April 23, 2014

In Praise of Bill O'Reilly

April 22, 2014 4:49 p.m. ET
If Bill Clinton was the first black president despite appearances, then perhaps Bill O'Reilly ought to be considered the first black prime time cable news host.
Time and again, Mr. O'Reilly has used his platform at Fox News to speak honestly about the problems facing the black underclass. While most television commentators prefer to focus on what others should do to help blacks, Mr. O'Reilly maintains—with logic and history on his side—that blacks must first help themselves.
Bill O'Reilly Getty Images
For a recent segment on the Easter weekend shootings in Chicago, which left nine dead and 36 wounded, Mr. O'Reilly played a clip of the city's police chief calling for more gun control laws. The host then pointed out that Chicago already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and that plenty of jurisdictions with fewer such restrictions experience much less gun violence.
Mr. O'Reilly's guest for the segment was Corey Brooks, a black pastor and community leader in the Second City. Mr. O'Reilly said that, "according to the police, the killings are predominantly young black males involved in drug gangs. This has been going on for years now. It's embarrassing. It shouldn't be happening in America."
The pastor's response mentioned in passing "dysfunctional break-ups of the family," but his larger point was to insist that what plagues the black poor is largely beyond their control. "You're dealing with young black men who are hopeless. You're dealing with a situation where the educational system is awry. You're dealing with a situation where you have an influx of drugs and hopelessness." Mr. Brooks called for a "better educational system," more "resources" and "more utilization of summer programs and things that these young people can do to enhance their lives."
The pastor is right that we need better schools in our inner-cities, but as Mr. O'Reilly has been saying for years, better schools won't help people who don't value education to begin with. Nor will more jobs help people who lack a work ethic. And so long as having a black man in the White House trumps having one in the home, the situation is unlikely to change. Ghetto residents do not need more people making excuses for black pathology, which is mostly what they get from cable commentators, especially the black ones. What blacks need is an honest conversation about black culture. Mr. O'Reilly is providing a public service by conducting one.

April 21, 2014

Americans not confident Big Bang or evolution is real, poll shows

The Department of Water and Power (DWP) San Fernando Valley Generating Station in Sun Valley, Calif. is seen in this Dec. 11, 2008 file photo.  DAVID MCNEW/GETTY IMAGES
Americans have no question that smoking can cause cancer. However, a bigger portion of Americans still the question basic concepts from which modern science is derived upon, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
Conducting a survey with a sample of 1,012 general population adults age 18 orolder, respondents were asked to rate their confidence in several statements about science and medicine.
What the survey revealed was surprising. Overall, more Americans show more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and have the most trouble believing that scientific belief that a Big Bang created the universe. The most broadly accepted statement was that smoking caused cancer with a whopping 82 percent of respondents saying they were extremely confident that it did.

