Archive for June 8th, 2009

Republican Justice: blindness to conflicts of interest

| June 8, 2009 | 1 Reply
Republican Justice: blindness to conflicts of interest

The United States Supreme Court was barely able to hold that it’s wrong to spend $3,000,000 electing a judge and than be able to have your newly purchased judge decide a big case in your favor. Decided June 8, 2009, Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Company Inc. was a 5-4 decision, with dissents by John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The defendant in the West Virginia case was a coal company that had been accused of fraud, and the jury had awarded $50 M in damages against defendant. It was A.T. Massey’s Chairman and Chief Officer Don Blankenship who stepped in to buy the judgship for Brent Benjamin for $3 M after the verdict, knowing that this case would be considered by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Chief Justice John Roberts frets that he can’t criticize this obviously wrong case of a $3,000,000 judge because there are less obvious cases that would be more difficult to decide. Think about it: Roberts is urging that the Court can’t decide the easy cases because there are also some other cases that aren’t so easy. Why not just hang up your robes and give it up? Tell me a situation where that isn’t true. Roberts goes even further, suggesting that hammering the $3,000,000 judge will undermine our fair, independent, and impartial judiciary.

Good grief.

Scalia had previously shown that he is completely obtuse to the idea of a conflict of interest when he decided a case favoring his duck-hunting buddy, Dick Cheney.

Share

Read More

Global military spending, per capita

| June 8, 2009 | Reply
Global military spending, per capita

The Economist has reported on the rate of military spending, per country per capita. The highest spender is not the United States, though the United States spends almost $2,000 per man, woman and child on its military.

Share

Read More

Portable defibullator used on soccer field

| June 8, 2009 | 3 Replies
Portable defibullator used on soccer field

There’s no doubt that this soccer player received a jolt of electricity (you can see his foot jump at the 15 second mark). I’m still wondering about the accuracy of this on the fly diagnosis, however. Can a sports trainer really make such a quick yet accurate diagnosis as to whether an athlete needs the use of a defibrillator?

Share

Read More

Facebook and Twitter as marshmallow dispensers

| June 8, 2009 | 1 Reply
Facebook and Twitter as marshmallow dispensers

I’ve previously written about a fascinating marshmallow experiment here and here.

To set the stage, keep in mind that marshmallows are the equivalent of crack cocaine for young children. In the experiment, numerous four-year olds were each left alone with a marshmallow and told that they could eat it if they wanted. They were also told that if they could wait until the experimenter returned (which would happen 15 minutes later), they could have two marshmallows.

Only about 30% of the children had the discipline to wait for the experimenter to return. When the psychologists followed up on these children fourteen years later, they found some startling things. Those four-year-olds who exerted the willpower to wait for two marshmallows scored an average of more than 200 points higher on the SAT than those who couldn’t wait. Those who could wait also show themselves to be more cooperative, more able to work under pressure and more self-reliant. In sum, they were dramatically more able to achieve their goals than those who couldn’t wait.

Which leads me to this thought: Are Internet social sites the cyber-equivalent of marshmallow dispensers? Since reading of the marshmallow experiment, I have repeatedly thought of inability of many people to resist spending hours on social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. I also think of those who burn long hours on MySpace and those who are non-stop texters. Perhaps Internet news junkies belong in the same category.

I don’t know the exact numbers, but there are numerous folks who aren’t getting nearly enough important things done in their lives (things THEY consider to be important) who are spending immense numbers of hours chatting and gossiping. I personally know some of these people. If these were retired people without any daily obligations, it would be one thing. Many of them, however, are blowing countless chances to make significant progress on goals that they themselves have set.

Share

Read More