Tuesday, October 30, 2007

TV writers may strike

The Hollywood writers are scheduled to go on strike, and the TV show "The View" might have to suspend broadcasts.

I didn't know The View had writers! I thought that it was just over-opinionated women babbling on random topics.

McDonalds food is nutritious

From John Tierney:
Here’s the response from Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for the journal Science, to Jeff’s assertion that McDonald's food is certainly unhealthy:
I have two comments about Jeff's post. First, anyone who can tell you "with certainty" that MacDonald’s is bad for us is the kind of zealot who can be dangerous if taken seriously. He might believe it, and he might have good reason to believe it, but telling us "with certainty"? I don’t think so. I can give him numerous examples of populations with epidemics of obesity and diabetes that were fast-food-restaurant free. McDonald's may be serving up foods or nutrients that are bad for us (as may be Starbucks, for that matter), but the negative effects will depend entirely on what people order and what they then eat.
One commentator said:
First, I’m astonished by Mr. Taubes' comments in suggesting that McDonalds is actually food, as I’m not so sure that is the case. Trans-fats kill, and they have no nutritional value–they are simply used to make things taste fresher, but they clog arteries.

Trans-fats should only be consumed by people who are OK with the idea of having a stroke or heart attack.

We also eat too much sugar and the wrong sugars, ...
That last comment may represent popular thought, but it is wrong. Of course trans fats are nutritious, and there is no proof that any other food is better than McDonalds food.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Welfare is not insurance

Why do the S-CHIP promoters keep calling it insurance? Here is a typical definition of insurance:
promise of reimbursement in the case of loss; paid to people or companies so concerned about hazards that they have made prepayments to an insurance company
It is not insurance, it is just a welfare program to give free medical care to middle class kids.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Grandmother gives advice in a letter

More goofy advice in the newspaper advice column:
DEAR ABBY: Our 23-year-old son, "Jason," told me yesterday about a letter he had received from his grandmother. In it she complained that she's embarrassed by his having fathered a child out of wedlock and said the situation is "very difficult" for her. ... Our younger son, "Connor," spent last summer in jail for stealing from us and possession of a controlled substance, but he did not receive a similar letter. ... Should I tell this woman that if she can't be supportive, she should keep a respectful distance? ... -- IRATE IN NEW YORK

DEAR IRATE: Let's view the situation from your mother-in-law's point of view for a moment. ... From a "contemporary" point of view, having a baby without being married is no longer the shock and disgrace that it was when your mother-in-law was a girl. ... The fact that your younger son did not receive a similar letter from his grandmother is a reflection of her skewed sense of priorities.
The son who spent the summer in jail does not need a letter to tell him that he did wrong. It is the son with the out-of-wedlock child who might be helped by getting some advice from someone other than his overly-supportive mom.

Dear Abby also fails to give good advice to the next writer:
DEAR ABBY: I have a big problem. My sister keeps telling me not to use a lot of water because in the future my great-grandchildren are not going to have enough water. Now I feel like I should never have sex because I do not want my great-grandchildren to suffer.

Yeah, I know I am only 13, and I am already thinking about my children. Should I just forget it or never have children? Please, I need your help! -- WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE, ROCKFORD, TENN.
Someone should tell her that all water is recycled, and her water usage will have nothing to do with the water available to her great-grandchildren.

The Science Education Myth

Vivek Wadhwa writes in Business Week:
Political leaders, tech executives, and academics often claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science education. They cite poor test results, declining international rankings, and decreasing enrollment in the hard sciences. They urge us to improve our education system and to graduate more engineers and scientists to keep pace with countries such as India and China.

Yet a new report by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, tells a different story. ... the report finds that our education system actually produces more science and engineering graduates than the market demands.
Here is an example of the myth, from the Si Valley paper's Sunday editorial:
High-tech chief executives have been warning for years that America is not turning out enough scientists and engineers to compete in a knowledge-based economy. ...

The state starts testing students in science in fifth grade, but the results count for less than 10 percent of a school's API score - a disincentive for teaching it.
The editorial doesn't say how it thinks that science scores ought to be weighted.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A utility function is really a value function

Statistician Andrew Gelman argues that economists should use the term "value function" instead of utility function.

