Zero Emission – At What Cost?

A recent executive order by California Governor Gavin Newsom mandates that all vehicles be zero emission by 2035. While it does not specifically state that all vehicles must be electric, right now hybrid and electric vehicles are the most viable of all alternative fuel types on the market. While California’s “enlightened energy” policies are among some progressive policies that may have reduced emissions, they have also resulted in rolling blackouts, increasingly rising taxes, and a mass exodus of businesses and individuals over the past ten years. While solar power and wind work well during the day and in favorable weather conditions, they do not offer a consistent power supply, which can lead to shortfalls during high demand or inclement weather. Not surprisingly, public disgruntlement about a multitude of oppressive policies has reached a head, and a record number of signatures demanding his removal from office.

It is worth noting that fully electric vehicles, although considered to be “zero emission” are not without environmental costs. The mining of lithium, cobalt, and related chemicals used in car batteries have resulted in environmental hazards such as the contamination of hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, fish kills, and mining using child and unskilled labor in places like Congo, Africa. These chemicals, upon entry into the water supply, travel hundreds and even thousands of miles into the surrounding areas.

The story of environmental destruction does not end with battery production, since batteries have a limited lifespan and must be replaced periodically. According to an article in Wired Magazine, currently, very few lithium ion batteries used in cellular phones, radios, and other household appliances are recycled, and the ones that do find their way into a proper disposal facility are smelted. Smelting amounts to burning in an incinerator similar to that used for metal productions. It produces a fair amount of poisonous, carcinogenic emissions, and very little of the remaining material can actually be reused, however, it does prevent the batteries from contaminating landfills and fouling the water supply. According to the same article, while it is possible to recycle batteries in a method which would allow more of the materials to be reused, the process is expensive and time consuming.

While it is definitely true that hybrid and electric cars produce fewer emissions, simply measuring emissions cannot account for the complete environmental impact of these classes of vehicles. In fact, some critics speculate that due to the production costs and impacts, the true environmental savings from a hybrid car come after five or six years of operation, since the carbon costs of creating a hybrid car is actually initially higher than a gas or diesel car, due to battery production. And depending upon the source of the electricity used to charge the vehicles, the carbon savings might be even less than originally imagined.

Comparisons show that while hybrid cars really excel in city driving conditions, on the highway diesel vehicles get comparable gas mileage, and diesel vehicles have excellent torque at low speeds, which makes them extremely useful for hauling heavy loads, and for use as work vehicles. In the 1970s, before the EPA began regulating diesel fuel, it was a common sight to see black, sooty smoke belching from the tail pipe of diesel trucks, however Modern Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel technologies, including reduced amount of sulfur present in the fuel, Exhaust Gas Recirculation devices (EGR,) and catalytic converters significantly reduce the total emissions from a diesel. According to, modern regulations and standards have resulted in a 90% reduction in harmful emissions compared to older style diesels.

While hybrid cars are known to clock over 200,000 miles with one or two battery change outs, diesel trucks, known for their longevity, regularly approach 400,000 miles with routine maintenance, which means diesels are extremely cost efficient for fleet owners. It is easy to refuel them anywhere at market prices, and fleet owners do not need to factor in the cost of extremely large, expensive drive battery replacement. Diesels equipped with fuel heaters outperform electrics at temperatures below freezing. Because of the increased weight of battery packs required to do heavy pulling compared the the relatively light weight of fuel to do the same work, cargo loads for trucks might be significantly reduced by thousands of pounds, which hurts the bottom line for trucking companies.

As the former owner of a Euro model hybrid car, I can say that there were many things I loved about the car. I got excellent gas mileage, close to 50 mpg for city driving! Amazing torque helped me pull away from the stoplight before anyone else, and due to the regenerative braking feature, my Bosch brake pads still looked brand new after five years, even in spite of my tendency towards aggressive driving and occasional hard braking. However, the honeymoon was over when the car hit the 75,000 mile marker, and I began to price out replacement drive batteries. To my horror, the price had risen three fold from the time when I had bought the car, to over $10,000! After doing the cost benefit analysis, and taking into account my genuine love for the car, I realized that it did not make financial sense to hold on to it when I could buy a newer car for the price of the replacement battery. I speculated upon the reason for the rise in price, which might have been the increasing demand for lithium batteries for automotive use, supply issues, tariffs placed on raw materials from China, but ultimately, the reasons for the high price did not matter. I bought a certified pre-owned diesel car which had passed California emissions, gets 43 highway mpg, and which allows me to do more of my own maintenance. I’m quite happy with it!

