pushmedia1
1.25.2005
  Does this happen to anyone else?
Sometimes I'm walking along and find myself a few paces behind a lone woman. More often than not, I get the distinct impression that she thinks I'm a creep just for being a man...
 
1.23.2005
 

I am nerdier than 97% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
 
1.22.2005
  Abortion (part 2)
A commenter at Pharyngula responds to my comment:

(The italics are me.) The federal government secures the right of free movement so if California didn't allow you to have an abortion, you can cross the border to Oregon or some other state that did.

That's in theory. In practice, most people can't because they can't afford it.

I agree that some issues have resolutions that can (and should) be deemed to have universal truth (i.e. slavery is wrong or women should be able to vote). My point is that abortion is one of those issues that can be argued, persuasively, both ways. (Its an interesting question of how an issue goes from the latter category to the former!)

Slave owners and their apologists made some pretty strong arguments in their time. First they said that abolition of slavery was in violation of their property rights. Then they retreated to paternalism. Then they transformed this into a Southern identity. Similarly, with female suffrage, a lot of people believed it was wrong because it conflicted with women's role as housewives. Incidentally, whereas things like taxes and labor law can be left to the states, abortion is a civil rights issue regardless of whether you're pro- or anti-, so what happens is that both sides agree that the resolution needs to be on a federal level.

My preference is to have these decisions made as close the the people as possible.

Why? On some issues local decision-making is very good, but many times you have to have large-scale coordination, and as I showed above, local decision-making stinks with respect to treating minorities equally. Education is a prime example of where localism gets it wrong: you put the lay public in charge of an expert issue and expect things to go right. They go wrong when you let people vote on how doctors should operate, and they go wrong when you let people vote on school curriculums.


First, take the money I donate to Planned Parenthood and create regularly scheduled shuttles to and from states that allow abortion. (I know this is lame, but I'm just throwing out ideas here.)

Second, if you think abortion is murder, you don't see it as a civil rights issue. You see it as a criminal matter. BTW, I'm arguing against the need to make it a federal case on both sides... Plus, I don't think you can honestly defend the right to abortion with as much passion as the abolitionist and the suffragettes argued their strongly held beliefs. At least, I can't.

Third, something like the belief in what is and what is not murder is core to the fabric of one's world view. Having grown up in Northern California, among the redwood trees, I've seen what happens to a community when outsiders invade and begin to impose their world view. The tree huggers were and are right, but they destroyed my ancestors way of life in their heavy-handedness. Needless to say, my family, friends and neighbors resented the environmentalists, but ironically, most of them would agree, in one way or another, that the environment needs to be protected. To me, this indicates that my community would have been willing to change (e.g. to build alternative industries other than timber), but instead were forced to swallow a painful horse pill.

Change should happen from the bottom-up; it should not be imposed on a people. If you want to change the way people view the world, get involved in their community (i.e. live there) and give them alternatives. The answer is NOT to have a court, in some cases, thousands of miles away to dictate from above.

I don't accept the contention that we experts should dictate to the local plebs; I trust people to do what is right for them... If not economically, then morally (and who am I to dictate morals to someone else?). We experts advise change; we should even give heavy incentive to change, but we should never dictate it.

Why? Well, the legitimacy of the system that allows for experts, that allows for courts and for a legislature depends on the will of the people. As Justice Breyer said in his recent debate with Justice Scalia, "[there's] a very strong American belief that all power has to flow from the people." And bad things happen when the people feel that flow has reversed (see US Civil War).
 
  Abortion
Mr. Myers is talking about reproductive rights. I'm struck by this line from the quote he uses: "This was the norm until we got Roe v. Wade and the New York law that preceded it."

New York didn't need Roe v. Wade to secure "reproductive rights." The state passed a law already granting them before the Supreme Court's decision.

Is it possible to view Roe v. Wade in terms of federalism. The federal government doesn't need to be involved in every aspect of our lives. If you believe that women should have the right to choose, then lobby your state legistlature as such. If you believe that abortion is murder, then lobby your state legistlature as such.

I strongly support a woman's right to choose, but I can see why someone might see otherwise. It's seems plausable that if we call the killing of a baby murder, then we might call the killing of a fetus murder. The definition of murder is as socially constructed as the definition of marriage and thus no definition can be said to be right in absolute terms.

