Posts tagged ‘Miami’

The Urge to Control

This is the personality of the people we are electing to higher office.  They have such an urge for control that they will not allow cell phone pictures taken of them in public.  By personality, these people have to control everything.  Is it really any surprise when they turn around and read our email?

From the article at the fabulous Photography is Not a Crime:

Hillary Clinton’s henchmen snatched a smartphone from a man who had photographed her giving a speech in Miami Thursday, deleting the image before returning the phone.

“That’s American politics,” one of the individuals in charge of preventing the presidential hopeful from being photographed told a Miami Herald reporter covering the meeting.

No, that’s Russian politics. Or Chinese politics. Or Cuban politics.

By the way (and I could be wrong here) Carlos Miller strikes me as much more Occupy than Tea Party in his political preferences.  But he obviously doesn't pull any punches on his issue (legality of public photography) when his team is involved.

Corporate Welfare and the Thin Edge of the Wedge

The other day, the City of Glendale approved a deal which has the city subsidizing (more in a second) the buyers of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team to get them to actually stay in town rather than move to Seattle.  The deal is arguably better than deals it was offered in the past (it gets shares of parking and naming rights it did not have before) and may even be a rational deal given where it is today.

But that is the catch -- the phrase "where it is today."  At some level it is insane for a city of 250,000 people to pony up even more subsidies for a team that has the lowest attendance in the league.  The problem is that the city built the stadium in the first place -- a $300 million dollar palace for a metropolitan area that already had a major arena downtown and which was built (no disrespect to Glendale) on the ass-end of the metropolitan area, a good 90 minute round trip drive for the affluent Scottsdale and east-side corporate patrons who typically keep a sports franchise afloat.

Building this stadium was a terrible decision, and I and many others said so at the time.  But once the decision was made, it drove all the future decisions.  Because the hockey team is the only viable tenant to pay the rent in that building, the city rationally will kick back subsidies to the team to keep it in place to protect its rent payments and sales taxes from businesses supported by the team and the arena.  The original decision to build that stadium has handcuffed Glendale's fiscal situation for decades to come.  One can only hope that cities considering major stadium projects will look to Glendale's and Miami's recent experiences and think twice about building taxpayer funded facilities for billionaires.

The deal the other night to keep the team went down in the only way it could have.  As I had written, the NHL was insisting on selling the team for its costs when it took it over in bankruptcy, which were about $200 million, which was well north of the $100 million the team was worth, creating a bid-ask gap.  Several years ago, the city tried to just hand $100 million to a buyer to make up the gap, but failed when challenged by the Goldwater Institute.  The only real avenue it had left was to pass the value over to the buyers in the form of an above-market-rate stadium management contract.

And that is what happened, and I guess I will say at least it was all moderately transparent.  The NHL came down to a price of $175 million, still $75 million or so above what the team is worth.   The City had already sought arms-length bids for the stadium management contract, and knew that a fair market price for that contract would be $6 million per year.  It ended up paying the buying group $15 million per year for the 15-year contract, representing a subsidy of $9 million a year for 15 years.  By the way, the present value of $9 million over 15 years at 8% is... $75 million, exactly what was needed to make up the bid-ask gap.  Again, I think the city almost had to do it, because the revenue stream it was protecting is likely higher than $9 million.  But this is the kind of bad choices they saddled themselves with by building the stadium in the first place.

More SLAPP-happy Lawyer Fun

Apparently the co-owner of the Miami Heat Ranaan Katz does not like to be criticized by the plebes.  So like many rich guys nowadays, he sued a blogger who he felt was saying hurtful things about him, because as we all know the First Amendment has a built in exception for college students and billionaires who have a right not to be offended by other peoples' speech.  So far, this is just the usual SLAPP nuttiness, up to and including a rallying of support by attorneys willing to help out pro bono.  This latter can usually solve the problem, as these suits gain their strength not from any legal merit but from the ability to intimidate ordinary people unfamiliar with the legal system and without the resources to hire top attorneys to defend themselves.

But, as with the case of serial moron Charles Carreon, Katz and his attorneys then proceeded to drive right over the cliff.  Because they then sued the attorney's representing the blogger on the brilliant theory that by providing legal advice to the blogger, the attorneys made themselves parties to the bloggers "crimes."  Seriously.   By which theory Jerry Sandusky's attorneys will soon be serving time for child abuse.

Where Did the Mid-Range Jumper Go?

NY Times has a great interactive graphic of Miami and OKC shooting by location on the court (roll over the face pictures to get the actual graphics).

It provides some insight as to why the NBA game seems to be all threes or points in the paint -- the mid-range jump shot just does not have the same return on investment (ie points per shot).  Which begs the question, I suppose, as to why anyone shoots the mid-range jump shot at all  (look at Battier's and Hardin's maps - they are almost all threes and layups/dunks).  I suppose the answer likely takes the form of "you have to shoot mid-range to open up the other two zones", a sort of run to set up the pass in football strategy.  Don't know enough about basketball to say if this is true.

Update:  Also, the shot clock probably has a lot to do with it.  Given infinite time, teams would be able to get the shot they want, but in 24 seconds sometimes you just have to loft one up  as time runs out from wherever you are.

Here are the stats:  Close range -- 1.19 points per shot, 3-point -- 1.08 pps, mid-range --  0.80 pps

Student Loan Bubble

Via Zero Hedge:

A key reason why a preponderance of the population is fascinated with the student loan market is that as USA Today reported in a landmark piece last year, it is now bigger than ever the credit card market. And as the monthly consumer debt update from the Fed reminds us, the primary source of funding is none other than the US government. To many, this market has become the biggest credit bubble in America. Why do we make a big deal out of this? Because as Bloomberg reported last night, we now have prima facie evidence that the student loan market is not only an epic bubble, but it is also the next subprime! To wit: "Vince Sampson, president, Education Finance Council, said during a panel at the IMN ABS East Conference in Miami Monday that lenders are no longer pushing loans to people who can’t afford them." Re-read the last sentence as many times as necessary for it to sink in. Yes: just like before lenders were "pushing loans to people who can't afford them" which became the reason for the subprime bubble which has since spread to prime, but was missing the actual confirmation from authorities of just this action, this time around we have actual confirmation that student loans are being actually peddled to people who can not afford them. And with the government a primary source of lending, we will be lucky if tears is all this ends in.

