Scott Sommers challenges Wayne Allyn Root to a Cage Match

Dear Mr. Root.

My name is Scott Sommers. I am a real liberal. I would be happy to take up your

challenge to liberals for a cage match. If you’re really interested in a fight, just let me

know and I’ll meet you – any place, any time.

Scott Sommers.


Daring to Do the Unthinkable

I really dislike Steve Bannon. I don’t think he’s a really smart guy. The media has crafted this image of him. It is wrong. Or at least the media’s description is dumb. Because he has excelled at all those things your teachers told you you could do if you worked hard in school, he is labelled as “smart”. He’s as ‘smart’ as the the architects of the Third Reich were. He’s daring, as were the architects of the Third Reich. And that’s what he and Conway have in common. They are simply willing to do what no one else would dare.

A long time ago a good friend of mine talked about why no one in the USA has blown up Congress or the Senate. He stated that it wasn’t because they couldn’t do it, but because no one would think of doing it. That’s the difference between people like Bannon and Conway. They would think of destroying the government and the nation – and they are. They are simply willing to do that thing what no one would have dared doing, no matter how crazy and stupid it may seem.

What I Think about the Dunning & Kruger Effect

The Dunning & Kruger Effect (DKE) asks participants to assign numbers to their abilities or estimate a score they are likely to get, and then compares their estimate with the actual score. The effect is that the difference between the estimated and the actual score is larger for students who score poorly and very well than it is for mid-range scoring students. In the popular version of the effect, it is only mentioned that poorly scoring students have bad estimates of their actual scores. This is supposed to demonstrate that the worse you are, the less likely you are to realize how bad you really are.

There is no such thing as the Dunning & Kruger Effect. It is a statistical effect widely understood among researchers who use rating scales. It is simply not possible to make estimates with the accuracy demanded by the research. As a result, participants at extreme ends of the scale are less likely to be accurate. This is well-known among scientists who work with rating scales – that estimates at the extreme ends of the scale are less accurate. It’s called centrality and is considered a rater bias that occurs naturally. The verbal description of the DKE makes sense. I’d say it’s almost folklore among the educated. But the experimental demonstrations of it developed by K&D have little to do with this verbal description.

Let’s put it this way. We got 100 students and we give them a test. Their scores are distributed normally. Before the test, we ask them

1. What will your score be?

2. Will your score be in the bottom quarter, second quarter, third quarter or top quarter of the class?

3. Will your score be in the bottom third, second third, or the top third of the class?

4. Will your score be in the top half or the bottom half of the class?

5. Will you pass or fail?

In fact, students have no idea what their scores will be. It is rare that anyone can guess their actual score before they take the test, especially the very low scoring ones. Students who score say 20 or 30 on the test will give you an estimate for their score of 40 or 50. There seems to be a low estimate below which students do not estimate their scores as likely to be, no matter how badly they know they will do. But the thing is, they know they’re going to fail. They know they’re in the bottom of the class. The more accurately you ask them to estimate their score, the less correct they are. In my sample, students were 100% correct about whether they would pass or fail. Bad students know who they are. They just have trouble assigning numbers to their predictions. And a greater demand for accuracy makes this even more difficult.

There are many examples of social cognition that are widely cited outside of psychology, by economists and policy scientists and such, that are rarely or never mentioned in social psychology. KDE is one of them. Outside of Kruger, Dunning and their students no one in psychology does work on this. It is widely cited particularly by economists and business theorists.

For a more detailed description of the effect, have a look at this blog post

Also, this link will take you to a Google Scholar search for the DKE,5&q=dunning+kruger+effect

Many of these papers are free.

For more research on centrality, see the links listed here,

A lot of these papers are quite technical. An accessible paper to introduce the idea of centrality, why it is a natural problem in rating and what it means to measure it is,

Saal, F. E., Downey, R. G., & Lahey, M. A. (1980). Rating the ratings: Assessing the psychometric quality of rating data. Psychological Bulletin, 88, 413-428.

You should be able to download this for free from the Internet.

The Real Conspiracy in Ferguson, Missouri

I’m posting this up here so I can say, I told you so.

I have no reason to believe the demonstrations are violent. Some disturbed people are setting buildings on fire and shooting guns, but even they appear to be avoiding hurting other people. The only violence appears to be aimed at demonstrators. I bet, when this is all over, all the dead people will be black, and almost everyone who was injured will also be black.

