24 September 2013

Contact Drafting Matters

Definitions in a contract can clarify the meaning of a term, but sometimes the way that a term is drafted in a contract does not comport with the common meaning of the term.  And, when you are an insurance company and someone is trying to obtain insurance coverage from you, your atypical definition is binding upon you.

23 September 2013

Impressions From A Jury Trial

I spent the last week representing someone in a jury trial.  A few impressions from that experience:

* Overall, the process is very similar to the way jury trials were conducted in Abraham Lincoln's day, with the singular recent innovation that juries can now pose questions to witnesses.  He could have walked into the court with only minimal additional legal knowledge and done just fine.  Even the legal theories I relied on in the case are mostly that old (a few civil procedure nuances related to notice pleading changed a bit in the 1930s as did a fair amount of terminology).

* The fact that the rules of evidence carefully limit what facts a jury may consider is a long standing issue of debate in legal theory.  Less discussion have been given to the pros and cons of "TMI" (too much information) in jury instructions.  Generally, courts and lawyers in jury trials focus on establishing something close to a minimum decision set of legal rules for juries with very little context for the rules that they are to apply to this particular case.  It is not at all obvious, however, that this philosophy has the same utility as the philosophy about allowing only relevant evidence that meets other gatekeeper tests to be considered.  At what point does excess, accurate legal knowledge every actually create a risk of harmful error?

* Jury pools, in my experience, tend to be disproportionately female, especially after jurors are dismissed for cause and hardship.  Assuming that this is the reality, does that make our court system fundamentally gynocentric?  If it does, is that a bad thing, a good thing, or an irrelevant thing?

* Conventional wisdom holds that juries do not mechanically apply the law set forth in the jury instructions to the admitted evidence without considering other factors.  Psychology tends to support a model in which people decide the case first in a gestalt way and then justify their gut instinct after the fact.  Assume that this is true.  Is it more good than bad, or more bad than good, and is this an important reason for the privacy of jury deliberations?

The Trouble With The Republican Party

From here.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal On Economics

From here.

(FWIW, I think the utility of microeconomics is greatly understated in the chart but that macroeconomics is accurately described.)

The Most Frightening Drone Threat

The militarized drones that scare me aren't the small aircraft sized drones without pilots.  They are the low budget small arms firepower class drones that fill the role of infantry that can fly.

Aircraft sized drones without pilots do essentially the same things as aircraft, but without putting a pilot in harm's way.

Small drones fill a niche that no current technology fills.  Moreover, this is technology that can't be denied to foreign countries and terrorist groups that could transform how battlefields work in the future.

16 September 2013

Easy Answers

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong.
- H.L. Mencken

12 September 2013

Misleading Truth

The linked fake modern movie trailer for Monte Python and the Holy Grail (a cult classic of absurd comedy touted as a dramatic action movie) aptly illustrates how a collection of entirely true statements can be totally misleading.

Catalonia Restive

There is massive support in the Catalonia region of Spain (with about 7.5 million people) to break away as an independent state within the European Union.  The region already has some autonomy.  

The Northern Spanish Basque region has also long struggled for independence or at least greater autonomy than the semi-autonomous region has today; a low level insurgency has been simmering there for decades.

The sovereign debt crisis in Europe has forced the Spanish national government to impose austerity measures that have made the central government particularly unpopular in a time of great economic crisis for country.

More NSA Malfeasance Revealed

The U.S. National Security Agency released declassified records that show the spy agency broke rules in targeting specific citizen’s telephone records, and then proceeded to hide it from the courts overseeing the operation.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released the records Tuesday in response to a series of lawsuits filed by privacy groups. The documents cover the four years stretching from 2006 to 2009.
From here.

Colorado Is All Wet

Not so long ago, a Governor remarked that all of Colorado was burning.