Despite what data and studies may be proving otherwise, views on science may be tied to what people see with their own eyes. The closer an issue is to their bodies and the less complicated, the easier it is for people to believe, explained John Staudenmaier, a Jesuit priest and historian of technology at the University of Detroit Mercy.
About four in ten people said that they were not too confident in the average temperature of the world rising; the Earth was 4.5 billion years old; or that life on Earth evolved through natural selection, but most were somewhat confident in the concepts. However, 51 percent questioned the Big Bang theory.
Political and religious values play an important role in a person's belief in science, the AP noted. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to express confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change. As faith in a supreme being rises, confidence in the Big Bang, global warming and the age of the Earth decline, according to the poll.
"When you are putting up facts against faith, facts can't argue against faith," said 2012 Nobel Prize winning biochemistry professor Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University. "It makes sense now that science would have made no headway because faith is untestable."
Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, says that humans have beliefs to coordinate with the reality out there in the world. People do understand that scientists produce information "that ought to be believed," but there are other motivations for such strict adherence to their beliefs, such as social norms or fear of the unknown.
"They believe them for social reasons -- you have been maintaining your relationships with people; holding certain beliefs is part of that," Willingham told CBS News. "When you're arguing with someone, no one ever says 'No, I just won't believe that because it's too damn frightening to believe' -- they're going to give you rational reasons...[It's] very difficult to persuade someone when that's their motivation."
People who take the word of the Bible literally are even less likely to believe in evolution, the age of the Earth or Big Bang, notes Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine. Other experts agreed, adding that most religious believers are aware that these three scientific concepts are compatible to the belief in God.
"The story of the cosmos and the Big Bang of creation is not inconsistent with the message of Genesis 1, and there is much profound biblical scholarship to demonstrate this," said Darrel Falk, a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and an evangelical Christian.
Willingham says that some scientific findings -- such as smoking causes cancer -- does not directly contradict a person's beliefs, but when science directly contradicts their beliefs -- such as evolution versus creationism -- they're more likely to find it upsetting.
Andrew Shtulman, professor of psychology at Occidental College says people may not believe in science because it draws on evidence that they don't experience in their everyday lives. 
"Everyone draws conclusions about the world around them - scientists and non-scientists alike - but non-scientists base those conclusions on much weaker evidence: a single observation, a gut feeling, hearsay from others," Shtulman told CBS News via email. "When those 'homespun' conclusions contradict the conclusions of science, it's difficult to recognize that they rest on much flimsier grounds."
Scientists are upset over the recent poll, saying it highlights "the iron triangle of science, religion and politics," according to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
"Science ignorance is pervasive in our society, and these attitudes are reinforced when some of our leaders are openly antagonistic to established facts," said 2013 Nobel Prize in medicine winner Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley.
Ignorance of science could also prove to be dangerous for America as well, as Willingham notes that parents' reluctance towards vaccines can harm others. Science is not meant to dictate policy, he says. Rather, it is used to tell others what the state of the world is, and how officials respond to that is a statement of values.
Interest groups -- political, business and religious -- can also play a role in the public's scientific beliefs, with campaigns being waged against vaccines, climate change and evolution, according to Duke's Lefkowitz. Yale's Leiserowitz agreed, but added that sometimes science wins against the most well-financed and loud opposition.

The widespread belief that smoking causes cancer -- noted in the study -- can be said to be a result of "very public, very focused public health campaigns," according to Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world's largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A former acting director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Leshner said he was encouraged by the public's acceptance that mental illness is a brain disease, something few believed 25 years ago, before just such a campaign.
"Science, in its really pure form, is just telling you what the state of the world is," Willingham said. "The more in-tune with reality your beliefs are, the more you are in a position to make a wise decision."
Shtulman says scientists can help people understand science by explaining their findings with everyday terms, and spent time clarifying much of the misinformation that gets spread in the media. 
"Many people get hung up on buzzwords like 'evolution,' 'cloning,' 'stem cell,' or 'climate change,' which they do not necessarily understand, but have formed opinions about nonetheless," Shtulman said.
"These opinions effectively block the reception of new information, even when that information is not itself controversial. The more scientists (and the media) can avoid sensationalizing scientific findings, the better. 
Danielle Elliot contributed reporting to this piece.

April 16, 2014

Glenn Beck Moves Into Movie Production (Exclusive)

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Glenn Beck Deals - H 2014

The conservative radio host tells THR he is developing three original stories as theatrical films: one set in ancient history, one in modern history and a third he considers "faith-based."