Which brings me to a final point, which is that huge, monocultures in any industry are not good for either the environment or the consumer. It is known that large, single crop farms are plagued by pests and deplete the soil from nutrients that are normally replenished with crop rotation style farming. Similarly, production of only electric vehicles might crowd out newer technologies, such as hydrogen cars, CNG vehicles, and ultra low emission diesels and gasoline cars which might provide similar environmental benefits at a lower cost to the consumer, and without large scale environmental ravages. It also stifles competitive market forces which continually drive further innovation and change, resulting in safer, better products at lower prices. It may lead to supply issues in California, if the diesel trucks which are standard currently are not allowed into the state to deliver products, and it will most definitely lead to higher cost of goods. I believe that electric cars have their place, and in many circumstances, might be preferable to combustion cars, as in use for short city drives and civic vehicles which remain in town, and I admire the accomplishments of innovative companies like Tesla, however, restrictive and draconian government restrictions will only lead to other types of environmental problems and economic hazards.

Click here for a good clip about the costs/benefits of combustion vs electric cars:

Voting Irregularities?

For many reasons, 2020 has been an outlier, including the way our election was conducted this year. A few things stood out to me in the news. Landslide election for the GOP senate, but there are a few other things about the election that have stood out. An mathematical tool called “Benford’s Law,” which is used to detect tax fraud, was used to analyze the election results and it found that votes for Biden in some jurisdictions were likely fraudulent. While some mathematicians say that Benford’s law can only be used for measurements within certain parameters, this would not explain why votes for Trump fail the test for fraud and Biden’s votes passed the test in those same jurisdictions.

While it may be true that the method of mail in ballots may have skewed the vote slightly towards Biden (I agree that this is possible,) the traditional “bellweather counties” as well as the state of Iowa, which usually predict the presidential winner, were also incorrect, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The most recent court proceedings in Georgia show election officials counting ballots which were hidden under a table in several suitcases after volunteer poll watchers and other representatives had gone home. In ideal conditions without machine malfunctions, they may have counted up to ten thousand ballots illegally (In Georgia the law states that elections must be open to observation and cannot be counted after the polling stations have closed. Sworn affidavits by numerous witnesses attest that poll watchers were told to go home before additional counts took place. You cannot learn this from most of the news stories out there… but you can see it if you watch the unedited live proceedings HERE, about 3 hrs and 31 minutes into the footage. In any case, at the very LEAST this was a breach of election law in Georgia, and at WORST it might have meant that illegal ballots were counted.

The problem with these ‘recounts’ is that they don’t account for fraudulent ballots. Hypothetically, if your local supermarket gives you eighty dollars in change for a hundred dollar bill in fives and tens, but 8 of those bills were counterfit, you may count them as many times as you wish and you will still get the same result. The only way to determine whether votes were counted legally is to match each vote with a live person who is registered to vote in the state in which the vote was cast, and of course, because of our secret ballot there is no way to do this. It’s akin to trying to separate the cream from the coffee after it’s already been mixed in.

It’s very clear that in key states that would decide the election, such as Pennsylvania, elections were extended illegally and arbitrarily, without getting official approval from the election committee, and that other breaches of election integrity have taken place, including hasty or improper signature verification, “dead” voters casting votes, out of state voters who have officially moved voting in the state that they moved from, and votes which were “lost” or perhaps intentionally uncounted.

While it’s true that absentee ballots have been used for many years with good success, the hasty precautions put into place over the short term for the 2020 election compromised election security. In this country, the VOTERS and electoral college decide the election, and in the case that a few states have cheating, this affects the outcome for the entire country, and lawsuits such as those filed by Texas are assertions that citizens expect elections in ALL STATES to be conducted with specific rules in place, and with proper representation from all parties involved in the election. In my opinion, there simply are not enough safeguards in place for proper verification that a mailed in ballot was cast by the intended recipient of the ballot. There should be a call in/internet check in by each voter that their ballot had been sent, tracking numbers to see when the ballot arrives, and other safeguards to ensure that grandchildren are not voting for their grandparents, and that ballots are not being harvested from vulnerable mailboxes or after being left out in the open. Voting machines should NEVER be hooked up to the wifi or other internet connections, and we should not have foreign entities in Canada or other countries involved with our election counts. There must be a paper trail for all votes counted, and watermarks and strips such as those on twenty and hundred dollar bills to ensure that all ballots received are not counterfit.

I am college educated, with a Master’s Degree, secular, a science minded person who believes in evolution and the empirical process, and an outspoken GLBT person to boot, and all statistical models show that I should be a Democrat. However I strongly believe in a federalist system, low taxes, and the preservation of our constitutional rights and bill of rights. The Obama administration, after eight years, failed to address the wage gaps, growing disparity between rich and poor, low employment rate among black Americans, and was very weak on foreign policy. It was time for a change, and time for a strong individual with the courage to go against the grain from outside of the political swamp to make sweeping changes to the broken system. I went from an Obama voter to a Trump voter.

Most mainstream news sources simply don’t cover the following issues showing significant voting irregularities

Michigan county flipped after hand recount

Dominion machine errors and other breaches of voter privacy

“Ethical Dilemmas” and the Pandemic

Anyone who has taken a philosophy or ethics class should be familiar with the following scenarios:

  1. There are two ships in the middle of the ocean, one is transporting prisoners (violent convicted murderers and felons) and the other women and children. One ship must be sunk in order so that the other one survives. Which one is saved?
  2. There is a train rapidly approaching a bifurcation in the tracks. On one side five innocent children are tied to the tracks, and they will all perish if the train is not diverted. On the other side is your mom. What do you do?
  3. Some new medications are being developed for treatment of a contagious skin disease. All people must take the medication in order for it to effectively prevent the outbreak of this deadly skin disease. Medication A will cure 75% of those who take it, while 25% will die. Medication B does not cause death, however it is not very effective at preventing the skin disease. In that case even with 100% compliance, approximately half of the individuals may die from the skin disease, rather than the effects of the medication. What do you do?

Covid-19- 2020 – Two Scenarios

A highly contagious flu is spreading rapidly, but the good news is that those under 50 years old have less than half a percent chance of dying from the it, although they may be very sick for a week or two ( Most individuals under 80 years old have less than a 10% chance of dying from this contagious disease, and most of those who do perish have some other co-morbidities (smoking, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) The virus does not stand up very well to hand washing or alcohol sanitizers and it has been found that since it is predominantly spread via droplets, that “social distancing” and wearing masks may help mitigate the spread of the virus.

Option A: Shut everything down including businesses, hotels, schools, and bars, in order to curb the spread of the disease that mainly affects those 65 and over. It is understood that option A will create widespread economic distress, will cause the failure of many mom and pop businesses, and will cause millions of people (many permanently) to lose their jobs and livelihoods. They may have to sell their homes, stop paying for cancer treatments, or move into their parents house at 50 years old. Option A may also mean that many people will die of other untreated diseases such as heart and liver disease, cancer, hypertension, and untreated mental illness exacerbated by isolation, economic stresses, and domestic abuse. Millions of underprivileged children will have their educations set back due to lack of access to broadband internet and the necessity of sharing one device between three or four people. Option A will cost billions in tax dollars, and will result in untold misery and struggles for millions and millions of people. Option A will require the overstep of the judiciary by the executive branches of government. They will temporarily make laws which are unconstitutional and no one will have the right to challenge these in court, since the courts will be closed. Option A may or may not prevent the spread of the virus, however it will prolong the sting, just like the notorious death of 1000 cuts.

