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Obama Isn’t Pardoning Anyone

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Obama should exercise the pardon power

Kenneth Lee

April 12, 2010

During a recent oral argument in a case involving the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for crack cocaine, Justice Anthony Kennedy asked a curious question: “Does the Justice Department ever make recommendations that prisoners like this have their sentence commuted?”

When the Justice Department attorney could not answer the question, Kennedy remarked that the president had not granted a single act of clemency during the past year and wondered aloud whether “something is not working in the system.”

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Congressional Races in the Odd Years?

April 15th, 2010 No comments

RealClearPolitics – How Bad Could 2010 Really Get For Democrats?

Chart I below lists the “wave” midterm elections since the country began having regular midterm elections after the Civil War (before then, many states held their Congressional elections the year after and the year before the Presidential election, i.e. odd-numbered years, while other states followed the Presidential/midterm model).

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The Political Views of Fans of Different Sports

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Taki’s Magazine, edited by Taki Theodoracopulos

A new survey of the athletic and political tastes of 218,313 American adults confirms old stereotypes and identifies fun new ones. The Politics of Sports Fans from the marketing research firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement includes a sophisticated graph that rewards careful scrutiny: Your browser may not support display of this image.

A few random notes:

Fans of PGA golf are represented by the red disk in the upper right corner. They both vote the most Republican (which is why they are farthest to the right on the horizontal Party axis) and just plain vote the most (they are nearest the top on the vertical Turnout axis).

(By the way, the red and blue hues merely reiterate visually which quadrant a sport falls in.)

The larger a sport’s dot, the higher the percentage of grown-ups who say they are “very interested” in it. Not surprisingly, pro football (the big red “NFL” disk near the center) has the most, and most-average, fans.

The least likely to vote are pro wrestling fans (the pale blue dot in the lower left). The most Democratic are the small number of fans of the Women’s NBA, while the NBA’s fans are the second most liberal.

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Franck on Geoff Stone on Jurisprudence

April 15th, 2010 No comments

Bench Memos – National Review Online

Everybody Must Get Stone [Matthew J. Franck]

Today the New York Times gives 1,100 words’ worth of prime newspaper real estate to University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone to set us all straight on how to think about the Constitution. It was actually more words than he needed, so let me provide you with the condensed version in case you are pressed for time:

“Those conservatives who rail about liberal judges ‘making’ law rather than ‘applying’ it get my goat. Originalism is disingenuous. We know this because the Constitution contains open-ended language, whose meaning is simply unknown to us, whereas the aspirations of the framers are perfectly well-known to us.

“Conservative judges routinely make bad rulings, actually driven by ideology rather than original meaning, which will be obvious to you as soon as I recite some of the outcomes they have produced.

“Liberal judges, equally obviously, make good rulings, driven by the framers’ aspirations rather than ideology, which I will again prove to you by reciting some notable outcomes for which they were responsible.

“Oh, did I mention that the perfectly knowable aspirations of the framers, hidden just behind the impenetrable words they wrote whose meaning is unknowable, are best fulfilled by an empathetic, that is, liberal approach to modern realities? Well, they are, because I say so.”

I begin to understand why some of the law faculty at Chicago were willing to offer a permanent position to part-time lecturer Barack Obama, despite his evident lack of scholarly accomplishments.

Very nice. It’s no exaggeration– read Stone’ article. It’s amazing. Here’s a sample:

Rulings by conservative justices in the past decade make it perfectly clear that they do not “apply the law” in a neutral and detached manner. Consider, for example, their decisions holding that corporations have the same right of free speech as individuals, that commercial advertising receives robust protection under the First Amendment, that the Second Amendment prohibits the regulation of guns, that affirmative action is unconstitutional, that the equal protection clause mandated the election of George W. Bush and that the Boy Scouts have a First Amendment right to exclude gay scoutmasters.

Whatever one thinks of these decisions, it should be apparent that conservative judges do not disinterestedly call balls and strikes. …

Liberal judges, on the other hand, have tended to exercise the power of judicial review to invalidate laws that disadvantage racial and religious minorities, political dissenters, people accused of crimes and others who are unlikely to have their interests fully and fairly considered by the majority. Liberal judges have ended racial segregation, recognized the principle of “one person, one vote,” prohibited censorship of the Pentagon Papers and upheld the right to due process, even at Guantánamo Bay. This approach to judicial review fits much more naturally with the concerns and intentions of people like Madison who forged the American constitutional system.

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Our Local Republican Congressional Primary

April 14th, 2010 No comments

The Hoosierpundit: 9th District Debate Roundup

watching the debate last night changed my mind. Of the four candidates Mike Sodrel, I felt, was the most polished, gave the better responses, had a better command of the issues and presented himself as the best candidate to beat Baron Hill in the fall. Todd Young spent the night taking potshots at Sodrel’s record and trying to draw Sodrel into a fracas. The first couple times it seemed legitimate but, over time, it grew tiresome. And the crowd sensed that it was tiresome, it seemed like he was trying to conduct a prosecution. Every time Travis responded to a question he would speak as if he was in front of a large crowd without the benefit of a PA system. He was literally shouting in a clipped campaign style that did not seem appropriate for this type of setting. Sodrel seemed relaxed and was able to provide examples of his previous term in Congress to issues like immigration, national defense and tax policy. Philosophically, there is not much separating the four. They all support term limits, are pro-life, favor strong national defense and want to secure our borders. But of the four I felt Mike Sodrel has the benefit of having been there before and knowing what to expect and how to get things done in Congress.

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University Racial Quotas

April 10th, 2010 No comments

The Volokh Conspiracy » Blog Archive » A Department That Doesn’t Look Like America

Eric Rasmusen says:

I think most universities would say they would be very unhappy if 95% of their faculty or students in a given subject were Jewish, and would take active steps to reduce the percentage. That’s essentially what the Ivy League colleges did in the early 20th century, except the Ivies had a much lower cutoff level than 95%. Thus, I think we can say we have Jewish quotas now, and are hypocritical in saying we oppose the idea, as opposed to the exact level— the present quotas just aren’t a binding constraint, except insofar as they are lumped in with the White-Asian-Foreigner constraint, which is tightly binding.

Jewish student quotas in the 1920s were:

Yale 10%
Princeton 3%
Harvard: 10–12%
Columbia 20%
Dartmouth 5%

Antisemitism: a historical encyclopedia of prejudice and …, Volume 1
edited by Richard Levy. p. 514.