The great thing about our system of government is that it allows for diversity, an ecology, of ideas. By definition, States are closer to the people and are more able to reflect their ideals and implicit social norms in laws. As a Californian, whose own Supreme Court ruled for the legalization of abortion in 1969 (four years before Roe v. Wade), what right do I have to tell a Texan or a New Yorker how to live?
 
1.20.2005
  Finally, we get Sis' nine movies
Following on Kevin and my lists of our top 9 DVD's that we love to pop in on a lazy Monday evening, my sister posted her collection...
9.Signs
8.The Goonies
7.Titanic
6.The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal series
5.Mean Girls
4.Identity
3.Gothica
2.Napoleon dynamite
1.Team America
Wait, is Team America even out on DVD?

 
1.17.2005
  Alternatives to the Bush Doctrine
Randall Parker and I are going back and forth on Iraq policy over at his Parapundit site:
I should say, that I was VERY reluctant to vote Bush. When voting for President, I take the pov that that office has limited scope and it is limited mostly to conduct of foreign relations. In that context, Bush had something for me where Kerry did not. I kept hoping and praying that Kerry/Democrats would come up with an alternative to the Bush Doctrine. All I heard was, in essence, "It's wrong!" Great, I'll admit that it has limitations and that it is dangerous, but what is the alternative?

The realist school (Bush Sr. and Clinton) failed to secure us from immediate threat. From Podhoretz' perspective, the folks you cite in the "Unilaterally Withdraw..." post (Odom and Diamond) are just bitter "realists" that see their influence dwindling (or being made irrelevant in a post-9/11 world).

The liberal internationalism are correct in their prescriptions for long term security, but they say nothing about the short term. It is true that the root cause of the terrorist threat is poverty and ignorance. These things can be remedied in the long run by instituting accountable government and economic freedom (Bush calls these democracy and capitalism). The question is how do we get from here to there and what do we do in the short run to "drain the swamp?"

Frankly, I hear the same from you. Iraq policy is broken. Fine, but are you making a strong argument or weak one. The weak argument is that we failed to properly implement the policy. I might concede a point or two there. On the other hand, the strong argument is that the strategy itself is flawed. If that's your claim, what do we instead of the ambitious Bush Doctrine to prevent terrorism in the short and long term?
Actually, the discussion has made me review who I voted for in past elections... Let's see: Perot, Dole, Nader(!) and now Bush. I don't think I was being honest about voting for Presidents based on their views on foreign relations. That only became an issue for me in this last election. On the other hand, I do believe we tend to put more weight on the importance of the Presedency than that office actually does. Steve Antler posted on this subject earlier today.
 
  Sis wins the game
Congratulations to my sister's basketball team for winning on Saturday!
 
1.14.2005
  Top 9 movies
Kevin has a post on the top nine movies in his DVD collection. He has interesting criteria:
If I could only have a home movie library of 9 movies, what movies would be in it? This is very different from the best 9 movies of all time, or even my favorite 9 movies of all time. For example, I’ve never even seen Casablanca, Citizen Cane or Gone with the Wind, so I obviously won’t include them if I only can own 9 movies. Also, I think the first Matrix may be one of the best movies of all time, or at least one of my favorites, but you won’t find it in my dvd stack. These are simply the 9 movies that if I’m sitting at home, bored on a Monday night, I would most likely be in the mood to watch at least one of.
His choices:
9. White Men Can't Jump
8. City of God
7. Zoolander
6. Scarface
5. Beautiful Girls
4. Swingers
3. Boondock Saints
2. Kalifornia
1. Braveheart

So, what would my collection be? I'd have a little more science fiction, some more classics and a little less machismo:
9. Casablanca - I never get why he let's her go. Rated 8.7
8. Amelie - She's so damned cute. Rated 8.5
7. Barry Lyndon - This is a long one, but you never you want it to end. Rated 7.8
6. Braveheart - There's something in there for everyone. Rated 8.2
5. Shawshank Redemption - After tunneling for years through solid rock, he crawls through hundreds of yards of sewage to be free. That's dedication! Rated 8.9
4. The Princess Bride - "Have fun storming the castle!" "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Rated 8.1
3. Empire Strikes Back - This way beats out the other 2 (err 4) movies. "Luke, I am your faaaather." Rated 8.6
2. Godfather - A master piece from start to finish. Rated 9.0
1. Matrix - Ideas, story, characters, CG and sound... completely submerges me every time I watch. Rated 8.4