Option B: Do not shut down, but give as many people as possible the option to work remotely from home. Send children to school, but monitor them closely for symptoms, and require those sick children to quarantine at home, and allow some at risk students (or those who have at risk family members) to voluntarily take distance learning classes from home in lieu of showing up to class. Allow those about 65 to voluntarily quarantine at home for the year, even if that means they must take unemployment insurance. Allow restaurants to stay open, preserving jobs and social outlets for those least at risk, but put up barriers and require more distancing between tables until the virus is under control. Allow private businesses and organizations, such as churches, to mandate that patrons and members wear masks and refrain from certain activities temporarily. Option B may result in a slightly higher death rate for those at risk, however, it will prevent the untimely permanent closure of many businesses, and will honor and preserve the individual liberties of all individuals. Option B will be a fraction of the cost of Option A, and it is flexible enough to give the option of choice to those who are more concerned about the virus. It will allow hospitals and medical offices to remain open, albeit with some modifications and new requirements. Option B will most definitely minimize the negative consequences of the virus to the economy, and also to many people’s personal lives, and there is a chance that it will be about as effective at slowing and controlling the spread as option A (

What should be done?

Letter Against the Shutdown

In the aftermath of the completely unprecedented shutdown, I began dwelling upon how it happened that an entire world closed.  A brief timeline of the shutdown follows.  In late Dec/early Jan, the virus became apparent in China, but early whistleblowers were shamed and forced to retract their statements, and social media posts related to the outbreak were deleted, according to NPR.  While official Chinese reports of covid deaths stand at 4,634, according to, other reports cited communist party coverups of the total deaths, and the actual death count may be as high as 21 million, if suspended cellular phone service is taken into account (Epoch Times.)  A more moderate estimate by still postulates that Covid deaths in China were under reported by many thousands, and that the Chinese government was not aware of the full extent of the impact of Covid.  

Reports began surfacing in February of Chinese citizens barricaded against their will into their homes, who then relied upon the kindness of neighbors for food and provisions (NYT.)  In fact, word of mouth accounts relate thousands being trapped in high rise apartments after the doors were welded completely shut, and of thousands of bodies being cremated nightly.  The low death count at the epicenter of the viral outbreak flouts all scientific models, which normally show the highest death rates at the epicenter (virus circulates without wide awareness and infects more people before symptoms and signs become known.)  In order to understand this effect, we can look to the European epicenter in Italy, which has close economic ties with China related to the garment and fashion industry.  As early as the last quarter of 2019, Italian hospitals reported escalating rates of pneumonia, and so the virus was likely circulating for months before the lockdown in March of 2020 (Reuters.) The fact that information about the new coronavirus was not available meant that preventative methods were not taken, which caused the Italian death rate to be one of the highest in all of Europe (  It was then that communist Chinese government officials sent envoys to advise and “assist” the Italians in controlling the viral outbreak, which the Chinese government itself initially downplayed and covered up, accusing doctors of “spreading rumors” and censoring internet posts related to the infection (Buzzfeed.)  This debacle highlights the importance of free speech within medical circles, as well as society at large, and the disturbing trend, not only in China, but in countries which have traditionally enjoyed freedom of speech and expression.   The free dissemination of information and “rumors” might have allowed people to take protective steps that might have prevented a worldwide calamity.

So this brief timeline may have given us the background into the question of why, for the first time in history, healthy people were quarantined and thriving economies were shut down.  The word “quarantine” actually comes from the Italian world for “forty.”  In years past, when ships would arrive at ports from areas that were suspected of having infectious outbreaks, they were required to remain docked for forty days before unloading either cargo or passengers.  In past epidemics, only sick individuals were required to quarantine, and others who were vulnerable could isolate themselves of their own volition.  As the world watched the Italian’s dire situation, the Italians followed the advice of a communist regime which does not recognize individual rights, and has a long history of human rights abuses.  They were told that allowing individuals out to the supermarket was “not strict enough.” Due partly to artificially low reports of Covid deaths from communist Chinese authorities, the Italians, and subsequently the world, falsely assumed that the virus could be contained by strict lockdowns of all people, whether sick or healthy.  In perhaps the most astounding case of “groupthink” in all recorded history, European governments, falling like a stack of dominoes, voluntarily implemented the lie.  The consensus was that it was “irresponsible” to consider anything short of complete lockdown, even in spite of the dearth of evidence that this sort of program might be effective at containing the virus.

