Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Lucky Recipient of an Unsolicited European Union Grant

I just received the following announcement by e-mail:
European Commission Enterprise and Industry DG
Communication and Information Unit/R4
BREY 13/ 092
B - 1049 Brussels (Belgium)

Released: May 2009.

We bring to your notice the decision by the board of trustees of The European Union to choose you as one of the final recipients of a cash grant/donation for your own personal, educational, and business development (SME funding).

To promote growth and creating new jobs in the European economy, we are giving out a yearly donation of £402,000.00 (four hundred and two thousand pounds) to 10 lucky recipients who have been selected from over 25,000 websites all over the globe, as funding/aid from the European Union, European Commission, and the United Nations in accordance with enabling acts of Parliament.

Please contact Dominic Brett
Claims Department.

Name: Dominic Brett

Remember to quote your identification numbers. Find your identification numbers below:


Note that these numbers fall within your location file.

Thank you and accept my congratulations once again!

Janet Williamson
Information Officer and Coordinator,
Scottish European Resources Network

the information in this e-mail may be confidential and/or privileged. If you are not the intended recipient or an authorized representative of the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any review, dissemination or copying of this e-mail and its attachments, if any, or the information contained herein is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify the sender by return e-mail and delete this e-mail from your computer system. Thank you.

Well, this announcement apparently didn't originate from Nigeria.

But does the EU have a board of trustees?

Would the EU pass out grants in British pounds?

And, notwithstanding my high opinion of myself, I wonder if the EU and other governments and entities would decide to give me the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars (more?) without even forcing me to go through the indignity of asking for the money?




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Friday, May 22, 2009

New Haven Firefighter Case (Ricci)

Law, Probability and Risk will publish a statistical analysis by Professors Joseph Gastwirth (Statistics, George Washington University) and Weiwen Miao (Mathematics, Haverford College) of some of the issues in Ricci, the New Haven Firefighter Case, the "reverse discrimination" case. This is the abstract:
Many countries have fair employment laws to protect racial, gender, religious, or ethnic minorities from discrimination and courts in the United States can order remedies such as one out of every three new hires should be a member of a protected group after finding an employer discriminated. What steps can an employer undertake to ensure its employment practices do not disadvantage minorities when it does not need to comply with a court order? This issue arose in Ricci v. DeStephano, a “reverse discrimination” case under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Seventeen Whites and one Hispanic who achieved sufficiently high scores qualifying them for promotion to lieutenant or captain of the New Haven Fire Department sued the city because it canceled the exams after seeing that no African-American could be appointed to an existing vacancy. The City of New Haven justified its action on the basis that both exams had a disparate impact on African-Americans and Hispanics because the ratios of their pass rates to that of Whites were less than 80%, contrary to a “rule of thumb” in the government’s Uniform Guidelines. The city did not conduct statistical tests, which are referred to in the Guidelines.

The lower courts accepted New Haven’s explanation and granted summary judgment to it. A statistical study of the various criteria considered by the city and lower courts in their review of the data demonstrates that nearly 70% of the time a fair non-discriminatory test for either position will fail the government’s “80% rule” and at least 60% of the time both fair tests would fail this “four-fifths rule”. Since the city created a new criterion after seeing the results it is difficult to formulate precisely the other “rare” or “unusual” outcomes that would lead to cancelation of the exam. Would New Haven reject a list with no Hispanics or no Whites eligible for an immediate promotion? Would it require that all three groups be represented in the pool eligible for advancement to each position? From the viewpoint of statistical theory, the hypothesis being tested and the definition of pass or selection rates that will be compared should be decided before examining the data. Formal statistical tests on several relevant pass rates show that the lieutenant exam had a disparate impact on minority applicants, but the differences in the pass rates on the captain exam were not close to statistical significance. Furthermore, when the city canceled both exams, it only focused on the demographic mix of the high scorers who could receive an immediately promotion and ignored the two-year life cycle of the list. Neither likely retirements nor job turnover during the two-year life cycle of the results were considered. If this had been done, the city might have realized that two or three African-Americans were likely to be appointed lieutenants.

Keywords: disparate impact, equal employment, “four-fifths” rule, numerical disparity, reverse discrimination, tests of statistical significance.

The full paper is available on SSRN.


The dynamic evidence page

Coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

Pondering the Implications of the Wikipedia Experiment for the Spindle Law Experiment

Spindle Law is undertaking a grand experiment with the development of online legal material for legal professionals.

