Your Lying Eyes
Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.E-mail Me
30 June 2005
29 June 2005
Africa is in a state of chaos that is almost unimaginably bleak. But it can get worse. The first step would be for every sentient human being to sit up and make the following admission: "Africa was better off under colonial rule." The cathartic effect could be huge. Then everyone might then ask "Why is that?", and then perhaps sensible thoughts might soon overwhelm us all. Perhaps collective contempt for all the silly old geezers on stage might help jump-start this process.
28 June 2005
Supreme Court - Color it Red or Blue?
certain it is liberal to the core. So what is a fair characterization of this court?
I decided on a simple approach to determine which way the court leans. I looked at the 80 decisions handed down by the court this past term. If one of the court's liberals (Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, Stevens) wrote the opinion, I labeled the decision "Liberal." If Rehnquist, Scalia or Thomas wrote the opinion, I labeled it "Conservative." Kennedy and O'Connor, while leaning right, often join the liberals, so for their opinions I looked at the principal dissenter(s) - and depending on which side they fell on, I labeled the case the opposite. Unanimous results I labeled as neutral, as well as one case where the decision was truly split.
Here are the results:
Conservative 19 - 24%
Liberal 25 - 31%
Neutral 36 - 45%
I think it's fair to conclude the court still leans slightly left though in the main it is centrist. Conservatives thus have a fair argument that Bush ought to be very careful as to whom he picks to succeed either O'Connor or Rehnquist in order to at least maintain the balance if not gain some ground. If Rehnquist retires, anything other than a very conservative judge could cause further shifting to the left. If O'Connor retires, there's some chance of moving to the right a bit.
Source: Medill School of Journalism
25 June 2005
Biodiversity at the Philharmonic
Symphony orchestras are interesting because getting into one is highly competetive, but who gets chosen is based on blind auditions - so there is no favoritism, no secondary considerations, no prejudice involved in the selection.
These musicians train from an early age, are rigorously schooled, and represent the creme de la creme of musicians below the superstar category.
So what does the orchestra look like? I counted 18 first violinists. Six were men, 12 were women. A survey of the strings generally confirmed that at least half were women, except for the double basses, where only 1 of the 8 (eight!) was a woman.
Among the 20 woodwinds, 7 were women, but this is deceptive: of these, 4 were playing flutes (4 out of the 5 flautists). Of the remaining 15, only 3 were women. There were two harpists, and both were women, and two keyboardists, one a woman.
But among the remainder of the orchestra, featuring 6 percussionists and 20 brass, all 26 were men.
Ethnically, east asians were noticeable among the strings (about 1 in 5, maybe a little less). Only one of the winds was clearly east asian, and again none of the percussionists and brass. There was one black musician in the orchestra - a horn player - though he is one of the principals, not just brought out for the occasion as Mahler meat.
What to make of this? It appears that even in the rarefied world of the symphony orchestra, free of even subtle prejudice - where only superb skill and a lifetime of devotion can bring success, crude stereotypes still prevail. All the "manly" jobs - banging on drums and blowing into horns - are taken by men. Instruments requiring fine motor skills and where big fingers pose a problem - like harps and strings - find lots of women (and not a few asians) - the exception being the double basses, which are huge, ungainly instruments where big hands come in handy. In a highly competetive environment where objective skill measurement rules, such as in symphony orchestas and professional sports, one can see some subtle and often not-too-subtle population differences come to the fore.
The relative under-representation of blacks in symphony orchestras is interesting because music is one area where, unlike, say, chess, blacks aren't exactly second-string players. African Americans did, after all, invent, seeemingly out of whole cloth, an entire genre of serious music. There's a rich field for speculation here - everyone's favorite explanation for racial disparities could be employed plausibly. Certainly the training required to become a classical musician does not come cheaply, and so most blacks would be priced out of the market immediately. But classical music is also a fairly rigorous intellectual challenge, and the same forces that cause average African-American SAT scores to be 100 points lower than white scores could be at work here as well.