In fact, many jurisdictions which instituted strict lockdowns immediately experienced a spike in cases (the notorious “double hump”) after even moderate re-openings (NYT) and California’s rate climbed to the highest in the country after a strict two month closure.   Rather, the spread of the virus and the death rate was related less to how strict the lockdown was, but more to population density.  In fact, a map showing population density superimposed over a map of coronavirus cases and deaths will show a very strong positive correlation, and some of the vulnerabilities may be related to genetic and biological factors completely beyond outside control.  It is known that men are more affected than women across racial lines, and that Italians and Spainiards suffered a higher death rate even though population density and access to good medical treatment are similar in France and Germany.

It seems reasonable that measures should have been taken to control the spread of the virus.  The government of Taiwan, which for excellent reasons keeps very careful intelligence about it’s Chinese neighbor, did not lock down.  Instead, it instituted an immediate travel ban and strict sanitary and distancing measures which were designed to slow the spread, but which did not deprive citizens of their liberties, occupations, and pursuit of happiness.  Taiwan has one of the lowest death rates from the virus, and Sweden and South Korea also have very low rates compared to other countries, even in spite of a dearth of restrictions.  Sweden’s death rate is actually within 10,000 of its close neighbor the Netherlands, and the death rate is far below France, Germany, and the UK.  Most of those deaths took place in nursing homes and among the elderly. Much of the social distancing and heightened sanitation in these countries were achieved through voluntary measures. 

This lockdown, which was meant to “protect” people from infection, has stripped millions of the most economically vulnerable from their livelihoods, and has placed millions more on a dangerous precipice towards bankruptcy.  Large urban centers have faced sudden changes as retail outlets and restaurants which were struggling are now closed permanently (CNN.)  Large urban centers with many social programs financed by local governments are finding that the bulk of tax payers who can afford to move are leaving town, which means that there will be no tax money to pay for sequelae resulting from these extreme lockdowns, rioting, looting, and social unrest (Fox News.)  Un-mitigating rioting and looting have further destroyed local communities, and the business endeavors of many minorities and underprivileged groups which were least able to weather the storm.  Moreover, the ravages of social isolation, untreated cancer, heart and liver and other disease, currently unquantified, may be exacting a much higher human price than the prospective tolls by Covid-19.   The poorest children with the least access to internet connections and technology for distance learning were the most set back from the shutdown.  Even in Europe, which the world seems to see as having handled the situation well, the situation is still dire for the youngest citizens who have the fewest resources and legal protections (WSJ.)  We have yet to see the full extent of the toll exacted by the shutdown, and the pain will be experienced for years to come.

We can only hope that we have learned from this human experiment, which was forced upon innocents without their consent.  We can expect that pandemics will continue to be a part of the human experience, due to advances in engineering which has allowed the highest population densities in all of human history.  Reasonable measures, travel bans, temperature checks, masks, and distance work/learning over the short term seem like compromises to slow the spread.  Plastic barriers in shops, restaurants, and public places which were primarily erected voluntarily were also reasonable accommodations which allowed life to go on, while still acknowledging that measures were necessary to guard against a dangerous virus.  Hopefully, local and national jurisdictions will formulate plans for future pandemics in ways which allow life to go on without causing economic chaos, huge human life tolls, and social unrest, and which will not violate our civil rights and liberties.

I’m NOT the only one who feels this way!  Here are some other commentaries against the shutdown.