Will the experiment work?

The story of an analogous (yet different) experiment must be considered:

David Runciman, "Like Boiling a Frog," London Review of Books (May 28, 2009):

That’s how [Wikipedia] works. The puzzle is why it works, given that this way of compiling an encyclopedia seems to have a flaw so obvious it is hardly worth stating: if no entry is ever nailed down, how do you know when you are reading an entry that someone hasn’t just interfered with it, making it thoroughly unreliable? The early years of Wikipedia were dogged by this suspicion, and many people – including a lot of schoolteachers and university lecturers who could remember the distant days before 2002 when books were books and editors actually edited – were openly derisive of a work of reference that appeared to make no effort to discriminate between good information and bad. It is easy to assume that some version of Gresham’s Law, which states that bad money will always drive out good, must apply to the circulation of facts as well. Why would anyone with good information want to put it in a place where bad information could contaminate it at the touch of a button? Wouldn’t they choose to keep it to themselves, or at the very least give it to someone who could recognise its true value, leaving open-access encyclopedias to the mercies of all the flakes and grudge-bearers who want to use its veneer of objectivity to force their craziness down other people’s throats? Well, the answer is apparently not. One of the remarkable achievements of Wikipedia is to show that on the internet Gresham’s Law can work in reverse: Wikipedia has turned into a relatively reliable source of information on the widest possible range of subjects because, on the whole, the good drives out the bad. When someone sabotages or messes with an otherwise sound entry, there are plenty of people out there who see it as their job to undo the damage, often within seconds of its happening. It turns out that the people who believe in truth and objectivity are at least as numerous as all the crazies, pranksters and time-wasters, and they are often considerably more tenacious, ruthless and monomaniacal. On Wikipedia, it’s the good guys who will hunt you down.
I recommend you read the entire Runciman article. He considers some interesting issues. For example, Runciman discusses the apparently now-common suggestion in the sciences that academic works be published in draft form and that readers of such draft works be allowed to discuss, critique, and edit the draft works. This sort of suggestion is not far removed from the sort of collaborative, or "distributed," yet professional process of development that Spindle Law contemplates. (However, Spindle Law may be even a mite more radical -- because it is possible that the collaboration of many legal professionals will lead to statements of legal rules and principles that are far different from the initial foundation that an editor [such as P. Tillers] provides to get the work underway. [Lawyers, after all, are a contentious lot: contention is a major part of the reason for their existence.] Spindle Law's founders and this Spindle Law editor do not expect that the initial foundation for a particular area of the law will undergo a radical transformation. But Spindle Law is a new kind of enterprise and only time will tell precisely how the experiment plays out.)


The dynamic evidence page

Coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Exculpatory Polygraph Test Results Found Unreliable and Inadmissible by Federal Trial Court

United States v. Moultrie, 552 F. Supp. 2d 598, 599-600 & 602 (N.D. Miss. 2008) (criminal defendant sought to introduce exculpatory results of privately-administered polygraph tests; "In U.S. v. Posado, the Fifth Circuit overturned the per se inadmissibility of polygraph evidence. 57 F.3d 428 (5th Cir. 1995). In making this determination, the Fifth Circuit reviewed the Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 113 S. Ct. 2786, 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993) analysis of Fed. R. Evid. 702, which governs the admissibility of expert testimony. The Posado panel stated that Rule 702 requires that the 'trial judge make initial determinations under Rule 104(a) that the preferred evidence possesses sufficient evidentiary reliability to be admissible as scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge and that the proffered evidence is relevant in the sense that it will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.' 57 F.3d at 432."; "This court has thoroughly considered all of the testimony and scientific evidence presented by Moultrie. However, the court finds more persuasive the study performed by the National Academy of Sciences. This study is the most comprehensive study on the subject and the scholars involved actually reviewed some of the very studies discussed by Dr. Raskin during his direct examination. Notably, the Academy's 2003 conclusion that polygraphs work at a rate above chance, but below perfection has not moved far from the Office of Technology Assessment's conclusion twenty years earlier that polygraph examinations work better than chance, but with a rate of significant error. The court finds that the defendant has not established that the science behind polygraph examinations is sufficiently reliable to be deemed admissible. Accordingly, Moultrie's motion to admit the results of his polygraph examinations must be DENIED."


The dynamic evidence page

Coming soon: the law of evidence on Spindle Law