Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Why Shouldn't I Be Able to Cure a Fraudulent Conveyence?
In bankruptcy today Professor Marcus Cole covered Fraudulent Conveyences. Say, unbeknownst to me, you are undercapitalized or going broke and you sell me your $100,000 house for $25,000. It is so far below reasonable value that I think I am getting a steal, until you file for Bankruptcy and the trustee takes the property back, under the guise that this was a fraudulent transaction. Oh yeah, I don't necessarily get my $25,000 back - I'm just another unsecured creditor in line. At this point, I'd gladly fork over the $75,000 difference between market value and what I paid so that the transfer would be legit (I could then sell it for around market value and have a better chance of getting more of my $25,000 back). But of course, the trustee will not want me to do that - this will shrink the common pool of assets. Something about this doesn't feel right, but hey, its bankruptcy - none of it really "feels right."
Breaking up Quote
Some worthwhile wisdome from my Dad - The test is not how you are doing on a day, but how you are doing over any group of thirty days.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Has Bush Made Us Safer?
This article by the Washington Times suggests so. If Khalid Sheik Mohammad (KSM) (one of the top Al Queda operatives before his capture) is telling the truth, the plan was to hit the Sears Tower in Chicago and the Liberty Tower in LA as a follow-up to 9/11. The plan was hindered, according to KSM when the US took out the Afghanistan sanctuary and spent increased effort on disrupting communications.

A few pessimistic points
1) This does not validate the Iraq War as a means to stop terrorism (though future evidence may)
2) This does not address long-term concerns. Losing a sanctuary for the day does not end the danger, especially with increased global anger directed towards the U.S.
3) If we have been so successful at disrupting communication AFTER 9/11, than why didn't we do it beforehand and prevent a terrorist-confidence bonanza and tremendous loss of life and economic dislocation?

A few optimistic points
1) Taking out potential and actual terrorist sanctuaries is a long-term strategy. Afghanistan was used a training ground for thousands of would-be terrorists in schools run by Bin Laden. This will haunt us for years.
2) Further evidence that the Government has been having success against organizations that would do us harm as opposed to Clinton Era appeasement
3) Global anger comes and goes. Showing strength and reasoned patience is what matters in the long run, which is what we are doing now.

(thanks to Angry Clam for the referral)
Has the Economic Growth been Overstated?
It can get difficult to correctly state economic growth right after the fact, but I'm sure conspiracy theorists out there see this as a manipulation by the White House.

Update - I'll be watching this forum just to check.
The Nation Trips Up
They are running an article titled "Israel's Failing Wall". The article is misleading, because nowhere in it does it show that the wall is actually "failing". Is it bringing Israel criticism? Sure. But is it not working? Strangely, the Nation has little to say on that issue. Thanks for wasting my time.

Oh yeah - for a different view of the fence, click here.
9/11 Commission
A few friends have asked me where I stand on it. I don't think the question is whether the past two administrations dropped the ball, but rather what are we going to do from here on out to make ourselves safer. Since I don't really see that question being addressed in the Clarke saga, I haven't been all that interested in it so far.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Message to the Browns - Please Don't Trade Up
The Beacon Journal is reporting that the Browns might trade up and grab the number one pick to draft the top offensive lineman - Robert Gallery. I haven't followed the draft this closely, but unless the Browns are sure, really sure, know without a doubt that this guy is going to be a stud off the bat, this would not be a good move. Trading up means we are going to have to pay a ransom of players and other picks that we desperately need. Additionally, for a number one or two pick, the salary demands are sure to bust our cap for the next few years, and to add insult to injury there is also the fact that we are dealing with the draft projection of talent here. We all remember Couch, Courtney Brown, Warren. Those players were supposed to be the real deals, mostly they just cost us salary cap room.

While I commend the Browns on finally deciding the last two years to invest in their woeful offensive line, desperation often breeds rash and ill advised moves when it comes to talent acquisition. I hope the Browns don't make one.
American Idol Analysis
Con Law Prof Yin has the goods
Blogging to be light
I'm at Tahoe right now with my brothers, who flew in from Ohio. I'll be skiing the next two days, so I can't promise anything special until Wednesday (but you never know)

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Outsourcing of Law?
Here is a post frequent commentor Ryan Costa is sure to love. A Newspaper in New Orlean is reporting that certain tasks in the field of law are being outsourced to India. The law community is predictable aghast, speaking of how these communications could possibly be "intercepted" by third parties, and other red-herring concerns.

Will lawyers in the future lose jobs over the issue? Definitaly a possibility, but not quite so sure.

One important piece of background information - entry into law is in theory strictly regulated. Nearly all states have unauthorized practice of law rules which permit only attorneys admitted to the state bar of the issue at hand to practice law. However, "practicing law" has diminished in signicance as of late. Self-help legal books have survived challenges, accounting/investment banking/and real estate firms have been chipping away at what traditionally was viewed as legal practice, and most controverisally in the legal profession, full service firms have arisen where lawyers work with and are governed by non-lawyers, and the rules aren't enforced all that often anymore anyway. However, there still remain a few core functions of what it means to practice law, and system advantages (confidentiality) to retaining an attorney.

So returning to the question, will lawyers lose jobs? For the reasons listed above, there are limits to how much export of jobs can occur due to legal barriers for non-lawyer competition. However, what is likely to occur at first is that it will be paralegals who will get phased out. This of course will lower the cost of (1) law generally, raising tolerance for more billable hours/higher law firm profits (2) change the relative cost between legal assistants and attorneys, making it more costly to give work to an attorney. Number one points to job increases for lawyers, number two points to job decreases. So my view is that it could go either way. Which may not be so bad a thing for the country (although not necessarily a good thing for me)
Voices From a Distant Star
Just watched this short anime film that the ex would never let me see when we were dating. Not recommended if you are getting over a breakup. The plot is that two star crossed lovers are seperated at age 15 when the girl goes on a space mission, with their only means of communication being text messages sent by cell phone. As the movie progresses, their distance increases. It takes at first months for messages to reach her lover, than years. To make matters worse - they have to deal with time dilation, for the girl is forever 15, yet the boy ages. Truly a sad story. My interpretation is that the boy signs up for a similiar mission in the end, for the hope of being reunited with his loved one. Not sure if the girl survives, as the end seemed ambiguous to me.
The Cavs are Still Breathing
Lebron had 41 points in a 107-104 win against the Nets. What this doesn't tell you is that the Cavs were down 104-99 with 1:38 left. Guess who brought them back? Lebron. He stole balls. Harried players. Outhustled the competition to make transition layups. He single-handly took over the last minutes like great players do. Damn, its good to be a Cavs fan.
Yes, the rest of the season schedule looks like murder. Yes, the Cavs are banged up. But hey, its been a wild ride - let's just hope it keeps going.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Lessig on REALLY potent WMD's - the Nanotech version
This read made me incredibly depressed. In the article, Lessig points to an old piece that describes the dangers of mixing genetic engineering, biotech, and nanotech together. Key idea - its going to get a lot cheaper, easier to conceal, and easier to distribute insanely lethal mass killing devices in the future. Lessig's response to this problem was that we need to antagonize foreign groups less. I am skeptical on this - but I just read it so I am still trying to iron out exactly why. However, one thing I noted while reading this was that Lessig ignored the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine. Perhaps this is because it will be difficult to trace "who" was the actor behind an attack, undermining our ability to retaliate. However, even if this is so, these bioengineered versions should still swing back and bite the victim (if Korea releases the plague, its likely that someone with it will sneak back into the country, infecting the infector). I'll email him and get his thoughts on this.
New Blog Alert
Jason is wondering if he should disuade new admits from attending his law school. Give his blog a look.
What is the difference between a Cult and a Religion?
As far as I am concerned it is the difference between having sex and making love. If you want to add credibility, you call it one thing, if you want to denigrate it you call it another. Some say cults have charismatic leaders that followrs unite behind. Same is true for some religions. Some say cults are after money. Same is true for some religions. Some say that cults believe in things that seem ridiculous to outsiders. Same is true for some religions. Some say that cults isolate new converts and give them incentives to cut off family and former friends. Trust me on this one - same is true for some religions. I am convinced that the disctinction is a biased one, created to favor established faiths.
Great Quote!
Read this one from the Washington Post
The 1990s were al Qaeda's springtime: Blissfully unmolested in Afghanistan, it trained, indoctrinated, armed and, most fatally, planned. For the United States, this was a catastrophic lapse, and in a March 2002 interview on PBS's "Frontline," Clarke admitted as much: "I believe that, had we destroyed the terrorist camps in Afghanistan earlier, that the conveyor belt that was producing terrorists, sending them out around the world would have been destroyed." Instead, "now we have to hunt [them] down country by country." What should we have done during those lost years? Clarke answered: "Blow up the camps and take out their sanctuary. Eliminate their safe haven, eliminate their infrastructure. . . . That's . . . the one thing in retrospect I wish had happened." It did not. And who was president? Bill Clinton. Who was the Clinton administration's top counterterrorism official? Clarke. He now says that no one followed his advice. Why did he not speak out then? And if the issue was as critical to the nation as he now tells us, why didn't he resign in protest? ...
(thanks to PrestoPundit for the referral)
Against Progressivity
Kerry is proposing 1.7 trillion dollars in new spending, yet he is telling us not to worry because he'll be able to pay for ALMOST half of it with tax increases on only the weatlhiest of taxpayers. This is supposed to make the rest of us feel better - its not us getting socked - its those with enough money to AFFORD the hit.

