Month: June 2009

Does the gender of a judge matter?

From the work of Christina Boyd, Lee Epstein, and Andrew D. Martin, Boyd and Epstein report:

In research
that we conducted with our colleague Andrew D. Martin, we studied the
votes of federal court of appeals judges in many areas of the law, from
environmental cases to capital punishment and sex discrimination. For
the most part, we found no difference in the voting patterns of male
and female judges, except when it comes to sex discrimination cases.
There, we found that female judges are approximately 10 percent more
likely to rule in favor of the party bringing the discrimination claim.
We also found that the presence of a female judge causes male judges to
vote differently. When male and female judges serve together to decide
a sex discrimination case, the male judges are nearly 15 percent more
likely to rule in favor of the party alleging discrimination than when
they sit with male judges only.

This holds true even after we account for judges' ideological leanings.

The research paper is here.

The Islamic roots of *Star Wars*

This is even better than having a Muslim President:

…the Arabic word for "great," akbar, has been adapted into George Lucas's Star Wars franchise, in the form of Admiral Ackbar, a heroic character and military commander whose success in space helps Luck Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance repel Darth Vader's Galactic Empire.  Featured in Return of the Jedi, Ackbar is just one of many characters and settings in the Star Wars universe that have an Arabic background.  Luke Skywalker's home planet, Tatooine, takes its name from the Tunisian city of Tataouine (al-Tataouine in Arabic).  Darth Vader's home planet is Mustafar, a slight variation of Mustafa, an Arabic name that means "the chosen one" (and is one of 99 names for the Muslim prophet Muhammad).  Attack of the Clones showcases Queen Jamilla, whose name is a slight variation of jamilla, an Arabic word for "beautiful."  And Revenge of the Sith features Senator Meena Tills, whose first name means "heaven" in Arabic.

That is from Jonathan Curiel's often interesting Al' America: Travels Through America's Arab and Islamic Roots.  The book also has an intriguing discussion of Islamic influences on the architecture of the World Trade Center.

Expressive complaints

There are many injustices in the world, so it is good that we have people willing to speak out against them:

Media regulator Ofcom today said it had received nearly 350 complaints about the weekend's Britain's Got Talent shows – but fewer than 20 were about the treatment of runner-up Susan Boyle, who was admitted to a private medical clinic on Sunday suffering from exhaustion.

said most of the complaints, 331, were about 10-year-old singer Hollie
Steel, who broke down in tears on Friday night's Britain's Got Talent
live semi-final.

However, only 50 were concerned for her welfare,
while 281 were complaining that she should not have been given a second
chance to sing.

The story is here.

Markets in everything, labor hoarding edition

"How would you like to spend more time with your family – like the
next five years?" is not the kind of offer employees usually want to
hear from their bosses in the depths of an economic crisis.

BBVA, Spain's second-biggest bank, has posed that question to staff as
part of its latest cost-cutting drive. It is hoping at least some of
its 29,954 Spanish employees agree not to come to work for up to five
years – in exchange for nearly a third of their usual salary and a
guaranteed job when they return.

The story is here.

How Cooking Made Us Human

How much can you hate a book that has sentences like these?:

Instinctotherapists, a minority group among raw-foodists, believe that because we are closely related to apes we should model our eating behavior on theirs.

In fact I liked the book — How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham — very much.  Here is a good review of the book.  The one sentence version is:

We are cooks more than carnivores.

I also liked this fragment:

…a bachelor is a sorry creature in subsistence societies…

Here is a strange and wild critique of Instinctotherapy.

The gender of Twitter relationships

Although men and women follow a similar number of Twitter users, men have 15% more followers than women.
Men also have more reciprocated relationships, in which two users
follow each other. This "follower split" suggests that women are driven
less by followers than men, or have more stringent thresholds for
reciprocating relationships. This is intriguing, especially given that
females hold a slight majority on Twitter: we found that men comprise
45% of Twitter users, while women represent 55%. To get this figure, we
cross-referenced users' "real names" against a database of 40,000
strongly gendered names.

