....LMB: "Measure Twice, Cut Once"....

July 22, 2002

We all hear quite a bit about the current corporate firestorm underway here in the US. Luckily our government is stepping in to make new laws to protect America's most vulnerable, Financial Investors.

Some of these corporate shenanigans are related to another article I recently read about how California public schools are likewise cooking the books to look more impressive (or less appalling). Which will now cause me to put on my Social Scientist Ranting Hat.

The problem is mistaking your statistics for reality. For example, you can't look at a chart or table and find the number for "How Well Enron Is Doing," or "How Successful Is My Child's School." Instead, what you do see are a series of measurements, like "Third Quarter Revenues" or "Student Drop-Out Rate." Sometimes that one measurement is synonymous with the question, sometimes you look at a series of measurements and interpret an answer. "Hmm, Enron's revenues are up while they're costs are down, they must be doing well. And my daughter's school has a high drop-out rate and low per capita GPA, so it must be doing poorly."

But your measurements don't always answer the questions you thought they would. For example, when children are in school, we want them to learn. To find out if they are learning, we give them tests. Test scores are allegedly a measurement of How Well Children Are Learning. But in reality, test scores often really measure How Well Children Cram The Night Before the Test, How Well Children Guessed at Correct Answers, or How Well Children Copy Answers Off of the Smart Kid's Paper. If kids truly wanted to learn, tests might be a good measurement of how well they have learned their lessons. But most kids in school generally want to hang out with their friends, play sports and flirt. The only reason they care about grades is that their parents will get mad at them if they don't. Therefore many kids will simply try to figure out how to play the grade system to maintain decent grades while indulging in their favored pursuits.

Now we move to phase 2, where we look at the goals of the people making the measurements. Corporate CEOs make big dollars for keeping stock prices high. They do this by presenting investors with measurements that show that the company is not only successful, but is becoming more successful by the day. One way to provide these measurements is to improve the efficiency and income of the company. The other, simpler way is to use "creative accounting." Is it particularly suprising that the "fake numbers" option is fairly popular?

The calculation of personal profit has a way of muddling even the most straight-forward of mathematical formulas.

[Big Stray Bulletins article on the corporate corruption epidemic is on the way]

Posted by Jake at 01:42 AM
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Lying Media Bastards is both a radio show and website. The show airs Mondays 2-4pm PST on KillRadio.org, and couples excellent music with angry news commentary. And the website, well, you're looking at it.

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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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Mission: Mongolia

Jake's first attempt at homemade Mongolican barbecue:


What went right: correctly guessing several key seasonings- lemon, ginger, soy, garlic, chili.

What went wrong: still missing some ingredients, and possibly had one wrong, rice vinegar. Way too much lemon and chili.

Result: not entirely edible.

Plan for future: try to get people at Great Khan's restaurant to tell me what's in the damn sauce.

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