He has a point. The word value can mean an objective or subjective value. The word utility means the usefulness to somebody, but that is not necessarily what is important. The purpose of the function is to just capture consumer preferences. A consumer might prefer an item because it is more useful, or for other reasons. Whatever the reasons, preference for an item means that the item has more value to him.

My guess is that economists don't like the word "value" because it suggests a dollar value. Their utility functions are often ordinal-valued, meaning that the function can rank preferences, but not give numbers that be related to other contexts, such as the preferences of other consumers. Also, differences between preferences may not be quantifiable.

But an ordinal value is still a value.

I think that the economist concepts of ordinal utility and cardinal utility are also confusing. Ordinal numbers have the property that for any given ordinary, there a is next larger ordinal. But utility theory does not use that property. Economists are always assuming that given two choices, there is something else that is better than one but worse than the other.

Cardinal utility is for those economists who think that utility can be measured. But that doesn't make much sense either. Besides the problem of cardinal numbers not being divisible, as ordinals are not, cardinals are never negative. But measuring utility necessarily results in some things having negative utility. The utility functions are always real-valued.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rejecting restraining orders

happened to listen to KGO (a popular California talk radio station) when the host was outraged by a local judge that had a rubber stamp for rejecting motions for restraining orders. The appeals court said that the judge had to give a more specific reason. He asked for people to call with stories about restraining orders working.

Amazingly, all the calls were about the orders not working.

In one case, a woman tried to get a restraining order because she thought that her uncle was not treating her aunt well enough. The aunt was voluntarily living with the uncle, and the judge said that he did not want to break up a 50-year marriage. Another calling tried to get an order to stop financial abuse. Several callers told stories of women getting restraining orders for purely vindictive purposes.

I think that if I were a judge, I would want a rubber stamp for rejecting restraining orders. Many of these requests are so obviously ridiculous and so clearly outside the bounds of what the law allows, that no detailed explanation should be necessary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

UK requires gay propaganda

A UK newspaper reports:
ut Vincent and Pauline Matherick will this week have their latest foster son taken away because they have refused to sign new sexual equality regulations.

To do so, they claim, would force them to promote homosexuality and go against their Christian faith. ...

Officials told the couple that under the regulations they would be required to discuss same-sex relationships with children as young as 11 and tell them that gay partnerships were just as acceptable as heterosexual marriages.

They could also be required to take teenagers to gay association meetings.

When the Mathericks objected, they were told they would be taken off the register of foster parents.
We can expect more of this in the USA, if we pass more anti-discrimination laws favoring sexual orientation and gender identity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Scaife has nasty divorce

The Wash Post brags that right-winger Richard Mellon Scaife is being sued for divorce, and he didn't have a pre-nuptial agreement:
Unfathomable but true, when Scaife (rhymes with safe) married his second wife, Margaret "Ritchie" Scaife, in 1991, he neglected to wall off a fortune that Forbes recently valued at $1.3 billion. This, to understate matters, is likely going to cost him, big time. As part of a temporary settlement, 60-year-old Ritchie Scaife is currently cashing an alimony check that at first glance will look like a typo: $725,000 a month. Or about $24,000 a day, seven days a week.
Wow. You would think that would be enough, but she complains to the court:
"Defendant has and continues to unlawfully hold in his possession six pairs of asparagus tongs manufactured by Mappin & Webb, Birmingham, 1926 weighing 10 ounces total," reads one of dozens of paragraphs. "The last-known location for these items was at 'Vallamont,' 132 Pheasant Circle, Ligonier, Pa. 15658. The estimated cost for these items is $1,800."
I am not sure what to make of this. He is supposedly part of the vast right-wing conspiracy that investigated the Clintons in the 1990s.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Abortion issue not dominant to Republicans

People are always saying that the Christian Right is preoccupied with the
abortion issue, but CNN reports:
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney narrowly won a straw poll of mostly Christian conservative voters at the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit held this weekend in the nation's capital.
Romney is not even a mainstream Christian and he has a pro-abortion record. Meanwhile, the candidate with the rock-solid anti-abortion record is John McCain, and he only scored 1%. If the abortion issue were really so important, then McCain would be the leader.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dentist fondled woman six times

AP reports:
WOODLAND, Calif. - A dentist accused of fondling the breasts of 27 female patients is trying to keep his dental license by arguing that chest massages are an appropriate procedure in certain cases. Mark Anderson's lawyer says dental journals discuss the need to massage the pectoral muscles to treat a common jaw problem.