24 June 2005
The New Bewitched Movie
The movie stars Nicole Kidman. Casting her as a witch was inspired*, except that she's playing the Meg Ryan role in the kind of movie even Meg Ryan doesn't make anymore**. It features a nicely tuned supporting cast* except that Michael Caine's is the only performance that doesn't seem like an imitation of somebody else's**. It also stars Will Ferrel. Mr. Ferrell enjoys a few ticklishly funny moments with Ms. Kidman*, yet Ferrell provides none of the warmth or likability that would justify him as [Kidman]'s love interest**, but on the other hand this self-contained actress has rarely come across as relaxed in the company of another performer*, though we can't think of one reason why she would carry a torch for this jerk**. Another supporting actor is Steve Carell, who, doing Paul Lynde doing Uncle Arthur, provides some late relief*, unless of course you are annoyed by Carell's unfortunate impression of Paul Lynde**. Yes, it appears that This multisituational silliness is agreeably watchable*, but on the other hand it is a misfire in pretty much every ...department**. But one thing everyone will agree on: Kidman delivers her lines in a breathy Marilyn Monroe whisper** and her voice is as baby-breathy as that of Marilyn Monroe*.
Just thought I'd be of service.
* MANOHLA DARGIS , NYT
** Ann Hornaday, WaPo
23 June 2005
Justice Stevens Goes Federalist
Traditionally, when a developer wants land to build on he has to go out and buy the land from the current owners. If he's smart, he can probably pull it off without too much trouble, but if the property owners get wind of the deal they can turn it into a little windfall for themselves. But if all the developer has to do is go to the state to get the properties condemned, then all the hard work is done. The state is then distorting the market, and the homeowners get ripped off.
The War On Terror Must Be Over
21 June 2005
The Runaway Bride to W: 3 Degrees of Separation
The "Runaway Bride," Jennifer Wilbanks, has signed onto a book/movie deal with superagent Judith Regan who had a torrid affair with former limo driver Bernard Kerik who was nominated to Director of Homeland Security by George Walker Bush!
who was boffing:
who was nominated by:
19 June 2005
"One of the perils of being paid an enormous amount of money is that people will ultimately conclude that you're worth it," said Robert A. Mintz, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at McCarter & English in Newark. "The assumption jurors will reach is that somebody who receives large compensation is playing a critical role at the company, and a defense that you were more cheerleader than ringleader is going to be very difficult for a jury to buy."
This doesn't seem quite fair - either the guy knew about it beyond a reasonable doubt or he didn't - for the jury to conclude that because he was paid so much he must have known seems to stretch the concept of reasonable doubt rather thin.
But why are these guys being paid so much money? In today's business world, CEO's are usually master salesmen, not omni-competent managers. That's how they get the job to begin with - selling their own super-talent. They then are able to strong-arm or schmooz (depending on their style) the board into paying them obscene compensation.
What this article suggests is that CEO's must insulate themselves from prosecution by taking steps to make sure that faulty accounting practices do not occur. In practice, CEO's are not going to change their style. They're simply going to put into place a system that terrorizes the firm's employees. Mistakes will lead to serious consequences - perhaps even criminal charges - for employees. The best way for a CEO to prove his innocence is to show prosecutors the heads of subordinates he's beheaded.
The temptatioin of making such ungodly sums of money is too great to avoid for the type of hyper-ambitious person who becomes a CEO. They will continue their unethical behavior, but will now take steps to ensure that an underling will take the fall. The incentive needs to be removed. Wouldn't it seem reasonable to cap compensation at $10 million? Does anyone really need to earn more than that? Perhaps such modest compensation will thin out the ranks of CEOs who are merely glorified salesmen and result in more competent managers running corporations. Perhaps Howard Dean, rather than running around like an ass calling people names, could latch onto this as a real issue? Nah, that wouldn't play well among the Democrat campaign contributors.
16 June 2005
Hot Career Tip For Young Men
15 June 2005
14 June 2005
But it's amazing how the SAT, whose statistics are readily available at the College Board website, is sufficient to draw these same obvious (to those who believe their lying eyes) conclusions - specifically on page 6 of the 2004 National Report, SAT scores by ethnic group are laid out quite nicely. To summarize:
On the verbal test:
White Mean = 528 (Std Dev = 100)
Mexican-American Mean = 451
So, 528 – 451 = 77 = .77 sd
White Mean = 550 (Std Dev = 102)
Mex-Am Mean = 458
So, 550 – 458 = 92 = .92 sd
Average them together, you get around .85 standard deviation difference in cognitive ability – pretty close to this study’s .77.
The SAT is usually dismissed as a test of intelligence because it only measures college bound students and it has questions on it designed to test learning in school, not just raw intelligence. But for college bound students, the questions are so fundamental that it really suffices as an intelligence test - at least among people taking the same test.
