Monthly Archives: June 2014

The sad and dishonest state of economic research

A survey of professional academic economists finds that a large percentage are quite willing to cheat or fake data to get the results they want.

From the paper’s abstract:

This study reports the results of a survey of professional, mostly academic economists about their research norms and scientific misbehavior. Behavior such as data fabrication or plagiarism are (almost) unanimously rejected and admitted by less than 4% of participants. Research practices that are often considered “questionable,” e.g., strategic behavior while analyzing results or in the publication process, are rejected by at least 60%. Despite their low justifiability, these behaviors are widespread. Ninety-four percent report having engaged in at least one unaccepted research practice. [emphasis mine]

That less than 4% engage in “data fabrication or plagiarism” might seem low, but it is a terrible statistic. Worse, the other results make me think that the many of the 96% who said they didn’t do this were lying. 40% admit to doing what they agree are “questionable” research practices, while 94% admit to committing “at least one unaccepted research practice.”

In other words, almost none of these academic economists can be trusted in the slightest. As the paper notes, “these behaviors are widespread.”

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Hippos in South America?

A wild herd of hippopotamuses that once belonged to a Colombian drug lord are now spreading across the countryside and no one knows what to do with them.

Situated halfway between the city of Medellin and Bogota, the Colombian capital, Hacienda Napoles was the vast ranch owned by the drugs baron Pablo Escobar. In the early 1980s, after Escobar had become rich but before he had started the campaign of assassinations and bombings that was to almost tear Colombia apart, he built himself a zoo.

He smuggled in elephants, giraffes and other exotic animals, among them four hippos – three females and one male. And with a typically grand gesture, he allowed the public to wander freely around the zoo. Buses filled with schoolchildren passed under a replica of the propeller plane that carried Escobar’s first US-bound shipments of cocaine. While Don Pablo masterminded the operations of the Medellin Cartel from his villa on the hill, the locals gazed at the strange animals and even stranger concrete dinosaurs that Escobar built for his son.

When Hacienda Napoles was confiscated in the early 1990s, Escobar’s menagerie was dispersed to zoos around the country. But not the hippos. For about two decades, they have wallowed in their soupy lake, watching the 20sq km (8 sq mile) park around them become neglected and overgrown – and then transformed back into a zoo and theme park, complete with water slides. All the while, the hippos themselves thrived, and multiplied.

The hippos also escaped from the zoo, and because the environmental conditions in Colombia are ideal for these invasive hippos, they are prospering wherever they go.

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Rosetta measures its comet

As Rosetta approaches Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerisimenko, it has measured the amount of water evaporating of the comet as it slowly comes to life as it approaches the Sun.

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has found that comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is releasing the equivalent of two small glasses of water into space every second, even at a cold 583 million kilometres from the Sun. The first observations of water vapour streaming from the comet were made by the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter, or MIRO, on 6 June, when the spacecraft was about 350 000 kilometres from the comet. Since the initial detection, water vapour has been found every time MIRO has been pointed towards the comet.

That rate of evaporation will increase with time.

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Hobby Lobby wins

The Supreme Court today struck down the Obamacare contraceptive mandate imposed by the Obama administration on all businesses.

Despite the opinions of many on the left, some of whom have even threatened to burn Hobby Lobby to the ground for making this challenge, this is a victory for religious liberty. Since when in this country did the government get the right to force religious people of any religion into doing things that directly violate their religious beliefs? This rules clearly says the government does not yet have that right.

No one who supports freedom, however, should rest easy. The decision was 5-4, and with a Democratic Party today quite willing to put restrictions on free speech, we must be prepared for more assaults on freedom.

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Another launch success for India

The competition heats up: Using its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket (PSLV) India successfully launched a French Earth-observation satellite on Monday.

The PSLV continues to be a very reliable commercial rocket for India’s government. That this launch was also witnessed by India’s new prime minister Narendri Modi — who also endorsed his country’s space effort in a public tweet — suggests that India’s space effort has a very bright future.

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Democrats rewrite their attempt to repeal the first amendment

The Democrats have rewritten their attempt to repeal the first amendment, adding one word in the hope no one will notice that it really changes nothing.

This is the new language:

To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

The phrasing is slightly different than the original, with the addition of the word “reasonable,” thus making believe that this makes their constitutional amendment more palatable. It does not. What it does do is illustrate once again that the modernDemocratic Party is not in favor of free speech. 42 Democratic Senators have endorsed this amendment. As John Hinderaker so cogently notes in the article above — paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson — the Democrats “have sworn eternal hostility against every limitation on government’s tyranny over the mind of man.”

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Global warming scientists find another cute species to use for political purposes.

The fantasy land of global warming science: Despite a stable and robust population for emperor penguins, combined with a new record in Antarctica this very week for the size of its icecap, scientists today issued a report demanding that this species be declared endangered because global warming will make them all die.

Global warming will cut Antarctica’s 600,000-strong emperor penguin population by at least a fifth by 2100 as the sea ice on which the birds breed becomes less secure, a study said on Sunday. The report urged governments to list the birds as endangered, even though populations in 45 known colonies were likely to rise slightly by 2050 before declining. Such a listing could impose restrictions on tourism and fishing companies.

It’s insane. It is as if facts have no relevance. For example, the recommendation of the report is based entirely on computer models, the same models that have failed 100% to predict anything in the past twenty years. Moreover, the report admits the emperor penguin population is stable and large and is likely to increase in the next three decades.

But who cares! We have to save these cutsy penguins, so let’s make them endangered so they can be used as a political weapon against any disagreement about global warming!

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Update on the LDSD partly successful test flight

Another eleven news stories were published today on the LDSD test flight (go here to find them all), but only two gave an honest and informative appraisal of the parachute failure and the program’s future. This CBS report clarified the results well with these two quotes:

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator then fell toward impact in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii. The carrier balloon apparently came apart after the LDSD’s release and it was not immediately clear what recovery crews standing by in the landing zone might be able to retrieve.

and this:

Two more LDSD vehicles are being built for “flights of record” next summer.

Another report from Space Insider also provided this key information, something I would have expected every journalist in the world to have considered essential to their report.

Sadly, not one of the other news stories saw fit to mention that the test vehicle might have been destroyed because of the failure of the chute, nor did any of them bother to report that two more such test vehicles are under construction, allowing program to continue anyway.

That so many news stories were published on this test flight indicates the interest that exists in it. Too bad most reporters writing these stories were only interested in providing us propaganda and pro-NASA cheer-leading.

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South Pole ice cap sets new record

The uncertainty of science: The Antarctic ice cap set a record for size this past week.

The sea ice coverage around Antarctica over the weekend marked a record high, with the ice surrounding the continent measuring at 2.07 million square kilometers, according to an environmentalist and author who says the ice there has actually been increasing since 1979 despite continued warnings of global warming.

The article notes how global warming climate scientists conveniently insist that the growing south pole ice cap and the extended cold temperatures there are irrelevant to their theirs. A real scientist, however, would dismiss no data, as to do so skews the results.

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Another legal case that could blow the IRS open

The lawsuit of a pro-Israeli organization, filed in August 2010, makes the IRS extremely vulnerable to deep legal investigation.

[Y]esterday saw the beginning of the discovery phase in the lawsuit by Z-Street a pro-Israel organization that was told its application for tax exempt status was being delayed because “…these cases are being sent to a special unit in the DC office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” …
Judge Jackson gave the IRS until June 26 to respond to Z-Street. That deadline has now passed, so the case enters discovery. This means that Z-Street can subpoena IRS officials, place them under oath, and ask them questions about how they acted, and cross examine them closely. They can also subpoena documents and require their production. This is much different than a House committee hearing in which members have only a few minutes to ask questions, and when friendly Democrats have their opportunity to apologize for the impertinence of daring to ask questions of our IRS masters. Depositions taken under oath can last many hours and involve detailed questions.

What makes the Z-Street case unique and potentially extremely damaging is that its lawsuit was filed in August 2010. That filing placed the IRS under legal obligation to preserve records.