Police say Anderson said during recorded phone calls that he routinely massaged patients' chests to treat temporo-mandibular joint disorder, or TMJ, which causes neck and head pain. ...

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Phillips gave Lew three new complaints, including one from a 31-year-old woman who said Anderson fondled her at least six times over two years.

She took to wearing tight shirts with high necklines, "and Anderson would still get in under her shirt and bra," according to a police report.
Six times?! Okay, this is a little wacky, but she went there five times with a clear expectation of what was going to happen. She could have objected, or switched to another dentist.

Porn and the Iraq occupation

Northwestern University law prof Andrew Koppelman writes in an academic article:
Schlafly’s preeminent concern is to preserve a pattern of gender-specific roles and relations that, she thinks, have helped protect women and children from desertion and abuse. She wants to suppress pornography because it helps to reinforce a vernacular masculine culture that is indifferent or hostile to the needs of women and children. Schlafly’s worries about this culture are legitimate and valid.
But then it gets really wacky. He concludes his article with this:
But if censorship is a bad idea, moral criticism of pornography is an urgent necessity. ...

One story that dominates American popular culture, from R-rated movies to Disney cartoons, is a struggle between good guys and bad guys, in which the problem is solved in the end by the death of the bad guy. ...

The same narrative appears to have played a large role in the biggest foreign policy disaster since Viet Nam: the failure to plan adequately for the occupation of Iraq. President Bush and his advisers desperately wanted to prevail there. They doubtless feared above all that Americans would die unnecessarily if they did not properly prepare for the war. Yet somehow none of them could get their minds around the idea that their difficulties might not be conclusively solved by the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Chalk another one up to the corrupting effects of bad literature.
So if it weren't for Disney movies legitimatizing the struggle against bad guys, then we would have been better prepared for the occupation of Iraq?

Yes, there are bad guys in the world. The Mohammedan jihadists who support suicide bombings are definitely bad guys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Sex is Your Computer?

Here is a funny joke about whether computers are male or female.

Advice columnist encourages extramarital affair

Dear Abby advises a writer who wants support for having an extramarital affair:
DEAR CONFUSED: If you're honest with yourself, I think you already know the answer to that question. Your friendship with your girlfriend did not start out as sexual, but rather evolved from a deep emotional connection. Look at the bright side. At least you finally understand what has been missing.
The writer claimed to have a "wonderful" spouse, and was having a secret affair. So why does Dear Abby approve? Because it is a homosexual affair.

A couple of days before, readers pointed out her bad advice to a man considering marrying his stepmother. She told him to go ahead, even tho it is against the Bible and illegal in Texas where they lived:
DEAR SMITTEN: What you have in mind is unusual but not unheard of. You are not her biological son, so there is no reason why you could not marry if you wish. In fact, it could work out very well since your feelings for each other evolved from an already-established friendship. I say, go for it -- but be prepared for some teasing.
Yes, there are reasons. The risk of genetic defects in not the only argument against incest.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why basketball is boring

Baseball statistician Bill James writes:
Take the problem of what we could call NBA "sluggishness." In the regular season, players simply don't seem to be playing hard all the time. Some people attribute this to high salaries, but the other major sports are choking on money and don't seem to have the problem to any comparable degree. ...

The NBA's problem is that the underlying mathematics of the league are screwed up. In every sport, there is an element of predetermination and an element of randomness in the outcomes. Who will win the championship next year is not entirely a crapshoot. We know that Kentucky has a better chance of winning the NCAA basketball title than Nebraska does - next year, or in 2019. If we knew with certainty who was going to win the title next year, then we could say that the championship was 100 percent predetermined, 0 percent random.

In the NBA, the element of predetermination is simply too high. Simply stated, the best team wins too often. If the best team always wins, then the sequence of events leading to victory is meaningless. Who fights for the rebound, who sacrifices his body to keep the ball from rolling out of bounds doesn't matter. The greater team is going to come out on top anyway.

A fan can look at the standings in December, pick the teams that will make the playoffs, and might get them all. This has a horrific effect on the game. Everybody knows who's going to win.
Here is another view.