Today, Colorado is all wet.  Literally.  Metro Denver gets about 12-13" of precipitation in a typical year.  Now, many communities in the area have gotten most of their annual precipitation allotment in about forty-eight hours.
Rain measurements from the overnight Colorado storm that has caused flash floods and flooding according to the National Weather Service at 8:54 a.m. include:
Boulder — 9 to 12 inches
Firestone — 4.80 inches
Frederick — 7.19 inches
Lafayette — 3.50 inches
Loveland — 4.12 inches
Lyons — 3.5 inches
Thornton — 5.37 inches
Ward — 6.16 inches
[UPDATE at 2:20 p.m. - Denver police have evacuated an area between 11th Avenue and Colfax Avenue from Verbena Street to Xanthia Street in a part of Denver between the Stapleton and Lowry neighborhoods due to flooding. The Cherry Creek trail and Platte River trail are also underwater for much of their extent within Denver.  Evacuations also in Commerce City and in Longmont.  Village East Elementary School in Greenwood Village was evacuated.]

Flash flood watches and warnings apply to most of the Denver-Boulder metropolitan area and Larimer and Weld counties.  Schools are closed in Boulder County, Manitou Springs (near Colorado Springs) and parts of Adams County.

Park Hill was the Land of Lakes as I made my way to work this morning (although the success of recent drainage improvements in the City Park area was evident).  The opposing counsel in a hearing I appeared at this morning was trapped in her home in Coal Creek by flood waters and had to appear by telephone.  One of the lawyers in the case behind me was greatly delayed getting to court by detours forced by flooded roads.  I merely had a drenched suit coat.  My assistant, who bikes to work, is soaked.

Roads have been closed due to flooding in Aurora and Commerce City and some Aurora parks are almost entirely underwater.  The Community College of Aurora is closed.

Mud slides and floods have closed roads all over Larimer County, in some cases trapping people in flooded homes while weather has been too extreme for helicopters to rescue them.  The Meadow Lake Dam breached in rural Larimer County near Pinewood Springs and rescue efforts are underway there.

In Lyons, a sewage treatment plant has breached, sending turds into flooded streets, and fresh water is not available.  Highway 36 was completed destroyed by floods at Longmont Dam Road and the road is closed from Lyons to Boulder.  Thirty-five homes were evacuated in Fredrick and Firestone (many from a trailer park).

In Broomfield, a road collapsed, three cars were submerged and swept away by flood waters and three motorists had to be rescued from flood waters.

The University of Colorado at Boulder and Naropa University are closed due to flooding, parts of the campus were evacuated, and the courts are closed there.  A wall of water in a canyon in Boulder County trapped a fire fighter in a tree this morning.

Three people are confirmed dead in flooding.  One in a collapsed home in Jamestown, one carried away by flooding and found on the 200 block of Linden Drive in Boulder.  And, one body was found on the streets of Colorado Springs near I-25 and South Nevada Street.  The Boulder Sheriff has stated that there may be more victims.  Jamestown in Boulder County and Four Mile Canyon were ordered evacuated.

11 September 2013

Two Democratic State Senators Recalled In Colorado

Colorado State Senate President John Morse and Colorado State Senator Angela Giron were recalled in yesterday's recall elections. Republicans tried to recall four state senators over their votes in support of gun control legislation earlier this year, but only managed to gather enough signatures to put two recalls on the ballot.

Democrats Narrowly Remain In Control in 2014

Democrats went into the recall election with a 20-15 majority in the State Senate.  After the recall, Democrats will have a razor thin 18-17 majority in the State Senate, giving the Democrats in the Colorado General Assembly less freedom to enact a broad liberal agenda as they did earlier this year, because any one defection from their Senate caucus would defeat a bill.  But, Colorado State House and the Governor's mansion are still controlled by Democrats, so the recalls will not allow Republicans to make any major gains.

State Senators serve four year terms.  Morse and Giron were each elected in 2010, so the replacement candidate will serve for only one legislative session, from January to early May of 2014, before the next ordinary state senate election in November of 2014. 

