Category Archives: Psychology

Gang Holds Top RPG Gamer at Gunpoint

Folha Online reports that using Orkut, Google’s online social network, an armed gang of four 19-27 year old- kidnapped the world-leading Role-Playing Gamer of the game GunBound (boy plays violent video game; others become The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.violent; psychologists, have at it). One of the gang members’ girlfriends lured the gamer onto a fake date at a shopping mall via the network. The gamer showed for the date but the girl didn’t. Her boyfriend appeared in her place (“Wha! Your voice didn’t sound so low on the phone…”), the gamer was kidnapped and held in Sao Paulo, with a gun held to his head for five hours.

The gang’s goal? To obtain the gamer’s password, which the gang planned to sell for $8,000. The game, however, didn’t give up the information. The gang, naturally, then let the victim go.

And go he did, straight to the police–Brazilian police saved the rest of the day, picking up the four Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Law, Gaming, Humor, International, Psychology

Terrorism and the Effectiveness Thereof

The last terrorist attack in the United States occurred on 11 September 2001. Thus, we are approaching six years without an attack. The dearth of attacks on civilians in the United States may be the result of al-Qaida embracing the results of a recent study by Max Abrahms, wherein he concludes that groups that primarily attack civilian targets fail.

“This suggests not only that terrorism is an ineffective instrument of coercion, but that its poor success rate is inherent to the tactic of terrorism itself.”

Mr. Abrahms suggests that the effects of correspondent-inference theory explain why nations are so loath to acquiesce to the demands of terrorist. Correspondent-inference theory seeks to explain the cognitive process used by an observer to infer the motives of an actor. For example, it we see a person act in a rude manner we conclude that she is an unpleasant person, not that she acted in a rude manner but is otherwise a good person.

When terrorist groups attack civilians, nations infer that the goal of the terrorist is annihilation of the nation, its citizens, and way of life. This is illustrated in the study by looking at Russia’s response to the 1999 apartment bombings, the reaction of the United States to 9/11, and Israel’s response to the first intifada. In sum, these nations ignored the stated goals of the terrorist and inferred that the groups intended to destroy them. With this inferred intent, nations are highly unlikely to accede to any demands made by terrorists. Thus the success rate of terrorist hovering at a paltry 7%.

It may be overly optimistic to assume that al-Qaida has forsaken terrorists attacks against civilian targets in order to further its goals. The attacks in the United Kingdom suggest that al-Qaida still views attacking civilian targets as a useful tool. Yet, the United States has not been attacked.



Filed under Psychology

Keeping “rape” out of the courtroom.

In yesterday’s Slate, Dahlia Lithwick reports on a Nebraska judge’s decision to ban the words “rape,” “sexual assault,” “victim,” and “assailant” among others from, well, a sexual assault case. The decision was made because, supposedly, the use of the terms was biased against the defendant. A retaliatory prosecutorial motion to ban the words “sex” and “intercourse” was denied. So those are the only words available to describe the allegedly criminal act, which one can imagine would lead to probing questions such as “did you have ‘sex’ with this woman or did you have ‘sex’ with her?” Ms. Lithwick points out that if calling an act “rape” is prejudicial against the defendant, calling it “sex” is probably prejudicial against the prosecution. In this vein, I propose that the words “plaintiff” and “defendant” be stricken from the courtroom, as they connote aggression and passivity. Instead, the two parties should be referred to as “Party 1″ and “Party 2,” with the numbers determined randomly beforehand to prevent bias, or, if that be objectionable, “Tweedledum” and “Tweedledee.”

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Filed under Appellate Law, Criminal Law, Law, Psychology

Ordnance Review: Fabulous

This past Friday, June 8th, 2007, the Pentagon finally fessed up: indeed, reports were true that it had considered developing a “Gay-Bomb.” Records obtained by the group Berkeley’s Sunshine Project, confirmed that the Air Force had considered developing, but ultimately rejected pursuing, a non-lethal weapon that contained a strong aphrodisiac, which would cause enemy soldiers to become more interested in each other than fighting the enemy.

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Roleplaying (Video?) Games Lead America’s Children Directly to Satan

Or so people used to say back in the day… dating myself here, but that means the ’70s and ’80s. Well, Cyber Moon Studios has a hilarious animated recreation of exactly what it was like for young roleplayers in the day. I was the GM in almost all of these sessions, and let me just say, this might even be taken from secret recordings from our own sessions–hits too close to home. (But now we’re all grown up. Riiiiiight.)

If it’s not spot-on accurate and in your case Satan actually appeared in your gatherings, well, perhaps I just missed out on the fun. Here’s the link.

