Because miracles are just one scientist away:
Comics Vs. Cases
3 hours ago
The psychologists conducted their experiments on four and five-year-olds, so they had to be pretty simple. Sixty kids were shown a boxy toy that played music when beads were placed on it. Half of the children saw a version of the toy in which the toy was only activated after four beads were exactingly placed, one at a time, on the top of the toy. This was the “unambiguous condition,” since it implied every bead is equally capable of activating the device. However, other children were randomly assigned to an “ambiguous condition,” in which only two of the four beads activated the toy. (The other two beads did nothing.) In both conditions, the researchers ended their demo with a question: “Wow, look at that. I wonder what makes the machine go?”
Next came the exploratory phase of the study. The children were given two pairs of new beads. One of the pairs was fixed together permanently. The other pair could be snapped apart. They had one minute to play.
Here’s where the ambiguity made all the difference. Children who’d seen that all beads activate the toy were far less likely to bother snapping apart the snappable bead pair. As a result, they were unable to figure out which beads activated the toy. (In fact, just one out of twenty children in that condition bothered performing the so-called “experiment”.) By contrast, nearly fifty percent of children in the ambiguous condition snapped apart the beads and attempted to learn which specific beads were capable of activating the toy. The uncertainty inspired their empiricism.
The reason why the United States is alone among comparable countries in its commitment to doing this is that it is the most religious of those countries. (Take away only China, which is run by a very nervous oligarchy, and the remaining death-penalty states in the world will generally be noticeable as theocratic ones.) Once we clear away the brush, then, we can see the crystalline purity of the lex talionis and the principle of an eye for an eye. (You might wish to look up the chapter of Exodus in which that stipulation occurs: it is as close to sheer insane ranting and wicked babble as might well be wished, and features the famous ox-goring and witch-burning code on which, one sometimes fears, too much of humanity has been staked.)Sullivan linked to it, then he got this absolutely brilliant reader response, which I am pasting in full:
I don't really have anything to add to that, other than that the death penalty is expensive and ineffective, like so many other government institutions that the GOP argues should be abolished. But you almost never hear them argue for abolishing the expensive, ineffective practice of killing criminals.
In 2010, as far as I can tell, these five states executed the most people:
1. China (2000+)
2. Iran (252+)
3. North Korea (60+)
4. Yemen (53+)
5. USA (46+)
Two of the top three entities are explicitly atheist. Hitch's assertion that we can ignore Chinese executions because they are a "very nervous oligarchy" can easily be used for Iran considering, you know, they actually have a demonstrable REASON to be nervous - the 2009 protests/Green Movement, hostile relationship with the world's only superpower, etc - and because any analyst of Iran worth his salt will tell you that their government is an extremely Byzantine oligarchy, not a true dictatorship. In other words, you don't get to throw China out and retain the Iranians while making this argument. Yemen is a barely functioning state of tribes. Surprise.
As for us, maybe "God" has something to do with it. But I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest something risky: perhaps it has more to do with a very particular brand of Protestant Christian theology than it does with "God".I didn't see Hitch accounting for ultra-Catholic South America, where Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela have explicitly abolished the death penalty. There are also a handful of countries that have de facto abolished the practice, having not carried out an execution for at least the last two decades: Dominica (1986), El Salvador (1973), Grenada (1978), Jamaica (1988), Peru (1979), Suriname (1982), Brazil (1876). Most of these nations retain the death penalty for possible use in cases like treason or crimes against humanity. Somehow one of the most religious continents in the world seems to have escaped Hitch's sight.
I get it. Hitch hates God. But this seems like a classic case of him beginning with his own very well-known assumptions and then hastily assembling the best argument he can make to support it. Religious conservatives will always point to communist dictatorships. Liberal atheists will point to religious theocracies. Both are capable of great evil. You don't need to believe in God to murder. And just because you believe in God doesn't preclude you from being a murderer. More than anything, it is just simply absolutism in something that deludes people into murder.