In 2014, the seat from which Morse was just recalled will still be competitive, although the recall with give Republican State Senator Herpin the advantage of incumbency.  But, absent a truly impressive moderate performance by Republican State Senator Rivera, he will have an uphill battle getting re-elected in this Democratic leaning district in 2014.

Analysis of the Recall Races

Ballot Issue State Senate 3 - Recall Giron
100% reporting
Updated 53 minutes ago

Ballot Issue State Senate 11 - Recall Morse

100% reporting

Surprisingly, the race in urban and resort areas in and near Colorado Spring represented by Morse was closer than the result in liberal leaning Pueblo County.

Morse's district has always been a close one.  Colorado Springs is a conservative stronghold in the state, but Morse's central city and tourism oriented Manitou Springs district is a relatively liberal pocket within it.  In 2010, he managed to win his race only on the strength of low turnout and a strong showing by a Libertarian candidate that hurt the Republican candidate more than Morse, the Democrat.  In that race, Morse got 13,866 votes, Republican Owen Hill garnered 13,526 votes, and Libertarian candidate Randall secured 1,320 votes.

But, despite those challenges, the Morse recall prevailed by only 343 votes out of 17,845 votes cast in State Senate District 11 in an early September election with far lower turnout than the 2010 general election, a factor that generally hurts Democrats.  The recall had less than 51% support.  Morse will be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin (a former Colorado Springs City Councilman).  District 11 has about 10% more registered Democrats than it does registered Republicans, but independents in Colorado Springs are more conservative leaning than in many other parts of the state.

Giron's dramatic upset in favor of Republican George Rivera (Pueblo's former Deputy Police Chief) in State Senate District 3 where Democrats have a decisive voter registration edge (registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans almost 2-1 in the district) was a much bigger surprise. She won her race in 2010 against Republican Vera Ortegon by 24,827 to 20,313.  Again, turnout was lower in the recall election than in the 2010 election, but the turnout lag was smaller than in Morse's race.

The Denver Post's account attributes Giron's weakness to opposition to gun control among blue collar Democrats who predominate in her district.

It bears noting that both Morse and Giron are running in different districts than they were elected in at the 2010 general election.  A new state senate district map was adopted following the 2010 census and this is the first time elections were held in either of the new districts.  But, given that the map adopted following the 2010 census in Colorado was basically a Democratic proposal, this should have helped rather than hurt them.

The take home lessons for Democrats

The Democratic party, for more than its Republican counterpart, is a big tent.  Many different groups of voters are united in its center-left coalition and these coalition partners don't agree with each other on every policy issue.  Issues that starkly divide partners within a political party coalition are called "wedge issues" and these recall elections have clearly demonstrated that gun control is a wedge issue within the Democratic party in Colorado.  White urban liberals and central city blacks like gun control.  Rural and small town, blue collar, Hispanic Democrats, like those in Pueblo, don't like gun control.

Democrats, as a party, need to be sensitive to wedge issues and individual Democratic elected officials need to listen carefully to where their supporters stand on these issues.  The party leadership needs to carefully balance the political costs and policy benefits of each particular piece of wedge issue legislation and step back from the brink when the policy benefits don't clearly outweigh the political costs.

Senator Morse knew his district and retained the same level of support he came into office with, despite his support for strong gun control legislation.  Senator Giron didn't realize the extent to which her legislative efforts on the gun control issue were playing poorly in her district and paid a high political price for this oversight that earned her a dramatic recall election rebuke.

Some of the gun control measures passed in 2013, like the universal background check legislation, were innocuous politically and probably did provide substantial policy benefits to the state.  But others, like bans on high capacity gun magazines, probably didn't provide much policy benefit and carried a high political price.  A slightly more discriminating approach to proposed gun control legislation would have left Democrats in a stronger position going into the 2014 legislative session.

(Incidentally, it is also worth noting that Democrats have paid essentially no political price for enacting "good government" election law legislation that clearly favors Democrats at the expense of Republicans.  What is controversial with politicians of the opposite political party may not be wedge issues for a political party's own base of voters.)