A helpful distinction in looking at racial discrimination is whether the discriminator places value on the discriminated-against group, and hence has a minimum quota (even tho it is nonbinding) as well as a maximum quota. That is true of present affirmative action discrimination and of the anti-Jewish discrimination of the 1920s, but not of the racial segregation of the American South. Present affirmative action proponents don’t want too many whites, Asians, or foreigners, because given the limit on the total number of people that would displace others, but they certainly want some of them, given valued things they bring to the university. The same was true of the 1920’s Ivy Leagues— even Princeton— which valued smart Jews, but didn’t want too much of the class to be made up of smart Jews, Midwesterners, and so forth. They could have reduced the quotas to 0, legally, but they did want some of the Jews. On the other hand, the Southern colleges of the same era wanted zero black students, not just a very small number of very good black students.

Perhaps that is what is captured in the notion of discrimination motivated by positive desires versus discrimination motived by negative desires.

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The Tax Burden across Countries

April 8th, 2010 No comments

Greg Mankiw’s Blog

Taxes/GDP x GDP/Person = Taxes/Person

Here are the results for some of the largest developed nations:

France
.461 x 33,744 = 15,556

Germany
.406 x 34,219 = 13,893

UK
.390 x 35,165 = 13,714

US
.282 x 46,443 = 13,097

Canada
.334 x 38,290 = 12,789

Italy
.426 x 29,290 = 12,478

Spain
.373 x 29,527 = 11,014

Japan
.274 x 32,817 = 8,992

The bottom line: The United States is indeed a low-tax country as judged by taxes as a percentage of GDP, but as judged by taxes per person, the United States is in the middle of the pack.

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Collingwood’s Idea: Look at the Question to Understand the Answer

April 7th, 2010 No comments

Being And Time | The New Republic

This also gave him one of his central targets: philosophers who find it easy to yank a sentence from Plato, Leibniz, Hume, or whomever, and triumphantly demonstrate that it is false or meaningless or both, without paying any attention to the problem to whose solution it was intended as a contribution.

You understand someone, according to Collingwood, not in the way you might come to understand a piece of machinery or any other mechanical or causal process, but by “re-enacting” in your own mind the problem they were addressing and the solution they were proposing.

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Why Make Ugly Art?

April 7th, 2010 No comments

Being And Time | The New Republic

In London during World War I, Collingwood walked every day past Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Albert Memorial, and by his own account it was this eyesore that first turned his mind toward serious questions of history and art:

Everything about it was visibly misshapen, corrupt, crawling, verminous; for a time I could not bear to look at it, and passed by with averted eyes; recovering from this weakness I forced myself to look, and face day by day the question: a thing so obviously, so incontrovertibly, so indefensibly bad, why had Scott done it? To say that Scott was a bad architect was to burke the problem with a tautology; to say that there was no accounting for tastes was to evade it by a suggestio falsi. What relation was there, I began to ask myself, between what he had done and what he had tried to do? Had he tried to produce a beautiful thing; a thing I meant, which we should have thought beautiful? If so he had of course failed. But had he perhaps been trying to produce something different? If so he might possibly have succeeded. If I found the monument merely loathsome, was that perhaps my fault? Was I looking in it for qualities it did not possess, and either ignoring or despising those it did?

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Being Gracious to Opponents Is Easier if You’re Not Their Victim

April 6th, 2010 No comments

The Corner – National Review Online

Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from personal attacks at a town hall in Oklahoma:

While discussing his policy disagreements with Pelosi, Coburn said “she’s a nice lady,” which brought hisses and hoots from the crowd.

Said Coburn: “Come on now. She is nice — how many of you all have met her? She’s a nice person. Just because somebody disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re not a good person… So don’t catch yourself being biased by Fox News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”

Coburn also has an unlikely friendship with President Obama.

Full story here.

UPDATE: From a reader:

I understand what Sen. Coburn is saying, but I don’t think he really appreciates the view point of his audience. I believe it is relatively easy for a person in/with power to be gracious to an adversary. Think of how many buddies Ted Kennedy had among Republican senators. When they lose a fight with a Kennedy or Pelosi they may have bruised pride, but they are not significantly hurt in any material way by that loss. Us ‘commoners’ can and are hurt in significant ways when a Coburn loses a political fight. It’s not just a disagreement to us. So maybe he can be a little more sympathetic to those of us that personalize being @#$@%#@% over by the Dems and their policies.

It’s also significant that Pelosi and Coburn can trade favors, and need a good working relationship.

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The CBO Obamacare Cost Estimate

March 30th, 2010 No comments

The Bus Econ Brown Bag was interesting today. I attach a couple of documents explaining OBamacare. The Kaiser summary looks good. It misses the key sentence in the CBO budget projections, tho, which says the CBO is relying on cost reductions by a Board which is forbidden to suggest any savings method that rations care, increases private spending via taxes or copayments, or affects hospitals.

From the CBO:

“The projected longer-term savings for the legislation also reflect
an assumption that the Independent Payment Advisory Board
established by H.R. 3590 would be fairly effective in reducing
costs beyond the reductions that would be achieved by other
aspects of the legislation.” ( p. 14, March 20, 2010 CBO letter to
Speaker Pelosi)

From a summary of the plan:

“Establish an Independent Payment Advisory Board comprised of
15 members to submit legislative
proposals containing recommendations to reduce the per capita
rate of growth in Medicare spending
if spending exceeds a target growth rate….

The Board is prohibited from submitting proposals that would
ration care, increase revenues or change benefits, eligibility or
Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including Parts A and B
premiums), or would result in a change in the beneficiary premium
percentage or low-income subsidies under Part D. Hospitals and
hospices (through 2019) and clinical labs (for one year) will not be
subject to cost reductions proposed by the Board.”

( “Summary of New Health Reform Law,” Kaiser Family Foundation,
p. 8 source they list: www.democraticleader.house.gov/)

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Judicial Activism: What Conservative Activism Would Look Like

March 29th, 2010 No comments

Suppose we adopt the following reasoning:

P1. The Constitution protects all important human rights.
P2. The right to have an abortion is an important human right.
C1: The Constitution forbids state laws against abortion.

Prof. Marshall believes P1, and Justice Scalia does not, so Justice Scalia thinks Prof. Marshall’s conclusion C1 is wrong, regardless of whether P2 is true or not.

If P1 is good jurisprudence, then it also applies here:

P1. The Constitution protects all important human rights.
P3. The right to not be aborted is an important human right.
C2: The Constitution forbids state laws allowing abortion.

Prof. Marshall believes P3 is false, but Justice Scalia believes it is true. Since Justice Scalia thinks P1 s false, he thinks C2 is false too. Suppose, however, that Prof. Marshall talked with Justice Scalia and convinced him that P1 is good jurisprudence. Justice Scalia would then adopt C2.

