The ideology GMO disjunction

So, I was recently reading Randolph Court’s take on liberals anti-science failure on GMO’s:

Take the oddly contradictory issues of climate change and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There is near-universal consensus among the world’s scientists that man-made pollutants are trapping heat in the atmosphere and wreaking havoc on the environment. Yet when pollsters ask voters whether they believe temperatures are climbing because of human activities, most Democrats say yes and most Republicans say no.

Democrats may wag their fingers contemptuously at this, but the pot would be calling the kettle black, because many of them are just as stubbornly skeptical on the issue of genetically improved foods, even though the scientific consensus about their virtues is no less universal.

Here’s the thing, the very Pew data that Court links to suggests his entire premise is wrong!  In aggregate polling data, liberals are no more anti-GMO than are conservatives (and partisan differences are there, but very small):

No Differences in Views About GM Food Safety by Party, Ideology

They even run a series of regression models, and ideology plays no factor whatsoever.

The data is actually publicly available and I’ve had a lot of fun playing around with it (lots of fun stuff in there).  Pew collapses their ideology data so I ran a cross-tab with their full ideology measure.  You can see a bit more daylight here– only 39% of very liberal respondents think GMO is generally safe as compared to 49% of very conservative, but that’s still not a lot of daylight as these things go.


Anyway, what strikes me as interesting about this is that there really is something going at the elite level.  Liberal interest groups, like Greenpeace, really hate GMO food and fearmonger it relentlessly.  Conservative groups don’t.  But among ordinary Americans, there’s just really not much ideological difference at all on these issues.

Where the difference really is?  Gender.  Actually, gender and race.  All the bad stuff one can say about white males in our society, but they do get the GMO food issue more right than other groups.

Safety of Eating Genetically Modified Foods

And while throwing in a bunch of other variables typically makes the race variable lose it’s impact in a multi-variate regression, the gender variable is remarkably robust.  Women are less trusting of GMO food safety no matter what possible controls you can throw in there (and, yes, look for a publication on that with my name some day).

Aging churches

So, this was a pretty cool infographic from Pew.  The relative ages of person in various religious denominations in America.

Age structure and median age of U.S. religious groups

Take away?  Presbyterian church is ideal for Seniors looking to meet other seniors :-).  And if you want young people, go non-Christian.

The changing times of the Death Penalty

So, this is actually pretty big.  The Democratic Party platform will come out against the Death Penalty:

Hillary Clinton has expressed ambivalence on the campaign trail when asked about capital punishment. “States have proven themselves incapable of carrying out fair trials” in death penalty cases, she said in March during a campaign appearance in Ohio, while leaving open the possibility of capital punishment under federal law, in a case investigated and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

But her campaign has agreed to a provision in the Democratic Party platform, which is expected to be adopted at the party’s national convention in Philadelphia beginning July 25, that says, “We will abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America.”

The landmark language is the latest illustration of a slow but major shift in American politics.

There is a growing movement, particularly on the left, to end the death penalty. Several states have abolished it over the last decade, including traditionally conservative Nebraska last year. That leaves 31 states with capital punishment statutes still on the books, down from a high of about 40 states in the 1980s.

Use of the death penalty also has been declining. In 1999, states executed 98 people, compared to just 28 in 2015, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. So far this year, 14 people have been executed.

And this graph from 2015 Pew data shows you why:

Wider Partisan Gap on Death Penalty

Though a majority of the public still approves of the death penalty, a majority of Democrats oppose it.  And a calculating politician like Hillary Clinton clearly calculated she has more to gain by going along with the growing Democratic consensus than trying to somehow look more moderate by arguing for the death penalty (as her husband successfully did in very different times).

If nothing else, we’ve gone from a clear bipartisan consensus in favor of the death penalty to a fairly dramatic partisan split.  I think we will probably continue to have the death penalty– especially in the deep South– for a good while yet.  But I do believe that the writing is on the wall that it is eventually on its way out (as it should be in a “civilized” society who’s justice system is ultimate prey to the many biases of human reasoning).  I’ll give it till 2050, tops.

