Sean King

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San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Unintelligent Design

Yet again, it appears that "irreducible complexity" isn't irreducible at all.

Sherman Frederick Calls Out Harry Reid

Sherman Frederick: You could call Reid's remark ugly and be right. It certainly was boorish. Asinine? That goes without saying.

But to fully capture the magnitude of Reid's remark (and to stop him from doing the same thing to others) it must be called what it was -- a full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he's shaking them down.

No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.

If he thinks he can push the state's largest newspaper around by exacting some kind of economic punishment in retaliation for not seeing eye to eye with him on matters of politics, I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don't have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.

Something tells me that Sherman will not long need to "imagine."

Julian W. Phillips:

Why Did the U.S. government Confiscate Gold in 1933 and Can it Happen Again? - Part 3

Today in 1930

They didn't know that they were having a depression either.

Revisiting Rathergate

LGF: Rather’s producer, Mary Mapes, knew all along that the premise of the report was false.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jonah Goldberg says Goodbye to the "Liberal Fascism" Blog:

Well, it was a nice run. But I think it’s time to turn out the lights on the Liberal Fascism blog. Alas, turning out the lights on liberal fascism might take a bit longer.

As only the most loyal readers may have noticed, I haven’t been updating the blog much this summer. I fell out of the habit while I was on the NR Cruise and never got back into it. One reason for that might be that if you wanted to read about the themes of my book, all you had to do was open a newspaper.

Let’s see. Off the top of my head, in the first six months of Obama’s presidency we’ve seen corporatism and “state capitalism” run amok, in the government takeover of two car companies and numerous banks. Labor unions have become increasingly indistinguishable from the government and the party that controls it. Herbert Croly and the Progressives have once again been rehabilitated as founding fathers of the New Age. The entire liberal intellectual class is convinced that this the time for a new New Deal. Critics of statism are vilified by liberal elites as racists and fascists. (And those who refuse to get with the Gorian program are guilty of "treason against the planet"). When out of power, liberals lionized free speech and celebrated dissent as the highest form of patriotism. Now, they label dissent “un-American” and the president insists he doesn’t want to hear a lot of talking from anyone who disagrees with him. While the stench of eugenics and euthanasia do not quite sting the nostrils yet, the odor is detectable and the liberal impulse for controlling the lives of others has been re-exposed.

Indeed, our own messianic president, who insists that we can create a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, also apparently believes that “we are God's partners in matters of life and death” and that religious organizations that are true to their calling should rally behind a united front to expand the scope and role of government. When the head of state says such things, it is hard not to be reminded of the Progressive concept of the God State, a major theme of Liberal Fascism. The “State is the actually existing, realized moral life . . . The divine idea as it exists on earth,” Hegel declared in The Philosophy of History. The State, according to Hegel, was the “march of God on earth.” The progressives agreed. Richard Ely, the founding father of progressive economics, proclaimed “God works through the State in carrying out His purposes more universally than through any other institution.”

How right Jonah was/is.

Still Quiet on the Sun

Anthony Watts: According to NOAA sunspot counts, the longest string of blank suns during the current solar minimum was 52 days back in July, Aug. and Sept. of 2008. If the current trend continues for only four more days, the record will shift to 2009. It’s likely to happen; the sun remains eerily quiet and there are no sunspots in the offing. Solar minimum is shaping up to be a big event indeed.

Monkey Has Two Mommies (And a Daddy)

The Washington Post: Scientists have produced monkeys with genetic material from two mothers, an advance that could help women with some inherited diseases have healthy children but that would raise a host of safety, legal, ethical and social questions if attempted in people.

Using cloning-related techniques, the researchers developed a way to replace most of the genes in the eggs of one rhesus macaque monkey with genes from another monkey. They then fertilized the eggs with sperm, transferred the resulting embryos into animals' wombs and produced four apparently healthy offspring.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Want to Know Your Chance of Dying in the Next Year?

Carnegie Mellon thinks they can tell you.


USA Today: The IRS will announce 2010 contribution limits for 401(k) plans in October, based on a formula tied to the inflation rate in the third quarter vs. the year-ago quarter. For 2009, most workers can contribute up to $16,500 to their 401(k) plans, plus an additional $5,500 if they're 50 or older.