At the moment, Prof. Marshall’s position should be: Given that Justice Scalia believes P3, it is wrong for Justice Scalia to hold back from Conclusion C2 and allow abortion. Scalia’s abortion decisions are unduly deferential to state legislatures. If Scalia had had a majority on the Court in 1973, then the morally right thing for them to do would have been for the Court to strike down California’s legalization of abortion. To be sure, Prof. Marshall thinks their view of human rights is wrong, but a judge has to go with what his own views on that when the text gives no guidance.

I would like to make it clear that I don’t believe P1. Thus, I do think it would be constitutional to ban having more than one child— just as all kinds of stupid and unjust policies are constitutional. If the electorate has voted for a one-child policy, however, we’ve got a lot worse problem than just that one policy— we have an electorate that will do crazy things, and 5 sane judges aren’t going to stop that. I worry more about the possibility of getting 5 crazy judges than 151 million crazy citizens.

I also don’t think it would be unconstitutional to have a state law saying that if the parents agree, they can murder their child if it is less than one year of age. That’s an unlikely law. It’s less likely, though, than a Supreme Court that would say that the right to kills one’s children is a natural human right. After all, that was what the Romans believed, and I don’t doubt but that it’s common in other cultures. ( Brent Shaw tries to refute the idea that Roman law said this, but I find his article quite fails at its attempt. Raising and Killing Children: Two Roman Myths. Brent D. Shaw Mnemosyne, Fourth Series, Vol. 54, Fasc. 1 (Feb., 2001), pp. 31-77 .)

Two more examples of possible conservative activism:

1. One might argue that the Constitution requires that any state government fund religious private schools (in fact, *all* private schools) at the same level as non-religious government schools.

2. One might argue that high marginal tax rates (federal plus social security plus state taxes) are Takings, or unjust on grounds of natural law. A reasonable and workable rule would be that any combined marginal tax rate less than 1/3 is always ok, a rate between 1/3 and 2/3 is justified if the government has a special need such as war finance, and a rate over 2/3 is never justified.

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Cover on Blood and Judges

March 29th, 2010 No comments

A quote I heard today at the law school:

Some interpretations are writ in blood and run with a warranty of blood as part of their validating force. Other interpretations carry more conventional limits to what will be hazarded on their behalf….

For the courts, too, may or may not speak in blood. To be sure, judges characteristically do not have to use their own blood to create meaning; like most power wielders, they usually write their bloodier texts in the bodies of the inmates of the penal colony. But the fact that all judges are in some way people of violence does not mean they rejoice in that quality or write their texts lightly…. The community that disobeys the criminal law upon the authority of its own constitutional interpretation, however, forces the judge to choose between affirming his interpretation of the official law through violence against the protesters and permitting the polynomia of legal meaning to extend to the domain of social practice and control. The judge’s commitment is tested as he is asked what he intends to be the meaning of his law and whether his hand will be part of the bridge that links the official vision of the Constitution with the reality of people in jail.

Harvard Law Review NOVEMBER, 1983 97 Harv. L. Rev. 4 THE SUPREME COURT, 1982 TERM: FOREWORD: NOMOS AND NARRATIVE Robert M. Cover

He should have cited De Maistre who, I think, said something related.

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The Pope and Pedophilia

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

It will be interesting to see if Pope Benedict can defend himself against charges that he protected pedophilia. I did have the sense that as an administrator he wanted to take a harder line than Pope John Paul II, who was part of the problem. But it now seems that even if he did oppose the old Pope’s policies, he was a loyal subordinate and kept quiet about evil thigns he knew were happening, rather like a Nazi who argued against death camps but helped build them when he lost the argument. I hope that isn’t true, and that we’ll find out otherwise. The Pope isn’t defending himself very well, though– he’s just brushing off the issuee–which is a very bad sign.

I’m a Calvinist, and the point that people are evil and you need people to have institutions is a good one. Every organization is going to contain people who do evil. What’s more important is how the organization responds to that. But Roman Catholics do talk a lot about the One True Church, and maybe the protection of pedophilia by its bishops is a sign that the Roman Catholic denomination is not it.

If a political party had that much corruption in the leadership, I wouldn’t want to be associated with it even if its doctrine was sound.

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Politicians Totally Surprised by Honest Accounting

March 29th, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator : Obama in Rude Denial

The White House political and legislative operations were said to be livid with the announcement by several large U.S. companies that they were taking multi-million or as much as a billion dollar charges because of the new health-care law, the issue was front-and-center with key lawmakers. By last Friday, AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere & Co., and AK Steel Holding Corp. had all announced that they were taking the one-time charges on their first-quarter balance sheets. …

On Friday White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett were calling the CEOs and Washington office heads of the companies that took the financial hits and attacked them for doing so. One Washington office head said that the White House calls were accusatory and “downright rude.”

The companies are taking the charges because in 2013 they will lose a tax deduction on tax-free government subsidies they have had when they give retirees a Medicare Part D prescription-drug reimbursement.  …

“Most of these people [in the Administration] have never had a real job in their lives. They don’t understand a thing about business, and that includes the President,” says a senior lobbyist for one of the companies that announced the charge. “My CEO sat with the President over lunch with two other CEOs, and each of them tried to explain to the President what this bill would do to our companies and the economy in general. First the President didn’t understand what they were talking about. Then he basically told my boss he was lying. Frankly my boss was embarrassed for him; he clearly had not been briefed and didn’t know what was in the bill.”

It isn’t just the President who didn’t understand his own proposal. Late Friday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations panel, announced that they would hold hearings in late April to investigate “claims by Caterpillar, Verizon, and Deere that provisions in the new health care reform law could adversely affect their company’s ability to provide health insurance to their employees.”

Neither Waxman or Stupak — who betrayed the pro-life community by negotiating for more than a week with the White House to ensure his vote on the health care bill — had anything more than a cursory understanding of how the many sections of the bill would impact business or even individual citizens before they voted on the bill, says House Energy Democrat staff. “We had memos on these issues, but none of our people, we think, looked at them,” says a staffer. “When they saw the stories last week about the charges some of the companies were taking, they were genuinely surprised and assumed that the companies were just doing this to embarrass them. They really believed this bill would immediately lower costs. They just didn’t understand what they were voting on.”