On a more serious note, I think there’s a similar movement (to the wacko anti-D&D movement that sent some parents into a foaming-at-the-mouth frenzy) going on currently in New York, where both the Senate and Assembly have passed bills that make it a Class E felony (3-4 years in prison) to sell or distribute “violent and indecent video games to minors.” The law is not yet Continue reading

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Filed under Appellate Law, Culture, Gaming, Humor, Law, Personal, Psychology, Xbox 360

The Music Man

Last week Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, one of my favorite columnists, wrote about a little experiment he conducted in D.C. He managed to convince Joshua Bell, one of the most celebrated American violinists, to play for quarters in the D.C. Metro. For 45 minutes, dressed in jeans and a ballcap, Bell played some of the greatest Classical music of all time.

Weingarten wanted to see what the reaction of commuters was. He had no preconceived notions. In the end, almost nobody stopped to hear Bell play. Out of thousands, only eight took even a moment of their time to stop and listen to his music.

Weingarten did not intend this to be an indictment of Washingtonians, although he felt the result said something sorrowful about the human condition. Mail poured in. Many were defensive, others replied that they had had a strong emotional response to the piece. I fall into the latter category, and I felt I should write a little about it.

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Personal, Psychology

IslamTube: Snipers and Destruction

Now this is interesting. Everybody knows YouTube, but who knows IslamTube?

Allow me to take a step back to our own majority religion. Yes, there’s also GodTube (catchphrase: “Broadcast Him.”). Looks like the top videos include titles such as “Lyrical,” “Heart for the Lost,” “Baby Got Bible,” and “Creation Short Film.” I nearly forgot “Easter Bunny vs. Pastor Al: Is Easter a Holy Day or a Holiday? You Decide.”

Right, but IslamTube is something completely different. Check out the top-viewed videos and… well, you’ve got, among the top five, “Sheikh Osama ibn Laden” (you can guess the topic,” and “Iraqi Sniper” (ditto). There’s a video mocking President Bush, and a few farther down, “Jihad in Iraq: Destruction.”

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Filed under Culture, Islam, Personal, Psychology, Religion

Americans don’t eat the right foods: Well, duh! Look at all the fat people! Get back to Plato’s advice.

Center for Disease Control reports that Americans still don’t eat right:

March 15, 2007 — Fewer than a third of U.S. adults eat enough fruits and vegetables, according to the CDC.From coast to coast, no state (or Washington, D.C.) meets the CDC’s goals for adult fruit and vegetable consumption.People should eat at least five daily servings — two or more servings of fruit, and three or more servings of vegetables — as part of a balanced diet, says the CDC.But today the agency reported that in 2005, fewer than 33% of U.S. adults reported eating at least two daily servings of fruit and barely 27% claimed to eat three or more daily servings of vegetables.

Americans Skimping on Fruits, Veggies

As I’ll evangelize ad nauseam, we need to eat more like the Japanese: lots of vegetables, and a good amount of protein in the form of poultry, fish, and tofu/beans, and pull far, far back on the red meat and fats.

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Filed under Culture, Health, Personal, Psychology, Science

Male Victims of Sexual Harassment on the Rise!

Yahoo! HotJobs is reporting an increase in male-on-male sexual harassment:

[A] record percentage of men reported being harassed by male colleagues last year, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.Cases filed by men made up 15.4 percent of the 12,025 sexual harassment charges in fiscal year 2006, compared to 14.3 percent in 2005 and 11.6 percent a decade ago, according to the EEOC

Workplace Prof Blog: Sexual Harassment of Men on the Rise

An increase in nearly 4% in 10 years. That’s no small feat — and I bet the perpetrators are bragging about their own big feet.

I guess the moral of the story is, given Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps General Peter Pace’s recent comments about homosexuals in the military, the only place you’ll be relatively “safe” from male-on-male sexual harassment is in the U.S. military. Join up. (Or, just deal with it, as women always have.)

As for me?  Harassment has no place in the workplace (or anywhere).  As for the other hubbub, I read Skeptic on occasion, have relatives who are gay, and like to think that the Enlightenment still counts for something.  But reasonable minds differ, and, as appellate judges like to say, where reasonable minds differ, then to adopt any of those reasonable positions is not an abuse of discretion.


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Borat, Cheese, and the Extraordinarily Patient Supermarket Worker

Borat Investigates Cheese

This has got to reveal a fundamental defect in my sense of humor, but although I enjoyed the Borat movie, I found myself rolling on the floor with this clip. In one of the deleted scenes, Borat enters a supermarket and asks to be shown the store’s cheese. The store worker/manager goes on to confirm that the packages are cheese–and Borat asks for confirmation on lots of packages of cheese. Then he moves on to butter.

