Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Media Bias

If you think your news source sounds a little biased, it probably is.  That was the conclusion we came you while reading the magazine "The Week."  We were impressed by their practice of trying to share both sides of a contenious topic, but in our most recent reading (December 7, 2018), it seemed the column space (i.e. written acreage) was heavier on the more liberal position. It was time to check the Media-Bias-Chart.
The Version 4.0, updated in August 2018 is found at https://www.adfontesmedia.com/

Sure enough the authors of the chart consider The Week as skewing LEFT.  Could be our Confirmation Bias, but we don't think so.  However, the magazine is included in their YELLOW box, which they believe report the news fairly.

More important our the source in the ORANGE and RED boxes.  They provide either EXTREME or UNFAIR versions of the news or in the RED case PROVIDE NONSENSE DAMAGING TO PUBLIC DISCOURSE.

Again, we couldn't argue with the authors evaluations, especially with FOX NEWS which is popular in Tennessee

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Timely TED Talk on Confirmation Bias

Only if you are truly open to the possibility of being wrong can you ever learn, says researcher Alex Edmans. In an insightful talk, he explores how confirmation bias -- the tendency to only accept information that supports your personal beliefs -- can lead you astray on social media, in politics and beyond, and offers three practical tools for finding evidence you can actually trust.

This TED-talk-find was an excellent treatise on Critical Thinking.  I wish everyone would listen to this TED talk as many times as necessary for the message to really sink in.  It is applicable in all aspects of life where we have soft data such in politics, economics, medicine, religion, etc. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Bush, TARP, and Federal Debt

Fifteen years ago, I was the webmaster for a political debate group. It was formed almost immediately after GW Bush invaded Iraq.  I thought that was an idiotic decision and politically motivated.  I was interested in what others thought.

Nearly all my friends and family were Republicans; so, you can tell what feedback I received.  However, I continued to vote Republican assuming it must have been me who got this whole invasion thing wrong.

In 2008 it was another Presidential election and I was ready to vote for McCain.  I liked that the man voted his conscience rather than the Party line.  However, when he picked Palin as Vice-President, I started to question his competence.  I couldn’t see risking the country if, for some reason, she should become President.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Death of Local News

The September 7th issue of THE WEEK had an article about the death of local news and the serious impact that has on the fight against corruption.  

It asks the question, "Do we still meed local news?" It answers, "Only if things like schools, taxes, infrastructure, and government accountability matter to you." 

In the absence of local news people are relegated to getting their information on Google, Facebook, or Twitter.  Everyone knows how accurate those sources are and how insulated they are from fake stories. 

Even worse people trust their tribal bards without challenge or fact checking.  That only increases polarization of opinions and offers credibility to the loudest voices, the fringes.  People stop listening to and learning from others who may have contrary opinions.

The problem has only been exacerbating when the most vocal are the fringe elements and confabulators that populate high levels of authority that the average person used to be able to trust.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

What to do if you see fake news on Facebook

What to do if you see fake news on Facebook
Plus, what to know about the Iranian influence report.
By Rob Verger August 23, 2018

      Facebook and the intelligence division of a cybersecurity company called FireEye have pointed their fingers at a new global actor involved in the spread of what they’re calling “inauthentic” behavior or news: Iran.
      In fact, Facebook announced this week that they have shuttered more than 600 accounts, pages, and groups that the social network says are tied to Iran, meaning that the Middle Eastern country joins Russia as implicated in the spread of false news and manipulation via American social media. It’s an issue that will only gain in importance the closer the midterm elections become, and while it seems like an uphill battle, there are still steps you can take.
      This is what to do if you come across posts or accounts you think may not be what they seem to be, as well as what to know about the latest report.

What can you do? 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

WIRED bias

I like the daily updates that I receive from WIRED Magazine.  However, the 8/2/18 article Crying 'Pedophile' Is the Oldest Propaganda Trick in the Book had me questioning what I was reading. https://www.wired.com/story/crying-pedophile-is-the-oldest-propaganda-trick-in-the-book/?CNDID=48648177&mbid=nl_080118_daily_list1_p3 

It opens with

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Starving-Polar-Bear Photographer Recalls What Went Wrong

One year after Cristina Mittermeier took that gut-wrenching polar bear image later, she explains what she and her team were trying to accomplish. This story appeared in the August 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Climate change kills slowly and by proxy: through fire, drought, cold, and starvation. The connection between an individual animal’s death and climate change is rarely clear—even when an animal is as emaciated as this polar bear.
Photographer Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier were on a mission to capture images that communicate the urgency of climate change. She admits they were naive. The polar bear picture went viral—and people took it literally.
When Paul posted the video on Instagram, he wrote, “This is what starvation looks like.”  But he did not say that this particular bear was killed by climate change.
National Geographic picked up the video and added subtitles. It became the most viewed video on National Geographic’s website—ever. News organizations around the world ran stories about it; social media exploded with opinions about it. Cristina estimated that an astonishing 2.5 billion people were reached. But they lost control of the narrative.
The first line of the National Geographic video said, “This is what climate change looks like”—with “climate change” highlighted in the brand’s distinctive yellow. In retrospect, National Geographic went too far with the caption.
Perhaps we made a mistake in not telling the full story—that we were looking for a picture that foretold the future and that we didn’t know what had happened to this particular polar bear. I can’t say that this bear was starving because of climate change.
Cristina Mittermeier is a contributing photographer, speaker, and explorer for National Geographic. She is the co-founder, executive director, and vision lead of SeaLegacy, a nonprofit organization working to protect the oceans. 


