Friday, 25 April 2008

How not to win election to the U.S. House in 2008

Here’s a hint: it involves speaking at a lectern in front of a portrait of Adolf Hitler and with a skinhead wearing a black shirt and red armband to your right (via Megan McArdle).

Incidentally, the guy is trying the “I didn’t know who these people were” defense on for size, but something doesn’t quite ring true:

“I’ll speak before any group that invites me,” [Republican nomination-seeker Tony] Zirkle said Monday. “I’ve spoken on an African-American radio station in Atlanta.” ...

Zirkle said he did not know much about the neo-Nazi group and that his intention was to talk on his concern about “the targeting of young white women and for pornography and prostitution.” ...

The event was not the first time Zirkle has raised controversy on race issues. In March, Zirkle raised the idea of segregating races in separate states. Zirkle said Tuesday he’s not advocating segregation, but said desegregation has been a failure.

Well, as long as he’s not advocating segregation, just proposing it, I guess that’s OK. (I guess that’s of the opposite ilk as denouncing-without-rejection.)

Zirkle is apparently also not a fan of sex toys, using the term “divorce aids” as a term for dildos—apparently unironically, considering he himself is one (yes, I’ve used that joke before). A direct quote from his demented website:

I may also call attention to the fact that one of the biggest commercial frauds is that divorce aids market themselves as being for “novelty purposes only” so that they can avoid all consumer safety inspections; yet ,they then go to court and claim they have a 1st Amendment so called right to privacy to abuse their bodies. Who knows what toxic chemicals these women are inserting into the most intimate areas of their bodies and how many men chase children because they can not find comfort from an adult women. [sic]

This guy’s campaign is the gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, 27 January 2006

The pickup lines write themselves

Sexual intercourse is alleged to improve public speaking. Factoids like this one (until now, a null set) make me wonder how much better a lecturer I’d be if I had a girlfriend.

þ: PtN.

Thursday, 23 June 2005

Boner Madness

I can’t believe I’m watching Game 7 of the NBA Finals instead of this cautionary morality tale that some are calling the Reefer Madness of this generation. Maybe Lifetime will rerun it overnight so I can see what I missed; this review suggests it’s off the charts on the unintentional hilarity index:

We get 8/10 for the hilariousness alone, it would be a full ten had Justin been killed by the internet porn.

Yep, it definitely beats watching sweaty guys in knee-length shorts run left and right across your TV screen for three hours.

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

He said, she said journalism

Not having analyzed the data (a big caveat for a social scientist, mind you) I’ll agree with the critics who aren’t buying the evidence from a Heritage report that suggests that “abstinance pledge” programs work. Not that the story makes that much sense, since it’s clear the author doesn’t actually know anything about social scientific research and just relies on an expert and the authors of the original study to rebut the paper.

But Matthew Yglesias’ critique really goes off the rails. First he complains, “the study was not peer-reviewed, is unpublishable in real academic journals, uses an unreliable data source, and only supports the conclusion when you use a non-standard test for statistical significance.”

The first two critiques are bizarre, since (a) it has never been submitted for peer review and (b) we don’t know whether or not it’s publishable, since submission for peer review hasn’t happened yet; the lack of publishability is an opinion expressed by someone in the article, not a factual statement. They don’t use any “non-standard test”; they use a p-value of 0.10 as their cutoff, which isn’t the traditional 0.05 and not quite as convincing as 0.05, but isn’t inherently invalid either, and confidence levels aren’t tests (examples of tests are “t” tests and “Wald” tests; p values are the results of statistical tests).

The only critique that’s even vaguely valid is that the data source is unreliable, as it relies on self-reporting by respondents of their behavior. This is a problem, to the extent you believe that people who have signed abstinence pledges are more likely to lie about their sexual activity than those who haven’t. I’ll concede that it’s possible that that’s the case. Mind you, Heritage didn’t come up with the data—HHS did—and trying to get people to accurately self-report anything is harder than it looks.