But is it true that it is not us getting socked? There is a wide literature in optimal taxation suggesting that the best tax system (either to maximize revenue or to maximize the utility of the general populace) is much more regressive in scope than the current system. How much more regressive? Try 19%, declining to 18% tax rate, with all tax payers getting a $20,000 refund. At least this was the conclusion that my professor Joe Bankman (by no means a conserative) took us to in our federal income tax class.

So if that is the optimal structure of taxation, what are the costs of having a more progressive structure? Less investment in education, less risk taking, and possibly less production by members in the top income bracket. Let's take the last point first - Conservatives love to point out that if we raise taxes too much, people will work less. Unfortuantly for them, this is not necessarily the case - people are stuck in the short-run in their current job. They might prefer to work less since they are in effect less compensated, but they still have all their previous wants, so they might work HARDER to get them. They might not. The key point is that we don't know what they will or won't do.

What we do know is that raising the tax rate can have effects on long-term career goals. Why slave away at a corporation for the youthful years of your life if the net result is that you are not as likely to be compensated for your sacrifice when you finally receive your reward? Why go through the challange of getting a college education if your eventual salary is going to be more similiar to a non-College graduate? Some will continue on their previous path - they were ambitious enough beforehand that reducing the expected long-term benefit would not alter their decision. Others, on the margin of asking themselves if all this self-investment of education/career is worth it, may very well decide that it isn't.

Similiarly, entrepenuers are less likely to take the risks with their money that creates future jobs if the expected payoff is diminished by higher taxes through progressivity. Without the risks being taken, you don't get as many new companies, which leads to less innovation and you-guessed-it: jobs
(sorry that I didn't provide links to Kerry's plan of if I goofed on a number - long day of traveling, and I need sleep)

Friday, March 26, 2004

Follow the RIAA Lawsuits
You can keep track of the the lawsuits here.
(thanks to SoCal Law Blog for the referral)
The "Stressful" Life of an Academic
David Lester wrote this
(thanks to Kitchen Cabinet for the referral)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Value of Imports
Conventional Wisdom is focused on how exports=good and imports=bad. Here is a post that challenges these assumptions.
(thanks to Northwestern Professor Mark Witte for the referral)
Good News - Kerry is Dropping Like a Rock
Read Here
(thanks to Right Coast Conservative for the referral)
National Review Has Three Good Pieces Today Worth Checking Out
1) On the Outsourcing Issue
2) On the White House's Lying about the Prescription Drug Benefit Cost
3) On an NPR radio host getting canned for "obscenity"
Put Him in The Corner During Recess
The FCC is thinking about harassing Simon for discreetly flashing the middle finger during American Idol. I find this "crackdown" on obscenity reminiscent of a kindergarden teacher who has been told that she doesn't have control of her class and is searching frantically for kids to make examples out of.

(thanks to Drudge for the referral)

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Why Have We Been Afraid to Make Martyrs?
John Henke at QandO believes we may have been pulling our punches in finding Bin Laden

While killing bin Laden would be satisfying, we're not at war for satisfaction. We're at war to reduce the threat of terrorism. A living bin Laden is a danger to the US; a running bin Laden less so. A dead bin Laden, however, is very dangerous to the US, as he becomes a martyr, a motivator, to the terrorists around the world. His death focuses existing terrorists to strike, to retaliate.
Such a retaliation would be very difficult to stop. We could fight against a plotting "global network". It's harder to fight against 10,000 rash and angry individuals.
Again, I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I do wonder if we might not be allowing bin Laden to twist in the wind, while we deal with first things first. And the most important thing is the Al Qaeda network, which poses a threat when bin Laden is alive...and more of a threat if bin Laden dies a "martyr".

Here's a thought - maybe it's better to give the terrorists what they want - martrydom. Ariel Pasko at Front Page Magazine has already suggested this.

One key morale point in terror circles is the idea that we Westerners are more afraid of death than they are. Refusing to martyr their "heroes" only confirms this belief to them - while they glory in dying to serve their religion, we remain a bunch of cowards who can't even run the risk of temporary anger. My thoughts are that refusing to martyr their leaders might not raise our security - in fact it could cause terrorists to think we are soft and willing to respond to "pressure". We all know what the effect of our appearing weak during the 1990s was - our present, post 9/11 world.

To avoid this, perhaps the unthinkable needs to be done - Give their leaders martyrdom. Afterwards say things to the effect of - "he's dead, we don't give a fuck, and your next asshole leader will die a painful death too, and we don't care if you are pissed." Yes, we will inflame that part of the world possibly to our detriment. On the other hand, every time Bin Laden, Yassir Arafat, or the leaders of Hezbolah/Hamas speak as living people, its also a detriment as it serves as another rebuke to our show of confidence. How can we seem to be a civilization not to screw with when little men openly plot our destruction and dare us to take their lives, yet we continue to negotiate?

So what would happen if we took them up on their dares? Some say these martyrs will become like Obi-Wan Kenobi, more powerful in death than life. Maybe at first, but what happens after the hunderth famous martyr, or the fivehundreth? Will the terrorist world keep memorizing lists of 250 of them? 500? 1000? Skeptics might say that the arab street would get angry. Angrier than already? They might do something? More than already?

We are at war with enemies that do not pull their punches. Let's not pull ours. For it isn't making us look like anything other than cowards we all are afraid deep down that we are.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Opus Dei and Lord of the Rings
I was just reading about Opus Dei. Was Tolkein part of their group? I know he was a religious catholic, but he talks of numenorians in his works - the same general term for those higher up in "the way." I don't know Latin or Greek, so I was just curious if there was a link here. Anybody know?
Yassin looked like Saruman?
The new blog of Greg Kefalas has a point.
Reasons for Pessimism
Then there is this
Cavs Losing Streak Validates Miles for McInnis Trade.
The Cavs have gotten creamed in their last two games against two tough opponents - Utah and Detroit. But in both games one player was missing - McInnis. Since the trade that sent Darius Miles packing, the Cavs have been 10-3 with McInnis, and 0-2 without him (excuse me if I'm off by a game). While this recent losing stint has been disheartening, at least we have the advantage of knowing through it that we made the right move in getting a real point guard.
The Partito Radicale Transnazionale (Transnational Radical Party) in Europe Gives Reasons for Optimism
A friend forwards me a link to this page. Go to the photos, and then the article by Emma Bonino. She is the former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and the other two in pictures (if you look at them before the article) are Members of the European Parliament. What you'll read will shock you - a European perspective that actually is quite reasonable.

Here is the money quote
In other words, contrary to the supporters of Zapateros, the right answer should be "everyone in Baghdad", each and everyone should be determined to assume real responsibility against terrorism : it is only in this way - by expressing our will to share responsibility - and not by declaring "let's arm ourselves and you go to war" that invoking the UN and/or NATO could be meaningful and concrete.

Finally, abandoning Irakians (as we did with the Chechnyans and with the Bosnians yesterday, and with several others) at a time of need and in a decisive moment for their future, is not at all dignified. This is not a behaviour that we, democrats, could ever be proud of.

See the rest for yourself - some radicali are getting it right.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Retiring to Florida - Distorting the Electoral Map?
Quick observations.
1) Retirees have a higher voter participation rate than the rest of the nation
2) The votes a state gets in the electoral college is determined by population, not voter participation
3) So as the elderly population increasingly moves to Florida, the voter participation of that state should rise, while it drops in other states
4) This means that the rest of us younger voters will have our votes count more (if we actually vote), without a proportional drop in electoral vote strength of our home states.
Clinton Taylor gets on National Review
He has a cool piece on the murky world of international espionage. He's a friend, so if you get a chance please take a look.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Free Trade and Mana from Heaven
Here is the ultimate test if you are truly against free trade. Suppose tomorrow Jesus, Moses, Abu Bakr, etc. comes before the heads of the world and declares that henceforth mana from heaven will arrive three times a day to feed the world's population, curing world hunger with no effort. Would this be good for our society? What about the people in the meat, baking, agricultural industry who would lose their jobs? How do you think they will feel about it?

This hypo show the dramatic problem of free trade - even when as a whole society would better off, some still lose, making it in their interest to maintain (if possible) the old status quo.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Stanford LOST?!?
You've got to be kidding me. I guess there goes my superstitous theory that they lose when I watch and win when I don't, because I missed this game, thank goodness for that. I'm sure a few of my classmates aren't taking this well.
Hate Crime Hoax at Claremont
A good read. Basically a professor wanted more attention to hate crimes so she vandalized her own car and painted hurtful slogans. Unfortunately for her, after the University worked itself into a righteous lather, eyewitnesses who saw the whole thing came forward and identified the victim as the perpetrator. Wherever you stand on hate crimes, a hoax is terrible. If you are against the PC climate as many are, these incidents fuel the fire of indignation, and force people to endure community sit ins and "academic" speakers on race relations. If you are for the PC climate however, you should be even more upset. Hoaxes diminish support for PC acts and undermine the entire movement. Either way the assistant professor who pulled the hoax off should at least be fired from her position, and the maximum penalty (whatever that is for filing a false police report) should be levied.

(thanks to Volokh Conspiracy for the referral)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Today's Airline Adventures - Scientologists! Near Arrest!
Flew today from San Jose to Fort Meyers, FL via Houston and Tampa Bay. This has singularly been the most screwed up day of travel in my life. On the first flight I got seated next to a cute girl from Florida. I made a few guesses after learning of her hometown, and her old high school, and I figured out that she was in Scientology. Quick disclaimer - as a general rule I don't write about scientology, as it is one of the few charged subjects that I don't want to go near. Althouh I am cognizant about enough of their beliefs to know that it is not for me, I still regard it as a religion that should have protections of the state. The thing is though, that I had never actually met a Scientologist. So I chatted with the girl for a long time, bought her a slice of pizza after the flight, and tried to figure out the way she looked at the world while being respectful of her random beliefs. Quite a cool experience, checked one thing off the list of things I have wanted to do.

On the plane ride from Houston to Tampa the girl was seated far in front of me, so I lost track of her. I got a new guy to sit next to me, who as a matter of principle, insisted on having his cell phone on, under the guise that since it wasn't an analog cell phone, it wouldn't interfere with plane equipment. I was annoyed, but didn't want to say anything....until late in the flight an a drunken lush, supported in part by an ex-cop started screaming. "Turn the phone off - your endangering our lives!" "You fucking idiot, listen to me you cocky kid". While I agreed with them in principle, their tone was a bit much. I told the guys to calm down a bit and get a flight attendant - it was not as if we were all going to have to put on parachuttes at that instant.

Stupid me, I was now involved. The lush ran off to flight attendant and began screaming about both of us having our cell phones on (mine of course was off), and ordering everybody to put parachuttes on. I calmly explained the situation to the attendants, who were just annoyed now. They realized this was totally frivolous (yes the kid was stupid, yet at this point he had learned his lesson), but the two lushes were threatening to file a report. So it became a game of everybody covering their asses, and they held the kid and I over a few minutes to fill out paperwork. Wait, they only made the kid fill out paperwork. They couldn't see the point of having me put my name on the record as I hadn't really done anything. At this point though, the kid started yelling at me to put my name down to back his story up. I nodded, waited for him to get obsessed again with what happened, and then saw the flight attendants motion me out.

Moral of the story - don't try to deal with crazy people on planes.

Oh yeah, as a kicker for my tampa to fort meyers flight, guess who I got to sit next to? You got it - the same cop. I actually convinced him that the drunken lush was being an idiot, and then had a good conversation with him (he served in 'nam, and i like war stories). Finally, my Uncle Buck was waiting to pick me up........

So that's that. I'm sleep now, so maybe I'll write more tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Lessig on His Eldred Defeat
This got me pissed. Really pissed.
Do the Merits Matter Less After the PSLRA
A Presentation By Steven Choi of Boalt School of Law Berkeley
Live From Law and Economics at Stanford Law School

I'm here from 4:00 to 5:30 for my last class before Spring Break. This talk will be on the Private Securities Litigation Reform Acto of 1975 which Professor Choi is giving a preliminary presentation of his draft. I'll be trying my best to keep up with the comments.

Klausner is giving the intro. Corporate Academics became econ focused only after the late 70s, before that was the prehistoric era. Then there was the soft-guess phase (Easterbrook). Recently, Corporate Academics has begun to have a strong emperical section. Better than the old econ guys who got the institutions wrong.

main talk - this paper is about securities class action - in theory this exists to prevent fraud. What's the problem? in mid 1990s, there was a sense that many fraud class actions were brought for nuissance/frivolous reasons by plaintiff's attorneys in order to extract a settlement.

In 1995 Congress responded over veto with the PSLRA reform act (henceforth reform act). If we wanted to get rid of all frivolous suit, we can either (a) eliminate cause of action (b) set bond. Problem with these methods is that they are indiscriminate. PSLRA was designed to be more targeted (lead plaintiff provisions, stay on discovery until after motion to dismiss, pleading with particularity, attorney costs reviewed by court)

two questions - is the pslra any better than a flat tax on litigation, OR getting rid of the cause of action

1) did it result in drop of frivolous litigation
2) topic of paper - are we also losing meritorius lawsuits under the PSLRA (smaller value claims) and something about losing easy cases, whatever that means.

First question was did the PSLRA try to change the location of the dividing line between frivolous litigation and litigation with merit? If so, not bad that we are losing some cases that would otherwise be meritorius. Choi retorts that he is only arguing that he wants the reading public to realize that there is a tradeoff.

Some terms - Nuisance Suit (proxied by settlement of $2 million or less); Hard Evidence = Suits where had accounting restatement (or inquiry where restatement is expected or SEC investigation/enforcement related to the alleged fraud)

Three basic hypotheses
1) (Size Effect) The minimum potential damage award for a securities class action before a plaintiffs' attorney choose to file a securities fraud class action increased post -PSLRA Does the size effect ratchet up, so that we are eliminating everything for these smaller companies?
2) (Soft Evidence): Plaintiffs' attorneys are less likely to file non-nuisance claims that involve only soft evidence of fraud in the post-PSLRA period
3) (outcomes): Soft evidence claims that received a non-nuisance outcome int eh Pre-PSLra period are molikely to receive a low level settlement or a dismissal.....

Questions on data set - why did he choose the years he chose? Convience. Didn't want to go too far out.
Grundfest - Another thing need to look at is how hot the IPO market is.
Its a myth that all companies with giant price drop get sued. Question - how many get sued? 5%? 7%?

the guy to my left asked if it really mattered taht a company made a restatement. grundfest said yes and gave 4 significant variables. he just happened to know off hand. if a restatement, then (i) probability of suit increases, (ii) probability of surviving motion to dismiss increases, (iii) probability that your auditor will be named as a codefendant increases and (iv) probability that you will settle for a higher amount increases

Ok, the discussion has gone hard core stats - I could follow, but break is so close........

Results and Outcomes - sorry he went to fast. Read the paper that is linked above if you are curious.
NFL - Teams aren't Willing to Trade Draft Picks for Veterans. Plus, are Rookie Salaries too Low and Veteran Salaries to High?
For extreme football fans, CNNSI has a great piece on how teams are not willing to give up any draft picks for veteran football players. Teams like the Bengals (trying to trade Dillon) and my Browns (trying to trade Couch) are SOL in their efforts to get second rounders for these players.

So what is the seemingly logical move if draft picks seem overvalued? Simple - TRADE YOUR DRAFT PICKS! Yet teams aren't doing this. The article states why here

[T]he most common sense reason for the lack of trades involving veterans is that in the cap era, as Hurney pointed out, [mid/late round] draft picks equal cheap labor. Without enough of it being infused into your team's roster every year, the salary cap is going to grow top heavy and eventually come crashing down around you.

In other words, veterans are overpriced relative to rookies, leading teams to stock up on cheap rookie labor. One solution to to this problem would be for teams to raise the rookie minimum salary, while leaving the cap the same. This would of course reduce the salaries of veterans, who would scream bloody murder through the players association. If it passed, though, I think it would have the positive effect of greater team continuity, as when a player would hit year four (when players typically get the salary boost if they are still around to hit the open market), there would not be such a great difference in his salary with respect to the previous year under this modified system - making it more feasible for players to stay put. Plus, if a team is going to lose a veteran, most fans like to see the team get something in return. Altering the relative salaries of rookies will make draft picks more exchangeable as there would not be the same steep cap penalty for forgoing cheap youth in favor of overpriced veterans. Greater continuity and fan interest could of course signal a better product and translate to higher fanship/tv ratings/money for the NFL/greater salaries in sum for all players, although the distribution would be different.

Any thoughts?
Congress Overrulling the Court
Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate has this piece on the issue of a bill in Congress that would have it assert that it will overrule the Supreme Court. I'm sorry, but reading her piece, I just can't agree. Here is why
1) I am of the opinion that on big conlaw questions the Supreme Court acts as a defacto legislature
2) I am not convinced that the mishmosh of conlaw that has emenated from the bench in the last century (emenations and penumbras, carlone products footnote 4, Griswold and Roe Wade but not lochner, Grutter, etc. etc. etc. etc.) shows that the judgement of the court is demonstratably superior to that of the legislature
3) I'd rather have my legislatures electable and accountable in some form than appointed for life and obsessed with legacy/dinner party invitations.
4) I don't buy the argument that court has its place in the sun to preserve rights that are tremendously unpopular. Actually, I expect the court to repeatedly cave to some form of elite opinion, whatever that shall morph to be. If our rights are not viewed as useful by elites, they will cease to exist, court or no court.

On the other hand, I think this bill is incredibly stupid, because it is political suicide. So I guess in some form I'm on the same page as Dahlia.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Babcock on the Hiibel Case
My prof has an article in Slate that is worth reading. I like Babcock, she gave me some great tips for some chicken stock that I made last week when I ran into her at the grocery store.
A Response to A Challenge - What is the difference between U.S. Intervention and the Intervention of Other Groups?
In the beginning, nothing. When you get past all the rhetoric, I do not believe that in the concept that it can be right/wrong for one nation/group of people to attempt to impose its will on another. International sanction or approval of an action in my view does not change this fundamental fact, for imposition is amoral to begin with. What is moral, or hence correct then? Nothing.

What is the difference then between what our enemies do and what we do? Two differences accomodation and moderation - (1) Accomodation - We are not looking to screw with other peoples. As long as you don't nationalize (steal) the property of our citizens, plant bombs that kill us, or build weapons that could be passed on to people that want to do one of the former two, we don't want to be bothered with you, with one or two disgusting exceptions for the war on drugs. (2) Moderation - If we decide to screw with you or your people, we will do it in a measured way. We've had 10,000 nukes for the longest time. We've only used two, and that was because we were afraid the invasion of Japan would call for even more life. Give Al Queda a nuke or two, and we are likely to see a few cities reduced to glowing cinder.

Why are these differences important? In an irreligious moral way, they aren't, because there is no morality. But in a practical way they are important because they signal that however much a foreign people can disagree with the way our citizens live their lives (material, without culture, obese, etc.) it is in their interest to not screw with us, which results that we don't haven't to screw with them.

Al Queda has altered this equilibrium. Al Queda by signalling that it will only accept univerisal adherence to shaira and is willing to go to any lengths (such as bombing fellow muslims) necessary to achieve that end has shown that they cannot be negotiated with. Since they are unwilling to accomodate our lifestyles, unwilling to leave us alone, and unwilling to use any but the most extreme force available, and unwilling to revise their goals, it is too risky to do anything other than ruthlessly and efficiently destroy them until their goals are permanently altered to accomodate our lifestyle. Is this right? No - there is no right, there is no wrong. But it is the way it is going to be.
Clarification and a challenge from a Stanford Progressive Activist
I received this email yesterday, along with a group of other people (it was sent to a listserve). I'm going to keep the poster of the email anonymous on this website unless he/she emails me permission to post their identity. The sender has raised a touchy point, and one I will respond to shortly.

Elliot- i don't usually respond to your emails, though i appreciate that you put me on your list (i suppose from my posts to the republicans-chat list), but i wanted to say a coupla things on this issue, even though you retracted it later (which i appreciated) when you realized you'd been taken in and it was a joke:

1. i'd like you to know as a longtime progressive activist, i do not support, and *never* have supported attacks against innocent civilians to further *ANY* cause. and i venture to say the *vast* majority of activists fall into my camp on this one. just so you know.

2. further, please do a Google search on "p2og" and read a bit of what comes up on the first page. the fact is -- even though it was a "joke" by that radio personality -- Rumsfeld has quite seriously wanted to form a group within the DoD to coordinate the instigation of such attacks against US international and domestic targets for a long time. had you ever heard of this? ever since i learned of this, i've thought that besides being unethical, kind of nuts, and power-hungry, it seems perhaps traitorous, to me. but of course, since the Sec'y of Defense called for it vs. some liberal talk show host, i suppose it's fundamentally different?

if Wheeler (or any other non-hawk) had actually called for those attacks -- maybe you could explain to me the precise difs between what these two viewpoints of Wheeler and Rumsfeld would have been..?

i know there are some, but i'm a little confused as to how they differ in practical outcome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Not a Penny For the Law School
The law school has been bugging the class above me for donations. They have set up a class committee to exert peer pressure to get the 3Ls to give to support the school so they can trumpet a 95% giving rate to alumni. Well here is my preemptive response for next year - I will not give a dime. Not until there is more ideological balance at this school. That means at least offering Richard Epstein the chance to teach a seminar when he is a block a way at Hoover for several months each winter. That means getting promising professors who don't toe the ideological line to visit here before we have to compete with several schools (i.e. Eugene Volokh). That means having the administration support the Federalist Society as much as it supports ACS (I wonder where ACS, the far left group, gets all its money.....maybe from a slush fund or two?).

So don't bug me next year. Actually please bug me. I'll send this same post out again. Until Stanford Law School starts acting like a true free market place of ideas, I'll urge my friends and other alumni not to bother giving money to it.
Update - I don't know if ACS actually gets money from the Administration. I just have a hunch. Nor do I care if they get money - just so long as we get relatively equal support in this hostile environment that is otherwise known as Stanford Law.
This is Not a Joke: UPDATE - Actually it was
UPDATE One of my friends just emailed me and let me know that I fell for a gag - the Phil Hendrie show is not real. One guy does all the voice acting, so he was impersonating the guy . Since I tuned in halfway through the show, I had no way of knowing this.
I love the feeling of egg all over my face......

I was driving to get groceries in Mountain View, California when I turned on the radio to 910 AM, for the Phil Henry (I put Pat Henry originally - sorry) show. I never had listened to him before, but he had on a guy named Dean Wheeler (sp?) from the Northern California Peace Symposium (couldn't find it on google). The two of them were talking about the terrorist attacks, and Wheeler had what I hope is a peculiar point of view - He is urging Al Queda to attack the United States sometime before the election so that the American Public can wake up (as the Spanish Public did) and see the disastrous policies of George Bush. This one time strike that he is calling for would hopefully not lead to a great loss of life, could be mostly symbolic, and he believes would lead to Kerry becoming the 44th President of the United States. Once Kerry is in office, Wheeler knows that the new president will take the first real step to making our country safer by sitting across from representatives from Al Queda at the bargaining table and try to reach a consensual agreement that would remove the danger from our country.

Message to Wheeler - First off, a terrorist attack on the United States is not likely to have the same effect as Spain. Unlike the U.S. the populace of Spain was never in favor of the war. Second, Al Queda will not be satisfied with us leaving the war - they want us under Sharia, the strict code of Islamic law that is anathema to our society - ever wondered why the countries hit the worst by terrorist attacks were Muslim? Finally, your position absolutely disgusts me. To hope that our country could have our electoral results dictated by fear of foreign powers would be to wish for setting a precedent that the American public can be intimidated - so long as the force at question is sufficient. Under this precedent, every terrorist or criminal group in the world would redouble their efforts to achieve WMDs, knowing that our country could be blackmailed to their whims.

Mr. Wheeler - for narrow ideological orthodoxy and partisan gain you would sacrifice the lives of your fellow citizens to make us less safe. I hope your limousine liberalism gets a clue one day. If you need one, feel free to drive down to Stanford Law School. My friends and I would be happy to educate you.

PS - I am in fact question your patriotism. And your intelligence.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Spain goes Socialist
The ruling Popular Party was voted out of office. Will the country now leave our alliance? Probably.
Have Computer or Language Skills? You might get drafted
While military manpower experts remain adamantly opposed to a large-scale general vietnam type draft, a "special skills" draft is more likely - targeting those with computer or language skills. At least that is what this article suggests.
Message to Indiana - Cavaliers are for Real
No I did not catch the game. But I'm pissed I missed it. Cavs 107 Eastern Conference Leading Pacers 104. Lebron hit in the upper twenties, McInnis had a double-double, and Z and Boozer just missed having one. They just beat one of the teams that they are going to have to go through if they want to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals - how many doubters are left?

Something magical is happening this season. I never thought I'd look forward to a regular season NBA game the way I look forward to an NFL Sunday, but I've never had this much fun watching the Browns. The Cavs made the right choice for coach, have made the right choices in trades, had luck on their side with the draft lottery, and have avoided major injuries. Everything is clicking into place for a late spring surprise run deep in the playoffs.
Get the news in Spain from the street
If you understand Spanish that is --- if you do, this blog is a fun read.
(thanks to Roger Simon for the Heads Up)

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Don't Mess with España
Spain is my favorite country - I've been there twice, and my ex-girlfriend may want to move there. The people may be pacifists by ideology, but they will never live under the yoke of sharia.

Oh yeah - my friends in Spain aren't fooled. They know was behind this attack, and it wasn't any backwater ETA.
Anti-Semitism at Tells Yeshiva
A bowling ball got thrown into a window at my brothers' yeshiva early friday morning. Nobody was hurt; who ever did it is lucky they got away, because Tzvi would have kicked the shit out of him.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Randy Barnett at Stanford
So the famous libertarian professor came today to give his talk promoting his new book "Restoring the Lost Constitution." His argument is that we've excised certain portions of the constitution (9th and 10th Amd., enumerated powers for federal government) and by doing so have changed our societal system from one of islands of federal power in a sea of liberty to islands of liberty in a sea of federal power. While it was particularly enjoyable to watch the professor scavenge the "emenations and pernumbras" line in Griswold designed to make the case fit in Carlone Products Footnote Four, I truly wanted to agree with Barnett's conclusion as to the ideal system.

Barnett wants us to return to the Original meaning of the Constitution, where the presumption is that all liberty carries a presumption of validity against state action unless the state action is NECESSARY and Proper (he feels the court has excised the former). While careful not to endorse the harm principle (laws are valid that prevent harm to other people), he was unable under questions to show how his system would be sustainable. Who is to determine what is necessary if we returned to Barnett's system? If the definition was corrupted once (as Barnett and I both agree), wouldn't it be likely to get corrupted again in the future?

Barnett, after the talk, agreed that these were valid concerns (shared by some of my liberterian professor mentors at Stanford), but he still thought the fight was worth making. I, on the other hand, feel that he gave me a nice dream, which makes the reality of the hopelessness of its implementation all the more painful.
Negative Reaction from Conservatives to the Barnett Talk.
Andy Patch, a good friend and 2L at Stanford, sends me this email with permission to publish. I don't agree with the guy, but I still thought this was funny, so up on the blog it goes.

Suggested subtitles for Barnett's book.

Restoring the Lost Constitution: No, not that one!
Restoring the Lost Constitution--Sort of.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: Starting from scratch.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: How Lochner Can Work for the Left.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: New Wine in Old bottles.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: Or, Neat tricks with the 9th Amendment.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: Or, Strict Scrutiny for Speeding Tickets.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: A Schizophrenic Originalism.
Restoring the Lost Constitution: Or, Rewriting a stupid document
Restoring the Lost Constitution: Or, how to trick conservatives.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Ginsburg Ethics Charges, Can the Court lose its Legitimacy?
One blogger claims to have gotten the LATimes on the case. Go to that link for the details (basically Ginsburg was giving speeches to interest groups who would litigate in front of her later). My gut reaction? Maybe enough of these scandals will give the public the idea that the Court is inherently political. And if the public comes to that idea, will the Court lose its legitimacy? If the Court loses its legitimacy, what weapon to enforce its decisions does it have left, being bereft of both sword and purse?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Should you ever talk to the Feds? What about Obstruction of Justice?
Tung-Yin's Blog has a great post on this subject.
Social Security Solved? When did Professor Gordon Change His Mind on Productivity?
Slate is reporting that my old prof, Robert Gordon at Northwestern is putting out a paper that suggests productivity growth and immigration will solve the social security crisis. What is interesting for me is that Prof. Gordon is suggesting that productivity will settle down at 2.5% annual growth. Why is this interesting? Because practically every other class, the guy went off on how the productivity improvements of the 1990s, whose continued high level increases his plan is based on, were a mirage. I wonder when he changed his mind.....
Glorius Hypocrisy
At the end of this article.....
"She told me she wanted to buy a hybrid, and she was concerned about the Hummer and its effect on the environment," Mr. Drake recalled. "I asked where she lived. She said Beverly Hills. I said, `Out of curiosity: How big is your house?'

"She said: `What does that matter? It's 20,000 square feet.' "

He said he replied: "I don't know what's less correct. Having three people live in a 20,000-square-foot house, with a pool and heaters and air-conditioners. Or me driving my Hummer 500 miles a month."

Mr. Drake's house, he said, is 3,000 square feet.

(thanks to Kitchen Cabinet for the Hat Tip)

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Win or Lose, Republicans win
These poll numbers have got me thinking: If Bush wins, great for Republicans. If Bush loses, great for Republicans. To wit:

-If Bush wins, he becomes bigger in America than Clinton could ever hope to be (this of course, makes the assumption that Bush isn't going to bone an intern and then committ perjury). Not to mention, it'll be a mandate to step up the war on terror, stack the hell out of the judiciary, and keep faith based initiatives going strong.

-If Bush loses, he will be the most successful one term president in history. You can complain about job growth all you want, but Hoover is remembered because of the Great Depression, and we are not in the Great Depression. 5, 10, 15 years from now, what are people going to remember: 9/11 or how little 21k job growth in February is*? Not to mention, Bush will become a huge asset for the Republican Party in terms of fund raising and elections: he loves politics and loves campaigning. In fact, if Bush loses, and four years down the road Kerry has destroyed the country (I think Vegas has his odds on that around 3:2), could anyone deny the appeal of the 9/11 leader coming back to do a Grober** Cleveland? But of course, the greatest gain of a 2004 Kerry win--Hillary will not be able to run in 2008.

But, what happens to Democrats?

-If Kerry wins, since it has almost become a mathematical impossibility for Dems to retake Congress, you will have the most ticked off congress in American History. Forget Reconstruction, the Republican Party will foam at the mouth because our Golden Boy will have essentially lost just because of horrible horrible dirty campaigning. Want your health care plan, President Kerry? Sorry. Liberal judges, President Kerry? Sorry, we still want Estrada. Raise taxes, Mr. Kerry? There goes your party's chances in the midterms. This, of course, all belies the fact that Kerry will destroy this country. His plans for health care, job creation, etc. etc...they all exist because Kerry says raising taxes on the wealthiest americans will pay for it...problem is, they're about $300 billion dollars short. Foreign policy too--why would North Korea slow down its weapons programs when we're electing the Dove? Why would terrorists in Israel stop killing? We just kicked the most pro-Israeli militancy president out! Same with Al-Qaida. Make no mistake, a win for Kerry will galvanize terrorists all over.

-Furthermore, a Kerry win annoints him the Dem figurehead. Does he inspire? No.

-If Kerry loses, its a wash, and the Dems get what happens when Bush wins above.

That is all.

*Anyone remember the reverence with which his father was covered in 2000? His recession was devastating and now he's considered an elder statesman.
**I know his name is Grover--it should be Grober. How cool would a muppet president be?
Tracking Polls from early November, 2000
I remember in the day-by-day polls of the election that Bush had a clear lead in the popular vote before the DUI charge broke, but was worried for losing the electoral college (ironic what happened). Unfortunatly, I can't find these polls on google to validate my memory. Does anybody know where to find them?
Al Gore, the Popular Vote in 2000, and DUI charges.
Update I had a typo when I put in the swing in the margin. Voters who decided a week before the election favored Gore 48-45%, not 50-48%. That means that while Gore's support stayed the same, Bush's support dropped five percentage points. I think that is significant

I just heard for the ten thousandth time how formidable Al Gore was, and how he won the popular vote. Does anybody remember why he won it? Four days before the election, a partisan Democrat chose to reveal something he had been sitting on for months - Bush had a DUI. Bush went from being several points up in the polls to being several points down almost immediatly. Exit polls afterwards had that those voters who had decided in the week before the election favored Gore 48%-50%. Those who had decided beforehand favored Bush 50%-48%. Yes, other factors came into play, but let's not kid ourselves - Bush had been pulling away before the DUI story, and then it narrowed really quickly. So please, please, please don't tell me again how divided we are as a country. Yes, its close between democrats and republicans, yes there is a demographic shift in the Democrats favor countered by an overall mood swift to the right. But don't go back to the Florida vote in 2000 as support. If it hadn't been for that fluke of a story, none of that post-election mess would have happened.
Why did we sell out by enacting Medicare again?
If we don't even get a short term benefit, what was the point? Read this National Review article for the details.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Bush - Even if He Loses, One of the Most Energetic Presidents in History
Sean Hayes of Federalist-Discuss (Stanford Listserve) tossed this article my way. Read the whole thing, because love him or hate him, you have to admit Bush has left his mark. The world today resembles very little the world of a four years ago, and Bush has not been left as a passenger to events - he has driven them.
Cavs in the Playoffs
The Cavaliers are now tied for the seventh seed. For basketball fans, this team has been fun to watch - a true case of the bad news bears who got their act together. After starting the season 6-19, they have climbed back into the weak hunt in the East by taking it to some the of the best teams in the NBA, beating the Spurs and Pistons, and falling a missed last second shot short of showing up the Lakers. Obviously Lebron is solid, but Carlos Boozer is getting a double-double almost every night, and Z, their huge 7-3 center is dropping twenty points on unwary opponents on a regular basis. The one thing holding the Cavs back had been lack of experience/lack of defense/lack of chemistry, but those problems have been fading rapidly after the Ricky Davis-Eric Williams/Tony Batie trade and the Darius Miles-McInnis trade. I said back in January that the Cavs were heading to the playoffs, but here is my new position - the Cavs are going to the playoffs and they are going to either the second round, or the Eastern Conference Finals. You heard it hear first.
B1Bob Dornan
Remember the guy? Xrlq is running a good post on him here

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Kim Jong Won't Negotiate - Hoping for Kerry Win
Opinion Journal had this

John Kerry has picked up an endorsement of sorts, from Kim Jong Il, the lunatic communist dictator of North Korea, the Financial Times reports:

In the past few weeks, speeches by the Massachusetts senator have been broadcast on Radio Pyongyang and reported in glowing terms by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the official mouthpiece of Mr Kim's communist regime. . . .
Rather than dealing with President George W. Bush and hawkish officials in his administration, Pyongyang seems to hope victory for the Democratic candidate on November 2 would lead to a softening in US

And here is the reason why Kerry can't make the world safer - not only does he not have guts, but the rest of the world knows it (yes, he served in Vietnam, maybe he had them then). Given the image Kerry projects, Kim's position makes sense - why give up more now, if you can manage until later when you'll give up less. If Kerry truly cared about our security, he'd make Kim give up the illusion and start war-mongering on this issue. That is one big if.
Trying to fix my computer
I downloaded the following programs
1) Spybot Search and Destroy
2) Ad-Aware 6.0
3) HijackThis!

Well, my computer was really, really infected. I think I got a lot of the spyware out of it, but there is probably some left. One positive - its now a lot faster on the internet than it had been in a long, long time.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

My computer has been massively infected with spyware in the last few hours. I was concerned it had been infected previously, so I (stupidly! I am so dumb!) download a demo product referred by a google sponsored ad word (I had trust for the ad word) off the internet called spykiller to deal with the infection. Now I can't get rid of the program (it won't let me delete it) and google searching SpyKiller has given me a bunch of sites that show it as a trojan horse program! The program I download to combat spyware is spyware itself! I am such an idiot. Please don't let this happen to you.
Antiwar Protests at Stanford
I'll let the article speak for itself for now

Friday, March 05, 2004

Making One Think Twice About Voting Third Party
Read this
(thanks to Volokh Conspiracy for the pointer)
Are Conservative Jews and Orthodox Jews Members of the Same Religion? Plus, What is the Difference Between Cults and Religions?
My mom and I are on different sides of this question. I am of the view that she and the rest of my family converted to a new religion when they became orthodox several years ago. She views it as they simply became more religious. In her eyes, a jew is a jew.

Or is a jew a jew? Reform and Conservative conversions are not honored by the orthodox. A child of a jewish father but a non-jewish mother is a jew according to the reform, but not the orthodox or the conservative. As an additional point that the religions are seperate, they cannot even agree on something as fundamental on what their most sacred work, the Torah, is. The Orthodox view the Torah as the word of god and unalterable. The reform (and maybe the conservative?) view it as merely inspired by god, so certain rules go by the wayside. If I am not mistaken, I think there is even a dispute on the validity of non-Orthodox weddings.

