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DUMB DECISION BY CANADIAN JUDGE Robert Sheridan FawCawnahs PS: It's possible to overdo credulity and it's possible to overdo cynicism.

The first are the people who will believe everything, and the second is the person who professes to believe nothing.

Each has his reasons. The professional cynic is mad at the system, mad at getting screwed, mad at one thing or another. His mind is no better than someone who believes everything said by one kind of person because of the category the person is in. People of one race, ethnicity, job calling, etc., are always better than lesser beings who don't belong to the favored group.

Either way we call it bias. Neither one is any good for judging conflicting facts. You'll rarely get a fair decision out of a biased person. I'll take a biased person if I believe it when he admits the bias but agrees to put it aside in judging a particular situation. Some people can do that, I guess. I'd regard as more honest a person who admits to a bias but agrees to work around it, than the person who denies any bias whatsoever. I grew up around enough bias to be sensitive to it. Most of us are blind to our biases, and it's too politically incorrect to admit it.

I find it easier to say, okay, I've got biases, how am I going to prevent it from leading me into fooling myself this time.

Good investigators protect against biases by running their work past neutral outsiders: supervisors, editors, colleagues not invested in the case, etc. It's why we have juries. Do you think we trust judges to try facts? Rarely. If a judge acquits someone, it's a near miracle. They get jaded, or worse, start out jaded.

A lot of people think they're pretty good at lie-detecting, looking at gestures, etc. Naturally there have been experiments to see whether they're really any good.

According to one study I read (Paul Ekman's, called "Lie Catching") police, DA's, and judges all thought they were good lie catchers. They were the sh*ts, as we used to say on StatNisland. They simply disbelieved everything on the theory everybody was always lying, except cops, DAs, and judges. They were often wrong. Some of the worst looking people were telling the truth. Some of the cleanest looking were lying their asses off.

The best lie catchers, it turned out from the tests, were Secret Service agents working presidential protection. Their job was to scan the faces of the people in the crowd when the president went out hand-shaking. They were looking for people who looked "wrong," under the circumstances. They became very good at it so long as they worked at it frequently. Once they became desk-bound supervisors, they got out of practice and their success rate in lie-catching fell off.

We all think we're all great lie-catchers: "Look, he blinked." Or swallowed, or crossed his legs. Horsesh*t. They're almost meaningless. You'll have to read the book if you want to know what counts, 'cause I don't feel like giving it away.

What doesn't count for diddly is how much confidence one has in his own opinion. It's like we all think we're good drivers, at least the men do. The more confident you are in your own rectitude, the likelier you are that you're fooling yourself.

I'm not casting any aspersions to anyone around here, mind you, but if the foo sh*ts, wear it.

A little more analysis and a little less knee-jerk would go a long way.


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