Tag Archives: law

Fascism and capital punishment

Mussolini’s Secret Weapon: Castor Oil is an interesting sidelight on history. It includes something in particular for modern Americans to think about:

In the years from the March of Rome, 1922 to Italy’s foolish entry into WW2 10 June 1940 sixty five men were executed in Fascist Italy (there were also a dozen or so extra legal killings). In modern Texas (with a population over half the size of 1930s Italy) twenty to thirty individuals are executed a year.

Thomas Bayes and O.J. Simpson

After posting about The Prosecutor’s Fallacy I recalled a similar case with the Defense in the O.J. Simpson trial. The issue was summarized in What is your favorite problem for an introduction to probability?:

… one of Simpson’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, noted that even though Simpson beat
his wife, that hardly mattered, because in the United States, four million women are
battered every year by their male partners, yet only one in 2,500 is ultimately
murdered by her partner (1 in 1000), so, by the ‘reasonable doubt’ criterion, this is
irrelevant. The jury found that argument persuasive, but it’s spurious. The relevant
question was what percentage of all battered women who are murdered are killed by
their abusers, which ain’t 1 in 1000, but rather 9 in 10.

For a clear explanation of the details see Chances Are, by Steven Strogatz, which is reprinted in his excellent book, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity.

The Prosecutor’s Fallacy

Bayes’ Theorem … A Simple Example

Notation: Prob(A) means “the probability of event A” and Prob(A|B) is “the probability of event A, given that event B has happened.”

Bayes’ Theorem: Prob(A|B)xProb(B) = Prob(B|A)xProb(A)

Now, Prob(A|B) and Prob(B|A) are often confused by even the most intelligent of people. The confusion often appears in legal cases and is sometimes called the Prosecutor’s Fallacy. Bayes’ Theorem relates these two distinct conditional probabilities.

Followed by a straightforward example of why this really matters.

Florida Senate fails basic biology…

accidentally outlaws sex.

So if youre living in Florida on October 1, 2011 and would like to have sexual intercourse with a consenting adult, please check with your veterinarian or local livestock breeder first to make sure you abide by accepted animal husbandry practices, conformation judging practices, or accepted veterinary medical practices.

Via Skepchick.

US university settles religious discrimination case

At Physics World:

A settlement has been reached in a case brought against the University of Kentucky by astrophysicist Martin Gaskell over his claim that the university illegally denied him a staff position on the basis of his evangelical Christian faith. The settlement now requires the university to pay $125,000 to Gaskell and his lawyers, who claimed that the decision meant Gaskell lost income and caused him “emotional distress”. The university admits no wrongdoing in the case, which was due to go to trial on 8 February. Meanwhile, Gaskell has taken a job at Chile’s University of Valparaiso, which he will start in March.

Following up on the Gaskell affair.