Monday, April 30, 2018

The Evil Uni-Bank Alliance

By Professor Doom

     The student loan scam only creates the potential for evil. We would not have over 20,000,000 citizens trapped in a deadly debt spiral if our higher education system had not exploited that potential as ruthlessly as possible.

     Technically, this scam is an unholy alliance between our Federal government, which backs the loans and enforces collection, and higher ed, but this is merely an implicit alliance. Yes, the universities made about 1.5 trillion dollars off the alliance while the Federal government only gets a few billion a year, but neither party necessarily deals with each other directly. Instead, our fraudulent accreditation facilitates the loan scam, so both allies can say the situation isn’t their fault.

      The alliance between our schools and the banks which nominally provide the loans, however, isn’t so murky. Oh how I loathed the ATM machine on campus, which would disburse student loan “refunds” (yes, that’s the word admin uses for it) to the students. The ATM, normally abandoned while students were in classes, would see a long line once “check day,” i.e., the day when the money becomes available for withdrawal, arrived on campus. Classes would empty out on that day, never to fill again until the next semester.

      California, the glistening whitewashed tomb which ever provides examples for how our country generally operates, has taken things even further:

       California State University has a sweetheart deal where students can basically use their bank card as student ID…for a fee, of course.

“…a Wells Fargo branch is “conveniently located in the Hornet Bookstore,” with bankers on-site to answer questions….”

      How convenient, indeed. Honest, higher education used to be about education, but it really seems the system has become ever more financialized over the years…no surprise, since the system floats on endless loan money—loans the students are on the hook for, not the system. With that kind of structure, it’s no surprise at all.

      So now we have an explicit alliance between the university and one particular bank, Wells Fargo. How’s it working out?

“… in one year Wells Fargo collected more than $650,000 from fees on Sacramento State-linked accounts and paid the university just under $120,000 in return..:”

     How delightful! I’m so pleased that the university has established that it feels it should get a near 20% commission on any funds raised by anyone doing business on their campus. I imagine the gentle reader is confused by my joy, so let me explain.

     A typical teacher in higher ed is an adjunct, paid perhaps $2,000 a course. The above guideline, if followed for teachers in higher ed, would mean some extraordinary pay raises are in order. Allow me to explain.

     A course can contain 100 students (possibly a thousand, and seldom less than 30, so take this as a generous average), and each student is paying at least $2,000 for the course (and $5,000 or more is quite plausible).

      Doing the math here, the adjunct is raising some $200,000 per course while doing business on campus. After providing the 20% the university says is fair, that would mean adjunct pay should be on the order of $160,000 per course. Teach a full load of courses, and your typical adjunct would be making the kind of money mid to upper administrators get!

     I know, I’ll be waiting in vain for the announcement of across-the-board 8,000% pay raises for faculty…but I really feel the need to highlight just how exploitative the higher education system is today.

      Getting back on point, the university steers students into this bank, which, like most banks to be sure, liberally slathers arbitrary fees on students…and passes on a commission to the university. It really is fascinating how I’m forbidden selling textbooks to my students (conflict of interest!), forbidden from tutoring my students (conflict of interest!), forbidden from working for other institutions (conflict of interest!), among quite a few other activities I totally respect I should not do, due to conflicts of interest.

      I just wish the rules applied to my bosses, is all.

      I should also mention I’m not asking for a pay raise, I’d be happy enough with an 80% reduction in tuition, and firing a commensurate amount of administrators. Higher education isn’t supposed to be about putting people into a lifetime of debt slavery.

      Anyway, back to the article:

The bank-connected college ID card is relatively common. In addition to the numerous colleges with which Wells Fargo contracts, several other major banks, like PNC Financial Services Group and U.S. Bancorp, strike card deals with colleges.

…But detractors say some colleges are funneling students to banks that take advantage of their young customers with high, unexpected fees that could be avoided if only students shopped around for better terms.

A 2016 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found dozens of college banking deals place no limit on account charges like overdraft or ATM fees.

      I’m not actually picking on this university and bank, lots of schools make these sweetheart deals where the school brings in suckers students to the bank, for a small finder’s fine.

