Sunday, May 30, 2004

Mea Culpa Time

There are those who, because of my strong beliefs and opinions, seem to think that I cannot admit when I have been wrong. And, given the passion with which I speak and write that is, I suppose, understandable. But today, I offer to you an apology for my prior support for the Iraq War.

Long time readers of this blog (all 3 of you) know that I was a strong supporter of the administration in its efforts to oust Saddam Hussein. And while I still believe that a credible case could be made for toppling his regime, I no longer believe that such a case was made by this administration. Rather than offering up substantiated and honest evidence for the War, this administration chose to build its case on fabrications, exaggerations, and out-right lies to the American public.

The administration chose to alienate the world community and to divert resources away from the threat of Al Qaeda in order to satisfy a PNAC fantasy about Middle East politics, fueled on by a son's desire for revenge. At every moment when presented with a choice between the advice of uniformed experts and civilian theorists, the administration chose the latter and replaced the former. As generals called for more troops in order to stabilize Iraq the arm chair generals poo-pooed their recommendations. Cheney, Wolfowitz and the other chicken-hawks turned a deaf ear to real military men like Powell, Shinseki and Zinni.

The actions and events after the "Mission Accomplished" photo-op have only shown how little these arm chair generals know about war and strategic planning. Instead of being greeted with rose petals, out soldiers were met with rpg's. One has to wonder whether there even was a post-war plan prior to sending troops into combat.

And this administration has attacked anyone who dares question the efficacy of Iraq policy as unpatriotic. If it is not the height of hypocrisy for Vietnam avoiding stooges to attack the patriotism of decorated combat veterans, then I do not know what is. A true patriot, someone who loves their country, is not cowed by authoritarian pressure from a putative messianic leader. It is the American Way to question power and to question authority. My ancestors did not fight the British, the South, and the Axis in order to create, maintain and protect a country whose citizens would march in lock step with a president who foolheadedly sent America into battle.

So, for my past support of this War, I do apologize. I was wrong. How unfortunate that our president and members of his administration, who have the blood of over 800 US soldiers and countless Iraqi citizens on their hands, do not seem to feel any remorse.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Artificial Intelligence

Here is what I am interested in right now- constructing many AI's with certain tendencies hard wired (so to speak) so as to represent a demographic sampling of voters. Then engaging the AI's with campaign like materials and current events in order to provide context. Ultimately holding a mock election among the AI's as a way to predict election outcomes. Or, from a campaign perspective, use the AI responses to prospective ads as a way to determine their impact. I would imagine that such a project would cost quite a bit more than running focus groups, but it still sounds interesting to me.

So, if anyone knows of someone doing this type of work (be it political or consumer-focused), please drop me a line or post a comment.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Money, Sex, and Happiness

Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study is a new paper from Blanchflower and Oswald that sets out to estimate the relationship between income, sex and happiness (as reported on GSS). It is certainly an interesting paper and rather easy to consume.

What stands out is that the happiness maximizing number of sexual partners for the previous year is one. This instantly makes one wonder if sex here is not a stand in for affection, companionship or some other love-relationship value. Though, the finding that married people have more sex than others might be driving a portion of the above finding. But to bolster the sex as representative of some other variable, I would offer up another of the paper's findings- people who have paid for sex report a lower happiness score than those who have not. Now, I have not seen data on this, but my suspicion is that those who pay for sex are likely not in a love-relationship or, if they are, that it is not a fulfilling one.

Overall, I think this is an interesting addition to the happiness literature. However, I have strong reservations about the relationship between sex and happiness and whether sex is, as noted above, merely a stand in for some other phenomenon not captured in the analysis.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Another GOP Senator Leaves the BushCo Reservation

First it was McCain and Hagel, then Lindsey Graham, and now Lugar is taking swipes at the President's inept foreign policy. Can anyone remember a time when Senators from a President's own party so openly questioned the wisdom of his war and foreign affairs policies, aside from Vietnam?

Are Zoos Ethical?

Prof Yin posts this interesting bit of news from the Detroit Zoo, who will no longer keep elephants in captivity due to the negative effects on the animal's health. Whether zoos should even exist is something I grapple with on a regular basis. The Saint Louis Zoo is literally around the corner from where I live and I tend to go there rather frequently. And while I have always loved animals and spent way too much time watching Nature, Animal Planet, National Geographic and Discovery, the zoo brings about mixed feelings for me.

On the plus side, zoos provide a place for people to come into contact, at least on a a visual level, with animals they would otherwise never observe. This is beneficial in building support for environmental policies focused on species preservation. It also provides what I think of as a spiritual benefit to zoo-goers in terms of communing with other species and helping humans to realize that we are not god's only creatures. Zoos also play a role is species preservation and animal rehabilitation, which is objectively good.

But does this role in species preservation let humans off the hook too easily, so to speak. Do we, or might we, rely on zoos and other forms of captive care to take the place of natural habitats and wild life for animals. Are we running the risk of a world where many of its species exist only in cages, mastered by humans. Given the level of modern ecosystem and habitat destruction, this does not seem all that implausible. Will it satisfy our collective conscience that we have somehow kept these animals alive in the zoo?

