Spring Cleaning

woman_spring_cleaning1Time to do a bit of spring cleaning. I keep finding far more things that would make good posts than I ever have time to write about, so here are some of them.

You and your monkey brain.

Our friend, and our enemy: Time, itself.

Why is productivity so low?

Why Apple is so annoying.

Do we want high-paying manufacturing job? Maybe we should learn from Indiana.

How the way we teach American History got so screwed up, and how to fix it.

What made Ronald Reagan great.

Mr. Lincoln goes to London, or does he?

David Cameron loses the plot, or did he ever know it?

Love Game of Thrones? Then you must love history whether you know it or not.

Suzannah Lipscomb tells you how it is recycled British history, mostly!

And the Irish, sensible folk that they are, are building a statue of the Duke, and Maureen O’Hara, as they appeared in our favorite movie: The Quiet Man.

And finally, quit whining, nobody owes you a job or anything else!

 

Lefty bishops rumbled. Thought for the Day is hugely biased against the market economy – The Conservative Woman

BBC_TV_CentreThis is interesting. Yes, it’s about the BBC, and so maybe not directly relevant to us. But then again, I think what Britain (and the world) think of us has at least some relevance. In addition, I wonder if it doesn’t apply full force to NPR also because it seems to me to have much the same set-up, and the same biases as well.

Of the many compelling arguments the respected Institute of Economic Affairsmakes today for privatising the BBC commercially the one that struck me most was the BBC’s bias.

Most TCW readers are more than aware that the BBC is no longer fit for purpose; that its market power – especially in terms of news provision – coupled with its compulsory funding method and its closeness to the political process is hugely problematic.

Many hope that commercial competition will soon render it irrelevant. But that’s not likely as long as it holds onto its licence fee monopoly. That’s why this new evidence from the IEA is so important – proving as it does that BBC no longer deserves its privileged position.

The IEA argues that all media outlets are likely to have biases. However, the BBC’s is more problematic for reason of its trusted reputation, the inability of its customers to withdraw payment and the fact it provides 75 per cent of all televised news and thus has a ‘monopoly’ over  public opinion.

The IEA’s new case studies are a shocking demonstration of  how the BBC fails the public’s trust.

To take just some examples:

Its analysis of Radio 4’s Today programme – from March 2004 to July 2015 – revealed gross bias by omission. One guess as to whose voices were omitted: those favouring Britain’s exit from the EU of course. Over the period the IEA found of the 4,275 guest speakers on EU themes only 3 per cent of these were explicitly in favour of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Seven in ten of these speakers were from Ukip, and over a third were Nigel Farage alone. We can but wonder where John Redwood, Richard North, Owen Paterson, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, John Mills, Jacob Rees Mogg, Dominic Raab, Sir Archie (now Lord) Hamilton, Frank Field and Kate Hoey were – to name but a very few leading Eurosceptics. In hiding? Were they refusing to take Today’s calls?

When it came to the official 2015 General Election campaign, Today fielded 25 business speakers to discuss the EU referendum. What did the IEA uncover? That over three-quarters of these speakers saw the referendum as a worry or a threat to business, despite the contemporaneous polling finding that two thirds of businesses back the holding of a referendum. […]

Of the 167 items that included discussions and opinion on capitalism, markets and business they found only 8 per cent gave any sort of positive perspective. Negative commentary outweighed positive commentary by a factor of more than eight to one. […]

There is more – our worst fears at TCW of the BBC’s biased ‘gender agenda’ were confirmed, demonstrating once more that the BBC in no way deserves its reputation for fair coverage.

