Bad for Obama, how Hillary helped us lose, and why I hate superdelegates

April 30, 2008

Yesterday over Guinness I asserted that this will be the end of Obama’s campaign. I don’t think you can recover from condemning your own spiritual teacher. People are going to hate this.

It means he is doing it for political reasons (not good) or that church was just a show for him (also not good). I think the correct answer was more like what he said before: Religion is personal and I went to this church because I felt challenged to think and grow in my spiritual practice. I am sorry you don’t understand. Many Americans grow and learn in religious institutions that they have some disagreement with. How many Catholics practice birth control? We aren’t in church to take everything our pastor says as the absolute word of god. that’s silly. We are there to think, and pray, and grow. You might not like how he went about it that particular day, but if you really care about this country you would try to understand what he was doing and why it resonated with so many people in that church. Now, the matter of my faith is personal and this is the last time I will address this issue.

Now, here is how Hillary messed us all up: If the Democratic primary had been decided, the Democratic machine would have been all over this for Obama. But, since so many people are on the sidelines, his team had to handle it and I am sorry, but I don’t think they did a good job.

Finally, the superdelegates. I have not hated them like some people have. It seems like a sensible solution. But if they are all going to wait until they know who the nominee is before the decide, they are just prolonging this mess. they should have the guts to say who they are for now and stop prolonging this. At the very least, those whose states have had primaries should be ready to say.

I hope I am wrong about this. But I think it will be hard to recover from “condemning” the religious leader who presided over your wedding and your children’s baptisms.  Maybe you can’t recover from not condemning it either.  If that is true then it means he is un-electable simply because he goes to church.  Now that seems like a racialized double standard because it is not that he goes to A church it is because he goes to a BLACK church.


April 29, 2008

This seems appropriate this morning. Thanks, Rev. Wright.

Take That George W! Stimulus checks and law school debt

April 29, 2008

I got my stimulus check direct deposited this morning! And, I put almost all of it toward debt. Some to the church. No new big screen tv for us to help him prop up the failing economy (our big screen is working fine, thank you!). I know someone will now tell me that the only people suffering are average americans and even worse poor Americans and I get that.

What are you going to do with yours? Yes, you too can put it toward my school debt if you want. I learned yesterday that the new after the JD wave #2 data shows that 7 years after law school, most grads practicing law have $47,000 in school debt remaining and African-Americans have significantly more ($57,000 if memory serves). Sorry, that was incorrect — the average debt is $57,000 and African-American’s average is $70,000.

I have been out coming up on 10 years (well, 10 years since I finished the PhD — my law degree was actually 1996, come to think of it) and am not practicing law (therefore paying it back very slowly, but not making so little that I qaulify for forgiveness) and let’s just say I am average on this one.

By the way, I did save enough to purchase some metal bull testicles for Jeff’s birthday.

Preventing Sex Crimes in the Military

April 28, 2008

Well, it’s not giant metal testicles, but it’s just as ludicrous.  Georgia Congressman Paul Broun is spearheading a bill that would define Playboy as pornographic material, thereby forbidding the sale of Playboy in military exchanges.  Two wars, hundreds of billions of dollars, and years of men and women being separated from their families and this a-hole is concerned about soldiers looking at girlie magazines.  I know this is preaching to the choir, but, “What the f@#?!!!   

When Giant Metal Bull Testicles are Outlawed

April 28, 2008

only outlaws will have giant metal bull testicles. Florida state Senator Carey Baker (R-Eustis) introduced a bill to fine drivers $60 for displaying large metal bull testicles on the backs of their vehicles. It passed the Florida Senate, and is awaiting consideration by the House. Remind me — which party stands for individual liberty?

Adding further irony, when Sen. Baker is not busy keeping Florida safe from bull balls, he is the owner of a gun shop. Perhaps we need a constitutional amendment protecting the right of motorists to place fake bovine reproductive glands on the backs of their vehicles.

And yes, for those of you who might be wondering, it’s a little slow today here at work. And for those of you who wonder what the fuss is all about, or would like to order a pair yourself, here you go.

Time warp – facially neutral voting restrictions upheld!

April 28, 2008

Get out your driver’s license, Vicky! You are going to need in in Indiana to vote. The Supreme Court just upheld Indiana’s law requiring valid photo ID for people who show up to vote. I guess I am not surprised that it came out this way, but I am a little surprised that it was 6-3 (instead of 5-4). Stevens, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts, and Kennedy.

I have only read the syllabus, and of course slip opinions can have errors, but so far my favorite sentence is, “Because Indiana’s cards are free, the inconvenience of going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, gathering required documents, and posing for a photograph does not qualify as a substantial burden on most voters’ right to vote, or represent a significant increase over the usual burden of voting.” (Yes, I know I lecture on and on about not quoting from the syllabus — it is a blog).

I was at the IL Secretary of State’s office last week and let me me tell you that is a signifcantly increased burden if the default is just showing up to vote.

OK, so jibes at the DMV, BMV, or Secretary of State’s Office or whatever, aside, this is a serious blow to anyone who believes in civil liberties. Is this really the least restrictive means available for protecting against voter fraud? (By the way, that is not the legal standard — least restrictive — it just seems to be a good one which is often employed in other constitutional cases where rights we value a lot are being limited in some way out of a compelling interest. The jurisprudential standard is that the court must (1) consider the magnitude of the first and fourth amendment rights against the precise state interests and (2) considering the extent to which those interests burden the plaintiff).

