Friday, 30 April 2004

Average Students

Len Cleavlin has a classic example (albeit probably apocryphal) of the dangers of the arithmetic mean:

There’s an old joke that the Geography Department at the University of North Carolina would tell prospective majors the average salary of graduates with a bachelor’s degree in geography from UNC, without telling them that UNC alumnus and NBA star Michael Jordan received his bachelor’s in geography….

Ole Miss’ criminal justice department might consider employing this trick, as New Orleans Saint Deuce McAllister was a CJ major (though I’m damned if I know whether or not he actually graduated); even given the number of CJ majors who’ve matriculated, Deuce’s NFL salary would probably bump up the mean by a few grand.


David Adesnik has an odd standard for courage among political scientists:

It takes guts for a political scientist to actually predict something. That’s because all that political scientists really have are their reputations, and they can’t afford to put those on the line. So here’s a shout out to Larry Sabato, who isn’t afraid to put his money where his mouth is.

Other than referring David to my post on explanation and prediction, I’d only warn readers that what really takes guts is to get between Larry Sabato and a camera.

USM: No, really, WTF?

Well, the settlement between Thames and Glamser and Stringer is out (full text here) and I find it completely baffling, and borderline inexplicable. HNN’s update from yesterday seemed to anticipate—as most would have, given Thames’ pathetic performance at the hearing on Wednesday—a settlement much more favorable to Glamser and Stringer.

Update: More from Robert Campbell. Time to drop the hammer on that letter to USM withdrawing my application for employment…

More broken XML generated by blogging tools

First it was Movable Type doing it… now, WordPress generates differently but equally-broken XML for its inline trackback RDF discovery. Here’s an example:

<rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf="" 
    dc:title="\'Hat of the Day:  Chip Frederick"
    trackback:ping="" />

Backslashes don’t escape anything in XML

Update: Per the trackback below, WordPress fixed it! So, the current score is: WP 1, MT 0. (So, my message to all you WordPress bloggers over there on the sidebar: get thee to an update.)

Inductive reasoning

David Pinto doesn’t think much of ESPN’s continued plugging of its “productive outs” statistic, and in particular Buster Olney’s justification thereof, as summarized by Pinto:

The basic argument is: here’s a stat, this team is good at it, this team won, so it must be important to be good at that stat.

I’m all for inductive reasoning, but inductive reasoning from a single case is, generally speaking, not a very smart idea…

In other baseball news, Ole Miss finally got off the schnide with a 2–1 victory over Murray State on Wednesday (snapping a six-game losing streak); let’s hope they can stay on track this weekend at South Carolina.

ScumWatch: Army Edition

Gary Farber and John Cole (also here) rightly characterize as “appalling” reports that Army soldiers tortured and abused Iraqi prisoners, possibly with the connivance of higher-ups. A special fisking is in order for the lawyer for one of the accused soldiers, as quoted by the New York Times:

“This case involves a monumental failure of leadership, where lower-level enlisted people are being scapegoated,” Mr. Myers said. “The real story is not in these six young enlisted people. The real story is the manner in which the intelligence community forced them into this position.”

No, the real story is that Mr. Myers’ client (allegedly) obeyed an illegal order, violated the Geneva Conventions, and deserves to spend every single minute he gets in Leavenworth—right along side the officers whose orders he obeyed. “I was only following orders” is a chickenshit excuse, especially for an E-6.

Update: More from Xrlq and Steven Taylor, who labels the soldiers “sadistic morons” and catches another soldier pleading “we didn’t know any better,” as well as news that British troops are also accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners.