Archive

March 25th, 2016

'Statistically significant' doesn't mean 'right'

    In response to charges that their field is churning out unreliable science, psychologists this month issued a defense that may be tough to dispute. At issue was a claim, published in the journal Science, that only 39 of 100 experiments published in psychology papers could be replicated. The counterpoint, also published in Science, questioned the assumption that the other 61 of the results must have been wrong.

    If two experimental results are in conflict, who's to say the original one was wrong and not the second one? Or maybe both are wrong if, as some argue, there's a flaw in the way social scientists analyze data.

    This is an important puzzle, given the current interest in drawing conclusions from huge sets of data. And it's not just a problem for psychologists. Researchers have also had trouble replicating experimental results in medicine and economics, creating what's been dubbed "the replication crisis."

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#FamilyFirst means more

    What's more mandorable than Justin Trudeau cuddling pandas?

    Why Adam LaRoche quitting over quality time with his son, of course.

    What a great dad, the world mewed, when the first baseman tweeted #FamilyFirst after quitting because his bosses wanted to see less of his son at work.

    LaRoche brought his 14-year-old son, Drake, to work. Constantly. The kid even had his own locker at spring training. The Chicago White Sox called Drake their 26th man. It was the same when he was with the Washington Nationals.

    America loved seeing this dedicated father.

    But let's be honest. LaRoche holds a rarefied position as a star baseball player. There's no way the average worker could pull this off, and certainly not a woman.

    Let's say a dedicated mom brought her daughter to work with her every day. And she had a little desk next to mom's. And she's at every meeting, every conference, on every single call.

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Our focus is AIDS. But Africa's real crisis is heart disease.

    In 2015, the United States spent $7.5 billion, more than three-quarters of its global health budget, to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. These, after all, are the "big three" infectious diseases, and they've ravaged developing-world populations. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people worldwide since 2000; in 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria and almost 10 million tuberculosis diagnoses.

    But thanks to an unlikely coalition -- including George W. Bush, Bill Gates and Bono -- the tide is turning. AIDS deaths peaked at 2 million in 2004 and have dropped 42 percent worldwide since. Deaths from malaria have declined by nearly half since 2000; the malaria death rate for children under 5 has decreased by more than two-thirds. Tuberculosis deaths have also declined by half since 1990. In short, the battle against these diseases is slowly being won.

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March 24th

A Message To The Nation

    The election, regardless of its outcome, won't rid us of The Donald because the conditions that allowed the likes of this man to develop will still be with us. The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. has put his finger right on the crux of the situation. It is a reflection of the society.

    Mr. Pitts certainly hit a chord with me in listing the scourge of our society as economic insecurity, ignorance, bigotry, fear and apathy. With so many in our society entombed by such feelings it is no wonder they are so willing to embrace the loud-mouth candidate when he proclaims that he has a cure for anything that upsets us, that doesn't go our way. Of course to think that it is that easy is more than a little simplistic.

    There are many in the society desperate to escape many of the conditions in which they find themselves. There are many others more than willing to exploit their alienation. The easy answers devoid of realism offered by the Republican Presidential candidates - especially The Donald - give the dissatisfied great solace.

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Note to Mr. Trump: Dogs don't even have jobs, man

    I don't have hard numbers, but I would estimate that greater than 90 percent of dogs in the United States don't have jobs. There are "working dogs" -- seeing-eye dogs and so on -- but like the Dalmatian on the fire engine, that's more a function of indentured servitude than it is real employment. Those dogs are pets, who sit on fire engines or help people avoid potholes and such because they were trained to do so -- the way that every once in while you'll be shampooing your hair and realize that you always do it the exact same way. It's ingrained. It's not your job.

    There's also the question of the extent to which dogs have free will, enabling at-will employment. "Do animals have free will?," Philosophers Magazine asked last summer, making sure to include a mention of Descartes as is legally required. The determination? "Maybe, idk," as is also legally required from philosophical essays.

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Joe Scarborough wasn't being sexist, but he's still wrong about Clinton's smile

    My Washington Post colleague Joe Scarborough found himself the target of Internet ire earlier this week when he suggested that Hillary Clinton perhaps ought to look more cheerful after her sweep in Tuesday night's primaries. Charged with sexism, Scarborough defended himself on our website Wednesday, writing that he believes it's strategic for all politicians to appear happy after big wins.

    "Women face longer odds, greater obstacles and more cultural barriers to the White House than do women in any other Western country," he argued. "Yet a political analyst's job is not to comment on what should be, but rather what is."

    While I appreciate Scarborough's nod to the realities of American politics, I can't agree with him on that job description. And even if I did, it would be worth noting that complaints about how Clinton arranges her face or uses her voice are part of a problem in American politics that go beyond sexism. Increasingly, we seem uncomfortable with any sign of humanity in our candidates in a way that has real implications for our governance.

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I yelled 'black lives matter!' at a Trump rally. This is what happened next.

    As I sat in the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., earlier this month, waiting for Donald Trump's rally to start, my adrenaline began to rush. I knew I could be hurt for what I was about to do.

    I'd driven three hours by myself that morning from college in southern Virginia to protest his campaign. For months, I'd been reading and watching coverage of Trump's rise. His rallies had become spaces where people felt comfortable being openly racist and hateful, because he allowed them to. And with his ugly rhetoric about Muslims, Mexicans and "the old days" before political correctness, he's encouraged it.

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How Putin's Syria gamble has already paid off

    Vladimir Putin says he is withdrawing most Russian forces from Syria because his "objectives" have been achieved. How to judge that boast?

    On such goals as keeping the dictator Bashar al-Assad in power, increasing Russian influence in the Middle East, restoring Moscow's seat at the table of global power, and sending a message of strength to Islamic extremists inside Russia's own borders, the jury is still out.

    But it's not too early to consider Russian success on another front: showcasing military strength to potential adversaries, allies and arms buyers. "Essentially, Russia is using their incursion into Syria as an operational proving ground," retired Air Force Gen. David Deptula told the New York Times last year. And Moscow proved quite a bit.

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Five myths about spin

    The left and the right don't agree on much today. But it's easy to find a consensus that an excess of spin is ruining politics. Spin -- the deliberate crafting of words and images for political effect -- is everywhere, from the scripted laugh lines that candidates trot out in debates, to the artful circumlocutions of press secretaries, to the slick ads and viral videos that flicker across our screens.

    Don't get spun, even about spin. Some of the conventional wisdom about the practice is false or exaggerated. Unpacking these five common misperceptions might help us to see more clearly the role that spin plays in our politics, for good and for ill -- and to think of it as something neither feared nor lamented, but more thoroughly appreciated and understood.

 

    1. Spin is new to our times.

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Crackpot Party Crackup

    Long ago and far away, in the days when white men in power ties and women in funny hats gathered in air-conditioned caverns to hammer out the Republican Party platform, it was a predictable affair. The Republican Party was for less taxes and less government, free trade and free people, a scolding of victims and grievance-mongers, and a vision of social norms circa 1952.

    As time went on, they let the cranks and the racists in, the fact-deniers and the extreme gun nuts, the xenophobes and the nature-haters, because the big tent could take in all that extra gas without overheating. They would tolerate “those people,” who you picture looking like that dude who sucker-punched a protester at a Trump rally, because they needed them.

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