October 2011 Archives

Young adults may enjoy scary movies because they let us them indulge our "traditional gender roles".

With regard to age, there's a suggestion that enjoyment rises through childhood, peaks in adolescence and then gradually fades with age. Related to this is the 'snuggle theory' - the idea that viewing horror films may be a rite of passage for young people, providing them with an opportunity to fulfil their traditional gender roles. A paper from the late 1980s by Dolf Zillmann, Norbert Mundorf and others found that male undergrads paired with a female partner (unbeknown to them, a research assistant), enjoyed a 14-minute clip from Friday the 13th Part III almost twice as much if she showed distress during the film. Female undergrads, by contrast, said they enjoyed the film more if their male companion appeared calm and unmoved. Moreover, men who were initially considered unattractive were later judged more appealing if they displayed courage during the film viewing. 'Scary movies and monsters are just the ticket for girls to scream and hold on to a date for dear life and for the date (male or female) to be there to reassure, protect, defend and, if need be, destroy the monster,' says Fischoff. 'Both are playing gender roles prescribed by a culture.'

It's not mere "culture" that leads men to defend women, but you get the idea.

(P.S., Am I no longer a "young adult"?)

(HT: Alex Tabarrok.)

Herman Cain says that sexual harassment claims against him are "baseless".

"I have never sexually harassed anyone, let's say that. Secondly, I've never sexually harassed anyone, and yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association, and I say falsely, because it turned out, after the investigation, to be baseless. The people mentioned in that article were the ones who would be aware of any misdoings, and they have attested to my integrity and my character. It is totally baseless, and totally false, never have I committed any sort of sexual harassment," Herman Cain told FOX News about claims from Politico that he was involved in the sexual harassment of two former employees.

Anonymous sources, nameless accusers, zero evidence. Is a black conservative man so dangerous to the Left that they're willing to attack him with such insubstantial claims?

Bonus question: Cain and Clarence Thomas... why are black conservative males always hit with dubious sexual harassment accusations? Isn't this racist?

Happy Halloween! Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and is the culmination of October, one of the best months of the year. October 1st through January 2nd is my favorite quarter, and we're already one-third through. Alas!


This piece on overconfident predictions is required reading for everyone in any sort of leadership position.

No one in the firm seemed to be aware of the nature of the game that its stock pickers were playing. The advisers themselves felt they were competent professionals performing a task that was difficult but not impossible, and their superiors agreed. On the evening before the seminar, Richard Thaler and I had dinner with some of the top executives of the firm, the people who decide on the size of bonuses. We asked them to guess the year-to-year correlation in the rankings of individual advisers. They thought they knew what was coming and smiled as they said, "not very high" or "performance certainly fluctuates." It quickly became clear, however, that no one expected the average correlation to be zero.

What we told the directors of the firm was that, at least when it came to building portfolios, the firm was rewarding luck as if it were skill. This should have been shocking news to them, but it was not. There was no sign that they disbelieved us. How could they? After all, we had analyzed their own results, and they were certainly sophisticated enough to appreciate their implications, which we politely refrained from spelling out. We all went on calmly with our dinner, and I am quite sure that both our findings and their implications were quickly swept under the rug and that life in the firm went on just as before. The illusion of skill is not only an individual aberration; it is deeply ingrained in the culture of the industry. Facts that challenge such basic assumptions -- and thereby threaten people's livelihood and self-esteem -- are simply not absorbed. The mind does not digest them. This is particularly true of statistical studies of performance, which provide general facts that people will ignore if they conflict with their personal experience.

The next morning, we reported the findings to the advisers, and their response was equally bland. Their personal experience of exercising careful professional judgment on complex problems was far more compelling to them than an obscure statistical result. When we were done, one executive I dined with the previous evening drove me to the airport. He told me, with a trace of defensiveness, "I have done very well for the firm, and no one can take that away from me." I smiled and said nothing. But I thought, privately: Well, I took it away from you this morning. If your success was due mostly to chance, how much credit are you entitled to take for it?

