Desperately trying to see the glass as half full

Many people like me who strongly opposed Donald Trump are desperately looking for silver linings that his presidency will not be the disaster for the US and the world that his campaign rhetoric suggested it would be. Those hopes seem increasingly desperate since Trump’s election has created major openings for a lot of people and groups who have all manner of regressive agendas, even while Trump himself has, as usual, been saying all manner of contradictory things, causing people to wonder what his agenda is and if he has even got a coherent one.
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When correlation can be used to infer causation

It is not uncommon to find correlations in the behavior of two or more phenomena and such correlations are sometimes used to imply causation. One of the most common objections posed to such arguments is that ‘correlation does not imply causation’, and is one of the first things that people learn about statistics. Even if they have not studied the subject, many people know enough to able to bring up this objection. But people may be sometimes too quick to pull that trigger.
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Murder by drone

There is a new book The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program by Jeremy Scahill and the investigative team at The Intercept and it has been very favorably reviewed by Scott Shackleford who says it describes a program that is far worse than president Obama and its supporters let on because the brutal facts are strongly suppressed. In order to reduce the risk of American casualties, the risks to civilians has been increased because, of course, the lives of foreigners, especially dirt poor ones in some distant land, are worth so much less than our own precious lives.
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And yet another draw

Oliver Roeder summarizes the seventh game in the World Chess Championship being held in New York that ended in another somewhat boring draw after a little over two hours of play and just 33 moves. It looks like whoever wins a single game in the 12-gmae series will be the champion.

The eighth game starts this afternoon. But despite the series of draws, Roeder says that the tournament is drawing great interest, with people (and a lot of them young) forming long lines in the street in cold weather to get in to watch it live.

Neoconservatives jump ship again

The neoconservatives have been one of the worst influences in US foreign policy. They have advocated for the muscular use of the US military to quickly achieve both US hegemony in the world in general and Israeli dominance in the Middle East. They disdained the use of ‘soft power’ (i.e., economic and political strategies) to achieve those same ends more slowly and stealthily, which is the approach of the neoliberals.
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The effect of computers on top-level chess

The sixth game in the best-of-twelve World Chess Championship match between champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Sergey Karjakin petered out in a draw yesterday, leaving the score tied at 3-3. According to the rules, the winner of a game gets one point while a draw nets each player half a point and the first player to reach 6.5 points wins the match. During each game many observers use a computer program called Stockfish to evaluate the moves of the players, and compare them compared with that of the best move by the computer and such programs seem to have become essential training tools for top players. The program app is available for free from the iTunes store and I have downloaded it and tried it out.
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