A version of this story first appeared in the May 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Nearly three years after leaving Fox News, the controversial conservative radio host and media entrepreneur is ramping up a film division at Mercury Radio Arts, the parent company of his popular radio show and digital media operation TheBlaze. Beck, 50, tells THR he has been refurbishing The Studios at Las Colinas, a 72,000-square-foot facility in Irving, Texas, where such films as JFK and RoboCop and TV shows including Prison Break andWalker, Texas Ranger have been shot. "We're getting it ready for some big plans," he says of the property, which he purchased in June. Glenn Beck is going Hollywood.
Beck says he is developing three original stories as theatrical films -- one set in ancient history, one in modern history and a third he considers "faith-based" -- and has optioned several other ideas, some of which could be adapted into VOD features. He adds that he has purchased rights to his 2008 best-seller The Christmas Sweater back from Sony and will turn the story into a movie for television or theatrical release.
The Christmas Sweater is a semi-fictionalized recounting of a 12-year-old Beck celebrating his last Christmas with his mother before she died. He says his later real-life problems with drugs and alcohol (he's been sober since 1994) can be traced back to that Christmas.
"The meaning of The Christmas Sweater is that there are second chances," says Beck. "It is based not only on my childhood but a dream that I had as an adult after I sobered up."
Beck notes it's too early to specify budgets or potential financing partnerships, though he probably has leverage to attract interested parties, considering TheBlaze lands an estimated $40 million in revenue annually and he earns $20 million a year hosting the radio show, according to sources familiar with his business. He also declined to identify the Hollywood moviemaking talent he has hired so far.
"I bought a movie studio for a reason," he says. "I have every intent of finding great artists who will tell great stories that aren't typical. Everybody thinks they know who I am because of my stint on Fox -- that was two years of my life. I'm much more into culture than I am into politics, and that's where I intend on making my stand."
Beck says he has great respect for "artists who risk big," citing filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and evenDarren Aronofsky as examples (despite having called Noah a "Babylonian chainsaw massacre" on his radio show). "Hollywood is missing this moment to reconnect with the American people because they don't speak the language," he says. "Some of it is out of spite -- they might not like people of faith."
Beck, though, says he isn't interested in making movies that preach and cites DivergentLone Survivor,Moulin Rouge!, 2010's True Grit, The Magnificent Seven and The Princess Bride as inspirations, along with The Lego Movie, which he calls "tremendous storytelling and great for the whole family, without the double meanings and adult humor that I just hate. It was truly brilliant. I took everyone on my staff one afternoon to see it."
He also loves Frank Capra's 1941 political dramedy Meet John Doe, calling it a timely story. "The message of that film is: Help each other and just be decent," says Beck. "We're beginning to agree that Republicans and Democrats suck -- they've built this machine to grind people into the ground. I hate this stuff. I hate politics. I hate politicians and I feel like I'm wasting my life. Don't we all know what's happening? George W. Bush was taking us down a road, and Barack Obama is taking us down that same road. What difference does it make? I don't want to waste my life anymore."
Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

April 14, 2014

The '77 cents on the dollar' myth about women's pay
Once education, marital status and occupations are considered, the 'gender wage gap' all but disappears.