     Universities are all about funneling students to high-priced services. It starts, of course, with tuition, and let’s not forget the bookstore (I’m so glad the online world has finally provided ways for students to not get hammered by textbook prices so abusively). Then students get shuttled over to expensive dorms. Then come pricey “meal plans” and “recreation fees.” So it’s only natural for universities to continue this trend by setting students up to be buried in bank fees—for a cut, of course.

     Right now, the universities don’t mind the banks are ripping the students, because they get a cut of the loot. But imagine instead if universities operated with integrity—silly I know, but bear with me.

     In this bizarre scenario, the university would go to the bank seeking to operate on campus, and say “Look, we’re going to provide you with 50,000 customers in the next few years. They’re vulnerable kids right now, but if you do this honorably, you’ll get lifelong customers. See to it you treat them with integrity while they’re on this campus, and you can stay here and have a eternal legitimately profitable relationship with us. Try to rip them off for as much as you can until they get out of college, and we’ll toss you off campus and get another bank…there are lots of them, you see, and we don’t need you specifically.”

     And just like that, there’ be no appearance of conflict of interest between our universities and the banks.

     I know, it’s just a dream.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Wisconsin Higher Ed Removes The Academics

By Professor Doom

     A few years ago, I mentioned Wisconsin was retroactively changing their tenure contracts. To summarize what I said in 2015: no more new tenured faculty, and tenure can be removed from old faculty whenever admin wants.

     Now, admin said these changes were necessary but…you’d have to be pretty stupid not to see what the general plan was here. With tenure destroyed, it was only natural for academics to be removed from any management positions which might impede the plundering, and faculty not in management positions could be removed at will.

      Gosh, what could happen next? With faculty gelded and removed from power…it was time for the plan of complete removal of academics from academia in Wisconsin to go forward:

That’s when the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point announcedits plan to cut 13 majors -- including those in anchor humanities departments such as English and history and all three of the foreign languages offered -- and, with them, faculty jobs. Tenured professors may well lose their positions.

--“may”? HAhahahaha, nice attempt at sugar coating.

     Wow, removing English and history? Those are…pretty foundational concepts for an educated person in this country to not know. We’re already at the point where college graduates are vague on what century the US Civil War was fought, and can’t find Europe, much less individual European countries, on a globe, and similarly their grasp of English is usually sketchy at best.

      The reason for this is because the material taught in these college courses has, much like in mathematics, been watered down to the point that what you learn there is little different than what you might find in a 9th grade course.

      I guess it’s nice that Wisconsin will cover up their fraud by eliminating the courses entirely but…yowza, that’s quite the gutting of education.

      What, pray tell, will Wisconsin Higher Ed focus on now?

The plan is part of the campus’s Point Forward initiative to stabilize enrollment by investing scarce resources into…business, chemical engineering, computer information systems, conservation law enforcement, fire science and graphic design.

     “Scarce resources”? Maybe if the schools didn’t pour endless resources into “initiatives” and insane administrative pay, we’d have the resources. I’m sorry, student loan debt has gone up half a trillion dollars in the last five years, and these institutions get great tax breaks and other boons from the governments supporting them. It’s hard to take that “scarce resources” line seriously when I know so much about how the money is being spent.

      “Stabilize enrollment” is an understandable goal. Our “leaders” in higher education piled huge rewards on themselves back when higher education was growing—the business model then was “lower standards so anyone who wanted free money could stay on campus,” and it worked. Unfortunately, around 80% of the population now goes to college, and the 20% left are so generally so low in intelligence or capacity that there’s just no way to call them college material no matter how much standards are lowered.

     Additionally, enough people know the “free money” game is rigged, that the money gained through the student loan scam is a trap from which students (at least those who can’t become prostitutes) cannot hope to escape. Higher ed in its current form has run out of suckers. It’s that simple.

      Growth isn’t possible, not that the leaders will reduce their pay for failing to maintain growth. Now the plan is to “stabilize” enrollment, and to do this by removing academic knowledge from campus.

     For what it’s worth, I see their point to some extent: the only reason you should go into debt is to get something that will help pay off the debt. So, yes, with tuition so high that going into debt is the most common way of going to college, it makes sense to focus on jobs training programs. That said, higher education isn’t supposed to be a jobs training program, and seeing how badly higher education has failed, the Wisconsin state government would be better off with jobs training by creating actual jobs training programs…there’s just no reason to trust Wisconsin higher ed to do the job right.

