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September 30, 2004

Overhead Projectors and 20-Minute Technical Presentations

I listened to three 20-minute student presentations of economic research recently, and noticed something all three had in common: Each would have been better if the overhead projector had been destroyed and the student had just written on the blackboard instead.

The problem was that the speakers threw up numerous detailed slides that were too complicated to have any meaning to the audience. and without putting the notation on the board. Having to write things down would have slowed them down enough that the audience could have followed them. Also, the mathematical notation could have been up on the board for the audience to see, and they could have studied equations for more than the few seconds they are up on a screen.

It's interesting that for a short talk overhead slides are such a trap for the novice speaker. For the experienced speaker, overheads are all the more important if a talk is short, because he can save time otherwise spent writing on the board. The experienced speaker does not need the discipline of being limited to just a few equations by his writing speed.

I should note, too, that this problem is not limited to theory papers. Empirical papers are subject to it too, because the student is tempted to post too many numbers, showing too many of his different specifications. In twenty minutes, one regression equation is plenty! (combined, of course, with detailed discussion of its meaning)

Posted by erasmuse at 11:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2004

Roman Catholic Encyclicals on Church and State

At the end of my post, "The Just Wage-- A Christian Approach to the Market" I wrote,

It is worth keeping in mind that Rerum Novarum comes from the era in which the Roman Catholic Church was uncomfortable not just with free markets but with other modern things such as secular governments and elected governments . See my old post ofAugust 2003 , which I ought to update some day (it doesn't talk about elections vs. monarchies, on which seeIMMORTALE DEI (1885), just about whether church and state should be separate). Anyone citing papal encyclicals of that era in support of government regulation had better be ready to support other encyclicals less appealing to the modern mind.

Those old papal encyclicals on politics are actually worth looking at. ....

...For one thing, they show why voters used to be apprehensive about having a Roman Catholic as President, back in 1928 with Al Smith or 1960 with John Kennedy. It wasn't mere prejudice; it was the fear that Smith or Kennedy might actually take Church doctrine seriously and consider it their duty to use the power of government to suppress other denominations and religions. This was a bit of a joke even in Kennedy's time, and certainly nobody worries about Kerry doing that.

For another, it is worth taking the old Catholic ideas seriously. They are heresy in our modern American tradition (though not for Puritans), but they are ideas we moderns need to consider and refute. In particular, I find the last document I quote-- the 1885 Immortale Dei-- well written and challenging. These ideas are, in fact, similar to what Islamists believe now, and if we can understand Pius IX we will be better able to understand Bin Laden. I do not mean this at all pejoratively; though Bin Laden's methods are evil, his idea of a reformed and worldwide Islam rule is not ridiculous in theory, no more than Pius's ideal of a worldwide Roman Catholic rule, and both are as likely (or unlikely) to be attained by peaceful persuasion as by violence.

Anyway, here are some selections from old Popes. The Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX (1864) condemned a large number of propositions, some political, including

55. The Church ought to be separated from the State , and the State from the Church.-- Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852.

...

77. In the present day it is no longer expedient that the Catholic religion should be held as the only religion of the State, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship .--Allocution "Nemo vestrum," July 26, 1855.

78. Hence it has been wisely decided by law, in some Catholic countries, that persons coming to reside therein shall enjoy the public exercise of their own peculiar worship. --Allocution "Acerbissimum," Sept. 27, 1852.

The encyclical QUANTA CURA (Condemning Current Errors) (1864) says:

And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that "that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require. " From which totally false idea of social government they do not fear to foster that erroneous opinion, most fatal in its effects on the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, called by Our Predecessor, Gregory XVI, an "insanity," viz., that "liberty of conscience and worship is each man's personal right , which ought to be legally proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society; and that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way."

IMMORTALE DEI (1885) says

18. In political affairs, and all matters civil, the laws aim at securing the common good, and are not framed according to the delusive caprices and opinions of the mass of the people, but by truth and by justice; the ruling powers are invested with a sacredness more than human, and are withheld from deviating from the path of duty, and from overstepping the bounds of rightful authority; and the obedience is not the servitude of man to man, but submission to the will of God, exercising His sovereignty through the medium of men. Now, this being recognized as undeniable, it is felt that the high office of rulers should be held in respect; that public authority should be constantly and faithfully obeyed; that no act of sedition should be committed; and that the civic order of the commonwealth should be maintained as sacred.

23. But that harmful and deplorable passion for innovation which was aroused in the sixteenth century threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountain- head, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license which, in the midst of the terrible upheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new conception of law which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even the natural law.

24. Amongst these principles the main one lays down that as all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people, being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler. It does choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name.

25. The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society ; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God. Moreover. it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favor; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.

26. And it is a part of this theory that all questions that concern religion are to be referred to private judgment; that every one is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at all if he disapprove of all. From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judgment of each one's conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that every one has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.

...

31. The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude; which is doubtless a doctrine exceedingly well calculated to flatter and to inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of insuring public safety and preserving order. Indeed, from the prevalence of this teaching, things have come to such a pass that may hold as an axiom of civil jurisprudence that seditions may be rightfully fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people; whence it necessarily follows that all things are as changeable as the will of the people, so that risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads.

...

By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contains anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State. Neither is it blameworthy in itself, in any manner, for the people to have a share greater or less, in the government: for at certain times, and under certain laws, such participation may not only be of benefit to the citizens, but may even be of obligation.

Note that Immortale Dei, despite its stinging criticism of the idea of popular rule, does allow that elected governments are not bad per se. Rather, it is an attack on the notion that if the people want something, they should get what they want, a notion which even the modern liberal has abandoned (in favor of a liberal Supreme Court blocking the popular will). The constructive part of the argument goes logically from the premise that God cares about human society to say that if we care what God wants then we will want a polity that reflects His desires. Then follows what I think is the weakest step-- that God wants a polity which suppresses bad religous teaching.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Merging My Two Weblogs

My thought when I split up my weblogs was that I could better keep track of categories. Now, I've decided it was a bad idea. So until further notice, anything new, whether on politics or other subjects, will be at what I used to call the Not-Politics site,

http://www.rasmusen.org/x/

Posted by erasmuse at 01:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Merging My Two Weblogs

My thought when I split up my weblogs was that I could better keep track of categories. Now, I've decided it was a bad idea. So until further notice, anything new, whether on politics or other subjects, will be here at the website you're at now, formerly the Not-Politics site.

Posted by erasmuse at 01:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Two words: Aporia and Facticity

Here are two new words I've come across. Both of these look like they might be useful, if I could remember them and if anybody else knew what they meant.

APORIA A*po"ri*a [L., doubt, Gr. , fr. without passage, at a loss; priv. + passage.] A figure in which the speaker professes to be at a loss what course to pursue, where to begin to end, what to say, etc.

FACTICITY fac·tic·i·ty
Pronunciation: fak-'ti-s&-tE
Etymology: French or German; French facticité, from German Faktizität, from
Factum fact, from Latin factum
: the quality or state of being a fact

Posted by erasmuse at 01:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2004

Marijuana: Enforcement Costs and Illegality

In an earlier post, "Why Marijuana Should Be Illegal," I argued that marijuana should be illegal even if it is a neutral activity, like watching bad TV shows, because neutral activities displace good activities. In that post, I explicitly put aside considerations of the cost of enforcement, noting that they could reverse the conclusion. But on reflection, I think I was wrong to say that. If we have decided that marijuana should be illegal, putting aside enforcement costs, then high enforcement costs would not reverse the conclusion.

The reason is simple: just because we make something illegal doesn't mean we need to enforce the law. To be sure, our current marijuana laws, though by no means vigorously enforced, are costly-- we do devote police time to tracking down major growers and dealers, even though I doubt police are spending any time tracking down users (as opposed, perhaps, to arresting them if they smoke in front of a policeman who is passing by for other reasons). But we wouldn't have to. We could limit ourselves to going after marijuana fields that the policeman happens to see while patrolling, and going only after dealers who advertise on national TV. The degree of enforcement is an important policy question-- an issue where the advocates of marijuana have largely won-- but it is separable from the legality issue. Minimal enforcement is close to costless (it could even be profitable, with fines and seizures); tight enforcement would probably be more costly than the current lax enforcement.

It's not obvious to me, though, that tight enforcement would be more costly to non-criminals than the current lax enforcement. Currently we investigate, prosecute, and punish dealers. This is expensive because enough profit is at stake for them to hide their activities carefully, to be dangerous to the police, and to hire talented lawyers, and we punish them with prison time, which is expensive. Users are more numerous, but each is cheaper.

The idea that illegality and enforcement levels can be separated applies generally. We could make pornography, adultery, homosexuality, cruelty to animals, and necrophilia illegal while spending minimally on enforcement. And in fact we tolerate high levels of many crimes. Consider burglary. We spend vast sums of money to catch and imprison burglars, but the War on Burglary has failed, a critic might say. Burglary is still common. But that we've failed to stop burglary does not tell us that it should be made legal, or that we should spend less on suppressing it.

Posted by erasmuse at 08:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

RealclearPolitics Poll site

A good site that lists the results of state presidential polls is RealClearPolitics-polls

Posted by erasmuse at 08:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 27, 2004

The Iraq War: Iraq vs. Iran

Orin Kerr at VC asks whether the pro-war blogosphere is disheartened by events in Iraq. I'm not. In fact, though I used to be firmly in the camp of people who thought that the war was a good thing but that we should have departed after our victory and left Iraq to stew in its own juices, things are going better than I expected, and I'm now wondering whether maybe we will pull off this "First Arab Democracy" business. It's costing dollars and casualties, to be sure, but no more than I would have predicted, and perhaps less.

More generally, I hope the following questions will help sharpen thinking on the value of the Iraq War. We have something akin to a controlled experiment. In 2000, two adjacent countries worried us with their domestic tyrannies and aggressive foreign policies. We overthrew the government of Iraq, but not that of Iran....

...1a. Which country's possible weapons of mass destruction worried you more in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

1b. Which country's possible weapons of mass destruction worry you more in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

2a. Which country had a more oppressive government in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

2b. Which country has a more oppressive government in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

3a. Which country was more apt to aid terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2000, Iraq or Iran?

3b. Which country is more apt to aid terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2004, Iraq or Iran?

It seems to me that except for these last questions-- where one might have been more aprehensive about Iran in 2000 than about Iraq-- the answers would point to Iraq being far worse than Iran in 2000 and far better in 2004.

A final question, a bit different, is

4. In 2004, is Iran more apt to use weapons of mass destruction, more oppressive, and more likely to aid terrorist attacks on the U.S. than it was in 2000?

These questions do not address cost, of course, no more than does pointing out how bad and dangerous Hitler was address whether World War II was worth its cost. But they are a good starting point.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:25 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Despicable Jimmy Carter Attacks American Elections

I usually don't write posts just to "vent", but the latest outrage from Jimmy Carter seems to call for an exception. Mere weeks after certifiying a fraudulent election in Columbia, our national champion in the category of self-righteous hypocrisy (a highly competitive category, including, remember, buffoons such as Dan Rather), says that Florida's elections are fraudulent. There can be no doubt that the word "anti-American" applies to Carter. Not only did he accept a Nobel Prize which was publicly stated to be a criticism of U.S. policy; he says that the U.S. government, unlike that of the many dictatorships he has cuddled up to over the years, is illegitimate.

If I were in Congress, I would make a motion to censure the ex-President. Even though he is private life now, he still has a duty not to embarass his country. Here is what he says in the Washington Post

Still Seeking a Fair Florida Vote

So Florida's vote was not fair? That is a pretty serious charge. You were president some 30 years ago, and governor of a state neighboring Florida. Why weren't you making these charges then, when procedures were the same but before there was a dispute involving your candidate?

By Jimmy Carter

Monday, September 27, 2004; Page A19

After the debacle in Florida four years ago, former president Gerald Ford and I were asked to lead a blue-ribbon commission to recommend changes in the American electoral process. After months of concerted effort by a dedicated and bipartisan group of experts, we presented unanimous recommendations to the president and Congress. The government responded with the Help America Vote Act of October 2002. Unfortunately, however, many of the act's key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes.

What debacle? If you went into details, your readers would discover that any problems were due to Democrat judges making partisan interventions, illegal voting by Democrats, and, perhaps, ballot design and technology choices by Democrats that ended up costing their own party votes. The big question of 2000 is: How can we keep activist judges from trying to rig elections?

The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely, even as many other nations are conducting elections that are internationally certified to be transparent, honest and fair.

Nations such as Venezuala, whose rigged elections you just certified as fair because a leftist won them. It takes a lot of gall for you to write an op-ed on this subject weeks after it was shown that Chavez fooled you into sampling only selected voting machines (though it might be that Chavez just gave you the political cover you needed to help him certify his election, and you knew full well it was rigged.)

The Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections, all of them held under contentious, troubled or dangerous conditions. When I describe these activities, either in the United States or in foreign forums, the almost inevitable questions are: "Why don't you observe the election in Florida?" and "How do you explain the serious problems with elections there?"

Yes. I'm sure you especially get asked those questions in places such as Syria, Egypt, and China. Don't you see that those question are rhetorical, meant to imply that American elections are meaningless and thus Americans should not promote democracy elsewhere?

The answer to the first question is that we can monitor only about five elections each year, and meeting crucial needs in other nations is our top priority. (Our most recent ones were in Venezuela and Indonesia, and the next will be in Mozambique.) A partial answer to the other question is that some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida.

Here you say it: America's government is illegitimate. I hope you realize this applies to your own Presidency too. Aren't you ashamed of taking office after what you say was an unfair election?

The most significant of these requirements are:

A nonpartisan electoral commission or a trusted and nonpartisan official who will be responsible for organizing and conducting the electoral process before, during and after the actual voting takes place. Although rarely perfect in their objectivity, such top administrators are at least subject to public scrutiny and responsible for the integrity of their decisions. Florida voting officials have proved to be highly partisan, brazenly violating a basic need for an unbiased and universally trusted authority to manage all elements of the electoral process.

"Nonpartisan electoral commission" anbd" unbiased and universally trusted authority" mean "Let liberal lawyers decide, and make sure the voters have no recourse against them". Here Carter shows his distaste for democracy. He doesn't want elected officials determining policy-- he wants some sort of unelected officials as in the EU or in dictatorships. Voting is good-- but not if it might affect who wins the elections.

Uniformity in voting procedures, so that all citizens, regardless of their social or financial status, have equal assurance that their votes are cast in the same way and will be tabulated with equal accuracy. Modern technology is already in use that makes electronic voting possible, with accurate and almost immediate tabulation and with paper ballot printouts so all voters can have confidence in the integrity of the process. There is no reason these proven techniques, used overseas and in some U.S. states, could not be used in Florida.

This is an attack on federalism. He doesn't like Florida's policy of letting each county choose its own voting machines. Indeed, he doesn't even like Florida getting to choose its own procedures, as opposed to Congress doing it, or perhaps the Carter Center.

Also, despite the studies that show that electronic voting results in more voter error, not less (those computers are tricky to use), and that they do not eliminate fraud and may well make it easier (think Venezuala again-- or just think about which is easier to rig, computers or pieces of paper) he is still pushing it.

It was obvious that in 2000 these basic standards were not met in Florida, and there are disturbing signs that once again, as we prepare for a presidential election, some of the state's leading officials hold strong political biases that prevent necessary reforms.

I.e., Carter doesn't like Republicans, whom those pesky Floridians keep electing to office.

Four years ago, the top election official, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was also the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney state campaign committee. The same strong bias has become evident in her successor, Glenda Hood, who was a highly partisan elector for George W. Bush in 2000. Several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities in 2000, and a fumbling attempt has been made recently to disqualify 22,000 African Americans (likely Democrats), but only 61 Hispanics (likely Republicans), as alleged felons.

Don't look at affiliations, look at deeds. Carter is here using a common trick: say that elected officials are partisan, and then replace them with equally partisan unelected officials such as the members of the Florida Supreme Court. But don't look at whether the officials are actually changing rules midsteram to help their candidates-- then the judges come out looking a lot worse.

Rather wild accusations. As I recall, Florida law says felons can't vote, but the Republicans gave up enforcing the law because of attacks from people like Carter. Carter doesn't mind voting laws being broken so long as Democrats are helped.

This was a background issue in the 2000 elections in Florida too-- felons and people registered in more than one state were improperly voting.

The top election official has also played a leading role in qualifying Ralph Nader as a candidate, knowing that two-thirds of his votes in the previous election came at the expense of Al Gore. She ordered Nader's name be included on absentee ballots even before the state Supreme Court ruled on the controversial issue.

Now Carter gets a bit obvious: it's anti-democratic to allow a third party candidate onto the ballot.

Florida's governor, Jeb Bush, naturally a strong supporter of his brother, has taken no steps to correct these departures from principles of fair and equal treatment or to prevent them in the future.

It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy. With reforms unlikely at this late stage of the election, perhaps the only recourse will be to focus maximum public scrutiny on the suspicious process in Florida.

In conclusion, Carter says that American elections are "unconscionable" and "fraudulent or biased". If he says that, I don't know how he expects anybody elsewhere in the world to listen to him as an election advisor, except as an expert on how to win using fraud. Has he repented of his own participation in those unconscionable, fraudulent, biased elections? Has he been "born-again", and sworn off his old election fraud? Has he shown this by giving up the Presidential pension he obtained through fraud?

Posted by erasmuse at 10:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 25, 2004

"An institution is the lengthened shadow of a man."

I was at a dinner Thursday night where IU President Emerson gave a good speech. In particular, he quoted Emerson as saying something like


(1) "An institution is the lengthened shadow of a man."

Looking this up on the web, some unreliable sources such as Brainyquote say


(2)" Every great institution is the lengthened shadow of a single man."

while others such as
Bartleby have

(3) "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man."

Bartleby, which uses Bartlett's 10th edition, at least cites Emerson's
"Self-Reliance," First Series (1841). I wish there were a quotation book that did a tolerably good job of giving citations.

At any rate, I much like version (1) the best. It is both the punchiest and the most true. Institutions are usually *not* the shadows of one man alone, and great institutions, especially, are not.

I'll have to remember to tell my students in G492 not to indiscriminately trust web sources for quotations.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Predictions of Prediction Markets

Manski has an Econometrica article about markets like the Iowa presidential market where people trade on probabilities of events happening. If the market price of a Bush contract paying $1 if he wins is .70, does that mean the market puts a 70% probability on a Bush victory? Sort of, but not really. Michael Stastny writes at MR:


On TradeSports a contract of George Bush in the winner-take-all market is currently selling for around $7. But what does this actually mean? Most traders and researchers would argue that 0.7 is the current "market probability" that the event "George Bush wins the 2004 presidential election" occurs. But this answer drives Charles Manski, an economist who recently also published an article in the September issue of Econometrica, crazy.

He says that under not-so-far-fetched assumptions, the price of a contract reveals nothing about the dispersion of traders' beliefs and partially identifies the central tendency of beliefs. A President.GWBush2004 contract trading at 70 reveals that 70 percent of traders believe the probability of the event "George Bush wins the 2004 presidential election" to be larger than 0.7. The mean subjective probability of this event lies somewhere in the open interval (0.49, 0.91) (price/mean belief region).

Alex Tabarrok at MR and posts at Bainbridgeand Deadparrots and probably elsewhere discuss this too. I haven't read it all, or even glanced at Manski's article, but here are some thoughts on how Manski's idea might work.

Suppose all traders have identical wealth and are risk neutral. Each will then bet his entire wealth based on his belief that Bush will win the election. Start with the simple case of two kinds of traders. Suppose 30% think Bush has 0 chance of winning, and 70% think he has 100% chance of winning. The mean market belief will be .70. When the dust settles, each side having bet all its wealth, the price of a George Bush contract in this market will be 70.

But this same result would have occurred if 30% think Bush has 0 chance of winning, and 70% think he has 70.001% chance of winning. For the Bush Optimists, a contract at 70 is still a good deal. But now the mean market belief is .49.

Or, suppose 30% think Bush has .6999 chance of winning, and 70% think he has 100% chance of winning. For the Bush pessimists, a contract at 70 is still a good deal (to sell--not to buy). But now the mean market belief is .91.

Notice that market behavior is based on *inequalities, not equalities*. What matters is whether the market price is lower than my subjective belief, not how much lower.

Thus, a market price of 70 just indicates a mean market belief between .49 and .91. That includes my first case, where the mean market belief is exactly .70, but also includes a lot of other ground.

This works because I have chosen the most extreme possible market belief dispersion-- lots of 0's or 100's. I've also assumed risk neutrality and identical wealths, but those are the reasonable assumptions. It is obvious that if all the 100% Bush Optimists have no wealth or are extremely risk averse then they will not bet even though they think they'd win, and so they would have no effect on the market price.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 24, 2004

Biographer Brinkley Doubts Kerry

UPDATE: The
Kerry Campaign has issued a press release saying that Brinkley mis-spoke. He stands by his book's story

"A story in the September 24 New York Times leaves the false impression that I think John Kerry was not 'the war hero we thought he was.' Nothing could be further from the truth. He was a great American fighting man in Vietnam and deserved all of his medals. Over the past year I have vigorously defended Kerry's military record and will continue to do so.

"My comment was meant to be about the political consequences of the anti-Kerry Swift boat attacks vs. the anti-Bush National Guard ones. I was speaking about public perceptions not my personal beliefs."

So he didn't mean to say he doubted Kerry's truthfulness- probably just a Freudian slip. Brinkley, in fact, stands by the discredited stories in his book.

The press release also says:

Paid for by Kerry-Edwards 2004, Inc.

That is OK, but it seems a bit crude to put such emphasis on how the Kerry campaign is pulling Brinkley's strings.


Kerry's official biographer seems to be turning on him! September 24 New York Times says


"Every American now knows that there's something really screwy about George Bush and the National Guard, and they know that John Kerry was not the war hero we thought he was," said Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of a friendly biography of Mr. Kerry's war years, acknowledging that Mr. Kerry's opponents had succeeded in raising questions about his service....

... It's true that people think there's something screwy about George Bush's National Guard service, though a close shows there isn't-- his entry, service, and exit were all boring, ust like Kerry's less well explored Reserve Service. Kerry got out of the Navy earlier than his contract called for, didn't do any drills in the Reserves, and didn't get his discharge for many more years than usual, but available evidence doesn't indicate any impropriety (of course, one wonders what the lengthy records Kerry won't reveal say, and improper Reserve service might be what's keeping him from allowing the Navy to release them).

But that's an amazing admission about Kerry's war hero status. Brinkley's book, after all, is how we got the Kerry version of his war service. Is Brinkley trying to save his reputation as a historian, readying for an admission that Kerry duped him? It would be the professional thing to do. It is quite clear that Brinkley missed important, perhaps essential, information about Kerry's service, very likely not because Brinkley was covering up but because he wrongly trusted that Kerry was telling the truth and so did not dig deeply.

I wouldn't exonerate Brinkley completely, though. Even the official records on Kerry's website (the medical reports and Bronze Star and Silver Star citations) show that Kerry's medals were obtained by fraud, and probably Brinkley had access to those records.

I hope soon to post side by side excerpts from the descriptions in Brinkley's book of Kerry's medal-winning activity and the descriptions in the Kerry Campaign website documents. They don't seem to match up.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2004

A Trick for Quick Testing of Rebuilt Templates in Movable Type

I've fiddled with my templates in Movable Type a lot, and one problem is that if I want to see the effect of my changes, I have to wait a long time for lots of files to rebuild.

Here's a trick I'm now going to try. Movable Type makes it very easy to create new weblogs. I have created a new one just for testing. It will have just two weblog entries. Thus, rebuilding won't take much time at all. I'll try out my template revisions there, and then cut-and-paste them to my two real weblogs.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Weblog Change-- Notifier for Comments

I've just added Notifier Plug-In for Movable Type. What it does is allow commenters on my weblog to check a box and get an email whenever someone else replies to their comment or makes new comments. I've wanted this feature ever since seeing something like it at the Swiftvets Forum.

I used the old version 1.4 of Notifier, since I haven't updated to MT 3.0. The documentation was obscure, and I had to sniff around the User Forums and experiment before I learned that I needed to add the following code to my Individual Archive Entry

LLLinput type="checkbox" name="subscribe"GGG Check here if you want to be notified of new commments in this thread

where LLL represents the lesser-than sign and GGG represents the greater-than sign.

Otherwise, Notifier is ready to accept check marks, but the Commenter has no box to check!

Posted by erasmuse at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Candidates' Nightly Polling

Via Drudge, the Washington Times has an interview with Karl Rove that tells us about the extent of polling in presidential campaigns: ...


... Mr. Rove said he thinks the president is five to six percentage points ahead of Mr. Kerry nationally, although the Bush campaign is not conducting national polls. However, Mr. Rove said, "We have an army of pollsters" doing extensive sampling in battleground states.

"We've taken all the battleground states and molded them together so that we're doing 600 sample a night or 800 sample a night in every battleground state and then aggregating all of those," he said.

"So we're talking about literally interviews in the thousands every night," he said. "And you run three nights of those, and you're talking tens of thousands of interviews."

It makes sense not to do national polls, since they wouldn't affect a candidate's decisions. What is striking is that Bush is doing a *nightly* scientific poll in each battleground state. The public pollsters take three nights per poll of that size.

Two ideas:

(1) The candidates' actions might tell us more than the public polls we see, since the candidates see better and more frequent polls.


(2) Someone should press the campaigns to reveal their data after the election, just for scholarly and historical purposes. It sounds like great data.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2004

Vietnam Warnings Since 1975: Wrong Every Time?

Via IP, I see that Michael Totten says

In one of the cover stories Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren (author of the indispensable Six Days of War) explain how Israel beat back the intifada. Here’s the short version.

Israel's triumph over the Palestinian attempt to unravel its society is the result of a systematic assault on terrorism that emerged only fitfully over the past four years. The fence, initially opposed by the army and the government, has thwarted terrorist infiltration in those areas where it has been completed. Border towns like Hadera and Afula, which had experienced some of the worst attacks, have been terror-free since the fence was completed in their areas. Targeted assassinations and constant military forays into Palestinian neighborhoods have decimated the terrorists' leadership, and roadblocks have intercepted hundreds of bombs, some concealed in ambulances, children's backpacks, and, most recently, a baby carriage.

At every phase of Israel's counteroffensive, skeptics have worried that attempts to suppress terrorism would only encourage more of it. [Emphasis added.]

The doom-mongers were wrong. Period. Just as they were wrong when they predicted disaster in Afghanistan. Just as they were wrong when they predicted disaster in Iraq the first time around. Just as they were wrong when they (although it was mostly Republicans this time) predicted disaster in Kosovo.

Those who keep insisting we or one of our democratic allies will actually lose a war have been wrong for a third of a century now. I am thirty four years old. The last time the doom-mongers were right I was three. They have been consistently wrong throughout my entire living memory. (Am I forgetting something? Have we lost a war since Vietnam?)

It’s always the same refrain. Only the details are different.

I might add that we didn't lose in Vietnam either, except by default. The US and South Vietnam destroyed the Viet Cong in 1968. American ground troops then left, and South Vietnam fought off North Vietnam in the 1972 offensive (with lots of US supplies and air support). Until 1975, North Vietnam didn't conquer a single provincial capital. But then South Vietnam collapsed, when North Vietnam attacked and the U.S. would not provide backup. That's not surprising, since countries such as West Germany wouldn't have remained independent after a U.S. pullout and announcement of neutrality either.

Posted by erasmuse at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rathergate, Watergate, and Impeachment

Some time back Eugene Volokh had a post on VC in which he discussed whether the CBS forgeries were illegal. He found some obscure laws that might apply, but pretty much concluded that they were not illegal, and would not have been even if CBS had typed them up themselves.

The extent to which the Kerry campaign is involved in this is still being discovered, but let's turn the situation into a hypothetical for discussion.

Bushgate: President Bush, believing that rival John Kerry aided the Communists in 1970, tells staffers to forge documents as proof, and to leak them to CBS News. CBS News reports them as genuine, but immediately bloggers prove that the documents are forgeries, and within a week Bush's involvement also becomes known....

...Compare this with two earlier episodes.

Watergate. President Nixon's re-election decide to break into Democratic Party offices in the Watergate building to bug phones, but are immediately caught. President Nixon approves of plans to cover up the involvement of top campaign officials in the burglary.

Monicagate. President Clinton, under investigation for financial irregularities, lies under oath when asked about his sexual liason with staffer Monica Lewinsky.

In Bushgate, no law has been violated, unlike in Watergate (burglary, obstruction of justice) or Monicagate (perjury). Yet which is the most serious? Bushgate.

The Watergate burglary was a minor crime, and ordinarily the burglars would have received a light punishment-- perhaps none at all. The judge was severe because he thought there were higher-ups involved, and higher-ups did try to conceal who was involved. Impeachment charges were brought against Nixon not because the burglary or obstruction of justice was harmful in itself (or would have been even if successful), but because a President who obstructs justice in a minor case like this lacks moral legitimacy and would probably commit more serious crimes if given the opportunity.

Similarly, President Clinton's perjury was a minor crime, but a crime nonetheless, committed for personal advantage, and revealing a disregard for the law improper in a President.

In Bushgate, I think it would be appropriate to impeach President Bush for the forgeries. He would not have shown disregard for the law-- that kind of forgery is not a crime-- but he would have shown low enough moral character that we would not want him as President. Moreover, unlike in Watergate and Monicagate, the forgery would be important in itself, a clear threat to honest elections.

This is one good argument against the peculiar notion floated during the Clinton Impeachment that a President should only be impeached if he has committed a crime, and a serious crime at that. No-- impeachment is a procedure for quickly getting rid of Presidents who have shown themselves unfit for office,especially if their unfitness consists in trying to use unfair means to expand their own power. This was also why Andrew Johnson should have been impeached: it was not that he had violated an act of Congress concerning the firing of Cabinet officers, but that he had tried to thwart the legislative branch's laws about Southern Reconstruction wherever he could.

Posted by erasmuse at 01:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sowell's Memoir: The Mercator Speech

Thomas Sowell's memoir, A Personal Odyssey, is very good. It actually reminds me of the memoir of his advisor, George Stigler. Despite his fame, Stigler had very few students, probably because his wit and his blunt criticism intimidated people (I wouldn't be surprised if a blunt Stigler letter was one reason for my tenure difficulties at UCLA back around 1990). After reading this memoir, I can see that a willingness to get into fights is a theme in Sowell's life, as both his strength and his weakness.

I read the library's copy, but will be buying my own. I forgot to note down the page number before I returned it, but here is a story that gives the flavor of the book...

...

The delicious thing about this story is that in the end, the joke is on Sowell and the students, not on Mrs. Collins. Sowell *did* deliver a model speech, and for exactly the two reasons she told them.

First, he had complete command of his subject-- such complete command that he didn't even need to do special preparation. That's OK-- this speech wasn't supposed to be a research project. (It reminds me of another Sowell story, of how in the Marines he was so clever about handling his duties as a warehouse helper that he both got more commendations and did less work than the other workers, who complained about that.)

Second, he paused and let his audience understand what he was saying. He did not speak faster than in ordinary speech, as is so common (even for me!) but more slowly. To be sure, the reason was that he was trying to figure out what to say next, but what counts is results, not reasons.

I wonder what would happen if I used this as a teaching exercise for my class? I could put them up front with a slip of paper they would open to see the topic on which they would improvise. I've some recollection that speech classes actually do this-- and, of course, this is exactly the stuff of improv comedy.

At any rate, I'll use this weblog entry for G492 next semester, and for my graduate students.

Posted by erasmuse at 12:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2004

The Muller-Malkin Debate on Japanese Internment: Where's the Economic Theory?

I come very late to the Muller-Malkin debates over Japanese internment in World War II, but maybe that's not a bad idea, since they've written summary posts by now. I've only skimmed, but they don't seem to address what interests me most: whether internment can be explained simply as a special interest economic grab.
...

...Muller's wrap-up has a lot of weak, peripheral objections to Malkin's book--- things like the complaint that since she wrote the book in 16 months, it can't be good. That's a dumb criticism. Her claim is not that through years of research she has found some subtle problem in the conventional wisdom; it is that the conventional wisdom is massively wrong and misguided. If she is right on that, her advantage is in a fresh point of view analyzing existing secondary literature, and her points won't depend on archival research.

But Muller has some points that are good, if correct, hidden in his less cogent complaints. His killer complaint is this one:

Michelle is undoubtedly aware that the two most prominently voiced criticisms of the government's program are these:

1. The government evicted all American citizens of Japanese ancestry from their West Coast homes and placed them into camps, but took no action affecting American citizens of German or Italian ancestry. (In other words, if your name was, say Joe Kaminaka or Lou Matsumoto, you were evicted and confined; if your name was, say, Joe DiMaggio or Lou Gehrig, well, uh, you know.)

2. The actions taken against Japanese Americans were absurdly disproportionate to the scope of any security risks of which the government was even arguably aware.

If you're going to defend the program, this is what you've really got to defend, because this is what scholars most commonly and cogently criticize.

How does Michelle's book handle these two tasks?

The quick answer (a longer answer follows): As to (1), the 165-page text includes a single paragraph (on page 64). As to (2), the book says nothing at all.

(He doesn't mention what I would add as 3. The Japanese-Americans in Hawaii weren't interned, even though the security risk was vastly greater there, with more Japanese-Americans and military facilities closer to the front line. Other critics mentioned (3) though)

Michelle Malkin's reply is unconvincing on (1). She says California had lots of strategically important sites. Well, so did a lot of East Coast states-- and, in fact, we had a lot more trouble with the enemy off the East Coast (from German submarine attacks) than off the West Coast, as Malkin mentions further down in her post. And while Japan did have a stronger surface navy than Germany, they never came close to sending aircraft carriers beyond Hawaii, which would have been utterly insane.

Muller himself seems to frame the debate as being between two theories of internment:

A. It was to protect U.S. national security against saboteurs and spies.

B. It was racism against Orientals.

Both of those seem wildly implausible to me. Muller does a good job of attacking (A). The non-internment of the Japanese in Hawaii is unexplained by either theory. Reason (B), racism, implies a degree of foolishness I find implausible, plus the U.S. was notably friendly to China and the Philippines during the war, and to Chinese and Philipinos. In any case, what I find most plausible, but would like to see more evidence on, is a third reason:

C. It was to get cheap land from Japanese immigrants, a politically weak group, and eliminate competition from them.

Theory (C) explains features (1), (2), and (3). On (1): there were too many Italian and German-Americans, and it would have been politically dangerous to go after them. Roosevelt would have lost the 1944 Presidential election if he had. On (2): security risks were merely an excuse, necessary only to fool the average uninformed voter into thinking that internment was for a noble motive. On (3): there were too many Japanese immigrants in Hawaii, and it would have disrupted the economy too much to intern them, plus, perhaps, fewer owned land and so interning them would not have resulted in a sudden need to sell land at cheap prices.

