Hesitation and Anti-Chivalry

In the comments to the post below, a commenter writes:
Off the topic, has anyone seen the "no more hesitation" targets being supplied to the Government? Like something that would be supplied to the "Einsatzgruppen". They are disturbing on a visceral level. Unlike all other official government products, they are uniquely non-diverse. Just an oversight, surely. Love to hear your comments on them, Grim-they represent a sort of "anti-chivalry".
I have heard of these products, and seen them. You can read about the controversy here and here. Let's look at a few of them, and then I'll give you my thoughts.

These targets are for law-enforcement training, and are called the "No More Hesitation" series. The company confirmed the intention was to train police not to hesitate to shoot these kinds of people. It's also clear why that might be important: hesitating to shoot someone who already has a firearm pointed at you can get you killed. Thus, this series exists to help police practice shooting people with guns pointed at them even if they happen to be pregnant women, children, little girls standing next to their even smaller brothers, and so on.

Training to kill such people must be undertaken with a very serious mind. I can give a case when killing such a person -- without hesitation -- might be appropriate: but it is not a policing case. It is a case from war. If you are operating against the kind of enemy that brainwashes children, or uses pregnant (or apparently-pregnant) women as suicide bombers, you may need this kind of training. In this case an enemy is relying on your humanity to give them a window to conduct a high-casualty attack. Sadly we have seen this in places like Iraq and Israel, so it is a consideration we have to take seriously. If a quick kill is necessary to prevent the detonation of such a weapon, and if such a detonation would injure more innocent people than the child you are killing to stop it, then it might be justifiable.

Killing pregnant women or children even in those circumstances is a serious moral crime. However, in that special case, the crime is not yours. It belongs to the men who bent the weak to their evil will.

However, that special case does not seem to include the intent of these targets. The above article includes a comment from a reader, who points out that most of the series has people inside their own homes -- wearing night-dresses and so forth -- who are pointing guns at the police officer. Now this seems to be exactly the kind of case in which hesitation is most appropriate, as these people have a legitimate right to have a handgun and to be responding with it to an intrusion. De-escalation training is surely what is needed here: to try to find a way to walk the situation away from where shots get fired at all.

If instead you are training to shoot without hesitation, what you are doing is dishonorable. To honor is to sacrifice, of yourself or your possessions, for something or someone you value more. Honor is the quality of a man who does this.

The path of honor in a case like this is to hesitate, to make the sacrifice of taking the risk onto yourself instead of making the child bear it. The purpose of the strong is to protect the weak: it is the reason you were given strength. You should hesitate long before you kill a child to save yourself, or a pregnant woman, or the elderly. Anyone who cannot see that is dishonorable, and unfit to bear arms.

An organization that teaches the strong to protect themselves at the expense of the weak is evil. It should be disbanded, replaced if necessary but with an entirely new organization, with a new corporate culture and no members who were associated with the decision to execute this kind of training.

At this time, of course, we only know that this product line was made available -- we do not know which agencies or forces undertook to train with it.  We should push to find out, and remove anyone who thought this was a good idea from public service.

Those are my thoughts, since you asked.

This Should Go Over Well...

The Georgia General Assembly has decided to consider a bill exempting itself from the gun control laws it imposes on everyone else. You might think they are chiefly interested in being able to carry a firearm to work during days when the Legislature is in session. No, actually, that's the one thing they're omitting. The exception to the law is structured as follows:
Current and former members of the General Assembly who possess a valid weapons carry license issued in this state; provided, however, that no member of the General Assembly shall be authorized to carry a weapon within the chamber of the House of Representatives or the chamber of the Senate.
Special privileges for the government, the law for the little people. Well, we'll see if they have the guts to go through with it. I gather it's getting a pretty hot response from the citizenry.

UPDATE: See the comments for a list of email addresses of the committee members considering the bill. I noted there that we can't be sure how many of them support it, so letter writers should not assume that they are writing to opponents.

UPDATE: Rep. Kevin Cooke, one of the committee members, has gotten back to me to clarify that he personally opposes the bill. He writes to express strong support for a strict-constructionist reading of the 2nd Amendment, and the right to bear arms. So we have at least one friend on the committee!

A modest proposal

Frank Fleming wrestles with the perennial problem of what to do if we ever get a President who isn't perfect.  This problem came up first with George Washington, but the Founding Fathers wisely foresaw that they shouldn't make him emperor even though he'd have been great, because it seemed likely he wouldn't live forever:
[T]ake this power to kill Americans with drones.  No one worries that Obama will abuse such a power — I mean, we’re talking about a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for existing.  It’s not like he’s ever going to use that power to blow us up (though, according to his lawyers, he legally could . . . and if he did, we’d just have to assume he had really, really good reasons).  But just imagine if that power wound up in the hands of a president like George W. Bush.  He’d probably blow up people with the drone all day, thinking he was playing a video game (“I’m gettin’ me a high score!”).  Or worse yet, think of handing Dick Cheney that power.  He’d most likely declare a unilateral war on kittens and puppies, blowing them up from the sky and then collecting the tears of children for some evil Halliburton project. 
. . . 
The obvious solution is to have Obama be president forever, but that’s not practical.  Eventually Obama will get bored and want to be president of a country he likes better than this one. 
. . . 
So the only option left is to consider curtailing a bit of the power we’re allowing Obama, because someday we might have a president who is completely detached from average Americans, doesn’t care about our problems, and ruins everything he touches — someone completely unlike Obama.  I mean, just imagine all that power Obama has in the hands of someone who completely sucks at being president.  The economy would be ruined, we’d have disastrous situations abroad, and our liberties would be threatened.  It would be a lot like now, but instead of it being Bush’s fault, it would be the fault of the current president.  So to keep that from happening, we’ll have to do the hard thing and put more limitations on Obama’s power. I’m sure he’ll understand and not drone-strike us.

An Exciting Step Forward

It's not every day that one sees a genuinely good idea from the political class. If only this solution could be implemented as widely as it deserves to be!

Postal chic

The U.S. Postal Service financial woes are not news.  Most of us probably have been following them in more or less detail as they struggled with the sort of turgid institutional inertia that makes reform difficult even as an obvious disaster looms.  It was not to be expected that they would think outside the box.

And yet they have:
The Postal Service announced Tuesday that it has partnered with a Cleveland-based apparel company to launch a USPS clothing line, set to hit stores in early 2014. . . .   “This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion,” said Postal Service Corporate Licensing Manager Steven Mills in [a press] release.
Did someone hire a McKinsey consultant? Is there an edgy marketing revolution brewing in the august halls of this ancient American institution?  Are upper-level management meetings now dominated by discussion of hot trends and cross-marketing?  Will we soon see high-concept TV fashion ads featuring mailmen braving the snow, wind, and sleet?  My mind, I say, wanders in these regions, lost.

Playing catchup

I can't remember how I got there, but I've been enjoying a new site today called "Popehat," especially a piece about Alvin Toffler's successive waves of change in human society.  In the original state of human culture, hunter-gatherers bumped up against a limiting condition of enough food.  Utopia was a place where there was plenty to eat.  Next came agriculture, which increased productivity and the food supply.  "Agriculture allowed us to harvest more calories per hour of labor."  The limiting condition was arable land.  This was followed by industrialization, which increased productivity again. "Industry allowed us to harvest more material wealth per hour of labor."  The limiting condition was capital; in Utopia there would enough machinery for everyone.  Finally, in the post-industrial society, "information technology allows us to harvest more informed decisions per hour of labor."   The limiting condition on prosperity has become scarce mental skills.

The author identifies the problem with many political schemes as "retrograde Utopian solutions."  Land redistribution, or socialist redistribution of the means of factory production, he sees as beside the point.  The current approach to a shortage of genius is to tax the highly creative and successful at extremely high rates.  The commenters try to explore a solution that increases cognitive skills via education, to which the author wryly responds, "What mechanism do you think turns cash into geniuses?"   There follows a spirited discussion of education and intelligence (with a long detour into the usual arguments for and against the minimum wage).

Fake explanations

Or, how not to fool ourselves into thinking we have an explanation before we do.  Sometimes "I don't know" is the only reasonable answer.  If your explanation ( e.g., "phlogiston") would have served equally well to explain any other outcome, it's not an explanation.  It hasn't added to your knowledge.

The site describes fallacies in assessing probabilities and risks, too.  Apparently there is a strong human tendency to overestimate a risk stated in whole numbers rather than percentages, so that a disease sounds more dangerous if it kills 1,000 out of each 100,000 affected than if it kills 2%:  those thousand bodies weigh on the hindbrain.  We also have only a limited inborn talent for distinguishing between the risk and reward of a chancy proposition.  The more convinced we are of the benefits of a course of action, the lower our assessment of its risk, even when the two have nothing at all to do with each other.  These are new skills in the evolutionary sense, for which we haven't yet developed much in the way of gut-level shortcuts.


A friend sent me these pictures of the recent works of her hand.

Handcraft is central to my life.  This weekend is our annual Oysterfest.  I have three friends coming to stay with me who are something out of the ordinary in the way of handcraft:  everything from spinning to weaving to chair caning to handmade boats.  They're all fine musicians as well.  It's a weekend I look forward to all year.

Respect My Authoritah

That's actually the title of David Foster's funny piece about Nancy Pelosi's demand to monetize her dignity (who knew she was so into the commercial mindset?  Next she'll be defending profit).  But it seemed also to describe this handwringer from the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled "How Rude!  Reader Comments May Undermine Scientists’ Authority":
Scientists have a hard enough time getting people to understand what they’re talking about. 
Their thoughts can be complicated.  Their sentences can be laden with jargon.  And their conclusions can offend political or religious sensibilities. 
And now, to make things worse, readers have an immediate forum to talk back.  And when some readers post uncivil comments at the bottom of online articles, that alone can raise doubts about the underlying science, a new study has found.  Or at least reinforce those doubts.
What follows is a summary report of a study showing that readers were less swayed by an argument about the risks of nanotechnology when it was followed by rude comments than when it was followed by polite ones.  The article's author described the experiment as having taken care to ensure that the substance of the comments was the same, and all that was varied was their tone.  Hard to say, since the paper was presented at a conference and hasn't been published yet.  It's due to be published soon in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication ("CMC," for those in the know).  I found something similar, perhaps, in the current issue, "The Impact of Language Variety and Expertise on Perceptions of Online Political Discussions," which contained this delightful early subsection heading:  "Status Cues and Heuristic Processing in CMC."  So right away we get some clues about the balderdash quotient (BD).  (I'm sorry; I'm afraid that was rude.  But I'm working on a peer-reviewed paper establishing universal units for the Cognitively Heuristic BD (CHBD), and the grant money is just pouring in.)

Is this a new thing, all the concern over whether the public is getting heuristically out of hand and needs better cognitive processing so we technocrats can maintain our authoritah?  Or have I just not been paying enough attention to the hilarious stuff that gets published?  (A classic early example is "Transgressing the Boundaries:  Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.")

Rudeness is a problem, certainly.  Among its other drawbacks, it heightens emotions, not usually a helpful means of facilitating the exchange of complex ideas.  It also often wrenches the focus of discussion from the relevant to the irrelevant, especially to the personal characteristics and politics of the authors.

But if the motive for censoring rude remarks is to prevent a loss of the readers' confidence in the authority of the beleaguered scientists, then count me unconvinced.  That's just asking for moderators to censor remarks according to their ostensible ability to undercut the argument in the main post.  Even if the moderator is concerned about the unfair tactic of "rudeness," who among us wouldn't be corrupted by that standard?  It will lead to a censorship standard that's weighted by the content of the argument instead of by its style.  As commenter JD Eveland wrote:
Consider, for example, the following range of possible comments: 
(a) "Fantastic!  Amazing!  I'm putting your name into Nobel consideration right away!" 
(b) "Interesting paper.  However, I do have some concerns with how the statistical analysis was conducted." 
(c) "The results are rendered largely uninterpretable due to the investigators' choice of a repeated measures analysis of variance rather than a regression model, as is currently taught in all reasonably respectable doctoral programs." 
(d) "Obviously, the results in this article were scraped off the bottom of a birdcage after the data had been statistically processed by the bird." 
(e) "You're a poopypants, and your data analyst is a stupid f**k!  You obviously learned all you know about statistics off the back of a bag of birdseed!  I'm coming after you, and your little dog too!" 
We'd all probably agree that result (e) would be considered rude, and most of us would also apply that to (d).  On the other hand, (c) could easily be considered rude by some scientists, although it might not have been intended as such by the respondent, since that's just the way he talks to everyone including his students and his wife.  (b) would probably not be considered rude by anyone offering it, although some scientists are sensitive enough to see it as such; indeed, there are even those insecure enough as to see anything short of (a) to be rude.
What I'm describing here is rampant PC culture.  The last thing scientists need is a less hostile working environment for their tender arguments. Sound ideas can stand some rough and tumble.

Rules of thumb

We were discussing below whether it means anything to talk about the scourge of U.C.H.  I am referring, of course, to the unintentionally humorous criticism by Don Kahan of the "unreliable cognitive heuristics" of the unwashed masses.  We just cannot get them to take our word for stuff any more.  They keep relying on their guts to decide whether we're crying wolf and trying to dazzle them with B.S.  Where's the trust?

What's funny is the idea that your average smart Yalie uses something better than rules of thumb to weigh essentially unquantifiable risks for political purposes.  If you're of a rigorous turn of mind, you can get a pretty good handle on risks in repetitive situations that are susceptible to statistical analysis.  You can't get anything like a rigorous handle on risks from models of the behavior of chaotic systems that have never met the gold standard of predictions confirmed by observations (and no fair back-fitting with previously unidentified critical factors).  The best anyone could ever get out of an emerging science of prediction is a gut feel, an instinct for where to focus future research.

Richard Feynman analyzed the failure of the Challenger shuttle.  He found that people were sharpening their pencils to an absurd degree and fooling themselves into thinking they had pinpointed risk out to a number of decimal points.  In fact, they were piling probability assumption on probability assumption, when no single assumption had a solid empirical basis:
It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life.  The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000.  The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management.  What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement?  Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?" . . .  There is nothing much so wrong with this as believing the answer!  Uncertainties appear everywhere. . . . When using a mathematical model careful attention must be given to uncertainties in the model. . . . 
There was no way, without full understanding, that one could have confidence that conditions the next time might not produce erosion three times more severe than the time before.  Nevertheless, officials fooled themselves into thinking they had such understanding and confidence, in spite of the peculiar variations from case to case.  A mathematical model was made to calculate erosion.  This was a model based not on physical understanding but on empirical curve fitting."
He concluded with one of my favorite statements, a truly reliable rule of thumb:  "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

University of Colorado Guide for Women Under Attack

The debate about whether students should carry arms on campus is going on here in Georgia as well at it is in Colorado. It's worth remembering that this is the underlying debate to the recent comments by Rep. Salazar. The question at issue is whether students -- and not just female students -- shall be permitted to carry guns on campus, or whether they shall not be.

This is the same student body who reliably gets drunk and wrecks the campus after every winning football game, so I take the issue to be a more serious question than I normally accept gun control arguments to be. This is a group of people who are technically adults, but who are permitted to behave a little less like adults than their cohorts who do not have 'college life' as an excuse. I think we should extend the full rights due to adults to those who prove they will resist that temptation and behave like adults, but the institutions have too long permitted tomfoolery for us to simply assume that everyone will be grown up from now on. Some mechanism needs to be in place to ensure that students who want to bear arms on campus are living up to their responsibilities as adults.

So I'm willing to accept that these students ought to prove themselves to be adults before given the full rights of adults. Nevertheless, the college's actual advice to female students is highly insulting.
1. Be realistic about your ability to protect yourself.
2. Your instinct may be to scream, go ahead! It may startle your attacker and give you an opportunity to run away.
3. Kick off your shoes if you have time and can’t run in them.
4. Don’t take time to look back; just get away.
5. If your life is in danger, passive resistance may be your best defense.
6. Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating.
7. Vomiting or urinating may also convince the attacker to leave you alone.
8. Yelling, hitting or biting may give you a chance to escape, do it!
9. Understand that some actions on your part might lead to more harm.
10. Remember, every emergency situation is different. Only you can decide which action is most appropriate.
Of these all, number seven is the most insulting. Imagine telling a young man of college age, "If someone should attack you, pee on yourself." This is great advice for a puppy who wants to demonstrate submission to an older dog. To a human being, it amounts to "Be prepared to degrade yourself if anyone should attack you."

Most of the rest of the advice amounts to thinking of yourself as a victim, or a prey animal.

Not everyone has it in them to kill their attacker, and that far at least point one is correct. You should look in your heart and decide if you would rather kill, or rather suffer at the mercy of a violent and wicked man. If you would in truth rather suffer, because your moral aversion to violence is so strong, this is a respectable position occupied by Quakers and other religious orders. In this case you are not a victim. You are choosing to accept the suffering that the world sends you for moral reasons of your own. That is honorable, in its way: it is courageous, in its way.