Article Highlights

  • The 23% gap implies that women work an extra 68 days to earn the same pay as a man.
  • Men were almost 2x as likely as women to work 40+ hrs a wk. Women almost 2x as likely to work only 35-39 hrs wk.
  • Women who worked a 40-hour week earned 88% of male earnings.
  • The BLS reports that single women who have never married earned 96% of men's earnings in 2012.
  • The supposed pay gap appears when marriage and children enter the picture.
April 8 is "Equal Pay Day," an annual event to raise awareness regarding the so-called gender wage gap. As President Obama said in the State of the Union address, women "still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns," a claim echoed by the National Committee on Pay Equity, the American Association of University Women and other progressive groups.
The 23% gap implies that women work an extra 68 days to earn the same pay as a man. Mr. Obama advocates allowing women to sue for wage discrimination, with employers bearing the burden of proving they did not discriminate. But the numbers bandied about to make the claim of widespread discrimination are fundamentally misleading and economically illogical.
In its annual report, "Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2012," the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that "In 2012, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $691. On average in 2012, women made about 81% of the median earnings of male full-time wage and salary workers ($854)." Give or take a few percentage points, the BLS appears to support the president's claim.
But every "full-time" worker, as the BLS notes, is not the same: Men were almost twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week, and women almost twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours per week. Once that is taken into consideration, the pay gap begins to shrink. Women who worked a 40-hour week earned 88% of male earnings.
Then there is the issue of marriage and children. The BLS reports that single women who have never married earned 96% of men's earnings in 2012.
The supposed pay gap appears when marriage and children enter the picture. Child care takes mothers out of the labor market, so when they return they have less work experience than similarly-aged males. Many working mothers seek jobs that provide greater flexibility, such as telecommuting or flexible hours. Not all jobs can be flexible, and all other things being equal, those which are will pay less than those that do not.
Education also matters. Even within groups with the same educational attainment, women often choose fields of study, such as sociology, liberal arts or psychology, that pay less in the labor market. Men are more likely to major in finance, accounting or engineering. And as the American Association of University Women reports, men are four times more likely to bargain over salaries once they enter the job market.
Risk is another factor. Nearly all the most dangerous occupations, such as loggers or iron workers, are majority male and 92% of work-related deaths in 2012 were to men. Dangerous jobs tend to pay higher salaries to attract workers. Also: Males are more likely to pursue occupations where compensation is risky from year to year, such as law and finance. Research shows that average pay in such jobs is higher to compensate for that risk.
While the BLS reports that full-time female workers earned 81% of full-time males, that is very different than saying that women earned 81% of what men earned for doing the same jobs, while working the same hours, with the same level of risk, with the same educational background and the same years of continuous, uninterrupted work experience, and assuming no gender differences in family roles like child care. In a more comprehensive study that controlled for most of these relevant variables simultaneously—such as that from economists June and Dave O'Neill for the American Enterprise Institute in 2012—nearly all of the 23% raw gender pay gap cited by Mr. Obama can be attributed to factors other than discrimination. The O'Neills conclude that, "labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5% but may not be present at all."
These gender-disparity claims are also economically illogical. If women were paid 77 cents on the dollar, a profit-oriented firm could dramatically cut labor costs by replacing male employees with females. Progressives assume that businesses nickel-and-dime suppliers, customers, consultants, anyone with whom they come into contact—yet ignore a great opportunity to reduce wages costs by 23%. They don't ignore the opportunity because it doesn't exist. Women are not in fact paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.
Administration officials are (very) occasionally challenged on their discrimination claims. The reply is that even if lower average female pay is a result of women's choices, those choices are themselves driven by discrimination. Yet the choice of college major is quite free, and many colleges recruit women into high-paying science or math majors. Likewise, many women prefer to stay home with their children. If doing so allows their husbands to maximize their own earnings, it's not clear that the families are worse off. It makes no sense to sue employers for choices made by women years or decades earlier.
The administration's claims regarding the gender pay gap are faulty, and its proposal to make it easier for women to sue employers for equal pay would create a disincentive for firms to hire women.
Mr. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus. Mr. Biggs is a resident scholar at AEI. 

April 9, 2014

President Obama’s persistent ’77-cent’ claim on the wage gap gets a new Pinocchio rating

 This column has been updated
“Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns…in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.”
–President Obama, remarks on equal pay for equal work, April 8, 2014
In 2012, during another election season, The Fact Checker took a deep dive in the statistics behind this factoid and found it wanting. We awarded the president only a Pinoochio, largely because he is citing Census Bureau data, but have wondered since then if we were too generous.
We also called out the president when he used this fact in the 2013 State of the Union address. And in the 2014 State of the Union address. And yet he keeps using it. So now it’s time for a reassessment.
The Truth Teller video above also goes through the details.

