Patterico's Pontifications

9/2/2011

Sockpuppet Friday—the “Really, Apple?” Edition!

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 9:15 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

As usual, you are positively encouraged to engage in sockpuppetry in this thread. The usual rules apply.

Please, be sure to switch back to your regular handle when commenting on other threads. I have made that mistake myself.

And remember: the worst sin you can commit on this thread is not being funny.

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And for this week’s Friday Frivolity, sing along with me…

I left my iPhone…  in San Francisco…

Yes, that’s right, once again Apple was getting ready to introduce the most awesomest phone ever and once again someone accidentally left it in a restaurant:

In a bizarre repeat of a high-profile incident last year, an Apple employee once again appears to have lost an unreleased iPhone in a bar, CNET has learned.

The errant iPhone, which went missing in San Francisco’s Mission district in late July, sparked a scramble by Apple security to recover the device over the next few days, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Last year, an iPhone 4 prototype was bought by a gadget blog that paid $5,000 in cash. This year’s lost phone seems to have taken a more mundane path: it was taken from a Mexican restaurant and bar and may have been sold on Craigslist for $200. Still unclear are details about the device, what version of the iOS operating system it was running, and what it looks like.

Yeah, yeah, right Apple.  I am willing to buy that the first time was just a screw up, but twice?  Smells like a publicity stunt to me.

Of course if it is, it might be going hilariously wrong

This is the second time that an iPhone prototype went missing in a bar just before its release. But in April 2010 Apple was successful in getting the iPhone 4 prototype back after it had been sold by a finder.

This time Apple is having a tough time getting back its iPhone 5, which was left in a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco and then was sold on Craiglist for $200, according to reports.

Guys if you are going to intentionally drop evidence, do it near the tech reporters.  Just sayin’.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Bad Facts Make Bad (ADA) Law; The Case of the Alcoholic Truck Driver

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 7:51 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Strap yourself in, because this is going to be a long one.

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Now first, full disclosure.  Regular readers know by now that I am a disabled person and a direct beneficiary of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).  I have written a conservative defense of the law, here, for instance.

And come to think of it, I might arguably be biased because my father worked almost all of his life in trucking and draws a pension from a company in competition with one of the companies discussed here.

I would like to think both of these experiences give me a deeper knowledge of each subject; but you might reasonably conclude that I am biased in one way or the other.*

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Anyway, most lawyers will agree with the cliché: good facts make good law, bad facts make bad law.  Let me give you a good example: Ricci v. DeStefano, a.k.a. the New Haven firefighters case.  I have talked about it before, here.  Basically New Haven held an exam to determine who would be eligible for promotion but when not enough minority firefighters passed the exam, the city decided to scrap the results.  The Supreme Court overturned that decision, declaring that this was unjustified racial discrimination.

Now consider this passage from the facts of the case, discussing one of the firefighters in the case:

Frank Ricci… that he had “several learning disabilities,” including dyslexia; that he had spent more than $1,000 to purchase the materials and pay his neighbor to read them on tape so he could “give it [his] best shot”; and that he had studied “8 to 13 hours a day to prepare” for the test…. “I don’t even know if I made it,” Ricci told the CSB, “[b]ut the people who passed should be promoted. When your life’s on the line, second best may not be good enough.”

Later on, the court writes:

The plaintiffs—who are the petitioners here—are 17 white firefighters and 1 Hispanic firefighter who passed the examinations but were denied a chance at promotions when the CSB refused to certify the test results. They include the named plaintiff, Frank Ricci[.]

Ricci was not the only plaintiff, but his story of a dyslexic firefighter spending over a thousand dollars and overcoming his disabilities in order to pass the exam, only to have that victory snatched away from him because he was the wrong color, was significantly highlighted not only in the media coverage of the case, but even in the court opinion itself.

Now, if you want to see the end of quotas, racial preferences and the like, those were very good facts, particularly the story of Frank Ricci.  Hell, except for the racial angle, it sounds like the kind of story Hollywood would turn into a movie, with some actor using it as blatant Oscar-bait.  He doesn’t even have to worry about “going the full retard.”

So there are lawyers who I like to call “activist lawyers” who want not to serve a specific client but to change the law in a positive way.  Thurgood Marshall, before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, was the very template of an activist lawyer.  He made sure that each time he challenged racial segregation he had before him the most sympathetic client possible, so that the manifest injustice of the laws he was challenging would become obvious.

