Monday Reads

Good Morning!

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So, I’m still a little bit out of the loop at the moment. I’m not really reading much in the way of news or even watching TV so I had to do some searching for something interesting to read this morning. This will be a bit of a link dump. I promise I will do better by midweek.

Will we ever be rid of Fat Tony and his blatant hypocrisy?

With his own claims to originalism fading fast, Scalia suggests liberal judicial activism, practiced by some of colleagues on the Court, is part of what brought about the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The speech was an address to the Utah State Bar Association.

From the Aspen Times …

Scalia opened his talk with a reference to the Holocaust, which happened to occur in a society that was, at the time, “the most advanced country in the world.” One of the many mistakes that Germany made in the 1930s was that judges began to interpret the law in ways that reflected “the spirit of the age.” When judges accept this sort of moral authority, as Scalia claims they’re doing now in the U.S., they get themselves and society into trouble.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is something we teach a lot in economics.  You may remember the movie  “A Beautiful Mind” and the invention of game theory.  Well, there’s been an interesting test of the theory.

The “prisoner’s dilemma” is a familiar concept to just about anybody that took Econ 101.

The basic version goes like this. Two criminals are arrested, but police can’t convict either on the primary charge, so they plan to sentence them to a year in jail on a lesser charge. Each of the prisoners, who can’t communicate with each other, are given the option of testifying against their partner. If they testify, and their partner remains silent, the partner gets 3 years and they go free. If they both testify, both get two. If both remain silent, they each get one.

In game theory, betraying your partner, or “defecting” is always the dominant strategy as it always has a slightly higher payoff in a simultaneous game. It’s what’s known as a “Nash Equilibrium,” after Nobel Prize winning mathematician and A Beautiful Mind subject John Nash.

In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well.

However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation.

Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.

Surprisingly, for the classic version of the game, prisoners were far more cooperative  than expected.

Menusch Khadjavi and Andreas Lange put the famous game to the test for the first time ever, putting a group of prisoners in Lower Saxony’s primary women’s prison, as well as students through both simultaneous and sequential versions of the game.The payoffs obviously weren’t years off sentences, but euros for students, and the equivalent value in coffee or cigarettes for prisoners.

They expected, building off of game theory and behavioural economic research that show humans are more cooperative than the purely rational model that economists traditionally use, that there would be a fair amount of first-mover cooperation, even in the simultaneous simulation where there’s no way to react to the other player’s decisions.

And even in the sequential game, where you get a higher payoff for betraying a cooperative first mover, a fair amount will still reciprocate.

As for the difference between student and prisoner behaviour, you’d expect that a prison population might be more jaded and distrustful, and therefore more likely to defect.

The results went exactly the other way for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperate. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.

On a pair basis, only 13% of student pairs managed to get the best mutual outcome and cooperate, whereas 30% of prisoners do.

Where do these modern day evangelicals get their whacked ideas about women and especially about abortion?

While America languishes in an economic depression, Republican officeholders are bending all their efforts… to ban abortion. In the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen a blizzard of anti-choice legislation in Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and many other places. These laws stall women seeking abortions with mandatory waiting periods, brutalize them with invasive and unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, force doctors to read shaming scripts rife with falsehoods, and impose onerous regulatory requirements that are designed to be impossible to comply with so that family-planning clinics will be forced to close. At the federal level, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted for a bill banning all abortion after 20 weeks, without even putting up a pretense that this was constitutional.

One would think the drubbing taken by anti-choice zealots like Todd Akin in the last election would have given Republicans an incentive to step back and consider whether this is a winning strategy. Instead, it seems as if their losses have only inspired them to fight harder. For the right-wing Christian fundamentalists who dominate the Republican Party, banning abortion, or at least piling up pointless regulations to make it as burdensome and difficult to obtain as possible, has become an all-consuming obsession, akin to a religious crusade.

