Thursday, September 30, 2004

Movie Reviews, Part II

In the first installment of the Buck Grand Unified Theory of Movie Reviews© (BGUTMR©, pronounced "Be-gut-mer"), I theorized that movie reviewers might consistently underestimate how funny movies are if they watch movies alone. Why? Because psychological research finds that people find movies much funnier when they watch as part of a group of friends. (In point of fact, I am reliably informed that, for this very reason, film companies try to get reviewers to screen comedies as part of a crowd of viewers.)

Here is the second installment: You can't tell anything about a movie's quality by the mere fact that critics unanimously like it.

Why do I say this? Experience. Consider the film Morvern Callar. As you can see here, 84% of critics liked it. But when I recently rented it, I found it unwatchable. The movie starts out with the lead female character lying on an apartment floor next to her dead boyfriend. This sounds like the beginning of an interesting movie. But it's not. After about 40 minutes, I had had enough of watching the lead character and her friend stumble in and out of meanless scenarios randomly stitched together with no coherent plot or storyline in view. Or take the movie Pi. 86% of critics raved over that one. But while it was more coherent than Morvern Kallar by a long shot, it was still a spastic and unbelievable film that would only appeal to weird tastes.

On the other hand, sometimes all the critics like a movie that really is good -- the superb Rabbit-Proof Fence, for example, or Stevie, or Dirty Pretty Things. That's why I'm not claiming that critical acclaim is proof that a movie is bad. It's just that critical acclaim isn't informative one way or the other.

Why do critics all seem to fall for movies that are so bizarre? This is another aspect of BGUTMR©: It's precisely because they are movie reviewers. As movie reviewers, what do they do for a living? They watch movies day in, day out. They become so cynical towards the average movie that they become suckers for anything that is off-beat, far-out, odd, quirky, etc. (They seem to be impressed if a movie's awfulness is somehow rumored to be "artistic" or "edgy.") And they become especially sensitive towards anything that seems "cliched," even though the rest of us might not have watched enough movies to be bothered by (or even to recognize) a particular "cliche."

This aspect of my theory has empirical confirmation: I asked my good friend Rod Dreher of the Dallas Morning News, and he said that this was absolutely true. When he moved on from his job as a movie reviewer for the New York Post -- and stopped watching at least one movie per day -- he found that his attitude towards movies became fresher, less cynical, more sensitive, and so forth. He recalled having attended a film festival where a short film realistically depicted a child rape for several minutes on end. He found it unbearable to watch, and yet the audience of reviewers loved it. Why? Because they had seen so many movies that they were inured to the sorts of things that would make most people shudder.

Now that said, if 90+ percent of reviewers hate a movie, it probably isn't worth watching. This was true in the case of Godsend, a movie that made absolutely no sense in several different ways, and The Order, a screamingly awful attempt at a religious horror movie.

So there you go: The second installment of BGUTMR©.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thoughts on Plagiarism and Legal Scholarship

David Frum has some provocative thoughts on the current state of legal scholarship, prompted by the recent Harvard plagiarism scandals:
I've often wondered whether American legal education is not a vast waste of time and money. Yes certainly law is a great intellectual discipline and there are genuine scholars of law out there -- but many, many fewer than are needed to staff the faculties of the top law schools. I often wonder whether the supposedly lower-tier schools -- with their emphasis on practical training and direct connection to the workplace -- don't do a better job of educating young lawyers than the Harvards, Yales, and Stanfords. I really wonder what people like Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz are doing at a university at all.

They devote scandalously little time to the education of the students who pay to associate with them. But neither are they off in the library producing the next edition of Wigmore on Evidence. It would make a lot more sense for Ogletree to be a partner in a criminal-defense firm, for Dershowitz to host his own television show, and for schools like Harvard to use them as occasional guest lecturers.

This outcome would not entirely protect such individuals from the temptations of plagiarism. But by denying them the nimbus of intellectual authority earned by the scholarship of others, it might heighten their awareness that the rules that apply to all apply also to them.
One quibble is the line about "scandalously little time" devoted to the "education of students." From all I heard from classmates, Dershowitz actually did spend a good deal of time teaching class and seemed to be very responsive to student questions/concerns. (I simply don't know what Ogletree's reputation is in this regard, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was similar.) That said, the conventional wisdom among those in the know is that Dershowitz is simply "not a scholar," and the latest scandal reveals that Ogletree isn't either.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Effect of Automobile Insurance and Accident Liability Laws on Traffic Fatalities

An interesting paper:
The Effect of Automobile Insurance and Accident Liability Laws on Traffic Fatalities

ALMA COHEN
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Analysis Group; Harvard Law School - John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business
RAJEEV H. DEHEJIA
Columbia University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Abstract:

This paper investigates the incentive effects of automobile insurance, compulsory insurance laws, and no-fault liability laws on driver behavior and traffic fatalities. We analyze a panel of 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia from 1970-1998, a period in which many states adopted compulsory insurance regulations and/or no-fault laws. Using an instrumental variables approach, we find evidence that automobile insurance has moral hazard costs, leading to an increase in traffic fatalities. We also find that reductions in accident liability produced by no-fault liability laws have led to an increase in traffic fatalities (estimated to be on the order of 6%). Overall, our results indicate that, whatever other benefits they might produce, increases in the incidence of automobile insurance and moves to no-fault liability systems have significant negative effects on traffic fatalities.

Tribe Admits Wrongdoing

Laurence Tribe has already admitted that he failed to use proper attribution in his 1985 book God Save This Honorable Court. Despite Tribe's admission of wrongdoing, Charles Ogletree -- who has such good judgment in such matters -- has pronounced the allegation against Tribe to be "nonsense." And in a sense it is, but only if one's standard of comparison is the grossly egregious and unscholarly behavior of Ogletree himself. Alan Dershowitz also chimed in with this:
Dershowitz said yesterday that The Standard’s charges against Tribe were politically motivated.

“Show me the man, and I’ll find you the crime,” Dershowitz said — a quotation he attributed to Soviet spymaster Lavrenti Beria. “Clearly someone was looking to pin something on the most prominent liberal constitutional scholar in the country.”
A desperate move by a skilled defense lawyer. When you have no factual basis on which to argue, challenge the other side's motives.