Illusions of validity and skill are certainly not unique to the financial world. I expect that almost any person-versus-person decision-making contest with enough participants will yield essentially random results. (Excluding highly structured games with mathematical constraints and complexity, like chess.)

occupy jupiter.jpg

(HT: RB.)

As technology continues to improve, more and more people will be permanently displaced from the workforce and will be unable to contribute meaningfully to the economy. In January I first wrote about the relationship between unemployment and technology.

As technology continues to improve, more and more workers will be displaced by automated systems. Manufacturing won't be the only sector affected: how many tax preparation jobs have been eliminated by TurboTax? Sales jobs by Amazon?

Using intelligence as a proxy for a person's general capability to contribute to the economy, we would expect that as technology improves the people who will be affected first will be those who are working jobs that require the least capability. Let's call the red line the displacement line: it represents the minimum amount of capability a person must have in order to be able to do a job that cannot be done by an automated system.

Economic indicators validate my prediction.

Since the end of the recession in June 2009, they note, corporate spending on equipment and software has increased by 26 percent, while payrolls have been flat.

Corporations are doing fine. The companies in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index are expected to report record profits this year, a total $927 billion, estimates FactSet Research. And the authors point out that corporate profit as a share of the economy is at a 50-year high.

Productivity growth in the last decade, at more than 2.5 percent, they observe, is higher than the 1970s, 1980s and even edges out the 1990s. Still the economy, they write, did not add to its total job count, the first time that has happened over a decade since the Depression.

This employment shift will not be smooth and continuous -- employment numbers may rebound for a while -- but the shift is inexorable. Those with capital (the shareholders of the corporations who own the technology) will continue earning, but those who depend on the value of their labor to survive will be slowly squeezed.

If the trend continues it will necessarily lead to either a giant social-welfare apparatus supported by the machines and the few who control them, or civilization will collapse. Or maybe both!

It's pretty clear that sex-selective abortion is currently Constitutionally protected by Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions. Abortion supporters need to grapple with the fact that hundreds of millions of babies have been aborted solely because they were girls.

Sex-selection abortion occurs in America, too, and the practice is likely to increase. In August, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a simple blood test seven weeks into pregnancy can reliably identify the sex of the child. Watch for a spike in abortion rates over the next few years as parents find it easier and cheaper to "choose" to have a boy by killing the fetus if--in a bitter reversal of an expression of joy--"it's a girl."

The shocking reality of sex-selection abortion cries out for laws banning the practice. Polls have shown that about 95 percent of the American people oppose sex-selection abortion. Even those who style themselves "pro-choice" overwhelmingly agree that abortion should not be allowed when the reason for such a choice is that the child to be born is female. The most pernicious radical feminist argument for abortion rights--that abortion is essential for "gender equality"--doubles back on itself in the case of sex-selection abortion: if abortion on the basis of the sex of the child--killing girls because they are not boys--is not sex discrimination, it is hard to know what is. (Hvistendahl is, awkwardly, pro-choice, yet horrified by the consequences of "unnatural selection.")

Four states--Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and most recently Arizona--have enacted laws prohibiting sex-selection abortion. Those laws have yet to be tested in the courts. At least seven other states have considered bills that would ban the practice. A sex-selection-ban bill was introduced in Congress in 2009--I worked with committee staff on the bill--but it died in the then Democrat-controlled House.

When the Supreme Court visits the issue of sex-selective abortion it could bring down the whole house of cards that began with Roe.

Are the politicians and union bosses who lie to their constituents about their broken pensions really friends of the working class?

In Rhode Island, it is Democrats, not nasty union-hating Republicans, who are doing the dirty work. Democratic mayors are telling their unions that there isn't any money -- not because they are vicious corporate stooges who hate working people and want to see them suffer, but because There. Isn't. Any. Money.

Let's be crystal clear about this. To tell a 50 year old pretty lies about the soundness of a pension plan is one of the most wicked and irresponsible things you can do without actually shedding blood; people who believe these phony promises will not make the extra savings, work the extra years or otherwise take steps to protect themselves until it is too late. Telling those pretty lies is exactly what Rhode Island's establishment has been doing for some time; it is what Ostrich Party legislators, trade unionists, journalists and governors are still doing across much of the country.