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Shadow Politics: Meet the Digital Sleuth Exposing Fake News

      You all may not want to read this whole WIRED article (see the link at the end of this post).  I would like to post it on my blog, but it is copyrighted.  It illustrates how pervasive and dangerous the Russian interference and hate groups have become.  Today’s TV Press Shows also reminded me how naïve (or incompetent) many political mouth pieces are as they spread misinformation.  A Republican politician appeared on Face the Nation and claimed Russian infiltration in our political system did not result in one fake vote.  I thought “he can’t be that stupid, but then he is taking his lead from the President.”

Monday, July 16, 2018

Hypocrisy vs Reality and Jerry Brown

Remember this
Jerry Brown in China with a climate message to the world: Don't follow America's lead http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-brown-china-20170607-story.html#
Is this guy that clueless or just stupid?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Miracle Cancer Cure

Center for Inquiry Sues CVS for Fraud

      The Center for Inquiry has filed a lawsuit in the District of Columbia on behalf of the general public against drug retailer CVS for consumer fraud over its sale and marketing of useless homeopathic medicines. CFI, an organization advancing reason and science, accused the country’s largest drug retailer of deceiving consumers through its misrepresentation of homeopathy’s safety and effectiveness, wasting customers’ money and putting their health at risk.

Click here to access the official complaint (PDF).

     Homeopathy is an 18th-century pseudoscience premised on the absurd, unscientific notion that a substance that causes a particular symptom is what should be ingested to alleviate it. Dangerous substances are diluted to the point that no trace of the active ingredient remains, but its alleged effectiveness rests on the nonsensical claim that water molecules have “memories” of the original substance. Homeopathic treatments have no effect whatsoever beyond that of a placebo.

Check this out at https://centerforinquiry.org/press_releases/cfi-sues-cvs/ 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Seeking CREDIBLE Internet Sources

      The WIRED article, The Complexity of Simply Searching for Medical Advice, highlights the importance of seeking credible sources when doing an Internet search.  Often it's the noise associated with pseudo-science that perks to the top of a simple search engine listing.

      It is what Michael Golebiewski at Bing calls a "data void," or search void: a situation where searching for answers about a keyword returns content produced by a niche group with a particular agenda. It isn’t just Google results. It is happening on social media and YouTube too.
      There’s an asymmetry of passion at work. Which is to say, there’s very little counter-content to surface because it simply doesn’t occur to regular people or credible experts that there’s a need to produce counter-content. So much of the information on the first few pages of search results repeats false claims  of the hyper-culture. Their message looks like it represents a widely-held point of view. But it doesn’t. It can be wrong, dangerous, and potentially deadly.
      The best advice on to handle this problem is -- always chase down the source of the information.  If the result in the Internet search does not provide references to claims, treat it as not worth forwarding or repeating to friends. Then checkout the source.  Is it credible?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Suicide Now the 10'th Leading Cause of Death

According to the CDC Suicide rates have spiked and it is now the 10'th leading cause of death in America.

According to Catholic League president Bill Donohue
If Anthony Bourdain had been a religious man, would he have killed himself? Probably not.

Donohue goes on to claim with hugely erroneous logic
As I have recounted in my book, The Catholic Advantage: How Health, Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful, there is an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide: those who are regular churchgoers have a much lower rate of suicide than atheists like Bourdain.
That is purely a correlation and hardly causation.   According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The community is an important setting for suicide prevention. A wide variety of community groups and organizations, including schools, after-school programs, health care providers, workplaces, and places of worship, can all work together to carry out prevention activities that reflect local needs and resources.
Jesse Bering, Director of the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago, New Zealand, an experimental psychologist, and author of the Suicidal says
Not only is the tenor of Donohue’s sentiment completely tone-deaf and insensitive, his claim that Bourdain—or, for that matter, any other atheist suicide victim—could have been saved by religion is presumptuous and misleading.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Michigan’s Senate Legitimizes Quackery

According to CFI Cause & Effect Newsletter, Issue 106, May 30, 2018      

      Practitioners of naturopathy have no actual medical credentials and rely on a hodgepodge of baseless, pseudoscientific remedies such as homeopathy, “electromagnetic” therapy, and musculoskeletal manipulation to treat patients. Nonetheless, the State Senate of Michigan decided to legitimize these fake doctors with the passage of SB 826, a bill that would grant state licensure to naturopaths and give them the authority to prescribe medications, perform lab tests, givephysical exams, and even treat wounds.

      CFI Michigan Executive Director Jennifer Beahan said in our formal statement that SB 826 “would give the state’s blessing to unqualified practitioners of pseudoscience and their baseless remedies, meaning more people will waste their money and risk their health by pursuing quack treatments.” And Dr. Harriet Hall reminds us that naturopaths “discourage evidence-based preventive measures like vaccination and water fluoridation.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Lies Spread Faster Than Truth

There is worldwide concern over false news and the possibility that it can influence political, economic, and social well-being. Vosoughi et al investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. 

They classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications.

False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. 

The effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. They found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. 

Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.