Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cop in uniform advocating political campaign in TV commercial.

This political season in Michigan features a new low.   A policeman wearing his uniform and badge in a political ad on TV spouting wingnut talking points about Proposal 2 in Michigan.  If this behavior is not a violation of the Hatch Act  it should be. I think this is a horrible precedent.  I know if a cop in uniform knocked on my front door and tried shilling his politics to me I'd tell him to get off my porch and shut the door and lock it.

 Here is a link from a right wing site hailing the new ad.  Bonus points for the misspelled headline.

New NO On Porposal 2 Video

As for how the Hatch Act applies to police officers, this is from the Fraternal Order of Police.  The uniform and badge in the political ad are not permissible.

 The Hatch Act: The Political Process and You 
It is permissible for officers to:
- Endorse or oppose a partisan political candidate in a political advertisement, broadcast, campaign literature, or similar material, so long as the officer is not on duty and not wearing a uniform, badge or insignia;
It is impermissible to:
- Allow one’s name or likeness to be used in campaign literature in the police officer’s professional capacity;
Because the  Detroit Police Department receives Federal grants for a number of different department functions, there is a good chance the Hatch Act restrictions would apply here.  The question may also depend on if  Proposals are subjected to the same restrictions as political campaigns involving elected officials.  Either way this officer has run afoul of the law, the code, or ethics.  He should not wear that badge while he's advocating his personal politics.  

For more about how Rick Snyder and Michigan's Tea Party legislature have specifically targeted teachers unions for cost cutting while leaving other public unions off the hook I suggest this earlier post.
 Pathteacher:  Snyder's policy for Michigan schools.. Teachers lose, janitors win. Bravo.

For reference, here is the wording of Proposal 2.


This proposal would:
  • Grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions.
  • Invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit the ability to join unions and bargain collectively, and to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements, including employees’ financial support of their labor unions. Laws may be enacted to prohibit public employees from striking.
  • Override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.
  • Define “employer” as a person or entity employing one or more employees.
Should this proposal be approved?
YES __
NO ____

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Is this a young Mitt Romney in a TV commercial in 1971?

For some inexplicable reason the guy in this TV commercial from 41 years ago reminds me of Mitt Romney trying to pawn off the GOP to middle America.  

Being a dad is cool..

So I was watching the Tiger's playoff game at home tonight with my son Steven and I started telling him about a problem from work about a pump that couldn't hold its pressure set point when the system's flow demand increased.  They rebuilt the pump but that didn't eliminate the pressure fluctuations. They were now speculating the problem was air entrainment through pipe fittings.   I said I thought it was more likely just a  bad PID loop than a mechanical issue.  For those who aren't familiar, PID stands for Proportional-Integral-Differential and it describes the combination of calculus functions that use a feedback signal of a process variable to adjust an input to the system in order to hold that process variable near its set point when subjected to a varying load. Think of how cruise control in your car works on a hilly road.

So anyway, my knowledge of controls systems was always sketchy at best.  It was a "dummy rule" class for me.  In other words, He can't fail all of us dummies so I just have to be average to pass and never worry about this stuff again.  The math never made much sense to me.  I just memorized some things and wrote down formulas and followed the "integrate something" rule on the exams and prayed for partial credit, and it worked enough.  phew.

Except I still do encounter this stuff occasionally at work so it would be helpful to understand the math a bit more before just using trial and error to see if a combination of PID constants stabilizes a process or makes it start oscillating out of control until it faults out and people start yelling at you.  

So the conversation with the whiz kid electrical engineering major during a commercial between innings was very helpful.  Steven scribbled down this diagram on a sheet of loose leaf and explained how the math  works better in 30 seconds than I can remember from sitting through a lot of classes back in 1986.  ha,  Really, now it all makes sense.  Being a dad is cool.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Breitbarts heaping elephant dung on themselves.

SO, the latest mini Breitbart outrageous outrage spreading around the wingnutosphere has now been demoted to just another debunked conspiracy theory.  Well knock me over with a feather.  

First the Shtick..  mini Breitbarts: BLS Fail    They have deduced from speculation and hearsay overheard by their unnamed sources precisely how the Bureau of Labor Statistics might have cooked the books in the most recent unemployment data that showed some modest improvement;

Except, um, it turns out that number wasn't right. They forgot to include CALIFORNIA, the most populous and economically depressed state in the country. A source at the Labor Department brushed aside the omission by saying that, sometimes, if a state office is under-manned they don't complete all the jobless claims in time to report them to BLS.
In other words, the dog ate their homework.

I have long marveled at the slow-march disintegration of the once Golden State, but has the state really become so utterly dysfunctional that it can not process jobless claims in a timely fashion?

But the conspiracy theory they are promoting about job statistics is completely unfounded.   California EDD denies it under-reported jobless claims

The California Employment Development Department is denying news reports that it failed to fully report the number of Californians who filed new jobless claims last week.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning reported a bigger-than-expected drop in seasonally adjusted new jobless claims for the week ended Oct. 6.
A number of news sources quoted an unidentified labor department spokesman saying the large drop was caused by the failure of one large state to report all of its claims. They quoted other sources speculating the large state must have been California.
In a statement, EDD Director Pam Harris said, “Reports that California failed to fully report data to the U.S. Department of Labor, as required, are incorrect and irresponsible. The California Employment Development Department, which administers the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program in the state, has reported all UI claims data and submitted the data on time.”
It singled out a report from Business Insider that quoted a DOL spokesman saying, “When a state’s jobless claims bureau is short-staffed, sometimes the state does not process all of the claims that came in during the week in time to get them to the DOL. The source believes that this is what happened this week.”