When you mess with pricing signals and resource allocation, you get bubbles.  And one could easily argue that OWS is as much about the student loan bubble bursting as about Wall Street.

I must say that I never had a ton of sympathy for home buyers who were supposedly "lured" into taking on loans they could not afford.  The ultimate cost for most of them was the loss of a home that, if the credit had not been extended, they would never have had anyway.  US law protects our other assets from home purchase failures, and while we have to sit in the credit penalty box for a while after mortgage default or bankruptcy, most people are able to recover in a few years.

Student loans are entirely different.  In large part because the government is the largest lender via Sallie Mae, student loans cannot be discharged via bankruptcy.  You can be 80 years old and still have your social security checks garnished to pay back your student loans.   You can more easily discharge credit card debt run up buying lap dances in topless bars than you can student loans. There is absolutely no way to escape a mistake, which is all the more draconian given that most folks who are borrowing are in their early twenties or even their teens.

I can see it now, the pious folks in power trying to foist this bubble off on some nameless loan originators.  Well, this is a problem we all caused.  The government, as a long-standing policy, has pushed college and student lending.  Private lenders have marketed these loans aggressively.  Colleges have jacked costs up into the stratosphere, in large part because student loans disconnected consumers from the immediate true costs.  And nearly everyone in any leadership position have pushed kids to go to college, irregardless of whether their course of study made even a lick of sense vis a vis their ability to earn back the costs later in the job market.

Public service note:  Their are, to my knowledge, five colleges that will provide up to 100% financial aid in the form of grants, such that a student can graduate debt free:  Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Amherst.  These are obviously really hard schools to get into.   I don't think a single one has a double digit percentage admissions rate.  But these are the top schools that hopefully establish trends.

I am thrilled my alma mater is on the list.  For years I have argued that they were approach severe diminishing returns from spending tens of millions of dollars to improve educational quality another 0.25%.   If an institution is really going to live by the liberal arts college philosophy -- that a liberal arts education makes one a better human being irregardless of whether the course of study is easily monetized after graduation -- then it better have a way for students who want to join the Peace Corp or run for the state legislature to graduate without a debt load than only a Wall Street job can pay off.

By the way, my other proposal for Princeton has been this:  rather than increasing the educational quality 1% more to the existing students, why not bring Ivy League education to 3x as many students.  I have always wondered why a school like Princeton doesn't buy a bunch of cheap land in Arizona and build a western campus for another 10,000 kids.

My son and I spent the last year touring colleges.  One common denominator of all the good and great private colleges:  they are all over 100 years old.  Rice was probably the newest, when a rich guy toured the great colleges of the world and thought he could do as well, and started Rice  (Stanford is older but has a sort of similar origin story).  Where are the new schools?  The number of kids with the qualifications and desire to go to a top private college have skyrocketed, and tuition have risen far more than inflation, but there is no new supply coming on the market.  Why is that?

Story of Sybil

An interesting story about the background of the real "Sybil," and how much of her personality problems were the result of aggressive third parties trying to make their career -- totally unsusprising to anyone who has studies the great child abuse / day care hysteria and JaneyReno's Miami method.  A very brief excerpt:

Mason, like so many patients diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (now rechristened “dissociative identity disorder,” in part to shake the bad rep of MPD), improved markedly under certain conditions — namely, the absence of her therapist. For several years after her therapy concluded, she lived happily as an art teacher at a community college, even owning her own house. But the publication of “Sybil” destroyed that life; Schreiber, who had invented so much of her biography, had so thinly disguised other details that many acquaintances recognized her. Too self-conscious to endure this exposure, Mason fled back to Wilbur and lived out the rest of her life as a sort of beloved retainer, cooking her doctor breakfast and dinner every day and nursing her on her deathbed.

Wilbur, on the other hand, thrived, presiding over the explosion of MPD diagnoses as one of the foremost experts on the condition. She played a key role in promoting the belief that conspiracies of fiendish, sadistic adults were secretly perpetrating murder, child rape and mutilation, human sacrifice, and cannibalism across the country and that repressed memories of such atrocities lay at the root of most MPDs. Innocent people were convicted of these crimes on the basis of testimony elicited from highly suggestible small children and hypnotized adults. Families were sundered by therapists who convinced their patients that they’d suffered similar ordeals despite having no conscious memory of it. This opened the door to years of expensive and ineffective therapy.

I Think They Screwed Up the Math

The National Journal tries to give real world equivilents to show how large federal spending is.  It's so large that editors can't reality check the numbers very well.  They write

You could cover 10,319 miles with $1 bills.

If you placed 3.73 trillion $1 bills end to end, length wise, it would stretch from Miami to Seattle 3.6 times, leaving you somewhere around Wyoming.

Actually, by my calculator (and that of a reader) if you assume each bill is 6 inches long, you could cover 353.2 MILLION miles.  This is not 3.6 times the distance from Miami to Seattle, but 3.8 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun!

Price Controls

Unless you are from Mars, you probably know LeBron James is a free agent, being courted by a number of teams, ultimately deciding on Miami over his home town and former team in Cleveland.

This has been an odd auction for his services, because except for some tax issues (which certainly may have been a factor in going to Florida), price controls in the league effectively cap how much James can be paid.  And given his talent, it was clear that every team would be willing to pay him the max.  This has led to offers based mostly on non-monetary factors, with Cleveland mainly taking the Glenn Close approach from Fatal Attraction, basically saying it would have to commit suicide if LeBron breaks up with the city.