I agree with James. Basketball has the most screwed up rules of any major professional sport. It is a wonder that the league ever got to be successful.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Legal Status Doesn't Deter Abortion

AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng writes:
LONDON (AP) -- Women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where it is legal, according to research published Friday.

In a study examining abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, experts also found that abortion rates are virtually equal in rich and poor countries, and that half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe.

The study was done by Gilda Sedgh of the Guttmacher Institute in the United States and colleagues from the World Health Organization. It was published in an edition of The Lancet medical journal devoted to maternal health.

"The legal status of abortion has never dissuaded women and couples, who, for whatever reason, seek to end pregnancy," Beth Fredrick of the International Women's Health Coalition in the U.S. said in an accompanying commentary. ...

"The only way to decrease unsafe abortion is to increase contraception," said Sharon Camp, president and chief executive officer of the Guttmacher Institute.
If that is true, then abortion law is irrelevant. The legality and subsidization of abortion has nothing to do with the availability, frequency, and safety of abortions.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Men and Women pretty similar, research finds

A new book says:
These writers all subscribe to some version of what Cameron dubs the Mars-Venus myth, which holds that women are more verbal than men, that women talk more about people, relationships and feelings, while men talk more about things and facts, that women use language in a co-operative way, whereas men use it competitively. Oh, and that these differences mean that men and women routinely fail to communicate, but can learn to do better — which might explain why Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus has sold more than 10m copies in 37 languages.

For Cameron, this is simplistic eyewash, best countered with a few well-aimed stats. She cites the meta-analysis of Janet Hyde, a psychologist who has collated masses of research findings on male-female communications. Hyde's number-crunching suggests that the difference in language use between men and women is statistically negligible. Women don't interrupt more than men, nor are they more talkative or empathetic in conversation, less prone to assertive conversation, or any better or worse at verbal reasoning. The headline for Hyde's discovery could read "Men and Women pretty similar, research finds".
Yes, males and females are more alike than different. I suspect that this research was not effective at focusing on the differences.

The book is The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages? by Oxford U. English prof Deborah Cameron.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Md. court considers rape suit

The Baltimore Sun paper reports:
Maryland's highest court heard arguments this morning in a closely watched case regarding whether consensual sex can become rape if a woman says no during the act. ...

Defense attorney Michael R. Malloy argued that if intercourse is consensual under existing common law it can't be rape. He argued that the jury that convicted had faulty instructions from the judge. ...

The victim, who had met Baby that night, testified at the trial that she told him that "as long as he stops when I tell him to" she would have sex with him.

As he began, she told him to stop because he was hurting her, but he kept going for five or 10 seconds, she said.

Baby, who was tried as an adult, denied any wrongdoing.

During deliberations, the jury asked Judge Louise G. Scrivener whether sex that begins consensually but continues after the woman tells the man to stop constitutes rape. The judge replied that was "a question that you as a jury must decide."
Maouloud Baby is the guy's name. He was 16 years old. She was 18.

This is just crazy. I don't know what that jury was thinking.

I think that the net of effect of convictions like this will be to de-stimatize rape. If I hear that someone served 5 years in prison for rape, I really have no idea whether he was the perpetrator of a serious violent crime, or whether it was a trivial misunderstanding or a false accusation.

Study: Bad marriage might literally hurt the heart

USA Today reports:
CHICAGO (AP) — A lousy marriage might literally make you sick.
Marital strife and other bad personal relationships can raise your risk for heart disease, researchers reported Monday.

What it likely boils down to is stress — a well-known contributor to health problems, as well as a potential byproduct of troubled relationships, the scientists said.

In a study of 9,011 British civil servants, most of them married, those with the worst close relationships were 34% more likely to have heart attacks or other heart trouble during 12 years of follow-up than those with good relationships. That included partners, close relatives and friends.

The study, in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, follows previous research that has linked health problems with being single and having few close relationships. In the new study, researchers focused more on the quality of marriage and other important relationships.
It seems just as likely to me that bad health ruins marriages. Or maybe smoking, trans fats, and obesity cause both divorce and heart disease. More research is needed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Democracy Left Behind

I just watched a PBS documentary called Democracy Left Behind. It is an attack on No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration policy of testing schoolkids in math and reading. It was made by Santa Cruz filmmaker Bob Gliner, and it interviewed local educators. Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of Education and Public Policy, complained: (18 kin. into a 1 hour show)
It depoliticizes the education process. I mean we have adolescents around this country that know about political problems. They watch Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. In the media, in music, they talk about racism and about inequality. Yet they walk into a classroom, and somehow this is antithetical to what education now looks like under NCLB. So it is this disconnect between kids' daily lives, their consciousness, what's going on in a social class and unequal society. It is that disconnect between their daily lives and what they hear from their teacher which I think leads to understandable alienation and high rates of drop out.
About the only response in defense of NLCB was from Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, who said:
In focusing in particular on things like reading and writing and math,we are somehow depriving young people of the skills that they need to participate in a democracy -- I mean that core idea is just nuts.
She is right. That was the core idea of the film, and it is just nuts.

As an example of something that they'd like to teach instead of math and reading, the film showed an elementary school class on South African apartheid.

The show just convinces me that our public schools are run by crazy leftist political ideologues who will sabotage the educational process at every opportunity. Only standardized testing, as required by NCLB and also by state law, forces them to stick to the curriculum and actually teach something useful.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ice cream is good food

The NY Science Times reports:
In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office's famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of "comparable" magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.

He introduced his report with these words: "The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964."

That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, "Good Calories, Bad Calories" (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.

It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn't it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal "food pyramid" telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.
There are more diet comments here.

Koop was also controversial for promoting condom use and for urging explicit sex education in the early elementary grades. But he seems to have gotten a free pass for giving bogus diet advice.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Third World backwater names

Jonathan writes:
Guess I disagree with you about "Myanmar", tried to comment on your post but have forgotten my Blogger password again ... so I'll comment on your thoughts in an update to a recent post of mine about Myanmar, er, Burma and just pass on a few thoughts here.

My question is: Didn't we start calling "Russia" the "USSR" and/or the "Soviet Union" after the commie thugs took it over from the Romanov thugs? Why do you treat "Burma"/"Myanmar" as a special case? Your methodology seems to be that if a junta takes over, they are not to be encouraged by us "falling in line" with their preference. IMHO, Might Does Not Make Right, But Sometimes Causes Efficient Temporary Conformity. I also note that we referred to Nazi Germany as "The Third Reich" in newsreels and history books, basically because that's what it was. I see no reason why we can't harbor a "good feeling fondness" for all things Burma, like the Burma Road, Burma Shave, etc. and simply face reality by harboring a "bad feeling revulsion" while calling it Myanmar. If the junta is overthrown, we can call it Burma again.

"Many Americans are not familiar with the word Myanmar'" was what First Lady Laura Bush said last week when she was asked to reflect on the current situation therein. I understand the nostalgic sentiment, as well as wanting to use lingo that more, rather than less, folks understand. However, Mrs. Bush came off looking like a real piker when she told the reporter how recently she learned about Aung San Suu Kyi. Mrs. Bush said that she learned about the Nobel Laureate "a few years ago" when one of her (Mrs. Bush's) cousins, or similar relatives, had become active in some sort of international social work. And I thought: Wow. I first read or heard news coverage about Suu Kyi's imprisonment about twelve years ago, evidently she's been under detention for over fifteen years. If folks who are comparative newbies when it comes to the recent historic problems in "Burma" want to tell me what to call it, I think they need to sharpen their pencils and show more than a recent passing familiarity with the case of Suu Kyi.

Like, we don't refer to the country of "Tibet" anymore, do we? When we speak of Tibet now, it's either as a geographic region only, or are speaking of a time when Tibet was still an independent country or an autonomous region.
No self-respecting country would want to call itself a name like Myanmar anyway. It makes them sound like a Third World backwater. The name sounds as if it wants to join a club with Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Kampuchea, Timor-Leste, and Zimbabwe. Would you want to vacation in any of those places?

Besides, we don't necessarily adopt the names of our enemies. There is a country that calls itself Democratic People's Republic of Korea. We call it North Korea.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

DNA profiling

Wired mag reports on DNA profiling:
On July 16, 2002, a survey crew from the Department of Transportation found Pam Kinamore's nude, decomposing body in the area along the banks of the Mississippi known as Whiskey Bay, just west of Baton Rouge. The police tested the DNA and quickly realized that they were dealing with a serial killer: the same man who had killed two other white, middle-class women in the area.