It could be that I'm misinformed and nobody made any money off the internment. But I will repeat the quote from Murphy's dissent in the Korematsu case that upheld the constitutionality of internment, something I quoted on February 4, 2004

Special interest groups were extremely active in applying pressure for mass evacuation. See House Report No. 2124 (77th Cong., 2d Sess.) 154-6; McWilliams, Prejudice, 126-8 (1944). Mr. Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, has frankly admitted that "We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. . . . We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over. . . . They undersell the white man in the markets. . . . They work their women and children while the white farmer has to pay wages for his help. If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we don't want them back when the war ends, either." Quoted by Taylor in his article "The People Nobody Wants," 214 Sat. Eve. Post 24, 66 (May 9, 1942).

I'd like to see Muller and Malkin address the economic theory. Muller doesn't do a good job of defending the racism theory in his posts (he concentrated on knocking out the security theory), and Malkin doesn't do a good job of defending the security theory (mainly because of problems (2)and (3) above, the excessiveness of internment as a solution to potential spying). Muller seems to think that if he knocks out Security, Racism is the only theory left standing; Malkin seems to think that if Racism can't explain it, then even a weak Security theory is the best we can do to explain an otherwise loony internment policy. But if there were indeed special interests that benefited economically from internment, then we don't need to resort to sudden anti-Japanese-but-not-anti-Chinese racism or to overkill against a few potential saboteurs.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mrs. Heinz Kerry on Mozambique's "Communists"

The New Yorker reports that Mrs. Heinz Kerry is surprisingly sound on the subject of "national liberation movements":

Heinz Kerry’s father moved back to Portugal with his wife after the Socialist regime of Samora Machel came to power in Mozambique, in 1975, and the country became independent. Machel nationalized private property. "My father wanted to die there," she told me with bitterness. "He didn’t come to make money to take back to Portugal. He had nothing in Portugal." But, as crime rose and the economy crumbled, white nationalists who had supported frelimo felt, she said, increasingly embattled and marginalized. "The Portuguese colonials were not bad people compared to the crooks who took over," she told a reporter in Fort Lauderdale last March, and added that she could empathize with the Cuban exile community in South Florida because her parents had also "lost everything to the Communists."

But what did she think of John Kerry's support for the Communists in Vietnam n the 70's and for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 80's? Ten years after the independence of Mozambique, Kerry was still saying--emphatically-- that the Sandinistas were good-guy liberators supported by the people, not the corrupt looters they actually were. This just intensifies the biggest mystery of John Kerry's life: how he got Theresa Heinz to marry him.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Smith on Estrich: "Faster than a U-turning Swiftboat . . ."

Tom Smith at RC has a wonderful post on Professor Susan Estrich, "Faster than a U-turning Swiftboat . . ."


For those of you just joining us, the good Professor only recently penned this now infamous (but still pretty obscure) screed, in which she revealed that she and her Democratic friends were out for blood, hoping to bribe tattlers to tell all about W's inglorious past, everything from AWOL antics to illegally procured abortions, not because it was easy, but because it was the right thing to do. We are mean Democrats, hear us roar. But suddenly, all has changed. Just like that! A new dawn has dawned, a new day has dayed. Now that the dirt from the memo-gate hand grenade has exploded, lodging shrapnel in, to extend a metaphor, the collective Democratic hind-quarters, it's time to move on.

But Susan, I'm not ready to move on! Couldn't we please have the Democrats try again, just one more time! There must be other stories out there that could be so unbelievably, spectacularly mismanaged that they could bring a major media institution to its knees, and kick the remaining life out of a floundering campaign! In fact, you must hurry, or Kerry-Edwards might just die of its own. You owe it to your fans. We haven't had this much fun since watching the anchor-persons' faces as they read the result in Bush v. Gore.

Wonderfully written! In particular, "the anchorpersons' faces", "We are mean Democrats, hear us roar", "bring a major media institution to its knees, and kick the remaining life out of a floundering campaign!", "the dirt from the memo-gate hand grenade has exploded, lodging shrapnel..."

Posted by erasmuse at 08:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Poll Numbers for Jewish-, Arab-, and Moslem-Americans

It's interesting how the Muslim and Jewish vote is going in the 2004 election. Best indications are that Muslims have shifted en masse from Bush (whom they supported in 2000) to Kerry, while the Jewish vote is going to be as solidly Democratic as ever. This is the main reason why my electoral college map gives Michigan to Kerry.

I decided to collect data on this. Bottom line: the best, though not top-caliber polls say the Muslim Arab-American vote is Kerry 96, Bush 4 of voters making a choice, and the Jewish vote is Kerry 77, Bush 23....

...The article, "U.S. Jews, Arabs in vote flip-flop?" says:

In 2000, Bush got about 19 percent of the Jewish vote, and the Bush-Cheney campaign is determined to raise that significantly.

Arab Americans helped elect Bush in 2000. He won 45 percent of Arab American votes nationwide, while Al Gore won only 38 percent and Ralph Nader, 13 percent.

Daniel Pipes has been keeping tabs on this. A Zogby polled 502 Arab-American voters in 4 key states during September 9-12. Note that one must not confuse "Moslem-Americans" with "Arab-Americans". In Zogby's poll of Arab-Americans, his subjects were 35% Roman Catholic, 28% Orthodox, 24% Muslim, and 13% Other/No Affiliation. That reduces his sample down to 102 Moslems, which is too small to be very dependable. Nonetheless, he's a reputable pollster, so it must be a random sample, which is more important than being a big sample, and the results are overwhelming as far as the Moslem Arab-Americans are concerned:

Roman Catholic Orthodox Muslim
Bush 40 50 3
Kerry 46 31 70
Other/Not Sure 14 19 27


Roman Catholic Orthodox Muslim
Bush 40 49 2
Kerry 44 33 65
Nader 6 9 15
Other/Not Sure 10 9 19


Most Arab-Americans are apparently Christian-- just think of all the Lebanese and Palestinians (not to mention Egyptian Copts and Iraqi Assyrians) who found things too hot for them back in the Middle East. Zogby says, "The voters came from four states (Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania), reflecting the overall demographic profile of the national Arab American community." The Arab World has become decreasingly Christian (and Jewish) and a lot of those who fled came to America. It's important, too, to keep in mind that many (most?) Moslem-Americans are not Arab-Americans-- think of all the Black Muslims and the people of Indian and Indonesian ancestry.

As you can see above, Bush and Kerry split the Roman Catholic vote, and Bush has a definite edge with the Orthodox Arab-Americans. It would be interesting to know how the religion's politics split on specific issues. An April 2004 poll by Zogby found that Arab-Americans as a whole-- Moslems and Christians combined-- were almost exactly split on who would do better on Israel-Palestine-- Bush, Kerry, or Nader (27-22-25)-- and on Iraq they rated Bush and Kerry as about equal and Nader as distinctly worse (37-34-16).

Turning to different data, ann unscientific poll of Muslims was done by the notorious Council on American-Islamic Relations:

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported that 54 percent of eligible Muslim voters said they would vote for Kerry, while 26 percent favored Nader. A sizable 14 percent of Muslim voters said they are still undecided. (Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they voted for President Bush in the 2000 election.)

As Daniel Pipes says,

CAIR's Unscientific Polling The Council on American-Islamic Relations has a tradition of conducting straw polls (questions "were faxed and e-mailed to Muslim individuals and organizations nationwide" it helpfully informs) and then pawning these off as scientific surveys, which then get picked up by guillible reporters. Straw poll results released today of 644 individuals, however specious, do have an interesting implication. In "Poll: U.S. Muslims Increase Political Activity Since 9/11," CAIR announces that American Muslims would vote for, among Democratic candidates for president, Howard Dean (26 percent), Dennis Kucinich (11 percent), John Kerry (7 percent), and Carol Moseley Braun (6 percent). "Only 2 percent said they would vote for President Bush."

As for the Jewish vote, the August 17 Washington Times discusses the poll by Anna Greenberg for the partisan National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).

Mr. Kerry, the Democratic nominee, leads Mr. Bush 75 percent to 22 percent. That share is four percentage points less than the 79 percent that exit polls said was won by the 2000 Democratic ticket of Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman -- the first Jewish candidate ever on a major-party presidential ticket.

...

The NJDC poll of 817 self-identified Jews who said they are likely to vote was taken July 26 to 28 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Although partisan, this sounds like a scientific poll. Jewishweek.com has more to say about it (I couldn't find the poll report itself in a quick search):

When asked "which two of the following issue areas would be MOST important to you in deciding how to vote for a candidate for President?" Israel was mentioned by 15 percent of the respondents -- far behind "terrorism and national security" and "the economy and jobs" at 42 percent, "affordable health care" and "the situation in Iraq" at 24 percent, and "Social Security and Medicare" at 19.

In the NJDC poll, 73 percent of the respondents said they attend synagogue "several times a year" or "hardly ever," and 60 percent reported belonging to no Jewish organizations.

My reading of this is that Moslem-Americans care a lot about their religion, and I bet most of them think we should not have removed Saddam Hussein from power. It would be interesting to ask this question in a poll, as well as whether Israel should be eliminated a country. Most Jewish-Americans, however, are thoroughly assimilated, except for not having adopted Christianity after they left religious Judaism, so they fit the typical political profile of non-religious Americans. That means being heavily Democratic, with no particular attachment to Israel. Being Jewish-American is like being Norwegian-American, an ethnic identity, often strongly felt, but without implications for sympathy with foreigners like Israelis or Norwegians.

This is not inconsistent with the existence of powerful, Jewish, pro-Israel lobbyists. Israel's strongest if not most numerous supporters are Jewish; but it does not follow that all Jews are strong supporters of Israel. Most American Christians do not even notice, much less care about foreign persecution of Christians, even though the strongest lobbying against such persecution is by Christians. And I would expect to see much different political beliefs among devout Jews, even loosely defined as Jews who attend a synagogue at least once a month.

Thus, it is quite clear that if we just look at Jewish and Muslim votes, Bush has had a net loss of support because of the Iraq War. Adding in Arab-Americans generally would help to dilute the loss from Muslim-Americans, but would not outweigh it. For the chief political influence of the Iraq War, though, we need to look at Christian and non-religious voters.

Posted by erasmuse at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Does not Calling Indicate not Liking? Ted and Sheila

Via Alex Tabarrok at MR, I discover Glen Whitman at Agoraphilia

Say Ted would like to talk on the phone every two days , whereas Sheila would like to talk every day . You might think Sheila would call Ted about two-thirds of the time -- but in fact, she will call him every time . If they talk on Monday, Ted plans to call on Wednesday; but then Sheila calls him Tuesday. His clock reset, Ted plans to call on Thursday. And then Sheila calls on Wednesday. Eventually, Sheila decides Ted doesn’t care about her, because he never calls....

Sheila's conclusion is not "rational" in the economic sense, because she ought to have figured this out. If her prior belief is that there are equal probabilities that Ted would want to call her every half-day, every two days (which is in fact the truth) and never, then after the experience described above, she should revise it to put 50-50 probability on Two Days and Never.

Furthermore, if she cares enough, she can experiment and learn. She can purposely refrain from calling. If Ted does not call after Two Days, she can conclude that the truth is he Never wants to call.

...This is a truly useful idea.

I can carry it a little further than Whitman did. Suppose Sheila is rational. She therefore continues to call every day, knowing that there is a 50% probability Ted does like talking, if not as much as she does. In fact, though, let us change the story so Ted's true preference is Never. If Ted thinks that never calling Sheila is going to give her the message that he doesn't like her, he is mistaken. She will continue to put the probability that he doesn't like her at just 50%.

This last story sounds more realistic if we make Sheila's priors on Two Days and Never at 95-5. Remember, these are subjective beliefs of Sheila, so it would not be surprising if she put a high probability on Ted liking her. When Ted never calls, she will continue to hold the 95-5 beliefs. With beliefs that skewed, she will also find no point in experimenting by incurring the cost of not calling and letting two days go by. Ted therefore must bite the bullet and tell her he doesn't like her, or else endure those phone calls indefinitely.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Selling Your Spot in Line-- Canadian Knee Operations

Alex Tabarrok at MR has a post I'll use in my class tomorrow, since we are discussing property rights and the problem of defining "property":

The Canadian health care system is falling apart. Bill Binfet needs both knees replaced. He waited 4 months to get an appointment with a specialist who then put him 290th on a waiting list. It's been a year and still no surgery despite the fact that his arthritis is now so bad he has bone grinding on bone.

In desperation, Binfet has placed an ad in the local paper offering to buy someone else's place on the waiting list . The provincial health care minister tut-tuts and says "it would be unethical for a doctor to trade places on a surgical wait list for an exchange of money."...

...Of course, this is a clear improvement. The only problem I can see with allowing sale of queue spots is that people would have an inducement to get in line so as to sell their place. In this example, though, the primary care doctor acts as gatekeeper, and unless he gets kickbacks, he wouldn't let patients get in line if they didn't really need an operation.

We were just discussing a similar problem after class in G202. Apparently, Singapore would like to make rich people pay for medical care, but not poor people. It also, however, wants to avoid embarassing poor people by making them admit they are poor (don't ask if this reasonable; take it as a given of the policy making problem). This is a price discrimination problem, and the problem is to make people self-select between the high price and the low price. One solution is to use queues. People can wait in line and get the low price, or get immediate service at a high price. Another would be aesthetics-- people could go to shabby-looking, smelly (though healthful) clinics for free care, or beautiful clinics and pay a higher price.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

Bribes, Airport Security, and Helpful Entrapment

One reason our precautions against hijackers are silly is that a simple bribe can get around any of them. Via Tyler Cowen, the September 17 Washington Post tells us

A thousand rubles, or about $34, was enough to bribe an airline agent to put a Chechen woman on board a flight just before takeoff, according to Russian investigators. The agent took the cash, and on a ticket the Chechen held for another flight simply scrawled, "Admit on board Flight 1047."

The woman was admitted onto the flight, while a companion boarded another plane leaving Moscow's Domodedovo Airport the same evening. Hours later, both planes exploded in midair almost simultaneously, killing all 90 people aboard.

It would take more than $34 in America, but I think $2,000,000 would do it, not a large sum for a group that is willing to use up its own members' lives.

I do have a solution, though I don't think we're using it: entrapment. We need to immediately send out FBI agents to offer numerous two million dollar bribes to airport personnel, and we must publicize the firing (and perhaps the criminal prosecution, even if conviction fails) of those who succumb to temptation. Lots of people would give up their honor for two million dollars, but if there is only a 1 in 100 probability that the briber will pay rather than turn you in, the expected payment falls to $20,000, with a 99% chance of losing your job.

Posted by erasmuse at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The 1864, 1896, and 2004 Elections

Rasmussen Reports has a webpage comparing the 2004 and 1896 elections that is worth reading. But it is wrong. The election to compare with 2004 is not 1896, despite what Karl Rove may think, but 1864....

... In 1864, incumbent Lincoln had gotten a definite minority of the popular vote in 1860, and was so offensive in personality and policy to the losers that many states seceded. He was blamed for getting our troops bogged down in a civil war which, while mostly won militarily, and with some spectacular successes, seemed to be dragging on indefinitely.Lincoln was, however, very popular with people actually in the military. People made fun of his "nation-building" policy in the South, which was getting nowhere. They also made fun of his folksy western style and speech, how little he learned in his college years, and his supposedly dull and uncultured intellect. Many saw him as the tool of Republican Party leaders-- in particular, of his Secretary of State, Seward, and his all-star Cabinet. (Not of his vice-president-- though he did switch to a new VP, Democrat Andrew Johnson, for the 1864 election, in order to broaden his support.) A major Democratic accusation was that Lincoln had destroyed civil liberties in the North using his war powers and in defiance of the courts. Lincoln and his Republican Congress also had expanded the federal government considerably using the cover of the war, and government contracts were making certain Republicans rich.

The challenger, McClellan, had a background in the same organization as Lincoln-- the Illinois Central, of which McClellan had been president and for which Lincoln was an outside litigator. McClellan ran on his war record, though some people said that his leadership had actually helped the enemy more than his own side. His position was confused, though, because while he was pro-war, merely charging that Lincoln was running it poorly, much of his party was anti-war. This was intentional-- the party leaders wanted balance, and McClellan was a safer bet than wilder anti-war candidates. Despite his failures as a general, however, McClellan still considered himself much smarter than Lincoln, to whom his attitude had been condescending even while he was a general. Despite this, it was clear that the Republican Party was the party of ideas even in domestic policy-- national bank charters, the Homestead Act, high tariffs (I didn't say *good* ideas)-- while the Democrats wanted to block such innovations.

The main feature of the 1896 election, on the other hand, was that economic policy so dominated that leading figures and blocks of voters from each party bolted to join the other. The incumbent President Grover Cleveland was a "Gold Democrat", favoring tight monetary policy, and was really more like Republican McKinley than like Democrat Bryan. Bryan was from a traditionally Republican state, Nebraska, and he attracted lots of Western Republican support while losing Gold Democrats in the East-- including Senators on both sides. Other notable features were that neither foreign policy nor issues of character played any role, that McKinley far outspent Bryan, and that McKinley was known for gravitas and long expertise in Washington, while Bryan was known for his oratory. Hard to see Bush and Kerry there!

Posted by erasmuse at 09:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2004

The Republican Party: More Rockefeller than Goldwater; Neumayr's Article

"Arnie's Party" in the American Spectator gets things depressingly right. As my wife said to me one night, it really doesn't seem possible to get away from the median voter on domestic policy. Foreign policy, interestingly, is different, perhaps because moderate policies so often clearly are worse than either extreme (e.g., invade Iraq, but not with enough troops to win). At any rate, the Republican Party of 2004 is closer to Rockefeller's policies than to Goldwater's, even if Rockefeller's political descendants have all become Democrats. Here's Neumayr on the liberal's victory in the Republican Party: ....

...The media can't take yes for an answer. Journalists grumble about the "moderate façade" of the GOP convention in New York City, yet that moderation is exactly what they have long lobbied the Republican Party to embrace. At the Democratic convention, journalists wanted the true believers to speak so that they could build them up. At the Republican convention they want the true believers to speak so that they can tear them down.

And is it a moderate GOP façade? Would that it were merely a facade. Unfortunately, the PC moderation is real. Would that George Bush was as conservative as the media's hyperventilations. It is no wonder the Democrats have become so radical: As Bush moved to the middle, they had to move farther and farther to the left in order to sustain their critique of him as a radical conservative. Only a party that gravitates to socialism, for example, would regard Bush's prescription drug benefit as dangerously conservative. If they had any perspective, the Democrats would claim victory, having pulled the debate so far to the left that the conservative position on prescription drugs became the liberal position of a few years ago.

... A hodgepodge of pragmatism -- as illustrated by Arnold Schwarzenegger saying that he learned free-market economics from Richard Nixon, the president who gave us price controls -- has replaced any sort of philosophical coherence. ...

On domestic issues, the difference between the two parties amounts to the Democrats' liberalism versus the Republicans' liberalism in slow motion . On foreign policy matters, the difference amounts to no common sense (the Democrats) versus some common sense. Schwarzenegger's speech was about a foreigner who dreamed of running America; the Democratic convention speeches were about Americans who dreamed of foreigners running America.

...

The mixture of conservative and liberal currents at the convention was conveyed by Schwarzenegger laughing about "girlie men," then Laura Bush extolling them. She spoke of a "dad whose wife is deployed in Iraq recently" and his "struggles to rear his three children alone," one of which is that he is turning his childrens' clothing pink through laundering mishaps. Shouldn't this story warm the hearts of Democrats?

Posted by erasmuse at 10:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Consumer Surplus Argument for Patent Monopolies

UPDATE, Sept. 30: I see that Farrell and Shapiro mention the "profit-stealing" I discuss below, as a "well-known principle", citing Mankiw and Whinston, 1985, RJE, on entry into oligopolies.

I was just skimming Mark Lemley's working paper, "Property, Intellectual Property, and Free Riding", on the recommendations of ProfessorsSolum and Volokh. On page 39 it cites Farrell and Shapiro's 2004 working paper, "Intellectual Property, Competition and Information Technology" on the point that a patent monopoly does not reward the inventor enough. I haven't read their paper, though I know I ought to (especially since Farrell was on my thesis committee back in 1984), but I thought about the idea, and I'll write these notes for myself, weblog readers, and those three authors....

... The problem is illustrated in Figure 1. An inventor is thinking of spending amount X to invent something with the demand curve and marginal cost curve illustrated. If he did and there was no patent, then competition would force the price down to marginal cost, and although consumer surplus would be maximized, at A+B+C, there would be zero producer surplus and his net payoff would be -X. So he wouldn't undertake the research.

A patent would help. Then he would have a monopoly, and charge a price above marginal cost, earning producer surplus B. But if B is less than X, he still won't undertake the invention. Since it is possible that X is bigger than B but smaller than B+A (not mention B+A+C), patents won't yield enough profits to induce some efficient inventions.

All that is quite correct. To get the correct incentives, we need to give the inventor amount A+B+C and get the quantity of output to increase to the efficient level in Figure 1. A government bounty system might do that, some people have suggested, or government funding of research.

What makes me uncomfortable about the analysis of Figure 1, though, is that it takes the demand curve as given, and is partial equilibrium analysis. Someone must have done a general equilibrium analysis of this-- looking at an economy with two goods and finding out the incentive to invent a third good-- but I don't know of it.

I won't do a general equilibrium analysis here, but I'll do a bit broader partial equilibrium analysis. Figure 2b looks at the same inventor who can spend X to create a new good, good B. Good B, however, is a perfect substitute for the existing good A, which has already been patented by another inventor who is charging P' for it and earning producer surplus of Z. Suppose our B-inventor pays X and gets his patent, and that the A-inventor continues to charge P'. The demand curve facing good B will then have the appearance of Figure 2b-- flat at a price of P' (since Good A is a perfect substitute) and then downward sloping at lower prices. Our B-inventor will choose a price slightly below P' and have a producer surplus of M, which, let us assume is greater than X. But consumer surplus will have risen negligibly from before the invention, and the A-inventor's producer surplus will have fallen by Z, which is just about the same size as M. Overall, social surplus will have fallen by about X-- the new invention is a social waste, invented only to transfer surplus from the A-inventor to the B-inventor. So patents give too much incentive for invention.

My analysis is incomplete, because the A-inventor will not keep charging P' when he is undercut-- the two products will settle at some lower, duopoly price, so surplus will in fact rise to the extent that output rises. But that would not change the basic conclusion: that if some of the profit from an invention is taken from reduced profits from another invention, patents can be a bad thing.

In economics one can always contrive a second-best argument like this, but this one has considerable plausibility. We are, after all, talking about an industry where one invention can occur, which makes previous patented inventions a reasonable assumption. Note that it is also an argument for short patent life, because if inventions occur with enough spacing, we won't have one monopoly stealing surplus from a previous one.

Overall, though, to return to Lemley's theme, what Figure 2 should lead us to conclude is not that patents are bad, but that we don't have as much reason to worry about inventors not getting sufficient reward as we might think after looking at Figure 1. There are other reasons along these lines too, such as Patent Races, in which competition to get the patent dissipates its value.

Posted by erasmuse at 05:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Just Wage-- A Christian Approach to the Market

I was just reading Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, edited by Michael McConnell Cochran, and Carmella. I found it disappointing, but it did make me think about how the questions of a Christian's attitude towards laws might be more crisply raised. Two exemplars that should come naturally to lawyers are Aquinas's Summa Theologica, with its assertions, objections, and answers, and the various Restatements of the American Law Insititute, which assert rules for subjects such as Tort, Agency, and Contract, and then show how they apply to hypotheticals. My style here will be more like the Restatements, but I'll start with the hypothetical and then go to analysis....

...1a. Market Wages. Andrew is thinking of hiring Paul to pick apples for him. For each hour of Paul's labor, Andrew will earn $25/hour after paying for materials, capital, and so forth, but before labor costs. Paul is willing to work for no less than $12/hour, because that is what Sam would otherwise pay him. Thirty other people are willing to work for as little as $10/hour.

Should Andrew hire Paul, and if so, at what wage?

1b. Hiring Christians. To Situation 1a, add that Paul is a Christian, and the other 30 people are not. All 31 will make $25/hour for Andrew, though, and Paul does not know Andrew.

1c. Bargaining. Take Situation 1a, but change it so that nobody else but Paul is available to work for Andrew. Paul is a very bad bargainer, as Andrew knows, so Andrew will be able to make him one take-it-or-leave-it offer.

My first point is that I'd like to see scholars tackle narrow, precise, situations like these rather than vaguely discuss whether corporations have social duties or employers should be generous to their employees. But I have substantive thoughts too.

1a. Market Wages. I think Andrew should pay $10/hour and Paul should keep working for Sam, which is the pure market solution, maximizing social wealth. Consider the possibilities.

First, Andrew could pay less than $10/hour. He would get no workers though (unless they are generous because altruistic, a point we'll pass by), so the $25/hour opportunity would be lost, poor stewardship of the opportunity God gave Andrew.

Second, Andrew could pay exactly $10/hour, the market wage. Many workers would be willing to work for him, though none would be eager and though Paul would stay with Sam. He would earn $15/hour in profit.
..
Third, Andrew could pay between $10/hour and $12/hour. He would have many workers eager to work for him. This is equivalent to paying $10/hour and donating a little extra. The best recipient for charity, however, unlikely to be the worker he hires instead of one of the thousands of other people in the community, many with no job at all. Thus, this wage is worse than paying $10/hour and giving the extra profit to a carefully considered charity.

Fourth, Andrew could pay $12/hour and hire Paul. This would be a bad thing, because Paul was earning $12/hour with Sam already, whereas the other 30 applicants's outside opportunities were only worth $10/hour. They would would have been delighted to get the job at the $12/hour wage; Paul is merely indifferent. It is wasteful, therefore to give the job to Paul-- it fails to maximize social wealth.

Or, Andrew could pay more than $12/hour to one of the thirty-- which is bad because of the charity argument above-- or to Paul-- which is bad both because of the charity argument and because of his good alternative job with Sam.

1b. Hiring Christians. It should make no difference that Paul is a Christian. It is still wasteful to give him the job. Note that it is not even doing him a favor to give him the job at $12/hour instead of to someone else at $10/hour-- Paul still gets no positive benefit from moving.

Here, note that in the method of hypotheticals we cannot change the hypothetical in midstream without comment. It might be that Christians are more productive than non-Christians, for example, but if that were the case we need to change the hypothetical to say that Paul would generate not the usual $25/hour revenue for Andrew, but $28/hour. Or, it might be that if you pay a worker more he is more productive-- but that's not the current hypothetical; it is introducing an entirely new consideration. You can do that, but answer the questions for the current hypothetical first.

1c. Bargaining. This is the interesting case, because efficiency is not at stake. Any wage between $12 and $25 will induce Paul to take the job, and will maximize social wealth. Tentatively, I say Andrew should make an offer of $12/hour to Paul-- the bare minimum. An offer of $25/hour would result in the same creation of wealth-- the surplus of $13/hour that arises from switching Paul from working for Sam to working for Andrew-- but it would give Paul control of the $13 instead of Andrew. If Andrew thinks he will spend the money better than Paul, he should therefore act to get it for himself.

Here we are depart from the realm of conventional economics, which does not question the value of spending and only tries to maximize the amount people have to spend. What would "spend the money better than Paul" mean?

What is decisive is whether Andrew thinks he would spend the money better in furthering God's work than Paul would. Andrew, for example, might donate it to his church, whereas he might know that Paul will spend it on fast cars and fast women. Or, Andrew might know he will spend it in good ways, but he does not know how Paul will spend it. Or, we could even consider the extreme case, in which Andrew knows that he himself tends to misspend money-- perhaps he is impulsive, or susceptible to con men-- but Paul is also a Christian and very good with money. Even in that case, Andrew is just indifferent about bargaining hard and getting the $13/hour for himself and bargaining soft and leaving it with Paul, because even if he bargains hard, he can just give back the money after the bargaining process is over.

It is very important to start with cases like 1a to 1c, cases of individual ethics, because society is built on top of individual decisions. Ethics before politics. Possibly the biggest single problem in the literature I've seen on Christian economics is that it jumps, instead to the political questions, questions such as whethere there should be a minimum wage. But we are now ready to go there, with hypotheticals 2a, 2b, and 2c.

2a,b,c. Andrew is not a Christian, but Charles, the king of this country, is. Should James force Andrew to pay a particular wage in any of the above scenarios?

I think King Charles should not force Andrew to pay any particular wage to Paul, because what I concluded above was ethically best for Andrew was also what he would do as a non-Christian pursuing self-interest. The only way in which Andrew's behavior depended on his being Christian was in how he would use the profit he earned-- donating it to his church, or to a poor person, or whatever. King Charles might want to intervene in that spending-- by imposing taxes on Andrew and diverting his money to a worthy recipient-- but not in the wage he pays.

Someone who does not think the Christian Andrew should pay the same wages as a selfish employer, however, cannot jump immediately to the conclusion that King Charles should force Andrew to do the Christian thing. It will take some extra reasoning to get there. This is like the distinction between an ethical requirement that a person be faithful to his wife and a legal requirement. Even if you conclude that adultery is sinful, it requires more argument to reach the conclusion that it should be a crime, and a crime even for those who do not believe it is sinful.

Liberals, in particular, will have to squirm a bit, I think, in explaining why King Charles should require the non-Christian Andrew to pay high wages on pain of imprisonment but not require him to attend church regularly. (Catholic conservatives are more likely to be consistent and accept mandatory church.)

It is worth noting that King Charles has, in fact, imposed laws affecting the hypotheticals. Minimum wages are clearly relevant. There might be a minimum wage of $27/hour, in which case a profit-maximizing Andrew will hire nobody. Or there might be a minimum wage of $12/hour, in which case he will hire someone, but as far as profit goes he would as willingly hire Paul-- an inefficient outcome-- as one of the other 30.

An interesting wrinkle is that if there is a minimum wage of $12/hour and Paul is a Christian, like Andrew, Andrew, though indifferent between Paul and the other thirty as far as Andrew's profits are concerned, should not use Paul's Christianity as a tie-breaker and hire Paul. It is still inefficient to hire Paul; Paul still gets no gain compared to staying with Sam, and the pagan thirty still love to get the $12/hour job. When price controls are imposed, employers often switch to using things such as race, religion, good looks, etc, as tie-breakers, but from a Christian point of view they should not.

Speaking of which, however: American law also forbids hiring Paul just because he is a Christian. That is part of "civil rights" law. If you are hiring people because they are Christian brethren, and you are not a religious organization (churches are exempted from the law), then you are in violation of discrimination law. This kind of discrimination is very common, of course, just as it is common for Jewish employers to give breaks to Jewish workers and for Moslem employers to give breaks to Moslem workers, and it is innocuous, but it is illegal.

Let us move, though, to a third set of hypotheticals. Even though this has been quite lengthy already, it is quite important to keep in mind that every market has two sides, supply and demand, and we should check to make sure that our ethical rules don't result in contradiction when we apply them to both sides of the market. So now let us look at Paul, the employee's decisions.

3a. Market Wages. Paul is thinking of working for Andrew, to pick apples for him. For each hour of Paul's labor, Andrew will earn $25/hour after paying for materials, capital, and so forth, but before labor costs. Paul is willing to work for no less than $12/hour, because that is what Sam would otherwise pay him. Thirty other people are willing to work for Andrew as little as $10/hour.

At what wage should Paul be willing to work for Andrew?

3b. Hiring Christians. To Situation 3a, add that Andrew is a Christian, and Sam is not. Andrew does not know Paul.

3c. Bargaining. Take Situation 3a, but change it so that nobody else but Paul is available to work for Andrew. Andrew is a very bad bargainer, as Paul knows, so Paul will be able to make him one take-it-or-leave-it offer.

These are the same numbers as in (1a) to (1c). My answers would be that in (1a), Sam should not quit his current $12/hour job to work for Andrew for $10/hour or less, just out of charity to Andrew. If he thinks Andrew is deserving of charity, he should keep his current job and pay him cash. This remains true even if Sam is non-Christian. And in (3c), Paul should be a tough bargainer and hold out for $25/hour, just as Andrew would have held out for $12/hour in (1c), and by the same reasoning.

If, however, you went with a non-market decisions in (1a) to (1c), you may have a problem in (3a) to (3c). If, for example, you think that Andrew should have offered to hire Paul at the above-market wage of $15/hour in (1a), then do you also think Paul should have offered to work for Andrew at the below-market wage of $8/hour? How do they reconcile their contradictory desires? I think people have an impulse to say that the wage should be above the market level, at $15/hour, rather than below, but do you still believe that if Paul is much wealthier than Andrew? (Employers are not necessarily richer than employees- just think of pro baseball players whose employers are small shareholders in a corporation.)

I was inspired to think on this topic by the chapters by Stephen Bainbridge (in favor of wealth maximization) and George Garvey (not in favor) in the McConnell book. Professor Garvey quotes quite a bit from Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (1891). I'll excerpt a little here from that encyclical:

40. The working man, too, has interests in which he should be protected by the State; and first of all, there are the interests of his soul. ...

From this follows the obligation of the cessation from work and labor on Sundays and certain holy days.

Daily labor, therefore, should be so regulated as not to be protracted over longer hours than strength admits.

45. Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice. In these and similar questions, however-such as, for example, the hours of labor in different trades, the sanitary precautions to be observed in factories and workshops, etc. - in order to supersede undue interference on the part of the State, especially as circumstances, times, and localities differ so widely, it is advisable that recourse be had to societies or boards such as We shall mention presently, or to some other mode of safeguarding the interests of the wage-earners; the State being appealed to, should circumstances require, for its sanction and protection.

...

57. To sum up, then, We may lay it down as a general and lasting law that working men's associations should be so organized and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means for attaining what is aimed at, that is to say, for helping each individual member to better his condition to the utmost in body, soul, and property.

It's interesting that Pope Leo seems a bit dubious about the free market, but his favored solution seems to be Catholic labor unions rather than government regulation. Perhaps he was thinking of pre-industrial economies, not free, but dominated by power struggles, so he didn't trust the government (which might well be captured by employers), and wanted to strong labor unions to equalize the bargaining position of workers against monopsonistic employers.

It is worth keeping in mind that Rerum Novarum comes from the era in which the Roman Catholic Church was uncomfortable not just with free markets but with other modern things such as secular governments and elected governments . See my old post ofAugust 2003 , which I ought to update some day (it doesn't talk about elections vs. monarchies, on which seeIMMORTALE DEI (1885), just about whether church and state should be separate). Anyone citing papal encyclicals of that era in support of government regulation had better be ready to support other encyclicals less appealing to the modern mind.

Posted by erasmuse at 05:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2004

The Nature of the Firm

Professor Bainbridge of professorbainbridge.com was here yesterday to present a scholarly paper. I won't comment here on his paper, partly because it was stimulating enough that I spent a lot of time not listening to him but thinking about one of the big, classic, issues it raised: what is a firm? (I would actually pay closer attention to a boring talk, because a boring talk leaves the listener's mind completely blank, unable to do anything but keep listening in the hope that the speaker will eventually say something to make a few neurons fire off.)

... One answer might be that a firm is a collection of long-term contracts. One or more people provide capital in some long-term contract with each other, and then hire workers using long-term contracts and materials using short-term contracts.

The problem with that is that something we think of as a firm can exist for centuries without any long-term contracts at all. Consider a partnership which hires employees at will. The partners pool their capital, but are free to break up the partnership at any time. The employees are hired with the expectation that they will serve for life, and in fact they do serve for life, but they are free to quit at any time without penalty, and the firm can fire them without cause at any time. The inputs into production-- capital and labor-- don't break away, though, precisely because break-up is so easy: everybody recognizes that they had better behave or the other side of the transaction will pull out.

Rather, a firm seems to be a collection of inputs that mostly keep working together as time passes. It is like a human body-- a collection of cells that mostly keep working together, even though individuals come and go.

It is, of course, no accident that the inputs keep working together.

They might have signed a contract, of course, e.g., the capitalist agrees to pay the worker $30,000 in exchange for 8 hours per day of labor for one entire year. Note, however, that the contract is not the main thing. If both the worker and the capitalist agree, they can void the contract. If the worker gets an outside offer of $50,000, he will leave, because the worker will want the higher wage and he will pay enough to the capitalist that the capitalist will be happy to release him.

But the reason they signed the contract in the first place was that they expected it to be efficient for them to work together for a year, and the contract puts enough glue on the status quo to allow for better planning, avoid hold-up, avoid bargaining and squabbling, and make very clear the intent of each side. (It is often forgotten how useful written agreements are as simple clarifications of intent, regardless of whether they can be enforced.)

If they didn't have a contract, they might still work together for a year. They would still be a firm. The only difference is that a smaller outside offer will be able to lure away the worker. If they had a contract, an outside offer of $30,500 might be too small for it to be worth the worker's while to spend time haggling with the capitalist over his release fee. If they do not have a contract, the worker might decide to leave. But even then, the worker might stay, because an extra $500 in wages might not be worth the transition costs to him.

Coase's famous 1937 article, "The Nature of the Firm", talks about how within a firm Authority is used, whereas between firms, Prices are used to transfer resources and commands. Prof. Bainbridge noted that some people (e.g. William Klein, also of UCLA) object to this because often there is no long-term contract, and hence no legal Authority. If employment is at will, then whenever the employee dislikes an order, he can quit. I was just reading Thomas Sowell's excellent memoirs, and he gave an example: employed by Western Union as a messenger in his youth, he was told at the end of one workday to accept an overtime assignment or be fired. He had another job he needed to leave for, so he quit Western Union on the spot.

But legal authority is not the only kind of authority. Consider my firm with no contracts, just customary employment. The custom is for the worker to accept the capitalist's orders at a steady wage. Some orders are more unpleasant, and if it was a one-shot job the worker would bargain for a higher wage. But since he knows the relationship will continue, he doesn't bother. Other days the orders will be pleasant, and he will be overpaid at that same flat wage, so it all evens out. If it looks like it won't, that is when bargaining will reappear. In the meantime, though, Authority is in place, not Prices/Bargaining.

This approach does change the interpretation of Coase. Authority vs. Prices becomes Long-Term Fixed Relations vs. Short-Term Fluid Relations, rather than Legal Authority vs. Arms-Length Sales. The "law" part of it shrinks.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Admiral Route on Kerry's Medals

Beldar's "Judicial Watch strikes out with demand for Navy Dep't investigation" is extremely good. The Navy has said that John Kerry's medals were awarded by correct procedures, and that it isn't worth looking at the substance of whether they were awarded properly....

... On the issue of procedure, Vice Admiral Ronald A. Route says:

In accordance with our established review procedures, we carefully examined the process by which Senator Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts in 1968 and 1969. We found that existing documentation regarding his medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed. In particular the senior officers who authorized the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition, we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards. [see Beldar's post for full linking of everything]

It is unsurprising that the senior officers actually had the authority to award authority, a frivolous charge by Judicial Watch. What is important is what I've put in red. Beldar tells us it is quite possibly true, but

By regulation, for example, Kerry's first Purple Heart should have been supported (see paragraph 2-17i of Army Regulation 600-8-22 on page 23 of the .pdf file) by both an after-action report documenting "the key issue that commanders must take into consideration," which is "the degree to which the enemy caused the injury" (see paragraph 2-8b(3) on page 19 of the .pdf file), and by a casualty report documenting the injury.

Admiral Route's memo is not ambiguous. It says, "we found that they correctly followed the procedures". Thus, if the proper documentation is not in the Navy files, Admiral Route is lying. I note this because if the files are ever opened up and the proper documentation is not there, Admiral Route should lose his job. He should not be allowed to say that "we found that they correctly followed the procedures" means "we guessed that they correctly followed the procedures, even though there was no evidence in the Navy files". Unfortunately, if he is indeed lying, this will make the Navy doubly reluctant to release Kerry's files, even if Kerry gives his approval some day.

Admiral Route also said,

Conducting any additional review regarding events that took place over thirty years ago would not be productive. The passage of time would make reconstruction of the facts and circumstances unreliable, and would not allow the information gathered to be considered in the context of the time in which the events took place.

This is a refusal to investigate the substance of the complaint. It is more generally a refusal to investigate the substance of *any* complaint that a medal awarded over thirty years ago was based on fraud-- in effect, a statute of limitations created by the Inspector General. I don't know whether such a refusal is legal or not.

It might be that on further reflection, the Inspector-General would revise his statement to say that he does not rule out *all* accusations of fraud about old medals, but that this particular one is too weak to warrant investigation. He would be on more solid ground there, since clearly the Inspector-General has to be given authority not to investigate frivolous complaints, and one might argue over what "frivolous" means. This, too, however, means that almost all complaints of fraud in the award of medals would be disallowed, since the evidence here is exceedingly strong.

A commenter on Beldar's post says

Formerly employed by GAO, I am somewhat surprised someone within the Congress has not requested an expedited inquiry into the whole process. And before the objections get posted--my former colleagues (the ones I worked with--I can't vouch for many others) are good at what they do and work to obtain objective answers to posed questions. But it is hardly a secret that, despite it's press, GAO takes on jobs that are driven by partisan considerations. On an issue such as this, it may be difficult to get both a ranking chairman and minority member to sign on to a specific committee or subcommittee request. But certainly individual members--especially of both parties and involving a number of standing committees with military oversight responsibilities--could request a narrowly focused inquiry as to the nature of the medal awarding process; the individuals listed as cites or responsible parties, and a list (probably not the contents themselves, although a brief descriptor could be provided) of the relevant documents which are not available publicly--but could be released with Mr. Kerry's permission.

The Admiral was correct and cautious in his approach and communication. A Congressional inquiry (not hearing--too much a shadow play that allows grandstanding)will provide cogent and concise information that can then be requested, rather than speculation and what-if inquiries.

As to who on the aisles might be interested? Either retiring members of either House, or perhaps someone who might be looking to the WH in 2008, might be in the safest position. The former won't have to deal with outraged colleagues or the junior senator from MA. And the latter will likely only have to deal with the senior senator from MA--the current candidate is losing all credibility, and thus influence, within the party. And the candidate I have in mind is so sure of her base support, she can afford to be seen as doing something for the credibility of military procedure, say, to establish a bridgehead with the institution she has so maligned in the past.

Another comment says

IG Route may say the awards were given in accordance with established procedures of the times, but that's not saying a lot.

Consider for example the policy Anthony Herbert outlined in the book "Soldier" -- the policy in his brigade was for every infantry officer leaving the unit to be awarded a Silver Star, on the basis that they must surely have done something heroic that no superior officer noticed, and it wouldn't be fair to leave Nam without a medal to their record.

In another case, when the Air Force started flying the first models of the AC-130 Spectre gunships over the Ho Chi Minh trail, they racked up incredible numbers of kills on NVA truck convoys. Air Medals and Distinguished Flying Crosses were awarded in great number.

But they noticed the truck traffic was not decreasing. So the Air Force conducted its own tests, and discovered that their criteria for claiming a truck destroyed were deeply flawed. Many truck kills had been claimed on vehicles that were only slightly damaged and fully operational. So the Air Force lowered its estimates of destroyed vehicles, revised its criteria for claiming kills, and made changes to its equipment, ammunition and procedures to improve their effectiveness.

But they decided to let all the medals previously awarded based on the nonexistent kills stand.

It is possible that Admiral Route is reluctant to get started on this road, because if Kerry's fake medals are invalidated, so might a lot of other medals-- all possessed by people who are veterans and voters. This would make more work for his department, less support for the Navy, and a lot of bitterness among the people with whom he works and socializes. I would guess that Navy people despise Kerry, but they care more about their own Service. This is one reason, I think, why it took so long for the Swiftvets to come forward-- they are sacrificing loyalty to Service in favor of loyalty to Country, a hard thing to do.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2004

Eisner's Disney Contract: Can Boards Fire Middle Executives

Professor Bainbridge of professorbainbridge.com was here today to present a scholarly paper, about which I might or might not blog separately. Before his talk, we were discussing whether a corporation's board of directors could take the unusual action of firing a low-level employee directly, bypassing the corporation's president, rather than having to get the president to do it by threatening to fire him (or actually firing him). Think about Viacom firing Dan Rather. Or, think about how Nixon first needed the resignation of his Attorney-General then his Number Two, before Number Three finally fired the Special Prosecutor in the Saturday Night Massacre. (Number Three was Bork, who also considered resigning but was told not to by Number One and Number Two, who thought enough protest had been registered.)

Ordinarily, corporate boards can fire employees if they want to, even though it would be highly unusual to bypass the usual chain of command and micromanage. There might be contracts in the way, though. What if the president's contract says he has sole right to hire and fire lower employees? Professor Bainbridge had, on March 2, 2004, blogged on Eisner's contract with Disney. The "duties" section makes Eisner CEO....

..

2. Duties

Executive shall be employed by Company as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Executive shall report directly and solely to the Company's Board of Directors ("Board"). Executive shall devote his full time and best efforts to the Company. Company agrees to nominate Executive for election to the Board as a member of the management slate at each annual meeting of stockholders during his employment hereunder at which Executive's director class comes up for election. Executive agrees to serve on the Board if elected.

A judge would have to decide whether Disney would have breached if it had fired one of Eisner's employees, deciding whether Disney was not really employing Eisner as its CEO. It looks to me like Eisner would lose if there was just one incident, but if the board took away *all* his hiring and firing powers, that would be breach by Disney.

Another section is relevant though:

10. Termination by Executive

Executive shall have the right to terminate his employment under this Agreement upon 30 days' notice to Company given within 60 days following the occurrence of any of the following events, each of which shall constitute "good reason" for such termination:

(i) Executive is not elected or retained as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and a director of Company.

(ii) Company acts to materially reduce Executive's duties and responsibilities hereunder. Executive's duties and responsibilities shall not be deemed materially reduced for purposes hereof solely by virtue of the fact that Company is (or substantially all of its assets are) sold to, or is combined with, another entity provided that (a) Executive shall continue to have the same duties, responsibilities and authority with respect to Company's businesses as he has as of the date hereof and as Executive may have with respect to businesses added hereafter, including but not limited to, entertainment and recreation, broadcasting, cable, direct broadcast satellite, filmed entertainment, consumer products, music, the internet, parks and resorts, etc., (b) Executive shall report solely and directly to the board of directors (and not to the chief executive officer or chairman of the board of directors) of the entity (or to the individual) that acquires Company or its assets or, if there shall be an ultimate parent of such entity, then to the board of directors of such ultimate parent and (c) Executive shall be elected and retained as a member of the board of directors of such entity or ultimate parent (if there shall be one).

(iii) Company acts to change the geographic location of the performance of Executive's duties from Los Angeles California metropolitan area.

Section 10 says that if the company "materially reduces" Eisner's responsibilities, then he is free to quit without penalty. Firing one of his major subordinates probably counts for that.

That is a sensible way to write the contract. Simply saying that the company is in breach if it fires a subordinate leads to the mess of a court having to decide what level of damages would be appropriate for the company to pay Eisner (and specifying liquidated damages is completely impractical here). Instead, the contract gives Eisner a simpler remedy-- he can quit.

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College Admissions; Hormesis-- A Little Poison Strengthens You

At the Law and Econ Lunch yesterday, we were discussing how hard it is to get data. I'd asked if anybody knew of evidence as to how whether if two college applicants appeared with identical high school records, we would expect the student from a poor family to do better in college than the one from a rich family. Admissions offices have the data to find this out, but they are secretive. Have they done the studies themselves? We speculated as to whether they had the expertise. Professor Stake is an expert on these things, having done more than anyone to figure out how US News rankings of law schools works and having authored "The Ranking Game" website. He thought it quite possible the studies hadn't been done, and knows from experience that it is hard for even quasi-insiders (e.g., the chairman of a faculty admissions committee) to get the data.

At any rate, Dr. Stephen Peck, a first-timer who is visiting SPEA for the year, brought up his difficulties in getting health data from the nuclear power industry. He'd wanted to study cancer incidence at low levels of radiation, but couldn't get the data. That made me think about hormesis-- the idea that often low levels of poison seem to increase health rather than reduce it. He would have had a good test of it, and, indeed, some studies conclude that low levels of radiation reduce cancer rates. Whether the studies are right is a different matter-- one oughtn't to trust that kind of study without seeing what they actually did, since epidemiological estimates, even ones published in reputable journals, are often quite worthless because they so often omit relevant variables....

So I googled "hormesis", mainly for future reference. "An Introduction to Radiation Hormesis", by S. M. Javad Mortazavi is poorly written but has good content:

It is a general belief that low doses of ionizing radiation produce detrimental effects proportional to the effects produced by high-level radiation. Over the past decades, however, some pioneer scientists reported that low-dose ionizing radiation is not only a harmless agent but often has a beneficial or hormetic effect. That is, low-level ionizing radiation may be an essential trace energy for life, analogous to essential trace elements. It has been even suggested that about one third of all cancer deaths are preventable by increasing our low dose radiation.

...

In the early 1940s C. Southam and his coworker J. Erlish found that despite the fact that high concentrations of Oak bark extract inhibited fungi growth, low doses of this agent stimulated fungi growth. They modified Starling's word "hormone to "hormesis" to describe stimulation induced by low doses of agents which are harmful or even lethal at high doses. They published their findings regarding the new term "hormesis" in 1943 (Bruce M. 1987).

...

In 1927 Herman J. Muller,a Nobel Prize winner, found that X-rays are mutagen and there is a linear relationship between mutation rate and dose.
...

According to UNSCEAR report (1994), among A-bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who received doses lower than 200 mSv, there was no increase in the number of total cancer death. Mortality caused by leukemia was even lower in this population at doses below 100 mSv than age-matched control cohorts.

...

Although still we do not know the entire mechanisms of radiation hormesis, the following theories may explain this process:

1- D...NA repair (Mollecular level)
According to this theory, low doses of ionizing radiation induce the production of special proteins, that are involved in DNA repair processes (Ikushima 1996). ...

2- Free radical detoxification (Molecular level)
In 1987 Feinendengen and his co-workers indicated that low doses of ionizing radiation cause a temporary inhibition in DNA synthesis (the maximum inhibitionat 5 hours after irradiation). This temporary inhibition of DNA synthesis would provide a longer time for irradiated cells to recover (Feinendengen et al. 1987). This inhibition also may induce the production of free radical scavengers, so irradiated cells would be more resistant to any further exposures.

3- Stimulation of immune system (Cellular level)
Despite the fact that high doses of ionizing radiation are immunosupressive, many studies have indicated that low doses radiation may stimulate the function of the immune system. In 1909 Russ first showed that mice treated with low-level radiation were more resistant against bacterial disease (Russ VK 1909).

Another article is "Nietzsche's Toxicology: Whatever doesn't kill you might make you stronger" (Scientific American, 2003)

This idea may sound bizarre, but such adaptation to stress is common, says physiologist Suresh Rattan of Århus University in Denmark. Exercise, for instance, plays biochemical havoc with the body : starving some cells of oxygen and glucose, flooding others with oxidants, and depressing immune functions. "At first glance, there is nothing good for the body about exercise," he notes.

...

The definitive rat study that linked high doses of dioxin to cancer, published in 1978 by Richard Kociba of Dow Chemical and his colleagues, also found that low doses reduced the incidence of tumors.

Finally, see "Radiation Hormesis"

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Uni High Nostalgia-- Marie Williams Bellet

At the 2004 Foursquare Reunion, which now has a photo database sortable by keywords, I learned that Marie Williams Bellet has come out with a few CD's that sound interesting:

Drawing on her experience as a mother of seven, Bellet sings of the everyday life of a wife and mother, and offers a vision of what it means to be a "fulfilled" woman today. Heartfelt lyrics are brought to life by Marie's rich singing.

Mine was one of the few classes that lacked a Williams (Marie was '78, I think), but I was fond of her brother John, who has become a priest and will no doubt be a bishop some day-- I had him pegged to become a successful conservative Congressman.

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September 16, 2004

Kerry and Bush at Yale; Prof. John Morton Blum

I got nostalgic last night after talking to the Battery Chemist, who had been following Rathergate since the first night, and after skimming over The Guardians, the recent book about the Eastern Establishment- Kingman Brewster, Mac Bundy, Bishop Paul Moore, John Lindsay, and their pals. I'll blog another time on their interesting mix of talent, high-mindedness, and failure. For now, though, I'll note that Tom Veal has a good post on "John Kerry’s Yale Political Union"....

I cannot, in fact, think of any Union president who went on to a conspicuous career in national politics before John F. Kerry. His immediate successor, Jay Wilkinson, now a federal appeals court judge, perhaps places second. Of Kerry’s Yale contemporaries who are now politically prominent, only George Pataki had a substantial Union career. George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and Howard Dean didn’t bother to join.

...

At the end of his freshman year, John ran for chairman of the Liberal Party. His opponent, Lou Sigal, was a year ahead of him and had the advantage of seniority, but John campaigned much more vigorously. I was later told by Liberal Party members that his platform consisted of two planks: his initials ("J.F.K.") and the argument that electing a Jewish chairman would "give people the wrong idea about the party". That may sound bizarre, but Yale had only recently dropped its Jewish quota, and antisemitic attitudes lingered, even among the soi disant apostles of tolerance.

[Of course, it turns out, too, that John Kerry is Jewish-- but didn't know it at the time because his grandfather had kept it quiet.]

...

In Fall 1963, John’s first term as Liberal chairman, the Political Union enjoyed (or suffered) a rare moment in the national spotlight. It invited George Wallace to speak, outraging the Mayor of New Haven. The Mayor called on his friend, Yale Provost and acting President Kingman Brewster, Jr., to stop this affront to decency. Brewster, a bully by nature, summoned the members of the Union executive board to meet with him and told them that they had two choices: They could rescind the invitation to Governor Wallace, or they could be expelled from Yale. After a heated debate, they voted five-to-four for rescission, with John among the majority.

[In the book, *The Guardians*, I don't recall the details about *how* Brewster bullied the Union, which are interesting.]

John was reelected chairman for the Spring 1964 term, but all was not well with his party. Membership and activity declined sharply. Only 13 members qualified to vote in the May 1964 Union elections (about a third as many as the next smallest party), and almost all of those were openly hostile toward their nominal leader. One of the most vocal Kerry critics was elected to succeed him as chairman.

Happily for John, the Conservative Party and the Party of the Right, each with about an equal number of qualified voters, were at loggerheads over how to divide the Union’s elected offices. When the Conservatives insisted on taking not only the presidency, which the PoR was willing to concede, but also the office of speaker (the presiding officer at meetings), the chairman of the PoR, who wanted to be speaker himself, offered to back John for president. In return, John promised not just to support Party of the Right candidates for three of the five elected offices (the maximum that any one party could constitutionally hold) but to give its members half of the appointed positions, too.

[This is classic PU dealmaking, and goes to Kerry's credit as a politician. Note, however, the problems of leadership and administrative ability showing up even at this young age.]

...

The reader has doubtless surmised already that the ideological makeup of the Union did not fit the stereotype of 1960’s political activism at elite universities. The right-of-center parties dominated, and the ones to their left were not all that liberal . John’s successor as Liberal chairman was Jorge Dominguez, a Cuban refugee of firm anticommunist views. When, in February 1965, the House debated a resolution calling for American withdrawal from Vietnam, only one Liberal (not John Kerry) favored it, and it went down to defeat by roughly a three-to-one margin.

...

I’d like to note, as a corrective to inferences that many draw about the collegiate John Kerry, that he was not notably wooden or arrogant . I knew him moderately well and always found his company pleasant. He was also quite a good speech maker, albeit with a baroque tendency that was then commonplace in the Political Union. ... He was overtly and intensely ambitious, but so were plenty of other Yalies. Indeed, he was not the most ambitious of my contemporaries. (That would be Victor Ashe , whose subsequent career reached a climax of sorts when he spent millions of dollars to win 34 percent of the vote in a Senate race against Al Gore.)

I googled a few people of the PU era just after Kerry's and found mention of Rapoza and Menefee and Koford (whom I knew about anyway, since he's an economist).

In looking up Professor John Morton Blum, who it seems is still alive and talking to reporters, I found this article by Lanny Davis (Clinton's lawyer) on George W. Bush:

... I also remember certain courses did catch his interest, especially History 35, a popular course taught by John Morton Blum, the legendary liberal professor and award-winning biographer of Theodore Roosevelt.

History 35 focused on three of the most important progressive periods in U.S. history-- the populist era, Woodrow Wilson progressivism and FDR liberalism.

I saw George carrying a textbook from the course and jokingly asked, "What's a good Republican like you doing in Blum's course?" He smiled. (Smiled, not smirked. I don't understand why people say he "smirks." When he says something good, he looks pleased with himself --he should be! But that's different from a smirk, which connotes arrogance. Of all the things George may be, he's not arrogant.)

George responded to my comment: "I've learned more from John Blum than any other teacher I've had at Yale. I don't care what his politics are, I love that course."

I took that course too, about ten years later, and liked it. Blum would regularly hold court at Branford Dining Hall at lunch, and I went to that a few times, too. He taught well, and he writes well-- I still have his books on Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson. What I remember best from that course is my difficulty in deciding who to support in the 1912 election-- Roosevelt (Bull Moose Party), Taft, or Wilson. Roosevelt had charisma, but liked regulation and was backed by the goofy Left; Taft had soundness and a good antitrust record; Wilson supported racism but also supported free trade. Now that I know more, Taft is easily the best of the lot. Yale, not Harvard or Princeton!

Posted by erasmuse at 09:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Demand-Side Theory of Rathergate; CBS Affiliates

Rathergate has some interesting economics to it. Stanley Kurtz has a demand-side theory for why CBS is refusing to admit defeat:...

...even as complaints about liberal media bias escalated, the mainstream media was bound to become more liberal, not less liberal -- because that's what was happening to its audience. What all this means is that, given its audience, CBS News is no longer concerned about preserving it reputation for fairness. On the contrary, CBS now wants and needs to preserve its reputation for liberalism.

In equilibrium, only closedminded liberals listen to CBS, and so CBS serves up news that will please them, with truth being of minor concern. It is a little like a tabloid that regularly has stories of alien abductions. The tabloid's readers don't care about accuracy-- that's a silly thing to ask of a tabloid-- they want good stories.

But product doesn't quite match consumer yet for CBS. Instapundit points to a National Review article about CBS affiliates.

Ken Charles, the program director of KPRC radio in Houston, told the Kerry Spot Wednesday evening that he has notified CBS Radio news that he will be switching to Fox News feed for their Friday evening news, instead of using the Dan Rather-anchored CBS feed.

"Dan has been doing the Friday 4 P.M. slot for about three or four years, and this is the first time Dan Rather has been the story," Charles said. "I have a problem with my news people being the story."

Charles said that his station is under contract with CBS, and that the move is unlikely to have a financial impact for CBS. The public-relations damage, however, could be significant.

"We're the number-seven market in the nation, and I would hope it would send a message to them about how serious this is," Charles said. "I announced at 5:10, and since then (about an hour and a half) we've gotten 150 e-mails from listeners, all supportive.

...

Another official at a different affiliate station wrote to a concerned viewer that his station is covering the matter locally, and talking to its own experts. He called the CBS report, "not acceptable at all."

Posted by erasmuse at 09:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2004

Knightian Risk and Uncertainty: Two-Card Bets

This post is notes mainly for myself (or for others who have heard about this subject) on risk. I've started reading Roger Lowenstein's When Genius Failed, about the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. Besides the lessons for finance, thinking, and life generally, Professors Merton and Scholes were involved. On page 62 Lowenstein talks about risk, and that started me thinking.

(1) Consider various bets.

Bet 1-A. I have two cards, the 3 of spades and the 4 of spades. I win $1 if a 3 turns up. Value: $.50 (if you're risk neutral). This is the situation some people (Knight) call "risk", though I hate that terminology since it contradicts the usual meaning of the word in economics. "Definite Priors" is better, or "Certainty about Uncertainty".

Bet 1-B. I have two cards. Both are either 3's, or 4's. I win $1 if a 3 turns up. Value: $.50 (if you're risk neutral). This is the situation some people (Knight) call "uncertainty", though I hate that terminology since it contradicts the usual meaning of the word in economics. "Indefinite Priors" is better, or "Uncertainty about Uncertainty".

Some people think it is impossible to value Bet 1-B, because the investor needs to estimate probabilities of probabilities. I've never understood the problem, though, and am left with the impression that those people are just confused in their thinking. Situations with Indefinite Priors make one's head hurt more, because it's harder to think out of the box, one *does* have to think up some priors, and not thinking hard enough will lead to bigger mistakes, but all that is different from saying that a person can't or won't come up with an estimate of probabilities. I side with Savage against Knight.

The Ellsberg Paradox is essentially that people prefer 1-A to 1-B. The explanation for it that I like is that we don't trust the person on the other side of the bet, so the more wiggle room they have, the less we like it. Maybe they know that, for whatever reason, more people like to bet on 3 than on 4, so they always choose a deck with two 4's instead of one with two 3's. Even more simply, as in the way I specified Bet 1-A, they pick a deck of two 4's and only let me bet on 3. Either way, I'm safer with a deck I know has exactly one 3 and one 4.

(2) Now suppose now that I draw a card 100 times , reshuffling each time, but keeping the same two-card deck each time. The expected value of each bet will be $50.

Bet 100-A will very likely yield me close to $50, though I might get as little as $0 or as much as $100.

Bet 100-B will yield me either $100 or $0, with zero probability of anything else happening.

Bet 100-A will be preferred to Bet 100-B by any risk-averse investor.

(An investor will be indifferent between 1-A and 1-B unless he doesn't trust that the bet is not rigged.)

(If the investor is allowed to change what he bets on-- shifting from 3 to 4 and back-- then Bet 100-B is clearly the best, yielding either $100 or $99 to an investor playing the rational strategy. When learning is possible, starting with bad info is, other things equal, good

Although Bet 100-B is riskier than 100-A, it is much simpler. If I wanted to make precise plans for what to do in the various possible outcomes of Bet 100-B, I would only have to make two plans, for $0 and $100, whereas for Bet 100-A I would need 101 plans.

(3) If I were betting on the outcome of the bets, it would be much easier to bet on Bet 100-B. I could bet that the outcome would be either $0 or $100, and I'd win my bet for sure. In this sense, it is quite possible for a situation with Indefinite Priors to be simpler, safer, and more certain.

(4) Suppose I had to pay $.40 for Bet 1-A or $40 for Bet 100-A. Which would I prefer? Most risk-averse investors would prefer 100-A, because it very likely yields around $50, and is very unlikely to yield less than $40. An old result (due to Samuelson) in finance, though, is that to think Bet 100-A is better for *any* risk averse investor is The Fallacy of Large Numbers, because even independent repetitions of a gamble do not reduce risk, if by risk we mean the standard definition in terms of mean-preserving spreads. Bet 100-A, at cost $40, incurs the risk of a net payoff of $-40. The worst that can happen with Bet 1-A at a cost of $0.40 is a net payoff of $-0.40. Thus, someone who is heavily averse to big down-side risks would prefer Bet 1-A.

The Fallacy of Large Numbers comes up most often in the context of insurance. Insurance companies work not by collecting risks so they average out, but by dividing risks among many small investors. That is why insurance against big earthquakes and hurricanes-- which do *not* average out-- makes sense (or would if we didn't all know that the government will bail out even the uninsured,so it is pointless to pay for insurance).

If I get round to reading more of the book, I may discover how these examples fit into LTCM's collapse. I am hoping this will fit into my research program on consumer and bargaining uncertainty over values, as in "Explaining Incomplete Contracts as the Result of Contract-Reading Costs," "Getting Carried Away in Auctions as Imperfect Value Discovery," and "Strategic Implications of Uncertainty Over One's Own Private Value in Auctions."

Posted by erasmuse at 01:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Why Do Senators Lose Presidential Elections?

The story below is from CBS, so I don't know if it can be trusted, but it did make me think about why Senators don't become Presidents, even though that is their dearest ambition. My thought: they're rotten administrators, so they can't even run a successful campaign.

In 2004, Senator Kerry's campaign is in disarray. In 2000, Senator Gore (later VP, but that doesn't help) lost to a governor. In 1996, Senator Dole lost to a governor. In 1992 we had a President vs. a governor. In 1988, Senator Dukakis lost to a CIA manager-Republican chairman-businessman. In 1984, Senator Mondale lost to a president. In 1980, we had a President versus a governor. In 1976, we had a President versus a governor. In 1972, Senator McGovern lost to a President. In 1968, Senator (later VP) Humphrey lost to Senator Nixon- narrowly. (Humphrey had been a mayor, I think, so maybe this is an exception.) In 1964, Senator Goldwater lost to a President. In 1960, Senator Nixon faced Senator Kennedy. And so forth.

Senator Harding did win in 1920. That's the first exception I can think of (note that I'm giving credit to Truman for having been President 1944-48 before he faced Dewey). Harding was notorious for his density, though, which means he was probably smart enough to let someone else run his campaign without interference, and I don't remember whether Cox was a senator or not. ...


"Our problem here is a national message," Coelho says. "What is it that we [Democrats] are? If you go to Kerry, that’s a disaster because the candidate should not be involved in solving disputes or the creation of his message.

"You need a [campaign] boss, somebody who says ‘Shut up, we are going to work this out.’ Not someone who can go around to Kerry, and that’s Shrummy’s forte," Coelho continues, speaking of Shrum. The Kerry campaign has over the past week refuted speculation that either Shrum or Sasso are running the campaign.

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Reading Between the Lines: Soviet Union, CBS, conventions

A little while ago John O'Sullivan wrote this about reading between the lines in the Soviet Union and CBS. It applies to political conventions too....

Vladimir Bukovsky, the great anti-Soviet dissident, once reproved me for quoting the old joke about the two main official Soviet newspapers: "There's no truth in Pravda [Truth] and no news in Izvestia [News.]" He pointed out that you could learn a great deal of truthful news from both papers if you read them with proper care.

In particular, they often denounced "anti-Soviet lies." These lies had never previously been reported by them. Nor were they lies. And their exposure as such was the first that readers had been told of them. By reading the denunciation carefully, however, intelligent readers could decipher what the original story must have been. It was a roundabout way of getting information --but it worked.

That is exactly how intelligent readers now have to read the New York Times and most of the establishment media --at least when they are reporting on the "anti- Kerry lies" of the Swift-boat veterans.

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Finding the Names of WIndows XP Processes

I have often wondered what junk processes-- things the computer does without your asking-- Windows inflicts on my computer, clogging it up. I've also wondered which processes are legit, when I want to shut down suspect ones. Windows XP does give you a list of processes, but with mysterious names in computerese. But finally I have found my Rosetta Stone. ....

...Right-Click on My Computer. A menu will appear. Choose MANAGE and left click on it. Then Pick SERVICES AND APPLICATIONS. THen pick SERVICES. That will generate a list of processes and whether they have been started or not. Click on the name of one, e.g. PRINT SPOOLER, and a window will pop up with its name in computerese-- C:\WINDOWS\system32\spoolsv.exe. When you hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE and pick TASK MANAGER and Processes, it is that name-- spoolsv-- which shows up as a process that is running.

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September 14, 2004

It Wasn't Hard to Get into the Air National Guard in 1968

People keep saying it was hard to get into the Air National Guard in 1968, but after all the lying the Democrats have been doing, I've been wondering if there is any factual basis for that assertion, plausible though it is. According to the Dallas Morning News of July 4, 1999, as posted by Beldarblog, it is false. The article gives specific numbers which if true show that the Air National Guard had more slots than it could fill. Thus, we can deduce that Bush was shown no favoritism for the simple reason that there was no favor-- he was volunteering to do something nobody else wanted to do. It wasn't hard to get in. Here's the story....

...


Records provided to The News by Tom Hail, a historian for the Texas Air National Guard, show that the unit Mr. Bush signed up for was not filled. In mid--1968, the 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, based in Houston, had 156 openings among its authorized staff of 925 military personnel.

Of those, 26 openings were for officer slots, such as that filled by Mr. Bush, and 130 were for enlisted men and women. Also, several former Air Force pilots who served in the unit said that they were recruited from elsewhere to fly for the Texas Guard.

...

While Guard slots generally were coveted, pilot positions required superior education, physical fitness and the willingness to spend more than a year in full--time training.

"If somebody like that came along, you'd snatch them up," said the former commander [Staudt], who retired as a general. "He took no advantage. It wouldn't have made any difference whether his daddy was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

...

His score on the pilot aptitude section, one of five on the test, was in the 25th percentile, the lowest allowed for would--be fliers.

...

On the "officer quality section," designed to measure intangible traits such as leadership, Mr. Bush scored better than 95 percent of those taking the test.

...

Former Guard officials and members of Mr. Bush's unit said that release, seven months early, was not unusual for the Guard. Mr. Bush's unit was changing airplanes at the time, from the single--seat F--102 to the dual--seat F--101. They said it made little sense to retrain him for just a few months' service, and letting him go freed spots for the Guard to recruit F-- 101 pilots from the Air Force and elsewhere.

Maybe--*maybe*-- it was hard to get into the Army National Guard in Massachusetts in 1968 because lots of people afraid of being drafted were volunteering. But that doesn't mean it was hard to get into the Texas Air National Guard.

