Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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28 November 2006

Belated Link

FYI, due to my recent posting indolence I neglected to point out that Dennis Dale had a fun (dare I say Borgesian) little Thanksgiving tale last Thursday, in case you haven't seen it.

No - That Couldn't Be It

The Times reports on how blacks lag at major law firms.
A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail.
Since this leads off the article, we get to read all the amusing ways that this astonishingly obvious explanation can't possibly be true.
James E. Coleman Jr., the first black lawyer to make partner at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering, a prestigious Washington law firm now known as WilmerHale, said Professor Sander was overemphasizing grades at the expense of other qualities like writing skills, temperament and the ability to analyze complex problems.
Because blacks are well known to be unusually literate, have remarkably even temperaments, and possess extraordinary analytical skills? Later on, a grimmer concern is expressed:
"The harm of the Sander article," the two professors wrote, "is that it will contribute to the stereotyping that already undermines the success of black associates in elite corporate law firms."
That's right, we can't report on the facts - they can be dangerous. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. Overall, though, the article provides a pretty fair account of the study and the controversy.

22 November 2006

An Appropriate Response

If your country suffers a devastating terrorist attack by groups of Muslims boarding airplanes, an obviously appropriate response would be to send 150,000 troops for several years to a Muslim country not associated with the attack, spend about $100 billion per year, and pretty much destroy the country. A clearly inappropriate response, however, would be to see a group of Muslims board a plane and disperse to different locations on the plane and then react with suspicion and have them briefly detained. It's comforting to know that US Airways does "not tolerate discrimination of any kind and will continue to exhaust our internal investigation until we know the facts of this case and can provide answer for the employees and customers involved in this incident." Yes, proportionality is key after a terror attack - you wouldn't want to over-react.

21 November 2006

The Democrats' Agenda

Senator Schumer has announced his party's domestic legislative agenda. To take control of congress, the party's strategy (managed by Schumer and Rahm Emanuel) was to emphasize Iraq while being as un-scary as possible on other issues. This agenda continues that theme - nothing scary.

No. 1 is a revision to Medicare to allow the government to negotiate the prices for prescription drugs. This is a classic "common-sense" issue where Republicans were vulnerable since they obviously let the pharmaceutical industry call the shots in writing legislation. Sure, if drug companies can't make a fair profit then there will be little investment in R&D, but we're far from that point. The Medicare drug benefit provides a natural windfall for the industry by greatly expanding its market, so it's only sensible that the industry be asked to live with a smaller mark-up per unit.

The other big item is an increase in the national minimum wage. This is also pretty harmless. Conservatives always argue that this will cost some low-wage earners their jobs, and this is logically inescapable. Particularly now, with a very elastic low-end labor market due to immigration, reduced employment is likely (and then throw in the contraction of the home-construction business). But most people are willing to trade-off some employment for a better wage, and the Democrats are on the winning side of this argument.

Not so harmless is the proposal to expand tuition support. The cost of tuition is an outrage, granted, and I for one wouldn't mind some relief, but additional subsidies are only going to make things worse. Does anyone really think we have a problem in this country from too few young people going to college? I think the problem is that the quality of a college education has fallen, not that there aren't enough college grads. Tuition support will increase the number of college attendees (thus boosting tuitions by increasing demand) and lower the quality of education (due to increased supply strains).

What we need to do is figure out a way to reduce the demand for a college education. One way would be via the use of intelligence and personality testing, so that employers could identify worthy applicants without looking at a college transcript. Nowadays employers use college as a measure of the intelligence and maturity of prospective hires - no one really expects them to have actually learned anything of value in those 4 years. By the use of testing, we can all avoid the horrifically expensive charade we call a "college education".

At any rate, this is at least aimed at the middle class, and so I have to give the Dems credit for trying to directly reward the people who elected them (nationally, elections are all about the white middle class - if the Dems can win them, or come close, they win).

The final item on Schumer's list is setting goals for 25% of vehicles offered for sale to have flexible-fuel capabilities by 2010 and other "energy-independence" programs. Nothing too radical here - nice idea, devil's in the details, and all that.

Overall, Schumer is keeping to a core middle-class oriented agenda. We can only hope this holds, and the Democratic leadership doesn't fall for Bush's bi-partisan siren song of "compehensive immigration reform." For that will be the death knell of the middle class - and the Democratic congress.

10 November 2006

More on Immigration and the New Congress

Mickey Kaus has a good run-through of immigration politics and some reasons for optimism (for the fate of the country, that is).

09 November 2006

Will Dems Save or Destroy America?

My friend Jimbo, elated over the Democratic victory, views it at worst "as minimizing (as much as possible) the damage of Bush´s last 2 years." I certainly sign on to the notion that Bush needs checking, but Bush's most dangerous obsession, re-making the American people via south-of-the-border immigration, was being checked by the Republican House. Now they're gone. Will the Democrats take Bush up on his offer at yesterday's news conference? Pelosi might not want to handle this hot potato - we shall see.

08 November 2006

Neanderthals and Us

Scientists have found evidence of Neanderthal matings with modern humans in Europe about 37,000 years ago. The gene they identified regulates brain size (though early studies have not linked it to intelligence per se). Greg Cochran has a fascinating backgrounder here (there's more from Gene Expression - follow the links!).The news however is receiving scant coverage in the press, which is surprising since people love Neanderthals - my guess would be they rank third in popularity after Dinosaurs and UFO's in popular science stories. The press might fear the politically incorrect implication of this story that there might be some real differences between races due to different inter-species mating patterns in our not too distant past. To quote Cochran:
So when you think about the cultural explosion that occurred shortly after we overwhelmed the Neanderthals (cave paintings, sculptures, new tools and weapons, all that jazz) - well, you have to wonder if assimilating a passel of adaptive alleles in a few thousand years, way more than the typical number that would arise and become established over such a short time span, didn't give us a hell of a boost.
In other words, via the occassional "furtive mating" certain advantageous traits of Neanderthals could have been passed along to our lineage (the unfavorable ones - the vast majority no doubt, would have died out quickly). This could explain a number of traits that - besides cave painting - are European (or "white") in nature, such as:

Red hair
Blue eyes
Hairy bodies
Anal retentiveness
Stocky frames
Animal husbandry
Expressive music
Serial killers
Extreme carnivorousness
Favoring large, unwieldy weapons

It's all starting come together.

01 November 2006

John Kerry, Jokester

It's impossible to read Kerry's now infamous remarks without interpreting as saying that if you don't do well in school, you're going to end up in Iraq. His odd use of the phrase "stuck in Iraq" rather than "sent to Iraq" is what gives credence to the claim that it was a botched joke aimed at the president, not a comment on the armed forces. So he's so out of touch he doesn't realize that we no longer have a draft and college deferment, or he can't understand a simple line well enough to deliver it without completely screwing it up. Either way, it reinforces for Americans what a lame candidate he was, that however much they might regret that Bush is their president, they didn't have much of a choice in 2004.