Let’s just start off by agreeing the voter fraud is bad and could be a problem. At least right now, elections are being won or lost by the slimmest of margins. But that is why the 43,000 residents of IN who are legally entitled to vote but have no such card should not be discouraged from voting! That is 1% of the eleigble voters in IN! And, guess which folks are the least likely to have such ID? Poor, people of color, and elderly folks (not that those are mutually exclusive categories).

As Souter points out, there are very few BMVs compared to polling places. You usually walk a few blocks to vote, but how far away is your BMV? What about inking thumbs like they do in developing nations? Seriously — isn’t that less restrictive? OK, I am back to reading the opinion now.

You can read the opinion here (opens as a PDF).

A Few More Thoughts on Ledbetter

April 28, 2008

The Supreme Court’s ruling applies to claims of racial discrimination in pay, as well as sex discrimination claims. What would have happened if Lily Ledbetter were Leon Ledbetter, a black man who learned after 20 years that he had been paid less than his white co-workers? Would the Supreme Court still have overruled the majority of Courts of Appeal on the statute of limitations issue? Would the Senate Republicans have filibustered the Leon Ledbetter bill?

Why do we have an ideological label — feminist — for women who insist that they not be subject to workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, but no similar label for racial or religious minorities who insist on similar freedom from discrimination? There certainly are pejoratives that Leon Ledbetter might be subject to for insisting on equal treatment (“uppity” is an old-fashioned one; I’m sure there are others), but we don’t see insistence on equal treatment of racial or religious minorities as reflective of any particular ideology, unless it’s the general “liberalism” that also encompasses equal treatment for women.

None of these reflections make me like Hillary Clinton any better than I did before, by the way. And as I told LB the day I met her, I am helping to perpetuate the illegitimate patriarchy. But I do understand why so many women, especially those of a certain age, are ticked off (not, God forbid, bitter), and like Hillary more than I do.

North Carolina’s Mean Spirited Obama Ad

April 26, 2008

Look at this North Carolina Republican television ad disparaging Obama, even refuted by McCain.   If the video does not appear in this post, go to this link .  Senator Elizabeth Dole is channeling Pontius Pilate saying she can’t control the people.  Should she?  I don’t mean to put Obama & Jesus on equal footing here, but it feels like the Republicans have crossed into a disrespectful zone this time.   Reminds me of the swift boat ads.  Please not again….

editor’s note: Here is the actual ad. still bad, but believeable


Law and Econ: The Wesley Snipes Case

April 26, 2008

This one has really been bothering me.  I know economics is a discipline you love to hate, LB, but this case illustrates its value in the area of law.  Wesley Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for three nonviolent misdemeanors.  Why?  If you listen to the prosecutors and the judge who agreed with them, it is to make an example of Mr. Snipes.  Once again, why?

I could cite any number of widely accepted economic theories and econometric models that clearly demonstrate that the deterrence coefficient in cases like this is almost zero.  That means that science tells us that the general public will not change their behaviors based on this case.  Even if you aggregate many such cases, the effect remains miniscule.  I would love to conduct two different surveys during the next tax season asking people what they are doing differently as a result of this case.  One would be a random sample of the general public and the other would target celebrities.  I am confident the results would support what I have already asserted.   

What econometric models do tell us is that swift financial and other creative penalties do make a difference in behavior. Not only that, but they allow people to remain productive in society, so we all benefit.  The coefficients for financial penalties when people feel there is even a relatively small chance of being caught are rather high.  Forget the unfairness of sending Mr. Snipes to prison and allowing Willie Nelson to smoke and sing his way out of debt.  Forget about the possible racial questions.  The fact is that in most cases, sending people to prison for nonviolent misdemeanors makes absolutely no economic since. 

We will now lose the production Mr. Snipes would have contributed to GDP for the next three years.   Considering the income he generates, that is not insignificant.  The bigger problem is the millions of other young men that we are sending to prison for crimes that used to garner a financial slap on the wrist.  Almost all of these men do not have the advantages of Mr. Snipes.  In fact, we can expect that once they have served one term in prison, most of them will continue to return to prison for a good portion of their productive lives.  We keep building more and more prisons (that we have to support) and we continue to lose trillions in production potential. 

While I do not have time over the next year to explore this, I do plan to spend most of the rest of my adult life trying to pound some economic since into the heads of lawmakers.  LB, I believe this issue will turn on empirical economics, despite the myriad of sociological reasons that support the same conclusions.  Perhaps such a study would be a good topic for an econ major in your seminar next year.    

Health Care Without Govermental Strings Attached

April 26, 2008

Do you remember when Mr. Rogers sang “Won’t you be my neighbor?”  I wish I could be this doctor’s neighbor!  Dr. Lorna Stuart, from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, sold her house & raised enough money from donors, without any government funding, to open a health clinic that charges sliding scale or NO fees at all.

A bright spot of news is welcome, especially today, when reading McCain’s opinion on Lilly Ledbetter’s case, or about the White House’s “evidence” of North Korea & Syria’s joint effort to produce plutonium.

Borrowing a quote from Obama, I propose a toast to Lilly & Lorna for their audacity of hope.