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Stromata Rathergate Story: The November Surprise Sprung Too Early

Stromata on Sept 11 on Rathergate has a story on how Rathergate might have happened. I still am not satisfied-- H is too trusting in the story-- but what I like is the idea that the documents were supposed to be leaked not in September, but just 3 days before the election-- and somebody goofed. Here's my version: somebody had vetted this as "good enough for November", but then it got put in the "run this in September" pile by mistake.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bush and Kerry on Free Trade

I'd been wondering where Kerry and Bush stood on free trade. Yesterday's WSJ had a couple of useful articles. Bottom line: Bush has been moderately free trade, with big exceptions; Kerry used to be free trade; Kerry is now moderately anti-free-trade; the heavy hitters against free trade are all Democrats. Next-to-bottom line: Kerry only likes multilateralism when it requires us to get the approval of our rivals for military action, not when it requires us to get the approval of our trading partners to help U.S. consumers....

Jagdish Bhagwati says

How does one forgive him his pronouncements on outsourcing, and his strange silences on the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations? Indeed, Sen. Kerry, whose views and voting record were almost impeccable on trade, has allowed himself to be forced into such muddled and maddening positions on trade policy that, if one were an honest intellectual as against a party hack, one could only describe them as the voodoo economics of our time.

...

Sen. Kerry is also not good news for the critical multilateral trade negotiations in the Doha Round. Where President Bush has articulated strong support for it, Sen. Kerry has ducked the issue. Then again, on top of the strange commitment to have a 120-day review of existing trade agreements (which presumably include the WTO), the Kerry-Edwards demand that labor and environmental requirements be included, with sanctions, in old and new trade agreements, clearly aims a dagger at the heart of Doha.

Daniel Ikenson says

The Byrd Amendment directs the distribution of antidumping and countervailing duties collected by the U.S. Customs into special accounts for disbursement to companies that supported the original petitions in these cases. Before the amendment became law, such duties were commingled with other government revenues in the general treasury.

and

The World Trade Organization ruled last month that eight U.S. trade partners are entitled to retaliation for U.S. failure to comply with its rulings against the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act, also known as the Byrd Amendment. But an issue much larger than the ruling is at stake. How the U.S. responds will have far-reaching implications for the WTO: Failure to comply could mark the beginning of its end as a valid institution.

...

These efforts are spearheaded primarily by Democrats in Congress, like Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan. In response to the WTO finding against the Byrd Amendment in January 2003, Sen. Baucus said, "In the end, this decision may not matter much, as I suspect there is little support in Congress for implementing it."

...

In response to last month's ruling, John Kerry declared, "Once again, the Bush administration failed to stand up for American companies and workers at the WTO, and as a result, unfair trade practices are hurting our economy and middle-class families."

...

Yet despite opposition to the law from President Clinton and advocacy for repeal from President Bush, Congress shows no sign of relenting.

I'm not clear on where Kerry stands on Bush's steel tariffs, but given that West Virginia and Pennsylvania are swing states, both of them are probably equally bad on that issue.

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Andrew Appel and New Jersey Support for Kerry

Todd Zywicki surprised me with


"DOES IT SURPRISE ME THAT SMART PEOPLE SHOULD BE SUPPORTING KERRY? NO." The words of Princeton computer science professor Andrew Appel, in an article in the Daily Princetonian regarding the heavy pro-Kerry tilt in giving by Princeton faculty and employees. The sole donor to the Bush campaign isn't even a professor, but an employee of the government relations office. Perhaps even more astounding, donations to "Other" (Nader, presumably) amounted to $12,850, outpacing both Bush (a paltry $250) and the RNC ($500) by a substantial margin.

Professor Appel was one of my Uni classmates. Neither one of us has changed our politics, it seems! I'd have given the same quote if I were asked why smart people supported Bush. But if we wanted to embarass him, we might ask why so many (all?) of those same smart Princetonians supported Governor McGreevey, and why New Jersey remains one of the most corrupt states in the nation.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rathergate: The Three-Dollar Bills

This Conway Three-Dollar Bill parody will become a classic.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"mind-meld with such an alien psyche"

I've found a wonderful passage from Jonah Goldberg that I hope to imitate one of these days:

I have no desire to go trolling around inside Dan Rather's brain. We all know from Star Trek that a mind-meld with such an alien psyche could leave me permanently damaged. But it's clear that Dan Rather doesn't understand what's going on any more than those poor last dinosaurs understood why the tasty green fronds became so hard to find when it got cloudy.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:57 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Straussian Analysis of the Sept 13 CBS-AP Article on Rathergate

This September 13 story may show that CBS's united front is crumbling. My comments are in italics. ...

...

(CBS/AP) Amid challenges from other news organizations and partisans, CBS News
continued to defend itself over criticism stemming from documents it obtained
that questioned President Bush's service in the Air National Guard.

Notice that this is joint with the AP, also known for its false reporting-- recall the recent "Republicans boo" story that the AP withdrew without comment after witnesses and videos noted that it was false.

On "The CBS Evening News" Monday night, Dan Rather said his original report on
"60 Minutes" used several different techniques to make sure the memos were
genuine, including talking to handwriting and document analysts and other
experts who strongly insist that the documents could have been created on a
typewriter in the 1970s -- as opposed to a modern-day word-processing software
program, as some have charged.

He didn't name any names, and till this report, I've seen only one name-- that of Marcel Matley, a signature expert. And what's with this "strongly insist"?


"Everything that's in those documents, that people are saying can't be done, as
you said, 32 years ago, is just totally false. Not true. Proportional spacing
was available. Superscripts were available as a custom feature. Proportional
spacing between lines was available. You can order that any way you'd like,"
said document expert Bill Glennon.

Note what he *doesn't* say-- that this document could have been written on one typewriter.

Richard Katz, a software designer, found some other indications in the
documents. He noted that the letter "L" is used in those documents, instead of
the numeral "one." That would be difficult to reproduce on a computer today.

l2345, 5432l, l2345, 5432l,l2345, 5432l,1111,l l l l, 1111, llll. Was this paragraph put here as sabotage, to make the reader guffaw at this point and say, "Well, it looks like other people are CBS are having some fun at Dan Rather's expense." ? Maybe Katz had some more subtle point, but...


In addition to the forensic evidence, Monday's "Evening News" story said the
original report relied on an analysis of the contents of the documents
themselves and interviews with colleague's of the author to determine their
authenticity. The new papers are in line with what is known about the
president's service assignments and dates.

"colleague's of the author"? Well, there's another possibility, that the CBS people are falling to pieces, their minds breaking under the strain. In this case, that goes for the author of this piece, the editor, and the lawyer who I hope they had looking over everything they publish on it.

(That mistake is fixed by now-- the next morning, Sept 14. The story you read at the link is not quite the same as this one. If CBS reads this weblog, it may be even more different by the time you are reading this. Right now, the two paragraphs I call the funniest are still there, though.)

Others have remarked on how you can't verify a document's authenticity by asking people whether it *sounds* realistic. And someone has suggested that the reason it sounds realistic to some people might be that CBS had been going around for weeks saying something like, "We are the mighty, all-knowing CBS, and everyone else is saying that there was political pressure to do favors for Bush. All we need is to find the documents we are sure exist. We would be very grateful if such documents suddenly appeared. Do you know anybody who can forge some?" (Oops-- "find some").


For instance, the official record shows that Mr. Bush was suspended from flying
on Aug. 1, 1972. That date matches the one on a memo given to CBS News, ordering
that Mr. Bush be suspended.


This is the second funniest paragraph. The document is authentic, because it uses one of the same dates available on the real documents you can get via the Bush campaign! I suppose the forger, none too smart, is proud of how he went to the trouble to get the dates right, even though he thought using a real typewriter, carefully imitating the signature, and figuring out whether General Staudt had retired or not would have been excessive care.

At question are memos that carry the signature of the late Lt. Col. Jerry
Killian, who was the commander of Mr. Bush's Texas Air National Guard fighter
squadron. They say Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's record,
and Mr. Bush refused a direct order to take a required medical examination and
discussed how he could skip drills.

"At question"?

This may be stylistic nitpicking, but wouldn't the New York Times, despite its declining standards, have said, "They say that Killian was under pressure to "sugar coat" Mr. Bush's record,
and that Mr. Bush refused a direct order to take a required medical examination and
discussed how he could skip drills." Relevant here as another sign of stress at CBS, and poor quality control even on important documents sure to be zoomed in on by people like me.

By September 14, 9:30 a.m., this last paragraph is deleted.

Raising one question, The Dallas Morning News said in a report for its Saturday
editions that the officer named in a memo as exerting pressure to "sugar coat"
Mr. Bush's record had left the Texas Air National Guard 1½ years before the memo
was dated.

The newspaper said it obtained an order showing that Walter B. Staudt, former
commander of the Texas Guard, retired on March 1, 1972. The memo was dated Aug.
18, 1973. A telephone call to Staudt's home Friday night was not answered.

New York Times columnist William Safire wrote Monday that Newsweek magazine had
apparently begun an external investigation: it names "a disgruntled former Guard
officer" as a principal source for CBS, noting "he suffered two nervous
breakdowns" and "unsuccessfully sued for medical expenses."

The L.A. Times reported that handwriting analyst, Marcel Matley, who CBS had
claimed vouched for the authenticity of four memos, vouched for only one
signature, and no scribbled initials. The Times reports he has no opinion about
the typography of any of the supposed memos.

CBS is giving the other side's story in these last four paragraphs! This is very interesting. That's good journalism, of course, but it's inconsistent with what CBS has been doing. These details also contrast with the lack of detail in describing the original problems with the document itself.

"who CBS had
claimed vouched for the authenticity of four memos" ought to be "whom CBS had claimed". This is the most amazing detail. That clause could have been left out of the paragraph, since its contribution is to note that CBS is making false claims about what even its own experts say. More honesty!

"60 Minutes" relied on the documents as part of a Wednesday segment-- reported
by Rather --on Mr. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to
1973.

Former colleagues of Killian have since offered differing views on the
authenticity of the documents.

Robert Strong, who appeared in the original segment, said after it aired that
still did not see anything in the memos that made him think they were forgeries.
Robert Strong noted he's not a forensic expert and isn't vouching for the
documents.

"I didn't see anything that was inconsistent with how we did business," Strong
said in an interview. "It looked like the sort of thing that Jerry Killian would
have done or said. He was a very professional guy."

Robert Strong is an English professor who never met George Bush and had no involvement in National Guard Administration. He is just somebody who had met Jerry Killian and who is anti-Bush.

Retired Col. Maurice Udell, the unit's instructor pilot who helped train Mr.
Bush, said Friday he thought the documents were fake.

"I completely am disgusted with this (report) I saw on 60 Minutes,"' Udell said.
"That's not true. I was there. I knew Jerry Killian. I went to Vietnam with
Jerry Killian in 1968."

Killian's son also questioned some of the documents, saying his father would
never write a memo like the "sugar coat" one.

Several of the document examiners said one clue that the documents may be
forgeries was the presence of superscripts -- in this case, a raised, smaller
"th" in two references to Guard units.

But Katz, the software expert, pointed out that the documents have both the so-
called "superscript" th (where the letters are slightly higher than the rest of
the sentence, such as 6th ) and a regular-sized "th". That would be common on a
typewriter, not a computer.

"There's one document from May 1972 that contains a normal "th" on the top. To
produce that in Microsoft Word, you would have to go out of your way to type the
letters and then turn the "th" setting off, or back up and then type it again,"
said Katz.

Another funny paragraph. Forgers *do* go to some trouble to forge documents. I myself, a hater of all those automatic features in MS-Word, have done what Katz describes. I don't remember details-- and now I've somehow turned off that obnoxious feature-- but I'd be going along typing and MS-Word would automatically superscript something and I'd have to go back and fiddle with it to turn the superscripting off. I bet I even forgot to turn it off sometimes and left an inappropriate "th" here and there.

There must be an interesting story behind the writing of this article. Sloppiness? Tension? Committee work? Someone rushing out an article that is not uniformly pro-Dan-Rather, rushing so the Rather faction won't see it in time? I ought to go back and read Leo Strauss's Persecution and the Art of Writing. This document definitely calls for a Straussian reading, the essentials of which are:

1. Ask why seeming mistakes might have been purposely put in the article.

2. Look not at what the author seems to say, but at the effect that it leaves on the reader. The author may have intended that effect.

3. In particular, look for very weak arguments, arguments so weak they seem to support the opposite of the author's stated position.

4. Look at the ordering and structure of the article for clues as to its intent.

5. Remember that in many times and places, an author gets in trouble if he says what he means directly, but censors tend to be not very bright and an author may "write between the lines".

Posted by erasmuse at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Ogletree Plagiarism at Harvard Law

Via Volokh, The Weekly Standard tells us that Prof. Charles Ogletree of
Harvard Law doesn't even read what's published under his own name, assembled by
research assistants.

Despite his very limited scholarly credentials, Charles Ogletree was granted
tenure at Harvard Law School in 1993 as an expert in race relations during the
peak of the agitation--sit-ins, marches, accusations of racism--to diversify the
school's faculty. Rumors swirled about the writing, editing, and placement of
his tenure-winning essay in the Harvard Law Review, but, by any measure,
Ogletree was hired precisely because race cases like Brown v. Board of Education
were his specialty. He's not supposed to need other sources. He's a Harvard law
professor; other sources are supposed to need him.

AN ANONYMOUS NOTE, sent to Yale's Balkin and Ogletree's dean at Harvard shortly
after All Deliberate Speed was published in April, prompted an investigation,
which the dean assigned to former Harvard president Derek Bok and former dean
Robert Clark. The only result so far is Ogletree's public explanation on the
Harvard website. In the end, Bok told the Boston Globe, the investigators
decided that though there was "a serious scholarly transgression," they found
"no deliberate wrongdoing at all." Ogletree merely "marshaled his assistants and
parceled out the work," Bok explained, "and in the process some quotation marks
got lost."

It looks like affirmative action strikes again, in this case aided perhaps by the bad influence of judges who rely on clerks. Or maybe Ogletree has spent time in government, where one of the rules for top bureaucrats is "Never write anything you sign and never sign anything you write." Academia is not like that, so Harvard should bounce him down to Washington.

Of course, the Democrats now seem to advanced the maxim a bit. "Never write anything you sign, never sign anything you write, and if it's incriminating, sign it using the name of a dead National Guard officer."

Posted by erasmuse at 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2004

Rathergate as a Litmus Test for Intellectual Honesty

Rathergate's oilslick has left Dan Rather and CBS black from head to toe (though if CBS fires Rather, it might uncover a white spot). The Democratic Party has revealed its tawdriness too. I can't say I'm unhappy. Dan Rather is a fine scalp for the blogosphere to take; CBS is better, and the Democratic Party too, but it doesn't look like it will stop there. One of the uses of this scandal will be to act as a litmus test for intellectual honesty for liberals. This would an update on the old "Alger Hiss was smeared by Republicans" test, which hasn't really been very useful since about 1960, since only those writing in the early 1950's were on record defending Hiss.

I hope somebody starts a list of when different liberal blogs and media outlets started admitting that the documents are forgeries....

... (It would, by the way, be useful to have a test for conservatives, too. Can anyone think of one? I don't mean something stupid like "Which conservatives have the intellectual honesty to admit that the dividend tax cut was a disaster?" We need something where a conservative is caught in provable wrongdoing, and some conservatives deny it. An old example might be the My Lai massacre-- I'm not up on it, but I recall that Lt. Calley had a lot of defenders. )

Here is a start, to show the style of the list I'd like to see. I've listed some recent entries by liberal bloggers to show their state of mind. Some of them still believe CBS. Atrios on September 13 says

Bill Glennon, a technology consultant in New York City who worked for IBM repairing typewriters from 1973 to 1985, says those experts "are full of crap. They just don't know." Glennon says there were IBM machines capable of producing the spacing, and a customized key -- the likes of which he says were not unusual -- could have created the superscript th.

Daily Kos on September 11 says, more weakly,

The main news outlets, including ABC World News (which I caught) are backing CBS. Thanks to our diarists for their hard work. But let's not get distracted by the trees and lose sight of the forest. Now it's time to ask the WH to answer the charges. This story is very much alive.

Update [2004-9-11 23:29:22 by DemFromCT]:

Lots of back and forth about the authenticity of the documents in the media, with CBS standing by its story. A reasonable summary (as of this writing) can be found here:

On the other hand, Kevin Drum on September 10 says

Bottom line: these memos might be 100% genuine. But there are lots of legitimate questions about their origin and authenticity, and at a minimum CBS ought to make its own copies available for inspection and also ought to disclose the names of the typographic experts it consulted. Better yet would be convincing their source to either go public, allow inspection of the original memos, or at least allow a more thorough discussion of exactly where the documents came from.

Until then, I'm afraid skepticism is warranted. I hope CBS hasn't gotten burned by crude forgeries, but like they say, hope is not a plan.

Josh Marshall on September 9 breaks with CBS, to his credit:

Over the last twenty-four hours I've received literally hundreds of emails that point out that each specific criticism, on its own terms, doesn't quite hold up. Thus, for instance, there definitely were proportional type machines widely available at the time. There were ones that did superscripts. There were ones with Times Roman font, or something very near to it.

But that only means that such a document could possibly have been produced at the time; not that it's likely. And taken all together, the criticisms raise big doubts in my mind about their authenticity. Adding even more doubt in my mind is that the author of this site was so easily able to use MS Word to produce a document that to my admittedly untrained eye looks identical to one of the memos in question. Identical.

A list like this would be a big help to liberals wondering which blogs to trust. And newspapers too. If the media follow standard form, the New York Times, the AP, and the Los Angeles Times will be with CBS, but the Washington Post will be against CBS, and all the TV networks and cable companies except Fox will be with CBS.

Update: This test, by the way, will also help test a hypothesis I have raised before: that the blogosphere is more honest, overall, than the old media, because there is more competition and a weblog is forced to address issues orl ose readers. An alternative hypothesis is that weblogs are usually libertarian or conservative, while the old media is liberal, and liberals are more dishonest. If we find that liberal weblogs do address issues (and it does seem that even Kos and Atrios at least mention Rathergate) and address them head-on (more dubious), at least more than the old media do, then we can reject the "dishonest liberals" hypothesis.

Posted by erasmuse at 12:53 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 12, 2004

Defending Property Rights; Hoppe

I was just dipping into Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy-- The God that Failed (Transaction, 2001). It seems to be anarcho-capitalist, in the style of David Friedman's Machinery of Freedom, which is, however, the better book. Hoppe, though, proclaims himself a "social and cultural conservative" too, which is an interesting combination quite appealing to me. Both authors raise very good questions about the fundamentals of political philosophy, focussing especially on the question,

"How can property rights be defended?" ...

... The hard question is not to define property rights. Indeed, economics tells us that if the initial allocation isn't efficient, people will trade to get to an efficient allocation, so long as they must trade rather than just take. But that is the catch. Why should they prefer trading to taking? Or, to put the aphorism a bit differently, why make instead of take?

The classic answer, which I will teach tomorrow unless I convince myself otherwise, is that we create government to defend property rights. A group of people chip in taxes for a government to hire police and soldiers who prevent people in the group from stealing from each other and outsiders from stealing too. Each person in the group realizes that the police will keep him from stealing too, but he accepts that, since stealing is inefficient, reducing the group's total wealth.

One of the readings for my class tomorrow classifies property as individual, communal, and government. That's not a bad way to do it, but in thinking about the purpose of government, it has some problems. It is not hard to see that individual property rights are usually what we want; the problem is how to enforce them.

Hoppe says somewhere that this classic answer is wrong. Government is not the defender of property rights, but the biggest threat to them. This has some truth to it, but in a perverse way. It is quite true that the government is the biggest threat to my property. Besides the 10% or so of my income that it takes for the legitimate purpose of fending off other internal and external thieves and for providing public goods, it grabs another 10% for transfers to people more politically powerful than myself-- the old, the poor, people from small states (but two senators nonetheless), and so forth. If we look at government laws and regulations, we see much the same proportion-- some laws are for the common good, and others for special interests. I lose a trivial amount each year to private thieves, and none at all to foreign thieves, so the government is the biggest actual thief and the biggest threat for increasing thieving.

But the government is the biggest thief only because it so effectively blocks other thieves. If we got rid of the US and Indiana governments would I be 20% richer? No. If I did nothing, then internal thieves would take my car and other movables, and extort my liquid assets by threatening to kill me and my family. External thieves would move in with their armies and, most likely, wipe out the internal thieves and reduce me to slavery.

Of course, I'd do something. I'd buy guns. Better than that, I'd chip in with the neighbors to buy some professional soldiers. We could even make a profit off it, by using our soldiers to pillage neighboring Elletsville and rural Monroe County. But other localities would do the same. We'd soon see that since fighting costs a lot, and the biggest army would win, we'd be best off by joining forces and just requiring everybody to pitch in to pay for it. And so we'd be back to our status quo-- including the 10% government thievery, since it's hard to keep a big organization like that from taking advantage of its power.

That's the flaw in anarcho-capitalism-- when you think about it, the private protection agencies would evolve into pretty much what we've got now.

No-- the real problem is think how to keep a government, a monopoly provider of security in a given geographic locality, from stealing too much.

This could use formal modelling, I think. I started trying to put something together on these lines. Suppose we have 100 people, 100 guns, and 1000 cows, with guns and cows allocated as property according to some arbitrary initial distribution. Everybody is risk averse, and there is no production. Anybody with a gun can try to steal from someone else, with a certain wastage of cows in the process, unless someone with a larger number of guns intervenes to stop him. A starting position can either have someone with a large number of guns volunteer to be a policeman for one or more other people, or not.

Any group of people with more than 20 guns can declare a revolution. If they do, then two things happen. First, there is some chance each of those people is killed. Second, property is reshuffled. There is a probability distribution over the new possible property allocations, with a significant chance either that the revolutionaries gain a lot (success) or lose a lot (failure). Also, there is wastage-- 50 cows die in the revolution.

The question is which property allocations and police systems are stable and which have the greatest number of cows. If nobody acts as policeman, then there will be theft, with a certain number of dead cows. If too many people are too poor, yet have guns, they will declare a revolution, so that allocation is unstable, and inefficient since it leads to a revolution that kills cows. Probably in equilibrium we'd have someone with lots of guns acting as policeman, who would get cows from everyone else in return for protecting them, and although he'd charge them a lot, he'd refrain from stealing or overcharging in order to avoid revolution.

To a non-economist, this probably sounds silly and unserious. Formal models sound like that, which is one reason-- the main reason?-- economists use X and Y instead of guns and cows. The mathematical notation scares off the boobs so they don't make fun of us. But I'll make a more honest defense. Trying to understand something like the origins of society is like trying to tell a persuasive story, one that hangs together and sounds like it would work. This is hard, and to be persuasive needs to be understandable, which means it needs to be simple. The style of political philosophy is to be verbal and vague, which may sound profound but actually slides over the hard points. Economic models insist on the rigor of setting up the choices people have and then seeing what they will choose, rather than just loosely saying what will happen. This results in a story that is stylized but not vague. It lacks the details of reality, but that is good, not bad, because the aim is to strip the situation down to its essentials.

For more on that, see the Introduction to my Games and Information, which is a bit unusual for an introduction in that I actually try to teach something important.

If I could put together a formal model of the guns and cows, not an easy task, I would then be ready to attack the harder question of the psychological costs of revolution, and the shape of that transition matrix from the initial allocation to the post-revolutionary one. That is where things such as moral and religious principles would enter-- legitimacy and guilt. Libertarians tend to downplay the positive theory of legitimacy, though they often make a big deal of the normative. For present purposes, though, what matters is why some people would not start a revolution even though they would personally benefit; why some people would die for the status quo, and how others can be induced to die to upend the status quo.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Jonathan Edwards on True Virtue

Last Spring I posted a couple of times from Perry Miller's book, Jonathan Edwards: "Making God in Our Own Image; God's Morality versus Ours; The Mystery of Suffering and Predestination" and "Perceiving God's Excellency" I've read more, and find that Edwards's ethics is really very much like an economist would think. Miller is talking about Edwards's book, The Nature of True Virtue. My thoughts are in italics.....

...


Edwards' conclusion is that what Hutcheson and the rationalists conceive as a natural possession of all mankind, the criterion of disinterested benevolence, is actually only a compounding of pleasure against pain, nothing more than an extension of the principle of uniformity through wider and wider variety, a long-term instead of a short-term calculus. (p. 286)

I think Adam Smith has a similar notion later in The Theory of Moral Sentiments-- that we are grieved by oppression because of sympathy that makes us wince, for example.

... the old Puritan disposition to expect the worst from mankind while demanding the best... (p. 287)

Just the sentiments of an economist asking for efficiency when it is not in self interest!

... the greater part of this concentrated essay is a tracing out, with no rancor, as from an incalculable height of observation, of the manifold masquerades that self-love can resort to in the endless effort to simulate benevolence.

I wonder if there is a category to match Dan Rather's self righteousness?

What the natural man calls virtuous and beautiful-- social justice, the mother's love for her child, the happiness of those he happens to love, a regard for the public good which includes himself even when it calls upon him to sacrifice himself, ultimately even the approbation of an inward conscience that gives him invincible pleasure despite the censure of his fellows ... -- all these, analyzed into elementary terms, are no more than "the order and proportion generally observed in the laws of nature." They are reactions, like the cry of the anvil hit by the hammer... (p. 289)

This is the economist's tautology: if I choose A over B, it is because A give me greater utility. Knowing my utility function, you can perfectly predict what I will do. I don't have the free will to do what I don't want to do.

[of "virtuous" human actions] They can be formulated into rules as objectively beautiful, but as utterly irrelevant to moral worth, as incommensurate with the dignity of suffering and the agony of decision, as the insensate laws of motion.

For me to be cruel to my children would be as hard as for a stone to drop up instead of down; it just doesn't come naturally. So is my kindness virtue, or just the ordinary course of nature?

The book is not so clear on what Edwards *does* think is virture. It is something along these lines: that true virtue is to depart from our natural inclinations to do what God desires, because that is beauty of a higher order than the laws of nature (though those laws in themselves do have *some* beauty). We cannot depart from our natural inclinations without God's grace, however, which shows us this higher beauty, upon which sight we begin to yearn for it.

This is a neat way to address the question of The Damnation of the Virtuous Heathen. How could God burn the benevolent Hindu in Hell forever? --Because his benevolence is just the natural result of a benevolent disposition, no more deserving of reward than the gentleness of a sheep or the loyalty of a dog. And if that natural benevolence is put aside, why should he not be burned, as being just as selfish as a violent lecher, just with more neighborly tastes in recreation?

Posted by erasmuse at 09:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Aspen Edge Beer

Coors's Aspen Edge beer is a "low-carb" beer that is 4.1% alcohol. I recently tried it, and seeing the "low-carb" label thought it might be low-alcohol too. I've been trying to find which low-alcohol beer tastes best, and thought this might be the one. It tastes better than the no-alcohol beers, but 4.1% is too close to regular beer for this to be worth drinking. One review says...


...lots of corn and rice adjuncts here, with a watery toasted malt taste every once in awhile. Bottom line, pass this one up. One of my friends actually liked this swill. Then I broke out two bottles...one Dreadnaught, and one Speedway Stout. I dared him to sip those then just try to put his lips "over the Edge". Well, he did it, but not without a slight gag.


That would be unfair if this were truly low-alcohol-- a review says "Speedway Stout is a HUGE Imperial Stout, with pounds and pounds of coffee added during conditioning for a little extra kick!"-- but Aspen Edge is still in competition with, say, European and homebrew Pilsners, and loses.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

527's and Campaign Finance Law

There's a delightful paradox in campaign finance law. Some people-- let's call them Limiters-- think political expenditure is bad, because it helps candidate with access to money, and want to limit it. Those people supported the McCain-Feingold Bill, Public Law 107-155 (2002). Other people-- let's call them Expanders-- think political expenditure is good, because it educates the public. Those people opposed McCain-Feingold and sued in court, unsuccessfully, to block it (see McConnell v. FEC(2003)).

Here's the paradox. It has turned out that far from reducing political expenditure, McCain-Feingold has vastly increased it. Far from limiting the freedom to contribute and spend, it has expanded it and money from millionaires is more important than ever. Thus, we really should now see the Limiters wanting to repeal McCain-Feingold and the Expanders saying it was a good thing after all.

I have been trying, not very successfully, to figure out how this came about. I'd like to, since I want to teach campaign finance law this semester and next semester. But it's a hard area of law, and I'm still looking for either a journalist or an academic who has dared to try to explain it....

... The part I want to focus on are the "527's"-- the expenditures by supposedly independent organizations that are exempt from paying taxes (but to whom contributions are not tax deductible). In practice, it seems that these can run exactly the same kind of ads as the candidates do, and be run by the same people as the candidates' campaigns, but they can receive unlimited donations from individuals, labor unions, and corporations, and they have no spending limits. All they have to do is file detailed reports of what they spend and who they get the money from. Also, there is some undefined but lax limit on how close they can be to the candidate's campaign. The candidate's campaign manager cannot be the boss of a 527, though the candidate's party leaders can be the bosses, and the candidate's party can set up and directly fund its own 527 in a building across the street from its headquarters. Also, the candidate cannot directly fundraise for a 527, though he can put a link on his website to direct contributors to a 527 if he has reached his own fundraising limits.

Thus, McCain-Feingold seems to have pretty much repealed the limitations of campaign finance law, although it imposed onerous reporting requirements and transaction costs in terms of multiple websites, buildings, and corporate shells.

The law did not do this explicitly, though, and McCain, at least, seems genuinely outraged. Rather, it seems that the result is due to sloppy drafting and tolerant interpretation by the Federal Elections Commission, which is supposed to enforce it.

Here's what's going on as best as I can tell. We started with a complicated law in 2002, before McCain-Feingold, and McCain-Feingold amended it rather than replacing it. This means you can't just read the 36 pages of McCain-Feingold to know what the law is. In any case, knowing the written law wouldn't help, because what is crucial are the regulations that lay out the law in detail and the court decisions interpreting it. The Supreme Court decision, McConnell v. FEC(2003), is not useful because it is about whether the restrictions of McCain-Feingold are valid constitutionally, rather than what the text means.

Much of this 527 spending might have been legal even before McCain-Feingold, but there was less demand for it then, because "soft money" could be given and spent without restraint by the Democratic and Republican Parties. "Hard money" expenditures, though-- ads which attack candidates by name, for example, was not permitted to the parties, and for some reason 527's didn't do so much of it before McCain-Feingold.

Republicans seem to have thought that campaign finance law limited what 527's could do, and maybe the written law does. Everyone seems to have thought that 527's could do "soft money" sorts of things-- registering voters and suchlike-- but the Republicans didn't think they had much legal "hard money" possibilities-- TV ads attacking candidates. It seems they thought that the law forbade a 527 from running anti-Bush ads, accepting unlimited donations, engaging in unlimited spending, and being run by party leaders. They (and some liberal campaign reform lobbies, I think) complained to the FEC in Spring 2004. The FEC looked at the law, and said that it would permit all that for the 2004 election, but would maybe issue some restrictive regulations for the 2008 election. The Republicans were caught playing catch-up.

I think the FEC interpretation of the law might have been this (but I have not been able to pin this down): 1. A 527 can't coordinate with a political party, but "coordination" means sharing detailed plans and using the same ads, not discussing strategy or being run by the same people; 2. A 527 can't have campaign ads as its only purpose, because it is supposed to have "issues" as its main purpose, but it can nonetheless have campaign ads as its main purpose in any given year. But I'm not sure. I've seen articles saying even the FEC doesn't know what it would permit and wouldn't permit if cases were brought before it.

The Swiftvet ads, by the way, are a very small part of this. Not only has the expenditure on them and the contributions by single individuals been relatively small (in the low millions and hundred-thousands, as opposed to the high tens of millions and 5-20 million dollars for the Democrats), but also the big impact of the Swifvets has not been through their ads, but through their book, website, radio interviews, and so forth, none of which required significant expenditure (I suppose they have a book agent, a webmaster, and a scheduler, but those are trivial amounts and those things could have been done by volunteers if they'd had no cash).

A collection of links and quotes follows.

Top 50 List from Opensecrets. The top 5, the ones over $10 million, are Joint Victory Campaign 2004, Media Fund, America Coming Together, Service Employees International Union, and American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees. Joint Victory Campaign 2004 is a joint fund-raising committee run by America Coming Together and the Media Fund. Money raised by JVC is split by them.

By sector, Opensecrets reports these 527s

527's
Type Receipts
Democratic/Liberal $126,849,747
Misc Unions $26,156,631
Repub/Conservative $17,224,036
Public Sector Unions $16,045,742
Environment $9,808,198
Bldg Trade Unions $5,231,512
Women's Issues $4,597,346
Unknown $4,455,921
Industrial Unions $4,381,287
Human Rights $4,294,279

Opensecrets has a list of the main 527's and 501's, with a sentence on each to say who they're backing.

Some webpages:

  1. I found Opensecrets.org's "Basics of McCain- Feingold" unhelpful-- it says what McCain-Feingold limits, but not what it doesn't limit.

  2. A WSJ op-ed that uses the phrase, "law of unintendeded consequences".

  3. "No one understands FEC 527 opinion (including FEC)" says Luke Francl in February 2004.

  4. Moresoftmoneyhardlaw.com talks about the fine points of the FEC decision, but somehow avoids telling us the bottom line.

The Washington Post on July 29, article 1

Flush with more than $60 million in the bank, the Democratic National Committee has set up a separate campaign operation with its own pollster, television consultants and media buyer to run a full-scale "independent" drive on behalf of Kerry. On Saturday, the first week's TV buy, worth $6 million, starts in 20 battleground states.

The first commercial is likely to use film clips of Kerry's acceptance speech at the convention here Thursday. Under federal campaign law, starting Friday, the Kerry campaign may spend only the $75 million it has agreed to accept from the federal government to run its general election campaign.

So an independent campaign can still use film clips of the candidate's speeches, and be funded by his party, and be run by his party!

As envisaged by Congress, the general presidential election would cost a total of less than $200 million -- $75 million in federal grants to each of the two candidates and $16.2 million in "coordinated" expenditures each by the Democratic and Republican national committees. In practice -- with the courts ruling that independent expenditures are legal, the spending of millions more by the parties on field operations and the planned spending by third-party groups, such as the pro-Democratic America Coming Together and the pro-Republican organizations financed by the pharmaceutical industry -- total presidential spending is likely to exceed $750 million, according to a compilation of party and independent-group estimates.

...

The new form of independent expenditures by the DNC was sanctioned by a 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. The court declared that the national parties can each spend $16.2 million on activities fully coordinated with the presidential campaigns, and "unlimited independent expenditures" that may not be coordinated with the presidential campaigns. The only restriction on the independent expenditures is that contributions must comply with the federal limit of no more than $25,000 from each individual. Moreover, each campaign cannot be involved in decisions concerning how the money is spent.