Many have commented on how much Cleveland, economically, had riding on James and that it may well get the biggest economic benefit, bigger certainly than Miami which has fairly indifferent and easily distracted fans, of any of the teams in the auction.  But with price controls, Cleveland lost because it was not able to bid for LeBron's services what he was really worth  (in fact, it was pretty clear that all the teams involved expected to have a huge consumer surplus from LeBron's acquisition, since his value to any team seems to be higher than the salary cap).

By the way, speaking of surplus or lack thereof, my belief is that New York has continued its tradition of offering long-term lucrative deals to disappointing players.  Having watched Amare Stoudemire for seven years, I can say that he is fully poised to be the next Stephon Marbery for the Knicks.  He can be brilliant, and he is very talented, but he has focus issues that are not going to be enhanced in New York and at times was thrown off-kilter by the media pressure in Phoenix where the press is a cupcake compared to New York.  He is not even much of an upgrade from David Lee, but he gets paid a lot more guaranteed money.

Paging Janet Reno

The Tonya Craft trial seems to be a throwback to the bad old days of sexual molestation panic.  All the old Janet Reno "Miami method" techniques have been revived, including weeks of intensive interviews of small children where prosecutors would not relent until children started giving them the stories they wanted.  This case gets bonus points because it was brought originally by someone with an ax to grind

according to testimony on Monday from Craft's ex-husband, the allegation that Craft abused her own daughter first came from his new wife, who herself had been reported to child services by Craft for regularly showering with the girl (which she admitted doing). During a videotaped interview, the girl said, "My mom [the stepmother, apparently] told me which is which and where they touched me."

I sat on a jury of a similar trial in the early 90's.  It became clear that the little girl who was supposedly the victim was hounded for months into finally accusing daddy of something, only to recant by the time it got to trial.  The whole case was started by a baby-sitter who had just watched Oprah and saw another baby-sitter lauded as a national hero for supposedly sniffing out a molestation and this baby-sitter very clearly had aspirations of riding the case to an Oprah invitation as well.  We acquitted the poor guy in about 35 minutes, which is how long it took us to convince to idiots who kept saying "it might have happened" exactly what "reasonable doubt" means.

Carlos Miller Wins His Appeal

Photographer Carlos Miller of Miami, and a blogger I really enjoy reading, won his appeal of his criminal conviction (here and here).  Some of the details are important to bloggers:

A three-judge panel determined there were errors both in my conviction and my sentencing. The panel reversed both with directions for me to be tried again before a different judge.

In other words, they realized that Judge Jose L. Fernandez allowed his personal bias to affect my trial, including in how he allowed the prosecutor to use my blog against me "“ even though I did not even launch the blog until after my arrest "“ and how he allowed those blog postings to affect my sentencing.

The charge was effectively one of taking pictures of police in public, a perfectly legal and Constitutionally-protected activity that many police have none-the-less convinced themselves should be illegal, so they treat it as such.  The actual charge was "resisting arrest without violence," perhaps the most abusable statute on record.   Especially when there is no underlying illegal activity for the arrest in the first place.  In effect, if a police officer hassles someone for no reason, the citizen responds verbally that the officer is out of line - boom, "resisting arrest without violence." It's amazing one can be convicted of this without there being any underlying crime justifying the arrest, but I guess Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to the police about something that turned out not to be a crime as well.

In this particular  case, the Judge made this outrageous statement to Miller during sentencing:

I can't imagine why you thought this situation was worth getting arrested for. I can't imagine for the life of me.

I don't know if you think you're some kind of hero or something like that, but if you want to see a hero, go visit Arlington. All right? I don't think any of those people that are back here are those people that are giving you the "” the thumbs up on your blog.

If I were to sentence you to jail, none of those people would volunteer to go in there to serve the time with you. They might say they would, but I guarantee you they wouldn't. I'm shocked at your lack of remorse.

Miller gets double extra style points for defending himself through this whole process, and managing to win a victory at appeals when fewer than 1 in 15 trained attorneys are able to do so.

Another BS 1980s Child Molestation Conviction May Be Reversed

For those too young to remember, during the 1980's we endured a hysteria about child molestations, with a number of pretty obviously innocent men dragged to jail on the back of testimony coerced from kids by over-zealous prosecutors.  Janet Reno became particularly famous for the "Miami method" of hounding kids until they started pointing fingers at whomever the prosecutors had their eye on, and rode such fame to the US AG office (see here and here for the disturbing details).

As the kids grow up, a number of these prosecutions are finally falling apart, as in this story.  Of course, as i9s typical in such cases, despite all the witnesses coming forward and admitting they were coerced into making false accusations, the prosecutors are not giving up easily.  via Overlawyered

Um, I Think It is Time To Introduce You to the Term "Incremental"

The US Conference of Mayors has introduced a "study" extending on Obama's idea of millions of new green jobs:

A major shift to renewable energy and efficiency
is expected to produce 4.2 million new environmentally friendly "green"
jobs over the next three decades, according to a study commissioned by
the nation's mayors.

The study to be released Thursday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors,
says that about 750,000 people work today in what can be considered
green jobs from scientists and engineers researching alternative fuels
to makers of wind turbines and more energy-efficient products.

But that's less than one half of 1 percent of total employment. By
2038, another 4.2 million green jobs are expected to be added,
accounting for 10 percent of new job growth over the next 30 years,
according to the report by Global Insight, Inc.

Well, lets leave aside the measurement issue of making forecasts and establishing targets for metrics like "green jobs" that can be defined however the hell someone wants.  For example, if they really were to define "green jobs" as they say above "makers of ... more energy-efficient products," then nearly everyone in industrial America already has a green job.  Every car made today is more fuel-efficient than the equivalent car made 20 years ago, every motor more efficient, every machine more productive.

But lets discuss that word "incremental."  Politicians NEVER, EVER cite job growth projections that are truly incremental.  For example, tariff program X might be billed as saving 100 jobs in the steel industry, but what about the jobs lost in the steel-consuming industries due to higher costs?  The same is most certainly true in this whole "green jobs" fiasco.  It is the perfect political promise - impossible to define, impossible to measure, and therefore impossible to establish any accountability.  Everyone who makes the promise knows in his/her heart the jobs are not truly incremental, while everyone who hears the promise wants to believe they are incremental.  Politics thrives on this type of asymmetry.