Unless inflation picks up in August and September, the IRS could be forced to reduce the cutoff to $16,000 in 2010, according to an analysis by Mercer, a human resources consultant. The threshold for catch-up contributions could be reduced to $5,000. This would mark the first time the IRS has reduced 401(k) contribution limits.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another Interesting Provision of the "Health Care" Bill

Wall Street Journal: Under current law, taxpayers who lose an argument with the IRS can generally avoid penalties by showing they tried in good faith to comply with the tax law. In a broad range of circumstances, the health-care bill would change the law to impose strict liability penalties for income-tax underpayments, meaning that taxpayers will no longer have the luxury of making an honest mistake. The ability of even the IRS to waive penalties in sympathetic cases would be sharply curtailed.

Be Careful What You Search For

Jessica Biel deemed most dangerous search in cyberspace.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Bold Claim

Biologist Craig Venter claims he will create artificial life "within months."

What a brave new world that will be.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Really Killed Mozart?

Maybe strep.


New York Times: Using some of the same techniques, it may be possible to scavenge anyone’s DNA from a discarded drinking cup or cigarette butt and turn it into a saliva sample that could be submitted to a genetic testing company that measures ancestry or the risk of getting various diseases. Celebrities might have to fear “genetic paparazzi,” said Gail H. Javitt of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, said the findings were worrisome.

“DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,” she said. “We’re creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.”

Read the whole thing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"The Singularity: We Will Survive Our Technology"

IBM to Build Chips from DNA

Scientists with IBM Research and the California Institute of Technology are working on ways to use DNA molecules as the basis for building tiny circuit boards.

Click here for pictures and the rest of the story.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Do the "Rich" Pay Their Fair Share?

As noted by Charles Sizemore, in 2007 the top 1% of taxpayers earned "only" 22.8% of all income while paying 40.42% of all federal income taxes.

By contrast, the bottom half of all taxpayers earn 12.26% of all income, but pay less than 3% of all income taxes.

In short, for every $1 dollar in tax paid by a taxpayer in the bottom 50% of income earners, taxpayers among the top 1% of earners paid $13 dollars.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Robot Dexterity:

(via Singularity Hub)

Mark Joseph at HuffPo:

The only thing weirder than the Birthers are the anti-Birthers, who blame the Birthers for being conspiracy theorists yet actively feed the conspiracy by refusing to call for President Obama to release his birth certificate.

The state official in Hawaii who manages such things has reiterated that there is indeed an original birth certificate on file which would confirm President Obama's having been born in Hawaii and that she has seen it, but state law won't allow her to release it unless the president authorizes it.

So what's the problem here? Release the original and let's be done with this madness.


Birthers believe that failure to produce the original means it doesn't exist. I think that Obama was born in Hawaii and that the original certificate does exist. But I also think it likely that the original contains information that would somehow prove embarrassing or inconvenient for the President.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Researchers decode HIV genome.

Lots of Vitamin D News Today:

Coronary Artery Calcification Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D may reduce PSA 25%

Vitamin D key to healthy brain


AP: A Stanford University professor reported Monday that he has sequenced his entire genome in a week for under $50,000 using a single machine.

Six years ago, hundreds of researchers at the Human Genome Project completed the same task for $300 million. It took 13 years.
AP: A Stanford University professor reported Monday that he has sequenced his entire genome in a week for under $50,000 using a single machine.

British House of Commons:

I wonder if Pelosi considers MP's to be an unruly mob?

This is Why I Bought a Plane (or at least part of one):

'Nightmare' flight: 47 fliers trapped overnight on regional jet

Wired Science:

To Pay for Health Care, Treat Aging.

Yah, and tax processed foods.

"Why modern feminism is illogical, unnecessary and evil"

Satoshi Kanazawa: Another fallacy on which modern feminism is based is that men have more power than women. Among mammals, the female always has more power than the male, and humans are no exception. It is true that, in all human societies, men largely control all the money, politics, and prestige. They do, because they have to, in order to impress women. Women don’t control these resources, because they don’t have to. What do women control? Men. As I mention in an earlier post, any reasonably attractive young woman exercises as much power over men as the male ruler of the world does over women.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

Going Postal

New York Times: His last quarter’s results, which were announced on Wednesday, revealed a loss of $2.4 billion. The business is on track to lose a staggering $7 billion in 2009, on around $68 billion in revenue. That’s practically General Motors territory.

