23 June 2011

The Other Wiki's Bias

You know, I know, and every sentient being in the universe knows that the other wiki is biased toward fundamaterialism. This topic has been written about before on the old Urban Mystic, and now it is being written about here.

But first, here's a bit of old news that really reminds me of the other wiki. On 7 February 2011, Muzzammil Syed Hassan, the founder of a Muslim-oriented television network, Bridges TV, behedded his wife inside the tv studio because she wanted a divorce. She filed for a divorce because he liked to beat her. Hassan believed he was in the right, as any good Muslim would beat and behead his wife, but he was convicted of second degree murder and is serving 25 years in prison (meaning he'll be out in 5, 10 tops, for making his bed and cleaning the toilet). The mission of the television network was to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims in the west after the 9/11 attacks.

On to the main story, Daily Grail writer Greg Taylor has posted a short piece on the bias of the other wiki in favor of fundamaterialism.

But first, here's a comment left on UD by someone writing as junkdnaforlife on the other wiki's bias (bold in original):

This is an expert from the talk page of the Shroud of Turin article. The problem here was that too many atheists were complaining that the Shroud article was too “pro-authentic”, and had to be changed. The re-butt to this claim was that all the “pro-authentic” info was from peer reviewed journals, and that if the scientific evidence pointed more towards authentic than not, than that is that. But the atheists would not have it. Scientific evidence is apparently only gospel if it fits with their dogma.

So what did the lead editor have to say about the weight of peer review articles vs. “skeptic websites”?

“Wikipedia does not work that way my friend. If the readers at large feel the article is too pro-authenticity, it does not matter what the academics think. At the moment there is just one IP complaining, the key is not to get to the point where 20 IPs complain. Then we will need a rewrite. And I must say the complaints of this IP are not all empty. He has some valid points. I do not see Joe Nickle as respectable, but he has 1,000 times more readers than all the other academics combined, so he can not be ignored and must be mentioned. Wikipedia is a “public” item, not an academic item.” History2007 (talk) 16:55, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

Again: Wikipedia is a “public” item, not an academic item.”

Remember this is a response to the overwhelming peer reviewed papers that support the Shroud’s authenticity. So to combat the peer reviewed papers, the science and reason police simply state that the academics do not matter more or less than a popular writer. The number of “readers” someone has now apparently holds as much weight than a Phd in the field. Perez Hilton can therefore weigh in on string theory. As long as the evidence goes against their dogma, then any BS is apparently allowed to hold as much water as peer review. And not just allowed but mandatory.

Back on track, Mr. Taylor corrected an article on trance medium Leonora Piper, pointing out flaws in skep-dick Martin Gardner's debunking. These corrections were removed and the original garbage put back up because Taylor's work was "original research":

According to user LuckyLouie, the reason for this was that "Wikipedia has a very clear policy of avoiding primary sources and instead using secondary sources that are at least one step removed from an event", and "On Wikipedia we like our 'informations' to come from reliable sources...rather than an editor doing their own original research and coming to their own original conclusions."

As an historian I can say folks in my field value primary sources over anything else. Historians want to get at primary sources, to know what really happened, rather than rely on what someone wrote later on. I learned about the value of primary sources first hand, so I can say that the other wiki and myself are fundamentally different in our view of what is and is not important in assessing facts (like Indiana Jones said, historians deal with facts, philosophers deal with truth).

Mr. Taylor points out that the other wiki holds up arch-skep-dicks as bastions of information, even when they have not done any relevant research on a topic, whereas any conflicting experts, people who have spent decades doing actual research in a given field, are tossed aside.

Gardner's article should never, ever be cited by anyone as having any authority in the Piper case. This is not based on opinion, or belief in the paranormal - it's based simply on Gardner's inability to provide factual information.

What follows is a list of Gardner's either ignorance of the facts or a deliberate attempt to mislead people.

Michael Prescott gives his take on the issue here. It's also short and a good read.

