Sunday, July 29, 2007

There is no beat down like the beat down delivered on the terms of the beatee

Sure, here we all were nattering endlessly about how any discussion of Hillary's cleavage reaffirms sexist stereotypes and distracts from the grave issues of policy and character that should define a campaign. I dare say that none of us, not a single breathing human being who had penned a single word about this "issue," had ever considered attacking this puerile fashion reporting as fashion reporting.
Well Weboy, at the link, beats us all to the punch.

All right sleuthies

The NYT seems to think that Gonzo lied at the press conference rather than before Congress and that the "program" they were trying were trying to sneak by a heavily sedated Ashcroft was in fact data mining rather than wire-tapping. That's certainly a relief, but Digby
I think the Times is probably right about this. The wiretapping statutes, to my recollection, do place some limits even on the ability to gather pen registers, and while they also provide much more stringent limits on the ability to monitor the content of phone conversations, I could see Ashcroft objecting to the mining program and not the wiretapping if only the latter involved US citizens with no connection to foreign powers. And I could also see Gonzo forgetting which was which when commenting on them in a press conference. Or lying. Gonzo's behavior is only so probative, since I think for him a lie is as good as the truth. But Ashcroft seems to have objected on a principle of some kind, and the citizens/non-citizens distinction seems like a more plausible animating distinction to me than the conversation content/information distinction. Recent events have increased my opinion of Ashcroft, and the FBI in general (they seemed to have been the only thing resembling a conscience in the administration when Abu Ghraib became known outside of Iraq) but he is still the man who lead the 2001 Palmer, I mean Ashcroft raids that detained thousands of immigrants, so I have a hard time believing that the foreign/domestic distinction was not, for him, the salient one.

In any case, let's not forget the dark horse possibility, the one floated by a number of liberal bloggers, that the program in question was neither, that it was something still yet to be disclosed, and that it was even more constitutionally putrid. I mean, this was closer in time to 9/11, when they were up to shit like this. Gonzo's strategic choices during this phase of the scandal seem kind of puzzling -- he is willing to admit that Ashcroft had constitutional objections to a program he now seeks to protect, that he had to go to Ashcroft during a goddamn gall-bladder surgery to secure his approval for that program, that he never disclosed these objections, and that he trumpeted the lack of dissent as to another closely related program without ever acknowledging the objections by the most conservative AG since the 19th century.

It is certainly the behavior of someone who fears something more than losing approval for the data-mining program, or than losing public support generally. Yes, an even more obnoxious effort, say one designed to silence and investigate domestic dissent a la Hoover and Mitchell could be the culprit. The more likely possibility, however, is that he is simply afraid of a perjury prosecution.

As well he should be.

Main and Central provides about as good a defense of the Hoover hypothesis as can be mounted. The fun part? I think we are actually going to know the truth soon. There are an awful lot of people breaking ranks here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Brutalization effects

Christopher Hayes covers a study demonstrating that time in higher security prisons produces increased recidivism. The study linked to is ingenious and persuasive -- it examines continuous offender risk scales that place defendants in prisons of different security levels and finds discontinuously large leaps in recidivism rates at the thresholds that result in higher security placements.

I would like to see someone compare recidivism rates in institutions that don't use as much risk segregation. That might help tease out whether it is the low-risk offenders' association with the high risk offender in high security institutions, or the greater dehumanization and loss of liberty that comes with being placed in a high security environment. If the "low-risk-high-risk" offenders he described (those just above the threshold of the high risk placements) had comparable rates of recidivism in mixed populations but a lower security environment, that might show that it is the association with more hardened offenders, and not the intensity of the prison environment, that is doing the damage.