I looked before at the impossibility of these numbers being incremental, but here is a second bite of the apple.  The article says specifically:

The report, being presented at a mayor's conference in Miami, predicts
the biggest job gain will be from the increased use of alternative
transportation fuels, with 1.5 million additional jobs, followed by the
renewable power generating sector with 1.2 million new jobs.

Let's take the second number first.  Here are the current US employment numbers for the US power generation field:

Construction of power generation facilities:           137,000
Power generation and supply:           399,000
Production of power gen. equipment           105,000

That yields a total of 641,000.  So is it really reasonable to think that these green plans will triple power generation employment?  If so, then I hate to see what my electricity bill is going to look like.

The fuel sector is similar.  There are about 338,000 people employed in petroleum extraction, refining, transportation and wholesale -- a number that includes many people related to other oil products that are not fuels.  Add in about 100,000 for industry supplies and you get perhaps 450,000 jobs current tied to fuel production plus 840,000 jobs in fuel retailing (ie gas stations).  How are we going to add 1.5 million net new jobs to a fuel production sector with 450,000** currently?  And if we do, what is going to happen to prices and taxes?  And if the investments push us away from liquid fuels to electricity, don't we have to count as a loss 840,000 retail sector jobs selling a product no longer needed?

** Your reaction may be that these job numbers look low.  They are all from the BLS here.  Here is a quick way to convince yourself there really are not that many people working in the US oil and gas industry:  Despite years of mismanagement and government subsidies, politicians continue to fawn over auto companies.  Despite years of excellence at what they do, politicians demonize oil companies.  The reason has nothing to do with their relative performance, ethics, importance to the country, greed, etc.  The difference is that the auto companies and their suppliers employ millions of voters.  Oil companies employ but a few.

This is such ridiculous garbage as to be unbelieveable, but every paper in the country will print this credulously.  Because if journalists were good with numbers, they wouldn't be journalists, they'd be doing something that pays better.

The Rail Transit Debacle

The Anti-Planner links an absolutely scathing article in the Miami Herald on the absolute disaster they have made of their mass transit system.  This is a great summary:

Miami is just one more example of the points the Antiplanner keeps making about rail transit:

1. Transit agencies might run excellent bus systems. But when they
start building rail, they quickly get in over their heads by optimistic
forecasts, unforeseen costs, and the sheer humongous expense of
building dedicated transit lines.

2. Though all rail systems require periodic expensive maintenance,
few transit agencies set aside any money for this because it is easier
to spend the money now and let future managers worry about the future.

3. Though the rail systems are usually built to serve downtown
white-collar workers, in the end it is the transit-dependent people who
rely on buses who pay the cost.

4. There is only one thing rails can do that buses can't do better,
faster, and more flexibly, and that is spend a lot of your money.

I would like to observe one other thing at work in the Miami example that looks to be exactly what we are facing here in Phoenix in the next election.  Miami offered up a transit tax referendum for something like $800 million.  They promised a mix of highway improvements and rail.  In several cases, including the upcoming referendum in Phoenix, I have tried to warn people that the people who put these referendums together are rail-ophiles.  They have learned, however, that rail alone won't sell a bond issue or tax, so they throw in a bunch of highway improvement promises, which people really will pay for, as window dressing.  Often, however, these improvements never get done, as they are empty promises to sell the tax.  We see exactly this in Miami:

But five years and more than $800 million later, the county has spent more
than half the new money on routine Transit operations and maintenance while adding 1,000
jobs to the payroll.

   There were initial achievements. The county added 11 million miles of bus service, gave
free rides to seniors, and briefly experimented with 24-hour rail. It spent $40 million on
hundreds of tiny public-works projects....

   For example, here is the cost estimate that was attached to the 44 road projects that
county commissioners asked for: $0. The projects have since been estimated to cost
$428.2 million.

   Nor was any money earmarked for an unspecified number of flyover intersections on the
list of promised improvements. Such projects, which involve raising an existing road to
pass over another, cost as much as $18 million apiece today. None have been built.

So this tax was sold in part as a highway improvement tax, but $0 was actually budgeted.  The highway piece was a lie to sell the tax.  Beware Phoenicians.

On Corporations and Public Service

I had occasion to think about the term "public service" at about 6AM this Sunday morning.  As I was driving my son to a way-too-early baseball game, I flipped around the FM dial trying to find some music.  There was none.  All I could find were a number of really dull programs on arcane topics presumably on the air to fulfill the radio broadcaster's "public service" requirements of the FCC regulatory regime.  Since almost no one gets excited about this programming except for the leftish public policy types that inhabit regulatory positions, the radio stations broadcast all this garbage on Sunday mornings when no one is listening anyway.  Ironically, in the name of "public service," stations must broadcast material no one in the public actually wants to listen to.

Which leads me to coyote's definition of corporate public service:  Make a product or service for which people, without use of force or fraud, are willing to pay the listed price.

Any freaking moron can (or at least should be able to) offer a product or service that people will be willing to use for free.  Is this a public service?  Well, maybe.  If you are out there helping to feed homeless people, power to you.  But is it really a public service that the Miami transit system offers free rides that it can only pay for with deficit spending?  Or $1.50 bus rides that cost taxpayers $30 each to provide?  And this is not to mention the free services, like public service radio broadcasts, that many people would be willing to pay not to receive. 

That's why I say that any moron can give stuff away.   But find me the person who can create enough value that people are willing to pay enough for his product to cover all the material, labor, and capital inputs it took to create it, with surplus left over for both buyer and seller, and that is the person performing a real public service.

And let me listen to some freaking classic rock on Sunday mornings.

Government Licensing Is To Protect Businesses from Competition

Part number whatever in a series.  Today's danger to consumers and the Republic is:  people offering to drive others around without a license.