The cynical view of the new Stevens Point plan, held by many faculty members on that campus and off, is that it’s exactly the kind of thing the Legislature, regents and administrators who supported those changes had in mind all along.

     It’s “cynical” to watch the chess pieces move on a board and realize when the checkmate is coming? Seriously, the only possible reason to cancel tenure contracts and remove faculty from management positions was to get rid of faculty and their insistence on educating people. There’s nothing “cynical” about that.

The less cynical view shared by others, including Provost Greg Summers, is that the changes present an opportunity for Stevens Point to fight for its future as enrollment declines and state funding dwindles. The campus faces a $4.5 million deficit over two years.

“There’s absolutely some truth in there -- this new [tenure] policy provides us an avenue that would perhaps not be possible otherwise,” Summers said in an interview. “But there is absolutely no truth to the idea there was a purposeful agenda. Higher education institutions, no matter where they are, need to be more nimble, and we’ve been urging redirection for a long time.”

     Hmm, 4.5 million bucks over 2 years. Hey, Greg, as a public employee, you know we can find your salary, right? He makes over $180,000 a year in Wisconsin’s higher ed system. Toss in perks and benefits, and we’re talking a quarter million bucks a year is spent on this guy, almost certainly more.

       Wisconsin higher ed, like every other state’s higher education system, is completely bloated with people at the top raking in the plunder. All Wisconsin would need to do to make up the shortfall is get rid of NINE, just NINE, of these overpaid admin, of the 500 or so they employ, if not more.

     Instead of a 2% reduction of the failed leadership, they’ll close down multiple departments and eliminate 13 majors, in the process fire perhaps a hundred or so faculty, destroy academics in Wisconsin, and call it a day.

     Hey, start paying me that kind of money and perhaps I’ll be less cynical too.

While enrollments are somewhat steady right now, Summers said, all those factors will make Stevens Point’s target enrollment of about 8,000 difficult to maintain.

     The school has around 500 faculty, but, alas, and there are more administrators than faculty on most campuses today, so my estimate of 500 admin is reasonable enough. It’d be nice to know an exact number, because I’m certain with the firing of so many faculty, there won’t be a commensurate firing of admin. But there should be right? I mean, with less serfs to administrate, you should have less administrators.

      But I again want to point out, their claimed budget shortfall could be fixed by eliminating 20% of the faculty…or 2% of the admin. Is the purpose of the school education, or administration? Obviously, they’re saying it’s all about administration.

     Prospective Wisconsin students should get that message loud and clear, and go elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why Vaccine Studies Cannot Show A Link To Autism (Or Anything Else)

By Professor Doom

    So I watched Vaxxed, and was fairly disappointed. That said, it did say one thing that was perfectly relevant. Vaxxed showed congressional testimony, very reluctantly given by a vaccine company rep, stating unequivocally: vaccine safety studies don’t use a control group. (I link to a YouTube video with a snippet of such testimony here.)

     I say this again: vaccine safety studies don’t use a control group. Even if Vaxxed had shown a 9,000% increase in black males getting autism after vaccination, even if Vaxxed showed the evidence that 99% of people vaccinated got autism, this could still be fairly described as “not evidence of anything,” and the vaccine companies could testify in Congress to that effect and have no fear of being prosecuted for perjury. This may seem ridiculous, but allow me some time to explain and tie together the concepts by which this non-evidence result holds.

     The gentle reader must understand that any proposed medical treatment must have a control, or else the treatment must be viewed with great suspicion. I demonstrate with an example:

       I propose the following: “People will recover from the flu in 2 weeks if we cut off their pinky fingers.” All I need to get this finger-amputation treatment approved is a study showing it works.

      The study I use is simple enough: I find people with the flu, cut off their fingers and come back in 2 weeks. I find that, yes, every single one of them has recovered from the flu.

      My study, I trust the reader will agree, is easily reproducible (note: this makes it far superior to many, if not most, medical studies being published). So, I pay the appropriate bribes fees to get the FDA to approve this treatment, backed by this study. And I start making a fortune lopping off fingers with my FDA-approved treatment for the flu.