Reasonable reforms could have made things much less painful, but the unions typically threaten to destroy the careers of any politician who tampers with the pension system until the truck actually starts falling over the cliff. Now the long fall has begun and Rhode Island and its retirees are caught in a cascade of bad news, lawsuits, and financial crisis. No Rhode Island retiree can rely on getting the benefits promised; nobody can predict how this will all work out.

The fundamental flaw of democracy: people vote for what they want to hear, not what is actually true.

America's economy isn't in great shape, but we'll own the 21st century because we're a lot stronger than anyone else. I'll quote the section about oil and gas, but there are several other major points in the article as well.

Telegraph readers already know about the "shale gas revolution" that has turned America into the world's number one producer of natural gas, ahead of Russia.

Less known is that the technology of hydraulic fracturing - breaking rocks with jets of water - will also bring a quantum leap in shale oil supply, mostly from the Bakken fields in North Dakota, Eagle Ford in Texas, and other reserves across the Mid-West.

"The US was the single largest contributor to global oil supply growth last year, with a net 395,000 barrels per day (b/d)," said Francisco Blanch from Bank of America, comparing the Dakota fields to a new North Sea.

Total US shale output is "set to expand dramatically" as fresh sources come on stream, possibly reaching 5.5m b/d by mid-decade. This is a tenfold rise since 2009.

The US already meets 72pc of its own oil needs, up from around 50pc a decade ago.

"The implications of this shift are very large for geopolitics, energy security, historical military alliances and economic activity. As US reliance on the Middle East continues to drop, Europe is turning more dependent and will likely become more exposed to rent-seeking behaviour from oligopolistic players," said Mr Blanch.

Along this same line, I recommend "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century" by George Friedman.

Our foreign enemies have won another battle: Iraq bows to Iranian pressure and refuses to "allow" American military bases.

The US suffered a major diplomatic and military rebuff on Friday when Iraq finally rejected its pleas to maintain bases in the country beyond this year.

Barack Obama announced at a White House press conference that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of December, a decision forced by the final collapse of lengthy talks between the US and the Iraqi government on the issue.

The Iraqi decision is a boost to Iran, which has close ties with many members of the Iraqi government and which had been battling against the establishment of permanent American bases.

I put "allow" in quotes because the Iraqi government can't really do anything about the tens of thousands of American soldiers on the ground unless we agree to leave. Which we should not.

Obviously this move weakens America in the region and globally, strengths Iran and our other enemies, and makes us look like fools.

2012 can't come soon enough.

(HT: Gateway Pundit.)

Lots of international busybodies have their panties in a bunch over the summary execution of Muammar Gaddafi, but let's be adults: justice doesn't always require a courtroom.

Libya's rebel army has been accused of executing both Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim in cold blood as the United Nations suggested their deaths amounted to war crimes.

Human rights groups and Gaddafi's wife Safia called for an independent investigation into the deaths, which robbed victims' families of the chance to see Gaddafi put on trial for his murderous acts.

Both Gaddafi and his son were filmed or photographed alive and relatively uninjured after their capture on Thursday, before both died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Unless there's doubt about the identities of men, there's absolutely no reason that Gaddafi or his sons need to be tried before their are executed. Their evil is well-known, and they reveled in it for decades. If there were trials, everyone knows that the outcomes would be preordained anyway.

Good riddance to some of the most evil people on earth.

As a child I was always told that "ignorance of the law is no excuse" and it wasn't until I grew up that I realized the fundamental offensiveness of such an approach to law. The ancient Common Law principle of mens rea stands in opposition to such tyranny.

Mens rea is Latin for "guilty mind". In criminal law, it is viewed as one of the necessary elements of a crime. The standard common law test of criminal liability is usually expressed in the Latin phrase, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, which means "the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty". Thus, in jurisdictions with due process, there must be an actus reus accompanied by some level of mens rea to constitute the crime with which the defendant is charged. As a general rule, criminal liability does not attach to a person who acted with the absence of mental fault.

