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.

I’m a graphic design novice

April 25, 2008

Is the new header any good? Comments please.

Can’t imagine this on any college campus…

April 25, 2008

This would never happen today. I’m wondering: What’s caused our culture to change so much?

Another Taser Death

April 25, 2008

If Tasers are a non-lethal alternative to guns, then why do they keep killing people?

Ledbetter Filibuster — Where’s the Outrage?

April 25, 2008

The Washington Post, hardly an anti-business newspaper, made the case for the Ledbetter bill very well in an editorial on Wednesday. Key quote: “Business leaders argue that the paycheck trigger would allow employees to “sit on their rights” and wait to file suit until years have passed in order to make it more difficult for companies to defend against old allegations. This argument is utterly without merit.”

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans refused to let the bill even come to a vote, sparing President Bush the need to exercise his threatened veto.

So, what will be the political consequences? Here’s Sen. Barbara Mikulski in yesterday’s NYT:

“I have a terrible feeling the Senate just won’t get it,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, who suggested that the still-male-dominated Senate remained out of touch about the nation’s changing workplaces. “But the women will get it, and we will start a revolution.”

Well, will they? Unfortunately, I suspect not. Young people, not old ones, usually start revolutions, and young women’s apathy or antipathy toward traditional feminist issues like the right to sue for damages for workplace sex discrimination is a commonplace. And Ms. Ledbetter was not the kind of woman whom young, college educated women might find easy to identify with. She’s in her sixties, and she was a low-level supervisor in an Alabama tire factory. It’s not like she worked for a hedge fund.

This blog appears to be read by only the five people who regularly contribute. But LB assures me that her students lurk here, too intimidated to post. Well, if that’s so, here’s my challenge to young lurkers, especially young women. The Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter was unjust, and the Senate Republicans’ filibuster of a bill to correct that injustice was outrageous. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Please let me know in the comment section.