“NYC is Dead Forever”  NYPost

“…no society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of its overall economic health.” WSJ  

“Cooler heads and common sense must regain control.”  Times of San Diego

Write to your local legal representatives and let them know that you’re UPSET

Grumblings on Immigrant Attainment

The idea of “white privilege” has dominated the news and media lately, and I began ruminating on a few things. Much of the discourse on the fact that “brown” people tend to make less money and work in lower paying jobs fails to account for the fact that immigration patterns have shifted only in a relatively recent period of USA history. According to this great pictorial chart found

As recently as 1970 (about one generation ago) the majority of immigrants to the USA were “white” Europeans. Notice that I put the word “white” in quotations. The fact of the matter is that if you ask most Swedes, Finns, or Baltic inhabitants they will not consider Southern Italians, Turks, or Afghanis to be “white.” Anyway, it was really in the 1980s that the demographics began to shift towards Central Americans, Indians, and East Asians. These immigrants, like the European immigrants before them, took blue collar jobs which required little education and training, and allowed them to learn the English language a bit better. It is not an accident that taxi drivers in New York City are largely of Ethiopian, Indian, or Carribean descent. This is one of the few jobs which allows a recent immigrant to earn a sustainable wage and support a family in a region which has the highest cost of living in the country. Likewise, many of these new immigrants work in janitorial work, sanitation, food service, and other jobs which they can make 15-20 dollars per hour without a four year degree!

Rather than to decry the “injustice” of the fact that these jobs may have an over representation of “brown faces” we should rejoice in the fact that there are so many opportunities for recent immigrants to make a living! Among my own immigrant history, I had a white great grandfather from the Balkans who worked long and hard as a coal miner, and on my maternal side, my immigrant ancestors worked in the garment industry in order to support themselves. It has always been the case that new immigrants have been vulnerable to exploitation and bad treatment, regardless of their ancestral origin. Even Irish immigrants, who are now considered to be WASPs were subject to discrimination, as reflected in a blog post here.

As a matter of fact, many of the newest immigrants have MUCH MORE education than previous European groups, largely due to the fact that educational attainment has been rising worldwide. According to the Pew Research Center, Asian, Middle Eastern, European, and Sub-Saharan Immigrants have the highest levels of educational attainment when they arrive to this country, while Central American and Mexican immigrants have the lowest levels of education. In general, Carribeans have graduated from high school, at a minimum.

Now it is probably not wise to gauge immigrant education attainment without separating those who came in with education vs those who did not. In fact, all immigrants who come to this country come with the attitude that no one owes them anything, and that their success depends upon their own efforts, strength of character, and grit. This is probably why black immigrants outperform their native born black counterparts. I believe in fact that the widespread belief that blacks will be held down due to their skin color actually impedes people from attempting efforts that might result in success. Psychology studies have shown again and again that a person’s sense of self efficacy does have a dramatic impact on what they are able to achieve.

I am troubled by the rise of revisionist history which fails to acknowledge the struggle of all immigrants. The fact that currently more whites have achieved higher levels of success is in part due to the fact that these groups have been here LONGER, and that the longer an immigrant group is here in the United States, the more likely they are to achieve higher education and job success. Actually, various news postings which I have come across actually portend the growing success of immigrant groups relative to native born groups. Rather than to notice more immigrants working in blue collar jobs as a sign of success and available job opportunity, these things are seen as signs of oppression.

I do support women’s right to choose, however, it shouldn’t be a “free for all” to kill wantonly and capriciously.

“The test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.” This quote, usually attributed to Mahatma Ghandi, can only verifiably be attributed to writer Pearl S. Buck, who famously wrote “The Good Earth” which I read in high school voluntarily. Yes, of course no matter how many forms of birth control we have, occasionally, sh*t happens. I don’t believe that women should be forced to carry the child of her rapist to term, and I understand the concerns of a woman who has found out that her fetus has been diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome or some other disease or problem that would majorly affect the child’s quality of life.

I do find it disturbing though, that the public dialogue has shifted away from concerns about quality of life, compassion, and civil rights to the notion that a woman should be able to kill at will and for any reason. There is no acknowledgment that the entity which will be targeted for removal is some sort of human being, and whether it should have full human rights or not is almost a separate issue. I simply find third trimester abortions, partial birth, and after birth abortions completely barbaric, not only because of the small body involved, but because of the failure to acknowledge and respect the innate value of a human life. I am decidedly not religious, although I held onto the notion that (at least in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic paradigms) all human beings are considered to have intrinsic value, regardless of their social status, gender, race, talents and abilities, their unique genotype, or their possible contribution to society.

In the United States Declaration of Independence, our founders stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” All medical terminology aside, there is no doubt in my mind that late trimester infants, who often survive premature births to live healthy, fulfilling lives, are fully human and should have certain “unalienable rights.” I really would not want to live in a society which values the rights of those with power, money, and social status over the rights of those with none of those things. This is more of a classical liberal’s dilemma of wanting full rights for all, so long as acting upon those rights does not infringe upon the rights of someone else. In the USA, oftentimes, pets and livestock have rights, and if some members of congress have their way, cows at the slaughterhouse will have more rights than a potential human.

Aside from legal issues, I wonder how the idea of partial birth or post-natal abortions fits in with the doctor’s hippocratic oath and commitment to non-maleficence (that is, to work to protect the patient’s life and well being at all times and to “first, do no harm.”) No doubt, this is a complicated and nuanced subject, and there are lots of competing ethical dilemmas here. I still am mostly flabbergasted by just how many people support what I consider to be baby killing without any reservations, and I find it just one among many other disturbing trends which value the rights of groups over the rights of individuals.

In the News Today: Education “Has a Strong Impact” on Heart Disease Risk

The article which inspired my ire was published on Well, here is another example of fallacious thinking… that is, the false line of reasoning that education CAUSES people to have higher or lower risk of diseases OF ANY KIND. This is simply one of the more egregious examples of a spurious relationship being passed along to the public IN LIEU OF absolute proof of causation.

In my college statistics course, one of the factoids that was passed along to the class to illustrate the idea of a spurious relationship was that in India in the summer, the Ganges river levels are positively correlated with the numbers of rapes reported to the police. Well, does this mean that the rising water “causes” the increased rapes? Or could the relationship be due to a third variable, that being that the river levels are highest in the summertime, when many people (many of whom survive without modern air conditioning) are outside where they might catch a cool breeze?

While I’d be the first to agree that education is important, I simply cannot fathom that the LACK of education might cause various health issues. It has been found that those with less education also tend to eat poor diets, and that they often have trouble understanding health related documents given to them at hospitals and doctor’s offices. Maybe, just maybe, the poor diet and other issues might be related to third factors like lack of impulse control and lower overall intelligence. I can see here that I am fanning the flames of collective ire by even suggesting that intelligence might be related to any of these things, but let’s face it, while a few IQ points might not make or break you, the likelihood that 30-40 points might influence your life path is actually pretty high. What about other personality traits like impulsiveness? An impulsive person might not like to study hard in school when they have the opportunity to play video games or go smoke out with a friend. An impulsive person might understand that eating loads of potato chips, fried chicken, and twinkies might be bad for their health, but they might care more about the immediate gratification of food than they do about long term health benefits. It’s also possible that the clusterf*ck of poverty, low life opportunities, poor understanding of how some actions lead to some consequences, and poor self control might create the perfect storm for heart disease and other health conditions to take hold.

Why is it that professionally trained journalists are not required to have a basic understanding of statistics? Of course I’m being facetious here, but think about it! Why aren’t articles which contain statistical data required to be reviewed by a mathematician? (Or at least, someone who took at least one class in research methods?)

I’m the first to agree that anyone has the right to publish ANYTHING. I think what causes me consternation though, is that dimwitted drivel like this ends up influencing public policies that result in “everyone needing to go to college” or tax hikes for experimental education programs. Live and let live! But realize that that also means we may not like the way others care to live.

Notes On Liberty

Spontaneous thoughts on a humble creed

Why Evolution Is True

Why Evolution is True is a blog written by Jerry Coyne, centered on evolution and biology but also dealing with diverse topics like politics, culture, and cats.


Politics, Angst, Libertarianism

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