I doubt they will issue a retraction.  You can't un-feed the hyenas after you've thrown the red meat into their cage.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

More proof American culture is taking over the world

A-Hole boss of the month: Robert Murray of Murray Energy

The New Republic has an article profiling one of the GOP's leading donors and Mitt's favorite job creator in Ohio..   A hothead, narcissist greedy old boss-man who forces his employees to contribute part of their pay to his right wing political causes and blames mining deaths on earthquakes rather than poor safety practices and runs his mouth around town because he knows everyone is afraid of him.   He probably pumps Fox News Channel 24/7 into the employee lunch room (if they have one) and has a toadie walk around the parking lot putting Tea Party bumper stickers on every car.   What a dick.  This is Mitt Romney's kind of guy. 

BOB MURRAY, WHO is 72, is a legendary figure in Appalachian coal country...
Like a lot of mining executives, Murray’s a ferocious critic of federal mining regulations—even after the 2007 collapse at his Crandall Canyon mine in Utah, where nine people died. He also knows how to throw his weight around. In 2001, he sued the Akron Beacon Journal for $1 billion after a critical profile; that same year, he was acquitted of assault charges after allegedly throwing an environmental activist against a wall. In 2002, local media reported that he warned off mine safety inspectors with this line: “Mitch McConnell calls me one of the five finest men in America, and the last I checked, he was sleeping with your boss,” referring to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the senator’s wife. (Murray denied the account.) Murray’s fiery streak was on full display after the Crandall Canyon collapse. Wearing his trademark sweater-vest, he angrily insisted to reporters that the collapse had been caused by an earthquake—scientists disagreed—and railed against efforts to curb carbon emissions.
In August, Romney used Murray’s Century Mine in the town of Beallsville for a speech attacking Barack Obama as anti-coal. This fall, scenes from that event—several dozen coal-smudged Murray miners standing behind the candidate in a tableau framed by a giant American flag and a COAL COUNTRY STANDS WITH MITT placard—have shown up in a Romney ad.
The ads aired even after Ohio papers reported what I was told by several miners at the event, a bit of news that an internal memo confirms:  The crowd was not there of its own accord. Murray had suspended Century’s operations and made clear to workers that they were expected to attend, without pay. “I tell ya, you’ve got a great boss,” Romney said in acknowledging Robert Murray from the stage. “He runs a great operation here.”
I just snipped a few excerpts, you should read the whole thing.. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Conservatives know Mitt Romney ...

Yeah, politics sure are a messy business.  Its hard sometimes to keep track of the truths from the half-truths from the little white lies from the Whoppers with cheese, but in any given political speech you will likely be exposed to each and all of them.  Better keep a scorecard and fact check everything to be safe. 

Now if you ask a candidate what he thinks of his opponent from the other party, you are likely to get a less than completely truthful answer.  So I think it is always a good idea to find out what other people from the same party they think of the candidate.  They know him best and they'll never drag their party mate through the mud by lying about him.    

So here is an endorsement of sorts for Mitt Romney from his fellow conservatives who know him best.   

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why do some people cling to debunked conspiracy theories?

I am somewhat of a fan of the cultural phenomena commonly referred to as conspiracy theories.  Not that I subscribe to or believe in any of the ridiculous stories, its just that I am fascinated by how some people who otherwise seem mentally stable and intelligent can be so willfully ignorant and display an utter phobia for facts regarding certain topics.   It is said that you can never fully debunk a conspiracy theory because in the mind of the believers, evidence and facts that disprove the theory are examples of just how far the other side will go to conceal the truth.  The more damning the evidence seems, the deeper the conspiracy must go!

So I thought this was a great read.   A psychological study into why people refuse to accept facts and evidence that debunk their favorite conspiracy theories.  Now you will know why your crazy Uncle and your nutjob co-worker still hold on to conspiracy theories even after you hit them over the head with a cluebat again and again.  

Misinformation and Its Correction - Continued Influence and Successful Debiasing

"... We first examine the mechanisms by which such misinformation is disseminated in society, both inadvertently and purposely. Misinformation can originate from rumors but also from works of fiction, governments and politicians, and vested interests. Moreover, changes in the media landscape, including the arrival of the Internet, have fundamentally influenced the ways in which information is communicated and misinformation is spread.
We next move to misinformation at the level of the individual, and review the cognitive factors that often render misinformation resistant to correction. We consider how people assess the truth of statements and what makes people believe certain things but not others. We look at people’s memory for misinformation and answer the questions of why retractions of misinformation are so ineffective in memory updating and why efforts to retract misinformation can even backfire and, ironically, increase misbelief. Though ideology and personal worldviews can be major obstacles for debiasing, there nonetheless are a number of effective techniques for reducing the impact of misinformation, and we pay special attention to these factors that aid in debiasing.
We conclude by providing specific recommendations for the debunking of misinformation. These recommendations pertain to the ways in which corrections should be designed, structured, and applied in order to maximize their impact. Grounded in cognitive psychological theory, these recommendations may help practitioners—including journalists, health professionals, educators, and science communicators—design effective misinformation retractions, educational tools, and public-information campaigns.
Both the Left and the Right have their favorite pet conspiracy theories so this analysis applies to both sides even if the three examples they cited in the study are more likely to reside in the minds of wingnut conservatives.

I do not have much faith that any new methods for debunking conspiracies will be very effective.  You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  Maybe these psychologists should study that peculiar behavior next.