As the article notes, as a legal proceeding it will be practically impossible for the IRS to stonewall, as it has done during Congressional hearings. Like the Judicial Watch case that will have a hearing on July 10, the IRS was required under the law to make sure evidence was not destroyed, and failed to do so. And like that case, the court will have the right to demand answers about that failure and get them.

I want to underline the basis of the Z-Street case: An IRS official admitted that this organization’s tax exempt status was being delayed merely because its “activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.” Think about that. The IRS believes it can decide your tax liability and status based on your political opinion.

Doesn’t that capture in a nutshell the entire scandal, in which the IRS was used as a weapon to harass opponents of the Democratic Party and specifically of Barack Obama.

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First test flight of Angara is officially postponed

It’s official: The first flight of Angara has been postponed for at least a week or more.

“The rocket will be removed from the launchpad and transferred to a technical stand for comprehensive analysis,” RIA quoted the Khrunichev center as saying, adding the new launch time would only be decided after the checks.

Though no information was released that describes the cause of the scrub, that they are going to give the rocket a major look-over suggests that at least one of the problems reported by Anthony Zak at Russianspaceweb are likely true. To quote him again:

According to a veteran of Baikonur Cosmodrome and the Russian space historian Vladimir Antipov, the scrub at that moment could indicate a failure in the pneumatic and hydraulic system activating the rocket’s propulsion system. A screenshot of the launch countdown clock, which had surfaced on the Internet, indicated a scrub at T-1 minute 19.7 seconds. It then transpired that the loss of pressure in a flexible gas line of the propulsion system caused the delay.

It could take as long as a week to fix the problem, industry sources said on the Novosti Kosmonavtiki web forum. GKNPTs Khrunichev, the Angara’s manufacturer then posted a one-line press-release saying that the date of the next launch attempt would be announced later.

According to other sources, a valve on the oxidizer line failed, which could require to return the rocket to the assembly building, to cut out the device and weld in the new valve. Due to a built-in nature of the valve, the return of the rocket to the manufacturing plant in Moscow could also be required, likely postponing the mission for weeks.

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A flawed first flight for NASA’s saucer for testing Mars landing techniques.

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), the saucer shaped system for testing new landing techniques on Mars, did its first flight today with mixed results.

A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle testing new technology for Mars landings rocketed high over the Pacific on Saturday and deployed a novel inflatable braking system, but its massive parachute failed to fully unfurl as it descended to a splashdown. Control room cheers that greeted successful steps in the complex test rapidly died as the parachute appeared to emerge tangled. “Please inform the recovery director we have bad chute,” a mission official ordered.

I have found two other stories on this test flight, one from nasaspaceflight and the second from reuters. Both the Huffington Post story above and these two fail entirely to tell us whether the test vehicle was damaged when its parachute failed to open and it hit the water. Worse, all three articles seem to ignore this significant detail in describing enthusiastically NASA’s future plans for the LDSD.

As a reader, I instead think: NASA’s future plans are not the story now. The story is whether this program can even continue.

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Things could get very interesting for the IRS on July 10.

The judge with whom the IRS failed to notify about the lost emails and is holding a hearing on the matter on July 10 has in the past aggressively pursued corruption in the Department of Justice.

Judge Sullivan is the judge who held federal prosecutors in contempt, dismissed an unjust indictment against a United States Senator, and publicly excoriated the Department of Justice. He also had the moral conviction, courage and gumption to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Justice Department and the individual prosecutors. …

In the [Senator Ted] Stevens case, Judge Sullivan publicly upbraided the government lawyers before an overflow courtroom, “In nearly 25 years on the bench, I’ve never seen anything approaching the mishandling and misconduct that I’ve seen in this case. . . . When the government does not meet its obligations to turn over evidence, the system falters.”

Judge Sullivan was taking the extraordinary step of appointing a special prosecutor. He chose highly respected DC attorney Henry Schuelke III to investigate the prosecutors for possible criminal charges. The judge ordered the department to preserve all of its files, electronic correspondence—everything—and cooperate fully in the investigation, including providing Schuelke access to investigative files and all witnesses.

It is very possible Sullivan will get as incensed on July 10. Stay tuned. Things could get very hot for the IRS and the Obama administration on that day.

