News of the Week for Oct. 7th, 2018
2016 Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party nomination, John McAfee, has announced that he plans to run again. And just what was the subject of his announcement? How awesome “bath salts” are and how he’s done “more than you and ten of your friends could f***in’ carry.”
A tutorial on "Bath Salts" and the tragic situation of those who never got to try them: An expose into the mad mind and world of John McAfee. pic.twitter.com/9XhT7aUJ4N
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) September 24, 2018
George Orwell introduced us to the concept of the “Memory Hole”, where inconvenient documents and records are disappeared as if they never existed. In the novel 1984, this memory hole was a literal hole that lead to an incinerator that destroyed the physical documentation. This book was meant to be a warning, not a how-to-guide.
However, physical documentation that is widely distributed can be difficult, particularly with peer-reviewed journals whose printed issues are distributed to a myriad of university libraries. This isn’t a problem with digital information, such as with early publishing of papers online or with online only journals.
Such is the an article concerning the “Greater Male Variability Hyposthesis” by Georgia Tech Mathematics Professor Ted Hill. Prof. Hill. For the inconvenient presentation of evidence that biological males tend to show greater variability than biological females (for both humans and other animals), the journal Mathematic Intelligencer, who had initially decided to publish the paper, ended up rejecting it after the journal was harassed by people calling it “bad and harmful” with the National Science Foundation demanded to not be attributed for the funding. In and of itself, this is despicable, but hardly unprecedented, with plenty of examples of innocuous studies and papers being attacked and their authors silenced for daring to try to put their wrongthink into print. However, it get far, far worse.
After the post-acceptance rejection, the paper was accepted and published by the New York Journal of Mathematics, and online journal. However, the digital memory hole awaited, as the Professor describes:
“On October 13, a lifeline appeared. Igor Rivin, an editor at the widely respected online research journal, the New York Journal of Mathematics, got in touch with me. He had learned about the article from my erstwhile co-author, read the archived version, and asked me if I’d like to submit a newly revised draft for publication. Rivin said that Mark Steinberger, the NYJM’s editor-in-chief, was also very positive and that they were confident the paper could be refereed fairly quickly. I duly submitted a new draft (this time as the sole author) and, after a very positive referee’s report and a handful of supervised revisions, Steinberger wrote to confirm publication on November 6, 2017. Relieved that the ordeal was finally over, I forwarded the link to interested colleagues.
“Three days later, however, the paper had vanished. And a few days after that, a completely different paper by different authors appeared at exactly the same page of the same volume (NYJM Volume 23, p 1641+) where mine had once been. As it turned out, Amie Wilkinson is married to Benson Farb, a member of the NYJM editorial board. Upon discovering that the journal had published my paper, Professor Farb had written a furious email to Steinberger demanding that it be deleted at once. ‘Rivin,’ he complained, ‘is well-known as a person with extremist views who likes to pick fights with people via inflammatory statements.’ Farb’s ‘father-in law…a famous statistician,’ he went on, had ‘already poked many holes in the ridiculous paper.’ My paper was ‘politically charged’ and ‘pseudoscience’ and ‘a piece of crap’ and, by encouraging the NYJM to accept it, Rivin had ‘violat[ed] a scientific duty for purely political ends.’
“Unaware of any of this, I wrote to Steinberger on November 14, to find out what had happened. I pointed out that if the deletion were permanent, it would leave me in an impossible position. I would not be able to republish anywhere else because I would be unable to sign a copyright form declaring that it had not already been published elsewhere. Steinberger replied later that day. Half his board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier ‘until it died.’ Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated. ‘A publication in a dead journal,’ he offered, ‘wouldn’t help you.'”
Even if a paper is later retracted in a paper journal, it still exists in that printed form. Now, the difficulty of sending things down the memory hole have become as easy as replacing a web page or two. This isn’t even limited to academic journals, but more so to streaming services and books or other information “purchased” via app stores where you have only purchased the “right” to hear/read something only for as long as the company that “sold” it to you decides to allow you to.
The Senate Committee holding hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanagaugh have heard from his first, and more credible, of his accusers and from Judge Kavanaugh himself. There were two aspects to the hearing: An inquiry into the veracity of the accusation and politicial drama that was based on pure emotion.
