Your Lying Eyes

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

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22 July 2011

First They're Rotting, Now They're Walking

After the latest "rotting in the fields" fairy tale, there's a new threat to farms: thieves stealing produce in the fields. That's right - farmers are - in some cases literally - up in arms over the very costly theft of their valuable produce - which it seems that just yesterday were "rotting in the fields." So one day because there aren't enough illegal immigrants to harvest it the produce is worth nothing then the next it's so valuable thieves are stealing it and farmers are losing tens of thousands of dollars as a result. Boy it's hard keeping up.

21 July 2011

Bronx Charter School Caught Cheating

For skimming, to be precise:
The violations go to the crux of the debate over charters, which are publicly financed but independently operated. Random admissions is a key tenet in most states, but critics have long contended that the schools surreptitiously weed out students who are unlikely to do well on standardized tests or are more difficult to educate.
I'm sure it's pretty easy to find which charter schools are cheating - just look for one's with significantly better test scores than the surrounding schools and you've got your cheaters.

Though that's probably a little unfair - the very fact that attending a charter school requires an involved guardian to do some minimal research is itself a skimming technique. It would be best - for gauging the effectiveness of charter schools - if students were simply randomly assigned to charter schools by the school system, regardless of parental interest. Then we'd know if they can really make a difference.

18 July 2011

Italy vs. Japan

Via Marginal Revolution, Paul Krugman wonders why there is such a disparity in the interest rates Italy has to pay on its bonds vs. Japan. Commenters seem unable to come up with anything plausible. Some mention cultural differences, but only one commenter at either blog mentioned trade policy.

Japan's current account stood at 3.6% of GDP as of December, 2010 and has averaged 2.6% of GDP since 1980. Italy's current account, on the other hand, was -3.3% of GDP in December and has averaged -0.88% since 1980. So Japan, unlike Italy, can actually pay its debt since it sells more to the rest of the world than it purchases.

The U.S. is more like Italy - we buy more than we sell. But we have the dollar, and all our debts are denominated in dollars, so no problem there. And of course we have all those aircraft carriers, in case we're really desperate.

17 July 2011

Chickens Coming Home to Roost, With a Vengeance

Charter School Battle Shifts to Affluent Suburbs. Yet another neo-con policy disaster. Neo-conservativism is all about pursuing liberal goals with "conservative" policies. Starting out with the unshakable premise that performance in urban/minority schools has to be equal to those in white suburbs because - well, it just has to be, the neocons correctly observed that liberal polices - free breakfast, free lunch, culturally-sensitive curricula, gobs of money redistributed from those suburban districts - have failed to make a dent. But re-thinking they're basic assumptions is not an option - so clearly, liberals have simply mis-diagnosed the problem. The problem clearly is that these schools and the teachers in them simply suck. And how could it be that every single urban school sucks? Well they just do.

Well, look how well private enterprise and the free-market have succeeded in creating our amazing modern economy? So there you go - the solution to "failing" schools is more competition! That'll make those lousy teachers in those sucky schools sit up and take notice.

Part of their proposed solution worked - yet again it was proven that if someone's handing out money, someone will step in to grab it, and so the charter school industry was born - and boy did they figure out how to work the angles. Suppose you have a Jewish population living in an urban area where the parents are not too keen on sending their kids to the local - uh, failing - schools. Well, they're pretty much limited to private schools, right? Not anymore - you now can send them to the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School - on the taxpayers dime!

Despite all the redistribution of school money, there's still money to be made in the suburbs - and like any business, the charter school business is sure not going to leave money on the table. People in wealthy school districts still spend very serious bucks on private schools, despite all the nice, "good" schools in their own neighborhoods. So of course charter schools are looking to set up shop there. In the Times article linked above, the charter school is a "Mandarin-infusion" school. That's playing off another neocon trope - the "our schools must be globally competitive" mantra that explains why our enlightened free-trade policy has produced nothing but massive current-account deficits and a shrinking work force. It's important that our pre-school children learn Chinese now so that in 20 years the little dears can so much more effectively negotiate the transfer of American jobs overseas. Of course by then it will be Vietnamese that will be needed after the Chinese will have priced themselves out of the market - but the neocons will be on top of it, I'm sure.

12 July 2011

Is the Continuum Theory Plausible?

I don't think it is. What I'm talking about is the Sexual-Orientation Continuum theory. According to the APA (via Wikipedia): Sexual orientation exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality and includes various forms of bisexuality. Over at Razib's there was some discussion around Tim Pawlenty's answers on Meet the Press regarding homosexuality-as-a-choice. I thought he (Pawlenty) deflected it expertly, but some commenters on Razib's post referred approvingly to a rather rambling dissertation on the sexuality-as-continuum theme on another blog.

Now such a continuum would suggest that sexuality is normally distributed, with exclusive homosexuality and heterosexuality at the extremes, with intermediate behavior (i.e., bisexuality) the norm, taking up the vast middle of the distribution. Of course we know this is not the case - the vast majority of people are heterosexual. So the distribution is skewed - fine. Still, if it's a continuum, we should expect that the intermediate state should be also be intermediate in frequency between the dominant state and the rare state - i.e., we should expect bisexuality - which represents a state intermediate between the (predominate) heterosexual state and the (rare) homosexual state to have an incidence rate somewhere between the two. Does it?

