in the 1990s, and the hole has begun to shrink.

Now the bad news: The ozone layer has also thinned over the North Pole. This thinning is predicted to continue for the next 15 years due to weather-related phenomena that scientists still cannot fully explain, according to the same UN report . And, repairing the ozone hole over the South Pole will take longer than previously expected, and won’t finish until between 2060 and 2075. Scientists now understand that the size of the ozone hole varies dramatically from year to year, which complicates attempts to accurately predict the hole’s future size.

So…if the banning of aerosols was supposed to close the ozone hole it created, then how do you explain the thinning of the ozone over the North Pole? One would reason that in order for a hole to form, thinning must first occur. However, the AP doesn’t make that connection. Perhaps if it did, it would come to the obvious conclusion: the banning of aerosols didn’t have a darned thing to do with the ozone or the ozone hole that it purportedly created.

If there is a thinning of the ozone, perhaps the scientists who observed the “ozone hole” saw it when it was at its lowest point in the 80s? Nah, the do-gooders and power mad folks who like regulating everything saw an easy culprit and pinned it on aerosols instead of asking tough, rigorous scientific questions. Now, where do we see such a phenomenon playing out now?

“When finally you surrender to us it will be of your own free will.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a short video that details the deep intrusion of the regulatory state:

As I am wont to say, there are many different paths that you can take to socialism. Tyrants or wannabe tyrants prefer to implement socialism by force. Your elites and betters prefer to bring it to you via a massively intrusive state where you must go to them to get permission just to act.

Hey! At least they don’t have any fat people!!

Get a load of this:

North Korea’s health system would be the envy of many developing countries because of the abundance of medical staff that it has available, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, speaking a day after returning from a 2-1/2 day visit to the reclusive country, said malnutrition was a problem in North Korea but she had not seen any obvious signs of it in the capital Pyongyang.

North Korea — which does not allow its citizens to leave the country — has no shortage of doctors and nurses, in contrast to other developing countries where skilled healthcare workers often emigrate, she said.

This allows North Korea to provide comprehensive healthcare, with one “household doctor” looking after every 130 families, said the head of the United Nations health agency, praising North Korea’s immunization coverage and mother and child care.

At first when you read this, you have to be thinking it is some kind of joke or something. However, the joke would be on you because this story appears in the Washington Post. Sure, it was a string article from Reuters, but shouldn’t the editors over at the WaPo read this thing and laughed before they put it in their paper.

But, hey! at least during her “brief stay” in Pyongyang, Ms. Chan didn’t see any fat people:

Chan spent most of her brief visit in Pyongyang, and she said that from what she had seen there most people had the same height and weight as Asians in other countries, while there were no signs of the obesity emerging in some parts of Asia.

But she said conditions could be different in the countryside.

Oh, you don’t say? A Commie nation shows only the good parts of its utopia and doesn’t dare show you any of its bad parts so it gives you the favorable impression that there’s no shortage of doctors and there’s no fat people, except you don’t know about the countryside? I wouldn’t have believed that such a trick would work in today’s world after all of the information we have gotten about Soviet Communism and “press junkets” (see The Forgotten Man for a tutorial), but I see that many people have simply forgotten history.

Oh, and if the WHO can say this about North Korea’s system then surely it can also say that the US has the worst healthcare system because it is not socialized and in both instances it would be lying, right?