Scott Talks to Anarchist Keith Preseton

This note refers to a comment left on a post by Keith Preston. His Facebook states he teaches sociology at John Tyler Community College – Midlothian Campus. His account on FB features pro-gun ownership symbols and other things usually associated with the extreme right-wing of American politics. His Facebook ‘friends’ include conspiracy theorist, Holocaust deniers, activists for the Ron Paul Revolution, and someone who identifies himself as a member of the “Confederate States Army”. Of the 4500 Facebook friends held by the dummy account I use to spy on conspiracy theorists, 510 of them are mutual friends with Keith.

Keith describes himself as an anarchist. He runs the blog, Attack the System. If I understand him correctly, Keith is seeking an anarchist synthesis of left and right wing. The reason for this is contained in his comment below.

I once accused Keith of harboring “a group of provincial homophobic White men” among his editors. He replied,

Well, our assortment of “provincial homophobic white men” includes among its leadership and contributors an African-American anarchist, an Arab-American, a native American, a gay gentleman who edits our queer affiliate site, a left-libertarian, a Hindu convert, a black Englishman, a Bangladeshi immigrant and others who don’t really fit the model you’re describing.

And while Keith would be technically correct, the “gay gentleman”, for example, identifies himself as a National Anarchist, which I will portray below as a largely anti-gay idea. So either this shows the great diversity being attracted to these ideas or that Keith has been able to surround himself with some very confused people. If you look at the crew he lists on this page
one of the immediately obvious points is the heavy representation of National Anarchy. If it wasn’t for people from National Anarchy, he’d have almost no one. In fact, many of the people not listing an affiliation are also involved in National Anarchy. In a very real way, the success of Attack the System is predicated on its ability to attract people associated with National Anarchy.

National anarchy? Now that’s a mouthful. What is NA? There’s a lot written about NA, including the Great Wiki
but basically, NA foresees a collapse of the current economic system and the emergence of autonomous village communities. It’s not necessarily right-wing, except its current adherents propose this could include communities that exclude different racial and ethnic groups. I haven’t read a lot about it but it seems to be tied to biological theories of human nature and a bunch of other quasi-scientific gobbly-gook about how current governments are evil because they make us do things we aren’t supposed to be doing. In a move that makes it look like NA is trying to be hip and trendy, some of their folk also support a free Tibet.

Prominent National Anarchist Troy Southgate, who appears on Keith’s website, believes that homosexuality is “unnatural” and hence will be excluded from this future of humanity.

Questionable aspects of Keith’s crew abound.
Michael Strasser is a Holocaust denier
Craig Fitzgerald is a member of the John Birch Society and a prominent name in the 9/11 conspiracy group We Are Change.
His wife is Jamie O’Hara.
Troy Southgate is a former member of the British National Front.
Michael C. is affiliated with the Confederacy apologist group the Southern Nationalist Network, although I have to admit, reading the group’s website made me aware of the idea that the South of the USA could be labeled a post-colonial society.

Anyway, here’s Keith’s comment,

I think our core documents, the statement of purpose, the 25 point program, and the podcasts have outlined the philosophy, analysis, strategy, and objectives of ARV-ATS as thoroughly and clearly as anyone could reasonably expect. The core idea we promote is attacking the state and state-allied institutions by decentralizing political and economic power down to the regional, municipal, village, neighborhood, and individual level to the greatest degree possible. Most of the rest of what we do is about strategy and tactics towards that objective.

And, yes, we try to promote this idea to as many different kinds of population or political groups as possible including the entire spectrum of opinion on other issues. That includes Randian businessmen and anarcho-syndicalists, middle America types and outlandish counterculturalists, far right racialists and inner city black street gangs, native American tribes and evangelical Christians, eco-terrorists and gun nuts, vegans and survivalists, et. al. ad nauseum. The majority of our senior editors and contributors including myself, Jeremy, RJ, Vince, and Miles are or have their roots on the Left.

This is a movement for anyone who advocates the radical decentralization of power, for whatever reason and regardless of what their views on other issues are. This is part of the necessary process of anti-state coalition building. I don’t know anything about your personal views, Scott, but our critics from the Left almost 100% percent of the time regurgitate the same basic point: They don’t want anything to do with us because we recognize that an effective anti-state movement must include everyone with grievances against the state and who regards themselves as having something to gain from the decentralization of power. Instead, leftists want to add on all sorts of litmus tests regarding other issues, particularly social and cultural issues like those involving the usual laundry list of Isms, Archies, and Phobias that leftists criticize. To that I say, no, that has the effect of weakening and dividing the broader anti-state movement. Plus, it allows for easier co-optation by the system. And it’s not necessary. There can be secondary organizations that address other issues outside the core struggle for decentralization.

