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Could Simple Automated Tools Help Wikileaks De-Identify Afghan Informants?

[ 68 ] August 10, 2010 |

Julian Assange has a problem. When pressed by human rights organizations to redact any current or future published documents because they too feared the effects on Afghan civilians, he reportedly replied that he had no time to do so and “issued a tart challenge for the human rights organizations themselves to help with ‘the massive task of removing names from thousands of documents.'”

Leaving aside his alleged claims about the moral responsibility of human rights groups for his own errors, the charitable way to think about his reaction is that Assange wants to do the right thing but simply doesn’t have the capacity. Indeed, in a recent tweet he implored his followers to suggest ideas:

Need $700k for our next harm-minimization review… What to do?

Fair enough. Here’s an idea: how about using information technology? Read more…



[ 155 ] August 10, 2010 |

It’s not just that his comments were foolish on the merits. They would seem to demonstrate that he’s completely incompetent. I’m pretty dubious about the efficacy of the “Sister Souljah” routine in any case, but in this specific case it’s all downside and no upside. How many of the low-information centrist voters who are hypothetically supposed to find attacks on liberal activists pleasing read the Hill or the blogs that would discuss it? The audience being attacked is the only audience who cares and is paying any attention. And the non-walkback walkback certainly doesn’t help anything.

We need our own Ari Fleischer; even if he can’t be as accomplished a liar, at least he’d know to keep his focus on his actual enemies.

On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero

[ 6 ] August 10, 2010 |

RIP Ted Stevens.

[UPDATE BY ROB] I’m sure that Dave intended to post this…

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Judgifying Wingers Don’t Like

[ 6 ] August 10, 2010 |

Seeing this made me want to check in on Conservapedia and see what their classic entry on judicial activism looked like these days.   Fortunately, it’s still enough to make you think the site was a parody, improved by the fact that we now know it’s not.    It starts off in relatively neutral-sounding terms:

Judicial activism is when courts do not confine themselves to reasonable interpretations of laws, but instead create law. Alternatively, judicial activism is when courts do not limit their ruling to the dispute before them, but instead establish a new rule to apply broadly to issues not presented in the specific action.

Hmm, let me try to think of a recent example of that last phenomenon….anyway, eventually they cut to the chase:

In this regard, judicial activism is a way for liberals to avoid the regular legislative means of enacting laws in order to ignore public opinion and dodge public debate.

So judicial activism is something that, by definition, liberals and only liberals do. I wish it was only wingers who accepted this as opposed to a lot of “centrist” pundits. But things get even better:

Judicial activism should not be confused with the courts’ Constitutionally mandated rule in preserving the Constitutional structure of government, as they did in Bush v. Gore, Boy Scouts v. Dale, and D.C. v. Heller.

Yes, if anything is fundamental to our structure of constitutional government, it’s that ballots cast under different voting systems must be counted in the same way if this is necessary to elect a Republican president, and in no other cases. And of the three cases they mention, it’s also instructive that they pick one that involves limiting the reach of civil rights laws. Conveniently, their examples of “judicial activism” draw a line under this:

# Brown v. Board of Education – 1954 Supreme Court ruling ordering the desegregation of public schools.
# Griswold v. Connecticut – 1965 Supreme Court ruling establishing a constitutional right to posess [sic], distribute and use contraception.
# Loving v. Virginia – 1967 Supreme Court ruling requiring the legalization of interracial marriage.

Well, at least they’re consistent! Your classier wingnuts tend not to apply their views in such a logical manner. I’m disappointed, however, that they didn’t add to this a traditional Republican complaint about how Ted Kennedy “slandered” Robert Bork by mentioning his publicly stated views in public. And hopefully from somebody Pajamas Media will add some information about how liberals “litigate from the bench”….

Human Rights Groups Urge Wikileaks to Redact Leaked Documents

[ 20 ] August 10, 2010 |

Human rights organizations have joined those pressing Wikileaks to reform its information dissemination strategy.

It goes to show that you can be critical of US policy in Afghanistan, as many human rights groups have been, and still be critical of Wikileaks for its methods when they too endanger human rights. It’s a shame that the debate is so polarized that any criticism of Wikileaks’ methods is being framed as criticism of Wikileaks itself. LGM’s good friend Donald Douglas proposes, for example, that Assange be “turned over to the Taliban” for his errors, whereas all human rights NGOs are proposing is that he endeavor to conduct his work in accordance with basic ethical standards.

I’m with the human rights organizations.

So far, Assange’s response has been disappointing. He appears to be claiming – incredibly – that it’s the media’s and human rights organizations’ responsibility to assist him in retroactively redacting the documents (or any future ones), and claims he doesn’t have staff to do it himself. Poor Wikileaks.

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Why Can’t All Our Children Swim?

[ 50 ] August 10, 2010 |

We might well ask ourselves this question as a society.

According to Slate, in some respects it is a socio-economic issue:

“A child’s ability to swim is also strongly correlated with his parents’ income. Sixty-seven percent of poor swimmers have a household income less than $49,999. Only 29 percent of skilled swimmers fall below that income level. In the second phase of the University of Memphis study (referenced above), researchers looked more closely at income and found that 12 percent of children who participate in a reduced-cost school lunch program — an easier piece of data for a child to report than household income — said they don’t even feel comfortable in the shallow end of a pool, compared with just 6 percent of wealthier children.”

But a study conducted by the USA Swimming Foundation found the key factor affecting whether a child could swim is whether their parents could swim. What would it take to change this?

