URLs du Jour

2018-09-27

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cafe Hayek, even devout nonpartisan Don Boudreaux is dismayed by The Death of Reason and the Slaying of Civility.

    The noir parade that is the march of at-least-as-yet unsubstantiated accusations that young Brett Kavanaugh serially committed indecent, and even heinous, sexual offenses against women has left me more despondent than I can ever recall being about American liberalism (by which I mean classical liberalism). I simply – and I mean this claim literally – cannot begin to begin to begin to begin to understand why so many of my fellow Americans are oblivious to the dangers of imposing the burden of proof or of persuasion upon the accused.

    That Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is not a criminal trial is, of course, true. But this fact does nothing whatsoever to change the logic of how civilized, decent, truth-respecting people assess claims of wrongdoing, no matter how paltry or grievous. And this logic has two essential component parts. First, any accuser must have something more than the accusation itself. Second, the accused is presumed innocent of the charge until and unless the accuser makes a reasonable argument that the accusation is true.

    I wonder if Democrats—like my state's senators—will someday look back on their participation in this coordinated smear campaign with shame?


  • I looked at this Free Beacon headline skeptically: Drug ODs Have Grown Exponentially Since 1980s. Exponentially? Really? Because it seems like a lot of non-math types use "exponential" as a synonym for "quick". Let's look:

    The number of drug overdoses has grown exponentially for at least the past 38 years, a new analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data argues.

    More than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, once again making drugs the leading cause of non-medical death in the United States. Those overdoses were driven in large part by opioids, especially the synthetic opioid fentanyl and its analogs. The paper, which appeared late last week in the journal Science, attempts to set the current opioid overdose crisis in the context of the long-run trend in drug overdoses in the United States.

    OK, things aren't great OD-wise. But still, exponentially? Let's click through to the Science article and… well, I'll be darned.

    The overall mortality rate for unintentional drug poisonings in the United States grew exponentially from 1979 through 2016.

    OK, if Science uses the word, they probably mean it. Specifically:

    Mortality curves from individual drugs do not show regular or predictable growth patterns. Nonetheless, we observed that the annual sum of all drug overdose mortality rates follows a remarkably smooth mathematical trajectory. Figure 1B plots changes in the total accidental poisoning mortality rate, from all drugs. Note that the total mortality rate per year is less than the sum of the mortality rates reported for individual drugs, owing to listing of more than one drug on the death certificate in many individual cases […] . The total accidental poisoning mortality rate closely tracks along an exponential growth curve defined as annual overall mortality rate in year (y) = 10(a + b*(y – 1978)), where a = –0.038 [confidence interval (CI) = (–0.104, 0.027)] and b = 0.032 [CI = (0.030, 0.034)]. With this exponential growth, the doubling time is approximately 9 years. Of particular interest is the observation that the first half of this long-term smooth exponential growth curve predates the current opioid epidemic.

    That formula provides the "mortality rate per 100K". So, by my calculation. sometime in the year 2135 (give or take), a mere 117 years from now, everybody will die from a drug overdose. Might not be—probably won't be—an opioid, but it will be something.

    You heard it here first.


  • Happy Banned Books Week, everyone! At PJMedia, Robert Spencer points out: Banned Books Week Only Features Leftist Books.

    This week is Banned Books Week, when all over the country, libraries and bookstores feature books that are supposedly being menaced by censors. Of course, the Leftist organizers of Banned Books Week omit all mention of the real censorship threat today, which is coming not from conservatives, but from the Left.

    To be fair, not all of the "banned" books are overtly leftist—To Kill a Mockingbird is on there for goodness' sake—it's just that they don't contain anything that would offend leftist sympathies.

    But, as Spencer points out…

    Muslim Brotherhood-linked Congressman Keith Ellison has demanded that Amazon stop stocking books by people who are blacklisted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). No one in the Leftist establishment stops to ponder the question of whether or not the SPLC is really a reliable source as to what constitutes a hate group and what doesn’t. If you’re on their list, the Left wants you silenced, and is moving quickly to silence you.
    [Amazon Link]

    Despite Ellison's efforts, you can still get Spencer's SPLC-condemned latest book, The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, from Amazon (as I type, a best-seller, in fact). A quick check of Worldcat, however, turns up only 52 libraries with a copy.

    The Banned Books website (sponsored by, among others, the American Library Association) says Thirteen Reasons Why is the "most challenged book of 2017". Worldcat says it's available at 3164 libraries.

    Spencer has a point.


  • Have you ever wondered (or even noticed) that the number keys on your phone are backwards from those on your calculator or the numeric keypad on your computer keyboard? Why is that? Via GeekPress, A brief history of the numeric keypad

    Subtle, but puzzling since they serve the same functional goal — input numbers. There’s no logical reason for the inversion if a user operates the interface in the same way. Common sense suggests the reason should be technological constraints. Maybe it’s due to a patent battle between the inventors. Some people may theorize it’s ergonomics.

    With no clear explanation, I knew history and the evolution of these devices would provide the answer. Which device was invented first? Which keypad influenced the other? Most importantly, who invented the keypad in the first place?

    Hint: we can look at Ma Bell, who put those letters by the numbers on a rotary-dial phone.


  • And finally, xkcd brings us Bad Opinions.

    [Bad Opinions]

    "I thought of another bad opinion! I couldn't find anyone who expressed it specifically, but still, the fact that I can so easily imagine it is infuriating! I'm gonna tell everyone about it!"