Just wait and see exactly how long the worker agrees to answer Borat’s inane questions. It’s unbelievable.


  • UPDATE: Due to copyright claims, this video is no longer accessible. If it returns legally, I’ll be sure to make a link available.
  • UPDATE: 23 Mar 07, it’s inexplicably back…
  • UPDATE: 25 Mar 07, nope, it’s gone.  Clearly this is a copyright issue, and any posts you find are, well, illicit.  So I’m not searching out links any more to post here, and I just suggest that you add Borat to your Netflix or Blockbuster Online account queues.  It’s a great scene, and the movie ain’t too bad either.

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Filed under Culture, Humor, Movies, Psychology

Celtic/American Indian US Soldier Walks Through Walls!

YouTube – Project Camelot interviews Duncan O’Finioan

Yup, check this out.

This quality interview of Duncan O’Finion from “Project Camelot” is really a step above your usual local access programming, in that this dude has what appears to be an entire foundation backing him.  I’d wager that Snopes and the Skeptics Society probably won’t even waste their breath on him.

Tune in to the interview to find out more. As “Project Camelot” claims:

Duncan O’Finioan was the Ultimate Warrior… brainwashed, conditioned and controlled as part of a highly classified MKULTRA program called PROJECT TALENT. From a thousand others trained as child warriors in 1966, he is now, he believes, only one of 20 left alive to tell the story

Among his claimed abilities: the power to “hurl someone across the room with his mind, and walk through a solid wall.” I’m concerned he spent more time in an altered mental state than training with his M-16 during his time in service.



Filed under Culture, Humor, Psychology, Science

US Schools’ unhealthy cuisine better than Mom and Dad’s menu?

The nation’s schools — under fire for unhealthy school lunches, well-stocked vending machines and phys-ed cuts — may actually do a better job than parents in keeping children fit and trim. A study found that 5- and 6-year-olds gained more weight over the summer than during the school year, casting doubt on the assumption that kids are more active during summer vacation.

Kids gain more weight when school’s out – Kids & Parenting –

This is frightening. I try my best to put good, healthy food in front of my fmily. I often stick to the South Beach cookbooks because they’re really not even dieting books so much as just healthy menus. But aware as I am of the sorry state of menus for elementary and high school children, I’m disheartened to know that American parents can’t do better.

But I’m not surprised. I work long hours, but still force myself to exercise an hour a day, 5 times a week. I’m in good shape for my age. But when I go on vacation, when I have more than a few moments to notice the passersby strolling around, I’m always amazed how few fit Americans there are in “real” America (by which I mean your average Joes and Janes–and not the nightclub crowd). Kids imitate us, so it’s not surprising that children are just as lazy as their parents. And don’t kid yourself–it is plain old laziness for the majority of us who could get up 30 minutes earlier, or stay up 30 minutes later, to work in that jog around the block, bike, pushups, situps, etc.

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Filed under Culture, Health, Personal, Psychology, Science

Women and the Workplace: Jugde Posner says that women who just want to stay home, probably shouldn’t be taking up the high-demand spots

Elite Universities and Women’s Careers–PosnerAn article in the New York Times of September 20 by Louise Story, entitled “Many Women at Elite Colleges Set Career Path to Motherhood,” reports the results of surveys and interviews concerning career plans of women at the nation’s most prestigious colleges, law schools, and business schools. Although not rigorously empirical, the article confirms . . .that a vastly higher percentage of female than of male students will drop out of the work force to take care of their children. . .One survey of Yale alumni found that 90 percent of the male alumni in their 40s were still working, but only 56 percent of the female . . .

But it is at this point that policy questions arise. Even at the current very high tuition rates, there is excess demand for places at the elite colleges and professional schools, as shown by the high ratio of applications to acceptances at those schools. Demand is excess–supply and demand are not in balance–because the colleges and professional schools do not raise tuition to the market-clearing level but instead ration places in their entering classes on the basis (largely) of ability, as proxied by grades, performance on standardized tests, and extracurricular activities. Since women do as well on these measures as men, the student body of an elite educational institution is usually about 50 percent female . . .While well-educated mothers contribute more to the human capital of their offspring than mothers who are not well educated, it is doubtful that a woman who graduates from Harvard College and goes on to get a law degree from Yale will be a better mother than one who stopped after graduating from Harvard . . .The principal effect of professional education of women who are not going to have full working careers is to reduce the contribution of professional schools to the output of professional services. . .Although women continue to complain about discrimination, sometimes quite justly, the gender-neutral policies that govern admission to the elite professional schools illustrate discrimination in favor of women. Were admission to such schools based on a prediction of the social value of the education offered, fewer women would be admitted.

The Becker-Posner Blog: Elite Universities and Women’s Careers–Posner

This becomes that much more interesting when you read about Adrienne, the Boston College Law School law student, whose greatest aspirations and “dream job are being a housewife and a stay at home mom.”  If you agree and/or think she’s unfairly taking up a valuable spot at Boston College (your spot?), then, well, she does say she’s going to put her degree to “good use.”

The floodgates Judge Posner’s argument opens, of course, are monumental and could have held back Katrina.  Luckily, most contrarians won’t read his argument.  I say “luckily,” because the knee-jerk accusations of sexism would be just too much for me to bear at this hour.  I’m still getting over the flu, after all.  Meanwhile, the wife (also an educated lady) sleeps and I go to join her so we can both make the trek to our professional lives early tomorrow morning.


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Sex Offender License Plates?

I tend to agree with the following posting.  As much as I care deeply about knowing just who on my block is a threat to kids, I care much more immediately whether the bloke (or dame) ahead of me or tailgating me is an inveterate drunk with a right foot that has absolutely no sense of discretion:

Ohio has a new bill to require the worst sex offenders “to drive cars with a special license plate denoting their offense.” As this article details, the parents of a child victim are pushing the bill and have big aspirations: “‘We want this to go national,’ Mark Jackson said. ‘They’re not just in Ohio, they’re everywhere.'” As share Jeralyn’s instinct that this is “just another shaming punishment and one that will have no effect on the number of sex offenses.” Moreover, I would hope that any license pate scheme would start with drunk driving before sex offenses. Though I have not seen any detailed studies, my gut tells me that a drunk-diving license plate system could be much more effective in the promotion of public safety than a sex-offender license plate system.

Sentencing Law and Policy: How’s my (sex) driving?

Make the sex offender residence and photo information available on the internet–as it is for many, if not all states (I believe it’s pursuant to federal law that the states make this available).  I can logon to Google or an official state website and pull-up photos of the men (usually men, as the facts show) who are a danger to kids, and keep an eye on them — or avoid moving anywhere in their vicinity.  But by god, tell me whether the idiot 3 feet from my rear bumper is so likely to be a recidivist drunk that won’t be able to stop — not whether he’s a public danger that I need to follow home and maul keep an eye on.  The days are too short for me to take up that challenge.


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Diminished Sense of Moral Outrage???

Here’s why I don’t have time for psychobabble. Case in point, a new study appearing in “Psychological Science”:

People who see the world as essentially fair can just maintain this perception through a diminished sense of moral outrage, according to a study by researchers in New York University’s Department of Psychology. The findings appear in the March issue of the journal Psychological Science, which is published by the Association for Psychological Science.

. . . [I]n order to maintain their perceptions of the world as just, people resist changes that would increase the overall amount of fairness and equality in the system. Instead, they often engage in cognitive adjustments that preserve a distorted image of reality in which existing institutions are seen as more equitable and just than they are. The NYU research sought to explain how individuals make these cognitive adjustments in maintaining their world view, despite evidence of ongoing social and economic inequality. In the first part of the study–an experiment involving a series of questions and scenarios–the researchers found that the more people endorsed anti-egalitarian beliefs, the less guilt and moral outrage they felt. The reduction in moral outrage (but not guilt) led them to show decreased support for helping the disadvantaged and redistributing resources. . . NYU graduate student Cheryl J. Wakslak, the study’s lead author [said] “These results show that people who see the world as essentially fair and just can maintain this perspective if their sense of moral outrage is diminished.”

ScienceDaily: Diminished Sense Of Moral Outrage Key To Holding View That World Is Fair And Just, Study Shows

No, really! They’re saying that if people endorse “anti-egalitarian beliefs,” they’re less likely to be offended by lack of equality in distribution of resources and money? Amazing. Are these grad students receiving taxpayer funds? ‘Cause I’m sure hoping that MY funds aren’t helping them make these absurd tautological conclusions.

Nothing against psychologists or psychiatrists, because they serve an extremely valuable function in society. But studies that conclude the obvious are just a little too, oh, shall we say, edgy and risk-taking for me.

Let me guess. Ann Coulter must have NO sense of moral outrage, because she’s a died-in-the-wool conservative who strongly believes in redistribution of society’s wealth… R-i-i-i-i-ight . . . What’s really happening here: psychology grad students who aren’t canny enough to analyze their own a prioris before starting their research. Ask any good appellate lawyer: lay out your assumptions first–lay all your cards on the table–because those are the first weak points you’ll be hit on.

Lime out.

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