Let's look at the GSS. Since 1991, the GSS has asked participants about their sexual partners over the last 5 years(variable=SEXSEX5). The choices are Exclusively Male, Exclusively Female, and Both Male and Female. These are the cumulative results since 1991:
As you can see, rather than being somewhere between exclusive homosexuality and heterosexuality in incidence, bisexuality is actually less common than homosexuality. That is certainly unusual behavior for an intermediate value. In case you might think having results from the early 90's might distort the results somehow, here are the results since 2000:

No real difference - bi-sexuality is the least common sexuality (results from individual years can be found here if you don't wish to reproduce results yourself in the GSS). Now why would this be? Well I suppose i'm not qualified to speculate - but the results don't seem consistent with a continuum of sexuality, but more with a binary condition, with some switching between conditions as the situation might require in rare cases.

What about self-reporting issues? These results - sub-3% for homosexuality - are lower than we often hear. Claims of 10% are silly, but I've often heard 4 - 5%. Would GSS respondents under-report their homosexuality? Perhaps, though I don't know why they would do so here - year-in and year-out (only 2000 and 2002 for men and 1991 for females showed >3%) - and not elsewhere. But regardless, the point is that bisexuality shows a lower incidence of homosexuality - the opposite of what you'd expect if there were a heterosexual-bisexual-homosexual continuum. And it is certainly not plausible that bisexuality would be under-reported vis-a-vis homosexuality.

11 July 2011

Give the Guy a Break

Christian Lopez, the guileless young man who caught Derek Jeter's dramatic 3,000th hit and asked for little more than some t-shirts and an autographed ball in return, could be facing a sizable tax bill that he can ill-afford. The Yankees gave him primo seats for the rest of the year and perhaps he could "StubHub" some of them, but that might not be permitted under the deal.

This would seem to call for his congresswoman, Nan Hayworth, to introduce some private legislation to have all the little treats the Yankees gave the kid officially declared to be gifts, and thus not taxable. It seems reasonable as he could conceivably have sold the ball for tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands - but reasonable is not necessarily a term embraced by the IRS for these types of things.

09 July 2011

The Voice of the People

The Republican Leadership to the people: We hear you - you're sick and tired of illegal-immigration, your neighborhoods being trashed by Section 8 Vouchers, courts overturning the People's will, bailouts for big banks, military interventions in Middle East civil wars - We hear you loud and clear - and so we pledge to you - No New Taxes!

Obama, Right-Winger

So alleges Paul Krugman. Obama is in cahoots with Republicans to sabotage everything Democrats hold dear.

As a person, Obama could be thought of as a conservative. He's in a traditional marriage, raising two young, apparently virtuous, children. He's never been much of a rebel (like, say, John Kerry was). His foray into community organizing seems to have been rather half-hearted, and seems to have preferred the life of an upstanding citizen to that of the gadfly.

I think the real problem with Obama is that he has no real over-arching ideology. His expectation on embarking on his presidential campaign was that he would, through his unique heritage, be able to redistribute some of that huge economic pie that was baking at the time and, following on the known truth that the problems of black-folk were simply the result of the deprivation brought on by income inequality, bring about the much heralded-yet-elusive revolution in American society that would equalize the races.

Krugman notes that his administration has been effectively purged of competent economic counsel. Surely the realization that this economy is showing no signs of real improvement has disabused Obama of any notion that there is any surplus "pie" to divvy up. But he has also been dealing with many minority "leaders" looking for some gravy - is there any chance that he has been disillusioned by their fecklessness as well, and finds himself nowhere else to turn, but to Republicans offering some way out of the cave?

01 July 2011

Plebiscites are, by Definition, Unfair, Apparently

A Federal Appeals court has struck down Michigan's anti-affirmative action law because it was a voter-passed constitutional amendment.
Because less onerous avenues to effect political change remain open to those advocating consideration of non-racial factors in admissions decisions, Michigan cannot force those advocating for consideration of racial factors to go down a more arduous road than others without violating the Fourteenth Amendment.
In other words, the law is unfair because those who oppose the law don't have the votes to overturn it. Is this a novel interpretation of the 14th amendment? Has a court ever before invalidated a law simply because the majority voted for it, and thus the minority can't win because they're in the minority?

Granted, that's kind of the point of constitutional protections, so that the majority cannot change the rules on a whim. But here the court is not ruling that the law itself is unconstitutional - but that the law is unconstitutional for the very reason that it was voted on by the majority. Fascinating.

There simply is no end to how creatively liberal judges are willing to rule in order to strike down laws they don't agree with. It thus becomes nearly impossible for conservatives to make any headway on policy as anything controversial will simply be invalidated by the judiciary. Without the bare majority in the Supreme Court, there would be no hope at all.

Conservative judges do of course invalidate laws themselves. But when they do, as with the campaign-finance and gun-control laws, their approach is one of stubbornly literal adherence to the constitution's text (against the revisionist view that their adversaries advocate). Justice Kennedy for example argues that political campaigning involves speech, and since the government can't curtail speech, it can't curtail people's ability to engage in campaigning. But I can't recall a "conservative" opinion utilizing as creative an interpretation of the U.S. Constitution as the court ruled in this Michigan case.