Man Without Qualities

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Walter Mondale Again?

The Democrats are reported to be gravitating to selecting Walter Mondale as the replacement for Paul Wellstone in the Minnesota Senate race.

It seems a curious choice.

In the 1984 Presidential election Mr. Mondale carried Minnesota against Ronald Reagan by a margin of only 49.7% to 49.5%, and lost in every other State - carrying only the District of Columbia in addition to his home State. Reagan lost Minnesota by less than 4,000 votes.

Since that performance, Mr. Mondale has not been active in politics in any major way, although under President Bill Clinton Mr. Mondale served as ambassador to Japan from 1993 until 1996. In 1997, President Clinton also named Mr. Mondale cochair (with former Senator Nancy Kassebaum) of a bipartisan group to study the issue of campaign-financing reform.

None of that suggests a powerhouse waiting to go back on line. And the 74 years old Mr. Mondale may understand that better than, say, Tom Daschle. The New York Times reports:

Mr. Mondale's friends said the Minnesota Democrat, who was Jimmy Carter's vice president, had not decided, and would wait until after the funeral or memorial services before doing so.
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UPDATE: A Sea-Change Signifying Nothing in November?

In a prior post concerning the upcoming elections, the Man Without Qualities has discussed why it is likely that the margins of error for the predictions of politicians, pollsters and pundits are probably a lot higher than in the past, and a lot higher than many of them are now acknowledging. Instead, many such people appear to be concluding that nothing much new is likely to happen.

There is a widely observed apparent sea-change in the American voting populace. I believe that sea-change's potential (but not certainty) to cause some major reallignments in November is most clearly indicated in the New York governor's race, in which the Democrat may even come in third (but, in any event, seems to be heading for a very poor second), and in an apparent unusual shortage of cash for Democrats nationally. However, I am far from calling the apparent sea-change as favoring Republicans or conservatives as such or across the board. Rather, the improvement of Senator Wellstone's standing following his vote against the Iraq war resolution and before his tragic death suggests that the shift may be more nuanced - perhaps favoring those who work from principles, in contrast to the Clinton style opportunists. The November results may provide the first hard information on the nature of this apparent shift in voter attitudes.

Some pollsters say that Republicans now seem to have a distinct edge in retaining control of the House, while control of the Senate is uncertain. However, many people have not made up their minds - and if there is going be be a big change on way or the other, I suspect it is those late-deciders who will make the difference:

"It's literally just about now that the 20 percent to 30 percent of the electorate ... are beginning to tune in for the first time," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster.

"The people don't move and focus until the last five days," agreed House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, hoping economic issues will trigger a late surge that delivers congressional control to his party.

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Thursday, October 24, 2002

Textual Bono

While the Man Without Qualities is not impressed with the economic arguments advanced by opponents of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (the so-called "Bono Act"), the textual - or more purely "legal" - arguments have substantially more force. The best presentation of those arguments I have seen is contained in an article by Robert Patrick Merges and Glenn Reynolds, which includes the following interesting argument:

[C]an't Congress just extend patents and copyrights by invoking the Commerce Clause...? Certainly some commentators have argued that, in the absence of the Copyright and Patent Clause, Congress would have the power to create a patent and copyright system under its authority to regulate commerce among the several states.

There is much to this position, but as a criticism of our approach it has one key failing. Instead of the absence of a copyright and patent clause, we have the presence of the Copyright and Patent Clause. That Clause is generally understood to serve as a limit on congressional power, not simply a grant thereof. To allow Congress to do things under its general commerce power that it is forbidden to do under its specifically applicable copyright and patent power would in essence read the Copyright and Patent Clause out of the Constitution. Such an approach could hardly be said to be faithful to the text of the Constitution or the intent of the Framers.

[O]ne could argue that Congress possesses the power to regulate intellectual property under the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court rejected a similar argument made with regard to the bankruptcy power in Railway Labor Executives Association v. Gibbons. "[I]f," said the Court, "we were to hold that Congress had the power to enact nonuniform bankruptcy laws pursuant to the Commerce Clause, we would eradicate from the Constitution a limitation on the power of Congress to enact bankruptcy laws." "To hold otherwise," the Court continued, "would allow Congress to repeal the uniformity requirement from Art. I, § 8, cl. 4, of the Constitution." [FN76] The same argument should apply to efforts to override the restrictions imposed upon Congress by the Copyright and Patent Clause.

