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Friday, October 28, 2011

Explaining Muller vs. Muller: is BEST blissfully unaware of cosmic-ray-cloud theory?


Crossposted at Watts Up

Here is the puzzle, as noted by Nigel Calder and others: how can BEST insist that a modicum of additional evidence of late 20th century warming should put skepticism of the CO2-warming theory to rest, while at the same time admitting that they never even tried to examine the possible causes of warming?

Elizabeth Muller's press statement in support of anti-CO2 alarmism is extreme:
Elizabeth Muller, co-founder and Executive Director of Berkeley Earth, said she hopes the Berkeley Earth findings will help “cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid concerns of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way.” This will be especially important in the run-up to the COP 17 meeting in Durban, South Africa, later this year, where participants will discuss targets for reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG)emissions for the next commitment period as well as issues such as financing, technology transfer and cooperative action.
She is strongly implying that BEST's findings not only support the CO2 theory of late 20th century warming, but justify radical worldwide government action to reduce carbon emissions.

Richard Muller's statement of ignorance on the cause of the observed warming is equally absolute:
What Berkeley Earth has not done is make an independent assessment of how much of the observed warming is due to human actions.
Contradictory, yes, but also explanatory. Muller et al. must be so ignorant of this climate science subject that they are brand-new to that they are not even aware that the leading competing climate theory, where solar-magnetic activity modulates cloud formation, also predicts and explains late 20th warming. All they know is that the CO2 theory predicts warming, prompting them to see evidence of warming as evidence for that theory.

This is the only logical explanation for Muller vs. Muller, and it would also explain why BEST made such a complete hash of the only part of their data that does have any power to discriminate between CO2-warming and solar-warming.

Continue reading...

Opposite temperature predictions for quiet-sun era

If late 20th century warming was mostly caused by the industrial release of atmospheric CO2, then warming should be continuing apace, but if 20th century warming was mostly caused by the 80 year grand maximum of solar activity that waned in the 1990's and ended in 2005, then planetary temperature (as measured by the heat content of the oceans) should have been falling for several years now. In a less smooth way, surface temperatures would also be passing the peak of the Modern Warm period.

Nature is right now conducting an ideal experiment for determining which theory is right, but on this crucial part of the temperature record—what happened when solar activity waned and then dropped into the cellar—BEST's presentation is remarkably confused. The sample station analysis that they released shows substantially more post-98 cooling than any of the other land records, while their full data set has recent temperatures going up compared to the other records.

Here is a zoom-in on figure 1 from BEST's "decadal variations" paper. It shows the most recent temperatures for a sub-sample of temperature stations ("[t]he Berkeley Earth data were randomly chosen from 30,964 sites that were not used by the other groups"):


Wow, this sub-sample really favors the sun as the primary driver of climate, certainly compared to the NOAA, GISS and Hadley evidence. The BEST temperatures are equal or above the other temperature records throughout the 80's and 90's, then drop precipitously below them over the last ten years, as the sun has gone quiet.

BEST's full data set tells the opposite story. Here is their 12 month average surface temperature (figure 8 from their "Temperature Averaging Process" paper):


The second part of figure 8 shows the differences. NOAA and GISS both drop off a couple of tenths of a degree relative to BEST after 2000, while Hadley drops off about a half a degree!


Wow, compared to the evidence provided by the other temperature records, BEST's full sample really favors the CO2 theory over this critical period. Thus on the only part of the temperature record that is probative, BEST displays two strongly contradictory graphs without a word of commentary. That's a pretty good sign that they are oblivious to the discriminatory power of this part of the record, indicating again that they are not even aware of the GCR-cloud theory and its implications. No wonder they can do such incredibly biased things as calling "the late part of the 20th century," "the anthropogenic era" (p. 30). Anthropogenic warming is their premise.

BEST evidence is not best evidence

Almost all of the heat capacity of the biosphere is in the oceans. Thus climate change over time means a change in ocean heat content. Land surface temperature is a volatile expression of this global temperature, depending on whether colder or warmer ocean currents are at the surface. That volatility makes surface temperatures an iffy way to track climate change, and today, better evidence is available.

In recent years, ARGO's automated fleet of temperature sounding devices provides much improved direct measurement of ocean temperature. According to NOAA, data from these floats show ocean heat content for the top 700 meters as close to flat for about 10 years now:


(Bob Tisdale says that NOAA has recently started reporting heat content for the top 2000 meters, but apparently it is still a work in progress, as they don't display it on their heat content page.)

Ocean heat content can also be measured by sea level, which is determined by the thermal expansion of the oceans, plus net land-ice melt. Here is NOAA's sea level data, compensated for land-ice melt and variations in salinity. It shows ocean heat content as roughly flat for about the last eight years:


This best evidence indicates that global warming has stopped, which militates against the CO2 theory of late 20th century warming, but the oceans do not show the global cooling that the solar-theory predicts, so it does not clearly favor the cosmic-ray-cloud hypothesis either. The very latest sea level data, however, may finally be telling the tale:


Steve Goddard, September 2011: "The latest sea level numbers are out, and Envisat shows that the two year long decline is continuing, at a rate of 5mm per year."

That's actual sea level, not steric sea level. Subtract out the ongoing land-ice melt from our currently warm climate and thermosteric sea level is falling even more rapidly. If cosmic-ray-cloud effects do dominate CO2 effects, we'll probably have full proof within the next couple of years.

Can BEST actually be unaware of the cosmic-ray-cloud theory, or are they just accepting the CO2-alarmists' excuses for dismissing solar effects?

Unless Muller is a world-class fruitcake, he can't have waded into the climate arena without at least being aware of Svensmark's theory. He must also know that the sun has gone quiet, and his Nobel-physics brain would be able to figure out how this natural experiment provides a test of which theory is right. Yet he might still act as if he is unaware of solar warming theory if he has been convinced by the alarmists' bogus excuses for why recent warming can't have been caused by the sun.

Over and over, these folks claim that late 20th century cannot have been caused by the sun because solar activity was not rising over this period. e.g. Rasmus Benestad, 2005:
A further comparison with the monthly sunspot number, cosmic galactic rays and 10.7 cm absolute radio flux since 1950 gives no indication of a systematic trend in the level of solar activity that can explain the most recent global warming.
That reasoning obviously requires an assumption that ocean temperatures had equilibrated to the high level of 20th century solar forcing by 1950. Otherwise the continued high level of solar forcing (the hypothesis under consideration) would cause continued warming until ocean equilibrium was reached. Yet Benestad did not even acknowledge this assumption, never mind make any case for it, and this has been the pattern.

I have written several posts on the alarmists' excuses for dismissing the solar explanation and how they utterly fail to stand up to scrutiny. But without even going into those details, the more basic point is that the various rationales for dismissing the solar warming hypothesis are theoretical. They are, in effect, part of the CO2 warming theory. Our recently quiet sun offers a test of which theory makes the right prediction. To ignore that test because one already agrees with one of the theories, as BEST seems to be doing, is to put theory over evidence, the opposite of what scientists are supposed to do.

Monday, October 24, 2011

UPDATE: Justia DID expunge references to key natural-born case, they did NOT just change citations to modern format

Original post title: "Justia did NOT expunge references to key natural-born case, they just changed citations to modern format"

Original first line: "Somewhere Gilda Radner is laughing." That first line still holds, but now it is me who has to say, "never mind," as Gilda used to say after learning that the premise of her tirade was upside-down. Only instead of "never mind," I have so say MIND! It seems that Justia really did delete politically inconvenient portions from its online Supreme Court rulings.

This is Leo Donofrio's claim: that in the run up to the 2008 election, Justia tampered with its online full-text copies of Supreme Court cases, systematically altering the Court's citations of Minor v. Happersett so as to hide this important precedent from modern view. Minor is the 1874 case that first established the meaning of Constitutional requirement that the president be a "natural born citizen." My mistake was believing reports at World Net Daily and the Examiner that claimed to be presenting Donofrio's strongest evidence.

Looked at closely, the evidence WND and Examiner evidence is susceptible to a perfectly innocent explanation. WND showed screen shots from 2008 in which the Court's original citations of Minor v. Happersett in the case of Luria v. United States were replaced with modern-form citations that only list the volume and page number where the cited case can be found in the Supreme Court reporter. Further, WND's Bob Unruh only noted that the name-citation had been taken out. He did NOT note that a modern-form citation for Minor v. Happersett had been inserted in its place. Neither did he note that this new citation had a link attached that connected directly to the Minor v. Happersett case itself.

In other words, WND's report overlooked an obvious innocent explanation. Justia should never have deleted the court's old-form citation, but it was certainly possible that they had just been going through their documents replacing old-form citations with new-form citations with no intent to cover anything up, and the fact that a link had been added cut against the idea that Justia was trying to hide the Minor v. Happersett precedent.

Dianna Cotter's Examiner article did the same thing, and so did Clayton Cramer's less accusatory post, which focused on Justia's strange editing in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark. All were overlooking the available innocent explanation.

So that was what my original post was about: how the editing that was being presented as evidence of an effort to hide the Court's embrace of the Minor v. Happersett precedent had an obvious innocent explanation that all of these folks were overlooking.

My exchanges with Leo Donofrio

I left a link to my post on Leo comment thread, which elicited a very strange response. He claimed to have not yet released his clearest evidence that Justia had engaged in malicious tampering with Supreme Court opinions, holding it in reserve for the day when someone made the criticisms that I had articulated:
...since I anticipated your EXACT theory... I protected the story by documenting the following evidence... as well as the evidence I have previously reported on. Having dealt with this kind of subterfuge before, I utilized a few skills I learned from my poker and chess fanaticism... it's called thinking ahead and planning ahead... moves and moves ahead... The evidence I haven't published yet only became relevant after the other side played two moves in this game. The first move that was required was for Justia to place robot.txt blocking over their entire domain. That happened today. Second, someone had to come along espousing the theory you have stated. Both of those moves have been made, so now it is my turn to move. Now I will discuss the evidence which I have not previously discussed.
Leo promised "a follow up on this no later than tomorrow with screenshots from the Wayback Machine." He would detail how, rather than just substituting modern-form citations for old-form citations, Justia had at first done the right thing: they had left the old-form citations exactly as they were and only ADDED the modern-form citations (with hyperlinks) alongside, deleting nothing. Only LATER, as the 2008 elections got nearer, did Justia go in again and remove the Court's original old-form citations, which included the Minor v. Happersett name.

Obviously I was skeptical. If Leo had screenshots comparing Justia pages without the old-form name-citations to earlier versions of the same pages that had both the name-citations and the modern-form citations, why did the big WND and Examiner exposes compare the pages without the name-citations to earlier versions contained only the old-form name-citations? That comparison made it look as if Justia had only switched from old-form citations for new-form citations, when Leo said he could prove that they actually went back in to delete the name-citations only after the modern-form citations were already in place.

Such screenshots would indeed seem to constitute proof of intent to hide the Minor v. Happersett precedent. But would Leo really sit on such important evidence? Why? Just to spring it as a gotcha on someone like me who pointed out that what he had already put out as proof was not actually proof at all? Is he crazy?

Only pretending to be crazy

Well it turns out that Leo really does have screenshot-proof that Justica first put the modern-form citations and hyperlinks in alongside the Court's original old-form name-citations for Minor v. Happersett and only later came back and deleted the old-form name-citations. I don't even have to wait until tomorrow to see these screenshots. Doing some poking around on his blog, I discover that he them last June!

So no, he has not been sitting on this evidence, waiting to spring it on some unsuspecting person like myself. Who knows why he ever said so. I'm just glad to learn that he is actually much more sensible than he presents.

Turns out the guy's solid. He's got the goods. Justia has been deleting politically inconvenient facts from its online Supreme Court record, which as Leo points out is actually a criminal offense: misrepresenting state documents. Leo has just been ill-served by his publicizers (including himself, if his response to me is any indication).

My original take-down of Leo's evidence as presented by WND and the Examiner is below, followed by my full exchange with Leo. I'll just end here with the damning screenshots that SHOULD have been front and center in the WND and Examiner exposes.

First is Leo's screenshot of Justia's Boyd v. Nebraska page from February 19 2008 (via Wayback). Scroll down to the highlighted text to find the Court's citation of Minor v. Happersett. You'll see the Court's original old-form citation (Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162), followed by the modern-form citation (88 U.S. 167), with hyperlinks:


And here is Justia's Boyd page as captured by the Wayback Machine on October 2 2008:


The Court's original name-citation of Minor v. Happersett has been deleted, and no, this was not an unintended byproduct of switching from old-form citations to new-form citations, because the new-form citation was already in place. They must have gone in with the sole intent of deleting the name citation, because that is all they did. Q.E.D.

Good going Leo. You crack me up. Gilda's laughing at both of us.

This isn't to say there CAN'T be an innocent explanation, but when the only change was to remove a part of the Court's original text, it doesn't seem that it could be a cut-and-paste error, or any kind of legitimate update, no matter how ill advised. If Justia DOES have an innocent explanation, they need to detail it to the public. So GO LEO: keep the pressure on (and never mind my never mind).

NEW UPDATE: Justia claims a programming glitch

Justia CEO Tim Stanley has now given a statement to CNET claiming that the alterations are the product of a cut-and-paste bug they had to correct. They released this bit of corrected code:

CNET's caption: This code excerpt shows that Justia's programmers incorrectly typed in ".*" (which matches any character) instead of "\s" (which matches only spaces). (Credit: Justia)

Could this broad-acting change be responsible for the removal of a particular chunk of the Court's original text without affecting anything around it? Stanley claims that this bug corrupted other Supreme Court cases as well, not just cases citing Minor v. Happersett:
"This has nothing to do with President Obama and it is not a conspiracy," Stanley said. "When we discovered the issue, we corrected the script and the cases now render correctly. The issue was not limited to the cases these folks are focused on. We've had internal discussions on how to make sure this does not happen in the future with additional visual and parsing checks."

It turns out, according to Mountain View, Calif.-based Justia, that the blame can be laid on a poorly-crafted regular expression. In computer science terms, regular expressions (often abbreviated as "regex") are used for complicated forms of text matching and substitution. They rank among the highest forms of programming arcana, primarily because of their flexibility, but are also some of the most prone to bugs.

In this case, Stanley said, what happened is that Justia's programmers typed in ".*" (which matches any character) when creating a regex. It's now an "\s" (which matches only spaces).