The modern proliferation of laws, rules, and regulations -- often created by bureaucrats and not elected officers -- makes it impossible for people to know the boundaries of legality, thereby putting every person in peril of accidental criminality. Even people who ask government agencies for clarification are out of luck.

It has thus become impossible for an ordinary citizen to know what is legal and what is not. In fact, as anyone who has ever tried to assure his or her legal safety by asking for guidance from the IRS or EPA knows, the agencies themselves don't have a clue, and are prompt to disclaim any immunity to prosecution for actions based upon their own advice.

I've experienced this. When I called the IRS for information about how to fill out a tax form I asked if there would be any record of my call in case I was audited after following their advice. The lady just laughed and informed me that "the IRS told me to do it" is no defense.

I bought my daughter "Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities" several months ago, and it has become her favorite book. She doesn't quite get everything that's going on inside, but she loves tracing the paths through the story and finding new avenues to explore. She also likes the secret giant squid. I highly recommend this book for parents with kids of any age... even if they can't read it themselves, they'll love going through it with you.

Crazy animal hoarder releases dozens of wild animals and then kills himself.

Authorities say that in all, 56 exotic animals escaped from a farm in Muskingum County last night, and one was still missing this afternoon.

Of those animals, 49 were killed. Six animals -- a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys -- were captured alive and taken to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, and a monkey and a grey wolf were at large. The animals that were killed included 18 tigers, nine male lions, eight female lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, one baboon and two wolves, Sheriff Matt Lutz said.

Ohio apparently has no laws regulating ownership of exotic animals. I think that's good policy... let counties and municipalities regulate animals on their own. In this case, the local authorities probably should have intervened before these animals were released.

The real question in my mind: how could this guy afford to feed almost 50 large carnivores?

Wow: if this doesn't touch your heart then you have no soul. Mother forgoes cancer treatment to save unborn child.

She sent 159 text messages about her pregnancy to her brother in the months that followed. Many were joyful but then the bone-chilling messages came in during the predawn hours. She said severe headaches and double vision tortured her while tremors wracked her entire body.

"I'm worried about this baby," she texted.

"I hope I live long enough to have this baby," said another message. "Bubba, if anything happens to me, you take this child." ...

At her family's encouragement, she visited a number of doctors. In July, a CT scan revealed that she had head and neck cancer.

Now she had to choose between her life and her baby's life. Phillips said she agonized only for a while before deciding against taking potentially lifesaving chemotherapy in hopes that she would soon hold a healthy baby in her arms.

Read the rest.

(HT: Townhall.)


(HT: RB.)

Rant from a Googler about how Google fails at platforms.

A product is useless without a platform, or more precisely and accurately, a platform-less product will always be replaced by an equivalent platform-ized product.

Google+ is a prime example of our complete failure to understand platforms from the very highest levels of executive leadership (hi Larry, Sergey, Eric, Vic, howdy howdy) down to the very lowest leaf workers (hey yo). We all don't get it. The Golden Rule of platforms is that you Eat Your Own Dogfood. The Google+ platform is a pathetic afterthought. We had no API at all at launch, and last I checked, we had one measly API call. One of the team members marched in and told me about it when they launched, and I asked: "So is it the Stalker API?" She got all glum and said "Yeah." I mean, I was joking, but no... the only API call we offer is to get someone's stream. So I guess the joke was on me. ...

Google+ is a knee-jerk reaction, a study in short-term thinking, predicated on the incorrect notion that Facebook is successful because they built a great product. But that's not why they are successful. Facebook is successful because they built an entire constellation of products by allowing other people to do the work. So Facebook is different for everyone. Some people spend all their time on Mafia Wars. Some spend all their time on Farmville. There are hundreds or maybe thousands of different high-quality time sinks available, so there's something there for everyone.

Our Google+ team took a look at the aftermarket and said: "Gosh, it looks like we need some games. Let's go contract someone to, um, write some games for us." Do you begin to see how incredibly wrong that thinking is now? The problem is that we are trying to predict what people want and deliver it for them.