The article proposes two explanations for the finding that clients with public defenders enjoy shorter sentences than those with appointed private lawyers: 1) that private appointed lawyers are paid by the hour, which creates incentives to wait too long to plead, and 2) that public defenders are better credentialed and more experienced. The first explanation does not seem plausible to me because it overestimates the extent of negotiation involved in the federal system -- prosectuors can sometimes negotiate for a specific sentence in the federal system, but in the vast majority of cases, it is the guidelines rather than the posture of the prosecutor that determines the sentence. You do see, however, a lot of private appointed counsel agreeing to plea agreements with waivers of appeal when they don't really get anything for the client. Waivers of appeal probably make the judges less careful about the correct application of the guidelines.
That leaves the second explanation -- public defenders are just bad motherfuckers...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A pointless exercise to determine trivial facts that don't matter to anyone and is stupid anyway because it probably won't work and's for stupid jerks

Also known as baseball stat blogging!

So cnn has each team's total runs scored and total runs given up alongside their record, which means you can, if you can work excel, plot correllations. Or, if you're me, and lazy, you can just do the following half-assed exercise to determine, once and for never, whether pitching really is key to the pennant.

Okay, so I added the total runs scored, for or against each team, and also noted the total number of games over or below five hundred for each team. Then I gave each team a rank from 1 to 16 (I only did three divisions, ALC, NLC, and NLW because, again, I am lazy, and the exercise is pointless and stupid) based on how many games above five hundred they were, where 1 was the most above five hundred, and 16 was the most below. Then I assigned ranks from 1 to 16 based on total runs involved in the games, where 1 was the most runs involved in all games the team has played and 16 was the least runs involved in all games in which the team has played. Then I determined the absolute value of the difference between each team's ranks in these two statistics, i.e. if a team were ranked 1 in games above five hundred and 1 in total runs involved in their games (like the Tigers) the result would be an absolute value of zero (1-1=0). But if a team were first in games above five hundred but last in total runs involved in their games, the absolute value produced would 15 (1-16=-15, the absolute value of which is 15). To try to see whether teams that tended to play in high scoring games tended to win more or less than teams that tended to play in low scoring games, I then calculated an average absolute value and looked to see whether it was closer to the average absolute value that would occur if rank in games over five hundred were perfectly and positively correllated with rank in runs involved in the team's games or closer instead to the average absolute value that would occur if rank in games over five hundred were perfectly and negatively correlated with runs involved in the team's games. If teams that tended to play in high scoring games always finished better than teams that tended to play in low scoring games, you would get an average absolute value of zero (team ranked 1 in the standings would be ranked 1 in total runs scored by and against, producing an absolute value of zero, team ranked 2 in the standings would be ranked 2 in total runs scored by and against, etc...). On the other hand if every team that tended to play in low scoring games wound up better in the standings than every team that that tended to play in high scoring games, I think the average absolute value would 8.
It turns out the average absolute value was 4.875, which, if this exercise had any validity, and weren't fucked up six hundred ways to Sunday, would suggest a small and almost certainly statistically insignificant tendency for low scoring teams to do better in the standings. Note howver that the sample includes both AL and NL teams, including the Tigers and Cleveland, who have the best two records in the group and play in the highest scoring games of any teams in the group, which you would think would bias the stats in favor of hitting. The AL is just a better league this and, sigh, every year, so you would think that the interleague play would depress the NL teams rankings, thereby tending to show, perhaps speciously, that teams playing high scoring games do better. So the fact that the pitching still appeared to exert the stronger influence says something. I mean, says something?

Pitching it is then!

The careful observer will note that this data clearly shows that the Astros deserve the unrelenting loyalty of every human being that has ever or will ever exist since the dawn of time.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I aim one day to be the kid up on the terrace

I have created a musical instrument composed entirely of paper clips and bananca clips wedged between the two blocks of wood that constitute the top surface of my desk. One day, a visitor will walk through my office and hear its strains echoing into the conference room, and, God willing, it will creep them into next Tuesday

Sunday, July 1, 2007


It’s become increasingly fashionable to put the word “patriarchy” in quotes as a means of expressing skepticism toward the notion of a unified system of male dominance. Because, after all, if there were a unified system of entrenched male dominance, its empirically measurable consequences would be all around us. It’s just preposterous.