This is a clever argument, and it does not appear to misrepresent or twist the quoted Supreme Court language. However, it is almost certainly wrong.

For one thing, the Commerce Clause has its own limitations. It is a grant of power over "commerce" - but that grant is limited by the requirement that the 'commerce" regulated must be "among the several states." The Commerce Clause does not grant power to Congress to regulate intra-state commerce. Does that mean that Congress cannot pass a law using its Copyright Clause powers to the extent that law regulates intra-state commerce? After all, if Congress cannot evade the limitations on its powers contained in the Copyright Clause by legislating under the Commerce Clause, then it should also be true that Congress cannot evade the limitations on its powers contained in the Commerce Clause by legislating under the Copyright Clause.

Of course Congress can evade the limitations on its powers contained in the Commerce Clause by legislating under the Copyright Clause. Not even the nineteenth century Supreme Court would have imagined anything else.

Indeed, prior to the 1930's the Supreme Court excluded even such things as intra-state mining of ore from its definition of "commerce among the several states." Under the pre-1930's Supreme Court cases, making and publishing copies only within one state would probably not have constituted "commerce among the several states." But the Copyright Clause has always allowed Congress to regulate such intra-state and at-home copying. Simply put: Under the Supreme Court's pre-1930's construction of the Commerce Clause, the Copyright Clause authorized Congress to regulate very substantial activities which could not be regulated under the Commerce Clause.

Even today, the Lopez cases show that Congressional power under the Copyright Clause is not included in Congress' Commerce Clause power. In fact, under the Lopez cases merely making photocopies of copyrighted pictures in one's home is probably not "interstate commerce." But it could be regulated under the Copyright Clause.

And it will not do to argue that the Commerce Clause confers a "general power" but the Copyright Clause confers only a "specific power." The Commerce Clause creates no more of a "general power" than does the Copyright Clause, as expressly observed by the Chief Justice in the recent oral argument. The equality of these Clauses was more evident under the Supreme Court's pre-1930's precedent, but it is still true today. Moreover, if the Commerce Clause is such a "general grant" of Congressional power, then the Lopez line of cases is probably wrong, which makes it doubly odd that the anti-Bono forces rely so much on the analogy to Lopez.

For a truly "general grant," it's hard to beat the Article I grant of power to Congress "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States." The construction of the Copyright Clause advanced in the article discussed above seems to imply that Congress could not legislate an unlimited copyright law applicable only to the District of Columbia even if Congress wanted to do that - but Congress could allow each State to legislate unlimited copyright laws applicable only within that State. Does that make sense? Would such a subtle, implied restriction on Congressional power be likely to come from the same people who included the express grant to Congress of the right to exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever over the district?

Professor Reynolds, reasonably, doesn't seem to agree.

In addition, one might consider the a peculiar consequence of the construction advanced by Professors Merges and Reynolds: Under their interpretation, Congress appears to be free under the Commerce Clause to create and regulate forms of intellectual property other than patents and copyrights, and those other forms of intellectual property need not be subject to the Copyright Clause constraints.

Congress has actually done this by creating indefinite federal trademark rights. While trademark rights are not included in copyrights, there can be no question that much of trademark law is regulation of the use of copies of the trademark. In other words, there is a lot of overlap between trademark rights and copyright.

The anti-Bono forces find it outrageious that Disney will be able to stop people from copying Mickey Mouse for another 20 years. Fine.

But then why can the same Disney stop people from using Mickey Mouse as a trademark forever?

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The Continuing Burden of FISA

In the aftermath of the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, there was widespread discussion and confusion about the role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Stuart Taylor does a fine job as a voice in the wilderness clearing up some of the confusion in his recent column. The column opens with:

I vote for dumbing down the rules. Or watering them down, if that might help our all-too-human FBI prevent mass murders. First we should water down the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which -- even as amended in the wake of 9/11 -- makes it harder than it should be to investigate suspected international terrorists such as Zacarias Moussaoui.

I completely agree. The whole column is well worth reading.

The problems with FISA have not been fixed, and those problems will lead to further massive American deaths and additional vast destruction.
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Two Men Arrested in Sniper Case

"We're positive it's these guys," the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

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UPDATE: Could They Have Saved Themselves The Trip?

An astute reader points out that The Man Without Qualities exhibits religious confusion with this post.

The New Testament mentions at least two persons named "James", probably at least three, and perhaps as many as eight. In particular, there were two Apostles named "James:"

The first Apostle James was the son of Zebedeethe, and that Apostle is called the Greater (or Major).