Stanley said he wasn't sure how many cases were affected before the bug was discovered and fixed. "It was just the U.S. Supreme Court cases, not the state, federal appellate and district court cases," he said.
With the help of the Wayback Machine, it should be possible to round up a bunch of the bug-affected cases and see if the same sort of errors really did appear in unrelated cases at the same time, especially if Justia would help track these cases down. Unfortunately, Justia has shut down access to it's Wayback archives.

Until Justia re-allows access to its Wayback archives and assists Leo in performing this check, this issue should be considered unresolved. MIND!

Original post, now defunct: "Justia did NOT expunge references to key natural-born case, they just changed citations to modern format"

Somewhere Gilda Radner is laughing.

Leo Donofrio recently made an alarming-looking discovery. Justia.com, a main online source for full text Supreme Court opinions, seemed to be systematically expunging citations to a key Court ruling on the meaning of the Constitution's requirement that the president must be "natural born citizen." But Leo was not careful enough. He failed to notice that the citations to "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" were not just being deleted, but were being replaced with a different citation: "88 U.S. 165." As it turns out, both are valid citations for Minor, with the latter being the more modern citation form.

Here is a snapshot of the University of Missouri's full-text Minor v. Happersett page. It lists both ways of citing the case:

162 is the first page of the Minor case in the Supreme Court reporter. "88 U.S. 165" is a reference to something on the fourth page of the opinion. The standard form of reference for page 165 is "88 U.S. 162 (165)," but Justia's minor bit of shorthand is perfectly unexceptional.

Leo somehow did not realize that "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" was being replaced with a different way of citing the same case. He just saw Justia dropping all of its "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" citations and thought he had uncovered an elaborate effort to keep online researchers from finding and making use of this very important case, whose long affirmed precedents could bar both Barack Obama and John McCain from the presidency.

That's certainly enough incentive for a dishonest supporter of either candidate to try to suppress Minor, and the importance of Leo's charge if it were borne out was enough to induce the always brave World Net Daily to issue a major report. Clayton Cramer saw another report in the Portland Examiner and declared the case a genuine mystery, which in turn induced Glenn Reynolds to broadcast the mystery to his own large and eclectic audience.

Much todo about nothing, as it turns out. Minor was NOT suppressed, and the proof is in Leo Donofrio's own screen-shots of Justia' Luria v. United States page, as recorded by The Wayback Machine. Notice that in the 2006 screen-shot, the "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" citation in the last paragraph does NOT include a link to the cited case:


Now here is Leo's Wayback snapshot of Justia's 2008 Luria page. Notice that in place of the original unlinked "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" citation is a citation for "88 U.S. 165," and that citation IS linked:


The inclusion of an active link to Minor v. Happersett under the "88 U.S. 165" citation makes it EASIER to track the reliance of later cases on the Minor precedent, proving that the change was NOT intended to make Minor harder to find.

The obvious explanation is that Justia must have been going through its postings and adding active links. Whoever was doing it just got overzealous and replaced the Court's actual citation with a modern format citation (not required in order to add a link).

Justia IS partly responsible for the confusion

It is not hard to see how Leo and others got confused. They started with Justia's current Luria page, which includes both the Court's original citation of Minor AND the modern form citation:

Citizenship is membership in a political society, and implies a duty of allegiance on the part of the member and a duty of protection on the part of the society. These are reciprocal obligations, one being a compensation for the other. Under our Constitution, a naturalized citizen stands on an equal footing with the native citizen in all respects save that of eligibility to the Presidency. Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162, 88 U. S. 165; Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U. S. 94, 112 U. S. 101; Osborn v. Bank of United States, 9 Wheat. 738, 22 U. S. 827. Turning to the naturalization laws preceding the Act of 1906, being [Emphasis added.]

Page 231 U. S. 23

That's a step in the right direction by Justia. Obviously the Court's original language should never have been removed. But Justia still does not get it quite right.

The added modern-form citation should have been placed in square brackets, to indicate that this was an editorial addition, and those square brackets should have been placed before the comma to the next citation, to indicate that the citation was to the same case. Justia did put a semi-colon after the modern-form citation, which should have tipped off Misters Donofrio, Cramer et al., but it is not as proper as the square-bracket solution.

Thus Leo understandably got the mistaken idea that "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" and "88 U.S. 165" were two different cases. That error bit him when he looked back at 2008 and saw that "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" gone while "88 U.S. 165" was still there. If to begin with these were two different cases, it is obviously alarming to see the case that one knows to be important get disappeared. But Leo was not actually beginning with two different cases. He was not starting at the beginning at all. He was starting at the end, which is how he got screwed up.

It is an interesting screw up, and an interesting mystery to solve, but that is the extent of the story. Once the confusion is discovered, the whole thing is just an odd bit of happenstance that led to a very peculiar misunderstanding. If everyone makes sense from here on out, this episode should turn into one of the grander homages to Gilda Radner's "never mind."

Justia-gate get's even wackier: Clayton Cramer's cut-and-paste head-scratcher

The example that mystified Clayton was a case where Justia had edited out "Minor v. Happersett ,21 Wall. 162" and replaced it with "88 U.S. 422," which is NOT a valid reference to Minor. This one really looks like obfuscation.

Here is Justia's U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark page (as recorded by Wayback) in April 2008:
The constitution nowhere defines the meaning of these words, either by way of inclusion or of exclusion, except in so far as this is done by the affirmative declaration that 'all persons born r naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.' Amend. art. 14. In this, as in other respects, it must be interpreted in the light of the common law, the principles and history of which were familiarly known to the framers of the constitution. Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162; Ex parte Wilson, 114 U.S. 417, 422, 5 S. Sup. Ct. 935; Boyd v. U. S., 116 U.S. 616, 624, 625 S., 6 Sup. Ct. 524; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U.S. 465, 8 Sup. Ct. 564. The language of the constitution, as has been well said, could not be understood without reference to the common law. 1 Kent, Comm. 336; Bradley, J., in Moore v. U. S., 91 U.S. 270, 274. [Emphasis added.]
Here is Justia's U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark two months later, in June 2008, five months before the presidential election:
The Constitution nowhere defines the meaning of these words, either by way of inclusion or of exclusion, except insofar as this is done by the affirmative declaration that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States." In this as in other respects, it must be interpreted in the light of the common law, the principles and history of which were familiarly known to the framers of the Constitution. 88 U. S. 422; Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 116 U. S. 624, 116 U. S. 625; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U. S. 465. The language of the Constitution, as has been well said, could not be understood without reference to the common law. Kent Com. 336; Bradley, J., in Moore v. United States,@ 91 U. S. 270, 91 U. S. 274. [Emphasis added.]
Ah, but look at what else is changed. It's not a straight swap of "Minor v. Happersett ,21 Wall. 162" for "88 U.S. 422." Also missing is the citation that was originally right after the Minor citation: "Ex parte Wilson, 114 U.S. 417, 422."

It seems that whoever was going through replacing "Minor v. Happersett, 21 Wall. 162" with "88 U.S. 165" made a copy and paste mistake. They deleted both the original Minor citation and all of Ex Parte Wilson except for the 422, and in place of this excision put back in, not the full "88 U.S. 165" citation, but just "88 U.S."

Well, that is what happens when human beings are tasked with robotic functions. Ask someone to replace a whole slew of existing citations with new cut-and-paste citations and they will occasionally select more text to replace than they intended, select less text to past in than they intended, etcetera.