Even more interesting is who follows whom. We found that an average man is almost twice more likely to follow another man than a woman. Similarly,
an average woman is 25% more likely to follow a man than a woman.
Finally, an average man is 40% more likely to be followed by another
man than by a woman. These results cannot be explained by different
tweeting activity – both men and women tweet at the same rate.

I read that on Twitter from…a woman whose tweets I follow.  I don't know who she is or, for that matter, how I ended up following her.

Charities in everything

Have you ever wondered what percent of charities involve actual positive externalities?

Susan spent months in front of her computer on,
a Web site where women who want breast augmentation can connect with
“benefactors” willing to contribute to the cause, sometimes a dollar at
a time. In May she was one of two Las Vegas women who went under the
knife on donations alone.

Do they also offer naming opportunities?  Here is the story.  The thanks go to a loyal MR reader, who by the way is now blogging again.

The renegade guru

For some non-obvious reason I thought of Bryan Caplan when I was reading this article:

As a toddler, he was put on a throne and worshipped as by monks who treated him like a god. But the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a spiritual leader has caused consternation – and some embarrassment – for Tibetan Buddhists by turning his back on the order that had such high hopes for him.

Instead of leading a monastic life, Osel Hita Torres now sports baggy trousers and long hair, and is more likely to quote Jimi Hendrix than Buddha.

Yesterday he bemoaned the misery of a youth deprived of television, football and girls. Movies were also forbidden – except for a sanctioned screening of The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy, about a kidnapped child lama with magical powers. "I never felt like that boy," he said.

The story is here.  Successive photos are here.  And:

At six, he was allowed to socialise only with other reincarnated souls – though for a time he said he lived next to the actor Richard Gere's cabin.

He is still revered by the Buddhist community although here is a bit more on the embarrassed responses.  I wonder how many gurus come to such realizations but do not speak up.  Does living in Spain have an effect?

Why aren’t more theatrical plays on DVD?

Many plays, such as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, are made into movies and they end up on DVD in this manner.  But why don't they just film Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (recommended, by the way; it's playing at the Folger and it's one of the classic plays of our time).  A look at Amazon doesn't yield much.  Nor does a search on "Edward Albee."

I can think of a few possible factors:

1. It wouldn't be very good.  (This doesn't stop most of what is put out on DVD.  Furthermore the highly complex genre of opera on DVD works just fine and has become the industry standard.)

2. There wouldn't be much of an audience.  Yet you could sell memento copies to people who saw the plays, a few plays on DVD might hit it big, and in any case they wouldn't cost much to produce.  There are plenty of niche products on Netflix.

3. It would squash the demand for live performance.  Really?  Most people don't go to the theater anyway.  Those who do, in this age of 3-D cinema and TiVo, presumably enjoy live performance in a manner which is robust.  It is more likely that DVD viewing would stimulate demand for the live product.  Besides, they put these plays out in book form and no one thinks that is a big problem.

None of these answers seem to work.  So, to repeat the question, why don't they put more theatrical plays out on DVD?

Addendum: Could it be they are holding out for the sale of movie rights and that profit is maximized by restricting alternative viewing options?

Eduardo Barreiros and the Recovery of Spain

That's the new and interesting Hugh Thomas book about the leading Spanish businessman of the 20th century, Eduardo Barreiros.  Barreiros entered into car manufacturing, but with the Cuban government as his business partner:

Luis Morente, more subtly, thought that the Cuban government wanted to use Eduardo to see whether Communism could collaborate with capitalism as it has done in recent years in China.  Businesses that were half-private, half-state-controlled (empresas mixtas) followed.  But there were innumerable difficulties: first, the government would select personnel to work with Eduardo according to their political position; second, the "second-rank executives" often found themselves being analysed by their subordinates; absenteeism was not denounced and indeed not considered as such; in Pinar del Rio, workers had to be allowed off to work in the tobacco harvest; incentives and productivity played no part.  The party, the Bank of Cuba, the unions, the provincial government were always intervening; energy supplies were irregular; parts were delivered very slowly; no one cared if supplies deteriorated before delivery; and in 1988, after a hurricane, the factory was flooded.  All these things needed Eduardo's continual attention.

It should be noted that, relative to the standards of the Cuban economy, the venture was a success.