And the runners up:
The Silence of the Lambs - This movie's still scary and who doesn't love Hannibal? Rated 8.5
Much Ado About Nothing - I like most of Brannaugh's Shakespeare films. Rated 7.5
South Park - Funny every time I watch it. Rated 7.6

 
  Booya! Who's the Berkeley Alum? Oh, that's right, me!
Cal #4 in the world!
 
  Realists vs. liberal internationalist vs. the Bush Doctrine
Norman Podhoretz has a nice narrative in Commentary magazine that explains the situation in Iraq and the President's words and actions in relation to various schools of thought. He draws a nice parallel between the discourse regarding President Truman's doctrine and the current discourse on the Bush doctrine. Ultimately, the Bush doctrine represents a completely new way to look at foreign affairs that threatens traditional points of view (realists on the right and liberal internationalists on the left). Mr. Podhoretz believes that the President will continue on the path to implement his doctrine.

As he points, most voices are aligned against the President with even some of the most ardent Iraq war proponents switched sides in recent months. Assuming the critics are wrong and the President is right, how can we win a war of ideas (as surely the war on terror is) if the ideas aren't being loudly defended?

Anyway, read the whole thing, as they say.
 
  and I worried about posting on gaming and exposing my predilection...
John Robb just posted on gaming, too. How does he know gaming terminology? :-)
 
  WA
WoW Anonymous. Hi, my name is Will and I've been playing World of Warcraft for 2.5 months. Step one... well, step one of any 12 step program requires me to admit that I have a problem. I don't damn it! (Gawd, I wish that I'd hurry up and finish this post so I can get back to playing WoW and damnit what am I going to do next week when classes start up for the semester... less playing time!)

Gavin gives the cons for creating our own guild (which is just a group of people that like to play the game with each other*). My answer:
  1. A small guild is good because it would be more intimate. The point of a guild is to have a social network to fall back on (and to bullshit with). Personally, I'm uncomfortable whenever I have to interact with our guild. I don't know those people and I'm always worry that they'll chide me for one reason or another (like they did Gavin's wife, Fumiko).
  2. We can mitigate the issues with having a small guild by being more organized with our game playing. For example, have set times to play certain missions. In this respect, the out of game interaction could be more intense (i.e. we'd all have each other in our buddy lists and someone might host a guild gaming calendar... "Let's do SM on Thursday at 8.") I know this screws with the serendipity of the game, but frankly, with 21 units next semester I won't have time for letting the cards fall where they may (and be able to make any progress in the game) anyway.
  3. I've never, ever, asked the guild about how to play my character. If I have questions about that, I go to the WoW discussion boards.
  4. I've never, ever, taken "loot" from the guild. I've never given either. This is related to the intimacy aspect of #1 above.
  5. Lastly, with just a handful of players we can be more specialized and we each would have a stronger sense on purpose [ed. do you know how goofy that sounds? you're talking about a game!]. Personally, I prefer small intimate groups to larger ones.
  6. UPDATE: Also, we could maintain 'strategic relationships' with other guilds... The last raid party I saw had at least 3 guilds involved.
That's it. Now back to regularly scheduled posting... Anyone see the debate between Justice Scalia and Justice Breyer last night on CSPAN?

*Several hundred thousand people are logged on to the game at any one time. Like any large community, you have to have your friends and neighbors to avoid feeling isolated.

 
1.12.2005
  A friend and ally
Gavin, my bestest friend in the world, has started (or is that restarted) his very own weblog.

I really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really want him to talk about digital media. He's good at that crap (both the technology and the art) and I have a project in mind. More on that later.
 
  Concentration Camps? Suspension of Habeas Corpus?
Thom Hartmann and ilk would be advised to follow the Congressional Democrats and "keep their powder dry" on the issue of Alberto Gonzalez' confirmation as Attorney General.

Mr. Hartmann compares Gonzalez' memo and advice to the President about detaining enemy combatants to King Charles I's per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis. Basically, he says that Bush believes, with Gonzalez' advice, the President is above the law and he can suspend habeas corpus without an act of Congress. (Habeas corpus is the long tradition of due process, i.e. you can't be held against your will without having your case seen by a court of law.)

The Gonzalez memo nowhere states that the President is above the law or that he has the right to suspend habeas corpus. The memo only talks about the pros and cons of treating enemy combatants, caught in Afghanistan, according to the Geneva Convention. Of note is the fact that it does not consider the nationality of the detained (American, Afghany or otherwise). After one reviews the definition of prisoner of war in the convention, it can be convincingly argued that members of al Qaeda and the Taliban do NOT fall under that definition. In other words, they are not prisoners of war. So what are they? President Bush decided that they were enemy combatants. What's that mean? Well, Donald Rumsfeld issued this order as a result of the President's decision. "The Combatant Commanders shall, in detaining Al Qaida and Taliban individuals under the control of the Department of Defense, treat them humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions of 1949."

Hartmann goes on to suggest that this issue is still at hand, that the President continues to suspend habeas corpus and that people are detained illegally.

However, the issue was decided when the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (in regards to American's being held) and Shafiq v. Bush. Hartmann mentions the first case, but does not make explicit what it means. The court ruled:
"[A]lthough Congress authorized the detention of combatants in the narrow circumstances alleged in this case, due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decision maker."
So, citizens can not be held without due process. Case closed.

In Shafiq v. Bush, the court ruled further that Federal courts do have jurisdiction on Guantanimo and those non-citizens being held must have their day in court:
"United States courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay.
I want to point out that Justice Scalia dissented on both cases, but not because he was backing the President's position. In the first case, he didn't think the court went far enough; he felt that an American is entitled to be criminally prosecuted (rather than treated to some half-baked military tribunal). In the second case, his decent is more technical (and I think it has to do with his worries about federalism). In any case, its misleading to represent Scalia as a lone voice of decent in cases were Bush lost and Hartmann's side won (Scalia was one of three dissenters in the Hamdi case).

There's a lot of froth in Hartmann's column but not much substance. The right things are happening in Guantanamo and from the looks of the Gonzalez memo, he'll make a even handed and thoughtful Attorney General.
 
1.08.2005
  Meaningless words from Paul Krugman
Steve Antler spots a straw man:
But those who insist that we face a Social Security crisis want to have it both ways. Having invoked the concept of a unified budget to reject the existence of a trust fund, they refuse to accept the implications of that unified budget going forward. Instead, having changed the rules to make the trust fund meaningless, they want to change the rules back around 15 years from now: today, when the payroll tax takes in more revenue than SS benefits, they say that’s meaningless, but when – in 2018 or later – benefits start to exceed the payroll tax, why, that’s a crisis. Huh?
Let me get this straight...

Alternative universe A: There is no demographic crunch and there won't be fewer workers to support more pensioners. Thus Krugman is right, let's not worry about social security.

Alternative universe B: There is an impending crunch but it doesn't matter because social security isn't a pay-as-you-go system. Thus Krugman is right, let's not worry about social security.

According to Krugman, its ok to ignore problems when we can lump them in with a whole lot of other problems (i.e. treating SS as a line item in the general budget). Meaningless.
 
1.07.2005
  Personal Statement
I was a typical, average kid. For the first year of my life, my family lived in a 15 foot by 15 foot cabin, without indoor plumbing, teetering on the bank of a creek that wound through pasture land. My grandfather, a second generation Swiss-Italian dairyman, owned the land; he, in his eight bedroom farmhouse, was our nearest neighbor. Soon after the birth of my brother, in my fourth year, the fighting began and my parents were divorced by the time I was seven. My father went on to finish school, to obtain his CPA license and to get a job in San Francisco at a Big Eight firm. “On” he likes to say, “the nineteenth story of Embarcadero 3… near the top!” As is typical, my mother was not as successful in the aftermath of the divorce. However, she heroically held down clerical jobs and kept our bellies full and a roof over our head. As such, during the school year, my brother and I lived in my mother’s single-wide trailer and when school got out for the summer, we lived in my father’s condo in posh Marine County. The contrast is striking only now. Then, it was all very normal. I guess if you average the extremes, the privilege would cancel the moments of slight degradation and mine was a typical experience growing up.

I’m sure that you’ve heard that the field of Economics is a perfect mix of science and the humanities. Sometimes I wonder if this is really just a marriage of convenience. I imagine psychologists, anthropologists and political scientists one day realizing that they are good at math and thus becoming economists. The study of decision making becomes game theory, prospect theory or intertemporal choice. Psychology becomes behavioral finance. Political philosophy becomes public choice theory and so on. These developments are not bad, of course, but sometimes economists are gratuitous in their use of math, as Deirdre McCloskey points out in The Secret Sins of Economics. She laments that economic theories where the assumptions of the theory, the axioms, are not grounded in reality, amount to mind games and parlor tricks. “[Such] pure thinking is unbounded.” Sure y follows from x, but are you justified in believing x describes the real world?

I was late in discovering math as a method to discover truths about the world, so I am deeply concerned about how it can be used in economics to best effect. For me, economics matches my intense interest in understanding human behavior with my inborn tendency toward abstractions and admiration for objective truth. Truth has always been about science for me and I’ve learned science via popularizers such as Carl Sagan, E. O. Wilson and Brian Greene. These authors relied on storytelling and engaging prose, versus mathematical proof, to be their tools of persuasion. As such, prose was the only tool I knew to explore truth. Now that math has been added to my truth-seeking toolbox, the next step is for me to learn how to use this tool.

Contradictions, variances, anomalies, exceptions to rules, but always, some how, there is convergence to the mean. This not only describes my life, it describes the subjects of economics and the subject of economics itself. For example, taking the mean, understanding typical behavior, is a model of that behavior. Famously, the average person does not exist (who among us has12.7 years of education, 1.8 children and is 12.7% black). More advanced math is used to give us more sophisticated models of human behavior, but by our very nature we elude such models, as well. Still, it is in the making of the model AND in understanding why the model fails in reality that knowledge is created. At the root of this creation of knowledge in economics will be a discovery of my self. I guess I am a self-centered economist… how typical!

 
1.06.2005
  What is judicial activism?
Answer: What ever the people say it is.

Stephen B. Presser and Samuel Marcosson's debate on Clarence Thomas' potential as Chef Justice has transformed into a more interesting exchange on constitutional originalism and stare decisis.

Each want to avoid a situation were the Judicial is legislating. From the pov of the constitutional orginalist, any decision made by a court that does not fall directly from the constitution is in violation. The other side says that not following precedent (i.e. not adhering to stare decisis) is tantamount to treading on the 'living constitution.' They argue that stare decisis is a long held tradition and is a valid way to keep the constitution relevant in the always changing world.
No new amendment was necessary for the Court a century later [after the ratification of the 14th amendment... "equal protection"] to pronounce that they were, simply, wrong about that. Similarly, the framers—having no experience with a gay rights movement or even with the idea of homosexual identity—would not have understood their handiwork to encompass a right to equal legal treatment of gay peoples' committed relationships.
But I take issue with this side's argument when they say things like:
The Court is, and should be, entrusted with matching the framers' ideals to our world— - with the People always having the final say if the Court gets it badly wrong.
(emphasis added) There are two alternatives for changing the Constitution. The people explicitly change it or it is changed implicitly and the people have to act explicitly to reverse the change. The later seems less democratic. Imagine if we elected presidents this way. Bush is appointed by the Supreme Court and We have to muster together a California-style recall if (this is a big if) we REALLY don't like him. [ed. didn't this already happen? [wa. shhhhhh]]

I say that courts can be "entrusted with matching the framers' ideals to our world" to a degree, but they should never get ahead of the voting public and they should be wary when they get close to crossing this line.

It's not clear to me what mechanism would give feedback to the courts about when they are getting close to this line. Judges, for the most part, aren't elected. They're not accountable in that way. What makes them accountable to the people?
 
1.03.2005
  Sis runs the whole mile
I suppose my sister deserves congratulations for running her first mile:
omg! member how i said me and sarah were gonna go runnin?! well we did and i ran a whole mile without stopping fer the first time... and i even sprinted the last lap (4 laps in a mile)! im so proud of me self! lol well yeah just had to tell ya'll lol ttyl
If you're wondering... yes, she is 14 years old. omg! lol ttyl.
 
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