      Now, tens of thousands of people will tell me my treatment is worthless, but that’s just anecdotal evidence. Besides, the FDA repeats the study a few times and shows my treatment works exactly as I’ve said. (I emphasize: tens of thousands of parents are now saying their kids developed autism immediately after getting vaccinated, and this is treated as purely anecdotal evidence of no relevance, because of studies…)

     The problem with my study, of course, is there’s no control group. Most everyone recovers from the flu in 2 weeks, after all, lopping off fingers means nothing. But since there’s no control, since I don’t look at what happens to people with the flu who don’t have their fingers chopped off, I don’t have that evidence in my study.

      So Vaxxed’s harping on their correlation between black male vaccinations and autism is completely meaningless. For all I know, all black males, all of them, come down with autism at the age where they usually get vaccinated, and the autism rates would be worse without the vaccination. I’m not saying I believe this to be the case, but since there’s no control…it could be vaccinations are preventing autism, because there’s no study to tell me the “baseline” autism rate today is. This illustrates how idiotic it is not to have controls.

     I want to get to the big trick being played, successfully, here.

     Tricks are far more effective on people who’ve not seen the trick before, and lots of people fall for this “all studies fail to show a link” trick. The trick doesn’t work on me because I’ve seen this one before.

     I saw it with the tobacco companies.  For decades, the tobacco companies swore up and down, even in congressional hearings, that there was no evidence whatsoever that nicotine was addictive based on their studies, so that’s what they believed. I’m not talking about the 1950’s here, you can see congressional testimony from 1994 to this effect.

     The tobacco companies were telling the truth, and pointed at many, many, studies that failed to show any possible nicotine addiction. These studies were legitimate, and even humane and ethical: if you suspect nicotine was bad, then you can’t study its effect on humans, so these studies used animals.

     Want to know why those studies always failed? Well, addiction was defined as a human condition, and all the studies were done on animals: it was utterly impossible to show addiction, because the word was defined in such a way that it only applied to humans. None of these studies could possibly show addiction, a purely human condition. So the executives were never hauled in for lying to congress, as they were absolutely correct there was no evidence whatsoever that tobacco use was addictive, based on those animal studies.


     Now, since vaccine safety studies have no control group, it is fundamentally impossible to show vaccines can be increasing the rates of *any* long term ailment. There are quite a number of other health issues which are increasing dramatically in our population, such as severe allergies and asthma, also claimed to be related to vaccines.

     But you cannot say vaccines are causing this rise because…a rise compared to what? There’s no control group, and nowadays everyone gets these vaccinations, so there’ll never be a control group perfect enough to study (well, not without rioting in the streets, anyway…).

     “Brawndo! It has what plants crave! It has electrolytes!”

--I encourage the gentle reader to watch the movie Idiocracy, where the FDA determined a salty drink could be used as a substitute for water, even for plants. Naturally this caused all the crops to “mysteriously” fail, leading to rioting in the streets. Honest, I’m not the only one who’s figured out the problem here, and the inevitable result…

     And so yes, absolutely, there are plenty of studies which fail to show vaccines are causing any general rise in any health problem in humans, but this is for the same reason there are plenty of studies which fail to show nicotine is addictive.

     So at this point, the only response is to laugh when they say there are studies which fail to show any connection between autism and vaccines. This is obvious, as no study can show this to perfect satisfaction at this point.

     To be fair, there have been attempts to set up “vaccinated vs unvaccinated” studies by independent researchers. These studies do seem to show a link, but they invariably get “The Wakefield Treatment,” which is to say, the studies are declared invalid and the researchers’ reputations are destroyed. I again point out that around half (possibly as high as 2/3rds or more) of all “perfectly scientific” studies are demonstrably bogus in terms of claimed findings…and yet only this particular type of study seems to get this treatment.