I agree that there are certainly leftists who are exceptions, but as a general rule the contemporary left is more of a cultural movement than a political one. Almost to a person, what I have found is that leftists could not care less about overthrowing the system. Instead, what they’re concerned about is making sure no one ever expresses bigotry along taboo lines, promoting same-sex marriage and advancing the sexual revolution generally, therapeutic values (“my parents didn’t love me enough”) and essentially using politics as a form of group therapy, falling over themselves to the point of self-parody to show how inclusive or non-racist they are, lifestyle issues like vegetarianism, narrow self-interest issues like crying about student loan debts, etc. All of that is fine if that’s what they’re into but it’s hardly going to bring down the state. If anything, I’ve noticed these people often have a strong fear of political upheaval (“destabilization will bring fascism!!!”) and have in many ways become cautious conservatives. They regard the real enemy not as the state or even the corporate class but church-going Middle Americans or poor uneducated, rural white southerners. They don’t seem particularly concerned about even the police state so long as it stays out of their sex lives and lets them have all the abortions they want.

The general attitude I’ve gotten from leftists is “I don’t want anything to do with fighting the state if it means ever having to sit next to those icky un-PC folks!” which basically means anyone outside their own narrow subculture. What exactly are we supposed to do to appeal to people like that? And why should we even bother?

The Assassination of Sean Lien

The other day, a Taiwanese friend asked me what I thought about the 2010 shooting that almost took the life of Sean Lien (連勝文). At the time, it was suggested the event was staged to promote the KMT in a major election that was taking place the next day. My friend asked me about my opinion after learning about my interest in conspiracy theory and research involvement with critical groups of investigators that are often labeled ‘skeptics’. Anyone interested in reading my previous research on conspiracy theory, who can not find it on the Net, is invited to write me and I’ll send you a .pdf copy. Anyway, when he asked  me this, I was not really aware of the details or that Lien was back in the news, but I told him I’d do some work on this and form an opinion. This is my opinion.

Keep in mind that I am not a doctor or medical expert of any kind. I have no special knowledge of guns or gunshot wounds. These are just my thoughts after reading through a lot of the material I felt was related to the assassination attempt.

My feeling is that Sean Lien was really shot and really suffered a gunshot wound. From what I have seen, nothing appears unusual or questionable. As you will see, I am completely unimpressed with him as a person. But I see no reason to believe anything about the shooting was staged.

Who is Sean Lien?

Sean Lien is a well-known name in Taiwan. He is the son of former Taiwan vice-president and chairman of Taiwan’s Nationalist Party of China (KMT) Lien Chan. Lien is currently the KMT’s nomination for next month’s elections for Mayor of Taipei City. Locally, this is seen as significant because every democratically elected president of Taiwan has also been an elected Mayor of Taipei City.

Lien is a controversial figure. Other Mayors of Taipei City have been enormously accomplished men. All of them had huge reputations long before they became mayor. Lien, on the other hand, has hardly been noticeable. Reading his Wiki makes it clear that his accomplishments are largely linked to the enormous amounts of money his family is rumored to have acquired. And even though he has served as Chairman of the KMT, his position in the party is likewise linked to his father’s importance. Lien is frequently criticized for his expensive lifestyle and lack of understanding of the struggles of more ordinary people. The talk about him and his lack of real achievement makes his recent bid for Mayor seem more like the grasp for attention of a rich boy who’s not getting what he thinks he deserves. I’ve never seen him in real life, so I can only refer to his published photographs. But even these make him seem more like the stereotypical chubby, spoiled Chinese boy than a possible leader for a troubled nation.

While Lien has served as chairman of the KMT, he has no real demonstration of a commitment to public service. He has briefly held several public service positions, but almost all of his experience and education appears aimed at the business world. Why the sudden interest in politics and public service? It has been suggested by some observers that his brush with death during the assassination attempt gave him a new sense of mission. He doesn’t speak openly about this, but for a wealthy 44-year-old businessman to suddenly develop an interest in being Mayor of Taipei City, and perhaps even the ROC President, some understanding is needed that has not been forthcoming.

While these are only my impressions of Lien, they are important in interpreting the events of the shooting. Some attempts to color the shooting as a staged promotion for the KMT rely on comments given by Lien. Not surprisingly, his own comments put him at the center of things. What a surprise that is! But my guess is that he has trouble imaging a world in which he is not at the center of everything, and his reflections and testimony about what happened are, for the most part, irrelevant.

What Happened?

