Illegal Inheritance

by Jon Mandle on July 25, 2007

For some time, Josh Marshall has been saying that President Bush won’t fire Alberto Gonzales because he wouldn’t be able to get a new Attorney General confirmed by the Senate who would be willing to keep all of the cover-ups in place. Evidence for this theory is mounting. But Bush won’t be able to keep him in office for ever.

Assume a new Democratic President is inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Focusing on the illegal wire-tap program(s) (as opposed to the other cover-ups), which of the following is most likely:

a. the illegal wire-tap program(s) will be dismantled and all evidence of them destroyed by the time the new administration takes office;
b. they will still be up and running, and the new administration will quietly continue them;
c. the new administration will quietly stop them;
d. the new administration will say that they are stopping them, but actually continue them;
e. the new administration will make a big show about stopping them (and actually do so);
f. the new administration will make a big show about stopping them and move to prosecute members of the previous administration for violating the law.

I can’t believe a. is a viable option, so how would a Democratic administration handle such an illegal inheritance? Is there a significant difference among the candidates? (Maybe I should have made a you-tube video asking this.)

Damned lies, etc

by Henry Farrell on July 25, 2007

Tyler Cowen is somewhat “suspicious”: of an FCC Commissioner’s statistical claims about broadband penetration. Given the FCC’s past form, a general suspicion of any statistics that it trots out on broadband penetration is entirely warranted. The FCC has generated copious statistics to support their claims that there is a thriving competitive market among broadband providers. However, as the General Accounting Office “points out”: (pdf) in polite governmental administratese, their numbers are a crock. They pump up the number of competitors in a given local market by including satellite (not a significant option for most consumers), lumping together data on specialized business services and consumer broadband, and failing to consider whether the fact that two cable companies operate in the same zipcode means that they actually compete with each other (their coverage areas may not in fact overlap). When these biases are corrected for, the GAO finds that the median number of providers for a given respondent is two, and 9% of respondents have no access to broadband at all. Given the near-total lack of resemblance between these figures and the reality that American consumers have to deal with, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that they were generated with the purpose of muddying debate.

Can Nothing Stop Computo!

by John Holbo on July 25, 2007

I present you with this week’s reason for thinking I read too many Legion of Super Heroes comics. I’m reading Crangle and Suppes, Language and Learning for Robots. (It’s part of the super popular ‘for robots’ series. My favorite being Wine Tasting For Robots.)


This book reports research that the authors have been doing together for the past decade on instructible robots …

In this book we explore the following two specific questions. What does it take for a robot to understand instructions expressed in a natural language such as English? What further challenges arise when the robot must learn from that instruction? The work we present falls naturally into three parts: theory, language performance, and learning. We briefly summarize each of these parts.

Part I on theory consists of four chapters. The first one sets forth our general ideas about instructible robots and how they are different from robots that operate autonomously. (xv)

Yes, but why do they have to be indestructible, I was asking myself?

I actually continued on like this for some time. You see, I had me a brief little thought about how it was probably going to turn out that they had some very abstract story about what a robot could learn, given an infinite amount of time. And somewhere along the line someone decided ‘indestructible robot’ was cute shorthand for this ideal limit; and I just never got the memo. Anyway. I think I need to get some sleep.

Likely culprit.

A genuine right to part-time work

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 25, 2007

Judith Warner wrote a “column”: in yesterday’s NYT (unfortunately behind the pay-wall) on the need to make part-time work genuinely available for all American workers. She argues that study after study shows that up to 80% of mothers, both those holding jobs or caring at home, want to work part-time, but that currently only 24% do so because “part-time work doesn’t pay”:

Women on a reduced schedule earn almost 18 percent less than their full-time female peers with equivalent jobs and education levels, according to research by Janet Gornick, a professor of sociology and political science at City University of New York, and the labor economist Elena Bardasi. Part-time jobs rarely come with benefits. They tend to be clustered in low-paying fields like the retail and service industries. And in better-paid professions, a reduced work schedule very often can mean cutting down from 50-plus hours a week to 40-odd — hardly a “privilege” worth paying for with a big pay cut.

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