Lileks

Don't miss Lileks's wonderfully hilarious satire of New York Times Sunday Magazine readers.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Cheney vs. Kennedy

Lots of people made a fuss over this recent remark from Cheney:
If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again -- that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and then we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset, if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.
Cheney himself later clarified that this statement was really aimed at the response to any future terrorist attack, i.e., Cheney was merely saying that if another terrorist attack happens, Kerry/Edwards might not have the right response. Even so, the damage was done, because it was too easy to quote him while leaving out the last two phrases altogether, as many newspapers and columnists did. The reactions were overwhelmingly negative.

In today's news, Ted Kennedy said much the same thing as Cheney was accused of having said:
The Bush administration's failure to shut down al-Qaida and rebuild Iraq have fueled the insurgency and made the United States more vulnerable to a nuclear attack by terrorists, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Sunday.

In a speech prepared for delivery at George Washington University on Monday, Kennedy said that by shifting attention from Osama bin Laden to Iraq, Bush has increased the danger of a "nuclear 9/11."

"The war in Iraq has made the mushroom cloud more likely, not less likely," he said in the remarks released late Sunday.
Now this sort of debate strikes as exactly what we should be talking about. Not who did what 32 years ago, but whose policies will actually make America safer. And whenever either side says, "Our policies will make America safer," they are necessarily implying another sentence: "The other guy's policies won't make America safer."

Why on earth should that be objectionable? A comment like that might happen to be false, but why should the entire subject be ruled out of bounds? If one side's policies actually DO make us more likely to suffer a nuclear attack, I'd sure as heck like to know that fact, as opposed to having the whole debate shushed and ignored, as if we were all a bunch of Victorians too tender-hearted to handle a real policy debate.

But for those who say that such a debate is "un-American" -- as John Edwards said in response to Cheney -- then Ted Kennedy should come in for the exact same criticism. More so, because Kennedy's statement wasn't even arguably directed at how the other side might respond to a future terrorist attack. We'll see whether such criticisms emerge.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

More Harvard Plagiarism

Looks as if Laurence Tribe wrote a book in the mid-1980s that borrowed heavily from another scholar's work, without attribution. I would never have suspected Tribe of such a thing, but Joseph Bottum's comparison of the two works is quite compelling.

Fonts

Judge Arnold

Judge Richard Arnold, a fellow Arkansan and one of the most brilliant federal judges, died Thursday. Rick Garnett -- a former clerk -- remembers him here.

Making Whole Wheat Bread

FYI: If you want to bake some delicious whole-wheat bread, the best site that I've found anywhere is this one.

UPDATE: Never mind -- the best and by far easiest recipe is the "no-knead" bread described here.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Fish

For several reasons, I never expected to see Stanley Fish writing a New York Times op-ed that defends President Bush's speech-making skills. And yet here it is.

Near Death Experiences

Via Clayton Cramer comes this fascinating study: "Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands." An excerpt:
During the pilot phase in one of the hospitals, a coronary-care-unit nurse reported a veridical out-of-body experience of a resuscitated patient:

During a night shift an ambulance brings in a 44-year-old cyanotic, comatose man into the coronary care unit. . . . When we want to intubate the patient, he turns out to have dentures in his mouth. I remove these upper dentures and put them onto the 'crash car'. Meanwhile, we continue extensive CPR. After about an hour and a half the patient has sufficient heart rhythm and blood pressure, but he is still ventilated and intubated, and he is still comatose. . . .

Only after more than a week do I meet again with the patient, who is by now back on the cardiac ward. I distribute his medication. The moment he sees me he says: 'Oh, that nurse knows where my dentures are'. I am very surprised. Then he elucidates: 'Yes, you were there when I was brought into hospital and you took my dentures out of my mouth and put them onto that car, it had all these bottles on it and there was this sliding drawer underneath and there you put my teeth.' I was especially amazed because I remembered this happening while the man was in deep coma and in the process of CPR. When I asked further, it appeared the man had seen himself lying in bed, that he had perceived from above how nurses and doctors had been busy with CPR. He was also able to describe correctly and in detail the small room in which he had been resuscitated as well as the appearance of those present like myself. At the time that he observed the situation he had been very much afraid that we would stop CPR and that he would die. And it is true that we had been very negative about the patient's prognosis due to his very poor medical condition when admitted. The patient tells me that he desperately and unsuccessfully tried to make it clear to us that he was still alive and that we should continue CPR. He is deeply impressed by his experience and says he is no longer afraid of death. 4 weeks later he left hospital as a healthy man."
And the conclusion:
With lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE, the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localised in the brain should be discussed. How could a clear consciousness outside one's body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG? Also, in cardiac arrest the EEG usually becomes flat in most cases within about 10 s from onset of syncope. Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience. NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

More on Group Size

More interesting thoughts on group size here and here -- in this case, the best size for terrorist organizations.
UPDATE: See also this interview:
Semler believes that small is, if not beautiful, at least essential for people to know and trust each other. So, when the number of
people in a Semco unit hits the 100 to 200 mark it is split in two, like it or not. "No matter what the economics of scale might be in theory," he said, "we find a way of splitting it."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Keane vs. Travis

Thanks to the Internet, I just heard a wonderful band named Keane (homepage here, and videos here.) Their style is piano-based melodic Brit-pop. They sound amazingly like Travis -- another favorite band -- including the singer's voice in particular.

UPDATE: Wouldn't you know, they've been touring together.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hair

Was Andy Rooney really expecting people to see this photo and think that a person his age would have that much real hair?

Used Bookstores

Of course, the Internet has been a boon to used bookstores. How could anyone have thought otherwise? The Internet massively reduces the costs of searching for used books, making it possible for you to access the inventories of bookstores all over the country, rather than those in your geographic area. When a huge transaction cost is reduced to nearly zero, it should be no surprise that this enables more transactions. No longer do you have to spend countless hours searching for that out-of-print Hardy Boys book -- three dozen copies are available in seconds. (It is still unparalleled fun to go to bookstores in person, mind you, both for the experience and for the serendipitous findings.)

"Negroes" in the Middle East

Via Avery Tooley, comes this quote from a South African paper's interview with an Iraqi insurgent:
Black soldiers are a particular target. "To have Negroes occupying us is a particular humiliation," Abu Mujahed said, echoing the profound racism prevalent in much of the Middle East. "Sometimes we aborted a mission because there were no Negroes."
Sounds plausible to me. In law school, I became friends with an LLM student who was about 40 years old, and who was a Sudanese Christian. He had lived for several years in Saudi Arabia before emigrating to America. He said that out of 7 years in America, he could think of 2 or 3 incidents where he thought that someone he met had a racist attitude, but that he had experienced that many incidents every day in Saudi Arabia. The way he described it was this (a close paraphrase from memory): "In Saudi Arabia, they didn't like me because I am African, but they just barely tolerated me as long as they thought that I was Muslim. But when anyone found out that I was a Christian, I was lower than dirt."