The particular example the IEA’s scrutinised was the BBC’s News website coverage of the government’s new measures to try to combat the gender pay gap through imposing new requirements on large companies. It contained neither expert economic opinion on the use of crude average gender pay gap figures nor dissenting opinion on the effectiveness of the policies.

via Kathy Gyngell: Lefty bishops rumbled. Thought for the Day is hugely biased against the market economy – The Conservative Woman

Kathy’s right here, I think, and I think that because I too listen to the BBC (a lot), in fact as I write this I’m listening to BBC Radio Norfolk, which is my favorite office station. I even watch it a good deal, and that is how it sounds to me, as well. Sort of like NPR, but on some really good steroids. And I treat it the same way, in anything but the hardest of news, I simply disbelieve it. Hardly a trusted voice of news, but then few are, and as I’ve said, their biases are predictable, and so one can discount, and revise, and get within shouting distance of the news. But how many do?

They’re right, kick ’em loose, and let them sink or swim.

Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’

This is most interesting and strikes me as pretty much how the trends are going. I see it here, I see it on my occasional forays into digital media, and I especially see it with the garbage legacy media has become. By Jim VandeHei writing on The Information.

Here is how they fell into this lethal trap: They got into the content game to produce news or info they might be proud of, believing they could lure us to read it and maybe even pay for it. They quickly realized it’s expensive to produce quality content and hard to get a lot of people to click on it, much less pay for it. So they deluded themselves that the better play was to go for the biggest audience possible, using stupid web tricks to draw them in. These include misleading but clicky headlines, feel-good lists, sexy photos and exploding watermelons.

And it appeared to work. Traffic spiked. Costs were contained. But revenue never followed because everyone else was doing the same tricks and getting the same spikes—and the simple law of supply and demand drove down the value of their inventory. This dynamic helps explain why Mashable recently laid off so many journalists, BuzzFeed saw its growth miss the mark and many media companies and investors are freaked out.

Here’s the good news: This era is getting flushed away. Some companies feel self-conscious about the trash they are producing. Many others realize it’s simply not a good business model. But the savviest ones see a very cool reason to change: A content revolution is picking up speed, promising a profitable future for companies that can lock down loyal audiences, especially those built around higher-quality content.

Fatal Flaw

In coming years, the revolution will likely demolish much of what we read and watch now. State and local newspapers and TV? Gone. Their models are fatally flawed. General interest magazines such as Time and Newsweek? Gone or unrecognizable shells of their former selves. Traditional TV and cable? Shrinking and scrambling. Clickbait machines such as Gawker, or Ozy, or Mashable? Gone or gobbled up by bigger players.

via Escaping the Digital Media ‘Crap Trap’ — The Information

If you’re like me we had an outstanding example from the legacy media. When the UK Telegraph was sold to its new owner, it wasn’t all that strong financially, for all that it was a source that almost all British conservatives and a lot of us Americans had depended on for years. To the point that it’s often called the Torygraph. I’m an example, I started reading it well before the 2008 elections because it was simply much better than any American paper.

But those finances, running a daily paper ain’t cheap, even if you have loyal readers, and some pretty good blogs to go along with it. But the Telegraph did what so many have done, they gave up the high-value content (even many of the blogs) and fell head over heels into the click-bait trap. Now it’s to the point, and I interact with quite a few British Conservatives, as well as American, I don’t don’t think I know a single subscriber, anymore. Sad but some of us insist on value, even if all we’re spending is our time.

And you know it is true, I could likely make this blog pay its way, by doing a bunch of garbage, more pretty girls, conspiracy theories, and all that, not to mention a much harder edge on my articles. And we are looking at some changes down the road, but my brand (and Jessica’s) is on the blog, and we like where we are, so in tone and substance we’re not likely to change much.

But it can be very tempting.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

42-76175484There’s an excellent article over at First Things this month. Nothing at all unusual about that, of course, but this one speaks to a fair number of our problems.

The problem with ­science is that so much of it simply isn’t. Last summer, the Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field. Scientific claims rest on the idea that experiments repeated under nearly identical conditions ought to yield approximately the same results, but until very recently, very few had bothered to check in a systematic way whether this was actually the case. The OSC was the biggest attempt yet to check a field’s results, and the most shocking. In many cases, they had used original experimental materials, and sometimes even performed the experiments under the guidance of the original researchers. Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.

