ustoo Dead

Sites to see:

Almost Essential
From the Left
From the Right
Magazines and Journals
Various Weblogs and Pundits
Think Tanks
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Shrill Leftist Garbage


Thursday, March 31, 2005

FOX Blocker 

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Us Too on Us Too 

Last night, I saw my friend Claire for the first time in a while. Before the election, she told me about a blog a friend of her's had, and I showed her the powerhouse of analysis that is Us Too. Last night she told me her friend's blog had linked us and had mentioned us in her posts. While I couldn't find these posts, I was excited to see someone link that doesn't directly know us. Also, it is a very good blog, much more widely read and linked than ours.

In the course of researching this, I found an interesting site called Blogshare, a straw market for blogs. Interestingly, it also lists incoming and outgoing links. Here we are! 6 incoming links! All I want to know is, who is purple medical blog? We are one of its few non-medical links.

Thanks, Third Wave Agenda, for finding something of value here. Don't stop rocking.

-Miguel Sanchez  11:09 EST | |

How rich are you? 

My salary this summer puts me in the top 5% of the world. My classmates who will go to a firm this fall will join the richest .5% of the world their first year.

How rich are you?

Via Crooked Timber.

-Ziggy Stardust  10:41 EST | |

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Keeping Terry Schiavo Alive is Murder 

There was a time when I liked the "everyday economics" column in Slate. This one, however, sucks and is ridden with sloppy, lazy thinking.

Particularly stupid:

This is essentially a fight about what to do with her body: He wants to dispose of it; they want to feed it. And the question arises: Once someone has decided to dispose of a resource, why would we want to stop someone else from retrieving it? If I throw out a toaster, and you want to retrieve it from my trash, there's a net economic gain. If Michael Schiavo essentially throws out his wife's body and her parents want to retrieve it, it seems pointless to prevent them.

What does keeping Terry Schiavo alive cost society at large? Higher medical costs, which can be a matter of life and death for the much more viable. Consider threshold price (Pti), where any P > Pt is a price for medical goods that makes it prohibitively expensive to consume them for group i. Medical goods slow the onset of death. Preventing death is largely a matter of short term action for the medical field. This makes medical goods a zero sum game in the short ter. All i die sooner when the market clearing price for medical goods is P* > Pti. Medical care that is frivolous, then, hurts society as a whole by bidding the price for medical goods higher than Pti, hastening the death of many.

Let's say Schiavo consumes $100,000 a year of medical goods. This $100,000 of medical goods essentially goes down a black hole. Let’s assume that everyone keeping someone brain dead alive is doing it on their own nickel, not being subsidized my insurance or government aid. Another 49,999 cases like Schiavo's bid up the price by adding $5,000,000,000 of demand for medical goods a year. This may be a drop in the bucket, but this will make P* > Pti for some i, leading to the early death of i. Therefore, expending resources on people like Terry Schiavo is not harmless, and certainly not like saving something from the trash. Depending on i, the government has a stake in reducing medical waste like keeping the brain dead alive.

-Miguel Sanchez  13:17 EST | |

Messin' with my conventional wisdom 

This article, which The Economist is giving away (so I don't have to re-post it in its entirety), gainsays what's been plainly true to me for years now: that eliminating farm subsidies will automatically help poor countries.

This is the most salient paragrpah:
But as the round inches forward, some free-traders are troubled. Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist at Columbia University and author of a book defending globalisation, is one of them. Agricultural subsidies are certainly undesirable, he wrote recently in the Far Eastern Economic Review. But the claim that removing them will help the poorest countries is "dangerous nonsense" and a "pernicious" fallacy.

Arvind Panagariya, a colleague of Mr Bhagwati's at Columbia University, agrees*. His argument rests on a surprising observation: most poor countries are net importers of agricultural goods. A study in 1999 found that 33 of the 49 poorest countries import more farm goods than they export; 45 of them are net importers of food. Subsidies depress the price of agricultural products on world markets. That hurts rival exporters, as Burkina Faso can testify. But importers gain.

The argument that subsides help poor importers isn't quite perfect, because as they oint out, poor countries are importers of almost everything. They finish up the article by explaining just how bad tariffs are. Very interesting stuff. But you can read for yourself.

-Daddy Brooklyn  00:09 EST | |

Monday, March 28, 2005

Comic Book Guy 

Finally, after all these years I have been published by The Economist. Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate my majestic command of academic philosophy, I was able to point out an earlier occurrence of the idea of robots than the Economist's editors had been previously aware. [See "Letters", page 17, of the March 26th issue].

I would like to thank the CU philosophy department. Without having had to read the meditations of Descartes more than 3 times (the number of times I have actually read it), I may not have had this masterful command of Descartes's skeptical doubts that I am blessed with today.

-paul  11:47 EST | |

Saturday, March 26, 2005

I don't watch many music videos 

But the video "16 Military Wives" by the Decemberists is pretty catchy.


Via MY.

-Ziggy Stardust  14:44 EST | |

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Since when is life a "good"? 

This whole Shaivo thing has made me really glad I took bioethics in college. I feel like the world is suddenly full of cavemen scratching their heads over how to figure the area of a circle and I have taken basic geometry.

My question to you readers/posters who also studied academic philosophy, can you recall a serious argument that life itself is intrinsically good? Thinking through even the most conservative ethicists (with regard to active/passive euthanasia), they did not argue that life is intrinsically good. I don't have access to lexus-nexus, so I can't really search this, but I didn't even hear this sort of thing in Augustine or Aquinas. My super-conservative ethics prof at the Christian college I went to my first year was in favor of this kind of passive euthanasia. The woman is brain dead!

If anyone can help me on this (I am looking in Ziggy's direction), I would appreciate it.

-Miguel Sanchez  12:28 EST | |

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Shamelessly taking from Crooked Timber... 

Since it is useful for a barely read blog to repost links from a massively popular blog:

I Miss Republicans.

-Ziggy Stardust  23:46 EST | |

Just in Case it Comes Up 

If I am in a persistent vegetative state, let me die. If I become a political football, please just shoot me in the head, or smother me with my old medical ethics text book.

An aside, what the fuck is wrong with these people?

"This is a clear cut case of judicial tyranny. All the judges who have ruled against Terri are tyrants, and we fully expected this decision," said Tammy Melton, 37, a high school teacher from Monterey, Tenn.

You're a teacher? Holy fucking shit. I knew I should have learned Chinese years ago. Who takes the day off of work for this? The winner quoted above was arrested trying to take a glass of water to the brain dead Shaivo. What the fuck was she going to do if she got in? Pour it down her tube-hole? Pour it on her stiff face? Up her nose?

So a tyrant is someone who follows the letter and the spirit of the law in making decisions? What isn't a tyrant? Someone who ignores the law in favor of the demands of a small minority of religious zealots?

No wonder these people are so hot for the brain dead. They're just protecting their own.

-paul  12:26 EST | |

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Comedy Central and Bullshit 

Harry Frankfurt, philosophy professor par excellence, wrote an essay "On Bullshit" in 1985 that's in a collection of essays called THE IMPORTANCE OF WHAT WE CARE ABOUT. You might have read that Princeton U Press just released "On Bullshit" as its own book. I'd recommend getting the original collection of essays, but it's an expensive book. You may be able to find it used at ABEBooks though.

The reason I recommend the collection is because it is rigorous philosophy at its most relevant: using analysis and conceptual parsing to clarify and understand important issues in our actual lives. "On Bullshit" is a particularly apt example since Frankfurter's distinction between lying and bullshitting is useful in understanding present political, er,"discourse". The liar at least demonstrates an awareness and even a certain respect for the truth in her attempts to avoid the truth. The bullshitter, on the other hand, only cares about creating certain impression and cares not if that words spewing forth are true or not. It is the indifference to truth that distinguishes the liar from the bullshitter.

Anyway, this is just a long introduction to the transcript of Frankfurt on the Daily Show.

Via Brian Weatherson.

-Ziggy Stardust  21:35 EST | |

Friday, March 18, 2005

Well, It's official... 

The months and months of 100 hour weeks and sleepless nights are over. I've passed the test and I am now officially a Paramedic.

This, of course, means two things. One, that I know more, and more creative, ways of killing people. And two, that I've fine-tuned my ability to function without sleep.

-Ben  19:20 EST | |

Biblical Annotating 

For your pleasure (or skepticism): The Skeptic's Annotated Bible.

I found this while enjoying Blondesense's comments on the 10 commandments.

Via Pandagon's attempts to subvert male dominance.*

*Of whose efforts I am mildly in favor. Since--alas--my rear-guard action against the forces of progressivism that would disempower straight, white males has gone horribly, horribly awry. Why, oh why, did I ever tell Dick that the Project for a New American Century was a good idea?

-Ziggy Stardust  15:02 EST | |

More spurious drug numbers 

Another great piece from slate on drug policy. I've been saying for years that legalizing marijuana will help lift poor regions (southern US) and poor countries (Jamaica, in particular) out of poverty. It makes a big mistake however, and one you would think an international trade law professor could spot.

Here's the problem with the piece: the estimates of the present spending on marijuana are not good numbers for the economic damages of marijuana being illegal. That's because a big part of the price of marijuana is a risk premium that results from it being illegal. So the US spent $15 Billion on weed last year? Well, $7 Billion of that is tacked on to make it worth the while of all of those involved in getting it to market (a little off topic, there's good reason to believe that those involved in the drug trade don't correctly calculate risk).

Yes, when its legal and the price falls, consumption will increase. It won't double. There is only so much weed you can smoke, believe me.

But... if spurious numbers are need to bust out the chronic, I won't testify otherwise.

-Miguel Sanchez  13:23 EST | |

Fallujah Made Safe for Democracy, Destroyed 

Juan Cole has a report that is just stunning.

-Ziggy Stardust  11:34 EST | |

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Why Don't I Work for Slate or the DEA? (a post about LSD) 

In this article in slate, the author does a good job of examining the fuzy math of the DEA regarding an acid bust called one of the biggest in history. The author, regrettably, ignores something about how acid is weighed for prosecution.

20 micrograms of LSD would get you (in all likelihood) the highest you have ever been. As the author of the Slate piece notes, 91 pounds is a lot of acid. Let's say you are some dirty hippie. You aquire from your dealer, "Sunflower", a large strawberry with 20 mics of LSD on the surface. On your way to a jam-band concert, you get busted by the pigs. He notices the box next to you says "Acid berry". You are arrested. You only had one hit of acid, right? Well, you are going to be charged with possession of 6 grams, the weight of the strawberry. 6 grams of LSD will put you in jail for a long time. Here’s a snippet from the Colorado Revised Statutes (underline added):

(c) Any material, compound, mixture, or preparation containing any quantity of the following hallucinogenic substances, including any salts, isomers, and salts of isomers of them that are theoretically possible within the specific chemical designation:

Lysergic acid diethylamide (among others)

I was clued into this by my copious research in the world of illegal drugs. There used to be a group that would go around to Grateful Dead concerts and pass out business cards that said "One Drop of Acid on This Business Card Can Put You In Jail For 20 Years: Watch your Carrier Weight". The LSD industry responded with lighter carriers; instead of the heavy paper based "blotter acid" of yester year, today a good deal of acid is sold in liquid form from an eye dropper. Instead of heavy pills like they had in the 60's, you have "geltabs" which have a light liquid center. With less risk, the drug is cheaper at all points on the supply chain. The dealer passes the savings on to you. You can regularly find LSD as cheap as $2/20micrograms. This breaks down to about 33 cents per hour of high (an acid trip lasts 8-12 hours). Because LSD costs less than half of what it did in real terms in the 60's and 70's, people are taking multiple doses, and increasing the risk of a psychotic episode and long term brain and spinal cord damage.

People who use LSD are generally not a danger to themselves or others. Acid is a "hard drug". The high is hard. What exactly this means will necessarily escape you if you haven’t done it. Your entire interface with the whole external and internal world is deeply altered, leaving you more distant from your normal frame of mind than perhaps any drug. But the DEA, in their continued campaign to ignore reality, has put people in jail disproportionately for the amount of the drug they have and the risk (unsurprisingly) they represent to society. It has also created economic incentive for the LSD industry to innovate lighter acid. Yeah DEA!

-Miguel Sanchez  11:53 EST | |

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The incredible 51% project 

I am now working at a bookstore. I have a generous employee discount. This means the job is about as good for saving money as (for me) working on a marijuana plantation. So, to innoculate myself against signing over my paycheck wholesale to my employer, I am embarking on what I call the "51% project".

It began with discussing with my coworkers what ratio of purchased books get read. It was generally agreed that it was less than 50%. Looking through my own bookshelves, I realized I too had purchased many books I never read. So now, my goal it to read at least 51% of the books I own before I buy any others. Wish me luck. I am also sure some of the other posters on this board could benefit from this. I'm not naming names, or making a judgement. Just sayin'.

Semi-related: the book store where I work is the best-run retailer I have ever worked for. While this may come as a surprise, most major retailors guess at the coverage they need. This store models it, lets you sign up for the shifts you want, and has a standard deviation based pool of employees on-call in case business is heavier than expected.

Also, the NYT Best seller list is a scam.

-Miguel Sanchez  10:29 EST | |

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Raise your hands if you hate credit card companies 

I was just going to post some links to stuff about the bankruptcy bill that I've read recently, but I have to throw in this anectdote. I've never missed a credit card payment. I was accidentally late paying a few bills in colllege, but I haven't been late with anything since 1999 and nothing has gone on a credit report. I'm responsible. I have a joh that pays well. I made the mistake of cancelling a credit card with something like an $18,000 limit. You would think having $18,000 less in availbel credit would make me a better credit risk. But cancelling this card obviously meant that I was using a higher portion of my available credit and this gave MBNA "cause" to jack up my interest rate from 9% to about 15%. (To put this in perspective, two year Treasuries are yielding about 3.5% right now.) I'm gonna pay this crap off by May and then never do business with MBNA again.

Joe Lieberman said of the bankruptcy bill that the credit card companies bought:
I have always supported bankruptcy reform legislation in the Senate when it has reflected a bipartisan effort to enact a balanced bill for both debtors and creditors and I have opposed it when confronted with a bill that seemed one-sided. This is not a balanced bill. I voted against this bill because it failed to close troubling loopholes that protect wealthy debtors, and yet it deals harshly with average Americans facing unforeseen medical expenses or a sudden military deployment. The Senate simply rejected out of hand many worthwhile amendments that would have protected these and other working Americans who find themselves in dire financial straits through no fault of their own. As a result, I believe this is a seriously flawed bill and I am disappointed at its passage.
Joe voted against the bill, but he first voted for closing debate on the bill, which put it in position to be passed in the first place.

The Economist, which is hardly anti-business, sadi this of the bill:
In any case, the bill's means test (an average of the debtor's past six months of income) should catch those who can clearly pay up. But opponents fear that the test, which they think too harsh and arbitrary, will drag those who rightly belong in Chapter 7 unfairly into court.

More troubling is the part of the legislation that makes it harder for poorer debtors, not likely to be the abusers of the system, to file for bankruptcy. Some 84% of all filers are too poor to qualify for the new law's means test. But they will still be put through a great deal of rigmarole to get relief. For example, all debtors will have to get credit counselling before they file—a costly process, and one which does little to steer people out of bankruptcy. The bill also requires people to produce all sorts of paperwork, from payroll stubs to tax returns. Those who have not kept strict records will have to give up or pay for a lawyer to plead their case in court.

Other quirks of the legislation make one wonder why credit-industry groups are so keen on it. One loophole allows rich debtors to go on shielding assets in special trust accounts that are legal in a few states. And debtors' fancy homes in Texas and Florida will still be off-limits to creditors. The bill's backers say that fear of trampling on states' rights stopped them closing such loopholes. But it smells rather pervasively like special treatment for the rich.
The author seems a little dense here. Credit card companies couldn't get a bill passed that would close these loopholes, but they can pretty easily run roughshod over the poor.

This criticism is a little obvious, but it's worth pointing out that this bill isn't exactly Christian:
Yet for the banks, the inevitable surge in bankruptcies caused by these immoral business strategies hasn't slowed this fantastically profitable industry a whit. For all of the whining about deadbeats ripping off the system, credit card companies' annual pretax profits have soared 2½ times in the last decade, and last year was their most profitable in more than 15 years.

So why gut the bankruptcy law now? Greed, pure and simple. And, pathetically, this bankers' dream is becoming a reality through the support of Republicans who have decided, as they often do with social issues, to selectively pick and choose when to follow the teachings of the Bible.

A key sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), actively opposes abortion and same-sex marriage on biblical grounds yet believes the Good Book's clear definition and condemnation of usury is irrelevant. The Old Testament, revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, mandates debt forgiveness after seven years, as was pointed out earlier this month by an organization of Christian lawyers in a letter to Grassley.

"I can't listen to Christian lawyers," said the senator, "because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population."

Sadly, when it comes to serving the prerogatives of banks, you can forget about those family values that folks such as Grassley prattle on about. The bill he wrote placed mothers and their children behind credit card companies in the line for a bankrupt ex-husband's paycheck, for example, which is positively Dickensian. Expected to sail through the House and onto the president's desk in the next few weeks, the bill turns the federal government into a guardian angel of an industry gone mad, placing no significant restriction on soaring interest rates and proliferating fees.

One extremely modest amendment that was rejected by the Senate would have blocked creditors from recovering debts from military personnel if the loans had annual rates higher than 36%. Also killed were sensible amendments designed to protect those ruined by a medical emergency, identity theft, dependent-caregiver expenses or loss of income due to being called to full-time military duty through the National Guard or the Reserve.

In the end, these individuals are simply not powerful enough to earn the protection of our by-the-powerful, for-the-powerful government. Creditors can scam consumers, Enron can burn California, Halliburton can gouge the Pentagon, the rich can enjoy obscene tax cuts, our "conservative" president can run up the deficit like a drunken sailor — and none of it seems to faze our elected leaders. For them, "fiscal responsibility" is just a high-minded prescription appropriate only for the commoners.

-Daddy Brooklyn  21:59 EST | |

Monday, March 14, 2005

On race 

This is interesting. I always heard that race was just a social construction and I never knew enough to really judge the veracity of that claim. Now someone who's well heeled with credentials says otherwise, here.

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:56 EST | |

The Baby will kill liberalism 

Here's a description of some tactics used to fight the teaching of evolution.

This quotation is too funny:
"If you believe God created that baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Fox said. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."

-Daddy Brooklyn  08:50 EST | |

Thursday, March 10, 2005

My kids 

So, before I do this, let me admit something. I know that I have become one of those annoyingly single-minded individuals. I'm like a new mother, who just wants to share every moment of her precious baby's life with everyone else, and nobody else really cares... Plus, I've got 83 babies. In my defense, however, I spend a good 85% of my life either with my students or thinking about them, and I spend the rest of my time with damn good teachers who love their kids as much as I love mine. So it's easy to forget that there is a world outside of Newark Public Schools. However, I speak so much about them and Newark, that I thought it was time you "meet" them.

My Creative Writing students just finished writing short vignettes about themselves, their neighborhoods, and their friends and family (modeled after House on Mango Street) and I want to share a few of the best with all of you. I'm going to post a few now, and some more later. Next time, I promise to start my own blog. :) Enjoy.

Radio with the energizer batteries

I hear her singing all the songs I hear on the radio, without any mistake she knows them all. She walks up and down the streets donning a CD player and headphones. No matter what she is wearing, what season or what time of day, she always carries her music with her. We call her “radio”.
Sometimes, you look down the block and see her hips twirling, her head bobbing, her lips syncing, and her walking to the beat. Sometimes if she sees you sitting outside watching her, she will ask you to sing along with her, which we often do. Other times its like she’s in her own little world and no one can enter but her and her music.
Maybe one day she’ll be a star and sing for the world

Am I black? I like fried chicken and collared greens. No, I’ve got to be white because I like mayonnaise on my sandwiches and I like drinking milk with a lot of my meals. I’m black! I like Hip Hop and R&B. Never Mind, I’m white I like rock and roll and pop music. Then again I’m black. I like to sag my jeans and wear oversized fitted hats. I guess I’m white because my mom won’t let me wear any of that. I wear blazers and pastel button-up shirts.
Wait a minute! Now that I think about it when you put most of those things together black people and white people like both. So I guess its good to be black and white. It’s the best of both worlds.


Balenda lives across the street in the peeling white house, that seems to be crying for a new paint job every time someone walks past. You never see her come out of the house much anymore, except for when she is smoking those cancer sticks with her boyfriend or dealer if you want to be more honest. I’ve seen her one other time; when the police came to her house. They came because she and her sister had been fighting each other with knives.
She was not always like this. Balenda used to be one of the sweetest, prettiest girls on the block. She had skin so soft, like a baby’s bottom, and a nice mocha brown tan. Her skin looked like if you touch it you would leave a bruise. Her hair. Her beautiful, curly, black silk hair that blew in the summer breeze was to die for.
Balenda. One of the sweetest, prettiest girls on the block is basically bald now. Her bones poke through her used to be mocha skin. She barely speaks anymore.
Balenda. Sweet sweet Balenda has gone to a place far far away from Wain Wright St. She is so far away that if she takes at least two more baby steps she will never be able to return. All Balenda ever wanted was to be herself, but everybody was so caught up in what they expected of her that they never listened. Balenda got tired of being what everyone wanted her to be and so she is gone now. There is a girl that we can all still see, but she is not Balenda. Balenda was one of the sweetest, prettiest girls on the block. She had skin so soft, like a baby’s bottom and a nice mocha brown tan. Her skin looked like if you touch it you would leave a bruise. Her hair. Her beautiful, curly, black silk hair that blew in the wind was to die for. She has finally been set free. She has gone to a place far far away from Wain Wright St.

-Jess  17:06 EST | |

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Still the best thing on the Internet 

Since they took away my email, I check Overheard in New York compulsively. Here's two from today:

The Drug Legalization Debate; NYC Edition

Hobo: Look, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm not hungry or sick, I just need some money so I can get high, but it's just weed, I don't do heroin or cocaine or any of that shit.
Guy: You know, it's because of guys like you that people think pot should be illegal! Look at you! When I get high, I pay my own way! I earn my own money and get high! There are little kids on this train! What do you think they're going to learn? Man, think a little!

--4 train

Overheard by: Alice S.

I Only Know Conversational Latin

Hipster #1: But you're not even Chinese!
Hipster #2: That doesn't matter.
Hipster #1: It does because any non-Asian person who eats with chopsticks is pretentious.
Hipster #2: I'm not pretentious because I'm an American who uses chopsticks; I'm pretentious because I speak fluent Latin.

--103rd St. station

-Daddy Brooklyn  19:01 EST | |

See what happens when you legalize gay marriage? 

Monday, March 07, 2005

You don't even have to go Texas... kill stuff there. Live Shot let's you use a mouse to aim a gun in real time, and of course, once you've aimed you get to blow stuff away. The Economist alerted me to this wonderful use of technology. They charge for their content, so I took the liberty of pasting in the article below. I really do love this idea; I'm not so gun-hating weanus like my roommate.

Hunting in Texas

Virtual adrenalin
Mar 3rd 2005 | SAN ANTONIO
From The Economist print edition

Setting a mouse to catch a hog

WHEN Howard Giles saw the wild hog step into the crosshairs of the high-powered rifle, he felt that familiar rush of adrenalin he so often craved as a young hunter in the Texas Hill Country. But this time only the hog was in the Hill Country. Mr Giles was sitting behind a computer screen in San Antonio, 45 miles away, preparing to bag his prey with the click of a mouse. allows anybody with an internet connection to log on and shoot real guns in real time. And even in Texas, where gun control means holding your rifle steady, the concept of hunting over the internet has generated controversy. Wildlife authorities want to stop any killing of native species—including feral hogs, brought to Texas by the Spaniards centuries ago—by remote control. Now Todd Smith, a Republican state representative, has introduced a bill that would ban it altogether.

John Lockwood, the owner of, objects to this. He says his fledgling business differs little from ranches that offer traditional guided hunts. For one thing, there is always somebody on-site monitoring equipment and standing by with a backup rifle if things get messy. He also says the animals are just as free-ranging as on any Texas hunting ranch. Anybody who wants to pay $300 for a virtual hunt (meat processing, shipping or taxidermy costs not included) also has to get a Texas hunting licence—obtainable over, yes, the internet.

People think, says Mr Lockwood, that he has a gun trained on animals in a pen night and day and “you can log on anytime you want and shoot it.” Not so. Hunters will pay for two hours of time and get two rounds fired from a 30.06 rifle mounted on a pan-tilt motor. While hunting seems to thrill the most, Mr Lockwood says the real money at the moment is in target shooting, for which nearly 400 people—some as far away as Germany and Australia—are paying $14.95 a month and $5.95 a time to fire ten rounds at balloons or toy sheep.

Mr Giles says he is honoured that Mr Lockwood, a friend and co-worker, chose him for the first internet hunt—even if Mr Lockwood had to grab his rifle and finish off that wild hog after Mr Giles's first shot didn't quite do the job. “It's a real hunting feeling,” Mr Giles said. “I held my breath right before I clicked the mouse. I felt like I was there.”

-Daddy Brooklyn  21:14 EST | |

Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish 

CU president Hoffman resigns. About f-ing* time. Go to hell, Hoffman. Thanks for undermining the value of my degree. Thanks for having a private jet while the school was forced into painful budget cuts. Thanks for using University funds to pay for you and your husband's travel accommodations outside the scope of University business. Thanks for going on the record that the "c" word is a term of endearment.

Thanks for making sure America knows that CU is the university of gang rape and drunken riots punctuated by heated pro-terrorist rhetoric.

Here's the letter on CU's webpage.

*The new "family friendly" Miguel.

-Miguel Sanchez  13:06 EST | |

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Into the blogging stratosphere 

My friend Jason Spitalnick, a 1L at HLS, has vaulted into the most prestigious of blogging gigs. You can read him now at Talking Points Memo.

-Ziggy Stardust  23:27 EST | |

Oh, the places I've seen 

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Quote of the day 

Mark, while discussing Jon's response to Mark's post on jury probability: "Everything is uncomfortable when you think about it; that's why I'm moving to the suburbs."

-Ziggy Stardust  19:22 EST | |

Why I think juries should be larger, randomly chosen, and shouldn't require unanimous verdicts (all in one blog post). 

A few minutes ago Brandon and I were discussing Wittgenstein over backgammon. The conversation proceeded to capital defense and I had the--what I'm sure isn't novel at all--thought that juries ought to be larger.

The jury can make one of two mistakes: it can convict an innocent man (in statistical parlance, this would be a type I error) or it can acquit a guilty man (a type II error). The size of the jury ought to be decided (in part, at least) with the goal of minimizing the chances of these two errors (note that ceteris paribus decreasing the chanes of one type of error, usually results in increasing the chances of the other).

It seems like in some cases there are people who would convict the defendant regardless of the evidence. For argument's sake, you can throw out numbers above the probability that these people would get on a jury (and I do below), but it's clear that the smaller the jury is, the more likely you are to end up in the anomalous situation where the jury is dominated by people who are itching to convict the defendant.

Similarly, there may be cases where a stubborn juror will acquit the accused no matter what. A jury system that uses larger juries and requires more than eleven-twelfths of the jurors to vote for conviction in order to return a conviction will experience fewer type II errors caused by the stubborn juror than our current system does. (This is true under the modest assumption that stubborn jurors who will only acquit are all independently and equally likely to occur among the jurors.)

The numbers I pasted in below refer to the problem of the juror who wants to convict no matters what (I truncated the tables so as not to include a bunch of outcomes with probabilites that are essentially zero). Assuming this man pops up 20% of the time, the tables show the number of "always convicts" jurors on the left with the associated probability of that number of jurors coming up on the right. Simple stuff I know. The assumptions are so simplistic that this isn't exactly applicable to the real world, but it's still a fair approximation of what would really happen and the results are striking. Under the 20% assumption, a 12 man juror has nearly a 2% chance of being at least half-filled with people who will always convict. This isn't a big number, but given how many jury trials there are, it's significant. With 24 and 36 person juries, the same number drops to .1% and .08% respectively. You double the size of the jury and suddenly your're nearly 20 times less likely to experience the bad scenario mentioned above.

I imagine, that given the thousands of people who are paid to sit around and think of the law, I'm not the first person to think about this. One of Ziggy's philosophy professor's did similar calculations, but if I remember right, they assumed that all jurors were equally like to vote for a conviction. Some of the contributors to this blog are interested in capital punishment (Alex wants to set them free and Ziggy wants to kill them all). Have you gusy read anything about optimal jury sizes? Given the benefits of 24 person juries over the 12 man juries, it seems like 12 is a very bad number indeed. Did we just inherit it from those bints and blokes in England?

I think juries ought to be bigger in capital cases. As Brandon pointed out to me, the remedy would have to be legislative. I don't think too many lawmkers want to be seen as sympathetic to someone even accused of a capital crime, so jury resizing will probably never come up for debate, but it would be great if it did. With some data, lawmakers could thing about the costs of larger juries and type I and type II errors and then move on to the question of the size of the jury and how many members should have to vote to convict.

12 Jurors
0 6.872%
1 20.616%
2 28.347%
3 23.622%
4 13.288%
5 5.315%
6 1.550%
7 0.332%
8 0.052%
9 0.006%

24 Jurors
0 0.472%
1 2.833%
2 8.146%
3 14.934%
4 19.602%
5 19.602%
6 15.518%
7 9.976%
8 5.300%
9 2.355%
10 0.883%
11 0.281%
12 0.076%
13 0.018%
14 0.003%
15 0.001%

36 Jurors
0 0.032%
1 0.292%
2 1.278%
3 3.620%
4 7.467%
5 11.947%
6 15.432%
7 16.534%
8 14.984%
9 11.654%
10 7.867%
11 4.649%
12 2.421%
13 1.117%
14 0.459%
15 0.168%
16 0.055%
17 0.016%
18 0.004%
19 0.001%

Oh yeah, I don't think lawyers should be allowed to dismiss jurors. It seems like the small size of the jury makes jury selection necessary in order to weed out peole the defense and prosecution think aren't fair-minded, but it causes other problems. Larges juries would work to decrease the influence of peopel who already have their minds made up about the case.

-Daddy Brooklyn  15:07 EST | |

Beating death deemed "Inappropriate" not "Criminal" 

Crazy shit.

Update: So the dangers of blogging at 8:15am include not only the lack of grammar, but complete incoherence. I had meant to make some joke about how Americans wouldn't stand for a D.A. that declared a beating by cops that killed a suspect as "inappropriate" (thus the reference to Brooklyn in the previous title), but somehow joking about this fucking abysmal double-standard/gross indifference to the lives of Iraqis is disrespectful. So now I'm taking my indignation without irony. Or, sadly, action.

-Ziggy Stardust  08:15 EST | |

Friday, March 04, 2005

Dishonest Numbers and Media Complicity 

Just now, I heard "good news" on the ABC nightly newscast. This "good news"? Our economy has added 262,000 jobs in February! President AWOL has also been trumpeting this sign our economy is good on his social security traveling medicine show.

Using the magic power of the internets, I found what the president would call "bad internets". According to partisan chopshop the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate increased by 251,000. Using another magic power I call "subtraction", that means we only added 11,000. This is a drop in the bucket of more than 8 million jobless, not accounting for those who have given up looking for work out of frustration, like me.

Know, I don't know what the research staff of ABC makes, but its more than me: $0. Why am I doing a better job than they are? I know people hate bad news, but what about lies? What kind of world are we living in where Xinua gives a more honest account of the US economy? In the immortal words of Lt. Don Brodka, security officer of the Springfield "Try-n-Save":

If I wanted smoke blown up my ass I'd be at home with a pack of cigarettes and a short length of hose.

-Miguel Sanchez  19:42 EST | |

The Forecast calls for wild and consistent inaccuracy 

Here's a good discussion of why economists have been more wrong than right with regard to job growth. If your forecasts aren't correct at least 50% of the time, move away from the mainframe and pull a coin out of your pocket.

Via Eschaton or Atrios or whatever.

-Miguel Sanchez  14:10 EST | |

Luckily, No One Reads This 

As Fafblog says, There's Been Far Too Much Free Speech Around Here Lately. Soon, the McCain-Feingold law meant to limit campaign contributions may be extended to the internet. It seems unlikely this would be smoothly administered without a lot of really heated debate as to what, exactly, a hyperlink is worth, but it seems more than a little disturbing that someone making legal decisions is actually stupid enough to consider the question at all. So, if you know of anyone who is in politics that you think is doing a bad job, or is just the spawn of Satan, you better make that very clear now, before it becomes illegal. Or, at least, a contribution. Can one contribute against a campaign?

-Matt  12:11 EST | |

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I want to use this space... call bullshit on Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. A rap related shooting last night in New York one day before 50's new album drops? Dr. Dre has a history (going back to the early 90s) of using these public feuds to sell records--they've just just escalated from accusations of child molestation to shootings.

Why am I so sure? According to the Daily News, "Reed was hit in the buttocks and left bleeding on the snow-covered street while everyone else scattered - and 50 Cent cut his interview short." And the Times says he was shot with a ".25-caliber pistol". What self-respecing rapper would let someone who carries a .25 in his entourage? I think Dre wanted a shooting to help album sales and the man who drew the shortest straw got shot in the ass.

-Daddy Brooklyn  18:03 EST | |

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Death penalty for juveniles ruled unconstitutional 

The supreme court today ruled that executing anyone for a crime comitted before their 18th birthday is a violation of the 8th amendment.

Mabe next the severely mentally disabled will get a hand in this.

-Ben  11:06 EST | |

The Wall Street Journal op-ed page: "We don't believe in algebra" 

Even when I was saying W. was awesome, I hated Bill Owens. Bill "babydaddy" Owens is a stooge and a whoremonger*. The Colorado economy, in technical jargon, could be aptly charicterized as "suck city". So I was surprised to see he was one of 2 governers to get an "A" in a grading of state governors.

I would link, but the WSJ is a cheap and bastardly publication that doesn't give me web access with my print subscription. The highlight of the article for me is the following passage:

"[the cato institute] finds that the top-ranked governors have learned a dual lesson that you can't tax your way to recovery and that the best way out of a deficit is to cut spending"

This is all well and good, except it is divorced from macroeconomic reality and history. You may remember something called the "marginal propensity to consume"; this is the percent of post-tax income that is saved, not spent. How this saved money is then distributed depends on the state of capital markets. If short-term economic stimulation is your game, then governement spending will create more activity than cutting taxes, and isn't privy to the whim of the capital market. This is only not true when people are CONSUMING more than they earn in income. Consuming more than you earn is very bad, especially if its a keystone of your economic policy.

The above is provable with simple algebra. The WSJ must not believe in it. But of course, that would make sense. Algebra was invented by arabs.
*Some good news; Revelations 22:15: For without [heaven] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Bye-bye, Bill.

-Miguel Sanchez  10:15 EST | |

About us:

This weblog is an ongoing, if periodic, effort by several friends to stay in touch, in reading material, and in ideas.

Lucky Luciano is a former Italian Stallion real estate hustler and Benedict Arnold CEO turned shady lawyer-to-be. He lives in Denver.

Ben is a Paramedic and would-be philantropist who lives in Denver. He knows everything about nothing.

Fuzzy Dunlop lives in Manhattan. He is more than capable of standing up to the stresses of a high crime urban environment.

Jess is a teacher. But have YOU given her an apple? No, you haven't. You should be ashamed of yourself. This crazy feminist currently rests her copy of Awakening in Jersey City.

Matt is a pariah, iconoclast, and professor of gambling living in Oakland.

Miguel Sanchez is not Lionel Hutz.

Daddy Brooklyn lives in Brooklyn. He hates Republicans, though he wouldn't mind being ensconced in the landed elite of New York City.

Paul just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette.

Ziggy Stardust has no past.

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