Monday, August 13, 2007

Who's lying?

It's amusing to me that this deserved an entire article. I'm pretty sure the "math" involved is within the scope of a typical elementary school student: it is logically impossible for heterosexual men, on average, to have more sexual partners than heterosexual women. The real question, then, is "who's lying more? The men who are claiming a lot of sexual partners or the women who are claiming few?"

Who's on top?

Quote from a CNN article:

Rove, who has held a top position in the White House since Bush took office
in January 2001, is to stand down on August 31.

"a top position" because we all know Cheney holds "the top position."

Saturday, August 11, 2007


You may remember that a group of Kentucky lawyers are in trouble for allegedly diverting millions of dollars from a fen-phen class action lawsuit into their own pockets. Yesterday that case took a fascinating twist when judge gave the lawyers in question a choice: stop asking for delays or spend the intervening time in jail. This event is viscerally very satisfying, and if these lawyers did screw their clients out of millions of dollars, I hope they spend the full 20 years in prison. But by putting these very rich white men in the position more often faced by very poor black men, a deep problem with our legal system is highlighted: when your options are to either waive your rights to a fair trial or to sit in jail before that trial, where is the justice?

In this specific case, the judge has basically abdicated his responsibility to make a determination. Bertelsman needs to decide either that the defendants are gaming the system and need to stop, or that in order for them to get a fair trial they require the time they have requested. To leverage them in to giving up their rights is not ethical, not appropriate, and unjust.

But much greater injustices are faced in less notable cases every day. When a poor defendant who cannot make bail is given the choice between a plea agreement and spending time in jail before trial, that choice is meaningless. Lose your livelihood, or lose your right to a fair trial.

So it is important that Bertelsman's decision, which is almost certainly based on his indignation over these lawyers' behavior, not be allowed to stand. But I would also urge that we addressed the bigger issue of pre-trial jail time. And if the fen-phen lawyers spend the time between now and when that larger issue is addressed in jail, my baser emotions will be telling my moral outrage to sit down and shut up.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Delicious misspelling

This evening I was reading Seth Godin's book small is the new big and came across this entry around half way through. Not being entirely certain of my own spelling abilities, nor of my ability to decipher Web 2.0 nomenclature, I retreated to Google. After a little poking around I am pretty certain that yes, that is a typo, he didn't mean to spell it It's an exquisite typo, though, one that provides fully plausible deniability in context. It's easy to imagine how it got past the editors.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Cents and Sensibilities

A New York Times article about the work of Gregory Clark describes an enthralling new theory for how the seeds for the industrial revolution were planted. A part of that theory is that in the West from 1200 to 1800 the more affluent you were, the more surviving children you were likely to have. The remainder of the theory, which is a bit harder to research and will provide much opportunity for debate, is that the downward mobility that this created (at least relative downward mobility--either Clark or the article's author Wade has overlooked some Malthus) pushed upper class sensibilities into the the middle class. These sensibilities were "nonviolence, literacy, long working hours, and a willingness to save."

Two days ago, NPR ran a piece about children being the new status symbol. With the skyrocketing cost of housing, feeding, and educating children the rich are able to afford more children than poor. One commentator says that this runs counter to the last 100 years of history. Though the NPR piece turns toward the snarky, as parents (read "moms", apparently the dads are disembodied ATMs) "hire consultants to potty train their children." But this temporal juxtaposition of Clark's work and a recognition that children are being born proportionally more to rich parents is fascinating and leads me to ask: what sensibilities will be exported from the rich to the poor over this upcoming period of downward mobility?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Elections are comin' up.

Check out this awesome site that lets you rank the US Presidential candidates by comparing your issue positions to theirs. Or anyway, their current issue positions.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Another reason not to live in Mississippi

Yesterday, the net discovered an article in Reason Online about a quack doctor
in Mississippi using fabricated bite mark evidence to convict people of crimes. Capital crimes. The article itself is scary, including hints that Mississippi remains without a medical examiner in part because of this guy's popularity with the police. But to underline just how scary Mississippi is, I need to point out that ABC highlighted him in 1997 on a 20/20 episode titled "Junk Science" yet his testimony is still used to send people to death row.