And that's how you get a really big "neeeeever mind." Good going Gilda. You got 'em.

I haven't looked at all the examples, so there still could be more going on, but given that the highlighted examples are quite certainly innocent (and actually made Minor EASIER to find) it seems very unlikely that the un-highlighted examples are not innocent as well.

UPDATE I left some comments on Clayton Cramer's post and, at my urging or on his own, he seems to have figured it out:

Clayton said...

If the goal was to surgically remove Minor from Wong Ark Kim, why did they leave references to that case in later paragraphs? In addition, 88 U.S. 422 was not a reference to Minor or to Ex parte Wilson, but to Minor's volume and Wilson's page number--which is what you might expect if someone wrote a script intended to stick in a hyperlink to Minor (which was not present on April 20, 2008) that was defective: you could perhaps end up with something that scrambled these together.

There are aspects of what justia did that are worrisome. If they recognized that they had unintentionally damaged these cases, they should have admitted this, rather than silently restore everything, and use robots to stop further archiving.

Clayton said...

Yet the hyperlink actually pointed to 88 US 162, even though the text was 88 US 422. Yes, I suppose that someone might have intentionally made those mismatch, but if you were going to do that to make it hard to find the relevant case, why not make the hyperlink point to 88 US 422 as well?

This really smells of a defective script that tried to insert a hyperlink pointing these cases to the correct location, and scrambled the results. I have written a few scripts over the years that tried to do things like this, and even a few peculiarities in the underlying HTML could cause this. It certainly is more plausible of an explanation than removing Minor v. Happersett from one paragraph, but leaving it in the next paragraph.

Unfortunately, Leo Donofrio is digging his heels in, claiming that he has been holding his strongest evidence in reserve and promising to publish it tomorrow. Here is our back and forth from his site. Leo's replies are in bold:

Alec Rawls Says:

Leo: Given how far this story has gotten, I decided to write a post on my discovery of what actually happened:

“Justia did NOT expunge references to key natural-born case, they just changed citations to modern format”


My email is alec@rawls.org

[ed. Perhaps if it happened one time, your theory might be plausible in some way. But it happened 25 times... the case name was removed, the citations were changed and in some cases whole sentences of text were removed. Regardless, I have been out in front of your argument and have planned for it accordingly.

As to the specifics of your theory, you claim that when Justia updated the cases to include hyperlinks, somebody screwed them up - in all three ways, case name and citation... 25 times...which you claim was totally due to human error... and you also infer that the removal of full sentences directly on point as to POTUS eligibility was also due to human error... Even without the evidence I (and others) are in possession of, evidence which I have not published yet... your theory is ridiculously naive at best and intentionally fraudulent at worst. I don't know you and I won't guess which side of that curve you fall on. But you have made an argument that by removing the case name, "Minor v Happersett", this somehow made the case easier to find. That is truly one of the classics of Seussian hooplah and it goes in the hall of fame.

Regardless, since I anticipated your EXACT theory... I protected the story by documenting the following evidence... as well as the evidence I have previously reported on. Having dealt with this kind of subterfuge before, I utilized a few skills I learned from my poker and chess fanaticism... it's called thinking ahead and planning ahead... moves and moves ahead... The evidence I haven't published yet only became relevant after the other side played two moves in this game. The first move that was required was for Justia to place robot.txt blocking over their entire domain. That happened today. Second, someone had to come along espousing the theory you have stated. Both of those moves have been made, so now it is my turn to move. Now I will discuss the evidence which I have not previously discussed.

Your theory is that when the cases were updated to include hyperlinks, the citations were "modernized". Here is what you wrote at your blog:

"Much todo about nothing, as it turns out. Minor was NOT suppressed, and the proof is in Leo Donofrio's own screen-shots...The obvious explanation is that Justia must have been going through its postings and adding active links. Whoever was doing it just got overzealous and replaced the Court's actual citation with a modern format citation (not required in order to add a link)...Well, that is what happens when human beings are tasked with robotic functions. Ask someone to replace a whole slew of existing citations with new cut-and-paste citations and they will occasionally select more text to replace than they intended, select less text to past in than they intended, etcetera."

But you skipped a step Errol. You skipped a very big step.

It is correct that many of the first snapshots from 2006 did not have hyperlinks at Justia... but then at various points between 2006 and early 2008 all of the cases were changed to add hyperlinks.
All 25 of the cases were just fine after they were hyperlinked and not sabotaged in any way. The citations were perfect including the official reporter citation, ie 88 US 162 or 88 Wall. 162... as well as a secondary citation to the actual page in question. Beautiful. The benevolent update from non-hyper linked cases... to complete hyper-linked cases... was accomplished at Justia PRIOR to any of the sabotage. This is proved by the timeline of Wayback Machine snapshots.

I have those snapshots saved because I was waiting for this argument.

So, the pattern is as follows:

1) In 2006, all 25 cases are published by Justia in full with their original text but most hyperlinks are missing.

2) Then, at various times between 2006 and early 2008, all 25 cases were changed to include hyperlinks and none of the cases were sabotaged upon those benevolent updates. Hyperlinks are perfect, case name is there, citations and opinions are perfect.

3) Then in 2008, all 25 cases are sabotaged to remove the case name, screw up the citations and in some cases remove whole sentences of text.

It was the second revision which exhibits the sabotage, not the first. The first revision was accomplished by Justia PERFECTLY with no human error leaving no reason for the second revision other than sabotage. The cases had already been updated, or "modernized" as you put it... This was accomplished perfectly to include the case name, full citation to official reporter, secondary citation to page number, and no text was removed. There was no human error. Then, the cases were revised again. Benevolently? Uh... not so much. How about not at all.

The Wayback Machine snapshots tell the story, but I guess Justia thought that by removing their entire site from the scrutiny of the Wayback Machine (so much for freedom of information for the benefit of society) they might be protected by the fatal flawed theory you have forwarded.

I am preparing a follow up on this no later than tomorrow with screenshots from the Wayback Machine.

Foresight. It's a wonderful concept. - Leo]

Alec Rawls Says:

Leo: If Justia really did what you say–if their first revision left their pages as they are now, with the original citation intact but adding a modern-format citation with a hyperlink, and only afterwards did they go back and delete the original-format citations–then THAT is the evidence that they were trying to hide Minor v.Happersett. But that is not what you published, and what you did publish–at least the examples from Luria and Wonk Kim Ark that were promoted by WND and the Examiner–do NOT evidence suppression. Why would you do that? Why would you publish an account that doesn’t include the REAL evidence of wrongdoing?

[ed. The evidence we published proved the case firmly. That's why it's gone viral as is. Your theory made absolutely no sense. Seriously. Mistakes are not made systematically 25 times... and over three criteria. Not to mention that as you published, you failed to state that Justia had blocked access to the Wayback Machine this morning. And your theory - that clipping the actual case name made searching the case easier - was total bunk. Arguing that changing the official citation made it easier to find the case is also bunk. Hyperlinking didn't make it easier to search for references to Minor in other cases, that's also bunk. Hyperlinking made it easier to ACCESS the case once you've found a reference to it. But if the cases name is clipped when one is searching for the case name, one is not going to find the case. Same for bogus citations. Nobody is searching for 88 US 448 or even 88 US 171... they are searching for 88 US 162 or 88 Wall. 162... the hyperlink doesnt help them find the reference, it only makes it easier to access the case once the reference is found. That doesn't help one find something which isn't showing up in a search. If they find the reference because the case is cited properly, then they are certain to find the case even if no hyperlink exists. Not so if one searched for the case name and it's been clipped.

