Tuesday, May 14, 2013

With Friends Like Morgan Whitaker

Just as two new scandals (Benghazi and IRS vs Tea party) are roiling Obama's public image, one of Obama's friends (Ms. Morgan Whitaker, a producer of Al Sharpton's show) writes a round-up article listing seven other scandals that the mainstream media managed to protect Obama from.Only three of the seven seem significant to me.

Of course, that was about 20 minutes before the mainstream media found out that the Justice Department was glomming AP phone records for some kind of leak investigation.

My reactions to Obama Scandal Number Ten?:

First, it will be interesting to see if the new AP scandal turns out to be related to Number Four on Morgan's list, a National Security leak from the Obama White House that resulted in the appointment of two independent prosecutors.

Second, it will be interesting to see if the new AP scandal becomes Obama's KAL Flight 007. For those of you who are under 30, KAL007 was the incident in 1983 when a Soviet jet shot down a passenger airliner that had strayed several miles off course, and then teh Soviets refused to let rescue crews search for survivors in the frigid ocean. Russia actually faked a search while interfering with the US and Korean searchs.

Almost all the top journalists and news anchors of the day knew someone on board that plane, and some of them occasionally flew the same route. The Soviet bear stopped looking so cuddly to ABC, NBC and CBS (which is all the networks there were), so the media stopped snickering so much at President Reagan's "Evil Empire" rhetoric, and actually had to rethink its reflexive positions.

As a side benefit, President Reagan made GPS available for civilian use, to prevent airplanes from going so far off course again. That's right, the only reason your car and your phone know exactly where you are, is because Russia shot down a passenger jet in 1983, and thereby ensured Reagan's reelection!

So the question is, will the mainstream media wake up and smell the corruption? Or will it decide to stuff the covers back in its ears? I's bet for the covers, otherwise remorse and cognitive dissonance would make their heads explode.

Friday, May 10, 2013

'Climate Science' Jumps the Shark

It's fascinating when a premature scientific orthodoxy, like "global climate change science", or whatever they are calling it these days, starts becoming patriarchal.

Like, when they start burning books that disagree with them. More references can be found here and here and here and here and here.

Apparently, the profs, San Jose State University Meteorology Department chair Alison Bridger, PhD, and associate professor Craig Clements, PhD, thought it was hilarious to burn a book they disagreed with, a process that explicitly adds carbon dioxide to the air. The book, by the way, is “The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania” by Steve Gorham, which is reportedly a lively read that doesn't take itself as seriously as these two professors.

Either SJSU or the Meterology department realized the mistake after the picture went viral, and attempted to scrub it off their website, but Climate scientists, just like real scientists, should know that the Internet is forever.

Interestingly enough, they seem to have succeeded in deleting it from the left half the Web, though. I was unable to find reference to it on any major liberal sites. Apparently book burning and climate science are subjects that their readers aren't interested in?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Supreme Court Vs Business

The Minnesota Law Review has posted an interesting study that attempts to decide how pro-business the Supreme Court is. Please go and read it yourself, starting with this lead piece - as near as I can tell, the study is extremely well put together and as fair as possible.

If you can't stand thinking for yourself, an alternative is to go read this NYT article and assume they're only printing their motto - "Half the News that's Fit to print".

The interesting thing to me, and the thing that speaks to good study design, is the discussion of Judge Posner's review and re-coding of the cases in the Spaeth Datasets. In essence, the new codes eliminate some of the old simplistic business-wins-equals-conservative, business-loses-equals-liberal ideology that seems to have warped Spaeth's results.

Another very interesting result is that it appears that business-wins-equals-conservative assumption only holds statistical validity in Spaeth's "Core" business cases, and shows a small negative correlation in the wider set of business-related cases in which business was not the first named party.

Figure 2 shows an amazingly close correlation in Spaeth's dataset, and a splatter in the ones that Spaeth decided not to include - which to me is a clear indication of cherry-picking.

On the other hand, the reversal of sign in the "non-core" cases may actually indicate a failure of the simplistic conservative-liberal axis to accurately state the ideologies at issue. A case where a union member wants to keep his own money in his pocket, rather than let the union give it to a politician, would be coded as "conservative" or "pro business", when really it is a case of liberal or libertarian individual right of free speech and political expression - a classic liberal position.

Oh, and the result is that the Supremes are pretty pro-business at the moment. (Of course, swinging back the pendulum can look like that even if the decisions are just moving the law back to neutral.)

Nice job, Minnesota Law Review!

6-year-old Plagiarists and Ducks

Stephan Dinan of the Washington Times writes about a six-year-old girl whose drawing of ducks was picked as national winner, then rescended because she had traced one of her father's unpublished photos.

The rules prohibited tracing another artist's work, and tracing published photos, but did not explicitly prohibit tracing (with the photographer's permission) an unpublished photo.