On November 26, 2010, Sean Lien was shot in the face while he was campaigning for a KMT candidate, Chen Hung-yuan (陳鴻源). Chen was running for city council in Yung Ho (永和). Apparently, the bullet entered Lien”s cheek and exited through his temple striking and killing another man. Initial English-language accounts of the shooting can be found here and here  and here. The gunman  Lin Cheng-wei (林正偉) nicknamed “Ma Mien (馬面),” or “Horse Face”, was apprehended without incident. Lin claimed that Chen Hung-yuan (not Lien) was the real target but that he had mistaken Lien for Chen because they are physically quite similar. Apparently, this is true. But Sean Lien claims that while he was being attacked, the gunman Lin called out his name before he shot him. Lin claimed he had intended to kill Chen because of personal issues he had with his work as a politician, or something like that. It’s not entirely clear in the English-language reports what Lin really said his reason was. The gunman, for his part, has apologized to Lien and the bystander who was killed.  Lien’s family of famous Taiwanese politicians and well-known rich people have not surprisingly never accepted the official explanation in which they are mere spectators of a crime that really had nothing to do with them.

Lin was sentenced to life in prison.

What’s the Conspiracy Theory?

It’s not entirely clear to me what the conspiracy theory is supposed to be about Sean Lien’s shooting. A typical conspiracy theory these days involves the claim that nothing really happened and the media is being used to invent the story. Such claims have been made about 9/11, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, and the Apollo Moon missions. This is usually followed by a lot of questions about what happened. No comprehensive alternative is offered or statements from people who were involved in the cover up. The idea appears to be that if there are a lot of questions that can still be raised about the media explanation, it must be a cover up of some sort.

In fact, the friend who prompted my investigation did express a similar opinion. Apparently, when Lien emerged from the hospital, he appeared relatively unmarked. My friend described him as having, “only a small band-aid on his cheek.” I believe this is the picture he was referring to. The shooting took place in front of thousands of people with journalists and cameras all over the place. This is a video of the actual shooting. I’ve been able to find some other pictures related to the shooting here and here. This set of photos is quite gruesome and readers are warned there’s a lot of blood. If you can read Chinese, the blog post is discussing some of the problems with the media and police explanation of the shooting. An interesting point from the video is that the man in the black jacket who subdued the shooter was identified as Liu Chen-nan (劉振南), who is allegedly a former boss of the Bamboo Union crime gang (竹聯幫). See this article where Lien thanks him for saving his life.

The major factual issues seem to be with unanswered questions surrounding the police and prosecutor investigations, and the continued number of questions that follow the case. Taiwan Society Secretary General Luo Chih-cheng (羅致政) criticized the poor investigation, while Eastern Taiwan Society President Hsu Wen-yi, said that the gun used in the shooting could not have been the gun identified by the police because such a gun would have been far more lethal. In an otherwise reasonable article, foreign journalist Jens Kastzner quotes a foreign dental surgeon, Dr. Carolin Wattenberg, that the public reports are completely consistent with her understanding of a gunshot wound to the cheek, but then finishes his article with a fear-mongering comment from Dr. Wattenburg implying something mysterious about Lien’s tongue and what happened to it during the shooting. Foreign blogger Michael Turton cites well-know foreign Internet personality Feiren about the suspicious role that crime gang leader Liu Chen-nan played in saving Lien. As Michael reasonably points out, if you’re going to stage a phoney shooting of a famous person, this isn’t what you would do. 

What I think about all this

As I’ve said above, I don’t see anything suspicious about the event. There were thousands of witnesses. Many of them were very close. There is TV footage of the incident, and apparently, many of the questionable people involved in the local politics of supporting Liu Chen-nan recognized Mr. Horse Face immediately. Sean Lien really looks like the man Horse Face said he was gunning for. It’s not like he shot Barrack Obama while claiming he was really gunning for Danny Divito.  But in addition to this, I have found that this kind of wound is surprisingly common and much less lethal than you’d except from sound of it.

I started working on this back on September 30. That day, I did a search on “shot in the cheek”, in quotation marks. I was surprised to find this got me more than 25 million hits. That’s right – twenty-five million. Being shot in the cheek is a surprisingly common kind of gunshot wound. Many of these hits were reporting on the same incident, but it was very easy to find accounts of people being shot in the cheek. One of the other amazing things about this is that it seems being shot in the cheek is just not as deadly as you’d imagine. My first impressions when thinking about this is that being shot in the cheek would tear your head off. Apparently, some people are really messed up, but a surprising number of victims shot in the cheek are not mortally injured and recover very quickly. Once again, I want to warn you, there are some pretty gruesome looking pictures here. If you look at all the links, you’re going to photos of small children who have been shot in the face. It’s horrible. But the point is that it’s not nearly as bad as you imagine.

This photo shows a 12-year-old girl who was shot in the cheek. The wound is 10 days old in this picture. The article states she was only hit by a bullet fragment, which might explain why the wound looks like it does.