Then Yglesias turns and goes completely bizarro:

The only newsworthy information in the story is that the Bush Department of Health and Human Services has decided for some reason to start contracting out research on controversial questions to an ideological think tank that is non-partisan in name only, rather than to proper independent analysts.

There is no evidence in the story that Heritage was working under any sort of HHS contract. On the contrary, Heritage appears to have analyzed data, produced under HHS and CDC contract, which is in the public domain.* They then presented their results at a government-sponsored conference. The next step would be to fix any problems in the paper (and the article suggests there were some), and then submit the paper to a peer-reviewed journal. That’s how social science is done.

Now, mind you, it might be premature for the New York Times to be calling attention to this story, but given public interest in the issue—and the Times’ possible interest in discrediting this evidence, not that I’d suspect the paper of having an ideological bias in its reporting decisions—I’m not sure I can fault them for covering preliminary results that (potentially) rebut a serious critique of administration policy.

* If the CDC had helped fund either analysis, it would be traditional for the studies to acknowledge the funding at the beginning of the paper in a note. I think it’s more likely that the Times meant to say that the CDC helped fund the HHS survey, not the Heritage study.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Thong wars

Glenn Reynolds takes heat for the Instapundit thong (though it’s apparently on the Father’s Day shopping list for some), while new-to-the-reciprocal-blogroll Memphian Serrabee wonders why nobody buys her underwear for Valentine’s Day while linking a story informing Britons that thong underwear can be bad for your health.

Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t think the particular style of underwear you’re wearing makes that much difference to others—now, it might make a difference to you (Lord knows I’d be embarrassed to be seen in a lot of the underwear I own, something I suppose I should rectify), and if that’s the case I suggest a change. But if you’ve gotten to the point that someone else is seeing them I think the main concern is going to be how easily they can be removed, not whether or not they give you a wedgie when you walk.

Then again, in this low-rider world we live in (apparently, the plumber butt look is “in”), maybe underwear matter more than they used to… but you’d think OFJay would have found some evidence of that.

Friday, 20 May 2005

Hung Litigator

When I told my Civil Liberties class that one way porn producers tried to defend themselves in court was to produce adult films with “serious” artistic and political themes (one of the prongs of the Miller test), it never occurred to me that there might be a porn star who also has a career a lawyer. You learn something new every day… (þ: OTB)

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

It's all about the O

The New York Times today attempts to get to the bottom of the question of the evolutionary purpose [or lack thereof] of the female orgasm:

[Lloyd’s preferred] theory holds that female orgasms are simply artifacts – a byproduct of the parallel development of male and female embryos in the first eight or nine weeks of life.

In that early period, the nerve and tissue pathways are laid down for various reflexes, including the orgasm, Dr. Lloyd said. As development progresses, male hormones saturate the embryo, and sexuality is defined.

In boys, the penis develops, along with the potential to have orgasms and ejaculate, while “females get the nerve pathways for orgasm by initially having the same body plan.” ...

The female orgasm, she said, “is for fun.”

Or not, as the case may be. (þ: memeorandum)

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

All for the nookie

Somehow I missed Orgasm Day yesterday (þ: Glenn Reynolds). Amber Taylor claims that this event would be the “polar opposite” of International Kissing Day; I tend to think these events are rather orthogonal, myself.

However, it’s still Masturbation Month, so everyone’s got that to, er, celebrate at least.

Shack up and go to jail

John “Don’t Call Me Juan” Cole notes that the ACLU is challenging a 1805 North Carolina statute forbidding cohabitation by unmarried couples in court. For those considering living in sin elsewhere, the Tar Heel State is not alone in its opprobrium toward cohabitors:

North Carolina is one of seven states that still have laws on the books prohibiting cohabitation of unmarried couples. The others are Virginia, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi and North Dakota.

As a longtime opponent of such “uncommonly silly” laws, I offer the ACLU my unqualified support in this matter.