Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bribery at NASA?

Has James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, been taking bribes from George Soros and others? I'm not an attorney so I don't know if Hansen has actually done anything illegal. However, as a political scientist the situation definitely has an odor to it.

There is no legitimate reason for any private body to spend $750,000 to "package" a government official the way George Soros allegedly did for James Hansen. There is no legitimate reason for a government official to receive a grant from a private research organization for supporting one of its causes as James Hansen allegedly received from the foundation directed by Sen. John Kerry's wife. Hansen subsequently endorsed Kerry for President, possibly in violation of federal law.

Bribery primarily involves someone providing something of value to a government official to take an action favored by the person providing the inducement. The term can also apply to an attempt to get someone to act contrary to the desires of an employer. Hansen's recent claim that energy company payments to non-government scientists to support some theory is a bribe is nonsense. Payments to private individuals, including university professors, represents an employer employee relationship.

Hansen may be committed to the global warming nonsense, but if he is receiving anything of value from the private sector his continued commitment could be for personal financial gain. I'm particularly concerned about Hansen misusing his position to present false data and suppress information that challenges his theories. These actions could be a response to a bribe. Those offering him inducements may want more than just his verbal support.

Hansen suppressed a discovery by NASA scientist Ferenc Miskolczi that the equations used to calculate catastrophic warming contained a major flaw. The equation falsely assumed an atmosphere of infinite thickness.

Steve McEntire discovered in that NASA's portrayal of 1998 as being the warmest year in the U.S. was wrong and that 1934 was actually warmer. The official explanation is that the original claim was a "mistake", but the federal government has a history of producing false data to support federal policies. For that matter scientists have a long history of altering data to validate their theories. Is NASA playing Enron type accounting games with data?

If someone at NASA was accepting a bribe, he might alter data with a plan to claim an honest mistake if someone discovered the error. The official NASA response to discovery of the error is that the error is small, but the change in temperature during the 20th Century was only 0.17% which is of questionable significance. Lying about 1998 being warmer than 1934 made the claim of global warming seem more valid. 1934 being warmer than years late in the century provides a strong argument against the whole claim of global warming.

NASA's claim of 2007 being the second warmest is highly questionable and inconsistent with the data. NASA claims continued warming while other organizations disagree.

NASA has been circumventing federal regulations requiring review of federally funded research before it is distributed by having employee Gavin Schmidt operate a privately funded website RealClimate to publish information. Websites that question NASA's beliefs request visitors to donate money to fund the site. RealClimate doesn't have to because it is subsidized by the same George Soros who has been aiding James Hansen. What would be the response if the Department of Defense used this approach to influence public opinion?

Recently NASA has been shifting research funds to scientifically worthless projects, such as computer studies about how global warming might affect tornadoes. The studies ignore the fact that the only difference in temperatures comparing the future and now would come on the hottest days of summer when tornadoes are less frequent. Temperatures would still pass through the normal seasonal changes from winter to summer.

I don't know if James Hansen is guilty if is guilt of taking bribes under the legal definition of the term. However, he and his supporters routinely accuse those who disagree with them of doing so because they are being "bribed". Thus, Hansen by supporting the claims of those who pay him from the private sector is guilty of taking bribes under his definition of the term.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Babies Aren't TV Props

Babies shouldn't be used as props on any kind of television show. Babies are human beings, not objects to be used for a television network's profit. If the purpose of the NBC series "The Baby Borrowers," was to give young teen couples an idea of what dealing with a baby would be like, the network didn't need to use real babies.

Professional educators have been teaching teens about being a parent without using real babies. North Carolina Cooperative Extension centers in Cumberland, Richmond and Scotland counties won an award for its “Baby, Think It Over” program in which over 500 high school students experienced parenting using dolls programmed to function like a baby on a normal 24 hour schedule.

The Mexican state of Chihuahua as well as various areas in the U.S. and Britain have used more advanced dolls made by RealCare for similar programs.

Hollywood has some very capable technical people who could have worked with RealCare to make the dolls even more effective. However, that wouldn't have had the entertainment value of showing real babies and might have cost more. NBC obviously didn't produce this program to help teenagers. It produced the program to make money.