The FBI, Louisiana State Police, Baton Rouge Police Department and sheriff's departments soon began a massive search. Based on an FBI profile and a confident eyewitness, the Multi-Agency Homicide Task Force futilely upended South Louisiana in search of a young white man who drove a white pick-up truck. They interrogated possible suspects, knocked on hundreds of doors, held frequent press conferences and sorted through thousands of tips.

In late December, after a fourth murder, police set up a dragnet to obtain DNA from some 1200 white men. Authorities spent months and more than a million dollars running those samples against the killer's. Still nothing.

In early March, 2003, investigators turned to Tony Frudakis, a molecular biologist who said he could determine the killer's race by analyzing his DNA. They were unsure about the science, so, before giving him the go-ahead, the task force sent Frudakis DNA swabs taken from 20 people whose race they knew and asked him to determine their races through blind testing. He nailed every single one.

Still, when they gathered in the Baton Rouge police department for a conference call with Frudakis in mid-March, they were not prepared to hear or accept his conclusions about the killer.

"Your guy has substantial African ancestry," said Frudakis. "He could be Afro-Caribbean or African American but there is no chance that this is a Caucasian. No chance at all." ... The task force followed Frudakis' advice and, two months later, the killer was in custody. ...

But even those who believe this can be done are conflicted about whether it should be done. History is replete with examples of injustices and inequities that were conscripted into law based on racial classification. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960's succeeded in ending legal racial discrimination, in large measure, by downplaying the significance of race and racial differences. By the mid-1990s prominent academics and sociologists even went so far as to say that race did not exist at all.

"Race is a social construct, not a scientific classification," said an editorial in the May 3, 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, adding that "In medicine, there is only one race -- the human race."

Then, along comes Frudakis with a science that seems to be saying the opposite.
A comment says:
If this is racial profiling, then video camera footage is racial profiling. There both technological means of determining your race and what you look like. To make this real clear... if you think this is profiling, you're a moron.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rules for understanding people

Here are Four Rules to Understand What Makes People Tick: People Mostly Care About Themselves, People are Motivated by Selfish Altruism, People Don’t Think Much, Conformity is the Norm. It explains:
By studying primates, researchers noticed four main categories of selfish altruism. I believe they are the same categories we use, even if slightly more sophisticated:

1. Dominance -- Some primates will give help as a way of asserting dominance in the group. It is as if they are saying, "Look at how powerful I am that I can give some of my resources to help you."
2. Reciprocity -- You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. The idea is that I do a favor for you with the assumption it will be returned one day. If the cost to me is less than the benefit towards you, I might help you even if I can’t predict an immediate payback.
3. Trade -- If we both have something the other person wants, we have a reason to interact. While reciprocity is vague on the details of a payback, trade is direct.
4. Familial -- It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to help those who might share your genes.

By looking through this lens of selfish altruism, you can better make decisions. Viewing people as completely uncaring or selfish is incomplete. But expecting people to think of you constantly and do nice things for free is dangerous.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Duke issues lame apology

Duke U. president Richard H. Brodhead has now given the apology that was apparently required by his out-of-court settlement with the lacrosse players, and he just further illustrates what an irresponsible racist he is. Here is the AP story.

He says that the guilt or innocence of the students are just different "versions of the truth". He blames Michael B. Nifong, the Durham County prosecutor.

For his own personal responsibility in the matter, he says:
First and foremost, I regret our failure to reach out to the lacrosse players and their families in this time of extraordinary peril. Given the complexities of the case, getting this communication right would never have been easy. But the fact is that we did not get it right, causing the families to feel abandoned when they most needed support. This was a mistake. I take responsibility for it, and I apologize.
So he is not really apologizing for punishing innocent students, but blaming it all on a miscommunication. In essence, he is saying that it is everyone else's fault for misunderstanding him.

He goes on to blame others for he himself did:
Second, some of those who were quick to speak as if the charges were true were on this campus, and some faculty made statements that were ill-judged and divisive. They had the right to express their views. But the public as well as the accused students and their families could have thought that those were expressions of the university as a whole. They were not, and we could have done more to underscore that.
Could have done more?! He did everything to support those unfair accusations. He terminated the lacrosse team and kicked the accused students out of school, instead of punishing the racist and libelous professors.

Broadhead is a disgrace. This wasn't the first time he falsely accused innocently people for political purposes, and Duke should not allow it.