The second Apostle James was the son of Alphaeus, and that Apostle is called the Lesser (or Minor). James the Lesser appears on lists of the Twelve Apostles (usually in the ninth place), but is never mentioned otherwise.

Tradition has it that James the Greater made a missionary journey to Spain, and that after his death his body was taken to Spain and buried there at Compostela. It is the grave of James the Greater that the pilgrims in the Middle Ages visted.

The ossuary may have held the remains of yet a third "James": James the Just. By some traditions, James the Just may have been the same person as James the Lesser, but definitely was not James the Greater. So all those Compostela pilgrims were not trying to visit the grave of the same person whose bones may have been in the ossuary. What a relief!

James the Just is called "the brother of the Lord." He appears in Acts 12:17 and thereafter (A 15:13; 21:18; 1C 15:17; Ga 1:19; 2:9,12) as the leader of the Jerusalem congregation. He is counted by later Church historians as the first bishop of Jerusalem. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, James the Just was put to death by order of the high priest during an interval between Roman governors, over the protests of the Pharisees. James the Just is sometimes called "James of Jerusalem" or "James Protepiscopus" (first bishop) or even "James the Brother of God, Vesperal Divine".

James the Just was, according to some, a son of the same Joseph who was husband of the Virgin Mary. By that tradition the mother of James the Just was not the Virgin but a wife that Joseph had before he was betrothed to the Virgin Mary. This is how the tradition justifies calling James the Just "the brother of the Lord" (Matt. 13:55). This tradition leads to the conclusion that James the Just was not James the Lesser, since James the Lesser was the son of Alphaeus.

But another Christian tradition says that James the Just was a nephew of Joseph, and the son of Joseph's brother Cleopas, who was also called Alphaeus, and his wife, who was the first cousin of the Virgin Mary. But even according to this genealogy, James the Just is still called the Lord’s brother because of their kinship. This tradition seem to lead to the conclusion that James the Lesser was the same person as James the Just (and therefore possibly the person referenced on the ossuary). But this tradition also leads to the conclusion that the ossuary - which identifies its contents as the reamins of "James, the brother of Jesus" - was written according to a then new church tradition but contrary to biological genealogy, which to me, at least, would be a pretty strange thing to do.

FURTHER UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has more.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The Great Pyramid of Bono

The Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) is thought to have been built between 2589 - 2566 BC, so it is now approaching 5,000 years of existence. To build it took over 2,300,000 blocks of stone with an average weight of 2.5 tons each. The total weight would have been 6,000,000 tons and a height of 482 feet (140m). It is the largest and the oldest of the Pyramids of Giza. Not much is known about Cheops (Khufu). He was buried alone in this massive tomb. His wives may have been buried nearby in smaller mastabas. The encasing marble which covered the outside of the pyramid has eroded or been removed over time. With this casing off, the pyramid lost 33 feet (11m) of all of its dimensions. The top platform is 10m square. The base of the pyramid is 754 feet and covers 13 acres. The original entrance to the pyramid was about 15m higher than the entrance that is used today.

And yet, thanks to Professor Lessig and the others challenging the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (the so-called "Bono Act"), we now know that the pyramid's endurance for all this time was all a silly mistake, since Cheops' life plus only seventy years was already functionally equivalent to infinity. Cheops simply had no rational incentive to construct a tomb that lasted the extra four thousand plus years that the Great Pyramid has been around.

If only this terrible mistake hadn't been made, Cheops could have substituted something like mud or plaster of Paris for the more than 2,300,000 blocks of stone it took to build his tomb. After all, with the desert conditions obtaining where the Pyramid sits, such materials could probably have lasted seventy years. It could have been painted very nicely to resemble its original marble skin, which would have further prolonged its life at almost no extra cost! If only Cheops had had access to an MBA to fill him in on all this!

Of course, there is another possibility: maybe interest rates in ancient Egypt were very, very low.

And, to make matters worse, all those other Pharaohs also had the same wrong idea and built really elaborate tombs and temples that were clearly designed to last a lot longer than the funtional equivalent of infinity! And then the Romans seem to have got misled, too, since Emperor Hadrian, for example, built his tomb in the Second Century - and its still inefficiently around!