And that term, “activist lawyer” is not a pejorative.  Like many things in life, it can be used for good or for evil.  Tearing down segregation would be one example and in my mind so would be the vindication of the Second Amendment.  In  D.C. v. Heller for the first time in decades recognized that the Second Amendment protected an individual’s right to bear arms.  Now look at this line from the case:

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The Cult of Experts (Stimulus Edition)

Filed under: General — Karl @ 3:26 am

[Posted by Karl]

TNR’s Jonathan Cohn is serving the stimulus Kool-Aid:

Republicans and their allies keep saying the Recovery Act didn’t work. The experts keep saying that it did. The latest is the Congressional Budget Office, which this week released a new economic projection and, in so doing, confirmed its earlier finding that the Recovery Act succeed in its primary goal: Saving or creating jobs in order to offset the effects of the recession.

As of June, the agency says, between 1.0 and 2.9 million more people are working because of the Recovery Act. And that figure actually seems to understates the impact.

As I draft this, Cohn’s item is the most viewed at TNR.  Progressives love the Kool-Aid, because they belong to what Jonah Goldberg terms the “cult of experts.”

Peter Suderman has likely tired of writing the same rebuttal again and again, so I quote him from the last round of Kool-Aid drinking:

Here’s the problem: Those CBO reports don’t definitively prove anything about the real-world effect of the stimulus. That’s because in order to produce those reports, the CBO effectively re-runs the same models that it used to estimate the effects of the stimulus before it started.

The reports aren’t based on a detailed measurement of real-world output. Instead, they’re based on measuring the input (how much money was spent), and then using models to project how big the multiplier effect has been. Measuring spending and modeling output means that you can believe the CBO when it says that the stimulus turned out to be more costly than expected, but you should remain wary about any claims made using the “real-world effects” side.

Indeed, CBO director Doug Elmendorf has explicitly made this point, agreeing at a speech earlier this year that that “if the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis.”

Suderman was responding to the unhinged Andrew Sullivan, who was continuing to drink the Kool-Aid, even after acknowledging Suderman had a good point.

At the risk of befouling the progressive punch bowl, if these Keynesian macroeconomic models were so great, maybe there wouldn’t be a yawning chasm between the unemployment numbers the Obama administration predicted under the stimulus and the dismal unemployment figures we’ve actually seen.

Granted, I’m just a nutty wingnut who’s nuts, but economist Mark Thoma (not a Vast Right-Wing Conspirator) concedes not only that macroeconomic models have not fared well in recent years, but also that:

A big part of the problem is that macroeconomists have not settled on a single model of the economy, and the various models often deliver very different, contradictory advice on how to solve economic problems. The basic problem is that economics is not an experimental science. We use historical data rather than experimental data, and it’s possible to construct more than one model that explains the historical data equally well. Time and more data may allow us to settle on a particular model someday – as new data arrives it may favor one model over the other – but as long as this problem is present, macroeconomists will continue to hold opposing views and give conflicting advice.

This problem is not just of concern to macroeconomists; it has contributed to the dysfunction we are seeing in Washington as well. When Republicans need to find support for policies such as deregulation, they can enlist prominent economists – Nobel laureates perhaps – to back them up. Similarly, when Democrats need support for proposals to increase regulation, they can also count noted economists in their camp. If economists were largely unified, it would be harder for differences in Congress to persist, but unfortunately such unanimity is not generally present.

Kinda sours Cohn’s “Republicans vs Experts” Kool-Aid, but there it is.  And what happens if we step away from the models?  Veronique de Rugy notes that Garett Jones and Daniel Rothschild have published two new papers looking at why the stimulus failed to create as many jobs as the administration promised, both based on extensive field research.  The papers primarily examine how people elected to use their stimulus dollars, finding that “the most vociferous boosters of fiscal stimulus should discount their benefits calculations by a significant factor.”  She also notes that in attempting to rebut the findings, Cohn’s TNR colleague Jonathan Chait did not read these papers very closely.  Of course, progs like Kevin Drum see the papers as — wait for it — an argument for an even bigger stimulus, but at least Drum candidly admits that maybe it is just his “priors” and “intuition” talking.  Members of the progressive Cult of Experts like to accuse the right of ignoring expertise that conflicts with their ideology, but rarely notice the glass church in which they worship.

–Karl


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