Their findings made the news, and quickly became a club with which to bash the social sciences. But the problem isn’t just with psychology. There’s an ­unspoken rule in the pharmaceutical industry that half of all academic biomedical research will ultimately prove false, and in 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided to test it. Looking at sixty-seven recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research, they found that in more than 75 percent of cases the published data did not match up with their in-house attempts to replicate. These were not studies published in fly-by-night oncology journals, but blockbuster research featured in Science, Nature, Cell, and the like. The Bayer researchers were drowning in bad studies, and it was to this, in part, that they attributed the mysteriously declining yields of drug pipelines. Perhaps so many of these new drugs fail to have an effect because the basic research on which their development was based isn’t valid.

When a study fails to replicate, there are two possible interpretations. The first is that, unbeknownst to the investigators, there was a real difference in experimental setup between the original investigation and the failed replication. These are colloquially referred to as “wallpaper effects,” the joke being that the experiment was affected by the color of the wallpaper in the room. This is the happiest possible explanation for failure to reproduce: It means that both experiments have revealed facts about the universe, and we now have the opportunity to learn what the difference was between them and to incorporate a new and subtler distinction into our theories.

The other interpretation is that the original finding was false. Unfortunately, an ingenious statistical argument shows that this second interpretation is far more likely. First articulated by John Ioannidis, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, this argument proceeds by a simple application of Bayesian statistics. Suppose that there are a hundred and one stones in a certain field. One of them has a diamond inside it, and, luckily, you have a diamond-detecting device that advertises 99 percent accuracy. After an hour or so of moving the device around, examining each stone in turn, suddenly alarms flash and sirens wail while the device is pointed at a promising-looking stone. What is the probability that the stone contains a diamond?[…]

[Speaking of the scientific method] If peer review is good at anything, it appears to be keeping unpopular ideas from being published. Consider the finding of another (yes, another) of these replicability studies, this time from a group of cancer researchers. In addition to reaching the now unsurprising conclusion that only a dismal 11 percent of the preclinical cancer research they examined could be validated after the fact, the authors identified another horrifying pattern: The “bad” papers that failed to replicate were, on average, cited far more often than the papers that did! As the authors put it, “some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis.”

What they do not mention is that once an entire field has been created—with careers, funding, appointments, and prestige all premised upon an experimental result which was utterly false due either to fraud or to plain bad luck—pointing this fact out is not likely to be very popular. Peer review switches from merely useless to actively harmful. It may be ineffective at keeping papers with analytic or methodological flaws from being published, but it can be deadly effective at suppressing criticism of a dominant research paradigm. Even if a critic is able to get his work published, pointing out that the house you’ve built together is situated over a chasm will not endear him to his colleagues or, more importantly, to his mentors and patrons.

via Scientific Regress by William A. Wilson | Articles | First Things

We see this all the time, don’t we? From climate science, to sugar in our diets, to low fat diets, to almost everything else, we have far more information available than any generation before us. That’s likely a good thing, except it all means this. We have far more false information available than any generation before us.

Maybe it wouldn’t matter but, as George Canning once observed:

I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.

And here’s another part that we must never forget, from Josiah Stamp:

The government are very keen on amassing statistics. They collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams. But you must never forget that every one of these figures comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn pleases.

See also: The Week: Big Science is Broken

Character is Crumbling in Leadership

Ebctnb5Dale R. Wilson, who publishes Command Performance Leadership, is one of my oldest blogfriends. He doesn’t publish as often as he used to, which is a shame, but when he does, his posts are always incisive, and important. This is no exception.