And, wouldn't you know it, pretty ordinary people started getting confused, too. Like poor old Marius Gratidus Libanus and his wife who lived in the First Century. Knowing the husband was very sick and terrified he was not long for this world, they commissioned a stone monument (Can you believe it? Stone!) in which the artist conveys the fraility of the man and his extreme anxiety as his worried young wife tries to comfort him. This monument is still around to charm and move us today. If only Marius had realized that seventy years following the end of his (or at least her) life was the functional equivalent of infinity. They could have had the monument made of clay - or at least cheap-and-easy-to-carve sandstone or pine, which could have been painted up and made to last for another seventy years (not that either of them rationally cared anyway, their being dead and all).

And, unless I'm mistaken, some of this kind of thing is still going on today. This is true even though the modern attitude is pretty well summed up by Woody Allen: "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying."

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Tuesday, October 22, 2002

A Sea-Change Signifying Nothing in November?

Peggy Noonan recently opined that "Even though everyone says Sept. 11 changed everything in America, I'm not sure we've fully noticed how much it's changed everything. And here's a paradox: All that change may well yield a kind of stasis, at least immediately, at least in the midterm elections." Ms Noonan may very well be right to see all changed, changed utterly, but passing in November as a terrible stillness.

Here I want to raise the possibility of another kind of change born of September 2001 - a sea-change in the American voter, and how that sea-change might induce a lot more change than Ms. Noonan and other pundits foresee:

Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Politicians, pundits such as Pete DuPont and pollsters are addressing the upcoming election as one held in ordinary times - with all efforts made, not to ignore the consequences of September 11, but to treat them as ordinary events to be analyzed and dealt with by ordinary means. For the most part such people can do nothing else - their skills and tools are derived from and dependent on past experience - mostly past, ordinary experience. But no matter how much we would prefer to act and believe otherwise, these are not ordinary times, nor this an ordinary election, nor are the consequences of September 11 ordinary in any sense.

Simply put: A necessary reliance on past voter trends and behavior make the predictions of politicians, pollsters and pundits - even those as astute as Ms. Noonan and Mr. DuPont - far more likely to be way off the mark in this election than is normally the case.

There are signs that the widely but vaguely perceived change in voter attitudes may have consequences in these elections that are not being clearly identified by ordinary methods. For example, politicians who have treated the current mix of national issues as a matter of principle, such as Senator Paul Wellstone may have benefited even while going against the public by voting against the Iraq war resolution. But politicians who have tried to treat that mix in ordinary Beltway fashion - most notably, Senator Daschle - have clearly suffered severely. In Senator Daschle's case, this seems to have shown itself in polling, but only indirectly - through a serious and probably fatal drop in South Dakota voter support for junior South Dakota Senator Johnson. Pollster John Zogby attempts to "explain" this effect by breathlessly suggesting we are seeing "A proxy race in South Dakota - Johnson (D) vs. Thune (R) really equals Daschle vs. Bush!" Mr. Zogby advances this view even as he also advances the view that "While some view the Florida Gubernatorial contest as a reprise of the 2000 Bush-Gore race (with Jeb Bush as a stand-in for his brother and Democrat Bill McBride as a replacement for Al Gore), in reality the race is a referendum on the incumbent." Left unexplained is the question of why the South Dakota race should become a "proxy" vote on President Bush, where the Florida race - in which the President is obviously much more closely identified with his own brother, the Governor, is "in reality ... a referendum on the incumbent." The obviously ad hoc nature of these views makes them almost a joke. Mr. Zogby detects some significant changes in voter attitudes, but he has no plausible model to explain those changes. And he far from alone among pollsters.

And even some polling seems to suggest major electoral effects. For example, if it is true that voter attitudes have changed profoundly, the advantage of incumbent office holders, who were selected in prior elections on the basis of prior voter attitudes, should weaken. And, indeed, some pollsters believe that "incumbents in trouble virtually everywhere." And it is at least possible that the huge jump in early voting in Democrat-heavy Texas counties represents an increase in Democrat participation rather than merely a shift in how people vote (as noted by Mickey Kaus), in which case the substantive change could be far from marginal.