17 June 2011

40 Years of Drug War Failure

Retired Maryland State Police Major Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) explains why the War on Drugs has failed, how current drug policy has made the situation much worse than ever before, and what can be done to solve the problem, like taking Marijuana off Schedule I. Runs 8.5 minutes.

12 June 2011

The Tax Code

In the 1999 revolutionary block buster The Matrix computer hacker turned ninja warrior Cypher told new recruite Neo that even though the ship's computers could easily decipher the code of the Matrix the total amount of code in the Matrix was so vast that deciphering the whole thing is impossible. The United States tax code is the same.

Well, not exactly. Unlike the Matrix there is no easy way to decipher the tax code. It is written in the thickest, most unintelligible legal language imaginable, making it the bane of millions of American's existence.

I got to thinking "just how long is the US tax code?"

According to ReasonTV (part of the Reason Foundation), Americans paid $27.7 billion to comply with their taxes (these are 2008 statistics).

Also in 2008 the bottom 50% of taxpayers paid just 2.99% of total income tax collected by the federal government. In contrast the top 1% (the evil rich) paid 39.89%! Over 13 times more! The top 5% paid 60.14% of all taxes, and the top 10% paid 70.79%. Anyone who is not mentally challenged and is not blatantly lying to themself can see that there is absolutely no way the rich are not being taxed enough and that taxing the rich more won't make things better.

That's all very nice. No, it's all very disturbing, but it doesn't answer the question. How long is the tax code?

From what I can gather the US tax code is written by the IRS and Congress. The IRS writes Title 26 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations (known affectionately as "26 CFR"). Congress writes its own regulations under the name Title 26 of the United States Code. When you put these together you get the tax code.

The part written by Congress can easily be found online at the US Government Printing Office website. It consists of a single 18MB PDF with all of 3,728 pages for 2009 (the most recent digitized year). Researching 7 Days involved reading over 2,000 pages, to provide a comparison.

Finding the IRS portion of the code was much more difficult. They had split it up among 20 to 100+ individual PDF files. I did find a print copy of some or all of the IRS code for sale for just over $1200 (shipping included), but I am not going to purchase this entire library of text to find out how many pages it is
. After searching I discovered that CCH Incorporated had solved the problem for me. They put the grand total of pages of the US tax code for 2010 at 71,684 pages. I have not discovered the missing 67,956 pages so I cannot confirm this number. According to their statistics the tax code has grown by almost 2,000 pages since 2009, and it is revised and enlarged every year.

My top speed reading seems to be around 40 pages/hour, and it goes down with boring or difficult text. To finish reading the entire tax code would take me 1,791 hours 6 minutes, or just over 74 1/2 days of continuous reading. Reading for a more realistic 10 hours, with breaks every 90 minutes to use the facility (est. 10 minutes/break, or 9 hours reading 1 hour peeing total) reading the entire tax code will take 200 days at top speed. In reality reading the whole thing would be impossible. That's why companies hire thousands of lawyers to study the tax code.

That's the answer, so what's the solution? Back when The Urban Mystic was on AOL instead of Google I proposed an alternative income tax scheme. Instead of 71 thousand pages let's simplify things to less than ten. The first page is simple, if you make more than $24,000 a year (2010 estimate of the minimum a single person must make in America just to survive) you pay 10%, no more, no less. It doesn't matter if you make $30 thousand or $30 million, you pay 10%. That means the minimum you pay, on an income of $24,000.01 you pay $2,400.00 in taxes. Donald Trump, who made $50 million in 2009, would pay $5 million in taxes, 2,083 times what someone on minimum wage would pay. There are no loop holes, no deductions, no fancy tricks. If you make more than the minimum you must pay 10%, full stop. The remaining 9 pages of my tax code would include penalties and whatever else is needed to determine how this works. It's not important. What really matters is the first page. Encapsulated in that first page is the solution to the tax problem. Economically speaking it is the red pill to get us out of this 71 thousand page Matrix.