What can he do to fix the situation? Surprisingly little. His employees have clauses in their union contracts that forbid layoffs. Nor can he renegotiate their gold-plated benefits, the way, say, the auto companies did when their backs were against the wall. Political pressure makes it nearly impossible to shut down any of his company’s 34,000 facilities, no matter how outmoded or little used. He can borrow money, but under the law, he can add only $3 billion in debt a year — an amount that isn’t going to come close to covering his losses.

Oh, and get this. Every year between now and 2016, he has to put aside over $5 billion to finance health benefits for future employees. You read that right: future employees. There isn’t another business in the country that finances benefits for employees it hasn’t even hired yet.

Welcome to John Potter’s world. He’s the nation’s postmaster general.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Josh Levin Asks:

The Catholic Church helped preserve Roman civilization. Can Mormonism do the same for America?

Oregen State University Media Release:

Long debate ended over cause, demise of ice ages – may also help predict future

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth’s rotation and axis.

In a publication to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions conclude that the known wobbles in Earth’s rotation caused global ice levels to reach their peak about 26,000 years ago, stabilize for 7,000 years and then begin melting 19,000 years ago, eventually bringing to an end the last ice age.

The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years.

“Solar radiation was the trigger that started the ice melting, that’s now pretty certain,” said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU. “There were also changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and ocean circulation, but those happened later and amplified a process that had already begun.”

The findings are important, the scientists said, because they will give researchers a more precise understanding of how ice sheets melt in response to radiative forcing mechanisms. And even though the changes that occurred 19,000 years ago were due to increased solar radiation, that amount of heating can be translated into what is expected from current increases in greenhouse gas levels, and help scientists more accurately project how Earth’s existing ice sheets will react in the future.

“We now know with much more certainty how ancient ice sheets responded to solar radiation, and that will be very useful in better understanding what the future holds,” Clark said. “It’s good to get this pinned down.”

The researchers used an analysis of 6,000 dates and locations of ice sheets to define, with a high level of accuracy, when they started to melt. In doing this, they confirmed a theory that was first developed more than 50 years ago that pointed to small but definable changes in Earth’s rotation as the trigger for ice ages.

“We can calculate changes in the Earth’s axis and rotation that go back 50 million years,” Clark said. “These are caused primarily by the gravitational influences of the larger planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, which pull and tug on the Earth in slightly different ways over periods of thousands of years.”

That, in turn, can change the Earth’s axis – the way it tilts towards the sun – about two degrees over long periods of time, which changes the way sunlight strikes the planet. And those small shifts in solar radiation were all it took to cause multiple ice ages during about the past 2.5 million years on Earth, which reach their extremes every 100,000 years or so.

Sometime around now, scientists say, the Earth should be changing from a long interglacial period that has lasted the past 10,000 years and shifting back towards conditions that will ultimately lead to another ice age – unless some other forces stop or slow it. But these are processes that literally move with glacial slowness, and due to greenhouse gas emissions the Earth has already warmed as much in about the past 200 years as it ordinarily might in several thousand years, Clark said.

“One of the biggest concerns right now is how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to global warming and contribute to sea level rise,” Clark said. “This study will help us better understand that process, and improve the validity of our models.”

The research was done in collaboration with scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada, University of Wisconsin, Stockholm University, Harvard University, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Ulster. It was supported by the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

About the OSU College of Science: As one of the largest academic units at OSU, the College of Science has 14 departments and programs, 13 pre-professional programs, and provides the basic science courses essential to the education of every OSU student. Its faculty are international leaders in scientific research.

[emphasis added]

Megan McArdle:

[T]here's no question that Dean Kamen knows how to produce real and important innovation--his inventions are, if not saving lives, dramatically improving their quality. If he demands to get rich in return for doing this--very rich, filthy rich, obscenely, rolling around in piles of $100 bills rich--then this strikes me as a good bargain. But I think for a lot of people it isn't. The injustice of his demands for profit rankles more deeply than the miracle of his inventions can soothe. If they have to risk some innovation in order to wring this profit out of the system, and distribute the goods he's already produced for us more widely, they're fine with that tradeoff.

I'm not.

I'm not either, Megan.

Bjorn Lomborg on Combating Climate Change Instead, Mr Lomborg argues, there are cheaper ways of halting temperature rises.

These include tackling sources of climate change other than carbon dioxide, such as methane and soot; investing in new tech nologies; adapting to the effects of climate change; planting more forests; and weighing up whether emissions cuts are cheaper to do now or later.