An explanation as to why pollsters are likely to be having unusually large problems with this election probably starts with the related questions of poll sample selection ("built-in bias") and what John Zogby calls the polling industry’s "dirty little secret," ... the non-response rate. In the 1980s, about 35 percent of those called refused to answer. By 1999, the non-response rate was as high as 65 percent. That these factors may more profoundly skew polling results in this election than in the past has been noted by commentators on both the left and the right, although they draw different conclusions. For example, the conservative commentator linked above invokes both factors in noting that some polling practices may skew results against conservatives: Polling over the weekend tends to favor Democrats...[C]itizens who are married with children are 2-to-1 more likely to be Republican. These individuals are too busy on weekends to talk to a pollster for 20 minutes. However, the linked liberal commentator writes:

An analysis of the 2000 results shows that a couple of polling outfits that present their findings on the internet and mainstream as non-partisan, are obviously biased, and that their polls for 2002 and 2004 should be questioned. Other mainstream media polls in 2000 were not too wrong, especially if you look at only their final numbers, but taking a look at their cumulative findings, a bias emerges. Overall, the bias in the polls is built into the data, in the sense that they enable the myth that the US voter is turning more conservative, when the facts clearly show the opposite. That the Bush team is chasing a shrinking, over-weighted in the polls, conservative minority is not the news you'll be likely to hear from the media going into 2004, but it's true. .... [T]he problem of almost all of the national polling outfits [is], "Simply put, we had too many Republicans in our sample." ... Yes, contrary to the facts, the media does project that Republicans and Democrats are equal --another faulty trend assumption-- even though the 2000 results showed a 3% difference still exists. The root of the problem is that the polls continue to posit an extra 3% conservative Republican bias.

The other related problem, or what pollster John Zogby calls the polling industry’s "dirty little secret" is the non-response rate. In the 1980s, about 35 percent of those called refused to answer. By 1999, the non-response rate was as high as 65 percent (Consumers’ Research, September 2000). Who might not be responding? Probably latinos and african-americans, progressives, libertarians.... Who is more apt to respond? Social conservatives that want their views known, and want their views to influence society.

Pollsters "correct" for these and other skewing factors, generally using methods not revealed to the public. Ordinarily such "corrections" are pretty good. But such "corrections" depend on using devices derived from past voter behavior to first modify the methodology used to obtain raw polling data, and then sometimes modifying the raw data itself to obtain the final result. But if there has been a profound change in voter attitudes, it seems likely that using "correction" devices based on past voter behavior is simply more likely to create of enlarge errors than in prior elections. For example, the liberal commentator linked above criticizes the Portrait of America poll's supposed built-in bias towards conservatives and notes how other national polls follow a different (but still flawed, in the view of that commentator) methodology:

POA did not weight by party, but by political leanings (conservative, moderate, liberal), and accepted up to 40% conservative as a valid representative sample of data. "For a variety of reasons, our firm has never weighted by party. If they had weighted the data before the election to include an equal number of Republicans and Democrats," their results would have shown Bush up by 2%, which just about what the average of the nationally accepted polls wrongly projected. So, strip the poll of its conservative leaning, and it still sits with a Republican leaning result, just like the national polls. Yes, contrary to the facts, the media does project that Republicans and Democrats are equal --another faulty trend assumption-- even though the 2000 results showed a 3% difference still exists.

But looking at what seems to be happening in South Dakota, for example, how confident does one feel about castigating that 3%?

Another pollster (cited by the conservative commentator linked above) believes that averaging between registration and turnout in the last presidential election, rather than relying on the respondent’s self-description—is more accurate than polling "registered voters" or "adults." But does the World Trade Center now being a large hole in lower Manhattan and the nation preparing to go to war in the Middle East cause one to have more or less confidence in the significance of "averaging between registration and turnout in the last presidential election" in determining likely turnout?

I am not suggesting that current poll results must be wrong, or, if there are bigger errors here than usual, that those errors must favor one party or the other (consider Senator Wellstone, for example). But I do think that the pollsters' ability to correct reliably for many polling problems has been weakened by a profound change in voter attitudes - a change whose profundity, if not its likely effects, seems to be widely observed by many pundits.

But, while pundits such as Ms. Noonan and Pete DuPont do agree on the existence of the change in voter attitude, they can't seem to identify practical consequences, and I am concerned that their tentative conclusion that these elections will yield little change is more a reflection that their approaches - which are based on past, ordinary experience - are simply coming up short. Similarly, Walter Shapiro writes that "after traveling around the country, a political reporter comes home with a fuzzy impression of the national mood," and notes that with "so little movement visible on the political battlefield, this campaign reporter worries that he's missing something big. It's almost like an old war movie where the veteran sergeant says, ''It's quiet out there . . . too quiet.'' He goes on to observes:"With so much at stake, it is hard to find a candidate talking in standard English instead of using buzzwords tested in focus groups." Other thoughtful pundits sense that America today is "more serious" and that the events of September 11 have helped to check some serious national "illusions." If any of that is true, it should have a serious effect on the elections.