Some other notable observations from this data: Mexican ethnics scored lowest among Hispanics, followed by Puerto Ricans then by "other", which includes a wide array of ethnicities. Asians score highest in math but lower than whites in verbal. In fact, the math vs. verbal score discrepancy is dramatic among Asians - .57 sd's. This could be language-barrier induced, but the much closer agreeement in the verbal and math scores among Hispanics casts that in doubt. IQ scores generally show a larger gap in verbal vs. non-verbal intelligence among Asians than non-Asians. Also, the standard deviation among Asians is significantly higher than other ethnic groups. This could be due to the group "Asian" including a very wide variety of people from highly intelligent Koreans to less than stellar Hmong refugees and even lower performing Polynesians.
And, finally, the much vaunted superior achievement of black females over black males is highlighted by blacks being the only group where females outscore males - but it only happens in the verbal test. Even among black students, the males outpace the females on the math test by 0.2 standard deviations.
Michael Jackson is Free
Even if MJ did do what he is accused of, there is zero chance he'll do it again, with all the heightened awareness of his odd relationship with adolescents. You don't need a Megan's law with him - he's a walking neon sign saying - "Don't let your children be alone with me!"
We all remember the child abuse witch hunts of the 80's, where innocent people's lives were ruined by prosecutors looking for a big career boost. I don't know what would drive a prosecutor to try someone like Michael Jackson without any physical corroborative evidence - perhaps he really did believe his case. But, given the complete lack of evidence beyond the accuser's testimony - which given the millions to be made has to be by definition suspect - I've got to think the man is either grossly incompetent or grossly ambitious.
What message does this send, given the recent Kobe Bryant fiasco? Open season on regular folks by abusive celebrities? Perhaps. But the real lesson should be Stay Away From Celebrities - common sense should tell you that a celbrity is not interested in you as a person - so for the dull, maybe the likelihood that you could be raped by a celibrity with impunity might drive the point home.
13 June 2005
In time enough will be known about DNA to identify specific genetic differences in humans so that drugs can be tailored less crudely than race alone, and such nonsense will no longer be an issue. But of course by then we will also know a lot more about DNA than just disease risk factors - like why one person is stronger than another, faster than another, fairer, prettier, taller, smarter, warmer, more gregarious, more musical, etc., etc., and then the genie will really be out of the bottle. Should be fun.
12 June 2005
The Bush administration is claiming that it's much like Bobby Kennedy's war on the Mafia, where mafiosi were convicted of run of the mill offences due to the difficulty of getting convictions on the real crimes they did. The article rightly dismisses this comparison since it seems most of the terror suspects had no relationship to terrorism to begin with. But the war on organized crime forms an important part of the legacy of the war on terrorism and drugs. A crime had always required intent to commit the crime. You had to actually intended to commit the criminal act. But in order to throw gangsters into jail, we made laws that require no intent - that in fact require no actual criminal act. This is why it's critical to never talk to a federal agent about anything - because if you make any kind of misstatement, you can be charged with making false statements. Our legal system is ugly and getting uglier.
07 June 2005
Americans (and we're not alone in this - Europeans aren't much better) have a bizarre habit of approving laws that they themselves may break, their children may break or other friends and family may break. So basically, the American people are asking the government to throw themselves or other loved ones in jail.
But of course they don't expect that to happen. Most people believe that by making something illegal only other people will be arrested, not their own friends and kin. Local officials, who know the "good" citizens from the bad, are well equipped to play this charade - arresting the marginal characters and minorities while treating the more mainstream perpetrators with deference. But the Feds don't operate this way - as far as federal agents are concerned, a terminally ill patient puffing on a joint is equivalent to a Medellin drug lord. The only thing holding them back is a lack of resources to target anyone not involved in dealing.
What Americans really want out of drug laws is the continued mass imprisonment of criminally-oriented blacks and Hispanics. Drugs give the criminal justice system an easy way to throw hundreds of thousands of young minority men into jail for extended periods of time. This makes people feel safe - but it's a rather crude way to enforce justice, since drug involvement is essentially being used as a proxy for real crimes.
05 June 2005
Is There Any Good Evidence that Jews Are Smart?
04 June 2005
Study Casts Doubt on Homosexuality's Hereditability
By the way, this post repeats comments I made on the website gnxp.com to a post on this topic.
03 June 2005
02 June 2005
West Virginia has always been a very poor state, and hunger was a constant problem (WVA being in the heart of Appalachia) - some deluded folks still think it's a problem.
But now food is abundant everywhere in America - or at least calories are abundant. Groups of people who have lived generations in want and are suddenly thrust into an environment of surplus food often suffer from obesity problems. Some claim it's genetic and have dubbed its cause the "thrifty gene". It's not unlikely this could be happening in West Virginia.