Your Lying Eyes

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

E-mail Me

Twitter: yourlyingeyes

26 August 2010

A Must Read

Via the ParaPundit, I found this essay by Ayaan Hirsi Ali most compelling.

Just Where Does the Hysteria Lie?

Speaking of anti-muslim hysteria, the poster-incident is of course the bizarre case of the young man who suddenly and without provocation began stabbing a cab driver after talking to him about his (the cabbie's) Muslim faith. I'm glad the cab driver is alright, but I fear there will be no stopping the elevation of this incident into grand theories of right-wing evil and hate-mongering. After reading this article about him, however, I'm inclined to guess that the young man's erratic behavior will end up having a far more prosaic and sad explanation.

Oh No - Not 10!

The Christian Science Monitor shines a light on the wave of anti-Muslim hysteria sweeping NYC that the opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque is surely stirring up. They find some alarming data in the official police statistics:
Ten hate crimes against Muslims have been reported so far this year in New York City, says Kelly. In 2009, there were 6 for the entire year. Since 2001, an average of 10 hate crimes against Muslims have been reported annually.
That's pretty scary,huh - 10 hate crimes! And in a city of only about 8 million people - the fear these poor people must endure. For those of you who are numerically challenged and have trouble comprehending numbers of a certain magnitude, that's ten, as in a 1 with a whole zero after it. And note that there were six(6) in all of 2009 - so this represents - let's see if I can handle the math: 10 this year, but the year is only 2/3 in, so upping it by a third, that's 15, and 15 divided by 6 minus 1...Good Lord - that's on pace for a 150% increase over last year!

I'm going to have to do some serious soul searching and maybe try to avoid any posts that could further fan the flames of intolerance lest I contribute to the bloodbath running through the streets of New York.

25 August 2010

Questions About the Ground Zero Mosque

I've had some questions about the GZM that never seem to get answered, with its supporters in the media too busy reveling in their own sanctimony while denigrating the sub-human intolerance of its opponents; and with said opponents preoccupied with focusing their anger in a direction that does not reveal them to be sub-human bigots.

Basically I was wondering why was this particular site chosen? Was it mere coincidence - i.e., did its sponsors just happen on this site, sort of right place/right time, or did they actively seek out a site at this location? And just what is this Cordoba Initiative that is supposedly this moderate, pro-American organization behind it?

Well, I looked up the group's website, and found this FAQ. Now this is obviously not an independent source, but I found their story quite plausible - i.e., the choice of building on that site was driven mainly by the availability of a property owned by a member of the Imam's congregation. Nor am I impressed by the various "gotcha" quotes that have been dug up to prove the Imam is a radical Muslim - the quotes, even out of context, seem like an argument anyone not in support of our various interventions in Muslim lands or not 100% in support of Israel's Palestinian policies. So I don't think it's out-of-the-question that citing this mosque or whatever at this location had a benign intent.

But there's one question that really can't be answered, though its answer is rather critical: When the mosque/community center is completed, how will the Muslim world view it? As a monument to inter-religious tolerance and the transcendent beauty of the Bill of Rights? Or as a monument to a grand victory for Islam as it establishes a deep foothold in the world's greatest infidel nation?

Put another way, will Muslims say to each other "What a wonderful country America is, that they would tolerate our religion and allow us to build such a beautiful Islamic center, and so close to the location of Islam's most shameful act. We humbly tender our gratitude to a great and generous people." Or will they say "What a glorious triumph for Islam, to erect such a beautiful structure in praise of Allah and his magnificence in this foreign and distant land, and so near to where our martyred brothers struck at the infidels' heart."

Is It a Mosque? Is It a Cultural Center?

The Ground Zero Mosque controversy has already devolved into the phase where semantics and fine distinctions in carefully worded arguments are now huge bones of contention on the talk shows. This I think means that the opponents of the mosque have probably lost.

It didn't have to end this way. The controversy began with the opponents occupying the high ground, as evidenced by the mosque's supporters being incapable of framing an argument that did not highlight vitriolic attacks against their opponents*. You know you're winning an argument when your opponent is left spewing invective your way.

But the constant harangues of "intolerant" and "anti-American" had their effect. Soon you started to hear the "Nobody's saying that..., but..." When you've got to qualify your argument that way, you've already lost. Now the opponents have been reduced to digging through old speeches of the mosque's Imam to prove that he's not really one of those nice muslims, he's really one of those bad muslims.

When what the argument really is about is Islam's place at our table, so to speak. Is this religion, fundamentally, compatible with the American nation? Does the construction of this mosque raise alarms about our future, or can we blithely reject such concerns as being of a class of similar false alarms that have been raised over the years in hysterical over-reactions to the emergence of various odd sects or some new immigrant group?