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IRS also failed to tell court about lost emails

Cover-up: Even though the IRS knew it had lost a significant chunk of Lois Lerner emails in February, it failed to notify the court even as it released in April emails demanded of them as part of a court case.

No mention was made in that production of the lost Lerner emails, even though the original Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit filed in May 2013 specifically sought them.

Judicial Watch further noted that “although IRS had knowledge of the missing Lois Lerner emails and of the other IRS officials, it materially omitted any mention of the missing records” in an April 30 status update on its document production. … The tax agency could also face court sanctions or even criminal proceedings if [the judge in the case] is not satisfied with the government’s explanation. [emphasis mine]

The IRS and the officials there should be punished criminally for this behavior, but I doubt it will happen.

And then there’s this: According to the law, the loss of the emails of Lerner and other IRS officials can be inferred as evidence that the emails were incriminating.

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An contract extension from NASA for SpaceX and Sierra Nevada

NASA has given SpaceX and Sierra Nevada six additional months, until March 2015, to complete their last contractual milestones for building their manned spacecraft.

An amendment signed by William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, on May 16 gives SpaceX until March 31, 2015, to complete the 14th and final milestone under its $440 million CCiCap agreement — a pad abort test of its Dragon capsule. The test originally was planned for April 2014.

On May 19, Gerstenmaier signed a similar amendment to Sierra Nevada’s $212.5 million CCiCap award to extend work associated with flight tests of the company’s Dream Chaser engineering test article until March 31, 2015.

NASA’s third Commercial Crew partner, Boeing, is on track to complete all its milestones, worth a combined $460 million, by the end of August,

The significance of this extension is that it reveals something about the dates for both SpaceX and Sierra Nevada’s next flight tests. The previously date for the pad abort test for Dragon had most recently been set for this summer. They are obviously not meeting that schedule and need more time. Sierra Nevada meanwhile wants to fly its Dream Chaser test vehicle some more, but apparently needs time to get it flight ready after it sustained damage during landing on its one and only flight test.

In addition, this extension suggests something about NASA’s assessment of the efforts of all three companies. The agency is supposed to down select to two companies by the end of the summer. The extension suggests that they are hoping to keep all three companies funded so that they all build their spacecraft.

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Communications to be lost with the Stereo spacecraft

Communications with the two solar-observing Stereo spacecraft will be cut off for more than a year, far longer than originally expected, as their orbits move them behind the Sun.

Unexpectedly high temperatures in the high gain antenna feed horns on both STEREO spacecraft will require corrective action in the coming months that will severely limit science operations. The high temperatures are being caused by the small angle between Earth and the Sun as seen from each spacecraft. In other words, pointing the antenna at Earth is putting too much solar heat on the antenna feed horn. To bring down the feed horn temperature, and preserve the spacecraft for years to come, the antennas will be pointed off at an angle from both Earth and the Sun, so that less heat will fall on the feed horns. Communication will still be possible using one of the antenna side lobes, but the telemetry rate will be extremely low. What instrument operations can be supported while the antennas are off-pointed is still being studied.

The spacecrafts’ orbit allows them to observe the back side of the Sun not visible from Earth. Though engineers had expected to lose communications for a period of time when the Sun moved between the spacecraft and the Earth, the blacked out time period has turned out to be much longer than planned. The shutdown will begin later this year with communications not resuming until January 2016.

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Let citizens sue government workers directly for misconduct.

Let citizens sue government workers directly for misconduct.

The way to control this epidemic of government law-breaking is to allow citizen victims to sue, and legislate personally liability for bureaucrats guilty of willfully illegal conduct.

I agree. If a government bureaucrat breaks the law and no one in the government does anything about it, allowing them to get off without punishment, then the American citizen who was harmed by that illegal activity should have the right to sue that bureaucrat directly. This is how the law applies in every other venue of society. Why should government workers be exempt from the liability of their actions?

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Sudanese woman flees to U.S. embassy.

Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who had been sentenced to death for being a Christian, has gained refuge in the U.S. embassy while she and her family attempt to immigrate to the U.S.