The Washington Post on July 29, article 2

Ickes, for example, spent his days in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel with Rosenthal, Smith and Malcolm, greeting a steady stream of would-be donors to ACT and the Media Fund. The hotel also happened to be the one used by fundraisers for the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party.

At night, Ickes took off his fundraiser hat and mingled with other Democrats on the floor of FleetCenter as a superdelegate, representing Washington, D.C. Ickes is also a member of the Democratic National Committee's executive committee, which makes him a party official.

Another 527, the New Democrat Network, has counted New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on its advisory board. As chairman of the convention, Richardson could be found gaveling open the proceedings. He also appears in anti-Bush ads aimed at Hispanics that NDN has run around the country.

At one point this week, Rosenthal acknowledged that ACT had hired a phone-bank operation owned by the Dewey Square Group, the Boston-based consulting firm run by several key Kerry strategists.

Insight says

Harold Ickes, former deputy chief of staff during the Clinton administration and a member of the Democratic National Committee's executive committee, heads the Media Fund.

"Harold Ickes has even admitted he has told the Kerry campaign what he is doing in his 527 activities," Stanzel said.

Media Fund Executive Director Eric Smith worked with Kerry Deputy Campaign Manager Steve Elmendorf on the primary campaign for Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and attorney Bob Bauer serves a counsel both to the Kerry campaign and ACT, Stanzel said.

...

Late last week the commission also voted in favor of rules closing some of the loopholes governing 527s, including a $5,000 limit on donations by individuals. The rules, however, will not go into effect until 2006.

So it seems party officials can run a 527 and talk about it with other employees at the political party.

Also, it seems the FEC does think it has authority to regulate 527's strictly, but that it doesn't *have* to regulate them.

The Hill says

Several prominent election-law lawyers say a loophole may allow foreign citizens to make unlimited donations to 527s and 501(c)4s, both named after the sections of the tax code under which they are organized.

...

Congressional reformers modified section 441e of the federal election campaign laws to say that it is unlawful for a foreign national to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a federal, state or local election; to make a contribution or donation to a political party; or to make an expenditure, independent expenditure or disbursement for an electioneering communication. In the second paragraph of the section, the drafters wrote that it is unlawful for a person to solicit or receive a contribution or donation from a foreign national in connection with a federal, state or local election, or to a political party. However, the section omits a prohibition that election lawyers had expected the drafters to place on soliciting or receiving an independent expenditure or disbursement from a foreign national for electioneering communication, the types of activities that are the purpose of 527 groups.

...

When the election commission contemplated new rules for 527s this spring, reformers such as Noble urged the agency in written testimony to require the groups to "register as federal political committees and to comply with federal campaign finance laws for their spending, which is clearly for the purpose of influencing federal elections."

However, the election commission could not agree how to determine whether an organization’s major purpose is to influence a federal election and issued no rules for 527s.

...

Bradley Smith, the chairman of the FEC, said campaign-finance reformers were wrong to blame the possible loophole on the agency’s decision to not regulate 527s.

Smith argued that the campaign-finance-reform law passed in 2002 did not ask for new regulations of 527 groups. Smith also noted that the commission has traditionally interpreted restrictions on foreign nationals more strictly than restrictions on other campaign-finance activity.

So Bin-Laden could legally spend $100 million, if he had it, to run anti-Bush ads. (Note that many foreign leaders *do* have that kind of money. It would have been pocket change for Saddam Hussein-- and a good investment for him in 2000! )

The FEC Chairman's position seems to be that McCain-Feingold did not change the law on 527's, and that 527's are pretty much unregulated, except for disclosure requirements.

The Washington Times of March 2004 says

" The Supreme Court stated that in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission that the FEC had 'subverted' the law, issued regulations that permitted more than Congress had ever intended and ... invited widespread circumvention of the Federal Election Campaign Act's limits on contributions," Mr. McCain said.

For his part, Mr. Feingold says he has given up on the FEC and wants it overhauled, saying at yesterday's hearing that effective campaign-finance reform will require another bill from himself and Mr. McCain to restructure the FEC.

"To be successful, campaign-finance reform must be implemented and enforced by an agency that is dedicated to carrying out the will of Congress, not frustrating it," Mr. Feingold said.

The FEC has argued in recent years that "527 groups" are not regulated under the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act and later refinements, because they are private and nonpartisan and because their primary mission is not to influence federal elections.

It's a bit humorous that Feingold hasn't given up on regulation, after the total failure of his previous bill. He does seem to have learned, though, that changing a law is useless if you don't make sure that the court or agency that interprets the law has to pay attention to what you write.

The Washington Post on August 26, 2004 says

Critics warned that the law would weaken the parties by starving them of cash. Instead, the parties have managed to wean themselves from soft money: According to the most recent figures, each has raised more hard money so far this cycle than they did in hard- and soft-money donations combined four years ago.

...

As of June 30, the last period for which comparable figures are available, the Democrats' national party committees had collected $230 million in hard money this election, more than double the $102 million they raised in the 2000 race. The Republicans also doubled their tally, raking in $381 million, up from $178 million in the 2000 election.

...

Of the $154 million raised by groups linked to the presidential race through June 30, $145 million has gone to Democratic organizations. By contrast, the Democratic party committees had raised $126 million in soft money at the same point four years ago.

It's clearly troubling to have groups whose clear intent is to influence federal elections playing by different, looser rules than others involved in the process. The federal election law requires groups to register with the FEC -- and most important, to abide by strict donation limits -- if their "major purpose" is to influence a federal election. It's tough to see how the Swift Boat vets or the Democratic groups don't meet that test. And the involvement of marquee-name politicians in supporting the groups, enabled by the FEC's lax reading of the prohibition on federal lawmakers soliciting soft money for the groups, adds to the risk of such groups re-creating the problems of the old system under a different guise.

That article says that the FEC is simply not enforcing the law, using the wiggle room of "major purpose" (e.g., someone might claim that the major purpose of the Swiftvets is not to defeat Kerry in the presidential race, but to bring out the truth of his Vietnam service, regardless of whether he is elected or not).

MSNBC wrote on August 18, 2004,

According to the non-partisan research group the Center for Responsive Politics, Soros has donated $12.6 million so far to anti-Bush 527 groups.

...

Under federal law, the 527 groups cannot coordinate their ads with the presidential campaigns. But if they use individual donations, rather than labor union or corporate donations, they can run ads praising or attacking a candidate right up until Election Day.

...

This year, the 527 groups have taken on a more prominent role, and perhaps a decisive one. So far, the groups have spent a total of more than $200 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

To put this number in perspective, as of June 30, the Kerry campaign had spent $142 million and the Bush campaign, $159 million.

...

The Swift Boat group is financed partly by Texas Republican donor Bob Perry, who has given to Bush’s 2000 campaign and House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s campaigns, as well as to that of Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

With more than $600,000 in funds raised, the group is small compared to the Media Fund, which has raised $28 million and run ads assailing Bush, or America Coming Together, which has raised $80 million and is looking to add another $45 million.

So by June 30, pro-Kerry 527s had spent more on the campaign than Bush had. Combined with Kerry's spending, that means Bush was outspent by 2 to 1.

Posted by erasmuse at 02:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CBS vs. AP strategies when Caught Lying; Hewitt Summary

Powerline reminds us that the AP put up a falsified story within the past month too-- the false report that there was heavy booing at a Bush rally when Bush wished good health to Bill Clinton-- and never said it was sorry. AP's strategy when caught, though, was smarter than CBS's: it quickly corrected the error and acted as if it was no big deal. It didn't say it was sorry, though, or punish the reporters who made up the story, presumably because it wasn't sorry and liked the fact that they lied, even though they got caught this time. Only the blogosphere took notice, so the AP's strategy worked.

Note, too the good summary post of the CBS forgeries by Hugh Hewitt.

Posted by erasmuse at 02:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Potential Libel Suit: General Hodges vs. CBS?

The Washington Times says

One retired Guard official, who was Mr. Killian's immediate supervisor, Maj. Gen. Bobby Hodges, was offered up by Mr. Rather as one who would substantiate that the memos were real. But yesterday Gen. Hodges told the Los Angeles Times he thought the memos were fake. One CBS executive said the general, a known Bush supporter, had changed his story.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn't think the Killian family could sue for libel based on CBS having put forward obviously forged documents as genuine (even if it could be proven that CBS actually forged the documents in-house rather than contracting it out).

But how about General Hodges? CBS is saying that the General verified forged documents. Moreover, he is a known Bush supporter, which makes him look pretty stupid and treacherous if he validated documents that were forged to hurt Bush. The General says he didn't do it, though. This looks like enough to get a libel suit before a jury. Before it gets to the jury, though, there is the discovery stage, in which the General would be able to use legal compulsion to get CBS to answer questions about the story under oath...


Update, a few minutes later: Powerline notes at

http://powerlineblog.com/archives/007806.php

that the Boston Globe has a pattern of quoting people in this affair, the people saying that the Globe misquoted them, and the Globe standing by their quote. Looks like more potential libel suits to me. These "He said, she said" suits are probably tough to win-- I don't know the standard of proof needed-- but it would be enough to get them before a jury for the plaintiff (the victim) to justify himself in public and to show the falsity of the libeller.
In the case of the Globe, one person they misquoted was a documents expert. He certainly has a case for his professional reputation being damaged by them.

Update, Monday: John Fund writes:

"60 Minutes" may have a sterling reputation in journalism, but it has been burned before by forged documents. In 1997 it broadcast a report alleging that U.S. Customs Service inspectors looked the other way as drugs crossed the Mexican border at San Diego. The story's prize exhibit was a memo from Rudy Comacho, head of the San Diego customs office, ordering that vehicles belonging to one trucking company should be given special leniency in crossing the border. The memo was given to "60 Minutes" by Mike Horner, a former customs inspector who had left the service five years earlier. When asked by CBS for additional proof, he sent another copy with an official stamp on it.

CBS did not interview Mr. Camacho for its story. "It was horrible for him," says Bill Anthony, at the time head of public affairs for the Customs Service. "For 18 months, internal affairs and the Secret Service had him under a cloud while they established that Horner had forged the document out of bitterness over how he'd been treated." In 2000, Mr. Horner admitted he forged the memo "for media exposure" and was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. "Mr. Camacho's reputation was tarnished significantly," Judge Judith Keep noted.

Mr. Camacho sued CBS and eventually settled for an undisclosed sum. In 1999 Leslie Stahl read an apology on the air: "We have concluded we were deceived, and ultimately, so were you, the viewers."


If Mr. Camacho could sue, so could General Hodges, I would think. I hope he does not settle out of court.

Update 2: Eugene Volokh took up my question about General Hodges and writes

The allegation that the General verified the documents, even if false, is likely not defamatory; the allegation that he had changed his story, though, likely is defamatory. They wouldn't be the strongest claims of defamation, since he'd probably have to persuade the jury that he suffered some specific damage as a result of the statements.

But more broadly, even if the General is no longer a public figure (the statements being made about him are not statements about his alleged conduct when he was still serving), he's likely a limited purpose public figure. If he talked to CBS News about the documents, he injected himself into this controversy. Even if he was later misquoted by CBS News itself, he'd still be a public figure for purposes of this debate, so that to recover he would have to prove the CBS knew its statements about him were false (or at least knew the statements were quite likely false). Maybe he could prove such knowing falsehood (e.g., they knew that I hadn't changed my story, so they lied when they said I did change it) plus damages; but that's what he would indeed have to prove, and showing negligence isn't enough.

Professor Volokh also discusses what, in general, would be desirable for lying in public affairs. I quite agree with him that stripping TV stations of their licenses and criminal prosecutions are tools likely to be abused. I disagree with him somewhat about libel suits not being useful. Libel suits help because they force the parties to confront each other's charges in a formal setting with an umpire, the judge. To use Rathergate as an example, a libel suit would compel CBS to produce the documents it says it has, to tell us the names of the experts it says it has, to describe its internal checking process, and to answer questions under cross examination. The jury decision and the actual damages are the least important part of the suit. In fact, the best law might be to allow suits for lying in public matters, and even a jury decision, but no damages. That would avoid one of the two bad things that comes to mind about libel suits: that the jury and judge might award ridiculous damages against an unpopular defendant despite the evidence. (The other bad thing is that civil suits take years to finish-- so in Rathergate, the suit wouldn't do much till long after the 2004 election, though so far this is more about CBS than about the politicians.)

Posted by erasmuse at 01:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Is One of Our Two Major Parties Trying to Gain the Presidency Using Forged Documents?

Something , Peter Duncan wrote, via Jim Treacher and Instapundit, made me rethink a bit on Rathergate. Here is his idea, in my words:

What is the most serious issue in the campaign?

It is not whether Kerry faked his Purple Hearts 30 years ago, despite how he makes his Vietnam Service his main credential. It is certainly not whether Bush's superiors should have made him attend extra drills 30 years ago. It is not even whether Kerry has any idea of what to do differently than Bush in Iraq.

No, the most serious issue is this: Did the leadership of the Democratic Party try, with the complicity of CBS News, to take down the President of the United States using forged documents? ...

...At the moment, it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that the CBS documents are forgeries. Indeed, this is so clear that it is pretty certain that CBS knew they were forgeries-- certainly they must know by now, and they are still sticking by their story. What is unclear is whether CBS got the documents from the Democratic Party.

Perhaps that isn't important either. The Democratic Party as of Friday, when everybody knew the documents were forged, was still using them in its official letters. So the Democrats are trying to use forgeries to win an election, even if they didn't actually create the forgeries.

If it's just CBS, that's not so bad. But if it's the Democratic Party... that is not a good sign for democracy.

Here is the original fromPeter Duncan:

What is the serious issue?

It is NOT whether Bush completed his TANG (Texas Air National Guard) duty to completion or about how anything else that happened 30 years ago will effect the upcoming election.

It IS about investigating the CURRENT allegations that the Democratic National Committee willingly supplied false (forged) documents to a major news outlet (CBS) who all too dutifully reported this as "news" without providing a complete, and accurate accounting of the story, and who didn't adequately check the authenticity of these documents that leading experts in the private and public sectors (Pentagon) are now saying are forgeries.

Partisan politics, mud slinging, etc. are to be expected in an election year. Breaking the law, in an attempt to take down a sitting president using forged documents is much more serious.

I don't think the forgers have committed any crime here, actually, something I alluded to in a previous post. That doesn't lessen the moral gravity of what they did and what their supporters in CBS and the Democratic Party are doing now.

Posted by erasmuse at 01:46 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 11, 2004

Fontgate: Tom Smith Writes Well and Shape of Days Types Well

Tom Smith is actually as good a writer as Mark Steyn-- we are just deprived of his full talents by Smith's having a job as a tenured professor rather than being a freelance writer:...

...

Here's the NYT on fontgate or whatever we're going to call it. Now we know what the MSM damage control line is going to be: "Experts disagree! Oh darn! I guess we'll never know! What a shame!" Oddly, the experts who think the CBS docs are transparently crude forgeries have names, while the other experts are well, just experts. Now shut up.

...

Particularly disgusting on this has been CNN. I just watched Aaron Brown, or whatever his name is, you know, the nauseatingly sensitive anchor guy, ask follow up questions along the lines of "Now, without the original documents, is it really possible to know for sure who is right?" "Oh, no, Aaron, we'll never know . . ." When of course, the right question is, is there any reason to believe they are authentic? Do they appear to be genuine or not? On which side is the weight of the evidence? If some one tells you something is a moon rock and it looks like pool tile, you infer he's full of it, even if all you have to go on is the appearance of the thing. The standard is not, can we be absolutely certain they are forgeries.

AND there's this on Hugh Hewitt's site:

Hi Hugh,
I am a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University who has followed the evolution of word processing technology over the past 30 years. A cursory glance at the "Killian documents" shows that they are forgeries, the product of a modern word processing system. Even the most powerful word processing systems available in the early 70's were not designed to produce propotionally spaced documents.
. . .

"A cursory glance" is all that it takes. It goes on from there. And guess what? The professor is right, and the dunderheads at CBS are wrong.

September 10

Maybe this is one of those things you have to be in your forties or older to understand. Do people remember what a monumental pain in the butt it was to type papers in college? Erasing? White out? Fiddling around with the carriage to squeeze in letters or lines? Anyone who ever typed can tell by visual inspection that the documents in question are word processed. (I learned to type in high school in a class taught by the basketball coach; a guy so mean even the other coaches hated him. He finally left and all sighed in relief. Learned how to type, though.) Some old guy who didn't even type (his wife says he couldn't type) could not have produced such a clean looking document using a normal typewriter. As to the IBM selectric, come on. I was in college from 1975 to 1979, and nobody, even rich kids who would have had one, had a selectric. A grad student I knew got one in 1977 or so, but they were very rare. And they were no huge bargain to work with by today's standards. And the couldn't produce the proportionally spaced documents like those in question. Maybe there were some memory versions around, but the old army reservist was supposed to have one of these in his den in 1972. Doesn't anybody remember 1972? Hardly anybody had an electric typewriter back then for personal use.

All this makes this a weird story for me. I know enough about typing and such to know the documents are fake, I really don't have any doubt, but CBS apparently doesn't know that.

I also just read the Shape of Days definitive post on the question of whether an IBM could have written the memo. He contacted the world expert on this, and got very detailed responses. He shows various ways the $30,000 old IBM could have come close-- close, but no cigar. There are still definite differences, even if Colonel Killian had bought the fancy machine, despite his lack of typing skills, and had jiggled things all day to try get his superscripts looking pretty on this memo for his personal files.

Posted by erasmuse at 06:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Latest at Politics Weblog

Here's the latest at my Politics Weblog:

        Kerry's Reserve Service



        Signature Expert Matley on the CBS Forgeries


        Kerry's Second Choice, after Swifboats-- PBR Combat Duty


        The CBS Forgeries: Why?



        Kerry, Studds, Crane, Frank, Gingrich, Livingston, Clinton...


        What if the Navy Makes President Kerry Return His Medals?


        McCain's Reasons For Not Wanting Anyone Checking on Medals



        Kerry's Senate Testimony: 3000 refugees, 200,000/year Murders by Americans


        Taranto on Bush-Kerry as Deciding Who to Hire


        Polling Trends and Media Bias, 1936 to 2000



        The NYT and Boston Globe Fail in Attempts to Smear Bush

Posted by erasmuse at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Reserve Service

Here's some evidence and comment on John Kerry's Reserve Service, 1970 to 1978 from Flyunderthebridge. I am posting this for reference on the open question of whether Kerry's Reserve service was all in proper order, for and possible comment from readers, not because I know what to do with it....

...

... Which happens to be three more people than can testify that John Kerry fulfilled the terms of his enlistment

Which clearly calls for Kerry to serve three years active duty, two years of ready reserve (with 48 drills per year of week-end warrioring, and a 17 day "summer camp"), and one year of standby reserve with no activity. Kerry fulfilled the three years active duty by early 1970. He appears to have plead the need to blow off the two years of ready reserve drills because he was going to run for congress. However, that intention didn't last long. Once relieved of his obligation, he withdrew in favor of another Democrat.

Still unresolved is the question of why Kerry didn't receive his discharge in 1972, when his service should have ended, but six years later in 1978. A good question for George W. Bush would be: "You say you think John Kerry served honorably. Can you think of a reason why he didn't get his honorable discharge when his six year term ran out?"

And here is more from Flyunderthebridge:

At this excellent compilation of Kerry and Bush's service records, one can read that officially, John Kerry was supposed to be drilling 48 times per year in the Ready Reserve, and they thought he was.

The first document is offering him the opportunity to continue in Ready Reserve status, rather than transfer to Standby Reserve. Apparently he declines to get his hair cut, because the second page places him in Standby effective July 1, 1972.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Signature Expert Matley on the CBS Forgeries

CBS did finally come up with the name of an expert it consulted about the forged documents, Marcel Matley-- but just a handwriting expert, not a documents expert! Since rumor has it (that is, the Prowler article says) that CBS knew the signatures were questionable before they ran the show, this isn't very comforting-- presumably this is the expert who earlier, in private, gave them the opposite opinion. Also, he just states his opinion, rather than addressing any of the specific problems.

The signature on the top is from the unquestionably authentic September 6, 1973 disharge papers. That on the bottom is from the CBS Forgeries (note, of course, the computer typography)....

...What's interesting here is that this is a courtroom expert, a hired gun. That's not at all damning in itself. Indeed, it makes him more credible, because this guy has put his future income on the line. He sure looks wrong to me--or, I expect to you, looking at the evidence above. Some features are the same, the general appearance is far different, as are details such as the "i" and the "n". I don't see how Mr. Matley can ever get another gig as an expert witness. If he did, the other side would put these two signatures up on the screen, just like here, and say: "Mr. Matley, is it true that you gave as your professional opinion that these two signatures are by the same person, rather than one being a forgery? Were you at that time acting as a paid consultant to CBS News? Could CBS find any other experts who agreed with you? Didn't some three dozen other experts, volunteers, not paid, come out in public to say that the documents you said were authentic were forgeries?"

So either Mr. Matley is being very noble indeed, as he says below, or we must wonder what motivation he has. Could he be "cashing out" his reputation? I'd like to know how much CBS is paying him. Or could it be blackmail? Or is there really a case for two signatures that look so different to a non-expert being by the same person?

For more commentary, see Justin Katz on September 9.

Here is what Matley says in Dan Rather's defense of the documents:


DOCUMENT AND HANDWRITING EXAMINER MARCEL MATLEY DID THIS INTERVIEW WITH US PRIOR TO THE 60 MINUTES BROADCAST.

HE LOOKED AT THE DOCUMENTS AND THE SIGNATURES OF COLONEL JERRY KILLIAN.... COMPARING KNOWN DOCUMENTS WITH THE COLONEL'S SIGNATURE ON THE NEWSLY DISCOVERED ONES.

Matley: "WE LOOK BASICALLY AT WHAT'S CALLED SIGNIFICANT OR INSIGNIFICANT FEATURES TO DETERMINE WHETHER IT'S THE SAME PERSON OR NOT. I HAVE NO PROBLEM IDENTIFYING THEM.

I WOULD SAY BASED ON OUR AVAILABLE HANDWRITING EVIDENCE, YES. THIS IS THE SAME PERSON."

Rather: MATLEY FINDS THE SIGNAT'URES TO BE SOME OF THE MOST COMPELLING EVIDENCE...WE TALKED TO HIM AGAIN TODAY BY SATELLITE.

Matley "SINCE IT IS REPRESENTED THAT SOME OF THEM ARE DEFINITELY HIS... THEN WE CAN CONCLUDE THEY ARE HIS SIGNATURES."

Rather: "ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT QUESTIONS COME ABOUT THESE. WE'RE NOT, BUT I WAS WONDERING IF YOU'RE SURPRISED."

Matley: "I KNEW GOING IN THAT THIS WAS DYNAMITE ONE WAY OR THE OTHER AND I KNEW THAT POTENTIALLY IT WAS FAR MORE POTENTIAL DAMAGE TO ME PROFESSIONALLY THAN BENEFIT ME. AND I KNEW THAT. BUT WE SEEK THE TRUTH. THAT'S WHAT WE DO. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO PUT YOURSELF OUT. TO SEEK THE TRUTH AND TAKE WHAT COMES FROM IT."

Update:
National Review quotes Matley saying earlier that it's necessary to look at the original documents, not a photocopy, to tell if a signature is authentic-- yet now he is vouching for a photocopied signature. Of course, it's quite false that you need to look at the original, not a photocopy-- I've noted this stupid comment by a number of experts asked about Rathergate-- but it's still embarassing for Matley.

Update, Sept. 14: Part of getting older is increased experience and wisdom. It is taking me decades to really understand how stupid people can be. It's hard for an economist to understand that people very take out their gun, aim carefully, and shoot themselves in the foot. The Washington Post says this today.

CBS executives have pointed to Matley as their lead expert on whether the memos are genuine, and included him in a "CBS Evening News" defense of the story Friday. Matley said he spent five to eight hours examining the memos. "I knew I could not prove them authentic just from my expertise," he said. "I can't say either way from my expertise, the narrow, narrow little field of my expertise."

In looking at the photocopies, he said, "I really felt we could not definitively say which font this is." But, he said, "I didn't see anything that would definitively tell me these are not authentic."

Matley is backtracking. He's already said the signature is genuine, and he can't retract that, but it looks to as if he's panicking, realizing that his livelihood is crumbling beneath him as the man who authenticated the Rathergate documents-- presumably *not* for a fee equal to the capitalized value of all the future expert witnesss fees he is forfeiting.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2004

"For this plain reason, man is not a fly"; Pope and Brains

I quoted Alexander Pope's Essay on Man back on August 8. Here's another nice passage.

The bliss of man (could pride that blessing find)
Is not to act or think beyond mankind;
No powers of body or of soul to share,
But what his nature and his state can bear.
Why has not man a microscopic eye?
For this plain reason, man is not a fly.

Say what the use, were finer optics given,
To inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven?
Or touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er,
To smart and agonize at every pore?
Or quick effluvia darting through the brain,
Die of a rose in aromatic pain?

I don't ask for better senses, but I do wonder sometimes why God didn't make people smarter. I think I'd like to be average. But whether you believe in God or Evolution or Both, there must be a reason why people don't reason. Maybe high IQ leads to neurosis, or dangerous pride, or too much thinking when action would be more appropriate.

My Mazdaspeed car provides an analogy. Why don't all cars have turbochargers? For one thing, there's the expense. For another, my car needs Premium gasoline, and if I ever forget and put in Regular, bad things will happen to my engine. Fancy engines, like fancy minds, are more delicate, and we can get by without them in normal situations. Still, I like going fast around corners and saving that five minutes getting to work.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Second Choice, after Swifboats-- PBR Combat Duty

It's nice to be able to report something positive about John Kerry's military service. Many people have commented that joining the Navy was a pretty good way for Kerry to avoid getting drafted into the Army, similar to how George Bush joined the Air National Guard. Not dishonorable, but not sign of gung-ho desire to kill Viet Cong. Kerry did volunteer for the Swiftboats, but at the time the Swiftboats did coastal patrol rather than go up rivers, so that, too, was not a volunteering for combat-- rather, it was a way for him to get his own boat, even if a small one-- in fact, one more like the yachts he was used to. Then the Swiftboats' mission changed, and Kerry got his 4 1/2 months on the rivers before he ducked out using his fake Purple Hearts as an excuse.

But I've recently noticed a true sign of interest in combat: in his request for Swiftboat duty, Kerry lists "PBR's" as his second choice , if he couldnt' get a Swiftboat. Those, I think, are Patrol Boat-River, which I think would be true combat duty. I commend him for that.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The CBS Forgeries: Why?

The blogosphere has done a great job of proving beyond all doubt that the 60 Minutes Bush National Guard Documents are forgeries, even though Dan Rather is adamantly denying it. Powerline is the place to go for info, or Instapundit. The forgery is obvious even to a non-expert: computer fonts, not typewriters fonts; signature different from the genuine one; computer superscripts that a typewriter of the 1970s couldn't do.

Thus, we can move along to the causes and effects. First the causes. We know that CBS is working to elect Kerry, so they would be pleased to publish genuine documents, or even convincing forgeries. But why would they publish obvious forgeries? The result is to destroy their credibility and to leave George Bush stronger than before.



...
"Anatomy of a Forgery" by The Prowler suggests that the Democratic Party bushwhacked CBS:

More than six weeks ago, an opposition research staffer for the Democratic National Committee received documents purportedly written by President George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard squadron commander, the late Col. Jerry Killian.

The oppo researcher claimed the source was "a retired military officer." According to a DNC staffer, the documents were seen by both senior staff members at the DNC, as well as the Kerry campaign.

"More than a couple people heard about the papers," says the DNC staffer. "I've heard that they ended up with the Kerry campaign, for them to decide to how to proceed, and presumably they were handed over to 60 Minutes, which used them the other night. But I know this much. When there was discussion here, there were doubts raised about their authenticity."

...

A CBS producer, who initially tipped off The Prowler about the 60 Minutes story, says that despite seeking professional assurances that the documents were legitimate, there was uncertainty even among the group of producers and researchers working on the story.

"The problem was we had one set of documents from Bush's file that had Killian calling Bush 'an exceptionally fine young officer and pilot.' And someone who Killian said 'performed in an outstanding manner.' Then you have these new documents and the tone and content are so different."

The CBS producer said that some alarms bells went off last week when the signatures and initials of Killian on the documents in hand did not match up with other documents available on the public record, but producers chose to move ahead with the story. "This was too hot not to push. If there were doubts, those people didn't show it," says the producer, who works on a rival CBS News program.

Now, the producer says, there is growing concern inside the building on 57th Street that they may have been suckered by the Kerry campaign. "There is a school of thought here that the Kerry people dumped this in our laps, figuring we'd do the heavy lifting on the story. That maybe they had doubts about these documents but hoped we'd get more information," says the producer.

According to one ABC News employee, some reporters believe that the Kerry campaign as well as the DNC were parties in duping CBS, but a smaller segment believe that both the DNC and the Kerry campaign were duped by Karl Rove, who would have engineered the flap to embarrass the opposition.

Why would the Democrats want to embarass CBS and help Bush? This theory doesn't work.

How about simple stupidity? Could it be that CBS didn't realize the documents were forgeries? The Prowler article suggests not. And it would be a rare degree of stupidity. I've heard it said that tabloid newspapers are very careful about checking out possible libels, and surely 60 Minutes knew some forensic experts. Indeed, CBS claims it did have an expert check out the documents, though since it won't name him, and any real expert would have caught the forgery we may have caught CBS in a lie (the next stage in this scandal? )

Well, how about a different sort of stupidity: CBS did know the documents were forgeries, but thought nobody else would figure it out. This is a bit more plausible, but not very. Even if CBS didn't expect the blogosphere and Killian's family to notice (I didn't mention it, but apparently the purported author of the memos didn't know how to type), CBS, with its paranoid fantasies about George Bush, surely should have expected the Republicans to check.

No-- it doesn't matter how biased we think CBS is-- the problem is that this kind of Amazing Stupidity seems incompatible with running a weekly news show.

There's the Karl Rove Theory-- that Karl Rove planted the documents with the Democrats, knowing they'd be stupidly taken in. But that theory, too, relies on incredible Democratic stupidity. All it adds is the extra requirement that Karl Rove have realized how stupid the Democrats were. So we can reject that theory too.

I discussed this today with my PhD students, as an applied game theory problem. It helped that a couple of them are former high-flying bureaucrats. One suggested that maybe CBS was hurrying, in a competition with someone else who might scoop them on the story. That doesn't wash, because even a quick look at the documents would have revealed them to be forgeries.

We did come up with one alternative to the Amazing Stupidity theory: the Backstabbing Theory. Suppose someone at CBS wants to ditch Dan Rather. Such a person could make sure that he didn't get accurate information on what the document experts, or anybody else said. Dan Rather wanted to believe in the documents' authenticity anyway, so this would just be a matter of spinning things so he could dismiss the doubters. Then, a week later, Dan Rather's name is Mud and one of those doubters is a hero and takes over his job.

We'll see...

Ah-- and then there are consequences. Can anybody sue CBS for libel? Even if CBS itself did not forge the documents, they recklessly published them. Thus, I wonder whether George Bush could sue for libel. As a public figure, he can't sue for innocent mistakes-- innocent being very broadly defined. But even a public figure can sue if he can prove deliberate falsehood-- and, perhaps, if he can show reckless disregard for facts.

The Killian family cannot sue, I think. To be sure, CBS has defamed Mr. Killian, and he is not a public figure, but he is dead, and I think it is not illegal to defame dead people.

I wish somebody could sue. It would be nice to force CBS to reveal all the details in court.

UPDATE:
Eugene Volokh looked for fraud statutes that might make forging documents a crime, but didn't find any good ones. It's interesting, because it *would* be criminal if the CBS forgeries were used for a commercial purpose, to extract money from someone.

I thought of another court strategy-- a risky one. Someone could assert that Dan Rather had personally forged the documents, and dare Rather to sue him for libel. Rather might could win such a case, but it would probably come out at trial that though Rather had not personally forged them, they were indeed forgeries and he ought to have known that. The jury might decide that Rather was villainous enough that they didn't want to award him any damages. Rather and CBS would lose more from such a trial, in bad publicity, than they could win, so they probably wouldn't bring suit in the first place. So the dare might be a safe one.

But the big news is that CBS is arguing that the documents are authentic! This is either support for the Amazing Stupidity Theory, or, more likely, CBS knows full well that the documents are forgeries, and knew it all along, but thinks that it can confuse its viewers enough that the viewers won't figure it out. Thus, they use the forgery charges as a pretext to repeat the false charges against Bush, pretending to address the charges but actually evading them and just repeating the falsehood. If all CBS has left by this time are the stupidest, most Democratic viewers, this might be a good strategy for them. The viewers, after all, won't read anything different in the New York Times.

I hope at the next press conference, Bush says, "Now I want to ask one of you guys a question. You, at CBS-- why are you manufacturing fake documents to smear me? Why, after people pointed out that the document was written on a computer, not a typewriter, do you still insist it was written in 1973?"

Posted by erasmuse at 03:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 09, 2004

Kerry, Studds, Crane, Frank, Gingrich, Livingston, Clinton...

James Taranto writes

Here's something else you might not have known about John Kerry. According to a page on his U.S. Senate Web site that lists his "accomplishments," in 2001 he received the "Gerry Studds Stewardship Award from the Boston Harbor Island Alliance for his work to preserve the Boston Harbor Islands."

Gerry Studds was the Massachusetts U.S. Representative who was censured for homosexual relations with a congressional page and said that seducing pages was entirely proper for a Congressman:....

...

What the investigators discovered that despite being one of the hardest working members of Congress, Studds had somehow managed to find the time to have an affair with a male page. It was the evidence they needed.

Finally he was accused of inappropriate behaviour and censured.

As his colleagues in the House read their censure of him, he turned his back and ignored them.

Later, he held a press conference. Standing beside him was the male page with whom he had the relationship. And instead of apologizing, both Studds and the page said that what had happened between them was nobody's business but their own. The twosome pointed out that they had been consenting adults acting in private. And if people had a problem with that it was just too bad, because it was none of their business.

Thus, in his perverse way he blazed the trail for Bill Clinton.

It is noteworthy that on the same day Studds was censured, so was Republican Dan Crane, though Crane's page was a girl, not a boy. They were two of the only 5 Representatives censured in the 20th century. Republican girl-seducer Dan Crane left Congress; Democrat boy-seducer Gerry Studds was re-elected about 5 more times.

It's interesting that the same source tells us that only one Representative was expelled in the 20th century (for bribery), and eight received the lesser penalty of "reprimand".

One of the eight reprimanded was Republican Newt Gingrich-- for allowing a tax-exempt organization to be used for political purposes. He left Congress shortly afterwards. A second one was another of the three (if I recall rightly) homosexuals in the House, Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts, for for fixing parking tickets and pressuring a probation officer to help a friend. Barney Frank has been re-elected ever since, and remains an influential Congressman.