11 June 2011

Making A Marine

In 12 weeks 200 ordinary mortals are transformed into members of the elite fighting force, the United States Marine Corps. Runs aprox. 21 minutes.

09 June 2011

No Mass Extinction

More old news, this time from UD. We learn that the "sixth great extinction," said to be caused by you and your carbon and certainly not Algore, who uses 24 times the carbon you do but he's better than you and so it's okay for him to do so, and you should feel bad, has been grossly miscalculated. According to Debora MacKenzie writing for New Scientist:

It is impossible to accurately measure extinction rates. Dozens of new species are identified each year, and counting those that disappear is hard because many are small and live in poorly studied, mainly tropical environments.

Instead, extinction rates are often predicted from a mathematical model based on habitat loss, which is more easily measured. (Bold Added)

Just like absolutely everything else a mathematical model is used instead of actually looking at the facts. They're not even measuring habitat loss, they're using a model of habitat loss to make predictions and then blaming you when two species of plant and one species of fish no one knew or cared about go missing. As a matter of fact, a full third of all mammal species declaired extinct in the past few centuries have turned out to be just hiding, including a cute little brown and white thing called an okapi and a few rat-like creatures. 67 out of 187 missing mammal species since 1500 have turned up alive and well. The sooner the little fellas went "extinct" the more likely they were to just be hiding somewhere. If a creature went missing in the 20th century it was three times more likely to still be alive than if it went missing in the 19th century. I guess a hundred years ago people knew what extinction really means. There is also the distinct possibility that the thylacine (Tazmanian tiger/wolf) did not go extinct in 1936, as evident by alleged sitings in the 1970s and even today, although no one really knows (I happen to think there is a very good chance they are still alive, maybe 80+ percent).

A new method for calculating the extinction rates of animals produces numbers 83-165 percent lower than using the old habitat loss models. That's a huge discrepancy with broad policy implications, such as plunging California's Central Valley into economy crushing drought to protect a tiny fish that may or may not have any significance to the area's ecosystem and probably won't go extinct anyway if water is diverted back to agricultural usage.

Extinction, habitat loss, and environmental degredation are serious problems, but it shouldn't be necessary to scare people into draconian 1984 iron-fisted government control to fix a problem that may not even exist. A little self-control goes a long way, and taking time to look through all the data is usually the best choice of action. There probably isn't a sixth great extinction, and if there is it probably isn't our fault (the first five weren't, after all; it's pretty arrogant to think this one is), but responsible stuardship of the planet is still important and is best conducted in a thorough, prudent manner.

07 June 2011

A Head and Eight Testicles

This is easily one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. This Australian man says an octopus has eight testicles. You have got to see this.

01 June 2011

The Jane Austen Project Preview

I have begun my very own My Little Pony fan story. Initial estimates place the final length at 26 chapters, whatever that means. The first ever sketch can be found here. As chapters are finished they will probably be posted here (however long a chapter is), but for now here is the first 149 words!

Jane Austen's
The Scarlet Cutie Mark
A Bromance

After the Fall

Sylvan Forest
6,330 miles south of Ponyville

Fine drops of rain fall on everything and everypony in the thick forest. One by one they clear the late afternoon air of the smoke left by countless fires left burning for days. Here and there the faint glimmer of sunlight filters through the clouds, warming the land as well as the hearts of they who have assembled. In the grey-green darkness of the tiny clearing Constantine stands with his stallions, 20,000 in all, an assembly of the bravest, toughest, cussingist, drinkingist warriors ever assembled in the region's entire history. They are each clad in armour of boiled leather, hard as iron, with hobnail boots and a rolled steel helmet. They are as grim a sight as has ever been; enough to turn a pony's blood to ice.

Ben Stein Says The "Arab Spring" Sucks

The pro-west anti-Iran, somewhat pro-Israel, somewhat pro-human rights Mubarak was ousted by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the exact opposite. Iran is making a play for the whole Near East.