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Size

About a year ago, I posted about the effects of group size. Here are a couple of interesting links on that very topic: here and here. From the second article:
Your brain is hard wired to pay attention to about 150 people. Try to have a relationship with any more than that, and your life will turn to pure crap. Just ask the Military, Gore-Tex, or Krippendorf's tribe. They'll all tell you the same thing. One-fifty is the way to go. They've known for hundreds of years that people work best in groups of 150 or less.

Friday, September 17, 2004

CBS and Hiss

An interesting comparison of the recent CBS forgery case to the Whittaker Chambers/Alger Hiss case.

Kerry Photos

Kevin Drum quotes a New Republic article here:
Telis Demos makes a point in the New Republic today that can't be made often enough. Even if you believe that Dan Rather got duped into airing a lie (that the Killian memos were real), he's got plenty of company:
If this last offense sounds familiar, it's because the right-wing media does it all the time. In February 2004, for instance, Fox News broadcasters Brit Hume, Sean Hannity, and John Gibson all showed a photo of John Kerry standing next to Jane Fonda on a podium at an anti-Vietnam War rally in the 1970s. It turns out the photo was fake. Did hordes of media critics demand retractions from Hume, Hannity, and Gibson? Of course not.
It's perfectly correct for the mainstream media to hold Dan Rather to high standards, but why don't they do the same for Fox's parade of serial liars? Opinion journalist or not, fake is fake. There's no reason Hannity & Co. should have been allowed to get away with this.
I haven't seen all the video footage from Fox News from February 2004, but I did a quick search of LEXIS for the terms "kerry" and "fonda" and (photo or photograph or picture). The Fox News transcripts from early 2004 suggest that Drum and the New Republic are completely off-base here. Here's the transcript from Fox News Sunday on February 15, 2004:
Chris Wallace:

And I want to show you some fascinating pictures. Let's put up the first one, if we can. There is a picture of Jane Fonda, a famous anti-war activist, in the foreground. And way back in the back, fuzzy, no sign that they were anywhere close together -- and I must say, two years before Jane Fonda actually went to Hanoi and became Hanoi Jane -- at a rally. And this was put out as some indication that they were in lock step.

And then, when that sort of fell flat, another picture was seen on the Internet showing, well, they're not now far apart, they're actually right together on the podium, John Kerry and Jane Fonda. There is only one problem with that picture, it was a fake. Jane Fonda was digitally added. The photo agency that owns the picture says this is the original, John Kerry by himself.
In other words, Chris Wallace of Fox News told the audience correctly that this photo was a fabrication, while this photo was accurate.

The transcripts are similar throughout February and March. On February 11, Sean Hannity said this: "If you could look at our screen, I have a picture. Here's Jane Fonda, and then just over the top of her head you can see in the background there on the left side of people's screen you can see John Kerry." This is obviously referring to the genuine photo. Hannity also referred to the genuine photo on the Feb. 12 broadcast.

As for John Gibson, the only relevant transcript that showed up was from Feb. 13, where he said this: "[B]y the way, we're looking at this picture of Jane Fonda in the foreground and John Kerry in the deep background kind of out of focus from one of these anti-war rallies. There's two guys next to Jane Fonda." Again, clearly a reference to the genuine photo.

Meanwhile, numerous Fox figures referred to the second photo as fake. On Feb. 17, Mara Liasson referred to "doctored photographs of John Kerry and Jane Fonda." (She said nearly the same phrase on March 11). On Feb. 24, Alan Colmes spoke of "phonied up pictures of Fonda and Kerry together." On March 10, Carl Cameron referred to "doctored photos of Kerry with Jane Fonda on the Internet." Indeed, Brit Hume explicitly told Fox viewers that the first photo was "fake" in a Feb. 23 broadcast:
HUME: Finally tonight, the Kerry campaign, as you've heard, is claiming that what they're calling "the Republican attack machine" is making unwarranted personal attacks on him. And the Kerry campaign has released the evidence to back that up. It was on TV.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME": This is the real picture, right. And then -- this is the one that appeared on the web site. They put him in with Jane Fonda. and this is just the beginning. I have some other ones here that I want to show you that they have doctored up.

(LAUGHTER)* * * (END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Folks, they're all fake and it's a joke.
Conclusion: I could find no evidence whatsoever that Fox News' personnel (in particular, Hume, Gibson, Hannity) presented the fake photo as if it were real. Quite the opposite: each one of them either referred to the one accurate photo, or actually pointed out that the doctored photo was "fake," to quote Brit Hume.

This is indeed a marked contrast to CBS News's attitude towards faked materials, but the contrast does not favor CBS.

UPDATE: As a commenter points out, you would expect TNR to be especially sure to fact-check an article that accuses another news source of misrepresentation. (Plus, hasn't TNR learned a lesson by now from its extensive history of fabricated reporting?)

SECOND UPDATE: Kevin Drum has now updated his original post to link to this one.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Job Testing

A somewhat surprising conclusion to this article:
Will Job Testing Harm Minority Workers?

DAVID H. AUTOR
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
DAVID SCARBOROUGH
Unicru, Inc.

August 1, 2004

MIT Department of Economics Working Paper No. 04-29

Abstract:
Because of the near-universal finding that minorities fare poorly on standardized tests, the use of such tests for employment screening is thought to pose an equity-efficiency trade-off: improved selection comes at a cost of screening out more minority applicants. This paper investigates the consequences of standardized testing for minority employment and productivity. We analyze the experience of a large, geographically dispersed retail firm whose 1,363 stores switched from paper to electronic job applications during 1999 and 2000. Both hiring methods use face to face interviews, but the test-based screen also places substantial weight on a computer administered personality assessment. We find strong evidence that testing yielded more productive hires - increasing median employee tenure by 10 percent, and slightly lowering the frequency at which workers were fired for cause. Consistent with prior research, minorities applicants performed significantly worse on the employment test. Had stores initially screened workers in a manner uncorrelated with the test, simple calculations suggest that testing would have lowered minority hiring by approximately 10 to 25 percent. This did not occur: employment testing had no measurable impact on the racial composition of hiring at the firms 1,363 sites; and, moreover, productivity gains were uniformly large among both minority and non-minority hires. As we show formally, these results imply that employers were, in effect, statistically discriminating prior to the introduction of employment testing - that is, their hiring practices already accounted for expected productivity differences between minority and non-minority applicants. Consequently, testing improved the accuracy of selection within each applicant group (minorities, non-minorities) without generating measurable cross-group shifts in hiring.