Did the system work?

Recall elections for local government officials aren't that uncommon, but state legislators are extremely rare.

Seth Masket at Mischiefs of Faction (a Colorado based political scientist) notes that:
There have been 38 state legislative recall elections in U.S. history. 17 of them have occurred just in this decade. This is proving to be a popular tool of the minority party, especially when the majority has unified control of the state and the minority has few other ways to slow down legislation it doesn't like.
Only about ten such efforts had ever been successful before yesterday, in Michigan, California and Wisconsin, respectively, all since 1983 and most in the last few years. [Ed. actually based on review of a list cited by Seth Masket there have been twenty-one successful recalls of state legislators in U.S. history, including Arizona, Idaho and Oregon as well.]  Colorado has never before had a successful state legislative recall effort.  As in yeterday's case in Colorado, most state legislative recall campaigns involve multiple candidates, each of whom supported the same package of legislation, so there have been even fewer distinct recall campaigns than there have been successfully recalled candidates.

There are more than 3,000 state legislators in the United States as a whole, about two-thirds of whom have two years terms and most of the balance of whom have four year terms.  Thus, there have been more than 50,000 state legislators elected (counting re-elections separately and ignoring vacancy elections) since 1971, during which period there have been 33 recall attempts and 18 state legislators actually recalled (although this isn't a fully fair comparison as most states don't have recall provisions under their state's law and state constitutions).

Frequent general elections for legislators, the fact that many legislative seats are safe, and the fact that legislators are rarely in a position to take action that can be squarely attributed to them alone because they are part of a collective legislative process (as well as the fact that few state constitutions even allow for recall elections and that those that due place substantial barriers to getting a recall on the ballot) all discourage recalls for state legislators.  Media coverage of state legislative action is also often so limited that it rarely excites political action at the grass roots.

In this case, the partisan is shifted by two seats out of thirty-five for one year out of four year terms.

Just as in Colorado, the recent recall elections for state legislators in Wisconsin in 2011, after controversial anti-union legislation was enacted by the Republican majorities there, also failed to change the balance of power.  The only time a recall election of state legislators has ever tipped the partisan balance of power was in Wisconsin in 2012.

In both Colorado and Wisconsin, it seems that the petition requirements to obtain a recall election are a crude but not wildly inaccurate measure of whether there is enough support for a recall to make its success at the ballot box likely but hardly a certainty, which is just about whether that petition threshold should be set.  Many efforts to recall incumbents in both states failed for lack of petition support.

Riding Groundswells Of Opinion Or Providing Sour Grapes Do Overs?

If one believes in recalls, one wants a genuine dramatic shift in constituent opinion to have an outlet, while discouraging gamesmanship in cases where slight differences in the process between the general election process and the recall election process give sore losers an edge.

In the case of State Senator Giron, there is no real doubt that this happened.  She went from having comfortable majority support in 2010 to experiencing a decisive loss in 2013.  The percentage shift (from a win with 54% of the vote, to a loss with 44% of the vote) was far too great to be accounted for through mere differences in technicalities of the election process and decisively reversed the result of the most recent legislative election, three years earlier.  Recall elections exist to produce this result.

In the case of State Senator Morse, the result looks more like a do over by a sore loser.  The percentage of all of the votes cast which were cast for Morse in 2010 and in 2013 were almost exactly the same (he won 48.4% of the vote in 2010).  Public support for Morse in his district was virtually unchanged almost three years later despite the issues that drove the recall.  But, because his win in 2010 was so tenuous, tiny factors related as much to the election process as to a genuine groundswell of support for a recall were enough to remove him from office.

Democracy In Action?

Still, using the electoral system to attempt to shift the partisan balance based on constituent dissatisfaction with the policies that their elected legislative representatives are adopting certainly seems like Democracy in action.  And, a candidate who just barely ecks out a victory by exploiting a flaw in the electoral process in the first place, as Morse basically did in 2010 (itself an off year election) may deserve to be on his toes at all time.