A man who said he thought he was just helping a woman in need is accused of running an illegal taxi service.  Miami-Dade
County's Consumer Services Department has slapped Rosco O'Neil with
$2,000 worth of fines, but O'Neil claims he is falsely accused.....

The 78-year-old said he was walking into a Winn-Dixie to get some
groceries when he was approached by a woman who said she needed a ride.

"She asked me, 'Do I do a service?'" O'Neil said.

"I told her no. She said, 'I need help getting home.'

"O'Neil told the woman if she was still there when he finished his shopping, he would give her a ride. She was, so he did.

As
it turned out, the woman was an undercover employee with the consumer
services department targeting people providing illegal taxi services.

"She
said the reason she targeted him (is because) she saw him sitting in
his car for a few minutes," said Ellen Novodeletsky, O'Neil's attorney.

After
O'Neil dropped off the woman, police surrounded him, issued him two
citations and impounded his minivan. On top of the fees, it cost O'Neil
an additional $400 to retrieve his minivan from the impound lot.

There are no prior complaints that O'Neil was providing illegal transportation for a fee.

I don't care if he was running a business or being a good Samaritan -- I see no possible reason that this type of transaction should be illegal.

Prosecutorial Abuse vs. Parental Abuse

Apparently, the State of Texas is still trying to figure out what to do with those 400+ kids rounded up at the YFZ Ranch.  I don't really know enough about the case to comment on whether these kids were victims or not, though from reading this the evidence looks thin.

Here is my concern.  About 15 years ago I sat on a jury in Dallas.  The particular case was a child abuse case, with the state alleging a dad had sexually assaulted his daughter.  The whole case took about 3 days to present and it took the jury about 2 hours to find the guy innocent, and it took that long only because of one holdout.

The reason we found him innocent so quickly is because it became clear that the state had employed Janet Reno tactics (the Miami method, I think it was called) to put pressure on the child over a period of 6 months to break her out of her position that her dad had done nothing.  (By the way, is anyone else flabbergasted that Janet Reno, of all people, is on the board of the Innocence Project?).

Anyway, the dad was first arrested when the teenage babysitter told police that the daughter was behaving oddly and it seemed just like a story she had seen on Oprah.   Note, the babysitter did not witness any abuse nor did the girl mention any abuse to her.  She just was acting up one night.  At trial, the babysitter said her dream was to have this case propel her to an Oprah appearance of her own (I kid you not).

On that evidence alone, the state threw the dad in jail and starting a 6 month brainwashing and programming process aimed at getting the girl to say her dad abused her.  They used a series of negative reinforcements whenever the girl said dad was innocent and offered positive reinforcements if she would say dad had said X or Y.  Eventually, the little girl broke and told the state what they wanted to hear, but quickly recanted and held to the original story of her dad's innocent, all the way through the trial.

So, as quickly as we could, we set the dad free  (the last jury holdout, interestingly, was a big Oprah fan).  No one ever compensated for states abuse of the dad, and perhaps even worse, the states psychological abuse of his daughter.  I know nothing of what became of them, but I hope they are all OK.  I guess its lucky he did not get convicted, because while the Innocence project has freed a lot of people in Dallas, it sure is not going to work on this type of case with Janet Reno on its board.

Coming back to the YFZ case, I am worried that the state seems to be wanting to hold the kids for as long as possible, presumably to apply these methods to start getting kids to adopt the stories of abuse prosecutors want to hear.  In some ways, the YFZ case is even more dangerous from a prosecutorial abuse standpoint.  That is because there are a large number of people who think that strong religious beliefs of any type are, well, weird, and therefore are quicker to believe that other weird behavior may also be present.

Great Moments in the Justice System

How many of you think you could get out of jury duty to go fish?

Senior U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King,
overseeing jury selection for a civil trial at the Key West courthouse,
asked prospective jurors if anyone had cause to be excused...

A third fellow stepped forward and said his name was James Johnson.
He knew the importance of jury duty, he said, but he had a special
houseguest and, please, if he wasn't really needed, could he be excused?...

King looked at him funny. ''Did you coach?'' ``Yes.''

''Where?'' King asked.

Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, University of Miami, Oklahoma State. He rattled off others -- Iowa State, Wichita State.

''That's enough,'' said King as folks in the courtroom laughed. By then, the judge realized it was Jimmy Johnson....

Johnson, 63, an Islamorada resident, told King his houseguest was Bill Parcells, who recently retired as Dallas head coach. He planned to take the Big Tuna fishing.

King excused Johnson, but not before asking him to predict the Gators' record for next season.

Looks like Urban Meyer is probably safe from jury duty in this court too.

Summarizing The Brackets

Here is the pick distributions for out 91 brackets.  The number to the right of the schools name is the number of players who picked that team to win that round/game:

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6
Midwest
1 Florida 91
16 Jackson State 0
1 Florida 88
8 Arizona 2
9 Purdue 1
16 Jackson State 0
1 Florida 76
4 Maryland 12
5 Butler 3
13 Davidson 0
12 Old Dominion 0
9 Purdue 0
16 Jackson State 0
8 Arizona 0
1 Florida 52
2 Wisconsin 20
3 Oregon 12
4 Maryland 6
6 Notre Dame 1
7 UNLV 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
13 Davidson 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
9 Purdue 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
11 Winthrop 0
1 Florida 29
1 Kansas 21
2 UCLA 20
2 Wisconsin 9
6 Duke 3
3 Oregon 3
3 Pittsburgh 3
4 Maryland 2
7 Indiana 1
12 Illinois 0
4 S. Illinois 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
11 VCU 0
15 Weber St. 0
10 Gonzaga 0
14 Wright State 0
9 Villanova 0
13 Holy Cross 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
9 Purdue 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
13 Davidson 0
6 Notre Dame 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
7 UNLV 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
11 Winthrop 0
8 Kentucky 0
1 Florida 17
1 Ohio St. 16
1 North Carolina 11
2 Georgetown 9
1 Kansas 8
2 Wisconsin 7
2 UCLA 6
3 Texas A&M 6
2 Memphis 5
3 Pittsburgh 2
4 Texas 2
3 Oregon 1
6 Louisville 1
7 Boston College 0
12 Arkansas 0
10 Texas Tech 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
11 George Wash. 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
3 Washington St 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
8 BYU 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
11 Stanford 0
7 Nevada 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
13 Albany, NY 0
4 Virginia 0
5 USC 0
16 CentralConnct 0
9 Xavier 0
5 Tennessee 0
12 Long Beach St 0
15 Belmont 0
15 Weber St. 0
11 Winthrop 0
6 Notre Dame 0
14 Miami Ohio 0
7 UNLV 0
15 Tex A&M CC 0
10 Georgia Tech 0
13 Davidson 0
4 Maryland 0
8 Arizona 0
16 Jackson State 0
9 Purdue 0
5 Butler 0
12 Old Dominion 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
8 Kentucky 0
7 Indiana 0
14 Wright State 0
10 Gonzaga 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
8 Marquette 0
11 VCU 0
6 Duke 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
9 Villanova 0
12 Illinois 0
4 S. Illinois 0
13 Holy Cross 0
9 Michigan St. 0
8 Arizona 49
9 Purdue 42
5 Butler 55
12 Old Dominion 36
4 Maryland 59
5 Butler 21
12 Old Dominion 7
13 Davidson 4
4 Maryland 78
13 Davidson 13
6 Notre Dame 49
11 Winthrop 42
3 Oregon 62
6 Notre Dame 15
11 Winthrop 13
14 Miami Ohio 1
2 Wisconsin 40
3 Oregon 38
6 Notre Dame 6
7 UNLV 3
10 Georgia Tech 2
11 Winthrop 1
15 Tex A&M CC 1
14 Miami Ohio 0
3 Oregon 87
14 Miami Ohio 4
10 Georgia Tech 54
7 UNLV 37
2 Wisconsin 75
7 UNLV 9
10 Georgia Tech 6
15 Tex A&M CC 1
2 Wisconsin 90
15 Tex A&M CC 1
West
1 Kansas 91
16 PlayinWinner 0
1 Kansas 82
9 Villanova 8
8 Kentucky 1
16 PlayinWinner 0
1 Kansas 70
4 S. Illinois 10
5 Virginia Tech 5
9 Villanova 4
8 Kentucky 1
12 Illinois 1
13 Holy Cross 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
2 UCLA 40
1 Kansas 32
3 Pittsburgh 10
6 Duke 3
4 S. Illinois 3
7 Indiana 1
12 Illinois 1
9 Villanova 1
15 Weber St. 0
10 Gonzaga 0
14 Wright State 0
13 Holy Cross 0
16 PlayinWinner 0
8 Kentucky 0
5 Virginia Tech 0
11 VCU 0
9 Villanova 64
8 Kentucky 27
5 Virginia Tech 69
12 Illinois 22
4 S. Illinois 46
5 Virginia Tech 34
12 Illinois 9
13 Holy Cross 2
4 S. Illinois 78
13 Holy Cross 13
6 Duke 60
11 VCU 31
3 Pittsburgh 57
6 Duke 25
11 VCU 7
14 Wright State 2
2 UCLA 59
3 Pittsburgh 19
6 Duke 6
7 Indiana 4
10 Gonzaga 2
11 VCU 1
15 Weber St. 0
14 Wright State 0
3 Pittsburgh 83
14 Wright State 8
10 Gonzaga 56
7 Indiana 35
2 UCLA 81
7 Indiana 6
10 Gonzaga 4
15 Weber St. 0
2 UCLA 90
15 Weber St. 1
East
1 North Carolina 91
16 E. Kentucky 0
1 North Carolina 84
9 Michigan St. 6
8 Marquette 1
16 E. Kentucky 0
1 North Carolina 44
4 Texas 42
5 USC 4
8 Marquette 1
13 New Mexico St. 0
9 Michigan St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
12 Arkansas 0
2 Georgetown 38
1 North Carolina 25
4 Texas 17
3 Washington St 6
7 Boston College 2
5 USC 1
10 Texas Tech 1
8 Marquette 1
14 Oral Roberts 0
15 Belmont 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
9 Michigan St. 0
12 Arkansas 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
11 George Wash. 0
1 Ohio St. 25
2 Georgetown 22
1 North Carolina 14
3 Texas A&M 13
4 Texas 8
2 Memphis 5
3 Washington St 2
6 Louisville 1
8 Marquette 1
4 Virginia 0
12 Long Beach St 0
5 Tennessee 0
11 Stanford 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
7 Nevada 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
9 Xavier 0
13 Albany, NY 0
15 Belmont 0
12 Arkansas 0
13 New Mexico St. 0
5 USC 0
9 Michigan St. 0
16 E. Kentucky 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
11 George Wash. 0
16 CentralConnct 0
10 Texas Tech 0
7 Boston College 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
8 BYU 0
9 Michigan St. 52
8 Marquette 39
5 USC 57
12 Arkansas 34
4 Texas 70
5 USC 14
12 Arkansas 5
13 New Mexico St. 2
4 Texas 86
13 New Mexico St. 5
6 Vanderbilt 55
11 George Wash. 36
3 Washington St 44
6 Vanderbilt 27
11 George Wash. 11
14 Oral Roberts 9
2 Georgetown 69
3 Washington St 15
10 Texas Tech 4
7 Boston College 3
15 Belmont 0
14 Oral Roberts 0
11 George Wash. 0
6 Vanderbilt 0
3 Washington St 67
14 Oral Roberts 24
10 Texas Tech 49
7 Boston College 42
2 Georgetown 80
10 Texas Tech 6
7 Boston College 5
15 Belmont 0
2 Georgetown 90
15 Belmont 1
South
1 Ohio St. 91
16 CentralConnct 0
1 Ohio St. 90
9 Xavier 1
16 CentralConnct 0
8 BYU 0
1 Ohio St. 79
5 Tennessee 6
4 Virginia 5
9 Xavier 1
13 Albany, NY 0
16 CentralConnct 0
12 Long Beach St 0
8 BYU 0
1 Ohio St. 41
3 Texas A&M 27
2 Memphis 15
6 Louisville 4
5 Tennessee 2
4 Virginia 1
9 Xavier 1
7 Nevada 0
10 Creighton 0
15 North Texas 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
13 Albany, NY 0
16 CentralConnct 0
8 BYU 0
12 Long Beach St 0
11 Stanford 0
9 Xavier 63
8 BYU 28
5 Tennessee 68
12 Long Beach St 23
5 Tennessee 42
4 Virginia 39
12 Long Beach St 7
13 Albany, NY 3
4 Virginia 76
13 Albany, NY 15
6 Louisville 64
11 Stanford 27
3 Texas A&M 61
6 Louisville 24
11 Stanford 4
14 Pennsylvania 2
3 Texas A&M 45
2 Memphis 27
6 Louisville 14
11 Stanford 2
7 Nevada 2
10 Creighton 1
15 North Texas 0
14 Pennsylvania 0
3 Texas A&M 85
14 Pennsylvania 6
10 Creighton 46
7 Nevada 45
2 Memphis 68
7 Nevada 15
10 Creighton 8
15 North Texas 0
2 Memphis 89
15 North Texas 2