The rest of the evidence was kept in reserve to smash this bogus theory. I'll grant you the benefit of the doubt and assume your intentions were well... but really, I am not impressed. I saw this coming and planned for it. The story was proved on the evidence presented. 25 cases, 25 sabotaged cases is not human error. Furthermore, your report was very arrogant stating conclusions you had no ability to even research as access to the Wayback Machine was shut down by Justia.

Before you put your name behind something, maybe you would consider checking the evidence at the Wayback Machine first. And if all access was blocked, maybe you would put that mind of yours to work trying to find out why it was blocked. After all, why does Justia have to block access to US Supreme Court cases that are in the Public Domain if they don't have something to hide? They're entire mission statement has been to champion freedom of information across the web. Why aren't you calling them out for hiding the goods.

So don't give me slack for playing better chess. I published the goods. Now I'll publish the back up plan. Word.- Leo]

Frankly, that makes no sense. It is not chess. It is not thinking ahead on your part. It is failure to think ahead. Once people see that your initial report got the story wrong, how many people are going to give you a second chance? If the evidence actually is as you now say, that is an important story, but you have made it harder to get that story out, to say nothing of wasting a significant chunk of my time. Why should I need to spend all night exposing your proclaimed evidence of wrongdoing as non-evidence before you are willing to be forthcoming with the real evidence? Don’t expect WND and the Examiner to be too happy either.

[ed. You haven't exposed anything but a serious lack of credibility and a failure to see the truth in front of your own eyes. And nobody is happy about this fraud by Justia. There's nothing to be happy about. It's a damn shame. Dianna Cotter at the Examiner is very pleased with the story and everything I've written in this comment to you and my previous comment. Maybe you should try asking her what she thinks before you assume. Try that sometime, Sherlock. That benefit of the doubt is fading fast. -Leo]

If the truth is that you just made a mistake and did not realize that “88 U.S. 165″ was an alternate citation for “Minor v.Happersett, 21 Wall. 162,” well mistakes happen, and nobody will hold it against you.

[ed. It's not an alternate citation. It's a citation to a page in Minor which is not an official citation. Big difference. Nobody is searching for 88 US 165... they are searching for references to the case, which is 88 US 162. And since it's not there, they won't find it... be design of Justia. - Leo]

It’s a little embarrassing, but no harm done. On the other hand, intentionally withholding your real evidence of wrongdoing until after your first proclaimed-evidence is exposed as non-evidence, that would be a kind of bad behavior that WND, the Examiner, myself, and a lot of your readers would all justifiably be a bit annoyed at.

[ed. Just speak for yourself, and not for people who you haven't interviewed. You had the ability to look for the evidence before you published your wack theory. The other evidence of wrongdoing which I did not publish was available to the public at the time this story went to press. Therefore, I didn't hold anything from the public that wasn't available to the public. If Justia didn't remove the evidence a few days later, the evidence would still be available to the public. So, when I published the story, anyone could have found the evidence by doing a Wayback Machine search. I'm not the one who hid the evidence that was available to the public at the time I published. The situation has now changed. Justia has removed the evidence and it is no longer available to the public. Therefore, I will fill the gap they created. Why don't you go get the info from Tim Stanley, bastion of freedom of information? Why do you need to get it from Leo Donofrio? I will supply it, but the need for me to supply is caused by Justia removing it. You had a few days to see it before they hid it. But that doesn't bother you. Benefit of doubt... caput. - Leo]

If there IS real evidence of suppression, I’ll be glad to help expose it, but you don’t really seem like the bad-behaving type, and the only evidence I have seen so far is evidence of error on your part, so at this point, that is what I am thinking is the real story here. If it is, you would by far be best to admit it.

[ed. You should already have the evidence in your possession. Don't blame me because you don't have it. It was freely available since I first published back in July all the way through this morning. Maybe you do have it, which must be considered since you mentioned something about staying up all night writing this blog of yours...and Justia didn't block access to their entire domain until this morning. And the fact that you haven't mentioned Justia's removal of evidence is kind of telling.

The bottom line is this... the evidence which disproves your theory was available to the public when I published the story... not just this story, but the one on July 1 as well. Justia hid the evidence by blocking Pope and Boyd at the Wayback Machine back in July. And now they've blocked their entire domain. Had they not blocked it, you would have had access to it right now as everyone did for the last few days. Now that Justia has hid the evidence, I will present what they have hidden. But it was their act of hiding it which makes the evidence so relevant now. Your theory was a fantasy I foresaw might come to pass... but only if Justia hid the evidence. Before they hid the evidence, your theory could not have existed because you, like the rest of the free world, would have seen in the Wayback Machine that there were two revisions, not one. It was the removal by Justia of that evidence which gave rise to your mis-guided theory.

I am out for the night. I will post more comments tomorrow. I couldn't moderate comments other than Alec's posts which needed special attention more than the numerous messages of praise and various points in favor of the story. I will get to the rest of your comments tomorrow.- Leo]

UPDATE CORRECTION: It turns out that Leo's real evidence, what he says above that he has been sitting on, has already been public since July. Very surprising that he didn't say that, but the upshot is that he seems to be right. It seems that before Justia decided to remove the Court's original citations for Minor v. Happersett they had already gone through and added the modern-format citations with the active links. Thus when they went in and removed the Courts original Minor v. Happersett language they were NOT substituting a modern-form citation for an older-form citation, but were simply removing the older-form citation. It does not seem that there could possibly be an innocent explanation for that, so this evidence changes the picture entirely. Here is the comment I added to our exchange in Leo's comment thread:
Leo: I looked at your screenshots for Boyd (Feb 19 2008 and Oct 2 2008) and see that they do indeed show what you say: that the changes Justia had made by February left the original citations intact and only added the modern-form citation. So why in the world does WND's publicization of your work contrast the expurgated version, not with the full earlier version, but with the earlier version that lacks the modern-form citation? Dianna Cotter's piece does the same thing! Neither of these publicizations shows the actual evidence that proves your case.

Of course these publicizations are how I heard about your work: I got an email from a friend early Monday alerting me to the WND and Examiner stories. I guess you can't control what these publicizers do, but their reporting is a major fail. Hadn't you better let them know? As for your response to me, you could have pointed out that you had already posted screenshots of Justia's pre-expurgated pages that include the modern-form citations, instead of telling me that you have been holding this evidence in reserve, just waiting for someone to made the criticisms that I made. Sheesh. I'm Glad to see that that is not actually what you were doing.

So there is the source of our conflict. The examples that were put forward by Bob Unruh and Dianna Cotter as your strongest evidence were not actually showing the evidence at all. Okay, so now Gilda Radner is laughing at me, and I'll update my post accordingly, but this a really REALLY bad job of publicity by Unruh and Cotter. They MANGLED your story. And you didn't realize it?
Obviously I could have been more thorough before posting, but when I followed the links from Examiner and WND to Leo's site, he was endorsing the WND and the Examiner pieces at the top of his post, which I took as an endorsement of their assertions that they were highlighting his strongest evidence. That's why I didn't feel the need to look at his other findings. I had supposedly already seen his strongest stuff.

Not so as it turns out. So I'll take my share of the blame, but Cotter, Unruh and Mr. Donofrio himself all led me down that garden path. I also let Leo know that I had updated:
Hi Leo:

I updated my post to credit your solid evidence of suppressive tampering by Justia:


Too bad Unruh and Cotter did not lead with this. I hope that oversight didn’t cost you a window of opportunity to reach a broader audience.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The moral perversity of "consensus" decision-making: how to suppress minority views AND overrule the majority

Occupy Wall Street has brought to light an unsettling new social form, where "assemblies" of Occupiers robotically repeat each person's words in a highly inefficient ritual of "consensus" decision-making. Inefficient, that is, in terms of communication, but maybe not so inefficient as a way of implicating all of the participants in the group's proclaimed unanimity, which these people hold to be a better form of democracy than majority rule.

In actuality, the requirement of unanimity is fundamentally anti-democratic. It pressures dissenters into abnegating their dissent while at the same time letting select minority viewpoints veto the will of the majority. No surprise there. The only actual alternative to majority rule is minority rule, which prevailed through most of human history. Only in the last three centuries has power shifted to the majority, most dramatically with the constitutional establishment of American republicanism (the system of liberty under law).

The first pillars of American republicanism are majority rule and minority rights. Select individuals are no longer able to lord over the majority and ALL individuals are accorded unbreakable scope for dissent and individual action. The rituals of unanimous consent are deeply hostile to both of these achievements, so why would anyone submit to it? Why would anyone agree to be silenced when in the minority and give way when they are in the majority?

A possible answer—the most likely answer—lies in the extraordinary manipulative power of consensus rituals. Leon Festinger discovered in the 1950s that if a person is somehow induced to act in violation of their beliefs then their beliefs will alter so as to come more into line with how they have acted. Take somebody whose desire is not to impose on others, tell them that unless they change their vote they will be blocking the will of the majority, and they can be manipulated into acceding to a unanimous vote that does impose on less-immediate others. I've seen it happen, and that act can change a person's beliefs.

Through an unconscious process, like the mind integrating a picture, the person starts to believe both in the particular imposition that she was pressured into voting for, and in the dissent-suppressing consensus rituals that she acceded to. Thus someone who does not want to impose on anyone or suppress dissent is turned into someone who is comfortable with both.

That is a potent little trick. For all of their foolish appearance, consensus rituals have the potential to be a serious instrument of totalitarian power, an engine for unplugging the most basic political morality. Many years ago I saw a less developed version of these rituals in action, and even then, the manipulative power was impressive.

"We do not allow (We do not allow) UNCONSENSUS! (UNCONSENSUS!)"

If you have not seen the incredible spectacle of these consensus rituals, take a look at what these people actually do. Here is Occupy Atlanta last week, turning down Congressman John Lewis's request to address their "assembly." Ten minutes of mind-deadening repitition:

At 9:34:
"This group (this group) makes its decisions (makes its decisions) by CONSENSUS! (by CONSENSUS!) We do not allow (We do not allow) UNCONSENSUS! (UNCONSENSUS!)"
In other words, they do not allow independent thought. The hive-mind repetition of every tedious word is a bizarre new development, but my one encounter with a Democratic Socialist group back in the mid 1980s had the "consensus" lunacy on full display, and the way it worked was very revealing.

Gorgeous chick baits the trap

The gorgeous chick was a purely coincidental part of my particular experience, but probably not uncommon, as much of the reason anyone ends up anywhere at that age is romantic. I had met a most attractive girl while randomly grabbing dinner at Stanford's activist "hippy dorm." This gal was Joan Baez pretty. Vivacious and modest, she even managed to be endearing in her little nods to political correctness.

Guys can be pretty flexible about things like that. Most Girls are followers so if we liked each other, she would follow me, right? I'd pull that stick out of her ass, and really, this gal was irresistible. I was unable to get her away from a couple of leftist guys who hovered possessively around but we still managed to catch each other's interest and she invited me to come to the Democratic Socialists meeting the next evening at the Old Union.

I wasn't sure what strain of illiberalism the Democratic Socialists represented, but for her sake, I poked my head in to see. When I arrived they were just taking up an urgent action-item. A conservative had been invited to come to Stanford to speak—in support of the Contras I think—and the leaders of the Democratic Socialists wanted to rush a statement over to the student government, then in session, calling for this "extreme" conservative (on the right side of history etcetera) to be barred from speaking on campus.

Before voting, or as their way of voting, they went around the room asking for each person's view. I let them know that I was just dropping in to check out their group. They said their policy was to include newcomers like me in their decision-making, so I participated.

The once-around revealed that I and a couple of other people were against any effort to block the conservative speaker. My fellow dissenters did some weighing back and forth. I opined that the idea was simply perverse. Somebody wants to speak. Others want to listen. Do you all actually want to forcibly block this consensual act?


It was about 12 to 3 in favor of banning the speaker, so we opponents would obviously lose the vote. To my surprise, that wasn't good enough for the Democratic Socialists. It turned out that they did this consensus thing, where anyone who disagreed with the majority was put in the position of having their individual vote outweigh the votes of everyone else unless they relented and changed their vote.

That was enough to pressure the couple of actual Democratic Socialists who disagreed with the ban into switching their votes to the majority position. They didn't want to be guilty of imposing their minority view on the majority, so they gave up their minority view. I challenged the consensus ideal itself. "Do whatever you want," I said. "What do you need MY permission for?"

"Because we do things by consensus," their lead speaker said: "We want to make sure we are representing everyone," as if minority rule was some better form of democracy, when it was really just classic peer pressure, leaning on people to pretend agreement with what they actually opposed. Then everyone would be equally implicated afterward, making it difficult for anyone to break away. The whiff of danger to reputation was palpable. I'd just seen two people attach their names to something grotesque, not because they agreed with it, but because their arms were twisted.

Interestingly, this oppressive groupism was the very rationale the more vocal members gave for wanting to ban the conservative speaker. If a conservative was allowed to speak at Stanford it would supposedly imply that everyone at Stanford had in some measure approved, not just of freedom of speech, but of this particular speaker's views. It didn't matter that this was counter-factual. Stanford does NOT operate on a principle of unanimity, where someone is allowed to speak only if everyone else approves, and nobody would be absurd enough to think it does, but minority rule WAS the mentality of this tiny minority group, which somehow made them feel that it was okay to overrule the basic liberties of the entire Stanford community.

If they really cared about consent, why were they trying to trample other people's consensual activities? The whole thing was absurd. "You're never going to get me to be part of your consensus," I assured them. If that meant they couldn't issue a call to ban the conservative speaker, so be it. I wasn't forcing them to follow the anti-democratic principle of minority-rule. The idea that they might follow it in this case was actually pretty amusing. In the end, of course, they did not follow their own rule.

Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance

It took them some puzzling to get around my opposition because they claimed that they had previously always included newcomers in their consensus rule. The better to force newcomers into identification with the group I presume, a la Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance.

The unanimity requirement takes a person's desire not to impose her minority view on the group (especially a group that she is just meeting), and levers it into pressure to go along with a consensus vote. If she succumbs to this pressure, and actually goes along with something she doesn't agree with, then a dissonance is created between her beliefs and her actions. In the 1950's, Festinger and others found that the mind tries to reduce such dissonances. It seems to seek out a coherent understanding that it can act from, and since the mind can't change past actions, the only way to reduce dissonance is for the mind to alter a person's beliefs so that they come more into line with how the person has acted.

For the newcomer who submits to a unanimity voting ritual, Festinger's theory says that there will be a subconscious tendency for her to come to believe both in the majority position that she acceded to, and in the concept of consensus decision-making that she participated in. That's a powerful cult-inducing mechanism, using a person's desire not to impose on others to turn her into someone who does believe in twisting people's arms. It's actually virus-like, turning the body's own resources against it. It's actually HIV-like, because it is the body's defense against illiberal invasion that gets re-programmed into its opposite.

Was I really the first newcomer who hadn't gone along with this arm twisting? In any case, since I questioned not just the particular action they were voting on, but the whole idea of consensus voting, their lead speaker decided that I really wasn't part of their group at all, allowing them to go ahead and form a consensus without me, which is the first reasonable thing I had heard all night.

Today's consensoids take it to another level

So ended my reconnoitering mission to see if I could slip an especially beautiful and engaging young woman away from the leftist camp. How she could abide those totalitarian-minded men is a mystery. Either she was an uncritical follower, or she was just not as nice as I wanted to imagine. Either way, I was not going to waste any more time on the Democratic Socialists.

Now seeing in these new repeat-every-word groups how thoroughly cult-like the petty tyranny of phony "consensus" can become, I wonder if I missed an opportunity to rescue a damsel in distress, but it was all so patently wrong that it really did not occur to me how anyone could be unable to withdraw on their own. Yet there sit all those people on the video, slavishly repeating each slavish word.

This is their picture of an ideal society? Not even Mao tried to control people's minds to this extent. It's Borg-like. Do they call themselves "The Borg Collective"? Did they get the idea from watching Star Trek? That would actually seem to be a likely explanation if not for the clear roots of this behavior in earlier leftist protocols of "consensus" decision-making.

Festinger's theory suggests the effect that participating in such rituals will have on the human mind. Just the fact of doing it will tend to flush all of the beliefs that are inconsistent with it, and consensus decision-making is deeply hostile both to minority views and to majority rule. Thus whatever was at one time semi-understood by these people about respect for minority rights and majority rule will soon be expunged.

To the extent that Festinger identified a real psychological mechanism, these rituals of consensus are an eggbeater, systematically lobotomizing whatever allegiance to liberty and democracy these people ever possessed. Very not good.

RELATED: The Flight 93 Memorial Project used demands for consensus to keep the public from learning about the extreme level of conflict on the design competition jury that selected the Crescent of Embrace design


I wrote about this last month:
Flt 93 mother on Crescent jury: "I don't want to reach out to those people! THEY MURDERED MY DAUGHTER!"
Left wing design professionals on the jury had already charged Tom Burnett Sr. with anti-Muslim bigotry for objecting to the Crescent design just because the crescent is a long established symbol of Islam. It was in the face of this bald attempt at censorship that the mother cried out against the Crescent design. In her agony, she refused to be silenced. Brave woman.

The left-wing design professionals, who outnumbered the family members 8 to 7, were able to win the vote. The official tally was 9 to 6 for the Crescent, with the family members almost certainly voting 5-to-2 or 6-to-1 against.

If the details came out, that result would never stand, so the Park Service conveniently "lost" the minutes (which were supposed to be made public), and they have refused to provide the roll of the vote (which was not supposed to be secret). These were volunteer representatives of the people, conducting the people's business. All was supposed to be transparent, but the Park Service went to the opposite extreme.

In the wake of the vote, extreme pressure was brought on all participants to approve a declaration of unanimous support. The Memorial Project offered a deal to Mr. Burnett that they would change the Crescent name if that would bring him on board with such a declaration. He said "no," which explains why the Park Service did not heed the jury recommendation to do away with the Crescent name: it did not buy them the unanimity they were looking for, so why bother?

Mr. Burnett says that in the face of his opposition, the vote to unanimously support the chosen design never took place, but that hasn't stopped the Memorial Project (in a 2007 White Paper on the memorial controversy) from claiming that the jury did vote unanimously to support the chosen design.

They certainly did apply tremendous pressure on dissenting jury members to make a show of unanimity, which would require remaining silent about their opposition to the Crescent design. This is the likely explanation for why that Flight 93 mother, who saw the Islamic-shaped Crescent as a symbol of outreach to the people who murdered her daughter, never spoke out publicly against Murdoch's design. The Memorial Project bullied her into accepting that if she maintained her minority view, she was failing to support the majority decision.

That is not what acceptance of majority rule means. It does NOT mean that disagreements with the majority get silenced. Is it not enough that the minority loses to the majority? Should they really also have to shut the hell up? Again, the doctrine of unanimity shows its totalitarian essence. Far from being a better form of democracy, this fraudulent pretense of minority empowerment is an instrument for the extreme suppression of minority views.

Not that minority views will always be suppressed under consensus rules. When the leadership is in the minority, you can be guaranteed that the majority position will be blocked for lack of unanimity. The abandonment of majority rule allows the leadership both to silence the minority AND to overrule the majority. That this flesh-eating bacteria would be efflorescing all across the body of the activist Obama-left is a very alarming sign.

Obama's minions

The robotic chanters of unanimity are a would-be Red Brigades. All across the nation they are clamoring for power, determined to stamp out dissent from their own inarticulate ideas. They can't even figure out what they are protesting about. All they know for sure is that they hate capitalism (economic liberty), and they hate "unconsensus" (liberty of thought). Oh yeah, and they love Obama.

No surprise there. Obama's entire pre-electoral career was as a paid professional communist in the actual employ of "community activist" groups started by the immediate students and acolytes of Saul Alinsky, the leading American communist of the 20th century. There have never been more than a handful of paid professional communists in the entire history of the country. Now, thanks to our radical left-wing Democrat-controlled media, we actually managed to elect one to the presidency, with the vast majority of Americans having no clue that Obama was/is an actual literal professional communist by trade.

With Dear Leader in the White House, the incipient Red Brigades of chanting "consensus" should not be taken lightly. These are HIS minions, organized by his communist comrade Van Jones and funded by his top political advisor Patrick Gaspard, another paid professional communist in the employ of another Alinsky-fathered group (ACORN).

Gallery of consensus-ritual videos

Consensus chanting from Van Jones:

And from Occupy Chicago:

Unholy cow! Now they're chanting "sex with animals":

UPDATE An insider account of Occupy Wall Street's "General Assembly" details how leaders use consensus rules to silence opposition and usurp power. Apparently six leaders have been conspiring to take personal control of the half million dollars that OWS has raised, vesting themselves as Spokes Council (like the UN's Security Council vis a vis the UN's General Assembly), with final say on everything.

The creation of such a council is rationalized on the grounds that, under consensus rules, nothing can get done otherwise, and while the General Assembly has a figurehead power to overrule the council, it can never happen because council members are part of the General Assembly and can under the minority rule of consensus rules can block any attempt to overturn their own decisions. "Animal Farm meets Animal House" as Ed Morrissey puts it.

Other psychology posts

Study linking utilitarian moral views to psychopathology is actually measuring irreligiosity

Slanderous theory of the "conservative" mind reveals the actual working of the illiberal "liberal" mind

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Eliminate weight-cutting from combat sports by controlling for water weight

Weight-class combatants who are able to cut the most water weight for weigh-ins, then get it back before fight time, gain a size advantage. That makes the ability to cut weight a basic component of fight competition. But should it be, and does it need to be?

There IS an alternative. Instead of having fighters actually go through the process of losing water weight, blood samples could be used to measure the water content of bodily fluids and calculate how much additional water weight the person could safely lose, without their actually having to lose it. Subtract that amount of "excess" water weight from the fighter's scale-weight to get their weigh-in weight.

This water-controlled weigh-in weight would arguably be a fairer measure of fighting weight than the weight-cutting system produces. Fighters with the same water-controlled weigh-in weight would have the same tissue mass, sans fluids. Thus a fighter who has been exceptionally good at cutting and regaining water weight, like current UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo, will lose his size advantage. Aldo (who needs no size advantage) has been consistently larger than his opponents come fight time. Under a water controlled system, they would be the same size, which seems right. Is an ability to lose water weight a fighting skill? No. So why should it be rewarded inside the Octagon?

The biggest reason to switch to water-controlled weigh-in weights is to avoid the health risks of severe dehydration. Less water makes bodily fluids thicker, which can put tremendous stress on the circulatory system and other organ systems, depending on how extreme the water loss is. That combatants at all levels are engaging in this practice, even in high school wrestling, means a huge price is being paid by a huge number of people just to be able to compete.

A coordination problem

Cutting water weight is what economists call a "coordination problem." If everyone is equally good at it then nobody gets an advantage from it, but everyone has to do it in order to keep the OTHER guy from getting an advantage from it. If only everyone could agree not to do it, then everyone would be better off. Everyone would be spared the discomfort and the health risks of dehydration, but there is no way to enforce such an agreement. Everyone would have an incentive to cheat, and it would be impossible to even define what cheating was. How could an agreed upon level of hydration even be defined?

Technology can solve this coordination problem by simply removing water from the equation. Drink as much water as you want before weigh-in. Blood samples will allow that water weight to be subtracted back out. If somebody tries to get an advantage by losing water weight, they can't do it. The blood test detects their low water weight and accordingly subtracts less water weight when calculating their weigh-in weight.

"Making weight" will become a long-term rather than a short-term proposition. Fighters will still have some ability to lose weight in the short-term by fasting for a day or two before weigh-ins (allowing the alimentary canal to empty out), but they will only be able to lose a couple of pounds this way. Water-controlled or water-compensated weight will primarily be a function of how much muscle and fat a person has.

Moving muscle and fat up and down takes longer time periods, on the order of weeks at least. Fighters just have to make sure far enough ahead of a fight that their weight is on the right trajectory (just as they do now). They'll need to be a little bit more disciplined than now, because they won't be able to drop an extra couple of pounds through more extreme dehydration. On the other hand, the formula they'll need to follow is very simple. They just stay at the maximum weigh-in weight for their class, plus their normal water allowance, plus the three or so pounds for what they can lose by last minute fasting. Then the only way to get a weight advantage will be to have a higher ratio of muscle to fat than the other guy, which is as it should be.

Calibrating the "excess water weight" measurement

Substantial testing would be required to identify just how blood thickness varies with water-weight at each level of hydration. The formula for using blood thickness to calculate excess water-weight would also vary by body size, but the "experiments" necessary to calibrate these calculations are already being run. Fighters and wrestlers all over the country are cutting weight all the time. We just need to start collecting the data. How much does their blood thicken per pound of water-weight loss? Once we calibrate that relationship for each body size then we can determine, for a given blood thickness, what the fighter's weight would be if the maximum safe amount of water was removed, and that's their water-controlled weigh-in weight.

If a suitable water-content test for blood is not already available then one would have to be developed. Maybe a simple mechanical viscosity test would do. Then a couple of years of the UFC systematically collecting data on how blood thickens with water-weight loss and the relationship would be well enough calibrated to enable a switch over to water-controlled weigh-in weights.

Better for the fans too, as fighters will be sharper, not having just put themselves through the dehydration ringer. Soon the fight world will be looking back on the late 20th and early 21st centuries as the bad old days, when everybody had to go through hell just to get in the door for weight-group competition. Good riddance. Training and fighting are grueling enough.

Cross-posted at MMAlinker. For background, you can read here about Jose Aldo's struggle to make weight for the Mark Hominick fight (where he gassed, but still won), and here is Dr. Benjamin's Q and A on the medical dangers of weight cutting.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Study linking utilitarian moral views to psychopathology is actually measuring irreligiosity

The study, "Antisocial personality traits predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas," asked about hypotheticals where the subject could save several innocent lives by taking steps to sacrifice fewer innocent lives instead. E.g.:
"A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people, and you are standing on a footbridge next to a large stranger; your body is too light to stop the train, but if you push the stranger onto the tracks, killing him, you will save the five people. Would you push the man?"
People who answered "yes" turned out to also score higher on tests for psychopathic tendencies. Interesting, but the "utilitarianism" answer to this kind of question turns on a lot more than utilitarian views. It also turns crucially on religious views. A person who believes that there is a God who has his own mysterious purposes for the directions that people's lives take will not want to step in and "play God" himself, deciding who should live and who should die, because he knows that he himself DOES NOT have some wise master plan for the course of other people's lives. Religious people will be glad to try to save lives, but will be very reluctant to intervene to trade one life for another.

Thus the actual correlation that the study is finding could well be between irreligiosity and psychopathology. Is there a way to separate out the religious from the utilitarian components of the question, in order to determine which is responsible for the correlation with psychopathology? One possible control would be to preface the trolley question with an instruction to "suppose that there is no God," but religious people might not really be able to inhabit that hypothetical, making the control ineffective. You can't very well discern someone's moral framework by asking them to assume it away.

Another possibility is to ask at what point someone would sacrifice their OWN life to save x number of innocent others. Would they trade their life for ten innocent others, a hundred, a thousand, for everybody else in the world? The lower the number the more utilitarian the subject (so long as the number is greater than one). THAT measure of utilitarian tendencies would presumably not correlate with psychopathology. Did they ask it?

It sounds like they didn't. At least, that is the gist of the authors' own critique of their own study (!), as contained in their own press release:
While some might be tempted to conclude that these findings undermine utilitarianism as an ethical theory, Prof. Bartels explained that he and his co-author have a different interpretation: "Although the study does not resolve the ethical debate, it points to a flaw in the widely-adopted use of sacrificial dilemmas to identify optimal moral judgment. These methods fail to distinguish between people who endorse utilitarian moral choices because of underlying emotional deficits (like those captured by our measures of psychopathology and Machiavellianism) and those who endorse them out of genuine concern for the welfare of others." In short, if scientists' methods cannot identify a difference between the morality of a utilitarian philosopher who sacrifices her own interest for the sake of others, and a manipulative con artist who cares little about the feelings and welfare of anyone but himself, then perhaps better methods are needed.
If their questions fail to distinguish between people who would sacrifice themselves vs. people who would only sacrifice others, this would seem to be an easy lack to supply. Just add some questions about self sacrifice. And why not probe for religious views while they are at it, since a correlation between irreligious views and psychopathology is clearly part of what their initial results are measuring. Might as well try to find out how big a part.

UPDATE: I sent a note to one of the authors, professor Bartels:
How people answer "playing god" type questions will obviously be affected by whether they believe that there is already a God who is playing god.
Haven't heard back.

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