The honest inquiry into the veracity of Prof. Ford’s claims was brief and matter of fact, limited by the necessity of dividing up the questioning into 5-minute chucks bewteen the Democratic members of the Comittee waxing poetically over Ford as a victim. While some may decry the kind, emotionless, and matter-of-fact approach of Rachel Mitchell, who spoke to Ford on behalf of the Republican members of the committee, Mitchell nonetheless did lay bare many inconsistencies even there was no knock-out blow that people have come to expect from TV courtroom shows. This went from a “he said she said” scenario to one where the “he said” side offered evidence and witness statements. This approach also allowed the Republican members of the committee to avoid look like the Spanish Inquisition interrogating a woman who was portrayed as a weak and vulnerable waif in need of sympathy.
Alone, Ford’s half of the hearing would have been devastating. However, Judge Kavanaugh met emotion with emotion, to the point where he stirred the Republican members to decry the bullying and delaying tactics of the Democratic Senators, and even early on cower some of said members. The Republicans on the Committee have looked at the evidence and have sided with Judge Kavanaugh, which is why they believe that further delay is not warranted. Sen. Lindsey Graham was particularly notable in his defense of Kavanaugh and his disgust with the circus around him.
Meanwhile, the Democratic members of the committee, perhaps because of their “questioning” of Dr. Ford that they referred to Judge Kavanaugh as someone who they considered guilty combined with a lack of intestinal fortitude to come right out as say they thought he was an accused rapist, relegated themselves to character assassination over Judge Kavanaugh’s legal drinking in school and college and trying to portray him as a denizen of Animal House.
The spectacle even devolved into questioning over… high school fart jokes.
It is a sad state of affairs when the future of the Supreme Court—the future of the United States of America itself—is dependent on the explanation and nuances of a teenage fart joke.
The only other tactic the Democratic members of the Committee had was to demand an FBI investigation. While this is just part and parcel of an established list of delaying tactics, it a move that could garner support, or at least give a fig leaf to Senators who will vote NO. However, there is something about the hearings that no one is talking about that demonstrates the protest by those who demand we delay the Kavanaugh vote, to investigate what happened, to be absolutely malicious: Most Democrat Senators in committee already declared him guilty.
In many, of not most, of their “questions” to Dr. Ford, Democrat Senators spoke not of the alleged or purported assault, but of when—not if—Judge Kavanaugh assaulted her. How can the Senate Democrats on the Committee decry lack of investigation during the hearings when they’ve already gotten sufficient evidence, as far as they are concerned, to reach a verdict?
In effect, the Senate Democrats are saying “Verdict First; Trial Later”.
Update: A salient point was made about the call for an FBI report.
But in the same way the FBI's conclusion that the allegations against Clarence Thomas were baseless, ordinary rules of logic and evidence go out the window, and the media plays along, when Republicans are accused of sex crimes.
— (((≠))) (@ThomasHCrown) September 28, 2018
During the Clarence Thomas hearing, Senator Leahy was on the Committee at that time as well; despite the FBI report, he still not only voted NO, but also still says to this day that he believes Anita Hill. Even with a FBI report that did not substantiate claims against the nominee, opposition from Leahy was unchanged. Why would a FBI report now, then, make a difference?
Update 2: Senator Flake has voted with the Committee to advance the nomination to the full Senate, but wants a time and scope limited FBI investigation before said vote in a weeks time, and Senator Murkowski agrees. While an FBI report that doesn’t add anything to what is already known won’t change Leahy’s or most other Democrats’ votes, it would give Sens. Murkowski, Flake, and Collins the cover to vote YES.
Another “quick takes” on items where there is too little to say to make a complete article, but is still important enough to comment on.
The focus this time: 2 + 2 = 5
First, a little mood music:
What would a professor who specialized in “equity issues in mathematics education” think what should be don’t about all that icky “objects, truths, and knowledge” in math?
Something called “Mathematx“
“The relationship between humans, mathematics, and the planet has been one steeped too long in domination and destruction. What are appropriate responses to reverse such a relationship? How do we do work now (inside and outside of schools) that will reverberate and touch the lives of future generations? Drawing upon Indigenous worldviews to reconceptualize what mathematics is and how it is practiced, I argue for a movement against objects, truths, and knowledge towards a way of being in the world that is guided by first principles–mathematx. This shift from thinking of mathematics as a noun to mathematx as a verb holds potential for honouring our connections with each other as human and other-than-human persons, for balancing problem solving with joy, and for maintaining critical bifocality at the local and global level.”