Big [horizontal] turbine blades have long been blamed for bird and bat kills. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency officials are investigating what happened to six golden eagles found dead last month near a 3-year old wind farm near Tehachapi, Calif. The agency estimates windmills kill a half million birds a year, however the American Wind Energy Association, an industry group, disputes those figures. Dabiri says 30-foot vertical windmills are much less dangerous since they don't use propeller-like blades to capture wind, but rotating open-framed cylinders.I don't mean to pick on Professor Dabiri, but horizontal windmills aren't really an existential threat to any species of animal. I realize minimizing the lethal effects of wind farms is important. But if "changing the game" in regards to animal deaths due to human activity is really a concern, maybe we should really change the game and ban windows on buildings. And then write building code that requires a soft layer of padding on the outside of every building.
"These smaller windmills are below migratory levels for birds and bats," Dabiri said. "It can be a real game changer.
The research team [is] worried for Echinoderms — animals like sea urchins and starfish that Smith says constitute a significant portion of the seafloor life on the Antarctic shelf — which have disappeared from regions inhabited by the crabs, and will likely continue to be wiped out if the crabs continue to colonize new areas of the shelf.Apparently the ocean is getting warmer and now the giant (and might I say delicious-looking!) crabs are invading previously-too-cold areas and trampling the local flora and gobbling the local fauna. Which I am sure is unfortunate for the locals.
It was time for a change, Pentagon officials thought. In 2010, they had just wrested control of a $1 billion contract to train Afghan policemen from the Pentagon, and they thought the work should go to Xe Services, the infamous private security firm formerly known as Blackwater.
The deal, an umbrella-style contract, would come from an unlikely, obscure Army bureau called the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office, or CNTPO, that brings new tech to foreign allies’ counternarcotics efforts.
One problem: The new task slotted into the CNTPO contract — known as an “indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity” contract — had nothing to do with counternarcotics or technology. Afghan police needed training in basic skills like shooting straight and controlling riots.
But the CNTPO contract, first awarded in 2005, was already held by Blackwater and four other companies. Using it meant the Pentagon could slip Blackwater into the training job — and avoid holding a new full-and-open competition.
Another problem: Rival security firm DynCorp already held the existing training contract, which was run out of the State Department, not CNTPO or any other Pentagon arm. DynCorp didn’t want to give up its lucrative training business. But since DynCorp wasn’t among the five companies that held the CNTPO award, it couldn’t even compete for the work it was already performing.
But even worse, here's this little quotelet:
The Air Force planned to award a multibillion-dollar contract for a new tanker, based on the Boeing 767, as a “sole source” — meaning there would be no opportunity for a formal competition. The unusual lease-to-own deal would have cost the Defense Department approximately $37 billion, according to one government estimate.
But the tanker lease contract never went through. The deal derailed after it came to light that Darleen Druyun, a senior Air Force official involved with the tanker negotiations, had also conducted job talks with Boeing’s then–chief financial officer, breaking federal conflict-of-interest laws. Almost 10 years later, Boeing won the tanker contract — this time, in a full and open competition.
The nearly decade-long tanker battle is typically viewed as a fiasco. But taxpayers actually benefited from it. According to EADS, Boeing’s European rival, the competition saved the Air Force $16 billion by driving down Boeing’s offer price. The Air Force, for its part, says that it got a 20 percent cost reduction from Boeing by holding competition, which still places the savings in the billions of dollars.
"The vast majority of the dollars on sole source contracts are simply follow-ons to large contracts,” said Jacques Gansler, who served as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics from 1997 to 2001."If you've been following this thread you'd understand how absurd this sounds. A company that won a mega-contract gets a second even larger (continuation) mega contract without any competition.
Competition helps in a lot of ways, ranging from price to quality, according to Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight. “If you know somebody else can step in, it acts as an incentive for the incumbent to do good, because the next contract could be awarded to someone else,” he told Danger Room. “To play the skeptic, if you know no one else is out there, will the contractor be performing at 110 percent?”But the problem isn't solved just by making competition for the contract competitive. There really does need to be a heavier incentive to complete the tasks of the contract in the given time and budget. One way to increase the incentive is to increase the penalty for failure.