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Japanese Armor, Heirlooms, and Boys’ Day

March 29th, 2010 1 comment

One Perfect Suit of Samurai Armor – WSJ.com

Lightweight and flexible, the armor was considerably more ingenious and practical than its clanking European counterparts. The suit could be donned with relative ease; its flaring shapes allowed the warrior on horseback to move freely and to easily engage in hand-to-hand combat. Mr. Welch believes it may have belonged to the daimyo, or warlord, in charge of the Kii province in the southern part of the island.Samurai armor is often part of a family’s heritage and is typically stored away, usually in a kura, or Japanese treasure house. “If you go around Tokyo or other historic cities,” Mr. Welch explains, “you’ll see a walled family estate and then, rising above it, a white plaster building with very thick walls, which is where the family keeps all the precious things that aren’t in use.” On May 5, Boys’ Day, it is traditional to bring out the suit of armor (or a replica) and other symbols of male strength.

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Democratic Lying Campaign about Threats

March 26th, 2010 No comments

Michelle Malkin has a long list of past Democratic false charges that opponents made threats against them– a remarkably long list. She also talks about the current purported threats, a number of which have been completely discredited almost immediately and none of which have been confirmed as the work of non-Democrats.

Instapundit

AN IMPLAUSIBLE REPORT IN THE SEATTLE TIMES: “A rock was thrown through the window of Driehaus’ Cincinnati office Sunday.”

Justin Binik-Thomas emails from Cincinnati that Rep. Driehaus’ office “is on the 30th floor of a skyscraper downtown.” He also says that he spoke to Driehaus’ office today and they said this never happened. Which is too bad, in a way, as the Reds could use a guy with an arm like that . . . .

The Seattle Times should run a correction.

From Wikipedia:

The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack by Nazi forces posing as Poles on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.

This provocation was the best-known of several actions in Operation Himmler, a Nazi Germany SS project to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, which would be used to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland….

For months prior to the 1939 invasion, German newspapers and politicians like Adolf Hitler accused Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of German nationals living in Poland.[6][7]

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Some numbers useful for thinking about health care:

March 25th, 2010 No comments

Some numbers useful for thinking about health care:

IU PPO $900 Deductible. The middle expense plan.  (2010)
Single person:  396.  $4800/year.
Married  or cohabiting couple:  966.  $11,600/year
Family with children: 1097. $13,164/year
www.indiana.edu/~vpfaa/download/benefits_10.doc


------------------

MEDICAL COSTS (2006)
Employee average age: 34. Half male.
Average family size: 2.11.
15% claimed less than $250.  (remember: there is the deductible
to overcome)
 43% claimed 250-2500.
20% claimed  2500-10000
 7% claimed 10,000-50,000
1% claimed over 50,000
www.indiana.edu/~uhrs/blueribbonshow.pdf


----------------

Marginal tax rates.
    It looks as if including state taxes, payroll taxes, everything this
is what the CBO got for 2005, roughly (Figure 5):
0-8000/year income:  8-20% marginal rate.
8-40,000:  33% marginal rate
40-90,000: 40% marginal rate
90,000+: 33% marginal rate

So we pretty much have a flat tax.

 The biggest difference in the married couple (one earner) picture
is that the 25,000-40,000 marginal rate is 50%.

CBO, Effective Marginal Tax Rates on Labor Income
www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=6854

---------------

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The December Senate Rule Breaking by the Parliamentarian

March 25th, 2010 No comments

For RedState’s very thorough post on this, with a Senate transcript, excerpts from the Senate rules, and so forth, go to
http://www.redstate.com/erick/2009/12/21/we-are-no-longer-a-nation-of-laws-senate-sets-up-requirement-for-super-majority-to-ever-repeal-obamacare/. OpenCongress makes the same argument that rule changes have sneaked past before, not mentioning that objections were made to any of them.

The later RedState post says,

Making the Death Panels Permanent | RedState, expands as below. AceofSpades argues the other side by saying that the Senate has used less than a 2/3 majority before to include a rules change, but RedState points out that they did it with no senator objecting, to which AceofSpades has no reply. Dailykos talks about the issue too, but only with insults, no attempt at real argument.

There are always, when some of us on the right blow up an issue like Harry Reid’s rules changes, some people who say we’re overreacting.

I have to say I think they miss the point.

First, I do agree with Gabriel Malor that “a quick glance at the Library of Congress website and Google shows that language similar to that used here to except these provisions from the Standing Rules has been used dozens of times in the past thirty years in both the Senate and the House, including in the 109th Congress when Republicans controlled both chambers.”

Second, I do agree the GOP has done thing, including with Medicare Part D.

But, in most all of the cases, though not all including Medicare Part D, the Senate first went through a procedural vote requiring a two-thirds vote in recognition that there would be a change of Senate Rules.

In several of the cases, including Medicare Part D, when that two-thirds vote did not first happen, the 51 person vote went forward without an objection being raised by the Democrats on that point.

Here is where I think the people saying we’re overreacting are totally missing the point.

In the case at hand, an objection was raised and very clearly the rules were being changed. The Senate President, however, ruled that the rules were not being changed, just procedure, despite the clear wording of the change being a rules change.

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Justice Dept. Corruption: The Stevens Case

March 24th, 2010 No comments

Months After Ted Stevens Debacle, Justice Department Corruption Unit in Disarray – washingtonpost.com

prosecutorial misconduct. With that backdrop, lawyers in the department’s Criminal Division, led by Associate Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, earlier this month transferred prosecutors Nicholas Marsh and Edward Sullivan out of the public integrity unit. The decision was controversial at the department because the internal probe was at an early stage and because supervisors remained on the job.

William Welch, the chief of the Public Integrity Section, and Morris, his principal deputy, have continued to work on cases since the transfer of two of their subordinates, but as an administrative review continues, they no longer have management responsibility, the sources said. Other lawyers in the section have taken on supervisory roles in specific cases.

Sources said that among the questions investigators are pursuing is how closely the work of the Stevens trial team was supervised by officials in the Criminal Division. Senior political and career lawyers there may have offered input and monitored decisions about the kinds of material to turn over to Stevens’s defense team at Williams & Connolly, the sources added. Senior officials at the department also made decisions about the composition of the trial team, adding Morris, who had more courtroom experience, only weeks before the trial.

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Belief as an Act of Will

March 24th, 2010 No comments

There was an interesting discussion at Prof. O’Connor’s house last night. Here is what I got out of it. A hard question is whether it is morally correct to fight giving in to the false beliefs of a group you are in, do nothing, or actively seek to succumb to them. This isn’t as easy a question as it sounds.

The situation is that someone may join a group because he believes most of what they believe, but he thinks they are wrong on at least one item. Doing nothing, he knows that by hearing only one of the argument, he will tend to modify his belief in that direction. Active resistance would counter that. But there is something to be said for joining with one’s group on non-essential points, even to the extent of changing one’s beliefs.

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Lying Evangelicals, and Two Jokes

March 24th, 2010 No comments

There is probably more hypocrisy and lying about their beliefs by evangelicals than by the average American, simply because evangelicals have at least a loose standard of what they’re supposed to believe, and it isn’t the same as what the average person believes. Thus, the evangelical has more temptation to say one thing in church and another thing with secular friends. And he has more to hide, because more of what he says is wrong is legal and hence tempting— abortion, porn, and divorce being prime examples.

It’s worse with evangelical pastors and professors at evangelical colleges. They’d actually lose their jobs if they admitted their actual beliefs. Since their actual beliefs are usually liberal, they don’t have the spine to do that (unlike those who convert to RC or Orthodox). So they lie.

Here’s a joke that Wheaton’s combination of requiring Education professors to believe in inerrancy and Bill-Ayres-style political correctness makes me think of. The joke needs footnotes. Lubavitchers are a sect of Orthodox Jews who try to get other ethnic Jews to act Jewish. A Mezuzah is a tiny box for a door with certain Bible verses in it. Tefillin are boxes with Bible verses and straps that you wear while praying. And Kosher requires a person to strictly separate meat and dairy dishes, even to the extent of not mixing them inside your mouth. So on to the joke:

A Lubavitcher seeking to reclaim secularized Jews went up to a college boy with a yarmulke and said, “Are you Jewish?”

Trapped, the boy had to admit that he was.

“Do you have a mezuzah on your dorm door?” asked the
Lubavicher.

“Yes, from the hour I moved in.”

“Do you put on tefillin properly before you say your morning prayers?”

“Yes, every day.”

“After you eat meat, do you wait at least six hours before putting any dairy product in your mouth?”

“Yes, I wait at least eight hours, in fact.”

Then why are you eating a ham sandwich?

“Well, I don’t believe in overdoing things.”

There was also
a Pearls Before Swine cartoon strip something like the following.

The
zebras were trying to improve relations with crocodiles, so they
sent a delegation to have bilateral talks on how to reduce tensions and build bridges between them.

The response came back in the
form of a letter, asking for more zebras to be sent.

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Alcee Hastings and the Democratic Party

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

Power Line

Hastings was once a federal judge, but he was impeached–it is hard to articulate what a difficult, cumbersome process that is–because he solicited bribes from criminal defendants. That is, he approached the criminals and told them that he would let them off if they paid him. That’s a little extreme, even for a Democrat. Hastings’ efforts to make himself rich in this criminal fashion came to light and he was investigated. He responded to the investigation by committing perjury.

As a result of his multiple crimes, Hastings was removed as a federal judge by the United States Senate, one of the few times in history that has happened. Here is the really astonishing thing: instead of going to jail, Alcee Hastings went to Congress! Democratic voters were not in the least concerned that he is a criminal of the most verminous sort. On the contrary, they elected him to represent them in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District! That, really, tells you all you need to know about the depravity to which the Democratic Party has sunk.

Now, Alcee Hastings, exposed as a criminal and a betrayer of his oath as a federal judge, is playing a key role in the Democrats’ effort to jam Obamacare down the throats of unwilling voters. Here is Hastings explaining that the Democrats have no intention of following House rules; rather, they are just making it up as they go along:…

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Using Ideas

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

   At Prof. O’Connor’s house last time somebody (Notess?) made the good pont that scholarly debate attacks opponents at their strongest point, whereas sophistical debate attacks them at their weakest.  We also talked about the Christian virtue of looking for the good in bad books, not just sneering at the bad. I thought of this just now on reading in
Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

What’s relevant to me is not what Popper “understood” but what he contributed. I think his ideas, including his emphasis on falsification, have contributed a huge amount to our understanding of the scientific process and have also served as a foundation for more sophisticated ideas such as those of Lakatos.

When considering contributors to human knowledge, I think it’s best to take an Earl Weaver-esque approach, focus on their strengths rather than their weaknesses, and put them in the lineup when appropriate. (As the publisher of two theorems, one of which is true, I have a natural sympathy for this attitude.)

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Public Defenders

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times

Defining Indigent: The wife of Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) was declared indigent this week by a federal judge and assigned a tax-funded public defender to appeal a three-year prison sentence for bribery conspiracy, The National Law Journal reports. Rep. Conyers makes $174,000 a year.

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Obamacare’s Future

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

Chances for repeal of Obamacare in a few years, once it gets going, are good. If I’m reading it right, the bill is going to make health insurance much more expensive, but (a) you can just pay 2% or so of income (say, $2000) instead, and (b) you can wait to buy insurance till you get cancer. If so, hardly anybody will buy insurance till they get severely sick. Annual premiums will, as a result, have to rise to perhaps $50,000/year (no exaggeration— remember, anybody with brains won’t buy it till they have prospective bills that year of at least the amount of the premium). So insurance will disappear, and we’ll be back to 1940.

Update, March 24.

Obamacare is so screwed up it might actually turn out to be good policy. Here’s what might happen:

1. Employers all stop covering health insurance, because it costs too much and the employer penalty is cheaper (2 or 3 thousand dollars, I think— and remember, top-coverage plans are going to be taxed if they’re offered)

2. Individuals won’t buy insurance till they get cancer. At that point, they will.

3. Since (a) only sick people will buy insurance, and (b) extra mandates also make health insurance more expensive, the price of health insurance will at least triple.

Thus, in the end we’ll be left with nobody having health insurance, and all the moral hazard that’s driving up health costs will disappear. Well– not quite. We’ll still have Medicaid, so anybody who spends all his assets and loses his job will get free medical care after that.

But maybe government subsidies would kick in at some point in time. In that case, maybe insurance would only go up to $20,000/year for an individual, and we would in effect have a ban on our existing style of insurance combined with compulsory catastrophic insurance, financed by taxes.

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The Peculiar New York Times

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

Steve Sailer’s iSteve Blog

Big, Big News!
The New York Times website devotes a top-half-of-the-frontpage spot to headline this overwhelmingly important news story:

Arrest in Racial Case at N.J. Wal-Mart
By KIRK SEMPLE and NATE SCHWEBER
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The authorities in southern New Jersey said Saturday that they had arrested a 16-year-old boy for activating a public-address system at a Wal-Mart store last week and ordering “all black people” to leave.

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Keeping Voting Open

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

A good research question is whether it is good or bad to have a voting rule for public votes that allows a voter to change his mind and change his vote midway through it. Also interesting is the question of whether to vote in random order, predictable sequence, or simultaneously.

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Latex, Word, and Zombies

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

Marginal Revolution

“We originally wrote this article in Word, but then we converted it to Latex to make it look more like science.”

The link is here. It is the best analysis of zombification I have seen to date. For the pointer I thank John Chilton.

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Statistical Significance

March 22nd, 2010 No comments

<p>Here is something good to keep in mind:

Marginal Revolution: Why Most Published Research Findings are False

Suppose there are 1000 possible hypotheses to be tested. There are an infinite number of false hypotheses about the world and only a finite number of true hypotheses so we should expect that most hypotheses are false. Let us assume that of every 1000 hypotheses 200 are true and 800 false….

  In fact, standard statistical practice guarantees that at least 5% of false hypotheses are accepted as true. Thus, out of the 800 false hypotheses 40 will be accepted as “true,” i.e. statistically significant.

It is also inevitable in a statistical study that we will fail to accept some true hypotheses (Yes, I do know that a proper statistician would say “fail to reject the null when the null is in fact false,” but that is ugly). It’s hard to say what the probability is of not finding evidence for a true hypothesis because it depends on a variety of factors such as the sample size but let’s say that of every 200 true hypotheses we will correctly identify 120 or 60%. Putting this together we find that of every 160 (120+40) hypotheses for which there is statistically significant evidence only 120 will in fact be true or a rate of 75% true….

Ioannidis says most published research findings are false.  This is plausible in his field of medicine where it is easy to imagine that there are more than 800 false hypotheses out of 1000.  In medicine, there is hardly any theory to exclude a hypothesis from being tested.  Want to avoid colon cancer?   Let’s see if an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Brad DeLong and Kevin Lang wrote a classic paper suggesting that one of the few times that journals will accept a paper that fails to reject the null is when the evidence against the null is strong (and thus failing to reject the null is considered surprising and important).

The 5% significance level is just a convention. Even on its own terms, it doesn’t pretend to be more— 5% isn’t an intrinsically meaningful number (50% has a lot more oomph, really).

But it is important to have a convention. It makes it a lot easier to read a table if we can scan for asterisks instead of having to read p-values, or, worse yet, have to figure out what prior the author is using in his calculations.

The problem comes when scholars fail to understand that it’s a a convention. A good referee won’t accept a paper in economics just because the results reach 5%. If the result is surprising, he’ll demand some robustness checks and some theory, and a big sample size (which helps avoid acceptance-selection bias because there it’s harder to draw a million big samples than small samples).

On the other side, a good referee *ought* to accept a paper with suggestive results even if the sample size is too small to get to 5%. This is less likely, because we economists are obsessed with regression analysis and despise the case study. Sometimes, though, there are only 20 data points, and we shouldn’t just throw away that information. Instead, we should do a regression, which will generate insignificant results probably, but then draw graphs, make a table with every data point, and discuss each point’s residual and real world specialness.

  The Ioannides result  reminds me of one of my own papers, on conservative bias in business (or politics, or marriage).  The average potential  business idea has a below-market return. Otherwise it wouldn’t be potential, it would be actual, since a business could accept random new ideas (the nuclear toothbrush, the cardboard credit card, the Nome Dairy Queen…) and make money. In estimating the profitability of new projects, however, there is random error. Suppose 5% is the cost of capital. If a business accepts any idea which has a 6% estimated return, most of the ideas it accepts will be ones with returns of less than 5% which just happened to have positive measurement error, since there are few genuine 6% ideas.  Thus, the business should be conservative, and use a hurdle rate of perhaps 9%.

“Managerial Conservatism and Rational Information Acquisition, ” Journal of Economics and Management Strategy (Spring 1992), 1(1): 175-202. Conservative managerial behavior can be rational and profit- maximizing. If the valuation of innovations contains white noise and the status quo would be preferred to random innovation, then any innovation that does not appear to be substantially better than the status quo should be rejected. The more successful the firm, the higher the threshold for accepting innovation should be, and the greater the conservative bias. Other things equal, more successful firms will spend less on research, adopt fewer innovations, and be less likely to advance the industry ‘s best practice.  (http://rasmusen.org/published/Rasmusen_92JEMS.conservatism.pdf).

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Democrats and the Rule of Law

March 21st, 2010 No comments

Rules? This. Is. Congress! – Daniel Foster – The Corner on National Review Online

Yes, Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings (Fla.) just said this in the most powerful committee of the United States House of Representatives. The people’s house:

“There ain’t no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something. . . .All this talk about rules. . . .When the deal goes down . . . we make ‘em up as we go along.”

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Chess as Help and Hurt for the Brain

March 18th, 2010 No comments

Prof. E. Volokh from  The Volokh Conspiracy:

My father taught me to play chess when I was small. It will help you learn to think better, he said. So I played, and eventually got to be pretty good for a casual player.

At some point, quite a while after I started to win pretty regularly when playing him (so I don’t think his motivation was to stop losing…), he gave me the other piece of advice: Learning to play chess, he said, will help you learn to think better. But only up to a point. Past that point, it will only help you learn to think better about chess.

A comment on that post quotes Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”:

” …To calculate is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. … The higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by a the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound.”

I share that general view of chess. Go (barduk) is better because it doesn’t have the arbitrary rules of chess.

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Pro Bono Procedures and Internal Law Firm Politics

March 16th, 2010 No comments

The American Spectator : Pro-Democratic Bono

As an associate and then partner at Arnold & Porter D.C. (Aug. 1992–Jan. 2006) who had many pro bono clients — National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a refugee relief effort in Kosovo, a pro-democracy-in-Iran foundation, U St. Business & Arts Coalition, D.C. Regulatory Reform Commission, minority indigent crime victims, minority indigent convicts, several Ph.D. scientists seeking the right to advocate for “intelligent design,” the Washington Legal Foundation (in an open-government suit against the U.S. Sentencing Commission), the 1993 Clinton administration transition, the first successful effort to win a Presidential pardon issued posthumously (for the first black graduate of West Point, Lt. Henry Flipper, USMA 1877), the International Sculpture Center, Source Theater (D.C.), and others — and as one of the few Republicans at Arnold & Porter, I have been following with interest the arguments advanced as the motivations for lawyers to represent the Gitmo terrorists.

At Arnold & Porter, there is a “pro bono committee” and any partner seeking to pursue a pro bono matter must make the case to that committee why the client and the matter are in the public interest and why the firm will benefit from taking on the matter (associates do not have the authority to propose a pro bono client). During my six years and six days as a partner I proposed perhaps a dozen such matters, and in every case the pro bono committee approved — even as to the several “intelligent design” matters I brought in that proved to be very unpopular with the vast majority of the lawyers, partners in particular, at the firm. Approval was also required from the “billing and intake” committee, which would take into account the estimated out-of-pocket cash expense as well as the estimated lawyer time. This committee also approved all of my proposals.

I think it likely that the large, prominent law firms engaged in the “Gitmo terrorist” cases also have similar review and approval procedures for pro bono cases, particularly where the cases involve cash-out-of-pocket expenses. And thus the decision to represent the Gitmo terrorists was, in each case, a decision of the leaders of the firms involved, and not merely of the individual lawyers….

Every associate, and every partner who does not have a personal, portable client base, can survive in a firm only by being invited to join in the matters of the partners who have the clients. Every associate, and every client-less partner, must win the friendliness of those partners. Taking on a pro bono case and running it in a manner that advances the political interests of those partners is a good way to get invited onto those partners’ cases. Taking on a pro bono case and running it in a manner that disrupts the political interests of those partners is a good way to be cut out of all paying cases, and is a fast-track to leaving the firm. I experienced this personally by taking on the “intelligent design” matters; invitations for me to join in paying cases dried up, and my cash-earning billable hours declined. I knew this would happen when I proposed those matters to the firm; but a matter of conscience ought not be swayed by such concerns.

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Paul Weiss Lawyers Helping Terrorists Illegally

March 16th, 2010 No comments

Debra Burlingame and Thomas Joscelyn: Gitmo’s Indefensible Lawyers – WSJ.com

Majeed Abdullah Al Joudi, the detainee in whose cell the brochure was first found, told guards he received the brochure from his lawyer. An investigation by JTF-GTMO personnel revealed that Julia Tarver Mason, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, had sent it to Al Joudi and eight of the firm’s other detainee clients through “legal mail”—a designation for privileged lawyer-client communications that are exempt from screening by security personnel. …

At Guantanamo, “legal mail” is strictly limited to correspondence between counsel and a detainee that is related to representation of the detainee, privileged documents and publicly filed legal documents. But even “legal mail,” according to the rules mandated by Judge Joyce Hens Green in a 2004 protective order, prohibits lawyers from giving detainees information relating to military operations, intelligence, arrests, political news and current events, and the names of U.S. government personnel. Lawyers are forbidden from discussing other detainee cases not directly related to the representation of their own client.

The Amnesty International brochure, handed out at a human rights conference in London, was a political advocacy screed in clear violation of that order, which was formulated to protect force security. Maj. Gen. Hood made a command decision. He banned the Paul, Weiss lawyers from access to Guantanamo. The DOJ notified the firm.

Paul, Weiss immediately went on the offensive, backed by what one former Defense Department official, who requested anonymity, called “an armada of habeas attorneys.” They sued the government, demanding that it defend the decision to eject lawyers from Gitmo, making the straight-faced claim that the Amnesty International brochure was a legitimate “report” that was “directly related” to their clients’ defense….

 “It is not a factual report. Instead it is filled with second and third hand accounts, photos of protests that were staged, inflammatory photos from Iraq and provocative story captions.”…

 
 
 
 

 

Despite this history, Paul, Weiss attorneys were apparently so confident that the DOJ could be cowed into submission that they provided the court with exhibits—letters, emails and court filings—documenting gross violations of the protective order by other habeas attorneys whose access was not cut off, ostensibly to show that Paul, Weiss was being treated unfairly.

We obtained Justice Department accounts of some of those incidents under a Freedom of Information Act request. Examples included an incident in which a lawyer sent his detainee client the transcript of a virulently anti-American speech that compared military physicians to Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor of Auschwitz, called DOJ lawyers “desk torturers” and suggested that the “abuses carried out by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib . . . could involve the President in the commission of war crimes.”

Other incidents listed in the FOIA material included: a lawyer who was caught in the act of making a hand-drawn map of a detention camp’s layout, including guard towers; a lawyer who sent a letter to his detainee client telling him that “we cannot depend on the military to do the right thing” and conveying his message of support to other detainees who were not his clients; lawyers who posted photos of Guantanamo security badges on the Internet; lawyers who provided news outlets with “interviews” of their clients using questions provided in advance by the news organization; and a lawyer who gave his client a list of all the detainees.

If the stated intent was to show that the government had singled out Paul, Weiss attorneys, the unstated purpose was to demonstrate something even more significant to the government’s lawyers. They were outnumbered and outgunned. The Gitmo bar had grown to include some 400 lawyers from as many as 50 law firms that were subsidized by the millions of dollars earned from their paying corporate clients. They had the legal talent, the support of the international press and the judicial wind at their backs. They could bury the DOJ in paper. If one lawyer was taken out, she could be replaced by another.

“They were beaten down by the litigation,” said the former Defense Department official who asked to remain anonymous. “If I’d gotten caught passing war news to detainees, my security clearance would have been pulled.”

But why would American lawyers, after 9/11 and the brutal slaughter of 3,000 fellow citizens, hand members of al Qaeda information about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? The records indicate that attorneys were printing news off the Internet and passing it to detainees at the same time that U.S. forces in Iraq were sustaining devastating casualties from IED attacks.

“They would bring contraband in their briefcases, in manila envelopes,” an active-duty officer familiar with Defense Department records on attorney access violations told us. “They did it because they knew the detainees were hungry for news and they wanted to establish trust.”

The desire to establish trust is evident in Ms. Mason’s own affidavit to the D.C. court concerning the status of her firm’s representation of Saudi detainees in habeas cases. The attorneys couldn’t remain as attorney of record and go forward with a habeas case if the detainees wouldn’t cooperate with them. “While we have made substantial progress in developing rapport and trust with our clients,” she stated, “we have not yet been able to secure from all of them written acknowledgment of our representation.” She attributes this to “torture and abuse . . . at the hands of the American military” as opposed to the Islamist mindset that sees no distinction between American attorneys in suits and American personnel in uniform. Indeed, court records reveal that Yousef Al Shehri wrote to the court, “expressing in no uncertain terms that he desires neither representation, nor a lawsuit on his behalf.”

Ultimately, the government would reach a settlement with the Paul, Weiss lawyers. Ms. Mason and her team were allowed to resume their trips to Guantanamo in May 2006. But the DOJ’s surrender emboldened the Gitmo bar even further. Last August, the Washington Post reported that three lawyers defending Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his 9/11 co-conspirators showed their clients photographs of covert CIA officers in an attempt to identify the individuals who interrogated them after they were captured overseas. Lawyers working for the John Adams Project, formed to support the legal team representing KSM and his cohorts, provided the defense attorneys with the photographs, according to the Post. None of the attorneys under investigation were identified in the Post report….