For others, there are other choices. One is to choose companions you trust, on whom you know you can rely. This is the idea, often discussed here at the Hall, of a frith bond: a bond of mutual loyalty, based on an Old English word related to our words "friend" and "free." It is a society of friendship, and it makes you freer than you would be alone. You can travel together in far greater safety, and if attacked, you can help defend each other.

You can learn to fight, and keep yourself ready to do so.

If you are right for it, you can carry arms. A firearm is not the only choice, although it makes particular sense for young women who may be physically weaker than the young men who are most likely to be violent criminals. Learn to use it safely and accurately, and keep it always handy. ("Go not one step out on the road without your weapons of war, for you never know when you may need them." Havamal.)

Under no circumstances degrade yourself. To do so is to invite, rather than to repel, the scornful treatment of the world. To be the sort of person who is prepared to degrade herself to avoid even a serious harm is to be the kind of person the world will not respect. Remember always: Death before dishonor.

The National Interest in Fertility

Hot Air looks at the "fertility panic," which is general in places falling now far below replacement levels.

We talked about this issue recently, thanks to Tex, so I just want to point out a small Obamacare consequence. Health and Human Services has made a move toward mandating free birth control as a part insurance plans. This is supposed to be Constitutional (pending 1st Amendment challenges) on the grounds that it is in the national interest to ensure that women have "access" to this technology, which can only mean that it must be provided to them for free.

So what if a future HHS should decide that it is in the national interest that we should stop using contraception as much as we do? What if they instead altered the picture with a regulation that said that "no one shall" offer any birth control coverage as part of any insurance plan?

The point is that a gate that swings one way can also swing the other. Once anything becomes a matter of public policy, it's no longer a matter that can lay a claim to the privacy of decisions made in the intimate space. But it is just that claim -- that matters of contraception are private, intimate decisions -- that underlies Griswold v. Connecticut.

Obamacare, the Adventure Continues

Finding out what's in the law:  We've been reading lately that companies are avoiding hiring a 50th employee, or cutting hours down to 29 per week, in order to escape Obamacare.  It turns out it's even easier to escape the law, no matter what your size or average hours worked per week:  just self-insure.

It seems Her Dignifiedness, Nancy Pelosi, let the PPACA slip through Congress with a carve-out for self-insured employers.  Some of you may work for self-insured employers without realizing it, because although they serve as their own risk-capital pool for medical claims, they generally use an insurance company to administer the plan, which works much like other group plans at the employee interface.  My old firm did that.  They figured out what kind of reserves they could afford to set aside for the collective medical bills in a reasonably foreseeable year, and used the usual stop-loss insurance company to limit the firm's overall risk in case every single employee came down with cancer in the same year.  As far as I was concerned, it was just Blue Cross until someone told me how it really worked.  In essence, I was relying on the firm's solvency rather than Blue Cross's.

In the past, self-insurance was popular mostly with very large employers, but stop-loss insurers have been snapping up business from smaller and smaller employers for years now.  The Obama administration is riled up, because self-insured employers can price their insurance on the basis of a small, homogeneous, often rather young labor pool.  What's worse, under Obamacare, they don't even have to worry about what will happen to their employees with pre-existing conditions if they have to give the system up, because all those employees will be guaranteed access from now on if and when they leave the self-insured pool.  Another sore point for the administration is that stop-loss insurers aren't subject to the ban on refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.  They can cherry-pick all they like before agreeing to take on a new employer as a client.

So self-insured employers may become the last corner of the health insurance market that responds to price signals.  What it amounts to is traditional major-medical coverage for a group, at a time when the health czars are trying to get rid of major medical and replace it with first-dollar coverage, a/k/a prepaid healthcare.  The employer can set employee-level deductibles wherever it likes, depending on how much compensation it chooses to pay in the form of insurance.  It also sets stop-loss deductibles wherever it likes, depending on the premium it will have to pay to the re-insurer and the amount of risk it can stomach for a bad health year across its entire labor pool.  This is not what our benevolent overloads had in mind for us at all, but unfortunately they don't have the House any more.