Notice a pattern?

Just to reinforce it, I might add Republican Bob Livingston. He was Speaker-Elect, ready to succeed Newt Gingrich, when it came to light he'd cheated on his wife. He resigned from being Speaker and from the House. It was notable that this occurred at the same time as Democrat President Clinton's perjury and infidelities were being defended by almost every Democrat in Congress.

Please remember this when anyone charges Republicans with being hypocrites. Republicans not only tend to support morality, but Republicans with ethical problems don't last. The same cannot be said of Democrats.

Posted by erasmuse at 04:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What if the Navy Makes President Kerry Return His Medals?

What if Kerry is elected President, and then a Navy inquiry determines that his medals should be revoked?

That is an unpleasant thought. It would be hard for Kerry to hold his head up as Commander in Chief of our armed forces if he has been stripped of his medals. America would be a laughingstock in the world. This would be even worse for effectiveness in office than Clinton's libertinism and perjury. The President is naturally a moral role model, and his duties do include enforcing the law, but he is not Chief Priest or Chief Judge.

A President stripped of medals would be so bad, in fact, that there is a strong case for not doing it even if it is clear his medals were frauds. On the other hand, it would also be very bad for the President to be above the law, exempt from the normal rules just because he is President.

First things first, though. If we step back from the question of whether Kerry deserved his medals to the more legalistic question of whether there is grounds for revoking them, what do we find?...

... You can read Judicial Watch's formal complaint to the Inspector-General, but I look at things a bit differently (I guess if I'd been more on the ball, I could have made my own formal complaint, but Judicial Watch is probably better at handling these things.)

The clear cases are the First and Third Purple Hearts.

The documentary evidence is that Kerry's First Purple Heart wound was so minor as to need only a medic's attention-- the medical report says it was minor, and it was signed by a medic, not a doctor as explicitly required by the Purple Heart regulations. That is bad enough, but a certain Dr. Letson says he was the doctor for the Swiftboats at the time, and he did treat the wound and would not have certified it for a Purple Heart. Even if you think Letson's testimony is worthless, though, Kerry's First Purple Heart is invalid under current documentary evidence.

The documentary evidence also puts Kerry's Third Purple Heart in grave doubt. Kerry's medical report lists two minor injuries, buttocks shrapnel and a bruised arm, with a notation "minor" next to the mention of the arm "contusion". If bruises are not injuries requiring a doctor's attention, then Kerry must rely on the shrapnel, which though too minor to prevent him from walking and carrying on his duties, might count. The problem there, though, is that the Tour of Duty campaign bio and the Navy records both clearly say that the buttocks shrapnel was self-inflicted while not in combat-- Kerry was blowing up some rice. Thus, it is not valid for a Purple Heart. That leaves no valid injury for the Third Purple Heart.

Things are not so clear for the Bronze Star and the Silver Star, the heroism medals.

The Bronze Star was awarded for pulling a man who'd fallen overboard back into the boat while the boat was under enemy fire. Most people who were there say there was no enemy fire, but the men in Kerry's boat plus the other person who got a Bronze Star that day for doing the same kind of thing as Kerry say there was fire. Nobody was hit by any bullets, though, and the only boat damage was 3 bullet holes that might have been shot the previous day. The after-action report does say there was gunfire-- and lots of it-- but we don't know who wrote that report.

If there are conflicting eyewitnesses, then I think Kerry's model wouldn't be revoked. The standard would not, I think, be our best estimate as to what happened, but whether the evidence strongly shows that Kerry did not deserve the medal.

The Bronze Star is not safe yet, though. What if it can be clearly shown that the after-action report on which the medal was based was lying? I have heard plausible arguments that there is no way the tremendous amount of gunfire described in the report could have occurred without any injury to any of the five boats or to the two to four Americans who had fallen in the water, and also that it would be quite unusual for the Viet Cong to keep shooting for that long (see the discussion forum exchange at the end of this post).

If the action report is clearly a lie, then I would expect the Bronze Star to be revoked, not just for lack of documentation, but for having been obtained by fraud.

How about the Silver Star? This is the safest medal. It was awarded for Kerry's command of the mission and for his charging and killing the wounded Viet Cong. Once a person hears details of the story, it is clear that Kerry's beaching his boat and charging the Viet Cong was not heroic and was, in fact, a danger to his boat. That, however, while excellent grounds for saying he did not deserve the Silver Star (the rest of the operation he commanded being successful but also not heroic), would not, I think, be grounds for revoking the medal. It was not obtained by fraud, there were many witnesses to the fact that Kerry commanded an operation, beached his boat, and chased a Viet Cong, and though Admiral Zumwalt may have bypassed the usual medal-award procedures, he knew what he was doing and probably had the authority to do so. This would be the more typical case of the Navy being too lax in giving out medals, and we only revoke medals for bad general policies on housecleaning occasions such as the mass revocation of 900 or so Medals of Honor in 1916 that I talked about in my McCain post.


As I said, earlier, Judicial Watch has issued a formal
complaint:

As noted in the operative instruction: "Any award for a distinguished act, achievement or service may be revoked . . . after presentation by SECNAV, if facts subsequently determined, would have prevented the original approval of the award, or if the awardee’s service after the distinguishing act, achievement or service has not been honorable." [Emphasis added] (See Paragraph 116.2 of Exhibit 1)

...


Judicial Watch also submits this formal complaint and request for investigation to the Inspectors General of the Defense Department and the U.S. Navy, who each have the inherent duty and obligation to conduct concurrent and independent investigations of the serious fraud, waste and abuse matters alleged herein. Evidence and testimony is now publicly available that Senator Kerry engaged in conduct violating law, rule, and/or regulation and abused his authority. While a U.S. Navy regulatory remedy may exist (via an administrative departmental board) for the correction of award records, the matters presented in this complaint are sufficiently serious to merit the full and immediate attention and action of the Inspectors General, as well as the Chief of Naval Operations. Subsequent action by the Secretary of the Navy may also be required.


...

This formal complaint and request for investigation, determination and final disposition is consistent with and satisfies the reporting requirements of Paragraph 116.3 of SECNAVINST 1650.1G. It is also in accordance with specific reporting guidelines and subject matters enumerated on the Department of Defense Inspector General Internet site and the Naval Inspector General’s Internet site. Therefore, we urge you to take action based on this complaint and investigate these allegations concerning Senator Kerry immediately.

September 1 Swiftvet Forum on the Bronze Star action:


Regarding the incident of March 13 1969;
As I have read the accounts of various swifties and heard the pundits in the media relay this story (and I just finished "Unfit for Command"), I have heard bits and pieces of certain accounts that have yet to be fully explored (I think) in the minds of the public.

As I understand it, there were 5 PCF's operating in a section of river that was only 70 Yards wide (that's a scant 210 feet). The PCF's themselves, although small by Navy standards, are actually quite huge by the public's standards. If I got this right, they're 50 ft long! I actually heard (in an interview) from a gunner that he sat in a gun turret that was 12 feet off the water. I did not, at first, realize just how big these boats were. Good grief, they're the size of a semi-trailer!

Now, Kerry claims that there was enemy fire (automatic weapons fire) coming from BOTH sides of the river bank and yet...there were NO bullet holes reported in any of the boats!

I don't think that the public fully understands how implausible this whole scenerio is. If you were positioned in the very center of the river (thus maximising your distance from an enemy firing from both sides of the river bank) you would only be a mere 35 yards from either bank. That's 105 feet. YOu could hit a semi-trailer with a rock from 105 feet!

How is it possible that someone firing automatic weapons at a target the size of a semi-trailer from a distance of 105 feet managed to MISS all 5 boats?

Seriously....the next time you see a semi parked somewhere walk up and pace off 35 steps, turn around and look at what you see and ask yourself that one question.

Do I have my facts wrong or...are we not illustrating this point to the public properly?

...


You have your facts right, and a demonstration/re-enactment of the Kerry mission would be devestating to Kerry. For example, I could shoot your eyes out at 35 yards with a .22 rifle pretty much every shot, the boats were in a fixed position (salvaging/towing the 3 boat, performing rescue/first aid), Kerry states there was 5000 yards of heavy automatic weapons fire, yet nobody received a bullet wound. I wasn't there, but I'm not stupid enough to believe that's possible under any conditions. No matter who tells me. Keep reading, it gets better. Wink

...


If this engagement was anything like the ones I saw, it usually involved one or two VC shooting perhaps one rocket round and 10 or 15 small arms rounds, the entire thing lasting 3 to 5 seconds, then running like stink before the real show begins. Our guys would typically have returned fire with hundreds and sometimes thousands of rounds and basically killed anything that moved in the vicinity.
Most of the VC were ill trained young men and women given a task to do and not much instruction on how to do it. It is conveivable that they hit nothing. You gotta realize that they were nervous and scared and knew what wrath they would being upon themselves.

If this engagement were like the Kerry description, all they guys would have gotten medals, not just Kerry.

...

Let's bring this into a little more clarity. As I recall the reports there were 5 PCF's coming up river and they encountered a fishing weir across the river. PCF 3 went to port (left side) of the river, PCF 94 went to starboard (right side) of the river. Assume that there was an opening of 25 feet on either side of the river to allow sampans to transit the river, then each PCF would have been very near the riverbank when the mine exploded under PCF 3. Kerry's PCF 94 was to have made a hard highspeed turn to starboard (right side) and this would have grounded his PCF, thereby exposing he and his crew to extreme danger from the withering rocket and automatic fire such that Kerry claimed. I can assure you the VC could have hit a PCF at that range. Yet there were no hits from rocket or AK47 to Kerry's 94 boat. Yet his boat ended up 5,000 yards up river away from the four remaining PFS that were still under rocket and automatic weapons fire. Not one PCF nor crew memebers were hit. AMAZING!


Posted by erasmuse at 04:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

McCain's Reasons For Not Wanting Anyone Checking on Medals

I was wondering why McCain was so hostile to the Swiftvets who have questioned Kerry's medals. My first thought was that McCain was of high enough rank in Vietnam that he had written up some of his own subordinates for medals for minor incidents or without corroboration (for his subordinates, note, not himself). But trying to Google this, I discover that (a) McCain's service was mostly as a prisoner, so maybe he wouldn't have been putting subordinates up for medals, and (b) he has a number of medals himself, all dubious. I can't find much on this, but the well-known David Hackworth wrote this:...

...

For sure, McCain has the fruit-salad -- a Silver Star, a Legion of Merit for Valor, a Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars , two Commendation medals plus two Purple Hearts and a dozen service gongs.

...

McCain's valor awards are based on what happened in 1967, when during his 23d mission over Vietnam, he was shot down, seriously injured, captured and then spent 5 1/2 brutal years as a POW.

In an attempt to find out exactly what the man did to earn these many hero awards, I asked his Senate office three times to provide copies of the narratives for each medal. I'm still waiting.

I next went to the Pentagon. Within a week, I received a recap of his medals and many of the narratives that give the details of what he did.

None of the awards, less the DFC, were for heroism over the battlefield -- where he spent no more than 20 hours. Two Naval officers described the awards as "boilerplate" and "part of an SOP medal package given to repatriated (Vietnam- era) POWs."

McCain's Silver Star narrative for the period 27 October 1967 -- the day after he was shot down -- to 8 December 1968 reads: "His captors... subjected him to extreme mental and physical cruelties in an attempt to obtain military information and false confessions for propaganda purposes. Through his resistance to those brutalities, he contributed significantly towards the eventual abandonment..." of such harsh treatment by the North Vietnamese.

Yet in McCain's own words just four days after being captured, he admits he violated the U.S. Code of Conduct by telling his captors "O.K, I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital."

A Vietnam vet detractor says, "He received the nation's third highest award, the Silver Star, for treason. He provided aid and comfort to the enemy!"

The rest of his valor awards -- issued automatically every year while he was a POW -- read much like the Silver Star. More boilerplate often repeating the exact same words. An example: "By his heroic endeavors, exceptional skill, and devotion to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces."

Yet McCain's conduct while a POW negates these glowing comments. The facts are that he signed a confession and declared himself a "black criminal who performed deeds of an air pirate." This statement and other interviews he gave to the Communist press were used as propaganda to fan the flames of the anti-war movement.

Accounts by McCain and other writers tell of the horror he endured: relentlessly beatings, torture, broken limbs. All inflicted during savage interrogations. Yet no other POW was a witness to these accounts.

A former POW says "No man witnessed another man during interrogations... We relied on each other to tell the truth when a man was returned to his cell."

The U.S. Navy says two eye-witnesses are required for any award of heroism. But for the valor awards McCain received, there are no eye-witnesses, less himself and his captors.

...

McCain refused an early release. An act of valor? Three former POWs told me he was ordered to turn it down by his U.S. POW commander and he "just followed orders."

McCain certainly doesn't appear to be a war hero by conventional standards, but rather a tough survivor whose handlers are overplaying the war hero card.

This isn't on the same level as the Kerry medals scandal, because the charge is not that (a) McCain lied about what happened to get phony medals, or even (b) McCain has made a big deal of getting medals he didn't deserve. In fact, McCain's Senate bio doesn't even mention his Vietnam service! And a CNN article says

"They are treating us like heroes," he told his Naval Academy roommate Chuck Larson when he got back to the States, "and all I did was get shot down and try to survive the best I could. I really want to put that behind me. What's important to me is what I do from now on. I don't want to live and be nothing but a POW."

Rather, what Hackworth is saying is (c) McCain has lots of medals, but really they seem to boil down to just being medals for being a prisoner -- that is, for being unlucky-- rather than for doing anything special as a prisoner. Thus, as with Kerry, we've heard a lot more about McCain having medals than about what exactly he did that made him deserve the medals.

If any readers know anything that refutes Hackworth on this, please let me know. I didn't find anything. In an hour or so, I did find the interesting U.S. Veteran Dispatch which makes strong (wild?) charges against McCain with lots of very specific questions and requests for McCain to release clarifying records, but though I found lots of claims that Bush people questioned McCain's credentials in the 2000 Republican Primary, I couldn't find any specific claims, anything refuting any such claims, or any links to McCain war records. In particular-- what do McCain's medal citations say?

This matters because Kerry's first line of defense in his own medals controversy-- the first five paragraphs of his campaign's "FACT CHECK: Swift Boat Veterans for Bush" page-- is that Senator McCain says nobody should question Kerry's medals. It matters all the more because Kerry's first line of defense is pretty close to being his last line of defense, too-- just check out the web page and note how much of it actually isn't even close to being fact-checking, as opposed to (a) saying it's unfair to criticize Kerry or (b) commentary on the people who are criticizing him without reference to what they actually say.

I should add that McCain's "don't inquire into whether medals are deserved" stance is not just something he's doing to help Kerry. McCain has long held that belief, and not just with respect to his own medals.

The best example is his position in the Wounded Knee Medal of Honor controversy. The U.S. army gave out disgracefully large number of Medals of Honor before World War I, and in 1916 a board was set up to look them over. The Medal of Honor website says

This board rescinded the awards of 911 Medals of Honor. Stricken were the 27th Maine, the 29 officers and men who had accompanied the remains of President Lincoln from Washington to Springfield, Illinois in April, 1865, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, and another very colorful hero of the Indian Wars, William F. "Wild Bill" Cody. Cody, like James J. Andrews, had been a civilian guide or scout and thus was not eligible for the award. The most ridiculous award that was rescinded was one that had been issued to a Lieutenant Colonel Gardiner in 1872 by Secretary of War Belknap upon Gardiner's application. Gardiner wrote, "I understand there are a number of bronze medals for distribution to soldiers of the late War, and request I be allowed one as a souvenir of memorable times past."

Thus, not all medals are deserved (surely not a shocking item to combat veterans). I'm sure there are even more acts of heroism that don't get medals than medals unassociated with acts of heroism too, but that's not our focus here.

Now let's return to Senator McCain. Among the medals *not* stricken in 1916 were 17 awarded for heroism at the Battle of Wounded Knee, one of the last Indian War battles. Some peole call it "the Wounded Knee Massacre", because the Indians were so pitifully outgunned and it was more like a brawl than a battle. Since 25 U.S. soldiers were killed, not all by friendly fire, I'm willing to call it a battle. It wasn't an occasion that required heroism, though. Here is Senator McCain's letter on the medals.

Thank you for your recent letters, together with signatures and comments from other citizens via the Internet, proposing that Congress rescind seventeen Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. Army personnel for actions at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, and at Drexel Mission on the following day.

The policies and decisions of the United States Government that led to the Army's being at Wounded Knee in 1890 doubtless can be characterized as unjust, unwise, or worse. Nevertheless, a retrospective judgement that the Government's policies and actions were dishonorable does not warrant rescinding the medals awarded to individual soldiers for bravery in a brief, fierce fight in which 25 soldiers were killed and 45 others wounded. Neither today's standards for awarding the medal nor policies of the United States with regard to Indian tribes are what they were in 1890.

This is a bit disingenuous. Medals of Honor in the Civil War weren't awarded at a rate of 17 per 25 men killed. Standards were far lower in 1890 than either in 1863 or 1918. It shows McCain's attitude, though: don't mess with whether medals are deserved.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2004

Steve Sailer on the Soccer Mom

Steve Sailer puts the case against the Soccer Mom very well:

Another reason kids don't go outside anymore is because leaving the house has become an enormous production number. When I had a baseball game as a kid, I merely grabbed my glove and walked or biked to the park. No trouble.

My son's adolescent teammates, in contrast, never arrive for their league games in anything less massive than a Ford Explorer, because the crime rate is too scary for their parents to let them walk and the traffic too dense for them to pedal. Further, they have to lug not only a duffel bag full of baseball impedimenta, but at least one, and preferably, both parents, lest they grow up to write self-pitying screenplays about how nobody ever came to watch them play.

People thought America was terribly bourgeois back in 1965, but we are far worse now. We are more materialistic, more cowardly, more concerned about what our neighbors think, and more oriented towards formal group activities. We have fewer kids and educate them less morally and intellectually, but we grouse more about what trouble they are because we spend all our time ferrying them in cars from one formal group activity to another.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Senate Testimony: 3000 refugees, 200,000/year Murders by Americans

I forget where I found this wonderful comment with its long excerpt on John Kerry's Senate Testimony with his precise and massively wrong numbers on refugees from a communist takeover of Vietnam and "murders" of Vietnamese by the United States: ....

...


Posted: Sat Sep 04, 2004 3:32 am Post subject: This is the info I was trying to find when I started this thread

I found the quote and commentary here: http://hughhewitt.com/#postid855

Now if we only had a tape of Kerry saying what is in bold below it would make an awesome ad.

Senator AIKEN. I think your answer is ahead of my question. I was going to ask you next what the attitude of the Saigon government would be if we announced that we were going to withdraw our troops, say, by October lst, and be completely out of there -- air, sea, land -- leaving them on their own. What do you think would be the attitude of the Saigon government under those circumstances?

Mr. KERRY. Well, I think if we were to replace the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime and offer these men sanctuary somewhere, which I think this Government has an obligation to do since we created that government and supported it all along. I think there would not be any problems. The number two man at the Saigon talks to Ambassador Lam was asked by the Concerned Laymen, who visited with them in Paris last month, how long they felt they could survive if the United States would pull out and his answer was 1 week. So I think clearly we do have to face this question. But I think, having done what we have done to that country, we have an obligation to offer sanctuary to the perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face, and obviously they would, we understand that, might face politic al assassination or something else. But my feeling is that those 3,000 who may have to leave that country --

Senator AIKEN. I think your 3,000 estimate might be a little low because we had to help 800,000 find sanctuary from North Vietnam after the French lost at Dienbienphu. But assuming that we resettle the members of the Saigon government, who would undoubtedly be in danger, in some other area, what do you think would be the attitude, of the large, well-armed South Vietnamese army and the South Vietnamese people? Would they be happy to have us withdraw or what?

Mr. KERRY. Well, Senator, this, obviously is the most difficult question of all, but I think that at this point the United States is not really in a position to consider the happiness of those people as pertains to the army in our withdrawal. We have to consider the happiness of the people as pertains to the life which they will be able to lead in the next few years.

If we don't withdraw, if we maintain a Korean-type presence in South Vietnam, say 50,000 troops or something, with strategic bombing raids from Guam and from Japan and from Thailand dropping these 15,000 pound fragmentation bombs on them, et cetera, in the next few years, then what you will have is a people who are continually oppressed, who are continually at warfare, and whose problems will not at all be solved because they will not have any kind of representation.

The war will continue. So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America, and we can't go around -- President Kennedy said this, many times. He said that the United States simply can't right every wrong, that we can't solve the problems of the other 94 percent of mankind. We didn't go into East Pakistan; we didn't go into Czechoslovakia. Why then should we feel that we now have the power to solve the internal political struggles of this country?

We have to let them solve their problems while we solve ours and help other people in an altruistic fashion commensurate with our capability. But we have extended that capacity; we have exhausted that capacity, Senator. So I think the question is really moot."

Of course, there were at least 160,000 South Vietnamese who fled by boat --not 2,000 or 3,000-- and more than 500,000 southeast Asians became refugees. Between two and three million were murdered by Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, and hundreds of thousands went into prison camps, and the regime's human rights record remains terrible.

So there we have Mr. Kerry's judgement as a young man-- the Communists would not be nearly as bad as the Americans in Vietnam, though perhaps 3,000 people would have to flee, and stopping Communism wouldn't be worth keeping as many as 50,000 American troops in a country. I wish somebody would ask him what he has to say about his massively wrong prediction, and whether he now regrets his role in helping the communist takeover of Vietnam. If he does regret and repent, I wouldn't hold his youthful folly against him too much-- was it Joan Baez who admitted she was wrong on Vietnam?-- any more than I'd hold against him a youthful fling with Nazism or the Klan. But I'm afraid that while he'd grant he was wrong on the number of refugees and killings, he'd still say that a million gook lives aren't worth 50,000 Americans stuck in a jungle.

No wonder Vietnamese-Americans hate John Kerry!

Posted by erasmuse at 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Taranto on Bush-Kerry as Deciding Who to Hire

James Taranto is as good as Mark Steyn here, as he comments on Susan Estrich's suggestion that Kerry campaign on a platform of "Bush used to have a drinking problem and drinkers never really reform"....

...

Suppose you're an employer and you hear that one of your employees, who's been working for you for about four years, once had a drinking problem and in fact pleaded guilty nearly 30 years ago to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. You actually heard about all this when you initially hired him, and it did give you second thoughts, but in the end you decided to give him a chance. In the four years he's been working for you, you've seen no sign that he's fallen off the wagon. Is there any cause here to fire him? Even if the revelation about his past were new, wouldn't it have to be pretty severe to constitute grounds for termination?

Now say someone comes to you looking for a job. Right off the bat, you notice something strange about his résumé: It goes on for page after page about a job he held for four months, more than 35 years ago, but makes only the barest mention of anything he's done since. You have him in for an interview, and he can't give you a straight answer to any question about what he plans to do in the job if you hire him. Instead (to borrow a description from Joe Conason), he sounds like a bar-stool bore, with a bad habit of repeating the same lame boasts about that long-ago four-month stint again and again.

Still, you decide to check out his references. (John Edwards: "If you have any question about what John Kerry is made of, just spend three minutes with the men who served with him.") Some sing his praises quite extravagantly, but a greater number describe him harshly as a man of dubious character, and some accuse him of lying on his résumé. He acknowledges a few embellishments but refuses to provide you with documents that would shed light on the other accusations.

Would you hire this man? And would you fire an employee of four years' standing in order to create an opening for him?

Posted by erasmuse at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Polling Trends and Media Bias, 1936 to 2000

Yesterday I compared Kerry to Dukakis in poll patterns and flaws. Today, from the Gallup poll I constructed the following table showing how much the Republican Presidential candidate gained on the Democrat between Labor Day and Election Day. A positive number means the Republican improved by Election Day; a negative number means he worsened.

Notice the three time periods I've separated with horizontal lines. From 1936 to 1952, Republicans always slipped in the last two months of the campaign. From 1976 to 2000, Republicans gained in the last two months, with the single exception of 1988 when they slipped 1 point.

It is clear the media has been heavily Democratic in the 1976 to 2000 period. I've heard that it was heavily Republican in the 1936 to 1952 period-- that the newspaper editors hated the New Deal. Thus, this seems to support the idea that media bias is more important for early polls than for the actual election results, since late in the election its effect is moderated by the advertisements and other efforts of the campaigns.

That idea has big policy implications. If media bias is swinging 5 points in each election, shouldn't we try to increase candidate spending to moderate media power? Especially in this TV age, do we really want most political advertising to be done, in effect, by the few large corporations which dominate TV? The implication, it seems to me, is that we should not only free campaign spending from restrictions, but maybe even subsidize it so it will balance the spending of the media corporations.

Or, we could try to retain the spirit of McCain-Feingold: to reduce the amount of resources spent campaigning. Since the vast majority of those resources take the form of free campaigning by the liberal media though, the McCain-Feingold spirit takes us in a new direction: ban reporting on political news. The McCain-Feingold idea is that voters are too swayed by advertising. Once we take into account that "reporting" is really a form of free advertising, biased as it is, then since far more broadcast time is spent on the news than on campaign ads, the obvious and fair solution is to ban both ads and news. In fact, banning news is much more fair and important. Ad spending is pretty much equal between Republicans and Democrats, but the news is heavily, heavily skewed towards Democrats-- basically, Fox News is *maybe* Republican-- my impression is it is fairly neutral-- but all the rest is partisan Democrat. Thus, I think we conclude that in the next round of silly campaign finance legislation, we should completely deregulate paid advertising, but totally ban TV news.

Surely nobody would claim that making people rely on newspaper news would reduce the quality of our national political life, would they?

Posted by erasmuse at 10:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The NYT and Boston Globe Fail in Attempts to Smear Bush

The attempts by the liberal media to go after Bush's National Guard service are getting positively humorous. See Frank Rich of the a paper which does not consider documented charges of Kerry's medals fraud to be worth even mentioning to its readers:

In "A Charge to Keep," his 1999 campaign biography crafted by Karen Hughes, Mr. Bush implies that he just happened to slide on his own into one of the "several openings" for pilots in the Texas Air National Guard in 1968 and that he continued to fly with his unit for "several years" after his initial service. This is fantasy that went largely unchallenged until 9/11 subjected it to greater scrutiny.

Well, it's been subject to detailed scrutiny since then-- I don't know about before, though I wouldn't take Rich's word on the subject. The latest is the Boston' Globe's September 8 attempt at a scandal story. The Globe's problem is that it couldn't find anything to expose, so its writers have to breathe extra hard as they describe Bush's rather uninteresting service:


And early in his Guard service, on May 27, 1968, Bush signed a ''statement of understanding" pledging to achieve ''satisfactory participation" that included attendance at 24 days of annual weekend duty -- usually involving two weekend days each month -- and 15 days of annual active duty. ''I understand that I may be ordered to active duty for a period not to exceed 24 months for unsatisfactory participation," the statement reads.

Yet Bush, a fighter-interceptor pilot, performed no service for one six-month period in 1972 and for another period of almost three months in 1973 , the records show.

The reexamination of Bush's records by the Globe, along with interviews with military specialists who have reviewed regulations from that era, show that Bush's attendance at required training drills was so irregular that his superiors could have disciplined him or ordered him to active duty in 1972, 1973, or 1974. But they did neither. In fact, Bush's unit certified in late 1973 that his service had been ''satisfactory" -- just four months after Bush's commanding officer wrote that Bush had not been seen at his unit for the previous 12 months.


First, note that the Globe's attempted hit piece refutes Frank Rich. Apparently Bush was performing service for the National Guard pretty continuously from 1968 to 1971 and for most of 1972 and 1973. So he *did* fly with his unit for "several years" after his initial service. (I'll pass by Rich's "several openings" crack-- is he denying that the Air National Guard ever had openings?)


The Globe's big revelation is that Bush *could* have been punished by the Air Force *if* his service was deemed unsatisfactory. But it wasn't so deemed- in fact it was explicitly deemed satisfactory-- and so he wasn't punished. The Globe could equally well have said that Kerry could have been punished by the Navy if his service had been deemed unsatisfactory.

Well, how about insinuations? Maybe Bush missed some drills, and that offence would ordinarily get you court-martialed and sent to a firing squad, but he got off because his father pulled strings, and he blackmailed his superior officer using film footage taken in strip bars. The problem with this is that there's no evidence for it.

But wait... did Bush miss any drills? He needed "attendance at 24 days of annual weekend duty". That's 12 weekends. A year has 52 weekends. Thus, it's easy to do 12 weekends while skipping a 6-month interval. (I don't know why his commanding officer said he hadn't seen Bush for a year when the previous paragraph says that Bush only missed a 6-month period. Sounds like the commanding officer has a bad memory.)

So it seems that maybe Bush's service was deemed satisfactory because he didn't actually miss any drills.

Suppose he did, though. Could it be that his superior would still consider his performance satisfactory? Yes. It might well have been that Texas had an abundance of pilots eager to get in flying hours on interceptors in 1972, and didn't need George Bush to fend off the threat of Soviet bombers. I've no doubt that Air National Guard service was not an onerous job, no more than was the 95% or so of John Kerry's service not spent in Swiftboats (he was in the Navy from 1966 to 1972, and in the Reserve then till 1978; 4 1/2 months of that was in Swiftboats).

The New York Times and Boston Globe stories do tell us some things, though:


1. The worst things Bush's enemies can find out about his military service aren't actually bad at all.

2. Those two newspapers are desperate to shoot down Bush.

3. The reason those newspapers were reluctant to cover the Swiftvets was not that they think accusations about the military service of 30 years ago are unimportant.

4. The reason those newspapers were reluctant to cover the Swiftvets was not that they think accusations about the military service of 30 years ago need strong supporting evidence.

Posted by erasmuse at 05:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Should Poverty Be a Plus in College Admissions?

Should Poverty Be a Plus in College Admissions? I'm thinking about writing an op-ed on that subject, and would be interested in anybody's response.

More precisely: If a college has two applicants with identical test scores, extracurriculars, and so forth, but one boy's family earns $30,000/year and the other's earns $300,000, should it choose the poor boy or the rich boy, or be indifferent? If it should choose the poor boy, why-- and should this consideration make much difference (that is, if the poor boy's SAT is the 80'th percentile, below the college's average, while the rich boy's is 90th percentile, average, should the poor boy still be admitted?)

Posted by erasmuse at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 07, 2004

Poll Histories: Kerry and Dukakis

Instapundit has been collecting Dukakis-Kerry parallels, e.g. here and here. This is, of course, a fun subject for conservatives at the moment. My electoral college map and prediction are looking better all the time, though now I'm starting to wonder whether maybe Bush will take California (see also www.electoral-vote.com).

(for a better display, click http://www.rasmusen.org/x/images/polls.gif)

Here's my take on Kerry versus Dukakis. The similarity is that both were extreme liberals facing somewhat unpopular moderate conservatives in good economic times, but both were perceived as moderates and the press, heavily on their side, did all it could to preserve the moderate image. Both therefore had a strategy of not talking about issues, but that strategy ran into trouble when their opponents adopted the simple expedient of pointing out their liberalism using ads with specific, undisputable examples. At that point, their advantage in the polls started evaporating, as the diagram in this post shows. I've noted in a previous post the Rasmussen Reports polling data that shows that middle-of= the-road (i.e., wishy-washy) voters wrongly think Kerry is not a liberal. Kerry has a lot of support to lose still, when they learn more about him. Note what must be disturbing for him: Dukakis was in much better shape than Kerry until August, when they both started declining, but by September 1, Dukakis and Kerry were about even. Dukakis then fell even further-- and he didn't have Swiftvets to worry about.

Soxblog talks about "DUKAKISIZATION": how a candidate becomes a laughingstock. Kerry is an easy target for that, unlike Dukakis, who wasn't particularly goofy in appearance and manner until his campaign people told him to do things like drive tanks.

There are two big differences, I think. First, Kerry has a foreign policy records that can only be described as pro-communist, while Dukakis, a governor, had no foreign policy record.

Second, Kerry is highly vulnerable on character issues. His military record is fraudulent. He lied about American atrocities when he returned to America. He won't release his wife's income tax returns, an unprecedented secrecy in the recent history of presidential campaigns, which tells me there is something rotten hidden there (though it might be as simple as, say, not having any charitable deductions). He divorced his first wife under conditions as yet unexplored. He has lived extravagantly using the money of his second wife's dead husband. I don't recall anything in Dukakis's personal life that was as distasteful as any one of these Kerry defects.

What can Kerry do? If he wants to win, I think his best strategy is to keep on obfuscating and denying, and hope that somehow Bush self-destructs. That strategy is not likely to win, but that doesn't mean it isn't his best strategy. He is just not playing a strong hand. Or, if he wants to serve the public, he could imitate Goldwater and say all the extreme things he really believes, in the hope of moving public opinion in the long run even though he would lose the 2004 election.

It's time to bring back an old joke, I think, though it doesn't work as well as it did for Dukakis:

QUESTION: What does "Kerry" mean in the original French?

ANSWER: "McGovern".

By the way, on Dukakis vs. Kerry polling trends see also the Free Republic of July 17. One interesting comment there was:

I think another KEY point is the MEDIA BIAS factor, where polling data during the 'non-attention' time of the voters

Can someone run an analysis of the July/August #s versus the final numbers?

I think if you go all the way back to 1976, in every single race, the
Republicans improved on their July/August polling numbers:
- 1976 (large Carter lead -> small Carter win)
- 1980 (Reagan behind/even race -> big Reagan win)
- 1984 (small Reagan lead -> Reagan landslide)
- 1988 (Bush behind/Dukakis ahead -> Bush wins)
- 1992 (Clinton lead -> Clinton win smaller than Aug lead)
- 1996 (Clinton large lead -> Clinton wins by 7pts)
- 2000 (no change? Bush/Gore even in summer, then close election)

This is something worth exploring, perhaps even in a scholarly paper. Gallup has the data at the site I link to below.

Here is the explanation for my graph above. It uses Gallup poll data, recorded a bit sloppily because each date is actually from about 3 days of polling taken from here and here from www.pollingreport.com. I converted calendar dates to digital dates, and my Dukakis data is eyeballed from a strangely drawn Gallup graph. The poll is of "likely voters", in a two way race plus Neither, Other, and No Opinion, where I eliminated the Neither, Other, and No Opinion and show a candidates proportion of what remains. I graphed the data in STATA using the command

graph kerry dukakis date, xscale(3, 11.5) yscale(40, 60)xlab(3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11) ylab( 40, 45, 50, 55, 60) yline (50) connect(l[.] l[l]) symbol([kerry] [dukakis]) psize(200)

Then I saved it as a *.wmf file and converted to *.jpg. I couldn't figure out how to keep the Stata colors when I saved it, though.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Marijuana Should Be Illegal

Steve Sailer writes about the true reason why marijuana should be illegal:

In Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, Samuel L. Jackson comes home to find Bridget Fonda lying on the couch, smoking dope, and giggling at the TV. Disgusted, he tells her that marijuana will rob her of her ambitions.

"Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV," she replies.

The problem with marijuana is not that it's some wild and crazy thing, but that it's middle-age-in-a-bong. Smoking dope saps the energy from youth, turning them into sedentary couch potatoes.

...

The parents of America already have a hard enough time getting their teenagers -- and, increasingly, their adult children who have come back home to live -- off the TV room floor when they are perfectly straight. Parents understand that changing laws to make marijuana more readily available -- and, let's not kid ourselves, that's what these "reforms" would do -- would create an even more inert and obese generation of young people.

There are questions of enforcement and practical compromise, but the basic question we need to ask is this: 1. Which America is better, one in which nobody smokes marijuana, or one in which fifty million people smoke marijuana? Or, let me pose it a bit differently, to make it easier for you to think about: 2. Which country would you rather live in, one in which nobody smokes marijuana, or one in which fifty million people smoke marijuana?

The answer is not obvious.

If you like to smoke marijuana, you might prefer the Marijuana America-- though you might not, since about fifty million other people will also be smoking it. (I would like a country in which I can drive without the bother of a license, but not one in which other people are also exempt from licensing.)

The economist's way of thinking is useful in this connection, though economists do not use it to the full. At the simplest level, an economist would say that Marijuana America is best, because more people are able to satisfy their desires. We do not ask whether someone is better off eating chocolate ice cream or vanilla. Rather, we give them the freedom to choose, and believe that they will choose what makes them happiest. Since happiness is good, we have thereby achieved a good outcome. I personally may prefer chocolate to vanilla, but I have no reason to force my choice on everyone else. Thus, if someone wants to spend his money on Marijuana instead of Mozart, we should let him.

Note, however, that this economic argument only addresses Question 1, not Question 2. The Economist might answer Question 2 by saying he is indifferent, personally, between Marijuana America and Mozart America. In that case, his answer has no implications for Question 1. But what if the Economist says he prefers not to have other people smoking marijuana? That *does* have implications for Question 1, because we now have an "externality", a "spillover". The very fact that some people object to other people smoking marijuana is a sign that they get unhappiness from people smoking it, so we can no longer apply so simply the argument that freely chosen marijuana use increases happiness. Smith's dopesmoking makes him happier, but it makes Jones unhappier, and we have to do some calculations to figure out the overall effect.

Or, it could be that the externality goes the opposite way: that you actually *prefer* other people to smoke marijuana. It might be, for example, that without marijuana, many people would substitute to committing crimes, not quite the example Sailer is thinking of when he urges kids to get off their couches, but an example nonetheless. Crime takes energy and initiative. The question is hard to answer, though, because in fact many people committing crimes purposely smoke marijuana or drink alcoholic beverages before they do it, to psych themselves up. So maybe marijuana use increases crime, rather than reducing it.

So if the Economist remembers the concept of Externalities, he won't be quite so quick to be libertarian. But there is a second economic concept that is even more fundamental: Poor Information. The basic economic argument is that people choose what makes them happier. That's perfectly reasonable when it comes to picking vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream. But should we accept without question that people who choose to smoke marijuana have chosen the best life for themselves?

I think not. We know that people make wrong choices all the time. They buy defective used cars, stock in phony companies, quack medicines, and crazy government policies. They choose to drive their cars too fast on slick roads to eat too much dessert, and to go to boring movies. Afterwards, once they've learned, people regret all these choices. They wish they hadn't made them, and presumably wish they hadn't been given the option to make the mistake. (Yes, I know some people say they wouldn't have done anything differently in their past lives, but I don't believe them. Do you really think they wouldn't rather have bought Microsoft stock in 1985 than whatever investment they did make?)

Many of these mistakes are predictable by other people at the time. So we regulate them. We make it illegal to make false claims about cars being sold and to sell phony stock, and to sell certain kinds of quack medicine. We do allow other quack medicines, and we do allow crazy government policies, but that is because we are worried about overregulation and slippery slopes, a separate consideration.

What about marijuana? Do we think that maybe the best use of a person's time is indeed to smoke dope? If not, then we should ban it. I don't think many old people would say, " One thing I regret in life is not spending enough time and money smoking dope." In fact, I would expect the opposite ( though a poll would be useful.

Let's add yet another variant to our questions: 3. If you had a thirty-year-old son who wanted to smoke marijuana daily, would you be pleased if he were given the legal right to do so?

I think most people would not want their son to smoke dope every day, even if he said it made him happier. And it's not the direct externality-- that he would telephone me less often or something like that. Rather, we want the best for our children, and we don't think smoking marijuana is the best use of their time. But if this is true for our children, why shouldn't it be true for people in general? It seems rather selfish to say that we don't want our own children to damage their lives but we don't care a bit about what anybody else does, and we certainly don't want to spend any of our tax money protecting them from their own actions.

An objection to this line of argument is that it proves too much. Shouldn't we also ban beer? Do any old men say, " One thing I regret in life is not spending enough time drinking beer." Well, yes. I think lots of people wish they had spent more time having fun and less time working. But what the beer-drinking old men would regret is not solitary drinking, but not spending time drinking beer with friends. Marijuana is often smoked in groups too, but it is an introverting intoxicant, not an extraverting one. From what I can tell of its use when legal (see this general history and this good history of use in India, Egypt, and Greece), it was purely an intoxicant or a medicine, not a way to promote good fellowship.

Well, beer has its uses, but how about eliminating mistaken choices of junk music, books, and movies? Should Britney Spears be banned? I am not averse to the idea in theory, but in practice it requires too many and repeated small policy decisions. We can't just ban junk music and appoint a commission, because we can't trust commissions. We could have a national debate and ban just Britney Spears after due deliberation, but what of the next junk musician? New bad music would keep arriving faster than we could debate it, and there's no simple rule we could put into law such as "No music in 4/4 time allowed." Such things as Marijuana and Alcohol are special enough and big enough that we *can* have national debates-- and did-- to decide whether to ban them, without fear that the next year would bring a new variety of the same evil.

And so we return to Question 1: Which America is better, one in which nobody smokes marijuana, or one in which fifty million people smoke marijuana? Please do answer it for yourself, before going on practical issues such as the cost of jailing dope dealers.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:51 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 06, 2004

Voter Misperception of Kerry's Leftism


Rasmussen Reports
says that while most voters believe Bush is conservative, about as many think Kerry is moderate as that he is liberal. Since Bush is in the center of a conservative party, voters are right on that, but since Kerry is on the far left of a liberal party, voters still have much to learn about him....

...

September 4, 2004--Sixty-six percent (66%) of America's Likely Voters believe
that, in political terms, George W. Bush is a conservative. Following the
Republican National Convention, a Rasmussen Reports survey found that 23%
believe he is a political moderate.

For John Kerry, the numbers are 46% liberal and 40% moderate
.

Overall, those numbers have changed little throughout Election 2004. In fact,
they are virtually identical to numbers gathered shortly after the Democratic
National Convention a month ago.

Two thirds (66%) of conservative voters believe Bush shares their ideological
perspective. Similar percentages of moderates and liberals share that assessment of the President's ideology.

However, most liberal voters reject the notion that Kerry is one of them. Fifty-
five percent (55%) of self-identified liberals view Kerry as a moderate. Twenty-
eight percent (28%) say the Senator is politically moderate.

Conservative voters have an entirely different view--70% say the Democratic
nominee is politically liberal.

As this Jay Bryant piece notes, using the liberal group ADA's ratings, John Kerry's lifetime rating is more liberal than that of Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich, Carole Moseley-Braun, Al Gore, Walter Mondale, or George McGovern. You can look this up straight from theADA, though it is awkward since they set up their records state by state. Is he the most liberal Senator? His score of 92 is higher than Ted Kennedy's 90, but Iowa's Harkin ties Kerry at 92 and Vermont's Leahy and Oregon's Wyden beat him with 93's and California's Boxer with a 96. Maybe others do to. But there is no doubt that Kerry is on the far left of the Senate, whereas Bush would, I suppose, be somewhere in the middle right.

Why is this voter misperception worth mentioning? Because it is crucial to
Kerry's success. It's hard to get a majority of voters if you're an extremist,
unless you're perceived as a moderate or unless your opponent is an extremist.
This makes Kerry vulnerable. If voters knew his views, his support would
collapse. Bush no doubt will publicize Kerry's views-- indeed, he is already
using the strategy of talking about Kerry's record. Kerry really only has one
defense: to fudge and look like a flip-flopper. Despite what the pundits say, I
think that's sensible of him, because to be consistently leftwing would be fatal
to his campaign.

I am hopeful, though. Notice from the Rasmussen Reports that conservatives
already know that Kerry is liberal. Since 54% of voters thinks Kerry is not
liberal, that means that more than 54% of non-conservatives believe Kerry is
liberal. Most of those voters are moderates, not liberals. Once they learn the
truth about Kerry, they will swing to Bush.

This, of course, is exactly what happened to Dukakis in 1988.
He stayed quiet about issues, hoping nobody would notice how liberal he was, but Bush Senior ran ads calling Dukakis a liberal and giving
good evidence of that. Dukakis had the gall to say it was foul play to call
attention to his political views, but voters disagreed.

It may be that in a month Kerry will be wishing for more
Swiftvet ads to distract voters from the ads Bush will be running about his
liberalism. After Clinton I think voters are more willing to elect a
scoundrel who shares their views than an honest man who does not.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Cover of Kerry's Book

This is from the cover of John Kerry's book, The New Soldier, from the 1970's. Notice that the American flag is upside down and the scruffy soldiers are mocking the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. I don't think Kerry has ever repudiated this insult to the U.S. soldier. The contents, of course, are even more insulting, consisting of false Communist propaganda stories of American atrocities.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BackgroundColors for Quotes in HTML

I've just learned a new html command useful for weblogs from JAYNE'S ONLINE SANITY SAVER: the "background-color" command. This is nice for putting a shadecolor in the background of indented material. Here's the command, with @-signs replacing the less-than and greater-than signs in the HTML:

@[email protected]   BLOCKQUOTE {background-color: cornsilk}  @/[email protected]

The command generates this kind of output when used with @[email protected] @[email protected] :

Here is an example of indented material. I'll have to make it long enough to take up more than one line, so I'll type a bit more.

I've not yet figured out how to put a box around the quote, though. The "border" command doesn't seem to work.

Posted by erasmuse at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry's Reserve Service and Student Deferments


This Swiftvet discussion forum
is about Kerry's service in the Reserves. My reading of it is that Kerry probably didn't evade duties as a reserve officer after he left active service, because the Navy was very flexible in what it required of reserve officers and didn't really need Kerry to do any drilling or any real work. Kerry stayed in the reserves till 1978, but probably just because there was no reason to quit, since he wasn't required to do anything. Of course, if Kerry released his secret military records, they might turn up something.

Kerry's reserve service is nonetheless worth mentioning, because it sounds similar to the last part of George Bush's National Guard service. The National Guard didn't need Bush to do much, just as the Navy didn't need Kerry to do much. Rather than impose make-work on them, the military let them go away and do other things, so long as they were available if some real need arose.

Another thread, still in progress, is on Kerry's student deferments. No comment linked to evidence has been posted yet, but it appears that Kerry must have gotten student deferments during his four years of college. What I don't know yet is whether he got them automatically or whether he had to apply for them; it seems they were routine in any case.

The student deferments don't reflect badly on Kerry at all-- it is quite reasonable to go to college rather than volunteer for the army or accept being drafted, and I wouldn't hold it against anybody even in a war like World War II. Bush Senior volunteered and went to war first, college later, but it's OK not to volunteer.

Where the student deferments are relevant,though, is exposing Kerry's hypocrisy. Democrats heavily criticize Cheney for getting student deferments. Why then don't they criticize Kerry? (and, of course, Edwards, who was, I think, in college during the last part of the Vietnam War and certainly had the opportunity to volunteer out of high school)

Posted by erasmuse at 05:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 05, 2004

Electoral College Map

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 21: The best state poll site is at Realclearpolitics.com , which collects various pollsters's results.


UPDATE of an earlier post:

See also the Gallup interactive state map, which has links to state polls.


The PBS Electoral College Pick-Your-Own-States Map is good. It would be even better if it put the number of electoral votes on each state, if it were accompanied by a table with the 2000 race percentages for each state, and if it could be frozen and saved after the user put in his own changes, but at least it is a start.

My forecast is Bush 328, Kerry 210, with the distribution of states in the map accompanying this entry.

...

...

The polls I trust most are at the Rasmussen Report. Note, by the way, that I, Eric Rasmus en, am unrelated to the Rasmussen of that report. I don't trust any polls very much, though. Bush still has a lot of ad spending to do, and the debates are still to come. Kerry will have even more ad spending (because of the Demo millionaires funding the 527s, where he's had something like a 60 million to 4 million dollar lead so far-- my unchecked guesses), and will also be in the debates. But so far the voters have been hit with huge amounts of free ads for Kerry in the form of the mainstream media's biased reporting. Bush's spending and the debates will go a little way towards evening that out.

Has anyone, by the way, calculated the value of the Democratic bias of the media? What I'd like to see is some estimate of the amount of newsprint and TV time that is effectively Democratic commercials, multiplied by the standard ad price for that time. I think it would swamp campaign spending, and would show that if we're really concerned about campaign finance reform, we should skip the small stuff- the billion dollars or so spent on paid-for ads-- and go right to the big money, which is the free ads in the form of news and op-eds.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meltdowns in Political Campaigns

I did a google search on Rasmusen Report to get the latest Kerry-Bush poll
figures. I was excited to see one item that turned up:

All About Meltdowns -- from US Rasmussen Report

I'm curious to see Dukakis and Kerry compared, perhaps with McGovern thrown in. Mondale and Goldwater didn't melt down, to the best of my recollection-- they started way behind and didn't have anywhere to go but up.

But then it turned out that the website I saw was not about John Kerry, but
nuclear reactors.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Retreat to Scripture; Legalistic Antinomianism

This post by Pastor Bayly touches on a special problem for modern evangelicals, what I call "The Retreat to Scripture". By this, I mean a timid though firm defense of beliefs that seem peculiar to the world by saying, "Well, this is pretty weird,
and we won't try to defend it as rational, but Scripture forces us to believe
it." This is firm, because it does confront the world with unpopular beliefs,
but timid, because it hides ashamedly behind Scripture and, more importantly,
because it leads to extreme narrowing of our unpopular beliefs....

...
Why does it lead to narrowing? Because if you defend nothing that Scripture
does not absolutely force you to defend, you've lost a lot of what God wants
from us in daily life. You are stuck in an interesting sort of "Legalistic
Antinomianism": the principle that unless Scripture explictly prohibits
something, God permits it. This was one of the problems of the Pharisees, and a
big theme in the Sermon on the Mount. See Matthew 5:31-32:

It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a
writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his
wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and
whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

The Pharisees were wrong to take their ethics directly from Scripture. They
were not supposed to contradict Scripture, but they were supposed to go beyond
it. We should not violate the letter of divine law, but we should not violate
its spirit either.

The form this takes nowadays is for evangelicals to shamefacedly say, for
example, that Scripture prevents us from ordaining women as elders, much as we'd
like to, but at least we can elect a woman as mayor, since Scripture doesn't
prohibit it.

I don't object to women as mayors-- I haven't thought it through, so I pretty
much accept the conventional wisdom-- but I object to the reasoning I just gave.
We should not say that the Christian position is obvious just because Scripture
is silent. It is something that needs thinking through, just as Christians need
to think through whether heroin use, unmentioned in the Bible, is morally
acceptable and prudent.

The Retreat to Scripture also closes down what would be the most useful
discussion of many issues: *why* God commands things. On the issue of women as
elders, for example, the discussion is diverted to the meaning of particular
Greek words and away from the actual effect of having women as elders. Not
ordaining women becomes like not eating pork--- a mysterious and arbitrary
divine command that looks stupid but that we trust is for our own good.

Note, too, that Legalistic Antinomianism has a tendency to be a one-way filter,
allowing practices of which the World approves but banning practices of which
the world disapproves. Thus, I think most churches would say that racism is bad,
even though the Bible says nothing on the subject. Here, rather than saying that
we must only condemn that which Scripture clearly condemns, I think people
would either (a) consider Scriptural support unnecessary or (b) search out
passages or principles from Scripture that while not directly on point do show
that God is displeased if we refuse to associate with somebody simply because
his skin is black. And method (b) is correct-- I just wish it were applied more
to beliefs at odds with the World's beliefs.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Byron York on Kerry in Vietnam-- A Commentary

I was disappointed by the National Review article, "In
Vietnam"
by Byron York. He pulls his punches. Kerry's Vietnam story has been deflating so fast that even conservative journalists can't quite comprehend how small his balloon has gotten. They, like all of us, took Kerry's medals at face value until quite recently, and the disinterest of the mainstream media really has helped Kerry a lot. Despite the punditry, I think Kerry has been quite smart to keep the bulk of his Vietnam records secret and to refuse to reply to anyone who disputes his Vietnam stories. If you're in the wrong, you're going to lose whenever you let out more truthful information or whenever you try to answer charges against you. The best thing is to try to laugh away the charges, at least, if the Press is on your side.

Let's look at York's article in detail to see what a pro-Kerry spin it has. Overall, the article is heavily anti-Kerry, simply because it presents some of the evidence against him. But its general tone is, "People have questioned Kerry's record but Kerry says they're wrong," rather than "People seem to have shown Kerry's record is fraudulent, and Kerry isn't saying anything to try to refute them". ...

...

Last May, when the newly formed group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth first spoke
to the press about John Kerry, the men -- mostly Kerry's fellow officers from
the four months he skippered a Navy Swift boat in Vietnam -- seemed divided on
the issue of Kerry's war record. Some questioned the medals he was awarded.
Others had no desire to cast doubt on his service. But all agreed on one thing:
that Kerry had betrayed them when, upon returning from Vietnam, he characterized
the American military -- and, by extension, the Swift boat veterans themselves
-- as having committed widespread atrocities in Southeast Asia.

That was then. After their opening news conference, the veterans -- most of whom
had not seen one another in 35 years -- began talking among themselves about
their memories of Kerry. They read Douglas Brinkley's hagiographic war
biography, Tour of Duty, and found descriptions of events they didn't recognize.
They compared notes. And their point of view changed. They came to question what
Kerry had done, not just after leaving Vietnam, but while he was serving
alongside them. In particular, they came to question some of
the cornerstones of Kerry's Vietnam record,
the engagements in
which he won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. The
result of that questioning was a book, Unfit for Command, written by the group's
main spokesman, John O'Neill.

More accurately, "they came to question every single one of the
cornerstones of Kerry's Vietnam record"

...

Unfit for Command, and a series of television ads made from it, have scored some
direct hits. But O'Neill and the Swift boat veterans have also missed their mark
on occasion, giving the Kerry campaign an opening to claim that everything they
say is untrue. In the end, however, when all the claims and counterclaims are
balanced against one another, it seems clear that the veterans, relying mostly
on their own eyewitness experiences, have raised some valid
-- and serious -- questions about John Kerry's four months in Vietnam color=red>.

No, they did much more than raise questions-- they answered a lot of
questions too. York's phrasing makes the Swifvets sound like the Democrats who
question Bush's National Guard service by saying,"Well we don't have any
evidence Bush didn't serve improperly, but how can we know he didn't?" Anybody
can raise questions. It is much harder to raise valid questions. But the
Swiftvets have not only raised some valid questions that they don't have the
information to answer (e.g., why are there three version of Kerry's Silver Star
citation, not just one?) but also, and mainly: (a) provided new evidence
(e.g., Dr. Letson saying that Kerry's First Purple Heart was for a minor
scratch), and (b) found inconsistencies in Kerry's stories (e.g., Kerry's
Bronze Star was for bravery under heavy gunfire, but nobody was injured by it
even slightly and the only evidence of any bullets to the five boats was three
bullet holes that might have been shot the previous day).

...

THE FIRST PURPLE HEART

Another area in which the Swift boat veterans have raised fundamental questions
concerns the first of Kerry's three Purple Hearts. On December 2, 1968, newly
arrived in Vietnam, the future senator volunteered to undertake a nighttime
mission on a small "skimmer" craft north of Cam Ranh. Kerry and the others in
his boat saw a group of sampans being unloaded on the beach. They set off an
illumination flare to get a better look. Something happened — it's not clear
what, although there's no indication that anyone in the sampans opened fire —
and Kerry began shooting. During the firing, "a stinging piece of heat socked
into my arm and just seemed to burn like hell," according to Kerry's
recollection in Tour of Duty.

...

"What I saw was a small piece of metal sticking very superficially in the skin
of Kerry's arm," Letson recorded in a written account detailing his encounter
with Kerry. "The metal fragment measured about 1 cm. in length and was about 2
or 3 mm in diameter." Letson said he used forceps to remove the piece of metal,
which had penetrated no more than 3 or 4 mm into the skin. "It did not require
probing to find it, did not require any anesthesia to remove it, and did not
require any sutures to close the wound," Letson wrote. "The wound was covered
with a bandaid."

...

When Letson first went public with his account, the Kerry campaign suggested
that he had not been present at Cam Ranh Bay and was not even a medical doctor.
In a letter threatening television-station managers who ran the first Swift boat
ad, Kerry's lawyers wrote, "The 'doctor' who appears in the ad, Louis Letson,
was not a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and was not the doctor who actually signed
Senator Kerry's sick-call sheet. In fact, another physician actually signed
Senator Kerry's sick-call sheet."

But it turned out Kerry's lawyers were wrong. The sheet was
signed not by another doctor but by Letson's assistant, J. C. Carreon, who is no
longer alive.
And the sick-call sheet's description of Kerry's
wound, while very brief, is entirely consistent with Letson's recollections. It
reads, in full: "Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl
bacitracin dressing. Ret to Duty."

York ought to have mentioned here that a Purple Heart can be received only
for an injury severe enough to require treatment "by a medical officer", i.e.,
by a doctor. If the assistant, Carreon, was the only person to treat the
injury, it doesn't count for a Purple Heart. If the doctor, Letson, treated it,
then it doesn't count either, because Dr. Letson says he really didn't have to
see it. Kerry's medal is bogus either way.

...

THE RASSMANN INCIDENT

No event plays a larger role in Kerry's Vietnam epic than the March 13, 1969,
engagement in which Kerry pulled Army Green Beret Jim Rassmann from the Bay Hap
River. Rassmann, who has become an active surrogate speaker for Kerry on the
campaign trail, says that he was on board Kerry's boat that day, in a group of
five Swift boats, when one of them, PCF-3, was rocked by a mine explosion. After
that, Rassmann says, the entire group of boats came under heavy fire from both
shores of the river. Then, according to Rassmann, there was another explosion,
this one near Kerry's boat, which threw Rassmann overboard. Rassmann dove
underwater to avoid both the gunfire and the propellers of the Swift boats; when
he came up for air, he says, all the boats had left. But there was still
shooting. With bullets whizzing around him, Rassmann dove again, and again. Then
he saw Kerry's boat coming back to get him. "John, already wounded by the
explosion that threw me off his boat, came out onto the bow, exposing himself to
the fire directed at us from the jungle, and pulled me aboard," Rassmann wrote
in the Wall Street Journal.

...

The medal citations for Kerry and for Thurlow (who, like Kerry, won a Bronze
Star for his actions that day) say that everyone was working under enemy small-
arms and automatic-weapons fire. But the Swift boat veterans have raised at
least some doubt about that. For example, in addition to their personal
recollections, they say that there were no bullet holes in the boats, indicating
a lack of hostile fire. While that is not entirely accurate -- records indicate
that there were three bullet holes in Thurlow's boat, at least one of which he
attributes to an earlier engagement -- it does suggest that the boats were not
significantly shot up in the incident. Compare that with another ambush, shortly
before Kerry took command of PCF-94, in which the boat was riddled with about
100 bullets.

...

In any case, the Swift boat veterans' account of the Rassmann incident casts
Kerry's actions in a somewhat less heroic light than, say, the legend-building
presentation at the Democratic convention. But it is simply
not an open-and-shut case on either side
, and, barring some
future revelation that could change the story entirely, it seems likely that it
will remain in dispute.

How strong does evidence have to get before it is "open and shut"? I don't
see how there could have been enemy small- arms and automatic-weapons fire
significant enough to justify a medal for picking up someone who fell off a boat
if nobody was injured and the maximum claimed damage is 3 holes in one of the
five boats. That sounds open-and-shut even before we get to the claims of
witnesses. Of the witnesses, Kerry is supported by himself and his crew-- who
sped away at first,leaving the other four boats-- Rassmann, who, struggling in
the water, is not terribly reliable-- and Lambert, someone else who got a Bronze
Star that day because he rescued someone under the supposed gunfire. On the
other side are the officers and crew in the other four boats. Doing a headcount
of witnesses, Kerry loses. Looking at who benefits personally from which story,
Kerry's side also loses. Note, too, that it isn't clear who wrote the action
report that the medal citations are based on, so we can't vouch for the
reliability of the official documents based on it (the Swifvets suggest,
plausibly, that Kerry himself wrote the report; Kerry says he didn't, but
doesn't say who did' in any case, the official reports do not add any names of
witnesses that would support Kerry's story). So what else do we need to make
the lack of enemy fire "open and shut"?

THE SILVER STAR AND MORE PURPLE HEARTS

...

On the other hand, some of their criticism of Kerry has fallen short. They
suggest, for example, that Kerry's second Purple Heart was, like the first,
accidentally self-inflicted. It happened on February 20, 1969, when Kerry was on
a mission in the Cua Lon River: Suddenly, the boat was hit by a rocket-propelled
grenade, and Kerry suffered a shrapnel wound in his left leg. One member of the
Swift boat veterans was on another boat during that mission and suggests there
was no hostile fire, but there appears to be no reasonable
scenario under which Kerry's wound could have been self-inflicted. color=green> And there is evidence that Kerry's wound, while
not serious enough to keep him away from duty, was more substantial than the
wound for which he was awarded his first Purple Heart.

I haven't read up on this. What is the Swiftvet's scenario? York's readers
might like to decide for themselves whether it is reasonable.

York only hints at how severe the wound was. Pretty much any wound
would be more severe than the "band-aid" wound. As Kerry said, the wound was
"not serious enough to keep him away from duty". Thus, while this wound might
have truly qualified for the Purple Heart under the lax standards of the Vietnam
War, it isn't the kind of hospital wound the public thinks about when they hear
Kerry got a Purple Heart.

The Swift boat vets also criticize Kerry's third Purple Heart, the one awarded
after the Rassmann incident. Kerry suffered two wounds that day, one a shrapnel
wound to the buttocks and another an injury to his arm. Both Tour of Duty and
the Swift boat veterans' accounts say that Kerry was hit by shrapnel when he
dropped a grenade in a bin of rice, an action that was part of a general policy
to deplete supplies for the Viet Cong. "I got a piece of small grenade in my ass
from one of the rice-bin explosions," Kerry said in Tour of Duty. Later in the
day, during the Rassmann incident, Kerry is said to have hurt his arm in the
(disputed) explosion near his boat after the mining of PCF-3. While the rice-
bin wound seems clearly accidental, there also seems no doubt
that any injury Kerry suffered in the wake of the mining was the result of a
hostile enemy action.

No-- the doubt-- indeed, the near-certainty, since it is what the official
medical documents posted by the Kerry campaign say-- is as to whether Kerry
received an injury. Bruises not requiring a doctor do not count as injuries,
either in common language or for the official purpose of getting a Purple
Heart. The Bronze Star citation says that Kerry's arm was bleeding, but the
medical record says it was a "minor contusion"-- minor, that is, even by
comparison with the buttock shrapnel, which itself was not severe enough to
prevent Kerry from walking around normally. No-- what seems to have happened
was that Kerry had a minor shrapnel wound that was self-inflicted but at least
had some claim to require treatment by a doctor,

Perhaps the weakest case made by the Swift boat vets concerns the action in
which Kerry won the Silver Star. That occurred on February 28, 1969, when Kerry
famously beached his Swift boat, jumped onto land, and chased and killed a Viet
Cong guerrilla who had fired a rocket at the boat. The Swift boat veterans
suggest that Kerry's action was not only not heroic, but reckless and dangerous.
They also suggest that the guerrilla was a teenager, clad only in a loincloth,
who was fleeing when Kerry killed him. And they suggest that
there was some sort of official interference in the awarding of the medal that
resulted in the Silver Star's being awarded with suspicious haste.
red>

Look below, and you'll see that York hardly gets back to the "suspicious
haste" question. It's important not because there is evidence of bribery, etc.
but because one scenario is that Kerry received the medal because Admiral
Zumwalt wanted some Swift officer to get a medal to raise morale and strengthen
his hand in intra-service disputes, and didn't really care whether the
particular officer deserved it or not.

But officials considered the recklessness of Kerry's actions
when they awarded him the medal
-- something that commanding
officer George Elliott, now a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, has said
on a number of occasions.

As I said above, the official who awarded the medal may have had other things
in mind besides whether Kerry's actions were heroic. In any case, the question
is not whether Kerry persuaded his superiors to give him a medal, which he
obviously did, but whether he rightly persuaded them.

On the lone-guerrilla issue, crewmates who were there at the time have
recollections that conflict with the version of the story in Unfit for
Command
. "Number one, it was a man," Fred Short, who was on board Kerry's
boat and now supports Kerry's candidacy, told National Review. "And if it was
just one guy, he was real good, 'cause he fired about four or five rocket-
propelled grenades at once."

The biggest problem for this story is not conflicting eyewitnesses, but
plausibility. Kerry beached his boat, so it was an easy target and its machine
guns were at a bad angle for firing, and jumped out, leaving his men with no
officer. If there was more than one enemy soldier, why wasn't Kerry's boat
destroyed in its near-defenseless situation?

That testimony is supported by the account of William Rood, who commanded the
other Swift boat in the action and believes there were other guerrillas firing
at the Americans.

No mention here of the fact that Rood also received a medal for the events of
that day, and hence has the same interest as Kerry in maximizing the size of the
battle.

And unlike the Rassmann incident, the Swift boat vets have not been able to
produce eyewitnesses to challenge that version of events. As for the haste with
which the medal was awarded, it is simply not clear what happened -- perhaps
more could be learned from the records that Kerry has not yet released.

Finally, the Swift boat veterans are caught in a difficult argument over the
Silver Star. They say they are not condemning Kerry's killing of the young
guerrilla, only the fact that he received such a prestigious decoration for it.
But in Unfit for Command, O'Neill writes that Elliott, when he approved
the medal, did not realize that Kerry "was facing a single, wounded young Viet
Cong fleeing in a loincloth," which suggests that Kerry acted improperly.

No-- York misses the point, probably because he hangs out with liberals who
*would* think such an action improper. The problem with getting a medal for
killing a single, wounded, fleeing, non-uniformed, poorly equipped enemy is not
that it is improper (indeed, non-uniformed combatants have very few rights under
the law of war-- remember Nathan Hale and Major Andre's executions for spying),
but that it is not heroic. Kerry should of course have shot the Viet Cong, but
why get a medal for it?

But imagine reading an account today of a young U.S. Army officer, patrolling
the outskirts of Baghdad, who comes under attack from an insurgent with a rocket
launcher. The officer orders his men to pursue the shooter -- and takes the lead
in the pursuit. He finds and kills the insurgent, who is still carrying the
rocket launcher. Since the insurgent had already fired on U.S. troops, and since
the insurgent was still armed, how many Americans would question the officer's
conduct? Probably not many (and, in one of the many ironies of this case, the
people angered by the incident would likely be Kerry supporters).

...

Of course, Kerry was entitled, under the military's
regulations, to ask for that Purple Heart
. And he didn't give
himself the other medals, either; the Navy approved each one. But the way he
operated, taking advantage of the full measure of the rules to
compile a politically appealing résumé
, diminished some of
those accomplishments, at least in the eyes of many of his fellow Swift boat
sailors. They didn't like it then, and they don't like it now.

Again, York underplays the seriousness of the charges against Kerry. Is it
really true that you're entitled to ask for medals you don't deserve? Maybe,
but I find it hard to believe that asking a superior to commit fraud by giving
you a medal would be well-regarded by the military, even if there's no specific
regulation against it.

There are two ethical problems here that York conflates. The first problem is
that Kerry seems to have asked for a Purple Heart for a wound-- I am thinking of
the leg shrapnel, the Second Purple Heart-- so minor that although it may have
qualified under the written rules and standard practice of the time, a real
gentleman would not have applied for a medal. This is the more excusable moral
lapse, though when Kerry later ran for President boasting of his Purple Heart,
it amounted to fraud on an American people who, as Kerry well knows, think
Purple Hearts are given for injuries that require hospitalization. And it is
somewhat insulting to soldiers who got their Purple Hearts for severe injuries.

Kerry seems to have done more, though. The second problem is that Kerry asked
for medals he knew would violate the rules, as well as the spirit of the rules.
Even if one's superiors make mistakes, it is morally wrong to take advantage of
their mistakes, and when we detect such mistakes, we should revoke the medals.

I, for example, am not injured, and, in fact, I'm not even in the army.
Suppose I apply for a Purple Heart anyway-- in fact, suppose I apply for a
thousand of them, for a thousand nights of poor sleep, and one applications
gets past a sleepy colonel and I get my medal. It's been officially awarded, but
that doesn't mean I'm blameless or that I got my medal fair and square so nobody
can say I don't deserve it.

Kerry went even further in this second problem, though. Someone provided Kerry's
superiors with false information-- the conflation of the buttocks shrapnel and
the bruise for the Third Purple Heart, for example. Who else but Kerry would do
this? This is not just "taking advantage of the full measure of the rules to
compile a politically appealing résumé". It is fraud, and Kerry is claiming
medals that although officially awarded, are in violation of the official rules.

Posted by erasmuse at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2004

Steyn on Kerry's Lowness and the Two Candidates' Platforms

Mark Steyn'sSeptember 5 column has his usual touch:

So we have one candidate running on a platform of ambitious reforms for an
''ownership society'' at home and a pledge to hunt down America's enemies
abroad. And we have another candidate running on the platform that no one has
the right to say anything mean about him.

And for this the senator broke the eminently civilized tradition that each
candidate lets the other guy have his convention week to himself?

