Your Lying Eyes

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

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25 October 2007

Has 'Global Warming' Jumped the Shark?

Read thru this ABC News report on the "appalling" edits made in a CDC report redacting concerns expressed regarding health effects of global warming, and tell me this isn't one of big pile of horseshit. We have experienced significant warming during this century. Note how the bodies have been piling up in the streets from more and more people dying of infectious diseases and natural disasters?
The problem, according to the unedited version of the testimony, is that climate change is likely to have a significant impact on health -- and not only due to heat waves and disease epidemics.

The CDC report highlighted other issues addressed in the IPCC report, including how extreme weather events such as floods and hurricanes will cause deaths, large-scale population displacement and contamination of drinking water. Other concerns included how increases in temperatures encourage the formation of ground level ozone, the primary ingredient of smog which can cause permanent lung damage and aggravate chronic lung diseases, such as asthma.
The Bush Administration doesn't do a lot of things right, but taking a stand on this insanity is one of the few.

Priorities at the CDC

Unlike many on the right, I do not doubt the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis - I do believe the earth is getting warmer as a result of increased atmospheric CO2. But I've got to believe the Centers for Disease Control has more pressing concerns right now than the health effects of global warming.

22 October 2007

Subprime Crisis Threatens Economy; Women and Minorities Hardest Hit

Anita Hill weighs in on the subprime crisis and how single women are its unsung victims. Yada yada yada. But one thing to keep in mind about these loans is that brokers get commissions on the extra spread they can wrangle out of their customers. So the more unsophisticated customers are no doubt often sitting ducks for these guys. And let's not forget that the broker's employer incurs no real risk with the loans he originates - they are quickly sold to third parties who then bundle them into investment securities to be sold in the financial markets. So the potential for abuse is very real, and so it would not be surprising to find real evidence of discriminatory lending practices given that the loan terms are often set by savvy brokers 'negotiating' with naive borrowers.

As I've asserted before, it makes no sense to charge people more for something because they are poor. There are cases where someone with limited credit might be a perfectly good risk for a subprime loan - a newly licensed surgeon, for example. But the normal market safeguards one would expect - that the lender would not care to risk losing his money - don't operate in this market, so legal restrictions are necessary. Of course then we'll have less overall lending to single women and minorities, and that's another whole mess.

Addendum: Why permit commissions on home mortgage loans at all? If someone is buying a house, they clearly need a mortgage, so there's no reason to go out and drum up business. If rates drop and cheaper loans are available, the borrower can figure that out on their own. Yes, some people are probably too dim or irresponsible to pursue a cheaper mortgage, but they are exactly the type of people who will fall victim to a rapacious mortgage broker. Loan decisions aren't that complex - you've got income, assets, job history, credit score, and property assessment. Any salaried clerk (or on-line process) can handle it. Eliminate commissions on mortgage loans, and you've eliminated these kinds of abuses - indeed, probably the bulk of the subprime mess. Very simple - and of course we'll never see it done. And again, we will have the perennial issue of asymmetrical racial lending patterns, which will not disappear under any rational system.

20 October 2007

A New Terror Idea

A few weeks ago, Freakonomist Steven Levitt floated an idea for how a new terror attack might take shape. He suggested a handful of snipers randomly shooting people across the country. His idea is based on the notion that terrorists' goals are to paralyze the nation in fear and hysteria, while I think their goal is to, like, kill a whole bunch of people in one big, loud, explosive, scary act.

But assuming for a moment that he is right - that fear and hysteria is the terrorist's aim, then I think if I were the leader of a terror cell, this is what I'd do: I'd have my jihadis set up in different regions of the country, and have them roam about placing nooses in various semi-public locales to be discovered under mysterious circumstances. We know what would happen. All the broadcast and cable news would be covering it 24/7, obviously. Racial animosities would flare up across the land. Law enforcement, from local police departments to the FBI, would find their resources being diverted from their normal crime-fighting duties to noose-incident investigations. The economy will suffer as emloyees are taken from their work and sent to diversity training classes. Learning in our educational institutions will be disrupted as students attend rallies rather than classes. Businesses will face huge productivity hits as work will cease while their workplaces turn into crime investigation scenes. Best of all, the perpetrators of these acts are apparently unidentifiable as even myriad security cameras in places such as faculty buildings and major retail outlets are unable to detect the culprit. Hmmm - maybe this is what's happening.

19 October 2007

Watson's Gaffe

During an apparently wide-ranging and desultory discussion with a reporter, Nobel prize-winner and DNA-founder Dr. James Watson made some impolitic remarks regarding Africa. Whatever one thinks of his comments, surely we can all agree that the reaction to his statements - particularly from the scientific community and his own institution - best fits those of a ruling religious elite reacting to the heretical pronouncements of an apostate rather than as disagreement with another's assessment of arcane scientific issues.

Related: Blogger Mencius re-defines modern day multi-culti/political correctness/pacifism as a Christian sect - the dominant sect.

18 October 2007

But What's the Default Rate?

Steve Sailer discusses the alleged bias against minorities in subprime lending reported in the Times. The allegation is based on a report from The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. In an accompanying editorial, the Times argues that "the burden of proof has to be on the lenders to show that no discrimination has occurred."

This is an astonishing statement given the contents of the "study" - really just a glorified homework assignment. If you look at the "analysis", it is a compilation of "Percent of HP Loans Issued by Subprime Lender" by neighborhood combined with demographic and median income data by neighborhood from census data. The analysis consists in eyeballing the top ten and bottom ten rates and noting that most subprime lending happens in minority neighborhoods and that the median incomes for some of them are not way different. For that the Times wishes to engage a witch hunt?

