Saturday, April 16, 2011

Law and Economics of Pirates, Redux

One of the more famous -- on title alone -- articles to come out in recent years is Peter Leeson's An-arrgh-chy: The Law and Economics of Pirate Organization. But Leeson's article focused on 17th and 18th century pirates. What if you wanted more modern fare?

Turn to The Atlantic, which is presenting "How to Run Your Business Like a Somali Pirate." Featuring real rewards and incentive programs!

Hello Lucy

I hadn't gotten around to giving my two thumbs up to the Democrat's "Lucy and the football" trick the other day, apparently concocted by my home state's Rep. (and Minority Whip) Steny Hoyer (D-MD). For those of you who don't know, Republicans brought to the floor a far-right budget proposed by the Republican Study Conference -- one that goes way beyond the radical cuts proposed by the Paul Ryan budget. The plan was for it to fail thanks to a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans.

But the Democratic leadership had a light bulb: "Why do your dirty work for you?" If the majority of the GOP majority wants the RSC budget, the country needs to know that. So late in the vote, the vast majority of the Democratic caucus switched its vote to "present". Suddenly, the RSC bill had a majority among those voting (i.e., among Republicans), and the House leadership was faced with the terrifying possibility that the damn thing might actually pass. Chaos ensued.

Eventually, the GOP whipped enough of its members into switching sides so the bill failed. But it was a great piece of political theater that showed both the willingness of many Republicans to embrace radical, retrograde budget ideas, as well as many of their members' utter hollowness when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are.

Incidentally, with respect to the Representatives who switched under pressure, I say "no mercy". Slap an ad up saying they "were willing to vote for [insert insanely scary cuts]", and hammer them on it all the way to election day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Wrongs....

It is fortunate that Israel's worst foreign minister in recent memory is also likely a criminal, since, amazingly, the current government is too weak to get rid of him merely because of his rank incompetence. Of course, rather than seizing the gift placed in front of him, PM Netanyahu has instead declared his belief in Lieberman's innocence. But if Lieberman is actually formally charged (money laundering and bribery, among other alleged misdeeds), it might not matter.

How tragic is it that I think the best thing that could happen to Israel right now would be for its Foreign Minister to get indicted?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Huckabee's Jewish Problem

The Jewish Week talks up how the Jewish vote would break down in a potential Obama/Huckabee 2012 match-up. Basically, their conclusion is that Huckabee's far-right views on Israel could energize the "single-issue" pro-Israel Jewish right, but his far-right, well, everything else, would similarly galvanize the broader Jewish community against him. The result would be a wash (which is to say, the normal Democratic domination), but perhaps more money flowing into GOP coffers than normal.

Can I point out the inconvenient fact that Huckabee isn't actually pro-Israel in any meaningful sense of the word? I get that there are some more repulsive members of my community for whom pro-Israelness is measured by how much utter disdain and contempt one can express towards any Palestinian desire or ambition. Nonetheless, if there is one lodestone of what it means to be "pro-Israel" in the modern world, it is opposition to a single-state solution -- that is, a unified state "from the river to the sea". That's Hamas' goal, and the resultant state would very soon have a Jewish minority and would have to cease existence as a Jewish state. Mike Huckabee endorses this position, possibly alone amongst presidential contenders (he's the only one I know of, anyway). That he may do this out of abject ignorance is no excuse -- it just goes to show how disconnected the Governor is from actual Jews who actually care about Israel and know how disastrous his positions would be for the stability and well-being of the state.

The only single-issue Israel voters who should be attracted to Huckabee are those whose single-issue is seeing Israel obliterated. That's the Huckabee plank.

Radiating Panic

Projecting much?

The Yesha Council of Settlers reacted angrily Tuesday to a Haaretz report detailing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan for a West Bank withdrawal as part of a diplomatic initiative to counter an impending unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood.

Netanyahu is weighing a withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces troops from the West Bank and a series of other measures to block the "diplomatic tsunami" that may follow international recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

"Instead of behaving with a cool head and reason, Israel is radiating panic," Yesha said in a statement.

While I never really expect anything out of the chronically indecisive Netanyahu, who is the epitome of a weak leader, I continue to find it a little baffling that Israel doesn't just leave the parts of the West Bank that even it agrees it will never maintain control over anyway. Everything is so locked up in terms of what's a "concession" that folks can't understand the idea of a freebie.

Then again, I still maintain the unilateral Gaza pullout was a net positive for Israel, which I gather puts me in a rather distinct minority.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Free Running Academy

Super-cool, from the soundtrack to the Super Mario blocks. My only complaint (and maybe this marks me off as more of a parkour guy, although I can appreciate the aesthetic of free running) is that the people spend too much time doing back flips off walls and not enough time getting to new places. What makes free running look so cool to me is the ability to get to hard-to-reach places in novel and exciting ways.

Okay, enough complaining from me. Back to the awesome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ex-Sen. Simpson Lets Fly

SIMPSON: Who the hell is for abortion? I don’t know anybody running around with a sign that says, “Have an abortion! They’re wonderful!” They’re hideous, but they’re a deeply intimate and personal decision, and I don’t think men legislators should even vote on the issue.

Then you’ve got homosexuality, you’ve got Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We have homophobes on our party. That’s disgusting to me. We’re all human beings. We’re all God’s children. Now if they’re going to get off on that stuff—Santorum has said some cruel things—cruel, cruel things—about homosexuals. Ask him about it; see if he attributes the cruelness of his remarks years ago. Foul.

Now if that’s the kind of guys that are going to be on my ticket, you know, it makes you sort out hard what Reagan said, you know, “Stick with your folks.” But, I’m not sticking with people who are homophobic, anti-women, moral values—while you’re diddling your secretary while you’re giving a speech on moral values? Come on, get off of it.

I never knew much about Alan Simpson (R-WY). I kind of viewed him the same way I viewed fellow ex-Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) -- a solid, run-of-the-mill conservative of the non-crazy faction of the party. Someone whom I disagreed with on many if not most issues, but not someone whose contribution to the polity was actively noxious. But I never would have taken him for the sort to write something like this. This is strong language -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a Democrat who'd be willing to go off on what is at the moment a massive chunk of the GOP like Simpson just did.


It's Not What the Judge Had for Breakfast....

It's whether he had it at all. From a new paper by Jonathan Levav:
In the legal domain, we demonstrate that parole decisions made by judges in a large prison system in Israel are influenced by the ordinal position of a prisoner’s case and, most strikingly, by the timing of the judge’s meal break. We find that a prisoner is less likely to be released following before a break (i.e., the status quo remains) rather than following a break (keep this in mind next time you’re on trial).

The reference is to a legal realist saw (attributed to Jerome Frank) that legal decisionmaking is determined "by what the judge had for breakfast".

Tipsy Cup

It is only because everything turned out okay that I am rolling over laughing imagining the scene: Applebee's accidentally serves alcohol to a toddler.