If NBC wants a program to educate teen viewers about the realities of taking care of babies, it can do so using professional actors with child psychologists helping to write the scripts and show the actors how to deal with different situations. Programs could have the characters make mistakes and show the consequences of those mistakes.

NBC could accomplish a similar goal in a reality show context by using real young couples who are first time parents. Child psychologists could monitor their activities and help them correct mistakes. These psychologists could explain to viewers what the couples were doing right or wrong.

Protesting NBC Child Abuse

In previous posts I discussed the abuse of babies for profit by NBC on its reality show "The Baby Borrowers,"

If you agree that this series should be ended you can protest in various ways. You can tell NBC what you think on the NBC FORUM

You can protest to your local NBC affiliate about the program. You could also file a protest with the FCC, although the situation would not seem to fit into a specific category of protest topics on their website.

You can link to Dr. Jan Hunt's letter criticizing the show on your blog, post it on sites that reprint articles from other sites or write a letter to your local newspaper.

You can contact your Senators and Representative in Congress to request a congressional investigation of the program with the possibility of prohibiting television from using children, especially babies, in reality shows. Congress should at the very least require NBC and its advertisers for the program to establish a trust fund to cover any subsequent mental health problems the children might experience because of the program. Currently only California has legislation protecting child actors from exploitation by the entertainment industry and "stage mothers".

Many child actors have experienced serious psychological problems as adults. Paul Peterson who played Jeff Stone, the son on "The Donna Reed" show, has spoken out for years on the problems of child actors.

You can contact the companies that advertised on the program and request that they not advertise on any future programs in the series. A partial list of advertisers includes: Verizon Wireless, Tylenol, Subway, Mentos gum, Hot Pockets, Klondike Bar, All Bran, Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, T_Mobile, Wanted, (Pizza Hut) CoffeeMate, Samsung, Listerine, Vagisil, All State.

NBC Abuses Children part 2

Director of the Natural Child Project child psychologist Dr. Jan Hunt, who is the director of the is very concerned about the potential negative impact of the treatment of the babies on the NBC reality series "Baby Borrowers".

Hunt is concerned that the separation from parents could increase production of the stress hormone cortisol in the babies: "When cortisol is produced due to emotional stress, the next stressful experience creates an even larger surge of cortisol. By the time a stressed child reaches adulthood, he is likely to overreact to all stressful situations, making it harder to cope with life's challenges. For all these reasons, babies and young children should be kept as stress-free as possible, to protect their future psychological and physical health."

I have a long standing interest in how the brain develops and functions. At one time I was considering going into the field of what is called "artificial intelligence" which involves simulating human intelligence on a computer, but decided I was more interested in dealing with the actual ideas rather than the detailed process the brain uses to form them.

Much of the baby's brain development involves developing brain cells to control the muscles for movement of various parts of the body, eventually including the complex process of speaking. The baby also develops neurons to store information about the baby's environment. Baby's normally don't form specific memories about individual events in their lives, but they use those events to learn how to react to their environment in the future.

Babies don't remember what actually happened on early birthdays and Christmases, but they may remember these events as happy events to look forward to.

Babies may remember what they consider traumatic events in a general fashion. For example, adults' fear of receiving shots may result from a memory of vaccinations received as infants. Claustrophobia and other fears sometimes are the result of very unpleasant childhood experiences. The sexual abuse scandals of the Catholic Church have publicized the fact that children may suppress memories of sexual abuse for long periods of time, but suffer from psychological problems during that period. For a baby a traumatic experience doesn't necessarily involve anything wrong or illegal. For a baby a doctor's exam can be a very unpleasant experience.

Babies may not remember how they have been "mistreated", but they may associate similar situations or people with a similar appearance to that mistreatment. A baby who was particularly upset by an exam by a doctor with a mustache might in the future have a negative reaction to men with mustaches.

Babies respond differently to the same situations depending upon their genetics and experiences and possibly the way their brains have developed prior to the event. Not all babies react the same way to being separated from the parents and put in the care of individuals with no child care experience. The babies in this experiment may suffer psychological problems sometime in the future. that may be triggered by persons or situations that remind the baby, child or even adult of something "bad" that happened during the experiment.

NBC Abuses Children part 1

NBC is abusing small children by using them for a "social experiment" and profit on a show airing on Wednesday's at 9 EDT/ 8 CDT beginning June 25 called "The Baby Borrowers" . On the program teenagers pretend to be the parents of babies by substituting for the babies' real parents.

Dr. Jan Hunt director of the Natural Child Project says: "As a parent, child psychologist and family counselor, I am deeply concerned about the premise of your new show "The Baby Borrowers," and for the present and future emotional health of the babies and young children whose lives will be so strongly affected."

Scientists have only limited knowledge of how the brain develops in young children. Babies cannot say how they feel. The information the baby receives and its feelings about the information influences how the neurons in the brain develop. Scientists know that events in a baby's life can positively or negatively affect brain development.

According to the news story about the show on the network's Wichita, Ks., affiliate KSNW, the people appearing on the show are volunteers who are not compensated. How does a baby volunteer to be on a television show? Using children as performers on a commercial television show without payment should be illegal if it isn't already.
If adults are stupid enough to appear on a commercial television show without compensation they should be allowed to do so. But children should not be exploited for profit by heartless television networks. How can the network know the reasons why these parents allowed NBC to exploit their babies

Small children should not be used for experiments with the only possible exception being controlled experiments conducted by professional scientists that pose zero threat to the physical or mental health of the children.

The program claims to show teens how to be parents by taking care of the children for an extended period. Does that mean the babies are working longer than babies would be allowed to work if they were paid television actors? Hollywood typically has used twins for very small children on television shows to avoid overworking the children.

The program claims to be a "reality show", but the situation is not realistic. The teen guinea pig parents cannot relate to their pretend babies in the same way a real parent would. The babies will not relate to total strangers the way they would to their parents.

I have heard enough about the psychological problems many former child actors had to believe that children should only be used in television programs if absolutely necessary. This program is not necessary.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"Change We Can Believe In" Is Gibberish

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign slogan "Change We Can Believe In" is a nonsense phrase. It has no real meaning.

Am I the only one who thinks that it doesn't make any sense to believe in "change"? I can see believing in religion or love or maybe even music, but believing in "change" makes no sense. It might make sense to believe in Sen. John McCain's ability to handle the presidency, but believing in some vaguely defined change is ridiculous.

Bill Clinton suggested "It's time to change America" when he ran in 1992. I don't recall him changing much of anything, although two years later voters changed Congress by replacing many Democrats with Republicans.

The slogan "Change We Can Believe In" sounds like something a child might consider impressive, but it has no real meaing. Not surprisingly, Obama has more appeal to inexperienced young voters than to wiser older voters who have seen a lot of fast talking phony politicians.

Obama a few months ago commented about the psychological state of small town people who believed in religion, etc. What is the psychological state of people who believe in some vaguely defined "change"?

Obama's supporters must have very empty lives to believe that some vague "change" is going to make their lives better. Do they expect the president to provide them some type of psychological satisfaction?

The term sounds like it might be some type of code word that Obama and his supporters understand, but whose meaning is supposed to be unknown to others.

As an historian I am inherently suspicious of politicians who rely on oratorical ability to reach people on an emotional level. Southern populists like Huey Long and George Wallace used such emotional oratory to succeed. Adolph Hitler was a master of the technique.

I am also suspicious of politicians who use vague code words. Politicians sometimes use code words and phrases to cover up what they are doing. For example, white southern politicians used the phrase "states' rights" to convince people outside the south that southern whites should be allowed to mistreat black American citizens. Southerns whites argued they were attempting to "preserve their way of life" without mentioning that their way of life involved rape and murder of black residents.

How can we be sure the that Barack Obama is not talking about a "change" designed to reduce the level of democracy in the United States? What guarantee do his supporters have that "change" is just a con to get them to vote for a candidates who doesn't have the necessary management experience to run one of Donald Trump's small companies?