August 25, 2014

Ferguson and keeping high-IQ folks out of the U.S. police force

I was really amazed at the sheer stupidity of the hate-filled rantings of one of the Ferguson cops (something like 35 years on the force). He seemed extremely confident of his completely illogical opinions.

But maybe this is a clue why that can happen: If you're very intelligent, you literally are not allowed to be a cop! At least in certain locales in the U.S.:

Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took the exam in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

The average score nationally for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average.

Jordan alleged his rejection from the police force was discrimination. He sued the city, saying his civil rights were violated because he was denied equal protection under the law.

But the U.S. District Court found that New London had 'shown a rational basis for the policy.' In a ruling dated Aug. 23, the 2nd Circuit agreed. The court said the policy might be unwise but was a rational way to reduce job turnover.


"Might be unwise"... I'd say so! 

Save a little money by reducing job turnover by mandating a police force of not particularly high intelligence. I.e., at best, not particularly good skills for looking at evidence and deciding what it means. And, more subtlety, but perhaps even more importantly, not particularly good self-critical abilities -- the abilities necessary to consider whether one's own upbringing-based assumptions, often including assumptions about the inferiority of other groups, might be problematic in some way.

I'm not sure how tightly police force IQ's cluster around 104, but it may be that almost half of police, those whose job description includes looking at the often-confusing data around them and deciding whether lethal force is warranted, have a below-average ability to do so (at least as that ability is determined I.Q., which I would guess is a very important component). I would think that positions entailing that kind of critically high responsibility should require job candidates with unusually high relevant abilities.

Put those dangers together, and suddenly something like 6 bullets pumped into an unarmed kid seems a bit more understandable.

I've always wondered how the U.K. strategy of having largely gunless police could make sense, considering the fact that those police have to stop criminals who do have guns. Now it doesn't seem as mysterious -- at least if the U.K. police force has a similar average IQ to the U.S.. I'm in no position to claim it's the right choice for the U.K. as a strategy, but at least it makes a little more sense.

August 25, 2014 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 03, 2011

Profiles In Courage


I've been paying particular attention to one Egyptian who's been tweeting about events, whose Twitter ID is Sandmonkey. I don't know about you, but when I start following somebody via blogs or twitter and they are expressing what matters to them, I feel a bit like I know them. I start to care about them. Here are his most recent tweets (skipping the ones I can't read because they're in Arabic, and the ones that only link to another page):

Anti-Mubarak protesters are descending on downton in the thousands. They are not giving up Tahrir. #JAN25
16 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

I hear reports of Army evacuating the Square from Protesters. Is this true? #jan25
5 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

Either way, I am heading there with medical supplies. They better not block my entrance. #jan25
5 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

Then somebody telling him how to get into Tahrir:

@Sandmonkey it's open. Kasr el Nile or talaat harb.
5 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply


Reports about my dear friend @Sandmonkey being arrested in#Tahrir. So worried can anyone give me more info? @bencnn#Egypt
1 hour ago Favorite Retweet Reply

and a number of other tweets from different people reporting the same thing, including:
lisang Lisa Goldman
.@sandmonkey was arrested today & his blog has been suspended. Read his very important final post about #jan25 here:
That post ends:
"This is a losing battle and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we can’t. I am heading to Tahrir right now with supplies for the hundreds injured, knowing that today the attacks will intensify, because they can’t allow us to stay there come Friday, which is supposed to be the game changer. We are bringing everybody out, and we will refuse to be anything else than peaceful. If you are in Egypt, I am calling on all of you to head down to Tahrir today and Friday. It is imperative to show them that the battle for the soul of Egypt isn’t over and done with. I am calling you to bring your friends, to bring medical supplies, to go and see what Mubarak’s gurantees look like in real life. Egypt needs you. Be Heroes."
Update: He is out of jail now. "He was roughed up, but is fine." Sitting here in Bangor, Maine, enjoying the peaceful, beautiful snow, I'm in awe of this kind of courage.
Later update:

Sandmonkey Sandmonkey
I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar& supplies taken #jan25
28 minutes ago Favorite Retweet Reply
Sandmonkey Sandmonkey
will tell the story later . Thank you all. I just need to rest now. #jan25
16 minutes ago Favorite Retweet Reply


Last update, Feb 11:

The courage of Sandmonkey and all the protestors has paid off. Unbelievable to have been privileged to watch this history unfold in real time. Here's the last tweet from Sandmonkey I'll post here:


Sandmonkey Sandmonkey


To everyone who rediculed us, opposed us, wanted us to compromise, i say: YOU ARE WELCOME :) TODAY WE ALL CELEBRATE!!! #JAN25


Now, let's hope that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces doesn't turn out to just enable a continuation of the same type of authoritarian regime...







February 3, 2011 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2009

Cable News

I was stunned at how poor the Iran coverage was on cable news over the weekend. Then I saw this thought from Matthew Yglesias:

Whenever I find myself talking about new media to skeptics of an older generation who worry that the standards online are too debased, I try to remind people that the real debasing came with the rise of multi-channel cable news. In terms of the Iranian elections, the world’s top newspapers have the people on the ground reporting the main facts, and there’s lots of smart analysis from legitimate experts all over the web, but on television if it can’t be captured by two talking heads debating each other it’s like it never happened. (Hat tip to Jason Linkins, who also provided the emphasis.)
I had noticed that CNN seems to show an awful lot of discussion between experts over each event -- often much more of that than direct coverage of the event itself But I'd never thought of it in quite the way Matthew puts it. Anyway, I turned on CNN this morning to see whether, for a change, they were covering Iran.

And they were -- kind of. There was some talking head being asked about whether Obama should be taking more of a stand in favor of the protestors. The guy's opinion was that he should.

The picture is being coming clearer. Generally CNN consists of one or more talking heads in a room, taking turns talking about whether the latest news event is being handled in accordance with their personal opinion. Proportionately speaking, there seems to be not all that much actual reporting of facts.

I still don't get the reason why this is happening. Maybe it's because people find it more enjoyable than actual reporting because it's a little like gossiping about the failures of the newsmakers? Or is it that and there's a tiny bit of "human drama" when the talking heads disagree -- kind of a combination of news and reality TV? Or could it simply be that it costs less than actual reporting? (They probably don't even have to pay the talking heads, who are happy to be there to publicize themselves.)

June 16, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 15, 2009


If you've been following developments in Iran, and particularly the Internet's essential role in reporting (and supporting) events, I don't have much to add.

If you haven't, I strongly suggest you go to Andrew Sullivan's blog and starting following him now -- as well taking a bit of time to look through his posts from the last couple of days. He's been doing a wonderful job. Far better than any mainstream news outlet, with the possible exception of the NY Times' Lede. (Although the Lede doesn't present as much detail and analysis as Sullivan does -- with the help of his readers and well-chosen links to other sources.)

One of Sullivan's readers sums up the key role Twitter is coming to play:

Ahmadinejad's and Khamenei's websites were taken down yesterday - I saw the latter go down within a couple of minutes because of a DDOS attack organised via Twitter. @StopAhmadi is a good source for tweets on this. The other important use of Twitter has been distribution of proxy addresses via Twitter. This would be how most video and pictures of today's rally have gotten out.

One amazing thing is that it seems at least conceivable that the protests would not have been as successful as they currently appear to be if Twitter didn't exist.

Sullivan suggests wearing green in support of the protesters. I think that's a great idea.

June 15, 2009 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 06, 2009

Tom Swifties

One of my more unusual pastimes is making up Tom Swifties. Examples of my efforts in this area include:

"She said I look like a common farm animal!" Tom said sheepishly.
"Those damned cannibals! They're seasoning us with lemon juice!" Tom said sourly.

The NY Times is having Tom Swifty contest this weekend. Submissions include:

"My men will never mutiny," said the Captain blithely."

In the esthetic of the Tom Swifty, I believe that significant demerits apply to those where the description of the act of speaking doesn't really match the tone of what is said, such as this Times submission:

"She's got my photo in her locket," said Tom independently.

and this one:

"What's under this green jello," Tom asked sublimely.

Here are two particularly fine submissions, from Chris Doyle:

"I'll just have to kill the king," Reggie sighed.
"May I have this dance?" Fred asked gingerly.”

June 6, 2009 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 14, 2008

Video debunking McCain ads -- spread it.

Here's a great video debunking some of the McCain campaigns recent distortions/lies.

I've always liked McCain for being a "straight talker." Now it looks like he's decided he'd rather lose his integrity than lose an election. And it's working.

As I've noted on this blog before, the Internet gives us the possibility of strengthening the power of a truth through viral dissemination of that truth. If people don't know something, it's not going to have an effect on their thinking.

So, if you agree that people who can't be elected honestly shouldn't be elected, please spread this video around.

September 14, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 23, 2008

Hillary's Bosnia Trip and the Fate of the World

Last week I mentioned a statement out of Hillary's campaign that was so cynical I found it downright revolting. I'm following up today with a statement from Hillary herself that appears to be a blatant lie.

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base." --Hillary Clinton, speech at George Washington University, March 17, 2008. [Democratic Underground]

Here is a photo of the actual incident:

The photo was retrieved by the Washington Post.

Here is a video (thanks to Donklephant):

I don't know what to say other than that I don't want another unmitigated liar in the White House. Especially one who seems to be running partly on the idea of being an especially smart person, but who isn't tuned-in enough to know that her lies are often of such of a nature that they can be quickly exposed by the media. (There are plenty of other lies coming from her or her campaign that I'm not taking the time to mention here.)

Which brings me to another point. As everyone knows, the Internet is a hugely important factor in this campaign. For instance, most campaign money is now being raised through the Internet.

Sometimes people explain the Clinton's campaign approach as being based on old-school politics. Perhaps, they say, if they were of today's generation, they'd be different. It may be that Hillary has simply been trained over decades that this is the only way to win an election, and that with a different experience, she would have taken a very different approach.

I am willing to hypothesize that the main difference is the Internet. For instance, in the old days, Obama's speech in response to the Wright flap would have been seen by very few people. Instead the TV networks would run a few sound bites, and spend most of the air time conducting interviews with analysts saying that the speech wasn't going to make any difference because the Wright sound bites are much more powerful than any that could be culled from Obama's speech. (Which is basically what is happening network news today.)

But almost three million people have accessed the whole speech on YouTube. It's a great speech. Some have said it's brilliant.

I'm not sure I'd classify it that way. To me, it seems more like a reasonable and intelligent person talking directly to us as if we, too, are reasonable and intelligent. And that is historically so extremely unusual in American politics that by contrast, it's as if it is brilliant, even if it's "only" reasonable and intelligent.

He assumes what the television networks do not: that Americans have an attention span that can tolerate thoughtful speech for more than 10 seconds. But that's also the speech's drawback from the old-media perspective: there aren't many (any?) sound bites that can be extracted from it. It would not have been effective in the old-media days except for those few who would go to the trouble of finding and reading the whole thing in a newspaper. And historically, that group has not been enough to reach the critical mass that determines elections.

The ability for any American who wishes to to conveniently see such a speech is a potential game-changer, particularly because those viewers have the ability to tell their friends (and readers, in the case of bloggers) what they think. The availability of such materials on the Internet (including such materials the expose of Hillary's Bosnia lie), added to word of mouth, means that the possibility for a new style of politics is here.

I believe Obama's success so far in this campaign is a result of that possibility reaching actual fruition. I believe that we may be entering an era where lies will be less commonplace and more quickly exposed. And where the result of that is that people are elected to high office who are more honest in their approach because the old style just won't work as well. People who are fundamentally dishonest will be less likely to succeed; and those who aren't won't be trained to believe that dishonesty is the only way to win.