But those may not be effects that the ordinary machinery is designed to detect in advance.
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Another Hidden Cost of Welfare?

Or, more specifically, of one-parent families?

A report today is of another case of a mother apparently murdering her two daughters by drowning them and taking her own life with a gun. The killings were discovered by the woman's 8-year-old son when he came home from school.

There is no mention of a father or husband or other adult on the premises. But neither does the article actually say that the now-deceased mother was a single parent. But that is not critical to the point I want to raise here.

Isn't it reasonable to ask seriously whether a single parent, especially one rearing several children in reduced economic circumstances, is much more likely to abuse them physically - or worse - than those in a two parent household? How common is serious single parent - especially single mother - abuse of children? Violence against women in the family gets a lot of play, but there seems to be a common and curious reluctance to focus on maternal violence against their own children. For example, the Medical College of Wisconsin "Family Violence Fact Sheet" takes great pains to stress how women are victimized by family violence, and explores in detail various aspects of male perpetrated family violence - but the "Fact Sheet" includes no mention of maternal violence rates. (The "Fact Sheet" also includes "control of money, transportation, activities and social contacts" as types of "family violence." Is parental refusal to allow children to visit with "bad influences" now to be considered "family violence," as many now consider once-normal spanking?)

Official statistics indicate that women commit the great majority of crimes against children. But it is my impression that one of the lingering biases in the United States today is common refusal to acknowledge maternal child abuse, including by police. My guess is that existing statistics are probably seriously biased towards under reporting of maternal child abuse: 61.8 percent were female and 38.2 percent were male - although some studies suggest that 80% of child battery is committed by women. Almost all female child batterers seem to be the actual birth mothers of the child. But even these statistics may be highly skewed against reporting materal violence. For example, there is this report from Canada:

Physical assaults on children outnumber sexual assaults more than two-to-one (Statistics Canada, 2000). However, despite mandatory reporting laws across the country which require any individual who becomes aware of abuse or neglect of a child to report such cases to the appropriate authorities, it is likely that upwards of 90% of cases never reach the child welfare system. Nevertheless, reported cases of assault of children still represented 20% of all physical assaults reported to police during 1999. Family members were the suspected perpetrators in 22% of these instances. Parents were responsible for child assault in 66% of these reported instances, with fathers as the accused parent in 71% of cases.

Child murders are somewhat more difficult to conceal or ignore than child battery. One report claims:

A hospital in Great Britain installed hidden cameras to survey children who they feared to be at risk of abuse by their parents. They found dozens of cases and made headlines about abuse by « parents » and « step-parents ». ... What all the commentators carefully hid was who these « parents » were: there was one grandmother, one father... and thirty-seven mothers. Judging from the references to « step-parents », I suspect that the man wasn't really a father either. .... Every case involved previous children who had died in mysterious circumstances. To be more precise, 37 killer moms murdered 40 children. Total jail sentences imposed: 0, even though some of the women confessed when confronted afterwards. About 1300 child murders took place in the US last year. About 500 perpetrators were non-parents, roughly divided between men and women. Of the rest, only 30 (!) were fathers. In other words, mothers were more than 25 times more likely to kill their progeny than fathers. Yet somehow, men are viewed as being more dangerous to their children than women.

But others argue that men, not women, commit most family child murders:

There certainly are suggestions that the problem is much more widespread than is commonly - and disturbingly - reported. For example, this article reports:

"It's very rare for females to shoot themselves in this manner," Livingston County Undersheriff Robert Bezotte said.

The fate of the children apparently didn't warrant a comparable observation from Undersheriff Bezotte. It's an anecdote, of course.

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Monday, October 21, 2002

Crystal Gazing

In general, Larry Sabato seems to be saying that things are slipping for Republicans - especially in the Senate races.

And some other polls seem to be saying the same thing.
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Could They Have Saved Themselves The Trip?

In the Middle Ages, Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain, was a high holy city along with Jerusalem and Rome, and an important center of religious pilgrimage. During those centuries, almost half a million people a year came to view what they believed to be the grave of James the Apostle

But an empty ossuary (a limestone burial box for bones) recently discovered in Israel and dating to the first century bears an inscription in the Aramaic language: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." Andre Lemaire, a specialist in ancient inscriptions at France's Practical School of Higher Studies, said it's "very probable" the writing refers to Jesus of Nazareth. He dates the ossuary to A.D. 63, just three decades after the crucifixion.