Given the amount of effort and political capital the religious right puts into trying to restrict abortion, you’d guess that opposition to women’s choice must take up a huge portion of the Bible. But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible says nothing whatsoever about abortion. It never mentions the subject, not once, neither in the Old Testament nor the New. This isn’t because abortion was unknown in the ancient world. Much to the contrary, the ancient Greeks and Romans were well-acquainted with the idea. Surviving writings from these cultures recommend the use of herbs like pennyroyal, silphium and hellebore to induce abortion; others advise vigorous physical activity to cause a miscarriage, and some even discuss surgical methods.

Here’s an intriguing investigation of secret US prisons being carried out by Poland. What exactly do we and other countries know about these black ops sites run by the CIA?

The only sign of life at Szymany’s “international airport” are mosquitoes eager to suck blood out of a rare visitor. The gate is locked with a rusted chain and a padlock.

Evidence suggest that some of the last passengers at this site were CIA officers and their prisoners. That was in 2003. Soon after, the airport about 180 km north of Warsaw inside the picturesque Mazury forests went out of service.

Bounded by the Freedom of Information Act, Polish Airspace authorities have revealed that at least 11 CIA aircrafts landed at Szymany, and some of their passengers stayed on in Poland. The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) was not informed about those flights.

From Szymany the prisoners were driven to a nearby intelligence academy in Stare Kiejkuty, where the CIA had a separated facility. In 2006, a few months after Poland was first identified as having hosted a secret CIA prison, Polish ombudsman Janusz Kochanowski visited the CIA villa – only to see that its chambers have been freshly renovated.

Two other European countries with known but unconfirmed black sites are Romania and Lithuania; the rest were in Asia and North Africa.

Human rights groups believe about eight terror suspects were held in Poland, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Two other men currently detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been granted “injured person” status in the ongoing investigation.

The first is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national alleged to have organised the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. He has claimed that he was often stripped naked, hooded, or shackled during seven months at Stare Kiejkuty, and subjected to mock execution with a gun and threats of sexual assault against his family members.

The second, a stateless Palestinian known as Abu Zubaydah, said he was subjected to extreme physical pain, psychological pressure and waterboarding – mock drowning.

Any Polish leaders who would have agreed to the U.S. programme would have been violating the constitution by giving a foreign power control over part of Polish territory, and allowing crimes to take place there.

Former prime minister Leszek Miller, now chairman of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance has been the prime target of criticism. There are demands he should face a special tribunal charged with trying state figures.

In March 2008, the Polish authorities opened a criminal investigation. “This indicates that Poland is a country with a rule of law,” Senator Jozef Pinior told IPS. “But the protraction is a reason for concern. The investigation has been moved to the third consecutive prosecutor’s office, in what looks like playing for time.”

Pinior, one of the leaders of the Solidarity opposition movement during the 1980s, and more recently a member of the European Parliament, has for long been lobbying for a full investigation into what the CIA was doing in Poland. Twice he was called in as witness in the investigation. He claims to have seen a document on a CIA prison with PM Miller’s signature.

“Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.” — Polish Senator Jozef Pinior

“The Polish government, especially Leszek Miller, must have had knowledge that such sites existed on Polish territory without any legal basis,” Pinior said. “They must have known about the torture too. Poland is no banana republic, our security services do not do such things behind the back of the government.”

It is still not clear how much knowledge the Polish leaders had about the black site in Stare Kiejkuty. Some have vehemently denied the prison’s existence, but some admit it between the lines, though denying responsibility.

“Of course, everything took place with my knowledge,” said former president Aleksander Kwasniewski in an interview with leading daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

So, that’s a few odds and ends to get us started today.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


45 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    More journalists hitting on civil rights leaders … I don’t get this at all:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-lehrer-zimmerman-verdict-reaction-20130722,0,929884.story

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324448104578618681599902640.html

    This is from Shelby Steele so be warned:

    The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment
    Black leaders weren’t so much outraged at injustice as they were by the disregard of their own authority.

  2. dakinikat says:

    Federal judge temporarily blocks North Dakota law that bans abortions after 6th week of pregnancy http://wapo.st/1b8Ndn4

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Wow, it’s quiet here today. I’ve been having computer problems, but at least I got one of my laptops hooked up to the internet now.

    I also woke up this morning with a horrible backache. I don’t know what brought that on. I think I’ve been sleeping really soundly because it’s not as hot here anymore, and I must have slept wrong somehow.

    I know I sound like a basket case. Anyway, I could swear I saw a movie called “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” years ago, but I can’t find it anywhere.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    OMG, you’re not going to believe this. George Zimmerman is suddenly a hero. Supposedly.

    George Zimmerman, the man whose acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin set off a wave of protests across the nation, helped rescue a family from an overturned SUV four days after the verdict, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday.

    The statement said that on Wednesday, at approximately 5:45 p.m. ET, the sheriff’s office responded to a single car accident at an intersection in the Sanford, Fla., area not far from where Zimmerman, 29, shot Trayvon, 17, in February 2012. The statement said a blue Ford Explorer had run off the road and rolled over with a family of four inside.

    • bostonboomer says:

      It looks like the police and the media are busy trying to repair Zimmerman’s reputation. There weren’t any injuries in the accident, so…

      • dakinikat says:

        What, he’s a hero because he didn’t kill some one for a change?

        • bostonboomer says:

          I guess so.

        • he may have just save 4 people’s lives why not give him the credit for it?

          • dakinikat says:

            Here that action is called following the law.

          • bostonboomer says:

            How did he save four lives? There were no injuries even. But how is he not getting credit? The story is at the top of Google news and in hundreds of newspapers. If that’s not enough “credit” to satisfy you, what would be?

            We get that you love George Zimmerman, Boogieman. You might want to tone it down a bit though, since we do have readers here who aren’t fans of racial profiling and stand your ground laws.

          • BB your not insinuating that I am fan of racial profiling ?

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’m not insinuating anything. I’m stating straight out that you appear to be a fan of George Zimmerman.

    • NW Luna says:

      Yeah, I saw that headline and decided I wasn’t interested in reading anything more about Zimmerman. Cynical me, I wonder if it was staged?

  5. bostonboomer says:

    I was just reading about this woman who was thrown to her death from a ferris wheel in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Check this out:

    The lack of amusement park safety investigators, plus sifting through thousands of documents and interviewing hundreds of witnesses will likely cause the investigation to drag on for months, said Ken Martin of KRM Consulting in Richmond, Va.

    Although Texas has no regulatory agency for amusement parks, Martin said standards are set by the American Society of Testing and Materials International.

    The woman was with her two children when this happened. Can you imagine the trauma for them? They were apparently screaming and saying we have to go get mama. The woman had said she didn’t think she was locked in before the ride started.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    The NYT public editor explains why Nate Silver didn’t “fit in” to the NYT “culture.” It seems he was too fact- and evidence-based instead of focusing on the “horse race,” etc.

    Now he’s going to ESPN, where he’ll no doubt be more appreciated.

  7. cygnus says:

    Here’s another article on the Mitch Daniels/Howard Zinn thing:
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/07/19

    “The first, of course, is Daniels’ gleeful, mean-spirited reporting of Zinn’s death. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Howard Zinn’s career knows that his great passions were racial equality and peace. Finding cause for joy in the death of someone whose life was animated by confidence in people’s fundamental decency is shameful.”

  8. cygnus says:

    Another amazing girl, taking her life back, and speaking up on behalf of others.
    It’s encouraging to see so many young people refusing to capitulate to the disempowerment meme.
    A must-watch:

    http://gawker.com/brave-little-girl-flees-forced-marriage-records-powerf-866434307

  9. Damn, this is sad…Dennis Farina, star of ‘Law & Order,’ dead at 69 – KansasCity.com

    That is two mobster character actors in the past month…

    • cygnus says:

      I fell in love with him back in the 80s, when he starred in a wonderfully moody 60s Las Vegas crime show (which of course was cancelled because it was good) Crime Story.

      Sad to see him go so soon.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’m a huge fan of both Midnight Run and Manhunter. I didn’t like him that much on Law and Order, but probably because no one could really replace Lenny.