OOops - never mind, They rescinded their rescension.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Trolls, Trolls, and More Trolls

Over at Forbes, there's an article suggestingthat it's time to protect startups from Patent Trolls.

Here's a much simpler idea - How about we establish a compulsory license for tech IP, similar to the compulsory license for music?

Here's a basic outline - Let's estimate the maximum percentage of the value of a software product that any IP involved in the product could account for. Let's suppose that amount turns out to be 30% - the exact number doesn't matter for the purposes of discussion, although the industry will want to argue endlessly.

Suppose, then, that every company must pay 30% of its net income (or gross, or whatever) for the ability to use the compulsory licensed products. All of them. From anybody.

That money all goes in a pot, and IP trolls can only sue the pot, not the company. The industry and the stakeholders can come up with rule-of-thumb valuation standards. One of those standards has to evaluate the value added by the creators/sellers, who are also entitled to their cut of the royalties.

Percentage of lines of code, or allocation by importance to the finished product [acceleration methods are critical for games, less so for other things, etc], or any other reaosnable method can be decided by the industry.

The great thing about this schema is that, once the industry decides on such a schema, it becomes the de facto standard for evaluating an IP troll's contribution, If the industry has agreed that at most 30% of the value of the finished product (or 10%, for that matter) is due to the "prior art" that may be incorporated into the product, then no court will give more than that to a troll. And if that percentage of the gross/net has already been paid to a royalties organization, then an IP troll has only one place to go for their alleged infringement.

This leaves IP trolls, who hold patents but do not develop them for use, at a huge disadvantage. Lawsuits stop being an economical way to collect their rent, which drops the value of their IP to whatever value it actually might have in USE, as opposed to its value in barratry.

We're seeing that difference made clear in the Prenda Copyright Trolls case which I referred to here.

This would provide a nice way to daylight the trolls all at once.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lean In, Be Liked, Join the Fad

Researchers Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman report in the Harvard Business review that "New Research Shows Success Doesn't Make Women Less Likable".

As I read it, the research doesn't actually say that, even if you accept the label "likeability" for the thing that they are measuring. At the very most, their research shows that the women who do succeed are women who are slightly more "likeable", on average, than the equivalent men. But that doesn't mean that ten times as many women who were "likeable" on that scale didn't get blown aside in the struggle for success, so the headline is just not supported by the research.

Here's the quiz itself. Unfortunately Zenger and Folkman demand your full contact information to review it, so here's the items from that list:

  1. Do you stay in touch with issues and concerns of individuals in the work group?
  2. How well do you balance "getting results" with a concern for other’s needs?
  3. Are you trusted by all members of the work group?
  4. Do you promote a high level of cooperation between all members of the work group?
  5. Are you a role model that sets a good example for his/her work group?
  6. Do you give honest feedback in a helpful way?
  7. Are you truly concerned about developing others?
  8. How well do you inspire others to high levels of effort and performance?
  9. Are you trusted by others to use good judgment when making decisions?
  10. Do you work hard to "walk the talk" and avoid saying one thing and doing another?
Some of those questions are reasonably related to likeability, but they just aren't what most people think of when the word comes up, especially as regards female managers. "A concern for others" is properly on the table for "likeable", but the heart of the question asks how well you balance "getting results" against that concern. Thus, it is a question not of likeability, but of effective management. A truly likeable person can score low on that question because he overemphasizes that concern for others, not just because he underemphasizes it.

The bottom line is that the researchers selected pre-existing questions about managerial or executive competence from their database, and rechewed that existing data based on relabeling those questions "likeability". They come to the following conclusion based on their results:

Our conclusion? Likability and success actually go together remarkably well for women. Parents can accurately and unhesitatingly tell their daughters, "Aspire for positions of power and influence, and when you get promoted, it is totally your choice whether you act in a way that will have people continue to like you or not."
Not a bad advice, whether or not the data tends to support it. But I also note the following quote and think there's another piece of important advice to be had.

Both men and women took a hit in likability when they moved from first-level supervisor to middle manager. But this drop was more precipitous for men. After that, the women made up some ground, while men's standing continued to erode, significantly widening the gap between them.
The advice is for men, and it's this: when you get into management, spend some time giving honest feedback, developing others, and letting people know you are in touch with their concerns, even when you aren't necessarily going to decide their way. It will make you seem more effective, and also more "likeable", at least as defined by Zenger and Folkman.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Simple Charity

There's a very interesting article over on the Harvard Business Review by someone named Jacquelline Fuller. She seems to be associated with a philanthropic organization called Google Giving which gives out Global Impact Awards. Fuller assumes you know her background, and Google doesn't give any clues as to who works for Google Giving, so I had to reread it a couple of times to gain confidence I knew who she was. Anyway, interesting thought - there's an organization called GiveDirectly that just gives micropayments to people in third world countries and sees what happens to their lives. Turns out, it's good! Such a surprise.