If they were common, the administrative and political process burden of recall elections might be a real concern, particularly if failed recall elections became the norm.  But, since recall elections are (so far) extremely rare, this burden doesn't weigh heavily against the benefits of making the option available.

Recall elections reinforce, rather than undermine the political party system, which can mute excessive special interest legislative power since political parties require large coalitions of interests to function.  Unlike the initiative and referendum process, recall elections don't promote policy making by sound bite, or a take it or leave it legislative process that allows good proposals with technical shortcomings to become law.

Recall elections, so far, haven't produced swift turnabouts in policy that the public could have waited just a little longer to accomplish with less election process costs in ordinary general elections.  But, they do leave open that potential during periods of time when a legislature is lagging behind fast moving political currents of the kinds seen following the collapse of the Soviet Union or in the Arab Spring.  And, having this safety valve available in more critical historical moments might very well be a good thing.

Recall Elections As Political Warning Shots and Bellwethers

Also, recall elections provide information from the electoral to the political system, even though they only pertain to a small number of the total number of elected offices.

In many countries, by-elections to fill legislative vacancies are considered critical bellwether moments at which the heartbeat of the voting public can be gauged.  The widespread use of sophisticated political polling has damped the need for this kind of input, but the nuances of the election results and surprises in their outcomes relative to conventional wisdom send strong messages to legislators and other elected officials between regular elections that often have a disproportionate influence on how the legislative process is conducted going forward.

In effect, a successful recall election sends a warning to everyone who wasn't the subject of the recall which can be reacted to as the elected officials and political actors involved see fit.


A complete list of all state legislative recalls in U.S. history via the link in Seth's post, is as follows (and is probably more accurate than my link to Wikipedia on the same subject).  It appears that out of 38 attempts that 21 have resulting in recalls while 17 failed.
  • 1913: California state senator Marshall Black was recalled.
  • 1914: California state senator Edwin Grant was recalled.
  • 1914: California state senator James Owens survived a recall election.
  • 1932: Wisconsin state senator Otto Mueller survived a recall election.
  • 1935: Oregon state representative Harry Merriam was recalled.
  • 1971: Idaho state senator Fisher Ellsworth was recalled.
  • 1971: Idaho state representative Aden Hyde was recalled.
  • 1981: Washington state senator Peter von Reichbauer survived a recall election.
  • 1983: Michigan state senator Phil Mastin was recalled.
  • 1983: Michigan state senator David Serotkin was recalled. (Technically he resigned from office before the results of the recall election were certified, but the results were sufficient to recall him.)
  • 1985: Oregon state representative Pat Gillis was recalled.
  • 1988: Oregon state senator Bill Olson was recalled.
  • 1990: Wisconsin state assembly member Jim Holperin survived a recall election.
  • 1994: California state senator David Roberti survived a recall election.
  • 1995: California assembly member Paul Horcher was recalled.
  • 1995: California assembly member Michael Machado survived a recall election.
  • 1995: California assembly member Doris Allen was recalled.
  • 1996: Wisconsin state senator George Petak was recalled.
  • 2003: Wisconsin state senator Gary George was recalled.
  • 2008: California state senator Jeff Denham survived a recall election.
  • 2008: Michigan house speaker Andy Dillon survived a recall election.
  • 2011: Wisconsin state senators Robert Cowles, Alberta Darling, Dave Hansen, Sheila Harsdorf, Jim Holperin, Luther Olsen and Robert Wirch survived attempted recalls, while Senators Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke were recalled.
  • 2011: Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce was recalled on November 8.
  • 2011: Michigan state representative Paul Scott was recalled on November 8.
  • 2012: Wisconsin state senator Van Wanggaard was recalled. Senate Republican leader Scott Fitzgerald and senator Terry Moulton survived recall elections. Senator Pam Galloway resigned earlier in the year when sufficient signatures were gathered to trigger a recall election. Even though her name wasn't on the ballot, a recall election was still held for her seat. All four senate seats in the recall election were held by Republicans; after the recall, three remain in Republican hands and one switched to the Democrats, giving control of the Senate to the Democratic party.
  • 2013: Colorado Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela were recalled on September 10.