It's nice to hear that Google has some weaknesses as a company! I've always been shocked that I can't write apps that interface with Google products as I've so easily done for Facebook.

Using the language of the Occupy Wall Street mobs, one supporter says it's "time to kill the wealthy".

Several influential New York state lawmakers have received threatening mails saying it is "time to kill the wealthy" if they don't renew the state's tax surcharge on millionaires, according to reports.

"It's time to tax the millionaires!" reads the email, according to WTEN in Albany. "If you don't, I'm going to pay a visit with my carbine to one of those tech companies you are so proud of and shoot every spoiled Ivy League [expletive] I can find." ...

The email, with the threatening subject line of, "time to kill the wealthy," was detailed and disturbing.

"How hard is it for us to stake out one of the obvious access roads to some tech company, tail an employee home and toss a liquor bottle full of flaming gasoline through their nice picture window into their cute house," wrote the author of the email.

This sentiment will definitely help President Obama get re-elected!

Strange that I was at McPherson Square just last week, right before these protests in support of the most powerful man on earth started.

(HT: James Taranto.)

Amazing: Skull & Bones Gauntlet Style Hand Claw Dagger! These would be so bad-ass.

Does this show up on my Twitter feed?

I just ordered Vernor Vinge's new novel, "The Children of the Sky"! Completely by coincidence I just finished reading "A Fire Upon The Deep" and his new book is a sequel! I am extremely excited.

Here's how to always win LoL Dominion. I hate having to explain all this to my team before a match.

how to win dominion every time

(HT: NC.)

Forget factory jobs -- they're never coming back. So what does the job of the future look like?

The future feels a lot more like marketing--it's impromptu, it's based on innovation and inspiration, and it involves connections between and among people--and a lot less like factory work, in which you do what you did yesterday, but faster and cheaper.

That sounds a lot like my job now. I guess that means I'm positioned well for the future!

Victor Davis Hanson nails modern environmentalism.

Solyndra and Van Jones are the metaphors of these times, reminding us of the corruption of the very notion of "green." In the age of Al Gore, it has eroded from a once noble ideal of conservation to a tawdry profit- and job-scam for assorted hucksters and snake-oil salesmen. Without the lofty hype and shake-down, most otherwise would have had to find productive jobs. Tragically, "green" is the new refuge of scoundrels.

It's sad that environmentalists have done so much to ruin and discredit the cause by turning it into a scheme to enrich themselves and empower socialism and fascism.

Jerry Pournelle muses about the American government's authority to assassinate American citizens.

The obvious question for discussion is whether this activity - summary execution of citizens without trial - is permissible or desirable under Constitutional Government as part of the discretionary war powers of the President, and if so, do they apply within the United States as well as in foreign nations? It is not a simple question. What acts must a citizen perform to earn a place on the proscription list? One of those killed was "Samir Khan, who edited an online magazine that spread the word on ways to carry out attacks inside the United States", but is that the totality of his acts that made him an enemy of the people? (I say enemy of the people, but I don't know what designation is given to people who may be killed on sight without trial.) What agents of the Republic are authorized to carry out the act of proscription?

Could a private citizen who somehow got wind of the fact that a given person was on the list plead that as a defense? I killed him because he is proscribed. You cannot prosecute me. (As we certainly cannot prosecute the members of Seal Team Six for the execution of Osama, although I suspect the government of Pakistan would do just that if they could get custody of the team. As for example, suppose that one of the operators of an armed drone, told to kill a certain American citizen on sight if found in Oman or Pakistan, sees that person coming out of a casino in Las Vegas and takes the opportunity to gun him down. Would that be a valid plea in Nevada? Or suppose he follows this proscribed American to federal property and shoots him the instant he sets foot on federal soil? Improbable, or course. Probably impossible, although it might make for a good novel.

The bolding is mine, and my favorite part.

I think that the "assassinations"/non-judicial killings can be justified as a component of war. If American citizens join an army that fights against America then we can kill them without trial. That's war. Is that a lot of power to entrust to the President? Yes it is. That's why we should be careful about who we elect.

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