It appears she was getting a lot of death threats, which in any Islamic country must be taken very seriously. Moreover from the details in this story it appears that Sudanese society is very much in favor of killing her, and it is only because of international pressure on the Sudanese government that she has not been so far been murdered, either by the government there or a mob.

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Angara launch scrubbed.

Only moments prior to launch computers aborted the first flight of Angara, Russia’s first new rocket since the Soviet-era.

More information here. According to a Russian web forum, the problem is probably a leaky valve or the loss of pressure in the propulsion system and that it might take a week to be fixed.

The quote below from the first story above is interesting in that it once again illustrates how Putin is trying to exert his authority over the space industry to re-establish the Soviet-era top down way of doing things:

Putin, who had been poised to watch the rocket’s inaugural flight from the northern military Plesetsk cosmodrome via video link from the Kremlin, ordered his generals to report on the cause of the delay within an hour.

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$4.4 billion for 2,000 IRS hard drive crashes.

After spending $4.4 billion on its computers during the Obama administration, the IRS still had over 2,000 hard drive crashes in 2014.

IRS commissioner John Koskinen used the 2,000 crashes as an argument that the crash of Lois Lerner’s hard drive was not that unusual, and that their aging equipment made backup difficult. To me, it suggests that the people at this agency are either gross incompetents, or even more corrupt than I thought.

Because you see, with that many crashes, the IRS made the one obvious decision anyone with any brains would immediately make in that situation: They canceled the contract with their email backup service.

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More evidence of data tampering at NOAA

A close analysis of NOAA climate data from just one randomly picked Texas rural location reveals significant data tampering to make the climate appear to be growing warming.

In other words, the adjustments have added an astonishing 1.35C to the annual temperature for 2013. Note also that I have included the same figures for 1934, which show that the adjustment has reduced temperatures that year by 0.91C. So, the net effect of the adjustments between 1934 and 2013 has been to add 2.26C of warming. ,,,

So what possible justification can USHCN [the climate data center at NOAA] have for making such large adjustments? Their usual answer is TOBS, or Time of Observation Bias, which arises because temperatures are now monitored in the early morning rather than the late afternoon, which tended to be the practice before. But by their own admittance, TOBS adjustments should only account for about 0.2C.

What about station location? Has this changed? Well, not since 1949 according to the official Station Metadata. Luling is a small town of about 5000 people, and the station is situated at the Foundation Farm, 0.7 miles outside town. In other words, a fairly rural site, that should not need adjusting for urban influences.

It is plain that these adjustments made are not justifiable in any way. It is also clear that the number of “Estimated” measurements made are not justified either, as the real data is there, present and correct.

In doing this analysis, the author, Paul Homewood, does something that Steven Goddard of the Real Science website, the man who broke this story, doesn’t do very often: He carefully illustrates the full raw dataset and shows us how he isolates the raw data from the estimated and adjusted numbers. Goddard generally only shows his results, which means we have to trust his analysis. Homewood therefore approaches Goddard’s results skeptically, and thus acts to check his work to see if it is accurate and correct. He finds that it is.

This is science at its best.

I should also note that I found Homewood’s analysis because Steven Goddard posted a link on his own webpage. As a true scientist, Goddard does not fear a close look at his work. He welcomes it.

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Blacklisting “disruptive” vets from medical care.

We’re here to help you! The Veterans administration keeps a database administrated by secret committees that lists vets as “disruptive” and “disgruntled,” which it then uses to restrict their treatment.

Among examples of patients’ behavior referred to the VA’s “Disruptive Behavior Committees” (yes, that’s what they’re called): venting “frustration about VA services and/or wait times, threatening lawsuits or to have people fired, and frequent unwarranted visits to the emergency department or telephone calls to facility staff.”

As Krause explains, the Disruptive Behavior Committees are secret panels “that decide whether or not to flag veterans without providing due process first. The veteran then has his or her right of access to care restricted without prior notice.”

Obviously, the VA demonstrates once again why we must put the entire healthcare industry under government control. If they can do it to vets, why shouldn’t the rest of the government not have the power to do it to us all!

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