10 September 2013

Youth and Crime

You don't have to be terribly old to commit serious crimes.

Raul Antonio Pasillas mauled several people in Mexico at the age of 17 or 18 years old.
U.S. Marshals in Colorado arrested a fugitive charged in Mexico in a machete rampage in which he allegedly attacked a friend and three family members, severing eight fingers of one victim and striking others in the head.
Mexican authorities in Chihuahua have charged Raul Antonio Pasillas, 19, with four counts of attempted murder in an attack on New Year's Day, 2012.
From the Denver Post.

While the charges against Pasillas are serious, Mexico doesn't have a death penalty and tends to have shorter sentences for serious crimes than those in the United States (in part, simply as a function of the inability of the state to pay for long terms).

Unlike so much of the crime in Mexico, this doesn't obvious appear to be drug cartel related, although he could have gone vicious under the encouragement of a cartel as some sort of enforcer.  More likely, he simply has some sort of mental health problem and had a break down - like so many mass shooters, but with a smaller death count, since he had a machete rather than a gun.  Indeed, given so the many of the people who go on murderous rages like Pasillas either commit suicide, are justifiably killed by law enforcement or someone acting in self-defense (or to defend others), or are caught and spend the rest of their lives in prison, we know very little about what someone with a profile like that would be like when returned to the general public.  Is it a passing thing that is different in kind from the psychological profile of someone headed for a life of crime, in much the same way that most people who have failed suicide attempts don't go on to commit suicide later when deinstitutionalized, or are people who go on these sprees more like psychopaths?

Derick Lamar Williams-Berrien has committed three bank robberies in the less than a year that he hasn't been in prison since he turned eighteen years old.
Derick Lamar Williams-Berrien served three years for two bank robberies, got out of prison and within two months robbed another bank and led police on a chase that ended when he was shot.
On Monday, a federal judge in Denver gave him more than five years for the latest robbery and an additional 18 months to be served consecutively for committing the crime while he was supposed to be toeing the line on supervisory release.
"When you are on supervised release for bank robbery and then come out and in two months rob another bank .... in some ways it is like spitting in the court's face. It can't be tolerated," said U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore [who] sentenced Williams-Berrien, 22, to 63 months for robbing a U.S. Bank branch near East Cornell Avenue and Peoria Street in Aurora in early May.
From the Denver Post.

There is every reason to believe that each of these young men had prior juvenile records - criminal conduct of this kind almost never comes out of nowhere without a long history of delinquency as a juvenile from at least late elementary school age, but we don't know for sure.

Our system of justice is oriented towards leniency towards juveniles.  But, statistically, the younger you have your first serious office and the younger you are at the time you commit a crime, the greater the risk you pose of re-offending.  The odds are overwhelmingly against Williams-Berrien never being convicted of another crime once he is released from prison in his late 20s.  From a utilitarian recidivism prevention perspective, we'd be better off if both men were in prison until they "aged out" of the peak crime commission risk age, perhaps sometime in their late thirties.

Simply put, a huge part of the impact that incarceration has on crime is that it takes young men with a history of criminal activity at the ages where they are most likely to commit crimes out of society.  Blue collar crime is a young man's game.

Also, the Williams-Berrien case illustrates the perils of taking someone who has proven himself to be incapable as functioning as a law abiding independent adult directly into society as an independent adult responsible for finding himself work and renting an apartment when his only real adult experiences are as a prison inmate.

Why do we expect and allow a 22 years old who has spent the last three years in prison for bank robbery to manage adult life with less structure and more responsibility than a typical senior in college?

