Torture

Eddie of Hidden Unities recently emailed me the text of “The Ploy” by Mark Bowden. My reply back to him mainly concerned, the subtile, which is The inside story of how the interrogators of Task Force 145 cracked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s inner circle—without resorting to torture—and hunted down al-Qaeda’s man in Iraq. The title’s odd in that it is both boring and inflammatory.

The boredom first. I can imagine an article subtitled The inside story of how programmers at Microsoft Corporation released SQL Server 2008 on time — and without using hash tables. Such an article might be worth while to a specialist in the field who is cogniscant of the limitations of hash tables, and believes he may well come across a project in the future were he would do well to avoid tabular hash technology. The article would of course be useless to a general interest reader, and indeed would be properly ignored by anyone who didn’t have a special interest in SQL Server, Microsoft, or has tables.

Now, the inflammation. Imagine an article subtitled The inside story story of how the United States Army Air Force broke the ability of Tokyo to resist — without resorting to nuclear weapons — and hunted the Empire’s man in Japan. Such an article would be madening because it minimizes terrible harm that was done to human beings.

Nuclear war is not bad because it involves the fission of uranium or plutonium. Nuclear war is bad because it kills people.

Similarly, torture (or “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity“) is not bad because it is done “obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person” or “with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” Torture is bad because it hurts people.

Other things hurt people too. Putting people in prison hurts people, and their families, for extended periods of time, too. But where are those who want to abolish jails? Or those who say that this or that person did not commit a crime, and yet was not imprisoned?

The self-congratulatory subtitle of the article minimizes out the pain and death, as if it is somehow less evil or less awful to kill as long as people weren’t hurt beforehand.

Torture may or may not be wise in this or that situation. I don’t claim the expertise that such a decision would require. But the current stylish condemnation of torture is crazy, as it pretends that torture is somehow worse than all the other acts of violence, state and non-state — that exist in our world

SCO SLAPPs Groklaw

Jones, P. 2007. My very own motion, tra la. Groklaw. April 4, 2007. Available online: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070403233141649(from Slashdot)

SCO. 2007. Case 2:03-cv-00294-DAK-BCW Document 1018. April 2, 2007. Available online: http://www.groklaw.net/pdf/IBM-1018.pdf.

Groklaw’s Pam Jones

Well, obviously, I can’t say much about this new SCO filing [PDF] at this time. It’s all about moi. A bit more here and here.

I can say this: SCO in its wisdom has just guaranteed that the judges in SCO v. IBM and SCO v. Novell will have to read Groklaw. So, welcome Judge Kimball. Welcome, Judge Wells. We’ve enjoyed very much learning about the law by watching you at work. SCO told you something that isn’t true. No one tried to serve me that I knew about. No one informed me of any deposition date. That is true. It doesn’t feel so nice to be smeared like this, I can tell you that, and to have to pay a lawyer to deal with this harassment. I view it as such, as a kind of SLAPP suit, a vendetta to pay me back for blowing the whistle, and to shut Groklaw up. SCO wants to put a pin on a map and point to it and say, “Here’s PJ.” Then someone drops by and shoots me, I suppose. I certainly have nothing to tell them that is relevant to this litigation.

Forsooth, methinks SCOfolk need to get better aligned with truth, justice, and the American way, as the saying goes. But that’s the judges’ job, so I’ll end my comments about this here.

There are 20 some exhibits, some sealed, most not, and as you will see, stories got planted in the media and then presented in court as “proof” once again. I’ll tell you more later, when I can.

And so the stupidest lawsuit in the history of the world just got stupider. And a whole lot meaner.

And what is she talking about?

This filing (pdf):

In the SCO v. Novell litigation, by agreement of the parties, SCO has until May 31, 2007, in which to serve a subpoena on and take the deposition of non-party witness Pamela Jones. The prospective deposition of Ms. Jones bears on this litigation as well. Accordingly, SCO asks the Court to deem Ms. Jones’ deposition to be on taken in this case, providing notice of the deposition to IBM and an opportunity to participate if the company so choses.

Ms. Jones is the self-proclaimed operator of an internet website known as “Groklaw” (www.groklaw.net). Ms Jones claims to have copyrighted and to maintain Groklawpersonally… Through the website, Ms. Jones has reported extensively on and repeatedly disseminated Novell’s claims of ownership of the UNIX copyrights, as well as generally addressed SCO’s disputes with Novell and IBM since the inception of those lawsuits. The content and commentary of the website (and other evidence) shows that Ms. Jones is not an objective commentator, but rather a vehicle through which opponents of SCO have conducted their case against SCO in the court of public opinion, where no gate-keeper monitors the reliability of content.