The Facts

Few experts dispute that there is a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women — such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children — make it difficult to make simple comparisons.
Obama is using a figure (annual wages, from the Census Bureau) that makes the disparity appear the greatest—23 cents.  But the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the gap is 19 cents when looking at weekly wages. The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — it is 14 cents — but then not every wage earner is paid on an hourly basis, so that statistic excludes salaried workers.
Update: It is worth noting that the gap can go in the other direction as well. Heidi Hartman, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, noted in an email and a telephone conversation that the gap widens to 27.6 cents if part-time workers were included. She also said that in a 2004 survey, IWPR calculated that across 15 years, prime age women earned just 38 percent of what prime age men earned–an apparent wage gap of 62 percent.
Since women in general work fewer hours than men in a year, the statistics used by the White House may be less reliable for examining the key focus of the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act — wage discrimination. For instance, annual wage figures do not take into account the fact that teachers — many of whom are women — have a primary job that fills nine months out of the year.  The weekly wage is more of an apples-to-apples comparison, but it does not include as many income categories.
June O’Neill, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who has been a critic of the 77-cent statistic, has noted that the wage gap is affected by a number of factors, including that the average woman has less work experience than the average man and that more of the weeks worked by women are part-time rather than full-time. Women also tend to leave the work force for periods in order to raise children, seek jobs that may have more flexible hours but lower pay and choose careers that tend to have lower pay.
Indeed, BLS data show that women who do not get married have virtually no wage gap; they earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis surveyed economic literature and concluded that “research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap.” They cited one survey, prepared for the Labor Department during the George W. Bush administration, which concluded that when such differences are accounted for, much of the hourly wage gap dwindled, to about 5 cents on the dollar.
A 2013 article in the Daily Beast, citing a Georgetown University survey on the economic value of different college majors, showed how nine of the 10 most remunerative majors were dominated by men:
1.   Petroleum Engineering: 87% male
2.   Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48% male
3.   Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% male
4.   Aerospace Engineering: 88% male
5.   Chemical Engineering: 72% male
6.   Electrical Engineering: 89% male
7.   Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% male
8.   Mechanical Engineering: 90% male
9.   Metallurgical Engineering: 83% male
10. Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% male
Meanwhile, nine of the 10 least remunerative majors were dominated by women:
1.  Counseling Psychology: 74% female
2.  Early Childhood Education: 97% female
3.  Theology and Religious Vocations: 34% female
4.  Human Services and Community Organization: 81% female
5.  Social Work: 88% female
6.  Drama and Theater Arts: 60% female
7.   Studio Arts: 66% female
8.   Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% female
9.   Visual and Performing Arts: 77% female
10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: 55% female
The White House discovered this week that calculations using average wages can yield unsatisfactory results. McClatchy newspapers did the math and reported that when the same standards that generated the 77-cent figure were applied to White House salaries, women overall at the White House make 91 cents for every dollar men make. White House spokesman Jay Carney protested that the review “looked at the aggregate of everyone on staff, and that includes from the most junior levels to the most senior.” But that’s exactly what the Census Department does.
Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, acknowledged to reporters that the 77-cent figure did not reflect equal pay for equal work. “Seventy-seven cents captures the annual earnings of full-time, full-year women divided by the annual earnings of full-time, full-year men,” she said. “There are a lot of things that go into that 77-cents figure, there are a lot of things that contribute and no one’s trying to say that it’s all about discrimination, but I don’t think there’s a better figure.”
Carney noted that the White House wage gap was narrower than the national average, but the White House actually lags the District average calculated by the BLS: 95 cents.

The Pinocchio Test

From a political perspective, the Census Bureau’s 77-cent figure is golden. Unless women stop getting married and having children, and start abandoning careers in childhood education for naval architecture, this huge gap in wages will almost certainly persist. Democrats thus can keep bringing it up every two years.
There appears to be some sort of wage gap and closing it is certainly a worthy goal. But it’s a bit rich for the president to repeatedly cite this statistic as an “embarrassment.” (His line in the April 8 speech was almost word for word what he said in the 2014 State of the Union address.) The president must begin to acknowledge that average annual wages does not begin to capture what is actually happening in the work force and society.
Thus we are boosting the rating on this factoid to Two Pinocchios. We were tempted to go one step further to Three Pinocchios, but the president is relying on an official government statistic–and there are problems and limitations with the other calculations as well.

Two Pinocchios


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