Archive for March, 2009

The Bandit Is Caught

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Just in case we thought that DNA evidence was perfect:

Police in Germany have admitted that a woman they have been hunting for more than 15 years never in fact existed.

Dubbed the “phantom of Heilbronn”, the woman was described by police as the country’s most dangerous woman.

Investigators had connected her to six murders and an unsolved death based on DNA traces found at the scene.

Police now acknowledge swabs used to collect DNA samples were contaminated by an innocent woman working in a factory in Bavaria

I like this bit:

One company making swabs said they were not intended for analytical, but only medical use, while another said that there had been no requirement for the swabs to be free of DNA.

Egad. Well, at least she’s not this guy:


DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack

The Case for Legalization

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Check out the last story here. Any system that would do such a thing is fundamentally broken.

Mercy Killers

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I’ve blogged before about the idea of releasing the Manson killers, who are supposedly reformed model prisoners. CNN has a front-page article on it. My feelings remain unchanged — the murderers weren’t executed. That’s about as merciful as I’m willing to get, considering what they did and why.

I find their stories unmoving. Personally, if I recovered from some delusion and discovered that I’d murdered six people, I wouldn’t think myself deserving of freedom.

Egads

Monday, March 30th, 2009

TV.com’s latest makeover is even worse than the last one. The website gets less functional by the hours. Just wish I hadn’t invest so much time into improving the content.

Krugman

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Time has an interesting portrait. I disagree with Krugman on a lot — to the extent that my degree in physics allows me to disagree with a man who has won the Nobel Prize in Economics. But my respect-o-meter has gone up with his relentless criticism of the Obama Administration. He may be wrong, but he’s no hack.

Weekend Linkorama

Sunday, March 29th, 2009
  • This may be the only time I have something nice to say about Mitt Romney. He points out one of the more insidious aspects of the card check bill — unionizing charter schools.
  • You know, I’m pretty conservative. But drug-testing for welfare benefits seems like a dumb idea. This is mainly, I would suspect, going to damage people’s lives further and make them less likely to become productive members of society.
  • I have to agree with Balko. These arrests for “sexting” are just absurd. I’ve never understood the logic that you can teach people a lesson by ruining their lives. It’s making an example of someone — which is fine … if you’re not the example.
  • Does anyone take Olberman seriously? We need to put him in a small room with O’Reilly and let them shout each other to death.
  • Thanks goodness we don’t privatize schools. They’d be selling out to advertisers to make ends meet. Oh, wait…
  • As I predicted, Obama’s tax cut is dying the same quiet death as Clinton’s did. Although, bizarrely, he’s got the DNC campaigning against his own party members to get them to support his budget.
  • The WSJ launches another salvo against Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare “reform”. Spending is out of control and the state is going to have to do what they always do in universal healthcare situation: rationing and control.
  • Just when I begin to think Matthew Yglesias is reasonable, he suggests a 95 percent marginal rate.
  • Tubes

    Saturday, March 28th, 2009

    I call BS on this story about medical students messing up intubations because they’ve watched it done incorrectly on ER. This reeks to me of excuse making. I’ve intubated dummies while helping my dad teach trauma surgeons. Doing it “hands on” while someone watches you blows away anything you would learn from watching TV.

    Besides … since when do medical students have time to watch TV?

    It doesn’t surprise me, however. ER is rather famous in medical circles for its inaccuracies.

    On the other hand, this story hails from the socialized paradise of Canada. It wouldn’t surprise me too much if their students are getting inadequate training, given the paucity of doctors and funds. In that circumstance, it’s so much easier to just blame TV.

    Bartlett

    Friday, March 27th, 2009

    One of the few conservatives to stand up to Bush lets fly on the AIG business and the Republicans who supported the tax hike:

    Ironically, Barack Obama may save the Republicans from their own craven cowardice. He and his advisers have signaled that the administration has serious problems with the confiscatory tax bill–including doubts about its constitutionality. Liberal legal scholar Lawrence Tribe thinks the 90% tax might violate the Constitution’s prohibition against bills of attainder–laws that single out specific people for punishment. It’s appalling that 85 Republican congressmen never gave any thought to this consideration in their rush to pander to ignorant fools.