A Super-Suggestion for the NFL

Every year about this time, the NFL earns itself some bad press for busting some small bar or local group for using the word "Superbowl" rather than that catchy phrase "the big game on the first Sunday in February down in Miami."  This year, the bad press honor goes to the NFL for shutting down a party at a church in Indianapolis for having a screen too large.  (Hey NFL!  I am breaking the law!  I have a 110" front projection TV, twice the "legal" 55-inch limit, and I am showing the game on it at my party.  HA HA HA!).  And by the way, what lapdog legislator wrote this law for them, and did he get Superbowl tickets for life?

Now, I understand the situation with copyrights - if you don't defend them vigorously and even-handedly, you can lose them.  I seem to remember Exxon or some other chemical company lost the rights tot he name Formica when they let it be used too generically for counter-top materials.  And the NFL PR people use this defense every year, saying "we really don't want to shut down these folks, but we have to." 

I don't agree that individual words should be copyrighted such that their use in a broad range of contexts should be illegal.  I am fine saying that I can't create another peanut butter and call it "Jif."  I will accept P&G has some sole right in this country to that use.  However, I don't think P&G can tell me that I can't advertise a "Jif party" feature their peanut butter.  In the same way, I am willing to grant the NFL exclusive use of "Superbowl" to describe a sporting event, but I don't think that should restrict me from advertising that people should come to my bar to watch the Superbowl.  And just to add one more example so I have a "threepeat," I don't think Pat Riley should have any ownership in that word.   However, since copyright law is not going to change tomorrow, I will offer up a more modest change.

So here is my suggestion.  The NFL needs to offer a one time use license each year for a bar or other establishment to hold a Superbowl party and actually use Superbowl in the promotion.  The license would of course be non-exclusive, and would carry a myriad of restrictions on how you use the name, etc.   The license could be purchased for a price that would be cheap for a business, maybe $200, and could be purchased right over the web.  It would actually be easier, I think, to go after violators because the NFL could point to the existence of a legal licensing program the violator could easily have participated in.  I would think they could easily bring in a couple of million dollars, not to mention saving them enforcement money and PR headaches.

PS-  Welcome to the NFL intellectual property department.  I presume I included enough verboten uses of "Superbowl" to catch your search engine's attention.

PPS-  My Firefox spell checker (which I love!) does not have "Superbowl" in it.  I wonder, would the NFL consider it a copyright violation for a program to use the word "Superbowl" in its dictionary?

Security as Trojan Horse for Protectionism

I can't help but suspect of late that the whole Dubai ports mess signals an intent by protectionists of many stripes to hop on the security bandwagon as a way to repackage protectionism.  One had but to observe the many Congressmen who up to date have shown very little interest in security issues suddenly becoming born-again hawks with on the Dubai issue.  Democratic politicians who up to this point had opposed any actions targeted at Arabs or Muslims as profiling and hate-based suddenly saw the light and opposed the deal based on absolutely no other evidence than the fact the owners were from Dubai.  I particularly laughed at the quote by Howard Dean lamenting that "control of the ports of the United States must be retained by American companies" (funny, since Dubai-ownership was taking over operations from a British company, not an American company).  The Dubai ports deal opposition was first and foremost protectionism, begun at the behest of a domestic company that lost a bid in Miami and a number of domestic unions.

Now we can start to see this bandwagon grow.  I was in the airport and saw one Congressman (Duncan Hunter, I think, but I am not positive) on CNN proposing new legislation to ban foreign ownership of any infrastructure deemed security-sensitive.  He specifically mentioned power plants, which told me that he was thinking pretty expansively. This is rank protectionism, pure and simple.  You can quickly imagine everything from power plants to oil companies to telephone providers - really just about anyone - coming under the auspices of a critical industry that should be all American.  Just check out the case of low-cost airline upstart Virgin America to see how this security dodge is being used to protect companies from competition and prevent consumers from getting more choices and lower prices (also see WSJ$).

Xenophobia, in terms of this protectionism and the new immigrant backlash, appears to be one of the few bipartisan issues that politicians from both sides of the aisle can get behind.  I fear a new McCarthyism in the works.

"I Never Forgot I Was Lying"

Via Overlawyered, comes this fascinating confession of one of the young "accusers" in the McMartin pre-school sex abuse prosecutions, one of several witch-hunts from a mercifully brief era of a national day care sex-abuse panic.  While certainly abuse occurs, as is made clear from recent Catholic Church revelations, prosecutors used the excuse of "protecting the children" to justify all kinds of abuses of the fact-finding process (something we should remember in the Patriot Act era).

The lawyers had all my stories written down and knew exactly what I had said
before. So I knew I would have to say those exact things again and not have
anything be different, otherwise they would know I was lying. I put a lot of
pressure on myself. At night in bed, I would think hard about things I had said
in the past and try to repeat only the things I knew I'd said before.