In 2007, a 7-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the cheek during a New York gang shoot out. She was hit at close range by a bullet fired from a .45 caliber pistol. Despite that, this is a picture of her “a short time” later.

Last year, in New Jersey, an 8-year-old boy was shot in the cheek. I have no photos of him, but the article describes his injuries as “non-life threatening.”

In an accidental shooting, a 7-year-old shot an 8-year-old in the cheek. I presume this was at close range with a high quality weapon. The boy survived, once again with doctors describing the situation as “not in a life-threatening situation.”

Here’s another picture of a young child who got shot in the cheek.

I read many stories about people getting shot in the face. Some of them didn’t end as well as these ones did. But some of them were absolutely astounding in terms of what happened.

Back in 2012, a Florida woman was hit in the face by a stray bullet while she was driving home. She not only finished driving home, but only found out she had been shot the next day after she developed a severe pain in her jaw. Doctors removed a bullet that was still lodged in her jaw.

Perhaps the most telling, though, is the 3-year-old boy who was hit by a stray bullet from an assault rifle used in a nearby gang fight. The Chicago police described the weapon as a combat style assault rifle. I presume this means it’s something like an AK-47 or an AR-15. A 3-year-old getting hit in the head, even the cheek, with such a weapon? Why the force of the impact didn’t tear his head off, I can’t imagine. Initial pictures of him are pretty terrible. But within two weeks, he still looks bashed up, but he was talking, singing and eating. Take a look at this picture. The bandage only looks so big because his face and head are so little. If you watch the video at the bottom of the page, you’ll hear him speak. He sounds fine.

Was Sean Lien shot in the face? Really, I don’t know. But just because his head wasn’t torn off doesn’t mean he wasn’t really shot. As you can see, this appears to have happened almost a dozen times that I could find in a short net search. My conclusion from this is that being shot in the cheek is not necessarily lethal or even terrible. It can leave superficial wounds that heal quickly. The fear expressed above by Dr. Wattenburg of having your tongue shot does not seem to be a major problem. I’m not a doctor, but it does seem that a grown man shot in the cheek could be back in action very quickly.

So What about Sean Lien?

Sean Lien is still trying to become the Mayor of Taipei City. Personally, I can’t understand why anyone would vote for him. He has no record of achievement that anyone would care about. And that’s the least bad thing I can say about him. He is the lowest common denominator of the KMT. No one will vote for him because they see in him the leadership that Taipei and Taiwan needs, but only because they support the KMT and he is their candidate. But was he shot in the face? Sure. I see no reason at all to doubt that this happened. And while I am sure he was really shot, I’m not at all sure this is a better story for him than a conspiracy theory with the media and police to manufacture a shooting and create sympathy for the Party. After all, the story where he really was shot reads that while he was standing on a stage with major crime leaders who are known to the police, another well-known crime figure almost killed him by accident. And that’s the best that can be said about him.

Steve Phillion Speaks at Jerome Keating’s Breakfast Club

Next meeting of Jerome Keating’s Breakfast Club is this coming Saturday, July 13, at 10 am.

Speaker, Stephen Pilion Ph.D. of St Cloud State Univ.

Topic: “Have you wondered what is going on with Labor Activism on either side of the Taiwan Strait?”

Are things happening and if so what?

Stephen Philion
Professor of Sociology
Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
St. Cloud State University

Director, SCSU Research Group on Immigrant Workers in Minnesota

Venue: is the same as it has traditionally been. Time is 10 am.
The meeting location is the restaurant 婷婷翠玉 at 174 AnHe Road, Section Two. (rough translation of name is Tender, Pretty Green Jade.) You will be able to tell the restaurant by the lace curtains on the window–it was used in a TV commercial a while back. (We will have the downstairs room–breakfast cost will range between NT$100 and NT$150. Everyone buys their own)

Restaurant is between Far Eastern Plaza Mall/Hotel and HePing East Road–about a half a block north of the corner of HePing East Road Sec. 3 and AnHe Road. or a half a block south of Far Eastern Plaza on the AnHe Road side.

Take the MRT Mucha (Brown) Line to the Liuchangli Station exit there, and walk west on HePing East Road 3/4 of a block till you reach where AnHe Road dead-ends into it.Then go north on AnHe Road; it is a half a block up on the west side of that street.

Or take any bus down HePing East Road and get off at the first stop that is east of Tun Hua South Road. That will put you at the corner of HePing and AnHe.
You can also take a bus down Tun Hua South Road to the stop right across from Far Eastern Plaza and walk over to AnHe Road.

Or if you take the 235 bus east, it turns off of HePing onto AnHe Road and the first stop is right across from the restaurant.