     We should probably consider why these very rare vaccine-autism link studies get this treatment when a bunch of other “fake” studies don’t, but I’ll plant a seed for consideration: a bunch of official (i.e., non-Wakefielded) studies all have the same results, that there’s no vaccine-autism link, and we have every reason to suspect at least half of those studies are fraudulent in their results…so it’s a little odd that the fraudulent studies that we know are there are saying the same thing as the legitimate studies that we only theoretically think might exist. The gentle reader is invited to make his own conclusions past this point.1

     Also presented in Vaxxed is a congressman pointing out we’re going to have a huge problem soon: we now have “kids” with autism who are closing in on their 30th birthday, and they’ll need lifelong care after their parents die.  This wasn’t a problem decades ago when autism was very, very rare, but now we’re getting around a hundred thousand new victims a year, and this number is sharply rising. It will be a monster of a problem as these victims get even older. What will happen--a single generation from now!--when we have 10,000,000, possibly much more, people with this “rare” ailment heading to government-supported special needs homes?

     I don’t like the answer which comes to my mind at all. I especially don’t like that the corporations which might, maybe, be responsible for this will be raking in profits while a new disease, SADS (Sudden Autistic Death Syndrome) hits the sizable autistic population shortly after they enter those special government homes.

     Will there be rioting in the streets then?

     It really is strange; a few weeks ago there was a chorus of dozens of “different” TV newscasters all saying the exact same thing…and we as a people knew this could not be random, that there had to be an underlying cause for it. Vaxxed literally plays a chorus of parents who say the exact same thing regarding what happened to their kids right after vaccination, and it’s a much larger chorus. Why is the official narrative here to consider this merely random chance with no underlying cause?

     Anyway, though I have significant quibbles with Vaxxed, I think it worth watching, even if it fails to raise many of the questions I’ve raised here.

     1.   I didn’t want to mention this because it’s a bit of a distraction, but it’s really, really, striking that no “official” study has shown a link between vaccine and autism. There’s something in statistics called a “type 1” error, and, while unlikely, it can happen (the actual chance depends on mathematical concerns beyond a blog, but it’d be like rolling two standard dice and getting a sum of 12). It is because of “type 1” errors that you need to be able to replicate the result of a study, before trusting it. With so many studies on this topic, it’s very, very, very, striking that no non-Wakefielded study shows a link, just on pure chance. Just saying.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Professor Doom Watches Vaxxed…

By Professor Doom

     For those not in the know, Vaxxed is a documentary on “possible” problems with vaccinations. I have to admit, I’d been looking forward to this documentary for a while. It’s on Amazon, with little fanfare.

       Before I talk about what it does say, let me address what it doesn’t say: there’s absolute proof of a vaccine-autism link. In fact, it doesn’t even address, medically speaking, how such a link might exist. That said, it does have some relevant things in it.

      The documentary begins with snippets of media hysteria about the measles outbreak at Disney a few years back, affecting a hundred or so people. While as good a start as any, they should have supplemented this with an important detail: around 100,000 kids a year are being diagnosed with autism…it was much closer to zero just a few decades ago. Vaxxed does mention that if the increase continues, some 80% of males will be autistic in a few decades …I’m pretty sure we’ll have rioting in the streets before then, so I don’t put much faith in this projection.

       Pretty much everyone with measles will fully recover in 2 weeks, while autism is often a lifelong debilitating illness. Why doesn’t the media focus on those many thousands of kids a year, instead of a hundred who caught measles? It’s a question Vaxxed only dances around. Vaxxed also doesn’t point out that some of the kids who caught measles were fully (i.e., twice) vaccinated against measles…it’s fair to question the efficacy of the vaccine when you have such a demonstration of failure occur repeatedly in a small (and basically random) sample.

      Later in the show, Vaxxed runs another story, which I think they should have started with:

     In 1987, Smith-Kline Beecham (SKB) released a vaccine in Canada. This vaccine, Triverix, caused meningitis.  The meningitis outbreak was so bad they quickly stopped giving the vaccine in Canada.

     Now, SKB had a choice: they could lose money, or sell the damned vaccine elsewhere. Corporations are all about money, so SKB changed the vaccine name to Pluserix, and sold the vaccine in the UK. Again with the meningitis outbreak, and again, they had to stop selling the vaccine there.

     Now, SKB had a choice: they could lose money, or sell the twice-damned vaccine elsewhere. No surprise, they then sold the vaccine in Brazil. Again it caused a meningitis epidemic in a mass vaccination campaign. These events are established fact.