But a key step in that equation is the word-of-mouth piece. Sound bites on the media are still extremely powerful. Most people will still not view Obama's race speech on the Internet; they'll see the Wright sound bites on the networks. So the availability of materials like this on the Internet is not enough. Word of mouth is also required. As Obama says, "We are the solution." Those who don't view the materials directly can hear about them from those who do. Hopefully they will be inspired to view the original materials for themselves. But if not, they can still be moved by hearing from those who have done so.

Either way, it's good. Anyone who shares the information is helping the process, one way or another. Obama's success so far indicates that the two factors, combined, can reach critical mass. I think it's time to hypothesize that this election is already historic, and potentially world-changing: we may be entering a time when our elected officials will be... better. To a nontrivial degree. Nothing is ever perfect and utopia never arrives. But better is good.

Think of the music industry. The Internet is truly transforming it. There is absolutely no reason to assume that the same can't happen for politics, and for reasons that are not dissimilar. It just isn't as obvious, yet, what is changing and why.

We all have to chip in, though, to make it happen. And that's why I am posting this today.

March 23, 2008 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 10, 2008

Has she no sense of decency?

I've been keeping politics out of this blog lately, but this just takes the cake.

Howard Wolfson, Clinton's chief spokesman, said during a conference call with reporters that Clinton would not pick a running mate who has not met the “national security threshold” — as Clinton’s military advisers and Wolfson put it on the call — but that it is possible Obama could meet that threshold by this summer's Democratic convention.

In other words, if she gets to be the nominee, and she needs him as VP in order to harness his enthusiastic supperters, he'll magically gain enough experience to be President. Honestly, I find the brazenness of her cynicism amazing, astounding, and revolting.

She undoubtedly thinks that's the only way the Democrats can beat McCain. But the fact is, Obama came out of nowhere and is doing pretty darn well without stooping to such depths. It's possible to do. She just can't do it herself.

March 10, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 29, 2006

Outsourcing controversy stupid

[I had to turn off trackbacks, one by one, for each of my old blog posts because I was getting hundreds of trackback spams a day. The unfortunateness of the fact that a few parasitic people can destroy such a useful feature for everyone else needs no further comment. In any case, in the effort to turn off trackbacks I apparently made a typo that made this old post get reposted. But I think it makes a good point so I decided to let it stay, with a couple of small edits. As a side item I found it interesting to see my long-ago comments on the Iraq war, made at a time when the Katrina-like incompetence of this Administration's approach to Iraq was not yet apparent to me. I've left those for nostalgia's sake.]

Sometimes there are local increasing returns effects where a lot of resources gather in one place. That's how cities are formed.

Those formations are pretty stable, but not eternal under all circumstances. It's not religion. It's just something that happens.

When people discuss outsourcing, there often seems to be an assumption that it's America's God-given right to have an economy superior to most of the world. So, those who are for outsourcing say we'll give people in those other countries the uninteresting opportunities like call centers and software development, and assure us that (due to what, our inborn superiority?) we'll come up with whole new opportunities that will keep us in the economic lead. Those who are against it say that by erecting trade barriers we'll stay in the economic lead.

Both of those positions are fundamentally stupid, IMHO. There is no reason to assume it is possible for the U.S. to keep its economic lead forever.

There were increasing returns affects at work here that were very similar to the aforementioned creation of cities. American companies needed to have American call centers, for instance, because inter-continental broadband communications didn't exist. So the call centers ended up here. But modern technology says that they don't have to be on American soil. So the increasing returns effect with regard to that is greatly diminished. Perhaps even eliminated since the disadvantages of linguistic and cultural differences are offset by the fact that it is so much cheaper to set them up elsewhere.

Protectionism won't help; that will just make us less efficient, as whole, than other countries that don't engage in protectionism.