I
remember describing going to an airport and Ray taking us somewhere on an
airplane. Then I realized the parents would have known the kids were gone from
the school. I felt I'd screwed up and my lie had been caught"”I was busted! I was
so upset with myself! I remember breaking down and crying. I felt everyone knew
I was lying. But my parents said, "You're doing fine. Don't worry." And everyone
was saying how proud they were of me, not to worry.

I'm not saying
nothing happened to anyone else at the McMartin Pre-School. I can't say that"”I
can only speak for myself. Maybe some things did happen. Maybe some kids made up
stories about things that didn't really happen, and eventually started believing
they were telling the truth. Maybe some got scared that the teachers would get
their families because they were lying. But I never forgot I was lying.

There is much more in the article, demonstrating how prosecutors manipulated children to get prosecutions. 

This topic has resonance with me because I sat on the jury of such a case around 1992.  Earlier sex-abuse prosecutions were starting to look suspicious, but there was still a lot of incentive for prosecutors to push high-profile cases (after all, Janet Reno would soon become AG for the US, largely on the strength of a number of well publicized and in retrospect very questionable such prosecutions).  By 1992, though, defense lawyers had caught up and were better at highlighting the egregious tactics used by prosecutors to coax stories out of children.  Many of the tactics we saw in our trial were identical to those recounted in this article.  There was even an eerie parallel to this recent Vioxx case, as the initial (3rd party) accuser who first reported that the victim was being abused seemed more motivated by getting on Oprah than getting her facts correct.

Update:  Neo-Libertarian has the details on the Janet Reno prosecutions I mentioned in passing.  Here is the PBS story on "the Miami method" and several of Reno's unethical abuse prosecutions.

Well, at Least I am Consistent

Via Professor Bainbridge, here is a nice Friday distraction for you -- a test via Philosophy magazine called Taboo.  Here are my results:

Your Moralising Quotient of 0.00 compares to an average Moralising Quotient
of 0.29. This means that as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured
in this activity are concerned you are more permissive than average.

Your Interference Factor of 0.00 compares to an average Interference Factor
of 0.15. This means that as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured
in this activity are concerned you are less likely to recommend societal
interference in matters of moral wrongdoing, in the form of prevention or
punishment, than average.

The test basically gauges wether you think an action can be immoral if no one is harmed, or if no one but the individual actor is harmed.  Its making a point that libertarians often make, and I made more generally here about respecting individual decision-making.  The distinction between immoral and yukky is also useful.  However, the nature of the questions reminds me of this funny bit by libertarian Dave Berry about libertarianism, sex, and dogs (scroll down):

John Dorschner, one of our staff
writers here at Tropic magazine at The Miami Herald, who is a good friend of mine
and an excellent journalist, but a raving liberal, wrote a story about a group
that periodically pops up saying that they're going to start their own country or
start their own planet or go back to their original planet, or whatever. They
were going to "create a libertarian society" on a floating platform in the
Caribbean somewhere. You know and I know there' s never going to be a country on
a floating anything, but if they want to talk about it, that's great.

John
wrote about it and he got into the usual thing where he immediately got to the question
of whether or not you can have sex with dogs. The argument was that if it wasn't
illegal to have sex with dogs, naturally people would have sex with dogs. That
argument always sets my teeth right on edge.

And I always want to retort
with, "You want a horrible system, because you think the people should be able to vote
for laws they want, and if more than half of them voted for some law, everyone
would have to do what they said. Then they could pass a law so that you had to
have sex with dogs."

Postscript:  By the way, I consider myself profoundly moral.  I just don't tend to apply morality to situations where an actors actions affect only themselves, or other via mutual consent.  More on this in another post.

 

Week 10 Football Outsiders Rankings are Up!

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 10 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Despite the win last week, our Arizona Cardinals have finally returned to their usual stomping grounds -- in the bottom 5 teams, along with Miami, Oakland and San Francisco.  Hard to argue about these teams being the worst.  Perhaps the biggest surprise is the team fifth from the bottom - Dallas.  Cowboy haters rejoice.  Parcel's record of second year improvement seems to be in serious trouble.  If the season ended today, San Francisco would set the record for the worst statistical performance since these guys started keeping the stats, beating the second worst team, the 2002 Cardinals and the third worst team, the 2003 Cardinals, but just shy of the 2002 performance of the expansion Texans.  (Gotta love our Cards).

The top three, unsurprisingly, are New England, Philly and Pittsburgh.  New England has taken the top spot, which is where I think they belong.  For a while, Philly's special teams rank was carrying them, but history in these rankings has shown that special teams ranks are very volatile and tend to regress to the mean.  Philly's soft defense may well spell another playoff disappointment for the Eagles.

Week 9 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 9 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Miami still can't nail down that bottom spot. San Francisco and the Raiders both have fallen below the Fish (so much for Bay Area football). Miami has the worst offense in the league by a HUGE margin, but its defense keeps it off the bottom, as it probably should:  A good defense will win you a few games, no matter how bad the offense is.  My Arizona Cardinals continue to fall, down to their rightful place in the bottom quartile, despite having a pretty good defense. At the top, Pittsburgh, New England and Philly are threatening to run away and hide, which just goes to show that every once in a while, BCS notwithstanding, computers and common sense can converge.

Week 8 Football Outsiders is Up

Previously, I explained why I like Football Outsiders here. Their week 8 statistical rankings of teams is here.

Miami assumes its rightful position back at the bottom of the list. The surprise, at least based on pre-season expectations, is to see the Titans in the bottom 5. My Cardinals continue to regress back to mediocrity, though their defense remains among the 10 best -- last week against Buffalo was more of an Offense and Special Teams failure than a defensive lapse.

I don't think anyone can disagree with the Outsiders' top 3. KC at number four doesn't seem right to me; however, for some reason, both this season and last, their statistical system seems to over-rank KC.