In military and civilian academic institutions around the world, above and beyond their core curriculum, character is taught and inspired.  In each of the military academies in the United States, as well as college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs, the purpose and responsibility is to produce leaders of character.  To accomplish this, they incorporate the values of integrity, respect, responsibility, compassion, and gratitude into the daily life of cadets and midshipmen who aspire to become tomorrow’s leaders. […]

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point character development strategy promotes living honorably and building trust.  West Point believes that their approach not only develops character, but modifies behavior over the course of the 47-month cadet experience.  Ultimately, the desire is for cadets and rotating faculty members to depart West Point with the character, competence, and commitment to build and lead resilient teams that thrive in complex security environments.  Most importantly, everyone commits to living honorably and building trust, on and off duty.

The Cadet Honor Code at West Point:

A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.[iv]

Recommended Reading: Duty, Honor, Country [Go there, if you haven’t read this lately you owe it to yourself, to see what built our country! Neo] […]

No matter what our challenges happen to be, either driven by stress or human urges, we must strive to reach deep within ourselves to overcome the temptation to make poor decisions; no matter if we are in uniform downrange, or in daily life with our family or friends.  Our country, society, superiors, peers, subordinates, family, and friends are relying on our steady and consistent moral courage to translate into professional decorum and behavior; always.

Many respected military leaders of the past espoused the vitally important qualities of a leader.  Lieutenant General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps said, “Leadership is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully.”  Among General Douglas MacArthur’s 17 Principles of Leadership, which essentially acts as a leader’s self-assessment questionnaire, there is this question: “Am I a constant example to my subordinates in character, dress, deportment and courtesy?”

via Character is Crumbling in Leadership | Command Performance Leadership

Well, are you? Frankly this isn’t something just for the military, nor is it just something for Americans. This is the essence of leadership, and servant leadership, at that. It is the ideal,the pinnacle of leadership. None of us succeed all the time, but if we wish to have a free society, we must try, and even more to the point, so must those we appoint to lead us.

Frankly, I learned this early, my dad, showed this, almost as strongly as General Marshal did, but even so, ROTC codified it for me in the saying.

First: the Mission

Second: the Men

Last: yourself

That is what I’ve always strived for, and in whatever measure I’ve been successful, it is that striving that is responsible. But, in business today, like our military, I see little of this. What I see is a selfish, uncaring of anybody but oneself attitude, that assumes that everybody is looking out for themselves. They may be right, to a point, but they (and their companies) will not find long term success, using this rubric, nor will America. Because much too often they’ll not lead, but manage, and bring that down to the level of the next quarterly bottom line. In every case that I have seen, that has led to losing the best people, and the ruination of the reputation of the brand, and often the demise of the company.

Not a good recommendation, for our companies, nor, especially, for our churches, and our military, and, emphatically not for our country.

Researchers May Have Found North America’s Second Viking Site

IMAGE CREDIT: ISTOCK

We’ve likely all heard of L’Anse aux Meadows, Leif Erikson’s settlement on the tip of Newfoundland, back in about AD 1000, but have you heard of Point Rosee? It’s another apparently Viking settlement about south of L’Anse aux Meadows. This one also, like L’Anse aux Meadows, shows remains of iron working.

Here’s more from Mental Floss:

The potential outpost is in Point Rosee, a remote spot 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows. The area was identified as a potential Viking hotspot by “space archaeologist” Sarah Parcak.

Parcak uses satellite images taken by cameras 400 miles above Earth to find ancient cities, temples and tombs in Egypt. Last November, Parcak was awarded a $1 million TED Prize, which she is using to develop a platform called Global Xplorer. The citizen science initiative teaches individuals to scan satellite images for undiscovered—and potentially important—archaeological finds.

via Researchers May Have Found North America’s Second Viking Site | Mental Floss

There’s apparently more at National Geographic, but since they consider it more important that I see their ads than their article, well, I guess I agree, and will pass on both.

But there is/was a two-hour television special on PBS the other night, which you might find, and I think it was also on the BBC (2 if I remember), and for the ladies, one of the hosts was Dan Snow.:)

And this:

 

And some more about the Vikings from the BBC

 

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