I think there is a strong argument that the Conservative and Orthodox Jews are members of very similiar, but different faiths, most of whose members are interchangeable if they so choose (the rest have to formally convert). What makes two different strands of thought sects of the same religion, and others different religions? Or is this just semantics, or actually an important distinction?

On a related question, here is something my dad is pondering with me - what separates a cult from a religion? Cults are accused of mind control through changing world views in highly pressurized situations, separating their members from loved ones, being organized aroudn a charasmatic head, and being motivated by money. However, this isn't true for all cults, and it applies to quite a few religions as well.
A Primer on Putin’s New Prime Minister
Just like Putin before him, Russia’s new PM Mikhail Fradkov has been plucked from relative political obscurity and, to the complete surprise of the Russian public, the diplomatic corps and Western Russia watchers, is soon to become Russia’s second most powerful politician. Talk about upward mobility. The Moscow Times, Russia’s biggest English-language daily, characterized Fradkov as a “100% compromise figure”; Gennady Zjuganov, head of Communist Party called him a “grey and faceless person” and most Russians are now not only totally complacent regarding the impending presidential election, but are also mightily bewildered by Putin’s pre-election caprice. So, who is Mikhail Fradkov, and why is he Putin’s pick for PM?

Prior to his nomination on 01 March, Fradkov was a Soviet trade representative, headed the now-defunct Federal Tax Police, and most recently served as ambassador to the EU in Brussels. Most Russians were afforded their first exposure to the new PM yesterday during a televised meeting with Putin at the presidential residence outside Moscow. Noticeably uneasy and excessively fidgety, Fradkov recited a scripted, obsequious litany of wildly optimistic promises to rapidly improve the standard of living for the average citizen, nurture administrative efficiency and to double the GNP.

This less-than-charismatic first performance has lead some to conclude that the former taxman’s nomination should be attributed less to the president’s desire to nominate an experienced technocrat as head of government, than to a backroom scheme to find a yes-man through whom Putin can control the new cabinet, in essence, creating in the person of the president an American-style unitary executive.

Perhaps it’s not entirely fair to characterize Putin’s motives with such nefarious overtones. Remember the Putin-Bush lovefest two years ago at the ranch? Remember how Dubya gazed, enraptured, into Vlad’s dewy eyes and saw the soul of a democrat, a reformer, a westernizer?

I suppose the souls of neo-authoritarians don’t shine as brightly as the souls of neo-authoritarians pretending to be democrats, so maybe we can excuse Bush for his obvious miscalculation.

This is not to say, however, that Fradkov’s nomination is simply a presidential powerplay designed to extend executive dominion over the government. Fradkov has a reputation as an corruption-busting, law-and-order bureaucrat, and his nomination would harmonize nicely with Putin’s expressed desire to keep the oligarchs in line.

Fradkov’s ideological trackrecord creates an obvious contrast to the business-friendly policies of former-PM Mikhail Kas’janov, who was so well-connected among the Russian business community that he was dubbed “Misha 2%,” a moniker which derived from the wide-spread belief that Kas’janov received 2% of any business deal made anywhere in the country. Fradkov’s nomination may well be a further admonition to the oligarchs that the president is serious about economic reform, rule of law, and honest balance sheets. Today’s edition of the newspaper Kommersant, (in Russian), reports that the Tax and Collection Ministry has launched an investigation of Sibneft, 92% of which is owned by the oil giant YUKOS, for back taxes in upwards of $1,000,000,000. So perhaps Fradkov, instead of being Putin’s pudgy strawman at the helm of the cabinet, will prove himself to be the president’s economic attack dog.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Racial Disparities in Taxicab Tipping a Presentation of a Working Paper by
Ian Ayres, Frederick E. Vars, Nasser Zakariya
Given By Ian Ayres of Yale Law School

I'm blogging live from Professor Mitch Polinski's Law and Economics Seminar at Stanford Law School. I'll update as new info comes in.

This is the first paper on whether consumers discriminate against sellers on the basis of race. The authors' point - African Americans receive less tips as drivers, give less tips as passengers, and this is not affected if the both the driver and the passenger happen to be African American. Their data says that whites give an average tip of 26.7% to white drivers while giving only a 17.9% tip to black drivers. Flipping the races, he found that if the passenger was black, the tip was only 11.0% if the passenger was white, while 7.4% if the passenger was black. There is also a racial disparity in the stiffing rate. This stiffing disparity on the driver side represents a third of the discrimination against black drivers.

Other things in the data (that nobody will see in the paper). Discrimination against older drivers. They get less, even though older passengers get more. Wishes he got more stats on whether the drivers were native born, he only got that data on nine of the twelve drivers. Also didn't ask for whether there was a receipt or not (wishes he had - for if it is a receipt, somebody else is paying for the tip)

Alternative Hypotheses
1) Censoring - Meaning undereporting. If they made up reports then this could just reflect the driver's respective beliefs. Ayres defends against this that drivers can be quiet about tipping - afraid of tax man, move in different social circles from each other.
2) Clustering on Driver Reduces Signicance of Consumer Discrimination Result

One Professor in the room asks if there is a selection bias? Suppose that black cab drivers if they wait in a particular part of town, not the train station. The lower quality then go to the train station - where I am assuming Ayres got his data. This prof asks Ayres why isolate for location? Ayres responds that he has tried to control for quality of service. He doesn't think (but doesn't go into here why) service is a credible explanation of the effect.

Wow...Richard Epstein just walked into the room......he's joining half the law school faculty in this small room....quite the all star cast (Joe Bankman, Rabin, Banks, Cuellar, Kennedy Government school guy, John Donahue, etc.)

Fares in New Haven are done by meters, cabs are rented by drivers on a weekly basis. Fares set by the city. Two dollars when you get the cab, and 25 cents for each increment.

Asked if controled for length of trip (do white drivers farther/not farther than black drivers)? Answer - higher tips on shorter drives. About to test whether the black drivers go farther than white drivers or not.

Estimates that Black Drivers earn 7% less per ride than White Drivers. Doesn't have data on the hours driven.

Now to the good stuff - POLICY IMPLICATIONS
Wants to MANDATE a decal stating - Tip Included. Doesn't want Tip FORBIDDEN decal - because research suggests the latter leads to widespread disobediance. Feels that this would get less passenger discrimination. Epstein asks if this would cause a "disparate impact" (would price out black passengers) and hence be potentially unconstiutional. Ayres admits that there is a disparate impact, and that this could be an issue. Anyway he feels that "this would reduce consumer discrimination against black drivers and reduce driver discrimination against black customers." Oh yeah, could reduce the stress of trying to figure out how much to tip.

Zacarias, one of the coauthors, have had Egyptian cab drivers refuse to let him (an egyptian) tip as a showing of racial solidarity. This shows that one of the effects could be a sign of identification, not hostile racism. One girl emailed Ayres, saying that she, as an asian, tip more to put on a good faith. Other African Americans have emailed him saying that they will tip more to avoid a negative image of their race from being formed. Professor Polinski suggests that the person should have taken a $10 bill, ripped in half, to signal that the person is not cheap.

Others are thinking that Race could be the proxy of whether there will be given a tip...explaining the effect.
One Ohio Columnist Getting Free Trade Right
Apparently there are a few columnists in the manufacturing heavy portion of Northeast Ohio who are willing to take it to the protectionists. Kudos to Michael Douglas, at The Akron Beacon Journal for saying the following ia region where free trade is deeply suspect.

The concern in Ohio is the loss of manufacturing jobs, more than 150,000 since the Bush team arrived in office. (As of December, 5.5 million Ohioans were employed.) A recent analysis by Policy Matters Ohio blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement for a small fraction of the decline. Open trade has long changed patterns of employment, mostly to the benefit of Americans, a development overlooked in the report. Little was said about the many firms in the state that prosper because of trade, paying higher-than-average wages to their workers.

The number of manufacturing jobs has been steadily falling the past three decades. All the while, manufacturing output has increased. Trade agreements haven't been the culprit in the job loss. Technological innovations deserve the blame -- and the applause. Computers and other changes have boosted productivity, and a higher rate of productivity accelerates growth and advances incomes more quickly. That explains why the middle class and those with lower incomes have generally done well in recent years, slowing the widening income gap with wealthier Americans.

John Kerry and John Edwards propose revisiting trade agreements. They miss the point, as does the president when he panders on these issues.

Kerry - Betraying His Co-Soldiers?
I've seen quite a few arguments along these lines. This one though seems to be expressed in the most convincing fashion.
Bush Needs to Fire his Ad Guys
Maybe you guys like these ads. I think they leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps the reason is that I only got sound and didn't get to see the video......I sure hope so (yes, I still find myself pulling for Bush, even if I'll vote 3rd party).
Worried about Outsourcing? Read this
An excellent piece on the exaggerated danger of losing jobs to overseas competition
(thanks to Bill Evers at Hoover for the Hat Tip)
San Francisco - Better as Radioactive Ash? Plus, Some need Clerical permission to EVEN SET FOOT in the Bay Area!
For the former, Angry Clam thinks so - he's up for nuking the city.

In all seriousness, I've alluded in this blog in the past to the religious nature of the rest of my family (they all converted to ultra orthodox judiaism when I was away at Northwestern during my freshman was quite a shock coming back home). Anyway, I've been trying convince my two younger brothers for years to come visit me, both when I was at Northwestern for undergrad, and now Stanford for law school. The problems have always been - (1) how do I deal with meals for them, (2) how do I deal with prayer services for them, (3) how do I make sure they don't see immodestly clad women, etc.

Now, right before my middle brother Avi (aka Seth) is to depart for Israel for the last years of his bachlerhood, I float the idea to him and Tzvi (aka Harris) to come to California for their spring break. A new problem has arisen - in addition to the old meal/prayer concerns, their community is so convinced that San Francisco has gone off the deep end that Avi is requesting a rabbinical opinion as to whether they can come!

There probably won't be any problems - I had a long talk with the guy whose blessing Avi wants for the trip on the phone today. It just is strange to see how oddly the rest of the country views the area where I am studying law.

(many thanks to Yehuda Levine for agreeing to talk to my brothers, and congratulations for his new baby boy as well)
Bill Clinton in The White House in 2005?
Jim Sojoodi, a good friend, and a liberal Stanford 2L sends me this email
Here's the dream scenario: Kerry picks Bill Clinton for VP, Kerry steps down after the inauguration, Clinton takes over and appoints Hillary as VP, Hillary then runs in '08 with Bill as VP. I think we could keep this up until Chelsea's ready to take over.

Notice the wording: It only states that nobody can be elected more than twice.

Amendment XXII
Section 1. No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
Section 2. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Think the Economy was better under Clinton?
Go to Q and O
War on Terror is equivalent to banning gay marriage?
Some people just don't get it.
(thanks to Best of the Blogs for the link)
Tyler Doyle reports on Blog Study
According to a recent study summarized here, despite the recent proliferation of blog sites that allow anyone with internet access the opportunity to publish their thoughts to the world, almost no one is doing it, and even fewer are posting regularly. Here's to the Experience, who keeps us informed and entertained on a daily basis (at least)!
The Experience Looks Eastward
When the Experience caught me in the hall today and asked me to write intermittently on Russian politics and US-Russia bilateral relations for this august blog, I was, needless to say, willing to oblige. I hope that this and future postings help to shed some light on the always enigmatic and sometimes neglected relationship that we have with the Russians.

If you're getting excited at the prospect of the upcoming presidential election, you don't have to wait until November: in fact, you've only got 11 short days to work yourself into a partisan frenzy. The 2004 Russian presidential election will take place on 14 March and, if Putin's ca.80% approval rating is to be taken seriously (and it should be), the election is all but a foregone conclusion. Opposition to Putin is half-hearted at best, and all major political parties (with the exception of the Union of Right Forces) have declined to field even remotely viable candidates. Even the farcical crypto-fascist Vladimir Zhirinovskij, best known in this country for his sexual escapades with the Italian MP and porn-star La Ciccolina, has declined to run, and instead has thrown his support behind none other than his personal bodyguard, Oleg Malyshkin. There's even the very real danger that voter turnout will not hit the constitutionally-mandated 50% mark, without which the Central Electoral Commission cannot certify the results. In this connection, the more cynical Anglo-American Russia analysts have attributed the sacking of (the now former-) Prime Minister Mikhail Kas'janov to efforts by the Kremlin to create an artificial media-blitz, in the hope that voters will be galvanized to renew their confidence in the president. The Russian constitution stipulates that, in the event that the Prime Minister be recalled, the entire Cabinet leave with him, and some have opined that the potential for new ministerial blood will motivate enough of a political spectacle to get out the vote.

A less sexed-up appraisal of Putin's purge must admit that Russia wonks have been waiting for the other shoe to drop on Kas'janov for the better part of a year. The former Premier was the last member of the Yeltsin "Family" left in the upper echelons of government and was publicly outspoken in his criticism of Putin's recent crackdowns on the industrial oligarchy, and the arrest of the billionaire head of the oil giant YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovskij. According to the Russian daily Nezavisimaja Gazeta, a nasty tiff last week between Putin and Kas'janov was sparked when the Premier discovered, ex post facto, that he had not been notified of Gazprom's decision to cut supply of natural gas to Belarus, which may have been the catalyst Putin needed to give oligarch-friendly Misha the boot for good. Stay tuned.
You can't make this stuff up
Lawsuit for missing moustache fails

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

If you think the Economy is going down READ THIS
From the National Review
(thanks to QandO for the hat tip)
Prison Rape
Instapundit has a good link
to an article on Prison Rape. I tried to get a few students interested in setting up a mini-conference at Stanford this year, but few really saw the point. "Why should we care if somebody gets raped in jail" was a frequent question. The problem with Prison Rape is not awareness - almost everybody knows about it. The problem is that most people don't see anything wrong with it.
Jousting in White Plaza
Stanford has an annual contest to be crowned the new tree, or mascot. To get the honor of being the big green thing, contestants do crazy stunts in an effort to sway the voters (the band and past trees). Potential Trees have been shot out of cannons, had operations done, been fired at, etc. Today, one tree hopeful organized a bicycle jousting tournament in White Plaza. The contestants donned pillow and cardboard armor, took their jousting arms in hand, and biked at top speed towards each other. Often, the collision was the bikes with each other, as opposed to the weapon with a contestant. Unfortunatly, there didn't seem to be any broken bones or bloodied lips, but there were a few collisions you could hear from a few hundred feet away.

I miss undergrad..........
The Results of President Bush's Trade Policy
So how many jobs are going to be lost in trying to protect steel industry jobs? We'll find out. I hope Europe is targeting industries centered in districts with close races with this sanction, so to provide an incentive to prevent future anti-free trade policies.
(thanks to Drudge for the hat tip)

Monday, March 01, 2004

The Unspoken Danger with Burqas
Q and O blog looks at a previously unnoticed problem with them
1998 study shows trial lawyers testosterone-crazed, when compared to transactional colleagues.
this according to james dabbs, a georgia state psychologist who asked trial lawyers and corporate lawyers to spit into cups and then measured testosterone content in their saliva. female trial lawyers were no exception, spitting nectar richer in agression than that of corporate law chickens. a 1997 study by dabbs' wife, rebecca, showed subjects with higher testosterone levels spent "more time thinking," than low-testosterone subjects, often with "restless energy."
Kerry's Spending
Read this Washington Post article. Unfortunatly, Kerry's spending is going to be even worse than Bush. Some would say this lends credence to the argument that having Bush in office prevented spending from being even higher. I am beginning to disagree with this. Having Bush in office robs us small government types of the ability to criticize the growth in big government, because OUR representative is in the white house. Given Bush's spending record I am going to need a good reason to avoid voting liberterian this election, and this Kerry article doesn't cut it.
(thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the hat tip)