In addition, as noted in the article referenced above, captivity can have negative consequences for the animals. How might we feel if we were caged and put on display for other animals to see? While many of us may like to believe that our fellow members of the animal kingdom have neither emotions, nor our level of intelligence, it seems to me quite obvious and rational that animals can and do feel emotional pain. We might be tempted to satisfy ourselves by noting the relatively harsh conditions the wild presents for most species and how the zoo life is objectively less so. But does a life spent in a small enclosure with catering service really eclipse the plains or jungles of Africa or the rainforests of South America?

If zoos are not ethical or objectively good for the animals, then what do I, as an individual, owe to animals? I am not sure of the answers to any of these question. And each time I visit the zoo they form the basis of the argument/dialogue that is happening in my head.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Random Thoughts on P2004

Should John Kerry delay accepting the Democratic nomination until September 1, as noted here? There are certainly advantages to doing so, insofar that it would allow the Kerry campaign to continue spending its non-public dollars and to conserve the $75 million provided by the public funded general election system. Looking at it only from this angle it seems like a great idea.

However, there is a downside in that BushCo will try to portray this as another Kerry flip-flop. While anyone with half a brain would realize that ceding Bush five weeks of free spending between the Democratic and Republican nominations would be patently unfair, we must keep in mind that the average voter is not the brightest bulb. For example, the average voter still fails to realize that there have been no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, that the President's fiscal policies are bankrupting the nation, etc. This administration has managed to label any criticism of the President as unpatriotic. Never have so many been so blind since the days of Hitler.

And I know the Nazi/Hitler line tends to be overused. But really, there is no other regime that has been so successful in deluding so many people. The propaganda masters of the former Soviet regime would be jealous to see the efficacy of Team Bush. It is amazing what war does to the psyche of a nation and how that affects the populace's ability to think. Between Right Wing hate radio and Faux News, a whole segment of society eats up large slices of propaganda every day.

I admit that I used to think of the Far Left as overly shrill in their denunciations of Bush and Bush voters. But now, I can see they were dead on. How can someone with more than a room temperature IQ not realize that this moron and his cronies are ruining our country? It will take generations to rehabilitate America's standing in the world community; generations to stem the flow of red ink generated in three short years; generations to heal the rift sewn in the societal fabric made by appeals to people's base fears.

Four more years of BushCo would do even more damage to the United States. Damage that could herald its downfall as one of the world's great civilizations.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Where Have the Real Republicans All Gone?

Senator McCain shows again what is wrong with the GOP. I too remember when the Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets. It is not John McCain who has abandoned the GOP, but the BushCo. GoOPers who have abandoned principle.

Money quote: "I fondly remember a time when real Republicans stood for fiscal responsibility. Apparently those days are long gone for some in our party."

Irksome Internet

A lot has been written in the past several years about the 'net and its effect on politics and political dialogue. Blogs have become increasingly important tools for debate and discussion, and as a means for voter mobilization (cf. Dean for America). But what exactly are the net effects (apologies for the bad pun)?

More and more, as I travel around the blogosphere I see, by and large, the same sort of debates that are in the editorial pages and opinion journals printed on paper. That is to say, most sites are either Left or Right and their readers are of the same persuasion as the author(s), in general. What this tends to reinforce is the echo chamber effect and stifles critical inquiry. When a major news story breaks, I can visit Instapundit for the Right's take and DailyKos for the Left's.

But where does one find decent, rational policy analysis in the blogosphere? It is conspicuously absent. All that is there, in the mean, are the typical reactionary responses. So how is this any different than the Right spin I will get from The Wall Street Journal or the Left lean from The New York Times? Is political dialogue and discourse any better off for the internet and blogs? I am not sure that it is, if we use the metric of rational debate as the standard.

However, blogs undoubtedly do serve some purpose. They provide a sense of community for like minded individuals. Also, many blogs are informative and point their readers to other sites and news sources. Some blogs serve as daily briefing books, while others cover single issue areas in depth.

To me, blogs provide an opportunity to read other folks' opinions on issues of the day and to find other sources of information on matters that I care about. However, there is only so much blog reading I can do in a day before I become disenchanted with much of the pedestrian analysis and reliance on stale rhetoric that fails to reveal anything about the truth.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Glorious Day in the Bay State

Although I have said this a million times before, I have to say it again: this makes me so proud to be from Massachusetts. It has been too long in the making and too many people have lived and died as part of a long term committed relationship that society has refused to recognize. Hopefully, there is some way they can see this day and rejoice in knowing that society does move forward, however slowly.

To those bigots who would oppose equal rights in our society, I hope for you that god will judge you in a way much kinder than you have judged your fellow human.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Leftist Pipe Dreams

Brian Leiter seems to think that John Kerry should listen to Ralph Nader. Say what? For some reason the people on the left of the party still cannot come to grips with the notion that Al Gore lost (well, not really lost) in 2000 because he ran too far left. He lost Tennessee and Arkansas, both states he should have won handily. One does not lose moderate Southern states because one is too moderate or conservative.

Don't get me wrong. I like Prof. Leiter and his site is a valuable resource, but he is wrong, wrong, wrong this time. While an agenda of going after corporate crime and repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy are both good policies, the imposition of a living wage is decidedly not. And to claim, as does Nader, that a living wage would create thousands of good paying jobs is simply preposterous.

I would like to think that I do not need to go through the steps to show why this is a fallacy. Though I think that my liberal readers are not particularly well versed in economics. So let us think it through a bit.

Imagine that company X has Z employees who now make $A per hour. We then impose a living wage of $B. What happens to that business and its employees? Assuming that the firm is not a monopolist or part of an oligopoly, nor does it exist in a world of near perfect inelasticity of demand, there would have to be an impact on jobs.

Now, the pushback argument that some would make is that all firms in all sectors would be affected, thus no one firm would face this sort of choice. However, if we impose a new cost on firms, the price has to be paid somewhere. Whether it is in higher prices to consumers or lay-offs or requiring increased worker productivity does not matter. Each would have a negative impact on the economy. And as wages increased across the board, prices would follow and thus what was a living wage in 2004 might not be a living wage in 2005 as inflation escalates.

It's as simple as that. Some of the left would like to believe that you can just impose these sorts of costs (whether they are wages or regulations) without any societal cost. But that is simply not true. And, if you do not believe me, then take at least an intermediate economics class and then maybe you will get it.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Personal Stuff

To be perfectly honest, I do not have much to say right now, but felt that I owed the site a bit of an update. So, this one will be on a more personal level than the usual musclehead fare.

As noted below the semester, and my first year, is officially over. I am now in the midst of the journal writing competition. I am not feeling particularly motivated to get to work on it yet. That is at least in part to my uncertainty as to where I will be come August.

For the summer I will be splitting my time between research for a professor and working with the Juvenile Division of Family Court. My research focuses on shareholder voting rights in the realm of hostile take over bids, but also in the M&A context. I will also be re-examining the topography of stock ownership, a la Berle and Means, in order to think through the implications of greater shareholder voting rights. It'll deal with rational apathy, issues of efficiency (or the inefficiencies that now obtain because of poison pills and other maneuvers boards use to prevent takeovers), and motivating factors for large institutional investors.

Also on the summer agenda is the whole transfer process. Fun stuff that is! Unfortunately I have to wait until the middle of June for grades before I can finalize those plans.

The other big summer project is to migrate this site over to a different host and to install movable type. I needed something to keep me from getting too bored here in the Midwest!

That is all for now..

Thursday, May 06, 2004


And that, my friends, ends the 1L experience. (except for the pesky journal competition, but I am labelling that a pre-2L exercise)

This_feels_ GOOD.

Will be back to posting over the weekend.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Rape Statutes, Physical Resistance and Power

Regular readers (and friends) know that the crime of rape is something of particular interest to me, not only in its incidence, but what rape statutes say about our society and how we view sexual relations and as a reflection of the power distribution in society between men and women. It goes without mention that our society has not always treated women fairly or equally. We have, at various times in our history, denied women the right to vote, the right to own property and other privileges of citizenship. However, over time society has progressed and women now enjoy a significantly more equal position in society.

Yet some rape statutes are still reminiscent of an earlier time, though the general trend has been a progressive one. Among the progress made is the elimination of the marital exception to rape and a husband is no longer free to take sex from his wife if she does not consent. Also, the Model Penal Code eliminates the requirement of violent force as an element of the crime. States such as Pennsylvania and California have gone further and allowed for what might be called emotional force to be sufficient for a finding of liability.

Still, in this late day, nearly one-half of all states continue to require a victim to physically resist the intercourse. (MPC does not require physical resistance and saying "no" is sufficient to negative the defense of consent.) In these states, a woman who is being raped must do something more than withold her consent verbally; she must either fight back or do some other act indicating physical resistance. (There is a debate in the rape literature whether fighting back imperils the victim more.) The concern of those who support the physical resistance requirement is that, absent such a requirement, it is difficult to ascertain consent and that the defendant may have believed that the victim was engaging in a consensual act. However, is it really all that difficult to abide by the notion that "no" in fact means "NO"?

To put the burden on the victim to take some affirmative action to defend herself goes against every notion of justice. We do not require victims of other violent crimes to fight back or to resist, so why do we feel it proper to have such a requirement here? (The one common place we do see affirmative duties is in the area of self defense where someone who is acting in self defense is often required to flee or attempt to flee before using deadly force to protect himself. Clearly, this is not analogous to rape.) Can you imagine if victims of battery were required to fight back or else their batterer could assume consent.

The logic is so egregiously lacking as to point to only one potential reason for this situation- continued protection of male power and privilege. By requiring a victim to use physical force to resist her rapist, these statutes continue a long history in the American rape law of protecting male sexual predators. Because some men are too ignorant to understand the meaning of words such as "no" and "stop" some state legislatures enact statutes that place an affirmative burden on the victim of the crime. Thus the person has been victimized twice- once by her attacker and once by the legislature.

Head in the Sand Fun for the Whole Family

This is truly frightening to me. Up next, Flat Earth World.