3 min read

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, June 25, 2023

Kerim’s Triptych for Sunday, June 25, 2023

Welcome to Kerim's Triptych, a free newsletter that delivers 3 items to your email inbox, 3 times a month. If you didn't intend to subscribe, or you don't want to receive these anymore, there is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. And, if you like it, please direct your friends to the signup page so they can get it too.

Item 1: A glimpse into the mind of Umar Khalid

Paraphrasing from his Wikipedia page, Umar Khalid is an Indian student activist who is currently in jail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) which allows the government to designate people as “terrorists” without any formal judicial process.

This beautifully made short three minute video by Darab Farooqui (with animation by Gitanjali Rao and Illustrations by KK Murlidharan) lets us glimpse into what motivates Umar Khalid in his struggle and what it means to be labeled a “terrorist” by the Indian state.

Item 2: A fallacy which never was

The idea behind the hot hand is simple. After shooting successfully several times, a player may get in the zone and become more assured and precise in his/her shots, leading to an even higher chance of success in later shot attempts.

Economists and psychologists delight in showing that common sense assumptions are actually the result of “cognitive biases.” Except that over time many of the original studies, have proven to be based on flawed methodology. In his newsletter, Optimally Irrational, Lionel Page (himself a behavioural economist) has set out to debunk some of the most famous of these debunking articles, starting with the idea that a “hot hand” in sports is simply an illusion.

It turns out that a famous 1985 paper by Gilovich, Vallone and Tversky was based on flawed methodology.

the test used by Gilovich, Vallone and Tversky was biased towards rejecting the hot hand. Whatever the actual probability of scoring after a streak of success, their test on a limited number of observations would give a smaller estimate than the actual probability. In particular, if players have a higher probability than average to score after a successful shot, the test they used may conclude that it is not the case. .

Someone reanalyzed the original data taking this into account, and found that it actually confirms, rather than rejects, the idea of a “hot hand”!

Item 3: Justice Thomas and His “Pixie”

Refusing to recuse oneself and then objecting, alone among nine justices, to the revelation of potentially incriminating documents regarding a coup in which a spouse is implicated is many things, and one of those things is romantic.

A lot has been written about Clarence Thomas, but this article makes it clear that the story isn’t complete if you ignore Ginni. Kerry Howley’s in-depth reporting on their marriage isn’t only good writing, it offers genuine insight into the kind of people they are and how their relationship is more than the sum of their two parts.

For instance, this is the section on how she helped him through the Anita Hill hearings:

It is hard to see how Clarence Thomas would have extricated himself from the fetal position without Ginni, who closed the blinds and put on Christian music and invited couples over to pray and called a neighbor to come over and give Clarence a haircut, which she did. He got up at one in the morning the night before the hearing and looked over his papers, suggestions on how to respond, and was, according to Ginni, “really confused.” She cleared the table for him. She turned on his computer. He wrote his speech on a notepad. She typed it up.

As they walked down the hallway to the Caucus Room, women standing against the walls clapped for him. They were from Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, there to bear him up.

“Who are they?” Clarence asked.

“They’re angels,” Ginni said.

Endnote

Triptych will always remain free, but my hosting costs are not. If even a handful of subscribers choose to upgrade to paid accounts (just $1 per issue, or less with a yearly plan) it will help cover my costs and also greatly encourage me to keep going with this. I'm happy to say that I got my first paid subscriber last week. Thank you!