It may be that the only realistic way to get a grip on this is accept the fact that America and other world-leading nations may not be so different from everyone else for too many more decades. The bad news is that we'll have to change the way we do things so that people here have what they need despite our smaller relative GNP. The good news is that there will be less hardship in the world as a whole, and that has the potential to translate into fewer wars and less terrorism. Very arguably, it will be a net win for us. (That latter, after all, is one of the deeper reasons for the Iraq war; if we do successfully convert them to a functional democracy, instead of a wealth-hording dictatorship, Iraqis will be economically better-off and people living there will have less reason to hate the U.S. Other Arabs will see the example too, and movement will hopefully occur in that direction in other countries. That's the hope.)

The sooner we start thinking about how to make the likely future more workable, instead of pretending that we can hold off the inevitable, the better off we'll all be.

March 29, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 02, 2005

The U.N., the future of the world, and the Tsunami

[Note: I had linked to a Tsunami photo here, but it now appears they are the subject of a hoax or error.]

The latest Tsunami count is 141,000 dead, according to CNN. My wife and I felt we had to donate. Amazon is a convenient way to get money to the Red Cross and says it is taking no cut of the donations.

I think it may also be while to look at the even larger context. The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece on the last day of 2004. It's worth quoting from extensively:

Here's some context for 2004: The number of human beings who died of HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa was about two million. The number of people who died of bad water and bad sanitation was more than two million. These deaths broke families and even whole communities with a force as hard as that in Sumatra this week. What is the answer?

The simple and obvious answer sits inside this final piece of disaster data: The Red Cross estimates that for the past 10 years when a natural disaster occurred in a developing country, the number of people killed was 589; but in what the Red Cross calls a country of "high human development" it was 51. That's 11 to 1. (Also, there's no full-time throat-slitting in countries of "high human development.")

The answer is to compress this ratio. We won't do that with aid, important as that is right now. We will never do it with the United Nations. The way we move the world's most vulnerable people away from the high risks of 11 and toward the relative safety of 1 is with the meat and potatoes of politics.

I may believe that liberal market economics joined to repeatable free elections is the way to a safer, more prosperous life for the Sri Lankas and Iraqs of the world. But belief alone never turned rocks into silver, even when all the world believed Poseidon caused earthquakes. Political work is the means the civilized world has for replacing men and ideas that are dumb or dangerous with something better. In the aftermath of 2004's too-numerous unnatural deaths, the only resolution possible is to re-enter the arena of politics and fight the good, slow fight. It's all we've got, and it is enough.

The typical WSJ-conservative slant on the U.N. expressed above will be counterintuitive to many readers. But consider this: if you don't consider the U.N., how many truly effective organizations are there where the main power resides in five entities, each of which has veto power? Answer: None. Effective organizations don't have that kind of veto power because if everyone has to agree, there is too much of tendency toward inaction. For instance, imagine that the U.S. Presidential elections required unanimity. Obviously no one would ever get elected. That's a very extreme example, but the same bias toward inaction holds, to lessening degrees, as the number of voting entities decreases, and is only eliminated when the number of voters is 2. You won't find any successful corporation that is managed that way, because such a corporation would have such a bias toward inaction that it couldn't compete effectively.

We can't expect a organizational structure that could not even lead to a successful corporation to be the agent that solves all the world's problems. To do so would be overoptimistic at best.

Such a structural detail might seem like a small thing, but it is not. It is the foundation from which everything else grows. It biases the U.N. toward inaction except in humanitarian areas where no one could reasonably have any objection.

The only reason the U.N. has the structure it has is that the Security Council powers didn't have the courage or faith in U.N. ideals that would have enabled them to accept majority rule (as voters in any democracy do, in order to enable elections to complete successfully). If they had had that faith, and continued to, the potential for the U.N. would be very different. But, alas, that is not the world we live in.

No, we can't rely on the U.N. But we can't remove ourselves from world affairs either: "In the aftermath of 2004's too-numerous unnatural deaths, the only resolution possible is to re-enter the arena of politics and fight the good, slow fight. It's all we've got, and it is enough."

January 2, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (6)