      Vaxxed doesn’t reinforce the point here, but I will:

      When faced with a choice between not making kids sick, and making money, a corporation will make money. I’m not criticizing corporations here, and I say this with the same inflection I say “when faced with a choice between not making kids sick, and sucking the juice from a fly, a spider will suck the juice from a fly.” It’s just how things are, and so I’m very wary of trusting corporations to take care of kids, unless they’ll lose money for doing it wrong.

“That’s just a conspiracy theory,”

--A friend high up in the FDA assured me there’s no such thing as a vaccine court, and she’s supremely confident all vaccines are quite safe, always have been, always will be. I have doubts, and she laughed hysterically when I expressed them. Too hysterically, truth be told.

     Alas, there’s a special vaccine court where taxpayers pay the damages of vaccinations gone wrong, insulating vaccine-making companies from losing money if they make kids sick.

     This is a recipe for disaster. I wish Vaxxed had outlined the implications here clearly, because even if all vaccines today were proven to be perfectly safe for everyone, having this type of insulation against loss would mean inevitably, a corporation will choose to make more money over any safety concern (they already must do so as matter of corporate policy, of course)—any safety protocol would cost money, and that would impact the bottom line unnecessarily.

“But muh polio!”

--a common reply to any criticism of vaccines. It’s important to understand that just because some vaccines are really good, that this shouldn’t be taken to mean all vaccines are really good. I seldom seem to get this idea across when I try to explain to people in person, however.

     Vaxxed gives plenty of anecdotes of parents who saw their kids degenerate into autism shortly after receiving a particular vaccine: specifically the triple vaccine MMR (for measles, mumps, and rubella). Now, I’m no big fan of anecdotes, especially on a show with a clear agenda…but when literally tens of thousands of parents say the same thing, I think it’s fair to ask the question about there being a relationship here.

     Autism rates are skyrocketing. It used to be too rare to be even estimated, then 1 in 10,000 in the early 1980s, but in the 90s (when this particular vaccine became very popular), it skyrocketed. It was 1 in 68 five years ago. It’s 1 in 45 today, this rate of increase is VERY scary, that’s more than 2% of the next generation, not so rare at all...we should be asking loud questions about what our entire population is being exposed to in infancy, “coincidental to vaccines,” to cause this. Vaxxed doesn’t address other possibilities besides vaccines, but I’m quite willing to believe there are multiple reasons for this frightening rise in the occurrence rate of an increasingly common lifelong debilitating illness which barely existed in our past.

      Vaxxed decorates their story with damning recorded phone calls from a CDC whistleblower, Dr. Thompson. He was part of “the big study” saying that absolutely, positively, no way, no how, is there a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, and that all those parents have lying eyeballs. Dr. Thompson says the CDC cooked the data to get that result of “no evidence.”

      One of the CDC workers responsible for the study is now very highly paid working for the vaccine company protected by that study. There’s a conflict of interest here which merits consideration, but Vaxxed doesn’t spend much time on it (to be fair, it would take many hours to cover all these points)…they mention it, so that’s something.

     So what does Vaxxed discuss? Mostly Vaxxed talks about statistical results from that data.

      Before addressing their result, I want to talk about statistics for a bit. The bulk of research today is just statistical research. Some researcher makes a guess, gets some data, then manipulates the data to confirm his result. Then it gets published. Much of our “scientific” research published in the last 20 years or so is bogus, which is why there’s a huge problem now as many “scientific” results cannot replicated (close to half, it depends on the field).

     As something of a statistician, I know full well how trivial it is to manipulate the data to say what you want once ethics is abandoned…but you need not trust me when I say this, since this manipulation is clearly what’s happening in our “research” today.

     So if the whistleblower says the data has been manipulated, I believe him—at this point I’d have to have collected the original data myself to believe the results of any study. The whistleblower has been asked to testify before congress, but the CDC won’t allow it. When the government acts this suspiciously, I’m inclined to believe the worst.

We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described. Virological studies are underway that may help to resolve this issue.”
--from Wakefield’s paper.

     Vaxxed also interviews Dr. Wakefield. Wakefield made and published a very small study showing something bad about the MMR vaccine, and in the study he even concedes that it was just a preliminary study suggesting more research, and encouraged people to take individual vaccines (i.e., just the vaccine for measles, then another for mumps, the another for rubella—the company responded to the rising demand for this by refusing to offer the individual vaccines any more, as they had loads of MMR vaccines to sell). Despite Wakefield’s own (justified) reservations about his own study, his career was utterly destroyed and the study repudiated by the journal which originally published it.

