A logical gap

I am seeing dozens of stories that are full of evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Almost all these stories claim that the evidence proves not only that chemical weapons were used, but that the Assad regime used them, but the only hard facts are that people died from chemicals, and it is always only an inference from the fact that the rebels controlled the area and there is nothing to contradict the alternative theory that this was a false flag operation where the rebels used the weapons themselves in order to give Western powers an excuse to intervene.

Just because you can’t imagine ever using such an evil tactic yourself doesn’t give you the right to ignore the long history of false flag attacks in wars in the Mideast and pretend they don’t happen.

So I ask, has anyone seen ANY EVIDENCE that distinguishes between the two possibilities “Assad did it” and “the rebels did it”?

Earlier this year there was another alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, and a preliminary UN report blamed the rebels, and THEN THAT STORY VANISHED.

They don’t expect people to remember but I remember.



UPDATE: To the person whose comment I spammed: if you provide me with a real email address, OR you simply rewrite the comment to omit the places where you called me obscene names, I will post it and reply to it. If you aren’t capable of basic civility, then good-bye.

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The persecution of Shellie Zimmerman

Mrs. Zimmerman is being prosecuted on much flimsier grounds than her husband was

If you have any knowledge whatsoever of how the legal process for prosecuting felonies works, read the article linked here CAREFULLY. It shows pure vindictiveness by the state with no basis whatsoever for the charges. If you understand the article, you will see that we no longer live in a country where the state has any accountability to follow the law. I expect an acquittal if this isn’t thrown out before trial, but what we will never see, that we ought to see, is all the prosecutors involved in this travesty having their careers terminated.

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Race and Crime in America

Ron Unz on race and crime in America

This is a long article, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. I learned some things I didn’t expect to.

Of course I already knew that the relationship between race and crime rates was very strong. The two most surprising things to me were

(1) New York City is a huge outlier which strongly affects the nationwide results. The relationship between race and crime would be much stronger if New York City is excluded. What New York City shows is that changes in policing can tremendously reduce urban crime, and that therefore the racial statistics are much less depressing.

(2) Many right-wingers, baffled by the enthusiasm of American elites in both political parties for unrestricted immigration, see this as a sinister plot to replace white people with a politically and economically more controllable population. The author makes an interesting argument that an even bigger motivator is the desire to displace black people.

UPDATE: America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead | Mother Jones

I knew about this problem, but I had no idea how much of the crime statistics it explained. One of the most disturbing things about the article is how hard it has been to get people whose job it is to understand the causes of crime to pay attention to this research. Almost everyone has their own pet theory, which accepting this environmental explanation would reduce the relevance of.

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Bayesianity: How Scientists Think About Evidence

Most people don’t understand conditional probability and Bayes’s Theorem, which are the scientifically correct tools for reasoning using probabilities. I am going to give a simple example that I guarantee most people will understand AFTER they see the answer, and that I guarantee most people will NOT understand BEFORE they see the answer.

If you get this wrong, and then understand the answer, you might feel stupid because the answer is not difficult. You shouldn’t feel stupid. Instead you should feel SMARTER! This kind of reasoning should be taught in high school but it usually isn’t. There’s no shame in not having learned it — although to some people it is truly common sense, most people’s brains do not use this logic naturally and need to be taught.

Here’s the situation (the numbers are realistic but rounded off to make the math simpler). Women are recommended to get their first mammogram when they reach 40, to test for breast cancer. The following facts are known about breast cancer and mammograms for 40-year-old women who haven’t yet been tested or diagnosed:

1) 1% of these women have breast cancer
2) If they have breast cancer, the mammogram has an 80% chance of detecting it and returning a “positive” result, and a 20% chance of missing it and returning an incorrect “negative” result.
3) If they don’t have breast cancer, the mammogram has a 90% chance of correctly saying “negative” and a 10% chance of falsely saying “positive”.

In other words, the test is accurate but not perfect, and if you get a positive result you have to get further more expensive testing to confirm it or contradict it.

Here is the key question which very few people know how to answer: if you go in and get tested and the results are positive, what is the chance you actually have breast cancer, based on this information?

Obviously it’s now more than 1%, because it was 1% before you took the test and you now have new evidence that increases the chance you have it, but it’s less than 100% because the test sometimes gives a wrong answer.

Please answer in the comments so I can get a good-sized statistical sample and we can learn how good at scientific thinking people here are. Each time a comment arrives I will hide it temporarily so as not to give the answer away too soon.

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Double Drone Strikes

U.S. Drone Warfare: Secondary Strikes Target First Responders

This is way worse than I thought. A drone strike is an act of war, but can sometimes be justified just as war can sometimes be justified. I don’t see how this practice of following a drone strike with another one in quick succession isn’t a war crime.

The article says they used 2 bombs because 1 would be too inaccurate but that logic would fail in a war crimes trial since drone strikes are normally aimed at mobile rather than fixed targets! After the first explosion, if it was inaccurate the target is likely to leave the area PDQ and if it was accurate no second strike is needed.

I am appalled, it has been quite a while since my last downward re-estimation of the morals of our ruling class but it’s time for a new one. On my recently developed Evil/Crazy/Stupid metric for evaluating government actions, this scores 70/10/20.

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NY Times: trials should be about racial history rather than the facts of the case


The article from the NY Times that Ann Althouse savagely deconstructs here is a perfect example of the utter corruption of journalism (not that it was ever a paragon of objectivity and fairness, but this article is from the most prestigious journalistic medium of all and is so completely wrong that it’s actually evil, as Althouse demonstrates (some of the comments are also very good)).

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Snowden isn’t important, what he leaked is.

What they are telling us: Snowden broke the secrecy rules to leak information. Therefore he is a bad person. Therefore the information he leaked can’t possibly be true. Therefore you should ignore it. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Another way to put it: Other countries already knew we looked at all their phone calls and Internet activity. The only people who were clued in by Snowden were the American people, that their own communications were being looked at. Therefore if they say Snowden is a traitor for giving U.S. Government information to its enemies, that means they think we are the enemies of our own government. I already knew they think like that, but it’s nice of them to admit it.

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