2.19.2009

on a much lighter note

Please go watch my friend Rob's video application for the best job in the world and vote it up. He deserves it.

unbelievable

I've been following Radley Balko's tireless pursuit against railroad justice for as long as he has been writing about it--nearly to the point I don't even blink anymore when he points out another case of evidence tampering, of police and prosecutors cutting corners, and in particular, of the dubious forensic "science" practiced by people like Mississippi's Dr. Steven Hayne. But this story he breaks today in reason is just unbelievable.

In 1993, the two [Hayne and colleague Micheal West] conducted an examination on a 23-month-old girl named Haley Oliveaux of West Monroe, Louisiana, who had drowned in her bathtub. The video shows bite marks mysteriously appearing on the toddler's face during the time she was in the custody of Hayne and West. It then shows West repeatedly and methodically pressing and scraping a dental mold of a man's teeth on the dead girl's skin. Forensic scientists who have viewed the footage say the video reveals not only medical malpractice, but criminal evidence tampering.


The linked article contains photos and an excerpt of a video, which it should be said are as graphic as they are damning.

The man from whose teeth the mold was made was convicted of raping and murdering the girl. The only evidence of this crime was the dubious bite mark. He has been on death row in Louisiana for 10 years. (It should be said that Mr. Duncan is not strictly "innocent" here, and that he was likely responsible for negligent homicide of the girl...he admitted as much to police. But that's still damn long way from raping and murdering an toddler.)

There is no telling how many people are in prison, on death row, or dead at the hands of the state that have been wrongly convicted based on the work of these people. But the states of Mississippi and Louisiana had better start looking into it.

2.18.2009

stimulate me!

I haven't written about the great Keynesian experiment that we are undertaking for a couple of reasons. One is that on matters of hard economic policy, your time (and mine) is better spent reading people who know what they are talking about.

The other reason is that my opinion on this is rather lacking in nuance, and therefore doesn't make for interesting writing or discussion.

But I will say this much, now that some concrete figures are available. In 2006 (latest data easily obtained via the IRS website) there were 138.4 million individual tax returns filed, of which 53.3 million were returns of married couples filing jointly. That gives us (to a first approximation) 191.7 million income tax filers (not necessarily net payers) in the United States. If you divide $787 billion by that figure, you get just over $4000 per person. This is roughly equivalent to the annual federal income tax liability on $45,000 of income (if that's all you make...obviously, the liability on the highest $45K of $500K is substantially more.)

I'm not particularly interested in arguing over this or that component of the stimulus, mainly because I think that a vastly superior plan to anything that would have come out of congress and the White House would be to issue a check for $4000 to every individual income tax filer ($8000 per jointly filing couple). Why?

1) Simplicity--the database of recipients exists (did you file in 2007? Fantastic, here's your check), the infrastructure for distribution is already in place (fire up the printing press for those refund checks) and as a result, there is a minimum of dead-weight loss on the actual cost of distributing the stimulus. I have no idea what it costs to distribute $787 billion to a thousand different projects and entities, but I'm certain it is not trivial.

2) The wisdom of crowds--I frankly trust 192 million people making 192 million decisions on allocating small amounts of money than 535 people beholden to their contributors making one decision on allocating a huge amount of money.*

Of course, the important question is would this actually accelerate economic recovery? My intuition is that this approach would be substantially more effective, or at worst, a wash. But the only honest answer is that I have absolutely no idea. The thing is...neither does anyone else, about this or the stimulus plan that we actually have.

And that's what makes this so scary. Because "we" never had a serious discussion about whether massive state intervention in the economy is a good idea in the first place, if the stimulus fails to deliver the boost to the economy that has been promised, the likely explanation from its proponents will be that it simply wasn't big enough.

Perhaps you would like a check for $10,000?




*I realize that ultimately a lot more people will be involved in this (state and local governments, etc. But I think the basic principle here holds)

2.17.2009

louie bellson, rip

I got to see Louie Bellson play in Durham a couple of years ago and was absolutely blown away. At the time I wrote:

But what I found facsinating [sic] is that he doesn't play like he's 25--he plays like someone with 8 decades of experience. Effortless. Nothing to prove. Pure economy of motion, his hands just gliding from drum to cymbal to hi-hat and back again. And so smooth. Whenever he ended a solo, and started into his trademark hi-hat shuffle (doo-dicka-doo-dicka-doo) to bring the band back in, he had the exact same grin on his face that you see in pictures going way back. At one point he was using two sticks in his right hand, and he occasionally busted out some double bass chops that would give Dave Lombardo a run for his money.


I had no idea at the time that he had Parkinson's disease. He did have the bent forward posture when he walked, and he moved very slowly, but siting behind the kit was like throwing a switch. He was in complete control.

Anyway, I'll let the man speak for himself, the way he did best:

2.12.2009

speaking of remote versus proximate risk...

The courts have finally caught up with the science on the (non-existant) link between vaccines and autism. Hooray science!

Now go vaccinate your rugrats.

2.11.2009

feet to the fire

Perhaps a more appropriate title for this post would be "hot stinging liquid ... poured into open wounds on [the] penis".

The Obama administration has had its first opportunity to make good on promises to review use of the (bullshit) state secrets privilege as cover for the use of torture. And failed miserably.

This continuation of Bush policy is perhaps most disconcerting because the stakes for the government here are, in relative terms, pretty damn low. The suit in question is actually against Boeing for providing air transport for extraordinary rendition of a suspect (against whom charges have been dropped) who reports being tortured. The fact that torture has occurred under the aegis of the United States government in the last decade is already a matter of public record, pretty much beyond dispute. All this represents is a naked attempt to deny a man his day in court to seek restitution for what was done to him illegally.

Mr. Obama campaigned on a lot of pretty promises about restoring our moral standing in the world. This a spectacular departure from those promises.

A country that behaves no better than its enemies is not worth defending, regardless of who's in charge of it.

2.09.2009

late to the party

I'm on Facebook now, if you care about that sort of thing. Of course, this means it isn't cool anymore...

Despite this development, stylistic guidelines for this site will continue to demand that "friend"--like "barbecue"--only be used as a noun.

2.08.2009

this week


Birmingham - Drive-By Truckers

M and I are heading to Birmingham this week to look into some prospects. Nothing is firm; in fact, nothing is even on the table yet. Despite this I have to admit that I feel strangely--albeit cautiously--optimistic.

More later.

2.06.2009

annals of inadequate market research

So the one endorsement Mr. Phelps has lost as a result of (allegedly) smoking pot is for a company that makes snack food.

The mind reels.

2.02.2009

tyler durden alive and well in tucson

Was anybody back in the Old Pueblo watching when this happened?

Tucsonans watching the Super Bowl got more action than they bargained for when a short clip from an adult movie channel interrupted Comcast's feed with full male nudity during the final moments of the game. Officials at Comcast said about 30 seconds from Club Jenna, an adult cable television channel, were shown on the local Super Bowl telecast.


I can't say this ever happened in all of my cable watching over the seven years I lived there. Which is especially odd since I subscribed to Cox.

michael phelps succumbs to peer pressure...

...and apologizes publicly for something that's none of your goddamned business.

That's right, you can now add multi-medal winning human/dolphin hybrid Michael Phelps to the long list of people who will never amount to anything because they enjoy the recreational use of marijuana. A list that includes (at least) two Presidents, the mayor of New York, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, and every musician from about 1920 onward that's worth listening to.

Yeah, stay away from that stuff, kids. It'll ruin your life!!!