    The worsening of the government’s budget deficit virtually ensures that higher taxes will be required in the not too distant future. When that day comes, Republicans will undoubtedly claim that anti-tax purity prevents them from supporting such action. However, in the case of 85 House members this won’t be the case. We already know what they are; it’s just a question of negotiating the price.

    No Republicans voted for the stimulus package. 85 voted for the unconstitutional AIG clawback. What does that tell you about the GOP?

    Thinking

    Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

    Scott Sumner:

    It seems to me that in economics (and to a lesser extent in fields like criminology) there is a distinction between what might be called a “common sense worldview” and an “economistic worldview.” Consider the following common sense worldviews:

    1. People don’t respond very strongly to economic incentives. (I.e., higher prices don’t discourage consumption by very much, and higher taxes don’t reduce peoples’ work effort very much.)

    2. Imported goods, immigrant labor, and automation all tend to increase the unemployment rate.

    3. Most companies have a lot of control over prices. (I.e. oil companies set prices, not “the market”.)

    4. Policy disputes over taxes and regulations are best thought of in terms of who gains and who loses.

    5. Experts are smarter than the crowd.

    6. Speculators make market prices more unstable.

    7. Price gouging hurts consumers.

    I define the economistic worldview as essentially the mirror image of the preceding seven assertions: incentives matter much more than one would expect; imports, immigrants, and automation do not raise the unemployment rate, prices are primarily determined by market forces, tax and regulatory policies often have little overall effect on income distribution, and a big effect on efficiency, the crowd (or market) is smarter than the expert, speculators tend to stabilize prices, and price gouging is socially beneficial. As you can no doubt tell, I use the term “common sense” in a derogatory way, much as a snobbish 19th century lady might have used the term “common.”

    The Myth of the Rational Voter gets into this too. The thing is, most of what Sumner says here is pretty uncontroversial in economic circles and pretty out of the mainstream in political ones. The disconnect between rational worldviews of economics is one of the big drivers of economic turmoil.

    Update: It just occurred to me that a perfect illustration of point #1 came from our President last night when he laughably asserted that reducing the deductibility of charitable contributions would not hurt charities at all. It was an unusually dumb thing for him to say.

    Quote of the Day

    Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

    Obama on why he didn’t respond immediately to the AIG business: “It took me a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I say something.”

    I really don’t see how the commentariat can keep up their meme that Obama can’t talk without a teleprompter. Having watched the debates and the press conferences, I think he’s consistently better when he extemporizes.

    Wednesday Linkorama

    Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
  • I don’t follow any twitter feeds. But Christopher Walken’s is almost interesting.
  • Stories like this are heart-breaking. What kind of jerks harass a girl to commit suicide because she sent her boyfriend a nude video?
  • I got some flack on the other blog for suggesting that cosmetology should not be regulated beyond OSHA. Well, I still think licensing cosmetologists is dumb. If people want their feet chewed on, that’s no concern of mine.
  • Cato has some hopeful news on the school voucher front. As with the pot question, I feel a tide beginning to turn. The reason unions fought the pilot voucher programs so much was because they knew what would happen if competition got its foot in the door.
  • Hope and change, my butt. Stripping out the contents of one bill to put in the content of another is almost Cheneyian.
  • Why is Haley Barbour going to veto an imminent domain protection act? Is there any Republican out there who’s not a dimwit?
  • Shouldn’t laws concerning DNA evidence account for twins?
  • George Will has a fit over how we’re shredding the Constitution to deal with the financial crisis. Remember when shredding the Constitution to deal with terrorism was a bad thing? Sigh.
  • More stuff to be scared of: coronal mass ejections that could destroy our electrical grid. I think the article is overly pessimistic — humans are far more adaptable than social scientists like to think. But the danger is real. And if your government weren’t trillions of dollars into wars, bailouts and taking over banks, it would be the sort of thing they could and should make provision for.
  • Schilling, Wells, Brown and Smoltz, Oh My!

    Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

    Those of you not interest in baseball can skip this one.

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    Dreams

    Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

    I have this one all the fricking time. It’s annoying as hell.

    26 to Life

    Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

    Is it really keeping kids safe to have sex offenders freezing to death or going to prison forever because of the problems the registry system imposes on them? I’m not opposed to sex offender registries, per se. I just think we need to be a lot less stupid about them.