True, but these "cheaper ways" don't generate nearly as much revenue for governments, nor do they require justify a government takeover of much of the economy. Hence, they are doomed to failure.

Hate Crime

Jonathan Adler notes that, among other things, the new federal hate crime law dramatically increases the chances of double jeopardy.

Perverse Incentives

Or what happens when government interferes in...anything.

Obama Makes a Music Video (with the assistance of Paul Shanklin):

The Wealthy Are Starting to Have More Children

This is ultimately a good thing. Few seem to appreciate the extent to which our standard of living is dependent upon a growing population.

On a related note, I'm wondering whether today's high current unemployment rates will create a mini baby boom. One often hears stories of hospital birthing wards being full nine months after a major blizzard or snow storm. Will the fact that more unemployed spouses are stuck together at home all day result in the same thing, or will the desperate economic times cause people to be more careful about birth control or abort more babies?

UPDATE:> Charles Sizemore has some related thoughts.

The Future is Told by Demographics

Telegraph: Britain and the rest of the European Union are ignoring a demographic time bomb: a recent rush into the EU by migrants, including millions of Muslims, will change the continent beyond recognition over the next two decades, and almost no policy-makers are talking about it.

The numbers are startling. Only 3.2 per cent of Spain's population was foreign-born in 1998. In 2007 it was 13.4 per cent. Europe's Muslim population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and will have doubled again by 2015. In Brussels, the top seven baby boys' names recently were Mohamed, Adam, Rayan, Ayoub, Mehdi, Amine and Hamza.

Smart Birds

Los Angeles Times: In a modern retelling of one of Aesop's fables, researchers in England have shown that members of the crow family can use tools to retrieve a worm that they wouldn't otherwise be able to reach.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ending Epilepsy? Blocking a gene defect prevents epilepsy from being passed from adult mice to their offspring, a finding that may help in efforts to develop new treatments for people with epilepsy, British researchers say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bad News for GM and Chrysler

People aren't even willing to trade in their clunkers for one.

Stupid is as Stupid Does

This story makes me want to puke. And if you really want to feel bad, and infuriated, be sure to click on the photo gallery and read all the captions.

I think the writer intends us to feel sorry for the Nichols, and I guess in a way I do, though not because of their circumstances, but because of how they have responded to them (or failed to).

Some related thoughts over at the Freakonomics blog.

DNA Isn't Destiny

CNN: Will China have DNA prodigies?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Return of the Plague? Really?

Yes, really.
Rina Shah: Uncle Sam must stop subsidizing obesity.

Yes he must, especially seeing how obesity costs us twice as much as cancer.

Evolutionary Explosion The conventional view of evolution is that changes happen very slowly, and that the speed at which the climate is currently changing is far to fast for evolution to offer much hope to the estimated 25% of species which could go extinct.

But as Arthur Weis of the University of Toronto puts it, "That might be the average case, but evolution can also be very rapid under the right conditions. Climate change is going to be one of those things where the conditions are met." In fact, Weis contends life will undergo an evolutionary explosion.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Solar is Finally Here

Technology Review: Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said that a breakthrough is needed for photovoltaic technology to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. Researchers are exploring solar cells that use very cheap materials or even novel physics that could dramatically increase efficiency, which could bring down costs.

But industry experts at the Washington symposium argued that new technologies will take decades to come to market, judging from how long commercialization of other solar technologies has taken. Meanwhile, says Zweibel, conventional technologies "have made the kind of progress that we were hoping futuristic technologies could make." For example, researchers have sought to bring the cost of solar power to under $1 per watt, and as of the first quarter of this year one company, First Solar, has done this.

Getting an Ear Full

I'd hate to be a Dem Senator or Congressperson at one of these rallies.

Rodney Johnson on "Cash for Clunkers":

The Japanese must be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Chinese are buying our debt so that Congress can give money to consumers to destroy American cars in order to buy Japanese autos.

And the kicker is that we will call it a “success”.

Children and Vitamin D A whopping 70 percent of American kids aren't getting enough vitamin D, and such youngsters tend to have higher blood pressure and lower levels of good cholesterol than their peers, according to two new studies published this week in the journal Pediatrics. Low vitamin D levels also may increase a child's risk of developing heart disease later in life, experts say.

Obama's Health Care Agenda

Was he lying then, or is he lying now?