The college student, unlike the newly released inmate, has probably behaved in a exemplary fashion all his life.  He almost surely has above average intelligence, while the inmate was probably either a high school dropout or did poorly in school.  But, the college student may still live in a dorm and eat in dining halls at his parent's expense, often doesn't have to shop for groceries, often doesn't have to find an apartment for himself that he can pay for from his own current earnings, faces few consequences for showing up hung over or late to class or doing inferior quality work, has few people relying on him for anything, and has half a dozen professors, and more RAs, tutors, counselors, student health services employees, student life employees, club officers, and other college administrators devoted to smoothing over every bump in the road that he may encounter.

Even "supervised release" is probably too dramatic a step directly from prison in a large share of all cases.  Too large a share of all crimes are committed by entirely predictable perpetrators.  Public policy isn't by any means a science, but criminology and other social science and engineering disciplines are particular suited to heading off predictable tragedies.

07 September 2013

Quick Hits

It's been a while since I've posted, mostly since I'm very busy with work at the moment due to a variety of litigation and non-litigation deadlines.  Here are some pin board class hits of interesting nits and bits I've seen lately:

* A rice grain sized organ in your throat called the carotid body that serves as a blood pressure and oxygen and carbon dioxide regulating sensor in the body that most people didn't know existed can be removed as an effective surgical treatment for high blood pressure.

Underlying reference: Fiona D. McBryde, Ana P. Abdala, Emma B. Hendy, Wioletta Pijacka, Paul Marvar, Davi J. A. Moraes, Paul A. Sobotka, Julian F. R. Paton. The carotid body as a putative therapeutic target for the treatment of neurogenic hypertension. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI:10.1038/ncomms3395

This is a big deal since high blood pressure even when treated with drugs is a huge factor in cardiovascular disease deaths like heart attacks that are one of the top couple of causes of death in the developed world.

* Monarchy works because clear lines of succession reduce the likelihood of economically costly civil wars.  Democratic elections can do the same thing by other means while improving quality relative to monarchy produced leaders.  But:
The larger governance lesson is that the quality of a leader is not the only thing that matters to the growth of capital. In certain hyper-competitive environments, it may not even be the most important thing. Some organizations are so close to the edge that they cannot afford the waste of political infighting, and can actually be taken under by a botched succession, where a clear leader fails to quickly emerge.
* Xenophobic or racist fears of people of other cultures are predominantly confined to foreign men.  People don't have sustained fears for foreign women.  The only factor that significantly predicts reduced racism and xenophobia is a person's history of relationships with members of the out group as friends, colleagues or romantic partners.  The power of the "present company excluded" etiquette norm is powerful.

Underlying reference: Navarrete et al. Fear Extinction to an Out-Group Face: The Role of Target Gender. Psychological Science, 2009; 20 (2): 155 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02273.x

* Certain kinds of alcohol abuse and bulimic eat disorder behavior appear to have a common hereditary source.
Studying data gathered from nearly 6,000 adult twins in Australia, Munn-Chernoff and her colleagues found that common genetic factors underlie alcoholism and certain eating-disorder symptoms, such as binge eating and purging habits that include self-induced vomiting and the abuse of laxatives. . . . Munn-Chernoff [said]  "several past studies have suggested that the particular behavior of binge eating, as well as purging and other practices that we call compensatory behaviors, may be closely associated with alcohol dependence, which is why we focused on those symptoms." . . . In all, nearly 25 percent of the men and 6 percent of women had been alcohol dependent at some point. Almost 11 percent of these same men and 13 percent of the women had experienced problems with binge eating. In addition, about 14 percent of the women had engaged in purging or abuse of laxatives or diuretics.
On a statistical scale that runs from zero (no shared genes) to 1 (all genes shared), the researchers found that the genetic correlation between binge eating and alcohol dependence was statistically significant at .26.  Among women in the study, the genetic correlation between compensatory behaviors and alcohol dependence was significant at .32. . . ."It appears that some genes that influence alcohol dependence also influence binge eating in men and women, and compensatory behaviors in women." 
Underlying reference: Munn-Chernoff MA, Duncan AE, Grant JD, Wade TD, Agrawal A, Bucholz KK, Madden PAF, Martin NG, Heath AC. A twin study of alcohol dependence, binge eating and compensatory behaviorsJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 2013