      Again, perhaps it was a bogus study (although, unlike many studies, it can be replicated). But…half of the studies in those journals are bogus, aren’t getting repudiated, and the researchers involved aren’t getting destroyed. I have to ask: why was Wakefield singled out for a piffling study that only suggested more study? Vaxxed doesn’t ask this question, alas.

     Vaxxed claims that they have the original data from the whistleblower, and one glaring detail in this data is it shows a massive correlation between the MMR vaccine and its effect on African-American males in particular (to be accurate, they show such males to be more likely than others to get autism after getting the vaccine, but bear with me for now).

      One more time: Vaxxed has evidence that African-American male infants are more likely to get autism from vaccination than other races.

     Now, wait just. One. Minute.

     Time and again I hear talking heads on TV screeching about how blacks are being so oppressed in this country, and it seems every week there’s another infinitesimal outrage that reasonable people would ignore (hi Starbucks!). To some extent, I see their point on some things, but here we have evidence that blacks are literally being targeted for a lifelong debilitating illness.

      Where’s the screaming in the media? Did I mention a hundred thousand kids a year get this diagnosis? And somehow the media doesn’t see anything to cover here. Hmm.

     Now, even though I don’t have the data in front of me, I’m still going to trash this result, and would even if I did have the data. Vaxxed doesn’t give me a p-value, which is a number, hopefully small, which indicates how good the evidence is. Let’s suppose this p-value is 0.0001—this is considered ridiculously strong evidence (I’ve reviewed doctoral dissertations with p-values around 0.09, to put in perspective how strong I’m assuming the evidence is).

       And yet I’m still suspicious of the result? Yes. See, this was a massive data set, and they probably looked at hundreds of cross-variables. Not just “male” and “female” but also “black,” “white,” “Hispanic,” “Asian,” all the other races. Now cross reference with age of vaccination—3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 months, etc. Now cross reference with prior illnesses and antibiotics use. All those cross-references mean you’re looking at thousands of p-values. In this circumstance, just on pure luck, you could easily get a p-value below 0.0001. So as a professional statistician, I’m not convinced even with this p-value, at least based on my understanding of the data set.

      But that’s what a skeptical statistician would say, and our media doesn’t think things through nearly so clearly. I’ve seen the media go ape on much flimsier evidence regarding poor treatment of black people. So, I’m forced to wonder why the media silence here. Why is the possibly unjust shooting of one black adult male (often with a criminal history) a huge deal, but this patently unfair damning of many thousands of innocent black male infants not a problem at all?

     My concerns about this evidence aren’t relevant, however. There is a real hammer blow in Vaxxed so powerful it not only smashes their dubious statistical evidence given above into complete irrelevancy, but also completely annihilates the relevance of all those studies which fail to show any connection between vaccines and other ailments.

     Next Time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Colleges Struggle With Belated Attempt To Make Online Ed Legit

By Professor Doom

    Admin, addressing full time faculty: “We’re going to put more of our programs online, for more efficiency. I know we’re asking for a great deal of work from you, but you’ll be helping to build a great institution.”

     Admin, 6 months later: “Thank you for your hard work developing these courses. We’re going to hire a Vice President of Online Education and a full complement of support staff for our four faculty teaching online courses.”

     Admin 6 more months later: “We really don’t need as many faculty for online courses, so we’re letting three of you go. Also, we’ll be hiring another Dean to handle the extra students. Feel free to apply for that position, but we’ll need someone with recent experience working in the last year as a Dean.”

     Admin (one semester later, after considerable growth): “We have an open part time adjunct position to teach the online courses. We’d be quite happy to see a resume that doesn’t have any online degrees on it, so we can finally hire someone. If you know someone, have them apply.”

---It’s a real joy working for these people.

     Online education has been a huge growth industry for higher ed. It barely existed 30 years ago, and today just about every student takes at least some online work to get a degree.

      Trouble is, many online classes, even whole degree programs, are fraudulent. It isn’t just the obvious cheating, the content of the coursework is so minimal that it doesn’t actually help a student learn anything, much less train for a job. The latter detail is the important part, since much of online college is sold as “train for a new job without leaving your old job!”