But finding discriminatory lending practices is really quite simple. There is a simple acid test you can apply to falsify the discrimination hypothesis. If minorities are indeed being discriminated against by disproportionately being given subprime mortgages, then we should find that their default rates are lower than that for non-minorities. It's pretty simple - the allegation is that too many minorities (compared to non-minorities) who get subprime loans are actuality better credit risks than than 'subprime' and should have gotten standard loans. If that is indeed the case, then the minorities should be defaulting at a lower rate. Is this what's happening? It's hard to imagine we wouldn't have heard about it if it were true, but I don't really know. I'll take a look later to see if there are any such stats available. But there's no need to speculate based on crude data as the Times is touting when a foolproof test (so rare in the real world!) exists.

Related: A 1999 study (Anderson/Vanderhoff) on national default rates disproving systematic discrimination in lending.

09 October 2007

Indians Win; The Heat is On

The Cleveland Indians easily defeated an over-swinging, under-pitching Yankees club to advance to the league championship series against Boston. Cleveland has perhaps up to now benefited from lack of attention as a small-market club. For example, immediately after the game ESPN aired a 20-minute press conference with the Yankees' manager.

But now that they've advanced in the post season, the Indians could find themselves under increasingly harsh scrutiny. I'm not talking about their ball-playing, but their brazenly un-PC name and logo. Now I find these "native"-American complaints about team names to be just as silly as the next red-blooded sports fan, but I have to admit that logo of theirs might be over the line - no, it's downright insulting. The Indian headdress of the Redskins and the tomahawk of the Braves paint the kind of manly, warrior-like image that us palefaces admire in the American Indian legacy. I'm reminded of a colonist's description of an Indian warrior (from the book 1491): "a very lusty man, in his best years, an able body, grave of countenance, and spare of speech." No such dignified image is conjured up by the Cleveland Indian logo - more like some doomed brave in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Cleveland last made the World Series in 1997. Since then, we've had the NCAA ban on Native American names, imagery, and mascots, so there might be more pressure this time around. If the Tribe is quickly dispatched by the Sox, the logo will live another day. But if they get to the series, can they withstand the drum beats of change?

04 October 2007

What Use Do We Make of 'Use'?

So you're an aging, legally-blind low-life living in a rough neighborhood with some surplus OxyContin hanging around, and you mention to some other low-life that you're looking for a gun to keep the vermin away, and he says he'll get you a gun for some of that Oxycotton, and you make the trade, and your contact ends up being a narc and you're arrested. Would you be surprised if you're given 5 more years due to 'use' of a firearm in the commission of a felony? Michael Watson of Ascension, La. sure was. That question will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court next week. (See this CS Monitor article on the case.)

Astonishingly, buying drugs with a firearm is already considered 'use' of a gun according to a 1993 Supreme Court opinion (written, not surprisingly, by the queen of illogic, Sandra Day O'Connor). And so the police routinely entrap their prey into 'using' guns as currency in drug transactions so they can get a few extra pounds of flesh out of their quarry. You'd think that in this country we have more than enough criminal laws (and more than enough criminal convictions) that law enforcement wouldn't need to add creative twists to come up with wider legal nets to cast. I guess not.

This case is supposed to be different because the defendant was buying the gun with drugs, not 'using' the gun to buy the drugs. Perhaps the court will use it to roll back the prior decision altogether. Only Kennedy and Thomas remain from the majority that decided the 1993 case (Smith v. U.S.). The three dissenters remain - Stevens, Souter and Scalia*. Interestingly, Scalia wrote the dissent, which Stevens and Souter joined. It's a classic Scalia dissent, making mincemeat of the majority's tortured logic (see here - just Ctrl-f on "Justice Scalia"), pointing out that the only sensible meaning of the word 'use' with a gun is to use it the way a gun is intended to be used - as a weapon. Ginsburg and Breyer are sure to join them this time around, though Roberts might join as well if only to control the opinion and keep it from completely repudiating the government's position. Hopefully Mr. Watson will get some relief - his sure seems like a clearer case of injustice than the prosecution of those thugs in Jena.

* Scalia of course dissented because he believes in following the plain meaning of the statute. He is not as many believe an "original intent" adherent. Nor does he change his philosophy to fit the politics of a case as liberal critics claim.

You Can't Say That on TV?

You can't joke that a doctor with a degree from a medical school in the Philippines is not every bit as good as one from an American medical school. Desperate Housewives learned that lesson this week. I wonder if the script's first draft had the character dismissing degrees from Guadalajara?

Is there any way you could include such a joke in a sitcom? Sure. In the show, Terri Hatcher, doubting her OB/Gyn's competence after pronouncing her to be in menopause, asks to check his diplomas on the wall "just to make sure they aren't from some school in the Philippines". Far too offensive to Filipinos everywhere. But with a little tweak, you could still pull it off. For example, these would work:

"I want to make sure your medical degree is not from ..."
"...Apartheid era South Africa"
"...Chile under the Pinochet regime"
"...Kim Jong Il's North Korea"
"...Libya under Qaddafi - not the new co-operative Qaddafi, but the old, you know, terrorist Qaddafi."

So it's not like you can't make any jokes about other peoples and places. With a little geo-political savvy, you can still pull off snappy one-liners like those above without causing offense to anyone that matters.