These are two substantive points. The second paragraph is straightforward
writing-- though I hadn't seen the point made about Kerry's lack of fair play--
which is typical of him, and a big part of what the Medal Scandal is all about.
The first paragraph, though, is wonderful writing. Steyn has Bush's platform
down in one sentence, and Kerry's vacuity and hypocrisy in another.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bilateral Monopoly Average Prices

Suppose we have 1000 buyers and 1000 sellers of a good. Let us compare the
following four situations:

1. Competition (price taking by both sides)

2. Monopoly-- the sellers cartelize, but buyers are price takers.

3. Monopsony-- the buyers cartelize, but sellers are price takers.

4. Bilateral monopoly-- both buyers and sellers cartelize, and then they
bargain, setting a quantity Q* and either a lump sum price T* or a per unit
price P*=T*/Q*....

...

Certain results are clear, if not well known.

(A) Welfare is highest under price taking and bilateral monopoly, both of which
are efficient.

(B) Sellers are best off under Monopoly or Bilateral Monopoly, depending on
their bargaining power.

(C) Sellers are worst off under Monopsony or Bilateral Monopoly, depending on
their bargaining power. (If their bargaining power is very low, they will get
practically no surplus under Bilateral Monopoly.)

Other questions need formal analysis.

(D) If bargaining splits surplus 50-50, under what conditions does the seller
prefer Bilateral Monopoly to Monopoly?

(E) How does the bilateral monopoly negotiated price P* compare with the
competitive, monopsony, and monopoly prices? In particular, can it be higher
than the monopoly price?

This is related to my ideas on perfect price discrimination, because if perfect
price discrimination results in bilateral monopoly, we have almost this
situation. Indeed, it is practically the same question! What is new is the
question about the average price, which is not the same as the welfare question,
since Q is negotiated too. And, here I implicitly allow redistribution among
the 1000 people on each side of the market.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Judicial Independence in Italy

I went to an interesting lecture by Giovanni Kessler on "Judicial Independence
in Contemporary Italy". Kessler was a prosecutor in Trent from 1986 to 1994 and
in the anti-Mafia department in Sicily in 1994-95,and is now an M.P. Here are my
observations from his talk (not necessarily all accurate-- these are from my
notes):...


...

1. The postwar Italian Constitution put judges and prosecutors in the same
category, separate from the executive branch.

2. Since 1959, a Judicial Council, 1/3 appointed by Parliament, 2/3 elected by
judges and prosecutors, has administered careers. Since 1963, the part elected
by judges and prosecutors has been by proportional representation, not first-by-
the-post.

3. There is a "principle of irremovability of position and function"--
apparently, you can't transfer a judge against his will without special
circumstances. But a judge can be promoted to a rank with a higher salary
without moving courts.

4. Only the Judicial Council can replace a prosecutor on a case-- even a junior
prosecutor. Berlusconi has proposed changing this to allow senior prosecutors to
overrule junior ones, as in the US.

5. Around 1992, prosecutors started putting lots of politicians in jail, and
public opinion favored them. By now, public opinion is hostile to prosecutors,
they having gone after Berlusconi very hard.

6. Berlusconi has been fighting the judiciary in various ways. He's tried to
change laws to make cases moot and to make structural changes.

7. Elections for the judicial council are a big deal, with groups (not the
normal political parties, though) putting up formal slates of candidates they
favor.

Now that I think about it, I'm still not clear about how the system works.
Here are questions I'd like to know the answers to (for both prosecutors and
judges):

A. Suppose a prosecutor maliciously brings a false case against a politician he
dislikes. If the judicial council also dislikes the politician, does the
politician have any recourse?

B. What if the judicial council likes the politician in scenario A?

C. Suppose a prosecutor is lazy and does a bad job. Will the judicial council
punish him in any way? Transfers seem not to be allowed. How about not giving
him salary increases?

My impression is that the judiciary is self-governing, by majority rule, so
that if judges as a group want to be unfair, they are free to be unfair, adn to
punish any judge who goes against the desires of the majority. It isn't clear
whether this will lead to incentives to be hard-working or not-- in labor
unions, this kind of system favors the lazy, in the Japanese judiciary, it
favors the hard-working; in universities, it seems it can go either way.

One thing the talk confirmed: that people tend to look at the wrong things
when they think about judicial independence. What you ought to do is keep your
eye not on the formal rules, which always say independence is good and judges
ought to follow the law and do justice, but on what happens to judges who (a)
are lazy, (b) are corrupt, or (c) interpret laws in ways that other people--
the citizens, other judges, politicians, anybody else-- think are unjust. One
way to tell if someone's normative analysis is likely to be useful is to ask
whether it addresses the tradeoff between the good incentives for hard work,
that you get with less independence and the good incentives to apply unpopular
laws as they are written that you get with more independence. That is not all
there is, but that's a particularly simple test.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Associated Press Caught on a Falsified Anti-Bush Story

Instapundit nails the Associated Press on a false report that Republicans booed when President Bush wished Bill Clinton speedy recovery from his heart operation.

First, he gives clear evidence that the report was false.

Then he reports on the AP's attempts to cover its tracks, revising the story without noting it was a correction and "pulling the byline" of the reporter who filed the false report, Tom Hays, perhaps to protect him....

...
Captain's Quarters describes it well:

WEST ALLIS, Wis. - President Bush (news - web sites) on Friday wished Bill Clinton (news - web sites) "best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery." "He's is in our thoughts and prayers," Bush said at a campaign rally. Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them. Bush offered his wishes while campaigning one day after accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in New York. Clinton was hospitalized in New York after complaining of mild chest pain and shortness of breath. Bush recently praised Clinton when the former president went to the White House for the unveiling of his official portrait. He lauded Clinton for his knowledge, compassion and "the forward- looking spirit that Americans like in a president."

I bolded the two sentences because if you read the AP's update, it disappeared without any explanation. Unfortunately, it was too late to keep the original report to show up in the print media, meaning if you read the newspapers, you're going to see the original and false story. Fortunately, Drudge carries the audio from the event proving that the story is completely false.

Galley Slaves gives the story on the changing AP story and bylines:

So what's going on here? Was Hays in Wisconsin reporting, or in New York? What role did Ron Fournier, Frank Eltman, David Hammer, and Marc Humbert have in this story? There are five reporters on the hook for this misreporting, surely one of them will want to clear their name.

Posted by erasmuse at 12:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2004

Kerry's Bronze Star-- Discussion Forum Data, Maps

The following Swiftvets discussion forum exchange shows how worthwhile these forums can be, another example of how the Web can beat conventional journalism. In reading it, the Washington Post's Great maps of Mekong Delta, the particular river area, close-up of the ambush with possible boat paths are useful....

...

FIRST COMMENTER: Regarding the incident of March 13 1969; As I have read the accounts of various swifties and heard the pundits in the media relay this story (and I just finished "Unfit for Command"), I have heard bits and pieces of certain accounts that have yet to be fully explored (I think) in the minds of the public.

As I understand it, there were 5 PCF's operating in a section of river that was only 70 Yards wide (that's a scant 210 feet). The PCF's themselves, although small by Navy standards, are actually quite huge by the public's standards. If I got this right, they're 50 ft long! I actually heard (in an interview) from a gunner that he sat in a gun turret that was 12 feet off the water. I did not, at first, realize just how big these boats were. Good grief, they're the size of a semi-trailer!

Now, Kerry claims that there was enemy fire (automatic weapons fire) coming from BOTH sides of the river bank and yet...there were NO bullet holes reported in any of the boats!

I don't think that the public fully understands how implausible this whole scenerio is. If you were positioned in the very center of the river (thus maximising your distance from an enemy firing from both sides of the river bank) you would only be a mere 35 yards from either bank. That's 105 feet. YOu could hit a semi-trailer with a rock from 105 feet!

How is it possible that someone firing automatic weapons at a target the size of a semi-trailer from a distance of 105 feet managed to MISS all 5 boats?

Seriously....the next time you see a semi parked somewhere walk up and pace off 35 steps, turn around and look at what you see and ask yourself that one question.

Do I have my facts wrong or...are we not illustrating this point to the public properly?

SECOND COMMENTER: You have your facts right, and a demonstration/re- enactment of the Kerry mission would be devestating to Kerry. For example, I could shoot your eyes out at 35 yards with a .22 rifle pretty much every shot, the boats were in a fixed position (salvaging/towing the 3 boat, performing rescue/first aid), Kerry states there was 5000 yards of heavy automatic weapons fire, yet nobody received a bullet wound. I wasn't there, but I'm not stupid enough to believe that's possible under any conditions. No matter who tells me. Keep reading, it gets better. Wink

THIRD COMMENTER: Not to nit pick, but VC snipers would likely not have been at the water's edge. So figure some extra distance for the cover on or near the banks/beach. I don't think this correction changes the image of what the VC would have done to the boats, but the distance might have been closer to 250 ft.

FOURTH COMMENTER: If this engagement was anything like the ones I saw, it usually involved one or two VC shooting perhaps one rocket round and 10 or 15 small arms rounds, the entire thing lasting 3 to 5 seconds, then running like stink before the real show begins. Our guys would typically have returned fire with hundreds and sometimes thousands of rounds and basically killed anything that moved in the vicinity. Most of the VC were ill trained young men and women given a task to do and not much instruction on how to do it. It is conveivable that they hit nothing. You gotta realize that they were nervous and scared and knew what wrath they would being upon themselves.

If this engagement were like the Kerry description, all they guys would have gotten medals, not just Kerry.

I should perhaps add that the best way to read discussion forums is edited, as you are doing here with me as editor. There is quite a bit of filler and confusion in the forums too. But if journalists were smarter, they'd use discussion forums like this one as their sources.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kerry: The Sampan Incident

I thought it would be good to sort this Kerry story out a bit, even though I've no new insights to add. It is, by the way, unconnected with medals, though it has relevance on whether Kerry was a good officer and whether he lied to his superiors....

...

(1) According to the pro-Kerry Brinkley book, one night his boat mistakenly opened fire on a noncombatant sampan (after firing warning shots) and killed a man and a child. This is bad enough in itself-- it says that Kerry's control of his crew was loose enough that he couldn't stop them from shooting civilians by accident.

(2) Kerry's official report contradicts version (1), because it says five Viet Cong were killed and two captured in a fight with the sampan.

(3) Crew member Gardner says that Kerry was below deck, supposedly monitoring the radar but apparently neglecting it, since a sampan appeared, the Swift boat threw on its lights and Gardner shouted a warning and then opened fire because he thought he saw someone in the sampan picking up a weapon. Only then did Kerry appear and tell everyone to stop firing or they'd be court- martialed.

Details follow, from the August 19 Washington Times article by O'Neill and Corsi:

Kerry recounts that the Swift Boat under his command, PCF 44, and another, PCF 21, were patrolling a shallow channel on a pitch-black night and continually running aground.

For "Tour of Duty" (William Morrow, 2004), Brinkley drew his account from Kerry's journals and subsequent explanations, noting that "neither Swift's search or boarding lights were working properly."

" 'Many minutes of silent patrolling had gone by when one of the men yelled, "Sampan off the port bow," Kerry wrote [in his journal]. 'Everybody froze, and we slowed the engines quickly. But the sampan was already by us and wasn't stopping. It was past curfew, and nothing was allowed in the river. I told the gunner to fire a few warning shots, and in the confusion, all guns opened up. We moved in on the sampan and taking one of the battle lanterns off the bulkhead, shone it on the silhouette of the craft that was now dead in the water.' "

...

"But knowing that they were following official Navy policy didn't make it any easier to deal with what the crews saw next. 'The light revealed a woman standing in the stern of the sampan with a child of perhaps two years or less in her arms,' Kerry wrote. 'Neither [was] harmed. We asked her where the men from the stern were, as one of the gunners was sure that he had seen someone moving back there. She gesticulated wildly, and I could see traces of blood on the engine mounting. It was obvious that they had been blown overboard.

"'Then somebody said there was a body up front, and we moved in closer to see the limbs of a small child limp on the stacks of rice. She had already covered it, and when one of the men asked me if I wanted it uncovered I said no, realizing that the face would stay with me for the rest of my life and that it was better not to know whether there was a smile or a grimace or whether it was a girl or boy.' "

O'Neill and Corsi make this comment on that, the Kerry account:

... Kerry, according to one of his own accounts, appears to have lost control of his boat after crazily ordering that "warning shots" be fired at a small sampan with heavy .50-caliber weapons, instead of the numerous small-caliber weapons on board. ...

(2) O'Neill and Corsi also note the disjunction between the Brinkley book Kerry story and the official Navy documents we have available:

Critically important is the fact that Kerry filed a phony after-action operational report concealing the fact that a child had been killed during the attack on the sampan and inventing a fleeing squad of Viet Cong . The operational report is one of the important missing documents that Kerry neglects to make public on his campaign Web site.

Here is what we do have from the Navy:

The Commander Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam (CTF 115) Quarterly Evaluation Report of March 29, 1969, states: " ... 20 January PCFs 21 and 44 operating in An Xuyen Province ... engaged the enemy with a resultant GDA of one VC KIA (BC) [body count], four VC KIA (EST) and two VC CIA ."

This is Kerry's victory: killing in action (KIA) five imaginary Viet Cong, capturing in action (CIA) two Viet Cong (an exaggeration of the mother and baby who were actually rescued from the sampan) and simply omitting the dead child from the body count (BC) and the estimate (EST).

Roy F. Hoffmann, then commander of Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam, CTF 115, received Kerry's false report of probably killing five Viet Cong and capturing two others. Hoffman sent Kerry a congratulatory message.

(3) But neither Kerry version squares with what Steve Gardner, a member of his crew, says:

Gunner Steve Gardner sat above Kerry on the double .50-caliber mount that night in January 1969.

PCF 44, engines shut off, lay in ambush near the western mouth of the Cua Lon River. The boat's own generator was operating and its radar was on, with Kerry supposedly in the pilothouse monitoring the radar.

Although the radar was easily capable of picking up the sampan early, Kerry gave no warning to the crew and did not come out of the pilothouse. Instead, first an engine noise and then a sampan suddenly appeared in front of the boat -- still no Kerry.

The PCF lights were thrown on -- still no Kerry. The sampan was ordered to stop by the young gunner, Gardner -- still no Kerry.

According to Gardner, there was no order to fire warning shots , as Kerry claimed. Indeed, there was no Kerry until it was over. When an occupant of the sampan appeared to Gardner to reach for or hold a weapon, he opened up (as did others), killing the father and, unintentionally, a child.

Then Kerry finally appeared; he ordered the crew to cease-fire and then threatened them with courts-martial.

This account is made more credible because it reflects badly on its narrator -- Steve Gardner, who gets the responsibility and blame for killing the child. (Gardner apparently accepts this, but says that he made a justifiable, if mistaken, decision.) And maybe Kerry could come out of this version better than it seems-- maybe he was not sleeping like Jonah during the storm, which is what I read into this. Kerry might have some good reason for staying below and not warning the crew. But Kerry won't talk.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wright and Bates on Kerry's Trigger Happiness and Love of Destruction

From the August 19 Washington Times article by O'Neill and Corsi: ...

...

Thomas W. Wright , another Swift Boat commander in Coastal Division 11, said Kerry "was not a good combat commander."

Wright said he had such "serious problems" working with Kerry that he finally objected to going on patrol with Kerry. Elliott granted Wright's request that Kerry no longer be assigned to operations under his command.

Wright remembers that Kerry would disappear without warning on multiboat operations. He recalls that Kerry's boat had poor fire discipline and would open fire without prior clearance or apparent reason.

"John Kerry's leadership and operational style were different from mine," Wright said in a written statement in April. "I can see how his crew thought he was a hero, but it seemed like he was a hero fighting out of situations he shouldn't have been in to begin with. I had a lot of trouble getting him to follow orders.

"You had to be right, and you had to have fire discipline. You couldn't blame something on the rules of engagement."

George Bates, another officer in Coastal Division 11, participated in numerous operations with Kerry from January 1969 to March 1969.

In Bates' view, Kerry was a coward who overreacted with deadly force when he felt threatened. Bates, a retired Navy captain, believed that Kerry treated the South Vietnamese in an almost criminal manner.

Bates is haunted by a particular patrol with Kerry on the Song Bo De River in early 1969. With Kerry in the lead, their Swift Boats approached a small hamlet with three to four grass huts. Pigs and chickens were milling around.

As the boats drew closer, the villagers fled. There were no political symbols or flags in evidence. It was obvious to Bates that existing policies, decency and good sense required the boats simply to move on.

Instead, Kerry beached his boat. Upon his command, numerous small animals were slaughtered by heavy-caliber machine guns. Acting more like a pirate than a naval officer, Kerry disembarked and ran around with a Zippo lighter, burning up the entire hamlet.

Do we want this man's finger on the nuclear button?

There has been a lot of emphasis on the faked Kerry medals, but this is even more alarming from the point of view of having Kerry as President. It is not just that Kerry was savage towards the South Vietnamese and too ready to use force. It is also that people like John O'Neill and George Bates are ready to publicly call Kerry a coward and a brute, and to back it up with specific stories. It isn't hard to come up with some nut who will call any given politician a Nazi, or even some nut who will tell a crazy story. That's why although I believe Juanita Broderick was telling the truth when she said Bill Clinton raped her, it is understandable that many people thought she was a liar. But it is a lot harder to find a group of ex-military officers who will go on record like this--- and who have announced their willingness to go head- to-head with Kerry in debating who is telling the truth and who is lying.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

The Phocaian Flight from the Persians; Limits on Taxes

I found another good story in Herodotus, about how the Phocaians thwarted Persian conquest by flight:...

...

Harpagos having marched his army against them began to besiege them, at the same time holding forth to them proposals and saying that it was enough to satisfy him if the Phocaians were willing to throw down one battlement of their wall and dedicate one single house.[164] But the Phocaians, being very greatly grieved at the thought of subjection, said that they wished to deliberate about the matter for one day and after that they would give their answer; and they asked him to withdraw his army from the wall while they were deliberating. Harpagos said that he knew very well what they were meaning to do, nevertheless he was willing to allow them to deliberate. So in the time that followed, when Harpagos had withdrawn his army from the wall, the Phocaians drew down their fifty-oared galleys to the sea, put into them their children and women and all their movable goods, and besides them the images out of the temples and the other votive offerings except such as were made of bronze or stone or consisted of paintings, all the rest, I say, they put into the ships, and having embarked themselves they sailed towards Chios; and the Persians obtained possession of Phocaia, the city being deserted of the inhabitants.

That is a hugely important point. Most of a society's wealth is its people and its moveable goods, especially in a primitive society where land is plentiful. Today, about 2/3 of wealth is in human form, and a good bit of the rest is chattels, moveable property. With enough boats, the Phocaians could escape with perhaps 90% of their wealth-- or, put differently, the Persians could only conquer 10% of it.

It would be much harder for non-maritime people to escape conquest in this way, but still possible.

Consider the implications for how badly conquerors could treat their subjects. If your subjects can run away with 90% of their wealth, this means you had better not try to impose taxes at a rate higher than 10%. Did the Persians keep to that limit, with the Ionians and other maritime subjects?

Posted by erasmuse at 11:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Lambert's Bronze Star, Like Kerry's, for Pulling Up a Man Overboard

I asked in an earlier post why, when four people were pulled out of the river in 1969, only John Kerry got a Bronze Star for pulling someone out. Well, I was wrong. Someone else did. Robert Lambert *did* get a Bronze Star for pulling Larry Thurlow out....


...Retired Chief Petty Officer Robert E. Lambert, of Eagle Point, Ore., got a Bronze Star for pulling his boat commander -- Lt. Larry Thurlow -- out of the Bay Hap River on March 13, 1969. Thurlow had jumped onto another swift boat to aid sailors wounded by a mine explosion but fell off when the out-of-control boat ran aground.

I haven't seen the citation, but this Bronze Star sounds just as dubious as Kerry's. If Kerry was the one who wrote up the reports, though, it makes sense that he'd want to square Lambert (and Thurlow, who got a somewhat better Bronze Star-- for jumping into the damaged boat, giving first aid to the injured men on it, steering the out-of-control boat, etc.)

Posted by erasmuse at 11:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

If Dr. Letson is a Liar, Kerry's First Purple Heart is a Fraud

Matthew Continetti has a rather strange article in the Weekly Standard on Kerry's medals. He says,

... WHICH IS TOO BAD FOR KERRY, actually. The available evidence in the Purple Heart case seems to support his story. More or less. ...

...

But then the evidence Continetti gives seems to me to pretty clearly wreck Kerry's story. Take a look:

In the anti-Kerry Swifties' first commercial, a doctor named Louis Letson says that "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart," because "I treated him for that injury." In fact, it is an open question whether this was the case. Letson says he used tweezers to remove the shrapnel from

Kerry's arm a day after the firefight, and then bandaged the wound. And Letson's description matches what we know from the only available piece of documentary evidence--a concise medical report written one day after the firefight. The report, released by the Kerry campaign and obtained by the Boston Globe, reads: "3 DEC 1968 U.S. NAVAL SUPPORT FACILITY CAM RANH BAY RVN FPO Shrapnel in left arm above elbow. Shrapnel removed and appl. Bacitracin dressing. Ret to duty." That's it.

Here is Letson's problem. The report is signed "J.C. Carreon." Carreon, it turns out, was an orderly who has since passed away. Letson says he was Carreon's boss, and would let his orderly sign routine medical reports. Still, there is no evidence available which says Letson treated Kerry's wound or even saw Kerry that day in December.


As I said in an earlier post, one requirement for a Purple Heart is that the injured person be treated by "a medical officer". The story makes most sense if Kerry went out of his way to get treated by the medical officer who standardly treated Swiftboat sailors, who, it seems (I'd like verification) was Dr. Letson, since Kerry would know he couldn't get a Purple Heart if no doctor ever looked at the injury. And it's not surprising that Letson would assign the paperwork to his orderly (though it's a bit surprising that Letson would remember just a minor wound now... that might be explained, though, by Kerry's rise to fame with his atrocity charges in 1971-- no doubt everybody with whom he served was struck by his false charges against them).

But let's go with the skeptics who doubt Dr. Letson ever treated Kerry, and say Carreon, the orderly, was the one who treated him. What happens to Kerry's Purple Heart? It become fraudulent, because he wasn't treated by "a medical officer". The document alone seems to say that Kerry's scratch doesn't justify a Purple Heart, because it wasn't big enough to require a doctor. If Dr. Letson is a liar, and didn't treat Kerry, then thatPurple Heart, Kerry's exit ticket from Vietnam, was wrongly given!


For more on Dr. Letson and a clarification that a Corpsman is not a "medical officer", see the Washington Times.

Posted by erasmuse at 11:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Teresa Heinz Kerry's Cookies

The Teresa's Cookies story came out in late July while I was on holiday in British Columbia, but the peculiarity of Teresa Heinz Kerry is worth noting. What I thought were Kerry's few good points are disappearing. He doesn't seem to have been a war hero after all. And I used to be impressed that managed to get Teresa Heinz to marry him. Now it seems she is paranoid, disloyal to her staff, and quite willing to confess to proffering a cookie recipe as her own which was not. Shades of Purple Hearts and Bronze Stars?....

...

Here is the New York Times report on the story.

Ever since voters began telling Teresa Heinz Kerry that they didn't think much of the pumpkin spice cookie recipe her office had submitted to Family Circle's presidential cookie bake-off, an aide said, Mrs. Heinz Kerry, the wife of the about-to-be Democratic nominee, has been thinking how she could tell America the truth: the recipe isn't hers.

In an interview on National Public Radio that was broadcast yesterday, the cookies came up in conversation and in the direct, unvarnished style that people have come to expect, Mrs. Heinz Kerry said: "Somebody at my office gave that recipe out and, in fact, I think somebody really made it on purpose to give a nasty recipe. I never made pumpkin cookies; I don't like pumpkin spice cookies."

Mrs. Heinz Kerry had originally submitted a recipe called Yummy Wonders, but, according to Family Circle, its test kitchen said the recipe did not work. When the magazine called her press office and asked if there had been a mistake, the press office sent the pumpkin cookie recipe without consulting her, said her press secretary, Marla Romash.

...

The recipe, and a Laura Bush recipe for oatmeal-chocolate chunk cookies, were published in the July issue of the magazine. Readers were asked to vote on their favorite.

...

Ms. Romash, who when she is not working in politics runs a baking-catering business, agrees with her boss. "If you tasted those cookies," she said, "you'd think someone was trying to do you harm, too."

Ms. Romash would not say why Mrs. Heinz Kerry would think an aide would want to harm her.

Not everyone agrees with Mrs. Heinz Kerry: in taste tests on television programs, tasters were evenly divided, said Susan Ungaro, editor in chief of Family Circle

Note Family Circle's retaliation-- if she hadn't been so rude they wouldn't have told us that her first, presumably authentic, recipe was so bad they wouldn't inflict it on their readers.

So another of John Kerry's strong points evaporates. I wonder if he really went to Yale?

Posted by erasmuse at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Girly Men, Pumpitude, and Flabulence from Hanz and Franz on Saturday Night Live

Here are excerpts from the best "Pumping up With Hans & Franz" skit I have seen, one from 1988 in which Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger also appear....

...

Hans: Alright. But before we can pump you up tonight, we have to answer a piece of viewer mail.

Franz: Ya. Ya. This is a letter we received from a Bill Tompkins. I'll only read an excerpt, so I don't go into his loser details. "Dear Hans & Franz: I have recently seen your.. mo-.. mo-"

Hans: Moronic.

Franz: "..Your moronic show, and have wondered why you don't open your own gym. Maybe you are too stupid." [ crumples letter ] You know, maybe you thought this letter would make us angry; but it only makes us sad.

Hans: Really, ya. We are sad, you know, because anyone who calls us "stupid" is really just jealous. Because their girlfriend looks at us, then looks at him, and realzies she's cuddling up with a little girly-man!

Franz: Ya. Ya, girly-man. Hear me now and believe me later - but don't think about it ever, because, if you try to think, you might cause a flabulance!

...

Hans: Oh, Arnold, I can't believe how properly pumped up you really are!

Franz: Ya! You are the embodiment of perfect pumpitude!

See also: this skit.

Posted by erasmuse at 10:44 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2004

I read a good article

I read a good article on how to teach, "Teaching Student Writers to Be Warriors" by Lauri Mattenson, 2004 from the Chronicle of Higher Education, August 6, 2004. Here are excerpts, with my comments interspersed in italics.

When my husband goes to hapkido class, he bows before stepping on the mat. On the wall, the Hapkido Creed reminds them that they are studying much more than combat technique. It reads:

Courtesy

Integrity

Wisdom

Perseverance

Self-Control

Indomitable Spirit

Perfection of Character

Those who study hapkido, aikido, or judo practice "do" (pronounced doe) -- the way. Not just the way of the sword or the way of the fist, but a way of life. Shodo (calligraphy), kado (flower arranging), and chado (the tea ceremony) offer some of the same benefits. Brush or sword -- both demand supreme focus and clear intention. Similarly, the study of yoga is much more than doing headstands and backbends. A devoted yogi initiates acts of service, disciplines his or her senses, and engages in self-study and the study of yogic scriptures, among other things.

That was a good list. Ought I to post it at the start of my classes? Students would, of course, think I was weird, but my purpose isn't to get students to think highly of me; it's to teach them.

Our university students, too, are learning a way of thinking and thus a way of life. Even if a college class teaches primarily technique or method, it still teaches students how to be students. Unfortunately, they are learning that success means mastering the system rather than their own impulses; that they should seek money, not meaning; and that as long as they shut up and figure out what the teacher wants, they'll get their stamp of approval. "A" almost never indicates accountability.

Wonderful writing! The only criticism I might make is that these three phrases are so good that it's a shame to put them all together--- they could have been three climaxes for paragraphs. But it's just a short article...

...

Below is what she tells her students:

"...Writing is an art form, but it is also a discipline that requires practice. Having said all this, I acknowledge that we are both part of a system that requires a final grade. So grading in this class will be a dialogic process. If you want to know how you are doing, make an appointment and come talk with me. I will first ask you to evaluate your own work, and then I will offer feedback. We will discuss it. You might not always agree with my assessment, nor I with yours, but at least we will communicate and thus bring a heightened sense of consciousness to the evaluative process. If you never make the effort to discuss the grade during the quarter, do not expect me to respond to post-quarter grade complaints. E-mail me anytime you wish to make an appointment."

Students in my classes tell me that no other teacher has ever asked them what they think of their own work. They are so accustomed to looking to teachers and parents for answers and standards that most of them have never bothered to create their own set of criteria, much less articulate them.

I don't think I'll try this, but the idea intrigues me. It is, of course, much closer to how we teach doctoral students whom we are advising (that is, who are writing dissertations, having finished their classes). The basic idea of this essay is very good, though: Teach the students that they should have their own standards, independent of grades.

So when they turn in their first papers, I ask them to look carefully at individual sentences rather than the paper as a whole. First I ask them to select the most powerful line -- only one. Then I ask them to define "powerful" on the back of the paper. For some of my non-native speakers, the most powerful line is the one they know is grammatically correct. For others, it might be the most poetic line, the most sincere line, the most convincing argument, or a particularly astute point of textual analysis. Students then read aloud their best lines, and we slowly shape a set of criteria we will use all quarter. Then I ask them to identify the weakest line in their own papers. We read those aloud and discuss what does not work -- for example, the passive voice, purposeless or repetitive sentences, run-ons. Since all of our examples come from their papers, they are engaged in the process and can apply our collective standards to their first revisions.

This probably works. I don't know if I could stand inflicting that kind of embarassment, though. It's not that the student would be embarassed by being asked to find his weakest line. I've done that, and it works very well, and the student sheepishly admits that if he'd spent more time he could have done better. The problem is the best line. I think many students would choose an embarassingly bad line, and I'd have to tell them that their best line is still substandard. In fact, I bet most of my students don't even know which their best line is-- a kinder approach would be for *me* to pick it for them. And I do in fact try to comment if I see a good line.

Sometimes I ask students to select the best and worst lines in each paragraph, or to exchange papers and do the same for a peer's writing, then re-exchange and edit the weak lines together. Other times they score their papers on a scale of 1 to 10 for content, organization, and style, and then offer brief explanations for the scores they selected. Those exercises make subsequent individual meetings much more productive. Instead of starting the conversation by explaining my red marks, I look at what the student has marked, offer suggestions, and then add others. More often than not, the students are able to identify at least some of their own patterns. After they turn in revisions, I meet with each student again and ask her or him to grade her or his own paper before I tell the student how I would grade it. When I first started this practice, I assumed they would all give themselves A's. On the contrary, they are often harder on themselves than I would be, and many sit for quite some time and reflect in earnest before they tell me the grade they've selected.

I like the paragraph exchange idea.

"My standards are with you for 10 weeks," I tell my students, "but yours are with you for the rest of your life." Slowly it sinks in (I hope), and they start to look internally for guidance before they look to me for approval or judgment. It is a significant shift. They usually see good grades as rewards and bad grades as punishment. Creating their own standards helps them to break free of that dualism. They also turn more toward each other. Class discussions become more honest and spontaneous, and peer critiques are sharper, more effective.

In my G492 course I found that. Debate and Hunting make learning more fun and more effective. I find this for myself when I am learning things as well as for students.

By the end of the quarter, students are able to identify, before I do, weaknesses in their own essays: gaps in argument, awkward phrasing, unorganized sections of prose, inappropriate tone changes, an ineffective thesis. And sometimes they come to me, look me straight in the eye, and say, "This is my best work." And then they tell me what makes it so good. In these days of "yeah, um, like, whatever," that is infinitely satisfying to me.

Of course it doesn't always work. Some students just want me to assign the grade so they can decide if they need to revise (anything less than an Ausually inspires revision), and they're not really interested in a discussion. A few students are so intimidated by the whole process that they avoid making an appointment until the end of the quarter. And every once in a while, the discrepancy between my grade and theirs is uncomfortable. But for the most part, they know that I will take seriously the grades they give themselves, and they start to approach their own work with a little bit more integrity.

That bit about integrity is important. It is not that students cheat, but that they don't respect their own work. Student papers actually can be good, but they are almost never written with an eye to anybody but the professor reading them. I try to convey the idea that somebody else-- an employer in the future at least-- will actually want to read what they write, but this is hard for students to believe. This is perhaps an argument for why students should write for the campus newspaper-- their *own* standards will be higher, no matter what level of editing they get.

Posted by erasmuse at 12:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pro-Kerry People Post Documents Contradicting Their Chief Witness, Rassmann

Human Events had a story that contained an important tidbit I haven't seen mention of yet, 3 official documents all posted by pro-Kerry people that cast more doubt on the testimony of Mr. Rassmann, the man overboard whom Kerry rescued. The tidbit is from the Kerry press release of August 19:

"The fire was strong enough to knock out Tommy Belodeau’s machine gun" I was in the middle of the firefight," Rassmann has said of the false claims that there was no fire that day and that other boats rescued people from the water. "There was one person in the water that day and that was me, anyone who is telling you otherwise is giving you a lie."

The Swifvest say there were three other men overboard that day, two from the boat which was lifted bodily from the water by the mine blast, and Mr. Thurlow. I don't know about evidence for the other two, but Thurlow's wetness is supported not only by various Swiftvets, but by the Thurlow's Bronze Star military documentation. Thurlow's Bronze Star Citation says

While attending to the forward gunner, he was knocked overboard. He managed to remain afloat until pulled from the water.

Thurlow's Bronze Star Recommendation is a bit more detailed:

While administering first aid to the forward gunner, LTJG THURLOW was knocked overboard when PCF-3 ran aground out of control. Fighting a three to four knot current, LTJG THURLOW managed to stay afloat with PCF-51 rushing to his aid to pull him aboard. Once aboard, though exhausted and out of breath...

It's interesting that both of these documents were put on the web by the Washington Post in connection with a story in which they were used to attack Thurlow's credibility. Kerry and Rassmann said there was enemy gunfire; Thurlow and many others say there wasn't; Kerry's Bronze Star writeups say there was-- and Thurlow's Bronze Star writeups say there was. The Washington Post seems to think that the evidence of Thurlow's Bronze Star writeup impeaches Thurlow's credibility. Thurlow makes the obvious answer that both his and Kerry's paperwork was done by the same, wrong, person (probably Kerry), and he didn't pay much attention (Thurlow says he thought he got the Bronze Star for heroically jumping from boat to boat to rescue the mined boat, out of control because its skipper was knocked out, and help its injured crew, enough to justify the Star without any enemy fire.)

The bottom line is this: using the same official writeups which Kerry says are accurate, we find we can't trust Kerry's main witness. It isn't necessarily that Rassmann is lying-- rather, as you can tell from his tone, he rushes in to say things to help Kerry without thinking much about whether they are true. If he is the kind of person who says there was nobody else overboard-- when he himself had been scared and drenched and really couldn't be expected to know what was going on with all five boats-- then he is the kind of person who would say there was enemy fire without thinking that the enormous volume of fire he heard might just have been the five boats' machines guns and rifles or wondering why the enemy couldn't hit him (or anybody else) as he floundered helpless in the water.

Posted by erasmuse at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack