Monday, October 15, 2018
The mainstream media is abuzz about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) latest salvo in her battle to validate her claim to American Indian ancestry. Out of curiosity, I had a look at the report Warren commissioned from a "famous geneticist", i.e. Carlos Bustamante, PhD.
A few things that I haven't seen discussed in the mainstream media stand out to me. First, the Bustamante report has no discussion about how it was verified that Warren provided the sample that was tested and how the chain of custody was maintained and verified.
Second, it is curious that Bustamante does not more specifically identify the segments he used to conclude that the results of Warren's test "strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor". He merely speaks of "five genetic segments", averaging 5.8 centiMorgans long (with the longest being on chromosome 10). Bustamante says the entire human genome is 3,595 centiMorgans long.
Finally, check out the image below from the Bustamante report. Notice anything major missing?
If your answer was "only the most populous continent on earth" then you get a gold star. Yes, Asia is missing, and since most geneticists believe American Indians descend mainly from early Asian immigrants to the Americas then inquiring minds wonder what that scatterplot would look like if Asians had been included. And how did Bustamante decide that the "five genetic segments" in Warren's putative DNA aren't from long ago admixture with an Asian ancestor—a Hun or Magyar, perhaps?
Friday, October 12, 2018
It's 1987 and Rep. Brooks (D-TX), during the Iran-Contra hearings, asks Lt. Col. Oliver North about Garden Plot, REX 84, etc. and, boy, is Ollie miffed. Sen. Inouye (D-HI) stops that line of questioning and the mainstream media, for the most part, dutifully ignore the story. And the American public, for the most part, dutifully stay asleep. As far as I can tell Brooks never again bucked the powers that be on the subject.
- “Look It Up, Check It Out”: REX 84 and the History of an American Conspiracy by Michael Grasso
- "Church and Pike Committees Post-mortem" by VFPD
- Operation Northwoods on the National Security Archive site
According to the findings of a 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center: "consistent liberals ... are the most likely to stop talking to or being friends with someone because of politics".
Monday, October 01, 2018
I listen to National Public Radio (NPR) every day, not because it's so great but because it's the least bad of all the alternative news sources I am aware of. Every day there emanates from NPR a steady stream of distortions, half-truths, plain old falsehoods, and/or blind ignorance.
You can call it "fake news". Here are two examples from yesterday that came just minutes apart.
On the Media
First, at the beginning of On The Media Brook Gladstone ends a 12-minute baldly partisan rant on the Kavanaugh nomination with an actor quoting Founding Father John Adams on democracy from his December 17, 1814, letter to John Taylor. The quoted portion says:
Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to Say that Democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than Aristocracy or Monarchy. It is not true in Fact and no where appears in history. Those Passions are the same in all Men under all forms of Simple Government, and when unchecked, produce the same Effects of Fraud Violence and Cruelty ... Individuals have conquered themselves, Nations and large Bodies of Men, never.Gladstone then chimes in, "Democracy can't protect us, we have to protect it. You know what to do." The misleading implication being that Adams was warning of us the fragility of our democracy. In fact, he was likening democracy to that other form of government he rejected—aristocracy or monarchy.
Later in the Taylor letter Adams discusses the French Revolution asserting, "Democracy is chargeable with all the blood that has been spilled for five and twenty years." As is clear from the Taylor letter, when read in context, Adams was no fan of democracy.
He was an advocate of the alternative, republican form of government founded under the United States Constitution. In the chapter "Republican Government" Adams' Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States he wrote:
Others, again, more rationally, define a republic to signify only a government, in which all men, rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws. This, indeed, appears to be the true and only true definition of a republic.Adams even contrasted this against:
a peculiar sense in which the words republic, commonwealth, popular state, are used by English and French writers; who mean by them a democracy, or rather a representative democracy; a "government in one centre, and that centre the nation;" that is to say, that centre a single assembly, chosen at stated periods by the people, and invested with the whole sovereignty; the whole legislative, executive, and judicial power, to be exercised in a body, or by committees, as they shall think proper.Just a little over a year before the Taylor letter Adams hyperbolically wrote to Jefferson that "Our pure, virtuous, public Spirited federative Republic will last for ever, govern the Globe and introduce the perfection of Man, his perfectability being already proved by Price Priestly, Condorcet Rousseau Diderot and Godwin."
In short, Gladstone dishonestly hitches John Adams to her anti-Trump, anti-Kavanaugh wagon. Adams was no advocate of the democracy that Gladstone implies is under threat and in need of protection.
The second example of fake news on NPR I want to mention may be peculiar to KUOW, based in Seattle. They have been recently running a series of fund-raising pitches featuring national NPR personalities, such as Ailsa Chang and Kai Ryssdal, reading from the same script.
The script asserts: "It's easy to see that Seattle loves public radio". The evidence, we are to believe, is that 92% of the funding for KUOW comes from community-based individuals and businesses and 87% of these donations are less than $100. You don't have to be statistician to realize that this is grossly dishonest.
The reported statistics cited support only the proposition that ~80% of the funding for KUOW comes from individual and business donations of less than $100. Evidence for the claim "Seattle loves public radio" could come from market research but I suspect that the execs at KUOW rejected this because the relevant figures just don't support their claim.
For example, the Neilsen ratings from August 2018 show that while KUOW is tied with KIRO-FM for second place in the Seattle-Tacoma radio market, its audience share is only 5.9%. Second place at 5.9% is a respectable audience share in a competitive market but it doesn't have quite the same zing as the misleading stats KUOW used regarding Seattle's alleged love of public radio. Such narrative-driven dishonesty is, unfortunately, par for the course for KUOW and National Public Radio.