How I got totally on-line scammed, but was saved by the dumbest password ever

So, I’ve been foolishly paying $8/month to lease my cable modem from Time Warner Cable.  I knew this was dumb, but ahhhh, only $8.  This week a friend told me his internet speeds went way up after replacing his modem.  Now that got me moving.  This Netgear cable modem got excellent reviews so I went with it.

I called TWC to authorize the new modem.  Didn’t work.  TWC provided me a number to call Netgear to help get it working.  Netgear guy just had me bypass the router, hook the modem directly to my desktop, and call TWC back on a conference call.  This TWC rep was smarter and did something different and got me connected.  Netgear guy stayed on the line to make sure my internet worked when I reconnected the router.  It didn’t.

He asked me to open a program (a legitimate citrix program) that would give him access to my machine for diagnostics.  I was not suspicious because 1) I thought I was talking to Netgear, and 2) I’ve done this before successfully with Dell technical support.  He ran through a bunch of stuff in Dos command windows that appeared to show my IP address was actually in Korea and that I had been hacked by a Zeus trojan.  It seemed weird that Netgear would care about all this and I started getting suspicious, mentioning I wanted to talk it over with NCSU tech support, etc.  He told me only a “level 7 anti-hacking expert” could fix this and nobody local would be able to help me.   Again, really suspicious.  Before I could get him off the phone, he told me he could fix everything for $300.  As I was asking questions I saw him quickly bring up a password box and enter a password.  Ruh-oh.  I asked him about this and he said it would protect from further hacking.  He told me my whole system was compromised– every device I use on the network and that basically only he could fix it.  He had me write a text file with info, including a number for him, but insisted I write his number down with paper and pencil, too.

I got off the call, rehooked my router again, and this time it was working (honestly, I think it just needed five minutes).  Quick FB message to a friend (thanks, MDG!) and it was pretty obvious this was a scam.  But what?  When I went to the command window, I saw that the last command used was “syskey.”  I realized that was it.  I was a victim of the syskey scam.  Once I restarted, the computer would ask for a password and I wouldn’t be able to do anything without it.  Except, of course, presumably call the malefactor and pay him $300.   Fortunately, the scammer did not ask me to reboot, so I was able to use my computer in the meantime.  I came across this and thought I had the solution.  Alas, it still needed the password!  I imagined that my entire Sunday would be restoring my computer (I at least found my backup DVD’s way easier than I expected).  Enough googling of “syskey scam” and it turns out that passwords of 123, abc, 1234, 111, etc., were really common.  I tried the first 3 of those with no luck and a falling heart.  But, then, 111, and success!  All the trouble this scammer had gone to and he locks my computer with 111??!!

So, it works, I’m good. I think.  How in the hell did this happen?  #1, my guard was way down because I was quite certain I was talking to Netgear technical support, since TWC had given me the number to call.  Alas, pretty sure I was screwed by TWC.  Google netgear tech support contact number and google pops up a box with 844-330-2330.  Yep, so that’s how TWC gave me the number.  And if you google the number, you can see all the different companies they are trying to use for this scam.

Anyway, that was kind of horrible.  One of the very rare occasions I benefited from a benzodiazepine before bed.  Like I said, I think I’m okay.  From what I can tell, this is the scam.  Just lock the computer.  I didn’t see anything on-line suggesting further iterations beyond this.  The bad guy has my MAC address for my modem and my actual IP (not the one in Korea), but I get the sense that there’s not all that much he can do with that as long as I’ve got a functioning firewall.  Of course, I ran a full Anti-malware and Kaspersky scan, too.

Anyway, tomorrow I will be calling TWC and stressing they need to be a lot more careful about the phone numbers they give to customers!  Oh, and my internet is exactly the same speed with the new modem.  At least it pays for itself in 7 months.

It was also a fascinating lesson for me in how easily I could be duped when I believed I was talking to a legitimate person.  In retrospect there were red flags all over the place, but when you think you are talking to Netgear, a red flag is more just a “that’s weird.”  I hope I learned a lesson from this, but I’m not sure.

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