Downright Diabolical

Yesterday, while I was enjoying a cup of coffee at one of the allegedly hipster coffeehouses I frequent, the woman at the next table struck up a conversation. She and her husband had just returned from a bike ride about ten miles up the coast. I objected that the bike paths were closed by order of our scary-looking county public health official and assorted lesser authorities. I was informed that they were now open, whereupon I set off to explore.

Indeed, it was true! I was overjoyed. Everyone was delighting in a beautiful day by the beach, reveling in their new-found freedom. I was grateful to be able to resume some normal activities. Only one day before, there were orange barricades blocking entry and at many points along this path, and rent-a-cops enforcing the no-go zone. [click on photo to enlarge]... [Read More]

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The Science Is Settled

In 2005, epidemiologist and physician John Ioannidis published the controversial and famous paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False in PLOS Medicine. He showed there were sound reasons to be skeptical of most published research, especially those results that rely on statistical analysis to draw conclusions about the relationship between two phenomena. Familiar examples:
• How effective is a drug?
• Does a substance in the environment increase the incidence of cancer?
• What is health effect of a food?
As he suggests, the science in most of these cases is far from settled.

By 2014, Ioannidis’s fame had grown to pop-science level. He was invited to do one of the Talks at Google, where he was given a fawning introduction by the earnest and callow member of the “People Operations Team.” He can do no wrong.... [Read More]

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Cop Stands Up for the Constitution

A Port of Seattle police officer posted a video on YouTube on May 5 decrying the enforcement of “tyrannical orders against the people.” It was primarily directed at other police officers and was initially praised by his superiors. Within three hours, they contacted him again asking him to remove it, citing higher authorities. He refused and was threatened with sanctions (“documents will be found”). He was fired. Independent of the subsequent controversy, his original video is worth a look. This is a re-post of the original video, which he claims had over a million views and much support from other law enforcement officers. He raises the issues of the consent of the governed and of the dangers for LEOs under the loss of public trust.

... [Read More]

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Musk is Getting Musky

Elon got a little testy about the lockdown:

So, the extension of the shelter in place or frankly I would call it forcibly imprisoning in their homes against all their constitutional rights, that’s my opinion, and breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why people came to America or built this country. What the f***? Excuse me. The outrage, just an outrage.

And all of people’s — everything people have worked for their whole life is going get — is being destroyed in real time and we’re going to have many suppliers and are having many suppliers that are having super hard times, especially the small ones. And it’s just causing a lot of strife to a lot of people.

I think that people are going to be very angry about this and are very angry. Is this — somebody should be — if somebody wants to stay in the house, that’s great. They should be allowed to stay in their house and they should not be compelled to leave. But to say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is this is fascist. This is not democratic. This is not freedom people. Give people back their God d***** freedom.... [Read More]

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Sex

Yesterday I learned a new thing about sex: the ZW sex determination system. Everyone knows about the XY system: the girls have XX and the boys have XY chromosomes. In college we used James D. Watson’s Molecular Biology of the Gene (2nd ed.). The book is currently in its 7th edition. Early in the text, there’s a section entitled “Chromosomal Determination of Sex” from which I’ve reproduced (pun intended) the page below. Species as disparate as humans, fruit flies (Drosophila), and some plants use the XY system. I figured that’s all there was to it, aside from plants, since that’s all Mr. Watson had to say on the subject. If you already know all about the ZW system, accept my apologies, feel free to congratulate yourself on your erudition, and move on to a different post.

... [Read More]

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Pennsylvania Has a New Snitch Form

Good citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania! You can now rat out, snitch, or drop a dime on your business neighbors using this brand new COVID-19 Complaint Form, brought to you by your friendly NKVD Department of Health. Admittedly, it’s not quite as convenient as Mayor De Blasio’s social distancing tip line.

There’s a dozen categories of infractions listed, besides the catch-all “other.” Pennsylvania has not confined itself to tattling on violators within the Commonwealth; users are free to finger anyone in these United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. Notably absent from the type of business category checkboxes on the form is “state government.”... [Read More]

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Let My People Go

Every evening, people gather by the beach near me to enjoy the sunset. The mini-Mussolinis in my town have decided to make it illegal to stand on the ocean side of the street and have closed off the sidewalk. For a few days the police were leaving folks alone to stray across the street but last evening they drove down the street yelling at the citizens to get out. Tonight, the people came back and the police have backed off. We had our own tiny version of the protests seen across the land. This is a view from the (forbidden) ocean side of the street looking inland.

... [Read More]

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I’ve Got a Receipt for That Bill of Rights

Victor Davis Hanson has a new column up. He has some choice words about the proto-tyrants that occupy the governor’s mansions.

Out of nowhere little Napoleonic governors arise to enact decrees prohibiting gardening or strolling on an empty beach — decrees that seem to have little purpose other than to reflect that they can do so.... [Read More]

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Seeing a Black Hole

Almost exactly one year ago, the Event Horizon Telescope project released the first image of a black hole, thereby making headlines all over the world, including at Ratburger. The director of the project, Sheperd Doeleman, gave the public lecture at the virtual April meeting of the American Physical Society earlier today. Most of the talks at the meeting require registration but this link should be accessible to unregistered viewers. If that doesn’t work, the talk was also posted on Facebook (FB account is not required). The public lecture is designed to be accessible to non-specialists. I thought he did a decent job.

EHT image of the black hole in M87 (Wikipedia)

M87 is an elliptical galaxy in the Virgo constellation. It’s about 53 million light years from Earth. That’s some social distancing!

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Lord, I Love These People

The good people of Michigan converged on the state capital to protest Governor Karen O’Karenheimer’s shutdown.

Thousands of cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles joined an #OperationGridlock protest organized by a conservative group called the Michigan Conservative Coalition Wednesday, blocking streets in Michigan’s state capital, Lansing. The march is a demonstration against the state’s coronavirus quarantine “Stay Home” order.... [Read More]

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The Great Plague of ’17-’18

More than 60,000 Americans died. About 45 million were infected and 800,000 were hospitalized. News coverage of the event: crickets. Of course, way back then we didn’t have the careful, dare I say heroic, news media we have today. And to be fair, they were busy with more important things like Russian collusion and OMB* to bother covering the flu season of 2017-18.

The overall burden of influenza for the 2017-2018 season was an estimated 45 million influenza illnesses, 21 million influenza-associated medical visits, 810,000 influenza-related hospitalizations, and 61,000 influenza-associated deaths.†... [Read More]

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