Laughing at the Expense of the Laffer Curve

[ 49 ] August 9, 2010 |

This set of answers is remarkably revealing of the quality of intellectual firepower in support of supply side economics…

Managerial Responsibility

[ 14 ] August 9, 2010 |

Or, what can Don Wakamatsu and Martin O’Neill possibly have in common, besides either newfound unemployment or having managed teams that I give a damn about (the Mariners and Celtic, respectively)?

Aston Villa manager O’Neill shockingly resigned with immediate effect only days before the season is to commence.  Rumor has it that transfer policy this off-season sent him over the edge.  Specifically, it looked as though Villa were about to lose two of their top players, James Milner (late of the England World Cup debacle) and Ashley Young, while O’Neill was not allowed to re-invest 100% of the proceeds from the sale, nor did ownership sanction the contract demands of Stephen Ireland, coming in part trade from Manchester City in the proposed / rumored Milner move to Manchester.  O’Neill, perhaps correctly, interpreted this as a surrender of ambition, and walked away.  O’Neill is highly regarded, and considered a hero by Celtic faithful.

His timing is crap for not only Villa, but also his own; walk out a couple weeks ago, and the Liverpool job is his.

Less surprisingly, the Seattle Mariners just fired their manager, Don Wakamatsu, and several members of his coaching staff.

Wakamatsu did not deserve this.  Last year, he was regarded for his brilliance, if not for every tactical decision he made on the field, for his ability to actually manage the cast of highly paid athletes / egos under his supervision.  This year, a 42-70 could have had the effect of attenuating the perceived brilliance, and his correctly showing Ken Griffey Jr. the exit door to his career made him close to universally unpopular.  These are superficial, anecdotal pieces of evidence; the sabermetric literature (that I am familiar with, I am now a couple years behind I’m afraid, although there is some interesting stuff here) has had a difficult time establishing that the field manager of a ball club has much measurable effect at all, and is negligible at best.

If baseball managers do not have any (as of yet) measurable effect on the probability of team success, is the same true for soccer managers?  Typically, soccer managers have a dual role from an American perspective: GM and field manager.  Player acquisition / disposal, the starting lineups, and on field tactics are wholly under his (or her) control.  This is not so in baseball, but also not the entire point.  While analysis on this question is highly limited, my non-rigorous, unsystematic hunch informed by anecdotal evidence perhaps hobbled by some subconscious selection bias tells me that the manager has a measurable effect on the probability of success.  Note, I’m not suggesting that the manager is the sole determinant of success, but that it is measurable.  (That study does not quite get at my question, but it’s the most rigorous I’m aware of).

I suspect that a “name” baseball manager would have also walked if presented with the situation O’Neill faced: the classic ‘fire sale’ followed by a clear lack of ambition, because his reputation is on the line.  However, the difference in the two cases is that the reputation of O’Neil is deserved, while the reputation of Wakamatsu, be it his brilliant 2009 or his miserable 2010, is not.

The Countermobilization Myth: Perry Edition

[ 6 ] August 9, 2010 |

You knew this was coming. One of the strangest moves of people who say that you should hope to lose in the courts because of the backlash is that people cite Roe as definitive evidence for this position that the public does not tolerate judicial intervention into controversial issues, when in fact Roe remains overwhelmingly popular.  This isn’t to say that a decision nationally legalizing same-sex marriage would be similarly popular, but that’s just because the underlying substantive position is less popular.

And, yes, this is especially amusing coming from a publication that is likely to spend the next several years urging various courts to nullify the ACA on grounds that would make the entire New Deal unconstitutional.

Setting the Money on Fire Would Be More Fun

[ 14 ] August 9, 2010 |

I’m not going to say that this is the most vapid column MoDo has ever written — the competition is way too steep.   But it’s always worth remembering that our most prominent newpaper thinks it’s worth spending oodles of money to receive utterly incoherent non-thoughts about trivia twice a week on its op-ed page, in a context in which (as her one rational and knowledgale colleague reminds us)  we have some actual problems worthy of discussion.

Only Kidding!

[ 1 ] August 9, 2010 |

In one of the funniest law review articles ever written, Nelson Lund was not only one of a tiny handful of law professors to argue that Bush v. Gore was defensible on its own terms, he argued that it was a straightforward application of the Court’s equal protection precedents. Apparently, the equal protection clause could be read expansively enough to prohibit different voting standards in different counties (and yet narrow enough not to apply to any of the countless other cases in which this occurs, including the process that gave Florida’s electoral votes in 2000 to Bush, for reasons neither Lund nor the Court has ever bothered to articulate.)

You’ll be shocked to find out that since same-sex marriage is the current question of interest Lund is back to arguing the more traditional conservative position that the equal protection clause has essentially no content*, and that past discriminatory practices are self-justifying. What a surprise!

I’m also not sure why he thinks it’s so devastating to point out that Obama and Clinton share his position about same-sex marriage.   Here’s my easy answer — they’re wrong!   And Obama’s position is transparently irrational and incoherent! Arguments from personality cults may work for Republicans and Reagan but to those of us who prefer to think it’s pretty weak sauce.

*Unless it can be used to prevent local school boards from integrating or to protect white prospective college students, of course.

Sad, But True

[ 10 ] August 9, 2010 |

A Yankees fan friend (to the extent to such a thing is possible) comments:

Definition of a masochist: Mets’ fan who watches his team lose a one-run game to the hated Phillies, then hopes the Red Sox will beat the Yankees to make up for it.

Although I suppose one could just stop with “Mets fan.”