Thursday, June 29, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Statistics

Below is taken from Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt at their Freakonomics blog. It is fairly interesting, and like Levitt, I am not sure what to make of it.

Here is something that I don’t quite know how to interpret.

In the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, the police made the 46 players come down to the police station to have their pictures taken. Then these 46 pictures were shown to the women who has accused the lacrosse players of sexually assaulting her.

She was shown the pictures one-by-one. The three players that she positively identified were the fourth, fifth, and seventh pictures that she saw. These are the only three positive identifications that were made.

Statistically this is quite strange. The chance of any one player being positively identified is 3/46, or about .065. I did the calculations, and if the order of the pictures was randomly chosen, the probability that 3 of the first 7 pictures would be positive identifications is less than 1 in 100.

This suggests one of three possibilities:

1) Rare events happen and maybe this is the one time in 100 that a distribution this unusual occurred.

2) The police intentionally or unintentionally stacked the deck so that these three pictures were in the beginning.

3) There was some sort of bias that led the accuser to be inclined to give positive identifications early in the process.

I’m not trying to side with either party on this matter, at all. Indeed, I haven’t even been paying close attention to what has been happening. I just raise this as a statistical curiosity for the conspiracy theorists among you to argue about.

(Thanks to Brian Sullivan for bringing this issue to my attention and passing along the Motion to Dismiss which contains this information. I don’t have an online version of it to link to. I’m sure someone reading this blog will be able to provide such a link.)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Minimum Wage

Here is a decent illustration of the idea of minimum wage. I borrowed this passage from the guys over at EconLog. I'd love to get a little dialogue going with this idea...because most people don't realize: 1. how a minimum is an example of the government meddling with the free market and prices, thus causing artificially high wages, and 2. the fact that many, many economic studies have determined that, contrary to popular belief, most wage earners who are receiving minimum wage are in fact not the poorest people in this country, but rather teenagers of non-poor families, and/or college kids working in the summer.

Allow me here to spin the core argument -- that minimum-wage legislation prices many low-skilled workers out of their jobs -- by wondering aloud if proponents of higher minimum wages would ever make the following claim:

The market prices of most used-cars are too low for sellers of those cars to support their families. This fact is especially true for poor people, who, when they sell their old cars, almost always have only old, high-mileage, often dilapidated used-cars to sell. These people aren't selling two-year-old Lexuses or BMWs. They're selling 15-year-old Chevys and 20-year-old Hondas. So let's enact legislation mandating that no used-car can sell for less than, say, $25,000. That way, anyone who sells a used-car is assured that he or she will earn at least enough money to support a family for a year.

I doubt that many people would argue that government should legislate a minumum price for used-cars. But why not? If merely identifying a problem with a low price (such as "At the current minimum wage, even full-time workers can't support a family of four") is sufficient to justify legislative action to raise that price, why won't such action work for used-cars as well as it will work for labor hours?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pentagon's Take on Homosexuality

Here is an interesting take on homosexuality. The pentagon is calling it a mental disorder...not a genetic disposition, or a "choice" that people make. Below is an excerpt of the article. Click here for the rest of it.

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position.

The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.
Yesterday I met a man named Millard. I didn't think people kept naming their children that name since the years of President Millard Filmore. Speaking of which, can anyone tell me one single fact, off the top of their head - not looking anything up, about President Filmore?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ghana sent their medecine man to Germany to check out all the stadiums...and it must have worked...they just scored a goal in the second minutes versus the sick Czechs.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Drudge Headline

The headline on the Drudge Report right now is this: Clinton Links Republican Policies to More Hurricanes. That assertion is exactly why liberals have a bad name. Hurricanes are now Republican's fault? Can somebody please explain me the rationale behind that? At least I understand how someone can blame Republicans for poor people, uneducated people, lack of economic equality, etc...however, how can people start criticizing Republicans for events of nature? I doubt I will ever understand.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Simpson Philosophy

This is a pretty good article about how modern day philosphy is effectively articulated in The Simpsons. I have always been interested in the suprisingly high intellectual / satirical content of The Simpsons, and this article really demonstrates that.

The Simpsons is more than a funny cartoon - it reveals truths about human nature that rival the observations of great philosophers from Plato to Kant... while Homer sets his house on fire, says philosopher Julian Baggini.

With the likes of Douglas Coupland, George Walden and Stephen Hawking as fans, taking the Simpsons seriously is no longer outre but de rigeur.

It is, quite simply, one of the greatest cultural artefacts of our age. So great, in fact, that it not only reflects and plays with philosophical ideas, it actually does real philosophy, and does it well.

Here's the rest of the article.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Murderer Seeks Sex Change or will Commit Suicide

Obviously this makes me mad:

BOSTON — A man serving a life sentence for murdering his wife is asking a federal judge to order the state to pay for a sex-change operation, arguing that denying him the surgery amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

A psychiatrist testified Tuesday that he believes Robert Kosilek — who now goes by Michelle — will commit suicide if state corrections officials refuse to allow the surgery and Kosilek is unable to complete the transformation into a woman.

And wouldn't you know that the dateline is Boston, MA.

Here is the whole article.