* Education in the less developed world sucks.  While many developing countries get increasingly large quantities of education, this isn't producing the result seen from comparable numbers of years of schooling in the developed world.
Public education expenditure  accounts for 5.4 percent of gross domestic product in Brazil and the United Kingdom, and 5.5 percent in Ghana and the United States. In Kenya and Uganda, education accounts for around 15 percent of government expenditure. Even some of the poorest people worldwide spend a considerable proportion of their  private income on education. The poorest urban households in Pakistan, which on  average spend less than $1 per person per day in total, spend more than 6 percent of that on education. In Indonesia, the proportion reaches nearly 9 percent.  
Parents and governments expect a return on this investment. Parents send their children to school in expectation of improved employment opportunities, income, status, and quality of life. Ministers and parliaments hope that expanded education  will lead to economic growth, improved health outcomes, and nation building. In some ways, schooling appears to meet these expectations. Micro studies often  report high returns to years of schooling in developing countries—7 percent in  Ghana, for example. Children with mothers who went to school are more likely  both to survive childhood and to attend school themselves.   
But at the same time, evidence suggests that expanded educational opportunities  do not translate into improved economic performance. At the country level, the average Kenyan over the age of 15 in 2010 had more years of schooling than the average French person in 1985. Sadly, Kenya’s 2010 GDP per capita was only 7 percent of France’s GDP per capita in 1985. Kenya represents a trend: massively  increased enrollments even where incomes have stagnated in recent decades. More broadly, the link between schooling and economic growth in cross-country analysis is fragile at best. . . .
In several developing countries, many of the students who were enrolled in six full years of primary education were unable to answer questions about a simple paragraph or solve simple math problems. This suggests a dismal rate of return on years of school enrollment. 
In India, national survey evidence reveals that only about one-third of children in grade 5 can perform long division, and one-third cannot perform two-digit subtraction. Nearly one-half of grade 5 students cannot read a grade 2 text and one in five cannot follow a grade 1 text. Sixty percent of Indian children enrolled in grade 8 cannot use a ruler to measure a pencil. Only 27 percent of Indian children who complete primary school can read a simple passage, perform division, tell time, and handle money, although students should master each of these skills by the end of the second year of school. These statistics compare starkly with the  official 81 percent youth literacy rate reported by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Similar findings have emerged elsewhere. Data from both Early Grade Reading Assessments and the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality point to serious quality gaps across the region. Uwezo surveys show that in Tanzania and Uganda, less than half of all 10- to 16-year-olds possess even basic literacy or numeracy skills.  A flat learning trajectory through successive school grades is reflected in low test scores among older students. 
Using several sources of recent data from India, the Center for Global Development’s Lant Pritchett examined the number of repeat questions that fourth, sixth, and eighth graders answered correctly. For language,  the percentage climbs from 51 to 57 percent between fourth and eighth grades. For math, it climbs from 36 to 53 percent. This suggests that it would take 32 years of schooling for 90 percent of all students to correctly answer a language question  that more than half of all fourth graders already correctly answered. India is hardly unique in its flat learning trajectories. Studies of the impact of education on learning in Bangladesh in the 1990s found that three additional years of schooling had no appreciable impact on learning achievement. 
Internationally comparable mathematics tests under the Trends in International Mathematics and Science  Study (TIMSS) suggest that the average eighth grader in Ghana has a test score that would place her in the bottom 0.2 percent of US students. Even in considerably richer developing countries, the learning gap is large: the average Chilean student would be in the bottom 6.4 percent of US students, based on TIMSS scores.