 

 
 
 

 
On Feb. 20, 2007, a post on the Paul, Weiss Web site proudly announced “Paul, Weiss achieves more victories for Guantanamo detainees.” Two detainees were released from Gitmo to their home in Saudi Arabia. One was Majeed Abdullah Al Joudi, a recipient of the Amnesty International “report.” The Web site needs an update. The Pentagon has identified Al Joudi as a “confirmed” recidivist who is “directly involved” with the facilitation of “terrorist activities.”

Yousef Al Shehri, the detainee who led his cell block in the feeding tube rebellion, was also released in November 2007. In early 2009 he was listed on the Saudi Kingdom’s list of 85 “most wanted” extremists. Yousef was killed last October during a shootout with Saudi security forces on his way to a martyrdom operation. He and another jihadist, disguised as women and wearing suicide vests, killed a security officer in the clash. Yousef’s brother-in-law, Said Al Shehri, also released from Gitmo, is currently the second in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the branch that launched the Christmas Day airline attack last year.

 

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Equivocation in Evangelicalism

March 15th, 2010 No comments

Some comments at a Baylyblog thread at http://www.baylyblog.com/2010/03/the-gagging-of-christians-wheaton-and-r2k-lend-a-hand.html#comments :

An idea present in a LOT of Baylyblog posts is the problem of Equivocation: the use of words to mean one things Audience A and the opposite to Audience B. “Tolerance” is a word used for equivocation. A schools says, “We believe in tolerance”. Most people take it literally, thinking it means the school would let a Christian teacher be open about his beliefs. Education establishment people know that it is a code word, meant to reassure them that the school will make life difficult for a Christian teacher. As a result, the school can please everyone, on both sides, with a single sentence.

Equivocation is a special danger to those listeners who take words literally rather than looking for the real meaning underneath them. If you do that with an equivocator, you lose the debate. It’s like agreeing to use pistols in a duel and then permitting him to pull out a shotgun and call it his pistol….

“What a great explanation of why only a simpleton actually believes the claim of tolerance.” Thanks for the compliment, but I think it’s a bit insulting in the present case. True, equivocation fools simpleton. Second, it also fools the inexperienced. I was at an evening study recently where all the over-40s notes how propagandistic and unfair the writer of our discussion reading, The Blue Parakeet, was, and a college study bravely told us that he thought hte reading made real sense and didn’t notice that it was attacking anyone. The reason was equivocation— the words all were fine (and actually pretty bland) if read literally.

In the case of people like the one I was criticizing in this thread, though, equivocation works differently. They’re actually like my breed, the economist. We like to take words precisely and at their true meaning—that is, the generally accepted one— and tend to do that obstinately, because we think it’s like surrendering to subjectivism if we admit that anyone is using them any other way or requiring us to read between the lines. (That may be one reason economists aren’t very good at talking to women.)

Yet another danger from equivocation is that it attacks what is generally a good Christian practice: to treat someone charitably. If you do that with an equivocator, you put hte best meaning on his words, as you would with someone who is merely confused. But that gives him a license to kill. So the “act charitably” rule needs a special subrule for how to treat sophisticated and deliberate speech.

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Mozilla Firefox Improvements Needed

March 15th, 2010 No comments

1. In VIEW, have an option for small text, to note take up any more space than icons but to be more understandable.

2. Have a way to save a list of all add-ons, so that when you reinstall on a new computer or after a crash, you can at one keystroke install all your addons.

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Obama’s Trustworthiness

March 12th, 2010 No comments

Campaign Spot – National Review Online

I do think that House Democrats would be foolish to pass the Senate bill with a promise that the Senate would fix things. The moment the majority vote is cast, I picture it being taken by courier, and instead of going to the other side of Capitol Hill to the Senate, the courier breaks away to a waiting motorcade and speeds down Pennsylvania Avenue, with several dozen horrified, betrayed House Democrats chasing on foot, mortified that they’ve just been tricked into signing the Louisiana Purchase and Cornhusker Kickback into law in exchange for a pile of magic beans. If fear of this scenario is what drives sufficient number of House Democrats to say, ‘I can’t take that gamble,’ then in one of politics’ perfect ironies, what ultimately kills Obama care will be the inevitable, inescapable, indisputable and ubiquitous expiration dates of the president’s statements and promises. In the end, perhaps his agenda will implode because not enough members of his own party trust him.

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Last Words of Those about to Be Executed

March 11th, 2010 No comments

At the   Freakonomics Blog -, Ian Ayres tells us of the Texas Last Words website:

Texas – where more than a third of our nation’s executions have occurred since 1976 – has routinized the administration of justice, and preserves on a single webpage the final statements of the 450 inmates the state has executed since 1982. A 2009 New York Times op-ed cataloged a number of excerpts taken from the Texas site, including:

Nothing I can say can change the past.

I done lost my voice.

I would like to say goodbye.

My heart goes is going ba bump ba bump ba bump.

Is the mike on?

I don’t have anything to say. I am just sorry about what I did.

I am nervous and it is hard to put my thoughts together. Sometimes you don’t know what to say.

Man, there is a lot of people there.

I have come here today to die, not make speeches.

From Allah we came and to Allah we shall return.

Mistakes are made, but with God all things are possible.

I am responsible for them losing their mother, their father and their grandmother. I never meant for them to be taken. I am sorry for what I did.

I can’t take it back.

Lord Jesus forgive of my sins. Please forgive me for the sins that I can remember.

All my life I have been locked up.

Give me my rights. Give me my rights. Give me my rights. Give me my life back.

I am tired.

I deserve this.

A life for a life.

It’s my hour. It’s my hour.

I’m ready, Warden.

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Emergency Rooms and Health Costs

March 11th, 2010 No comments

From    Freakonomics Blog 

The overutilization of emergency rooms is often cited as a dangerous symptom of America’s broken healthcare system. But a new Slate article from Zachary Meisel and Jesse Pines offers a rosier picture of emergency room usage, and dispels several pervasive myths. They write that E.R. care represents less than 3 percent of healthcare spending, only 12 percent of E.R. visits are non-urgent, and the majority of E.R. patients are insured U.S. citizens, not uninsured, illegal immigrants. Meisel and Pines also point out that E.R. visits don’t necessarily cost more than primary care visits: “In fact, the marginal cost of treating less acute patients in the ER is lower than paying off-hours primary care doctors, as ERs are already open 24/7 to handle life-threatening emergencies.”

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