But, then, the recently discovered box is empty.
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Just a Bit More Bono

Turning again perhaps for the last time to the economic arguments (as distinguished from the textual and more purely legal arguments) against the Bono Act, the Man Without Qualities is struck by the failure of the Act's opponents to come to grips with similar statutes, expecially the body of federal communications law.

The right to transmit electromagnetic signals on a given band of "spectrum" at one time lay entirely in the common domain. Then, in the early part of the 20th Century, governments - notably the United States federal government acting under the Commerce Clause - created a set of exclusive spectrum rights. Spectrum rights have much in common with copyrights. The rights to use a particular piece of spectrum is actually a local monopoly to engage in a particular activity. As the copyright monopoly prohibits anyone but the holder of the right from copying the designated "work," the spectrum rights monopoly similarly prohibits all but the holder of that right from transmitting on the designated frequencies. Both kinds of rights are non-possessory, in the sense that although termed "property rights," there is no natural form of "possession" comparable to possession of real property or tangible personalty. Of course, spectrum rights differ from copyrights in the sense that two people cannot use a single frequency in the same locale at the same time - and in this sense, the broadcaster with the most powerful transmitter might be said to "possess" the designated naturally. But federal law has never assigned any particular significance to this kind of "natural possession." Indeed, although spectrum rights more closely resemble traditional property rights in this way than do copyrights, federal communications law is much more explicitly set up as a regulatory and licensing system for broadcaster behavior than is the copyright law.

And while many economists have many things to say about the economics of spectrum rights and how those rtights should be regulated, there is to the knowledge of the Man Without Qualities no significant economic theory that advocates the economic benefits of terminating such rights automatically after a set number of years. This is particularly striking because the Federal Communications Commission at least theoretically retains vast and technical power to terminate a licensee's rights to use designated spectrum.

So if the economy would benefit from the automatic termination of copyrights in, say, Cole Porter songs written in the 1930's, why wouldn't the economy benefit from the equally automatic termination of the spectrum rights of the broadcasters such as NBC that broadcast those songs right after they were written?

On another note: The transcript of the Supreme Court oral argument is now available. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I do not detect a great deal of sympathy for Professor Lessig's approach in any of the Justices' questioning or comments. Although Justice Scalia does seem a skeptical of at least one argument advanced by Solicitor General Olson.
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California's First Undead Governor?

The Man Without Qualities has long believed that the media is unduly harsh on Bill Simon and his prospects for becoming California governor.

More recently, though, Simon's gaffes have seemed more nearly fatal.

But although Simon's error was very serious, it is worth recalling that most voters will not cast their vote for a governor on the basis of his ability to identify public offices in the background of photographs, or even to choose aides who can do that. And one should also keep in mind that Mr. Simon trailed badly in the polls until just shortly before he clobbered Richard Riordan in the Republican primary. And one should acknowledge that Mr. Davis has deep substantive problems, both with his ethics and in how he has performed as governor, which go far beyond Mr. Simon's gaffes.

In short, if California's election of its governor were decided on substance, Bill Simon would win. Gray Davis' performance in the polls and with the media is a triumph of form over substance.

So it is not ultimately surprising that at least some polls now show that Simon is close - possibly in the lead.

Perhaps more important, Davis has not yet passed the 50% mark in these polls. At this time in a campaign, many professional political consultants will say that an incumbent such as Davis who has not passed the 50% mark in the polls is probably going to lose:

When an incumbent seeks re-election, the key question is whether his vote polls over or under 50 percent. If more than half the voters are backing his opponent or are undecided, he's in trouble. It's like asking someone if they will be married to the same person next year: An answer of "undecided" isn't exactly encouraging.

So Simon's showing in these polls that show him close are not the most important thing. If these polls are even with 10 % of accuracy, Davis is probably toast because of his failure to pass that 50% mark.

But I'm not taking any bets.

UPDATE: Unexpected support for the possibility of a Simon win comes from The Note: "[W]e still wouldn't be shocked if Simon won this thing."

My feelings exactly!

FURTHER UPDATE: A new poll says just 41% of Californians plan to vote for Davis - far short of the classically "needed" 50%. Chapter I of the professional political consultant's textbook says Davis is in deep trouble. Mickey Kaus asks the same question.

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