SCO has sought to depose Ms. Jones to address, among other things, her participation in Novell’s and IBM’s conduct toward SCO and the content of her website relating to SCO. The notice given to IBM of the prospective deposition by virtue of SCO’s instant Motion is more than sufficient, because SCO has not yet served Ms. Jones with a subpoena for her deposition. Obviously aware of SCO’s designs to depose her, Ms. Jones has neither accepted service of the subpoena nor agreed to appear for deposition, but rather appears to have fled and evaded service of the subpoena. Ms Jones’s reluctance to appear for deposition in this matter is better understood in the context of certain relevant evidence. Indeed, SCO has obtained evidence through discovery of Ms. Jones’ allegiance and financial connection to Novell and IBM, which underscores her motivation to avoid having to testify in this matter.

I’ve been bullied by corporate sheisters before, so SCO’s strategic lawsuit against public participation on the part of Groklaw and Pam Jones isn’t surprising. Only saddening.

Leftism, Feminism, and Cash

Agnostic. 2007. New GRE cancelled – the cost of attempted gap-reduction? Gene Expression. April 4, 2007. Available online: http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2007/04/new-gre-cancelled-cost-of-attempted-gap.php.

First, an excerpt from the excellent blog piece. Then a short discussion by me:

The NYT reports that a completely revised GRE has been deep sixed, not merely delayed (read the ETS press release here). The official story is that there is some insurmountable problem with providing access to all test-takers, an issue apparently too complicated for ETS to bother trying to explain it to us. You figure, since this was such a huge project that was suddenly halted, they’d want to clearly spell out why they dumped it — unless that’s the point. Although I’m no mind-reader, the true reason is pretty obvious: the made-over test was designed to narrow the male-female gap at the elite score level, but this diluted its g-loadedness such that it couldn’t reliably distinguish between someone with, say, a 125 IQ and a 145+ IQ, which is what graduate departments who rely on super-smart students worry about. Rather than admit that this psychometric magic trick went awry and lopped off a few limbs of g-loadedness, they spun a yarn about access to the te

..

We now ask why ETS intentionally stripped the SAT of some of its g-loadedness? Certainly not because they discovered IQ had little value in predicting academic performance, or that some items tap g more directly than others — so why re-invent the wheel? Since scores on various verbal tasks highly correlate, this change cannot have affected much the mean of any group of test-takers. But if getting a perfect score required scoring correctly on, say, 10 easy questions, 5 medium, and 5 difficult (across 3 sections), a greater number of above-average students can come within striking distance of a perfect score if the new requirement were 10 easy, 9 medium, and 1 hard. I don’t know exactly how they screwed around with the numbers, but that’s what they pay their psychometricians big bucks to do. Now, reducing the difficulty of attaining elite scores, without also raising mean scores (as with the 1994 recentering), can only have had the goal of reducing a gap that exists at the level of variance, not a gap between means. This, then, cannot be a racial gap but the male-female gap, since here the difference in means is probably 0-2 IQ points, although male variance is consistently greater.

In other words..

  • Some time ago, the SAT released a new test that kept the pre-existing group means (so that jews still scored higher than scotch-irish, and that asians still scored higher than blacks) but made it easy for pretty-good students to score the same as very-good students
  • The GRE seriously considered, openly planned on, announced, and then suddenly rejected a similar plan.

Ultimately, this is a tale of political correctness and money. Especially since fired Harvard President Larry Summers publicly asked if there was a genetic component to sexual differences, but since the birth of feminism in the early 20th century, the “polite” opinion is that males and females are genetically identical and apart from a few organs the sexes are in no way different. Thus intelligence testing, which consistently reveal that the highest-scoring males have higher intelligence than the highest-scoring females, is embarrassing. While the SAT and the GRE are technically aptitude tests, they are also rough measures of intelligence so the same issues that impact IQ testing impact the SAT and GRE.

The easy way to remove this shame is to ignore it, so the SAT lowered the bar for the highest-scoring students. Thus the highest-scoring females would score exactly the same as the highest scoring males – with a perfect 2400R.

For undergraduate schools this is just fine. Anything that increases the student body size while avoiding public embarrassment puts money into the hands of the Universities,. Likewise, compared to graduate schools undergrad institutions tend to be non-competitive (excluding quotized areas sex as race, where it is hard to change race from penalized categories such as oriental or white to preferred categories such as black or indian). Thus, the SAT combined easy leftism with easy commercialism: the change stands!

For graduate schools this is not fine. Graduate students are investments in ways that undergrads just aren’t. Grad students take up more of professors’ face time, often have the responsibility of assisting in research or teaching undergraduates, and are actually paid. Thus a non-productive grad student can more easily become a cash dog than can a non-productive undergrad. There, within grad schools capitalism defeated easy leftism: the change is rejected!

Update: Darth Quixote at gnxp examines the results of the latest SAT.

A wonderful lunch

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a blogger and professional who I respect very much over lunch. The meal was fantastic, and I learned a lot from every topic we discussed. It is wonderful to have your assumptions questioned and mind expanded, especially by a partner as gifted and kind.

Thank you for the wonderful time!