PBS Series

So I watched the first installment of the PBS show "The Question of God" last night. Very interesting, as I expected.

I disliked certain elements, though. Whoever produced the program was evidently afraid that most people won't tolerate something that is too cerebral. So they decided to have modern actors recreate little vignettes of both Freud and Lewis, as both adults and children. Thus, when the narrator discusses an incident from Lewis's boyhood, a child actor portrays what supposedly happened. And at various points, the actors playing the adult Freud and Lewis deliver soliloquies into the camera. I found all of this distracting and intrusive.

Armand Nicholi, the Harvard psychiatrist whose own work on Freud vs. Lewis is the premise of the program, is intermittently featured conducting a seminar of sorts. He asks various theological questions of a group of people sitting around a table, and the discussion proceeds from there. But the discussion is uneven in quality, as are the participants.

At one point, for example, Michael Shermer and Dr. Frederick Lee begin to have an interesting discussion on the nature of miracles and scientific investigation. Dr. Lee says that he believes in the possibility of miracles, and then Shermer asks whether Lee is curious as to how the Resurrection would have happened. Lee says yes, and then Shermer follows up with this question:
Once you've tried to understand the forces by which God intervened into this system from outside this system, you're just back in the system again, looking for natural causes. God used some electromagnetic force to tweak the genome, to restart the heart, to whatever. If that's what you're doing, then you're just doing science. And the only other choice is, you just say, "beats me, it's a miracle." I give up.
An interesting (although possibly misguided) point, and it would have been nice to hear Dr. Lee's answer. Instead, the camera immediately shifts to another participant -- noted as a "Jungian analyst" -- whose comment was a complete change of subject:
Well, there are a few other answers to that throughout history. I mean, well, one of the classic theological answers is that God's time is not in any way connected to human time and that therefore, God can break in to human time, at any point, at any time, and does, so that God is infant in the manger, and God is reigning on the cross, and God is dead and alive. God is not confined by human history, human time, and it's just as reasonable, if we're going to stay with, you know, qualifying things by reason, to assume that God can have God's own time, and not be controlled by us, or confined by, you know, our little, limited consciousness.
Now maybe this is the fault of the editors splicing in a different part of the discussion. But as it was broadcast, it looked the Jungian didn't understand the question about science vs. miracles, and was just jumping in with a complete irrelevancy about the nature of time.

But I'm just being nitpicky. Still definitely worth watching (the second installment is next Wednesday, I believe).

Kids and Money

This column by Ruben Navarette struck me as on target:
* * *
Now, as I get ready to become a parent, what scares me is the thought that my children might one day hang out with kids who have BMWs and $1,000 handbags, who run up their parents' credit cards and still demand more.

There is reason to worry, according to a recent cover story in Newsweek. A lot of parents can't say no to their children's demands to buy them more of this and newer and more expensive versions of that. Parents are even flocking to daylong seminars where experts tell them how to stand up to their kids, how to say no to their demands and how to hold firm.

* * *

Not long ago, after a speech to a local business group, an Anglo gentleman stood and asked me what our society should do about poor black and Hispanic kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nothing, I told him. Leave them alone. Whatever you do, I said, don't try to rope them into some government welfare program. The disadvantaged kids — at least some of them — will find a way out of their circumstance, I said. Chances are they'll do what poor people and immigrants have done for generations. They'll study hard, work long hours and push themselves forward.

If you really want to worry about someone, I said, worry about the kid living comfortably in the suburbs. The spoiled child who had every toy and modern convenience growing up, who never bothers to get a summer job or do chores around the house, and who still gets a new car at 16. Worry about the kid whose parents are too busy providing for him to spend time with him, and who try to make up for their absence by giving him money and buying him things. What does society have to offer to the kid who has everything?

It's funny. Sixty years ago, my grandparents worked in the fields from dawn to dusk to make sure their kids didn't go hungry. And now, surrounded by modern conveniences, what concerns me is how to raise my children so that they will be hungry for success.
Too many parents think of their role as providing material goods to their children. Isn't it much better for children to be poor but honorable as opposed to rich but spoiled?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Texas Secretary

For up-to-the-minute coverage on CBS's broadcast featuring likely forged documents, you'll have to go elsewhere. I'll just mention the Dallas Morning News's most recent investigation, where they found that Killian's secretary (now 86 years old) thinks that the documents bear all the signs of forgery:
Marian Carr Knox, who worked from 1956 to 1979 at Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, said she prided herself on meticulous typing, and the memos first disclosed by CBS News last week were not her work.

“These are not real,” she told The Dallas Morning News after examining copies of the disputed memos for the first time. “They’re not what I typed, and I would have typed them for him.”

Mrs. Knox, 86, who spoke with precise recollection about dates, people and events, said she is not a supporter of Mr. Bush, who she deemed “unfit for office” and “selected, not elected.”

“I remember very vividly when Bush was there and all the yak-yak that was going on about it,” she said.

But, she said, telltale signs of forgery abounded in the four memos, which contained the supposed writings of her ex-boss, Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984.

She said the typeface on the documents did not match either of the two typewriters that she used during her time at the Guard. She identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia, which was replaced by an IBM Selectric in the early 1970s.

* * *
That's not all; she highlights many more inconsistencies relating to the documents.

"Intruder Signal"

Interesting news about a mystery radio signal:
"'Intruder Signal' on 40 Meters Remains a Mystery for Now

NEWINGTON, CT, Sep 9, 2004--An unidentified signal that's been showing up on the 40-meter phone band on or about 7238 kHz has mystified amateurs in the western US and Canada, where it's been heard frequently for the past few weeks. Although it resembles a steady carrier, a closer inspection suggests that the intruding signal actually is a series of closely spaced signals. Don Moman, VE6JY, in Edmonton, Alberta, says he's been hearing the signal quite loud at his QTH.

"This signal looks a lot more interesting than it would sound--just a broad tone/hum/buzz, depending on where you tune," he said. One spectrogram from VE6JY showed perhaps a half-dozen or more discrete signals. "It's certainly loud enough out here, peaking broadly south-southwest from Edmonton," he said. Moman was using a 5-element Yagi and was hearing the signal at 10 dB over S9.
* * *





A September 9 spectrogram of the 40-meter 'intruder' signal from VE6JY.
Very interesting. I've had a ham radio since I got my first license at age 11 (KA5YSW is my call sign), but haven't used it much in recent years. I'll have to buy some wire to make a new dipole antenna (my old antenna got blown away by the wind) so that I can hear this signal for myself.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Miller defends himself

Zell Miller defends himself with particular fervor against the charge that he is somehow racist:
But for David Gergen and this newspaper's Al Hunt, among others, to call me a racist was especially hurtful. For they know better. They know I worked for three governors in a row, not just one: Carl Sanders, Lester Maddox and Jimmy Carter. They knew I was the first governor to try to remove the Confederate emblem from the Georgia flag. And by the way, when I called each of Georgia's former governors to tell them what I was about to attempt, Jimmy Carter's first question to me was, "What are you doing that for?" Mr. Gergen and Mr. Hunt also know I appointed the only African-American attorney general in the country in the 1990s and more African Americans to the state judiciary than all the other governors of Georgia combined, including that one from Plains.
Ouch.

Perfect Competition in Network Industries

This analysis is right on. It's from Ray Gifford, who used to chair the Colorado Public Utilities Commission:
There is an unstated supposition that you need multiple firms, all being price-takers, for "competition" to be deemed a success. For this misapprehension, I'd love to blame Mark Cooper, but even Mark's voice isn't loud enough to be that pervasive.

The lament that there might be only two, three or four competitors in communications markets should not be. It should be a celebration of exactly what network industries yield. The competition that matters here is the Schumpeterian competition for platform dominance over time, not the short-term static competion that neo-classical economic analysis can capture. Furthermore, as Vernon Smith and his colleagues have shown, so long as the market default rules are right -- and so long that there is freedom to devise suitable long-term contract terms and conditions, then an industry can be quite competitive with only two -- two! -- players. [This is not true in all cases, necessarily, but it does demonstrate that a competitive equilibrium can be achieved in markets with very few firms.]

Thus, the regulators' challenge in a (limited) multiple platform world should be in getting the default contract rules right, not on the continued manipulation of contract and property rights to achieve some short-term vision of perfect competition. That, and disabusing themselves of the pernicious orthodoxy of perfect competition.

Harvard Law Plagiarism

Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree is guilty of plagiarism, although the offense seems to have been inadvertent:
Harvard Law School (HLS) professor admitted that six paragraphs in his newest book came almost verbatim from another professor’s work, in a mistake he attributes to two assistants.
Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree Jr. apologized for what he calls “serious errors” in his book All Deliberate Speed in a Sept. 3 statement, following an investigation by former Harvard President Derek C. Bok and former HLS Dean Robert C. Clark.

Clark and Bok reported their findings that the passage was lifted from Yale Professor Jack M. Balkin’s 2001 collection of essays, What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said . . . .

* * *

Ogletree accepts “full responsibility” for the errors, he said in his statement, which was posted on the HLS website.

“I made a serious mistake during the editorial process of completing this book, and delegated too much responsibility to others during the final editing process,” he said. “I was negligent in not overseeing more carefully the final product that carries my name.”

Ogletree said in the interview that he first learned of the issue when Balkin, tipped off by an anonymous letter, called him. Kagan also received an anonymous letter reporting the issue, Ogletree said.

But Ogletree told The Crimson that he had not read the passage of Balkin’s book that appears in his own work. An assistant inserted the material into a manuscript and intended for another assistant to summarize the passage, according to Ogletree’s statement. The first assistant inadvertently dropped the end quote, and the second assistant accidentally deleted the attribution to Balkin before sending a draft to the publisher.

When the draft returned, Ogletree did not realize that it was not his material, he said in the statement.
But as Joseph Bottum argues:
[Ogletree's assistants] got caught because they missed a passage, but what's wrong isn't the part they missed. It's the whole procedure.
* * *
The only result so far is Ogletree's public explanation on the Harvard website. In the end, Bok told the Boston Globe, the investigators decided that though there was "a serious scholarly transgression," they found "no deliberate wrongdoing at all." Ogletree merely "marshaled his assistants and parceled out the work," Bok explained, "and in the process some quotation marks got lost."

But that ought to be the definition of "deliberate wrongdoing." Oh, the actual reproduction of Balkin's words was certainly inadvertent. But by every explanation, Ogletree conceived much of the book as a kind of double plagiarism: He set out to put his name on work done by his assistants, who, he knew, were merely rephrasing work written by other people.

That is not a book. It is, at the least, tenure-revoking ghostwriting.
Now I've recently defended the practice of "astroturf," whereby ordinary citizens sign their names to letters to the editor that were actually written by someone else. I said that since businessmen, members of Congress, Presidents, etc., all deliver words that were written by someone else, what could be wrong when a ordinary citizen does the same thing?

But here, I think, the problem that Bottum identifies is real, quite apart from the plagiarism involved. Scholars should be held to a higher standard here. When a Senator delivers a speech written by someone else, no one blinks, because the Senator's main job, after all, is not to deliver completely original speeches. But for scholars, the act of producing their own scholarly work is one of the two main responsibilities of their jobs (the other being teaching).

When a scholar at a university puts his name to a book or article, no one thinks (or ought to be justified in thinking), "Well, he's awfully busy, and he's probably just putting out words that someone else wrote; but at least he agrees with what other people have written for him." Instead, the scholarly norm should be that a book or article represents the scholar's own research and deliberation. Genuine scholars should have put enough work and thought into an article/book that it would be totally inconceivable for them to mistake another professor's work for their own.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Inequality

There are scores of interesting quotes from Jagdish Bhagwati's book In Defense of Globalization. (His bio, by the way, says that he is "University Professor at Columbia University and Andre Meyer Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. A former Special Adviser to the United Nations on Globalization, he is one of the world's foremost authorities on international trade.")

Here's what he has to say about income inequality: It's not increasing world-wide, and even if it does, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Pages 66-67:

Indeed, the consequences of increased inequality, in any event, might be paradoxically benign, rather than malign. If a thousand people become millionaires, the inequality is less than if Bill Gates gets to make a billion all by himself. But the thousand millionaires, with only a million each, will likely buy expensive vacations, BMWs, houses in the Hamptons, and toys at FAO Schwartz. In contrast, Gates will not be able to spend his billion even if he were to buy a European castle a day, and the unconscionable wealth would likely propel him, as in fact it has, to spend the bulk of the money on social good. So extreme inequality will have turned out to be better than less acute inequality!

In short, the preoccupation with inequality measures -- and there are several -- is somewhat ludicrous unless the economist has bothered to put them into social and policital context. Cross-country comparisons, no matter what measure is deployed, are just so much irrelevant data mongering, it must be confessed, since societies are diverse on relevant dimensions and there inequality cannot be judged outside particular contexts.

And this lunacy -- how else can one describe it? -- extends to what the World Bank, with its abundance of economists and funds, has been doing in recent years, which is to put all the households of the world onto one chart to measure worldwide inequality of incomes. But what sense does it make to put a household in Mongolia alongside a household in Chile, one in Bangladesh, another in the United States, and still another in Congo? These households do not belong to a "society" in which they compare themselves with the others, and so a measure that includes all of them is practically a meaningless construct.

But since some play this particular global inequality game, others must follow suit. Since the World Bank found, in a 2001 study, that a small increase in inequality had occurred between the late 1980s and the early 1990s -- an astonishingly small period to work with since the measured changes are likely then to be transient, just a blip -- the question has been posed in just this way by others. Thus, . . . Sala-i-Martin calculates also the inequality a la World Bank, using nin alternative measures thereof. He concludes that according to all these measures, global inequality declined substantially during the last two decades. These findings are supported also by the recent work of Surjit Bhalla. Between them, they raise a massive discordant note in the chorus singing from a libretto lamenting increasing inequality in the age of globalization.

And so globalization cannot be plausibly argued to have increased poverty in the poor nations or to have widened world inequality. The evidence points in just the opposite direction.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

African-American

Speaking of the term "African-American," here's a passage from the 1933 book The Miseducation of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson, who was the founder of the Journal of Negro History and the Negro History Bulletin:
A participant who recently attended an historical meeting desired to take up the question as to what the race should be called. Africans, Negroes, colored people, or what? This is a matter of much concern to him because he hopes thereby to solve the race problem. If others will agree to call Negroes Nordics, he thinks, he will reach the desired end by taking a short cut.
Woodson eventually concludes by quoting an acquaintance who had said, "I am black and comely. I am black and beautiful. I am beautifully black."

Very interesting, given that this preceded the Black Power slogan "Black is Beautiful" by some 30 years.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Harvard Psychiatry Prof. on C.S. Lewis

This is worth checking out, especially if you like the works of C.S. Lewis:
Armand Nicholi's 2002 book The Question of God took the question of God's existence away from the abstract arguments and placed it squarely within the personal lives of two of the greatest arguers of the 20th century: Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis and wellspring of modern atheism, and C. S. Lewis, literary critic and popular defender of the faith. Now that book has been translated into visual form for television. 'The Question of God' airs on PBS, September 15 and 22 (as they say, check your local listings).
As this book review notes, "The engaging and accessible work is based on Nicholi's 1998 centennial William Belden Noble Memorial Lectures at Harvard. Unbeknownst to Nicholi, a friend sent transcripts of the lectures to the Simon and Schuster publishing house, which then solicited Nicholi to write the book." I actually saw those lectures in person, and have read the book. All of which makes me think that this forthcoming PBS program should be excellent.

The Dangers of Transcription

Homonyms are always a problem for transcriptionists, although a simple familiarity with the Bible would have prevented this error:
Remarks by Senator John Kerry at the Annual Session of the National Baptist Convention

* * *
I also know that George Bush has asked the question, "Does the Democratic Party take African American voters for granted?" Well, here is my answer. The Book of Matthew reminds us, "Beware of false profits which come to you in sheep's clothing." (Matthew 7:15).
Now one should beware of "false profits" as well, as the former employees of Arthur Andersen could attest. But that was not what Christ said.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

International Influences

Much has been written on the fact that some Supreme Court Justices want United States courts to take a closer look at international developments. For example, Ruth Bader Ginsburg takes this view:
"Our island or lone ranger mentality is beginning to change," Ginsburg said during a speech to the American Constitution Society, a liberal lawyers group holding its first convention.

Justices "are becoming more open to comparative and international law perspectives," said Ginsburg, who has supported a more global view of judicial decision making.

Ginsburg cited an international treaty in her vote in June to uphold the use of race in college admissions.
Ginsburg has actually been in favor of this sort of thing for at least 16 years, according to a passage that I recently read in Jagdish Bhagwati's book In Defense of Globalization:
[I]n an interesting development that has gone unnoticed by the media in the rich countries, judicial activism has begun to translate these norms and conventions into effective domestic law. This new trend can be traced to what legal activists call the Bangalore Principles. In 1988, a colloquium was organized by the Commonweal Secretariat on the Domestic Application of International Human Rights Norms under the chairmanship of the chief justice of India (P.N. Bhagwati), with the participants including Ruth Bader Ginsburg (now on the U.S. Supreme Court) . . . . In their communique, they expounded principles that have had a huge impact on judicial thinking worldwide. They cited and approved the "growing tendency for national courts to have regard to [evolving] international norms for the purpose of deciding cases where the domestic law -- whether constitutional, statute or common law -- is uncertain or incomplete."
You can find the Bangalore Principles here.

Bhagwati follows this paragraph with an unsurprising anecdote relating to Justice Scalia:
Conservative judges will indeed regard this development with alarm. In fact, when I once met Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court, arguably the most effective conservative voice on the Court today, at Vice President Al Gore's dinner for the Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I was carrying my name on the lapel of my jacket. Justice Scalia took one look at my name and asked, "Do you know Justice Bhagwati?" I said, "Yes, he happens to be my brother," at which point he exclaimed, "Good grief, he is to the left of Brennan," a strong liberal voice on the U.S. Supreme Court!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Entitlement Reform

An excellent article by Robert Samuelson:
Prodded by Bush, Congress last year extended Medicare coverage to drugs. This significantly increased Medicare's long-term costs. Hardly anyone asked the basic question: Why should younger people, who need to pay for diapers and mortgages, be forced to pay for older people's drugs? People at different life stages have different costs. There was a case for coverage of catastrophic drug costs, though not ordinary costs.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Religion in Politics

Two interesting items:

1. Al Gore:
Gore’s mouth tightened. A Southern Baptist, he, too, had declared himself born again, but he clearly had disdain for Bush’s public kind of faith. “It’s a particular kind of religiosity,” he said. “It’s the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, in religions around the world: Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. They all have certain features in common. In a world of disconcerting change, when large and complex forces threaten familiar and comfortable guideposts, the natural impulse is to grab hold of the tree trunk that seems to have the deepest roots and hold on for dear life and never question the possibility that it’s not going to be the source of your salvation."
2. Paul Kengor, analyzing the number of times that Clinton and Bush, respectively, used religious rhetoric:
Though clearly a devout Christian, Bush is no more outwardly religious than the vast majority of this nation's presidents, including his most recent predecessor. I researched the Presidential Documents (the official collection of every public presidential statement); an examination of the mentions of Jesus Christ by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton showed that through 2003, Bush cited Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or Christ in 14 separate statements, compared to 41 by Clinton. On average, Clinton mentioned Christ in 5.1 statements per year, which exceeded Bush's 4.7.
* * *
In addition, the Presidential Documents list only three incidences of Bush's speaking in a church through his first three years. By contrast, Clinton spoke in churches 21 times, with over half of those appearances occurring in election years. And often what he said and did in these churches was blatantly partisan, from identifying New York's Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo as a "prophet" to instructing worshippers to go vote. No politician in modern times mixed politics and religion with complete impunity to the extent Bill Clinton did. Here is a mere sampling:
  • "By the grace of God and your help, last year I was elected President."
    — Clinton, Church of God in Christ, Memphis, Tennessee, November 1993

  • "Our ministry is to do the work of God here on Earth."
    — Clinton to a church in Temple Hills, Maryland, August 1994

  • "God's work must be our own. And there are many questions before us now in this last presidential election of the 20th century."
    — Clinton to a church in Newark, New Jersey, October 1996

Monday, September 06, 2004

Irrational Discrimination

A libertarian theory as to anti-discrimination laws is that they are unnecessary, because the market should in theory bid wages up to equality. (I.e., if an employer could get by with hiring blacks or women for 75 cents on the dollar, some would try to do so; then others would bid up the wages to 80 cents on the dollar, and so forth.)

The following passage tells us something about whether this theoretical argument is empirically accurate:
James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 (University of North Carolina Press, 1988), pp. 233-34:

In Atlanta, Georgia, as in many other places throughout the urban South, the economically rational principle of hiring the best-qualified workers at the cheapest wage was stood on its head. Atlanta's Sanitary Department discharged all of its black truck drivers and replaced them with white drivers. The experienced black drivers had been paid $60 per month; the new white drivers were hired at a minimum wage of $100 per month. Moreover, some of the displaced black workers were then rehired as helpers to the white drivers and paid $50 per month. Such patterns were consistent with the Chamber of Commerce's campaign to boost Atlanta as a haven for "satisfied, intelligent, contented Anglo-Saxon labor." The Jacob Drug Company, a chain of 120 stores in Atlanta, had for thirty years employed black youth as messengers. On 15 July 1929, however, the 230 black messengers were discharged and the white youth hired to take their places were given an increase in pay of $3 per week, plus a regulation uniform. Similarly, between 1919 and 1929, black truck drivers for the Hormel Company, Swift Company, Cudahy Packing Company, Wilson and Company, and White Provision Company were replaced by white drivers. The Georgia Baptist Hospital, one of the South's largest private hospitals, discharges its entire black work force and gave an increase in pay to the new white workers. The white patients, however, complained about the inexperience and inefficiency of the white workers and, after two months of trial and error, the black workers were called back. The black workers were given the same salary as before they were discharged even though the whites who replaced them were paid more during their short tenure.


Health of a Country

This article reaches an odd conclusion:
About 55% of Japanese males smoke, compared to 26% of American men. How do they get away with winning both Gold Medals? What is loaded in Japan's smoking gun?

What makes a population healthy are not the usual do's and don'ts that make an individual healthy. Smoking isn't good for you. But compared to other adverse health conditions, it isn't that bad. What is worse for a population than smoking?

Research has shown that status differences between the rich and the poor may be the best predictors of a population's health. The smaller the gap the higher the life expectancy. The caring and sharing in a society organized by social and economic justice precepts produces good health. A CEO in Japan makes ten times what an average worker makes, not the 531 times in the USA reported earlier this year.

When society structures egalitarian relationships among its people then Japan demonstrates that individual behaviors, such as tobacco use, are not so bad for health.
Huh? Tobacco is "not so bad for" a middle-class worker if only he lives in a society where CEOs aren't paid as much? What on earth could be the causal mechanism for that?

Mistakes

From a New Yorker profile of Al Gore:
Gore remains engaged, serious, credentialled. It is still easy to imagine him as a good, if unloved, President. And yet one trait persists—and it is a trait that he shares with George W. Bush. He is extremely reluctant to admit a mistake, even a small one. Midway through our talks in Nashville, I asked him what was the biggest mistake he had ever made in politics. He paused, made false starts, paused again, and recalled that in the campaign four years ago he had a prepared response for just such a question. But he couldn’t remember what it was.
I suspect that this is true of most politicians.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Jobs

One of the most annoying thing about presidential politics is the pretense that Presidents can magically "create" new jobs. To wit:

1) Bush promised 3 million new jobs by last year.

2) Bush is trying to take credit now for an upturn in the jobs figure last month.

3) Kerry is pretending that his economic plan will create "10 million jobs."

4) As a general rule, the opposing party tries to blame any downturn in jobs on the governing President.

All of this is ludicrously false. As is shown in this generally good New York Times article today:
An intelligent voter could be forgiven for thinking that the most important domestic consideration in the election is how many jobs the candidates would create over the next four years. And writers who in another season were buzzing over interest rates, or Monica, now swarm over the monthly jobs report as if it were a running report card on the president -- the Beltway equivalent of the stock market.

This mind-set has come to frame the way we think about virtually every economic issue, even those -- like the budget deficit -- that have little impact on employment. It has colored our sense of history, so that a reader of campaign news might reasonably conclude that Bill Clinton "created" 22 million jobs and that Bush first "lost" nearly 3 million and, then -- wonder of wonders -- won half of them back.

There is one problem with such thinking: virtually no one involved with presidential politics, and virtually no economist, believes it.
Robert Barbera, chief economist at the brokerage firm of ITG/Hoenig, says that in his 30 years in the business, ''the notion that presidents create and lose jobs is the most grotesque mischaracterization of the economic backdrop'' that he has witnessed.

The emphasis on jobs is likely to intensify during the campaign's final weeks, especially given that in August the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the weakest monthly job totals in a year. The news, predictably, was treated as if the president had taken home a D. So it is striking that neither Bush's economists nor Kerry's nor many who have served in administrations past really believe that job numbers are a reflection of presidential performance. Robert Reich, secretary of labor under Clinton, says bluntly, ''Job numbers are largely a function of population and the business cycle, and the business cycle has its own rhythm.'' Administrations should be able to improve the quality of jobs -- shorthand for raising both the requisite skill level and the compensation -- Reich argues, but the lead time is so great that presidents have little political incentive to try.

There are three problems with the breathless, scorecard approach to job numbers. First, most jobs are in the private sector, and the president is only one of many influences over whether a manager decides to hire or fire. Some of the others that come to mind: Alan Greenspan, the stock market, the strength of international economies, technological change, oil prices and the weather (try legislating that).

Another problem is that, assuming Washington does have some influence, attributing it to the appropriate officeholder is next to impossible. The labor market does not correspond to neat, quadrennial cycles, and the notion that the Bush team, which took office when the economy was already cooling, precipitated a decline in the job market that began 10 weeks later is simply implausible. Governmental decisions have a long half-life. The balanced budget achieved by Clinton in 1998 owed much to the 1990 budget agreement forged by the first President Bush, who had been kicked out of office as a failure. If you want to blame the current president for a recession, argues Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, blame him for the next recession, because the Bush deficits will seriously narrow the options available to whoever is unlucky enough to be presiding then.

The third, and most serious, flaw is that focusing on the number of jobs fosters a simplistic and illusory sense of what a president can do. It misdirects policy toward ''creating'' jobs, which are, if anything, an outcome of good policy rather than an end. As Randy Kroszner, a former member of the Bush White House Council of Economic Advisers, puts it, ''To think we have a magic lever, blue for jobs, red for growth, that's mistaken.'' His real point is that the levers are not, in the long term, distinguishable. Jobs result from growth -- from employers' desire to increase profits, not from their desire to increase payrolls. Countries that have tried to target jobs specifically -- say in Europe, by restricting the freedom of businesses to lay off workers -- have discovered an unpleasant paradox. Lessened flexibility in the labor market leads to more tentative hiring and fewer jobs.

Moreover, since the economy benefits when companies are able to produce more goods and services with fewer workers, maximizing the number of jobs is not always in society's interest. If it were, we would all have wonderful memories of the Carter administration, which recorded the fastest job growth of any president since the 1960's.

* * *

Kerry described how he would ensure this -- his plan for 10 million jobs. The central points include subsidizing health care, tightening the tax treatment of U.S. companies that operate overseas, reducing the general corporate tax rate and giving manufacturers and firms affected by outsourcing an incentive to hire. How does that add up to 10 million? Actually, it doesn't. Kerry's ''plan'' isn't an industry-by-industry summation; it's simply a forecast, based on population trends, for what will occur in the labor force if the economy returns to health. Any economics student could have come up with that number or with some other one.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Discussing Roe

A recent book review by Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School points out this oft-noticed aspect of Clarence Thomas's nomination hearings:
In replies to questions, Thomas stated that he had never "debated" Roe v. Wade and had come to no decision in his own mind as to whether it had been properly decided. If this response was true, it disclosed a disturbingly isolated jurist who might well have been viewed as too incurious, too indifferent, too ignorant to sit on the nation's highest court. If this response was false, it disclosed a jurist willing to disregard an oath and lie to the Senate.
By chance, I recently stumbled across a quotation in a law review article, showing that Souter took a surprisingly similar approach: He didn't remember having discussed Roe at the time (except for the fact that he and other people switched "back and forth"), and he said that it would be "misleading" to say that he currently had any "opinion" of Roe:
SEN. KOHL: Just a couple of questions on Roe [v.] Wade. In 1973 when it was promulgated, you were in the AG's office --

JUDGE SOUTER: Yes.

SEN. KOHL: -- and it's hard to go back to what you did that day, or in the days and weeks after, but I am just presuming that there was conversation between you and your colleagues at that time. Do you recall your feelings about Roe v. Wade back when it was promulgated?

JUDGE SOUTER: I frankly don't remember the early discussions on it. I mean, everybody was arguing it. The -- the -- it was probably fought, after more argument among lawyers, than any other case certainly of its time, and the only thing I specifically remember is that I can remember -- not only I but others whom I knew really switching back and forth, playing devil's advocate on Roe v. Wade.

SEN. KOHL: You had no -- you had no opinion about it other than just to say, "Wow"?

JUDGE SOUTER: Oh, I doubtless -- I doubtless had an opinion. No, I didn't just say wow.

SEN. KOHL: What was your opinion in 1973 on Roe [v.] Wade?

JUDGE SOUTER: Well, with respect, Senator, I'm going to ask you to let me draw the line there --

SEN. KOHL: Okay.

JUDGE SOUTER: -- because I don't think I could get into opinions of 1973 without their being taken indications of opinions of 1976.

SEN. KOHL: Okay. With respect to Roe [v.] Wade just once more, is it fair to state even though you're not prepared to discuss it, understandably, that you do have an opinion on Roe [v.] Wade?

JUDGE SOUTER: It -- I think it would be misleading to say that. I have not got any agenda on what should be done with Roe v. Wade if that case were brought before me. I will listen to both sides of that case. I have not made up my mind. And I do not go on the Court saying I must go one way or I must go another way.

Quoted in N.Y. Times, Sept. 15, 1990, at 10, col. 3.
Odd that this testimony hasn't been noticed.

Op-Eds by Classmates

My classmate, friend, and co-worker Dan Markel has an op-ed in USA Today. It's on punishment by shaming, a practice that he opposes. He recently had a New Republic piece on the same topic.

Another classmate and friend -- Susanna Dokupil -- has an article in the Texas Bar Journal on combining family obligations with law firm work.

All worth checking out.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

New Poll

This poll is surprising, to say the least:
On the eve of a Republican National Convention invoking 9/11 symbols, sound bytes and imagery, half (49.3%) of New York City residents and 41% of New York citizens overall say that some of our leaders 'knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act,' according to the poll conducted by Zogby International. The poll of New York residents was conducted from Tuesday August 24 through Thursday August 26, 2004.

* * *
Despite the acute legal and political implications of this accusation, nearly 30% of registered Republicans and over 38% of those who described themselves as "very conservative" supported the claim.