Chalk this up as one more piece of Obamacare that's about to bite them in the behind.  Employers who are being threatened with being run out of business by the cost of healthcare are going to have an alternative.  It may not be as easy as these guys thought it would be to crash the system and replace it with single-payer.

Police state (part 44)

As has become depressingly common, another report of ignorant law enforcement "professionals" harrassing innocent citizens.

So now it's ok to pull over cars based on bumper stickers?

I'm getting dizzy

Dan Kahan of the Cultural Cognitive Project at Yale is getting very meta about the proper evidence-based approach to persuading the public that AGW-ist scientists' conclusions are evidence-based:
Scientists and science communicators have appropriately turned to the science of science communication for guidance in overcoming public conflict over climate change.  The value of the knowledge that this science can impart, however, depends on it being used scientifically.  It is a mistake to believe that either social scientists or science communicators can intuit effective communication strategies by simply consulting compendiums of psychological mechanisms.   Social scientists have used empirical methods to identify which of the myriad mechanisms that could plausibly be responsible for public conflict over climate change actually are.  Science communicators should now use valid empirical methods to identify which plausible real-world strategies for counteracting those mechanisms actually work.  Collaboration between social scientists and communicators on evidence-based field experiments is the best means of using and expanding our knowledge of how to communicate climate science.
Whew.  I can't help thinking if they put that much effort into ensuring that the climate science that is reaching the public is evidence-based, there wouldn't be so much public controversy.  In a related paper, although he makes hard work of it, Kahan admits that empirical data do not support the conclusion that conservatives are less cognitively sophisticated than liberals.  Instead, he makes the interesting finding that high cognitive scores are associated with the fervency of ideological beliefs on both sides of the political spectrum:
Seeming public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension.  The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled.  Widespread limits on technical reasoning aggravate the problem by forcing citizens to use unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk.  A study conducted by the Cultural Cognition Project and published in the Journal Nature Climate Change found no support for this position.  Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change.  Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest.
Kahan tries hard to figure out how this could possibly mean that AGW makes the most sense, but can't get there.  He fears that ideologues on both sides of the fence are more concerned with fitting in with their tribes than with arriving at truth; he worries about "the tragedy of the risk-taking commons" and the proper "communication" strategies that must be employed by people who know the real score.  He reluctantly concludes that no amount of "clarification" of the AGW position will bring the public around "so long as the climate-change debate continues to feature cultural meanings that divide citizens of opposing worldviews."  He recommends, therefore, that
communicators should endeavor to create a deliberative climate in which accepting the best available science does not threaten any group’s values.  Effective strategies include use of culturally diverse communicators, whose affinity with different communities enhances their credibility, and information-framing techniques that invest policy solutions with resonances congenial to diverse groups.
And from there he's back to the need for a "new science of science communication."

Myself, I hypothesize that AGW science is too weak to win committed converts except among people with a strong social-justice worldview, who are drawn to the most common AGW amelioration schemes, and whose enthusiasm grows the more familiar they are with the schemes.  The suspicion that AGW is junk science in service of a social-justice political agenda, in turn, tends to turn conservatives more rabidly against the AGW hypothesis the more they investigate it.  It's not necessarily a difference in an approach to pure science at all.  The portion of the public paying the most attention, and best equipped to evaluate the evidence, knows that the science is far from definitive, especially when you consider not only the fact that it is based on predictions generated by emerging models, but also the need to assign definitive blame to human activity and to evaluate a cost-benefit analysis of proposed remediation that itself must be based on highly speculative information.  Given that murky picture, why should it be surprising that the most educated part of the public polarizes primarily around its reaction to the proposed solutions?

Sawing off the limb you're sitting on

A new acquaintance uses "The Ishmael Effect" to describe the phenomenon of self-defeating propositions, such as
‘It is (absolutely) true that truth is relative’; ‘we ought to think that there is no such thing as thought’; and ‘the one immorality is to believe in morality" . . . .
It came to mind when I read James Taranto's report today of the dilemma faced by NARAL:
"One of the nation's most prominent abortion rights groups is working to remake its image in response to concern that it may be overtaken by a growing cadre of young anti-abortion activists," Roll Call reports.  "Its message: This is not your mother's NARAL."
That's undoubtedly true.  If you're under 40, NARAL's efforts make it much likelier that your mother didn't even have children.  There's something both poignant and funny about a group devoted to abortion puzzling over its difficulty in finding young people to support it.