      But it’s mostly fraud. The administrators of online colleges know its fraud, too, since they refuse to hire people with online degrees. If the people running the “jobs training” programs won’t hire anyone trained in such programs, it’s little wonder that the real world generally won’t hire online graduates, either.

      After decades of such fraud, the Federal government has finally, after seeing much of a generation destroyed by this type of fraud, decided to do a little something about it, by instilling basic rules like “the college must inform students that their degrees are of limited, if any, market value.”

       Naturally, colleges are having a tough time adapting to such draconian rules:

     The implication of the above needs to be drawn out a bit. One of the big justifications for online education was that students from anywhere could take the courses. But, the colleges had been selling their online job training courses knowing full well that their “certifications” weren’t worth the paper they were printed on in most states (and by “most” I mean 49, possibly 50 of them).

       Now, if we give the schools benefit of the doubt (not my inclination, to be sure), it still makes little sense that so many kids were “accidentally” misled about the value of the job training. Our schools are drowning in admin, after all, it would have only taken a few phone calls to find out if the training would have passed muster in another state (assuming they bothered to check their own state, there are only 49 other states to check certification rules in…and that’s a worst case scenario, it could be done every year without a problem).

     Under the new regulations, all higher education institutions that offer classes online must demonstrate that they are authorized to operate in every state where they enroll students who receive federal financial aid. The rules also mean that institutions must make clear their refund policies and procedures for receiving student complaints.

     Again, the implications of the above bear highlighting. These schools knew what they were doing, and knew that the students, once they graduate, were going to come back and say “hey, this certification is absolutely worthless. I want my money back!”

      And the schools doubtless responded with “No refunds, even when we knowingly sold you something worthless. Sorry.”

       The students complained to the government, and the specific types of complaints hinted at above came up so often that, yeah, the Federal government decided to make the rules very clear about how schools sold their training programs, and about that whole “no refunds” thing.

     I should also mention, accreditation forces every school to put, in writing, that they operate with integrity. But, alas, accreditation has no penalty whatsoever for violating accrediting rules so, integrity is jettisoned shortly after a school becomes accredited. Accreditation now only serves to grant a school access to Federal student loan money, which, again, is why the specific wording above clarifies for whom this new rule applies.

      If accreditation were legitimate, you wouldn’t need that specific wording at all, because accreditation would already be forcing schools to act with integrity, or, more accurately, removing accreditation from schools acting without integrity.

Additionally, institutions must provide specific information to students who are pursuing professions that require state licensure, which is common for nurses, teachers and counselors, among others. Institutions will be required to inform students if they are taking a program that will not qualify them to practice their chosen profession where they live. This means every institution must track the requirements for professional licensing in every state where they operate. Failure to meet these requirements could result in institutions losing eligibility for federal financial aid.

     Not to beat a dead horse here, but the above rules were created because, obviously, schools weren’t acting with integrity as far as their license-required jobs training courses.

     Sooner or later the Federal government is going to realize what a mistake, what a waste of time, it is to have accreditation as the gatekeeper for Federal funds. When that happens, they’ll simply change the rules to remove accreditors from higher education completely. They already serve no purpose, mind you, but I reckon it’ll be another decade or so before our government will make them obsolete.

      I don’t think this will be a good thing. Accreditation came into existence because schools legitimately wanted to do honest work. All accreditation rules were written with an assumption of good faith in the participating school. Accreditation was never meant to be a gatekeeper for over a trillion dollars of student loan money, and, with that kind of money on the table, assuming good faith is, simply, stupid.

     Maybe after the government annihilates our current system of accreditation, we can hope that a new system of accreditation will come back into play, but I have my doubts: as long we’re talking over a trillion dollars on the table, the entire idea of good faith will be an antiquated concept.

      Now, like any set of rules from the government, they’re pretty confusing and subject to arbitrary enforcement. So, colleges are complaining, and to some extent I see their point.

      But the fact remains: if colleges acted with integrity, or if accreditation was legitimate, these new rules would never have been written…and the fact also that none of the “leaders” running our schools get this important concept speaks more about the state of higher education today than any number of pages of new Federal regulations.