But that's a discussion we're not even allowed to have, it appears.

* A notable exception being the President, who was rather patronizing in dismissing the opponents' arguments, but not vitriolic.

24 August 2010

The Dog Days

I watched "The Big C" last night (yes, I know - but there ain't no cure for the summertime blues). It's a new Showtime series about a woman who finds that her death sentence from an incurable disease is oddly liberating and unexpectedly rife with real-life fantasy moments - providing the show's dominant female demographic the opportunity to vicariously savor these fantasy-come-true moments with her. Surely chief among these in last night's episode is when her husband (whom she has not informed about her plight and whom she kicked out of the house as part of her liberation) begs her - absolutely begs her - to go to therapy with him to save their marriage (a request she, of course, in her fully-liberated state, blithely rejects). Dream on, ladies.

08 August 2010

Paying Teachers: Do You Get What You Pay For?

(NOTE: UPDATE 9:55pm EDT - Additional graphs added below.)
Some things are so obviously true that they needn't ever be discussed. For example, the more you pay teachers, the more our students will learn. So why bother even looking up the data to prove something so self-evident? Well, what the hell.

The American Federation of Teachers publishes an annual survey of average teacher salaries by state as a service to their members. The last survey was from 2006/07. Now of course living standards differ across the country, but if we normalize these salaries to median household income by state, that should give us a good measure of teacher pay relative to the state as a whole. Household median income from the 2008 American Community Survey is available here.

The NAEP reading scores for 8th graders should give us a good measure for how well students in each state have learned to read, a basic job of teachers. To avoid the confounding factor of race, I've restricted the scores to white students only. NAEP data is available here.

So what do we find? (Click for larger image.)
There is actually a negative relationship between relative salary and reading score - albeit a weak one with an R2 of 0.1. But there's no support for the assumption that higher teacher pay leads to better educational outcome.

Here's the graph with labels for each state so you can find how your state fares.
It would appear that in some states teachers are real bargains - New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut stand out. California not so much, and Arkansans are getting a real raw deal. West Virginia as usual stands dismally alone. For my home state of New Jersey, where Governor Christie is locked in a savage battle with the NJEA, this data could be used to argue that the state could clearly afford higher teacher salaries, or that cutting back on compensation is unlikely to have a particularly adverse impact on education. California teachers, on the other hand, in their battle with budget constraints haven't a leg to stand on.

UPDATE: At Steve Sailer's request, I've updated the graphs to reflect teacher salaries relative to white incomes, as most teachers would probably measure themselves against this standard rather than the state as a whole. Using White-Non-Hispanic median family income, there is some substantial shifting around of some of the states, though the overall story is the same - the relationship is still negatively correlated (R=-0.32, R2=.11. For example, as Steve expected, California teachers are no longer the 3rd highest paid but are now tied for 20th (because of the dichotomy in white vs. Hispanic incomes). A number of heartland states are really overpaying their teachers it would appear, while some of the Northeast states are getting their teachers at bargain prices. And note the gap between Rhode Island and neighboring Mass. When it comes to viewing this as indicating what a state could afford to pay their teachers, the total income (vs. white only) is probably a better measure to use.

Data behind the graphs is here.

07 August 2010

Our Dismal Recovery

Obama and his Treasury secretary have been out there touting the "recovery," and the MSM have been playing along, but no one's buying. Again, let's compare the big recession that greeted Reagan in his first year in office, compared to that which greeted Obama, and the their respective recoveries have played out:
Obama's been going around touting job creation. Geithner had the nerve to imply in a recent WSJ op-ed that the job creation has been above normal for a recovery. Let's look at the unemployment rate month-by-month for the Reagan recession vs the current one:
As you can see, Reagan's recession (probably better referred to as the Reagan/Volcker Recession) started at a much higher unemployment rate (near 7%) and remained above 10% for several months. Unemployment is painful, and such a high rate is certainly not a welcome development. But then look at where the rate was at the point in the recession where we are today (2 2/3 years in) - the unemployment rate had dropped down below 8%, while we are still mired at a 9.5% rate. The total employment picture tells a similar tale, but more dramatically:
Employment today remains far below it's pre-recession levels, while at a similar point in the Reagan recession employment levels were skyrocketing.

This is a rather dismal recovery. Granted, the economy is not a complete disaster, but disaster, while not yet at hand, is hardly off the table. Our economy's inability to re-create lost jobs over such a long period is not a scenario we have encountered in the Post-War period. Stagnation of this sort may just signal a reduced growth era - but at some point point failure to grow morphs into decay, and I haven't seen any particularly persuasive scenario that leads to growth.

Data behind the graphs are here.

03 August 2010

On Vacation

I've been on vacation since July 25 with very intermittent internet access - I should be checking back in next week.